“Democracy,” or populism, has always delivered the Nanny State — which to my understanding is something more than a centralized bureaucracy. The Communists tried to deliver it by force, but politicians in our parliamentary free markets advance it by appealing to the lowest common denominator. The two systems — falsely contrasted “socialist” and “free market” ideologies — are animated by the same Enlightenment ideals. Both claim to speak for the mute and anonymous “little man”: to stuff him with material goods, and inflate him with rhetorical gases. Both play, directly and indirectly, on the envy in that little man, and his resentment of his betters. Both are thus effectively in opposition to the natural hierarchical ordering of society (which made and would make most politics unnecessary). Both promise, as a matter of course, what the serpent offered to Eve and Adam: the fruit that will make the little men “like gods.”
The purpose behind this is not to build the bureaucracy, as an end in itself, but bureaucracy as the means towards moral debilitation. The excellence of bureaucracy, from the diabolical point of view, is that it reliably punishes the good, and rewards bad behaviour. Its weakness remains an inability to predict that human behaviour, including sudden manifestations of the “hostile inflexibility” mentioned in my last post.
For there is in nature something besides the original sin that felled our first parents, and has been the trickster of history ever since. There is also a positive, which I’m inclined to call “human decency,” or in its most extreme and inflexible form, Love. This cuts across all diabolical intentions, and in moments of grace even faces them down. It should be said that the free market approach to moral debilitation leaves rather more scope to this human decency, though it tends to draw the line at Love. Violent tyranny leaves no scope at all, but as a consequence of plugging every vent, triggers the response of pent-up forces. At some point, the signal from a fracture spreads, and in a kind of earthquake, Berlin Walls come down. The genius of the rival consumer democracy is that it releases the pressure, one riot at a time.
But democracies, too, are fated — like every material aspiration on this earth, to die and leave no traces. When they deny the immortal dimension of man, the unchanging reality of creature and Creator, they become dry husks. The wind bloweth where it listeth, and in every direction the dry husks are scattered away. Only by God is the living implanted, and only on God’s terms will it grow. That jealous God, who will have no other gods before Him; against Whom we have, in truth, opposed our little “democratic” pie-in-the-sky.
David Warren, “Ottawa in the news”, Essays in Idleness, 2014-10-23.
October 9, 2015
October 1, 2015
Paul T. Horgan explains why socialist politicians love “siege economics”:
Labour loves siege economies, really adores them. It allows full throated socialism to operate, enabling properly-selected and correctly-motivated state officials to mediate on every commercial transaction between individuals and entities, all in the name of necessity. This is Pitt’s ‘creed of slaves’, using controls to dictate how much can be sold to whom and if it can be sold at all.
Socialists love these economic dictatorships where the function of money as a storage of value and provider of price information is destroyed, where maximum wages and profits are imposed through penal taxation. State ownership of commerce is a given.
Socialists swoon at the thought of regulating demand by rationing supplies to all but a favoured few; it means there is no need for an economic strategy. No need for an interest rate policy if no amount of borrowed money can buy anything. Official inflation is perpetually low when prices are under statutory regulation, despite the inevitable shortages and consequent rise of the black market and the crime of hoarding newly-scarce everyday goods, which requires more Peoples’ Commissars to detect and punish.
Ordinary people who are forced to commit economic crimes just for everyday survival are easier to dominate as their guilt promotes a constant fear of the State and denunciation by their neighbours and friends. Control a person’s economics and you control the person, and socialism is all about the control. And Labour loves to run people’s lives by occupying the commanding heights of the economy to maximise dependency and promote clientelism in the electorate.
This explains why Labour were in their element when Churchill left Atlee, Morrison and Bevin to run the civilian economy while Britain’s greatest warlord used all his energies to create and focus a a domestic military machine and a global coalition to destroy fascism. It is ironic, given modern socialist rhetoric, that the greatest anti-fascist in human history was a Conservative. Perhaps leftists still feel guilt over their fellow travellers’ 1930s pacifism.
September 19, 2015
J.R. Ireland explains how the New Republic has it all figured out, so we can stop fretting about that boring old “capitalism” thing:
The beautiful thing about confirmation bias is that you never actually have to provide any evidence for your argument. All you have to do is find the first person or the first scrap of evidence which can be twisted and distorted to fit an already extant narrative, and you can carry on your marry way, gleefully the nearly infinite number of reasons that the argument you just made is actually quite terrible.
For example, in The New Republic, a once important magazine now fading into oblivion, Elizabeth Stoker Breunig wrote an article which declared airily that Paid Parental Leave Is Fueling Sweden’s Start-Up Boom. What evidence does she have for this? Well, she doesn’t actually have any — it just fits her biases so she purposefully chose not to actually look into any of the claims being made. If she had, she probably would have realized that virtually everything she is saying is wrong.
First of all, her entire argument is based on one woman’s opinion, which Breunig, true to form, never bothers to check up on:
Each week, Sweden’s national Twitter account allows a different Swede to take over tweeting and tell his or her story. Last week it was Louise Samet, a new mom and an employee of Swedish e-commerce giant Klarna. But unlike Amazon, where women only receive eight weeks of paid leave and men receive none, Klarna supplements 68 weeks of paid leave, which is split evenly between mothers and fathers. According to Samet, Sweden’s parent-friendly policies mean not only a better corporate culture, but also fertile ground for people interested in breaking into the start-up scene. I caught up with Samet to get a little more of a tech start-up insider’s view on paid leave, innovative business, and workplace culture.
Samet began her week of tweeting discussing paid leave. “I have a son who’s 5 months old and am currently enjoying the generous parental leave,” Samet tweeted on Monday, adding a few minutes later: “[Paid leave] enables me to have a career and spend time with my son, and it really promotes gender equality.” A little later in the week, Samet considered the role of Sweden’s robust welfare system, of which paid leave is a part, in shoring up its start-up companies: “I find the startup scene in Sweden very interesting, people dare to try out their ideas, prob partly thanks to the social welfare system.”
How very European! All that is good in life is thanks to the welfare state! Wunderbar!
The problem, however, becomes immediately apparent — this is just one random women’s opinion. She thinks the reason that there are so many startups in Sweden is because of the ‘social welfare system’ but offers quite literally no evidence that this is so. Breunig just takes her at her word.
September 16, 2015
Place your bets, folks … will the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn lead the UK Labour Party back into power or keep it far from that goal for years? Daniel Hannan is of the latter opinion:
For the first time in a lifetime of political analysis, I find myself lost for words. Nothing I write can do justice to the calamity that Britain’s Labour Party has just inflicted on itself. The best I can do, to give you a sense of the man newly elected as Leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition, is to summarize some of his opinions.
Jeremy Corbyn is happy to talk to Irish Republican Army men, avowed anti-Semites and Hezbollah militants; but he refuses “out of principle” to talk to the Sun newspaper, a right-wing tabloid.
He campaigns for the national rights of Venezuelans and Palestinians; but he opposes self-determination in Northern Ireland and the Falkland Islands.
He’d like to admit as many Syrian refugees as possible, but is curiously ambivalent about why they became refugees in the first place, telling RT that Assad’s chemical attacks may have been a Western hoax.
He is relaxed about Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon, but he can’t stand the idea of Britain having one.
He says taxpayers should be able to opt out of funding the military, but not out of funding trade unions.
He wants to re-open coal mines that have been uneconomical since the 1960s; yet, oddly, he wants to wean us off fossil fuels.
He can’t even unequivocally condemn the Islamic State without adding a “but…” to the effect that America shouldn’t have been in Iraq.
He is, in short, happy to ally with any cause, however vile, provided it is sufficiently anti-British and anti-American.
Jeremy Corbyn, whose steady and surprising march to victory runs parallel to Sen. Bernie Sanders’ unexpected success in the Democratic presidential race, is a shambling, self-righteous repository of every second-rate, lazy, 1960s Marxist nostrum. And Labour’s activists can’t get enough of him. They haven’t just picked the lowest card in the deck; they have slammed it belligerently on the table, giving Corbyn 59.5 percent of the votes in a four-candidate race. Fifty-nine point five percent for a man who has never held any office, who has spent 30 years rebelling against his party, and whose speaking style makes Ron Paul look like a mesmerising demagogue.
September 11, 2015
Published on 10 Sep 2015
While the Socialist movement gathers in Switzerland and calls for peace on the Western Front, on the Eastern Front and the Balkans the signs are set for the opposite: An escalation with new offensives. The French and British want to attack near Artois and in the Champagne, Germany wants to finish the war weary Russian Army. At the same time Bulgaria agrees to attack Serbia within the next 30 days. Even in London the war can still be felt when German Zeppelins continue to drop bombs on the British capital.
September 9, 2015
Every ideology needs to believe in its inevitability. Religions get their inevitability from prophecies; secular ideologies get theirs from the modernist fallacy.
The modernist fallacy says that history is moving on an inevitable track toward their ideology. Resistance is futile, you will be liberalized. Marxism predicted the inevitable breakdown of capitalism. Obama keeps talking about being “on the right side of history” as if history, like a university history curriculum, has a right side and a wrong side. All everyone has to do is grab a sign and march “Forward!” to the future.
The bad economics and sociology around which the left builds its Socialist sand castles assume that technological progress will mean improved control. Capitalism with its mass production convinced budding Socialists that the entire world could be run like a giant factory under technocrats who would use industrial techniques to control the economic production of mankind in line with their ideals.
The USSR and moribund European economies broke that theory into a million little pieces.
The dot com revolution with its databases and subtle tools for manipulating individuals on a collective basis led to a Facebook Socialism that crowdsources its culture wars and “nudges” everyone into better habits, lower body masses and conveniently available death panels.
The iSocialist, like his industrial predecessor, assumes that technology gives superintelligent leftists better tools for controlling everything. The planned economy failed in the twentieth because the tools of propaganda posters, quotas and gulags were too crude. This time he is certain that it will work.
Daniel Greenfield, “Science is for Stupid People”, Sultan Knish, 2014-09-30.
September 8, 2015
More to the point, the notion that we should give up our labels is an ancient grift, a venerable con, a time-honored ruse used by ideologues to clear the field of opposition (as I chronicle at some length in my new book, the tactic was pioneered by none other than Napoleon Bonaparte, who invented the practice of using “ideologue” as an epithet). This Jedi mind trick has two parts. First, the liberal says: “In the spirit of civic cooperation and problem-solving, we must all abandon our ideological priorities!” Then comes the implicit Step 2: “So we must accept my ideological priorities as fact and wisdom.” It’s like saying “Nice doggie” until you can find a rock.
You never hear people say, “We’ve got to get beyond labels for the good of the country. So that’s why I am abandoning all of my principles and agreeing with you.”
In past decades, the serious Left was at least a bit more honest about this game. That’s why John Dewey begged the American Socialist party to abandon the label “socialist” but keep the policies. Earl Browder pushed the Communist party to brand itself as “20th-century Americanism.” And, as historian Ronald Radosh has chronicled, this has also been the tactic of Browder’s heirs, down to Obama’s erstwhile “green-jobs czar” Van Jones, who gave up honestly proselytizing Marxism in order to sell his wares with more attractive packaging. “I’m willing to forgo the cheap satisfaction of the radical pose for the deep satisfaction of radical ends,” he explained in a 2005 interview.
Today the grift is played by liberals who don’t even seem to understand what they’re up to. For instance, whenever Arianna Huffington is accused of spewing boilerplate leftism, she responds with a long, canned answer about how the left-right paradigm has outlived its usefulness. Here she is on CNN: “This whole framing as a right-versus-left debate — a liberal-versus-conservative debate — is completely flawed. It’s obsolete. It’s making it much harder for us to solve our problems as a country.” And here she is ranting in one of the books with her name on it: “Someone please alert the media: not every issue fits into your cherished right/left paradigm. Indeed, that way of looking at the world is becoming less and less relevant — and more and more obsolete.”
This argument might have been a teeny-weeny bit more compelling if it hadn’t appeared in a left-wing screed of a book titled Right Is Wrong: How the Lunatic Fringe Hijacked America, Shredded the Constitution, and Made Us All Less Safe (And What You Need to Know to End the Madness). For Huffington the anti-ideologue, only one ideological perspective is too ideological.
The most basic problem with “I don’t believe in labels” talk is that it is incandescently stupid. “Label” is another word for “word.” Everything we associate with civilization, decency, and progress depends on labels. If we cannot label something poisonous, people will die. Similarly, labeling policies, or politicians or commentators, with ideological or party identifiers helps make clear their underlying assumptions and values. If you cannot understand why having a rule against labels is such a terrible idea, I urge you to march into your kitchen and peel the wrappers off all of your cleaning supplies, prescription drugs, and canned goods. Natural selection will take care of the rest in due time. (Though in many cases, refusing to label politicians is like refusing to label men and women by gender; the difference is usually easy to see regardless.)
Jonah Goldberg, excerpt from The Tyranny of Clichés, published by National Review, 2012-04-22.
September 1, 2015
As everyone on the left knows, the Koch brothers are blackest avatars of evil incarnate and any of their works are tainted with pure, unadulterated evil … which might make some heads explode because The Intercept is reporting that the Koch fortune might be put to work to help elect Bernie Sanders:
I have a prediction: Charles and David Koch will soon announce they’re backing Bernie Sanders for president.
Here’s my logic, which is irrefutable:
We know the Koch brothers, and the organizations they fund, hate corporate welfare more than anything. They hate it!
The top priority of Freedom Partners, which oversees the Koch network of donors, is “tackling ‘rent-seeking,’ ‘corporate welfare,’ and other forms of cronyism.”
Charles Koch himself just told Politico’s Mike Allen that “We have to show that this corporate welfare and cronyism is unjust.” Sure, said Koch, it makes their friends unhappy, but “so what? You’ve got to do the right thing.” So as Allen wrote, “Rolling back corporate welfare is one of the top issues Koch is pursuing.”
Similarly, when Koch spoke recently to 450 of his fellow big donors at a recent Koch event in California, he demanded that “they have to start opposing, rather than promoting, corporate welfare.” In the Wall Street Journal, Koch wrote that “I have spent decades opposing cronyism and all political favors, including mandates, subsidies and protective tariffs.”
It might sound outlandish, but there aren’t many of the four hundred Republican candidates who are as staunch against crony capitalism, corporate welfare, and rent-seeking as good old self-declared socialist Bernie Sanders (aside from Rand Paul, I can’t think of any current Republican candidates who might even hint at biting the corporate hands that feed their campaigns’ insatiable demand for fresh funding…).
August 3, 2015
Knowledge is local in the economic system, meaning that the centre of that system can never actually access all of the required information — most certainly not in anything like a reasonable timescale — to be able to plan effectively.
Unsaid but implied is the idea that, given the tossers who get elected to do the planning, a central planning system wouldn’t work even if the planners themselves worked as hard as they could. But the real killer point is that we simply don’t know what it is that we’re trying to plan.
What actually is the algorithm? What is it that we’re trying to optimise with our plan for the economy? Tractor production has rather gone out of favour as a measure of human happiness, so what actually is it that we’re going to try and maximise the output of?
The standard answer is that we want to maximise human utility, which can descend into a form of madness where economists try to measure utility, although the concept is sound enough. But what the buggery is that? What blend of shiny-shiny, bling, housing, hip-hop concerts and smoked salmon actually maximises human utility as a whole?
As befits one honoured to write for El Reg, my desire for shiny-shiny is reasonable while my demand for bling, zero. I live and work in two separate countries, so my housing consumption is higher than many; smoked salmon is merely an interesting treat; and hip hop (in concerts or otherwise) provides me with negative utility. That mixture will be different for each and every one of us: I’m sure we could find several hip-hop fans among the commentards who enjoy jiggin’ wiv da beat.
In fact there are 65 million different mixtures of what contributes to human utility, in a country of 65 million humans. Don’t forget that as prices change, then so does each and every one of those utility functions. They also change as technology changes: what rational planner would have predicted the success of the iPhone back in 2007?
So, in theory, we don’t and cannot know what the hell we’re trying to plan.
Tim Worstall, “Gov’t control? Hah! It’s IMPOSSIBLE to have a successful command economy”, The Register, 2014-08-13.
July 29, 2015
It is often urged against the so-called scientific Socialists, with their materialistic conception of history, that they overlook certain spiritual qualities that are independent of wage scales and metabolism. These qualities, it is argued, color the aspirations and activities of civilized man quite as much as they are colored by his material condition, and so make it impossible to consider him simply as an economic machine. As examples, the anti-Marxians cite patriotism, pity, the aesthetic sense and the yearning to know God. Unluckily, the examples are ill-chosen. Millions of men are quite devoid of patriotism, pity and the aesthetic sense, and have no very active desire to know God. Why don’t the anti-Marxians cite a spiritual quality that is genuinely universal? There is one readily to hand. I allude to cowardice. It is, in one form or other, visible in every human being; it almost serves to mark off the human race from all the other higher animals. Cowardice, I believe, is at the bottom of the whole caste system, the foundation of every organized society, including the most democratic. In order to escape going to war himself, the peasant was willing to give the warrior certain privileges — and out of those privileges has grown the whole structure of civilization. Go back still further. Property arose out of the fact that a few relatively courageous men were able to accumulate more possessions than whole hordes of cowardly men, and, what is more, to retain them after accumulating them.
H.L. Mencken, “Types of Men 9: The Average Man”, Prejudices, Third Series, 1922.
July 6, 2015
In the Dublin Review of Books, Enda O’Doherty reviews a recent work on George Orwell:
In early 1936 the publisher Victor Gollancz commissioned George Orwell to conduct an investigation into the plight of the unemployed in England’s industrial North, a project that led to the book The Road to Wigan Pier. Unemployment and hardship in Lancashire and Yorkshire were, on the face of it, not subjects that Orwell could have been expected to know that much about. True, he had written vividly about tramps and tramping, “spikes”, charity wards and common lodging houses, but he had little experience of England outside London and the home counties and few friends or acquaintances who were working class or came from a non-privileged background. His own sentimental education had been forged in the sleek landscapes of the Thames valley or, later, genteel Southwold on the Suffolk coast – the England inhabited by those he was to term “the lower-upper-middle-class”, the people who kept the country running and who, though they owned no land, still felt they were “landowners in the sight of God”.
If he did not have much relevant experience, what Orwell could offer his publisher were energy and passion, and a small but growing reputation as a young man with something to say. He also needed the money. Years later he told a friend that he would never have undertaken the trip north had it not been for the size of the advance Gollancz offered: £500, a rather large sum at the time for a writer still in his early thirties. As a man with not much taste for the high life, he reckoned he could survive for two years on that, and afford to get married.
Orwell’s account of his visit to Crippen’s mine in Bryn, near Wigan, a superb piece of journalistic writing, forms the second chapter of The Road to Wigan Pier and has also been anthologised separately as “Down the Mine”. The chapter focuses alternately on the miners who dig the coal and those who unthinkingly consume it, the latter portrayed primarily as the comfortable, even the decadent classes – as if coal was not burned too in redbrick terraced houses in working class towns. Here are the fillers, who shovel the freshly mined rocks onto a conveyor belt from a kneeling position, splendid, heroic creatures in spite of the cruelly demanding labour they are engaged in:
They really do look like iron – hammered iron statues – under the smooth coat of coal dust which clings to them from head to foot. It is only when you see miners down the mine and naked that you realize what splendid men they are. Most of them are small … but nearly all of them have the most noble bodies; wide shoulders tapering to slender, supple waists, and small pronounced buttocks and sinewy thighs, with not an ounce of waste flesh anywhere.
Victor Gollancz, who might be said to have been “close to the thinking of the Communist Party of Great Britain”, was not entirely pleased by the book which Orwell submitted to him in December 1936 and for which he had paid so large an advance. Not a great deal of exception could be taken to the first part, which was a fairly straightforward account of conditions in the North. Indeed Gollancz at first proposed – though the suggestion was not accepted ‑ that this should be published on its own as a Left Book Club edition. Into the second part, however, Orwell had stuffed his analysis and his always plentiful opinions, many of them strongly expressed and often focusing on the kind of people who formed a large part of the readership of the Left Book Club. Here are the urban, middle class intellectual socialists:
… the more-water-in-your-beer reformers of whom Shaw is the prototype, and the astute young social-literary climbers who are Communists now, as they will be Fascists five years hence, because it is all the go, and all that dreary tribe of highminded women and sandal-wearers and bearded fruit-juice drinkers who come flocking towards the smell of “progress” like bluebottles to a dead cat.
Famously, there is the attraction of socialist doctrine for “cranks”:
One sometimes gets the impression that the mere words ‘Socialism’ and ‘Communism’ draw towards them with magnetic force every fruit-juice drinker, nudist, sandal-wearer, sex-maniac, Quaker, ‘Nature Cure’ quack, pacifist, and feminist in England.
And finally, rising to an apparent pitch of impotent frustration:
If only the sandals and pistachio-coloured shirts could be put in a pile and burnt, and every vegetarian, teetotaller and creeping Jesus sent home to Welwyn Garden City to do his yoga exercises quietly.
Perhaps more than a little of this is tongue in cheek. One conclusion, however, can be tentatively drawn before moving on: at this stage of his life and intellectual development, Orwell preferred to portray socialism as chiefly a middle class fad and, while he was quite ready to idealise the working class “other” if it came to him in the right shape, he showed virtually no interest in working class politics or social organisation as they actually existed.
June 20, 2015
All democratic theories, whether Socialistic or bourgeois, necessarily take in some concept of the dignity of labor. If the have-not were deprived of this delusion that his sufferings in the sweat-shop are somehow laudable and agreeable to God, there would be little left in his ego save a belly-ache. Nevertheless, a delusion is a delusion, and this is one of the worst. It arises out of confusing the pride of workmanship of the artist with the dogged, painful docility of the machine. The difference is important and enormous. If he got no reward whatever, the artist would go on working just the same; his actual reward, in fact, is often so little that he almost starves. But suppose a garment-worker got nothing for his labor: would he go on working just the same? Can one imagine him submitting voluntarily to hardship and sore want that he might express his soul in 200 more pairs of pantaloons?
H.L. Mencken, “Types of Men 4: The Worker”, Prejudices, Third Series, 1922.
April 24, 2015
In the entire history of economic thought, nobody has ever been able to demonstrate that there is an objectively “right” price for anything separate and apart from the subjective valuation that happens in the marketplace. Progressives like speeches about diversity, but they loathe the actual diversity of views and desires, especially the idea that prices should be sorted out according to the billions of subjective valuations in the marketplace through a process that nobody is in charge of. (In Dante’s Hell, the engraving reads: “Abandon Hope All Ye Who Enter Here.” In Ezra Klein’s Hell, the engraving reads: “Nobody In Charge.”) Implicit in this belief is that most people — consumers and workers alike — are too stupid or too weak for us to allow them to act on their own subjective valuations, that we are compelled by … justice, efficiency, expert opinion, whatever … to substitute our own judgment for theirs. And then all you need is two government studies and a rent-a-philosopher writing in the New York Times to proclaim that there is some real-world basis for your own preferences as compared to those of the rabble on whose behalf you have just deputized yourself to organize the world. The language of “social justice” is largely a sort of moral minstrel show designed to distract from the real argument, which is: “You’re too stupid to be entrusted with your own life.” Something close to the entirety of the progressive agenda (apart from sexual license), from wage rules to health care to “investments” in modish fantasy projects to industrial policy, assumes that that metaphysically correct price is out there, simply waiting for the right people with the right ideas in service of the right policy to discover them, or at least to approximate them.
Kevin D. Williamson, “The Profit Police”, National Review, 2014-06-30.
April 8, 2015
J.R. Ireland sums up the Venezuelan situation:
The current fate of Venezuela is one of the most wretched and tragic foregone conclusions in modern history — an economic system that was doomed, from the first optimistic days of its implementation, to fail miserably and to beggar the poor, beleaguered Venezuelan people as it did so. There was no other way it could conceivably end. This sort of command economy has been tried continuously throughout the 20th century and humanity’s failure to learn from socialism’s shortcomings is the primary reason the next century is unlikely to greatly improve upon the last, at least from a human rights perspective.
So anyone who had paid attention to the decay, stagnation, and eventual collapse of every command economy of the 20th century knew immediately that Chavista socialism would be no more successful than Castro’s socialism, Mao’s socialism, Lenin’s socialism, or Pol Pot’s socialism and would end, eventually, in the same great grey void of hopelessness, impotence, shortages, inequity and despair. Therefore, those of us who actually know anything about the failings of such command economies cannot be particularly surprised by the fact that condoms currently cost $755 for a 36 pack of trojans, that authorities have begun making it illegal to shop more than twice a week in a desperate attempt to alleviate shortages, or that women must now wait in long lines to get something so simple as tampons. This was guaranteed to occur all along and the foreordained Day of Judgment was only ever so slightly delayed by a period of high oil prices which allowed the Venezuelan government to paper over systemic failings with a vast influx of petrodollars.
What I now have to ask is this: When can we expect an apology from the various ‘enlightened’ and ‘caring’ progressives who applauded Chavez during his rise to power, who claimed that every one of Chavez’ failings was the fault of bigoted American imperialists undercutting the Savior of South American, and who declared Chavez to be some sort of righteous admixture between Jesus Christ, Gandhi, Albert Einstein, and George Washington?
April 1, 2015
On the whole, as a neutral in such matters, I prefer the forward-looker to the right-thinker, if only because he shows more courage and originality. It takes nothing save lack of humor to believe what Butler, or Ochs, or Bishop Manning believes, but it takes long practice and a considerable natural gift to get down the beliefs of Sinclair. I remember with great joy the magazine that he used to issue during the war. In the very first issue he advocated Socialism, the single tax, birth control, communism, the League of Nations, the conscription of wealth, government ownership of coal mines, sex hygiene and free trade. In the next issue he added the recall of judges, Fletcherism, the Gary system, the Montessori method, paper-bag cookery, war gardens and the budget system. In the third he came out for sex hygiene, one big union, the initiative and referendum, the city manager plan, chiropractic and Esperanto. In the fourth he went to the direct primary, fasting, the Third International, a federal divorce law, free motherhood, hot lunches for school children, Prohibition, the vice crusade, Expressionismus, the government control of newspapers, deep breathing, international courts, the Fourteen Points, freedom for the Armenians, the limitation of campaign expenditures, the merit system, the abolition of the New York Stock Exchange, psychoanalysis, crystal-gazing, the Little Theater movement, the recognition of Mexico, vers libre, old age pensions, unemployment insurance, cooperative stores, the endowment of motherhood, the Americanization of the immigrant, mental telepathy, the abolition of grade crossings, federal labor exchanges, profit-sharing in industry, a prohibitive tax on Poms, the clean-up-paint-up campaign, relief for the Jews, osteopathy, mental mastery, and the twilight sleep. And so on, and so on. Once I had got into the swing of the Sinclair monthly I found that I could dispense with at least twenty other journals of the uplift. When he abandoned it I had to subscribe for them anew, and the gravel has stuck in my craw ever since.
H.L. Mencken, “The Forward-Looker”, Prejudices, Third Series, 1922.