The Christian Roots of Europe: A Living Past for a Living Future



Europe’s Christian identity has been a fundamental component of its history and culture, shaping not only the religious sphere but also politics, morals and way of life. This article sets out to examine the multiple layers of Christian identity in Europe, highlighting its historical roots, influences over time, and how it faces the challenges of an increasingly pluralistic and secular society.

By Way of Prologue…

Two immense interconnected problems haunt us with alarming urgency. The birth rate of this Europe of ours, which is slowly aging and dying without replacement, without a sufficient replacement rate; and the key to immigration, which responds to the fact that there is no one to take on certain jobs in our society.

Much more depends on how both are dealt with than we think. There is an almost threatening perspective of survival of a certain culture, the European one. Of a whole wealth contributed to the human family that is in danger of being truncated, of no longer growing, of no longer being able to give itself to humanity. History has already shown us similar falls. Some major, others minor. But falls of civilizational models for analogous reasons. In other ways, certainly, but analogous. But even more, it is a threat more than only to Europe, because it intends a global domination that destroys also other cultures, nations and peoples in their true being, to make them stateless without soul, nor roots. Slaves, just like the Europeans, of the power of money that pursues a dehumanized global social model.

Crossing through the middle of the construction of the Puerta del Sol in Madrid, but it would fit the image for any European city, with workers of many different nationalities but hardly Spaniards working, and with the news that there is a lack of waiters and restaurant cooks by the thousands throughout Spain, but also with the caregivers of the elderly that any morning are seen pushing wheelchairs of the elderly in the sun in our streets, it is evident that migrants come to do the work that the nationals do not want to do.

And why don’t they want to do it? One line of answers has to do with working conditions: low pay, much effort. Employers—and individuals—are unable to offer better conditions: some because they cannot, others because it is not convenient for them. This expels nationals and makes immigrants also victims, precariousness fodder, almost slavery; and hand in hand with it, fodder of delinquency and generators of insecurity.

Another line of analysis is linked to a very Western zeitgeist that has to do with comfort, consumerism, hedonism, inflated horizons and university goals, lofty aspirations and the loss of the value of effort, sacrifice, the value of work, humility, realism, or the elimination of everything that is not enjoyable in the fast time of the here and now, even at the cost of giving the power of your life to the machines of AI. There is here a mixture between seeing life as leisure and intuiting a certain renunciation of hope in progress, which says that no matter how much you do, you will not be able to improve. Between the crude conformism and the illusory aspiration based on a simplistic egalitarianism that clashes with the reality of the world, vital inaction, the enemy of realism, is achieved. The digital and virtual world of immediacy, satisfaction and quick self-happiness, of meta-vertical fantasies of perfect lives of luxury and leisure, of Instagramers of brands and lies, of needs created as ways to fill much deeper deficiencies, also contributes to this.

And politics is incapable of dealing with it, entangled in its own social engineering, in its own ideological biases, in its servitude to international agendas, in its particular plans to hold power and benefits, in its privileges of separate strata, in its petty quarrels, in its lack of greatness and aspiration, in its clientelism of interest. And so much so, that one cannot help but think that maybe the supporters of the conspiracy are right. It seems that what is happening is happening on purpose. That they deliberately lead us here to that “you will have nothing, you will owe everything to the state and the corporations, you will not be who you were, and you will only serve the money power as a producer-consumer, without roots or identity or aspirations… and we will make you believe that this way you are happy.” A paranoid and dehumanizing mix between communism and liberalism that leads to terrible dystopias.

But there is hope. There is always hope. Not only because of the resistance to the imposition of this demonic model of man and society that is happening here and now in so many places in our world and in so many different ways. From concrete political movements to cultural battles, to alternative lives that generate different communities, or those dedicated to beauty, true knowledge and the spirit. But also because—and this is what the resistance has to support in its strategies, actions and planning—the human being is not a machine that can be programmed just like that, not until biotechnological transhumanism is imposed.

There are innate cues that will sooner or later—and that later is the dangerous one—make it explode. There are primary human instincts—physical and spiritual—radically incompatible with that dictatorial anti-human dystopia. And that will ensure that evil will never triumph definitively. What is frightening is that until these primordial human forces are set in motion, perhaps the human being suffering too much, allows himself to be dominated too much, is manipulated excessively, is dehumanized as a way for the power of money to achieve its omnipotent domination. The process of technological and economic development in the West has accelerated these dynamics, something that other peoples have not yet experienced because of their level of development—yet. But memory, the achievements of history, tell us that these forces are also real in Europeans. It is a question of setting them in motion, awakening them, activating them.

And that happens by resisting this zeitgeist that dominates us, and by continuing to row in the opposite direction in our own personal and communal selves. They can win, but it will not always be like that. Man will awaken again.

How to rearm him?

Where can we find the personal and social energy to take up again the paths of life and not continue walking along paths of cultural, vital and human suicide?

There is no need to look for these energies far away from us.

In our own European cultural history, in what configured European culture as such, there is an immense vein of energy that from the modernity born with the French Revolution in origin, to the current rampant aggressive and anti-Christian secularization—granddaughter of each other—has been progressively abandoned, like one who moves away from himself and from what nourishes and feeds him, to the point of being estranged from himself and exhausted. Europe has been leaving behind that vital force of its very own, inexhaustible by its very definition to be capable of giving life, which has been Christianity as a unifier of what has been received and a generator of identity and life, to the point of almost ceasing to be, to the point of almost becoming deformed in its own face by the distancing of Europe’s own Christian roots.

And I say almost, although perhaps it would be more appropriate to say that if not deformed, then caricatured. Some factions are still recognizable, some identifying elements of the European Christian identity, manage to continue to appear and be present; the roots are strong and they are not reached by the ice and frost that seems to dominate the surface; and it is precisely this strength and this true rootedness in the European soil after almost two millennia, after having been shaped by Christianity, that can be returned to them, that are capable, like an old oak apparently dry, that allow the best of one’s own identity to sprout.

Europe’s Christian Roots: A Deep Cultural Heritage

Europe, the cradle of ancient civilizations, has been shaped over the centuries by diverse influences. None, however, has left as deep an imprint as Christianity. Europe’s Christian roots go back to Antiquity, when this religion took root and became the cultural foundation of the region.

Christianity arrived in Europe in the first centuries of our era, spreading from the Middle East to the West. The central figure of Jesus Christ and His teachings resonated among European populations, and the Christian faith became a unifying element amidst the continent’s cultural diversity.

Over time, Christianity merged with previous Greco-Latin social and political structures as well as those that came to Europe with the barbarian invasions, shaping the Middle Ages and defining the concept of Christendom. The Catholic Church played a crucial role in everyday life, influencing morals, education and politics. Monasteries and cathedrals stood as centers of learning and faith, preserving the cultural and literary heritage of classical antiquity.

The Crusades, which took place between the 11th and 13th centuries, were a testament to the power of the Christian faith in European life. Although driven by diverse motives, the Crusades reflected Europe’s fervent commitment to the defense of Christianity and the expansion of its principles.

The Renaissance, a period of cultural renewal in the 14th-17th centuries, was also steeped in the Christian heritage. Although marked by a revival of interest in classical antiquity, many of the great Renaissance artists and thinkers found inspiration in biblical narratives and Christian theology. The Baroque reached a cultural and artistic dimension never equaled in any other geographic area linked to culture.

The 19th and 20th centuries, children of the liberal revolutions, brought about a series of social and cultural changes of such magnitude that they began to deform the Christian face of Europe until the rampant secularization of modern times; but in spite of this, Christian roots continued to be an essential part of European identity. Christian ethics have influenced the formulation of laws, moral norms and fundamental values that have endured over the centuries and are still a central part of who we Europeans are, and indeed who we can be.


Historical Roots

The adoption of Christianity as the official religion in the Roman Empire marked the beginning of Europe’s Christian identity. From the teachings of the Church Fathers to the consolidation of medieval Christianity, the historical roots laid the foundations for the understanding of the faith on the continent.

Greek Philosophy and the Construction of Christian Identity in Europe

The connection between Greek philosophy and Christian identity in Europe has been a complex journey that has evolved over the centuries. This link began in Antiquity, merging the teachings of philosophers such as Plato and Aristotle with emerging Jewish and Christian traditions. The Church Fathers, such as Augustine of Hippo, integrated philosophical concepts into Christian theology, marking a crucial convergence. The Greek and Latin Fathers built their early theological thought from the understanding that Greek philosophy was the most adequate tool to shape the use of reason in the understanding of theological science. The conviction that the reason of the human being is an immense attribute meant to unite the message of the human dignity of the Gospel of Jesus Christ with the same anthropological gifts in one of the first contributions to the European being: the intrinsic value of the human being created in the image and likeness of God, Who gave him the tools, while perfecting himself with the revelation, to reach a good life. Hence the immense contribution that Stoicism, already in the Roman imperial phase, made to the creation of Christian morality.

During the Middle Ages, the Aristotelian Renaissance influenced scholastic theology, led by figures such as St. Albert the Great and St. Thomas Aquinas, both Dominicans. Aquinas sought to reconcile reason and faith, highlighting the compatibility between Aristotelian philosophy and Christian theology in his monumental work “Summa Theologica”, and the value of philosophy as an instrument of dialogue in his “Summa contra gentiles”.

The Renaissance consolidated the interconnection, with Christian humanists embracing the fusion of classical scholarship and Christian faith, with the paradoxical example of Erasmus of Rotterdam. The emphasis on classical education and ethical values of Greek antiquity marked this phase in a movement that led to the development of an entire Christian philosophy and ethics during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries of which the School of Salamanca, addressing the problems and issues of its historical context, was the humanistic apex.

The Enlightenment introduced challenges, but the influence of Greek philosophy persisted. Greek values, such as freedom, were mixed with the Christian heritage, generating secularized conceptions of morality and politics, incomprehensible without the aforementioned contribution of human dignity of Gospel root.

In conclusion, the relationship between Greek philosophy and Christian identity has been dynamic and enriching. From Antiquity to the Modern Age, this connection forged the intellectual and cultural tradition of Europe, demonstrating the capacity of ideas to shape and seek the true face of the identity of a civilization such as the European one.

Enduring Influence of Roman Law on Europe’s Christian Identity

The connection between Roman Law and Christian identity in Europe has been a journey through the centuries, marked by a profound and lasting influence. From the earliest days of Christianity, when both realities coexisted in the context of the Roman Empire, to the present day, the heritage of the Roman legal system has shaped the institutions, morals and social structure of Christian Europe.

In the first centuries of the Christian era, the Roman legal framework provided the necessary structure for the propagation and organization of Christianity. The notion of Roman citizenship merged with Christian teachings, creating a unique synthesis that influenced equality and social responsibility. Legal and political structures, from the very understanding of the family to the structures of municipalities and dioceses, involved a fruitful interrelationship that shaped the face of Europe.

The Church, during this period, adopted administrative structures of the Roman system, reflecting imperial divisions. The legal and moral authority of the Pope, based on the imperial tradition, took root in the Christian conscience.

The preservation of Roman law in ecclesiastical institutions and the creation of legal codes, such as the Code of Justinian, contributed to the continuity of the Roman legal tradition. These codes served as the basis for civil and canonical legislation, reflecting the synthesis of secular and Christian moral laws.

The recovery of classical knowledge revitalized the influence of Roman law in the Middle Ages. Medieval scholars applied Roman legal teachings in legal education and practice, further consolidating the links between the two disciplines.

The connection between Roman law and Christian identity was reflected in the formulation of fundamental legal concepts. The idea of natural rights and the conception of law as a reflection of divine reason resonated with Christian principles.

As Europe moved into the Modern Age, the influence of Roman law persisted in the legal and political structure of Christian nations. Law as an instrument for the pursuit of the common good and social justice and the protection of individual as well as community rights remained central, rooted in the fusion of Roman tradition and Christian ethics.

In short, the connection between Roman law and Europe’s Christian identity has been a complex and enduring phenomenon. The Roman legal heritage has permeated institutions, morals and the very conception of law in Christian Europe, shaping its collective identity in a way that transcends time and continues to influence the understanding of justice and morality in contemporary European society.

The Influence of the Barbarian Invasions

The barbarian invasions that shook Europe during the last years of the Roman Empire and the early Middle Ages not only left a trail of destruction and political change, but also played a crucial role in the formation of the continent’s common Christian identity. These invasions, carried out by Germanic, Slavic, Norse and other tribes, had a profound impact on the cultural and religious configuration of Europe.

In the decline of the Roman Empire, various barbarian tribes broke through the frontiers, bringing with them their own religious beliefs and practices. As they settled in the conquered lands, they came into contact with the Roman population, which was already marked by the identity of Christianity. This cultural and religious encounter was a complex process that contributed to the creation of a shared Christian identity.

Despite initial tensions between the barbarian communities and the Roman Christians, an integration of these cultures gradually took place. The Church, with its hierarchical structure and its role as a social unifier, played a crucial role in this process. The barbarian leaders, by adopting Christianity, saw in it a tool to consolidate their authority and legitimize their rule in the eyes of the Romanized population.

The barbarian invasions also led to the emergence of new Christian kingdoms in Europe. The Visigoths, Ostrogoths, Vandals, Lombards, Franks, Angles and other groups adopted Christianity, and this act of conversion became a unifying factor in their territories. The figure of the Christian king, invested with a divine mandate, helped to consolidate the identity of these kingdoms and to forge a stronger connection between Christian faith and secular authority.

One of the most significant events was the conversion of the Franks under the reign of Clovis I in the 5th century. In Spain, the figure of Reccared in the kingdom of Toledo was another. This conversion to Christianity, and in particular to Catholicism, not only united the Hispanic Franks and Visigoths under a common religious identity, but also established ties with the Church in Rome. This link with the Papal See strengthened the connection between the Christian regions of Western Europe.

As the Middle Ages progressed, the common Christian identity was further consolidated. The Muslim invasions in the Iberian Peninsula were a reaction that strengthened, in the process of the seven centuries of reconquest, that European Christian identity, shaping a way of being in the cultural and social world totally impregnated with the Christian fact. The Crusades, launched to defend Christianity and recover the Holy Land, were an example of the union of European kingdoms under the banner of Christianity. The Church played an important role in the organization and promotion of these expeditions, contributing to the creation of a European Christian identity that transcended political boundaries.

In conclusion, the barbarian invasions, although initially chaotic and destructive, were a fundamental catalyst in the construction of Europe’s common Christian identity. Through cultural interaction, conversions and the establishment of Christian kingdoms, these invasions contributed to the formation of a shared narrative that endures to this day, shaping the history, culture and identity of Europe.

The Role of the Middle Ages in the Construction of Europe’s Christian Identity

The Middle Ages, also known as the medieval period, played an essential role in the formation and consolidation of Christian identity in Europe. This period, which spanned from approximately the 5th to the 15th century, witnessed a complex interplay between Christian faith, ecclesiastical institutions and socio-economic transformations, contributing significantly to the construction of Europe’s collective identity.

From the collapse of the Roman Empire to the Renaissance, the Catholic Church emerged as a central force in European life during the Middle Ages. Medieval Christianity not only influenced the spiritual sphere, but also shaped politics, culture and education. The Church provided an organizational structure in a world undergoing dramatic changes, thus consolidating the Christian faith as an integral component of European identity. The bishops as social heads and the pope as head of Christendom came to fill the vacuum produced by the power crisis generated by the fall of the Roman Empire, giving in turn accompaniment and light to a new world where cross and sword were in full union.

One of the most prominent aspects of the Middle Ages was the feudal system, which structured society around relationships of vassalage and mutual obligations. The Church played a crucial role in legitimizing this social structure, linking feudal hierarchies with Christian principles of care, hierarchy and the pursuit of the common good. Religious authority supported the idea that monarchs and feudal lords ruled with a divine mandate to care for their subjects, contributing to social cohesion under the banner of Christianity. And this in spite of all the deficiencies that can be argued, because the same human condition, fruit of its anthropological twisted shaft—Kant dixit—that in believers bears the name of original sin, obviously carries. But in spite of such deficiencies, the social orientation models, fruit of Christianity, are the ones that build identity. We are not only who we are, but who we would like to be, as an engine that orients us and pushes us towards a personal and cultural development that marks our identity.

Gothic architecture, with its majestic cathedrals and abbeys, also stands as a tangible testimony to the influence of the Christian faith on medieval European identity and as an image of that desire to ascend, metaphysically, spiritually and ideally, man and society. These monuments were not only places of worship, but also symbols of the greatness of God and the central role of the Church in the life of the community, as well as signs of where society wanted to go—always upwards. Gothic architecture not only elevated the buildings, but also the spirituality of medieval Christianity.

The rise of monastic orders, such as the Benedictines and Cistercians, highlighted the importance of monastic life in the construction of European Christian identity. These monasteries became centers of learning, preservation of classical knowledge and religious practice. Monks and nuns played an essential role in education and in the transmission of the faith, thus contributing to the spiritual cohesion of Europe. Monks guarded the idea of Europe and shaped it with their lives.

The Crusades, military expeditions undertaken in the name of Christianity to reclaim the Holy Land, also left an indelible mark on European identity. Although motivated by a variety of factors, the Crusades reflected Europe’s fervent commitment to the defense of Christianity and the expansion of its principles in a context of interaction with the Islamic and Eastern world.

As the Middle Ages progressed, intellectual movements emerged that fused classical philosophy with Christian theology. Scholasticism, represented by figures such as St. Thomas Aquinas, sought to harmonize reason and faith, thus contributing to a deeper and more articulate understanding of Christian identity. The theological and philosophical debates of this period left a lasting mark on the European worldview.

In conclusion, the Middle Ages played a crucial role in the construction of Europe’s Christian identity. Through the Church, monastic institutions, monumental architecture and intellectual movements, this period left a lasting legacy that influenced the way Europeans understood their faith and their place in the world. The Middle Ages were not a time of darkness, but a time of ferment and development that helped forge the Christian identity that remains an integral part of Europe’s heritage.

The Renaissance and its Contribution to the Construction of European Christian Identity

The Renaissance, a period of cultural and artistic renewal that flourished in Europe from the fourteenth to the seventeenth century, left a profound mark on the construction of the continent’s Christian identity. Although often associated with a revival of interest in classical Greco-Latin culture, the Renaissance also played a crucial role in the evolution and affirmation of Christian identity.

During this period, humanist currents rediscovered and revalued the works of classical antiquity, including the philosophies of Plato and Aristotle. However, this revival of classical thought did not come at the expense of Christian identity; rather, it merged in a unique way with the Christian tradition, giving rise to a distinctive cultural synthesis.

Renaissance humanists advocated an education that incorporated both Christian principles and the ethical and aesthetic values of antiquity. This holistic approach allowed for a deeper appreciation of the Christian faith by placing it in a broader context of knowledge. Figures such as Erasmus of Rotterdam, Luis Vives or Francisco de Vitoria, promoted the idea that classical scholarship and Christian faith were not incompatible, but, on the contrary, complemented each other.

Renaissance architecture also reflected the interconnection between Christian identity and classical ideals. Churches and cathedrals, while often incorporating classical architectural elements, retained their function as places of Christian worship. The grandeur and elegance of these structures not only highlighted the glory of God, but also symbolized the spiritual rebirth of Christianity.

Renaissance art, characterized by a more realistic and humanized representation of the human figure, also influenced the visual expression of Christian identity. Religious paintings and sculptures captured devotion and spirituality with renewed intensity, providing the faithful with a more intimate connection to their faith.

In addition, the Renaissance brought about a revival of biblical and theological studies. Figures such as Thomas Aquinas, despite belonging to an earlier era, experienced renewed interest and study. The fusion of Aristotelian philosophy with Christian theology, known as scholasticism, found an intellectual renaissance during this period, allowing for a deeper and more nuanced understanding of the faith.

In short, the Renaissance contributed significantly to the construction of European Christian identity by integrating classical values with the Christian tradition. This cultural synthesis not only enriched knowledge and artistic expression, but also provided a solid basis for understanding the faith in a broader context. The Renaissance did not mark a separation between the classical and the Christian, but instead fostered a harmonious coexistence that influenced European identity for centuries.

The Construction of European Christian Identity in the Baroque: An Artistic and Spiritual Splendor

The Baroque period, which spanned roughly from the seventeenth century to the mid-eighteenth century, was a time of cultural and spiritual transformation in Europe. This period not only witnessed political and social changes, but also played a fundamental role in the construction and consolidation of Christian identity on the continent.

The Baroque emerged at a time of tensions and conflicts, such as the Protestant Reformation and the Catholic Counter-Reformation. These movements had a profound impact on European religiosity and contributed to the shaping of Christian identity during this period. The Catholic Church, in particular, sought to revitalize its spiritual influence in response to the challenges posed by the Reformation. The threat of Islam through the Turkish danger was of course also the driving force, in Carl Schmitt’s inspiration, of an enemy against which to reaffirm and strengthen the common identity, as Lepanto or Vienna showed.

Baroque architecture, with its opulence and theatricality, became a crucial means of expressing Christian identity. Baroque churches, with their ornate detailing, use of the play of light and shadow, and the monumentality of their designs, sought to inspire a sense of awe and devotion. St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, designed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, is an outstanding example of this Baroque architecture that sought to elevate the soul to the divine, but all of Europe, from Lisbon to Prague, from Seville to Vienna, shows it.

Baroque painting and sculpture also played an essential role in the construction of Christian identity. Masterpieces by artists such as Caravaggio, Zurbarán, Rubens and Velázquez depicted biblical scenes and portraits of saints with an emotional intensity and realism that sought to directly involve viewers in the religious narrative. Baroque sculpture, with its dramatic and dynamic imagery, provided a palpable representation of Christian spirituality.

Baroque music, especially sacred music, played a central role in expressing Christian identity. Composers such as Bach, Handel and Monteverdi created masterpieces that celebrated the faith and were performed in liturgical settings. Opera, although often secular in theme, also incorporated religious and moral elements, contributing to the cultural richness of Christian identity.

Baroque literature addressed religious themes with philosophical and spiritual depth. The works of mystics such as St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross explored the intimate relationship with the divine; the dramas of a Calderón de la Barca or a Lope de Vega brought that identity to the common people, while theological treatises provided—Friar Luis de Granada, a true bestseller of his time—an intellectual basis for understanding the faith. Baroque poetry, often rich in symbolism and biblical allusions, also contributed to the construction of Christian identity.

The Baroque was deeply marked in a Catholic key by the Counter-Reformation, an effort by the Catholic Church to revitalize and reaffirm its doctrine in response to the criticisms of the Protestant Reformation. Baroque popes, such as Innocent X and Alexander VII, played an important role in promoting the Catholic faith and building a unified Christian identity.

The Nineteenth Century and the Transformation of Christian Identity in Europe: Challenges, Renewal and Spiritual Evolution

The 19th century was a time of profound changes in Europe, both socially and culturally, changes that were the children of the civilizational debacle that was the French Revolution. These changes had a significant impact on the Christian identity of the continent, generating challenges, but also giving rise to new forms of spiritual expression and renewal.

The 19th century witnessed a series of social changes that challenged the historical position of the Church in European society. The rise of nationalist movements, accelerated industrialization, and the ideals of the Enlightenment influenced the perception of religious authority. Secularization gained ground, leading to a decline in the direct influence of the Church in the public sphere.

Despite the challenges, the 19th century was also a time of reform movements within the Church. In the Catholic Church, the Catholic Restoration movement sought to revitalize and strengthen the Church’s position in the face of social change. This impulse of spiritual renewal spread through various religious orders and lay movements, marking an effort to adapt to the demands of the time, especially in the field of education, with the birth of a multitude of religious congregations, mostly female, which came to address the new situations that the nascent liberal states were unable to meet.

Spiritual renewal in the 19th century was expressed in movements such as the Oxford Movement in the Anglican Church and the revival of Catholicism in several European countries. These movements sought to revive religious devotion, deepen theological understanding and restore liturgical elements considered essential to Christian identity, as well as theology and scholarship.

In parallel, religious awakening movements developed, such as the Second Great Awakening in America and its echoes in Europe. These movements emphasized the personal experience of faith, conversion and active participation in the religious community. New denominations and Christian communities emerged that advocated a spirituality more centered on individual experience.

The 19th century was also a time of missionary expansion, with a renewed emphasis on evangelization at the time of African and Asian colonialism in non-Christian regions of the world. This cultural and religious encounter raised questions about the diversity of beliefs and traditions, contributing to a deeper reflection on Christian identity in a global context.

The 19th century also witnessed the emergence of theological and philosophical developments that influenced the understanding of faith. Philosophers such as Søren Kierkegaard explored the relationship between faith and reason, while theologians such as Friedrich Schleiermacher argued for a more focused interpretation of religious experience. Even from critical paths with a bourgeois model that was being imposed and that also affected the common believers, such as Leon Bloy, with his verbal scourge and religious depth, or Dostoevsky with his existential novels of deep spirituality.

Slavery, industrialization and social inequalities posed ethical challenges that Christian identity had to confront. Social justice movements inspired by Christian principles emerged to address these issues, making connections between faith and social action. And at the same time to confront the materialist movements of the three revolutions, Marx, Nietzsche and Freud, which were giving birth to a new world increasingly removed from the faith and Christian principles that had shaped Europe for more than a millennium and a half.

In short, the nineteenth century was a period of complexity and change for Christian identity in Europe. Although it faced significant challenges because of secularization and social change, it was also a time of spiritual renewal, reform and theological reflection that laid the foundation for the diversity and evolution of Christian identity in the twentieth century and beyond.

The Twentieth Century to the Second World War: Challenges and Resilience in Europe’s Christian Identity

The 20th century witnessed a series of events that profoundly impacted Europe’s Christian identity. From geopolitical tensions to social and cultural changes, this period posed significant challenges, but also evidenced the resilience and persistence of the Christian faith in the midst of adversity.

It began with global conflicts and political tensions that had a direct impact on Europe’s Christian identity. The First World War truly marked the beginning of the century and left European society marked by devastation and loss, yet open to such technological change, as Ernst Jünger saw so well, that it would mark the following century.

The totalitarian regimes that emerged in the 1930s presented additional challenges to religious practice, as several European countries under absolute state regimes, such as Soviet communism or Nazism in Germany, sought to control and manipulate religious expression. Religious persecution affected Christian communities, evidencing the struggle of faith in the face of totalitarian ideologies that sought to suppress any allegiance other than to the state.

Despite the political challenges, the 20th century also witnessed significant efforts in favor of interreligious dialogue and ecumenism. Movements such as the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) in the Catholic Church and the Edinburgh Conference (1910) in Protestantism sought to promote unity and understanding among the various branches of Christianity, as well as with other religions.

The 20th century witnessed important theological developments that influenced Christian identity. Figures such as Chenu, Congar, Schillebeeckx, Karl Barth or Dietrich Bonhoeffer responded to the challenges of the time, reflecting on the relationship between Christian faith and social responsibility in a context marked by war and injustice.

During World War II, the Church played a key role in the resistance against totalitarian regimes. In some cases, such as the resistance of the Catholic Church in Poland, it became a beacon of hope and resistance against oppression. After the war, the Church also participated in reconstruction efforts, seeking to restore not only physical structures, but also communities and faith, and as a reminder, especially under the countries of communist terror, of authentic European Christian identity.

The second half of the 20th century was marked by the crisis of modernity, where the Christian faith faced challenges related to secularization, loss of institutional authority and growing cultural diversity. However, spiritual renewal movements also emerged that sought to revitalize religious practice in a changing context.

Despite the difficulties, the 20th century saw the development of numerous charitable and social organizations based on Christian principles. From local charities to international organizations, the Church and individual Christians played an active role in addressing social and humanitarian problems, demonstrating a continuing commitment to the Christian principles of love and justice, which best represent the face of European identity.

In summary, the 20th century up to World War II was a complex and challenging period for Europe’s Christian identity. Despite conflicts and tensions, the resilience of the Christian faith was manifested in interreligious dialogue, ecumenical efforts, the Church’s active role in resistance and reconstruction, and the continuing ethical and social influence of Christianity in European society.

The Second Half of the Twentieth Century: Transformations and Continuities in Europe’s Christian Identity

The second half of the 20th century was a period of radical changes that continued to influence Christian identity in Europe. From the impact of the Cold War to the emergence of social and cultural movements, the Christian faith faced new challenges and adapted to a constantly changing world.

The Cold War divided Europe into opposing ideological blocs, and religion was often caught in the middle of this conflict. In Eastern Europe, communism imposed significant restrictions on religious practice, especially in countries such as the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe controlled by the communist bloc.

The second half of the 20th century witnessed counterculture movements and significant social changes that affected the perception of religion in society. The Cultural Revolution of the 1960s, the rise of individualism and the emergence of new ethical paradigms posed challenges to traditional structures, including Christian identity.

In the Catholic Church, the Second Vatican Council, held between 1962 and 1965, marked a crucial moment of renewal. The council sought to adapt the Church to contemporary challenges by promoting openness to interreligious and ecumenical dialogue. These efforts influenced the understanding of Christian identity in a context of growing religious pluralism.

The second half of the 20th century also witnessed the emergence of charismatic movements within Christianity, especially in the Catholic Church and Protestant denominations. These movements, characterized by intense spiritual experiences and an emphasis on the gifts of the Holy Spirit, sought to revitalize the faith and attract a new generation of believers.

A special emphasis on Social Justice and Human Rights characterized this period, which saw a rise in the Catholic Church especially, but also the Reformed Churches, in social justice and human rights. Religious leaders from John XXIII to John Paul II advocated for the defense of human rights and solidarity with the oppressed, contributing to the construction of a Christian identity committed to justice and human dignity.

Technological advances, changes in family structure and ethical debates on issues such as abortion, contraception and sexuality posed significant ethical challenges to Christian identity in the second half of the 20th century. The Church was forced to address these issues from an ethical and theological perspective, influencing the understanding of faith in the modern context. Although perhaps not always knowing how to respond fully.

Despite efforts at renewal, the second half of the 20th century also witnessed a decline in religious practice in some regions of Europe. Secularism and the influence of secular culture contributed to a decline in affiliation with religious institutions and a change in the dynamics of Christian identity. Consumer, technological, secular, secularist, materialistic models—both liberal and communist—have been gaining the upper hand in the neglect of Europe’s true Christian identity.

In short, the second half of the 20th century was a complex and dynamic period for Europe’s Christian identity. The Church faced significant challenges, but also responded to them through efforts of renewal, dialogue and adaptation to changing social and cultural dynamics. Christian identity, although affected by the transformations of the times, proved to be resilient and able to try to adapt to the challenges of a changing world.

Christian Identity in the Construction of the European Union: Between Religious Diversity and Shared Values

The European Union (EU) has been a project that has sought unity and cooperation among nations with rich cultural, historical and religious diversity. In this context, Christian identity has played a complex role as the EU has evolved in an environment characterized by religious plurality and commitment to shared values.

European history is deeply rooted in the Christian tradition. The influence of Christianity has been evident in the formation of institutions, laws and values that have shaped European civilization. From the Holy Roman Empire to the contribution of Christian thinkers to philosophy and ethics, Christian identity has left an indelible mark on the building of Europe.

The fathers of the European Union, Jean Monnet, Robert Schuman, Konrad Adenauer, Alcide De Gasperi and Paul-Henri Spaak, were clear about this, even beyond their own personal convictions. Europe would not be Europe without the recognition and care of its Christian identity.

Christian ethics have contributed to the formulation of fundamental principles underpinning the EU. Human dignity, social justice and solidarity; Christian values rooted in biblical teaching, have been adopted as guiding principles in building a united and peaceful Europe.

Certainly, as the EU has grown and expanded, religious diversity has become more evident. Interfaith dialogue has become an essential component in promoting mutual understanding between different faith communities. Despite its Christian roots, the EU recognizes and respects religious plurality as an integral part of its contemporary identity. But one certainly cannot engage in dialogue by renouncing who one is.

Throughout the negotiations for the formation of the EU, there has been an attempt, perhaps excessively so, to balance Christian roots with a secular approach to decision-making. The European institutions have adopted a secular approach, ensuring separation between religion and government to guarantee equality and religious freedom for all citizens, in a move beyond pendulum swinging, almost renouncing them.

Christian movements, such as the Taizé Community, have played an active role in promoting European unity and building bridges between communities. Their commitment to Christian values of reconciliation and fraternity has resonated with the vision of a united and peaceful Europe. But, and here is one of the main lessons that we should not lose, without renouncing our own identity.

In the 21st century, the EU is facing challenges related to religious diversity, the rise of secularism and the growing pressure of political movements that seek to highlight national identities or marginal and minority identities. Reflection on Christian identity in this context involves finding a balance that celebrates the Christian heritage while committing to an inclusive and respectful approach towards all faiths and non-beliefs, but without giving up what has made Europe who it is.

In conclusion, Christian identity has left a profound mark on the construction of the European Union, influencing its fundamental ethical values and contributing to the vision of a united Europe. However, the EU has also evolved to embrace religious diversity and ensure that its principles reflect respect and equality for all citizens, regardless of their beliefs. Christian history and identity remain significant elements in the evolving cultural and ethical fabric of the European Union.

Vicente Niño Orti, OP is a Dominican friar. He studied the Law and Theology and is the Area Director of the Saint Dominic Educational Foundation.

Featured: St. Helena and the True Cross, by Giovanni Battista Cima da Conegliano; painted ca. 1495.

Christian Anthropology, Buddhist Anthropology: Stumbling Blocks

In the West, Buddhism is usually presented as a philosophical system and not as a religion, which has the advantage of freeing it from all superstition and presenting it as an almost rational way of living a better life and eventually achieving a hypothetical awakening.

Every great civilization rests on a certain idea of man. If we understand anthropology as the major fundamental options on what man is, from which a certain way of living and also of dying, or of not living, will derive, then there is a “Buddhist” anthropology, if not of Buddhism. Its essential features are “atheism, a disdain for worship and tradition, the conception of an all-spiritual religion, contempt for finite existence, belief in transmigration and the need to escape it, a weak notion of man’s personality, the imperfect distinction or rather confusion of material attributes and intellectual functions, the affirmation of a morality having its sanction in itself”. (Auguste Barth, Les religions de l’Inde, 1879).

If we examine the great frameworks of religious thought, what do we see? The Christian religion is based on a Revelation in time, and the Buddhist religion is based on the somewhat enigmatic experience of a religious personality whose existence has not been established historically.

A number of stumbling blocks arise from this: the semantic area of law, “order” versus Buddhist “dharma;” the great constitutive springs of human nature: desire and reason; the question of rite, and therefore sacrifice, which Buddhism rejects, since there is no God or divinity to honor; conceptions of body and soul; and the respective founders and historical foundations or underpinnings of these two religious phenomena.

The fundamental features of “doctrinal” Buddhism come from the Vedic ground. The whole grandiose ritual apparatus of white and black magic could only have developed, concealed behind the screen of a set of doctrines whose origins are primarily Indian. Buddhism is in no way a “disembodied tradition dependent only on the mind.”

What are we talking about when we speak of man in Western paradigms, whether conscious or not? We are talking about two aspects that are often poorly distinguished: his human nature and the conditions of his existence.

There is a flaw at the heart of Buddhist doctrine. The idea of human nature does not exist; what exists is the human condition: an ocean of suffering from which the Buddha shows the way out. There is therefore the idea of a possible salvation, for which he shows the way, which he himself explored by entering a state of perfection given by a kind of transformative experience called “Enlightenment.”

There can be no clear distinction between nature and the human condition, because Buddhism has no idea what human nature is. As for the human condition, it is understood as radically bad.

Buddhist anthropology is therefore radically opposed to that of Christianity, and in essential respects: in the way it conceives of relationships between men, spirituality, morality, the status of the body, the idea of the soul, the human condition itself and consequently human nature, the idea of beauty, justice and even truth; in the way it apprehends the two fundamental human drives, desire and reason.

There is no cure for the human condition, because there is no cure for life: for its joys, its sorrows, for the bereavements that touch us, for a time only, inconsolable; for the failures, and therefore the risks taken; and then there is no cure for love and the desire to love, to learn, to know, to exchange and also to fight, and therefore for the need to take blows and, if need be, to return them. Because that is life, and life cannot be put at a distance: it can only be lived.

Buddhism is based on ancient Indian concepts, such as “karman” (karma), which is nothing other than the theory of causality transported into the moral world. Buddhism is the exaltation of karman. The logical framework of causality is implacable. How can we contradict what we all know: that every act has effective consequences, however deferred? Karman,” a self-sufficient substance-force, sums it all up: it is at once the act, the effect of past acts, the condition of future acts and the chain of events that follows or governs them, the law that presides over all this with the weight of a physical necessity, since it attaches itself to the soul in the form of joy or suffering, depending on whether it functions as a reward or punishment, which can be deferred. Karman can remain latent, and then one day come to fruition. Unless we condemn ourselves to inaction, it is inescapable, and in any case perceived as such.
It is absolute determinism: an Asian Ananke.

Buddhist wisdom is in no way comparable to Christian wisdom. Both the Brahman and Samana (or Sramana) states of Vedic India imply the idea of two possible paths to liberation: through knowledge or asceticism. The essential thing is to save man from suffering, illness and death. And the only possible way out of this ocean of misery is the all-too-common Victorian wisdom of an ascetic elevated to the dignity of icon and supreme guide.

The Semitic world of the Bible conveys the idea of a human nature in solidarity with Creation, in solidarity with a succession of divine operations (the days) that speak of Man. Christianity’s response is consistent with that of the revealed text, which formulates it under the concept of the “Fall;” in other words a metaphysical catastrophe that seriously damaged “human nature,” and consequently altered its very condition. Suffering, sickness and death were not part of the original program (which had become unimaginable, even if Augustine sometimes tried), but they entered the world, altering human nature and modifying the conditions of existence.

Where does man get the goodness and righteousness of his actions? Where does the drive to know and explore the unknown come from? Where does he get his strength, his rationality and his prudential perfection? What is the source of the singular dynamism that drives him to support, guide, care for, devote and even sacrifice himself to others? To integrate the idea that he is “his brother’s keeper.” By already being his own guardian. And that man is not a wolf to man, but a friend, even a brother.
Christianity puts all this in the One who supports, guides and sets free, the One who gives the Word, a Promise and a choice: between life and death, between blessing and curse.

For over three decades, Western Europe has lived under the reign of intellectual fashions, such as Freudism, Marxism and structuralism. These ideas turn human nature into a process of lying to hide the beast within man (repression): they have given new power to the old programming that makes force and violence (the right of the strongest) the essence of human relations.

The men and women who choose Buddhism are looking for new ways out of the spiritual prison in which these deleterious ideologies have imprisoned them. But we owe them the truth, because we are the guardians of our brothers and sisters: Buddhism is a swindle that has succeeded in making people believe that its marvelous meditation techniques lead to a state that puts the world, stress, anxiety and anguish—real and imaginary—at bay. These doctrines of appeasement are witchcraft. They throw Christian spirituality and the asceticism that goes with it into a deep pit of oblivion and ignorance. They anaesthetize the soul, plunging it into a deadly torpor.

How do you stop a butterfly from flying off into the deadly light?

A higher light must be lit.

Marion Duvauchel is a historian of religions and holds a PhD in philosophy. She has published widely, and has taught in various places, including France, Morocco, Qatar, and Cambodia. She is the founder of the Pteah Barang, in Cambodia.

Featured: Face of the Buddha, Gandhara, ca. 1st-2nd century AD.

Democracy and Liberty

Orestes Augustus Brownson (1803–1876), the famed American thinker, understood that political democracy is a failed project from the outset, becaause it could establish a moral framework, which is necessaary for liberty. In other words, how can amoral man be free? And by extention, how can a Godless man be free?

Our Democratic brethren are upon the whole a fine set of fellows, and rarely fail to take whatever turns up with great good humor; otherwise we should expect to lose our ears, if not our head, for the many severe things we intend in the course of our essay to say to them and about them. We shall try them severely; for we intend to run athwart many of their fondly cherished prejudices, and to controvert not a few of their favorite axioms; but we trust they will be able to survive the trial, and to come forth as pure and as bright as they have from that which the Whigs gave them in 1840.

Mentioning this 1840, we must say that it marks an epoch in our political and social doctrines. The famous election [259] of that year wrought a much greater revolution in us than in the government; and we confess, here on the threshold, that since then we have pretty much ceased to speak of, or to confide in, the “intelligence of the people.”The people, the sovereign people, the sovereigns, as our friend Governor Hubbard calls them, during that campaign presented but a sorry sight. Truth had no beauty, sound argument no weight, patriotism no influence.They who had devoted their lives to the cause of their country, of truth,justice, liberty, humanity, were looked upon as enemies of the people,and were unable to make themselves heard amid the maddened and maddening hurrahs of the drunken mob that went for “Tippecanoe, and Tyler too.” It was a sorry sight, to see the poor fellows rolling huge balls, and dragging log cabins at the bidding of the demagogues, who were surprised to fin dhow easily the enthusiasm of the people could be excited by hard cider and doggerel rhymes. And we confess that we could hardly forbear exclaiming,in vexation and contempt, “Well, after all, nature will out; the poor devils,if we but let them alone, will make cattle of themselves, and why should we waste our time and substance in trying to hinder them from making themselves cattle?”

An instructive year, that 1840, to all who have sense enough to read it aright. What happened then may happen again, if not in the same form, in some other form equally foolish, and equally pernicious;and, therefore, if we wish to secure to ourselves and our posterity the blessings of freedom and good government, we must secure stronger guaranties than popular suffrage and popular virtue and intelligence. We for one frankly confess,–and we care not who knows it,–that what we saw during the presidential election of 1840, shook, nay, gave to the winds, all our remaining confidence in the popular democratic doctrines–not measures–of the day; and we confess, furthermore, that we have seen nothing in the conduct of either party since, that has tended to restore it. During the extra session of congress in the summer of 1841, the Democratic delegations in both houses behaved nobly, and acquitted themselves like men; they won the victory for their country, as well as lasting honor and gratitude for themselves from the wise and good everywhere; but our friends seem to have been more successful in gaining the victory than in securing its fruits. The rapid and overwhelming successes which have followed in the state elections,seem to have intoxicated the whole [260] Democratic party, and unless Godsends us some sudden and severe rebuke, there is great danger that we shall go into power again in 1845, without having been in the least instructed by defeat, or purified by adversity. Adversity is easy to bear; it is prosperity that tries the man. But enough of this.

From the fact that popular suffrage, and popular virtue and intelligence, have proved, and are likely to prove, insufficient to secure the blessings of freedom and good government, it must not be inferred that popular suffrage is an evil, and should therefore be abandoned; much less that popular forms of government have proved a failure, and that we should therefore go back to aristocracy or to monarchy. We draw for ourselves no such inference. We have lost no confidence in nor love for popular institutions. The struggle for democratic forms of government has, moreover, been too long and too severe, has enlisted too many of the wise and the good, and been consecrated by too many prayers, sufferings, and sacrifices, to permit us, even if our confidence of ultimate success were altogether less than it really is, to think even for one moment of ceasing to continue it. Humanity never does, and never should, retrace her steps. Her course is onward through the ages. In this career, we have left aristocracy and monarchy behind us; and there let them remain, now and for ever. We may encounter both hunger and thirst in the wilderness; let us trust that the God of our fathers will rain manna upon us, and make water gush from the rock,if need be, rather than like the foolish Israelites sigh to return to the”flesh pots of Egypt,” for we can return to them only by returning to the slavery from which we have just escaped. No: our faces are forward; the promised land is before us; and let the command ran along our ranks, Forward,march!

We assure our democratic brethren, then, in the Old World as well as in the New, that if we have words of rebuke for them, we have no words of consolation or of hope for their enemies. Thank God, we are neither traitors nor deserters; we stand by our colors, and will live or die, fighting for the good old cause, the CAUSE OF THE PEOPLE. But if our general made an unsuccessful attack yesterday, and was repulsed with heavy loss, and all in consequence of not choosing the best position, or of not taking the necessary precautions for covering his troops from the enemy’s batteries, we hope we may in the council held to-day, without any dereliction[261] from duty, advise that the attack be renewed under an officer better skilled to conduct it, or at least that it be renewed from a more advantageous position. We see in the fact that democracy has hitherto failed, no reason for deserting its standard, but of seeking to recruit its forces; or, without figure, we see in our ill success hitherto, simply the necessity of obtaining new and stronger guaranties than popular suffrage can offer, even though coupled with popular intelligence. We would not, we cannot dispense with popular suffrage and intelligence, and we pray our readers to remember this; but they are not alone sufficient, and we must have something else in addition to them, or we shall fail to secure those results from the practical working of the government, which every true-hearted democrats laboring with all his might to secure.

We have not erred in laboring to extend popular suffrage,–though thus far its extension has operated almost exclusively in favor of the business classes, or rather of the money power,–but in relying on it as alone sufficient. There is not a tithe of that virtue in the ballot-box which we, in our Fourth-of-July orations and caucus speeches, are in the habit of ascribing to it. The virtue we have been accustomed to ascribe to it, we have claimed for it on the ground that the people always know what is right and will always act up to their knowledge. That is to say,suffrage rests for its basis, as a guaranty of freedom and good government,on the assumed intelligence and virtue of the people. Its grand maxim is, “The people can do no wrong.” Now, this may be very beautiful in theory,but when we come to practice, this virtue and intelligence of the people is all a humbug. We beg pardon of the sovereign people for the treasonable speech; but it is true, true as Holy Writ, and there is neither wisdom nor virtue in pretending to the contrary. Perhaps, however, our remark is not quite true, in the sense in which it will be taken, without word or two by way of explanation.

To the explanation, then. We are in this country, we democrat sand all, most incorrigible aristocrats. We are always using the word people in its European sense, as designating the unprivileged many, in distinction from the privileged few. But this sense of the word is with us really inadmissible. We, we the literary, the refined, the wealthy, the fashionable,we are people as well as our poorer and more coarsely mannered and clad neighbors. We are all [262] people in this country, the merchant,the banker, the broker, the manufacturer, the lawyer, the doctor, the office-holder,the office-seeker, the scholar, and the gentleman, no less than the farmer,the mechanic, and the factory operative. We do not well to forget this.For ourselves, we always remember it, and therefore when we speak slightingly of the intelligence and virtue of the people, it is of the whole people,not of any particular class; in a sense which includes necessarily us who speak as well as those to whom we speak. When, then, we call what is usually said about the virtue and intelligence of the people all a humbug, we do not use the word in its European sense, and mean to speak disparagingly of the intelligence of plebeians as distinguished from patricians, of the “base-born” as distinguished from the “well-born;” for the distinctions here implied do not exist in this country, and should not be recognized even in our speech. When it comes to classes, we confess that we rely as much on the virtue and intelligence of proletaries as on the virtue and intelligence of capitalists, and would trust our mechanics as quick pandas far as we would our merchants and manufacturers.

There is, if we did but know it, arrant aristocracy in this talk which we hear, and quite too frequently in our own ranks, about the virtue and intelligence of the people. Who are we who praise, in this way, the people? Are we ourselves people? And when we so praise them, dowel feel ourselves below them, and looking up to them with reverence? Or do we feel that we are above them, and with great self-complacency, condescending to pat them on the shoulder, and say, after all, my fine fellows, you are by no means such fools as your betters sometimes think.” If we were in England, where there is a recognized hereditary aristocracy, and where the word people is used to designate all who do not belong to the nobility or privileged class, we could understand and even accept what is said about the virtue, intelligence, and capacity of the people; for there it would be appropriate and true. There it would simply mean that the unprivileged classes–the commons–are as able to manage the affairs of the government, and as worthy of confidence, as are the nobility, they who are born legislators; which we hold to be a great and glorious truth,worthy and needing to be preached, even to martyrdom, in every country in which the law recognizes a privileged class. But here it has no meaning,or one altogether inappropriate, [263] false and pernicious. To praise the people here for their virtue and intelligence is either to show that we feel ourselves above them, and praise them solely because we wish tousle them; or it is simply praising ourselves, boasting of our own virtue, intelligence, and capacity. The people should beware of the honeyed voices perpetually sounding their praise. He who in a monarchy will flatter the monarch, or in an aristocracy will fawn round the great, will in a democracy flatter the people; and he who will flatter the people in a democracy,would in an aristocracy fawn round the great, and in a monarchy, flatter the monarch. The demagogue is the courtier adapting himself to circumstances.And yet, flattery is so sweet, that he who can scream loudest in praise of the sovereign people, and whose conscience does not stick even at the blasphemy of Vox populi est vox Dei, will be pretty sure of receiving the largest share of their confidence and favor–another proof of their virtue, intelligence, and capacity!

One thing, by the way, we must own,–the people will bear with more equanimity to be told of their faults than will other sovereigns, or we ourselves should be drawn and quartered for our reiterated treason. But, if they would only lay our treason to heart, and profit by it, we would willingly consent to be drawn and quartered. But, alas! we may speak,and our good-natured sovereign will merely smile, call for his coffee and pantoufles, sip the beverage, throw himself back in his easy-chair, and doze. It is a virtue to commend him, and whoso does not, he disregards. Whoever among us expresses any want of confidence in the people, notwithstanding their apparent forbearance, is supposed to be their enemy, and is sure to be read out of the Democratic party; or to be laid up on the shelf, till some difficulty occurs in which his strong sense and stern integrity become indispensable. But after all, what is the ground of this confidence in the people? A strong party is springing up among us, which builds entirely upon this confidence, and says that if the people were only left to themselves they would always do right; and that all the mischief arises from our attempting to govern the people, and to prevent them from having their own way. Hence,say they, let us have as little government as possible, or rather let us have no government. “All we want government for,” said Dr. Channing one day to the writer, “is simply to undo what government has done.” If the people are worthy of all the [264] confidence demanded, why not yield it? Why not rely on the people? Why seek to bind them by constitutions, and to control them by laws, which in the last resort the military may be called in to enforce? If the people always know the right, and always act up to their intelligence, government is a great absurdity. But we do not find our friends generally confiding in the people to this extent, though the doctrine they preach goes thus far. As much as they confide in the people,they do not feel willing to leave them to vote in their own way. We have our caucuses, and various and complicated machinery, without which we feel very sure that the people would not vote at all, or if voting, not on our side. In a majority of cases, we are so afraid that the people will not vote, or not vote aright, that we, through committees, caucuses, conventions, nominations, party usages, &c., so do up all the work, that the voting becomes a mere form, almost a farce–yet we preach confidence in the people!

But once more. What is the ground of this confidence in the virtue, intelligence, and capacity of the people? Do we really mean to say that the people acting individually or collectively never do, and never can do any wrong? Whence, then, comes all this wrong of which everybody is complaining? The people are virtuous,–whence, then, the vice, the crime, the immorality, the irreligion which threaten to deluge the land? What need of swords, pistols, bowie knives, jails, penitentiaries, pains, penalties, laws, judges, and executioners? What need of schools, churches, teachers, preachers, prophets, and rulers? Nobody is so mad as really to pretend that nothing among us is wrong. Let alone private life, go merely into public life, enter the halls of justice and legislation–is all right here? No; everybody complains; everybody finds somewhat to condemn; some one thing, some another. And yet who has done this of which everybody is complaining? The people. What hear we from every quarter, but denunciations of this or that measure of public policy; of the profligacy of the government,or of its administration? And after all who is in fault? Whose is the government? The people’s. The people are sovereign, and of course the government and its administration, the laws and their execution, are just what the people will they should be. Is it not strange, if the people always perceive the right, and perceiving, always do it, that nevertheless where they are supreme,and what ever is done, is done by them, there yet should be so much wrong done? [265]

But touching the intelligence of our American people, we would ask with still more emphasis, Where have they shown it? Was it in the presidential campaign of 1840? Have they shown it in the several states in contracting abroad some two hundred millions of dollars or more of state and corporation debts? Have they shown it in introducing, extending and sustaining almost from their infancy the ruinous system of paper money? Do they show it by advocating the falsely-so-called American system–the”protective policy,” thereby crippling commerce, and enslaving the operative,for the very questionable benefit of a few manufacturing capitalists? Do they show it in their insane support of the immense system of corporations which spread over the country like a vast network, and which, flooding the market with stock, gives to a few individuals who have contrived to maintain their credit, the means of controlling and laying under contribution the whole industrial activity of the country? Have they shown it, in their very general condemnation of the only measure which would separate the revenues of the government from the general business operations of individuals,and secure to the government that financial independence, without which it ceases to be government, and becomes merely an instrument in the hands of one portion of the community for plundering the other? We demand of the statesmen who publicly boast, that during their whole continuance in office, “they have made it their duty to ascertain and bow to the will of the people;” –we demand of them, wherein they find this infallible popular intelligence on which they bid us rely? The people, we shall be told, rejected the elder Adams, elected and sustained Mr. Jefferson. Be it so, and yet, will any one tell us wherein the policy of Mr. Jefferson, so far as it bore on the practical relations of the people, and their every-day business interests, differed essentially from that of Mr. Adams? They rejected the old federal theory of government, it is true, and adopted the democratic; but it may be a very serious question, whether the latter theory, as the people understand it, is so much in advance of the former as we sometimes imagine. We shall be told that the people sustained General Jackson in his anti-bank policy; but it was General Jackson and not his policy,for they refused to sustain his successor, who pursued with singular consistency and firmness the same policy; and they would have sustained a new bank,had not Mr. Biddle’s bank failed at the very moment [266] it did, spreading alarm and distress through the land. Nine tenths of our business men even now fancy that we can add to the wealth of the country by increasing the paper circulation, and attribute the present embarrassments of the country to the want of confidence, when in fact these embarrassments have resulted almost solely from an excess of confidence; and can be relieved, not by any increase of confidence, but of that which gives to confidence a solid basis–solid capital.

In fact, no measure of public policy can be proposed, so absurd or so wicked, but it shall find popular support. What could be a more bare-faced violation of the constitution, more profligate, or more absurd as a measure of public policy, than the act of congress distributing the proceeds of the sales of the public lands among the several states? And yet where has it aroused any popular indignation? How many of even the Democratic states have had the virtue to fling back the bribe that was offered them? Has New York? Pensylvania? Ohio? Illinois? Missouri? Mississippi.? Georgia? Virginia? Maine? We recollect now, out of all the Democratic states, only three–South Carolina, Alabama, and New Hampshire–that have had the virtue to refuse to receive their portion of the spoils. A good Democrat introduced resolutions into the Massachusetts legislature declaring the act unconstitutional, and that the state ought not to accept its portion of the money; but he was induced by his own party, while agreeing with him in the unconstitutionality of the act, to amend his resolutions so as to leave out the clause which required the state to refuse to receive money unconstitutionally distributed. And what is remarkable, the amendment was proposed and urged by one of the most influential members of the party in the legislature, and who has been regarded for years as the leader of the ultra or radical portion of the Democratic party in the state. So little popular opposition has this measure encountered, a measure which would have been, no doubt, cheerfully acquiesced in by a large majority of the people, as the settled policy of the country, had it not been defeated by the presidential veto.

We might go even further, and venture to predict that the assumption of the state debts by the federal government, all unconstitutional and wicked as such assumption would be, will yet be adopted. There are so many stockholders, both at home and abroad, interested in its adoption,[267] that it must come at last, unless Providence interpose in our behalf.The people,–we mean the mass of the people, of the constituencies–are now, we fear, prepared for it, and nothing but the virtue of a few public men now delays it. If it be ultimately defeated, it will be through the influence of these few patriotic individuals; perhaps, nay, most likely,by the executive veto. The merchants to a considerable extent will sustain the measure, because it is one which will help to sustain or facilitate their credit abroad; the manufacturers will sustain it, because it will afford a pretext for the imposition of high duties on foreign imports;the operative and the farmer must sustain it, because the first depends on the manufacturer and trader for employment, and the last for the sale of his produce; against these the planters will hardly be able to sustain themselves, especially when several of the planting states are themselves to be directly relieved by assumption from the embarrassments which now cripple their energies. Where, then, is the power to defeat the measure?Yet we go on lauding the virtue and intelligence of the people!

Let us return for a moment to what is called “the protective policy.” The Lynn shoemaker clamors for protection, for high duties to diminish foreign imports and to secure to him the monopoly of the home market. If he can only exclude French shoes, he shall then have this monopoly.Very well. Where does he, and where must he find the principal market for his shoes? South and West. The value of that market to him, then, will depend on the ability of the South and West to buy shoes. Whence this ability?It depends, of course, on the ability of the South and West to sell their own productions. The principal market for western produce is at the South.The ability of the West to buy Lynn shoes depends, then, on its ability to sell its productions to the South. Whence, then, we must ask again,the ability of the South to buy western produce and Lynn shoes? In its ability to sell its rice, cotton, and tobacco to the foreigner. Whence the ability of the foreigner to buy the rice, cotton, and tobacco of the South? In his ability to sell his own productions or manufactures to us.If we will not buy of him, he cannot buy of us. Consequently, just in proportion as the Lynn shoemaker places an impediment in the way of the foreigner selling to us, does he place an impediment in the way of his selling his shoes to the South and West. In proportion as he secures, by [268] prohibitory duties, the monopoly of the home market, he diminishes its value, by diminishing the ability of the people to consume. Here, at best, he loses on the one hand all he gains on the other. Yet we boast of the intelligence of the Lynn shoemaker, and his intelligence, by the by, is above the average intelligence of the country.

But, absurd as the protective policy would be under any state of things,–implying that industry can be more energetic and efficient if bound than when left to the free use of its limbs,–it is doubly so when coupled, as we have coupled it, with the paper money system–a system which, though somewhat shaken, the mass of the people are still attached to, and the abolition of which scarcely a public man who values his reputation dare even propose. Very few of the people have ever thought of inquiring into the operations of the two systems when combined. In the first place,the paper money system, by depreciating our currency below that of foreign nations, operates as a direct premium, to the percentage of the depreciation,in favor of the foreign manufacturer; because the foreigner sells to us at the high prices produced by our depreciated currency, but buys of us,always, according to his own appreciated currency. This, for years in our trade with England, very nearly neutralized the tariff intended to protect our own manufactures.

In the next place, the tariff operating with the banking system tends to increase instead of diminishing the advantage of the foreign manufacturer. The first effect of a protective tariff, if it have any effect at all, is no doubt to diminish the imports, and to bring them, in fact, below the exports; which throws the balance of trade in our own favor.This cuts off all foreign demand for specie, and sends specie into the country, if needed. This, freeing the banks from all fear of a demand for specie to settle up foreign balances, and rendering it easy for them to obtain specie from abroad, if necessary, enables them to employ their capital in discounting freely to business men, even to speculators, and to throw out their paper to an almost unlimited extent. This expands, that is, depreciates the currency; prices rise; and the foreign manufacturer is able to come in over our own tariff, sell his goods at our enhanced prices, pay the duties, and pocket a profit. This, in turn, swells the revenue, which,if deposited in the banks, becomes the basis of additional discounts, which expand still more the currency, enhance prices still more, till the whole land [269] is flooded with foreign imports, which shall, as we have seen in our own case, notwithstanding our agricultural resources, extend even to corn, barley, oats, and potatoes; thus crushing not only our home manufactures,but the interests of every branch of industry but that of trade; and at length even that by destroying its very basis. This is no theory, it is fact; it is our own bitter experience as a people, from the terrible effects of which we are not yet recovered; and still we hold on to the policy,and the majority of the American people, even today, after all their experience,believe in the wisdom of continuing both systems!

But enough of this. We have heard so much said about the wisdom and intelligence of the people, that we perhaps are a little sore on the subject, and may therefore be disposed to exaggerate their folly and wickedness. But we have seen enough to satisfy us, that if we mean by democracy the form of government that rests for its wisdom and justice on the intelligence and virtue of the people alone, it is a great humbug.The facts we have brought forward prove it so; nay, more, that in destroying all guaranties, and in relying solely on the wisdom and virtue of the people,we are destroying the very condition of good government.

We may be told, as we doubtless shall be, by our democratic friends, that the errors we have pointed out, were not, and are not the errors of the people. Of whom then? “Of the people’s masters; of bankers,stock-jobbers, corporators, selfish politicians, &c.” And who are these? Are they not people? And how came they to be the people’s masters? And why do the people, if they are so wise and virtuous, submit to be controlled by them? We shall be told, and truly, that the principal measures or acts we have condemned, have been supported, not by the Democratic party, but by the Federalists and Whigs. But who pray are Federalists and Whigs? Are they not people just as much as are the Democrats? Is not what is done by them as much done by the people, as what is done by us? In speaking of the people we must include all parties, for we are as we have seen,in this country, all people, and the most numerous party is always the most popular. The American people are as responsible for what the Whigs do, as they are for what the Democrats do. So we cannot throw off from the people the responsibility of any of the systems of policy the government adopts, by saying it was adopted by this or that party. [270]

We of course shall not be understood in these remarks to intend any thing against the general wisdom and justice of the aims and measures of the Democratic party. As we understand its aims and measures, they are wise and patriotic, just and philanthropic. The Democratic party, at heart, is opposed to paper money, to a high protective tariff, to the growing system of corporate or associated wealth, and to a consolidated republic; and is in favor of the constitutional currency, free-trade, state rights, strict construction of the constitution, low taxes, an economical administration of the government, and the general melioration in the speediest manner possible of the moral, intellectual, and physical condition of the poorest and most numerous class. Taking this view of its aims and its measures,we must needs hold it to be the party of the country and of humanity. As such we are with it and of it, and no earthly power shall prevent us from laboring to advance it. But the doctrines which some of its members put forth on the foundation and authority of government, and which threaten to become popular in the party, nay, its leading doctrines, we own we do not embrace and cannot contemplate without lively apprehensions for the fate of liberty, civil and personal.

The great end with all men in their religious, their political,and their individual actions, is FREEDOM. The perfection of our nature is in being able “to look into the perfect law of liberty,” for liberty is only another name for power. The measure of my ability is always the exact measure of my freedom. The glory of humanity is in proportion to its freedom. Hence, humanity always applauds him who labors in right-down earnest to advance the cause of freedom. There is something intoxicating to every young and enthusiastic heart in this applause–always something intoxicating, too, in standing up for freedom, in opposing authority, in warring against fixed order, in throwing off the restraint of old and rigid customs, and enabling the soul and the body to develop themselves freely and in the natural proportions. Liberty is a soul-stirring word. It kindles all that is noble, generous, and heroic within us. Whoso speaks out for it can always be eloquent, and always sure of his audience.One loves so to speak if be be of a warm and generous temper, and we all love him who dares so to speak.

In consequence of this, we find our young men–brave spirits they are too–full of a deep, ardent love of liberty, and ready to do battle for her at all times, and against any [271] odds. They, in this, address themselves to what is strongest in our nature, and to what is noblest; and so doing become our masters, and carry us away with them. Here is the danger we apprehend. We fear no attacks on liberty but those made in the name of liberty; we fear no measures but such as shall be put forth and supported by those whose love of freedom, and whose impatience of restraint,are altogether superior to their practical wisdom. These substitute passion for judgment, enthusiasm for wisdom, and carry us away in a sort of divine madness whither we know not, and whither, in our cooler moments, we would not. It is in the name of liberty that Satan wars successfully against liberty.

We mean not here to say that we can have too much liberty, or that there is danger that any portion of our fellow-citizens will become too much in earnest for the advancement and security of liberty. What we fear is, on the one hand, the misinterpretation of liberty, and, on the other, the adoption of wrong or inadequate measures to establish or guaranty it. We fear that a large portion of the younger members of the Democratic party do misinterpret liberty. If they analyze their own minds, they will find that they are yet virtually understanding, liberty as we did when the great work to be done was to free the mass of the people from the dominion of kings and nobilities. They will find, we fear, that they have not thought,that in order to secure freedom any thing more was necessary, than to establish universal suffrage and eligibility, and to leave the people free to follow their own will, uncontrolled, unchecked. Hence, liberty with them is merely political. Where all are free to vote and to be voted for, there is all the freedom they contemplate.

Perhaps this is stated too positively. Perhaps it would be truer to say, that they do not see that any thing more is necessary,in order to render every man practically free; than the establishment of a perfectly democratic government. Where all the people take part in the government, are equally possessed of the right of suffrage and that of eligibility, and where the people are free to take any direction, at anytime, that the majority may determine, they suppose that there perfect freedom is as a matter of course. But this we have seen is not the fact,and cannot be the fact till the virtue and intelligence of the people are perfect, instead of being, as they now are, altogether imperfect, [272]and, in reference to what they should be, in order to render certain the end contemplated, as good as no virtue and intelligence at all. But ignorant of this fact, confiding in the virtue and intelligence of the people, feeling that all the obstacles liberty encounters are owing to the fact that the will of the people is not clearly and distinctly expressed, they labor to remove whatever tends in their judgment to restrain the action of the people, or the authoritative expression of the will of the majority. But when they have removed all these restraints, broken all barriers, and obtained all open field and fair play for the will of the people, what is thereto guaranty us the enjoyment of liberty?

This question leads us to the point to which all that we have thus far said has been directed. We solemnly protest against construing one word we have said into hostility to the largest freedom for all men;but we put it to our young friends, in sober earnest too, whether with them freedom is something positive; or whether they are in the habit of regarding it as merely negative? Do they not look upon liberty merely as freedom from certain restraints or obstacles, rather than as positive ability possessed by those who are free? They assume that we have the ability,the power, both individually and collectively,–when once the external restraints are taken off,–to be and to do all that is requisite for our highest individual and social weal. Is this assumption warrantable? Is man individually or socially sufficient for himself? Should not our politics,as well as our religion, teach us that it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps, and that he can work out his own salvation, only as a higher power, through grace, works in him to will and to do.

This bring[s] us back to the old question, Are the people competent to govern themselves? What we have said concerning the virtue and intelligence of the people, has been said for the express purpose of proving that they are not competent to govern themselves. We confess here to what we know in the eyes of our countrymen is a “damnable” political heresy, but, an’ they should burn us at the stake, we must tell them this notion of theirs about self-government is all moonshine; nay, a very Jack o’ Lantern, and can serve no better purpose, if followed, than to lead them from the high road, and plunge them in the mire or the swamp from which to extricate themselves will be no easy matter. The very word itself implies a contradiction. There is a government only where there is that which governs, and [273] that which is governed. In what is called self-government, the governor and the governed are one and the same, and therefore no government. That which governs is that which is governed; but how can the governor be the governed, or the governed the governor? We assure our readers, we are not playing on terms, nor quibbling about words. In this doctrine of self-government, the people as the governed,are absolutely indistinguishable from the people as governors. Tell us,then, in what consists the government? Tell us wherein this doctrine of self-government differs from no-government? But do we not need government?

“But you mistake the question. The question is not, Are the people competent to govern themselves? but, Are they able, of themselves, to institute and maintain wise and just civil government?” They who put the question in this form, admit that government is necessary; but they contend that the people, seeing this, will institute government, and voluntarily put a restraint on their own power. This is what we have done in this country. The people here are sovereign, but they have drawn up and ordained certain constitutions or fundamental laws, which limit their sovereignty and prescribe the mode in which it shall be exercised.

But who or what guaranties the constitution? In other words, assuming the constitution to be adopted, what is there back of the constitution that compels its observance, or prevents its violation? In short, what is the basis, the support of the constitution? A constitution,which is merely a written constitution, is only so much waste paper. There is always needed a power that shall make the written constitution the real,the living constitution of the people. Where in your democracy is this power? In the people unquestionably. “The people make the constitution,and they will have respect unto the work of their hands, and will therefore protect the constitution.” Admirable! The people voluntarily adopt a constitution,which constitution when adopted has no power to govern them, but what they voluntarily concede to it! Pray, wherein does this differ from no constitution at all? If the people are competent to frame the constitution and to maintain it, they are competent to govern themselves without the constitution, which we have already seen is not the fact. The constitution, if entrusted to the voluntary support of the people themselves, is worth nothing; for if the people will voluntarily abstain from doing what the constitution forbids,they would voluntarily [274] abstain from doing it even were there no constitution.The constitution in this case can give no additional security, for it gives nothing that we should not have without it.

What we insist on here is, that the constitution, if it emanate from the people, and rest for its support on their will, is absolutely indistinguishable from no constitution at all. What we want is something which shall govern. This, we are told, is the constitution. But the constitution, if it emanate from the people, and have no support but their will, is the people; and whatever power it may have, is after all only the power of the people. But it was the people, and not the people as individuals, but the people as the state, or body politic, that needed to be governed; and we have, even with the constitution, only the people with which to govern the people. They who tell us that the people will voluntarily impose and maintain the necessary restraints on their own will, do then by no means relieve us of our difficulties; for the will imposing the restraints,is identically the will to be restrained; and, therefore, they give us in the state but one will, and that will, since it imposes all restraints that are imposed, is really itself unrestrained. If the people are to be governed at all, there must be a power distinct from them and above them,sufficient to govern them. Now, can the people create this power? Will theyvoluntarily place a power above them, which can govern them;and therefore to which they must submit, whether they choose to submit or not? If so, we must cease, when they have so done, to talk of self-government,or of government by consent of the governed; for this power, whatever it be, wherever lodged must be, when constituted, distinct from the people and their sovereign. If the people have a sovereign, they cannot be themselves sovereign.

In all their speculations, they who differ from us, overlook the important fact that government is needed for the people as the state,as well as for the people as individuals. They assume, consciously or unconsciously, that the people, as the body politic, need no governing, and that, so viewed, they have in themselves a sort of inherent wisdom and virtue, which will lead them always to will and ordain what is wise and just, and only what is wise and just. They therefore seek government,not for the people as the body politic, but for the people as individuals.That is to say, they [275] seek not to restrain the power of the sovereign,but are willing to leave it absolute. Hence they proclaim the absolute sovereignty of the people, never ceasing to repeat, in season and out of season, that all legitimate power emanates from the people, and that the chief glory of the statesman is to find out and conform to the will of the people. We do not err in declaring that this is that theory of democracy which is becoming the dominant theory of all parties in the country. But,when we have reduced this theory to practice, when we have made the people supreme in the sense, and to the extent here implied, where is the practical guaranty for freedom? On what can we rely to protect our rights as men? Nay, what are we all in this case, as individuals, but the veriest slaves of the body politic? We have talked of certain inalienable rights, that is, rights which we possess by virtue of the fact that we are men, which we cannot ourselves surrender up, and which cannot be taken from us; but what is the use of talking about rights when we have no power to maintain them? My rights are worth nothing beyond my might to assert and maintain them against whosoever or whatsoever would usurp them.

Democracy is construed with us to mean the sovereignty of the people as the body politic; and the sovereignty of the people again is so construed that it becomes almost impossible to draw any line of distinction between the action of the people legally organized as the state, and the action of the people as a mob. The people in a legal or political sense, properly speaking, have no existence, no entity, therefore no rights,no sovereignty, save when organized into the body politic; and then their action is legitimate only when done through the forms which the body itself has prescribed. Yet we have seen it contended, and to an alarming extent,that the people, even outside and independent of the organism, exist as much as in it, and are as sovereign; and that a majority–aye, a bare majority counted by themselves–of the inhabitants of any given territory, have the right, if dissatisfied with the existing organism, to come together,informally, without any reference to existing authorities, and institute a new form of government, which shall legitimately supersede the old, and to which all the inhabitants of the territory shall owe allegiance!Admit this doctrine, and we ask our friends who have, we must believe,hastily and without reflection adopted it, what distinction they would make between the people and the mob? [276]

Let us look at this doctrine of popular sovereignty for a moment. We say, for instance, if the people of Massachusetts do not like their present form of government, they may make such alterations, acting through the existing forms, as they choose. These alterations, wise or unwise, would be legal, and binding upon the citizen. But suppose a number of individuals, dissatisfied with the existing provisions of the constitution,should call a meeting of individuals, who should frame a new constitution,send it out, and indeed obtain for it a majority of the votes in what is now the state of Massachusetts; this new constitution, according to the doctrine we are considering, would be the supreme law of the land. Be it so. But why restrict this to a majority of the inhabitants of the state?The men who are forming the new constitution must, of course, assume the nullity of the old, at least so far as their action is concerned, and also so far as it concerns the adoption of the new constitution. Assume the nullity of the constitution, and where would be Massachusetts? There would be, in a political sense, no Massachusetts at all. Why, then, cannot the new doctrine be applied to a section as well as to the whole territory?Why may not the majority of the inhabitants of what is now a county, a town, or a school district, if they choose, set up the same theory, and form and enforce a constitution for themselves? Outside of the existing organism there is no state, county, town, or school district, for these are all creations of the existing organism. Then we see not what there is to prevent the application of the doctrine to themselves by any number of individuals who choose. Nay, what is there to prevent its adoption by single individuals, and to make it not absurd for an individual to say to the state, “I disown you; I am my own state; I ask nothing of you, and I will concede you nothing. I am a man; I am my own sovereign, and you have no authority over me but by my consent. That consent I have never given; or if I have heretofore given it, I now withdraw it. You have, then,no right over me, and if you attempt to control me you are a tyrant.” This is no fancy sketch. This language we have actually heard used in sober earnest by one who knew very well what he was saying, and who so strongly believed in what he was saving, that he has chosen himself to be put in gaol rather than to acknowledge the authority of the state by paying a tax. Once proclaim the absolute sovereignty of the people, acting without[277] reference, to political organisms, that is, as a mass of individuals,or once proclaim, as the governor of New Hampshire does in his letter to the governor, or acting governor of Rhode Island, that the people are”sovereigns,” that is, making, each individual a sovereign, and you can exercise through the state no authority over any man, not even to punish him for the greatest social offence, without his consent. Your collector goes with his tax bill, the individual rightly exclaims, “Away, I know you not.” A family is living in open violation of the laws of God, you send your police to arrest them; they have a right to answer, “We are sovereign;we do not acknowledge our obligation to obey your sovereign; we are not accountable to your laws; we have formed our own constitution, and make our own laws; we hold to self-government.” The good sense of all parties, of course, would arrest the application of the doctrine long before it could come to this extent; but to this extent the doctrine we combat may be legitimately carried and in this fact we may and ought to see its radical unsoundness.

For ourselves, we object to the definition of democracy, which makes it consist in the sovereignty of the people. The sovereignty of the people, in the sense commonly contended for, we own we do not admit.The people, as an aggregate of individuals, are not sovereign, and the only sense in which they are sovereign at all, is when organized into a state, or body politic, and acting through its forms. No action of the inhabitants of a given territory, even if it include ninety-nine out of a hundred of all the individuals, is done by the PEOPLE, unless done in and through the forms prescribed by the political organism; and all action done in opposition to that organism, no matter how many are engaged in it, is the action of the mob, disorderly, illegal, and to a greater or less degree criminal, treasonable in fact, and as such legitimately punishable.

We do not wish to be too severe on the advocates of the doctrine we oppose. It has been with most of them only a momentary error, and which, though pelting us unmercifully for exposing it, they will quietly abandon, and without confessing it, feel shame for ever having advocated. Confident of this, we give them leave to say all the hard things of us they please; for we acknowledge that for a moment we too fell into the same error. Our sympathy with the end which we saw a portion of our friends struggling [278] to gain, and by means which were justifiable only on the doctrine in question, blinded us for a time, as we presume it has others,to the real character of the doctrine itself. Let this confession suffice for us and for our brethren. They of course will not accede to it, but we venture to predict, that, as the excitement of the struggle to which we have alluded subsides, and matters reassume their orderly and peaceful course, there will be found few so bold as to reiterate the doctrine.

But the fact that this doctrine has been put forth, in sober earnest, by men in high places as well as by men in low places, is itself an argument in our favor, and goes to prove that the people are not to be relied on so implicitly as some of our democratic friends pretend.The case we have had in mind, strikingly illustrates the sort of danger to which, under a democracy, interpreted to mean the absolute sovereignty of the people, we are peculiarly and at all times exposed. The ends the people seek to gain, are, we willingly admit, for the most part just and desirable; but the justice and desirableness of the end, almost always blind them to the true character and tendency of the means by which they seek to gain it. They become intent on the end, so intent as to be worked up to a passion for it,–for the people never act but in a passion,–and then in going to it, they break down every thing which obstructs or hinders their progress. Now, what they break down, though in the way of gaining that particular end, may after all be our only guaranty of other ends altogether more valuable. Here is the danger. What more desirable than personal freedom? What more noble than to strike off the fetters of the slave? Aye, but if, in striking off his fetters, you trample on the constitution and laws, which are your only guaranty of freedom for those who are now free, and also for those you propose to make free, what do you gain to freedom? Great wrong may be done in seeking even a good end, if we look not well to the means we adopt. Philanthropy itself not unfrequently is so intent on the end, that in going to it, it tramples down more rights than it vindicates by success. We own, therefore, that the older we grow, and the longer we study in that school, the only one in which fools will learn, the more danger do we see in popular passions, and the less is our confidence in the wisdom and virtue of the people.

“But what is our resource against all these evils? What [279] remedy do you propose?” These are fair questions, but we do not propose to answer them now. We may hereafter undertake to do it, and what we shall have to say will be arranged under the heads of the constitution, the church, and individual statesmen. Without an efficient constitution, which is not only an instrument through which the people govern, but which is a power that governs them, by effectually confining their action to certain specific subjects, there is and can be no good government, no individual liberty. Without the influence of wise and patriotic statesmen, whose importance,in our adulation of the people as a mass, we have underrated, and without the Christian church exerting the hallowed and hallowing influences of Christianity upon the people both as individuals and as the body politic,we see little hope, even with the best constitution, of securing the blessings of freedom and good government. But these are matters into the discussion of which we cannot now enter. Our purpose in this article has been to draw the attention of our political friends to certain heresies of doctrine which are springing up amongst us, and enlisting quite too much sympathy,and which we believe pregnant with mischief.

Democracy, in our judgment, has been wrongly defined to be a form of government; it should be understood of the end, rather than of the means, and be regarded as a principle rather than a form. The end we are to aim at, is the freedom and progress of all men, especially of the poorest and most numerous class. He is a democrat who goes for the highest moral, intellectual, and physical elevation of the great mass of the people, especially of the laboring population, indistinction from a special devotion to the interests and pleasures of the wealthier, more refined, or more distinguished few. But the means by which this elevation is to be obtained, are not necessarily the institution of the purely democratic form of government. Here has been our mistake. We have been quite too ready to conclude that if we only once succeed in establishing democracy,–universal suffrage and eligibility, without constitutional restraints on the power of the people,–as a form of government, the end will follow as a matter of course. The considerations we have adduced,we think prove to the contrary.

In coming to this conclusion, it will be seen that we differ from our friends not in regard to the end, but in regard to [280]the means. We believe, and this is the point on which we insist, that the end, freedom and progress, will not be secured by this loose radicalism with regard to popular sovereignty, and these demagogical boasts of the virtue and intelligence of the people, which have begun to be so fashionable.They who are seeking to advance the cause of humanity by warring against all existing institutions, religions, civil, or political, do seem to us to be warring against the very end they wish to gain.

It has been said, that mankind are always divided into two parties, one of which may be called the, stationary party, the other the movement party, or party of progress. Perhaps it is so; if so, all of us who have any just conceptions of our manhood, and of our duty to our fellow men, must arrange ourselves on the side of the movement. But the movement itself is divided into two sections,–one the radical section,seeking progress by destruction; the other the conservative section, seeking progress through and in obedience to existing institutions. Without asking whether the rule applies beyond our own country, we contend that the conservative section is the only one that a wise man can call his own. In youth we feel differently. We find evil around us; we are in a dungeon; loaded all over with chains; we cannot make a single free movement; and we utter one long,loud, indignant protest against whatever is. We feel then that we can advance religion only by destroying the church; learning only by breaking down the universities; and freedom only by abolishing the state. Well, this is one method of progress; but, we ask, has it ever been known to be successful?Suppose that we succeed in demolishing the old edifice, in sweeping away all that the human race has been accumulating for the last six thousand years, what have we gained? Why, we are back where we were six thousand years ago; and without any assurance that the human race will not reassume its old course and rebuild what we have destroyed.

As we grow older, sadder, and wiser, and pass from idealists to realists, we change all this, and learn that the only true way of carrying the race forward is through its existing institutions. We plant ourselves, if on the sad, still on the firm reality of things, and content ourselves with gaining what can be gained with the means existing institutions furnish. We seek to advance religion through and [281] in obedience to the church; law and social well-being through and in obedience to the state. Let it not be said that in adopting this last course, we change sides, leave the movement, and go over to the stationary party. No such thing. We do not thus in age forget the dreams of our youth. It is because we remember those dreams, because young enthusiasm has become firm and settled principle,and youthful hopes positive convictions, and because we would realize what we dared dream, when we first looked forth on the face of humanity, that we cease to exclaim “Liberty against Order,” and substitute the practical formula, “LIBERTY ONLY IN AND THROUGH ORDER.” The love of liberty loses none of its intensity. In the true manly heart it burns deeper and clearer with age, but it burns to enlighten and to warm, not to consume.

Here is the practical lesson we have sought to unfold. While we accept the end our democratic friends seek, while we feel our lot is bound up with theirs, we have wished to impress upon their minds,that we are to gain that end only through fixed and established order; not against authority, but by and in obedience to authority, and an authority competent to ordain and to guaranty it. Liberty without the guaranties of authority, would be the worst of tyrannies.


Featured: Orestes Augustus Brownson, by George Peter Alexander Healy; painted in 1863.

On Eating Insects, or Disgusting Globalization

For some time now, the EU has been pushing for Europeans to willingly accept larvae and insects, worms and flies in their diet—the gastronomically correct single dish, a variant of the politically correct single thought. This is a decisive moment in the deconstruction of European identities, starting from the table.

It can be affirmed that the entomophagic gesture is not only not part of the table traditions of the European peoples, but has historically almost always been the object of social repugnance. The reasons must be identified in the symbolic sphere. To tell the truth, from a purely material point of view, there are no reasons that prevent eating insects, larvae or crickets. In a “technical” sense, they are perfectly “edible.”

In terms of nutritional properties, for example, insect meat, which is very rich in micronutrients (protein, vitamins, minerals and amino acids), is equivalent to red meat and poultry. And, as Harris reminds us in Good to Eat (2011), one hundred grams of African termites contain 610 calories, 38 grams of protein and 46 grams of fat. Furthermore, Franz Bodenheimer, in his study Insects as Human Food (1950), documented the existence of human “insectivores” on all major continents.

Even in terms of environmental impact, the reasons for eating insects would be “acceptable”: the “feed conversion ratio,” which establishes how many kilograms of feed are needed to produce 1 kilo of meat, is 10:1 for cattle, while for insects it is 1:1. Therefore, from ecological parameters, the advantage would be appreciable.

The same objection according to which insects, being covered by a hard substance, chitin, could be difficult for man to digest, would not be convincing: for the same reason one should not eat shrimps or some other shellfish. Even the argument that insects should not be eaten because they could transmit diseases falls apart easily, if one considers that, without proper care, also sheep, pigs, cattle and chickens can transmit them, and that, above all, through cooking and proper “cooking” (roasting, frying, baking, etc.) the problem can be solved in one case as well as in the others. In short, as paradoxical as it may seem, insects are not “dirtier” or more “infectious” than many of the animals we usually eat.

Why, then, has there always existed in Europe a deep-rooted suspicion, usually deriving in repugnance, towards entomophagy? Harris’s materialism in his Good to Eat (Op. cit.) and, in particular, his theory of “residual utility” may provide a possible hermeneutical key. In his view, it does not seem appropriate to eat those animals that are most useful when alive. This is the case, for example, of the cow in India. But also the dog of Westerners, used to carry out functions of companionship and vigilance. However, animals that are counterproductive to raise, such as the pig for Jews and Muslims, are not eaten either. If the animal not consumed does not even produce utility, then it becomes an “abomination” (as we have just said, this is the case with the pig for Jews and Muslims, unlike the cow for Indians, which, on the contrary, is considered “sacred” for its utility).

Following Harris’s reasoning, entomophagy is not among the tastes of Europeans because the advantage to be gained from the capture and preparation of insects is decidedly limited compared to that of large mammals or fish. In accordance with his theory of the “maximum profitability of food research,” Harris explains that hunters or gatherers were only interested in species that allowed them to obtain the maximum caloric return in relation to the time spent foraging. For this reason, in the tropical forest, where few large animals are found, entomophagy is profitable, in contrast to what historically occurs in Europe, where goats and sheep, pigs and poultry, fish and cows abound.

This would be another reason—Harris concludes—why entomophagy is alien to the customs rooted in the history of the Old Continent. It should be added that, not being part of European food consumption habits, insects and larvae become strictly useless and also cause harmful effects: they destroy crops (think of locusts, traditionally understood as “divine punishment”), eat our food, sting us, bite and prick. And this tidy sum of causes brings as a consequence that, even, they come to be perceived as more “abominable” than the pig can be for Muslims and Jews. In the syntax of Lévi-Strauss, they are not “good for thinking” and, moreover, only generate bad thoughts.

So why does the EU insist on making us eat something that is outside our culture, using insistent advertising campaigns and such tenacious propaganda?

We propose two interpretations, reciprocally innervated. On the one hand, there is the Social Question: from the point of view of the dominant groups (the turbo-capitalist power elite), worms and larvae, crickets and insects of various kinds could guarantee the possibility of having food at low cost for the increasingly precarious masses, offering them this resource, however fragile, to alleviate hunger. And this, for the neoliberal oligarchic bloc, from a paternalistic perspective, could prove to be of vital importance, in order to contain the explosion of conflicts and antagonisms difficult to tame that would derive from new and possible waves of hunger in the pole of the losers (hunger, as we know, is historically the first vector of insurrections).

On the other hand, there is the Identity Question: the spread of entomophagy, directed from above and ingeniously presented as a fashion spontaneously generated from below, seems to represent the non plus ultra of the processes of disidentification at the table and, if you will, also the fundamental moment of the dynamics of that deconstruction of identities and cultures, of traditions and tastes that is functional to the unlimited expansion of the commodity form and its expressive functions. The memory of the macabre coprophagous banquet staged in Pasolini’s Saló (1975) is once again prophetically instructive.

The disidentification of gastronomy strongly contributes to the more general disidentification of man in the time of his technical reproducibility, which I have dealt with extensively in Difendere chi siamo. Le ragioni dell’identità italiana (Ed. 2020).

Capitalist production gradually deprives local communities of their crop varieties, which are the result of their own intelligence developed over time to solve the problem of hunger, and replaces them with varieties dictated by the market order. It thus deconstructs food sovereignty and imposes forms of consumption that promote the industrialization of agriculture, instead of the protection of local producers and biodiversity, of traditions and typical products. The result is an accelerated degradation of the environment, a planetary homologation, a barbarization of public life, an increasingly marked asymmetry in the access to resources between the Center and the Periphery of the world.

The topic was pioneered by Jack Goody in his Cooking, Cuisine and Class (2017), where he devotes ample space to the epochal change implemented on food production after the Industrial Revolution. The genesis of an “industrial cuisine” has produced an irreversible impact on the culinary style at a global level: the progressive mechanization of production processes and the continuous technological development—explains Goody—have determined a homologation of the food diet, which has initially focused only on the West, to then proceed to run across, in cascade, the rest of the planet.

In this sense, “food de-sovereignization” does not only mean the cosmopolitization of food production and consumption, more and more detached from territories and nations, identities and cultures; it also alludes to the growing subtraction of control over food and its production from local communities and peoples.

This contributes to the loss of the relational and communal function of food and gastronomy, which is redefined as a succession of mere unstable forms for perennially isolated individuals in perpetual movement. And, at the same time, the cultural and symbolic value of the different dishes is annihilated in the name of their purely nutritional character.

“Modern man,” wrote Heidegger, “no longer needs any symbol (Sinnbild),” since everything is reabsorbed in the power of production as the only source of meaning (hence the theologomenon “the market demands it of us”). The level of enticity survives only as a background of production and traffic and, for this very reason, “all possibility and all need for a symbol disappears.” The pantoclastic fanaticism of the freemarket economy accepts no symbols other than the icons of merchandise, of gadgets and, in general, of any tautological reference to the entropic order of the civilization of markets.

From this derives the gray monotony of the indistinct, which is presented as a consumerist homologation of identities and, in turn, as the planetary triumph of the single thought as the only admitted thought. The different, who does not accept to disidentify himself and become homogeneous to the other of himself, is declared sic et simpliciter illegitimate and dangerous, violent and terrorist.

This is the essential characteristic of technocapitalism as coercion to the equal. In Heidegger’s words, “the im-posed (Gestell) puts everything with a view to the equal (das Gleiche) of the orderable, so that it constantly re-presents itself in the same way in the Equal of orderability.” In this sense, das Gleiche, “the equal” or, better still, “the homologated,” is the uniform, the disidentified, the quantitative indistinct which, serially substitutable, figures as the only profile admitted by the unlimitedly self-empowered will to power. By virtue of the processes of technocapitalist “uprooting” (Entwurzelung) and planetary homologation, everything becomes serially indistinct and usable: nothing is itself anymore, when everything is interchangeable in the form of the universal equivalent proper to alienation without borders.

Liberal-globalist nihilism first neutralizes cultures and identities (the moment of Disidentification). Then, once they have lost the capacity to resist through neutralization, it includes the disidentified in the model of global market homologation: and redefines them according to consumer micro-identities, produced ad hoc to be functional to the New World Order (moment of homologated Re-identification). This is what I have called “Neutralizing Inclusion.”

From this derives the image of the current tribe of the last men, confined in the borderless techno-space of the cosmopolis in integral reification: a single uprooted multitude, a single vision of the world, a single deculturalized culture, a single forward-looking perspective, a single falsely plural mass monologue. And, therefore, a single uniform and alienated way of eating. And also repugnant. To paraphrase Chairman Mao, Globalization is not “a gala dinner,” either.

Diego Fusaro is professor of the History of Philosophy at the IASSP in Milan (Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies) where he is also scientific director. He is a scholar of the Philosophy of History, specializing in the thought of Fichte, Hegel, and Marx. His interest is oriented towards German idealism, its precursors (Spinoza) and its followers (Marx), with a particular emphasis on Italian thought (Gramsci or Gentile, among others). he is the author of many books, including Fichte and the Vocation of the IntellectualThe Place of Possibility: Toward a New Philosophy of Praxis, and Marx, again!: The Spectre Returns. This article appears courtesy of Posmodernia.

Featured: Grangers vs Hoppers, cartoon by Henry Worrall, ca. 1874-1875.

Providential Divine Right and Doctrine of the Bourgeois State

It is traditional in the doctrine of French law, of a state formed by eight centuries of monarchy, to begin the treatment of public powers from the theological justification of power itself. This is followed by the exposition of the theory of divine right and the distinction between “doctrine du droit divin surnaturel” and “doctrine du droit divin providential,” attributing the affirmation of the former to the Kings of France (Barthélemy – Duez) and particularly to Louis XIV and Louis XV, or Bossuet (Hauriou); while for the latter the attribution is concordant to de Maistre and de Bonald. The distinction between the two conceptions is set forth as follows by Hauriou:

“Theological doctrine had two successive forms in France: 1) The doctrine of supernatural divine right (Bossuet), which consists in maintaining that God Himself chooses rulers and invests them with their powers: this conception is compatible only with absolute monarchy; 2) The doctrine of divine providential law (de Maistre and de Bonald), according to which power, in its fundamental principle is part of the providential order of the world, but is at the disposal of the rulers through human means; this doctrine equally adequately allows for both the justification of minority power, exercised by an elite, and majority power, exercised by the majority of the people (vox populi vox Dei).”

Hauriou goes on to point out the advantages of this second theory: 1) to signify that the instinct of power is in human nature, and in that sense, pre-social; 2) to place the origin of power above both the social collectivity, the right of the rulers, and anyone: that is, to lead to no absolutism; it is most conducive to freedom; 3) coming from God, power is by nature oriented toward reason, justice and the common good.

Most importantly, as becomes evident from the systematic context of these considerations, it allows for reconnecting pouvoir de fait and pouvoir de droit, that is, for “opening” law to the changes of history. In a more specific sense, to ground constituent (human) power above the constitution itself. Barthélemy and Duez argue, likewise, that the doctrine of divine providential law is not necessarily aristocratic or monarchical, because any man or class can be chosen by Providence to execute its designs: thus it is not contrary to democracy. Both Barthélemy and Carré de Malberg regard the doctrine of divine providential right as already formulated by St. Thomas and followed by most Catholic theologians.

This conception, however, is not considered by all jurists to be an “antecedent” to modern democracy. Jellinek, in writing about modern democracy—and republics—traces them back to Reformation conceptions, particularly Calvinist. Otto von Gierke believes that it was “the Reformation that revived theocratic thought with new energy. Through all the differences in their conceptions, Luther, Melanchthon, Zwingli and Calvin agreed in insisting on the Christian function and thus the divine right of rulers. Indeed, since on the one hand they more or less decisively subject the dominion of the Church to the state and on the other hand they legitimize the existence of the state on the basis of the fulfillment of its religious duties, they give St. Paul’s principle omnis potestas a Deo a hitherto unknown scope.”

However, von Gierke does not neglect the doctrine of Second Scholasticism, and writes that the most ardent opponents of the Reformation, “particularly the Dominicans and the Jesuits wielded all their spiritual weapons in favor of a purely temporal construction of the State and the right of sovereignty” (also to support the thesis of potestas indirecta implying a limited subordination of the State to the Church).” Leaving out of account, however, the relations with the Church, they actually developed a doctrine of the state devoid of any dogmatic presuppositions, on purely philosophical foundations: This is true not only of the authentic monarchians of this group: Even the leading theorists of this tendency agree that the state union has its roots in natural law, that by virtue of this it is incumbent on the associated collectivity to have sovereignty over its members, and that all rights of the rulers come from the will of the collectivity to which natural law attributes the faculty and obligation to transmit its powers.”

Carl Schmitt argues: “According to the medieval conception, only God has a potestas constituens, as far as this can be spoken of—the phrase, “all power (or authority) comes from God” (“Non est enim potestas nisi a Deo,” Rom. 13:1) means the constituent power of God. The political literature of the Reformation era also adheres to this, especially the theory of the Calvinist monarcomacs,” and continues that with Sieyés’ doctrine of pouvoir constituant; it is the nation that is the subject of constituent power; despite the development of absolutism in the 17th century, the absolute prince is not yet defined as the subject of constituent power, but only because the idea of a free total decision, made by men, on the form and species of their political existence very slowly could develop into political action: The consequences of theological-Christian conceptions of God’s constituent power in the 18th century, despite the Enlightenment, were still too strong and vital.”

It remains to be seen to what extent the theory of pouvoir constituent—and by extension, of national sovereignty—is the result not only of the Enlightenment, the conceptions of Rousseau and the Jacobins, but of Christian political theology and more specifically, of the theory of divine “providential” law.

That Sieyés’s conception was the secularization of political theology, with the Almighty Nation in place of the Almighty God is clear; it is less so whether such a conception was tributary to the reflections of seventeenth-century philosophers—particularly Hobbes and Spinoza (and, later, Rousseau)—or to Catholic and Reformed theology, particularly of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, or to jurists who were theorists of natural law. Indeed, the connotations of such a conception, which serve to distinguish it, are, in addition to those indicated by Hauriou, others, present in the thought of the revolutionary abbot.

Sieyés argues that the “Nation exists before everything; it is the origin of everything: its will always conforms to the law; it is the law itself: Before it and above it there is only natural law” and continues, “In every part of it, the Constitution is not the work of the constituted power, but of the constituent power: No kind of delegated power can change anything about the conditions of its own delegation. It is in this sense and in no other that constitutional laws are fundamental. The former, those constitutive of legislative power, are founded by the national will before any Constitution. They form its first step.” He repeatedly insists on the concept of will, “which is outside all form,” and that “a Nation can neither alienate nor interdict to itself the faculty of will; and whatever its will may be, it cannot lose the right to change it should its interest demand it;” thus, “When even it is granted it, a Nation must not bury itself in the fetters of a positive form: It would be tantamount to risking the irrevocable loss of its freedom, for it would only take a single occasion favorable to tyranny, to bind the people, under the pretext of the Constitution, to a form that would prevent them from freely expressing their will, and thus freeing themselves from the shackles of despotism.” It is clear that in this way, the community’s “right” to give itself the institutional form it prefers without the morphopoietic will of the Nation being subject to any legal constraint is founded.

In effect, such a conception of Sieyés means that there is no right to the power of anyone by divine investiture, but only the potestas of the community to give itself the form it prefers: the shaping of the form, and thus the right and choice of who exercises power is left to human will and work. To some extent, it “updates” the thinking of Christian theology, and Thomist theology in particular, on tyranny, based on the principle that “tota respublica superior est rege.”

Similarly, in Sieyés, the human tendency to associate is natural: man is a political animal, as Christian theology has always repeated, so he is naturally inclined to associate the political instinct—of order and power—is therefore natural and, even, pre-social, as Hauriou argues. And theologians in various ways have argued both the character of natural law and the reasonableness of the aggregation of men in society; mostly explaining it by human weakness, man not having natural weapons such as fangs, claws and having to defend himself from beasts, as well as from other men; hence the need to constitute a common power and enforce the law. Not unlike the representations of the theologians is what Sieyés wrote: “There is, in truth, a great inequality of means among men. Nature creates them strong or weak; to some it grants intelligence, while to others it rejects it. It follows that there will be among them inequality of labor, inequality of results, inequality of consumption or enjoyment; but it does not follow that there can be inequality of rights,” whereby “the right of the weak over the strong is the same as that of the strong over the weak. When the strong succeeds in oppressing the weak, it produces an effect without producing an obligation. Far from imposing a new duty on the weak, it revives in them the natural and imperishable duty to resist the oppressor,” and “So a society founded on mutual utility is in harmony with the natural means offered to man to achieve his end; in this sense this union is a good, and not a sacrifice, and the social order becomes an extension, a complement of the natural order.” Association in society is reasonable because the welfare state does not tend to degrade, to demean men, but, on the contrary, to ennoble them, to perfect them.

Thus “society does not weaken, does not reduce the particular means which each individual brings to the association for his personal benefit; on the contrary, it increases them; it multiplies them, by developing moral and physical faculties; it increases them still through the fundamental concurrence of labor and public relief,” and, “Man, by entering society, does not therefore sacrifice a part of his freedom: even when there was no social bond, no one had the right to harm another.” And, “Far from limiting individual freedom, the welfare state amplifies and secures its enjoyment; it removes a multitude of obstacles and dangers to which it was exposed, when it was secured solely by private force, and entrusts it to the omnipotent control of the whole association. Thus, since in the social state man increases his moral and physical means, while at the same time removing himself from the restlessness that accompanies their use, it is not erroneous to say that freedom is completer and more absolute in the social order than it can be in the so-called state of nature.” Contrary to Rousseau’s assertion, therefore, the judgment on the welfare state is positive, as Christian theology has always maintained. There is nothing of the heartfelt beginning of the Contrat social: “Man was born free and is everywhere in chains,” nor of Rousseau’s explanation of the welfare state in the Discours sur l’origine de l’inégalité parmi les hommes, as a solution that favors the richest, who secure with public power their positions.

Bossuet explains the well-known passage from St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans as follows: princes act as God’s ministers and His lieutenants on earth; their throne is not that of a man, but that of God Himself; the person of the king is sacred, even if he is not Christian like Cyrus , because he always represents the Divine majesty. Authority is in the image of God: the prince is the material image of (God’s) immortal authority. In the prince, man may die but authority never dies; the only principle that can ensure the stability of states is that every subject must respect the exercise of public powers and judgments. On the other hand, according to Bossuet only to the prince belongs the power to command legitimately and to him alone the exercise of coercion. If this were not so, the state (the community) would fall back into anarchy; from which it emerged precisely because it constituted (became) a people under a sovereign.

Indeed, as can be seen, the conception of the pouvoir constituant bears a close affinity with the conception of divine providential law with which it shares the main points of contact: That then the theory is itself, as mentioned, the secularization of Christian theology, with the Nation being given the connotations of God is even more evident: the absence of (legal) limits—the omnipotence of the will of the nation; its ability to “create” order, bestowing by the constitution on the one hand an order (a form) that “surpasses” chaos, and on the other hand the very capacity for political action (and existence); the resolution of the distinction/antithesis between being and ought-to-be.

But it is no less true that, in his defense of the “goodness” of the association of men, Sieyés took up what Christian theology has always maintained: in fact, already St. Augustine linked order, peace, and civitas, emphasizing the concord, which, in “temporal” things there was between the earthly city and the heavenly city. On the other hand, the conception of divine providential law was expounded in other respects, more articulated than those mentioned so far, by St. Robert Bellarmine. The latter, in also refuting the theses of the Anabaptists, adduces five proofs, three of them “logical” (deductive-rational) and two “historical.” Of particular interest is the distinction between authority (willed by God is therefore good in itself, being part of the order of creation) and those who exercise it, namely the ruler (who, as a human being is always subject to sin and error): “To what the Anabaptists say to the contrary, I affirm first of all that it is not true that kings and princes are generally evil: for we are not dealing here with a particular state, but with political power in general; and in this sense, Abraham was king and prince also.” He continues: “the examples of evil kings do not prove that political power is evil in itself; for bad people often make use of good things; but the examples of good kings prove that political power is good, because good people do not make use of bad things. Further, bad princes are often of more benefit than harm, as was the case with Saul, Solomon and others. Besides, it is even more useful for a state to have a bad prince than to have none; for where there is none, the state cannot preserve itself for long: Solomon himself said so (Prov. 11:14): “Where there is no governor, the people shall fall: but there is safety where there is much counsel.” Better a bad ruler than the anarchy of non-government.

On political power: “In this regard, however, some observations are to be made. The first is this: political power in general, i.e., not considered in its particular forms of monarchy, aristocracy or democracy, comes immediately from God alone, since it is a necessary consequence of the nature of man;” and originally resides in the multitude: “For since this power is of divine right, this right did not give power to any particular man; it therefore gave it to the whole multitude.” And, “natural law itself transfers political power from the multitude to one or more individuals. For the multitude cannot exercise this power itself, and therefore it is obliged to transfer it to one or a few individuals. Therefore, the power of princes, considered in general, is itself of natural and divine right, and mankind, even if all men agreed in this, could not establish the contrary, that is, that there were no princes and leaders.” However, “the particular forms of political regime are ‘de jure gentium‘ and not of natural law, since it is clear that it depends on the free will of the multitude to determine that it governs a king or some consuls or other magistrates; and, if there is a legitimate cause, the multitude can change a monarchical regime into an aristocratic or democratic one and vice versa, as we know happened in Rome.” The conclusion is “from what has been said it follows that political power, considered in particular, certainly comes from God, by means, however, of human deliberation and election, like everything “de jure gentium.”

This “jus gentium” is like a consequence deduced from natural law through human intervention. Clear in such theses of Bellarmine are the presuppositions of as many of the cornerstones of modern political and constitutionalist thought; the distinction between authority (good and necessary because it is ordained by God) and those who exercise it (human and therefore sinful, like those who are governed). This is the foundation of the conception developed in the bourgeois state whereby, precisely because rulers are not angels, checks are needed on them, as written in the Federalist Papers. Which led to the exceptional increase in the organization of liberal democracies, of the legal (and political) system of “brakes and counterweights;” and, likewise, to the impossibility of legal controls over the ruler (subject only to limitations of an ethical, religious and ontological nature i.e., of “natural law” not positive law, in any case not susceptible to coercion). This confirms at once the necessity of political power (by divine right) and the accidentality of the forms in which it is ordered and the subjects chosen to exercise it. It reaffirms the distinction between “ownership” of political power to the whole multitude, obliged to transfer it to one or more, by “natural right” (i.e., by objective necessity) and thus affirms the necessary character of representation; while the forms in which it is organized, which are not of natural right (see above) depend on the free will of the multitude, which can always change them precisely because they are not of natural right but de jure gentium. And it can all be done by decision (by an “act”) which also anticipates the conception of modern constitutionalism that sees the constitution (mostly) as deliberation of the constituent power.

The latter theses have also transited into law and, even more, into the (political and) legal doctrine of the liberal democratic state. To recall one, the most important—in the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, Article 3 thus proclaims “Le principe de toute souveraineté réside essentiellement dans la nation. Nul corps, nul individu, ne peut exercer d’autorité qui n’en émane expressément.” This statement in which the “multitude” is replaced by the Nation, always contrasted with the pouvoirs constituées, was repeated in similar forms in all subsequent French constitutions (except, of course, in that of 1814).

Hauriou argues that law does not escape the rule that, behind every physics, there is a metaphysics. Which normally does not manifest itself; rather it is carefully concealed by a layer of law, and so it remains, if one stops at the appearance (as is normal in a normal situation, that is, almost always). But “when the legal covering fails, as in de facto power, one falls back to the metaphysical or theological background.” Which happens when a radical revolutionary change is produced. For modern France this has been repeated—Hauriou wrote in 1929—at least four times since the revolution of 1789. De facto power tends to become—and mostly succeeds in doing so—a power of law: but to do this a law is completely unnecessary: “Un gouvernement provisoire n’a jamais fait voter une loi pour déclarer qu’il devenait légitime.” In such affairs, the régle de droit finds no use; indeed much of the law created by such governments, even if not ratified, is often validated by jurisprudence: this is because, Hauriou writes, government is necessary, a de facto government is better than no government, and power is a natural thing and of divine origin. He concludes, “Tel est l’enseignement de la morale théologique; tel est celui de la sagesse et telle est la pratique.”

One wonders why the conception of divine providential law is so conspicuously present in the theory of law and the bourgeois state. The answers could be several and competing: that indeed modern philosophy, especially that of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries is largely tributary to the natural law and theology of Second Scholasticism, and that through this “secularization” it came to the French constituents and thence to European constitutionalism; or because it was a Catholic nation such as France that made the revolution, and in it there had great importance a priest such as Abbé Sieyès, educated by the Jesuits. But the argument that seems most important—and preferable—is that such a conception, as Hauriou has well seen, allows the relationship between fact and law, being and ought-to-be, power and order, transformation and preservation, freedom and necessity, to be explained in a manner that is both realistic and rational. In fact, the different conception of supernatural divine law carries in itself defects similar to those Hauriou identified in the theories of law, contemporary to it, of Duguit and Kelsen, which he lumped together as static systems.

Such systems “willingly present themselves as objective, and indeed they are so because they eliminate the work of man, which is the source of the subjective; but they are above all static because of their erroneous conception of the social order, and under this static aspect we shall examine them because it makes manifest their incompatibility with life.” In Kelsen’s system, the legal and state order is considered the expression of a categorical imperative of practical reason; moreover, it is an “idealistic monism,” where state and law are confused. And, indeed, it is the static profile that prevails over the dynamic one. Thus, while such a theory succeeds in avoiding the conception of domination power, it does not avoid the domination of a categorical imperative involving a necessitating social order.

But the yoke of such a philosophy “serait pour le droit pire que celui de la théologie. La théologie catholique pose le primat de la liberté humaine: l’ordre divin se propose à l’homme par la grace.” Instead, in Kelsen’s system the order of “idealist pantheism” imposes itself as a constricting necessity. Hence, he concludes that in France he will have no luck “parce que ses tendances sont inconciliables avec celles du droit. Seule une philosophie de la liberté créatrice est compatible avec lui.” As for Duguit’s system, this takes as its starting point “la notion positiviste d’un ordre des choses sociales conçu comme le prolongement de l’ordre des choses physiques. De cet ordre des choses découlent des norms.” His great concern is to suppress power as the source of law. But this implies the static nature of the system, for the negation “du pouvoir subjectif de création du droit, le mouvement juridique, qui résulte surtout des forces subjectives, est arreté.” And, except for the cases of exceptions in the system. le droit ne peut se développer que dans la mesure des normes établies ou par l’établissement de nouvelles normes, mais c’est là une formation coutumière d’une extreme lenteur. Le système tend donc vers l’immobilité coutumière.” And he concludes from this that Duguit’s system is, like Kelsen’s “impropre à la vie.”

Indeed, in analyzing the consequences of the doctrine of supernatural divine right, one sees that, obviously for different reasons, it has the same drawbacks as those of Kelsen and Duguit. First of being static, since it crystallizes power relations and the rules for accessing them: he who has the power, has the right to command and to demand the obedience owed to him; any innovation is, not coming from he who holds the power, against divine right. Second, to put law before fact, which is precisely the opposite of what happens, for example in international law, where it is the fact of a state’s control (of population and territory), and not the legality of the settlement, that makes a revolutionary government an international interlocutor. If this were not the case, if one were to rely on the criterion of “supernatural divine right” (or pure “normative” assessment), Italy would have to be represented by a Savoy, Germany by a Hohenzollern and Russia by a Romanov. With the effect of pitting law against reality (and life); and making (also) the one unfit to address the latter. There is, moreover, a radical antithesis between Bellarmine’s distinction between authority and ruler (sinner) and that “vous étes des dieux” addressed by Bossuet to monarchs: which Hauriou rightly considers compatible only with absolute monarchy.

But the fortune of the conception of divine providential law is not only that it is “dynamic,” that is, realistic, but also that it explains the relationship between force and law, again in realistic terms. By deeming necessary the living in society and under a government but not its forms, it is open to innovation and the nomogenetic character of force, aimed at ensuring communal existence The rate of innovation this introduces serves to ensure its adaptation to the changing conditions of history, that is, its vitality. The realism of the conception under consideration is given essentially by the relationship outlined between natural law and jus gentium; in other words, between necessity and human freedom.

Recognizing that among the laws of nature is that of associating under a political government, Christian theology had identified one of the “constants,” defined by Miglio as the regularities of politics; as such unchangeable by the human will. Which, conversely, the “absolute” utopias believe they can modify, believing they have found “the solution to the enigma of History,” as the young Marx wrote; from history punctually belied, with the almost simultaneous collapse of almost all the regimes of real socialism, which were the realizations of that utopian vision.

But the belief that one can alter “regularities,” which is particularly clear in the case, like communism, of realized utopias—and promptly confined to the archives of history—is not exclusive to those, being present albeit to a more limited extent in other ideological conceptions, from certain types of pacifism to liberal fringes (not to liberalism, which retains a realist approach, as is evident from the “problematic” conception of man, derived from both Christian theology and political thought).

This immutability of the “constants” is contrasted with—and complements—the mutability of political forms, which are left to the power-and therefore the freedom-of human communities: this conception founds political freedom in the primary sense of the free “conformation” of the social and political order: in this is the specification, within the community of St. Thomas’ definition “Liber est qui sui causa est”: not to be limited except by divine (and natural) law, from which no one is dispensed. In this way, this conception grants to human communities all possible freedom, without any legal constraint except self-imposed by them.

Moreover, returning to the character of dynamism, it is worth mentioning that Hauriou, like other great jurists, does not link the concept of social order to “conformity” between norms and behavior, that is, to something static, but to something quite different, namely, to the “slow and uniform” movement of the human community. He returns to this concept several times, specifying that it is the movement “of an ordered whole and is the result of organization and results from what order is essentially organization;” and to clarify the concept he resorts to a biological comparison. Just as living organisms retain form (which changes, but slowly), while subject to extremely rapid turnover of cells and tissues, so do social groups behave like living organisms, provided they are organized, and last for centuries retaining a similar form, even though the “cells,” i.e., humans, are completely changed. And for such reasons, that is, (also) because of the ability to adapt to political and social life, he judged that the doctrine of divine providential law, by placing the origin of power above the social collectivity and anyone else, does not lead to any absolutism, and is therefore the most conducive to freedom. Not only to individuals, but also to that of the community to give itself the form it prefers.

We had begun by asking why in French doctrine at the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries the doctrines of divine right, and in particular the “providential” doctrine, are carefully considered. Within the limits of this paper, we have identified a few reasons, mostly from those already indicated by Hauriou himself, relating to the essence of the social and political) order and relationship.

There is also another reason, implicit in the doyen’s thinking: it is that Hauriou was a staunch supporter of Western civilization (and thought), to which he devotes some of the most interesting pages, even for those who read them today. “Western civilization,” he writes, “by its strength, its activity and its ideas, dominates the world, but it has not completely assimilated it. At the same time, it is undergoing one of its internal crises; many doubt the value of its cornerstones. Although the sedentary civilization will probably survive in partially different forms, the European peoples are in danger of disappearing in a blizzard, after much suffering. At this juncture it is not the external, but the internal enemy that is the most dangerous; therefore,” Hauriou continues, “Western civilization should not be doubted, for what it achieved “en fait d’oeuvres de beauté et de vérité intellectuelle, est devenu classique, c’est-à-dire a réalisé l’idéal humain.” Communism itself, then newly realized in Russia, seems to him incompatible with sedentary and individualistic society, and, rather than an “extreme” phase of modernity, it seems to him a return to the legal forms typical of nomadic societies.

In contrast to the attention French scholarship pays to the conception under consideration, it is rare to read similar considerations elsewhere, especially in Italy. For example, consulting the entry “Democracy” in the classic “Dictionary of Politics,” one can read everything from Herodotus to Rousseau, from the democracies of the ancients to socialist democracies (and beyond): however, any mention of this one, which has probably influenced the form of the contemporary state no less than the others and whose traces are (largely) present in our Constitutional Charter, is missing; and, which is equally relevant, the consequences of this one are, today more than yesterday, and despite all efforts to the contrary, common sense.

Teodoro Katte Klitsche de la Grange is an attorney in Rome and is the editor of the well-regarded and influential law journal Behemoth.

Featured: The Ascension, in the Drogo Sacramentary, Folio 71; ca. 845-855.

Practical Policies for a Distributist Economy

Part One.

Distributists want as many people as possible to own the means of their production. A farmer should own the farm, a baker should own the bakery, and factory workers should own the factory. But how do we bring this about? Anyone from a libertarian to a socialist may identify as a distributist, agreeing on the end goal but disagreeing completely on what will get us there. So answering “how?” is the key to any distributist politics. I argue that once we get past the false dilemma of government intervention, we must pursue three lines of progress: countering capital concentration, directly distributing capital, and expanding the commons.

The Question of Government Intervention

The first disputed question between distributists is: how much should the government intervene in the economy so as to bring about the distributist goal?

This is a meaningless question. Government intervention is what every economic system is composed of! Of course the libertarian wants to say that a truly free market with all goods and services owned privately and traded voluntarily is a state of minimal government involvement. But this is an illusion. Private property itself is a government program. You own property only to the extent that the government says you do. You may claim to own your coat, but if I file suit claiming the coat belongs to me and the court decides in my favor, then the coat is mine even if you continue to illicitly possess it. Even such minor instances of private property are a government program.

This is even more clear in the case of large assets like vehicles and real estate where ownership is established directly by government in the form of title documents, and all the more so for fictitious entities such as corporations, whose very existence depends completely on the government. So a “free market” is not “free” of government intervention. Just the opposite: it is constituted through and through by government interventions. Distributists, then, should seek the most effective and just forms of government intervention to achieve their goals, and should repudiate objections that doing so is coercion, theft, or giving power to the State. The real question is: in what ways should the government intervene in economic life?

Countering Capital Concentration

Distributism is not “nice capitalism”. It is bluntly anti-capitalist. But what I mean by capitalism is not “free markets and entrepreneurialism.” That is just a market economy. Capitalism is the system where a class of people are paid simply to own the means of production. Not paid to develop or utilize capital, nor to allocate itwisely; just paid to be the person who is on some government form somewhere listed as the owner. Distributism would have all capital owned by the people who use it: by the workers, and ideally in as small and local units as possible.

But how do we dismantle capitalism without lopping off heads? Can we radically change our world without the violence and chaos of revolution? As explained above, private property is a government program, so we begin by looking at how government creates capitalism in order to see how we should dismantle it.

Any free market economy is going to tend toward the concentration of wealth: specifically and most importantly of capital. As businesses compete inevitably some will out-compete others and acquire their capital and their market share. Smaller numbers of companies continue to compete and consolidate, gaining competitive advantage through economy of scale as they go. This trend is accelerated by capitalism which demands that the consumer pay 5-10% more than the cost of production. That portion goes to ownership, which increases the owners’ share of national wealth year by year. Occasionally concentration gets disrupted here and there by luck, by technological change, and by exceptionally skilled or ruinous management. Still, the overall trend of wealth concentration is inevitable and unquestionably proven by all historical evidence since the beginning of capitalism. Let’s find the apparatuses set up by the state to enable and protect this concentration, and reroute them toward widespread distribution.

If you’ve ever tried to create a company more complex than a sole proprietorship, you’ve seen that the state has detailed rules about who in the partnership, LLC, or corporation has what rights and what responsibilities, and who gets what in the event of dissolution. It could just as well be written into all business law that the state and the employees must get some equity and/or profit share in any business.

I’m the founder and current sole owner of a business. I realize how much effort and risk and how little reward a founder often sees in the first few years of a company. That should be compensated. Our economic well-being depends on the entrepreneurial drive and it should be incentivized. But it does not follow that the founder of a successful company naturally “deserves” a lifetime (much less his descendant’s lifetimes!) of increasing income just because his name is on the charter.

The workers who build and maintain the company deserve their share of the success. Distributists believe every worker should own the means of his own production. We could simply require that all employees get a share of annual profit, and any employee who stays at a company more than a few years starts accruing equity in the company. Couple this with increased worker protections so that employers can’t just fire employees to prevent them from getting equity, and eventually the company becomes (at least to a significant degree) employee owned. In an age when unions continue to shrink, this would empower employees to have some say in the conditions of their employment while giving them more of a stake in their company’s success.

For larger companies, I’d suggest they should also be partly publicly owned. Our original corporations were created by the government to provide some public benefit, such as the transcontinental rail roads, that purely private business would never undertake. There was an understanding that these corporations were to serve the public good, not just their shareholder’s private financial interests.

Perhaps it’s too late to go back to that form of the corporation, but we could turn the purely financial drive of corporations to the public good by having a significant part of the shares of any publicly traded company automatically go to a sovereign wealth fund. The income generated by the sovereign wealth fund would provide public goods such as infrastructure, health care, education, or direct income. A sovereign wealth fund ensures that the public benefits from the profitability of that part of the private sector most dependent on government support.

We’d also do well to consider limiting corporations’ ability to own property in multiple states, and certainly in multiple nations. Part of the reason our government must to be so large is because business is so big (thanks to government enabling). By limiting the geographic reign of corporations we could scale back the level of government needed to regulate them.

States cannot stand up to national corporations because those corporations wield enormous economic power over states. They are able to play one state off of another to see who can cut regulations and taxes most, sacrificing good governance for the sake of procuring the corporation’s favor. Thus ten thousand small acts of different businesses have the unintended result of growing the centralized, federal government because they are the only ones left to direct the market as the corporations require.

We now see this race to the bottom in the service of capital on a global scale. Yet there is no natural reason a New York corporation must be able to buy a factory in South Carolina, or an American corporation buy a factory in Honduras; it only happens because the state and federal governments choose to allow and enable it. Limiting corporations to smaller geographic areas would allow smaller governments to regulate them, and would open up space for smaller businesses to compete with them.

Countering capital concentration is the negative side of the distributist program. It is an ongoing necessity, but in itself it only provides the open space for widespread ownership. The ground is tilled but the seed must be planted and watered. [Next] I will describe how we can continually replenish an ownership society through distribution of capital and expanding the commons.

Part Two

Directly Distributing Capital

Countering capital concentration is only half the solution to the distributist goal of widespread capital ownership. The positive half is actually getting capital into the hands of each worker. I’ve already identified one way to do that – mandatory equity for all employees. The American Solidarity Party supports worker-owned cooperatives, but an employee equity mandate would give that support real teeth. Worker ownership is not just a nice idea, it’s a requirement of justice.

We can also distribute capital to individuals directly by transfer payment. A substantial bit of real capital should be provided to every adult at the beginning of their career. It’s nice to be born into a family business that you learn as you grow, and then help take over as an adult. But that’s not a realistic opportunity for most children, and wouldn’t be for those born to parents in worker-owned cooperatives either. If every citizen had, say, $50,000 seed money available for use pending approval, using something like the same process as loan approval but with no repayment needed, everyone would have an opportunity to launch into an ownership economy without usury. Even if it were used on a prudently considered home purchase, this would allow stability of place and economic freedom to resist the forces of capitalism that turn people into atomized wage slaves.

Free post-high school education and training would lift a heavy burden from the working and small-business owning classes, and it would widely distribute one of the most useful forms of capital. “Human capital” (a problematic phrase, but makes sense when talking about skills and qualifications rather than about people) is especially valuable in a distributist sense because it can never be alienated from the worker: you can’t sell off your welding skills to pay for a kidney transplant. Wherever you may need to travel, that training accompanies you, and your employer must pay enough to access it.

This sort of capital distribution is especially amenable to cheap, local-scale solutions. Currently professional accreditation programs (i.e. universities) have become a sort of cartel designed to create scarcity and drive up costs, thus supporting a massive industry of accreditation suppliers, and a constrained class of accredited elites. This drives up the costs of all kinds of professional services (medicine being the most obvious). And it keeps many talented people out of the most respected and high paying vocations. The state has participated heavily in creating this state of affairs, and it could do much to reverse it. We probably all know more than one disgruntled philosophy or English MA who can’t find an academic job, but who could lead a book discussion more worthwhile than any intro-level Gen-Ed class in a seven hundred student lecture hall.

The Saxifrage School in Pittsburgh was (as far as I know it is currently stalled out) an attempt to create an accredited asset-free college program. The idea was students would meet with instructors in public spaces such as libraries and coffee shops. The professors would be free-lancing, so the only expense would be paying for the professor’s time and the administrative cost of the program. The government could facilitate and fund such decentralized educational programs as they do state schools. Everyone who wants to get two years of liberal arts and/or two years of vocational training (white or blue collar) should be able to get it for free, and we could do it a lot cheaper than the current university system by using existing resources in our own communities.

Expanding the Commons

In our agrarian past ‘the commons’ was land available to all for grazing, hunting and gathering fuel. The commons provided a resource for people who had lost all private property, enabling them to survive and get back on their feet. We should expand the concept and the content of the commons in ways suitable to our modern context. I think we can turn some expensive goods into public goods provided to all free of charge. We already do this with many of the goods businesses depend upon, like roads, fire fighting, crime prevention, trade regulation, and primary research. Let’s do more of the same for workers. What are expensive goods that don’t work well as market commodities which we could add to the commons?

I’ve already explained why and how post secondary education should be added to the commons. Let me reinforce that bit by noting that education is often bought with little to no price-based rational analysis. No 18-year old knows if $100,000 of debt is worth it, nor are they likely to make a prudent decision at that age anyway. And frankly parents are hardly in a better position to make the evaluation, even the few who are in a position to pay. It just doesn’t make sense for education to be a market based commodity. Prices become distorted by lack of information, prevalence of irrational decision, and collusion between supplier and regulators. Rather education should be in the commons, available freely to all who can make the most of it.

Health care is another socially-created good that does not work well as a market commodity. Very few people have the resources to pay for it personally when needed, and when it is needed no one is able to make a free and rational decision about what health care to get. You’re basically the victim of a stick-up at that point. A personal anecdote: in the early days of starting my business I was providing for a wife and two kids on income of about $30,000 a year and simply could not afford health insurance. One day I received a visit from the appendicitis fairy and was rushed to the emergency room. I was never asked what treatment I wanted or told any prices, but to be honest, I would have said yes to anything, especially once the euphoria of the first dose of pain medication set in!

When I received $12,000 of bills from about six different providers, I was lucky enough to negotiate major reductions and assistance on all of them except the anesthesiologist. When that bill went to collections I had many entertaining conversations with debt collectors arguing about whether we should negotiate the price after the fact. Considering that when service was rendered I was on death’s door, under the influence of drugs and had no recollection of being offered a choice of services or told their price, I thought we could make a deal. Those conversations ended only when I was doing well enough to just pay the bill in order to save my credit score. A more prudent person, foreseeing this possibility, would never have started my business. They would have chosen a job with Monsanto, something which offered health insurance. We can change that calculus. Free universal health care would allow many more workers to strike out on their own as entrepreneurs or just be independent homesteaders without the fear of losing employer provided health insurance. And it would allow small business owners to survive, both literally and financially, a surprise injury or illness. We should stop hedging about this as a ‘possible option to be explored’ and fully support free universal single-pay health care.

Finally and most controversially, we should support Universal Basic Income without reservation. UBI would enable employees to stand up for better pay and working conditions because they can hold out longer during a strike or period of unemployment. It would enable entrepreneurs much more freedom to strike out on their own, sustaining them during the lean start-up years that crush many new businesses. It would support homesteaders on the path to economic independence. And for the unsuccessful business owners who lose their personal capital to bad luck or poor management on the first try, UBI would give them a surer way to build up capital and try again, wiser for the experience.

Although as distributists we should want wage labor to be a minimal part of the economy, there will always be a role for it, especially as a way for new workers to enter the economy before they become long term owners in their own business. UBI would allow the wage labor market to be a truly free market. No one would be coerced into taking an exploitative job by material need, and businesses would not have to pay an arbitrary minimum wage. If, say, we had a UBI equivalent to $10/hr full time (or whatever covered the necessities of a modest but decent life), a business could offer $2/hr for an unneeded but valued greeter position. That would allow someone who has few skills a chance to participate in work life and improve their financial situation through their own effort. At the same time no one would be forced to take demeaning or grueling jobs at low pay simply because they lack the credentials for more respectable and high paying work. With a UBI we might find that a business has to pay just as much to get someone to clean the toilets as to design the website. Our current system values white-collar work at the real expense and dignity of blue-collar workers. But manual labor, be it cleaning the toilets or raising children, is what allows the website designer to work at all. The world has existed without website designers; we cannot survive as a species without waste management. UBI would make us acknowledge the real value of all jobs, as opposed to our current system which artificially inflates some while denigrating others.

In these two posts I’ve laid out some concrete policies distributists should advocate to bring about the goal of widespread capital ownership. We should counter capital concentration by mandating public and employee equity in corporations and by limiting companies’ ability to own property; we should directly distribute capital through mandated employee equity, transfer of funds for capital purchase, and free education; and we should expand the commons to include education, health care and universal basic income. Some of these ideas might seem distant and far-fetched, but it is only by boldly naming our destination and then taking the first incremental steps directly towards it that we will ever arrive.

Zebulon Baccelli is a father of five in rural western Pennsylvania. He runs a business selling organic produce grown by a local community of Amish farmers. The Baccellis are active in their Byzantine Catholic church community and in a Catholic-Orthodox home school cooperative. This article appears through the kind courtesy of Imago Dei Politics.

Featured: Reapers, by Edith Hume; painted ca. 1890.

“I Wanted More”: A Selection from An Excess Of Love

The following selection comes from my recently released memoir, An Excess Of Love. The book concerns my 12 years teaching at a traditional Catholic school in Connecticut, the long scandalization and strangulation that sect worked on my affection, and why, if one must be idealistic, they must never waste their energies on middle class people. In my own bibulous and pissy way, the story is in fact optimistic; for, when one sloughs off half lovers and hobbyists, one finds out what the Holy Spirit can do with one’s vocation. You may purchase the book HERE.

What I saw in traditional Catholicism, and what I would see with my coming work at St. Esau’s school, was a system which could give secular modernity a run for its money. That is still my conclusion. Nothing in my beliefs changed with the failure of St. Esau’s high school. What drove me from traditional Catholicism, what I am trying to convey in this paper, is how I came to the realization that religious conservatives are too puny to establish their principles in society.

Always have I seen one enemy and one alone, secularism. I still believe the only system which is brawny enough to scotch secularism, at least in the West, is Catholicism. Unfortunately, it is the work of this essay to show how the mighty system of Catholicism is lodged in socio-economic strata which will never be able to establish it as a social reality. This is to say as long as Catholicism is strongest among the middle class there will be no Christendom.

Mission & Sacrifice

We will not dawdle on the history or legal irregularities of the Society Of St. Pius 501(c)3. Others have done this better than I can. It is not our focus here anyway. To grasp the doggedness of the St. Esau’s Project we must look at something more important. We must look at the SSPD’s sense of mission.

The founder of the Society was Archbishop Marcel Proust. He was a missionary in Africa for most of his career. This missionary spirit infused all of the clerics I came across in the SSPD. If one only understands the group from Internet apologetics and the sometimes lame and erratic laymen who frequent their chapels and glory in their pretended affiliation with the Society – for the Society are only the vowed religious and their hirelings – one will miss the fuel which fires the actual SSPD. That fuel is the missionary spirit.

There was additionally a spirit of sacrifice which greatly appealed to me. Everything could be united and supercharged by uniting it with Christ on the cross. No privation was too small to go unnoticed by heaven; no work too obscure but that it could contribute to the salvation of the world. This deeply jived with my total war mentality. Everything for the cause, and the cause was the salvation of everything.

Here were people – I thought – who were bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh. They were more pacific than I, I suppose. What I called total war they termed the Little Way. Tomayto-tomahto. Adduced to witness this idea in history were the thousands of martyrs they read out each morning at Prime. And sure, wasn’t auld Jesus the only god worth a sin and a prayer and a beheading.

Diamonds for Souls

Because of my experiences at ‘Round Abouts Danbury, and their coreligionists farther afield, I do not believe traditional Catholics take themselves seriously. No matter how much my creed and praxis matched theirs, I eventually could no longer tarry with them when my final patience was exhausted. When those people take themselves seriously others will take them seriously. It is the work of this essay to explain how I arrived at this conclusion.

Still and all, I do not hesitate to mention that I met a handful of extraordinary people over my 12 years in Tradville, at the school, on pilgrimages, at camps. Wallahi, had I not seen these people I would not believe such men could exist! They were like people out of the books. For a rare few of them Christianity, too, was like a physical thing.

How taken aback I was my first Good Friday to see people emotionally overcome with the theme of the day. I remember one woman composed but forlorn enough to excuse herself from the ceremony. There was one cleric who walked the Camino so intently his toenails fell off afterwards. I saw people turned out by their families for their religious principles. I saw people turn out great addictions with the power of faith. I bloody the noses of not a few broads in this book; by God, though, didn’t I see some of them hold their family together with a will. When all of warm and massaging Postmodernity nibbled on their ears and said, “Divorce, divorce,” they roared back with Cathal Brugha, “I shall not!”

And for those divorced, as the Freemason attorneys reckon such things, I saw traditional Catholics take up their station with lonely Cato in Carthage; I saw these walking wounded from The World embrace singularity and continence in loyalty to their vows when their own married partners went the way of all flesh. The world stares in awe at these last ones. For while their matrimonial loyalty was strange to the world, these everlasting Penelopes were also written off as damaged goods by their haughty coreligionists.

Circumstances provided the pressure, Allahu alam, doctrine and narrative gave the matter, to forge diamonds of their souls. For all the overweening mediocrity I would discover, there were a few good skins at ‘Round Abouts Danbury.

First Contact

When I was young and I was in my day, I first found myself on St. Ignatius’ feast 2005 at the complex which would consume the next 12 years of my energy. I’d have been in the guts of my seventeenth year then. I was greeted by one of their priests, Fr. Habakkuk. He was a rotund man both holy and jolly. Often the genuine version of the former will naturally produce the latter characteristic. As I would find out with nearly every traditional cleric and religious I would come across, he was a man very much a credit to his vocation.

When I rolled in he and an old timer were putting an air conditioner into a window frame. He had the old guy, The Bull McCabe, guide me about the property. Bull McCabe was finishing up a years’ long project of soldering the stained glass windows. They were salvaged from a closed church, which could care less for them, and placed into this new temple. In a nutshell this was traditionalism: salvaging the patrimony of the past for the grateful. The Bull is long dead now but his window panes are as snug as ever. I was eventually taken by him to the office where I was given pamphlets concerning the SSPD by the kindly blue haired secretary.

On my way home I stopped at the Danbury Mall food court. Eating what I still remember was an excellent turkey grinder, I read through the packets and savored the memory of their hospitality.

In Retrospect

It must be understood that the SSPD(c)3 in 2005 was a different creature than it is today. This fundamentally had to do with the second generation of priests – those men ordained by Marcel Proust following their 1988 schism – being in their prime. As with all such ideological groups, this second generation had much of the fire in the belly which motivated their parents to embark on the protestant path before them.

What happened during my temporal footprint is that this second generation would be replaced by younger clerics who had no interaction with the actual Catholic Church nor the spirit that fired their traditional grandsirs. They and their parents were brought up in a traditional Catholicism which was already up and running.

Likewise with the laity. When I was involved with traditionalism we were seeing the third generation of people come up. These were the grandchildren of people who had seceded from Catholicism – or kept the faith when everyone apostatized, as you like. In any case, these ones were the generation I was to teach. I can tell you this rising cohort did not have anything like the grasp of Vatican II-related topics I understood, I who had read myself into the movement at 15. As they say, the first generation builds, the second coasts, the third wrecks the work. This is all of history, sacred and profane. Rinse and repeat.

In line with this, as the years wore on the SSPD would embark on a program of professionalization which would ensconce these dynamics. Pagan, Christian, or Jew, religious or secular, every group that has ever been must inevitably confront a scenario in their growth where they must soften their edges – or water things down, as you like – if they are to grow. Come to think of it, this is something all major languages have done as well. Religion is a group’s soul language, so perhaps we have stumbled on a big principle here. Anyway, during my footprint at ‘Round Abouts Danbury this necessary softening was happening.

All that was a ways off. That summer of 2005 I threw my energy into traditional Catholicism. In short order I began attending their liturgies, going on retreats, and entering into the rhythm of their parish life. A pivotal point would come the following summer of 2006. At that time I attended a pilgrimage which my new church organized. About a year later I was invited to teach at their school.

When the Saints Go Marching In

Before I explain the circumstances which hailed me into the school of St. Corporate Whore Church for the next decade, a word on that summer pilgrimage. This was the incarnation of everything I had hoped for, and more than I had hoped for, about traditionalism. The event went like this.

I worked in those days at a notable fast food chain specializing in roast beef sandwiches. In the best capitalist fashion of doing the most with the least, the night before my holy journey I was up late closing the store. We were understaffed. Circumstances at that time required me to walk some miles home afterwards at midnight. I did not have a car. Indeed I needed to bum a ride to the pilgrimage the next day. I had arranged a lift sight unseen with a man and his wife who would be important in my entry into St. Esau’s a year later. The man’s name was Van Dyke, the wife’s name was Mrs. Van Dyke.

Anyhow, about my fatigue. I worked late into the night the evening before the pilgrimage and walked home afterwards. I awoke early to meet Van Dyke and his wife for the three hour journey from Danbury to the shrine in Upstate New York, the pilgrimage start point. I began the subsequent 10-mile trek under moderate sleep deprivation and fatigue. I only ground down from there. There is something to be said for sleep deprivation. I suppose that’s why religions often use it. It puts one into a different state of mind.

In this triptych – the penny pinching, the fatigue, the determination to press on nevertheless – was the next decade of my life. Here too was the thing which explained the day and the decade: the beauty of that journey.

Labbaik Allahumma Labbaik

At that time the Auriesville Pilgrimage was held around Midsummer. School was just out, the baby priests were making their rounds of first blessings, and the liturgical fireworks finale of Pentecost-Trinity-Corpus Christi-Sacred Heart was fast approaching.

If memory serves, in fact, the Saturday of this pilgrimage was the Vigil Of Pentecost that year. Following the pilgrimage things got to be very quiet on the grounds of St. Corporate Whore’s, and at all Society chapels; so on top of everything there was the consciousness that people would only see each other sporadically over the next few months.

Thus for Northeast trads, regardless of age, the Auriesville pilgrimage was like both the first day of school and the last day of school at once, and the gate of heaven besides. They wanted to make the most of their time together. All of this combined with the natural exuberance of early summer to imbue the day with a fine energy for one so new “to tradition,” as the parlance was.

When we arrived it was the pissing down of rain. Van Dyke left me to my own devices, so I began wandering around. I haven’t the slightest recollection of how this came about, but I ended up in the back of a U-Hall van assisting some young men move equipment around. That year the head of the SSPD, Bishop Bernard Mallard was at Auriesville. This meant that attendance was much bigger than it normally would have been. He was going to preach from the back of the van this rainy morning, and we were getting that set up.

I spent the first half of the pilgrimage with the work crew. The foreman that day was a man who lived in the Retreat House, The Gaffer. I got to know him some in the years ahead and we’d come to get on like a house on fire. On our way to the lunch site, leap-frogging ahead of the pilgrimage, the lunch crew stopped at a gas station for some snacks on The Gaffer. I would find out in after years that this was a yearly ritual, his buying goodies for the lads. I’ve never forgotten this paltry kindness of his, and I don’t think all the guys who cycled through the U-Hall truck over the years ever have either.

Well, after the opening sermon, the step off, and the lunch set up, I walked the second stretch of the pilgrimage.

The weather had broken and a beautiful afternoon presented itself. The rail trail we were using was steaming. The procession went on for several miles. At the front of it teenage boys traded with their fathers in carrying a life-sized cross. Though hollow, that bastard weighed a lot. In time I came to find that traditionalist women loved denim skirts and sneakers for casual wear. As the lot of us were doffing our slickers, or our trash bags if we didn’t have proper coats, the beors took off their shoes. In women of a certain age the braids and bare feet and scapulars is a fetching look.

Yes, it was a pretty sight altogether: the steam and asphalt and the kids, and everyone jabbering out the Rosary and holy songs. A great quote of Brendan Behan’s comes to mind apropos to the mood that afternoon. He says, “I always get grateful and pious in good weather and this was the kind of day you’d know that Christ died for you. A bloody good job that I wasn’t born in the South of France or Miami Beach, or I’d be so grateful and holy for the sunshine that St. Paul of the Cross would be only trotting after me, skull, crossbones and all.”

I remember the sun and humidity and mosquitoes as big as a brick that afternoon. What I remember most is one young mother that day. She was with child. Herself was easy on the eyes which is how I suppose she got to be a mother in the first place. Now there were provisions made for the elderly and the knackered by way of a fleet of golf carts which patrolled the length of the march. She hailed one cart from behind me. As the trolly came trundling by I thought she looked as beautiful and delicate as a butterfly.

I briefly met that couple years later in Syracuse. The Butterfly was with child once again. Our plans that morning were scuppered by her having morning sickness. Her husband, slightly embarrassed by her digestive faux pas, was most generous in joining me for breakfast sandwiches and coffee after holy Mass. I learned after that a job offer eventually sucked the family into the wiles of Ohio and forever out of the East Coast orbit. It’s funny how people come in and out of your life. So it goes.

The last stretch of the hike was up a hill which people dubbed Purgatory Mountain, a la Dante. Some of the religious and the high schoolers from somewhere or other formed ranks on either side. As the balance of the procession hauled its way up the hillock they sang the Litany Of The Saints. It sure felt like Purgatory after 10 miles, or five in my case. At the High Mass which concluded the pilgrimage I nearly fell asleep – standing – during the Creed. I was terribly tired. The sense of completing the pilgrimage was a fine sensation, as the maid said to the soldier.

The Parting Glass

I should never forget that final scene as I prepared to return with my ride to Connecticut. The Shrine was on top of a hill whose head was flat. I’ve never had a problem reconciling the gospel accounts of the Sermon On The Mount vs. the Sermon On The Plain, because this Shrine was located on a plain which sat atop a mount. Because of the tension between the SSPD and the actual Catholic Church, the shrine authorities in fact limited our encampment to a neighboring field and parking lot. It was on the gift store side of the property, and, whatever the canonical status of the trads, their money was good in the store. In God we trust; all others pay cash.

What a scene we had the sultry sun-sinking evening! How the clerics rejoiced in their vocations; yes, how the packs of boys saw each priest a hero as they blessed and shrived and preached the day through; how the women rejoiced in their families; yes, how for one day in common – and women do all things in common – their arrayed minivans and strollers were trophies of defiance towards a sterile modernity which sneered at their fertility; how the children danced to folk music which had struck up from somewhere or other; how the fathers rejoiced in another year of being able to pay for those families. There is something in a pilgrimage completed, and a school year done, which briefly approximates for a man the paying off of a mortgage.

Blessing this bless’d scene were hundreds of sandwiches delivered on platters by the cutest children you ever saw, and plenty of chips and beer besides. It was all paid for by a man as kind as he was anonymous. You’ll remember that Bishop Mallard was at this thing, so all the stops were out for that big man with a big hat. The lot of us blessed the unknown mensch as we downed his drink and ate his food. That lot of us were, indeed, a lot of us, and a very hungry bunch we were after hiking ten miles in the summer sun and singing ourselves through a High Mass.

Since my fourteenth year I have said the breviary. There are many things in this book which must strike you, kind reader, as strange about me. This sentence is the only place where I join you. Yes, I have said the Office since I was 14. What a queer thing to do for one so young. Well, on that holy, hilly pilgrimage plateau I remembered that auld canticle of Jeremiah’s: “Shouting, they shall mount the heights of Zion, they shall come streaming to the Lord’s blessings; The grain, the wine, the oil, the sheep and the oxen; They themselves shall be like watered gardens, never again shall they languish. Then the virgins shall make merry and dance, and young men and old as well.”

By inches the day would come that I would snicker at those clerics as primadonnas, those children as disappointments for cluelessly joining as adults a ruling class bureaucracy fundamentally at war with their nominal Christianity, and those fathers as simps who could not control their wives any sooner than their deracinated society from which this pilgrimage was such a welcome relief.

What of those glowing mammies? Those traditional Catholic mothers, so young and holy and alive on that New York plateau in June of 2006, would in time earn my blackest and immortal opprobrium. All this was in the future, though. With the summer sun westerning as I flopped into Van Dyke’s car to go back home, surfeited on subs and very tired, I saw Catholicism lived. I wanted more.

John Coleman co-hosts Christian History & Ideasand is the founder of Apocatastasis: An Institute for the Humanities, an alternative college and high school in New Milford, Connecticut. Apocatastasis is a school focused on studying the Western humanities in an integrated fashion, while at the same time adjusting to the changing educational field. Information about the college can be found at its website.

Overcome Evil by Doing Good

Drawing on the Book of Proverbs, St. Paul offers a simple admonition to his readers:

“…if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” (Romans 12:20)

He then adds:

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

It is a very simple statement. However, when anyone begins to suggest what that might look like, critics quickly begin to offer egregious examples that would ask us to bear the unbearable, with the inevitable conclusion: “Kill your enemies.” What is suggested, in effect, is that Christians should respond in the same way as any tyrant would, only a little less so. “Kill your enemies, but not so much.” (I use the term “kill” in this example only as the most extreme form of violence). A question: What is it about the Kingdom of God that gave Christ and the Apostles such a confidence in its non-violence?

Consider these verses:

Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.” (Jn. 18:36)


“But now let the one who has a moneybag take it, and likewise a knapsack. And let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one. For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors.’ For what is written about me has its fulfillment.” And they said, “Look, Lord, here are two swords.” And he said to them, “It is enough.” (Lk. 22:38)


“And behold, one of those who were with Jesus stretched out his hand and drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear. Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword.” (Matt. 26:52)

There is something of a mystery in Christ’s instruction to buy a sword. Many consider it simply a metaphorical way of saying that troubles are coming. Indeed, one of those two swords is drawn and does terrible damage to a man when Christ is arrested, earning a rebuke. I have always wondered if Peter (the one who wielded the sword) thought to himself, “But I thought He said bring a sword!” As it is, Christ restored and healed the ear of the injured man.

The key, I think, is found in Christ’s statement to Pilate that His Kingdom is not “of” this world. That does not mean that the Kingdom is located somewhere else. Rather, it means that His Kingdom’s source is not found within the things of this world. It is a sovereign act of God. As such, its reality is independent of our actions and will. There is nothing in the Kingdom of God that requires our swords (or even our words). It is heaven-breaking-into-our-world. It is unassailable.

This is the faith of the martyrs. The long history of the Church’s faithful who have gone to their deaths include many stories of terrible persecutions and tortures. They also include an abiding witness to an abiding sense that everything being done to them somehow misses the point. When Christ stood before Pilate, He was threatened with the might and power of Rome. “Don’t you know I have the power to release you or to kill you?” Human beings have no power over God. The Kingdom of God willingly enters into the suffering of this world, willingly bears shame, willingly embraces the weakness of the Cross. The martyrs acted as they did because their lives were not of this world. Christians should not live in this world thinking about a world somewhere else (heaven). Rather, Christians themselves are heaven in this world. It is that reality to which we bear witness (martyr means “witness”).

Modern nation states came into existence slowly, as one of the consequences of the Reformation. Some, like England, had a head start, inasmuch as it was partially defined by its shoreline. But most, like France and Germany, evolved more slowly. We imagine today’s modern states as though they were defined by blood and language. However, that is a fantasy, little older then the 19th century. Nationalism, sadly, was one of a number of romantic movements that served to replace the common life of the Church with romantic notions of lesser, tribal belongings.

The patriotic mythologies that came into existence together with modernity’s nationalisms are siren songs that seek to create loyalties that are essentially religious in nature. World War I, in the early 20th century, was deeply revealing of the 19th century’s false ideologies. There, in the fields of France, European Christians killed one another by the millions in the name of entities that, in some cases, had existed for less than 50 years (Germany was born, more or less, in 1871). The end of that war did nothing, apparently, to awaken Christians to the madness that had been born in their midst.

I have noted, through the years, that the patriotism that inhabits the thoughts of many is a deeply protected notion, treated as a virtue in many circles. This often gives it an unexamined character, a set of feelings that do not come under scrutiny. Of course, there are other nation-based feelings and narratives, some of which are highly reactive to patriotism though they are driven as much by the passions and their own mythology. These are the sorts of passions that seem to have risen to a fever-pitch in the last decade or so, though they have been operative for a very long time.

These passions are worth careful examination, particularly as they have long been married to America’s many denominational Christianities. I think it is noteworthy that one of the most prominent 19th century American inventions was Mormonism. There, we have the case of a religious inventor (Joseph Smith) literally writing America into the Scriptures and creating an alternative, specifically American, account of Christ and salvation. It was not an accident. He was, in fact, drawing on the spirit of the Age, only more blatantly and heretically. But there are many Christians whose Christianity is no less suffused with the same sentiments.

Asking questions of these things quickly sends some heads spinning. They wonder, “Are we not supposed to love our country?” As an abstraction, no. We love people; we love the land. We owe honor to honorable things and persons. The Church prays for persons: the President, civil authorities, the armed forces. We are commanded to pray and to obey the laws as we are able in good conscience. Nothing more. St. Paul goes so far as to say that our “citizenship [politeia] is in heaven.” The assumption of many is that so long as the citizenship of earth does not conflict with the citizenship of heaven, all is fine. I would suggest that the two are always in conflict for the simple reason that one is “from above” while the other is “from below,” in the sense captured in Christ’s “my kingdom is not of this world.” There is a conflict. We should not expect that the kingdoms of this world will serve as the instrument of the Kingdom of God. Such confusions have yielded sinful actions throughout the course of the Church’s history.

St. Paul notes in Romans 13 that the state “does not bear the sword in vain.” It has an appointed role in the restraint of evil. Such a role, however, is not the instrument of righteousness. It can, at best, create a measure of tranquility (cf. the Anaphora of St. Basil). The work of the Kingdom of God cannot be coerced, nor can it be the work of coercion. It is freely embraced, even as it alone is the source of true freedom.

My purpose in offering these observations is, if possible, to “dial down” passions surrounding our thoughts of the nation and politics in order to love properly and deeply what should be loved. That this is difficult, and at times confusing, is to be expected. We live in a culture in which the passions are marketed to us in an endless stream, carefully designed for the greatest effect. If these thoughts of mine help quiet the passions to some degree, then I will have done well. If, on the other hand, they have stirred reaction, then, forgive me and let it go.

If the Kingdom of God were a ship (an image sometimes used of the Church), then we should not be surprised when the seas become boisterous and the winds become contrary. Nor should we panic if we find that Christ is asleep in the back of the boat. His sleeping, indeed, should be a clue as to what the true nature of our situation might be. There are some who imagine that the work of the Kingdom can only be fulfilled once we’ve learned to control the winds and the seas. We fail to understand that they already obey the One who sleeps.

And so we come to overcoming evil by doing good. It is a common teaching in the Fathers that evil has no substance – it only exists as a parasite. All created things are good by nature. It is the misuse of the good that we label “evil.” To do good thus has the character of eternity. It is not lost or diminished with time. Christ said, “And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.” (Matthew 10:42)

When the final account is given, the nations will not be named. Their wars and empires will pass into what is forgotten. However, the many cups of cold water and other such acts of goodness will abide. I could imagine such actions on the part of a nation, and there are probably plenty. They likely go unnoticed, or even derided as wasteful.

I think that our politics and patriotism want to measure the seas, where God is measuring cups.

Father Stephen Freeman is a priest of the Orthodox Church in America, serving as Rector of St. Anne Orthodox Church in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. He is also author of Everywhere Present and the Glory to God podcast series.

Featured: Arrest of Christ, by Heinrich Hofmann; painted by 1858.

The Crisis of 2007: The Great Financial Capitalist Swindle

Despite the seismic crisis of 2007, a question persists that is likely to remain unanswered. Colin Crouch condensed it in the title of his 2011 book, The Strange Non-Death of Neoliberalism: why did neoliberalism re-emerge stronger from the 2007 crisis, from which in fact it might have been expected to emerge, at the very least, weakened?

One plausible answer could be the following: the turbo-financial elites managed to make the crisis, for which they were mainly (if not exclusively) responsible, appear to have been caused by the inefficiencies of the public sector and by the Debt of the States. On this basis, by skillfully manipulating the consensus of public opinion, through the ever-zealous work performed by the intellectual clergy, the aforementioned elites managed to make the State itself—and, therefore, the Public—pay for the crisis: that is, they “generously” made wage-earners and pensioners pay for it, as if they had really been responsible for the failure of the financial system.

In this way, the capitalist system, with its asymmetrical social relationship based on bonds of Lordship and Servitude, has not limited itself to generating the poor as it has always done, but, evidently with the crisis, it forced them to subsidize the rich themselves through an authentic and genuine Economy of Swindle. Through it, it triggered concrete transfers of property and power to those who, from above, kept their resources intact and are in a position to manage credit. There is no image that clarifies the situation better than the one used by Robert H. Frank and Philip J. Cook to title their study, The Winner-Take-All Society.

Incidentally, the fabula docet is that to assert—as the hedonistic singers of the free market paroxysmally do—that in the long run the economic system produces its own equilibrium constitutes a false position, since—as Hegel already pointed out—even the plague ceases at a given moment, but in the meantime hundreds of thousands are its victims. In addition to this argument in support of the need for political regulation of the wild beast of the market, Hegel mobilized another one: liberals make a profession of faith in individualism, but they are precisely the first to sacrifice the welfare of the individual on the altar of market power and economic equilibrium. They forget that it is not the market, as an abstract entity, but only the individual, as a particularity, who represents an end and who is the holder of rights.

In the context of the 2007 crisis, “Save the banks” was the new and indecent slogan repeated by the elites and, above all, by their politicians and intellectuals of reference. As if it were a new Aztec religion fed by human sacrifices, in the name of liberalism the resolution of all problems could wait, but the solemn call to help the banks in difficulties became the new categorical imperative to be obeyed immediately. And this was also thanks to the new imaginary spread urbi et orbi; an imaginary for which, basically, it was easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism (fiat profitus, pereat mundus).

According to a well-established practice that is fully inscribed in the modus operandi of ideology, the masters of discourse and of the media circus chose to invert reality; and attributed the responsibility for the crisis of private finances to the State, thus laying the necessary foundations to make it possible to attack it head-on and plunder it without restraint.

The storytelling, concocted by the anesthetists of consensus and by the administrators of the superstructures after 2007, can be summarized as follows: it was the increase of the Public Debt that caused the crisis, so it is fair and necessary to claim against the State. On the other hand, the cataclysms of speculative finance and fictitious capital should not be the subject of debate, almost as if they had never happened. Moreover, the “Public Debt theorem” proves to be functional to the neoliberal processes of de-sovereignization of the national State and the contextual simultaneous transfer of sovereignty from the State (and politics) to the banking system (and the economy). In the words of Mario Draghi, maximum exponent of the global class and protagonist—as president of the ECB—of the maneuvers referred to above, “a country loses sovereignty when the level of the Debt is such that any decision passes through the scrutiny of the markets, that is, of actors who do not vote but determine the processes.”

This situation, surrealistic to say the least, was on the other hand the palpable proof, as Dardot and Laval have suggested in Guerra alla democrazia, that in the framework of neoliberalism every obstacle becomes an opportunity, every collective tragedy a triumph for the ruling elite. The financial crisis was ridden to direct the offensive against the State and against wages, against the public and, in short, against the subaltern classes that live off their own labor.

This is also the quid proprium of the neoliberal order: to ensure that the Lords of Big Business enjoy the benefits of globalization without charge, often taking advantage of a tax system that tends to zero, where the losers of globalization—the “glebalized”—are the only ones who pay the bill on behalf of all, through the iniquitous transfer of the entire tax burden onto the shoulders of poor families and the impoverished middle classes. Neoliberalism, the supreme phase of the hegemony of the ruling classes and of the new spirit of capitalism, thus presents itself also in the form of a fanatical faith and a fundamentalist religion of the capitalist economy; a faith by virtue of which—in the triumph of a credo quia absurdum deprived of transcendence—the market is always right on principle, even when it is flagrantly wrong.

The fanatical faith of economic fundamentalism, coessential to the neoliberal order, is based on an ideological naturalization of mercantile exchange, elevated to the condition of an aprioric endowment of the human mind (a natural-eternal forma mentis) and, at the same time, to a natural relational practice among individuals, conceived in turn as free-trading atoms. If, in The Wealth of Nations (1776), Adam Smith already posed free exchange as a quid proprium of human nature (“no one has ever seen a dog make with another dog a deliberate and fair exchange of one bone for another bone”), Milton Friedman goes further. And he ventures to extend the activity of free exchange to the very foundation of human relations: “economic activity is by no means the only area of human life in which a complex and sophisticated structure arises as an unintended consequence of the cooperation of a large number of individuals, each pursuing his own interests.”

In this sense, the formula—among those preferred by neo-liberal discourse—”working to sustain the Public Debt” means, no more and no less, than working to pay usurious interests to the financial markets, depriving the real economy of those scarce residues of wealth that the financial markets have not yet managed to “dematerialize” and make their own. The States, deprived of their sovereign currency, are forced to pay very high interests for the loans obtained in the financial markets and this determines the uninterrupted growth of the Public Debt. This, and certainly not the excessive cost of the welfare State, is the real cause of the Public Debt, whose calculated increase is intended to annihilate, in perfect neo-liberal style, the residues of welfarism and public spending, favoring the complete privatization of the world of life.

Strictly speaking, what has been said above is hardly refutable proof of Ezra Pound’s assertion that “a nation that does not want to get into debt makes usurers rage,” as well as of the vital need for nationalization of the banks in order to reduce the public debt and free itself from the auri sacra fames of the financial markets. The case of Japan remains exemplary. It has a sovereign currency and, despite having a fairly high Public Debt, is not subject to the rapacious attacks of financial speculation. In fact, on the one hand, Japan is guaranteed by its own Central Bank, which acts as “lender of last resort” and, on the other hand, 95% of the Japanese Public Debt is in the hands of the Japanese and not of speculators.

From this also follows the governmental character of the crisis: to govern by means of a crisis—one of the cornerstones of the neoliberal raison—means to manage it as a weapon for the benefit of the ruling classes who live off capital and against the dominated classes who live off labor. In effect, there is no crisis that is not exploited by capital and its servile governments to accelerate and intensify the transformation of the economy for the benefit of the dominant classes, sweeping away all still existing limits and, therefore, specifically and gradually weakening the sphere of the Public and the State.

If neoliberalism not only does not implode but strengthens, even after the continuous catastrophes it generates, it is also, because it continually manages to change the world (in the capitalist sense, of course), adapting it to the demands of the market, and exercising (also in this case in a capitalist way, that is, for the benefit of the ruling class) the hegemony theorized by Gramsci: from the Cato Institute to the Heritage Foundation, from the Adam Smith Institute to the Institute of Economic Affairs, from the Mont Pelerin Society to the Bilderberg Group and the Trilateral Commission, capitalism triumphs also thanks to its cultural hegemony, that is, through the domination combined with the consensus it manages to impose on all those who, truly, should have every interest in rebelling against it.

Diego Fusaro is professor of the History of Philosophy at the IASSP in Milan (Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies) where he is also scientific director. He is a scholar of the Philosophy of History, specializing in the thought of Fichte, Hegel, and Marx. His interest is oriented towards German idealism, its precursors (Spinoza) and its followers (Marx), with a particular emphasis on Italian thought (Gramsci or Gentile, among others). he is the author of many books, including Fichte and the Vocation of the IntellectualThe Place of Possibility: Toward a New Philosophy of Praxis, and Marx, again!: The Spectre ReturnsThis article appears courtesy of Posmodernia.

Featured: le Naufrage (Shipwreck), by Joseph Vernet; painted in 1772.

Drone Ideology for Volunteers

In the realm of ideology in Russia we have the following picture.

The state has done a lot to marginalize radical liberals. This process began in 2000 and took 24 years with several administrations. The influence of liberals on Russia’s ideology has steadily declined, but it is still very significant—primarily in culture, education, and science. Only liberals or those who do not receive clear and precise instructions from above can fight liberalism in such an uncertain and protracted manner.

At the same time, patriotism was growing steadily, but just as slowly—sometimes freezing on the same frame for a year or more. This was demanded by both our Crimea and the Special Military Operation (SMO). But even here the authorities acted as cautiously and uncertainly as they did with the dismantling of liberalism.

But new cadres had to be trained, and the main focus was the training of a special type—pure volunteers, ideological drones, managerial drones. This is how an interesting phenomenon emerged—a class of ideologically neutral statesmen oriented toward power and the managerial vertical as such.

At first, they tried to introduce a simulacrum of ideology, but then they gave up on that, too. Mass training of young and not so young volunteers of power has given birth to a whole new managerial class. It somewhat resembles the functioning of a computer or Artificial Intelligence. It does not matter what data the operator loads, what commands he gives. A computer is not supposed to reason. The main thing is that the algorithms work correctly.

Volunteers—carriers of zero-ideology—are now trained on an industrial scale. This is half good (they are not liberals), half bad (they are not patriots). The SMO and the war with the West (it is a long time coming, maybe forever) requires a further and rapid shift in the center of gravity toward an ideology of meaningful patriotism. Zero-ideology carriers are perfectly fine-tuned drones, and they are perfectly suited for this purpose—to process a patriotic program. But the operator has to hit the “enter” button. And the operator’s finger trembles. And the government volunteers are still processing what they have. For now—it is a testing ground and a laboratory. But it is time to get the program up and running.

But this principle was transferred to ideology, where such a model looks strange. An ideological class with zero ideology, a political drone. It is no longer liberal (minus-ideology), but not yet patriotic (plus-ideology).

At the same time, other neural networks are gradually forming in society and the nation—with a pronounced patriotic content. These are not zero-volunteers, but plus-volunteers—volunteers, heroes of the front and rear. The state stands on them. They create Victory, and therefore history. They are ruled by the spirit.

Zero-volunteers have nothing against patriots. But they have nothing for them, either. They have a different algorithm. It is time to unite these networks.

I hope that after the elections the authorities will hit the “enter” button to upload to society a full-fledged patriotic program, the general outlines of which are quite clearly outlined by the President, the decree on traditional values, the concept of foreign policy, etc. Plus-ideology, the foundations of patriotism are announced and outlined by the authorities. It is logical if their implementation starts in full force after the elections.

After all, it is time for us to start winning.

Alexander Dugin is a widely-known and influential Russian philosopher. His most famous work is The Fourth Political Theory (a book banned by major book retailers), in which he proposes a new polity, one that transcends liberal democracy, Marxism and fascism. He has also introduced and developed the idea of Eurasianism, rooted in traditionalism. This article appears through the kind courtesy of Geopolitika.

Featured: Golconde, by René Magritte; painted in 1953.