Edmund Burke, George Will, and the Duke of Sussex

Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri notes in The Federalist that George Will was his introduction to Aristotle and Edmund Burke. I can’t say that but like Senator Hawley Will was for years a must read for me. Too bad that he changed, from Senator Hawley:

Will’s fulminations are typical of a certain set of Clinton and Bush-era commentators who call themselves “conservative” but sound more like a cartoon version of libertarianism. Will shrugs at the decline of the working class and the loss of the communities that sustain them. He celebrates instead the “spontaneous order of a market society,” by which he apparently means woke capital, offshoring, and the growing corporatist alliance between big government and big business.

Will advises working families displaced by lost jobs and neighborhoods to shut up and move, like the Joad family in Steinbeck’s “Grapes of Wrath.” Packing up all their belongings and abandoning their family farm demonstrated the Joads’ “dignity,” Will opines. Interesting. He might want to re-read Steinbeck.

Or Edmund Burke. Will casts himself as a champion of individual liberty, but his reduction of individual freedom to market choice—the right to buy cheap stuff from China—wouldn’t have made any sense to Burke. (Or the American founders. Or the voters who cast their ballots for Donald Trump.)

Burke understood that individual freedom is formed by culture and community, and you have to work to defend both. The “little platoons,” Burke said—home and church, school and neighborhood—are where we grow, where we learn to love, where we find the strength and support to make something of our lives. And they are where we forge the common bonds that sustain our national sense of purpose.

In a nutshell, that sums up much of the never Trump nonsense, doesn’t it? I can’t say with complete confidence that it is choosing one’s paycheck over one conscience, but it sure looks that way. In fact, it stinks of selling out, for a price, to the globalists, who seem to think that the most important part of trade is a cheap workforce. Of course, it also provides a way to prevent competition from other smaller companies (and individuals) who might just find a better way to make things in America (or Britain for that matter). And that’s even better for the corporatists.


A Time for Choosing

Gavin Ashenden has a few comments on the plan of the Sussex’s ‘to carve a progressive role’. I couldn’t agree more with him when he says:

There is a tragic element to the blinkeredness and immaturity that mistakes a bid for independence as ‘carving a progressive role.’It isn’t that at all of course. In reality it is choosing between two competing philosophies or ethics. One, which the monarchy is founded on and depends on, is a Christian one in which doing one’s duty on behalf of others takes priority over self-interest. The other is a concentration on self-interest and self expression (however it is justified) at the expense of self-sacrifice and duty.The problem for the Sussexes is that they  have chosen to put their own self-interests before their public  duty and family. It has been tried before both by ordinary people and by prominent people like Edward 8th. The tragedy is that it almost always ends in a growth of self-pity and sadness.

I can’t say I’m especially surprised, Meghan (or should that be ‘Me Again’?) like most actresses appears to have more ego than sense, not to mention an overdeveloped sense of entitlement, and an addiction to saying ‘Me, me, me!’ incessantly. Harry if he read his family history ought to know better though, and has shown some real leadership at times.

If one were to look at his grandmother’s and especially her mother’s life, one would see just how hard a taskmaster duty can be, even when it comes in a gilded carriage. But as General Lee often noted:

Duty, then is the sublimest word in our language. Do your duty in all things. You cannot do more; you should never wish to do less.

It is a very high and hard standard, in both stories today. But nothing less is acceptable in free people.

FVhF8GU

In large measure this post is a repost of one I wrote in 2013, modified to update to today.

We write a lot here about politics and we write even more (I hope) about history. We try, sometimes well, and sometimes probably not so well, to connect one to the other.

Tomorrow will be that most truly American of holidays, Thanksgiving. Rightly it is the day we stop and give thanks to God, or whatever or whoever we each individually think most appropriate for all the good things we have. This early post is sort of a political history thanksgiving post.

We really have had a good run over the last 400 years, and I refuse to believe we are quite done, either. We have lots of problems but we always have, and in large measure, the mark of American greatness is that we have not only survived, but thrived on them. Always they have forced us to think, and act, and persevere until we worked through them.

Dan Hannan has a new book out, it’s called Inventing Freedom, and in it he discusses how the English-speaking peoples have invented freedom in our stormy trip since before there was an England, let alone America. I’m not going to say too much about it, because I haven’t read it yet. [No longer new, and I have read it, and recommend it] But as the video below shows, his views appear to pretty much parallel mine. And it made me think that we have much to be thankful for, and I’d thought I’d share a few of mine.

First, I’m grateful for you few, you wonderful few, who read my drivel, in the often forlorn hope that I have something useful to say. Thanks 🙂

Second, I’m grateful for all the rest of you wonderful bloggers and writers that have opened up a world of thinking for us all.

Third, I’m thankful that conservatism has, and always has had such wonderful thinkers and writers, I mean, really: Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, St Augustine, St.Thomas Aquinas, Sir Thomas More, Adam Smith, Locke, Burke, Voltaire, David Hume, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, James Madison, and such right on down to guys like Dan Hannan, Mark Levin, and all the others. It makes quite a contrast to Marx, Hitler, and Lenin.

And you, know, I’m grateful to Barack Obama, his ineptitude and attempt to reduce American power and Europeanize America has had us in crisis mode for about five years now, fighting what has often felt like a rearguard action. A crisis is, of course, a time of danger, but I think we all know that the other side of crisis is opportunity.

And the day is coming when the American revolution will happen again, I think. No, I’m not talking about an armed rebellion, although it’s possible, I think it unlikely. I mean in the same sense as the first one, finishing the circle, putting what has been put on its head back on its feet. I think America is going to see a rebirth of individual liberty.

And indeed, we did come out of the ‘reign of error’ flags high and ready to go, and for most of us, America feels much more like the optimistic place we grew up in. Yeah, we got plenty of problems still, including those fool regressives and their thugs, but increasingly the light in the tunnel seems not to be a locomotive.

Then there are our cousins in the old country. They got a serious problem. Imagine if Obama and the Congress gave the UN complete power, never mind the Constitution, over America. That’s what our cousins are fighting off with Brexit. They seem short of leadership at the moment, but hey, remember how it was here after the 2012 election?

I think they’ll pull through, not least because for over a thousand years, they always have. There’s always a dark time, but the flame has never guttered out in either Britain nor America. I doubt it will this year either.

Here’s a bit from Charles Moore’s Telegraph review of Hannan’s book

Edmund Burke, who wrote the greatest British encomium to conservatism, was a Whig. Now Daniel Hannan, who is a Tory (an ultra-sceptic MEP, in fact), has written a great encomium to Whiggery. With the eloquence of Macaulay or Trevelyan – both of whom are liberally quoted here – Hannan sweeps us through English history to show the triumph of law-based liberty and “that total understanding which can only exist between people speaking the same tongue”. With incredible ingenuity, he finds the marks of this genius in almost everything the English have done.

I say “the English”. Hannan has no race theory – pointing out, for example, how “English” oriental people can be in Hong Kong, Singapore or India – but he certainly believes in the Anglo-Saxon tradition. The Norman Conquest was, in his view, a “calamity”. It is because of Saxon Witans, and Saxon law, and Kipling’s Saxon yeoman who “stands like an ox in his furrow” demanding fair dealing, that we are a free people today, he thinks. He even complains that the Normans, being more snooty, let us keep plain Saxon words – cow, pig, lamb – for living animals, but imposed their own French-derived ones for the cooked version – beef, pork, mutton.

Norman and Saxon

"The Saxon is not like us Normans. His manners are not so polite.
But he never means anything serious till he talks about justice
      right.
When he stands like an ox in the furrow--with his sullen set eyes 
     on your own,
And grumbles, 'This isn't fair dealing,' my son, leave the Saxon
     alone."You can horsewhip your Gascony archers, or torture your
      Picardy spears;
But don't try that game on the Saxon; you'll have the whole 
     brood round your ears.
From the richest old Thane in the county to the poorest chained 
              serf in the field,
They'll be at you and on you like hornets, and, if you are wise,
                  you  will  yield.

And a bit of Hannan himself

We are still experiencing the after-effects of an astonishing event. The inhabitants of a damp island at the western tip of the Eurasian landmass stumbled upon the idea that the government ought to be subject to the law, not the other way around. The rule of law created security of property and contract, which in turn led to industrialisation and modern capitalism. For the first time in the history of the species, a system grew up that, on the whole, rewarded production better than predation.

Why did it happen? Why, after thousands of years of oligarchy and tyranny, did a system evolve that lifted the individual above the tribe rather than the reverse? How did that system see off rival models that elevated collective endeavour, martial glory, faith and sacrifice over liberty and property? How did the world come to speak our language?

Continue reading How we invented freedom – and why it matters – Telegraph Blogs.

And Daniel Hannan at Heritage

The Rhymes of History

This is going to be a two or three-part series, and it’s not going to have many laughs in it. What we are going to talk about is the manifest overreach of the federal government, in especially the last few years. We are also going to dispassionately (mostly) compare it to a similar time some 240 years ago, in the 1770s. We’ll start this morning with some discussion about what the Founders were thinking in those days. So, let’s begin.

And so, Sen. Harry Reid thinks that Cliven Bundy and those with him the other week are domestic terrorists. I suppose he is entitled to his opinion, and we’ll come back to that.

It seems to me that we are starting to tread on ground that we haven’t covered in about 240 years. Yes it may be that serious. And so we need to review the basics. America was founded above all to reclaim the liberties afforded to all freeborn Englishmen, and because of when the settlement happened, we inherited them at their zenith. In fact, in 1775, Edmund Burke said this:

Let the colonies always keep the idea of their civil rights associated with your government-they will cling and grapple to you, and no force under heaven will be of power to tear them from their allegiance. But let it be once understood that your government may be one thing and their privileges another, that these two things may exist without any mutual relation – the cement is gone, the cohesion is loosened, and everything hastens to decay and dissolution. As long as you have the wisdom to keep the sovereign authority of this country as the sanctuary of liberty, the sacred temple consecrated to our common faith, wherever the chosen race and sons of England worship freedom, they will turn their faces towards you. The more they multiply, the more friends you will have, the more ardently they love liberty, the more perfect will be their obedience. Slavery they can have anywhere. It is a weed that grows in every soil. They may have it from Spain, they may have it from Prussia. But until you become lost to all feeling of your true interest and your natural dignity, freedom they can have from none but you. This is the commodity of price, of which you have the monopoly. This is the true Act of Navigation, which binds to you the commerce of the -colonies, and through them secures to you the wealth of the world. Deny them this participation of freedom, and you break that sole bond which originally made, and must still preserve, the unity of the empire. Do not entertain so weak an imagination as that your registers and your bonds, your affidavits and your sufferances, your cockets and your clearances, are what form the great securities of your commerce. Do not dream that your Letters of office, and your instructions, and your suspending clauses are the things that hold together the great contexture of this mysterious whole. These things do not make your government. Dead instruments, passive tools as they are, it is the spirit of the English communion that gives all their life and efficacy to them. It is the spirit of the English constitution which, infused through the mighty mass, pervades, feeds, unites, invigorates, vivffles every part of the empire, even down to the minutest member.

And it seems that history does at least rhyme, because we may have come again to that point.

And so, we find ourselves doing the same things as the founders did, studying the writing of the great philosophers of antiquity as we attempt to discern the way forward. And inevitable after watching the confrontation in the Nevada desert, we gravitate to St. Thomas Aquinas, and his just war theory, in Summa Theologica, he writes of the just causes of war, to wit.

  • First, war must occur for a good and just purpose rather than the pursuit of wealth or power.

  • Second, just war must be waged by a properly instituted authority such as the state.

  • Third, peace must be a central motive even in the midst of violence.

Which is all very well, but leaves us with the conundrum of the “properly instituted authority, such as the state”.

The School of Salamanca expanded on his work in this area thusly:

  • In self-defense, as long as there is a reasonable possibility of success. If failure is a foregone conclusion, then it is just a wasteful spilling of blood.

  • Preventive war against a tyrant who is about to attack.

  • War to punish a guilty enemy.

Which sheds a bit more light, with the introduction the term tyrant.

We often have trouble when arguing in the English-speaking world when we work from sources connected with the Catholic church, for all their learning which is immense and very useful, there is also a dichotomy. The Church is properly called The Roman Catholic Church, and it is no misnomer. That is in no way meant to be a disparagement of the church, but since the empire itself, Roman law has always had the principle that the state is the giver, the top of the pyramid, if you will.

In the English-speaking world, which developed from the old north German tribes (Angles, Saxons, Jutes, and others) who migrated to England after the Roman period and never owed allegiance to the empire we have another model. In our history the government has always been the creation of the people, and the government, the servant of the people. This is the thread of which we have spoken so many times that runs from King Alfred’s Charter to, Magna Charta, on to the English Civil War and the Glorious Revolution and the English Bill of Rights, and continued on this side of the Atlantic with the American Revolution (which many see as a reprise of the English Civil War) and finally the Constitution and its attendant Bill of Rights.

That is a very long way of saying that the people are sovereign and may set up their government as they please. And that gives us the properly instituted authority, that Aquinas demands, the people are the highest authority, in our world.

Even the law codes reflect this, in the Roman world we hear such terms as the Justinian Code and the Code Napoleon, which signify law written from scratch by the ruler and imposed on the populace. But in our world we have the Law of the Land, by which we usually mean the Common Law, and it reflects what we have said, instead of being imposed by the ruler, it has been built one case at a time over the centuries, by the people themselves, and their needs.

The clearest manifestation of the difference is in this. In most of Europe it is assumed that you can do most anything if you get the permission of the government. In the UK and even more in America it is assumed you can do anything you please unless it is specifically prohibited by law. It is a very big difference, isn’t it?

That’s all fine and good, but do we have the individual right to resist the government. In some ways that is a question that you have to answer for yourself, but if we go back to St. Augustine we’ll find that while he considered self-defense to be a bit sub-optimal, he did recognize it and further recognized a right to defend the weak and/or defenseless. He recognized that one could be faithful to God and still be a soldier, although it could at times present a decided dichotomy between obedience to God and obedience to the state. In the last analysis, you’re going to have to talk it over with God.

That’s the general background that supported the Revolution, and would have to be satisfied to justify another one. Echoing everyone who ever thought about this Thomas Jefferson said this in the Declaration of Independence:

Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security..

So we need to think long and hard before doing anything like that, and make sure we can’t do it peacefully. But of course, it’s not entirely up to us either.“

In our next post, we will analyze the confrontation between Cliven Bundy and the BLM.

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Thanksgiving, and Freedom

FVhF8GUWe write a lot here about politics and we write even more (I hope) about history. We try, sometimes well, and sometimes probably not so well, to connect one to the other.

Tomorrow will be that most truly American of holidays, Thanksgiving. Rightly it is the day we stop and give thanks to God, or whatever or whoever we each individually think most appropriate for all the good things we have. This early post is sort of a political history thanksgiving post.

We really have had a good run over the last 400 years, and I refuse to believe we are quite done, either. We have lots of problems but we always have, and in large measure, the mark of American greatness is that we have not only survived, but thrived on them. Always they have forced us to think, and act, and persevere until we worked through them.

Dan Hannan has a new book out, it’s called Inventing Freedom, and in it he discusses how the English-speaking peoples have invented freedom in our stormy trip since before there was an England, let alone America. I’m not going to say too much about it, because I haven’t read it yet. But as the video below shows, his views appear to pretty much parallel mine. And it made me think that we have much to be thankful for, and I’d thought I’d share a few of mine.

First, I’m grateful for you few, you wonderful few, who read my drivel, in the often forlorn hope that I have something useful to say. Thanks 🙂

Second, I’m grateful for all the rest of you wonderful bloggers and writers that have opened up a world of thinking for us all.

Third, I’m thankful that conservatism has, and always has had such wonderful thinkers and writers, I mean, really: Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, St Augustine, St.Thomas Aquinas, Sir Thomas More, Adam Smith, Locke, Voltaire, David Hume, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and such right on down to guys like Dan Hannan, Mark Levin, and all the others. It makes quite a contrast to Marx, Hitler, and Lenin.

And you, know, I’m grateful to Barack Obama, his ineptitude and attempt to reduce American power and europeanize America has had us in crisis mode for about five years now, fighting what has often felt like a rear guard action. A crisis is, of course, a time of danger, but I think we all know that the other side of crisis is opportunity.

And the day is coming when the American revolution will happen again, I think. No, I’m not talking about an armed rebellion, although it’s possible, I think it unlikely. I mean in the same sense as the first one, finishing the circle, putting what has been put on its head back on its feet. I think America is going to see a rebirth of individual liberty.

I’m grateful for the wonderful leadership in Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, which right now have the best leadership in the English-speaking world, and hope both America and Britain will soon emulate them.

Here’s a bit from Charles Moore’s Telegraph review of Hannan’s book

Edmund Burke, who wrote the greatest British encomium to conservatism, was a Whig. Now Daniel Hannan, who is a Tory (an ultra-sceptic MEP, in fact), has written a great encomium to Whiggery. With the eloquence of Macaulay or Trevelyan – both of whom are liberally quoted here – Hannan sweeps us through English history to show the triumph of law-based liberty and “that total understanding which can only exist between people speaking the same tongue”. With incredible ingenuity, he finds the marks of this genius in almost everything the English have done.

I say “the English”. Hannan has no race theory – pointing out, for example, how “English” oriental people can be in Hong Kong, Singapore or India – but he certainly believes in the Anglo-Saxon tradition. The Norman Conquest was, in his view, a “calamity”. It is because of Saxon Witans, and Saxon law, and Kipling’s Saxon yeoman who “stands like an ox in his furrow” demanding fair dealing, that we are a free people today, he thinks. He even complains that the Normans, being more snooty, let us keep plain Saxon words – cow, pig, lamb – for living animals, but imposed their own French-derived ones for the cooked version – beef, pork, mutton.

Norman and Saxon

"The Saxon is not like us Normans. His manners are not so polite.
But he never means anything serious till he talks about justice
      right.
When he stands like an ox in the furrow--with his sullen set eyes 
     on your own,
And grumbles, 'This isn't fair dealing,' my son, leave the Saxon
     alone."You can horsewhip your Gascony archers, or torture your
      Picardy spears;
But don't try that game on the Saxon; you'll have the whole 
     brood round your ears.
From the richest old Thane in the county to the poorest chained 
              serf in the field,
They'll be at you and on you like hornets, and, if you are wise,
                  you  will  yield.

And a bit of Hannan himself

We are still experiencing the after-effects of an astonishing event. The inhabitants of a damp island at the western tip of the Eurasian landmass stumbled upon the idea that the government ought to be subject to the law, not the other way around. The rule of law created security of property and contract, which in turn led to industrialisation and modern capitalism. For the first time in the history of the species, a system grew up that, on the whole, rewarded production better than predation.

Why did it happen? Why, after thousands of years of oligarchy and tyranny, did a system evolve that lifted the individual above the tribe rather than the reverse? How did that system see off rival models that elevated collective endeavour, martial glory, faith and sacrifice over liberty and property? How did the world come to speak our language?

Continue reading How we invented freedom – and why it matters – Telegraph Blogs.

And Daniel Hannan at Heritage

Liberty Trail: A Resource

English: Norton Covert The Liberty Trail rises...

English: Norton Covert The Liberty Trail rises steeply up through Norton Covert. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I want to pass this along to you all because, well, because here and at many of our sites we are well off in the weeds, we tend to presume a knowledge of history and politics that many don’t have. I suspect many of the folks that wander in looking for information read a bit and go-what on earth is he talking about?

References to Henry II, and Burke, and Franklin, and Coolidge, and all. I just want to know what the darned government is doing to me NOW. Kathy does a great job of explaining it for them. We were all there sometime, last year, or last decade, or when we were kids; we all started sometime, and I’ll bet it was because somebody took the time to explain it to us.

Kathy does that, send them to her, or they’ll go back to sleep. I’ve tried to do it, and I wander off into the weeds all over again. Jess does it better here than I ever do but, she too assumes a certain level of knowledge. Liberty Trail doesn’t. It’s a valuable reference for us all

When I started writing this blog, my stated purpose was to reach out to a large sub-set of the group we have come to refer to (lovingly) as Low Information Voters.  These are Americans who realized a long time ago that their elected leaders were lying to them, the people who work for those leaders were lying to them and the media was lying to them.

These LIVs are good, decent people who love America and used to believe in the promise it offered to all of us.  But they have families to care for and bills to pay.  They have lives to live.  They don’t have the time or desire to watch every move made by every crooked politician.  Ask them what they think of the people running the country and most will tell you they are dirty, rotten scoundrels.

DirtyRottenScoundrels

They certainly got that part right, didn’t they?

I talked to one of these people over the weekend – a dear friend who is not afraid to admit she falls into this group.  She told me that years ago she became so disenchanted with the lies and deceit that she simply tuned out.  She said it was just so hard to figure out who was representing her best interest and not their own.

Now, she says there are times when she would like to jump back in, but she feels that she’s so far behind that she doesn’t know how to catch up and where to turn for some truth.  And I don’t think she’s alone.  I think there are millions of Americans just like her.  I also believe that this is part of the grand plan – make it too difficult for the average citizen to follow their government and they will eventually give up.

Continue reading Changes At Liberty Trail.

This is where I send busy LIVs, you should too.

Burke vs. Hobbes?

Statue of Edmund Burke in Washington DC. See i...

Statue of Edmund Burke in Washington DC. See inscription|100px (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We’ve been saying for a while that the 2012 election is going to be a very pivotal one, that will set the course for America for decades (at least) to come. George Weigel has an unusual perspective on it. He writes from a Catholic perspective but a civil liberty perspective as well.

So what are we deciding, to the best of our ability:
  • Burke or Hobbes
  • Romney or Obama
  • America or France

and finally

  • Freedom or slavery

 

Here is George Weigel writing in First Things via Servus Fidelus

You likely think, gentle reader, that the 2012 presidential race is a contest between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. That, of course, is true, insofar as the names on our Nov. 6 ballots go. But the 2012 race for the White House is something more, something more profound—something with deeper historical roots in modernity’s wrestling with political power and how that power contributes to the common good.

This is a contest, to take symbolic reference points, between Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) and Edmund Burke (1729-1797).

Both were British subjects. Both had a profound impact on modern political theory. Both knew that religion and politics—Church and state—had been thickly interwoven into the history of the West, although here the deep differences between these two paradigmatic figures begin to sharpen: Hobbes tried to drive religious conviction out of the modern public square, while Burke fashioned a vision of political modernity that drew in part on the rich social pluralism of the Catholic Middle Ages.

In a Hobbesian world, the only actors of consequence are the state and the individual. In a Burkean world, the institutions of civil society—family, religious congregation, voluntary association, business, trade union and so forth—“mediate” between the individual and the state, and the just state takes care to provide an appropriate legal framework in which those civil-society institutions can flourish.

In a Hobbesian world, the state—“Leviathan,” in the title of Hobbes’s most famous and influential work—monopolizes power for the sake of protecting individuals from the vicissitudes of a life that is “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.” In a Burkean world, civil society provides a thick layer of mediation—protection, if you will—that cushions the interactions between individuals and life’s challenges.

A Hobbesian world is a world of contracts and legal relationships, period. A Burkean world is a world in which there are both contracts—the rule of law—and covenants: those more subtly textured human associations (beginning with marriage) by which men and women form bonds of affection, allegiance, and mutual responsibility.

Continue reading  Campaign 2012: Burke vs. Hobbes? | First Things.

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