Sean Gabb on “The European Right”

Audio File Here

The European Right
by Sean Gabb
A Speech Given in Washington

on Friday the 31st October 2014
to the Seventh Annual Meeting of the H.L. Mencken Club

When I was invited to address this gathering on the subject of “The European Right,” I rather think I was expected to bring with me a note of cheer. The various, and mutually hostile movements that may be described as the European Right had just done well in the elections to the European Parliament, and you were living through the fifth year of what you doubtless call the Obama Tyranny. If I could be brought over, to tell you how clean and brave things were turning in the Great European Motherland, what a fine dinner this would be.

Well, that was then, and we are now. Since there are people in this room who were in Budapest earlier this month, and since you have all read at least as much about what happened there as I have, I will spend no time on the details of the conference of the National Policy Institute. I will only say that, of all the countries in Europe, Hungary seemed the most appropriate for this conference. It was still banned by a government that the mainstream media regards as semi-fascist, and disowned by a party that is regarded as fascist without qualification.

Or there is Mr Putin’s Russia. I have no doubt there are people in this room who will argue that this is the last and greatest hope for traditionalist civilisation. Even so, its authorities prevented Alexander Dugin from travelling to Hungary, and joined in the general denunciation of the conference. This, however, should not be a surprise. For about a quarter of a millennium, Western conservatives and anti-conservatives have taken turns at falling in love with Russia. First it was Diderot, then de Maistre. Then it was a whole run of twentieth century leftists who thought the Bolshevik regime was going in broadly the right direction. Nowadays, it is conservatives and nationalists again. All have been, or will be, disappointed. Diderot went looking for enlightened despotism. He found only despotism. De Maistre was put off by the persecutions of Western Christianity, and even by the daily facts of serfdom. The more honest leftists of the last century had to give up first on denying, then on defending, the industrial mass-murders. Mr Putin’s fan club is facing a similar disappointment. I freely admit that he is a useful counterweight to the military and ideological power of our masters. He may have prevented a general war in the Middle East. His interference in the Ukraine may not in itself be unreasonable, and I believe, or hope, that a deal can be struck to prevent further instability on the eastern borders of our civilisation. But, from any Western point of view, there never has been, and never may be, anything positive to be said about Russia.

I turn to my own country, where the UK Independence Party (UKIP) not only won the European elections, but has also now won a seat in our own Parliament. I spoke with someone earlier today who dismissed UKIP as a party of soft-core libertarians. This is broadly right as a description, and, since I am a hard-core libertarian, I take it more as a compliment than a criticism. I will also go back to my opening comments. I said that the European Right is a variety of movements. Each nation has its own traditions. In some of these nations, the local tradition is validly expressed by young men in uniforms who like to recite Friedrich Nietzsche and Julius Evola. The English tradition, on the other hand, is liberalism. You may not like this any more than I like those young men in uniforms. But if, as I do, you want to see a traditionalist revival in England, you cannot despise our taste for trial by jury and freedom of the press and some form of parliamentary government and free market economics, and all the other manifestations of a national turn of thought that can be traced back into the mists of time.

This being said, I do not expect UKIP to continue its present run of good luck. As in America, the British electoral system gives power to whichever party can get a simple majority of the votes in a majority of the constituencies. The present effect of this is that, if we want to avoid being ruled by the party we fear, we must vote for the party we despise. In the European and local elections, I gladly vote UKIP. In next year’s general election, I will almost certainly vote Conservative. There are just enough differences between the Conservative and Labour Parties for me not to want another Labour Government. So it is with many other UKIP supporters. I shall be surprised if UKIP keeps its present seat in Parliament. I shall be astonished if it makes actual gains next year.

So much, then, for the European Right. You may wish to believe that the revolution against the present order of things will begin in Europe, and that you can benefit by the example of our exertions. The truth, however, is that – define it as you will – the centre of power in our civilisation is inside the United States. So long as America remains what it currently is, there can be no meaningful change in Europe. You cannot look to us for salvation. We must look to you.

I do not and cannot have the inside details of what happened earlier this month in Budapest. But I think it reasonable to believe that some kind of American influence was placed on the Hungarian authorities to disrupt the NPI conference. Undoubtedly, the American Government made none of the protests it would have made at the arrest and deportation of American citizens had they been in Budapest to call for the legalisation of homosexual marriage, or for higher welfare spending on the Gypsies.

But, rather than try guessing the motivations of people whose language and culture I do not know, let me say what I believe to be the case in my own country. I and many of my friends in UKIP want radical change in England. We do not want our armed forces sent out to make violent fools of themselves in places like Iraq and Afghanistan. We want no trouble with Russia. How and when we leave the European Union are matters to be discussed, but we want the laws under which we live to be made in our own country, and by men who are fully accountable to us. We want to legalise all drugs. We want to end the financial police state imposed on us in the name of the war on money laundering. We want a currency based in some degree on gold. We do not want our fellow citizens to be extradited, on the word of a foreign prosecutor, to face charges, in alien and usually corrupt jurisdictions, of offences that do not exist, or ought not to exist, in our own laws. We want to end the lunatic pretence that membership of our nation is something that can be conferred by a sheet of paper issued by the State. Though, in this matter, we do not know exactly how to proceed, we do not look kindly on the growth in our own land of alien and hostile enclaves. In short, we want our country back.

Yet any government we might somehow find that was committed to giving us our country back would face immediate, and perhaps decisive, opposition from the American Government. You may object that the wish list I have just announced is not only shared by large sections of the American people, but is even inspired by the American conservative and libertarian movements. This may be the case. It is also the case that the American Government is neither conservative nor libertarian, and that it presides over a New World Order that it does not wish to see shaken by the defection of its most important foreign satellite.

Your Government may have leaned on the Hungarians to make life hard for Richard Spencer. Undoubtedly, in 1956, it stopped a British invasion of Egypt, because this pursuit of what the British Government regarded as the British national interest was not congruent with the perceived interests of the American Government. In 1982, a British war with Argentina was only allowed to proceed after a furious debate within the American ruling class. In 1979, it is widely believed that the CIA murdered Airey Neave, a British politician whose policy on Ulster did not suit American policy on Ireland. In 2003, David Kelly, a British civil servant who was an expert on Iraq, may have been murdered by the CIA. It is at least in accord with the known facts that, in 2001 and 2005, the Conservative Party was leaned on to lose the general elections of those years – Tony Blair being seen as Washington’s man in London.

When the relevant archives are finally opened, some of my suppositions may be shown to be false. But, considering what is undoubtedly true of relations between the British and American Governments at least since 1940, I have no doubt that other scandalous transactions will come to light. More to the point, I have no doubt that no British Government committed to anything approaching my wish list in its dissent from the New World Order would be tolerated.

I may, so far, have said nothing disagreeable to this audience. Some of you are nodding. Some of you are probably thinking of the wicked Feds in Washington, or the neo-conservatives, or perhaps of some other group that is to be blamed for having made America into the policeman of the New World Order. As an outsider looking in, however, I do not see anything in America’s current status as Evil Empire that is not wholly in keeping with the development of the American mind over the past four centuries. Europe is being smothered not because America has been captured by a sinister minority, but because the self-destruction, during the twentieth century, of every other force that might have opposed it has left America free to remake the world in its own historic image.

The story of America begins in England at the time of the Protestant Reformation. I have said that the English tradition is liberalism. This is a great but a partial truth. The modern world began in England. It was an Englishman who said “The poorest he that is in England hath a live to live as the richest he.” It is in England that limited government under the rule of law first became an established fact. It is in England, indeed, where respect for the Common Law was so unquestioned that slavery could be abolished by a judgment of the courts, and where, at the height of the panic over the French Revolution, suspected and probable traitors had to be let go because a jury, operating under due process of law, could not be persuaded that they had committed any offence known to the law.

But this soft-core libertarian ascendency was always challenged, and was sometimes displaced, by an alternative tradition, which my friend on the Libertarian Alliance Blog, Ian Bland, summarises as “puritanism.” A puritan does not believe in “live and let live.” He does not agree with A.E. Housman:

And if my ways are not as theirs
Let them mind their own affairs.
Their deeds I judge and much condemn,
Yet when did I make laws for them?
Please yourselves, say I, and they
Need only look the other way.


But no, they will not; they must still
Wrest their neighbour to their will,
And make me dance as they desire
With jail and gallows and hell-fire.

A puritan is someone who believes so passionately in his own rightness and goodness that nothing must stand in the way of his ability to make others dance as he desires. Laws are to restrain the evil. The good need no restraint.

The first notable contest in England between libertarians and puritans took place in the middle decades of the seventeenth century. We should not see this as primarily a religious dispute. Calvinism did not make men into puritans. Puritans became Calvinists because Calvinism, in the mental furniture of that age, was the most appropriate expression of their pre-existing urge to control others. We should also put aside the historical accident of an accompanying dispute over the relative powers of the Crown and Parliament, in which the puritans found themselves arguing against an expanded central government. The key point to be kept in mind is that the puritan victory in the Civil War of the 1640s enabled the brief flowering of a moral totalitarianism that saw Catholics and suspected witches, and anyone else not seen as morally correct hunted down with grim hysteria. During the brief puritan ascendency in England, the theatres were closed, sinful pictures were defaced, Christmas was banned, and adultery carried the death penalty.

The good news for England is that this ascendency collapsed in 1660, and was followed by two centuries of rule by a broadly libertarian aristocracy. The bad news for America is that many of the disappointed puritans came over here to create their Shining City on the Hill.

The idea of American exceptionalism is entirely puritan in its origin. We see it in the strategy followed by the North in the War between the States. Since the United States were an expression of absolute good, anyone who wanted to disunite them was absolutely evil, and therefore deserved neither justice nor common humanity. Therefore, the atrocities that attended the conquest of the South. Therefore, the deviations from the rule of law in the treatment of dissenters in the North. Therefore, the illiberality of the Reconstruction of the South.

Or we see it in the civil politics of America. During the nineteenth century, religion faded here, as everywhere else, as a legitimising ideology. And so religious puritanism was supplemented by various ideologies of “social purity.” In England, this was moderated by the diminished but continuing rule of the aristocracy. Not so in America, where the only check on the puritans was the ability of people to run beyond a frontier that kept chasing them until, in 1896, there was nowhere left to run. This is the country where, before about 1960, the war against licentious books and films and theatrical displays was carried to a degree unknown in England. It is the country where beer was banned, and where, in many States, smoking came close to being banned. It is the country where, in one place, Bizet’s opera Carmen could only be put on after the first act was resited from outside a cigarette factory to outside a dairy. It is the country whose government gave the world its present War on Drugs and money laundering. It is the country where, at least until a time in living memory, there were criminal laws to be found against adultery and “oral sodomy.”

Many conservatives, when they look at the revolutionary changes of the 1960s, confuse two separate forces. The first is the collapse of the old ideologies that had legitimised Anglo-American puritanism. God was either dead or redefined as love. Ideas of social control were falling apart under the combined assault of sex and drugs and orgiastic music. The second force was the growth of a new legitimising ideology for a puritanism that remained inherent in part of the Anglo-American – or mainly now in the American – character, and had only lost its language of control.

Cultural Marxism – that is, the loose bag of ideas put together by men like Gramsci and Adorno and Marcuse and Althusser and Foucault – is largely a Jewish movement. The more sinister commissars of political correctness do tend to be Jewish. But this is not at all to say that America, since the 1960s or before, has been subverted by Jews. In terms of its intellectual cohesion and logical force, Classical Marxism was far more powerful than Cultural Marxism. This also was largely Jewish. But, in England and America, bird watchers and train spotters have probably had more practical influence than the Classical Marxists. What has made Cultural Marxism so hegemonic, first in America, and then in its political and cultural satellites, is that it provides the same ideology of legitimisation to the puritans in our own age as Calvinism did in the seventeenth century.

For the largely Jewish fathers of Cultural Marxism, racism and sexism and the persecution of sexual minorities were products of capitalism. Their Heaven on Earth was to be brought about by the achievement of a socialism that would avoid the compromises that had led them to reject the Soviet experiment as a decayed workers’ state. Actually existing Cultural Marxism has no fixed opinion on who should own the means of production. Undoubtedly, the means of production should be controlled. But the object of control is not to bring about any mistaken idea of economic rationality, or to raise up the working masses. The object of control is twofold. First, it is to make sure that people shall not be allowed to drink or smoke or eat whatever food is currently disapproved. Second, it is to deprive people of any space outside ruling class control in which they can think and speak and live as they please. Let this double object be achieved, and enterprise and profit are almost as much to be celebrated by the politically correct as they are in the works of Ayn Rand.

What I am saying is that the current order of things that all of us in this room variously deplore is nothing but a new puritanism for the twenty first century. Racism and sexism and other “inappropriate speech and conduct” are the modern sins that a ruling class, itself morally pure, is not to be restrained in putting down. And it follows from what I am saying that what happened earlier this month in Budapest, so far as it was encouraged, or merely approved, by the American Government, is as much part of the American Way, as evidenced from the first arrival of the Pilgrim Fathers, as Sherman’s March to the Sea, or the resiting of the first act of Carmen, or the banning, under American pressure, by the French Government of brothels in 1946.

I say, then, that your country is the problem. Though you personally may oppose it, your government is an organic expression of your country as it has developed. So long as your country remains supreme in the world, do not look to a gaggle of European nationalists for any kind of salvation.

Though I could easily say more than I have, there is a time limit to my speech, and I regard it as good manners to keep to that limit. And so the question of how to remove America from its current eminence in the world is not one that I will discuss in the detail that it needs. I will only say that I have no faith in the two main initiatives of the American Right. The first involves a constitutional reaction that will shrink the American State at home and abroad. Since most dissent over Federal policy on gun control and affirmative action and the like takes place against a shared background of belief in American exceptionalism, I see at best only a marginal shift in American control. The second initiative is to break up the United States by establishing a white ethno-state in the north west of your continent. Bearing in mind how your ruling class dealt with the last serious attempt at secession, and bearing in mind the continuing power of the present legitimising ideology, and bearing also in mind the manifest oddity of many of the advocates of this ethno-state, I really see no need here for speaking at length.

If at all in the foreseeable future, the most likely cause of American decline in the world is the policies of your own ruling class. Out of control state spending has already placed a limit to the military projection of American power. It is also making the dollar increasingly useless as an international currency. I could make a joke about how your equal opportunities approach to military recruitment will eventually open the Marines to paraplegic lesbians – only I suspect this is already on the agenda. Above all, displacement levels of immigration from the third world will, sooner or later, weaken the puritan element in American politics. The attendant degradation of the business environment may even bring about a transfer of economic primacy to somewhere else in the world where the ruling class is less immoderate in its urge to make others dance as they desire. On the other hand, I do worry that whichever new power takes over from America will be even worse, if in different ways.

This gathering is named in honour of H.L. Mencken, a man who devoted his career to provoking outrage in his audience. But I fear that even you will think ill of me if I hurry to the logical conclusion of my speech, which is a panegyric on Mr Obama and all his efforts, and those of his friends, in recent years to bring about an end to the United States as we have always known it. Instead, I will end by telling you, once again, not to expect anything you may regard as good news from the European Right.


  • I guess someone pointed out to you that the US ruling class is more Jewish than anything else:

    And it was the Catholics, through boycotts, who were able to impose the Production Code on Hollywood. I don’t know why the Southern Baptists (also non-puritans, they fought them after all) couldn’t have done the same in the South.

  • Fnn-

    I think the argument here is that for a long time, “puritanism” has been a general principle in the politics of the Anglosphere, particularly America, and thus has spread beyond mapping onto particular culture or religious groups. For the example of Catholics, a large part of the 19th Century American (puritan) project was the suppression of Catholicism, for instance by trying to prevent the immigration of Catholics (a major issue then) and using the school system to impose Protestantism on young Catholics. Catholics were notably derided as drinkers and reproductively profligate.

    But where members an otherwise “outsider” group align with the Puritans, they are welcomed in that context. As with cinema censorship. A notable modern example is “Corporations”. Under the current puritan dispensation they are despised. This is not for the same reason as classical marxism; it is not about “exploitation of the proletariat”. It is because they are perceived as enablers and active causers of sinful activity; so the war on smokers is characterised as against “big tobacco”, producers of tasty food are accused of actively poisoning consumers with sugar and fat, and many others are accused of an active campaign to “destroy the planet” (Monsanto, Big Oil, etc). However, where a “big corporation” can persuade puritans that it is sufficiently “progressive”, it will be welcomed and even admired, a trick which has been pulled off so far by, say, Apple and Google.

  • H.L. Mencken was honestly mistaken about Germany – he did not believe the stories against the German regime (either the Imperial one or the National Socialist one) – after all he was of German
    origin and he did not want to conquer the world, and the Germans made beer he liked.

    So many decades after both the plans of Imperial Germany (those intellectual heirs of List, Fichte and so on – who attacked France in 1914, with the intent of destroying not just France but the whole of the coastal areas facing this island of Britain, and issued a lying Declaration of War falsely claiming the French had bombed Bavaria and so on)) and, even worse, of Nazi Germany have been exposed…. Sean Gabb’s attitude to 20th century history (basically a pro German position in relation to the World Wars) is harder to excuse than the honest mistakes of “puritan hating” H. L. Mencken. For example, some might blame “Puritanism” on some Christians (badly) imitating Old Testament Jews (for example the infamous, and rather farcical, legal antics in the State of Conn in the very early 19th century – and the early laws of the colony of Mass) – but Mencken would never hold make this an excuse to exterminate Jews.

    It was not that he (Mencken) did not care about Jews (and others) that led to his distressing position on World War Ii – it was that he honestly did not believe what was going on (it was he same for Austin [the half brother of N. Chamberlain) – till he, by accident, went off on the official tour route in 1930s Germany and came upon things he was not supposed to see). Again with Dr Gabb there is no excuse for his position on World War II – none.

    On the Civil War – it really started in Bleeding Kansas (long before Mr Lincoln was elected) – as both anti slavery and pro slavery forces wanted to expand into the West (not just Kansas – but the West generally) war was inevitable (and allowing the Southern States to secede would, thus, not have prevented war). This Sean Gabb knows – but he pretends he does not.

    Whether or not the North should have taken a harder line after the war (not withdrawing troops in 1877 – allowing Jim Crow regimes to be established in the South in later years) is an interesting debate (I would say “NO – the North should not have taken a harder line” – as blacks were now allowed to leave the South, which does fundamentally change the situation), but I would not go to Dr Gabb for an opinion on this matter.

    As Detrick Bonhoeffer (and many others) pointed out “fundamental” Christians (i.e. Christians who actually believe in the basic doctrines of Christianity) were the backbone of RESISTANCE to totalitarianism in the United States. Both sincere Catholics and sincere Protestants were leaders in resistance to such things as the Eugenics.

    As for the idea that American “exceptionalism” comes from entirely from “Puritanism” – again Dr Gabb knows he is not speaking the truth.

    As Dr Gabb knows Jefferson’s “”We Hold These Truths To Be Self Evident” actually came from Thomas Reid (the Common Sense philosopher and member of the Moderate faction of the Church of Scotland). It is hard to see “Puritanism” in such people as Jefferson or Madison, or in ordinary Christians such as George Washington (this did not stop them seeing the United States as exceptional – in some ways).

    Northern people such as Ben Franklin do not seem to have been “Puritans” either – even John Adams were more a Unitarian in his theology than a Calvinist (if Calvinist is what is meant by “Puritan”).

    The principles of the Bill of Rights were (indeed) a defence of the old principles of the British Bill of Rights – a defence of traditional liberties (that Chief Justice Coke or Chief Justice John Holt would have understood) and it is indeed true that the Americans (like the British “Old Whigs”) believed that such principles of private property (including private property owned by corporate bodies such as Churches or trading companies) were UNIVERSAL – or should be so.

    So the “exceptionalism” comes from the hope that these principles (such things as the First and Second Amendment) would be more respected in the United States than elsewhere.

    Even today the First and Second Amendment still matter in American life (they do not in Britain) – but, sadly, the Tenth Amendment (limiting the Federal government’s spending and regulations) has become a dead letter – the official attack on it being that it does not include the word “specifically” (it did include this word in the draft – but the style committee thought it was un necessary to include the word “specifically” in the final draft, how wrong they were).

    On Hungary – well the internet tax has been withdrawn, and the anti-Semitic party is actually in opposition (I do not know why the Western media get so confused on this basic point), I am not a fan of the Hungarian government – but to call it “Fascist” (and Dr Gabb is CORRECT some do) seems absurd.

    On Russia.

    I am glad that Dr Gabb is drawing back from the beast Mr Putin – hopefully he (Dr Gabb) will now condemn obvious lies (spread by “Russia Today” and Western traitors) that (for example) ISIS was “created and trained by Western intelligence agencies”.

    However, sadly, Dr Gabb seems to subscribe to a “Black Legend” about Russia – even denying that Russia is part of Western civilisation (an absurd position – one that ignores things I know that Dr Gabb cares about, such as literature and music).

    Before the First World War Russia had the fastest growing economy in the world (see the book “Before Command”) it also had a diverse press, trial by jury, and lively (perhaps far too lively0 politics. The evil side of Russia (serfdom and so on – till 1861) should not be forgotten – but nor should the good things (such as the Free Peasants of the North). Russia was certainly NOT a despotism in the sense that the Ottoman Empire was a despotism. That does not mean that I approve of such things as Russian anti-Semitism – only that the evil must not be allowed to blind us to the good.

    As recently as Yeltsin Russia seemed to be rejoining Western Civilisation – with a diverse media and promises of a trial by jury and so on.

    The subversion of post Soviet reemerging Civil Society (which was undermined by high inflation and banking credit bubbles – bad WESTERN economic advice to the Yeltsin government) by the beast Putin should not be allowed to blacken Russian history as a whole.

    Only a few years ago there was (as I have said) a diverse media and a lot of independence in civil life.

    These days can come again in Russia (we must not give up all hope) – and this time let not the emerging Civil Society not be undermined by wild government monetary policy and bankers lending out “money” that does not really exist.

    After all even the flaws in Russia are WESTERN flaws – for example Prussia-Germany only got rid of serfdom a few decades before Russia did (although Prussia did not make the terrible mistake of trying to spread Peasant Coops on the land, the “Mir” system that Alexander II foolishly pushed even in areas of Russia that had not had it previously) and the inflation of Russia under Yeltsin was something that Germany (and other Western nations – such as Britain in the mid 1970s) has also experienced in the past.

    Like the United States, Russia is part of Western Civilisation – we must not let one evil man (Putin) and his servants, blind us to this point.

  • Ian I rather doubt that any amount of “socially progressive” actions will get the Black Flaggers (and more than the Red Flaggers) to admire American “corporations” (companies). Legends (such as that all corporations are “creatures of the state”, as if private Law Merchant and the limited liability legal thought of Church Canon Law as far back as the Middle Ages, never existed) are common.

    Indeed “Occupy” types make a special point of smashing the windows (and so on) of stores such as “Starbucks” and “Gap” who go for the whole trendy-lefty thing (to show that they, the followers of the Black Flag and the followers of the Red Flag, are not “fooled” by this “corporate pose”).

    As a time when American companies are being taxed and regulated so harshly (such businessmen as Jon Huntsman [senior] admit that they could NOT have created their companies under modern conditions) people are either part of the solution or they are part of the problem – and the Black Flag (“libertarian left”) faction are indeed PART OF THE PROBLEM.

    Is this because they are American Puritans – or the heirs of American Puritans?

    Perhaps – although I am still unused to such a way of thinking.

    However, I am biased – as I believe in God (and so, perhaps wrongly, give Christians the benefit of the doubt when perhaps I should not).

    The disguised atheism of the tradition of David Hume also strikes me as dishonest (indeed shifty).

    I do not believe myself to be bigoted against atheists – but I like them to be open (“up front”) as the followers of Ayn Rand are.

    Still all that being said…….

    The effort to build Heaven on Earth (as, for example, the “Puritans” tried in the colony of Mass) is the oldest heresy.

    And it is a very severe heresy – if this is what you mean by “Puritanism” (the confusion of crimes and sins – and the effort to get rid of sin from the world by the FORCE OF LAW) then I agree with you.

    As Gladstone often maintained…..

    Of thisI am certain – moral improvement can not come from the state.

  • The point at which Paul inevitably accuses anyone he disagrees with of lying is the point at which I stop bothering to read the rest of the comment.

    • Sorry, lost my temper. Not enough coffee yet.

      • I’ll write a longer comment to address Paul’s comments shortly.

        • But it is a good principle, on this blog, that we ought not to encourage any writers – whether Paul or others – to simply call people liars if their points are disagreed with. I’m not saying, Paul, that you do this a lot or at all, but I am just drawing people’s attention to the Rules Of This Blog.

          There are some serious liars out there in the wild, such as Tony Blair for example, and David Cameron. But I don’t think that Sean Gabb or Paul Marks are among them.

          Oh and Barry O’Blimey is a megaLiar: so sorry – I forgot him because, er, well, I just did. I did warn American People in 2008 not to vote for him but nobody was listening. This in especial is a dreadful shame, for the nation that he “heads” ought to be liberalism’s friend, and I don’t just mean the ordinary people there, who are not the problem.

      • It’s OK Ian, old man.
        Why don’t you just apply for posting privileges, which Sean and I would give you, in a heartbeat?

        You are a really rather poor writer in the “poetic sense”, which is a shame (it could be fixed if you would simply read more things and more often, for more time….lol.) And either I or Sean could teach you something about rhythm in prose. Sean would be a better teacher by far.

        But you are _incisive and direct_
        and you do say what you mean
        and you do mean what you say,
        which is what matters in the end-times
        that we all-dreadingfully-face today.

  • If Mr Obama was able to imitate Mr Putin he would have done something like the following…..

    Got rid of Fox News and the Wall Street Journal – and Talk Radio (no more Rush L. or Glenn Beck and so on).

    Prevented trial by jury and maintained conscription (trial by jury and an end to conscription were promised under Yeltsin – but that ended under Putin).

    Ended the free election of State Governors – no more Governor Perry in Texas and so on.

    And nationalised (or collectivised) natural resources – sending businessmen such as the Koch brothers to prison camps in Alaska (leading to wild celebration by the Black Flaggers as well as the Red Flaggers).

    Now Mr Obama may WANT to do all these things (I do not deny it) – but he has not been able to, because the United States has a fundamentally different political system to the Russia of Mr Putin.

    Of the two Mr Obama is closer to Marxism (if one counts his Frankfurt School P.C. play-pen stuff as Marxism) whereas Mr Putin is more Post Marxist (like Mussolini – indeed Mr Putin seems to have modelled his regime on that of Mr Mussolini NOT Mr Hitler as the ignorant maintain).

    But the political system (and the CULTURE of the United States – such as those Baptists……) limit the power of Mr Obama.

  • Ian – when I know a man knows a point of fact and then denies that point of fact, then I know they are lying

    You forget – I have known Dr Gabb a lot longer than you have.

    So when he makes a statement of “fact” and I know (from past years) that he actually knows the truth (and is now saying something directly opposite to the fact) then I have a duty to point it out.

  • Of course, as someone who believes that morality is just about “happiness” (the promotion of), Dr Gabb has no philosophical problem with lying – as long as he believes the lie will lead to the promotion of “happiness”.

  • The interesting thing is that many utilitarians (such as the late Ludwig Von Mises) did-do have a problem with lying.

    I do not believe that the difference is explained by the difference between “act utllitarians” and “rule utilitarians” – it is more complex than that.

  • I knew it was a mistake to apologise.

  • By the way – I have now checked my first comment and I do not use the words “lie” or “lying” in relation to Dr Gabb.

    However, I was THINKING it (I tend to think “liar” when I read something by Dr Gabb), so perhaps Ian was just guessing what I was thinking.

  • “again Dr Gabb knows he is not speaking the truth.”

    To knowingly say something untrue is to lie, is it not Paul?

  • Yes it is Ian.

    So, for example, if Sean were to say “I am very tall” he would be lying – as he is not.

    Ditto if he implies that France could have “backed down” in 1914 – thus backing the German lie (in the Declaration of War) that France had attacked Germany (bombing Bavaria and so on), In fact (as Sean knows) Germany had attacked France – and intended to break France (and to dominate the northern coast of Europe facing this island).

    Any claim that Sean might make to the contrary is not an honest mistake.

    Sean is not H.L.M and he is not writing in the 1920s.

    For example, Sean knows that the campaign against the President of France (the President in 1914) in the 1920s was a joint operation between the Weimar Germans and Soviet intelligence (think about that).

    Of course there is an alternative possibility….

    That Sean has gone senile and has forgotten this (and the various other things) he used to know.

    If it is medically proved that Sean has gone senile I will, of course, apologise.

  • Sean–it is an execellent speech–Were they pleased, annoyed, agreeing?.

    • Thanks. The thing about Americans is that you can spray them with spittle-flecked abuse, and they still buy your books and ask for them to be signed.

      • Julie near Chicago

        Which goes a ways to explaining why the Sith did not lose the elections; and also why the Republicans can’t drum up the cojones to run candidates who would not behave as you say. The question is, why is this so?

        Which is not to “deny or disparage” other causal factors of both these phenomena, of course.

        • We’re back to the Puritan hegemony. It’s impossible under a comprehensive hegemony of this type to run a candidate who seriously dissents.

          I mentioned over at Tim Worstall’s earlier that a good parallel is the Christianisation of Rome. At the start of the 4th century, it was still marginal and kinda illegal. Then Constantine legalised it. As the century progressed, it gradually became unthinkable to not be a Christian, and by the end of the century Theodosius the Twat made it compulsory. We’re currently at the unthinkable stage, moving into the compulsory stage, for PC.

          “The Republicans” already believe in it just as much as “The Democrats” do. It’s hegemonic.

          • Ian – Your analogy is flawed. Christianity became hegemonic before it became compulsory. It became hegemonic because it gave comfort to millions by appearing to explain a purpose behind what had turned into a rather nasty world of epidemic diseases and over-taxation. It was also capable of a very sophisticated intellectual development. Most of the pagan cults had long since become moribund. The ones that survived were inferior substitutes for Christianity. PC, on the other hand, is nothing more than a legitimising ideology. It offends against the common sense of ordinary people. The victim groups its raises up are usually unpopular with the majority, and most hate each other. It is intellectually incoherent in ways that Christianity was not.

            If Julian had lived long enough to complete its disestablishment, Christianity would have continued among the people, and would probably have been re-established by the next Emperor. Despite a frequently unwelcoming legal and political environment, large Christian minorities survived under Islamic rule well into the last century. Shut down the state-funded agencies of control, together with the relevant university departments and fake charities, and PC would shrivel to nothing in a couple of years at most.

            • Ah, but Sean, you live in a world where Christianity triumphed and enjoyed a 2000 year hegemony, so it seems retrospectively both inevitable and desirable. Muslims think the same of Islam. Whether it was either inevitable or preferable to the counterfactual histories in which Constantine lost at the Milvan Bridge, we cannot say, because those alternate histories can never be more than wild speculation. In one of them, Rome does not succumb to Orientalisation, and becomes a secular empire, rediscovers its European vigour, and puts a man on the moon before our year 1000. In another, the Empire falls apart sooner, and Europe descends into a Dark Age from which it never escapes, and China ends up conquering Eurasia. And so on. We cannot know.

              The point was, the two processes are really very similar. One of the things that has puzzled me longest in life is why Christianity won over Rome, and to this day no answer ever seems quite adequate. It is not a question of whether it should have done, but why the non-Christians were so easily steamrollered into this crazy foreign cult. It is really only with the rise of the PC insanity that I realised with a shock that I was seeing, with my own eyes, how such a process occurs. Imagine describing England today to somebody in 1950, and telling them that the society you describe had been imposed with effectively no resistance from the population; that the institutions had succumbed one after another, that (perhaps most shockingly), a Conservative government would be about to introduce legislation to brand anyone who criticises PC policies like gay marriage as an “extremist” who would be rendered an Unperson by the State. They’d have refused to believe you, and thought that, surely, the people who Won The War would not just stand by and let such a thing happen.

              But we did.

              That’s why these things are interesting. And why our job is to ensure that people in future centuries consider this a temporary madness of historical interest, rather than as both inevitable and desirable.

              • I agree with your last paragraph. But, I disagree with your dismissal of Christianity as a “crazy foreign cult.” Whether true or false in its theological claims, it met an obvious need that the pagan religions didn’t. From whoever wrote the NT to St Augustine and St John Chrysostom, it was directed by men of undoubted genius who had the complete trust of their flocks. PC was a straw clutched at 40 years ago, when it seemed that everyone under the age of 30 was about to dress up like Abba. It won’t last.

                • It would have been a crazy foreign cult from the point of view of a Roman pagan conservative, is my intention with that statement. What is crazy, as with what is “extremist”, depends on where you’re standing right now. Whether it met a need is debatable. It may have met an urge, but so does PC in its followers, apparently. It gives them something to believe in. Whether or not people have a natural need to believe in something grand, I am sceptical about, since we may as much say that people are drawn into the idea that there ought to be some grand meaning to life by their upbringing. But that is very much a matter of opinion. I could also add that PC/Cultural Marxism is a creation of people who are undoubtedly very clever people, which is why their webs of sophistry are so hard to debunk in the public discourse, even though they are nonsense. They are clever nonsense. That is not to say that Christianity is nonsense, but rather that nonsense in the hands of clever people is a dangerous thing.

                  I am inclined to think that a society which is in a phase of falling away from strong belief is at its most dangerous, since there will be a remnant desire to believe in something even when the something that everyone used to believe is no longer believed in. This is part of the reason that PC has been able to triumph; it appears to fill a “void”, just as Christianity filled a void left by the falling away from pagan religion.

                  I am inclined to think that without Constantine’s dynasty’s imperial sponsorship, Christianity would have sputtered along as just one religion and probably faded away eventually as Manicheanism did. It is impossible to know, though. What we can say is that we would live in a very different world without it, one so different that it is pretty much useless even trying to speculate what it would look like.

                  • I would also add that I think it not unreasonable to suggest that Marxism, and post-Marxism, and then PC, functioned as a “something to believe in” particulary for Jews who had fallen away from Judaism.

                  • “Constantine’s dynasty’s imperial sponsorship” – double genitives are very ugly, and should be avoided.

                    I disagree with your general point, but am currently so incapacitated by last night’s over indulgence that I cannot do more than register my disagreement.

                    • It originally didn’t have “dynasty’s” in, and I was too lazy to rewrite it as “the imperial sponsorship by Constantine’s dynasty”, and too lazy to look up what I’m meant to call them properly. Flavians? Constantinians?

                    • Well, I’m about to go looking for breakfast. Don’t expect anything resembling sense from me till I’m back in England tomorrow afternoon.

                    • I agree about double-genitives. They should only be used for sudden textual effect, and preferably only in speech and not text.

  • Also–see this blog entry from Tim Worstall–inc IanB–and tell me if you are willing to hold your nose and vote for BluLabour Sean.

    • I’ve been arguing with Sean for some time that his nose-holding strategy is catastrophically wrong. And now has never been a better time to not hold one’s nose. With the SNP wrecking Labour north of the border, labourites and lib dims fleeing to the Greens, and a Tory Party severely weakened by lurching to the wrong side of the spectrum, there has never been a better chance for a seismically ruptive General Election.

      • Agreed. As War Secretary, one is always clear that a primary military axiom is to reinforce success up to the limit of one’s strength and reserves, if not beyond.*** Likely failure or compromise for political ends is not to be reinforced in War. (Even K von Clausewitz said that.) All British polls, even socialist-driven ones which is the majority here today, report that LibLabCon(and associated lackey and running-dogs) are hemorrhaging public support.
        The beneficiary of this is obvious to all, which is why the assaults on its people’s reputations will now get into the (really) nasty area between now and may 2015.
        It will make no substantive difference whether Cameron’s Cronies or the Ed Miller Band get into power. With Ed Miller as the saxophonist, the end – and risks of violent demonstrations and possible “civil unrest” or even revolution which will be ruthlessly put down by the Police either way – will come sooner, that’s all.

        *** Monty’s airborne assault on Arnhem, to get British Divisions straight into the Ruhr and end the war in December 1944, failed for lack of adequate resources, given that the fool Eisenhower adhered to “reserves to back up the US army groups” and “everybody attacks all the time, moderately”.

  • IanB—Another link to a puritan-themed blog entry-a different perspective but you may find it of interest.

  • Sean’s point about spitting on Americans with abuse (and them not taking it seriously) is a good one.

    Americans often assume that people who say that they hate them do not really mean it.

    For example them may “hear” Sean say that the United States (NOT the Confederacy or the post war KKK) acted without common humanity (as of General Lee and Jefferson Davis were hanged for oath breaking treason – they were NOT), but they do not really hear it – they assume he does not really mean it (that he does not really support the “Slave Power”, just as they assume he does not really support Nazi Germany – that his views on World War II are meant as a joke).

    Now If I said “Sean is joking” not “Sean knows what he is saying is not true” then Ian might be less upset with me.

    As for assuming (in religious terms) that an enemy is evil…..

    What of the KKK after the Civil War (it is often forgotten that the National Rifle Association was founded, in part, to oppose the KKK -with its hated of northern “big business” and its support of “gun control” at least for blacks).

    Burning crosses, hoods, titles such as “Great Cyclops” (such at the “corporate Big Business” bashing Senator from West Virginia who died only a couple of years ago) and even “Grand Dragon” (Grand DRAGON – the DRAGON).

    For all the talk of “we are a Christian organisation” it is hard to escape the thought that one is being confronted with a Satanic cult (an “Invisible Empire” – a CONSPIRACY to restore the Slave Power). If an evangelical (puritan?) was even slightly paranoid a Satanic cult is exactly what they would have assumed the KKK to be – its rituals and its behaviour (for example bombing churches and killing children – as late the 1960s) plays to this fear (almost as if they wanted to be thought Satanic)

    When the KKK came to “Middletown” (really M. Indiana) in the interwar period (the 1920s) the local worthies (according to the famous “Middletown” sociological studies) drove them out as if they were an evil cult – but is that not exactly what they were? How could civil life go on if the person next to you in Church was secretly (in a conspiracy) burning crosses in rituals, and planning to murder people? And this was a organisation on a huge scale in the 1920s – given Woodrow Wilson’s support for the film “Birth Of A Nation”, the film was used as tool for recruitment to the Klan, – see J. Goldberg’s “Liberal Fascism” for that.

    “But Paul – Satan does not, in fact, exist” (the David Hume position – but in open language).

    It does not matter (in political terms) whether Satan exists or not – the pagan Gods worshipped by Himmler’s S.S. (see Michael Burleigh’s “Sacred Causes” Harper Collins – 2006) did not exist – that did not make the S.S. harmless.

    It is easy for “clever” people to mock Bible reading Americans for thinking they were fighting for God and against Satan in World War II (“were they not in alliance with Stalin’s Soviet Union” comes the mocking cry) – but that there is more than one evil power, does not make the Nazis not evil (it does not mean one need not destroy these demons – or rather these human beings who have made choice of evil). Anyone who has listened to a tall by Eric Brown (the famous British test pilot – who was also in the team that went into Belson) understands this – one does not have to believe in a man with horns and a tail, to understand that the Nazis had given their souls over to Satan, and that they had to be defeated.

  • The father of Condi Rice driving the KKK from his home in Alabama (they had also bombed the local church and killed little girls) believed he faced the followers of Evil – and that the Klan called itself a Christian organisation (rather than banning the Bible amongst its members – as Himmler’s SS did, that the Bible was so common among American soldiers was a subject of amusement among the “intellectual” S.S.) does not mean he was wrong. Even if one doubts the effectiveness of bell-book-and-candle (rather than a loaded rifle) to deal with such evil.

    Nor are such works as “George Fitzhugh’s” socialist pro slavery “Cannibals All” (1854 – see Schweikart and Allen’s “A Patriot’s History of the United States” pages 261-2) to be ignored – the open embrace of evil by defenders of slavery such as George Fitzhugh (the rejection of the idea of the Founding Generation that slavery was evil but they could not deal it quite yet – to the idea of Calhoun and others that slavery was a “positive good” that should be maintained for EVER) – this must be remembered,

    Certainly no one (other than a demented Rothbardian) could deny that the Cold War (Korea and so on) was fought against Evil – NOT that the people who fought against Marxism were wonderfully good (we are all fallen beings), but that what they faced was evil – an evil that had to be fought around the world.

    Still turning to other matters….. away (with Ian’s permission) from whether (for example) the American Founding Fathers really were “Puritans”, I do NOT think that most of them were (but I may be wrong – and, as so often, it may depend on how one defines one’s terms).

    Roman Emperors tried various religions – with the exception of those that required elaborate (and hard to fake) tests of courage and determination (such as the religion popular with serious-minded soldiers – with its various grades and so on) and Judaism.

    Judaism was difficult because it involved a physical operation (circumcision ) and a code of what to eat and what not eat – and so on. Although there were rather a lot conversions to Judaism at one time (it was less difficult to convert back then – these days it is like standing on ones head whilst signing the Star Spangled Banner, all the verses).

    Christianity is (in many ways) a Western version of Judaism (the Nazis were correct on that point) – one God (an individual being who made a choice to create first the universe, and then other free will beings known as humans) with other Gods either not existing or being demons.

    Once an Emperor (or anyone else) has adopted Christianity it is hard for them to adopt anything else (without looking a complete idiot – by reversing themselves on fundamental matters).

    After all one has just said (by becoming a Christian) that all other Gods either do not exist or are demons. (basically one has become Jewish – but without circumcision and whilst still be allowed to eat pork and sea food without backbones, one can even still continue to hate Jews if one really wants to).

    This is a bit different from “well I used to concentrate on praying to Minerva – but I prefer Isis at the moment”.

    Once one has adopted the Christian position the other Gods either do not exist – or they are EVIL.

    A bit hard to then go and worship the other Gods later.

    For the attitude think of the character that Christopher Lee plays in the film “The Devil Rides Out”.

    That, I hope, is a bit of an answer to Ian’s point.

    Christianity is (in the Classical World) a religion it is hard (with intellectual constancy) to leave.

    “Once in you stay in” – with a few exceptions such as the Emperor Julian.

    As more and more people “go in” (especially with the backing of the Emperors) – so Christianity gets bigger and bigger.

    You can go to pagan temples all your life – and the Church will still welcome you.

    But once you have been to the Church how can you (with any self respect) go back to the Pagan Temples (after what you have just said about them)?

    For the attitude think of the character that Christopher Lee plays in the film “The Devil Rides Out”.

  • On politics.

    The present situation is oddly simple.

    Either Mr Cameron refuses to EVER pay the E.U. the extra money (thus putting himself at the head of the anti E.U. movement) or he (and the Conservative party) have no chance of winning the election – none (not if EXTRA money to the E.U. is paid).

    Remember I post here under my own name – so I am quite happy for what I have just written to be cited.

    Otherwise I would have used a pen name – and I make a choice not to do so.

  • I am getting tired (as so often) – this sleep concept is a good one, but I have so much to do…..

  • Well that is one charitable duty done – now back to this.

    On Mithras – the religion appears to have set challenges (to get the various higher grades). challenges that the lazy (or cowardly) would not want to try and meet, and the powerful would not need to meet.

    I do not like the “give comfort in a horrible world” argument about Christianity – but just because I find it annoying (very annoying) does not mean there is not a grain of truth in it.

    As for the Ian theory Puritans and America.

    I am remained of the H.L. M. attack on the English – “the English gave us Puritanism – the Germans gave us beer!” – which is flippant (and misses all the important points), but is technically true!

    Yes the idea of a religion as an independent point of reasoned moral reference with which to judge the state is English (although I would not call Richard Hooker a “puritan”) it is scholastic theology-philosophy freed from the power of the Roman Popes (and why should the results of reasoning and tradition be turned on their heads whenever a single person in Rome wants?) – whereas as with Martin Luther we have “that whore reason” (the idea that reason is just the slave of any base desire and the attack upon human moral responsibility that so horrified Erasmus. But, I am told, the beer is better.

    But YES there is a dark side to the idea that religion is more important than the state (rather than the other way round).

    The Calvinist desire to build Heaven On Earth (the “New Jerusalem” or what you will – and the line “Shining City On A Hill” does indeed have this side hidden in it) by treating SINS as CRIMES.

    If this is what is meant be “Puritan” then I AGREE it is a bad thing.

    Then the question becomes……

    Which of the “Founding Fathers” (to use the term of that old anti lynching campaigner Warren Harding) was a Puritan?

    If Ian would give me some actual INDIVIDUALS among the Founding Fathers then we could get somewhere.

    To me neither the original Constitution (the actual document was actually saved by Warren Harding – it had been badly stored and was falling to pieces when he went looking for it) or the Bill of Rights is a puritan document.

    Nor are the “New Whig” documents (although the Declaration of Independence has some dodgy lines) – they are “Old Whig” documents.

  • The term “Founding Fathers” is –I believe–generally applied to the 1776 people. The Pilgrim Fathers were Puritans and many early colonists to America were religious dissenters.

  • Yes Mr Ecks – and we are talking about the United States of America (1776 and all that).

    If we are in fact talking about the Mass Bay colony then we might as well be talking about the communal farming they practiced (till half of them starved to death). Americans are not taught that it was actually “capitalism” that saved the Pilgrims not friendly Indians. But then no one must say an unfriendly word about communalism……

    As for religious dissent – again we have to define it.

    Are we (for example) talking about the Massachusetts colony (where the people in charge wanted religious liberty for themselves – but not for people who did not agree with them) or, next door, Rhode Island where Roger Williams wanted religious liberty for everyone?

    Even in the 18th century are we talking about Mr Wesley (pro agency and anti slavery) or Mr Whitfield (pro predestination and pro slavery?

    That is why I need NAMES – actual INDVIDUAL PEOPLE.

    All this social forces stuff is like fog.

  • Paul, we’re talking about social forces, which is why every time I sit here trying to think of an answer that will mollify you, I run out of steam. We’re talking about the “-ism” not the “-ans”; puritanism as a description of a particular philosophical formation, rather than arguing about the biographies of individuals. It’s a matter of the American mind, not a particular individual. Bear in mind that “puritanism” originated as, and always has been, a (perjorative) description by critics, not something people decided to call themselves.

    We can argue all night about whether or not to call Massachusetts Bay a puritan society; but just take it that it was please, and then we can see how the ideas it represented can be found in modern American thought.

  • No Ian I am not talking about social forces – at least not as far as I know.

    I am talking about specific individuals and events. For example that France could not “back down” in 1914 (as Sean suggests in another thread), because France had not attacked Germany – Germany had attacked France (if a man, who already has a lot of your stuff that he has stolen, suddenly starts hitting you over the head with a claw hammer, with the intent to KILL you – how do you “back down”?). Ironically it is the German Declaration of War against France that is the vital piece of documentary evidence against Germany – because it (the Declaration of War by Germany against France) is a pack of lies – not just different interpretations, but wild lies (France is supposedly bombing Bavaria and so on). This enabled the French President to say (in his reply) that Germany had declared war not just against France – but against the principles of UNIVERSAL reason and justice (as someone educated in political philosophy President P. knew that the German academic-political elite, going back to Fichte and so on, but including the Keiser and so on, rejected the very idea of universal principles of reason and justice – now theory was made flesh). They were not lying for tactical reasons (lots of people do that) – they (the German elite, such as the Keiser, but he was not the worst) were lying ON PRINCIPLE.

    But you want to talk about the United States.

    To talk of the “American Mind” divorced from actual (flesh and blood) American thinkers and statesmen is useless – it is fog (or mist).

    Tell me which of the Founding Fathers you are talking about.

  • An example of how the thoughts of a group of people (individuals) can influence policy is given in the book Woodrow Wilson and the origins of modern liberalism…….

    Now Woodrow Wilson was indeed a Presbyterian and was top man at a Presbyterian college (Princeton – it was Presbyterian once), but was it his Presbyterianism that was the problem?

    I do not think so – but (to be fair) there have been people who have argued that YES it was (which is, I think, your Puritan thesis).

  • Julie near Chicago

    The problem is that “the American mind” is a conceptual amalgam of the ideas and opinions of individual Americans. It means something like, “On the whole most Americans apparently believe that…” or else, “American government [or leadership] has managed to get American people to do X, in the name of ‘America.'”

    This is true of any group. Its “mind” or “outlook” or “belief” (about any issue of interest) is such an amalgam.

    But usually, there are individuals in the group who don’t share outlook or belief Y, so one must be careful in imputing that belief to the group as such that one does not overlook the individuals who don’t share idea Y, particularly when a person who believes Y pursues a course with consequences vastly different from those achieved by persons who don’t believe Y.

    Also, unless one is speaking very loosely, one needs to provide evidence, hard fact and not conclusions from theorizing, that Group X has outlook Y (in regard to issue I, or some sub-issue thereof). If the group is not so large as to make it impossible, the best — most accurate and also most persuasive — evidence is the belief or attitude or outlook or agenda or actions of each individual member of the group, where these can be known more or less directly. That is, that they are discoverable based on hard facts as to what each individual said and did, not based on what The Group “said” or “did.”

    To give an example, consider The Gooseneck Lamp Club. This outfit consists of five gents who believe that gooseneck lamps are holy and everyone should have one on his desk.

    Four of the five are adamant that the Gooseneck Lamp must be white. The fifth is equally sure that it must be hot pink.

    Is it fair to say that The Gooseneck Lamp Club believes that only white gooseneck lamps are holy?

  • This is frankly why I sometimes lose the will to live, or at least to argue. “Puritan” is attested since the 1590s as meaning “a person of excessively strict moral character”. That will frankly do for me in this context, for now, rather than write 100k of argument which with all due respect neither Paul nor Julie will accept no matter how rigorously I attempt to satisfy them. And who will then go back to calling anyone who so much as took tea with a left-winger a “marxist” without applying any such rigour. Barack Hussein Obama, he’s a marxist, I mean, right, his Mom was, wasn’t she, that’ll do?

    You see, all these terms are fuzzy edged. They are also terms which are applied to other people. Barrack Obama doesn’t think he’s a Marxist, any more than Tony Blair thinks he’s a Puritan. None of these people are actual members of a Gooseneck Lamp Club. They’re just people we look at and observe that they have a particular interest in gooseneck lamps, and then we look through history and see a consistent thread of gooseneck lamp interest that extends all the way back to the Gooseneck Fathers who landed at Plymouth Rock, and back to Oliver “Gooseneck” Cromwell and the infamous Gooseneck Republicans singing Goosey Goosey Gander.

    Which isn’t rigorous enough for Paul and Julie, but I’m not going to convince you guys anyway, so for once, kinda *shrugs*.

  • Julie near Chicago

    A different f’rinstance: One might say that “by 19xx, enough Americans had bought the Progressive idea that government should provide schooling to all, along with many other Progressive ideas about government and its duty to improve the situation of the more unfortunate Americans, and to improve the perception abroad that America was a force with which to be reckoned, that one might almost say that in 19xx America was excited by the Progressive vision and was ready to work to achieve it.”

    Historians write that way all the time. Honest historians (who are also sensitive to the meaning of what they write, which unfortunately is not all of them) would follow that with a “But…” or “Still…this was far from a universal attitude. For instance X, Y, Z were of a very different mind….”

    Other historians might take the paragraph’s last clause and thereafter write things like, “America’s acceptance of the Progressive project ultimately led to the horrors of Obamacare.”

  • I see so it would be a term much the same as “American culture” or “American society” – or Allan B.s work “the closing of the American mind” (if it can close it must first exist?). Not everyone, but a cultural influence.

    I am a methodological individualist (even if I find the words hard to say – let alone spell) – but I do accept the importance of culture and continuity over time (as individuals die).

    For example Casper Wyoming does not have the same people in it as it did a century ago (they are dead) – but it is still clearly Casper Wyoming (even though they have been changes – they have been changes of cultural evolution).

    On the other hand Bridgeport Conn is not the same city it was a century ago – it has the same name (but that is about it), its population and culture have undergone a revolutionary (not an cultural evolutionary) change. If PT. B. turned up with his famous circus (to the city he was once Mayor of) he would not recognise the culture of the place – the population would appear to be utterly alien to him. This would not be the case if he turned up in Casper Wyoming – less people going round on horses and more people in autos (and fancy auto things as that), but still the same nation.

    This is what Sean means when he says that he hopes decades of more immigration (and natural increase) will destroy the influence of America – because he actually hopes (hopes) that the new groups of immigrants do not become Americans (as the old groups of immigrants did), he hopes the “Melting Pot” (turning new people into Americans – or, at least, their children into Americans) is broken and that American cultural and political influence will die with it.

    Americans smile when they hear Sean say such things (in his own way) – because they assume he is joking (oh those Europeans – always being so ironic and clever….. really witty……..).

    I do not smile – because I know he is not joking.

  • Nobody thinks he’s joking Paul. If America is the source of the ideological ruin of the West- as this hypothesis suggests- then the rest of us should reasonably hope that its power dissipates somehow. Political Correctness isn’t being beamed through a time wormhole from 19th century Germany. It’s coming at us from the USA, and it’s doing it right now.

  • Which is why it is so important to understand what it is, and why the USA.

  • I think I know a country where the melting pot (indeed one of the modern Founders of this country actually came up with the term “melting pot” in relation to the United States) is not broken – and where people can go who are as “black as the ace of spades” or as “white as snow” and turn into citizens of that country. Although it is a cheat (because they had certain ideas in their heads before they went there – they are not let in if they do not have these ideas in their heads).

    Look at that lady over that at the check point, she is holding her rifle as if was an extension of her arm (not stiff as I would be), she is so ………. (even if the lady only arrived a few years ago).

    “”Was she black or white or olive coloured (like most people round here” – does it matter?

    That moderate Democrat T. Parsons would call it a “functional society” (low out of wedlock birth rate, but positive fertility rate – and so on).

    Prof Parsons lived to see the United States become a dysfunctional society – although he would not accept that it had become that (partly because it was the result of the very policies he supported).

  • Julie near Chicago

    Ian, it’s one thing to find the common threads through history of some “social movement”; that’s perfectly right and proper. But it’s necessary to base the conclusion that X is such a common thread on hard evidence about the beliefs and agendas of people along the way, and, as well, how they came by them.
    . . .

    As for Obama and Marxism, what the Sith itself has to say about itself, its beliefs, and its history is, as Perry Mason would say, “incompetent, irrelevant, and immaterial.” Because the Sith is possibly the most flagrant liar any of us has ever seen. Paul deduces he’s a Marxist based on his actions, his words, and his history. My opinion is that that’s his underlying shaping influence, plus hatred of the Western nations for being Colonialist — especially Britain and the U.S., which is laughably ignorant in the case of the U.S., but there you go.

    But as I keep saying, personally I read him as hankering to be an Absolute Communist Warlord Dictator, in the style and with the power of Robert Mugabe, and also with his name in lights around the world as he preaches and preens to audiences of hysterical teenages of all ages who are transported to paroxysms of joy by his preaching and preening in the great venues of the rock-star world.

    Whether the Incumbent “thinks” he’s a Marxist I couldn’t say. Personally I don’t think it matters, except as it helps in trying to guess what he will or won’t do next, and as an issue of interest to historians and people who are willing to be informed by history. Perhaps he’s a Marxist “without the name” (I forget the French phrase, sans le nom should be, but that doesn’t seem right to me), merely having a worldview shaped by Marxism or neo-Marxism or some such thing.

    . . .

    Yes, Ian. It’s an unfortunate fact that, in all but the most technical of usages and maybe even then (math, biology, chemistry) “words do not have crisp edges,” in the words of another on-line pal of mine. We’re in perfect agreement there. However, there’s usually some core meaning that is pretty clear; we agree on those and then argue about where the concept signified by the word stops.

  • No Ian they do think Sean is joking.

    Because if they did really thought it means what he says about the Civil War, and the First World War and World War II and the Cold War (indeed about the lack of individual moral responsibility – choice, and so on) their attitude towards him would be different.

    As for Mr Obama – what has he got to do with American culture?

    His efforts to appear American are painfully bad (even to a foreigner like me) – the media has been desperate to cover his mistakes and slips since they started promoting him back in 2004 (the Kerry Convention). And NO this has got nothing to do with the colour of his skin on his alleged place of birth.

    Some American Marxists (of the various different traditions of Marxism) are culturally American – Mr Obama clearly is not culturally American. He just gets the cultural references and practices wrong – but the msm cover for him.

  • Julie near Chicago

    I am going to steal a metaphor from a pal of mine and put it to a very different use from his.

    Over the millenia there have been quite a few people who have cut open the bellies of pregnant women and removed the fœtus therein.

    Does this mean that mutilating the pregnant woman in just this way shows that the ancient religious rite (naturally it was an ancient religious rite, that goes without saying */sarc*) has lasted down the years and is the basis of such sadistic behavior, which still exists today?

    Well…not exactly. Even if, for the sake of the argument, we agreed that today’s sadist is moved by this urge, fostered and nurtured by the ancient religious belief, we would still have the problem that most such horrific practices are performed by doctors, on women under some sort of anæsthesia, who are performing a C-section to save the life of the baby, the mother, or both.

    It is necessary to draw these distinctions when we look for common threads.

  • The United States was not one of the first Western nations to have universal compulsory education (although Mass was earlyish – 1852), it was one of the last.

    As with the Welfare State later – the United States was following European fashions.

    In the case of education – starting with Prussia and Austria back in the 1700s.

  • Oliver Cromwell was a man who liked a drink and who was always ready with a joke – he was also religiously tolerant (bar to Catholics – and even that was for political reasons). My opposition to him is partly on the basis of his policies (social as well as economic) – but also it is a matter of political principle (opposition to military dictatorship as a means of government).

    What all this has got to do with Republican party Presidents such as Warren Harding I do not know – well I suppose the drinking and the ready humour is a connection.

  • I think it was you that brought up Warren Harding, Paul. I have no idea what any of this has to do with Warren Harding. I certainly haven’t mentioned him.

    Which of the “Founding Fathers” (to use the term of that old anti lynching campaigner Warren Harding) was a Puritan?


  • Julie near Chicago

    Yes, Paul. Obama is an American only in the technical sense — if that. On the other hand, Shrill IS, gawd-help-us-culturally-American. Var. Marxismus gangsteria.

    Of course, some of us feel that that variety doesn’t deserve the proud title of “American.” Still, I’ve always been of the opinion that she doesn’t want to kill the Golden Goose, even if her policies naturally lead to exactly that. Neither does Slick Willy. But make no mistake, WJC is hardly “center right,” as I’m reading in some amazing “right-wing” or “libertarian” weblogs these days!

  • Julie near Chicago

    Ian, 9:32 p.m.:

    If America is the source of the ideological ruin of the West- as this hypothesis suggests- then the rest of us should reasonably hope that its power dissipates somehow. Political Correctness isn’t being beamed through a time wormhole from 19th century Germany. It’s coming at us from the USA, and it’s doing it right now.

    In all seriousness and not a “Gotcha!”: Isn’t that remark against your entire thesis that it’s Puritanism that has caused the present dysfunction in America? I mean, you insist our demise is ultimately due to the Puritan influence handed down for several centuries and originating abroad (relatived to the U.S. that is, in Britain/Holland/Germany), but no part of that dysfunction could possibly have been imported from Germany 150 or so years ago?

  • I asked you aquestion Ian – which of the Founding Fathers (the term was invented by Harding – it does not refer to Harding) was a Puritan. If you can not answer such a question…. well fair enough.

    So stop writing about “America” then.

    Julie – dear old Michelle Obama, the “Culture of Corruption” made flesh. The very sterotype of a certain sort of (bad) American.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Sorry, Ian. I didn’t read your comment closely enough. (

  • Julie-

    The question of where things come from is interesting, but what matters is the “right now”, which is why I’m not terribly interested in why Paul keeps asking me what Warren Harding thought of the Founding Fathers, largely because I have no idea regarding Warren Harding’s opinon of the Founding Fathers, or why it is even relevant. Indeed, the Puritan Hypothesis openly declares a Reformation origin for the whole thing, and also explains the general susceptibility of the rest of the Anglosphere, and Northern Europe, to waves of Puritan revival. By most reasonable accounts, the first Puritan polity (in Christendom anyway- since we see the same type of formation in Judaism and Islam, for instance) was Calvin’s petty tyranny in Geneva. The first in the Anglosphere was Cromwell’s Republic. After that, many of the Puritans fled to the USA.

    The particular next interesting thing is a massive revivalist wave in the 19th century. By then, we’re no longer able to strictly identify puritans as Puritans, as the puritan idea is coming up in new forms; notably in England, Methodism. The problem for the USA was that (for reasons too much to go into again), the USA got religion most severely of all, with a wave of zealous social reform puritans adhering to a predominantly post-millennialist vision that if they sufficiently Christianized America, Jesus might come back (The Battle Hymn Of THe Republic is a notable post-millennialist song); after the Civil War, we start seeing a secularisation of them and switch to “social purity”, “social hygeine” etc.

    None of this does the story justice. I really need to write a book, or somebody does. Frankly, without proper research, I cannot prove any of this rigorously, but I believe it is a valid thesis. The key point of it, basically- whether or not you think the wrod “puritan” is a valid term- is to stress and endogenous, rather than exogenous, and long historical, rather than recent, origin of the phenomenon whose latest wave we call things like Political Correctness. If nothing else, it is to emphasise that a country whose slogan is “the land of the free”, but which banned beer nigh a century ago, already had something seriously wrong with it long before Herbert Marcuse arrived, and as Libertarians we need a good understanding of what that thing is. Was. Whatever.

    According to my researchers, Warren Harding owned several gooseneck lamps, which he would impress his friends with at every opportunity.

  • The other point I think is to emphasise that Socialism and Progressivism are different phenomena with quite different models of society, though they are historically aligned and intermingled. Socialism predominantly as we know is interested in matters of economics, class and the improvement of the conditions of the poor by State action. Progressivism (which in my estimation is the modern puritanism) is interested in the moral improvement of the poor (well, everybody, but most folks are poor) on the presumption that a ruling elite are of superior moral character and must re-educate the poor in a moral sense. Thus, Socialism sees the poor as victims of other people while Progressivism sees the poor as victims of their own moral turpitude. Thus Progressivism 1.0 seeks primarily to save the poor from their vices- drinking, smoking, gambling, sexual immorality, etc.

    The particular toxicity of Progressivism 2.0 is that it found a whole new set of “vices” in Cultural Marxism (and thus as Sean pointed out in his talk, a whole new justification for the elites to “reform” them); these new vices are various types of “hate”- racism, sexism, homophobia, now transphobia, etc. So that, in a too brief nutshell, is how, when you mix the puritan impulse, and cultural marxism, you get the Political Correctness project.

    The other point is that I believe that one useful way to see recent history is that we have two Progressive Eras- the 19th century up until about the 1920s (pretty much marked by the end of Suffragism)- then a socialist/marxism dominated era, and now the 2nd Progressive Era, which is effectively a syncresis between the puritan model and post-marxism, as described in the previous parargraph. Libertarianism was a powerful and effective counterweight during the era of Marxism/Socialism fashionability, since these were economics based doctrines and libertarianism is really fucking powerful on economics. But The Enemy aren’t doing economics any more. Again, in Progressivism 2.0, economics is subordinate to the moral crusades, and as Sean said, they will happily let kinda-free markets operate so long as they are aligned with progressivist moral concerns. Libertarianism now needs to be fighting on the moral battlefield, where the battle actually is, in my view.

  • Paul, regarding the Founding Fathers. I don’t think the issue is which- if any of them- might be counted as puritans. The issue is the question of why the Constitution that they wrote has been shredded to bits, and by whom, in subsequent American history. If there is one thing we can surely agree on, the USA today is not Jefferson’s vision. We know that the start of the rot began with Alexander Hamilton and his fellow travellers, pretty much from the moment the ink dried. But I think we need more than that as explanation.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Paul, re Moobell: Indeed.


    Ah, Harding a novitiate of The Gooseneck Lamp Club? THAT would explain it! *g* (just what, I’m not sure. Something, though. For sure. LOL)

    Then why do you keep banging us over the head with Puritanism as the source of American Progressivism? I mean, if “the question of where things come from” is merely “interesting,” but not the ball upon which our eyes should remain fixed?

    As to the rest, I know that your theory is held by quite a few historians, and I don’t dismiss it. It sounds plausible enough and I daresay there is some truth to it. The question is, what was it in the makeup of Richard Ely, John Dewey, etc., that made them fall in love with German intellectual styles and programs. The other question is, why some people (you are not the only one) are so reluctant to believe that the Frankfurt School could possibly have brought us to this most unpleasant pass.

    I know of one historian who pooh-poohs that theory, but then as one reads a little further what she really thinks is that it was Progressivism that broke the ground to make the Frankfurt School in America successful.

    Leave us not forget that I was literally there when dear Prof. O’Leary was encouraging “turn on, tune in, drop out,” which I believe he got from Marcuse; I was there, being given readings of Marcuse in college classes, fresh off the Master’s pen. Believe me, he was influential — even if his reign as a known and respected intellectual was not all that long, except maybe amongst the New Left and their progeny. Marcuse: “Progressive Tolerance.” Still being taught in colleges today, I understand.

    But your latest up above looks interesting and I will read carefully. :>)

  • Because I’m not denying the involvement of the Frankfurt School. I’m saying that their existence doesn’t explain their success, just as (I keep saying this), Sean said in his speech. The success of FS (and general post-marxism) is, in this hypothesis, explained by them supplying a justification for the old puritan system of government as a source of moral authority, which had broken down in the post-war period. The idea that a class of “respectable” people should moderate society was openly ridiculed, and by identifying the new sins of racism, sexism, etc, the justification for that respectable class was reasserted.

    Which brings us to the second point, which is my assertion that a central element of the Cultural Marxism Hypothesis- that the current regime is committed to the undermining of the West by what we may call profligate hedonism- is flat wrong and (as Sean said) is Conservatives confusing two different phenomena as having the same source. This is where the “puritan” understanding becomes useful. Political Correctness is puritannical, not hedonist. Eros And Civilisation is already a dead letter among the intellectuals, activists and opinion formers; the “libertinism is good” narrative was a phenomenon of the anti-Progressivist 20th century and the resurgent (puritan) 2nd Wave Progressives are doing everything they can to undo it, particularly via Feminism, which is why you repeatedly find Feminists and Religious Conservatives working together to try to ban porn, sexting, etc.

    In this phase, Libertarians are not only fighting the “discrimination” model, we’re also fighting for the right to drink, smoke and watch Miley Cyrus on a wrecking ball[1] without the State interfering. And if we get dragged into Bill Lind’s stuff, and that Willi Munzenberg quote[2], which is a mangled version from a questionable source, that works against us, because we actually then end up in bed with the Progressives. Which is not a nice place to be.

    [1] However strangely unsexy and anodyne that might actually be in practise.

    [2] “We will make the West so corrupt that it stinks” and various variations thereof.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Well, then, it’s strange that it was “Puritanical” and not “hedonist” that wouldn’t allow San Francisco to close the homosexual bathhouses that were practically the national reservoir for AIDS. It’s strange that it’s the “Puritans” who keep fighting for the right to do dope and be “sex workers” and not have to suffer the slings and arrows of so much as mere disapproval, let alone criminality (and I don’t think either doing dope or being a rent-girl or rent-boy should in itself be illegal, either).

    Actually I don’t see why we can’t say that BOTH a certain kind of Puritan view AND a certain kind of neo-Marxism both operate to produce results that are in line with Progressivism as it is today, AND with a pitiful and dreadfully unrealistic and unhealthy inability to discriminate between right and wrong. And THAT, we do have to lay squarely at the feet of philosophers…especially since Fichte, I would say. Although you and Paul have a much better idea than I do of how far back that strain of philosophical rot goes.

  • Julie,

    Proggie 2.0, remember so, as said above, we’ve got puritans with a marxist class war bolted on. Gays and women are both protected groups. Taking the sex workers first; Proggie 2.0 is overwhelmingly opposed to all sex work- prostitution, porn, even glamour modelling. However, since women are a protected group (i.e. always victims) it cannot blame women for being prostitutes or porn performers, but blames men for either (a) forcing them into the industries as imaginary sex slaves or (b) “creating a market”. Either way, there has been consistent campaigning since the mid 19th century for total prohibition of prostitution, and they’re doing their best to get porn illegalised again, though that’s a project they’re having to go easier with at the moment. It having been already legalised by Supreme Court decisions in the USA between Proggie 1.0 and Proggie 2.0, in the libertine interstitial period, it’s hard to reverse.

    Gays are a more convoluted story. It was the First Wave Progressives (social purity movement, etc) who got the big persecution going in the first place. This time around, they did a volte face and declared themselves protectors of the gays for a couple of reasons. Okay, one other thing we take into account here. Anglo-puritanism in its VIctorian and modern era waves is female dominated, due to the elevation of women as society’s moral conscience during the Victorian Era. In this, our current puritanism differs from earlier Christian, and also Jewish and Islamic versions, which are moderated by old men with beards. Ours is moderated by old women with beards. So, progressivist puritanism is filtered through the matronly view, via the feminist movement.

    Feminism is fiercely puritannical and based on a model that sex is something done to women by lustful men. Hence in its Victorian incarnation, we saw the “Male Chastity” movement which attempted to persuade men to reduce their lusts to the level of women (who having no sex drive at all, means, hardly any at all). In that era, sodomy was characterised as the most extreme form of male lust, the ultimate endpoint of moral corruption. You start off looking at ladies’ ankles, then you start visiting prostitutes, then you end up in a swirling cesspool of sodomy). Hence, sodomites became the men to most fiercely persecute.

    (In the current era, the paedophile has replaced the sodomite as the last station on the railroad of corruption).

    By the time the 2nd Wave got their shit together, Gay Rights was already in full swing. Plus, the new matrons were having to pretend to be “liberal” and operate in the midst of the sexual revolution, and were identifiably going to have a long haul to reverse it. The cohort of new matrons had also adopted lesbianism as a means of identifying as heterosexual act avoidant; as Sheila Jeffreys put it, “A lesbian is not a woman who fucks women. She is a woman who does not fuck men”. So, identifying their celibacy as lesbianism, it made no sense to be against homosexual males which would seem contradictory to the wider public (although the Redstockings at least considered that for a while). Plus, every man who is gay is one less sexual threat to women. So, they went with, rather than against, the gays this time around.

    Which meant defending, rather than condemning them, whenever the situation arose, and so you get the defence of the gay bath houses. As with the prostitutes, since gays are a protected group, any misfortune that befalls them cannot be blamed on themselves or their own behaviour. Attempting to curtail their sexual profligacy would be victim blaming. That doesn’t mean anyone actually liked the idea of men butt-fucking in bath houses, but this was the logical corner the 2.0 Progressives were already backed into.

    It is though worth noting that increasingly, gays are being separated from their old hedonist image and the new image is of monogamous, married, suburban middle class man-couples with children, in line with the rebranding of “no sex before marriage” as “no sex before a committed relationship.

  • Actually I don’t see why we can’t say that BOTH a certain kind of Puritan view AND a certain kind of neo-Marxism both operate to produce results that are in line with Progressivism as it is today,

    I think my answer here is that they aren’t separate constituencies in alliance, they are a single syncretic constituency. But more than that, my view is that the puritans are very much the unbroken thread which post-marxism was merged into as a new justificational basis. Using for instance the example of sex, first wave progressives denounced it on a religiously or “traditionally” derived principle of immorality and moral corruption; the second wave has the same policies (broadly) but now based on a marxist-derived model of class exploitation and objectification of women, “rape culture”, etc.

  • Ian – you have a point. There were all sorts of mixing of contradictory philosophies in the 20h century.

    For example Marxism got mixed with the ideas of Freud (which would have either have made Karl Marx either laugh or scream with rage). And it got mixed with Keynesianism (even though Karl Marx mocked the idea that printing more money “increasing demand” produces more wealth – see Hunter Lewis “Where Keynes Went Wrong”).

    However, in each case Europeans tended to take the lead – with American academics tagging along behind.

    I am not even sure that most American universities (and so on) are more leftist (for want of a better word) than most European ones.

    As for Puritanism – if “which of the Founding Fathers were Puritans” is too difficult how about “which Presidents were Puritans?”

    History is about individuals (normally not many individuals in each generation) – the denial of this is one of the many mistakes of Marxism.

    I will help…….

    Lincoln was not known as strongly religious or even strongly anti slavery (at least not compared to rivals such as Salmon P. Chase) he was know as just another Illinois politician (no offence Julie) – but his MOTHER was a passionate anti slavery person and a member of a Church that utterly condemned slavery, under the pressure of war (more casualties than all other American wars put together) the old words of his mother (heard in childhood) may have started to come into his mind, and out of his mouth. Such as his words (which shook his friends because of the intensity with which he spoke them) on going through yet more casualty reports, that “God is punishing us” for tolerating the evil of slavery for so long.

    Hillsdale College (Free Will Baptist Michigan) lost more of its students in the Civil War than any other northern university.

    In the 1850s it refused to say how many of its students were black or female (this was considered pro black) it is still does refuse (this is now considered anti black).

    It reminds me of the Republicans of Eastern Tennessee (First and Second Districts) – the establishment (such as the students who write “Wikipedia”) explain why this area continues to be Republican in terms of the Republican Party “changing” or even “reversing places with the Democrats” – actually it is nothing of the sort.

    What was said in the 1860s and 1870s (that there should not be special racial laws) is what is said now (that there should not be special racial laws) only then it was considered “liberal” to hold this position and now it is considered “conservative” to hold this position.

    Hence Hillsdale College in Michigan being called “liberal” in the 19th century, and “conservative” now, and the Republicans in Eastern Tennessee being called “liberal” in the 19th century and “conservative” now.

  • History is about individuals, but also about groups, about random events and coincidences, and so on. Great men are important, but so are the people they are greater than.

    So far as I can tell Paul you seem to be saying there are no differences of character between groups; between Catholic and Protestant cultures, say, or between Jews and Confucians. No differences to be discerned between Englishmen and Frenchmen and Americans and Nigerians and Russians and so on. That isn’t a very plausible position to take. Still, it means that a Muslim England and a Christian England would have no differences at all, which is comforting, if something I find hard to accept.

  • Yes Ian – for the want of a nail, the horseshoe was lost, for want of the horseshoe the horse was lost, for want of the horse the rider was lost, for want of the rider the message was lost, for want of the message the battle was lost, for want of the battle the kingdom was lost – and all for the want of a nail.

    And (I suppose you are saying) that if there had been a “Protestant work ethic” the horseshoe nail would have been put in properly in the first place.

    I have no problem with talking a bit about culture (although one can over egg the pudding, after all Roman Catholics often have a work ethic also – Saint Joseph and all that), but you persist in talking about “America” or “the United States” without giving evidence that you know about the subject.

    I ask again – which of the Founding Fathers was a “Puritan”?

    And – which of the Presidents were “Puritans”?

    I know this “Puritan” stuff is a minor point (I am not claiming the whole thing is wildly important in the great scheme of things), but you do keep bringing it up – so I would like to know what (if anything at all) it is based upon.

    So which of the Founding Fathers are you saying was a “Puritan”?

    And name some Presidents who were “Puritans”.

    What is a “Puritan” anyway?

    Was (for example) Mr Wesley (in the 18th century) a “Puritan”?

    And was his friend-rival Mr Whitfield a “Puritan”?

    Or were they both “Puritans”?

    And how could that be – when both their theology and their political position was so different?

    Is a “Puritan” someone who believes that sins (such as excessive luxury) should be treated as crimes?

    That might explain why you mentioned the Commonwealth period under Cromwell – the rule of the Major Generals and so on.

  • The question about what a Puritan is – is important.

    Because if a Puritan is someone who believes that sins should be treated as crimes (rather than just aggressions being crimes) then a Puritan is clearly a “bad thing” (TM). The Gladstone point about moral improvement not coming from the state – that its interventions (the use of force to try and improve people) were morally wrong, and practically counter productive (an American President from about the same time, Grover Cleveland, said much the same).

    But if a Puritan is someone who tries (in this imperfect world) to live a moral life (personally) and helps others when they are in trouble, then a Puritan is a “good thing” (TM).

    After all someone who does not resit their own urges is more pig than human being. And someone who does not care if other people are in trouble is not much a human being either.

    The two mistakes to be avoided are that morality does not exist (the position of the pig), and that morality can be furthered by state intervention (the position of the prig).

  • Julie near Chicago

    I understand that Mary Todd Lincoln became (if she wasn’t already) strongly anti-slavery as a young woman when she saw the slave markets and slaves being whipped.

    Purely as point about How People Are in the real world, many if not most of us have had the experience of being vaguely against or in favor of some action or condition, but over a period of time can become quite fanatically against it or for it.

    People who in 19xx could see absolutely no way to accomplish Z, find a way to do it in 19yx. Sometimes it really wasn’t possible before, as the technology wasn’t there, but sometimes it’s that the person in 19xx hasn’t yet got the know-how, and sometimes it’s that the “temper of the times” is too strongly against it.

    Also, I am not a believer in the one-cause theory of history.

    But I do seriously doubt that Pres. Lincoln was ever seriously in favor of slavery. And Paul’s point about Bleeding Kansas is also very important. Regardless of whether his motives were Pure (sooner or later), he could look at the whole situation and see that the country could easily fall apart. Nowadays we are in this rather awful mess, and there is all this talk of secession; so there’s some sympathy for the very idea that wasn’t there 50 or 60 years ago. But it’s not so clear that secession in the 1860’s would have been a good thing even for the slaves (as Paul pointed out above, I think), or for the Union soldiers who died.

    Which brings up, tangentially, an important point.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Namely, this business about the Evil General Sherman’s March to the Sea.

    Mark Grimsley is a professor at Ohio State U. From his Wikipedia article:

    In 1999 he received the Ohio State University Alumni Distinguished Teaching Award for excellence in the classroom.

    From 2008 to 2010, Grimsley received a visiting professor appointment to the United States Army War College as the Harold Keith Johnson Chair of Military History. At the conclusion of his Army War College appointment he received the Department of the Army Outstanding Civilian Service Award. Grimsley served as an adjunct professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign from 1999-2007.
    Research interests

    Grimsley is a military historian with a main concentration in the U.S. Civil War. His thematic emphases include race and war in the American military experience as well as the problem of moral judgment in war.

    He has a most interesting article on-line, “”Thieves, Murderers, Trespassers”: The Mythology of Sherman’s March.” Here are a couple of excerpts; I added the boldfaced type. The whole thing is at

    This is the final version of a presentation I gave several times in 1996-1997.

    Few images in American history have entrenched themselves more firmly than that of William T. Sherman burning Atlanta and then carving a 220-mile swath of destruction in his fiery March to the Sea. Anyone who trifles with that image does so at some peril. We are dealing with a powerful piece of mythology.

    I use the term “mythology” with care. I do not mean it in the sense of falsehood or misconception. Myths are seldom true in the strictest sense, but they usually contain a larger truth that is conveyed all the more powerfully by the fact that it is not detained about mundane points of accuracy. In the case of Sherman’s march, the myth is so compelling that people hold to it despite obvious contradictions, which are explained away or simply ignored. A reporter discovered this in 1958 while researching a story about the Civil War in Marietta, Georgia. A Southern matron with whom he spoke gave him a glass of iced tea and told him earnestly that Sherman’s demons had burned the town to the ground when they came through in 1864. Afterward, the reporter commented dryly, “we went outside to admire the fine antebellum homes.”


    The mythology of Sherman’s march is part of a larger mythology concerning the conduct of Northern armies toward Southern civilians. The classic picture runs something like this: The Civil War began as a contest between armies, characterized by laudable restraint on the part of generals such as Robert E. Lee and George B. McClellan. Then generals like Ulysses S. Grant, Philip Sheridan, and above all, William T. Sherman, created a new brand of warfare in which the objective was not simply the enemy’s armies but also his economic resources and population.

    [SNIP — read the whole thing. Fascinating.]

    This is not the story that I was taught in school 55 years ago; and certainly not the stuff that and its progeny put out.

  • Paul-

    I’ll try and probably fail to be concise, hence picking on one sentence here-

    Is a “Puritan” someone who believes that sins (such as excessive luxury) should be treated as crimes?

    That’s one way to describe it. I think the thing here is we are looking at a quite general, but still useful, description, like “socialist” or “conservative”. There are many different types of socialist. Take Ramsay Macdonald, Harold Wilson, Dennis Skinner and Tony Blair. They’re all socialists, but they differ considerably in the detail. We would probably say that Skinner is more of a socialist than Wilson was, and certainly more than Blair is. Blair was accused by many other socialists of being a conservative(!). Wilson was a moderate socialist. Skinner, a more extreme one. Blair is a socialist of some type, but here I would argue that he is more of a Puritan. And so on.

    So I think what we are looking at is both commonality and continuity. That is, if there are two persons A and B, we want to see that they both have similar enough policies to be considered of the same type, and also that their ideas have historical continuity. We might see that Prussia had State welfare, and that State welfare became popular in England, and then we want to show that (at least to some significant degree) the English welfarists got the idea from the Prussians. I think you would agree with that, to some degree. It’s all matters of degree.

    I remember a while ago, us trying to define conclusively a “christian”. I suggested that all Christians have in common the belief that Jesus was the son of God. Then you pointed out that that doesn’t apply to Unitarians. There will always be exceptions. A broad movement will have some range of beliefs; not all members share every one of those beliefs. Some may strongly repudiate some which are held to be certain by others. Nonetheless, the movement has commonality and continuity. Unitiarians clearly are Christians on that basis. That may be the best we can do with any movement or social formation which is not some strict membership club with a written policy.

    I believe there is ample continuity for my Puritans; that is, that they got their ideas from predecessors, even if in each wave (e.g. the Cromwellians, the Victorian Evangelicals, the Progressives and the Neoprogressives) the details are different. We see a steady shift of focus historically, from initially a primary interest in purity of faith and church, with “lifestyle” purity a secondary matter, to gradually being primarily concerned with lifestyle purity in the current formation.

    Nonetheless there is a consistent focus- as the name implies- to seeking some type of (moral) transcendence through purity. Puritans see “sins” as pollutions of the person (whether the spirit or the physical) and seek through force to eradicate that pollution. The idea of transcendent is common to many religions (and probably many religions that are long dead)- Hindoos bathing in the Ganges, Zoroastrians with their purity expressed in fire, Jews, Muslims, and it appears in Christendom too. Puritans believe that mankind can achieve transcendence if only he can rid himself of pollution. Thus they seek to eradicate bodily pollutions- alcohol, tobacco, “unclean” foods (we have replaced the words, unclean, halal, kosher etc with “processed” or “contains chemicals” these days :)) and spiritual pollutions- lust, violence, and now racism, sexism, homophobia, etc). It is this focus on purging to achieve spiritual cleanliness- of the person and of society- that characterises the Puritan.

    Oops, haven’t been concise. I hope this is enough for a start. One thing I want to emphasise is that it is not puritannical to not be a hedonist. Nobody is obligated to indulge in anything. Neither is it puritannical to demur from hedonism for practical reasons. A teetoaller is not necessarily a Puritan. They may just not enjoy being drunk. A person who avoids beer to be clear headed in the morning is not being a Puritan. A Puritan is one who avoids drink because it is sinful (polluting) and who suppresses an indulgent urge even if there is no reason to do so, believing that the urge itself is an evil.

  • Pingback: Part 1, The Vampire over Europe | Conservative Heritage Times

  • Julie near Chicago

    Pollution. An interesting way to put it, Ian — the search for purification, I mean. :>) Of course, in our time, or at any rate mine, these acts that you see as symbolizing an attempt at purification, ritual cleansing, so forth, were explained as mostly aimed at preserving health. Don’t eat pork–it can make you sick, for instance. Very true. So the members of the tribe were enjoined against it under cover of religious dietary law. Many other examples, of course. I think it’s interesting that both Muslims and Jews are supposed to eschew pork. And until lately, pork WAS unclean in a manner of speaking, unless well-cooked. (At least in countries where hog-raisers have learned how to keep their animals worm-free.) Similarly, Muslims are not supposed to partake of the grape. (Or the corn, the potato, the plum…. People will make alcohol out just about anything.) But it’s undeniable that intoxicated persons are not (generally speaking) in very good control of themselves. And presumably the people of 12-14 millenia ago were just as capable of alcohol addiction as persons today. Maybe more so. Also, of course, improperly prepared spirits can be poisonous. Besides which, drunken louts are not much use when the Barbarian Hordes or the wild boars attack the clan or tribe.

    Then there is the history of drugs — in particular, I’m thinking of opium. I have read that in point of fact the Drug War against opium use has been going on here and there around the globe, from time to time, throughout all of known history. China is given as one example, going back 3000 years at least. And again, issues of self-control and, no doubt, of impaired usefulness to the rest of the tribe in cooperative endeavors like hunting and war would have accompanied injudicious use. –Along that line, I have read that in fact the Indians weren’t just a bunch of hippy pot-smokers; that peyote was used by the medicine man, or the shaman, or the Wise Elders, or whomever, as part of religious ceremony or ritual. Of course, Christians use wine that way when taking Communion, but that doesn’t stop them from R&R with it outside of church.

    Anyway, it’s a good point–a common thread of felt need for personal (as well as tribal, probably) purification from the time Man swang down from the trees (if he did *g* — perhaps he crawled out of the cave, or the rabbit-hole). Your thesis raises a question for the anthropologists studying very early, possibly or even probably pre-historical Man: How did this notion that Man is impure, or, as you say, polluted, arise in the first place? I’m not sure that we could ever answer that satisfactorily, beyond conjecture, but it surely is an interesting idea.

  • Julie near Chicago

    One little thing. Unitarianism isn’t exactly a Christian denomination. Christians might join a Unitarian “church,” thus becoming Unitarians by definition, while remaining Christian. But as one Unitarian of my acquaintance puts it, “Anyone can be a Unitarian — the only requirement is that you believe in not more than one God.” Or god. Atheists can be Unitarians too.

    Surely the definition of “Christian” has to include the idea of Jesus as the (and not merely “a”) Messiah — Jesus the Redeemer. Otherwise you have the equivalent in Christianity of “left-libertarians” — so-called libertarians who believe in liberty and personal property and nice things like non-coercion or non-aggression, except when it’s necessary so as to extort money for the Social Safety Net, or for purposes of Social Justice, or to seize property, especially land, for necessary projects like HUD tenements — or Trump’s parking lot — or roads.

    Of course there are always fringes in any large group defined by doctrine; where small groups splinter off in some heresy. It happens in Christianity, in Judaism, it happened in Marxism, god knows it’s happened in libertarianism! But as Miss Rand so famously pointed out, libertarianism as a political movement doesn’t rest on a single philosophy. Although I would add that we seem to be rather interested in trying to piece together a moral philosophy, at least, upon which libertarianism would rest securely.

  • Ian I agree with you about the definition of Christians – I do not consider Unitarians to be mainstream Christians (ouch, ouch, please stop hitting me with you stick John Adams).

    What I need is specific links between “Puritan” theology and political acts. As you did with the actions of the Major Generals under Cromwelll (who went further than Mr Cromwell himself would have done – but a military dictator has to be careful of offending his forces).

    On your general point – NO Christians (and Jews and so on) do NOT believe that we make ourselves totally pure (no matter how much we try, we are all still sinners). Atheists often make mistakes (even very wild mistakes) about Christianity and so on, I do not really mind – God is big enough to look after Himself, he does not need me to defend Him. If God wants to allow me “upstairs”” – He (not me) will have to take my sins away (the State is not God). All I can do is sincerely repent (even knowing that fresh sins are going to come);

    Still that does NOT mean your political point is wrong – you may be CORRECT that religious influences have (at times) had bad effects on policy (they certainly did during the Commonwealth period in England – although not everything that was done was bad).

    I am not sure if Mr Lincoln’s mother (if her childhood teaching really did come back to Lincoln under the pressure can be described as a “Puritan” – after all slavery is CRIME under natural law (even the Roman legal thinkers accepted that – they just held that state law trumped natural law, Christians held the opposite view) NOT just a sin (I remember the very first time I was concerned by something that Sean said – years ago when he said that “on balance” the end of slavery was a good thing, what the bleep was he talking about, and he was not just talking about the United States it was a general point).

    This may be utilitarianism at work – the idea that “pleasure and pain” is what good and evil (in the sense of right and wrong) are about.

    This is a “category” mistake (aided by the vague nature of the English language).

    For example whether rape is bad (in the sense of WRONG) is NOT dependent on whether the pleasure of the rapist (or rapists) is greater or less than the pain of the victim.

    Nor is “rule utilitarianism” correct – because it is still based on this “pleasure – pain” calculation (just in terms of general rules – not specific acts).

    The pleasure of the rapist (or rapists) is irrelevant to whether what they are doing (in raping people) is right (moral). It is a category mistake (a confusion of “good as in moral” and “good as in feels nice”) to hold otherwise.

    Slavery is the same – the pleasure of the slave owners is irrelevant to whether slavery is right (moral), and slavery is wrong (it is not a matter of pleasure-pain calculation – it is wrong).

    This confusion in language (“good” as in “feels pleasure” and “good” as in “right – moral”) is as bad as the confusion around the word “liberal” – the same word being used for “pro liberty” and for “generous” (including with the money of other people) and “broad and flexible” as in “a liberal interpretation of the powers of the Federal government”.

    This is a serous weakness in the English language (not that I know any other languages) – with words such as “good” and “liberal” being used for wildly different (contradictory) things.

  • I have added above the audio file of my speech. As I gave it, I thought I was doing rather badly. Having listened to the recording, I am less dissatisfied.

    • I do wish your transcripts were actually transcripts, Sean, rather than being a merely somewhat similar article.

      • I think there are considerable similarities. You surely wouldn’t want me to read out a text?

        • Well, the two are quite different in both content and emphasis. It seems a trifle disingenuous to say you said such and such to an audience, when you actually said something else. I’d be more than happy to transcribe your words for a small fee 😉

          • Justifications:

            1. The text was published to the audience within hours of the speech, and much debate the next morning was over the text.

            2. While I am a competent speaker, I am a good writer. Indeed, I may be one of the best writers of my generation, and see myself as a frequently dreadful speaker. Why not play to my strengths?

            3. Following from the above, I regard the invitation to give a speech as an opportunity to write an essay based on it.

            4. I sometimes speak on sensitive topics, and I think it a good idea if a written text is more authoritative than a speech in which I am making things up as I go along.

            5. I am only following an established practice. Macaulay revised the transcripts of his speeches before publication.

            6. With a few notable exceptions, most published texts of speeches that exactly correspond to what was said have been read out word for word from the written text. Reading out a text can be annoying to an audience. Much better to emphasise or elaborate on points while looking at the faces of your audience.

            7. Finally, there is generally a close similarity of words and arrangement of ideas between spoken and written versions. So long as both are published, there is no deception.

            Are you saying, by the way, that you actually sat through the half hour of my recorded speech? I don’t know whether to be flattered or puzzled.

  • Julie – I hope I never said that Mr Lincoln was “pro slavery” (although, full disclosure, I would not have supported him at the 1860 Convention – partly because he was not anti slavery enough, and partly because he was a Henry Clay Whig on economic policy and I am NOT, and some of his rivals at the Republican Convention of 1860 were not Henry Clay Whigs on economic policy).

    My point (actually in SUPPORT of Ian) was that under pressure of war (the worst war in American history – more deaths than all the other wars put together) the message of his mother (a religious message) may have come to the surface of his mind (I was SPECULATING – I do not know for sure).

    It seems to me that the pragmatic Mr Lincoln of 1860 is a very different man from the driven (passionate) Mr Lincoln of 1864.

  • As natural law means that slavery is a series of crimes (as such people as Chief Justice Sir John Holt and the American “slaves lawyer” Salmon P. Chase, amongst others, pointed out – and some theologians – legal thinkers said the same thing many centuries ago) – false imprisonment, assault (and so on), and natural law trumps government law (which Christians, contrary to pagan thought, maintained) then one would think the conclusion was in escapable.

    However, many Christians (over the centuries) tried desperately to avoid the obvious conclusion. Sometimes reason is indeed the “slave of the passions” – in the case of the defenders of slavery a passion for wickedness.

    Although it should be stated that the defenders of slavery pale in comparison with the “League of German Christians” under the National Socialists”.

    The “League of German Christians” took every fundamental principle of Christianity (they did a very hard working job – they covered just about everything) and turned them on their heads – using the vile arts of Germanic philosophy to attack truth and advance evil.

    As Dietrich Bonhoeffer pointed out the (mis) use of philosophy (false philosophy) to attack truth (not just Christian truth – but truth in general) and advance evil, goes back centuries before the Nazis – and is anything but a German monopoly (for example Mr Hobbes was not German)., however (as he also admitted) the corruption by “philosophy” of the mainstream German Lutheran Church (of which he was a life long member) had become very advanced indeed – and long before the Nazis.

    In his time in the United States Bonhoeffer came to understand that that it was NOT the “moderates” or “liberal” or “progressive” Churches that would stand against the forces of evil (not when it came to the bitter test – the time of trial) – whether INSIDE the United States (such as the eugenics movement – see Jonah Goldberg “Liberal Fascism”) or on the world stage – and in an age of evil philosophy (such as Naziism and Marxism) only the United States had the strength to successfully oppose the forces of evil (not just Nazism, which is just one face of evil) in the world.

    This is why Mr Bonhoeffer became an American agent (but with clear eyes as to the evil that existed inside the United States itself – that false “philosophy” was at work there also), even though he knew that his decision would lead to his own death.

    Evil exists (whether or not it is directed by a being with horns and a tail) and the United States does not exist on some other planet – it lives or dies on this planet, So the opposition to the victory of evil in the world (the victory of false “philosophy”) is a vital American concern. Sometimes self interest (survival) and moral duty coincide – and this is one of those occasions.

    The struggle against what Edmund Burke (like Winston Churchill later) called “armed doctrines” – false (evil) “philosophy” (whether it be that of the French Jacobins, the Imperial German “Historical School”, the Nazis, the Communists the Islamists and so on) that seek to take over the world, is both a matter of self interest (survival on this planet) and moral duty. Those who seek to weaken the will of the United States in the struggle against evil (including inside the United States itself) in the sense of “armed doctrines” (serving false “philosophy”), themselves serve evil.

    It is all very well to not go abroad “seeking monsters to destroy” (as Washington warned against) if the Royal Navy is holding back the monsters (and they are monsters) for you.

    But the Royal Navy no longer really exists (other than in name) the decline of Britain (especially the British armed forces) has happened (and it has been terrible). Now there is the United States – and there is (essentially) nothing else standing in the way of evil.

    And that evil is present in the United States itself – for example in almost every university and almost every school (where the minds of the young are filled with “Progressive” lies and distortions) and in the media (that cess pit of Hell). Even a fortress such as Kansas can fall – and it may fall ON THIS VERY DAY.

    Those who weaken the will to resist evil (by pretending that evil does not exist) serve the interests of evil – they serve evil.

    And this remains true, whether or not a being called Satan actually exists.

  • Pingback: Sean Gabb on “The European Right” « Attack the System

  • I think this outfit should be renamed. Let’s call it the Paul Marks’ Blog, then we can all go home.

    • I don’t think that Sean and I mind, much if at all, if Paul comments a lot. If he has the time, then fine. It’d merely just be nice if he didn’t try all the time to portray Sean as mealy-mouthed or (worse) disingenuous. Each of us is the keeper of his own conscience, and a Jan Hus said, “The Truth Always Prevails”.

    • I only look at his ravings when I need to make sense of Ian B’s responses. Otherwise, so long as it doesn’t get us into trouble, comment on this blog is free.

      • I cannot criticise Paul. He is very knowledgeable, even if we disagree about a great deal, and his ability to wander off topic at enormous length is matched only by my own. Anyway, the Northamptonshire Libertarian Tendency have to stick together.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Paul, I never said, thought, nor meant to imply that you said Lincoln was “pro-slavery.” (See your cmt at 4 November, 2014 at 12:53 pm 4 November, 2014 at 12:53 pm). I’m only pointing that out for the record–I don’t think you typed what you meant to type. 🙂

    My point was that one may disapprove of a thing, a state of affairs, or an institution, but not so much as to make a fuss about it … and over the course of years come to feel so strongly disapproving that one feels moved not only to fuss, but to try to destroy the institution. I don’t see why something like this might not have happened with Lincoln and the slavery issue. In other words, that he was not in favor of slavery in the first place, but that eventually he came to see the necessity for ending it partly because he had indeed come to see it as abominable. This understanding could easily have been inextricably wrapped up in his mind with recent history (the Missouri Compromise, “Bleeding Kansas,” etc.) and current circumstances and what he saw as the resultant necessity to hold the Union together, by war if necessary.

    So one might give Pres. Lincoln two cheers for ending slavery and also two cheers for trying to do the right thing by the country as a whole (preserving the Union, that is).

    In any case, he did formally end slavery, and it seems to me that Paul is quite correct when he says that allowing the Confederate States to secede would likely not have been a boon to the slaves. And even some of our pals at admit that the government of the Confederacy was more intent on “bigness” (i.e. what we are sure is governmental overreach) than was Pres. Lincoln.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Paul and Ian: It can become very difficult in a long, interesting discussion like this one to remember who said what. For the record, Ian at 3 November, 2014 at 7:15 pm:

    I suggested that all Christians have in common the belief that Jesus was the son of God. Then you [Ian’s addressing Paul] pointed out that that doesn’t apply to Unitarians. There will always be exceptions. A broad movement will have some range of beliefs; not all members share every one of those beliefs. Some may strongly repudiate some which are held to be certain by others. Nonetheless, the movement has commonality and continuity. Unitiarians clearly are Christians on that basis.

    Next, Yrs Trly at 4 November, 2014 at 4:09 am:

    Unitarianism isn’t exactly a Christian denomination. Christians might join a Unitarian “church,” thus becoming Unitarians by definition, while remaining Christian. But as one Unitarian of my acquaintance puts it, “Anyone can be a Unitarian — the only requirement is that you believe in not more than one God.” Or god. Atheists can be Unitarians too.

    Surely the definition of “Christian” has to include the idea of Jesus as the (and not merely “a”) Messiah — Jesus the Redeemer. Otherwise you have the equivalent in Christianity of “left-libertarians…[i.e., a contradiction in terms].”

    Next after mine, Paul, 4 November, 2014 at 11:23 am:

    Ian I agree with you about the definition of Christians – I do not consider Unitarians to be mainstream Christians….

    It’s true that the most obviously important thing is what was said and not who said it … but for various reasons it’s also quite important to keep the record straight as to who said what. Thus my apologia (or, one might say, “defense” — but “apologia” sounds so much more erudite, no?) of what might be seen as mere nit-picking.

  • Well, Reason seem to be getting it-

    Kind of, anyway.

    As to Unitarians, they weren’t really central to this discussion, it was just an example of how categories which one thinks of as well defined are often fuzzy around the edges.

  • Anyway, back with the Puritans. The problem here is that Paul wants me to point at persons X and Y and say whether or not they are (or were) Puritans, based on the theological definition. And the problem there is that it just isn’t like that. We must remember that the term “Puritan” was originally coined as an insult or perjorative within Christendom, and basically meant “extremist”. It was then applied to certain specific groups of black hatters- Calvinists, Presbyterians, etc. But it has always had a more general and imprecise usage. It is attested as far back as the 1590s as “Ye gentelman who haf a broomhandle up hif arfe”-

    -and that’s good enough for me. The thrust of this argument is that within Anglo history, the struggle is not really “left” and “right” (the terms are virtually useless) but between liberals and… somebody else. And the somebody else is the puritans. England invented liberalism. The puritans are the guys who wouldn’t get on the liberal bus. So, we can look at particular people and say, “yes, the puritanism is strong on this one”- say, Hannah More, William Wilberforce or John Wesley- but really we are looking at tendencies or formations as they evolve, and the individuals only matter when we are discussing some particular historical juncture. Most crucially, as Richard Nixon said, “we are all Keynesians now”, it is fair to say that there is some puritanism in all of us, it is part of our cultural heritage, and it’s more fun looking at ideas that we take for granted and seeing where they evolved from. “Mind your own business” is the liberal angel on my shoulder; “your business is my business” is the Puritan devil.

    If it’s any consolation to Paul, I struggled with the word myself, and tried to come up with something else to use, because it is dangerously close to being a cliched insult one can dismiss, like “fascist”. But I think there are a lot of good reasons for it. Firstly, it is as historically justified as one can get. Secondly, it is a word that everyone knows. Thirdly, it doesn’t sound like something somebody invented in a political science class. Fourthly, it is instantly perjorative. Fifthly, it is not a word that the enemy can steal for their own use (like “liberal”) precisely because it is perjorative already. Seventhly, because the enemy are still trying to pretend to be hip-swingin’ “liberals” and there is nothing we need to do more than expose them as the opposite. Eighthly, because they like the idea that they are secular, enlightenment, “reason based” people, so tying them (correctly, historically) to rabid evangelical protestants is just gonna hurt like Hell.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Ian, I’m afraid I don’t understand — could you please elucidate your sixth point? 😉

  • Julie near Chicago

    Also, Ian, it’s a good thing they didn’t know how to spell in the 16th century. Otherwise I’d have to shut my eyes before reading your comment. *g*

  • Julie I apologise for misunderstanding you – I thought your “I do not think Lincoln was ever pro slavery” was implying that I did that (now I see that you meant no such thing).

    Sean – I love your “ravings” to sweetheart, Pity you do not have your beloved Nazi Germany to go to – but the Islamic Republic of the Sudan is still open to you (let me know when your emigrating – I will come and wave you goodbye).

    As for the speech itself – there was not much on the “European Right” and what there was is vague (not much on their position on taxation, government spending, regulations and so on).

    A lot of the speech was just a standard Sean Gabb attack upon the United States – it would go down well with Rothbardians (who favour anyone against the United States – the Slave Power Confederacy, Imperial Germany, Nazi Germany, the Communists in the Cold War, the Islamists now – ANYONE).

    A political speech in the United States must be judged on whether it strengthens or undermines the determination of Americans top resist evil – both abroad and in the United States itself.

    The gold standard of a political speech in the United States is (of course) Winston Churchill’s “Iron Curtain” speech in Missouri after World War II.

    This speech was to inform Americans that the defeat of the Nazis did not mean the defeat of evil -0 that evil had many faces, and that the Communists were just as much a threat to the world (including the United States) as the Nazis.

    Those who think I am unfair (or unkind) to Sean Gabb should remember that his intention is the exact OPPOSITE to that of Winston Churchill (it is not some sort of tactical dispute – it is having the reverse objective). Sean Gabb seeks not to strengthen the determination of Americans – but to undermine it.

    As Jesse Owens said when asked about how he could represent America when there was so much wrong with it (segregation – and the other remains of the Confederate Slave Power and its hangover the KKK)……

    “There is nothing wrong with America that Mr Hitler is going to fix”.

    The same is true of America in relation to Dr Gabb.

  • A few typing mistakes – but I am in a hurry (as so often).

  • Paul, nobody is suggesting that Europe can fix America. Indeed, the whole point of Sean’s speech is that Europe cannot fix America, because America is the political and cultural superpower without any equivalent competitors that can hold it in check. As a result, the rest of us suffering from an infection whose source is America can only either hope that America can be fixed by Americans, which is unlikely, or that American power will dwindle. This is why Sean’s spoken speech is better than his significantly different written summary of it, because at the end he challenges his audience by asking them what they are going to do to fix America, because Europe cannot offer salvation.

    For me, I believe that there is a persistent problem that too many people in some sense believe that America is what is described in the Constitution (a liberal republic) or its self-aggrandising slogans- “the land of the free” etc rather than seeing it for what it actually is; which is, in this context, the source of the authoritarian tyranny spreading across the Western world. Until Americans stop trying to find outsiders to blame and look into their own culture and national soul, there will be no progress on the matter.

    The Puritan Hypothesis, whether you find it convincing or not, is simply an attempt to explain the historical sources of the problematic flaws in the American character. If you accept some other explanation, like the other popular idea that it was the Jews what done it- then these are still simply competing explanations for a self evident phenomenon which is driving the destruction of our liberty and, regardless of where it originated, the source is America now. Just the same as in the last century Soviet Communism was a major enemy, and the fact that it came originally from Germany was not as important as understanding that the wellspring was now in Russia. If we continue to lie to ourselves by claiming that the USA (right now, in this time period) is some kind of libertarian state which can lead us to liberty, we will never get anywhere.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Ian, according to your own hypothesis the rot did not commence with America but with England, namely the English Puritans; and not with either England or the Puritans, but with some sort of belief held by various religions at the least throughout Europe and Western Asia and I would think (from the nature of the thesis) the Orient, Africa, and perhaps the Americas as well, going back at least to the origins of history and perhaps deep into prehistory as well.

    For you brought up the idea of “purification” as common to religions, fairly early in the discussion.

    Having explained all that, you return to the theme of trying to pin the whole Il-liberal, proggie, nanny, surveillance, ULTRA-Il-Liberal (repeating, with feeling) state on America and her outlook; and by implication, possible protestations to the contrary, to her people as well, since as individuals we have absorbed our culture, which (per you) must certainly be derived from “the” Puritan belief and outlook.

    Regardless of the validity of the “urge-to-purification” theme’s validity, I have to protest this. Is it not the case that the same sorts of people and beliefs about what they should do existed in England separately from later stuff in America? Did there occur no witch-burnings*, no call to police (figuratively at least) the affairs of others before 1607? And so forth. Did no Englishman go to Germany to be educated in the 19th century, and there pick up the philosophies legitimatising outlooks and political projects that would ripen into progressivism back home in England? (Not to mention those that embedded Marxism even more deeply into their minds. And note that Fabianist Marxism was no less interested in moulding the populace so as to achieve Heaven on Earth than was or is the non-Fabian, non-Marxist proggie outlook and agenda. Progressivism and Marxism in various forms are not so unrelated as you seem to think.)

    If you want to blame the current mess on America, you have to answer these questions.

    On the other hand, if your ultimate point is that only America can fix the mess because only America has power, or because America is still The Über-Power, or some such, I can only point to the current state of world affairs and tell you that Obama has already made your point obsolete.

    As for sneering at “the land of the free,” we non-libruls are trying our damndest to fix that fall from grace, and the constant sneering at America per se isn’t helping any.

    Much more helpful would be the attitude of even some Brits and Aussies, that we are all in this together, we are all fighting the same battle, and we need each other desperately. Christopher Hitchens himself, that not-entirely-repentant man of the left, came to see this — at least somewhat; to the point of leaving off the sneering and putting-down and alienating half his leftist audience thereby.

    And remember this: By all accounts, the main man on the Founding Big-Government side was Alexander Hamilton, NOT exactly a Puritan (no more was Benjamin Franklin, though perhaps a non-Puritan of a different sort; nor Mr. Jefferson, whose ideas also had a huge influence in determining perhaps the single most important strain of political thought in America). Hamilton was a gent who thought the ideal would be to emulate Britain, and not just in style of government. It seems to me that the American-style Progressivism of T. Roosevelt and possibly W. Wilson, and certainly of more recent politicians, is a direct descendent of the NON-Puritan, Hamiltonian outlook, as shaped by the likes of Ely and so forth who had been to Germany.

    All this leaving aside the fact that not all “Puritans” were the same in either beliefs or agendas; some were far more “extreme” than others, and among them were those who actually did believe in religious freedom. Locke himself began, at least, as a Calvinist and ended up in favor of toleration, but not of atheists.**

    What you’re saying boils down to, “You made the mess — you clean it up. And daily beatings will continue until morale, as well as the deplorable state of the global sewer system, improves.”

    . . .

    *From the Foot of All Knowledge, boldfaced type mine:

    The classical period of witchhunts in Europe and North America falls into the Early Modern period or about 1400 to 1700, spanning the upheavals of the Reformation and the Thirty Years’ War, resulting in an estimated 70,000 to 100,000 executions.[3]

    The last executions of people convicted as witches in Europe took place in the 18th century. In the Kingdom of Great Britain, witchcraft ceased to be an act punishable by law with the Witchcraft Act of 1735. In Germany, sorcery remained punishable by law into the late 18th century. Contemporary witch-hunts have been reported from Sub-Saharan Africa, India and Papua New Guinea. ….


    With regard to the Bible Locke was very conservative. He retained the doctrine of the verbal inspiration of the Scriptures.[22] The miracles were proofs of the divine nature of the biblical message. Locke was convinced that the entire content of the Bible was in agreement with human reason (The reasonableness of Christianity, 1695).[55][22] Although Locke was an advocate of tolerance, he urged the authorities not to tolerate atheism, because he thought the denial of God’s existence would undermine the social order and lead to chaos.[56] That excluded all atheistic varieties of philosophy and all attempts to deduce ethics and natural law from purely secular premises, for example, man’s “autonomy or dignity or human flourishing”.[57] ….

    Perhaps Roger Williams, Puritan and founder of the Rhode Island Colony, is an even better example:

    Roger Williams (c. 1603 – between January and March 1683) was an English Protestant theologian who was an early proponent of religious freedom and the separation of church and state. In 1636, he began the colony of Providence Plantation, which provided a refuge for religious minorities. Williams started the first Baptist church in America, the First Baptist Church of Providence. He was a student of Native American languages and an advocate for fair dealings with Native Americans. Williams was arguably the first abolitionist in North America, having organized the first attempt to prohibit slavery in any of the original thirteen colonies.

    Although Williams took holy orders in the Church of England in connection with his studies, he became a Puritan at Cambridge, and thus ruined his chance for preferment in the Anglican church. ….

  • Snobbery and “holier than now” are not nesc religious in origin. Status is the prime concern (after survival?) of every monkey troop. “Puritanism” is not a superficial thing but arises prob from the biology of emotion.

  • Ian again which “Puritans” do you mean?

    You refuse to give me names (or anything that appears to be history) so it is hard for me to say whether you are right or wrong. Names of the Founding Fathers – none, Presidents – none. American philosophers and political thinkers – none. You give me an empty bag and then ask my opinion on the contents.

    it is not as bad as Sean Gabb making a speech with the title “The European Right” – which does not really tell us anything about the “European Right”, what is the position of these various political parties on taxes, government spending, regulations (and so on).

    He (Dr Gabb) went thousands of miles and then (basically) told the people nothing-much about the title subject of his talk.

    As for the United States – are we saying that religious people (or the memory of them) such as Roger Williams (the Founder of Rhode Island) inspired the First Amendment – with his commitment to freedom of speech and freedom or religion.

    Then YES (YES Ian) you may have a point.

    However, if you are saying that the Mass Bay people (also “Puritans”) inspired the First Amendment (and so on) that you are not making sense – after all Roger Williams (and so on) fled from them.

    As for “hold America in check” what?

    The United States has been in at least relative decline for at least 60 years. And this has been a BAD THING (TM). You would not a like a world dominated by China or by Islam Ian – even if they did not use you for spare parts.

    The last thing the world needs (in the face of the threats to us from so many sides) is America to be “held in check” – as Englishmen as far back as Kipling and Winston Churchill have understood it would be a disaster (an utter disaster) if the United States turned its back on the world (under the false theory that what happens in all these white spaces with “there be dragons here” written on them, does not matter).

    The survival of Western Civilisation depends on the United States – for all its faults America is the last line of defence.

    The United States (in spite of all its faults) is the omega – there is no line of defence after America (or if America turns its back on the rest of the West).

    This does not mean that every campaign is correct – many campaigns should be opposed as harmful (based on false theories, such as the theory of Mr Blair and Mr Bush that the problem with the Islamic world is a few nasty dictators and if that these dictators were removed the Muslim population would become our friends – not going to happen, it is a false theory based upon a fundamental misunderstanding of Islam, both Sunni and Shia), but the West must be supported – and wiser policies followed.

    Those who seek to undermine what the President of France in 1914 (rightly) called the universal principles of reason (of justice) by denying they exist (“historicism”, “relativism” and so on – the things that Edmund Burke claimed Warren Hastings believed in and denounced him for it) are, at best, radically misguided – and those who seek to undermine the United States (to undermine the good in America and stimulate the evil – such as the nightmare of the Slave Power, and the KKK and so on) and to undermine the role of America in the world (like the British “Right Club” of the 1930s – with their support of Nazi Germany, and giving British military secrets to the Empire of Japan) are the worst sort of traitor.

    They are not just traitors to America or to Britain, they are traitors to Western Civilisation – indeed to all civilisation, to the very universal principles of reason and justice themselves.

  • I think this (from Popehat via the Honest Courtesan ) says it all about America now. If they are our last hope–which they are not–we are fucked.

  • We may well be “fucked” Mr Ecks, I do not deny it.

    However, (for example) Bleeding Kansas (an historical reference – not an insult) held on Tuesday when most people (including me) thought it would fall.

    The struggle for freedom of speech (First Amendment) and the right to keep and bear arms (Second Amendment) and so on (all long over in Britain) continues in the United States, the war is not yet lost.

    The West may fall (I do not deny the decline – or the chance of total defeat), but the war is not over yet – and even if the cause seems hopeless we must carry on to the bitter end (if bitter it must be).

    No quiet acceptance of the “euthanasia of the constitution” – no acceptance of the destruction of the universal principles of reason and justice and the coming of a new Dark Age.

    No, no, no.

    “Do not go gentle into that good night – rage, rage against the dying of the light”.

  • The opponents of the values that most on here share..reason, justice etc.. are morons whose own doom is hot on their heels as they are hot to attack us.
    The situation resembles the battle of Waterloo–can we hold the line against the Old Guard of statism/socialism long enough for the Blucher of economic disaster to catch up with them.

    • That’s a really good historical analogy Mr Ecks. But I’m afraid I’m a bit of a pessimist now. The end is coming sometime in the next few decades.
      I hope that my own two dear boys, the best joys of my heart, die before they have to live on the planet that our enemies will make of what we made: but I’m not hopeful that they’ll avoid seeing the end of all the rest of us have tried to achieve.

      No, sadly, the Blucher lot are not going to arrive now.

  • The fanboy attitude to America always reminds me of a parent whose son has been discovered to have a garden full of the corpses of those he has murdered, saying “it’s not the real him, he’s a good boy, this isn’t what he’s like”. So, you get this belief that America has some kind of Platonic essence of goodness and freedom and so on, and when they act in other ways it’s “not really America”; which is part of the reason that any attempt to discuss America as she really is is handwaved away as being somebody else’s fault.

    Okay, let’s take a specific example. Think of excessive legalism, the excessive use of the Civil Law, the “compensation culture” as we now call it. It is easy enough to recognise that this is an import to Britain from the USA, which is rampantly legalist. One can reasonably I believe make a good case that this legalism is itself a defining aspect of Puritan culture, but whether or not that is true is besides the point. It is also besides the point whether one could give Paul a list of Founding Fathers who were in some sense “legalists”. What we do is look at the American (legal culture), and observe its nature, and then observe the adoption of its practices in Britain. You can argue about whether that is deliberate cultural imperialism by the USA, or whether it is Britons copying the USA, or whether specific individuals have wrought this change for malign reasons, or whether it is a diffuse, osmotic influence. But the American origin of this legalist change is clear enough, and no amount of jumping up and down shouting “Land of the free! Land of the free!” will alter that.

    But apparently saying so makes me, quote, “a traitor to Western civilisation”.

  • Ian I do not think that someone who has been attacking various policy developments in the United States for the best part of 40 years (yes even when I was at school) can be correctly described as a “fan boy”.

    As for the perversion of American tort law – this can neither be blamed on the Founding Fathers or on the “Puritans” (two very different groups of people) as this development has got nothing to do with either of them (the Trial Lawyers associations and their supporters are motivated by greed). If you want to look at a American School of Philosophy that might be held to blame do not look at “Puritans” – look at the PRAGMATISTS (William James and co) who argued that one should shy away from PRINCIPLES OF OBJECTIVE TRUTH and instead just focus on the results (the conclusions) one wanted. The result of divorcing law (or anything else) from PRINCIPLES OF OBJECTIVE TRUTH is disaster. Whatever the Pragmatists and Instrumentalists were – they were not “Puritans” and they were not admirers of the Founding Fathers either.

    I repeat what you must already know (being an intelligent man) , without the Unites States there is no West (period), the West will fall – absolutely and completely, It will fall so totally that future generations on this planet will not even know we existed. Therefore people who want to reform (fundamentally reform – restore the principles of the Founding Fathers, roll back the decline) the United States are good, but those who want to undermine the United States are bad (it is that simple).

    But it is a lot more than “Western Civilisation” – those who deny the principles of (for example) the Bill of Rights, the PHILOSIOPHY upon which they are based are a lot more than enemies of just Western Civilisation they are enemies of civilisation generally.

    If humans are not beings (are not agents – capable of choosing between good and evil) and if good and evil are not real things (not just “boo and cheer words”) then the whole Classical Liberal project collapses – totally and absolutely.

    Contra Hayek – one can NOT reject the philosophy of the “Old Whigs” and keep their politics. If there is no objective measure of right and wrong then there is no independent standard to judge the actions of the STATE (one is left with just the WILL of the ruler or rulers – as with Thomas Hobbes) and if human freedom does not exist (if everything is predetermined – again Thomas Hobbes) then, obviously, human freedom can not be important – as it does not exist.

    Some Protestants rejected freedom (both philosophical and political) there you are CORRECT Ian – but some did not.

    It was those Protestants who did NOT reject freedom (including personal moral responsibility – the capacity to choose between good and evil, to do other than we do) who played the leading role in the creation of the United States of America.

    But that is also true of other civilisations – the defeat of reason in Islam (more than a thousand years ago) was a disaster.

    The belief in individual responsibility (the capacity of human beings to work out what is good and what evil – and then to choose to do good and oppose evil) as a central principle of Judaism (so it is not just about Jesus). As it was in pagan philosophy – for example Aristotle.

    And on and on – whether one is talking about Japan, China or anywhere else.

    Good and evil are in conflict everywhere – because they are present in each individual human being (as well as in each civilisation).

    Those who deny the existence of good and evil (as an independent standard to judge the actions of the state – and of ourselves) and our capacity to choose good and reject evil (even as we stumble and are guilty of so many failings) do a lot more than betray “the West”.

    Still little is ever resolved by an internet discussion.

    Come over to Barton Hall (now open after a very good bit of restoration) for dinner one evening Ian – my treat.

    Then you can explain to me what you really mean (I must confess that I always understand more by listening to people talk than I do from reading words on a screen – words on a screen just become a blur to me after awhile) – and, possibly, we may be able to work something out.

  • Even in these degenerate days of American decline, one is still more likely to find someone who stands for the principles of Greek civilisation in Tennessee (at least in Eastern Tennessee) than in Greece (and not just because the temple in Nashville is rather better the ruin in Athens – and YES Dr Gabb I know there is an even nicer one in Bavaria) – and no I do not mean slavery.

    As for some (not all) of the philosophical disputes – see (for example) a Critical Examination of the Philosophy of Mr John Stuart Mill – by James McCosh.

    Although Mr McCosh outlived Mr Mill (by about 20 years) this still might be described as the reply of a philosophical Whig to 19th century Liberalism (as long as one remembers, as people often forget now, that Mr Mill represented a MINORITY faction in 19th century Liberalism – although one that eventually gained control of the universities – including Princeton, when men such as McCosh died or retired).

    In law (as Ian mentioned law).

    See the judgements of such men as Sir John Holt (Chief Justice during the period of 1688 and all that) and of Salmon P. Chase (the “slaves lawyer”) later Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court. This is central to understanding what the principles of “the law” (as opposed to the random statutes of Parliament and Congress) actually are.

    As well as (of course) Chief Justice Sir Edward Coke – in such things as the judgment in Dr Bonham’s case (where the principles of THE LAW stand against both Kings AND Parliaments (just as Ralph Cudworth, chaplain to Parliament in the Civil War was not shy of expressing his opposition to terrible errors on his own side – such as the Doctrine of Predestination, which violated natural reason).

    For the 20th century see such people as Justice Butler (the lone dissenter in the eugenics case “Buck V Bell” [alas he left no written dissent] and one of the “Four Horsemen” who stood for Constitutional principles against the Mussolini style economic measures known as the “New Deal” in the 1930s).

  • Short version.

    Contra Hayek one can not, legitimately, go from the errors of false “modern” philosophy (it is not really modern at all – as Ralph Cudworth pointed out in his attack upon Thomas Hobbes, all the fallacies of Hobbes can be found in various ancient thinkers – who were refuted at the time), to the politics of the Bill of Rights.

    One can keep the politics of the OLD Whigs (including the Americans who created their Bill of Rights – not just the British people who created our, long forgotten, Bill of Rights) if one rejects its philosophical foundation.

    And this is not just true for Western Civilisation – it is true for ALL civilisations.

  • Julie-

    I’ve got to that point in a thread of having trouble answering (abandoned several replies already) as we’ve sprawled quite widely and I find that having written half a novel I still haven’t got to my point. So I’ll attempt to boil it down as best I can.

    I think firstly we can all agree that there is some kind of phenomenon to address (which we may call Neo-progressivism or Progressivism or Political Correctness or something). But there are two separate issues within this; firstly what it is, and secondly the issue of America’s position within it or relation to it. My own reason for gravitating towards concluding that the answer to the first question is “puritanism” (for want of a better term) was in trying to answer the second one.

    So, I already have to digress a bit. My general view has always been that this is a general Anglosphere problem, and just as much a British disease (and also Canadian, Australian etc) as an American one. The major issue with America, therefore, is sheer power. America is by far the largest Anglish nation; it is the world’s only superpower and it is as a result the cultural superpower. I don’t think anyone would deny that the USA has enormous cultural influence. I am not complaining about this. I love rock’n’roll, hamburgers, consumerism, Hollywood and all the things that some other people moan about in cultural terms. Likewise, it is the economic and military superpower, and nobody denies this. Hence the saying “When America sneezes, we all catch a cold”. The problem is that when America gets a bad disease, the rest of us cannot escape it either.

    For me, I got to this point by observing that, broadly speaking, due to the aforementioned disproportionate cultural influence, whatever culture wars are being fought in America spill out onto the rest of the West. The most obvious example here is the CIvil Rights struggle. This was basically an American phenomenon; nobody else had a Civil War, emancipation of the slaves, Jim Crow and subsequent racial mess. America did. This was America’s problem. Nonetheless, the culture war has been inflcited on everyone in a kind of proxy culture war, and this is why for instance it became impossible to discuss immigration rationally anywhere else in the Western world from the 1960s onwards. We are all subject to the American discourse on race; an example is that Europeans, with their ancient native populations, talk of being “nations of immigrants” because that is how America describes itself. And so on.

    So, ignoring the question of whether or not this is Puritanism, Marxism, or something else entirely, what do you think of that characterisation of the relation of America to the problem?

  • Paul-

    I repeat what you must already know (being an intelligent man) , without the Unites States there is no West (period), the West will fall – absolutely and completely, It will fall so totally that future generations on this planet will not even know we existed.

    I remain baffled as to why you believe this. I am mystified as to at what point in time America became somehow “the essence of the West”. It is an assertion that is hard to challenge because it is hard to understand why anyone would think it in the first place. It is one Western country. It is a colony of Europe, a relatively recent addition to Christendom.

    I find the view particularly problematic as I think an American collapse this century is quite likely. This is of course just speculation. But they look a lot like Britain did a century ago- the world superpower, policemen of the seas, fingers in every pie, and it looks equally unsustainable, and at some point quite soon they’re going to be electing governments who will “manage the decline” like we did. The problem being that I don’t think the American populace will be anywhere near as sanguine about it as the British- not least because of the cult of “Exceptionalism”- and I can well envisage the place collapsing into separatism and strife as fingers of blame are pointed. So I certainly hope “The West” can survive without the USA in its current form, because we may well have to. Whether its successor states- The People’s Republic Of New England And California, Jesusland and Flyover Country- will count as “the Essence”, I am not sure.

  • By the way, here’s somebody else from apparently the other side observing the Puritan thing-

    -and here’s Bertrand Russel in 1928(!)-

  • I forgot to thank Julie for giving the background for people such as Roger Williams – I now do so.

    If someone like Roger Williams (someone who supported the religious liberty of those who DISAGREED with him – indeed would fight to the death for the liberty of those who disagreed with him) is what you mean by a “Puritan” Ian then such an enemy of slavery is clearly a good thing (not a bad thing).

    “But I do not mean people like him” – well fair enough do not use words like “Puritan” without being careful to explain that you do not mean people who others regard as famous examples of Protestant nonconformists (for example the anti slavery campaigners of my own town of Kettering Northamptonshire).

    If you mean those (like the Boston colony people) who wised to treat sins (not aggressions against other people) as crimes – then I AGREE WITH YOU Ian, I SUPPORT YOU in opposition to such people.

    However, I do not seem them among the Founding Fathers (the creators of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights) or even among later Presidents and philosophers.

    You mentioned the corruption of American law (specifically Tort law) I point out to you again Ian that “Puritans” had nothing to do with this.

    Of the three “great” figures who corrupted the Harvard Law School only one was even a Protestant – Roscoe Pound, and I do not think he can be counted as a “Puritan”. By the way – by the 1930s R. Round was regretting how far things had gone with the “Legal Realists” destroying all idea of law as a LIMITATION on government and making law the servant of the state (as with the conception of Francis Bacon [the mentor of Thomas Hobbes] against Edward Coke back in the early 1600s – nothing is really new).

    The other two people involved (at the start) in “sociological jurisprudence”? The replacement of the traditional conception of the rule-of-law with the “Robin Hood” conception of Government coming in to “help the poor” against the rich people?

    Louis Brandeis and Felix Frankfurter – which of these men was the Puritan?

    The idea of moving law away from OBJECTIVE TRUTH (does the Constitution allow this? well let us look at the text and see) in Constitutional matters, and OBJECTIVE TRUTH in Tort Law (your own example – who do you think declared that proving negligence did not matter? do you really think this was a “Puritan” idea Ian?) and turning to endless books of (German style) statistics and “studies”(all designed to get to a statist conclusion) is from these people.

    True Louis Brandeis came to the conclusion that Franklin Roosevelt had gone much too far (as he showed in 1935 helping to strike down FDR effort to copy Mussolini via the “National Industrial Recovery Act” and “National Recovery Agency”.

    Even Felix Frankfurter that “liberal” friend of the Soviet Union (and so on) started to have doubts (with cynics sneering that his childhood Judaism was coming back in his old age – sweeping away his socialism, called “liberalism” in the United States from the 1920s onwards, even the pro Soviet ACLU was called a “liberal” organisation), I would be more charitable and say that Felix Frankfurter (like Louis Brandeis and Roscoe Pound before him) was starting to have doubts about how his belief in such things as Freedom of Speech fitted in with his general philosophy of unlimited government – it does not fit at all.

  • On the “Anglosphere” being the main THREAT to liberty in the world.

    Well now it is your turn to “baffle” me Ian.

    Did the English speaking world support Imperial Germany (with its denial of objective truth, as a PRINCIPLE, and its denial of any limits upon the state) during the First World War?

    Did the English speaking world support Revolutionary France in its efforts to conquer Europe in the wars of the 1790s and 1800s?

    Did the English speaking world support the tyranny of the “Sun King” and his efforts to crush liberty all over Europe in the late 17th and early 18th centuries?

    How about the same efforts of Philip II of Spain in the 16th century?

    “No, no, no, Paul – I mean the MODERN world”.

    So not the Nazis then?

    How about the Communists?

    The anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall is upon us – was the “Anglosphere” on the side of evil (of the moral free choice of the Marxists to side with evil when they could have chosen to do otherwise) then?

    What about the struggle (around the world) with the forces of Islam (the forces of predestination, at least in Sunni Islam, the denial of reason as an independent yardstick to judge scripture, and the desire fort unlimited conquest) – is the “Anglosphere” on the side of the forces of Islam?

    As for you claim that you do not understand how the existence of the West depends on the United States……

    Well I suggest you consult the reference books Ian – the United States is overwhelming the largest county of the West (in both population, economic size, cultural impact, military forces……).

    You have SAID THIS YOURSELF Ian – a thousand times.

    How can you now claim to be “baffled” by something you have said yourself – not once, but many times.

    Should the United States fall (and due to internal decline it may well fall – it has been in decline for very many decades) the West will fall – absolutely and completely, the we (the West in general) will fall (be crushed by our enemies in the world and in our own lands) so far that future generations may not even know that we existed.

    You know this Ian – so please stop pretending that you do not.

    Lastly I will make an urgent request.

    You say you do not understand when I say something such as (for example) Eastern Tennessee is closer to the good side of Classical Civilisation than (for example) modern Greece is.

    Well then Ian – PLEASE look at what I mean.

    Go and look up the history of the First and Second Congressional Districts of Tennessee (who represented them in the past all the way back to the Civil War – and who represents them RIGHT NOW) and look at Third Congressional District also – such places as Athens Tennessee (the “Battle of Athens” – that Julie is fond of pointing out).

    If you still do not understand – fair enough.

    Then you do not understand the philosophy of the Bill of Rights – British or American.

    To the essential first duty to fight to the death – to defend the freedom of others (not just one’s self). To be prepared to lose one’s life in order to defend the fundamental rights (under natural law) of the human person – the human moral agent.

    “What is the essence of the West?” – THAT IS IT.

  • For those who do not know what I mean by “the good side of Classical Civilisation” here is an example from Meditations of Marcus Aurelius – and YES I know he was a Roman Emperor and had all sorts of things wrong with him and his thought.

    “From my brother Severus [I learned], to love my kin, and to love truth, and to love justice; and through him I learned to know Thrasea, Helvidius, Cato, Dion, Brutus; and from him I received the idea of a polity in which there is the same law for all, a polity administered with regard to equal rights and equal freedom of speech, and the idea of a kingly government which respects most of all the freedom of the governed”.

    That (however much it was in conflict with the reality of the Roman Empire) is also the good side of Ancient Athens – see the second film “300 Birth of an Empire” – “a film based on a COMIC BOOK” – yes a film based on a comic book.When the Nazis sneered at American soldiers reading comic books they “forgot” to mention that the moral philosophy in those comic books was right and the teachings of he Nazis were wrong [evil] – even if they were presented in big academic books in leather binding. Better the comic book “Superman” than Nietzsche’s superman (or Nietzsche’s sister’s Superman). The “American Way” is only right when it is line with the universal principles of Truth and Justice (and when it is not – America itself needs to change, to find again what it has lost). The treason of such people as “Teddy” Roosevelt or Woodrow Wilson (their decent into the swamp of the “philosophy” of evil) was intellectual not physical, but it was no less deadly for that.

    Or the speech (the “Republic” speech – and remember Aristotle and Montesquieu a monarchy IF IT FOLLOWS THE FUNDEMETNAL LAW is also a Republic) of John Wayne’s character in “The Alamo” – which might have come out of the mouth (translated from the Latin) of Brutus or Cato the Younger.

    “But John Wayne was just a drunken Irish American [Protestant Irish] with bad legs from youthful American Football injuries”

    Perhaps he was – but David Crockett (the person Mr Wayne was playing() was not (well he was hard drinking and Protestant Irish-American actually), but he also believed in every word. He was the one who asked his fellow Congressmen to put their hands in their own pockets to give relief to those hit by fire, flood or earthquake not to “give” taxpayers money (which they had no Constitutional right to do) – not a stand likely to make him popular.

    “Not freedom for blacks and Indians”.

    YES – for blacks and Indians to.

  • I should have mentioned that the same time that the principles of Law were being undermined (corrupted) in the Harvard Law School (by the people I have mentioned – and others), the principles of philosophy were also being undermined (corrupted) in Harvard – by William James and others.

    I now do so.

    As for Francis Bacon, Thomas Hobbes (and so on).

    What use are they when a Despot seeks power or the Persians are the gates?

    They are of no use at all – indeed it is worse than that.

    They would seek jobs with the would-be Despot.

    And that they would open the gates for the Persian army (and then “invite them to tea”).

    These are not “The Men of Marathon” or of the Alamo, or of Athens Tennessee.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Ian, answering your question of 8 November, 2014 at 6:55 am:

    I’m afraid I don’t buy it. I just simply do not see America as the source of all the world’s, or Europe’s, or even Britain’s, problems. To me it seems clear that your and our problems have a common root, or perhaps I should say common roots; not that one of us has caught the disease from the other.

    It may be that McBurgers and rock are all the rage in Britain and around the globe, but I’m not so aware of American philosophers’ and historians’ ideas being eagerly lapped up by the French, German, Scandinavian, British, Greek masses. It seems to me that abroad, the only American philosophers of any note at all are Richard Roarty and Daniel Dennett. (I grant you that in our insular libertarian circles, people know at least who Randy Barnett is, and Milton Friedman, and with luck von Mises.) Well-known American historians? Well…maybe Howard Zinn. Otherwise I can’t think of anyone. Of course, I don’t know how much of a splash Carl Sagan made over there.

    Overall, you folks may have gotten your blue-jeans from us, but I think you got your bad ideas from the same place we got ours, which would be from Germany, France, and Marx. And you send as your ambassadors people like Piers Morgan and C. Hitchens (as he was for his first decade here, at least) (which is not to imply that P..M. and C.H. are equal intellects; I gather they are not).

    Your good ones, however, are your gift to us, your offspring.

  • This is getting a bit frustrating. I do think you’re being evasive Julia. At the risk of being facetious, I’d like you to point to which page of Das Kapital recommends an hysterical campaign against smoking.

    I think like Paul you are maybe being too intellectual. Most people can’t name any philosophers, let alone read them. That’s not how ideas spread. You might wish they did. But they don’t. They spread culturally. They are spread by media, and particularly in the current age by activists- and that is a thing in itself, the modern “activism” is basically an Anglosphere invention. I will give a specific example of this from some years ago.

    I was at my mum’s for some reason, and there was a news report about “SUVs” from an Environmentalist perspective. As it proceded, my mum asked me, “what’s an SUV?”. She had no idea. We don’t call those cars an SUV here. It’s an American term. The campaign about “SUVs” being bad for the environment had come straight across the Atlantic via activists without anyone even bothering to localise the language. This is a small example, but it is typical.

    You have ignored my observation regarding the American Civil Rights racial discourse now being hegemonic. I’ll give another example; 2nd Wave Feminism. Again, this has an American origin, specifically in New York, as a recent post here from Kate Millet’s sister described.

    Erin Pizzey, the woman who started the womens’ refuge movement, has described her excitement about the new “women’s” movement being advertised, expecting as she toddled along to her first meeting some kind of group where women could find friends, chat about their problems and so on. Instead, she (specifically) tells of finding herself being barracked by American neo-marxist activists associated with the Weather Underground and the like. Those are your “philosophers”, if you like.

    Broadly speaking, and this comes back to what Sean said in his speech, in the current American hegemony, it is America that decides what is on everybody else’s cultural agenda. I don’t know why you’re in denial about this.

    Well okay, I do, to be rude. America is exceptional. Totally awesome. It can’t be a problem itself; it must be suffering some kind of externally generated problem. Blame the Germans, blame the French, blame Karl Marx. Just don’t dare put any blame on God’s Own Country.

  • Ian if you choose not to read about the real causes of decline of liberty in the United States (works such as “Liberal Fascism” and so on) that is your choice, But “Puritanism” has a very small role – although YES, it does have a role.

    Even if one regards such things as beer and tobacco as the major issues of our time (they are not – the major dangers to liberty, to survival, in our time are the out-of-control Welfare State and the credit bubble financial system), people such as Mr Hitler did not need any American to teach them to be anti smoking.

    H. L. Mencken came out with the line “the English gave us Puritanism the Germans gave us beer!” as part of his argument for being pro German and anti English.

    And he was WRONG Ian (sincerely and honestly wrong – but still wrong) – Britain was in the right (not the wrong) in the First World War and the Second World War, those “hysterical propagandists” were telling the truth about German plans in the First World War and were telling the truth about German plans in the Second World War – and no amount of “beer” can change this.

    Mr Mencken also forgot about the GOOD side of “puritanism” (at least of some “puritans” – the voluntary kind, but also of many Anglicans and Catholics and so on also, and some atheists as well).,

    An independent standard of reason to judge the actions of THE STATE.

    Not “that whore reason” and submission to the Princes (as with Martin Luther).

    And the courage (contra that pig Thomas Hobbes) to risk (and, if need be, lose) ones life for the freedom of others – including those who do not agree with one’s own opinions.

    Seeing humans as BEINGS – self aware moral agents, who can choose to do other than we do (can work out what good is and can choose to support good and against evil – even if they pay the ultimate price for doing so).

    This good Germans (and there have been many good Germans) themselves understood – and some died in the concentration camps because they choose good over evil.

    Those who deny the existence of good and evil (as not just whims – but as a real standard to judge the actions of the state) are traitors – they spit on the memory of the sacrifices of so many.

    Just as those who deny that people can choose good over evil (that we are moral agents who can choose to do other than we do – even if this means paying the ultimate cost) are traitors.

    It is not a matter of nationality (there have been many good Germans) and it is not a matter even of religion (there have been many good atheists and many people have claimed to serve Jesus whilst working for evil).

    Should evil triumph in the United States (and it may well do so – especially as evil so often wears the mask of good) then hope does indeed fade for the rest of the West (this you know). But good and evil are not American things – they are universal things.

    As the President of France said in his reply to the obscene lies of the German Declaration of War of 1914 (a product of the perverted, false, philosophy that had captured the minds of the so many – although many good Germans stood against it) the principles of reason and justice are not French (any more than they are American) they are UNIVERAL.

    Those we honour today (as I watch the service in London – before going to our own service in Kettering) died opposing evil – not just of Imperial Germany or Nazi Germany but also Marxism and Islamism.

    They were not perfect men (there are no perfect people – we are all sinners, God knows that I am a sinner), but they made the ultimate sacrifice in the struggle against evil and their sacrifice was not meaningless, no matter what dark times are to come.


  • The audio started well, but I groaned when political correctness was bizarrely connected to a continuation of the policies of Oliver Cromwell’s Commonwealth – there is no connection at all between the two, unless it be a cultural tendency in Anglo-Saxon societies towards sanctimony and self-righteousness – and no more than that. In the old days, a knowledge of Bible meant that the difference between righteousness and self-righteousness was understood, and even looked out for. I think when you accuse people of self-righteousness today they regard it as a backhanded compliment, because you are at least “admitting” they are righteous – they don’t realize self-righteousness is the opposite of genuine righteousness.

    Puritanism was in fact in contradiction to this country’s religious tradition in its insistence on predestination and that only a few will be saved. Classical Anglicanism is a much superior tradition, and sought to deflate fanaticism among the faithful and too much interest in topics such as the second coming, and simply wove itself into the bedrock of rural England as part of our culture. Scruton’s An Elegy for England well describes how Anglicans typically didn’t really believe in an afterlife, and how congregations basically “hoped” there might be more to our existence than this life, but without really believing it. The real role of religion was nothing to do with heaven and the second coming, the rapture, the elect, predestination and all that – it was the creation of Jerusalem in England – in other words to make our existing society great – and the rest is all guff – legend and myth if you like.

    Why people who claim to be libertarian reduce themselves to mouthing state propaganda on novel lifestyles that are facilitated by state funding and leave a legacy of problems that require and justify state intervention, I can’t quite fathom. A free society is founded on a culture where people know instinctively how to deport themselves in public. I don’t say the state should attempt to monitor what goes on in bedrooms, but public decorum and a sense of duty to children in particular is a vital condition – a sine qua non – of a free society.

    All the rest is just state ideology. Oliver Cromwell could never have envisaged a society where the state encourages immorality (including by disgusting TV programmes such as Eastenders which encourage people to model their lives on examples of extreme fecklessness), with state-funded organisations hurling hysterical abuse at anyone who dissents from the “non-judgemental” viewpoint.

    There is a problem in the analysis here. It is clear to me that countless thousands have messed up their lives and been encouraged to do so – creating a large pool of people who instantly mouth state propaganda on such matters, making it hard to call for a reassertion of basic standards.

    At the very, very least, libertarians must call for an end to state funding of unmarried motherhood – or give up the name “libertarian”. Without state funding (houses, benefits, legal aid, free healthcare and education to those who live off the state and could not afford to pay for health and education were these privatised as they have no menfolk), the caravan would be in deep trouble.

    • I readily agree that Cromwell had his good points. But the Puritan Hypothesis is not about the specific content of any set of religious opinions. It is about a particular kind of bossiness that seeks inner peace by controlling others and making them unhappy.

  • Sean, in which case the Puritan theory is mistaken – as modern statists (in the United States and elsewhere) do not want to make people “unhappy” they want to make people “happy”, by “freeing them” from “big business” – which is, supposedly, conning them into buying cigarettes and junk food, and so on. The basic point of state intervention, whether it is Jeremy Bentham with his 13 Departments of State seeking to control most aspects of civil society, or President Johnson with his “Great Society” Welfare State is to make people happy. So if the intention to make people “unhappy” is the definition of a “Puritan” (which, by the way, is a rather odd definition of a Nonconformist in religion) then modern statists are not Puritans.

  • By the way – the idea that most Anglicans did not (and do not) believe in God and heaven (the “after life”- or the real life after this mess) is simply not true. If Roger Scruton really said that, he is confusing “most Anglicans” with himself.

    As for creating a “New Jerusalem” here on Earth – the old Heaven-on-Earth-by-human-efforts thing is a heresy, in fact it is the oldest heresy. In fact one of the true parts of Ian’s theory is that a certain sort of “Puritan” (strong Protestant – but certainly not all forms of strong Protestant) tried to create Heaven On Earth, the repeated collectivist actions in Massachusetts and some other colonies – and back home in Britain also. A sort of religious version of Plato’s Republic or the “New Atlantis” of Sir Francis Bacon.

    This is exactly what mainstream Christians, including Anglicans, are against. And rightly against.

    God is a real person – an individual, not a metaphor for “the people” as in the “Collective Salvation”, “Liberation Theology” that Mr Obama was taught at Holy Trinity in Chicago for 20 years. Heaven is a real place – and it will not be created by human efforts. Not by new government spending schemes and regulations – not even by voluntary efforts.

    There is only one way for most of us to get to Heaven – and it involves dying. We do our best (which is never going to be wildly good) here on Earth – and for the rest we place our trust in God.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s