Basic Conservative Principles, Part 2

[Continued from Part 1.]

Reviewing quickly: these were the nine basic conservative principles we settled on a week ago.

(1) Supervening over — standing above — the world we live in, with all its events and trials, is an enduring moral order that binds us all. This is a central conservative premise, conditioning and shaping all the rest.

(2) We live in a fallen world, because human nature is imperfect and fallen, however we understand this. Hence all fundamentally Utopian projects must fail, as they refuse to acknowledge our fallen state.

(3) Traditions, basic beliefs and practices in culture, e.g., belief in a Providential God — are not validated by abstract reasonings but by having passed the test of time as part of the societal “glue” that binds a people together. Communities are defined by their traditions, shared beliefs, practices, that define the expectations that guide acceptable conduct.  

(4) Some institutions — the family, private property, limitations on government, the rule of law, are nonnegotiable conditions for the long-term stability and well-being of societies especially in the West where they have become explicit principles.

(5) Private passions need to be restrained through proper parenting, education, and acculturation. Otherwise societies are faced with the unpleasant and dangerous choice between authoritarianism and anarchy.

(6) The economic side of controlling passions is to distinguish needs from wants. A conservative believes there is more to a society than its economy — or, indeed, any other single group of institutions or activities.

(7) Freedom of speech and opinion is superior to an orthodoxy or dogma imposed by an official or unofficial priesthood, academic “experts,” political class, or any other elite entity employing censorious or propagandistic mechanisms. If an idea is bad, it will fail in practice and not pass the test of time.

(8) Calls for change are therefore to be heard but treated with a certain amount of suspicion, and the more radical the change, the greater the suspicion. There always is, and should be, an “essential tension” between calls for permanence and calls for change. The burden of argument is on the change agent, not on the skeptic.

(9) Political economy is “downstream” from culture. Culture, being a product of the usually tacit beliefs of its practitioners, is “downstream” from its worldview.

More Basic Conservative Principles: Self-Restraint of Passions.

Since we have discussed (1) through (4), I am setting those aside and will simply assume them from here on out, although we’ll have cause to refer back to them occasionally. Proceeding, in that case, with (5) through (9):

(5) Conservatives believe private passions need to be restrained through proper parenting, education, and acculturation. And while conservatives always prefer smaller government to larger government, they are pragmatic about it. If a behavior needs to be regulated or even contained, and private options are either unavailable or have failed, then conservatives recognize that the job of regulation and/or containment falls to government.

Why can’t we just have laissez-faire about private passions? Because passions are not private, not really. Passions lead to actions, and (y)our actions affect others. Unrestrained passions, by their nature, affect the lives, freedoms, business, property, etc., of others, except maybe for the occasional hermit.

Sometimes restraining one’s passions means tolerating others’ carelessly negligent behavior that ultimately isn’t harmful or threatening. It’s late evening, you want to go to bed, but your neighbor’s dog is barking up a storm in his back yard. What are your options as a conservative in your personal life, not just in politics? You can call up your neighbor, ask him to please bring his dog inside, and trust or at least hope he will honor your request. Trying somehow to force him into compliance would be ill-advised. Not to mention shooting the dog! Either of these options means you haven’t restrained your passions, and the result will be long-term harm — more to you than to your neighbor, since again, a barking dog is an inconvenience, not a life threat.

Sexuality provides a weightier range of examples. Improperly self-regulated, uninhibited sex can lead to unplanned pregnancies and STDs. Everybody knows this, or should. A hedonistic consumer culture such as ours, permeated with sexual innuendo (since “sex sells”) can lead teenagers to want to experiment before they are ready, and this can cause harm. Being taught to restrain one’s sexual passions from the very start might be a good idea!

Conservatives should agree: decoupling sexuality from morality, beginning with Sigmund Freud (1856 – 1939), taking a quantum leap with the “scientific” studies of human sexuality by Alfred C. Kinsey (1894 – 1956) and his team, and then being spread into popular culture by Kinseyites such as Hugh Hefner (1926 – 2017), has been a cultural catastrophe overall.

I will leave to others, or to readers’ imaginations, to ponder the effects of this decoupling on marriage and the divorce rate, on the pro-abortion culture, on sexual abuse / spousal abuse, on feminism broadly conceived and relations between the sexes generally, on the rise of ideologies of “gender,” on nominally illegal practices such as sex trafficking, and so on.

There are plenty of other examples of behaviors a person needs to self-regulate: excessive drinking; use of mind-altering drugs where legal; games such as video poker; more immediate technologies relying on, and encouraging, short attention-spans and the dopamine drip received from screens.

Speaking of which: if you’ve nearly been sideswiped on a major highway by someone driving at high speed paying more attention to their phone than their driving, you may see the problem technology can create in a society built on assertions of, “It’s my [absolute] right, dammit!

All of which is why thoughtful conservatives realize the need to keep our passions on a short leash. And to exercise mindful responsibility.

This is best if built into the sort of education that begins in a stable home.

Within boundaries, passions can be sources of great happiness and joy, as with newlyweds making love during their honeymoon, planning or at least hoping for a baby.

Outside boundaries, passions and negligence of various sorts can upend or destroy lives — as with the phone-obsessed driver who drifts and causes a fatal accident.

Conservatives do not believe in “rights” that are closed, out-of-context absolutes. The fact that rights language needs qualification is a sign of how far we are from anything remotely resembling conservative beliefs and practices. You don’t have a “right” to endanger others on public roadways, and “privatization” of roadways would not create such a “right” any more than property rights would allow you to sacrifice someone on your property. Lives and safety trump property rights, and we can cite this as a general rule even if there might be cases that are not immediately decidable.

Again, trust is key. As a general rule, the more the members of a population can trust that others will behave with restraint and responsibility, the fewer laws and regulations on behavior will be needed. This would be a good thing, because again, those who protest that laws are easily abused, blunt instruments at best, are doubtless correct. The more they become necessary evils, the more the battle for a healthy and prosperous society based on life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is lost.

Needs Versus Wants

(6) A special part of control over one’s passions is to distinguish needs from wants. While there is “wiggle room,” in most cases the distinction is clear.

A need is something you have to have to survive. The obvious examples are breathable air, drinkable water, nutritious food, something in the way of shelter, and perhaps as a condition for psychological health, the company of others.

Life in civilization creates additional “structural needs,” one might call them: education, electricity, telephone service, in some cases health care supplied by others; and gradually since shortly before the turn of the millennium, a reliable connection to the Internet for one’s professional if not always one’s personal life. There are lots of variations on these, of course.

Wants are everything outside this orbit. If you can live without it, or do without it and not suffer debilitating inconvenience, it’s a want, not a need. You can live without television and cable, so those are wants, not needs. You can live without alcoholic beverages, so those are wants. You’ll live if you never have another mouthful of sushi, so that’s a want. Likewise with pizza and all fast foods and processed foods. You can even live without coffee (though that’s pushing it!!).

Most people do not distinguish their wants from their needs consistently. Sound personal financial education would start with this distinction and use examples. Sound money management requires it, so you can track where your money is going and end certain ways of spending it. Sadly, there are good reasons public schools do not teach personal finance. This would imperil the structural “needs” of a mass consumption economy.

Advertising and marketing tend to blur the distinction between needs and wants and create “needs” that weren’t there before. Salespersons they try to persuade, sometimes very skillfully, that you absolutely cannot live without whatever they are selling a moment longer.

You must want something to buy it. If you can be made to believe it’s a need, then you have to buy it! The person who consistently spends wildly on credit lacks self-discipline and ends up with massive consumer debt. Some say this “helps the economy” — 70 percent of our wonderful culture of consumer capitalism, after all, is based on consumer spending.

But does this help the people themselves?

Does it help you?

Do you want to go massively into debt to “help the economy”?

There’s a contradiction here, and one doesn’t have to have an “anticapitalistic mentality” to see it.

Given that huge numbers of consumers do not have even a few hundred dollars set aside for emergency needs, we should have all the evidence we need to question the idea that massive consumer spending is a sign of genuine, overall societal health — regardless of what “economists” say.

A genuine conservative believes there is more to a society than its economy (a point we will elaborate on below), and that mass consumption is overrated. Obtaining more just leads to wanting more, in a cycle that never ends. (Those who don’t care for Christianity might find it worth consulting what Buddhists say about the painfulness of life being caused by uncontrolled cravings.)

Freedom of Speech and Opinion.

(7) Freedom of speech and opinion is superior to an orthodoxy or dogma maintained by an official political class, academic group of “experts,” a priesthood, or any other group employing censorious propagandistic techniques.

Again, as always, there are common horse sense limits: e.g., the chestnut about not shouting “Fire!” in a crowded theater. Restrictions on incitements to violence are reasonable. Again, the common denominator: what physically endangers others should not be done — or said. What destroys property its owners may have huge investments in, should not be done or said, and can legitimately be criminalized.

Here the classical liberalism derived from someone such as John Stuart Mill (1806 – 1873) had the basic idea. Avoid speech — and actions — that knowingly cause harm to others. This has become known as the harm principle, encoded in the health sciences as the Hippocratic Oath: “at first, do no harm.”

Outside that parameter, speech and inquiry should be free, because even if false or wrong or leading nowhere, we can learn from it because we can learn from our mistakes. When inquiry is restricted in favor of a dominant opinion or point of view, that opinion hardens into a rigid dogma that is more, not less, vulnerable to challenge. We learn from critical evaluations from others. If the dominant view is right, we learn why — we’ve hopefully unearthed what supports it. If it is wrong, we learn that as well, and why, and know to look for something else. The workability of such a system, of course, requires restraint of another passion: that of ego and its potential for feeling bruised.

Conservatives should see a constant essential tension between support for a status quo belief and support for something new. That which has been tested and proved its mettle over time is bound to generate “bias” in its favor. That which is new must be proven worthy. The burden of proof is on its advocates, not on skeptics.

We should all be willing to have our ideas tested to ensure they are on the right track. If ours are the right ones, they’ll stand up to a test. We should not try to control the opinions of others. This, as the Stoics said, are among the things outside our control. The wise are those who are restrained enough to agree to disagree, or just walk away if their disagreement falls on deaf ears.

Those who disagree over the basic worldview premises, or conventions, or traditions, a large community has embraced over time should always be free to leave, or organize their own internal private enclaves subject to the above qualifiers, provided they do not interfere with those outside their orbit. Forming internal private enclaves may mean relinquishing some benefits being members of the larger community provides.

The Essential Tension.

(8) Calls for change are therefore to be listened to, and heard, but treated with a certain amount of suspicion; and the more radical the called-for change, the greater the suspicion.

This doesn’t mean a knee-jerk reaction that shuts discussion down. To reiterate: calls for change are to be listened to, and heard. And critically discussed to discern as many likely ramifications as possible — keeping in mind that some consequences of change can’t be seen until it’s too late.

Then change what must be changed. But with caution, and with openness to the need for midcourse corrections. Here the essential tension is between the desire for stasis and calls for change.

Early advocates for ending discrimination against blacks and other racial minorities argued that civil rights legislation would extend Constitutional, economic provisions, and in general the right to live the so-called American Dream, to all Americans. Treat equals equally, all having been created by God. Allow maximal equal opportunity to all.

This made sense on paper, but proved phenomenally hard to implement! It was not clear what equal opportunity meant in practice, or that equal opportunity was what all blacks wanted (think of Malcolm X’s criticisms of blacks wanting equal access to the white man’s world). Nor was it clear that such practices as forced busing to majority white schools would accomplish anything in helping black children learn. Blacks continued to self-segregate, often grew hostile about their situation, and overall the social experiment was a disaster for education.

The struggles, compromises, and overall failures would call for a separate essay — or book (numerous have been written).

Where we really go off the rails is if we embrace change for the sake of change, because it is novel and exciting, because someone with clout and celebrity suggested it, or for some loosely similar reason.

Worse still is the Jacobin idea that all of society’s traditions, institutions, and practices (even “bad” ones!) can be criticized all at once and razed to the ground if not meeting standards set by rationalist abstractions or some professional intellectual’s vision of Utopia has always been a recipe for disaster.

In Revolution-era France, it precipitated chaos and death followed by several years of tyranny. History remains a source of valuable listens for those who can be bothered to study it. One of the most important documents in the history of ideas leading to the modern conservative spirit was Reflections on the Revolution in France by political philosopher Edmund Burke (1729 – 1797) who spelled this out.

Political Economy Is “Downstream” From Culture, and Culture Is “Downstream” From Worldview.

(9) Political economy is ‘downstream’ from culture. Culture, being an aggregate product of the usually tacit beliefs of its practitioners, is “downstream” from its worldview.

Consider the marketplace. Is it merely individual atoms running around satisfying their needs and wants by acting autonomously (“sovereign consumers”)? In a world where everyone is constantly bombarded by influences of all sorts, not all of which we are even consciously aware, what can that even mean?

Who is this “sovereign consumer”? Is he (she?) anything more than the abstract homo economicus of a group of classical liberal economists, created to keep their calculus manageable?

The economists are right in this much: people respond to incentives.

Many things can incentivize us, especially when our most basic needs are either satisfied or mostly satisfied. Not all of these are necessarily good, and it is useful to remember that the more people spend money they may not have on things that aren’t real needs, the more the economy “hums” in the sense the economists like — but which does not necessarily improve personal or cultural health.

When the masses are spending money on fast food, video poker, pornography, and so on, is this improving either personal or cultural health? Not that these are equivalent, but you should get the idea, and realize how such examples further enhance needs for internal restraints and responsibilities, including sometimes on pure market activity.

Moreover, among all natural human desires (as Bastiat observed in The Law back in 1849)  is to gain the most with the least possible effort.

If “short cuts” of whatever sort are made available, most people will take them.

If welfare is made available beyond absolute necessity, many people will take it.

Those who control the incentive systems unleashed by policies of various sorts can control consumer behavior and through that, much of the economy. Which is why it was a bad (if understandable) idea to separate political economy into “political science” and “economics” as separate academic disciplines. Political and economic activity cannot really be separated, anymore than a civilization either can or should be made into a single large marketplace.

Conservatives should not be lulled by the hypercapitalists; conservatism is not neoliberalism, that bastard deformation of classical liberalism which reduces all value to exchange value as it reduces all persons to commodities to engage in exchanges (or be exchanged).

Conservatism should stress the idea that culture stands outside of political economy; there will always be cultural artifacts that cannot be assigned a price or market value — usually these will be the artifacts that define a people’s connection to the Transcendent.

Conservatism is therefore as much a philosophy of culture as it is a political philosophy. Some have written of cultural conservatism, which must be in place before the political philosophy is sustainable, and it must circumscribe the marketplace. If embodied in people’s habits, this will minimize the need for restrictions on people’s “free choices.” Why is this a good thing? Because once conservatives need to start resorting to authoritarian gestures through government, they’ve lost the battle in the cultural “marketplace.”

So how does one have a conservative culture? Whether anyone likes it or not, through a solidly established religiosity that permeates both public and private landscapes.

John Adams, the U.S.’s second president, famously wrote to the Massachusetts Militia on October 11, 1798:

We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by  … morality and religion. Avarice, ambition,… revenge or galantry, would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other….

This is not the place to wade into whether or not the Founding Fathers were supportive of a Christian worldview or should have been (many, we know, were not). The question we should ask from where we stand today, with over two centuries of hindsight: how important to culture is a worldview which anchors morality to the Transcendent.

Not for intellectuals, mind you, which the Founders were. For the general public, for the nonintellectual masses, if you will. Most of the latter are, almost by definition, followers. They have always needed some creed to follow, be it religious or patriotic or some combination of these. A Christian worldview can supply such a creed. There is no evidence that materialism can supply it, whether in the metaphysical or the economic sense. Hence the realization that if political economy is “downstream” from culture, culture in turn is “downstream” from a civilization’s prevailing worldview — a topic to which I’ve given great attention previously on this blog.

There we have them: basic conservative principles, the outlines for a conservative political philosophy and philosophy of society more broadly. It may have a flavor of the quixotic about it, especially these days when freedom is everywhere in retreat and when efforts to organize supporters of freedom is akin to herding cats! The pessimist in me wonders if all this is too late, if there is anything left to conserve.

In the back of my mind while writing was an essay written roughly 90 years ago by one Albert Jay Nock, more associated with Libertarians than conservatives: “Isaiah’s Job,” it was called. The Prophet Isaiah relates (Isaiah 1:1-9) how he was called by the Lord to preach to the Judeans near the end of King Uzziah’s reign — right before a period of prosperity ended and everything went to pieces (does this sound familiar?). The Lord is speaking to Isaiah (this is Nock’s paraphrase):

“Tell them what a worthless lot they are…. Tell them what is wrong, and why and what is going to happen unless they have a change of heart and straighten up. Don’t mince matters. Make it clear that they are positively down to their last chance. Give it to them good and strong and keep on giving it to them. I suppose perhaps I ought to tell you …. that it won’t do any good. The official class and their intelligentsia will turn up their noses at you and the masses will not even listen. They will all keep on in their own ways until they carry everything down to destruction, and you will probably be lucky if you get out with your life.

In that case, Isaiah wondered, Why bother?

“Ah,” the Lord said, “you do not get the point. There is a Remnant there that you know nothing about. They are obscure, unorganized, inarticulate, each one rubbing along as best he can. They need to be encouraged and braced up because when everything has gone completely to the dogs, they are the ones who will come back and build up a new society; and meanwhile, your preaching will reassure them and keep them hanging on. Your job is to take care of the Remnant, so be off now and set about it.”

Isaiah’s job was to take care of the Remnant, and that’s the philosophical conservative’s job today.

That is the spirit I have offered this two-part essay — writing under the assumption that it will never “go viral” but that despite the fear, the distractions, the horrid ideas, the attempts to erase modern history, the false rabbit trails, this will nevertheless be found by a small audience of appreciative readers who, whatever happens in the near future, will remain committed to building the next civilization, based on principles that have been all but forgotten, on lessons that have been learned.

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Basic Conservative Principles, Part 1

[Author’s note: Part 2 will appear next week.]

Preamble.

I never set out to be a conservative.

My father called himself a conservative. For him, it seemed little more than what he thought was good (profitable) for Big Business. Since even as a teenager I didn’t think that what was profitable for Big Business was necessarily good for everybody, or for the country, eventually I rejected conservatism. It stayed rejected in my mind for quite a number of years, from my undergraduate days through graduate school and on into my aborted teaching career, where I spent time and expended great effort trying to be a Libertarian. That is a story for another day.

I came back to conservatism — and I think of the old saw about how if you’re not a liberal at age 20 you don’t have a heart and that if you’re still a liberal at age 40 you don’t have a brain.

What about at age 60? You’re supposed to have seen a lot by then, and I have, working in both academic and nonacademic jobs, being self-employed at different times including recently, living in a foreign country for the past eight years, being single and then married to a foreign national….

This on top of studying and writing philosophy formally, reading voraciously, having been a current events junkie my whole life. Growing up under my parents’ roof, I listened and sometimes participated in conversations about the issues of the time. Watergate filled the news when I was in high school. I self-identified as a Watergate teenager for a long time. I think many people in my generation did. Watergate affected our ability to trust politicians. Which you probably shouldn’t do, as they all have agendas.

Among the things I’ve noticed is that conservatives may have had agendas, too, but not sets of carefully laid out principles (I’m not thinking of exclusively political programs like Gingrich’s “Contract With America” of 1994).

Russell Kirk (1918 – 1994), the conservative philosopher and author, probably came the close to setting out a few conservative principles in his book The Conservative Mind (1954), which I did not encounter for years.

Kirk’s nonfiction writings (interestingly, he also wrote ghost stories) were tough slogging, and even then I couldn’t imagine most people who considered themselves conservatives reading them.

But if you can’t set out your principles, how do you know what you’re doing is right? Surely it has to be more than instinct, or feelings. The left goes off feelings.

I already had a problem with those who self-identified as conservatives not having any idea what they thought they were conserving.

This in a country which seemed to be less and less to conserve every decade. The country was moving leftward in fits and starts, and conservatives seemed helpless to stop it. This latest leap leftward, starting with the “George Floyd riots,” is the worst yet!

So if we are conservatives, what are we trying to conserve? Is there anything left in Western civilization to conserve? What should we have tried to conserve?

Come to think of it, are there any conservatives? Trump is not a conservative. Nor are the Republicans in Congress, some of whom opposed Trump before they backed him.

Are there any conservatives in media? Guys like Max Boot of the Council on Foreign Relations are not conservatives but neoconservatives (neocons) . Tucker Carlson probably qualifies. The authors and editors of The American Conservative, founded by Patrick J. Buchanan when National Review went neoconservative surely qualify. A number of websites with limited reach compared to those of the mainstream media. Very few of their authors (myself included) have any significant national visibility.

The few conservatives I know of who have doctorates and spent time in academia are all over 75, and are probably best thought of as conservatives only in a very broad sense as their major interests lie elsewhere (Thomas Sowell, Angelo Codevilla are two names that come to mind, and it isn’t clear either would call himself a conservative without a lot of qualification).

If we can identify a few basic conservative principles, maybe we will have not so much something to conserve as something to guide us in the rebuilding to come even if we have to do it (as seems likely at this point) on the margins and possibly even keeping our heads down. Are these mine alone? I sincerely hope not. I hope they are the product of voluminous reading over the years, trying to distill into a few easily understood proposals the thoughts of all the authors listed above and many more besides. Those who disagree with these proposals are free to qualify them or present their own. The point is to have a badly needed conversation.

Basic Conservative Principles (or Proposals For Such).

I propose, in that case: those who self-identify as conservative should assent to all or most of the following:

(1) Beyond or standing above the world we live in, with all its events and trials, is an enduring moral order that binds us all. This is a central conservative premise, conditioning and shaping all the rest.

(2) We live in a fallen world, because human nature is imperfect and fallen, however we understand this. Hence all fundamentally Utopian projects must fail, as they refuse to acknowledge our fallen state.

(3) Traditions, basic beliefs and practices in culture, e.g., belief in a Providential God — are not validated by abstract reasonings but by having passed the test of time as part of the societal “glue” that binds a people together. Communities are defined by their traditions, shared beliefs, practices, that define the expectations that guide acceptable conduct.  

(4) Some institutions — the family, private property, limitations on government, the rule of law, are nonnegotiable conditions for the long-term stability and well-being of societies especially in the West where they have become explicit principles.

(5) Private passions need to be restrained through proper parenting, education, and acculturation. Otherwise societies are faced with the unpleasant and dangerous choice between authoritarianism and anarchy.

(6) The economic side of controlling passions is to distinguish needs from wants. A conservative believes there is more to a society than its economy — or, indeed, any other single group of institutions or activities.

(7) Freedom of speech and opinion is superior to an orthodoxy or dogma imposed by an official or unofficial priesthood, academic “experts,” political class, or any other elite entity employing censorious or propagandistic mechanisms. If an idea is bad, it will fail in practice and not pass the test of time.

(8) Calls for change are therefore to be heard but treated with a certain amount of suspicion, and the more radical the change, the greater the suspicion. There always is, and should be, an “essential tension” between calls for permanence and calls for change. The burden of argument is on the change agent, not on the skeptic.

(9) Political economy is “downstream” from culture, however we characterize either one. Culture, being a product of the usually tacit beliefs of its practitioners, is further “downstream” from its worldview.

This last brings us full circle, because (1) requires a certain kind of worldview, one which respects the idea of the Transcendent. We need not all agree on all details of what is Transcendent to respect the idea. Not all worldviews do. Materialism does not, and this its central drawbacks.

Let us explain each of these in a bit more detail.

(1) Beyond, or above, the world we inhabit with all its events and trials, is an enduring moral order that binds us all. An enduring moral order, well, endures. It transcends history, culture, population, place, although it can make room for the particularities of these. There are moral principles (e.g., “Thou shalt not murder,” “Thou shalt not steal,” “Respect others,” and “Do not harm others intentionally”) we did not invent that ought to guide our conduct as we move through life, and which in one form or another, are honored everywhere. What is good should be pursued, and bad or evil shunned, is true for conservatives, as it was for St. Thomas Aquinas. Christians find the source of enduring moral order in the Eternal God of the Old and New Testaments.

This contrasts with the humanist idea, however expressed (and there are many ways of expressing it) that morality is of human origin, whether in our capacity for reason, our experience of pleasure and avoidance of pain, a supposed innate sense of justice or capacity to conceive of it from behind “a veil of ignorance,” a “principle of nonaggression,” or something else. In the last analysis, none of these work as basic principles. Nietzsche criticized all such notions, sometimes in advance of their formulation, as — I am paraphrasing, obviously — efforts to have a fundamentally Christian moral system without Christianity’s God or the supernatural. All must fail, because all are, at base, intellectually dishonest in this sense. They are part of a fundamentally Christian heritage.

A materialist “ethic,” as Nietzsche also understood, would honor not Christian altruism or concern for others but survival by whatever means necessary, strength, prowess, health, and perhaps the binding authority of the state or other ultimate secular authority. Hence Nietzsche’s call for a “revaluation of all values.”

(2) We live in a fallen world.Human nature is not only imperfect but not capable of “perfection”; it isn’t even clear what this would mean. According to Christianity, our sinful nature (Rom. 3:23) explains the world’s fallenness and our inability to have produced social orders that do not shaft somebody, whatever our discoveries, inventions and innovations, policies, conveniences, etc. There is a permanent egocentricity intrinsic to human nature that resists everything we try to throw at it. This explains the need for a “constrained vision” in Sowell’s sense.

This contrasts again with the humanist idea that we can improve ourselves indefinitely, maybe even “perfect ourselves” and our societies by social-engineering techniques. Such ideas derive from the “unconstrained vision,” in which human nature is a product of its environment only, and changes as its environment changes. We can, of course, learn and teach each other to bathe, and make a variety of other technical improvements and provide for ourselves. But moral improvements by our own efforts past a certain point seems beyond us. Public policy rarely if ever results in moral improvements. People respond to incentives, including perverse ones. Consider the welfare state. When government pays people not to work, they have no incentive to work. Dependence then gets passed to the next generation.

(3) Traditions, basic beliefs and practices in culture, e.g., belief in a Providential God — are not validated by abstract intellectual reasonings but by their having passed the test of time. Although there is not space to explore the topic fully here, one of the worst mistakes of modern philosophy, beginning with Descartes, was the idea that it was possible and desirable to raze everything, every belief, every tradition, every practice, every institution, to the ground and start over, based on deductions of abstract Reason. Traditions, basic beliefs, practices as they function in society, are “organic” rather than abstract. They do not behave according to the rules of abstract Reason but are complex overlapping systems of expectations and habits leading to actions; systems of trust and rules both written and unwritten for resolving disputes; institutions starting with the family and extending outward for acculturing the young, and thus for maintaining continuity from generation to generation.

We cannot expect these customs, conventions, etc., to operate perfectly (2 again). Contrary to the multi-culties and the apostles of “woke,” some social orders are indeed superior to others, because they can be directly observed to result in the long-term stability of peoples whose infrastructure enables peace and an ability to feed and otherwise provide for themselves. This as opposed to breeding violence, dysfunction, and mass starvation. This does not somehow “privilege” Western civilization; others, non-Western, have done the same. Endurance, again, and an ability to solve a wide range of problems on their own terms (or not allow them to arise in the first place) is what legitimates largely unwritten systems of customs, conventions, habits, traditions, etc. That which is imposed by out-of-the-blue policy decisions, implying that what came before was illegitimate, and rationalized by some academic or within some think tank, may be deeply damaging even when well-intentioned.

(4) Some institutions — the family, private property circumscribed by morality, limitations on government, the rule of law grounded in the moral order suggested in (1), a connection from people’s lives to the transcendent, are nonnegotiable conditions for long-term stability and well-being.

Nonnegotiable means they cannot be left to chance — to the valuations of consumers in the marketplace, for example, any more than they ought to be subject to repeal by an arbitrary political edict.

(4a) The family is a newborn’s first contact with other humans: parents and perhaps other siblings. The extended family, which prevails in agrarian-based societies, might actually be superior to nuclear families such as the one I grew up on, because various labors ranging from educating the young to workaday chores of cooking, cleaning, tending animals, and so on, can be divided among more people, and everybody’s skills used more efficiently and effectively. This can more easily result in overall health, productivity, and continuity from generation to generation.

Absent functional families, extended or nuclear, this is much harder. Adults from dysfunctional families generally have a much tougher row to hoe, and though it is possible to turn one’s life around after a bad start, or even develop a sense of complete responsibility for oneself when one is young and finds oneself on one’s own, it doesn’t often happen. We were not designed to be isolated individuals, entirely on our own—which may be why people forced into isolation, as with solitary confinement in prisons, often develop psychological disorders of various sorts. Doubtless there are a lot of people in prison because this was their situation, and they never had much of a chance. Conservatives ought not encourage policies or tendencies, whatever their source or origin, that tend to break up families unnecessarily.

(4b) Private property is property purchased, earned through work, inherited, or occasionally gifted. What is so great about private property? It has been said that what one owns, one cares for and tends. In societies based on the trust that one’s private property will be honored by all others, including governing authorities, this is enhanced. On the other hand, in societies where people believe, perhaps based on experience, that their property can be seized arbitrarily because governing authorities have abruptly changed the rules, the capacity of private property to serve as an arena where family, education, business, etc., can flourish is undermined.

It does not follow that one should be able to do absolutely anything one pleases on one’s private property. The right of ownership of property may be important, but other principles can override it. To cite an extreme example, one cannot engage in human sacrifices on one’s property, because property is overridden by the sanctity of human life. Acceptance of rules for respect on the property of others (e.g., guests in someone’s home, employees in a business, customers of that business, etc.) is a sign that all is healthy and well. That such rules are challenged, argued over, must be spelled out, elaborated further, chatted up indefinitely, might be a sign that something is wrong.

Taxation? No one likes taxes. That’s just a given. But if members of a body politic have decided that they want an institution able, e.g., to resolve disputes with final authority, because disputes will not necessarily resolve themselves or be resolved peacefully otherwise, then they might decide to invest in such an institution. If they’ve realized, moreover, that the world outside their community is filled with potentially hostile groups who do not play by their rules, or by any rules at all, they might decide that this institution ought to provide an effective defense at their borders because their borders will not protect themselves. Creating and maintaining this force-of-arms defense is a full time job just like any other full time job, and is not therefore a free service. Hence the need for members of the community to support it financially. Such an institution of governance will not be perfect, but this is only a reminder of Madison’s wise adage that “men are not angels” and “are not governed by angels”: see (2) above. The ultimate check on the power of this institution is explicit recognition within the entire community that its members will withdraw their support, retreat or secede into private enclaves, or move outside the borders, if and to the extent it becomes abusive. This requires awareness, of course. It is a given that if members of communities do not stay aware of what those they’ve entrusted to these various responsibilities are doing, then they deserve the calamities likely to befall them. Institutional systems do not regulate and maintain themselves. Very likely the best we will do is a careful and perhaps always shifting balance between different institutional systems as they place checks on one another driven by the enlightened self-interest of their participants.

(4c) Limitations on government and the rule of law: it has often been said that government which governs best, governs least. In healthy societies, much of what happens, happens automatically as their people interact to meet each other’s needs, solve problems, or serve in other ways. There are probably no formal rules governing how this all happens able to cover all cases. The systems and processes are too complex; there is too much variability; there are too many particulars and contingencies that can’t be brought under a single formal set of rules. Hence a certain amount of laissez-faire is probably a good thing — provided trust can be maintained. When a political class interferes with these systems for whatever reason (they may see what some among them believe is a problem and sincerely believe they have a “fix” for it), they cannot account for all the particularities and hidden incentives that may be operating, and hence are always in danger not only of failing to solve the perceived problem but creating new problems in their wake. Government, even at its best, has been a blunt tool for solving problems. Thus conservatives want to keep it small, constrained, and used to service just a few essential functions: formulating the rules that need to be formulated including for its own structure and purposes including where police power ought to be visible, serving as an agency or arena of punishment for those who violate its rules, and securing the borders of the territory over which it has agreed-upon authority as described above.

All this according to the rule of law. What does this phrase mean, precisely? It is best understood in contrast to the rule of dictators or tyrants who are empowered to make the rules that govern a body politic — or a political class that can do so, or change existing rules to suit its interests presumed different from the interests of the society as a whole. Rule of law consists of those formal rules that are possible, that serve as parameters of acceptable political and legal conduct (avowing explicitly, for example, that murder and stealing are wrong, to whatever extent this is necessary; and where these apply).

A conservative ought to hold, it seems to me, that the idea of the rule of law is best justified, and legitimated in practice, if it is tied directly in some way to that idea of a transcendent reality and a moral code anchored outside of specifics of time, place, history, and culture. Because of the flaws in human nature itself, conservatives are dubious of the idea that we ever really can be entirely our own authorities, or that we should try.

It may be wise to spell all this out in a founding document such as a Constitution or other Declaration of Principles — as was done in the 1700s and before.

For the entire system depends on trust. It depends on members of society believing they can trust one another, being part of something larger than themselves, and caring about — even loving — this something their society and the common good. Such words seem strange just to write. Maybe that is an index of how badly trust in our own Western societies has eroded over the past few generations, and how people have felt more secure turning inward and just ‘tending their own gardens.’ There is no longer any agreement over any ‘common good.’ Such a society is doomed, and there may be little or nothing a conservative can do to turn it back from the brink. All he can do is work out a diagnosis others later can study and learn from, assuming there are any others able and willing to do so, and that any of us really learn anything from the past.

[For Part 2 click here.]

Posted in Culture, Philosophy, Political Economy, Political Philosophy, Where is Civilization Going? | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Harper’s Cancel Culture Letter Is an Indicator Where Present Cultural and Intellectual Dialogue Stands — It’s Been Canceled!

On July 7, as probably anyone who found his/her way to this site already knows, Harper’s Magazine published a letter entitled “A Letter On Justice and Open Debate.” The letter, after a number of standard center-left dogwhistles about “social justice” and “inclusion” and the obligatory attack on President Trump, stated the obvious.

My way of putting it, not theirs: we now inhabit a social and cultural environment of raging intolerance. In this environment you can be “canceled” (not argued with) if you get out of line in even the slightest way. You can have your career ruined and your life turned upside down over anything the Mob, I will call it, deems “offensive.”

Much as I don’t like linking to Twitter, the best definition of cancel culture I’ve run across comes from someone there I don’t know and had never heard of before, a Eugene Gu, MD (scroll down):

Read it again: Cancel culture is the suspension of due process and presumption of innocence so that the mob can serve as judge, jury, and executioner based on accusation alone without any examination of the underlying evidence.

This is nothing new, of course. This is how totalitarian societies work, it is how those seeking to build them work, and this is the direction Western culture is presently heading apace as our specific brand of what political philosopher Sheldon Wolin called inverted totalitarianism changes and evolves in our post-logic, post-truth world to fit the mood swings of a Mob which is utterly clueless about the globalist power structure its antics are really serving.

Let’s look at the Harper’s letter. Its main substance is contained in the final two of its three long paragraphs:

The free exchange of information and ideas, the lifeblood of a liberal society, is daily becoming more constricted. While we have come to expect this on the radical right, censoriousness is also spreading more widely in our culture: an intolerance of opposing views, a vogue for public shaming and ostracism, and the tendency to dissolve complex policy issues in a blinding moral certainty. We uphold the value of robust and even caustic counter-speech from all quarters. But it is now all too common to hear calls for swift and severe retribution in response to perceived transgressions of speech and thought. More troubling still, institutional leaders, in a spirit of panicked damage control, are delivering hasty and disproportionate punishments instead of considered reforms. Editors are fired for running controversial pieces; books are withdrawn for alleged inauthenticity; journalists are barred from writing on certain topics; professors are investigated for quoting works of literature in class; a researcher is fired for circulating a peer-reviewed academic study; and the heads of organizations are ousted for what are sometimes just clumsy mistakes. Whatever the arguments around each particular incident, the result has been to steadily narrow the boundaries of what can be said without the threat of reprisal. We are already paying the price in greater risk aversion among writers, artists, and journalists who fear for their livelihoods if they depart from the consensus, or even lack sufficient zeal in agreement.

This stifling atmosphere will ultimately harm the most vital causes of our time. The restriction of debate, whether by a repressive government or an intolerant society, invariably hurts those who lack power and makes everyone less capable of democratic participation. The way to defeat bad ideas is by exposure, argument, and persuasion, not by trying to silence or wish them away. We refuse any false choice between justice and freedom, which cannot exist without each other. As writers we need a culture that leaves us room for experimentation, risk taking, and even mistakes. We need to preserve the possibility of good-faith disagreement without dire professional consequences. If we won’t defend the very thing on which our work depends, we shouldn’t expect the public or the state to defend it for us.

The letter was signed by 153 authors, academics, artists, and other public intellectuals, many of them highly visible in the public conversation, others far less so (there are any number of names there I don’t know).

The point can be made (and would have been obvious back in the days when logic was respected) that the names and number of signatories is not what validates and legitimates a public statement. It is validated and legitimated by the truth of its premises and the strength of its arguments, leading to the conclusion I put in my own words at the outset.

How old school, of course, given our present moment’s non-standards!

Thus the invective from the Mob in the Twitterverse, coming on swiftly and furiously. How dare they? is the substance of what you’ll find there, and no, I’ve no intention of wasting bandwidth space linking to select examples.

The Twitterverse Mob doesn’t realize that however indirectly, and with no sense of the irony involved, it is confirming the substance of the Harper’s letter.

A few writers could actually articulate specific criticisms of the letter. One Hamilton Nolan, for example, wrote:

The letter is certainly not about any reasonable definition of “Justice,” and is about Open Debate only to the extent that people who make very healthy salaries arguing in public for a living seem to have a bizarre aversion to being argued against. This aversion, I’m afraid, now borders on the pathological. We have entered a brave new world in which those waving the banner of “Free Speech” accuse their opponents of being unable to take criticism while waging a histrionic campaign against anyone who dares to criticize them. Accusing your opponents of doing exactly what you are yourself guilty of is a classic propaganda technique. It works well, unfortunately.

Nolan’s complaint seems to be about the “elite” status of the signatories, the fact that they are visible and paid very well for their work. He accuses them of being unable to take criticism, of saying, in effect, “we’re the experts so sit down and shut up!”

As far as the “elitism” charge goes: of course!

What was Harper’s supposed to do? Seek out instructors at the various Podunksville State Community Colleges around the nation, or any of the thousands of struggling invisible writers who lack the professional networks that are necessary conditions for visibility today?

Naturally Harper’s went to people who are visible, because people like Francis Fukuyama, Noam Chomsky, Fareed Zakaria, Margaret Atwood, J,K. Rowling, and Salmon Rushdie (who has direct experience with deadly threats of personal “cancellation” after all!) are more likely to be listened to than John Doe or Joe Blow or even Steven Yates. I wasn’t invited to sign the letter, most likely because no one in the Harper’s orbit or its audience knows me from Adam. Do I resent this? Not really, and I’m not sure I would have signed it anyway, mainly because of those dogwhistles I mentioned.

The extremists on the left don’t respect you because you’ve adopted some of their language. They definitely don’t respect you if you apologize and grovel before them. They feel only contempt. The last thing you should do is apologize to a Mob. All you will accomplish is embolden it, while degrading yourself.

If anything, this letter illustrates the contrast between the center-left and the extreme left. Behind the former are the liberal values that due to their own moral fuzziness set us up for this disaster decades ago. Among the signatories I don’t see any names I associate with philosophical or other intellectual conservatism. Maybe I just don’t know them, from not moving in those circles. I’ll allow that possibility. What I did catch was this:  we have come to expect [censoriousness] on the radical right not identifying or referencing who is being talked about, or providing any examples.

There is no mention of conservatism at all … probably because there are almost no intellectuals alive today who both profess philosophical conservatism and have any visibility, much less tenure and good salaries at major universities.

Were I to have written such a piece, there would have been no dogwhistles, and I would have noted at some point that I (and others) began warning roughly 30 years ago that something like this could happen, that the academic culture to which the label politically correct would be applied was surrounding its own moral certitude about, e.g., preferential policies and eliminating speech it found “offensive” with a climate of arrogance and a willingness to bully those who disagreed.

I would have noted how this culture already exhibited moblike aspects. In just a few years this culture spread from left-leaning faculty to students in academia, to mass media (including television) through journalism schools and their networks, into the legal system through leftist law professors, and into public schools generally through education schools which would ensure that the entire next generation tilted far left.

Soon that culture was visible in the military and in business of all sizes, and that the careers and livelihoods of anyone dissenting were already on the ropes. It had the endorsement of celebrities; it had role models on television sitcoms; its mainstreaming didn’t take much more.

It goes without saying, almost no one listened to isolated white guys like me, trying to make arguments. Eventually I realized I’d brought a knife to a gunfight.

You can’t reason with people who sincerely believe reason is a “straight white male construct” and a product of “privilege.”

What struck me, at one meeting where I’d presented some standard criticisms of affirmative action it had been possible to formulate back then, how believers I’d been willing to engage and listen to would not look me in the eye.

All one such person, her eyes averted, had to say was, “I’ve heard all this before!”

People who won’t make eye contact with you are telling you all you need to know.

That was then, this is now. And in the now, eye contact is the least of our worries. We have no meaningful debate or dialogue over the issues dividing Western civilization, or even agreement on what the truth is. In an environment where people fear for their careers and sometimes even their personal safety, meaningful debate and dialogue simply isn’t going to happen. The majority, whatever their opinions, are going to tend their own gardens as it were, and keep their heads down.

It is as easy as it ever was to say, in here, that cancel culture must be stopped.

We tried that 30 years ago.

Any success possible back then would have depended on someone with resources willing to take the lead and support networks of independent scholars and bankroll “parallel institutions.”

It didn’t happen, of course. A few such entities were created in the early online world, but they never achieved visibility. It was clear that as soon as they did, they would be demonized by an extreme left that had already become quite skilled at weaponizing language.

Today, in the wake of George Floyd’s death, the Mob has been unleashed. The demise of truth is evident in the fact that everyone with visibility is reporting this as a murder of a black man by a white cop when it was not a murder; Floyd died from a lethal cocktail of Fentanyl and other drugs in his system (go here where you’ll find a link to the medical examiner’s report; or, if my linking to my own content bothers anyone, go here instead).

What to do, what specific action steps to take? Other than keep out of the line of fire.

Today’s extreme left is far larger and more widespread. It is far better financed, with George Soros’s Open Society Foundation money but hardly him alone. For a short list of those lending financial support to Black Lives Matter go here; if you want a deeper dive, go here.

The extreme left is now a Mob, using sites like Twitter to its full advantage. We did not have social media back in the 1990s.

The Mob is thus far more pervasive, powerful, and destructive than it was in the 1990s. Its power is seen in the fact that two of the signatories of the Harper’s letter have rescinded their signatures and apologized/groveled, although fortunately not all.

I fully expect the Mob to explode into an orgy of violence and destruction if President Trump is reelected. The lame-to-nonexistent responses to the George Floyd riots proved to them that they can get away with it.

So what to do? I am open to suggestions.

Posted in Culture, Media, Political Philosophy, Where is Civilization Going? | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Happy Fourth of July

Myths about “systemic racism,” “white supremacy,” and “white privilege” get blown completely to pieces in this latest article by Paul Craig Roberts, easily one of the boldest authors in the online world, who always tries to write the truth as he sees it.

Philosophically, we now clearly inhabit a world that is not just post-truth, but one in which truth and lies are systematically inverted. Every day I give thanks that I no longer work for any academic institution, and never again will.

A TRUTHFUL JULY 4 MESSAGE

Happy Fourth of July!

Oh. IPE stands for Institute for Political Economy, Roberts’s own self-funded organization.

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Thomas Sowell Revisited: Constrained versus Unconstrained Visions

Back in 1987, Thomas Sowell published a book that merited far more attention than it received: A Conflict of Visions: Ideological Origins of Political Struggles (New York: William Morrow & Co.). A revised edition was published in 2007.

I believed, back when I first read the book in either 1990 or 1991, that Sowell had hit on something of major importance–possibly one of the few dichotomies worth taking seriously. This was his distinction between “constrained” and “unconstrained” visions. Here is the difference:

For amelioration of … the human condition, the constrained vision relies on certain social processes such as moral traditions, the marketplace, or families.

By contrast:

When Rousseau said that “man is born free” but “is everywhere in chains” he expressed the essence of the unconstrained vision, in which the fundamental problem is not nature but institutions.

This offers a philosophically important insight into why some societal arrangements succeed, at least somewhat, while others fail miserably.

All we have to do is add an element of realism: nature, including human nature, is such that certain beliefs, certain practices, certain sets of arrangements–in a word, certain systems–accord with its principles, while others either ignore those principles or openly flout them. Doing the latter is akin, in some respects, to banging your head against a brick wall. It’s going to hurt, but it’s not going to affect the wall.

According to Dr. Sowell, the left-liberal welfare state has failed miserably. It has failed blacks especially even if it was aimed at them primarily. 

What he advises: if you disagree, just look at the data, which he draws from civilizations and communities worldwide. He shows that there are cases of groups who have succeeded spectacularly despite blatant discrimination by the powers-that-be. In the case of American blacks, we saw economic improvement through the 1940s and 1950s, despite the legacy of Jim Crow.

According to Dr. Sowell, these improvements continued through the 1960s and 1970s, reflecting this earlier momentum, not civil rights legislation.

But then, several decades of genuine progress began to slow, halt, and actually reverse itself. American blacks began, if anything, to slip backwards educationally and culturally, despite affirmative action.

Dr. Sowell blames the increasing grip of the unconstrained vision of the left-liberal mindset, the chief legacy of which was the welfare state. Eventually, as the lack of continued progress became noticeable, a victim mindset developed and grew.

Previous to this era, blacks had suffered discrimination but their families tended to stay together and their neighborhoods did not suffer from the rampant crime that came to afflict them later. This was not due to anything white people were doing. It was due to the moral and educational breakdown that always accompanies an unconstrained vision. When the political class and its servants make the assumption that institutions, or “systemic racism,” are at fault, they set about to change those institutions, or change the entire system–not the beliefs and practices that accord with what healthy communities need. With moral breakdown comes familial breakdown, out-of-wedlock births, etc. And when welfare-state policies tie payments directly to paternal absenteeism as well as number of children, perverse incentives set in and multiply.

In the same fashion, if government pays people to stay and home and not work, most will stay at home and not work. (This isn’t rocket science.)

Not to mention what was happening in higher education. For the past 40 years blacks have been incentivized into increasing resentment against whites–indeed, against anyone, white, Asian, etc., who has accomplished something with his life. This is part of the victim mindset. Lack of a stable family structure, moreover, is always associated with a rising temptation to criminal activity, especially if there are no male role models with sound values.

As Dr. Sowell observes, this is not just America. Distinct patterns are observed in societies all over the world–meaning that they reflect discoverable realities of the human condition, and nature herself. For example, when official policy favors one group at the expense of another for a long enough period of time, inflicting actual harm on members of the disfavored group, the result is divisions that eventually threaten to explode.

What makes the constrained vision the more valid one is that the world we inhabit does in fact impose constraints on what is socially, politically, and economically possible. The fact that we must produce the means of our sustenance and that we respond to incentives is a place to begin. I would add that human beings cannot simply exist, whatever their station in life, without a sense that there is some purpose for their doing so, and that grounding this purpose in transient historical, cultural, or economic factors is insufficient. Real conservatism recognizes that this purpose must be grounded in a transcendent reality and that reality’s God.

The danger the West now faces–all races–is that insane efforts by the far left to maintain an unconstrained vision, we’ve literally thrown facts, truth, and logic out the window in favor of fantasies like “systemic racism” and “white privilege,” or “gender” fluidity. The far left believes it can “cancel” history by taking down historical monuments deemed “racist.”

I will end this note with the observation that we are approaching what may be the most dangerous epoch in all of U.S. history, even more dangerous than the period that led up to the War Between the States. The danger is that regardless of who wins Election 2020, the other side is going to cry foul and claim the election was stolen. Some are already laying the groundwork for an allegation of this kind if Donald Trump should be reelected.

This is the snowballing of Sowell’s unconstrained vision, which proceeded from the welfare state and affirmative action up through political correctness, ending up with present-day “cancel culture” in which radical-left groups such as Antifa and Black Lives Matter are resorting to vandalism and open violence to exact their will, often aided and abetted by Democrats in city governments while mainstream Republicans cower in fear, doing nothing. Police, under withering attack since George Floyd’s death, seem on the verge of abdicating, in large cities at least.

Is it possible to restore a constrained vision? Yes, but more and more of us are concluding that with higher education having collapsed, mainstream culture having collapsed, and much of mainstream political economy now servicing the enemies of such principles, the only way to do it will be from the outside, on the margins, eventually working back in and rebuilding institutions once the wrecking ball now swinging has finished its destructive course wreaking havoc.

One can only hope that a philosopher can play a role starting this rebuilding.

Listen to Dr. Sowell discuss his views in this video.

Posted in Books, Culture, Higher Education Generally, Political Economy, Political Philosophy | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The World Through the Eyes of a Globalist”

Hello, readers. This is an experiment. I’ve never done this before on here. Below is a link to a very unusual piece. The Facebook censors have banned the site it appears on as violating their “community standards,” so I cannot link directly to it there, only here.

As for the piece itself — “The World Through the Eyes of a Globalist” — that, too, is an experiment, one of those ideas I just woke up with one morning and ran with, as much to find out what it did once it took on a life of its own (as such pieces sometimes do).

It may frighten you. You may wish to quarrel with it. Or dismiss it, claiming too much of it is unsourced or unreferenced. That is your privilege.

But if you often feel like you’ve entered a real world Twilight Zone, in 2020, you just might like this. You might find it eye-opening.

What, precisely, is a “globalist”? No spoilers. If you’re unsure, you’ll just have to click the link.

What the piece does is make some predictions you might find it worth your while to take a look at and consider carefully … so should you decide the threat is serious, you can begin taking appropriate actions to protect yourself, your loved ones, and your assets.

While I never set out to be a prophet, my track record isn’t all that bad. I was one of the people saying during the first half of 2008 that we were in trouble, that we were heading for the worst economy since the Great Depression. I received some strange looks. But not after October of that year. But that’s not the prediction I stand by.

As I’ve often said, I predicted back in the early 1990s that if political correctness, then limited pretty much to universities and a few elite opinion centers, wasn’t opposed, it would expand its reach until it dominated every institution in the country, and you dare not oppose its claims about such things as “systemic racism” if you want to keep your job.

Now, as Paul Craig Roberts just put it, America is being cancelled. Identity Politics controls academia, and because most who tried to warn about it have retired or vacated the premises, it is only going to get worse.

Some might wonder, Does this have something to do with philosophy?

That would be a Yes.

The dominant culture has basically canceled truth. That ought to be of philosophical interest! What does it mean, after all, to “cancel truth”? Well, we don’t mean that truth is literally canceled. It’s still there, whether persons or cultures acknowledge it or not. You can’t simply wish it away. But institutions both can and do suppress statements of it, like never before … on this side of the Atlantic Ocean, anyway.

As Roberts also observes in that same column, we are not allowed to cite the report showing that George Floyd did not die because of Derek Chauvin’s knee on his neck (even I fell for that one, in a piece not yet published). The evidence does not support a charge of murder any more than it supports the claim, however politically correct, that Floyd died because of his race at the hands of a white man.

That has not stopped the entire mass culture from placing Floyd on a pedestal to “systemic racism” and basically intimidating authorities into allowing the mass destruction of historical monuments. It has not stopped the mass destruction by looters of a lot of small businesses that managed to survive the COVID-19 lockdowns … based on something with a mortality rate of probably less than 1 percent outside of vulnerable populations.

We now live in a truth-free civilization. You cannot tell the truth, lest it offend or “microaggress” against someone. In universities, you take your career in your hands just by offering up the biological basis for saying there are two and only two sexes. Ask Bret Weinstein.

The sad thing is, none of these people have no idea who they might actually be working for. Those V.I.. Lenin once called useful idiots never do.

And who might they be working for?

Maybe this piece puts its finger on the truth. Maybe it’s just dystopian science fiction. Existing within that ambiguity, I’d say it is very much in tune with our times … now that we’ve all entered a real world Twilight Zone.

So here it is:  The World Through the Eyes of a Globalist.

Posted in Coronavirus, Media, Science and Technology, Where is Civilization Going? | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

A Case for Collapse Studies

Universities have courses and sometimes entire departments devoted to cultural studies, race / ethnicity studies of one form or another, and gender studies. Why not a course, or even a department, devoted to collapse studies. Such a course or department would be exceptionally relevant these days.

What would such a course or department do?

For starters, it would challenge the onward-and-upward-forever view that began with the Enlightenment. Nothing new in that. Collapse studies would just take an idea that’s been “in the air” for some time now and make it clearer and sharper. It would note that civilizations, like people, have lifespans: birth, periods of growth and maturity, followed by increasing infirmity and decline and demise, whether through conquest, implosion, or some combination of the two.

Such a course or department would survey from various perspectives the great theorists of the rise, trajectory, and decline of civilizations. These include Spengler and Toynbee, Quigley on occasion, and above all, Sir John Bagot Glubb who is surely the least well-known name on that list who deserves to be known, if only because his ideas are far easier to digest.

Among living authors, a collapse studies course would need to include Dmitry Orlov and The Saker (whom I am sure has a good reason for using that pseudonym).

I’ve discussed Glubb’s views here, here, and here. Other worthwhile discussion can be found here. (Read Glubb’s original essay here.)

According to Glubb, civilizations go through the following somewhat overlapping stages:

  • Breakout and Age of Pioneers.
  • Age of Conquest
  • Age of Commerce
  • Age of Affluence
  • Age of Intellect
  • Age of Decadence

In the first stage, an originally seemingly unremarkable society takes off like a rocket, perhaps empowered by an idea such as liberty: its Age of Pioneers. It expands rapidly, and heaven help anyone or any culture that gets in the way (ask Native Americans): its Age of Conquest. Within a few generations, it spans a continent. Trade routes are laid down, a single administrative system is in place, a single language spoken, a single currency used: its Age of Commerce. During this period, and even before, it draws people from around the world. All who were there or who come proudly identify with the civilization, or their newly adopted home, and seek to further their role in it.

But then, Glubb observes, things slowly begin to go wrong. During the Age of Commerce, fortunes begin to be made. Money starts to become a fascination and an end in itself. Gradually, founding principles and the public good are forgotten: the Age of Affluence. This does little damage at first and might even be thought to be doing great good, for those fortunes are used to endow universities, build private research centers, further public education, and fund a variety of other programs deemed significant by founders and recipients. Media of various sorts take root and distribute information with increasing efficiency as technology improves. A middle class grows out of the myriad opportunities economic freedom makes possible.

But then, the chattering begins: an Age of Intellect. A professional intellectual class develops and discourses about problems of less and less importance to the whole. They lose sight of the fact that endless discussion does not lead civilizations, leadership does, and that “analysis paralysis” can cripple leadership.

Far worse is that some professional intellectuals, ensconced in academic safe havens, further theories and ideologies spun out of their imaginations and secular value systems having little or nothing to do with the realities of the civilization otherwise all around them. Their theories send them in search of imagined problems rather than guiding them toward solutions of existing ones. Such people may gain a following that tries to implement their ideas, however. Naturally, their efforts fail, often doing a lot of damage in the process. These efforts take on lives of their own and may feather the financial nests of growing institutions filling up with career bureaucrats.

The intellectuals have forgotten — or are extremely dubious about — the fundamentals that built the civilization. Quarreling and quibbling endlessly, pessimism and cynicism set in. They may start to question the idea of truth itself. They may confuse valid criticism with censorship. They may grow paranoid and confuse the weaponization of language in the service of narratives and agendas with their own strange idea that narratives and agendas are all that we have. Truth itself becomes a tool of authority, or dominant institutions, or of a dominant group.

Is any of this sounding familiar?

When we start to see more and more of the following, An Age of Decadence has set in:

  • Deepening pessimism among intellectuals.
  • A weakening of religion / religious institutions.
  • Materialism and the loss of a moral compass, especially in centers of political and economic influence.
  • Replacement of statesmen by celebrities (actors and actresses, sports heroes, entertainers).
  • Hedonism and frivolity among the masses: an “eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die” sensibility.
  • Influxes of new immigrants who, unlike their predecessors who contributed to the building of the society, refuse to assimilate and instead establish colonies, especially in cities. They retain their own language and culture rather than adopting the dominant one.
  • Increasingly radical forms of feminism emerge: women move into professions previously led by men, who are slowly emasculated.
  • An increasing willingness of the many to live at the expense of a bloated, bureaucratic state.
  • An unhealthy obsession with sex — in all forms and varieties.

Did the U.S. enter its Age of Decadence long ago? You tell me. Ours probably also includes the following:

  • Irrational warmongering and military posturing, as efforts to control the flows of money and resources grow ever more desperate.
  • Irrational monetary policy characterized by financialization instead of production (offshored to third world countries), and by borrowing against the future resulting in escalating debt in all sectors.
  • A widening gulf between rich and poor, with visible redistribution of wealth upward and into the hands of a corrupt, parasitic elite. One hears more and more about “haves” versus “have nots.”
  • The middle class created during the Ages of Affluence and Intellect is now visibly struggling with downward mobility. With productive work being outsourced or replaced by technology, many must go into debt to sustain the lifestyles they are accustomed to.
  • One sees extravagant displays of wealth by the “haves.”
  • Literacy and educational levels decline; students know more about pop culture icons and celebrities than they do the important figures in their society’s history.
  • One hears increasing cynicism about “the system”; more and more people are resigned and “turn inward” to cultivate their own private gardens, as it were. Indifference to the fate of the whole becomes manifest and spreads.
  • An emotional coldness characterizes more and more human interactions especially (but not limited to) the workplace, as more and more people grow indifferent to the fate of others.
  • Mere pessimism turns nihilist; health problems including mental illness rise, as does the suicide rate.

An Age of Decadence always precedes collapse. Around 15 years ago, Dmitry Orlov, author of Reinventing Collapse (2008) and other books, offered his Five Stages of Collapse thesis (updated recently): his five stages are:

  • Financial collapse, during which faith in “business as usual” is lost.
  • Commercial collapse, during which faith in the idea that “the market will provide” is lost.
  • Political collapse, during which faith that “the government will take care of you” is lost.
  • Social collapse, during which faith that “your own will take care of you” is lost.
  • Cultural collapse, during which faith in “the goodness of humanity” is lost.

I am not sure Orlov thought these would necessarily happen in this order. All seem to me to overlap with others. I am unsure why he does not mention education, which began to collapse long ago. He observes that commercial collapse must occur when more and more people are dead broke, especially in a market-driven society where your value as a person is determined by what’s in your pocket, bank account, investments, etc. That said, there are still plenty of people who believe the financial system will offer them huge profits if they can just make the right investments, or that the government will bail them out when all else fails.

Another author / blogger worth studying is Charles Hugh Smith, who doesn’t lay out a set of general stages or steps but rather just emphasizes, in great detail, how the various interactions between irrational financialization and borrowing, easy credit, the longstanding blowing of asset bubbles, increasing fragility, how the system generates increasing self-deception about its ability to face and solve its problems, and how all this sets up a domino effect so that disruption and dysfunction spread from system to system.

Works worth studying in any comprehensive course in collapse studies would have to include Joseph A. Tainter’s The Collapse of Complex Societies (1990) and Jared Diamond’s Collapse: How Societies Choose To Fail Or Succeed (2004). The former envisions collapse as a systemically forced reduction in complexity resulting from citizens’ refusal to participate in institutions they no longer see as beneficial. They stop cooperating en masse, and this renders those systems dysfunctional. They adjust down to greater simplicity.

Diamond believes societies collapse when their expansion, coupled with poor political choices, gradually undermines features of their environment on which they depend for their survival, e.g., crucial natural resources.

There are doubtless others I’ve not thought of — the subject grades into criticisms that global capitalism as it presently exists isn’t sustainable and must evolve into something less colonial, less elitist, and more humane, or it will invite increasing waves of revolt of the sort that began with movements like Occupy Wall Street and Arab Spring — although arguably, moneyed interests have never had more wealth and power than they do at present and will likely respond to waves of revolt with increasingly totalitarian measures.

Is collapse inevitable? Glubb’s outline certainly suggests so. And according to Orlov, U.S. collapse is not only unavoidable but proceeding apace.

No one should miss, finally, The Saker’s timely examination of current events beginning with the murder-by-cop of George Floyd, who has now been turned from a human being killed by a psychopathic cop into a cultural and racial icon. The Saker exposes the myths that have taken root around Identity Politics which have contributed massively to the collapse of higher education. Around 30 years ago, I began investigating and then criticizing affirmative action programs and the radical feminists who had already become their primary beneficiaries. While doing so badly damaged my academic career, such as it was, I was not chased from my classroom by an angry mob, nor did I receive death threats. I doubt I would get off so easy in today’s far more hostile environment, or that I could hold black and white students to the same standards, on the same schedule, given an event like the George Floyd murder. (This.)

Collapse studies will emphasize, finally, that collapse is not a singular event or even a set of events although it will include such. It is a process. Analysis in terms of steps or stages surely suggests this. Thinking of collapse as a sudden, catastrophic event is Hollywood stuff. Such events occur, but they rarely bring down entire civilizations. Rome did not collapse in a day even when it was sacked, any more than (as the adage goes) it was built in a day.

Collapse being a process, we can look at the states of affairs listed above and answer for ourselves whether the U.S. — and much of Europe, for that matter — are collapsing.

This being a philosophy blog, does this have something to do with philosophy?

I think so. Kant and Hegel began to turn philosophers’ attention to history, and theorizing collapse surely follows in those footsteps even if not in a way they could have foreseen. Others, such as Condorcet and Comte theorized stages through which Western civilization has passed.

Does history have a goal? Comte thought so: culminating in his Third Stage, and idea I believe is now solidly refuted. It does not seem to have occurred to him that a civilization having achieved its Third Stage of “positive science” could gradually go into a tailspin.

Does history unwind in a linear fashion, or does it move in cycles. What evidence we have seems to favor a cyclical theory, even if ours has achieved technological heights no one in earlier cycles could have imagined, and even if a Christian worldview is superimposed over the worldly evidence, so that history ends with Christ’s return.

Is collapse, in that case, a necessary fate of civilizations built by fallible, mortal men — just like physical death in this world is our inevitable fate as persons?

I don’t know.

I’ve envisioned transcending Comte’s Stages theory further, so that if civilization is going into a tailspin during its Fourth Stage, a Fifth Stage may be possible to turn things around if the right people in the right institutions create the right technologies at the right time, and if their actions are replicated elsewhere in a growing network across the globe.

But there are no guarantees that this will happen. All we can do is put our ideas out there. The future will determine not whether or not collapse is inevitable but whether we avoided collapse in our particular case. At the moment, the prognosis is not looking good.

(Image courtesy of collapseofindustrialcivilization.com)

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Posted in Academia, Culture, Higher Education Generally, Where is Civilization Going? | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

More Censorship On Social Media. This Time, it’s Facebook

This morning, a missive from Ron Unz, editor and publisher of alternative media site The Unz Review, appeared in my inbox. He was reporting that everything from his site had been removed from Facebook. Its page on the social media leviathan was gone.

The link in Ron’s email goes here.

I tried to post it to Facebook, to see what would happen. It would not post. The message I received contains that now-infamous phrase, “violates our community standards.”

Mr. Unz’s thought crime appears to have been his willingness not just to entertain but to write about coronavirus / COVID-19 “conspiracy theories” (e.g., this, which he references).

Facebook (also Google and Twitter) have periodically announced plans to crack down on such notions as can be found on sites such as Ron Unz’s, and elsewhere. (Example; although the focus there is on a supposed connection between COVID-19 symptoms and the 5G rollout, I suppose that as people are more and more protesting the lockdowns and matters come to a head, Big Tech will lead the open season on any unwanted ideas about the coronavirus, its origins, whether its spread is covering up something else, etc.)

So far, Zuckerberg and Co. have left my material alone. My post outlining my reasons for thinking we are seeing the effects of a broader agenda behind the draconian reaction to this coronavirus was still there as of noon today.

But for how long? And at what point will links to such articles simply not post, or be deleted, possibly earning users 30 days of time in “Facebook Jail” as it’s informally called.

A dear friend of mine with a few controversial ideas (it was her whose writing I actually quoted the other day!) was inexplicably gone from Facebook as of this morning! I do not think she would have deleted her account voluntarily. Maybe she is in “Facebook Jail.” I dunno….

How long will any of us who write about, or entertain, ideas that dissent from dominant narratives, be able to continue posting on Facebook or other platforms not our own?

Very likely I will be ratcheting up my use of this site, which will mean: more content here! Less visibility, for sure, but down the road, who knows … ?

Because although I’ve posted regularly on Facebook for over 11 years now, if I find myself being censored I will not be sticking around there.

Obviously, we are about more than philosophy here. (Sadly, most of what goes on in academic philosophy is about as interesting as drying paint.)

Posted in Culture, Media, Political Economy, Where is Civilization Going? | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Censorship at YouTube … Again

I just learned this morning that the video content I linked to at the beginning of “Coronavirus / COVID-19” has been removed by YouTube for “violating community standards.” Which means that my readers will not be able to access that material and get the essential background.

YouTube is, of course, owned by Google.

This is a dramatic and near-immediate confirmation of one of the points I made late in my article, which is that if the Internet started out as our era’s Gutenberg Press, those days are gone. Those with money and power are cracking down more and more on the free flow of information online. Ever more videos are being removed from YouTube, sometimes with channels being canceled as well if they dispense information which Big Tech has collectively decided falls outside the boundaries of acceptable discourse.

I don’t need to list the instances of this new form of censorship sometimes called deplatforming. We all know about them.

The days of the Web as the go-to place for truthful information will soon be gone if truth-tellers cannot create their own platforms and upload their content there, or else find platforms not owned by persons or organizations who engage in censorship. I’ve changed the link, but until this information is in a safer place, this is a quick-fix at best.

I am aware of those arguments that start with the premise that these are private companies (Google, Facebook, and all the rest) and can allow on their site, or deplatform, anyone they want.

I also believe that Big Tech’s billions in financial resources / revenue gives them not just an “unfair” advantage but a level of potential control over information in cyberspace that is socially and educationally extremely undesirable.

Which is why I’ve become an advocate of reclassifying the Big Tech firms as public utilities and being done with it.

And if it comes to that, for the federal government to take the steps necessary to break up these leviathan corporations. That, I’m also aware, is not a perfect solution because the federal government is hardly a neutral party in this sphere! Just a buffer in what is becoming an ongoing power struggle!

What we need: independent platforms in cyberspace!

Most of us who do research and dispense our findings on blogs simply do not have the necessary tech skills, or the time it would take to acquire them. The search should be on for those who do.

Posted in Coronavirus, Media, Political Economy, Where is Civilization Going? | Tagged , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Coronavirus / COVID-19: What Is Really Going On? And Why?

Before reading this post, I recommend watching this (concluded here). No, I insist that you watch it. Make the time. What appears below will make far more sense if you do.

I’ll wait.

Okay, have you watched Dr. Erickson’s videos?

Not the most entertaining stuff, I grant. But extremely important as a starting point for what may be the big question of 2020: what is really going on with this pandemic? 

A disclaimer: I’m a trained philosopher (especially of physical science, but also of political economy).

I’m not a doctor or an epidemiologist or a virologist or an immunologist.

But I did go through a two-year masters program in health promotion and education back in the late 1990’s. During that period I took two courses in epidemiology: the study of diseases, their effects, and how they propagate through populations. I picked up phrases like morbidity rate and mortality rate. And although I’d have to do a little homework now after all these years, I could describe for you the difference between, e.g., case-control and cohort study designs.

In the above briefing, California doctors Dan Erickson and a colleague explain, clearly, based on data, not speculation or ideological tomfoolery, why locking down most of the world’s economy in response to the China coronavirus was not necessary!

Unlike myself, they are medical doctors. They are not academics or members of any privileged group. They see patients every day. Their boots are on the ground. They’ve been collecting data from scratch since this started, both on COVID-19 itself and in comparison to the morbidity and mortality rates of other viruses including the common flu. They’ve talked to people and built an extensive correspondence.

They make a compelling case, based on science, that it makes sense, during an actual pandemic, to quarantine the sick.

Not lock healthy people in their homes and forcibly shutter their businesses or places of work.

COVID-19’s actual morbidity and mortality rates do not support the idea that the lock downs we have seen were justified. The original predictions of millions of cases of COVID-19 were not accurate.  Those numbers have not materialized. That is, and I’ll come back to this point momentarily, to the extent we can determine what the actual numbers really are.

Dr. Erickson also notes secondary effects, not of the coronavirus itself but of the shuttering of the economy on millions of people: new cases of spousal abuse, child abuse, substance abuse, suicide — on the part of those locked indoors against their will, who may have lost their sole means of keeping the lights on and putting food on their tables.

They are frustrated, angry, or just depressed. These are normal human reactions of people suddenly rendered powerless!

I don’t support this lock down because I don’t want support for measures with those kinds of results on my conscience!

Moreover, there appears to be no statistically significant differences in morbidity rates between those places that have been locked down versus those which have not (e.g., Sweden).

There are still other health effects, via economic effects that will hurt public health down the road. People who need medical procedures or treatments unrelated to COVID-19 can’t get them because of the resources set aside for COVID-19 patients who aren’t there.

A friend of mine who lives in Ohio wrote this (I’ve paragraphed what she wrote and done some very light editing):

I think that asking people to check with their local hospital workers will do more to wake up the sheep than anything else. Here is my story.

I am a breast cancer survivor. I am overdue for my yearly mammogram.

I tried to schedule one with my hospital’s imaging center. They refuse to book you until July.

Why?

Because Ohio hospitals are effectively shut down. All resources are supposed to go towards clearing hospital beds for COVID-19 patients.

That means that if I have breast cancer (again), it will go untreated until after July.

Similarly, if you need to have a gallbladder removed, because of painful gallstones, you are out of luck. No elective surgery is being performed.

Guess what?

My county has had seven deaths attributed to COVID-19. Ohio has had 711 deaths. That means that there are a lot of empty hospital beds in Ohio.

Think about this: how many people will now die because they are not allowed to get treatment?

Folks: the lock downs are not about saving lives!!!!

Another agenda is at work.

Please check with your friends that work in a hospital. Nurses and doctors are getting laid off as a cost cutting measure.

Why?

Since 50% of a hospitals revenue comes from elective surgeries and procedures like mammograms; they are losing money.

Hospitals, like many other businesses, are being bankrupted by lock downs.

That is a much greater threat to everyone’s lives than COVID-19!

This is insane!

If you live in a small town, and get COVID-19 next year, you might not have a hospital available for you!

Please stop being sheep! Use your brains! Stop believing everything you are told! Be observant! Pay attention! Ask questions! Talk to the people at your area hospitals to see if your situation is the same as in Ohio.

Get that?

Do we need coronavirus testing? Yes, absolutely. Do we need to lock healthy people indoors? Emphatically no.

How many people reading this have fallen for the 24/7 corporate media scare tactics about a coronavirus that actual raw data shows to be only marginally more dangerous than the seasonal flu (as shown by data these guys, actual doctors, have collected). And about which lies are being told: everyone who tests positive for COVID-19 and dies has their cause of death listed as COVID-19 even if their cause of death was something else. In many cases, their immune systems or respiratory systems were compromised by something else, e.g., they were smokers or diabetics (go back and review the videos for detailed discussion of this point).

Major hospitals and clinics are now furloughing doctors and staff, and blaming the COVID-19 pandemic.

Not enough work to do? Mayo Clinic appears not to have admitted enough people actually suffering from COVID-19!

We are seeing the same phenomenon elsewhere, where overly dramatic predictions of hospitals overwhelmed with COVID-19 cases have not materialized. 

Not only that, hospitals are actually receiving more money if they report the patients they have as testing positive for COVID-19 and being on ventilators!

In other words, given such perverse incentives, there isn’t the slightest reason to believe the official COVID-19 morbidity and mortality rate numbers. Some of the numbers may approximate reality, in some places. In others….  Well, who knows?!

Dr. Anthony Fauci, invariably looming like a shadow behind Donald Trump as he does briefings, does not see or treat patients. He is an academic: a glorified bureaucrat, in other words, and definitely one of the privileged elite. He has been accused of sabotaging the medical research careers of others in order to advance his own agendas. 

Bill Gates, of the billionaire class, who could also be called Mr. Vaccine, has never seen a patient at all. He’s not a real scientist, much less an epidemiologist or a virologist or immunologist. Yet he’s pouring billions into Big Pharma for work towards a vaccine. And his track record of associations make him as suspicious a character in this drama as anyone we’re likely to run across.

What can you do to reduce your risks of getting sick from this or any other virus strain? Use Primary Prevention! Building up your immune system is a large part of Primary Prevention.

If this crisis does demonstrate anything, it is the utter dysfunction of a health care system and health “education” system which is about money rather than about health education … which does not stress Primary Prevention because Primary Prevention will not line the pockets and bank accounts of Big Pharma.

Over the past century we have seen a massive shift from acute conditions that are either cured or the patient is dead, to chronic conditions “managed” for profit. People with chronic conditions are more vulnerable to COVID-19 than they would be if the causes of those conditions were actually treated instead of “managed” with Big Pharma’s drugs.

Central point: if you believe shutting down most of the economy was justified, you have been lied to, and you have believed the lies! 

Are we interested in helping people, or are we just to go on hating Donald Trump? It is indeed time to open the economy!

Unless we have an alternative to a money political economy, i.e., a political economy where common people need money to survive.

So what is really going on?

I have some ideas. Here is where some readers will sheer off. They’ll call what follows an “unfounded conspiracy theory.” For all I know, what follows next will hurt my blog’s credibility. I’m willing to take that risk.

So what’s going on?

First, a history lesson.  I regret that it must be a lengthy one.

Over the past 25 years, the Internet proved to be the great democratizer of information — for a time.

You could research any topic you wanted. You could begin to contribute, as alternative news media outlets appeared.

New writers (myself included) had been shut out of big corporate media because we didn’t honor the right ideologies or bow to the favored idols.

In 1998 we learned from Drudge, not the Clinton News Network (CNN), about Bill’s office trysts with Monica. A few years later we learned of alternatives to the official conspiracy theory of 9/11, and could watch replays of the video of the newscaster reporting the fall of WTC-7 before it happenedOops!

By the early 2000’s anyone with minimal tech skills could put up a blog, if not a website.

Alternative views of history surfaced on the Web. A lot of suppressed information appeared, on every subject, but what we were able to learn of the real economy and its history were the most important. We learned of the shady origins of the Federal Reserve System.

Alternative health information became available. Anyone with a functioning brain grew suspicious of multi-billion dollar drug corporations whom, collectively, we began to call Big Pharma.

New political movements rose (e.g., Tea Party groups, Independence groups). All facilitated by this disruptive new technology, which had escaped control by corporate media elites. Sites like Infowars gained followings comparable to those of massive corporate outlets like CNN.

This became very dangerous to the plans for the world that had been in place for close to 70 years.

In particular, alternative views of globalization had appeared and thrown cold water on official dogmas about so-called free trade, immigration, and prosperity everywhere globalism touched.

Much of this information blurred the distinction between “right” and “left.”

I found myself increasingly in the weird position of being essentially a creature of the “right” when it came to cultural and many educational issues, while increasingly siding with the “left” when it came to political economy and issues of the loci of global power and its operations.

What I’d figured out: globalists couldn’t care less about ideological distinctions, though they were willing to use them to advance their goals for the world.

Alternative media unveiled wealth and power growing more consolidated and concentrated, a world where so-called free trade had hollowed out America’s manufacturing base while building up former backwaters like China, whose government never renounced Communism. The Chinese Communist Party allows corporations but keeps them on a very short leash. China itself is a controlled society, courtesy of its infamous social credit system.

We, in the West, weren’t supposed to ask what sense it made to speak of free trade with a Communist dictatorship.

Political economy (as opposed to “political science” and “economics”) had made a comeback. More people started taking their cues from the Michael Hudsons of the economics world, not the Milton Friedmans. Political economy sees “economics” as no more uncontaminated by politics than anything else in the modern world.

The long and the short of it: a crisis of knowledge and truth developed. What had them? Arrogant, moneyed urbanites with an elite mindset who identified with authority? The so-called “experts” (who, among other things, had failed to predict the Meltdown of 2007-09)? The people whose official narratives often had more holes than Swiss cheese, and seemingly deliberately did not mention what did not fit their narratives?

All of this ties into the difference between Third and Fourth Stage thinking I develop elsewhere on this blog (see also here).

Anti-elitism — populism if you prefer — sometimes (predictably) manifested itself as “left-wing” and sometimes as “right-wing.” Its “left-wing” guise appeared in struggling Greece as the Syriza Party (2014-15). The Syrizas were bullied and neutered by the EU financial elites after driving out the Party’s finance minister, firebrand Yanis Varoufakis, to whom I owe the phrase Deep Establishment.  (Worth noting: as an opponent of populism as I am using the term, Varoufakis would not endorse the overall theme I am developing here!)

A year or so later, Brexit rose in the U.K. and passed overwhelmingly in early 2016. Brexit was portrayed as a creature of the “right.” Other “populists” had won or were winning on “neo-nationalist” agendas: Viktor Orbán in Hungary, Jarosław Kaczyński in Poland, and obviously Donald Trump in the U.S.

Attempts by academics and elite-controlled corporate media to portray these men as fascists were falling on mostly deaf ears.

Since then, we’ve seen India’s Narendra Modi rise to dominance on a pro-Hindu platform, and the election of Jaro Bolsanaro in Brazil following an assassination attempt by a leftist.

Last year saw the Yellow Vests insurgency in France.

And now it’s Boris Johnson, in the U.K., also winning a democratic election hands down.

Large movements — masses of unwashed commoners — peons, confound it! — reject globalism and its various agendas and ruses.

Much of their information comes from the World Wide Web, and they use social media and instant messaging systems to communicate events around the world in real time.

When cops anywhere acting on the authority of the local branch of the global corporate state brutalize protesters, the entire world finds out about it in a matter of minutes!

Many people are not sold on what the Deep Establishment says about man-made global warming. Not when a snotty, sneering 16-year-old Generation Z kid, obviously not a scientist, is trotted out by UN types and given a seat at the table as if she were some kind of expert.

I don’t know many people (outside academia and corporate media) who fell for the Greta Thunberg circus act.

Frankly, that one had me scratching my head.

Did the power elites really think we, the unwashed, were that stupid?

Taking down Trump was one of their highest priorities. The pre-election attempt to brand his supports as “baskets of deplorables” backfired badly. The attempt to portray online populism as “Russian propaganda” didn’t work, although technology leviathans like Google fell for it, retooled their algorithms, and that badly hurt truth-telling sites. Arguably, the technology world has come ever closer to entering a new Gilded Age ever since. But it did not hurt Trump.

Then came Russiagate itself, which bombed spectacularly. There was no evidence that the Trump campaign colluded with or received help from Moscow. (Russian-American author Dmitry Orlov observed on occasion how Russia collectively saw the whole thing as akin to nighttime entertainment.)

Then came Ukraine-gate. Democrats played the impeachment card.

Another magnificent flop.

And speaking of Democrats, they now seem poised to nominate for the presidency a guy whose antics with women and underaged girls are — shall we say — colorful, and who, when speaking, frequently lapses into episodes of word salad: an early sign of dementia.

Democratic Party owned elites wanted nothing to do with Bernie Sanders, another of those “left” populists.

Other candidates (except, perhaps, for Elizabeth Warren and Tulsi Gabbard) were walking, talking train wrecks.

Were the globalists becoming desperate?

Enter the coronavirus! Enter COVID-19!

Pow!

I don’t know that it was manmade, an intended bioweapon. I don’t know that it wasn’t. Due to this being a complex and unwieldy post already, I chose not to go there. All I know is that it’s been awfully convenient for those not about to let a good crisis go to waste.

The Chinese knew about it possibly as early as last October. They tried to cover it up! Doctors who tried to warn people “disappeared.”

There was no effort to shut down air traffic coming out of China until it was too late!

The globalists needed this thing to get out! Otherwise it wouldn’t serve its purpose: to provide a reason to lock down as many Western economies and try to force us unwashed peons into dependence on our betters!

For the coronavirus really can make you sick. If your system is compromised by something else (e.g., you are a smoker, or have diabetes), the combined effects can kill you.

Especially if you’re over 60.

You can be infected without knowing it (be asymptomatic), and transmit it to others.

Egads!

Trump expressed hope that people who tested negative for the virus would be able to go back to work soon.

He was accused of caring more about the economy than people’s lives.

It’s a tactic that works!

This crisis and how Trump handles it will now likely define his presidency. Not Russiagate, not Ukraine-gate. Corporate media will see to that.

The Federal Reserve, the U.S. Treasury Dept., and the U.S. Congress have acted. I’ve elsewhere mentioned the drop in interest rates and the return to QE.

A separate outside motivation for the use of this pandemic might be the need by the elites to bring down an economy that has generated unsustainable levels of debt wherever you look: the national debt, student loan debt and other personal consumer debt, corporate debt, and federal liabilities such as social security and Medicare which aren’t included in the national debt. These debts will not be repaid, because they are not repayable.

People locked into debt can be easily transformed into totally dependent techno-feudal serfs in a manufactured depression. Unless there is a debt jubilee.

Which, as of right now, I am predicting will not happen. The elites have no plans to relinquish control.

As everybody reading this probably knows, Congress just passed a $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus bill — the largest such measure in U.S. history.

One of the consequences of that bill will be millions of out-of-work Americans receiving $1,200 checks courtesy of Uncle Sam. It is happening as I write.

The arrival, unannounced, of Universal Basic Income?

I hate to say it, but $1,200 won’t pay rent and utilities for a month in a decent apartment in a decent part of town in a town or city of any size these days. For a family of four, $1,200 won’t last two weeks.

So what happens? Congress authorizes another $1.2 trillion in another month or so? (More relief is coming down the pike since I wrote the first version of these words at the start of this month.)

Be all this as it may, a novel coronavirus, which is sometimes asymptomatic and can be spread silently through freely acting populations, is a perfect means to scare that population out of its wits, so that they comply with authority.

The sort of population who will then follow their leaders toward a world government that will service global corporations, which has been the globalist goal for well over a century.

“Economic integration” was going strong until its actual goals were exposed — on the Internet.

Has COVID-19 not been the most convenient thing to come down the pike in an eon?! Possibly ever?!

Globalism, understood as the ideology of the possibility and desirability of world government, is not a conspiracy theory. Its architects haven’t been hiding. There is an abundance of public statements like this one:

“We shall have world government, whether or not we like it. The only question is whether world government will be achieved by conquest or consent.”

–James Paul Warburg, before the US Senate, Feb. 17, 1950

Now they can maneuver to recover from the Trump 2016 election setback (and Brexit and Orbán and the others) and get the world back on track, prepared, as David Rockefeller Sr. was once quoted as saying, “to march towards a world government.”

Fabian Society globalist and former Prime Minister Gordon Brown of the U.K. is openly pushing for world government as the solution to the coronavirus.

“Temporary,” of course. I have Nebraska oceanfront property for sale to anyone who swallows that one.

The stepchild of Agenda 21, UN sustainable development goals for 2030 await.

It might not take that long!

Now in case anyone missed it, I’ve not said the Wuhan coronavirus is anything to play with. Again: I’ve written elsewhere of what you can do to reduce your risk of getting it. The key is Primary Prevention, which no one is talking about because it offers a path to resilience and self-sufficiency, and less dependence on the ridiculously overpriced health care system, not to mention government itself.

A thinking, health-conscious population won’t be drawn into the draconian measures we’ve seen.

Nor, however, will it need to spend huge amounts of money on doctors, hospitals, insurance policies … or Big Pharma’s legal drugs.

Does that nail it?

The globalists never wanted a population capable of critical thinking on a large scale. This is why we have public schools, which as everyone reading this knows are indoctrination and regimentation centers. The globalists want us at the beck and call of “our” governments, not looking at the men behind the curtain, and they’ve figured out that when ordinary economic incentives don’t work, scare tactics will.

The people I’ve seen where I live, all wearing face masks, in long lines, socially distanced, waiting to get into banks, grocery stores, drug stores, other operations deemed by “their” governments as “essential,” look to be displaying the right level of low-grade fear.

People seem willing to put down their superficial pretenses to independence and follow their leaders in the various cities of the world.

COVID-19 will run its course, as did SARS and H1N1. As does the common flu, every flu season.

The damage, it should be clear by now, will not be to our health.

My understanding is that regarding these lock downs, the natives are getting restless. Things might be coming to a head soon, as one side continues with the scare tactics while the other side just wants to get back to work because they have bills to pay.

What may become the question of this new and so far very strange decade: in a political-economic and very connected or networked technological environment of 25 years standing in which they have been gradually losing it, along with their credibility, how far are globalist elites in central banks, high finance, and in other global corporations willing to go to maintain power? 

 

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