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At the Intersection of Faith and Culture

At the Intersection of Faith and Culture

An Honest Assessment of Neoconservatism

posted by Jack Kerwick

Given that Republicans will select their presidential nominee before we know it, and given that three of the four candidates in the GOP field are neoconservatives, it would behoove us to revisit neoconservatism. 

By looking at specific thinkers widely recognized as representatives of neoconservatism, we will soon see that far from being an “anti-Semitic” or any other kind of pejorative, and far from being but the latest version of conservatism, neoconservatism is a distinct intellectual tradition.  Moreover, it is an intellectual tradition that embodies theories of knowledge, morality, and political philosophy that are not only different from but incompatible with those constituting conservative thought. 

Neoconservatism

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Leo Strauss

It seems that no conversation of the theoretical trappings of neoconservatism is devoid of reference to Leo Strauss.  Unfortunately, rare are those analyzes of the relationship between Strauss’s thought and the neoconservative vision that accurately encapsulate just how the former supplied philosophical inspiration for the latter.  More importantly, while Strauss has exerted a formative influence over neoconservative thought, he is hardly the sole or primary influence that he is typically made out to be.  In fact, he himself gave expression to a much older tradition.  

This tradition is what we may refer to, for lack of a better term, as “rationalism.”    

Like any other philosophical vantage point, there is no exhaustive set of terms in which to define rationalism.  It admits of multiple variations.  However, in all of its versions, rationalism affirms a robust conception of human reason.  At the very least, reason, from this perspective, is trans-historical: ultimately, it transcends the contingencies of place and time.  Reason has access to “principles”—moral principles—that are just as universal and timeless as reason itself.  And in accordance with these principles, reason is capable of organizing whole societies.

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Although Strauss styled himself an opponent of modern or Enlightenment rationalism, that he was a rationalist, albeit of pre-modern sort, is something that he expressly admits.  In fact, it was precisely in his critique of conservatives like Edmund Burke that his affinity for rationalism becomes unmistakable.  

In Natural Right and History, Strauss remarks that Burke—widely recognized as “the patron saint of modern conservatism”—may have been correct in opposing “modern ‘rationalism,’” Strauss claims.  But insofar as his opposition “shifts almost insensibly into an opposition to ‘rationalism’ as such,” Burke goes awry (313). 

Burke is among the most eminent champions of what Strauss refers to as “the historical school.”  Classical or traditional conservatives like Burke resolutely eschew rationalistic theories according to which reason and morality are dislodged from the flow of history.  Rather, they tend to prefer more historically and culturally-sensitive approaches.  Put more simply, conservative theorists have been partial to tradition-centered treatments of reason and ethics.  For this, Strauss refers to them as members of “the historical school.”

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To his credit, though, Strauss recognizes the legitimacy of their aversion to rationalism.

“Yet the founders of the historical school seemed to have realized somehow that the acceptance of any universal or abstract principles has necessarily a revolutionary, disturbing, unsettling effect as far as thought is concerned [.]” 

The problem with recognizing “universal” and “abstract” principles is that such recognition “forces man to judge the established order, or what is actual here and now, in the light of the natural or rational order; and what is actual here and now is more likely than not to fall short of the universal and unchangeable norm” (13 emphases mine).

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In summary:

“The recognition of universal principles thus tends to prevent men from wholeheartedly identifying themselves with, or accepting, the social order that fate has allotted them.  It tends to alienate them from their place on the earth.  It tends to make them strangers, and even strangers on the earth” (12-13 emphasis mine).

In rejecting rationalistic conceptions of reason and morality, Burke and the conservative theorists who he inspired are guilty of ushering in “a certain depreciation of reason.”  Their skepticism concerning reason’s pretensions is most readily revealed in Burke’s view of a constitution.  Burke—incorrectly, according to Strauss—“rejects the view that constitutions can be ‘made’ in favor of the view that they must ‘grow’,” and he rejects “in particular the view that the best social order can be or ought to be the work of an individual, of a wise ‘legislator’ or founder” (313).       

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So, for Strauss, reason is trans-cultural or trans-historical, and it consists of moral principles that are just as universal and independent of the contingencies of place and time.  In accordance with these principles, human reason is capable of “making” whole societies.  Burke and the conservatives who followed him unequivocally reject these notions. 

Neoconservatives, we will now see, clearly back Strauss over Burke.

Allan Bloom  

Allan Bloom was a student of Strauss’s.  Bloom is also associated with neoconservatism.  Like Strauss, Bloom has a penchant for the abstract and universal over the concrete and particular. 

In his, The Closing of the American Mind, Bloom describes the United States as a country rooted in “the use of the rational principles of natural right,” for America promises “untrammeled freedom to reason” (39 emphasis mine) [.]  The Declaration of Independence embodies “principles” that demand liberation from “the kinds of attachments” characteristic of “traditional communities [.]” American patriotism, in contrast, consists in a “reflected, rational, calm, even self-interested loyalty,” not to America as such, but to its “form of government and its rational principles [.]”  Considered in the light of “natural rights,” “class, race, religion, national origin or culture all disappear or become dim” (27 emphases mine) [.]

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Bloom’s rationalistic perspective on reason and morality lead him to precisely that view that distinguishes neoconservatism as the particular species of Enlightenment rationalism that it is.  There will not be peace in the world, Bloom insists, until every country has embraced “the best of modern regimes—liberal democracy [.]”  What Bloom calls “liberal democracy” is “the regime of equality and liberty, of the rights of man,” and “the regime of reason” (259 emphases mine).   Liberal democracies are populated by men (and women) of “rational principles” (53emphasis mine).  The inhabitants of liberal democracies would never think to go to war with one another “because they see the same human nature and the same rights applicable everywhere and to everyone” (202 emphasis mine). 

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Other Neoconservatives

Douglas Murray’s book, Neoconservatism: Why We Need It?  is as clear and comprehensive an apology for neoconservatism as any of which I am aware.Murray acknowledges the debt that neoconservatism owes to the likes of Strauss and Bloom, and he elaborates upon the cardinal tenets of the neoconservative persuasion.

Neoconservatives, Murray explains, not only hold “liberal democracy” to be the best form of government; they are convinced that world peace promises to be forever elusive until every country becomes a liberal democracy. Murraywrites that “democracy is the desirable endpoint of all human societies [.]”  Although it cannot alone “make people good, it is the surest means of preventing nation-states [from] waging war on one another.”  This position, Murray declares, has “become part of the neoconservative DNA (68) [.]”

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Neoconservatism and classical conservatism are eons apart.  On this, Murray couldn’t be more decisive.  In fact, he tells us that “socially, economically, and philosophically,” neoconservatism offers “something very different from conservatism [.]”  Neoconservatism offers “revolutionary conservatism” (38 emphasis mine). 

It is “revolutionary” primarily because of its recognition that the United States government cannot rest until the planet becomes an oasis of “liberal democracy.”  Murray approvingly summarizes the founding Statement of Principles of The Project for the New American Century.  The “signatories,” he writes, “declared that the use of American power had been repeatedly shown over the previous century to be a force for good.” Thus, it must remain such throughout the next century.  By executing its “global responsibilities” via increases in “defense spending”; strengthening its “ties with its democratic allies”; challenging “regimes hostile to American interests and values;” and promoting “the cause of ‘political and economic freedom abroad,” (82-83) America will spend the 21st century “erasing tyrannies and spreading democracy” through “interventionism, nation-building, and many of the other difficulties that had long concerned traditional conservatives” (73 emphasis mine).

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That neoconservative foreign policy is inextricably linked to its rationalistic notions of reason and morality should by now be clear.  But in case it isn’t, there are other neoconservatives to whom we can turn who dispel all doubts.

Bill Bennett is one such figure.  In Why We Fight: Moral Clarity and the War on Terrorism, Bennett expresses his belief that America must be a force for good in the world.  More specifically, he refers to “the War on Terror” as a “war over ultimate and uncompromisable purposes, a war to the finish.” This is “a war about good and evil” (45). 

More people would be capable of recognizing this if more people today had been educated to grasp “the superior goodness of the American way of life,” (46) a goodness that consists in a “steadfast devotion to the ideals of freedom and equality” (emphasis mine). These ideals in turn are inseparable from “the self-evident truth that all men are created equal,” a basic principle to which America is the first country in all of history to be “dedicated [.]” America is “a country tied together in loyalty to a principle” whose “universality…caught fire (26) [.]” 

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Neoconservative Walter Berns seconds this view.  In Making Patriots, he says that Americans derive their identity not “from where we were born but, rather,” from “our attachment to those principles of government, namely, that all men are created equal insofar as they are equally endowed by nature’s God with the unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness (50) [.]” 

Berns asserts that American patriotism “is not a parochial patriotism,” for it “comprises an attachment to principles that are universal,” (8) principles to which “any people might subscribe (5) [.]”  For this reason, “to be indifferent, especially to the rights of others, would be un-American” (8 emphasis mine).     

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The logic of this reasoning is inescapable: if it is “un-American” for Americans to be “indifferent” to “the rights of others,” then insofar as much of the world still lives under undemocratic governments, “the rights” of most of the world’s people are constantly under assault.  Hence, American “patriotism” requires that we incessantly intervene in the affairs of other countries until we remake them into “liberal democracies.” 

Conclusion

Neoconservatism is fundamentally different from conservatism proper.  The former affirms rationalistic conceptions of reason, morality, and political philosophy that the latter rejects.  For neoconservatives, reason consists of universal, abstract moral principles in accordance with which societies everywhere must be organized.  For conservatives, in glaring contrast, reason and morality are embodied in culturally and historically-specific traditions.

Jack Kerwick, Ph.D.

originally published at The New American

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The Republican Media, Ron Paul, and I

posted by Jack Kerwick

I recently submitted what I took to be a spirited defense of Ron Paul to a well regarded right-leaning publication—that is to say, a publication that is widely esteemed by more than a few establishment neoconservative Republican pundits.  It was rejected. 

In what follows, I relay both the essentials of my argument as well as my latest experience with its editors.  I welcome any feedback from readers—including feedback that is critical: if I am wrong, please call me out on it.  I only ask that you supply reasons for your assessment.

The Argumentative Strategy

Identify distortions; State Paul’s positions; Identify contradictions in his critics

In my article—“Setting the Record Straight on Ron Paul”—I pursue a simple, three prong strategy.  Courtesy of his Republican detractors, the political horizon is replete with gross distortions of Dr. Paul’s positions.  I expose these distortions for what they are.  Next, I reiterate what Paul has actually said on the issues.  Finally, I show that by their own standards, Paul’s enemies contradict themselves.

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The Strategy in Action

Paul on Domestic Policy

For example, Paul’s Republican rivals inexhaustibly tell us that the Texas Congressman wants to “legalize” drugs, prostitution, and so-called “same sex marriage.”  As anyone who has actually listened to Paul knows all too well, this is not his position.  Rather, it is an end to the federal government’s intervention on behalf of these issues that he seeks.  Paul, that is, believes it is unconstitutional for the federal government to either criminalize or legalize any of these activities.  I observe that by the standards that his critics judge him, they convict themselves.   Familiarity with elementary logic reveals in no time just how inescapable is this verdict. 

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Paul insists that the federal government has no constitutional authority to speak to the issues of drugs, prostitution, and “same sex marriage.”  He believes that these are issues best left to the states to determine.  Because of this, his rivals claim that he favors their legalization.  But when it comes to, say, the hot button issue of abortion, these same Republicans—virtually all of them—are just as ready to invoke federalism as is Paul.  It is the states, not the federal government, that has constitutional authority to address abortion, they claim.  By their own reasoning, though, there is no way to circumvent the conclusion that they, then, must favor the legalization of abortion

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Such Republicans, I note, are either incapable of adhering to this most fundamental logical demand of consistency or else they are unwilling to do so.  Thus, they are either intellectually or morally confused.  Perhaps they are both.

Foreign Policy and Islamic Terrorism

Ron Paul’s vision of terrorism generally and the 9/11 attacks specifically is another issue that I address by way of this same argumentative strategy. 

Paul’s nemeses repeatedly claim that he “blames” America for the Islamic violence that has been perpetrated against Americans.  This is their distortion of Paul’s position.  In reality, Paul has “blamed” no one, short of the terrorists themselves.  After all, he did vote in favor of military action against the Taliban in the days following the attacks of September 11, 2001.  Least of all can he be said to have ever “blamed” America

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“Blame” is a concept located within the universe of moral discourse.  Along with its complement term, “praise,” “blame” belongs to the language of justification.  Paul, in sharp contrast, is concerned with supplying an explanation when he addresses the topic of Islamic terrorism and 9/11.  In other words, he seeks to justify nothing. 

The distinction between explanatory and justificatory modes of discourse is another species of elementary logic.  Again, that Paul’s enemies do not recognize what every college freshmen enrolled in an introductory logic course is expected to recognize renders it impossible to avoid the conclusion that they are either cognitively or morally impoverished—or perhaps a little (or a lot) of both.

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However, I continued, let’s just say that Paul is looking to assign blame when he speaks of Islamic terrorism.  According to Paul, the actions that invite Islamic violence are not those of America; they are the actions of the federal government.  Surely Republicans, of all people, can understand that to “blame” the federal government for this or that is most certainly not equivalent to blaming America.  Think about it: it is Republicans, both politicians and pundits, who tirelessly rail against the federal government.  It was Ronald Reagan—a man who counts for no small amount of importance among Republicans—who famously said that (the federal) government is not “the solution” to our problems; all too often it is the problem itself.  Does this mean that Reagan was essentially saying that America is the problem?

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If Paul is guilty of bashing “America” because of his observation—one shared by, among other sources, The 9/11 Commission and the Central Intelligence Agency, including the CIA’s Michael Scheuer, who presided over its Osama bin Laden unit for 22 years—that our federal government’s foreign policy provoked this “blowback” phenomenon, then every Republican who criticizes the federal government for anything and everything is equally guilty of bashing America.

Paulophobic Republicans, once more, are inconsistent.  But because of the glaring nature of this inconsistency, it is hard to imagine that they aren’t being dishonest.

Foreign Policy and Foreign Aid

Finally, I looked at the topic of foreign aid andIsrael. 

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Paul’s opponents state that he is no friend of Israel.  Why?  Paul, you see, wants to eliminate all foreign aid—which obviously includes foreign aid toIsrael.

Paul opposes foreign aid for the same reason that he opposes all redistributive schemes: it is a redistributive scheme.  But among the various forms of government welfare that prevail in our country, foreign aid is arguably the most egregious, for it requires that the United States government compel its own citizens—the vast majority of whom are not affluent—to part with their resources so as to subsidize the wealthy office holders of the governments of other countries. 

Yet he objects to foreign aid on another ground: the subsidization of other governments makes those governments forever dependent upon those governments that subsidize them. That is, the sovereignty of a nation is compromised inasmuch as it is beholden to another. 

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Now, there may be cogent reasons for why Paul may be mistaken as to what being a good ally of Israel(or any other nation) entails.   But it is only ill faith that can account for why his Republican objectors would charge him with being “anti-Israel,” for Paul’s view is that a true champion of Israel(or any other nation) is one who seeks her independence.  By calling for an end to foreign aid, it is exactly this for which he calls.

When we consider that it is Republicans who charge Democrats with “racism” for allegedly desiring to keep blacks dependent upon Big Government, one would think that Republicans more so than anyone else would sympathize would Paul on this topic.  Yet again, Paul’s Republican enemies contradict themselves: if Paul is “anti-Israel” or “anti-Semitic” because of his desire to liberate Israel from its dependence upon Big Government, then it is Republicans, not Democrats, who are “racist” because of their desire to liberate blacks from their dependence upon Big Government.   If, on the other hand, such Republicans insist that respect for persons requires that we affirm their autonomy or independence, then insofar as they want to keepIsrael dependent upon the American government, it is his Republican detractors, not Paul himself, who are the real “anti-Semites.” 

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The Editor’s Remarks and My Response

These are the arguments that I made in my article. The editor of this reputable publication rejected it as a “non-starter.”  In an unusually long email, he claimed to be “shocked” and “stunned” that I would accuse his publication of furthering distortions and lies concerning Paul.  He then pointed out that while he has published anti-Paul pieces, he has also published critical pieces of all of the Republican presidential contenders.

Although he spent most of his time defending his publication against my charges, he managed to criticize my piece for its lack of “objectivity” and its “emotionalism.”  Because I didn’t “cite” a single source, what I submitted was merely my “opinion” of what Ron Paul has said—nothing more. 

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The editor’s comments call for several responses.

First, it is worth noting that not once did he question either the substance or the logic of my arguments.  Nor could he, for, in my humble judgment, the substance was true and the logic impeccable. 

Second, it is true that I did not cite any sources.  Yet it is equally true that most articles written in this venue, including no inconsiderable number of anti-Paul essays that had been published at this specific publication, are typically devoid of citations.  Besides, those of Paul’s positions to which I spoke are public knowledge: everyone knows what he says about the federal government and its role vis-à-vis drugs, prostitution, and marriage, and everyone knows what he thinks about foreign aid.  We are also all too familiar with his opponents’ criticisms.

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Third, this publication has, to its credit, published a couple of defenses of Paul.  And yes, it has indeed published articles taking some of the other candidates to task.  But, first of all, for every one pro-Paul piece there have been numerous critiques.  This in and by itself is fair enough.  What is most unfair, though, is the nature of these critiques.  In fact, they can’t really be said to be critiques at all.  They are, rather, the standard diet of character attacks that we have come to expect from the Republican-dominated media: Paul is “insane,” “nutzo,” and “mad.”  He is a “conspiracy monger” and an “anti-Semite” who “blames the Jews” for Islamic attacks against theUnited States.  Paul is a “racist,” a “bigot,” and a “crackpot,” someone who is little better than “an apologist for the KKK!”  No other candidate comes close to suffering this same abuse. 

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Fourth, the editor determines that my defense of Paul isn’t “worthy” of his publication because it is not “objective.”  At the same time, he permits the foregoing trash to make it to print.

Finally, there appears to be some confusion as to the meaning of “objectivity.”  This is pardonable, for fewer words have been as mired in ambiguity as this one.  If by “objective” we mean non-partisan and/or dispassionate, then I confess that my argument on Paul’s behalf was resolutely non-objective.  At the same time, no argument fits this description of objectivity.  If, though, an objective analysis is one that is supported by reasons that are at once true and that answer to the universal requirement of logical consistency, then my defense was most certainly objective. 

Conclusion and a Call for Feedback

At least this is the case as far as I can tell.  Any readers who think that perhaps I have overreacted, as the editor accuses me of doing, or who have any other thoughts about this little episode, please, let me know.

Jack Kerwick, Ph.D.

originally published at The New American

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Would Newt, Mitt, and Rick vote for Ron?

posted by Jack Kerwick

When Republicans had one of their debates in Florida, moderator Brian Williams asked Congressman Ron Paul whether he would endorse Newt Gingrich in the event that the former Speaker of the House won his party’s nomination.  Indicating that, at the very least, he wouldn’t rule out the possibility altogether, Paul was more than a bit gracious.  Nowadays, Gingrich speaks somewhat sensibly on economic matters, Paul implied, but his foreign policy vision leaves much to be desired.

I confess, I wished that the good doctor would not have been so accommodating.

I would have loved to have heard Paul say something along the following lines:

“Brian, you yourself just acknowledged that, unlike Governor Romney, Senator Santorum, and Speaker Gingrich, I not only have a solid and ever growing base of grassroots supporters, but a base composed in no small measure of youthful voters whose passion and commitment is unsurpassed.  There has been no other candidate in this race from the outset—for that matter, no other politician in all of Washington D.C.—who has succeeded in energizing citizens from across the political spectrum and every walk of life as I have managed to do.  Republicans, Democrats, and Independents; conservatives, liberals, libertarians, and moderates; college students, Wall Street ‘occupiers,’ and active military personnel; Hollywood actors, like Vince Vaughn, and 22 year CIA veteran and one-time head of the Osama bin Laden unit Michael Scheuer;  Christians, Jews, and atheists; blacks, Hispanics, and whites;  my supporters hail from all across the land. 

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“Polls show that in a head-to-head match up with President Obama, I do as well as Mitt Romney and significantly better than Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum.  In fact, these same polls show that I do better than all of the candidates—including President Obama—among those voters without whom no general election can be won: independents. 

“The question that should be asked is this: Would Newt or, for that matter, any other candidate, endorse me should I get the nomination?”

Paul could continue:

“Not too long ago, if I am not mistaken, Newt told Wolf Blitzer that he would not vote for me over Barack Obama.  This in and of itself raises a thicket of questions:

“What in the world would possess a self-declared ‘conservative,’ a self-avowed proponent of ‘limited government,’ to, in effect, even if not necessarily by intention, side with a presidential candidate who he himself has described as a ‘socialist’ and ‘Saul Alinsky radical’ over a constitutionalist like myself?!

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“If Newt would really prefer Obama over me, doesn’t this suggest that for all of his rhetoric, Newt’s thinking is more akin to that of the President’s than to my own?  And if this is so, doesn’t this mean that while it may be possible to distinguish his philosophy of governing from that of Obama’s, the distinction in question is one without a difference?

“How could any champion of liberty and the constitutional government that makes it possible endorse anyone who thinks as Obama thinks?

“If Newt has since revised the thoughts that he expressed to Wolf Blitzer, I would be interested in knowing, Newt, what has changed?”

If no moderator or interviewer will ask Gingrich or any of the other candidates whether they would support Ron Paul in the event that he should receive his party’s nomination, perhaps Paul should ask the question himself during one of these debates.  This would be an effective strategy for a couple of reasons.

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First, the question of whether Paul will either run on a third party ticket or endorse the Republican nominee presupposes and reinforces the notion that he is not a serious candidate.  In turning the question around on his opponents, he beats this anti-Paul prejudice back.

Second, in turning this question back upon his opponents, Paul reminds them, the media, and voters everywhere that this race isn’t even close to being finished.

Third, this provides Paul the opportunity to test his opponents’ sincerity.  We have been told that if Paul abandons the GOP for a third party, he will be responsible for insuring a second term for Obama—something that, under no circumstances, can the country afford.  Hence, it would be worst than irresponsible—it would be reckless—for Paul not to endorse the Republican nominee—regardless of who he is.  In forcing this question upon Santorum, Gingrich, and Romney, Paul forces them to reveal whether or not they plan on living by this same line of reasoning if and when they find themselves having to choose between Paul and Obama. 

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Paul is a man on a mission.  He is obsessed, not with winning his party’s nomination, much less the presidency, but with seeing to it that more and more Americans hear his message of liberty.  Paul really does want to save the country.  Yet he is under no delusions that either he or any other person can do so within four or even eight years.  The salvation of the country, he knows, lies in renewing the spirit of liberty within the breasts of every American.

He is a wise and honest man.  I just hope that during his campaign to restore America to her constitutional roots, he manages to find some room for the forgoing questions. 

Jack Kerwick, Ph.D.

 

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Political Language

posted by Jack Kerwick

As expected, many of the terms of which our political universe consists are on display more frequently than usual during this election season.  Now, then, is as good a time as any to revisit these time-worn concepts.

Capitalism

For some reason, the self-avowed nemeses of the planned economy—whether we call this “socialism,” “communism,” or anything else—insist on describing their property arrangements of choice as “capitalism.”  Given that the latter term was coined by collectivists—communists specifically—this is beyond a merely misfortunate selection of names.  In using the language of their enemies, self-avowed “capitalists” actually weaken their own position.

There are a couple of reasons for this.

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For one, the left has been remarkably successful in ensconcing the figure of “the blood-sucking ‘capitalist’” in the popular imagination. Not everyone is a doctrinaire leftist, mind you, but the left’s “march” through our culture’s institutions—the institution of popular media, specifically—has not been without its effect upon Americans at large.  Among the half-baked notions that they have imbibed is this notion of the greedy “capitalist.”

Second, “capitalism” is an “ism.”  That is, the word denotes a system.  More specifically, it implies an economic system.  Within the context of politics, the term “system” invariably suggests a consciously designed societal blueprint to the subscription of which its architect, government, compels the populace.  This image is all the more prominent when it is considered that “capitalism” is located on a continuum with such government-directed economic systems as socialism and communism.

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So, the defenders of “capitalism” can all too easily be misunderstood as championing but another economic plan.  Worse, they lend themselves to being depicted as advocating a plan according to which it is “the rich,” the “capitalists,” who will be awarded the lion’s share of “the economic pie” at the expense of “the working class.”

Free Enterprise System

Sometimes the proponents of “capitalism” speak of America as a “free enterprise system.”  Granted, the latter is a preferable term to the former.  Still, though, it is confused.

The United States Constitution barely succeeded in being ratified.  Examination of both the quarrels that transpired between anti-Federalists and Federalists as well as the Constitution itself discloses a conception of America that has since fallen on hard times. America, according to this understanding, is not any sort of “enterprise system” at all, whether “free” or otherwise.

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Any enterprise is distinguished on account of its end, goal, or purpose.  War would be a key example of an enterprise.  The purpose of war is victory.  It is this purpose and this purpose alone that unites the participants in a war and renders them joint-enterprisers. During times of war, the only decisions and actions that are approved are those that contribute toward, or at least do not frustrate, the realization of the end of victory. Business would be another illustration of an enterprise.  Profit is the ultimate purpose of any business and the actors in a business are joint-enterprisers whose actions are expected to serve this end.

The point here is that America was never intended to be any sort of enterprise.  In vain will we search the Constitution for a purpose to which the resources of American citizens are to be deployed.  What we do encounter when we turn to it are the conditions necessary for citizens to embark upon the enterprises of their own choosing.  Put another way, the Constitution—through its wide dispersal of authority and power—provides for the liberty that Americans were intended by their progenitors to enjoy.   But, it is crucial to grasp, this liberty is not itself an end or purpose.  Rather, it is the indispensable precondition for the pursuit of any and all purposes.

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Thus, the self-declared enemies of socialism and other species of economic collectivism should from now on juxtapose with their rivals’ socialism, not “the free enterprise system,” and certainly not “capitalism,” but, simply, liberty.  

The State and ‘Statists’

There are few words that have suffered as much abuse as “the state.”  In spite of the negative connotations that it has come to assume, the word itself is a good one, for it is by far the least misleading name that we can ascribe those sovereign political entities that are the stuff of the modern world. 

The United Statesis a state.  Mind you, it isn’t the government of the United States that is a state.  The state that is America encompasses the latter’s government and its culture.    

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From this perspective, two things follow.

First, anyone and everyone who isn’t an anarchist is a “statist.”  Second, anti-collectivists should refrain from chiding collectivists for being “statists” and, instead, simply call them “collectivists.”

Conclusion

These are just some of our key political terms that need to be liberated from the ambiguity in which they’ve been cast.  This is no merely academic exercise, for how we think depends upon the words we use.  

 

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