The rise of the Enlightenment since the Age of Absolutism is the story of taking power back from the state on behalf of the individual. Freedom of conscience and freedom of speech are ideas that trace back their fons et origo to the Protestant movements of Europe, which prevailed after centuries despite attempted repression by the state and by the Catholic Church.
Fleeing religious persecution in Europe, the members of various Christian sects set off to the New World to found their utopian societies. It was thought by some that in the absence of freedom from the state, all would live in peace and harmony while sharing property in common. This was soon learned to have disastrous effects by the settlers of Plymouth Plantation, as related by the writings of William Bradford. After successive winters of near starvation (aided in the first by the Native Americans), Bradford relates the experiences of the settlement (1623):
“All this while no supply was heard of, neither knew they when they might expect any. So they began to think how they might raise as much corn as they could, and obtain a better crop than they had done, that they might not still thus languish in misery. At length, after much debate of things, the Governor (with the advice of the chiefest amongst them) gave way that they should set corn every man for his own particular, and in that regard trust to themselves; in all other thing to go on in the general way as before. And so assigned to every family a parcel of land, according to the proportion of their number, for that end, only for present use (but made no division for inheritance) and ranged all boys and youth under some family. This had very good success, for it made all hands very industrious, so as much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been by any means the Governor or any other could use, and saved him a great deal of trouble, and gave far better content. The women now went willingly into the field, and took their little ones with them to set corn; which before would allege weakness and inability; whom to have compelled would have been thought great tyranny and oppression.
The experience that was had in this common course and condition, tried sundry years and that amongst godly and sober men, may well evince the vanity of that conceit of Plato’s and other ancients applauded by some of later times; and that the taking away of property and bringing in community into a commonwealth would make them happy and flourishing; as if they were wiser than God. For this community (so far as it was) was found to breed much confusion and discontent and retard much employment that would have been to their benefit and comfort. For the young men, that were most able and fit for labor and service, did repine that they should spend their time and strength to work for other men’s wives and children without any recompense. The strong, or man of parts, had no more in division of victuals and clothes than he that was weak and not able to do a quarter the other could; this was thought injustice. The aged and graver men to be ranked and equalized in labors and victuals, clothes etc., with the meaner and younger sort, thought it some indignity and disrespect unto them. And for men’s wives to be commanded to do service for other men, as dressing their meat, washing their clothes, etc., they deemed it a kind of slavery, neither could many husbands well brook it. Upon the point all being to have alike, and all to do alike, they thought themselves in the like condition, and one as good as another; and so, if it did not cut off those relations that God hath set amongst men, yet it did at least much diminish and take off the mutual respects that should be preserved amongst them. And would have been worse if they had been men of another condition. Let none object this is men’s corruption, and nothing to the course itself. I answer, seeing all men have this corruption in them, God in His wisdom saw another course fitter for them.”
The experience of Plymouth Plantation is that of other utopian societies in world history, that freedom from oppression by the state does not lead to absolute freedom. Nature and its demands upon the human flesh require an organization of political economy conducive to the sustenance of life; and it so happens that the imperatives of need and want, when addressed at the origin by the motivation of personal responsibility, is the greatest form known to mankind. What requires a man to remedy his own needs and wants? Private property and the means to attain it through labor. This is the font of individual success and the guarantor of freedom.
The revolution of private property did not merely provide the means for individuals to meet their own needs, but rather to flourish spectacularly across the nation. The British, seeking to reign in its ever more successful colonies via taxation, had already let the leash slip too slack. Those who thirsted for individual freedom risked their lives and fortunes to found a new nation on the pillars of liberty and property. These ideals gave birth to dreams of a world where all can strive for personal excellence, uninhibited by a tyranny of morally inferior men.
The fervor and vision of a courageous few motivated them to face down and defeat the enemies of their independence. Yet this was only the beginning of a great experiment in freedom. An organization of our fragile republic was required for its preservation. Thus began a great debate and the first “big lie” of our nation, and one with calamitous results.
The concept of the “big lie” is one traced in modern parlance to the presumed ultimate “man of the right” Adolph Hitler. Hitler was by all accounts a statist, thus giving plausibility to the claim that he was a “conservative.” However, he was a collectivist by ideology, giving expression to the ideals of National Socialism. This is well-documented by men like Hayek in The Road to Serfdom and Jonah Goldberg in Liberal Fascism. (Any who should dispute this point, I refer them to these authors, but with the caveat of an open mind, lest they waste their time.)
The debate, of course, was between the Federalists and the so-called “Anti-Federalists.” These brandishings, unbeknownst to many, are precisely opposite of their actual meaning. The Federalists were nationalist proponents of a strong, centralized government and the Anti-Federalists, labeled as such by their ideological enemies, were proponents of a federal, decentralized structure. (See Jackson Turner Main’s The Anti-Federalists: Critics of the Constitution 1781-1788, viii-xii).
No one of serious judgment could call the supposed Anti-Federalist Thomas Jefferson a “man of the right.” Yet today we have the curious phenomenon where so-called “conservatives” claim Jefferson as their own. This is due to a series of transmutations in philosophy that make it possible (though rationally unintelligible) for statists to claim that they are actually “leftists.” This is partially due in America to the big lie of Federalists that those who favored state’s rights were opposed to the incorporation of the country into a federal structure. Anti-federalists tended to be men who were in favor of closer incorporation, cooperation, and mutual protection (as they had learned from the failures of the Articles of the Confederation), but they were opposed to the idea of a vigorous centralized national government in accordance with the vision of the neomonarchist Hamilton. Which brings us to our second “big lie.”
The second big lie is that Abraham Lincoln preserved the union, though fewer believe the related lie that he was primarily motivated to do so in order to end slavery. Lincoln’s arbitrary stances on slavery throughout his political career are well-documented, and hardly bear repeating here. What is important is that the union that Lincoln came to office representing bore little resemblance to the one he left. The issue of whether or not slavery was wrong is not the issue; indeed, men like Thomas Jefferson, despite the hypocrisy shown in his private affairs, had railed against slavery and had sought to end it within two generations of his day. Unfortunately the southern former colonies did not agree, forestalling the clash that came to a head in the Civil War.
South Carolina had every right to secede and dissolve their bonds with the national government. This would not have made them right in their moral and political views, and may have occasioned a declaration of war on moral grounds, in other words, to defend the rights of men. But no declaration of war was made on the grounds to end slavery; this was a post-hoc rationalization. Indeed, after the war was over the particular offense of slavery, which had been wrongly justified by the Constitution, was used as an indictment against the organizing principle of a federal Republic. This is specious and dangerous reasoning, and one that suggests that independence from central authority necessarily results in perversion. This is to argue that deviation from the final judgment of those in the central government is the standard of right and wrong, when obviously the obverse could be equally true. If the principle of individual rights for all human beings had been defended from the outset, or at the soonest possible time, then there would have been little confusion as to the obligations of the states in the union.
The third big lie is that America was founded as a Christian nation. This is perhaps one of the most maddeningly stubborn memes repeated on the supposed right, and one of the most easily refuted (for those who value rationality and logical consistency). It is my hypothesis that Catholic immigrants have been the main advocates of this view, superimposing their preferences for hierarchical church authority onto their interpretation of the founding, which is often intermingled with allusions to the Puritans or the Pilgrims, hardly two paragons of freedom. America may have been majority Christian in the colonial period, and still remains to this day; and as I can only surmise from history, this may be a good thing. But a majority belief in Christianity does not necessarily cause freedom, as anyone with a cursory knowledge of European or Latin American history can conclude (and there are free nations that are not Christian today, Japan and India being two of the largest).
To cut to the heart of the argument, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, two of the most important framers of the government of the United States, were staunch defenders of religious freedom, and not the only ones. Indeed, an official treaty of the U.S., The Treaty of Tripoli, signed by John Adams in 1797, states:
“As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of Musselmen; and as the said States never have entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mehomitan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.”
This proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that not only was the United States not founded upon Christianity, that the founding fathers were well aware of the religion of the Musselman, namely, Islam. But to finish this point fairly abruptly in respect for my educated audience, suffice to say that Madison’s Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments (1785) and Jefferson’s Statute of Religious Freedom (1777), as well as Paine and Franklin’s views leave no reasonable person to conclude that we were founded as a “Christian” nation. In fact Christianity has flourished precisely because of religious freedom, as John Locke predicted. (For those of any remaining doubt, I direct you to an excellent article by Brooke Allen entitled Our Godless Constitution.)
The fourth big lie is that there was a laissez-faire period of American history that led inexorably to monopolies and trusts dominating the American economic system. On the contrary, the “Gilded Age” was a period of protectionism, government intervention, and political collaboration with railroad and oil trusts to further the interests of “the nation.” An excellent short overview of the Gilded Age and the origins of the Progressives describes politicians in the national government protecting vested interests. The most salient rejoinder to those who rail against laissez-faire is that the policy of free trade leads to a less distorted and turbulent economy, and one less dominated by monopolies. This is given that more competition leads to constant pressure to keep supply and demand nearest to equilibrium (Adam Smith, Wealth of Nations, Ch. VII) given opportunity costs (in other words, undersupply, which pushes prices upward, leads to market opportunities for others; while oversupply can be redirected to other markets). Protectionism assists firms seeking to consolidate the market, which often furthers the interests of their patron politicians. The fact that greater access to capital provides larger firms with leverage over their competitors is true; however, monopolies, once consolidated, give rise to inefficiencies and higher prices, thus opening up avenues of competition for others. And in any event, the peculiar case of the railroads was obviated by Henry Ford’s mass-produced automobile, an invention more conducive to the American ideal of freedom of movement. Scientific progress provided the means for the market to seek alternatives.
The fifth big lie, and one that persists to this day is that liberals are for liberation and conservatives are reactionaries. On the contrary, it is well-known that the term liberal was coined to describe classical liberals like Adam Smith, John Locke and Thomas Jefferson. The socialists co-opted the term brazenly to wield as a cudgel against the newly brandished “conservatives,” who were only conservative because they held to actual liberal views! As Ronald Reagan relates, the American socialist Norman Thomas stated, “The American people would never vote for socialism…but under the name of liberalism the American people would adopt every fragment of the socialist program.” Which brings us to another big lie.
The sixth big lie is that Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s big government programs preserved Americans during the Great Depression, and by extension, World War II got us out of the Great Depression. If the heart and soul of socialists and progressives is the labor movement and their dreams of employment for all, then their idolatry of the “great progressive” FDR rests on legs of sand. In an excellent and easy-to-read article by Thomas Sowell, he describes how government intervention worsened the economy after the stock market crash, and particularly, how it led to massive unemployment – nearly 20% from 1932-1935! And many fail to remember that there was a second stock market crash in 1937, after the Fed began pumping currency back into the economy. In addition, World War II provided a deadly and gruesome solution to the unemployment problem, and one would have to have a perverse sense of prosperity to view the massive construction of armaments with which to destroy foreign enemies as somehow productive of national wealth. Following World War II, when millions of soldiers returned and the war factories were closed, the United States sunk right back into economic stagnation. Despite financial uncertainty at home, the U.S. spent billions on the Marshall Plan reinvigorating Europe and providing nations with the means for their freedom. This brings up a seventh big lie.
The seventh big lie is that America is an imperialist and colonialist power. The lie begins with the ill-conceived Spanish-American War of the turn of the century, which saw the U.S. dabble in imperialism. But we should examine the United States’ track record since then. During World War I, America had every opportunity to sweep in as a bird of prey and pick off countries decimated by total war. Yet, due to much delay by the idealist Woodrow Wilson, we entered the war late and helped negotiate what turned out to be a disastrous peace settlement. Yet the “national determination” principle of Wilson’s Fourteen Points is decidedly anti-imperialist; and proved the fatal blow to the Austro-Hungarian Empire, as well as the closing of the coffin on the Ottoman Empire.
After World War I, America entered an isolationist phase, even though by all means it could have territorially expanded. Hitler was allowed by pacifists and isolationists to mobilize into the Rhineland (not to mention that the Treaty of Versailles was imprudently harsh to begin with, thus providing Hitler with a mandate) and no country opposed him. War broke out after Hitler’s spree of divide and conquer met opposition from England, but too late for the Allies to forestall disaster. FDR bided his time as the Russian army was massacred in battle after battle on the Eastern front. The serendipitous Pearl Harbor invasion provided FDR with the all-important public opinion surge needed to attack Germany before turning on Japan.
It should not be necessary to regale the reader with the heroic sacrifices of Americans taken on others’ behalf at Normandy and the Battle of the Bulge, as well as their brave fight against Japan at Midway and Iwo Jima, but suffice to say that many doughboys bled for others’ safety and freedoms. France, Germany and Japan, as well as South Korea are all free and relatively prosperous states largely due to the actions of the United States. The U.S. realized that constitutional democracy and capitalism were not only benefits to others, but conducive to our own security and prosperity as well.
The United States was not able to defeat the North Vietnamese and defend the South Vietnamese peoples’ freedoms, and an honorable peace was squandered by a foolish and irresponsible legislature. Later on, the U.S., as the world’s lone superpower, would colonize no country, even after invasions in the Middle East. Colonization and imperialism cannot rationally be equated to defending peoples’ freedoms, unless you have a perverse sense that a market and a constitutional democratic republic resting on free choice somehow “enslaves” you. This leads us to our final big lie.
The eighth and last big lie is that a moderate amount of inflation is good for the economy. The Keynesians have been enthusiastic proponents of this view and their arguments have dominated government since the early 20th century. The argument goes that the devaluation of currency is helpful because it provides a disincentive to save money, and incentive to invest. Furthermore, they argue that inflation is a tool for the government to fight unemployment. But if this were true, how do Keynesians explain the 1970s phenomenon of stagflation, which was high unemployment and economic inflation at once? Not only are their arguments wrong-headed and easily refuted by the facts, they also happen to be morally wrong.
The economy is based on labor and the production of actual goods, not on the illusion that people will lose money if they save it. The government’s policy of devaluation (i.e. inflation) is one of theft. The Fed makes a royalty on the money it authorizes for printing at the Treasury, which is the most laughably obscene arrangement imaginable. Is it any wonder that the government and specifically the Fed is dominated by Keynesians (i.e. interventionists)?
Nature is the motivator of men to satisfy their wants and needs, not government. Government is not required to devalue a currency in order to encourage people to invest or take on debt. Men should have sovereignty over themselves not only because this is morally correct, but because “management” of the money supply of the United States in order to “stabilize” prices perverts the natural tendency toward equilibrium of prices via the laws of supply and demand and is thus arrogant policy that presumes too much information. But isn’t it just like the left to institutionalize their arrogance as law?
How can eight such colossal lies be propagated in a free society such as ours? Through the deadly combination of the people’s ignorance and the politicians’ hubris. The tactic of the “big lie” was well described by the “conservative” Adolph Hitler, that iconic spokesman for free markets and free thought:
“… in the big lie there is always a certain force of credibility; because the broad masses of a nation are always more easily corrupted in the deeper strata of their emotional nature than consciously or voluntarily; and thus in the primitive simplicity of their minds they more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie, since they themselves often tell small lies in little matters but would be ashamed to resort to large-scale falsehoods. It would never come into their heads to fabricate colossal untruths, and they would not believe that others could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously. Even though the facts which prove this to be so may be brought clearly to their minds, they will still doubt and waver and will continue to think that there may be some other explanation. For the grossly impudent lie always leaves traces behind it, even after it has been nailed down, a fact which is known to all expert liars in this world and to all who conspire together in the art of lying.”
His Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels applied Hitler’s “big lie” tactic to smear the English (try to cut that Gordian knot!):
“The essential English leadership secret does not depend on particular intelligence. Rather, it depends on a remarkably stupid thick-headedness. The English follow the principle that when one lies, one should lie big, and stick to it. They keep up their lies, even at the risk of looking ridiculous.”
George Orwell, a fabulously insightful chronicler of the socialist mind, describes a similar tactic of Newspeak in his 1984:
“The key-word here is blackwhite. Like so many Newspeak words, this word has two mutually contradictory meanings. Applied to an opponent, it means the habit of impudently claiming that black is white, in contradiction of the plain facts.”
Juxtaposing the statements of the National Socialist Hitler with Orwell’s insights into socialists is more than fanciful thinking. One can easily point to deception as a tactic of radical thinkers like Antonio Gramsci and more famously Sal Alinsky, who dedicated his “Rules for Radicals” to Lucifer (the Father of Lies).
The most ironic realization from surveying the lies of “radicals” in this country is that things are upside down and backwards, and in dire need of philosophical straightening (recalling Marx’s line of “standing Hegel on his head”; Hegel being another collectivist.)
Fundamentalist Christians are utopians who lie to themselves about the principles this country is founded on and are thus a hybrid of right and left, believing in a unified national authority and the utopian vision that we are uniquely blessed by God. This is not conservatism, because their vision has not existed in ideal-form since we became a nation. Their support of a Christian community is conducive with a federal republic, but not with a centralized government. The fundamentalist Christians are not conservatives because they are “conserving” a reality that never existed to begin with.
Modern liberals are also utopians who believe in a statist authority, the difference being that they are secular and atheistic. They merely deny the importance of the founding, or emphasize secular aspects such as the separation of church and state, which rational people agree with and Christians often deny at their own expense. But the founding fathers were not atheists and did not propone atheism, though they were as a whole in favor of religious freedom in the strict and radical sense. Many thought Christianity benevolent or at the least benign, with a few exceptions like Thomas Paine or Thomas Jefferson in his most radical moments. The most important distinction is that modern liberals essentially believe in making a god out of the state, which would be abhorrent to most founding fathers, save, perhaps, Alexander Hamilton.
Which leads us to American conservatives who are not Christian fundamentalists. These divide into two camps: Libertarian, who often believe in the ideals of America as expressed in the Constitution, but tend to be isolationist or pacifist; and those remaining Conservatives (or American Traditionalists) who are more hawkish, believing that it is necessary to vigorously defend our freedoms from enemies both foreign and domestic.
It is interesting to note that the two conservative camps mentioned above are notoriously difficult to organize into a mass movement. They are comprised of hard-working individualists who often have jobs, families and who sometimes volunteer for military service, and thus have trouble mobilizing in the face of political opposition. They want to stand up for their vision of America, but they don’t believe in divisiveness, instead emphasizing unity in individual freedom.
Strangely enough, Alinsky based his principle of organization on self-interest, a lesson that I know from public relations work is sound. Thus the animation of the modern left has its roots in self-interest, but its ideals are expressed in terms of altruism. We conservatives are likewise animated by self-interest, but we are intellectually honest enough to admit it. The struggle between the so-called left and right in this country can truly be boiled down to a struggle between Lies and the Truth.
We, being loyal patriots, are pained at the division of America into rival, squabbling and superficial sects and fear for the unraveling of the Republic; but we often feel immobilized on how to maintain unity in the face of people who intend fracture. The only option is to forego the idea of national unity and seek the ideological and political defeat of our enemies by any means possible. We must give up the dream of being an opposition loyal to the government, indeed we must only be loyal to the founding principles of this nation. We must discredit and defeat the enemies of freedom on the so-called left and right, and that is all that is important for the immediate future.
We are Americans who want to pursue our dreams and become the best we can be for the betterment of ourselves, our God, family and country, but do not know how to impose our will on others, even if it is for their own good. In fact, conservatives find the concept of acting and speaking on others’ behalf patronizing and infuriating.
But we must face facts, there is a time to wring our hands at the lack of unity in this country and a time to act to save our rights and freedoms for ourselves and our children.
We, my friends, must face the fact that we will soon be radicals in search of a movement! The sooner we come to this realization, the sooner we can get out in front of the turning tides of history and strike back at the enemy’s dark heart of lies and deceit.
It is my view that the best thinkers to look to for guidance are the founding fathers Thomas Paine and Thomas Jefferson, who were adamant in their belief in individual freedoms and who would have died to defend them. As Jefferson wrote:
“As our enemies have found we can reason like men, so now let us show them we can fight like men also.”
We must organize or face extinction. This is the law of the political jungle. The Internet is the medium by which to begin.
[If you agree with this article and would like to share it, link it here, or copy it and attribute it. Disseminate it to all those in need of motivation to fight against the lies of our enemies. We must wield the Truth as a weapon against our lying foes or suffer the ignoble defeat of the vanquished.]