Monday, June 30, 2008

    We've already largely dealt with why people are slaughtering each other because their nations are divided into two or more states or countries in Part One of this two part series. Before we leave that particular topic, there is one more massive example that requires attention: Nazi Germany and the origin of World War II in Europe. This was a slaughter of monumental proportions, and it all began with the problems arising from the concept of nations, states and countries.

    Adolf Hitler was very fond of using the same expression over and over in his speeches and writings: "One people, one empire, one leader." Most have heard these words, but few are aware of their significance. Hitler meant by this that it was his intention to unify the German nation into one country or state. In other words, he wanted to create a German nation-state. One by one he invaded his neighbors in that effort. First the Rhineland of France in 1936, then the Sudetenland of Czechoslovakia in 1938, then Austria with its heavily Germanic population, also in 1938, and finally Poland in 1939, the event that finally triggered a declaration of war. Certainly Hitler's ambitions were not limited to the unification of the German people, as his invasions of other, non-Germanic countries in Europe, including the Soviet Union, demonstrated. But national unification was a prime concern of his, perhaps the principal motivation for all of his actions.

    So far we have dealt with two of the four possible permutations involved in the concept of nations, states and countries. Nation-states—a situation in which national and state boundaries coincide—present the fewest problems, with a minimum of violence and instability. One nation divided into two or more states can lead to all sorts of unpleasantries, including world wars. The third possibility is for one state to contain two or more nations. The world is full of these, and there is no end to the mischief they cause.

    Rwanda is an excellent and recent example. That country contained two nations of people, one of which decided to establish its own nation-state by simply slaughtering the members of the other nation. Hundreds of thousands of people died as a result.

    An ongoing example is Sudan, with its Arabic north and its Black-African south. The horrors there continue at this writing, with no end in sight.

    French Quebec threatens to secede from English-speaking Canada. What will become of Canada should that happen is anyone's guess. The Atlantic Provinces would be separated from the rest of English-speaking Canada by an enormous geographic gulf. Countries divided in such a way do not have a good track record.

    Yugoslavia is a prime example of a state plagued by the problem of multi-nationalism. Strong man Tito was able to suppress the forces of nationalism in that country. But at his death, the place came apart at the seams. The various nations within Yugoslavia asserted themselves. Incredible violence was the result. The most heinous of it involved the ethnic cleansing perpetrated by the Serbs against the Bosnians. This was more than just a simple slaughter. What is not often recognized is that that ethnic cleansing was an attempt by the Serbs to recapture what they perceived to be Serbian national territory in an attempt to create their own nation-state. To them, the Bosnians were occupying what had historically been Serbian territory, and the Serbs wanted it back so that national and state boundaries would coincide.

    The situation in Russia must be keeping that country's leaders awake at night. With the disintegration of central power in Moscow, the non-Russian nationalities on the perimeter of the former Soviet Union peeled away to form their own nation-states. But that is not the end of the story. In what is left of Russia, there are scores of non-Russian nationalities. Should these too decide to seek nation-state status, Russia may find itself reduced to something resembling the original Duchy of Muscovy, a tiny Russian enclave on the Volga, a rump state of little significance.

    No discussion of this problem would be complete without considering the current state of affairs in the United States. The question that will determine the entire future of this country is this: is the United States developing into a bi-national country? If it is, we can expect the most serious problems imaginable. These may even include the eventual breakup of the country into two states. The United States of America would be a part of history, to be read about but not experienced by future generations. Across our incredibly porous two-thousand-mile border with Mexico, an endless flood of people enter this country. These are members of an entirely distinct nation, and, in all likelihood, members of an entirely distinct civilization. Should they fail to enculturate, as anthropologists would say, or should they fail to socialize, as political scientists would put it, the future of the United States as we have known it would be in grave jeopardy. If these millions upon millions of newcomers fail to become part of mainstream American culture, if they fail to join the American nation, we face the prospect of a breakup. At this writing, it is unclear as to whether this process of socialization is taking place. But the evidence does not bode well. Los Angeles is now considered, by at least one British newspaper of note, to be a third-world, Spanish-speaking city. The country is effectively becoming bilingual, as is evidenced by the proliferation of Spanish language radio and television stations everywhere. Each time we pick up the telephone and are prompted to choose between Spanish and English, this evolving bi-nationalism is evident. There seems to be little to impede this process. In this era of multiculturalism and diversity the preservation of an American nation appears to be unfashionable, even frowned upon. If you love this country, enjoy it while you can. And hope that you don't live to see what it will become.

    Lastly, there is the possibility of a nation of people with no country or state. After the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans, the Jewish nation was stateless for nearly nineteen hundred years, until the modern-day establishment of the state of Israel. But this created another problem: what to do with the Palestinians? They claim to be a nation of people, but those claims notwithstanding, their true nationality is in doubt. Yasir Arafat, after all, was born in Egypt. Be that as it may, they claim national status, and it has only been very recently that they have come into possession of something resembling a state. Violence there is relentless. Watch almost any evening news broadcast and you will see it for yourself.

    There is one more mysterious example of a stateless nation that comes to mind. These are the Gypsies. They have wandered the world throughout recorded history. Evidently, even the Romans did not know their origins. They seem satisfied with their stateless condition, a rare if not unique circumstance.

    So there you have it, a major source of conflict in the world: nations, states and countries. Once you grasp the concepts in this two-part series, the world will make a great deal more sense to you.

Friday, June 27, 2008


    HURRAH FOR THE REPUBLIC! If there is any flesh left on the bones of Thomas Jefferson, his desiccated lips must be curled into a smile at this moment! The Federal Recluse has been waiting with bated breath for the decision just rendered by the Supreme Court regarding the nature of the Second Amendment. As you probably know, the question before the Court was whether that amendment recognized an individual right to keep and bear arms, or whether that right was reserved only for state militias, i.e. National Guard units. Five Justices at least have sufficient regard for individual liberty to have voted for the individual rights interpretation.

    No other decision could have been rendered without leaving the Constitution little more than a shredded piece of tissue to be discarded completely. Your individual right to keep and bear arms is the keystone of all your other liberties. In all likelihood, without it, those other liberties recognized—not conferred—by the Bill of Rights would not last long. There are monsters in this world, would-be tyrants who would enslave you it they could. The world is full of examples of people who have first been disarmed by those monsters, and then enslaved—or murdered—by them. But arms keep those monsters at bay. Monsters are terrified by guns. They are horrified by a free, armed populace. It is said that Joseph Stalin was so afraid of being assassinated by some rogue gun owner that he kept numerous lookalike doubles scattered all over the Soviet Union. Virtually no one ever knew where Stalin really was because, even in a country over which he had an iron grip and whose citizens he had largely disarmed, he was afraid that somewhere out there some liberty-loving person would end his reign of terror.

    Arms are the ultimate guarantor of liberty. The Framers intended that you should have the ability, should all peaceful means fail, of violently overthrowing tyrannical government. Certainly they considered the benefits of an individual's ability to keep arms for the defense of life, home and property. But from a political standpoint, which was a major concern, it was the overthrow of tyrannical government that was at the heart of the matter. You must have that ability, or you will find yourself a subject and not a citizen. Your liberty, your very life, will be at the mercy—at the whim—of any tyrant who happens to receive a plurality of the popular vote.

    In the immediate aftermath of this decision, it is clear that its detractors continue to cling to the belief that the "well regulated militia" clause of the amendment limits the right to keep and bear arms only to state militias, usually interpreted to mean National Guard units. Nothing could be further from the truth. In reading the words of the Framers, during and after the Founding Era, it is crystal clear that among their greatest fears was a standing army. Thousands of years of history, as well as their own experiences under the heel of the British during the colonial period, taught them that a permanent, professional standing army represented a great danger to a free people. The very last thing they would have done in writing the Bill of Rights would have been to restrict access to arms to such an organization. Further, such an interpretation flies in the face of the very intent of the Bill of Rights itself. Its whole purpose was to place limits on government, and certainly not to grant that government a monopoly on the use of force. In the context of the entire Bill of Rights, the National Guard interpretation of the Second Amendment is, quite literally, ridiculous.

    So what did the authors of the Second Amendment mean when they used the phrase "a well regulated militia" if not a standing army? Centuries of Anglo-American law and tradition answer that question. The militia to which they were referring, in 1791 and to this very day, is the unorganized militia of the United States, which consists of all able bodied men. The idea was that if all men were armed, the United States could not be conquered by any foreign power. An invader would have to take the country house by house. If anyone thinks that such a concept is outdated, they must consider the fact that after the attack on Pearl Harbor, not so long ago, the Japanese considered an invasion of the west coast of the United States but abandoned the notion after study revealed the almost universal ownership of firearms among the American population. They realized that the Japanese Imperial Army was inadequate to the task. The thought of millions of armed citizens sniping at them from behind every rock, tree and building convinced them of the futility of such an endeavor.

    There will be a great deal more concerning the right to keep and bear arms in future entries. The Federal Recluse is among its staunchest supporters. This entry is celebratory: we have taken a giant step in the direction of individual liberty. Those who oppose that freedom, and there are many of them, have this day assumed the role of ankle-biters in the American body politic. They will continue to try to gnaw away, like the rats that they are, at your liberty as just confirmed by the Court. But their legs have been knocked out from under them. There is a great deal of work to be done at the state and local level to drive these rats back into their holes. But at last there is a glimmer of light on the horizon. A brilliant sun will rise over a country that is freer today than it was yesterday, and the rats will scurry from the blazing light. Break open the champagne and toast American liberty! Mr. Jefferson would.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Nations, States and Countries: Part 1

    Have you ever wondered why people are slaughtering each other all over the world? What produces the death, the suffering, the artificial famine? What follows does not pretend to explain all of it, but it does explain a great deal of it. Surely there are other factors involved than those you are about to be exposed to. But there are none more important in explaining the woes of this world.

    There is one aspect of international relations of which the vast majority of people are almost totally ignorant. This is through no fault of their own. It just isn't taught. But it is absolutely critical for an understanding of violence in the world. It produces genocide, ethnic cleansing, insurrection and wars of every conceivable variety, including world wars. It is responsible for a great deal of the misery and death on this planet. And it does have a powerful bearing on the future of the United States, as you will see. It involves the distinction among three terms which are often used interchangeably, but which are most definitely not the same. They are country, state and nation.

    First some definitions: the terms country and state are synonymous. In international relations, a country or a state is what can best be described as a sovereign geopolitical entity. That is, a country or a state is a political unit that occupies territory and is capable, in the current world system, of making decisions for itself without fear of contradiction by some higher authority. The United States, France, Japan, etc., are all countries or states.

    A nation is something very different. A nation is a group of people who identify with each other in one or more ways. Those may be ethnic, linguistic, cultural, religious, historic, or by any other common denominator.

    There are four possible combinations of countries or states on the one hand, and nations on the other. The most stable and peaceful arrangement is for national and country or state boundaries to coincide. That is, for virtually every member of the same nation to live within the boundaries of one state or country. This is referred to as a nation-state. Japan is an excellent example. Virtually everyone in Japan is Japanese, ethnically, linguistically and culturally. There is very little political violence in Japan. There is political disagreement, to be sure, but violence is minimal. In fact, Japan guards its nationality very closely. An outsider can visit Japan, but cannot become truly Japanese.

    Once we depart from the nation-state, the problems begin. With the other three possible combinations, conflict is the order of the day, and violence is common. First, there is the possibility of one nation being divided into two or more states. Ireland and Northern Ireland come to mind. For decades, the counties of Northern Ireland were plagued by political violence. It must be understood that this violence had as its goal the unification of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. That is, it was an effort on the part of the Irish nationality of Northern Ireland to establish for itself a nation-state—a situation in which national and state boundaries coincided.

There seems to be a universal desire on the part of all people to live within their own nation-state. We see efforts to establish such political units taking place all over the world. Those efforts are usually accompanied by conflict. North and South Korea, one nation of people divided into two states, has been the scene of continuous violence, war and tension for almost sixty years. A formal state of war still exists there after all that time. To this day, the very real possibility exists that a catastrophic war could erupt there at any moment.

In the former North and South Vietnam the urge to unify the nation was so intense that it produced a decade-long war with the United States. Whatever one's thoughts concerning that war, the element of nationalism cannot be discarded.

Africa has been the scene of continuous violence since the end of the colonial era. On that unfortunate continent there are many nations that are divided into two or more states. There are over two thousand nations of people in Africa. When the European powers decided to establish colonies there, they simply whacked up the place to their own satisfaction with no consideration for nationality. Arbitrary colonial boundaries were drawn all over the continent. The result was an absolute nightmare of circumstances, among which are many nationalities divided into two or more states. The examples are far too numerous to mention.

The former East and West Germany were great examples of this problem. For more than four decades, until the collapse of central power in Moscow, the German nation was divided into two states. Tensions were high. Many predicted that World War Three would break out there. Fortunately, reunification was peaceful, if not exactly comfortable.

Less comfortable are relations between Taiwan and mainland China, Cubans in Cuba and Cubans patiently biding their time in south Florida, and Turks in Cyprus as well as in Turkey, and Greeks in Cyprus as well as in Greece. One may even rightfully include in this category Finns in Finland and members of the Finnish nation stranded in Russian Karelia. Many more examples exist.

The elephant in the room, of course, is the Islamic nation. Samuel P. Huntington of Harvard goes so far as to classify them as much more than a distinct nationality, but as a separate civilization, and the Federal Recluse would certainly agree with that assessment. Here we have well over a billion people united, at the very least, by religion, divided into numerous states stretching across a major region of the globe. The Islamic nation in southwest Asia and even north Africa is partially united not only by religion, but by culture, ethnicity, history, and, to some extent, language. Certainly this national unity is not complete. There are the Iranians to contend with from an ethnic and linguistic standpoint, as well as sectarian differences within Islam, such as between Shiite and Sunni in Iraq and elsewhere. But if one speaks in sufficiently broad terms, as did Huntington, an Islamic nation certainly exists. President Nasser of Egypt attempted a partial political unification decades ago, but was unsuccessful. The success of future attempts seems unlikely, but is not inconceivable. Culture, language and religion are powerful unifying forces. If this nation of people were ever to unify politically, given the hatred and resentment of Western Civilization throughout the region, the West would have a great deal more to worry about than terrorism.

To be continued…

Monday, June 23, 2008

    A close friend holds the position that massive, uncontrolled immigration is of little concern to the survival of the American nation because anyone coming to this country must enculturate if they are to succeed in this society. He argues, for example, that they should be free to speak any language they choose, but if they choose to speak one other than English they will suffer the consequences of failure. This is very much a laissez-faire approach to the question and, in the vast majority of cases, such a position is to be applauded. But he lives in a bucolic American village embedded deep in the Heartland seventeen hundred miles from the Mexican border. The Federal Recluse lives on the "crust" and is witness to an entirely different reality.

    This region is a Mexican enclave. Its population is overwhelmingly Mexican and is constantly being reinforced by a steady stream of newcomers from across the border. And this enclave is growing. What, some decades ago, were mere pockets of Mexican nationality has now engulfed an entire section of the country stretching from the Pacific Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico. It is spreading north and east, with only the Canadian border and the seas to stop its progress. This friend may eventually find himself squeezed into an ever-shrinking pocket of American nationalism, which grows smaller and smaller until, ultimately, it winks out of existence altogether.

    Within this enclave, the use of the English language is not only largely unnecessary, but can actually be a detriment. Its use is increasingly less an asset than a liability. The Federal Recluse has encountered members of the Mexican nation living in this country who, when asked a question in English, became irate. On one occasion, the possibility of violence was very real.

    Why this focus on language? It is an extremely accurate barometer of the power of Mexican nationalism in the United States and the concomitant decline of the American nation. Language is a powerful transmitter of culture. Those who refuse to learn English, or who feel no need to learn it, are vastly more likely to retain the culture of their homeland and to fail to adopt the culture of the country in which they are now living. This has profound implications for the United States. As discussed in earlier entries, it is the position of the Federal Recluse that Mexican culture, and, more specifically, the philosophy which underlies it, is intrinsically flawed by a deeply embedded and centuries-old element of altruism: the belief that one's highest moral duty is to sacrifice one's interests for those of some other entity in society. Over time, that entity, the recipient of sacrifice, has assumed many forms: the King, the Viceroy, the encomendero, the hacendado, or, more recently, an amorphous Mexican nation. This expectation of self-sacrifice causes a deep-seated resentment and precludes cooperation. The country's economy, its political system, and every other aspect of its functioning as a modern society, suffer as a result. A country which should be a paradise is instead mired in poverty, ignorance and hopelessness. All of this is entirely independent of race. Blonde, blue-eyed Mexicans are as likely to possess this philosophy of altruism and the resentment that accompanies it, as are the darkest Mestizos. The danger here is not unchecked immigration per se, but the societal, political and economic repercussions it brings with it. To the extent that we import the carriers of this intellectual virus, this failed philosophy, we too will fail.

    None of this would matter if the philosophy which built this country was not worth preserving. The Federal Recluse believes that it is. That philosophy, with its emphasis on self-interest—a healthy selfishness, if you will—produced the greatest, freest, wealthiest country in the history of the world. Such a jewel should not be tossed aside lightly.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Down On the Democrat Plantation

    The ongoing flooding disaster in the mid-western United States is exposing, for those who were not previously aware of it, an insidious truth: for decades, blacks in this country have been kept "down on the plantation" of poverty, misery and dependency primarily by the Democrat party. There has been an unspoken quid pro quo. In exchange for democrat votes by blacks, those elected democrats would "take care" of their black constituents in a highly paternalistic fashion. Trillions of dollars have been redistributed "taking care" of black Americans, primarily through the efforts of elected democrats. These unfortunate individuals are less perpetrators than victims. They are victims of all the ills of paternalism that have been intentionally and consciously inflicted upon them by the Democrat party. In spite of those trillions, they are poverty-stricken, ill educated, and lethargic in taking those actions which are in their own self-interest. Nothing could demonstrate the truth of these assertions more clearly than the differences one sees between the reactions of inhabitants to the disasters of Hurricane Katrina and the current massive flooding of the Midwest.

    When Katrina struck, there were immediate demands to be taken care of, by FEMA, by President Bush and by the general government as a whole. New Orleans has still not recovered, and one can only guess at how long it will be before it does. When sufficient care was not forthcoming, or when it was perceived to be too slow in coming, residents were so resentful that violence in that city became widespread. The black residents of New Orleans had been almost completely enculturated into a state of dependency. They appeared to be, quite literally, incapable of taking care of themselves.

    By contrast, inhabitants of the Midwest who are currently experiencing a flooding disaster of far greater proportions, do not appear, at this writing, to be seeking more than minimal help from the general government. The Federal Recluse has heard no recriminations of FEMA or of the president. Quite the contrary seems to be the case. Residents appear to be rolling up their sleeves and getting down to the business of rebuilding. Unlike many of the victims of Hurricane Katrina, these people are taking it upon themselves to put their lives back in order. They have never been the targets of a concerted effort to inculcate in them the self-perception of victim-hood. They have never been the raw material for Democrat ascendancy.

    There is nothing intrinsically inferior about black people that would make them especially prone to dependency. Of all the variables that determine success in this world, skin color, from a rational standpoint, is of absolutely no importance. There are too many counterfactuals to place any credence at all in racism. Millions of black Americans have risen from the most humble beginnings, and, through talent, ambition and force of will have achieved success. There is no reason for the rest to be in such a state of paralytic dependency except for the fact that the seductive carrot of being taken care of by a paternalistic state has been dangled before them. When someone, especially a government, offers to provide for one's needs, it is a difficult thing to refuse. It is a tempting offer, especially when seemingly justified by three hundred years of enforced victim-hood.

The fault does not lie with our black brethren, but with a government, and in particular, with one political party, which has virtually justified its existence for generations in the paternalistic pursuit of "taking care of" black Americans in exchange for their votes. They have been engaged in the hideous practice of keeping the better part of a race "down on the plantation" for purely selfish political reasons. How much these political vampires actually care about their victims, for that is what they are, is highly questionable. Black Americans have been relegated by democrats to the status of tools—things—to be used to achieve and maintain political ascendancy and all the power and perquisites that go with it. Nothing could be more cynical and inhumane. Generations—past, present and future—of dependent black Americans have been turned into sacrificial animals for the benefit of ambitious democrat politicos and their activist henchmen. Those individual politicians and activists who are responsible for this most recent form of American human bondage shall remain nameless, as they should. Their names should be stricken from the roles of this country's history, and we should forget that they were our countrymen.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Culture: Part 4

    The original hypothesis of this series was that cultures which embrace altruism, the belief that man's highest moral value should be self-sacrifice, have as adherents stunted, resentful individuals who are always waiting for someone to demand sacrifice of them. The slogan of such a society might be, "Today you will be my sacrificial animal, but at some point in the future—as much as I hate the thought—I must be yours." Cooperation and innovation are minimized. Societies which possess such cultures are development resistant and will experience very slow growth, and even then, only through contact with more rapidly growing, more dynamic, less altruistic cultures. Political stability is dubious. Corruption is rampant. In short, the expectation of self-sacrifice and the maximization of an individual's potential are antithetical.

    The United States has become increasingly altruistic over time. Altruism's political concomitant is paternalistic government. This has grown exponentially in the past century with no end in sight. It is the position of the Federal Recluse that to the extent that a country's culture embraces altruism, and to the extent to which its political system incorporates paternalism, that country will fail economically and politically. In previous entries, the Federal Recluse has considered the impact of the expansion of the franchise as well as of urbanization on the growth of altruism in the United States. Now it is time to consider a third variable: immigration.

    It must be understood that race plays no part in this discussion. Anyone can be altruistic, just as anyone can be selfish. Altruists come in all colors. Race is biological. Altruism is philosophical. That said, let us proceed.

    In the early days of this Republic, the culture of the United States almost exclusively embodied a healthy selfishness. Individuals were concerned with their own wellbeing and that of their families and friends. But it was clearly understood that each individual was responsible for his own welfare. No one was forced to accept the role of sacrificial animal for the sake of anyone else, with the horrendous exception of slaves. The political system reflected this. Government was small and very inexpensive. Individual liberty, so long as you were not a slave, was the order of the day. Thomas Jefferson once justifiably bragged that, under his administration, a citizen could live without ever seeing an agent of the general government. Within one long lifetime after the end of Mr. Jefferson's administration, all of that was to change. By the time of Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal, the United States was ready for a massive dose of altruism and its political partner, paternalistic government. Immigration played a large role in this transition.

    In Europe, Karl Marx's writings were increasingly influential with time. By the 1880's, immigrants to this country, primarily from Russia and southern Europe, who already possessed a predominantly altruistic culture, now had political justification for their beliefs. If anyone doubts the paternalistic tendencies of these people, consider the fact that in Russia, the Czar was frequently referred to in common parlance as "father". Millions upon millions of them came to the United States from 1880 to 1924, when immigration was virtually ended. Their effect was to dilute the individualism of the Founding Era and to make paternalism politically viable for the first time in U.S. history. Slowly pour vinegar into a pitcher of pure water, and at some point what you will have in the pitcher resembles vinegar more than water. This cultural dilution set the stage for the New Deal and all of the growth in government that was to follow.

    Since the overhaul of the immigration system in 1965, immigrants to the United States have come from other sources, primarily Asia and Latin America. Legal and illegal immigration to the United States is now coming largely from Mexico. Mexico does possess, and always has possessed, a very altruistic culture with a highly paternalistic political system. Catholicism is intrinsically altruistic. How large a factor religion is, is questionable. But it is certainly a factor.

From the time of the Spanish Conquest, Mexico's political system has been paternalistic in the extreme. Individual Mexicans have always been expected to sacrifice their personal interests for one recipient of that sacrifice or another. Whether it was the King, or the pope, or the Viceroy, or the encomendero, or the hacendado, or, since the 1910 Revolution, for an amorphous entity best called the State, Mexicans have never been able to live their lives for their own sakes. They have been convinced that such sacrifice is right and just. It is part of Mexican culture.

Today, the dilution of what remains of the individualistic political culture is largely a product of Mexican immigration. Their sheer numbers dictate this conclusion. What anthropologists refer to as enculturation, and what political scientists refer to as political socialization, could theoretically save individualism in this country. Here, newcomers adopt the culture of the United States and, hopefully, individualism in the process. The question is how much of this is taking place? Massive Mexican immigration is still too new a phenomenon to permit us to draw firm conclusions. But the evidence the Federal Recluse has seen in his twenty years on the border is not hopeful.

This region of the United States is what some writers have referred to as an enclave. Other enclaves exist throughout the United States. And they are growing larger. It has become overwhelmingly populated by Mexicans who have brought with them their culture. There is little impetus for enculturation or socialization because their population is constantly being reinforced by newcomers from across the border. And they are growing larger. For example, it is entirely possible to live one's whole life in this region without ever learning a word of English. And language is a powerful transmitter of culture. When the Federal Recluse first moved to this area, his first job was as an instructor of English as a second language. One of his students was a woman in her sixties who had been born and had lived her entire life in this country. On the first day of class, the Federal Recluse was amazed to discover that she was not aware of the fact that the word "no" in English means the same as the word "no" in Spanish. Anyone who had had any exposure to English whatsoever would know this simple fact. It was a shocking indication that something was very wrong here, at least if the goal is to preserve mainstream U.S. culture, with its characteristic emphasis on individualism.

In this way, the post-1965 wave of immigration differs dramatically from earlier waves. Those earlier immigrants came from countries thousands of miles away. Their populations were not reinforced by constant streams of newcomers. Sooner or later, they had to socialize. Certainly their children did, in part because in those days before political correctness, they were forced to learn English in school through total immersion. That is no longer the case in this era of multiculturalism and bilingual education.

And so altruism, and its corollary paternalistic government, struggles for supremacy with individualism, and its corollary limited government. In the opinion of the Federal Recluse, the cultural bucket now consists of half vinegar, half water. Recent electoral results would seem to confirm this. It has reached the point in the United States where any discussion of true individual liberty and limited government is no longer considered acceptable political discourse. No serious candidate in U.S. national politics takes such positions publicly. Altruism may well have achieved critical mass. There may be no turning back. Individualism, and the concept of limited government, may become totally overwhelmed. Unlike the immigrants of previous generations who sought to escape tyranny, there is now no country in the world to which individualists can flee to escape the status of sacrificial animal. The Federal Recluse is not sanguine concerning the future of the United States of America.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Culture: Part 3

    The birth of the United States, with its pristine philosophy of individualism, was an event the likes of which the human species had never seen before. But we were not far into the nineteenth century when events began to conspire that would slowly corrode that beauty and replace it, at least in part, with something hideous: altruism.

    The first of these was the expansion of the franchise. There was a problem with voting in a federal republic from the beginning. People quickly learned that they could vote themselves access to someone else's pocketbook in such a political arrangement. All they had to do was to vote for a scoundrel who promised to pick their neighbor's pocket and redistribute the wealth to them. But this tendency was minimized because in the early days of the Republic, the franchise was largely limited to property owners. These sturdy yeomen and business owners had little incentive to pick each other's pockets. The idea behind limiting the franchise was not to create some kind of elite landed gentry or economic aristocracy, but instead to restrict voting to those who had something to lose through bad government. If rascals or incompetents were elected, voting property owners could lose their farms or their businesses. And so the United States, contrary to popular belief, was not created as a democracy, but as a Constitutional Republic with very limited direct participation by the people. In fact, it was the Framers' intention that of the four major elements of the general government—the presidency, the judiciary, the Senate and the House, only the House of Representatives would be directly elected by the people. The president is elected indirectly via the electoral college. Federal judges are not elected at all, but instead nominated and confirmed. And senators, until the passage of the Seventeenth Amendment in 1913, were appointed by state legislatures. Only House members would be chosen directly by "that great beast, the people", as Hamilton called them.

    Gradually, however, property requirements were eliminated, especially during the Jacksonian Era. Now the fun began. Those who had nothing to lose through bad government could elect scoundrels who would rob producers at gunpoint through taxation and redistribute the largess to these new voters. Would-be politicians could roam the alleys of America passing out bottles of cheap hooch to winos in exchange for their votes. Eventually, especially after the advent of the income tax with the Sixteenth Amendment in 1913, pocket picking became rampant. The justification was usually altruistic. As the decades rolled by, increasing numbers of producers were turned into sacrificial animals for the benefit of non-producers.

Throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, American political culture began to change, from individualism, characterized by individual liberty—both personal and economic—as well as by limited government and self-reliance, to something very different. Paternalism began to insinuate itself into the fabric of our nation. In a paternalistic political culture, government is large and expensive, and it tells you what to do, not the other way round. Individual liberty is restricted. Government is the boss, just as are parents in a family. Individuals who possess the paternalistic political culture expect to be taken care of by government (i.e. producers) just as parents take care of children, providing them with all of the economic goods usually associated with the parent-child relationship: food, clothing, housing, education, medical care, etc. This trend toward paternalism, with its altruistic underpinnings, was greatly accelerated by the New Deal of the 1930s. It continues today on an increasingly massive scale. Several authors have recently put forward the thesis that this process was aided and abetted in 1920 when women were given the vote. Women may have a tendency to be more paternalistic—and more altruistic—than are men. Women are, after all, from Venus while men are from Mars. As much as many would like to believe it, we are apparently not the same. The result of all this was that the original individualistic political culture of the Founding Era began to be diluted, so to speak, by a steady stream of paternalism.

There have been alternative attempts to describe American political culture, but the Federal Recluse believes that this simple, elegant, powerful typology does it better than any other. We are at this moment engaged in a culture war pitting individualism against paternalism, living one's life for one's own sake against altruism.

    It was not only the expansion of the franchise that moved the United States in the direction of altruism, that created this bifurcated population of sacrificial animals and blood-sucking parasites. Another factor that should be mentioned briefly was urbanization. In 1800 the United States was largely rural and agricultural. New York was little more than a large town. A century later, we had arguably become the greatest industrial power on Earth. Our cities grew exponentially. New York became massive. Chicago mutated from a trading post into a great city. Urbanites demand more services from government than do rural inhabitants. This is natural and probably unavoidable. It is in the nature of cities. Of course, it is the producers who pay for these services. Non-producers simply consume them. Altruism, and its political product, paternalistic government, was given further impetus.

    Perhaps the most important factor was, and continues to be, immigration. Immigrants do not hang their political cultures at the door when they enter the United States. Many came, and continue to come, from highly paternalistic countries. But that will be the subject of the next entry. It is so critical that it deserves full consideration. Besides, the Federal Recluse is afraid that if he dazzles you with any more of his brilliance right now, you will collapse on the floor in a fetal position, overcome by intellectual overload. And so, in the interest of your mental health, the Federal Recluse bids you adieu.

Culture: Part 2

    The Federal Recluse has put forward his hypothesis: altruistic cultures are development resistant. Cultures which hold as one of their fundamental premises the notion that man's function is to assume the role of sacrificial animal will have as adherents stunted human beings, resentful of others whom they fear will demand sacrifice of them. Modern society, with all of its complexities, demands cooperation if it is to progress. Division of labor in a modern economy is extremely finely divided indeed. A great many people must cooperate willingly and efficiently if such an economy is to function properly. Trust is essential, for both economics and politics; it is the oil that lubricates the great social machine. There is little trust in a culture in which each sees himself as a potential object of sacrifice.

Technological innovation requires on the part of the innovator years of grueling work. That degree of effort can not be expected of a man who expects at any moment to be dragged off to the altar of sacrifice, but instead of a selfish individual—a man of self esteem. Such an individual expects to be rewarded for his effort, not to have his head placed on a chopping block. We will never know how many Louis Pasteurs, how many Albert Einsteins, how many Jonas Salks the world would have known if creative individuals everywhere were able to enjoy the fruits of their innovation free from the threat of enforced slavery. We would be repelled by the notion of turning a dog into a sacrificial animal, but we eagerly do it to each other, as long as oneself is the recipient of the sacrifice. Man is too good, too great, for such treatment. One can almost smell the resentment in the air in cultures that make such a demand.

    The United States was founded on principles antithetical to altruism. John Locke, the English political philosopher, was one of the most important sources of those principles, so let's expend some effort discussing Locke and his influence on the founding of this country.

    In his "Two Treatises on Government", he offers us three principles which are necessary for good government: natural rights, limited government and the right of revolution. The concept of natural rights was revolutionary in its time (1690). Europe, for a thousand years, had been suffering under the doctrine of divine right. That is, kings, queens and emperors claimed to have received their right to rule from god, frequently indirectly bestowed upon them by the pope. Few others in their domains were perceived as having rights. Certainly common men did not. Kings could rape their wives, burn their homes and cut off their heads. Why? Because god had given them the right to do so. Locke argued that ALL MEN possessed a full set, an infinite number, of rights simply because of the fact that they were born as human beings. (We will discuss the nature of rights in a later blog). The poorest beggar in Paris had precisely the same set of natural rights as did Louis XIV. This concept percolated throughout the Western world, and was eventually a key element in the toppling of absolute monarchies everywhere. By 1776, the Founders of this country were well aware of it. Thomas Jefferson included in his Declaration the statement that all men possess unalienable rights. By unalienable Jefferson meant that men possessed rights that no government could take away. The worst it could do would be to deprive its citizens (or more properly, subjects) of the ability to exercise those rights. This was the definition of bad government. Good government allowed its citizens to exercise all of their natural rights. A man in communist China, Locke and Jefferson would argue, has a right to stand on a soapbox and make an anti-government speech. But he is living under a tyrannical, repressive regime and therefore is not allowed to exercise his right to do so. He is taken away and shot.

    This principle of natural rights is embodied in our founding documents first, in the Declaration of Independence as noted above, and secondly in our Constitution. A few of our rights are recognized in the main body of that document. These are the right of habeas corpus, prohibition against bills of attainder as well as against ex post facto law. But another, more sweeping attempt was made by the Framers to recognize our rights. I am referring specifically to the Bill of Rights in general, which is a recognition that man possesses unalienable rights. But only eight are listed. Note well that this document does not confer rights upon us. It only recognizes the existence of such rights as we have always had, have now, and always will have as human beings. The Ninth Amendment is crucial and, unfortunately, almost universally overlooked. It states,


    "The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people."


    This carries us from eight to the infinitude of rights which Locke mentioned. Read it carefully, and understand it well. The future of your liberty depends on it.

    The Tenth Amendment serves an entirely different purpose. It has to do with Locke's second principle of good government. A good government is a limited government. Thousands of years of history had shown Locke that unlimited government always violates the rights of its subjects. The Tenth Amendment states,


    "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."


    A great deal more will be said about this in a subsequent blog. But in short, it refers to the delegated, enumerated or expressed powers of Article One, Section Eight of the Constitution, which lists those specific powers in which the United States government may engage. The Tenth Amendment, in effect, builds a wall around the delegated powers which shall not be breached. In a way, it says to us, "Hey dummies! Just in case you didn't get it, we want the United States government to do seventeen things and seventeen things only! All other powers belong to the states or to the people themselves!" Article One, Section Eight, along with the Bill of Rights and its Tenth Amendment as well as Jefferson's criticisms of unlimited government in the Declaration of Independence, are the means by which the Founders of this country attempted to insure that we would always have a limited government, as John Locke advocated.

    Locke's third principle, the right of revolution, is mentioned by Jefferson as well as he justifies our separation from Britain. In the Bill of Rights, it is embodied in the Second Amendment, which recognizes our natural right to keep and bear arms. On the one hand, it recognizes our right to defend our lives, our homes, our families and our property through the use of arms. But it is primarily a political statement. It recognizes the fact that we are under no compunction to submit to a tyrannical government. If all peaceful means to redress our grievances fail, we have the unalienable right to rise up in armed rebellion and overthrow such a government, replacing it with one which will recognize our natural rights. Since the Gun Control Act of 1968, an attempt has been made to link our right to keep and bear arms with so-called "sporting purposes". This is poppycock and the interpretation of would-be tyrants. The Federal Recluse can assure you that the Framers of the Constitution did not add an amendment to that document so that you can go duck hunting. Its purpose was for the overthrowing of tyrants.

    All of this, put together, constitutes a monumental act of individualism and selfishness in its purest sense. Our Founders wanted us to be free individuals, not objects of sacrifice. Altruism, or self-sacrifice are not mentioned or even hinted at in any of our founding documents. It was this philosophy of individualism and selfishness, this specific rejection of altruism, which created this country and which made it great. But a great deal has changed since the Founding Era. This glorious philosophy, in which the individual lives his life for his own sake, has been diluted, corrupted, subverted and intentionally ignored. How this happened, and its profound implications for our—your—liberty will be the subject of subsequent entries.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Culture: What Is It and Why Does It Matter?

    What possible connection could there be between the ancient Mexican culinary implement called the mono and metate and liberty in the United States? Stay tuned.

    As a preface to this blog, I want you to know that I will be drawing heavily in my definitions from the work of the great philosopher Ayn Rand. There is a blinding array of definitions of culture and of political culture, but none can match the precision and the depth of Rand's.

    She defines culture as "the sum of the intellectual achievements of individual men, which their fellow citizens have accepted in whole or in part, and which have influenced the nation's way of life." This is such an elegant and powerful definition because it emphasizes two aspects of culture which are almost always overlooked: culture has utility, and it is an individual, not a collective, phenomenon.

    Culture has utility in that it has survival value: those intellectual achievements of individual men to which Rand refers all contribute to the survival of that culture's adherents. Consider the simple mono and metate, a Mexican innovation for grinding corn which has been in use there for millennia. Corn has been grown in Mexico for some five thousand years, and has been a staple there for all that time. Prior to the invention of the mono and metate, we can only assume that corn was eaten whole or laboriously ground into flour by some method or other, perhaps by pounding it between two rocks. Then, some ingenious proto-Mexican had a flash of genius. He, or more probably she, conceived of a rectangular stone with a concave surface and an oblong stone mated to that surface. Corn could be placed in the concavity, and the oblong stone drawn back and forth until the dried corn became flour. Many times more corn could be ground in a given time using this new invention that had been possible before. In all likelihood, this is what happened next. The woman with the first mono and metate had neighbors who saw that she could produce a lot more flour than they could in a day. They pestered their mates to make a similar contraption. Soon everyone in the village had monos and metates. Word spread to the next village, and then the next. Ultimately virtually everyone in Mexico was using the mono and metate to grind corn.

    Today, when we see these in actual use or in a museum, we think of them as part of "Mexican culture." Millions of people have used them to grind corn, and so we think of them as a collective phenomenon. The fact that this brilliant idea germinated in the mind of one person, one genius, eludes us. Over the centuries, the mono and metate have certainly contributed to the survival and wellbeing of untold generations of Mexicans. It has improved their diet, and led to the creation of delicacies such as tacos and burritos. Without the mono and metate, taco stands around the world would have nothing to sell.

    The same could be said for paper clips, jet engines, potato chips and penicillin. An entire society did not invent these things. They were the products of an individual mind. And the sum total of these products allows us to survive, to enjoy our lives, and even to prosper.

    Ah, to prosper. We're getting a little closer to the truth now. Do all cultures allow their adherents to prosper? One would think so if one were to listen to the anthropological eyewash regarding cultural relativism. They will tell you that all cultures are equally efficacious, equally good, and equally valid. No culture is better than any other, and none are worse. I suffered through years of this blather as an undergraduate. A monumental attempt was made by my maestros to indoctrinate me with the supposed allure of its one-world egalitarianism. All for naught, I'm afraid. I rejected it then, and I reject it now. But for many, within academia and without, it was accepted truth. Those were the halcyon, embryonic days of relativism: days when everyone was watching television commercials telling us that we should "teach the world to sing in perfect harmony." Remember? GAG! Michael, please row your boat over Niagara Falls. Western academia was overflowing with pretentious fools ooing and aahing over a potsherd produced by a culture so inefficacious that it never lifted its adherents out of the Stone Age. While it may be true that all existing cultures do permit their adherents to survive, some permit survival at a very basal level, while others permit their adherents to soar like eagles. Those cultures that are so horribly inefficacious that they do not permit survival have, by definition, died out. All cultures are therefore most definitely not created equal. There, I've vented my spleen over my college days. Now let's move on.

Let's assume for a moment that my old Profs were correct. If all cultures are equally efficacious, why then are the adherents of some cultures so much better off in many ways than are the adherents of other cultures? Why are some richer than others? Why do some enjoy more stable political systems? Why do some live in peaceful, relatively tranquil circumstances, and others in violent, vicious ones? It is because some cultures did not, and do not now, possess the capacity to formulate the concepts necessary to produce the desirable outcomes mentioned above. Primitive, backward cultures (yes, I dare use those words) do not possess the intellectual milieu necessary for all of those millions of geniuses around the world to invent their monos and metates, their jet engines, their cures for cancer, and so on. They are development resistant, as the Argentine Mariano Grondona put it.

How can this be? How can they not have the capacity to formulate the concepts necessary to produce desirable outcomes? This is not a technological shortcoming, but a philosophical one. I suggest that they are development resistant because of an excess of altruism. If I may quote Ayn Rand again, who wrote prolifically on this subject,


"The basic principle of altruism is that no man has a right to exist for his own sake, that service to others is the only justification for his existence, and that self-sacrifice is his highest moral duty, virtue and value."


Altruism is rampant in this world. Selfishness is looked down upon as immoral. Rand wrote an entire book on this subject ("The Virtue of Selfishness") which I heartily recommend. In cultures dominated by altruism, and that covers a very great percentage of the human species, living for one's own sake is forbidden, and self-sacrifice is mandated. Perhaps my unique contribution to this discussion is the following: in altruistic cultures, the individual expects self-sacrifice from others, BUT it is understood that at some point in the future, he will be the one who will be expected to sacrifice his interests for the welfare of strangers. Today, he expects someone to be his sacrificial animal, but tomorrow he knows that he will be forced to become a sacrificial animal for someone else's benefit. This, necessarily, creates resentment among all individuals who are adherents of a culture with such a philosophy. No sane human being will willingly, happily, accept the role of sacrificial animal. This resentment manifests itself in many unspoken, subtle ways. Cooperation among individuals is minimal. Why cooperate with someone whom you know will one day force you to assume the role of sacrificial animal? Hence, community schools and health clinics are not built. Why contribute your sweat and money to educate the children of people you distrust, and may even hate? Cities turn into armed camps, with guards patrolling the walled fortresses of affluent citizens in an effort to keep out the dreaded demanders of self-sacrifice. Politicians at all levels loot the system for all it's worth. Why not? They're only stealing the money of those who would seek to enslave them if their roles were reversed. Contracts are not signed, money is not lent, and philanthropy is virtually nonexistent. A thousand and one social pathologies stem from this resentment of the prospect of some stranger, usually using the coercive force of the state, to turn individuals into sacrificial animals. Even the filth of the backward countries, with their backward cultures and their backward philosophies, can be explained by this resentment. Why should one care if others have to look at one's trash in the cities or on the highways? Individuals don't trust each other, they don't like each other, and they may even hate each other. Everyone is waiting for the day when his neighbor will stab him in the back, all in the name of altruism.

The United States of America is certainly the greatest exception to this dominant moral code of altruism. This country was founded on the basis of individual liberty, where human beings were not expected to turn themselves into sacrificial animals. Obviously, the major exception was slavery, but we rid ourselves of that pestilence long ago. However, a sea change has been taking place in the past century or so. Altruism, with all its anti-development, anti-human, anti-life characteristics, has been creeping into our system. A great many Americans now expect someone to sacrifice himself in their interest. Where did this come from? How could it happen? This brilliant bastion of individualism is slowly, voluntarily adopting the same bankrupt code of morality as the poverty stricken, pestilential societies that dominate the earth, where altruists squat around mud holes quivering in the dark.

The answers to these questions will be the subject of the Federal Recluse's next entry.