America’s Slide Toward Fascism | George Smith

The article that is linked below may be the best analysis of what our rulers in the United States will never understand about their responsibility to govern.  All of what Ayn Rand has to say, in this piece by George Smith for libertarianism.org and republished at fee.org (the Foundation for Economic Education), are thoughts that have stewed in my mind but never come to words, at least not words as clearly expressed as she did.

As Smith says: Rand knew better than to accept the traditional left-right dichotomy.  It has always been about the individual vs. the state.

In a letter written on March 19, 1944, Ayn Rand remarked: “Fascism, Nazism, Communism and Socialism are only superficial variations of the same monstrous theme—collectivism.”  Rand would later expand on this insight in various articles, most notably in two of her lectures at the Ford Hall Forum in Boston: “The Fascist New Frontier” (Dec. 16, 1962, published as a booklet by the Nathaniel Branden Institute in 1963); and “The New Fascism: Rule by Consensus” (April 18, 1965, published as Chapter 20 in Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal [CUI] by New American Library in 1967).

Rand knew better than to accept the traditional left-right dichotomy between socialism (or communism) and fascism, according to which socialism is the extreme version of left-ideology and fascism is the extreme version of right-ideology (i.e., capitalism).  Indeed, in The Ayn Rand Letter (Nov. 8, 1971) she characterized fascism as “socialism for big business.”  Both are variants of statism, in contrast to a free country based on individual rights and laissez-faire capitalism.

She warns especially against choosing the middle of the road between the two extremes of the same collectivism, a position that gives us, as I have written elsewhere, the Pigrolet.

Read Smith’s article here: https://fee.org/articles/ayn-rand-predicted-an-american-slide-toward-fascism/.  If left to me I would say no one should graduate high school without understanding this analysis and what is behind it.

=David A. Woodbury=

Note: This article was originally added here in October 2017. It has been brought forward because it remains timely if not downright urgent with the unbelievable incompetence-to-govern among all who hold office in the nation’s capital. If it becomes unavailable at the FEE link in the preceding paragraph, it is available in a downloadable PDF file by clicking below.

A Well-regulated Militia

The time is approaching when we will be compelled by an act of Congress to register our firearms.

We are continually reminded that “the right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” That part is clear to everyone except those promulgating law in Washington, D.C. Few people, though, understand what is meant by the first part of the Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. Let’s begin with an account of a genuine muster of the well-regulated militia:

The four pages of text in these images (following the title page of the book from which they are copied) give a brief illustration of the reason for the much-misunderstood Second Amendment.  Ezekiel Porter, mentioned on the second page, was my fourth-great-grandfather, by the way.

This excerpt describes the forming of the militia in Farmington, Franklin County, Maine, which at the time was in Kennebec County, Massachusetts.  They had good reason to become “well-regulated” and they were expected to use their privately-owned guns.  Yes, those guns were simple black-powder muskets, long rifles, and pistols and, in the event of an invasion, those citizens would come up against the same sorts of weapons they themselves owned plus a few cannons that the invaders could drag with them.  There was no standing army in the USA of 1790.  And this militia, described in the History of Farmington and comprised of capable men of the area towns, was smart to train for battle, because the British surely did come back and invade the United States in the war of 1812.

The Constitution provides for a navy, but it specifically prohibits a standing army for a period of longer than two years.  That provision has never been rescinded by any amendment.  However, we have supported a standing army (and more) ever since the last time Congress made a declaration of war on June 5, 1942, now 75 years longer than authorized by the Constitution since we’ve had no threat of invasion of this country in that time.

Among the powers granted to Congress in Article I, Section 8, are these:
To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years; To provide and maintain a Navy; To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions; To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress.

Then the Second Amendment clarifies: A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

Now compare this language from the Constitution to the truncated excerpt from the History of Farmington, above.

Should the United States be policing the world? Or instead, should we citizens throughout the country be training ourselves regularly in order to repel invaders?  I’m not sure, but I am sure that I am not proud of the politics since 1945 that have been driving us into a permanent worldwide policing role and military presence.  We have been in Korea, for instance, since 1950.  Could we not have trained the South Korean military in self-defense in a little over two years from the cessation of gunfire in 1953?  Could we not have withdrawn our forces from that country by, say, 1955?  (See A Parting Tribute to my Uncle Woody.)

The constitutional prohibition against a standing army and the provision for a well-regulated militia, together, are what make the debate about the right to bear arms so complicated.  Perhaps the original threat giving rise to the Second Amendment, defending ourselves from an invading foreign army, has evaporated, but perhaps a new basis has cemented itself just as firmly.  Perhaps the invaders we must defend against are hidden within our midst.

The National Guard, a term in use since 1824, now fills the role of the constitutional militia.  The Militia Act of 1903 redefined and recreated the traditional state militias as the “organized militia,” that is, the National Guard.

So how is it that we also maintain a standing army dispersed to permanent undeclared wars and other assignments around the world?  Please comment if you have the answer to that.

In spite of these developments, it remains indisputable that the Constitution provides for the citizenry of the country, not the professional army of the federal government, to keep and bear arms.

It was clear to the founders of the United States that an armed population is comprised of citizens, an unarmed population is comprised of subjects.  George Washington is credited with the statement: “A free people ought not only to be armed and disciplined, but they should have sufficient arms and ammunition to maintain a status of independence from any who might attempt to abuse them, which would include their own government.”

The Second Amendment, then and now, is about defending the United States of America from forces that would destroy it, from outside or from within.  Originally, every home was equipped with one or more firearms anyway — standard equipment for hunting and personal defense, and readily diverted to the purpose of defending the country.  It can certainly be argued that a citizen might properly own a weapon in any class of arms that could be deployed against the United States, the better to emloy such a weapon in the service of the militia.

In the centuries that have passed since the adoption of the Second Amendment in 1791, the National Guard, better trained and better equipped, has taken over for the militia described in the History of Farmington.  I accept that, and while I have no desire to own my own fleet of Phantom jets, I also do not intend to jeopardize my permanent right to own the firearms that I consider important to my own safety as well as my country’s defense.

A Recent Historical Perspective

I suppose I am more in tune with the America of the 70 years preceding my birth than the America of the 70 years since I was born.  While I have mastered the skills for “survival” — better to say participation — in the ever-changing society of the past few decades, I have also mastered the skills needed for survival in the ages familiar to my grandparents.

I’ve seen it from both perspectives.  I don’t trust the present — the technology, the world order, the federal government, the culture of the masses, the distribution systems for food and other perishables, or America’s single source for all manufactured goods (China).

That something has changed in the character of our population is obvious to an older American. When I was born (1950) a home typically had one wage-earner. There was a mindset that approved of locking up the mentally ill, and more were locked up than perhaps was right. But some were confined that should have been. Courts did not coddle violent criminals. Children conformed to certain social standards called “manners” and did not dictate the tone of a household or the spending habits of a family. Only a narrow band of entertainment and advertising were aimed at children, not the entire entertainment industry. Education was designed to impart information and promote critical thinking, not to indoctrinate compliant minions of a ruling oligarchy.

When I was five years old the Meadow Gold milkman in Lima, Ohio, still drove a horse-drawn ice-chilled wagon drawn by the mare, Buttermilk.  The man who repaired pots and pans also appeared from time to time on a horse-drawn cart.  Many of the country’s railroad trains were still pulled by steam locomotives.  Our home didn’t have a television or telephone, and my parents survived for months at a time without an automobile.  A long gun in a closet or on the wall was no more unusual than an umbrella in a stand beside the front door.  The elevator at the Montgomery Ward store had a full-time operator who delivered customers to their chosen floors.  It took a nickel to get a six-ounce bottle of pop from a machine and there was a two-cent deposit on a glass bottle.  My grandmother was still mourning my uncle’s death in Korea.

It wasn’t until I was ten years old that I owned my first firearm, a Marlin .22-caliber single shot rifle which I earned by selling Christmas cards in Gomer, Ohio.  I told my customers what I was working toward, and they supported my objective.  I still have the Boys Life magazine with the ad for Junior Sales Club of America, which provided the Christmas cards and the gun.  It was shipped to a local hardware store in my name, and my father had to go with me and sign for it to pick it up.  I haven’t shot anyone with it yet.

I am not nostalgic for the living conditions of those times.  Perhaps, though, I miss the gentle sense of peace, security, and opportunity.  Perhaps I am nostalgic for the freedom to engage in any enterprise as a teenager, from street musician to seller of homemade potholders, from apprentice gardener to newspaper carrier.  I miss coins made from silver, photo albums, and a news media that barely paid attention to politicians and celebrities.

I miss heroes who were actually honored, Sunday school, and shelves full of National Geographic magazines.  I miss holidays that were sincerely celebrated with town ceremonies on the appropriate dates before it became de rigueur to shift them to the nearest Monday for people whose incomes were derived from taxes (and, yes, bank fees have become a new form of taxation with the complicity of Congress, so banks now close on those Monday holidays).

And I miss the respect that Congress once held for the American people. I am not volunteering to register my firearms, but I do think that we are, at last, a conquered people.

=David A. Woodbury=

Extremism

“But though I was initially disappointed at being categorized as an extremist, as I continued to think about the matter I gradually gained a measure of satisfaction from the label. Was not Jesus an extremist for love … Was not Amos an extremist for justice: ‘Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.’ … And John Bunyan: ‘I will stay in jail to the end of my days before I make a butchery of my conscience.’ And Abraham Lincoln: ‘This nation cannot survive half slave and half free.’ And Thomas Jefferson: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal….’ So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremists for preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice? In that dramatic scene on Calvary’s hill three men…were [all] crucified for the same crime — the crime of extremism. Two were extremists for immorality, and thus fell below their environment. The other, Jesus Christ, was an extremist for love, truth, and goodness, and thereby rose above his environment. Perhaps the South, the nation, and the world are in dire need of creative extremists.”

Martin Luther King, Jr., “Letter from Birmingham Jail”

“I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice! And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue!”

Senator Barry Goldwater in his speech accepting the nomination to become his party’s candidate for the presidential election of 1964

We Are a Conquered People

UNITED WE STAND. DIVIDED WE CRUMBLE.

The states of America which became united in one federation still exist in name and with regional eccentricities that each takes pride in. People in every state still entertain the delusion that they are separately-governed entities, voluntarily united into one country.

Most of us have accepted the reality that the states are, in fact, cemented like stones in a chimney. A geologist might think of a kind of rock called conglomerate, or another called porphyry.

“Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice.”

Barry Goldwater

A rational person supports the Union of these states, as indeed I do. There are several things that half or more of us throughout the country have not accepted, however, even though we are individually powerless to resist:

  • that the three constitutional branches of the federal government and the fourth unconstitutional (unelected regulatory/bureaucratic) branch have, since at least 1912, conspired together to created a massive federal monster
  • that real money has been replaced, fifty years ago by promises to pay (federal reserve notes) and lately by digital “currency,” all of this to serve the banking “industry” and its shadowy controllers (not meaning comptrollers) as well as to serve the Internal Revenue Service’s oversight of virtually all transactions and savings
  • that insulting the political elite — “calling a spade a spade” or naming the white elephant in the room — results in public shaming, on-line surveillance, and punishment by the IRS
  • that it has become “subversive” to say or publish anything calling into question the motives of those who love and control our colossal, smothering, unsustainable federal government
  • that freedom, last experienced in this country in the 1960s, has become but a memory for those of us who experienced it and a dream for those who can only imagine it
  • that almost all electronic and “broadcast” media are political organs of the now-dominant political party, making them no more objective than Izvestia and Pravda in the old U.S.S.R.
  • that we who believe in and support the ideals that this country originally stood for are now branded as racists, extremists, and radicals by those who are the true racists, extremists, and radicals

I REMEMBER FREEDOM. I WAS AN ADULT IN THE 1960s.

There are those within the population, younger than I, who have been schooled in liberty as I was and who understand it more as an ideal than an experience. And there are many, both younger and older than I, who have given it little thought until recently, when the loss of freedom in one form or another has come around to affect them personally, and that more or less unexpectedly.

The mounting threats to personal possession of “weapons of war” is an example of that. By contrast with today’s hysteria over guns, my first firearm was a Marlin .22-caliber single shot rifle which I earned when I was ten years old by selling Christmas cards in Gomer, Ohio. I told my customers what I was working toward, and they supported my objective. I still have the Boys Life magazine with the ad for Junior Sales Club of America, which provided the Christmas cards and the gun. It was shipped to a local hardware store in my name, and my father had to go with me and sign for it to pick it up. I haven’t shot anyone with it yet.

The growth of government is in direct proportion to the erosion of our liberties.

State governments have necessarily become monsters in step with the fattening of the federal government.

Few Americans younger than I have a perspective on the growth of the federal behemoth or have any idea of the origins of each component of its growth. They don’t know the politics behind each growth spurt.

I remember the debates about “revenue sharing” during President Nixon’s first term. The federal government identified a problem that we didn’t know we had and enacted a fix that we didn’t need. Some states, poorly managed for many years and dominated by vocal, indignant politicians, complained that other states had more money per capita to spend — for whatever reason — perhaps, even, because they were better managed.

Someone put before Nixon (who was a student of Keynes, remember?) what he and Congress deemed was a great idea: Force all states to contribute to a special federal fund more or less in proportion to population, and the federal government would then return that revenue — all of it, they promised — by sharing it with those states where it was most needed for specific purposes.

Most states bought into the plan, because it was tailored to assure that those jurisdictions in need of seaport development, for instance, would receive special grants for that purpose while other states needing irrigation for agriculture would make out better than they would without federal “sharing.” From this came the common theme today that, whenever a bond issue is floated it describes the federal matching funds which — Hey, listen up! — is money we can’t turn down!

That is how state governments have been forced, financially, to mimic the growth of the federal monster and is but one example from my adult lifetime. As with the Social Security program and everything else, the promises made to get it past suspicious voters or suspicious representatives in Congress were honored for about the duration of one president’s administration and then abandoned as the program sank into the muck of government control.

With each such program, of course, come requirements unrelated to the purpose for which the money is distributed. Highway funds include mandates that apply to public schools, agricultural grants include mandates affecting medical care for the elderly, and so on.

Resistance is Futile.

For those who want to participate in a revolution against the burgeoning totalitarian regime, it would be wrong for the “foot soldiers” of the revolution to confront the government’s grunts — the local police, the National Guard, the professional military. For the most part, the police, the Guard, the standing army are us — our neighbors, our cousins, our children, our personal friends. Any rabble in arms, in a confrontation with such professional force, doesn’t stand a chance.

I think it has been folly for foot soldiers in any army in any country in any epoch to participate in a clash of front-line troops. The people at the top are your enemy. They will fight a war of attrition using the soldiers at their command. An army with any sense would try to storm the residences of the powerful, not the front lines of their protectors.

Don’t fight in the streets. The real enemy is at the top. But Washington, D.C., is off limits. Any attack there is too costly. Sun Tzu, in The Art of War, said that deception and trickery are the highest and most effective strategies against an opponent. Guess what; those tactics have already been employed against the United States from within. They have already won.

For the next generation or two, half the people across the 50 states will blame the country’s rot on all that came before 2021. The other half will blame it on all that happened since.

It’s My Fault.

I blame it on us. Since the 1970s we’ve accepted the lust for egalitarian results over the uncertainties attending equal opportunity. We’ve opted for indoctrination in the dream of fairness over education in reality. We haven’t understood what we have been voting for, what — not who — we have chosen in our elections. We have chosen unrealistic expectations of fluffy lives and guarantees of happiness. We have vilified the very idea of individual responsibility and pursued rights by group — rights to things and conditions that have a cost but not a cost that those in the group must pay.

We have turned the original idea that every individual has affirmative rights — the right to do whatever one might decide to do without interference from others or the government (id est, those same others) so long as what I do doesn’t infringe on the rights of the next guy — into a body of negative rights — the right to be free from something rather than free to do something. In this body of negative rights, we would have the right to be free from illness, free from insult, free from hunger, cold, heat, inconvenience of any sort. I would have the right to be free from restrictions on my personal expression even when my personal expression forces you to stand aside or participate in it or pay for it.

Conquest In Various Forms

The American continents were simply overrun by outsiders in the latter half of the Second Millennium — overwhelmed by a population supplied with superior tools, weapons, and governmental imperative. In the novel, Cold Morning Shadow, the 20th-Centtury American Indian, Henry Clay Comosh, acknowledges that fact, echoing an earlier comment by a Japanese survivor of World War II: We are a conquered people.

There are various summations of the rules for destroying a country, available by searching the internet. Look up Saul Alinsky, Noam Chomsky, Mao Tse-Tung, and of course Karl Marx and Vladimir Lenin. These demons in Satan’s service well understood how to transform a country from within by changing the people’s expectations and not so much with weapons of war, although a little of that is needed to set the populace on edge.

You Mean, Do Nothing?

While I think it is folly to attack the federal monster by shooting guns in the streets with the hope of changing things back to the way they were in , 1960, 1900, 1840, or 1780, I also think it is useless for an individual like me to try to topple the people at the top, even though that is the appropriate target and the way to reduce casualties. A few hundred years ago a ruler could surround himself with some protection, but he was necessarily far more exposed, while traveling, for instance, than today. Even though the ones at the top are the symbols of political power and that is who presumably must be removed and replaced (with whom…?), I think it is practically impossible now to do it.

I also think those in top political office do not, in fact, possess much power. They are manipulated by the ones literally in the shadows who run the political parties and who control the money. There is plenty of speculation out there, not to mention evidence, around who those people are; I don’t need to name anyone.

It is most sad that any “revolution” against the collectivist powers in the federal government, even should it succeed in supplanting the body of the monster, will be a devolution into a comparable monster. This is made plain in Eric Hoffer’s The True Believer, discussed in detail at this page. and at this Farnam Street site. A revolution based on good ideas needs to generate fervor in the masses. The masses need leaders. People interested in becoming revolutionary leaders have their own self-interest at heart more than the ideals that brought them to power.

Ave, Don Quixote!

The Washington, D.C., of tour books and picture post cards was built upon a swamp, we’re told, an exceedingly accurate representation of the government that has since formed within the slime and the goo. President Trump was elected to clean it out.

That swamp, though, is smeared across a bedrock of limestone hardness — a deep state which no swamp-cleaning can touch. Donald Trump wasn’t able to expose, much less scratch the veneer of that mantle. Its retribution for his presumption to hammer at its surface was so ferocious and so frightening to his close allies that he was left standing alone in tatters and bewilderment. Ave, Don Quixote, and God bless you. You’re the bravest man ever to hold public office in the United States of America.

R.I.P. U.S.A.

In the movie, “Catch-22,” after the Italian brothel has been destroyed, Captain Yossarian finds an old man sitting in the rubble. The gist of the old Italian’s comment to the American is that Italy has been conquered, so now he must direct his loyalty to the conquerors.

Unlike the old Italian in the movie, I am not going to feign loyalty to the powers that will rule the United States for the rest of my lifetime. But for my own peace I acknowledge that we are a conquered people. It happened just as the patron saints of collectivism said it would.

This isn’t surrender on my part. This isn’t capitulation. It’s marking time. Yes, some of us can rise up and resist. I pray that, for those who participate in any uprising, it will be a smart resistance and not some goofiness about masks and vaccines. I fear that much of the energy needed to rescue the United States from the conquerors has been dissipated in useless squabbles over the virus.

My own days of guerrilla fighting are over. I wore sergeant’s stripes in the Army during the Vietnam non-war and I’m now in my eighth decade. My mission henceforth is, as Albert Jay Nock argued: to document, edify, and exhort — to do exactly what you see here.

Restoring any semblance of the country I was born into will truly take a war of ideas. The opposing sides are individualism against collectivism, “Truth forever on the threshold, Wrong forever on the throne.”* The idea of freedom needs to take hold once more. That won’t occur in my lifetime. For the rest of my life, though, I’m keeping my guns, cleaned, loaded, and unregistered.

=David A. Woodbury= 18 January 2021

*James Russell Lowell in the poem “The Present Crisis” — 1845. The hymnal of the Episcopal church included a hymn based on Lowell’s poem, beginning with the line, “Once to every man and nation comes the moment to decide…” The hymn was purged when an updated hymnal was published in 1982.

Quality of Life

James Michener published a slim volume in 1970, The Quality of Life. He wrote, however, of matters that affected people in general, America specifically, and all of us according to groups or group identities, or as Eric Hoffer characterized us: the masses.

Michener is a splendid novelist and one of my all-time favorites. In The Quality of Life he was sounding the alarm, and much of what troubled him then has come to pass. It is now, in its way, a depressing book.

Significantly, we did not heed his alarm, or enough of us did not, anyway, that we could exert any effect on the future. (I was an adult when it was published, and I read it soon thereafter.)

We are all concerned in one way or another for the plight of others, the course of history, the fate of humans everywhere. But daily and locally we must be concerned not so much for the masses but for ourselves, individually. A generation ago we were exhorted to “think globally, act locally.”

If a person is not comfortable as an individual, fulfilled, content, and hopeful, then he is unlikely to have a positive effect on any larger group: his family, neighbors, community, nation, or the world. I have, perhaps selfishly, sought to assure that I, the individual, am indeed comfortable from day to day, fulfilled in my personal pursuits, content with my lot, and optimistic. And yet, were I not so selfishly occupied — were my personal needs not being met, my effect on those around me might have been very unpleasant for all.

I am not at all concerned that there’ll be a shortage of work. There will be plenty of things for people to do. The problem is, they may be things that we don’t want to pay much money for.”

David Siegel in Bloomberg

Bloomberg published an article 12 January 2021 reporting on interviews with three financial industry executives to learn their concerns for the future, meaning what worries them most.

Is it pestilence and pandemics? Asteroids? Global warming? Warfare and famine?

No. One focused on risks in cybersecurity and artificial intelligence. The other two discussed concerns for the future of the human condition. The comment that stood out to me is quoted above.

One almost can’t be quoted in Bloomberg without acknowledging the chasm between the rich and the poor. Two of the three acknowledged that perennial blot on humanity. One of the three was concerned about high unemployment or under-employment and wide-ranging social unrest. The third, quoted above, had a more esoteric concern that what will be left for humans to do, to support themselves, may be tedious and unstimulating.

This latter expert’s concern assumes performing menial labor in exchange for a minimum-but-perpetually-inadequate wage will be the norm.

In his own words: What we’re doing today is finding more and more ways to essentially reduce the need to have humans involved with work. So much of the investment in business in America is to essentially automate away human labor or, even more curiously, to devalue human labor. -David Siegel

The Human Condition

It strikes me that all three financial executives, the “experts,” barely acknowledge the rest of the world. Their careers are in America’s financial dominance of world affairs. I am aware that there are more than mere pockets of humanity but whole nations — and I have reached such places in my travels — where people live no differently than their ancestors did a thousand years ago, but for the addition of T-shirts bearing commercial slogans and the presence of corrugated galvanized sheet metal for roofing.

Humans have withstood some horrible conditions, by modern American standards, and perhaps half the people in the world still do. If the conditions arise that the three financial executives in Bloombergs interviews worry about, modern Americans will be ill-equipped, mentally and physically, to adapt. But their children will and, better still, their grandchildren will. Because they can, and once they know no better, they will.

We can be poor again.

I have pre-adolescent grandchildren. They are too young to announce career choices yet. Indeed, I hope they are steered away from the notion that they must choose specific careers but that they might, instead, choose a way of life.

In my youth I fell in with Albert Jay Nock’s notion that one attends an institution of higher learning for one’s own edification — for tutelage under the best people, the real experts, in their fields of science or the arts, for instance. I earned a college degree in a “subject” which fascinated me before I enrolled in the program and about which I previously knew nearly nothing. What I would do “for a living” afterward didn’t really concern me. I was more concerned with where I might make my home than what I would do for a living once I settled down. (My college advisor called me an anachronism.)

I plan to use my influence with my grandchildren to counsel them similarly. If one decides to become a medical professional, for instance, well, then, that profession can be pursued almost anywhere. (I suspect that, in the future, it won’t be such a lucrative calling, though.)

I hope that my grandchildren will choose a way of life over a profession, though. And in choosing a way of life, one now faces a fundamental dichotomy: urban versus rural. If they attend college for job training instead of for edification, I hope they choose to be trained in a job that fits with each one’s chosen way of life and chosen environment.

As for me, I have been lured by open space, drawn close to the earth, pulled farther from the conveniences of urban congestion and its attending surfeit of human proximity. Were it not for the life I have led, I could more readily have spent my days nurturing monocotyledonous crops than navigating the vagaries of corporate federal compliance or the challenges of serving customers’ inscrutable preferences in mid-morning snacks, e.g., in a metropolitan coffee shop.

Quality of life, to me — and perhaps to many others, should they think about it — has been determined not by career, social status, entertainment, or excitement, but by family, peaceful surroundings, and meaningful after-work occupations to balance the stress and boredom in the job that brings home a biweekly payroll deposit.

It behooves a person, too, to recognize as early in life as possible that one is not going to be famous, rich, influential, beautiful, or long remembered. Expecting any of that leads to disappointment, stress, heartache, and poverty in spirit if not also in possessions. Those who have understood this and written well about it include Helen and Scott Nearing, Eric Hoffer, and E.F. Schumacher.

Caring for oneself and demanding no more of the world than one contributes to it is a theme in my novel, Cold Morning Shadow. As for the children: They have a choice. We need to make them aware that they do.

=David A. Woodbury=

Four Little Words

February 24, 2018

This article was originally published by the Foundation for Economic Education on FEE.org. Use this link to see the original article. It is pertinent as we cross over into 2021 because the new administration in the White House will have much to say about guns.

In the wake of yet another mass shooting in a public school, a host of familiar recommendations have resurfaced about how to “prevent this from ever happening again.” Predictably, both conservatives and liberals are looking to the government for a solution. Americans have somehow arrived at a point where they cannot conceive of human action that is not either prohibited, mandated, or, at the very least, centrally planned.

The first problem is the goal. It is absurdly unrealistic to believe any set of rules is going to prevent anything from “ever happening again.” If you doubt that, I invite you to examine the war on drugs. Many decades ago, politicians decided American citizens taking heroin was never going to happen again. They banned that drug completely. You aren’t allowed to possess or sell it under any circumstances. Not after a background check. Not with a doctor’s prescription. Not at all.

Today, that drug is at the center of what the same government calls an opioid “epidemic.” Epidemic. So much for heroin overdoses “never happening again.”

Yet, despite this evidence, liberals still suggest what they’ve always suggested: further restrictions on gun ownership. A good portion of them believes that only government employees charged with national defense or public safety should be allowed to carry guns. Ban them completely for the civilian population, they say, and mass shooters won’t be able to obtain them.

You know, just like drugs.

The conservative answer to liberal prohibition (oxymoron?) is to “arm and train the teachers.” While no one has come out and suggested mandating teachers carry firearms or be trained in using them, every suggestion seems to suggest “we” (i.e., the government) need to do the arming and training.

Here’s a little newsflash for both sides: the teachers are already armed.

No, not every teacher carries firearms and perhaps not as high a percentage of teachers do so as the percentage of the general population that carries. But there are over three million teachers in public schools and some percentage of them have concealed carry permits. It would be unlikely that there aren’t at least some members of every faculty in America that have a concealed carry permit.

It’s not a matter of arming teachers, but rather to cease disarming them when they report to work.

To the extent conservatives acknowledge this option at all, they seem trapped in the same box as liberals in feeling the need to point out there are teachers who are also retired military, in the reserves, or former law enforcement officers. That’s probably true. But there are also tens of millions of Americans, and likely tens of thousands of teachers, who both own firearms and never served in the military or police.

An armed civilian population constitutes that “well-regulated militia” the 2nd Amendment refers to. What makes a militia a militia is the members not being part of the regular army.

I’ve often said the greatest danger to liberty is not a foreign army, terrorists, or even a homegrown tyrant. It is four little words. And they aren’t, “Up against the wall!” That comes later.

They are, “Something must be done.”

Instead of the government “doing something” about mass shootings, it should stop doing something. It should stop prohibiting teachers from carrying into school the same firearms they are licensed and trusted to carry in most other places. It is the path of least resistance to providing realistic protection for schoolchildren. It requires no one to do anything they aren’t already doing.

No, this will not ensure that mass shootings “never happen again.” Nothing will. And not every teacher with a firearm, confronted with the pressure of an active shooter situation, will calmly dispatch the shooter. But as we saw in Parkland, FL, neither will every trained police officer.

Broward County Sheriff’s deputy Scot Peterson was assigned to the school as a resource officer and was on the school grounds during the entire incident. He heard the shooting inside the school, but videos show he remained outside for four minutes during the six-minute mass shooting, which claimed seventeen lives.

Peterson wasn’t alone. Three other armed law enforcement officers were on the scene and failed to enter the school before backup arrived.

This wasn’t the only government failure in this case. Local police had been called to Nikolas Cruz’s home thirty-nine times over the past seven years, according to documents obtained by CNN. Members of the family he lived with after his mother’s death report he routinely introduced himself as “a school shooter.”

It wasn’t just local police who dropped the ball on Cruz. The FBI was warned multiple times about Cruz, including by “an unidentified woman close to Cruz” who called the FBI a month before the incident, warning of her fears he would “get into a school and just shoot the place up.” The FBI was also called in September 2017 by a video blogger who said a user named “nikolas cruz” had posted a comment on one of his videos, saying, “I”m going to be a professional school shooter.”

Hopefully, this will inspire more than mere outrage at government incompetence. Americans should take a long, hard look at how much of what should be personal and private they have allowed government to become involved in and how badly it has failed them. And if government can’t run education or health care, it certainly shouldn’t be trusted with something as important as the defense of one’s own life.

Thomas Paine began his pamphlet, Common Sense, widely credited with convincing a critical mass of colonists to support American independence, by making a crucial distinction:

“SOME writers have so confounded society with government, as to leave little or no distinction between them; whereas they are not only different, but have different origins.” He went on to say, “Society in every state is a blessing, but Government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state an intolerable one.”

It’s time Americans remembered the miracles possible within that blessing called society and the limitations of an institution based on nothing more than consolidated brute force. Mass shootings are horrible situations under any circumstances, but they may be rendered less horrible if the victims have options other than to call the government and wait.

States that haven’t already should repeal any laws necessary to give the right and the responsibility for self-defense back to teachers and other school employees. Allowing them the option to carry firearms will both act as a deterrent to future shooters and give teachers a reasonable chance to defend their students and themselves the next time the need arises.

The government has had its chance. It has failed. It’s time to try a little freedom.

Tom Mullen
Tom Mullen

Tom Mullen is the author of Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? and A Return to Common  Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America. For more information and more of Tom’s writing, visit www.tommullen.net.

Your Day in Court

“If it weren’t for lawyers, dear boy, we wouldn’t need lawyers.”

possibly from the movie “A Murder of Crows” (1998)

Many Americans with ordinary legal disputes never get the trial they thought they were guaranteed by the Constitution. I’m just going to put this link here and let you read the excellent article that it points to.

https://www.nybooks.com/articles/2016/11/24/why-you-wont-get-your-day-in-court/

NOTE: The article’s no-frills TEXT IS PROVIDED at this page IN THE EVENT THE ARTICLE LINKED TO above HAS BEEN REMOVED FROM ITS ORIGINAL SITE BY THE NEW YOrk REVIEW OR OTHERWISE CANNOT BE ACCESSED.


=David A. Woodbury=

Henry George

An email message from Poland, received February 4, spurred some research on my part. My correspondent, Dr. Olgierd Górecki, a faculty member at the University of Łódź, Departament of Law and Administration, had discovered this site dedicated to A. J. Nock and was writing to ask for help in locating a copy of Nock’s book-length essay, Henry George.

Dr. Górecki wrote that in 2013 he had published a book about Herbert Spencer’s political thought and now he is writing his next book dedicated to Albert Jay Nock.

I don’t own a copy of Henry George, and it took me a few days to begin digging. (I was just completing the publication of my own most recent book, Cold Morning Shadow.) Today I began searching the internet in earnest for Dr. Górecki, and I was able to locate:

  • two original copies of the 1939 book on Amazon for $135 each
  • an intriguing site, which I will explore more fully, which includes, among other things, the complete text of Nock’s short book, Henry George
  • a site with a the complete text of Henry George by Albert Jay Nock in PDF

Naturally, I refer readers of this site to either the second or third options above.

I replied to Dr. Górecki’s email with all three of these leads and a copy of the PDF files containing the complete text. I was pleased with this encounter because it is refreshing to know that someone, somewhere (Poland!) is still examining and reporting on the work of Nock.

=David A. Woodbury=

Albert Jay Nock’s Job

Nicholas Silia, Jr., Monday, July 1, 1968 — reprinted from the Foundation for Economic Education

Mr. Silia, a member of The Nockian Society, is a free-lance writer and poet.

Occasionally the smoke-screen generated by public opinion polls, manipulated news media, and other socio-political forms of gamesman­ship tends to daunt even the most ardent proponent of liberty. For we are all human, and yield at times to discouragement.

However, it is during such times that we should try to marshall our inner strength and re-examine our outer goals, for things are not al­ways what they seem. It is, there­fore, in our own best interest, as well as the interest of liberty, not to judge by appearances, but in terms of the realities involved.

But how to distinguish one from the other, you ask? Perhaps Albert Jay Nock, founder and editor of the old Freeman, has the best so­lution.

For example, in his classic es­say, “Isaiah’s Job,” Nock made it abundantly clear that his goal was not to convert the masses to any particular philosophy.

“The mass-man,” wrote Nock, “is one who has neither the force of intellect to apprehend the prin­ciples issuing in what we know as the humane life, nor the force of character to adhere to these prin­ciples steadily and strictly as laws of conduct; and because such peo­ple make up the great, the over­whelming majority of mankind, they are called collectively the masses.”

So, Nock’s duty as he saw it was to tend the Remnant, those unique individuals who had, or were will­ing to develop, the necessary in­sight and ability to understand and employ ideas on liberty. In distinguishing them from the masses Nock noted: “The line of differentiation between the masses and the Remnant is set invariably by quality, not by circumstance. The Remnant are those who by force of intellect are able to ap­prehend these principles, and by force of character are able, at least measurably, to cleave to them. The masses are those who are unable to do either.”

So Nock’s primary purpose, then, was not to alter public opin­ion, manipulate news, or convert others to his way of thinking. He merely sought to improve himself and thereby become ever more capable of furnishing other seek­ers with the inspiration and in­sight which might further their own personal unfoldment. His job, in short, was to be a sort of cata­lytic agent for the Remnant.

Knowing beforehand that the masses were not to be transformed or converted, Nock did not be­come discouraged in his task of servicing the Remnant. And once you clearly see his point you will understand its soundness.

In other words, if your goal is to reform the world to your liking, you are slated for failure from the outset. For that task is im­possible — as well as unnecessary. But if your goal is to reform your­self, and incidentally present the truth as you know it to others, then you cannot fail.

Whether anyone accepts the ideas you present is immaterial to your goal. Even though you may convert no one, you still improve society by improving one of its units — yourself.

Nevertheless, you can be sure that your self-improvement will attract the Remnant’s attention, although you may not be aware of it. Or as Nock said, “… in any given society the Remnant are al­ways so largely an unknown quan­tity. You do not know, and will never know, more than two things about them: first, that they exist; second, that they will find you. Ex­cept for these two certainties, working for the Remnant means working in impenetrable darkness.”

This, then, was Nock’s job. It is likewise the job of all those who are interested in promoting the cause of liberty. And to them, Nock offers this bit of encourage­ment: “If, for example, you are a writer or a speaker or a preacher, you put forth an idea which lodges in the Unbewusstsein of a casual member of the Remnant and sticks fast there. For some time it is in­ert; then it begins to fret and fester until presently it invades the man’s conscious mind and, as one might say, corrupts it. Mean­while, he has quite forgotten how he came by the idea in the first instance, and even perhaps thinks he has invented it; and in those circumstances, the most interest­ing thing of all is that you never know what the pressure of that idea will make him do.”

This endeavor will, of course, strike a responsive chord only in those rare individuals who are ready to work for the Remnant.

This site also includes Albert Jay Nock’s essay, Isaiah’s Job.
=David A. Woodbury=

America’s Slide Toward Fascism

The article that is linked below may be the best analysis of what our rulers in the United States will never understand about their responsibility to govern.  All of what Ayn Rand has to say, in this piece by George Smith for libertarianism.org and republished at fee.org (the Foundation for Economic Education), are thoughts that have stewed in my mind but never come to words, at least not words as clearly expressed as she did.

As Smith says: Rand knew better than to accept the traditional left-right dichotomy.  It has always been about the individual vs. the state.

In a letter written on March 19, 1944, Ayn Rand remarked: “Fascism, Nazism, Communism and Socialism are only superficial variations of the same monstrous theme—collectivism.”  Rand would later expand on this insight in various articles, most notably in two of her lectures at the Ford Hall Forum in Boston: “The Fascist New Frontier” (Dec. 16, 1962, published as a booklet by the Nathaniel Branden Institute in 1963); and “The New Fascism: Rule by Consensus” (April 18, 1965, published as Chapter 20 in Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal [CUI] by New American Library in 1967).

Rand knew better than to accept the traditional left-right dichotomy between socialism (or communism) and fascism, according to which socialism is the extreme version of left-ideology and fascism is the extreme version of right-ideology (i.e., capitalism).  Indeed, in The Ayn Rand Letter (Nov. 8, 1971) she characterized fascism as “socialism for big business.”  Both are variants of statism, in contrast to a free country based on individual rights and laissez-faire capitalism.

She warns especially against choosing the middle of the road between the two extremes of the same collectivism, a position that gives us, as I have written elsewhere, the Pigrolet.

Read Smith’s article here: https://fee.org/articles/ayn-rand-predicted-an-american-slide-toward-fascism/.  If left to me I would say no one should graduate high school without understanding this analysis and what is behind it.

=David A. Woodbury=