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In the aftermath of Irma, these volunteers won in Florida

Posted by nouspraktikon on September 19, 2017

We were still surrounded by the debris of Hurricane Irma when the Volunteers showed up

Actually, it was a football game, one of those compulsive rituals which neither “the powers that be” nor the hoi poloi can ever say no to.  After all, who could deny the local fans their bread and circuses in the aftermath of a disaster?  Well, everything depended on who won…whether the spectacle would go down in the record books as a morale booster or moral misdemeanor.  As providence (do I hear someone say luck? Nah!) would have it, Florida won in the last seconds of a crazy game who’s merits on either side will be endlessly debated.  The Tennessee Volunteers returned home, perplexed and saddened.  Florida had, once again, been saved from itself.

But there were other volunteers in town that day.  Linemen of a different sort, hailing from Indiana, Kentucky, Georgia, and even parts of the state which were nursing their own hurts.  They weren’t watching football, although sometimes they worked within earshot of cheers and jeers from the high-tension game.  And yes, they were volunteers, even though they had been sent down by mammoth utility firms and could expect to draw overtime.  This is still America and nobody is forced to do any job they can walk off from.  But instead of “You can take this job and  shove it!” they arrived in large numbers, willing to work 24/7 in the humidity, often in the dark, and among the local fauna (think “gators” of the non-football ilk) which were spreading out into newly flooded zones.

In our neighborhood we had transformers down.  On the night of the storm, people had heard the  blast and seen the blinding blue ark light as the lofty cylinders seemed to turn into electric grenades.  Then darkness.  Days later there was still no electricity, and the Florida jungle was beginning to reclaim its own.  No heat, no cool, no refrigeration, no communication, and living off of canned and dry goods.  It could have been far worse as the water mains had kept their integrity.  Still, we were starting to wonder…

Then we saw the trucks.  We noticed (by we I refer to those who could read a map) a seal with the outline of the state of Indiana on its sides.  They had come a thousand miles, but the hardest part of their journey were the days of street by street, block by block progress until the worst hit part of town was rewired and on line.  They weren’t all from Indiana.  The man who went up in the bucket to replace our utility pole was from Bowling Green, Kentucky.

Bowling Green, Bowling Green

I wish I was in Bowling Green

Good old Bowling Green

And I bet he did!  But he had heeded the call to do a job which required a critical mix of physical endurance and intelligence.  The dead transformer was dangling in a virtual cats-cradle of wires and woods. When I murmured, “I can’t see how you will ever get that pole up.”  The Kentuckian answered, “Stick around and you may see more than you wager for.”  By literal hook and crook, mechanized to be sure, it all got up, poles, wires, transformers, until we heard the go ahead signal and the power returned.

I couldn’t help thinking that these men, who had come down from the regions around the Ohio river, were lineal descendants of the “volunteers” of yore, legendary men like Boon and Crockett, and the countless others who never became legends.  Historians can argue ad infinitum whether or not these were the men who “made America great,” or as per cultural Marxism, they were just land-pirates building a sand-castle civilization called the United States.  What is not arguable is that on short notice, their descendants had been mobilized and formed into an effective army to see that the swamp (here literally!) didn’t reclaim that network of urban humanity which calls itself modern Florida.

My general impression was that the whole operation, as befits volunteers, looked more like a “spontaneous order” than a command structure.  This was not to say that there was no planning, of which there was much evidence, but that the planning was horizontal rather than vertical, with the local agency and the out-of-state personnel cooperating on a case by case basis, combining local knowledge with volunteer can-do.  The federal government was invisible, although you could say that Floridians were the beneficiaries of a “national” effort by localities which had sent their people and resources across state lines to get the job done.  In military lingo you couldn’t say they weren’t regulars…just regular folks.

And that, my friends, is what makes America great.

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The Trump fizzle….the R3volution that wasn’t (and the one that was)

Posted by nouspraktikon on May 27, 2017

Trump’s non-revolution as an educational device

As of this writing pretty much everything which was promised in the salad days of Mr. Trump’s MAGA tours has been either hung up in pending legislation or put on the back burner.  Nobody, at least nobody who wasn’t born yesterday, really expected Ms. Clinton to go to jail or a physical wall to be built on the Mexican border, even assuming such things were desirable.  However few anticipated that  the President would morph into a double of his worst enemy, a.k.a., Sen. John McCain, which is pretty much what happened on foreign policy.  On the domestic front we now hear that refugee resettlement, something which is very different from voluntary immigration, can be expected to reach record highs.  The politics of blow-back, “invade the world and invite the world” is still as much the order of the day as it would be under any hypothetical Democrat administration.

I still retain a basic gut-level sympathy for Mr. Trump and his family, and a chivalrous disdain for the libelous attacks of the old-line media on their reputation.  None the less, I have lost any sense that a Trump revolution is afoot, unless that means a rebellion of Trump’s subordinates against their titular boss.  In place of a revolution, the most that conservatives and libertarians are likely to glean from this (possibly short-lived) administration is what, in patronizing terms, we refer to as a “learning experience.”  Yes, we are getting “a-lot-a-learning” taught to the tune of something far worse than a hickory stick…a broken heart.

On a deeper level, anyone who thought that a “Revolution”  was possible at this stage of American history is deluded.  However if we spell it R3volution, on the understanding that this is a counter-counter-revolution ( and if you see where the “3” comes in you are very clever!) then perhaps we have the basis, if not for hope, at least for a coherent narrative.

Put into schematic form that would be.

1.The original (libertarian) revolution against state absolutism. (a.k.a., the “Spirit of ’76)

2.The counter revolution of the administrative state under the pretext of various ideologies (egalitarianism, socialism, scientism).

3.The various attempts at counter-counter revolution launched against the New Order of the administrative/managerial state, usually labeled with that awkward term “conservatism.”

Basically, we are stuck at item 2, since we live in a historical situation where the administrative state has entrenched itself to the extent that most attempts at push-back fail before they become a credible threat to the New Order.  Mr. Trump’s revolution-manque is only the most recent and glaring example of this process.  Probably the best description of this situation was a series of essays written by an ex-editor of the Saturday Evening Post around the mid-point of the 20th century.

The Revolution Was

The man was Garet Garrett, a curmudgeon of the anti-New Deal resistance.  His thesis was that conservatives and moderates didn’t need to fear the advent of socialist revolution…since it had already occurred.  Of course by “revolution” he meant the authoritarian counter-revolution, not the American revolution, let alone any R3volution to restore the ideals of ’76.

Furthermore, Garrett underscored the permanence and near irreversible nature of the administrative state by articulating three reinforcing spheres in which the state made itself dominant and absolute. The welfare state, the system of international managed trade, and the system of collective security.  These were all solidly in place by the end of the Korean war.  These were each covered by an installment in his trilogy of essays, The Revolution Was(1938), Ex-America(1951), and The Rise of Empire(1952). (Note: the whole trilogy was packaged as The People’s Pottage , 1992)

Subsequent to Mr. Garrett’s analysis, but implicit in it, we see that so-called conservatives cavil at the welfare state, but accept it as the price of empire, while so-called liberals cavil at the empire, but accept it as the price of the welfare state.   Thus the people, through their representatives in Congress, were not liable to overrule the autonomy of the state bureaucrats, since the policy outcomes were always amenable to one or other section of the politically active classes.

A New (albeit false) Hope

Garet Garrett pointed out that at no specific point was the system of Constitutional government abrogated.  Rather, the Constitution was simply ignored and a substitute system of norms evolved to face changing contingencies.  Mr. Garrett dubbed this “Revolution within the form,” or in more exact nomenclature “counter-revolution within the form.”

The remedy therefore became opaque, since it was not a question of  legislating a new constitution, but of reasserting the salient provisions of the original, but neglected, law.  At the time of FDR the judicial branch occasionally still used it powers to limit the scope of the federal administrative state, a stance which was commonly thought to be the main justification for the doctrine of judicial review.  However, since that time, and especially since the ’60s the courts have become progressively (pun intended) subversive of the idea of any sphere of authority outside the administrative state.

An alternative to judicial redress was the possibility, however unlikely, that the American people would elect a libertarian president, or at least a kind of anti-FDR who would restore the Republic to its original vitality.  I had occasionally heard such sentiments voiced in libertarian and conservative circles prior to the election of Mr. Trump, however most people were surprised when the scarcely hoped for became incarnate in the form of a celebrity non-politician.  Or as it turned out, not.

We are left with what we should have started with, the prospects for political education and its impact on the legislative branch.  We now know that the “Hail Mary! pass” to a heroic chief executive doesn’t work.  Why? Because the theory of the unitary executive only works when it is in the interests of the administrative state.  When the chief executive opposes the interests of the (albeit “his own”) managerial class, the unitary executive crumbles like a sand castle at high tide.  We are at the high tide of statism.

If there is a silver lining to the present circumstances it is that the legislative branch can still throw a monkey wrench into the works, for good or evil.  In theory, a legislative branch that responded to the long range interests of the people, which is not that of the managerial state, could reverse the (counter-) revolution.  In theory, the right way to the right kind of freedom can be found…if only after exhausting every other way first.

 

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Africa through the Leftist looking glass

Posted by nouspraktikon on April 4, 2017

Leftist “Afrocentrism” is not Africa-centric at all, rather, it is Negative Euro-centrism

The cardinal, and supposedly indisputable, fact which determined modern Africa’s destiny is what people generally refer to as “The Partition of Africa” as if Africa were a huge cake that was cut into slivers by greedy and importunate dinner guests.  Indeed, there was a conference held in 1885 to ratify the European states’ spheres of influence in Africa, and it set the standard for determining the boundaries, not just of colonial Africa, but the territorial limits of today’s independent states.  Thus this phrase, and the image it evokes, has endured as the beginning of all disquisitions and inquisitions into the matters and morals of modern Africa.

Unfortunately this notion of “partition” fails the reality-test.  Apart from the history of European diplomacy, the “Partition of Africa” has no utility or even meaning.  In order to divide something up, the “something” has to first exist as a unified entity, and (except as a geographical concept) there never was any such thing as “Africa” to divide up.  In contrast, when historians speak of the division of Poland in the 18th century, they are referring to something concrete.  There was indeed a unified historic Polish state which suffered dismemberment at the hands of Prussia, Russia, and Austria.  Poland disappeared, its neighbors were enlarged.

This is not what happened to Africa.  Granted, something very important did happen in and on the continent of Africa during the late 19th century, and it happened (primarily) through the intervention of the European powers.  However, the actual process was precisely the opposite of a partition.  What happened circa 1885 to the various peoples of Africa was a process of forced unification, not forced division.  From the point of view of genuine Afro-centrism, or what might be more objectively called “ethnological realism” the 1885 event is better described as the (forced) unification of the African territories.

Yet somehow the myth of a division of a non-existent country called “Africa” has persisted in the collective imagination of world history.  The original impetus for this myth was, as everyone might suspect, the ignorance, chauvanism and pride (I abjure the term “racist” but you get the general point) of the European ruling classes at the height of Western world power.  It no doubt flattered them to think that they were able to enforce their will on territories who’s indigenous populations had no say in the matter whatsoever.

I won’t be going into the pros and cons of colonialism, a vast subject.  Rather, what I am arguing is the reality or otherwise of a single thought-construct, the “partition” of Africa.  After 1885 Africans found themselves inhabiting much larger political units than they had ever experienced before.  Some aspects of life in these larger units were beneficial, some were degrading, and let the chips fall where they may in each department of evaluation.  However what happened post-1885 was a unification rather than a sundering.  Sundering did occur in isolated instances, as when a boundary was arbitrarily drawn through the middle of a village, or though the grazing territories of a nomadic tribe.  However these were the exceptions which proved the rule.  The rule was that Africans woke up to a new reality, and in this reality they now were thrown into political relations with people whom they had had little contact with previously.  And these other people were not just the Europeans, but, most importantly, other Africans as well.

It is this unification which was the salient reality at the dawn of modern Africa, not sundering.  However, to say that unification was salient is not by any means a value judgement.  The pros and cons of this unification are all arguable, what is not arguable was its reality.  In fact the history of African politics, and of the rest of the world’s attitude towards Africa, largely revolves around the pros and cons of large political units.  Indeed, this is a theme which is hardly unique to Africa.  What is a nation?  What is a state?  What is the relation between these two, and are either of them or both of them good or evil?  This has been a universal theme since at least the times of the American and French revolutions.  However events on the African continent can throw these themes into either sharp relief or obscurity, depending on what kind of moral handle one has on the issues.

My thesis is that the political left has grabbed these issues at the wrong end, and that conventional discourse has slavishly followed the tone set by the left.  It is as if we had a telescopic view of Africa but were looking through the telescope from the wrong end.  This has had disastrous consequences, both for Africans and for everyone else.

Ethnographic realism and Federalism, Negative Euro-centrism and the unitary State

The seemingly abstract discussion above has more than historical relevance.  It is true that much of  Africa experiences debilitating social and economic conditions.  Furthermore, it is true that outside agents play a disproportionate role in the affairs of African states.  However it is singularly unhelpful to label these concrete conditions the result of “neo-colonialism” when in fact they are manifestations of the same globalist system which interferes in the affairs of non-African regions.  Due to the weakness of African political systems organizations such as the IMF, the World Court, and the so-called “peace keeping” UN military play the exaggerated role that they would like to assume throughout the world at large.  The reason why they are unable to play this role universally is that states outside Africa are stronger and less amenable to outside pressure.

And why are African states notoriously weak?  The general consensus is that “tribalism” (variously defined) keeps the political situation of all but the most stable African nations in a state of perpetual turmoil.  This is certainly true, however people have been analyzing the phenomenon of “tribalism” through the leftist looking-glass for several generations, and still no solution has been found to this problem, if “tribalism” is indeed a problem.  The leftist-Marxist view is that every African nation should have a unitary state, which will then enact economic and social planning to lead its population out of poverty and dependency.  Any groups which stand between the individual and the state are seen as running interference with this program are deemed reactionary.  Prominent among these groups are tribes, ethnic, and kinship organizations.

Does this sound familiar?  It should, since this has been the left’s prescribed rout to utopia throughout the world, not just Africa.   Worldwide, this started at the end of the 18th century, when the Paris Jacobin government abolished the provinces (the “tribes” of France) in favor of direct rule over localities by centrally appointed “prefects.” (N.B.:  This policy was extended to French West and Central Africa in the 20th century, and was inherited by the Francophonic states after independence.)

However in the case of Africa, the left ultimately envisions a continental union.  Hence the Marxian endorsement of the outmoded and Eurocentric notion of a “division” of the African continent circa 1885AD.  This is bad historiography but shrewd politics, since it gives substance to the myth of an undivided continental polity which should be restored in the future.  In fact what happened was not a division, but a forced unification of vast territories which have now become the nations on the African map.  If there had been no such forced unification there would have been no general problem of “tribalism” since the forcibly unified tribes would have been nations in themselves.

What has been done has been done, and today’s African political units are, and will remain, multi-ethnic.  This can be either a blessing or a curse.  If we look at it from the left-wing viewpoint, which I am equating with advocacy of political centralization, it interferes with the smooth operation of a unitary state.  However there are alternatives to this viewpoint.

The salient alternative is federalism, or having weak central governments and strong local governments.  The fewer rewards which can be contested at the national level, the less likely it is that various groups, ethnic, religious or otherwise, will have an opportunity to come into conflict.  Thus federalism, in any region, but notably in Africa, is likely to diminish the likelyhood of inter-group friction.

Advocates of political centralization generally fail to contest the above premise.  Rather, they claim that strong unitary states are necessary to resist outside pressure, generally framed as “imperialist” or some kindred threat.  However, even here the case for centralized unitary states is dubious.  In fact it is far easier for outside political forces to subvert a single political head than to deal with a multitude of layered political agencies.

Yes, the root problem in Africa is the one factor that the left refuses to blame: excessive political centralization.  Federalism would keep contentious ethnic forces from each other’s throats, and furthermore would minimize, though not eliminate, outside political interference in the affairs of the various nations.  The forced political unifications of 1885 are irrevocable, but their negative effects can be mitigated through decentralization.

Should be be surprised that the political solution for African nations is the same as the political solution for other regions of the world?  After all, the root human condition is the same everywhere.  That is what the left professes to believe.  Why doesn’t it endorse local autonomy and limited government everywhere on Earth?  Perhaps because it has simply adopted its historiography from its alleged imperialist enemies.

“Division of Africa” indeed!  Would that it were so.  We need smaller political units on every continent, so that people can easily trade, cross borders, and be friends.

 

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Mr. Trump’s deepest, darkest secret revealed!

Posted by nouspraktikon on August 26, 2016

He’s a Centrist!

Sarah Palin just found out, but I figured it out earlier…and psychologist/cartoonist Scott Adams probably had discerned the secret long before anyone else.  Surprisingly, the liberal media covered for Mr. Trump in this particular instance, battening down the kind of tight lid they normally reserve for Ms. Clinton’s emails.

Mr. Trump isn’t a Conservative, he’s a Centrist!

Of course Trump had blurted it out long ago.  In a candid moment (for he has no other kind) he declared, “This isn’t the Conservative party, this is the Republican party, get used to it!”  Few seem to have deduced a confession of Centrism from the statement, which is unsurprising since the prospect is so alarming that most political minds would banish the notion to that untidy abyss where mental monstrosities lurk.   After all, a genuine Centrist would be something new in American politics, a terrifying possibility which, in lieu of getting used to, we had better examine critically. Well, do you know anybody who voluntarily describes themselves as a “Centrist”?  I thought not.  We all want to be a little weird, trending to the left or right to assert our personal quirks.  As individuals we will have nothing to do with Centrism, but collectively….ah, there’s the rub…

Then again, what the heck is a Centrist, that Mr. Trump should be such a creature?  Perhaps the via negativa is our surest line of inquiry into the matter.  Thus we should proceed by a process of elimination, and winnow away the pseudo-centers until we get to the real core, the genuine marrow…or perchance that hole in the political doughnut called Centrism.

First we must dispense with the great national myth of Centrism, a hoary relic which functions, as intended, to make political and historical thought impossible.  Once, so we are told, there was a time in the primeval depths when we were all Centrists.  There were wonderful leaders, men like Lyndon Banes Johnson, who inherited a great country and aimed to keep it that way.  There were eloquent bards like Walter Cronkite who could express the American mind with an unequivocal unanimity, and dub this the “national consensus.”  Then there was some sort of terrible falling out, the bowl of Centrism was broken, and from its shards the warring demons of Left and Right were born.  So we are told.

We are not told that this so-called Centrism was a ploy to marginalize debate on the national level and consolidate a political duopoly.  If such be the case then this mythical “Centrism” can bear little resemblance to Mr. Trump’s politics, which is opening up new questions and exposing old divisions between the political class and the rest of us.  A painful process no doubt, but one which is essential if politics is to have any meaning distinct from administration.

A more recent form of alleged Centrism might be called Rhino-centrism.  Alas,  this is not an amiable obsessing over riparian mammals of the upper Nile, but a political disease.  However like the Blue and White Nile, Rhino-centrism is a confluence of two currents, crypto-liberals in search of power joined with conservatives willing to compromise for the sake of sinecures and security.  Confusingly, the former stream is called “neo-Conservatives” but at the point of convergence they might as well be called Centrists, albeit of the RINO variety.  These people uniformly hate Mr. Trump, so we can only guess that their Centrism is a horned animal pointing in the opposite direction from the elephantine Trump in the living room.

Then there are the chattering classes who call themselves moderates, but who are really just conservatives who are too fearful to broach the salient issues, knowing that doing so would be like touching a naked wire.  Mr. Trump has touched that wire, and we all have seen what happened.  Better safe than sorry!  Yet if these people are Centrists, what is Mr. Trump?

I, Ideologist!

Mr. Trump is a very unsatisfactory person for those of us who deem ourselves thinkers, especially thinkers on the right.  Let’s take two issues, one popular and one fairly esoteric.  One is hard pressed to think what Mr. Trump is going to do in the case of pro-life/pro-choice.  He waffles.  One surmises that he is genuinely of two minds on the issue.  In this regard his personal meditations would reflect the non-consensus of the American people…a kind of Centrism if you will.

At the other extreme is an issue which nobody except libertarians and lawyers care about, eminent domain.  The courts are now saying that the government can seize any land it wishes if the promotion of greater social and economic welfare can be demonstrated by the state.  It doesn’t take too much imagination to see Mr. Trump, with his real estate background and utilitarian mode of thinking, concurring in this doctrine.

As a libertarian I am offended by the doctrine of eminent domain, which asserts that the Earth ultimately belongs to the state.  Not to God, not to communities, not to individuals…to the state.  Qua ideologist I could never permit myself to vote for any magistrate who concurred with the doctrine of eminent domain.  Qua ideologist I would willingly sit this one out.  Indeed, there are good reasons adduced by conservatives to throw the election to Ms. Clinton…either by not voting or by voting for Mr. Johnson.  Perhaps the best argument is that, in expectation of a recession/depression, Ms. Clinton would be the one holding the hot potato.

Eminent domain!  Eminent domain!  Oh, if only everyone could see with my kind of moral clarity!  And yet, one wonders if Mr. Trump, so egregious in theory, would be so really bad in practice.  Could he be as bad as Mr. Obama, who with a flick of the pen is trying to transfer as much land from private to federal domain as possible?  Indeed, the land acquisition policy is beginning to take on almost Shammanic overtones, with the Earth as god and the state as its prophet.  Indeed, if you think that for-profit land use is bad, and surely it can be, wait until the advent of the false prophet…for unalloyed badness!

Likewise with pro-life.  Whatever his ultimate views on human life and sexuality might be, Mr. Trump could hardly make worse Supreme Court appointments than Ms. Clinton.  And while we are at it, what about World War III?  Might that not have something to do with life?  I don’t particularly approve of Mr. Putin, but a bit of “making nice” to the Russians might be preferable to Ms. Clinton’s harrowing neo-Conservative record of “creative destruction” and foreign entanglements.

Yes, as an ideologist I am offended by Mr. Trump’s lack of principle, by his shameless ferreting out of that elusive volunte general, i.e., the general will of the American people.  It smacks of “democracy” in the pejorative sense that Edmund Burke gave to that term, indeed, as a new form Centrism, simultaneously bold and enigmatic.  Yet, as a human being I am persuaded that we can live with Centrism…indeed, that we may not be able to live without it.

 

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Observations on the Christian Libertarian Conference (Aug. 2016, Austin TX), Pt. 2 Afternoon session

Posted by nouspraktikon on August 19, 2016

The Soul of the Entrepreneur

Dr. Victor Claar gave the most upbeat presentation at a conference which was distinguished by a generally upbeat tone.  One had the feeling of being in Sunday school, with plenty of scripture being quoted, and careful analogies drawn between the Biblical narrative and action in modern day society.  Claars’ premise was that entrepreneurial action was an image of God’s creative action.  Good uplifting stuff, albeit it tended to sell short the sense in which human finite reason and senses were only a poor hint at the fiat creation of an omnipotent and omniscient God.

A useful term for this same insight, which Dr. Claar did not employ, was J. R. R. Tolkein’s “sub-creation.”   All human activity, from art to entrepreneurship, is mundane mirroring of God’s creative action.  It struck me that there are actually two levels operative here, the moving about of productive factors within creation, and the imaginative reconstruction of the world with language.  These are different, with the former being closer to God’s creation in substance, while the second seems closer in terms of form.

One objection to any parallelism between entrepreneurship and God’s creative act is the presence of uncertainty in the former.  Theorists of entrepreneurship, such as the Austrian school’s Israel Kirzner, have talked about the entrepreneur as someone who is capable of “seeing around the corner” and discovering a gap in the market, some need or deficiency which has not been hitherto met.  However the entrepreneur cannot magically control the outcome of the enterprise.  This human capacity for being wrong renders the analogy between human action and creation less than perfect.  I mentioned this to Dr. Claar and he seemed to concur with this caveat.

The Plot Thickens: Enter Rene Girard as mimed by David Gornoski

“A Neighbor’s Choice” applied mimetic theory (MT) to the issues of politics and liberty.  Of all the presentations this was the one which came closest to offering a Christian solution to tyranny, and human bondage in general.  Most of the audience was probably unaware of the late Rene Girard’s work on social imitation, the mimetic triangle, and scapegoating.  As one of the conference attendees noted “libertarians scapegoat the state.”  Well, I am not sure that the way libertarians blame the state is congruent with Girard’s “scapegoat” theory, but the comment articulates an important truth.  The “state” is an abstraction which can only become incarnate in human action.  Therefore we must ask ourselves what is the primal human motive which results in the institution of elaborate and tyrannical systems of control.

For Rene Girard, it is the violation of the tenth commandment, Envy, which is at the heart of both social cohesion and conflict.  Imitation is the indispensable mortar for building individual bricks into a social structure, but imitation turns to nihilism as the fires of envy intensify and the continued existence of the imitated other becomes unbearable.  At the root of the problem is the unique quality of human imitation, which, unlike animal imitation is not just a miming of behavior but a imaginative appropriation of the other person’s desires.  This leads to rivalry and ultimately the assassination of the rival so that one can occupy and replace one’s rival’s very selfhood.  The assassination is then speedily mythologized, and turned into a religion to mask the aggression of the new leadership, a strategy which is generally successful in the short term, or at least until the fires of envy once again build up beyond a tolerable limit.

According to Girard, this pattern continued throughout human prehistory until it was unmasked by the passion of Christ.  In the gospel records for the first time ever, the narrative is related from the point of view of the victim.  Ideally, Christ should have been the last victim of mimetic rivalry, but as David Gornoski reminded the audience, the pattern has continued to operate up to the present and provide a rationale for that institution which we call “the state.”  Gornoski reminded the audience that the gospel accounts not only provide a diagnosis of the sinful basis of society, but also a strategy for dealing with mimetic rivalry…to eschew rivalry and usurping of the tyrannical rival’s functions, no matter if the overthrow and replacement be masked as “justice.”

It would seem that with Mr. Gornoski’s presentation we had got to a point during the conference where theory was beginning to give way to practice.  However the “practice” of a Girardian anti-mimesis would be less action than restraint on action, which brings to the foreground the common tendency of anarchism to encourage quietism rather than political activism.

Pico himself was beset by his usual theological scruples, and being a Girardian himself, though perhaps in bad standing, was eager to sound out Mr. Gornoski on the dangers of diverting the passion narrative from soterology to sociology.  Mr. Gornoski replied that he was convinced a sociological perspective on Christ’s victimhood in no way diminished the doctrine of the atonement, and that Girard himself (who became a practicing Catholic) saw no contradiction.  Pico was willing to let the matter stand, although this is a fundamental point which needs to be clarified in Girardian circles.

Conclusion: Political Burlesque and a Resounding Call to Inaction

It was inevitable that, in a Presidential election year, there would have to be some concluding fireworks…and that these would have to be managed so that the dangerous explosives didn’t blow apart the meeting in a satisfying but divisive finale.  This job was delegated to Jason Rink who’s semi-comic “Never a Chump: A Christian Libertarian guide to the 2016 Election” concluded with an appeal for libertarians to vote, not with their feet, but with their couch.  Even Mr. Johnson, the darling of the LP and other mild-mannered reformers, got the cold shoulder on the premise that if you don’t vote you aren’t morally responsible for the inevitable brutality of practical statecraft.  Of course this went double for Mr. Trump and Ms. Clinton.

Wisely, there were no rebuttals due to time constraints, so partisan matches and fireworks were kept from any incendiary conjunction. The enthusiasts of Mr. Johnson just had to grit their teeth and defer to their anarchist betters.  However, just for the record, Pico would like to ask: Are there not crimes of omission rather than commission?

Let me get down to specifics.  After all, Pico has made no secret of the fact that he is sympathetic to the oh-so-terrible Mr. Trump, so let me take Mr. Rink to task on his logic.  With regard to the Republic slate in general, Mr. Rink correctly observes that the Christian Right have served as the useful idiots (a.k.a. “chumps”) for a G.O.P. which has become subservient to neoconservative policies and banking interests.  Rink therefore concludes that now is the time for Christians in general and libertarians in particular to assert their independence from the Republican machine.   Four or eight years ago this would have been a valid premise, and in fact many Evangelicals did desert the G.O.P in 2012, if only due to Mr. Romney’s religion.

However Mr. Rink fails to understand that a G.O.P. under the sway of the Trump movement is no longer the Republican party of pre-2016.  If Trump has his way (and in spite of the obtuse G.O.P. leadership he seems to be getting it) the only continuity between today’s party and the pre-2016 organization will be the name.  If Mr. Rink, and the rest of us, could get beyond labels and pose the question objectively we would ask: Can Christian Libertarians support the Bull Moose Party, or the Populist Party, or whatever moniker you fancy for Trump’s new breed? Indeed, it was a tremendous coup (literally!) for Trump and his people to retain the name and franchise of “Republican” but that’s a whole new animal you see walking around the elephant’s skin.  So we pose the question whether Christians should join fortune at its tide, and be counted among those who will have clout in a possible Trump administration, or not?  I have a hunch that a Trump administration might succeed in “Making America Small Again” which would be an improvement on the present globalist regime.  Of course don’t expect Mr. Trump to be saying any such thing, which would be against both prudence and his own expansive nature, its just that rhetoric and results are often polar opposites.

Still, I suspect that it is Mr. Rink and not Pico who had his hand on the pulse on the conclave’s membership.  The dominant strain in the organization, which is now three years old, seems to be pietistic semi-anarchism of the David Lipscomb variety.  That is a worthy tradition and not be gainsaid, albeit Pico has been tending more towards a theonomic perspective recently.

Most of all, whether we are inclined towards libertarianism or theonomy, it is important to oppose the mainstream Christian Right in its fatal love affair with militarism and American exceptionalism.  To that end, I was glad to see that Dr. Norman Horne, the conference organizer, had learned some hard lessons from his debate with Dr. Al Mohler, President Emeritus of the largest Protestant denomination in America, and an evangelical celebrity.  During this previous encounter Mohler had dismissed “libertarianism” as a distracting ideology which was inherently non-Christian if not anti-Christian.  By his own account, Dr. Horn felt he came off poorly in the debate, as one would only expect of an upstart idealist going to the mat with a seasoned polemicist.

Dr. Horne concluded that in a projected rematch he would be less inclined to mince words and accept Dr. Mohler’s premises at face value.  Rather, he would have recourse to libertarian first principles, which are in fact Christian first principles.  He would like to remind Dr. Mohler that aggression is not endorsed by the gospel and that power corrupts.

Whether there is a reprise of the Horne/Mohler debate, let’s hope that someone is listening.  War drums are beating ever louder, Ms. Clinton is solidly in the pocket of the neocons, and militarists are wrangling for influence with Mr. Trump.  Christians, both committed and nominal, still represent the biggest single demographic in America, and a force for good or evil depending on how they are mobilized.

Let us meditate deeply on what action, or perhaps inaction, we should take in 2016…and may God help us all.

 

Posted in Anthropology, Christianity, Culture & Politics, Economics, Libertarianism, Paleoconservativism, Philosophy, Politics, Theology, Uncategorized | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Observations on the Christian Libertarian Conference, (Austin TX, Aug. 1016) Pt. 1, Morning session and main speaker

Posted by nouspraktikon on August 10, 2016

Can Christians be Libertarians?

Pico had the rare privilege of attending the third annual Christians for Liberty Conference, held in Austin Texas on Aug. 6.   There were about a hundred or so Christians and libertarians in attendance (mostly those who were both, but perhaps a few who were neither but curious) which made it lively enough for what is unfortunately still deemed an eccentricity, and drawing people, such as yours truly, from far and yon.  Now this writer, “Pico” if you will, is more of a paleoconservative, or at least a paleolibertarian, and perhaps there were a few of similar persuasion lurking among the crowd.  Undoubtedly this will give my observations a certain piquant sharpness since I fall short of whatever ideological median existed among the participants.  Yet this range of views is the glory of all such libertarian conclaves, such that one can hardly bring any two of the participants together without finding three opinions among them.   If you were to scratch the surface of conviviality, it would have revealed anarchists, minarchists, low-tax liberals, Rothbardian purists, one or two misdirected Randians, LP activists-on-the-make, pissed-off Republicrats, and a vast variety of other species in attendance.  But, characteristic of this fusion of freedom and gospel, there was no rancor among the sub-sects, and the whole thing concluded with a resounding call to spread the complementary messages of political autonomy and spiritual dedication to Christ.

The conference was sponsored by the Christian Libertarian Institute, itself the brainchild of Dr. Norman Horne, who was the chief organizer of the event.  The first speakers were Elise Daniel and Jacqueline Isaacs, who posed the question “Can Christians be Libertarians?.”  While Pico hates the generational monikers which the media have made into mandatory age-casts, for ease of understanding, I will reluctantly describe Ms. Daniel and Ms. Isaacs as so-called “millennials” addressing their peers.  As always there is tragedy and hope.  The tragedy is that young Christians in public universities and starting corporate careers are members of an oppressed minority which is still stigmatized as an oppressing majority.  The hope is that the brightest among the millennials will come to understand that Christianity is not a form of authoritarianism, but an exercise in responsible individualism mandated by God.

On the other hand there is a prejudice in the church which conflates libertarianism with a kind of roll-your-own lifestyle (properly, this would be termed “libertinism”), a view reinforced by the image of the pot-smoking narcissist who cares only for his or her own rights to enjoy the things of this world.   However to decriminalize sinful behavior is not to give it moral sanction, indeed, it is to restore responsibility for the moral order to the teaching and sanctions of the family and the church.  Libertarianism doesn’t teach the “unleashing of desire” promised by the progressives, but rather seeks to end the usurpation of individual responsibility by the state. Rather than an end to all governance, one of the speakers gave an apt summary, “I like my religion top down, and my politics bottom up!”  In the pursuit of that goal, these two bright lights in the rising constellation of Christians for liberty have combined with four of their peers on a project to show how the age old ideal of “liberty in Christ” can speak in a contemporary idiom.  The outcome will be a new perspective entitled Called To Liberty, which answers the question “can Christians be libertarian” through the experience and personal reflections of the six witnesses.  This is a faith-based initiative in both the gospel and the entrepreneurial sense, since at the time of the conference the book was still half way towards being crowd-funded for publication.

A more somber and historical tone was struck by next two speakers Dr. Jamin Hubner and Dr. Mark Cherry.  Hubner called the historical record to witness, and answered the question of whether Christians can be libertarians in the affirmative.  Indeed, Hubner seemed indignant that the question even needed to be posed, since the anti-statist nature of the gospel was less evident in the apologetic tracts of the early theologians than the praxis of the catacombs and the Colosseum.   While Hubner was pointed and direct, Cherry was rather baroque in his philosophical analysis of the theological epochs of the church, illustrating how Christians often got off track by rendering their faith too abstract and universal.  For Cherry, the interesting question was not how libertarians and Christians could propagate their understandings indiscriminately, but how freedom of concrete choices empowered Christian individuals and families to live out of the will of God in the face of clear alternatives.

Since, as common sense and Austrian economics both teach, there is no such thing as equality in the realm of values, anyone attending a conference on libertarianism and Christianity must eventually ask which is the head and which is the tail, the Christian part or the freedom part.  There were many pious statements implying that the joint endeavor would lead Christians to become more libertarian and libertarians to become more Christian.  Yet without further clarification the deadly hint of dual allegiance inevitably starts to debilitate the methods and motives of all hyphenated movements.  So it was with great relief that Pico and others heard Ms. Daniel affirm that the most important value was Christian faith, besides which infinite value no secular ideal can compare.

The Keynote Speaker: Dr. Robert Murphy

The featured Dr. Murphy was not a particular “draw” for Pico, since that latter had some vague reservations about the author of the “Contra-Krugman” blog.  Many Austrian economists have a smart-Alec approach to lecturing.  Knowing (and I feel they are correct in this assumption) that they are among the most intelligent human beings on the planet, they are keen to confirm the general public in the same conviction.  Perhaps some decades-old encounter with Dr. Murphy had filled me with trepidation about the speaker.  But as he began his talk it became clear  that, like Pico, Dr. Murphy had at some point in his personal sojourn become “a new creature in Christ” and I warmed to him.  Yes, he was every bit as witty and contentious as he had ever been, but, now bearing the mark of a servant, one could see that there was more than ego involved.

Moreover, Dr. Murphy’s topic was neither libertarianism nor Christianity per se but, surprisingly, apologetics.  Granted that his title “Is God a tyrant?” would have hinted broadly at apologetics in any session where the themes were less political and more theological.  The thesis was indeed a tour de force, and while Dr. Murphy (with his new found modesty) demurred from making any such claim, I will go ahead and call this an entirely new and revolutionary kind of apologetics.  How so?

Keeping in mind that Dr. Murphy did not make any such claim, it seems to Pico that he was hinting at a “third way” within apologetics.  If the first way is Classical apologetics (associated with Aristotle) and is evidence based, and the second way is Prepositional (associated with Paul, Anselm, and certain reformed thinkers) “believe that you may know” then Dr. Murphy’s take on the matter seems different from either. I’m not sure whether to call it Economic, or Judicial apologetics, or something else, but the take-away is that the thought of Murry Rothbard (a Jewish “pagan”) takes on a contemporary significance analogous to the influence of Aristotle on scholastic apologetics.

Rothbardians, following Locke, understand property as originating in the creation of goods through the mixing of labor with the materials provided by nature.  Once these goods have been created, they are owned absolutely by their creator.  He or she has the right to keep, destroy, or give away the created good voluntarily.  Conversely, nobody else has a right to possess, occupy, or enjoy the good owned by the owner (who is either the creator or a successor to the original creator at some subsequent degree of gifting and/or purchase).  As Murphy notes, this doctrine leads to any number of potential scenarios which normal people find morally uncomfortable.  A typical illustration will involve the owner expelling from his or her property a trespasser who is certain to die in the hostile environment surrounding the owner’s place of business or habitation. However these dire consequences are not logical paradoxes, they follow from logical principles whether or not people feel emotionally or morally comfortable with the outcome.

When we consider God as the first laborer to whom all artifactual creaton by humans is analogous, then we can understand the parallel between the libertarian defense of property rights and God’s sovereignty over creation.  God owns everything, and therefore has a right to dispose of His property as he sees fit.  We are his property and in no position to claim any rights which does not acknowledge the prior claims of God on everything we are and own.

I find this kind of reasoning compelling, even though, or because, it gives one a sobering realization of how wrong it is to claim autonomy in the face of one’s Creator.  There is a complementarity here, where the heteronomy of the creature is both contrasted to, and supported by, that same creature’s legal status as an autonomous person within civil society.  It is also remarkably in accordance with scripture once we consider the gospel as part of an integral covenant rooted in the so-called Old Testament.  Basically, Israel is a community of freeholders, yet they do not truly hold freely, but by the grace of God.

In summary, God is not a tyrant because he made the people over whom he allegedly tyrannizes.  Human tyrants are what they are because they have not only usurped Christ.s crown rights, but they have intruded into the lives and properties of their fellow human beings.  If they had made themselves and us, human tyrants would be in better shape to assert their claims, but fortunately we do not owe them our existence…as we do to God.

And now for something completely different

Dr. Murphy concluded his talk on an ominous note, echoing Paul’s observation that we battle not against flesh, but against powers and dominions, he cautioned against optimism based on a naive belief in rational persuasion of  the masses.  He noted that behind support for statism lurks something more than bad thinking or even vested interest, rather there are strong spiritual forces arrayed against freedom.  Pico entirely concurs, and feels that libertarians as a whole are a rather Quixotic bunch.  Leaving the ultimately supernatural opposition aside, there are many factors even in mundane existence which libertarians generally prefer to ignore, such as who precisely is doing what to whom, and if this involves money or other levers to power.  It would seem that when God divided up political intelligence the right got principles and the left got strategy, and one wonders if it is too late in the day for the former to learn any new tricks, dirty or otherwise.

Of course there is always the flip side, as illustrated by those self-professed pragmatic “libertarians” whom Murray Rothbard despised but who arguably have a better grasp on reality than the utopians.  As if on cue, Dr. Murphy’s talk was followed by Lauren Daugherty’s “Toward a Libertarian Foreign Policy” which seemed like an attempt to synthesize moral and economic liberalism with certain aspects of neoconservative doctrine.  Knowing that the room was peppered with anarchists and pacifists, it took visible courage on Ms. Daugherty’s part to advocate a rather muscular retention of pax Americana, albeit one which clearly prioritized cultural propaganda and sea power in preference to boots sinking into quagmires.  Pico always enjoys it when a solitary individual stands her ground in the face of a crowd, and sure enough, the young lady prevailed, while the crowd, generally speaking, “blinked.”  To paraphrase Star Wars’ Senator Palpitine, many will be watching Ms. Daugherty’s career with great interest, and hopefully she will not succumb to the dark side of the force.

 

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Congrats Brits!!! 2016 may be your 1776…(if you can keep it!)

Posted by nouspraktikon on June 24, 2016

A serious blow has been struck at the Globalist empire

It is with great pleasure that lovers of localism and freedom can contemplate the rejection of the unelected “federal government of Europe” by the  voters of the UK.  With the vote comes a reprieve from further alienation of the rights which go back to the Magna Carta and before.  Britain is back from the brink of absorption into a continent wide managerial state without due process, representation, or any of the other rights which were secured by the Wig Revolutions which rolled back the tyranny of the Tudors and Stuarts, ushering in that oxymoronic but workable form of republicanism which goes by the name of “constitutional monarchy.”

Thus in the future, the vote of June 2016 may be celebrated as a narrow escape from bondage to a faceless and unconstitutional tyranny.  The bracing question should be, “How did it ever come to this?”  Unfortunately the so-called “market” was a negative instance of Hayek’s principle of social evolution, for the EU was indeed an order “established through human action but not human design.”  Putting aside a few doctrinaire thinkers, few envisioned reestablishing the Holy Roman Empire, or the Kingdom of Charlemagne in post-WWII Europe.

Then who were the advocates of this grotesque system and why?  Oddly, it was the “marketers” in other words, the free-market liberals, those who today are more properly called the “libertarians.”  Freedom advocates had been so used to combating national socialism, fascism, and state communism, that the concept of an international market appeared as a panacea to the ills of narrow autarchic governments.   Few could imagine that the international network of trade, either on a continental or a global level, could itself be organized into a managerial authority which would hold entire nations at its mercy.  Like their liberal American counterparts who were so fixated on the corruption of local political machines that they overlooked the abuses of the military-industrial complex, Europeans emerging from the night of fascism and the Iron Curtain failed to see the anti-libertarian implications of a supra-national federal government.

That will be the retrospective sigh of relief if what has begun in June 2016 is followed through to completion.  The danger now is that vested interests will push back using either political or non-political means.  Having rejected continent wide federalism, Britons now need to reform their national system to end the very factors which invited supra-national tyranny into their islands.  The warfare-welfare state is still iniquitous on the local as well as the continental level.  The ancient British system was based on a population of freeholders bound together by contracts and covenants.  Returning to this system, based on common, not administrative, law should be the ultimate goal of “conservative” (really libertarian) politics.

To paraphrase what Benjamin Franklin said after the United States constitutional convention of 1787, the Brits now have their “constitutional monarchy” back again…if they can keep it!

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The psychological projections of the Authoritarian Left: The Emperors of (doling out) Ice Cream call out the terrible Tyrants of the Breakfast Table

Posted by nouspraktikon on June 22, 2016

The Cultural Marxist background of America’s uncivil political rhetoric

No, Donald Trump is not a “Fascist” even if the all-purpose F-word could be stretched to the max.   James Freeman does a brilliant take on why the real estate tycoon makes an improbable, or rather impossible, “dictator” in his Wall Street Journal opinion piece

http://www.wsj.com/articles/clinton-obama-trump-and-the-abuse-of-power-1466548914

The upshot of the argument is that Mr. Trump’s critics (at least the F-mongering ones) fail to make a distinction between economic and political power.  The not-so-ominous parallels are hilarious, if not quite Hillary-ous.   Mr. Freeman draws our attention to the brute facts of the tyrant’s career, for example

By his early 60s Stalin had already killed millions of his countrymen.  At the same age, Mr. Trump had already offered a signature collection of shirts, ties, cuff links, eyewear and leather goods.  He has also peddled furniture, mattresses, bedding, lighting, home decor and more.  Did Stalin ever have his own fragrance?

Since Donald Trump has never held any civil office, he has hitherto been innocent of the judicial murders that heads of state throughout history have committed.  He may be raw, coarse, and boorish, but these are not political crimes.  A critic might conjecture that someone with such traits is likely to become a tyrant, but there have been smooth and fastidious tyrants as well.  Between the vulgar Attila and the edified Robespierre, I find the latter more terrifying for all his sincerity and culture.  Be that as it may, the issue is between someone who is a political wild card, and those who have a proven record of creating mayhem and madness in the Middle East and elsewhere.  Mr. Freeman, hewing close to the interventionist line of the WSJ, limits his criticism of the Democratic establishment to domestic irregularities, but military skeptics can carry his  arguments even further.

More interesting is the allusion Mr. Freeman makes to the cult of the “authoritarian personality,” which he notes is now under severe revision by contemporary scholarship.  Evidence suggests that authoritarianism is more characteristic of leaders on the “left” (providing we define “left” as people and movements who want to implement their objectives using state power, which obviously excludes anarchists et al).  If so, this pseudo-diagnostic category turns out to be an exercise in projecting the critic’s personal faults onto hated others.  The “Authoritarian Personality” was coined as a tool of analysis by Theodore Adorno and his colleagues (the “critical” or “cultural” Marxists) to stigmatize and ultimately abolish the institution of the “bourgeois family.”  From a Marxist point of view the family must be subordinated to the state, the latter serving an an instrument of the oppressed.  This contrasts with classical political rhetoric, where the “tyrant” was implicitly the head of a state.  In the inverted Marxist world, the state is (ideally) a noble project run by a committee of guardians, while the persistent tyrannies are those of the social world, heads of families, firms, churches and whatever.

To put the theory in terms which a child would understand, though hopefully a wise a child would not be deceived: The real tyrant is the tyrant of the breakfast table, the paterfamilias and bread-winner of the traditional family.  In contrast, the state is a harmless and distant Emperor of Ice Cream.  While the kiosk vendor who employs that grandiose title might be an exploiter, the state scoops out free benefits to the public.  These benefits include education and cradle to grave security.  Since it is supposed that there is no bottom to the ice cream barrel, autonomous institutions outside of the state are rendered superfluous.  Hence economic activity is evil and political activity is noble.  Hence Mr. Trump is a fascist.  No data are necessary as the argument is purely deductive.

Whatever one thinks of Mr. Trump and his policies, his candidacy has become a wonderful diagnostic tool revealing the extent to which mainstream political rhetoric in America has been reformulated according to categories devised by German Marxists of the 1920s and 30s.   The leftists of that time and place were not only theorists, they were bold agents provocateurs who helped engender the original fascists.  Moreover the old fascists were widely recognized as just an off-brand form of leftist, and in no way conservatives. No wonder that today’s ideological descendants of the old German left are so fond of calling everyone “Hitler.”  They helped to create the original.

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Apologia pro Trump, or, three blasts of the Donald contra mundo: The flesh, the world and the devil!

Posted by nouspraktikon on May 5, 2016

Contra Mundo!

“They are of the world: therefore speak they of the world, and the world heareth them.” 1 John 4:5

“These that have turned the world upside down…”Acts, 17:6

It seems that all the world, from the Pope to the Pakistanis, from the DNC to the RNC, hates Donald Trump, indeed everyone (with the exception of those millions of Americans who have had the honor of voting for him) delights in reviling him.  I am not saying that the Donald might not be wrong, but can we be totally sure that the world is right?  By “the world” I don’t mean the universe or the planet Earth.  I have inquired of these what they thought of Donald Trump and their answer was a judicious silence.  Rather, let’s denominate as “the world” the same which the New Testament calls the kosmos, or Ibn Rushid termed the “world-soul”…that thinking, chattering, web of human minds which surrounds the biosphere like a luminous glove.  It is that world which is one third of the famous trio who’s other parts consist of the flesh and the devil.  Therefore we ought to take spiritual council, lest in being anti-Trump (or rather, pro-Mundo) we find ourselves in bad company.

Do I hear an “Amen”? Good!  Then let me  proceed with a brief three point lay sermon on why it behooves all Americans, and Christians in particular, to patiently consider the merits of Mr. Trump.

Point One: The Flesh, or “Behold the Man”

“…and I will give you an heart of flesh.” Ezekiel 36:26

To the hardened Trump hater, the Donald might seem to be the epitome of the carnal-minded man, yet we are told to not to hasten to judgment, and moreover be as innocent as doves and as wise as serpents.   Therefore, let us pause for a moment of discernment.  Is Trump a man on a white horse?  Heaven forbid!  He is just his old self, in and out of season.  Not enough brains?  Well yes, he only has one, not two, or more as the case may be.  Doesn’t the apostle James inveigh against the “double minded man” in his epistle?  So, hail Donald the single-minded!  His may be a carnal mind, but at least it hasn’t multiplied at the rate of the “talking heads” in the media or the man-pleasing apparatus-operatives of the political class, who are unlikely to be exorcised until a few thousand pigs can be coaxed into jumping off a cliff as their mental proxies.

So let it be resolved that Donald Trump is a man.  Perhaps a sinful man, perhaps a carnal man, perhaps not the kind of person one would want to have as one’s best friend forever…but at least nothing worse than a man.  There is no stifling atmosphere surrounding the Donald, even in the dreams of his worst haters, which gives one a shudder of reptilian horror.  He is quite mammalian, perhaps too much so.   So, having established the presumption that Donald Trump is a human being, and leaving the question of his sainthood or otherwise out of the discussion, do not Christians owe him the same charitable consideration that is due to all sons of Adam?

Furthermore, even the scriptures are not unequivocal in their condemnation of “the flesh”…rather what they abominate is “strange flesh.”  What is singularly ominous about our epoch is that flesh has become metal, and we march to the beat of the machine.  Machine politics is no longer a metaphor, and the machine increasingly summons a straggling humanity to a perfection which ill suits our species.  When the very definition of politics is altered from “the art of compromise” to “correctness” tyranny is at the door, and the strange flesh of the machine has advanced to harden the human heart.  Yet we recall that God loves the worst human being more than the highest angel, and take delight in our flaws.

Yes, Trump is human, but is he “all too human”?  It depends on which side of the uncanny valley you view the matter.

Point Two: The World, or Globalism

“Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.” Exodus 20:26

Although war, peace, trade, the economy, and immigration are alternatively considered the top issues in this election, they might best be reduced to the following debating point “Should, or should not, the United States of America be abolished?”  I think that formula captures the spirit of our historical moment best.  Granted, it is a rather narrow point, since what confronts today’s world is more than just a transfer of sovereignty on the north American continent.  So let’s make two hundred iterations of the point, going down the list of erstwhile national “sovereign” states.  Hence, “Should, or should not Albania…ditto, ditto, ditto….to… Zambia be abolished.”  In other world, should the world of nation-states be abolished in favor of…well, whatever.

Baldly stated, its an exciting question and one which should be approached without prejudice.  Your anarchist, your Christian libertarian, and your Fifth Monarchy Man will no doubt think it is a jolly good idea.  However we aren’t quite there yet.  Getting back to Mr. Trump, or perhaps the movement which he spearheads, the question is more like, “Should, or should not, the United States of America be abolished without referendum?”  That final clause is the spoiler, and even the hardened anti-nationalist will feel  a twinge of remorse at the formula “Ay!  The United States of America should be abolished through stealth!”

Anarchism or none, stealth is a form of deceit, a violation of both the ninth Amendment and the ninth Commandment.

Trump is a surprising fellow, and he might even turn post-American on us some day.  However, one thing is certain, he will insist on a great deal of negotiation, above the table, before hauling down the old flag.  Bad as he may be, he is no double-dealer, contract-evader, covenant-denier, or oath-breaker.  He’s not what the Anglo-Saxons called a “warlock.”

 

Point Three: The Devil, or the Tyranny of Bad Intentions

“…that it be not changed, according to the law of the Medes and the Persians, which altereth  not.” Daniel 6:8

Which brings us to last things, or what theologians call eschatology.  In other words, 1)Who is in control here and 2)where are we headed?  Christians typically divide up on the latter point.  There are wide variety of eschatological schools, from future-oriented pre-tribulational rapture enthusiasts to staid and history-minded preterists.  However all Christians agree  on the answer to the first point, for it is God, in his sovereign will, who our faith tells us is ultimately in control.

What does all this have to do with Donald Trump, who has probably never had an eschatological thought in his whole life?  Seemingly nothing at all, at least directly, but for the “mundo” i.e., for that world which is a “world-against-Trump,” quite a bit.  What could possibly motivate the unprecedented and near unanimous hostility towards a public figure?  His hair?  His remarriage?  His wealth?  Surely everyone knows that bad hair, adultery, and riches have never been obstacles to popularity in the corridors of opinion, power, information, and entertainment?

The clue is that not everybody agrees on the first point mentioned above.  You and me and Donald Trump all see ourselves as being carried along on the river of time.  We are not completely at the mercy of the current, since we can move our raft back and forth with some degree of freedom, and with a little effort and help from God (or the horoscope, or lady Fortune, etc. in the case of non-theists) we can manage not to sink.  As the Donald might put it, we can “negotiate.”

Yet there are some on this planet who do not share this bucolic view of time.  They see themselves outside and above the current of history.  The future has already been devised according to their intentions and thus written on tablets of jade, such as the laws of the ancient Medes and Persians.  Whether these intentions be good or bad, and whether they be to everyone’s benefit or to the profit of the few is of no moment.  Transcendence is the thing!

The implacable hatred of Mr. Trump indicates that there is something about his movement which threatens to unbind the chains which have been so meticulously woven around the future.  Perhaps he is on the verge of cutting some Gordian knot, the releasing from which will deliver us, if not into a promised land, at least back to the land of freedom and individual responsibility which was once considered the birthright of all Americans.  Yet while this policy might be good for us ordinary mortals, what greater disaster could befall the gods, than to know that they are not gods?

Those of us who already knew that the gods were not gods, need not make a god of Mr. Trump either.  None the less, we ought to at least be grateful to him for clarifying the situation, and for giving America a splendid opportunity, an opportunity which, if not grasped, is not likely to be offered again.  Note that I have not praised Mr. Trump.  I have not claimed that he is saintly or that he is God’s anointed.  Some people, no doubt with greater spiritual discernment than myself, do make such claims.  Rather, elaborating on information which is already well known, I have just tried to show the situation as it stands.  To be sure, Christians need not  “stump for Trump” if that violates their conscience, but I think I’ve given some suggestions for rethinking any such conscientious objections.

As for the “never Trump” crowd, all I can offer is Gamaliel’s advice.  If this movement is outside of the divine will, then it shall come to nothing, and can be safely ignored, but if one opposes it, then make sure … lest one be found fighting against God.

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A Halfway Covenant: Can Anarchists Support Donald Trump? (Or Anybody?)

Posted by nouspraktikon on April 17, 2016

A Critique of Walter Block’s (Anarcho-) ” Libertarians for Trump”

Block has made a blunder, but for the sake of everyone’s political education, I’ll blunder in myself.  Now, just to set the record straight, Walter Block is a fine gentleman and a profound scholar.  In fact, he once graciously shared the speaker’s platform with me at a Ludwig von Mises Institute seminar.  While I don’t share all of his ideas, I deeply admire his courage in breaking intellectual taboos and confronting political correctness.  Hardly the sort to pull his punches, Dr. Block has always pushed libertarian principles to their ultimate limits, braving academic ostracism and public censure.  Indeed, the redoubtable lassiez-faire  thinker has made a career out of Defending the Undefendable (one of his book titles) and has succeeded in putting himself in the dock of scholarly opinion, defending his own, and by extension your and my, right to free speech.

Thus can anyone be surprised that Dr. Block is now throwing his support towards the impolitic and outrageous Donald Trump?  Certainly nobody who has taken the time to actually consider the Donald’s policy positions, which are far closer to libertarian ideals than anyone else running for a major party’s nomination.  Rather, the surprise is that Dr. Block has pulled his punches, and is giving the Republican front runner only lukewarm support.  The premise of Block’s “Libertarians for Trump” goes as follows:  “We will back Trump until he gets the GOP nomination, after which we will end all support for him.”  Never one for half-measures, Block’s semi-Trumpism is an anomaly which calls out for rational explanation.  Is Block summoning like minded anarcho-libertarians to agitate, seeing Trump as a Republican disruption agent who will cause the political establishment to implode?  Or are the libertarian purists just afraid to support someone who might be an effective POTUS, an office which they oppose on principle?

This is the kind of intersection between political theory and political strategy which generates salient questions about both.  Block is an extremely consistent thinker, and his strategy in this case can be deduced from his principles.  I happen to think that the principles are flawed, but if they weren’t, Block’s recommendations would be the winning strategy.  Not for Trump of course, but for freedom.

Contrary to Block,  it seems to me that freedom’s cause would be best served by going all the way and securing the inauguration of President Trump in 2017.  After that what?  Would he become a dictator?  Elsewhere I have explained why this is unlikely to happen, but if I am wrong, then and only then, would it be ripe for libertarians to mount a “Dump Trump” movement, no doubt with Dr. Block in the vanguard.  But let’s face it, a strategy of nominating a candidate whom you hope will lose in the general election is simply unworthy of serious consideration.  Of course “serious” excludes the present GOP establishment, who are showing signs of severe cognitive impairment.  In contrast, Walter Block is a serious thinker, and if his strategy is absurd, it can only be attributed to his ideology, not an incapacity for matching means to ends.  It is that ideology which is salient, so let’s give it a closer investigation.

Anarchism and politics…obviously a mismatch!

It is important to understand that Walter Block is an economist.  Typically economists (especially mainstream neoclassical types) have been too modest about the scope of their science.  This modesty has diminished as developments in the last century showed how economics could shed light on diverse fields, such as viewing  how people vote in an election as a “public choice” analogous to the markets for private goods.  However there is another tendency which sometimes crops up, in which economics is raised to the status of a “master science” to which all else is subordinated.   Anarcho-capitalists, following Murray Rothbard, tend to see social science as a subset of economic science.  However William Ropke and others have pointed out that it is society which supports the economy, and not the other way around.  Without laws and other institutions to serve as a basic social framework, the free market would collapse.

Now let’s consider the election of 2016.  To the best of my knowledge nobody has yet pointed out the striking characteristic of this election.  Ponder this, and without exaggeration or irony, that all the major party candidates except (possibly) Trump are anarchists!  Of course their anarchism is not the noble “anarchism” of Murray Rothbard and Walter Block, but the criminal anarchism of lawless government.  It is the rule of the mobs and the cabals through extortion and intimidation.  It is increasingly “rule outside the form”…in contrast to “revolution inside the form.”  It is the final triumph, to speak in Hayek’s idiom,  of administration over legislation.

This is why I am making such a big stink about anarchism.  Anyone familiar with anarcho-libertarians knows that they actually believe in law.  Indeed, they believe in law more firmly than most people, their only particularity regards the means of enforcement.  Therefore, only in the course of an actual event such as the election of 2016 can it be demonstrated that the libertarian self-attribution of “anarchism” is more than just a rhetorical blunder.  Everybody knows that the niceties of legal form can be imbecilic, we recollect the law-oppressed urchins in the works of Dickens and Hugo, not to mention the New Testament, sufficient to render anyone with moral sense a sentimental “anarchist.”  However petty legalism is not the clear and present danger, it is just one brick in a much larger wall.   Rather, the novelty of 21st century politics is that governments and their enablers are groping towards a post-legal order.  In this context, rhetorical “anarchism” is worse than useless, it actually conflates the forces of good with those of evil.

Trump’s movement, whatever its flaws and vulnerabilities may be, is making a heroic stand against the emerging post-legal order.   I realize that this is rather hard for libertarians to see.  The libertarian ideology which grew up in the latter half of the 20th century was still able to take legal norms as a consensual basis for its appeal.  Statist encroachments on liberty were conducted (to use Garet Garrett’s nomenclature) “within the form” and it made good rhetorical sense to appeal to a diminution of administration and regulation in terms of an ideal zero point.  However that zero point (in the sense of zero bureaucratic administration) was still a society of laws, and moreover laws within the context of sundry institutions (language, kinship, property etc.).  Today the situation (esp. post-9/11) has not only worsened but accelerated, to the point where the administrative parasite is killing the institutional bases of society.  Legality itself is under explicit attack, not just by criminals at the margins of society, but by elites at its center.

When this process reaches its ultimate conclusion people will recognize it as anarchy.  Unfortunately it will not be the “anarchy” espoused by the idealists of either entrepreneurial capitalism or leftist egalitarianism.  It will have gone from “revolution inside the form” to “rule outside the form.”  Anarchy will have paved the way, and indeed have become identical to, tyranny.  This is not a particularly novel thesis…unfortunately it is a timely one.

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