The View From 1776

Death Of The American Idea

President Obama in his address of July 27, 2013, proclaimed his intention to combat “trends that have been eroding middle-class security…”  Security, the liberal-progressive-socialistic paradigm introduced by Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal in the 1930s, is not the same thing as the original intent of the Bill of Rights, the concept of individual political liberties that colonists fought for in our War of Independence.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 07/28 at 10:46 PM
  1. Revel is unique among intellectuals. In his book "Anti-Americanism," where he frequently excoriates his own homeland, he points out that:

    "It was Europeans, after all, who made the twentieth century the darkest in history. . .it was they who invented and put into place the two most criminal regimes ever inflicted on the human race."

    Robert Conquest seconded this observation when he wrote:

    The twentieth century's dangers and disasters were largely attributable . . . to the specific insane ideas or mind-sets that took control of certain parties and populations. . .this contagion was found especially among those who considered themselves to be an intellectual leadership or 'educated' class or caste. And those were often minds of high IQ presenting sophisticated fallacies to a wider spectrum."

    Such were the minds in Europe that created the USSR and Hitler's tyranny. Their lesser evil was creating the welfare state, which unfortunately they managed to transport to America. Starting with president Wilson, these new ideologies were the opposite of the ideas on which America was founded

    There are a number of books out that explain how the thinking of today's leftist liberals is "a form of insanity," advocating "sophisticated fallacies" to make the world better! This over-educated elite has taken control of our schools, colleges, and major governmental institutions. They are generally the high IQ types that adore abstract and utopian concepts; and they especially enjoy any opportunity to experiment with their ideas by forcing their programs on the public.

    One of the worst ideas that Obama has endorsed is the need to guarantee economic equality as a positive right for all citizens, legal residents or not--an idea the French Revolution proved to be unattainable. Liberty yes; equality before the law, yes; equality of results, NO!

    Equality of results is communism and is incompatible with both human nature and freedom.
    Posted by bill greene  on  07/29  at  08:13 AM
  2. Bill,

    While I agree with your assessment of socialism, I must protest (by way of Revel and Conquest) your singling out of Europeans as sole or primary perpetrators of 20th century socialist barbarism. Communist China caused (at least) 6 times the death and destruction (35+ million, 1949-1987) of her own people as Japan inflicted (4-million, 1937-1945) during its occupation of China. Nationalist China massacred another 10-million (KMT, 1929-1949), and, in the same period the pre-PRC communists with whom they fought massacred another 3.5-million; resulting in the largest slaughter by any nation of its own people in all history. Similarly, in the three years 1975-1978, 2+million Cambodians were slaughtered by the Khmer Rouge. While this number pales beside the Chi-com and Nazi atrocities, as a percent of population Cambodia ranks first in ‘democides’ (31%). Numerically, the Soviet Union’s slaughter of its own peoples ranks highest of all; but, while technically European, was not really subject to socialist influences until the first decade of the 20th century. In that sense, it belongs with the Asian totalitarians as ‘latecomers’. By comparison, Nazi Germany (home to the Bismarckian welfare-state and of theories directly leading to totalitarian excess) murdered 21-million over a 12 year period, with an annualized rate as percent of population (over which they had power of life/death) of 0.09%. This puts Nazi atrocity below that of Soviets and PRC, and well below those of the Khmer Rouge (8.16%, 1975-78), Ataturk (Turkey, 2.64%, 1919-1923), PCNL (Poland, 2%, 1945-1948), and Mexico (Diaz & Mexican Revolution, 0.45%, 1900-1920).

    More recently, in places like Sub-Saharan Africa, South and Central America, the Near East and South Asia, violence, genocide and ethnic cleansing continue unabated; and are as often the result of religious clashes and ancient ethnic hatreds as ideology. No one has done a study or head count of the most recent violence in North Africa and Levant, but I would be unsurprised if it ranks fairly high on an annualized basis.

    Yes, socialism was (and remains) a key element of totalitarian barbarism; but is not the only component, and does not explain why these non-European variants were/are so much more brutal and repressive than even European totalitarian-socialism. Clearly, Asian, African and American leaders and radicals of those eras were/are far less concerned with killing or accountability for their actions than are today’s. Yet, there remain some even in that quarter (e.g., North Korea) who torture, kill and abuse with impunity while regarding themselves beyond reproach. Socialism does not degenerate in all cases or at all times to absolute barbarism (though all of its variants are somewhat barbarous given the mere regulation of freedom is a kind of violence against the individual), and is, in large part, restrained by earlier violence and depravity with which it is identified.

    Post totalitarian genocides:
    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  07/30  at  09:23 PM
  3. Bob, everything you say is certainly true. Barbarism knows few bounds and is evidenced in all cultures. My reference, and I believe Conquest's, was more centered on European ex-perience because Americans during the last century were closely connected with Europe and European thinkers, and paid little attention to Asian affairs; and, the two World Wars had a massive and direct impact on Americans, brought on by the European leaders.

    In any case, that is a little off the topic of socialism, except that, as you state, any significant degree of socialism requires an authoritarian government to force the redistribution involved. And the socialist thinkers and writers that most impacted America were Europeans, many of whom emigrated here, got onto college faculties, etc., and helped pave the way for our last 100 year slide into socialist patterns.

    Your point about the non-European variants of socialism being more brutal, barbaric, and repressive is interesting. I believe Pol Pot of the Cambodian genocide, the man behind the Shining Path in Peru, and some of the more repressive African dictators, all studied their politics and economics in France and England. Indeed, the first two could be labelled Sorbonne "intellectuals!" Nevertheless, Stalin's war on the peasants, and Hitler's on everyone, has to be right up there in top repressive and brutal regimes anywhere on earth. (Of course, both of them had their university philosophers and writers to lay the foundation for and justify their brutal policies.)

    The Pol Pots and most communist leaders were and remain atheists, opposed to all religions, and that secular mentality, freed from any religious restraint, allows a brutality quite horrible to Western sensibilities. (Stalin and Hitler had no such excuse--working in Christian nations--so their sins seem somehow worse)

    All these atrocities have to be considered on a time line--what seems brutal today (waterboarding?) is child's play compared to what transpired "just" 50-100 years ago. To mankind's credit, there has been a steady decline in barbarism and brutality as civilization and communication advanced over the last few hundred years. We see this especially in Western countries where vigilantes and even mild discrimination is now seen as hate crimes. Citizens fight over alleged torture at our prisons, where nothing approaches the degree of prior century practices--remember the iron boot, the rack, the "drawn and quartering" penalty for commoners. I can only suggest that Western culture, and the Judeo-Christian faiths, have continued our progress to a kinder, gentler, and more democratic way of life. Indeed, our creeping socialism is so gentle, and well-intentioned, its advocates claim, that most Americans can hardly see what's coming as the reins of big government gradually tighten the rules over just what a person can do, eat, wear, drive, or think!
    Posted by bill greene  on  08/01  at  09:13 PM
  4. Your response, while accurate as to socialism and its European origins, still manages to miss the points I was trying to make regarding 20th century totalitarianism.

    First, while certainly barbaric in the extreme, the [European] totalitarians owed as much of their barbarism to outside influences as to untested radical social-theories. For example, Hitler got his idea to exterminate the Jews not from Germany socialists nor from a Euro-supremacist splinter-cult, but from the Mufti of Jerusalem, an ally in his suppression of ‘Jewish influences’. Socialism, per se, does not generally or directly support the kind of behaviors totalitarian regimes invariably exhibit any more than do other forms of governance. The problem with socialism, however, is its inherent tendency to concentrate power into the hands of radicals; becoming, thereby, an open door through which despots easily seize power and making opposition nigh impossible. It is this concentration of unaccountable power into too few hands which Rummel posits as the real problem, and his evidence for this is fairly strong.

    The other point I was trying to make was that, although 20th European barbarism was huge, it was less huge than its Asian counterparts, and even today’s monster-regimes. While you may be right the West is rendered impotent, much of the rest of the world is not; and some regions appear to be heading back toward open barbarism. So, no, I cannot agree that, overall, the world of today is less terrible than it was. Not when I read frequent reports of school buses full of children blown apart; houses of worship sacked and burned, children torn from mothers and shot right before mom is raped and mutilated; children kidnapped and trained to become soldiers forced to murder, rape and pillage; women stoned to death for ‘crimes of dishonor’; enslavement, genocide; massacres masking governmental corruption, oppression, excess and deviant behaviors; jihad; torture …
    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  08/02  at  09:35 PM
  5. Bob, I agree with and see your two points. The first observation that socialism leads to authoritarian regimes is undeniable. Any economic system that grants a broad array of powers to the central government is, by definition, an authoritarian government. Socialism lessens the freedom and security enjoyed by citizens operating in a free market place and enjoying a clear protection of their private property.

    Concerning the state of the world, my point was that any progress toward a kinder gentler civilization was primarily seen in the nations still influenced by Western civilization and the Judeo-Christian moral strictures. This includes Europe, America, the Commonwealth nations, and even South America with it's heavily Spanish/Portugese/Catholic cultures. The rest of the world, is as you say, more barabaric than ever--and getting worse!

    I believe your two observations support the general consensus about "Why the West Won:" Western Civilization advanced much faster than any other culture in the world over the last 1,000 years, and ended by far surpassing every other society in freedom and prosperity, because 1.) It allowed a few relatively free economies and, 2.) its systems of law and order founded on the idea of a Natural Law that gave individuals rights that could not be subordinated by secular Kings and aristocracies. The English common law and rights grew from this concept of God-given rights which was not seen in any significanmt form anywhere else on earth outside Europe.

    Richard Feynman observed in his CalTech orations, that: "Western Civ8ilization, it seems to me, stands by two great heritages. One is the scientific spirit of adventure . . humility of the intellect. The other great heritage is Christian ethics . . humility of the spirit. These two heritages are logically, thoroughly consistent."

    Thus free thinking, free economies, and freedom of religion grew up in Europe, carrying on a similar mind-set inherited from ancient Greece. And as Feynman suggests, we somehow managed, from the first universities founded by Catholic monks in the 11th century, to forge ahead with science while maintaing a civilizing Faith founded on Christian ethics and the energized spirit of the Reformation.

    Today, we see the twin opponents to this heritage in the form of socialism's overpowering governments, and the Godless new culture that considers morality and ethics to be whatever pays the most bucks or pleases one's senses. Thus, not only is socialism authoritarian in nature, but it contradicts the fundamental conditions that led to our current affluence and freedom.

    Posted by bill greene  on  08/03  at  10:30 AM
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