First, let me address a few of the topics left over from last time, then I’ll consider your fearsome fears concerning Attila the Trump. But first I will admire your phrase, “in contempt of conversation.” It’s a great description of the loud silence that most political speech makes in America today.
- In citing Trump’s call for a “big beautiful” wall on the southern border, your tone suggests that it’s a big beautiful display of Trump’s confirmed pomposity or reputed psychotic naiveté. Meanwhile, correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t Trump amongst presidents the foremost as a private citizen big projects man? And how did Trump do this? “Let there be a tower!” he’d proclaim. And, with a wave of his hand, there was a tower. And the Donald pronounced it better than good. It was beautiful big! And he called it Trump.
If Trump ever emotively thought in such picture-instant ways, he was soon cured of it. Greatness will do that to you. Great projects require great passion. But passion’s demands for instant action are soon thwarted. Therefore, if your passion lacks the patience of engagement, you should settle for directed employment and a package vacation. With great plans there are details, drudgeries, delays, difficulties, and dingleberries. If you aren’t patient with greatness, you will go crazy. As I’ve concluded about some books, I’m sure Trump has concluded about some buildings: they’re never finished! The solution at that point — not spiritual seppuku or emotional tonsuring — is to start the next project while the old one grows up and finally gets about on its own. Such things actually happen with buildings, and with books, and with children. The watched pot never boils. And the unwatched pot boils over.
When Trump uses the rhetorical phrase “big beautiful wall,” I’ve no doubt he’s actually aware of what nature looks like. His sons hunt in Pennsylvania. “Hey, Dad, look. Trans-Manhattan! Natural canyons!” “Son, I had no idea God could out-build New York. Who’s his architect?” Likewise, Trump knows what he means by his rhetoric. I wouldn’t worry about Trump. But I would worry about the citizens who worry about Trump, especially worriers who group-worry in conspiracy watches.
Let’s look closer at one point apropos of the rhetoric of pictures. It’s not the case that most people most of the time think in pictures. Meanwhile, the really smart world-inside guys use genius algorithms. No, everyone thinks in pictures all the time. Consciousness is a picture. A motion picture. A talkie. The mechanism works something like this. In the pre-conscious compilers, recognition archetypes get envision-constructed from hard wiring and human experience. When a recognizable name is said, heard, read, or thought, a sufficient compatibility between the picture and the word closes the recognition circuit, and consciousness says to the human, “I know that! That’s true!” What’s good about this picture signification system is that it works well enough for humans to communicatively cooperate — and to do so with sufficient coordination to become the paramount species, and to be astonished and afraid for themselves and the universe.
The biggest problem with these pictures is that most of them are single, even simple illustrations acquired early in life with the first hearing of the word. They work well enough in the center of their concept ranges. A giraffe is an animal. But is a protozoan? A euglena? A bacterium? A virus? Reality 101 looks at such taxonomy troubles with special reference to “life” and “human.” (See Lectures 3-9.) You can be led in well-worn paths by such pictures. And you can be misled in such well-worn paths as well. But you can’t cut new paths with old views. A man who builds great buildings knows the Mexican border isn’t a concrete interstate in Kansas — a flat ribbon running for 700 miles on which to cement some very tall Jersey barriers! Nor is Trump so silly as to think we’ll put walls across rivers. “Call the Army Corps of Engineers. Tell them we’ve got some uneven nature to straighten out! And tell them to turn off those streams. They run all the time. Such a waste of water!”
So why is Trump talking picture-silliness to America? To be rhetorical, of course! Such rhetoric encourages his supporters. And it discourages his dispporters. Meanwhile, contractors are preparing appropriate plans for all the various terrains and all the levels of material interdiction which, in association with cameras, microphones, and patrols, will produce the desired level of reduced border permeability.
In terms of rhetoric, Trump’s usage is no different than our blog’s: “The Republican Gun.” Why did I create that name? To foment armed debates? No! To shoot down ideas? No! (See the Reality 101 on the longevity of ideas.) Then why did I choose such loaded language? To encourage Republicans, of course. They’re generally strong supporters of the 2nd Amendment. And they’d like to see Heller expanded and strengthened by the Court. Likewise, I picked “The Gun” to discourage liberals and socialists. They typically equate armed citizens with despots, i.e. Republicans. That’s twice funny, right? Despots of all kinds disarm “their citizenry.” Why would despots want a monopoly of weapons? So no one gets hurt? And to reduce national health care expenditures. Sure! The only pistols the people will then have are those found in flowers. Pretty! Let a thousand flowers bloom! Now start hoeing, comrades. And dig a few unmarked trenches while you’re at it.
What if I’m right about my little schematic of human cognition? Does that mean there’s no solution to the human condition of rhetoric and reason? In my critical thinking logic course, the authors of the textbook observe that remarks shouldn’t be dismissed just because they’re rhetorical. ‘Rhetoric is everywhere. But you should logically realize that rhetoric is persuasive, and not analytical.’ That’s astute. So what’s the solution? Logic? Don’t be silly! The solution is better pictures. Or, more likely, more pictures. An array of pictures — a spectrum of pictures — even a gallery of pictures — for an idea. For each and every idea. To know what that looks like — see! see how humans talk visually even about words! — talk to any professional about any subject in their field. Intuitively envisage the panoply of pictures to which they reference their thoughts, from which they then significantly speak to you. Compare that to what you see in any of the amateur galleries of your mind and then haltingly express. Afterwards, when professionals compare notes and anecdotes in their chambers, imagine the astonishment and the comedy!
- One aspect of “equality before the law” consists of no one being above the law, and that includes executives of states. Previously the mantra read, “The King can do no wrong.” God is like that. That’s why those kings were called absolute. But notice that “no one is above the law” doesn’t imply that no one is below it — way below it being crushed by the cost of law and the law’s delay. You don’t need to be a Marxist to figure the logic of that out. A PhD in philosophy will suffice. To have a PhD in ideas is to upgrade your mental baby pictures to a Courtauld of the mind. Marx had a PhD in philosophy.
Meanwhile, equality before the law was effected by another maneuver besides inclusiveness. In earlier centuries there was more than one kind of law, and therefore more than one kind of court. There were church courts. There were aristocrats’ courts. And there were commoners’ courts. Beethoven was once summoned to court in Vienna. What grief for the bench when it discovered that van Beethoven was no Dutch von Beethoven, but just a commoner with a quaint or, more likely, illicit name. “Herr Beethoven, mach schnell! ’Raus!!” America has no religion courts. But devotees of sharia would devoutly love to change that. And there are no aristocrat courts. But snobs of superfluous affluence would love a more exclusive justice. “Our justice is just so much better. In fact, my dear, it is the best!”
Even so, given the historicity and complexity of great states and human affairs, even America today has more than one system of law. There’s military law. Possession of alcohol on a warship, for example, is handled there. “But it says “Torpedo” on the bottle, sir! So that was weapons’ fuel, right, sir? I stashed some under the torpedoes for an emergency back-up, sir! To fortify our defensive stance, sir!” Meanwhile, admiralty law, which is effectively international law, is tucked off in its own corner of the federal court system. And equity still has a life of its own, though it’s been administratively folded into common law. And then, in an unexpected sharia-like situation, there’s the law of the nations — of the Indian Nations — in America. Those courts are presently growing in exclusionary jurisdictional power at the moral behest of apologetic Westerners who feel guilty for their all-conquering creation of the West.
- You suggest that illegal immigrants should be allowed to remain in America — if they’re potentially good citizens — rather than be mass-evicted. Here’s another piece of rhetoric. How many illegals are in America? Five million? Ten million? More? And America will identify them, round them up, and ship them out? Even the Third Reich would have been challenged by such logistics. Any American administration attempting even a fraction of such an action would be stopped by civil disobedience in the form of unmovable masses of citizen bodies. So it won’t happen.
But herein lies a geopolitical moral. Illegal immigrants are the political equivalent of invasive species. Like the Chinese carp that have headed up the Mississippi for Chicago and the Great Lakes, once these invaders get in, it’s usually impossible to get them out. Action after the fact is too late. Biology trumps legislation. Action rules, reaction pules. Meanwhile, I understand that the Chinese want to demographically expand into Siberia to “naturally relieve” some of their overpopulation. The world’s greatest collection of natural resources are said to be in Siberia. And then, afterwards, maybe the Chinese could cross the Bering Strait a second time.
The porosity of America’s southern border is something I’ve thought about for decades. It bothered me when I was your age. I knew then that effective barriers could be built with current technology. After all, the Romans built Hadrian’s Wall with rocks, and the Danube limes with dirt! We could build walls that work in the 1960s. Russia did. The Berlin Wall worked with an almost 100% efficiency. I’ve personally felt its efficiency. I went through Checkpoint Charlie. That was a memorable cultural crossing.
No, it wasn’t the border wall technology that was lacking in America, but the will to a border. “Why?” I’d ask myself. “Who would favor a porous border? And a porosity both legal and illegal?” Answer: Those who wanted cheap and even unprotected labor. The big California growers. We’ll call them Republicans for convenience here. Well, you took your profits and we ate our salads — both without paying for the externalities. Now we live with the externalities. It’s like pollution in the good old days before the EPA started costing the byproducts of civilization to the producers and the consumers. Now we have clean air and clean water. Next time, America, don’t be a hog at the trough if you don’t want your descendants to live in your slops! And if you do, tell us. And we’ll fix the situation with the sausage machine called Congress.
Meanwhile, America has acquired a second St. Patrick’s Day, a second national street festival of cultural fun and quality food: Cinco de Mayo. America needs more such festivals anyways. Therefore the back blast of our winter vegetables isn’t completely bad. In other words, despite what the CIA says or does — at least in the movies — not all unintentional consequences are bad. And coincidences do happen. And the paranoid might be justified. But not usually. Why hasn’t Nessie been spotted lately? Have you heard? BP — Big Petroleum — wants to drill some test wells in the Loch. So MI6 with NRO assistance has disappeared Nessie who’d be declared an endangered species, thereby stopping the progress of petroleum. They’ve got her now in a tank at Area 51. Besides, what if Nessie really proved to be real? Really real? TV real with the PM and the Queen? Footsie collapse, Brexit reversal, contraction of the gravitational constant, and unification of Ireland and Scotland as Great Celtland.
And now this just in on the missing tail of Nessie. As you’ve undoubtedly heard, even America’s Demon-in-Chief has now pronounced that “Dreamers” — isn’t that a putrid and greasy piece of larded rhetoric! — won’t be marched out of America on a trail of tortillas.
- You again express a concern for Trump’s lack of governmental experience. I’ve just read the last of several volumes of a British pilot’s memoirs from World War II — the Battle of Britain, Spitfires, Me109s, and all that gun-ho stuff. This Wing Commander later became an embassy official posted to the United States for a decade or so. In his book, WC remarked on the death of Roosevelt — the great Hudson Valley aristocrat! — that his replacement was a small man with a chirpy voice. Shortly thereafter in the book — to the girding relief of my mobilizing armed response sensibilities — he observes that Truman turned out to be a lion in sheep’s clothing! That’s a funny idiomatic variant. But more accurately, Truman was a statesman disguised as a businessman citizen. Such republican stuff really throws off the elites. Holland was eventually sufferable to crowns as a small republic. They even gave Holland a crown to express their satisfaction! After all, Holland is a wet place occupied by bright tulips and bland burghers. But America is a continent. And it’s a big republic. And America knows it! And whereas Dutch paintings were inexpensive local substitutes for quality French tapestries, American pictures are on the screens of the world. Likewise, whereas Holland traded shots with England and eventually lost its fleet, we traded shots and didn’t.
Let’s consider now the political background experience of a few leading American politicians to test your experiential concerns concerning Trump.
What about Washington? He had no experience. He was an estimable leader.
Lincoln? He was not only a political piker. He was a failure as a political temp until he was hired to front for a new party. He was an estimable leader.
Warren? He’d never served on any bench at any level before vaulting to the Chief Justiceship of the Supreme Court. Liberals consider him one of the greatest jurists, maybe the greatest American justice ever given their political program. Eisenhower called Warren his worst decision ever. That’s a double confirmation.
What about Sanders? He’s a Senator, you say. He’s experienced. True. But it’s the wrong experience! The Senate is legislative, not executive. Senators work in groups. The presidency is a solitary position. The Constitutional designed it that way. And that’s regardless of the obsequious gregariousness that presidents are forever distracted by — and which they must learn to turn off like an overhead light. Snap!
What about Carter, then? Carter was a governor. Governors are executive and solitary. Of course, Clinton was an exception with his pizza powwows and assistants’ assistance. But Carter’s gubernatorial experience didn’t help President Carter. Carter was overwhelmed by the magnitude of the national position. Fortunately, he had advisors like Brzezinski to expand his executive willfulness. And Carter had Russia to urinatiously motivate him. I use that strange and almost strangulated phrase because, as in my classrooms, I often resort to Latin to protect the spiritually squeamish from their biological infancies.
And let’s not forget Obama’s prior political office experience — none — which allowed him to become the second greatest president from the state of Illinois.
I’ve long since concluded that no career preparation exists that can produce great presidents any more than any training can produce great artists or great philosophers. Think of all the poetry professors in all the English departments who know all the rules, all the words, all the works — and who produce dreary volumes of recycle-ready verse and anti-verse by the dumpster load. Why? First of all, greatness depends on the historical availability of great circumstances. But the ability to recognize world opportunities and then to work them relentlessly to great results without compromising remorse or salacious self-pity: that is a matter of character. And character cannot be taught. Character can only be cultivated. It’s like the universe. It’s there. Now you must make something of it. And if it isn’t there, you won’t make it.
In the early 1980s, I thought Reagan was a patriotic God-bless-America buffoon. And so did most or all of his advisors — as some have admitted after the fact. And then, some of them made the further illuminating admission: ‘We were indeed far smarter than he was, but he had vision. We saw the world’s details with superb precision, and he saw a new world beyond our focal plane. His rhetoric was ridiculous and we were small.’ Who then was the contemptible boor when Reagan dreamed and Gorbachev did snore?
Allow me a sidebar remark here on executive method. I can remember the press sympathetically admiring Carter for the incessant hours he put in at his desk. America in the late ’70s was in a colorless malaise of unprecedented doldrums. Even generic food was called generic food — and it was all sold in the same uniform yellow packaging. “Food. Fit for human consumption. Also suitable for dogs.” Meanwhile the President was working so very hard for America. The lights burned late every night in the Oval Office! “O heroic man! Lead us forth from of our captivity in stagflation and uplift us from our national moral fatigue!” One of my Marxist professors wrote a book back then entitled Stagflation. He was cheering, too. By the way, you might be wondering, What was I doing with Marxists? Well, Marxism was a backdoor to philosophy. But that’s a long historical story. For now, with rhetorical efficiency, let’s say I’d gone underground to study the red enemy incognito as a spy for freedom. Certainly my parents didn’t recognize me!
Alas, Carter’s petty method of diversion in detail isn’t the way to lead a nation or to think the world. To work all day at details with busy littleness can never be an act of greatness. A mountain of littleness — a range of sand instead of granite — is soon washed away or blown off. Interminable rigor is an evasion of greatness. The will of the mind must relax at times. Only then can new ideas cross the open borders of welcome consciousness. Eisenhower out golfing was probably engaging in greater leadership than Carter at his desk. General Marshall understood this when, despite Eisenhower’s strenuous objections, he ordered him to take a vacation before D-Day. Eisenhower must have remembered that later on and, in thanks, hired Marshall as his secretary. Even Obama on the links was probably intuiting his next executive order so as to leave something behind as his legacy. There wouldn’t be much legislation. But at least Obama got the Peace Prize for America’s longest war.
- As you might have inferred from my last post, before I could write out one last remaining paragraph from its sketch of ideas, I ordered myself to take a break. What a refreshing executive command that was! I enjoyed both ends of it! And I’ve now decided to leave the sketch in that state. Its meaning is sufficiently clear. And rough sketches have been aesthetically celebrated for over a century now. Indeed, Constable’s preparatory field sketches can be better — more vital, more alive, more spontaneous — than his famous finished studio cavasses. Nonetheless, let me now add a few finished remarks on von Hayek and catallaxy. You’ll notice that the word catallaxy was formulated in the 19th century as an explanatory term for the stock market, but von Hayek used it for far greater domains. And, as I’ve noted in my classes, catallaxy can be expanded to include nature itself. Darwinian evolution can be analyzed as a catallactic condition. Notice that I restrain myself from saying “catallactic system.” That would be an oxymoron: a idiocy of concepts. It also explains why, despite their best efforts, the Soviet planning ministries could never equal the output of the West. But the West couldn’t equal itself either — not if it intentionally tried to. The West should remember that capitalism wasn’t the winning response to the challenge of communist centrism and state socialism. The victory method wasn’t one thing. It wasn’t capitalism as Marx cunningly wanted the West to believe so that with dialectical naiveté it would fail and fall to communism. The American winner was a constellation of things, a constellation without any one name. The shortest characterization of that triumphant Western configuration is the free market civil society republic. (See my Republic, Ch. 12.)
In science, the results of natural catallaxy are now typically given the descriptive name “emergent.” That is, from prior elements novel things emerge. Indeed, in this idea regime, the entire universe is emergent. From the singularity postulated by the astrophysicists — a point-like pre-thing not doing much of anything — the universe emerges. I almost wrote “exfoliated.” But we know that plants are pre-contained in their seeds, and therefore aren’t emergent. Goethe organically and romantically understood that with his world fondness of pantheist holism.
Meanwhile, a whole new world of philosophical problems arises from emergence. For example, how does something, even if something only differently new, arise from its absence: from nothing?
One, it doesn’t, and the new is an illusion.
Two, it was already present in the primal seed or the mind of God or any other such pre-existent totality of the all.
Or, three, novelty is irreducibly and radically actually real.
The first option can be characterized as Buddhism without prejudice to Buddhists.
The second option can be characterized as Christian without prejudice to Christians.
The third option can be characterized as a seriously weird and way bizarre extreme trip.
As Haldane said, ‘The universe is not only queerer than we think it is. The universe is queerer than we can think it is.’ Coming from a scientist, that alone should be worth a Nobel Prize. It’s fortunate for Haldane that he lived in England. He was a communist. In England he was humored. In Communist Russia he would have been shot for such bourgeois deviant thinking. “Comrades, the materialist logic of natural reality is determinately certain and we certainly know it. Any claim to uncertainty is obstructionist bourgeois deviationism and recidivist priestly obscurantism. Next stop, Siberia. All aboard!” Meanwhile, the third option is presently the leading view of the human experience amongst those who lead such experiences. Take flight now. There are no reservations. No tickets. No boarding passes. No flight plans. No pilots. No carriers. Complementary peanuts available on a multi-algorithmic unprioritized basis.
I now want to address the fundamental question of what conservative means, both for its own sake, and because of your important allusions to it in your last post.
Conservatives at this point will typically pull out their Burke and scripturally cite him on the subject. After all, what could be more conservative than quoting some old source on conservativism! Scalia reads!
Well, I won’t cite Burke chapter, verse, or volume.
First of all, I’ve never been much impressed by Burke. I find his style unattractive. True, it’s not as bad as Adams’ curmudgeonly scrunching of words. And then there’s Bentham who gives a great name to wretched scrawling. But I also consider Burke’s thought to be diffuse and even inexact. For these two reasons I’ve never read intensively in him. I can’t stand wasting my mind time on inelegant diffusion. When I want diffusion — and elegant diffusion is what I insist on then — I turn to Debussy’s Preludes. My tolerance for inelegance — for unproductive slovenliness — is admittedly low.
You might wonder, nonetheless, what the usual Burkean observation is. Well, in reaction to the French Revolution, Burke advised against wholesale change in favor of gradualism. Notice that even here conservatism doesn’t mean civilized ossification and cultural fossilization, but change upon a stable base of accumulated national tradition.
Now, before you gag on the word “tradition,” consider that tradition is nothing but the political name for what at the personal level is called habit. Traditions are national habits. And habits aren’t fossilized incapacitations. On the contrary! They’re the efficient automations of acquired knowledge that works. Try living without them. Relearn every day how to dress yourself, or to dental floss, or to tie your shoes. What a parental relief it is when children acquire habits and begin to do things for themselves and the household automatically in the ways in which they always are and should be done: traditionally!
On this point Burke is not defective. On the contrary, the romantic idea of total revolution is the dope hope of a junkie’s love. It’s the opiation of post-religion naked souls in search of a replacement for the cover of God in a cladless nature. In the French Revolution, the Catholic Church was shut down, and a Church of Reason ordained in its place. Reason was a state religion complete with goddess: A Miss Logic appropriately accoutered to encourage the logicians to always press reason till the proof is done. The efficiencies of French reason and Parisian apparel were amply displayed not only in the usually-cited guillotine, a rational and humane machine of regime change, but also in the progressive national heritage demolition. I’ve been reading a volume about Chantilly, another state demolition job like Cluny. Fortunately the Chantilly stables were saved in time. Some stables! Meanwhile, I have issued no orders for the demolition of God. Nor will I. Cremation morticians tell us that dead humans are nothing but a few pounds of ash and a lot of water and gas. I’m sure they’re right. But live humans aren’t. Therefore, I’ll not put out a French order for the demolition of God or any limp socialist deconstruction thereof. I like big things. The world is surfeited enough with the piddling and the trivial. That which is great, even if obsolete, is a moral lesson to humanity in the virtues of magnificence.
Meanwhile, in contrast to the impatience of democratic pettiness, Marx never believed even for a minute in total revolution. Marx was a great traditionalist. Via the historical dialectic of materialist progress, Marx believed in the cumulative progress of humanity. In 1848, Marx deemed that capitalism, after a century of unprecedented world-transforming energy building on all previous history, had now completed almost all of world history that there was to be done. The imminent Communist revolution would now consist not of a total obliteration of the past. On the contrary, the communist revolution would consist of preserving everything the capitalists had accomplished — everything! — with one exception. It would remove the ownership of capital from the capitalists, and convert capital into common wealth. Thereafter human culture would advance accordingly.
Marx was a cultural Burkean.
True, Marx was also an Hegelian who believed in occasional concentrated change as in modified Darwinian theory. And Marx was also a prophet of atheism on full opiation whenever he holy-intoned the post-holy sanctimonious word, “Communism!” When any communist does that, immediate emergency detoxing is indicated. And we should all be on the alert for communist opioid words. Democracy! Equality! Diversity!
That’s the first point.
The second point is this. For America to go to a foreign source to discover what the big republic is or should be is ridiculous. It’s historically, technically, and teleologically derisory. In other words, it’s a serious proctologic disorientation.
In matters of the big republic, America is the originator, the maker, and the master. For America to study politics at the feet of Europe or anywhere else — where? China? Africa? Antarctica? — would be the same as me studying at the feet of my students. In fact, that’s an old socialist inversion trick. “Parents! You’re children know better! They’re younger, fresher, more creative. And you are guilty. Would you like to confess now or in Siberia? A 20% discount for immediate admission of guilt is available for a limited time only. Repent while you’re alive! It’s your only chance!” Thus my students sit in their seats. And I stand. At least I stand when I’m at the chalk board. Otherwise, I sit to discourse, discuss, digress, dally, and divulge. Standing is for horses and taxis. (See the cover of Reality 101 for a classroom portrait including our assiduous correspondent, Michael Dressler, superbly playing the role of the seriously soporific student.)
Now let’s ask America what conservatism is.
The obvious answer is: Conservatism is republican.
If that’s not immediately illuminating, let’s shoot a light across the matter as in the deep frames of the dark films to see the contrast of its opposite.
What is not republican is democratic.
I might now be understood either to have said a tautological nothingness, or to have said something facilely partisan and spitefully inflammatory.
Not at all.
Consider names and their denominations in history.
The political concepts of right and left are only two centuries old. They derive from the way in which one of the Assemblies of France in the 1790s was divided on two sides of the hall in which they met. Right side, left side. Get it? No one was in the center. That was the aisle. The center was a partisan no-man’s-land. Like in the House of Commons. Thus Churchill famously crossed the aisle. He didn’t stop in the middle with a centrist position.
The details of the French Revolution needn’t distract us here. Only notice that, prior to that time, a neat division of France into two didn’t exist. Indeed, even just the suggestion could have been treasonous or combustible. There were three estates then: the Church, the Aristocrats, and the filthy rest of humanity including the upstart money-grubbing damn bouncy bourgeoisie.
Now, before we really start, consider the two olde English parties, the Whigs and the Tories. I know what those formal nouns mean even if I don’t know where their strange names — just like Yankee and Hoosier —came from. I’ve memorized their meanings. Or rather, I’ve memorized what I thought their meanings were. With enough reading in English history, which is no love of mine, I’ve discovered that the interests of those two parties and the meanings of their names have naturally been fluid for centuries. To know what they really mean is to be sufficiently familiar with English history to be able to say, “Well, ‘Tory’ meant this in this decade.”
The same thing has happened with Republican and Democrat. Let’s see. Republicans are in favor of capital. And Democrats are in favor of labor. Got it. But, wait, Democrats since Clinton have favored globalization and free trade. That means capital-maximization and wealth-concentration. And Trump is in favor of protected home industry for American jobs and higher pay. That’s pro-labor. So, of course, the labor interests are now with — the Democrats? No, Labor was in the White House a few months ago shaking hands with billionaire Trump after he abjured the Pacific Trade Agreement and promised to withdraw from NAFTA unless it’s modified in favor of American factory jobs.
Now let’s look at the fundamental concepts of Republican and Democrat.
Republican means conservative.
And Democrat means liberal.
But wait. Remember from my lectures the strange history of the word “liberal”? Liberal originally described John Locke’s regime: a free state of nature from which humans created a large civil society, much energetic private property, and a national government in which the executive —in this case a king — is subordinate to Parliament, which is an assembly dominated by the middle class, if then gentry, and its property interests and the liberties it gains thereby with the successive reduction, progressive marginalization, and the elimination finally of the aristocracy.
In other words, republicans are liberal.
Republicans are liberal.
Then the strange transformation — or name theft — occurred. The word “liberal” socially metamorphosed into meaning social-democratic or soft socialist: socialism without an immediate revolutionary schedule to meet, but socialism nonetheless. It’s what von Hayek feared most: the Trojan horse of socialist Fabianism which, in its collegiate forum, takes its strategic cues from Gramsci. In other words, liberal now means exactly the opposite of what it originally meant insofar as bourgeoisie and proletariat were conceptual opposites in Marx’s dialectical scheme. And yet such word morphs are commonplaces to students of linguistic history. For example, if you happily refer to the Gay 90s, you need to indicate whether you mean the 1890s in New York, or the 1990s in San Francisco. Otherwise breathless misunderstandings might occur. Like thinking liberals are liberal.
The great word “liberal” — coming from the Latin for “free” as in “liberal arts”— now means the illiberal behaviors — political, academic, and artistic — of socialism. As a result, post-Keynesian post-Galbraithian Lockean liberals named themselves “libertarians.” They probably didn’t believe they could ever get their old name “liberals” back. Or they didn’t even know it was theirs in the first place. Nonetheless, libertarians are the real liberals, and should be called such. And their party is the Liberal Party. Or more traditionally, the Republican Party. The party of the Republic. Of life, liberty and property. Or, as Locke says repeatedly for convenience in the great Second Treatise, property. Just as Rousseau is in the French Rights of Man and the fall of the blade, so Locke is in the Constitution and its self-defending liberties. Check him out in the 5th and 14th Amendments.
And Marx would both comprehendingly concur and comprehensively agree. Furthermore, Marx would hate the cowardly and craven success of Fabian labor and democratic parties for deflecting the forces of history from the great revolutionaries: the capitalists, and then the communists.
Republicans — the devotees of free enterprise civil society republican government — are the most revolutionary people in world history. Marx and Engels say as much in the Manifesto. And even moreso they portray it with history. The reason that “republican” doesn’t seem revolutionary to our ears now is that the permanent republican revolution doesn’t consist of a few years of bloody turmoil followed by political consolidation and the usual entrenchment of a new governing class. Capitalism, to use Marx’s inflammatory word, is a non-stop revolution. Read Part One of the Manifesto to see what a Marxist thinks about the incessant energies and self-transformations of business.
You might say, ‘Well, alright. Republicans aren’t conservative in economic matters.’ But they aren’t conservative in others ways, either. The great founders of America weren’t conservative — conservative in the ways in which the word is presently used in America: as in redemption religion and no sinful sex. I don’t know about the latter, but the founders’ relations to religion were a mostly classical Enlightenment stance: skeptical, atheistic, not interested, and prudent in public. I read just the other day a fundamentalist conservative quoting an appropriately pious letter from Ben Franklin to the president of Yale — probably a Protestant minister then — which thereby “proved” Franklin’s Christian credentials. Please! Franklin was a statesman. What he said didn’t necessarily mean what he meant. Any friend of Franklin knows what a merry skeptic and man of nature he was, all functions included. It wasn’t sinful sex that excited him, but sex without sin. And he laughed with greenhouse gas.
Furthermore, Republicans believe in progress. Progress isn’t conservative. By definition it can’t be! And, as Marx said in the Manifesto, capitalism means incessant and unsettling change. Capital is restless! Republican progress means incessant improvements of capital and the superstructure it pulls along with it as its political and cultural umbrella. Thus, Marx would say today that the recent social gospel of post-redemption mainline Christianity is merely a “moral” materialist opposition to the dominant position of capitalism. Together they play foundation-superstructure good cop/ bad cop with the natives, domestic and foreign. Even Christianity has been made progressive by the republic of capital!
In summation, the word “Conservative” is used in America as a synonym for “Republican.” But insofar as conservative means a package of what you’ve repeatedly said you personally loath and fear — racism in favor of European stock; fundamental religiosities of tired and expired creeds; sex in priest-approved positions — it has nothing to do with the Republic in the republicanism of its founding and fundamental senses.
Republican is not conservative.
Republican is not conservative.
But, of course, by calling Republicans conservative, Democrats conceptually get considered liberal if only by default of opposites. Meanwhile, Democrats proudly call themselves liberal with a confidence that feels so natural it seems inevitable. Indeed, with a convincing hauteur like that of aristocrats, liberals’ tone says that title to the word came to them from the laws of nature and nature’s god — to quote Jefferson’s own orthographic first draft. Thus Democrats now own the yin and the yang of the name liberal. But they don’t own both sides of the liberal dialectic. Marx understood that. In the republic of power knowledge, concept logic is the restless reasoner. Dialectic is the high finance of inference.
Words like liberty belong to those who use them with the ardor and the fierceness of possession and protection.
Possess, use, defend, enjoy, sustain!
This has been a good think.
Have a triumphant Fourth of July!