The Life And Death Of Money

Inflation, like most society-wide monetary happenings, is always complex and often incompletely grasped. At least this is true of its causes; of its effects, most of all its social effects, there is now little doubt.

We learned much about inflation during the twentieth century, when the advent of permanent fiat money made hyperinflation possible for the first time. But as this book shows, the infamous German hyperinflation of 1923 was poorly understood by those who lived through it. And whatever we understand now, the past several years, and in particular the past few months, have demonstrated that we still often ignore what we know. When Money Dies shows what happens when reality reasserts itself. It’s not pretty.

This classic study by Adam Fergusson, first published in 1975, thus has new resonance. Whether and to what extent we face the same fate as the Germany of 1923 we will discuss later. One key to understanding Fergusson’s history is that a society, or at least some societies, can absorb a lot of punishment and keep functioning. The author points out that for half a decade after 1918, looking at German diaries, newspapers, and diplomatic dispatches, a common theme was that things could not go on “like this” any longer. Yet they did, and they got worse, month after month, year after year. Many Germans, Fergusson says, became convinced “that because conditions had been getting worse for four years they could go on getting worse forever.” The lesson is that things that once seemed impossible can easily become the new normal, and there is rarely any obvious fix.

As with most modern inflations, the process began some time before it spun out of control. It started during World War I, when the German government decided that borrowing, not taxation, would finance the war. Borrowing in the form of war loans from the populace constituted sixty percent of German spending on the war, at a time when a gold mark was, by iron definition, equal to a paper mark, and any variation was inconceivable.

The Bank Law of 1875 had required currency to be backed one-third by gold and two-thirds by loans to adequately-capitalized borrowers (i.e., if I understand this correctly, fiat money was limited to being sent into circulation by borrowing by those who could repay).

During the First World War, gold redemption was suspended, but more important for inflation, newly-created loan banks were allowed to simply create money by first printing it, then lending it to practically anyone who asked. Moreover, and most important, limitless fiat money was created by having the Reichsbank accept government securities as security for loans to the government and others—in essence, bootstrapping the money supply (an early form of quantitative easing).

Today, of course, United States government securities are regarded as risk-free, and presumably German government bills were so regarded as well, though that’s not the way it turned out. But this system removes any limit to the amount of money that can be created by government mandate.

The effect of this increase in paper marks in circulation was inflation. This seems obvious to us today. But it wasn’t to the Germans—not to the average person, and not to banking experts or the government, either. Hard as it is to believe, almost nobody, and nobody in charge, recognized at the time that what created inflation was increasing the money supply. Today we cite Milton Friedman, “Inflation is always and everywhere a monetary phenomenon.” But that Friedman said it, and we remember it, implies that truth was not always recognized.

In postwar Germany, all those responsible for the government’s responses, politicians and bankers, believed that the problem was not that the mark was losing value through increased supply, rather that it was depreciating against foreign currencies due to Germany’s postwar economic struggles, most of all crushing reparations demanded by the French. People thought that goods were becoming objectively more dear, not just subjectively, so their prices were rising.

This belief held at the highest levels of government, where Rudolf Havenstein, the president of the Reichsbank, held that his most important duty was printing more money, since, after all, the people clearly needed it to make purchases, and that could only be done, in those days, with physical money. Naturally, this only made the problem worse.

But since stock exchanges were closed, foreign exchange rates were not published, and shortages and chaos also raised prices, the real source of inflation was opaque. In a vicious circle, monetary velocity sped ever higher, further increasing inflation, since nobody wanted to hold cash that would quickly devalue, instead spending it as quickly as possible, preferably on something that would hold value. And the law permitted what were, in effect, private currencies, further exacerbating the increase in the money supply.

Fergusson narrates the gradual descent to hyperinflation, through 1922 and 1923, month-by-month, blow-by-blow. He extracts the flavor of the time through German diarists, who grasped what was happening, but not why. Tellingly, Germans first assumed the value of their war loans, still owed by the government, was secure, and were aghast when it became obvious that what was formerly a small fortune was not enough to live on anymore. But that was merely a small element of the pain and confusion.

To some observers, Germany’s economy seemed in great shape, because its heavy industry, geared to exporting, boomed immediately after the war, in part because of the mark’s weakness. As a result, and because of their tight organization, wage workers suffered little initially, since employment was high and wages kept pace with inflation, due to the threat of work stoppages. By the end, though, wage workers suffered too.

For different reasons, the rural populace also did not suffer much at all—yes, their war loans might have become worthless, but they had food and shelter, both rich and poor. (The rural populace appears very little in this book, except as the object of distrust from city dwellers for refusing to sell food for worthless paper; I am sure there are detailed studies of the country dwellers, which perhaps give a more nuanced picture.) It was the traditionally silent middle and upper-middle classes, the backbone of the society, who suffered.

The people did what they could to secure their positions, even as those positions eroded daily. The stock market rose as money was dumped into anything that seemed it might have tangible value. The purchase of foreign currency allowed hedging, since the mark depreciated continuously against all foreign currencies.

Soon enough, average Germans thronged all the shops, buying anything for sale that might hold its value. And as things fell apart, city dwellers had to sell anything they had in exchange for food—profiting those who had food to sell. Often these were speculators sharp enough to profit by, for example, borrowing huge sums from the government, immediately converting it into foreign currency, then, after a few weeks or months, re-converting into a vastly greater quantity of marks, repaying the government loan, and using the profits to buy and resell goods.

The inevitable impact of this was social corrosion, as every man looked to himself. The great industrialists, best able to both move large amounts of capital and engage in cross-border transactions, lined their pockets. (The now-forgotten Hugo Stinnes, once the greatest magnate of Germany, gets a lot of play in these pages. He’s forgotten mostly because he died, young and unexpectedly, in 1924, so he played no role in later German history).

Those with dollars or other foreign currency to spend lived like kings, eating and drinking at fine restaurants while thin and hungry men, not long before the social elite, passed bitterly by. Middle-class apartments emptied as books, pianos, and furniture were exchanged for food. Petty crime soared and political stability plunged. Fergusson does not discuss the political turmoil in detail, other than to note that the left-wing and right-wing parties both benefited from the chaos and dissatisfaction, leading, among other events, to the Beer Hall Putsch in November 1923. But there was plenty of political turmoil, and let’s not forget, putting down Communist revolts by force had been necessary only a few years before, so the political fabric was still fragile.

Much else was happening in 1922 and 1923—for a time, Germany pulled together during the occupation by the French of the Ruhr. But the general path, financially and socially, was clearly downwards, and rapidly. The government tried to plug the ever-increasing gaps in its budget, and meet French reparations demands, by taxation—leading first to tax evasion, and then to failure to collect any but a fraction of the value taxed, as inflation eroded tax receipts to nothing between the passing of a law and the collection of the tax.

But the government, perfectly aware of the problem, though not of its roots, refused to take any real action. They did not stop printing money, nor did they stop various forms of subsidies that the government could no longer afford. Politicians and bankers were caught between two stones: aware that reversing inflation, if they could, would cripple German industry, resulting in massive labor unrest and likely chaos, but also aware of the deleterious effects of the inflation on the rest of the German populace.

In essence, to the extent there was any coherent policy, the government tried to steer a non-existent middle path, hoping to muddle through, while looking for foreign help to stabilize the currency through loans, which were not forthcoming. As with most middle paths, this accomplished nothing.

By September 1923, though, with inflation accelerating to inconceivable speed, the desperate government took measures to suspend the constitution and passed laws to confiscate foreign currency, gold and other precious metals, and increase the penalties for evasion. Warrantless house searches were authorized and “incitement to disobedience” led to prison. City dwellers began organizing expeditions to loot the countryside.

The government tried halfhearted schemes to issue money backed by agricultural goods such as rye or mortgages on agricultural land. None of this had any effect at all on the core problem, which is that everyone did what he saw that he had to do. Whatever respect for the government was left disappeared when its resistance to the French in the Ruhr crumpled and “[c]ontempt for the Republic and its servants became almost universal.”

So, what solved the problem, given that something that can’t go on forever, won’t? In essence, an agreement by everyone to accept their losses and pretend that things were normal again, through the device of a new currency, the Rentenmark, brainchild of Hjalmar Schacht, the new Commissioner for National Currency. One Rentenmark, put into circulation in October 1923, was again equal to one gold mark, and Rentenmarks were put into circulation at the point where one gold mark precisely equaled a trillion paper marks, for easy figuring of conversion.

The Rentenmark was backed not by gold, which had all disappeared from government coffers (most of it gone to the French), but by mortgages on landed property and bonds on German industry. (I don’t really understand this. It appears that money was put into circulation by those with property borrowing money using their property as a guarantee, such that the amount of currency was limited by the value of those properties, and the value of those properties acted as a type of fixed index against which the currency could be valued, though not exchanged).

The effect of this conversion was, however, to eliminate all assets denominated in paper marks, which mean that savings were now completely gone, with no hope of return, as were all debts based on paper marks—whether the debtor was the government, as with war loans, or a business, or a private individual.

The Rentenmark was a collective delusion, however. It is not clear how much this was understood at the time; as with inflation being a monetary phenomenon, they understood less than we do. The mortgage “guarantees” were essentially illusory, yet the Rentenmark’s value held steady, because the populace either willed it to be so, or did not really understand. In fact, the Rentenmark was not precisely legal tender, and not convertible into any hard asset. Paper marks and private currencies continued to circulate and be printed, on a reduced scale, though.

On the positive side, Schacht ensured some degree of confidence in the new currency by forbidding government borrowing through central bank discounting of government bills, which had been the major initial cause of the hyperinflation. Regardless of the precise mechanism, things began to return to normal, because of the Rentenmark.

The new normal was not like the old normal, though. Social ruptures are hard to cure, and when they are cured, the new society is much different. Trust was in short supply. No surprise, there was a lot of irrational thought and scapegoat-seeking, and again no surprise, much of this was directed against the Jews, whom most people viewed as in some uncertain way responsible. Some Jews did profit, of course, having liquid assets and cross-border connections, but so did many non-Jews, yet blame attached to Jews in general, not specific Jews. (The peasantry, unwilling to take paper marks for food, called them “Jew confetti”).

Many people to whom poverty had been a mere abstract concept were now desperately poor with no path to get back their social status. Of course, not all societies are equal, and Germans are, or were, much better at recovering than nearly any other society in history. Various laws were passed to try to offer a few pfennigs to those with worthless mortgages and bank accounts, and to adjust taxes, all of limited real benefit to the populace.

It was a hard road, made harder by many businesses shuttering and unemployment soaring, since businesses had artificially expanded during times of distorted credit and foreign sales based on the weak mark. Nonetheless, the economy strengthened, and continued strengthening for a few years—until the Great Depression. But that is another story.

So, could this happen here? Probably not, no matter how much money we borrow or print to cover our government’s sins, as long as all currencies are fiat currencies and the dollar is the world’s reserve currency. As with the Rentenmark, though, continued faith in fiat currency is in large part a collective delusion.

If that ever fails, probably from some collapse in faith in both the government and the future, perhaps combined with a new reserve currency, all bets are off. In the modern world, too, it’s not necessary to run physical printing presses (thousands of which worked around the clock for the Reichsbank in 1923); infinite money can be created by pushing a button, and velocity accelerated to hyperspeed by the internet and credit cards. What a hyperinflation would look like in a modern, advanced society, I don’t know. That Zimbabwe has experienced a recent hyperinflation is unlikely to lend us much of a clue. But I do know that we’re not Germans, and our social cohesion is already on the ropes, so our society would likely fracture permanently, and not weld itself back together like the Germans.

In fact, such a scenario is the backdrop for Lionel Shriver’s excellent dystopian The Mandibles, where a new global currency backed by commodities, similar to John Maynard Keynes’s proposed bancor, underwrites a new Chinese hegemony. In that book, the United States can do nothing, since it has become a stupid stew of irrational and hate-filled identity politics where the ruling classes reject any attempt at objective excellence and achievement and insist that their failures are due to racism and wreckers. A silly fantasy, though, of course, since we know that such a thing could never happen here. We know that only an idiot could read history and conclude that an unstable, unaccomplished society run on an extractive, tribal basis is the natural state of humanity, and only a very bad person would let himself see that lately quite a few people in America seem very eager to turn America into such a society.

Perhaps the key lesson to take away from this book is that in any society experiencing massive economic trouble, those tasked with fixing it, no matter how earnest and hardworking, are almost always incapable not just of fixing the problems, but understanding them.

That’s true not just in economics, but in every area of life in a complex modern society, even one cohesive and competent, even more so one fragmented and anti-reality. Thus, in every crisis, every man must look to himself and his family, not hope for safety and stability from above. If he relies on those in charge, sooner or later, he’s going to be disappointed, perhaps fatally so. Maybe it won’t be hyperinflation here, but it’ll be something.

Charles is a business owner and operator, in manufacturing, and a recovering big firm M&A lawyer. He runs the blog, The Worthy House.

The image shows a caricature by the illustrator, Erich Schilling, from the satirical magazine, Simplicissimus, 1922. The caption above reads, “Gutenberg and the Billions Printing Press.” The caption below, spoken by Gutenberg, reads: “Not what I wanted.”

On Religion And Its Decline

We all know religious devotion has declined precipitously in America. Most of what religion remains is Moralistic Therapeutic Deism, which is the sherbet of religions, an unsatisfying imitation of the real thing. No doubt this decline is temporary, since the human religious impulse, toward transcendence and final meaning, is too strong to remain unsatisfied.

The success, or at least the visibility, of Scientology, a scam with falsifiable and internally incoherent beliefs, shows this clearly enough. I’m not going to beat up on John Travolta and Tom Cruise, though. I instead want to explain the religious principles and structure of a well-run state, and in particular, of the Foundationalist state.

As everyone knows, Scientology was founded by L. Ron Hubbard, who died in 1986. Hubbard was an archetypical cult leader: an inveterate fantasist who at some level probably believed his own lies, and who had the charisma to hoodwink those who wanted to believe and were willing to suspend common sense. In short, Scientology claims that it is the path to universal peace and happiness, a cure for everything that ails the universe.

As its name implies, Scientology tries to have it both ways. For tax purposes, and for the avoidance of government interference, it claims to be a religion. But internally, it claims to be a set of scientific discoveries, and its cosmology is purely of this universe. There is essentially zero concept of God, or of an afterlife other than a reincarnated one. Its theology, notoriously, is essentially a science fiction story, and it offers its adherents the chance to enter that story.

The core goal of the devout Scientologist is to be “clear.” Scientologists believe the brain is split into the “analytical” brain and the “reactive” brain. The latter absorbs and reflects traumas and similar bad events, clouding the abilities of the former. (As with one hundred percent of Scientology’s scientific claims, this is one hundred percent provably untrue). When a Scientologist is clear, he is freed of the influence of the reactive brain, and when his analytical brain is thus freed, he gains the potential to exercise superpowers, such as the ability to manipulate time and space, and to leave his body entirely, to “go exterior.”

Although, infamously, actually acquiring those powers requires innumerable sessions of instruction offered on the “Bridge to Total Freedom,” a device used to free Scientology members of their hard-earned cash, by achieving various levels of “Operating Thetan” status.Needless to say, nobody ever evidences actual superpowers (although the endless guided introspection on the Bridge does seem to often lead to a high degree of mental discipline, even if that discipline isn’t used for anything useful).

On the surface, Scientology is a very modern belief system. It claims that the truth is relative, trumpeting to potential converts that “If it is not true for you, it isn’t true.” I don’t think this is actually a core Scientology principle; it’s just presented to possible initiates because it resonates with modern man. Devout Scientologists don’t say anything of the sort; they are convinced that they are crucial participants in the most important work in the universe, about the truth of which there is no doubt. That is to say, as with all religious believers, Scientologists seek transcendence—both internal, but even more the feeling that they are “the vanguard of the struggle to save humanity.”

Not just now, but for trillions of years into the future. Scientology gives them purpose and mystery, and apparently offers not infrequent psychedelic experiences, which, as Michael Pollan notes in How to Change Your Mind, are achievable without drugs. It is not all that surprising that a slick belief system packaged for and targeted to a certain demographic, in essence those seeking secular apotheosis, attracts some adherents.

Going Clear is a fairly standard exposé. It’s well written, if a bit dry, and the reader is suitably appalled. The author, Lawrence Wright, seeks to appall, but there are really two distinct lines of appalling behavior. The first is the scam element, the lust for money, power, aghnd control, represented by David Miscavige, “Chairman of the Board,” Hubbard’s successor, and proud owner of an extreme Napoleon complex. The second is the lengths to which church members will go to abase themselves to earn salvation, signing billion-year contracts to perform menial labor at forty cents an hour, spending years in de facto prison for imaginary “ethical violations,” and severing ties with any person not supportive of Scientology, “Suppressive Persons.”

But these are pretty standard cult manifestations, and as I say, I’m not here to abuse Scientology. Wright will do that for you, as will innumerable websites run by Scientology apostates. And Scientology has a lot of apostates. Most just have an epiphany that they have been hoodwinked. Some have a substantive dispute with the Church. For example, Going Clear, and the subsequent documentary by the same name (which I also watched), is organized around the time in Scientology of screenwriter Paul Haggis, who joined in 1975 and left in 2009. As a celebrity, he was highly desirable in Scientology’s eyes.

By his own admission an extreme progressive, he was attracted by the “what’s true for you is true” shtick offered him in the 1970s, but he departed over a political dispute, when two of his daughters decided they were lesbians and the Church, to its credit, refused to follow the current political winds by endorsing their choice (though several years later, claiming their very own Satanic Verses, the Church apparently began to argue that Hubbard’s repeated condemnations of homosexuality were somehow inserted in his writings by his enemies). Regardless, the net effect seems to be that the Church has a lot of money and relatively few members. It is unlikely to give Mormonism competition as a successful modern religion; no doubt it will go the way of most cults.

What struck me reading this book is that there really hasn’t been a successful new religion since Christianity. What about Islam? Nope. It’s for good reason that Islam was originally considered by Christians another Christian heresy—the doctrines and stories of Islam are just a mashup of Christianity and Judaism, combined with associated folktales and various already-existing pseudo-gospels, with Muhammad’s imaginings acting as glue. (It’s also fairly obvious that Islam only took on a closer resemblance to an complete alternative religion when the Qur’an was cobbled together two hundred years after Muhammad’s death, when variants within the religion were suppressed, no doubt with wholly new writings added at that time and passed off as originals, in order to better differentiate Islam from its obvious sources). As Hilaire Belloc said, what Muhammad “taught was in the main Catholic doctrine, oversimplified. . . . [H]e, like so many other lesser heresiarchs, founded his heresy on simplification.” Islam is not new in the way Christianity was new, or even more so that Judaism was new—which is, surely, why Muhammad claimed not to be new, but to be the perfection, or clarification, of those earlier Abrahamic religions.

Since then? Not much. In the modern era, we have, for example, Mormonism. But Mormonism is in this way similar to Islam—it’s remixed Christianity with fantasy elements added by Joseph Smith. As with Scientology, many core claims of Mormonism are overtly falsifiable, but that does not deter believers. Scientology is just another example of something that seems like a new religion, but isn’t. Rather, it’s the science fiction Hubbard churned out to earn money in the 1930s, mixed up with the 1950s feeling that science was our new savior, combined with, as Wright says, “Buddhism, Hinduism, magic, General Semantics, and shamanism,” along with a generous dose of Hubbard’s fantastical and self-contradictory imaginings to stick it all together.

I suppose one could argue that it’s a new religion, because people believe in it and its actual doctrines are mostly new as a belief system. True enough, the dividing line is blurry. What if I decided today to worship my dog, claiming he was the sun god Ra and gave me the ability to turn lead into gold? Is that a new religion? I suppose so, although I’d also be importing Egyptian concepts, so it’s also a mashup. But it’s not a successful new religion. Nor, really, is Scientology—its numbers are inflated, and it probably has only a few thousand adherents. The celebrity focus and the controversy is what makes it seem successful.

You can always find a small group of people to believe nearly anything; that proves nothing. Perhaps the only successful new religion since Christianity, as Hilaire Belloc wrote in The Great Heresies (though he denominated it a heresy), is Modernism, in essence the worship of Man himself. But Modernism isn’t truly a religion, because it fails to satisfy the human desire for transcendence, which is why adherents to Modernism inevitably fall either into aimless anomie or into vicious ideologies, from Communism to environmentalism, that do offer transcendence in precisely the same way as a religion.

Properly viewed, Modernism is simply the philosophical ground of all modern ideologies, from the French Revolution onward, not an independent belief system—although certainly, as many have noted, those ideologies are often largely indistinguishable from religions in many of their aspects. Will there be a successful new actual religion in our future? I doubt it. But I am quite sure that religiosity will return in the West, though my bet is that there will be a great deal of upheaval before that happens, and the new society will not much resemble the old, but the dominant religions will likely be very old indeed.

In America, it is said we have freedom of religion, guaranteed by the First Amendment. This is false. In practice the Constitution has long protected mainstream religion only, which, given human nature, is really no surprise. Ask the Mormons, or for that matter, the Catholics. America, until sixty years ago or so, was a very successful society, and you can’t run a successful society without a dominant religion, especially among the ruling class. In this, as in all things, diversity is the opposite of our strength. A society without a dominant religion is necessarily a low-trust society, and therefore incapable of being successful.

That’s fine by me; as I discuss below, the state shouldn’t permit all religions, and should prefer some to others. But the practical problem for me, and for my political project, is that we already have a new, and bad, dominant religion in America, or rather a dominant religion of the ruling class—the Modernist cult of globohomo. That cult is exalted today by state and society, and other, incompatible religions, most of all by a huge margin Christianity, are attacked and suppressed. Christians, in an ironic twist, are the new Mormons.

Suppression of Christianity has always been a core project of the Left (we can ignore silly people who see the modern Left as itself Christian in inspiration). In the past fifty years, Christian freedom of both belief and worship has been successfully attacked (even more so in Europe), such that the space outside our own minds for any belief that contradicts the premises and goals of globohomo is now forcibly limited by state and quasi-state action. The latter is really more important, in a new departure in America—yes, there is effective formal erosion of the First Amendment (which would be completely a dead letter if one more leftist was on the Supreme Court), but even more suppression of religious belief is outsourced to corporate America.

Nobody can deny that if anyone working a white-collar job at nearly any large business in America, or in academia, expressed, even in personal, outside-of-work communications, the unexceptional Christian belief that homosexual activity is a sin, he would be immediately severely punished, and likely fired. On social media and other forms of private communication controlled by the new common carriers, it is the same. Public Christian belief that contradicts globohomo is anathema to today’s ruling classes. No aspirant to the ruling classes or the professional-managerial elite can even belong to a church if it is known to hold unacceptable opinions, regardless of what the individual expresses (though a mosque is a different question).

The persecution is open and unapologetic, and it is a mistake to think it will not increase to violence when scapegoats are needed for some future catastrophe. Hatred of Christianity already leads to jail time for Christians who say the wrong things in Europe, and the Scots just this week proposed a law with a seven-year jail term for blasphemy against globohomo. Remember the Mormons, and buy guns, and practice with them.

The Right, or at least the Right as currently organized and led, refuses to recognize this project of their enemies, as always hobbling themselves and dooming their goals to defeat without even a battle. For example, the magazine First Things recently published a long article parsing Supreme Court cases on school prayer. It was erudite and accurate, and correctly pointed out that the Constitution is now bizarrely interpreted to forbid any religiously-based rationale for a public policy (or at least it’s bizarre if you maintain the delusion that Left interpretation of the Constitution has anything to do with interpretation). It criticized the relevant Supreme Court decisions as incoherent, which of course they are.

But so what? As with all Left court decisions that impose policy, by which we are largely ruled today, it is the end achieved, and the power the Left can wield, that matters, not coherency, and to spend any time at all talking about coherency, as if that was what mattered to the Left or as if a demonstration of their incoherence might turn them from their evil purposes, is dumb. Rather, such articles, and action, should be focused on what pressure and punishment can be put on Supreme Court justices, and judges and legislators at all levels, in order to ensure that they impose our views and suppress the views and desires of our enemies. We should stop pretending that the Constitution is anything but a fig leaf used as propaganda while the stronger side imposes its will; the Left stopped pretending a long time ago, and we just cripple ourselves by pretending there is any value in originalism or, for that matter, Constitutional jurisprudence of any sort.

What we need is a religious establishment, not just informal as we used to have in America (something on which Matthew Schmitz has some thoughts in another recent excellent article in First Things, though I don’t think he wants to take his thoughts where they inevitably lead), but formal. Why pretend, especially when our enemies have already destroyed the original American system, and imagining that we can return to a time of ruling class virtue without a prior fracture is fantasy? There is not going to be a Great Awakening and subsequent renewal as long as we allow our enemies to rule. We need a new ruling class, neutering the old entirely and permanently, and a new system of government. We need my pet project of the Foundationalist state. So, the question is—what religious structures will replace Modernism in the Foundationalist state, and how should its religious goals be accomplished?

True, Foundationalism is crucially not a rigid confessional state. Its core principle is that it does not offer an ideology; it is a state of limited ends with unlimited means, and transcendence is not offered through the state. Yet, neither is it a minimalist state. Achieving virtue in the people, both the ruling classes and the masses, though especially the former, along with driving accomplishments that will echo down the ages of Man, are among its ends, and right religion is a key component of both. Only one religion, Christianity, has ever been associated with success in both areas—and, of course, it’s true, which is a bonus. Therefore, the Foundationalist state will explicitly favor Christianity.

Its overarching goal in favoring Christianity will be to seek the common good and a realistic amount of virtue and flourishing. The state, very much a non-liberal state, will directly and deliberately encourage and enforce standards of virtue, but not on a purely confessional basis—even if most of those standards will be derived from Christianity. Christianity will be explicitly preferred, certainly, because on average Christian belief leads to the best outcomes for the state and society.

For example, teachers in any state-supported lower school or high school will be required to be practicing Christians (just as now they are effectively required to be practitioners of globohomo), and Christians will, all else being equal, receive state preferment, as well as, no doubt, preferment in the private sphere, from jobs to social status. Personal advancement in the state and society would thus certainly benefit from conversion to Christianity—a feature, not a bug. It might be objected that the result will often be Christians in name only, but that’s fine—the goal is to weld together a society, and most of all a ruling class, and while there will always be variability of belief, over time a strongly dominant religion will do the welding, and that welding will lead to an increase in devout belief, in a virtuous circle.

But the Foundationalist state is not a policer of the practice of belief. Rather, it will encourage and incentivize moral behavior, with punishments when necessary, not of disbelief, but of actions that corrupt virtue. Thus, it will forbid most divorce, not because it is a sin, but because it destroys society. It will frown on adultery and homosexual acts, and disincentivize both, but not criminalize either. It will punish graft, theft, and sharp practice; the unfettered free market will no longer be thought of as some special good or moral in itself. Gambling will be mostly illegal; there will be no lotteries. The state will corral and curb prostitution; it will flog pornographers; and it will execute abortionists and other murderers. (In general, crimes will only be the crimes recognized at common law, malum in se.

Crimes that are merely malum prohibitum will almost completely disappear). And so forth, in organic development that will depend on what can be accomplished at any given point while maintaining a proper balance of cost and benefits. (An interesting question is the role of social media and other related platforms, such as Amazon, now used to suppress Christianity, advance Modernism, and defend the ruling class—will they instead, under their new owners and administrators, be used to suppress the enemies of Christianity, or returned to their original promise of free speech and free use? I will let you know).

At the same time, freedom of religious exercise for all will be allowed to the extent not actually in contradiction with virtue. Thus, any non-pernicious religion, any religion that is not a proxy or bridgehead of external enemies of state or society, will be permitted freedom of worship, without any attempt to make worship difficult (such as Islam has always imposed on Christianity in the lands it has temporarily conquered). Paganism and polytheism will be allowed, and even preferred to the extent that virtue is their focus (I subscribe to the Orthodox view that paganism does not worship fake gods, rather real entities who are not deserving of worship, but as I say the Foundationalist state is not a rigid confessional state). Naturally, wholly pernicious belief systems, such as Satanism, will be directly suppressed. Open atheism will be strongly discouraged and socially anathema. This is what I call “pluralism lite.”

In pluralism lite, what of religions that are not pernicious enough to be directly suppressed, but are corrosive of the body politic? If the people aren’t moral, the state cannot make them so; you can’t impose a culture from the top down, although you can certainly influence it from the top down. So, Scientology and similar not-overtly-destructive religions will be permitted to exist, despite strong arguments they are destructive. But the state will confiscate all their assets above a certain basic amount—as Wright notes, Scientology has amassed billions of dollars, all tax-exempt, which it uses to attack its enemies. If a religion can exist as a house church, or storefront church, and is not affirmatively evil, it makes little sense to suppress it, and it is likely difficult to suppress. Yet we can do without the massive, gaudy palaces that Scientology uses to advertise its silly beliefs.

Of course, getting from here to there is a big challenge. Still, it’s important to have a good idea of where we’re going—without trying to answer all questions of structure in advance. Broad strokes, then organic implementation, not ideological implementation. That will be the order of the day, in religion as in all other matters, coming soon to a state and society near you.

Charles is a business owner and operator, in manufacturing, and a recovering big firm M&A lawyer. He runs the blog, The Worthy House.

The image shows, “The Triumph of Bacchus” by Ciro Ferri, painted in the 17th-century.

A Nationalist Account Of The Spanish Civil War

Among the many tools of the superbly effective Left propaganda machine, is its able control of publishing. Leftists use this to ensure that innumerable books fitting the Left narrative stay in print indefinitely, primarily for use as indoctrination tools in schools, as a glance at any modern curriculum at any grade level will show you.

On the other hand, books not fitting the Left narrative disappear—never republished, expensive to buy used, and impossible to read online because of the stupidly long terms of modern copyright law. Thus, the reprinting, by Mystery Grove Publishing, of this excellent book, by an Englishman who volunteered to fight for the Nationalists in the Spanish Civil War, is a great service.

Peter Kemp was born in India in 1915; his father was a judge in what was then called Bombay. As I have covered at great length elsewhere, the Spanish situation deteriorated from 1933 through 1936 (really 1931 through 1936, as the Spanish Left attempted to consolidate permanent power).

During this time, Kemp was studying at Cambridge to be a lawyer. His politics appear to have been quite conservative, but he makes only passing reference to his own beliefs. Kemp’s main reason for going to Spain seems to have been a desire common among young men throughout history, to seek adventure through warfare, although he was also horrified at the widespread atrocities of the Spanish Left immediately prior to the Civil War.

He acknowledges his desire in the title, which comes from an A. E. Housman poem used as an epigraph: “The thoughts of others / Were light and fleeting, / Of lover’s meeting / Or luck, or fame / Mine were of trouble / And mine were steady, / So I was ready / When trouble came.” If he had been a man of the Left, no doubt he would have joined the International Brigades, the collective organization of those non-Spaniards who fought for the Spanish Communists, the Republicans.

It would have been far easier and socially acceptable for him to join the Republicans, too, since they had an active, successful, and extremely well-funded propaganda operation that blanketed Europe, while the Nationalists made almost no effort to persuade others, aside from occasionally arranging curated tours for newspapermen, incorrectly believing their cause was self-proving or that foreign opinion was unimportant.

Thus, polite opinion in England favored the Republicans, something that troubled Kemp not at all. His complete lack of Spanish did not deter him either. And in those days before the overweening state presumed to dictate to us the smallest details of our lives, it was easy enough to go fight in a foreign war. True, as today, the Left was better organized, and every country in Europe had official, open recruiting stations for the International Brigades. Kemp simply got a letter from a newspaper editor friend saying that he was authorized to send back wire copy, as a cover story, and off he went across the French frontier.

This was November 1936. Kemp offers a thumbnail sketch of the first four months of the Civil War, which had passed by the time he arrived. At this point, Francisco Franco had not yet assumed supreme command, nor had he amalgamated the different political factions of the Nationalists under his personal control. As a result, the Nationalist military was organized in a fragmented and ad hoc manner. (The Republican military was too, but the Nationalists were much better as the war progressed at welding together the disparate components of their forces, helped by not being subject to the Moscow-directed purging that bled the Republicans).

The core of the Nationalist fighting forces was the Army of Africa, consisting of most of Spain’s land forces that actually had experience fighting. One part of this was the Spanish Foreign Legion (which meant Spaniards fighting abroad, in Africa; it was not a collective of foreigners, like the French Foreign Legion). The other was native Moroccans, the Regulares.

Two political parties also raised separate forces. The first was the Carlists, one branch of the Spanish monarchists (favoring a king other than Alfonso XIII, who had resigned in 1931 to avoid the civil war being fomented by the Left). The Carlists were dominant in the north of Spain, in Navarre and the Basque provinces, and were old-fashioned, happy to die for King and country. The second was the Falange, the small Spanish fascist political party, who had little in common politically with the Carlists (and in fact in later years squabbled violently with the Carlists). Franco, of course, was not a fascist or a member of the Falange; most Nationalist military officers were not political.

Kemp joined the Carlist forces, the Requetés. The Falange Kemp treats with some disdain; he seems to regard them as less than competent, brave enough but prone to scheming in preference to honest fighting, and too often substituting ideology for honor. And he was warned away from joining the Legion, which was regarded as extremely tough and demanding, and less than welcoming to a foreigner who spoke no Spanish. So the Carlists it was, and they were very welcoming, if highly informal, bordering on lax, in their organization.

From here, Mine Were of Trouble is personal narrative of Kemp’s experiences. For the most part, the Spaniards were glad to have him fighting with them, though sometimes he was the target of suspicion from military bureaucrats. He fought with the Carlists in various skirmishes and battles, including the Battle of Jarama (February 1937) and the Battle of Santander (July 1937).

He very much enjoyed his time with the Carlists, and was quickly promoted to alférez, a junior officer rank, sometimes translated “sub-lieutenant,” meaning in practice he commanded part of a platoon, apparently ten to twenty men at a time. But he disliked the Carlists’ lack of discipline and technical training; they substituted suicidal courage for better entrenchments and the use of modern guns and gun techniques. Kemp wanted to learn “first-class soldiering.” So, late in 1937, he joined the Legion.

The Legion was divided into twenty banderas, and Kemp was assigned to the 14th, a new bandera composed of disparate parts. His welcome was frosty – he was viewed with suspicion, as a foreigner, and as a Protestant, something the Legionnaires associated with Freemasonry, one of the main avenues by which leftist poison had entered the Spanish body politic.

Still, using time-honored tools to overcome such military suspicion, hard work and bravery, Kemp soon enough became accepted by his men, and by most of the officers, even though some of the latter never warmed to him, less from suspicion and more because they felt he could never truly understand the existential evil of the Spanish Left, which drove many of them personally, since nearly all had had relatives murdered in Republican-held Spain.

Kemp led a machine-gun platoon, with four obsolete guns with zero spare parts as their only rapid-fire weapons, so soon enough, it was three guns, and then one. In November 1937, his unit moved southeast, to the Guadalajara front close to Madrid, as the Nationalists successfully liberated more and more of Spain.

The book’s narrative is compelling, and not just the battle scenes. Kemp does an excellent job of describing the landscape of the various areas in which he spent time, initially in the north, and later both west and east of Madrid. The reader gets a good feel, in particular, for the rugged nature of much of the terrain.

He also describes the towns and villages in which he was billeted (as with most wars, waiting occupied much of his time), as well as their inhabitants, nearly all of whom strongly supported the Nationalists, both in general and especially after roving bands of Republican militias had come through early in the war, tortured the local priest to death, killed other citizens, and moved on. At no point does the book drag. You might even call it a page-turner.

Occasionally Kemp diverges to discuss events to which he was not personally a witness. Notably, he discusses the April 1937 bombing of Guernica, which took place not far from where he was then stationed, and was the supreme propaganda triumph of the Communists and their international supporters during the entire war.

Kemp strongly believed that the Republicans burned the town themselves, as they had many other towns from which they had been expelled. That was the Nationalist line at the time, in opposition to the massive global campaign spreading the lie that the Nationalists, with the help of the Germans, had bombed a non-military target to terrorize the population.

No doubt Guernica was a wholly legitimate target, and the bombing wholly appropriate, if not executed entirely competently. (Bombing civilian towns without a military presence was actually a Republican specialty; Kemp notes that early in the war, Toledo, a Nationalist town, had been so attacked). But objective modern historians (as opposed to Communist mouthpieces like Paul Preston) generally conclude that the Nationalists were lying that the destruction was caused by the Republicans burning the town, in a crude and unsuccessful attempt to counter Republican propaganda.

Kemp offers all his experiences with no sugarcoating. In the Legion, there was extremely rigid discipline, with corporal punishment for minor infractions and the death penalty for any insubordination. The good result of this was that looting and rape, commonly committed by Republican forces, was nonexistent.

The bad result was that in Kemp’s bandera, though it was against Nationalist policy, many prisoners, and all of certain categories, were shot out of hand. Those categories included members of the International Brigades, blamed for prolonging the war by preventing the early liberation of Madrid. Of course, Kemp would have been shot too if captured; he knew that at the time, and he quotes a British captain in the International Brigades whom he talked to after the war who leaves no doubt.

Early in the war, both the Republicans and the Nationalists took few prisoners, but by this point the Nationalists had mostly stopped that practice, and the Republicans, consistently losing, didn’t capture that many fresh prisoners, having murdered most of them already, along with any Nationalists they could find in the cities, towns, and villages they controlled. (Kemp notes that when international bodies such as the Non-Intervention Committee began to organize prisoner exchanges, they found almost no Nationalist prisoners held by the Republicans, and large numbers of Republicans held by the Nationalists).

Tactically, of course, this is a poor decision—as Niall Ferguson wrote in The Pity of War, refusing to accept surrender needlessly prolongs wars. Regardless, Kemp thought that his own superior officers were perniciously fond of killing prisoners, and relates at horrified length how an Irish deserter from the International Brigades presented himself, claiming he had been impressed into the Brigades. Kemp got permission from his immediate superiors to send the Irishman away as a POW, but the colonel above them curtly ordered Kemp to shoot the prisoner, which he did (or rather he had two of his men do it), something he found extremely difficult.

Back at the front, the war ground on and the Nationalists implemented Franco’s slow strategy. (It was later called plodding and unimaginative, which perhaps it was, and also called an attempt to kill as many Communists as possible, which perhaps it also was. We’ll never know; Franco was famously taciturn).

Kemp fought in the Battle of Teruel, which was bitter and more of the same, featuring hand-to-hand fighting in olive groves and the intermittent appearance of light tanks, often turning the tide at the last minute, including once when Kemp’s unit was about to be overrun. Many of Kemp’s friends died; he gives full credit to his opponents for bravery and competence.

He was stationed for a few weeks in Belchite, a village that had been destroyed earlier, which was left destroyed after the war and was used as the backdrop for the BBC series, The Spanish Civil War. It is here, late in the book, where the most jarring passage of book occurs. Kemp relates how four Western journalist friends of his, two American and two British, were driving near the battle when a shell hit their car. Three were killed. The fourth, the survivor, he mentions only here: Kim Philby.

Of course, in 1957, when this book was published, Kemp could not have known that Philby, a traitor since the 1920s, was one of the most evil men of the twentieth century, responsible, directly or indirectly, for the deaths of millions. He was in Nationalist Spain masquerading as a journalist in order to spy for the Communists, and in fact this incident, since it brought him to the favorable attention of the Nationalist authorities, strengthened his ability to spy, bringing him into direct contact with Franco, with the goal of furthering Franco’s assassination by the Communists. But Kemp knew none of this. It is strange how history works, and how it could have been different had we been more lucky, and Philby killed in 1937.

Kemp was wounded several times, and had to recuperate, but was back in action by May 1938. Not for long, though. Fighting near Aragon in July, a mortar bomb exploded next to him, shattering his jaw and hand, burning his throat, and nearly killing him. Recuperating for months, he asked permission for leave to return to England to convalesce, which was granted.

First, however, Franco asked to see him, and he had a thirty-minute interview, consisting mostly of Franco talking about the dangers of Communism. Franco concluded by asking Kemp what he would do after the war, to which Kemp said presumably he would fight in the British military “in the coming war.” Franco responded, with a “wintry smile,” “I don’t think there will be a war,” to which Kemp’s response was, “I wonder what he really thought.”

By March 1939, the Spanish war was over, and Kemp did not return to Spain for some time, although he fought with great distinction in World War II and thereafter. But that is another story, told by Kemp in other books.

Today, of course, the modern successors of the Spanish Communists would ensure that a man like Kemp had no peace after the guns fell silent. Those who fought for the International Brigades received nothing but lionization, and to this day are unjustly and foolishly praised, but even in his time, Kemp was threatened by his local police chief in England that he “might find [himself] liable to prosecution under the provisions of the Foreign Enlistment Act of 1880, or some such date.”

Kemp died in 1993, but we can be certain that if he had lived longer, the European Left, both in Spain and England, would have tried to prosecute him as a “war criminal,” by which they mean any person who opposed their totalitarian aims of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. I often complain about this, that the Left ensures that its enemies are hounded to the grave and beyond, while the Right fails to do the same and, an equally great failing, fails to fight back adequately. Maybe this is a historical anomaly and in the decades to come the roles will be reversed; one can hope.

You will not find here new lessons on the Spanish Civil War, but you will find lessons that are not commonly known. This book is interesting in its own right, and a quick read. I highly recommend it. Most of all, it’s a vivid exposure to the reality that the side that deserved to win the Civil War, and fortunately did, was the Nationalists, who bore little resemblance to the caricature that nearly a century of Left lies has planted in the rest of the West. More people should know this, and Mine Were of Trouble is a good place to start.

Charles is a business owner and operator, in manufacturing, and a recovering big firm M&A lawyer. He runs the blog, The Worthy House.

The image shows, “I will join up with my companions,” a poster by Carlos Saenz de Tejada, from 1940.

The Lopsided Spanish Civil War

Years ago, I lived in Budapest with an elderly Hungarian relative, my grandfather’s cousin. She had lived through World War II as a young woman. One day, as we were eating lunch, she reminisced about the Russian invasion and conquest of Hungary in 1945, which she survived.

She looked at me and said (in Hungarian), “Always remember, when you are grown and are a powerful man, that war is a terrible thing.” We all know this, but it is easy to forget the personal impact of war—both on soldiers and on everyone else in a society. This uneven book is a reminder of those costs, and an opportunity to ponder when they are worth paying, as civil war slouches ever closer to us.

I’ve been on a Spanish Civil War kick for some time now. No points for guessing why. This is the first book on modern Spain that I have read, however. Well, it’s half about modern Spain. It is an odd book, by an author apparently famous in Spain, Javier Cercas. Half of it is about Cercas, his family, his emotional states, and his quest to explore the brief life of his great uncle, Manuel Mena, a soldier who died in the Nationalist cause.

The other half is about Mena himself, where Cercas teases what little definite history exists into a narrative, and then extends the narrative to structural failure by wishful thinking that Mena was really not who he was. These two halves repeatedly cross over into each other, in a choppy narrative that contains entirely too much navel-gazing by Cercas about himself. But hey, it’s his book, and maybe this is what sells in Spain.

Lord of All the Dead is tightly focused on the village in which Mena lived and in which Cercas was born, and in which their extended family all lived, until mostly leaving in the 1960s, during the massive economic boom brought about by Francisco Franco in the third act of his life, as dictator of Spain for nearly forty years.

That village is called Ibahernando; it lies in the west of Spain, in Extremadura, always an impoverished, rural province. (Fleeing from there to places where one can make money has a long pedigree—many of the most famous conquerors of the New World came from Extremadura, including Hernán Cortés and Francisco Pizarro). In Cercas’s description, it is today nearly empty and irrelevant to the nation as a whole, though I can’t tell if that’s true. It would certainly not be surprising, in these days of urbanization and plummeting populations.

We do not learn until near the end of the book why the title, though I should have caught it on my own. It comes from the famous response given by the shade of Achilles, asked by Odysseus how it goes in the afterlife. Achilles responds that he would rather be a penniless farmer than lord of all the dead. Although this book is framed as an exploration of the life of Mena, as the title shows it is really an attempt by Cercas to rewrite his sacrifice as a tragic waste, in contradiction to what Mena himself very obviously thought.

What Cercas is selling is that although Mena, and many of his relatives, saw Mena’s death as a kalos thanatos, a perfect death, really it was stupid, not just because it was a young man’s in war, but most of all because he was ignorant of his actual interests, which, Cercas lectures us over and over, as with everyone in Ibahernando, lay entirely with the Republicans, for whom they all would have been fighting if they had had any sense. Yes, this is really his claim.

We will get later to the interests of the villagers. I am not going to discuss the whys and wherefores of the Spanish Civil War; I have already done that elsewhere. What I’d like to explore is two things. First, what drives civil conflict in small polities far from the centers of power? Second, ignoring Cercas’s attempts to impose his own views on Manuel Mena, at what point should a society be willing to sacrifice its young men in battle, and its young women at home if they lose to the wrong adversary, along with much else, to a cause? Or, put another way, at what point should the costs my own aunt related be borne?

For the most part, I am therefore going to ignore that Cercas unreflectingly parrots standard left-wing propaganda about the war, which is doubtless the norm for his social class and standing in Spain today. In this view, the Spanish Republic brought low by Franco was a pure and wonderful democracy that came to power by democratic means. It represented all Spain. It committed no wrongs, except a few minor excesses in response to right-wing rebellion.

Cercas says nary a word about the massive violence and atrocities against conservatives and the Church that resulted in Franco’s entirely rational and moral rebellion against an illegitimate Communist-dominated regime. (Cercas delicately refers to violence and atrocities encouraged and permitted under the Republic as “confrontations produced by the Republic’s efforts to modernize the country”).

Words in this book are carefully chosen for propaganda effect; the name “Hitler” appears early and often attached to Franco; the names “Stalin” and “Soviet Union” do not appear a single time anywhere. I assume all this is mainline modern Spanish leftism. To be fair, it’s not over the top, not like Communist apologists, such as, Paul Preston. It’s more like Cercas has just absorbed the party line and regurgitates it as he goes along, focused primarily on creating an alternative history of his uncle that will be palatable to his social circle.

The story of Mena is fairly straightforward, though Cercas manages to make it somewhat difficult to follow by making the story not about Mena, but about his own gradual unearthing of facts about Mena. He couples this with endless maundering about his own emotions as they relate to Mena and to the rest of his family. Run-on sentences and the use of directly translated Spanish idioms making little sense in English do not contribute; nor does a lot of talk about his filmmaker friend whose wife left him for Viggo Mortensen, though that’s a little bit amusing. She probably left him because he had annoying friends like Cercas!

I will impose some order on the narrative. The core figure in Cercas’s exploration is his own mother, still alive and a major character in this book. She was eight years younger than her uncle, Mena, her father’s brother, to whom she was very close. In a village community of this type, large families were the norm at the beginning of the twentieth century, and the families tended to intermarry, with second cousins marrying each other.

We forget, in these days of sad wine aunts and atomization, that this kind of tangled, extended-family web used to be the norm for most people. Thus, through his mother Cercas is introduced to all those still alive who can shed light on Mena’s life. Other than in the village, where a main street is named after him, nobody at all remembers Mena.

Starting with his mother, Cercas gradually expands his circle of interlocutors. He does not talk to a single person who supported Franco or the Falange. Rather, he talks to elderly leftists, none his relatives, and to younger leftists who are all cousins of one type or another, most of all one who is today a socialist delegate to the European Parliament.

This is also bizarre, for in his own telling everyone was a Francoist until the 1970s, yet Cercas does not offer a single word from anyone in support of any Right political position. He talks of “Francoist families” and how they still remember Mena’s funeral, but does not talk to any of them. Rather, his project is to signal to his readership the illegitimacy of any support for Franco, so it is no surprise that he offers no Francoist perspectives. Instead, he offers the unconditional self-abasement of a Maoist struggle session.

I lost track of the innumerable times Cercas refers to Mena’s, and his extended family’s, “shame” and “dishonour,” while never once specifying in what way they were shamed and dishonored. (On one page the words show up eight times, along with an incomprehensible reference to the “defeats” of his shamed ancestors, who, after all, won the war).

I can only assume that in the left-wing circles in modern Spain in which Cercas lives and breathes, it is presumed that any connection, no matter how faint, to Francoism is somehow shameful and dishonorable. His social class, represented by his cuckold filmmaker friend, tells him as an established fact that opposing the Communists was “a mistaken cause” and “unjust.” None of this is true, and Cercas even tells us the cliché that victors write the histories, ignoring the obvious falsity of that here.

But let’s turn to Mena. It is a short enough story. When the time for political choosing came, Mena was, like many young men, attracted to the Falange, with its blend of traditionalism and modernism. Cercas unearths some speeches written by him for delivery to the local Falange youth group, which are standard boilerplate.

When the war broke out in 1936, Mena volunteered, at age seventeen. He was made a second lieutenant, in the Ifni Riflemen, a regiment of the Regulares (mainly Moroccan enlisted men with Spanish officers) and fought in several battles. He was killed in 1938, at age nineteen, at the Battle of the Ebro, in Catalonia, shot in the abdomen. His body was brought back to Ibahernando and buried, an event of great significance in the village, and one of the defining events of Mena’s mother’s life – although, strangely, Cercas never asks her any of her opinions, just for the facts.

Cercas is very focused on the political situation in Ibahernando, and as we will see, it is through this prism that he interprets the meaning of Mena’s life. I find this fascinating, because it says much about politics outside the centers of power, once you strip away the distortions Cercas creates while twisting history to fit into his frame.

The author views the politics of the 1920s and the 1930s in Ibahernando through a tired Marxist lens. In Cercas’s telling, most of the land in Ibahernando was owned by absentee landlords, nobles of one sort or another, who lived in Madrid. Until a few decades before the war, everyone was essentially a serf who worked the land. But at some point, enterprising farmers began renting land from the nobles, and even were able, after some time, to own a modest amount of land.

In other words, they became what Stalin called kulaks – farmers a little better off than their neighbors, as a result of their own initiative and hard work. Others remained landless farm laborers or tenant farmers. Cercas tells us this introduced class stratification into Ibahernando, and that rather than being united against their real oppressors, the absentee landlords, a type of local aristocracy, a very modest type, emerged. A key member of this aristocracy, he says, was his own family.

Whatever the accuracy of this history, which so far probably is pretty accurate, such stratification is completely unsurprising. In any human grouping, an aristocracy naturally arises, because people are not the same, and some people’s talents are better suited to any given situation, so rewards and leadership flow their way.

But Cercas obviously can’t accept that; it contradicts left-wing doctrine of emancipation and equality, and thus reality must be denied, or rather simply ignored. Still, he is puzzled, because he doesn’t have an alternative explanation for the development of this split. He didactically instructs us that “the interests of the community were the same,” without making any effort to demonstrate it. It’s obvious the villagers didn’t think so.

For example, Cercas talks several times about agricultural wage laborers forming “right-wing unions” early in the Republic, which would suggest that they didn’t see their interests as the same as everyone else’s, and he also talks briefly about how Ibahernando had a significant Protestant minority, although otherwise he ignores the importance of religion. Anybody but a Marxist can see that Ibahernando, like any other polity, had many competing interests, and only a few of them were economic ones.

That doesn’t mean his family was conservative in Spanish political terms. His grandfather, one of the most prominent men in the village, was a Socialist when he was mayor for a brief time in the early 1930s. What seems to have happened is that much of the village did in fact view politics, for a time, though the lens of class, and supported the ending of the monarchy and the establishment of a republican form of government.

But when it became evident what the real program of the Left was, agreed to at the infamous Pact of San Sebastien, most of the village rejected it, especially when the Left unleashed violent attacks across the land, whereupon most of the village, from the meanest laborer to Cercas’s grandfather, turned against the Left. Bizarrely, Cercas denies any of this leftist violence happened, at the same time he says that it caused a political earthquake in the village. “[T]he memory many elderly people in Ibahernando have of the Second Republic is a memory poisoned by confrontation, division, and violence. It is a false memory, a memory distorted or contaminated retrospectively by the memory of the Civil War that swept the Second Republic away.”

There is indeed a falsehood here, but we don’t need to go to the history books to see that Cercas is either lying or fooling himself, for his own history shows the lie.

Cercas narrates how in 1933 the local Communists demanded suppression of religious festivities and repeatedly tried to burn the local church; how they collected weapons and shot at their enemies; how in 1935 they put together a plan to take a list of “people on the Right” and “proposed taking them one by one from their houses and murdering them” (a plot only stopped by the mayor’s intervention); and how they tried to assassinate his maternal grandfather in 1934, by shotgunning him in the street. And when men on the Right asked for state protection, they were “advised to protect themselves.” So they bought guns – and immediately after the February 1936 elections, the new Left governor of the province put both of Cercas’s grandfathers in prison for “stockpiling weapons.”

No wonder there was “growing anxiety.” But there was only one source for that anxiety—the violence and hatred of the Left, and their open desire to exterminate their political opponents. Cercas, though, speaks constantly of “Francoist terror,” without naming a single example prior to the war. There was some, later – as in all these divided Spanish villages, when the war broke out, the Right punished those who had been attacking them for years, and often people took the opportunity to settle personal scores.

But Cercas, even though his own facts contradict him, treats Right violence as the only problem, when in reality it was purely reactive and defensive, and perhaps inevitable after years of Left threats and violence, and in an atmosphere where the town expected Republican army attack at any moment, such that the town square and the houses surrounding it were entrenched and sandbagged.

That doesn’t mean the villagers who rejected the Left became Falangists, or even Francoists. Outside the centers of power, most people aren’t driven by politics, or at least to the same degree, and this is a lesson for today. They just saw the Left as the greater evil, and they had to pick a side, because of what men of power far away had done.

Many of the men of the village, rich or poor, fought in volunteer militias for the Nationalists in the first few months of the war, including Cercas’s paternal grandfather, but they were sent home by the end of 1936, as the Nationalists consolidated and professionalized Franco’s initially ad hoc army. Cercas throws up chaff to obscure their choice, condescendingly claiming that the poor disliked “disorder.” They had a “superstitious love for order and tradition”; they were “addicted to order,” so they joined the Nationalists.

His argument is that if the Left had simply been more communicative about the reasons they were killing people the village would have supported them. But the truth is pretty obvious, if wholly unpalatable to Cercas—his village was mostly, or nearly all, Franco supporters, including his great uncle, and presumably including his mother, about whose political beliefs Cercas says nothing. But, as I say, we never get any detail or discussion about Right political views, in fact, other than the bare narration that many of the author’s relatives fought for the Nationalists.

Cercas marches on, though, trapped in his own frame. He quotes his socialist cousin at length, that it is incomprehensible that villagers didn’t unite with the Left to fight their “true enemies,” the landowners. He studiously ignores the complexities of the Spanish Right, such as that the Falange’s philosophy actually had many left-wing, populist elements, and, as Cercas himself discusses in the context of Mena’s pro-Falange writings, “preached the harmony of classes.”

Cercas has to do this, because he is aiming at his main goal, to “prove” that Mena, a vigorous Falangist, was self-deluded, but he couldn’t help it. He was just a kid “intoxicated by pernicious idealism”; all that he believed was merely an “ideological concoction devised by the oligarchy to halt socialist and democratic equality.” “He had lost everything fighting for a cause that was not his but that of others.” No doubt Cercas buys into Marxist delusions like “false consciousness,” though that phrase doesn’t appear here.

And, finally, desperate for an arc to his story that contradicts the story of a young hero who died for his ideals, Cercas constructs a fantasy in which Mena became wholly disillusioned by the war. No doubt, after much direct experience with war, he was disillusioned – only some men, a minority, enjoy war, although for many it is a mixed bag, never all bad or all good.

Cercas builds up to what he thinks is the culmination of his book – an elderly uncle suddenly remembers, although he never told anyone before, was not there, and cannot remember who told him, that in his last visit to the village Mena told someone that the war was hard and that he had done his duty; that he didn’t want to go back to the front, but was going to anyway, because if he didn’t, another uncle would have had to go to war. Cercas responds “Are you saying that Manuel Mena was fed up with the war?” To which the old man replies, “Exactly. Fed up.” This is what is called in law the rankest hearsay, along with leading the witness. It’s meaningless.

But not in the context of Cercas’s project, which seems to be primarily to exonerate himself to his social peers today for the fact that his family was Francoist, and Cercas treats the old man’s words as a revelation comparable to Prometheus bringing fire to Man. Oh, it’s probably true. I bet Manuel Mena was fed up with the war. I bet most soldiers in his position were fed up with the war and would far prefer it be over. This is a commonplace throughout history. But that doesn’t mean that he didn’t also know that the only way home was to win against the Communists, or that he had changed his mind about what was necessary for Spain to flourish and thrive.

So what does this say about our own political divisions? Less than one might think. In Spain, there were clear and unbridgeable political divisions among the ruling classes, which inevitably led to war. Here, there are no such divisions – our ruling classes, Democrat and Republican, are united in their contempt for the deplorables, many of whom bear a suspicious resemblance to the poor citizenry of Ibahernando. Trump may talk about fighting the ruling classes, and they do hate him because he threatens their cushy position by the chaos he creates and the positions he theoretically espouses, which if unchecked might empower the deplorables, but Jared and Ivanka, and the rest of those who influence and limit Trump, aren’t really opposed to George Soros and Gavin Newsom politically.

All these people are just fighting over the spoils, not fighting about principles with each other. Their collective vision is a continuation of the neoliberal atomized hell with leftist social policies in which we live (which, to be fair, has been very, very good to me, but I am a traitor to my class).

To the extent there are real divisions outside the ruling class, Americans, with their comfortable lifestyles, addiction to safety, and facing the overwhelming power and reach of the government, aren’t going to fight for anything, among themselves or against the government. Claims otherwise, anywhere on the political spectrum, are all LARPing for the social media cameras. People on the Right point to Antifa as a budding locus of violence, but that’s not true in any meaningful way. Antifa is a clown show, performance theater.

They only engage in violence because they are protected by the police and judges in the places they do it; if they showed up any other place but a few friendly urban locales, they would regret it, and quickly. Look at them. They are fat losers. In a real civil war they would run and hide as fast as their tubby little legs could carry them. No, like most people in Ibahernando, the average American just wants to get by, and enjoy life, and isn’t, for better or worse, going to actually fight about politics.

At least they’re not going to fight yet. The Wuhan Plague, and more the government overreaction to it, has turned the ratchet a few more turns. Someday the ruling classes are no longer going to be able to print money and make promises to keep the peasants from becoming restless, and they will be thrust to the side as the political currents of Left and Right rear their heads and assume shape under leaders yet to be named. Or perhaps we will have a tripartite split, with the ruling classes fighting simultaneously against a newly organized, competent, and risk-taking Left and Right. We will then see, in every locale, what Ibahernando did—that no, we can’t all just get along, because one vision of the good must rule, and incompatible visions are, well, incompatible.

And, finally, back to my great aunt, who told me that war is a terrible thing. This same sentiment runs throughout this book, although without nuance or understanding, since Cercas has apparently taken no risks in his life, and he cannot escape his ideological prison when viewing the past. He seems to want to think that war can both be brutal and evil, and noble and necessary, but cannot bear to apply that principle to his great uncle.

Cercas would do well to read Sebastian Junger’s Tribe, which lays out what war really means for modern men, and explains, aside from politics, why, perhaps, Manuel Mena fought and died. I think that the idea of a kalos thanatos should not be encouraged; it is a pagan ideal, after all, and as the father of three young sons it does not appeal to me. But sacrifice combined with seeking a transcendent goal has a key place in any society that is going anywhere.

What is true for a man is true for a society—there are worse things than war, as terrible as war is. Far worse for Spain, for example, to have been ruled by the Communists, both in terms of the number of dead and in the ruination of the nation. Sometimes, often, we must choose between two unpalatable choices.

My own aunt was not saying that Hungary was wrong to fight in the war; given history and circumstance, it was both necessary and inevitable. Rather, her point was to remember, when and if a man of power, I should count the cost, and not idly or blindly feed the little people into the maw of the machine. This is a universal truth, untied to ideology. But Cercas’s book fails because he views everything through ideology. Lord of All the Dead could have been a fascinating exploration of the Spanish conflict on a local level, but instead, it’s just claptrap.

Charles is a business owner and operator, in manufacturing, and a recovering big firm M&A lawyer. He runs the blog, The Worthy House.

The image shows, “A Nationalist Soldier on the Santander Front in a Captured Concrete Dug-Out with ‘Marxist’ Inscriptions – ’Death to Spain!’ and ‘Long Live Russia”, by Carlos Saenz de Tejada, Illustrated London News, 20 Nov. 1937.

How The West Was Lost

A few weeks ago, I watched Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, and Quentin Tarantino’s movie delivered to me what I have been seeking. Namely, the exact point America careened off the path to flourishing, abandoning our long, mostly successful search for ever-increasing excellence and achievement. It was 1969.

As the shadows lengthen and the darkness spreads, perhaps it does not matter when twilight fell. But why twilight fell does matter, and much of the answer can be found in the pages of Amity Shlaes’s new book, Great Society, which narrates the decade’s massive expansion of government, and of elite power, all in the service of the Left, that we were told was certain to give us Utopia, but instead destroyed our civilization.

That America was being destroyed was not completely obvious at the time. In fact, America sixty years ago could absorb a lot of abuse—until the early 1970s America still seemed mostly on track, just more colorful around the edges, as shown in Tarantino’s movie.

In it, the older America, of a sense of duty and a desire for achievement, tempered by human foibles, is contrasted with the new America, of thieving, murderous hippies, emancipated from unchosen bonds by the social changes imposed on us during the 1960s, and acting badly, as men and women always do when so emancipated. A society composed of such cannot succeed or accomplish anything at all, something known to wise men throughout all ages, but which we were made to forget, to our harm and sorrow.

The movie ends differently than real life—in real life, the hippies won, and as a result we have accomplished nothing of any importance since 1969. Do not forget—it has been fifty-one years since 1969, when we landed men on the Moon, and 1969 was sixty-six years after men first flew. Compare the eras, and weep, for we now know that 1969 was our apogee, and that ever since, we have blindly stumbled along a crooked path that leads nowhere.

But in failure lies opportunity. I think that if we play it right, the 1960s will merely have been a detour off the path. We can now return to the straight path—but only if we have the will to make hard choices, to sell the present, for a time, to pay for our future. As the Wuhan virus spreads through our hollowed-out society, perhaps, indeed, now is the time. We will see.

That the 1960s spelled the effective end of America is not, to the perceptive, news. For fifty years, our ruling class has used their control of education and tele-visual media to indoctrinate our children and hoodwink our adults by painting an utterly false picture of the 1960s.

The party line has been that the decade was a shining time for America, when we overthrew old verities and emancipated everyone in society, resulting in a coruscating new dawn of liberty for America. And by unfortunate coincidence, our elites had, and gladly used, a peerless tool to silence objections, because it was in the 1960s that African Americans, the sole American group worthy of any type of emancipation or the subject of any relevant and unjust oppression in American history, actually got the civil rights promised them in 1865.

This allowed any objection to any aspect of the Left edifice built in the 1960s to be cast as racism and ignored—which it still is today, hugely reinforced by new, malicious Left doctrines such as intersectionality, thereby creating the very real risk of racial conflict in any American rebirth. I do not have a solution for that, yet.

On to the book. Shlaes is known as a historian of the early twentieth century. Her biography of Calvin Coolidge and her history of the Great Depression (The Forgotten Man) are modern classics. This is straight history, with no ideological overlay. Shlaes is not really here to criticize the 1960s, or their most visible manifestation, the so-called Great Society. Yes, the hubris of the men at the nation’s helm is on pristine display, but Shlaes presents the facts almost without comment, letting the reader draw his own conclusions.

The author organizes her chapters by short periods, months or years. She also pulls through certain themes, among them the television series Bonanza, which first aired at the turn of the decade, and went off the air a few years into the 1970s. Bonanza, reruns of which I watched with my grandfather as a child, was an optimistic show, reflecting an optimistic America—one where anything could be accomplished with hard work and the right attitude, most of all knowing and doing one’s duty.

In 1960, Americans correctly perceived themselves as strong and the federal government, which had vastly less reach than today and directly touched the average American’s life nearly not at all, as a partner in continuing that strength. Big business, labor, and the government openly cooperated to everyone’s perceived benefit.

True, there was always some tension about how the pie got distributed, with intermittent conflicts between labor and management, and fears in many quarters that socialism was lurking just around the corner. In 1960 through 1962, there were some rumblings of economic discontent, and, almost unnoticed, the pernicious adoption by President Kennedy of an executive order allowing government employees to unionize. But there was little to suggest new problems ahead.

Trouble was being brewed by the Left, though. Of course, the Left had long been striving to get a grip on America, but had never managed to dominate even the most obvious areas, such as factory workers. The unions were, in fact, mostly ferociously anti-Communist, and a key part of the necessary and heroic suppression by Americans of Communism during the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s.

Realizing this, the traditional American hard Left had switched to dominating the culture, the institutions, and morphed into the New Left. Shlaes acknowledges this was a multi-decade program of the Left: “The ‘long march through the institutions’ that Antonio Gramsci sketched out and Rudi Dutschke demanded had succeeded.” (In America, this was the project of the infamous Frankfurt School). In effect, therefore, this book is a history of how the New Left took power, and ruined America.

Shlaes focuses on the Port Huron meeting of June 1962, which sowed the seeds of much of the rest of the decade. Port Huron was a meeting of well-to-do young New Left activists, organized and paid for by the United Auto Workers, naively eager to enlist young people in the goal of helping keep the pie properly divided.

Politics was nothing new for the great union leaders, such as Walter Reuther, but what the UAW and its elders did not realize is that the young leftists they recruited believed pies grew on trees, and anyway were less interested in pies, and more interested in destruction of the American system and its replacement by something entirely new.

The older American Left, exemplified by Reuther, wanted social democracy in the European mold. The New Left wanted, as the ideological Left has always wanted since the 1700s, a complete reworking of society to achieve a new, Utopian paradise of justice and equality. But Reuther and his compatriots could not see this.

The degeneration heralded by the New Left did not manifest itself into sudden existence, it had long been in preparation, and had multiple parents, not just the Frankfurt School.

It began in earnest sixty years before, among the Progressives who rejected America and demanded its replacement by a technocracy. Such men took advantage of, in sequence, crises to implement their vision—first World War I, then the Depression, then World War II. To the observant, by the 1960s signs of the rot created by the Left were all around, from the destruction of classical architecture to the perversions of higher education William F. Buckley called out in God and Man at Yale.

The clear-eyed among us, such as Ronald Reagan, warned us, but even then, the elite rained contempt on Reagan and his message, thereby strengthening those actively seeking to undermine America.

Why the Left has the will and ability to execute such a strategy over a century and the Right has, so far, not, is a topic for another time. But that reality is on full display in this history, beginning with the Presidency of John Kennedy. It was those young Port Huron-type leftists, along with their slightly older leaders, such as Michael Harrington, who in 1961 quickly began to strongly influence the direction of America.

Kennedy surrounded himself with men who were open to left-wing goals, and insufferably utopian, though most were still not wholly of the New Left. (Shlaes narrates how an obsessive topic of discussion among Kennedy’s White House staff, immediately after Kennedy’s inauguration, was wondering how they would spend their time in the last two years of Kennedy’s term, after they had solved all the nation’s problems during the first two years).

But when Kennedy was shot, and Johnson came to power, it immediately became clear that Johnson wanted nothing more than huge federal programs, in the mold of the New Deal, only bigger and better, to cement his legacy—programs that the Left, with its infrastructure in waiting, could and did easily use for their own purposes.

Shlaes deftly sketches Johnson’s tools—his solid Democratic majorities in Congress, his own political abilities, the manufactured sense of emergency used to circumvent democratic checks (always a favorite tool of the Left). We go through 1964, with a cast of characters once famous who have now left the stage—everyone from Daniel Patrick Moynihan to Sargent Shriver.

Right off the bat Johnson and the men who advised him rammed through massive “anti-poverty” legislation based on New Left principles. In November, Johnson was elected to the Presidency in his own right by a landslide. This cemented Johnson’s desire and ability to execute the now-named Great Society, which meant fountains of cash distributed at all levels (along with many other pernicious non-monetary changes, such as huge increases in legal immigration).

One level was the federal government, where massive new programs sprouted like weeds. But a second level was handouts of tax dollars to states, most of all to large cities, where poverty and Democrats were concentrated. Shlaes goes into great detail about these various programs, everything from the massive new housing developments to Head Start.

Some of the mayors, especially Republican mayors, resented that the price of free money from Washington was toeing the line that Washington set, but they had no real choice, and Johnson’s compliant Congress changed the laws whenever necessary to ensure that local control was a mere fiction.

And a side effect of money sluicing down from, and controlled from, above was more erosion of America’s intermediary institutions, a bulwark against leftist domination, but already in decline due to government expansion of previous decades.

These Great Society programs all had as a primary goal the funding of the Left as an institution, and were the beginning of the massive self-sustaining ecosystem of the modern Left, where to this day enormous sums flow from government, business, and private individuals and entities to fund a galaxy of leftist pressure groups.

In 1965, for example, Mayor Richard Daley of Chicago was handed money for a “community action program” to hire one thousand full-time “community action representatives” at a salary of $4,070 each (about $35,000 today). Such “representatives” were instructed from Washington, in the form of a 262-page book that encouraged organizing the poor to protest to demand handouts, using the techniques pioneered by Saul Alinsky. (In later years, an ambitious young man, growing up in Hawaii, would move to Chicago and slot himself directly into this by-then long-existing ecosystem, ultimately leveraging it to make himself President).

This funding and support from well-connected elders has always been lacking on the Right, which is a problem the Right must solve in order to achieve any of its goals.

Shlaes also touches on the importance of the radical leftist judiciary in cementing the Great Society, creating law out of whole cloth that fit with the ideology being implemented. Such decisions included Goldberg v. Kelly, deeming government handouts a property right; Reynolds v. Sims, rewriting the Constitution to ensure states with big cities were ruled by those cities; and many other Supreme Court decisions.

And on a lower level, thousands of suits were brought by the government-funded Legal Services Corporation, created to serve the poor in their minor disputes such as divorces and property, but weaponized to instead frustrate any legislative choice that did not conform to the goals of the Left, and still used for that purpose (joined today by nearly all the top law firms in America).

Such domination of the judiciary by the Left, on display most recently in the practice of federal district judges immediately blocking any action by Donald Trump not approved by the Left by issuing illegitimate nationwide injunctions, is another major problem blocking future Right victories.

Only by crushing such Left judicial opposition, and restoring the federal judiciary to its proper extremely modest role, or by having Right judges finally use their power in the same way as Left judges have for sixty years, can the Right win.

Meanwhile, Tom Hayden and other firebrands of the New Left were moving even further leftward, unhappy that the Great Society was not radical enough. In 1965 and 1966, openly supporting Communism in North Vietnam became the new chic, and Hayden and his compatriots traveled to North Vietnam, receiving the usual Potemkin village treatment and eagerly believing the lies they were fed. (Later, Hayden and his wife Jane Fonda would name their son after a Vietnamese Communist assassin who had tried to kill Robert McNamara by bombing a bridge over which his motorcade was to pass).

This drove a wedge between the leftists in the White House and the even more radical set outside it, but also ensured that further movement Left continued, as the younger generation of leftists replaced the older.

Soon enough, no surprise, it became evident that the desired and expected Utopian results, by whatever measure, were not forthcoming. The poor were worse off and violence among the poor swept the nation. This frustrated Johnson and all the men surrounding him, so he turned to housing, in 1966 and 1967.

The result, in an explicit attempt to achieve “human flourishing,” was disaster, with the building of massive Le Corbusier-inspired tower blocks of public housing that immediately become festering hellholes, such as Pruitt-Igoe in St. Louis, which Shlaes profiles up to its demolition in 1972. Meant as a Utopian solution that would prevent rioting by the dissatisfied poor, such housing instead exacerbated the Great Society’s destruction of black communities.

And such housing, long a pet project of the Left in its desire to remake human nature and create “scientific” solutions to intractable problems, would have been even more widespread and destructive, were it not for the efforts of people like Jane Jacobs. (Nowadays, bizarrely, we are often told that such public housing projects were the acts of racist conservatives, in an act of historical mendacity that would be breathtaking were it not the norm for Left “history”).

Among all this, Shlaes covers the rise of inflation and the move away from the gold standard, along with other economic matters, as the socialism of the Great Society inevitably led to stagflation. She narrates Johnson’s choice not to run again, and how the cultivation of the New Left in the early 1960s resulted in the takeover of the Democratic party by the New Left at the end of the 1960s.

She talks about the sclerosis in the once-peerless American auto industry (and other heavy industries), and the effect this had on the labor/management cooperation found earlier in the decade. Wound in between are what are now commonplace government behaviors, then new: massively underestimating the costs of government programs; using word salads and names as propaganda; ignoring regulatory costs on society; failing to perform, or care in any way about, cost-benefit analysis. We are used to it all now, just as a man living next to an open sewer becomes inured to the stench, but Shlaes does a good job narrating how it all came into existence.

It is particularly interesting that Shlaes discusses a document written by Moynihan, 1962’s “Guiding Principles of Federal Architecture.” In itself, this one-page memo was not particularly objectionable, but its call for “efficient and economical facilities” combined with a call for “contemporary architects” to direct the federal government’s buildings, not vice versa, resulted in hundreds of billions of dollars of ugly federal architecture.

This did not have to be, but was inevitable in context because of the pernicious dominance of architectural Modernism. Shlaes’s mention of this memo is interesting because only a few weeks ago, this now completely obscure document was prominent again, when it was leaked that the Trump administration was considering, after sixty years, revising this document to call for a return to classical architecture.

The usual suspects shrieked “fascism!”, and nothing has been done yet, but I certainly hope it will—though it needs to be part of a much larger and comprehensive rework of the federal government, of which new architecture will be a key demonstrative element.

By the time Nixon took over in 1969, the cracks were starting to show, but Nixon eagerly continued Johnson’s policies, and often expanded them. In part this was because he didn’t much care for domestic policy (Shlaes quotes him after his 1962 gubernatorial loss, “At least I’ll never have to talk about crap like dope addiction again”); in part this was simply adherence to leftist pieties that had already addicted the mainstream of the Republican party. (George Romney, Mitt Romney’s father, features frequently in this book as an eager toady to the Left, just like his son is today).

Nixon, in fact, tried to expand the Great Society to include a universal basic income, and fell just short, because Vietnam and the fact the Left had hated Nixon for decades for his anti-Communism precluded the lockstep forced cooperation that had allowed the early Great Society to be rammed through by Johnson—not to mention the economy was not doing well, and the feeling of shared prosperity had already, not coincidentally, begun to disappear.

Shlaes ends with the beginning of stagflation and the end of the gold standard, with, shades of Donald Trump, Nixon agitating against the Federal Reserve’s unwillingness to loosen the money supply to help his re-election. Of course, one immediate result of the Great Society was economic catastrophe in the 1970s.

Shlaes nods to this, although it is outside the scope of the book proper. That was, ultimately, however, the least important effect of the Great Society. Its most important effect was to encourage the undeserving to believe they are being unjustly denied what belongs to them, while rejecting that any person has any duty that counterbalances freedom. This fragmented our society, and thereby destroyed the unity and purpose that made it possible for America to accomplish great things.

All this is a sad history, but instructive. A basic principle of mine, and of Foundationalism, is that a well-run government should have limited ends and unlimited means. Because elites love power, and rotten elites love power dearly for what it can give them that they cannot earn, expansion of government in practice means expansion of ends.

So it was with us, but worse, since our elites combined love of power with a noxious and wholly destructive ideology. The answer is not incremental changes; it is to defenestrate our entire ruling class and strip the Left permanently of its money and power, by almost any means necessary; then to rebuild a virtuous society that takes advantage of America’s unique history and place in the world, and what I believe is still a unique attitude among many of its people.

With a new ruling class organically arising from the most talented and dedicated, combined with a complete restructuring of education, the termination of any unearned benefit (especially one based on any immutable characteristic), the sharp restriction of the franchise to those with an actual stake in society, and other radical changes, we may have a chance. I have been saying for some time that history will return. 2020 is looking like the year; let’s take advantage of it, for as Lenin said, “Timing is all.”

Charles is a business owner and operator, in manufacturing, and a recovering big firm M&A lawyer. He runs the blog, The Worthy House.

The image shows the Woodstock concert poster, from 1969, by Arnold Skolnik.

How Not To Fix The World

Almost always one reads a book of future-looking political theory long before or long after its substance has been proven or disproven. It is quite another experience to observe theory offered just yesterday, as it morphs today into reality. So, it is with The Decadent Society, released in February, a month ago. It sharply identifies our problems, and speaks abstractly of possible futures for both America and the rest of the world, in which our problems are solved, or not.

But all changed futures require a mechanism of change, that in February we were lacking. Now, the Wuhan coronavirus, and, much more importantly, its knock-on effects, have delivered a possible mechanism, and a changed future rises in the shadows. History has, perhaps, returned.

That’s not to say this book is very good. It’s not. I mean, it’s not bad, and the author, Ross Douthat, a prominent conservative, is an excellent writer, but he says nothing that I and many others have not been saying for years; and he is trapped within the rusty confines of High Conservatism, itself decadent under his own definition.

Moreover, iron bars may not make a cage (as the Cavalier poet, Richard Lovelace, a distant collateral ancestor of mine, said). But being the only conservative employee of the New York Times, whether Douthat admits it to himself or not, makes for house arrest, where the author makes sure his thought stays within a narrow band. Still, Douthat is a smart man, and his analysis is a starting place for bolder lines of thought.

Douthat uses Jacques Barzun’s classic definition of decadence, which is hard to boil down to a single sentence, but Douthat distills it to “economic stagnation, institutional decay, and cultural and intellectual exhaustion at a high level of prosperity and technological development.”

Decadence in Barzun’s definition is not eye-catching, dissolute behavior or massive inequality. In fact, decadent periods are often periods of considerable activity—just not original or useful activity. “Repetition is more the norm than innovation . . . intellectual life goes in circles.”

As Douthat notes, this definition, by emphasizing economics and observable repetition, allows some degree of quantification and precision, and largely takes out moral elements. That’s not to say that decadent periods don’t often show moral degeneracy; but in this view degeneracy is not the main marker of decadence, and is essentially ignored by Douthat (though, strangely, the cover image is one of gluttony).

To justify his diagnosis of degeneracy, Douthat identifies four symptoms: economic stagnation; human sterility; institutional sclerosis; and cultural repetition. Each of these gets a chapter, taking up half the book total, and then Douthat turns to what might change, and how we might escape decadence.

By “we” Douthat means Western civilization, primarily America and secondarily, Europe; although he nods occasionally to two Asian cultures now advanced because they have adopted elements of Western civilization, Japan and South Korea. As we’ll see, Douthat does a good job showing that “we” are decadent under Barzun’s definition, although it would be a more interesting (and much longer) book if he tied this analysis to other societies in history.

We can see no forward movement, no future, when our society is viewed with a clear eye. Trying to cover all the bases, Douthat looks high and low for a silver lining, arguing that perhaps living like this, eking out the ruin in a nation, isn’t really so bad. It’s better, he says, than submitting to violence and war for their own sake, in the manner of some pre-World War I thinkers. But as we will see, that is a false dichotomy, and it’s pretty clear Douthat thinks so too.

A key element is missing in Douthat’s analysis, however. He ignores how we got here. He doesn’t say it was inevitable; he does not claim there is a cycle in every human society. Instead, he treats the West’s descent to decadence as a passive event, something that somehow happened to us for unspecified, perhaps unknowable, reasons. He ignores the possibility that it was an active event, something that was done to us by specified people for specified reasons. Or, put another way: did we fall, or were we pushed? You won’t find Douthat addressing that question.

Douthat begins with 1969, the apogee of America. That apogee seemed, Douthat accurately points out, like a beginning, the foothills of the much greater mountains that America would soon conquer. It is obvious in retrospect that the rot was far advanced even then, but not surprising that escaped most people at the time. Douthat focuses on the landing of men on the Moon; this focus prefigures that Douthat’s solution for decadence is a renewed outward-looking vision, celebrating, as I have said, the works of Man under the eyes of God.

This is not a history of the space program, however. Douthat’s initial point is that very soon after 1969, we became resigned to the closing of all frontiers. He speaks of the search for “God and gold and glory,” making the interesting claim that the “ideology of exploration and discovery” in the modern, industrialized world offered “a new form of consolation to replace what faith and tribe and family and hierarchy had once supplied.”

In Douthat’s telling, it substituted for the impermanence of the modern world. I am not sure these things are properly contrasted; the great earlier ages of exploration and discovery combined the two very successfully, and most who sought the American frontier were very much about faith and family, and hierarchy too, if uncomfortable with distant overlords. And the space program itself was a perfect example of a hierarchy, one based on competence—just look at photos of astronauts or of Mission Control.

Douthat’s claim has a superficial appeal, but upon a little thought it’s obvious that accomplishing the new does not necessarily result in evanescence, and I suspect a close historical analysis would disprove Douthat’s claim entirely. Regardless, America did not seem decadent in 1969.

Next, we get four chapters on the four symptoms of decadence, beginning with economic stagnation, or more precisely, stagnation of real economic endeavor that actually adds value. Douthat adduces large businesses that turned out to be frauds or hollow shells, such as Theranos and Uber.

His point isn’t that all businesses are frauds; it’s that when a rich society can’t find legitimate and high-return places to invest wealth, the consequence is stagnation, the cessation of forward movement. It becomes “let’s-pretendism.”

The glossy pseudo-success of Silicon Valley today conceals a laundry list of massive defects and problems pointed out by other writers, from Robert Gordon (on the modern failure to truly innovate) to David Graeber (on jobs that are not real) to numerous writers on income stagnation in real terms for the masses and the decline in social mobility (Richard Reeves, and James Bloodworth).
Douthat doesn’t claim there is one single driver of this stagnation. He cites analyses ranging from libertarians through Thomas Piketty (though it doesn’t lend confidence that he keeps citing the very lightweight Tyler Cowen, who for some reason many on the Right view as some kind of guru), and settles on some combination of aging populations, debt overhang, limits to further education, environmental limitations (making here one of his many required obeisance to the gospel of global warming), and, perhaps most of all, the failure of technological innovation.

He points out that, the internet aside, our world is not very different than the world of several decades ago, but that world was vastly different than the world of a few decades before it. This is partially cloaked by the modern ultra-high speed of communication, but that is not a real difference. Nor is there any sign whatsoever, as I am also very fond of pointing out, that any of the marvels we are promised are imminent are indeed actually imminent, from driverless cars to artificial intelligence to life extension. Far more likely that in thirty years nothing much will have changed.

Following is sterility, human sterility. Here Douthat summarizes what any realist knows—that our actual problem is underpopulation, not overpopulation. I covered this in great detail in my review of Darrell Bricker and John Ibbitson’s Empty Planet and will not repeat it here; Douthat does a competent job of summarizing the problem and linking it to his overall theme. He clearly points out all the bad things immediately resulting from an aging population, most of all a total lack of the dynamism that is the lifeblood of any society that is going anywhere. And by the end of the chapter, he nods in the direction of the truth—a society that is focused on nothing greater than maximizing individual choice will, given modern birth limiting options, always die, and die quickly.

He does not, however, advert to that this is an active choice, not something that passively happened to us, and the reader begins to sense that Douthat is either hiding or ignoring a key truth that explains his analysis—that we bought into, and allowed ourselves to be controlled by, a destructive ideology.

Next is sclerosis, in essence, the inability of our institutions, primarily our government, to do anything competently. We can all agree this is true, and it’s unnecessary to recount examples. But why is this? Again, Douthat treats it as something that just happened. Douthat ignores that increasing sclerosis is, over time, directly correlated with the expansion of the state demanded by leftist ideology, while at the same time non-governmental institutions have been deliberately reduced to almost complete irrelevance except as arms of the government or tools of leftist programs.

He says nothing about the administrative state, a creation and instrument of the Left. Worst of all, he makes claims that suggest he either has no idea what he is talking about or is bending over backward to protect the Left from its primary responsibility, such as making the bizarre claim, offering no examples because there are no possible examples, “[T]he conservative movement has become comfortable with judicial activism in reverse; with using judicial power aggressively on issues where conservative legislators have either been defeated or (more often) simply fear to tread.”

I wish that were true, but it’s not, even a little. And I have nearly as much contempt for the Republicans in Congress as for Democrats, but as we have seen this week in Nancy Pelosi holding hostage the “relief” bill for the Chinese coronavirus with a laundry list of unrelated leftist demands, and that the Left benefits from legislative sclerosis by its control of the judiciary and the administrative state, institutional sclerosis is a problem that could be largely solved by smashing the power of the Left. The reader begins to realize who the active agent of our decadence is—the modern Left, and its Enlightenment values of unlimited autonomic individualism and coerced equality.

Finally, we discuss cultural repetition. Douthat makes the point often made (he makes almost zero original points in this book, but he does not claim he is making original points), that the world of 2020 is basically indistinguishable from the world of 1990, but that any other thirty-year gap in modern American history shows massive changes, both visually and under the surface.

True enough, but he glosses over that our culture’s descent in the past fifty years is again directly correlated with the rise to total cultural dominance of the Left. From his Acela corridor perch, Douthat, a movie and television buff, can’t see this. (Oddly, he entirely ignores high culture, such as music and architecture, though of course those have also been destroyed by leftist ideology).

Douthat makes farcical statements, such as that among those pioneering “a richer and more daring approach to televised storytelling” is—Lena Dunham. He claims that Princess Leia using a blaster in Star Wars is the same thing as the men clad in female bodies who now dominate all action movies.

He tells us that five percent of the population is “homosexual or transgender”—which is false, and by including the mentally ill “transgender” he signals his burning of incense at the most recently erected progressive altar. He claims, with a straight face, that “the first season of Mad Men” is a “primary source,” apparently not realizing the entire series is slick leftist propaganda.

Winding up, Douthat points out that the culture war is mostly stalemated for the past few decades, since 1975 or so, hence we are repeating our past cultural battles. True enough, but what he fails to point out is that that stalemate has been a setting in amber of total victories by the Left, the only changes in which have been to add fresh victories for the Left.

So, yes, we do have cultural repetition—but that’s because we have calcified Left victories. The obvious answer, as with sclerosis, is that the Left is to blame, and if we destroy the Left, we increase our chances of being able to restore the future.

So, in these four chapters, Douthat proves, adequately enough, that our society is decadent. But it appears stable, or appeared so last month. Douthat next turns to why that is, when decadence is typically seen as leading to instability. He ascribes it to drugs, pornography, and the internet. Yes, political fighting appears vicious, but it is mostly playacting.

This is not the 1930s. Nobody is manning the barricades or fighting in the streets. The likely result, short and medium term, Douthat says, is a Huxley-ite soft despotism, where the government works to make us feel safe, and nobody even dreams, much less dares, great things. Think China without the annoying Chinese cultural attitudes and behaviors, like eating bats. Think, instead, James Poulos’s “pink police state,” a decayed world where the only thing that cannot be tolerated is intolerance, or rocking the boat for others’ desires, whatever those may be.

This is a reasonable vision. But again, Douthat bizarrely claims that this “coercion to freedom,” in Ryszard Legutko’s words, is some kind of organic modern happenstance, not a deliberate program of the Left. He never ascribes any malignity to the leftist program that has been so successful over the past hundred (really, two hundred) years, and wildly successful over the past sixty.

In Douthat’s Stockholm Syndrome-tinged vision, campus repression is merely something colleges “groped their way to . . . out of a kind of commercial necessity,” and campus speech rules are only “mildly repressive.” Right-wing engineers are “occasionally fired for wrongthink,” rather than every major business totally repressing all socially conservative speech. Western Europe’s violent punitive measures against any activity that challenges Left wholesale importation of alien invaders are neutrally “aimed at policing the tensions between natives and new arrivals.”

In Douthat’s fantasy, the pink police state affects everyone equally and in the same way, for both Left and Right are completely equal in the degree and types of censorship and persecution they suffer. This is ludicrous, and everyone paying attention knows it. Yet again—smash the Left, and you may not solve decadence, but life will get a lot better immediately, and there will be a lot more options for renewal.

But what is Douthat’s solution? It’s not the barbarians, given as an answer in C. P. Cavafy’s famous poem, “Waiting for the Barbarians,” where a decadent people are disappointed when the barbarians fail to show up to sack the city, for “They were, those people, a kind of solution.”

Douthat sees no force capable of “overthrowing the liberal order and inheriting the world.” Not Islam; it’s not coherent and it’s decaying on its own (more accurately, it’s been decaying for twelve hundred years). Not Russia; it’s a fake throwback to the Tsars. Not the illiberal democracies of Poland and Hungary; they are not a real alternative, and won’t be unless they remake themselves as “Christian monarchies” (hmmmm . . . .). Not the Chinese; they’re sterile, and going nowhere. Not populist movements in the developed world; they are “disturbances, not transformations.”

Yes, maybe “the right leader, the right crisis, the right combination of man and the moment [will lead] to actual regime change.” More likely, we’ll instead see global “convergence-in-decadence.”

What, then, are the alternatives? Well, there’s unexpected catastrophe, exacerbated by modern technologies. Douthat sets this to the side as unforeseeable, and I don’t think the Chinese coronavirus is such a catastrophe, although it highlights the possibility of such.

There’s economic collapse, leading to a real resurgence of 1930s-style political chaos. There’s global-warming making large sections of the globe uninhabitable. And there’s chaos resulting from all of these together, most of all the unchecked migration of those from the Third World into the rest of the world, leading to Europe becoming “neo-medieval” in order to resist this invasion, while America might resemble late Rome.

All this is rather a hodgepodge, though not inaccurate as far as it goes. Out of the listed problems, of course, you could construct many possible futures. We can generally, agree, though, that most of those futures are bad. I’m not sure they’re necessarily as bad as Douthat thinks—I could construct a future reached after widespread violence, in which the power of the Left, always fragile because based on unreality, is broken, and a competent, clean, outward-looking new society fashioned from the skeleton of the old. In fact, “neo-medieval” sounds pretty good to me. Maybe we should give that a try, not reject it out of hand.

Douthat, too, desires renaissance, the topic of his last chapter. Correctly, Douthat sees little possibility for internal renaissance in the West, without total or near-total collapse first. He does offer an intriguing idea, one I have touched on myself in the past—perhaps a new synthesis of Africa and Europe might lead to a new vibrant culture.

I’d like to think this is possible, but little suggests it is. Robert Cardinal Sarah, Douthat’s exemplar, is mostly a product of European culture, not African culture. No culture of world importance has ever come out of Africa, except perhaps Egypt, and that was four thousand years ago. But maybe that will change; no doubt even introspective Romans did not think it likely that illiterate, uncouth Franks in the dark forests of Gaul would create the greatest civilization the world has ever known.

Other than this, Douthat rejects that science alone will lead to a renaissance, even in the unlikely possibility that unprecedented scientific breakthroughs begin again. There is not going to be a Singularity, although it is possible that, say, Chinese scientists may create superhumans by genetic engineering and unleash the Eugenics Wars of Star Trek’s imagining.

He also rejects the modest post-liberal vision of authors such as Patrick Deneen, correctly recognizing that localism and subsidiarity, if effective in remaking parts of the world, will not be tolerated by their enemies, although he fails to correctly identify that their enemies are our current masters, the Left, and a Right post-liberal government, of unlimited means and limited ends, would likely coexist just fine with such communities, of the Benedict Option type or any other.

Douthat seems unable to contemplate such a realist-based, rightist post-liberal government; his limited vision only allows him to consider a nationalist-type state on the model of Israel, not one that wholly rejects the Enlightenment, which, after all, is the root of the decadence the Left has imposed on us over the past sixty years. He briefly analyzes a religious revival, but, as with catastrophe, drops it as impossible to predict.

And, ultimately, he concludes, rather unsatisfyingly but with some truth, that any renaissance will depend on “a lot of things happening at once”—though, as I do, he comes back again and again to Space as a backbone of any such renaissance. “I suspect that a truly globalized civilization cannot help tending toward decadence so long as it remains earthbound, so long as there is no hope of finding actual new worlds to leap toward, conquer, or explore.”

Let’s try something different. Let’s imagine another twentieth century, at the end of which did not lie today’s decadence, which, contra Douthat, was not in the least inevitable. Alternative history is both fascinating and largely pointless, but what if the West had, a hundred years after the French Revolution, somehow wholly rejected the pernicious Enlightenment vision of destructive ever-greater emancipation?

What if the Enlightenment had never reached its logical end, woke so-called liberal democracy that is really a dying quasi-totalitarianism? We might have lasted longer, and accomplished more. We might have been Venice writ large, expanding already beyond the Earth, firmly grounded in reality, not ideology, and lifting ourselves upward and outward.

That’s not what happened. And we can’t go back. But maybe we can go forward, not simply by magically refocusing on common outward-facing goals, as Douthat would have it, though that is surely needed, but by first cutting out and cauterizing the cancers at the heart of our civilization. The coronavirus has made most of the many asleep realize, at least a little bit, how badly off track we are, by slapping all of us in the face with reality.

Any recognition of reality undermines the power of the Left’s pernicious vision, which relies on a combination of iron exercise of power and the casting of a mass delusion. A little more reality, hard reality, and those who hold the levers of power are likely to be thrown down. We can hope.

And if so, the key is to rebuild on the foundations that made us successful earlier, not the destructive combination of the visions of John Stuart Mill and Maximilien Robespierre that has led us to where we are now. Through the fire, probably, but then onward to new lands.

Charles is a business owner and operator, in manufacturing, and a recovering big firm M&A lawyer. He runs the blog, The Worthy House.

The image shows, “The Return of the Prodigal Son,” by Fritz von Uhde, undated.

America Reborn

Does the world need or want a strong United States? This essential question, whether consciously iterated or not, underlies much of what passes for commentary on the presidency of Donald Trump. Of course, there is the easy caricature that is to be found in the popular media, of Trump as the great villain of the age, who also happens to be stupid, boorish, and well, a “Nazi.” Such vilification has been ongoing ever since the man was elected.

Those who purvey this caricature seem mindless of the consequences of their outrage. They like to imagine that somehow the direct opposite of the Trump presidency will magically be embodied in the Democratic Party, and all will be well again. Such willful naivety, or perhaps confusion, also suggests that the critics of Trump have little interest in understanding what kind of a nation the US is and should be – internally and on the international stage.

But there is also another view. More sober and guided by political realism. And this view understands that the world will always need a strong nation that will pull the rest of the countries towards a particular kind of future. The world has never been so introverted that it does not need leadership. Thus, under whose aegis will be the world be at its best? This question cannot be answered by simply repeating platitudes about social justice. Indeed, justice in the context of politics means alliances with nations that follow a common cause.

There are two questions that must be answered by those who are anti-Trump: Does the world need a strong United States? If not, which nation will be the world-leader? There is an important difference in these two questions – because strength does not necessarily impart leadership, although it is a necessary component. Which nation does the world want to follow? There are, of course, choices.

There is China, which is now busy trying to build a world empire, no matter what the cost. Although it has acquired a lot of wealth, mostly from the USA, it has serious internal fault-lines, chief among them being a population that may or may not be loyal to the Communist state.

There is Russia, which seeks dominance in Eurasia but which is still struggling with decades of Communist destruction; nor does it have the political maturity to take on a decisive leadership role – indeed, what does Russia stand for today?

Then, there is the EU, which is still hoping to become a force to be reckoned with – but it is inherently nothing more than a collection of progressivise, pseudo-moralistic agendas (climate change, third-world migration, multiculturalism). Nor has the EU trading bloc furthered any kind of real economic boom, as it was supposed to do. If it were not for the UK, Germany and France, the EU would be long dead – and the UK has just made its exist from this rule by bureaucrats. The EU will always be an on-going social experiment, with feet of clay; and its various social agendas render it useless for any kind of leadership role. And then there is the USA, which still functions with the ideal of the free market.

Here, an important point needs to be clarified. Leadership is not colonialism, imperialism, or hegemony. It is simply the necessity of hierarchies, if any kind of order is to exist. Otherwise, there is only chaos. So, which nation allows for the greatest freedom (one may argue about the nature of this freedom – but that is simply a rhetorical trick), and which nation promises the best methodology for economic stability.

Drieu Godefridi, in his latest book, Reload! Comment l’Amérique invente le siècle (Reload! How America is Inventing the Century) offers his choice. For him, it is only and always America, which he sees as undergoing a grand economic rebirth (which he calls a “renaissance”), under Trump, whose economic policies have geared America for dominance in the century ahead. That is the premise of the book, which Godefridi then proceeds to elaborate both eloquently and strongly. Currently, the book is only available in French. Perhaps, soon, it will be available in English. Of course, Godefridi is writing for the EU audience, “where the decline of America is a European fantasy.”

Indeed, the tradition of anti-Americanism has deep roots in Europe, going back to Georges-Louis Leclerc and Voltaire, and where it takes on three characteristics: First, there is the envy of American inventiveness and wealth, especially in the area of technology (indeed, the modern world is now defined and determined only by American inventions). The fruit of this ingenuity is massive wealth.

Second, there is the view that American culture is inherently corrupting and destructive and thus must be controlled if it cannot be avoided. This generates a sense of superiority, where European culture is better than what is available in America. Third, there is the wary regard of American military might, which has cast the nation into the role of the “policeman of the world.”

Godefridi boldly addresses this anti-Americanism by first linking it with those easy anti-Trump sentiments that are daily declaimed in the media, and which train people “to hate, despise and dread the figure of Trump.” Such rancor arises from that sense of superiority, wherein Trump embodies the entire caricature of the “ugly American.”

Second, and more importantly, there is the apposition of the American economic model and the EU one. The latter is readily summarized: “That in Europe, the Left does not consider over-regulation a problem is normal. After all, in the socialist worldview it is freedom that oppresses and it is the law that liberates. So, it is not only normal but desirable that human relationships be regulated more and more, often down to the minutest detail.”

Thus, the EU economic model is micromanagement, so that production becomes largely a “department” of the state. This runs counter to the American model which, despite much tampering by the Obama administration, is now being set free. And the result is a US economy that is out-performing all others in the West. It is the “Trump miracle.”

To show how well the US economy is doing, Godefridi points to some cold, hard facts:

  • With a population four times smaller than China, the GDP of the US is 50 percent higher than that of the Asian dragon, having crossed the $20 Trillion mark back in 2018.
  • In world GDP, the US share now is 25 percent – a level not seen since 1980.
  • American GDP per citizen is 50 percent higher than the French GDP per citizen – and the gap is widening.
  • The US is responsible for 40 percent of the world’s entire military spending – and this percentage is increasing.

So, what accounts for this humming economy? Very simply the policies of the man a lot of people love to hate – President Trump – who has ushered in a new American renaissance, “the rebirth of a conquering America, dominant and faithful to its founding values.”

The book is divided into two parts. The first, entitled, “Internal Politics,” deals with the various hurdles that Trump has had to face ever since he became President, from the Russian Collusion delusion and the two-year probe by Mueller – to the economic mess left by Obama – all those regulations which hindered and curtailed free enterprise and which now need to be eliminated.

Thus, Trump has diligently reduced imports in order to boost American prosperity; he has repealed laws that hinder freedom; he has fixed the justice system which had become overly-populated by members of an activist judiciary; he has begun to limit the power of the Deep State; and he has revived the energy industries, by breaking free from the mantra of “renewables” and relaunching coal, oil and shale – so much so that America is now entirely energy-independent. Such is the meaning of, “America First.”

Indeed, it is this freed-up energy that is driving the American miracle economy, which had been made to bend to the dictates of climate alarmist ideologies: “In the energy sector, it is as if Obama never existed!” What we now see is an America being run on the free-market model, rather than an America being run according to the EU model: “Evolution is always richer, more diverse and unpredictable than the wise, ‘apriorist’ theoretical constructions of experts.”

The second part of the book, entitled, “International Relations,” looks at the effect that President Trump is having on the world stage. He has moved the US embassy to Jerusalem; he has re-negotiated free trade; he has dealt decisively with China, NATO, and the UN; he has rejected the Marrakesh Pact and the Paris Accord; and he has signaled an end to foreign military entanglements, thus redefining the meaning of international relations. In each case, Trump has deeply left his mark.

By moving the American Embassy to Jerusalem, Trump took the lead in recognizing a simple fact, which everyone likes to ignore – that it is in Jerusalem where the Israeli government is located, and it is to Jerusalem that all foreign missions go when they want to deal with Israel. So, why not locate the embassy where Israeli power resides? The only objection to having the embassy in Jerusalem is a “moral” one, in that Jerusalem is regarded by some as being “occupied land.” Of course, no one bothers to explain what that term actually means in the context of history and contemporary politics.

As for free trade, Trump’s aim is straight forward, and entirely free of ideological blinkers: “…what Trump wants, in fact, is exactly what the American workers and the middle class of the United States both want – to reap a greater share of the fruits of prosperity.” How is this a bad thing?

In regards to China, Trump fully understands the “source” of that nation’s wealth. First, all of its industry is owned by the state, not individuals. Certainly, certain people have become billionaires in such a system – but they are ultimately “managers” of companies that owned by the Communist state. Of course, this wealth has been used to lift many Chinese people into prosperity – but this does not change the fact that wealth itself, within the Communist system, is another mechanism of control, and that the vast majority of the Chinese people have very little share in this prosperity.

Second, the source of China’s wealth is the result of piracy – namely, the outright theft of countless US intellectual property rights (such rights are also stolen from other nations as well). And the products produced from these patents and inventions are then sold back to the West.

In effect, Trump knows very well that the Chinese have not really created anything – they have simply taken American ingenuity and have learned to profit from it vastly. With a new trade deal, Trump has struck a serious blow to China’s entire wealth-generating strategy by shutting down intellectual property theft.

Wryly, Godefridi points out – meanwhile, back in Europe, everyone is worried about climate change!

As for NATO, Trump as simply asserted that the US will no longer foot the bill. If other nations want NATO to exist, then they will have to finance its existence. The US will no longer be paying for everyone else’s defense. Of course, this will mean that in order to keep NATO afloat, Europe will have to wean itself from the many progressive social programs that have become part of “European culture,” and start managing its own defense.

Godefridi then looks at the UN by way of its most recent diktat – the Marrakesh Pact, which allows regular migration into the West from the third-world countries, hand-picked by UN bureaucrats as somehow “endangered” and in need of being relocated to the West. This Pact ignores the will of the people living in the West and simply imposes floods of migrants from disparate parts of the world as a “reality” that cannot be refused by any parliament or any referendum.

Of course, Europe and Canada are eager participants in this disastrous scheme – without bothering to ask their own citizens, whose very tax-money is blithely being used to fund this population transfer. Although opposition is rising, it is hard to predict how effective it can, given what has already been accomplished by the UN. This is what the phrase, “open borders” means. The UN, an unelected agency, nevertheless dictates what a Western nation can and cannot do.

As for the US, Trump has wisely rejected the Marrakesh Pact, as being just one more disastrous socialist scheme. And the stakes are indeed high, for it will lead to migratory anarchy in the West: “The alternative is between the open borders of the contemporary Left, and the practice of our civilization since the dawn of time, that is to say, border control: We only access a country through consent.”

Godefridi describes the UN as, “the privileged means of normative colonization by national democracies.” As many have already pointed out, the UN is an institution that has long outlived its usefulness. A reform is certainly needed, if not an outright dismantlement. Godefridi recognizes that there is certainly a need for institutional exchange between nations, But is the UN the proper institution for such exchange? Most would say that it is not. Whether Trump is able to dismantle the current structure of the UN remains to be seen.

Further, the entire climate change industry has met a formidable foe in Trump, who simply walked away from the madness that is the Paris Accord, which would like see the West entirely deindustrialized, with no real access to any kind of energy, since both solar and wind are disastrous. As Godefridi observed in his earlier book, The Green Reich, fossil fuels have brought freedom to humanity. Take these fuels away, and humanity loses its freedom.

Trump’s decision to minimize involvement in Afghanistan and not to proceed with regime change in Syria has upturned the approach of previous administrations – of bombing other countries into democracy. Instead, he has taken up the greater challenge of reducing American presence in the world, so that the various nations look after themselves rather than look for America “police protection.” Indeed, America has spent Trillions in all kinds of foreign entanglements – and sacrificed the lives of thousands of its young men and women.

And all for what? The gain of this huge sacrifice has been minimal. This is the question before the Trump administration – will it continue to feed the demands of the Industrial Military Complex? It would appear not, for in 2018, Trump ordered a full audit of the Pentagon, which is valued at $2.4 Trillion – that is “equivalent to Apple + Walmart + the state of
California, all doubled.” We will have to wait to see the consequence of this audit.

Godefridi continues his analysis of Trumpian America by examining the current culture war that is now taking place. He rightly sees America, and indeed the entire West, as engaged in a death-struggle of two worldviews. One, which he simply calls “Europe” is fixated on trying to live in the future, by somehow creating a Utopia that will contain no inequality (sexual, religious, or racial); that will function perfectly on renewable, “green” energy; that will have no borders; that will have happy citizens eager to pay ever-increasing taxes to keep the Utopia going. Those who hate Trump want the Utopia for America.

Then, there is the other worldview – one based in the reality of daily life. This worldview regards government of any kind, whether liberal of conservative, as inherently against the people. Thus, it is not politics that is the essential component of a good life, but civil society – which can never be constructed by government regulations: “The individual and the family, capitalism and its progress: such are the bright lights of the conservative American Weltanschauung, from 1776 to the present day.”

This clash of two opposing worldviews leads Godefridi to give a complete explanation of what he calls the “American renaissance.” He astutely observes that America’s rebirth will come about as a result of an agonistic managerial approach, which is “the more sophisticated and realistic conflict management technique,” and which “consists in using the conflicts, within contexts and people, to spark the best for the one the plan that really matters: that of the final decision.”

This agonistic approach is little understood by the commentators and media analysts – because they adhere to another approach, namely, of ataraxia, derived from the Epicureans and the Stoics, which endorses the “idea that happiness is forged in the absence of trouble. Thus, peace, harmony, constancy … calm and tranquility! Every trouble, according to this early utilitarian point of view, comes about because of an avoidance of happiness.” In effect, this is the avoidance of decision-making, which leads to systemic chaos.

Thus, America’s rebirth is coming about because of Trump’s “Management, not in spite of, but because of, conflict. The capacity to decide and stick to decisions that are rooted in principles and riveted to goals, while searching for the new angle.” This approach is transforming America into the economic engine of the world once again. Such is the true meaning of “Make American Great Again.”

Lastly, Godefridi imagines the future, in the year 2075 – and this is what he sees…

  • America will be dominant in most sectors – economic, military, cultural.
  • The 21st-century will not belong to China, because it is simply not built to succeed. Its economy is driven by the dollar, and its political structures are totalitarian. Further, China will lose out to Russia in Asia.
  • As for the European Union, it will fall apart, because of its unsustainable commitment to ecology, which will entirely suffocate freedom, innovation, and the ordinary people’s ability to save. There will be more riots, like the Yellow Vests, because the middle-class will no longer be able to afford necessities, such as, heating, electricity, transportation.
  • Thus, Europe will be partly rebarbarized, before a probable rebound.

But despite all this, the fire of humanity’ advancement will continue to burn in America, from where it will once again rekindle humanity to achieve all that its genius allows.

Godefridi ends his book with this hopeful declaration – “Le XXIe siècle est américain” (The 21st-century is American).

The image shows, “Major Anderson Raising the Flag on the Morning of His Taking Possession of Fort Sumter, Dec. 27, 1860,” by Edwin D. White, painted in 1862.

How To Survive Deplatforming

Free speech and freedom of expression are often assumed to be inherent qualities of being a modern human being. However, modern life is also very much aligned with technology, where freedom has very limited currency, because it gets in the way of the larger project of the entire Internet which is the establishment of vast communities that, hive-like, depend upon like-mindedness. Such conformity is termed, “community standards,” which are policed by various rules and regulations. Transgression of these “laws” brings punishment. either mild or severe.

But the Internet is also a marketplace, where things are bought and sold, and where thousands, if not millions, of people have established flourishing careers. Here, the question of freedom seems entirely irrelevant, since all manner of things can be bought and sold – even the most heinous (like pornography of the worst sort and human trafficking). There is no internal policing here, and thus no limit to what can be bought and sold.

Access to the Internet, whether for information, communication or commerce, is controlled by platforms and their owners. And those who own and control these platforms also own and control communities and the “standards” which govern them. At the same time, these platforms provide the means for effective commerce. For example, most people use the platform known as, Facebook, for communication – while most other people use Facebook to sell things. This dual function makes Facebook both a communications company and a service-provider for commerce.

But notice what takes place in this dynamic – suddenly, Facebook is both a policing agency which cannot allow any sort of disruption of the harmony that it is trying to establish within its community of the like-minded – while also being an open marketplace, in which it also profitably participates by selling ads. Thus, where does Facebook’s allegiance lie? To the community, or to the marketplace? This question, in fact, burdens all other platform owners also, such as, Twitter, Youtube, Google, Instagram, and so forth.

What happens when the community feels disrupted and complains to the platform owner to do something about the disrupter who happens to be using the platform for commerce? As has been happening rather regularly, the platform heeds the community and exiles the disrupter who has no recourse for appeal and everything that he/she has built is immediately shut down.

This is known as a “deplatforming campaign,” where the outraged bombard service platforms with complaining emails and messages asking that the disrupter’s very presence be entirely removed. Does the platform owner do nothing and continue to profit from the disrupter’s commerce? Or, does the platform obey the will of the outraged community – and drive the disrupter from the platform forever?

Welcome to the Cancel Culture – where what you say may not just get you banned from using the largest services on the Internet, but may also get you banned from using essential services like banking and credit cards – just because someone did not like what you said online. This modern-day version of exile is known as, “deplatforming.”

It is a dire problem, affecting thousands of people, many of whom have lost all ability to earn a living. Suddenly, the question of freedom takes on a far grimmer aspect, in that it starkly shows that for some, being deprived of freedom means not only the inability to speak online – but even being deprived of money. In the great juggernaut of mega tech-companies that own the Internet, the deplatformed individual instantly becomes a non-entity, a non-person, who is also denied financial services, such as, banking and credit cards.

Given the fact that cancel culture is only growing, in which outrage is the new morality, it is indeed timely that Mark E. Jeftovic has written, Unassailable. Defend Yourself From Deplatform Attacks, Cancel Culture & Other Online Disasters. Jeftovic is certainly the right person to be writing this book, as he runs a technology company himself, in Toronto, Canada, and is a current Director of the Internet Society, Canada Chapter. So, the wisdom that he imparts is not theoretical, but solid and practical.

Therefore, this book is filled with valuable insights about the problem of deplatforming – but more importantly it also offers real and viable solutions to arm the ordinary individual with strategies to survive and thrive online. This is especially crucial for people who make a living online. Jeftovic lays out his plan clearly: “This book is for anybody who earns their living online. While primarily it is for content creators, many of the principles in this book can be used by any business that relies heavily on their internet presence, and as such must take measures to remain online at all times.”

For those who might imagine that this all some tempest in a teapot and far beyond their own interaction with the world online, Jeftovic has this to say: “Even if you are a content creator who assumes nothing you say is controversial enough to attract a deplatforming campaign, bear in mind that what seems reasonable today may be considered beyond the pale tomorrow.”

The book begins with a Foreward by Charles Hugh Smith, which is a chilling but spirited summary of what is truly at stake: “Societies around the world are experiencing unprecedented cultural purges of ideas and narratives that challenge the status quo. In some nations, this purge is managed by the central government, China being a leading example. In the developed Western nations, this purge is being conducted by private for-profit technology platforms that function as quasi-monopolies in Internet search, video and advertising (Google) and social media (Facebook and Twitter).”

These tech giants are now all-powerful kingdoms who control their realms and their borders very effectively; and their decisions are final and without any due recourse: “A content creator banned by a tech platform has no rights or recourse: the platform is not obligated to identify the “crime” that supposedly violated their User Agreement or present evidence in support of this accusation. The banned user has no means to contest the ‘conviction’ or the ‘sentence.’” Thought criminals are therefore made invisible instantly.

This silencing, or rather erasure, of people is now on-going and persistent practice because these “tech platforms wield extra-legal powers that are impervious to conventional government protections of civil liberties. (Those who attempt to sue these corporations face legal teams larger than those serving government agencies.) Users agree to open-ended Terms of Service that the corporations can interpret however they please, without any transparent process of appeal or redress.”

In effect, if people do not know how to protect themselves, they will always be victims online. It is this protection through knowledge that Jeftovic offers – and his book is the very blueprint for being empowered online in the years ahead.

The book itself is divided into two parts. The first is historical in nature and is therefore entitled, “The Battle for Narrative Control.” Here, Jeftovic provides context for the “culture war” currently being fought on all fronts by those who want to make sure that people only have access to a certain kind of “truth;” that the harmony of like-mindedness is rigorously maintained; and that freedom means absolute conformity. Such hive-mindedness can only result in a society that is “less intolerant and more inclusive with each successive generation.”

In fact, all of us are now used to the conditions of groupthink, because we respond in the prescribed manner whenever we encounter certain “trigger-words.” Jeftovic warns: “The real threats today have names like “the greater good”, “the science is settled”, “that’s a conspiracy theory” and any other variation on a theme that some people feel it’s within their purview to decide what ideas are acceptable for everybody else, and more perniciously, that any disagreement is illegitimate and not permissible.”

Part II is entitled, “What You Do About It,” and it is an honest and highly useful blueprint to entirely and fully own your own means of production (to use a convenient Marxist phrase). If you rely solely on the means of production provided by the platforms of the tech-giants, you will always be in danger of being silenced, unpersoned, and financially destroyed.

Jeftovic then proceeds a give step-by-step, and easy-to-follow methodology, through which you can “own the race-course,” as he puts it. He covers all the essentials that are necessary to ensure your financial and even ideological survival on the Internet. These include: owning and promoting your own brand; the best webhosting; how to do blogs the right way; how to engage with discussion forums; how to get the right kind of email service; how to podcast; how to buy and sell online; avoiding bad revenue models and using good revenue models; how to get on alternative platforms, and much else besides.

Since, Part II is really a how-to instruction manual, it would be unfair to summarize what Jeftovic teaches, for most of it is proprietorial information that will be available to those who purchase this book. To do otherwise would be stealing his commercial thunder, as it were. For those that truly want to use the Internet as a means to exchange ideas and to enter into profitable commerce, then Unassailable truly is an essential and necessary vademecum.

In one of his thought-pieces at the very end of the book, Jeftovic has this to say: “Do you really want to live in a world where people sever business and personal relationships because a literal flash mob demands it? Where mobs get to pick and choose who you are allowed to associate with?”

How will you answer these crucial questions in this society where outrage is a valuable commodity? Perhaps, the greatest way to thumb one’s nose at tech-tyranny is to survive and to prosper, no matter what the tech-giants throw our way. Jeftovic has likely written a revolutionary manifesto about winning freedom in this tech Dark Age.

The image shows, “The Gathering” by the Swedish illustrator Simon Stålenhag, painted in 2015.

José Ortega y Gasset And The Masses

Oh, but this is a fascinating book. Written in 1930 by the Spanish philosopher José Ortega y Gasset, it is one of those books that is occasionally mentioned, especially recently, but rarely actually read. 1930, in Spain, was the hinge of fate, and it has been nearly a hundred years since Ortega wrote. That means we can see where he was wrong, and where he was right, and what he wrote says to us today.

First, though, we have to hack our way through two misconceptions that both seem to attend any modern mention of The Revolt of the Masses. The first, simpler, misconception is that this is a book about class, about how Ortega favors the bourgeois, or the rich, over the working class, or at least that it is an analysis of their conflicts.

Given that class was a hot topic in 1930, this is a reasonable guess from the title, but it is totally wrong. This misconception cropped up repeatedly after Trump’s election, and, for example, the review by David Brooks in the New York Times of J. D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy was titled “The Revolt of the Masses.” But Ortega was a political moderate, and seems to not have been exercised by questions of class at all. Rather, this is a book about human excellence, what it can accomplish, and how it can be destroyed.

The subtler, more pernicious, misconception is that Ortega’s call for excellence is a call for masses to defer to experts—supposedly, according to various chatterers, Ortega’s main point is that experts are ignored. Nothing could be farther from the truth. In fact, Ortega thinks all, or almost all, modern experts are the definition of mediocrity, and the masses deferring to them is like deferring to a mirror.

Instead, people should defer to a natural aristocracy, not of blood, but of focus and accomplishment. Those people are not experts, who are narrow, but are instead broad people of taste, judgment, and discipline. We will return to this misconception later, with specific recent examples, but now that we are past the reef, we can sail into the open ocean of Ortega’s thought.

So, if this is not a book about class, who are the “masses”? Ortega divides every society into “minorities,” a small set of people who are “specially qualified,” and the “masses,” everyone not specially qualified. The key question is who is average and who is not. A mass person feels as if he is “just like everybody,” that he is not particularly special, and not only does this not concern him, he celebrates the fact. (Thus, someone who examines his talents and concludes he is mediocre, and feels that is a problem, is not a mass man).

But this, of course, begs the question—what makes a person above average or, in Ortega’s term, “specially qualified”? They are those who make personal demands for excellence upon themselves, and live in that way. This makes them the minority, by definition. They may not fulfill those demands; it is the demand being made, that alone, which makes the person a minority. In contrast, mass men “demand nothing special of themselves, but […] to live is to be every moment what they already are, without imposing on themselves any effort toward perfection.”

The minority, the elite, are thus not coterminous with traditional aristocracy or a ruling class. Ortega acknowledges that in traditional social elites excellence is more likely to be found, but mere heredity does not make a person place demands on himself, so an aristocrat by blood can be a mass man just like a peasant or a steelworker—and a peasant or a steelworker can be a member of the minority.

The class of intellectuals, in particular, fancy themselves to be above the masses, but are often vulgar pseudo-intellectuals, swept along by lazy, commonplace thinking, and therefore mass men. Children of the excellent frequently ride on their parents’ accomplishments; they thereby become mass men themselves.

Ortega wants “nobility” to mean not nobility of blood, but to restore the meaning of “noble” as “well-known, that is, known by everyone, famous, he who has made himself known by excelling the anonymous mass.” Anyone can do this, from any walk of life, but few do, human nature being what it is.

Having gotten definitions out of the way, Ortega’s first substantive point is that in the past, the mass was content to exist in the background, ceding to the minority such higher-level societal functions as art, government and political judgment. No more. Now, the mass assert their right to dictate in all such areas, without having to demand from themselves, much less achieve, excellence.

In politics, this is “hyperdemocracy,” and Ortega thinks it a degradation. In other areas, such as philosophy (Ortega’s specialty), it means that readers (and, today, listeners and YouTube watchers), do so “with the view, not of learning from the writer, but rather, of pronouncing judgment on him when he is not in agreement with the commonplaces that the said reader carries in his head.”

It’s not that the mass man thinks he’s an expert. “The characteristic of the hour is that the commonplace mind, knowing itself to be commonplace, has the assurance to proclaim the rights of the commonplace and to impose them wherever it will. . . . . The mass crushes beneath it everything that is different, everything that is excellent, individual, qualified and select.” Mediocrity rules, and does not care that it is mediocre.

All this is a new thing in our history, but not in world history. It can be found in the declining years of Rome, among other places. Ortega ascribes its modern growth, though, not to decline, but to liberal democracy, to the discovery of the abstract sovereignty of the individual.

He doesn’t dislike liberal democracy—quite the contrary, he thinks both that it’s great, and that it’s inevitable and broadly irreversible, as I discuss further below. But if the individual is sovereign, we should not be surprised if each man treats himself as if he is indeed sovereign.

None of this implies decadence—contra Spengler, Ortega thinks that relative to the nineteenth century, which viewed itself as a time of “plenitude” when the destination of society had been reached, the twentieth century, viewing the future as open-ended and in flux, is in many ways superior. (At this point, you have to remember, it’s 1930; look around you at the world of 2018, as well as the past hundred years, then chuckle grimly and draw your own conclusions).

But the twentieth century takes it too far, because the mass men dominate, and they have “lost all respect, all consideration for the past.” Thus, the mass men both see the future as open, but assured, and themselves as perfect and satisfied. That’s a dangerous combination, for it leads to a world “empty of purposes, anticipations, ideals.”

It was those things the minority supplied, and it was those things that drove the world forward. Now, with the triumph of the masses, nobody supplies those things. So the twentieth century is an apogee—but the nature of apogees is there is nowhere to go but down.

Thus, the nineteenth-century, for all its accomplishments, also gave us the rise of the mass man, and the mass man will, unless his rise is constrained, within thirty years, “send our continent back to barbarism.” (This is a book quite explicitly about Europe. America is treated as close to a non-entity, with thinly veiled contempt. And Europe is defined as France, Germany, and England—it does not, for these purposes, really even include Spain).

The mass man, for example, feels that he himself is qualified to decide, and should decide, political matters, rather than his vote “supporting the decision of one minority or another.”

That will lead to the disappearance of liberal democracy, which Ortega regards as man’s highest political achievement (“legislative technique”), but it will also lead to the end of “industrial technique,” since the pursuit of technical excellence by minorities drives industry forward, just like other pursuit of excellence drives political organization forward.

It is this latter “industrial technique,” this combination of “scientific experiment and industrialism,” that Ortega names “technism.” Technism has allowed the mass man to escape the feeling that dominated all prior societies, that of material scarcity and restrictions. At the same time, liberal democracy makes the mass man believe that he is master of his psychic and political destiny.

Thus, the mass man feels in his bones that life is now “exempt from restrictions” on every level. That is to say, in modern parlance, he is emancipated. “The world which surrounds the new man from his birth does not compel him to limit himself in any fashion, it sets up no veto in opposition to him; on the contrary, it incites his appetite, which in principle can increase indefinitely.”

Ortega’s objection is not that appetites increasing is bad; he did not foresee the logical endpoint of total emancipation, which is total autonomy combined with total tyranny and a denial of basic reality. Instead, his objection is that the mass man fails to appreciate that all this, that benefits him, was created with great toil by the excellence of minorities; he thinks it manna from heaven.

What characterizes the mass man is inertia—the opposite of the ceaseless, self-generated search for excellence that characterizes the truly noble. And this failure to understand the sources of the bounty that blesses him, his “radical ingratitude,” combined with the new dominance of the mass man over society, means it will all disappear, and barbarism will return, as excellence flees.

For Ortega, such barbarism isn’t of the type that, looking backward, the twentieth century actually delivered. Rather, “barbarism is the absence of standards to which appeal can be made.” That seems like not a fatal problem, but it is. No standards, no progress, only regress. Certainly, mass men are the creators of such tripe as Syndicalism, Fascism (explicitly in the Mussolini sense) and, Communism (“a monotonous repetition of the eternal revolution,” oblivious to history, like all these movements).

They are created by “the type of man who does not want to give reasons or to be right, but simply shows himself resolved to impose his opinions. This is the new thing: the right not to be reasonable, the ‘reason of unreason.’ . . . Hence his ideas are in effect nothing more than appetites in words. . . .” (Ortega would not have enjoyed spending time on Facebook, much less Twitter).

When mass men of politics say they are “done with discussions,” this is what they mean. It implies also that “direct action,” that is, violence, becomes not the ultima ratio, the final argument when all others are through, but the prima ratio, the first argument. This is always true, “at every epoch when the mass, for one purpose or another, has taken a part in public life.”

In all areas, what is recognized by the excellent, the minorities, in all times as “civilized,” from literature, to sexual relations, to art, to manners, to justice, decays. It is those standards for those things that make “the community, common life” possible. Result of their end: barbarism, if we don’t change course.

We can certainly see this degradation of all standards today, to a degree that makes Ortega’s prescience startling (although he was far off the mark on one matter, which I talk about last). Not only is the mass man as Ortega defines him far more dominant, over the whole Western world, than in Ortega’s time, but we see the barbarism Ortega identifies has long since arrived. Certainly almost nobody demands excellence in any field; instead, the mass men who rule demand such rubbish as “diversity and inclusion,” the wholesale granting of unearned benefits on the basis of (preferred) immutable characteristics.

The very idea that there is such a thing as excellence is denied as a matter of course. Similarly with the political processes Ortega identifies. We hear all the time, mostly from the Left but also from the Right, that the time for discussion is over, and the time for action is here, by which the speaker means “conform to my unreasoned and emotion-driven demands or be crushed.” (Such language is all over the latest push to confiscate firearms, for example, along with other forms of knuckle-dragging political behavior that would have horrified Ortega, with his focus on high rationality and political liberty).

And, more broadly, what characterizes everything in the West is a call for total autonomy implemented, if necessary, by government tyranny, and a rejection of any standards as an offense against emancipation.

Ortega believed that as long as the minority of the excellent dominates, progress is inevitable. And the reverse is also true. Therefore, Ortega would, perhaps, not be surprised by the situation today. Moreover, since barbarism has arrived in the form of the domination of mass men, it is natural that a portion of those mass men hold themselves out as the minority, as the elites.

But, of course, they are merely the rulers—they do not actually demand of themselves any pursuit of excellence at all. The names of categories are maintained, in art, politics, and culture, but they are hollow, for the standards are set by mass men clothed in false skins. So, it is entirely possible, if standards have decayed and barbarism returned, for there to be nobody at all to whom the masses can turn for guidance. The polestar may simply have winked out, to, perhaps, be restored at a time to be announced, when the world is remade.

Thus, The Revolt of the Masses feels surprisingly fresh, given not only its age but all the water that has passed under the bridge since it was written. Yes, Ortega does display a simplistic, if touching, faith, in liberal democracy, which has since his time shown its deficiency.

The Europe of 1930 is the triumph of “liberal democracy and technical knowledge,” shown by, among other things, a tripling of the population of Europe. (Ortega is wrong here, of course—there is no necessary, or actual historical, linkage of liberal democracy with the rise of technical knowledge or its impacts in the Industrial Revolution).

He concludes that “liberal democracy based on technical knowledge is the highest type of public life hitherto known,” and though it might be possible to imagine a better, anything better must continue to embody both liberal democracy and technical knowledge, and that it would be “suicidal” to return to any pre-nineteenth-century form. It is the “truth of destiny.”

That was a supportable argument, maybe, in 1930, but not now. True, the term no longer means what it meant for Ortega. For him, it meant political liberty, “consideration for one’s neighbor,” “indirect action” (i.e., a rejection of violence), and, explicitly, universal suffrage where the mass of voters chose among programs offered by their betters.

Today, it means, as Ryszard Legutko says, “coercion to freedom,” where no political liberty is offered to those opposed to unbridled autonomy, and democracy means only being allowed to vote for what today’s elites, who are not Ortega’s minority, allow.

Ortega thought liberal democracy “announces the determination to share existence with the enemy.” Those who today howl “I can tolerate anything but intolerance” can have nothing in common with this sentiment. So perhaps we can say that Ortega may have been right, but liberal democracy as he used the term is dead, a casualty of the barbarism he feared, replaced by its zombie equivalent (although probably such zombification was inevitable, in the nature of liberal democracy, as several recent writers have claimed).

As I promised, let’s turn back to the second misconception about Ortega’s thoughts, regarding “experts.” In the past few years, there have been minor outbreaks of renewed interest in Ortega’s thoughts, always facile. For example, in the Atlantic, a colloquy recently appeared between a staff writer and a reader, where the statement was endorsed by both, that Ortega “describes a movement that appeals to a cross-section of non-intellectual people across class lines that seems to parallel Donald Trump’s cross-cultural appeal. There it seemed to lead to Fascism.” Ortega would have a conniption.

His objection is not that the mass man fails to be intellectual; it is that the mass man does not pursue excellence. For the most part, Ortega loathes modern intellectuals as the very worst type of mass man. Nor does he make any suggestion at all that mass men lead to Fascism; rather, he says that the domination of mass men leads to regression in political organization, one possible end of which is Fascism.

The Atlantic colloquy continues, with such gems as “[T]he digital age seems to have trouble accepting ‘elite’ consensus regarding complex topics such as climate change (and gun control, evolution and tax policy, among many other subjects where the vast majority of scientists, economists, etc., accept certain basic facts that are rejected by large swaths of the public).”

Ortega did not care about what scientists and economists had to say. At all. He would call them ignoramuses, narrow men whose narrow learning did not qualify them to say anything at all to society at large, especially about topics not subject to rigid calculation. His “elites” were men of excellence and broad learning, not sophists and calculators.

To Ortega, “special qualifications” are not those of experts. Our experts are scientists and similar types who are narrow and ignorant outside of a tiny area, yet presume to think otherwise. His leaders, to whom the mass should defer, are men of great mind, not technicians. They are aristocrats.

In fact, Ortega despises the “ ‘man of science,’ the high-point of European humanity,” as being actually “the prototype of the mass man.” This is because the days of scientific discoveries by generalists, like Newton, are over, and the days of narrow specialization by each scientist are here. Science itself is not specialized, and in fact must be informed by areas outside science—but scientific work, today, must be specialized.

The days of encyclopedic minds are gone, and what we have are specialists, each only knowledgeable in “the small corner of which he is an active investigator.” Given this hyper-specialization, men who are overall mediocre, rather than excellent, can actually keep science advancing (this is today called the “Ortega Hypothesis”), because “a fair amount of the things that have to be done in physics or biology is mechanical work of the mind which can be done by anyone, or almost anyone.”

But such men think they are excellent, even though each “knows very well his own tiny corner of the universe; [but] he is radically ignorant of all the rest.” He is a “learned ignoramus,” which is bad enough, but worse is in store, for “By specializing him, civilization has made him hermetic and self-satisfied within his limitations; but this very inner feeling of dominance and worth will induce him to wish to predominate outside his specialty. The result is . . . that he will behave in almost all spheres of life as does the unqualified, the mass-man.”

This is what we see, most of the time, when people demand that the public listen to “experts”—that we listen to specialists in one area who are thereby presumed to be competent to lecture us in areas either only loosely related, or, more often, wholly unrelated.

The names are endless, but include everyone from Bill Nye to Stephen Hawking. It is these specialists, Ortega says, who exist in a state of “ ‘not-listening,’ of not submitting to higher courts of appeal,” a characteristic of the mass man. That is, the experts we are told today we must listen to are, for Ortega, the archetypal mass men, whom we should ignore, and to whom we listen to at our peril.

Finally, Ortega veers off the mark in his last chapter, which covers a third of the book. Here, he extols the need for a European superstate. This chapter has various insights, including that force follows public opinion, and that if Europe does not rule the world, it is not clear that anyone will or can, leading inevitably to “universal barbarism.”

His analysis of nationalism is interesting (“In defending the nation we are defending our tomorrows, not our yesterdays”), but his idea that all states proceed to fusion of social classes (which seems in contradiction to the rest of his book) is demonstrably false. The biggest problem, though, is that he extends this idea of fusion, or consolidation, to extend beyond the nations of Europe, to a true fusion of Europe.

We have seen the zenith of this idea in our lifetimes, and it was not a very high zenith. It has been falsified that “The more faithful the national State of the West remains to its genuine inspiration, the more surely will it perfect itself in a gigantic continental state.” Nor is it true that “Only the determination to construct a great nation from the group of peoples of the Continent [will] give new life to the pulses of Europe.”

Quite the contrary, in fact, as we have seen. The so-called great nation is about to be no nation at all, as all can clearly see. It is not the failure of prediction that bothers me, but that the reasoning and analysis on which it is based, which is conclusory and fantastical, is far inferior to that in the rest of the book.

Despite the last chapter’s failings, this book is very much worth reading and pondering. (I read it because my mother asked me to, on the grounds that she would likely never get around to it herself, and I would do her a service by reviewing it). It does not offer a program to fix the problems identified—that is something we will have to come up with for ourselves.

I don’t know if Ortega had anything to say about that in his other writings. My guess is that he would not be surprised by Europe’s terminal decline, or by that America was able to extend his thirty-year deadline for the West by a few decades, yet is now in the same leaky boat of the Europe of 1930, but with more holes and more fat people in the boat.

Charles is a business owner and operator, in manufacturing, and a recovering big firm M&A lawyer. He runs the blog, The Worthy House.

The image shows, “De landverhuizers” (the Emigrants), by Eugène Laermans, painted in 1894.

How To Slay The Climate Change Dragon

In our time, as truth corrodes, myths become necessary. As people drift away from truth, they readily agree to intrusive governments – and such invasive governments give consent to supranational entities and conglomerates who then use myths to manufacture political, social and economic consent.

The sales-force that sells these fictive narratives is the vast media-education-entertainment complex which employs, for such purposes, the punditry of experts, the professoriate, globe-trotting zealots, and sanctimonious thespians. Any dissent from these fables is decried, ridiculed, and suppressed.

One such myth is CO2 in the role of the arch-enemy, Hades-bent on heating up the planet, until life becomes impossible; and it is treacherous human activity that has set free this culprit into the hapless atmosphere to work havoc. After much struggle with vile traitors who greedily serve the villain CO2, and their henchmen, the climate change deniers, a few wise politicians and selfless NGOs will finally hurl CO2 into the netherworld of Zero Emissions, from which it will never rise again. Thus, the planet was saved and is now inhabited by fewer but better humans.

People love stories. The more far-fetched the better. The greater the lies, the more believable it is.

The reality is that the monster, the villain is not CO2 and the Greenhouse Effect. The monster is the myth itself, whereby human life – and the very future of humanity – is being asked to conform to the dictates of the lie that is “catastrophic climate change.” An entire complex of anti-human strategies are now justified by way of this lie – carbon taxes, deindustrialization, veganism, fossil fuel divestment,a green economy, population reduction, Gaia worship, green ethics – a brave new world.

It is precisely this global warming, catastrophic climate change myth that The Sky Dragon Slayers. Victory Lap sets out to slay. This book is a follow-up to the earlier work, Slaying the Sky Dragon. Death of the Greenhouse Gas Theory, which was published in 2011, and which, as the title suggests, did destroy the pretense to “science” that revilers of CO2 leaned upon.

But in the ensuing decade, the myth of global warming has become more deeply entrenched – a lie that must not be questioned. Why this has happened is an important question, and it points to the success of the mythographers, who have a very clever trick up their sleeve – namely, the denial of truth.

Thus, we are supposed to be living in a “post-truth” world, in which “truth” is nothing more than a social construct, where there is only “your truth” and “my truth.” Such “truth” is personal preference, personal taste. In this way, both purpose and meaning are called into question, which brings about cynicism and gullibility; and, thus, people are the more easily led by “thought-leaders,” who serve many masters.

In such a hollowed-out world, climate change is packaged as piety. As Tim Ball observes in his Foreword to the book, “It is hard to believe that such false information as that created and perpetuated by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) continues to exist. Worse, it goes almost unquestioned and is the prevailing view.”

Ken Coffman in his Publisher’s Note succinctly captures the dynamics of this piety: “We have to give credit to the manipulators – they achieved a lot based on nearly nothing. The human-caused global warming was destructive, wrong and stupid, but masterful use of hyperbole and fear-mongering.”

Earlier, Coffman had noted, “There is no limit to the ways a bad theory can be false.” It soon becomes obvious that the climate change myth is not about science – but about power – and to those who manage the levers of power, truth will always be inconvenient and dangerous, and must, therefore, be suppressed. Truth is the greatest foe of ideology.

The Sky Dragon Slayers. Victory Lap offers this truth which is dangerous to those who sell the climate change myth. Thus, in Chapter 1, the entire premise of climate alarmism, of irreversible, catastrophic natural changes, brought about by human activity, is systematically dismantled and then destroyed.

The weapon which slays this mythic beast is the precise definition of what science really is and what it is not. The first Chapter carefully differentiates between the traditional scientific method and “post-normalism.” The former is empirical, rational, and cumulative, where predictions become laws when they can be repeated and always yield the same results. These results become evidence which leads to conclusions, or laws, about reality.

Here, Karl Popper’s famous paradigm serves as a guiding principle: “In so far as a scientific statement speaks about reality, it must be falsifiable; and in so far as it not falsifiable, it does not speak about reality.” In other words, truth is first known by evidence and then truth is known by how it is lied about. In our era, post-truth is the lie about truth.

We have to bear in mind that those in power have persuaded many that biological reality of the two sexes is a lie, while the lie of gender-fluidity, that a person can choose his/her own sex – is the truth. This is precisely what Popper meant by falsifiability. We can know truth, when others feel an urgent need to lie about it.

This lying is post-normalism, which stems from norm criticism and intersectionality; both are now de rigueur in all of academia. This means that, by and large, to be educated nowadays means to believe in and promote lies. In such a topsy-turvy world, post-normalist science serves power, not truth, since “facts are uncertain, values in dispute, stakes high and decisions urgent,” as per Silvio Funtowicz and Jerome Ravetz.

Such flapdoodle, always uttered with a very serious face, is about managing and controlling the “stakes” and the “decisions,” in which science must be nothing more than another rhetorical device to brainwash people.

This is made rather plain, in case of any doubt, by the academic Mike Hulme: “Self-evidently dangerous climate change will not emerge from a normal scientific process of truth seeking, although evidence will gain some insights into the question if it recognizes the socially contingent dimensions of a post-normal science. But to proffer such insights, scientists – and politicians – must trade (normal) truth for influence.” Post-normal “science” is politics by other means.

Thus, climate change is not about the climate – it is not about the environment. Instead, it is an absurd attempt to play God – to change how life exists on the planet. And this existence is to benefit the few, rather than the many, via the Fourth and the Fifth Industrial Revolutions – the point being to cull humanity, so it can pollute less. The shade of Malthus once again raises its head. We are in a death-struggle between two opposing views of humanity. One sees human beings as a harmful virus in the body of noble Gaia, which must be controlled, if not eradicated – and the other which sees great value in human life. It is an epic battle between good and evil.

After Chapter 1, which is the longest of the book, the remaining chapters serve as mop-up operations, in which the various limbs of the dragon that is catastrophic climate change are lopped off and destroyed.

Thus, Chapter 2 tosses the famous Hockey Stick Graph into the dustbin of history. As is well known, this graph, the fabrication of Michael Mann, was the show-piece of the IPCC, and made famous by Al Gore – and it remains to this day the most iconic image of climate alarmists. It purported to “prove” that CO2 trapped heat like a blanket and thus heated up the planet, until life would eventually become impossible.

Things came to a head for Mann when he filed a multi-million-dollar lawsuit against Dr. Tim Ball, who had quipped that Mann was from Penn State but more properly belonged in the state pen, given his many falsifications of data.

Throughout this ordeal, Dr. Ball insisted that he wanted Mann to show his “secret science,” or the R2 Regression Numbers, in court, which Mann claimed he had used to fashion his Hockey Stick Chart, aka the Hokey Schtick. The Supreme Court of British Columbia dismissed Mann’s lawsuit and awarded the defendant Ball full legal costs. Such is the cunning of reason – Mann was undone by the very mechanism he had devised to destroy Dr. Ball. God indeed works in mysterious ways!

Chapter 3 guts the myth of the Greenhouse Effect, which is still taught as monolithic truth throughout the education system because it is post-normal science. According to the IPCC (whose usefulness would vanish in a trice if it had to rely on truth rather than post-normal science) the Greenhouse Effect is to be described in this way:

  • The Earth’s surface is warmed by both the Sun and the energy coming back from the atmosphere.
  • The Earth’s surface in turn radiates all the energy, which is wholly absorbed by the atmosphere.
  • The atmosphere then radiates half of that energy into space and the other half back to the Earth’s surface.
  • The result of this continual process is that the Earth’s surface becomes warmer than it would be if it were only warmed by the Sun.

In this model, CO2 becomes a heat-trapping blanket enwrapping the planet. The solution, therefore, is a straightforward one – get rid of the blanket! Hence, all those calls to reduce the “carbon footprint,” to stop using dirty fuels, to save the planet from reaching a “tipping-point,” from which there will be no return. And so forth.

Although this fuels climate alarmism very efficiently, this myth, of course, has nothing to do with scientific facts. The atmosphere is colder than the earth’s surface, so heat cannot bounce back from above, because “colder cannot heat hotter.” Energy is not wholly absorbed by the atmosphere. Some of it escapes into space, the rest is stored in the earth and the oceans and is used to evaporate water.

Any energy that returns to the earth from the atmosphere is always colder, never hotter than the earth’s surface. Therefore, energy returning from the atmosphere can never heat up the planet. All the four points promoted by the IPCC are in fact lies – or, rather, they are post-normal science. It is the sun which heats the planet, while excess heat is radiated out into space.

Chapters 4 and 5 are historical in nature, as they trace the development of various radiation theories, from 1871 to 2010. All the models proposed during these nearly 140-years cannot together prove that heat radiated back to the earth from the atmosphere does actually heat the planet.

In 2010, Claes Johnson called into question the theories of Max Planck and Albert Einstein – and thereby clearly demonstrated that “HEAT can ONLY be transferred from the warmer to the colder body as required by the 2nd law of thermodynamics.”

Chapter 6 is a summary of a paper by George V. Chilingar, which shows that CO2, in fact, cools the planet rather than heats it up. This happens because as “the infrared radiation is absorbed by the molecules of greenhouse gases, its energy is transformed into thermal expansion of air, which causes convective fluxes of air masses restoring the adiabatic distribution of temperature in the troposphere… estimates show that release of small amounts of carbon dioxide (several hundreds PPM), which are typical for the scope of anthropogenic emission, do not influence the global temperature of Earth’s atmosphere.” Thus, the myth of global warming is slain.

Chapter 7 records the results of an experiment conducted by Professor Nasif Nahle, with IR thermometers and radiometers, in which he shows that back-radiation from the atmosphere to the Earth’s surface is not real. As Nahle explains, “It is very clear from Thermodynamics and Stefan-Boltzmann Laws that heat is transferred exclusively from warmer surfaces towards cooler systems, never the opposite, and this experiment demonstrates, it is applicable to [the] climate system.” Again, global warming is a lie.

Chapter 8 lays out the experiment carried out by Carl Brehmer in which he shows that the positive water vapor feedback hypothesis is false. The premise of this hypothesis is that “if something increases the Earth’s temperature, this will cause an increase in the evaporation of water into water vapor.”

This leads to increased humidity, which in turn absorbs more infrared radiation from the earth’s surface, thus warming the air and allowing it to hold more water vapor. This supposedly leads to more evaporation, so that humidity continually increases, thus heating up the planet.

By way of a series of experiments, Brehmer discovers that although it is true that higher temperatures create higher humidity through evaporation – it is not true that higher humidity leads to warming. In fact, humidity has a cooling effect, whereby areas that produce higher humidity are cooler than arid areas. This means that “water acts as the Earth’s thermostat and not its heater.”

This falsifies “any notion that there could ever be runaway global warming driven by positive water vapor feedback where the oceans evaporate into the atmosphere and all life on Earth perishes. Why? Because ‘water feedback’ is negative feedback… the presence of water on our planet acts as a stabilizing force, exerting negative feedback against temperature change – up or down.” Evaporation, therefore, continually stabilizes temperature. It cannot increase temperature.

Chapter 9 is a very important study, by Tamarkin and Bromley, of carbon dioxide. Currently, two views predominate. The first is scientific in that CO2 is the “gas of life,” which provides the carbon that all life on this planet needs. Then, there is the post-normal view, promoted by the IPCC, which regards CO2 as a pollutant and which, therefore, must be eliminated.

Given the funding-clout and global influence of the IPCC, it is the latter view that is the norm and which resonates the most with the public at large, because it is easily comprehensible and requires a straight forward plan of action – get rid of the pollutant. To manufacture consent, various computer models have been generated which use the “Radiated Greenhouse Emissions” theory for the usual alarmist predictions – if we do not do something right now, the climate will change so drastically that life on this planet will become difficult if not next to impossible.

As Tamarkin and Bromley rightly remark: “No demonstrable, empirical evidence of this theory is available. No signs of anthropogenic climate change have been discovered.” Even the much-repeated statistic that humans are responsible for increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide by 33 percent is entirely false – because actual evidence shows that manmade carbon dioxide is so low that it cannot even be measured and burning fossil fuels does not impact climate change.

In other words, the only “evidence” is a mathematical computer model, which is contrived to fulfill the demands of alarmist ideology – because the conclusions suggested by this model cannot be observed in nature, nor recreated in experiments. Thus, the political notion of catastrophic climate change, because of Radiated Greenhouse Emissions, is fake news, a grand hoax. More post-normal science hard at work to strip you of your freedom and your dollars.

But more worrying is the fact that this hoax is responsible for affecting real human lives. Politicians are busy implementing real-world policies to counter the effects of a theoretical, computer model. If all this were not so tragic – it would all come off as a silly comedy skit. But the carbon taxes, the war on fossil fuels, the demand for population reduction, the clamor for a one-world government (which might the more effectively “save” this planet via policies that will continually curtail and ultimately deny human freedom) – all these are becoming startlingly real.

Far from destroying the planet as a “pollutant,” CO2 is actually greening the planet, because it is the basis of all life on earth. Also, measurement of infrared radiation suggests that the planet is actually cooling rather than heating up. These various cooling and warming events are natural – and not the result of human activity.

Chapter 10 is the “victory lap,” which details the various achievements of the many brave and resolute scientists who did not kowtow to the IPCC nor submit to political pressure and agree to produce “post-normal science.” Here is a brief list of the changes brought about by these valiant men and women:

  • The foremost British climate scientist, Dr. Phil Jones, admitted that the so-called “historic” temperature data was fake. This became known as the “Climategate scandal.”
  • The work of George Chilingar and John Robertson has positively impacted heat transfer physics, so that other scientists also now agree that adiabatic pressure accounts for the variance in temperature – a process in which CO2 plays no part whatsoever.
  • In 2017, a group of Italian scientists was forced to admit that climate models are “very likely flawed,” since there has been no warming trend over the past century. This means that the greenhouse gas theory can no longer be sustained.
  • It is now known that there is no “tipping point” whatsoever, since carbon dioxide does not drive temperature change.
  • Oxford University’s Myles Allen has conceded that there is no rapid warming happening anywhere on the planet.
  • William Happer of Princeton University admits that the various climate change models do not work because they are fundamentally flawed: “They haven’t worked in the past. They don’t work now. And it’s hard to imagine when, if ever, they’ll work in the foreseeable future.” In other words, climate alarmism has no basis whatsoever in science.
  • Patrick Michaels and Chip Knappenberger of the Cato Institute and the journal, Nature Geoscience, now acknowledge that warming has been on the low end of all model predictions for the last sixty years.
  • Kenneth Richard compiled evidence from over thirty peer-reviewed papers, which showed that all the regions of the earth have been cooling over recent decades. Richard then asks a pertinent question: “One has to wonder how and from where a large net ‘global warming’ signal could have been obtained when there has been so much regional cooling.” Obviously, the answer is simple “global warming” is a lie.
  • In 2012, the influential science magazine, Nature, also admitted that climate change science was “riddled with systematic errors.”
  • In 2017, Nokolov and Zeller affirmed that the “heat-trapping mechanism” that brings about global warming is nothing more than a theoretical conjecture, with no science to back it up. In other words, it is a myth.
  • Russian scientists have recently shown that global warming is DOA.

Chapter 11 summarizes the great work being done by Principia Scientific International (PSI), which has long fought for real science and truth. Its aim is to “shun the vagaries of political advocacy,” and to refuse to be subordinated to the “moralizing pre-determinism of discredited ‘post normal’ science.” PSI is sustained by the unpaid and voluntary work and effort of its many members who are dedicated to the pursuit of truth no matter what the personal cost.

The monster, the dragon that is catastrophic climate change has long been slain – the news of its death has yet to be universally acclaimed. It was slain by the efforts of all those serious scientists who refused to abandon truth for political rhetoric. Their courageous work is meticulously recorded in The Sky Dragon Slayers. Victory Lap, which ends on a very hopeful note, because truth can never be defeated, though is may be suppressed for a time. The final words of this marvelous, engaging, and deeply informative book are prophetic in the true sense – “The momentum is ours.”

The Sky Dragon Slayers. Victory Lap is a book that everyone must read, because it is a thorough and precise vademecum for all those who want to become “slayers” of the political lie that is manmade and catastrophic global warming – wherever they may encounter it in their own lives. Everyone must read this book to not only learn about the hoax still being perpetrated by supranational agencies, politicians and their various minions – but more importantly it must be read to win freedom from the influence of snake-oil hucksters who want to own your mind and enslave your spirit so that you might the more readily do their bidding.

But such fraudsters have already failed. “The momentum is ours.”

The image shows, “Saint George and the Dragon,” by Vittore Carpaccio, painted ca. 1502.