Thursday, May 11, 2006

The Roots of Neoconservatism: Prologue

A philosophy known as "Neo-conservatism" has been growing here in America for a few decades now. "Neo" means new, and "Conservative," of course, means tending to preserve established traditions. Neoconservatives have had a foothold in both of the large establishment political parties, especially the Republican Party, for many years, at least since the Nixon administration. They swept into Congress in 1994, and now they control all three branches of the federal government, writing their own ticket.

This begs the question, just what established traditions are the neo-conservatives trying to preserve? They claim they are trying to revive and conserve the philosophy of the Founders, but their actions are such that they obviously oppose just about everything that the American Revolution was fought for.

Their economic policies are what laissez faire advocates (radical libertarians and near-libertarian paleo-conservatives) would consider as socialist, because of the high tax rate and active government role in economic decision-making.

The neoconservatives oppose any individual civil liberties at all, as shown by their nearly complete disregard for the Bill of Rights. They endorse the censorship of the internet (and also the printed word and radio/TV which is nothing new) contrary to the First Amendment, they greatly and increasingly restrict gun ownership and harass gun owners contrary to the Second Amendment, they destroy privacy via domestic spying and compulsory transaction reporting contrary to the Fourth Amendment, they permit the stealing of private property through eminent domain for the benefit of private corporations contrary to the Fifth Amendment, and they allow the federal government into areas that are really reserved for state governments, local governments, and individuals contrary to the Ninth and Tenth Amendments. This list is far from complete.

Not only has all this occurred domestically, but the neoconservatives are also determined to play policeman of the world and wage wars against weak countries just to increase the U.S. government's power in the world. It is good for "trade," they say, and their favored big-business cronies agree, of course. The idea of world government by themselves is attractive to them.

They cite crisis after crisis, both real and trumped up, in their quest for power. Obviously, 9-11 and other terrorist attacks are crises, but these are very much the result of our meddling foreign policy. I have explained this too many times, and so have other writers far more influential than I, so I will not belabor this again.

Of course, in all fairness, this has been going on for decades, under all administrations. So, we cannot blame just the Bush administration. But we need to consider, and I come to the point of what this blog is about, the idea that both the neo-conservative Republicans and the liberal Democrats are actually on the same page, despite their circus-like political "disagreements."

But, does the neoconservative philosophy really reflect that of the Founders? Not at all. They are poles apart, so the neoconservatives put their own spin on the Founding and the Constitution to make it appear they are of the same philosophy with the Founders rather than the Democrats.

So, exactly what is this neoconservatism that has taken our country over? Irving Kristol (b. 1920) is often called the "godfather" of neoconservatism. He has written at least a couple of books and some essays. In "The Neoconservative Persuasion" by him in the August 25, 2003, issue of the Weekly Standard, he says it is not a movement at all, but a "persuasion." (1)

According to the article, neoconservatives are mostly disillusioned liberals. It shows. When they left liberalism (or the left) they brought their big-government baggage with them, as is shown plainly in the article to the reader who knows economics. They co-opted the GOP and the truer conservatism the GOP had turned to in recent decades, particularly in the days of the Goldwater campaign (1964). Whether they know it or not, they turned the Party back to its Lincolnian roots, as I pointed out in Three Enemies (below). Actually, I don't think they would have a problem with Lincoln and the Republican Party's founders. They would definitely have a problem with my interpretation.

They insist this new conservatism is more suitable for today's democracy. And, maybe it is, in that old-fashioned rugged individualism strikes fear into people who want to be "secure" rather than free. Risk-taking is not exactly the "in" thing right now! Neoconservatism’s heroes include the infamous FDR, freedom's worst twentieth-century enemy, and Ronald Reagan, who talked the small-government and freedom talk, but did not follow through and walk the walk. Rather, he increased the size and scope of the federal government. More libertarian-leaning Republicans, such as Barry Goldwater, are passed over.

Their spin, as Kristol wrote in the Weekly Standard article, is that big government has always been preferred to small by the majority, even in relatively free nineteenth-century America. If this were true, it would only be because the bulk of the population has been miseducated. People do not want to be stolen from, told what to do, or forced into unnecessary wars, and that is what governments do, so I am disinclined to believe they really want bigger government.

The distinction between "friend" and "enemy" (one thing that leads to a crisis mentality as we shall see), I am certain, is borrowed from Communism, although this is never said by the neo-conservatives. "National interest" puts the country in a defensive mode, an approach I believe is borrowed from National Socialism.

What I set out to do in this project was show that neo-conservatism is directly descended from Communism. I could not do that (even though I still have a hypothesis that it is). Of course, Irving Kristol was "Trotskyist" in college, i.e., a leftist who was a member of the Young People's Socialist League, but "Trotskyist," he points out, is not the same as "Trotskyite," which was a real Stalinist Communist. (2) He was part of the "anti-communist left," whatever that means.

It has been a busy season for me, and I never had time to do all the digging and reading I wanted to, and could find but only tenuous connections between neo-conservatism and Communism, such as neo-conservative Leo Strauss connecting to Nietzsche and Machiavelli to Hegel to Marx.

As I worked on (or muddled through) the project, I learned a great deal. I think, however the most important lesson is that no matter what school of thought a person is in, there are no two thinkers alike. The people discussed here, and everyone else too, have some ideas in common but are far apart on other ideas. That is what made it difficult. I tried to find the common threads in an effort to point out that, regardless of President Bush's or any other neo-conservative's rhetoric to the contrary, their attitude toward God-given, natural individual rights is basically the same as that of socialists and communists.

Neoconservatism did come out of the left. This is clear and they admit it. The robotic leftists I marched with against President Bush on August 29, 2004, on the eve of the Republican Party re-nominating (rubberstamp) convention seemed to be oblivious to this common ground, and so did the robotic Bush supporters. They had not done their homework, so this was lost on all but us libertarians, many of whom had.

I would hope both of those sides re-examine their own and each other's ideas, and then examine true freedom. My purpose is to point out their commonalities by showing how socialistic and group/government-oriented the neo-conservatives are as contrasted to individual/freedom-oriented libertarianism, and, I hope, get them to think about these real alternatives.

Once I have made some connections among the various people, I will turn to neo-conservatism applied, i.e., some ways in which they have implemented their leftist agenda.


2. Kristol, Irving, Reflections of a Neoconservative, Looking Back, Looking Ahead, Basic Books, Inc., New York 1983, P. 4

Irving Kristol (born 1920)

Irving Kristol wrote Neoconservatism: The Autobiography of an Idea (1). I will discuss this and another work by him at length as these give us some idea of what neoconservatism is really about.

Right in the preface he says some very revealing things. He says flat out that neoconservatism came out of the Left. Neoconservatives took over the Republican Party and brought it "into the present" which really means made it more "liberal" in the modern sense. Rather than becoming true conservatives (meaning more individual-freedom oriented) when they became Republicans, they changed the Republican Party into a party more like the "liberal" Democrats, endorsing big, active government. Today's policies prove that (2). The only real difference is (besides the details of in what areas of life the government is intruding the most) that much of the rhetoric actually is conservative sounding lip service to individual freedom, peace, privatization, tax relief, and generally a smaller government.

Early on Kristol shows that he believes people need some sort of authority to keep them in line. Anti-authority sentiments are "weak," he believes. This conclusion was reached while in the army, where he believed that army discipline was all that kept soldiers from running wild and committing misdeeds (3).

Partway through Chapter 1, "An Autobiographical Memoir," I realized that Irving Kristol had reached his thirties without a bit of knowledge of economics. He was still fairly "liberal" (meaning left-leaning). I think the die had been cast as far as his outlook on individual rights vs. government authority was concerned. While I don't think anybody is born with a set of ideas written on his genes, and I don't think a person is shaped and molded like clay by the environment unless he passively allows it, I do think that maybe a person is, to an extent, "wired" by God to have certain attributes. And a person forms certain habits early on. One might be born with the potential to attain a certain energy level if one takes care of one's health, and one might form the habit of being assertive, aggressive or passive, or of being deferential, or of looking out for number one. One is responsible to apply one's free will to use his God-given attributes in the best way.

In any case, Kristol did not seem to question authority. Of course, he grew up in a very conformist, obedient generation. Not knowing economics in the 1950s, he did not recognize the economic fallacies abundant in government policies, and did not start to wonder about it until the 1960s and the "Great Society." He always assumed what he had been told, that John Maynard Keynes had it all figured out, and that government monetary and fiscal policies could ensure sustainable growth and stability (whatever those mean at any given time). In other words, he was clueless. He knew that he was an anti-Communist, as he recognized that Communism was more than just an extreme of leftist thought, although he did seem to frown on “McCarthyism” (4). Of course, everyone goes on learning for life, and as one learns new things, one improves upon one's opinions based on the new knowledge. However, I think the basics of one's philosophy are formed in childhood and youth and then do not basically change.

Of course, there are bound to be some exceptions, but I do not believe Irving Kristol was one of them. The "godfather of neoconservatism," as he has often been called, has always been pro-government, and will most likely remain so (5).

Pro-government associates were pretty dismayed at the Democrat nomination of George McGovern, a far leftist, in 1972, and, being more moderate, they gravitated from the left wing. Not only that, but the youth movement of the 1960s had shown them they were really conservatives in the cultural sense.

Kristol and his neoconservative associates became involved with the American Enterprise Institute (6) and eventually took it over from the true conservatives who had been supporters of the strongly libertarian-leaning Barry Goldwater. The AEI is now one of the strongest engines in the pro-Bush movement, along with the Federalist Society (7) and the Project for a New American Century (8). Many of today's high officials in Washington have come out of these, including cabinet and judicial appointments.

With the 1970s came "stagflation," meaning inflation coupled with unemployment and economic stagnation, or recession. Nobody in the establishment could (or would) make heads or tails of that. We who have received an education in sound economics know that Ludwig von Mises and Murray Rothbard had explained all of this, but the establishment did not, and still does not acknowledge them in any way. If they did, they would have to disprove Mises and Rothbard, and they cannot, as they are disproven by Mises and Rothbard!

Stagflation disproved Keynes, so the establishment cooked up "supply side" economics, which is actually Keynes lite. It didn't work. If it had, would the economy be teetering in 2006? No. So, today the establishment is pretending that the economy is going very strongly. Sure it is, Bush won by a landslide in 2004, the Emperor was wearing a new ski suit, and I have this bridge I would like to sell at a discount.

Well, I'd like to give "supply side" credit where credit is due. Its focus is on microeconomics rather than macroeconomics, so it deals a little less badly with economic incentives to produce by giving tax breaks. Problem is, if tax breaks are given (and I have never seen a tax break I don't like), government spending has to drop, too. If it doesn't, even if higher productivity still brings the tax money in, deficits will result. This happened during the Reagan years. It is also happening now. The microscopic tax break we have received from the Bush administration has done almost nothing at all to help anyone. Spending has skyrocketed. Neoconservatives are really quite liberal when it comes to your money.

But, as I said, beginning with LBJ's "Great Society," Irving Kristol did start to become interested in economics, and Chapter 9 of Autobiography, "Capitalism, Socialism and Nihilism," proved very interesting, even though it was written way back in 1973 (9). He cites Friedrich Hayek, a great Austrian school economist. The Austrian school is, of course, associated with Ludwig von Mises and Murray Rothbard, and is the school most radical libertarians, myself included, belong to. He also cites Milton Friedman, who exemplifies the Chicago school, whose followers include more moderate libertarians and paleoconservatives (true conservatives as opposed to neoconservatives). He acknowledges the fact that the free, unhampered market will produce more and better goods and services, raising the standard of living for everyone. However, he does not acknowledge that economics is the study of human action (along with the study of the scarcity of resources, abundance of wants, and the conversion of resources into goods and services), and that includes all human action. It is more than just material wealth. He calls Ludwig von Mises to task (10) for saying that economics covers the means people use to achieve their ends, whatever their ends may be, and for saying it does not judge these ends. This is exactly where neoconservatives go wrong. They refuse to consider that individuals are capable of making responsible choices and they try to force value judgments into economic theory. As correct as I think they often are in the realm of moral values, economics is about how ends are attained, not about how right or wrong these ends may be.

He goes on to say that if someone wanted, according to some religious law or for some other reason, to choose a life of more modest means, even to take a vow of poverty, economics is of little use. This is not correct. The Austrian school of economics claims that even this is an "economic good." Economics covers everything, but judges nothing. If living according to a vow of poverty is the thing a person wants to do most, he strives for that, just as the person who wants riches strives for those. Your, my, or Kristol's judgment does not enter the equation in economics. Kristol seems (or seemed in 1973) to miss this. He believes there are absolutes in right and wrong. I certainly agree on that point, but economics does not deal with that. That is between the individual and God, and should be dealt with by the individual, family, church, etc.

Once it is believed that economics is judgmental, before you know it you will have the government deciding what preferences one should have, and that, as Kristol complained, was what John Kenneth Galbraith and the New Left wanted (11). Rather, he seemed to think that Misean economics was one of the things causing social deterioration.

I hardly think our system at that time under Nixon was anything even close to a free market. In fact, I think it was even more socialistic and regimented than it is today, what with the Nixonian price freeze and other follies. I am not really in a position to be sure. However, one thing is absolutely certain: We do not have anything even close to a free market in Bush's America in 2006, nor did we have one in Nixon's America in 1973. Both of these presidents and their administrations were fiercely anti-freedom, and the same, to a greater or lesser extent, can be said for state and local governments.

Irving Kristol supported Nixon too, according to Shadia Drury in her book on Leo Strauss, which I will discuss later on.

People are very, very ignorant regarding economics. Even most private schools and colleges teach this important subject very poorly, if at all. It is no wonder we have economic policies that benefit the rich and powerful. Thank goodness we still have some honest entrepreneurs, business people, investors, and hard workers who are seeing to their rational self-interest with intelligence, at least until they run afoul of the system at some point.

But Irving Kristol does (did) not seem to believe that these honest, hardworking people would stay that way very long without Big Brother to shepherd them like sheep. The free market would sink into some sort of den of thieves or some sort of Sodom and Gomorrah without the wise, paternalistic leash of Big Brother around its neck.

The ironic thing is, the free, unhampered market rewards the most to precisely those who adhere to what he praised as "Protestant ethos" or "bourgeois virtues." The fact that he did not see this is due to his lack of realization that in 1973 we already had a top-down, regimented economy that was geared to favor the rich and powerful.

One more thing: Those who, like Kristol, would like to see oversight of the market by Big Brother seem to forget that the power of oversight in the hands of a government friendly to their beliefs will be transferred to the next administration, which may be run by people of quite a different belief.

Another book by Irving Kristol, Reflections of a Neoconservative: Looking Back, Looking Ahead (12), is an older book but gives a lot of information on the origins of neoconservatism. In the Introduction (13) he says that many of the neoconservatives came out of the Left. My job is to find out why they left the Left, as some prominent libertarians such as Lew Rockwell and Harry Browne did, too.

Kristol seemed to think the old conservatism (true conservatism or classical liberalism) is nostalgic and not useful for today. For example, rather than to foster individual independence so as to dismantle welfare, they would use welfare to bring about conservative ends, meaning a carrot approach to getting people to act in a certain way. As far as the taxpayer from whom this money is extracted is concerned, Kristol doesn't seem to be aware of that aspect of welfare, i.e. he seems to be making the same mistake the Left does by thinking the government can create wealth by handouts. Even if he acknowledged this only redistributes what wealth already exists, like most people, he does not see that this prevents the creation of wealth.

Kristol was a leftist from the get-go, but always anti-Communist. He seems to have experienced being part of an "elite" in college (City College of New York) in the late 1930s as part of a radical Trotskyist student group called the Young People's Socialist League. These called themselves "Trotskyists" to differentiate themselves from official Communists, the Trotskyites or Stalinists. He felt that these elite students were "chosen" by history to "lead the masses" (14). We have already seen he still holds such a belief.

Later, in the 1950s, he co-founded a magazine called Encounter, an anti-communist "liberal" magazine, funded partly by the CIA (15), unbeknownst to him. (He did not want to work for the U.S. government.) The issue with Communism of the anti-Communist "liberals'" was its excesses, such as imprisoning thousands for next to no reason (16). He lamented the pro-Communist apologists for this; they were saying it was "historically necessary." (Kind of reminds me of Bush's "necessity" in the rights infringements.) The anti-Communist “liberals” saw the “thaw” in mid-’50s Russia under Khrushchev as a very hopeful sign.

I am now pretty sure that Kristol was very much what I would consider a socialist since he did not (in the '50s) seem to care about private property and a free market. And now I think the CIA underwriting of Encounter might have been exactly because of that. Editorial "freedom" was allowed by the CIA, but of course the writers could be depended upon to write from that viewpoint. He claims a belief in individual liberty (or did in 1968 when the chapter was written) and a "modified" (whatever that means) form of "capitalism" (whatever that means, as too often the word is used to describe what is really mercantilism, or the American system we now have, one that Henry Clay would really love).

Kristol discusses the Left, Marxism, and socialism at length in Chapter 3, which does show me that he is no longer part of the Left (as of 1979 when the chapter was written). In it, however he does give away some of the common ground between neoconservatism and Marxism. Without referring to neoconservatism (17), he describes a necessity on the part of socialist utopians to use "Machiavellian" methods to manipulate (maybe "strong-arm" would be a better word) the mass of people into a situation where "scientific socialism" could end want, just as FDR rammed Social Security down our throats. This manipulation, or "leadership" of the masses, would be done by a socialist "elite" (this also has a familiar ring to it) and we have to be alert to remember that in this book Kristol is trying to distance himself from the Left.

It must have been hard work, as he sputters and lurches like a car that is breaking down. The dilution of the First Amendment, for the people's own good of course, by pornography censorship is called for by Kristol (18), and I would have to presume that a chosen elite would decide for us all what is pornography and what is not.

He even points out that the socialist movement appeals particularly to intellectuals (19) since they imagine themselves in the elite positions. Well, pray tell, what advocate of authoritarian government does not imagine himself in a position of power? It never seems to occur to them that they might be on the receiving end of authoritarian rules they disagree with.

President Bush is going to learn this in about three years. All the power that he has managed to accumulate for himself in the White House will be passed on to another administration (unless he accumulates so much power that he can cancel the 2008 election and stay in office), and that new administration might use this power in a very different way.

But – where were we? – the socialist movement picked up steam as the post World War II era made it possible for more people to go to college. The "social sciences" made great strides, and economics followed with the Keynesian revolution and John Maynard Keynes' counterfeit teaching (as opposed to Mises' and Rothbard's reality teaching). Keynes taught that government could assure continued prosperity through monetary and fiscal interventions into the economy. Kristol seemed to frown on this in the 1979 chapter (20) but now, as anyone who has studied economics can see, the Bush administration is thoroughly Keynesian (21).

So, Kristol and the neoconservatives are not free market oriented. Although they might be better than some in this regard, they are far from the Austrian school in their outlook (22).

So how are they on personal freedom? Libertarians believe that human beings own their bodies and their lives as gifts from God (or nature, if you prefer). The rights to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness are also God-given rights. Corollary to these are the individual's responsibility for himself (or the parents' responsibility until children have reached sufficient maturity). This, of course, includes the right to be stupid, and to act stupidly. While I do not have any special hotline to God, I think certain actions are stupid. They are not criminal unless they actually infringe on the rights of someone else, and therefore should not be illegal. The only actions the government should be concerned about are actions that infringe on someone's rights, acts of coercion or fraud, not actions that are stupid or immoral or that someone thinks are stupid or immoral.

Quite honestly, I think the consumption of pornography or non-medicinal drugs is a waste of time and unhealthful. But a person's life belongs to the person and it is between that person and God.

But what does, or did, Irving Kristol think? And what do the neoconservatives and the Left think?

He wrote at length on this in 1971, a long time ago, but judging from what I have heard in recent years, they still think the same way (23). Pornography, he believed is harmful to the citizen. In fact, he is in agreement with the women's liberation movement on how pornography exploits women and is "part of a conspiracy to deprive them of their full humanity." Not a word about the free will of a person to just say "no." Someone needs to do it for a person. (No wonder they are called "feminazis.") Who would be so much better than you to do that for you? Also, not a word about exactly how it would be decided what constitutes "pornography" and "obscenity" and by whom. At least he admits that this is censorship, which is more than you can say for either the old women's liberation movement or the neoconservatives. I guess they trust the same elite that they entrust the economy and economics studies to. And, of course, they conveniently forget about the First Amendment, which forbids censorship of any kind (since it does not specify), at least on the part of the federal government.

The same goes for drug prohibition. The sovereign individual is totally forgotten. Even with a very limited censorship that harms little, the principle of freedom is violated. A little censorship or a little drug prohibition is like being a little pregnant.

Self-interest is discussed briefly (24) and Kristol shows that he really does not understand it; he insists on thinking inside the one-size-fits-all box. Going to war is an example. If the country were attacked by another country, a patriot might drop whatever he is doing and go to fight, even die, for his country. I think that to do this is indeed in the self-interest of this patriot, at least seems to the patriot to be, or else he would not go. Every person makes choices and the choice he makes is what he believes is the best alternative for him. He dies for his country, he gives a kidney to his ailing parent, child, or total stranger, or he puts his career on hold to run for office; he wants to do these things more than he wants a different choice. It is because each individual is unique and has his own scale of values. This entirely escapes Irving Kristol, the neoconservatives, and also the Left, and this is the second reason it is wrong for government (read the elite) to "protect" the people from themselves "for their own good." The first reason is, of course, the sovereign God-given rights of individuals.

Kristol listed the features of neoconservatism in the 1979 chapter (25). I get the idea that neoconservatism is an offshoot of modern "liberalism," but of course we knew that. Modern "liberalism," according to Drury (26), seems to consider itself the same as classical liberalism, only, you might say, a later model. (Libertarians do not think so at all, but think that, at the very best, modern "liberalism" is a perversion of classical liberalism.) Neoconservatism tries to hearken back. They claim to respect John Locke, advocate a "predominately" market economy as the best we can have in this world to promote economic growth and "stability." However, this would be attenuated by a welfare state, with consumer preferences "shaped" towards "elevation." Who will do the "shaping" and what will constitute "elevated" preferences, he does not say. My impression is that the economy would be managed and regulated by government (again, read the elite). In this manner, neoconservatism is simply modern "liberalism" (even socialism) "lite," or of a slightly different hue.

Neoconservatism gives a lot of lip service to the church and the family. Kristol did in this book (27) and Bush does now. My own belief is that the family and the church grow strong, independent, and free individuals (assuming it is done right). Their rhetoric notwithstanding, this flies in the face of neoconservatism and the goals of the Bush administration. This is so important, I believe, that I am planning a paper on how and why the establishment is destroying the family and the church. It has been going on for decades and, as a result, people are being taught from babyhood to conform and obey, being good and productive citizens at the ready to cooperate and team-play, rather than to be self-starters, to think things through for themselves, rely on themselves, compete, and question authority.

If this is "morally reinvigorated capitalism," then I am an immoral and weak capitalist. This makes me thankful that he was using neoconservative Orwellian newspeak.

The point made over and over again is the belief that people are depraved to a degree, or at least they are prone to error. Of course we are! I am not sure about the "depraved" part, but we all do make mistakes! I have made some potentially fatal ones, and I am grateful God saw fit to prevent any serious harm from happening, or I was just plain lucky. This is the case for everyone, including the vast majority who do the best they can. Additionally, there might be a few who do not care if they do harm, and even purposefully do harm.

We want to minimize this harm. Even we radical libertarians assign to the government the task of stopping criminals from infringing on our rights and forcing restitution from criminals who have infringed on rights (28).

However, the neoconservatives apparently want the government to be the answer to every ill that is the result of human "depravity." It would oversee every facet of life, imposing boundaries to limit all kinds of behavior. The insane wars on drugs and guns are good examples as they restrict or prohibit individuals' ownership and control of inanimate objects because officials fear (or so they claim) that we mere depraved mortals are not capable of handling such things properly. The assumption here is that those in the position of enforcing (again, read the elite) are not subject to the human depravities the rest of us are. In other words, government officials are better!

We have a situation right now that has been greatly aggravated under Bush (although this has been going on for much longer than his administration) where government people are to be considered as better. One example is that the penalty for killing a policeman is harsher than the penalty for killing a civilian. Why? Another example is that if one is on a "no-fly" list, one does not fly. The reason does not matter. If you have the same or a similar name as mine, you may not be able to make that long-awaited trip, just because I am a dissident who made a bureaucrat angry when I questioned a rule. And, if some airport security agent wants to search or grope you, or fine you a few hundred dollars, he or she does. There is no recourse.

They are better. End of story.

With the size and scope of government what it is today, this is a very dangerous concept. Believing in the general "depravity" of man might not have been so bad at the time of the American Revolution, since the Founders realized that those in office are not "better" and purposefully limited government to a very small size and scope, and saw to a system of checks and balances so one branch does not become more powerful than the other branches. Today, the Federal government is everywhere, even regulating your shower-head (29).

Kristol says (30) something entirely different about the Founders, that they thought self-government must only be in the presence of people who are qualified to self-govern because they have "republican virtues" (republican in this sense not referring to any political party) and are not "depraved." Possibly he was right in the sense that the vote was reserved to a select few. But, the Founders saw to it the common people were free to self-rule by keeping government within very restricted bounds as evidenced in particular by the Ninth and Tenth Amendments.

The American Revolution did not try to make people over, as he does point out, as do modern revolutions such as the Russian Revolution. This is something about the socialist Left. They want to change people in such a way they will be content to work their tails off for society as a whole rather than for their own betterment.

Nobody can tell me people are not working as hard (or almost as hard) now as they did two generations ago, despite great advances in labor-saving technology. They are doing so because of the tax and regulatory burden, meaning much of their time and effort is going to society as a whole (actually meaning the government). And they seem to be accepting it, which is what I worry about most.

It must be further recognized that, when this made-over person works for society as a whole, he is really working for the privileged elite in government and the privileged recipients of subsidies and lucrative government contracts (for example, Halliburton).

Indeed, contrary to the American Revolution, the neoconservatives have attempted (and succeeded too often) in making people over.

Chapter 10 in Reflections, "Socialism, an Obituary for an Idea" is particularly interesting and I recommend reading it. What Kristol says about socialism is such that I feel a deja vu. What he is describing is actually neoconservatism: communalism (or communitarianism), need for leadership, and the like. He says socialism has borrowed the best of Christianity, which I gather means the giving and sharing aspect of Christianity. However, one glaring thing is missing from his commentary, the bull in the china shop, and that is the coercive aspect of socialism. This puts socialism in diametric opposition to Christianity in the most important characteristic of socialism, which is coercion, and the second most important characteristic of Christianity, which is voluntarism. He says on P. 120 that there is "nothing socialist about the ability of an all-powerful state to get things done." Armament factories and steel mills were examples. Nothing socialist? Excuse me, but that is totally wrong. Either that or I am confused and Three Enemies, this work, and everything else I have ever done, said, or thought is entirely wrong. And, possibly it is bias, but I really do not think I am entirely wrong!

The neoconservatism Kristol is extolling looks very much to me like the socialism he is condemning.

I really could not find anything of note written by Irving Kristol more recently than 1995. However, Shadia Drury (31) did shed some more light on him. There were no real surprises. According to her, he is a super-nationalist, and very much a hawk (32). He thinks domestic policy should be based on a "friend or foe" premise, which I will say more about later. This sounds very much like, "If you're not for us, you're against us." It also makes me wonder if this has anything to do with the fact that so many people in high places are under indictment: Are they more corrupt than they used to be? Maybe so for a number of reasons, but maybe this is just politics. The Democrats and the Republicans pretend to be at such odds. (They are not, any more than government officials are better.) And it is this "us vs. them" mentality that accounts for some of the draconian laws and punishments that are now in effect. What comes to mind right now is an example of a man in Maryland who got eight years in prison for mooning a neighbor and her eight-year-old daughter. Fortunately, the court overturned the conviction.

As for the marketplace (33), Kristol wants some limits and government oversight. He does not want the market to determine society's values. We have been over this once. He contradicts Mises and Rothbard, the great free-market economists, who demonstrated that society's values (meaning the consuming public's desires) determine what goes on in the marketplace.

And, according to Drury (34), Kristol's nationalistic view is that American values are the only values. This does not wash with the libertarian. It would only wash with the non-thinking Bush supporter. First of all, these "American" values that he is claiming are by no means the same values that the country was founded upon. Second, if these values are so absolute, why should only the elite be privy to them and the rest of us locked out?

And it looks very much like Kristol does (or at least did when the Drury book was being researched) believe that only the elite should be privy to the truth, and the rest of us need to be fed myths manufactured to give us a good-behavior incentive (35). She was discussing Leo Strauss and saying Strauss believed the common people needed these myths, and she added Kristol was the same way. So, we have to ask, who is going to manufacture these myths? The elite, of course (meaning government people and I would have to presume their lapdog media lackeys); if anyone at all is allowed a handle on the truth, apparently it would be this elite. So this proves, at least to the extent I am able, that Irving Kristol, the godfather of neoconservatism, is for strong, powerful, omnipresent, and paternalistic government.

(1) Kristol, Irving, Neoconservatism the Autobiography of an Idea, The Free Press, New York, 1995.

(2) For specific examples see Gregory, Anthony, "The Republican Ideology of the Total State." This outlines some current examples of how the Republicans, led by the neo-conservatives, have become modern liberals as they grow the government and do not even question unconstitutionalities.

(3) Kristol P. 13.

(4) Ibid P. 19.

(5) Claes, Ryn, in America the Virtuous: The Crisis of Democracy and the Quest for Power, does not think him typical of neoconservatives, and lists some others who are. These are even more pro-government.

(6) . Irving Kristol is a senior fellow at AEI. He received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Bush on July 9, 2002. Other well-known persons involved with AEI are Lynne Cheney, Newt Gingrich, Jeane Kirkpatrick, Michael Novak, Richard Pearle, and Dr. Sally Satel. In all fairness, there is still some pro-freedom advocacy there. For instance, John R. Lott, Jr., author of More Guns, Less Crime and "A Girl's Guide to Guns" is a fellow. These have gotten good reviews from libertarians. While Bush and most other neoconservatives are anti-gun as a rule, there are some in that camp who are almost sane in this respect, which is why some one-issue pro-gun voters tend to choose Republican candidates. This is a mistake in my opinion, as they cannot be relied upon to be pro-freedom on one issue when they are so anti-freedom on other issues.

(7) There was no mention of Irving Kristol’s being involved with the Federalist Society. It is a lawyers' organization that claims to include both neoconservatives and libertarians, but I have also seen it described as an organization whose goal is to broaden executive branch power. It seems to me that nowadays neoconservatives and libertarians are working at cross-purposes. You look at it and decide.

(8) Irving Kristol is not involved that I can see, but his son, William Kristol, himself a well-known neoconservative, chairs this organization. They advocate keeping our troops in place in the Middle East. Because the Army and Marine Corps are stretched thin, they advocate increasing their numbers by 25,000 a year, per a January 28, 2005, letter to Senate leadership by William Kristol. See .

(9) In all fairness, in the Preface of the book Kristol states that these writings were written at different times during his growth, and had not been updated to reflect his present beliefs which might be different.

(10) Kristol P. 96.

(11) Ibid. P. 97.

(12) Kristol, Irving, Reflections of a Neoconservative: Looking Back, Looking Ahead, Basic Books, New York, 1983.

(13) Ibid. P. XII.

(14) Ibid. P. 6.

(15) Ibid. P. 19.

(16) Ibid. P. 21. Hmm, seems like I have read about someone who dropped his drawers in Maryland, a censored T-shirt in Washington, D.C., a mother and children thrown in jail for not wearing seatbelts in Texas, a subpoena no-show extradited to Las Vegas and held in unconstitutional conditions for several days, not to mention the millions who put a politically incorrect plant in their cigarette. The U.S. has the highest incarceration rate in the world.

(17) Ibid. P. 34.

(18) Ibid. Chapter 4.

(19) Ibid. P. 34.

(20) Ibid. P. 39.

(21) Paul, Dr. Ron, "More of the Same at the Federal Reserve." Congressman Ron Paul (R-Texas), who is a libertarian and the only consistent freedom advocate inside the beltway, points out that the new Chairman of the Federal Reserve, Benjamin Bernanke, is a real Keynesian. It should surprise nobody that President Bush would appoint a real advocate of monetary expansion. See also Shostak, Frank, "New Face, Old Menace." Deluded Wall Street welcomes Bernanke who will continue the fallacious policies of his predecessor in a high office that should not even exist.

(22) For more on this famous Austrian school of Economics I keep praising, please go to . There are so many educational opportunities here that I do not think you can cover them all in a decade. Sound bites simply do not cut it so take your time. It is not a "dismal science." Rather, the study of human action is fascinating.

(23) Kristol, Reflections, Chapter 4.

(24) Ibid. P. 57.

(25) Kristol, Reflections, P. 75-77.

(26) Drury, Shadia Leo Strauss and the American Right, St. Martin's Press, New York 1997.

(27) Ibid. P. 77.

(28) Anarcho-libertarians have very sophisticated and, I believe, workable ideas for dealing with crime in the absence of civil government. See Hoppe, Hans-Hermann, The Economics and Ethics of Private Property, Kluwer Academic Publishers, Norwell (Mass.), 1993. The book also includes an Austrian school case against Keynes.

(29) Tucker, Jeffrey, "The Bureaucrat in Your Shower." Federal regulators even decide for you the design of your showerhead.

(30) Kristol, Reflections, P. 86.

(31) Drury

(32) Ibid. P. 153.

(33) Ibid. P.157.

(34) Ibid. P. 152.

(35) Ibid. P. 150.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Leo Strauss (1893 - 1973)

It was very difficult to read Leo Strauss (1). But I did manage to wring out some ideas. He says if political philosophy wants to do justice to its subject matter, it must strive for "genuine knowledge" of "true standards" (2). This absolutist idea may be at least in part the reason Straussians (and neoconservatives) are willing to force a political system on countries, using war, lies, and the like.

He begins to discuss Machiavelli (3) and says Karl Marx was a Machiavellian, which moves me toward the edge of my seat (even though this is no surprise) and this movement continued as I read more of Strauss on Machiavelli. The latter continually made me think of Bush and his neoconservatives.

Does this mean I can connect the dots between Bush and Marx? We'll see. Every libertarian understands that all authoritarian regimes, ranging from the Bush administration to the Hitler and Stalin regimes, have in common the principle that the needs of the state supersede the rights of the individual. But to get non-libertarians to see this will take a lot of dot-connecting.

I am not so sure I can do it satisfactorily, but I am pretty sure it can be done.

Leo Strauss fled Hitler and came to the United States in 1938. He taught political science at the University of Chicago, and his teaching spawned a large number of Straussians, as his followers are called, who are in powerful positions today (4). He seemed to think that philosophers cannot cut to the chase and say what they mean. Shadia Drury seems to believe he thought the truth was dangerous, even destructive to society, and had to write in a secretive manner (5). Maybe his views were incompatible with the prevailing views of the time and place, which Drury describes as "liberal." I am not sure whether this means "liberal" in the sense of classical liberal (libertarian) or modern "liberal" (leaning toward socialism). Either way, his elitist and anti-democratic views would not have been well regarded. Drury describes his following as "cultish" (kind of like the Skull and Bones?), and Strauss and his followers did not like open discussion of their ideas. I have to agree, since many of these Straussian students are now in high government posts working for a Bush-style New World Order.

Speaking of liberalism, Drury seems to think that modern "liberalism" is an advancement of classical liberalism (6). Classical liberalism was the "negative" liberty, i.e. you have the right not to be interfered with by government. (I would settle for that any day of the week.) But, she thinks, this does not help the great diversity in wealth, and hence "freedom"; therefore, liberty is furthered by "liberal" welfare and social programs through the government. FDR took great strides in "correcting" these market "flaws." Three Enemies, my earlier post, shows how far these programs went to enhance individual rights.

Strauss hated liberal democracy (7) for many reasons but the one that stuck in my mind was that it puts the individual first, and the private sphere was bigger than, and superior to, the public (government) sphere. We need to be part of a group, he believed. He believed, as did Marx, religion is the opiate of the people but, unlike Marx, that the people need it to coalesce into groups, and to give a people its moral values. This seems to be one of the things that influenced Irving Kristol, who said that religion was needed, with law reflecting it, to prevent moral decline. Strauss did not think that it matters which religion is embraced. A people needs its moral and legal code, and religion is something to base that on. Its "truth" need not be the real truth, since the little people are not capable of handling the real truth. The real truth is for the paternalistic elite, who will spin myths for the common people to believe in to keep them in line (8).

Neoconservative economics definitely reflects this. The great Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises, whom most libertarians revere, refutes this (9). He says economics is important in every facet of life to every person. It is the study of human action. All human action. Therefore it is the proper study of every person. I certainly agree with this great economist on that point, and on almost other point. If there is one thing other than the Word of God that must not be elitist and must be open to all, it is economics. And, since it covers all action on the part of all humans, not only must economics be for all to study, but so must all other areas of life as well. In my opinion, this in itself causes the wall of elitist exclusion to tumble. Leave it to Ludwig von Mises. In fact, the section of Human Action Chapter XXXVIII called "Economics and Freedom" showed that Mises really had the neoconservatives' number (10).

Now, Leo Strauss was very intelligent. So, didn't he realize that people can and do congregate into groups based on something they hold in common, without being told to? Of course he did. But the idea of individual initiative just does not serve his or his neoconservative followers' purposes.

Because he escaped Hitler (presumably) and because he was a Jew (11), his thoughts were on why the Holocaust happened and how it could be prevented from happening again. He seemed to think "modernity" brought about the Holocaust. One way to avoid a repeat, he thought, was to keep the general populace from thought and confine thinking to a trusted elite. The National Socialists (Nazis) were not part of that elite, but were brutes. I agree with that. So, who would be part of the elite? I don't know but I would guess that the man he saw in the mirror would be included.

Strauss was influenced by Martin Heidegger and Carl Schmidt, both of whom enthusiastically aligned with the National Socialists (12). He refuted Heidegger for his National Socialist philosophy. Heidegger was an existentialist, but messed up when he applied that individual independence to groups. Maybe this is what led into National Socialism. I got the idea that possibly because he was anti-Nazi, Strauss condemned existentialism because of this. If so, that could have led to his anti-individualism. Drury believes that Strauss should not have refuted Heidegger, since they actually did have much in common (13).

A Web search on Schmitt revealed, in addition to the Drury book, a lot of things. Schmitt was a strong believer in hierarchy (14), with the State's sovereign on top and not subject to the laws that apply to those below (kind of like Pres. Bush?). Politics is above moral and ethical law and has an autonomous domain. Democracy is wrong, per Schmitt, because the people do not know what they want and need to be led. However, democracy is better than individualistic and/or egalitarian liberalism (15). Such classical liberalism destroys politics, he thought, but introduces covert, dirtier politics because liberalism puts politics in the private sector (read marketplace).

This is not all on Carl Schmidt. He wrote a book in 1932 called The Concept of the Political that identifies the Friend/Enemy distinction as the essence of politics (16). I will be saying more on this subject later.

Strauss believed that lying and deception on the part of authority would protect the great unwashed from nihilism and becoming uncivilized. His mentor, Friedrich Nietzsche, said basically the same thing. In politics today, such thought is business as usual, thanks to the Straussian neoconservatives.

Drury considers this lying as authoritarian, and I think she is understating it. Inadvertently (maybe), Strauss, who was so anti-national socialist (maybe), has prepared the way to national socialism (17). The elite uses the preservation of western civilization as an excuse to create a sense of crisis and to aggrandize its own power at the expense of moral limits. There is something really familiar about this in the actions of the Bush administration people. They lie and they trot out crises (real and imagined) in order to gravitate power to the executive branch.

She points this out about Carl Schmidt: He realizes that liberalism (classical, I gather) and democracy are not necessarily found together. A majority can be as ruthless as any dictator. In fact, possibly it can be worse. You can implore a dictator to change something, but a majority is hard to deal with. The people's (majority's) will is shaped by an elite, and just try getting someone in that elite, a politician or a bureaucrat, to admit to being the source of a problem. You will get the runaround.

Drury points out that this is exactly why the Straussian neoconservatives like democracy. The individual is swallowed up as insignificant. Of course, perpetuating the myth that democracy equals freedom, as exemplified by the Bush administration's Iraq policy, is helping them develop colonialism abroad and despotism at home.

Schmitt was a Hobbesian (while most libertarians are Lockeians; you compare) and thought that only a sovereign with absolute power could bring about order and peace (18). The almighty state, as I see this, swallows up individuals and makes them part of this whole, so order and peace occur because everyone is of like mind. Of like mind, that is, as opposed to of free or open mind. In a free society, order and peace occur because individuals leave each other alone and observe the boundary between "mine" and "not-mine."

This liberalism, according to both Schmitt and Strauss, was why the Weimar Republic was destroyed and National Socialism began. That is why these people were so concerned with keeping politics alive. Schmitt became enthusiastically supportive of Hitler. Schmitt regarded politics as a "glorious affair," and royal absolutism, not the relatively libertarian pre-Lincoln America, as the "pinnacle of western civilization," with the sovereign above the law, free to act outside the bounds of the law (sounds like Bush to me), with no obligation to be rational (19).

So, what is this "politics" about? It is about the survival of the state and, again, this is why these people are so concerned about keeping politics alive. Strauss especially thought that (classical) liberalism was dangerous to politics, and thus to the absolute state which Schmitt advocated.

To Strauss, politics was a fact of life. Regretfully, I agree. The best I can ever hope for, at least for the next few centuries, is a decentralization of power beginning with the dismantling of the United Nations, and such wastes as the World Trade Organization and NATO. Of course, these are not governments, although the U.N. is a wannabe government, and the New World Order crowd wants some sort of world government. This dismantling I hope would be followed by a renewal of the Republic per the Ninth and Tenth Amendments. This will transfer the bulk of political power to the state level. People in the states can then decide how much power the state will keep and how much it will transfer to localities. This will empower individuals who can confront their officials personally, and thus keep them in line. It was like that here at one time; why can't it be like that again?

Human nature being what it is, there will always be politics, ranging from civil government to gangs to cliques. Too bad. At least in the absence of powerful centralized governments I can decline to participate in the back-biting.

Strauss not only shares Schmitt's views, but goes even farther in his desire to save politics (20). Politics needs to be combined with morality and religion, he says, if people are going to be persuaded to do the most asinine thing: to sacrifice their lives for the collective.

Beginning with Drury's Chapter 4 I get the idea that possibly it is the Straussianism in the neoconservatives that is causing them to soft-pedal, even eliminate, the teaching of the Founding through the Civil War, especially the Bill of Rights, in the public schools (21). The Straussians do not agree on the roots of the Founding, but they all oppose the classical liberalism that we know the Founders cleaved to and founded the country for. They would have us believe that the Founding was based on "ancient wisdom" (or a form of authoritarian domination). This, I think, is one of their lies in their quest for domination.

In cooked-up crises they cry gloom and doom, or take advantage in the cases of real crises, then claim problems are curable by the end of liberalism (what little classical liberalism has not been supplanted by modern "liberalism").

Some Straussians decided to make the most of a bad (as they see it) situation and lay the groundwork of neoconservatism.

Drury points out a very interesting observation regarding education I had not quite thought of (22), but it appears to me to be true. I had caught on that there really isn't much difference between the neoconservatives and the Left and that really hit home when I wrote, for the Badnarik campaign in 2004, the pamphlet "Two Points to Consider" that I distributed during the anti-Bush demonstration just prior to the GOP Presidential Nomination Convention (read rubberstamp) in New York (23). They both favor big government, top-down decision making, and very little individual freedom. Now, I am learning how little regard the Straussians have for the real truth, or any "truth." They want to confine truth to the elite and keep us little people in blissful ignorance. Their attitude towards education reflects this. Meanwhile leftist educators deny that there is any absolute truth (24).

The difference between these two educational ideas is not very great. And they explain why real educators like Joe Enge and Hans-Hermann Hoppe (25) are in trouble with the establishment. Teaching students how to think independently, which I think is the real purpose of education, is not conducive to the left/neoconservative goal of cementing individuals together into the group, with just a few handpicked elitists who lead.

So, how does the Straussian philosophy apply today? What are the neoconservatives doing to achieve the goal of ending classical liberalism and "modernity"?

I have not forgotten that the purpose of this piece is to trace neoconservatism to its authoritarian roots. But it is necessary to touch on their method to achieve their goals. I wrote in Three Enemies the blows the Bush administration is dealing to liberty.

One thing I did not write about in Three Enemies, although I did touch on it in a few spots, is that the neoconservatives are gung-ho for science. Now, I really do not have a problem with this; after all I was a science major and my career was in science. Science has always been a major interest. However, the neoconservatives in their push to get more science into the schools and colleges, are "crowding out" (as economists put it) the humanities. Students are not being taught ideas or how to think about ideas. Public funding is allowing government to worm its way into higher education and oversee how subjects are taught.

Scientific research is something the neoconservatives are interested in furthering. The Left would like government to do research since they believe Big Business has an agenda. I concur, but does not government also have an agenda? The neoconservatives would like government to direct and fund research that is done by non-government entities, so it is worming its way into that area, too.

This devotion to science spills into a devotion to anything that is "natural." (26) And what is natural? Of course it is what the neoconservatives say is natural! Certain things are "natural" and "nobody will question" them. Of course this is true. The law of gravity, the need to consume organic material to remain alive and the like are a given. However, the neoconservatives extend this to human behavior. Now, I agree that there is absolute in the difference between right and wrong. The Bible is clear in certain areas about this, and the correctness of this is evidenced in some ways, particularly in that Biblical admonitions work. My life is working and it is because I make it my business to obey God. The neoconservatives have many of the same moral beliefs. However, they claim that such values are "natural." I am not so sure. Some do come naturally to me and others require varying degrees of self-discipline. Some are natural to you that might not be the same ones.

Then, having said that right morality comes naturally, they turn right around to say that we need laws to enforce it! If it is so natural, why does it have to be legislated?

I wonder if they would pass a law saying that we have to breathe. The police will stop you and write you a ticket if they think you are failing to comply. That's nuts, but I would not put it past them.

The reason they want to pass such laws is precisely that morality is not necessarily natural, and this is a way for them to increase the wealth, size, and scope of government, concentrating power in one place. It goes along with everything else the Bush administration is doing, and if the shoe fits …

They know as well as we do that morality is a settled issue. People who believe in a different morality or no morality at all will still be what the neoconservatives believe is immoral no matter how many laws, police, and jails there are. We cannot even keep drugs (as an example) out of maximum-security prisons, so how are we going to enforce morality in the homes and the streets?

Even if we could, what good is morality if it is coerced?

They are undermining the great principles of the Founders. They do not believe (or say they do not believe as a way to fool us all into not believing) that the Founders held the great libertarian principles. Of course, the Founders were not purely libertarian as, say, Murray Rothbard nearly was and as I aspire to be. But, they were by far and away more libertarian than almost anyone else at that time, or really any other time. The Straussians do not think so. In a way, Strauss was right. We have not adhered to the libertarian vision very well in some ways. But, still, the country was founded very much on the concept of individual freedom.

Furthermore, Strauss, in his day, and his followers still believed (or pretended to believe) that classical liberalism still ruled here. It didn't, as has been pointed out, and has not for decades. They seem to equate modern "liberalism" (as in leftist) with classical liberalism as I pointed out early on. Modern "liberalism" does rule, and with an iron hand.

They want to replace that with their own ironhanded rule. To do this, they turn to, of all things, democracy. They do realize that democratic rule can be as despotic as any, and can have the unquestioned orthodoxy they want, without freedom of speech or thought. Only the elite is privy to the real truth because the common people cannot withstand it.

This is very much the philosophy of Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche, who was, to Leo Strauss, wisdom incarnate. He and Plato were Strauss' authorities, although neither one was inclined to endorse lying, not overtly anyway, in the sense that Strauss endorsed lying in order to manipulate people. But government authority was the hallmark of their philosophies.

(1) Strauss, Leo, What is Political Philosophy?, Free Press, Glencoe (Ill.), 1959 was the book I got from the library.

(2) Ibid. P. 12.

(3) Ibid. P. 41.

(4) Norton, Anne, Leo Strauss and the Politics of American Empire, Yale University Press, New Haven, 2004, P. 7-9.

(5) Drury, Shadia, Leo Strauss and the American Right, St. Martin's Press, New York, 1997, P. 1. See also P. 150.

(6) Ibid. P. 24-27.

(7) Ibid. P. 37.

(8) Ibid. Chapter 1.

(9) Mises, Ludwig von, Human Action (Scholar's Edition), Ludwig von Mises Institute, Auburn (Ala.), 1998, P. 874-875.

(10) Ibid. P. 875-876.

(11) Drury, P. 65-66

(12) Ibid. Chapter 2.

(13) Ibid. P. 73.

(14) Ibid. P. 82.

(15) Ibid. P. 83.

(16) Trask, H. Arthur Scott, "Fanatics at Home and Abroad." Also see Drury P. 23.

(17) Drury, P. 81.

(18) Ibid. P. 88.

(19) Ibid. P. 82.

(20) Ibid. P. 91.

(21) The saga of Joe Enge, history teacher in Carson City, Nev., illustrates this. See .

(22) Drury, P. 117-118.

(23) The two points: 1. Reasons to vote for Michael Badnarik (The war in Iraq, the Patriot Act, government intrusion in marriage, medical marijuana, and the possibility of the draft), and 2. Reasons to financially support Badnarik even if you are still voting for John Kerry.

(24) To say that there is absolutely no absolute truth begs one to ask, "Absolutely none?" This paradox shows right there how wacko such an idea is.

(25) Hoppe, Hans-Hermann, "My Battle With the Thought Police." Dissident professors are subject to discipline while universities claim to value academic freedom.

(26) Norton, Anne, Leo Strauss and the Politics of American Empire, Yale University Press, New Haven, 2004, Chapter 5, "Getting the Natural Right." I had time for only that chapter, but this book appears to be very informative.

Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche (1844 - 1900)

Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche was a big influence on the neoconservatives, through Leo Strauss. His philosophy is associated with socialism and fascism. I found him a little hard to figure out, as he seemed to change his mind. Of course, like all of us, he changed as he discovered new ideas (1).

Nietzsche, as did Machiavelli, believed in two types of people, the rulers and the ruled (2). The rulers are an elite while the ruled are characterized by passivity. Also in common with Machiavelli are his anti-Christianity, anti-democracy, anti-classical liberalism, his subordination of morality to politics, and his need for enemies. Dombowski also says they were anti-socialist. Rather confusing. Well, we'll see.

In fact, Nietzsche was a Machiavelli disciple. There is a lot of disagreement about him, so I am not the only one who is confused. Was he an individualist who favored freedom? Or an authoritarian who favored hierarchy and big government? Dombowski seems to think the latter.

But, before going on with Dombowski, let us look at some of Nietzsche's own work (3). In Beyond, the chapters are divided into numbered segments. Segments continued numbering throughout, not starting with 1 every chapter.

There is a "master morality" and a "slave morality" (4). Sometimes both are found in the same person. The dominating (master morality) person determines what is "good." He is truthful (?) and regards the others as liars. He "creates values." He helps the less fortunate, not out of charity but because he has the power. (Doesn't this sound like the neoconservative?) Also, there is great respect for the old, not because old is tried-and-proven or because older people have lived longer and therefore know more, but solely (as I could gather, but I am not positive) because it is old. New, progressive, and young ideas are scorned. His friendship is with his own kind, and the "friend and enemy" are needed, i.e. there is the need to have an enemy to oppose (5).

The "slave morality" is the morality of utility. To the "master" it is the good that inspires fear; to the "slave" this good is evil.

Nietzsche believed in the need to obey something (6). A set of principles? A belief system? Could it be that this leads to the neoconservative (Straussian/Machiavellian) idea that, because the common people need this, it is up to the leaders to "give" them a belief system?

Nietzsche believed that the "aristocratic" class started out as a "barbarian" class and worked its way up by "throwing itself on weaker people." (7) He does not specify how. By force? Or by hard work the way one would do in a free market?

Also, religion can bind the ruler with the ruled (8). It brings a calm (or maybe gives a human face) to the dirty part of government. Religion also prepares those who are to command in the future. It overcomes resistance on the part of the common people by teaching them to be content with their station and make the best of their situation without trying to change it.

According to Dombowski’s interpretation, Nietzsche was anti-egalitarian. This was in the wrong sense as opposed to Murray Rothbard's anti-egalitarianism (9). Rothbard was acknowledging that no two people are the same, therefore we are unequal. Nietzsche was authoritarian and believed that the masses should be ruled by an elite. He was anti-Christian, too, as was Machiavelli, according to Strauss, because it was the Christians, especially Jesuits and Calvinists, who first advocated the right to rise against tyranny. I am neither a Catholic nor a Calvinist, but the right to rebel against evil is part and parcel of my Christian faith, as I believe that rights are given by God directly to individuals.

Nietzsche, though, favored a command-and-obedience structure for a society as a condition of continuing the society. Everyone either commands or obeys, and there is no such animal as "neither," so that leaves the libertarian out.

Sounds like "command and control," even "shock and awe" to me.

Nietzsche was opposed to "modernity" (Strauss revisited), though Rothbard seemed to think modernity was a move toward liberating the individual from the all-powerful state (10).

Nietzsche had quite a following on the Left which Dombowski had trouble figuring out. More recently, I remember hob-nobbing with "New Left" types in Westwood Village (West Los Angeles, near UCLA, where I was an outside agitator) circa 1970-1972 while spreading the word of individual liberty among disenchanted age-peers and teens, and Nietzsche's name was bandied around quite a bit. At the time I did not know Friedrich Nietzsche from the Hari Krishnas who jangled those bell-things and chanted 24/7 (or so it seemed) across the street from our libertarian group's headquarters.

Nietzsche's appeal to the New Left seems to be based on a perceived aspect of his philosophy, that is of "tolerance," "diversity," etc. (11) that the Left today is always talking about although, according to dictionary definitions of these, I find a lack of tolerance or diversity in the Left.

Actually, there are so many writings by Nietzsche (there are about 90 listings in the nearby university library, although I did not see how many of these were multiple listings of the same book), and they say so many different things that I have to think that he was not sure of his own politics. However, one thing is for sure: He was no libertarian! That can be seen in many authoritarian passages such as the ones pointed out.

According to Dombowski (12), the leftist interpretation of Nietzsche is based on "perspectivism," which I gather in context means a belief in lack of hierarchy and egalitarianism. Whether this means simply equality under the law as libertarians advocate or if it means equal distribution of socialized wealth, as leftists seem to want, is something I cannot tell. It also seems to include relativism, or the inane idea that whatever you believe is true "for you," ignoring the real truth.

Maybe his perspectivism and his authoritarianism are not in as much conflict as we might think. Kind of like Strauss, who thought that the masses are not up to the truth and the authorities need to make up a belief system for them, Nietzsche seems to think that there is no absolute truth (or else a lot of "truths," so pick one you like), so the authorities must think up, or choose, a belief system for the people. Of course, authoritarian regimes will not admit to this. They always will claim to be based on something real.

So, perspectivism is not hard to reconcile with Nietzsche's authoritarianism. All I can say is, the Left has not thought it through. Possibly the neoconservatives have done a better job. I could have been wrong in my appraisal of the left as being more sophisticated than the neoconservatives. The rank and file in both camps seem to be following their leaders, who might be much more sophisticated and are in it for their own self-aggrandizement.

And, who knows? Could it be that the leaderships are working together for the same authoritarian, centralist goals in an attempt to become world rulers (elite?)? Could it be that the libertarians and constitutionalists are the only ones who are not buying into it? When you consider the lineage of neoconservatism, this does look likely.

And, in the mind of Nietzsche (13), if a person has "power," it means "power over." There is no way, as previously seen, to be neither dominant nor dominated. One must be one or the other. For example, right now, we have a situation, as I pointed out in the Kristol segment, where there are government people (first class or dominant) and non-government people (second class or dominated) who do what the former tell them to do.

Before we leave Nietzsche, there is another book on him that was fascinating (14). Marx, Nietzsche and Modernity, by Nancy Love, says both Karl Marx and Nietzsche thought man is not much more than an animal (15). They wondered how the society of the Enlightenment, liberal democracy and capitalism (real capitalism rather than the mercantilism so many call "capitalism" today) arose. To the extent that they did arise, that is, since in my opinion they only partially came to fruition thanks to stonewalling on the part of both of these people and their followers.

Well, at least they were questioning. Why do people create particular societies under particular circumstances? The libertarian answer is, of course, because it is in individuals' self-interests to cooperate with others for mutual benefit. An Austrian economist (meaning one who is a follower of the Ludwig von Mises school [16] regardless of nationality) will cite Crusoe Economics (17) to illustrate how societies develop. But Nietzsche and Marx are clearly not on that page.

They claim that social structures arise because of man's "power." What kind of power? (Remember what I pointed out earlier regarding what Nietzsche said about power.) Would it be the power of the individual's will? Guess not.

Marx says (18) that the individual enters into relations independently of his will. These relations depend on economic production, i.e., whatever the production engaged in at any particular time requires. This means that the process of production controls man, rather than the other way around. It looks very much as though Marx does not believe in a free will, or at least not a very strong free will. I have to wonder, if that is the case, how does production begin?

Nietzsche is not that straightforward. As I said before, maybe he was not so sure of his own political philosophy. His link to the National Socialists (Nazis) was tenuous at best (19), although it is not ruled out, either. It is questionable to what the power is directed in the "will to power." Again, is this the economic power of the individual to make his life better, or is this the power to rule over others? We saw in Beyond Good and Evil that the rule over others might be the answer.

Both Marx and Nietzsche seem to miss the important aspect of the individual free will or strong will. They both seem to think that communal goals are chosen by who is dominant. This gives rise, I think, to the two-tiered society of the dominant minority who give the orders and the submissive majority who obey them (also to wealth gravitating to the hands of the few and away from the hands of the many, which the Left is always complaining about), like our present neoconservative state of affairs where the government people are deemed better than the regular private sector people (and wealth gravitates to government/big-business interests, away from private interests).

They both believe that morality, i.e., the difference between right and wrong, varies according to the society. What follows is the idea that there are no absolute truths, and hence no absolute individual rights, as these are dictated by "society" (read government).

I remember many years ago, early in both the New Left and libertarian movements, about the time Nietzsche's name started coming up, I had a conversation with a passionate New Leftist about rights. He talked loudly enough for his voice to echo the length of the long hallway, even though my ears were very sharp, as this was before umpteen-thousand rock concerts by some of the world's loudest bands. (They still are pretty good, by the grace of God.) I was too young to have had time to study economics and had only read a couple Ayn Rand books. I told him that rights are natural or God-given and accrue to the individual. My studies since have proven this. They must be, or how could we do anything? No! He retorted, Society gives you your rights! Society! So, I said, who or what is this "society?" Why, everyone, he said. I asked if this "everyone" included me. Of course, he said. (Well, at least he didn't say I would have to wait until I was twenty-one, so he was a hair's breadth ahead of the establishment in this regard.) So, with that, I announced in that case I could take away his right to have sex. I think maybe in my sophomoric youth I got my point across. Even an airhead like him can understand individual rights in the area of sex.

If "society" or the government can amend or take your rights, or make you get a permit to use a right, then they are not rights at all, but privileges.

My friend could have said that I could not take his right away all by myself. Obviously I could not, especially in their egalitarian la-la land. There would have to be a vote, but since it would be impossible to vote on every issue, representatives would have to be elected to make the decisions on rights and privileges, and who would administer the system. So, we are back where we started: One class gives orders and the other class obeys them.

Both of them wanted to make the world over after Christianity and humanism have lost their power. Christianity emphasizes the individual. So does humanism, from what I know of it, and that is at the bottom of what they thought was wrong.

There were some very large differences between Marx and Nietzsche, but like the differences between socialism and neoconservatism, they are only in the details. The collective is favored over the individual, and some people have the special privilege to rule over others. Author Nancy Love believes that the two sets of ideas are mutually exclusive, and she might be right, even though both are collectivist. There are many kinds of collectivism. They are all anti-individual, and this is why they are all collectivist.

Chapter Two of Love's book is very fascinating, not only because it shows the common ground between Karl Marx and Friedrich Nietzsche, but because it is a stark reminder of something I happened across recently on the Internet. Some of the evangelical Christians (I am a Christian myself, but not of this type) are called "dominionists," although they do not call themselves that. They take an important verse in the Old Testament (Genesis 1:26) that states man shall have "dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every thing that creeps upon the earth." (20)

Many Christians, including me, interpret this to mean that human beings shall rule over the earth itself and other life forms, meaning we make decisions and take responsibility for those decisions. Each person makes unilateral decisions about what is his, and takes responsibility for those decisions. In some cultures, land is commonly owned, so their society as a whole makes decisions through tribal councils, etc. I believe this is the correct interpretation as we humans are the only life form on the planet that has the mental capacity to make decisions and take responsibility. I don't think anyone of any faith or no faith at all would have a problem with that.

However, this core of evangelicals called dominionists, who are the movers and shakers in the neoconservative school, interpret this scripture differently. They believe that man's dominion does not stop at other-than-human entities. They believe that it is saying that man shall have dominion over other men (this is, of course "man" in the generic sense; i.e., some people rule over other people). Some rule, others obey.

The main thing in Chapter Two is that Nietzsche and Marx are connected philosophically, through Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, whose name has come up time and again in my readings. They had similar agreements and disagreements with Hegel. They certainly agree with him on one thing, that the individual exists for society, not the other way around, even though Nietzsche says differently (21). He says the herd exists for the individual, but other words betray a different opinion, or at least to my libertarian eyes they do.

But, this is really Monday morning quarterbacking. We know exactly where Marx stood. He was a dominating person who thought he knew it all (22). And, by the way, most of what Marx called for in the Communist Manifesto has been at least partially implemented in this country which the neoconservatives now accept as a given or even natural law, but we do not really know where Nietzsche stood. He seemed ambivalent, even indecisive. We have his works to study, which indicate a wide authoritarian streak, but in the absence of Nietsche himself, we find him hard to figure out.

The two of them (Marx and Nietzsche) remind me of the Left and the neoconservatives, respectively. The former favors big, powerful government running the whole show on behalf of "society" with the individual but a cog in the machine. The latter gives lip service to the individual and his rights, but sets parameters to this which government has the power to unilaterally change, so at the end of the day the government runs the whole show, albeit more subtly.

As a recap of Nietzsche: He believed in two kinds of people, the rulers and the ruled. There is command and obedience. The ruler is whoever is strong enough to take over the state. The form of government does not matter. What matters is the durability of the government. The ruler decides who has what rights. He gives himself rights, such as the right to spy. (Is that familiar?) He keeps the ruled in line by religion or myth. The content of what they believe does not matter as long as they believe in something that tells them not to disobey. Lying by the ruler is part and parcel. Without government nothing would happen. People will not do anything unless they are led. That is, the ruled will not do anything; ambition belongs to the rulers.

All of this should have a very familiar ring to it.

Morality is considered less important than political practice (23) to Nietzsche and Machiavelli, which hits the nail on the head as far as the neoconservatives are concerned.

Machiavelli had great influence on Nietzsche. They compare very well (24) and are in stark contrast to the Christian view of morality and the libertarian view of government and politics. Nietzsche took a page (a lot of pages) out of Machiavelli's The Prince in its authoritarian passages. For our purposes, The Prince is the only thing that makes Machiavelli important to neoconservatism, as that is the one work Leo Strauss studied.

(1) I made use of Dombowski, Don, Nietzsche's Machiavellian Politics, Palgrave MacMillan, New York, 2004.

(2) Ibid. P. 4.

(3) Nietzsche, F.W., Beyond Good and Evil, Horstmann, Rolf-Peter, editor, and Judith Norman, editor and translator, Cambridge University Press, 2002 was used.

(4) Ibid. Segment 260, P. 153-156.

(5) Notice how this friend/foe theme keeps coming up.

(6) Nietzsche, Segment 188 P. 77-79.

(7) Ibid. Segment 267 P. 151-152.

(8) Ibid. Segment 61 P. 54-55.

(9) See the title essay in Rothbard, Murray, Egalitarianism as a Revolt Against Nature, Ludwig von Mises Institute, Auburn (Ala.), 2000.

(10) Rothbard, Murray, The Ethics of Liberty, New York University Press, New York 1998, P. 21.

(11) Dombowski P. 67.

(12) Ibid. P. 82.

(13) Ibid. P. 85.

(14) Love, Nancy, Marx, Nietzsche and Modernity, Columbia University Press, New York, 1986.

(15) Ibid. P. 5.

(16) See the Ludwig von Mises Institute at .

(17) Rothbard, Murray, Man, Economy and State with Power and Market, Scholar's Edition, Ludwig von Mises Institute, Auburn (Ala.), 2004, P. 47 - 56 and beyond, also other places in this book, which has always been regarded as a "must read" for every libertarian.

(18) Love, P. 7.

(19) Ibid. P. 8 - 9.

(20) The New Revised Standard Version.

(21) Love, P. 65.

(22) Marx Karl, The Communist Manifesto, Translated by Samuel Moore, Henry Regnery Co., Chicago,1969, P. 55-56.

(23) Dombowski P. 133.

(24) Ibid. P. 135.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Niccolo Machiavelli (1469 - 1527)

It was tough work reading about Machiavelli. Plodding through the Introduction of Meineche(1), I get that Machiavelli assumed that the human need for “community" (i.e. association with others) necessitates strong government. Organization is needed, and people apparently cannot organize themselves. They need a strong leader. Governmental power is, however, self-limiting, as the very existence and growth of the state depends on limited use of power. That's true, for if a government is too oppressive, it stifles productivity, so a market needs to be free to a point.

The Prince is Machiavelli's main work(2). The Introduction was so revealing that I was tempted not to bother with the rest. Machiavelli's life and ideas seem very much like today's establishment in so many ways. As quite a young man he went into public service as, from what I could gather, something between a politician and a bureaucrat. He was in the Florentine Republic, which was part of what is now Italy. Early on he regarded warmongering as the way to bring other countries into line. Later, after many variations in the line-up of countries and rulers, he lost his position because of a change in regime. With time to think, he came up with the modern idea that the best government is a mixture of many forms of government, reminding me of the middle-of-the-road mixed economy we now have with an increasingly strong dose of socialism, along with enough of a free market to keep people from getting too discouraged. This would be ruled over by "extraordinary geniuses of superior virtue," i.e., an elite(3).

The Prince is primarily about conquering states and holding them, and administering conquered states. This is not very libertarian, and to think that this man is more influential today than Murray Rothbard is! It just goes to show.

I am painting with a very broad brush here and will be the first to admit it. Machiavelli was very government-oriented. The same goes for Strauss, Kristol, the neoconservatives, and the Left. This is really the crux of the matter. The real difference between all of these and the Libertarians is that, for them, everything revolves around and depends on government "authority." For the libertarian, individual liberty and self-responsibility are the mainspring of progress.

Machiavelli thought political stability could be obtained by keeping the masses in their place by the use of religion. He didn't think it mattered what this religion taught(4). Thomas More, in his Utopia, said the same thing at about the same time. But this powerful sovereign state poses a threat greater than any other because, as John Locke (1632 - 1704) countered, rational self-interest would lead people to live in harmony, to buy, sell, and trade for mutual benefit, and this does not require any government, regardless of neoconservative (and leftist) propaganda.

Irving Kristol, discussing Machiavelli's Discourses(5), writes that Machiavelli said, when it comes to national interest, nothing should stand in the way, not justice or legality. He also points out on the same page that Mussolini was alleged to keep The Prince on his night table, and heads of state have read Machiavelli for ideas.

Machiavelli, Nietzsche, and de Sade are, Kristol says(6), three major figures in the history of Western thought who have rejected Christianity. Well, two out of three ain't bad for a neoconservative school of thought descended from that kind.

(1) Meineche, Friedrich, Machiavellianism: The Doctrine of Raison d'Etat and its Place in Modern History, Transaction Publishers, New Brunswick, 1988.

(2) Machiavelli, Niccolo, The Prince, translated by Paul Sonnino, Humanities Press, Atlantic Highlands (NJ), 1996.

(3) Ibid. P. 15.

(4) Van Creveld, Martin, The Rise and Decline of the State, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1999, P. 72.

(5) Kristol, Irving, Reflections of a Neoconservative, Looking Back, Looking Ahead, Basic Books, Inc., New York, 1983.

(6) Ibid. P. 134.