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Foreign Affairs

News of the Day: Don’t be a Dummy!

August 15th, 2019 // 7:31 am @

Where Do You Stand?

This headline, “Don’t Be a Dummy!,” is sincere. The sad truth is that too many Americans act like “dummies” too much of the time.

For example, consider the following quote:

“Public Policy Polling asked a broad sample of Democratic and Republican primary voters whether they would support bombing Agrabah. Nearly a third of Republican respondents said they would, versus 13 percent who opposed the idea. Democratic preferences were roughly reversed; 36 percent were opposed, and 19 percent were in favor. Agrabah doesn’t exist. It’s the fictional country in the 1992 Disney film Aladdin. Liberals crowed that the poll showed Republicans’ aggressive tendencies. Conservatives countered that it showed Democrats’ reflexive pacifism. Experts in national security couldn’t fail to notice that 43 percent of Republicans and 55 percent of Democrats polled had an actual, defined view on bombing a place in a cartoon.”*

Another way to explain this is that too many of us act like dummies when it comes to current events.

How? First, we too often allow ourselves to hold and express kneejerk opinions on things without studying them and learning even the most basic details.

Second, we are frequently sure we’re right in our opinions, even when we’re just expressing careless views without studying any of the facts.

Third, we too often choose the lazy path when a 30-second search of a topic, or in this case a world map, would tell us that Agrabah is a fictional land from a cartoon movie. Too many Americans** do this kind of thing over and over, often without even realizing it. This isn’t an issue of conservative or liberal, red or blue. It’s a simple matter of assuming we know things instead of immediately saying “I don’t know” and then just bothering to look it up.

If Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, or Abigail Adams had been asked about invading or bombing Agrabah, it’s pretty obvious to anyone who has read their history that they would have paused, pondered, and then done some research. Simple thing. Big consequences.***

So, seriously, let’s not be dummies. When we hear, read, or see something in current events that we don’t know about, let’s be the kind of citizens who take a some time and look up what’s actually happening. If it’s deep, or complex, or contested by the conservative versus liberal media, let’s study a bit deeper.

A free people seldom stay free if they don’t stand up for their freedoms, and that’s hard to do if they don’t take the time to look up things they don’t know. In our system of government the opinions of citizens matter. It’s up to each of us as a citizen to make sure that our opinions are based on knowledge. That’s the only way we can act with wisdom.

A challenge to all of us: When you hear something in current events that you don’t know, or even if you’re just not sure, take a bit of time to look it up. Read about it. Study different viewpoints on the issue. Ponder it for yourself. Then, based on knowledge, develop your opinion. If you already do this, great. If not, let’s all adopt this as a new habit. This very small thing can have a huge, positive impact on freedom. The opposite, just having opinions but not really finding out, definitely hurts our nation.

Also: This is important. Pass it on!

                  

Notes

*From Foreign Affairs, Tom Nichols, “How America Lost Faith in Expertise

**And too many of our international friends as well.

***See Real Clear Politics, David Shribman, “America’s Knowledge Crisis“; The Atlantic, Yascha Mounk, “Republicans Don’t Understand Democrats–And Democrats Don’t Understand Republicans: A new study shows Americans have little understanding of their political adversaries–and education doesn’t help“; Politico, Nick Gass, “Americans bomb Pew test of basic political knowledge“; The Atlantic, David Pozen, Eric Talley and Julian Nyarko, “Republicans and Democrats are Describing Two Different Constitutions

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THE JEFFERSON-MADISON DEBATES: Can the Constitution Survive?

July 17th, 2019 // 8:20 am @

PART I

European “Conservatism” and American “Conservatism” are not the same thing.[i] It’s important to realize that “conservatism,” in the generic, isn’t defined as a specific platform or set of ideals. It’s simply the posture and priority of “conserving” a certain tradition or form, as opposed to liberally or “progressive-ly” moving away from said tradition or form.

As George Will has pointed out, in Europe “Conservatism” was rooted in protecting monarchy, aristocracy, and the class system (where the many are ruled by the few), while in America “Conservatism” means protecting and maintaining the U.S. Constitution and the principles upon which it was framed, including the key principles articulated in the Declaration of Independence.[ii] Indeed the Declaration itself initiated the end of European Conservatism in America.[iii]

The tug-of-war between American Conservatism and Progressivism has been part of the American story ever since.[iv] Progressivism has gone through several stages–all of them a direct and escalating attack on the Constitution:

Step 1- Statism: Increase the size and scope of the government

Step 2- Centralized Statism: Increase the size and scope of the federal government

Step 3- Liberalism: Use the increasing size and scope of the federal government to redistribute money from the affluent to the lower classes by state force

Step 4- Socialism: Use the increasing size and scope of the federal government to redistribute money from the affluent and middle classes to the lower classes by state force, putting control of the federal government in the hands of a few, and also mandate social and environmental causes that require the federal government to grow even more

Step 5- Globalized Socialism: Expand progressive goals to include federal government programs for people around the globe (not limited to American citizens), requiring a massive expansion of government size and scope and progressive transfers of power and sovereignty from the American voters (and voters within other nations) to international organizations, agreements, and entities

We are currently in the High-Growth Phase of Step 4 and the Early-Growth Phase of Step 5.

PART II

American Conservatism, in contrast, focuses on implementing the U.S. Constitution, a return to Constitutional limited government (to the extent that we’ve moved away from the Constitution), and a citizenry that rules itself rather than being ruled by a class of elites.[v] Today the battle between Conservatism and Progressivism is in full swing.

To measure which side is ahead in this contest, the scoreboard is a simple two-question matrix:

  • Is the size, scope, debt, and expenditure of the federal government shrinking?

If “Yes,” Conservatism is winning.

  • Is the size, scope, debt, and expenditure of the federal government expanding?

If “Yes,” Progressivism is winning.

This is the only real indicator of direction, momentum, and victory. Every other possible marker can be faked or obscured. What this scoreboard shows is that the following administrations in the modern era have increased American Progressivism (thus decreasing Conservatism/Adherence to the U.S. Constitution):

  • Roosevelt
  • Truman
  • Eisenhower
  • Kennedy
  • Johnson
  • Nixon
  • Ford
  • Carter
  • Reagan
  • Bush
  • Clinton
  • Bush
  • Obama
  • Trump

In contrast, the following administrations reduced the scope, size and expenditure of the Federal Government, increasing American Conservatism and adherence to the U.S. Constitution:


NONE


This comes as a surprise to many conservatives. Indeed, this reality makes it clear which approach is winning: Progressivism. But surely some of the more conservative administrations at least significantly slowed down the increasing scope, size and expenditure of government, right?

The following administrations significantly slowed these things down:


NONE


This must have been caused by the opposing liberal Congress faced by certain administrations, right? The following administrations attempted to significantly slow the increase of the Federal Government’s size, scope, and expenditure, but were thwarted by the Congress:


NONE


At first glance, for conservatives at least, this doesn’t seem to make sense. Clearly there is a big difference between some of the administrations, that of Carter and Reagan for example, or Obama and Trump. While this is true, the actual differences are not what most people tend to think.

Where the genuine application of Conservative principles often results in significant benefits to the nation, the overall trend since 1944 can only be characterized as firmly escalating in the direction of Progressivism. The nation has occasionally profited from a short-term implementation of Conservative principles (e.g. Eisenhower, Reagan, Trump), but this has not resulted in a reversal of the Progressive trend.

Moreover, during this entire timeline, Progressive momentum has accelerated. It has never reversed. Conservatism (protection and application of the U.S. Constitution and Constitutional limits) has given way to Progressivism (the expansion of the welfare state and the size/scope of the central government) during every administration in the post-World War II era.

A more accurate understanding of these trends is possible if we consider the dominant Steps of Progressivism implemented in modern American history. This allows us to more clearly rate the Conservatism vs. Progressivism of each administration:

Dominant Focus of Washington D.C. from 1860-1913

Step 1- Statism: Increase the size and scope of the government

Dominant Focus of Washington D.C. from 1913-1944

Step 2- Centralized Statism: Increase the size and scope of the federal government

Dominant Focus During the Truman, Kennedy, and Clinton administrations

Step 3- Liberalism: Use the increasing size and scope of the federal government to redistribute money from the affluent to the lower classes by state force

Dominant Focus During the Eisenhower, Nixon, Ford, Reagan, Bush, Bush, and Trump administrations

Step 2- Centralized Statism: Increase the size and scope of the federal government

Dominant Focus During the Roosevelt, Johnson, and Obama administrations

Step 4- Socialism: Use the increasing size and scope of the federal government to redistribute money from the affluent and middle classes to the lower classes by state force, putting control of the federal government in the hands of a few, and also mandate social and environmental causes that require the federal government to grow even more

Dominant Focus of the Current Left since 2016

Step 5- Globalized Socialism: Expand Progressive goals to include federal government programs for people around the globe (not limited to American citizens), requiring another massive expansion of government size and scope and progressive transfers of power and sovereignty from the American voters (and people within other nations) to international organizations and entities

PART III

There are at least three significant considerations in all of this that every American needs to understand:

  1. None of the presidential administrations in the post-World War II era have implemented Conservatism (the genuine application of Constitutional limits). All have supported the Progressive agenda at some level (increase of the size and scope of the federal government beyond its Constitutional boundaries, including an expansion of the welfare state). Some administrations promoted this more than others. But all are complicit in Progressivism, while none adhered to Conservatism as defined above (the Application of all Constitutional Limits, versus Increasing the Scope, Size, and Expenditure of Government).
  2. Presidents considered by many to be the most “Conservative” (including Eisenhower, Reagan, Trump) promoted Step 2 Progressivism but not Step 3 Progressivism. Specifically, they actively increased the size and scope of the federal government, but didn’t drastically increase redistribution of money/programs from the affluent to the lower classes by state force. This led to economic upturn through deregulation—a good result. It did not, however, reverse the momentum of the welfare state or reinvigorate Constitutional limits; as a consequence, the trend toward bigger government and increased Progressivism continues unabated.
  3. Presidents widely considered the most Progressive (Roosevelt, Johnson, Obama) implemented Step 4 Progressivism (socialism: major redistribution from the upper and middle classes to government programs nominally for the poor and disadvantaged) and drastically increased the growth rate of the long-term Progressive trend. This always coincided with major (albeit medium-length) economic downturn.

There has been no genuinely Conservative presidential administration (one focused on maintaining the limited size and scope of government to the specific limitations of the Constitution) since presidents Harding and Coolidge in the 1920s. All administrations since that time have promoted an expansion of the federal government in size, scope, and expenditure. The growing welfare state (Progressivism) has continually won out over Constitutional limits (Conservatism).

This has been aided by a number of decisions in the Court expanding the scope of the federal government and naming many additional federal powers “constitutional”. Ironically, such decisions are, according to the original words of the Constitution, unconstitutional.[vi]

PART IV

Why?

Why have all administrations since the mid-1920s joined the Progressive trend, even while many have loudly proclaimed their “bona fide Conservatism”? The answer may be as simple as that suggested by George Will[vii]: Most Americans actually like a lot of our government programs. And today we want more of them, not less. We want programs for “other people” to be cut or discontinued, but we tend to cling to government programs that directly benefit us.

Irony is at work here. On the one hand, voters seem to want freedom—but within limits. Specifically, they want more freedom for themselves than for others. And they want government programs—also within limits. The masses want something that has never been a reality—the quality levels attained by private schools, private institutions of higher education, private health care, and private-sector prestige jobs, provided free to all by government, and paid for by “the rich”–“the 1 Percent”.

Another way to describe our situation is that Progressivism has largely won the battle for the hearts and minds of most Americans. The Conservative ethos—that government should protect our freedoms by adhering to the U.S. Constitution, and give us nothing else, nothing at all, because the rest is up to us alone, our individual hard work, tenacity, initiative, ingenuity and good choices—is now largely a foreign concept.[viii] It is as quaint in our cities, and beyond, as vinyl records or public payphones. We want government to do things for us—lots of things. “How else will it get done?” most Americans now ask.

A majority of Americans now want to work less, make more, and receive a lot of extra government benefits paid for by someone else. If that’s what it means now to be an American, then America is on the path to major decline.[ix] And perhaps the most shocking point: Almost nobody is arguing about this.

We argue about whether or not such government benefits should go to illegal aliens. Some say “Yes, of course. Be generous”, while others respond “No way! Don’t make me pay for their needs. What about Americans, what about our needs?” But both sides miss the deeper issue. Again, most Americans now want to work less, get paid more, and receive a lot of extra government programs paid for by someone else. As long as this is our agreed-upon worldview, we’re in decline, and sinking fast.

We have, on one side, those who want more government benefits for everyone. Another side wants fewer government programs/expenditures for those who aren’t Americans.

But where are those who refuse all benefits that the government offers to them, preferring freedom? —the citizens who want to stand on their own, to make their own way without government help, who want to actually be free? Where are those kind of Americans today?

Without them, American-style Conservatism is extinct. Without them, Progressivism has won.

Most modern Americans want independence without having to select the choices that make them independent. “With all the taxes I pay, I’m not going to turn down government benefits.” The problem is, at its root, that government forces us to pay for the welfare state, whether we accept any of its benefits or not. For most people, as a result, rejecting the benefits appears illogical, even stupid. And they’re right.

But can the Constitution survive such a populace? If the masses want to work less, make more, and refuse to reject government benefits, the government will continue to grow. Limited constitutionalism is already over, in such a world.

Prediction: Unless this changes, we will only elect those promising the easy path, and we will vote ourselves consistently into decline. The Republican Party will oscillate between Progressive Steps 2 and 3, while the Democrat Party will swing back and forth between Progressive Steps 4 and 5. Regardless of which side wins elections, the federal government will keep expanding. Freedom will be redefined, redirected, and reduced, and eventually it will disappear, following the long-established pattern of great power nations.[x]

There is, of course, a solution. It is called limited government. It is outlined in the United States Constitution.

First: the federal government must be held to the twenty powers (only 20!) outlined in Article I Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution.

Second: the Executive branch and its agencies must be required (by the voters, and all those they elect) to actually follow the Constitution. Third: the Court must also be required to follow the Constitution (by the voters, and all those they elect), without dodging this duty by claiming that it can simply redefine the document whenever it wants.

The voters have all the power to make these three things happen.

We have the blueprint. It will work, if the voters demand it.

But it will only work if the voters demand it.


*How can we get regular citizens to be this kind of voter? The answer is outlined in the book LeaderShift: A Call for Americans to Finally Stand Up and Lead, by Orrin Woodward and Oliver DeMille. In LeaderShift you’ll learn the 5 Laws of Declining Nations, why America is currently failing all 5 Laws, and what to actually do about it. Find out how to get America back on track for the long term!

Available here>>


NOTES

[i] See George Will, 2019, The Conservative Sensibility

[ii] Ibid.

[iii] See Russell Kirk, 1974, The Roots of American Order

[iv] See Arthur Schlesinger, 1986, The Cycles of American History

[v] See op cit., Kirk; see also W. Cleon Skousen, 1985, The Making of America

[vi] The Constitution of the United States, Article III; see also Madison, Hamilton, Jay, 1989, The Federalist, Papers 78, 80, 83

[vii] See op cit., Will

[viii] See Oliver DeMille, 2014, The U.S Constitution and the 196 Indispensable Principles of Freedom

[ix] See Orrin Woodward, 2014, And Justice for All; see also Jonah Goldberg, 2018, Suicide of the West; see also Thomas Sowell, 2007, A Conflict of Visions

[x] See Paul Kennedy, 1987, The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers

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THE JEFFERSON-MADISON DEBATES: A New Cold War is Coming PART II

June 11th, 2019 // 7:41 am @

What Americans Can Do To Effectively Protect American Freedoms in the Decades Just Ahead

(Book Review of American, by Shanon Brooks)

Note to reader: read Part I of this report here >>


I. The Challenge

The 21st Century is shaping up as an era of major conflict, between (1) the three superpowers (the U.S., Russia, and China) and their allies and proxies (the European Union, Israel, North Korea, Iran, etc.), and also between (2) the Red- and Blue-state cultures that are further dividing America. If the U.S. doesn’t fix the problem (2) above, it will almost certainly lose the first battle (1) to China and/or Russia.

But what can regular Americans actually do? What will really work?

The three most effective things Americans can do to maintain our freedoms, families, and leadership in an increasingly dangerous world are:

  1. Spread great, classics- and freedom-based, leadership education
  2. Engage entrepreneurialism, the key to free enterprise, and encourage/help others to do the same
  3. Vote correctly and influence other voters to do the same (to protect and increase freedoms), and effectively influence government between elections

The battle for world leadership will come down to how well Americans do these three things. If we don’t win this battle, the world by 2040 will likely be run by two superpowers: China and Russia. Freedom values will be at odds with the rest of the world, and greatly reduced in the United States. Socialism will be the norm from the California redwoods to the beaches of Florida, from the Midwest to the Plains, and from the Rockies to Maine, in the cities and farms, and across all fifty states. Many of our most cherished freedoms will be reduced, or stolen.

How can we ensure that this doesn’t happen? A new book addresses this very question. This may be one of the most important books of our time; if we read and understand it, and take the right action, the future of America, our freedoms, our economy and our families, will be bright. If we don’t take the needed action…freedoms will be lost, socialism will spread, and families will suffer.

The book is titled simply, and sagely, American.

II. The Journey

Indeed, the title says it all. Written by Shanon Brooks, American gets to the heart of the problem, and the solutions. As Brooks puts it: “…we are killing the American Dream. Out of the top 30 countries in the world, the U.S. ranks 16th in literacy…and 14th in problem solving.”

Does that sound like a superpower? Or more like a past leader currently in decline? If we’re only 14th in problem solving, how can we truly expect to lead in the decades ahead, to tackle and solve our greatest problems, to help lead the world as it faces and overcomes the challenges ahead?

But the problem is even more daunting. Brooks wrote:

“National unfunded obligations are more than $100 trillion while U.S. household debt is at an all-time high of $13.2 trillion. We have one of the most litigious societies in the world, our incarceration rate is among the highest globally, and our state and federal legislatures are convinced that they are our cradle-to-grave caretakers.”

Unless something changes soon, and in major ways, we are not on the path to increased freedoms or economic opportunities for our children or grandchildren. In fact, we are quickly headed in the opposite direction.

As Brooks notes:

“How can we claim that America is the greatest nation in the world when 60% of our population can’t even pass the U.S. citizenship test? What have we done with the legacy of liberty that the founders so carefully crafted for us? And what are we creating to pass down to our children and grandchildren?”

The problem is real. The divide between those who even care about freedom and those who don’t is quickly expanding. And the root of the problem is at the very core of our daily lives: how we are educated, how we make a living, and how we participate (and don’t participate) as citizens overseeing and governing our own nation. As Travis Slade notes in the preface to American: “Pretty much everything about how we live today is killing the American Dream.” He’s right. And this book, American, is much more than a handbook on the principles of freedom—it’s all about how to apply those principles in the world today, in this economy, given the reality of the world we actually live in. Along the way, it addresses real issues across the board, including:

  • Our Decaying Education System
  • Our Work Life—Pros and Cons
  • The Way People Vote and Otherwise Participate (or don’t) in Overseeing Our Government
  • Commercial and Residential Construction
  • The Health Care Industry
  • The Transportation Industry
  • The Food and Grocery Industry
  • Local Law Enforcement
  • The Issues of Immigration
  • The Regulation State versus Free Enterprise
  • Socialism versus Investment
  • Employee versus Owner Mindsets
  • Federal Government Overreach
  • …Etc.

American asks us to seriously consider a number of poignant questions, questions that our national school/education system has patently taught us not to ask—or even think about in any meaningful way.

For example: “How can the American Dream be alive when each new American baby…inherits $300,000 of national debt…?”

And “…bureaucracy so deep and stifling that most just give up and give in.”

This book describes an America the Framers wouldn’t even recognize, a nation deeply entrenched in a bureaucratic quagmire the likes of ancient Byzantium, with a few celebrities, wealthy super elites, and top government officials (and their families) enjoying benefits akin to a medieval Venetian aristocracy.

And we call this “American?” It isn’t. It was supposed to be different. It was designed to be different. But only the people are capable of keeping our freedoms, as the Framers warned. No elites will save us. It is up to regular Americans.

III. Solutions

The best part of American is the solutions. I won’t spoil the book by listing them all here, or going into detailed applications and strategies, but they cut right to the heart of the matter, skipping symptoms and focusing on what we really need to do in order to steer things in the right direction. If we want real freedom, and effective results, we’re going to have to act. Brooks outlines what we need to do, and how to get started.

Specifically, as mentioned above, this book emphasizes the three major things we need to influence, change, and improve if America is going to survive as an effective beacon of freedom—in the world, and at home to the rising generations.

First, the right kind of education. Second, the right choices in the way we as a people make a living. And third, the way we vote—what goes into our voting decisions and the way we train up young people to be wise voters—and the ways we actively participate in governing our nation between elections.

Ultimately, these three things boil down to the quality of our learning, the kind of education we share, support, and pass on to our children and especially our young adults. If we get this right, the rest will follow. If not, our freedoms are very much in danger. America simply cannot survive three more generations of education like what we currently have.

We actually have two education systems in modern America, one for elites and those who work as the elites’ advisors, professionals, and managers, and another for the masses. Most Americans attend the second type of schools; the result is that America now educates mostly followers. This hard-to-hear reality is, nonetheless, true. It is time to face it openly, and change it. American is not just a great book on freedom and leadership, but an excellent book on higher education, right up there with Henry Newman’s great classic The Idea of a University, The Higher Learning in America by Robert Hutchins, An Education for Our Time by Josiah Bunting, and The Closing of the American Mind by Allan Bloom. Brooks benefitted from the ideas in all of these, and many others, and as a result American is the best book on higher education that I have ever read.

Every American who cares about freedom and our future should read it. And every American should care about freedom and our future.

Perhaps most importantly, Brooks’ book will introduce the reader to a number of very important ideas and principles that are seldom discussed anymore—in schools, homes, churches, or places of business, and certainly not by the media—but were once understood, cherished, and debated by every free American. The early Americans taught these things to their children, and were ashamed if any of their children couldn’t articulate these principles of freedom and life fluently and in detail. Such principles constitute the bulk of chapters 1 through 10 in American. Knowing them fully, and understanding how to apply them in society, was once considered crucial to being an American. They have now been almost entirely lost, and with them many of our freedoms. To reboot our freedoms, we must understand these vital principles and ideas.

It is time for us to know them. To pour over them, and to master them. To share them, teach them, talk about them, debate them, and apply them. It is past time. We cannot wait any longer. We must act. Again, our freedoms and the future of our posterity are at stake. If we get the freedom principles right, if we understand and effectively implement them, we will be another generation of American heroes. If not, the candle of American freedom will be snuffed out.

This is true. This is real. This is happening.

Not every person will apply the things learned in American the same way. Or even agree on every specific. This is the way it should be—free people applying principles differently, based on personal mission. But all of us should learn them. Know them. Ponder, discuss, and apply them as inspired.

It is time.

To act…

Recommended Reading

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THE JEFFERSON-MADISON DEBATES: A New Cold War is Coming – PART I

June 3rd, 2019 // 6:14 pm @

The 3 Superpowers and The State of the World Right Now

(WHAT EVERY AMERICAN SHOULD KNOW)

America isn’t supposed to act this way, the experts say. After all, we invented the liberal international order—the growing sprawl of international organizations, treaties, and laws that all nations are eventually supposed to join, and follow.

Founded in 1917, 1921, 1944 and almost every year since, Internationalism, now usually called Globalism, is America’s biggest export. More than freedom. More than apple pie. More than movies, even. But this whole arrangement has been turned on its head in the era of Brexit and Trump.

I: The United States

The two most powerful enemies of Globalism, Russia and China, once had a clear path to success—to slow down the growth of Globalism, slow down America and it’s NATO allies, and thereby increase their own status. For that matter, between 1944 and 2017, most U.S. policy makers had the same approach: spread U.S. influence by supporting the expansion of Globalism. Globalism itself was built on three main pillars:

  1. An “acronym salad” of international organizations (from the UN to the IBRD [World Bank] and IMF, from the World Court, the G7 and G8, to the GATT and eventually the World Trade Organization, etc.)
  2. Free trade agreements
  3. Collective security arrangements

By the 1980s, Internationalism dominated the U.S. government and universities; anything that differed from the aims of Internationalism was decried by experts as dangerous isolationism. When I was in college, for example, and wanted to study Political Science, multiple professors assured me that “Political Science is outdated; study International Relations–that’s the future.” The U.S. State Department and a host of foreign policy professionals in our universities convinced three generations (1964-2016) that Internationalism [and later Globalism] equals freedom, and that the U.S. is just one part of Globalism (along with a bunch of other nations)–not its indispensable leader.

This all changed with the advent of Brexit, followed by the surprising (to the “mainstream thinking”) election of Donald Trump.

According to one expert:

“Although future presidents will try to restore the classical version of U.S. foreign policy [Globalism], in all likelihood, it cannot be returned.”

(Foreign Affairs, May/June 2019, p. 10)

Why? Because President Trump is patently against free trade agreements that are built on Globalism rather than economic benefits for Americans, and against international organizations that sap American power and resources without giving back commensurate benefits to American citizens.

For the foreign policy establishment, this is heresy. After more than 70 years of trying to convince world leaders to join Globalism, Trump’s rejection of the Globalist system will probably make it impossible for heads of state to trust future U.S. assurances of Globalism. After all, as 2016 proved, a single election can significantly reverse, and even erase, seven decades of U.S. policy. This is what the American Framers intended, but it is anathema to the current foreign policy establishment.

As another article in the same issue of Foreign Affairs put it: “Can the State Department be Saved?” Short answer: No. The State Department is based on Globalism, and Globalism can be rejected by the American people in any given presidential election. The world is changed. Forever. The main reason given for this shift is interesting: the American people don’t trust “experts” anymore. (Foreign Affairs, May/June 2019, p. 14).

A secondary reason is that foreign policy experts worked very hard (from 1944 to 2016) to transfer increasing levels of power to the office of the Presidency, shifting it slowly over time from the Legislative Branch. (See ibid.) Turns out changing the Constitution in this backroom fashion has unintended consequences for the progressives who championed it.

II: Russia and China

Image Source: The National Interest

This drastic change is a shock for both Russia and China. Putin built his administration as the biggest outlier and opponent of Globalism, with a “Russia First” approach. [Richard Sakwa, 2019, Russia’s Futures]

As one Russia expert put it, Putin’s main goal for two decades has been to “Make Russia Great Again.” (Ibid.) The focus of this agenda was to keep Russia strongly in control of its own future by resisting Globalism as an ideology and Globalist international organizations in specific. Putin accomplished this by resisting the West at every turn, but simultaneously allowing Globalism to grow so that Western economies could continue to purchase Russian oil and other products.

Thus Trump and Putin agree on a general policy: “My Nation First”. But they are directly adversarial, because one wants to put the U.S. above the Liberal International Order and the other seeks to put Russia above Globalism and Globalist institutions. Same goal—opposite direction.

The two presidents have also employed very different means to achieve their goals. Trump’s main strategy has been to deregulate the U.S. economy, allowing increased economic freedom to reboot finance, commerce, entrepreneurship, and production; Putin’s major agenda has been a massive centralization of power to the office of President, i.e. himself. Putin has, in twenty years of power, created another Russian autocracy, with centralized powers that some experts say rival, or perhaps exceed, those of Stalin.

China is also drastically centralizing power to President Xi, to the point that a number of China experts consider this a return to Mao-level dominance by one leader. But unlike Russia, China worked hard from 1989-2017 to increase its influence as part of the Globalist community. It even supported, at least superficially, a level of U.S. leadership in international organizations—always with the understanding that the U.S. could lead as long as it also paid most of the bill.

The State Department largely saw this as a positive, and promised/fulfilled payments from U.S. taxpayers to numerous programs worldwide. At the same time, China frequently voted for these programs at the international level (again, as long as the U.S. was picking up the tab) and spent its own time and money buying up control of world natural resources in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. China now manages (by contract) more natural resources around the world than any other nation–far more than the United States. Ironically, communistic China preferred capitalist-style business contracts around the globe for water, food, oil, land and other natural resources, while U.S. claims to the same were usually negotiated by treaty and backed by arms rather than contract.

Today China, Russia and the United States are pulling away from each other, and all three are simultaneously pulling away from international organizations and the liberal Globalist Order. The future name of our era will likely be something like “The Return of Rivalry” (Foreign Affairs, May/June 2019, p. 19) or a “New Cold War” (Op cit., Sakwa, 2019). As Richard Sakwa put it: “Russia and the Atlantic System [NATO plus…] are locked in confrontation.” Add China to the mix, and a new Age of Rivalry is here.

Further details are sobering. For example, unlike the situation during the original Cold War, there are numerous conflicting rivalries at play right now, including:

  • U.S./Russia – U.S./China
  • Russia/China
  • U.S./European Union
  • China/European Union
  • Russia/European Union
  • United Kingdom/European Union
  • Trump Administration/U.S. Foreign Policy Establishment (or, on the broader scale, Red/Blue culture)
  • U.S./North Korea (China proxy)
  • China/Taiwan (U.S. proxy)
  • U.S./Iran (Russia proxy)
  • U.S./Cuba (Russia proxy)
  • U.S./Nicaragua (Russia proxy)
  • U.S./any nation with natural resources contracted to China
  • Russia/any nation with natural resources contracted to China
  • European Union/any nation with natural resources contracted to China
  • Iran (Russia proxy)/Israel (U.S. proxy)
  • Syria (Russia proxy)/Israel (U.S. proxy)

Serious flashpoints ahead. Proxies can, of course, cause major problems between superpowers, for example the Korean War and Vietnam War, not to mention the proxy-conflict that sparked World War I.  Also, unlike the Red-Blue division in the United States that seems poised to create increased internal conflict in the years ahead, both China and Russia have consolidated powers, and the leading groups of influence within their respective nations are currently, and strongly, behind Xi and Putin. This solidarity is particularly surprising in Russia, where the four major power groups seldom agree on much, but right now concur that Russia should be less acquiescent to the United States and the West: “All four of the great interest-ideological blocs broadly support Putin…and indeed, the main criticism of three of them is that he has been too weak and accommodating to the West’s demands.” (Op. cit., Sakwa, 2019)

III: Dangers Ahead

If (when) any of the rivalries listed above escalates, each superpower will ultimately tend to fall back on its areas of strategic advantage. Every American should understand these advantages, for all three superpowers.

China: The Chinese strategic advantages are access to natural resources, manpower for traditional military conflict, and a tightly centralized command structure. Note that the latter isn’t an advantage for freedom, but during conflicts it is a distinct strategic benefit. China is built for outlasting the enemy, holding on and waiting for opponents to tire out, burn out, or give in. Anyone engaging a major conflict with China needs to be prepared for the long haul—and plan in terms of multiple decades rather than years.

United States: If the conflict is dominated by economics, a non-regulation-oriented Administration paired with an enterprising U.S. culture is a serious short-, medium-, and long-term advantage. (A high-regulation Administration would cancel this advantage.) In a major conflict, incentivizing the entrepreneurialism of the populace will be the major key to American victory, or even stalemate.

Russia: If the battle turns violent, Russia will be tempted to rely on the advantage of its nuclear arsenal. Indeed, in today’s New Cold War, Russia finds itself facing a very different situation than during the 1950s-1980s. At least four significant differences could change everything:

  1. Russia today doesn’t have the allies the USSR had. (Op. cit., Sakwa, 2019)
  2. China is a third superpower, complicating the whole situation, especially since it is geographically adjacent and shares the world’s largest militarized border with China. (Ibid.)
  3. U.S. deregulation of domestic oil production since 2016, and other contemporary increases in oil production around the world have reduced petroleum as the major income stream it once was for the USSR/Russia. (See ibid.)
  4. Cyber weapons are a new reality, something both China and Russia are endeavoring to master. (See ibid.)

These four shifts in geopolitics strongly increase Russia’s dependence on nuclear weapons as its main, if not only, strategic advantage. This is dangerous. And this rivalry is just heating up.

Conclusion

For the United States, the greatest danger probably won’t come from lack of resources or a nuclear attack—both can be effectively deterred by strong and unified leadership—but rather by the growing chasm between Red and Blue culture.

The worst-case scenario for U.S. national security in the Twenty-First Century may well be a pattern of yo-yo elections (Op cit, Foreign Affairs, 2019), four years Red followed by four years Blue in the Oval Office, repeating again and again. Four years isn’t enough to truly reboot the economy and military (Red agenda), or restructure the economy on more collectivist and regulatory lines to increase social equality (Blue agenda). To build one agenda for four years, then tear it down for four years, over and over, will almost certainly guarantee American weakness and long-term economic/security decline. An eight-year cycle would be less extreme, but still bad. This yo-yo pattern is also, unfortunately, the most likely scenario given current trends in America. (Ibid.)

Great superpowers are seldom conquered from without. Instead, they fight internally, causing their own decline from within. This is precisely what we are witnessing right now. The election of 2020, and even more tellingly the election of 2024, will signal which of the following paths we are pursuing:

  • A U.S./China dominated world in the year 2040, or,
  • A Russia/China dominated world in the year 2040

Americans must take action to effectively protect American freedoms and superpower leadership in an increasingly dangerous world.

What we as citizens can actually do, and how to do it, will be addressed in Part II of this Special Report, to be published next week.

Recommended Reading:

Category : Blog &Citizenship &Community &Constitution &Culture &Current Events &Economics &Featured &Foreign Affairs &Generations &Government &History &Information Age &Leadership &Liberty &Politics &Statesmanship

Jefferson-Madison Debates: A Week of Socialism

August 21st, 2018 // 2:21 pm @

The Media of Our Time

This week I read five books, and one of them was an easy, enjoyable novel—a western entitled Flint that I’ve read and reread several times. Surprisingly, it was the western that first got me thinking about socialism. It contains a classic East Coast vs. Wild West milieu, where the main character experiences and ultimately chooses the fiercely independent lifestyle of the West over the more “socialized” culture of New York and New England. When I read the other four books they kept challenging my mind with similar themes—the kind that woke me up in the night numerous times with “new” thoughts that somehow refused to wait for morning. Fortunately, I keep a notebook on the nightstand for just such events.

Watching and reading the news added to this mental battle, since socialism is making a serious comeback right now in some corners of American politics. But mostly my thoughts centered on the books themselves. The first one after the western got the ball rolling because it openly promotes socialism, the cooperative type that focuses more on economics and culture than politics. It really made me think, because it skipped theory and emphasized current actions. Sobering.

Then I kept reading, and all the books were deep—nothing to skim. Every word was important; every sentence and paragraph deserved consideration.

By the time I finished the last book, I had a lot of ideas bouncing around in my head. As mentioned, the first book was about cooperatives as a replacement for corporate greed—putting “democracy” back in the business world, as the author put it, and a second offered a detailed history of the Supreme Court’s impact on American public education (and its governmental/legal influence on non-public education as well). There are a lot of socialist ties in education, sadly.

The third book amounted to a warning. China is growing—in power, wealth, and global ambition. We seldom hear much in the media about the major China threat, even though it is increasing at a staggering pace. Xi Jinping has centralized power within the People’s Republic of China to a level unprecedented since Mao (some would say with more power than Mao, given China’s huge economy and global reach). China’s plans for the decade ahead are remaking the globe. Yet, again, this is a topic hardly discussed in current America. Both communism and socialism refuse to die or go away; in some ways they are powerfully ascendant right now.

Finally, the last book, really just excerpts from a book that hasn’t yet been fully released, shares Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s thoughts about his famous 1978 speech at Harvard. If you’ve ever read A World Split Apart (the Harvard speech), you know it is important, and incredibly powerful. Every idea is profound, and unexpected. The excerpts from his new collection, to be published in late 2018, are equally compelling. In 1978 his words seemed a lot more anti-capitalist than anti-communist or even anti-socialist, but today I kept noticing the way his commentaries on America’s mainstream media crisply poke holes in an industry that has arguably become the world’s leading apologist for socialism. Deep. And this historical trend from 1978 has now become a tidal wave.

Following are my notes and main conclusions on these four books. I think they’re worth considering. There is a lot of important information packed into this article. If you give these ideas a chance, I think they’ll help you think even more deeply—and I hope more wisely as well—about our current events and challenges. It seems increasingly true that in our age of rampantly-partisan media, books frequently tell us more about events than the nightly news. It may be that a return to books (even more than the growth of the Internet) is the actual “new media” of our time. So much of what calls itself media today isn’t journalism at all, but just entertainment for the two major political parties, or worse, strident muckraking. Here goes…

Book One

Everything for Everyone (by Nathan Schneider)

  • 5 Stars for Importance

  • 2 Stars for Promoting Freedom

  • 4 Stars for Fun

Theme: Like it or Not, Socialism by Any Other Name is Still Socialism (But Capitalism is Either Really Bad or Really Good, Depending…)

The Problem, as described in Everything for Everyone, is that modern capitalism has become an enemy to democracy and culture. The book refers to the American economy as “A new feudalism on the rise” where “monopolistic corporations feed their spoils to the rich [while] more and more of us are expected to live gig to gig.” It traces the history of the idea that the best societies exist where the people share “all things in common”, from medieval monasteries and guilds to modern urban taxi cooperatives taking on Uber, from “freespace” supporters in San Francisco to online platforms, and numerous other examples.

The Solution, according to this book, is the spread cooperatives, groups democratically run by cooperating people—not dominating corporations controlled by a hierarchy of the elite few. Based on the marketing copy, the book appeared to promote an extremist utopia for utopians, which coincides nicely with the increasing popularity of socialism in the Democratic Party. The subtitle (“The Radical Tradition that Is Shaping the Next Economy”) predicts that this Solution is the clear way forward, our best path to a better future. And the author’s most recent book before this one, entitled Thank You, Anarchy: Notes from the Occupy Apocalypse, seems to reinforce this impression. But Everything for Everyone is a lot deeper than it seemed to me at first glance.

Indeed, as I read, I found myself marking numerous sentences, paragraphs, and quotes for future reference. The book is a treasure-trove of thinking on modern problems—clearly coming from a place Left of Center, but not patently anti-capitalist. Again, given the marketing copy, this surprised me. For example, while promoting the virtues of cooperation in very progressive-sounding language, the author also wrote: “Does cooperation count as capitalism, or something else?… If capitalism means freely associating in the economy, or ingenuity and innovation, or the rough-and-tumble of setting up a business, or price-based reasoning—then yes, cooperation overlaps with it. But if capitalism means a system in which the pursuit of profit for investors is the overriding concern, cooperation is an intrusion.”

To be clear, the term “capitalism” is often used in different ways by different people, and has evolved over time. Free Enterprise Capitalism (which promotes “freely associating in the economy… ingenuity and innovation… the rough-and-tumble of setting up a business…”) is not the same thing as Crony Capitalism or what is sometimes termed “Corporate Capitalism”—where institutions with capital are treated differently by government, law, and the commercial code. In Free Enterprise Capitalism, all people and institutions are treated equally by the law; in Corporate/Crony Capitalism the rich are given special legal and financial benefits. In my view, the real negative isn’t what Schneider calls “the pursuit of profit as the overriding concern”, but rather these special legal benefits that are both undemocratic and elitist, and also undermine Free Enterprise.

Overall, I consider this book a great read about our modern world. On the one hand, I heartily agree with its warning against the increasing dangers of government-by-corporate-powers, the Military-Industrial-Complex in its newest form, sometimes called The Black Box Society (another excellent book) or Government by Corporate Algorithm, Crony/Corporate Capitalism, or simply Elitism. The idea that economic progress must be a top-down process controlled by elites—while most people struggle paycheck to paycheck—is the source of many of our modern problems. More people on the Right need to understand and accept this challenge, because it’s real.

At the same time, I have mixed feelings about many of the proposed solutions in Everything for Everyone. Just like capitalism can adopt the empowering Free Enterprise approach or succumb to the controlling Crony/Corporate/Elitist model of capitalism, cooperative organizations and co-ops can be either freedom-supporting grassroots enterprises (which require a free economy if they want to flourish) or force-based. Where the author encourages the first, I like it. When the book promotes the second, not so much.

From the book: “What would it take so that a can-do group of pioneers—people with a need to meet or an idea to share with the world—might conclude that the best, easiest way to build their business is by practicing democracy?” Again, these words seem to lean toward freedom, and certainly the idea of more entrepreneurs and owners in our business structures is appealing. Even necessary, I think. But how easily does this approach turn into force-based controls? Is this joint-ownership system built on contract and market forces, or does it depend upon or even promote government forced “cooperation”? Both iterations will likely be applied.

The reality is that democracy is hard. The reason we use it in government is that government itself is force, and without a healthy dose of official voting power vested in the regular citizens, government will always be dominated by some group of elites—who seldom give the people any real equality (despite promises) or treat the people with respect, or allow any true freedom. And, secondly, the best governments, the free ones, check and balance democratic parts of government with branches that are aristocratic (e.g. Senate), appointed (e.g. Executive), and even appointed by the appointers (e.g. Judiciary).

This has been a long-established reality, even before Aristotle openly pointed it out. In the American arrangement of this model, the Framers made sure democracy had the final say (mostly through the power of the purse held by the democratically-elected House of Representatives), but not the entire say. Such a democratic republic is democratic, yes, but it’s not a pure democracy.

Thus, if most good democratic republics, where democracy has the final say through the purse strings, end up losing their freedoms to aristos and elites (and they do, as Madison pointed out in The Federalist), how much more quickly will this decline occur in democratic cooperatives? On a side note, as I read Everything for Everyone, I kept thinking of another book, similar in some very important ways, entitled Beyond Capitalism and Socialism, edited by Tobias J. Lanz. These two books are worth reading together, comparing and contrasting. Also throw into this conversation the book Give People Money, by Annie Lowry, which I reviewed earlier this year.

Finally, in addition to the important ways Everything for Everyone contributes to the discussion of where we want our economy to go, it is also a valuable book on current politics. For those on the Left, it shares a number of ways people are trying to seek a better economic model for the future—real people, doing real projects. Not just theory, which is often the Achilles heel of proposals from the Left. This provides the most value in the book, in my opinion. For those on the Right, this book strips away many of the stereotypes and misconceptions about the modern Left (the mainstream media version), and will help conservatives and independents understand more deeply what many on the Left are really about. Understanding this is important for everyone.

Book Two

The Schoolhouse Gate (by Justin Driver)

  • 5 Stars for Importance

  • 3 Stars for Freedom

  • 3 Stars for Fun

Theme #1: The Court Gets a Lot of Things Wrong (And It’s Okay to Say So Out Loud…)

Theme #2: The Court is Far Too Involved in Education (The Constitution Mostly Left this to the States, But Try Telling That to the Court…Or Congress, the White House, or Anyone Else in Washington)

First of all, I like that this book seems to take a 3-branch view of the Constitution (that the Supreme Court can be wrong, and often is, and that the Legislative and Executive branches are co-equal with the Judiciary) rather than the erroneous 1-branch view that the Court is the final and highest power in the nation. The 1-branch view is much more common in today’s world, especially in the mainstream media. Putting the topic of education aside for a moment, the 3-branch approach makes this book a rarity, one that is a must-read work for anyone interested in the modern Court. (Another book that effectively speaks from the 3-branch approach, with more specifics, is Constitutional Law by Nowak and Rotunda, Seventh Edition.)

As mentioned, The Schoolhouse Gate is laced with the idea that the Court is sometimes wrong. For example, the author says: “The Supreme Court has also stumbled…” and calls one landmark case “a Constitutionally questionable decision…” The federal Courts in general are said to make “many wrongheaded decisions…” The book is filled with such language, a refreshing approach in our time. Also, one of the best things about this book is that is written for the regular reader, not limited to a few legal scholars.

The focus of The Schoolhouse Gate—Court decisions and trends dealing with American education over time, including recent cases—is must-know information for all informed Americans. In historical scope, it reminds me of Constitutional histories by Forrest McDonald, but with more detail. Most people today don’t know the information outlined in The Schoolhouse Gate; making Driver’s book all the more important. I didn’t agree with all the book’s conclusions, but I did agree with many—and either way the book consistently caused me to think about things I had never really considered.

In my view, the Court has made a few very important decisions about education that are really good for our nation, and a number of bad decisions that aren’t. In most cases, it would be better to leave educational decisions to the states, as per the Constitution. A question that kept recurring in my mind as I read: “Is the Court approach to education rooted more in individual liberty or collectivist socialism?” The answer is far too often, though not always, the latter.

Largely as a result of this, today’s modern schools are in many cases de facto incubators of socialism—from mild to more extreme. This applies not only to elementary and high schools, but to most of higher education as well. The drive is to make schools as similar as possible, often under the guise of “equality” and a professorate made up not just largely, but almost entirely of progressives. Conservatives are a rarity in nearly all the top American institutions of higher learning. In far too many cases, conservative students are penalized for their political views—and a lot of them hide or even change their politics during their time on campus.

What happens to a society where many of the children are raised in conservative or conservative-leaning homes, educated in elementary/secondary schools that lean strongly Left, and then trained in “higher” institutions with a fundamental and passionate allegiance to the Left? In many cases the conservatism of parents and grandparents is mocked as childish, and Leftism is ultimately considered truly “higher” (meaning “better, more advanced, more correct”) learning. The “adults” and “grown ups” in such a model must, by definition, come from the Left (or, if Republican, of the progressive type). This is the fruit of thirty years of infiltration in lower schools and on campus, frequently supported and even encouraged by Court decisions.

Book Three

The Third Revolution: Xi Jinping and the New Chinese State

(by Elizabeth C. Economy)

  • 5 Stars for Importance
  • 4 Stars for Freedom
  • 3 Stars for Fun

Theme: While the Media is Overwhelmingly Obsessed with Russia, the Threat from China is Growing at an Alarming Rate

The next ten decades belong to China, if ownership and contractual access to the world’s natural resources are any indication. Historically, these are always the best indication of what’s ahead. Yet, astoundingly, few in current America are giving this the attention it demands. The United States literally may face an existential threat from China in the decades ahead.

Elizabeth C. Economy’s book The Third Revolution makes the case that there have been three great eras in modern China: (1) the Maoist Revolution that brought communism to China, (2) the “Second Revolution” led by Deng and those who came after him, which emphasized more openness—both in China’s domestic economy and in relations with the outside world, and (3) the current “Third Revolution” which focuses on increasing the power of one leader within the nation, Xi Jinping, and boosting China to the pinnacle of power and leadership on the global stage.

Consider the following quotes from Economy’s book:

“The ultimate objective of Xi’s revolution is his Chinese Dream—the rejuvenation of the great Chinese nation…. Xi’s predecessors shared this goal as well. What makes Xi’s revolution distinctive is the strategy he has pursued: [1] the dramatic centralization of authority under his personal leadership; [2] the intensified penetration of society by the state; [3] the creation of a virtual wall of regulations and restrictions that more tightly controls the flow of ideas, culture, and capital into and out of the country; and [4] the significant projection of Chinese power.”

“It represents a reassertion of the state in Chinese political and economic life at home, and a more ambitious and expansive role for China abroad.”

“Unlike his immediate predecessors, he has assumed control of all the most important leading committees and commissions that oversee government policy; demanded pledges of personal loyalty from military and party leaders; eliminated political rivals through a sweeping anticorruption campaign…. [A]dvocates for change or those who seek a greater voice in political life, such as women, labor, or legal rights activists, increasingly risk detention or prison.”

This new approach goes well beyond international economic expansion. For example, as Economy shows, since 2014 Xi’s government has driven “massive land reclamation and militarization of the islands in the South China Sea…. He has established China’s first overseas military logistics base; taken significant [steps to increase]…strategic ports in Europe and Asia; championed China as a leader in addressing global challenges, such as climate change [with China’s largest competitor, the United States, largely footing the bill]; and proposed a number of new trade and security institutions [and a PRC-dominated world reserve currency to replace the U.S. dollar]. Xi seeks to project power in dramatic new ways and reassert the centrality of China on the global stage.”

Note that all of these initiatives and changes began during the Obama era, while the United States struggled in the aftermath of the Great Recession. The economic rebound of the United States, beginning in 2017 and corresponding with a more aggressive foreign policy under the Trump Administration, has changed the dynamic of Chinese-American relations, but China hasn’t changed its trajectory.

Economy points out the drastic significance of the situation:

  1. “[A]ll the major economies of the world, save China, are democracies.”
  2. “China is an illiberal state seeking leadership in a liberal world order.”

I consider this one of the most important books of our time. As I’ve said about the other books reviewed here, it is a must-read for anyone who cares about America. And the future of the world, for that matter. It’s that significant.

Economy’s proposed policies and solutions are particularly interesting. Whether you agree with them, or part of them, or disagree, they bring up topics that demand a lot more consideration and discussion by regular Americans. If we don’t engage such conversations, we leave public policy and national direction to a few experts in academia, think tanks, media, and government. This is hardly the American way, though it has dangerously become the norm in many policy debates during recent decades.

An example of Economy’s suggestions is the need to recognize the influence that China now has on American campuses, and how important it is for Americans to learn what is occurring. She wrote: “China under Xi Jinping also seeks to influence the domestic politics of other countries as those politics relate to China. The Chinese government mobilizes students and other citizens living abroad to represent the interests of the Chinese government by, for example, spying on other Chinese students, denouncing professors who offer contrarian opinions [isn’t the purpose of universities in a free society to allow open discussion of differing ideas?], and protesting against invited speakers who criticize China.”

In reality, the media obsession with Russian influence on American elections is ironic given the sheer scope and scale of China’s much bigger presence and influence—not just in the U.S. but also in Europe and around the world. This mirrors the general silence about China (again: the world’s second largest economy, which now rivals the U.S. economy) and daily onslaught of commentary on Russia meddling (the same Russia whose economy is only about half the size of the economy of California). American citizens need more perspective on what’s really happening.

As Economy recommends to the Trump Administration: “… the United States can gain leverage in negotiations with China by understanding domestic dynamics within the country around particular issues.” The interest of Chinese citizens in the English language and American culture, politics, business and society dwarfs the level of American interest or focus on anything Chinese. Our lack of seriousness in this respect is dangerous.

Whether the future will actually be dominated by China remains to be seen. But it is certainly a real possibility, and we are right now on track to see this outcome. If it occurs, it could very well spell disaster for freedom.

Book Four

Between Two Millstones, Book I (by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Peter Constantine)

  • 5 Stars for Importance

  • 5 Stars for Promoting Freedom

  • 5 Stars for Fun

Theme: Just Read It—It’s Awesome

When Solzhenitsyn spoke at Harvard in 1978, he caused a firestorm of media criticism. Many expected him to describe the weaknesses and evils of communism, and show the many ways America and the West are better—as he had done in earlier speeches. But at Harvard he targeted a different problem: the systemic flaws and mistakes of Western Civilization, especially in the United States. He attacked the way we do business, our legal system, our colleges and universities, our culture (or more accurately, the ways we lack culture), and above all our modern media.

Decades later, in Between Two Millstones, we get to read and think about his critique of how his speech was received, and why it matters. This provides one of the most poignant descriptions of modern media available. If you haven’t read his speech, published as A World Split Apart, it’s worth studying before you read Two Millstones. Together they provide a powerful commentary, one we should all engage and consider.

Specifically, concerning what we today call the mainstream media, Solzhenitsyn points out that our roots are muddled: “Western society is based on a legal level that is far lower than the true moral yardstick…” Because of this, he argues, we tend to consider something good as long as it is legal, and we usually apply this to all parts of society, including business, family, education, media, etc. Thus media can say whatever it wants, as long as it is legal. Indeed, media doesn’t have to stand for truth, or accuracy, as long as what it says is legal by the letter of the law.

The result is a major power grab, albeit a somewhat subtle one. Solzhenitsyn wrote: “And above all, the press, not elected by anyone, acts high-mindedly and has amassed more power than the legislative, executive, or judicial power.”

This should make every American stop and think deeply. It didn’t quite reach everyone in 1978, but it is still relevant.

He continued: “And in this free press itself, it is not true freedom of opinion that dominates, but the dictates of the political fashion of the moment, which leads to a surprising uniformity of opinion.” He points out that this is the thing that “irritated” the mainstream media the most about his speech. Claiming to be champions of diversity and open thinking, the media is often the enemy of both.

Here are some of the bad habits and underhanded tactics of the mainstream media, as suggested by Solzhenitsyn:

  • They “completely” missed the things Solzhenitsyn thought were important about the speech, the very things the speech was actually about, and focused on their own agenda—misrepresenting and tangentially citing his message in order to make it fit their narrative so they could attack it. He called this “a remarkable skill of the media”.
  • “They…invented things that simply did not exist in my speech”.
  • They “prepared their responses in advance”, and focused their commentary not on what he actually said but on their plans to discount what they anticipated he would say—ready to pounce and then twisting phrases and words to make connections with their pre-designed rebuttals.
  • They didn’t just misreport the facts, but in addition “the press spouted scalding invective…” They did this without telling the populace that these were just the opinions of the reporters; instead they acted as if their “invective” and anger were objective and wise. Even true. In reality it was only their opinion, and frequently differed from the facts and what he actually said in the speech.
  • Overall the media tends to reject and attack those who criticize them, and reward only those who “flatter” them.

Of course, he expected the mainstream media to disagree with him. After all, he frequently and openly accused the media of many mistakes, including “stuffing” the people’s “souls…with gossip, nonsense, vain talk.” They naturally pushed back.

What did surprise him is what happened in another part of America, away from the centers of power. Solzhenitsyn wrote:

“…one could also begin to read many responses that were markedly distinguished from the arrogant stance of the America of New York and Washington… Gradually another America began unfolding before my eyes, one that was small-town and robust, the heartland, the America I had envisioned…. I now felt a glimmer of hope…”

From the local and non-mainstream media he heard such responses as:

  • “We know in our hearts he is right…”
  • “His speech ought to be burned into America’s heart. But instead of being read, it was killed” by the mainstream media.
  • “Can the press maintain diversity when ultimate control [of the media] rests in the hands of a small group of corporate executives?”

The two Americas were already a reality in 1978. But, like always, the mainstream media paid little heed to the media of “the heartland” or the views of non-elite Americans. To get the real story on things, people will apparently have to see past the mainstream media and find more truthful and more, well… journalistic… sources—and concerning his speeches and books, nothing is better than the original words of Solzhenitsyn himself.

From what I can tell from the early excerpts that are available to read, Between Two Millstones will be a great book, an important read, and one that will make every reader think and rethink. To be published in late 2018, forty years after the Harvard speech, it should be read by everyone who cares about our society and its future.

Conclusion

My stroll through these four books this week (five, if you count the western), with their recurring theme of socialism, from various angles, has prompted me to move even further past the old view that liberalism and conservatism are the dominant political forces of our time. I am increasingly convinced that socialism is powerfully on the rise right now (both in the U.S. and around the world), and that it presents a clear and present danger to freedom.

Above all, I am more convinced than ever of just how important it is for those who care about freedom to read more and raise the awareness of what is at stake in the months and years just ahead. I think books are the true “new media”, while most mainstream news outlets and platforms are mired in non-journalistic battles to promote false narratives. This demands that we, the regular people, take action to dig a lot deeper in our own study of what’s really happening.

A few final questions:

  • What important things are you reading this week and month?

  • What are the “theme units” you’re finding in what you read?

  • Are you writing down your thoughts?

  • With whom are you sharing what you are learning?

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