Thursday, February 28, 2013

What did American Progressives teach to British Fabians?

When I wrote some months ago about how Fabians employ what they call "permeation" in order to advance their causes, I quoted an interesting passage from Margaret Cole's book "The Story of Fabian Socialism", page 85:
'Permeation' is a peculiarly Fabian term, with a very long history. It is first found in print in Hubert Bland's Fabian Essay - curiously enough Bland was not there advocating but warning the Society against it; but the casual reference shows that it was already in common use. Occasionally it seems to mean no more than what the Americans have taught us to call 'pressure groups' - persons organised with the purpose of forcing a particular measure, a particular interest, or a particular point of view upon those in power.

At the time, I mused that groups like the ACLU, or the NAACP were the groups she was talking about. Which is probably true, but is only a guess. Here, though, is more likely what she means: (Walter Weyl, "The New Democracy", page 166)

Nor do all these revolutionists comprehend that they are allies. One group in the community strives to end the exploitation of child labor. Other groups seek to extend and improve education, to combat tuberculosis, to reform housing conditions, to secure direct primaries, to obtain the referendum, to punish force and fraud at the polls, to secure governmental inspection of foods, to regulate railroad rates, to limit the issue of stocks and bonds of corporations doing an interstate business, to change the character and incidence of taxation, to protect and recreate our forests, to reserve and conserve our mines, to improve the lot of the farmer, to build up trade-unions among workingmen, to Americanize incoming immigrants, to humanize prisons and penal laws, to protect the community against penury caused by old age, accident, sickness, and invalidity, to prevent congestion in cities, to divert to the public a larger share of the unearned increment, to accomplish a thousand other results for the general welfare. Every day new projects are launched for political, industrial, and social amelioration, and below the level of the present he the greater projects of the future. Reform is piecemeal and yet rapid. It is carried along divergent lines by people holding separate interests, and yet it moves towards a common end. It combines into a general movement toward a new democracy.

(What I wrote yesterday will help you understand Weyl's lead in to the progressive revolution, for greater context)

It makes much more sense that Cole was looking at the whole picture as progressives employed it all across the country, not just one high profile group here or there. Care needs to be taken here in my writing: Many of these efforts that he is naming are valiant efforts to pursue if they are pursued so as not to be in the hands of government. That's the difference. Weyl makes clear that these efforts are not just efforts to achieve the stated end, the real end goal of all these efforts together is an ever expanding state. "Revolution" is his chosen word.

It's not like I'm just making this up from a theoretical standpoint, we know that the final logical end of progressivism is total government control, because here we are a century later watching it unfold with the vantage point of history's perfect 20/20 hindsight. If these progressives did not truely aim for total government control, then all these outside groups in existence today who are seemingly disconnected would be on the front lines wailing right now as we speak, because today's progressive government is destroying all the work that was done previously by previous and some still current groups.(many of today's reform minded groups were founded a long time ago) Heck, how many of these groups in existence today can you think of that have tied themselves to government, and could not survive in any way without their subsidy? Now do you really think that's just a coincidence, given what you now know?

All of this requires you to take these groups at face value. He named around 20 different general "disconnected" efforts, all with different goals, yet the reality of this is the word government should be typed in a row over 20 times. It's not about the forests, it's not about housing conditions, it's not about old age, it's not about the farmer, it's not about any of the others, their face value has absolutely no value. It's about government, government, government, government.

Those of you who have chosen to open the links to read the books in their actual context(I really hope many of you will) may have seen what appears to be a discrepancy. Margaret Cole describes "What they learned" being put into action by a group formed by the Webbs in 1910-1911, while Weyl's book was written in 1914. It's not a contradiction, as Weyl himself states:

I use the word "revolution," despite its fringe of misleading suggestion, because no other word so aptly designates the completeness of the transformation now in process.

So as Weyl is describing these seemingly disconnected groups in his book written in 1914, he's not prescribing and saying "This is what you guys should do", he's saying "this is what is already being done" and relishing it as a spectator.

These groups today manifest themselves as NGOs and non-profit groups. Doesn't George Soros use non-profits as his basis to launch his revolution? He does. He says so in his own words:

It was kind of what developed a matrix in fact that we had, national foundations, and then we had certain specialized activities

That's what Walter Weyl described in his book, but Soros employs it in its highly developed modern form. By having all these groups highly de-centralized, that's how progressives have achieved invisible government. Through the use of these pressure groups.

The British Fabians, of course, being a group of socialists see what the progressives over here are doing and seek to emulate it. Why wouldn't they? Socialism, just like progressivism is about the all powerful state in control of every aspect of life from top to bottom. That, and several of the Fabians at the time enjoyed plenty of friendly relationships with their counter parts here on this side of the ocean.

I've often referred to progressivism and fabianism as sister movements, and this is another illustration.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Progressivism: The individualistic point of view halts social development at every point

I've written extensively about The New Republic's two founding members, but what of it's first editor? Walter Weyl was the person tapped for that job, and he has a lot to say about progressive ideology. In his book "The New Democracy", Walter Weyl writes the following: (Page 163)
All the inspiring texts of democracy fall into nonsense or worse when given a strict individualistic interpretation. "Government should rest upon the consent of the governed" is a great political truth, if by "the governed" is meant the whole people, or an effective majority of the people; but if each individual governed retains the right at all times to withhold his consent, government and social union itself become impossible. So, too, the phrase "taxation without representation is tyranny," if interpreted strictly in an individualistic sense, leads to the theory that government should be in the hands of property owners, that they who pay the piper (in taxes) should set the tune, that they who are without "a stake in the country" should not participate, or at least not equally, in a government designed to raise money and to expend it.

In the socialized democracy towards which we are moving, all these conceptions will fall to the ground.

I've made note several times about how the original progressives looked at "individualistic" ideas, these old eighteenth century ideals and sneered down their noses at them. My regular readers will see this and not be surprised at all at this form of arrogance in yet another historical/original progressive text. But Weyl's book is not like most of the others that I've taken time to excerpt, Weyl goes on to make predictions about what will come. (Pages 163-64):

It will be sought to make taxes conform more or less to the ability of each to pay; but the engine of taxation, like all other social engines, will be used to accomplish great social ends, among which will be the more equal distribution of wealth and income. The state will tax to improve education, health, recreation, communication, "to provide for the common defense, and promote the general welfare," and from these taxes no social group will be immune because it fails to benefit in proportion to cost. The government of the nation, in the hands of the people, will establish its unquestioned sovereignty over the industry of the nation, so largely in the hands of individuals. The political liberties of the people will be supplemented by other provisions which will safeguard their industrial liberties.

I cannot find a word of this prediction to disagree with.

One of the buzz terms he uses is "social ends", and in order to understand this it would be good for you to understand what "social legislation" is. Another that may be good to look into is the progressive conception of the government's "two heads", that is, "the state as a political entity consists either in operations necessary to the expression of its will, or in operations necessary to the execution of that will." Social legislation is how that will is executed, and social ends are the final product.

Now, Weyl is not done. Once we've recognized the problem of individuality, here's how we can deal with it, perhaps even eliminate it: (Pages 164-165)

In two respects, the democracy towards which we are striving differs from that of to-day. Firstly, the democracy of to-morrow, being a real and not a merely formal democracy, does not content itself with the mere right to vote, with political immunities, and generalizations about the rights of men. Secondly, it is a plenary, socialized democracy, emphasizing social rather than merely individual aims, and carrying over its ideals from the political into the industrial and social fields.

Because of this wideness of its aims, the new spirit, in a curiously cautious, conservative way, is profoundly revolutionary. The mind of the people slowly awakens to the realization of the people's needs; the new social spirit gradually undermines the crust of inherited and promulgated ideas; the rising popular will overflows old barriers and converts former institutions to new uses. It is a deep-lying, potent, swelling movement. It is not noiseless, for rotten iron cracks with a great sound, and clamor accompanies the decay of profit-yielding privileges. It is not uncontested, for men, threatened with the loss of a tithe of their pretensions, sometimes fight harder than the wholly disinherited. It does not proceed everywhere at equal pace; the movement is not uniform nor uninterrupted. And yet, measured by decades, or even by years, the revolution grows.

Again, I can't find a single piece of the prediction to disagree with. This is what America has become. Especially the last part, he says decades. That's how patient these progressives are. They'll gladly wait to see liberty destroyed, even if they themselves are personally not the ones to make the final achievement. As long as the final achievement is steadily fought for. He uses the word "conversion", but that's not accurate enough. This is a perversion. It's totally corrupt and improperly used. At the bottom of page 165, he says:

I use the word "revolution," despite its fringe of misleading suggestion, because no other word so aptly designates the completeness of the transformation now in process.

And finally, after perverting institutions toward the evolutionary end, they can use our own individuality against us via the "normalcy bias". That's how to deal with and eliminate it. Page 166:

A social revolution, in the sense here implied, is a change, however gradual, peaceful, and evolutionary, which has for its cumulative effect a radical displacement of the center of gravity of society. Such a revolution is the substitution of a new for an old social equilibrium; a fundamental re-arrangement of the relations subsisting between conflicting or allied social groups. It is a recrystallization of society on new planes. It is a new chemical union of constituent social molecules. A relatively more rapid growth of a single organ or of a single function of the social organism, a hypertrophy here, an atrophy there, may suffice to bring about a fundamental social overturn, such as we designate by the word "revolution."

This revolution, in the very midst of which we are, while believing that we stand firm on a firm earth, is a revolution; not of blood and iron, but of votes, judicial decisions, and points of view. It does not smell of gunpowder or the bodies of slain men. It does not involve anything sudden, violent, cataclysmic. Like other revolutions, it is simply a quicker turn of the wheel in the direction in which the wheel is already turning. It is a revolution at once magnificent and commonplace. It is a revolution brought about by and through the common run of men, who abjure heroics, who sleep soundly and make merry, who "talk" politics and prize-fights, who obey alarm clocks, time-tables, and a thousand petty but revered social conventions. They do not know that they are revolutionists.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Abraham Lincoln's view of the Declaration was not very progressive

In a letter to Henry L. Pierce, Lincoln wrote the following: (Original source)
This is a world of compensations; and he who would be no slave, must consent to have no slave. Those who deny freedom to others, deserve it not for themselves; and, under a just God, can not long retain it.

All honor to Jefferson--to the man who, in the concrete pressure of a struggle for national independence by a single people, had the coolness, forecast, and capacity to introduce into a merely revolutionary document, an abstract truth, applicable to all men and all times, and so to embalm it there, that to-day, and in all coming days, it shall be a rebuke and a stumbling-block to the very harbingers of re-appearing tyranny and oppression.

Lincoln's view is very similar to that of Calvin Coolidge. This is a universally an alien concept to any progressive. Progressives through the years have made it so clear - having even eventually tied their moniker to the concept - in their belief of moving forward and making progress. And this includes the founding documents and principles.

This really starts with Woodrow Wilson, who stated the following:

The Declaration of Independence did not mention the questions of our day. It is of no consequence to us unless we can translate its general terms into examples of the present day and substitute them in some vital way for the examples it itself gives, so concrete, so intimately involved in the circumstances of the day in which it was conceived and written.

He also stated:

Now, the business of every true Jeffersonian is to translate the terms of those abstract portions of the Declaration of Independence into the language and the problems of his own day. If you want to understand the real Declaration, do not repeat the preface.

It's not hard to see what's happening here, in these two speeches. Wilson is discrediting the Declaration and taking the position that it only applied to the time frame in which it was written. What you are seeing is the doctrine of "The Spirit of the Age", which was at the center of Wilson's world view.(This is a phrase which Wilson himself uses, here. As you can see if you read this and the page that follows it, he goes back into the newton/darwin stuff.)

I have gone into full detail about Wilson's belief in the "Living Constitution", which doesn't really need to be re-hashed again here. See here and especially here.

100 years after President Wilson, we are well aware which worldview that progressives at large have adopted as the standard. It wasn't all that long ago that CBS News was helping Professor Seidman get his message out there that we should dump the Constitution. Spirit of the age indeed.

Lincoln: "applicable to all men and all times". Progressives: "Outdated", "of no consequence", old, "do not repeat parts of it", and so forth.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Progressivism's assumptions about government

For the Framers of our constitution, the people could be trusted and their wise discretion informed. Self government was an all important thing to achieve, so as to get away from despotic government. But for progressives, you have a different outlook. Progressives do not understand the concept of "self interest" at all, and the notion of public reason isn't even considered. It's just silly voodoo magic.

In the book "Public Opinion", by Walter Lippmann, he writes the following on page 313:

If, then, you root out of the democratic philosophy the whole assumption in all its ramifications that government is instinctive, and that therefore it can be managed by self-centered opinions, what becomes of the democratic faith in the dignity of man? It takes a fresh lease of life by associating itself with the whole personality instead of with a meager aspect of it. For the traditional democrat risked the dignity of man on one very precarious assumption, that he would exhibit that dignity instinctively in wise laws and good government. Voters did not do that, and so the democrat was forever being made to look a little silly by tough-minded men. But if, instead of hanging human dignity on the one assumption about self-government, you insist that man's dignity requires a standard of living, in which his capacities are properly exercised, the whole problem changes. The criteria which you then apply to government are whether it is producing a certain minimum of health, of decent housing, of material necessities, of education, of freedom, of pleasures, of beauty, not simply whether at the sacrifice of all these things, it vibrates to the self-centered opinions that happen to be floating around in men's minds. In the degree to which these criteria can be made exact and objective, political decision, which is inevitably the concern of comparatively few people, is actually brought into relation with the interests of men.

First, you might notice the continuation of both the themes I mentioned above. Now, I would implore my readers who haven't taken a look recently into Alexis De Tocqueville's books "Democracy in America" to at least consider taking a refresher before quickly responding. Walter Lippmann wrote this in 1922, when those "18th century" ideas were still fairly fresh in the minds of Americans. As I pointed out here, progressives have always looked down their nose at those old ideas from the Founding era(They do not just do that today) and sneered at them in various ways, and Lippmann is doing that here.

If needed, you can find the text and audiobook recordings of "Democracy in America" here: Volume 1 - Volume 2.

I brought up Tocqueville's "Democracy in America" because he highlights that the voters did do that. That is, Tocqueville contrasted citizens of Europe with Americans, in that Americans rarely if ever felt government in their daily lives, whilst Europeans faced a much more dismal, government-centric way of life. And that's what Lippmann is lamenting. It's not that we kept government out of our lives, it's that the master minds don't approve of how we did it. It would be easy for any one of us to say "Yeah, Lippmann is right! These people re-elected Obama!" forgetting just how much context counts.

Second, we have the plain as day transition of "instead of hanging human dignity on the one assumption about self-government". In this, Lippmann is pointing out the abandonment of the Founders vision of liberty. Established through knowledge of centuries of human sacrifice and squalor through tyranny. In reading our Founders, it doesn't take a reader much time to realize that they were very well read. They didn't just sit at the local coffee shop and theorize on new ways to centrally plan society. They actually looked to the past, saw what didn't work, and tried to prevent it. More than anything else, the Founders got together and formulated a plan to limit their own power. Not to set themselves up as new monarchs or dictators of the masses.

The last four words is the key. "The whole problem changes". What problem? Is self-government a problem? For progressives, it sure is. Lippmann makes it clear in multiple places that he considers people to be too stupid to make their own decisions. We don't come up with our ideas on our own. We need to be either educated or propagandized.

Two paragraphs up, he says this: (Page 312)

The democratic fallacy has been its preoccupation with the origin of government rather than with the processes and results. The democrat has always assumed that if political power could be derived in the right way, it would be beneficent. His whole attention has been on the source of power, since he is hypnotized by the belief that the great thing is to express the will of the people, first because expression is the highest interest of man, and second because the will is instinctively good. But no amount of regulation at the source of a river will completely control its behavior, and while democrats have been absorbed in trying to find a good mechanism for originating social power, that is to say a good mechanism of voting and representation, they neglected almost every other interest of men. For no matter how power originates, the crucial interest is in how power is exercised. What determines the quality of civilization is the use made of power. And that use cannot be controlled at the source.

Have you ever sat back and watched these politicians today, and noticed how obsessed they are with process, rather than constitutionalism? I know I've noticed. Though, today's progressives have devolved a bit, and don't even care about results anymore, as long as the process favors a perpetually growing state. The results are merely one transient stage of progress, looking toward the next. But in any case, he says that the "democratic fallacy" is the preoccupation with origin. This whole paragraph, actually, there's just so much wrong with it that if I typed up all that's on my mind nobody would read my book.

What this gets at is the tyrannical nature of progressivism.(it's also yet another paragraph jabbing the Founders) Progressives don't consider the origin of government because of the belief in the supremacy of government over all, government and bureaucracy can solve any problem. Reading the original progressives is a rewarding endeavor, because it allows me to look at this problem at the source. But many times, this one included, it's also somewhere between horrifying and terrifying.

In not considering the origin of government and sources of political power, the legitimate conversation about tyranny gets wiped off of the table. The entirety of human history is obliterated, and here we are, born fresh today, ready to make the same mistakes made millenia ago. It's a full reset. Why bother learning from history? And since we are not considering human history, since the concept of tyranny does not enter into the equation, the damage that government really does in real people's lives isn't a factor.

The last thing I couldn't help but notice here is the following: (quoted above)

The criteria which you then apply to government are whether it is producing a certain minimum of health, of decent housing, of material necessities, of education, of freedom, of pleasures, of beauty.....

How similar is that to FDR's Second Bill of Rights? Walter Lippmann was a strong supporter of Roosevelt's. I'm not implying any sort of influence, I'm merely observing the uniformity of thought. They see government as pure. Government is the source of prosperity. Government is a service provider. You and your private interests are dirty. That's how it goes. They know better than we do, especially when they control the levers of power.

"We're the ones we've been waiting for".

They've thought this about themselves now for over 100 years. Lippmann, Wilson, and other progressives of that generation thought they had the magical cure-all as well.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Theodore Roosevelt, the propagandist

Having spent some time over the last few days highlighting some of the foundations of press manipulation(here and particularly here), I find it instructive to highlight how it is that the press came to be so closely tied to national government, in an official capacity. Ideologically, the press support big government by default, but that's a different topic.(see my prior entries)

The two people to focus in on are Woodrow Wilson and Theodore Roosevelt. Particularly Roosevelt, who was the first. And how he does this is stunning. The following information was quite a pain to get access to over the internet, so each link will put on display that I have the information correct. From two sources, "The Life and Times of William Howard Taft", by biographer Henry Pringle(Starting on page 415), and a publication called Omnibook - at the time, Pringle's book was excerpted there.

Taft's ultimate defeat was caused, in no small measure, by these repeated, incessant headlines which, try as he might, he could not guide or control. Taft was well aware of the flaw which made it impossible for him to deal successfully with the newspaper correspondents; he had mentioned this, too, in his farewell letter to Roosevelt. And it was this inability which caused to evaporate, in an astonishingly brief time, the good will which had been his. His predecessor, needless to say, had to an amazing degree the flair, utterly essential to a successful chief executive, for molding public opinion through newspapers. Roosevelt was not content with editorial comment, merely; he actually made news.

He was the first president to employ a stratagem which has been valuable to politicians ever since. It is known, in practical journalist circles, as the trial balloon. The method was simple. Roosevelt would call in a favored correspondent or two - he held no general press conferences - and would divulge, on a pledge that he would not be quoted, some probable policy regarding the railroads, the Standard Oil, or pure righteousness. The correspondents would then write articles setting forth that "the President, according to close intimates," proposed to take the action in question. Roosevelt, during the next fortnight, could sit back and watch the reaction to his scheme. If it was favorable, he would go ahead. If the hostility was too pronounced, the whole matter would be quietly forgotten. If some political foe declared that the President had shifted his policy, he was nominated for the Ananias Club.

I used more links than necessary, simply to demonstrate that these are the same publication.

I'm sure many of you read this with the same marvel that I have. The use of the trial balloon can be traced back to Theodore Roosevelt, in his duels with Taft. This is exactly how progressives today act. The media is used as a way to further statist goals, and trial balloons are usually not questioned, if they too are for furthering the state.

The term "Ananias Club" is a way of calling someone a liar. Roosevelt's relationship with reporters was very friendly. A few years later, he would go on to be a regular contributor and editor to The Outlook. As President, Roosevelt made sure to put in a press room so as to bring his allies even closer to him. From (Click on the section for 1901-1918)

In 1902, the executive offices were moved from the second floor of the White House to the newly erected Executive Office Building(later named the West Wing). The building included an innovation--a small press room.

Reporter access during the Theodore Roosevelt administration changed markedly when he required that cabinet members channel all press requests through his private secretary. William H. Taft made little effort to promote himself and newsmen accused him of withholding news.

Woodrow Wilson held the first formal, public press conference in 1913.

Through the CPI, Wilson took Roosevelt's foundation and expanded it to unprecedented levels, even going so far as to making them "associates of the state". But this is how it started. By a progressive republican, who many today mistakenly believe was a conservative.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Adam Smith and "people of the same trade": Journalists

There is well known quote of Adam Smith's, that goes as follows:
People of the same trade seldom meet together even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public or some contrivance to raise prices.

This can be found in The Wealth of Nations, Book 1, Chapter 10, "Of Wages and Profits". Part 2, page 207, very top of the page.

I find this quote to be interesting. Not necessarily for what it states, but for how it's been nearly universally received. Finding the direct source of the quote led me to all sorts of books, blog postings, and more and nearly all of them discuss price fixing, monopolies, greedy SOBs, and on and on. The funny thing is, most places do not even read the quote properly. The words above as written are exactly as Smith wrote them, but that's not what the majority of people see. Here is what they see:

People of the same trade seldom meet together even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public with some contrivance to raise prices.

But that's not true. Adam Smith uses the word "or", so it's clear that he understood full well that it's not always about the money. There's two things about this. Our Founding Fathers knew that there wasn't just one thing that men sought after. People do conspire for reasons other than money. On the floor of the Constitutional Convention, James Wilson read aloud a letter written by Benjamin Franklin, here is part of what he said:

Sir, there are two passions which have a powerful influence on the affairs of men. These are ambition and avarice; the love of power, and the love of money. Separately each of these has great force in prompting men to action; but when united in view of the same object, they have in many minds the most violent effects. Place before the eyes of such men, a post of honour that shall be at the same time a place of profit, and they will move heaven and earth to obtain it.

Too often today, we forget about that first part. The love of power. Power, for control, obviously. So what happens when reporters and journalists meet together, even if only for merriment and diversion? The Journolist is the obvious answer, but is it the only one? If you flip through your channels and watch their reporting, every channel but one says the same thing. Reporting on the same things, in the same ways. And often times, they even use the same descriptive words and phrases. It gets even worse if you match it to the local paper. It's the same there too.

How often do you think these people of this same trade are meeting together? And how do you think the conversation ends? Can we tell how it ended by looking at the results on screen and in print? Well, what if we made the Adam Smith quote just a little bit shorter, what would we have?

People of the same trade seldom meet together even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public

Does this quote apply? Let me ask you this question: Does Adam Smith's quote apply to something like the White House Correspondents Dinner? Here we have not just journalists meeting together for merriment and diversion, but they're rubbing elbows with politicians and people of power.

How do you think THAT conversation ends?

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Who are the real leaders and rulers? Have you looked toward journalists?

I'm sure many who see the headline I typed will think I've gone too far. Read on. It's all here.

Walter Lippmann, considered by many to be the father of modern journalism, writes in his book "Public Opinion" on page 243:

Leaders often pretend that they have merely uncovered a program which existed in the minds of their public. When they believe it, they are usually deceiving themselves. Programs do not invent themselves synchronously in a multitude of minds. That is not because a multitude of minds is necessarily inferior to that of the leaders, but because thought is the function of an organism, and a mass is not an organism.

This fact is obscured because the mass is constantly exposed to suggestion. It reads not the news, but the news with an aura of suggestion about it, indicating the line of action to be taken. It hears reports, not objective as the facts are, but already stereotyped to a certain pattern of behavior. Thus the ostensible leader often finds that the real leader is a powerful newspaper proprietor. But if, as in a laboratory, one could remove all suggestion and leading from the experience of a multitude, one would, I think, find something like this: A mass exposed to the same stimuli would develop responses that could theoretically be charted in a polygon of error. There would be a certain group that felt sufficiently alike to be classified together. There would be variants of feeling at both ends. These classifications would tend to harden as individuals in each of the classifications made their reactions vocal. That is to say, when the vague feelings of those who felt vaguely had been put into words, they would know more definitely what they felt, and would then feel it more definitely.

Lippmann doesn't take the time to develop this line much further, but I certainly will. He uses this line about who the "real leaders" are, but then separates it from the body politic and positions it as if he's only speaking about politicians.(or to a degree, actual rulers in far off countries) It is my opinion that this entire chapter is a discourse on the true role of journalism. How could anybody so intent on studying public opinion make such an observation that people in the news are the real leaders, but then gloss over it as if it were never said? It's because the surface presentation is not real. Consider the next paragraph following the above quoted:

Leaders in touch with popular feeling are quickly conscious of these reactions. They know that high prices are pressing upon the mass, or that certain classes of individuals are becoming unpopular, or that feeling towards another nation is friendly or hostile. But, always barring the effect of suggestion which is merely the assumption of leadership by the reporter, there would be nothing in the feeling of the mass that fatally determined the choice of any particular policy. All that the feeling of the mass demands is that policy as it is developed and exposed shall be, if not logically, then by analogy and association, connected with the original feeling.

Yet so often, when it comes to pushing for a new policy it is not the politician who is on the front lines, it's the journalists. When the gun control debate pops up after a shooting, who brings it up first? Journalists and reporters. When there's talk of tax policy, tax increases are normally mentioned, and the "usual suspects" so often talked about include media figures.

"Connected with the original feeling", he says. What is the day to day death count from Afghanistan and Iraq? Which journalistic authorities suddenly considered it to not be a big deal anymore? It used to be front page, and worth hours of daily discourse. Now, you don't even see anti-war protesters around anymore. Why would you? The "real leaders" aren't rubbing salt on the wound anymore. There is no connection with the original feeling, the journalists have not created it, they like the guy who's in the presidency now.

There are clearly portions of this chapter which are without question geared toward politicians and rulers, even some historical rulers. On page 246:

But wise leaders are not content to do that. Provided they think publicity will not strengthen opposition too much, and that debate will not delay action too long, they seek a certain measure of consent. They take, if not the whole mass, then the subordinates of the hierarchy sufficiently into their confidence to prepare them for what might happen, and to make them feel that they have freely willed the result. But however sincere the leader may be, there is always, when the facts are very complicated, a certain amount of illusion in these consultations. For it is impossible that all the contingencies shall be as vivid to the whole public as they are to the more experienced and the more imaginative. A fairly large percentage are bound to agree without having taken the time, or without possessing the background, for appreciating the choices which the leader presents to them. No one, however, can ask for more. And only theorists do. If we have had our day in court, if what we had to say was heard, and then if what is done comes out well, most of us do not stop to consider how much our opinion affected the business in hand.

And therefore, if the established powers are sensitive and well-informed, if they are visibly trying to meet popular feeling, and actually removing some of the causes of dissatisfaction, no matter how slowly they proceed, provided they are seen to be proceeding, they have little to fear. It takes stupendous and persistent blundering, plus almost infinite tactlessness, to start a revolution from below. Palace revolutions, interdepartmental revolutions, are a different matter. So, too, is demagogy. That stops at relieving the tension by expressing the feeling. But the statesman knows that such relief is temporary, and if indulged too often, unsanitary. He, therefore, sees to it that he arouses no feeling which he cannot sluice into a program that deals with the facts to which the feelings refer.

Yes, but how is that popular feeling created? He who controls the information controls popular opinion, do they not? And who controls more information? A politician or a ruler? Now, before you answer this question too quickly, consider why so many truely/easily identifiable totalitarian states have state run media. Pravda is the obvious answer that comes to mind, in the old Soviet Union. In modern day Iran, the media is state owned or completely state controlled - Press TV is state owned. Understanding this process is important.

If the ruler controls the media, then the ruler does control the most information, giving them the power to control popular feeling by showing(and thus controlling what people do know) and by not showing(and thus controlling what people do not know). This one of the things that separates a true ruler from an ambitious wannabe. So if politicians do not inherently control the information, then they need to team up with those who do, provided that they are interested in becoming a willing partner. Could we describe Lippmann this way? Yes.

Lippmann openly called for Franklin Roosevelt to assume emergency powers. The danger was not that Roosevelt would ever control too much power, but rather that congress would refuse to surrender it quickly enough! Lippmann also helped to draft Wilson's "Fourteen Points" speech. Willing partner indeed.

Getting back to the book Public Opinion, on page 246/247 he writes this:

The mending of fences consists in offering an occasional scapegoat, in redressing a minor grievance affecting a powerful individual or faction, rearranging certain jobs, placating a group of people who want an arsenal in their home town, or a law to stop somebody's vices. Study the daily activity of any public official who depends on election and you can enlarge this list. There are Congressmen elected year after year who never think of dissipating their energy on public affairs. They prefer to do a little service for a lot of people on a lot of little subjects, rather than to engage in trying to do a big service out there in the void. But the number of people to whom any organization can be a successful valet is limited, and shrewd politicians take care to attend either the influential, or somebody so blatantly uninfluential that to pay any attention to him is a mark of sensational magnanimity. The far greater number who cannot be held by favors, the anonymous multitude, receive propaganda.

Scapegoat? True, he is saying that a politician will offer a scapegoat to shift blame or calm people down, yet how many times now have you seen the Tea Party get falsely blamed by reporters for a horrific shooting, over the past few years? Moving along to page 248, we see this:

That the manufacture of consent is capable of great refinements no one, I think, denies. The process by which public opinions arise is certainly no less intricate than it has appeared in these pages, and the opportunities for manipulation open to anyone who understands the process are plain enough.

This brings it back to the beginning. If the "real leader is a powerful newspaper proprietor" as Lippmann states, then through this chapter we have just revealed why it is that the "powerful newspaper proprietor" is "real leader". He understands the process of manipulation. Fellow journalists have even persued studies, and marveled at how brilliant their manipulations were.

A few paragraphs up, I asked the question: how is that popular feeling created? Here's the answer. The Manufacture of Consent. It's no coincidence that Lippmann himself is writing all of this, he was a journalist by trade. That's what he did. For years. Decades.

But what gives journalists the right to manufacture consent? Lippmann answers this. On page 358. I wrote a longer explanation of this here, if you are curious. But I would suggest you just read his words as written. Here is the summary of what he wrote:

news and truth are not the same thing
There is a very small body of exact knowledge, which it requires no outstanding ability or training to deal with.
The rest is in the journalist's own discretion.

That's why journalists are so flagrant with the facts. There are no facts! Facts are not news, and news is not fact. You have a very small body of exact facts, and a very large body of journalistic discretion. This is the foundation of modern journalism.

Now, why would a journalist be so interested in "manufacturing consent"? As he writes on page 75:

And finally since opinions do not stop at the normal members of society, since for the purposes of an election, a propaganda, a following, numbers constitute power, the quality of attention is still further depressed. The mass of absolutely illiterate, of feeble-minded, grossly neurotic, undernourished and frustrated individuals, is very considerable, much more considerable there is reason to think than we generally suppose. Thus a wide popular appeal is circulated among persons who are mentally children or barbarians, people whose lives are a morass of entanglements, people whose vitality is exhausted, shut-in people, and people whose experience has comprehended no factor in the problem under discussion. The stream of public opinion is stopped by them in little eddies of misunderstanding, where it is discolored with prejudice and far fetched analogy.

You're too stupid to know any better. As he writes on page 304/305:

Now the peculiar virtue of functional democracy is supposed to be that men vote candidly according to their own interests, which it is assumed they know by daily experience. They can do that within the self-contained group. But in its external relations the group as a whole, or its representative, is dealing with matters that transcend immediate experience. The shop does not arrive spontaneously at a view of the whole situation. Therefore, the public opinions of a shop about its rights and duties in the industry and in society, are matters of education or propaganda, not the automatic product of shop-consciousness. Whether the guildsmen elect a delegate, or a representative, they do not escape the problem of the orthodox democrat.

See. You're too stupid. Some of you can be educated about the right ways, but for the rest there's propaganda. This gets at something about the progressive mindset that is inescapable. Progressives do not believe in the notion of "public reason". They think it's voodoo magic, it's a fallacy. Lippmann agrees with Croly on this. Which really isn't too surprising, because if you are aware of the history of a magazine called The New Republic, here is what you will learn:

The New Republic was founded by Herbert Croly and Walter Lippmann......

Have I ever mentioned that when it comes to progressives, I don't see the existence of coincidence? I don't. While Lippmann was out there writing about the "manufacture of consent", Edward Bernays was out there engineering consent.(He would write about it later) Not too different. And Bernays, too, thought people were stupid. Look at the cover of Bernays' book "Propaganda", and notice the letter D:

Democracy is administered by the intelligent minority who know how to regiment and guide the masses

Who are these intelligent minorities? And how do they know this? According to Lippmann, "the ostensible leader often finds that the real leader is a powerful newspaper proprietor", and "the opportunities for manipulation open to anyone who understands the process". Anybody can do this. Not just politicians. In modern America, we do have true state run media. That's PBS and NPR. Does anybody see any real difference between PBS and CNN? NPR or your local newspaper?(format notwithstanding) No, you really don't. The differences are small, but content wise you have largely the same thing. As George Creel(another journalist, the leader of Woodrow Wilson's CPI) wrote about achieving(and they did achieve it), "It was not servants we wanted, but associates."

Notice a pattern? Lippmann was a journalist. Creel was a journalist. Croly was a journalist. Bernays was a journalist.

Well then. If the "real leader" is the "newspaper proprietor", is the journalist an associate of the government or has the government become the associate of the journalist?

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Progressives cannot understand the concept of "self interest". To them, it's greed. I'll explain

Have you ever noticed how modern progressives assault any kinds of profits to the death? No matter how big or how small. Profits mean "taking advantage of" someone. Profits mean greed. There's an answer to this. For some progressives, the answer is rooted in marxism, as many who claim to be progressives really are not. But true progressive ideology also gives us the answer.

Herbert Croly is a great place to start, as he was not a marxist from what I can tell, but he clearly supported an ever expanding huge government with commissions and bureaucratic despots. In "Progressive Democracy", Chapter 17: "The Administration as an Agent of Democracy", Croly writes the following: (page 360):

In almost every case it depends for its success upon the ability and disinterestedness with which the law is administered.

Disinterestedness is the key. Administrators are pure while individuals and their representatives are impure, because the administrators are disinterested. The theory goes, that the administrator will do what's good just for the sake of doing good. An important piece of this puzzle is the following, also from Croly's Progressive Democracy (Page 309):

Representative assemblies, on the other hand, were supposed to embody not the will of any definite fraction of the community, but the dim religious light of public reason.

But instead of embodying public reason, what have representative assemblies come to embody instead? Private interest. As I wrote here, distrust of the citizens is foundational for progressives, if you're interested. This is important to understand, progressives have a huge amount of distrust for private interest.

On page 361, Croly writes the following about administrators:

As the custodian of a certain part of the social program, he must share the faith upon which the program depends for its impulse; and he must accept the scientific method upon which the faith depends for its realization. Thus with all his independence he is a promoter and propagandist.

Independence from whom? As I've written in the past, the only way administration can truely work along progressive ideological lines is for the administrators to be disconnected from the voters. As Woodrow Wilson put it:

to proceed without specific warrant in giving effect to the characteristic life of the State

Again from Wilson, in a different essay:

Our peculiar American difficulty in organizing administration is not the danger of losing liberty, but the danger of not being able or willing to separate its essentials from its accidents. Our success is made doubtful by that besetting error of ours, the error of trying to do too much by vote. Self-government does not consist in having a hand in everything, any more than housekeeping consists necessarily in cooking dinner with one’s own hands. The cook must be trusted with a large discretion as to the management of the fires and the ovens.

As Frank Goodnow put it:

the function of administration there should be organized a force of governmental agents absolutely free from the influence of politics.

Even progressives who are largely forgotten to history hold the same view. The chief use of a written constitution is:

is to place certain legislative functions beyond the power of legislatures and congresses, and the object of these reservations is to preserve those functions for the people themselves and to protect them against the venality or folly of their representatives.

By now, I'm sure you see the pattern. Progressives do not believe in the ability of average citizens. This idea that the will of "public reason" can amount to anything useful is clearly magical hogwash. Expertise is much better. Perhaps it can be honestly asked: "Why should we substitute amateur knowledge for expert knowledge"? Sure, that is a fair question. But as I've demonstrated, progressivism has a very dark side and it's this: The will of the people be damned. We don't need government of the people, by the people, and for the people. We need experts. We need government of the experts, by the experts, and for the experts.

But why? Because administrators are disinterested. That's why the administrators can do for the people better than representatives can. Now we sit here today in 2012, with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight and we can see that administrators are just as interested as anybody else, their interests are just different. Their interest is massive government. Their interest is power, not money. But as an explanation of progressive ideology, this is an important thing to examine.

As they all make clear,(Wilson, Croly, etc) representatives are dirty. Representatives are there to carry out the selfish private interests of the individuals, who in turn only do things for their own private interest. Their private interests are venal and foolish. Only the public interest is pure, carried out by expert cooks in the kitchen.

Now, in all cases, the progressives above are talking purely about a governmental standpoint. None of the people I quoted said word one about profits. But that doesn't really matter. They've established their thought processes.

Public interest is pure. Private interest is dirty. All private interest is dirty. So dirty, in fact, that we can't allow people to have control over their own lives anymore. The administrators have to control it. Making the leap to profits is a very tiny leap indeed.

Isn't profit in your private interest?

Friday, February 1, 2013

Here is how the progressives' "body of experts" became nearly immortal

As a sort of addendum to my last entry, I would like to point out how the courts made the social regulators - those who would be our real dictators - immortal.

In 1935, in the case of "Humphrey's Executor v. United States", the following is written in the court's opinion:

The government says the phrase "continue in office" is of no legal significance, and, moreover, applies only to the first commissioners. We think it has significance. It may be that, literally, its application is restricted as suggested; but it nevertheless lends support to a view contrary to that of the government as to the meaning of the entire requirement in respect of tenure; for it is not easy to suppose that Congress intended to secure the first commissioners against removal except for the causes specified, and deny like security to their successors. Putting this phrase aside, however, the fixing of a definite term subject to removal for cause, unless there be some countervailing provision or circumstance indicating the contrary, which here we are unable to find, is enough to establish the legislative intent that the term is not to be curtailed in the absence of such cause. But if the intention of [p624] Congress that no removal should be made during the specified term except for one or more of the enumerated causes were not clear upon the face of the statute, as we think it is, it would be made clear by a consideration of the character of the commission and the legislative history which accompanied and preceded the passage of the act. The commission is to be nonpartisan, and it must, from the very nature of its duties, act with entire impartiality. It is charged with the enforcement of no policy except the policy of the law. Its duties are neither political nor executive, but predominantly quasi-judicial and quasi-legislative. Like the Interstate Commerce Commission, its members are called upon to exercise the trained judgment of a body of experts "appointed by law and informed by experience."

And it continues:

Thus, the language of the act, the legislative reports, and the general purposes of the legislation as reflected by the debates all combine to demonstrate the Congressional intent to create a body of experts who shall gain experience by length of service -- a body which shall be independent of executive authority except in its selection, and free to exercise its judgment without the leave or hindrance of any other official or any department of the government. To the accomplishment of these purposes it is clear that Congress was of opinion that length and certainty of tenure would vitally contribute.

The court successfully used the Constitution's own checks and balances against itself. This is the danger of even having the bureaucracy in the first place. The problem is not "the bureaucrats do x, and I don't like x" while "the bureaucrats do y, and I like y", and then haggling about whether or not the merits of what the bureaucracy did are valid. This is merely tinkering around the edges. The problem is the mere existence of the bureaucracy. Nothing more. It exists, that is the problem. It's whole existence is premised upon being unaccountable to the people. Having said lack of accountability, it's no wonder they have become so abusive of the people. Why would they care? We cannot fire them.

Now, "Humphrey's" is a case where FDR was attempting to remove William Humphrey from the FTC. Humphrey was a Coolidge appointee, so as you can imagine, FDR wanted a more statist-minded official running the show. Humphrey was defiant, blah blah blah, the story continues. That's politics for you, and it's unimportant.

As you can see by what I quoted from the "Humphrey's Executor" case, the end result is a permanent bureaucratic class that is nearly untouchable. That's what's important. In what is typically considered his most well known/best speech, "A Time for Choosing" (AKA The "Rendezvous with Destiny" speech) Reagan says the following:

No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. So governments' programs, once launched, never disappear.

Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth.

As Paul Harvey used to say: "And now you know, the rest of the story".