A Fun Way to Tell War Stories


He has a whole series of these.

Other people's weather

We barely have weather, compared to you guys. In the last few years, it's true, we've faced freezes every winter that last for days. That has surprised me, because when I was growing up in Houston, which is slightly colder than here, it was nearly unheard of for a freeze to survive much past dawn, let alone all day for several days.

Still, you can't say much about barely-freezing weather a few days a year at most. In this last one, nearly all my greens crops and winter herbs came through unscathed even though I didn't cover them. We had to harvest a lot of green tomatoes. Those bushes, along with the eggplants and peppers, obviously didn't make it.

In the meantime, we're experiencing something more like true winter vicariously through our niece and heir, who met a nice fella, quit her job near San Antonio, sold her house, and hit the road with him. In warm months they live a sort of gypsy life, traveling around in an RV meeting up with friends and family and staying long enough to do some light repair contracting work. In the winter they hang out in a cabin they're building in a remote area of Wisconsin. It seems well dried-in now, and a little larger than last year, and quite cozy. My niece is having the time of her life. The two dogs, Southern flowers, have adapted well.

Generators and Hydropower

So the previous post produced a lot of knowledge about generators, which has clearly been of interest to many of you. I'm going to put a follow-up question out there: how much do you know about generating electricity with water?

I live on a mountain, with a clear and fast-running creek a few yards from my house. There's a good grade -- mountainside and all -- and the water flow is year-round. I've always thought that putting a turbine in the creek would generate enough power to run my house, and the source would be only a few yards away.

How much do you folks know about that project? 

An Icy Time

Power was out this morning before dawn due to ice on the lines; it came back, but then went out again due to a vehicle sliding off the road and taking out a power pole. It was barely above freezing at dawn, and is scheduled to fall all day and night to be near zero by morning. Snow is blowing, but so far not sticking. 

No force, as Sir Thomas Malory would say. I’ll suspend participation in’Dry January’ for the weekend, so there is homemade mead and fire. 

Don't Be Anxious

Via David Foster, an analysis of the worsening trend among the young of being anxious, combined with a graph that shows a correlation between the rise in words like 'caution/worry/risk' and the decline of words like 'progress/future' in our writings since the 1960s. I assume that the nuclear war scares of the Cold War are behind this, although the whole history since WWI points towards technology becoming more threatening and less promising. People endured airplanes turning into bombers and machines turning into machineguns because they could see the strong benefits as well. Nuclear power ended up getting billed as toxic, though, so at some point people started just being afraid of it all.

This is all wrapped up, for reasons that doubtless Mr. Foster can explain to us, with a lot of concerns about relationships and love. Young people are anxious about that too, I guess.

The thing about anxiety is that it turns out to be one of the things you really can do something about. Stoic philosophy is a practice that tackles the problem of anxiety by helping you identify what you can control, what you can't control, and ways of focusing on the former. This does a great deal to eliminate anxiety from your life, because your focus ends up on things you absolutely can master. As you learn to let go of the other things and focus on your area of control, anxiety will diminish because you care less and less about the things outside your control.

The Enchiridion and its commentary (see sidebar) are a good place to start here, but if you want support The Daily Stoic is a good institution as well.

Also, ride horses or motorcycles. As Aristotle teaches, you get virtues by practicing them. Get out and practice taking risks, being courageous, doing dangerous things. You'll get better and better at the things, but you'll also get better and better at handling risky situations in general.

UPDATE: I remember on reflection how exciting Aristotle was to me when I was young, and facing all the uncertainty of youth. Then one day I encountered a professor who told us, “Aristotle says that happiness is an activity, and the particular activity is using your reason to align your vital powers in the pursuit of excellence.”

That was a revelation to me. Happiness was in my hands. All I had to do was do it. The Stoics refined that picture, but that’s the truth. There’s no reason to be anxious. Just go do. 

Hunting Deer with an AR-15

In honor of the Washington Post's blacked-out-horror-show account of AR-15 lethiality, a reminder that it's illegal to hunt deer with one in 12 states because it isn't considered sufficiently lethal (and is, allegedly, cruel to use because it injures instead of kills the deer).

Personally I think it's perfectly adequate for deer hunting, provided you are a good shot. Note that those 12 states mostly include gun control havens like California or Maryland, though. As is so often the case, any stick is good enough to beat their enemies: the AR-15 should be banned, they say, both because it is too lethal and because it is not lethal enough

Usually in logic, deriving a contradiction is thought to prove the opposite of the assumption that got you there. Here they take it to prove that which they assumed at the beginning.

FBI/DOJ: Yeah, the Laptop was Real

This is in a real sense water under the bridge, but it's important to note nevertheless. These institutions are going to want you to believe them again in the future, and you just shouldn't. We already knew that -- the list of bad behaviors is legion -- but make note of it once again. 
Four years after the FBI and DOJ got a copy of the Hunter Biden laptop, filled with evidence of impeachable offenses and Biden family international self-dealing, the "Justice" Department only now admits that it's real. The DOJ has had the laptop's contents since December 2019, just over four years ago, when this evidence was delivered to the FBI. The revelation came in a "Justice" Department filing on Tuesday....

The FBI convinced social media to censor the laptop story before the 2020 election. After Donald Trump's loss, approximately 17% of Americans said they would have changed their vote had they known the laptop was real, according to at least one poll....

Joe Biden loyalist, Tony Blinken, who is now the disastrous Secretary of State, and former Acting CIA Chief Mike Morrell used this false information by the FBI to write an open letter alleging that the Hunter Biden laptop had all the hallmarks of a Russian disinformation campaign. Fifty-one intelligence community members signed their names to the letter.... The FBI's information operation against the American people was run by the same FBI personnel who oversaw the Gretchen Whitmer kidnapping story, the January 6 "insurrection" story, and by extension, the imprisonment and prosecutions of thousands of Americans.

This story differs significantly from the Whitmer/J6 stories, though I can see the point of running them together. This story was true, and the FBI initiated an effort to censor it and convince American voters before an election that it was false. This was an outright obstruction of justice by the "Department of Justice," for no other purpose than to influence an election's outcome.

Those stories involved some degree of entrapment by Federal agents -- intensely so in the Whitmer case, but also obviously so in the J6 case. We discussed the latter the other day. Federal wrongdoing here at least admits of the defense that entrapment only works where the entrapped are willing to commit a crime. I still think it's always wrong, but the defense can be (and usually is) raised by them on that ground. There is no similar defense possible in the laptop case, where the wrongdoing was by a Biden and the Federales were wholly engaged in illegal, unconstitutional, despicable behavoir. 

An Insurrection!

Well, it's hard to charge pacifist Mennonites with insurrection, but the accidents are pretty similar to the occasion that is often billed as one when Republicans did it. I guess there's a significant difference between those who are committed to philosophical pacifism, and those who merely didn't happen to bring their guns along. Still, it always seemed important and relevant to the question of whether or not this was an insurrection that people didn't bring their guns along.

Turn off the Siren

Secretary Austin's hospital stay is back in the news. The media is upset that the ambulance was asked not to run lights or sirens.
The 911 dispatcher replied, “Usually, when they turn into a residential neighborhood they’ll turn them off,” but added that the driver is legally required to keep them on while transiting main roads.
In fact ambulances and other emergency apparatus often don't run lights or sirens when responding to calls. Other times, they do in order to get there quickly but then turn them off as they are approaching the target. There are various reasons for this, but it's not unusual.

One common reason is not to scare the patient. Especially in cardiac cases, the realization that your life is in immediate danger can worsen the event. Having a lights-blaring-and-sirens-screaming ambulance show up might increase blood pressure. Likewise in responding to apparent mental health incidents, upsetting the patient may cause problems that could be avoided with a quieter approach.

Another common reason, equal and opposite, is that death isn't imminent. You need an ambulance ride, but it doesn't need to go screaming down the highway. Many medical conditions need hospital attention without being quite so urgent, like broken hips. They definitely are unpleasant, and you're going to need surgery, but as long as there isn't internal hemorraging you aren't going to die in the next hour or two. There's plenty of time, so rather than risk lives by speeding down the highway ambulances will respond quietly and in an ordinary manner.

Police can use similar tactics to avoid exciting or escalating a situation -- again, mental health emergencies may often benefit from not roaring in with blazing lights and blaring sirens. Obviously search warrants may benefit from not alerting the people that you're coming while you are still two blocks away.

Even fire apparatus often responds quietly. Fire alarms are very often false alarms, so if there is no visible smoke or other indication of trouble they will frequently roll up to check the alarm on a non-emergency basis. That saves lives in traffic, and since so many of the alarms are false it just makes sense of the averages. 

Locally our dispatchers will advise us to respond "on a routine basis" or "on an emergency basis." That lets the responders know whether lights and sirens are advised. Routine calls are, as the name suggests, routine. 

A Poem from October 7, 1571

Another poem by G. K. Chesterton about the wars between the West and Islamic empires. The Wikipedia article gives a basic rundown of the battle and its importance. Of literary interest is that the young Miguel de Cervantes, later the author of Don Quixote, fought as a marine in this battle.


White founts falling in the Courts of the sun,
And the Soldan of Byzantium is smiling as they run;
There is laughter like the fountains in that face of all men feared,
It stirs the forest darkness, the darkness of his beard,
It curls the blood-red crescent, the crescent of his lips,
For the inmost sea of all the earth is shake with his ships.
They have dared the white republics up the cape of Italy,
They have dashed the Adriatic round the Lion of the Sea,
And the Pope has cast his arms abroad for agony and loss,
And called the kings of Christendom for swords about the Cross.
The cold queen of England is looking in the glass;
The shadow of the Valois is yawning at the Mass;
From evening isles fantastical rings faint the Spanish gun,
And the Lord upon the Golden Horn is laughing in the sun.

Dim drums throbbing, in the hills half heard,
Where only on a nameless throne a crownless prince has stirred,
Where, risen from a doubtful seat and half attainted stall,
The last knight of Europe takes weapons from the wall,
The last and lingering troubadour to whom the bird has sung,
That once went singing southward when all the world was young.
In that enormous silence, tiny and unafraid,
Comes up along a winding road the noise of the Crusade.

Strong gongs groaning as the guns boom far,
Don John of Austria is going to the war,
Stiff flags straining in the night-blasts cold
In the gloom black-purple, in the glint old-gold,
Torchlight crimson on the copper kettle-drums,
Then the tuckets, then the trumpets, then the cannon, and he comes.
Don John laughing in the brave beard curled.
Spuming of his stirrups like the thrones of all the world,
Holding his head up for a flag of all the free.
Love-light of Spain—hurrah!
Death-light of Africa!
Don John of Austria
Is riding to the sea.

Mahound is in his paradise above the evening star,
(Don John of Austria is going to the war.)
He moves a mighty turban on the timeless houri's knees,
His turban that is woven of the sunsets and the seas.
He shakes the peacock gardens as he rises from his ease,
And he strides among the tree-tops and is taller than the trees,
And his voice through all the garden is a thunder sent to bring
Black Azrael and Ariel and Ammon on the wing.
Giants and the Genii,
Multiplex of wing and eye,
Whose strong obedience broke the sky
When Solomon was king.

They rush in red and purple from the red clouds of the morn,
From temples where the yellow gods shut up their eyes in scorn;
They rise in green robes roaring from the green hells of the sea
Where fallen skies and evil hues and eyeless creatures be;
On them the sea-valves cluster and the grey sea-forests curl,
Splashed with a splendid sickness, the sickness of the pearl;
They swell in sapphire smoke out of the blue cracks of the ground,—
They gather and they wonder and give worship to Mahound.
And he saith, "Break up the mountains where the hermit-folk can hide,
And sift the red and silver sands lest bone of saint abide,
And chase the Giaours flying night and day, not giving rest,
For that which was our trouble comes again out of the west.
We have set the seal of Solomon on all things under sun,
Of knowledge and of sorrow and endurance of things done,
But a noise is in 'the mountains, in the mountains, and I know
The voice that shook our palaces—four hundred years ago:
It is he that saith not 'Kismet'; it is he that knows not Fate;
It is Richard, it is Raymond, it is Godfrey in the gate!
It is he whose loss is laughter when he counts the wager worth,
Put down your feet upon him, that our peace be on the earth."
For he heard drums groaning and he heard guns jar,
(Don John of Austria is going to the war.)
Sudden and still—hurrah!
Bolt from Iberia!
Don John of Austria
Is gone by Alcalar.

St. Michael's on his Mountain in the sea-roads of the north
(Don John of Austria is girt and going forth.)
Where the grey seas glitter and the sharp tides shift
And the sea-folk labour and the red sails lift.
He shakes his lance of iron and he claps his wings of stone;
The noise is gone through Normandy; the noise is gone alone;
The North is full of tangled things and texts and aching eyes
And dead is all the innocence of anger and surprise,
And Christian killeth Christian in a narrow dusty
And Christian dreadeth Christ that hath a newer face of doom,
And Christian hateth Mary that God kissed in Galilee,
But Don John of Austria is riding to the sea.
Don John calling through the blast and the eclipse
Crying with the trumpet, with the trumpet of his lips,
Trumpet that sayeth ha!
Domino gloria!
Don John of Austria
Is shouting to the ships.

King Philip's in his closet with the Fleece about his neck
(Don John of Austria is armed upon the deck.)
The walls are hung with velvet that is black and soft as sin,
And little dwarfs creep out of it and little dwarfs creep in.
He holds a crystal phial that has colours like the moon,
He touches, and it tingles, and he trembles very
And his face is as a fungus of a leprous white and grey
Like plants in the high houses that are shuttered from the day.
And death is in the phial and the end of noble work,
But Don John of Austria has fired upon the Turk.
Don John's hunting, and his hounds have bayed—Booms
away past Italy the rumour of his raid.
Gun upon gun, ha! ha!
Gun upon gun, hurrah!
Don John of Austria
Has loosed the cannonade.

The Pope was in his chapel before day or battle broke,
(Don John of Austria is hidden in the smoke.)
The hidden room in man's house where God sits all the year,
The secret window whence the world looks small and very dear.
He sees as in a mirror on the monstrous twilight sea
The crescent of his cruel ships whose name is mystery;
They fling great shadows foe-wards, making Cross and Castle dark,
They veil the plumed lions on the galleys of St. Mark;
And above the ships are palaces of brown, black-bearded chiefs,
And below the ships are prisons, where with multitudinous griefs,
Christian captives sick and sunless, all a labouring race repines
Like a race in sunken cities, like a nation in the mines.
They are lost like slaves that swat, and in the skies of morning hung
The stair-ways of the tallest gods when tyranny was young.
They are countless, voiceless, hopeless as those fallen or fleeing on
Before the high Kings' horses in the granite of Babylon.
And many a one grows witless in his quiet room in hell
Where a yellow face looks inward through the lattice of his cell,
And he finds his God forgotten, and he seeks no more a sign(But
Don John of Austria has burst the battle-line!)

Don John pounding from the slaughter-painted poop,
Purpling all the ocean like a bloody pirate's sloop,
Scarlet running over on the silvers and the golds,
Breaking of the hatches up and bursting of the holds,
Thronging of the thousands up that labour under sex
White for bliss and blind for sun and stunned for liberty.
Vivat Hispania!
Domino Gloria!
Don John of Austria
Has set his people free!

Cervantes on his galley sets the sword back in the sheath
(Don John of Austria rides homeward with a wreath.)
And he sees across a weary land a straggling road in Spain,
Up which a lean and foolish knight for ever rides in vain,
And he smiles, but not as Sultans smile, and settles back the blade....
(But Don John of Austria rides home from the Crusade.)

Hell on Your Women

Druid Addresses Scottish Parliament

For the first time, a Druid was invited to offer what I gather is an official prayer at the Scottish Parliament.

I'm just going to publish the prayer she offered, and put forward this question: if I'd told you that I went to a church service at a random church this weekend, the kind of place with 'folk guitar' church music and lots of talk about social justice, would you have caught that this wasn't the prayer offered there?
"Grant, O divine spirit, thy protection. And in protection, strength. And in strength, understanding. And in understanding, knowledge.

"And in knowledge, the knowledge of justice. And in the knowledge of justice, the love of it. And in the love of it, the love of all existences. And in the love of all existences, the love of divine spirit and all goodness.
Probably a church service would have said "O holy spirit" rather than "O divine spirit," but either could serve as a translation of Spiritus Sancti. They don't mention Jesus by name, but frankly a lot of churches don't invoke him by name all that often either.

The alignment between "existence" and "goodness" is strictly orthodox. Indeed, it's the opening of the Summa Theologiae. Questions 2, 4, 5, and 6 from the ST's first part are on this very subject. The relationship of justice to this divine goodness comes much later -- it starts at question 57 in the second part of the ST -- but her formulation is not out of order.

I wonder if such invocations end up appealing to the right place, as one might address a letter to "Santa Claus" or "St. Nick" and expect it to be delivered to the judge's desk in Miracle on 34th Street? Or does precision in the address matter, such that a wrong digit in the zip code would keep your letter from being seen? How good is the divine post office? 

Two on Independent Contractors

This piece suggests that a part of the appeal of the recent victor in Iowa is his appeal to independent contractors.
“Make America Great Again” resonates. He relates to what the college-educated press calls “blue-collar workers”. However, those blue-collar workers aren’t what they used to be. Many of them own their businesses. They are self-directed and self-employed. They should be referred to as “independent contractors”.

Since he was in commercial real estate, [he] has worked extensively with these kinds of people. They are smart, though most didn’t go to college. Their unions have abandoned them.

These people all over the country have seen the government debt skyrocket no matter who is in charge. They have seen a two-tier legal system be implemented. They have seen Washington DC bureaucrats and politicians skim the cream and they get the dregs. It’s a mini-Hunger Game.

When you are working for yourself no matter if you are a hairdresser or a carpenter, you feel the sting of taxes. You see the rot in your neighborhood. You want everyone to do well and factory jobs to increase because it means people will be spending more on your services.

I've mostly been taxed as an independent contractor in my life, and I can therefore tell you that the government hates them. They are required to pay "both halves" of the FICA taxes that are the biggest tax of all, and as such their effective tax rate is much higher than they would be paying if they were categorized as employees. Yet there are signal advantages also: you can set your own hours, determine your own working conditions, and be free of the oversight of HR departments and other corporate disciplinarians who increasingly monitor your outside life and politics to keep you in line.

Not coincidentally, there is a strong push to eliminate the possibility of independence from left-leaning states like California -- and, therefore, from the Biden Administration as well. 

If the analysis I started with is accurate, this is -- coincidentally? -- an attack on the heart of the political support of their most feared and hated opponent. It's certainly got a political angle over and above the tax issue. Everyone's livelihood must depend on the approval of HR, which means everyone must be taught to behave in HR approve ways -- on and off the clock. Everyone must be monitored and taught not to say the wrong things. 

It's another public-private partnership, like the pre-Elon Twitter (and the still current Facebook) that made sure to censor and shadow-ban all the ideas the Establishment asked them to do. They even locked up the accounts of the New York Post, which was founded by Alexander Hamilton, to prevent it from reporting the disapproved Hunter Biden Laptop story in the hours before the 2020 election; and they took instructions, after that election, on things the administration would have liked kept down. That was all exposed after Elon in the "Twitter Files," but you'll only get the NPR-approved version of that story, which highlights the counterarguments instead of the story itself. NPR is another public-private partnership too, isn't it? 

The Crusader Returns from Captivity


by G. K. Chesterton

I have come forth alive from the land of purple and poison and glamour,
Where the charm is strong as the torture, being chosen to change the mind;
Torture of wordless dance and wineless feast without clamour,
Palace hidden in palace, garden with garden behind;

Women veiled in the sun, or bare as brass in the shadows,
And the endless eyeless patterns where each thing seems an eye....
And my stride is on Caesar's sand where it slides to the English meadows,
To the last low woods of Sussex and the road that goes to Rye.

In the cool and careless woods the eyes of the eunuchs burned not,
But the wild hawk went before me, being free to return or roam,
The hills had broad unconscious backs; and the tree-tops turned not,
And the huts were heedless of me: and I knew I was at home.

And I saw my lady afar and her holy freedom upon her,
A head, without veil, averted, and not to be turned with charms,
And I heard above bannerets blown the intolerant trumpets of honour,
That usher with iron laughter the coming of Christian arms.

My shield hangs stainless still; but I shall not go where they praise it,
A sword is still at my side, but I shall not ride with the King.
Only to walk and to walk and to stun my soul and amaze it,
A day with the stone and the sparrow and every marvellous thing.

I have trod the curves of the Crescent, in the maze of them that adore it,
Curved around doorless chambers and unbeholden abodes,
But I walk in the maze no more; on the sign of the cross I swore it,
The wild white cross of freedom, the sign of the white cross-roads.

And the land shall leave me or take, and the Woman take me or leave me,
There shall be no more Night, or nightmares seen in a glass;
But Life shall hold me alive, and Death shall never deceive me
As long as I walk in England in the lanes that let me pass.

MLK Day, According to the FBI

The shamelessness of the FBI knows no bounds.


An Example of the Insufficiency of Liberalism

One of the biggest challenges the liberal order is facing in the West today arises from opposition to immigration. This opposition is understood, by the powerful for whom immigration provides access to cheap labor, as a sort-of racism that should be explained as an unwillingness to extend to foreign-born others the same rights we enjoy ourselves. Liberalism tends to universalize discussions of rights, so why shouldn't someone born abroad have the same rights as human beings born in America? It's obviously just selfishness on the part of Americans, a desire to continue to enjoy an unfair advantage (argue the masters of the capitalist order, who want these people to pick their vegetables at starvation wages).

That's not really what's driving the objection. The real force of the objection is that mass movement -- immigration or migration within a nation, doesn't matter -- disrupts and destroys communities that are the basis of almost all human meaning. It's not really an objection to the people coming in as if they were inferior people: it's an objection to communities and cultures being destroyed, when those things are where we get almost all of the sense of meaning we derive from human life. 

A culture is defined as "a way of life." Ways of life exist among people who live together and share personal connections. You don't know and can't know everyone, but you do know the nice lady at your favorite coffee shop, or library, or bar; you know the people you met at church, or work, or school. You grew up participating in institutions like a church or the Boy Scouts or your town in your home state, with its local sports teams and friends you know from interactions around the place where you live. Together you have built a culture, and it really does depend on the stability of all those things. 

While you get a certain amount of your sense of meaning in life from philosophy or your personal engagement with religion, most of your sense of meaning and being important comes from your interactions with other people. Those are the people who are part of your culture, including your family. When the institutions, including the family, are badly disrupted you lose the connections that make your life meaningful and worth living. 

Of course human beings object to that. If you want a universalizing explanation a la liberalism, this is a universal human drive that is at work.

You can see just how universal it is by looking at the phenonmenon of objections to gentrification. Now gentrification has clear benefits, just like cheap labor results in cheap vegetables. The gentrifying town is getting nicer. Those who lived there thus have a nicer place to live, with less crime and better shops. They might even get a better job as wages increase and labor is needed by those better shops. Yet gentrification, another localized form of mass movement, is objected to just as strongly as mass migration of any sort. The people objecting to it are often on the other side of the spectrum of economic life, too: it's the poor objecting to rich people moving in, rather than richer people objecting to poorer people. The problem is the same one, though. The gentrification is disrupting the community, forcing people to move out as well as they can't afford the higher taxes and cost of living. Soon the institutions that sustain a meaningful life are broken up, families are dispersed seeking places they can live, churches cease to exist, and individuals are stripped of the relationships that made their lives important and worthwhile. 

Liberalism doesn't have the machinery to address this basic drive. As mentioned it responds to objection to migration with charges of racism; it responds to objections to gentrification with a defense of property rights. The richer people bought that land fair and square, and now it's their land to use within the forms of the law. 

Meanwhile even positive laws can't be allowed to violate fundamental rights, and both "equality of rights" and "property rights" are fundamental rights. The law might oppose illegal immigration, but you can't stand on the law when people are suffering: that violates their equality. The law might support gentrification, which is an exercise of a fundamental property right, so you can't oppose gentrification without breaking the law. 

Part of the reason there's such fear of fascism in spite of an absence of fascism is that the opposition arising from this basic violation of a human need are characterized as fascists. Some of them, indeed, adopt the term for themselves because they also -- being liberals -- lack a conceptual non-liberal way of understanding this drive other than the one they are being charged with by their opponents. So they start chanting Sig Heil, accepting that they must be fascists because they can't walk away from the basic human need that the system is violating. 

Mostly people don't do that, though. Mostly they just put up with being miscatergorized, and fight for what they know they need without having a way to explain that need that makes sense to others. Because the liberal order doesn't have a language for this, they can't make themselves understood to their opponents, and ultimately we aren't able to reason together about these problems. 

That's too bad. Unless we find a way to transcend that contradiction, as Hegel might say, we're going to end up fighting over it. It's a stupid fight, too, because all human beings really do want the stability that allows for a flourishing community in which they can find meaning and durable relationships. The liberal/capitalist order violates that stability by its nature, because it is always organizing for maximal freedom and maximal economic efficiency. Stability gets in the way of those things, and thus is thrust aside. Literally everyone is less happy as a result, and yet the intellectual framework keeps us from being able to talk with each other about it.

The Central "Uniparty" Thesis

Now what Wauck actually wanted to talk about in his "Uniparty" essay, as opposed to the part that interested me, was the failure-by-success of liberalism as discussed by Patrick Deneen.

I will let Wauck's summary of Deneen's argument stand. In brief, the success of liberalism was so complete in the United States that we got a 'Uniparty' because both Democrats and Republicans are liberal political parties. What is meant by the term "liberalism" here is not a common usage, but the formal usage by political philosophers, and a review of the political philosophy immediately demonstrates that there isn't actually agreement there about what it means. Somewhat like God, which is appropriate given that the ideology has assumed an almost godlike power in America, it is easiest to define negatively: we can't say for sure what an infinite being* might be in our finite language, but we can say that he isn't evil or stupid or mean or base. 

So we can say that, whatever liberalism is, it isn't an ideology that suggests that human beings are rightly kept as slaves. There is a kind of presumption that any restrictions on human liberty need to be justified in one of several ways; different kinds of liberals may accept restrictions on human liberty in service to other expressions of human liberty. 

The argument that America embraces liberalism in this largest sense is persuasive. We have so-called 'positive liberals' who believe that humans have a right to things like health care or housing, and thus a right to impose upon other human beings in order to obtain those things; we have so-called 'negative liberals' who reject that in favor a right to be free of compelled labor to provide you with housing or health care. We have Republican Liberals (see the link above: this means Roman Republic philosophy) who believe that the point is to keep everyone free from arbitrary domination. 

We don't really have fascists, as much as the term gets tossed around: Americans don't believe in an all-powerful, all-organizing state. Even the most statist among us have rights they think the government has no legitimate power to transgress: they'll be the first to sound off, in fact, if those rights are violated. Your finest "the government should take over the family and organize all businesses in order to ensure that health care and housing are provided and everyone has the right not to feel oppressed" is still going to squawk when the government violates their freedom of speech, of organization, or of political action.

I won't go through the Deneen arguments, as Wauk does that at length. I will say that his idea that liberalism contains the seeds of its own destruction is a regular feature of arguments against liberalism and/or capitalism. Marx is all about the contradictions inherent in the capitalist system, and he got the idea from Hegel. For Hegel, all ideas of any sort have internal contradictions that ultimately render them insufficient, requiring us to first confront the difficulties of the contradictions and then find a way to transcend them. Hegel thought this was part of a grand cycle for created beings, beginning at much lower levels of consciousness than humans and continuing beyond anything we have yet attained. Eventually it leads us back to God, he believed. 

Deneen thought we could no longer make sufficient arguments for tradition or authority because even objections to them have to be cast in liberal terms in the American model. There's definitely something to that idea, which I will briefly discuss in a third post on the subject.

*Whether or not infinity is even an appropriate description for the divine is disputed. Some philosophers have really liked to use that concept: see e.g. Nicholas of Cusa, who even liked to draw mathematical diagrams to illuminate the problem of trying to understand God from a finite perspective. Others -- convincingly to me -- explain the infinite as still functioning as a limited concept within Creation, and reject it as appropriate to apply to a being that genuinely sits beyond and outside of Creation. Liberalism is not God, though, and is a created 'being,' so there's no similar issue for our present analogy.

Wauk "On the Uniparty"

I notice that with several of these essays lately, I've been inclined to write two posts: one about the asides that are often more interesting than the main thesis, and one about the main thesis. So too with this one, Mark Wauk's "On the Uniparty."

There are several interesting and challenging ideas here. One of them is that the American Constitution was a kind of coup by a fading power against the rest of the country:
The last time we saw the Federalist Party was in 1816. Still, they occupy an important place in American history—after all, they led the first coup, and a wildly successful one to boot. What, you ask? Recall—the US Constitution. The proto-Federalists seized the opportunity of their leading opponents being out of the country to declare a “Constitutional Convention”, despite the US already having a Constitution—the Articles of Confederation. Conveniently, the population of the country didn’t get to actually vote on this new Constitution.

There's something to this idea. You may recall that the Federalists favored, inter alia, the Bank of the United States. They managed to enact this central bank, and it survived until the first genuinely democratic counterrevolution led by Andrew Jackson destroyed it. No central bank existed in the United States until another anti-democratic coup established the Fed in 1913 (a non-government organization that was ceeded the power to control the American dollar). Revoking the Fed's authority is often discussed by Americans interested in politics, but it is almost anathema among those who actually get elected to office. You might ask if we are on the verge of a similar counterrevolutionary effort now, and if that isn't what Wauk calls the Uniparty really fears.

If you are inclined to accept that the enactment of the Constitution represents a kind of coup, because it represented a real realignment of power that was only covered by a veneer of procedure, there have been several others in American history. Some of these are more-or-less popular, but they all represent points at which the legitimate forms of power transfer were set aside and the result was papered over with legitimacy after the fact. A brief list off the top of my head:

1) The Reconstruction Amendments (13, 14, 15). These were ratified by main force: states were placed under military occupation until they agreed to ratify them as a partial condition of resuming self-government. Notably Congress allowed these states to change their ratification votes from 'no' to 'yes,' but refused to allow free states in the North to change their votes from 'yes' to 'no' when some of them attempted to do so as a protest against the anti-democratic force being used. These amendments are popular today, and probably now enjoy wide democratic approval (especially the 13th). Nevertheless, especially the 14th Amendment centralized power in the Federal government. That power has been used for purposes both good and bad: it was the core of the Civil Rights crusade against Jim Crow, which was good, but it is also behind the current effort to remove a certain candidate from the ballot even though he appears the odds-on favorite to be elected by the people. Love or hate that guy, the move threatens to delegitimize the election and really the entire system in the eyes of much of the citizenry. 

2) The Fed, as mentioned already. There was a law passed, but this was really an Article V-level transfer of power from the government to a nongovernmental organization led by the banks and the rich. It definitely would not have survived the amendment process, so they stole it. 

3) The New Deal. FDR had a significant amount of democratic legitimacy, but his efforts were unconstitutional -- as the Supreme Court determined several times. So, he ran the court packing scheme in order to (successfully) intimidate the Supreme Court into letting him do exactly what they'd said several times was unconstitutional. The biggest part of this power transfer was allowing Congress to delegate its lawmaking authority to the bureaucracy. That's how we got into the mess with ossification that we have today: it allowed for a vast administrative state of the kind that Max Weber was warning against at about the same time (see the Weber commentary on the sidebar). 

*4) The JFK Assassination. I am giving this one an asterisk and not counting it because the facts still aren't fully clear; however, it is widely believed to have been a coup by agents within the government. Was it? I don't know. 

4) The Coup against Nixon: The election of 1972 was a landslide in favor of President Nixon, who used it to finalize his end to the JFK/LBJ Vietnam conflict. The administrative state turned against him and worked with his opponents outside the government to set up a popular campaign to impeach him. His resignation was legal, but it resulted in a power transfer to agents of Wauk's "Uniparty" that allowed them to undo much of what they feared he was doing. 

5) The Obama-era "Iran Deal." Obama's government set up a series of fake NGOs that they then credentialed by having the White House recognize them and treat them as legitimate experts. The media was thereby taught to listen to them and re-report their 'findings' as if they were real experts. (This is not in dispute: Ben Rhodes, Obama's message guy for this 'echo chamber,' explained it all in an interview with the New Yorker after the fact.) With the appearance of strong NGO support and the media almost universally echoing it, Obama got away with inverting the treaty approval process required by the Constitution. Instead of a 2/3rds majority of the Senate voting to ratify the process, he managed to set things up so that a 2/3rds majority was required to reject his approach. As a consequence, he got his agreement and Iran got a lot of money as well as technical help on nuclear power.

6) The 2020 Election. Setting aside the parts of the controversy that are in dispute, the "fortification" efforts described to the press by participants already suffice to make the election unconstitutional because they weren't carried out by state or Federal legislatures as the Constitution requires. I would also add the courts' refusal to grant standing (most egregious when Texas sued, as the Constitution clearly grants the Supreme Court the authority to resolve disputes between states), so that no one could challenge the results; and the widespread and successful efforts to prevent audits in the affected states, and to disable similar inquiries where they could not be prevented.

There are some other candidates we might mention, but this list already suggests that this kind of coup is an ordinary feature of American politics. When power finds its heart's desire to be out of order with the Constitution, a way is found around the legitimate order and then is papered over. We live with the illusion that the Constitutional order has been maintained since the late 18th century, but in fact it has been fundamentally altered several times without lawful process.