Alexis de Tocqueville's Passage Presages Danger of Centralization in America

“The partisans of centralization in Europe are wont to maintain that the Government directs the affairs of each locality better than the citizens could do it for themselves; this may be true when the central power is enlightened, and when the local districts are ignorant; when it is as alert as they are slow; when it is accustomed to act, and they to obey. Indeed, it is evident that this double tendency must augment with the increase of centralization, and that the readiness of the one and the incapacity of the others must become more and more prominent. But I deny that such is the case when the people is as enlightened, as awake to its interests, and as accustomed to reflect on them, as the Americans are. I am persuaded, on the contrary, that in this case the collective strength of the citizens will always conduce more efficaciously to the public welfare than the authority of the Government. It is difficult to point out with certainty the means of arousing a sleeping population, and of giving it passions and knowledge which it does not possess; it is, I am well aware, an arduous task to persuade men to busy themselves about their own affairs; and it would frequently be easier to interest them in the punctilios of court etiquette than in the repairs of their common dwelling. But whenever a central administration affects to supersede the persons most interested, I am inclined to suppose that it is either misled or desirous to mislead. However enlightened and however skilful a central power may be, it cannot of itself embrace all the details of the existence of a great nation. Such vigilance exceeds the powers of man. And when it attempts to create and set in motion so many complicated springs, it must submit to a very imperfect result, or consume itself in bootless efforts. […]

Granting for an instant that the villages and counties of the United States would be more usefully governed by a remote authority which they had never seen than by functionaries taken from the midst of them—admitting, for the sake of argument, that the country would be more secure, and the resources of society better employed, if the whole administration centred in a single arm—still the political advantages which the Americans derive from their system would induce me to prefer it to the contrary plan. It profits me but little, after all, that a vigilant authority should protect the tranquillity of my pleasures and constantly avert all dangers from my path, without my care or my concern, if this same authority is the absolute mistress of my liberty and of my life, and if it so monopolizes all the energy of existence that when it languishes everything languishes around it, that when it sleeps everything must sleep, that when it dies the State itself must perish.” – Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, Ch. V

Sacrificing Others, Sacrificing Self, and Ayn Rand's Third Way – Non-Sacrifice

I don’t usually post others’ articles, but Evanescent’s blog has an exceptionally lucid and easy-to-follow explanation of Objectivist ethics, and why they are indeed, humane:

Are you selfish or selfless?

The more I think about the nature of selfishness, the more transparent it becomes that all moral and noble acts are selfish. It’s so obvious, (but then everything is in hindsight) I can’t believe I didn’t come to this conclusion myself long before reading Ayn Rand. But the reason I didn’t, and many people haven’t, is due to the corruption of the language and concepts involved.

Obviously selfishness is assumed to be evil and bad in almost all cultures today, and altruism and selflessness deemed to be good. It’s interesting that this is the moral code of religion which atheists have blindly adopted too, but that’s another discussion. Selfishness is taken to mean acting without any regard for others, sacrificing them to oneself, whilst selflessness is taken to be acting for the good of others without regard for oneself. However, Ayn Rand identified a huge flaw with this thinking, namely a false dichotomy; we are left with two polar options that exclude another type of interaction between humans: behaviour that requires no sacrifice of anyone to anyone else!

Do yourself a favor and read the entire post, especially if you are not of the Objectivist persuasion.  You will find that it just makes sense.

Democracy, Revolution, and The Imposition of Tyranny

Democracy in its purer forms is not the glorious system of government advertised in today’s popular culture, especially if encompassing a broad, populous, and diverse political community.  Factions tend to arise and seek to seize government to achieve narrow ends in disregard of the impact on the broader political community. As John Adams succinctly wrote, “Democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts and murders itself. There was never a democracy that did not commit suicide.”

Because of the unstable nature of democracy, a political system especially unsuitable for such a vast and diverse nation, our founders instituted a governmental system of divided powers and checks and balances, so as to pit interest against interest. A federal government, and not a national one, was established; nonetheless, many “anti-federalists,” who were ironically enough the true federalists, perceived flaws in the Constitutional framework that they believed would lead to the rise of a dominant central government.

Nonetheless, it was the founders’ hope and intention that the kind of power hungry elites who tended to be attracted to centralized government would be so pre-occupied with struggling for power against one another that they would be unable to impose tyranny on the masses. But should ruling elites find it more expedient and beneficial to conspire together to entrench their own power at the expense of the people, the system would be gradually undermined, and eventually, made obsolete.

One “anti-federalist” who made strong and articulate objections to The Constitution, because of what he saw as its weakness to check unscrupulous power-seekers, and its initially feeble articulation of the federal government’s duty to preserve the rights of the people, was George Mason.  As the prescient Mason summarized, “This government will commence in a moderate aristocracy: it is at present impossible to foresee whether it will, in its operation, produce a monarchy or a corrupt oppressive aristocracy; it will most probably vibrate some years between the two, and then terminate in the one or the other. ”

What we are witnessing  in this country is the coming to pass of Mason’s prediction.  The nation is being destabilized and brought to crisis by a “corrupt oppressive aristocracy” looting the general wealth of the nation to dispense to interest group factions in order to entrench its own political power. One such faction, the left-wing coalition, seeks to do away with the electoral college, which would remove yet another institutional barrier to the ruling elites’ power.

This corrupt oppressive aristocracy is apparently so concerned with personal enrichment and the petty trappings of power that they are concomitantly allowing the rise of a strong and potentially oppressive executive.  We should point out here that the political systems of a “monarchy” and a “corrupt oppressive aristocracy” are not necessarily mutually exclusive; monarchy is in many ways not an actually existing form of government, because executive-dominated governments de facto require some kind of aristocracy in order to function.

While the government in some ways represents the political opposition of different forms of government, the executive being the monarchical, the Senate being the oligarchical, the House being the democratic, and the judicial assuming the role of arbitrator between the three institutions, there is the possibility of politicians within the government orchestrating a joint imposition of power and control over the people to personally enrich themselves, secure their privileged places in society, and to acquire in their minds some temporary and fleeting form of glory.

The real matter thus consists in where the power lay: in the oligarchy of government or in the people as individuals.  The Constitutional system was meant to broker the relations between both and to prevent the rise of extremes from oligarchic imposition from above and democratic mob rule from below.  It was thus established to unite the states in common cause, soothe internal political instability, prevent civil war, and protect the citizens from oppression coming from above.  The politicians’ undermining of the Constitution has largely come by eroding institutional checks to federal government power by enacting popular measures, and then passing unpopular measures in defiance of the public, which now finds itself frustratingly prostrate to oppose the elites by legal means.

How democracy leads to oligarchy through revolution was formulated by the philosopher and Constitutional scholar Aristotle: “In democracies, revolutions are due mainly to demagogic attacks on wealth, leading the wealthy of combine, and they result in the establishment of an oligarchy or of a tyranny, a ‘popular’ military chief seizing the power for himself; or sometimes in replacing a moderate by an extreme democracy.”

It is crucial that those who misunderstand the unstable nature of democracy, and how it can lead to aristocracy and tyranny, become acquainted with basic political theory so as to not be fooled by the self-serving rhetoric of politicians.  What allows for freedom in a nation is not democracy, but the empowerment of the individual to live his own life.

Government Spending: The Black Hole of the Economy

During America’s Independence Day weekend, the Obama administration slipped a firecracker into the public tailpipe and set off for multiple rounds of golf and posh backyard barbecues with all the fixin’s.  As American citizens glumly contemplated their economic futures over styrofoam plates of store-bought hot dogs and potato salad, the word has been leaked that Obama’s “stimulus” cost taxpayers around $278,000 per job.  At an astronomical price-tag of about $787 billion, the news was just another reason those Oscar Mayer frankfurters were a choking hazard.

While the administration claimed way back in January 2009 that passing the stimulus would hold unemployment below 8%, the rate actually never fell below that figure.  The unemployment rate “unexpectedly” defied the experts’ predictions that massive government confiscation and redistribution would ease Americans’ suffering, and by the end of 2010, unemployment was still lingering at an official 10%.  It is obligatory here to point out that the bigger jobless picture is much worse than that, as the more comprehensive U6 unemployment now stands at around 22%.

So what happened? Stimulus not “big enough” to satisfy the left? Or was it all our fault, as we failed to believe in the miraculous benefits of creating money out of thin air? Clouding the stimulus debate was the insistence of the mush-minded middle that we “give fleece a chance.”  Now that most arguments for the stimulus can be readily dispensed with, let’s expose using logic why the stimulus was doomed to fail from conception.

Let’s first premise what went wrong with the stimulus empirically by comparing the average salaries of public sector and private sector employees.  According to government figures, the average salary of one of its own is 44% higher than a worker in the private sector. Comparing like jobs in both sectors, the public employees’ wages were 20% higher, and benefits were four times higher!

The reason for the disparity is simple: government shields workers from market accountability. Public employees across the board virtually set their own wages.  Since SEIU and other unions are a big part of the Democrats’ election strategy, the Democrat Party rewards unions with lucrative and easy contracts, and sate bureaucrats with cush wages, benefits, and pensions.  And what do these desk jockeys produce in exchange for their wages? Paperwork and regulations.

This brings us to the reason why government spending is such a black hole: Government jobs don’t actually produce demanded goods and services.  Instead, government workers and iheir apologists have to invent such terms as “infrastructure” and “public goods” to justify their jobs.

When a unionized construction worker builds a bridge to nowhere, or a bureaucrat invents some new regulatory hurdle for businesses, they are not simply engaging in benign behavior. They are actually destroying meaningful publicly demanded jobs and productive capability, following the logic of Bastiat’s “broken window fallacy.”  These government jobs actually consume resources as they engage in vain behavior; and doubly worse, wages paid to government workers don’t create “multiplier effects,” they lead to greater resource consumption in exchange for weaker value generated. In the case of welfare payments, the value exchanged is none at all. That is also why, pace Madame Pelosi’s unhinged pronouncements, food stamps do not have a beneficial effect on job creation.

In other words, the fundamental concept of the capitalist system is that people trade value for value.  Government erodes that economic foundation by abusing coercion to trade paperwork and pointless make-work projects for value.

So when a bureaucrat goes to work, shuffles papers around, gets paid exorbitant wages, and drives her Audi from work to her beautiful home, she is effectively robbing the people who provided those goods to her by the sweat of their brows.  Because ultimately, what did those workers get in exchange for their labor? Paperwork and regulations.  And what would they get in a free market economy?  Demanded goods, such as food, clothing, transportation, computers, etc. And the more people demand a good or service, the more likely it will be produced in quantities that will lead to lower, affordable prices.

By extension, military Keynesianism is a similar “black hole” of the economy.  When the government engages in massive military spending, and indeed, puts food on the table for soldiers and roofs over their heads, we are paying people who kill others and break things for a living with goods that had to be created and produced.  This is why it is not only prudent in terms of foreign policy to “walk softly and carry a big stick,” but it is beneficial in terms of domestic economic policy. War cannot lift countries out of economic depression, because killing and destroying does not increase general happiness.  On the contrary, wars are just their own kind of depression.

What fuels this apparently mystifying market process, which leads to such astounding wealth-creation effects?  Greed? On the contrary, it is self-interest.  Greed is taking things that are unearned, like the government and its workers do all the time. Self-interest means producing goods and services in exchange for things one considers to be more valuable, like capital.

Welfare statism is dishonest economy, while capitalism is honest economy.  It really is that simple. Whether we are talking about producing guns or butter, if the government’s making the decisions instead of us, the economy’s heading for the gutter.

Totalitarianism and Its Discontents

The murder of God in Western culture by the left’s secular prophets left a gaping void in the souls of men; one yearning for a worldly master to seize control from the deposed heavenly one.  The Unholy Trinity of Karl Marx, Sigmund Freud, and Frederic Nietzsche laid the foundation for the totalitarian state on God’s chalky sepulchre, on whose pyre man erected vast marbled monuments to ego, massive ziggurats down whose steps the blood from human sacrifices would pour.

The angst of being born into a universe profoundly alone, and the pathos of being consigned to death from one’s conception, led to modern man’s cognitive demand for emancipatory release from the strains and constraints of this world. The palliative sought was found in the demoralizing yet liberating anthem of Nietzsche for man to move “beyond good and evil.”

The disavowal of morality is freedom caved in upon itself; it is the void that results when one rejects God, and then goes one step further, by refusing to acknowledge the individual’s right to live for himself. Self-control becomes an obstacle to elites who seek power outside themselves to fill their spiritual emptiness within. Resultant political madness leads to destabilization, and crisis leads to the cries of the cowering masses for normalization on any terms.

The rationalization of elites who crave power is nonetheless inevitably parsed in the language of good and evil; their proposals are intrinsically good, and those of their opposition are intrinsically evil. This switch from universal objective morality to personal subjective morality is a key to understanding power elites who divorce morality from means and who elevate ends that invariably provide them with more personal arbitrary power over the lives of others.

The great tactician of today’s New Left, Saul Alinsky, was quite Machiavellian in that he called for “radical pragmatists” not to become separated from reality. But it appears to be a truism that serial deceivers on the left who proffer their warped vision of the good as an excuse to use immoral means to attain power for its own sake inevitably wind up believing their own lies.

But if the pragmatism of these radicals in some sense represents the imbuing of amorality into political decision-making, the ideology nonetheless leads to unimaginable immorality when exercised.

If one doesn’t believe in right and wrong, one can commit greater evil than even if one desired to be evil. Why? Because at least with the man who believes in good and evil and rejects the good, there is still the presence of a conscience, and the possibility that he can either see the unnecessary cruelty of his ways or grow weary of them as the emotional gratification or high of inflicting pain on others wears off.

The cold-blooded “radical pragmatists” on the left are fully capable of coolly and pseudo-rationally abusing power in a methodical and relentless matter to break down all opposition to their plans for human domination, including the opposition of humane morality itself. Once morality goes, and more specifically, respect for individual human life, the world can easily become an abattoir.

Foreseeably, due to the inherently totalitarian nature of radical environmentalism, or more fashionably, sustainability, humans could once again become sacrificial fodder for elites’ abstract causes, that is to say, their personal security. The supposed human herd could be thinned through wars, engineered famines, poisonings, sterilizations, or manmade diseases, everything and anything is on the table for the radical pragmatists. And suffice it to say, with our present state of technology, these demented elites’ power base would be great indeed should they somehow consolidate global power.

Fortunately, there are a number of potential flaws in the creation and function of any totalitarian human system that one can draw some hope from:

1) When egomaniacs conspire to dominate the world, the end is the fracturing of the coalition. It comes down typically to the fact that one party will not yield power to another, or for the greater interest of the grand coalition. Mutual distrust reigns and the coalition splits or the parties tear each other apart in a mad scramble for the top.

2) When a complex human system gets more centralized, there is a tendency for there to be more chaos, not less. Lack of information abounds, leading to inefficiencies. While it is true that technology can mitigate some of the problems past centralized regimes experienced, there are still too many variables taking place in real-time for elites to administer a massive polity and maintain control over the long-term. In sum, reality is a bitch.

3) Humans are not infinitely malleable. While in some scenarios they may crave outside control, they are intrinsically driven by biological motives to live one’s own life and to succeed relative to others. Frustration of human desires leads to demoralization, which leads to corruption, economic decay, and collapse in the long run. To quote from Aristotle, “Tyrannies tend to be short-lived.”

These are not overly optimistic claims, but are rather inferred from objective reality and human nature. If elites want to construct a static totalitarian model of a world, they would have to make human beings static and without motivations of their own. It is no accident that the ancient Greek word for revolution was stasis. If elites think they can avoid stasis through massive waves of propaganda, it is a fact of neuroscience that repetitive agitation leads to desensitization. There is no circumventing the fact that demoralization comes inevitably from the frustration of man’s natural desires, and particularly, his desire for happiness.

Adding complication to the would-be tyrants’ schemes, the global masterminds need to avoid death in order to found and continue any comprehensive regime. Plans beyond the revolutionary stage involve preserving the institution they founded; that is, if they desire it to remain in tact. If the elites choose to have institutional stability by following a singular global despot, there is the danger of intra-organizational tumult during transitions, especially those connected with death. If the elites allow the despot to choose his successor, then the despot may choose a weak one to mitigate threat of assassination.

Personal dynamics of exclusive groups wielding great power mean that there is great instability at the top, as the vicissitudes of immoral characters and their interactions are amplified throughout the system, leading to shockwaves and unimaginable consequences.

If the elites opt for an egalitarian power-sharing arrangement, various unspoken coalitions of like-minded individuals will form and shift, and the organization will take on the trappings of high school politics, as petty recriminations and hurt feelings will rule the day, and distract the politicians from effectively ruling the state. Without ample threat from the masses to rise up and overthrow them all, the organization will simply decay into power-struggling coalitions. The world economic order will likewise decay, as the ruling group destroys itself.

Ironically enough, even in the worst totalitarian system, it is the fact of human death that can give subjects the greatest hope. For no set of rulers can live forever, and it is the nature of egomaniacs, particularly sheltered ones, to seek meaning in grandiose plans. This necessarily entails overturning the existing order.

Whether challengers to any totalitarian state would seek to overturn the existing order based on lies, or on eternal truths, is the key question. For one might suppose that elites who have lived within a deceptive ruling class might seek something greater and more glorious for themselves; and that requires founding an order based on truth, human life, and the promotion of happiness.

For who can be happy for long enslaving people who are not grateful for their enslavement? Such a state of affairs where rulers easily preside over perpetually miserable human beings would not only represent a hollow victory over others, one not garnered by merit but by the accident of technological superiority, it would get quite boring.

Immorality can only perpetuate itself for so long before it collapses in on itself; thus sparking the innate drive for the true, the just, and what is conducive to human life and happiness; if only to be contrarian, people would eventually seek to be right.

On Liberation and Oppression

Before a revolution takes place, a change in the ideas circulated in the public must take place. Rather than allow the socialists to corrupt the public sphere with false conceptions of freedom, we must liberate the minds of our fellow citizens by enlightening them as to the true nature of freedom, and the importance of liberation from the arbitrary and oppressive state.

Freedom  must be rightly understood by members of society in order for it to exist in a political order, and in order for liberation movements to be directed against actual oppressors. Those societies that offer people meaningful choices as to how to direct their own lives, where to work, how much to work, what to buy or not to buy, what ideas to believe, what religion to practice or not to practice cannot be oppressive; those that artificially and arbitrarily constrain people’s choices and ability to suffer their own consequences are oppressive, especially if empowered by the state.

As a movement, we tea party activists demand social freedom, which is the presence of non-coercion in society; economic freedom, which is our ability to exercise our free will within real world constraints, and to accrue the fruits of our own labor through the aegis of private property; and political freedom, which is the right to live without state coercion arbitrarily constraining our decisions and consequences as we lead our own lives. We demand no more, and no less.

The clashing conceptions of freedom in America have led to the formation of two broad based ideological movements: the New Left and the nascent “Tea Party” movement.  The Tea Party movement believes in freedom of choice, and the upholding of the Constitutional order that has clearly led to the most economically, materially, socially, and ideologically diverse polity in world history, and thus the one with the most freedom of choice and results for individuals.  The New Left seeks, through its “freedom of choice” to deviate from the Constitutional order, to socially constrain through political correctness, to economically constrain through the doctrines of sustainability and equality of results, and to politically constrain through bureaucratization, legalization, and executive fiat.  An excellent litmus test for freedom thus becomes, “Does this action or policy enable or constrain an individual’s freedom of  choice?”

When governments are perceived to be oppressive, that is, anti-freedom, the seeds of radical “liberation” movements can be sown.  Liberation is the cause of human beings who perceive themselves to be enslaved, exploited, or dominated by fellow human beings or by some inhuman or alien force. Being a subjectively contingent cause, liberation is bound to human identity, and the perception of social and economic justice. Liberation is a deep-seated motivation for human action, and under the right conditions, drives men to fanatical and potentially violent behavior. It is the great deception of modern statists to lead men to willfully choose state oppression, while convincing them they are actually seeking liberation.

Being able to objectively evaluate whether or not another human being is liberated or oppressed turns on the definition of freedom. Freedom is the state of human existence when a man is able to exercise free will, in accordance with his rational mind, and to make decisions among real world choices that generally determine the outcomes in his own life.

What is crucial for people to understand is what freedom is not.  Freedom is not a state of being free from economic reality, specifically, work, scarcity, or opportunity costs;  free from accident and tragedy, as influential neomarxist theorist John Rawls implies; free from intellectual or ideological challenge; or free from the presence of people in any way different than you.

“Liberation” movements may be motivated to seek freedom from alien forces, such as foreign ideologies and religions, modernization and technology, actual occupiers and exploiters, and domestically, weak and ineffectual oppression. Confusion of “liberation” and “freedom from the foreign,” a shared misconception by the Islamist and the socialist, may be willful or unwillful, in other words, due to a lack of clarity of concepts.  The most common of these are the conflation of social norms and social oppression (being shunned or rejected versus being persecuted, viz.), or the confusion of social norms or economic relations and their bearing on governmental forms (a government can be structured to allow for the free play of civil society and market economy, as was the concept behind The Constitution, pace what cultural marxist revisionists believe).

The two most common revolutionary movements in the world are the socialist and the Islamist. These movements are in some cases syncretized, as in the case of the Muslim Brotherhood. Sayyid Qutb’s Social Justice in Islam remains a seminal text among members of the Muslim Brotherhood, and blends ideas of socialism and Islam.

The problem with socialist conceptions of freedom is the misunderstanding of objective reality and man’s contraints within it, as well as the nature of human beings. Human freedom is an aspect of free will as a matter of rational choice within real world constraints. Liberation and oppression are a matter of human nature. Human beings, as an aspect of biological and personal identity, are self-interested. In fact, the most effective socialist theoreticians and tacticians understood this latter, inescapable point. The reality of self-interest means there shall always be a struggle between potential liberators and oppressors, and the ability of the people to constrain their would-be overlords, using democracy, turns on their understanding of freedom and slavery.

While classical Marxists fail to understand economic reality, neomarxists fail to understand the nature of social oppression. For perhaps psychological reasons, neomarxists often associate social freedom as social acceptance. Because they believe their opposition to be laboring under “false consciousness” as a reflection of “forces” within the capitalist economy, they believe capitalism to be hierarchical and and the society reflects and reinforces that hierarchy. Their conceptualization of a community takes the form of a duality of economic base and cultural superstructure. Following the analysis of Gramsci, they believe that the key to overthrow hierarchy and institute greater equality and social justice is to undermine the capitalist base while using the cultural superstructure to replace hegemony, or their conception of how the culture reinforces inequality.

But what both kinds of Marxist do not grasp is that there is a difference between hierarchy and stratification or ossification of social and economic relations. America has always been, and in the absence of state intervention would continue to be, a dynamic place of upward and downward social and economic mobility. While some refuse to recognize this fact, instead criticizing and holding contempt for the American Dream, which attracted millions of immigrants from around the world, statists actually seek to recreate the conditions needed for socialist revolution in order to usher in a dominant state. (The nature of central bank inflation, for example, is to drive capital into the hands of those who control the banks. This is because capital is always worth more when it is created, due to the nature of “information” flows regarding the presence of that capital within an economy. For the record, the centralization of credit was a key plank of The Communist Manifesto.)

In fact, while The Declaration of Independence is a guide for understanding freedom, The Constitution is the attempt to provide the conditions for freedom by recognizing and counterpoising self-interest within a plan of government. But this freedom will not last if society misunderstands its nature. That is why statists have adopted the socialists’ misunderstanding of freedom and used it to undercut the people’s demands for self-government. What we have in America today is a harmony of interests between socialists and statists, whether the former comprehend it or intend it or not. There are reasons socialist revolutions unerringly lead to oppression; it is no absurdly repetitive accident of history.

What has evaded socialists who claim to seek human liberation is that due to the inescapable reality of human self-interest it is always the ultimate goal of those in the state to subject the population to a middling, inferior existence. This reflects the rulers’ desire for heightened social status and personal security.  The enslaved are unable to raise material resources to overthrow state exploitation without alarming ever-watchful “society,” which reflects the conditioning and interests of the state. Those who labor under socialism become demoralized and conditioned to accept the norm of poverty, which is relative to the extractors and redistributors, who, because of self-interest, always corrupt the system to benefit themselves. The modern justification for willfully adopting such a state of poverty is the environmentalist concept of sustainability, which deliberately ignores or distorts how market forces inherently lead to both sustainability and innovation through the price system.

In regards to neomarxism, “liberation” can also mean freedom from foreign ideas. This is a variation of the Hegelian idea of “Freedom in and through the State,” or the “universal in the particular, and the particular in the universal.” It should be noted that neomarxism, as the offshoot of failed economic Marxism, adopted Marx’s teacher Hegel as a prime influence on their views. Many observers consider Hegel to be the father of modern totalitarianism. It is no accident that our neomarxist dominated universities in America can be described as totalitarian. Ideologically intolerant, the universities, as a microcosm and harbinger of future society, replace diversity of opinion with irrelevant diversity, such as of ethnicity and skin color. Disdainful of principled dissent and principles in general, today’s universities value conformity of opinion, leading to a false sense of social security, overconfidence in one’s ideas, and reflexive reaction against those who disagree, commonly, by arrogantly considering all dissenters to be “intellectually inferior.”

As we have seen, liberation as a term is associated with all manner of phenomena and ideas, but most commonly in the developing world, it is confused with the idea of “freedom from the foreign.”  This confusion is why the “liberation” movements spreading across the Middle East are not genuinely for liberation. As the prevailing ideology of Islam dominates society and severely restricts behavior, it is in no wise conducive to freedom. Nor does “democracy,” as a means of regime accountability, give birth to freedom. If a society is oppressive, democracy merely politically legitimizes, and endows with the legal means of violence, the socially oppressive views.

In conclusion, socialist, Islamist, and syncretist revolutions seek to install oppressive governments because they aim to constrain free will as a condition of rationality exercised within objective reality.  The tea party movement seeks to restrain the government, force it to live within reasonable means, and prevent institutionalized oppression by winning the hearts and minds of the public and democratically transitioning America away from impending tyranny.

What the Left Hates Above All Else

What the left hates above all else is a person with dignity and self-respect. This may seem like a counter-intuitive or unfair statement.  But the argument for this claim turns on reason, and the proper employment of language.

In the leftist’s view, all those who do not share his grand vision believes himself to be “above” society. Those who stand outside his group, and desire not to be a part of it, is condemned by the leftist as someone who feels himself to be “above” it.

This petty, juvenile contempt translates into a hatred of “hierarchy,” or “patriarchy”; and thus, intentionally or unintentionally, of order in society. It must be pointed out that a modicum of order is necessary for true freedom.

True freedom means an individual decides what to do with his life; this is in fundamental opposition to the totalitarian leftist’s plans for that individual.  A person is just a means to an end for the leftist, and has no inherent value in and of himself.

The great majority’s rational rejection of the left’s unhinged views has only served to radicalize the left, which subsequently translated its views into esoteric doctrines and oblique programs to subvert the will of its popular opposition.  Due to being historically outnumbered, the left has been driven to infiltrate “the system,” sloughing off all morality of the formerly “bourgeois” system, such as honesty, decency, and forgiveness in the process. The leftist has become the master of patron-client organization building, rewarding those who are “down for the cause,” while punishing those who remain oblivious or unsympathetic to the leftist’s inhumane agenda.

The leftist who reads this entry will immediately dismiss it, unable to separate his self-image from his position vis-a-vis objective reality. Dismissing logic, reason, and anyone who does not share his view, the leftist insulates himself from reality, both economically and socially, while surrounding himself with like-minded individuals who share his contempt for outsiders. The left’s sequestering into monastical environments promotes an “us-them” mentality, very similar to the kind found in cults.

This is not how a leftist would communicate his irrational hatred of an independent person to himself, however; for his lexicon has been shaped by the left’s philosophical forbears to cast all such personal characteristics mentioned above in terms of “selfishness,” “egotism,” “narcissism,” “greed,” or even pure “hate.”

As such, one needs to explain why the leftist is “inhumane.” The leftist pretends to care about “humanity,” without really caring about individuals. This fundamental contradiction is a grave one, for it leads the leftist to sacrifice actual living, breathing human beings for his abstract causes. The foundation of his worldview is seriously, irreconcilably flawed; and this is a deadly mistake in judgment on the leftist’s part.

Anyone who believes in something, and stands for something, is the greatest threat to the left. From the leftist’s point of view, anyone with a solidified moral code is by nature a “fanatic,” even “fascist” in mentality.

But the leftist does not realize that the code of individualism is itself a barrier to fanaticism (one can witness the tidiness and orderliness of tea party rallies, in comparison to the usual mob mentality of the left, for example). In contrast, the leftist’s opposition to entrenched morality and order leads him to seek fatal societal breakdown, resulting not in liberation or a superior order, but rather the powerlessness of members of society to defend themselves from power-hungry rulers.

A woman with her own mind, her own individualistic morality, and who exercises judgment infuriates the left because she is beyond its powers. She is unable to be easily manipulated. She is not readily subject to being reinvented in the left’s imaginary ideal. In the leftist’s eyes, these stubborn qualities alone makes her intrinsically “hateful,” “racist,” “bigoted,” “fanatical,” “uncaring,” and “uncompassionate.”

For the left, the agenda trumps all. Actual living, breathing individuals who refuse to accompany them into demonstrable political madness be damned.

Individualism is the Opposite of a "Cult"

I suspect the author of the blog article “The Cult of the Individual” may not authorize my comment on his article, so I will repost it here just in case.

“Asking an American about individualism is like asking a fish about water.  It’s the environment that we live in, and it’s so pervasive that it’s hard to get perspective on it.  There are hundreds of thousands of people in our society like the entrepreneur above. Their entire life was a gift from others who donated to the cause, but they sincerely think of themselves as strong individuals who made their way to success because of their own determination.  They are literally blind to the fact that their life is only possible because of functional community systems–family, school, government, business networks, protective agencies, and so on.”

You are a very skilled writer, but I believe you consider individualism to be the opposite of community spirit, or cooperation, or brotherly feeling.  This is not the case.  Individualism is not exclusive of society or community action to solve common problems.

The theory that individuals can survive and indeed, thrive, based on mutual cooperation, without the need for government force, is not a baseless vision derived from the “cult of the individual.”

For example, government expenditures at every level show the paltry levels of support individuals were afforded as the country was being built.  (http://tinyurl.com/3hpm3pv.)

The link above gives the government spending per capita since 1792. The point is simple: How much do Americans rely on government and thus, tax redistribution?  So, in 1800, the U.S. government spent about $1 per capita in defense, and 30 cents in “other spending.”

How did they ever survive without the government taking care of them?

Today, if we include deficit spending, the U.S. government at all levels combined spends about $18,781.90 per person! This is an absolutely unsustainable level of spending, and is commensurate with people’s refusal to take responsibility for themselves.  Of course, all manner of rationalizations and intellectualization of avoiding responsibility can be concocted by sophists.

To sum up on this point, individualism does not exclude human beings coming together to pursue a common interest.  It is a legal principle that bestows man with rights, and prevents his abuse by his fellow man, and particularly, the State.

I find you are also conflating Jesus’ will, as Thomas Aquinas pointed out, giving man free will to live his own life, and the will of the state, typically filled with self-serving politicians and bureaucrats.

Nor did the Church need the State to promote religious ends in America. As Locke predicted, Christianity flourished in freedom.  And as Alexis de Tocqueville noted in Democracy in America, the Church fulfilled many social and charitable roles in America, now taken over by the State.  The redirection of man’s individual will and energies through the State, rather than leaving him free to spontaneously cooperate and help others, leads to atomization and apathy, not greater harmony and brotherhood. Attempting to imbue Christian ideals in the state is replacing the emphasis in Christian society on taking, rather than giving.  This furthermore leads to resentment, as man’s will becomes usurped.

Americans don’t need government to take care of them. Americans, in general, need to relearn how to take care of themselves. And that entails getting government out of the way so they can act in their full capacity as caring human beings.

And on the contrary, individualism is the opposite of a “cult.”

Socialism, like the ancient ideas from which it springs, confuses the distinction between government and society. As a result of this, every time we object to a thing being done by government, the socialists conclude that we object to its being done at all. We disapprove of state education. Then the socialists say that we are opposed to any education. We object to a state religion. Then the socialists say that we want no religion at all. We object to a state-enforced equality. Then they say that we are against equality. And so on, and so on. It is as if the socialists were to accuse us of not wanting persons to eat because we do not want the state to raise grain.” – Frederic Bastiat, The Law

The Road to Hell, and The Way Back

It is the unfortunate state of our nation today that a significant minority of Americans labor under the delusion that increasing or concentrating power in the presumably democratic state is not only fairly without danger, but is actually beneficial as long as the politicians accumulating the power are “well-intentioned” or seek to “do good.” But what is missed by these overly trusting citizens is that the diminution of individual liberty, which is the power for each person to determine the means and ends of his life, and the resultant increase in state control, necessarily produces an increase in arbitrary state power.

What is meant by ‘arbitrary’ power is that the ends of action are indeterminate, or in flux, or conditioned by personal prerogatives such as power-seeking for its own sake, and therefore, individuals who may have yielded personal power to ‘well-intentioned’ politicians with the understanding it would be utilized to serve ‘the greater good,’ may find themselves irreconcilably vulnerable to whatever whims and desires those at the helm of the state develop. The person yielding liberty to the end of a higher morality might find that his lost personal power is subsequently directed towards what he once considered to be an immoral end (war being one prominent example). History is rife with examples of future bloodthirsty dictators promising to further ‘the common good’ when coming to power, and once there, engage in popularly undesirable acts and rampant suppression. (Ayn Rand cites some prominent examples in her essay, “The Only Path to Tomorrow,” Reader’s Digest, January 1944, 88-90)

An individual, out of a sense of compassion, or duty to humankind, or love of country, might partake in a mass movement on behalf of an ostensibly magnificent aim (environmentalism, for example), only to find herself or her children to be no more than fodder for the ultimately failed and miserable schemes of central planners. And at what cost? The loss of one’s life – metaphysically, and in some cases, physically – is this not the greatest tragedy that can befall a human being? To lead a life where one’s merit, one’s virtue, is inconsequential, and all that matters is his ability and willingness to serve as a tool for some faceless bureaucrat or some megalomaniacal dictator to promote some pointless or even malevolent end?

Indeed, it is the sad and irrefutable lesson of history that any system of concentrated power would foster the development of wicked and cruel personalities and bring them into positions of greater power. Immorality, that is, an infinite flexibility of morals, would become the new virtue.

One of the key thinkers whose work elaborated on this general line of thought was F.A. Hayek. His The Road to Serfdom exposed how even the most well-intentioned of planners may create a system that ultimately leads to undesirable and even evil results. As Hayek wrote:

It is not only, as Russell has so well described, that the desire to organize social life according to a unitary plan itself springs largely from a desire for power. It is even more the outcome of the fact that, in order to achieve their end, collectivists must create power – power over men wielded by other men – of a magnitude never before known, and that their success will depend on the extent they achieve such power. […]

This remains true even though many liberal socialists are guided in their endeavors by the tragic illusion that by depriving private individuals of the power they possess in an individualist system, and by transferring this power to society, they can thereby extinguish power. What all those who argue in this manner overlook is that by concentrating power so that it can be used in the service of a single plan, it is not merely transferred but infinitely heightened; that, by uniting in the hands of some single body power formerly exercised independently by many, an amount of power is created infinitely greater than any that existed before, so much more far-reaching as almost to be different in kind. (University of Chicago, The Collected Works of F.A. Hayek, Vol. II, 165.)

Hayek’s thesis bears extremely close resemblance to that of the German sociologist Robert Michels, who lamented socialist revolutions’ propensity to develop into despotic oligarchies. In his Iron Law of Oligarchy, Michels noted that several factors contributed to the necessary control of a complex organization by insiders, even in the case of revolution: the need to coordinate communications regarding who represented the organization and what the organization stands for; a nearly ubiquitous desire by the masses for leadership, especially in time of tumult; and the drive by the elites to maintain order and control, and thus preserve themselves in power.

Ayn Rand formulated a view very similar to Hayek’s theory in her collection of essays The Return of the Primitive. As Rand put it:

Once a country has accepted the obliteration of moral principles, of individual rights, of objectivity, of justice, of reason, and has submitted to the rule of legalized brute force, the elimination of the concept legalized does not take long to follow. Who is to resist it? And in the name of what? When numbers are substituted for morality; and no individual can claim a right, but any gang can assert any desire whatever; when compromise is the only policy expected of those in power; and the preservation of the moment’s stability of peace at any price is their only goal; the winner, necessarily, is whoever presents the most unjust and irrational demands. The system serves as an open invitation to do so. If there were no communists or other thugs in the world, such a system would create them. (Ayn Rand, The Return of the Primitive: The Anti-Industrial Revolution, transcribed from audiobook available at Audible.com.)

In contrast to Hayek’s and Rand’s respective hypotheses, that the state becomes corrupt despite all best intentions, and that the collapse of morality and individual rights produces immoral states, we have the hypothesis of Eugen Richter, whose novel Pictures of a Socialistic Future paints socialist leaders as malevolent actors who fully intend to enslave their fellow man. From professor Bryan Caplan‘s foreword to the novel:

Lord Acton and F.A. Hayek have inspired the two most popular explanations for the crimes of actually existing socialism. While Acton never lived to see socialists gain power, their behavior seems to perfectly illustrate his aphorism that “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” For all their idealism, even socialists will do bad things if left unchecked. Hayek, with the benefit of hindsight, suggested a slightly different explanation: under socialism, “the worst get on top.” On this theory, the idealistic founders of socialism were gradually pushed out by brutal cynics as their movement’s power increased.

Richter’s novel advances a very different explanation for socialism’s “moral decay”: the movement was born bad. While the early socialists were indeed “idealists,” their ideal was totalitarianism. Their overriding goals were to engineer a new society and a New Socialist Man. If this meant treating workers like slaves—depriving them of the freedom to choose their occupation or location, forbidding them to quit, splitting up families without their consent, and imposing draconian punishments on malcontents – so be it. (Eugen Richter, Pictures of a Socialistic Future, ix, available for free from Mises.org.)

The meaning of The Enlightenment was to escape the arbitrary edicts that sprang from Absolute power in the state and to re-found societies on the pillars of enlightened self-interest, and Constitutionally limited government. Supposed “progressivism” is nothing less than a return to the status quo ante and an ushering into power of the oligarchs whose ancien regimes were once lost. What makes this situation perilous is that the oligarchs who return to power will have the past benefits of free market capitalism at their disposal – the surveillance, computing, and military equipment – under which to establish a dark age that could last a thousand years.

The only way to prevent the rise of this existential threat is to stand up for the ideals that gave rise to freedom; not the imaginary freedom the socialists promise, but true freedom. Freedom is nothing less than the ability of each man to follow his conscience, to live his own life, to pursue his own dreams, to personally live according to his own values, as long as he does not seek to deprive this same golden opportunity from others. If one urgently, desperately, desires to “change the world,” or more accurately, to make a better world, the lesson of history is that to ensure one’s moral ends are not perverted, it is best to take action oneself, and to enlist those of like-mind to join you on a purely voluntary basis. In this way, one can truly serve humanity, while ensuring that humanity doesn’t serve you, or those who act in your name.

Photo attribution

Apollo, Dionysus, and American Decline

I was up doing some research for my book, of which an aspect is contrasting the Apollonian and Dionysian strands of Western literature, their tensions and resolutions, and I stumbled upon this passage in Nietzsche‘s The Birth of Tragedy, which seems to speak both to the contradictions between the rationalist spirit of America’s founding, and the urge of the followers of collectivism for rapturous self-negation; as well as the torment of a philosophical soul experiencing a culture’s frivolous whiling away in amusements as civilization unravels:

“And so concerning Apollo one could endorse, in an eccentric way, what Schopenhauer says of the man trapped in the veil of Maja: ‘As on the stormy sea which extends without limit on all sides, howling mountainous waves rise up and sink and a sailor sits in a row boat, trusting the weak craft, so, in the midst of a world of torments, the solitary man sits peacefully, supported by and trusting in the principium individuationis [principle of individuation]’ (World as Will and Idea, I.1.3)…

In the same place Schopenhauer also described for us the monstrous horror which seizes a man when he suddenly doubts his ways of comprehending illusion, when the sense of a foundation, in any one of its forms, appears to suffer a breakdown. If we add to this horror the ecstatic rapture, which rises up out of the same collapse of the principium individuationis from the innermost depths of human beings, yes, from the innermost depths of nature, then we have a glimpse into the essence of the Dionysian, which is presented to us most closely through the analogy to intoxication.”

Thus when we witness the irrational hordes thronging and thrashing about in ecstasy upon their initial reception of what the politically seasoned might recognize as the banal speechifications of a demagogue, in our experience a shadowy phantom-man who Edmund Burke might have deemed a “non-conforming minister of eminence” who proselytizes with a “porridge of various political opinions and reflections,” we must also not be surprised when his act, and it truly is a staged act, becomes much like old porridge, a rancid concoction. Waiting for the demos to fling the porridge back to their elected masters may be excruciating for one who saw through the wearisome routine from its inception; but unfortunately, without an inculcation of reason, whose guidance is often only sought after the people’s flighty and eventually desperate measures to avoid responsibility and reality have been exhausted, the rejection of the grueling consequences for their unseriousness nevertheless results in further clamoring for panem et circenses. When both become unrelentingly stale, the mobs turn restless.

And such Dyonisian angst, in consort with economic hardship sown by debt relatively tame by current America standards, sprung forth the pathos of the French Revolution, who Burke immortally condemned in the following fashion:

“When I see the spirit of liberty in action, I see a strong principle at work; and this, for a while, is all I can possibly know of it. The wild gas, the fixed air, is plainly broke loose; but we ought to suspend our judgment until the first effervescence is a little subsided, till the liquor is cleared, and until we see something deeper than the agitation of a troubled and frothy surface. I must be tolerably sure, before I venture publicly to congratulate men upon a blessing, that they have really received one. Flattery corrupts both the receiver and the giver, and adulation is not of more service to the people than to kings. I should, therefore, suspend my congratulations on the new liberty of France until I was informed how it had been combined with government, with public force, with the discipline and obedience of armies, with the collection of an effective and well-distributed revenue, with morality and religion, with the solidity of property, with peace and order, with civil and social manners. All these (in their way) are good things, too, and without them liberty is not a benefit whilst it lasts, and is not likely to continue long. The effect of liberty to individuals is that they may do what they please; we ought to see what it will please them to do, before we risk congratulations which may be soon turned into complaints. Prudence would dictate this in the case of separate, insulated, private men, but liberty, when men act in bodies, is power. Considerate people, before they declare themselves, will observe the use which is made of power and particularly of so trying a thing as new power in new persons of whose principles, tempers, and dispositions they have little or no experience, and in situations where those who appear the most stirring in the scene may possibly not be the real movers.”

Where is such sobriety and earnestness in modern culture, short of the shining singular intellects of such men as Charles Krauthammer, notable primarily for his unfortunate lack of peerage, and despite numerous claims to the contrary, is fallible. Conservatives must not fall prey to the temptation to yield either the intellectual high ground or the cultural arena to the Dyonisians. A counter-balance, indeed, a reckoning, is gravely needed. There must be a return to reason if we are to avoid the orgies of senseless violence that accompany the atropy of civilization. For civilization is what gives order, and thus space for those of Dyonisian disposition to explore profound mystery. To provide such artistic and personal space, a rational framework requires not only a separation of governmental powers, but a separation of political, economic, and societal spheres, allowing the individual to navigate freely between and among them. Without such a framework that provides freedom for the individual, all will crumble, and both mindsets will be deprived of what each crave most.

Why Federalism Requires Individual Rights

In regards to one prominent presidential contender’s slippery dodge that something may be in accordance with morality at one scope of government, though inappropriate at another, I am compelled to rebut that the utter lack of principle among our political elites is the essential cause of this nation’s ongoing flirtation with self-destruction.

Federalism, the pre-eminent challenge to ongoing usurpations by the national government, should always be amended and qualified by a proper respect for individual rights. Citizens of every state, sovereign beings endowed by their Creator with free will, are not born into the possession of a State or even society. Men do not owe their lives to the society or the State, and should not owe their fortunes to either.

For a man is not born powerless into this world, bereft of reason, stricken of the capability of caring for himself. The State should thus not be held out as an enabler of men; for this is akin to saying that men are necessary as enablers of trees to grow. As such, trees do not require men to care for them; but rather, only require from men that they not destroy them. The rest God, or Nature, which is an expression of God’s will, provides for; and withdraws, for reasons impervious to the minds of men.

In as much we acknowledge the capriciousness of elements perpetually beyond man’s control, such as death, the climate, and the natural constitution of the earth, we acknowledge the limits of man’s control; and thus, the natural limits of government. It should not be the province of government to provide for the health of men; it should be the duty of men to do so themselves. Men thus should enter into such relationships as they see fit to accomplish this most natural of duties to oneself, freely in accordance with their nature, and not compelled to either provide for the care of others, nor to have his labor extracted to care for himself. Caring for oneself is ultimately up to the individual to do, or not to do. For what could be more foolish and fruitless than to care for a thing that does not care for itself?

We should recognize men are fallible creatures, and cannot be cured by even a perfect government. America’s government, as it was founded, explicitly recognized the imperfections of both men and governments comprised of men. The Founders’ philosophical deliberations on the nature of man and the nature of government were well-captured by Madison when he wrote, “If men were angels, no government would be necessary.” And conversely, because men are not angels, no perfect government is possible.

In other words, The Constitution, magnificently enlightened document that it is, is not capable of protecting us from ourselves, just as government is not able to care for us against our desire to care for ourselves. The document is not self-enforcing; it requires an enlightened people to carry on the torch of its illumination. The abandonment in the hearts of men of the principles animating the document, not necessarily replaced by a fervent ideology, but equally by a cynical rejection of ideology, would just as surely issue in a change in the nature of government as any violent revolution.

As such, the incessant and implacable demands of a growing minority in this nation threaten to overthrow the natural order the government was founded to preserve. Without a direct and principled rebuff, they will continue to grow, until the nation is bankrupt, both morally and financially. We must bear in mind, the two conditions are inextricably linked.

The impositions of demands by the growing minority on the fruits of others’ minds and labor, know no natural limitations. Their minds are impervious to reason, and the exhortations of those striving to avert national ruin to those benefiting by the unnatural state of affairs, essentially not to abandon the good in the vain pursuit of the perfect, will fall on deaf ears.

Therefore, time is running out for those who acknowledge reason and the truth of the principles animating The Constitution. The machinations of destruction have already been set in motion, and a lack of firm principled resistance to its immoral designs, which operate according to unnatural presumptions, will just as surely destroy the republic as if we had designed the infernal machine ourselves.

As Montesquieu instructed in The Spirit of the Laws: “It is not a matter of indifference that the minds of the people be enlightened. The prejudices of magistrates have arisen from national prejudice. In a time of ignorance they have committed even the greatest evils without the least scruple; but in an enlightened age they even tremble while conferring the greatest blessings. They perceive the ancient abuses; they see how they must be reformed; but they are sensible also of the abuses of a reformation. They let the evil continue, if they fear a worse; they are content with a lesser good, if they doubt a greater. They examine into the parts, to judge of them in connection; and they examine all the causes, to discover their different effects.”

As a nation, our prejudice has been that our greatness is capable of rewriting the laws of nature, of transcending limitations beyond our control, and of caring for men who have little care for themselves. Nature is the nurturer of greatness, not government. What is natural, in the strict sense, what is in accordance with the demands of nature, is what is rational. When government is unnatural, and is irrational enough to defy the laws of nature itself, the government’s impossible impositions incur a schism in the souls of men. Men become divided not only within themselves, but among themselves. These political and human schisms lead directly to the fall of a society, whose ashes are molded by the tyrant into a vain image of himself. The resulting facsimile of society is destined to crumble, inexorably to be replaced by one in accordance with the demands of nature, and in fulfillment of man’s nature as free sovereign beings.

Restoring the Republic

How do we restore our republic? We restore the virtue of enlightened self-interest.

In a free society the good of the individual should be theoretically inseparable from the long-term good of society, polity, nation. When individuals in a free society tend to be virtuous and enlightened, there is the potential for the society to be open and dynamic, the economy to be prosperous, and the government to be stable.

Modern lexicon is unable to distinguish between selfishness and self-interest. Furthermore, rarely does anyone expound further to qualify a behavior as reflective of enlightened self-interest, or what is in the long-term good of each individual. The decay of the language is a sign of the death of virtue.

What nurtures virtue in a free republic? The allowance for natural constraints in human affairs, and the removal of societal constraints on virtuous behavior. There should be natural rewards for productive behavior, and natural punishments for unproductive behavior; to clarify, what is deemed “natural” compensation for labor is adjudged by other men’s demand for a good or service.

This is not to say goods or services men freely choose are conducive to the long-term best interest of the individual.  The sum of government should be that men (viz. mankind) are sheltered from injustice: the theft of the fruits of his labor, the silencing of his social or political speech, incarceration of his person without cause, and the violations of those other rights so wisely embedded in our previous generations’ legal order.  Men should not be protected from themselves or from nature itself.  Man is not perfectible, and neither is government.

Ideally, men should be informed of the perils of self-destructive behavior; but the error of The Enlightenment is entrusting this task to a state-run education system.   The Internet is a reproof to those who believe knowledge must be institutionalized by a state-adoring vanguard in academia.  For all its defects, the Internet shines above all the achievements of modern academia.

But as the Internet demonstrates, free choice comes at the expense of a unified culture and a mainstream-accepted moral code.  The modern right and left are united in their disdain for a non-uniform culture.  While the American left preaches about “diversity,” ideologically they are as lock-step as any movement in history.  The right is accepting of individualism, as long as it doesn’t clash with Christianity.

So my proposition to unfetter the individual may be ideologically supported by quite a few; but in practice, most people are uncomfortable with a society where their belief systems and morality are not reinforced all around them.  As someone who has traveled abroad, I confess I find encountering the strange to be fascinating and intellectually stimulating .  Most people are not so inclined.  The goal of the essay is thus to persuade people to give up their personal demands for uniformity and conformity.  The operationalization for how virtue is developed and sustained is the process of individual learning and non-interference by the state in the intergenerational transfer of knowledge.

What our contemporary government has done is sever the cords tying self-interest to enlightened self-interest; and thus have stymied individuals from learning what is in each’s long-term best interest and what is in the long-term best interest of the republic. The government has devolved society into a match between competing factions, whose referee, government, has a direct interest in mediating between such factions; so much so, the government even seeks to create new factions using ideology propagated through the education system!

Our schools and universities aggravate the divisiveness by teaching individuals they are victims by mere circumstance of their existence; and their “labor” in a free market (or an economy where force is constrained) is akin to enslavement.  Both government and those who are disposed to feel powerless over one’s situation are interested in removing the barriers to taking remuneration for what they perceive is their inherently unjust plight.  These barriers are the institutions that make it possible for people to act in their enlightened self-interest.  Ideally, people’s pursuit of self-interest should be bounded by laws, such as those protecting private property, inviolable contracts, and caveat emptor. These institutions act to generally channel men’s energies in productive directions; in other words, they foster enlightened self-interest.

In contrast, politicians inhabit their offices for generations on end, and “greedy” Wall Street bankers scheme to find ways to coax politicians to underwrite their risk-taking behavior. When the inevitable collapse of their pyramid scheme comes, the media faintly condemn the politicians and demonize the businessman. Yet the media will ultimately endorse the unnatural and immoral behavior by advocating more theft from productive individuals to clean up the mess as prudent “policy.”

In a world of nihilism or principle-less pragmatism, there is no virtue; the productive are punished and the unproductive are rewarded; the honest are punished and the dishonest are rewarded; those who mind their own business are punished and the viciously power-hungry are rewarded.

Individuals can now receive compensation from the government without putting anything into the economy; or are subsidized by the government for providing unnecessary or even market-antagonistic goods and services. This is an unnatural and demoralizing situation; and any men who attempt to restore natural constraints on human behavior are blamed for those natural constraints themselves. The long-term, though not short-term, effect of restoring natural constraints on behavior is the resuscitation of virtue among most, but not all men. But the further most men are separated from natural constraints, and thus, virtue, the more painful those natural constraints’ inevitable re-imposition and the more chaotic the societal response.

The legal matrices in American society are unnatural; the laws incentivize sloth, greed, envy, ignorance, recklessness, and theft. We were a nation of laws, which attempted to bring out the best, the most noble, the most aspirational side of men’s character. This state of affairs was accomplished by pitting ambition against ambition in government and likewise in the economy, while opening up a space for free communication in civil society. It was hoped the last would provide a check on the former.

In our current state of affairs, we see the elites in the government coalescing into a uniform oligarchy, a political cartel of sorts. This burgeoning cartel has joined forces with a predominately consolidated economy: the monetary-banking cartel known as the Federal Reserve, immense state-friendly corporations, and so-called public-private partnerships in the home ownership industry. The consolidation of government and economy has been intellectually approved by the state-subsidized sophists in the education industry. The aesthetics of consolidation, “unity” and “utopia,” have been embraced by the artistic community through the aegis of the movie and music industry. Lastly, and perhaps most tragically, the consolidation of the governmental, the economic, the educational, and informational in the hands of oligarchs has been approved by a nearly-cartelized news media.

Far from crossing into some new progressive political frontier, the totalization of American life would be a return to the absolutisms of the past. It would be a reversal of The Enlightenment ideal of limited government facilitating self-government, and the re-establishment of the arbitrary rule of particular men – only now abetted and strengthened by modern technology.

Where there is now government, there was once personal responsibility. What constrained the foibles of men was an economic and monetary system that diffused the scale on which personal miscalculation could affect the economy at large; thereby allowing for individual flexibility and more general opportunity.  The reduced scale and scope of government limited the attractiveness for the selfishly ambitious to  carry out wrong-doing for personal gain, and the damage a small cadre of professional deceivers and con-men could wreak on the polity. Yet today, many are obsessed with a drive for “unity” for its own sake.  This only heightens the danger that the misjudgment and actions of a few have consequences for those who were not party to the decision.

As people feel increasingly powerless in such a world where the actions of those in far away places have disastrous effects, they places their hopes in mass movements, usually populist and “democratic” in nature. Thus, a surprising number of people are willing to trade our Constitutional republic for a chaotic democracy, a form of government well-known historically to presage tyranny. Democracies make self-interest a struggle for power and wealth necessarily coming at the expense of others; while Constitutional republics foster enlightened self-interest, which encourages men to create wealth and allows others to tap into that wealth-creation process. Democracies are zero-sum, while Constitutional republics based on enlightened self-interest are sum-gain, given properly virtuous behavior codified in a set of laws.

We were such a nation of laws. We are becoming a nation of men.

American Thinker: Why Socialist Tyranny is a Certainty

The Federal Budget and the Crisis of Democracy
By Michael Filozof

http://www.americanthinker.com/2011/04/the_federal_budget_and_the_cri.html

Hard to argue with this logic:

The budget cannot be balanced by the democratic process. That is because we have three distinct groups, each acting rationally: clients of the welfare state, who vote to obtain as many benefits as they can; taxpayers, who vote to pay as little as they can; and politicians, who can only get elected by appeasing both groups through deficit spending. Sooner or later, this house of cards will collapse. There are no good options anymore. As the House Budget Committee‘s website reveals, 47% of our debt is now held by foreigners. Either foreigners will quit lending to the U.S., or the federal government will devalue our currency to pay the debt (resulting in massive inflation) or taxes will be raised to obscene levels, destroying economic growth.All of this is happening because our country has become democratized far beyond what our Founders intended. Twenty-five centuries ago, the philosopher Plato argued that democracy led to tyranny when the people rose up against the propertied class; the tyrant gained his power by first posing as a “defender of democracy” and a “man of the people” against the oligarchs.4 America’s Founders knew this, of course, so they devised not a democracy but a republic of limited powers. The Founders envisioned that factions antagonistic to each other would balance each other out. But they never envisioned that government could loot the wealth of one faction and give it to another. Under the original Constitution, the Federal government could collect taxes on excises and tariffs only, not on incomes. Today, the government takes our money in the form of payroll deductions, and promises it to someone else before we even cash our checks. When that proves insufficient, they borrow from future generations of taxpayers to pay for today’s entitlements. The insatiable appetite of the welfare state has destroyed the constitutional framework carefully constructed by the Founders.Madison warned us of democratic urges like “a rage for paper money, for an abolition of debts, [or] an equal division of property.”5 Today, our body politic is infected with all three diseases.

We have already seen authoritarian attempts to control the budget because the political process cannot. Monetary policy has been placed into the hands of appointed commissioners on the Federal Reserve Board, and the justification offered for forcing every single person in the country into the authoritarian ObamaCare program against his will is the need to “control costs.” These measures have proven insufficient, so there will be more of them. We are thus left with the unpalatable choices of an authoritarian denial of welfare state-benefits, or an authoritarian confiscation of property to pay for them.

Welcome to socialism, folks. Welcome to tyranny.

Rethinking Government

We need to rethink government. We should start with what the Founders read and thought, and work our way from there.

There may be prudent means of modernizing how citizens express their preferences in government; the business as usual of electing representatives who go on a reign of error for two or six years at a time isn’t working. But we shouldn’t be seduced into unrestrained populism; we need to aim for greater accountability in government, not for instituting the whims of the masses.

Considering then that we need representative government, but with greater accountability, the policy of term limits is necessary. Term limits would free politicians to do the right thing, rather than the popular thing.  Additionally, it would free politicians from focusing so heavily on re-election.  It is thus essentially a policy designed to change Washington culture. Once elected, a politician’s terms in office should be limited to twelve years total; and Senators’ terms should be limited to four years, instead of six. The U.S. Congress should be a place for extraordinary sessions, not routine business. Televoting and virtual conferencing should become the norm.

In conjunction with the policy of term limits, those who serve in government should be forbidden from lobbying after they retire;  this would help prevent a conflict of interest between representing one’s state and/or district and representing narrow moneyed interests. Campaign contributions should be capped at an upper threshold in order to prevent politicians from “buying” elections.

Continuing with the theme of ensuring greater accountability, there may be a way to institute more frequent voting on referenda, particularly concerning spending. The danger is that if we make voting too easy, the dumber, relatively apathetic people will have more of a say. We still need representative and not democratic government; no one wants to live under capricious mob rule.

Such a routinization of voicing public opinion on spending matters only makes sense within the state government context; and as such, federalism is strictly necessary. When political communities can utilize the central government as a means to appropriate funds from those will not see the benefit of the program or policy, then those who are taxed are not being justly compensated for their property or labor. In addition, the political community receiving the funds is relieved of its representative obligations to use the money prudently. When people do not feel the immediate “pain” of making choices, then rationality, defined as making preferences while acknowledging the constraints of reality, is unhinged from its moorings.

With the goal of re-establishing rationality in a representative-democratic government in mind, there is something to be said for making sure everyone has a stake; thus, not just for fiduciary reasons, but for civic responsibility reasons, a flat tax makes sense. A Balanced Budget Amendment capping the government’s spending at a certain level of GDP is a good complement to the flat tax; but such an amendment should not be an authorization to spend the entire fixed portion of GDP.

In the economic sphere, our theme should be to ensure we live within realistic constraints, and following as such, fiat currency must be abolished. Sound money is not merely a constraint tethering an economy to the reality of scarcity, it is also a means of ensuring transparent pricing; but most importantly, it is a political constraint blocking the representatives’ means of financing debt-spending.

In conclusion, the United States needs a stable government in order for a vibrant civil society and a free market economy to flourish. We need to re-gird those institutions conducive to stabilizing and restraining government: private property, sound currency, and individual rights.  But we would also need to supplement our efforts to prevent the corruption of those institutions in the future; thus, mechanisms of greater accountability and responsibility, such as term limits, checks on campaign financing, tele-referenda on spending, a balanced budget amendment, and a flat tax would buttress those institutions and do much to safeguard them from depradation.  But ultimately, the only sure guardian of any free political system is an active, informed, and intellectually engaged citizenry.

Whom Should Man Serve?

Atlas sculpture, New York City, by sculptor Le...
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Though free market capitalism is the most successful economic system in the history of the world, both in terms of its correlation with high national GDP and in terms of allowing the great majority of citizens to raise their standard of living, no country on the face of the planet currently has free market capitalism.  It seems counter-intuitive: why would peoples forego establishing an economic system that permits them to prosper?  The main reason is that the state hates free market capitalism: it is an economic system that allows individuals to serve themselves.

We see a continuing culture war in Western civilization carried out against The Enlightenment since Marx and Nietzsche declared that God did not exist:  Whom should man serve?

Those on the reactionary left perceive a spiritual emptiness in capitalism deriving from its “materialism,” which they magnify to capture and encompass all of man’s aspirations and relations with others.  Since they desire to create a modern world religion to replace the old religions, they disdain the individualist underpinnings of free market capitalism.  There seems to be have been a void left at the core of Western Civilization since “God’s death,” and great thinkers have sought to fill it with their own totalitarian systems. Nietzsche saw a world crisis of nihilism stemming from the implication that “God is dead”and proposed heroic myths to fill the void. This perhaps is the meaning of Ayn Rand‘s novels: the creation of “heroic myths” to provide quasi-spiritual support to free market capitalism.

But to get back to the point of the article, solely serving oneself and one’s family is now castigated as selfish, and not just by one party, but frequently, by both parties. While the Democrats are the “welfare” party demanding that producers “sacrifice” for the greater good, the Republicans are doing likewise as the “warfare party” with their nation-building exercises; but essentially, both parties are simply different aspects of coercive altruism (I’ll coin this term to distinguish between voluntary and involuntary altruism) – the negation of serving oneself.

In conclusion, Americans must assert themselves as sovereign individuals, and unite in common political defense of the essential principles of our Constitutional republic. There has to be this bedrock principle firmly and explicitly embedded in citizens’ minds to prevent the politicians’ further erosion and destruction of the Constitutional republic under cover of sophistic or legalistic rhetoric. Simply put, we must hold to be sacred and inviolable the individual’s right to serve himself and determine his own destiny; in practice, this entails such institutions as private property, sound money, contracts, due process, and equality under the law. All else flows from the core principle of the individual’s right to serve himself.

Arrogant Lefties and What Can’t Be Done About Them

Friedrich Hegel (1770-1831) mit Studenten. Lit...
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America is being radically transformed into a socialist country and the only clue for some on how we got here is a vague sense there is a great evil in the ostensibly wooly concept of ‘political correctness.’ When did those on the American left go from pot-smoking hippies who wanted free love to freedom-crushing control freaks intent on regulating all aspects of people’s lives? It’s part of a great brainwashing scheme that takes advantage of people’s irrationality and tendency to socially conform in a collectivist ‘group think’ mentality once sufficiently demoralized.

Political correctness is a type of social pressure causing modern liberals to mentally conform out of fear they will be considered all manner of “insensitive” or “intolerant” things. Lefties simply cannot agree with conservatives, whom they believe are racists, fascists, bigots, homophobes, etc. and don’t even know it, lest lefties become all those horrible things, and themselves not even know it!

To cement the association in the left’s minds that all dissenters lack compassion or understanding, there were such seminal quasi-academic works written by leftists as Theodore Adorno‘s “The Authoritarian Personality,” which equated pro-American, conservative (i.e. classical liberal) values with “fascism” on an F-scale.

There are other specious rationalizations on the left to dismiss all conservative thought, such as Richard Hofstadter‘s “The Paranoid Style in American Politics”, cited by many on the left to explain Americans’ “reaction” to anything leading away from Constitutional governance and towards arbitrary rule by elites (which lefties do not see as arbitrary, but rather “technocratic”).

The radicalization on the left operates according to the automatized dismissal of all contrary facts, reason, and evidence to their worldview on a fundamental level. Blase dismissal is the left’s modus operandi, one might say. The grandfather of the modern left in this regard is Hegel, who imbued his philosophy with the teleological concept that man was progressing forward in history towards the culmination of his grand ideal, called “Reason” (a mysticized version). Hegel’s notion of history is like a giant meat grinder disposing of anything eternal; synthesis and antithesis are mashed together into synthesis. This process is inevitable and irresistible; great men in history are only the midwives for the ultimate triumph of the Idea.

Marx disagreed with Hegel’s Idealism, but was attracted to his deterministic and dehumanizing point of view. Thus he recast, or “stood on its head,” Hegel’s philosophy in a materialist mode: men’s minds reflect the class structure of society. Thus most men (only the ‘anointed’ on the left, excepting) can only rationalize their status in the hierarchy of capitalist “society”; they cannot philosophize or theorize. Once one takes this insulting bit of hypocritical and stultifying “philosophy” to heart, one simply cannot accept the word of anyone not “down for the class struggle” on the side of the proles. That many proles are conservative in nature, and that many of the most ardent socialists are in the upper middle class, had to be explained later.

Just the man to explain this was the Italian communist Antonio Gramsci. He put Marx’s dehumanizing forces into cultural terms, after the shortcomings of Marx’s theories became evident after World War I. Gramsci believed that governments in capitalist countries were merely a reflection of bourgeois or wealthy interest, and what causes the masses to labor through the internal “contradictions” of capitalism is the “false consciousness” caused by the wealthy’s hegemony (or domination) of the culture.

This point of view equating ‘the government’ to capitalist hegemony and ‘democracy’ to socialism is why the modern left can dominate education, media, government, the civil service, and the courts and still believe they are speaking ‘truth to power.’ It is also why the left cannot understand the tea party movement, which should not exist after decades of left-wing indoctrination.

“A conservative grassroots movement in the midst of culturally marxist-dominated music, movie, news, television, newspaper, and magazine media, along with pre-K through college and grad school indoctrination?” the leftist elites must ask themselves. According to the left-wing media narrative, there are only two possibilities for a conservative grassroots movement: capitalist self-defense against the crusaders of social justice, or purely racist reaction. “Tea baggers,” as the left stereotypes all principled conservative opposition as mindless trailer park trash, must be controlled by capitalist forces, if not indirectly in the culture, than directly through such supposedly nefarious operators as the Koch brothers, who were middling campaign contributors in the 2010 elections.

But one has to conclude the left counted on both forms of political opposition when they catapulted a still-unknown admittedly radical community organizer to power. This is why the Democrats outraised Republicans in nearly every sector of the economy in terms of campaign contributions: protection money (TARP, shares of “stimulus” money, Obamacare waivers, etc.).

And is it just a coincidence that a fresh-faced black president is ushered into power by the media, and when he starts implementing the most radical legislation in American history, there are cacophonous echoing and absurd charges of ‘racism’ to vilify anyone who opposes the program? What, did a hundred percent of American become radically left-wing overnight? On the contrary, around sixty percent of the American people are conservative in disposition, one way or another.

But the daunting numbers of conservatives non-violently opposing the Democrat’s agenda (including the agenda of Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi) did not stop the left-wing media from going after these citizens wholeheartedly, credibility be damned. And why was the left-wing media so brazen? Because there is no legitimate opposition, intellectual or otherwise, to the modern left’s “progressive” agenda.

Beyond the word games equating everything the left does or believes in to “progress,” and everything its opposition does or believes in as “conservative” or “reactionary” is a real flip: those abusing the federal government to victimize Americans for financial benefit and power themselves become the victims. This is a great strategy, because when the country finally does lurch towards full-bore socialism, then the lefties can claim anyone violently opposing them (or are somehow connected to those violently opposing them) are the aggressors and they can use the police functions of the state to suppress all dissent. The fact that the leftists are a minority and are illegitimately seizing power is apparently irrelevant.

The left thus feeds on demonization and dismissal of its opposition, abuses political power once installed in government, and then adopts a pose of contrived victimhood.  And even worse, those who argue for the left to stop or reconsider its policies are ignored by the hard left, who need not pay any heed to those inherently small intellects who object. This is why once embedded in government, nothing can rhetorically stop the left’s march towards self-destruction and tyranny.

If Only the Left’s Philosophy Were True

Graeme Garrard traces the origin of the Counte...
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Whether one traces the origins of modern leftist philosophy back to the French Revolution and the Jacobins, led by such radicals as Robespierre and the intellectual father of the revolution Jean Jacques Rousseau, or one leaps further ahead to the 1848 revolutions and the tomes of the Hegelian-influenced materialist philosopher Karl Marx, one has plenty of historical fodder by which to adjudge the record of modern leftist thought as applied in practice (or we can borrow the Gramscian term of theory-in-practice, known as ‘praxis.’)

The essence of leftism is the world is unfair, but this can be changed if one destroys “the system,” or by another school of thought, if one transforms the system into a necessarily totalitarian utopian one. Human nature can be fundamentally altered to make men intrinsically loving and kind, at the expense of dispensing with judgment and rationality. Civilization is thus a naturally corrupting influence, if one follow Rousseau’s savage noblesse theory, and thus it is expendable under the rubric of radical environmentalism. Property keeps men divided and self-interested, and therefore must either be abolished under communism (though this rarely happens in practice) or subverted and pointed towards the collective good under fascism, or more euphemistically, state capitalism.

What leftist politics across the board share is a fascination with the collective good, a sort of Pandora’s box of logic into which we can stuff all the world’s problems, an abstract transcendental ethic requiring in action “unity” for the sake of unity, and the erasure of individuality, including freedom and choice. Prior to this state of nirvana when men will become akin to anomalous free-form amoeba able to be innocuously squirted into a single valueless, essentially homogenous global society will be the destruction of all particularistic cultures, values, identity, rationality, and individuality. (Oh, there’ll still be a superficial veneer of diversity, but all real ideological diversity will be squashed under political correctness.) Mentally, men would become eternally present-bound, like small rodents and infants.

The catch phrases of this project are legion, traditionally: democracy, progressivism, social justice, equality, the collective good, the common good, the public good – name a kind of good, and the left’s got a monopoly on it. The left’s abstraction of a perfect world is eternally pristine and beyond the limitations of the real world. Heaven and earth are to be moved for reality to fit the left’s imagination, as opposed to imagination working within the constraints of reality. The damage to the world wreaked under such a violently destructive and ultimately fruitless worldview is beyond recounting. But we can briefly summarize.

The neo- collectivist movements spawned since the inception of The French Revolution have caused more human death, poverty, and misery than any political ideologies since the beginning of man. Even the religious mystical collectivism of the medieval period pales in comparison to the organized, industrial-fueled state demicide carried out under various forms of “socialism.” RJ Rummel, citing such studies as The Black Book of Communism, estimates “demicide” – or state-led genocide – as somewhere around 100 million in the twentieth century alone. It bears pointing out for the ideologically challenged that no individualistic, fairly free-market based society has ever committed atrocities of any kind approaching the scale of Lenin and Stalin’s Russia, Hitler’s National Socialist regime (please don’t make me retell the history), or Mao’s Communist China. Even when one does not deal in the brutal horrors of socialists trying to impose their square-peg-meet-round-hole philosophy onto reality, there are a myriad of other examples of socialist projects going awry and leading to starvation and disease all throughout history.

But even if we overlook the obvious, like the left routinely does, we can point to ongoing mass deaths caused by leftist philosophy today, right under most people’s noses. There is the drastic increase in food prices being driven by Keynesian (i.e. Fabian socialist) philosophy, namely, the injection of money supply to supposedly boost aggregate demand. There are ethanol subsidies, whereby 40% of all corn in the United States is used to produce substandard fuel. There is DDT, whose effective ban by the UN has caused tens and even hundreds of thousands of deaths per year since the early 1970s. And who knows what death and destruction await us under manmade climate change schemes?  Much like Obamacare, we’ll just have to go along with them to find out what death, misery, and poverty are in them.

The left likes to brag about its compassion, but does it ever have the “compassion” to admit it is plainly wrong? That its policies are killing people, destroying economies, and leading to a grave deterioration of the quality of life for people around the world? No, they’re never quite that compassionate.

Even if we reduce the scale down to the United States, we can see that wherever the Democrats rule the city or state, there is massive poverty, dependency, and an increase not only in hopelessness, but in a general lack of civility (when people live at the expense of each other, it fosters resentment, not an alleviation of supposed “alienation”). Detroit, Los Angeles, pre-Guiliani New York, Baltimore, Washington D.C. – all cess pools of wasted human lives and desperation. And do the Democrats learn from their failures? No! They are only driven to increase the scale of their failures, as if making a failing idea bigger leads to success!

(Thus the left’s eternal need for scapegoats, saboteurs, and systemic attribution of all the world’s problems to “capitalism,” which is unerringly and unendingly to blame no matter where, how, and to what degree it exists.)

But the Democrats’ blindness is limited to the general sheep-on-the-street, and not the ruling elites whose ideology is only a rationalization for their insatiable thirst for power. The ends justify the means, and in the Democrat Party’s case, the ends and the means are the same: power.

What does power mean? Power means you will do what you are told whether you agree with it or not. Whereas this nation’s founders rallied around Patrick Henry’s famous cry “Give me liberty or give me death!,” today’s leftists rally around “Give me socialism and give me death!” What better sums up the deluded aspirations of those who relish the ruin of civilization, and who celebrate an ideology whose mere utterance recalls for those who have experienced it poverty, despair, and even the stench of human corpses?

Waiting for Superman

Waiting for Superman is a heart-wrenching documentary about our failing public education system. Lauded by both critics and the general audience, while vehemently attacked by teacher’s unions, it is an Oscar-worthy documentary directed by Davis Guggenheim, who also pieced together An Inconvenient Truth.

Still waiting for the awards to roll in? Don’t hold your breath.

Waiting for Superman is not just a scathing indictment of public education, it is one of the most damning eviscerations of collectivism in the documentary format.

The film tracks several youngsters attending various struggling inner city and suburban schools who want to enroll in much higher-performing charter schools.

The only problem? The demand is so high that each child’s chances to enroll must be determined by lotteries, which are drawn at the end of the film.

Watching these children’s faces as they optimistically fight to achieve their dreams, so grotesquely (and misleadingly) bound to school enrollment, is a painful experience that leads to a compelling conclusion: Our system is failing the children, and precisely because it is a system.

The teacher’s unions are slammed for the greedy, unaccountable rackets that they are in this film. It is done consciously and unapologetically. This pretty much puts a blood libel on the rest of Guggenheim’s career in Hollywood. He shouldn’t expect to clink cocktail glasses with the likes of Gwynneth Paltrow anytime soon.

For all the lefties’ verbiage about speaking “truth to power,” they still pretend they aren’t in power, and they still pretend their abysmal track records aren’t the truth.

American public schools, when held to the standards of George W. Bush and Ted Kennedy’s “No Child Left Behind,” are approximately living up to 15% to 30% of expectations coming up on ten years of the program’s initiation. Yet the wallets of the teachers in unions keep growing fatter, while test scores in math, science, and reading keep plummeting.

The problem? Many of the teachers are unaccountable tenured employees. Getting rid of a tenured teacher in many states is like trying to get rid of bed bugs with a pair of tweezers; it can be done, but it’s long and tedious.

In Illinois, for example, in only thirty two districts of over six hundred has a teacher ever been fired. And in New York, there is an appeals process for teachers accused of misconduct requiring them to sit in offices for eight hours a day, for up to three years, drawing full salaries and benefits, doing nothing but reading newspapers or looking at porn on their blackberries. The program’s cost to New York taxpayers? Over $100 million a year.

The film has been characterized by left-leaning media outfits as “tendentious” (this from people who think there is no objective truth, only “narratives”), while the National Education Association rallied the troops to label it “propagandistic.” The NEA laments that teachers weren’t consulted to give us an “inside” look on education. That’s kind of the point.

And the left can say the film paints with a “broad-brush,” but that’s exactly what the statistics the film draws on are meant to do.

The conclusions many gather from the film are mixed, and even detractors see some redeeming value in the film in that it “promotes discourse.” But almost everyone misses the point, because most people are unable to see the ideological dynamics at play and are unable to imagine alternatives, having been educated within the same system themselves. This may sound haughty and arrogant, but I’ll explain. (And it can be more thoroughly explained in Ayn Rand’s The Return of the Primitive.)

The right concludes that charter schools may be a way out of public school’s institutionalized mediocrity, but that is not the right conclusion (and not because of the left’s reasoning that “choice” is the problem). Charter schools may replicate the teaching methods of public schools, leading to the same mediocrity. In one shot in Waiting for Superman, children in a charter school hold up a banner saying, “Team beats the Individual every time.” Exactly right.

But we’ll come back to that point later, let’s take a look at some reactions on the left.

A WFS parody site called “Not Waiting for Superman” protests that teacher’s unions are not a major problem, and any suggestion that they are is a brazen assault on teachers themselves. As if expecting accountability and something for our money is the same as impugning the teaching profession.

But contrary to the perception inside the bubble of teacher’s unions, the unions are not widely held in high regard. In fact, they are often seen by citizens as money-grubbing extortionists which do their best to inure teachers from the demands of their clients. Which is kind of a union’s raison d’etre, come to think of it.

Teacher’s unions have also been declining in esteem because of fresh political opposition from such rising stars in the GOP as New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. Governor Christie, though ideologically flawed when it comes to Islam and environmental issues, has done much to spotlight the outrageous abuses of teacher’s unions. Christie took on the unions with budget cuts followed by a staunch refusal to compromise. This garnered him a death threat from one supposedly angelic teacher’s union.

The spread of new media has also lead to tarnishing of the teacher’s unions’ image, which would have been impossible under the old media monopoly. Circulating videos of teachers yelling such demands as “Save our children! Give up the bucks! Where’s the cash? We need it fast!” (KAC Ep.2 2:30-2:45), as well as websites devoted to exposing teacher’s unions, show an ugly side of unions that the major networks and publications simply won’t portray. (One reason is explained by the movie itself: The Democrat Party is beholden to teacher’s unions.)

While the middling left is in denial, the hard left concludes from the film that the public schools’ failings derive from a lack of “social justice.” In the hard left’s imagination, a static, self-perpetuating world of economic and human mediocrity solves all problems. But let’s use a typically useful trick and flip the left’s worldview on its head to find the right answer.

The problem with our public schools is not financial or even structural, it is ideological; and tautologically, if Americans were ideologically and culturally self-interested, public schools would not have the stranglehold on education that they do.

America has stopped elevating the individual. We fear competition. Hell, we fear just about everything. We have stopped striving with bravery and curiosity into the unknown. We have stopped treating life as an adventure where we forge ahead, boldly experimenting, seeking to improve human life through civilization and scientific progress.

As a people, we have stopped demanding of ourselves, and have stopped “living in truth.” We are as intellectually unhinged as we are morally and economically unhinged. We no longer ask hard questions demanding introspection or self-criticism, or demand much of ourselves, for that matter. We don’t try to be exceptional. We don’t try to be leaders. We don’t try to be much of anything.

And it is precisely any shred of competitive spirit that built America that leftists want to snuff out. Instead, they want to build a world where no one fails and everyone succeeds. Wielding such mantras as “self-esteem,” “tolerance,” and the unrelenting need for “creativity,” at the expense of any objective standards, they desire to insulate our children from reality itself, setting them up to fail. And failing is exactly what our children are doing.

The left should stop trying to fix “the system” it once so admirably challenged. It needs to stop trying to make a better world, and start helping Americans become better people. Because ultimately, becoming a good person is a hard journey that begins and ends with oneself.  There is no way to have a great world without great individuals.