Archives for category: Politics

The kick-ass female action “hero” was a novelty with Buffy the Vampire Slayer. But after the millionth iteration, it is wearing thin, to say the least.

To say the most? It is a form of misogyny.

How so? It imputes to women the natural and traditional propensities and roles that men admire in men and aspire towards — and that women have desired in men and want men to be. So women are now routinely being judged by a standard that was naturally-cum-fancifully apt almost only for men. This functions as a performative repudiation of femininity, and a triumph of masculinity. It is a strange twist on “trans.” And for men to admire women chiefly for filling masculine roles strikes me as preciously close to the liking of women for being like men.

So, what men and women who assert the value of “female action heroes” (NOT heroines) are really doing is saying “no one really likes women”; that the feminine is disgusting or pitiable and that women, to be admired, should “be more like men” or, better yet, aspire to be “better than men” as understood by unrealistic standards once held by men for themselves.

Like so much of modern politics, and of course feminism, this strikes me as creepily misogynistic.

I am reminded of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, where the citizenry is “decanted” not begotten naturally, and where “fatherhood” is a joke and “motherhood” a gross indecency. To the extent that the female superhero theme is not pornography (and that is the source of some of the attraction: watching lithe bodies contorting onscreen for our delectation) it’s a repudiation of the feminine telos.

Which strikes me as misogynistic.

Not hatefully misogynistic. It may not be borne of hate. It is borne of discomfort. Queasiness. Distaste. Discomfort with the natural, the animal reality of our species and our very mammalian success. Our civilization is imagining a new non-animalistic conception of life. It used to be the gods, now it is stefnal superheroes and the looming, all-too-real specter of cyborgian AI.

Decadence, for the most part. But hey: maybe the future is less Brave New World and more Day Million.* But I doubt it.

Of course, we have a choice of dystopias.

* “Day Million” is a terrific short story by Frederik Pohl, as well as a name of a short story collection.

Freedom is a contextual concept: freedom of whom from what? Or, for that matter, freedom to what?

That “what” can vary.

That “whom” can vary.

Liberty is a synonym for freedom, derived from a different language group. But it is also often used as a term of art to distinguish one variety of freedom from another. Indeed, I use liberty as the best term for “the freedom that all can possess.” But my usage is not at all widely accepted.

In the American context, the distinctions of meaning can be bracing. Take Langston Hughes’s epigram on the subject:

There are words like Freedom 
Sweet and wonderful to say. 
On my heartstrings freedom sings 
All day everyday. 
There are words like Liberty 
That almost make me cry. 
If you had known what I know 
You would know why.

What is going on here?

Perhaps we can clarify this mystery, at least by a little, by consulting David Hackett Fischer’s Albion’s Seed (1989). In that mammoth volume, Fischer considered four sources of American culture in the folkways brought over to North America from four distinct regions of Britain. And among the folkways he considers are the power and liberty traditions. Here is the relevant passage on the Puritans’ concept of liberty:

So this “publick liberty” notion is the freedom of the community from foreign control to govern itself. It was definitely not about the freedom of the individual from control of others to govern him- or herself.

This is Yankee liberty, which is often quite oppressive of dissent, not friendly to renegades within the community. To this day, I catch a whiff of this sort of freedom from modern-day Democrats. When I was young, I thought I sniffed out its redolence in Republicans and conservatives.

If I am not mistaken, this is also intimately tied to the ancient notions of liberty discussed by Benjamin Constant.

To the south, though, another variety of liberty dominated culture:

Here we see the freedom of the superior individual from control by others, but to allow control over “inferiors,” however that may be defined. Langston Hughes probably knew who the inferiors were thought to be, all too well.

Much more congenial to my way of looking at liberty is the Quaker notion:

Here is a more familiar libertarian conception of freedom: of all from each others’ tyrannies and interferences to obey one’s conscience.

Finally, this freedom from restrain idea, for individuals, is even more thoroughgoing in the fourth folkway set that Fischer identified:

Here, the reciprocal liberty of the Quakers has the piety shaken free of it, for individuals’ freedom from interference and control is also a freedom to tell your neighbor to buzz off, if necessary, and without the nicety of “conscience.” It is a more muscular freedom, and not so much a spiritual matter as a defiant vulgarity.

The Puritan liberty is the freedom of all corporally, as determined by hierarchies as well as participatory governance; the gentlemen’s liberty,on the other hand, is their freedom, individually as gentlemen and within their class, but definitely not the freedom of all (not for the vulgar and inferior); and in the other two systems, freedom is reciprocal and universal, but with pious duty as a corollary in one system, and “mind your own business” in the other.

As I see it, all four strains are part of our everyday American culture, but the communal tyranny strains and gentlemen’s prerogative strains too dominant. Within the modern American libertarian movement the Quakers are represented by SJW-leaning beltway libs, and the backwoods boys represented by the more vulgar-tongued “right-wing” quasi-paleos.

I see some merit in both camps.

Liberty, as I see it, should be the freedom of all from interference and exploitation and control — from all others, to the preservation of their lives and the pursuit of happiness. How much freedom can actually be achieved? Partisans of the two major political parties think “not very much,” with the Democrats, especially, pushing Yankee busybodyism, but the Republicans still clinging to elements. And the Republicans see the world as far more dangerous than do Democrats, at least from foreign power plays, but under Trump the Dems have embraced an anti-Russian paranoia.

But note that even Benjamin Constant (1819) did not totally reject the political element of individual freedom:

Individual liberty, I repeat, is the true modern liberty. Political liberty is its guarantee; consequently political liberty is indispensable. But to ask the peoples of our day to sacrifice, like those of the past, the whole of their individual liberty to political liberty is the surest means of detaching them from the former and, once this result has been achieved, it would be only too easy to deprive them of the latter.

This lesson is something that libertarians will probably never be able to cease pressing to others. It is a lesson too easy to forget.

Meanwhile, of course, the dominant culture has forgotten everything important. Pierre Lemieux, in his foreword to the Constant edition, above, shows the danger of the ancient/Puritan power conception of liberty, and its continued emphasis in our post-modern times:

I fail to see much at all inspiring in any conception of liberty that is not, itself, understood in large part as incorporating individual freedom and personal responsibility.

In reading Benjamin Constant and David Hackett Fischer, I am moved to no small sadness for our culture, which has so far lost its way from the modern liberal progress, having reverted, instead — in our post-modern manner — to a vile, neo-ancient closed society illiberalism.

twv

The Dirty Open Secret of Socialism was “proletarisation” — the process by which artisans, independent contractors, professionals, entrepreneurs would be forced to work for wages:

In order that the “Socialist evolution” may be realized, it is necessary that industry and capital should be concentrated in a few hands, and, on the other hand, that there should be a great mass of wage‐​earners, increasingly wretched and deprived of all personal property. Such is the process as determined by Marx and Engels in the “Communist Manifesto,” and confirmed by the Erfurt Congress in 1891.

But this phenomenon does not appear if the “artisan” works in isolated independence; neither does it appear if those who carry on small industries, working in their own houses, have not been previously absorbed in the proletariat crowd of workmen employed in the great industries; not does it appear if the small proprietor preserves his love of individual property. The prophesied social evolution miscarries; the heralded paradise of the socialization of all the means of production and exchange vanishes. Democracy and Socialism are antagonistic.

Have I invented and formulated this proposition for polemical purposes? It comes from a Socialist, Herr Werner Sombart.

“What should be the attitude of socialism with regard to the masses which have not yet fallen into the ranks of the proletariat, such as the lower middle class (petite bourgeoisie) and of that part of the population which may perhaps never exhibit any tendency to inclusion in the proletariat? Should the object of the proletariat be essentially proletarian or should it be democratic? If it become democratic, what becomes of its programme? Is it to be socialism or democracy? The fundamental contention is expressed in the opposition between these two points of view.”

Bernstein published a series of articles in 1905 under the title, “Will Social Democracy Become Popular?”

In order to obtain recruits for the Socialist army it is necessary to “proletariarise” those who carry on small industries as well as small trades, and the owners of small properties, all of whom display elements of resistance to the socialization of the means of production. The movement of concentration, which does not take place naturally, must be obtained by force, in order to arrive at the catastrophe foretold by Karl Marx, as “on the one hand a few large industrial establishments and on the other the masses who possess nothing at all, the former absorbing the latter without their being able to offer resistance.”

In order to reach this point, the simplicity and ignorance of the very persons is to be exploited whom it is proposed to ruin, and of their representatives in Parliament. And legislation is to be carried out on the lines of social insurance and regulation of labour, in such a manner as to annihilate the small men, to overburden them with general expenses and risks, to close their shops and businesses and to try by artificial means to bring about the concentration of industries to which economic liberty fails to lend itself.

Werner Sombart frankly recognizes this when he says that “a good system of workmen’s legislation is a weapon of the highest order for proprietors of undertakings on a large scale, wherewith to ruin the small men and disembarrass themselves of their competition.

M. E. Vandervelde also demands this factitious concentration. “We must, he says, “wish for, and even foster by legislative measures, the passing of the degenerate forms of individual production into the superior forms of production in common.”

Yves Guyot, Socialistic Fallacies (1910).

While there are elements of this at work today — leaders of the dirigiste state often conspire against independent contractors, as recently shown in California, with Assembly Bill 5, largely because independent contractors tend to be . . . independent — this is not the big move today.

The Dirty Open Secret of Woke Progressivism is the political-cultural necessity always to increase the number of people dependent upon subsidy — and the reliance upon those not proletarised and not made dependents.

For remember: old-time socialism was seen as everyone working for a central authority and receiving “just wages” for their work, whatever that could mean.

Today’s wokester progressives don’t like work much, and demand, instead, to give people stuff for free. Production is not really a big part of their system. It’s just the secret thing they tend to despise. Their ideal job is not even a tech job, it’s a government job: easy, great benefits, early retirement, and you get to boss other people (preferably cis-white males) around.

This makes their schemes completely reliant upon taxpayers, of course. And this entails, in economic terms, reliance upon the proletarians in the market but mainly upon the successful artisans, independent contractors, professionals, and entrepreneurs — and of course the despised hyper-“privileged” owners of land and capital (those who make their living by rent and profit).

Now, older progressives and “progressive conservatives” (really, conservative-minded progressives) once honored the contributors; they extolled those who succeeded and thus serve not only as vanguards of market progress but also as benefactors via charity and even (or, especially) via state redistribution.

Today’s progressives have taken from the socialists not the programs of centralized economic management (boring!) so much as the socialist hatred and envy for the productive who materially serve as benefactors — but offend by being successful when others are not. “The Top One Percent,” for example.

This puzzles conservatives, even enrages them, since it is the essence of conservatism to honor the productive, the achievers, and benefactors, to advance gratefulness. They see in today’s progressives nothing but ingrates.

They are correct. Progressives in the modern vein are indeed ingrates; they promote a system that cannot work, and offends against common sense by lacking gratitude, honor, or aspiration. They are moochers by nature. They are to be despised. As soon as the old pro-productivity element in progressivism goes, there is nothing left good in progressives. Even their desire to help becomes greed and envy and hatred.

We could talk and argue with the progressives who were technocrats, and with progressives who leaned conservatives and thought they were conservative.

It is much harder to argue with the new sort, just as it was nearly impossible to argue with socialists, real socialists.

For they have accepted unsustainable social attitudes as well as an unworkable system. They have embraced systemic anti-sociality.

What do I mean? Well, consult Oscar Wilde, whose embrace of an “individualistic” anti-property quasi-socialism entailed a complete rejection of the altruistic sentiment so common under the capitalism of his day, and who, deep down, seemed to hate capitalism because it required too much attention to others’ needs!

Yes, this new form of progressivism is inherently anti-social.

Oh, sure, a few social groups are fixated upon — you know, as Victims to be honored, secretly pitied, and formally subsidized and promoted. But with this victim cultism comes a target class, for subsidizing some must come at the expense of the non-victims and non-oppressors, who are (or were) the vast majority.

While libertarian theorists will look at woke-progressive demands as unworkable and indeed crazy, conservatives will judge progressive attitudes as ungrateful and uncivilized. And what of old-time progressives and socialists? They will be puzzled by the moral perversity, though unable quite to put their fingers on the problem, since they themselves have so many sub rosa fixations and assumptions that are embarrassing to be made public or even conscious, and which, in fact, gave rise to the new mobbing losers.

But most old progressives I know fall in line with the new woke progressivism of, say, the Squad — the Millennial Democrats in Congress. Old-time progressives have been flirting with socialistic critiques of freedom for so long, and are so addicted to redistribution and regulation that they have nothing left to defend themselves from the agendas of the wokester-barbarian horde.

This is the cultural contradiction of the time. It is fun to watch. It can be great fun to scorn the new ingrates and utopians in their “protest” mobs. But their danger is real.

All-too-real.

Now, I can see why many old-time progressive-symp libertarians (the beltway types) might think this period cannot last, that it’ll just fizzle. Meh, they say. Typical Gen X judgment.

And they are right to understand that woke-progressive ingrate redistributionism is doomed. No doubt. The current woke-progressive program and integral attitudes cannot be sustained.

But it may not necessarily fizzle. It could be an explosion. Or implosion.

The devastation could be vast.

twv

Because we are trapped in the arc of a historical movement with the State at once ascendent and on the precipice, our politics consists chiefly in ratcheting up the levels of hypocrisy and hysteria. Until we confront the nature of the arc, we cannot be pried out of our predicament.
No one candidate can save us.

The likelihood of societal recognition and repentance, however, is extremely low. So we play our parts in the fated motion. I suppose there could be some deus ex machina to rescue civilization from its apparent fate, but I wouldn’t count on it.

Still, we might want to admit that while last time around, with Clinton vs. Trump, we read the sign of a ridiculous trap, Biden vs. Trump this time is that screwed up to increased idiocy. The problems of Trump are fairly obvious (though many apparently obvious bad things about him are not true), while the menace level that is Biden is hidden from full view. Sure, we all, deep down, realize his mind is going, and that he will be a mere puppet to his masters. We just do not know, right now, who his masters would be: for there is a selection of puppeteers ready to jerk the strings. The most feared set consists of woke-scold leftist whackos. But the more likely string-masters would be the usual suspects, the people who worked with Jeffrey Epstein and who constitute a major presence behind the scenes that smart people MUST NOT TALK ABOUT.

Meanwhile, Democrats only recognize the bizarre insanity of Trump, and Republicans recognize only the senescent lunacy of Biden. And those of us who admit how mad this all is have a bigger worry: just how disastrously compromised is the country that has this choice for its fate?

twv

About once a week I catch myself posting to the wrong page on Facebook, to the wrong audience.

Usually I catch before I post. Sometimes after. That is embarrassing.

This sort of lapse is unfortunate when you post for different reasons, sometimes exploring an idea that most people find threatening or “offensive,” or when engaging in some irony or japery that most won’t get, or merely out of place, as when one discusses philosophy on an animal appreciation page.

When I worked at Liberty magazine, decades ago, much of the badinage there could not take place outside the rooms of that business. And shouldn’t. And some of what was said probably shouldn’t have been said. But most sins of speech were venial sins.

None of this is about First Amendment rights to free speech. But it is about a kind of free speech, and the erosion of the idea from public culture. 

Though the current “cancel culture” that says we must terminate the employment of anyone who says things we don’t like — no matter how legal — is mostly alien to me, I guess I can see why some people fall into this. Could it be because they want not an open arena of adults “agreeing to disagree,” but safe spaces where their ideas aren’t challenged?

Right now, one half the country has become increasingly intolerant while preaching tolerance; the other half has become increasingly tolerant of intolerance, because of the intolerance of the professedly tolerant. Generally, I’m on the side of the latter, not the former, because I cannot stand Ms. Grundys, and, like John Stuart Mill, think the culture of an open society should be generally tolerant, not “repressively tolerant” as in neo-Marxist nutbar Herbert Marcuse. 

But it is apparent that now is a Marcusian moment, not a Millian one. 

I realize that, in today’s environment, I am almost unemployable in a normal job that is subject to pressure by the woke mobs. This gives me pause.

Not long ago, a woman was fired by a private company for her very non-business-related posting of the “all lives matter” slogan on her Facebook page — and the Libertarian Party presidential candidate Jo Jorgensen cited, to a C-Span audience, this sad and intrusive event as an example of businesses resisting discrimination. How deeply messed-up this is? Hilarious. Which is why I’ve been joking about this with a few friends today, making elaborate goofy arguments back and forth. But the truth, all kidding aside, is that Jo Jo doesn’t understand the current cultural climate. De-platforming, doxxing, and similar bullying events are not examples of companies being “against discrimination.” (For one thing, the lady fired was truly against discrimination by saying “all lives matter”! There are many levels of hilarity here.) It is about kowtowing to pressure groups, to intransigent minorities.

First-Amendment free speech rights cannot long last in a society where one group is given license to prescribe the speech for all.

That is the current situation.

What we are witnessing is an ideological monoculture aiming for hegemony over the open society.

I prefer multiculturalism, actually, and free association, and think I could demonstrate, if required, how cultural diversity requires a small government and a general right of free speech and free association. But those who pretend to be multiculturalist are now pushing a political monoculture and are poised to use hate speech laws (as in Europe and the British Commonwealth nation-states) to proscribe free speech.

The idea that we should, as a courtesy, target our comments to the most receptive audiences is not a problem. But that we do so out of fear is a big problem.

We truly do live in interesting times.

twv

So, if slavery is bad because liberty is good, and if the American conception of liberty is bad because of slavery, why is slavery bad?

At issue, you will immediately recognize, is the Project1619-adjacent notion that the existence of slavery in American history discredits the government and general political complexion of the United States of America. I have argued against/around this poison pill [meme] before, chiefly on Quora:

The leftist idea is to use the mere existence of past slavery as a rationale to set up a completely different kind of socio-political order. Since most of these ninnies are promoting some form of socialism, those of us who identify socialism with slavery must express some alarm.

The idea is bizarre when you break it down. But most young people seem not to move beyond statement and restatement of the core notion:

The temerity of the Left! One of today’s leftists’ characteristic charges is that capitalism and slavery are a package deal, somehow, and that American capitalism depended upon the institution of chattel slavery for its success, and that the wealth Americans now revel in is tainted by the institution of slavery that was abolished over a century and a half ago.

An astounding assertion, and utterly without merit.

As I stated in the piece quoted directly above, it is an extraordinarily loopy notion even to pretend “to redress past harms caused by slavery” by working “to oppose freedom generally.”

Americans have promoted the idea of freedom while not successfully living up to the idea. Sure. And slavery was the most obvious failing of freedom-loving Americans. But to say we should give up liberty and embrace socialism — servility to the coercive horde or the maximum state — because of this, is . . . witless.

Or, maybe, the wit of the Devil taking the hindmost brains. He loves a good laugh, and to urge his minions to abandon freedom “because slavery” is too droll even for a mere human archon.

twv

On Not Being a “Tribal”

When I first heard that many/most economists argued the minimum wage law cannot help low-skilled workers, I was working 25¢ above the legal minimum wage rate.

I was intrigued. I had never heard of this notion before.

So I read quite a bit about it. I even started to read economic theory.

I tried to understand.

Here is something odd, though: when most people hear about this notion, they reject it as “stupid” or “obviously wrong” or “capitalist propaganda” or some such. I have encountered this reaction many times, in conversation on the Net and off.

Very rarely do people who say they are concerned about the working poor and the unemployed raise an eyebrow and honestly look into the matter. Mostly they look for some way to “debunk” the idea. They look for “studies” (Card?) that back up the program they favor.

Why?

My theory is that while I cared about a class of people to which I belonged, or nearly belonged, most people say they do but do not.

They care about their policy. They care about seeming to care. They care about using force through government.

But actually helping the poor? Not likely. If they did they would approach the subject differently. If they cared, they would earnestly seek to learn if the challenge were true.

I investigated these matters in 1980. It was one of two policies that weighed heavily on my mind at the time. I probably read a dozen relevant books on this subject, and a few on the other. I began to read economics and the old political economy, as well as continue my course of social philosophy and the social sciences.

And since then I have developed a deep suspicion: most people have very little interest in the things they say they have interests in. They have interest in belonging to this tribe or that — to the tribe that is associated with the causes they talk about. They are tribals. That was the term I used way back when: tribals. (Imagine my surprise when Crocodile Dundee used the term, later.)

I believe most people to be these “tribals.” And I have always striven to avoid thinking tribally. It is why I have often criticized my own kind.

For I do have my own kind.

But I am so uncomfortable with tribal thinking I adopted a moniker that that my fellow tribesmen and -women do not use: LocoFoco.

A little distance. I define. Let others scramble to understand. They could use the mental exercise.

So that’s my general perspective. I do not really think most people are earnest about their politics, not on a philosophical level. I think most are ooga-boogas.

twv

Once every week or so, on SoundCloud, Apple, Google, Pocket Casts, and Spotify.

Let’s all take a moment to mourn the passing of Climate Change Catastrophism. 

For years polls have shown that the bulk of mankind rates this issue very low as a priority.

Now, when other issues emerge to better signal uprightness — like “wear the mask!” and “black lives matter!” — the lip service people gave to climate alarmism, without (of course) really understanding the ramifications of the prophets of doom, the repeated failures of their prophecies, and the infancy of “climate science,” no longer beckons much cultish behavior.

That behavior is reserved for pandemics and racism panics.

While it is just as true that the “science” behind official pandemic responses and patterns of policing are just as shoddy and deceptive as that behind “manmade global warming,” the new ones are new, and more closely and immediately affecting everyday life, so they have extra oomph.

Will Climate Change Catastrophism come back?

Well, it might, but not, I think, bigger and better and stronger. It will be weaker, flaccid. All the people who have become skeptical about the lockdowns and mask orders, and about how real crime stats in America apply to protest demands and riots and statue iconoclasm, will take their newfound skepticism and apply it against the garbage heap that is Anthropogenic Global Warming.

But I predict a new, better form of Climate Catastrophism could emerge, and should: the one that recognizes that the real global threat to civilization, humanity, and life on this planet is extra-terrestrial hits by asteroids, comets, and mass coronal mass ejections (from the Sun).

Maybe after people realize that hair-shirt-wearing religious posturing that serves to replace the doctrine of Original Sin with some secular analogue is an embarrassment to all mankind — or at least that small fraction of intelligent terrestrial life — we can deal with real threats in a rational way.

OK. Stop laughing.

twv

This image from Oblivion suggests “water bearer” to me.

Judaism began in Egypt as the Age of Taurus the Bull gave way to the Age of Aries the Ram.

Christianity grew out of Judaism as the zodiacal Age of Aries transitioned to the Age of Pisces the Fish.

Now that we slowly shift into the Age of Aquarius — the sign of the Water Bearer — what new religion is coming to birth in our time?

It is not, I think, what John S. Dunne hoped for in The Way of All the Earth.

In the early part of the last century, we might have guessed “communism.” After all, Marxism and allied isms constitute a post-Christian political cult obsessively constructed by secular Jews, the folks who Choose (and said to be themselves Chosen). Youngsters today, utterly lacking more than a hint of historical knowledge, seem to be trying to bring it back. But their new and intellectually vacuous cult of intersectionalist grievance-mongering has embarrassment written all over it. How can it possibly survive?

By sheer memetic inertia alone?

Or does it truly feed off of some chthonian power source . . . from which I am completely disconnected? Perhaps the devil is not in the details, but in big picture. From this movement may come the antichrist at last?

It is probably too much to hope for a watercourse way — of liberty. That seems an unlikely religion. Not one that lots of Jews would choose, anyway.

But we do have a powerful trio (not to say “trinity”) of powerful Jewish prophets, we libertarians: Mises (rhymes with “Jesus,” looks like “Moses”), Rothbard and Rand.

Can we swap one out for Nozick?

Dunne’s sort of discipline is too much to ask of lazy postmoderns.

Is being a Republican all about maintaining the established hierarchy?

…as answered on Quora….

No.

America’s Republican Party is a coalition of a number of anti-leftist interest groups, or, if you will, “tribes.” Though Republicans lean conservative, and conservatives tend to extol traditional hierarchies more than do progressives, it is worth remembering that almost all elements of American government were transformed in the first half of the 20th century by Progressives, and our institutions, today, are in the main both Progressive and hierarchical.

And it is Democrats (and those on the left in general) who urgently — and with increasing alarm — defend established hierarchies.

Consider a few of these:

  • the supremacy of the federal government over the states
  • the bureaucratic hierarchies of the Administrative State
  • the government of the people by the (now-armed) regulatory bureaucracies
  • the cultural hegemony of major media and Hollywood elites over “rednecks” and “fly-over country”
  • the power of major population centers over more sparsely populated rural areas

Take that last one, for a moment. Since the election of Donald Trump, Democrats have been spinning rationales for getting rid of not only the Electoral College but also the Senate, two hold-overs from the original decentralized federal system. There are not many remnants left of the original constitutional order. The whole of the Administrative state has metastasized far beyond constitutional balance, with the Executive Branch now quite dominant not only in the Imperial Presidency but also in the huge leeway the Legislative Branch has ceded to Executive Branch bureaucracies, to create and enforce and even criminalize its regulatory tasks. And the Democrats, apparently jealous of any non-technocratic hierarchy, increasingly want to rid the system of even the last vestiges of the Founders’ system. It is really quite breathtaking.

At this point, many readers will no doubt be wondering if I am a crazy man. Why, it is the left that is against hierarchies and it is the right that defends them! What kind of nonsense is this?

Well, in defense of my interpretation, I ask you to consider the difference between ideological fantasy and knee-jerk institutional practice. By their socialist-tinged fantasies, progressives (and Democrats) are indeed “egalitarian.” They talk up a good equality game, that’s for sure. But when push comes to shove, the pushers of equality shove hard, and quickly establish and defend the hierarchies that do the shoving. That is why socialism turns so quickly to hierarchical and class-based totalitarianism: because equality does not work in a unitary state, but hierarchies and class do. So allegedly “egalitarian and inclusive” leftists swiftly become tyrants.

And we see this even among our compromising progressives, who are on the whole at least not communists — they still balk at full-blown state socialism. (Though in recent years they have come out of the closet on their emotional allegiances, their commitment to the term itself.) They are now quite defensive and even hysterical about Republican attacks upon their beloved governmental hierarchies.

Another example? Public education advocates. Government k12 schooling has become less local and more state- and federal-controlled in the last half-century. And with it, the hierarchies of bureaucracy and unions and politics have usurped more and more local prerogatives. And just look how Democrats react to decentralizing notions like school vouchers, and to hierarchy-busting alternatives like charter schools!

It is not the Republicans who defend hierarchy in these cases. They seem to be leaning to decentralism.

Democrats, like technocrats, socialists and fascists everywhere, are big proponents of centralization.

And the centralism of a unitary state is of necessity hierarchical.

But is this traditional?

No. Well, not exactly.

Like I asserted above, the Republican Party is not a singular movement. It is a coalition of several major groups. And the different groups are differently conservative, if conservative at all. And though we have come to understand conservatism as being “about,” somehow, the defense of traditional hierarchies, which hierarchies are being defended in which group is open to debate.

Further, please note that the traditional American order is liberal, not traditional — Whig and not Tory, in British terms. That is, the original states of the union were sovereign in their original conception, and the union was federal, not national. Decentralist, in modern terminology — almost a distributed order.

Today’s conservatives, to the extent they hark back to the Founding period, are not talking up hierarchy, they are talking up a decentralized order of competing and balancing hierarchies.

But it gets more complicated, for the Republican Party basically overthrew the constitutional order that had failed before it reached the century mark, failed regarding slavery and the tariff. The new order delivered by Abraham Lincoln was nationalist. The Republican Party’s push for the supremacy of an imperialistic national government was far more hierarchical than the Founders’ order, and that order was not American-traditional, but European-traditional. And then came Teddy Roosevelt and a frankly imperialist Progressivism, which, in the course of both Republican and Democratic governments (the Democratic Party abandoning decentralism and constitutionalism with Woodrow Wilson), proceeded to restructure American government along centralist and hierarchical grounds.

So, while some Republicans may hold the constitutional order up as a sort of liberal/libertarian fantasy, in practice they are thoroughly nationalist rather than federalist, imperialist rather than nationalist, and wholly submerged in the trappings of the patriotic mumbo-jumbo of allegiance to the hierarchies established last century, not by the Founders. (Can there be any greater betrayal of the constitutional order than Republicans’ beloved “one nation indivisible” — written by a socialist?) Most Republicans are “conservative” by being Progressives of a hundred years ago. And Democrats are progressives of the flavor they got addicted to in the Sixties.

A more pathetic pair of bumbling parties could hardly be found. And of course, like most Americans, they were “educated” in America’s propaganda mills, the public schools. Which means, much of what they know ain’t so. Our national faith comes in two disgusting flavors.

Now, I admit: there is still something to the “traditional hierarchy” biz.

The kind of progressive that Republicans tend to be is the kind that pushed for Prohibition, way back when. You know, to “save the family.” Not the overtly technocratic kind, of John Dewey and The New Republic. The fact that their “conservative” variety of Progressivism was perpetrated in the name of the family might seem to indicate the defense of the trad hierarchy of domestic life — but that is illusion as well. Not only did Prohibition subordinate individual liberty to state and federal usurpation and totalitarian control, it was also a de facto rebellion of women against men, for the Dry ranks were largely made up of women and a few ambitious, moralistic male busybodies. The women were rebelling against a culture of male drunkenness. (More than understandable.) So modern social conservatism began with the overthrowal of the central element of a patriarchal hierarchy — quite anti-traditional — and then was roundly rebuked by the complete failure of said “experiment.” But did social conservatives learn? No. As alcohol Prohibition ended, new federal programs prohibiting other drugs grew and grew, and were used with startling cruelty against non-white, non-bourgeois out-groups.

Now is the time for me to try to make some sense of “left vs. right” in modern ideology. The rightward motion is not, I think, to defend “traditional hierarchies.” It is for the defense of some in-group against perceived or real out-group threat. And the left is the Cult of the Other, defending some out-group from exploitation or oppression by an in-group — some in-group “of the right.” Of course.

None of these are stable positions. Both sides defend and attack hierarchies, “depending.” Why? Because the in-group/out-group dimension maps orthogonally to the power/freedom dimension.

So, what to make of all this? Well, hierarchies of competence are good, while hierachies of “power” (if by this word you mean oppression or unjust exploitation) are indeed bad. Individuals and in-groups must be defended from criminals and oppressive powers, and individuals and out-groups must not be oppressed in service to the cause of the aforementioned defense.

What is good about “traditional hierarchies” is that they often defend groups that deserve to thrive or dissipate based on free association. What is bad about them is what is bad about new hierarchies: when they aid in centralizing agendas, oppression, and exploitation by class or by individuals . . . that is when they are evil.

So, to answer the original question — “Is being a Republican all about maintaining the established hierarchy?” — better here at the end than in the beginning: sometimes; depends upon which group and which hierarchy.

As for me, I think it is clear: the Republican Party is an ideological mess, conservatives are confused, and their opponents, the progressives, are even worse.

A pox on both their in-groups.

twv