I recently finished reading Tyrants: A History of Power, Injustice, and Terror, by Walter R. Newell, and I highly recommend it to the student of history. Newell takes the reader on a curated journey through the history of Western tyranny (with the occasional detour to the East), treating in turn the ancient world, the birth of the modern state, and the revolutionary terror that that has reared its ugly head ever since the French Revolution. Along the way, Newell identifies three primary types of tyrants: the garden variety, the reformer, and (most salient of all) the millenarian.
The garden-variety tyrant is what perhaps springs immediately to mind when most people think of a tyrant: a ruler who wields absolute (or near-absolute) power for his own benefit, caring only about the good of the nation insofar as it contributes to his personal schemes. Examples include tyrants of early Greece (though some of these were perhaps constrained by the knowledge that ambitious fellow chieftains might try to dethrone them should they rule too immoderately), and some of the Roman emperors.
These days, America is storm-tossed by endless political debate, the 24-hour news cycle, haranguing, and even physical combat over Trump’s government. I wonder why people don’t want to calm down? Trump has done nothing to harass U.S. citizens. Sure, he’s ramped up deportations of illegal aliens, but these are not citizens nor individuals endowed with constitutional rights. The threat of two wars may be looming–“may be” are the operative words. But, ach, why does anyone put themselves through such an aggravating and inconclusive thing as politics?
A clear thinker would point out that a community’s common good is the goal for any true politician. He strives to implement policies intended for the general welfare, public order, moral behavior (as much as the law can prudently enforce), and the defense of life, liberty, and property. Many competing avenues exist on to how to produce the public good, which we see in schools of philosophy and economics: Austrian Economics, conservatism, liberalism, socialism, capitalism, capitalism, communism, fascism, Islam, monarchy, constitutionalism, democracy, etc. All these modes claim to effect the best possible society.
Those of you who follow this blog know that I’ve previously reviewed Kindly Inquisitors: New Attacks on Free Thought by Jonathan Rauch. Rauch was very concerned that Progressive Liberalism, aka Marxism, with its ideas of political correctness and hate speech codes was the greatest threat to freedom of speech in the West. Liberals promote political correctness in the name of not offending people (the humanitarian angle), but they also have prescribed ideas of what accounts as offensive dialogue and refuse to admit ideas or topics which run against their political ideology (fundamentalism). Hence, if you combine these two factors, one rightly dubs them “Humanitarian Fundamentalists.” Their philosophy is no less dangerous to free debate than Islamic fundamentalism or other kinds of religious fundamentalism.
Note that Rauch’s subtitle goes deeper than freedom of speech. The title calls out “New Attacks on Free Thought.” Words express ideas. If one cannot speak the words, the ideas attached to these unspoken words die a slow death. What good is a Christian who refuses to show his faith to others for fear of his peers’ opinion? A person who will not speak of his faith in times of peace will not defend it in times of persecution. Political correctness with its litany of sins (sexism, racism, xenophobia, transphobia, homophobia, Islamophobia, etc.) tries to prevent people from voicing legitimate concerns when dialogue sheers away from mindless equality. The very fact that there are men and women, different races, different cultures, different expressions of sexuality, and different religions implies inequality. If all was the same, why would we have names to mark distinctions?
I recently discovered that the term “new KKK” has been applied to Black Lives Matter. That’s a valid jibe against an organization which has instigated riots, but the term could more aptly apply to Anti-Fascist Action and the other violent protesters of recent weeks. After all, Antifa goes around wearing black clothing and masks. How would they look if they wore white instead? Perhaps a change of color would help the Democratic party understand the viciousness and illegitimacy of Anti-Fascist Action–despite its noble sounding name. (Sort of like how all the most oppressive countries refer to themselves as “Democratic People’s Republics.”)
One has not heard more than a peep from liberals condemning the protests at UC Berkeley. (That peep comes from Peter Beinart of The Atlantic.) One cannot help but be reminded of the silence and denials of Southern Democrats concerning the KKK during Reconstruction. Antifa deserves to be called “the Invisible Empire” every bit as much as the KKK. Worse, we’ve experienced riots and violent protests from the left frequently over the past three years; yet the Democratic hierarchy and their Leftist media are more than willing to justify groups like Black Lives Matter and Anti-Fascism Action and to place the blame on the Alt-Right or conservatives for expressing their opinions. After a similar length of time, the hierarchy of the Old South had become disturbed with the KKK and been convinced that it was a liability. And so, Nathan Bedford Forrest disbanded the KKK in Tennessee (the organization’s birthplace) during the fall of 1869 with other states following suit over the next several years. It would not rise again until Woodrow Wilson’s administration, and this time in a more prejudiced and sinister form.
One wonders whether there exists a more succinct and lucid summary of Winston Churchill’s political thought than Larry P. Arnn’s Churchill’s Trial. Significant time has passed between my reading this book and writing my thoughts here. One simply cannot do justice to all the ideas contained therein in the space of a short essay. Only Arnn’s long study of Churchill has allowed him to compress so much of his thought into a single volume. It might be compared to Douglass Southall Freeman cutting back Lee’s biography from seven volumes to two or James Thomas Flexner condensing four volumes of Washington into one. Indeed, cutting down Churchill’s thought into a single volume might be an even greater feat, because few modern statesmen have written so much (over forty books, thousands of articles and speeches, and two film scripts) or had so much written about them.
The primary thrust of the book concerns Churchill’s defense of constitutional government and liberty against the forces which tried to undermine it. Socialists, communists, and fascists count as his primary opponents. The last two were the overt foes Churchill fought in World War II and during the Cold War. The first foe Churchill constantly combated within his own country. Socialism stood as the most pernicious, slowly stripping away liberty from the British people in exchange for government aid as appointed bureaucrats gained more power to rule over the British people. The citizens held no control over these bureaucrats, and such officials could reinterpret laws or create regulations free from the check of the ballot box.
Few books are as relevant to the current state of political discourse than Jonathan Rauch’s Kindly Inquisitors: New Attacks on Free Speech. When Rauch wrote this book, he worked as an economic journalist, and as early as 1993 he saw the origins of various attacks of freedom of expression which are now full blown. The philosophies opposing free speech are the following:
- Fundamentalism – one side has all authority behind it
- Egalitarianism – all ideas and opinions have equal merit
- Weighted Egalitarianism – certain groups have more privileges than others in expressing their ideas
- Humanitarianism – people have the right to not be offended by ideas and opinions
The above concepts differ from one or more of the principles of what Rauch calls liberal science:
- Ideas and opinions are fallible.
- No one has special authority.
- Everyone has the right to express their ideas–good or bad/innocent or offensive–publicly.
- People reach the truth through debate and forming a consensus.
The more I think about my vote for Trump, the more I realize that my vote is less for the man Trump than against the Democratic or Progressive ideology. In this two party system we have here in America, where only a vote for a Democrat or a Republican truly matters, I find myself stuck on the Republican side, even though I do not have that much respect for the Republican party. I have respect for particular Republicans, but not the stupid and cowardly Republican politician who is the staple figure within it. Most Republican candidates merely want to keep their jobs and do so by trying to appeal to the right and as many independents as possible. They can never be counted to stand on principle and are all too willing to compromise in ways they should not. When it comes to standing on principle, Democratic politicians are often more admirable.
My political persuasion is determined by my Catholic faith and desire to preserve American liberty. The Democrats, like the Socialists and Communists who are their brothers in arms, have a deep disdain and hatred for the Catholic faith. States like California have tried to imitate Socialists in other countries by declaring parts of Catholic doctrine “hate speech.” I cannot abide a party whose platform endorses abortion, euthanasia, and gender insanity. (God created two biological sexes. Sure, people differ in degree as to masculinity and femininity, but an effeminate man is no more a woman than a tomboy is a man.) I verily believe that Progressive intellectuals and political leaders are more motivated by hatred of of Christ and of God’s laws than by any other cause.