Be Civilized Grudges are for Neanderthals

It is with great hesitancy that I wade into the quagmire of this month’s events in Charlottesville and Boston.  Uncontrolled and irrational emotions on both sides seem to have wiped out any chance of civilized conversation about Charlottesville, President Trump, Antifa, White Supremacy, Confederate statues, and other issues that have gripped the news and social media.

In the past week’s, I’ve heard too many conservatives defend White Supremacists and Nazis with the logical fallacy that “Antifa is worse.”   If you truly believe that Nazis are evil, then your argument should never end with “but….”.  There is no “but” when condemning evil.  White Supremacists and Nazis are evil, hate-filled, and un-American. Period.

To see White Supremacists, Nazis, and Antifa activists clashing in our streets is a natural progression in the breakdown of civility in many parts of society.  We label our opponents with nasty names, regardless of their true nature.  In the rhetoric of the Left, all conservatives are “Fascists” (though hardly any understand the term).   Failing that, they have a whole dictionary full of slurs (“Teabaggers”, “Deplorables”, “Misogynists”, “Racists”).   Extremists on the right label liberals as “Socialists”, “Communists”, “Libtards”, or “Snowflakes”.   Our national debate has turned into a playground argument between 3rd graders.

In the end, all of these slurs, left and right, fail to move our national conversation forward.  They diminish the civility required for us to find solutions for our country’s ills.  The insults dehumanize our fellow Americans.   The conservatives that I know are not Nazis or White Supremacists.   The liberals that I know are not Socialists or Communists and they are definitely not wearing the black masks of Antifa.

One of Russell Kirk’s Ten Conservative Principles is that there exists an enduring moral order.

“This word order signifies harmony. There are two aspects or types of order: the inner order of the soul, and the outer order of the commonwealth. Twenty-five centuries ago, Plato taught this doctrine, but even the educated nowadays find it difficult to understand. The problem of order has been a principal concern of conservatives ever since conservative became a term of politics.

Our twentieth-century world has experienced the hideous consequences of the collapse of belief in a moral order. Like the atrocities and disasters of Greece in the fifth century before Christ, the ruin of great nations in our century shows us the pit into which fall societies that mistake clever self-interest, or ingenious social controls, for pleasing alternatives to an old fangled moral order.”

 

I would include civility as an important foundation of this moral order.   When we degrade ourselves by resorting to the foul language, insults,  and behavior of those who do not respect this order, then we have lost.  By holding ourselves to a higher standard, we advance civility and moral order.

This doesn’t mean that we are disarming ourselves.  No, in fact, it means that we are better armed than our opponents.   It means that we can win not only debates, but hearts and minds, with logic and reason and passion against those who defend failed economic and social theories.

This is the true nature of a conservative: to believe in and to abide by the enduring moral order, an order that includes civility, good manners, and respect.

 

In Liberty,
Ken Mandile
Senior Fellow
Worcester Tea Party

Land of Freedom of Speech?

You’ve probably heard this quote or have seen it floating around the internet:

“America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.”

Supposedly Lincoln said it, then it was Reagan who said it. Consensus says it is a gross distortion of one of Lincoln’s speeches, but it makes no difference. The words ring true no matter who said them. Today, with no real existential crisis for us to rally together against, it seems evident at this point to conclude that our real threat to existence is ourselves, much like the ancient Romans. In my last note I wrote about Google silencing dissenting viewpoints. Almost immediately after that story broke we have Antifa fully emerge to dominate the news cycle, with the Google controversy all but forgotten. At this point, I am fairly certain Antifa is a household name. They really debuted during the 2016 election cycle, but have since become a bona fide gang, (though we are pushing for the designation of domestic terrorists which is much more fitting). Antifa, the “Anti-Fascists.” We are not sure what they stand for besides beating the hell out of whoever they deem to be a Nazi or a Fascist. They say that they are against Fascism and they will fight it by any means necessary, but their definition of Nazism and Fascism begs the question: were they dropped on their heads as an infant? Based upon their speech and actions, one really wonders where they received their education, (just kidding, we all know that “progressives” dominate academia and are working hard to create mindless robots that regurgitate their ideologies) or if they had any parenting. The way things stand now, if you are conservative or anywhere on the right, you are a Fascist, and most likely a Nazi too, even if you are black! If it was just Antifa espousing this thought process it would be easy to overlook, but it is not just Antifa anymore. The mainstream media and most leading politicians seem to have embraced them through their failure or blatant refusal to denounce them, (as I am writing this Nancy Pelosi has issued a formal statement condemning Antifa, so credit where it is due as shocking as it may be). This is dangerous, and it is dangerous because we have people who largely control the flow of information and/or have significant impact on the populace giving the platform to, and allowing the spread of a false narrative, of groups like Antifa. This behavior emboldens Antifa antics as much as it gives credibility in the eyes of impressionable citizens to what they do. As I wrote before, free speech is under attack, and not just from people in positions of power, (here’s looking at you Google) but from each other. As predicted above, if we lose our freedoms, it is because we destroyed ourselves. Freedom of speech is arguably our most important right. That is why it is the first in our Bill of Rights. Right now, we are fighting ourselves. Look to the streets of Berkeley where there is no greater proof of this. We have fellow citizens condemning free speech and pushing for government regulation of free speech under the guise of “hate speech.” Perhaps even worse than a push for regulation is the physical violence that groups like Antifa engage in to intimidate and silence free speech. I say worse only because this is violence enacted against We the People by We the People. We are our own threat now, not the government per se, but each other. While We the People might not have the led the charge against free speech to start, We have taken over it with zeal. Where at one point in time we all believed that free speech was our birth right, now we are growing divided. Our founding fathers are rolling in their graves. With the growing platforms for hate and efforts to silence each other, now is the time that we must stand strong in our conviction that free speech, no matter if we like it or not, is of vital importance to the health of our country, and the world as well. More and more we are bullied into silence for fear of causing offense or being retaliated against or now, bludgeoned by Antifa. Do not be afraid. Stand your ground and stick to your guns. Have courage. We cannot be the generation of Americans who failed to protect our freedoms and uphold our heritage for the future generations yet to come, and certainly not because of petulant children We the People allowed to run amok.

Lee

How beauteous mankind is!

 

O wonder!
How many goodly creatures are there here!
How beauteous mankind is!
O brave new world,
That has such people in’t.
— William Shakespeare, The Tempest

I’ve just finished reading Brave New World (when I say “reading’, I really mean listening to on Audible).  Written in 1931 by Aldous Huxley, Brave New World was one of the first dystopian novels, a genre that has gain much popularity in the 21st century, and for good reason.

Originally meant to be a parody of utopian novels by H.G. Wells, the novel took on a life of its own and received much praise when it was published.  It frequently makes lists of the top 100 most important books of the 20th century.

Utopian novels were popular in the early 20th century, the age when Progressivism, Communism, and Socialism were gaining acceptance.  These were the movements that would perfect society and individuals.  People saw mankind’s rapid advance toward perfection and imagined the fantastic society that would be come.  Huxley’s novel follows the trendy movements to their natural conclusion-to a drug addled, hedonistic society that had lost its soul.

Ironically, Huxley was inspired to create his dystopia after a visit to the United States.  He was not impressed by the sexual promiscuity and inward-looking nature of Americans.  Brave New World is set in London, but when its characters come to New Mexico on holiday, it is to see the savages.

Dystopian novels are meant to shock and to warn us.  After more than 80 years, Brave New World is just as relevant, if not more so.  We still suffer from the meddlers and tinkerers who continue to try to tweak society towards what they view as Utopia, where everyone is equal, happy, and wants for nothing.  Today’s college campuses would fit right in with Huxley’s Brave New World, where heretical diversity of thought is banished to far off places.  Our politicians focus on ways to make everyone equal.  I imagine that they would prefer if everyone were average, educated at a liberal arts college, and drank only Fair Trade coffee out of reusable cups.  Blandness is the Progressive’s Utopia.

Try as they might though, people don’t seem to be following their plan.  They continue to find ways to express their individuality.  The old behemoths of industry and commerce are destroyed by innovative upstarts working in their parent’s basements.  They don’t vote the way that they are expected to by the elite and the media.  They won’t believe the latest scaremongering expert telling them to change their ways or die!

“How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world, that has such people in’t.”  Keep living your beauteous lives in ways that give little regard to the opinions of meddling experts.  If we are to move toward a Utopia, it won’t be because of a government program or an inspiring leader or an academic theory of society.  It will be because you moved us closer. Individuals and families living in community, working hard, enjoying life.  That gives me reason to exclaim “O wonder!”

​In Liberty,
Ken Mandile
Senior Fellow
Worcester Tea Party

Don’t Always Believe What You Think

“The greatest lesson in life is to know that even fools are right sometimes.”

Winston S. Churchill

A few years ago, I saw a bumper sticker that said something that stuck in my mind firmer than the sticker was attached to the bumper.  It said ‘Don’t Always Believe What You Think’.  Philosophers call this concept “Intellectual Humility”.   This type of humility acknowledges the limitations of our knowledge.  It calls on us to challenge our own beliefs and, in doing so, places the surviving beliefs on firmer ground.

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Draining The Swamp

Donald Trump’s campaign promise to “Drain the swamp” has successfully placed him in the Oval Office.  But what exactly is the swamp, and how does one go about draining it?

The commonly accepted definition of the “swamp”, and the one Trump alludes to, is the career, political elite of Washington, D.C., who are in essence tenured legislators.  This career, political class is seen as an entrenched, corrupt, blackguard of the status quo, a semi-permanent legislative body that stands between the people, their rights, and a just government.  I contend that these entrenched politicians are not in fact, THE swamp”; rather they merely reflect the dominant ideas of our culture.  I would argue that these career politicians are merely a surface layer, and the real depth of the swamp lies somewhere else.

The Democrats and Republicans are virtually united in their moral base, that is, the pinnacle of virtue for both parties is altruism, the morality which preaches the sacrifice of the individual self for “others”.  They sometimes differ on which individuals should be sacrificed, and quibble over the level of sacrifice, but they both fundamentally believe in the moral duty of being “thy brother’s keeper”.

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New President! New Hope?

Wow!  No matter how you feel about the 2016 Presidential campaign, there’s no doubt that it was historically one of the most interesting.  Donald Trump broke all of the “rules” that the pundits and consultants established.  He exposed the coastal elites as condescending frauds.  He delegitimized professional pollsters and the media that hyped their lies.  He created a campaign like no other.  Love him or hate him, he’s nothing if not interesting.

Where to next though?  Conservatives are all about small, incremental or evolutionary changes.  We’re about established etiquette, precedent, manners, honoring our forefathers, limiting change to very small steps.  Donald Trump doesn’t fit this conservative model.  No one knows where he’ll take us next.  We’re in unchartered territory.  Regardless, we know that the path that we were on was leading us to more trouble.

The liberal elites are completely blind to what just happened to them.  They blame their defeat on racism, sexism, homophobia, misogyny, and islamophobia.  This blindness dooms them to continued irrelevance.  There are a few voices from the left who seem to get it, but the ad hominem attacks on Trump supporters from most is evidence that they have not learned their lesson.

I didn’t support Donald Trump.  I still have a lot of doubts about his ability and about his plans.  As a manufacturer, I am particularly concerned about his anti-trade rhetoric.  I’m nervous about his ability to bring all parts of America together.  He has much to prove about his commitment to minorities and to religious freedom.  Yet, I understand why people voted for him.  They are good people who did what they needed to do for their families.  They are not the people that the left claims they are.

Walt Disney said, “We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths”.  Hillary Clinton’s path would have been a well-worn path to nowhere (or much worse), the path that we’ve been on for decades.  Donald Trump’s path? Perhaps he’ll take us off the path altogether and through the poison ivy or the thorny blackberry or perhaps it will be an easy and pleasant path.  We just don’t know.  What we do know is that it will be through something new, something to be curious about.

We’ll keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things.

That’s what Americans do

There is a Chinese curse that says, “May you live in an interesting age”.   Well, we certainly do live in an interesting age, but it is no curse!   We live a wondrous time.   We’ve been detoured off the path that we seemed to be stuck on for decades.  Not only will we survive, but we’ll have an adventure and our hearts will be “all of a patter and a pitter”.

Whether Donald Trump was your candidate or not, now is not the time to sit and wait though.  There is important work to do.  Join us, as we help forge the path forward.

In Liberty,
Ken Mandile
Senior Fellow

Worcester Tea Party

When bad men combine, the good must associate

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I have to admit, as much as I dislike Senator Elizabeth Warren’s politics, I enjoyed her grilling of Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf.  It appears that the bank put extreme pressure on employees to use questionable policies to meet sales goals.  First, over 5,000 lower level employees were fired, as if the buck stopped with them.   Then, one of the major players got booted, but was given $100 million on the way out the door.  All John Stumpf got was a grilling by Senator Warren.

There was something distasteful about the Senator’s berating of Mr. Stumpf though. She is just one of a long line of lawmakers who have used their committee seats as sanctimonious soapboxes. It wasn’t until I read a commentary from FEE (Foundation for Economic Education) that I realized how hypocritical Senator Warren’s moral outrage was.  (Note, Senator Warren was a TARP administrator when Mr. Stumpf was given a $25 million bonus after the 2008 financial meltdown.)

“Though Warren may “speak truth to power” to Wall Street, she often turns mute on some of the worst abuses of government.  Like most statists, she sees the speck in her brother’s private eye while failing to see the beam in her own public eye.  A whole manner of sins, it seems, are forgiven once one is “serving the public” in government.”

Senator Warren has no monopoly on hypocrisy in Washington though.  From far right to far left, those who have the inclination toward power are, for the most part, always willing to sacrifice consistency, logic, ethics, and fairness to kick an opponent or to protect their power.  It is inherent in the nature of politics.

Supporters of Bernie Sanders and Ted Cruz have expressed their dismay at the apparent compromise of their candidates’ principles.  Congressmen regularly trade favors with their adversaries in hopes of claiming a political win.  Campaign promises are quickly forgotten on the second Wednesday of November.  Can you name a single national level politician that hasn’t lied to us?

Are these people somehow less principled than the average citizen?  Have they lost their ethical compass?  Are they the evil power mongers that we (myself included) make them out to be?  Some (many!) are, but most are just ordinary people with extraordinary egos.  Let’s not lose sight of that fact by putting them on undeserved pedestals.

At the same time, realize that someone needs to do the dirty work of politics.  Our friends and family who join campaigns of imperfect politicians are doing important work.  Some of us may find it distasteful, but without allies working on the inside, there is little hope of winning important ideological battles later.

Edmund Burke said “When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle.” more than 200 years ago, yet the nature of bad men and the need for the good to work together remains unchanged.

Fight for liberty in whatever way moves you, and have respect for those allies who choose different weapons and tactics.  We’ll never agree on what tactics are best, but we must learn to work together for common goals.  Let us always remember who the real enemies of liberty are.

In Liberty,
Ken Mandile

Youniversity

Youniversity

Hundreds of thousands of high school and college students are celebrating their commencements this June.  These academic achievements are sources of pride for parents, students, grandparents, and teachers.  Hats off to those who have made it through!  Now, you get to sit through a 90 minute speech telling you how to enter the real world.

In the minds of the grads, they’re probably thinking “I’m finally done!”, yet, ironically, the ceremony noting their accomplishment is called a “commencement”.  It’s derived from an Old French word, comencier, meaning “to start.”  It’s a cruel joke.  “What do you mean I’m starting? No! No! No!  I just finished.  I’m not starting!”

We older and wiser sages know that they really are just beginning.  They may get some direction from the education that they received, but life will deal them some zigs and zags that will send them to places they never planned on going.

Our national elections should be commencements.  They should be new beginnings.  We should have a chance to wipe the slate clean of the mistakes of the past, while being guided by what we’ve learned from making them.  It doesn’t seem to work that way though.  We make the same mistakes over and over.  We spend and borrow and hack away at our Constitution after every new election.

Those of us who have been advocating for the rebirth of liberty are repeatedly dismayed by each election.  We shouldn’t think of these as failures though.  Have faith in individuals, in millions of citizens who struggle to overcome the barriers set up by broken systems, broken institutions, and a broken government.  Most of these individuals attend “youniversity”.  They have everything that they need to graduate.  No one is going to hand them a certificate of completion, yet they go to “class” every day, supporting their families and their communities.

The next few months are going to be tumultuous.  Many will be dismayed by the choices that we are being offered.  In the end, it’s up to each of us as individuals to spit in the face of the broken systems that impede millions of Americans from achieving economic success and real freedom.  We do this by thriving.  Use the benefit of “youniversity.”  Learn, write, speak up, act up, and volunteer.  “You got everything you need to graduate with first class accomplishments put in you! YOU can do it!”