Saturday, September 24, 2011
What Is Really Wrong With the Freedom Movement?
Now suppose you had a group of "restore the republic" types. One of them might be pro-South and outspokenly conservative. Another might be a Christian libertarian promoting Ron Paul. A third might also be a Christian but have doubts about Ron Paul because he has misread Romans 13. A fourth might be a libertarian like the second but would proudly trumpet his atheism; all we need to do, the fourth would insist, is read Ludwig von Mises and Murray N. Rothbard. A fifth would emphasize abortion. A sixth will focus on illegal immigration. A seventh would try to turn attention to the history of the money and banking system in this country, and focus on the role of a power elite in corrupting our economic institutions operating in secret leading to many of the above results, ending with a caution against attacking symptoms instead of identifying underlying problems. An eighth might pooh-pooh his predecessor as a "conspiracy nut." And so on and so on.
What would happen? I can tell you from experience what would happen. The members of this group would focus more on their differences than what they have in common; most would lose sight of the larger picture. No coalition would form. Each would continue running around on his own. Few if any would assist any of the others; any assistance would be temporary and conditional on absolute and total agreement with the assistor's worldview. The point is: no coalition would form.
There is--in my area at least, and therefore probably in most other parts of this country--no lack of groups to join. Some study the Constitution. Some engage specific problems, such as taxes. Some promote Ron Paul. Some work to expose RINOs (Republicans In Name Only). Some study the Bible. All of these are, of course, laudable projects. But none of the groups work together. Some, indeed, barely talk to one another. In my neck of the woods in Upstate South Carolina, there are groups whose monthly meetings are scheduled on the exact same night and at the exact same time as another group's monthly meetings--not out of malice on somebody's part, of course, but of indifference born of the fact that in the freedom movement, almost no one talks to anyone outside their niche.
Specific things can get done in this environment--I know of people who have been helped by the Patriot Network group to win court cases against the IRS, for example; other groups have made life difficult for politicians such as Senator Lindsay Graham (RINO-S.C.)--but I have a sense that while we win occasional specific battles we are losing the larger war, which is to keep this country from turning into a full-fledged techno-feudalist police state.
And not to imply that malice never erupts between different factions within the Freedom Movement. I've already mentioned that the atheists refuse to work with Christians (in fairness, the reverse is often true as well). Many who fancy themselves taking a "rational" (or perhaps it's an "empirical") view of society, based invariable on what is visible and open to immediate documentation, dismiss "conspiracy theories" no less than atheists dismiss Christian theists.
This is just one problem with the Freedom Movement, I can call it as if we were talking about one movement and not many disunited movements.
Other problems are not hard to find. I am not sure there is much discussion, much less agreement, on where the locus of control really is in complex societies such as ours. The answer to this isn't self-evident. Is it with what I call the power of the sword (the power of those in government to make laws and impose their will on society by direct coercion) or with the power of the purse (the power of those in private associations, such as foundations, think tanks, and a lot of large corporations to set the direction of policy and ideas by bankrolling certain ventures while withholding support from others)? Both the conservative wings and the libertarian wings trust corporations more than they should, as I have argued elsewhere. Pointing this out, though, that many corporations and cartels of corporations are as drawn to power as governments annoys free market absolutists. All one has to do to see this is investigate Big Pharma's war against the dietary supplement industry.
Not entirely unrelated is a third problem, as it see it: it is easy to fall into the trap of interpreting freedom as an every-man-woman-and-child-for-himself extreme individualism, which sees itself as having no social obligations at all, even though F.A. Hayek refuted this interpretation in one of his most important essays, "Individualism: True and False."<1> Many infer from the claim that "the government should not be doing x" that "no one should do x" even if x is a matter of someone's survival--maybe of many people's survival. Let me ask the question this way: were all government programs assisting the elderly, the infirm, the unemployed, etc., to cease, would it follow that these people should be left to die in the streets? Normal human beings, most of whom have social consciences, recoil against that and it hurts the Freedom Movement.
Consider a concrete illustration: the preventable death back in 2008 of Ron Paul's campaign manager, Kent Snyder, 49, from complications from pneumonia. He was penniless despite having handled millions of dollars four years ago. He could have been saved, but had no health insurance. His medical and hospitalization bills totaled over $400,000. Snyder had singlehandedly raised over $19.5 million. The money that could have saved his life and paid his bills existed, had someone chosen to allocate it in that direction.
The mindset amongst at least some Ron Paul supporters boils down to: tough! Even Dr. Paul himself was quoted as saying, "That's what freedom is all about: taking your own risks. This whole idea that you have to take care of everybody—" Wolf Blitzer, who had been questioning Paul that night, followed up by asking if "society should just let him die." Paul needn't have answered; the crowd cheered at the idea!
To be honest about it, that moment made my blood run cold! I even wondered, just for that moment, if I had been defending the right people all these years! A number of things had come into focus, including things that have happened to me these past few years, some of them minor such as Libertarian online publications that will no longer publish me because I am not a "pure" enough Libertarian--but others less minor and bound to hurt the cause of liberty such as the general sense communicated to the public that if a Ron Paul were to be elected president we could kiss every safety net in this country goodbye. The reason such events as the preventable death of Kent Snyder will hurt the cause is that most people are bound to recoil instinctively against such things. I am sure that there were onlookers that night who decided after that display of coldness that they could not support Ron Paul. Dr. Paul's followers ought to be more cautious of the message they often send out, and how that message will be received by others, including some who probably sincerely have not made up their minds about him.
The bottom line is: there are a lot of people suffering right now because of this economy. Some of their suffering might be traceable to their own bad decisions, such as buying houses they couldn't afford; but not all of it. And where did any of us get the idea that we have the right to make that judgment? For all the presumption, evident in a lot of Libertarian writings, of an absolute dichotomy between free, voluntary choice and state coercion, I for one see a large gray area where ordinary people are influenced by a wide range of factors in an environment filled with their own peers, incomplete information, and outright propaganda which after continuous exposure they easily come to see as the truth. Western rationalism is rife with dichotomies. This is perhaps Western rationalism's biggest drawback as a philosophy of life since life is full of continua and shades of gray.
The view is tempting that what we Freedom Movement people need to do is revisit our first premises as a group and decide, ahead of recommending or taking specific actions or even supporting specific candidates for office, what we are going to do when we find ourselves disagreeing over fundamentals? Are we going to talk to each other and try to get past our differences and work together, as the Left has always managed to do? Or are going to ignore others, or perhaps, attack them because their, e.g., religious beliefs are different than ours? We also need to revisit some of our ethical premises, the ones lying behind our political and economic philosophies respectively of Constitutionally limited government and free enterprise. The business enterprise operates under the assumption that we serve others in order to advance our own ends; we produce a good or a service others want, or we go out of business? But does service to others end with monetary compensation? Do our ethical premises preclude helping one another unless an immediate material profit comes our way? Do our premises preclude helping others, including strangers we don't know? Do they preclude recognizing that if we take seriously the value of individual liberty, then we ought to think about ensuring that those liberated from government aren't then left to starve in the dark--both through our own actions both individually and in coordination with others? I fear that if the various freedom, Libertarian, and restore-the-republic movements out there--and how interesting that there are so many of these names and phrases to choose from--do not begin thinking these things through it will continue to do what it is doing now, which is whither on the vine. It will die not from having been smashed by leftists and mainstream media hostility, but from those located somewhere in the middle who looked at the Freedom Movement and saw only the coldness and indifference of something vaguely inhumane--something they wanted nothing to do with.
With much of the mainstream clearly floundering, largely defenseless both intellectually and politically against the global superelite which has almost destroyed this country, a Freedom Movement that is disunited and more apt to shoot itself in the foot than produce constructive policy ideas is not what we need right now.
<1> Friedrich A. Hayek, "Individualism: True and False" in F.A. Hayek, Individualism and Economic Order (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1948), pp. 1 - 32.
Wednesday, September 14, 2011
New Article: Ron Paul and Social Issues
Ron Paul and Social Issues
I supported Ron Paul for the Republican Party nomination back in 2007-08—including with campaign contributions, time, and creative work (I designed a “Restore Our Constitution” t-shirt and sold shirts online and at events). Even then I received a few emails from Christians arguing that they could not support Ron Paul because of his stand on social issues. One person, for example, handed me an article entitled “Is homosexuality a sin? Ron Paul can’t say.”
The response is that of course he can. He says he is a Christian. Only he knows for sure, but I tend to believe him. He does not base any proposals for specific laws or policies on religious beliefs, though—his or anyone else’s—and this is what bothers many Christians. Let’s look more closely.
[Read the rest here.]
Friday, September 09, 2011
New Article: Brave New Generation Revisited
Brave New Generation: Revisited
by Steven Yates
September 9, 2011
Back in 1994 I published a book entitled Civil Wrongs: What Went Wrong With Affirmative Action (ICS Press). In addition to criticizing the standard defenses of affirmative action that typically come from leftists, the book drew connections between affirmative action and academic movements such as radical feminism and multiculturalism, and the meteoric rise of political correctness (PC) on college and university campuses. PC was, and is, thought control. During the 1980s affirmative action had come under increasing criticism, including from black intellectuals (the most visible being economists Walter Williams and Thomas Sowell, and former University of California Regent Ward Connerly). The racial preferences and set-asides it had inaugurated throughout government and industry had prompted numerous court challenges, where the final decisions often confused rather than clarified the issues (Bakke v. University of California at Davis being the best known 1970s case, with Ward’s Cove v. Atonio and City of Richmond v. Croson being the best known late 1980s cases). This wave of dissent had to be stopped. The only way to stop it was to repress the thought that led to it by demonizing it as racist and destroying those who ran afoul of the new speech and behavioral codes.
My book didn’t go far enough or deep enough. For example, it didn’t probe the role of the British Fabian Society in paving the way for the rise of the far left in this country. The book’s sole effect was to nearly destroy my academic career: I was out of a job the year after it appeared, and haven’t taught “full time” since. I can’t say I wasn’t warned, and I am not saying I was singled out. I simply had not grasped how deeply the academic left—protégés of Frankfurt School luminaries such as Marxist philosopher Herbert Marcuse or of radical feminist Simone de Beauvoir—had sunk its claws into academia, or how the deep pockets of foundations such as Ford, Rockefeller and a multitude of others were bankrolling the leftist agenda for the country. By 1990 leftists had become unofficial gatekeepers to tenure-track jobs in nearly all humanities and social sciences departments. I had seen a couple of “searches” from the inside and observed, first hand, the bureaucratic preoccupation with race and gender; as sociologist Frederick R. Lynch put it in his book Invisible Victims: White Males and the Crisis of Affirmative Action (1989), word came down but did not go out. Moreover, in an overcrowded job market, conformists are hired and dissidents are weeded out. It was clear that law schools had been fully captured by what I called the affirmative action mind-set; it had captured most academic publishers (Civil Wrongs, actually completed in 1991, was rejected by over 50 publishers; some of the rejection letters were openly hostile.). I warned anyone who would listen that if the leftist agenda wasn’t identified for what it was and opposed from the inside, whether from within the universities (by sensible senior faculty and administrators) or from without (through independent organizations capable of reaching alumni groups, boards of trustees, etc.), it would spread outward to every major institution in this country.
I hate to say it, but I was right. By 1993, with Civil Wrongs still in the pipeline, PC had spread to the military with the women-in-combat issue and with the forced admission of women to former male bastions such as The Citadel. It had taken over mainstream journalism. By 2000 it had spread to large corporations. Think how Atlanta Braves relief pitcher John Rocker’s career was destroyed following his less-than-politic description of New York subway riders. Or think of the malicious destruction of Columbia, South Carolina barbecue baron Maurice Bessinger’s thriving distribution business in a matter of a few weeks that same year when one reporter could make the irresponsible claim that tracts available in his restaurants indicated a belief in slavery—a claim which didn’t make a whole lot of sense and which no one at the newspaper of record in South Carolina bothered to check. Large grocery chains, under pressure from the NAACP, refused to carry his products, and that was that. Or think of how Rolf Szabo was forced from his job at Kodak, a position he’d held for 23 years, following his refusal to apologize for calling a pro-homosexual email sent to all employees “offensive” (can anyone imagine so unprofessional a communication being sent to everyone in a business prior to the 1990s and 2000s?).
A generation then in its teens was watching and learning—and becoming immersed in the captured culture. This was around the time I began penning articles for the then-new LewRockwell.com: against the wretched world of mainstream commentary, such sites were a breath of fresh air! One of my earliest was entitled “Brave New Generation.” It made another disturbing prediction: that in just a few short years we would see the rise of a generation, its leading-edge members born during the late 1980s, which would grow up with no memory of a world without PC. The lion’s share of its members would not even need to censor themselves. They would believe fully in the assumptions behind PC: that white males were history’s villains and not to be trusted, that minorities and women were victims who had overthrown their victimhood through political action, and that the country could be transformed into a multicultural paradise of hope and change. As George Orwell opined, “Circus dogs jump when the trainer cracks his whip, but the really well-trained dog is the one that turns his somersault when there is no whip.” The whip is still there, but mostly unnecessary among members of this generation who largely police their own.
The Brave New Generation whose rise I predicted in that article came fully of age with the meteoric rise of a single political figure: Barack Hussein Obama.
Given the arguments and warnings of Civil Wrongs and of “Brave New Generation,” it is easy to think of Obama as having been the perfect affirmative action candidate back in 2008. He’d come almost out of nowhere in comparison to candidates, Republican or Democratic, who’d had long careers in Congress—or perhaps been governors as had both Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. His university grades—to the extent we even knew what they were—were unremarkable. His first “job” of note was as a “community organizer” under the spell of Saul Alinsky. He went to law school, then went on to serve an undistinguished term in the Illinois State Senate. Then he became an undistinguished U.S. Senator. He all but abandoned that office to … were we ready for this? ... to run for President.
He’d written Dreams of My Father back in 1995, but otherwise had no accomplishments of note. He had no legislative accomplishments.
Where did anyone—even far-left Democrats—get the idea that this guy ought to have been nominated for President of the United States?! Obama’s connection to Alinsky didn’t even scratch the surface. Those who dug into his past turned up a variety of shady characters, some of them merely anti-white racists like his former pastor, some of them former terrorists who had engaged in criminal bombings, and one or two out-and-out Communists. This was known even then, but the Obama train proved unstoppable, and for many of the same reasons the affirmative action and PC trains proved unstoppable in the universities. Not even Hillary Clinton, whom many of us had believed would be the Democrats’ presidential candidate that year, could slow it down. There was plenty of reason for a national party with integrity and concern for the future of this country—already immersed in what was arguably the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression—not to give this fellow the nod. Even if one subtracted the shady associates from his past from consideration, there just wasn’t the slightest evidence he could handle the job. The Democrats nominated him anyway.
Obama had things going for him that overrode all common horse sense. First, he could speak very well—with or without a teleprompter. He had a voice that resonated in the right way, and he knew how to use it. His voice bespoke of calm amidst the economic storm. It carried a sense of promised restoration of order even as hundreds of thousands of jobs were being lost. Very early on he had audiences in the palm of his hands. I recall watching some of those audiences and noting the glassy stares you’d expect in the eyes of people gazing at a religious icon. Many of these people were twentysomethings—born during the mid to late 1980s. The Brave New Generation had come of age and was voting for the first time! When all is said and done, they went for Obama over the rather stodgy-appearing Hillary Clinton. To some, he really was the Messiah!
You see, Obama was a minority! With a black father born in Kenya and a white mother (a Marxist, by the way), and having lived and been raised overseas, Barack Hussein Obama was a dream-come-true for the twentysomething college graduate indoctrinated into the tenets of multiculturalism and globalism—and who knew nothing of their own heritage and history except that blacks had once been slaves and then had suffered from discrimination by whites.
Obama could thus pitch the oft-repeated message of “change you can believe in” without offering a single specific, and the Brave New Generation went for it—because Obama had said it. Some of us asked members of this generation what they liked specifically about Obama. The answer I recall best: “He’s not Bush.”
Bush II was an easy target, after all. It was obvious from the get-go that the man was not the brightest puppy in the litter. But he would do what his handlers told him to do, furthering the corporatist brand of globalism to which Republicans tend to succumb. He got this country into two needless wars; under his watch a supposed budget surplus achieved during the Clinton years vanished, and the national debt rose from around $6 trillion to over $10 trillion. The worst economic downturn since the 1930s then began. However simplistic, it was easy to blame Bush for the third in particular, since the Meltdown of 2008 was the biggest news event of the year. Not too many looked to Alan Greenspan’s money-creation policies (or, after 2006, those of Ben Bernanke). That would have taken more education and insight than either the average journalist or the average Brave New Generation twentysomething had. So only a relative few of us investigated the complicated intersections of superelite-controlled leviathan banks, insurance giants, and bundled-mortgage lenders. Few looked deeper to the fundamental false premise of the bubble economy that began to rise over three decades ago: it is possible to achieve genuine, sustainable prosperity through incessant fiat money creation. The Achilles heel of our money system has been its basis in debt, and the downfall of the Anglo-European system will be its addiction to debt: and our political class’s collective deer-in-the-headlights unresponsiveness to the runaway train of debt implosion heading straight for us.
Now let’s consider the track record of three years of “change you can believe in.”
(1) A lot of misguided conservatives call Obama a socialist. He isn’t a socialist. He never was. He’s Bush III. He’s driven the corporatist-superelitist train more effectively than Bush II ever could have. Even leftists have begun to lose patience with him. They realize that the wealth gap, for which leftists blame “capitalism,” has gotten worse under the current regime’s watch. The left can’t blame the Tea Party, although they are making a colossal effort to do so. Tea Party Republicans had no political power until early this year.
(2) The overseas wars Bush II started have not only not ceased, they have expanded. The U.S. empire is now involved not just in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, but has been hip-deep in the ongoing internal conflicts in Egypt, Libya, and doubtless elsewhere. The deindustrialization of America, the outsourcing of jobs for cheap labor, has continued apace under Obama. Meanwhile, Obama’s 2008 promises have failed to materialize. He promised, for example, to close Guantanamo Bay, where it is clear prisoners were tortured in violation of the Geneva Convention. Has it been closed? Has the torturing of prisoners ended? (Ask Bradley Manning!)
(3) The national debt has risen from around $10 trillion to over $14.7 trillion as of this writing. If the Republicans under Bush II were addicted to spending, this administration is even more addicted to spending, provoking the recent crisis when a few Tea Party Republicans tried unsuccessfully to put the brakes on federal spending.
(4) The domestic police state has ratcheted up to a level never seen before. New incidents of citizens not having been accused of a crime and not resisting being brutalized by police now appear on a regular basis. I couldn’t begin to recount even a fraction of them. Lawsuits are making their ways through the courts. One recent case, in Fullerton, Calif., involves a homeless man suffering from schizophrenia being beaten to death by six cops.
(5) We are seeing spectacles of “flash mobs,” as they are called. Where such gatherings used to be harmless fun, there are now numerous cases where youth—mostly minorities—swarm into a store, strip its shelves, and swarm out again past terrified clerks and helpless store owners. Some of these mobs have swarmed through streets, attacking passersby or pulling motorists out of cars and beating them. Clearly the rule of law is all but dead in large cities.
(6) And then there is the U.S. economy. It is on the equivalent of life support. As much as the government’s court economists insist that the Great Recession ended in June 2009, there hasn’t been a scrap of evidence of long-term, sustainable improvement in the economy during the past two and a half years. For all practical purposes, job creation has flatlined. Those created are typically low-wage “services sector” fare—because, as Paul Craig Roberts would doubtless interject at this point—much of the manufacturing base necessary for a strong economy has been outsourced via the labor arbitrage that passes for “free trade.” Government had grown larger; now even state and local governments are shedding employees.
Obama had once pledged to “revisit” NAFTA. This pledge, too, dropped down the memory hole. NAFTA is untouchable because powerful people throughout government and spread through the corporate leviathans that use governments to maintain control within the global economy want it that way. (In the U.S. at least, corporations now have the same legal standing as individual persons. The Supreme Court says so.)
But irrational trade policy is far from the only problem with this economy. Government bureaucrats are not satisfied unless they are micromanaging everything in sight. The hiring process has become a nightmare of documentation! A business person focused on his business and not keyed to government needs to keep lawyers on retainer to assist him in negotiating the hiring minefield! Large corporations can afford layers of lawyers, of course. Small businesses, which have always created the majority of jobs in middle America, cannot. In this environment, is there any wonder there is massive competition for a dwindling number of jobs, and that the American middle class is disappearing?
The plain truth is, economic recovery not only has not happened, but there is now good reason for believing the economy is going to worsen—possibly over the next couple of years but maybe much sooner. The interconnectedness of markets globalism has ensured has rendered us vulnerable to the collapsing debt-based system in Europe; our markets reflected extreme unease by dropping 2,000 points from July 7, when the Dow closed at 12,719.50, to August 10 when it closed at 10,719.94. Markets everywhere have remained unstable, reflecting investors’ continued unease. (Gold has skyrocketed, of course, at one point going over $1,900/oz. as some investors have fled fiat currencies to gold’s promised safe haven.)
The Dow would be much lower, of course, had the Federal Reserve not injected trillions of printing-press money into the system. Now the jig is up. The Federal Reserve is out of credible tricks. The rancorous debate over the debt ceiling has brought many Americans around to the view some of us have held all along: either our fearless leaders are stupid beyond belief or they are working for a supranational elite—a superelite—that is purposefully trying to destroy this country and its people’s standard of living—because reducing Americans to third world status is the only way they are going to reduce resistance to their world government agenda.
So here we are: a little over two and a half years into the first term of President Affirmative Action. It should be becoming clear to anyone with a functioning brain that this man is so far in over his head, you almost feel sorry for him. Meanwhile, the “progressives” are on the move—ready to defend unsustainable entitlement programs and pushing for still more government programs under the illusion that these will get the economy going again. Neocon “righties” are also on the move—ready to defend foreign wars we can no longer afford to fight. As always, the only person up in the Asylum on the Potomac who is making sense, presenting a consistent message of freedom (genuine free markets, a federal government limited to the powers granted it by the Constitution, and sound money), is Ron Paul. As Ron Paul did come in second—very close behind Tea Party favorite Michele Bachmann—in Iowa, this means the message is getting out, and this means there may yet be at least some hope for this country.
But at this point—following years of warnings against racial favoritism and political correctness, years of lecturing about the dangers of incessant money creation, years inveighing against central planning and the world government (“global governance”) agenda, years predicting the present calamity, and tens of thousands of Brave New Generation twentysomethings who remain sold on the idea that doing the same things over and over again will somehow yield a different result—we are now in a much deeper hole than when I wrote Civil Wrongs! Heck, sometimes I gasp as I catch myself actually missing the Clinton decade!
Steven Yates has a Ph.D. in philosophy. He is the author of the books Civil Wrongs: What Went Wrong With Affirmative Action (1994) and Worldviews: Christian Theism versus Modern Materialism (2005); also many articles and reviews both in the professional journals of his field and online (sites: LewRockwell.com, NewsWithViews.com, TheNewAmerican.com, AmericanDailyHerald.com, and others). His new book Four Cardinal Errors: Reasons for the Decline of the American Republic is scheduled for publication in November. He teaches philosophy at the University of South Carolina Upstate in Spartanburg, South Carolina.
THIS BLOG IS BACK!
(*Biggest personal changes: my parents both passed away in 2009 & this year respectively; I will be relocating to Chile possibly in February 2012; and my book Four Cardinal Errors: Reasons For the Decline of the American Republic will be out hopefully in November of this year.)