Tag Archives: authoritarianism

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P.G. Wodehouse Knew the Way: Fight Fascism with Humor – Article by Jeffrey A. Tucker

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Categories: Culture, Philosophy, Politics, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance HatJeffrey A. Tucker
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One of my favorite characters from 20th century pop fiction is Roderick Spode, also known as Lord Sidcup, from the 1930s series Jeeves and Wooster by P.G. Wodehouse, and hilariously portrayed in the 1990s TV adaptation starring Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry. He perfectly captures the bluster, blather, and preposterous intellectual conceit of the interwar aspiring dictator.
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Back in the day, these people were all the same, whether George Lincoln Rockwell in the US, Oswald Mosley in the UK, or more well-known statesmen in interwar Europe. They were nativists, protectionists, longed for dictatorship, and believed that science had their back.
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Rather than a tedious denunciation, Wodehouse gives us something more effective. He created a composite and caricature of all of them and turned it to hilarity.
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Books about Nothing

Like Seinfeld, Jeeves and Wooster was “about nothing” but managed compelling cultural commentary that shaped the way a generation saw the world around them. It chronicled the amusing superficial lives of third-generation English upper class, lovable people with declining financial resources but too much dignity to take on the task of actually earning a living. There is a strong liberal spirit running through the whole series.

Roderick Spode is a character who makes appearances at odd times, making speeches to his couple dozen followers, blabbing on in the park and bamboozling naïve passersby, blowing up at people, practicing his demagogic delivery style. A handful of people take him seriously but mostly he and his “brownshort” followers are merely a source of amusement and annoyance to the London scene.

Why shorts? It seems that by the time he started ordering uniforms for his followers, there were no more shirts left. Red, brown, and black were already taken. Plus the company he contacted only had affordable shorts, so brown shorts it would be. So the required eugenic theory of his group naturally surrounded knees. He wanted everyone’s knees compulsorily measured:

Not for the true-born Englishman the bony angular knee of the so-called intellectual, not for him the puffy knee of the criminal classes. The British knee is firm, the British knee is muscular, the British knee is on the march!

The television series made him less British than German in aspiration. Here is his first speech in the television series, in which proclaims the “right, nay the duty” of every Briton to grow his own potatoes.

And here he is proposing mandatory bicycles and umbrellas for all free-born Britons. A fellow standing around says, “I say, I’ve never quite thought of it that way.”

Spode is also secretly a coward. In his other life, he is the owner, by virtue of family inheritance, of a shop that designs intimate clothing for women. He is desperate to keep this a secret, believing this profession to be incompatible with the career ambitions of an aspiring dictator. Anyone who knows this secret about his life has deep control over his psyche, with only the threat of revelation keeping him under control.

They Are Ridiculous

The entire caricature was a humiliation for the fascists of the period because it spoke truth. Their plans for economic life are ridiculous. Their eugenic theories are pseudo-science. Their pretensions to command a massive following are completely wrong. And in their private lives, they are just like everyone else: they aren’t demigods or elites or superior in any sense. They are just dudes who are exploiting public curiosity and fear to gain attention and power. They are trolls.

Humor is a great method for dealing with clowns like these, as Saturday Night Live has recently rediscovered. At the same time, we are mistaken to think they are not a threat to civilized life. In real life, Mosley in the UK and Rockwell in the US were a serious menace, as much as the establishments they opposed.

The statist Left and the statist Right play off each other, creating a false binary that draws people into their squabble. People need to understand, as F.A. Hayek emphasized in Road to Serfdom, that the fascists and communists are really two sides of a split within the same movement, each of which aspires to control the population with a version of a central plan.

It’s a question of how best to deal with them. Ideally clowns like this would be ignored, left to sit alone at the bar or at the park with their handful of deluded acolytes. That’s how Wodehouse presented his fascist – just as a silly distraction whose only value is a good joke. However, this is not typically how people do deal with them. They are so offensive to people’s ideals that they inspire massive opposition, and that opposition in turn creates public scenes that gain a greater following for the demagogue. This cycle continues to the point that the entire political landscape becomes deeply poisoned with hate and acts of vengeance.

When thinking of how genuine lovers of human liberty should deal with such settings, I always fall back on Ludwig von Mises from 1927.

It is often maintained that what divides present-day political parties is a basic opposition in their ultimate philosophical commitments that cannot be settled by rational argument. The discussion of these antagonisms must therefore necessarily prove fruitless … Nothing is more absurd than this belief … Rhetorical bombast, music and song resound, banners wave, flowers and colors serve as symbols, and the leaders seek to attach their followers to their own person. Liberalism has nothing to do with all this. It has no party flower and no party color, no party song and no party idols, no symbols and no slogans. It has the substance and the arguments. These must lead it to victory.

It can be the hardest thing in the world to remember this in the midst of political upheaval and antagonisms. People tend to believe they must join the Left to defeat the Right or join the Right to defeat the Left, forgetting that there is a third option: rule by no party and no one, but rather by universal self-rule and the society of freedom first and always.

It’s the tragedy of real-world politics that we keep moving through these phases, trading one style of central plan for another, one type of despot for another, without understanding that none are necessary. True defenders of liberty get it. That should inspire us to smile from time to time.

Jeffrey Tucker is Director of Content for the Foundation for Economic Education. He is also Chief Liberty Officer and founder of Liberty.me, Distinguished Honorary Member of Mises Brazil, research fellow at the Acton Institute, policy adviser of the Heartland Institute, founder of the CryptoCurrency Conference, member of the editorial board of the Molinari Review, an advisor to the blockchain application builder Factom, and author of five books. He has written 150 introductions to books and many thousands of articles appearing in the scholarly and popular press.

This article was published by The Foundation for Economic Education and may be freely distributed, subject to a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which requires that credit be given to the author. Read the original article.

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France’s Presidential Front-Runner Is a Trump-Style Nationalist – Article by Pierre-Guy Veer

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Categories: Economics, Politics, Tags: , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance HatPierre-Guy Veer
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After the populist victories for Brexit and Donald Trump, all eyes are now turned towards the National Front’s (FN) Marine Le Pen, who could cause another worldwide stir by winning the French presidential election. And with the present state of the polls, she could repeat her father Jean-Marie’s exploit of progressing to the second round of a presidential election (France has a two-round, direct electoral process). She even was ranked ahead of right-wing candidate François Fillon in a survey of the most popular French men and women of 2016. And her recent trip to Trump Tower shows that she has an affinity with the President-elect.

Should these poll figures translate into Marine’s election, France (and the rest of the world) should be worried.

Like Trump’s “Make America Great Again”, Le Pen adopted a very vague and populist slogan, “Au nom du people” (In The People’s Name). According to her, the 2017 election is between two options,

  • The dilution of the Nation, its society divided by multiculturalism, open and defenseless against unfettered globalization and the European Union, plagued by laissez-faire, and where the strongest will rule
  • The reconquering of the French Nation’s independence, liberties, and national pride, where the State protects prosperity and every citizen. The People will be moved by a grand collective project.

Her party’s platform reveals how she intends to make these “reconquests”.

Less Immigration, State-Sponsored Identity

As a backlash against Nicolas Sarkozy’s “betrayal” of the French regarding immigration, an FN presidency would reduce immigration to 10,000 people entering per year within five years – one-twentieth of what it is right now. This would be done by ending the Schengen Agreements on free movement, dual citizenship for people coming from outside the EU (they would have to choose either nationality), family reunions, and by mercilessly fighting undocumented (“clandestins”) immigrants – including legal changes to suppress any future regularization of their status.

Part of the latter measure would actually be good as it would end the Aide médicale d’État for undocumented immigrants. These government grants help anyone living in the French territory receive basic medical assistance if his or her health justifies it. Its costs increased 16.4 percent in 2013 (to over 800 million €), which prompted UMP deputy Claude Goasguen to question the pertinence of the program that covers nearly 300,000 undocumented and illegal immigrants in French territories (including Guyana). However, getting information from the ministère de la Santé who administers the program is rather difficult.

But this savings in tax euros pales in comparison to other citizenship policy ideas that are reminiscent of Germany’s darkest days.

For example, one may obtain French citizenship only when able to master the French language, show proof of assimilation, and reside on the territory legally. Also, identity would become a matter of complete government control; the FN would make a constitutional amendment claiming that “the Republic recognizes no community whatsoever” – like Corsica or Brittany. It would even have its own ministry, the ministère de l’Intérieur, de l’immigration et de la laïcité (Ministry of Interior, Immigration and Secularity).

State identity would also find a strong foothold through the Ministry of Culture. The FN would stop any foreign purchase of French editing businesses, defend the “French cultural exception” by imposing strict quotas to air French productions on TV and on the radio and promote French movies – the “only counterweight” to American cinema – more aggressively.

Another measure, touching on economics this time, would encourage businesses to hire French citizens if a non-citizen has similar skills. It would also exclude non-citizens from jobs like justice and public security.

A State with an Iron Fist

The strengthening of the French state under the FN would also mean implementing U.S.-style policing, in order to stop “a 20-year growth in insecurity from successive governments.”

This includes a restriction on the free circulation of newly freed inmates within the country, so they won’t “fall again” in criminality by meeting their former buddies. It would include specific city blocks, but the FN would want to extend the interdiction to whole départments.

The War on Drugs would greatly expand, as the FN categorically refuses any drug decriminalization. Instead, they want to reinforce repression of both dealers and consumers, strictly control borders to prevent importation of illegal drugs, and “facilitate” the police’s work – through email interception, paying-off snitches, compelling security camera businesses to have videos available for investigations, etc.

And as it seems to happen in the U.S., the police under an FN administration would use firearms, presumably in self-defense. Non-uniformed police would even be used to fight against “insecurity”.

An Omnipotent State Master of the Economy

Finally, Marine Le Pen and the FN would make communists’ dreams come true by reinforcing the state’s already strong position in the French economy – government spending is already 57 percent of GDP according to the most recent figures.

To do so, they would restore public services, the “a patrimony to which the French are legitimately attached to.” The FN would immediately end the “dogma” of government liberalization and protect government services, especially mail delivery and train transportation. The FN would also expand regulations on private providers (like phone and internet companies) to make sure that every parcel of French territory (including DOM-TOM) has equal access to their services.

Paralleling Donald Trump’s wishes, they aim to make mercantilism great again by imposing “reasonable” protections against “unfair” international competition from developing countries detrimental to France’s reindustrialization. Yes, you read that right: a government in 2017 believes that durable economic development can be a top-down move.

The plan, Planification Stratégique de la Réindustralisation, includes a strong local purchase policy under the erroneous assumption that international trade emits more greenhouse gases than local production. Speaking of which, tariffs would also consider a foreign producer’s “footprint” in order to save the environment. The plan would oblige public authorities and business cafeterias to prioritize French farm products and institute “agricultural patriotism” in order to limit food imports to only those that France isn’t self-sustaining.

The plan would also coordinate with scientific research, on which the FN wants to spend three percent of GDP when finances are better. They even predict some of the domains in which the French state will excel: energy alternatives to nuclear power, nanotechnologies, and degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s.

The Gist

In short, Marine Le Pen and the National Front are completely doing away with the ideas of France’s greatest intellectuals like Frédéric Bastiat and Jean-Baptiste Say, and are instead embracing economic charlatans like Jean-Baptiste Colbert.

They will certainly test the limits of “plucking the chicken with the least amount of hissing” by increasing the highest income tax bracket to 46 percent (now at 45 percent), imposing higher rates of capital gains taxes, and increasing the value-added tax on “luxurious” products.

So if Le Pen gets elected, let’s hope that, as was the case during Trump’s nominee confirmations, deputies at the National Assembly will question her decisions and will not allow the country to sink under toxic economic nationalism. The last time the world experienced widespread nationalism, countries fell in one of the deepest depressions ever recorded and nearly annihilated each other.

Pierre-Guy Veer is a Canadian-born libertarian now living in the US.

This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.

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The Fed Plans for the Next Crisis – Article by Ron Paul

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Categories: Economics, Politics, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance HatRon Paul
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In her recent address at the Jackson Hole monetary policy conference, Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen suggested that the Federal Reserve would raise interest rates by the end of the year. Markets reacted favorably to Yellen’s suggested rate increase. This is surprising, as, except for one small increase last year, the Federal Reserve has not followed through on the numerous suggestions of rate increases that Yellen and other Fed officials have made over the past several years.

Much more significant than Yellen’s latest suggestion of a rate increase was her call for the Fed to think outside the box in developing responses to the next financial crisis. One of the outside-the-box ideas suggested by Yellen is increasing the Fed’s ability to intervene in markets by purchasing assets of private companies. Yellen also mentioned that the Fed could modify its inflation target.

Increasing the Federal Reserve’s ability to purchase private assets will negatively impact economic growth and consumers’ well-being. This is because the Fed will use this power to keep failing companies alive, thus preventing the companies’ assets from being used to produce a good or service more highly valued by consumers.

Investors may seek out companies whose assets have been purchased by the Federal Reserve, since it is likely that Congress and federal regulators would treat these companies as “too big to fail.” Federal Reserve ownership of private companies could also strengthen the movement to force businesses to base their decisions on political, rather than economic, considerations.

Yellen’s suggestion of modifying the Fed’s inflation target means that the Fed would increase the inflation tax just when Americans are trying to cope with a major recession or even a depression. The inflation tax is the most insidious of all taxes because it is both hidden and regressive.

The failure of the Federal Reserve’s eight-year spree of money creation via quantitative easing and historically low interest rates to reflate the bubble economy suggests that the fiat currency system may soon be coming to an end. Yellen’s outside-the-box proposals will only hasten that collapse.

The collapse of the fiat system will not only cause a major economic crisis, but also the collapse of the welfare-warfare state. Yet, Congress not only refuses to consider meaningful spending cuts, it will not even pass legislation to audit the Fed.

Passing Audit the Fed would allow the American people to know the full truth about the Federal Reserve’s conduct of monetary policy, including the complete details of the Fed’s plans to respond to the next economic crash. An audit will also likely uncover some very interesting details regarding the Federal Reserve’s dealings with foreign central banks.

The large number of Americans embracing authoritarianism — whether of the left or right-wing variety — is a sign of mass discontent with the current system. There is a great danger that, as the economic situation worsens, there will be an increase in violence and growing restrictions on liberty. However, public discontent also presents a great opportunity for those who understand free-market economics to show our fellow citizens that our problems are not caused by immigrants, imports, or the one percent, but by the Federal Reserve.

Politicians will never restore sound money or limited government unless forced to do so by either an economic crisis or a shift in public option. It is up to us who know the truth to make sure the welfare-warfare state and the system of fiat money ends because the people have demanded it, not because a crisis left Congress with no other choice.

Ron Paul, MD, is a former three-time Republican candidate for U. S. President and Congressman from Texas.

This article is reprinted with permission from the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity.

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Interest in Libertarianism Explodes – Article by Jeffrey A. Tucker

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Categories: Politics, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance HatJeffrey A. Tucker
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 Johnston / Weld

For forty years, the Libertarian Party has worked to survive. Then, in what seems to be a brief flash of time, it is suddenly at the center of American political life. It’s absolutely remarkable how quickly this has happened.

It’s a perfect storm that made this happen. Party A has become a plastic vessel for pillaging pressure groups, with a phony at the top of the ticket. Party B has been taken over by a cartoonish replica of an interwar strongman. Like beautiful poetry, or like the third act of a 19th-century opera, the Libertarian Party has risen to the occasion to represent a simple proposition: people should be free.

And that theme seems interestingly attractive, enough to draw more media attention to the Libertarian Party in the last week than it had received in the previous 40 years combined. Okay, that might be a slight exaggeration. But a Google News search generates 600,000 results right now, and more recent coverage than I could read between now and midnight. Meanwhile, the Johnson/Weld ticket is polling at 11% nationally, which is essentially unprecedented.

Given today’s information flood, do you know how difficult this is to accomplish? It’s unbelievably difficult to cause anything to trend in this world. That this has happened is amazing. Plus, “libertarian” is a weird word to most people. In some ways, for a party that represents a beautifully simple idea, and the most important idea in the history of the world, this is word is a handicap.

And yet it is happening anyway.

Libertarian_Interest

Friends of mine have taken issue with this or that position held by Gary Johnson and William Weld. This is not the point. Every time I speak to either them, they are immediately quick to clarify that this election is not about them as people or the particulars of their policy positions. It is about representing an idea and a body of thought — an idea that has otherwise been nearly vanquished from public life. They admit to being imperfect carriers of that message. But this humility alone contrasts with the arrogance of the other two parties.

Nor is this really about getting Johnson/Weld elected. It is about clarifying the very existence of an option to two varieties of authoritarianism that the two main parties represent.

This ticket is not an end but a beginning.

For many months, I watched in horror as the only home that tolerated something approaching the old liberal idea has been taken over at its very top by a political force that now has had nothing good to say about liberty.

I’ve looked for an upside but had a hard time finding.

Now I do see the upside. The purging of freedom-minded people from the national end of the Republican Party has created an amazing opportunity. And the Libertarian Party is stepping up to play its historical role.

What is that role? Here has been the controversy for many years. Initially, many people believed it could actually compete with the two parties. When it became obvious that this was not possible, the role became one of ideological agitation and education. Thus ensued a 30-year war over purity of ideology. After all, if the point is not to win, and rather only to enlighten, it becomes important to offer the most bracing possible message.

But that conviction alone does not actually solve the problem. Which version of libertarianism, among the dozens of main packages and hundreds if not thousands of iterations, should prevail? This becomes a prescription for limitless factionalism, arguments, personal attacks — which is pretty much a description of how people have characterized the party and libertarianism generally over the years.

It is for this reason that the Johnson/Weld run this year is so refreshing. They are sometimes called moderates. I don’t think that’s right. It is more correct to say that they are interested in the main theme of the party, and that theme is freedom. No, they are not running to implement my vision of what liberty looks like in all its particulars. But they are on message with the essentials: freedom is what matters and we need more of it.

There was a time when such a message was redundant of what was already said by the Republicans and, perhaps, even the Democrats. But with the whole messaging of the two-party cartel having become “what kind of tyranny do you want?” there is a desperate need for someone to change the subject.

All issues of ideological particulars aside, this is what we need right now. And it will make the difference. Having this ticket become a part of the debate structure can provide that needed boost to liberalism as an idea, saving it from the desire on the part of the Trump/Clinton to drive it out of public life.

These are enormously exciting times. Six months ago, I would have never imagined such opportunities. As I’ve written elsewhere, the choice is at last clear, and clearer than it has been in my lifetime.

We can do socialism, fascism, or liberalism. Which way we take forward will not be determined by who gets elected but by the values we hold as individuals. And here, at long last, national politics can make an enormous contribution to changing hearts and minds.

Jeffrey Tucker is Director of Digital Development at FEE, CLO of the startup Liberty.me, and editor at Laissez Faire Books. Author of five books, he speaks at FEE summer seminars and other events. His latest book is Bit by Bit: How P2P Is Freeing the World.  Follow on Twitter and Like on Facebook. 

This article was originally published on Liberty.me.

This TRA feature has been edited in accordance with TRA’s Statement of Policy.

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Donald Trump and Obi-Wan’s Gambit – Article by Daniel Bier

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Categories: Culture, Politics, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance HatDaniel Bier

You Cannot Win By Losing

In Star Wars: A New Hope, the last Jedi Knight, Obi-Wan Kenobi, is confronted by his former pupil, Darth Vader, as he races to escape the Death Star. The two draw their lightsabers and pace warily around each other. After deflecting some heavy blows from Vader, Obi-Wan’s lightsaber flickers, and he appears tired and strained.

Vader gloats, “Your powers are weak, old man.”

The hard-put Obi-Wan replies, “You can’t win, Darth. If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine.”

Obi-Wan backs away from Vader but finds his escape cut off by storm troopers. He is trapped. He gives a mysterious smile, raises his lightsaber, and allows Vader to cut him in half.

This is Obi-Wan’s gambit, or the “win by losing” strategy. Lately, it has emerged as a distinct genre of commentary about Donald Trump.

Take, for example, “The Article About Trump That Nobody Will Publish,” which promotes itself as having been rejected by 45 publications. That’s a credit to America’s editors, because the article is an industrial strength brew of wishful thinking, a flavor that is already becoming standard fare as a Trump presidency looms.

The authors give a boilerplate denunciation of Trump (he’s monstrous, authoritarian, unqualified, etc.), but then propose:

What would happen should Trump get elected? On the Right, President Trump would force the GOP to completely reorganize — and fast. It would compel them to abandon their devastating pitch to the extreme right. …

On the Left, the existence of the greatest impossible dread imaginable, of President Trump, would rouse sleepy mainline liberals from their dogmatic slumber. It would force them to turn sharply away from the excesses of its screeching, reality-denying, uncompromising and authoritarian fringe that provided much of Trump’s thrust in the first place.

Our daring contrarians predict, Trump “may actually represent an unpalatable but real chance at destroying these two political cancers of our time and thus remedying our insanity-inflicted democracy.”

You can’t win, Donald! Strike me down and I shall be… forced to completely reorganize and/or roused from dogmatic slumber!

The authors assert these claims as though they were self-evident, but they’re totally baffling. Why would a Trump win force the GOP to abandon the voters and rhetoric that drove it to victory? Why would it reorganize against its successful new leader? Why would a Hillary Clinton loss empower moderate liberals over the “reality-defying fringe”? Why would the left turn away from the progressives who warned against nominating her all along?

This is pure, unadulterated wishful thinking. There is no reason to believe these rosy forecasts would materialize under President Trump. That is not how partisan politics tends to work. Parties rally to their nominee, and electoral success translates into influence, influence into power, power into friends and support.

We’ve already seen one iteration of this “win by losing” fantasy come and go among the Never Trump crowd: the idea that Trump’s mere nomination would be a good thing, because (depending on your politics) it would (1) compel Democrats to nominate Bernie Sanders, (2) propel Clinton to a landslide general election victory, or (3) destroy the GOP and (a) force it to rebuild as a small-government party, (b) split it in two, or (c) bring down the two-party system.

But, of course, none of those things happened. Clinton has clinched the nomination over Sanders (his frantic protests notwithstanding). Meanwhile, Clinton’s double digit lead over Trump has evaporated, and the race has narrowed to a virtual tie. Far from “destroying the GOP,” Trump has consolidated the support of the base and racked up the endorsements of dozens of prominent Republicans who had previously blasted him, including Marco Rubio and Paul Ryan.

The GOP is not being destroyed — it is being gradually remade in Trump’s image, perhaps into his dream of a populist “workers’ party,” heavy on the protectionism, nativism, and authoritarianism. Meanwhile, knee-jerk partisanship and fear of Clinton are reconciling the center-right to Trump.

Moderates win by defeating the fringe, not by losing to it. Yet, for some reason, conservatives, liberals, and libertarians all like to fantasize that the worst case scenario would actually fulfill their fondest wishes, driving the nation into their losing arms — as though their failure would force the party or the public do what they wanted all along. This is the bad-breakup theory of politics: Once they get a taste of Trump, they’ll realize how great we were and love us again.

But the public doesn’t love losers. (Trump gets this and has based his whole campaign around his relentless self-promotion as a winner.) Trump’s inauguration would indeed be a victory for him and for his “alt-right” personality cult, and a sign of defeat for limited-government conservatives and classical liberals — not because our ideology was on the ballot, but because all our efforts did not prevent such a ballot.

Trump embodies an ideology that is anathema to classical liberalism, and if he is successful at propelling it into power, we cannot and should not see it as anything less than a failure to persuade the public on the value of liberty, tolerance, and limited government. Nobody who is worried about extreme nationalism and strong man politics should be taken in by the idea that their rapid advance somehow secretly proves their weakness and liberalism’s strength.

This does not mean that we’re all screwed, or that a Trump administration will be the end of the world — apocalyptic thinking is just another kind of dark fantasy. As horrible as Trumpism may be, it cannot succeed without help. And here’s the good news: Most Americans aren’t really enamored with Trump’s policies. The bad news is that they could still become policy.

Classical liberals who oppose Trump should realize that things aren’t going to magically get better on their own. We cannot try to Obi-Wan our way out of this. We will have to actually make progress — in education, academia, journalism, policy, activism, and, yes, even electoral politics.

If this seems like an impossible task at the moment, just remember that the long-sweep of history and many trends in recent decades show the public moving in a more libertarian direction. It can be done, and there’s fertile ground for it. We have to make the argument for tolerance and freedom against xenophobia and authoritarianism — and we have to win it. The triumph of illiberalism will not win it for us.

Daniel Bier is the site editor of FEE.org He writes on issues relating to science, civil liberties, and economic freedom.

This article was published by The Foundation for Economic Education and may be freely distributed, subject to a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which requires that credit be given to the author.

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Thomas Carlyle: The Founding Father of Fascism – Article by Jeffrey A. Tucker

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Categories: Economics, History, Politics, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance HatJeffrey A. Tucker
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Thomas Carlyle fits the bill in every respect

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Have you heard of the “great man” theory of history?

The meaning is obvious from the words. The idea is that history moves in epochal shifts under the leadership of visionary, bold, often ruthless men who marshal the energy of masses of people to push events in radical new directions. Nothing is the same after them.

In their absence, nothing happens that is notable enough to qualify as history: no heroes, no god-like figures who qualify as “great.” In this view, we need such men.  If they do not exist, we create them. They give us purpose. They define the meaning of life. They drive history forward.

Great men, in this view, do not actually have to be fabulous people in their private lives. They need not exercise personal virtue. They need not even be moral. They only need to be perceived as such by the masses, and play this role in the trajectory of history.

Such a view of history shaped much of historiography as it was penned in the late 19th century and early 20th century, until the revisionists of the last several decades saw the error and turned instead to celebrate private life and the achievements of common folk instead. Today the “great man” theory history is dead as regards academic history, and rightly so.

Carlyle the Proto-Fascist

Thomas_CarlyleThe originator of the great man theory of history is British philosopher Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881), one of the most revered thinkers of his day. He also coined the expression “dismal science” to describe the economics of his time. The economists of the day, against whom he constantly inveighed, were almost universally champions of the free market, free trade, and human rights.

His seminal work on “great men” is On Heroes,  Hero-Worship, and the Heroic in History (1840). This book was written to distill his entire worldview.

Considering Carlyle’s immense place in the history of 19th century intellectual life, this is a surprisingly nutty book. It can clearly be seen as paving the way for the monster dictators of the 20th century. Reading his description of “great men” literally, there is no sense in which Mao, Stalin, and Hitler — or any savage dictator from any country you can name — would not qualify.

Indeed, a good case can be made that Carlyle was the forefather of fascism. He made his appearance in the midst of the age of laissez faire, a time when the UK and the US had already demonstrated the merit of allowing society to take its own course, undirected from the top down. In these times, kings and despots were exercising ever less control and markets ever more. Slavery was on its way out. Women obtained rights equal to men. Class mobility was becoming the norm, as were long lives, universal opportunity, and material progress.

Carlyle would have none of it. He longed for a different age. His literary output was devoted to decrying the rise of equality as a norm and calling for the restoration of a ruling class that would exercise firm and uncontested power for its own sake. In his view, some were meant to rule and others to follow. Society must be organized hierarchically lest his ideal of greatness would never again be realized. He set himself up as the prophet of despotism and the opponent of everything that was then called liberal.

Right Authoritarianism of the 19th Century

Carlyle was not a socialist in an ideological sense. He cared nothing for the common ownership of the means of production. Creating an ideologically driven social ideal did not interest him at all. His writings appeared and circulated alongside those of Karl Marx and his contemporaries, but he was not drawn to them.

Rather than an early “leftist,” he was a consistent proponent of power and a raving opponent of classical liberalism, particularly of the legacies of Adam Smith and John Stuart Mill. If you have the slightest leanings toward liberty, or affections for the impersonal forces of markets, his writings come across as ludicrous. His interest was in power as the central organizing principle of society.

Here is his description of the “great men” of the past:

“They were the leaders of men, these great ones; the modellers, patterns, and in a wide sense creators, of whatsoever the general mass of men contrived to do or to attain; all things that we see standing accomplished in the world are properly the outer material result, the practical realization and embodiment, of Thoughts that dwelt in the Great Men sent into the world: the soul of the whole world’s history….

One comfort is, that Great Men, taken up in any way, are profitable company. We cannot look, however imperfectly, upon a great man, without gaining something by him. He is the living light-fountain, which it is good and pleasant to be near. The light which enlightens, which has enlightened the darkness of the world; and this not as a kindled lamp only, but rather as a natural luminary shining by the gift of Heaven; a flowing light-fountain, as I say, of native original insight, of manhood and heroic nobleness;—in whose radiance all souls feel that it is well with them. … Could we see them well, we should get some glimpses into the very marrow of the world’s history. How happy, could I but, in any measure, in such times as these, make manifest to you the meanings of Heroism; the divine relation (for I may well call it such) which in all times unites a Great Man to other men…

Carlyle established himself as the arch-opponent of liberalism — heaping an unrelenting and seething disdain on Smith and his disciples.And so on it goes for hundreds of pages that celebrate “great” events such as the Reign of Terror in the aftermath of the French Revolution (one of the worst holocausts then experienced). Wars, revolutions, upheavals, invasions, and mass collective action, in his view, were the essence of life itself. The merchantcraft of the industrial revolution, the devolution of power, the small lives of the bourgeoisie all struck him as noneventful and essentially irrelevant. These marginal improvements in the social sphere were made by the “silent people” who don’t make headlines and therefore don’t matter much; they are essential at some level but inconsequential in the sweep of things.

To Carlyle, nothing was sillier than Adam Smith’s pin factory: all those regular people intricately organized by impersonal forces to make something practical to improve people’s lives. Why should society’s productive capacity be devoted to making pins instead of making war? Where is the romance in that?

Carlyle established himself as the arch-opponent of liberalism — heaping an unrelenting and seething disdain on Smith and his disciples. And what should replace liberalism? What ideology? It didn’t matter, so long as it embodied Carlyle’s definition of “greatness.”

No Greatness Like the Nation-State

Of course there is no greatness to compare with that of the head of the nation-state.

“The Commander over Men; he to whose will our wills are to be subordinated, and loyally surrender themselves, and find their welfare in doing so, may be reckoned the most important of Great Men. He is practically the summary for us of all the various figures of Heroism; Priest, Teacher, whatsoever of earthly or of spiritual dignity we can fancy to reside in a man, embodies itself here, to command over us, to furnish us with constant practical teaching, to tell us for the day and hour what we are to do.”

Why the nation-state? Because within the nation-state, all that is otherwise considered immoral, illegal, unseemly, and ghastly, can become, as blessed by the law, part of policy, civic virtue, and the forward motion of history. The leader of the nation-state baptizes rampant immorality with the holy water of consensus. And thus does Napoleon come in for high praise from Carlyle, in addition to the tribal chieftains of Nordic mythology. The point is not what the “great man” does with his power so much as that he exercises it decisively, authoritatively, ruthlessly.

The exercise of such power necessarily requires the primacy of the nation-state, and hence the protectionist and nativist impulses of the fascist mindset.

Consider the times in which Carlyle wrote. Power was on the wane, and humankind was in the process of discovering something absolutely remarkable: namely, the less society is controlled from the top, the more the people thrive in their private endeavors. Society needs no management but rather contains within itself the capacity for self organization, not through the exercise of the human will as such, but by having the right institutions in place. Such was the idea of liberalism.

Liberalism was always counterintuitive. The less society is ordered, the more order emerges from the ground up. The freer people are permitted to be, the happier the people become and the more meaning they find in the course of life itself. The less power that is given to the ruling class, the more wealth is created and dispersed among everyone. The less a nation is directed by conscious design, the more it can provide a model of genuine greatness.

Such teachings emerged from the liberal revolution of the previous two centuries. But some people (mostly academics and would-be rulers) weren’t having it. On the one hand, the socialists would not tolerate what they perceived to be the seeming inequality of the emergent commercial society. On the other hand, the advocates of old-fashioned ruling-class control, such as Carlyle and his proto-fascist contemporaries, longed for a restoration of pre-modern despotism, and devoted their writings to extolling a time before the ideal of universal freedom appeared in the world.

The Dismal Science

One of the noblest achievements of the liberal revolution of the late 18th and 19th centuries — in addition to the idea of free trade — was the movement against slavery and its eventual abolition. It should not surprise anyone that Carlyle was a leading opponent of the abolitionist movement and a thoroughgoing racist. He extolled the rule of one race over another, and resented especially the economists for being champions of universal rights and therefore opponents of slavery.

As David Levy has demonstrated, the claim that economics was a “dismal science” was first stated in an essay by Carlyle in 1848, an essay in which non-whites were claimed to be non-human and worthy of killing. Blacks were, to his mind, “two-legged cattle,” worthy of servitude for all times.

Carlyle’s objection to economics as a science was very simple: it opposed slavery. Economics imagined that society could consist of people of equal freedoms, a society without masters and slaves. Supply and demand, not dictators, would rule. To him, this was a dismal prospect, a world without “greatness.”

The economists were the leading champions of human liberation from such “greatness.” They understood, through the study of market forces and the close examination of the on-the-ground reality of factories and production structures, that wealth was made by the small actions of men and women acting in their own self interest. Therefore, concluded the economists, people should be free of despotism. They should be free to accumulate wealth. They should pursue their own interests in their own way. They should be let alone.

Carlyle found the whole capitalist worldview disgusting. His loathing foreshadowed the fascism of the 20th century: particularly its opposition to liberal capitalism, universal rights, and progress.

Fascism’s Prophet

Once you get a sense of what capitalism meant to humanity – universal liberation and the turning of social resources toward the service of the common person – it is not at all surprising to find reactionary intellectuals opposing it tooth and nail. There were generally two schools of thought that stood in opposition to what it meant to the world: the socialists and the champions of raw power that later came to be known as fascists. In today’s parlance, here is the left and the right, both standing in opposition to simple freedom.

Carlyle came along at just the right time to represent that reactionary brand of power for its own sake. His opposition to emancipation and writings on race would emerge only a few decades later into a complete ideology of eugenics that would later come to heavily inform 20th-century fascist experiments. There is a direct line, traversing only a few decades, between Carlyle’s vehement anti-capitalism and the ghettos and gas chambers of the German total state.

Do today’s neo-fascists understand and appreciate their 19th century progenitor? Not likely. The continuum from Carlyle to Mussolini to Franco to Donald Trump is lost on people who do not see beyond the latest political crisis. Not one in ten thousand activists among the European and American “alt-right” who are rallying around would-be strong men who seek power today have a clue about their intellectual heritage.

Hitler turned to Goebbels, his trusted assistant, and asked for a final reading. It was Carlyle.And it should not be necessary that they do. After all, we have a more recent history of the rise of fascism in the 20th-century from which to learn (and it is to their everlasting disgrace that they have refused to learn).

But no one should underestimate the persistence of an idea and its capacity to travel time, leading to results that no one intended directly but are still baked into the fabric of the ideological structure. If you celebrate power for its own sake, herald immorality as a civic ideal, and believe that history rightly consists of nothing more than the brutality of great men with power, you end up with unconscionable results that may not have been overtly intended but which were nonetheless given license by the absence of conscience opposition.

As time went on, left and right mutated, merged, diverged, and established a revolving door between the camps, disagreeing on the ends they sought but agreeing on the essentials. They would have opposed 19th-century liberalism and its conviction that society should be left alone. Whether they were called socialist or fascists, the theme was the same. Society must be planned from the top down. A great man — brilliant, powerful, with massive resources at his disposal — must lead. At some point in the middle of the 20th century, it became difficult to tell the difference but for their cultural style and owned constituencies. Even so, left and right maintained distinctive forms. If Marx was the founding father of the socialist left, Carlyle was his foil on the fascist right.

Hitler and Carlyle

In his waning days, defeated and surrounded only by loyalists in his bunker, Hitler sought consolation from the literature he admired the most. According to many biographers, the following scene took place. Hitler turned to Goebbels, his trusted assistant, and asked for a final reading. The words he chose to hear before his death were from Thomas Carlyle’s biography of Frederick the Great. Thus did Carlyle himself provide a fitting epitaph to one of the “great” men he so celebrated during his life: alone, disgraced, and dead.

Jeffrey Tucker is Director of Digital Development at FEE, CLO of the startup Liberty.me, and editor at Laissez Faire Books. Author of five books, he speaks at FEE summer seminars and other events. His latest book is Bit by Bit: How P2P Is Freeing the World.  Follow on Twitter and Like on Facebook. 

This article was published by The Foundation for Economic Education and may be freely distributed, subject to a Creative Commons Attribution United States License, which requires that credit be given to the author.

This TRA feature has been edited in accordance with TRA’s Statement of Policy.

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Three Popular Myths behind Trump’s Success – Article by Barry Brownstein

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The New Renaissance HatBarry Brownstein

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Why the Unprincipled Worst Get on Top

“Nothing sinks people faster in their careers than arrogance,” according to Stephen R. Covey, the bestselling author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. But it is hard to imagine a less humble or more arrogant individual than Donald Trump, and to date, his shoot-from-the-hip, prideful, self-referencing arrogance has not sunk his career.

In his book Principle-Centered Leadership, Covey described “politics without principle” as a politics of personality focused on “the instant creation of an image that sells well in the social and economic marketplace. You see politicians spending millions of dollars to create an image, even though it’s superficial, lacking substance, in order to get votes and gain office.”

The marketplace imposes a check on empty promotion and false confidence, which is why, as Covey observes, the most successful leaders in the private sector are often also quite humble.

So why do the arrogant do so well in elections? Is there something different about the political process that allows the worst to succeed?

In his seminal book The Road to Serfdom, Nobel laureate F.A. Hayek offers part of the answer. He lists three widely held beliefs that allow arrogant politicians to emerge.

Belief 1: We should be able to get out of our economic difficulties without pain.

As Hayek saw it, some people blame “the system” for their troubles and “wish to be relieved of the bitter choice which hard facts often impose upon them.” They “are only too ready to believe that the choice is not really necessary, that it is imposed upon them merely by the particular economic system under which we live.”

Let the implication of Hayek’s words sink in. The successful politicians may be those who increasingly blame the “system.”

With a majority of Americans feeling economically insecure, there is plenty of fear for Trump to exploit and a ready audience for promises that he can ease the economic pain of ordinary Americans.

Trump postures as a great fixer. Consider this retweet on Trump’s official Twitter page:

trumptweet20150824

He promises that things are going to be “great again,” once he gets us a better deal with China. Trump tells us he gets what he wants. To purchase a hotel in Miami, he brags, “I went in and punched and punched and beat the hell out of people, and I ended up getting it.”

Of course, Trump is not alone. In their arrogance, politicians will claim to fix social pain points — while they create many, many more.

Belief 2: Government should command or partially command significant portions of the economy.

Hayek observes that many well-meaning people ask, “Why should it not be possible that the same sort of system, if it be necessary to achieve important ends, be run by decent people for the good of the community as a whole?”

Those who believe in command economies think that when things go wrong, it must be because the wrong people are in charge. They don’t question their core belief that controls are needed.

History, economics, and the contemporary world teach lessons of command-and-control societies that have experienced economic failure. Yet, the wrong-person-in-charge belief is sadly all too common.

In her book The Art of Choosing, social psychologist and business professor Sheena Iyengar reports on 2007 research about societal attitudes in East Germany. She observes that among former East Germans, “more than 90% believed socialism was a good idea in principle, one that had just been poorly implemented in the past.”

Look around at your friends and neighbors who are supporting a candidate who advocates top-down solutions to social and economic problems. With few exceptions, they want the same things that you want: prosperity and peace for their family and the world. It is not that they want different outcomes than you do. They simply don’t understand that command economies are inherently, fatally flawed and cannot accomplish those goals.

Without examining their core beliefs, decent people tell themselves they’re choosing the “right” person to put in charge. Arrogant politicians are standing by, posturing as the “right” people.

Belief 3: There is a “good of the community as a whole” that our current economy is not meeting.

It is essential to understand why there can be no such thing as the “good of the community as a whole.” Hayek explains,

The “social goal” or “common purpose” for which society is to be organized is usually vaguely described as the “common good,” the “general welfare,” or the “general interest.” It does not need much reflection to see that these terms have no sufficiently definite meaning to determine a particular course of action.

All top-down solutions will be win-lose, benefiting some and harming others, for as Hayek explains,

The welfare and happiness of millions cannot be measured on a single scale of less or more. The welfare of the people, like the happiness of a man, depends up on a great many things that can be provided in an infinite variety of combinations.

Some see health care as a common good and a human right that the market system has failed to provide. In my FEE essay, “Castro and Obama Are Wrong about ‘Human Rights’” (FEE.org, March 25, 2016), I explain why real rights are win-win, not win-lose. “Rights” such as health care are win-lose and not real rights at all.

The arrogant believe they know what is best for you and best for the community. To them the course of action is clear. However, Hayek warns that in collectivist ethics, the ends justify the means and thus lead to amoral totalitarianism:

There is literally nothing which the consistent collectivist must not be prepared to do if it serves “the good of the whole” because “the good of the whole” is to him the only criterion of what ought to be done.

The Consequences of Our False Beliefs

Since there is no majority to agree on a specific plan of action to promote a nonexistent “common good,” the worst get on top in a centrally planned economy.

The “worst” will take advantage of the fact that agreement can be more readily forged by focusing on a “negative program.” Hayek writes,

It seems to be almost a law of human nature that it is easier for people to agree on a negative program — on the hatred of an enemy, on the envy of those better off — than on any positive task. The contrast between the “we” and the “they,” the common fight against those outside the group, seems to be an essential ingredient in any creed which will solidly knit together a group for common action. It is consequently always employed by those who seek, not merely support of a policy, but the unreserved allegiance of huge masses.

The “mass” that the “worst” seek to mobilize will include those who themselves are not grounded on principles. Hayek cautions that those having “imperfectly formed ideas are easily swayed”; their “passions and emotions are readily aroused.”

Hayek helps us to understand why the careers of arrogant politicians do not sink fast. The careers of arrogant politicians rise as long as we believe in a common good, seek the “right” politicians to be in charge, and support those who promise to shelter us from the work of examining our beliefs and the pain of making a different choice.

We shouldn’t be surprised when the outcome is not what we expect. As Freeman editor B.K. Marcus observes, “The more decisions we cede to the political process, the less we should expect anyone to protect our interests” (“Why Do We Believe These Pathological Liars?” FEE.org, April 27, 2016).

As individuals, we can question our core beliefs. We can humbly “try to live in harmony with natural laws and universal principles.” And we can demand the same of our politicians.

Barry Brownstein is professor emeritus of economics and leadership at the University of Baltimore. He is the author of The Inner-Work of Leadership. He blogs at BarryBrownstein.com, Giving up Control, and America’s Highest Purpose.

This article was published by The Foundation for Economic Education and may be freely distributed, subject to a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which requires that credit be given to the author.

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Donald Trump Is the Nightmare Version of a Political Outsider – Article by Lucy Steigerwald

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The New Renaissance HatLucy Steigerwald
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Trump Is Not an Alternative to Politics as Usual: He Is Its Purest Form

At a CNN-hosted town hall debate, Donald Trump said that the US government’s core focus should be on security (times three!), health care, and education. In spite of this vague, rambling answer, and much other blathering in support of big government, the real estate mogul has a large, intense following, which includes people on the right, the left, and even some paleoconservatives and libertarians.

In some ways, it’s understandable: if the normal process of politics revolts you in any way, the dream of anti-candidate Trump is sweet. The approval rating for the presidency in general is around 30 percent, according to Gallup. For Congress, it’s a stingy eight percent. People — or at least the people Gallup calls — do not seem terribly impressed by their elected officials.

Nor should they be. Powerful men and women spy, meddle, steal, and go to war, whether the people want them to or not, and then pat them on the head and coo euphemisms when people get upset with the results.

Into this travesty strolls Donald Trump, with a terrible, shallow campaign, brilliant in its bombastic vagueness. Populism, it’s been a while. You’re looking tanned, rested, but disturbingly familiar.

When Trump boasts about being against the Iraq war, or disses Dick Cheney, or says that being called a politician is insulting, it’s all too easy to like him. It would be so nice to believe he is not one of them, but one of us. Sure, he’s a billionaire on his third wife, with numerous failed business ventures, a love of eminent domain, and his own brand of “luxury” steaks, but he feels our loathing of the political class.

Yet it is infuriating that this is the year, and this is the man who has stolen the heart of the people fed up with DC. Not someone with principles (such as one against, oh, gleefully saying literally anything to be elected), not someone notably different from the elites he professes to loathe — merely a man who knows how to blab with the purest, most bald-faced confidence ever seen on a national stage.

In one way, Trump’s presidential run is about an outsider group revolting against the status quo, the way that fringey, quixotic campaigns like Pat Buchanan, Dennis Kucinich, or Ron Paul’s were. And some libertarians and paleocons have jumped on the Trump float, but it is clearly not their parade. The cause of Trump is not small government or social democracy or even Catholic populism.

It is Charlie Sheen-esque nationalism. It is strident whining confused for truth-telling. It is nonsense mercantilist ideas, bullying as public policy, and the worst anti-immigrant scapegoating in decades. However, there are no ideas here: it’s merely a billionaire playing that he’s angry about Mexicans and rallying swarms to his meaningless sort of “patriotism.”

Whether Trump was inevitable, or whether he simply speaks to the truly mediocre 2016 candidates is uncertain. But boy is it frustrating that the man who wants to raze DC is the one who wants to erect a statue of himself in its place. He tells it like it is, he knows politicians don’t work for the people! But he’s going to wave his hands and make a Mexico wall and 18th-century trade policy appear by incantation.

Back in September, the New Yorker wrote that “Trump … is playing the game of anti-politics.” We should be so lucky. Trump is merely politics distilled down to the size of one angry rich guy. On the campaign trail, would-be officials swear they can do anything and everything (and in the first 100 days, no less). Trump is bolder, brasher, and even more divorced from reality. But he’s still essentially that. The waking reality of the presumptive GOP nominee — who disses Dick Cheney, Hillary Clinton, and both party establishments — is that he is, heart and soul, a consummate politician.

His critique of the political class is not that they meddle too heavily in the lives of individuals, but that they haven’t done enough. If they had, wouldn’t we have a 50-foot wall on the southern border? Wouldn’t all those manufacturing jobs come back from China? For Trump and his supporters, the problem with Washington is not the inherent disaster of a massive bureaucracy with no consequences for failure and a surplus of corrupting power. No, it’s lack of strident, Trump-like spirit: a lack of will.

In spite of his twitches towards a less militaristic foreign policy — in between suggesting the United States rip up the Geneva Conventions, bomb the hell out of Syria, and seize Iraq’s oil — there is nothing really consistent about Trump. He may or may not be worse in practice than the status quo, but there is no reason to suspect that he is the savior of anything except his own ego. Indeed, his view that the government is incompetent due to bad managers sounds more like progressive technocracy than anything conservative. But somehow his screaming fans have gotten their signals crossed or, more grimly, they are as disinterested in small government as he is.

Hating DC is fun, but it doesn’t magically translate to supporting liberty. And populism is a not principle — it has no policies, feasible or otherwise. It is raw emotion. It is preaching. It is the flimflam, finger-pointing, and impossible promises of traditional assembly-line politics, just stripped down to bare parts. Trump is the schoolyard version of everything Marco Rubio or Bill Kristol advocates. He isn’t flattering anyone’s intelligence with his policy acumen. He doesn’t think we’re terribly smart, but he also thinks those fancy pants DC elites are not as smart as they pretend. He’s right about all of that. It’s not as if politics is noble or deserves better than Trump. It is Trump.

The Donald is not some demon summoned from another dimension to destroy America. He probably isn’t a new Hitler or Mussolini. He is a part of us, a glitzy, gilded reflection of the dark soul of politics: the lies, the self-promotion, and the delusion. Take a good, long look.

Lucy Steigerwald is a contributing editor to Antiwar.com and a contributor to Playboy; she previously worked as an Associate Editor for Reason magazine. Her articles have appeared at Playboy, Vice, Antiwar, Reason, Pittsburgh City Paper, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, and various libertarian blogs.

This article was originally published by The Foundation for Economic Education and may be freely distributed, subject to a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which requires that credit be given to the author.

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America’s Concentration Camps Are a Warning, Not a Model – Article by Gary McGath

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The New Renaissance HatGary McGath
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But some politicians are trying to revive their legacy

Woodrow Wilson’s reputation has recently taken a well-deserved beating because of his racial policies. He restored segregation in the federal civil service, and the infamous movie Birth of a Nation highlights his support for the Ku Klux Klan. Those policies are dead today, with very few advocates.

However, a more recent president implemented an even worse race-based policy against Americans, and some politicians say we should emulate it today. Franklin D. Roosevelt’s executive order forcibly removed about 120,000 Japanese-Americans, mostly US citizens, from their homes.

After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, people feared a Japanese attack on the West Coast, and many regarded the Japanese American population in California as disloyal. On February 19, 1942, Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066, which authorized the military to remove people from designated military areas.

As explained in Greg Robinson’s By Order of the President, Roosevelt’s language was broad, but everyone understood “any and all persons” to mean Japanese-Americans and “military areas” to mean the West Coast. The removals included “Issei” — resident immigrants — as well as “Nisei” — native-born Americans with Japanese parents. Immigration from Japan had been banned since 1924, and all Japanese immigrants were ineligible for citizenship, although all had been living in America for at least eighteen years.

They were forcibly removed to ten concentration camps. The government officially called them “relocation centers,” but Roosevelt himself used the words “concentration camp” in a recommendation as early as 1936, as did a military proposal in 1942. The occupants were kept behind barbed wire, and armed guards kept them from leaving.

The mass displacement of Japanese-Americans, but not people of German or Italian extraction, was the result of racial rather than security considerations. Roosevelt showed a lifelong hostility toward the Japanese. Robinson states:

FDR had a long and unvaried history of viewing Japanese-Americans in racialized terms, that is, as essentially Japanese in their identity and emotional allegiance, and of expressing hostility toward them on that basis.

In the years before World War I, Roosevelt considered immigration part of the Japanese threat to the West Coast. During the 1920s, when Roosevelt urged better relations with Japan, he supported immigration restriction and legal discrimination in order to deter Japanese-American settlement.

A report commissioned by Congress concluded that

Executive Order 9066 was not justified by military necessity, and the decisions that followed from it — exclusion, detention, the ending of detention and the ending of exclusion — were not founded upon military considerations. The broad historical causes that shaped these decisions were race prejudice, war hysteria and a failure of political leadership.

As documented by Thomas Fleming in The New Dealers’ War, Roosevelt proposed removing an even larger number of Japanese and Japanese-Americans in Hawaii. The military objected because so many of them were skilled workers who were necessary to the war effort.

The order banning Japanese-Americans from the West Coast was lifted in January of 1945, and the camps were shut down soon afterward. Many returned to find they couldn’t reclaim their property or return to their homes.

These events should be a shameful chapter in America’s past, but even today people cite them as an example to follow. David Bowers, mayor of Roanoke, Virginia, ordered the city government to stop helping Syrian refugees, citing Roosevelt’s internment order as justification.

Al Baldasaro, a New Hampshire state representative and co-chair of Donald Trump’s state veterans’ coalition, has defended Trump’s proposal to ban Muslim immigration by citing World War II internment: “What he’s saying is no different than the situation during World War II, when we put the Japanese in camps.”

Trump has made the connection between his call for banning Muslim immigrants and creating a national registry and FDR’s policies explicit:

What I’m doing is no different than FDR’s solution for German, Italian, Japanese, you know… They stripped them of their naturalization proceedings. They went through a whole list of things; they couldn’t go five miles from their homes. They weren’t allowed to use radios, flashlights. I mean, you know, take a look at what FDR did many years ago and he’s one of the most highly respected presidents.

Trump evaded the question of whether he would have supported Japanese internment, saying, “I would have had to be there at the time to give you a proper answer.” He wasn’t there, but there are still living Americans who were. One was George Takei, who played Lt. Sulu on Star Trek and was sent off at the age of five. He recalls how it happened:

Without charges, without trial, without due process — the fundamental pillar of our justice system — we were summarily rounded up, all Japanese-Americans on the West Coast, where we were primarily resident, and sent off to 10 barb wire internment camps — prison camps, really, with sentry towers, machine guns pointed at us — in some of the most desolate places in this country.

For the sake of a false sense of security, the US government ruined countless lives, imprisoned tens of thousands without charges, without even accusation, with only the mere fact of their skin color and ancestry. The internment stoked hatred against a minority group, squandered potential assets in the war, and fueled the Axis’s anti-American propaganda.

The lesson that America’s concentration camps should have burned into our national consciousness that we must never do that again — not to a racial, national, or a religious minority, nor anyone else — no matter how afraid we are. They are a warning, not a model.

Gary McGath is a freelance software engineer living in Nashua, New Hampshire.

This article was published by The Foundation for Economic Education and may be freely distributed, subject to a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which requires that credit be given to the author.

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If You Want Security, Pursue Liberty – Article by Ron Paul

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The New Renaissance HatRon Paul
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Judging by his prime-time speech in early December 2015, the final year of Barack Obama’s presidency will be marked by increased militarism abroad and authoritarianism at home. The centerpiece of the president’s speech was his demand for a new law forbidding anyone on the federal government’s terrorist watch list from purchasing a firearm. There has never been a mass shooter who was on the terrorist watch list, so this proposal will not increase security. However, it will decrease liberty.

Federal officials can have an American citizen placed on the terrorist watch list based solely on their suspicions that the individual might be involved in terrorist activity. Individuals placed on the list are not informed that they have been labeled as suspected terrorists, much less given an opportunity to challenge that designation, until a Transportation Security Administration agent stops them from boarding a plane.

Individuals can be placed on the list if their Facebook or Twitter posts seem “suspicious” to a federal agent. You can also be placed on the list if your behavior somehow suggests that you are a “representative” of a terrorist group (even if you have no associations with any terrorist organizations). Individuals can even be put on the list because the FBI wants to interview them about friends or family members!

Thousands of Americans, including several members of Congress and many employees of the Department of Homeland Security, have been mistakenly placed on the terrorist watch list. Some Americans are placed on the list because they happen to have the same names as terrorist suspects. Those mistakenly placed on the terrorist watch list must go through a lengthy “redress” process to clear their names.

It is likely that some Americans are on the list solely because of their political views and activities. Anyone who doubts this should consider the long history of federal agencies, such as the IRS and the FBI, using their power to harass political movements that challenge the status quo. Are the American people really so desperate for the illusion of security that they will support a law that results in some Americans losing their Second Amendment rights because of a bureaucratic error or because of their political beliefs?

President Obama is also preparing an executive order expanding the federal background check system. Expanding background checks will not keep guns out of the hands of criminals or terrorists. However, it will make obtaining a firearm more difficult for those needing, for example, to defend themselves against abusive spouses.

Sadly, many who understand that new gun-control laws will leave us less free and less safe support expanding the surveillance state. Like those promoting gun control, people calling for expanded surveillance do not let facts deter their efforts to take more of our liberties. There is no evidence that mass surveillance has prevented even one terrorist attack.

France’s mass-surveillance system is much more widespread and intrusive than ours. Yet it failed to prevent the recent attacks. France’s gun-control laws, which are much more restrictive than ours, not only failed to keep guns out of the hands of their attackers, they left victims defenseless. It is thus amazing that many American politicians want to make us more like France by taking away our Second and Fourth Amendment rights.

Expanding the federal government’s power will not increase our safety; it will only diminish our freedom. Americans will have neither liberty nor security until they abandon the fantasy that the US government can provide economic security, personal security, and global security.

Ron Paul, MD, is a former three-time Republican candidate for U. S. President and Congressman from Texas.

This article is reprinted with permission from the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity.

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