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A Program for Every Problem


from George Will in The Washington Post, The danger of a government with unlimited power

Lack of “a limiting principle” is the essence of progressivism, according to William Voegeli, contributing editor of the Claremont Review of Books, in his new book “Never Enough: America’s Limitless Welfare State.” The Founders, he writes, believed that free government’s purpose, and the threats to it, are found in nature. The threats are desires for untrammeled power, desires which, Madison said, are “sown in the nature of man.” Government’s limited purpose is to protect the exercise of natural rights that pre-exist government, rights that human reason can ascertain in unchanging principles of conduct and that are essential to the pursuit of happiness.

Wilsonian progressives believe that History is a proper noun, an autonomous thing. It, rather than nature, defines government’s ever-evolving and unlimited purposes. Government exists to dispense an ever-expanding menu of rights — entitlements that serve an open-ended understanding of material and even spiritual well-being.

The name “progressivism” implies criticism of the Founding, which we leave behind as we make progress. And the name is tautological: History is progressive because progress is defined as whatever History produces. History guarantees what the Supreme Court has called “evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society.”

The cheerful assumption is that “evolving” must mean “improving.” Progressivism’s promise is a program for every problem, and progressivism’s premise is that every unfulfilled desire is a problem.

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Similarities Between Nazis and Commies


From The Telegraph, Leftists become incandescent when reminded of the socialist roots of Nazism by Daniel Hannan

Marx’s error, Hitler believed, had been to foster class war instead of national unity – to set workers against industrialists instead of conscripting both groups into a corporatist order. His aim, he told his economic adviser, Otto Wagener, was to “convert the German Volk to socialism without simply killing off the old individualists” – by which he meant the bankers and factory owners who could, he thought, serve socialism better by generating revenue for the state. “What Marxism, Leninism and Stalinism failed to accomplish,” he told Wagener, “we shall be in a position to achieve.”

The idea that Nazism is a more extreme form of conservatism has insinuated its way into popular culture. You hear it, not only when spotty students yell “fascist” at Tories, but when pundits talk of revolutionary anti-capitalist parties, such as the BNP and Golden Dawn, as “far Right”.

What is it based on, this connection? Little beyond a jejune sense that Left-wing means compassionate and Right-wing means nasty and fascists are nasty. When written down like that, the notion sounds idiotic, but think of the groups around the world that the BBC, for example, calls “Right-wing”: the Taliban, who want communal ownership of goods; the Iranian revolutionaries, who abolished the monarchy, seized industries and destroyed the middle class; Vladimir Zhirinovsky, who pined for Stalinism. The “Nazis-were-far-Right” shtick is a symptom of the wider notion that “Right-wing” is a synonym for “baddie”.

In fact, authoritarianism was the common feature of socialists of both National and Leninist varieties, who rushed to stick each other in prison camps or before firing squads. Each faction loathed the other as heretical, but both scorned free-market individualists as beyond redemption. Their battle was all the fiercer, as Hayek pointed out in 1944, because it was a battle between brothers.

Authoritarianism – or, to give it a less loaded name, the belief that state compulsion is justified in pursuit of a higher goal, such as scientific progress or greater equality – was traditionally a characteristic of the social democrats as much as of the revolutionaries.

Jonah Goldberg has chronicled the phenomenon at length in his magnum opus, Liberal Fascism. Lots of people take offence at his title, evidently without reading the book since, in the first few pages, Jonah reveals that the phrase is not his own. He is quoting that impeccable progressive H.G. Wells who, in 1932, told the Young Liberals that they must become “liberal fascists” and “enlightened Nazis”.

In those days, most prominent Leftists intellectuals, including Wells, Jack London, Havelock Ellis and the Webbs, tended to favour eugenics, convinced that only religious hang-ups were holding back the development of a healthier species. The unapologetic way in which they spelt out the consequences have, like Hitler’s actual words, been largely edited from our discourse. Here, for example, is George Bernard Shaw in 1933:

Extermination must be put on a scientific basis if it is ever to be carried out humanely and apologetically as well as thoroughly… If we desire a certain type of civilization and culture we must exterminate the sort of people who do not fit into it.

Eugenics, of course, topples easily into racism. Engels himself wrote of the “racial trash” – the groups who would necessarily be supplanted as scientific socialism came into its own. Season this outlook with a sprinkling of anti-capitalism and you often got Leftist anti-Semitism – something else we have edited from our memory, but which once went without saying. “How, as a socialist, can you not be an anti-Semite?” Hitler had asked his party members in 1920.

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Paranoid Explanations of Human Behavior


A few excerpts from Paul Johnson’s Modern Times, The World from the Twenties to the Nineties:

“History shows us the truly amazing extent to which intelligent, well-informed and resolute men, in the pursuit of economy or in altruistic passion for disarmament, will delude themselves about realities.” 

“Like Lenin and still more like Stalin, he (Hitler) was an outstanding practitioner of the century’s most radical vice: social engineering- the notion that human beings can be shoveled around like concrete.”

“Christianity was content with a solitary hate-figure to explain evil: Satin. But modern secular religion faiths needed human devils, and whole categories of them. The enemy, to be plausible, had to be an entire class or race. Marx’s invention of the ‘bourgeoisie’ was the most comprehensive of these hate-theories and it continued to provide a foundation for all paranoid revolutionary movements… Lenin used the slogan that ‘Anti-Semitism is the socialism of fools’.  Lenin was saying that it was the entire bourgeoisie, not just Jewry, which was to blame for the ills of mankind. And it is significant that all Marxist regimes, based as they are on paranoid explanations of human behavior, degenerate sooner or later into anti-Semitism.  The new anti-Semitism, in short, was part of the sinister drift away from the apportionment of individual responsibility toward the notion of collective guilt- the revival, in modern guise, of one of the most primitive and barbarous, even bestial, of instincts.”

“Neitzsche, always on the lookout for secular, pseudo-rational substitutes for genuine religious impulse,  …denounced these latest speculators in idealism, the anti-Semites.. who endeavor to stir up all the bovine elements of the nations by a misuse of that cheapest of propaganda tricks, a moral attitude.”


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The Origins of the League of Nations


The common belief in our history is that President Woodrow Wilson championed the concept of the League of Nations and it failed at the hands of his Republican adversaries who leaned toward isolationism.  Historian Paul Johnson in his history of the 20th century, Modern Times,  adds depth and maybe accuracy to the controversy.

The League was the brain child of two eccentric Brits; a religious Walter Phillimore and Lord Robert Cecil, a pacifist.  The British military and diplomatic experts disliked the idea believing it would create a false sense of security and be used to disarm in the face of growing dangers. Such a treaty would still require military force to assure its compliance.

The French wanted something like NATO, a regional defensive alliance, and like the British were tepid toward the league.  They considered a universal alliance in which all power belonged regardless of their record, and which guaranteed all frontiers regardless of their merits to be nonsense.

Senator Cabot Lodge, the Republican adversary to Wilson’s push for the League, shared this skepticism.  Not an isolationist he shared the concern for mutual security, and felt that the nations were unlikely to go to war to enforce the League’s decisions.  Cabot supported the Treaty but held reservations about the League and Wilson who pushed the League with a messianic religious zeal refused to compromise on the project, dooming it irreparably.

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Required Ruthlessness

“What I have argued in this book, and what the British experience convinces me even more to be true, is that the unforeseen but inevitable consequences of socialist planning create a state of affairs in which, if the policy is to be pursued, totalitarian forces will get the upper hand. I explicitly stress that “socialism can be put into practice only by methods of which most socialists disapprove” and even add that in this “the old socialist parties were inhibited by their democratic ideals” and that “they did not possess the ruthlessness required for the performance of their chosen task.”

Excerpt From: F. A. Hayek. “The Road to Serfdom.” University of Chicago Press, 2010-04-06. iBooks.
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