Rebirth of Reason

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Friday, June 27, 2014 - 7:37pmSanction this postReply

Thanks, Ed!  My quibbles are below, but I agree 100% with the obvious truth that the fundamental flaw was the attachment of nationalism to liberalism in the 19th century: the cases included Poland, Italy, Romania, and of course Hungary as the paradigm in 1848.


Allow me to suggest "The Rising National Individualism," by Herbert Adolphus Miller. The American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 19, No. 5 (Mar., 1914), pp. 592-605 .  By "national individualism" the author means national socialism.  In other words, rather than coming together in international socialism, each nation was going its own way with its own culture, i.e., national individualism.  As we know the Star Spangled Banner became the national anthem, when the "Pledge of Allegiance" became common in public schools, because progressives wanted an "American culture" on par with those of Germany, France, etc.  They got their wish.   In 1914, the author identified increased nationalism as pulling apart Europe (especially Eastern Europe's Austrian Empire).  He was wrong about the immediate war: Miller suggested that perhaps the Slavs within the Austrian Empire would refuse to fight against Russia.  However, he was sadly very correct in the post-war era of fascism. Romania was a kingdom; Jugoslavia was  a kingdom; Albania, Greece, Bulgaria, all were kingdoms.  (Greece became a fascist dictatorship on the eve of the Italian invasion.)


In a sense, this war lasted from 1912 to 1999.  It was a European civil war. The actual assassination of Franz Ferdinand was a surprise in that the immediate conflict was between Europe and the Ottoman Empire. (The Balkan War of 1912-1913.) That the Ottoman Empire would ally with Austria was also unexpected but clear in 20-20 hindsight: they both hated Balkan nationalisms.  And it continued through the Kosovo War of the Clinton Administration.  


Moreover, the consequences must include Palestine and Israel. "Lawrence of Arabia" was a sideshow then but was the center ring for many years.  Today's headlines from Iraq are no less a result of World War One, with the British receiving "mandates" in what was the Ottoman Empire: Iraq, Palestine, Arabia.


My quibbles.


1. It is not clear that Franz Ferdinand would have empowered an array of local kingdoms of Slovaks, Slovenes, Hungarians, Poles, etc., etc., within his empire. As the crown prince of Austria, he was the king of Hungary, but he was not actually Hungarian, of course.  It was a pattern then that each new czar, each new pope was supposed to be more liberal than the last and bring in the much-needed reforms.  It never happened.  


2. The alliances did indeed bring a world war, however, it is important to realize that these were mutually contradictory secret alliances. It took about a month to play out.  Opinion was that family ties would put England, Germany, and Russia on the same side against France, Italy, and Austria.  Remember that Bismarck kicked Austria out of the German Confederation.  It was not clear from public manifestations that Austria and Germany would be on the same side.  It is just that Austria and Italy had more enmity.  (I lost a great uncle in that, a Hungarian in the Austrian army.)  The cascading declarations of war were a surprise to everyone.


3.  Everyone expected a quick end.  Given the Crimean War, the Seven Weeks' War, the Franco-Prussian War, no one saw civilization grinding down to starvation, except perhaps H. G. Wells.

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Saturday, June 28, 2014 - 5:04pmSanction this postReply

Michael – Thanks for your kind words. And I actually don’t quibble with your quibbles. In a longer piece I might have made similar points. But it is interested that the Archduke at least toyed with the idea of how a federated Austria-Hungary might work. (For those interested in the period, read Barbara Tuckman’s “The Guns of August.”)


And echoing a point I made on SOLO, I note that Edmund Burke and conservatives supported class, religion, and other traditional institutions in part as barriers to the sort of abuses attendant to the French Revolution. Such conservatives were not for all-powerful monarchies; they most of all feared all-powerful mob rule. The American Constitution, with separation of powers and checks and balances, was a manifestation of classical liberal ideas combined with sound conservative insights.


On your point about the best people coming to America, I agree but with some explanation. I wrote in What Is an American? that my grandfather, a poor, landless peasant from rural Italy in the early 20th century, manifested the values and spirit that so many immigrants brought to this country: 1) He wanted the best life for himself and his family; 2) he took action toward his goal rather than just sitting on his butt and complaining; 3) he had to use his wits and his mind—even without much formal education—to figure out how to get to America and to make enough money to bring the family over (a goal he met in 1930); and 4) he realized that going to America involved risks of failure compared to staying put, but that staying put almost guaranteed a life of hopeless poverty. These were the values of so many who left Europe and contributed to the American culture as well as the economy.


This is also why I see hope in the new entrepreneurs in this country who are “individual visionaries who are transforming the world,” who ”strive because they love their work” who “hold Enlightenment values—though in many cases their politics still need to catch up.” In recent talks, I say they have the values of a Howard Roark but still need the politics of a John Galt.


Ray Kurzweil, of “singularity” fame, tells how reading Tom Swift books as a youngest showed him that “the right idea had the power to overcome a seemingly overwhelming challenge” and that in all cases “we can find that idea.” He described the experience of holding an actual da Vinci manuscript as almost like touching “the work of God himself. This, then, was the religion that I was raised with: veneration for human capacity and the power of ideas.”


Such values are crucial to the restoration of freedom in this country. Further, outreach to these folks has an added potential benefit. Millennials are very cynical about politics and most other American institutions; 50% are political independents compared to only 37 % of baby boomers. But 74% of first-year college millennials rate begin financially very well off as a top life goal, compared to only 45% of boomers at that age. And millennials love new technology. In other words, they want to be the next Zuckerberg.


So it is through the new entrepreneurs and such young people that we might have a path to John Galt!

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Sunday, June 29, 2014 - 10:04amSanction this postReply

here in Europe we also have all these revivals and exhibitions and teary-eyed commemorations of WWI ... what I find far more interesting though is that the flu killed 50-100 million in the same timespan: no exhibits, no articles, no flag-waving - nada ... with the experimental avian flu virus artificially created these days I'd put my money on those rather than hoping for WWIII

and yes - the atrocities mankind inflicts on it's own species are truely astounding ... no matter what lame excuse du jour is propagated in media, history and histrionics ...

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Sunday, June 29, 2014 - 10:27amSanction this postReply

There are quite a few psychological explanations of why societies engage in war memorial rituals.  Those individuals who suffered may pull a sense of purpose for their loss from the celebration, as if it wasn't for nothing.  The regular citizen is encouraged to feel like a part of something larger than himself and can get more of a sense of belonging and significance.  An elite who control the nation continue to encourage the feeling that sacrificing for the nation is noble and that the losses were justified.  Needless to say, all of these are based upon bad reasoning, and aren't healthy psychology either.

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Sunday, July 6, 2014 - 3:23pmSanction this postReply

VSD: "...  here in Europe we also have all these revivals and exhibitions and teary-eyed commemorations of WWI ... what I find far more interesting though is that the flu killed 50-100 million in the same timespan: no exhibits, no articles, no flag-waving ..."


On that note:  The US "Peace Dollar" was proposed as a commemorative coin to celebrate the end of World War One.  However, the proposal was tabled for a year because the 1918 convention of the American Numismatic Association at Philadelphia was canceled as a consequence of the epidemic.  Researching that ahead of writing a set of articles (see below), I found a comment in the ANA Numismatist magazine from about 40 or 50 years later. Reviewing the history of the ANA conventions, a writer was puzzled that the 1918 conclave was canceled merely because "apparently some people had the flu."  


Shorter and 


longer histories


of the Peace Dollar.

...  condemned to repeat the past... 

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