Friday, June 18, 2021

Progressivism and the process of nationalizing the people

In The Promise of American Life, Herbert Croly writes a very interesting passage in the first two paragraphs of chapter 9 section 2: (p. 272/273)
The Federal political organization has always tended to confuse to the American mind the relation between democracy and nationality. The nation as a legal body was, of course, created by the Constitution, which granted to the central government certain specific powers and responsibilities, and which almost to the same extent diminished the powers and the responsibilities of the separate states. Consequently, to the great majority of Americans, the process of increasing nationalization has a tendency to mean merely an increase in the functions of the central government. For the same reason the affirmation of a constructive relation between the national and the democratic principles is likely to be interpreted merely as an attempt on the grounds of an abstract theory to limit state government and to disparage states rights. Such an interpretation, however, would be essentially erroneous. It would be based upon the very idea against which I have been continually protesting—the idea that the American nation, instead of embodying a living formative political principle, is merely the political system created by the Federal Constitution; and it would end in the absurd conclusion that the only way in which the Promise of American democracy can be fulfilled would be by the abolition of American local political institutions.

The nationalizing of American political, economic, and social life means something more than Federal centralization and something very different therefrom. To nationalize a people has never meant merely to centralize their government. Little by little a thoroughly national political organization has come to mean in Europe an organization which combined effective authority with certain responsibilities to the people; but the national interest has been just as likely to demand de-centralization as it has to demand centralization. The Prussia of Frederick the Great, for instance, was over-centralized; and the restoration of the national vitality, at which the Prussian government aimed after the disasters of 1806, necessarily took the form of reinvigorating the local members of the national body. In this and many similar instances the national interest and welfare was the end, and a greater or smaller amount of centralized government merely the necessary machinery. The process of centralization is not, like the process of nationalization, an essentially formative and enlightening political transformation. When a people are being nationalized, their political, economic, and social organization or policy is being co√∂rdinated with their actual needs and their moral and political ideals. Governmental centralization is to be regarded as one of the many means which may or may not be taken in order to effect this purpose. Like every other special aspect of the national organization, it must be justified by its fruits. There is no presumption in its favor. Neither is there any general presumption against it. Whether a given function should or should not be exercised by the central government in a Federal system is from the point of view of political logic a matter of expediency—with the burden of proof resting on those who propose to alter any existing Constitutional arrangement.

There are a few fallacies here which live on to this day of which I won't spend too much time here; rather, I want to focus on the ideological aspect of progressivism.

When Croly drones on about "nationalizing" the people, what he means is getting concepts like the 10th amendment out of their thoughts and culture, and he means turning them into a national collective. America's people at the time of the birth of progressivism was not nationalized. Yes, the country had been in existence for over 100 years but the states held tremendous sway with the people and many people still considered themselves individual "Tennesseans", "New Yorkers", "Arizonans", and so forth; much in the same way as the Founders did. Yes, we are Americans, but we are very much dual citizens. "My state has a constitution", the American/Missourian of 1900 would say - "and the Bill of Rights contained in my State's Constitution is something I appreciate", they would likely continue.

Today, Americans are completely nationalized to the extent that they are shocked to learn that America has 51 constitutions as well as 51 bills of rights. In this sense, the original progressive "New Nationalists" have been extraordinarily successful at abolishing the states in the minds of the people.

Croly does a brilliant bait and switch here. He says:

Consequently, to the great majority of Americans, the process of increasing nationalization has a tendency to mean merely an increase in the functions of the central government. For the same reason the affirmation of a constructive relation between the national and the democratic principles is likely to be interpreted merely as an attempt on the grounds of an abstract theory to limit state government and to disparage states rights. Such an interpretation, however, would be essentially erroneous. It would be based upon the very idea against which I have been continually protesting—the idea that the American nation, instead of embodying a living formative political principle, is merely the political system created by the Federal Constitution; and it would end in the absurd conclusion that the only way in which the Promise of American democracy can be fulfilled would be by the abolition of American local political institutions.

Yet, that's exactly what happened. But the cultural shift is what is important. The original progressives knew that if they nationalized the people first, the progressives wouldn't have to abolish the states. The people would abolish the states all on their own in a de-facto manner. Think of the last time a constitutional question came about. Did your state's constitution get overlooked first? As the late Andrew Breitbart famously said: "politics is downstream of culture". Croly makes this quite clear:

When a people are being nationalized, their political, economic, and social organization or policy is being co√∂rdinated with their actual needs and their moral and political ideals. Governmental centralization is to be regarded as one of the many means which may or may not be taken in order to effect this purpose. Like every other special aspect of the national organization, it must be justified by its fruits. There is no presumption in its favor. Neither is there any general presumption against it. Whether a given function should or should not be exercised by the central government in a Federal system is from the point of view of political logic a matter of expediency—with the burden of proof resting on those who propose to alter any existing Constitutional arrangement.

What he is saying is that the narrative is "the thing you want is x", mr. voter. What is the quickest way to get it? Don't worry about which governmental entity employed to get it, just make sure you get what you want. Don't you want it? Yeah, you want it. So just vote for anybody, anywhere who will give it to you. Of course, the progressives will always drive people to the national government. See what they did just a few years later with the 17th amendment, a gross injustice against America, the states, and Federalism. In the very next paragraph(third), he says:

It may be affirmed, consequently, without paradox, that among those branches of the American national organization which are greatly in need of nationalizing is the central government.

Of course the national government needs to get bigger, according to the opening of paragraph three. Opening of paragraph four is about growing government bigger, paragraph 5 is about denigrating the states, and paragraph 6 returns with an opening of how government needs to get bigger. Croly is nothing if consistent. Towards the last paragraphs of this section, Croly writes:

The great obstacle to American national fulfillment must always be the danger that the American people will merely succumb to the demands of their local and private interests and will permit their political craft to drift into a compromising situation—from which the penalties of rescue may be almost as distressing as the penalties of submission.

What "local" and "private" interests. He means the states. Or "worse" in the eyes of a progressive, would be county/city matters. He means one of the most important aspects of American Federalism - just throw it out.

Progressives today have left nationalism behind and have graduated to globalism. But at the time, they fully recognized that the way forward was first to convince the people that "You're just an American", and America has only one constitution. A strikingly simple goal to attain, especially at a time when the progressive era was in full swing - "private" and "special" interests were universally looked down upon and to assist in the process America's first progressive president was also helping to push everybody away from their states.

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Should the British Government be dissolved because they authorized slavery?

Preferred title: Should the British Government be dissolved because Queen Elizabeth authorized Sir John Hawkins to import Africans into the West Indies? (title too long)

Frederick Douglass is amazing.

If you consider yourself a constitutionalist and you aren't reading Douglass you are missing out on true greatness. In 1860, Frederick Douglass tore fellow abolitionists to shreds over the slave trade saying: (source)

Mr. Thompson is just 52 years too late in dissolving the Union on account of this clause. He might as well dissolve the British Government, because Queen Elizabeth granted to Sir John Hawkins to import Africans into the West Indies 300 years ago!

This is the reason that progressives have erased Frederick Douglass. Douglass was pro-constitution, pro-capitalism, and pro-Founding Father. Frederick Douglass was the GOAT. A man like that naturally has to be erased from the history books. Obviously this is relevant today. Just as Douglass is mocking the Garrisonians for some of their notions that the union ought to be abolished over things such as the three-fifths or other clauses, he rightfully points out that the British Empire did in fact authorize slavery in the West Indies and by that reason the crown has to go. Buh bye.

And also the 13 colonies. Britain did that one too. Britain was all-in on slavery for hundreds of years, they had no room at any time to question us. They brought it here and then blamed us. Hypocrites. Looking outward it would be foolish to say that any union or government ought to be dissolved over what was done hundreds of years ago, because if we did that we would be abolishing every single government in existence. China, India, Russia, anywhere in Africa or South America - all of it would have to go.

This is a total troll and the Garrisonians deserved it. There's others in this speech, Douglass was definitely adept at trolling. This is a very fun read and I laughed out loud several times.

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

In progressivism, the definition of "democracy" is "government"

No matter what you may think, your definition of the word "democracy" is wrong as it pertains to what progressives are saying.

In progressivism, "democracy" = "the state". That's their definition of it. It's an unwritten and hidden definition, yet its the most commonly used. In The Promise of American Life, (p. 418) Herbert Croly wrote the following:

Any substantial progress towards the attainment of complete individual disinterestedness is far beyond the reach of contemporary collective effort, but such disinterestedness should be clearly recognized as the economic condition both of the highest fulfillment which democracy can bestow upon the individual and of a thoroughly wholesome democratic organization. Says Mr. John Jay Chapman in the chapter on "Democracy," in his "Causes and Consequences": "It is thought that the peculiar merit of democracy lies in this: that it gives every man a chance to pursue his own ends. The reverse is true. The merit lies in the assumption imposed upon every man that he shall serve his fellow-men.... The concentration of every man on his own interests has been the danger and not the safety of democracy, for democracy contemplates that every man shall think first of the state and next of himself.... Democracy assumes perfection in human nature." But men will always continue chiefly to pursue their own private ends as long as those ends are recognized by the official national ideal as worthy of perpetuation and encouragement. If it be true that democracy is based upon the assumption that every man shall serve his fellow-men, the organization of democracy should be gradually adapted to that assumption. The majority of men cannot be made disinterested for life by exhortation, by religious services, by any expenditure of subsidized words, or even by a grave and manifest public need. They can be made permanently unselfish only by being helped to become disinterested in their individual purposes, and how can they be disinterested except in a few little spots as long as their daily occupation consists of money seeking and spending in conformity with a few written and unwritten rules? In the complete democracy a man must in some way be made to serve the nation in the very act of contributing to his own individual fulfillment. Not until his personal action is dictated by disinterested motives can there be any such harmony between private and public interests. To ask an individual citizen continually to sacrifice his recognized private interest to the welfare of his countrymen is to make an impossible demand, and yet just such a continual sacrifice is apparently required of an individual in a democratic state. The only entirely satisfactory solution of the difficulty is offered by the systematic authoritative transformation of the private interest of the individual into a disinterested devotion to a special object.

American public opinion has not as yet begun to understand the relation between the process of national education by means of a patient attempt to realize the national purpose and the corresponding process of individual emancipation and growth. It still believes that democracy is a happy device for evading collective responsibilities by passing them on to the individual; and as long as this belief continues to prevail, the first necessity of American educational advance is the arousing of the American intellectual conscience. Behind the tradition of national irresponsibility is the still deeper tradition of intellectual insincerity in political matters. Americans are almost as much afraid of consistent and radical political thinking as are the English, and with nothing like as much justification. Jefferson offered them a seductive example of triumphant intellectual dishonesty, and of the sacrifice of theory to practice, whenever such a sacrifice was convenient.

And this screed it goes on from there. Attacks on Jefferson and the Founding(which happen in other parts of the book as well) But to stay on point, this is from Croly's chapter on "Conditions of Individual Emancipation" and yes, he does mean that in the most vile way. How can we emancipate individuals from individualism and promote them into collectivism? He uses all of these words interchangeably, but when he says that "a man must" "be made to serve the nation", he means the state. He means we should all serve government.

Even his quoting of Chapman is quite out of context. Chapman is lauding the greatness of the Founding in that section of his book (see here: [source on p. 121]) and it is not a slavish devotion to the purity of statism. Reading a few pages prior makes this clear, go ahead, you'll see it. Chapman isn't going in the direction Croly is.

Note the several periods in Croly's so-called quoting of Chapman. He's taking Chapman out of context! Even in the early 1900s, progressives have only taken what they have needed and discarded the rest like trash.

But as much as I dislike all of this that Croly has done, I also recognize the value it has. Progressives won't come to you and say "I have polluted the language." "I have perverted the word 'democracy' so that it has a new meaning. That new definition is the state or government." But that is in fact where we are at. The next time you hear a progressive speak and they start going into the use of the word "democracy", just strike that word "democracy" out in your mind as you are listening and insert the word "state" or phrase "the state", and you'll see it. It's an accurate capturing of progressivism ideology as it spills out of their dishonest mouths.

If more conservatives read Croly's book, we would all be better off for it and the result it would have on our dealings with these horrible people. Conservatives MUST read this book. To understand progressivism, this is the book. The Promise of American Life.