February 17, 2004

Yearning for Tyranny

The Guardian reports (surprise, surprise) that some British politicians were paid to help prop up Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq.

Anti-sanctions campaigns by former Irish premier Albert Reynolds, former Labour MP George Galloway, and current Labour MP Tam Dalyell were bankrolled by money from the UN’s oil for food program.

Tam Dalyell made a name for himself last year when he attacked Tony Blair for being in thrall to a “Jewish cabal.” Whoops! Looks like Mr. Dalyell was projecting. He’s the one in thrall to a cabal. And not a make-believe cabal, but a real one based in Baghdad.

Galloway’s defense of himself is pathetic.

Mr Galloway said he was unaware that his financial sponsors were getting oil cash from the UN programme. But he accepts that he knew his supporters had links with Saddam's regime, and regarded that as an inevitable price to pay.

Galloway most certainly did not view the fact that his friends were Baathists as a “price.” He is and has been an open admirer of totalitarian regimes from the Soviet Union to Saddam Hussein’s Iraq to Fidel Castro’s little tinpot paradise in Cuba.

After visiting Saddam in 1994, Galloway said to him, “Sir, I salute your courage, your strength, your indefatigability.” When asked if he was a Stalinist, he answered thusly: “If you are asking did I support the Soviet Union, yes I did. Yes, I did support the Soviet Union, and I think the disappearance of the Soviet Union is the biggest catastrophe of my life.” He supports North Korea while he’s at it. “If it comes to invasion of North Korea, I’ll be with North Korea. Be sure about that.”

Naturally he's a fan of the terrorists in Iraq. “The Iraqis have a legal and moral right to resist violent, illegal, foreign occupation, and that’s what they’re exercising.”

And, as Andrew Sullivan pointed out yesterday, he just adores Fidel Castro. “He’s the most magnificent human being I’ve ever met.”

The man is despicable, but give him some credit. He makes no bones about the fact that he sides with the enemies of democracy and the enemies of his country. He doesn’t waste any time dressing his wicked sympathies in liberal drag.

I can’t help but think some people admire totalitarian regimes not because they want to live in one, but because they want to be in charge of one. The Labour Party kicked George Galloway out on his ass, but he’s still a member of parliament.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at February 17, 2004 10:51 PM

For all you "internationalists" out there, this is the true, unstated mission for the UN - third world dictators buying diplomatic protection in the UN from corrupt socialist first world politicians. Welcome to utopia you fools.

Posted by: HA at February 18, 2004 03:33 AM

Mr. Totten for once, I think you have mastered the Understatement :-). To whit: "The man is despicable..."

There is absolutely nothing that anyone can possibly add to that.

Posted by: gmroper at February 18, 2004 04:50 AM

He is an MP. Who voted for him? Are just useful idiots or is he just representing his base?

Posted by: ex-democrat at February 18, 2004 05:28 AM

Michael, at least like a good whore, George Galloway is getting paid. But lets not give whores a bad name by associating them with the likes of Galloway.

Posted by: BigFire at February 18, 2004 06:13 AM

ex-d--exactly! Who voted for him? Galloway likely represents people whose god (socialism) died, depriving them of the chance to bring down fire and brimestone (or gulags) on those with whom they disagreed.

But, who killed this god? (After all, gods don't fail on their own, by definition.) It was the West, personified as the US. So, for revenge, Galloway and his voters will do whatever they can to hurt the West, for their god's sake.

(Hmm, tie in recent anti-semitism to the socialism faith . . )

Posted by: lancer at February 18, 2004 06:49 AM

Good post, MJT. Second to last sentence appears to be the crux of it.

Very good point, lancer.

Posted by: DennisThePeasant at February 18, 2004 07:13 AM

Oh my dear Michael, you forget the best part of the whole thing! Based on interviews with this paragon of depravity, Galloway the Marxist wears the best clothes, drives a righteous set of wheels, smokes primo cigars and has a swank vacation house.

Heck, he should be shot by his very best supporters.

Posted by: Bill at February 18, 2004 07:19 AM

All good Marxists pursue luxury like Galloway because nothing is too good for the working class.

Posted by: Zhombre at February 18, 2004 07:26 AM

So, for revenge, Galloway and his voters will do whatever they can to hurt the West, for their god's sake.

And when conservatives accuse these filth of being being anti-American and anti-west, such accusations are simply dismissed as hystrionics and hyperbole, not to be taken seriously by the more rational and highminded.

As the saying goes, McCarthy was more right than he was wrong.

Posted by: David at February 18, 2004 09:07 AM

I can’t help but think some people admire totalitarian regimes not because they want to live in one, but because they want to be in charge of one.

Which begs the question, "Why?"

My own personal theory is that such individuals were picked on in gym class, and in reaction to this and other traumatic childhood experiences they project their resentment of the class bully onto society at large. As young adults they grasped onto whichever theory empowered them psychologically them to strike back at society/bully, and the rest of their lives are spent building layer upon layer of ideological sophistry upon a foundation of resentment (see Chomsky). In short, they're nuts, and they use politics as an elaborate form of psycho-therapy.

Just a theory. Then again, maybe the Galloways of the world are just colossal wankers and at core quite stupid. ($1000 sez Galloway as a 14-year-old was a tiny runt with a gigantic ego, and he has yet to recover.)

Side note: Who voted for this guy? I dub them 'Galloweenies'.

Posted by: Catalonia at February 18, 2004 09:50 AM

This is kind of obvious, but constantly ignored: there is a tension between the moral value of liberty and freedom on one hand, and the moral values of equality and the inalienable right to a guaranteed minimum standard of living on the other. Some try to "resolve" that tension by ignoring one or the other. Many who write on MT's blog would deny that the principles of equality (of opportunity) and minimum standards (in outcomes) have any moral validity. Galloway simply does the same with liberty. He is willing to sacrifice free speech for free health care. Until capitalism creates enough wealth to eliminate want and deprivation for all, responsible politicians and voters will attempt to find a balance between the two.

Posted by: markus rose at February 18, 2004 10:42 AM

There has always been a strand of leftist thought which has been strongly anti-democratic, and thus pro-totalitarian.

Democracy is just too messy of a means for creating the perfect society.

In the 1930s-40s, this contempt for democracy and admiration for both fascist and communist dictators was the mainstream of leftist politics.

In the 1960s-1970s, the New Left saw Che Guevara and Mao's Hitler Youth as the epitome of pure revolutionary leaders who were going to sweep away the injustices of the world by abolishing democratic processes that just got in the way.

I don't think the American left is as anti-democratic now as it was during those two periods.
The obvious failure of central planning and the great resilence of liberal democracy have sobered them up somewhat. But the Left still looks more to the elite to run things than the mass middle class.

Some of the U.S. Right can be prone to seeking rule through an elite as well, but they are a thin fringe, not the thick layer of elitists that constantly seeps into the Democratic mainstream.

Galloway is a product of his youth 40 years ago and of the leftist world he inhabits. If he could, he'd throw all his opponents into concentration camps and do away with democracy. It's as simple as that.

Posted by: Matt Ward at February 18, 2004 10:49 AM

Markus Rose:

There is no inalienable right to a minimum standard of living. You can very easily tell the difference between a genuine right and some desirable something that is nevertheless not a right: A right does not cost someone else some of their time or treasure. You have a right to free speech, a right to freedom of assembly, a right to pursue happiness, etc. You do not have a right to someones else's platform for your speech, nor someone else's hall for your assembly, nor someone else's money for your pursuit of happiness.

Our judeo-christian civilization has always had strong injunctions to care for the less fortunate. But they are not rights.

Posted by: The Sanity Inspector at February 18, 2004 11:07 AM

Interesting that those always adovocating "equality" at the cost of freedom live in larger houses, drive better cars, eat better food and work less than us "greedy" middle-class kulaks. But whose fault is it for the Galloways and Chomskys in the world?

I think it is ours. For letting them get away with it. These guys should be selling used cars or sweeping floors. Instead we vote these types into office, buy their books, give them professorships and drink their kool-aid while they pick our pockets and rot our minds.

It is great scam, I shouldn't be surprised they take advantage of it.

Posted by: ex-democrats at February 18, 2004 11:10 AM

"Galloway simply does the same with liberty. He is willing to sacrifice free speech for free health care."

Ooh, bad choice! What does one then do when the health care system does not work and speaking out about it gets you shot?

ANY economic or social reform that does not incoporate a feedback loop via politics historically fails. I've had to revisit this since I'm teaching the Latin American survey this semester.

And I have to deal with the Galloways in LatAm studies where dictators who implement liberal reforms are "bad," those who implement socialist reforms are "good."

Posted by: lancer at February 18, 2004 11:16 AM

gmroper, let me attempt to add to it.

The other day, my wife was exasperated with a fellow teacher who was far more concerned about "enticing" high school students to lobby our state congress (who were voting on the K-12 budget) than he was about, you know, teaching students. He rudely interrupted her class, offering extra credit (against school policy) to any kids who'd drive over to the capitol and plead with representatives.

When she came home, she began venting about the guy and called him a jackass. As ever, I was half-listening and called the guy a moron.

"No," she said, "he's not a moron."

"Moron, jackass. What's the difference?" I replied.

"He knows what he's doing, but he just doesn't care. He's a jackass."

Now she had my attention, and she reminded me why I love being married to her.

So, in my neck of the woods, Galloway is -- categorically speaking -- a jackass.

Posted by: Matt Snyder at February 18, 2004 11:34 AM

OK, sanity inspector, I agree that having a guaranteed minimum income relative to the percapita wealth of society and minimal standards of human decency is not an "inalienable" right, especially in a democracy were people are in thrall with the myth of the "self-made man." I'll revise my comments to call it a "damn good idea." Gregg Easterbrook's current blog has a great post today on poverty in America:

Posted by: markus rose at February 18, 2004 11:55 AM

There we go Markus, the difference between a right and "a damn good idea" is profound. I happen to dislike socialism myself, but my support for the democratic process will override that on occassion. One example is the minimum wage, it is one important means of checking the power of large corporations, and preserving the democratic system.

Posted by: FH at February 18, 2004 12:20 PM

If Galloway were in uniform, he'd be shot. Or should be. Good grief! Just how seditious must one be nowadays before being held accountable?

Posted by: Lucile at February 18, 2004 12:36 PM

Interesting how the socialists on this thread will apologize for the Galloways of this world because "the trains must run on time." Only the trains are running for "the poor", not the middle class.

And these socialists have the nerve to call conservatives "fascist".

Posted by: David at February 18, 2004 12:42 PM
"My own personal theory is that such individuals were picked on in gym class, and in reaction to this and other traumatic childhood experiences they project their resentment of the class bully onto society at large."

As one of the runts of the gymn class litter who later got bigger but not meaner (and for that matter, grew up), I see the big pictures but I gotta disagree with some of the detail. They don't want to strike back at the bully/society. They want to BE the bully. Why else would the Galloways of the world side with Kim Jong Il and not with his victims.

They never break out of that Elementary/Jr High School mindset where power is not making an idea work, but by stoping someone else from using an idea. And by the time they do figure that part out they realize its too late to learn new tricks and now have no other way to prevail other than being (or wanting to be) the boot in everyone else's face. That's not therapy. That's becoming the... ahem... "Oppressor" out of explict willful desire.

What has Gallway et al. created or invented? Nothing. Who does they go after? Those who do. Who does they hate? Those who "can."

Big BIG difference. Face it. Galloway IS "Jim Taggart" (and just as two-dimensional).

Posted by: Bill at February 18, 2004 12:48 PM

A right does not cost someone else some of their time or treasure.

Almost true, but not quite. If an innocent child is bleeding to death in front of you, he has a right to simple assistance. It would be wrong to walk away and say, "He has no right to my assistance."

American children and handicapped adults, the innocent and unavoidably poverty-stricken amongst them, have a right to minimal assistance from us well-to-do Americans. This is because it's wrong for us to withhold this assistance. You can't do something wrong without there being a corresponding violation of rights.

But Markus is wrong that "self-made man" is a myth. He's also wrong to think that a minimal income is a good idea. First, he leaves out the terms "innocent" and "helpless". Only the innocent and helpless have a right to minimal income. Second, his "minimal income" is scaled to the wealth of the society. This is a bad idea. On this idea, we'd owe poor people cars and backyard pools if we got very rich. No, a roof and a square meal for the innocently helpless: this is obviously a right, but nothing more is a right.

So, I disagree with both Markus and SP.

Posted by: Jim at February 18, 2004 12:56 PM

FH: I agree that a basic saftey net is possible and desirable, but you are aware that minimum wage creates unemployement and especially hurts the poor, uneducated, minorities and women along with small business and the economy in general?

See that is the real problem with most Leftist "solutions" -- they are believed by faith alone, devoid of reason and common sense. Usually it is just based on ignorence. I used to also believe in minumum wages, rent controls and other socialist ideas until I studied economics (I recommend Hazlitt's Economics In One Lesson to find out why these don't work).

But the Galloways in the world don't give a crap that socialism doesn't mork. Their goal is POWER and socialism is a good scam to trick the ignorent.

Posted by: ex-democrat at February 18, 2004 12:59 PM

David: Interesting how the socialists on this thread will apologize for the Galloways of this world because "the trains must run on time."

Who on this thread is a socialist? Who on this thread is an apologist for George Galloway? Who is saying "the trains must run on time?"

David, if you're "seeing" that kind of commentary on this thread, it's no wonder you hate liberals so much. You don't like it when liberals say Bush is a fascist (and neither do I), but it seems you're making the same mistake here from the other side.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at February 18, 2004 01:14 PM

Darn I forgot to include this quote in my post:

"You cannot make a man worth a given amount by making it illegal for anyone to offer him anything less." - Henry Hazlitt, Economics in One Lesson

Posted by: ex-democrat at February 18, 2004 01:24 PM

Many who write on MT's blog would deny that the principles of equality (of opportunity) and minimum standards (in outcomes) have any moral validity.

Er, well, there is a gigantic difference between equality of outcome and equality of opportunity. While the latter has moral validity, the former has none when it is used as an excuse to confiscate the property or eliminate the rights (e.g., freedom of speech, assembly, et al) of others in pursuit of this confiscation, especially since the elimination of said rights inevitably leads to inequality of opportunity AND outcome. The real question for me is: How often is a ‘minimum standard in outcomes’ used to demagogue the ignorant, unstable, or irrational? And why do some not understand that a free society is the exact opposite of an equal society?

Galloway simply does the same with liberty. He is willing to sacrifice free speech for free health care.

For people like Galloway, free health care (free?) is just a tool, neither here nor there really. It is merely leverage to eliminate free speech and other rights because they get in the way of his mostly subconscious pathological need to get even with a society that serves as a proxy for some group of people resents. There is no intellectual basis for inveterate Stalinists these days. To a man (woman) they are kooks.

Anecdotal side note: Have you ever met a Marxist who did not have childhood ‘issues’? I haven’t. Not once. To a man and woman they had issues with abuse, abandonment, self-esteem, etc. Remarkably similar to members of cults, at least from what I’ve read about the psychology of cultists. In the 21st century Marxism appears to have become a religious cult, a rancid depository of individuals with psychological problems. Thus to me Galloway is indeed just a nut. A dangerous nut because he wields influence, but still a nut.

Until capitalism creates enough wealth to eliminate want and deprivation for all, responsible politicians and voters will attempt to find a balance between the two.

The definition of deprivation is a moving target for those who have an agenda (e.g., the pursuit of power in support of personal vindication or ambition). Just listen to the rhetoric of the Democratic candidates, for instance. The poor in America and Western Europe are vastly more wealthy than the destitute of the Third World, which is to say capitalism has provided them with a lifestyle that while difficult is hardly equivalent to the deprivation of those who don’t even have access to clean water. That’s not to say there aren’t problems of substance abuse, domestic violence, et al, but in the modern world nothing has been tried that builds wealth as effectively as capitalism. In spite of this, however, some hold capitalism to unrealistic standards of perfection (i.e., utopia, heaven), and since no human system can possibly be perfect (eliminate want and deprivation for all, as you put it), it is used as an excuse to dismantle it or push through any government program, no matter how poorly thought out. Funny, though – extreme socialism does not hold up well over time, either. Are you so forgiving of socialism, or of other more extreme socialistic systems that actually eliminate private property? Do you hold them up to a standard of perfection?

Posted by: Catalonia at February 18, 2004 01:26 PM

Who on this thread is a socialist? Who on this thread is an apologist for George Galloway?

Hey Michael, maybe you should re-read Markus comments posted at 10:42. Don't tell me he's not apologizing for Galloway. I know soft-peddling when I see it.

Posted by: David at February 18, 2004 01:32 PM

David: I know soft-peddling when I see it.

Doesn't look that way to me. Markus pointed out that Galloway denies liberty has any validity. And so you assume, based on this, that Markus himself denies that liberty has any validity? And that Markus is an apologist for George Galloway and, by extension, Stalin, Sadam, Kim, and Fidel?

Please. I'd love to see you try to back any of that up.

I'm sure Markus can defend himself well enough, but I don't want smart and reasonable commenters here driven out by ad hominem attacks like yours. I occasionally get emails from people telling me they don't want to post here anymore, and it's always the moderates who are driven away. It's a shame.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at February 18, 2004 01:56 PM

Until capitalism creates enough wealth to eliminate want and deprivation for all, responsible politicians and voters will attempt to find a balance between the two.


Ad hominems, ad schnominems. I didn't even name the poster until your comments required me to. I'm passionate, but I rarely direct my attacks at individuals.

But now that you mention it, I've posted some more of post 10:42. Try telling me that isn't a soft-peddling of Galloway's traitorous ways. To Markus, Galloway is merely seeking "balance". Whatever. I know it when I see it.

Posted by: David at February 18, 2004 02:04 PM

David -- I lumped Galloway with the others who think that liberty and equality are mutually excludable. I was damning him, not praising him. I am not a member of a party that calls itself socialist. I am for private property rights and against the government owning or managing economic production. I'm for mildly redistributive tax policies and moderate regulatory policies. In general, I want to encourage and reward entrepreneurship. I support upward mobility AND downward mobility. "Socialism" is about as precise a term as "love," but I think it would be fair to say that I'm not in love.

Posted by: markus rose at February 18, 2004 02:10 PM

Then I stand corrected. end of story.

Posted by: David at February 18, 2004 02:14 PM

RE: your comment,

What has Gallway et al. created or invented? Nothing. Who does they go after? Those who do. Who does they hate? Those who "can."

Big BIG difference. Face it. Galloway IS "Jim Taggart" (and just as two-dimensional).....

I had him figured for more of an Ellsworth Toohey than Jim Taggart

Posted by: Citizen Dave at February 18, 2004 02:47 PM

Markus Rose...

Whoh, you're starting to sound a lot like a Clintonesque neo-liberal (like myself). Maybe I'm mistaking stuff you've said in the past, but if I'm not, when in the heck did this conversion take place?!

About all that you've said, by the way, I couldn't agree more...we're the richest nation in the world...no adult person willing and capable to work 40 hours a week should ever go without food, basic health coverage, and the essentials necessary to sustain life...no child in this country should ever have to live in poverty, ever, whatever it takes (even if that means child services intervening way more than they already do). And just how in the hell some folks intelligently read into this socialism is beyond me. And, no, David I'm not talking about you. You recognize the huge difference between liberalism and socialism. I can appreciate that.

I read the Easterbrook article earlier today and it makes me mad as hell. If anyone has yet to follow that link...


...I highly suggest you check it out. It's the best non-bias evaluation of poverty in America I've maybe ever seen.

Posted by: Grant McEntire at February 18, 2004 02:53 PM

As for whoever said that McCarthy was "more right than he was wrong", doesn't that kind of depend upon who you're asking? I doubt a single one of the innocent many hundreds of lives he ruined would happen to agree with you. It's kind of like saying it's no big deal if the government abuses the Patriot Act to punish innocent citizens because you're not Arab and it doesn't effect you.

McCarthy does deserve some credit for recognizing a real threat that many and most politicians at that time were more than happy to overlook. The threat was real, much more real than was ever suspected up until recently.

But in the end it was undeniably a dangerously reckless overreaction. I don't know if that really makes him more right than wrong in my book.

Posted by: Grant McEntire at February 18, 2004 03:06 PM


Imagine if Bush had confronted Saddam's Regime not with targeted bombs and ground troops but with a nuclear attack to wipe out the entire population of the country. It's a pretty unrealistic comparison, but do you get the point?

Posted by: Grant McEntire at February 18, 2004 03:10 PM


Very true, but my small comment about McCarthy stems less from support of his carpet bombing ways than it does from a recognition that he DID recognize the threat where many chose to look the other way. Today, many choose to look the other way.

Posted by: David at February 18, 2004 03:33 PM

Marxism ultimately failed because its fundamental assumption was proven to be wrong. Far from capitalism leading to more wealth for the capitalists at the expense of the prolitariat, it actually created more wealth for the prolitariat. The poor in a capitalist system are far better off than the poor in a marxist system because capitalism has proven so successful at increasing the size of the pie; the capitalists could take a larger slice of pie, but it didn't come at the expense of the workers because the pie also got bigger.

Posted by: Ben at February 18, 2004 03:45 PM

I wonder why we haven't heard from Kimmitt yet. . . .

Posted by: Ben at February 18, 2004 03:45 PM

Kimmitt got pissed and left when MT said jihad was bad. I kinda miss the little guy.

Posted by: Jim at February 18, 2004 03:51 PM

Then again, he may have gone off on a jihad himself...

Posted by: DennisThePeasant at February 18, 2004 05:24 PM

re Kimmit

Have seen his name very recently on Tacitus - keeping on with his convictions.

Posted by: marek at February 18, 2004 06:03 PM


And just how in the hell some folks intelligently read into this socialism is beyond me.

Any government program that coercively seizes the property of one group and redistributes that property to another group is socialist. America hasn't been a purely capitalist society since at least the New Deal or perhaps the passage of the 16th Amendment. We are a capitalist society with some socialist features. In contrast, the rest of the industrialized world is socialist with capitalist features. Why is this beyond you?

Posted by: HA at February 18, 2004 06:47 PM


I kinda miss the little guy.

Who else would bring us the revelation that capitalism causes black lung?

Posted by: HA at February 18, 2004 06:51 PM

HA: In contrast, the rest of the industrialized world is socialist with capitalist features. Why is this beyond you?

Canada and France also are capitalist countries with socialist features. Vietnam and China are socialist countries with capitalist features.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at February 18, 2004 06:53 PM

Somebody or other said that wherever there is a jackboot stepping on a human face, there will be a well-heeled Western liberal there to assure us that the face enjoys free health care and a high degree of literacy. Galloway and his ilk are more concerned about their ideas than they are with anything about human beings. Hannah Arendt was right about how banal evil can be.

Posted by: Brooks at February 18, 2004 09:02 PM


'Galloweenies' would be an adequate term in the absense of something better, but I do have that something better to propose: 'Gallowankers'. It seems to capture so much better the pinache of these tyrant-lovers.


> If an innocent child is bleeding to death in front of you,
> he has a right to simple assistance. It would be wrong to
> walk away and say, "He has no right to my assistance."

I agree it would be cruel, inhuman, and immoral to do so, but a right implies a whole lot of other stuff that I don't think fits here. Such as: so you should go to jail if you don't provide the assistance? So a policeman on the scene should try to compel you to help, and shoot you if you don't?

Posted by: KP at February 18, 2004 09:28 PM


Whoh, I never said America didn't incorporate socialist ideas into a capitalist framework. We have what constitutes a "mixed" economy. I never said otherwise. I fear you misinterpreted what I said.

I was simply saying that it annoys me when people see a marginal redistribution of income, government programs like Social Security, and the slight regulation of business and say, "That's Socialism!!!"

That's not socialism. Those are socialistic ideas and socialistic programs, I totally agree with you, but socialism is way more than a few programs and a minimal welfare state.

The government, in America, doesn't control the means of production and it's philosophically built on private property rights. With this in mind, all I was saying is that it ticks me off when alot of folks deny the existence of any shade of gray whatsoever, shouting "Socialism!, Socialism!, Socialism!," every time they see the government stepping in to do anything that has to do with their lives. It's just really damn ignorant-sounding to me when you truly consider just how far from socialism we are (especially in comparison to the rest of the world).

If you must know, when I said all that I was really just venting frustration at my Ayn-Rand-worshipping "Objectivst" friends. These people are damn nutty, let me tell ya. They want to abolish the welfare state and return to a time of PURE capitalism. What really pisses me off about these guys is when I show them historical evidence of just how shitty life was back then they don't seem to care because history doesn't matter when they know they're right. To me, that's ideology...ideology blind to any practical considerations...the same sort of thinking that Marx employed, which is dangerous.

Sorry if my pissed-off-ness got in the way of stating more clearly what I was trying to say. Fundamentally, I agree with every word you said in response. It was all just a big misunderstanding.

Posted by: Grant McEntire at February 18, 2004 11:05 PM

I want to throw out an idea, here, and get some kind of reaction to it if I can.

They say that what FDR did in securing the banks and creating the modern welfare state was an effort to "save capitalism from itself". I happen to agree. I think Roosevelt probably looked at what Marx predicted would happen to the form of near-pure capitalism that existed at the time and more or less agreed with his analysis of its inevitable collapse. I also happen to think that he looked at what Marx deemed the solution to the problem, Socialism as a Road to Communism, and believed the cure to be far worse than the disease. Not a whole lot of people out there dispute this: Roosevelt was wholly committed to reform and not revolution.

But I think the bigger picture was that Roosevelt was more concerned with saving capitalism from the socialists than anything else. Historians, for some reason, today downplay the massive call for a transition to socialism that was out there at the time. Alot of the evidence suggests that, on more than a few occasions during the Great Depression, the American people had pretty much concluded that the Capitalist system was broken beyond repair and that the American way of liberal democracy had failed them. I've read documentation on this. It's pretty conclusive.

In this regard, I am here arguing that Franklin Delano Roosevelt should be every free-market conservative's favorite president. He enacted the programs and instituted the reforms contemporary conservatives hate the most because at the time, left no other choice than a socialist revolution, he had to.

He indeed saved capitalism from itself but I don't believe this was his what he was truly after, first and foremost. First and foremost, much as Lincoln is quoted as saying he would have gladly left the slaves in slavery to save the union, Roosevelt's only true cause at the time was the preservation of United States of America. Had he been able to hold the country together without a single reform, I believe he would have.

I'm thinking about turning this idea into a Senior Thesis: That FDR is completely misunderstood, in this regard. Since so many people are here talking about socialism and capitalism and what not, I figured I might as well throw this out there for comments and criticism. Michael, if at all possible, your thoughts would be the most appreciated of all.

Posted by: Grant McEntire at February 18, 2004 11:39 PM

Well, I'm pretty pro-free-market, but let me challenge those who support the "poor". Do you support unlimited immigration into the USA? (I do)
If not, you want to use force, against poor folk, to STOP them from offering to work for less than minimum wage; you FORCE them to live in poverty.

I do think the commies did something really good - no unemployment. After 68, A. Dubcek was forced to work in some manual forestry function. In fact, unemployment was illegal.

I support a voluntary, "national service corps", where any US citizens (not immigrants?) can get a job; with cafeteria food and dorm rooms and curfews and other, reasonable limits on their freedoms, since they're unable/ unwilling to take care of themselves. Not so unlike voluntary prison. So all "homeless" would have a home possibility, if they accept the rules. But they are free to leave, when they want, and look for some other higher paying job, or after they have found one...

And then eliminate all other gov't support for rich farmers, rich airline execs, rich US programmers, etc.

There are some ugly truths about wanting to take from the rich to give to the poor. First, such programs usually benefit the middle class, and bureaucrats, far more than the poor. Second, in the USA, middle class people are, globally, rich; so such US programs are an attempt to take from the super-rich to give to the rich -- not all that different from taking from the rich to give to the super-rich (crony capitalism that I hate in Bush).

Finally, back on-topic (surprise!), support for tyranny is based partly on avoidance of these truths. The Galloway rich and envious types want to take, or support somebody taking, from the super-rich, in the name of the poor, but really to benefit their own "middle class" (world-rich), and let the real poor rot.

Posted by: Tom Grey at February 19, 2004 01:12 AM


I'm with you all the way on FDR. I think you get Lincoln wrong, though. Before the end of the Civil War he was absolutely committed to ending slavery in America forever.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at February 19, 2004 01:14 AM

I agree on the objectivist-wackos (though I think reading Rand does yield many important insights), but I suggest you expand your reading into some additional economics and history and check a few of your premises before your write your thesis:

1) "return to a time of PURE capitalism"

...which never existed. Free markets are an ideal which never existed in the past, and in many ways exist now more than ever. The "Robber Barron" era never really existed (at least, not any more than it does today).

2) They say that what FDR did in securing the banks and creating the modern welfare state was an effort to "save capitalism from itself".

...but "pure capitalism" was a time of massive government intervention (thanks Herbert Hoover!) messing up the money supply. FDR really messed it up more. (See "Capitalism and Freedom" by Milton Friedman for more about 1 & 2).

Your argument that FDR's PROPAGADA that he was "saving capitalism" may have saved free enterprise from communist takeover by the ignorent masses is an interesting thesis and probably true (my Grandpa worked in steel and communists WERE infiltrating the steel unions in the 1930s with the intention of taking over --- and their idea that capitalism was finished WAS their reasoning).

Good luck on your thesis, I hope post it to the web some day.

Posted by: ex-democrat at February 19, 2004 04:13 AM


So we agree that our America is a mixed capitalist/socialist economy. The crux of the disagreement is where on the continuum you have to be before we become more socialist than capitalist.

I would argue that we become predominantly socialist when we exceed a level of 50% of the GDP is fed through the government meat grinder. By that measure we are very close because we are currerntly at around 40%. If you include spending by the private sector due to regulatory mandates, we may exceed 50% already.

If you nationalise health care as the Democrats want, we will be well over the 50% threshold. Money is power and money in the hand of government is government power. Do you really want the government to have that much power? I know I don't. I think we've "progressed" too far already. And after nationalising health care, will the Democrats be satisified that we have become "progressive" enough? Or will we need more "progress" in some aspect of society that will require another government program that will chew up even more of our economy. Where does "progress" end? When government controls the distribution of 100% of our economic output?

You don't have to have government control of production to have socialism. The only reason to control production is to control distribution. Government control of distribution is effectively the same as government control of production.

I don't have time to google it right now, but I don't think I'm risking my credibility to assert that France and Canada exceed that threshold. That is why their societies are breaking down.

I have a tremendous respect for FDR. But many of his programs were a double-edged sword. Some argue is economic programs prolonged the Depression which rather than saving capitalism from itself put it at greater risk. FDR also tried to pack the Supreme court which exceeded his Constitutional authority in a Nixonian fashion.

It might intrigue you guys to know that my grandfather was a mid-level appointee in the Roosevelt administration. My parents still have his invitation FDR's third augural in 1941. His address is worth reading for it contains this prescient warning:

But if the spirit of America were killed, even though the Nation's body and mind, constricted in an alien world, lived on, the America we know would have perished.


I think we are reaching a point in this nation where the danger Roosevelt warned us about is becoming manifest. I feel that since Vietnam, Roosevelt's successors in the Democratic party have lost their fundamental belief in America. I believe we are at a pivotal moment in history. The decisions we make today will affect generations. We'd better choose wisely. I fear that we won't.

The Founding Fathers and Lincoln both faced wrenching choices between slavery and the survival of government of the people, by the people and for the people. The Founding Fathers chose to accomodate slavery so that the union would survive. Lincoln was able to preserve the union and defeat slavery.

I think you get Lincoln wrong, though.

Not at all. If the union had failed, representative liberal democracy would have also failed. What do you think the world would look like today if Lincoln had lost the Civil War and the union disintegrated? I think tyranny and slavery would still be the norm today. If Lincoln had judged that he could not save the union and defeat slavery, I think he would have let his succesors join the battle against slavery when they judged they could achieve both ends. Lincoln knew that survival of the union was essential to the fight against slavery and the struggle for liberty around the world.

Posted by: HA at February 19, 2004 04:49 AM

Well, KP, if you see a stranger on the street and scream obscenities in his face at the top of your lungs, you've violated a right of his. This is clear because you've done something wrong to him. But you shouldn't be shot or sent to jail. So, your objection doesn't hold.

Plus, you haven't shown how it could be wrong to do something that doesn't violate anyone's rights. Clearly it's wrong not to render simple assistance to a child who is bleeding to death. How could it not violate any right of his?

There is no argument for hardline libertarianism. In fact, hardline libertarianism is simply the basic belief that no one has a right to anyone else's help. That's just libertarian bedrock. I've looked for more than a decade, but I've never seen a libertarian give an argument for it. And it flies in the face of the facts:

"The boy was bleeding to death. He had a right to your simple assistance."

Hardline libertarianism may thus be dismissed as readily as leftism. It may not be as sinister, but it is as unfounded.

Posted by: Jim at February 19, 2004 05:46 AM

You are not looking very hard. You may disagree with libertarianism (and I do with parts of it), but it is incorrect (and very ignorent) to state there is not arguements or philosophical bedrock for their beliefs:

The Libertarian Idea by Jan Narveson
Anarchy, State & Utopia by Nozick

Also Ayn Rand and Murray Rothbard (those beware of their followers!)

It is dumb to dismiss any philosophy that makes you think, in my opinion. Leftism is easily dismissed as movement or policial affiliation, precises because it has no philsophical bedrock. Libertarians do (and so do conservatives and liberals - real liberals that is, not "leftists in drag"*)

*I love this line Michael!

Posted by: ex-democrat at February 19, 2004 06:25 AM

"Also Ayn Rand and Murray Rothbard (those beware of their followers"

Those = Though

I can't type today!

Posted by: ex-democrat at February 19, 2004 06:28 AM

On the contrary, as a professor of ethics, I looked hard for years and years.

I've read Nozick, and discussed the topic with Narveson in person. Rand I can't take seriously, after reading excerpts of her work and engaging her followers in discussion. I still haven't found an argument for hardline libertarianism.

I'll take Locke's form of libertarianism; he rejected the hardline form early in the Second Treatise on Government.

Posted by: Jim at February 19, 2004 01:12 PM

Jim: I think Narveson as a pretty good explanation in The Libertarian Idea (first half). You may not agree with him, but _there_are_arguments.

As for Rand, it is pretty inexcusable (IMHO) to discount a writer before even reading her works -- especially for an ethics professor.

Agree a lot of her followers are dorks, but she is an interesting writer/pop-philosopher nonetheless (excerpts don't count, always read source materials before bashing a writer!)

Personally I don't find Locke very convincing. But I don't pretend his arguments don't exist either.

Posted by: ex-democrat at February 19, 2004 01:52 PM

When the excerpts one reads are bad enough, discounting the work before reading the whole thing is permissible, especially when the excerpts are represented by her followers to be her core arguments.

Posted by: Jim at February 19, 2004 02:16 PM

Sorry Jim. It is intelletually dishonest to bash her work without reading any of the source material in context.

Read or don't read her, it is your choice. But bad-mouthing material you haven't even bothered to read is pretty LAME. It reminds me of those who never read Nietzsche, but then call him a Nazi and then pat themselves on the back. Lame.

Posted by: ex-democrat at February 19, 2004 02:28 PM

Michael/Everyone Else...

Lincoln was morally opposed to slavery, no doubt, but is authoritatively QUOTED as saying that he would have abandoned their cause to save the union. I have this quote at home. I'll post it later.

Posted by: Grant McEntire at February 19, 2004 02:33 PM


I'm familiar with that quote, but Lincoln ratcheted up his abolitionism later on. I'm at work and don't have time to fish for quotes right now, but suffice it to say that one quote doesn't summarize Lincoln's entire position on slavery.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at February 19, 2004 02:52 PM

It's not lame, ex-D. One should know bad philosophy when one see it. Just give me ten paragraphs supposed to be a core argument for libertarianism. If the passage is horrible, hardly rising to the label "argument," then one is justified in dismissing the author out of hand. Appeals to context means nothing when we're talking about patent tripe.

Now, instead of the insults, why don't you deliver one of the arguments for the view that no one ever has a right to assistance. You say there are several, after all.

Posted by: Jim at February 19, 2004 03:02 PM


Here is a "hardline" argument against any "right to help"...

A child is drowning, does he/she have an absolute human right to help? What if you can't swim? What if he is drowing in a shark tank, and there is a good chance you will both die when you attempt resue? What if it isn't a child, but a hated enemy (still a human)? or a child molestor? What if the child is suffering from a horrible terminal illness, where she lives everyday in pain? What if you might risk another child's life saving the drowing one?

You may choose to save the child/person anyway. But that would be bacause you VALUE the child/person (or your attempt to save them) more than not saving them.

We dicuss the pro/cons of valuing the lives of children or cute puppies or child molestors or whatever another day. But that should put to rest your question about lack of arguments on this issue.

Posted by: ex-democrat at February 19, 2004 03:05 PM

You know "bad" philosophy by not reading it? What a pathetic mentality. Did you read the first paragraph of the Republic, dislike it and then bash Plato as writing "patent tripe"?

Are you really a scholar? As someone who values higher education, I hope not!

Posted by: ex-democrat at February 19, 2004 03:15 PM

You failed to give an argument that no one has a right to assistance, the libertarian position at issue. You issue a fourth insult. I'm finished with this conversation.

I try to learn from the wisdom of every philosopher I meet, but in this case I've wasted my time. Not that you don't have some wisdom to offer, for all I know, but the wall of spite is impenetrable.

Posted by: Jim at February 19, 2004 03:39 PM

My argument is above, posted at February 19, 2004 03:05 PM . If there are exceptions then it isn't a universal right -- by defintion of "universal right."

I presented six clear exceptions.

I would suggest actually reading what people write before you enter a debate about the merits of their arguments. My tone is harsh, but I call out BS when I see it.

Posted by: ex-democrat at February 19, 2004 04:00 PM

The UN is run by Galloways and Dalyells where - unlike in the UK where there is still some semblence of an independent citizenry - they are insulated from any and all accountability. The UN's very purpose is to facilitate and legitimize totalitarian regimes (and then rail at the Jews). The EC leadership is heading in this direction as well. It's like the world forgot every lesson from the Soviet Union. Thank God for the United States (now, as always, the world's first last and best hope) and better voices in the UK. If it were not for Bush (and Blair's support of his policies) Galloway and Dallyell and the thousands just like them in the UN would still be rolling about in their oil-for-food millions while Uday rapes and kills and Saddam shoots his sons and sends money to the PLO.

Posted by: Sergio at February 19, 2004 06:32 PM

Markus Rose — Yes, the American Left is still that anti-democratic. You should have heard the rage festering out of the Californian Democrats in our state government during the run-up to the budget crisis. They were literally furious that the voters were actually talking about not letting them take more money to dribble back to us as they see fit. The actual quote from one particularly progressive Democratic assembly drone was "We have to make them feel the pain." (she did not realize there was an open mike in the room)

The only acceptable definition of freedom to contemporary Western progressives is an orderly dole queue...

Posted by: Richard McEnroe at February 19, 2004 06:59 PM


Here is the Lincoln quote:


I think you would agree that Lincoln was a moral man. The quote you are referring to indicates that Lincoln saw both eliminating slavery and preserving the union as moral goods. By stating that he would choose preserving the union over eliminating slavery he was effectively saying that preserving union was a greater moral good than eliminating slavery. What qualities do you think Lincoln saw in our union that made its preservation a greater moral good than eliminating slavery?

Posted by: HA at February 19, 2004 07:07 PM

I have noticed that many humans quest for fame and/or money, when these are not enough comes the sweet song of ....POWER...and per the famous quote "power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely"...it is the nature of many humans while some attain this ultimate goal....there are all those want to bees that think the corrupt individual is to be admired. I shake my head at both...sad

Posted by: geri at February 19, 2004 08:16 PM

Galloway once called me a "fascist racist barely literate moron" cause I stuck up for the USA and Israel in that order. Obviously, that is a wicked concept for a leftist when any privileged white person shows any group loyalty. He has no loyalty to his people or his nation, just some intellectual fantasy about the new red world order!

Posted by: Jakester at February 19, 2004 09:59 PM


> What really pisses me off about these guys is
> when I show them historical evidence of just
> how shitty life was back then they don't seem
> to care because history doesn't matter when
> they know they're right.

Uhh, perhaps they don't care because they realize that, by our current standards, life was shitty for everybody. The biggest, baddest, filthy-richest robber baron of them all had no more access to antibiotics or bypass surgery than did the average Neanderthal.

Posted by: Kirk Parker at February 19, 2004 10:58 PM

Saddam paid Brit politicians. Haliburton paid US politicians. So in the end...everyone gets paid!

Posted by: Revolutionary at February 19, 2004 11:09 PM

Jim has the argument convoluted. What argument can he give that anyone has a claim on me to do anything other than leaving them alone and respecting their life. liberty and property. The argument against the claim that the child has a "right" to my assistance is that I own my life. If someone can assert a claim on me to take some action for their benifit, that in effect makes me a slve to them. Yes helping other people is a good and noble idea. Charitty is wonderful, assuming the recipient is worthy, i.e. not a shifless bumb. but it is not a right. Simply because something is nice to do does not make it compulsary. Rights are negative in nature, They prevent you from doing things e.g. assalting, stealing, killing, etc, they are not claims on another persons life. If Jim is indeed a teacher of ethics he is a living example of what is wrong with accademia.

Posted by: Bob Greene at February 20, 2004 01:44 AM

It's a sign of the degeneration of civil society. These politicians are like the executives of Enron. They see nothing wrong with deceiving and stealing money from their employees, customers or investors. It's becoming clear to me that there is a phylosophy behind this cult of greed which allows these figures to suspend normal human morals. They believe like Nietzsche that there are two sorts of people, the rulers and the garbage. They believe as rulers they can do whatever they like with the rest of the people. Compare it to a farmer, who owns cattle. Society accept that these cattle are worth less than the farmer and that the hide and meat of the animals belong to the farmer. He can do with them as he likes. Well these executives and politicians think average people are not human, but less. They are animals for them to use and abuse. These people believe in the caste system and don't lose one minute of sleep thinking about all the people they hurt. Think about the farmer who sends his cattle to be slaughtered and collects a tidy profit. He sleeps very well. Why shouldn't he? Afer all they are just cattle. This philosophy has not only been spread by Nietzsche, but also Plato and recently Leo Strauss.

Posted by: Ricky Vandal at February 20, 2004 03:33 AM

(Just to show Jim that I am not just picking on him.)

Ricky, have you ever even bothered to read Nietzsche, Plato or Struass? Or are you just talking out of your ass?

Most likely the later....

Posted by: ex-democrat at February 20, 2004 05:27 AM

Ricky, have you ever even bothered to read Nietzsche, Plato or Struass? Or are you just talking out of your ass?

They never said they were cattle; they said they should be treated like cattle.

Posted by: Hitch at February 20, 2004 06:59 AM

No they didn't Hitch. But keep regurgatating second-hand slander, much easier than actually READING and THINKING for yourself. That is what the world needs, more barfing of ignorence.

Posted by: ex-democrat at February 20, 2004 07:01 AM

I have read Nietzche. And it doesn't take much (if any) misreading to see him as a proto-fascist. He does divide people into "Supermen" and "the herd." In fact, in one of his books--the particular one escapes me at the moment--he specifically calls liberalism (the classical kind that our system is based on) "herd animalism." And taken at face value, his statements on morality and the will to power would also justify treating "the herd" as cattle. I have to agree with ex-democrat about Ricky's comments on Plato and Strauss though. Plato is clearly an elitist and anti-democrat, but his elite is charged with taking care of the polis and leading its citizens to the good life. That may seem dictatorial to contemporary Americans, but it is nothing like recommending that the common people be treated like cattle. I have only read one book of essays by Strauss (The Rebirth of Classical Political Rationalism) so I can't comment too intelligently on him except to say that nothing in that particular book supports Ricky's comments.

Posted by: Fred at February 20, 2004 08:52 AM

There is confusion between Rights and Responsibilities.

We have the Right to pursue happiness. And we have a Responsibility to help others. But we don't OWE that help to less fortunate people. We owe it to ourselves, to our humanity, to those who helped us (Pay it Forward), or for the religious, we owe it to God.

But those who we help have no moral Right to assistance. They can accept or reject it, but they have no moral Right to demand it. Just because I have a Responsibility to assist others does not give a thief the Right to take what is mine. I can choose to fulfill my obligation or not. If not, I can be condemned by my peers for being an irresponsible man, but not on the basis of disregarding the Rights of those less fortunate.

A key test for bad socialistic laws: Does the proposed law collectively give a group of people the right to take something from me, for which, if they tried it individually, they would be jailed as criminals?

Posted by: Scott Harris at February 20, 2004 09:18 AM

Fred: Nietzche was an individualist, amoralist, determinist and a critic of many ideas, including liberalism. He considered himself a scientist, not a moralist.

To call him a "proto-fascist" is just repeating second-hand libel from his enemies. They seem to forget that he was equally critical of anti-semitism, socialism and nationalism, key elements in fascism. Though he was certainly an elitst (as was Plato and Aristotle), he never describes his ideal society or policitial system in any detail.

Besides, any one reading him would know Nietzche would have spit in the face of any fascist, dictator or totalitarain.

His critiques of democracy and liberalism are valuable, as liberalism and democracy are not perfect. I personally find a lot his critisms dead on - espcially the "herd animal" cut), which are challenges we need to recognize (though I remain a democrat and liberal).

Posted by: ex-democrat at February 20, 2004 09:38 AM

I'm going to have to agree with Jim although Scott's post about Responsibility is nice. Ex-dem, you sounded mostly okay until you went off on this crusade against allowing any obligation on your part to exist.

A bleeding child on the street does have a right to help. Ex-dems what ifs are just that. Let us be clear, in certain situations, rights conflict.

The child in question has a right, but if there were two other also on the street with the same need, and I thought I could save two, or just the first, then it would be moral to save two.

If the child was drowning and I could not swim, then I cannot help.

But let's ignore those superfluities, and focus on the real question. What if there were no other serious problems to complicate the issue?

Just me, a child, and a hospital a couple blocks down the street in a nice part of town. Does he have a right to expect help?

Well our society thinks so. Maybe, I'm wrong, but if I ignored the child, I probably could be sent to jail. And make no bones about it, I should be if I was that monstrous.

Life is more complicated than any political program yet devised. To me, the supposed 'contradictions in the Bible' are one of the reasons it is valid. Life is complicated, at least in certain areas even if most is relatively simple. There are very few rules without exception when dealing with Humanity.


Posted by: Tadeusz at February 20, 2004 10:05 AM

Ex Dem, I could look up lots of quotes to support my point about Nietzche, but you would then tell me I'm quoting out of context; I would quote some more... ad infinitum. We'll just have to agree to disagree about Nietzche. I suspect there's lots we would agree on, including the scumbag who was the occasion for this board in the first place (how's that for a segueway?).

Posted by: Fred at February 20, 2004 10:19 AM

"Ex-dem, you sounded mostly okay until you went off on this crusade against allowing any obligation on your part to exist."

You are confused on my position. I said any obligaion would be self-imposed, and therefor a question of values not rights. (This is very similar to Scott's position, replace "values" with "responsiblities")

Would you help a child molestor or serial murderer bleeding in the street? Or only cute little children? If you have to think about it, then clearly you are making a value-driven decision and not claiming a universal right.

I personally would help the child, but only because I happen to VALUE children and helping people, and not helping them would DEVALUE my sense of worth.

I am glad others share these values because there are many valid, rational reasons to hold these of value. But because many hold these values does not make them a right.

Would the convicted serial killer or drunk bum or Saddam Hussien who is bleeding in the street expect help? Would you have an obligation to help them if they demanded it? I doubt it.

It is the responsibilty of those that claim that a "right to assistance" exists to prove it. Asking me to prove it doesn't is asking me to prove a negative.

Posted by: ex-democrat at February 20, 2004 10:30 AM

Fred: Or maybe you could just read more of him.

Slandering thinkers as "proto-fascists" or "patent tripe" is just a cop-out to avoid and marginalize their arguments (and avoid thinking!)

I happen to like Nietzche and Rand, but this argument could have just as easily been about Kral Marx and C.S. Lewis.

My goal isn't to win any debates but to get people to THINK seriously about the world. It is the only way we can triumpth over tryannical scumbags like Galloway (how is that as far trying to steer this back to on-topic).

Posted by: ex-democrat at February 20, 2004 10:44 AM

On the other hand, a Society cannot exist without some minimum level of shared values. One can successfully argue that I have an obligation to support the minimum values of the Society to which I belong, and that Society has rights independent and sometimes in conflict with individual rights.

For example: One might argue that a basic responsibility of government is to protect my life and my property. One might further argue that allowing poor people to starve because of lack of funds will tend to increase crime and endanger my life and property. And thus, it is in my security interest that the Government coercively confiscates some of my property (taxes) in order to provide a minimum level of poverty assistance to obliterate the need of the poor to resort to crime in order to fill their bellies.

The difficulty becomes defining "minimal." Obviously, we have gone far beyond "minimal" assistance when, to some, minimal includes providing so much assistance that the main problems of the poor in America have become laziness and obesity.

Posted by: Scott Harris at February 20, 2004 10:58 AM

"what qualities do you think Lincoln saw in our union that made its preservation a greater moral good than eliminating slavery?"...


I think the Gettysburg Address pretty much says it all:

"testing whether that nation, or ANY nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure"

"that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth"

Lincoln realized that he was fighting for something MUCH MUCH larger than the mere survival of a nation or even the liberation of her slaves. He knew in his heart of hearts that he was also fighting for the survival of liberal democracy as a philosophically superior system of government throughout the world. He was fighting for the rights of man...everywhere.

There was an understanding of the bigger picture in Lincoln. His was a visionary understanding of the struggle for rights and the historical context of it all. America was unique in its constitutional construction and, at the time, alone in the world. The death of America would have meant the death of liberal democracy and he knew it. His writings bear this out.

I could try to explain this in more detail but I think I'll instead leave that up to those who have written about this before me. They say it much better than I ever could. Here's the link...

I hope this is accessible without an online subscription. If not, sorry.

Posted by: Grant McEntire at February 20, 2004 11:16 AM

Near as I can tell, the responsibilities of Government fall into three main categories. Listed in order of priority:

1. Security - this includes the military, the police, the criminal justice infrastructure, and regulatory agencies like the FDA, EPA, and OSHA.

2. Public Infrastructure - this includes the civil court system to mediate disputes among interested parties, public parks, the maintenance of public lands, Roads, railroads, distribution systems, the regulation of commerce, and semi-public utilities like the Electrical Power production and distribution system, and oil pipelines, trucking industries, Port Authorities, etc.

3. Social engineering (optional) - Entitlement programs, targeted tax policies, etc.

There is a fourth function of government that is necessary, but cannot be defined as a purpose of government. That fourth function is the authority to levy and collect taxes. This function only exists to serve the above three functions of government.

It is a testament to the highly developed nature of our society that we use the bulk of political debate concerning the third optional category of social engineering. We take for granted that our security interest are taken care of, and that the public infrastructure will work properly. But a tour of the Third World, even by internet, will quickly disabuse one of the notion that Security and Public Infrastructure are givens.

The current state of affairs in Iraq is totally about restoring, and in some cases, creating from whole cloth the apparatus of Government to provide for the Security of Iraqi citizens, and the Public Infrastructure upon which the peaceful existence of Society is dependent. It is the height of arrogance to presume, as some do, that the highest priority is to promote certain social engineering philosophies when basic necessities are unmet.

Finally, the above functions of government undermine the libertarian ideal. Most, if not all, libertarians fail to grasp that the first two functions of goverment, Security and Infrastructure, are not optional. I consider myself a libertarian when it comes to Social Engineering Function on the Federal level. But I despise the notion that pure libertarianism is even a workable idea, much less a desirable standard.

Furthermore, I believe that Social Engineering should NOT be within the purview of the Federal Government. Social Engineering is ultimately not about Rights. Rather it is about preferences. And preferences vary from city to city, and from state to state.

Therefore, social engineering should be left to the states at the minimum, and are actually more valid if left to the local communities so that they more accurately reflect the values of the disaparate interests of particular groups of people.

Posted by: Scott Harris at February 20, 2004 11:21 AM

Okay, the link didn't even copy. Let's try that again...


I think you do need to have an online subscription, though. Soooooo, subscribe to the New Republic. It's worth it.

If that's out of the question for you, well, it's a Paul Berman article. Just go out and read his book "Terror and Liberalism" instead. It's worth it, as well.

Posted by: Grant McEntire at February 20, 2004 11:21 AM

Scott: Another problem is that values are not absolutes, they are individually subjective. Which is why we have conflict even with liberalism and democracy.

I have a problem with "society" having rights though, as what you are really saying is "social action cannot exist without some minimum level of shared values." Society is not a being, it is just a metaphor.

Posted by: ex-democrat at February 20, 2004 11:21 AM

Scott: Do you despise the Founders then, who would dispute your definitions 1-4, along with your conclusions?

And how do you define "government"? Just Federal or state/local/other?

Personally I despise the way you smugly dismiss libertarians as not grasping the function of governmetn.

Posted by: ex-democrat at February 20, 2004 11:28 AM

The Founders understood the differences I am talking about. Read the preamble to the Constitution, i.e. the purpose of the Constitution.

I will agree that Society in America is a nebulous concept. Thomas Paine's "Common Sense" should be required reading at all levels of education IMO. Ultimately, society only truly exists at the local level, and that is where libertarianism totally breaks down. I should have the right to join myself with other like-minded people to create a city which meets my desires. And people who disagree with me should have the right to form other communities that reflect their values as well.

The fundamental right of self-governance does not mean that I should be free from any societal constraints. Rather it means that I should be able to choose what community to live in so as to more accurately reflect the values in which I believe.

The mistake of the last 40 years has been the attempt to nationalize the concept of society. This has resulted in the destruction of community and community values in the name of equal rights. But we are not one society. We are one nation composed of a wide variety of societies with very different values that have joined together under the umbrella of the very loose guidelines of the Constitution. And that it how it should be.

The attempt to normalize values across national society has resulted in the destruction of values, because one can always find someone who disagrees and objects to any specific value. The evil of the tyranny of the majority is exceeded by one thing - The tyranny of the minority. Ultimately, monarchy and dictatorship are just extreme examples of the tyranny of the minority.

Posted by: Scott Harris at February 20, 2004 11:52 AM


" I should have the right to join myself with other like-minded people to create a city which meets my desires. And people who disagree with me should have the right to form other communities that reflect their values as well."

How is this in conflict of libertarianism?

Are you sure you want to statet that the Founders wanted the Feds into the military, the police, the criminal justice infrastructure, and regulatory agencies like the FDA, EPA, and OSHA? ;)

PS: Tyranny is tyranny - majority or minority.

Posted by: ex-democrat at February 20, 2004 11:57 AM

Ultimately, pure libertarianism is simply Darwinian barbarism. That doesn't mean certain libertarian concepts are wrong. I consider myself a radical moderate. Extreme capitalism, extreme socialism, extreme libertarianism are all evil. The founders created a system to guard against the extremes by creating Federalism and dividing power between co-equal branches of government.

The problem has been that the Courts have arrogated to themselves the position of exclusive Constitutional arbiter. This was not the original design. The Legislature and the office of the President are Constitutional authorities with just as much right to determine what is and is not Constitutional as the Courts. And neither the President nor the Legislature is bound to obey the Courts when the Courts act in an unconstitutional manner. Else the Courts are not co-equal, but superior.

Posted by: Scott Harris at February 20, 2004 12:05 PM

"Ultimately, pure libertarianism is simply Darwinian barbarism."

Based on what? Many libertarians believe that their ideas would lead to a higher and more just society - is that barbariansim? Some base their beliefs on natural rights, not materialism (e.g. "Darwinian"). Personally I think you just put "Darwinian" in there because you think it is a scary word.

Is extreem Justice evil? Or extreem Goodness? Or extreem Love? Extreem Charity? Extreem moderateness or radicalism?

You seem pretty sure of yourself, but I would suggest checking your premises.

Posted by: ex-democrat at February 20, 2004 12:11 PM

Perhaps you and I have a different definition of Libertarianism. I see Libertarianism as each man for himself anarchy - a pure Hobbesian world on an individual level. In other words, I believe that even liberty has its limits. Liberty does not exist for itself. It exists to serve mankind. And extreme personal liberty is not conducive to "form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and out Posterity."

Posted by: Scott Harris at February 20, 2004 12:25 PM

Well libertarians themselves would disagree, and I take their word for it. Maybe you should read some libertarians -- Hayek, Rothbard, Rand, Nozik, Mises, Nock or others and judge for yourself.

Posted by: ex-democrat at February 20, 2004 12:29 PM

I don't think you and I are that far apart. As I said before, I am what you might call a Federal Libertarian on Social Engineering issues. But I do not believe that all restrictions on Federal Government should also be restrictions on State or local governments. I believe in a division of power and authority.

In the same way that individual states do not have the right to raise Armed Forces in the same sense as the Federal Government, I believe that some functions of local and state government are outside the Federal jurisdiction.

One example: Local zoning laws place restrictions on the individual rights of citizens to use their property as they please. I think this is appropriate on a local level, but would be appalled if someone were to try to create a Federal bureaucracy to determine zoning laws.

Posted by: Scott Harris at February 20, 2004 12:34 PM

The difficulty is that Pure Libertarianism has never been tested. And while most Americans agree with many values libertarians hold dear, they also shy away from the implementation of Pure Libertarianism. I think the common man has it right. There are some functions of society and government which have proven themselves to be both good and desirable that most are unwilling to let go of simply to satisfy the theoretical desires of some to implement a pure form of untested philosophy.

Posted by: Scott Harris at February 20, 2004 12:39 PM

Actually I am not a libertarian but a pragmatic individualist-elitist. I just count a lot of libertarians as friends and influences. But lets just say I wouldn't disagree to living in the society you describe. ;)

Posted by: ex-democrat at February 20, 2004 12:46 PM

I think that most philosophy is like the old joke about blind men arguing about the description of an elephant. One describes the tail, another described the tusks, another descibed the trunk, another describes a leg, etc.

It is not that any one philosophy is inherently incorrect, just incomplete. And that is why I call myself a radical moderate. Incidentally, I think that is what the first amendment was all about. The freedom of speech and the freedom of religion are not really about speech and separation of church and state.

The first amendment is about the freedom of all philosophies, all ideas, to have equal access to the system so that collectively we can glean the good and weed out the bad in clumping together a workable solution. It doesn't mean all ideas are equal, but how can we know unless we allow the ideas to at least be heard?

Posted by: Scott Harris at February 20, 2004 12:53 PM


I could try to explain this in more detail

No need. That was superb.

By placing preservation of the Union above all, Lincoln was fighting for the rights of man...everywhere. Deferring Abolition would have been a lesser threat to liberty than the collapse of the Union. What would have happened to the slaves if the Union had collapsed? I don't think the Confederacy would have woken up one day and seen the error of their ways.

The left has forgotten that America is indispensible for liberty. It is as true in 2004 as it was in 1864. If not America, who else would advance the cause of liberty? The UN? France?

Some like Markus have expressed that there is a tradeoff between American sovereignty and human rights. Their willingness to undermine American sovereigty to some imagined higher cause is the greatest threat to the rights of man everywhere.

The socialist left points to Lincoln's letter to Greeley as evidence that he is just another dead white mail not worthy of reverence. This is part of their campaign to undermine everything we have learned during 2500 years of Western Civilization because everything we learned undermines the the basis for socialism. They want us to unlearn what we learned and they are bringing on an Age of Unenlightenment.

Posted by: HA at February 21, 2004 05:46 AM

OK ex Dem, I was trying to avoid a pointless debate on Nietzche and the Nazis (a debate almost as pointless as debating the existence of God), but since you apparently think only you are capable of reading and thinking about philosophers, I will make a case:

Hitler was the ultimate expression of the Ubermensch. Through his will to power, utter rejection of any morality outside himself, and political creativity (it's no coincidence that he was an artist, if a failed one), he not only engaged in an act of self-creation, but extended that self-creation to a whole nation, most of a whole continent, and if he hadn't invaded Russia when he did, might eventually have extended it to most of the world. The German people, Europeans in general, and--unfortunately for them--the Jews became brush strokes on the palette of Hitler's great work of art, the Third Reich.

You say Nietzche would have spit in the eye of a National Socialist. You've got a point. No doubt he would have depised the average German citizen with his Hitler-worship. He might even have despised the average rank and file Nazi. No doubt he would have considered them "Last Men": "Everybody wants the same, everybody is the same: whoever feels different goes voluntarily into a madhouse." He would have thought of them as cowering, timorous slaves. But that doensn't affect my argument at all. Precisely because they were such slavish "last men," such herd animals, they DESERVED to become brush strokes on the palette of Hitler's work of art.

You say Nietzche despised anti-semitism. Right again. He broke with Wagner over it and wrote things like "Any European super-race must include the Jews." But I defy you to find in his philosophy any grounds other than personal preference for rejecting anti-semitism. How could he reject it? On moral grounds? There is no morality outside the self-creation of the Ubermensch. On practical grounds? A) He never made that argument and b) if he had, it would have been pretty effectively refuted by the existence of the Third Reich, for which anti-semitism was eminently useful. If it formed part of a "superman" like Hitler's will to power and self-creation, there are absolutely no grounds in Nietzche's thought to reject it.

You may disagree with any or all of the above arguments, but DON'T tell me I've never read or thought about Nietzche or that I'm only shallowly parroting second-hand slander about him.

Posted by: Fred at February 21, 2004 09:51 AM



I gotta tell you, man, it really doesn't bother me that much when the lefty historians point out the fact that our American heroes were some pretty bastardly characters. That's only truth in advertising...

The Founding Fathers were aristocratic slave owners, Lincoln viewed Blacks as an inferior race, FDR knew absolutely nothing about economics so to speak, and Martin Luther King and a whole hell of alot of Presidents cheated on their wives.

Some may view this as destructively dehumanizing and a detriment to patriotism. I view it as a healthy practice of putting these mere mortals in perspective. This country was born of the Enlightenment, right? Of the rational potential of man? Contrary to popular opinion, they aren't gods and goddesses and I think that needs to be pointed out. Deifying the "great men and women" of history TRULY dehumanizes them and sends the wrong message to the American people.

I think the more appropriate message should be, "See how fucked up and flawed these people were, just like you and me, and yet see what they were capable of achieving." Maybe that's just a product of the humanism I hold so dear but, to apply chiche, isn't it more life affirming to empower children with human heroes than with untouchable idols? Do you understand what I'm getting at? It's the same kind of thing that makes Christianity so popular: Because Christ was fully a human being like you and me and that means he was also fully one of us.

The only thing that ticks me off is how the Far Left sometimes likes to apply the truth of their humanity in a nihilistic way, saying, "See how fucked up it is to be patriotic and nationalistic because of them." This is where liberals (like myself) and leftists part ways. Leftists are nihilistic and cynical, liberals are idealistic and hopeful.

Liberals exalt the full humanity of the greats to point out the fact that any of us can achieve great things, despite our flawed natures. We condemn their bastardly ways but at the same time revere them for their great feats and works. We give credit where credit is due, always.

I get a little sick and tired of getting lumped into this radically nihilistic "the Left" category everyone keeps talking about. I wish more people would respect the distinction between liberals and leftists for a change, the distinction between Kennedyesque idealism and Deaniac despair. Please pass this on to as many of your conservative brethren as you can, because I'm getting fed up with it.

Posted by: Grant McEntire at February 21, 2004 07:56 PM


That's only truth in advertising...

I wish that was ONLY what it was. The socialist left is not interested in presenting the flaws of our revered national figures in order to understand the complexity of their characters. They smear them in order to impeach their accomplishments and by extension undermine the very premises upon which this nation was built.

This is a designed and deliberate strategy of the socialist left. It is not mere nihilism. They do this in order to "deconstruct" our "national narratives."


I wish more people would respect the distinction between liberals and leftists for a change

The problem is that the term "liberal" has been completely perverted. I'm as fed up with this as you are. Probably more so. Those who we call "liberals" today are most often better characterised as socialists. They are anti-liberal statists. This is why the term has become such a powerful epithet in the hands of conservatives.

I consider myself a Teddy Roosevelt, FDR, Truman, JFK liberal. I'm not a conservative. Maybe I'm becoming more of a libertarian. I used to have some faith in the good intentions of the Democratic party. Their appalling behavior since 9/11 has killed that faith. I no longer trust them. And my distrust is not limited to national security. The only way to ensure that they won't abuse government power is to limit government power. And since money is power, I wan't to cut back on the money controlled by government. To me, reducing government power has become a higher moral good than dealing with social issues.

BTW, I take back that cheap shot I took at you a couple threads back. I took it based on one comment that I can now see is not at all representative of your fuller thinking.

Posted by: HA at February 22, 2004 06:12 AM

Fred: What is it about Nietzche that makes you fear him so much that you must dig up these old canards?

To say that Nietzche is at fault for Hitler is retarded, illogical and pure slander. Hitler also considered himself a Christian doing God's will -- by your bent "logic" that makes Jesus H. Christ a Nazi and proto-fascist.

To say that Hitler was the "superman" is to misintrepret Nietzche to point of folly. Hitler was not artist, he was damn fool, the type of "leadership" you get among the herd morality, which in turn leads to nihilism.

That Nietzche predicted the horrors and nihilism of the 20th century ONLY ILLUSTRATES how important his insights are. He gave us wisdom we need in order to prevent such terrors from happening again, as he was horrifed by the prospect of nihilism.

So why do you want to bury this insight under heaps of slander?

(PS: He would have rejected anti-semitism because it is ugly. But go back to torching his ideas with your crude libel)

Posted by: Ex at February 22, 2004 09:33 AM


So, we're both JFK-liberals aye? But if I'm not mistaken, you're a Republican right? Well, a JFK-liberal Republican sounds like a contradiction in terms to me (albeit far less of a contradiction than it used to be).

Do you really think that Harry Truman and Scoop Jackson and the Kennedys would be Republicans if they were alive today? Somehow I doubt it.

But I do wonder sometimes whether or not they'd pledge allegiance to today's Democratic Party, either. The Scoop Jackson wing, once a majority, is today down to a feather (Lieberman).

True JFK-liberals today are without a party if you ask me. I think, were they alive today, they'd probably vote Dem on domestic issues and Rep on foreign issues and defense...which would be pretty much in line with the rest of the country. Were they alive today, they might just up and decide to form a new centrist party in this regard. Wouldn't that be sweet.

Posted by: Grant McEntire at February 22, 2004 10:23 AM


I'm still a Democrat on paper. My last three votes for President went to Clinton, Clinton and Gore. Thank God my last vote was for the loser. I'll be switching before the general election. On the outside chance the Democratic primary is still being contested by the time it gets to New Jersey, I want to be around to vote for Edwards.

I had two psychological barriers to over come before deciding I could become a Republican. First was the shameful behavior of the Reps surrounding the Clinton impeachment fiasco. That doesn't seem important any more. The second was civil rights. Two things helped me overcome that hurdle. One was that I looked at the party voting records for 1964 Civil Rights Act and found that Reps voted for it in greater numbers than the Dems - roughly in the order of 80% versus 60% respectively. Goldwater was not representative of the party on civil rights. The other issue that helped me decide was that the Reps ditched Trent Lott as Majority Leader. The Reps are better at taking out their trash than the Dems.

I think most anyone who is serious about national security left the Democratic party a long time ago. Some stay behind out of inertia or maybe loyalty. And I also think that many liberals who at one point thought government programs were an effective way to solve social problems have since been "mugged by reality." The whole neocon movement is driven by JFK liberals. I have no doubt that many prominent Democrats from the past would have been neocons today because of what we have learned since their era.

Most government programs fail to achieve any good. The Great Society programs devastated the black family (as Pat Moynihan predicted) and much of the white family. But the bureaucracies set up to administer these programs live on as political power centers for the Dems. And they relentlessly try to expand their mandates in order to justify their "phoney-baloney" jobs.

Speaking of third parties, I'm not convinced that Nader's entry will be a net plus for Bush. Because Nader has no chance of winning, a vote for him is a vote for third parties in general rather than a vote for his agenda. This will appeal to many in the center and right as well as left.

Posted by: HA at February 23, 2004 04:31 AM

Re earlier questions about "who voted for Galloway?"
He's the MP for the constituency of Glasgow (Kelvin), in Scotland. Polled about 45%. With Liberal Democrats and Scottish Nationalists both about 17%, Conservatives about 10%, Scottish Socialists 7%, Greens 5%. IIRC.

G(K) would probably elect a turnip as MP if it was the Labour candidate; this is similar in many UK "safe" constituencies, whether Labour, Conservative, or other.
Short of unusual scandal or local issues, people tend to vote on party lines, for the party they have decided to support.

Galloway has long been an antagonist of the national Labour leadership from the left, and in particular over Iraq. 'Gadfly' MP's can survive easily so long as the local party activists don't take against them. Also, defiance generates publicity, and often appears to be favoured by voters as showing independence .

As Labour activists tend rather to be on the left of the party anyway, Galloway was safe until he crossed the line, supporting an enemy in wartime, calling upon troops to disobey orders, and offending party loyalists with his cooperation with other anti-war parties.

Having been expelled from the Labour Party, he's toast at the next election. (He intends to stand as an independent.)

Incidentally, who on this thread is a socialist?
Well, me.
A pro-war one, who has always loathed Stalinist totalitarianism, and fascism, and religous absolutism. There are quite a lot of us in the UK, and always have been.
E.G. from the present and past: George Orwell, Christopher Hitchens, Harry's bunch, Ernie Bevin, Norman Geras, David Aaronovitch, Tony Blair, Jack Straw, and the whole damn Labour government.

You know, your, er, allies?

Posted by: S. Lewis at February 24, 2004 04:57 AM

Now, now X.D. no need to get hysterical. I never claimed that Nietzsche was personally responsible for fascism or National Socialism. That's why I deliberately and specifically used the term _proto_fascist. However, its hard to read words like:

But the essential thing in a good and healthy aristocracy is that it feels itself not as a function (whether of a monarchy or of a community) but as their significance and highest justification, that it therefore with good conscience accepts the sacrifice of an enormous number of men, who for its sake must be oppressed and reduced to incomplete men, slaves, and instruments of work. Its fundamental belief must, in fact, be that the society should exist, not for the sake of the society, but only as a base and framework on which an exceptional kind of nature can raise itself to its higher function and, in general, to a higher form of being, comparable to those heliotropic climbing plants on Java—people call them Sipo Matador—whose branches clutch an oak tree so much and for so long until finally, high over the tree but supported by it, they can unfold their crowns in the open light and make a display of their happiness. (Beyond Good and Evil)

It is much more that case that the "good people" themselves, that is, the noble, powerful, higher-ranking and higher-thinking people felt and set themselves and their actions up as good, that is to say, of the first rank, in contrast to everything low, low-minded, common, and vulgar. From this pathos of distance they first arrogated to themselves the right to create values, to stamp out the names for values. (On the Geneology of Morals)

and not come to the conclusion that Nietzsche's philosophy lends itself extremely easily to a justification of fascism and that it intersects at many points with fascist ideology (I can quote Mussolini to prove my point if you like). It's no coincidence that the two Anglophone high modernists most influenced by Nietzsche, W.B. Yeats and D. H. Lawrence, were among the earliest attracted to fascism.

Hitler thought he was doing the work of God? You'll have to prove that one to me. It conflicts with everything I've ever heard or read about Hitler.

If you look back at my last post, I specifically defied you to find a grounds other than personal preference in Nietzsche's thought to reject anti-semetism. Now maybe you know more about the English language than I do (after all, I only have a PhD in it) but in the absence of some transcendent standard of beauty (where does N. say there's such a thing?)"it's ugly" sounds awfully like a personal preference to me. N. thinks it's ugly. If I think it's beautiful, there are absolutely no grounds in N's thought to adjudicate between those two aesthetic judgements except which of us has the strength and the will to impose his judgement. In addition, N himself was conflicted about the Jews. In the Part Eight of Beyond Good and Evil, he condemns antisemitism in no uncertain terms. But in On the Geneology of Morals, he blames them for the very slavish "priestly" morality he's trying to overcome:

Let us quickly consider the greatest example. Everything on earth which has been done against "the nobility," "the powerful," "the masters," "the possessors of power" is not worth mentioning in comparison with what the Jews have done against them—the Jews, that priestly people who knew how to get final satisfaction from their enemies and conquerors through a radical transformation of their values, that is, through an act of the most spiritual revenge. This was appropriate only to a priestly people with the most deeply rooted priestly desire for revenge.

BTW X.D. I've noticed a conspicuous lack of quotes or even specific references to N's work in your posts. Which of us did you say hasn't read him?

PS: Insults are the last refuge of a man who's run out of arguments.

Posted by: Fred at March 3, 2004 04:09 PM

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