I.

It’s sad that Tulsi has to capitulate on LGBT

One of the problems with the modern zeitgeist, the prevailing social mood that affects even those who are consciously anti-left, is that it makes it difficult to think about things objectively and clearly. Take Democrat candidate Tulsi Gabbard, for instance. As predicted, given her Ron Paulian interpretation of foreign policy and international goings-on as they relate to the US military, her “problematic” history with comments related to LGBT issues was brought up in an accusatory manner. Now, if you are a progressive who hones in on this issue as some transcendently important issue of our age, these remarks will forever prevent you from forgiving her and lending political support. If you are a progressive with more nuance, you will say: well, we all make mistakes, and at least she now realizes how she hurt people.

For non-leftists I see on my Facebook and elsewhere, I generally see this mood: of course they are going to hone in on controversial and hateful comments from decades ago to smear her for not toeing the line on cultural phenomena!

But I suppose I am even perplexed by this. Were these things even hateful? Why is mere disagreement or lack of approval of a certain activity hateful? Sure, her conservative father was against the homosexual political movement, as was she. Isn’t this, you know, what you would expect from a social conservative? In fact, even for non-conservatives 50 years ago, homosexuality (not even to mention transsexualism) was considered unnatural and, well, literally “queer.”

It’s only “controversial” to the extent that the media, a key player in the crafting of the zeitgeist, has defined these positions as controversial. Isn’t it funny how what is considered “controversial” is merely just an arbitrary warning that you are reaching the edges of approved opinion?

Honolulu’s Civil Beat has a rundown of her “problematic” past:

“Gabbard” is a loaded name in Hawaii politics, synonymous with steadfast socially conservative views.

 

State Sen. Mike Gabbard has led the charge against same-sex marriage in the state for two decades. His 30-year-old City Council member daughter, Tulsi, long shared his stances against abortion rights and in favor of a constitutional amendment to restrict marriage to being between one man and one woman.

I’m not even sure what the issue is. Her father was against the definition of marriage being extended to included same-sex relationships. But watch this. They call this oppressive toward gays. And since believers in freedom are against oppression, it necessarily follows that to be in favor of a traditional definition of marriage is to be oppressive. It’s all a rhetorical parlor trick. But it’s effective: are you for oppression of a certain class of citizens or anti-Gabbard? 

So to protect her political career, she has to capitulate on an issue that the zeitgeist has shifted on, even if her older position was historically and naturally the reasonable one.

There’s no “right to marry.” That’s a political creation. Therefore, if for joint-tax filing purposes, the government wants to draw a line somewhere, it’s no breach of anyone’s rights to draw it at one man, one woman (even if you have no problem with homosexuality for moral or biological or social reasons). No one’s rights are violated. Of course, since we are against the taxation aspect, why not just lower everyone’s taxes substantially so the benefits of less taxation hit everyone the same? That’s better than a loophole, as well as a separate issue. Taking the issue of marriage to the political square is the source of tension, strife, and propaganda. Privatize marriage, and we will once again be able to talk about marriage and sexual norms in historically normal ways, rather than walking on political eggshells.

M.

More on Resentment as Revolution

In response to my post about resentment, Mitch raises a very good question, namely whether or not leftists wish to raise anything in the place of the social framework they seek to dismantle. He writes,

This is what makes resentment in our time so dangerous and dark– it aims at nothing, it is never satisfied, there is no end to its eternal and constant loathing. It does not yearn for a better world but instead seeks to make social tension and strife a sustaining characteristic of the everyday. Deep down, many of us wonder about the end game; we operate on this idea that someday, soon, the left will have total control and the revolution will be over. But we must remember: the revolution is constant and ever-present; upheaval is the new normal, there is no end game for the grievance mongers.

Since my original post was inspired by Roger Scruton, it’s interesting to note that Scruton concurs with much of Mitch’s assessment as it relates to both the endless modern drive to liberate people from what John Stuart Mill called the “tyranny of the majority” (which to Mill meant not political democracy but public opinion), and to the eternal pursuit of the vague doctrine of social justice. Scruton writes,

Liberation of the victim is a restless cause, since new victims always appear over the horizon as the last ones escape into the void. [Many forms of liberation] have been absorbed into the more recent leftist agendas, to be enshrined in laws and committees overseen by a censorious officialdom. Gradually the old norms of social order have been marginalized, or even penalized as violations of “human rights.” Indeed, the cause of “liberation” has seen the proliferation of more laws than were ever invented to suppress it – just think of what is now ordained in the cause of “non-discrimination.”

 

Likewise the goal of “social justice” is no longer equality before the law, or the equal claim to the rights of citizenship, as these were advocated at the Enlightenment. The goal is a comprehensive rearrangement of society, so that privileges, hierarchies, and even the unequal distribution of goods are either overcome or challenged. The more radical egalitarianism of the nineteenth-century Marxists and anarchists, who sought for the abolition of private property, perhaps no longer has widespread appeal. But behind the goal of “social justice” there marches another and more dogged egalitarian mentality, which believes that inequality in whatever sphere – property, leisure, legal privilege, social rank, educational opportunities, or whatever else we may wish for ourselves and our children – is unjust until proven otherwise. In every sphere in which the social position of individuals might be compared, equality is the default position.

 

…the most important point to notice is that it is an argument that allows nothing to stand in its way. No existing custom, institution, law or hierarchy; no tradition, distinction, rule or piety can trump equality, if it cannot provide itself with independent credentials. Everything that does not conform to the egalitarian goal must be pulled down and built again, and the mere fact that some custom or institution has been handed down and accepted is no argument in its favour. In this way “social justice” becomes a barely concealed demand for the “clean sweep” of history that revolutionaries have always attempted.

The fact that the leftist revolution is never-ending seems obvious enough. The question is whether this is intended, or is simply a confirmation of the Tocqueville Effect, in which social disharmony is said to grow at roughly the same rate as equality. Either way, the task of rebuilding society is impossible in an environment of institutionalized resentment, and we are left to wonder, as Mitch does, if that is fundamentally the goal.

 

D.

Does the left even want to “rebuild it?”

Ben concludes a recent post with the following:

But if Scruton is correct – and given the prevailing attitudes on the left, there’s no reason to believe he’s not – grievance mongers are not interested in what makes for a healthy society. They are, in fact, bent on the destruction of society, and much too confident in their ability to rebuild it.

This reminded me of something I read some months ago in Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn’s sweeping overview of Leftism and its history; namely, that the New Left, as distinct from the Classic Left (not to be confused with the Classical Liberals), is unique in that “it has produced neither a coherent ideology nor a concrete utopia. It offers criticism but no real answers.” Indeed, Kuehnelt-Leddihn continues to observe that this New Left “has not developed a constructive program, a blueprint, a utopia all its own.” Moreover, “classic leftism likes to destroy, but only in order to replace memories of the past with a vision of the future.” Karl Marx, for instance, need a dictatorship of the proletariate, which would likely have its moments of terror and pain, but nevertheless would give birth to a communism society in which all lived with one another in harmony. However, perhaps more eerie than the troublesome leftism of ages past, the New Left “delights in disorder and chaos.” Destruction of the present order– not merely the governments, but the entire social stratum– is sort of a goal in itself.

This is what makes resentment in our time so dangerous and dark– it aims at nothing, it is never satisfied, there is no end to its eternal and constant loathing. It does not yearn for a better world but instead seeks to make social tension and strife a sustaining characteristic of the everyday. Deep down, many of us wonder about the end game; we operate on this idea that someday, soon, the left will have total control and the revolution will be over. But we must remember: the revolution is constant and ever-present; upheaval is the new normal, there is no end game for the grievance mongers.

S.

Scruton on Resentment

You can generally tell how important a thinker is by how strenuously the left opposes him. By this standard Roger Scruton, recently the subject of a malicious, yet obvious, smear campaign, is one of the most important thinkers of our day. One example of Scruton’s analytical prowess comes from a chapter titled “What is Left” in his book Fools, Frauds, and Firebrands: Thinkers of the New Left. Commenting on liberals’ tendencies to create and then capitalize on feelings of resentment, Scruton writes the following:

Resentment is not a good thing to feel, either for its subject or its object. But the business of society is to conduct our social life so that resentment does not occur: to live by mutual aid and fellowship, not so as to be all alike and inoffensively mediocre, but so as to gain others’ cooperation in our small successes. Living in this way we create the channels through which resentment drains away of its own accord: channels like custom, gift, hospitality, shared worship, penitence, forgiveness and the common law, all of which are instantly stopped up when the totalitarians come to power. Resentment is to the body politic what pain is to the body: it is bad to feel it, but good to be capable of feeling it, since without the ability to feel it we will not survive. Hence we should not resent the fact that we resent, but accept it, as part of the human condition, something to be managed along with all our other joys and afflictions.

But, of course, this is not the leftist attitude toward resentment. Scruton continues,

However, resentment can be transformed into a governing emotion and a social cause, and thereby gain release from the constraints that normally contain it. This happens when resentment loses the specificity of its target, and becomes directed to a society as a whole. That, it seems to me, is what happens when left-wing movements take over. in such cases resentment ceases to be a response to another’s unmerited success and becomes instead an existential posture: the posture of the one whom the world has betrayed. Such a person does not seek to negotiate within existing structures, but to gain total power, so as to abolish the structures themselves. He will set himself against all forms of mediation, compromise and debate, and against the legal and moral norms that give a voice to the dissenter and sovereignty to the ordinary person. He will set about destroying the enemy, whom he will conceive in collective terms. as the class, group, or race that hitherto controlled the world and which must now in turn be controlled. And all institutions that grant protection to that class or a voice in the political process will be targets for his destructive rage.

Thus, the victimhood mentality, so often alluded to today, is not simply problematic for creating groups of people with grievances against society. These grievances, according to Scruton, manifest in a desire to bring existing social structures crashing to the ground, without thought or concern for what rests on them – in other words, for society itself.

This brings to mind Thomas Sowell’s observation that “wrongs abound in times and places around the world – inflicted on, and perpetrated by, people of virtually every race, creed and color. But what can any society today hope to gain by having newborn babies in that society enter the word as heirs to prepackaged grievances against other babies born into that same society on the same day?”

The answer to Sowell’s query is, obviously, “Nothing.” But if Scruton is correct – and given the prevailing attitudes on the left, there’s no reason to believe he’s not – grievance mongers are not interested in what makes for a healthy society. They are, in fact, bent on the destruction of society, and much too confident in their ability to rebuild it.

E.

Equality, Without Justice, For All

In confirmation of CJay’s recent post about “woke capitalism” comes news that 180 CEOs have signed an open letter denouncing the recent passage of abortion restrictions in Georgia and Alabama. Of course, the sheer number of CEOs being touted by the suddenly pro-business media does not reflect a general business community commitment to the opposition of the legislation, since most of the CEOs represent industries that are generally leftist in orientation (tech, fashion, entertainment). At any rate, who is opposing the legislation isn’t really the point. How they’re opposing it is.

Specifically, two of the arguments are obviously specious. First, these business leaders say that anti-abortion laws are “bad for business.” Now, they had a specific reason for saying this, which I’ll get to in a moment, but it’s worth stopping to ask on what other social issue would this be considered a valid argument, especially by leftists? Closing sweat shops, for instance, might also be bad for business, as would onerous levels of taxation, but we hear nothing from the left about what is good or bad for business on these topics. We only hear about the moral duty of corporations (and, usually, of governments in forcing them to fulfill this moral duty).

The other specious argument, and the one on which the case that abortion regulations are “bad for business” rests, is that restricting abortions deprives individuals, specifically women, of equality. These CEOs believe that a lack (or at least a perceived lack) of equality makes recruiting and retaining employees more difficult. But the unasked question here is, “Equality to what?” The answer to this question, ostensibly, is health care. But here is where the obfuscation on the abortion issue lies, for framing the question of abortion these terms, as a right to have a doctor kill your unborn baby, intentionally ignores the more fundamental question: the personhood of that baby. That’s not to say that all pro-abortionists attempt to sidestep that issue, but their treatment of the question leaves much room to doubt either their metaphysics or the instruction they received from various science guys.

It’s interesting, from a social perspective, the degree to which this and other issues are increasingly framed in terms of equality, which reflects the longstanding and increasing fascination that leftists have with equality, a fascination that has advanced to the point of crowding out all other considerations, chiefly justice. If we can dodge the question of if an unborn baby is a distinct human being, and frame it only in terms of a vague but doctrinaire egalitarianism, we can also avoid considering the justice of ending its life. The point here is not so much that the conclusions of this argument are wrong (though they are), but that the argument itself is faulty, and leaves open the door to all manner of ways which justice can be victimized for equality’s sake.

One wonders what other fundamental questions will be ignored, and what the full scope of permissible barbarities will be in the coming leftist dystopia. But, then again, maybe we don’t have to wonder. Maybe we can just observe what happened as a result of the French and Russian Revolutions, and anticipate again the leftist call to end life outside the womb in the same way they currently claim the right to end it inside the womb. All, of course, in the interest of equality.

P.

Paul Gottfried on the Mainstream Left

Buck Johnson, a subscriber to AL Mag and a great supporter of the site, has a fantastic podcast, Death to Tyrants. Just today he published a conversation he had with the always interesting Paul Gottfried; Paul of course is one of the very best conservative writers in our time and he has been a very key influence on the way I interpret political movements.

One of the things that he mentioned in the conversation is something that I referred to when I discussed his book on Multiculturalism, namely that the modern mainstream left is a post-marxist left that has, in Marxism’s stead, replaced economic class warfare with identitarian class warfare. I wrote:

The left (especially the American left), Gottfried argues, was once wholly dependent on narratives relating to economic victims. The statist efforts to solve various economic circumstances produced what he, in his prior book After Liberalism, refers to as “the managerial state.” The managerial state was supposed to be the perfection of social democracy, with the victim groups similar to Karl Marx’s: the laborers, the proletariate, the impoverished, etc.  The managerial state sought to expand its influence in order to protect the economically under privileged.  It developed arguments for things like minimum wage laws, labor unions, and rent control.

 

But things have changed, at least in emphasis. The left, while of course still employing many economic narratives, seems to have doubled down on a different type of social victimization. Thus, the managerial state eventually gave way to a different kind of state, with new classes of victims and new programs to fix the “problems.”  The new costume that the state has put on is what Gottfried refers to as “the therapeutic state.”  Rather than seeing the victim classes in terms of economics, the new victims are those who are culturally underrepresented and “socially oppressed.”  The main key terms in this new phenomenon include “racism,” “sexism,” and “homophobia.” And more are on their way or currently given smaller scale status [i.e., the transexual movement].

He elaborated on this theme and described the modern left as adopting a post-Marxist framework where the current victims are victims of mental oppression, sexual oppression, discrimination and all the rest. This has replaced the old economic-oriented nature of the proletariate of the old left.

Now this is extremely interesting for those who follow this blog and my general way of looking at things. You’re not going to get this anywhere else. You ready?

Jacobin Magazine (what else would I be talking about??) has issued the same criticism of the mainstream left and they so often plea for the left to remember their old Marxist roots and not get distracted by the new mainstream left that has seemingly given up on economic oppression as their primary problem to overcome. Now I very swiftly rush to clarify that they are on board the whole sexual revolution schtick and they of course are all about opposing “discrimination” and liberating the sexually abhorrent from the psychological torture of traditional norms.

But at the same time, they recognize that the left has changed its tune and emphasis and so often complain about the replacement of economic concerns for social ones. In fact, in an interview that Bhaskar Sunkara did in 2011 (Jacobin’s very first print issue), the title was “Let Them Eat Diversity” and the entire thesis was that the left was so focused on racial and culture angst that they were forgetting about the economic class warfare that should be characterizing the left. The mainstream left was getting the poor all thrilled with progress toward racial and sexual diversity that they were secretly abandoning the economic project of old Marxism.

To take a more recent example, in 2015 Jacobin published an article called Race to Nowhere which argued that “elites in the United States have been offering up improved “race relations” rather then interracial workers alliances against capital as the primary solution to American inequality.” This article concluded with the following:

Then, as now, the most reliable path to a progressive politics that produces true justice and human rights is that which begins with building the political power of workers. It is this proposition that has often made elite opponents of white supremacy — both black and white — deeply uncomfortable.

Economic class, Jacobin argues, not cultural identity, should be the true rallying crying of a better leftism. This is in stark opposition to path that has been chosen by the mainstream left in our time. Of course, it would be absurd to interpret my exposition of all this as somehow preferring old leftism (classical marxism) to new leftism (post-marxism), I’m just trying to properly categorize the it all in my mind.

So Jacobin style democratic socialists want to reorient the left. And Paul Gottfried observes this shift as well. This is why Paul Gottfried is so insightful, why I love him so much, and why I pay attention to Jacobin, because they don’t just repeat mainstream left talking points.

C.

Culture, Downstream from Politics

We always hear that politics is downstream from culture. I am increasingly interested in Paul Gottfried’s case that, in actuality, the opposite is true. Under some forms of democracy, especially in its early years, the government will represent the general culture of the people. Under this arrangement, culture drives politics.

But as democracy matures and the state morphs into the creation of a Total Bureaucracy– indeed as it has developed in the west– things shift. The state takes on a life of its own and has the ingrained tendency to shape culture for its own ends

Gottfried, as usual, is particularly keen:

Contrary to an older understanding of culture, what we are referring to is a process of moral and social radicalization. It is a process that didn’t come about unbidden but which powerful, pervasive administrative rule promoted. And the social engineering function of public administration here and elsewhere in the West has been particularly evident since the 1960s, with governmentally encouraged immigration and an accelerating war against discrimination. Presumably, when Hillary Clinton assured a gay rights group that she was addressing last year (October 5, 2015) that she would use the IRS to force recalcitrant religious institutions into endorsing gay marriage, she was not simply responding to a cultural condition. She was working to create one.

Hence why the state is behind the move in the last 4-5 years to shock the middle class. It’s part of the need that the state has to leverage cultural change for its own ends. Gottfried:

As an engine of social and moral change, the state is on a perpetual behavior-modifying mission. Political Correctness is not just about “culture.” It results from government policies relentlessly applied for the purpose of changing the way we think about human relations. Accelerating immigration from different cultures also furthers the state’s presence in our lives. Demographic change weakens established patterns of social interaction that might resist the state’s expanding control, such as long-standing cultural identities. Further, immigration generates conflicts that require or are thought to require the intervention of state actors.

The issue of immigration is hotly debate in libertarian circles. And while I personally tend toward a more Hoppean approach, I most certainly think that, whatever one’s position, we should at least be mindful of the extent to which the central government loves to use immigration as a tool for cultural conquest. The point isn’t really about immigration per se, but rather how the state recognizes the types of conflicts that are generated in cultural and demographic changes and how it can exploit them for its own ends.

I.

Is Neo-liberalism Neo-socialism?

The great Richard Ebeling has a new article called Why Neo-liberalism is Really Neo-socialism. Of course, I was drawn to reading it because of how much time I spend reading the socialist Jacobin Magazine, and they refer to everything they oppose in the socio-economic world as “Neo-liberalism.” I thought Ebeling’s article was helpful in some ways, but unhelpful in others. He points out, importantly, that “The idea of need for a “new,” or “neo,” ”liberalism did not arise out of the ranks of the proponents of laissez-faire as an attempted justification for unrestrained and unregulated markets.”

One of the Dominant Social Themes in our time, related to economics, is that on the far right extreme, you have Neo-liberals who emphasize markets, profits, capitalists, etc over people, the poor, and the environment. This would be the GOP, for instance. Then in the center you have someone like Elizabeth Warren, and on the Progressive left you have Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

But the thing that is shocking is almost nobody talks about the fact that Neo-liberalism is actually a historical deviation from classical liberalism. No one even mentions classical liberalism. Some libertarians scoff at the phrase Neo-liberalism as meaningless and a mere straw man. But this is not quite right. While many are certainly unaware of what it means and use it mindlessly, this does not mean it cannot serve a purpose. In fact, I think the best way to think about Neo-liberalism is in the context of the death of Keynesianism in the late 70s and early 80s during the rise of Milton Friedman. As the world of academic economists were trying to figure out where to go next, the famous (or infamous) Mont Pèlerin Society was born. It was an attempt to bring together those who opposed the budding socialism of the world and offer a new plan for freedom.

The classical liberals, led by Mises (who was supported by Hayek), obviously argued that it was time for complete freedom based on private property rights and that interventionism would never work. The Neo-liberals argued for a state-planned, or at least state-overseen economy. The Neo-liberals were Neo precisely because they feared the laissez-faire nature of Old School Liberalism and wanted instead to institute frameworks and institutions that would support and foster the health of the economy as a whole. Of course this means tax strategies, a keen central bank, anti-monopoly legislation, bureaus and agencies that would keep and eye on the ravages of the market. It was here that Milton Friedman, champion of using Government for freedom, overcame the older Misesians. As recounted by Guido Hulsmann:

Erhard’s success changed the Mont Pèlerin Society, sweeping in the very themes Mises had stressed should be excluded — such as the need for antitrust and the possible virtues of credit expansion. On both issues Mises sided with Volkmar Muthesius, who argued that the best way to combat monopolies was to abolish the policies and government institutions that created them in the first place. Mises was especially wary of yet another round of discussions of antitrust laws. In his youth he had witnessed the anticartel agitation that followed their rise in the 1890s. At the time, the debate had been propelled by the Verein für Socialpolitik, which was always seeking a new rationale for more interventionism. For decades now he had not come across new arguments on either side, and he expected that any debate in the Mont Pèlerin Society would quickly turn toward an interventionist agenda, rather than addressing the main case of present-day monopoly prices: the US price policies for agricultural products.

[…]

During the next three years, the conflict between Hayek and his recalcitrant secretary lurked beneath the surface. Hayek could not get substantial support to oust Hunold. Most American members were on Hayek’s side but feared that an open conflict would destroy the society. It eventually came to a showdown at the Kassel meeting in 1960. Both Hayek and Hunold stepped down from their positions, but Hunold would become vice president of the society and wreak havoc for a while longer. The 1961 meeting was to celebrate Mises’s eightieth birthday, but Hunold turned it into yet another battle between neoliberalism and laissez-faire. The Ordoliberals would soon be pushed into the background for a while; the power vacuum was not to be filled with Austro-libertarians, but economists from the Chicago School.

Neo-liberalism is therefore indeed the framework of our time. Socialist critics are correct about this. Neo-liberalism runs the world. But Neo-liberalism is economic interventionism. Neo-liberalism is the repudiation of free market capitalism. Therefore, when the far left criticizes the GOP and the Democrats for all being in the tank for the Neo-liberal mindset, there is no inherent reason to argue with this. Our age is the Neo-liberal one, inasmuch as Neo-liberalism is characterized by government interventionism, regulation, and progressive oversight into the framework of private ownership of the means of production. But from this, it is a severe mistake to assume that our age is one of free markets and a capitalist economy. This is because free markets, unregulated by the state and without central banking and national agencies of intervention, contradict the Neo-liberal framework. It is nonsense to blame laissez-faire for the failures of Neo-liberal intervention.

Finally, I do believe Ebeling makes a very common mistake. This mistake is a result of common lack of nuance in our circles. He calls Neo-liberalism Neo-socialism. I don’t think this is helpful. I believe that socialists believe in state ownership of the means of production and that Mises was right that interventionism was a dangerous and devastating deviation or contortion of capitalism, but is not actually socialism. Now, the Neo-socialism can be summarized either as a Neo-syndicalism (workers own their businesses and means of production, not the state itself) or a classical socialism via the backdoor of democracy (the “state is the people”). But neither of these are what we see in the postKeynesian-Monetarism-etc, Neo-liberal economic order under which we Austrians and Socialists all suffer.

O.

On Criticizing Lindbergh

I apparently angered some people with my assessment of Charles Lindbergh during my recent appearance on The Tom Woods Show. Specifically, some listeners were annoyed that I found anything objectionable in Lindbergh’s speech in Des Moines, Iowa on September 11, 1941 in which he cited “the British, the Jewish and the Roosevelt administration” as the three main groups who were at that point pushing the United States towards intervention in the war in Europe. To those for whom my qualified criticism was unacceptable, Lindbergh was simply speaking the truth, particularly in his reference to Jewish influences, and is therefore due praise, not condemnation.

Now, before I elaborate on my position, it’s worth recalling exactly what I said, which doesn’t seem unduly harsh. I told Tom that I think it is fair to criticize Lindbergh for his comments, but that I don’t agree with the common claim that they reflected an underlying anti-Semitism, particularly in light of the lack of evidence of such in Lindbergh’s other public speeches and private correspondence. Much less does the speech validate the claim, common at the time and widely held since, that anti-Semitism was the driving force behind the entire non-interventionist movement.

As for my criticisms, I’ll start by saying that I am constitutionally uncomfortable with treating entire groups of people as monolithic in their attitudes and opinions, as Lindbergh did in his Des Moines speech. Therefore, his approach was fundamentally one that I would not have taken, and that I find problematic. I grant that this is not a trait shared by everyone, especially online commenters with their hot takes and truth bombs, and I allow that it is possible to take an approach that is different than mine in good faith. But good manners dictate neither giving nor taking unnecessary offense, so not only do I disagree with Lindbergh’s method, I detest the behavior of militantly anti-PC folks, who make a great show of being as offensive as possible, as much as I do those of the SJW thought police.

Now, regarding the content of the speech, I think it can be criticized on three grounds: truth, propriety, and strategy.

First, there’s the question of the truthfulness of Lindbergh’s comments. Now, there’s certainly a degree (though I’m not aware of any polls that determined the exact degree) to which the comment that American Jews were supportive of intervention was true and, as Lindbergh pointed out, there was certainly good reason for that sentiment. However, that was not the extent of Lindbergh’s comments. He added that the problem with Jewish support for the war “lies in their large ownership and influence in our motion pictures, our press, our radio and our government.” Here Lindbergh’s truthfulness becomes more debatable.

Bill Kauffman, certainly no enemy of America First, wrote that “Lindbergh spoke artlessly” in these comments. “The Jewish ‘presence’ in government,” said Kauffman, “was more significant than that of, say, Greeks, but less than the Irish,” and was therefore overblown. Furthermore, the Jewish influence in motion pictures that troubled Lindbergh was mitigated by the fact that Jewish filmmakers “shied from making pro-war films,” which not only exposed the error in assuming that group identity dictates individual behavior, but also contrasted sharply with the propaganda efforts of some British people in Hollywood.

Additionally, it seems that Americans at the time were more immune to war propaganda than they had been during World War I. Herbert Hoover observed that “The appeal to crusade for freedom, for independence of nations, for lasting peace; the same pictures of atrocities; the fanning of hate and, above all, the mass of lies in stimulation of fear of invasion – they were all identical. But in World War II the people believed much less of it and they believed much more that they were being deliberately pushed into the war.” Historian Thomas Fleming, too, remarked that the long-term effect of World War I propaganda was to make people distrust the reports of Nazi atrocities once World War II commenced.

It’s therefore not at all clear that it was propagandists who were most important in moving the country toward intervention, particularly when compared to the efforts of Roosevelt and his administration. Interestingly, Lindbergh also cited capitalists and communists as secondary groups pushing for war, but one or both of these groups would seem, in retrospect, to have had a larger role in the movement toward intervention than the one Lindbergh assigned to Jewish influences. This is particularly so when you consider the highly-placed communist spies within Roosevelt’s administration.

There is also room to question the propriety of Lindbergh’s comments. Frankly, this was a topic that was either best approached with the maximum amount of sensitivity, or not at all. Lindbergh’s critics may have exaggerated when they analogized his comments with Hitler’s rhetoric, but it’s certainly not irrational to question the wisdom of inviting those comparisons. To speak “artlessly” of a group that has not only historically endured persecution, but which was being heavily persecuted at the time reflected a lapse of judgment or manners, either of which is damaging to a movement attempting to navigate a complex subject.

It’s not simply that Lindbergh referenced (or overstated) Jewish influences on the interventionist movement. He lumped Jewish and British influences together when he said “We cannot allow the natural passions and prejudices of other peoples to lead our country to destruction.” But there are obvious problems with this comparison. As Kauffman said, “the British are ‘other peoples,’ but American Jews are American.” It was inappropriate to talk about the American Jewish community as if it was a separate political or national entity. Such rhetoric had the tendency to validate the claim that Lindbergh and the non-interventionists did not view Jewish Americans as equal partners in the defense of America. For this reason, the argument that his comments about Jewish influences were as inoffensive as those regarding British influences seems, to me, false.

Simply put, Lindbergh, given the political environment and what was happening around the world, should have known better than to address the topic in the way that he did, and if he didn’t have the capability of being more precise, he shouldn’t have addressed it at all. Jewish non-interventionists played prominent roles in the movement, and were perfectly capable of addressing arguments against intervention to their coreligionists. If Lindbergh felt compelled to broach the topic personally, there were better ways to have done it. Norman Thomas believed that although “Colonel Lindbergh is not anti-Semitic,” his comments “should have been put before a private conference with Jews, not a mass meeting and the radio public.”

Finally, there’s the question of strategy. It’s not entirely clear what Lindbergh hoped to accomplish with his Des Moines speech, but what is clear is that he expected to be labeled a racist and to bring condemnation on himself and America First. He certainly knew that interventionists were keen to associate the entire non-interventionist movement with its worst proponents, like the racist Father Charles Coughlin and the fascist German-American Bund. So why give them the opportunity? Was the content of Lindbergh’s speech so important, so convincing, so well-stated, that it justified the resulting controversy? Given the problems already discussed, and what happened after the speech, it hardly seems so.

Wayne Cole, long a respected authority on the American First Committee, wrote that “Whatever one concludes about the sincerity, accuracy, or wisdom of Lindbergh’s statements, his Des Moines speech was an extremely serious political blunder. It dealt America First and the noninterventionst movement a staggering blow. It gave the interventionists their best opportunity to discredit Lindbergh and America First. The deluge of criticism was so all-encompassing that it dwarfed all succeeding noninterventionist efforts in the few weeks remaining before Pearl Harbor.” Cole added that the speech attracted to America First the support of enthusiastically racist cranks, while depriving it of the support of reasonable people, some of whom had previously supported it. And for what?

Lindbergh’s defenders – and, apparently, my detractors – would seemingly respond “for the truth.” But even if there weren’t the aforementioned issues with the speech, this would still not be a valid justification. This mentality, that all you need is the truth, reflects an enduring problem in the libertarian/conservative world, namely the incorrect assumption that it only matters what you say, it doesn’t matter how you say it. This brings to mind Richard Weaver’s observation that an argument that is all dialectic and no rhetoric, all “facts and logic” with no attempt to make it appealing to an audience that is unconvinced (as opposed to one that already agrees with you), is ineffective at its purpose. Persuasion is an art, and pretending that you can go around offending whichever group you want without affecting the success of your proselytizing efforts is the behavior of a person who either doesn’t know how to argue well, or whose thinly veiled animosities undermine even the attempt to do so.

Yet this is exactly how a lot of modern folks approach difficult topics, as if the correct response to leftist grievance mongers is to give them more ammunition with which to make their accusations appear accurate. Granted, this is partly a question of style, and it cannot be denied that there is a very real problem with people on the left disingenuously attempting to restrict every conversation to accusations of bigotry. But it seems to me that a mature person can both disagree with these methods and not respond to them in kind. A position based in principle doesn’t need oversimplified arguments, and attempting to beat SJW’s at their own collectivist game is a losing proposition. Despite what you may read in comments sections, intentionally and unnecessarily provoking entire people groups to suspicion is not the only way to stay off the 3×5 card of allowable opinion,

If there is a lesson that Lindbergh and the America First Committee teaches us, beyond the intricate case they made against war, it is that a cause can be fatally damaged by its own proponents when they treat sensitive topics carelessly. Because of Lindbergh, untrue accusations have hounded not just the America First Committee, but all right-leaning antiwar movements since. A year or so ago, a hawkish guest told Tucker Carlson that he was acting like Charles Lindbergh because Carlson thought it inadvisable to risk war with Russia over the Democrats’ fantasies of collusion with the Trump campaign. The antiwar right, it seems, has still not escaped Lindbergh’s long, obfuscating shadow.

That much, but far from all, of the response to Lindbergh’s speech was manufactured outrage by the interventionists is by now beside the point. It is impossible, I believe, to defend Lindbergh’s strategy, and even his truthfulness and propriety can fairly be called into question. The fact that America First’s valid arguments have been overwhelmed by questions about their motivations is tragic, a tragedy exceeded by the fact that this “deluge of criticism” was largely avoidable had Lindbergh not delivered this speech. It’s odd that some people today seem intent on not only categorically defending his error, but endlessly repeating it.

W.

Why Americans Clamor for Socialism

If every time the government intervenes (known as economic interventionism) into the broader economy there is an eventual wave of resulting economic pain, and if the political and academic classes continue to describe our system as free market or capitalistic, then the entirely predictable result is a mass embrace of socialism as the solution to said economic pain.

The adoration of socialism by the younger generation is not merely a result of their natural ignorance on these matters; though because they are products of a highly bureaucratized and pro-government system, this is obviously the case. Rather, the espousal is a result of what they have been taught via schools, news, entertainment, political speeches, and other sources of intellectual influence. They have been taught both that we live in a free market, and that government is always the remedy.

Because the narrative is that we live in a free market, the benefit to the political class is twofold. 1) people can blame capitalism instead of government for economic pains; 2) Solutions must always come in the form of new government activity, since that has yet to be tried.

Thus, the masses currently clamor for the utopias of socialism to free them from the evils of capitalism, all while living under the rotten system of interventionism.