Tag Archives: fascism

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Why Iceland Doesn’t Have an Alt-Right Problem – Article by Camilo Gómez

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The New Renaissance HatCamilo Gómez
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With the recent rise to prominence of right-wing populist parties across Europe, it’s refreshing that Iceland has remained largely immune to such nationalistic rhetoric. On the continent, figures like Marine Le Pen in France and Geert Wilders in the Netherlands are capitalizing on what political scientists are calling a third wave of European populism that began after the international financial crisis of 2008. These parties are characterized by their anti-immigrant, and specifically, anti-Muslim sentiments. They fashion themselves the “protectors” of their homelands’ traditional culture against cosmopolitan globalism.

Yet, tiny Iceland has resisted this dirty brand of politics because of the rise of social movements that challenged the power structure of the Icelandic political establishment after the financial crisis of 2008. Unlike in other European countries, these social movements transformed themselves into a political movements, filling the vacuum of traditional center-right and center-left political parties, while also preventing far-right political projects from succeeding.

For starters, Iceland is a relatively young country that only became independent in 1944. It is a parliamentary democracy, based on coalitions because the Althing (parliament) has 63 members but a single party rarely has a clear majority. Unlike other Nordic countries, Iceland has been governed by the right for most of its history, either from the liberal conservative Independence Party or the center-right agrarian Progressive Party.

This changed after the international financial crisis of 2008, which led all three Icelandic commercial banks to default. The crisis generated massive anger as Icelanders didn’t know what was going to happen with their savings. This led to massive protests that culminated in the resignation of the Prime Minister who was a member of the Independence Party.  Consequently, in April 2009, a left-wing coalition by the Social Democratic Alliance and the Left-Green Movement formed a government together for the first time in the country’s history.

This grassroots activism led to the appearance of outsider political projects like the now defunct Best Party, which started as political satire but ended with its leader Jón Gnarr winning the mayoral election in Reykjavík in 2010. More importantly, grassroots activism was further encouraged by the Panama Papers, which revealed that the Prime Minister of Iceland, Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson of the Progressive Party and his wife, had an undisclosed account in an offshore tax haven. The ensuing protests became the largest in Iceland’s history, and made the Prime Minister resign. This led the way for the Pirate Party — a loose collection of anarchists, hackers and libertarians — to rise in prominence. Because of the Pirates, the national discussion shifted to a more socially tolerant narrative of a society willing to be open to the world.

Thus, Iceland’s 2016 elections presented very different options from the relatively traditional Independence Party and Progressive Party or the Social Democratic Alliance and Left-Green Movement. In addition to the Pirate Party,  voters could also choose from the Bright Party, an eclectic socially liberal party, and the Reform Party, a new liberal party formed by defectors of the Independence Party. The elections led to a center-right coalition between the Independence Party, the Reform Party and the Bright Party.

Rather than blaming immigrants for their problems, Icelanders confronted the political class and created new parties that didn’t resemble the wave of far-right populism. Now even the government realizes that Iceland needs immigrants, skilled and unskilled, to fulfill the demand in different aspects of the Icelandic economy. Contrary to other countries in Europe, and despite its size, Iceland had been willing to receive refugees, and the number of immigrants in Iceland keeps growing year by year. In times of demagoguery, Iceland remains friendly to foreigners. One can only hope that the world learn from this small country that foreigners bring prosperity.

Camilo Gómez is a blogger at The Mitrailleuse and the host of Late Night Anarchy podcast. He can be found in Twitter at @camilomgn. He is a Young Voices Advocate.

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

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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 Only Good Politics Are Boring Politics – Article by J. Andrew Zalucky

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The New Renaissance HatJ. Andrew Zalucky
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If 2016 has taught us anything, it’s that boring politics are the best politics. A staid political culture is a sign of a healthy society, as it allows humanity’s passions to flourish outside of the coercive and violent realm of political power. Those who say we should look to our leaders to inspire us, or that politics should be the engine of “progress,” are unwittingly calling for the destruction of civil society.

The Joy of Boredom

Since the end of the Cold War, for example, the political climate of northern and western Europe has been characterized by the yawn-inducing push and pull between liberal democracy and social democracy (with a side of Christian conservatism here, a dash of old-school leftism there). Both sides share a broad commitment to stability and market economics, but may have marginal scuffles over the size of the welfare state and the extent of government regulation. Political factions are more likely to fight about numbers and the wording of a law than engage in grand, sweeping oratory over revolutionary manifestos. Prior to the migrant crisis, this order was rarely disturbed – even by the troubles within the Eurozone.

While this doesn’t get the blood rushing in the way that romantic mass-movements did in the past, it’s also a good backstop against the bloodletting that those movements produced. People here exercise their passions through sports, music, and entertainment. Nods to historical glories and national myths are safely cordoned off in powerless, symbolic royal families, rather than ecstatic throngs yearning for a “dear leader.” While political life in this “end of history” scenario doesn’t make for epic storytelling, it helps to produce the world’s happiest societies.

For the most part, this reality exists in the “Anglosphere” as well, as Canada, New Zealand, and Australia all enjoy a situation similar to that of the Eurasian peninsula. And yes, even Great Britain and the United States broadly share this state of affairs. We can tell when this order has been disrupted in the wrong way. I remember hearing pundits and journalists decry the 2012 election as “bitter” and “divisive.” Well, here we are in 2016. We’ve seen America’s own centre-right party swallowed whole by a candidate’s cynical campaign of nationalism and a narcissistic cult of personality. Meanwhile, factions of our centre-left party have shown an affinity for unilateral executive power and ideologies that should have crumbled with the Berlin Wall. The most awful political campaign of our lifetimes makes 2012 look like the pinnacle of sane, democratic discourse.

Inspired into Misery

By contrast, look at the countries with the most passionate, ideologically-charged and “inspirational” political cultures. Chavismo-style socialism has led Venezuela into a grave economic crisis and turned one of the most resource-rich countries on Earth into a humanitarian disaster. There’s no need to exaggerate the effect of the Kim-dynasty cult in North Korea, with its toxic mix of Marxist-Leninism and the legacy of the Japanese Emperors: famine, malnutrition, and the stultification of the mind that comes with any closed society. Theocratic societies may do a great job at fulfilling humanity’s need for spirituality and transcendence, but are abysmal in terms of civil liberties, women’s rights, and any sense of pluralism.

To the extent that life has improved in places like China, it is due to the regime moving away from its motivating ideology, not a misplaced loyalty to it. Ideas like property rights, limited government, and sovereignty of the individual may seem mundane to those in the West who’ve been conditioned to take them for granted, but once people abandon these ideas for the sweeping romantic ecstasy of leader-worship, national supremacy, or prostration before a man-made god, they become more willing to see their fellow citizens as numbers or a means to a political end. It’s this ecstatic frenzy that makes people comfortable with deportations, torture, show trials, and mass murder.

Libertarians and classical liberals would do well to read the advice Alan Wolfe gives in The Future of Liberalism. Though Wolfe is a liberal more in the New Deal/Great Society sense of the word, he still provides valuable insight for maintaining a stable political culture:

On matters of the heart, romanticism touches on the deepest emotions, expands the human imagination, and produces world-class music and art. But however much romanticism can serve as a corrective to liberalism, it ought never to be a substitute for it. “Politics,” Max Weber wrote, “is a strong and slow boring of hard boards.” That does not sound very dramatic, but its undramatic quality is what makes politics a blessing in disguise. When liberal politics works – either at home or abroad – fewer people are killed in the name of a cause, and fewer lives are disrupted to serve as characters in someone else’s drama.

He’s right to note that romanticism can be a corrective, as ideas are still important, but he wisely splits the difference in showing that proceduralism must still prevail over lofty notions of “getting things done.” He goes on to say that liberals

… ought to be aware of the powerful attractions of militarism, nationalism, and ideology, and they ought to be strong enough to resist them. Let the passions reign in the museums and concert halls. In the halls of government, reason, however cold, is better than emotions, however heartfelt.

In much the same vein, Robert O. Paxton wrote in The Anatomy of Fascism that

Fascism rested not on the truth of its doctrine but upon the leader’s mystical union with the historic destiny of his people, a notion related to romanticist ideas of national historic flowering and of individual artistic or spiritual genius, though fascism otherwise denied romanticism’s exaltation of unfettered person creativity. The fascist leader wanted to bring his people into a higher realm of politics that they would experience sensually: the warmth of belonging to a race now fully aware of its identity, historic destiny, and power; the excitement of participating in a vast collective enterprise; the gratification of submerging oneself in a wave of shared feelings, and of sacrificing one’s petty concerns for the group’s good; and the thrill of domination.

We’re right to be worried at the impulses at work in this election cycle. As Adam Gopnik wrote in the New Yorker earlier this year, “The national psyche never gets over learning that its institutions are that fragile and their ability to resist a dictator that weak.” When examining the two major party candidates, the American electorate is indeed left with a terrible choice. Still, we can survive, resist, and undermine the inevitably bad outcome.

J. Andrew Zalucky

J. Andrew Zalucky is a Connecticut-based writer focused on politics, history and cultural issues. Since 2011, he has run his own website, For the Sake of Argument. In addition, he writes about extreme music and is a regular contributor to Decibel and Metal Injection.

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

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Nazis on Twitter? That’s What Blocking Is For – Article by Jeffrey A. Tucker

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

The New Renaissance HatJeffrey A. Tucker
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I’ve followed the fascinating case of Jonathan Weisman, The New York Times’s deputy Washington editor, and his conflagration with the legions of Nazis on Twitter. After he tweeted an essay about the rise of fascism in the U.S. — an essay not unlike the one I wrote this time last year — he was dogpiled by a variety of crazy alt-right accounts, and bombarded by some deeply malicious messaging.

You wake in the morning and find 100 notifications from people calling you a tool of the Jews.It might have been new to him, but for most curious Internet users of a certain generation, this is nothing new. For Weisman, it came as a shock, and understandably. The tweets featured photoshopped images of Weisman being marched to the gas chambers, for example. They threatened him with vile anti-Semitic and hard-core racist rhetoric.

He knew that if he merely claimed that this happened, he would be met with incredulity by a mainstream audience. To make sure that people believed him, he spent the day retweeting the vile messages to his followers, as if to say: “this stuff really does exist.”

I know exactly what he means. After my first critical article on Trump last year, one in which I reported on an early campaign speech I watched, I was trolled hard too. You wake in the morning and find 100 notifications from people calling you a tool of the Jews, slamming you with racist cartoons, telling you that you have sold out the white race, and even calling for your death.

These are people who perhaps begin their trajectory with some harmless anti-PC racial banter, but it escalates to become a full-scale political ideology, one that eventually crowds out all concern for human rights and decency. What they have joined isn’t a real army with guns, but when you are targeted it is still emotionally draining and politically frightening to say the least.

It’s supposed to be. That’s why they do it. The point is to shake you up, and make you feel like you are being bombarded.

When I told people about it, they didn’t believe it, or didn’t want to believe it. I too ended up screenshotting and posting in private messages, just to make the point that these vile movements do indeed exist. Even then, people doubt, probably because the sheer aggressiveness of this crowd is rather new in public life, at least in the US.

Hatred, Left and Right

For most of my writing career, I’ve been called a corporate shill by the left, a puppet of the Kochtopus, an apologist for capitalist exploitation and frankenfood. None of the attacks from the left have matched the sheer vitriol of those from the supposed opposite side. These days, though I hold the same libertarian perspective I always have, I’m being denounced as a witting dupe of the rootless commercial class, a shill for the global banksters and usurers, a cuckservative (look it up), and probably a secret Jew myself.

Welcome to Twitter in 2016.

The world truly does seem to be dividing between authoritarians of the right and left, and the rest of us. At some point in last year, hundreds of bitter people left their 4chan caves and became Twitter mavens. It became the choice venue for the far right, which has developed its own internal signaling systems such as putting the signs ((( ))) around ostensibly “known Jews.” They use swastikas as avatars. They post Nazi-era caricatures of Jews. And the rhetoric is a revival of interwar hate that most people believe was vanquished from the earth with the defeat of the Nazis 70 years ago.

Not all the accounts are so blatant. Some prefer the dog-whistle approach in their own posting and merely retweet the more hard-core material. After a while, you can become very talented at spotting the members of this internet junta, and have it confirmed with only one or two degrees of separation from the more overt deniers and/or celebrators of the actual Holocaust (strange how deniers and celebrators hang out together).

Just as left socialism never seems to go away, no matter how many economic disasters it brings about, so it is with national socialism with a rightest tinge. In fact, it seems to be growing, both in Europe and the US, posing a serious challenge to those of us who consider ourselves classical liberals: hard opposition to the left and to the right. As I’ve written elsewhere, the world truly does seem to be dividing between authoritarians of the right and left, opposed consistently by a small but growing group of genuine liberals all over the world.

Terms of Use

Now, to be sure, Jonathan Weisman was exactly right to wonder why Twitter puts up with this stuff. As he points out, banning such accounts is not censorship; this is a private venue that can set its own rules, same as a restaurant or movie theater. And Twitter does indeed have rules against “hateful conduct” that threatens people based on religion and ethnicity, as well as a policy on harassment that prohibits targeting people and inciting others to do the same. There’s no question that these accounts are in violation.

Why doesn’t Twitter act? Well, it sometimes does. After the Weisman articles, Twitter banned some 30 or so accounts. What happened to them? It’s pretty easy: they can easily come back again with another user name. In this sense, Twitter is, by design, much easier to game than Google or Facebook, both of which have much stricter policies. Sockpuppeting is a way of life here.

How does a digital venue decide how strict to be on these matters? It is all about the value of the platform for users. Sometimes tighter is better and other times it is not. In the case of Twitter, a main contribution it makes to global culture is its openness to all. You can find and see and hear just about anything. You can curate your feed. You can include or exclude. Sure, that takes a bit of work, but it is more than worth it.

For Facebook and LinkedIn, matters are very different. Permitting hate, harassment, sex solicitation, porn, and so on, is a problem for the kind of culture they want to create for members. And so it is more carefully policed. Again, this is not censorship anymore than a restaurant that demands shoes is violating human rights. You have the human right to be a Nazi all you want on your own property, but you don’t have the right to do so on property that belongs to others.

What To Do?

As it turns out, the nasty junta of hate-spewing freaks is not an army after all.When this started happening to me, I was initially disoriented and, I admit, a bit shaken. But then it struck me that Twitter surely has permitted a way to deal with this. Sure enough, there is a little gear that allows you to select a pretty little option: block. With the block, that account can no longer contact you or post among your notifications. Quite simply, you stop hearing from them.

I spent about a month doing this to trolls. Oddly, it is very satisfying. Someone tags you in a hate-filled post. With one click, you can blast them out of your curated universe. Once I got the hang of it, it became a game. Instead of getting mad, you just get even. Well, not really. But it sort of feels like it.

You know what? It works. After blocking about 100 accounts over the course of the fall, the problem almost entirely vanished. As it turns out, the nasty junta of hate-spewing freaks is not an army after all. In the end, we might in fact be talking about a few hundred accounts. Maybe it is more. And maybe after this article, they will all be back.

It might not be possible to make them all go away, but there is a way to reduce the influx and almost eliminate the stress. That’s not to minimize the alarming rise of fascism in politics here and abroad, but only to say that we are wise to distinguish between reality and digital illusion.

Blocking Is Betting than Beatings

And this is a much better option than leaning hard on Twitter to do more enforcement of its own terms of use. As much as these people disgust me, I would actually prefer to live in a world in which even deranged Nazis have access to widely available communication channels. I won’t invoke the right of free speech here because that’s not what this is about.

I will, however, say a good word for openness to all – and I mean all – points of view, access to media by all the world’s people (this is a wonderful miracle), and, above all else, the right of individuals to exclude through blocking. This is the way the opinion market should work. This is how we curate our own intellectual lives.

What we absolutely do not need – which Europe has tried to do – are government controls on what types of opinions one is allowed to hold and what books one is allowed to read. If you want violent extremism to grow, this is a great path towards guaranteeing that it will. Shutting people up by force is not the solution. The block button is far more effective than any censor.

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.

 

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

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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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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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The US Two-Party System Made Donald Trump’s Fascist Campaign Possible – Video by G. Stolyarov II

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

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
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Were it not for the deeply fallacious and self-defeating mindset of voting for the “lesser evil”, the rise of a demagogue such as Trump would have been impossible in the United States.

Though it may be alleged that economic fascism has characterized America’s “mixed economy” since at least the New Deal of the 1930s, the resurgence of cultural fascism would have been unthinkable even during the 2012 Presidential Election. Yet it is here in the form of Donald Trump’s campaign. Mr. Stolyarov considers what made possible this frightening resurgence of the worst tendencies in American politics. He concludes that the biggest underlying facilitator of Trump’s frightening rise is the very two-party political system in the United States and the “lesser evil” trap it engenders in the minds of many voters.

References

– “The US Two-Party System Made Donald Trump’s Fascist Campaign Possible” – Article by G. Stolyarov II
– “Why Republicans Deserved a Crushing Defeat in the 2012 Presidential Election” – Article by G. Stolyarov II –
– “Black students ‘outraged’ after being escorted from Trump rally” – Article by Lindsey Bever – The Washington Post and Chicago Tribune
– “Technically, it is illegal to protest inside of Trump rallies” – Article by Colin Daileda – Mashable –
– “Rejecting the Purveyors of Pull: The Lessons of Atlas Shrugged: Part II” – Article by G. Stolyarov II
– “Trump is Phony, a Fraud” – Speech by Mitt Romney – PBS NewsHour
– “Hating the Establishment Is Not the Same as Supporting Liberty” – Article by Jeffrey Tucker
– “On Moral Responsibility in General and in the Context of Voting” – Article by G. Stolyarov II
– “The Importance of Zoltan Istvan’s Transhumanist Presidential Campaign” – Article by G. Stolyarov II

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The US Two-Party System Made Donald Trump’s Fascist Campaign Possible – Article by G. Stolyarov II

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

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
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                It is disconcerting to watch as the front-runner for the 2016 Republican Presidential nomination in the United States espouses a genuinely fascistic agenda – not just in terms of protectionism, economic nationalism, militarism, and the desire to centrally plan economic greatness – but also in terms of the overtly uglier sides of historical fascism: the xenophobia, racism, advocacy of torture and blood guilt, desire to silence political opponents, and incitements to violence against protesters and dissenters. Yet this is precisely what Donald Trump has done, unleashing the long-dormant worst tendencies of American politics. He has emboldened the crudest, least enlightened, most hide-bound enemies of tolerance, cosmopolitanism, and liberty to emerge from well-deserved disgrace to fuel the campaign of a cynical, unprincipled opportunist who thrives by pandering to their lowest impulses. Trump is vulgar, volatile, and unhinged. He has already turned his rallies into miniature versions of the police state he would create if elected – evicting even protesters who simply stand there with signs or clothing that express disagreement with Trump, or even individuals who attract the ire of the frenzied Trumpists for having the “wrong” color of skin or the “wrong” incidental expressions. Because of a bizarre law (H. R. 347, enacted in 2012), it is illegal to protest inside Trump rallies (or rallies of any candidate that receives Secret Service protection), so Trump is already utilizing coercive police powers to suppress dissent.

                Though it may be alleged that economic fascism has characterized America’s “mixed economy” since at least the New Deal of the 1930s, the resurgence of cultural fascism would have been unthinkable even during the 2012 Presidential Election. Mitt Romney, who seemed to me at the time to represent a paradigm of crony capitalism that inched toward overarching totalitarianism, now appears to be a gentleman and an intellectual – a voice of reason, class, and prudence in his eloquent denunciation of Donald Trump. Romney, as President, would have been unlikely to avert an incremental descent into fascism (although, in retrospect, he seems to be a decent human being), and his own candidacy was marred by manipulations at various State Republican Conventions, but, compared to Trump, Romney is a model of civility and good sense. Romney, if elected, would primarily have been the next status-quo President, overseeing a deeply flawed and deteriorating but endurable economic, political, and civil-liberties situation. Trump, however, would plunge the United States into an abyss where the remnants of personal liberty will suffocate.

                And yet the manipulations that occurred in 2012 to aid Romney paved the way for a Trump candidacy and its widely perceived “unstoppable” momentum. (Let us hope that this perception is premature!) I was a delegate to the Nevada State Republican Convention in 2012, where I helped elect a pro-Ron Paul delegation to the Republican National Convention. However, upon learning of the events at the National Convention, I became forever disillusioned with the ability of the Republican Party to become receptive to the advocacy of individual freedom. I wrote after Romney’s electoral defeat that

the rule change enacted by the party establishment at the National Convention, over the vociferous objections of the majority of delegates there, has permanently turned the Republican Party into an oligarchy where the delegates and decision-makers will henceforth be picked by the ‘front-runner’ in any future Presidential contest. Gone are the days when people like me could, through grass-roots activism and participation at successive levels of the party conventions, become delegates to a state convention and exert some modicum of influence over how the party is governed and intellectually inclined.

                The Republican Party establishment intended its rule change to prevent the ability of motivated grass-roots activists to elect delegates at State Conventions who would vote against the “presumptive nominee” and in favor of an upstart – presumably more libertarian – contender such as Ron Paul. Little did the establishment expect that this rule change would prevent its own favored candidates from effectively contesting Donald Trump’s nomination if Trump continues to win popular votes, especially in “winner-take-all” primaries, and approaches a majority of the total delegates. The most that the Republican Party elites can hope for now is that a candidate such as Ted Cruz eventually overtakes Trump, or that the remaining candidates – Cruz, Marco Rubio, and John Kasich – split enough of the delegates to deny Trump the majority and lead to a brokered convention. But as the narrative of inevitability continues to be spun in Trump’s favor and he amasses prominent endorsements and even promises from the other candidates that they would support him if he were the nominee, these damage-control plans seem quite vulnerable. Blind party loyalty, combined with a bandwagon mentality, appears to be driving the Republican establishment to a reluctant capitulation to Trump – which would be political suicide, but they are apt to do it anyway.

                If Trump trumps the old Republican Party establishment, however, this would be nothing to cheer. It would be a replacement of a defunct, cronyist, and backroom-dealing oligarchy – but one considerably tempered by satiation from its own decades of comfortable dominance and the remaining checks and balances of the political system – with a vicious, crass, completely unrestrained new oligarchy headed by Trump himself, and fueled by populistic pandering to masses about whom Trump personally could not care less. Trump asserts that he is incorruptible because he is funding his own campaign. However, the truth is that he does not need to pay anyone off for special political privileges, because he is the special interest that would be garnering the favors during “normal times”. If elected, he will simply do so without the intermediaries of the traditional political class. As Jeffrey Tucker eloquently explains,

many have fallen for Donald Trump’s claim that he deserves support solely because he owes nothing to anyone. Therefore, he is not part of the establishment. Why is that good for liberty? He has said nothing about dismantling power. […] He wants surveillance, controls on the internet, religious tests for migration, war-like tariffs, industrial planning, and autocratic foreign-policy power. He’s praised police power and toyed with ideas such as internment and killings of political enemies. His entire governing philosophy boils down to arbitrary, free-wheeling authoritarianism.

                Yet the biggest underlying facilitator of Trump’s frightening rise is the very two-party political system in the United States. Had the ballot-access laws not been rigged against “third” political parties and independent candidates, and had representation been determined on a proportional rather than a “winner-take-all” basis, there would have been genuine alternatives for voters to choose from. At present, however, every recent election season has degenerated into a spectacle of demonizing “the other side” – even if that side is just a different wing of the same political establishment. Far too many people vote for “the lesser evil” in their view, rather than the candidate with whom they agree most (who will most likely be a minor-party or independent candidate, since both the Republican and Democratic Parties are widely perceived as ineffectual and misguided once actually in power). Instead of evaluating specific candidates based on their stances on the issues as well as their personal record of integrity (or lack thereof), too many voters have learned to viscerally hate “the other” party’s brand and exhibit unconditional loyalty to their own. During the primary process, even voters who prefer the candidates who did not become the nominee will often capitulate and embrace a deeply flawed frontrunner. If too many Republican voters come to believe that Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders would be intolerable choices for President, then they may come to rally behind Trump even if they personally would have preferred Rubio, Cruz, or Kasich – and that is how a fascistic campaign could elicit the support of even the many non-fascists who simply cannot distance themselves from the “R” next to a candidate’s name.

                The only way in the long term to defeat Trump and those like him (because, in the wake of Trump’s bewildering popularity, others will emerge to imitate his tactics) is to renounce the two-party political system and judge each candidate solely on his or her policies, record, and personal merits or demerits. As I pointed out in 2012 in “On Moral Responsibility in General and in the Context of Voting”,

The most reliable way to avoid adverse moral responsibility in voting is to vote for a candidate whom one considers to be an improvement over the status quo in absolute, not relative, terms – and without regard for how others might vote. Morality is not based on consensus, but on objective truth. One’s own understanding of objective truth, and the continual pursuit of improving that understanding, is the best path to moral action and the habits of thought that facilitate it.

More recently, in 2015, I explained that

voters who are caught in the expectations trap will tend to vote for the “lesser evil” (in their view) from one party, because they tend to think that the consequences of the election of the candidate from the other party will be dire indeed, and they do not want to “take their vote away” from the slightly less objectionable candidate. This thinking rests on the false assumption that a single individual’s vote, especially in a national election, can actually sway the outcome. Given that the probabilities of this occurring are negligible, the better choice – the choice consistent with individual autonomy and the pursuit of principle – is to vote solely based on one’s preference, without any regard for how others will vote or how the election will turn out.

             Had Trump been one candidate among tens of independent contenders, he would have been rightly recognized as a demagogue whose base of support is a xenophobic, poorly educated fringe. Had numerous political parties been able to compete without major barriers to entry, today’s “moderate” establishment Republicans and movement conservatives would have had no need to fight with Trump over a particular party’s nomination, since they – having little in common – would have likely fielded multiple candidates of their own from multiple parties. As it stands now, however, the two-party system has destroyed the checks that would exist in a truly politically competitive system to prevent a fascistic demagogue’s meteoric rise. Only the consciences of voters stand between Trump and the Republican nomination, as well as the Presidency. Now, more than ever, it is imperative to vote solely on principle and escape the “lesser evil” trap, lest the greater evil of untrammeled illiberalism trap us forever.

This essay may be freely reproduced using the Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike International 4.0 License, which requires that credit be given to the author, G. Stolyarov II. Find out about Mr. Stolyarov here.

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Trump and Sanders Are Both Conservatives – Article by Steven Horwitz

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The New Renaissance HatSteven Horwitz
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Shared Visions of Fear, Force, and Collectivism

Those of us who reject the conventional left-right political spectrum often see things that those working within it cannot. For example, in “Why the Candidates Keep Giving Us Reasons to Use the ‘F’ Word” (Freeman, Winter 2015), I argue that Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, seen by many as occupying opposite ends of the ideological spectrum, both embrace the thinking of economic nationalism, if not fascism.

They also share a different political tradition. It may seem to contradict their shared fascist pedigree, but Trump and Sanders are both, in a meaningful sense, conservatives.

Trump, of course, has been lambasted by many self-described conservatives precisely because they believe he is not a conservative. And Sanders, the self-described “democratic socialist,” hardly fits our usual conception of a conservative. What exactly am I arguing, then?

They are both conservatives from the perspective of classical liberalism. More specifically, they are conservatives in the sense that F.A. Hayek used the term in 1960 when he wrote the postscript to The Constitution of Liberty titled “Why I Am Not a Conservative.” There he said of conservatives,

They typically lack the courage to welcome the same undesigned change from which new tools of human endeavors will emerge.… This fear of trusting uncontrolled social forces is closely related to two other characteristics of conservatism: its fondness for authority and its lack of understanding of economic forces.… The conservative does not object to coercion or arbitrary power so long as it is used for what he regards as the right purposes. He believes that if government is in the hands of decent men, it ought not to be too much restricted by rigid rules.

That description would seem to apply to both Trump and Sanders. They share a fear of uncontrolled and undesigned change, especially in the economy. This is most obvious in Trump’s bluster about how America never “wins” and his desire to raise tariffs on Chinese imports and close the flow of immigrants, especially from Mexico. Economic globalization is a terrific example of uncontrolled change, and using foreign workers and producers as scapegoats for that change — especially when those changes have largely benefited most Americans — is a good example of this fear of the uncontrolled.

Those policies also show the much-discussed economic ignorance of Trump and his supporters, as shutting off trade and migration would impoverish the very people Trump claims to care about — those who are, in fact, supporting him. International trade and the free migration of labor drive down costs and leave US consumers with more money in their pockets with which to buy new and different goods. They also improve living standards for our trade partners, but Trump and his followers wrongly perceive their gains as necessitating American losses.

The same concerns are echoed in Sanders’s criticisms of free trade and in his claim that immigration is undermining good jobs for the native-born. Trump’s rhetoric might be more about how the US needs to “beat” the Chinese, and Sanders might focus more on the effects on working class Americans, especially union workers, but both fear the uncontrolled change of globalized markets, seeing commerce as a zero-sum game. (See “Why Trump and Sanders See Losers Everywhere,” FEE.org, January 20, 2016.)

For Sanders, fear of change also bubbles up in his criticisms of Uber — even though he uses the service all the time. Part of Hayek’s description was the fear of change producing “new tools of human endeavor.” The new economy emerging from the reduction of transaction costs will continue to threaten labor unions and the old economic understanding of employment and the firm. Sanders’s view of the economy is very much a conservative one as he tries to save the institutions of an economy that no longer exists because it no longer best serves human wants.

In addition, both Trump and Sanders are more than willing to use coercion and arbitrary power to attempt to resist that change. These similarities manifest in different ways, as Trump sees himself as the CEO of America, bossing people and moving resources around as if it were one of his own (frequently bankrupt) companies. CEOs are not bound by constitutional constraints and are used to issuing orders to all who they oversee. This is clearly Trump’s perspective, and many of his followers apparently see him as Hayek’s “decent man” who should not be too constrained by rules.

The same is true of Sanders, though he and his supporters would deny it. One need only consider his more extreme taxation proposals as well as the trillions in new spending he would authorize to see that he will also not be bound by constraints and will happily use coercion to achieve his ends. This is also clear in his policies on trade and immigration, which, like Trump’s, would require a large and intrusive bureaucracy to enforce. As we already know from current immigration restrictions, such bureaucracies are nothing if not arbitrary and coercive. Both Trump and Sanders believe that with the right people in charge, there’s no need for rule-based constraints on political power.

Hayek also said of conservatives that they are characterized by a

hostility to internationalism and [a] proneness to a strident nationalism.… [It is] this nationalistic bias which frequently provides the bridge from conservatism to collectivism: to think in terms of “our” industry or resource is only a short step away from demanding that these national assets be directed in the national interest.

As noted, Sanders and Trump share exactly this hostility and proneness. And despite being seen as political opposites, their distinct views converge in the idea that resources are “ours” as a nation and that it is the president’s job (and the state’s more generally) to direct them in the national interest. For Trump, that interest is “making America great again” and making sure we “beat” the Chinese. For Sanders, that interest is the attempt to protect “the working class” against the predation of two different enemies: the 1 percent and foreign firms and workers, all of whom are destroying our industries and human resources.

All of this fear of uncontrolled change and economic nationalism is in sharp contrast with the position of what Hayek calls “liberalism” or what we might call “classical liberalism” or “libertarianism.” In that same essay, Hayek said of classical liberalism, “The liberal position is based on courage and confidence, on a preparedness to let change run its course even if we cannot predict where it will lead.”

This is why classical liberalism rejects the idea that the path toward progress entails electing the right people (the “decent men”) and the cult of personality that frequently accompanies that idea, as we’ve seen with Trump and Sanders. Classical liberalism understands how, under the right rules and institutions, progress for all is the unintended outcome of allowing each to pursue their own values and ends with an equal respect for others to do the same, regardless of which side of an artificial political boundary they reside on.

If we want to live in peace, prosperity, and cooperation, we need to recognize that progress is a product of unpredictable, uncontrolled, and uncontrollable change.

Trump and Sanders can stand on their porches telling us to get off their lawn, but we’re going to do it in an Uber imported from Asia and driven by a nonunionized immigrant, because we classical liberals welcome the change they fear.

Steven Horwitz is the Charles A. Dana Professor of Economics at St. Lawrence University and the author of Hayek’s Modern Family: Classical Liberalism and the Evolution of Social Institutions. He is a member of the FEE Faculty Network.

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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