Green Nude Eels and Old New Eels

James P. Pinkerton has a post over at The American Conservative about how the Democrats’ lack of imagination has forced them to recycle failed ideas from FDR’s administration. In addition to court packing, various Democrats are pushing a Green New Deal. Others are proposing a Universal Basic Income. And way too many Democrats seem to be behind higher taxes and so-called Modern Monetary Theory.

Yet Modern Monetary Theory might just as well be called Weimar Monetary Theory, as we recall, without affection, the German hyperinflation of 1921-23. Historians regard that monetary debacle, which wiped out Germany’s middle class, as one of that country’s stepping stones on the road to Nazism.

While many Progressives will refer to anyone opposing their proposals as a “nazi,” they seem to view being on a road to more state control as a feature not a bug. Stephen Green (he’s due a H/T for pointing me to the Pinkerton piece) has noted,

that the current push for ultra-high income taxes isn’t about collecting revenue, but about increasing control and creating new opportunities for graft.

Yep. American Progressivism has been about control from the late 19th century onward. Those early Progessives wanted to control the underclass and undesirables just as their great-great grandchildren want to control deplorables. Prohibition finally failed, but the mischief caused by the Harris Act (federal control of opium and coca) and its successors lives on. So does Planned Parenthood. So does …

As for graft, it’s not always about money. More often, it’s about power. Many supporters of the Progressive cause assume that they are members of the Party when, in fact, they are only useful proles, and many members of the Outer Party assume that they will be part of the Inner Party one day. Both groups will be shocked when their chocolate ration is raised from 30 grams to 20 grams along with the rest of us.

The Great Awokening and Other New Religions

Andrew Sullivan has a post over at NYMag titled America’s New Religions. Sullivan points out that the decline of Christianity in America hasn’t resulted in a decline in religion. Rather, he sees new cults arising that attempt to replace spirituality with politics. He sees different forms of politics emerging on the Left and Right that seek to fill the hole in the lives of people who have abandoned Christianity.

Sullivan refers to the new religion on the Left as “the Great Awokening.”

Like early modern Christians, they punish heresy by banishing sinners from society or coercing them to public demonstrations of shame, and provide an avenue for redemption in the form of a thorough public confession of sin. “Social justice” theory requires the admission of white privilege in ways that are strikingly like the admission of original sin. A Christian is born again; an activist gets woke. To the belief in human progress unfolding through history — itself a remnant of Christian eschatology — it adds the Leninist twist of a cadre of heroes who jump-start the revolution.

I note that American Progressivism has some of its roots in Christianity. During the later half of the 19th century, a fairly broad segment of Christians held a Post-Millenial view of eschatology. That is, they believed that the world was getting better because of human progress and that if they worked harder to increase the rate of progress, the world would sooner be fit for Christ’s second coming. Some of these people believed they had a duty to enforce what they saw as good behavior on their neighbors, and that view fueled such political activity by Christian Progressives as the Prohibition Movement. The idea that the world was getting better fell on hard times in the trenches of the First World War, and the unintended consequences of experiments in social control such as Prohibition further discredited that point of view. These failures led many of those busybodies away from Christianity to other belief systems that provided new rationales for their desire to control others. Heresies resulted from attempts to merge Marxism with the Gospel. Many have ended up choosing Marx over Jesus.

But back to Sullivan’s article. He sees that corrosive forces have also attacked Christianity from the Right, creating mirror image cults to those filled by Progressives.

And so we’re mistaken if we believe that the collapse of Christianity in America has led to a decline in religion. It has merely led to religious impulses being expressed by political cults. Like almost all new cultish impulses, they see no boundary between politics and their religion. And both cults really do minimize the importance of the individual in favor of either the oppressed group or the leader.

And this is how they threaten liberal democracy. They do not believe in the primacy of the individual, they believe the ends justify the means, they do not allow for doubt or reason, and their religious politics can brook no compromise. They demonstrate, to my mind, how profoundly liberal democracy has actually depended on the complement of a tolerant Christianity to sustain itself — as many earlier liberals (Tocqueville, for example) understood.

It is Christianity that came to champion the individual conscience against the collective, which paved the way for individual rights. It is in Christianity that the seeds of Western religious toleration were first sown. Christianity is the only monotheism that seeks no sway over Caesar, that is content with the ultimate truth over the immediate satisfaction of power. It was Christianity that gave us successive social movements, which enabled more people to be included in the liberal project, thus renewing it. It was on these foundations that liberalism was built, and it is by these foundations it has endured. The question we face in contemporary times is whether a political system built upon such a religion can endure when belief in that religion has become a shadow of its future self.

Read the whole thing.

Don’t Know Much About History

In this case, not a single event, but it’s the broad sweep of History that Progressives seem to be ignorant of. So writes David Harsanyl over at The Federalist.

If many liberals seem unconcerned about their party’s future after a midterm trouncing, it’s only because many have bought into the comforting notion that history is theirs. Even in defeat, liberals are predestined for victory. The intellectual case for progressivism is unassailable. The potency of their moral case makes them unstoppable. Demography is destiny. Old people die. White people disappear. The trajectory set.

And while this may all turn out to be the case, it’s probably worth considering other factors before accepting the Liberal Inevitability Hypothesis.

The most obvious reason people with high certitude about the future typically end up looking foolish is the volatility of history.

Read the whole thing.

The Progressive movement was vibrant a century ago. It even had a few good ideas, but its essentially Marxist belief in the Perfectibility of Man doomed it to failure in the real world. As Trotsky told the Mensheviks: You are pitiful, isolated individuals! You are bankrupts. Your role is played out. Go where you belong from now on—into the dustbin of history!

Repeal Prohibition, Again

So says the Editorial Board of the New York Times. They’re referring to the prohibition of marijuana.

Before I go any further, let me say that I agree that we ought to decriminalize dope. However, my reasons are not exactly the same as the NYT’s. Oh, I agree that we need to end prohibition of marijuana (and most other recreational drugs) in order to cut off a cash cow for criminals. But another reason is that prohibition (of drugs or booze or handguns or whatever) was one of the signal achievements of early 20th-century Progressivism. Fortunately (or unfortunately), the crime and violence associated with alcohol prohibition brought Americans to their senses in only 13 years.

A hundred years ago, our betters the Progressives sold the country on the idea that because some people couldn’t responsibly handle booze and drugs, that none of us should have access to them. If we just let the smarter, wiser, better educated, more refined elites control us, everything will be just fine.

Yeah, that hasn’t worked for me either.

Exit question: How many members of the NYT Editorial Board smoke dope?

A Deep Theological Question

Smitty posts these two quotes:

From the standpoint of governance, what is at stake is our ability to use the rule of law as an instrument of human redemption.

—Al Gore

For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God …

—Romans 3:23

and then asks the profound question:

Through what mechanism do individual sinners, forming a government, achieve that which they cannot accomplish individually?

As a Christian, the first place I go in pursuing an answer is the Bible. Further along in the book of Romans, Paul wrote this:

For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same; for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath upon the one who practices evil.

—Romans 13:3, 4

So I would argue that a government that is doing good rather than evil is operating for God’s purpose. To the extent that we, as individual sinners, contribute to doing good, we are not at cross-purposes with God. The problem we have as sinners is knowing the difference between good and evil.

One of the principal beliefs of historic Christianity is the expectation that one day God will intervene in history to put an end to evil at what is often called the Second Coming. There have been various interpretations of the prophecies relating to that event. One which came into vogue during the Protestant Reformation was Postmillennialism. The Cliffs Notes version of this interpretation is that Jesus will not return until His Church has done a sufficiently good job of cleaning up the world for Him. Thus, working not only to convert the heathen but also to end bad human behavior hastens the day of His return.

This interpretation has almost died out among most Christians. It was severely wounded in Flanders around 1915 and again at Auschwitz in 1945 and has never really recovered. However, in the generation before WWI it was an important motivator for many do-gooders who brought us such social experiments as Prohibition. It’s in that sort of busybody activity that we see how we humans can fail to understand evil.

Was Prohibition a good thing? Drunkenness is a bad thing. If we have no booze in society, all those alcoholics will be dry.

Well, we saw how things worked in the real world. Evil is clever about finding ways around mere laws. Prohibition was not a good thing; it became a means by which Evil got a stronger foothold in our society.

Human beings are creatures with freewill. We are creatures who can choose good or evil. If I write, “Murder is evil,” almost everyone will agree. If I write,”Stealing is evil,” almost everyone will agree. If I write, “Perjury is evil,” almost everyone will agree. If had written, “Adultery is evil,” a hundred years ago, I would have had more agreement then than I would get now. The Apostle Paul also noted that the Law is a schoolmaster that teaches us sinners the difference between good and evil. A law that a significant portion of society flouts is a law that teaches society to be lawless and opens our hearts to greater evil.

I personally believe that defacing the environment as poor stewards of creation is a form of evil. I believe that Al Gore is correct when he says that government has a role in restraining that evil (without agreeing with his proposed solutions), but that he’s dead wrong when he says the purpose is redemption. God does the redeeming.

We need to be more humble about the laws we impose on one another lest we wind up actually encouraging more lawlessness.

UPDATE—Typo corrected. Thanks, Ken.

UPDATE 2–Second correction crediting Smitty. I shouldn’t post until after the second cup of coffee.

Liberalism v. The Liberal Arts

David Clemens has a very worthwhile essay posted on the importance of the Liberal Arts. Many of the subjects that our current elites have studied are about how things happen or how humans behave. The Liberal Arts, OTOH, are not about how humans behave but about how to be human. This lack of background in the humanities among so many TechnoProgressives has impaired their understanding of what it means to be free.

A free person can make stupid choices. He can have it all and throw it away. But, just as for Dostoyevsky’s Underground Man, that may be his only way of showing himself that he is a human being and not a piano key pushed by fate. Think of Elvis or any number of promising people who crashed and burned.

Mr. Clemens uses the recent political ad campaign about Julia to make his point.

This is why selling the Julia concept frightens me. She doesn’t yearn to be free, like a human; she yearns to be kept. Julia embraces the piano key life that the president offers, and like W. H. Auden’s Unknown Citizen, she will act and behave predictably, she will choose and think correctly.

A perennial question that divides the political left and right is this: what sort of beings are we? Do we have an immutable, perhaps transcendent, nature that will surrender everything utopia for autonomy, agency, and freedom (Elvis)? Or is there no inherent nature, and humans are just socially constructed, plastic, seeking nothing but safety and a reliable sense of well-being (Julia)? Political Science, Psychology, and Anthropology cannot answer that question, and the sciences can only measure what is measurable. The liberal arts and humanities, however, insist that we are like Elvis, and that those who trade liberty for comfort always live to regret it.

Read the whole thing.

Even OWSers Get the Blues

Well, they’re beginning to get it. They’re starting to figure out that they’ve been screwed by the Blue State model, but they still don’t get it that more of the same won’t fix things. We’ve reached the point where there isn’t enough other peoples’ money to pay for so many drone jobs.

Over at Hot Air, Karl says,

The angst of the OWSers echoes within the class that currently occupies the types of jobs the OWSers want; that class encompasses the Democrats’ core constituencies. It is the street iteration of the “emerging Democratic majority” versus the collapse of the Blue Model. If progressivism stops being a jobs racket, it loses much of its power.

Read the whole thing.