The Most Awful Day

[This piece first appeared at Eternity Road on August 6, 2005. Today being the 101st — yes, the 101st — anniversary of the day I deem “most awful” in post-Industrial Revolution history, and a number of geopolitical trends having bent in the direction of large-scale replays thereof, I felt it appropriate to repost it. — FWP]

On August 6, the anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, it’s your Curmudgeon’s habit to reflect on the terrible decisions that led to that event, and to ponder whether any of them might have been made differently if their makers had had foreknowledge of the things that we of this time have experienced. He’s done so before, and will probably do so again.

But not today.

Quite a number of commentators have characterized August 6, 1945, when the Enola Gay killed Hiroshima and 130,000 of its mostly civilian residents, as the most awful day in the history of the world: the day humanity exhibited both its ability and its willingness to annihilate itself in toto. It was an awful day, to be sure, but not for that reason. As of that day, we did not have the power to destroy ourselves that completely. Nor do we have it yet today, the dire mutterings of darker souls notwithstanding.

It was an awful day because, in the opinion of President Truman and his key advisors, the atomic bombing of a Japanese city was the least bad of the available tactical choices. Every other means by which they might force the Japanese to surrender had a higher total casualty figure attached. One, the amphibious invasion of the Japanese Home Islands by American troops, had been estimated to produce a million American deaths, to say nothing of how many Japanese would have died in the fighting.

There’s no way to revisit that crucial moment in history and supply those decision makers with the foreknowledge of the next sixty years. Even if one could, there’s no way to know whether it would have made a difference: in the decision they reached, or in the relative quality of the six decades since then. All one can say with certainty is that it was an awful day indeed, one we would certainly have averted if a less awful alternative had presented itself.

But what, then, was the most awful day? If Hiroshima doesn’t take the trophy, what human atrocity could?

Opinions will vary, of course. Some will go by casualty figures; others by broader and more inclusive metrics. Some will argue that calamities other than wars ought to be included in our considerations; others will reply that Nature is indifferent to human concerns, and that only Man’s inhumanities to Man should qualify for condemnation.

Your Curmudgeon’s angle on the matter is, as you might expect, an unusual one.

The Biblical story of Genesis, which your Curmudgeon considers allegorical rather than a literal narration of Creation and the Fall of Man, speaks plainly yet powerfully of the deed of Cain: the archetypal murder propelled by that deadliest of sins, envy. Note that, by the Biblical account, the Fall was an accomplished fact. Man had already been exiled from Eden. Many an analyst would say that Cain’s deed was therefore inevitable; once separated from Divine guidance, someone had to be the first to spill human blood. The use of Cain, the allegorical first child of a woman’s loins, as the protagonist in the story merely emphasizes the immediacy of the peril in which Man had placed himself by the Fall.

That approach to the event has considerable substance. Once Man had been removed from the realm of the eternal and unchanging, all possible changes, both for good and for evil, impinged upon him. Murder was only the most dramatic.

Shall we look forward in time, then? He who considers the number of deaths to be the most important measure would look to the genocides of the century past, or to the deaths of millions in our mass wars. These were genuinely horrible, doubt it not. But to your Curmudgeon, comparing the heights of mounds of flesh tends to miss the point.

The history of Man’s political and moral development records many fits and starts. Some of these are shrouded behind thick veils of time, such that we of 2005 cannot be certain how many persons, or which nations, were affected by them. But we can be reasonably certain about the Enlightenment and the moral revolution it ignited, for it remains with us today. Indeed, as our contest with the savageries of Islam should illustrate, Enlightenment concepts of rights and justice remain the most powerful and critical moral propositions known to our race.

The wars of pre-Enlightenment Europe were as savage as anything of any other time, our own included. Armed men regularly targeted and slew the unarmed when it suited them to do so. What differed was the technology available. To deal death, one had to employ personal skill and exert muscle power, which limited the amount of carnage a single man or a single army could wreak. But there can be little doubt that, had the weapons of now been available to the warriors of then, they would have used them without scruple. The moral level of the time was too low to expect otherwise.

With Enlightenment moral philosophy and the associated political concepts came a great change in warfare: the conviction that the destruction of war ought to be limited solely to those who elected to participate. As those concepts permeated the nations of the West, many of the ancient practices of war — enslavement, rapine, looting, the slaughter of non-combatants, the use of non-conbatants as cover or “human shields” — were put under the cloak of the forbidden, to be scorned by decent warriors and punished by them as they were discovered.

The West saw two centuries of steady improvement in the moral constraints on warfare. Battles came to be ever more regular, ever better confined to a designated, delimited field of conflict. Many battles were actually scheduled; meeting places and times were agreed upon beforehand between the contending forces. Statesmen and thinkers looked forward to a time when death itself might be banished from the battlefield, as an obsolete practice irrelevant to true contests of strength and virtue between the governments of civilized lands.

Until one terrible day in August.

A government with evil intentions had sent two million men marching on a mission of conquest. Its liege lord and top military planners were angry at the stubbornness of a minor power, neutral by treaty, that refused those armies free passage through its lands. The conquest-minded state decided on a strategy of intimidation. An aircraft long kept in reserve was sent aloft on a mission of terror, the first since Hume, Smith, and Locke put their stamp on the moral renaissance of the world.

The aircraft was a Zeppelin, designated the “L-Z” by the commanders of the armies of the German Empire under Kaiser Wilhelm II. Its weapons were gravity bombs, thirteen in number. Its target was the Belgian city of Liege, where the Kaiser’s troops had met unexpected resistance to their Schlieffen Plan thrust against France. Its harvest was nine civilian lives: the first civilians deliberately killed by authorized military action in the Twentieth Century.

The date was August 6, 1914.

That, to your Curmudgeon’s way of thinking, was the most awful day. The day a major Western power, nominally committed to individual rights, the rule of law, and the norms of civilized warfare, threw all of that aside in hope of imposing its will on the government of another land. The day the line between combatants and civilians was erased.

That line has not yet been redrawn. Perhaps it never will be.

No material advantage can compensate for the sacrifice of a principle. An inflexible, inviolable principle is a safeguard against villainy, a shield behind which ordinary man untouched by the irrationalities and passions of others can conduct peaceable lives in whatever degree of comfort they can contrive. But once a principle has been violated, it protects no one. Often the first violator is ultimately saddest of all over its loss.

We stand ninety-one years down the river of time from that most awful day. America, braced by its unmatched military power and technology, has regained its grasp on the principles of civilized warfare, but the forces we face have no interest in the notion. It would be a high irony if, having clambered so painfully from the pit of Hell Mankind excavated with the mass slaughters of the century past, we should once again unlearn all virtue under the tutelage of our Islamic foes. It would be an irony to defeat all others if the lesson should eventuate in their complete effacement from the Earth.

Do The Right Thing

     It’s more than the title of an overhyped Spike Lee movie. It’s a way of life…or it should be.

     Many people talk a good game. They proclaim, propound, and promise. They make extravagant statements about what they would do – or will do – if this or that should occur. They pose as Twenty-First Century versions of Patrick Henry…as long as they know they won’t be called on it.

     Sportsmen call that “the locker-room game.” It has no effect on the eventual score.

     Today, the draft of the Declaration of Independence was approved by the Second Continental Congress, which had voted unanimously for independence from Great Britain two days earlier. (To the anonymous commenter who quarreled with me about that: brush up on your history. It’s a matter of public record.) As I wrote yesterday, the fifty-six delegates whose names appear on the document probably spent a good deal of the time since pondering the consequences of their decision. For many, the consequences would be terrible indeed.

     They did the right thing: the thing their consciences urged upon them. They did it knowing that that price could be their lives.

     Contemporary Americans are much slower to risk such a price.

     There’s a significant amount of game theory involved in my former trade, which has compelled me to become acquainted with a few highly useful concepts. The two of interest today are minimax and mainchance.

     If your gaming strategy is to minimize what you could possibly lose, you’ve adopted the minimax approach. You will select your moves such that no matter what your opponent(s) might do, your maximum loss has been minimized. Games in which the players adopt the minimax strategy tend to be boring and highly predictable, especially if there’s no random element in the mix. Payoffs will be low, and over time every player’s aggregate winnings and losses will tend toward zero. In other words, clear victories or losses are rare, unless the game’s rules are inherently biased toward or against some of the players.

     If your gaming strategy is to play for the highest possible return and not worry about potential losses, you’ve adopted the mainchance approach. Needless to say, as most real-world games tend to associate great potential gains with equally great potential losses, this requires courage. Games in which the players choose the mainchance strategy can be wild – and wildly exciting. Oftentimes a player “goes broke” from his choices, and must leave the game. Mainchance delivers winners and losers as minimax does not.

     A revolutionist must be a mainchance player from the very first. The penalty for being an unsuccessful revolutionist is almost always death plus the attainder of one’s family, often out to second and third cousins. Exceptions are rare.

     It says something about the human psyche that as regards the deliberate triggering of dramatic social upheaval, we find minimaxers among the well off and well-to-do, and mainchancers far more often among those who have little or nothing to lose.

     You might be wondering what this is headed toward. You have good reason; I’ve been more circuitous even than my usual.

     Perhaps you’re familiar with the case of Aaron and Melissa Klein, the Oregon couple who declined, out of Christian conviction, to make a wedding cake for a lesbian wedding. Just recently, the state of Oregon piled injury upon injury:

     Oregon Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian finalized a preliminary ruling today ordering Aaron and Melissa Klein, the bakers who refused to make a cake for a same-sex wedding, to pay $135,000 in emotional damages to the couple they denied service.

     “This case is not about a wedding cake or a marriage,” Avakian wrote. “It is about a business’s refusal to serve someone because of their sexual orientation. Under Oregon law, that is illegal.”

     In the ruling, Avakian placed an effective gag order on the Kleins, ordering them to “cease and desist” from speaking publicly about not wanting to bake cakes for same-sex weddings based on their Christian beliefs.

     “This effectively strips us of all our First Amendment rights,” the Kleins, owners of Sweet Cakes by Melissa, which has since closed, wrote on their Facebook page. “According to the state of Oregon we neither have freedom of religion or freedom of speech.”

     Were you aware that a state official has the power to silence dissent? I wasn’t. Indeed, I don’t think he does – freedom of speech is a Constitutionally protected right – but the question I find most interesting is whether the Kleins will defy him.

     They’ve been fined a huge amount of money – probably more than their bakery took in over a whole year. The bakery has been closed. They’ve been subjected to enormous torrents of vilification by the activist homosexual community. I don’t know whether they have any means of subsistence. They have very little, if anything, left to lose…but they have a great deal to gain by challenging this upstart official directly, charging him with abuse of power under color of law and compelling him to answer those charges in a federal district court.

     One of the blessings of our time is that the Internet enables those of us who believe in their cause to support them, with verbal encouragement and funding.

     Consider also the recent case of harassment of Reason magazine:

     The United States Department of Justice is using federal grand jury subpoenas to identify anonymous commenters engaged in typical internet bluster and hyperbole in connection with the Silk Road prosecution. DOJ is targeting, a leading libertarian website whose clever writing is eclipsed only by the blowhard stupidity of its commenting peanut gallery.

     Why is the government using its vast power to identify these obnoxious asshats, and not the other tens of thousands who plague the internet?

     Because these twerps mouthed off about a judge.

     Last week, a source provided me with a federal grand jury subpoena. The subpoena1, issued by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, is directed to in Washington, D.C.. The subpoena commands Reason to provide the grand jury “any and all identifying information”2 Reason has about participants in what the subpoena calls a “chat.”

     The “chat” in question is a comment thread on Nick Gillespie’s May 31, 2015 article about Ross “Dread Pirate Roberts” Ulbricht’s plea for leniency to the judge who would sentence him in the Silk Road prosecution. That plea, we know now, failed, as Ulbricht received a life sentence, with no possibility of parole.

     Several commenters on the post found the sentence unjust, and vented their feelings in a rough manner. The grand jury subpoena specifies their comments and demands that produce any identifying information on them.

     That’s bad enough…but it’s not the end of the story:

     Last Friday the folks at Reason confirmed what I suggested on Thursday — that the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, after hitting Reason with a federal grand jury subpoena to unmask anonymous hyperbolic commenters, secured a gag order that prevented them from writing about it.

     Nick Gillespie and Matt Welch describe how it all went down. Read it.

     So, the truth is out — and it’s more outrageous than you thought, even more outrageous than it appears at first glance.

     What, you might ask, could be more outrageous than the United States Department of Justice issuing a questionable subpoena targeting speech protected by the First Amendment, and then abusing the courts to prohibit journalists from writing about it?

     The answer lies in the everyday arrogance of unchecked power.

     An organ of journalism was forbidden by a federal gag order to write about an egregious abuse of power. Ponder that.

     If it can forbid an American organ of journalism to report on the most important sort of story – the abuse of State power – “our” government is no better than that of North Korea. Surely the editors at Reason know that. Yet they remained silent about the abuse targeted at them. Why?

     I don’t read minds; ordinary English text is enough of a challenge. But if I had to place a bet, I’d wager that Reason’s editors feared that the feds would contrive to ruin them and their magazine completely, even if they were eventually to win in court. In short, they have more to lose than they cared to venture.

     John Peter Zenger, call your office! Urgent! Urgent!

     The critical paragraph of the Declaration of Independence, whose approval we celebrate today – see previous tirade – sets forth the rationale for the American Revolution:

     We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

     Those two hundred words are among the most famous ever written, and deservedly so. But the real punch comes at the very end of that famous document:

     And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

     No other phrasing of “and we really mean it” has ever come near to that one.

     As you’re aware, I always go by my full and correct name, whether in the flesh or on the Internet. I consider it a matter of propriety – I don’t want anyone else to have to answer for my statements – but I also consider it a matter of integrity. I intend to stand behind my words. Should I be proved wrong, I’ll admit it. Should I change my mind about some issue, I’ll explain why I did so. I want the record to be clear and complete.

     Most Internet commenters won’t do that. Why not? What do they fear? Hate mail? Awakening to a severed horse’s head?

     When I’ve been harassed over the Net, it’s almost always been by some clown who goes by an anonymizing moniker. That’s his right, I suppose, but it makes it fairly easy for me to dismiss him as just one more low punk without any courage at all, much less enough to stand by his convictions in an open contest of intellect. I suppose they’re not bright enough to realize what worms they’ve revealed themselves to be, but that would be part of the syndrome, wouldn’t it?

     There’s neither honor nor integrity in rejecting one’s own identity. There’s no profit in it for anyone…and there could be consequences for innocent others, as the federal harassment of Reason has shown.

     I once described my readers’ favorite character thus:

     His quality was plain and open. He did not hide, and he did not strut.

     That character endeared himself to my readers in exactly that way: He always said what he meant, without unnecessary artifice, and he always did what he thought was right, regardless of the possible cost. He was a genuine hero in a world overrun by pretenders and antiheroes, and hundreds of readers continue to email me, pleading for more stories about him.

     Have another genuine hero:

     “Oh please, Chris. You’re totally self-sacrificing, oblivious to personal danger, and resistant to temptation, though God knows I’ve tried. I knew what you were going to do for those kids the moment I saw the expression on your face. You right wrongs. You fight for the little guy. Why do you think that Chatterjee chick calls you the Hammer of God?”

     We can’t all be heroes – no, sorry, David, not even just for one day – but we can all speak plainly and stand behind our words. We can all defy those who would intimidate us into anonymity or silence. Are some of the fears that impel us to conceal ourselves legitimate? Possibly, even probably. But they fall far short of “our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.”

     If you would like to honor the Founders in a true commemoration of their courage and their achievement, you can do that much. Swear this day that you will always go by your right name, and never deny your own words. Swear it to yourself if to no one else. You’ll know whether you’ve fallen short of that standard…and you’ll punish yourself for it.

     Lend strength to those who have come under the State’s hammer by lending not merely your words but your name to their cause: the cause of freedom.

     Happy Declaration of Independence day.

“Compelling Government Interest”

     Time was, I wrote more than I do today about the abstract ideals that undergird freedom. These days, my attention is more focused on current events and what they portend. I’m not sure why that should be, except that it’s clear that, as Jubal Harshaw said in Stranger In A Strange Land, wallowing in the troubles of others can make you seriously neurotic.

     Back in the old Palace Of Reason days, and during the Eternity Road era that succeeded it, the subject of rights – what they are, why they exist at all, and what they imply for government in a society that respects them – was frequently on my mind. Of all the brief, powerful things ever said on the subject, my favorite is this one, from a Nineteenth-Century French politician and historian:

     Either rights exist, or they do not exist. If they exist, they involve absolute consequences…Furthermore, if a right exists, it exists at every moment. It is absolute today, yesterday, tomorrow, the day after tomorrow, in summer as in winter, not when it pleases you to declare it in force. [Louis Thiers]

     When Thomas Jefferson wrote the birth certificate of the United States:

     We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

     …he had that concept of rights – the peaceable individual’s possession of absolute moral trumps that prohibit infringement for any reason – firmly in mind.

     Clearly, the Jefferson / Thiers concept of rights differs from that of a permission or a license, which is granted only when the State pleases to do so and may be qualified or withdrawn at any time. Which brings us to this morning’s question:

Are Americans accorded any rights whatsoever?

     Not de facto, mind you, but de jure. In other words: does an individual possess any absolute protections against State coercion? Protections that cannot legally be abridged, infringed, or set aside on the grounds of a “compelling government interest?”

     Think it over.

     “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.” Jefferson’s original phrase was “Life, Liberty, and Property,” but after some wrangling with the rest of the convention he agreed to substitute “the Pursuit of Happiness,” probably because the assertion of an absolute right to one’s property would thwart the later assertion of a power to tax.

     Yet Jefferson was sincere about property rights. One of the accomplishments of his first term as president was the cessation of direct federal taxes:

     At home, fellow citizens, you best know whether we have done well or ill. The suppression of unnecessary offices, of useless establishments and expenses, enabled us to discontinue our internal taxes. These covering our land with officers, and opening our doors to their intrusions, had already begun that process of domiciliary vexation which, once entered, is scarcely to be restrained from reaching successively every article of produce and property. [ Second Inaugural Address ]

     Every tax, regardless of its nature or its rationale, is an infringement upon property rights. This is true even of an indirect tax, for it infringes upon the right of buyer and seller to trade their rightful property. Jefferson’s dedication to property rights led him to eliminate direct federal taxation – taxes that fall upon individuals and institutions – out of the federal exchequer, leaving indirect taxes – taxes on imports, exports, and particular kinds of commerce, which can therefore be avoided – as Washington’s sole sources of revenue.

     What persons or institutions escape direct taxation – federal, state, or local – today? In these post-Kelo years, what item of real or tangible property is safe from arbitrary confiscation? Is it safe even to have cash or other valuables on your person?

     Jefferson’s conception of liberty embraced the freedom of choice and movement he deemed every peaceable individual to possess. An American’s self-ownership, in Jefferson’s view, was absolute; he could therefore do whatever he pleased, subject only to the constraint that he not interfere in others’ equal right to do likewise, and the State could do nothing to hinder him. Nor could the State force him to labor for its sake, which would constitute the most direct imaginable “tax” on his unalienable rights to himself and his freedom of choice.

     The writ of habeas corpus, mentioned specifically in the Constitution, is an expression of Jeffersonian liberty. An individual’s freedom of movement could only be constrained by the State if it could make a “valid reply” to a petition for habeas corpus. In the early years of the Republic, few replies were deemed valid: chiefly imprisonment subsequent to a criminal conviction by a jury of one’s peers.

     When Abraham Lincoln decided to institute conscription for the purpose of fighting the Civil War, he found it legally necessary to suspend the applicability of habeas corpus. Though there is provision for this in the Constitution:

     The privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it. [Article I, Section 9]

     …it is a specifically Congressional prerogative to do so. Lincoln bypassed Congress and issued an order on presidential authority that habeas corpus petitions were to be ignored by his military commanders.

     Today, habeas corpus can be answered by a slew of “valid replies.” Most of them would have horrified Jefferson and the other Founding Fathers. Given that a man can be stopped for “questioning” without pretext or charge, and can be detained arbitrarily for 72 hours, entirely on police say-so, in every state in the Union, is there freedom of movement in America today?

     Ah, the “right to life.” You’d think that one, at least, would still be respected. After all, the State can’t just kill you as you’re walking along, can it? Surely it can’t come into your home and kill you, just because it decides to do so?

     Oops. Sorry. My mistake.

     So much for your “right to life.”

“Rights are an archist concept. Rights have no meaning except when confronted with superior power. They are what is left to the people after the government has taken all its wants. Your country’s Bill of Rights defines your most cherished freedoms how? By limiting the legal power of government to encroach upon them.” [Eric L. Harry, via fictional anarchist theorist Valentin Kartsev in Harry’s novel Protect and Defend.]

     It would appear that “superior power” acknowledges no rights. The rationale is almost always “compelling government interest:” that is, the State’s interest in…what? How can the State, a fictional creature made up of individuals such as you and I, hired to do the relatively simple jobs (NB: “simple,” not necessarily “easy”) of keeping the peace in the streets, operating a court system, and defending the territory of the United States, have “interests?” It’s a BLEEP!ing hireling, and hirelings have no interests; they have responsibilities and delegated, enumerated powers, nothing more.

     The State’s “interests” are nonexistent. However, the individuals at the levers of power don’t see it that way. They want power, and as much of it as they can grab. Your “rights?” Sorry, buddy, they were just an Eighteenth Century philosopher’s idle fancy. Just a few words on a scrap of parchment. At any rate, we shan’t concern ourselves with them today. There’s oppressing work to be done!

     “Your government’s” work.

     I’ll close this tirade with a snippet from a work of fiction. It comes closer to capturing my cynicism and fear than anything else that currently comes to mind. The book it’s from is about an unusual family. All three of its members possess psi powers…and all three of them have the State’s crosshairs on their backs:

     “Once upon a time there was an experiment in which twelve people participated,” Quincey said. “About six years ago. Do you remember that?”

     “I remember it,” Andy said grimly.

     “There aren’t many of those twelve people left. There were four, the last I heard. And two of them married each other.”

     “Yes,” Andy said, but inside he felt growing horror. Only four left? What was Quincey talking about?

     “I understand one of them can bend keys and shut doors without even touching them.” Quincey’s voice, thin, coming across two thousand miles of telephone cable, coming through switching stations, through open-relay points, through junction boxes in Nevada, Idaho, Colorado, Iowa. A million places to tap into Quincey’s voice.

     “Yes?” he said, straining to keep his voice level. And he thought of Vicky, who could sometimes turn on the radio or turn off the TV without going anywhere near it-and Vicky was apparently not even aware she was doing those things.

     “Oh yes, he’s for real,” Quincey was saying. “He’s—what would you say?-a documented case. It hurts his head if he does those things too often, but he can do them. They keep him in a little room with a door he can’t open and a lock he can’t bend. They do tests on him. He bends keys. He shuts doors. And I understand he’s nearly crazy.”

     “Oh … my … God,” Andy said faintly.

     “He’s part of the peace effort, so it’s all right if he goes crazy,” Quincey went on. “He’s going crazy so two hundred and twenty million Americans can stay safe and free. Do you understand?”

     “Yes,” Andy had whispered.

     “What about the two people who got married? Nothing. So far as they know. They live quietly, in some quiet middle-American state like Ohio. There’s maybe a yearly check on them. Just to see if they’re doing anything like bending keys or closing doors without touching them or doing funny little mentalist routines at the local Backyard Carnival for Muscular Dystrophy. Good thing those people can’t do anything like that, isn’t it, Andy?”

     Andy closed his eyes and smelled burned cloth. Sometimes Charlie would pull open the fridge door, look in, and then crawl off again. And if Vicky was ironing, she would glance at the fridge door and it would swing shut again—all without her being aware that she was doing anything strange. That was sometimes. At other times it didn’t seem to work, and she would leave her ironing and close the refrigerator door herself (or turn off the radio, or turn on the TV). Vicky couldn’t bend keys or read thoughts or fly or start fires or predict the future. She could sometimes shut a door from across the room and that was about the extent of it. Sometimes, after she had done several of these things, Andy had noticed that she would complain of a headache or an upset stomach, and whether that was a physical reaction or some sort of muttered warning from her subconscious, Andy didn’t know. Her ability to do these things got maybe a little stronger around the time of her period. Such small things, and so infrequently, that Andy had come to think of them as normal. As for himself…well he could push people. There was no real name for it; perhaps autohypnosis came closest. And he couldn’t do it often, because it gave him headaches. Most days he could forget completely that he wasn’t utterly normal and never really had been since that day in Room 70 of Jason Geameigh.

     He closed his eyes and on the dark field inside his eyelids he saw that comma-shaped bloodstain and the nonwords COR OSUM.

     “Yes, it’s a good thing,” Quincey went on, as if Andy had agreed. “Or they might put them in two little rooms where they could work full-time to keep two hundred and twenty million Americans safe and free.”

“A good thing,” Andy agreed.

     “Those twelve people,” Quincey said, “maybe they gave those twelve people a drug they didn’t fully understand. It might have been that someone—a certain Mad Doctor—might have deliberately misled them. Or maybe he thought he was misleading them and they were deliberately leading him on. It doesn’t matter.”


     “So this drug was given to them and maybe it changed their chromosomes a little bit. Or a lot. Or who knows. And maybe two of them got married and decided to have a baby and maybe the baby got something more than her eyes and his mouth. Wouldn’t they be interested in that child?”

     “I bet they would,” Andy said, now so frightened he was having trouble talking at all. He had already decided that he would not tell Vicky about calling Quincey.

     “It’s like you got lemon, and that’s nice, and you got meringue, and that’s nice, too, but when you put them together, you’ve got…a whole new taste treat. I bet they’d want to see just what that child could do. They might just want to take it and put it in a little room and see if it could help make the world safe for democracy. And I think that’s all I want to say, old buddy, except…keep your head down.”

     [Stephen King, Firestarter]

     Know of any convenient planetoids, Gentle Reader?

Off The Mishnory Road: Absolutes

I’ve long held the belief that any man who’s willing to assert the absolute truth of even one statement must eventually accept that every well-formed statement – i.e., a statement that either posits a fact or a causal mechanism — is either absolutely true or absolutely false, men’s contrary opinions notwithstanding. The concept behind that assertion is, of course, that there is such a thing as absolute truth – objective reality itself – which makes my notion quasi-tautological. For all that, note how few persons are willing to contradict the anti-objectivity propagandists of our time. That latter sort is permitted to gambol about screaming that “There are no absolutes!” virtually without contradiction – not even a murmur of “Including that one?”

Note how this applies to argument. This significant episode related by Mike Adams:

When I asked another feminist to debate me on abortion she said that she didn’t discuss such personal topics publicly. But then I read her biography. After talking about losing her virginity (including details about how she cleaned the blood off the couch afterwards) she dedicated countless pages to the issue of abortion and how a “lack of choice” adversely affects young women. After reading on, I realized why she didn’t tell me the truth. She revealed that she was a postmodernist who didn’t like to use the word “truth.”

The next time I got into an argument with a feminist – over whether a female student who lied about a rape to get out of a test should be expelled – I understood the postmodern feminist position better. Feminists just can’t help but lie because there really is no such thing as the truth.

Since so many feminists cannot tell the truth – because it doesn’t even really exist – I simply cannot take them seriously.

Columnist Maggie Gallagher once wrote that if there is no such thing as objective, absolute truth, then all our statements to one another are merely instruments of manipulation, attempts to use one another, or to avoid being used. Apply that insight to Mike Adams’s encounter related above, and ponder the implications.

A couple of recent political polls have presented the reader with an intriguing question: “Among the following issues in current political discourse, which would be your ‘hill to die on?’” To select any of the subsequent choices – or an issue not listed – would imply that the reader holds that position as “a matter of principle,” not to be compromised at any price. But given how few persons grasp the meaning of principle, we might prefer a clearer statement: “My position on this issue is absolutely right; therefore, I cannot be persuaded to retreat from it.”

In that connection, have a favorite quote from Herbert Spencer:

I asked one of the members of Parliament whether a majority of the House could legitimize murder. He said no. I asked him whether it could sanctify robbery. He thought not. But I could not make him see that if murder and robbery are intrinsically wrong, and not to be made right by the decisions of statesmen, then similarly all actions must be either right or wrong, apart from the authority of the law; and that if the right and wrong of the law are not in harmony with this intrinsic right and wrong, the law itself is criminal.

…and a snippet from 1984:

The Party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command. His heart sank as he thought of the enormous power arrayed against him, the ease with which any Party intellectual would overthrow him in debate, the subtle arguments which he would not be able to understand, much less answer. And yet he was in the right! They were wrong and he was right. The obvious, the silly, and the true had got to be defended. Truisms are true, hold on to that! The solid world exists, its laws do not change. Stones are hard, water is wet, objects unsupported fall towards the earth’s centre. With the feeling that he was speaking to O’Brien, and also that he was setting forth an important axiom, he wrote:

Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two make four. If that is granted, all else follows.

If Spencer and Orwell were correct, then our adversaries’ entire campaign consists of the assertion that two plus two can be made not to make four by political decree. Ponder the implications of that.

There is an underlying objective reality. All the froth and gas about the irremediable uncertainty of human knowledge is merely an attempt to confuse the issue: to substitute human limitations for that metaphysical postulate. While we can never achieve absolute precision in our knowledge of reality, we can approach it asymptotically. The Principle of Correspondence, the very heart of theoretical physics, expresses that postulate as well as it can be expressed.

Consider also the Aristotelian approach to definition: the assignment of objects to categories on the basis of their shared properties. No other approach to definition makes abstraction, and therefore reasoning, possible – and it rests immovably upon the assumption that an object’s properties are objectively real rather than mere matters of opinion.

It is possible that objective reality has a dynamic aspect – i.e., that some or all of the laws of nature change over time, albeit very slowly. Indeed, modern cosmology is founded on that conjecture. However, whatever reality is at a given instant is what it is. Quoth Star in Robert A. Heinlein’s Glory Road:

“May it please milord hero, the world is not what we wish it to be. It is what it is. No, I have over-assumed. Perhaps it is indeed what we wish it to be. Either way, it is what it is. Le voila! Behold it, self-demonstrating. Das Ding an Sich. Bite it. It is. Ai-je raison? Do I speak truly?”

Either that truism is true beyond the possibility of refutation, or there’s no point in saying anything at all.

One point of these “Off The Mishnory Road” pieces is to deflect current conversation from politics, a realm in which “everybody’s got a right to an opinion,” to the bedrock upon which all argument must be based, political argument most emphatically included. Given that, this essay should be considered the prerequisite to all the others. It’s rather a pity that that didn’t occur to me up front, but here we are.

In effect, I want us to be equipped to make the following statement to a political opponent:

“Regardless of how passionately attached we are to our respective positions, we can’t evade this: one of us is right and the other is wrong. We have to have some criteria to determine which is which, if our politics is to be beneficial rather than harmful. What criteria should we use? In other words, what evidence would persuade you to reconsider your position, and what evidence would persuade me to reconsider mine?”

Evidence – facts – data from objective reality – is the only means by which any position can be verified or falsified. He who is not prepared to accept the possibility that data might exist that contradict his position has elevated it to an article of faith…and you know it’s useless to argue matters of faith.

More anon.

Off The Mishnory Road: Fun And Games

I’ve subjected my Gentle Readers to three “Politically Insoluble” essays. The themes in those essays have kept me going back to the core concept behind them all:

“They say here ‘all roads lead to Mishnory.’ To be sure, if you turn your back on Mishnory and walk away from it, you are still on the Mishnory road. To oppose vulgarity is inevitably to be vulgar. You must go somewhere else; you must have another goal; then you walk a different road.” [Ursula LeGuin, The Left Hand of Darkness]

If we’re going to get “off the Mishnory road” – i.e., if we’re to stop looking to political processes for the restoration of freedom – we must do so deliberately, fully conscious of what we intend.

I gave a few examples of what I have in mind in the last of those three essays. They addressed problems that are normally left in the political sphere as if that sphere did not exist. Were the approaches perfect? Assuredly not. But the driving force – turning away from political processes in the vain hope of solutions from those processes – is the important thing.

One of the keys to an improved future is the conservation of what remains good and worthy today. Once again: don’t think ‘politics’ as you read this. Think rather of what you, the Twenty-First Century’s Robinson Crusoe, would carry away from the slowly submerging wreck of contemporary American civilization before the chance is lost.

For today, I’d like to focus on the critical distinction between the psychologies of Right and Left. It’s one that the media have attempted to efface:

  1. Leftists regard all of life as fodder for political processes and State intervention. No subjects, no activities, and no attitudes are regarded as intrinsically private.
  2. Rightists believe in a private sphere in which politics and the State have no place. (Some Rightists disbelieve in any sphere for State action, but that’s a separate subject.)

In this connection, ponder well this essay on the Sturm und Drang besetting the video gaming community. Take particular note of the following highly revealing snippet:

[W]hile watching a video about GamerGate, I clicked on a link to an archive of one of the original articles, “A Guide To Ending Gamers” by Devin Wilson at Gamasutra….

I was scrolling down through the article’s list of strategies for eliminating gamers, trying to keep an open mind, and actually thinking there were one or two somewhat valid points. Then I got to item #11:

We stop upholding “fun” as the universal, ultimate criterion for a game’s relevance. It’s a meaningless ideal at best and a poisonous priority at worst. Fun is a neurological trick. Plenty of categorically unhealthy things are “fun”. Let’s try for something more. Many of the alternatives will have similarly fuzzy definitions, but let’s aspire to qualities like “edifying”, “healing”, “pro-social”, or even “enlightening”. I encourage you to decide upon your own alternatives to “fun” in games (while avoiding terms like “cool” and “awesome” and any other word that simply caters to existing, unexamined biases).

That paragraph represents everything that is wrong with social justice thinking in less than 100 words.

Indeed it does…but be sure to isolate the central concept rather than merely turning away in disgust:

The Left abhors fun because it’s inherently apolitical.

It’s worth a moment or two of your time to reflect on why that is so.

Fun – that which we strive to attain through the “play impulse” – is one of the keys to a successful life. C. S. Lewis noted its importance in The Screwtape Letters:

I divide the causes of human laughter into Joy, Fun, the Joke Proper, and Flippancy. You will see the first among friends and lovers reunited on the eve of a holiday. Among adults some pretext in the way of Jokes is usually provided, but the facility with which the smallest witticisms produce laughter at such a time shows that they are not the real cause. What that real cause is we do not know. Something like it is expressed in much of that detestable art which the humans call Music, and something like it occurs in Heaven—a meaningless acceleration in the rhythm of celestial experience, quite opaque to us. Laughter of this kind does us no good and should always be discouraged. Besides, the phenomenon is of itself disgusting and a direct insult to the realism, dignity, and austerity
of Hell.

Fun is closely related to Joy—a sort of emotional froth arising from the play instinct. It is very little use to us. It can sometimes be used, of course, to divert humans from something else which the Enemy would like them to be feeling or doing: but in itself it has wholly undesirable tendencies; it promotes charity, courage, contentment, and many other evils.

We play – i.e., we engage in activities that have no deliberate gain in view – specifically because it’s fun. It comes naturally to us to do so, especially when in the company of those we love. One of the great quantitative differences between America and other nations is the fraction of our resources we have available for play. It could justly be said that Americans are the world’s foremost players – no pejorative intended.

Americans are so fun-oriented that we devote whole industries to it, most emphatically including the video gaming industry. We even seek to make our work lives fun, to the extent that might be possible. My favorite source of business advice, Robert C. Townsend, put it this way:

If you don’t do it excellently, don’t do it at all. Because if it’s not excellent it won’t be profitable or fun, and if you’re not in business for fun or profit, what the hell are you doing here?

(Granted that not much can be done for coal mining or grave digging. But note how such jobs are the ones most swiftly put to automated techniques.)

The entire point of video gaming is fun, delivered through virtualized adventures in which a gamer can face all sorts of challenges and trials without actually risking life, limb, or loot. The gamer can imagine himself to be an intrepid explorer, a mighty warrior, a brilliant detective, a pioneering spaceman, or whatever. For a few hours he can experience challenges and take risks that his mundane life doesn’t offer. Afterward, he can pop out the DVD, turn off the console, and return to that mundane existence nicely refreshed.

But while we’re having fun, we’re not focused on some Cause. We’re not straining under some heavy load of moral obligation. We’re not engaged in some humorless, self-righteous attempt to remake others according to our priorities and preferences. To whatever extent we ever indulge such considerations, the play impulse shoves all of them to the back of the stove.

Fun and the Left are mortal enemies.

The following tangent should give any thinking American pause for thought:

“There is no room for play in Islam. Islam is deadly serious…about everything.” [Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini]

Islam, like Leftist politics, attempts to absorb all of life into a single, all-encompassing set of prescriptions and proscriptions. Both mindsets demand that nothing be allowed to exist independent of their dictates. Their hostility toward fun is probably the best indictment one could lay against either. Note also that though many, perhaps most Leftists denigrate and deride Christianity, the very same folks never have a word to say against Islam. Cowardice? Perhaps. But the sub rosa recognition among Leftists that Islam is “the enemy of my enemy” should not be overlooked.

Play – the quest for fun — is a bastion of freedom. It’s inherently invulnerable to the attacks of the “social justice warriors.” They know it, which is why they’re so anxious to anathematize it.

The “social justice warriors” would simply love to take over the gaming industries and put them to use in their preferred directions. However, it’s impossible by the very nature of gaming. As they awaken to this immutable aspect of gaming, they will shift to an all-out assault on gaming. If they cannot conquer it, they must destroy it.

Developments such as “GamerGate” point in that direction. They also point to the best countermeasure available to us: laughter.

Laugh at the “social justice warriors.” Exclude them from your gatherings. Ostracize them so completely that they have no one to rant and rave to but one another. Conserve and propagate the fun in gaming. Make it profitable to produce highly involving, fun-filled games utterly devoid of any political, economic, or sociological message. Then play them, independently or in groups, and hold them out to the unaware as among the under-appreciated fruits of freedom and capitalism. Just because they hate fun doesn’t mean we have to put down our toys.

I’ll leave it to others to draw the parallel between gaming and the independent-writers movement.

Off The Mishnory Road: The Stoic Virtues And Masculinity

Before we launch into today’s tirade, please read Dystopic’s latest opus at The Declination. The snippet that inspired me is at the very beginning:

There is a certain irony in the fact that Progressives, with their White privilege narrative, are too deeply rooted in European history to notice that other cultures are fundamentally unlike them. So when China tells them that human rights are a thing, and they are working on the problem, the Left blindly believes them. They do not understand the nature of Asian culture and persist in seeing it from a Western perspective.

The alpha male of the world order, the US, is neither willing nor capable of defending the steering system. It has ceased being the indispensable nation. The streak of idealism has disappeared, forcing the US to fall back on raw power despite the talk about soft power. Moral authority has slipped away, no longer available to support and substantiate US policies and interventions. [From this piece — FWP]

Terminology is important here. The author carefully made use of the term “alpha male,” a code word on the Left that signals a universal derision. Your official Two-minutes Hate is now required. For them, this is a seminal moment. In their minds, the great Evil, the sinister demon, the focus of all their efforts, is finally beginning to topple from its golden throne. They have exposed the war mongering beast.

“Alpha male” a pejorative? Yes, indeed it is…on the Left. Did you think the anti-masculinity stance of the gender-war feminists was irrelevant to the greater whole? Quite the opposite: it’s at the heart of the Leftist philosophy, insofar as they have one.

Masculinity in this context has nothing to do with sex. It’s entirely about the virtues traditionally associated with the well-bred, well-reared Western man.In the classical era, masculinity was deemed inseparable from the Stoic Virtues:

Borrowing from the Cynics, the foundation of Stoic ethics is that good lies in the state of the soul itself; in wisdom and self-control. Stoic ethics stressed the rule: “Follow where reason leads.” One must therefore strive to be free of the passions, bearing in mind that the ancient meaning of ‘passion’ was “anguish” or “suffering”,[20] that is, “passively” reacting to external events—somewhat different from the modern use of the word. A distinction was made between pathos (plural pathe) which is normally translated as passion, propathos or instinctive reaction (e.g., turning pale and trembling when confronted by physical danger) and eupathos, which is the mark of the Stoic sage (sophos). The eupatheia are feelings that result from correct judgment in the same way as passions result from incorrect judgment.

The idea was to be free of suffering through apatheia or peace of mind (literally, ‘without passion’),[21] where peace of mind was understood in the ancient sense—being objective or having “clear judgment” and the maintenance of equanimity in the face of life’s highs and lows.

For the Stoics, ‘reason’ meant not only using logic, but also understanding the processes of nature—the logos, or universal reason, inherent in all things. Living according to reason and virtue, they held, is to live in harmony with the divine order of the universe, in recognition of the common reason and essential value of all people. The four cardinal virtues of the Stoic philosophy are wisdom (Sophia), courage (Andreia), justice (Dikaiosyne), and temperance (Sophrosyne), a classification derived from the teachings of Plato.

Following Socrates, the Stoics held that unhappiness and evil are the results of human ignorance of the reason in nature. If someone is unkind, it is because they are unaware of their own universal reason, which leads to the conclusion of kindness. The solution to evil and unhappiness then, is the practice of Stoic philosophy—to examine one’s own judgments and behavior and determine where they diverge from the universal reason of nature.

If you’ve ever wondered about the origin of the “cardinal” virtues, there it is. Wisdom (alternately, prudence), courage (alternately, fortitude), justice, and temperance are just as essential to the well-bred, well-reared man today as they were to the classical Greeks.

In this connection, ponder this compact expression of Aristotle’s approach to happiness:

  1. Happiness – that which we seek as an end in itself and for no other reason – is the consequence of a life well lived.
  2. To live well requires the cultivation and consistent practice of the Stoic virtues.
  3. We acquire the virtues by practicing them – i.e., by acting virtuously in advance of internalizing them.
  4. Therefore, happiness – what we all seek – depends upon the practice of the Stoic virtues.

Gentle Reader, it could not be made any simpler.

If you accept the above, it would follow that masculinity as the Stoics understood it is essential to happiness. (That the Stoics were less concerned with the feminine virtues need not trouble us here.) If a society’s men are adequately masculine – i.e., if they cultivate and practice the Stoic virtues – that society will have a good chance of being a happy one. Inversely, if a society’s men are notably unmasculine, that society will be mired in misery. It’s probably at the edge of destruction.

A happy society need not consist entirely of unvaryingly happy men. Every man will know setbacks, disappointments, and suffering at various times in his life. But a happy enveloping society will incorporate the attitudes, institutions, and mechanisms by which he can survive, persevere, and ultimately prevail over his troubles, with or without assistance. Note also that the assistance of others in one’s times of troubles is far more likely in a society that celebrates the Stoic virtues.

I argued in the previous essay that Leftists are hostile to the concepts of fun and play. That follows from their “The personal is the political” attitude toward all of human affairs. Fun and play are inherently personal experiences. They cannot be collectivized; they can only be sought by individuals, each to his own. Thus, the Left resents those quintessential manifestations of happiness: if you’re having fun, you’re insufficiently engaged in a Left-approved Cause.

I begin to sense that everything that conduces to happiness will countervail Leftist thought and goals. Nor am I surprised by that.

To sum up: the Stoic conception of masculinity is a better approach to the concept than the simplistic contemporary idea of the masculine as purely aggressive. The famous maxim from John Bernard Books in The Shootist:

I won’t be wronged. I won’t be insulted. I won’t be laid a hand on. I don’t do these things to other people, and I require the same from them.

…captures Stoic masculinity better than any equally concise formulation, both in what it asserts and what it omits. There’s a reason for the enduring popularity of Western adventures such as that one; their heroes inspire us to think of what we could be.

To recover what we have lost, traditional Western masculinity, depending upon the Stoic virtues and their implications, must be conserved and perpetuated. To conserve it, we must defend it; to perpetuate it, we must celebrate it and the examples of it, and pass it on to our successor generations. The passivity and acceptance of subjugation characteristic of most Eastern cultures, which the Left would have us emulate, cannot stand against it.

More anon.

It’s On: The Ongoing Saga

From Colin Flaherty:

Some stories you have to read 10 times before deciding: ’Yes: What I thought was too crazy is really true.’

This is one of those stories. Here goes, believe it or not:

A black Baltimore bus driver organized a mob of 20 black people to assault a white family of three on her bus, which they did with gusto and pepper spray. All the while, the other black passengers hooted and hollered in encouragement.

All while the bus driver waited for the beating to finish so the attackers could get back on the bus. With her thanks.

The bus company didn’t give a darnn. And it took Baltimore police two months before they even investigated it….

The Baltimore Sun said this is the second recent example of a bus driver assisting people who assault riders.

The author of “White Girl Bleed A Lot” remains alert to developments in our contemporary race war. Sadly, whites generally remain in denial about the true and horrifying state of affairs, particularly in our larger cities.

It really is on, Gentle Reader. Don’t kid yourself — or leave yourself or your loved ones defenseless.

It’s On: Where Explanation Remains Required

Almost exactly a year ago, I wrote:

I’m a child of the Civil Rights Era. I’ve yearned for the day when Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” vision would become the unquestioned reality of our nation. It has not arrived. If anything, it’s receded further from reality with every passing year.

Intelligent people who would never act so foolishly in any other venue have collaborated in the suppression of information about black-on-white violence, black cultural pathologies, and blacks’ hatred of whites. I have a special animus for “journalists” who have done so; their betrayal of their occupational responsibilities played a large part in bringing us to where we stand today.

The race war is on.
Recent black attacks on whites are the opening skirmishes.
If more and worse violence can be avoided by “negotiations,” the time for the effort is now.
I don’t plan to leave myself defenseless if they should fail.
What about you, Gentle Reader?

Given the “knockout games,” the miscellaneous black-on-white violence, the events in Ferguson, Missouri and other majority-black districts, and the continuing, completely incomprehensible willingness of the media to grant even a nanosecond’s exposure to such as the scrofulous Al “Remember Tawana Brawley” Sharpton, I think my conclusions as expressed above have been validated. Not that I’m happy about that, mind you.

When it comes to black racism toward whites and the behavior it engenders, there remains at least one cleavage to be discussed. Darin at Crusader Rabbit takes note:

Driving back to work yesterday I had two encounters with people on bicycles, particularly young, black people on bicycles.

This isn’t an unusual thing, lots of black kids ride where I live, but the younger generations ride with attitude. Particularly the attitude that they and only they own the road and the rules just don’t apply to them, this attitude occurs elsewhere as well, but more on that later.

The first encounter was as I was turning right at a traffic light. I came to a stop, checked traffic and started my turn, out of nowhere here comes a 20 something black boy coming around the corner, against traffic, cutting in so close he pushed the passenger side mirror out of whack. The second came a couple blocks later on a side street. Another 20 something black boy, this time riding with traffic, occasionally when he was on the same side of the street. He was riding zig-zag, lolly gagging around, talking on his cellphone and blocking traffic. He got kind of indignant when I came up behind him and layed on my horn, but finally got out of the way and allowed myself and two other cars to pass. One never sees an older generation black person doing these things, it’s always the younger group, the entitled group doing stupid stuff.

A division based on age can be even more informative than one based on race. Such a gulf suggests that time – specifically the length of the interval over which a set of influences have been at work — can override forces that would seem to be objectively stronger.

In short: Younger American blacks have been steeped in the racialists’ cant for so long, and to the exclusion of all else, that they’re not American; they’re simply black. By contrast, older black Americans, though they’ve been exposed to the racialists’ harangues as well, were mostly raised to different standards. They tend to be more American than black.

However, the sting in the tail is that despite the difference in attitudes and proclivities, the older blacks, in the main, refrain from disciplining the younger ones when they go wild. This might be due to apathy; it might be due to fear. But it’s at least partly due to the very same “us versus them” mindset that licenses their thuggish progeny to use the death of one of their number at a white cop’s hands as an excuse for looting and destruction.

The racialist hucksters have been allowed to rant from their pulpits for far too long. If we can’t eject them, we must countervail them so forcefully that sheer embarrassment will impel them to slink quietly away.

During the years of the Vietnam War, the subject of greatest interest was America’s attempt to buttress South Vietnam against the Viet Cong and their North Vietnamese allies. Many a conversation, including those that involved persons routinely cordial toward one another, featured an exchange like this:

War Opponent: The war is a genocidal invasion of another country and must end immediately.
War Supporter: I had some respect for you before you said that. The war was declared by Congressional resolution. It’s being fought by Americans under American leadership. Americans are dying to protect innocent South Vietnamese from the viciousness of the Viet Cong and their suppliers. If you’d rather root for the other side, you should pack your bags and move to North Vietnam. We don’t want you here.

Ah, those halcyon days of yore! But I digress. Today, race relations are at least as hot a topic. Yet you almost never hear exchanges such as the following:

Racialist Black: The anger and hostility of blacks toward whites is justified by our history of racist oppression and the legacy of slavery.
Intelligent White: I had some respect for you before you said that. Slavery is 150 years dead and was ended by the sacrifices of whites. Whites passed and enforced every civil rights act. Whites pay the freight for your ineducability, your welfarism, your illegitimacies, and your crime and violence. If you think you can justify rampant criminality on any grounds, pack your bags and move to Nigeria. We don’t want you here.

The reason, of course, is that most irritating of contemporary shibboleths, diversity. Rather than being allowed to sort ourselves out as naturally as we normally would, we’re forced to rub up against persons who have been persuaded to be at war with us. Additionally, in the case of black / white relations, the charge of racism, though it’s lost much of its steam, still retains a punch sufficient to get a man ostracized or worse. Few are the white Americans who lack all fear of it.

But the “unspoken riposte” above isn’t being wielded by intelligent blacks, either – a far greater tragedy, given their superior intimacy with their own racial kindred. The job of civilizing black youths, steeped in racialist venom, dismissive of civilized behavioral norms, and untroubled by anything resembling a conscience, has been left to us whites…and most of us are unwilling to shoulder it.

Go ahead: call me a racist. These days, my response is: Damned right I am! And if you need to know why, you can read all about it here.


Brace yourself, Gentle Reader. It’s a day for fundamentals and fundamental questions:

Who owns the economy — if you have any idea what that is?
Who owns the ground beneath your feet?
Who owns your car, or your phone?
Who owns the law?
Who owns you?

Have you been asked those questions anywhere else lately? Have you asked them of yourself? Or are you baffled as to why longtime opinion-spouter and widely celebrated pompous ass Fran Porretto has called them “fundamental?”

In two of the four cases above, the typical respondent will be quick to answer. In the other two, he’s likely to want to ponder the matter, perhaps even doubting whether the question itself “makes sense.” But many will go zero for four, at least under an empirical treatment of the matter.

Beneath those four questions lies one that’s more basic still:

What does it mean to own something…or someone?

If you’re under thirty years old, there are certain names familiar to us older farts that you probably never heard in school. One of those, perhaps the most important of them, is John Locke.

Locke, a seventeenth century physician who also put his prodigious intelligence to moral and political philosophy, was the first of the Enlightenment thinkers to give serious consideration to the concept of property, specifically property in material things. His Two Treatises of Government, coupled to Adam Smith’s An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, are the cornerstones of the ideals expressed in the greatest two hundred words of prose ever penned:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

It is with infinite sadness that I note that any under-thirties in the audience might never have been presented with that in school, either.

Locke concerned himself with how a material thing becomes property, and arrived at a thesis based on the investment of human labor in the thing to be owned. The essence of his thesis can be captured in a simple diagram:

Unowned items reside conceptually in the common, from which they can be made property by any moral agent by homesteading: the investment in the item of enough labor to “enclose it from the common.” (Locke used the example of gathering berries from a wild bush as his illustration of this operation.) Inversely, an owned item can revert to unowned if its owner neglects it sufficiently that it can no longer be distinguished from the common. (For this operation, I like the example of leaving your Chevy on the side of the Cross Bronx Expressway with the keys in the ignition.) Owned items can pass from owner to owner through trade, a voluntary process in which the current owner surrenders his title to a new one for some consideration.

Locke deemed the attachments conferred by these processes to belong to the category of natural rights: morally ironclad associations that arise from the nature of Man and the laws of the universe in which we live. By giving property a moral character, Locke invalidated Smith’s acquisition of (or interference with) Jones’s property by force or fraud: the diametrical opposite of voluntary exchange. Force and fraud are the inverse of rights; no right can be premised upon them without destroying the very concept of rights.

All of economics, from Adam Smith onward, is premised on the Lockean conceptions of property and natural rights. And there are those two hundred words I quoted above, as well.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again:

Men must be free
Because nothing else can be.

“Free” in the above context has two quite distinct meanings: one when applied to men’s property, and one when applied to men themselves. In the former case, “free” means “without cost.” But even an isolated Robinson Crusoe type, alone on his island, cannot properly regard any of the bounties of the island as “free” in that sense, for he must go to the effort of gathering them at the very least. In the latter case, “free” means “not subject to external coercion or constraint:” the political meaning of freedom. Both senses of the word are bound to the understanding of property and property rights, which brings us back to the questions at the beginning of this tirade:

Who owns the economy — if you have any idea what that is?
Who owns the ground beneath your feet?
Who owns your car, or your phone?
Who owns the law?
Who owns you?

If we apply the Lockean standard to these questions, we get fairly simple answers easily defended from first principles. However, in at least three of those five cases, governments habitually act as if they disagree — and they back up their positions with guns.

Not one square inch of land surface in these United States is immune from property taxes: literally, a rent you must pay to occupy the plot upon which you live. Fail to pay that rent and you’ll be involuntarily ejected from your home, quite possibly at gunpoint. So who owns the ground on which you stand?

Under the contractarian basis on which the Constitution and all the lesser state and county charters are premised, the law, whatever it may be, is the joint property of the American people; though we formulate it through representatives, its implementation and its protections are uniform, as the Fourteenth Amendment was intended to emphasize. More, any citizen has as much law enforcement power as any other, badges and municipal salaries notwithstanding. So why is it that police are deemed to exercise command authority over private persons, such that for the latter to “disobey” the former constitutes a cause for arrest?

One comes to self-ownership by a process of “self-homesteading:” the acquisition of learning and capability that results in a self-supporting adult. More, the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States supposedly put a permanent end to slavery and involuntary servitude: i.e., the ownership of persons by other persons or institutions. So why do we have a conscription law, which requires all young men to register with the Selective Service system when they turn eighteen?

Think it over.

The essential difference between a free society and other sorts is that in a free society, the individual possesses rights against the State. Those rights are Lockean property rights: to oneself, to one’s freedom of action, and to one’s honestly acquired property. Given that force, the defining characteristic of the State, is the exact opposite of rights, there can never be a right of any description that’s premised upon forcible coercion or constraint (i.e., intimidation through the threat of forcible punishment).

How does that comport with all the incredibly sloppy “rights talk” afloat in our national discourse:

  • “Right” to marry.
  • “Right” to health care.
  • “Right” to an education.
  • “Right” to free contraception.
  • “Right” to be supported by the State.

…and so on?

Isn’t it time we started whacking “rights-mongers” across the chops with a wet mackerel for their demonstrable abuse of the most important conception in all of human thought?

This morning’s rant was triggered by this piece from the invaluable David De Gerolamo:

Another clash between protesters and police lit up Ferguson, Mo., on Wednesday night, with police shooting tear gas into crowds and briefly arresting two journalists.

Reporters Ryan J. Reilly of The Huffington Post and Wesley Lowery of The Washington Post were briefly arrested while covering the protests after police entered a McDonald’s where the two were working. Reilly tweeted his arrest as several reports emerged that police on the scene were telling TV crews to leave.…

“Oh, God,” Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson said when told of the arrests by the Los Angeles Times. “I told them to release them,” Jackson said of the two reporters. His department was in command.

The enveloping context of the arrests was Ferguson police using SWAT tactics to empty a peaceable restaurant, in which the aforementioned reporters were eating and working. By what right did the police assert an owner’s rights over someone else’s property? By what right did they command the immediate obedience of private citizens engaged in wholly legitimate, wholly peaceful activities? Given the context, had the reporters resisted arrest, they might well have been shot down on the instant. By what right would the Ferguson police have deprived those men of their most fundamental properties: their lives?

That sort of conduct by armed agents of the State is characteristic of war zones: places where no rights are recognized, where the preponderance of force is the one and only standard of ownership, where “you’re either one of us or the enemy.” Is Ferguson, Missouri at war? If so, who are the combatants? What uniforms do they wear, if any?

Have the governments of these United States — some 88,000 in number — gone to war against the nation’s citizens? Was it declared at some point, published in two-point type in some obscure periodical like the pro forma announcement of a zoning board meeting to which the public would be unwelcome, such that we were intended to miss it?

Answer those questions for yourself. If you find the answers disagreeable, you might want to ponder which side you’re on.

Who owns you?

Language Corruption Continues

From The Analects of Confucius:

Zi-lu said, “The ruler of Wei has been waiting for you, in order with you to administer the government. What will you consider the first thing to be done?”

The Master replied, “What is necessary to rectify names.”

“So! indeed!” said Zi-lu. “You are wide of the mark! Why must there be such rectification?”

The Master said, “How uncultivated you are, Yu! A superior man, in regard to what he does not know, shows a cautious reserve.

If names be not correct, language is not in accordance with the truth of things.

If language be not in accordance with the truth of things, affairs cannot be carried on to success.

When affairs cannot be carried on to success, proprieties and music do not flourish.

When proprieties and music do not flourish, punishments will not be properly awarded.

When punishments are not properly awarded, the people do not know how to move hand or foot.

Therefore a superior man considers it necessary that the names he uses may be spoken appropriately, and also that what he speaks may be carried out appropriately.

What the superior man requires is just that in his words there may be nothing incorrect.”

Consider also what this more recent commentator had to say:

I have not here been considering the literary use of language, but merely language as an instrument for expressing and not for concealing or preventing thought. Stuart Chase and others have come near to claiming that all abstract words are meaningless, and have used this as a pretext for advocating a kind of political quietism. Since you don’t know what Fascism is, how can you struggle against Fascism? One need not swallow such absurdities as this, but one ought to recognize that the present political chaos is connected with the decay of language, and that one can probably bring about some improvement by starting at the verbal end….Political language — and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists — is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.

We know ourselves — our species, that is — very well. As humans have been around for a long time now, such that human nature has become thoroughly familiar to us, seldom do we learn anything genuinely new about it. Nevertheless from time to time some atavistic genius, a Confucius or an Orwell, must remind us about some part of it that’s apparently slipped our minds.

We think in symbols — words. He who wishes to enlist your mental resources in the effort to confuse you will endeavor to cloud your understanding of the words by which you represent important concepts. By implication, it is vitally important to all serious discourse that we hold fast to the accurate, publicly agreed upon meanings of words.

Some words can be subtle in application. There’s a good example in the paragraph above. Look for it. If you think you’ve found it, call it out in the comments. For a change, I’ll participate there myself.

In the political realm, we frequently employ labels as shorthand for enveloping political postures. Various persons then associate those labels with bundles of policy positions, and perhaps also with particular organizations that purport to represent them. That’s where trouble sets in.

To be truly useful, a word must have an exact meaning. It cannot have more than one without becoming dangerous to one’s thought processes. What recent political discourse has done to the critical labels has made them extremely dangerous to our thinking, and to the future of our already endangered Republic.

First consider liberal, a word whose original, exact meaning has been severed from it for practical purposes. Have a gander:

Liberal \Lib”er*al\, n. One who favors greater freedom in political or religious matters. [Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary, 1913 edition]

Anyone who hasn’t spent the last fifty years in a coma will immediately see how far the word liberal has been carried from that meaning. And it has indeed been carried away; it didn’t migrate to its contemporary usage all by itself. The kidnapping of liberal was quite deliberate.

Similarly, we have conservative, whose original meaning has also been lost:

Conservative \Con*serv”a*tive\, n. One who desires to maintain existing institutions and customs. [Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary, 1913 edition]

Contemporary American conservatives could hardly be accused of that with any justice. Most of then are as hostile to the existing state of things as Bakunin or Kropotkin. Yet they stubbornly clutch the label conservative to their breasts rather than use a more accurate one, perhaps out of a misplaced…conservatism.

The damage consequent to these distortions has been incalculable. It’s been inflicted upon us with malice aforethought. The profit has accrued entirely to the Left.

Confusion can only benefit him who seeks to prevent accurate perception and thought. The Left must confuse its targets for a simple reason: the Leftist agenda, to the extent that it’s persistent in character, is wholly at odds with human nature and the laws of reality. In practice it conduces to misery and destruction. No hyper-charismatic leader and no amount of tinkering can “make it work,” the representations of Leftist mouthpieces notwithstanding. Moreover, this could never be concealed from a person of ordinary rational capacity…if he were equipped with accurate symbols for the key components of the socio-economic-political tableau and were permitted to employ them in thought unobstructed by cant about “inequality,” “exploitation,” “racism,” “patriarchy,” “institutionalized bigotry,” and the like.

(I could go into one of my customary rants about the importance of distinguishing between the Left’s well-meaning fools and the power-lusters who make up its leadership, but that’s not germane to the larger point.)

Concerning another word of increasingly frequent misapplication, consider the usages in this essay:

Now, doubtlessly many of you will have been quicker on the uptake on this point, but here is how the average layperson (who even knows what libertarianism is) hears about libertarianism: fiscally conservative, socially liberal. Don’t tell me I’m the only one who’s heard that. Following the new Reason study on millennials, which found a profile somewhat matching that definition, there are tons of people concluding millennials are libertarians.

A quick pause for an interjection: Anyone who’s followed me this far, and who’s acquainted with libertarian thought to any extent, will be aware that “socially liberal” does not mean favorable to greater freedom! The author of the essay devotes a series of unsparing paragraphs to nailing “liberal” to the cross it now deserves. But here’s his conclusion:

What am I, therefore? I am fiscally conservative and socially… well, socially libertarian. I believe in reserving to the states and to the people those rights and duties not clearly associated with mediating interactions between states and representing the United States as a whole to the world. I believe that, wherever possible, the individuals closest to an issue or, at worst, the state in which groups of individuals closest to an issue reside, should be allowed to decide on social issues. As a lodestar in that discussion I believe the best solutions will be the ones that involve the least paperwork, the least government interference, and the least litigation, but I also believe that groups and citizens alike are happiest, and find the best solutions fastest, when they are allowed to do things which I consider stupid.

Stop right there. If we proceed from the exhortations of prominent contemporary conservatives, what does “fiscally conservative” mean to you, Gentle Reader? Does it mean restricting federal spending to those few areas that have been Constitutionally approved? Does it mean that the Treasury should honor only gold and silver as the valid monies of the land? Does it mean limiting taxation to funding only “the common defense and the general welfare of the United States?” Or does it mean rather “keeping a lid” on currency inflation, plus some modest reductions in federal spending, so the national debt might grow a little more slowly?

Constitutionalist libertarians — i.e., those closest to conservatives in their practical propositions — demand absolute adherence to the terms of the Constitution. They don’t settle for niggling slivers of budgetary reductions, or for “more moderate” currency growth. If Article I, Section 8 doesn’t authorize it, the constitutionalist libertarian will have no truck with it…but the overwhelming majority of contemporary conservatives, anxious to avoid looking “uncompassionate” or “overturning too many rice bowls,” will swallow just about everything Washington has done to us, with only the tiniest adjustments around the edges. For a contrast, consider this statement from an ardent, though fictional, constitutionalist:

“Walter Coleman has promulgated several executive orders, through which he’s conscripted an entire profession and seized control of two major American industries,” Sumner said. “The power to do such a thing is not granted to any branch of the federal government. Yet the president backed up his will with federal troops, who remain at the aerospace and electronics plants to this day. He claimed that Harry Truman’s seizure of the steel mills during the Korean War was adequate precedent, but an unconstitutional seizure of power can’t be justified by saying that it’s been done before.”

Perhaps the perversions of the word libertarian have not yet become important enough to register on most radars. I expect that they will…because over the past three decades conservatives have become ever more libertarian in their attitudes and approaches, and are resolved not to shed their accustomed label for fear of losing popular attention to a competing school of thought. (Also, the Left has heaped enormous quantities of slander upon libertarian for comparable reasons.)

What is necessary is to rectify names: to speak and write with exactitude, such that one’s statements will be armored against misuse. Unless this begins at once, the corruption of our language will progress — and it’s a “progressive” project, beyond all question — making clear, undistored, entirely defensible political statements will become ever more difficult, and ever more Americans will sink into passivity and despair.


No, that’s not a misspelling.

Two remarkable articles came my way early this morning. They touch upon the same subject from different perspectives. What they reveal is critical to the quality of American life.

First, let’s have some plaintive commentary from a sweet woman better known for her beauty and her acting:

What has happened in America?

When did we stop listening to those with whom we disagree? When did we stop respecting the opinions of those with whom we disagree?…

We hate — we love. There is little — or nothing — in between.

We have taken unmovable positions about everything. We’ve nailed our feet to the floor and angrily refuse to move left or right or (God forbid) to the center. There is no longer a center for anything. You are or you are not, period. End of story.

How did this happen so quickly? Why are we not talking to each other? Why do we not respect and honor the opinions of those with whom we disagree?…

Where are the Ronald Reagans and the Tip O’Neills of today? We are in desperate need of leaders who will bring us together and talk to each other, so we can all begin to talk to each other once again.

I have no doubt that many Americans are just as upset over it all as Suzanne Somers.

Now hearken to the great Photon Courier, David Foster:

One reason why American political dialog has become so unpleasant is that increasingly, everything is a political issue. Matters that are life-and-death to individuals…metaphorically life-and-death, to his financial future or the way he wants to live his life, or quite literally life-and-death…are increasingly grist for the political mill….

When everything is centralized, the temptation to deal with dissent in a draconian manner becomes overwhelming. Just as Rubashov (at that stage in his thought process) justified Stalin’s ruthless suppression of dissenters on agricultural policy, so do many American “progressives” today seek the silencing of those who disagree with their ideas. It will not be surprising if they escalate their demands to insist that dissenters should not only lose their jobs or be imprisoned, but should actually be killed.

Yet again, an “obvious” point that virtually everyone overlooks.

Politics is strife. Every subject that becomes a political subject therefore becomes a battlefield as well.

It’s not hard to see the dynamic. Let some subject be politicized: for example, the physical sustenance of persons who can’t support themselves, a.k.a. “the poor.” What follows from the decision that this is properly a responsibility of some government?

  • Decisions about “who:” i.e., what criteria shall determine who is eligible to receive sustenance.
  • Decisions about “where:” Shall the State go to “the poor,” or shall they be requred to come to State facilities? (i.e., outdoor vs. indoor relief systems) If the latter, where shall those facilities be situated, what should they offer, and so forth?
  • Decisions about “how much” and “until when.”
  • Staffing decisions.
  • Choices of vendors and the acceptable range of contractual arrangements.

Those are just the important ones that spring immediately to mind. Alternately, consider education:

  • Who shall be taught?
  • Who shall teach him?
  • What shall he be taught?
  • When and where shall it take place?
  • To what standard of achievement shall he be held?
  • What resources shall be put to this task?

And so forth. Each of these will become a subject of contention in the polity that’s been charged with the decisions. Given that a political decision inherently creates “winners” and “losers,” we may expect the losers to fight to reverse the decision and the “winners” to labor to solidify and enlarge their gains.

Now apply that dynamic to a society in which nothing is deemed a private matter — where all personal choices and all modes and manners of interaction with others, regardless of motivations are considered political, at least potentially. Over what shall we not quarrel?

“The personal is the political.” — Leftist slogan

When there was general agreement on the borderline between subjects that belong in public discourse and subjects that are properly private, our combat was restricted to the former and the latter was a zone of peace. The sense that others had no license to talk about anyone’s “personal business” was general, and generally respected. But candidly now: Are there any subjects that haven’t been politicized in recent years? Is there anything Americans might choose to do or not do that isn’t considered grist for the political mill?

The “orthodox” conservative tends to politicize matters he deems pertinent to “national security,” moral choices, and cultural traditions. The “orthodox” liberal tends to politicize economic and commercial matters, which he usually extends into such realms as “labor law” and “discrimination.” (To be fair, in recent years many self-nominated conservatives have recognized the importance of privacy and have striven to reintroduce it as protection against political interference, even on subjects they previously deemed fit for legislation and law enforcement. To be as fair as possible, there are some self-nominated liberals who recognize a zone of privacy, but unfortunately they keep shrinking it under pressure from those further to the left.) There isn’t much of a No-Man’s Land between them.

Many a head of household has declared his dinner table a “no-politics zone” precisely to avert fusillades over the pork chops. It can work, if he’s firm enough and commands sufficient sway over the kids. But when every subject of consequence to anyone has been politicized, that can make family dinner an awfully quiet affair.

Worse yet, he who steeps himself in politics and political discourse will frequently find himself becoming more combative regardless of the subject or venue. That’s certainly happened to me, and as much as I regret it, deplore it in myself, and pray for relief from it, that conditioned-in pugnacity can get the better of me when I’m not vigilant about holding it down. I doubt my experiences are far from the norm.

We will not be able to get along with one another until we resurrect the concept of privacy — and even then, we will continue to quarrel over whatever remains in the political sphere, because politics is strife and can’t be anything else. For maximum peace, the zone of politics should be very small, and the zone of private decision making very large. The Founding Fathers understood this, but their insight is shared by few persons of our time.

The Forbidden Subject

It seems that no matter who you are, how innocent your deeds, or how ethically you treat your fellow man, you are absolutely forbidden to speak on certain subjects, on pain of ostracism, being abandoned to the mercies of the State, or worse. The premier such subject, eclipsing all others, is the correlation between certain socioeconomic conditions and race.

Cliven Bundy, the rancher whose cause animated hundreds of freedom lovers to rally personally, bearing arms, to his defense against an overbearing federal government, has dared to touch on that forbidden subject:

“I want to tell you one more thing I know about the Negro,” he said. Mr. Bundy recalled driving past a public-housing project in North Las Vegas, “and in front of that government house the door was usually open and the older people and the kids — and there is always at least a half a dozen people sitting on the porch — they didn’t have nothing to do. They didn’t have nothing for their kids to do. They didn’t have nothing for their young girls to do.

“And because they were basically on government subsidy, so now what do they do?” he asked. “They abort their young children, they put their young men in jail, because they never learned how to pick cotton. And I’ve often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy? They didn’t get no more freedom. They got less freedom.”

Maybe it’s me. Maybe I’m the stupid one. Even a genius can be topically or contextually stupid. But for the life of me, I can’t see the smallest thing wrong with what Bundy said. I can’t spot any inaccuracies in it. Quite a lot of black welfare-ridden families match Bundy’s description. It might upset us to hear it, but those who’ve seen it at close range, or have lived close enough to it to be touched by its consequences, can’t sincerely deny it.

Bundy’s rhetorical question:

“I’ve often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy?”

…surely wasn’t intended as an endorsement of chattel slavery. It was his way of highlighting the unique squalor that comes from the acceptance of government dependency as a way of existence.

There are more varieties of slavery than chattel slavery, in which one is deemed the property of another. A slavery that leads one to the passive acceptance of idleness and despair is one of the worst kinds. Ask any prison inmate who’s been denied the privilege of working at something during his confinement.

But race! Daring to cite the particular effects a government policy has had upon a particular race is unthinkable! The speaker shall be anathematized, banished to the outer darkness, where there is the weeping and the gnashing of teeth. Nevermore shall we ponder the offenses done to him by others — not even others with guns and dogs and sniper rifles — for his words, regardless of their veracity, have rendered him untouchable!

Maybe it’s not me. Maybe we really are a nation of cowards. Not in the odious Eric Holder’s sense, though.

It seems so clear to me. The Left is desperate to “keep ’em on the plantation” of government dependency. There’s no physical barrier around the Left’s prison for poor American blacks. The emotional and financial walls are quite high enough. Nor is it necessarily because those folks are black, except in one sense: poor black Americans, especially those concentrated in Northeastern cities, were the target population for the Sixties campaign to expand the welfare state.

There’s an important lesson here for anyone with the stomach to accept and digest it.

It’s been a staple of Leftist political strategy to create what Thomas Sowell has called mascot groups: populations united by some common characteristic, to which leftist panderers can offer some seeming benefit with addictive properties in exchange for political allegiance. The most obvious such benefit is financial: welfare payments, subsidies, and preferential treatment in government hiring and contracting. The Left has had extraordinary success seducing American blacks in that fashion. If you doubt this, consider the distribution of black votes in presidential elections since World War II.

It’s not enough simply to offer money for votes, though. Even the most downtrodden, hangdog victim of fate is likely to recoil indignantly from such an offer. Few Americans lack sufficient personal pride to react another way – white, black, brown, yellow, or red.

The pitch had to be accompanied by a justification. Black Americans in marginal economic circumstances had to be told that “the Man owes you.” They had to be persuaded that what they were being offered was only what was due them. Unless that barrier could be conquered, their pride would enable the overwhelming majority of them to resist the appeal of the welfare state.

Hundreds of thousands of them bought into it.
They accepted that they were still in thrall to white America.
They accepted that the unemployed among them were jobless because of racism.
They accepted that black entrepreneurs were slighted by white-owned companies because of racism.
And all the rest, including all the social and political consequences, followed as the night follows the day: inevitably.

It might be the greatest single crime ever perpetrated against a race.

Cliven Bundy’s sin has been to make open, unembarrassed note of the above. That leftists should pillory him for it is unsurprising; that’s just what they do. That conservatives should do so is saddening and wrong.

We in the Right like to think of ourselves as persons of intelligence and dispassionate judgment. Admittedly, everyone wants to think of himself that way, but for us it’s a pillar of our self-image. Yet it seems that on this subject, the Left, with the help of its media annex, has cowed us so thoroughly that we can’t even hear a string of oral observations about the reality before us all — a reality that’s objectively verifiable ! — without cringing and begging forgiveness, when the subject is “racially sensitive.”

Glory be to God, people! Where is your pride? Where is your regard for the truth? Where is your love of justice, that you should reflexively kowtow to the Panjandrums of Political Correctness and retreat from the defense of a decent man who’s merely trying to defend a business his family has operated for more than a century? Would you be so quick to back away from him if he and his family were black?

Find your spines and get them straightened out before it’s too late for us all.


[The following first appeared at Eternity Road on July 31, 2009. — FWP]

In reply to this earlier piece, longtime reader and frequent commenter Goober wrote:

It isn’t their fault. The founding fathers knew for a fact that even the kindest and most altruistic of governments would and could overstep their bounds on occasion. That is why they wrote the Constitution, and entrusted we, the people (NOT the government) with it’s enforcement and adherence.

We’ve fallen down on the job, not them, and we’ve done so because they’ve promised us things. A cleaner environment (EPA), a safer world (IRS and income tax for WWI), safety from jobsite hazards (OSHA) and payment in the case that you lose your job or are injured (FICA and FUTA). They’ve promised us medical care when we’re old, a pension for our retirement, a super-highway system to get us there, and all of these things were ushered in not just with the consent of the governed, but with their cheerful support.

All were constitutional oversteps. All were heralded by the governed.

The government isn’t to blame. We are.

All true until the very last line. Yes, we cooperated in our enslavement, but to say that the architects and builders of our political prison are therefore not to blame is like exculpating a rapist on the grounds that his victim chose not to resist him. All the same, there’s a lesson in our history of habituation to bondage: a lesson about how cheaply we price that for which we never had to struggle.

Americans at the opening of the Twentieth Century were largely unaware of the differences between freedom and tyranny. They’d enjoyed the former lifelong, and had never tasted the latter. Remember that in 1900:

  • There was no conscription;
  • There was no income tax;
  • There was no Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, or unemployment insurance tax;
  • There was no zoning;
  • There were no environmental laws;
  • There were no labor laws;
  • There were no anti-discrimination laws;
  • There were no “public accommodation” laws;
  • There were no laws mandating preferential treatment by race, sex, religion, or ethnicity;
  • There were no restrictions on the right to keep and bear arms;
  • Private property was considered sacrosanct;
  • The right of self-defense and defense of the innocent, by any means up to and including lethal violence, was unchallenged.

An American of 1900, if given a device through which he could survey the political landscape of 2000, would have tossed it aside in disbelief. Such things could never come to America, he’d say. That sort of nonsense is strictly for the Old World and the savages of Africa, Asia, and South America. This is the Land of the Free.

Well, it was, anyway. Yet the changes all came, as lovers of freedom know to our sorrow.

With very few exceptions, the legal fetters Americans wear today were applied to us quite gradually. Our masters allowed us to grow accustomed to one before applying another. Nor were they at once tightened to the maximum; few persons chafed under them at the outset.

The income tax is an excellent example: When the Sixteenth Amendment was being debated on the floor of the Senate, one of its opponents rose to ask the body what it could say to reassure the American public that this tax would not rise to seize some unconscionable fraction of their earnings — perhaps as much as ten percent! A pro-income-tax senator rose and replied that the country need never fear such a development: “The people would never allow it!”

Another fine example arises from Social Security, which Franklin D. Roosevelt pitched as a “supplement” to the resources of American retirees. At its inception, Social Security promised to take no more than $7.50 per month from a worker’s paycheck. Today the limit is over $550.00 per month, and for many wage earners is the largest single tax they pay. To add insult to injury, the Supreme Court has ruled that no matter how large his payments to the Social Security system, no man has a right to any payments from it.

Look at any of the political bonds that have been fastened upon us: labor law, environmental law, firearms control laws, laws that infringe upon property rights, what have you. In nearly every case you’ll find that the original collar was gently applied and loosely fastened. It simply didn’t stay that way.

The term most commonly applied to such a slow, steady tightening of the screws is gradualism. Gradualism uses the power of habituation — the ordinary human tendency to accommodate and adjust to conditions we can’t individually alter — to solidify its gains and prevent retrograde motion. In her landmark book The God Of The Machine, Isabel Paterson referred to it as political power’s “ratchet action.”

We have habituated ourselves to all manner of fetters. They were applied with such delicacy, and tightened so slowly and smoothly, that many of us cannot imagine life without them. Yet at any instant in the process, it was still possible to rear up against it. Despite appearances, it remains possible today. We simply haven’t done so, nor is it likely that we will.

The process got under way in the early years of the Twentieth Century, when Americans had enjoyed liberty without cost for too long to remember the price that was originally paid for it. They had ceased to believe that it should cost them anything to remain free. Worse, they looked upon subsidies, subventions, and other temptations held forth by the State and failed to ask, “What’s the price for these things? Just because no one has spoken of one doesn’t mean there isn’t one.”

All things have their price. Nothing worth having can be had at zero cost.

Which brings your Curmudgeon to the parable of:

The Wild Pigs Of The Okefenokee Swamp

Some years ago, an old trapper from North Dakota hitched up some horses to his Studebaker wagon, packed up his traps, and drove south. Several weeks later he stopped in a small town just north of the Okefenokee Swamp in Georgia.

It was a lazy Saturday morning when he walked into the general store. Sitting around the pot-bellied stove were seven or eight of the town’s local citizens. The traveler said, “Gentlemen, could you direct me to the Okefenokee Swamp?”

Some of the oldtimers looked at him like he was crazy. “You must be a stranger in these parts,” they said.

“I am. I’m from North Dakota,” said the stranger. “In the Okefenokee Swamp are thousands of wild hogs,” one old man explained. “A man who goes into the swamp by himself asks to die!” He lifted up his leg. “I lost half my leg here, to the pigs of the swamp.”

Another old fellow said, “Look at the cuts on me; look at my arm bit off! Those pigs have been free since the Revolution, eating snakes and rooting out roots and fending for themselves for over a hundred years. They’re wild and they’re dangerous. You can’t trap them. No man dare go into the swamp by himself.” The others nodded in agreement.

The old trapper said, “Thank you so much for the warning. Now could you direct me to the swamp?” They said, “Well, yeah, it’s due south, straight down the road.” But they begged the stranger not to go, because they knew he’d meet a terrible fate. He smiled, waved away their concern, and said, “Sell me ten sacks of corn, and help me load it in the wagon.” And they did. Then the old trapper bid them farewell and drove on down the road. The townsfolk thought they’d never see him again.

Two weeks later the man came back. He pulled up to the general store, got down off the wagon, walked in and bought ten more sacks of corn. After loading it up he went back down the road toward the swamp.

Two weeks later he returned and bought another ten sacks of corn. This went on for a month. And then two months, and three. Every two weeks the old trapper would appear on Saturday morning, purchase ten sacks of corn, and drive back into the swamp.

The stranger soon became a legend in the little village and the subject of much speculation. People wondered what kind of devil had possessed this man, that he could go into the Okefenokee by himself and not be consumed by the wild, free hogs.

One morning the man came into town as usual. Everyone thought he wanted more corn. He got off the wagon and went into the store where the usual group of men were gathered around the stove. He took off his gloves.

“Gentlemen,” he said, “I need to hire about ten or fifteen wagons. I need twenty or thirty men. I have six thousand hogs out in the swamp, penned up, and they’re all hungry. I’ve got to get them to market right away.”

“You’ve WHAT in the swamp?” asked the storekeeper, incredulously. “I have six thousand hogs penned up. They haven’t eaten for two or three days, and they’ll starve if I don’t get back there to feed and take care of them.”

One of the oldtimers said, “You mean you’ve captured the wild hogs of the Okefenokee?”

“That’s right.”

“How did you do that? What did you do?” the men urged, breathlessly.

One of them exclaimed, “But I lost my arm!”

“I lost my brother!” cried another.

“I lost my leg to those wild boars!” chimed a third.

The trapper said, “Well, the first week I went in there they were wild all right. They hid in the undergrowth and wouldn’t come out. I dared not get off the wagon. So I spread corn along behind the wagon. Every day I’d spread a sack of corn. The old pigs would have nothing to do with it.”

“But the younger pigs decided that it was easier to eat free corn than it was to root out roots and catch snakes. So the very young began to eat the corn first. I did this every day. Pretty soon, even the old pigs decided that it was easier to eat free corn. After all, they were free. They could run off in any direction they wanted at any time.”

“The next thing was to get them used to eating in the same place all the time. So I selected a clearing, and I started putting the corn in the clearing. At first they wouldn’t come to the clearing. It was too far. It was too open. It was a nuisance to them.”

“But the very young decided that it was easier to take the corn in the clearing than it was to root out roots and catch their own snakes. And not long thereafter, the older pigs also decided that it was easier to come to the clearing every day.”

“And so the pigs learned to come to the clearing every day to get their free corn. They could still augment their diet with roots and snakes and whatever else they wanted. After all, they were free. They could run in any direction at any time. There were no bounds upon them.”

“The next step was to get them used to fence posts. So I put fence posts all the way around the clearing. I put them in the underbrush so that they wouldn’t get suspicious or upset. After all, they were just sticks sticking up out of the ground, like the trees and the brush. The corn was there every day. It was easy to walk in between the posts, get the corn, and walk back out.”

“This went on for a week or two. Shortly they became very used to walking into the clearing, getting the free corn, and walking back out through the fence posts.”

“The next step was to put one rail down at the bottom. I also left a few openings, so that the older, fatter pigs could walk through the openings and the younger pigs could easily jump over just one rail. After all, it was no real threat to their freedom or independence. They could always jump over the rail and flee in any direction at any time.”

“Now I decided that I wouldn’t feed them every day. I began to feed them every other day. On the days I didn’t feed them the pigs still gathered in the clearing. They squealed, and they grunted, and they begged and pleaded with me to feed them. But I only fed them every other day. And I put a second rail around the posts.”

“Now the pigs became more and more desperate for food. They were no longer used to going out and digging their own roots and finding their own food. They now needed me. They needed my corn every other day.

So I trained them that I would feed them every day if they came in through a gate. And I put up a third rail around the fence. But it was still no great threat to their freedom, because there were several gates and they could run in and out at will.”

“Finally I put up the fourth rail. Then I closed all the gates but one, and I fed them very, very well. Yesterday I closed the last gate. And today I need you to help me take these pigs to market.”

From My Cold Dead Hand

[April 3, 2014: In light of developments in Connecticut and New York, I’ve reposted the piece below. Those who are ready, willing, and able should consider joining the forces that will assemble this coming Saturday before the Connecticut state capitol. There is no issue more urgent than this one. — FWP]

[February 2, 2013: The following piece first appeared at the Palace of Reason on April 1, 2001, shortly after the now all-but-forgotten EP-3 incident in the Far East. — FWP]

It’s been awhile since I really reflected on the nature of a free people — a people determined to remain free, and possessed of the means to do so.

Armament is critical, of course. If your adversary is armed and you aren’t, you’re in the position of a grasshopper trying to face down a lawn mower. We might make admiring note of your courage in our elegies, but we surely won’t be attending your victory parade.

Also, one must be careful not to hand any levers to a potential tyrant. There are a number of things Man requires to survive and flourish: air, food, water, the ability to move about, the ability to communicate with others, heat, fuel, many kinds of knowledge, the cooperation of others with different kinds of knowledge, and so on. Whenever any entity moves to monopolize access to any of these or the other necessities of survival, it’s nominated itself Tyrant-In-Embryo. Abort!

But both the above are resultants of a far more critical, indeed, a fundamental requirement of the free man. No one can remain free, no one can ensure the freedom of his descendants, unless he nurtures and transmits to those around him the essential defiance that animates all the other freedom-conserving behaviors.

We see a lot of bumper stickers that run roughly as follows:

They Can Have My Gun
When They Pry It
From My Cold Dead Hand!

I can only applaud the sentiment… if it’s genuine. How often is it genuine?

Test yourself, as sincerely as you can. Imagine that tomorrow, without warning, a deputy sheriff were to appear at your door with a clipboard and demand that you surrender your guns to him. Imagine that he knows accurately how many guns you have, and what types they are. (It shouldn’t be hard to imagine this, since de-facto owner registration of firearms has been in place for some years now. Why else would you be required to show proof of identity when buying a rifle?) How would you react?

Well? The deputy sheriff is waiting.

I regret to say that most gun owners would resist with at most a question about the legal basis for the sheriff’s demand. If he replied with anything even vaguely plausible, they would comply, even though the right to own weapons is recognized by the U.S. Constitution as an absolute, to be infringed by no one.

Why do I say this? Because it’s happened. It’s here.

After the race troubles of the summers of 1964 and 1965, several major cities, New York prominent among them, imposed unConstitutional new restrictions and requirements on weapons ownership. The residents of those cities went along without significant opposition. To the best of my knowledge, none of the restrictions were ever rolled back, though the supposed dangers they were put in place to forestall (e.g., here in New York, we heard a lot about “urban snipers”) failed to materialize.

California, more recently, passed a law forbidding the ownership of an “assault weapon,” a category so broadly defined that virtually any semiautomatic rifle would qualify under a liberal interpretation of the standard. The law became effective on January 1, 2000. I have heard no report of any opposition to this patently, blatantly unConstitutional law in the Golden State.

Now, about those bumper stickers…

I’m not saying that it would be easy to refuse that deputy sheriff. I’m not saying there wouldn’t be risks. I am saying that unless the will and determination to refuse him are present in a large percentage of the citizenry, the country will lose the liberties that the right of private firearms ownership was intended to safeguard.

Without that ineradicable defiance, that willingness to spit into the face of “authority,” firearms are mere trinkets.

Every major gun confiscation known to history has been followed by the erection of a totalitarian regime. It’s not as if we didn’t have a little history on the matter. When they come for our guns, we’ll know what they’re about.

Over the past century, liberty has been flensed away from Americans, slice after thin slice. That’s the way to subordinate a free people. Get them used to bending the knee and tugging the forelock in little things first, things that don’t appear to be relevant to them personally. Get them thinking that only antisocial curmudgeons would raise a fuss over matters as trivial as zoning restrictions, or licensing requirements for hairdressers. Better yet, get them thinking that anyone who would resist these “obviously desirable” new requirements of the law must want to do them harm.

With each slice of lost liberty has gone a little of the defiance that animates a free people. We’re closing in on the point of no return, the threshold that, once crossed, will become an impenetrable wall that forbids us a backward step.

In parallel with the loss of personal defiance has gone a slackening of the national will toward foreign enemies. The recent contretemps with the Chinese is an important harbinger of things to come. Few have dared to suggest that, when America puts young men and women into uniforms and weapons into their hands, it’s preparing them to risk their lives for some purpose beyond a trade agreement. Few have dared to suggest that a country whose government dares to take Americans hostage, to stake their lives and freedom as counters in a game, has committed an act of war, an act to which a country with dignity could respond in only one way.

We have become comfortable with subordination at home and humiliation abroad.

The red and white stripes wobble and weave. The starry blue field softens and begins to run. The borders dissolve, the colors blend, and soon there is only a uniform dull brown. The color of mud. The color of failure, The color of the loss of hope. And the hand that holds liberty’s banner aloft slackens, and fails, and becomes cold.


[In light of this piercing cartoon from the great Chris Muir, I have reposted the following piece, which first appeared at the Palace Of Reason on March 29. 2002. — FWP]

A recent, tax-funded study, conducted by the Public Service Research Institute, dared to delve into the truth or falsity of the allegations that New Jersey State Troopers have been enforcing an unlegislated statute against Driving While Black. According to what I’ve read, the study was conducted with meticulous alertness for factors that might bias its results. It made use of impersonal, double-blind techniques at every stage of its processing. It was apparently a model of its kind, a showcase for the best statistical practices of the social sciences.

Unfortunately, the results of the study were:

  • The troopers were not engaging in racial profiling when they stopped black drivers, because:
  • Black drivers violate the motor vehicle laws disproportionately to their numbers. The disproportion is approximately 50%. That is, whereas blacks made up 16 percent of motorists on the New Jersey Turnpike, they accounted for 23 percent of the traffic stops and for 25 percent of the speeders. This verdict was rendered not by the troopers themselves, but by automated radar units and camera records.

Because the study both exonerates the troopers and indicts the most sensitive American racial group, the US Department of Justice has turned its face against it. The state of New Jersey refuses to release the study to the public. That didn’t keep it from being reported by the New York Times ( — and denounced by the NAACP.

The objections registered to this study ring hollow. They questioned methods that New Jersey authorities had approved enthusiastically before the study, and which logic indicates could not have biased the results. For example, of the 18,000 snapshots taken through windshields to identify the races of drivers, about one third had to be discarded due to excessive windshield glare. Obviously, this effect would not discriminate among the races, especially since the screeners making those decisions were not permitted to know whether the drivers at whose photos they were staring had been clocked above the speed limit.

Does the putative finding that blacks speed more than non-blacks (in New Jersey, at least) have any enduring social significance? Probably not. But the reactions against the study do.

Our society, animated by an enduring guilt about the enslavement and subsequent differential legal and social treatment of blacks, has elevated the notion of equality among the races to a piety: an assertion that demands homage, but which is unsupported by evidence, and is sustained entirely by faith.

One cannot challenge the pieties of a society without provoking condemnation or ostracism. To question a piety, even along its margins, is to ask to be thrown out of the church. This is an absolute that applies to all peoples and times.

Pieties have their dangers. The unquestioned belief, in late 17th Century France, that Catholics were morally superior to Huguenots allowed Louis XIV to revoke the Edict of Nantes, the decree of religious tolerance for the Protestant minority. The resulting mass emigration of Huguenots to Belgium weakened France severely, as the Huguenots were among the most industrious and educated persons of northern France. Indeed, part of the Catholic animosity toward them was that they worked on Sundays, and thus had a competitive edge over Catholics in business and commerce.

If we are in thrall to a piety contrary to the actual facts of our society, we are in danger too. The question is only of degree.

No decent person would gainsay the principle of equality before the law. It’s the only sort of enforceable equality that doesn’t violate the rights of Man. He who commits a crime by the written laws should face an impersonal juridical procedure and receive an impersonal sentence — impersonal in the sense that they should take no account of anything about the accused other than what he did and the circumstances within which he did it. Plainly, we have departed from this simple, honorable standard in many ways. That doesn’t vitiate the ideal.

Black-identity groups, which have grown powerful in recent years, have used the law to impose the equality-of-the-races piety on us whether we agree or not. This has led to a marked inequality of treatment of the races, with net benefits flowing coercively to blacks, in particular to politically active blacks, at the expense of whites and Asians. As a matter of justice, this situation is indistinguishable from apartheid and Jim Crow, except for the race of the beneficiaries.

If there are real, substantial differences among the races, whether in ability, civility, or willingness to conform to the law, this could be the death blow to our society.

The black-identity groups and their mouthpieces know this, of course. That’s why the NAACP was so quick to condemn the traffic study. It’s a chip in the iron wall around the piety. It invites people to think about what the NAACP’s central cadre would prefer to remain unthinkable. With the piety for protection of their perquisites, they don’t want to risk a collision with contrary objective evidence. Therefore, any study that suggests that blacks and non-blacks differ in anything but skin color is to be condemned out of hand, and suppressed entirely if possible.

It’s not my intention to discuss the differences among the races here. I believe that there are some, though I also hold that, whatever any statistic might say about any group, each individual deserves to be dealt with according to his own merits. What upsets me is that we should so readily accede to the desires of organizations whose agenda is, quite baldly, to denigrate objective facts objectively gathered.

But this is of a piece with another American piety. Discomfiting others is near the top of our secular list of thou shalt nots. Adults aren’t supposed to call other adults to account for incivility, or cite their character flaws to them even in private. A gentleman, the old code says, is one who never gives offense unintentionally — and whether we still adhere to the code in its full extent, that inhibition is firmly ingrained in white American society.

The race-hustlers are using our highest and best impulses against us. How long can it go on?

The Calculus of Freedom

Peter Grant has resurrected the most important political questions of all time: those that were undoubtedly on Thomas Jefferson’s mind as he penned the critical passage of the Declaration of Independence:

Who decides what constitutes “happiness”? Who decides what constitutes “the populace’s welfare”? Who determines what is (or what should be) “the ultimate good” of the populace, or a society, or a nation?

These are precisely the right questions for our time. That sort of murky utilitarianism is the foundation of oligarchy. Keynes called it the rule of a “wise minority.” Most power-seekers either believe in that arrangement without question, or use it as a benevolent veneer over their true orientation and intentions. In recognition of their centrality to America’s current crisis, I repost the following, which first appeared at Eternity Road on March 9, 2005. I’ll provide additional thoughts after the repost.

Your Curmudgeon received quite a lot of E-mail after posting this tirade. [That was a dissection of a rather fatuous Robert Locke column from American Conservative webzine.FWP] Most of it was moderately to strongly in agreement, but a couple of letters were dismissive or condemnatory. Their unifying theme was: Things are working okay now, so by what right or standard should we concede any respect to the libertarian thesis that lots of things are out of kilter and require the swiftest possible correction?

There was one writer who took your Curmudgeon to task for his reliance on rights, which, according to this gentleman, don’t actually exist:

You harp on “rights” as if you actually know what you’re talking about, but I defy you to point to one and drag it out in front of God and everybody. Anyone can claim that this or that thing they want is a “right.” Isn’t that exactly the counter you’re always flinging at socialists and special interests?

Let it never be said that your Curmudgeon doesn’t take a challenge like that seriously. Indeed, it’s the only kind of challenge that has a real bearing on any of the fundamental questions of governance.

1. Objectives And Constraints.

Government is often viewed as entirely a practical affair, but whether or not government — the organized, legitimized use of coercive force by an institution chartered for that purpose — must live under constraints of any kind is an entirely theoretical one. The key to the entire subject is a four-letter word: work.

Every human activity of any kind exists within an envelope composed of two different things:

  • Objectives,
  • Constraints.

One’s objectives are the things he wishes to achieve, acquire, or prevent. One’s constraints are the things he may not or must not do along the way, for whatever reasons. Certain constraints — the laws of the physical universe — apply to all men at all times. Others are contextual, or identity-related; for example, in a regime that recognizes property rights, Smith would be constrained from pursuing any of his objectives by making free with Jones’s property.

2. Theoretical Bases For Government.

A government, being a human institution, must rest upon one of only three kinds of basis for its existence and its operation:

  1. Hobbesian absolutism (“Princes are gods”) denies that the State, however organized, need suffer any constraint whatsoever.
  2. Benthamite utilitarianism argues that constraints on the State are temporal and topical, and may be set aside without qualm when they impede “the greatest good for the greatest number.”
  3. Lockean natural-rights theory holds that the State must remain within those constraints arising from rights that individual men possess by nature — that when it violates those constraints, then, regardless of its intentions or effects, the State has become criminal and must suffer to be judged.

Gentle Reader, you could struggle and strain for the rest of your life without elucidating a theory of legitimate government that differs in substance from all three of the above. There simply aren’t any.

3. Attitudes Toward Rights.

Now, in practice, the State, which invariably possesses the preponderance of coercive force in a society, can do whatever it can get away with — the very basis for most arguments to the effect that rights don’t really exist. But the consequences of unbridled State action are historically well documented, and very negative. If we go by the Robert Pirsig approach to the existence of abstractions — that an entirely abstract entity, which cannot be pointed to or fondled by any man, may nevertheless be said to exist if its removal from the world would cause perceptible changes — then there is no question that rights exist. Quoth Louis Thiers:

Either rights exist, or they do not exist. If they exist, they involve absolute consequences…Furthermore, if a right exists, it exists at every moment. It is absolute today, yesterday, tomorrow, the day after tomorrow, in summer as in winter, not when it pleases you to declare it in force.

Indeed, the concept of rights underpins every other concept in political thought, including the proposals and arguments of absolutists and utilitarians.

When we speak of rights in practical terms, we must concede that an individual’s rights can be, and often are, violated by one or another organ of the State, and that there’s frequently little the violated party can do about it. As Kevin Baker and others have said quite plainly, whatever our rights are in theory, in practice they’re limited to what we can assert and defend by force — a space which is bounded by what State actions our society will countenance, or at least passively tolerate.

Still, that doesn’t change the fundamental questions. Do societies that recognize rights as a category of constraints on State action function differently from those that don’t? What are the differences? If we judge entirely on the consequences, which sort of society would we prefer?

4. The Dismissal Of Absolutism.

Hobbesian absolutism took as its premise that in the absence of a State, men would be engaged in “a war of each against all.” He proceeded from there to propose that if the State were capable of suppressing that war, then it must perforce be so powerful that no other entity would be able to limit it. So as a “practical” matter, the State must be beyond constraint by lesser entities.

Mankind has known many such States. Some still exist today. They run roughshod over their subjects, who have no rights at all that they can defend by word or deed. Their sole concern is over the possibility that other States will bring them down through war or subterfuge.

Most men are minded to reject absolutism both from a rights perspective and from a consequences perspective. The individual rebels automatically against the assertion that his life belongs to anyone but himself. Our inborn model for interactions between men, and between men and governments, holds that the rights of an innocent man to his life are absolute and inalienable. That premise, all by itself, destroys governmental absolutism as a defensible basis for the State. That’s not to say that it’s no longer asserted by some, only that it cannot be defended theoretically without rejecting any and all rights to life.

5. The Refutation Of Utilitarianism.

Utilitarianism attempts to supplant the concept of rights, which Bentham and his followers deemed too abstract, with the concept of collective utility: “the greatest good for the greatest number.” In this formulation, the actions of the State could and should be justified entirely on the basis of the results they achieve, or, alternately, how well they “work.” Utilitarianism was prominent in the thinking of early American socialists such as Edward Bellamy, Herbert Croly, and Charles Sanders Peirce.

But collective utility presupposes many things:

  1. Defensible concepts of “good” and “better” that can be applied to collectives;
  2. Accuracy in the formulation of policy to achieve what’s deemed as “good” or “better,”
  3. Continuity of policy, once formulated, until the sought for “good” or “better” has been achieved,
  4. The moral defensibility of policies formulated “in good faith” even after they’ve failed.

All four of these suppositions are provably unsound, usually by their own internal logic.

If “good” and “better” are applicable to a collective, then by implication individual choice by any member of the collective must be irrelevant, perhaps even invalid. Yet decisions about “good” and “better” must be made somehow, whether by majority vote or by some designated planner or planners. In the first case, collective utility comes up hard against the ephemeral nature of the collective: it has no enduring identity. Its component individuals will change over time, by death, procreation, association or disassociation, which can easily lead to changes in the majority’s verdicts about “good” and “better.” But if the collective’s decisions can change in such a fashion, with no “upper limit” on how fast they can change, under what circumstances, or in response to what developments, then how seriously can we take the concept of collective “good?”

In the second case, where designated planners decide on “good” and “better” for the collective, the utilitarians have reintroduced individual choice. The sole difference here is that some individuals are deciding on “good” and “better” for many others, rather than each man deciding for himself.

It is obvious that many a State policy formulated to bring about some well-conceived end has failed to do so. Sometimes the failure was inherent in the policy conception; sometimes it was the result of discontinuity in administration or application. What matters is that the result upon which the policy was founded was not achieved. How, then, shall we defend, morally or practically, the imposition of collective decision-making that overrode individuals’ claims to rightful autonomy, when the very good they were promised in exchange for their rights has failed to materialize? Shall we make restitution to those who were deprived of their lives, liberties, or properties in service to the unachieved goal? If so, what becomes of collective utility’s conceptual superiority to individual rights? If not, why should individuals agree to submit to the usurpation of their rights, however conceived, in the first place?

It becomes clear from such simple analyses that utilitarianism in theory reduces to absolutism in practice.

6. Determining Rights And Securing Them.

Among the conceptual bases for a political order, natural-rights libertarianism is the “last man standing.” If it is wrong, then all theory has failed, and there can be nothing but rule by the strongest until he fades and is pulled down by another. But is it wrong?

Proponents of natural individual rights have overextended their claims in many cases. Individual rights cannot cope with those situations in which we must act, or interact, as collectives; war and foreign policy are the most obvious examples. Nor can individual rights cope with clashing, seemingly valid assertions of rights, such as arise in the perennially difficult case of abortion. Finally for our purposes here, individual rights are insufficient for the analysis of those cases where the individual is incapable of wielding them on his own: children, the mentally unsound, and those under some constraint that thwarts rational decision-making, such as coercion by a kidnapper. However, in those situations where men can and do deal with one another as individuals, individual rights and their scrupulous observance are a sound guide to right action. “We” might not always “get what we want” by respecting them, but we may be sure that we have observed the first principle of both medicine and politics: First, do no harm.

It is inevitable that the exact scope of individuals’ rights will be argued over for many years, possibly down the whole history of Man. Theorists can only do so much. But the failure of all other approaches to governance leaves us with no alternative but to have the argument and take the underlying concept seriously.

In yesterday’s disassembly of Robert Locke’s column, your Curmudgeon noted that the following statement revealed Locke’s incomprehension of his subject matter:

There is no need to embrace outright libertarianism just because we want a healthy portion of freedom, and the alternative to libertarianism is not the USSR, it is America’s traditional liberties.

What are those “liberties,” and on what basis are they recognized?

  1. It cannot be from an absolutist standpoint, because an absolutist is required by his premises to reject all claims by anyone that his actions ought to be guaranteed against State interference.
  2. It cannot be from a utilitarian standpoint, because an inviolable liberty — really just another word for a right — might thwart some sincerely conceived policy toward the “greatest good for the greatest number.”
  3. If it’s from a natural-rights standpoint, then we must presuppose the existence of the category of claims called rights, and further ask: What claims qualify for inclusion in this category, and why?

…and the Robert Lockes of the world, infinitely dismissive of this broad, compelling calculus of freedom, are thereby forced from the table by their own hands. For them, only certain rights are admissible. Others whose exercise or consequences displease them must be excluded, even though, once rights are studied as a category, it becomes clear that those displeasing others have just as valid a claim.

And among those of us willing to concede our fallibility and talk seriously about Mankind’s most serious subject, the discussion will continue.

The above tirade was a condensed refutation of the notion, shared by the late Robert Bork among others less notable, that rights / “liberties” are entirely legal constructs: permissions granted by some government, with no deeper metaphysical basis. Judge Bork was no champion of freedom; he actually dismissed the Ninth Amendment to the Constitution as merely allowing that any “rights” the states’ constitutions conceded to their residents would not be infringed by the federal government. Thus, for the “Washington Uber Alles” position of contemporary left-liberals, Judge Bork would have substituted a regime in which the federal government is constrained by the states’ charters…but by no other pre-existing right or property of Man.

That notion would have had Thomas Jefferson whirling in his grave fast enough to power all of Philadelphia. Nor would he have been the only Founding Father to take exception.

There is simply no way in which the concept of rights can be melded with the supposition that a government, however constituted, can rightfully set them aside in the pursuit of some “greater good.” The very best that we can do — always assuming that we’re resolved to tolerate a government at all, of course — is to agree, in a contractarian fashion, to accept a strictly limited government with coercive powers straitly confined within those limits. That’s the original American approach to the “necessary evil” of government, which we call constitutionalism.

The Founders were aware of their own fallibility. They provided a means by which an adequate consensus — three-fourths of the states — could amend the Constitution to cope with conditions they had never imagined. Steven Den Beste once called that provision “Institutionalizing the Revolution:” a fine, compact expression of the Founders’ fundamental political philosophy, according to which true sovereignty reposed in the common man, not in some privileged monarch, oligarchy, or abstract collectivist fantasy called “the State.”

Today, the governments of America are openly in breach of the Constitutional contract. The plain text of our Supreme Law invalidates ninety percent or more of what they do. Therefore, they seek to evade all discussion of their legitimate powers and activities. They decorate their usurpations with phrases like “the greater good” and “compelling government interest.” Most recently, Washington’s myrmidons have set forth to suppress those voices and associations that urge us to examine the matter according to American principles.

No one certain of the rightness of his position behaves in such a fashion.

Is our current system salvageable? Perhaps, though the odds are growing long. What about our current political elite? C’mon! Do you really think you can re-educate our supposed representatives? Remember Nancy Pelosi’s “Are you serious?” Remember James Clyburn’s “I don’t give a damn about the Constitution?” Add those to Barack Hussein Obama’s “I’ve got a pen and I’ve got a phone.” What answer pops out of the slot?

No scheme of government that dismisses the metaphysical inviolability of individuals’ natural rights, or that fails to provide stiff constraints upon agencies of pre-indemnified coercion for the protection of those rights, has any claim to legitimacy. The javelin that fatally pierces that presumption will be cast from those rights, and propelled by Peter Grant’s question:



Five years ago at Eternity Road, I wrote:

A colleague of your Curmudgeon’s made a piercing observation the other day. Imagine, he said, that a group of policemen have come to your house determined to execute a warrantless, causeless search and seizure. When you cite your Fourth Amendment guarantee of the right to be free of such, the head cop says, “Okay, just give us $100 and we’ll let you be.”

Has the cop acknowledged your right to be free of arbitrary invasions of your property, or has he merely extorted you? If the latter, how does this differ from the registration and licensure of guns?

If something is yours by acknowledged right, why should you have to meet conditions to get or keep it? Why should you have to pay a fee or meet extrinsic, State-specified requirements? Especially considering that the fee and requirements are set at the State’s pleasure, and can be made so high that practically no one can afford to exercise his “right.”

An old anecdote, most frequently attributed to Francois-Marie Arouet (Voltaire), has the philosopher ask an aristocratic Parisienne, “Madame, would you sleep with me for a million livres? When the doyenne responds in the affirmative, Voltaire asks, “Would you sleep with me for five livres? Outraged, the woman screams, “What sort of creature do you think I am?” To which the philosopher calmly replies, “We’ve already established that. Now I’m trying to determine your price.”

Aristotle is nodding as we speak. Inclusion in the category of prostitute does not depend upon how much one charges for one’s services. The genus of “prostitute” is “a human being;” the differentia is “who sells sexual services for payment.” This is how we define: we make absolute distinctions between some things and others that are unlike them in significant ways. Definitional differences are differences in kind.

Similarly, a right is an absolute possession: a property that inheres in its possessor by reason of his nature. It is not and cannot be conditional. (Defenders of the spurious “right to vote” have a great deal of difficulty with this concept.) If you possess a right, you need no one’s permission to exercise it.

By that standard, our governments recognize just about no rights, their lip service to the contrary notwithstanding.

Give that a moment’s thought.

This morning, by way of Random Nuclear Strikes, we have a new direction to explore in the abridgement of rights:

Two California busybodies David Schel and Sharon Tekolian are trying to get Colorado to put an initiative on the November ballot that would require mandatory pre-wedding education before couples could say “I do.”

The proponents, who have chosen lucky Colorado as their first state on which to inflict their scheme, say the intended purpose of the act is to “better prepare individuals going into marriage to fulfill their new roles as spouse and potentially as parent, to furthermore protect children given that marriage is the foundation of a family unit.”…

The California duo’s amendment would require widows and widowers who are remarrying, as well as divorcees, to take the classes. So, let’s get this straight: Millie, age 78, and Sam, 82, met each other after they lost their spouses of nearly 60 years to death. It seems that they, not some therapist certified by the state, could be teaching a class on enduring marriages.

What’s particularly risible about this isn’t the requirement laid upon elderly Millie and Sam above; it’s the idea that a marriage license has any detectable effect in our time. Unilateral no-fault divorce is available to spouses in every state in the Union; therefore, no marriage contract is enforceable against an unconsenting party. More, there is no de facto way to compel a connubially-inclined couple to apply for a marriage license, as no state enforces a law against fornication any longer. More still, “palimony” precedents and parental rights and responsibilities granted to non-spouses as remote as sperm donors have utterly effaced any legal import pertaining to the married state. So what’s the point?

Give that a moment’s thought.

Here’s a piece from Oleg Atbashian that will have you laughing…at first:

Comrades! Much evil has been done by the NRA and gun-toting non-persons who seek to undermine the power and authority of The Party. Indeed, reactionary scum have shot up malls and schools, in clear defiance of posted signs and laws prohibiting murder and weapon possession. The solution of course is simple, and will enhance state security.

All persons shopping at a mall must undergo a strict background check, be issued a shopping license, and demonstrate good cause for entering a mall.

Unlicensed persons will be refused entry to a mall, which will reduce crime, as only licensed shoppers will be inside the mall.

Children will be taken out of schools, and placed in high security education camps, where only authorized persons will be permitted entry and access to The Children.

Parents who cannot secure a visitation permit will not be allowed access to their children until after they graduate.

These common-sense safety measures are needed to end all mall and school shootings across America. After all, if it saves just one life, it’s worth it.

Funny, yes…until you reflect that the reasoning is identical to the reasoning for the imposition of a licensure regime upon any and every human activity that falls into the State’s clutches.

Licensure, when it first appeared, applied to very few things: mainly the practice of medicine and law. The rationale was “the public safety:” the protection of the layman from the quack practitioner of little or no actual skill. That rationale now applies to trades as unthreatening as the braiding of hair.

A case from some years ago, to which I was privy simply as an observer, involved a state official in Massachusetts who entered a unisex hair salon and demanded service. The attendant on duty politely asked if he could wait for the specialist in his sort of hair, who was expected to arrive shortly. When the official saw the attendant give immediate service to a subsequent arrival, he had the state police shut down the salon, invoking the state’s licensure laws for his authority.

Yes, the official was a Negro.

Whether it goes by licensure, permittage, or any other name, the imposition of State selectivity upon the exercise of one’s rights is merely a back-door method for denying those rights. The denial need not be uniform across all persons; indeed, that’s seldom the case. To make a licensure regime palatable, there must be a licensed or “grandfathered” group of practitioners to whom the State can point and say “See! You still have your rights; just do as they do and get a license!” That privileged group acquires an interest in maintaining the regime, especially in those cases where the ability to earn depends upon the possession of a license.

This is not free enterprise as I understand the term. But as bad as that is — and it’s very bad; ask the women who tried to make a living braiding hair and were told they had to acquire expensive cosmetology licenses before they could do so legally — when the rationale can be applied to non-commercial activities and arrangements, it acquires a new magnitude of ominousness.

Do you think I’m exaggerating the danger? Then consider this: the Dishonorable Charles Schumer, ever eager to shove his face in front of a camera or a microphone, has proposed that the federal government fund the provision of tracking devices for autistic children.

We’re already on the way to a licensure regime for parents. Consider the number of cases each year in which “child welfare” workers deprive a parent of his children on the grounds of “the best interests of the child.” Consider how difficult and expensive it is to get such an action reversed. Consider how many such abductions have morphed into prosecutions of the parents, as some “expert” succeeded in eliciting “recovered memories” of abuse from those minor children, unshielded against “expert” manipulation by those who love them.

But Schumer has told American parents that they need have no fear: his bill would make the acquisition and use of his trackers entirely voluntary.

Do you have enough to think about for this morning, Gentle Reader?

On Privacy

I hadn’t intended to write about this, but it seems to have risen to the top of the public agenda.

The activities of the NSA aren’t the only things that have privacy-rights advocates’ hair standing on end. The recent, extremely disturbing case of the harassment of John Filippidis by Maryland police must concern any Second Amendment aficionado. And Peter Grant notes that there are private firms collecting and aggregating publicly available data on Americans to sell as a marketing tool. All in all, it’s a bad time to be a devotee of peace, quiet, and personal privacy.

The problem isn’t that these things are illegal, but that they’re not. Worse, in the case of the private marketing companies, no imaginable law could correct the problem without utterly destroying what remains of freedom in these United States.

We release information about ourselves into the public domain with every step we take.

Smith, walking on a public street, is broadcasting his whereabouts to anyone who cares to take note. Should he enter a shop for a commercial transaction, anyone who recognizes him can quite legally record what he’s purchased, and when, and from whom. (We don’t need to discuss Smith’s use of a credit card, do we?) If he gets into a vehicle and drives away, the make and model of the vehicle, its license plate, and its direction and speed are all easily determined. Plausible inferences about where he’s going and when he’ll get there are easy to draw.

Smith’s interactions with regulated utilities and “common carriers” are recorded as a matter of course. They must be, both by law and for routine purposes of billing and maintenance. That includes gas companies, electric power companies, telephone companies, Internet service providers, and in many locales a number of other firms. Such companies must comply to retain some critical legal privilege, for example the privilege of stringing wires along public roads that nevertheless remain their property.

Then there are Smith’s interactions with governments and governmental bodies. Every time he pays a tax bill, or uses a public library, or communicates with any person who works for a government in any capacity, he cedes information about himself and his activities into the public domain. Very few such interactions are governed by a statute. In some cases, the publication of the resulting information is required by law: for example, the ownership data, lien status, and tax data about a parcel of land.

Unless Smith resolves to remain behind his own locked front door, never communicating nor interacting with anyone else in any way, he can do nothing about this.

I wrote at Eternity Road, nine years ago:

What is privacy? An informal definition would be the privilege of “keeping yourself to yourself”: that is, restricting others’ access to you, to your property, and to information about those things to only those whom you approved. But access to you and your property is covered by another, better grounded right: the right of a legitimate owner to the control and disposition of his property. It’s the informational component of the privacy claim that causes the problems.

If there’s something about you that you don’t want known, and you have a “right” to control the dissemination of that information, how do you exercise your “right” once someone has learned the critical fact? Murder? Lobotomy? Hypnosis? A voodoo curse? If you elect to have an interaction with some other person, and he refuses to agree to keep silent about it, how would you enforce your “right” to privacy and still have the interaction?

As your Curmudgeon has previously written, rights are those claims that can be simultaneously asserted without generating clashes that can only be resolved by a recourse to force (the “test of arms”). As we can see, privacy claims don’t satisfy that criterion.

Those observations and inferences remain as valid as they were in 2004.

It’s ridiculous to blather about whether this is good or bad. It simply is. There’s nothing to be done about it. The measures individuals can take to limit their exposure are relatively few:

  • Pay cash at all times.
  • Don’t buy real estate.
  • Don’t have children.
  • Stay out of the hospital.
  • Communicate face-to-face only.
  • Be discreet about your relationships.
  • For the love of God, don’t apply for a license for anything!
  • Stay home as much as possible.
  • If you must go out, walk.
  • Cultivate taciturnity.

Those are very severe restrictions, particularly in this age of the Internet. Most Americans could go no more than five minutes without violating one of them.

Don’t imagine for a moment that laws could do anything for you beyond what you can do for yourself. Private companies are already subject to the weight of the law, and the law often mandates the very activities privacy-seekers deplore, for reasons that are persuasive if not conclusive. Governments? Please, I’ve already hurt myself once this week from laughing too hard.

The value of studiously collected information, meticulously organized for aggregation and reference, has simply grown too large for any force to countervail it.

As I’ve already said, it doesn’t matter whether you regard this as good or bad. You can do no more about it than you can about the strong nuclear force…assuming you don’t own a really big collider, and that, my friend, would put you on one hell of a lot of lists. These are the times we live in. If they try men’s souls, well, men’s souls exist to be tried, among other things. In earlier, less technologically ramified eras, the trials were simpler and more visible. We who appreciate electronic communication, automobiles, and indoor plumbing wouldn’t much enjoy those times.

Making one’s peace with it is, to some extent, the only way forward.


[This disturbing piece from Daniel Greenfield has prompted me to repost the following, which first appeared at Eternity Road on March 15, 2006 — FWP]

Your Curmudgeon has occasionally referred to tight-knit Islamic communities in majority non-Islamic nations as enclaves. This is in keeping with the dictionary definition of an enclave: an enclosed territory that is culturally distinct from the territory that surrounds it. But it might be self-deluding to do so — not because those Islamic communities are anything but tight-knit and culturally distinct from non-Muslim neighborhoods, but because their full significance might go beyond the connotations of that term.

Chinatowns and Little Italys are typical enclaves in these United States. Such a district has a pronounced cultural flavor, evidenced in such things as restaurants and languages heard on the street, but the residents’ attachment to their culture doesn’t extend into the political realm. They have no interest in replicating the laws and political structures of China or Italy here in America. Culturally they’re Chinese or Italian, but politically they’re Americans. They’ll happily tell you so.

Hearken to Robert Spencer’s report on a conversation he had with an official from the Dutch Ministry of Integration:

Blakeman introduced me to an official of the Dutch Ministry of Integration, who spends her days in dialogue with Dutch imams and other Muslim leaders. We began a wide-ranging discussion about the nature of the jihad threat and the proper response to it. In the course of this I asked her how many Muslim leaders she encountered who were ready to lay aside attachment to the Sharia, accept the Dutch governmental and societal structure and the parameters of Dutch pluralism, and be willing to live in Dutch society as equals to, not superiors of, non-Muslims indefinitely. She told me that there were only very few, but insisted that we had to work with those few, and indeed had to place our faith and hope in them, for otherwise the future was impossibly bleak. I asked her if she had read the Qur’an. She told me no, she hadn’t, and wouldn’t, because she didn’t want to lose all hope — and because whatever was in it, she still had to work to find some accord with the Muslim leaders, no matter what.

I urged her to ask the imams with whom she spoke questions that made their loyalties clear, insofar as they would answer them honestly. I urged her to ask them whether they would like to see Sharia implemented in the Netherlands at any time in the future, and whether they were working toward that end in any way, peaceful as well as violent. I asked her to ask them whether they would be content to live as equals with non-Muslims indefinitely in a Dutch pluralistic society, or whether they would ultimately hope to institute Islamic supremacy and the subjugation of non-Muslims.

She couldn’t ask them those questions, she told me. Such questions would immediately put their relationship on a confrontational plane, when cooperation was what they wanted, not confrontation. But, I sputtered, you’re not getting cooperation as it is. The confrontation is already upon us. What is to be gained by pretending that it isn’t happening?

Clearly, the Dutch official felt she could not ask Spencer’s questions without so provoking the imams that all conversation would cease. Yet the answers to Spencer’s questions are so obviously critical to all possibility of Muslim integration into pluralist Western societies that to declare them unspeakable is to concede ab initio the hopelessness of the integration effort.

If this is indeed the case — and let there be no mistake; your Curmudgeon believes that it is — then the proper way to regard an Islamic bastion within the Netherlands, or anywhere else in the West, is as an exclave: a portion of a country which is separated from the main part and surrounded by politically alien territory.

For a historical contrast that’s both relevant and quite ironic, consider the Christian kingdom of Outremer, established in the Holy Land after the First Crusade. Outremer was an exclave of Christendom, an extension of Christian Europe. It was entirely surrounded by Islamic states, all of which were implacably hostile to it, and which, after some two hundred years, contrived its downfall.

Your Curmudgeon is unaware of any well-formed intention among the Christian nobles who ruled Outremer to expand the kingdom at the expense of the surrounding states. Their mission in the Middle East was to create a safe haven for the many Christians there, who were cruelly oppressed by Islam’s lords, and safe passage for Christian pilgrims to the historic places of the Bible. Granting the barbaric nature of the wars they fought to that end, which were typical of the time, they succeeded in their aim.

Islamic exclaves in Western Europe have quite a different character: an expansionist character. Whether overtly or covertly, they seek to transform the countries that surround them into replicas of themselves. The admissions of the Dutch official narrated above are testimony to that.

Might this also be true of Islamic exclaves in the United States?

Islam is an explicitly political creed; Muslims are commanded to seek political dominion over all the lands of the Earth, and to contrive that Islam be the only religion practiced by anyone — the only acceptable faith. Since it’s among the teachings of Islam that it’s acceptable to lie to “infidels” in the service of Islam, one cannot simply ask a Muslim whether he has this in mind and be satisfied with whatever he says.

It has long been the case that immigrants to these shores were seekers after freedom and opportunity. Indeed, the original Pilgrims came here specifically to escape religious oppression. Because emigration from one’s birthplace and adjustment to a new home in America have been expensive and difficult for most of our history, the process has tended to filter out those whose motives were weak or venal. But given the conditions of our day, both technological and political, that filter might no longer be sufficient. The flood of illegal immigrants that passes our southern border is evidence in that direction, albeit not without some ambiguity.

How could we determine, with confidence, the long-range intentions of Muslims in North America? Were the verdict to be ominous, threatening to the future of the nation, what might we do about it within the framework of American Constitutional law?

The Great Pyramid Of Cheese

[Charles Hill’s brief post on the Velveeta shortage has prompted me to repost the following highly educational article, which first appeared at Eternity Road on March 17, 2007. —FWP]

On one evening not too long ago, a friend of mine, who has an extensive extended family, was dining with most of them. Included were several pre-teens. The bill of fare was, as is common in their not-particularly-pecunious household, macaroni and cheese.

One of the pre-teens commented on how different the entree tasted to him from “real” macaroni and cheese — by which he meant, as pre-teens often do, Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. He contrasted my friend’s wife’s dish unfavorably with the commercial preparation.

An uncle to the clan cleared his throat. “Kevin,” he intoned, “you know I sell cheese, don’t you?” The youngster nodded. “Well, it’s about time you learned about the Great Pyramid of Cheese.” And he told them all about it.

It seems that there are places where they make Cheese. The real stuff, straight from the milk, brimming with the odorific and oleaginous virtues that your narrator has found he cannot renounce. And it is good.

Most of it, anyway. Some wheels of cheese just don’t turn out right. But they’re not thrown away, oh, no. That would be wasteful. They’re sold to factors from other shops, which take them in, and melt them down, and add oil, and chemicals, and further processing, and thereby produce… Cheese Food. Cheese Food is regulated by law to contain no more than 49% non-milk additives, and must not contain any but a specified list of preservatives and artificial flavor enhancers. There are people who eat Cheese Food by choice. There are others who are trying to help them.

But some batches of Cheese Food don’t come out right either, and they’re not thrown away, either. They’re sold to factors from other shops, which take them in, and melt them down, and add oil, and chemicals, and further processing, and thereby produce… Process Pasteurized Cheese Food. PPCF is the step down from Cheese Food, and may contain up to 70% non-milk additives, plus a much wider range of flavor and color enhancers, and preservatives that guarantee that it will not spoil over the three months between your toddler’s two demands for a grilled cheese sandwich right now, mom!

And not all of this is saleable, either, but (you guessed it) it’s not thrown away just for that. The rejected barrels are sold to factors from other shops, which take them in, and melt them down, and add oil, and chemicals, and further processing, and thereby produce… Process Pasteurized Cheese Food Substance. PPCFS may contain up to 82% non-milk additives. The flavor and color are almost entirely chemically produced, and the preservatives in it are reputed to be stronger than formaldehyde. Velveeta was once PPCFS, but has moved up the pyramid to Level 3 (PPCF). Cheez Whiz is PPCFS. A number of people have drawn images of the Blessed Virgin on their basement walls with PPCFS from spray cans, and have made quite a lot of money.

But… that’s right. Some of it doesn’t meet the standards for retail-saleable PPCFS. The rejected barrels are sold to factors from other shops, which take them in, and melt them down, and add oil, and chemicals, and further processing, and thereby produce…

Well, it doesn’t really have a name, and it doesn’t need one, either, because all of it is consumed by a single company.

“And Kevin,” the uncle rumbled, “would you like to guess what that company is?”

Little Kevin swallowed and shook his head.

“It’s the Kraft Company, Kevin.”

And I, who have set this tale down for you, have checked it in all particulars, and every word of it is true. And I’m told that little Kevin no longer asks for Kraft Macaroni And Cheese, either.

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