Video Monday

I think video Monday is here. First with a hat tip to both International Liberty and The Conservative Woman.

TCW kindly added a couple more, Rounds 1 and 2 of Keynes v Hayek. Enjoy.

 

And here is Mollie Hemingway on the divide in America today

 

Demagoguery and Populism

Law and Liberty is one of my favorite sites, as you’ve probably noticed.  They, like me but far better, tend to the underlying principles rather than the day to day atrocities of politics these days. Like reading Locke and Burke to understand conservatism, it gives one a base to judge daily happenings. I think that valuable. I also think it is what leads so many leftists astray, not having any base. It’s one thing to argue, say the British welfare state based on the context of the old poor law, it’s quite another to simply talk yell about how unfair it is to some identity politics grouping.

And so once again we go to Law and Liberty, this time to Charles  Zug on the differences and similarities between Demagoguery and Populism. Again it’s a fairly long article so you’re going to need to read it there to make complete sense of what I say. It’s worth the time.

In recent years—particularly since Brexit, Trump’s 2016 election, and the rise of figures such as Marine Le Pen and Victor Orbán—the terms populism and demagoguery have come to be used with increased frequency in political discourse. And yet, the concepts which these terms refer to remain unclear—as testified by the emergence of books (scholarly and general-audience) purporting to clarify what it is, precisely, that makes a demagogue and a populist. Adding to, or perhaps resulting from, this general lack of clarity is the fact that demagoguery and populism tend to be used interchangeably, often to describe those now-familiar political figures whose characteristic attributes include raging against neo-liberalism and globalization in the name of ordinary people, condemning “elites” of all stripes, and advocating a return to traditional local or nationalistic values, particularly as these regard religion, gender, and race.

The temptation to group these two concepts together is understandable, and in some ways, useful. Demagogues are often populists and populists frequently use demagoguery. Yet beyond their obvious similarities, these terms stand for distinct political concepts.

Practical Difficulties

Before saying what makes them different, however, it is worth observing the way populism and demagoguery are used in the context of real life politics. Because politicians and pundits so often weaponize these terms, public figures labeled “populists” and “demagogues” have a personal stake in denying either the appropriateness of the designation as it regards them, or the tenability of the very concept itself.

And yet there is no real problem with either of them. Populism is not quite a synonym but its meaning is really pretty close to democracy, while to demagogue essentially means to present to the people with passion. And yet, they have developed a bad reputation because of some bad actors, like Hitler and Mussolini. But nobody is going to say than Andrew Jackson wasn’t a populist demagogue, and he was a pretty good president.

For understanding why demagoguery and populism so often accompany one another, the American experience is particularly informative—though by no means exhaustive. The founders of the American political system recognized that the structure of a large polity housing a multiplicity of interests would incentivize discrete interest groups to assemble coalitions. This in turn would induce interest groups to deliberate among each other in ways they would otherwise not, so as to find the broadest and most stable bases of mutual support and therewith assurance of effective and enduring governance.

The founders also chose to lodge the regime’s ultimate (thought not its only) political authority, not in State and local governments as the Anti-Federalists would have done, but rather in national constitutional offices far removed from local constituents. Consequently, national office-holders were insulated from the pressures to which the leaders of small democracies had been notoriously subject. More importantly, the goals and priorities of national officeholders were reoriented away from the narrow and parochial concerns of their own communities towards the broader and more enduring concerns of the Union. To this end, James Madison in Federalist 10 anticipated that the effect of these national offices on public policy would be “to refine and enlarge the public views, by passing them through the medium of a chosen body of citizens, whose wisdom may best discern the true interest of their country, and whose patriotism and love of justice will be least likely to sacrifice it to temporary or partial considerations.”

I agree with him, and yet,  as the federal government has taken over more and more things that used to be in the purview of state and local government, who actually probably understood their constituents better than the faceless bureaucrats in Washington, it has gotten out of hand. What was an excellent idea, like all excellent ideas,  has come to be abused, and wants correcting. It’s a problem when you delegate to people who often self-describe as an ‘elite’, start to believe they know what I want or need better than I do.

I think we are going to be looking at aspects of this in the coming days, so remember what is in this article. I’m neither Locke nor Burke,  but I do have some idea of what ails us.

The American Cincinnatus

George Washington
mountvernon.org

Before we start, a question for our readers. Do you prefer when I write about current events, or when I rummage about in our national attic, as I have been doing this week? I won’t say I’ll necessarily abide by what you say, often I write about what interests me at the moment. That’s likely to continue, but perhaps the emphasis could be one or the other, or even a combination, as we’ve sometimes done, applying the lessons of history to things today. Hartley did indeed say, “History is a foreign country, they do things differently there”. But that doesn’t exclude us from learning lessons there either. Let me know what you think in comments.


At the end of last July in Law and Liberty,  Matthew J. Franck wrote a fascinating account of John Marshall’s admiration (and biography of) George Washington.

George Washington resigned his commission as the commander in chief of the Continental Army in a public appearance before the Confederation Congress (then sitting in Annapolis) on December 23, 1783, in his own words “commending the Interests of our dearest Country to the protection of Almighty God.” Eleven days later, from Richmond, Virginia, John Marshall, a former captain in the 7th Virginia Regiment now married, settled down, and practicing law, wrote to his old friend and fellow veteran James Monroe:

At length then the military career of the greatest Man on earth is closed. May happiness attend him wherever he goes. May he long enjoy those blessings he has secured to his Country. When I speak or think of that superior Man my full heart overflows with gratitude. May he ever experience from his Countrymen those attentions which such sentiments of themselves produce.

Marshall’s veneration of Washington was not unusual among the officers and men who had served under the commanding general. What may have been unusual was the extent to which Marshall’s admiration remained durably undimmed to the end of his own long life more than a half century later.

Nor was it confined to Americans, George III himself, asked John Adams, then Minister to the Court of St. James, what he would do. Adams told him that Washington would return to his farm. The King then said, “Then he will be the greatest man in the world.” This is also where the phrase “The American Cincinnatus”  comes from. In memory of the great Roman general who twice did the same thing, only to suffer persecution.

This last edition, first published posthumously in 1838, is the one brought back into print by Liberty Fund in 2000, edited by scholars Robert Faulkner and Paul Carrese. As Faulkner says in his foreword, “Marshall’s Life of Washington is political history as well as biography. . . . the only comprehensive account by a great statesman of the full founding of the United States.” This is history lived by the author, more Thucydides or Xenophon than Plutarch. And so Marshall, who could remember well the temper of the times, remarks of the beginnings of the Revolution:

Although the original and single object of the war on the part of the colonies was a redress of grievances, the progress of public opinion towards independence, though slow, was certain. . . . To profess allegiance and attachment to a monarch with whom they were at open war, was an absurdity too great to be of long continuance.

Which is something we Americans tend to forget. Back in 1776 very few really wanted Independency as Samuel Adams was wont to call it. They wanted their grievances addressed. They were, in fact, proud of being British. And yes, that is why it bears striking parallels to both Brexit and Trump’s election.

That’s probably enough from me. I would like you to read the linked article, and I’d like you to join me in shortly buying the book, as these things go these days, it’s not particularly expensive.

I’ll leave you with this thought though, as we watch both Washington and London engage im such vituperative arguments.

In one respect, Marshall’s Washington makes for very sobering reading today. We tend to think of George Washington as the Marble Man—all looked up to him, and he merited every encomium bestowed on him. There is much truth in this; he was, after all, the only man ever elected President effectively by acclamation—and twice! But Marshall does not omit another truth: that there were plenty of people eager to bring him down, even among his own countrymen. Rival generals and suspicious congressmen during the Revolution schemed to displace him at the head of the army. As President, Washington had a “honeymoon” that lasted less than two years; then the knives came out, first for men like Hamilton who were his advisers and his instruments, and by the end, for Washington himself.

Trying to Start a War?

So the Dimmocrats, who earn their name every day, want to confiscate your guns. Oh, they say they’ll buy them back, and if New Zealand’s recent experience is any guide, they’ll give you about a quarter of their value, and throw you in jail if you object. Ain’t tyranny wonderful?

Well confiscating the law-abiding citizen guns has been tried here before, of course. The last time was on April 19, 1775. The results weren’t promising, it started the Revolutionary War. I think that might be a bad precedent.

Maybe, just maybe, they should try enforcing the laws already on the books. If you don’t read blogs like Second City Cop, you have no idea just how frustrated the police are. What with the court putting murderers on the street on bail with an ankle monitor, and insanely short sentences if they bother to show up, it’s not hard to see why.

Then there is the evasion of their own responsibility, which we just saw with Mayor Lightfoot in Chicago and her attempt to blame Republicans in Indiana for Chicago’s self-imposed problems.

By the way, there were two, count ’em, two, mass shooting in Chicago over the Labor Day weekend. What’s that? You didn’t see that on TV? Neither did anybody else. It was black people killing black people, and thusly of no interest to the left. It never is, plantation violence is background noise. Nobody but the police even try to do anything about it, and they hamstring every effort to help.

But hey, your AR-15 will probably, all on its own, go out one night and shoot up the neighborhood. David Harsanyi at The Federalist has some thoughts as well.

And they do it without any evidence that it would curtail rare mass shootings or save lives.

While national confiscation would be unprecedented in American history, we already possess hard evidence that bans of assault rifles don’t alter gun violence trends. Gun homicides continued to drop steeply after an “assault weapons” ban expired in 2004. It’s also worth noting that in 2017, the last year of available FBI data, there was a near-historic low of 7,032 murders with handguns, and 403 by “rifles” of any kind, not only “assault weapons.”

To put that in perspective, there were 1,591 knife homicides during that same span, 467 people killed with blunt objects, and another 696 with fists and kicking. (Not every police department reports the type of gun used in homicides (3,096 of them), but it’s reasonable to believe that similar trends apply, since those murders took place in big cities where handguns are most prevalent.)

Although a number of Democrats now unequivocally support a “buyback,” no one has explained how the procedure is supposed to unfurl. What will the penalty be for ignoring the “buybacks”? Fines? Prison terms?

Will local police be tasked with opening case files on the 100 million homes of suspected gun owners who are armed with hundreds of millions of firearms, or will it be the FBI? Maybe Democrats will propose “paying back” family members and neighbors who snitch on gun owners? How else will they figure out who owns these AR-15s? There is no national tracking of sales.

And there won’t be. New Zealand, after it’s government’s stupid and panicked attempted buyback this year, has had to admit that they have no idea how many weapons there are in Kiwi land. Good, that’s how it should be.

And strangely enough, if you don’t care about legality, even in Britain, it seems not all that difficult to obtain guns, and unlike America, real military weapons, select-fire and all.

Well, they always could have listened to Churchill who commented that when you destroy a free market you create a black market.

Of course, even Churchill’s family caught the disease, I noticed yesterday that his grandson, Sir Christopher Soames, who has been in Parliament since 1983, I think, has lost the whip, and been deselected by the Conservative Party for reelection for wanting to remain a Euro-peon. Probably why you don’t hear much about the Churchills between John, first Duke of Marlborough and Lord Randolf, Sir Winston’s father. An easy and soft life doesn’t breed good leaders.

1619 Project, More Lies as History

So the New York Times seems to have started a new (but not really) front in the culture wars with its so-called 1619 Project. You’ll remember that we talked a bit about it here. As we said there, part of this is the outcome of allowing our history to be Zinnified, since that fraud simply lied. But there is some truth in it, like all good lies. Adam Bruno writes on History News Network that:

Jim Geraghty’s National Review article “What the 1619 Project Leaves Out” provides one of the best examples of right-leaning media’s conceptions of America’s past. Geraghty argues that the “1619 Project’s effort to ‘reframe American history’ requires cropping out some significant figures in African-American history,” such as war heroes, national leaders, etc. This response illustrates conservative media’s conceptions of the past as: determined by the actions of “great men,” defined by heroic and noble acts of patriotism from its citizens, and generally memorable for its unifying moments not its shameful ones.

There is nothing inherently incorrect about the Great Men approach to American history, and the idea has long been essential to the right’s discourse about history. Historian Andrew Hartman explained this in The War for the Soul of America, noting that for the right, “there were certain eternal truths, such that America was a beacon of freedom embodied in the great men of the American past.” The stories of great people who exemplified American exceptionalism provide conservative media with a more digestible and glorious version of the country’s history. Geraghty makes this idea a central part of his article; “the number of prominent figures who never even get mentioned or who get only the most cursory treatment is pretty surprising.” Without these figures, conservative powerbrokers lose the icons necessary to uphold a cleaner and more wholesome national history.

And there is some truth in that. It’s also important to remember that it is appropriate that the left quote Geraghty and National Review since it has become obvious that there is nothing conservative about them either. We do tend to the ‘Great Men’ school. I wonder why in a history studded with men like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, James Madison, Abraham Lincoln. Men who did what the clearly perceived as right, without thought of consequence to themselves. It’s interesting that while several of the founders mentioned here were, in fact, slaveowners, they were very uneasy about it, tending toward being abolitionists themselves. That is true of both Washington and Jefferson.

That was not true of almost any of the men that made up the Democrat Party that led the way into the Civil War, and when crushed by Union forces started the first Ku Klux Klan, which then had a comeback as President Wilson, also a Democrat resegregated the country.

Marc A. Scaringi writing in American Thinker gives a much more accurate view when he says:

The New York Times “1619 Project” is being lauded by the media and many Democrats for what they believe is a long overdue discovery of the hidden truth of America — that it was founded on white racism and the enslavement of blacks, and that even today the belief in white racial supremacy is so endemic to America that it’s a part of our national DNA.  […]

Third, the major premise of the Project is based upon a lie. It claims America was birthed in slavery in 1619 when the first 20 African slaves disembarked at Jamestown. It claims America was not a nation, “conceived in liberty,” as Abraham Lincoln intoned, but instead a white, racist state begat through the original sin of slavery. However, Jamestown was founded by a British company over a decade before the introduction of slaves; its purpose was to search for gold and establish trade to enrich its owners, not give freedom to anyone. America was born in 1776 when we declared our independence to free the American people, including blacks, from British rule.

Even the Project’s claim that the blacks at Jamestown were enslaved by whites is based upon a half-truth. It states, “The pirates had stolen [the slaves] from a Portuguese slave ship that had forcibly taken them from what is now the country of Angola.” But these Africans were likely captured and enslaved with considerable assistance from blacks. In 1619, the Portuguese allied themselves with the Imbangala, a fierce African tribe that lived by marauding other villages and enslaving other Africans. The Portuguese used the Imbangala to attack, defeat, and enslave the neighboring Ndongo tribe. The Portuguese then sold the enslaved Ndongo to the Americas.

Concerning the African slaves disembarked in Jamestown, Hannah-Jones writes, “They were no longer Mbundu or Akan or Fulani. These men and women… Just a few months earlier… [t]hey were free.” Yet, it’s highly unlikely that they had been free. The Mbundu were part of the Ndongo kingdom, which had a large slave population. About a third of the population of the Akan states were slaves or serfs. By the late 19th century, slaves still constituted about 50 percent of the Fulani Emirate. In African society, which was based upon the caste system, the upper castes did not sell their sons and daughters to the Portuguese, they sold their slaves.

Me? I think the whole project/conspiracy is an attempt to further transfer the guilt of the slaveholding left, while burying their continued and continuous support for keeping blacks (and Hispanics, Chinese, poor whites) anybody, in fact, that is not a neo-liberal down on the plantation. The term for these people is useful idiots, as Ludwig von Mises termed those fools who joined the Comintern. Some things change very slowly.

The main thing to remember with these NPC’s is that they are intrinsically anti-American and anti-Western Civilization. They want a world where their rule is unquestioned and permanent. Too bad about that, ’cause it ain’t gonna happen on our watch.

Someday, somewhere, probably over the rainbow, one of these scurrilous social justice warriors will screw up and tell the truth, and on that day, pigs will fly through a snowstorm in hell. Don’t hold your breath.

Thoughts on Reality

Well, for us Americans it is Labor Day weekend, not that there weren’t plenty of documents dropped the last couple days, but I don’t feel like writing about them and I’ll bet you don’t feel like reading about them. Maybe next week, although there will likely be a metric shit-ton of new stuff by then as well. Ain’t life grand?

So, how about some thoughts about reality being real, and identity politics, and their inherent groupings being unreal. Right up our alley, I think. From John Conlin at American Thinker and yes, it’s good stuff.

The United States is the freest, wealthiest, most tolerant society the world has ever known. Even today’s poor live lives undreamed of by royalty less than a century ago.

Yet in what seems like a major disconnect from this reality, we have major politicians calling for a transformation of society. Why is this? Well, other than pandering for votes and power, which is a large part of it, there is another more basic and more dangerous process at work.

And that is success breeds failure. This is a common and accurate theme in management thinking. Success breeds complacency. Success can lead an organization from lean and mean, to fat and happy, to obese and stupid. Real-world business results show hundreds of examples which prove the point.

This process, one of an individual accepting unearned success, knowledge, and wealth as a “given”; thinking of it all as “just the way it is” seems to be a common thread in human thinking. We intellectually take ownership of all past successes and think of them as almost our inalienable right.

There are no fundamental reasons for this success, it’s like gravity… it simply exists. Some take this even further and believe they are morally superior to all who came before them.

Yes, there are studies where we don’t rank #1, that’s fine, you’ll notice that everybody close to the top got there the same way we did.

No, the amazing wealth-creating behemoth that is the United States of America is due to the simple fact that individual freedom and limited government is in agreement with reality. They work because they are true, no more, no less.

This really shouldn’t be shocking. Are we shocked when two free hydrogen atoms become water when joined with one oxygen atom? We factually accept this atomic dance because that’s what happens, every time! The same is true with creating wealth.

This individually unearned success, knowledge, and wealth allow people to begin to believe in silly things; things which simply aren’t true in any real sense. This rot was allowed to take hold in our institutions of supposed higher education, where a few decades ago it became fashionable to believe there is no such thing as reality.

Unless one thinks each of us is actually endowed with godlike powers, this is stupidity on stilts. And of course one never sees a supposed believer in such things test their theory by stepping in front of a speeding train.

Lots more there and I want you to read it. But that’s the major takeaway. There’s an old American saying, “Shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in three generations.” It speaks to the same truth. The truth that people that are prosperous without earning their prosperity will eventually lose that prosperity usually sooner

I mean, have you noticed any great leaps forward from a Rockefeller in the last 150 years. Me neither, they’re still living off what that genius John D. Rockefeller wrought. Oh, they deny that reality, in fact, they denigrate the old man, who was railroaded but managed the last laugh.

So it goes, the Adamses lasted through most of the 19th century but haven’t been heard from since.

And that is the main point, reality is not only real, but often sucks, and everything else, including all this spending of other people’s money is unreality. Oh, it exists, for now, but being unreal it will pass, the question is, how much damage will it do on the way. It’s already done a lot.

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