Thursday, May 1, 2008 67 Comments

OL3: the Jacobite history of the world

Okay, open-minded progressives. You've read part 1 and part 2. Quite a bushel of prose. And has any of it changed your mind? Are you ready to stop being a progressive, and start being a reactionary?

Almost certainly not. We haven't really learned anything here. All we've done is plant a couple of little, tiny seeds of doubt. Now we're going to throw a little water on those seeds, and see if we can maybe get a leaf or two to poke its head out. Don't expect a full-grown redwood to fly up and hit you in the face. Even when they work, which isn't often, conversions don't work that way. Doubt is a slow flower. You have to give it time.

What we've seen is that the story of the world that you and I grew up with - a story that is the common heritage of progressives and conservatives alike, although progressives are certainly truer to it - is oddly complicated in spots. The great caravan of the past comes with quite a baggage wagon of paradoxes, each of which needs its own explanation.

So, for example, by one set of standards which seem essential to the progressive mind, the end of colonialism was a great victory for humanity. By another set of standards which it is equally difficult to imagine rejecting, it was a vast human tragedy. Could it be both? A tragic victory, perhaps? Clio was always both poet and historian, and the idea of a tragic victory has definite Empsonian potential. On the other hand, however...

History is big. We shouldn't expect it to be simple. But we'd like it to be as simple as possible. When we study the errors of others, we see that nonsense often conceals the obvious. And what is nonsense, to those who believe in it? To a Catholic, what is the Trinity? A mystery. Some things are truly mysterious. But others have simple explanations. The Trinity is a compromise designed by a standards committee. History 1, mystery 0.

I hate to beat this colonialism thing to death, but there is an odd little op-ed in the Times this morning. It's about Robert Mugabe and T.S. Eliot. It's short and worth a read.

I've seen a few similar reminiscences in the fishwrap recently - we'll let this one serve as an example. What's fascinating about these pieces is how close they come to being apologies. And yet how far away they are.

Because why should John Darnton apologize? What could he possibly be sorry for? You apologize when you're responsible for something bad that has happened. President Mugabe is clearly a bad egg. But how could Mr. Darnton and his Quill Club friends be responsible for him? They are reporters, that's all. They report. You decide. And yet there is that phrase - "responsible journalism."

While we're on the fishwrap beat, another puzzle was inflicted on Americans this week by a man of the cloth. As one might expect, the smart people of the world have smart explanations, whereas the dumb ones scratch their heads and say "duh:"
Chris Matthews said it best when he said if anything like the 9/11 remarks had been said in his church the weekend after he would certainly have know. I know that's true. In 20 years you have never heard anything inflamatory? It just isn't believable. He initally lied the when ABC first aired the tapes. The next night he was asked by three different news medias and he said he did not hear nor did he know of any of these remarks. Then the following Tuesday, he acknowledged he had heard about them before he announced his candidacy and that's why he asked him not to come out. Too wierd!
"Too weird." Indeed, weirdness is the mother of doubt. Is it not slightly weird that a twenty-year member of the Church of Hate Whitey could become not only the leading candidate for the Presidency, but the candidate who stands for racial harmony? Is it more weird, or less weird, than the fact that Robert Mugabe had no interest in T.S. Eliot?

The thing is: these things don't seem weird to me. In the progressive story of the world, they are mysteries. They can be explained, but they need to be explained. In the reactionary story of the world, however, they are firmly in dog-bites-man territory.

I have yet to justify this assertion. But as a progressive, you can swallow it without fear. It is not the red pill that will turn you to an instant Jacobite, forcing you to abandon your life, your beliefs, your friends and lovers, and replace them with an ascetic and fanatical devotion to the doomed old cause of the Royal Stuarts. (Though at least you'd still "oppose Republicanism.")

Because even if we admit that the progressive story has these little lacunae, the reactionary story has giant, gaping holes. In fact, it's hard to even say there is a reactionary story. If there was, how would you know it? What would Archbishop Laud make of the iPhone? Of jazz? Of Harley-Davidson? The mind, she boggles.

Hopefully she will boggle slightly less after you read the following. Which will still not turn you into a Jacobite - but might at least help you understand the temptation.

Before we can tell the reactionary story, we have to define these weird words, progressive and reactionary. Vast tomes have been devoted to this purpose. But let's make it as simple: to be progressive is to be left-wing. To be reactionary is to be right-wing.

What is this weird political axis? As you may know, the terms left and right come from the seating arrangements in the French Legislative Assembly. A body no longer in existence. Yet somehow, the dimension remains relevant. It is easy to say that if Barack, Hillary and McCain were seated in the Legislative Assembly, Hillary would be sitting to the right of Barack, and McCain would be to the right of Hillary.

Moreover, we can apply the axis to events even before 1791. For example, we can say that in the Reformation, Catholicism was right-wing and Protestantism left-wing. This gets a little confusing in the post-1945 era - most pre-20C Catholics would find the present-day Church quite, um, Protestant. (If you are unconvinced of this, you may enjoy Novus Ordo Watch.) But there is really no Catholic equivalent of the Münster Republic, the Levellers, etc, etc.

Of course, politics is not a quantitative science (or a science at all), and sometimes it can be a little tricky to decide who is to the left or right of whom. But it's really quite amazing that this linear criterion can be applied so effectively across five centuries of human history. (It even works pretty well on the Greeks and Romans.)

Imagine, for instance, that we wanted to classify music along a linear axis. Is Bach to the right of the Beatles? Okay, probably. Are the Stones to the left of the Beatles? Where does the Cure fit in? And John Coltrane? And the Dead Kennedys? What about Einstürzende Neubauten? Are they to the right of Tom Petty, or the left? Is Varg Vikernes between them? And how does he stack up next to 50 Cent?

Each of these musicians represents a way of thinking about music. None of them invented music, nor are any of them unique. They are members of movements. If we have trouble classifying the individual artists, we should at least be able to classify the movements. So is punk to the left of goth? Is baroque to the right of death metal, gangsta rap, ragtime, etc? We remain completely lost. I'm sure you could arrange all these musical forms on a line, if you had to. And so could I. But I doubt our answers would be the same.

Yet strangely, in the political sphere, this works. Indeed we take it for granted. Why should philosophies of music be all over the map, but philosophies of government arrange themselves along one consistent dimension?

Feel free to come up with your own answer. Here is mine.

Let's start with the obvious. A reactionary - ie, a right-winger - is someone who believes in order, stability, and security. All of which he treats as synonyms.

Think, as a progressive, about the simplicity of this proposition. It is so stupid as to be almost mindless. What is the purpose of government? Why do we have government, rather than nothing? Because the alternative is Corner Man.

Note that Corner Man has his own philosophy of government. He exercises sovereignty. That's his corner. ("Metro [the Las Vegas PD] can't even get me off this ---- corner.") Indeed, he has much the same relationship to the government that you and I know and love, that Henry VIII had to the Pope. And how did he acquire his corner? "I've been on this ---- corner for ten ---- years." In legal theory this is called adverse possession, which is more or less how the Tudors acquired their little island.

Of course, we reactionaries are not fans of Corner Man, largely because his claim to the corner is contested by a superior authority which will prevail in any serious conflict. Why does he attack the blue PT Cruiser? Is it because he's on crack? Perhaps, but perhaps it's also because the driver owes allegiance to the other side of the conflict - "Metro" - and neither has nor would acknowledge Corner Man's authority. For example, she has not paid him any taxes, fees, or rents for the privilege of positioning her vehicle on his (so-called) territory.

One synonym reactionary is legitimist. When the legitimist asks whether Corner Man really owns his corner, he is not asking whether Corner Man should own his corner. He asks whether Corner Man does own his corner. And his answer is "no." He prefers the claim of "Metro," not (or not just) because "Metro" is not in the habit of getting loaded and bashing the holy heck out of random peoples' cars, but because "Metro" and Corner Man have conflicting claims, and in the end, the former is almost certain to win.

And when he asks whether the Bourbons are the legitimate rulers of France or the Stuarts of England, he is not asking whether (a) the Bourbon or Stuart family has some hereditary biological property that makes their scions ideal for the job (midichlorians, perhaps), or (b) the Bourbon or Stuart will suffer intolerably as a result of being deprived of the throne, or even (c) the Bourbon or Stuart families obtained their original claims fairly and squarely. At least, not if he has any sense. None of these arguments is even close to viable.

Thus, the order that the rational reactionary seeks to preserve and/or restore is arbitrary. Perhaps it can be justified on some moral basis. But probably not. It is good simply because it is order, and the alternative to order is violence at worst and politics at best. If the Bourbons do not rule France, someone will - Robespierre, or Napoleon, or Corner Man.

One of the difficulties in resurrecting classical reactionary thought is that when this idea was expressed in the 17th century, it came out in the form of theology. Who put the Stuarts in charge of England? God did. Obviously. And you don't want to argue with God. For a believer in Divine Providence, this is pretty much unanswerable. For a 21st-century reactionary, it won't do at all.

Perhaps the best and most succinct statement of the reactionary philosophy of government - especially considering the context - was this one:
Truly I desire their liberty and freedom as much as anybody whomsoever; but I must tell you their liberty and freedom consists of having of government, those laws by which their life and their goods may be most their own. It is not for having a share in government, sir, that is nothing pertaining to them. A subject and sovereign are clear different things.
While I'm not prepared to endorse the author on all matters whatsoever (and I feel that chartered companies are more likely to produce effective neo-reactionary government than royal families, Stuart or otherwise), I agree with every word of the above. At least for me, it makes a fine endpoint to the axis: it is impossible to be more reactionary than Charles I.

So we know what a reactionary is: a believer in order. What is a progressive?

Here is the problem. We only have one dimension to work with. We know that a progressive is the polar opposite of a reactionary. So if a reactionary is a believer in order, a progressive is - a believer in disorder? A believer in mayhem? A believer in chaos?

Well, of course, this is exactly what a reactionary would say. (In fact, Dr. Johnson did say it.) The only problem is that it's obviously not true. When you, dear progressive, watch the clip of Corner Man, do you revel in the crunch of smashing glass, the screams of the victims, the thrill of wanton destruction? Um, no. You're horrified, just like me.

Let's put aside this question of order for the moment. We know that reactionaries believe in order. We know that progressives do not believe in chaos. But we know that reactionaries are the opposite of progressives. Is this a paradox? It is, and we will resolve it. But not quite yet.

We can say quite easily that a progressive is someone who believes in progress. That is, he or she believes the world is moving toward - or at least should be moving toward - some state which is an improvement on the present condition of affairs.

This is what Barack Obama means when he talks about change. Why do he and his listeners assume so automatically that this change will be for the better? Isn't this word neutral? Change means a transition to something different. Different could be better. Or it could be worse. Surely the matter deserves some clarification.

The obvious explanation is that since Obama and his followers will be doing the changing, they will make sure that the result is desirable - at least, to them.

I find this answer inadequate. It implies that progressives are egocentric, humorless, and incapable of self-criticism. I'm sure this is true of some. I'm sure it is also true of some reactionaries - although these days you need a pretty solid sense of humor to even consider being a reactionary. But it is rude to apply a pejorative derivation to an entire belief system, and nor is it particularly accurate in my experience.

A better answer is that today's progressives see themselves as the modern heirs of a tradition of change, stretching back to the Enlightenment. They see change as inherently good because they see this history as a history of progress, ie, improvement. In other words, they believe in Whig history.

Whether you are a progressive, a reactionary, or anything in between, I highly recommend the recent documentary Your Mommy Kills Animals, about the animal-rights movement. In it there is a clip of Ingrid Newkirk in which she makes the following proposition: animal rights is a social-justice movement. All social-justice movements in the past have been successful. Therefore, the animal-rights movement will inevitably succeed.

This is pure Whig history. It postulates a mysterious force that animates the course of history, and operates inevitably in the progressive direction. Note the circular reasoning: social justice succeeds because social justice is good. How do we know that social justice is good? Because it succeeds, and good tends to triumph over evil. How do we know that good tends to triumph over evil? Well, just look at the record of social-justice movements.

Which is impressive indeed. If there is any constant phenomenon in the last few hundred years of Western history, it's that - with occasional reversals - reactionaries tend to lose and progressives tend to win. Whether you call them progressives, liberals, Radicals, Jacobins, republicans, or even revolutionaries, socialists or communists, the left is your winning team.

What's interesting about this effect is the number of theories that have been proposed to explain it. Richard Dawkins attributes it to a mysterious force which he calls the Zeitgeist. Dawkins, to his great credit, allows as how he has no understanding of the effect. It is just a variable without which his equations won't balance, like Einstein's cosmological constant.

Others of a more theological bent have attributed the effect to Divine Providence. (Note that the success of progressivism quite conclusively disproves the Providential theory of divine-right monarchy.) And then of course there is our old friend, dialectical materialism. Since all these theories are mutually inconsistent, let's reserve our judgment by calling this mysterious left-favoring force the W-force - W, for Whig.

What explains the W-force? One easy explanation is that it's just the interaction of hindsight and a random walk. Everything changes over time - including opinions. Since by definition we consider ourselves enlightened, history appears as a progress from darkness to light.

For example, Professor Dawkins, since he is a progressive, sees the modern tolerance of gays and lesbians as genuine progress (I happen to agree). And for the same reason, he sees the modern intolerance of slavery in just the same way.

However, if these changes are indeed arbitrary, a random walk could reverse them. Professor Dawkins' great-great-grandchildren could then explain to us, just as sincerely, the great moral advance of society, which early in the 21st century still turned a blind eye to rampant sodomy and had no conception of the proper relationship between man and servant.

While this theory is amusing, it is pretty clearly wrong. It depends on the fact that we don't yet have a good definition of what it means to be "progressive." But it clearly does mean something. We don't see these kinds of reversals. We see consistent movement in a single direction. Furthermore, we know that progress is the opposite of reaction, and we have a very good definition of reaction. And we know that reaction tends to lose. That isn't random.

Another phenomenon that people often invoke implicitly is the advance of science and engineering, which indeed is very like the W-force. It is easy to assume, for example, that Charles I could not possibly have anything to say to us on the theory of government, because - to paraphrase Hilaire Belloc - we have the iPhone, and he did not.

Of course, all the forms of government we know today were known not only to Charles I, but also to Aristotle. We know why science and engineering have advanced monotonically: it is much easier to create knowledge than destroy it. Since the American approach to government, which has now spread around the world, not only considerably predates iPhones but was in fact based on ancient Greek models, the analogy is quite spurious. It rests on little more than the double meaning of the word "progress."

Another way to evaluate this question is to imagine that the technology of the present suddenly became available to the societies of the past. Stuart iPhones simply break the brain, but we can imagine what the reactionary England of 1808, in which approximately twelve people had the vote and small children were hanged for inappropriate use of the word "God," would make of 21st-century technology. I suspect they would do pretty much what they did with 19th-century technology - use it to take over the world.

We should also seriously consider the possibility that the W-force is exactly what it claims to be, and that good really does have a tendency to triumph over evil. Unfortunately, when we examine political turmoil at the micro level, this is not the tendency we see - the classic case being the French Revolution.

Why did the French Revolution, the vast majority of whose initiators meant nothing but the best for their country, go so sour? A simple explanation is that good people are scrupulous, and evil ones are not. Thus, the latter have more freedom of action than the former. Thus, those who are amoral and simply wish to get ahead in life should choose the side of evil. Thus, good is outnumbered and evil is reinforced, producing the Yeats effect:
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Anyone who has not seen this in practice has no experience of human affairs.

I'm afraid I have no rational progressive explanation for the W-force. If anyone else does, I'd be curious to hear it. (Professor Dawkins might be curious to hear it as well.) I do, however, have a reactionary explanation.

First, let's consider the famous first paragraph of Macaulay's History of England, which (as La Wik notes) has long served as the case study of Whig history:
I purpose to write the history of England from the accession of King James the Second down to a time which is within the memory of men still living. I shall recount the errors which, in a few months, alienated a loyal gentry and priesthood from the House of Stuart. I shall trace the course of that revolution which terminated the long struggle between our sovereigns and their parliaments, and bound up together the rights of the people and the title of the reigning dynasty. I shall relate how the new settlement was, during many troubled years, successfully defended against foreign and domestic enemies; how, under that settlement, the authority of law and the security of property were found to be compatible with a liberty of discussion and of individual action never before known; how, from the auspicious union of order and freedom, sprang a prosperity of which the annals of human affairs had furnished no example; how our country, from a state of ignominious vassalage, rapidly rose to the place of umpire among European powers; how her opulence and her martial glory grew together; how, by wise and resolute good faith, was gradually established a public credit fruitful of marvels which to the statesmen of any former age would have seemed incredible; how a gigantic commerce gave birth to a maritime power, compared with which every other maritime power, ancient or modern, sinks into insignificance; how Scotland, after ages of enmity, was at length united to England, not merely by legal bonds, but by indissoluble ties of interest and affection; how, in America, the British colonies rapidly became far mightier and wealthier than the realms which Cortes and Pizarro had added to the dominions of Charles the Fifth; how in Asia, British adventurers founded an empire not less splendid and more durable than that of Alexander.
Okay. Imagine you are the leader of a daring, futuristic, secret science project whose goal is to resurrect the mind of Macaulay, by digitizing scraps of rotten tissue from his cranium, applying a holographic reconstruction algorithm, and simulating the result in a giant supercomputer. After great effort, you succeed. Macaulay lives. You connect the computer to the Internet. Running at superhuman speed, it downloads gigabytes of information from La Wik and other reliable sources. It says nothing. It is merely processing. Macaulay is revising his great history of England. You wait, breathless, as he reacts to the last 150 years. Finally the screen flashes to life and produces a single sentence:
And then it all went to shit.
The trouble is that the people who run England now, while they are progressive to a T and consider themselves very much the heirs of the British liberal tradition, have different objective standards of success than Macaulay. By Tony Blair's standards, Great Britain is doing better than ever. By Macaulay's standards, it is a disaster area.

What happened? The W-force itself. With its customary glacial irresistibility, it has been driving the center of British politics steadily to the left for the last 150 years. Meanwhile, poor Macaulay has been stuck in his own cranium, just rotting. He has had no chance to adapt. So he still has the same opinions he held in 1859, which in the world of 2008 put him somewhere to the right of John Tyndall. If I think of Gordon Brown's Labour as the left edge of my screen and David Cameron's Tories as the right, Macaulay is somewhere out on the fire escape.

Of course, if you are a progressive with a soft spot for Macaulay - despite some of his rather, um, Eurocentric opinions - Macaulay, you might assume that by reading the last 150 years of history, he would realize that New Labour is exactly where it's at. I suppose this is a matter of opinion. Perhaps Gordon Brown really is that convincing.

However, we also need to consider the possibility that Macaulay would be convinced in the opposite direction. Given the fact that the state of England today would horrify him, he might well be open to moving further out on the fire escape - a reaction not dissimilar to the response that 18th-century Whigs, such as Burke (yes, Burke was a Whig) had to the Reign of Terror.

The absolute shibboleth of the 18th-century and 19th-century British liberal movement, for example, was the proposition that a fundamentally aristocratic government could resist democratic pressures by conceding a mixed constitution. Contemporary commenters on the Reform Acts of 1832 and 1867 are constantly explaining that Tory or Adullamite right-wing resistance to these measures was not only futile, but actually dangerous - it could spark an actual, French-style revolution.

Indeed the entire constitution of post-1688 Britain was based on this proposition, because it was based on the concept of constitutional monarchy - as opposed to that dreaded Jacobite abomination, "absolute" monarchy. And how exactly did that one work out? As La Wik puts it:
As originally conceived, a constitutional monarch was quite a powerful figure, head of the executive branch even though his or her power was limited by the constitution and the elected parliament... An evolution in political thinking would, however, eventually spawn such phenomena as universal suffrage and political parties. By the mid 20th century, the political culture in Europe had shifted to the point where most constitutional monarchs had been reduced to the status of figureheads, with no effective power at all. Instead, it was the democratically elected parliaments, and their leader, the prime minister who had become those who exercised power.
If, in 1688, you had insisted that the concept of a "constitutional monarchy" was a contradiction in terms, that "constitutional" simply meant "symbolic" and the upshot of the whole scheme would simply be a return to the rule of Parliament, you were a Jacobite. Plain and simple.

And you were also dead wrong - for about two centuries. Most of the royal powers died with George III, but even Queen Victoria exercised a surprising amount of authority over the operations of "her" government. No longer. If the W-force has made anything clear, it's that constitutional monarchy is not a stable form of government. Nor is restricted suffrage. There is simply no compromise with democracy - good or bad.

Moreover, 19th-century classical liberals promised over and over again that democracy, despite the obvious mathematics of the situation, need not lead to what we now call "socialism." Supposedly the English people, with their stern moral fibre, would never tolerate it. Etc.

The lesson of history is quite clear. Whether you love the W-force or hate it, surrendering to it is not an effective way to resist it. There is no stable point along the left-right axis at which the W-force, having exacted all the concessions to which justice entitles it, simply disappears. Oh, no. It always wants more. "I can has cheezburger?"

The persistence of this delusion in Anglo-American thought is quite remarkable. For example, I was reading Harold Temperley's life of George Canning, from 1905, when I came across this amazing passage on the Holy Alliance:
Despite the great revolution the despots of Europe had learnt nothing and forgotten nothing, except their one saving grace of benevolence. The paternal system of government has not succeeded where strong local institutions or feelings exist, and for this reason Austria has never conciliated or subdued Hungary. But the Holy Alliance proposed a sort of patriarchal system of government for all Europe, which could not really have applied to those nations where free constitutions or strong patriotic feeling still remained. These proved indeed to be to Metternich and Alexander what Kossuth and Deak have been to Francis Joseph. Metternich did not understand the changes created by the French Revolution in the ideas and hearts of men. He thought he could tear a page from the Book of History, and destroy both the memory and the hope of liberty. He believed that re-action could be permanent, that new ideals and opinions could be crushed, and the world again beguiled into the dreary inaction which characterized the home politics of all nations before 1789.
"Dreary inaction!" "Their one saving grace of benevolence!"

Friends, the world today is not such an awful place. Corner Man aside. But compared to what it would be if "dreary inaction" had prevailed in the world since 1905, it is a sewer and a slum and a dungheap.

Think of all the beautiful people who would have lived, all the beautiful cities that would not have been bombed, all the hideous ones that would not have been built. The Napoleonic Wars were a garden-party compared to the First and Second. The French Revolution was a garden-party compared to the Russian. And, as we've seen, the Whig foreign policy of exporting democracy as a universal remedy for all ills, as practiced by both Canning and Temperley, does not appear entirely unconnected with these tragedies.

Temperley is even wrong about the small stuff. The hot-blooded Hungarians? Snoring soundly in the arms of Brussels. And before that, Moscow. Which had far less trouble with Nagy than Franz Josef had with Kossuth. No constitutions conceded there! So much for the "Book of History."

Moreover, Temperley didn't even need the future to prove him wrong about Metternich - who, as Deogolwulf points out, if anything exaggerated the eventual futility of his efforts. Europe's era of pure reaction was short, but the years between 1815 and 1848 were great ones. (Don't miss the Wulf's rare sally into long form, wherein he devastates the Enlightenment in the shape of the distinguished Professor Grayling - who turns up in the comment barrel, and receives the brisk filleting his name suggests.)

This brings us to the failed project of conservatism, which puts its money in a slightly different place - the proposition that all the concessions made to the W-force in the past are good and necessary, but any further concessions are bad and unnecessary. The Confederate theologian R.L. Dabney dispensed with this quite eloquently:
It may be inferred again that the present movement for women's rights will certainly prevail from the history of its only opponent, Northern conservatism. This is a party which never conserves anything. Its history has been that it demurs to each aggression of the progressive party, and aims to save its credit by a respectable amount of growling, but always acquiesces at last in the innovation. What was the resisted novelty of yesterday is today one of the accepted principles of conservatism; it is now conservative only in affecting to resist the next innovation, which will tomorrow be forced upon its timidity and will be succeeded by some third revolution, to be denounced and then adopted in its turn. American conservatism is merely the shadow that follows Radicalism as it moves forward towards perdition. It remains behind it, but never retards it, and always advances near its leader. This pretended salt bath utterly lost its savor: wherewith shall it be salted? Its impotency is not hard, indeed, to explain. It is worthless because it is the conservatism of expediency only, and not of sturdy principle. It intends to risk nothing serious for the sake of the truth, and has no idea of being guilty of the folly of martyrdom. It always when about to enter a protest very blandly informs the wild beast whose path it essays to stop, that its "bark is worse than its bite," and that it only means to save its manners by enacting its decent role of resistance. The only practical purpose which it now subserves in American politics is to give enough exercise to Radicalism to keep it "in wind," and to prevent its becoming pursy and lazy, from having nothing to whip. No doubt, after a few years, when women's suffrage shall have become an accomplished fact, conservatism will tacitly admit it into its creed, and thenceforward plume itself upon its wise firmness in opposing with similar weapons the extreme of baby suffrage; and when that too shall have been won, it will be heard declaring that the integrity of the American Constitution requires at least the refusal of suffrage to donkeys. There it will assume, with great dignity, its final position.
I'm sure Rev. Dabney would have regarded the era of Ingrid Newkirk with great amusement.

However, note how thoroughly hoist on his own petard he is. The proposition that suffrage is a bad idea, period, may not be one you regard as defensible - but it is surely more defensible than the proposition that all men should be able to vote, but not all women. (Or white men and not black men, another proposition of which the Rev. Dabney was convinced. Note that this bastion also proved impractical to defend.)

So: we still do not understand the W-force. Nor do we understand why reaction is the polar opposite of progressivism. Nor do we have any theory which explains in which cases the latter is good, and in which cases it is bad.

But Dabney and Metternich suggest a very different way of dealing with it. Perhaps if you actually oppose the W-force, the most effective way to oppose it is simply to... oppose it.

After all, as a progressive, you oppose racism. Is the most effective way to oppose racism to give it a little air, to let it blow off steam - to be just a little bit racist, but not too much? It strikes me that the most effective way to oppose racism is simply to not tolerate it at all.

As a progressive, you support democracy. But if you set this aside, wouldn't your advice to a government that opposed democracy simply be the same? If you, with full hindsight, were advising Charles I, would you really advise him to let the Parliament execute Strafford, on the grounds that it might sate their lust for necks?

What I'm suggesting is that the W-force actually behaves as an inverted pendulum, perhaps with a bit of a delay loop. As an "absolute" monarch, the best strategy for maintaining your rule is to preserve your sovereignty entirely intact. Ripping off chunks of it and throwing them to the wolves only seems to encourage the critters.

Why was this not obvious to the kings and princes of old Europe? Perhaps it was obvious. The trouble was that absolute monarchy was always an ideal, never a reality. Every sovereign in history has been a creature of politics - not democratic politics, perhaps, but politics still. At the very least, a king who loses the support of the army is finished. So the pendulum is not quite vertical, and it's all too easy to let it do what it obviously wants to do.

The inverted-pendulum model suggests that, for a stable and coherent nondemocratic state, eliminating politics requires very little repressive energy. Singapore, Dubai and China, for example, all have their secret police - as did the 19th-century Hapsburgs. Each of these governments is very different from the others, but they are all terrified of the W-force. Yet they manage to restrain it, without either falling prey to democracy or opening death camps.

Residents of these countries can think whatever they like. They can even say whatever they like. It is only when they actually organize that they get in trouble. If you don't want the Ministry of Public Security to bother you, don't start or join an antigovernment movement. Certainly this is not ideal - I don't think this blog would be tolerated in China, and my image of the ideal state is one in which you can start all the antigovernment movements you want, as long as they don't involve guns or bombs. However, when we compare this level of infringement of personal freedom to the experience of daily life under Stalin or Hitler, we are comparing peanuts to pumpkins.

Why does China not tolerate peaceful antigovernment politics? Because "people power" can defeat the People's Liberation Army? No. Because China is not a perfectly stable state, and it knows that quite well. Within the Chinese Communist Party, there is politics galore. One move that is off-limits for contending figures within the Chinese regime, however, is imposing one's will on one's adversaries by means of mob politics. Almost everyone in any position of responsibility in the PRC today was personally scarred by the Cultural Revolution, in which China felt all the vices of democracy and none of its virtues. Only by outlawing politics can the Party hold itself together.

Note that in 1989 the Chinese government broke the cardinal rule of Whig government: never fire on a mob. As John F. Kennedy put it, "Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable." Not only did the Chinese government make peaceful revolution impossible - they made peaceful revolution violent. And the result? Violent revolution? No - twenty years of peace, unparalleled prosperity, and personal if not political freedom. As philosophers say, one white raven refutes the assertion that all ravens are black.

The inverted-pendulum model of the W-force gives us a great way to understand Hitler. Yes: Hitler was a reactionary. I am a reactionary. Yikes! If I ever feel the need to grow a mustache, which I won't, I'll have to make sure it extends well past the nose on both sides. Perhaps waxing and curling the tips is just the only way.

Nazism, and fascism in general, was a reactionary movement. It was also the product of a very unusual set of circumstances in history. The fascisms emerged in countries in which the top level of the political system had been turned over to liberals, but many remnants of the ancien regime still existed - notably in the security forces and judiciary system - and retained considerable popular support among the petit-bourgeois or Townie caste.

So the pendulum was a long, long way from top dead center. But the system still had a crude mechanism by which it could be brutally yanked back: street violence. Hitler and Mussolini came to power partly by good old democratic politics, and partly by using their thugs to intimidate their political opponents. This would not have been possible without a security system which tolerated this sort of behavior. When the SA had street fights with the Communists, the SA men tended to get off and the Communists get long jail sentences.

Note how much effort post-1945 governments invest in making sure this particular horse does not escape from this particular barn. There is zero official tolerance for right-wing political violence in any Western country today. (There is a good bit of tolerance for left-wing violence, notably the European antifas, who are the real heirs of Ernst Röhm.) Classical fascism simply does not work without a hefty supply of judges who are willing to "let boys be boys."

The Western judicial systems today cannot be described as reactionary in any way, shape or form. Thus, if you are a progressive, you can cross fascism - at least, good old 1930s style fascism - off your list of worries. And if you are a reactionary, you can cross it off your list of tricks to try. Considering the results of the 1930s, I have to regard this as a good thing.

Okay. Enough suspense. Enough digressions. Let's explain the W-force. Let's also explain why progressivism is the opposite of reaction. In fact, let's explain them both with the same theory.

Progressives do not, in general, believe in chaos. (Imagine breaking into the Obama website and replacing all uses of the word "change" with "chaos." Happy, chanting crowds, holding placards that just say "CHAOS..." frankly, the whole thing is creepy enough as it is.) Nor do they believe in disorder, mayhem, destruction, or doing a massive pile of crack and smashing the crap out of some poor woman's car.

Rather, when you look at what progressives, Whigs, republicans, and other anti-reactionaries actually believe in - whether they are supporters of Obama, Lafayette, Herzen, or any other paladin of the people's cause - it is rarely (although not never) the simple, nihilistic liquidation of the present order. It is always the construction of some new order, which is at least intended as an improvement on the present one.

However, in order to construct this new order, two things need to happen. One: the builders of the new order need to gain power. Two: they need to destroy the old order, which by its insistence on continuing to exist obstructs the birth of the new.

In the progressive mind, these indispensable tasks are not objectives. They are methods. They may even be conceived as unpleasant, if necessary, duties.

One fascinating fact about the presidential campaign of 2008 is that both Democratic candidates are, or at least at one point were, disciples of Saul Alinsky. Clinton actually studied and corresponded with Alinsky. Obama was an Alinskyist "community organizer." Next year, we may well have our first Alinskyist president.

Last year, the New Republic - not a reactionary publication - published an excellent article on Obama's Alinskyist roots. I'm afraid this piece is required reading for all progressives. If you are still a progressive after reading it, at least you know what you're involved with. Here's the bit that jumped out for me:
Alinsky's contribution to community organizing was to create a set of rules, a clear-eyed and systemic approach that ordinary citizens can use to gain public power. The first and most fundamental lesson Obama learned was to reassess his understanding of power. Horwitt says that, when Alinsky would ask new students why they wanted to organize, they would invariably respond with selfless bromides about wanting to help others. Alinsky would then scream back at them that there was a one-word answer: "You want to organize for power!"

Galluzzo shared with me the manual he uses to train new organizers, which is little different from the version he used to train Obama in the '80s. It is filled with workshops and chapter headings on understanding power: "power analysis," "elements of a power organization," "the path to power." Galluzzo told me that many new trainees have an aversion to Alinsky's gritty approach because they come to organizing as idealists rather than realists. But Galluzzo's manual instructs them to get over these hang-ups. "We are not virtuous by not wanting power," it says. "We are really cowards for not wanting power," because "power is good" and "powerlessness is evil."

The other fundamental lesson Obama was taught is Alinsky's maxim that self-interest is the only principle around which to organize people. (Galluzzo's manual goes so far as to advise trainees in block letters: "get rid of do-gooders in your church and your organization.") Obama was a fan of Alinsky's realistic streak. "The key to creating successful organizations was making sure people's self-interest was met," he told me, "and not just basing it on pie-in-the-sky idealism. So there were some basic principles that remained powerful then, and in fact I still believe in."
[...]
Obama so mastered the workshops on power that he later taught them himself. On his campaign website, one can find a photo of Obama in a classroom teaching students Alinskian methods. He stands in front of a blackboard on which he has written, "Power Analysis" and "Relationships Built on Self Interest," an idea illustrated by a diagram of the flow of money from corporations to the mayor.
(I haven't looked for this picture. I suspect the site has probably been updated.)

Here is my theory about progressivism: it is a "Relationship Built on Self Interest." It is exactly what Alinsky says it is: a way for people who want power to organize. It brings them together around the oldest human pleasure other than sex: ganging up on your enemies. It lets them rationalize this ruthless, carnivorous activity as a philanthropic cause. But the real attraction is the thrill of power and victory - sometimes with a little money thrown in.

This is why the likes of a Temperley cannot imagine a world of "dreary inaction," with no politics at all for anyone. "That is nothing pertaining to them." Obama once tried to take a regular job at an ordinary company. He felt dead in it. It was like feeding a dog on turnips. Carnivores need meat.

What made Alinsky so effective was that he dispensed with the romantic euphemisms. He just described the thing as what it is. You have to admire him for that, I feel. A Lafayette, a Herzen, or almost any 19th-century republican outside the Marxist department, would have been absolutely appalled by Alinsky. But the fact is that they were basically in the same business.

So the progressive is, indeed, the polar opposite of the reactionary. Just as order and stability are essential to reaction, disorder and destruction are essential to progressivism.

The progressive never sees it this way. His goal is never to produce disorder and destruction. Unless he is Alinsky himself, he is very unlikely to think directly in terms of seizing power and smashing his enemies. Usually there is some end which is unequivocally desirable - often even from the reactionary perspective.

But if you could somehow design a progressive movement that could achieve its goal without seizing power or smashing its enemies, it would have little energy and find few supporters. What makes these movements so popular is the opportunity for action and the prospect of victory. To defeat them, ensure that they have no chance of success. No one loves a loser.

This theory also explains why progressive movements can produce results which are good. One: their goals have to be good, at least from their followers' perspective. Since these are not evil people we're talking about, their definition of good is often the same as yours or mine. And two: if progressivism is an essentially destructive force, some things still do need destroying.

Let's take homophobia, for example, because this is one area on which (despite my breeder tendencies) I am fully in agreement with the most advanced progressive thinking. And yet, the destruction of homophobia is an act of violent cultural hegemony. Americans and Europeans have considered homosexuality sick, evil and wrong since Jesus was a little boy. If you have the power to tell people they can't believe this anymore, you have the power to tell them just about anything. In this case, you are using your superpowers for good. Is this always so?

As for the W-force, while the inverted pendulum is a good physical analogy, there is another: entropy.

Progressivism is obviously entropic. Obviously, its enemy is order. Progressives instinctively despise formality, authority, and hierarchy. Reactionary political theorists such as Hobbes liked to conceive the state in terms of an ordered system, a sort of clockwork. Progressivism is sand in the gears of the clock.

More subtly, however, the real entropic effect is in the progressive method of capturing power not by seizing the entire state, but by biting off little chunks of it wherever it sticks out. The effect is a steady increase in the complexity of the state's decision-making process. And complexity, of course, is the same thing as entropy.

Continue to part 4...

67 Comments:

Anonymous MLR said...

I've been reading your blog for a couple of months now (I even went through most of the archives during your hiatus; I have to disagree with an earlier comment you made with regards to archives being no fun - yours were). I'm an expat Canadian living in the PR C, so I found your references to events and the system here... interesting. I don't disagree, sort of... I think this place makes a pretty piss-poor example, though, of a state that has successfully kept "demotism" out.

You've previosuly talked about the need for a seperation of information and state - that is all-kinds-of NOT the case here. And it makes for a nasty kind of mental rot. To be sure, there's plenty of it, in different flavours, in the West, as well. But it's nasty here - and for more reasons than just because it's an unfamiliar kind of mental laziness to the brand we have in the West. An example might help...

The other day, some students at the university here where I teach became ... 'agitated' in class, and explained their excitement to the teacher: several T!betans were in a city about 5 hours away (by car), and so they had been advised (as if it naturally followed) that they shouldn't go too far from the school grounds for the next several days (meteorologically speaking, we are down-wind of that particular city, maybe these people were carrying something, y'know, airborn? Unharmoniousness...ness?).

I think my point is that something so ludicrous and mentally sloppy as this would never fly in a more sophisticated place like Singapore (or parts of this place, like Shanghai). While a propensity to let the government do the thinking for you is most certainly not something China has a monopoly on, its prevelance and depth here is non-trivial.

I understand the example you're making, and gawd knows with what I've seen I'm the last person who would advocate letting the hoi paloi here have a say in running things (this is one mob whose rule would truly frighten even the fringiest radical); I know you're not looking for perfect examples in this kind of discussion and exercise. But the rot here runs deeper than you may realize. This society is fundamentally very very weak.

PS: as to your blog being approved here in the Middling Kingdom, no blogs are... were? It's odd, but the Great Firewall of China, which usually prevents me from reading blogspot content without a proxy (or commenting even with one), seems to be down for the count at the moment. Free Access to info: 1. Ministry of Pub Sec: 0. Woo hoo!

May 1, 2008 at 4:50 AM  
Blogger Byrne said...

I'm not sure your theory of the power dynamic works here, especially if you're viewing the state as just another profit-seeking entity, as many of your earliest posts implied. There is no room for incremental competition, mergers, or spinoffs, in a system that requires the monarch to hold on to all of his power lest he end up with none of it. I'd hope that updates to your current theory of government can find a way to incorporate, well, change.

May 1, 2008 at 5:30 AM  
Blogger Byrne said...

MLR

From what I've read of Chinese history, isn't that kind of xenophobia pretty normal? The Boxers thought Westerners were scooping out the eyes of orphans to sell to Europeans, and African students were harassed prior to Tianamen Square.

May 1, 2008 at 5:34 AM  
Anonymous MLR said...

Byrne,

Yes, it is. And expats here can describe to you how they've seen and experienced cycles of it as it goes back and forth with circumstances (visits by PMs to war shrines, the bombing of their embassy in Belgrade; now more recent events seem to be at the centre of a new wave of tension and animosity).

I think, now that I've thought about it a bit longer, my real point can boiled down to something like: I would expect a non-demotist state (like, say, Mencius' other example of Singapore) to reduce 'friction' and violence. I don't think the PR C can be described as a polity that has achieved that; certainly not to the extent that Singapore can be.

Notice, also, that my example stems from student hostility to T!betans (really, non-Han, more broadly), not toward "outsiders"/laowai/waiguoren/foriegners. I think Singaporean history shows examples of internal, inter"racial"/intercommunal violence and tension that has since abated. I really don't feel that that societal order is reflected here in the PR C at all. I think there's some evidence that Singapore has made progress in achieving a kind of harmony that mainlanders like to talk about; talk that belies the rampant corruption culture, the power held by organized crime here, that would all be shocking anathema to a Singaporean.

May 1, 2008 at 6:12 AM  
Anonymous Jeff Williams said...

In my view the W force can be adequately explained by looking through the lens of tribal or ethnic history. The New England Calvinists are a triumphant, confident tribe. This was due to a good work ethic, a large free trade area, access to great natural resources, and a good legal/tax structure producing a favorable business climate. They knew how to set up business corporations. They were the first people to get the atomic bomb.

This tribe views itself as progressive. Historically they were the Whigs. Thus in any internal struggle for leadership, a leader will tend to be favored who fits in with that tradition (?) of progressiveness. A person who believes in stasis and order does not fit in with the folkways of this tribe. The tribe views Taft and Coolidge with contempt because of their lack of progressiveness. Every tribe needs a coherent explanation of what it’s all about: the tribe of the Northeast is all about progressiveness. In tribal lore, their model leader is FDR.

The tribe thinks (wrongly) that its success is due to its progressiveness (as opposed to business climate, advanced weaponry, etc.). This superstitious belief that progressiveness naturally brings prosperity and success will eventually, I believe, be ground up in the meat grinder of history.

In contests for leadership within the tribe, advantage will go to a person who promises to bring the next great progressive achievement, especially an achievement that promises some goodies to those who decide the outcome. In today’s leadership contest, Obama’s vague promises of progressiveness (Change and Hope) are now being strongly challenged by Hillary’s more specific description of the goodies in her Santa Claus bag, such as affordable health care. Of course Obama’s main promise of a progressive achievement is that he will put himself, a black man, into the White House. The voters must decide whether or not that is a goody.

In an alternate reality, the French might have conquered North America and kicked the English out. The New England Calvinists would then have been wiped out. In such a scenario, the French monarchy might have survived.

In such an alternate reality, where King Louis XXVII now sits on his throne in Paris, you would see very little New England-style progressivism. If you were to start talking to someone about animal rights, no one would know what the hell you were talking about.

May 1, 2008 at 7:15 AM  
Anonymous PA said...

I'm surprised that you ultimately define progressivism and its W-force as a force of change for change's sake. Certainly, the 1980 Kremlin was not happy with Solidarity's demands for change. Certainly, Brussels is not going to tolerate Velaams Blog or the BNP’s demands for change, even after they have credibly renounced mob violence and have limited their ambitions to advocating immigration-restriction plausibly framed as a goal that is in service of progressive ideals (objectively, the immigration status-quo is bad for gays, women, and the solvency of universal healthcare.)

Here's my money shot: instead of seeing the Prog-React axis as a change vs. status-quo, I tend to view the Left/Right divide as a difference between Universalist and Particularist world-views. From this perspective, Progressivism's ultimate aim is a world government presided over by those who believe that Kingdom of Heaven can be built on Earth. Reaction's ultimate aim is to preserve or restore the existence of particular nations and cultures, each as much created in God's image as is each individual human being.

The W-force is simply technological development, which makes mass transport and mass communications more practical. A worldwide energy collapse would probably bring back many political and social arrangements from the fifteenth century, both the good and bad ones.

May 1, 2008 at 8:03 AM  
Blogger Byrne said...

PA

Certainly, the 1980 Kremlin was not happy with Solidarity's demands for change. Certainly, Brussels is not going to tolerate Velaams Blog or the BNP’s demands for change, even after they have credibly renounced mob violence and have limited their ambitions to advocating immigration-restriction plausibly framed as a goal that is in service of progressive ideals (objectively, the immigration status-quo is bad for gays, women, and the solvency of universal healthcare.)

But the change they advocate is undoing previous change! Perhaps this could be neatly tied up by arguing that liberals love novelty -- not just change, but change that doesn't a) move them towards conservative ideals, or b) repeat leftist failures.

May 1, 2008 at 8:06 AM  
Anonymous Jeff Williams said...

Pa said:

“Progressivism's ultimate aim is a world government presided over by those who believe that Kingdom of Heaven can be built on Earth.”

The problem with this description can be summed up by saying, “Everybody wants to rule the world.”

In recent history, world-ruler wannabes in Berlin and Moscow have been defeated. Wahhabist, Brussels, and Harvard wannabes are still at large. Then there is the U.N. itself. And what about the Catholics? Because so many people want to rule the world, that goal can be assumed of almost any politically powerful group.

It is the Kingdom of Heaven agenda that needs to be carefully examined and criticized. MM deserves to be commended for his work in that area. Also very much worth studying are the means being used by progressives as they try to expand their sphere of influence.

May 1, 2008 at 8:40 AM  
Blogger TGGP said...

I don't have time to fully respond right now (other than to say I take the random-walk view explained in hindsight as progress) but I thought some of the readers might be interested in The Moldbug Transcripts 2: Electric Boogaloo.

May 1, 2008 at 9:27 AM  
Blogger mtraven said...

Happy May Day!

If you want a grand theory of the W-force, you should check out Robert Wright's Nonzero, which locates Whig history as merely one small segment on a long march from slime mold aggregation to Teilhard du Chardin's Omega Point.

May 1, 2008 at 9:45 AM  
Blogger G. M. Palmer said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

May 1, 2008 at 11:13 AM  
Blogger G. M. Palmer said...

from TGGP's MM transcript:

Moreover, a real isolationist is someone who is tired of lies. You cannot win with lies. The problem in your thinking is that you keep thinking of politics in terms of *policy* outcomes. This is your democratic brain speaking, and it is lying to you. The only path to real “change” is to win the war of ideas in the minds of elites. This requires being right about everything, all the time. You cannot transition gradually to sanity, little step by little step. The Fabian strategy only works in the other direction.

Damn.
GMP

May 1, 2008 at 11:15 AM  
Blogger George Weinberg said...

But if you could somehow design a progressive movement that could achieve its goal without seizing power or smashing its enemies, it would have little energy and find few supporters.

Well, that answers the great mystery of politics (which, for those who have forgotten, is "why can't progressives do something useful, like legalizing pot").

But I don't think that's the whole story. I think progressives would see the essence of progressiveness as being something like the abolishment of legal privileges. You can see a continuous trend from the eradication of distinction between noble and commoner through the the abolishment of privilege based on race or religion, and you can continue the line of thought to conclude we can abolish legal distinctions based on sex, age, and even species.

I'm Whiggish enough to see some good in this, at least in the early stages. But although legal distinctions based on "nobility" or skin color seem artificial and arbitrary, it seems to me that there's a pretty strong argument to make at least some legal distinctions based on sex, and beyond sensible dispute that there should be some distinction between children and adults. "Equal rights for animals" is taking the concept beyond the point of parody.fhbgf

May 1, 2008 at 11:23 AM  
Blogger G. M. Palmer said...

The problem with progressivism is that it has no sense of humor. These are the same dour old thinkers that wore black and swatted children for being happy. These are the same folks who prosecute people for making jokes (a la political correctness). Since there is no sense of humor, there can be no grasp of the insanity of equal rights for all breathing creatures.

May 1, 2008 at 12:10 PM  
Blogger werouious said...

holy crap! did they really hang young children in England for saying the word "God"?

where do you get this stuff? i must see your reading list!

May 1, 2008 at 1:25 PM  
Anonymous m said...

PA, you write:

"
Here's my money shot: instead of seeing the Prog-React axis as a change vs. status-quo, I tend to view the Left/Right divide as a difference between Universalist and Particularist world-views. From this perspective, Progressivism's ultimate aim is a world government presided over by those who believe that Kingdom of Heaven can be built on Earth. Reaction's ultimate aim is to preserve or restore the existence of particular nations and cultures, each as much created in God's image as is each individual human being.
"

Bingo. Wonder why Mencius doesn't see this, it's very obvious.

May 1, 2008 at 2:16 PM  
Anonymous Michael S. said...

MM's obiter dictum about classifying music on a left-right scale is worth thinking about. There are, indeed, reactionary and progressive tendencies in all art, and it can be tricky to distinguish them.

For example, following the usual line of most works on 'music appreciation' that attempt to explain 'classical' or 'art' music to those who are unfamiliar with it, the development of opera and the monodic style that is conventionally identified with the baroque (as contrasted with "renaissance polyphony") is understood as a great innovation. This is an example of Whig history applied to the study of music. In fact, the development of opera was profoundly reactionary in intent. Its component of innovation was purely inadvertent and reflected only that its proponents knew very little about the actual ancient music they wanted to recreate.

Opera derived from Renaissance Neoplatonism (a larger reactionary movement; see Walter Pater or Jacob Burckhardt generally on the Renaissance, or more recently Joscelyn Godwin's "The Pagan Dream of the Renaissance," etc.). It was an attempt to revive the musical drama of the ancients, and with it the magical effects the Greeks attributed to music, e.g. by Plato, Rep., III, 398-9, and Iamblichus, "Life of Pythagoras," cap. xxv. Monteverdi's librettist Alessandro Striggio straightforwardly makes this point in the first act of "Orfeo":

Io la Musica son, ch'a i dolci accenti
So far tranquillo ogni turbato core,
Ed or di nobil ira ed or d'amore
Posso infiammar le più gelate menti.

Shakespeare says much the same thing in the "Merchant of Venice," Act V:

"... therefore the poet
Did feign that Orpheus drew trees, stones, and floods;
Since nought to stockish, hard, and full of rage,
But music for a time doth change his nature."

Predecessors of the later baroque monody included the poets of the Pleïade, particularly Baïf, who tried to introduce quantitative metre into French poetry. Examples of his quantitative poetry, set to quantitative music by the composer Jacques Mauduit, are reproduced by Dame Frances Yates in her "French Academies of the Sixteenth Century" (2nd. ed., 1988).

The high old reactionary magic of ancient musical theory hung on for a long time. Handel's setting of Dryden's poem "Alexander's Feast" is a catalogue raisonée of the magical/musical effects, as Alexander, under the bard Timotheus's spell, is made in turn exalted, maudlin, amorous, and finally mad, ending in the conflagration of Persepolis. But the last, and most reactionary of all, was Mozart, whose "Die Zauberflöte" was a kind of last stand for musical neo-Pythagoreanism.

Mozart was reactionary in a more immediate sense, too: he was profoundly interested in earlier music at a time when few cared about it (remember the story of J.S. Bach's manuscripts being used for wrapping paper?). An example is the song of the two men in armour at the end of the second act of "Zauberflöte" ("Der welcher wandelt diese Straße/voll Beschwerden...) which quotes as an obbligato the theme of the Kyrie from the St. Heinrich Mass of the himself wonderful, and highly eccentric musical reactionary, H.I.F. Biber von Bibern (1644-1704). The same theme appears in Mozart's Credo Mass and in the Jupiter Symphony.

Mozart's death and the French Revolution marked great changes respectively in music and in politics;:ends of eras. Talleyrand said "Ceux qui n'ont pas connu l'Ancien Régime ne pourront jamais sçavoir ce qu'etoit la douceur de vivre." But we can capture a little of its faintly persisting perfume with the help of a good CD.

May 1, 2008 at 2:51 PM  
Blogger Studd Beefpile said...

Capitalism is inherently about change and creative destruction, the only force in the universe inherently opposed to entropy(which is produced by reaction as often as progression). This is why it was originally siezed upon by early progressives (and often violently resisted by reactionaries) who rightly saw it as a way to undermine King and Church. Your dichotomy, however, has no room for it, why it was abandoned by the progressives, or why it is so universally reviled today. My own theory is that it alienates the conservatives by undermining the stability of old order and the progressives by preventing their control over the new, but this answer is incomplete. If no one likes capitalism, how did it ever arise in the first place? If it was merely an accident we are fortunate indeed. As a reactionary, what do you say to Rand's dictum (one of the rare sensible ones) that it is hopeless to be anti-socialist if you are not also pro-capitalist?

May 1, 2008 at 3:01 PM  
Blogger Patrick said...

"The New England Calvinists are a triumphant, confident tribe."

I'm with Mencius in viewing progressivism/universalism as a religion that's descended from Christianity.

Both Christianity and progressivism out competed other religions in a survival of the fittest. Christianity in particular has 1) a top notch ethical system, truly the best of its time 2) a universalist message ( one of the first religions of its time that was explicitly for all people, not just the tribe) 3) unfalsifiable metaphysical claims 4) an overall message of hope. The early Roman empire was a breeding ground of thousands of different cults and religions, can you imagine a better set of adaptive traits than the ones listed above?

Power needs religion to justify its rule. Relying only on fiat is far more expensive than convincing the people you that you are all that is good in the world. Thus the state and religion always end up in symbiosis, corrupting both. Religion becomes, as Mencius calls it, "the mystery power cult". Constantine picked the best religion of the time and made it the state religion.

The progressive message is a good one. I'm all for the Calvinist work ethic and making a better world. When the progressives concentrated on building settlement houses, creating mutual aid societies, and establishing libraries, they did much good.

The trouble with progressivism was that it was not satisfied by making the world better using only the consensual sphere. Progressives felt the draw of the Ring and thought they could use power to further their ends. It invented and then took over democratic government. In the process it became a "mystery power cult". Both progressivism and the state became corrupted.

Worse, the power structure that progressivism is symbiotic with - democratic government - is one that has shown itself to be toxic to the rule of law.

May 1, 2008 at 4:12 PM  
Blogger John S. Bolton said...

A single theory is not going to explain the Ratchet effect. Moral progress happens because we can afford more of it each decade, not because of, but in spite of, Progressive power-greed. Whigs and leftists aren't really the same people after the same ends. Order vs chaos/novelty preference: no, politics is the ethics of aggression. The left wants always more latitude for aggression, and the right wants always more freedom ( from agression). If the left did not exist centuries ago,it was because such impulses were taboo even to speak of, much less organize around. If one sees the left making common cause with Islam, one already knows that there are no principles on the left, only the consideration of power, how to get it. Many Whigs were principled, though, and would have forsworn power to hold to some even false principles.

May 1, 2008 at 8:06 PM  
Blogger Daniel A. Nagy said...

Here's my take on progress:

Why does the subject obey the sovereign? Because he knows that in case of resistance, he shall confront an overwhelmingly powerful force that is certain to crush him.

During the times when the most effective weapons were mêlée weapons, bows, spears and also foot- or horseback techniques mastering which required practicing since early childhood, power was wielded by coalitions of such warriors. Disputes were very often settled by combat, but deaths resulting from such violence were drowned in the statistics of death from different causes; the society could easily afford it. That who was not a nobleman could typically be sure to be crushed, if he rebelled. Those who did not know this, got what they deserved.

Then came the gunpowder, mass-production and massed conscript armies. That with a larger army typically won, in increasingly violent, mass-murderous wars. The soldier helped his side enough by compelling the enemy to waste ammunition on him. French peasants armed with bayonets successfully exterminated the nobility. Automatic weapons removed the last advantage of noblemen in the battlefield by obsoleting cavalry attacks.

Under such circumstances, secret polls became a good predictor of victory, for that who lost the poll was very likely to lose in armed combat as well. Regular voting became practical, because it helped preventing actual violence by predicting its outcome while the costs of actual violence were no longer acceptable. After voting, however, the vast majority of the losers accept the futility of violent resistance, while the remaining romantic idiots can be obliterated without much damage.

The dominant forms of government of this era, democracy and dictatorship, work only as long as people believe in them. Maintaining belief in democracy, while not free at all, is still much cheaper than maintaining belief in dictatorship. A dictatorship may need to fire live ammo into mobs. In a democracy, the police baton (called "democratizator" in contemporary Russian slang) suffices.

However, the basic rule of violence, namely vae victis remains in force even if violence is ritualized. Thus, as long as cheating does not undermine the overall credibility of the vote, it will keep happening.

The advance of military technology has not stopped, however. What could only have been manufactured in vast factories in the XIXth century, can be economically produced in a basement-workshop in the XXIst. The pricetags on effective weapons is getting lower, while their availability is increasing. The social consequence of this is that armed combatants that are in relative minority can still cause unacceptable damage to their enemies.

This is compounded by the fact that the price and availability of the single most important class of weapons in modern warfare: that of photographic and cinematic recording equipment has changed even more dramatically than those of killing equipment. Hence, majority vote is an increasingly inaccurate predictor of the outcome of violence. The kind of modern warfare that is conducted by small armed groups executing spectacular attacks recorded on camera and called terrorism challenges the basic assumptions of democracy and threatens the latter with obsolescence.

One consequence of the above is that no high-stakes voting happens without allegations of massive fraud that is accepted as fact by large number of people. Because today that who loses the vote can still hope for a military-political victory.

And there is also a positive feedback mechanism at work here: if the fairness of the vote is questioned anyway (because it may pay to cast doubt on its fairness), it pays less to keep the voting process honest (it will be questioned anyway, right?). If its honesty is guarded less vigorously, it will be questioned even more. The writing may well be on the wall for democracy. Who knows?

For example, I can predict with confidence that the U.S. presidential elections in November will be marred by allegations of widespread fraud.

May 1, 2008 at 11:59 PM  
Blogger Daniel A. Nagy said...

I am also less confident about the relationship of Corner Man with Metro. How could Corner Man maintain his little fiefdom for years without Metro looking the other way? The Metros of the world need Corner Men; that's how protection racket works.

May 2, 2008 at 12:06 AM  
Anonymous Michael S. said...

Patrick listed the advantages of Christianity and wrote: "Constantine picked the best religion of the time and made it the state religion."

I agree with the thesis that it is far better for people to obey the law because they think it is right than it is for them to obey it because they fear punishment from the state. Obedience resulting from the former reason is bought at far lower cost than obedience from the latter.

However, I think Patrick has omitted one advantage of Christianity that has been of great adaptive value to it. Of the Abrahamic religions, Christianity is by far the least legalistic.

Being a Jew, at least as that was conceived before recent times, required conformance to a complex and highly restrictive religious law that set Jews, by their own volition, significantly apart from gentiles, even before gentiles relegated Jews to ghettoes. Furthermore, Judaism is not a proselytizing religion; conversion to Judaism was difficult and still is.

Mahomet was a great proselytizer, by fire and the sword if necessary; but the Islam he brought imitated the legalism of the Jews, and the acceptance or imposition of Islam carried in its wake the Shariah, and replacement of whatever pre-Islamic legal and social instutitions had preceded it. We see the effects of this aspect of Islam even today, as Islamic immigrants to Europe demand to be governed by their own authority under Shariah, rather than the non-Islamic laws of the countries to which they have moved, while imams presume to issue fatwas against non-Muslims who offend them, like Salman Rushdie or Danish newspapermen.

Christianity, however, swept away the impedimenta of Judaic law, made it easy to convert, and accepted with very few reservations whatever had been the established civil law amongst a converted population in earlier times. Christianity was adaptable to Roman law, to the law of the Salian Franks, to the laws of the Scots and the Anglo-Saxons. Some creeping from the canonical to the civil law took place over time; the history of prosecution for witchcraft is an interesting illustration, but it as much reflects the Romanization of north European customary law as it does the canonical influence on civil law. Trevor-Roper has some worthwhile insights on this.

Another advantage of Christianity is æsthetic. There is a charming story, - whether it is true or not hardly matters - connected with the conversion of St. Vladimir. Vladimir was Grand Prince of Kiev. He had been an enthusiastic pagan, indeed, building several temples. However, he felt something was missing and decided to look into other religions. The best way to do this, he thought, was to see how they worshipped. So, in turn, he viewed the ceremonies of the Jews, the Muslims, and the Christians. The former two impressed him as meagre and dry, but the Christians, knowing he was observing, put on the best show they could, with smells and bells, singing, precious vestments, and everything in the highest Byzantine style. Vladimir was persuaded that nothing so beautiful could fail to be truer and better than other forms of worship, and so was converted.

Others have said that it didn't hurt, either, that the dietary restrictions of Christianity were by far less onerous than those either of Judaism or of Islam, and that the Islamic prohibition of alcohol would have been a deal-breaker for Vladimir in any event. This only reinforces the previous point about Christianity's relative lack of legalism.

May 2, 2008 at 10:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm curious, Mencius, on your theory on how progressives think well of themselves while supporting atrocities. For instance, I know a friend of mine, an American, who goes on and on about Abu Ghirab, yet she admires the U.N.. I asked why she praised in the U.N. behavior (for example, in the Congo) that if it were indulged in by her own government, would cause her to denounce that government? To her credit, she acknowledge the truth of the U.N.'s actions, but then changed the subject (and a little, we ceased to talk about politics at all).

She's more honest than progressives of the 1930s, who to their shame said the kulaks deserved it, and the progressive of the 1920s (the eugenicists, whose theories were put into practice by progressive Europeans following the German Revolution). She admits what does leads to great evil, but never explains why or how it does or her continued support.

May 2, 2008 at 2:15 PM  
Blogger Daniel A. Nagy said...

Christian aesthetics is a bit ambiguous, IMHO. The Orthodox, the Catholic and the Protestant aesthetics are very different. Vladimir might not have been impressed by Protestant worship. ;-)

May 2, 2008 at 2:55 PM  
Anonymous Michael S. said...

Daniel, I agree. Protestant æsthetics didn't come along for quite a while after St. Vladimir. Not much good can be said for Calvinism in any respect. At least Luther liked music, and to that we owe J.S. Bach, who is no small consolation for Lutheranism. The church of England also had some gorgeous music, and great buildings. Even the puritan Milton could write:

"To walk the studious Cloysters pale
And love the high embowed Roof,
With antick Pillars massy proof
And storied Windows richly dight,
Casting a dimm religious light.
There let the pealing Organ blow,
To the full-voiced Quire blow,
In service high, and Anthems cleer,
As may with sweetness, through mine ear,
Dissolve me into extasies,
And bring all Heav'n before mine eyes."

May 2, 2008 at 3:31 PM  
Anonymous Michael S. said...

Sorry, the last lines should have read:

"There let the pealing Organ blow,
To the full-voiced Quire below,
In service high, and Anthems cleer,
As may with sweetness, through mine ear,
Dissolve me into extasies,
And bring all Heav'n before mine eyes."

This is, in case anyone wants to know, from "Il Penseroso."

May 2, 2008 at 3:38 PM  
Blogger TGGP said...

open-minded progressives
At this point isn't it just mtraven? Victor and Jewish Atheist are less of a presence now.

little op-ed
It's behind the wall. Is it the same as this?

Because why should John Darnton apologize?
It didn't sound like he was apologizing to me. He got a tip that Mugabe was going to be important then he did an interview that finished with an unanswered question about T.S Eliot. I've read other apologetics for Zimbabwe, but that didn't read like one.

As one might expect, the smart people of the world have smart explanations, whereas the dumb ones scratch their heads and say "duh:"
Your two links address different issues. The first discusses the merits of Wright's critique itself, the second Obama's awareness of it.

Church of Hate Whitey
Please, it's the Church of Hate America!

Royal Stuarts
Surely Norman interlopers who wrested the throne from Anglo-Saxon dogs, who in turn stole it from the Britons.

But let's make it as simple: to be progressive is to be left-wing. To be reactionary is to be right-wing.
What if you are reacting to reactionaries?

Yet somehow, the dimension remains relevant
I would argue that instead that a Parliament always has a Government and Opposition (they are more informal a one or zero-party state), hence the binary nature of political divides everywhere. Ideologues then try to fit all of politics everywhere and through time to such an axis. Before the French Revolution did anybody think there was a single political axis that everything up to the Greeks and Romans could be fit onto?

It is easy to say that if Barack, Hillary and McCain were seated in the Legislative Assembly, Hillary would be sitting to the right of Barack, and McCain would be to the right of Hillary.
I don't think the French Assembly was that fine-grained, although I suppose you were speaking metaphorically. I don't know if Proudhon sat to the left of Bastiat.

For example, we can say that in the Reformation, Catholicism was right-wing and Protestantism left-wing
Why not right-wing extremist? The short-lived Protestant theocracies seem to be just what paranoid progressives in the U.S fear now. The Catholic Church, in contrast, gave birth to the university and by its nature supported rule by intellectuals, which is how you defined Brahminism (some early Protestants actually advocated the joys of illiteracy).

Levellers
Speaking of them, Roderick Long gives them a salute here. The Diggers seem much more clearly leftists, hence the 1960s pranksters named after them.

Why should philosophies of music be all over the map, but philosophies of government arrange themselves along one consistent dimension?
Music does not define itself by who it opposes. For reasons I argued above, it is by necessity that this is the case in politics.

A reactionary - ie, a right-winger - is someone who believes in order, stability, and security
Wouldn't that make Stalin and Kim il Sung right-wing then? And then doesn't Mugabe's "Operation Clean Out Trash" seem quite reactionary?

Of course, we reactionaries are not fans of Corner Man, largely because his claim to the corner is contested by a superior authority which will prevail in any serious conflict
So then you are a fan of Mugabe? The internal opposition certainly can't stand up to him.

Why does he attack the blue PT Cruiser? Is it because he's on crack? Perhaps, but perhaps it's also because the driver owes allegiance to the other side of the conflict - "Metro" - and neither has nor would acknowledge Corner Man's authority. For example, she has not paid him any taxes, fees, or rents for the privilege of positioning her vehicle on his (so-called) territory
I don't think it was ever established that he gets paid taxes or has his authority acknowledged by passing automobiles.

When the legitimist asks whether Corner Man really owns his corner, he is not asking whether Corner Man should own his corner. He asks whether Corner Man does own his corner
The House of Stuart clearly does not own that green and pleasant land. How can you call yourself both a Jacobite and reactionary then?

And when he asks whether the Bourbons are the legitimate rulers of France or the Stuarts of England, he is not asking whether (a) the Bourbon or Stuart family has some hereditary biological property that makes their scions ideal for the job (midichlorians, perhaps), or (b) the Bourbon or Stuart will suffer intolerably as a result of being deprived of the throne, or even (c) the Bourbon or Stuart families obtained their original claims fairly and squarely. At least, not if he has any sense. None of these arguments is even close to viable.
And yet there were many "divine right theorists" who argued just that. Thomas Hobbes' theory, in comparison, was progressive. His Leviathan is represented by a multitude of men rather than a singular embodiment of God's will because he thought only power was important to justify rule, regardless of any "legitimacy".

the rational reactionary
I think most monarchist reactionaries opposed "rationalism", which despite your "reservationist" denials permeates your writing.

If the Bourbons do not rule France, someone will - Robespierre, or Napoleon, or Corner Man
Then once they are in power, shouldn't they be supported as much as their predecessors were? To be a legitimist and demand the return of the Bourbons (as many reactionaries did) is to threaten the existing order and bring about violence. Revolution and counter-revolution (which those who think of themselves as progressive seem to see under every rock) seem indistinguishable to me.

For a 21st-century reactionary, it won't do at all
Which might help explain why there are many fewer monarchists (at least outside Hawaii). It should also be noted that "divine providence" is a somewhat newfangled idea, as having read "On Power" you should well know.

At least for me, it makes a fine endpoint to the axis: it is impossible to be more reactionary than Charles I
I recall before you saying the problem with neo-cons is that they think history began in the 1950s. Why must it begin with Charles I for you? Once again, you've read de Jouvenel's book. You know quite well that the kings of England and France were relentless centralizers and modernizers (I would also recommend Bruce Benson's "The Enterprise of Law" on that subject). The nobility was much more deserving of the label "reactionary". That is why even self-described progressives that admire it admit that the Magna Carta was a reactionary claim on feudal privileges against the king. That's also why Voltaire was a supporter of enlightened monarchy, as mentioned in Liberalism's Divide.

So we know what a reactionary is: a believer in order
Or an opponent of the order of progressives.

Why do he and his listeners assume so automatically that this change will be for the better?
Because Bush has been a lousy President. But if you want to be more general, why did Eisenhower same the same thing? He was out of power and people are aspirational, possibly because of biases toward optimism.

It implies that progressives are egocentric, humorless, and incapable of self-criticism
Hey, a whole lot of them resemble that remark.

They see change as inherently good because they see this history as a history of progress, ie, improvement. In other words, they believe in Whig history.
Not if they're anarcho-primitivists, or even folks like Kunstler.

reactionaries tend to lose and progressives tend to win
Communism seems to be the most "progressive" movement, and it has gotten its ass thoroughly kicked. In the distant future, my money's on reaction. You can even see some initial stirrings in the Netherlands.\

And then of course there is our old friend, dialectical materialism.
Which the success of reaction quite conclusively disproves!

One easy explanation is that it's just the interaction of hindsight and a random walk
That's my guess. It seems the simplest explanation.

since he is a progressive, sees the modern tolerance of gays and lesbians as genuine progress (I happen to agree). And for the same reason, he sees the modern intolerance of slavery in just the same way
What the hell does any of that have to do with order and stability? And does Castro's position on homosexuals exclude him from the progressive ranks?

Professor Dawkins' great-great-grandchildren could then explain to us, just as sincerely, the great moral advance of society, which early in the 21st century still turned a blind eye to rampant sodomy and had no conception of the proper relationship between man and servant
Add a few "greats" and that's about what I think will happen, per the Longman article I linked to.

But it clearly does mean something
Isn't that begging the question?

We don't see these kinds of reversals
The collapse of communism doesn't count? The worldwide resurgence of religion? The "tough on crime" reaction to the lax 60s that has kept our prisons full even after crime has been down for years? Our increasing prudishness with regard to pedophilia? And as much as libertarians have been helpless in the face of Big Government, so have their opponents in the face of Big Business.

Of course, all the forms of government we know today were known not only to Charles I, but also to Aristotle
Even council-communism, futarchy, and islamic theocracy?

I suspect they would do pretty much what they did with 19th-century technology - use it to take over the world
So what does that make William S. Lind and Russel Kirk before him?

We should also seriously consider the possibility that the W-force is exactly what it claims to be, and that good really does have a tendency to triumph over evil. Unfortunately, when we examine political turmoil at the micro level, this is not the tendency we see - the classic case being the French Revolution
I couldn't resist a chance to play Devil's Advocate by noting that fewer people died in the Terror than in the crushing of the Paris Commune.

the Yeats effect
Reminds me of the Jimmy Johnson rule.

By Tony Blair's standards, Great Britain is doing better than ever
It's a hell of a lot richer and has a much higher standard of living. Would you want to live in Macaulay's England?

it could spark an actual, French-style revolution.
England did seem to fare much better than less reformist kingdoms. What major nations were less reformist and fared better?

as opposed to that dreaded Jacobite abomination, "absolute" monarchy
As I mentioned, a newfangled innovation. No reactionary worth his salt has any place defending it.

Nor is restricted suffrage
Restricted compared to what? We still have age limits and felons are prohibited from voting, as are non-citizens. Do you think all the currently disenfranchised will gain the right to vote in the future? Do you think PETA will succeed in its aims?

Moreover, 19th-century classical liberals promised over and over again that democracy, despite the obvious mathematics of the situation, need not lead to what we now call "socialism."
Of the nations that have rejected the market economy, I don't think any did so democratically. What democracies are really characterized by is what we would call a "mixed economy". Even Hong Kong and Singapore might be characterized as such.

the First
That was in the main caused by Austria and Russia, both of which were monarchies pillars of the reaction against the French Revolution.

Is the most effective way to oppose racism to give it a little air, to let it blow off steam - to be just a little bit racist, but not too much? It strikes me that the most effective way to oppose racism is simply to not tolerate it at all.
From what I've heard, Europe with its hate-crime laws has a much bigger problem with racialists/anti-semites than here.

my image of the ideal state is one in which you can start all the antigovernment movements you want, as long as they don't involve guns or bombs
That sounds odd given your opinion of the State department, universities, media and participants in the "hippie coup".

Note that in 1989 the Chinese government broke the cardinal rule of Whig government: never fire on a mob
Didn't the U.S government also do that during multiple riots and Kent state (where they were just protesters)? England did that in the Boston massacre. What government has not broke that rule?

As John F. Kennedy put it, "Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable."
He's wrong, but he does have a point in that democratic countries tend to be more stable than non-democratic ones.

There is zero official tolerance for right-wing political violence in any Western country today
I think something like the hard-hat riots wouldn't necessarily result in much punishment.

There is a good bit of tolerance for left-wing violence, notably the European antifas
If the fascists are reactionaries because they are supported by the justice system, why are not the antifas reactionaries as well? Modern neo-nazis are then clearly leftists in comparison, opposed to our order & stability.

The Western judicial systems today cannot be described as reactionary in any way, shape or form
What does that mean? That it opposes its own rule?

It is always the construction of some new order, which is at least intended as an improvement on the present one.
Would that mean the "capitalist roaders" feared by Mao were progressives?

However, in order to construct this new order, two things need to happen. One: the builders of the new order need to gain power. Two: they need to destroy the old order, which by its insistence on continuing to exist obstructs the birth of the new.
That sounds like a very apt description of the Nazis in Weimar Germany.

Here is my theory about progressivism: it is a "Relationship Built on Self Interest." It is exactly what Alinsky says it is: a way for people who want power to organize. It brings them together around the oldest human pleasure other than sex: ganging up on your enemies. It lets them rationalize this ruthless, carnivorous activity as a philanthropic cause. But the real attraction is the thrill of power and victory - sometimes with a little money thrown in
How does reactionism differ then? "Dreary inaction" is for "conservatives", reactionaries must attack the existing order. Once progressives have seized power, they then become conservatives opposed to change (see any communist dictatorship).

But if you could somehow design a progressive movement that could achieve its goal without seizing power or smashing its enemies
Do you actually think that's possible? Are they supposed to ask right-wing legislators to please change the laws in the ways they wish?

What makes these movements so popular is the opportunity for action and the prospect of victory
Once again, that sounds like the Nazis in their heyday.

No one loves a loser
Che Guevara was a loser. His "foco" theory failed everywhere he tried to export it, and it wound up killing him. The Muslim Brotherhood was crushed by the "moderate Arab" powers, but it is still revered by islamist groups today, even as they try to learn from its mistakes. The 300 Spartans are revered as well. Heck, just read the War Nerd for countless example of losers that have been loved for centuries.

Since these are not evil people we're talking about
Even Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot?

More subtly, however, the real entropic effect is in the progressive method of capturing power not by seizing the entire state, but by biting off little chunks of it wherever it sticks out
So revolutionary leftists are not progressive?



Byrne:
From what I've read of Chinese history, isn't that kind of xenophobia pretty normal
Oh, you're so silly. Don't you know that Third-Worlders are free of xenophobia and only fake it because Westerners like when they do so?


Jeff Williams, I like your idea, perhaps because I still identify with that tribe. However, I would say the Puritan colonies certainly believed in stasis and order. They kicked out people who believed otherwise. Calvin Coolidge was also a northeasterner: he lived in Vermont and Massachusetts. The Northeast was for reaction back then, the Southwest had been the region of lefty populists.
Samuel Huntington gave some brief thought to how things would be if America was a colony was France. He thought we would then be Quebec.


PA:
Certainly, the 1980 Kremlin was not happy with Solidarity's demands for change
Exactly.

I tend to view the Left/Right divide as a difference between Universalist and Particularist world-views
That would make Keith Preston a right-wing extremist, which he has certainly been accused of being. Your axis sounds a lot like the rationalist/pluralist axis, which is discussed in David Levy's excellent (I seriously insist everyone here read it) Liberalism's Divide. I linked to it earlier in this post, but I think it's worth doing it again.

The W-force is simply technological development, which makes mass transport and mass communications more practical
Tyler Cowen basically stated just that here.


Byrne:
Perhaps this could be neatly tied up by arguing that liberals love novelty
That would seem to refute MM's suggestion that it had all been done by Aristotle's time.


Jeff Williams:
The problem with this description can be summed up by saying, “Everybody wants to rule the world.”
The gist of it is true enough.

In recent history, world-ruler wannabes in Berlin and Moscow have been defeated. Wahhabist, Brussels, and Harvard wannabes are still at large.
I don't think there's any evidence Hitler planned on ruling the world. His goals were to rebuild "Greater Germany", get revenge on France and then "Drang nach Osten". Marx did indeed say "workers of the world unite", but Stalin changed that to "socialism in one country". Many of his actions seem more like those of a realist than ideologue. Wahabbists are so ridiculously far from world domination it's really laughable to discuss that. Their goals are to first off convince the U.S that it's not worth it to support the "moderate Arab" regimes. Then topple those regimes and replace them with righteous islamic ones. Somewhere along the way Israel gets eliminated. Eventually the Muslim ummah reject the Westphalian concept of the nation state for their previous caliphate. That previously existed and did not dominate the world, and even achieving that is a pipe-dream.


George Weinberg:
I think progressives would see the essence of progressiveness as being something like the abolishment of legal privileges
That sounds like a lot of libertarians. Of course, many of them also believe in abolishing affirmative action, non-discrimination laws and the like.


werouious, I think that was some hyperbolic humor.


John S. Bolton:
A single theory is not going to explain the Ratchet effect
I don't know, Robert Higgs does a damn good job of it.


Daniel A. Nagy:
deaths resulting from such violence were drowned in the statistics of death from different causes; the society could easily afford it
That sounds a bit like Steve Sailer's dirt theory of war.

For example, I can predict with confidence that the U.S. presidential elections in November will be marred by allegations of widespread fraud.
The allegations will be insignificant. There will also be people claiming the politicians are all lizards in disguise.

May 2, 2008 at 9:38 PM  
Anonymous m said...

Michael S and Patrick, your comments pertain directly to the comment I wrote in OL1. I'll reproduce it here:

"I have a theory about the Abrahamic religions. It helps explain how messed up things are worldwide. The theory is that Judaism, Christianity and Islam are fatally flawed for different reasons, revolving around whether the religion possesses each of these four characteristics:
(1) a code dictated by God for how individuals should live their lives
(2)a code dictated by God for how individuals should group together and the political goals they should pursue
(3) the allowance for technological innovation
(4) and ease of transmission of the religion.

Judaism has a code for individuals from the Torah and the allowance for technological innovation. As a result, Jews are very, very smart and on the cutting edge of all modern ideologies; they teach their lessons to their children (the Jews have had yeshivas for thousands and thousands of years, even before the Torah was given) and ensure race survival; their knowledge of technology is among the best there is, bar none. However, they are always subject to the whims of the majority as Judaism isn't a religion of conversion, and they're a huge mess politically because the Torah doesn't provide group or political direction.

Christianity has ease of transmission and technological innovation, but it lacks both group and individual codes (outside of the golden rule, which isn't much). Thus it's the fastest to completely fall apart, as we're seeing today.

Islam has a code for individuals through emulating the life of Mohammed through the Surrah and Sunnah, political goals through Sharia law, and ease of transmission, yet it completely lacks technological innovation - the Islamic Golden Age was an aberration, mostly the work of recently conquered dhimmis living under Islamic rule, and it petered out when Islamic expansion subsided.

What's needed is a religion, imo, that incorporates all four of these aspects. It's tricky, because the richer off people get through technological innovation, the less religious they become. The trick is to allow technological innovation and feed that back into the religion.

As I see it, secularism is so ingrained with progressivism that only a serious religion movement has the power to conquer it (progressivism and liturgist religion cannot coexist in the long run). Turning countries into corporations ala MM is a pipe dream, imo.

May 2, 2008 at 9:57 PM  
Blogger mtraven said...

"Metro" and Corner Man have conflicting claims, and in the end, the former is almost certain to win.
But, no. Corner Man, who has his own ideas about legitimacy, is still out there, and Metro does not appear to be able to do anything about it, whether from lack of resources or willpower. The drug war has been famously unwinnable, and in fact has damaaged the legitimacy of the state by highlighting its lack of power to enforce its laws.

Thus, the order that the rational reactionary seeks to preserve and/or restore is arbitrary.
Rationality and arbitrariness do not coexist well. You need a Schelling point that people will converge upon. The monarchy used to serve that function but can't do it any more.

So if a reactionary is a believer in order, a progressive is - a believer in disorder? A believer in mayhem? A believer in chaos?
I guess this is boring, but how about a believer in replacing the current order with a better one? Oh wait, you say as much further down.

I can't resist pointing out that you are constantly going on about the need to replace the current US Government with a completely new system of your own design. If you believe this, doesn't this put you fairly far out on the progressive end of the spectrum, as defined above?

I'm afraid this piece is required reading for all progressives. If you are still a progressive after reading it, at least you know what you're involved with.
I'm afraid it made me like Obama better. I'm from Chicago and it's not like I've never heard of Saul Alinksy before.

What really should scare you about Obama is how he's translated his street-organizing methods to Internet social networking. He's got by far the mastery of current communication technology.

Here is my theory about progressivism...It is exactly what Alinsky says it is: a way for people who want power to organize. It brings them together around the oldest human pleasure other than sex: ganging up on your enemies. It lets them rationalize this ruthless, carnivorous activity as a philanthropic cause. But the real attraction is the thrill of power and victory - sometimes with a little money thrown in.

Well, if your goal is power and money and ganging up on your enemies, why not become an investment banker or join a high-powered law firm? Presumably Obama, at least, had those sorts of options. Becoming a community organizer is not, in general, a pathway to vast power. So maybe there's something more to it that your theory has not captured.

May 2, 2008 at 11:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A reactionary - ie, a right-winger - is someone who believes in order, stability, and security. All of which he treats as synonyms.

By this definition, Hitler was not a reactionary. He did not believe in "order" or "stability", either in German domestic politics or in the international system. He is often cast as the "ultimate arch-conservative", but there was literally no institution that he wished to conserve. He was a revolutionary - he smashed the existing social order in Germany, and smashed the existing international order beyond any hope of repair.

We can say quite easily that a progressive is someone who believes in progress. That is, he or she believes the world is moving toward - or at least should be moving toward - some state which is an improvement on the present condition of affairs.

Here we can easily define the 'Dolfmeister as a "progressive"! Hitler wanted to move the world towards a state that improved on the current conditions, at least as he defined "improvement". He offered "hope and change" to the German Volk! He, too, thought change was inherently good. The "German traditions" he supposedly wanted to restore and preserve were, in fact, in large part entirely invented by him to suit the needs of the moment.

Regarding last week's post:

Not having succeeded in making a red revolution, he attempted a white reaction, taking advantage of the discontent after the war. He succeeded with the help of a few generals and part of the army who wanted reaction... Becoming Dictator, Mussolini has not only forswore all his past, but has introduced the most terrible reaction. All form of liberty has been suppressed; press liberty, association liberty, reunion liberty. Members of Parliament are practically nominated by the government. All political associations have been dissolved...

So wait, this is supposed to "prove" that Mussolini was White (rightist) and not Red (leftist)? How does that work? Under Red regimes, you get exactly the same outcome: all forms of liberty are suppressed (press liberty, association liberty, reunion liberty); Members of Parliament (i.e. the Supreme Soviet) are practically nominated by the government; all political associations (other than the Party) are dissolved. Indeed, if anything these liberties are even more effectively suppressed under Red regimes than under White. So the mere fact that Mussolini "suppressed liberty" hardly proves he is a White and not a Red.

May 3, 2008 at 1:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

if your goal is power and money and ganging up on your enemies, why not become an investment banker or join a high-powered law firm?

The "power" of these people is greatly overstated. They play by the rules. Other people - most notably, politicians, some of whom are former community organizers - make the rules.

May 3, 2008 at 1:23 AM  
Anonymous PA said...

Speaking of Obama, perhaps your gut reaction this apparent parody is a good litmus test of whether you're a Leftie or a Rightie:

http://tinyurl.com/5g4vnh

May 3, 2008 at 5:16 AM  
Anonymous n/a said...

jeff williams,

Please tell me your comment is intended as a parody of Mencius Moldbug's Mental Masturbation.

May 3, 2008 at 2:34 PM  
Blogger mnuez said...

Was it I who directed you to Dabney? I came across the Dabney article just about a week ago and I've been sharing it with everyone I could. Where, pray tell, did you come across it? Am I currently to blame for your even increased persuasive abilities in the field of Radical Conservatism? How much hotter my spot in hell hath just become! :-)

mnuez

May 3, 2008 at 7:48 PM  
Blogger George Weinberg said...

George Weinberg:
I think progressives would see the essence of progressiveness as being something like the abolishment of legal privileges

TGGP:
That sounds like a lot of libertarians. Of course, many of them also believe in abolishing affirmative action, non-discrimination laws and the like.

Well, I did say the way they see themselves. When it comes to self-image, progressives and libertarians have a lot in common, in particular both seem convinced that there is such a thing as the way the law ought to be (as distinct from how it is or ever has been), and that they've pretty much figured out what that is. Both groups suffer the presence of a large percentage of individuals who are convinced they are clearly absolutely right about every damned thing and that anyone who disagrees with them is utterly stupid or irredeemably evil.

May 4, 2008 at 2:57 PM  
Blogger mtraven said...

Here's a pessimisstic progressive assessment of the current situation which seems relevant somehow. Or maybe not, but it's amusing: "In the name of Jesus, I cast out the demon of anal fissures!"

More broadly: MM thinks progressives have been running the world, more or less, since 1848 or maybe 1789 or earlier, I don't know. Progressives, on the other hand, see themselves as the underdog, perpetually losing to more powerful forces of reaction, stupidity, war, and greed. They can't both be right.

May 4, 2008 at 3:54 PM  
Blogger Patrick said...

Hmm, a progressive at Yale Law school has noticed a glitch in the matrix. Hopefully she stays far away from Mencius's red pill, as we wouldn't want to her experience any further existential crises.

May 4, 2008 at 7:47 PM  
Blogger Patrick said...

mtraven-

Progessive ideas usually win. Unfortunately, most of the winning ideas turn into disastrous policy. The people who then analyze those policies and create the conventional wisdom about it - usually state funded, progressive university professors and state educated journalists - manage to find some way to avoid blaming progressivism.

For example, progressives denounce the greed of Wall St. Never do they recognize that the enabler of modern Wall St's profits is the Fed - which was created by progressive Democrats.

Progressives whine about how college is increasingly unaffordable, and how the evil Republicans have prevented government loans and grants from keeping up with tuition. Never do they recognize that colleges are government funded institutions, and that perhaps the real solution is to keep tuition growth below the rate of inflation. Event better would be if progressives realized the role of the Griggs case and credentialism laws in making college financially necessary in the first place. The college premium is almost entirely a result of laws progressives passed, not some innate features of modern technological life.

I could go on and on. Certainly the progressives do not have 100% power. But they have enough power to keep enlarging government, which continues to have disastrous effects.

May 4, 2008 at 8:06 PM  
Anonymous Jeff Williams said...

n/a:

No it’s not a parody. Here is a short list of grievances against the New England people:

Their colleges suck. Money spent on colleges today is entirely wasted. They corrupt the culture while empowering an evil group of cowardly, brown-nosing liars.

Their medical profession is a gigantic extortion racket. They make money by giving you an infection and then charging you to treat the infection. Most of their pills do not effect cures, being designed instead to create addiction. New England medicine has one goal in mind: making money. If you want to stay healthy, stay the hell out of their hospitals.

Their legal profession stinks to high heaven. It’s a monumental fraud. We have ten times as many lawyers per capita as other advanced countries, and all it buys us is economic decay. It is an enormous carnival of liars and thieves.

They have never been able to produce music or art. In recent years, they have shown a hateful determination to drive good music and art out of the culture.

Their accounting is crooked. In spite of all laws and rules, financial statements from American corporations cannot be trusted, especially those from banks.

They inflate the currency. They destroyed the gold standard.

Their banks will screw you just for the pure joy of it. They delight in putting the taxpayer on the hook for their losses. Through their international lending activities, they have worked with the State Department to empower bribe-taking dictators, thus producing chaos and squalor in the third world.

Their insurance companies are okay—except if you have a claim. Ask the Hurricane Katrina victim what it’s like to collect on hurricane damage.

One good thing about them: They have a low birth rate.

Somewhere I read a quote from a 19th century British traveler in America. I wish I could find it. But I do remember it well. He said, “The people of New England are called Yankees. Nobody likes them.”

May 4, 2008 at 9:26 PM  
Blogger Patrick said...

jeff -

It's not helpful to assign nefarious motives to progressives.
No one is "screwing people for the pure joy of it".

My aunt is an executive at a big Massachusetts hospital. I know she is not evil, nor is she an extortionist. She is very sincere about her work. She is not happy with the current healthcare system, but she does the best she can.

The trouble is, where she recognizes flaws with the system, she is not powerful enough to fix them. The overall system is a result of adaptive fictions colliding with democratic factions. And each faction - insurance companies, patients, doctors, administrators - is in a dogfight to protect their interest, which they (rightfully) realize will get squashed if they don't protect it.

When you demonize the actors, no one will listen to you, because they quite rightly see that, actually, the actors are good people. They will write you off as crazy reactionary and you will lose the argument every single time.

May 4, 2008 at 10:43 PM  
Anonymous desmond jones said...

George Fitzhugh posits a contrarian view:

"Blackstone, whose Commentaries have been, for half a century, a common school-book, and whose opinions on the rise, growth and full development of British liberty, are generally received as true, as well in America as in Europe, maintains a theory the very opposite of that for which we are about to contend.

He holds that the appearance of the House of Commons, about the reign of Henry the Third, was the dawn of approaching liberty. We contend that it was the origin of the capitalist and moneyed interest government, destined finally to swallow up all other powers in the State, and to bring about the most selfish, exacting and unfeeling class, despotism. [The Catholic church and the Monarchy were the progressives] He thinks the emancipation of the serfs was another advance towards equality of rights and conditions. We think it aggravated inequality of conditions, and divested the liberated class of every valuable, social and political right. [Domestic slavery was progressive, wage slavery reactionary] A short history of the English Poor Laws, which we shall annex, will enable the reader to decide between us on this head. He thinks the Reformation increased the liberties of the subject. We think that, in destroying the noblest charity fund in the world, the church lands, and abolishing a priesthood, the efficient and zealous friends of the poor, the Reformation tended to diminish the liberty of the mass of the peoples and to impair their moral, social and physical well-being.[Monarchy & Catholic church are the progressives] He thinks that the Revolution, by increasing the power of the House of Commons, and lessening the prerogative of the Crown, and the influence of the Church, promoted liberty. We think the Crown and the Church the natural friends, allies and guardians of the laboring class; the House of Commons, a moneyed firm, their natural enemies; and that the Revolution was a marked epoch in the steady decay of British liberty.

He thinks that the settlement of 1688 that successfully asserted in theory the supreme sovereignty of Parliament, but particularly the supreme sovereignty of the House of Commons, was the consummation or perfection of British liberty. We are sure, that that settlement, and the chartering of the Bank of England, which soon succeeded it, united the landed and moneyed interests, placed all the powers of government in their hands, and deprived the great laboring class of every valuable right and liberty. The nobility, the church, the king, were now powerless; and the mass of the people, wholly unrepresented in the government, found themselves exposed to the grinding and pitiless despotism of their natural and hereditary enemies. Mr. Charles Dickens, who pities the condition of the negro slaves, thus sums up, in a late speech, the worse condition of the "Slaves without Masters," in Great Britain: "Beneath all this, is a heaving mass of poverty, ignorance and crime." Such is English liberty for the masses. Thirty thousand men own the lands of England, three thousand those of Scotland, and fewer still those of Ireland. The great mass of the people are cut off from the soil, have no certain means of subsistence, and are trespassers upon the earth, without a single valuable or available right. Contrast their situations with that of the old villeins, and see then whether our theory of British liberty and the British constitution be true, or that of Blackstone."

Those words are not displaced today. Mass immigration transfers billions annually from the labouring class to their natural enemies.

Is it really forces of progression and reaction or just the forces of evolutionary competition?

May 5, 2008 at 12:07 AM  
Anonymous n/a said...

Jeff Williams,

Did you by any chance used to post at Takimag as Sid Cundiff, Tom Paine, etc.? Are you a Catholic?

Your posts put me in the mind of the hilarious example of self-ownage by "Tom Paine" in this thread.

Old New England brought forth the
most amazing corps of sour, life hating pundits imag-
inable. With their dreams of Earthly Perfections and
their oblviouslness to their own imperfections, they
were the precursors to the Cultural Marxists and con-
tributed to their sucess immensely. Old Southerners
described them as “crabbed” in their bearing and app-
earance. The Grimmki sisters are a perfect example.


(For those who don't immediately grasp the irony:
The Grimké sisters were born in Charleston, South Carolina, USA. Throughout their life they traveled throughout the North, lecturing about their first-hand experiences with slavery on their family's plantation. John Faucheraud Grimké, the father of the Grimké sisters, was a strong advocate of slavery and of the subordination of women; a wealthy planter with hundreds of slaves, he fathered at least 14 children and served as chief judge of the Supreme Court of South Carolina.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grimk%C3%A9_sisters )

On the off chance you are an honest-to-God Southron--and not pursuing some veiled ethnic agenda:

I briefly replied to your earlier comment here. Your apparent preference for Taft and Coolidge--two of the most prototypically "Yankee" presidents ever to hold office--suggests your real quarrel is not with New England (at least not the New England of old). You might want to spend more time learning basic history and less letting yourself be led around by others who don't share your interests.

As for your more recent post, what century are you living in? What planet are you living on?

Last I checked, Jews comprise about half the faculty of top law schools. (And I can tell you the other half are not "New England Calvinists".) Jews are likewise vastly overrepresented in every field you mention. The influence of "New England people" in all those industries has steadily eroded over the past century.

This (Angelo Mozilo, Countrywide CEO) is the face of corporate malfeasance in America. It is not a New England Calvinist face. See also Dennis Kozlowski, Andrew Fastow, etc.

Greenspan and Bernanke are not New England names.

William Jennings Bryan: not a Yankee.

You are absurd.

May 5, 2008 at 5:27 AM  
Blogger G. M. Palmer said...

Patrick said:

"The trouble is, where she recognizes flaws with the system, she is not powerful enough to fix them."

Oh bull.

She doesn't correct them because she wants to keep her house/car/job/whatever. Ownership and debt structure in this country keeps us from doing anything revolutionary. It's no wonder that so many of the leaders of the Revolution were landed gentry.

GMP

May 5, 2008 at 7:45 AM  
Anonymous Michael S. said...

TGGP, thanks for the link to the Longman article.

Demographics for domestic population growth are indeed not favorable to continuity of the Brahmin ascendancy. While the historic origins of the birth control/abortion movement were indisputably eugenic and focussed on the control of lower-class populations (vide many of Margaret Sanger's utterances), ironically no social group has restricted its own growth more by the use of these techniques than the Brahminate. Highly-credentialled ambitious Brahmin women don't want to be 'punished with a baby' that would distract from their careers. Middle-class constituencies falling within the 'outer party' of Brahminism are also not reproducing themselves. Feminists have practically made abortion a sacrament, while homosexual unions are implicitly sterile. The prospects for growth in both the inner and outer Brahmin party must continue to come from association or co-optation rather than reproduction.

The Brahmin allies amongst the Dalit/dacoit class are fecund enough, but the hazards of their lives (drive-by shooting, drug overdose, prison) tend either by attrition or containment during prime reproductive age, to keep their numbers from unduly increasing. Thus, the only help the Brahminate can get in terms of demographics is through enlargement of the Helotry. This explains the Brahmin fervor for open immigration and Brahmin objections to measures like requiring proof of identity before voting. The continued use of "democracy" as a means for perpetuating Brahmin power requires that not only must the franchise be universal amongst even the most degraded of citizens, but extended as promiscuously as possible amongst non-citizens.

Vaisyas and the remnant of the Optimacy who have moved from the cities to the suburbs tend to be fecund, and to marry and raise legitimate children, which are habits strongly correlated with conservative/reactionary sympathies. The demographic consequences of this are seen in the congressional district where I live, which outlies an urban district. My county has grown rapidly in population during the past 10 years and is the fastest-growing county in the district. The district has usually gone Republican, and in the 2006 election chose a very conservative Republican, going against the general trend that year. This is in contrast to the nearby city in which growth of population has been slack, the economy has contracted, liberal Democrats dominate government, and one represents its district in Congress.

Against the tendency of Vaisya/Optimate constituencies to grow by reproduction, how will the Brahminate fare in growing by co-optation? It has potent weapons on its side. The educational establishment is firmly in the Brahmins' grip and has made itself the gatekeeper of many lucrative occupations. The wealth of educational institutions and other Brahmin non-profits can expand untrammelled by taxation, in contrast to private capital. The profound advantage to this is now seen in the newly-developed ability of prominent universities to sustain themselves indefinitely on their endowments, to ignore private-sector bequests or gifts that come with unacceptable conditions (as seen, e.g., in the collapse of the Alexander Hamilton Center planned for Hamilton College), and most importantly, to extend free tuition to the great majority of applicants. This will be of great value in co-opting talented Vaisyas to the cause. The modern élite university is better fitted than it ever has been to be a self-replicating perpetuity.

An interesting question is whether the Brahminate could in time become an hereditary élite. The philoprogenitive instinct is a very basic part of human nature - how many of those Brahmins who do marry and raise children, won't want them to have as much or more, and live as well or better, as they themselves have done? However egalitarian their ideology, it is hard to imagine too many of these people not trying to ease the paths of their children as compared to those of people who are strangers to their persons or to their class. This was the conduct of the nomenklatura in the old Soviet Union, and I find it hard to believe the American Brahminate will behave differently.

I have previously suggested a parallel between MM's caste of contemporary Brahmins and the Renaissance officer class described by Hugh Trevor-Roper. The nobiliary custom that developed at this period was that, in the social advance of a family, it arrived at the "port of gentility" and its head was granted coat-armour. He was then anobli, a gentleman of coat-armour. His descendants after three generations were noble, gentlemen of blood; hence the belief that" it takes three generations to make a gentleman." Some heraldic systems, e.g., the Spanish, use helms to distinguish such persons - "hidalgoes of three generations." This was taken still further in the requirement of the old Austro-Hungarian empire that to be "hoffähig" (acceptable at court) that one had to have seize-quartiers, i.e., all one's great-great grandparents had to be armigerous (i.e., so he was descended from four grandparents each of whom was a gentleman or lady of blood.) Seize-quartiers is still required to become a knight of justice in the Order of Malta.

If we assume that a thoroughly modern Brahmin with a fresh set of Ivy League degrees is the equivalent of a newly-minted member of the Renaissance officer class/Briefsadelstand, maybe TGGP will have predicted rightly that his great-great grandchildren, with him and fifteen similar quarterings, will explain to us that 21st-c. man had no proper understanding of the relations between man and servant. It is all a question of whether co-optation can sustain itself against inheritance as a means of establishing social hierarchy.

May 5, 2008 at 11:20 AM  
Anonymous Jeff Williams said...

Patrick…

As for bankers screwing you for the joy of it, I rely on the testimony of my father. He was the treasurer of a large city in the northern, Yankee-dominated Midwest. Bankers continually offered him bribes of one kind or another. At the same time, they also overcharged the city on its loans and underpaid the interest on deposits. They would often “mistakenly” use a wrong interest rate. Dad checked each bank statement for errors and found many. The bribes, of course, were offered in the hope that he would look the other way.

He told me that the bankers thought this behavior to be cute and funny, and I believe him.

Also note the behavior of bankers as they impose penalties on credit card late payments (frequently changing the rules, delaying opening their mail, etc.). I think it is fair to say that at least some bankers do these things gleefully.

N/A

I am neither a Catholic nor a Southron, but in fact a Scotch-Irish American raised in the upper Midwest.

"New England Calvinists" is not a good term to use. But all other available terms also have problems.

Ever since the Civil War, the New York/New England people have dominated American culture and government. This is the group that must take the blame for the current mess.

As you rightly point out, the influence of the WASPs in the New England/New York culture began to wane by the 1890’s. Immigrants began to supplant them.

What is a good name for this group? “New York/New England people” is a clumsy construction, and it includes Catholics, blacks in the Northeast, as well as New England fishermen, who are not responsible for the toxic education, business, and government culture we have today. MM uses the world “Brahminate,” but it has several problems. One is that it connotes the caste structure of India. The USA is not India.

Here’s an attempt: “Business and government leaders from the culture originating in New England and New York among Calvinists and others.” Clumsy and long.

Suggested reading: “The New England Mind,” by Perry Miller. The Puritans were a weird group: cult-like, a group that would let their religious leaders tell them what clothes to wear. Their weirdness is with us still.

From Time magazine, July 4, 1976, a George Washington quote about New Englanders: "I daresay the men would fight very well (if properly officered), although they are an exceedingly dirty and nasty people."

George Washington about my peeps: "...if defeated everywhere else, I will make my final stand for liberty among the Scotch-Irish of my native Virginia…”

May 6, 2008 at 6:42 AM  
Anonymous Michael S. said...

Jeff, I think MM's usage of Brahmin is derived from the old locution "Boston Brahmin" rather than directly from the Indian caste.

"So this is good old Boston,
The home of the bean and the cod,
Where the Lowells talk only to Cabots
And the Cabots talk only to God."

It hardly matters what we call them. John Kerry would scarcely have been admitted to the polite Bostonian society of Cabots and Lowells a century ago, being the patrilineal descendant of a jumped-up Austrian Jew masquerading as a Catholic Irishman, and only a Forbes on his mama's side. Nonetheless he is fully assimilated to the Boston Brahmin ethos today.

George Santayana, that half-Catholic Spaniard, half-New England Yankee, observed that New England liberalism was what remained when Calvinism was stripped of its Christianity, leaving only its smug fanaticism behind. This is a religion to which MM has previously referred to as crypto-Calvinism, ultra-Calvinism, or universalism; whatever we call it, it is the credo of the academic/journalistic/bureaucratic élite that is today America's nomenklatura.

May 6, 2008 at 9:14 AM  
Anonymous desmond jones said...

The Scots-Irish are fundamentally the same people as the Puritans.

In the seminal Albion's Seed: Four British Folkways in America (America: a cultural history) historian David Hackett Fischer asserts:

Some historians describe these immigrants as "Ulster Irish" or "Northern Irish." It is true that many sailed from the province of Ulster... part of much larger flow which drew from the lowlands of Scotland, the north of England,and every side of the Irish Sea. Many scholars call these people "Scotch-Irish." That expression is an Americanism, rarely used in Britain and much resented by the people to whom it was attached. ..."

Fischer prefers to speak of "borderers" (referring to the historically war-torn England-Scotland border) as the population ancestral to the "backcountry" "cultural stream" (one of the four major and persistent cultural streams he identifies in American history) and notes the borderers were not purely Celtic but also had substantial Anglo-Saxon and Viking or Scandinavian roots, and were quite different from Celtic-speaking groups like the Scottish Highlanders or Irish (that is, Gaelic-speaking and Roman Catholic).


In addition:

In Scotland as in England the historical data point to Teutonic and Scandinavian invasion pushing back the Celtic tribes. Mr. Lang points out that there is no marked difference in the racial composition of the people between the Scottish Lowlands and the adjacent parts of England. In both countries the people spoke a language now designated as Early English. The two regions were one geographically. Mr. Lang remarks: "Nothing in the topography of the country contains a prophecy of this separation of the Teutonic or English conquerors of Southern Scotland into a separate Scottish nation. The severance of the English north and south of the Tweed was the result of historical events."

Substantially the same view is taken in T. F. Henderson's history of Scottish Vernacular Literature. He holds that: "The Scottish vernacular is mainly a development of the Teutonic dialect of that Northumbria which embraces the more eastern portion of Britain from the Humber to the Firth of Forth. Here the Saxons obtained a firm footing early in the sixth century, the Cymri being, after a series of desperate struggles, either conquered or forced gradually westward until they concentrated in Cumbria or Strathclyde, between the Mersey and the Clyde, where for some centuries they maintained a fragile independence. . . . The triumph of the Saxon element was finally assured by the great influx of Saxons during the period of the Norman conquest. . . . The Teutonic speech and civilization gradually penetrated into every district of the Scottish Lowlands."


Puritans practiced exclusion. However, because their success and the ascension of Charles II to the throne a change in the Navigation Acts, and a revision of the original Massachusetts charter, the Puritans were forced to open their colonial territories to others, especially Quakers.

But the very success of the Puritan enterprise its size, its wealth, and its control over a large area of land comprising the Massachusetts Bay Company�made it the target of the British colonialists seeking to control their possessions and a goal for immigrants seeking economic advantage. The Amish and Hutterites, on the other hand, because of their very low economic and political profile, would never have excited the sort of attempts at control which the British exercised on the Massachusetts Bay (Company. But in the absence of control over their own territory, the group strategy quickly unraveled. The Puritans lost the abilities to govern their territory, control the behavior of its inhabitants, and control immigration. And in the absence of these prerogatives, the Puritans gradually ceased being a well-defined group strategy. These trends were well in place by the end of the 17th century, less than 75 years after the origins of the colony. . . . Without control of a specific territory, the Puritans succumbed to their own individualistic tendencies and those of the surrounding culture.

Quaker origins, from the North Midlands and Wales, and Holland and Germany, were different than Scots-Irish/Puritans.

Quakers played a major role in the abolition movement against slavery. The Quakers were the first whites to denounce slavery in the American colonies and Europe. Quakers began denouncing slavery as early as 1688, when four German Quakers started protesting near Pennsylvania. John Woolman and Anthony Benezet protested against slavery, and demanded that the Quaker society cut ties with the slave trade. These two individuals led the abolitionist movement in Pennsylvania. It was their belief that if the slave trade was stopped, then the institution of slavery would soon follow.

The Pennsylvania Abolition Society consisted primarily of Quakers. In fact, seven of the ten original white members were Quakers, and 17 of the 24 who attended the four meetings held by the Pennsylvania Abolition Society were Quakers. Quakers were also prominently involved with the Underground Railroad. For example, Levi Coffin started helping runaway slaves as a child in North Carolina. Later in his life, Coffin moved to the Ohio-Indiana area, where he became known as the President of the Underground Railroad.

May 6, 2008 at 2:12 PM  
Anonymous n/a said...

Pardon my skepticism, but I doubt such a thing as "a Scotch-Irish American" exists in 2008, particularly in the Upper Midwest--and especially with a name like "Williams". When did you acquire this identity? I doubt your family identified as "Scotch-Irish American" when you were a child--and I seriously doubt that anything like half or more of your ancestry can be traced back to Ulster. I think someone's been reading too much Jimmy Cantrell.

Your focus on New England as a source of all America's woes is fundamentally misguided.

Ever since the Civil War, the New York/New England people have dominated American culture and government. This is the group that must take the blame for the current mess.

"New York/New England people" are not and have never been a homogeneous group. Upstate New York at one time was part of "Greater New England". Manhattan never was--not before the onset of mass immigration from non-traditional sources, and certainly not after. Congregationalism was the dominant religion in New England vs. Episcopalianism in NYC. The tendency as the trends you decry were taking root was for Congregationalists to switch to Episcopalianism, not the reverse--particularly for those in the higher reaches of American society. Which might be a tiny hint that Calvinism is a red herring. (Incidentally, as a "Scotch-Irish American", you must be a Presbyterian, huh?)

Individuals have different interests. Groups have different interests. Individuals may coalesce into groups along religious, class, regional, ethnic, national, political, or other lines, but clearly some group identities have stronger pull than others.

MM apparently wants to convince his readers the only group identities that matter are class-based (with the "Brahminate" nonsense) and political ("progressives" vs. "reactionaries", Calvinism being scapegoat for former). History does not bear this out.

See, for example, Kevin MacDonald's work on Jews.

And anyway, ultimate interests are genetic--not poliical.

The Puritans were a weird group: cult-like, a group that would let their religious leaders tell them what clothes to wear.

You clearly have no idea what you're talking about. I can think of some groups that do "let their religious leaders tell them what clothes to wear", but I guess "Scotch-Irish Americans" today only have the testicular fortitude to attack safe targets.

And people in the 17th century with "weird" ideas by present standards? Who would have ever suspected?

The Puritans no doubt had their faults (though not the ones you're trying to hang on them). They also had plenty of merits.

From Time magazine, July 4, 1976, a George Washington quote about New Englanders

Are you trolling now, or are you really that petty and ridiculous?

The alleged quote refers to a group of freshly organized soldiers, not "New Englanders" generally. In context:

The new commander in chief reached the Army outside Boston on July 2, 1775. He found that it had fewer than 50 cannons, hardly any powder, few trained gunners or engineers, little pay and no order at all. The men had been recruited from the Connecticut. Rhode Island, Massachusetts and New Hampshire militia to meet the alarm sent out after Lexington and Concord. By tradition, they elected their own leaders, and many refused to serve with men from other parts of New England.

The encounter between the Virginia gentleman and what he called "a mixed multitude of people" was dramatic. At first, disgruntled soldiers went home in shoals and there was a wave of courts-martial. A number of officers were broken. Thirty and 40 lashes for insubordination became a regular punishment. To Washington's chagrin, one of the few southern units in his Army, a company of Virginia riflemen, rebelled against discipline and had to be surrounded and disarmed. "Such a dirty, mercenary spirit pervades the whole," the exasperated general wrote in a rare display of open anger, "that I should not be at all surprised at any disaster that may happen." As for the much vaunted New England
troops, Washington confided to a friend, "I daresay the men would fight very well (if properly officered), although they are an exceedingly dirty and nasty people."

Washington has since changed that view, partly because he has somewhat reformed his soldiery.


The alleged "Scotch-Irish" quote is so self-evidently bogus it doesn't merit a response. But here you go anyway, from the mouth of "your" "peeps":

A popular quotation often attributed to General George Washington during the War of Independence is "...if defeated everywhere else, I will make my final stand for liberty among the Scotch-Irish of my native Virginia...", although it is more likely that he didn’t use those specific words, but something very similar. A book published in 1788 quoted Washington as saying, in November 1776, that if defeated everywhere else, he would make a stand in Augusta County, Virginia. Augusta County was a Scotch-Irish heartland.

Scotch-Irish were in fact a small minority in colonial Virginia, and I doubt they approached a majority in any county. But getting back to things that matter:

Five of five Federal Reserve Board members are Jewish. Of The Telegraph's "most influential political pundits", 40% are Catholic and 27% Jewish. Only 29% are Protestant. Forgive me for doubting "crypto-Calvinism" is the driving force in American politics.


Michael S.,

As I recall, "Brahmins" in MM's scheme are radical Jewish Ivy League grads and the like. MM assigns some other name to the remnants of the old Upper Classes. I leave it up to you to decide whether MM was attempting to spit in the faces of the latter or just trying to be intentionally confusing.

May 6, 2008 at 2:12 PM  
Anonymous desmond jones said...

The Brahmins are also well-known for their hostility to the Irish and other immigrants whose large numbers transformed the city in the 19th and early 20th centuries. In his book Guarding the Golden Door: American Immigration Policy and Immigrants Since 1882, author Roger Daniels discusses a group known as the Immigration Restriction League, which was founded in 1894 by recent Harvard graduates. The league favored drastic curbs on further immigration, and the man who would become its main advocate in Congress was the thoroughly Brahmin Sen. Henry Cabot Lodge, R-Mass. In 1891, when he was in the House of Representatives, Lodge had introduced a bill that would have required new immigrants to pass a literacy test before entering the country. Although some now think of the Kennedys as Brahmins because of their wealth and prestige, the family was certainly not part of the WASP club when it began its rags-to-riches climb.

Lodge said in 1910 (remember that he'd introduced a bill to require literacy 14 years previously, and was still arguing),

"There is a growing and constantly active demand for more restrictive legislation. This demand rests on two grounds, both equally important. One is the effect upon the quality of our citizenship caused by the rapid introduction of this vast and practically unrestricted immigration, and the other, the effect of this immigration upon rates of wages and the standard of living among our working people.

I shall not attempt to argue the question with you, but will merely point out the number of persons who would have been excluded since 1886 if the illiterates over fourteen years of age had been thrown out. During that period the number of illiterates who, by their own admission, could neither read nor write in any language, numbered 1,829,320."

May 6, 2008 at 2:31 PM  
Anonymous desmond jones said...

It was the Boston Brahmins who fought Wilson's nomination of Brandeis and the efforts of Jacob Schiff, Oscar Strauss and Rabbi Wise to hold open the door to mass immigration.

The attack on Brandeis' nomination was led by the State Street and Wall Street legal elite: Henry Cabot Lodge, Senator from Massachusetts, and A. Lawrence Lowell, a corporate lawyer, former President of the American Bar Association and President of Harvard, and William Howard Taft. Lodge questioned Brandeis' fitness to serve: "For the first time in our history a man has been nominated to the Supreme Court with a view to attracting to the President a group of voters on racial grounds. Converting the United States into a Government by foreign groups is to me the most fatal thing that can happen to our Government . . . " (Todd, p. 85)

Immigration Bill Stormily Attack

May 6, 2008 at 2:46 PM  
Anonymous Michael S. said...

n/a, as far as I know MM is not trying to assign any ethnicity to his Brahmins. It is an associational/co-optative grouping, not a genetic one - basically an élite, or élite faction, the status of which is dependent upon its ability to manipulate words. It is similar in concept to Burham's managerial class. Its chosen venues are academia, journalism, and bureaucracy.

The older, declining élite, or élite faction is, to some greater extent, one based on birth. As in Pareto's, in MM's schema, this élite, which he calls Optimates, is made up of those descendants of previous élite factions that have not lost utterly their former wealth and social standing: the surviving plutocracy of the gilded age together with the remnants of the landed gentry and a handful of more recent sympathetic entrepreneurial types.

Maybe the references to India with the Brahmins, or to ancient Rome with the Optimates, confuse more than they clarify. We could call these two competing élites two other names just as easily. For example, Brahmins could be called Briefsädel or noblesse de la robe, who have come to prominence through intrigues at court. Optimates could be identified with Urädel or noblesse de l'épée, who once upon a time carved out their domains by their own strength and daring. The important point is that the former is any case an ascendant, and the latter a decadent, élite.

Lines are confused, because one of the principal sources of recruitment to the Brahminate is from the sons and daughters of the old Optimacy. They go off to university, and are seduced - as Col. Hawker said of Oxford and Cambridge, £50 a year to corrupt their morals and destroy their constitutions - except there's been a bit of inflation since the days of the Peninsular War.

I don't believe at all that ethnicity or genetics have much to do with these élites or their respective views. It is a question of intellectual and moral sympathies rather than of blood.

As for the historic origins of the Scots/Irish, the best book on them is George Macdonald Fraser's "Steel Bonnets." Puritanism in England was largely a south-of-England phenomenon and concentrated in London. The north of England was more sympathetic to Catholicism - the Pilgrimage of Grace took place in York. It is very difficult to relate these events very directly to modern American socio-political divisions. The point is that modern American leftism does partake of the gnosticism, utopianism, and antinomianism of what was the extreme religious left in the 17th-18th centuries. It has held onto these even as it has lost faith in Christianity - hence Santayana's sentiment, which I quoted earlier.

May 6, 2008 at 2:59 PM  
Blogger n/a said...

n/a, as far as I know MM is not trying to assign any ethnicity to his Brahmins.

Yes, that's the point. MM wants us to look at the opinion formers and see "crypto-Calvinists" interested only in securing their social status. We're not supposed to notice if some of them seem to being pursuing ethnic interests while such pursuits are off-limits for others.

I don't believe at all that ethnicity or genetics have much to do with these élites or their respective views. It is a question of intellectual and moral sympathies rather than of blood.

If you are referring only to the American majority members of the elite, then I'd tend to agree. If you are claiming ethnicity has no salience for black, Jewish, or certain other ethnic elites, then no.

The point is that modern American leftism does partake of the gnosticism, utopianism, and antinomianism of what was the extreme religious left in the 17th-18th centuries. It has held onto these even as it has lost faith in Christianity - hence Santayana's sentiment, which I quoted earlier.

I don't find this line of thought all that illuminating. Particularly when the punchline is that 17th-century American settlers are responsible for 20th-century Jewish radicalism.

May 6, 2008 at 5:30 PM  
Anonymous Michael S. said...

I'm sure that some people are pushing for ethnic interests. But there are also many others who are not pushing for interests that are obviously those of their ethnicity.

17th-c. Christian radicalism, as seen in some of Cromwell's farther-out followers, and 19th-20th. century radicalism, as seen in Marx and many of the old Bolsheviks (who were Jews), share common roots in early modern gnosticism, utopianism, and antinomianism. See Eric Voegelin on these.

Sabbatai Zevi and Samuel Jacob Falk (the "Ba'al Shem of London") are manifestations of such strains in Judaism, just as extreme Calvinists of the Cromwell period, such as the Diggers and Levellers, personified by Ralpho in "Hudibras," are in the Christianity of the age. Both versions are heterodoxies in their respective faiths. "Jewish" radicalism has about as little to do with the Old Testament as "Christian" radicalism does with the New.

May 6, 2008 at 6:49 PM  
Anonymous desmond jones said...

How we should remember the Levellers

"Since 1975, left-wingers have commemorated the suppression of the Leveller-inspired mutiny at Burford in 1649. The socialist icon Tony Benn used his speech at the second ‘Leveller Day’ to applaud them for their forward-looking ideals which ‘anticipated by a century and a half the main ideas of the American and French Revolutions.’

Paraphrasing Benn, Tristram Hunt has described Rainborowe’s comments as expressing the ‘ethical ideal of socialism’ and suggested that the ‘language and ideas expressed in the US constitution were lifted straight from the Putney debates’.

It is doubtful that the words spoken at Putney influenced the Founding Fathers, given that the text of the debate was not published until 1891. In 1649, the imprisoned John Lilburne had defiantly predicted that ‘posterity … shall reap the benefit of our endeavours whatever shall become of us.’ Yet, for over two hundred years, references to the Putney debates and the Levellers were few and far between. Although a permanent record of the debates was kept by the general secretary of the army, William Clarke, all reporting of the debates in the press was banned. They were barely mentioned in contemporary newssheets and pamphlets.[...]

Celebration of the Levellers, including the Guardian’s recent competition, has been driven by a desire to fit them into a tradition of British radicalism, as forerunners of democracy, liberalism and socialism. But if the Levellers are part of a ‘democratic tradition’, it is a tradition which has largely been invented by twentieth and twenty-first century historians, journalists and politicians, not one created by radical movements themselves. Until the late nineteenth century there was very little reference to the Levellers and there is, frankly, scant evidence that their works influenced any subsequent radicals either in Britain, America or France. Even once C. H. Firth’s transcriptions of the Putney debates had been published, they were mainly seen as being of interest to military historians. It was not until the publication in 1938 of A. S. P. Woodhouse’s provocatively titled Puritanism and Liberty, that Putney was established as a milestone in British constitutional history. Woodhouse’s edition of the debates had an explicitly political aim: to provide ideological ammunition for the public in the battle against the forces of Fascism and, later, Soviet totalitarianism. It is his re-interpretation of Putney as a crucible of democratic thought which has proved most influential to the present day."

May 6, 2008 at 11:11 PM  
Anonymous Jeff Williams said...

Desmond Jones deserves thanks for citing “Albion’s Seed.” That book describes four different British folkways in the America of the 18th century.

One important observation about “Albion’s Seed” is that of the four groups described—the New Englanders, the Quakers, the Scotch-Irish, and the Cavaliers of the Southern plantations—only two remain important in contemporary life. The Quakers and the Cavaliers are pretty much out of the picture. A rivalry still exists between the New England and Scotch/Irish cultures: witness New England attitudes Scotch-Irish dominated institutions such as country music, NASCAR, the U.S. military, and Wal-Mart.

As for N/A questioning whether a person can be Scotch-Irish in the upper Midwest. Yes it is possible. There is a section of Ypsilanti, Michigan, for instance, that is called “Ypsi-Tucky,” because of the hillbillies there. Like every ethnic group, however, the Scotch-Irish have upper-class people and lower-class people. Modern Scotch-Irish Americans include Jimmy Stewart, Arnold Palmer, Neil Armstrong and John McCain. (Wikipedia has a list—search for Scots-Irish.) We are not all hillbillies. I trace my ancestry on both sides back to Scotch-Irish settlers in Virginia and Pennsylvania. They fought in the Revolution. Williams is a Welsh name, but it is a common name in Northern Ireland, where some Protestant Williams’s settled in the Ulster Plantation in the 1600’s.

As for your questioning the George Washington quote, George Washington said something like that. He knew that of the four British groups, the Scotch-Irish were the most loyal to the patriotic cause, and that we would never let him down . We continue to be a patriotic group that supports the military. I have a son in the Navy, who is now stationed at Okinawa.

May 7, 2008 at 6:45 AM  
Anonymous n/a said...

Modern Scotch-Irish Americans include Jimmy Stewart, Arnold Palmer, Neil Armstrong and John McCain. (Wikipedia has a list—search for Scots-Irish.)

You realize, I hope:

(1) Anyone can edit Wikipedia.
(2) Having a Scottish or northern Irish surname does not mean all one's ancestors were Scotch-Irish.

Armstrong is apparently 3/4 German and probably at most 1/8 Scotch-Irish.

Personally, I'd be happy to let you claim McCain, but a glance at the surnames in his genealogy suggests he's considerably more English than Scotch-Irish.

From what I could find, Palmer and particularly Stewart do seem to be substantially Scotch-Irish. And both just happened to be born in western PA. Eighty to 100 years ago. Yet to my knowledge neither ever strongly identified as "Scotch-Irish American" (rather than just "American").

Good luck finding anyone born in the past 50 years in the Upper Midwest with similarly concentrated Scotch-Irish ancestry.

I trace my ancestry on both sides back to Scotch-Irish settlers in Virginia and Pennsylvania.

Again, if you're claiming substantially "pure" Scotch-Irish ancestry and you were born after 1950 and outside Appalachia, I'm not buying.

The vast majority of Northern European-derived Americans have ancestry from multiple sources.

Albion's Seed is a good book, but none of the four folkways described exist today as discrete entities, and I see no value in trying to disaggregate American culture along those lines.

You are certainly free to imagine yourself as a "Scotch-Irish American". But my suggestion to you is that your real interests likely coincide much more closely with those of the descendants of Puritans than with those of the MM's of the world.

As for your questioning the George Washington quote, George Washington said something like that. He knew that of the four British groups, the Scotch-Irish were the most loyal to the patriotic cause, and that we would never let him down .

Then you should have no trouble furnishing quotes to that effect via reliable sources.

May 7, 2008 at 3:39 PM  
Anonymous Jeff Williams said...

N/A

You are more of a stickler for detail and a better researcher than I usually encounter in an online discussion.

As you have surmised, I am not 100% Scotch-Irish. My ancestry includes some English, German, and French. As someone once said, frontier settlers in America were a “mixed medley.” My ancestors were no exception. But we call ourselves Scotch-Irish, as that group predominated.

I will dispute your assertion that:

none of the four folkways described exist today as discrete entities, and I see no value in trying to disaggregate American culture along those lines.

This can be disproven by looking at vote totals from any election. In Ohio the southern counties, which were settled via the Ohio River by Pennsylvanians and people from further south, the votes go for Republicans these days. The northern counties, settled via the Erie Canal by New Yorkers and New Englanders, go for Democrats. Eighty years ago the pattern was reversed: Republicans to the north and Democrats to the south. Though parties have traded places, I see little evidence of blending here.

I don’t know what you are trying to say. The USA is a big place with a diverse population. You can’t expect to understand the totality of it without understanding the parts. Of course the four folkways have evolved, but differences persist.

I will also defend MM. He is a talented writer with a very good knowledge base. He is also going through a Whittaker Chambers kind of experience where he has questioned everything he once believed, and is now attacking his former beliefs. That is interesting in itself. Because of his background and talent, MM can become a very effective critic of progressivism, or liberalism, or the Brahminate, or universalism—that set of beliefs that is oppressing us, but we don’t have a good name for. Part of what MM is doing is the naming of the parts. Part is stream of consciousness. In time the material may be edited into something very good.

May 7, 2008 at 9:17 PM  
Anonymous P.M.Lawrence said...

"In legal theory this is called adverse possession, which is more or less how the Tudors acquired their little island". Which island would that be, Ireland? the Isle of Man? One of the Channel Islands? One it certainly cannot be is Great Britain, since they only ever ruled part of that.

"Given the fact that the state of England today would horrify him, he might well be open to moving further out on the fire escape - a reaction not dissimilar to the response that 18th-century Whigs, such as Burke (yes, Burke was a Whig) had to the Reign of Terror". Strictly speaking, this was Burke's response to his anticipation of the Reign of Terror, at least in general terms, since he had adopted it by the time of his Reflections on the Revolution in France which preceded and partly forecast the Reign of Terror.

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March 18, 2009 at 9:51 AM  

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