The Left Wing Embrace of Violence

“If they even TRY to replace RBG we burn the entire fucking thing down”. 

Reza Aslan.

For those lucky enough not to know who Reza Aslan is, he is a Professor of creative writing at the University of California, Riverside; an author of 4 books on religion including No God but God, a member of the American Academy of Religion and a member of the National Iranian American Council. 

Wikipedia lists his citizenship as Iranian-American despite the fact that there is no such category. Furthermore Iran does not permit dual citizenship at all, and the US. does not recognize dual citizenship of Iran and the United States. Ironically, the scholar who promises to “burn the entire fucking thing down” is the author of Beyond Fundamentalism: Confronting Religious Extremism in the Age of Globalization

Perhaps Professor Aslan should consult his own book before going on another Twitter rant.

In his review of the book, John Meacham writes “It is Aslan’s great gift to see things clearly, and to say them clearly, and in this important new work he offers us a way forward. He is prescriptive and passionate, and his book will make you think.” The LA Times wrote “Aslan is not only a perspicuous, thoughtful interpreter of the Muslim world but also a subtle psychologist of the call to jihad.”

The Washington Post writes that Aslan’s book “Offers a very persuasive argument for the best way to counter jihadism.”According to New Yorker, his book represents “[A] thoughtful analysis of America’s War on Terror.”

Well. Aslan is clear, but I would hardly characterize his outburst (on Twitter of course) as subtle or thoughtful. Unfortunately, remarks like Professor Aslan’s are not all that unusual these days. The turn to violence has become increasingly common as small minded “activists” have foregone debate in favor of intimidating and silencing those with whom they disagree, a phenomenon increasingly prevalent on the nation’s campuses. 

While this is being glossed over, progressive media cheerleaders have spotted intimidation by Trump supporters in Fairfax Virginia. The New York Times reports that supporters of President Trump showed up at the Fairfax County voting center, waved flags and signs and chanted 4 more years. The Times noted that election officials said that the group stayed 100 feet from the building’s entrance and were not directly blocking access to the building, contrary to social media posts. 

Nevertheless, Democrats and their cheerleaders in the press made the case that Trump supporters were using tactics of disruption and intimidation. At this point it is worth examining the photo that the Times ran to see the alleged voter intimidation in action.  

Photo Credit: Kenny Holston for the New York Times

Here is a photo of six—count ‘em—six middle aged people, two of them women. Four are holding banners, one has his hands in his pockets and one has his arms folded across his chest. They are standing at a reasonable distance from the voters on line, who are busy ignoring them as they wait to vote. This is hardly a picture of what what any reasonable person would call intimidation. 

But the riots that have engulfed Seattle, Portland and other cities are routinely characterized as “mostly peaceful”. All in the service of the narrative. And so it is hardly a wonder why so many media outlets have lost so much credibility.

JFB

Truthful Lies

Sometimes lies tell the truth, however inadvertently. 

Ever since May when George Floyd was killed while in police custody there have been waves of protest in America’s cities, often spilling into violence. The violence has not been random and sporadic. It has typically been orchestrated by professional agitators, often by ANTIFA and the more radical members of Black Lives Matter (BLM).  

Up until just recently, Mayors of cities under siege have displayed a remarkable tolerance for the violence, arson and anarchy unleashed in the cities they nominally govern. The political calculus driving this has two prongs. First, the chaos would likely redound to the benefit of Joe Biden thereby making the task of beating demon Trump all that much easier come November.  Second, the Mayors, Progressives all, were (and are) sympathetic to the protesters who are becoming increasingly hard to differentiate from the rioters. 

The whole while, Progressive politicians who kept insisting on the importance of the rule of law, refused to enforce basic laws on the books designed to protect citizens and their property. The truth, made manifest by their behavior, exposed the lie of their devotion to the rule of law. 

Some polls have begun to suggest that the public has had enough. One recent poll, taken shortly after the Republican convention, shows Biden a mere 2 points ahead of Trump, well within the margin of error. In addition, the Trafalger Group (an outlier) who called key races in 2016 and 2018 correctly when others got it wrong, says that Trump is only a half-point behind Biden in Minnesota and slightly ahead in Michigan and Wisconsin. 

In the meantime the mainstream press studiously avoided the violence for months, insisting that there was “nothing to see here” and that the  demonstrations were “mostly peaceful”. Now they have changed the script. It turns out that there is a problem with violence after all, and that it is all the fault of—Donald Trump. Of course, Trump’s narcissistic insistence that everything is all about him, all the time, makes the job that much easier. 

Then there is the matter of the apparent murder of a Trump supporter in Portland, Oregon during another night of “non-violent” protest. The apparent shooter is a man named Michael Forest Reinoehl, a self-identified “anti-fascist”.  Among other things he wrote: 

“I am 100 % ANTIFA all the way! I am willing to fight for my brothers and sisters! … We do not want violence but we will not run from it either! … Today’s protesters and antifa are my brothers in arms.”

Shooting in Portland

So about those lies that tell the truth. The lie that tells the truth is that the Democratic Party is run by moderates who wish to return to normalcy. That is manifestly not so. If that were actually true they would have taken action long ago to confront the rioters and restore order. Maintaining order is, after all, a local responsibility and the Mayors of America’s large cities are overwhelmingly Democratic. Actions speak louder than words. 

Now that the violence is being directed against them, some of Mayors seem to be having second thoughts—kind of like Robespierre most have had on his trip to the guillotine. Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler can not have been happy last night when the rioters set an occupied apartment building on fire, apparently because they thought he lived there. 

The Democratic Party, now in the process of being taken over by Jacobins, has no institutional desire to return to normalcy. That is merely a cover and a transparent one at that. These modern day Jacobins mean to transform America and its liberal institutions in the service of a radically illiberal and utopian left-wing ideology. The Democratic Party has simply become an empty vessel waiting to be filled by Progressives so they can get on with the transformation. The truth is that these radical Progressives are so full of hatred for freedom that they are willing to tolerate, if not celebrate violence so long as it serves a tactical purpose in the quest for power.    

The final truth embedded in the lies may be revealed by the difference between real votes and those cast by ballot. An individual ballot, despite all the hysterical rhetoric, has virtually no practical significance. But voting with your feet has very real significance for the voter / mover.  Moving to a new locale is probably a much better indicator of what someone really thinks. 

By all reports there has been a torrent of wealthy and upper middle class migration out of the major cities and into the suburbs and smaller secondary cities. Undoubtedly some of this has to do with COVID-19 and the widespread adoption of working from home. But at least some is attributable to the unrest and increased incivility of the big cities. That could presage a much larger change than the results of this November’s elections. 

JFB 

Mostly Peaceful Protests

“Other than that, Mrs Lincoln, how did you like the play?”

Spurred by the killing of George Floyd while in police custody, protests against police violence—defined as the unjustified use of force—have erupted across America. These protests are invariably described as “mostly peaceful”. And they are, the way most people at Ford’s Theatre were just there to see the show. 

Then too, there is the matter of Lincoln’s assassin, John Wilkes Booth. He too represented only a small minority of the theatre goers; but of those, he is the one who mattered most. Because his actions defined the event. 

Riots, attacks on police and violence against people and property have taken place in New York, Washington, DC, Chicago, Portland Oregon, Seattle Washington, Minneapolis Minnesota, Los Angeles California, Philadelphia Pennsylvania, Salt Lake City Utah and Atlanta Georgia, to name a few. And by and large, the police, following the orders given them by civil authorities, have backed away. In some cases, like Portland Oregon, organized violence has become a nightly affair. 

The media has studiously ignored the violence, preferring to emphasize the current narrative of “systemic racism” and “structural racism” being at fault. It is especially convenient to blame the violence on systemic and structural racism inasmuch as those terms lack definition and thus present a non-falsifiable hypothesis. And it is a politically convenient ploy because it distracts attention from the fact that America’s cities have been run by Democratic machine politics for generations.  

Virtually all the burning cities are run by Progressives, and have been for decades. In addition to the obvious mistrust felt by significant portions of their citizens, those cities are also notable for their failing public school systems and their chronic fiscal ineptitude. 

Taken together, failing public schools; police mismanagement; fiscal ineptitude, and the presence of powerful public sector unions present a picture of routine managerial incompetence. None of which has precluded the re-election of the same incompetents year after year. The obvious question is why. 

Why is it that year after year the people with the most to lose from failing schools, incompetent policing and fiscal incompetence, insist on voting for the same politicians who routinely produce the same failures of governance? 

The simple (and probably correct) answer is twofold. First, the opposition Republican party has not presented a viable alternative and shows little interest in doing so. Second, the party in power, the Democrats have  effectively become a wholly owned subsidiary of powerful special interest groups like public sector unions and environmental groups who dictate policy. 

In response, upper income groups are increasingly abandoning cities to escape from (1) rising crime and disorder and (2) a rising and oppressive tax burden. The COVID-19 pandemic appears to be the catalyst, not the cause. If the trend continues and turns out to be more than fleeting, the results could be dire for the cities. As the truly wealthy head for suburban enclaves, taking the tax base with them, the cities will become islands of poverty surrounded by wealthy suburbs unwilling to finance urban excess. 

The remaining question is whether upscale former urban dwellers will bring their politics with them to the suburbs, or have they finally had enough? And if they have tired of financing failure, will the cities finally reform? Or will Progressives complete the takeover of the Democratic Party  and produce catastrophic failure nationally rather than just locally? 

We may get a hint in November. 

JFB

Battleground

The phrase battleground state has taken on a whole new meaning. 

As reports from various urban battlefields come in, the picture of what is happening is becoming clear. Let’s summarize. (1) In a number of American cities protests turn into organized violence once nightfall arrives. The violence does not appear to come from protesters, but appears to come from organized groups intent on stoking and escalating violence.  (2) Federal law enforcement officers have been ordered to some areas by the Trump Administration with orders to protect federal property. It appears that at least some federal law enforcement officers  have engaged in conduct that is clearly illicit. That conduct includes but is not limited to detaining citizens, handcuffing them and then releasing them without any justification or charges. Further, the evidence strongly suggests that some of these detentions were conducted by federal officers without proper identification using unmarked vehicles. Moreover some of these detentions have taken place well beyond perimeters established for protecting federal property. (3) Local authorities have been unable or unwilling to contain the violence. 

For some perspective, it is worth taking a look at what is going on in some (but not all) cities. The You Tube video (below) taken in Portland is an example of the violence; but it is not necessarily generalizable to other cities. On the other hand it is worth noting that the national media has been reluctant to characterize this type of violent behavior as violent as … violent.

Protest in Portland Oregon

Further complicating matters is the legal situation.  The extent of federal authority to intervene  to establish order absent a request from local authorities is unclear. Certainly the federal government may use federal law enforcement to protect federal property. But that authority is  narrow. It seems reasonably clear that federal law enforcement lacks the authority to free-lance and expand its mission beyond the narrow one of protecting specific federal properties. It certainly does not empower law enforcement to go searching for alleged miscreants outside of narrow perimeters established to protect lives and federal property. 

It is also clear that local law enforcement is not enforcing state and local laws. And the reason for it is that they have been instructed not to do so by locally elected officials. In the U.S. system it is elected officials, not police who are charged with determining the extent to which the laws will be enforced. Moreover the police have no legal obligation to protect lives or property, which is to say they are not vulnerable to a civil lawsuit for a willful refusal to protect lives or property. This is further complicated by the legal doctrine of “qualified immunity” which makes it virtually impossible for police officers to be sued individually for their behavior, no matter how outrageous. 

Let’s also note that it is highly probable that the Trump Administration has escalated the situation simply for political advantage in the upcoming election. It is also the case that  Democratic office holders are fairly silent about the violence because (1) they see no need to comment while Trump is busy committing political suicide and (2) they see no profit in antagonizing the party’s left wing, which they need to prevail in November. 

So what is to be done?

The simple answer is that the remedy lies at the ballot box. Local officials are for the most part responsible for managing police and setting policy. They have the legal authority to determine the extent to which public resources will be deployed to enforce state and local laws. The line of both authority and accountability runs straight from the citizenry to the ballot box to elected officials. The same logic applies to federal elections. 

Citizens, who are sovereign, have a democratic choice to make. They can elect federal, state and local officials who promise to enforce the laws on the books to protect lives and property when they are threatened. Or they can elect officials who think it is more important to deploy public resources in other ways they deem to be more important. Citizens can also choose to elect local public officials who will take responsibility for the management of public agencies like police departments and education bureaucracies, or they can continue to vote for officials beholden to public sector unions. Citizens who don’t like the results can leave. 

Those are the harsh realities; but they are realities. To govern is to choose. Unless citizens hold elected officials accountable for conditions on the ground over which they have control, results will not change. We will simply have more of the same until the next explosion. That seems to be where we are headed. 

JFB

Natural Rights, Positivism & Austrian Economics

Judge Andrew Napolitano presents the case for natural rights (as opposed to positivism) as the foundation of the United States Declaration of Independence and Constitution. He makes his case at the Mises Institute, named after Ludwig Von Mises a past professor from NYU and one of the founders of the Austrian School of economics.

The libertarian Austrian School also claims Frederich von Hayek, Murray Rothbard and Carl Menger as founders along with Mises. The Austrian School rejects much of the mathematicization of contemporary economics, preferring instead a teleological approach to the study of human action. Human actors are rational beings and so in the Austrian School the purpose of human action must be studied with respect to desired ends.

This emphasis on means and ends stands in rather stark contrast to the more positivistic approach of modern economics which tends to be expressed with respect to causes and effects. The difference between the schools of thought is subtle. Modern economics infers causes and effects using advanced statistical models–but the underlying mathematics is based on the experimental methods of the physical sciences. For instance the Black-Scholes options pricing model shares characteristics of the heat equation first developed by Joseph Fourier in 1882.

The Austrian model posits voluntary and purposeful human action taken with ends in mind as the proper focus of study. Knowledge and reason drive individual behavior and without planning to do so, through market mechanism they create spontaneous order, to use Hayek’s famous terminology. It is a spontaneous order that no one human being could ever plan or produce because no one person or organization could ever acquire sufficient information and knowledge to do so. But freely transmitted price signals from voluntary transactions in the market provide the necessary knowledge and information for spontaneous order.

The 1 hour lecture by Judge Napolitano, shown below, connects the Natural Law School and the Austrian School and is well worth watching.

Judge Napolitano at the Mises Institute

JFB

The Ongoing Cultural Disaster

Q: What accounts for the grotesque state of American politics?  

A: The grotesque state of American culture. 

Politics is, and always has been, downstream from culture. Sure, politics and policy can influence culture, but that influence is largely ephemeral. Cultural attitudes are far more deeply embedded in the polity than, for instance, party affiliation.  Margaret Thatcher had it exactly right when she said “Win the argument, then win the election”. Conservatives and classical liberals ought to think about that because they have spent a good deal of time playing electoral politics only to have the cultural ground shift underneath them. 

Which is something that conservatives and classical liberals ought to be thinking about. 

The cultural ground did not shift overnight and it was not by an accident of nature. The cultural foundation of U.S. society came under relentless attack by radicals who sought to undermine Western liberal institutions. The strategy, articulated by the Marxist Italian philosopher Antonio Gramsci, was to begin “a long march through the institutions” to achieve control of the commanding heights of the culture.  Once achieved the project of turning America into a socialist paradise would go into full swing. 

Which is where we are now. 

There is not one important facet of American life or civil society that has not come under full scale attack by the cultural left, most of it disingenuous to say the least. Let us look at a few examples.

The bedrock of Western Society is the nuclear family. While our legal doctrines are expressed in terms of individuals, social organization is, and has been, with respect to the nuclear family. And the nuclear family is the transmission agent of culture. It is through the nuclear family that parents—both of them—teach their children what is right and wrong, and why. Parents raise their children in their faith tradition, if they so choose. Children learn about love, loyalty, respect, manners, rights, responsibility and authority.  They begin to learn the skills they will need to flourish and thrive. 

The family is not simply a temporary agglomeration of randomly chosen individuals. The husband and wife choose to form a family unit and vow its permanence. They choose to have children. Not only that, there are very strong biological ties among family members.  As a result, the nuclear family is the primary unit of civil society that stands between individuals and the coercive power of the State. 

For that reason the nuclear family is a primary target of radicals who seek to break individuals to the yoke of the State, which they mean to control.  The first instinct of a totalitarian, (and a Progressive State is a proto-Totalitarian State) is to break the family. Anyone who doubts that the Totalitarian State means to crush the traditional family needs only look to China’s one-child policy. And if you can stand it, read this article about what Communist China’s regime is doing to Uighur Women. See the Uighur article here.

In the West, the assault on the family takes on a different form. One of the earliest manifestations of the subjugation of the family to State power was to deny to people (actually to criminalize) the right to marriage between people of different races. Another was to deny welfare benefits to women when a man was present. Government substituted itself for the traditional male breadwinner. 

Not surprisingly, illegitimacy rates soared. In 1965, 24% of  black infants and 3% of white infants were born out-of-wedlock. Now out-of-wedlock births of black children are around 70%; the white rate is approaching 30%. The extraordinarily high black rate of out-of-wedlock births is an entirely new phenomenon. In 1940, for instance, the black illegitimacy rate was 14%. The reason for this is clear. The welfare state first lowered the cost of producing illegitimate children, and then the social stigma was erased. The result was an explosion of out-of-wedlock births and the destruction of the traditional family structure, especially among low-income groups. (See this article by Walter Williams).

While tactics have changed, the goal of destroying the family remains the same. Anybody who doubts this simply has to look at the Black Lives Matter website. Among other pronouncements there is this:

“We disrupt the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure requirement by supporting each other as extended families and “villages” that collectively care for one another, especially our children, to the degree that mothers, parents, and children are comfortable.”

The preferred tactic is to destroy the family unit by redefining it. So we have same-sex “marriage” which somehow became a constitutional right. The transgender movement completes the picture by institutionalizing the idea that there is no such things as biologically determined sex; that sex is just a social construct.  As part of this parental authority is denied. In many states parents do not have the right to prevent their young children, some as young as 12, from getting state financed gender reassignment hormone treatments. 

The coup de grace is a woman’s right to abortion on demand. That serves two goals. First it places married men and women in positions which are legally adverse to each other, each possessing different rights and responsibilities defined by the State. So much for the two became one. Second, it makes sustaining the life of an unborn child contingent on the wishes of the mother for any reason or no reason at all. In so doing it denies the intrinsic worth and dignity of that child. 

Closely related to the attack on the family is the ongoing attack on the first amendment, particularly the free exercise clause. The attack currently takes place under the guise of “reproductive rights” and public health. In the name of stopping the pandemic Democratic Governors across the country have imposed restrictions on religious practice that are far more severe that those imposed on “essential businesses”. Those essential functions include such life and death operations as state liquor stores and lottery sales. 

The restrictions that Governors have placed on religious practice have been pretty consistently swatted down by various courts. But keep in mind that Senate Democrats, led by Sheldon Whitehead, have threatened to pack the Supreme Court. Which leads us to the next attack on the free exercise clause. The Obama Administration (that would be the Obama-Biden Administration) attempted to force the Little Sisters of the Poor to supply insurance coverage for contraceptives and abortifacients for their employees, a clear violation of their first amendment rights. That too was swatted down by the Court in a 7 -2 ruling. 

But this is not going away. There are now cases in the courts where government is trying to force Catholic hospitals to engage in practices that are directly contrary to their religious beliefs. One case seeks to force a Catholic hospital to perform a hysterectomy on a “transgender woman”. It is a clear violation of Catholic teaching to harm or remove a healthy organ unless if it is medically necessary.  

Why the attack on religious belief and especially, religious practice? It is because in the United States legal system and (pre-progressive) tradition, unalienable rights are natural rights endowed by the Creator. Those rights are a fundamentally at odds with progressive ideology, which asserts an all encompassing State sovereignty.  Religious institutions, the family, and individuals must be broken to the yoke of the State. And to accomplish that, the free institutions of civil society must be crushed by the State. 

What is to be Done?

We face a serious, perhaps existential, problem. But the solution is not simply to win an election. It is to persuade. The prerequisite for doing that is to wrest control of the schools from the propagandists who run them today. That will require taking two steps. First: Bust the teacher’s unions. There is no reason why they should hold a monopoly over the education of American kids. Especially given the appalling results they have produced, most particularly in big city schools which are essentially propaganda mills.

Second, American kids should be getting a first rate education; that can be accomplished by financing charter schools for primary and secondary education, and using vouchers. Another way to do it would be to provide education credits through the tax system. They key to reform is to bust the monopoly that the unions have and in so doing  provide parents with choice. In a word, fund the students, not the schools. 

This is a long term project that will require a lot of time and effort. It will require fighting the bureaucracy and launching lawsuits. It will require organizing. It will require winning local school board elections, avoiding the small stuff and keeping an eye on the big picture.  There is already a lot of good work being done here by conservative and libertarian think tanks. It is work that is absolutely essential to reclaim the schools, our Western liberal culture and our freedom. 

JFB

Minneapolis–Progressive Paradise

Minneapolis has long been one of, if not the, most progressive city in America. It also is the city where George Floyd was killed in police custody. And it is home to one of the widest income gaps between white and black Americans. Progressives are perplexed by this. They shouldn’t be. Their policies caused it. See the video below.

John Stossel on Minneapolis

JFB

The Other Hitchens–Peter, not Christopher

Before his untimely passing Christopher Hitchens developed quite a following. Hitchens, a one-time Trotskyite who remained a man of the left until his passing, was a brilliant writer and polemicist who pulled no punches.  He was a student and admirer of George Orwell. His biographical essay about Orwell, “Why Orwell Matters” is an example of both the style of Hitchens’ writing and the substance of his thought. Though he was an admirer of Orwell he did not write a hagiography. He forthrightly examined what he considered to be Orwell’s strengths and weaknesses. 

Less well-known is Christopher Hitchens’ brother, Peter, also an intellectual. (Christopher and Peter did not get along.) Peter Hitchens, a former Bolshevik takes aim at the authoritarian left relying in part on his past experience as a leftist. Like his brother, he gives no quarter and calls it the way he sees it. Take a look at the video below of Peter Hitchens being interviewed about the silencing of voices of dissent and the cancel culture, a culture that is rapidly spreading through American society. 

Peter Hitchens Interview

JFB

The Great Awokening

America has had several waves of Awakening in its history, characterized by intense religious enthusiasm and social activism. These waves stemmed from American Protestantism, often accompanied by a profound sense of conviction and redemption. They tended to be evangelistic, with an increase in evangelistic church membership and the formation of new denominations. The Awakenings were led by charismatic preachers who imbued in followers a profound sense of personal guilt and a need for redemption through Christ. 

The original Awakening in the early 1700s was mostly an elite affair. The Second Awakening “The Great Awakening” took place in the late 1700s and lasted until the around 1850. It spread beyond New England elites and made its way to the Midwest. It also was a time when Black attendance at mainline white Protestant churches declined precipitously. At the same time dozens of free Black churches were formed and served Blacks who were abandoning white mainline churches. There is a case to be made that this resulted from white discrimination against Blacks, but it is not a settled matter. In any event, as many scholars have noted, there is no place in America that is more segregated than church on Sunday.   

It should be noted that the Great Awakening coincided with progressive reforms including abolitionism, temperance and women’s rights. Note that social reformers and the Awakened often came from the same ranks.

The Third Awakening was also a profoundly Christian affair.   It was characterized by missionary work, the Social Gospel and was instrumental in fostering revivals in American cities. Out of the Third Awakening came the YMCA, Christian and Sanitary Commissions that provided medical relief to Union Armies, and Freedmen’s Societies that provided educational services to freedmen in the South after the Civil War.  

Fast forward to 2020. We are in yet another Great Awakening, known as the #Resistance. After all, why do you suppose that the #Resistance refers to itself as “woke”? 

This one however is different from the others in that it is anti-religious.

The #Resistance has all the earmarks of an Awakening. Its adherents are profound believers in the cause (however poorly defined). It has charismatic leaders. It is a mass movement. It is not cerebral; it is dominated by feelings, emotion and a profound sense of alienation, resentment and guilt. The movement (like all movements) is remarkably intolerant of people who don’t toe the party line. They are the Other; they are “deniers”. Skeptics  are canceled over the least variation from orthodoxy. Ritualized confessions of guilt are increasingly common.

Most importantly it is a movement that tries to fill a hole in the search for meaning that is lost in the soul of secularized man. It is a cry for help. 

The irony is that the secularization of society began with a quest for pluralism and equal justice, associated with the 1960s. It quickly turned into an attack on the basic institutions of a free society, including the traditional family, the rule of law, property rights and most importantly, religion. 

Why the attack on religion? It is the most important facet of the Gramscian long march through the institutions because religious authority stands above State authority. (That is why in the U.S. a priest can not be legally compelled to break the seal of confession.)

Religion ultimately succeeds by persuasion rather than by force (a principle honored in the breech). And it holds a privileged position in the U.S. legal system. Religious belief enjoys the protection of the free exercise clause of the First amendment. The U.S. Declaration is crystal clear that we have natural rights that are unalienable, endowed by the Creator. Rights are pre-political; they do not come from government, and government has no authority to take them away. Every individual is a unique being possessing intrinsic worth and dignity. That doctrine is a dagger pointed at the heart of collectivism. 

Woke citizens (as opposed to their leaders) are searching for justice and dignity in a world without the Creator and without Redemption. They want to, need to, create a world without sin. It is a fool’s errand; it requires the perfectibility of man, which is to say it requires the creation of  a “New Man.”  In turn that requires a great man, an extraordinary man, for whom the rules, which are mere social conventions, don’t apply. There are no rules; just the will to power. 

In Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment, the attorney Petrovich Porfiry refers to an academic article written by the protagonist Rodion Raskolnikov when he was a student.

Porfiry provides a summation of the article:

“In his article all men are divided into ‘ordinary’ and ‘extraordinary’. Ordinary men have to live in submission, have no right to transgress the law, because, don’t you see, they are ordinary. But extraordinary men have a right to commit any crime and to transgress the law in any way, just because they are extraordinary.”

Rodion Raskolnikov replies by adding nuance:

“[An]…extraordinary man has the right…that is not an official right, but an inner right to decide in his own conscience to overstep…certain obstacles, and only in case it is essential for the practical fulfillment of his idea {sometimes, perhaps, of benefit to the whole of humanity}.”

In making his argument Raskolnikov makes the case for the nihilism that would shortly engulf the 20th century. The brutal ideologies of that century, communism and fascism, resulted in the deaths of hundreds of millions of people at the hands of Mao, Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini, Fidel, Ho Chi Minh. Atheists all. Long after the facts were clear they were still supported by Walter Duranty, Jean-Paul Sartre, Earnest Hemingway and Theodore Dreiser among others. 

When man’s yearning for meaning and dignity is divorced from faith in the Creator, the ultimate law-giver, what is left is nihilism. There is no truth; only “my truth”. There is no justice; only “my justice”. Decency is simply a matter of convenience. Who is to say that one system or action is superior to another? There are no facts, only interpretations. Which implies that all questions are then reducible to power and decided by the exercise of that power. And all power comes, according to Mao, from the barrel of a gun. 

We have gone down this road before, many, many times. The result is always the same, and it isn’t pretty. It would be nice to avoid another go around.  But that would require that liberals defend liberalism, and it doesn’t look like that is going to happen any time soon. 

JFB

Defunding the Police

People misunderstand what “activists” mean by “defund the police”. It doesn’t mean the abolition of policing. It does mean moving the jurisdiction of policing to another larger political entity—for instance moving the jurisdiction (and management responsibility) from the city to the county. It also means that the taxing locus will be the county. But the city will not reduce its spending by the amount its police budget has been reduced. It will use that money for more “social services” which is to say income transfers and vote buying. 

So the Minneapolis city council, which for eons has been one of the most liberal cities in the country, has now voted to disband its police department by a veto-proof majority. 

They have, in effect, conceded that they are incapable of managing their own police department. The same is largely true of its public school system; they just haven’t gotten around to admitting it yet. 

This raises several rather obvious questions that Progressive cheerleaders in the press have thus far been reluctant to ask. 

  1. Is Minneapolis somehow significantly different from other big U.S. cities, and if so, how?
  2. Does the Minneapolis experience represent a failure of governance and government? If not, why not?
  3. How can it be that in Minneapolis (and everywhere else) the same one-party political machines that have consistently produced the same failures in policing and schools have been continuously re-elected for 50 years or so?
  4. How can it be that Progressives, who claim to represent the interests of minorities and the poor, and who have presided over this disaster, have any credibility left at all? 

JFB