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Wednesday, August 11, 2004 - 3:57amSanction this postReply
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Editor's note: this is being reproduced way ahead of time from The Free Radical, Issue 63, because of its Peikoff-inspired topicality. I wish it to be known that I don't agree with this article any more than I agree with Peikoff's recommendation to vote Kerry. I believe that Peikoff & Chris are the flip sides of the same Saddamite/Intrinsicist/Empiricist coin. I hope, now that Saddam has brought them together, that they'll be happy ever after.

Linz
(Edited by Lindsay Perigo on 8/11, 4:10am)

(Edited by Lindsay Perigo on 8/11, 4:11am)

(Edited by Lindsay Perigo on 8/11, 4:20am)




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Post 1

Wednesday, August 11, 2004 - 6:13amSanction this postReply
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Lindsay writes:  "I believe that Peikoff & Chris are the flip sides of the same Saddamite/Intrinsicist/Empiricist coin. I hope, now that Saddam has brought them together, that they'll be happy ever after."

Peikoff and I have profound differences on  many, many issues.  As a prelude to the current essay, I discuss Peikoff's comments about Bush and the fundamentalist upsurge in a cross-post published at both the Mises Economics Blog and the Liberty & Power Group Blog.  Suffice it to say, I don't believe it is immoral to sit out the current election; I think Kerry and Bush are two sides of the same interventionist coin.  The only distinction between them is that Bush, at least, has convictions.  I don't believe that Bush is a demon, but I do believe that the constellation of his sincere pietism and the neoconservative elements in his administration has both created and reflected deeply troubling tendencies in the American body politic.  Kerry, however, flip-flops so much that it is hard to discern where he stands from one moment to the next. Either way, as I have argued here, if the administration rallies its fundamentalist supporters, Bush will win this election.  But it won't make much of a difference who wins, since so much of the current administration's policies have now been institutionalized.

I should note that back in the 1980s and early 90s, even some conservatives, like William Safire and Barry Goldwater, challenged the GOP's relationship with the fundamentalist Christian movement. The only difference is that when this movement reared its ugly head in the 1980s, it was a fringe movement.  Today, as my article demonstrates, it is a mainstream cultural force.  Despite Ronald Reagan's alliance with the fundamentalist voting bloc, the Gipper never let it dominate his political agenda the way George W. Bush has.  And as I have argued here and here, Reagan at least preserved a rhetorical libertarianism in his political stance, something which Bush has all but abandoned.

I can't speak for Peikoff, but I can speak for myself; I continue to be appalled that opposition to Bush's war in Iraq is equated with "Saddamism."  I have, from the very beginning, supported a broad-based strategy of attacks (military, financial, and otherwise) against Al Qaeda, which has been at war with the US since before 9/11.  My own general criticism of US foreign policy has not prevented me from advocating an assault on those who have murdered American citizens.  I am not looking to re-open this endless debate here; but I think that anyone who ignores the current fundamentalist trends in American politics does so at our peril.




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Wednesday, August 11, 2004 - 7:05amSanction this postReply
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I think that anyone who ignores the current fundamentalist trends in American politics does so at our peril.
I agree with this summation of the fundamentalists' threats to our liberty of conscience.  As SOLO Club Coordinator, I encourage SOLO Club leaders to contact local atheist and freethought groups to learn of any possible alliances you can form for the sake of protecting the American "wall of separation" between church and state or whatever equivalent you have in your own nation.  The SOLO Florida Club shares many events with several non-theistic organizations for mutual benefit -- mostly moral support and friendship, but some political activism as well where appropriate.  Read the Reason link at the SOLO Florida site to learn more about these exchanges.




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Wednesday, August 11, 2004 - 8:22amSanction this postReply
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This isn't directly on topic, but there are some interesting contrasts between "Six Feet Under's" campy depiction of the rapture, and the one in the 1991 film, "The Rapture":

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/078060718X/104-4516775-3405545?v=glance

The film takes the idea a lot more seriously, and has a distinctly "80's" feel to it. That suggests that the recent popularity of the idea may well have roots in the '80s. The film was distinctly not hip when it came out (who's heard of it?), but I wonder if it will see a revival, given current trends.




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Post 4

Wednesday, August 11, 2004 - 7:46amSanction this postReply
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Once again, good work, Chris!!

From his first act as President with his "faith-based initiatives" through the Patriot Act and including has Constitutional same-sex marriage ban, Bush has shown nothing less then an all out assault against individualism. However, I don't think that it is limited to just this election, in terms of sitting out. When the only choices given are the choices between two evils, the only moral thing to do is to sit out. 




Post 5

Wednesday, August 11, 2004 - 12:38pmSanction this postReply
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I go to school at NYU, and when I returned home to Minnesota for the summer, I was shocked and horrified to discover that I had forgotten: how religious people are in MN and to what extent religion is present in everyday culture and rhetoric. I bought a copy of Bertrand Russel's _Why I Am Not A Christian_ to make myself feel better, but it didn't make me feel any better. Russel is a despicable collectivist who actually denounces Protestant Christianity in part because it inspires individualism. Then, in a final attempt to make myself feel better, I decided that I wouldn't vote for anyone who invoked God...

I guess I'm sitting this one out. ;)

Jana

P.S. Thanks for the article, Dr. Diabolical Dialectical...every once in a while I need to be reminded that the Founding Fathers possessed *real* insight, foresight, and genius. Does anyone else get the feeling that they're rolling in their graves these days?



Post 6

Wednesday, August 11, 2004 - 2:26pmSanction this postReply
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Folks - please see my post on the "Birthday Cake" thread re the ... er ... slightly emphatic tone of a couple of my posts last night. I hereby pronounce Peikoff & Sciabarra divorced again, after my hasty attempt to marry them. I also must make it clear that I don't mean to imply that I don't believe the religious right are a threat. Of course they are. But in the *total* context that I'm sure Dr DD would have us consider, I consider Islam a far greater threat, & far more despicable. As to what *that* implies as to how one should vote, if at all, given that the LP candidate is a Saddamite, I guess that's one of those difficult judgement calls life presents us with, with no perfect answer. But the logic of voting for Kerry eludes me totally.

Linz



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Wednesday, August 11, 2004 - 2:42pmSanction this postReply
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Chris, WONDERFUL article :-) Free Rad 63 only reached me this morning, so I sat and read it in there, then came online and checked SOLOHQ :-D

Lindsay, I am delighted to say I agree with your post above :-)




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Post 8

Wednesday, August 11, 2004 - 9:51amSanction this postReply
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Hi, Chris.

Interesting article which makes some useful distinctions among Christians.

I must wonder however why Objectivism is any better for the Republic than Christianity.  After all, we now have "official" Objectivism endorsing a socialist for president over the nominally free-market candidate.  If Objectivist principles require one to support a socialist for the most powerful political office in the world -- a socialist who wants to seize even more of my wealth and freedom than the government is taking right now -- why shouldn't I find Objectivism as politically obnoxious as you deem Christianity?

The triumph over the Soviet Union and the collapse of the communism threat has not changed the fact that socialism (in whatever of its myriad of forms) is any less lethal to liberty.  The one thing any objective lover of liberty owes to Ayn Rand is that she made the MORAL case for capitalism at a time when most other defenders of the free market were making utilitarian arguments at best.  Her legacy are the millions of American who learned from her that capitalism does have moral foundations, even if most of those millions do not define such in purely Objectivist terms.

But just how good for the Republic can Rand's philosophy be if her official heir can twist it into support for the candidate who will further the collectivization of American society?  If Objectivism causes people to so lose their bearings against the nearly non-existent threat to liberty of Christain influence on politics that they cannot recognize that old and persistent enemy of socialism right before their eyes, then I have got to wonder, what good is it?

This is what I'm talking about when I warn that Objectivism is being captured by the Left.  It's got so many Objectivists fretting about Christian boogeymen, that it's collecting their votes for their man.  The Left doesn't care that these same Objectivists mouth pieties to the free market.  That won't matter.  The Left, not the Objectivists, will have the power if Kerry wins.

So, Chris, I'm a little confused as to why Objectivism is better for my freedom if, as practical matter, it means I should pull the lever for the socialist.

Regards,
Bill




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Post 9

Wednesday, August 11, 2004 - 10:03amSanction this postReply
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(edit a bit of spelling, a bit of florid language)

I notice that Chris' article starts with a lengthy report about a fictional work - something that never happened - as though it is telling evidence about real life or the mentality/actions of some real person (or people).

Folks, I know that method has a long history in Objectivism - going back to Rand and her circle talking about the Atlas characters' experiences with similar enthusiasm.  But it's a non-objective method, a favorite of collectivists and subjectivists (both Right and Left).  Objectivists should cut it out.

Here are some more of my reactions as I tried to follow the essay.

The central section appears to be a lengthy report on more fictions - such as movies and the "Left Behind" series.  Could be interesting if it were a cultural analysis piece, but all the sudden, we veer into a weird detour on the policies of George W. Bush.

Oops, turns out that it's not a detour - it's the main point of the essay.  OK, well, again, if it's a policy piece, why bring in long, drawn-out citations of fictional works that Bush and his advisors have not even read (so far as we know)?

Chris then asserts that Bush's alleged "'Christian triumphalism' is a serious component in his 'case for war'".  Such is obviously false.  I have NEVER seen Bush cite Christianity, nor a clash of religions/civilizations, as part of the case for the War on Terror.  Indeed, Bush has gone to great lengths to show the opposite.  After 9-11, Bush made a point of very publicly meeting and worshipping with Muslims in the United States, to show that religious triumphalism is not OK and not part of the WoT, at least in Bush's mind.  Bush is also known to be respectful of other religions/views in private.  Going back to the public, in many speeches Bush has made it clear that the WoT is not about the triumph of a religion or civilization, but rather, about the triumph of all civilization (or civilization per se) over pure hatred.  We can go on to argue about how good the Iraq war is in the general WoT, but we should all be able to get behind that much.

Then Chris goes on to quote Bush's desire to use his Presidential office to try to influence the U.S. back in the direction of moral values, such as personal responsibility.  Errr...as if that's a bad thing?  As if a society of personal responsibility is something which Objectivists and rational libertarians aren't fervently wishing for?

Toward the end, we are given the highlighted ramblings of that confused Presidential offspring, Ron Reagan Jr., a man who trades on the honor of the Reagan name (no one would listen to him without it), while reportedly never attending events where real people affirm or grant that name's honor (such as multiple events in dedicating the Reagan aircraft carrier).

Sorry Chris, I have liked a lot of your stuff in the past, but this essay does not win.  I get the impression, overall, that you (1) disagree with Bush's social policies (as I do); (2) disagree with Bush's Iraq policy (as I do not, at least for the time being); (3) have personal fears about the far-right religious fundamentalists who are part of Bush's coalition - some of those fears founded, and some not; and (4) decided to try to weave them all together, resulting in (5) a pretty confused, subjective essay.  Better luck next time!

(Edited by Jeff Carty on 8/11, 7:54pm)




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Post 10

Wednesday, August 11, 2004 - 6:51pmSanction this postReply
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Bill asks:  "Why shouldn't I find Objectivism as politically obnoxious as you deem Christianity?"  I made a point toward the end of the article to emphasize that this was not an indictment of religion or Christianity per se.  It is also not an article that explores the cultural relevance of alternatives.  That's beyond my scope here.  As for "Objectivism":  I myself find aspects of "Objectivism" obnoxious.  And it is not my intention here to defend Leonard Peikoff's political picks for Election Night.  You won't find me voting for Kerry.  I disagree with you, however, "that Objectivism is being captured by the Left."  In fact, my view is that too many Objectivists have made common cause with neoconservatives over the past couple of years.  It has been precisely my intention to reassert Rand's radical legacy in a way that transcends the left-right dichotomy.

Jeff tells us that my opening is an example of "a non-objective method" because it reports on a fictional work.  Huh?  Have you ever heard of metaphor?    I fail to see what is so "confused" and "tendentious" about the essay in question, but, hey, it's not my goal to please everybody. 

It matters not one whit if Bush and his advisors have read the fundamentalist pop Christian works in question; the point of discussing "more fictions" such as movies, music, and books, is to show how Christian fundamentalism has gone mainstream in its marketing and cultural impact, and how this is translating into a powerful voting bloc that carries political weight.  It "veers" into politics precisely because George W. Bush endorses the Christian fundamentalist cultural message, and has attempted to implement it politically.  It matters not if Bush is ecumenical in his views toward other religions.  The whole point of my historical discussion about the role of religion in shaping politics is that Bush, like the pietists before him, is attempting to "remake the world"; it is this pietism that inspires his whole nation-building enterprise. 

And, no, I have not argued that "personal responsibility" is a bad thing.  But Bush believes that faith-based initiatives can be one of the means by which to instill personal responsibility, and that it is, moreover, the role of government to instill the "shared responsibility" of heterosexual marriage as the cornerstone of civilization.  You accept that view, fine. But let's not pretend that it is anything less than government being used as a tool for the shaping of culture.

And you don't need to read the words of Ron Reagan Jr to know that many genuine conservatives are aghast at the ways in which Christian fundamentalists have taken over the GOP.  I pointed out here  that William Safire and Barry Goldwater opposed that influence back in the 1980s, long predating the young Reagan's own revolt.

I reject Bush's agenda---domestic, social, or foreign.  Where Jeff sees "a confused, subjective mess of an essay," wishing me "better luck next time," I see how well I've presented a constellation of political and cultural factors, which have bolstered the current administration in its pursuit of interventionist policies at home and abroad.




Post 11

Wednesday, August 11, 2004 - 8:04pmSanction this postReply
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Dear Chris,

 

Again I enjoyed reading something of yours but again I am puzzled by the significance you place on popular culture. It is as if you have a secret knowledge of its value, as if it were inherent, but escapes me.

 

Since referencing popular culture is an important aspect of your articles would you mind fleshing out its objective value?

 

For instance, has there been a popular grass roots cultural  movement without any dynamic intellectual concepts?

 

What role does popular culture in affecting cultural change? Or is popular culture a depository of reprocessed dynamic ideas and products? (Sounds a little like it could be Duchampís Fountain.)

 

What marks the difference between fads and popular culture?

 

What is the value of mass acceptance irrespective of good or bad qualities?

 

Isnít an appeal to the masses something like an appeal to authority? The appeal to convince someone without going through reason?

 

I understand that asking questions is infinitely much easier and less time-consuming than writing a response!

 

Michael Newberry




Post 12

Wednesday, August 11, 2004 - 8:41pmSanction this postReply
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Chris,

I am disappointed that you do not go as far as I in response to the sea-change that you describe, and vote for Kerry. In the last presidential elections in Poland, Kwasniewski (former Marxist of the Heilbroner school) ran against the Christianists on the ticket of the Social-Democratic Party, won, and has been carrying out radical free-market reforms ever since. Clinton, the previous Democratic president of the US, opened the US market to global competition, balanced the budget, and abolished the welfare entitlement. The former Socialists have become, around the globe, free-market radicals in action, paying only lip service to the corpse of socialism. The only party whom that corpse still serves are the Christianists, who dig up the corpse of Socialism at election time and wave it in the wind like a scarecrow, hoping to scare the gullible and the ignorant into not voting for the only champions of secular culture still standing. If Bush wins, with a Republican majority in the Senate, the Christianists will own the Supreme Court before the election of 2008. I am a heterosexual male, and the Christianists will tolerate me, at least until I get sick and need a prohibited therapy. But in your place, I would contact the Italian consulate and check the requirements for a non-American passport. As a political refugee you will need one.

(Edited by Adam Reed on 8/12, 12:12am)




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Post 13

Thursday, August 12, 2004 - 5:01amSanction this postReply
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I found Chris' article a typically insightful commentary on Bush and his religious constituency. Chris is right to link, and reject, the neoconservatives' attempt to build nation-states abroad and culture in the US domestically. The growth, size and significance of pietist cultural and political movements is frightening. This is "Ominous Parallels" stuff.

I have to add, too, that I have just listened to Leonard Peikoff's statement on the US elections and fundamentally agree with him. Peikoff seems to understand what many Objectivists fail to - namely, that Bush represents a greater threat to the principles of liberty than Kerry's socialistic economic policies, which are simply variations on a theme regardless of administration. What you're facing with Bush is the demise of the very principles of governance upon which the American polity is based - in particular the separation of church and state, as both Chris and Peikoff have pointed out. Lower taxes are *not* the be all and end all of liberty. If the choice is between 1) a man who will toy with the US constitution to restrict equal rights before the law for all, restrict a woman's right over her own body, restrict stem cell research, restrict cloning, positively pamper "faith-based" policies but cut taxes a little; and 2) a man who, while by no means perfect, will not do these things but won't cut taxes, then there *is* a choice (and here I disagree with Chris). The choice is John Kerry.

I agree with Peikoff that even Hillary Clinton does not represent as grave a threat to America as Bush. She does not represent a *fundamental* threat, in the way that Bush does. While I'd agree with Chris that in so many ways both parties are the same and neither offers the kind of radical shift in political direction needed, there is a difference in that one is a fundamental *threat* in a way that the other isn't.

I'm actually not so shocked about the level of agreement between Peikoff and Sciabarra here. Both are philosophers capable of profoundly radical critiques of the culture, it's just that Sciabarra shows this capability consistently whereas Peikoff's solution too often lapses into hysterical "nuke 'em all" intrinsicism.

Dare I say I hope I get an invite to the wedding, provided Bush doesn't outlaw it first? ;-)




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Post 14

Thursday, August 12, 2004 - 6:39amSanction this postReply
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Thanks for the comments, Cam; alas, I don't think Lenny and I will be tying the knot any time soon.  But I do wish to address some of the issues raised by my article, because as dangerous as I think the current trends are, I don't believe that this particular election has Apocalyptic Significance.  More on that below, after I answer the very thought-provoking questions posed by both Michael and Adam..

Michael confesses puzzlement over "the significance [I] place on popular culture."  But I can assure him that I have no "secret knowledge of its value."  There can be no "popular grass roots cultural movement without any dynamic intellectual concepts."  Still, popular culture remains a barometer of how philosophical ideas are filtered into society, and how social groups, armed with these ideas, attempt to achieve political change.  (I should note that it may make no practical difference if these groups sincerely believe the ideas, or are simply using the ideas as rationalizations by which to achieve political power; sometimes the seriously committed become the "useful idiots" for those who are actually wielding that power---but this opens up a discussion that goes way beyond our current scope.)

Off-the-cuff, I'd say that "fads" are passing curiosities, like Pet Rocks, or EST.  "Fads" might signify an overall pop-cultural trend if there are enough of them to constitute such a trend.  "Popular culture," as such, is the way in which various ideas are produced, disseminated, and consumed, large-scale, primarily through aesthetic means, such as fiction, film, etc.

The sociological value of understanding mass acceptance of such ideas is that people, armed with ideological weapons, will influence political trends.  Yes, an appeal to the masses can be an appeal to authority, but that is simply the nature of politics:  you can't get elected without some kind of mass appeal. 

In some respects, this is an application of Rand's view of social change.  Rand tells us that philosophic system-builders will set the trend, but that professional philosophers, intellectuals, and educators will convey the dominant ideological tendencies to communications and aesthetics media: journalists, writers, artists of various stripes.  In an extension of this model, I'd say that a social movement cannot become powerful without slowly dominating such media in various segments of society.  Often, there are competing ideas at work within media:  clearly, in a free or even semi-free society, diversity of ideas in the marketplace, anchored on diversity of private property ownership, militates against totalitarian ideology. (That's one of the reasons why private property is so essential to a free society; when the state owns everything, it also attempts to produce, disseminate, and compel the consumption of state-defined "culture.")

Since human beings need philosophy in order to guide their lives, since they need the integration that philosophy can provide, they will grab onto whatever philosophy is available to them.  In the case of religious fundamentalism as a mass pop cultural force, I'd say that long-time religious ideas have been made understandable, "chewable," and digestible by various individuals in media.  The ideas did not originate with these individuals.

In my essay, I mention the long-term history of pietist doctrine, for example, but there is also a long-term intellectual evolution that I don't discuss, including the evolution of the idea of the Rapture.  This is a doctrine that many root in Biblical scripture, but it has also been credited to various 19th-century religious scholars, theologians, and intellectuals, such as John Darby of the Plymouth Brethren; the Rapture has now been presented to pop culture in the Left Behind series, which layers the highly abstract Revelations with a dramatic, concrete narrative that is easily digestible.

Thus, what happens in such instances is that ideas take root among intellectuals, but it is only through their mass cultural dissemination that such ideas begin to move the world.  Likewise, neoconservatism may be an intellectual force today, among popular writers and political advisers, but it too has a long evolution among intellectuals:  former social democrats, Trotskyites and even New Leftists (some have pointed to Strauss as a neocon forefather as well).

I have been arguing for quite a while now that this Randian model of social change has applications not merely to the domestic sphere, but globally as well.  I have argued for nearly two years now that a "nation-building" enterprise in Iraq, for example, is not likely to succeed in the absence of a cultural shift in that country.  Politics is not a primary; it can influence culture (especially "political culture," that is, the subculture among individuals acting in the political arena), but it is primarily a product of culture.  A free society cannot simply be instituted from the top-down.  If Rand believed that, she would have ended Atlas Shrugged with John Galt assuming the reins of state power.  He refuses to do so.  But not even the Prime Movers and Galts of this world will succeed in changing society without general, cultural acceptance of their moral code. 

So, no, I don't believe that pop culture is some kind of ineffable, powerful, primary force; but it is the chief transmission belt of the ideas of intellectuals to the larger society, and, over time, that society fuels political change.  That's why it is important for the right intellectuals to continue making the right arguments, and to spread their ideas far and wide.  One cannot predict if, when, or how those ideas will take root as a dominant ideological force.  But that is one of the reasons I have kept my eyes on pop culture as a transmission belt for Rand's ideas. Her ideas are slowly being absorbed by American culture---in film, fiction, and even comics; the forthcoming issue of The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies, for instance, will focus much attention on Rand's cultural and literary impact, the first part of a two-part celebration of the Rand Centenary.  I'm not saying that her ideas will need to be present in the society as long as Darby's or the Bible, but the more these ideas are developed and dispersed, the greater the possibility that they will make an impact on the larger culture and its political system.

Adam expresses disappointment that I do not commit to voting for Kerry.  Yes, it is indeed possible that people of a different political stripe, such as the new JFK, might have the backing to make important policy changes.  It is said that only a life-long anti-Communist like Richard Nixon could have gone to China, for much the same reason that only a "New Democrat" like Bill Clinton could have reformed welfare.  Yet, as an observer of political systems and trends, I can tell you that, under current conditions, I doubt that there will be a "sea change" across the United States in the direction of Christian fundamentalism.  Not yet, at least.

The reason for this is that the Congress is likely to remain split enough, with Democrats and "moderate" Republicans from the northeast and the west acting as spoilers for the fundamentalist agenda, able to block constitutional amendments and extremist Supreme Court nominations.  (In any event, even the most conservative of Presidents have been known to go "centrist" on Court nominations; Reagan may have been responsible for Scalia, but he was also responsible for appointing moderates like Justices Kennedy and O'Connor.)

I don't think this is some kind of Apocalyptic Presidential Election.  I think that both candidates endorse the same foreign policy, and, in effect, remain seriously committed to bolstering the welfare state (Bush's extensive and expansive Medicare reforms and budget-busting spending prove he is no free-marketer, and Kerry has been a long-time supporter of welfarism). 

Moreover, I think too much has been made about the President's power in this political system.  As I point out in an L&P essay, "Ideology and Myth in American Politics," as "the government [has] gradually gained more and more influence over every aspect of social life," the Madisonian checks and balances built into our constitutional system have "gradually morphed into an institutionalized civil war among competing interest groups, each vying for some special privilege at the expense of the others."  The reality of the mixed economy is that it encourages "both political collectivism and social atomism: It nourishes the development of ad hoc groups, because groups become the only political units that matter. Simultaneously, it atomizes a society, as people-in-groups become increasingly fragmented and fractured across every dimension, in search of this or that privilege or exemption: a Hobbesian "war of all against all"--which goes global." Rand called this "global balkanization,"

the statist manufacturing of pressure groups, which pits "ethnic minorities against the majority, the young against the old, the old against the middle, women against men, welfare-recipient against the self-supporting," and so on and so on. Every differentiating human characteristic becomes the basis for another battle in the war for privilege: age, size, sex, sexual orientation, social status, religion, nationality, race, etc. Each of these groups attempts to use government to subsidize its ventures, socialize its risks, or otherwise restrict the access of its competitors.


It is a system that has evolved structurally, and it doesn't matter much who is elected to political office. It may matter to the specific interests who influence this or that politician---indeed, a persuasive case can be made that not every pressure group is equally represented and that this is the nature of a crony capitalism in which some cronies are more equal than others. But the elections don't affect the fundamental structure of political privilege as such.

Under this system, a President can use the "bully pulpit" as Theodore Roosevelt once called it, to affect a sea change in political attitudes.  In recent times, Reagan used that bully pulpit to great effect.  The President can also give voice to this or that special interest, go off on this or that foreign adventure, but he can't alter the nature of the system.

Furthermore, let's not forget that it is the Electoral College which awards the Presidency on the basis of a fractured federal structure; the red Republican and blue Democratic states will line-up, geographically and demographically, as they have done over the past 30 or so years.  So the votes of individuals only matter relative to the state context in which such votes are cast; my vote means nothing in New York State, a state that votes heavily Democratic (despite having a Republican Governor, or a NYC Republican mayor). 

I would seriously consider voting for Kerry if my vote did matter in a close election, especially in a state that had serious swing potential.  It might be one way of sending a signal to the current administration that I am deeply unhappy with its policies.  But I have no confidence that Kerry is going to make any fundamental difference; in fact, I believe that he will, at this time, endorse the current administration's foreign policy (he voted for the war in Iraq, after all, and he recently claimed he would do so again, regardless of whether Iraq possessed WMDs).  The war and occupation have now been institutionalized, in any event.  Economically, I don't see how Kerry "turns the corner"---not with embedded budget-busting defense expenditures, and rising welfare state costs at home, and abroad, as the US embarks on the (re)construction of welfare states in Iraq, Afghanistan, and any other countries it might invade and occupy.

So, that's my reasoning, and that's why I reject Peikoff's view that it is "immoral" to sit out this election.  None of this detracts from the essence of my article, however; these are troubling cultural and political trends.  But if Americans want to reverse them, they will have to affect a cultural revolution that offers a radical, fundamental alternative.  It won't require changing the whole culture; but it will require a change in the dominant cultural and intellectual tendencies. That is the only means by which to transform a political and social system.

P.S. - Don't take this as a maxim that one should sit out all elections, because one's vote "doesn't matter." That is a separate question.  I do think local elections matter more---"all politics is local"---and I have voted for people who are not "libertarian" per se, but who have affected a "sea change" in the political culture of my home town. Rudy Giuliani, who had both libertarian and anti-libertarian tendencies, was one such politician; I voted for him three times---once in a losing campaign against David Dinkins, and twice more to help elect him Mayor of NYC.  And he did affect the culture and politics of New York---cutting everything from crime to welfare rolls.  Did I like everything he did?  Of course not.  But one should not avoid endorsing anyone because one can't get everything one desires.  Additionally, I have voted for some mainstream Presidential candidates; I didn't vote for Reagan when he ran against Carter---voting for the LP candidate Ed Clark, instead.  But I did give Reagan my vote in 1984 because I thought he had affected a monumental rhetorical change in the Washington political culture, even though his political record was mixed.




Post 15

Thursday, August 12, 2004 - 7:17amSanction this postReply
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An interesting aspect of the US election this is what happens to Blair in the UK election. Here is an excerpt from the daily telegraph...

 

"Usually, there would be no question that the Labour government would want its "Third Way" American allies, the Democrats, to win. But the war in Iraq has complicated everything. There are some Labour strategists who think that a Kerry victory could damage Mr Blair's own chances when he goes to the polls next year. If Mr Bush becomes the second pro-war leader to lose power (after the former Spanish prime minister, Josť MarŪa Aznar), then his main ally, Mr Blair, will look increasingly isolated. The Prime Minister's position will be further weakened if John Howard, the Australian premier and final member of the "Gang of Four" war leaders, is ousted in October. "Three down, one to go" is the slogan already being prepared by the anti-war lobby...

 

Most ministers, however, believe that a Kerry victory would actually make Mr Blair's position more comfortable in the run-up to the general election...For cultural as well as political reasons, the British public cannot stand the gun-toting Texan, Mr Bush. The Prime Minister would find it much easier to persuade British voters of the virtues of the transatlantic alliance if a more consensual leader were in power."

 

That's as good a reason as any to keep Bush in the Whitehouse.

Who wants four fucking years of transatlantic "third way" socialism????!!!!

 

 




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Post 16

Thursday, August 12, 2004 - 6:52amSanction this postReply
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The article scared me rigid. I knew things were bad over in the Land of the Free, but not how bad.

May I respectfully suggest that it's better to have a President who measures his success in materialistic terms (no matter how collectivist his aims), than one who's scoring points for the Hereafter and who possibly thinks Armageddon is a Good Thing.




Post 17

Thursday, August 12, 2004 - 9:24amSanction this postReply
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Marcus,

"Third way" is the European label for a free market combined with a Milton Friedman style negative income tax, or some other "minimal safety net mechanism." It is identical to what Milton Friedman (although certainly neither Karl Marx nor Ayn Rand) would have called "Capitalism." It is called "Third Way Socialism" just to make sure that the more senile Social-Democratic party loyalists, the ones who still don't understand that Socialism does not work, will continue to vote for the party.

In the smoke-and-mirrors world of electoral ideology, the mirror image of "third way socialism" is "Compassionate Conservatism:" the idea that the socialist or fascist welfare state should be preserved, only now the goodies will be dispensed through religious organizations to those of the "disadvantaged" who are known to be deserving, because they belong to the right religions. In "compassionate conservatism," the preservation of the welfare state is combined with fascist-kleptocratic control of the economy by the political class, to make sure that entrepreneurs abide by the official religious "morality" of the state. The reason it is still called "conservatism," is to appeal to senile loyalists of conservative parties, the ones whose political judgement has shrunk to "conservative=good."

It is a choice, after you understand the labels.



Post 18

Thursday, August 12, 2004 - 5:18pmSanction this postReply
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Chris,

A great article once again -- any possibility it could get picked up by a larger publication like TNR or Salon? They have been publishing articles in a similar vein this year -- nothing against Free Radical but it would be nice to see your work read as far and wide as possible.

Kerry will be slightly better than Bush -- the Republicans will continue to control Congress -- divided government means less gets done which under the current climate is a good thing -- he would be more secular, would continue Bush's semi-good work in expanded managed trade agreements in Latin America, better on drug policy, etc. it would also set a nice precendent that would hopefully see Blair go down in defeat.

Also, I live in Berkeley, CA -- yes, that Berkeley -- I can say that the Left really really doesn't like Kerry -- some might swallow their pride and vote for him, but no lefty I've talked to expects the Left to have any sway in a Kerry administration -- its important to realize their is a huge divide between liberals like Kerry who support the war in Iraq, free trade, israel, curtailing civil liberties, corporate welfare, etc, next to the Left -- anti-freetrade, pro-Palestine, anti-war, pro-Hugo Chavez (he's the new Fidel for the Left, they love him), etc.

Chris -- you leaving NYC for the republican convention? I know two friends fleeing to the Carribean for a week because of the chaos that will ensure when 250,000+ protestors confront the 10th largest army on the face of the earth -- i.e. NYPD --



Post 19

Thursday, August 12, 2004 - 9:28pmSanction this postReply
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"Also, I live in Berkeley, CA -- yes, that Berkeley -- I can say that the Left really really doesn't like Kerry"

I live in berkeley too-- and youre completely right. the left doesn't like kerry. no one likes kerry. the only reason anyone at all wants kerry is for one simple reason: he's not bush. a vote for kerry is, as it were, the equivalent of simply writing "anybody else" on the ballot. however, bush is just a drop in the bucket: the fact is that the extreme and growing power of this new breed of pop culture christians who are determined to regain cultural relevance is, well, disturbing.



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