Friday, September 30, 2022

News of the World

A Misesian for a Statesman

From Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks at the General Debate of the 77th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, New York, September 24, 2022:

The West is now in a temper tantrum over the referendums in Ukraine’s Lugansk, Donetsk, Kherson, and Zaporozhye regions. However, people there are simply reacting to the advice from the head of the Kiev regime, Vladimir Zelensky. In one of his interviews in August 2021, he advised all those who consider themselves Russians to leave for Russia for the benefit of their children and grandchildren.

This is what people living in the regions I have mentioned are doing, taking the land where their ancestors had lived for centuries with them. (Emphasis added)

I really appreciate the way Lavrov put this.  The land under the people belongs to the people, not to the state that governs the people.

It is a great statement, at least in this case.  Unfortunately, neither Lavrov nor Russia feel the same about, for example, Armenians in Nagorno Karabagh – a situation where Russia can have similar influence if it chooses to do so.  But let’s take what we can get.

From Ludwig von Mises, The Right of Self-Determination:

It must always be possible to shift the boundaries of the state if the will of the inhabitants of an area to attach themselves to a state other than the one to which they presently belong has made itself clearly known.

The right of self-determination in regard to the question of membership in a state thus means: whenever the inhabitants of a particular territory, whether it be a single village, a whole district, or a series of adjacent districts, make it known, by a freely conducted plebiscite, that they no longer wish to remain united to the state to which they belong at the time, but wish either to form an independent state or to attach themselves to some other state, their wishes are to be respected and complied with.

It is the only path to peace in many of the current conflicts faced throughout the world today.

The Degeneration of Beauty

Beauty is vanishing from our world because we live as though it did not matter.

-          Roger Scruton

I was visiting in a university town, noticing that the university orchestra would be performing during my stay.  Now, even though this was your typical university – where truth, objective values, open dialogue, etc., are, at best, irrelevant if not treated with disdain – I thought, “how could they mess up the orchestra?”

Ha!  The opening song was unique, but at least it was recognizable as music.  I say unique because it was very much in the form of progressive music.  Given my fandom of progressive bands like Dream Theater and Rush, I was able to appreciate it: time signature changes, varied chord patterns, etc. 

But now, time for some Mozart or Beethoven…or not.

For the next hour, the most discordant music I had ever heard.  It was as if each section – violins, trombones, cellos, drums – was playing a different song in a different time signature in a different key.  Well played, to be sure, but ugly.

I thought to myself: God didn’t need to give us the Bible.  He could merely have offered Bach on the one hand and this monstrosity on the other – Bach to be heard in heaven and this monstrosity in hell.  The straight and narrow path would have more joining in than coming out of all of the Billy Graham meetings combined.  Really, I thought that this could be the music played in hell – and it would be worse than burning in fire.

It is an ancient view that truth, goodness, and beauty cannot, in the end, conflict. Maybe the degeneration of beauty into kitsch comes precisely from the postmodern loss of truthfulness, and with it the loss of moral direction.

-          Roger Scruton

The loss of truth – the hallmark of the modern university – must result in the loss of beauty.  I wish I understood this before sitting in hell for an hour.

Better Than the Alternative

Then there is the other side.  A proposed new university, The University of Austin.  Compared to much of western academia, potentially a breath of fresh air.  Niall Ferguson, Heather Heying, and Bari Weiss are founding trustees.  The board of advisors includes Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Glenn Loury, and Jonathan Haidt, (among a few crazies…but I will come to this).  Peter Boghossian is a faculty fellow.  In other words, many who have been cancelled by “respectable” academia.

What do they have to say of themselves:

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Salvaging (Classical) Liberalism

Look…I know I have done more than my share of bashing liberalism, primarily along the lines of the idea that it views religion – specifically Christianity – as irrelevant to liberty or even an enemy of liberty.  We see today the inevitable end result of such thinking.  Liberty without God leads to hell – the hell of all of the isms of the last century and the abolition of man in this century.

The problem is most defenders of classical liberalism do such a rotten job of defending it.  Various forms of… “we just didn’t try hard enough”, or “look at the material progress,” or “modern dentistry.”  None of these get the classical liberal juices flowing again.  To say nothing of those who say that we haven’t done enough to get rid of religion yet.  Who are they kidding?

I will help them out.  Actually, Ludwig von Mises will help them out.  Do you want to salvage classical liberalism, and attempt to do so without God and without Christianity as it developed in the West?  Try this:

It has already been pointed out that a country can enjoy domestic peace only when a democratic constitution provides the guarantee that the adjustment of the government to the will of the citizens can take place without friction.

Now, don’t get all tangled up in your shorts about this “will of the citizens” stuff.  Give Mises a chance to develop his point.

[The liberals of an earlier age] believed…that to assure lasting peace it was sufficient to replace the rule of dynastic princes by governments dependent on the people.

Not enough.  It has only grown worse, and Hans Hoppe has ably explained why.

It must always be possible to shift the boundaries of the state if the will of the inhabitants of an area to attach themselves to a state other than the one to which they presently belong has made itself clearly known.

Malleable boundaries.  It isn’t the lines on the map that are important; it is the desire of those who live within any of these boundaries that matters:

The right of self-determination in regard to the question of membership in a state thus means: whenever the inhabitants of a particular territory, whether it be a single village, a whole district, or a series of adjacent districts, make it known, by a freely conducted plebiscite, that they no longer wish to remain united to the state to which they belong at the time, but wish either to form an independent state or to attach themselves to some other state, their wishes are to be respected and complied with.

In this you will see why many classical liberals and many libertarians don’t like this idea.  They see liberalism as the highest political form devised.  They see their project as a universalizing one.  So, why allow any group of people to escape?  Those who wish to escape don’t know what’s good for them – they are, after all, deplorable.

Mises will get even more granular:

If it were in any way possible to grant this right of self-determination to every individual person, it would have to be done.

He sees the stumbling block a technical one.  Precisely why is not clearly explained (or I may just not understand the explanation).  But I think it is something more than, or other than, technical.  People want to live in community with like-minded people.  I suspect very few people would choose a political unit comprised solely of themselves.

This is the only feasible and effective way of preventing revolutions and civil and international wars.

Crimea, the Donbass, Taiwan, Nagorno Karabagh, the State of Jefferson.  Problems peacefully solved if such rights were respected.

I haven’t heard Jordan Peterson offer this solution.  I haven’t heard Steven Pinker offer this solution.  As for Sam Harris?

“At that point Hunter Biden literally could have had the corpses of children in his basement, I would not have cared.”

Better murdered children than consider to allow a plebiscite, dissolution, and reorganization.  Based on the actions of today’s liberals, Harris does not stand alone.


The solution offered by Mises may not be perfect, but it is infinitely better than the current state of affairs.  It is also infinitely better than any of the impotent and even immoral pleadings of today’s classical liberal apologists.

And it is the only way to salvage the liberal experiment.

Monday, September 26, 2022

Progressivism: the god That Failed

Romanticism failed to restore the world’s link to heaven.

The Age of Utopia: Christendom from the Renaissance to the Russian Revolution, by John Strickland

Progress.  If there was one goal most served by secular humanism it was progress.  Yet this was nothing really new.  Progress could trace its lineage back to Reformational Christianity, which could trace its lineage to traditional Christianity’s transformational imperative.  In other words, there was a line extending to the origins of Christendom itself. 

Unfortunately, much of what was beneficial to progress was stripped away during the intervening centuries.  As has been noted by Tom Holland (the author, not Spiderman) and others, we are living through a Christian civil war.  And this summary by Strickland seems to support just such a notion.

For example, you have all seen the sign:

In this house, we believe:

Black Lives Matter

Women’s rights are human rights

No human is illegal

Science is real

Love is love

Kindness is everything

A Christian can agree with all of these (except the last one).  But, as you all understand, there is a giant size divide as to how different Christians (and non-Christians who are, whether they want to admit it or not, swimming in the remnants of a Christian culture) come to understand these.  And, therefore, one side can see the other side as betraying Christ’s teaching.  In other words, a Christian civil war.

Of course, the only way to sort this out is to accept that there are objective truths and values…or to not accept this.  This acceptance or rejection will identify on which side one is fighting in this Christian civil war.

And it is a Christian civil war.  These issues were not issues in ancient Rome or Greece.  These are not issues in many parts of the world that have not been greatly influenced by Christian teaching and culture.

Returning to Strickland, the issue is that this progressive salvation of man must be attained not via some outside agency, but by man himself – by successive improvements over the generations of man.

Hegel saw history unfolding in a linear direction, producing ever higher and more advanced states of civilization.  August Comte, enthralled by science, saw “positive science” and rationalism as triumphant; reason was absolute.  From Aquinas to Kant, metaphysics was used to try and explain the world.  No more.  Now it was to be science – and there would be nothing greater after this.  Positivism.  Progress was inevitable. 

And on this stage walked John Stuart Mill.  A child prodigy, “as close to pure intellect as any human being has ever seen”: at three, he began to learn Greek; at eight, it was Latin.  As a youth he would master philosophy, algebra, political economy, logic, and biology.  As a pre-teen, he would study scholasticism.  In his free time, while other children played cricket, he would read of scientific experiments.

Thursday, September 22, 2022

A Shallow Conservatism

A Conservative Manifesto: Jordan Peterson’s Vision for Conservatives: Part 1

In this video, Peterson discusses what he sees as a positive message for conservatives, a message that can reach a wide audience.  As he sometimes does, this video is of him reading a text – a practice he uses when he wants to be careful about his words.  As Peterson has often said, he tries to be very careful about the words he uses.

Further, it is a text that he has asked some others to comment on.  In other words, what he says here are well-chosen and considered thoughts, vetted by trusted friends.  Nothing should be considered off-the-cuff.

Peterson describes this as a manifesto for the center-right and classical liberal front.  These are considered by him to be foundational principles.  I would start by challenging the idea that center-right and classical liberalism go together.

This is not to say that classical liberalism isn’t conservative.  Compared to the mess we live in today it is quite conservative.  Even one hundred-twenty-five years ago it would have been seen as conservative.  But at its birth – coming out of Enlightenment thinking – it was seen as anything but conservative.

Which comes to a very fundamental question: what is it we want to conserve?  There is some quote out these that goes something like: liberals drive change and conservatives consolidate their gains.  So, what, exactly, is to be conserved?  Peterson sees it as classical liberalism.  Unfortunately, this is a foundation built on sand.  But I am getting ahead of myself.

Peterson begins:

A profound crisis of meaning currently afflicts, destabilizes and demoralizes the sovereign citizens of the West and the social institutions on which they depend.

I will come later to his repeated use of some version of the term “sovereign citizens.”  In the meantime, Peterson is speaking of the meaning crisis and the ignorance we have regarding the source of the principles that give life meaning.  He speaks of holding to a courageous faith in the traditional values of our past – the “eternal verities.”

What are these traditional values and eternal verities, which, as he says, are “crying out for rediscovery”?  He offers what he admits is an “inevitably incomplete list”:

Humility, liberty, autonomy, truth, agency, identity, merit, responsibility, tradition, community, stewardship, justice, and unity.

He then expands on each item from the list.  While he recognizes that these are traditional values and eternal verities, since he is focused on the sovereign citizen, he is grounding these on a foundation unknown until the Enlightenment. 

John Locke wrote in his Two Treatises on Government that "every man has a Property in his own Person". Libertarian philosopher Robert Nozick interprets Locke as saying that the individual "has a right to decide what would become of himself and what he would do, and as having a right to reap the benefits of what he did.”  

Josiah Warren was the first who wrote about the "sovereignty of the individual".

In such a case, why would any individual act with or in accord with several items on Peterson’s list: humility, truth, responsibility, tradition, justice, and unity?  What would compel him to do so?

Much of Peterson’s list was considered virtuous several centuries before there was any notion of the classical liberalism that came out of the Enlightenment.  It was grounded in a tradition that the Enlightened classical liberal tossed aside as irrelevant – or even harmful.  Most importantly, he does not identify the one single virtue that gives reason or cause to pursue any of the other virtues or characteristics he identifies.

In other words, he says nothing about Christianity and nothing about love as man’s highest purpose.  Sure, he says “do something meaningful.”  But Marx did something meaningful; Stalin did something meaningful; Hitler did something meaningful.  And much of what they did they considered as offering liberty, truth, identity, merit, tradition, justice, and unity (no, not in every case, but in different degrees for each of them).

They could believe this because they didn’t have Christianity and they didn’t have love – properly tempered by discipline and truth – as man’s highest purpose.

Further, Peterson uses some version of the term “sovereign individual” and “sovereign citizenship” many times.  In fact, if there is one concept that undergirds all of his points and supports his arguments, it is this idea of the sovereign individual.  At the same time, he outlines specific objectives or values for this “sovereign citizen.”  This is very problematic and even contradictory. 

First, some definitions:

Sovereign: a person who has supreme power or authority; having supreme rank, power, or authority.

There is no way we are all sovereign, although leftists want to make us believe we are.

Judges 21: 25 In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.

Isn’t this the world we live in today?  We live in a West where anything peaceful is allowed, and even many things violent are acceptable and even desired.  We are sovereign in our ability to identify as anything we choose; we are sovereign in relation to unborn human beings; we are sovereign in creating our own truths; we are sovereign in inventing our own values.

Peterson can’t mean this: we are free to do whatever is right in our own eyes.  He can’t mean this because he is offering a list of things we should do, values we should hold, virtues we should stride toward.  Yet, he uses the word “sovereign.”  So, to keep looking….

Next I looked for something on “sovereign citizenship.”  The first items in the search were to sites like the Southern Poverty Law Center, Anti-defamation League and the like.  Sovereign citizens do not accept government authority, they are extremists, right-wing anarchists, etc.

Tuesday, September 20, 2022



November 5, 2022: President Biden signed an executive order regarding the upcoming elections on November 8: anyone who questions the results will be immediately cutoff from all financial accounts, and will be subject to prosecution as a terrorist.


November 9, 2022: In a stunning rebuke to the MAGA terrorists and Christian nationalists, Democrats picked up six seats in the Senate and fifteen seats in the House of Representatives.  In a result not seen since the 1830s, voter turnout was actually higher in this mid-term election than in the prior presidential election – which was, as you know, already the highest turnout ever recorded in history, electing the most popular president in history.

The results were unprecedented, stunning even the most seasoned pundits.  In a year when inflation is soaring and supply chains are in shambles, the incumbent party gained ground.  This in contrast to the election in 2020, when, despite a robust economy and low inflation, the incumbent president was swept away in a landslide by the most popular president ever.

As for gubernatorial races, the results were even more stunning.  While democrat incumbents retained their positions in every race, other than Arkansas, Idaho, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Wyoming, all republican governors lost their seats. 

Even Ron DeSantis was swept out of office, in a repudiation of his hate-filled, bigoted, misogynistic and xenophobic white nationalist covid policies, thus putting an end to any hope of running for president in 2024.


January 3, 2023: On their first day in session, the new congress passed several landmark pieces of legislation:

1)      The Supreme Court will be increased in number from nine justices to fifteen

2)      All firearms with a caliber 9 mm or greater will have to be re-registered, with the firearm stored by law enforcement until such time that the owner is interviewed by federal law enforcement personnel.

3)      Church attendance requires registration on a national database – an effort supported by all but the most radical and hate-filled, bigoted, misogynistic and xenophobic white nationalist church leaders

4)      The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Transportation Safety Administration will both be reorganized under the Department of Defense – which will then be reorganized under the Central Intelligence Agency

5)      The Internal Revenue Service, with its 70,000 newly hired and fully armed agents, will be reorganized under the Federal Bureau of Investigations

6)      Customs and Border Patrol will have the responsibility to monitor all travel into and out of the aforementioned states of Arkansas, Idaho, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Wyoming.  All other state and national borders will be open.

7)      Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico are each granted statehood, with each having to appoint two senators and a representative within 30 days.

8)      Effective January 1, 2024, all new vehicles sold in the United States must be electric powered.

9)      Abortions, up to and including three months after birth, are now legal throughout the country.


January 6, 2023: President Biden, standing in front of a red and black background and surrounded by what we are told are full-sized Minuteman Missile replicas, announced a series of sweeping sanctions against Russia, China, and everyone who voted republican in the preceding November election. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

The Soul Impelled by Gravity

Deism had thrown the spiritual culture of Christendom into confusion.  By severing the world from heaven, it set man on a path very much like the descent from a mountaintop.

The Age of Utopia: Christendom from the Renaissance to the Russian Revolution, by John Strickland

This really is a wonderful image.  Christian or not, “up” is the direction of progress, perfection, improvement, liberty.  “down” is the opposite.  Of course, for Christians, there is an additional idea that comes with “up” and “down”: that would be heaven and hell.  One need not understand these to mean physical places to be explored by spaceships or deep-mining.  It is the imagery that is important, one that we all “understand.”

Further: the descent.  How far down can one walk from the mountaintop while still retaining much that is good from the heights?  Clean air, fresh water, beautiful trees, etc.  How long before one notices that he is surrounded by foul air, stagnant water, and dried and dead shrubs?  In other words, even when falling from the heights one retains the memory of the heights for a time because of the very gradual transition.

As far as the Christian West goes, one can trace this to whatever bogeyman one chooses: 1914 and the start of the Great War, the Enlightenment, 1517 (and the corruption that made such an event inevitable), or – as Strickland posits, 1054 and the Great Schism.

My personal choice is the Enlightenment, and my reason is that it was at this time when man purposefully divorced himself from God.  The prior events still held to God at the center; the later events were merely inevitable consequences of the divorce.  Since the Enlightenment, man’s descent from the mountaintop was certain, and the West has been descending ever since – although for many years even after the beginning of the Enlightenment man held onto the memory of the mountaintop (The Great War is clearly the end of even this memory).

In this chapter of the book, Strickland goes through the thinkers and philosophers we know: Rousseau, Kant, Hegel.  They helped build a world with no transcendent connection to the heavens. 

German idealism restored this connection.  And it did more. By conjuring what Hegel called the World Spirit, it placed the deity in the service of Prometheus.  Modern man was freer than ever to build utopia.

With this came the unleashing of individual genius.  In Christendom, humility underscored men of genius – God as creator and man as co-creator.  Without God…man is creator: reason without God.

Through the celebration of genius, nature, and love, then, the romantics restored a kind of transcendence to Western culture.  But just as the heavens seemed to be opening up to them, the earth began to fall away beneath their feet.

Or…when you try to bring heaven down to earth, you bring hell up with it.  Strickland then reviews the many brilliant artists and thinkers whose lives either ended tragically or who freely offered tragedy to others.  The heavenly gift of genius transformed to producing hell on earth – for themselves and / or for others.


I had one reason to write this post on this chapter.  It wasn’t to cover the artists, philosophers and thinkers of the age – their stories and contributions are well-known.  It was as a set-up to introduce this passage, from Hugues Lamennais, who died in the mid-nineteenth century:

When the faith that once united a man with God and raised him to God’s level begins to fail, something terrible happens.  The soul, impelled by its own gravity, falls incessantly and without end, carrying with it a certain intelligence detached from its principle, and which clutches at all that crosses its path as it falls, now with a sad restlessness, now with a joy resembling the laughter of a madman…

In the shadowy abyss whither he plunges he carries with him his inexorable nature, and from world to world the echoes of the universe repeat the heart-rending pliants of this creature who, having departed from the place that the Almighty organizer in His vast plan has allotted to him, and henceforward incapable of anchoring himself, drifts without rest amidst the whole of creation like a battered vessel tossed hither and thither by the waves on a deserted ocean.

Hence, the meaning crisis.