Friday, August 31, 2018

Thomas Aquinas and Law

By nature all men are equal in liberty but not in other endowments.
-        Thomas Aquinas

A good place to start.

Thomas Aquinas lived for about fifty years, during the middle of the thirteenth century.  He was at the heart of what was one of the most intellectually revolutionary periods in European history:

…he was one of those who led the successful fight to have the newly translated (into Latin) works of Aristotle accepted by the academic and ecclesiastical establishments…

In addition to Aristotle, another rediscovered source for this revolutionary period was Emperor Justinian’s sixth century codification of Roman law.  A quick detour into Justinian’s work:

…Justinian tried to restate the whole of Roman law in a manageable and consistent form…. [The members of the second commission] were to read the works of authority, none of them written later than about AD 300, and excerpt what was currently valid. 

The compilers were authorized to alter the texts they kept. If the new version of a text differed from the old, the new prevailed, on the theory that Justinian was entitled to amend the previous law as he wished.

Justinian was Eastern Emperor.  Presumably, his codification of law was the basis upon which the Byzantine Empire was built.  What can be said of this?  This codified law supported a long-lasting, reasonably stable, commercially successful empire; connecting Asia and Western Europe, its economy was far more dynamic than could be found east or west; gold coinage, while not free-market derived, was respected – certainly one of the key factors in the commercial success.  (My one meaningful foray into this history can be found here.)

In this, we see the issue: Western Europe was governed by a more libertarian law; the Eastern Empire a more codified law (albeit, I have not studied this law at all).  The differences in the development of trade and the economy and internal peace are clear and cannot be avoided.  One is reminded of Rothbard and his essay “The Myth of Efficiency.”  One should not conflate economic efficiency (a myth in any case) with liberty:

I conclude that we cannot decide on public policy, tort law, rights, or liabilities on the basis of efficiencies or minimizing of costs. But if not costs or efficiency, then what? The answer is that only ethical principles can serve as criteria for our decisions. Efficiency can never serve as the basis for ethics; on the contrary, ethics must be the guide and touchstone for any consideration of efficiency.

Returning to Casey: the universities in Paris and Oxford, along with the Dominicans and Franciscans, provided the intellectual vehicle through which Aristotle and Justinian were integrated into Western thought.

Thomas wrote little directly on political theory; he did write that political authority can only be properly exercised in accordance with the law.  Thomas’s view of the law, therefore, becomes the focus.  Law is something much more than a system for regulating the affairs of men; it is part of a system of divine government – and coming to man thusly:

-        Eternal Law is God’s design for the whole of creation.  It is ‘the ideal of divine wisdom considered as directing all actions and movements’ and all other forms of law ultimately derive from it.
-        Divine Law is, in effect, what is given to us by revelation in Scripture.
-        Natural Law is ‘the participation of the eternal law in a rational creature,’ a reflection of Eternal Law as we see it manifested in creatures.  It gives to each kind of thing ends in accordance with its nature.  For man, those ends are the preservation of his own life, life in society, the generation and education of children and the search for truth.
-        Human (or Positive) Law is law as it applies specifically to men in their concrete and practical circumstances.  It is an ordinance of reason for the common good made and promulgated by those who have charge of the community.

Casey will focus on natural law and positive law and the relationship between the two.  I will be citing extensively from Casey as this issue and this period in European history seems to lie at the crux of many important points (and I don’t want my paraphrasing to mess things up): the transition from the old and good medieval law to the bureaucratic and administrative law post-Renaissance; the unavoidable and necessary connection between Christian thought and classical liberalism (and the reliance of the latter on the former).

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Making an Omelette

I have touched on Charlemagne and his centralizing, warrior ways in a few of my posts regarding the Middle Ages; it is time to focus specifically on this murderer, the one for whom a great prize of Europe is awarded annually.  When one understands Charlemagne and his methods, one will understand what lies just beneath the surface of those who advocate for the cause of the European Union.

The Background

It was Charlemagne’s objective to unite Christian Europe, to make Christian that which was not, and to expand his creation.  Charlemagne inherited his Kingdom of the Franks from his grandfather Charles Martel (who defeated the Muslims at Poitier-Tours thus ending the Muslim advance into Europe) and his father Pippin III – Pippin “the Short.”

Charlemagne expanded this kingdom to include present day France, Germany, northern and central Italy, and northeastern Spain.  Let’s just say it didn’t happen peacefully.  Let’s also just say that the entire creation was held together by string and bubble-gum: Charlemagne’s personality.

Disparate peoples with separate histories, laws languages, and traditions were unwilling to be bound together into a single polity unless the ruler was strong enough to maintain unity.

No, I haven’t just suddenly started writing about 2018.  In any case, I will modify Collins’ view: that “the ruler was strong enough to maintain unity” did not make this disparate people “willing.”  That Charlemagne’s personality held it together was obvious with his death; the empire began to come apart. 

Essentially, the Carolingian empire didn’t correspond to political, social, economic, and linguistic reality on the ground and was thus irrelevant to most of its citizens.

It was an ideological construct, nothing more.  Imagine…a nation built on an idea, not able to survive past the strength of its founding personality.  Who would have believed it?

Starting at the End

The largest, bloodiest, and most destructive battle of the ninth century began at 6 in the morning on Saturday June 25, 841, at Fontenoy-en-Puisaye….

Perhaps 25,000 to 30,000 were killed – of course many more wounded.  Such was the bloody legacy of Charlemagne, as this was one of several battles in what is known in German as the Brüderkrieg – the brother war.

The battle was between and among the sons of Louis the Pious, who was the son of Charlemagne.  The battle pitted Lothar on one side, Louis the German and Charles the Bald on the other.  There was much fighting between and among the brothers that preceded the battle – looting, rape, pillage – each brother working to weaken the other, to weaken the kingdom of the other.

The region between what is today France and Germany was also at issue, and this region was Lothar’s, with one brother on each side.  Yes, I know: there is no “region” between France and Germany.  Tell that to the people of Alsace-Lorraine, who last changed hands (for the umpteenth time) in 1945 – more than a millennia after the aforementioned battle.  

Lothar’s brothers spent three days negotiating with Lothar prior to the battle – pleading for peace for the “Christian people,” pleading to be left alone.  But this wouldn’t do for the man who would be emperor.  Lother’s negotiation was for no purpose other than to buy time – time until Pippin II arrived in support.

After hours of a stalemate in battle, a cavalry charge finally broke through Lothar’s lines; according to the annals sympathetic to the victors, “Lothar suffered a shameful defeat and fled.”  The slaughter continued – “the booty and slaughter were immense and truly astounding.”  Then the victors celebrated Mass the next day.

After the battle, the victorious brothers and their armies met at Strasbourg in order to strengthen their bonds against Lothar.  The oaths given by the brothers and their armies are telling.  Each brother gave his oath in the language of the other – such that the army of the other could understand.  The oath, as follows and taken from “A History of Medieval Europe: From Constantine to Saint Louis (3rd Edition)”, by R.H.C. Davis:

For the love of God and for the Christian people and for our common salvation, from this day forward, so long as God give me knowledge and power, I will help this my brother [both with my aid and everything] as by right one ought to help one’s brother, on condition that he does the same for me, and I will not hold any court with Lothar, which, of my own will, might cause [my brother] harm.

Then, the people of each army took an oath:

If Louis [or Charles] observes the oath which he has sworn to his brother Charles [or Louis] and if Charles [or Louis], my lord on his part does not keep it, if I cannot turn him away (from his wickedness), neither I nor any of those whom I will have been able to turn away, will give him any help against Louis [or Charles].

Let’s just say, nothing was settled even after this.  But we haven’t even got to the beginning yet….or even the middle.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Vive la Révolution

And we're marching to Bastille Day
La guillotine will claim her bloody prize
Sing, oh choirs of cacophony
The king has kneeled, to let his kingdom rise
-          Bastille Day, Rush
Leftism: From de Sade and Marx to Hitler and Marcuse, by Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn (EvKL)

Looking now at the background of the French Revolution – historically the mother of most of the ideological evils besetting not only Western civilization but also the rest of the world – we have to make an inventory of the roots of this iniquity.

EvKL considers the roots of the Revolution, in America, England, elsewhere on the Continent; he considers the people, the atrocities; finally, he points to the lasting legacy – a legacy which will be developed in the subsequent chapters of this book.  I will not spend time on the blood and terror; I will try to remain focused on the actors and the political philosophy.

Thomas Jefferson (and others)

Hamilton was convinced that Jefferson, while American Minister in Paris, had played a rather negative part. Hamilton said that “in France he [Jefferson] saw government only on the side of its abuses. He drank freely of the French philosophy, in religion, in science, in politics.”

From the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, Inc., a 501(c)3 dedicated to the legacy of Jefferson and Monticello: Jefferson had returned from France to Washington shortly before the falling of the Bastille; he was more enthusiastic about the revolution than was France’s own ambassador to the US, Jean Baptiste de Ternant.

His enthusiasm for the revolution became more heated, perhaps driven by his domestic battles with Hamilton, who – as noted – saw the revolution in a different light.  Even after knowledge of the execution of aristocrats came to America (but before Jefferson knew of the execution of Louis XVI), he penned these famous words:

“My own affections have been deeply wounded by some of the martyrs to the cause, but rather than it should have failed, I would have seen half the earth desolated. Were there but an Adam & Eve left in every country, & left free, it would be better than as it now is.”

A quote not likely high on the “Jefferson Fan Club” list.  Returning to EvKL:

Hamilton was certain that Jefferson had not been innocent concerning the evolution in France after 1789 and John Adams was tortured by the thought that the United States and he himself had to take a large share of the blame for the horrors that followed the storming of the Bastille.

Citing a letter from Adams to Dr. Benjamin Rush, dated August 28, 1811:

“Have I not been employed in mischief all my days? Did not the American Revolution produce all the calamities and desolation to the human race and the whole globe ever since? I meant well, however. My conscience was clear as a crystal glass, without scruple or doubt.”

A sentiment repeated countless times by American leaders in the centuries since: I meant well; my conscience is clear.

It wasn’t only Hamilton who viewed the revolution in a negative light.  Jefferson's eventual successor as ambassador to Paris, Gouverneur Morris, offered to M. de Lafayette that he is “opposed to the democracy from regard to liberty.”

Yet Morris was a voice crying in the wilderness. As an American aristocrat he moved in the highest French circles and was nauseated by the leftist sentiments he encountered everywhere, not only among the nobility but also among the clergy.

If we consider today’s left, isn’t it comprised of many of the same people?  Today’s “nobility” (the elite) and “clergy” (both secular and religious)?

Comparing the Two Revolutions

Yet that there exists a "technical" filiation between 1776 and 1789 can hardly be denied, and it is precisely this "factual" connection which effectively masks the misunderstanding.

It was not necessarily so that 1789 would lead to 1792.  The revolution in 1789 France, like the revolution in America, had the support of the nobility; it was only in France where the revolution turned to terror in the hands of the bloodthirsty mobs – terror to include against many of the leaders of 1789.

In France, there were, of course, other factions beyond the nobility in support of revolution: the Jansenists (Bishop Henri Gregoire offered “kings are in the political order what monsters are in the natural”); the Huguenots (per Edmund Burke, “Their clergy are just the same atheists with those Constitutional Catholics, but still more wicked and daring.). 

Foreign influences – really misunderstandings – of earlier events in England and Switzerland (with the emphasis on personal liberty); a romanticized version of the situation in America (Rousseau vision: virgin forests, noble savages, free men, simple lives, log cabins, manors, and town halls in Grecian style); Americans in Paris (Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Silas Deane); finally, the stories brought back by the French who fought in America’s war.

Marquis de Sade

Given that he plays a leading role in the title of the book, perhaps it is worth spending some time on EvKL’s views of this character:

He is better known for his sexual aberrations than for his philosophy – sadism is named after him – but his real importance lies in the domain of politics….

I will spend time only on the “domain of politics….”

By and large the crimes of the Divine Marquis had been exaggerated: His deeds were neither so numerous nor so ferocious as reputed, since he spent most of his time in jails and hospitals for the criminally insane. However, he was not mentally ill.

De Sade was a resident of the Bastille, transferred out just days before the storming.  His role during his residency is described by EvKL:

Knowing about the unrest in Paris, he began to harangue the people from his window, saying that the prisoners were tortured and assassinated in the dark dungeons of the Bastille. He used a funnel to give greater strength to his voice.

It was for these pronouncements that de Sade was transferred from the Bastille.  Well after the fall of the Bastille, he would boast of the “ardor with which I called the people on the third of July to destroy the Bastille where the despots had me imprisoned: thus I possess the most glittering civic record of which a republican can pride himself.”

Friday, August 24, 2018

The Left’s War on Religion…

…and, therefore, liberty.
Leftism: From de Sade and Marx to Hitler and Marcuse, by Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn (EvKL)

The history of the wild, wild left…

Leftism in the Western World has roots reaching way back into the dim past. Leftist ideas and notions made themselves felt again and again in late medieval and modern history, but for its first concrete and, in a way, fateful outbreak and concretization we have to look to the French Revolution.

That’s the Cliff’s Notes version….

My intent is to focus on the time beginning with the European Middle Ages.  My reasons for not reaching back any further in time should be clear to regular readers; also, I think it will be clear from some of what is offered by EvKL.  For example, regarding the political liberties of the Greece of Plato and Aristotle:

…while social liberties were perhaps marked, political liberties were few, though here we have to bear in mind that the concept of the person as we know it did not exist in antiquity. It makes its appearance in the Western World-and solely in the Western World-only with the advent of Christianity.

Is there really much point to go further back in time?  To a time when a person was not considered a person?  Well, maybe I will go back just a little, regarding the egalitarian idea of democracy:

Not only the democratic government, but the "dear people" were opposed to Socrates and he can, without exaggeration, be called a victim of democracy, of the vox populi.

Salvador de Madariaga has said that Western civilization rests on two deaths – the death of Socrates and the death of Christ. And indeed the Crucifixion was also a democratic event.

Two wolves and a sheep (well, a Lamb in one case) voting on what to have for dinner.

During the Middle Ages "democracy" had a bad connotation among intellectuals who alone knew its meaning.

Democracy existed in some smaller societies, in the Alps and the Pyrenees, Iceland and Norway.  The larger and more developed societies had mixed governments with a monarch at the top – a monarch by birth or elected by a small elite.

The mixed governments are balanced ones. The king was not at all powerful. Rex sub Lege [the king under the law] was the standard formula. He had no right to levy taxes and the penury of monarchs is a permanent feature of medieval and post-medieval society. The king's power was curtailed by powerful vassals, the Church, the diet in which the Estates were represented, and the free municipalities who had great privileges. Absolutism and totalitarianism were unknown in the Middle Ages.

No democracy, no absolutism, no totalitarianism; decentralized and competing governance institutions.  No State – not even a hint of what we live under today.  At a time when the individual was found, and only in a Christian culture and tradition.

Of course, there were religious sects that were quite leftist in their orientation.  EvKL offers the Waldensians as one example.  “What distinguished them from the Reformers was the cult of poverty…”

EvKL then spends some time on John Wycliffe:

Wyclif began by first denouncing papal supremacy, thus earning the sympathies of his king. He then proceeded to question transubstantiation and the prerogatives of the clergy for which he received the support of the nobility. Finally he advanced democratic theories and denounced wealth altogether, and so gave impetus to the agrarian revolt.

That was in the fourteenth century.  Then came Luther:

An analogous development took place when Luther (who knew the writings of Wyclif) declared the Pope to be antichrist and received the protection of the princes against the Emperor; and then, when he denounced the clergy and the monastic institutions, he won the applause of the nobility.

Luther went no further.  When he saw the extremist fruits of his labor, he denounced the movement.

You can see in both Wycliffe and Luther the attraction to the kings and nobility of Europe – a way to break free from Rome.  Both Wycliffe and Luther looked back to Marsilius of Padua, who…

…in support of Emperor Ludwig I and trying to undermine the political claims of the papacy, also attacked its hierarchical status and finally developed a democratic theory of government.  He declared that original political power resides in the people collectively or at least in its better (valentior) part.

EvKL offers an overview of how these events led to movements of identitarian politics, envy regarding class, and “for the first time in Christian European history, a king was formally put to death,” in the seventeenth century.

Why such a focus on theology?

Proudhon said that it is surprising how at the bottom of politics one always finds theology.

All politics, including every “ism”…including libertarianism.

The reader might feel inclined to believe that our emphasis on theological ("religious") ideas, movements, and arguments so far are merely due to the profoundly religious character of the Middle Ages.

Not so, says EvKL. Even the tragedy of Socrates offered “political, philosophical, and religious sentiments and concepts.”  For the first 1,700 years of Christianity, this interconnection continued in the West, with this shifting as demonstrated by the aforementioned French Revolution.

…in the last 200 years it has become evident that the isms cannot coexist peacefully with theistic religions, but have to fight them with all the means at their disposal. And vice versa.

It seems man can only serve one god.

It is precisely this fact that the modern totalitarian ideologies – from simple leftism to national socialism, international socialism, and communism – have not only a pseudomonastic but also a "heretical" aspect that make them so unacceptable and so incompatible with the great religions of the West: Christianity, Islam, and Judaism.

EvKL goes on to make a rather interesting point regarding the various “isms”

They derive most of their strength, as we shall see later on, from the secularized version of a few Christian tenets.

And an even more interesting point, and on which I am eminently unqualified to opine:

…the Reformation, contrary to an obsolete concept still surviving in English-speaking countries and finding its way into textbooks and films, was by no means the "beginning of liberalism" (genuine or fake), nor anything like the fulfillment of the Renaissance, but a late medieval and "monastic" reaction against humanism and the spirit of the Renaissance.

Up until I read this statement, let’s just say that I held to that “obsolete concept still surviving in English-speaking countries.”  Now I don’t know what to believe.

To Luther the Renaissance (no less than Humanism) was a foul compromise between Christianity and paganism.

St. Clement Maria Hofbauer declared about the Reformation: "The revolt from the Church began because the German people could not and cannot but be devout."

So what was the deal with the German Martin Luther (continuing from this book)?

Thus the real year of the Reformation is not 1517, but 1511, when Martin Luther, the Augustinian friar on his mission in Rome, for the first time in his life was face to face with the Renaissance.

The moral situation in Germany, according to EvKL, was no better.  Apparently instead of finding hope in Rome, he left with despair…and a hammer…and a nail.

Returning to the current book:

Because the Reformation was a reaction against Humanism and the Renaissance, we should not be surprised that the Middle Ages in a certain sense continued in the Reformed world.

Corresponding to my view that while 1517 is an easy milestone to identify, the struggle of Christendom and the ultimate loss of decentralized and competing power structures occurred due to events dating from both before and after this time – culture and tradition and governance did not change overnight in all places, in the same way, at the same time.

Various sects, approaching various degrees of what we would describe as communistic, came forward at this time, led by men such as Thomas Münster, the former monk Pfeifer, Jan van Leyden.  The Anabaptists: giving up all property, open sex, expectation of an imminent Judgement Day.  Yet this leftism was not permanent:

The collapse of Anabaptism in northeastern Germany under the joint blows of the Catholics and the Lutherans terminated in the great leftist wave on the Continent for well over 200 years.


With the downfall of the first Stuart monarchy and the execution of Charles I (a truly world-shaking event), a new outbreak of populism emerged from the lower social layers and even endangered Cromwell's regime.

England in the seventeenth century provided a breeding ground for leftist thought; certain of these thoughts made their way to the colonies and thereafter to the United States. 

Up till the War of Independence, however, they were hardly articulate. Still, it would be a great mistake to think that there was any specifically leftist or "progressivist" element in New England Puritanism.


Paul Kecskemeti said rightly: “…the basic idea upon which the Puritan political system was founded was that Church members alone could have political rights. This ensured that the Puritan commonwealth could be nothing but an oligarchy. As wealth was one of the criteria (though by no means the only one) on the basis of which it was determined whether one belonged to the 'elect,' the commonwealth was necessarily controlled by the wealthy.”

Which, of course, says something about the objectives of the founding fathers of the revolution, I am afraid.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Finding Freedom in an Unfree World

…compared with the statist, pillaging, slave-based and tax-burdened nightmare that was fifth-century Rome, ‘the world of the so-called barbarians was free and enlightened,’ with superior economic and personal freedoms.

Casey offers an examination of the European Middle Ages.  To summarize my view of this period: the European Middle Ages – at least for those regions influenced by the combination of the Germanic and the Christian – offered the most libertarian law and decentralized society that I have found in history.

There is much in Casey’s treatment of this period that will be familiar to those of you who have been here awhile. 

The Unfree World

Casey offers that the empire did not fall because of unstoppable barbarian hordes (“The numbers of barbarians were always small”); it fell due to its internal corruption and contradictions, it fell because its citizens emigrated to the freer barbarian lands.

The late Roman Empire was, according to Lucien Musset, a ‘totalitarian state, which was almost constantly in a state of siege, using savage means in its attempt to ensure the survival of a limited ruling class made up of learned senators and uncouth military officers.’  It was, he says, ‘A regime of appalling social inequality, a political organization which for the previous two centuries had been based on constraint and suspicion, biased courts and laws of an absurd and ever-increasing savagery….’

Next time you need a quick reference to the similarities of the fall of Rome and the fall of the current global hegemon (well, except for the “learned senators” part), come back here.

The Rise of Freedom

Until the rise of Islam, Western Civilization continued centered in the Mediterranean; with Islam in the south, the Vikings in the north, and the Magyars and Slavs to the east, the center of Western Civilization moved to the center of the continent, and land came to be the source of political power and wealth. 

What followed was a civilization built on Roman, Germanic, and Christian traditions.  The “barbarians” were indispensable to creating and developing this “Western aristocratic-libertarian spirit.”  What held these decentralized societies together – ultimately uniting them all – was the acceptance of Christianity and the authority of the Church.

The secular and the spiritual.  It is in the dynamic relationship of the two where the defining elements of the liberty of the time would be formed.  According to Carlyle, “The king is subject to the bishop in spiritual matters, the bishop to the king in temporal matters.”  The working out of and working through this relationship (with regular conflict, tension, and testing of bounds) was to be a constant theme for one-thousand years.

This duality of centres of authority, of allegiance, is central to any understanding of Western thought.  Neither the spiritual power nor the secular power could command the total allegiance of any person and the space created by the tension between the two authorities was the breeding ground for liberty.

St. Paul offered in Romans that the law was written in men’s hearts.  Was this idea taken from the Jews or the Greeks?  Casey responds: “Who can say?”  In any case, it was through the Church that this “natural law” was integrated into the custom of the time.

St. Hilary goes so far as to give an idea of the content of this law.  It includes forbidding a man to injure his fellows, to take from them what is theirs, and to engage in fraud.  All these are actions that a libertarian would recognise as falling under the zero-aggression principle.

The individual was found during this time – not later than the twelfth century; it did not take the Renaissance to discover the value of the individual.  But it was an individual grounded in a culture and tradition through which he could work out his freedom.

Corporations were formed, not via permission from any “state,” but voluntarily and privately formed organizations – formed to advance a common goal, any common goal.  Such corporations could place requirements for membership and enforce rules on its members.

Casey examines four medieval institutions: two concrete, and two somewhat abstract: the University, the City, feudalism, and Law and Kingship.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Living Right

As long as you're living right, then you don't have to worry about what people see.

-          Clay Aiken

Leftism: From de Sade and Marx to Hitler and Marcuse, by Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn (EvKL)

This chapter is entitled “Right and Left.”  EvKL begins by describing the numerous and various meanings of these terms within the context of relationships and politics.  To give some idea:

Right and left have been used in Western civilization from times immemorial with certain meanings; right (German: rechts) had a positive, left a negative connotation. In all European languages (including the Slavic idioms and Hungarian) right is connected with "right" (ius), rightly, rightful, in German gerecht (just), the Russian pravo (law), pravda (truth), whereas in French gauche also means "awkward, clumsy," (in Bulgar: levitsharstvo). The Italian sinistro can mean left, unfortunate, or calamitous. The English sinister can mean left or dark. The Hungarian word for "right" is jobb which also means "better," while bal (left) is used in composite nouns in a negative sense: balsors is misfortune.

On The Day of Judgment, the righteous are to be on the right, and the punished on the left; Christ, of course, sits on the right.  Seating in various parliaments is a bit all over the place, with the most confusing example being that of placing the National Socialists on the right – however, I guess, if you were the National Socialist in charge, rechts would be correct!

Given these various uses and definitions, one can understand the clarifying definition offered by EvKL:

Let us then agree that right is what is truly right for man, above all his freedom.

Which, I guess, would make “left” kind of the opposite.  Look, if you don’t like it take it up with pretty much every European language; leave me out of it.

So, what is “right” for man?  Man – each one a unique individual – needs room; room to grow, room to be left alone, room to think, room to thrive.  Much of political reality over the course of a few centuries has been to crush this:

…all the great dynamic isms of the last 200 years have been mass movements attacking – even when they had the word "freedom" on their lips – the liberty, the independence of the person.

Many were the ideals that gave fuel to the various “isms”; yet, what they had in common were gifted intellectuals who were successful at mobilizing the masses thirst for revenge.

The right has to be identified with personal freedom, with the absence of utopian visions whose realization – even if it were possible – would need tremendous collective efforts; it stands for free, organically grown forms of life. And this in turn implies a respect for tradition.

Why? Why must the desire for personal freedom require a respect for tradition?  And if this is true, what does this suggest about an “ism” that has as its objective “personal freedom,” the “ism” known as “libertarianism”? 

The right is truly progressive, whereas there is no real advance in utopianism which almost always demands – as in the Internationale – to "make a clean sweep" of the past…. If we return to point zero, we are again at the bottom of the ladder, we have to start from scratch again.

The utopian starts anew, whereas the right works on “progress” – building on what has come before: what worked, what didn’t work as it relates to the health of man and society.  To see further than those who came before us, it probably makes sense to stand on their shoulders.  This is the respect for tradition.

While the leftist dreams of restoring some mythical golden age, the rightest looks to the past to find what is eternally true, and build on this:

The true rightist is not a man who wants to go back to this or that institution for the sake of a return; he wants first to find out what is eternally true, eternally valid, and then either to restore or reinstall it, regardless of whether it seems obsolete, whether it is ancient, contemporary, or even without precedent, brand new, "ultramodern."

The right recognizes the uniqueness in each individual; the left dreams of uniformity.  Politically…

… [t]he leftists believe in strong centralization. The rightists are "federalists" (in the European sense), "states' righters" since they believe in local rights and privileges, they stand for the principle of subsidiarity.

The left cannot stand for competing authority or allegiance:

Leftism does not like religion for a variety of causes. Its ideologies, its omnipotent, all-permeating state wants undivided allegiance. With religion at least one other allegiance (to God), if not also allegiance to a Church, is interposed.

EvKL examines many of the leftist and rightist entities and parties in Europe, offering the exceptions to his generalizations:

One could continue this list ad nauseam. Naturally, we must add that in the practical order of things there are exceptions to the rule because leftism is a disease that does not necessarily spread as a coherent, systematic ideology. Here and there an isolated manifestation can appear in the "opposite camp."

It seems to me also to be the case that leftists are pretty good about taking their victories where they can get them; not being bound to any underlying ethic, they find compromise much easier than do those on the right – those who live with an underlying principle.

As to the right, he offers:

All conservative movements in Europe are federalistic and opposed to centralization. Thus we encounter in Catalonia, for instance, a desire for autonomy and the cultivation of the Catalan language among the supporters of the extreme right as well as the left.


If we then identify, in a rough way, the right with freedom, personality, and variety, and the left with slavery, collectivism, and uniformity, we are employing semantics that make sense.

You do not have to agree with his descriptions; but to avoid confusion in the mangled and varied common uses of the terms “left” and “right,” EvKL has provided his definitions.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Leftism: A Perfect Track Record of Failure

Leftism: From de Sade and Marx to Hitler and Marcuse, by Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn (EvKL)

The purpose of this book is to show the character of leftism and to what extent and in what way the vast majority of the leftist ideologies now dominating or threatening most of the modern world are competitors rather than enemies.

This book, published in 1974 by Arlington House Publishers, examines all facets of leftist political ideology, as you can tell from the title.  Hitler a leftist?  Yup. 

EvKL examines leftism throughout Europe and North America; having travelled and taught extensively – and with an understanding of over a dozen languages – he seems eminently qualified to opine on the matter.

Given his background, he can make – with some authority – statements such as:

I think that the nascent United States of the late eighteenth century was already in the throes of warring political philosophies showing positive and negative aspects…. The American War of Independence had an undeniable influence on the French Revolution and the latter, in the course of the years, had a deplorable impact on America.

These two revolutions were not born of right and left; instead the two – one supposedly leading to liberty and the other certainly leading to tyranny – were born of, and developed into, common, albeit not identical, cloth.

EvKL does the reader a service by exposes his biases right up front:

I am a Christian: I am emphatically not a democrat but a devotee to the cause of personal liberty.  I would thoroughly subscribe to the words of Alexis de Tocqueville when he wrote, "Despotism appears to me particularly to be dreaded in democratic ages. I think that I would have loved liberty at all times, but in the present age I am ready to worship it."

I don’t know that this would make him a “libertarian” in the thin NAP sense of the term, but there you have it.  EvKL sees in the unwarranted connection of democracy with liberty the manifestation of the evils to be found in the twentieth century, not to exclude the evils perpetrated by the greatest of all democratic societies: the United States.

We have to remember all the wars, all the propaganda, all the pressure campaigns for the cause of democracy, how every hailed and applauded victory of democracy has ended in terrible defeat for personal liberty, the one cause really dear to American hearts.

This connection and subsequent destruction has continued even to the present day; see Iraq as just one example of many.

The French Revolution; Kerensky’s government in Russia; the Weimar Republic.  The list is endless, and continued long past the time of the publishing of this book.  All initially hailed as victories to the Progressivist cause; all resulting in “grievous disappointments”:

…dictatorships, civil wars, crowded jails, confiscated newspapers, gallows and firing squads, one-party tyrannies, sequestrations, nationalizations, "social engineering."

These failures are not just visible in hindsight; de Tocqueville and many others saw such failures coming in advance – not just the elimination of “liberty and decency,” but also “the democratic evolution towards nonviolent slavery….”

One should not be surprised about this, because the roots of the evil are historically-genetically the same all over the Western World. The fatal year is 1789, and the symbol of iniquity is the Jacobin Cap.

The denial of personality and liberty; all forms of leftism from Marxism to National Socialism:

The issue is between man created in the image of God and the termite in a human guise. It is in defense of man and in opposition to the false teachings which want to lower man to the status of an insect that this book has been written.

Given my oft-stated (and controversial if not ridiculed) view of the kissing-cousin relationship of classical liberalism / libertarianism to communism, this book and some specific chapters will prove, I hope, of invaluable service in clarifying my thoughts and / or disabusing me of certain blasphemous notions.  For example, chapters such as:

·         Right and Left
·         The Historic Origins of Leftism
·         Real Liberalism
·         False Liberalism


Of specific interest to me will be the issue of culture and tradition.  In this, I find a clear element of connection between many libertarians and communists, say a connection between many libertarians and Marcuse – a connection based on the use (or abuse) of the idea of the individual.

While the ends are no doubt different for libertarians such as these (at least for the honest thinkers) and the communists, the means are rather similar.  So, if EvKL can do something to either reinforce my views or disabuse me of same, this will be a worthwhile read.

After all, I am about to invest in a 650 page book.

Friday, August 17, 2018

The Last Gasp of a Dying Man

"Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners."

-          The Godfather: Part II

The New York Times is out with an interesting pleading: A Free Press Needs You. 

Answering a call last week from The Boston Globe, The Times is joining hundreds of newspapers, from large metro-area dailies to small local weeklies, to remind readers of the value of America’s free press.

I don’t know.  I don’t think you ever have to remind someone of your value if you are actually providing value.  So, why is this necessary, you wonder?  Let me help: five letters, starts with a “T” and ends with a “p.”  “Can I buy a vowel?  How about a “u”?

In 2018, some of the most damaging attacks are coming from government officials.

Solve the riddle yet?

Criticizing the news media — for underplaying or overplaying stories, for getting something wrong — is entirely right.

Listen, nobody’s perfect.  Why does Trump give the press such a hard time?

News reporters and editors are human, and make mistakes. Correcting them is core to our job.

This is where I would insert the countless corrections that editors have offered on the top 20 stories of the last 50 years.  Like I said, I would insert these…if they existed.

You are the last gasp of a dying age. You breathe the stale air of false hope. How little you understand!

-          Mankar Camoran

But insisting that truths you don’t like are “fake news” is dangerous to the lifeblood of democracy. And calling journalists the “enemy of the people” is dangerous, period.

Enemy of the people?  Iraq is enough to be found guilty; September 11 is enough to be found guilty; Russiagate is enough to be found guilty; JFK is enough to be found guilty; the Clinton Foundation is enough to be found guilty (well, pretty much anything with the word “Clinton” is enough to be found guilty).

“Fight till the last gasp.”

Enough of that, on to the hundreds of editorials announcing this day of the press, aka the last gasp of a dying man.  I did not and will not read all of the editorials; the Times has offered snippets of several dozens of these editorials on the home screen.  Let’s take a little road trip; how many times does each of the following appear?

o   Trump: 12

o   President: 12 (not double-counting with “Trump”)


All Trump, all the time.  How about the following?


o   Assange: 0

o   Jones: 0


Not so worried about freedom of the press, it seems.  Instead, we read of the heroic local “true news” about the cat saved from the tree, the school district budget, the man needing a kidney transplant, the local high school football game, etc. 

There are many calls for free speech.  Have you read anything from the Times about supporting free speech on climate change or September 11 or Alex Jones or Julian Assange?  Any examples of treating anti-white male vitriol with the same contempt that the press treats…oh, I don’t know…anti-green spotted dillweed vitriol?

One editorial comment is especially delightful:

“Trump is inflicting massive, and perhaps irreparable, damage to democracy with these attacks.”

o   The St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Let’s hope so.


One only dies once, and if one does not die well, a good opportunity is lost and will not present itself again.

-          Jose Rizal

 Have some dignity; die well.  And do the rest of us a favor: die soon.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

The Fatherland of Philosophy

History is the fatherland of philosophy.

-          Diodorus Siculus

Liberty or Equality: The Challenge of Our Time, by Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn (EvKL)

EvKL offers that in every analysis of political phenomena, “we should always remain firmly grounded on philosophical soil, yet never lose sight of the historical realities – in the widest sense of the term.”

Citing Don Luigi Sturzo:

Philosophy and history will always remain two branches of one knowledge and speculation of man. If their convergence and reciprocal influence ceases, philosophy becomes sterile tautology and history an incoherent succession of meaningless facts.

I am reminded of Murray Rothbard, who offered:

The common separation between theory and practice is an artificial and fallacious one. But this is true in ethics as well as anything else. If an ethical ideal is inherently “impractical,” that is, if it cannot work in practice, then it is a poor ideal and should be discarded forthwith.

How are we to determine if an ethical ideal is “impractical”?  How would we determine what might be considered “practical”?  Clearly an understanding of human nature is necessary, and it seems to me that a good place to start understanding human nature is to examine man’s history.

In this, as you know, I have struggled through the political philosophy of Classical Liberalism and that of one of its offspring, Libertarianism.  Both ideas are quite impractical – if not dangerous – absent an understanding of, appreciation for, and grounding in the history that brought forth these liberalizing (in the best sense of the term) philosophies.

So, count me in with Diodorus, Sturzo, EvKL, and Rothbard on this one.

Liberty and Religion

We are convinced that religion—or, to be more precise, the character of a culture's religious basis—is the most important element in determining the affinities between nations and political forms. The success of specific political forms depends on the closeness and harmony of such affinities.

This is a very strong statement by EvKL, and, perhaps, not so different than statements that I have made in the past.  EvKL offers other factors that influence political forms: a collective historical experience, the geographic environment (as it affects a people’s psychology), economic realities.  Well lower on the list, EvKL would place “race.”  For those that he places higher (and to include “religion” as the highest), how could these be described other than with terms such as culture and tradition?  Where is culture and tradition to be found other than via an understanding of a people’s history?

Those who advocate that libertarianism is for all, universal, perhaps it is worth considering: religion, historical experience, a people’s psychology as impacted by geography: these are not universal.  So why is it rational to believe that a political philosophy could be applicable universally?

Christianity and Equality

Christianity was by no means egalitarian, but merely established new values and new (physical as well as metaphysical) hierarchies.

Christian equality regards the equality of human souls at the beginning of their existence.  Beyond this?  To suggest that Judas Iscariot at the end of the noose and John the Apostle in his last days on Patmos are somehow spiritually equal runs contrary to any possible human understanding of the words “spiritual” and “equal.”

If we focus our attention upon the biological, characteriological, intellectual and physical status of the individual, the inequalities are even more apparent.

Egalitarianism is, therefore, a hypocrisy (Rothbard does invaluable work in devastating this idea of egalitarianism).  Returning to EvKL: if egalitarianism is accepted and acted upon, its menace is greater:

Then all actual inequalities appear without exception to be unjust, immoral, intolerable.

Keep in mind, this book was published in 1952.

The situation is even worse when brutal efforts are made to establish equality through a process of artificial levelling ("social engineering") which can only be done by force, restrictions, or terror, and the outcome is a complete loss of liberty.

He had the French Revolution to look back on; he also had the future catastrophe of the West in his sights.

Democracy and Liberalism

Democracy, let us repeat, is concerned with the question of who should be vested with ruling power; while liberalism deals with the freedom of the individual, regardless of who carries on the government.

While democracy is the perfect form of government for the “all men are equal” crowd, it really has nothing to do with – and, in fact, almost always runs contrary to – the idea of freedom of the individual.  Does the average man even aspire to liberty?  Those on top certainly do not; those on the bottom may or may not but find no way out of their situation.  Those in the middle are left with resources barely sufficient to struggle through the day, with no energy or time for high-minded ideas like “liberty.”

It should be self-evident that the principle of majority rule is a decisive step in the direction of totalitarianism…. Psychologically, rule stemming from a person considered superior is less oppressive than coercion exercised by equals—not to mention that exercised by those felt to be inferior.)

This is so obvious, an example almost seems a waste of words: merely consider something as simple as work relationships.  It is easy to follow the “rule” of a real leader – often having nothing to do with a formal organization chart; it is a struggle to follow the lead of an incompetent, who happens to hold a title higher than yours.

Direct democracy is feasible in small units, and it still survives in New England town meetings and in certain Swiss cantons.

Contrasted with mass democracy – criticized (then) recently by Pope Pius XII and even Rousseau.  Yet technology has offered ever-increasing possibilities for mass-democracy.

…we have to ask ourselves whether a good (provided it really is a good) can become an evil if it exists in an unadulterated form. Moral philosophy and moral theology, unlike chemistry, admit of no alloys….Valid ethics have to be at least “theoretically practicable."

Again, as offered by Rothbard.

Christianity and Government

From a Christian point of view, the form of government must be judged based on its ethical content.  Yet, EvKL offers:

…the ranks of the philosophic defenders of democracy have been strengthened by moral theologians, not only of the Protestant persuasion, but even of the Catholic Church.

I have offered that there is no possibility to move toward liberty or a libertarian society absent Christian leaders taking up their proper role; in the West, this certainly means denouncing almost everything about the Progressivist agenda (i.e. denouncing almost every action – military, social, foreign policy, and otherwise – taken by Western governments; rightly criticizing the social justice agenda).