Errors Eternally Embarrass Everyone Erroneous Everywhere

     Yes, I enjoy alliterations. What of it?

     The thing public figures least like to do is admit to error. They regard being compelled to say “I was wrong” about as warmly as a public bowel movement. Thus it doesn’t happen often. The best known occasion in history – Anwar Sadat’s admission that the Arab world was wrong to make war on Israel – was followed in short order by Sadat’s assassination. Another, comparable case – Julius Nyerere’s admission that his imposition of totalitarian Communism on Tanzania had failed to produce desirable results – has been so completely hushed up that I was able to find a reference to it only after weeks of research.

     The category of “public figures” includes more than just politicians, of course. Still, it’s the political class that’s most severely embarrassed by its errors. They’re the sort of thing that can get you un-elected. So politicians do their best to distance themselves from their errors:

  • By changing the subject;
  • By refusing to discuss them;
  • By pretending they didn’t happen;
  • By lying about their consequences;
  • By blaming others for their consequences;
  • By attacking those who dare mention them.

     That’s the game. If you can’t or won’t master those techniques, you’ll fail Politics 101 and be relegated to bloviating on Facebook.

     If you’ve been remembering “Baghdad Bob,” you’re not alone.


     Just about anyone can be wrong about just about anything. A number of conservative commentators have advanced positions from which they had to retreat…and boy, does that sting. But there’s no help for it, if one is to be honest, rather than just claim the moral high ground as do those on the Left. Hopefully we’ll see more such openness about previous errors as the American Right unlearns its mistakes and re-embraces the principles of the Founding.

     One of the things that has come back to bite the Right on the ass is its support for “public” mechanisms and institutions of information dissemination. Time was, the Right championed “public” education as an “Americanizing” mechanism, to fold new immigrant families into the “melting pot.” Even today, many conservatives haven’t given up hope that government-run, government-funded schools can be “redeemed.” Yet that only goes to show how much they want to believe in what’s become an obviously lost cause.

     “Public” libraries are another case of the same sort.

     Don’t think so? Perhaps you’re about to say that your “public” library is still trustworthy? That it doesn’t propagandize its patrons toward particular viewpoints? It’s a common reaction…but it’s wrong, and I shall tell you why. First, a helpful quote:

     Government cannot “restore competition” or “ensure” it. Government is monopoly; and all it can do is to impose restrictions which may issue in monopoly, when they go so far as to require permission for the individual to engage in production. This is the essence of the Society-of-Status. – Isabel Paterson

     For best results, replace the word production in the above with a wildcard symbol (use your favorite). Miss Paterson was principally concerned with industry and commerce. Today, I have a stiff pain about libraries.

     “Public” libraries, like “public” education, are tax-supported. Their employees are government employees. The decisions they make are decisions of government. And like “our” “public” schools, it therefore follows that men of good will want them to be “viewpoint-neutral.” Yet this is impossible in the nature of things.

     But where are the alternatives? Where are the private libraries, in analogy to private schools? If any remain – my knowledge is not exhaustive – they have the same problem as private schools: they must compete with entities that we pay for even if we decline to use them.

     And like our “public” schools, “public” libraries are prime targets for the Left, which seeks absolute dominance over every channel of information dissemination. That’s been going on for quite a while. Several decades ago, Clarence Carson donated a subscription to The Freeman to a local “public” library. When he visited the library some time afterward, he found that the head librarian had decreed that the publication be hidden because it was “too conservative.” At least that woman was unabashed about promoting her viewpoint over others’.

     “Public” libraries today? You’ve heard about Drag Queen Story Hour, haven’t you? If that’s welcome there, surely everything is permitted, right? That turns out not to be the case:

     Actor and Christian activist Kirk Cameron is claiming that more than 50 public libraries have rejected his applications to hold a “story hour” to promote his new faith-based children’s book, accusing them of indulging the “woke left.”

     The “Growing Pains” star says he hasn’t been given a story hour slot in public libraries, claiming that his publisher, Brave Books, has been told the messaging of his faith-based book, “As You Grow,” “does not align” with the LGBTQ-welcoming institutions.

     Dozens of public libraries in the US have reportedly rejected or not responded to his publisher’s request for the former child star to hold an event, according to Fox News.

     “We are a very queer-friendly library. Our messaging does not align,” one library worker from Rochambeau Public Library in Providence, Rhode Island — which promotes an event called the “Queer Umbrella” — reportedly told Brave Books.

     Clearly, the “public” libraries at issue in the above have chosen to promulgate a viewpoint about homosexuality, transgenderism, et cetera and will have no truck with anything that “does not align.” That’s bad enough…but there’s worse to follow.


     With reference to the contretemps mentioned above, have a gander at this bit of hysteria from The Federalist:

     Barring people from doing sex shows for kids in publicly funded venues is not against the Constitution, and it’s specious to argue that if you insist there are constitutional limits on speech and this is precisely one, that you’re somehow a proponent of “big government” or “against the free market.” There is no free market for children. And there are ways to establish reasonable and constitutional limits on speech — such as withholding government funding from events and venues that peddle books and activities about sex for children — something many conservatives are striving to do even if the self-described principled wing is too lazy or too cowardly to do that intellectual and ground-game work….

     It should go without saying that conservatives should and do care more about the Constitution and other norms than their leftist counterparts, but there are indeed limits on the First Amendment. The Constitution is not a suicide pact.

     Hmm! “Constitution not a suicide pact.” I’ve heard that one before. Those who chatter it invariably want more power over others than the plain language of the Constitution allows. Therefore amend the Constitution? “Too much like work!” the chatterers scream. “Trust us. Just give us power and we’ll take care of the rest.”

     This Kylee Griswold chatterer is merely one among many.

     The possibility that conservatives have been wrong in supporting the notion that a library can legitimately be a “public” – i.e., tax-funded, government-staffed, and government-run – institution is never examined. That would be opening to the possibility that we’ve been wrong…which we have.

     When “your side” starts to argue for a departure from its own principles, you’re in big trouble. A principle is a fundamental rule of right action. Breach it once and you’ve thrown it away. It will never again serve you to bring it forth in argument. There are no known counterexamples.


     I could go on about this, and at times I do. Let the core idea suffice. In case it’s not quite clear yet, here it is in large font:

Freedom of speech makes no exceptions
For “public” institutions.

     The First Amendment proclaims it. The Fourteenth Amendment extends its application to all levels of government, from the highest to the lowest. And the only way to ensure it is to abjure and oppose the creation and / or perpetuation of any and all “public” institutions that perforce must promulgate a viewpoint. Not to seek an exception to a fundamental principle in the name of promoting our preferred viewpoint; that’s an error conservatives have made too often and for too long. We must admit it to ourselves and resolve to sin no more.

1 comment

    • Jeffrey on December 10, 2022 at 8:12 AM

    I suppose it may be more fulfilling for you when someone disagrees with you and presents an argument against your assertions, but I can’t do that on this topic.  You have touched on one of my “pet peeves”, the assumption that existing public institutions need to be fixed instead of eliminated.  I can’t count all of the times I’ve heard a politician promise to fix government by “eliminating waste, fraud, and abuse.”  You won’t have Social Security fraud if you eliminate Social Security.  You won’t pay for groomers in public libraries if you eliminate public libraries.  And so on.

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