Category: Politics

Tuesday

notebooks.jpgFrom the Notebooks

The Nock on Babbitt?

It’s interesting that Sinclair Lewis labeled the repressed character in Babbitt after Irving Babbitt, the Harvard professor from Ohio who emphasized that, for America to survive, men must restrain their appetites. Lewis’ use of the eponym was meant as an insult to Professor Babbitt. The term “Babbitt” subsequently became synonymous with a narrow-minded sort of smalltown provincialism that is more concerned with how the local high school football team does than with art and higher pursuits.

Nock repeatedly knocks “Babbittry,” so much so that I have taken my copy of Babbitt off the shelf and have started reading it. He, for instance, says “I am all for frying Babbitt over a slow fire.” In this and other passages, I believe he is referring to the symbol “Babbitt,” rather than Irving himself, but at times, it’s difficult to tell.

If Nock disliked Professor Babbitt, it seems odd. I’m not well-acquainted with Babbitt’s philosophy, and I don’t see myself ever reading his seven volume Democracy and Leadership (such a pursuit is reserved for that day when a private patron decides to subsidize my leisure for the greater good of mankind), but the general tone of his thinking, at least as presented in Russell Kirk’s The Conservative Mind, seems to overlap a lot with Nock’s.

Babbitt, Kirk wrote, believed that preoccupation with things economic would make our culture superficial. He referred to the “great greasy paw” of commercialism, lamenting that it was sullying everything in America. Such a lament is wholly consistent with Nock’s observation that “economism” (the belief or attitude that the material things in life are paramount) was ruining America.

Babbitt also pointed out that it’s a mistake to think that democracy and imperialism are inimical . . . just as anyone in … Read the rest

Tuesday

streetsign.jpgWhining Liberal = Catholic

I had to drive to Battle Creek yesterday afternoon, so I had a chance to listen to Rush Limbaugh for the first time since I heard him declare Ron Paul a “liberal.” I’ve never listened to Rush much, but I’d always enjoyed his show.

I lost a lot of respect for him that day he wrote off Paul as a liberal. After repeatedly denigrating the “drive-by media,” Rush engaged in the Ron Paul bashing that had become endemic to the drive-by media: call him a name, then move on, without addressing his views. Rush’s posture toward Ron Paul would’ve made the fastest drive-by journalist proud.

But there was nothing else to listen to, so I tuned in. I hated it. All the CPAC and Romney talk. Yikes. It’s grotesquerie at its grossest. Do conservatives really want to be lined up with raving lunatics like this? My gosh, after watching this nut, I was actually rooting for the freaks shouting “. . . anti-gay! Right-wing bigots, go away.” Politics are for morons. If you need to be titillated that badly, just buy a bunch of porn and lock yourself in a small room.

But then Rush got into the Catholic problem. I was then reminded why politics matter: because there are evil and complacent people in this world (the two traits go together like hand-and-glove). I still won’t sully myself with the election this year, but I will take an interest in how my fellow Catholics respond to Obama’s latest abomination against the Church.

My hunch: My fellow Catholics will vote for him. American Catholis are complicit in the entire over-reaching by the federal government. The history is spelled out splendidly in this article (that Rush read from generously over the air yesterday): American Catholicism’s Pact Read the rest

Monday

Hunting for a Conservative

I hadn’t been to Jack Hunter’s site for awhile. No reason, other than nothing had prompted me to go there. Then yesterday, while randomly flipping through my Facebook wall, I saw a post to this great piece by Hunter: Santorum isn’t a Reagan conservative.

Hunter’s point: Santorum deplores libertarians, but libertarianism is a crucial aspect of the conservative agenda. “Reagan believed that the American right was a three-legged stool consisting of social conservatives, national security conservatives and economic/libertarian conservatives. Lose a leg and conservatism loses a lot, or so Reagan believed.”

I think Hunter hits the issue about as squarely as I’ve seen it hit. If you go back through the annals of conservative thought, the concept of “limited government” is crucial, whether it’s Calvin Coolidge, Russell Kirk, W.F. Buckley, or Barry Goldwater. The Republican party has lost that prong of the conservative agenda, and it needs to reclaim it.

But here’s my problem: Libertarians would deny that the Republican party has ever been an advocate of limited government. Rather, it has been an advocate of what G.K. Chesterton called “Hudge and Gudge”: big government and big business in bed with another, teaming up to screw the middle class and oppress the lower classes. Nock slammed Coolidge for precisely this thing, and I believe Mencken expressed similar disgust with the Republicans of his day.

And that’s where I am today. I am coming to realize that there has been no conservative tradition in practical American politics or, if there has been one, it has been about as narrow and ineffectual as a dog’s hoisted leg against a five-alarm fire. We can keep trying, of course, but there’s a reason that I’m currently reading Memoirs of a Superfluous Man for the second time.

This whole ongoing … Read the rest

Thursday

Nockian Corner

I mentioned last week that I was in the process of comparing the political theories of Orestes Brownson and Albert Jay Nock. Someone could, with disturbing insight, ask, “Why bother?”

My answer is simple: I’m smitten with Nock, but I’m more smitten with the Catholic Church. I would like to square Nockian political philosophy with Catholic political philosophy, without turning my endeavor into a game of Twister. Among all American political philosophers, Orestes Brownson may have been the greatest. And he was a fervent Catholic convert. If the Nockian and Brownsonian thought patterns overlap, I’d be onto something.

I think I ran across a starting point last weekend. Brownson distinguished among three types of democracy: (1) territorial democracy; (2) Jeffersonian democracy; (3) humanitarian democracy. He strongly endorsed territorial democracy and said it was, beyond doubt, the form of democracy on which the American Republic was built. He disliked Jeffersonian democracy (which emphasizes individualism and states’ rights to the undue detriment of the central authority) and humanitarian democracy (which is a vague type of feel-goodism crusade to better humanity, without regard to territorial and other demographic limitations).

Now, I’m reasonably certain that Nock was a fan of Jeffersonian democracy. Although I haven’t read his (supposedly) splendid biography of Jefferson, I’ve read enough by and about Nock to think he (i) would have agreed with Brownson’s characterization of Jeffersonian democracy, and (ii) would be a fan of Jeffersonian democracy. Brownson, on the other hand, was no fan of it.

Yet they have a great common enemy: humanitarian democracy. And this is the form of democracy that ran roughshod over the political scene ever since the Civil War: from Reconstruction, to the Progressive movement, to Woodrow Wilson’s Federal Reserve and income tax, to the New Deal, to the Great Society, … Read the rest

Monday

Atheists and Libertarians

A TDE reader sends this along: Ayn Rand’s Atheists are Crashing the Tea Party. It’s a good piece, with a good deal of insight.

One line, though, especially struck me: “What we are seeing here, breaking out into the open, is a fundamental problem that has largely lain dormant: the far right, the Tea Party and much of the Republican Party, in their embrace of libertarian positions that are heavily influenced by Ayn Rand, are flirting with atheism.”

I at first recoiled at the statement and scoffed, but then I read it more carefully. “Flirting with atheism.” Flirting: to behave amorously without serious intent (Webster).

Okay, that might be appropriate. I mean, if you look into libertarianism, its brightest lights have been atheists or agnostics: Rand, von Mises, Hayek, Chodorov, Rothbard. The godfather of modern libertarianism, Nock, was an Episcopalian minister, but he kept religion, at best, on the back burner. In the words of The Nockian Society’s Robert Thornton: “Of the greatest importance [for Nock], then, was the spirit of Christianity, not all the trappings of ecclesiastic religion. Religion, he declared, ‘is a temper, a frame of mind; the fruit of the Spirit, as St. Paul says, love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, self-control.’ Nock did not find ‘any evidence that Jesus laid down any basic doctrine beyond that of a universal loving God and a universal brotherhood of man.” He “exhibited a way of life to be pursued purely for its own sake, with no hope of any reward but the joy of pursuing it …..'” Link.

That, needless to say, is not the attitude the Religious Right, whose big circle greatly overlaps with the Tea Party’s circle. To the extent that the Tea Party is libertarian, it might be … Read the rest

Thursday

I Cain’t Believe It

Herman Cain gets smeared by sexual harassment allegations. It kinda sucks, since I was actually thinking about voting for him. How couldn’t I, once I saw these pictures:

Alas, it sounds like those sexual harassment allegations have traction. It reminds me of Clarence Thomas, but it doesn’t remind me of other famous black lechers. It’s fairly well accepted now that Martin Luther King was a big-time ladies’ man, but he still has his own holiday. Tiger Woods’ was a complete pig, but he’s still golfing professionally (well, kinda).

Oh well, Thomas still got on the Court. Thing is, Anita Hill’s allegations simply didn’t ring true. In Cain’s case, there are three women and the allegations, on first blush, ring true. Then again, the allegations ring true because they’re so mild. Maybe that’s a good thing.

We’ll see.

Good Late Night

“Plans are under way in England to build a laser they say is powerful enough to tear apart the fabric of space. Well, what could go wrong there?” Leno

“President Obama just had a physical exam. He had it today and his doctor said Obama is physically active, eats a healthy diet, and stays at a healthy weight. So now I’m really starting to doubt whether Obama was born in this country.” Conan

“The White House announced that it has rejected several petitions to legalize marijuana. They say it has nothing to do with politics. It’s just that they can’t accept a petition that was written on a crumpled up Funyuns bag.” Fallon… Read the rest

Monday

Conspiracy

Notes About the Conspiracy

Is the United States a sham? How corrupt is DC? Does the stock market even exist as a free market bastion anymore?

Whether I like it or not (I don’t), those are thoughts that wake me up in the middle of the night (literally, but–thankfully–rarely). A few midnights ago, I came up with this formulation: A United States conspiracy would have to boil down to this statement (it’s as concise as I can make it): private clandestine usurpation of the republic.

Short explanation of the concise statement: The term “republic” means “the public wealth.” It stands in contrast to “personal wealth.” (fn) In a republic, power is held for the public good, whereas in a monarchy, power is held for private gain. In the United States, we have a republic, but there is mounting evidence that the republic has been usurped by private interests. And they haven’t done so openly and forthrightly, so it is clandestine.

More Elaboration: I think it’s a safe bet that the usurpation has occurred. I honestly don’t know how a person could think otherwise in light of the incidents of corruption we’re seeing, like the story last week in Rolling Stone (link).

But that fact (yes, I think it’s a fact) only scratches the surface of issues. I still have lots of questions: How deep is the conspiracy? How does a person get into the ruling class? How historical is it? Did it start with the Founding Fathers, or with the Federal Reserve, or with Bush? Heck, was John Locke its intellectual front man in the 17th century? And is it tied to British financial interests? Tied to the Rothschilds? The Masons? How broad and strong is the web of conspiracy? Is every member of … Read the rest

Thursday

Alex JonesJones and Food

Rolling Stone magazine lights up Alex Jones. Kinda. It starts off swinging hard. Toward the beginning of the piece: “The Gates Foundation? ‘Obviously a eugenics operation.’ The latest WikiLeaks dump? ‘All the hallmarks of an intelligence disinfo campaign.’ While urging his audience to wake up and smell the police state, Jones can sound thoughtful and intellectual, quick to quote Nietzsche, Plato, de Tocqueville, Gibbon and Huxley. Mostly, though, he defaults into machine-gun bursts of rage that crescendo with an adolescent snarl — Holden Caulfield playing Paul Revere.” But although the author is obviously no fan, he’s rather kind throughout the rest of the piece. The writers mentions that Jones is a doting father and husband, not a bigot, and possessed with high analytical abilities. He even lets Jones get the last word: “I have deep context for every claim I make,” Jones insists. “I know some people say I exaggerate, but I believe everything I say. It’s just that the denial is so strong, the apathy so deep, that people need something to shake them out of their morass. We’re like flowers who naturally turn toward the sun, and the globalists want us turned toward Hollywood and the TV so they can poison us. It’s like one of those drawings with a hidden pattern. Once you stare long enough, it appears. Then you wonder: How did I ever not see it?” It’s almost as though the Rolling Stones writer gives Jones more credibility than I do (and I get a kick out of the guy). It’s a sense of objectivity that I didn’t see much during my six-month subscription to the rock-n-roll rag. * * * * * * * Food prices are skyrocketing! Get your garden cranking! You heard it here … Read the rest