I was running up the mountain the other day. A couple was walking down it. I quickly crossed over, so as not to expirate all over them. To my surprise, they thanked me profusely.
I’m healthy; they looked fit. Distancing may not have been necessary in this case. Yet, in this simple act of conscious distancing, in the epochal age of a terrifying, communicable disease—my neighbors and I had come closer than ever before. Fear gave way to fellow feeling.
Having lived in both the developed and underdeveloped world, I have always associated social distancing with civility and civilization.
Cultures that honor personal boundaries have always seemed better than cultures which don’t—more genteel, refined and respectful.
Ditto people who keep a respectful distance: They have more merit than those who get in your face.
Which is why the wish expressed by so many freedom-loving protesters to violate the personal space of others is vexing.
Which is why comments such as the following are anathema:
“Your ‘health’ does not supersede my right.”
“Give me liberty or give me COVID-19.”
“I am not required to descend into poverty for you.”
In the absence of clinical therapies or a vaccine for coronavirus, the successful return to work rests, very plainly, on the willingness of the citizenry to cover up, keep clean and keep a distance. Why would anyone wish to infringe on another’s personal space, when the stakes are clearly so high?
Insisting on unfettered freedom to come and go as one pleases, sans protection, comes at a grave cost to others—it could constitute aggression against innocent others.
By the same token, the shuttering of private property by the State is an incontrovertible violation of private property rights.
“Without property rights,” wrote Ayn Rand, “no other rights are possible. Since man has to sustain his life by his own effort, the man who has no right to the product of his effort has no means to sustain his life.”
Even more fundamental, however, is that without dominion over one’s self—self-ownership—there can be no property rights. Rights to the avails of your labor originate in the right of self-ownership. If you don’t own yourself, you cannot own anything else, or produce anything, the avails of your labor and the products of your mind included.
And if you are DEAD, DYING or INCAPACITATED—you own nothing (at least metaphysically; legally, you still own what you own).
In libertarian theory, private property rights originate in that most important of all titles: The title in one’s own body. That body, that fount of life whence all rights originate, is the legitimate object of government protection in a pandemic.
For, as I noted years ago, “Whether they are armed with bombs or bacteria, stopping weaponized individuals from harming others—intentionally or unintentionally—falls perfectly within the purview of the night-watchman state of classical-liberal theory.”
The volcanic anger is understandable. The heartbreaking calls from restive protesters to reopen the American economy come from across the country: California, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin North Carolina, Ohio, Michigan, Washington state.
Against this background, the natural rights of economically stricken individuals to reopen their businesses are righteous; they stem not from a state-created right or regulation. Rather, the right of ownership is the very extension of the right to life. In order to survive, man must—and it is in his nature to—transform the resources around him by mixing his labor with them and making them his own. Man’s labor and property are extensions of himself.
So, my countrymen are correct to protest the shuttering of their privately owned property, also their sole means of sustaining their lives.
All the same, there is another, equally compelling side to the ethics of this emergency situation. It is this:
Each and every individual is or could be, inadvertently, harboring a weapon of mass destruction. Yes, a WMD—for how many men and women have died and will still die because of the inadvertent actions of the coronavirus-carrying Index Patients, during the “seeding events”?
Each one of us could be firing off deadly virus into a defenseless population, bereft of immunity. Each one of us could become armed and dangerous, or be felled by someone who is.
In this case, individuals who willfully violate social distancing strictures can be viewed as willful aggressors against innocent others.
At once succinct and to-the-point, a reader whose online handle is “Mister Bigglesworth” summed it up: “I’m not a constitutional scholar, but you know what’s unconstitutional to me? Dying from some Oriental virus.”
If I appear to be struggling with the ethics of this emergency—it is because I am. I must. This is vexing stuff.
One thing I know, and it is that the sin of abstraction here is unforgivable—it is the propensity to settle for nothing less than an ideal version of liberty. Refusing to grapple with the political reality in which we ordinary mortals are mired is to dwell in the arid arena of pure thought.
In conversation with a colleague about the ethics of this situation, she remarked: “We live under a given political system, and we can’t just wish it away. Hence, there will be actions taken within that system that are relatively good or relatively bad. The thing we must always guard against is this:
Governments use crises to expand their power. Even when the crises are over, the expanded powers are often left in place, or certain key vestiges of these powers become a part of the institutions.
“This we must guard against.”
This piece was previously published at IlanaMercer.com on April 23, 2020.
Reality is bad enough; there is no need to explain the world using conjecture and fantasy. The facts suffice.
Government is bad enough. There is no need to explain it using conjecture and fantasy. The facts about it suffice.
In particular, imputing garden variety government evils to conspiracies is based on the following faulty premise: Government generally does what is good for us (NOT). So, whenever we think it is failing in a mission it fulfills so well (NOT), we should look beyond the facts for something more sinister (NOT).
As if the State’s natural quest for expanded power were not enough to explain the events! Why, for example, would you need to search for the “real reason” behind an unjust, unscrupulous war, unless you honestly believed government would never prosecute such a war? History belies this delusion. Even when government prosecutes a just war, it finds ways to turn it into an unjust war by prolonging it. After all, a protracted crisis demands more taxpayer funds. Cui bono? For whose benefit?
There’s no conspiracy here. The constituent elements of the bureaucratic behemoth that is government continuously work to increase their sphere of influence. Thus, grunts don’t benefit from war; the generals everybody reveres do. It is therefore but natural for the soldier’s superiors to pursue war for war’s sake. By virtue of its size, reach, and many usurpations, the U.S. government is a destructive and warring entity—no matter which of one the big-government parties is at the helm.
Clearly, conspiracy thinking is not congruent with a view of government as fundamentally antagonistic to the welfare of the individual and civil society, a position held by a good number of libertarians and conservatives.
Some conspiracy claims are more consequential than others. Those pertaining to coronavirus are an example. Let us, then, briefly discuss coronavirus and conspiracy. (Watch the YouTube corresponding to this section of the column here.)
It is my sincere hope to help those whose affinity for conspiracy theories could put them at greater risk of contracting COVID-19.
Indeed, governments—national, state, city—are engaged in a power grab that might be irreversible. Of that there is no doubt. But from the fact that the State is engaged in this power grab—it doesn’t follow that COVID-19, the disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, isn’t lethal.
In other words, keep in mind that the two propositions are not mutually exclusive. To forget this, is to abandon reason and to risk coming short because of conspiracy thinking.
To clarify: It’s piecemeal and incremental, but in this libertarian’s thinking, the State, by and large, presides over the disintegration of civil society. However, it does so reflexively, rather than as a matter of collusion and conspiracy.
Again, the State consolidates power reflexively—a little bit here; a little bit there—and often in response to a real threat, rather than intentionally. Its agents are opportunistic predators, rather than grand conspirators.
Suppose you disagree. Say you think the gargantuan American State is smart enough to coordinate a power grab, rather than do so automatically, and in response to a real threat.
In this spirit, some honestly believe that the novel coronavirus is a harmless hoax invented in the belly of the beast to consolidate power.
Suppose you act in accordance with these conspiracy convictions. You throw caution to the wind. And then you get infected.
Who’s stupid now? In other words, the State’s agents and agencies do instinctively seize power—and coronavirus is real.
Both propositions are true. And you are only as smart as your ability to integrate the two realities.
This piece was previously published at IlanaMercer.com on April 16th, 2020.
Taking its cues from the American Left, the Israeli Left is all for national and individual self-immolation. But nobody who matters in that country has been listening to the Left babble on about “racism” and “Sinophobia.”
Against the advice of its liberal think tanks—and to protect its nationals from the Wuhan virus pandemic—the Israelis had, early on, closed its doors to “more and more of eastern Asia, starting with China, continuing to Hong Kong, Macau, Singapore and Thailand, South Korea and Japan.”
China is Israel’s second-largest trading partner.
To follow were tough travel restrictions and a quarantine regimen on territories in Europe, in line with unfolding coronavirus contingencies. Israel has since extended the quarantine to all arrivals. Consequently, of the 9 million Israelis, 100 cases of COVID-19 have been recorded so far, but no deaths.
What is proving more difficult for Israel is adding “New York and the states of Washington and California to its restricted list.” Israeli public health officials recommend it, but Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu is being muscled by Vice President Mike Pence to keep his country open to those COVID-19 hot zones.
Following transmission of the coronavirus from Wuhan to Washington State, I wondered, in a mild tweet, posted with links to the Israeli policy, why Americans didn’t deserve this kind of diligence from their government.
Came the strident reply, also on Twitter: “Because, unlike Israel, the U.S. is not a postage-stamp-sized garrison state. The U.S. needs to tailor its response to the disease to its role as global economic power.”
Stalin apologist Walter Duranty summed up this Jacobin perspective perfectly. “You can’t make an omelet without breaking eggs.” Breaking a few old eggs, in an old-age home, in King County, Washington State, is what it apparently takes to make that great global omelet.
To the extent that it safeguards the well-being of its own people, the defensive measures taken by Israel comport with the role of government. “Whether they are armed with bombs or bacteria, stopping weaponized individuals from harming others—intentionally or unintentionally—falls perfectly within the purview of the night-watchman state of classical-liberal theory.”
Look to other nationalistic countries for the connection between borders closed and the containment of the COVID-19 pandemic.
As reported by CNBC, Russia had sealed its borders with China as hermetically as possible late in January. Matters are fluid, but at the time of this writing, Russia has only 34 cases of coronavirus and no deaths. The infected are said to be Russians returning from Italy.
Likewise, Mongolia closed its borders with China in late January. Only a single case has been reported there. Singapore has reacted patriotically with all its scientific and cerebral might to what was termed there the “Wuhan flu.” It is now over the worst. The great Lee Kuan Yew would be proud. “The response in the U.S. has essentially been the opposite,” laments an envious geneticist writing at the Technology Review.
For open-border offenders to talk-up open borders during a pandemic is scandalous—as scandalous as it would have been for Harvey Weinstein to be talking up rough sex during his sentencing for sexual assault.
The open-border fetish is turning into a symbol of death, not freedom. For the correlation between borderless countries and infection rates seems unmistakable—certainly when one looks at Italy and the EU nexus of nuts to which it belongs. For Brussels, the undisturbed free flow of people across European borders is sacrosanct.
The first U.S. “Proclamation on Suspension of Entry, as Immigrants and Nonimmigrants, of Persons who Pose a Risk of Transmitting 2019 Novel Coronavirus” was signed into law on January 30. It went into effect only on February 2.
Reports from our nation’s airports, however, told of chaotic attempts to reroute passengers to 11 designated U.S. airports, for the purpose of screening that was as “enhanced” as temperature checks and a reliance on the “honest” say-so of the arrivals.
At the time, no restrictions had been placed by the United States on arrivals from other COVID-19 hot zones. Passenger screening from source countries such as Italy was slack, to put it mildly.
The government’s latest travel ban on Europe is welcome. Via the National Pulse:
“[S]ubject to conditions on the ground . . . travel from Europe to the United States will be suspended for 30 days. These restrictions will not apply to the United Kingdom.”
Alas, while it is true that the UK “is not part of the EU’s open-borders zone,” it has however—and as reports on terra firma suggest—been allowing any and all to enter from Europe practically unchecked.
Put it this way: an officer “briefly pointing a thermometer gun at your forehead or watching as you go by for signs of a cough or difficulty breathing” does little to stop the virus from spreading. In fact, as a correspondent for Science magazine avers, “It’s exceedingly rare for screeners to detect infected passengers.”
This article was previously published at IlanaMercer.com on March 13, 2020.
On November 29, 2019, a man now called the London Bridge terrorist slaughtered British student Jack Merritt.
While the cutthroat has been named for a famous London landmark; his victim has been all but forgotten.
The killer’s family was quick to condemn the London Bridge terrorist’s actions.
The family of his victim—not so much.
David Merritt, the late lad’s dad, got busy condemning those who wish to condemn that killer and his ilk to life in a cell.
By December 2, Merritt the elder was already penning op-eds about clemency and leniency for criminals like the man who murdered his son.
Such minute-made forgiveness would have been Jack’s wish, asserted Merritt senior rather presumptuously—for how can the living speak for the dead?
David Merritt, then, proceeded to minimize what was murder with malice aforethought, by dismissing what his son’s killer did as a mere “tragic incident.”
Just how obscene is the progressive mindset can be gleaned from what Mr. Merritt wrote:
If Jack could comment on his death – and the tragic incident on Friday 29 November – he would be livid. We would see him ticking it over in his mind before a word was uttered between us. Jack would understand the political timing with visceral clarity.
He would be seething at his death, and his life, being used to perpetuate an agenda of hate that he gave his everything fighting against. … What Jack would want from this is for all of us to walk through the door he has booted down, in his black Doc Martens.
That door opens up a world where we do not lock up and throw away the key. Where we do not give indeterminate sentences … Where we do not slash prison budgets, and where we focus on rehabilitation not revenge.” [Emphasis added.]
Anti-punishment ideologues like Merritt, incorrectly and condescendingly conflate punishment with “hate” and vengeance, and justice with restitution and “rehabilitation.”
They typically treat us to facile flimflam such as that the desire for vengeance cannot become the foundation of jurisprudence. By this verbal manipulation, these ideologues disingenuously advance a definition of justice that precludes incarceration and instead equates that object with restitution and rehabilitation alone.
Compared to David Merritt’s woke sentiments, the family of the London-Bridge Killer was mundane in its proper and civilized expiation:
“We are saddened and shocked by what Usman has done,” said the family. “We totally condemn his actions and we wish to express our condolences to the families of the victims that have died and wish a speedy recovery to all of the injured.”
But there was apparently no need to apologize, Mr. and Mrs. Khan. Speaking for his dead son, David Merritt appears to have already made peace with Jack’s ripper.
In their extreme versions, anti-punishment ideologues like David Merritt often plump for complete penal abolition.
Driven by parental and pedagogic progressivism, Jack, of blessed memory, had “devoted his energy to the purpose of a “pioneering program” called “Learning Together,” which aims “to bring students from university and prisons together to share their unique perspectives on justice.”
The imperative to offer up young lives to this or the other manifestation of Moloch is a progressive impulse—an obscene one, at that.
If young Merritt’s murder proves anything it is that Cambridge University’s social-justice outreach, “Learning Together,” is a costly indulgence, as Jack was murdered on the job.
More generally, the movement for restorative justice holds that problems plaguing the criminal justice system are reason enough to abolish it. Oddly, the movement’s position is starkly utilitarian, and bereft of principle:
Incarceration, assert proponents of “no-fault” forgiveness, doesn’t reduce rates of re-offense and doesn’t bring back the dead. Ergo, abolish it we must and heal the criminal in the community. After all, responsibility for individual evil actions lies really with “society.” Justice, say the activists, is therefore best sought by a redistribution of wealth and resources.
But, contrary to such pinko propaganda, our prisons aren’t loaded with choir boys.
Usman Khan was no victim of the system (although he claimed to have been fat-shamed or bullied for nurturing a prison paunch. Boo hoo). Rather, it was Jack Merritt who was the victim of a system that had automatically released a man with murder on his mind on a kind of meritless-reprieve scheme, and despite the man’s vow to do violence.
When just a teen, the killer plotted to attack the London Stock Exchange. He, then, fooled those around him by feigning remorse and a desire to reintegrate into British society.
From the dizzying heights of Platonic theorizing, libertarian anti-incarceration theorists typically point out quite correctly that crimes are committed against individuals and not against the amorphous entity called “society.” Solutions, they say, should, therefore, focus on making criminals pay restitution to their victims.
Here on terra firma, the prosaic fact is, however, that when more dangerous offenders are incarcerated, fewer innocent individuals suffer.
When fewer violent criminals are apprehended, more innocent individuals are
If innocent individuals are incarcerated—a horrible thing against which jurist William Blackstone railed, in 1769, saying “the law holds that it is better that 10 guilty persons escape, than that 1 innocent person be convicted”—they (and not “society”) are harmed.
Although I would not argue against compelling criminals to do penance shaped by their victims, some libertarian anarchists want to see punishment replaced by a system of financial restitution.
But in cases (and there are many) where criminals can’t remotely repay victims for the harm done (especially in violent crimes), this means the consequences to the criminal won’t be remotely proportionate. In effect, by rejecting proportionate punishment for what is usually disproportionately paltry “restitution,” libertarian abolitionists are endorsing systematic injustice.
At least among libertarians, the cause du jour should not be to reduce the involvement of the state at any costs, if it means freeing guilty offenders. Rather, it should be to reduce prison population by freeing innocent people whose activities, lawful by natural-law standards, the state has criminalized.
Whether punishment makes people feel good, whether it reforms the criminal or safeguards the public is immaterial, although I would argue that a society with a moral code is safer in the long run than one without it.
Punishment is a public declaration of moral standards. It is an extension of natural law. Descend into the anti-incarceration activist’s amoral abyss, and you abolish the very fabric of our ethical tradition.
Fortunately, David Merritt’s meritless advocacy for a man who swore to murder again is mute. The killer was dispatched, his descent into hell hastened by the city of London’s police force.
This article was previously published at IlanaMercer.com on January 16, 2020.
America is “a society that is and always has been multiethnic and polyglot,” burbled David Frum, in a 2016 exposition. It’s a refrain repeated by centrists like Frum and French (also David), by all lefties and by well-trained faux rightists.
Such dissembling about America having always been multicultural are no more than post hoc justifications for turning the country into a veritable Tower of Babel.
Early America’s colonies were founded by Englishmen in periwigs, speaking different English dialects. They were joined by Irish, Scottish, French, Dutch, German and Swedish Christians, who quickly adopted English as lingua franca.
Not even the woke Wikipedia denies that, “Nearly all colonies and, later, states in the United States, were settled by migration from” one colony to another, with “foreign immigration” generally playing “a minor role after the first initial settlements.”
In other words, population growth was organic, a result of the settlers themselves multiplying and being fruitful, not of a flood of immigrants.
This so-called “multiethnic” dispensation saw early Americans publicly debate and come to a broad agreement on some highly complex, abstract matters of political philosophy, an impossibility today. The colonial community had to be pretty tight to arrive at the Articles of Confederation, followed by the Constitution.
Try as he might, not even the sainted Barack Obama got away with claiming, as he did, that, “Islam had been woven into the fabric of our country since its founding.”
Beyond their heavy involvement in the slave trade and in the Barbary wars—and contrary to Obama’s modern myth-making—Muslims were most certainly not enmeshed in America from its inception.
Moreover, and almost to a man, the learned Founding Father, as chronicled by Laura Rubenfeld of PJ Media, held a dismal view of Islam and its vampiric prophet.
It gives me great pleasure to break it to my anti-Semitic readers and to Ilhan Omar, the representative from Mogadishu in Minnesota: Jews were around. Early American Jews were of, mostly, Sephardi origins, having hailed from Spain and Portugal. That Jewry has always been more refined and reactionary than their radical, East-European brethren, who arrived much later.
And so we find Jews fighting or financing the War of Independence. Francis Salvador and Haym Solomon come to mind. “The highest ranking Jewish officer of the Colonial forces was Colonel Mordecai Sheftall.” Why, Jews even produced proud Confederate soldiers, the likes of Col. Abraham Charles Myers.
It was to the peaceful Jews of America that George Washington saw fit to promise peace and goodwill in a 1790 address to a synagogue congregation in Newport, Rhode Island.
Descendants of the original inhabitants of the United States of America are certainly not up to dealing with the political aggression brought to the country’s politics by recent immigrants. Come to speak of it, neither are the First Nations, the American Indians, who’re also politically more passive, when compared to the barbarians who’ve joined the Empire, since 1965.
To tether the character of Rep. Ilhan Omar to America’s immigration preferences is perfectly proper. Likewise Rashida Tlaib. The representative from Michigan is a second-generation Palestinian-American, and is every bit as tribal, politically aggressive and reliably leftist as Omar.
By virtue of its main source countries, America’s mass immigration policy privileges individuals like Omar: angry, anti-white, and highly receptive to theories that blacken the West and porcelainize the undeveloped world (a pedagogic poison that is, by the way, hothoused in the U.S.—K to 12 and beyond).
Muslim power in the U.S., we are assured, is negligible. Demographers peg the number of Muslims in America at 3.5 million, a mere 1 percent of the population. Nobody buys that—all the more so, given that “the Census Bureau has not asked questions about religion since the 1950s. “Some say the number is closer to 5 million and rising,” surmises the Economist.
The more politically aggressive the new arrivals, the more demographers stick by their “puny numbers” consolation.
Kamala Harris’ mother migrated to California from Chennai, in southern India. But the senator “rarely mentions the Indian side of her family while campaigning.” (I wonder why?)
How long before Harris tells her unschooled voters that Indian-Americans were “woven into the fabric of our country since its founding”?
The truth is that Indian-Americans have “arrived in America over the past two decades.” They’re a new addition to the country’s state-planned, multicultural mosaic. But, like Muslims, they are highly aggressive politically and reliably leftist.
“… Capitol Hill, for example, is crammed with staff and interns of Indian-American heritage. They also appear to be ‘over-represented’ in academia, the media and other influential posts,” notes the Economist, a left-liberal news magazine.
Again, we are assured that “only 1 million voters of Indian descent are politically active.”
Accordingly, the Economist even attempts to finesse the vile practice Indian arrivals have of cultivating their own, Indian-only “informal networks.” As those in the corporate world know all-too-well, Indian-Americans wrestle jobs for one another and for their kin.
Once ensconced in a position of power, individuals of South Asian descent tend to work assiduously to fire pale faces and hire others of their own persuasion.
Anglo-Americans, on the other hand, hire by talent, not by tribe. Their fate in multicultural America is to be dispossessed by the politically savvy, ruthlessly racist Other.
For that is the reality of multiculturalism in the West. It means conferring political privileges on many an individual whose illiberal practices and proclivities run counter to, even undermine, the American political tradition.
This article previously appeared on IlanaMercer.com on Nov. 7, 2019.
From the riffs of outrage coming from the Democrats and their demos over “our democracy” betrayed, infiltrated even destroyed—you’d never know that a rich vein of thinking in opposition to democracy runs through Western intellectual thought, and that those familiar with it would be tempted to say “good riddance.”
Voicing opposition to democracy is just not done in politically polite circles, conservative and liberal alike.
For this reason, the Mises Institute’s Circle in Seattle, an annual gathering, represented a break from the pack.
The Mises Institute is the foremost think tank working to advance free-market economics from the perspective of the Austrian School of Economics. It is devoted to peace, prosperity, and private property, implicit in which is the demotion of raw democracy, the state, and its welfare-warfare machine.
This year, amid presentations that explained “Why American Democracy Fails,” it fell to me to speak to “How Democracy Made Us Dumb.” (Oh yes! Reality on the ground was not candy-coated.)
Some of the wide-ranging observations I made about the dumbing down inherent in democracy were drawn from the Founding Fathers and the ancients.
A tenet of the American democracy is to deify youth and diminish adults. To counter that, I’ll start with the ancients.
The Athenian philosophers disdained democracy. Deeply so. They held that democracy “distrusts ability and has a reverence for numbers over knowledge.” (Will Durant, “The Story of Philosophy,” New York, New York, 1961, p. 10.)
Certainly, among the ancients who mattered, there was a keen contempt for “a mob-led, passion-ridden democracy.” The complaint among Athenians who occupied themselves with thinking and debating was that “there would be chaos where there is no thought,” and that “it was a base superstition that numbers give wisdom. On the contrary, it is universally seen that men in crowds are more foolish, violent and cruel than men separate and alone.” (p. 11)
Underground already then, because so subversive—anti-democratic thinking was the aristocratic gospel in Athens. Socrates (born in 470 B.C.) was the intellectual leader against democracy and for the even-then hated aristocratic philosophy. Socrates’ acolytes, young and brilliant, questioned the “specious replacement of the old virtues by unsocial intelligence.”
The proof of the foolish, violent and cruel nature of the crowds is that the crowds, not the judges, insisted on making Socrates the first martyr of philosophy. He drank the poison at the behest of the people.
No wonder Plato, Socrates’ most gifted student, harbored such scorn for democracy and hatred for the mob—so extreme that it led this controversial genius to resolve that democracy must be destroyed, to be replaced by his planned society; “the rule of the wisest and the best, who would have to be discovered and enabled.”
Plato’s “Republic,” seconds the Economist, “is haunted by the fear that democracies eventually degenerate into tyrannies” (June 22, 2019). To libertarians, Plato of the planned society was wrong. However, the fear reverberating throughout his “Republic” is righteous.
A democratic utopia of freedom cannot come about because of the nature of man, thought Plato. Men “soon tire of what they have, pine for what they have not, and seldom desire anything unless it belongs to others. The result is the encroachment of one group upon the territory of another.” (“The Story of Philosophy,” p. 19.)
Plato agreed, that “the diversity of democracy’s characters … make it look very attractive.” However, “these citizens are so consumed by pleasure-seeking that they beggar the economy”; so hostile to authority that they ignore the advice of sages, and so solipsistic and libertine that they lose any common purpose.
Most agreeable to libertarian thinking was Aristotle, who ventured that democracy is based on a false assumption of equality. It arises out of the notion that “those who are equal in one respect (under the law) are equal in all respects. Because men are equally free, they claim to be absolutely equal.” (P. 70)
Tocqueville, too, was not sold on the new American democracy. He conducted “his extensive investigation into American life, and was prepared to pronounce with authority [about what he termed the new democracy].” (Russell Kirk, “The Conservative Mind,” Washington D.C., 1985, 205-224)
The American elite, Tocqueville observed, does not form an aristocracy that cherishes individuality, but a bureaucratic elite which exacts rigid conformity, a monotonous equality, shared by the managers of society.” (p. 218) Remarking on “the standardization of character in America,” Tocqueville described it as “a sort of family likeness” that makes for monotony. (p. 210)
What menaces democratic society … a tyranny of mediocrity, a standardization of mind and spirit and condition … The mass of people will not rest until the state is reorganized to furnish them with material gratification.”
“Pure democracy makes libertarian democracy impossible,” posited Tocqueville. (p. 213) “In America, the majority raises formidable barriers around the liberty of opinion; within certain barriers, an author may write what he pleases, but woe to him if he goes beyond them … his political career is then over, since he has offended the only authority able to defend it. … Before making public his opinions, he thought he had sympathizers, now it seems to him he has none any more, since he revealed himself to everyone; then those who blame him criticize loudly, and those who think as he does keep quiet and move away without courage. He yields at length, overcome by the daily effort, which he has to make, and subsides into silence, as if he felt remorse for having spoken the truth.” (p. 218)
Consider that Tocqueville was writing at a time so much smarter than our own.
Tocqueville in the 19th century, and Solzhenitsyn in the 20th, noted that conformity of thought is powerfully prevalent among Americans.
This column, now in its 20th year, can attest that writing in the Age of the Idiot is about striking the right balance of banality and mediocrity, both in style and thought, which invariably entails echoing one of two party lines and positions, poorly.
Let us not forget Friendrich Nietzsche (admired by H. L. Mencken, whose genius would have remained unrecognized had he been plying his craft in 2019).
Born 39 years after Tocqueville, Nietzsche saw nothing good in democracy. “It means the worship of mediocrity, and the hatred of excellence. … What is hated by the people, as a wolf by the dogs, is the free spirit, the enemy of all fetters, the not-adorer, the man who is not a regular party-member. … How can a nation become great when its greatest men lie unused, discouraged, perhaps unknown … Such a society loses character; imitation is horizontal instead of vertical—not the superior man but the majority man becomes the ideal and the model; everybody comes to resemble everybody else; even the sexes approximate—the men become women and the women become men.” (“The Story of Philosophy,” p. 324.)
For their part, America’s founders had attempted to forestall raw democracy by devising a republic.
In his magisterial “Introduction to the Constitutional Principles of American Government,” constitutional scholar James McClellan noted that universal suffrage and mass democracy were alien to the Founders: “They believed that a democracy would tend toward mediocrity and tyranny of the majority.” Writing about the first state constitutions (penned between 1776-1783), McClellan attests that, “A complete democracy on a wide scale was widely regarded throughout the colonies as a threat to law and order.”
Why, Pennsylvania became the laughingstock in the colonies when it “abolished all property qualifications for voting and holding office. This confirmed the suspicions of many colonial leaders that an unrestrained democracy could drive good men out of public office and turn the affairs of state over to pettifoggers, bunglers, and demagogues.” A conga-line of those you witnessed at the CNN/New York Times Democratic debate, the other day.
“The Founders wanted representation of brains, not bodies,” observed McClellan, noting that, at least “for a number of years, the best minds in the country dominated American politics.” No more.
This article was previously published at IlanaMercer.com on Oct. 17, 2019.
Adroitly, President Trump has optimized outcomes for the American Worker. His is a labor market like no other.
Long overdue in the U.S., a labor market is one in which firms compete for workers, rather than workers competing for jobs.
“For the first time since data began to be collected in 2000, there are more job openings than there are unemployed workers.” By the Economist’s telling (July 12, 2018), “Fully 5.8 million more Americans are in work than in December of 2015.”
Best of all, workers are happier than they’ve been for a long time.
Not so business. For American business, it’s never enough.
Big or small, business is focused on elephantine-like expansion.
Big and small, business is nattering about labor shortages: “Ninety percent of small businesses which are hiring or trying to hire workers report that there are few or no qualified applicants, according to the National Federation of Independent Business.”
With blaring headlines, the megaphones in the financial press are amplifying a message of dissatisfaction:
“The shortage is reaching a ‘critical point’ … A lack of applicants for blue-collar jobs such as trucking and construction has received particular scrutiny, as have states like Iowa where the unemployment rate is especially low (it is just 2.7 percent in the Hawkeye state).”
August 31 saw President Trump sign an executive order meant to further boost small businesses. These will be permitted “to band together to offer 401(k)s.”
Again, nice, but not enough. It never is. A businessman present piped up about “a very tight labor market … causing us a little bit of a problem.”
Contrast this gimme-more-forever-more attitude, with the patriotic perspective of your average Trump supporter: “I’m willing to take my lumps for the good of the country,” a farmer told broadcaster Laura Ingraham. “The Scottish in me says to the death.”
Look, a labor market allows wages to rise and productivity to grow, for unprofitable firms will soon fold when they find they can’t pay enough to attract workers. Scarce resources—labor and capital—are then “put to better use.”
More crucially, wage gains accrue “to the poorest workers.” As the neoliberal, Trump-hating Economist notes, “Full-time employees at the 10th percentile of the income distribution are earning almost 4 percent more than a year ago.”
Beware; the good times may be short-lived. Trump’s response was Pavlovian. He promised the bitching businessman to “start looking at, very seriously, merit-based immigration. We have to do it, because we need people.” Read: We don’t have enough fabulous people among a labor force 160-million strong.
This is the conditioned response corporate America has come to expect from Power. Business wants the world as its labor market, because? Fill in the blanks, dear reader.
For its part, government cares a great deal about outsized sectional interests and GDP (gross domestic product) numbers, as churned out by number-crunchers.
But, surely prosperity is about per capita growth as well, and—dare I say? —the wealth and health of local communities?
We know that multinationals—stateless corporations; “global beasts with vast balance-sheets”—are preoccupied with increasing value for shareholders. However, that and training American talent are not necessarily mutually exclusive.
What’s so wrong with making fellow Americans part of the success story? This may slow economic growth, but may increase its sustainability; make it the kind of growth around which authentic, organic communities can coalesce.
And what’s wrong with doing well enough with the labor available in the country? Or, with a view to training American talent? Or, with a mind to paying more for local labor?
As it stands, business is permitted to petition The State to import the world at a price heavily subsidized by disenfranchised American taxpayers.
By extension, the attitude of business toward economic growth is rooted not in healthy, community-based practices (stateside and abroad), but in some aberrant economic gigantism; in an economic elephantiasis undergirded by greed.
Fair enough: Small business wants to be big when it grows up. But let us not confuse the metastatic multinational, motivated by mammon alone, with a business whose growth is sustained by communities, as opposed to colonies of imported labor.
This piece was originally published at IlanaMercer.com on September 20, 2018.
A CNN profiler was speaking about the El Paso shooting, on August 6, in which 22 people were murdered by an angry white man.
She blamed the killer’s sense of white privilege. Mass murder carried out by white, young men, the “analyst” was saying, occurs because these young men cannot adjust to a changing society. They cling to the way things were, when the country was predominantly white.
In other words, the oppressor in these young white men wants to continue to oppress.
When whites commit unspeakable acts of violence, it is said to only ever come from a place of power and privilege.
When browns and blacks commit unspeakable acts of violence, it only ever comes from a place of powerlessness and deprivation.
With distressing regularity, we’re lectured that black or brown evil is a consequence of systemic oppression; white evil a result of frustration over having to relinquish the systemic role of oppressor.
For heaven’s sake: Let’s not be insensible to contradictions. Let us apply the same method, irrespective of the perp’s skin color, in uncovering the causation of crime.
It goes without saying that mass shooters all are evil, not ill. No good can come of medicalizing bad behavior. Mass shootings are “a moral-health, not mental-health, problem.”
You can’t have a color-coded theory of causation; one for whites; another for blacks and browns.
Ditto for suicide. When a white man offs himself, it’s not because he’s no longer The Boss.
Like the profiler just mentioned, other social scientists implicate a “decline in income and status” in white suicide. It’s discounted and mocked, but, however you slice it, white male misery in America is real.
Better than most media, The Economist’s writers are still no angels. They, too, dance like so many angels on the head of a pin, so as to downplay the effects of systemic hostility toward the white men of America.
The following is from a spread on the decrease of “depression among Americans reaching middle age, hitting poorly educated white men” the worst:
… thoughts of suicide were slightly higher on average amongst less-educated whites than other groups.
The same writers cleverly attempt to diminish the dire situation of white men in America by implying that these “poorly educated” white ingrates are, nevertheless, still “better off than women and minorities”—even as the august magazine runs a parallel piece (rightly) celebrating the closing of the “chasm in life-expectancy that once existed [between blacks and whites].”
There go those contradictions again.
Then of course, there are the solutions of shallow economic reductionism: Increase the minimum wage. Provide more generous earned income tax credits.
Another such report concedes that … whites are dying of despair. To be precise, the most suicidal populations worldwide are American whites and Amerindians.
We’re besting China! Suicide rates are declining everywhere in the world except in America, where it is 12.8 per 100,000, “well above China’s current rate of seven.”
And, in particular, among white Americans and native Americans.
“There are parallels between the rise in suicide in post-Soviet Russia and the ‘deaths of despair’ in America, identified by Anne Case and Sir Angus Deaton, economists at Princeton University,” observes The Economist.
“Suicide rates among white Americans are higher, and have risen faster since 2000, than among any other group except native Americans. … Rates among people in rural areas are higher, and have been increasing faster, than those among people in towns and cities.”
The Economist is slightly more candid than the likes of the neoconservative and lite libertarian coterie ensconced in D.C. To them, alienation brought about by mass immigration is a look-away issue.
From a tony event, far from the madding working-class, Tim Carney, a Washington Examiner correspondent, recently tweeted a partial explanation for his poor countrymen’s plight:
“The working class has lost access to the strong institutions of civil society that are the infrastructure of the good life. That’s my thesis,” puffed Carney smugly, “to explain immobility, retreat from marriage, and Trump.”
Yes, but what—and who—caused the white working class to exsanguinate socially and economically?
The answer to that lies in state-orchestrated, inorganic, top-down, institutionalized, undemocratic disenfranchisement. For what is mass, Third-World immigration, if not all of the above?
For working-class misery, neoconservatives and lite libertarians, economic reductionist all, will continue to blame everything but mass immigration, state-enforced multiculturalism, diversity (for thee but not for me), loss of community and sense of belonging.
Anything but the truth.
This piece was previously published on IlanaMercer.com on August 15th, 2019.
How do you know you don’t have a country?
Every single passive, non-aggressive act you take to repel people crossing your borders is considered de facto illegal, or inhumane, or in violation of U.S. or international law, or in contraventions of some hidden clause in the U.S. Constitution.
So say the experts and their newly minted jurisprudence.
You may tell a toddler, “You can’t go there.” But you may not tell an illegal trespasser, “Hey, turn back. You can’t come into the U.S. at whim.”
Please understand that not giving someone something they demand or desire is a negative act. Or, more accurately, an inaction.
You are not actively doing anything to harm that person by denying them something.
Unless, of course, what you are denying them is their right to their life, their right to their liberty, their right to their property. Those are the only things you may not deny to innocent others. These interlopers do not have a right to, or a lien on, your liberty and property.
But if you cannot say to millions of people streaming across your border, into your turf, “You can’t go there.” Then it’s simple:
We don’t have a country.
Oh, sure, we have a territory. America is a market place for goods and services. A mighty one at that. It’s a market place to which millions arrive each year to make a living and engage in acts of acquisitiveness.
America is a territory for trade. But is it a nation? Other than commerce and consumption, what is the glue that binds us together?
For to be a nation, citizens must, at the very least, be allowed to say to millions of strangers, “You can’t cross that threshold to enter my house.
Individual citizens elect representatives so that they may speak on behalf of each one of us and say to strangers we have not vetted, “You can’t cross that threshold into the communities, institutions, and homes of the citizens we swore to protect.”
Individual citizens elect representatives so that these representatives can, collectively, protect their property, including their person, from harm.
According to the “night watchman state of classical liberal theory,” the protection of the integrity of property and person is the sole role of representatives. If you don’t get that small thing from the leaches you elect; you don’t have representation.
Moreover, acts considered illegal and immoral when enacted by one individual against another’s person and property are still illegal and immoral when perpetrated by the many.
To wit, one hungry person may not break into another’s home in search of sustenance. By logical extension, millions of desperadoes cannot invade territories sustained by millions of others in search of their heart’s desire.
What each and every sane American is saying (even liberals), through his representatives, is this: “You can’t enter my home, unless I personally invite you to.”
And if your country and by extension your communities and homes are de facto open to everyone—we don’t have a country.
This piece was previously published at IlanaMercer.com on July 19th, 2019.
The Declaration of Independence—whose proclamation, on July 4, 1776, we celebrate—has been mocked out of meaning.
To be fair to the liberal Establishment, ordinary Americans are not entirely blameless. For most, Independence Day means firecrackers and cookouts. The Declaration doesn’t feature. In fact, contemporary Americans are less likely to read it now that it is easily available on the Internet, than when it relied on horseback riders for its distribution.
Back in 1776, gallopers carried the Declaration through the country. Printer John Dunlap had worked “through the night” to set the full text on “a handsome folio sheet,” recounts historian David Hackett Fischer in Liberty And Freedom. And President (of the Continental Congress) John Hancock urged that the “people be universally informed.”
Thomas Jefferson, the author of the Declaration, called it “an expression of the American Mind.” An examination of Jefferson‘s constitutional thought makes plain that he would no longer consider the mind of the collective mentality of the D.C. establishment, “American” in any meaningful way. For the Jeffersonian mind was that of an avowed Whig—an American Whig whose roots were in the English Whig political philosophy of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
By “all men are created equal,” Jefferson, who also wrote in praise of a “Natural Aristocracy,” did not imply that all men were similarly endowed. Or that they were entitled to healthcare, education, amnesty, and a decent wage, à la Obama.
Rather, Jefferson was affirming the natural right of “all men” to be secure in their enjoyment of their “life, liberty and possessions.”
This is the very philosophy Hillary Clinton explicitly disavowed during one of the mindless presidential debates of 2007. Asked by a YouTubester to define “liberal,” Hillary revealed she knew full-well that the word originally denoted the classical liberalism of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. But she then settled on “progressive” as the appropriate label for her Fabian socialist plank.
Contra Clinton, as David N. Mayer explains in The Constitutional Thought of Thomas Jefferson, colonial Americans were steeped in the writings of English Whigs—John Locke, Algernon Sidney, Paul Rapin, Thomas Gordon and others. The essence of this “pattern of ideas and attitudes,” almost completely lost today, was a view of government as an inherent threat to liberty and the necessity for eternal vigilance.
Jefferson, in particular, was adamant about the imperative “to be watchful of those in power,” a watchfulness another Whig philosopher explained thus: “Considering what sort of Creature Man is, it is scarce possible to put him under too many Restraints, when he is possessed of great Power.”
“As Jefferson saw it,” expounds Mayer, “the Whig, zealously guarding liberty, was suspicious of the use of government power,” and assumed “not only that government power was inherently dangerous to individual liberty but also that, as Jefferson put it, ‘the natural progress of things is for liberty to yield and government to gain ground.’”
For this reason, the philosophy of government that Jefferson articulated in the Declaration radically shifted sovereignty from parliament to the people.
But Jefferson‘s muse for the “American Mind” is even older.
The Whig tradition is undeniably Anglo-Saxon. Our founding fathers’ political philosophy originated with their Saxon forefathers, and the ancient rights guaranteed by the Saxon constitution. With the Declaration, Jefferson told Henry Lee in 1825, he was also protesting England‘s violation of her own ancient tradition of natural rights. As Jefferson saw it, the Colonies were upholding a tradition the Crown had abrogated.
Philosophical purist that he was, moreover, Jefferson considered the Norman Conquest to have tainted this English tradition with the taint of feudalism. “To the Whig historian,” writes Mayer, “the whole of English constitutional history since the Conquest was the story of a perpetual claim kept up by the English nation for a restoration of Saxon laws and the ancient rights guaranteed by those laws.”
If Jefferson begrudged the malign influence of the Normans on the natural law he cherished, imagine how he’d view our contemporary cultural conquistadors from the South, whose customs preclude natural rights and natural reason!
Naturally, Jefferson never entertained the folly that he was of immigrant stock. He considered the English settlers of America courageous conquerors, much like his Saxon forebears, to whom he compared them. To Jefferson, early Americans were the contemporary carriers of the Anglo-Saxon project.
The settlers spilt their own blood “in acquiring lands for their settlement,” he wrote with pride in A Summary View of the Rights of British America. “For themselves they fought, for themselves they conquered, and for themselves alone they have right to hold.” Thus they were “entitled to govern those lands and themselves.”
For the edification of libertarians prone to vulgar individualism, the Declaration of Independence is at once a statement of individual and national sovereignty.
And, notwithstanding the claims of the multicultural noise machine, the Declaration was as mono-cultural as its author.
Let us, then, toast Thomas Jefferson—and the Anglo-Saxon tradition that sired and inspired him.
This piece was previously published on WND on July 4, 2019.
Ilana Mercer has been writing a weekly, paleolibertarian column since 1999. She is the author of “Into the Cannibal’s Pot: Lessons for America From Post-Apartheid South Africa”(2011) & “The Trump Revolution: The Donald’s Creative Destruction Deconstructed” (June, 2016). She’s on Twitter, Facebook, Gab & YouTube