The Thomas Carlyle Club for Young Reactionaries (Students Against a Democratic Society) is pleased to present the inaugural issue of our newsletter, in which we introduce one Thomas Carlyle.
Table of Contents
Thomas Carlyle (image)
Who was he? When and where was he born? How and why did he die? What was his favourite colour? Since I refuse to tell you any of those things, this is going to be a very short introduction. In fact, you can stop reading now, as long as you promise not to read anyone else’s introduction either, and to do yourself this favor: instead of reading about one of the greatest English writers of all time, read Carlyle himself!
If you’re looking for a place to start—or if you’re not convinced the past has anything to teach us about the present, and are wondering why anyone would want to consult a writer from the Victorian era—I’ve included some samples below.
Carlyle on Statistics
Educational psychologist and psychological educator Kendra Cherry invites us to “think about the importance of statistics.”
Statistics allows us to make sense of and interpret a great deal of information. Consider the sheer volume of data you encounter in a given day. How many hours did you sleep? How many students in your class ate breakfast this morning? How many people live within a one mile radius of your home? By using statistics, we can organize and interpret all of this information in a meaningful way.
As I’m sure you’ve noticed. After all, if not “by using statistics,” how could we possibly make sense of… breakfast? Surely not by observation, intuition, good judgment, and common sense—no, by data. Ah, data: the only way to understand anything. We can never have enough of it, and with each fresh datum, our understanding deepens.
Unfortunately, there are drawbacks to this modern, social-scientific ‘quantify everything’ approach to understanding. Science writer Ed Yong explains:
In a survey of more than 2,000 psychologists, Leslie John, a consumer psychologist from Harvard Business School in Boston, Massachusetts, showed that more than 50% had waited to decide whether to collect more data until they had checked the significance of their results, thereby allowing them to hold out until positive results materialize. More than 40% had selectively reported studies that “worked.” On average, most respondents felt that these practices were defensible. “Many people continue to use these approaches because that is how they were taught,” says Brent Roberts, a psychologist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Replication bias (image)
This is basically what F. A. Hayek was trying to warn us about in The Counter-Revolution Of Science: Studies on the Abuse of Reason (1955):
It need scarcely be emphasized that nothing we shall have to say is aimed against the methods of Science in their proper sphere or is intended to throw the slightest doubt on their value. But to preclude any misunderstanding on this point we shall, wherever we are concerned, not with the general spirit of disinterested inquiry but with slavish imitation of the method and language of Science, speak of “scientism” or the “scientistic” prejudice. Although these terms are not completely unknown in English, they are actually borrowed from the French, where in recent years they have come to be generally used in very much the same sense in which they will be used here. It should be noted that, in the sense in which we shall use these terms, they describe, of course, an attitude which is decidedly unscientific in the true sense of the word, since it involves a mechanical and uncritical application of habits of thought to fields different from those in which they have been formed. The scientistic as distinguished from the scientific view is not an unprejudiced but a very prejudiced approach which, before it has considered its subject, claims to know what is the most appropriate way of investigating it.
Which brings us to our first selection of Carlyle. From Chartism (1839), on social reform in England, focusing on the working class:
A witty statesman said you might prove anything by figures. We have looked into various statistic works, Statistic-Society Reports, Poor-Law Reports, Reports and Pamphlets not a few, with a sedulous eye to this question of the Working Classes and their general condition in England; we grieve to say, with as good as no result whatever. Assertion swallows assertion; according to the old Proverb, ‘as the statist thinks, the bell clinks!’ Tables are like cobwebs, like the sieve of the Danaides; beautifully reticulated, orderly to look upon, but which will hold no conclusion. Tables are abstractions, and the object a most concrete one, so difficult to read the essence of. There are innumerable circumstances; and one circumstance left out may be the vital one on which all turned.
Statistics is a science which ought to be honourable, the basis of many most important sciences; but it is not to be carried on by steam, this science, any more than others are; a wise head is requisite for carrying it on. Conclusive facts are inseparable from inconclusive except by a head that already understands and knows. Vain to send the purblind and blind to the shore of a Pactolus never so golden: these find only gravel; the seer and finder alone picks up gold grains there. And now the purblind offering you, with asseveration and protrusive importunity, his basket of gravel as gold, what steps are to be taken with him?—
Statistics, one may hope, will improve gradually, and become good for something. Meanwhile it is to be feared, the crabbed satirist was partly right, as things go: ‘A judicious man,’ says he, ‘looks at Statistics, not to get knowledge, but to save himself from having ignorance foisted on him.’ With what serene conclusiveness a member of some Useful-Knowledge Society stops your mouth with a figure of arithmetic! To him it seems he has there extracted the elixir of the matter, on which now nothing more can be said. It is needful that you look into his said extracted elixir; and ascertain, alas, too probably, not without a sigh, that it is wash and vapidity, good only for the gutters.
The condition of the working man in this country, what it is and has been, whether it is improving or retrograding,—is a question to which from statistics hitherto no solution can be got. Hitherto, after many tables and statements, one is still left mainly to what he can ascertain by his own eyes, looking at the concrete phenomenon for himself. There is no other method; and yet it is a most imperfect method. Each man expands his own hand-breadth of observation to the limits of the general whole; more or less, each man must take what he himself has seen and ascertained for a sample of all that is seeable and ascertainable. Hence discrepancies, controversies, wide-spread, long-continued; which there is at present no means or hope of satisfactorily ending. When Parliament takes up the ‘Condition-of-England question,’ as it will have to do one day, then indeed much may be amended! Inquiries wisely gone into, even on this most complex matter, will yield results worth something, not nothing. But it is a most complex matter; on which, whether for the past or the present. Statistic Inquiry, with its limited means, with its short vision and headlong extensive dogmatism, as yet too often throws not light, but error worse than darkness.
What constitutes the well-being of a man? Many things; of which the wages he gets, and the bread he buys with them, are but one preliminary item. Grant, however, that the wages were the whole that once knowing the wages and the price of bread, we know all; then what are the wages? Statistic Inquiry, in its present unguided condition, cannot tell. The average rate of day’s wages is not correctly ascertained for any portion of this country; not only not for half-centuries, it is not even ascertained anywhere for decades or years: far from instituting comparisons with the past, the present itself is unknown to us. And then, given the average of wages, what is the constancy of employment; what is the difficulty of finding employment; the fluctuation from season to season, from year to year? Is it constant, calculable wages; or fluctuating, incalculable, more or less of the nature of gambling? This secondary circumstance, of quality in wages, is perhaps even more important than the primary one of quantity.
Farther we ask, Can the labourer, by thrift and industry, hope to rise to mastership; or is such hope cut off from him? How is he related to his employer; by bonds of friendliness and mutual help; or by hostility, opposition, and chains of mutual necessity alone? In a word, what degree of contentment can a human creature be supposed to enjoy in that position? With hunger preying on him, his contentment is likely to be small! But even with abundance, his discontent, his real misery may be great. The labourer’s feelings, his notion of being justly dealt with or unjustly; his wholesome composure, frugality, prosperity in the one case, his acrid unrest, recklessness, gin-drinking, and gradual ruin in the other,—how shall figures of arithmetic represent all this? So much is still to be ascertained; much of it by no means easy to ascertain!
Carlyle on Falsity
Statistical malpractice in the social sciences would be bad enough if it weren’t also covering up outright fraud. Here is Ed Yong again:
These practices can create an environment in which misconduct goes undetected. In November 2011, Diederik Stapel, a social psychologist from Tilburg University in the Netherlands and a rising star in the field, was investigated for, and eventually confessed to, scientific fraud on a massive scale. Stapel had published a stream of sexy, attention-grabbing studies, showing for example that disordered environments, such as a messy train station, promote discrimination. But all the factors making replication difficult helped him to cover his tracks. The scientific committee that investigated his case wrote, “Whereas all these excessively neat findings should have provoked thought, they were embraced … People accepted, if they even attempted to replicate the results for themselves, that they had failed because they lacked Mr Stapel’s skill.” It is now clear that Stapel manipulated and fabricated data in at least 30 publications.
Stapel’s story mirrors those of psychologists Karen Ruggiero and Marc Hauser from Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, who published high-profile results on discrimination and morality, respectively. Ruggiero was found guilty of research fraud in 2001 and Hauser was found guilty of misconduct in 2010. Like Stapel, they were exposed by internal whistle-blowers. “If the field was truly self-correcting, why didn’t we correct any single one of them?” asks Nosek.
A pattern emerges—one of “discrimination,” so to speak. It is only reinforced by economist John A. List in an interview by the Richmond Federal Reserve Bank:
Your paper with Roland Fryer and Steven Levitt came to a somewhat ambiguous conclusion about whether stereotype threat exists. But do you have a hunch regarding the answer to that question based on the results of your experiment?
I believe in priming. Psychologists have shown us the power of priming, and stereotype threat is an interesting type of priming. Claude Steele, a psychologist at Stanford, popularized the term stereotype threat. He had people taking a math exam, for example, jot down whether they were male or female on top of their exams, and he found that when you wrote down that you were female, you performed less well than if you did not write down that you were female. They call this the stereotype threat. My first instinct was that effect probably does happen, but you could use incentives to make it go away. And what I mean by that is, if the test is important enough or if you overlaid monetary incentives on that test, then the stereotype threat would largely disappear, or become economically irrelevant.
So we designed the experiment to test that, and we found that we could not even induce stereotype threat. We did everything we could to try to get it. We announced to them, “Women do not perform as well as men on this test and we want you now to put your gender on the top of the test.” And other social scientists would say, that’s crazy—if you do that, you will get stereotype threat every time. But we still didn’t get it.
What that led me to believe is that, while I think that priming works, I think that stereotype threat has a lot of important boundaries that severely limit its generalizability. I think what has happened is, a few people found this result early on and now there’s publication bias. But when you talk behind the scenes to people in the profession, they have a hard time finding it. So what do they do in that case? A lot of people just shelve that experiment; they say it must be wrong because there are 10 papers in the literature that find it. Well, if there have been 200 studies that try to find it, 10 should find it, right? This is a Type II error but people still believe in the theory of stereotype threat. I think that there are a lot of reasons why it does not occur. So while I believe in priming, I am not convinced that stereotype threat is important.
And yet when science journalist John Horgan is demanding the government ban “research on race and intelligence”—in Scientific American, of all places—he makes an exception for research on this apparently non-existent “stereotype threat.”
But another part of me wonders whether research on race and intelligence—given the persistence of racism in the U.S. and elsewhere—should simply be banned. I don’t say this lightly. For the most part, I am a hard-core defender of freedom of speech and science. But research on race and intelligence—no matter what its conclusions are—seems to me to have no redeeming value.
Far from it. The claims of researchers like Murray, Herrnstein and Richwine could easily become self-fulfilling, by bolstering the confirmation bias of racists and by convincing minority children, their parents and teachers that the children are innately, immutably inferior. (See Post-postscript below.)
In which we learn that Mr. Horgan only wants to ban scientific experiments of which the outcome is politically inconvenient—an effective way to avoid “confirmation bias,” I’m sure we can all agree.
Post-Postscript: Scientific American has just published two excellent article on “stereotype threat,” which is a kind of reverse placebo—or “nocebo”—effect; victims of negative stereotypes may underperform because they believe the stereotype. […] Some clever critics of my post might accuse me of hypocrisy, because these articles present esearch [sic] on race and and [sic] should be subject to my proposed ban. Obviously I’m trying to eliminate research that reinforces rather than counteracting [sic] racism. I mean, Duh.
Now, obviously, no one wants to ban free speech; like Mr. Horgan, we are each of us “a hard-core defender” thereof; but at the same time we understand that free speech does not extend to hate speech—meaning, of course, whatever we want to ban.
Newport city councillor, Majid Rahman said: “I believe in freedom of speech and defend his rights to say what he wants, but once it starts offending people then it’s a police matter and it’s up to them whether they think it’s broken any laws.”
Curiously enough, in the attack on “freedom of speech and science,” the very halls of higher learning, the universities, have chosen to form the vanguard.
Only hours after students installed a “Free Speech Wall” at Carleton University to prove that campus free speech was alive and well, it was torn down by an activist who claimed the wall was an “act of violence,” against the gay community.
None of which is good news for students, writes poli-sci professor Robert Weissberg:
It’s easy to think of Universities as a circus for wacky professors; their semi-monthly comparisons of Bush to Hitler or indictments of inherent American racism are hard to miss. Universities’ deviations from traditional education are far more serious than a few zany radicals, though. Something far more significant overshadows this ranting, namely how PC invisibly sanitizes instruction to avoid “offending” certain easy-to-anger students. This is the dog that does not bark—“safe lecturing” to use the STD vocabulary—and seldom recognized since it concerns what is not taught, and as such deprives students of a genuine education.
The Czech dissident writer Václav Havel knew “political correctness” when he saw it. His essay The Power of the Powerless (1978) is well worth reading.
Ideology is a specious way of relating to the world. It offers human beings the illusion of an identity, of dignity, and of morality while making it easier for them to part with them. As the repository of something suprapersonal and objective, it enables people to deceive their conscience and conceal their true position and their inglorious modus vivendi, both from the world and from themselves. It is a very pragmatic but, at the same time, an apparently dignified way of legitimizing what is above, below, and on either side. It is directed toward people and toward God. It is a veil behind which human beings can hide their own fallen existence, their trivialization, and their adaptation to the status quo. It is an excuse that everyone can use, from the greengrocer, who conceals his fear of losing his job behind an alleged interest in the unification of the workers of the world, to the highest functionary, whose interest in staying in power can be cloaked in phrases about service to the working class. The primary excusatory function of ideology, therefore, is to provide people, both as victims and pillars of the post-totalitarian system, with the illusion that the system is in harmony with the human order and the order of the universe.
Going back a little further: George Orwell’s celebrated—if not, in the present time, fully appreciated—essay Politics and the English Language (1946).
In our time it is broadly true that political writing is bad writing. Where it is not true, it will generally be found that the writer is some kind of rebel, expressing his private opinions and not a “party line.” Orthodoxy, of whatever color, seems to demand a lifeless, imitative style. The political dialects to be found in pamphlets, leading articles, manifestoes, White papers and the speeches of undersecretaries do, of course, vary from party to party, but they are all alike in that one almost never finds in them a fresh, vivid, homemade turn of speech.
When one watches some tired hack on the platform mechanically repeating the familiar phrases—bestial atrocities, iron heel, bloodstained tyranny, free peoples of the world, stand shoulder to shoulder—one often has a curious feeling that one is not watching a live human being but some kind of dummy: a feeling which suddenly becomes stronger at moments when the light catches the speaker’s spectacles and turns them into blank discs which seem to have no eyes behind them. And this is not altogether fanciful. A speaker who uses that kind of phraseology has gone some distance toward turning himself into a machine.
The appropriate noises are coming out of his larynx, but his brain is not involved as it would be if he were choosing his words for himself. If the speech he is making is one that he is accustomed to make over and over again, he may be almost unconscious of what he is saying, as one is when one utters the responses in church. And this reduced state of consciousness, if not indispensable, is at any rate favorable to political conformity.
I wonder if Carlyle has something to add? I know he’s somewhat at a disadvantage, living in the Victorian era, but we might as well cast a glance at Jesuitism, the eighth and final entry in his magnificent Latter-Day Pamphlets (1850), and see if we can’t find something relevant to the present time…
Consider it, good reader;—and yet alas, if thou be not one of a thousand, what is the use of bidding thee consider it! The deadliest essence of the curse we now labour under is that the light of our inner eyesight is gone out; that such things are not discernible by considering. ‘Cant and even sincere Cant:’ O Heaven, when a man doing his sincerest is still but canting! For this is the sad condition of the insincere man: he is doomed all his days to deal with insincerities; to live, move, and have his being in traditions and conventionalities. If the traditions have grown old, the conventionalities will be mostly false; true in no sense can they be for him: never shall he behold the truth of any matter; formulas, theologic, economic and other, certain superficial readings of truth, required in the market-place, these he will take with him, these he will apply dexterously, and with these he will have to satisfy himself. Sincerity shall not exist for him; he shall think that he has found it, while it is yet far away. The deep, awful and indeed divine quality of truth that lies in every object, and in virtue of which the object exists,—from his poor eyes this is forever hidden. Not with austere divine realities which belong to the Universe and to Eternity, but with paltry ambiguous phantasms, comfortable and uncomfortable, which belong to his own parish, and to the current week or generation, shall he pass his days.
There had been liars in the world; alas, never since the Old Serpent tempted Eve, had the world been free of liars, neither will it be: but there was in this of Jesuit Ignatius an apotheosis of falsity, a kind of subtle quintessence and deadly virus of lying, the like of which had never been seen before. Measure it, if you can; prussic-acid and chloroform are poor to it! Men had served the Devil, and men had very imperfectly served God; but to think that God could be served more perfectly by taking the Devil into partnership,—this was a novelty of St. Ignatius. And this is now no novelty; to such extent has the Jesuit chloroform stupefied us all. This is the universal faith and practice, for several generations past, of the class called good men in this world. They are in general mutineers, sansculottes, angry disorderly persons, and a class rather worthy to be called bad, who hitherto assert the contrary of this. “Be careful how you believe truth,” cries the good man everywhere: “Composure and a whole skin are very valuable. Truth,—who knows?—many things are not true; most things are uncertainties, very prosperous things are even open falsities that have been agreed upon. There is little certain truth going. If it isn’t orthodox truth, it will play the very devil with you!”
Did the Human Species ever lie in such a soak of horrors,—sunk like steeping flax under the wide-spread fetid Hell-waters,—in all spiritual respects dead, dead; voiceless towards Heaven for centuries back; merely sending up, in the form of mute prayer, such an odour as the angels never smelt before! It has to lie there, till the worthless part has been rotted out; till much has been rotted out, I do perceive;—and perhaps the time has come when the precious lint-fibre itself is in danger; and men, if they are not delivered, will cease to be men, or to be at all! O Heavens, with divine Hudson on this hand, and divine Ignatius on that, and the Gorham Controversy going on, and the Irish Tenant Agitation (which will soon become a Scotch and an English ditto) just about beginning, is not the hour now nearly come? Words fail us when we would speak of what Ignatius has done for men. Probably the most virulent form of sin which the Old Serpent has yet rejoiced in on our poor Earth. For me it is the deadliest high treason against God our Maker which the soul of man could commit.
And this, then, is the horrible conclusion we have arrived at, in England as in all countries; and with less protest against it, hitherto, and not with more, in England than in other countries? That the great body of orderly considerate men; men affecting the name of good and pious, and who, in fact, excluding certain silent exceptionary individuals one to the million, such as the Almighty Beneficence never quite withholds, are accounted our best men,—have unconsciously abnegated the sacred privilege and duty of acting or speaking the truth; and fancy that it is not truth that is to be acted, but that an amalgam of truth and falsity is the safe thing. In parliament and pulpit, in book and speech, in whatever spiritual thing men have to commune of, or to do together, this is the rule they have lapsed into, this is the pass they have arrived at. We have to report that Human Speech is not true! That it is false to a degree never witnessed in this world till lately. Such a subtle virus of falsity in the very essence of it, as far excels all open lying, or prior kinds of falsity; false with consciousness of being sincere! The heart of the world is corrupted to the core; a detestable devil’s-poison circulates in the life-blood of mankind; taints with abominable deadly malady all that mankind do. Such a curse never fell on men before.
For the falsity of speech rests on a far deeper falsity. False speech, as is inevitable when men long practise it, falsifies all things; the very thoughts, or fountains of speech and action, become false. Ere long, by the appointed curse of Heaven, a man’s intellect ceases to be capable of distinguishing truth, when he permits himself to deal in speaking or acting what is false. Watch well the tongue, for out of it are the issues of life! O, the foul leprosy that heaps itself in monstrous accumulation over Human Life, and obliterates all the divine features of it into one hideous mountain of purulent disease, when Human Life parts company with truth; and fancies, taught by Ignatius or another, that lies will be the salvation of it! We of these late centuries have suffered as the sons of Adam never did before; hebetated, sunk under mountains of torpid leprosy; and studying to persuade ourselves that this is health.
And if we have awakened from the sleep of death into the Sorcerer’s Sabbath of Anarchy, is it not the chief of blessings that we are awake at all? Thanks to Transcendent Sansculottism and the long-memorable French Revolution, the one veritable and tremendous Gospel of these bad ages, divine Gospel such as we deserved, and merciful too, though preached in thunder and terror! Napoleon Campaignings, September Massacres, Reigns of Terror, Anacharsis Clootz and Pontiff Robespierre, and still more beggarly tragicalities that we have since seen, and are still to see: what frightful thing were not a little less frightful than the thing we had? Peremptory was our necessity of putting Jesuitism away, of awakening to the consciousness of Jesuitism. ‘Horrible,’ yes: how could it be other than horrible? Like the valley of Jehosaphat, it lies round us, one nightmare wilderness, and wreck of dead-men’s bones, this false modern world; and no rapt Ezechiel in prophetic vision imaged to himself things sadder, more horrible and terrible, than the eyes of men, if they are awake, may now deliberately see. Many yet sleep; but the sleep of all, as we judge by their maundering and jargoning, their Gorham Controversies, street-barricadings, and uneasy tossings and somnambulisms, is not far from ending. Novalis says, ‘We are near awakening when we dream that we are dreaming.’
Carlyle on Laissez-Faire
Speaking of that “Sorcerer’s Sabbath of Anarchy,” it is, apparently, just a short hop there from laissez-faire, according to Joseph S. Diedrich:
Maybe you’re a libertarian. But an anarchist? No way.
Some day, however, you might be.
One day, it just all comes together. Everything “clicks,” so to speak. Any lingering cognitive dissonance evaporates and the fog lifts. Reading Hoppe had something to do with it, of course, but it was your ability to toss off the shackles of conventional thought that ultimately led to your complete rejection of the state.
You reach an intellectual apex of sorts. No longer does your conception of society include the retrospectively narrow constraint of the state and its progeny—war, oppression, tyranny, injustice. Individuals need not be circumscribed to be civilized.
You realize that the state is not a virus that can be inoculated by exposure in small doses. It is a cancerous tumor that feeds on those unaware of its true malignance. You conclude that “limited government” is an oxymoron.
Inside every libertarian, there’s an anarchist waiting to be set free. You’re either a statist or you’re not. There is no in-between.
Carlyle concurs—up to a point. From Chartism, again: his assessment of Libertarianism (known, at the time, as Manchester Capitalism).
Nay, at bottom, is it not a singular thing this of Laissez-faire, from the first origin of it? As good as an abdication on the part of governors; an admission that they are henceforth incompetent to govern, that they are not there to govern at all, but to do—one knows not what! The universal demand of Laissez-faire by a people from its governors or upper classes, is a soft-sounding demand; but it is only one step removed from the fatallest. ‘Laissez-faire,’ exclaims a sardonic German writer, ‘What is this universal cry for Laissez-faire? Does it mean that human affairs require no guidance; that wisdom and forethought cannot guide them better than folly and accident? Alas, does it not mean: “Such guidance is worse than none! Leave us alone of your guidance; eat your wages, and sleep!”’ And now if guidance have grown indispensable, and the sleep continue, what becomes of the sleep and its wages?—
In those entirely surprising circumstances to which the Eighteenth Century had brought us, in the time of Adam Smith, Laissez-faire was a reasonable cry;—as indeed, in all circumstances, for a wise governor there will be meaning in the principle of it. To wise governors you will cry: “See what you will, and will not, let alone.” To unwise governors, to hungry Greeks throttling down hungry Greeks on the floor of a St. Stephen’s, you will cry: “Let all things alone; for Heaven’s sake, meddle ye with nothing!” How Laissez-faire may adjust itself in other provinces we say not: but we do venture to say, and ask whether events everywhere in world-history and parish-history, in all manner of dialects are not saying it. That in regard to the lower orders of society, and their governance and guidance, the principle of Laissez-faire has terminated, and is no longer applicable at all, in this Europe of ours, still less in this England of ours. Not misgovernment, nor yet no-government: only government will now serve.
What is the meaning of the ‘five points,’ if we will understand them? What are all popular commotions and maddest bellowings, from Peterloo to the Place-de-Grève itself? Bellowings, inarticulate cries as of a dumb creature in rage and pain; to the ear of wisdom they are inarticulate prayers: “Guide me, govern me! I am mad, and miserable, and cannot guide myself!” Surely of all ‘rights of man,’ this right of the ignorant man to be guided by the wiser, to be, gently or forcibly, held in the true course by him, is the indisputablest. Nature herself ordains it from the first; Society struggles towards perfection by enforcing and accomplishing it more and more. If Freedom have any meaning, it means enjoyment of this right, wherein all other rights are enjoyed. It is a sacred right and duty, on both sides; and the summary of all social duties whatsoever between the two. Why does the one toil with his hands, if the other be not to toil, still more unweariedly, with heart and head? The brawny craftsman finds it no child’s play to mould his unpliant rugged masses; neither is guidance of men a dilettantism: what it becomes when treated as a dilettantism, we may see! The wild horse bounds homeless through the wilderness, is not led to stall and manger: but neither does he toil for you, but for himself only.
Democracy, we are well aware, what is called ‘self-government’ of the multitude by the multitude, is in words the thing everywhere passionately clamoured for at present. Democracy makes rapid progress in these latter times, and ever more rapid, in a perilous accelerative ratio; towards democracy, and that only, the progress of things is everywhere tending as to the final goal and winning-post. So think, so clamour the multitudes everywhere. And yet all men may see, whose sight is good for much, that in democracy can lie no finality; that with the completest winning of democracy there is nothing yet won,—except emptiness, and the free chance to win!
Democracy is, by the nature of it, a self-cancelling business: and gives in the long-run a net-result of zero. Where no government is wanted, save that of the parish-constable, as in America with its boundless soil, every man being able to find work and recompense for himself, democracy may subsist; not elsewhere, except briefly, as a swift transition towards something other and farther. Democracy never yet, that we heard of, was able to accomplish much work, beyond that same cancelling of itself. Rome and Athens are themes for the schools; unexceptionable for that purpose. In Rome and Athens, as elsewhere, if we look practically, we shall find that it was not by loud voting and debating of many, but by wise insight and ordering of a few that the work was done. So is it ever, so will it ever be.
The French Convention was a Parliament elected ‘by the five points,’ with ballot-boxes, universal suffrages, and what not, as perfectly as Parliament can hope to be in this world; and had indeed a pretty spell of work to do, and did it. The French Convention had to cease from being a free Parliament, and become more arbitrary than any Sultan Bajazet, before it could so much as subsist. It had to purge out its argumentative Girondins, elect its Supreme Committee of Salut, guillotine into silence and extinction all that gainsayed it, and rule and work literally by the sternest despotism ever seen in Europe, before it could rule at all. Napoleon was not president of a republic; Cromwell tried hard to rule in that way, but found that he could not. These, ‘the armed soldiers of democracy,’ had to chain democracy under their feet, and become despots over it, before they could work out the earnest obscure purpose of democracy itself!
Democracy, take it where you will in our Europe, is found but as a regulated method of rebellion and abrogation; it abrogates the old arrangement of things; and leaves, as we say, zero and vacuity for the institution of a new arrangement. It is the consummation of No-government and Laissez-faire. It may be natural for our Europe at present; but cannot be the ultimatum of it. Not towards the impossibility, ‘self-government’ of a multitude by a multitude; but towards some possibility, government by the wisest, does bewildered Europe struggle. The blessedest possibility: not misgovernment, not Laissez-faire, but veritable government!
Cannot one discern too, across all democratic turbulence, clattering of ballot-boxes and infinite sorrowful jangle, needful or not, that this at bottom is the wish and prayer of all human hearts, everywhere and at all times: “Give me a leader; a true leader, not a false sham-leader; a true leader, that he may guide me on the true way, that I may be loyal to him, that I may swear fealty to him and follow him, and feel that it is well with me!” The relation of the taught to their teacher, of the loyal subject to his guiding king, is, under one shape or another, the vital element of human Society; indispensable to it, perennial in it; without which, as a body reft of its soul, it falls down into death, and with horrid noisome dissolution passes away and disappears.
But verily in these times, with their new stern Evangel, that Speciosities which are not Realities can no longer be, all Aristocracies, Priesthoods, Persons in Authority, are called upon to consider. What is an Aristocracy? A corporation of the Best, of the Bravest. To this joyfully, with heart-loyalty, do men pay the half of their substance, to equip and decorate their Best, to lodge them in palaces, to set them high over all. For it is of the nature of men, in every time, to honour and love their Best; to know no limits in honouring them. Whatsoever Aristocracy is still a corporation of the Best, is safe from all peril, and the land it rules is a safe and blessed land. Whatsoever Aristocracy does not even attempt to be that, but only to wear the clothes of that, is not safe; neither is the land it rules in safe!
For this now is our sad lot, that we must find a real Aristocracy, that an apparent Aristocracy, how plausible soever, has become inadequate for us. One way or other, the world will absolutely need to be governed; if not by this class of men, then by that. One can predict, without gift of prophecy, that the era of routine is nearly ended. Wisdom and faculty alone, faithful, valiant, ever-zealous, not pleasant but painful, continual effort, will suffice. Cost what it may, by one means or another, the toiling multitudes of this perplexed over-crowded Europe, must and will find governors. ‘Laissez-faire, Leave them to do?’ The thing they will do, if so left, is too frightful to think of! It has been done once, in sight of the whole earth, in these generations; can it need to be done a second time?
Carlyle on Democracy
On June 3, 2008, American political farce sank to new lows with the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination of one Barack Hussein Obama, a man whose only apparent qualification was, and is, being approximately half black.
“Tonight, we mark the end of one historic journey with the beginning of another—a journey that will bring a new and better day to America,” Obama said during his victory speech in Minnesota, which focused not on the historic nature of his accomplishment, but on the people who helped him achieve it and on his mission to turn back the policies of the Bush administration. “Tonight, I can stand before you and say that I will be the Democratic nominee for president of the United States.”
“We honor the service of John McCain and I respect his many accomplishments, even if he chooses to deny mine,” Obama said, before ticking off a list of what he said were the similarities between McCain’s policies and the failures of the Bush administration.
“What you won’t see from this campaign or this party is the politics that sees our opponents not as competitors to challenge, but as enemies to polarize,” he said, in keeping with his pledge throughout the campaign to focus on issues and not mudslinging, a stance that McCain has also tried to honor. “America, this is our moment. This is our time. Our time to turn the page on the policies of the past. Our time to bring new energy and new ideas to the challenges we face,” Obama said, his voice rising above the din of the crowd.
“Our time to offer a new direction for this country that we love. The journey will be difficult. The road will be long. … I face [this challenge] with limitless faith in the capacity of the American people, because if we are willing to work for it and fight for it and believe in it then I am absolutely certain that generations from now we will be able to look back and tell our children that this was the moment when we began to provide care for the sick and good jobs for the jobless. This was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal. This was the moment when we ended a war and secured our nation and restored our image as the last, best hope on Earth. This was the moment—this was the time—when we came together to remake this great nation so that it may always reflect our very best selves and our highest ideals.”
That was his nomination, mind you. November was no less ridiculous:
By midnight Nov. 4, the drama was long over: John McCain had conceded, Barack Obama had delivered his moving victory speech—declaring that “change has come to America”—and the long national nightmare of the Bush years was officially headed for the history books.
Take that, Fox News. Take that Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh and Sarah Palin and the rest of the right-wing bigots who have tried to claim this country for themselves. On Nov. 4, 2008, progressives showed the world that we’re real Americans, too, proud of a country that has learned from its mistakes and corrected its course.
But make no mistake about it: electing Barack Obama was a progressive victory. Although he never followed the entire progressive line in his policy positions, he was, and is, the creature of a strong progressive movement that can rightly claim him as its standard-bearer.
“Yes we can!” As for Carlyle, he knew all about the “People’s Election,” and “correcting the course” of history, not to mention “Lightworkers” and other exotic creatures of the Progressive movement—and no, the drama isn’t nearly over yet. Behold: The Present Time, the first and quite possibly greatest of his Latter-Day Pamphlets.
What is Democracy; this huge inevitable Product of the Destinies, which is everywhere the portion of our Europe in these latter days? There lies the question for us. Whence comes it, this universal big black Democracy; whither tends it; what is the meaning of it? A meaning it must have, or it would not be here. If we can find the right meaning of it, we may, wisely submitting or wisely resisting and controlling, still hope to live in the midst of it; if we cannot find the right meaning, if we find only the wrong or no meaning in it, to live will not be possible! The whole social wisdom of the Present Time is summoned, in the name of the Giver of Wisdom, to make clear to itself, and lay deeply to heart with an eye to strenuous valiant practice and effort, what the meaning of this universal revolt of the European populations, which calls itself Democracy, and decides to continue permanent, may be.
Certainly it is a drama full of action, event fast following event; in which curiosity finds endless scope, and there are interests at stake, enough to rivet the attention of all men, simple and wise. Whereat the idle multitude lift up their voices, gratulating, celebrating sky-high; in rhyme and prose announcement, more than plentiful, that now the New Era, and long-expected Year One of Perfect Human Felicity has come. Glorious and immortal people, sublime French citizens, heroic barricades; triumph of civil and religious liberty—O Heaven! one of the inevitablest private miseries, to an earnest man in such circumstances, is this multitudinous efflux of oratory and psalmody, from the universal foolish human throat; drowning for the moment all reflection whatsoever, except the sorrowful one that you are fallen in an evil, heavy-laden, long-eared age, and must resignedly bear your part in the same.
The front wall of your wretched old crazy dwelling, long denounced by you to no purpose, having at last fairly folded itself over, and fallen prostrate into the street, the floors, as may happen, will still hang on by the mere beam-ends, and coherency of old carpentry, though in a sloping direction, and depend there till certain poor rusty nails and worm-eaten dovetailings give way:—but is it cheering, in such circumstances, that the whole household burst forth into celebrating the new joys of light and ventilation, liberty and picturesqueness of position, and thank God that now they have got a house to their mind? My dear household, cease singing and psalmodying; lay aside your fiddles, take out your work-implements, if you have any; for I can say with confidence the laws of gravitation are still active, and rusty nails, worm-eaten dovetailings, and secret coherency of old carpentry, are not the best basis for a household!—In the lanes of Irish cities, I have heard say, the wretched people are sometimes found living, and perilously boiling their potatoes, on such swing-floors and inclined planes hanging on by the joist-ends; but I did not hear that they sang very much in celebration of such lodging. No, they slid gently about, sat near the back wall, and perilously boiled their potatoes, in silence for most part!—
High shouts of exultation, in every dialect, by every vehicle of speech and writing, rise from far and near over this last avatar of Democracy in 1848: and yet, to wise minds, the first aspect it presents seems rather to be one of boundless misery and sorrow. What can be more miserable than this universal hunting out of the high dignitaries, solemn functionaries, and potent, grave and reverend signiors of the world; this stormful rising-up of the inarticulate dumb masses everywhere, against those who pretended to be speaking for them and guiding them? These guides, then, were mere blind men only pretending to see? These rulers were not ruling at all; they had merely got on the attributes and clothes of rulers, and were surreptitiously drawing the wages, while the work remained undone? The Kings were Sham-Kings, play-acting as at Drury Lane;—and what were the people withal that took them for real?
It is probably the hugest disclosure of falsity in human things that was ever at one time made. These reverend Dignitaries that sat amid their far-shining symbols and long-sounding long-admitted professions, were mere Impostors, then? Not a true thing they were doing, but a false thing. The story they told men was a cunningly devised fable; the gospels they preached to them were not an account of man’s real position in this world, but an incoherent fabrication, of dead ghosts and unborn shadows, of traditions, cants, indolences, cowardices,—a falsity of falsities, which at last ceases to stick together. Wilfully and against their will, these high units of mankind were cheats, then; and the low millions who believed in them were dupes,—a kind of inverse cheats, too, or they would not have believed in them so long. A universal Bankruptcy of Imposture; that may be the brief definition of it. Imposture everywhere declared once more to be contrary to Nature; nobody will change its word into an act any farther:—fallen insolvent; unable to keep its head up by these false pretences, or make its pot boil any more for the present! A more scandalous phenomenon, wide as Europe, never afflicted the face of the sun. Bankruptcy everywhere; foul ignominy, and the abomination of desolation, in all high places: odious to look upon, as the carnage of a battle-field on the morrow morning;—a massacre not of the innocents; we cannot call it a massacre of the innocents; but a universal tumbling of Impostors and of Impostures into the street!
Such a spectacle, can we call it joyful? There is a joy in it, to the wise man too; yes, but a joy full of awe, and as it were sadder than any sorrow,—like the vision of immortality, unattainable except through death and the grave! And yet who would not, in his heart of hearts, feel piously thankful that Imposture has fallen bankrupt? By all means let it fall bankrupt; in the name of God let it do so, with whatever misery to itself and to all of us. Imposture, be it known then,—known it must and shall be,—is hateful, unendurable to God and man. Let it understand this everywhere; and swiftly make ready for departure, wherever it yet lingers; and let it learn never to return, if possible! The eternal voices, very audibly again, are speaking to proclaim this message, from side to side of the world. Not a very cheering message, but a very indispensable one.
Alas, it is sad enough that Anarchy is here; that we are not permitted to regret its being here,—for who that had, for this divine Universe, an eye which was human at all, could wish that Shams of any kind, especially that Sham-Kings should continue? No: at all costs, it is to be prayed by all men that Shams may cease. Good Heavens, to what depths have we got, when this to many a man seems strange! Yet strange to many a man it does seem; and to many a solid Englishman, wholesomely digesting his pudding among what are called the cultivated classes, it seems strange exceedingly; a mad ignorant notion, quite heterodox, and big with mere ruin. He has been used to decent forms long since fallen empty of meaning, to plausible modes, solemnities grown ceremonial,—what you in your iconoclast humour call shams,—all his life long; never heard that there was any harm in them, that there was any getting on without them. Did not cotton spin itself, beef grow, and groceries and spiceries come in from the East and the West, quite comfortably by the side of shams? Kings reigned, what they were pleased to call reigning; lawyers pleaded, bishops preached, and honorable members perorated; and to crown the whole, as if it were all real and no sham there, did not scrip continue salable, and the banker pay in bullion, or paper with a metallic basis? “The greatest sham, I have always thought, is he that would destroy shams.”
Even so. To such depth have I, the poor knowing person of this epoch, got;—almost below the level of lowest humanity, and down towards the state of apehood and oxhood! For never till in quite recent generations was such a scandalous blasphemy quietly set forth among the sons of Adam; never before did the creature called man believe generally in his heart that lies were the rule in this Earth; that in deliberate long-established lying could there be help or salvation for him, could there be at length other than hindrance and destruction for him. O Heavyside, my solid friend, this is the sorrow of sorrows: what on earth can become of us till this accursed enchantment, the general summary and consecration of delusions, be cast forth from the heart and life of one and all! Cast forth it will be; it must, or we are tending, at all moments, whitherward I do not like to name. Alas, and the casting of it out, to what heights and what depths will it lead us, in the sad universe mostly of lies and shams and hollow phantasms (grown very ghastly now), in which, as in a safe home, we have lived this century or two! To heights and depths of social and individual divorce from delusions,—of ‘reform’ in right sacred earnest, of indispensable amendment, and stern sorrowful abrogation and order to depart,—such as cannot well be spoken at present; as dare scarcely be thought at present; which nevertheless are very inevitable, and perhaps rather imminent several of them! Truly we have a heavy task of work before us; and there is a pressing call that we should seriously begin upon it, before it tumble into an inextricable mass, in which there will be no working, but only suffering and hopelessly perishing!—
Or perhaps Democracy, which we announce as now come, will itself manage it? Democracy, once modelled into suffrages, furnished with ballot-boxes and such like, will itself accomplish the salutary universal change from Delusive to Real, and make a new blessed world of us by and by? To the great mass of men, I am aware, the matter presents itself quite on this hopeful side. Democracy they consider to be a kind of ‘Government.’ The old model, formed long since, and brought to perfection in England now two hundred years ago, has proclaimed itself to all Nations as the new healing for every woe: “Set up a Parliament,” the Nations everywhere say, when the old King is detected to be a Sham-King, and hunted out or not; “set up a Parliament; let us have suffrages, universal suffrages; and all either at once or by due degrees will be right, and a real Millennium come!” Such is their way of construing the matter.
Such, alas, is by no means my way of construing the matter; if it were, I should have had the happiness of remaining silent, and been without call to speak here. It is because the contrary of all this is deeply manifest to me, and appears to be forgotten by multitudes of my contemporaries, that I have had to undertake addressing a word to them. The contrary of all this;—and the farther I look into the roots of all this, the more hateful, ruinous and dismal does the state of mind all this could have originated in appear to me. To examine this recipe of a Parliament, how fit it is for governing Nations, nay how fit it may now be, in these new times, for governing England itself where we are used to it so long: this, too, is an alarming inquiry, to which all thinking men, and good citizens of their country, who have an ear for the small still voices and eternal intimations, across the temporary clamours and loud blaring proclamations, are now solemnly invited. Invited by the rigorous fact itself; which will one day, and that perhaps soon, demand practical decision or redecision of it from us,—with enormous penalty if we decide it wrong! I think we shall all have to consider this question, one day; better perhaps now than later, when the leisure may be less. If a Parliament, with suffrages and universal or any conceivable kind of suffrages, is the method, then certainly let us set about discovering the kind of suffrages, and rest no moment till we have got them. But it is possible a Parliament may not be the method! Possible the inveterate notions of the English People may have settled it as the method, and the Everlasting Laws of Nature may have settled it as not the method! Not the whole method; nor the method at all, if taken as the whole? If a Parliament with never such suffrages is not the method settled by this latter authority, then it will urgently behoove us to become aware of that fact, and to quit such method;—we may depend upon it, however unanimous we be, every step taken in that direction will, by the Eternal Law of things, be a step from improvement, not towards it.
Not towards it, I say, if so! Unanimity of voting,—that will do nothing for us if so. Your ship cannot double Cape Horn by its excellent plans of voting. The ship may vote this and that, above decks and below, in the most harmonious exquisitely constitutional manner: the ship, to get round Cape Horn, will find a set of conditions already voted for, and fixed with adamantine rigor by the ancient Elemental Powers, who are entirely careless how you vote. If you can, by voting or without voting, ascertain these conditions, and valiantly conform to them, you will get round the Cape: if you cannot,—the ruffian Winds will blow you ever back again; the inexorable Icebergs, dumb privy-councillors from Chaos, will nudge you with the most chaotic ‘admonition;’ you will be flung half frozen on the Patagonian cliffs, or admonished into shivers by your iceberg councillors, and sent sheer down to Davy Jones, and will never get round Cape Horn at all! Unanimity on board ship;—yes indeed, the ship’s crew may be very unanimous, which doubtless, for the time being, will be very comfortable to the ship’s crew, and to their Phantasm Captain if they have one: but if the tack they unanimously steer upon is guiding them into the belly of the Abyss, it will not profit them much!—Ships accordingly do not use the ballot-box at all; and they reject the Phantasm species of Captains: one wishes much some other Entities,—since all entities lie under the same rigorous set of laws,—could be brought to show as much wisdom, and sense at least of self-preservation, the first command of Nature. Phantasm Captains with unanimous votings: this is considered to be all the law and all the prophets, at present.
If a man could shake out of his mind the universal noise of political doctors in this generation and in the last generation or two, and consider the matter face to face, with his own sincere intelligence looking at it, I venture to say he would find this a very extraordinary method of navigating, whether in the Straits of Magellan or the undiscovered Sea of Time. To prosper in this world, to gain felicity, victory and improvement, either for a man or a nation, there is but one thing requisite, That the man or nation can discern what the true regulations of the Universe are in regard to him and his pursuit, and can faithfully and steadfastly follow these. These will lead him to victory; whoever it may be that sets him the way of these,—were it Russian Autocrat, Chartist Parliament, Grand Lama, Force of Public Opinion, Archbishop of Canterbury, M’Croudy the Seraphic Doctor with his Last-evangel of Political Economy,—sets him in the sure way to please the Author of this Universe, and is his friend of friends. And again, whoever does the contrary is, for a like reason, his enemy of enemies. This may be taken as fixed.
And now by what method ascertain the monition of the gods in regard to our affairs? How decipher, with best fidelity, the eternal regulation of the Universe; and read, from amid such confused embroilments of human clamor and folly, what the real Divine Message to us is? A divine message, or eternal regulation of the Universe, there verily is, in regard to every conceivable procedure and affair of man: faithfully following this, said procedure or affair will prosper, and have the whole Universe to second it, and carry it, across the fluctuating contradictions, towards a victorious goal; not following this, mistaking this, disregarding this, destruction and wreck are certain for every affair. How find it? All the world answers me, “Count heads; ask Universal Suffrage, by the ballot-boxes, and that will tell.” Universal Suffrage, ballot-boxes, count of heads? Well,—I perceive we have got into strange spiritual latitudes indeed. Within the last half-century or so, either the Universe or else the heads of men must have altered very much. Half a century ago, and down from Father Adam’s time till then, the Universe, wherever I could hear tell of it, was wont to be of somewhat abstruse nature; by no means carrying its secret written on its face, legible to every passer-by; on the contrary, obstinately hiding its secret from all foolish, slavish, wicked, insincere persons, and partially disclosing it to the wise and noble-minded alone, whose number was not the majority in my time!
Carlyle on Liberty
Shooting Niagara (1867) was Thomas Carlyle’s last great pamphlet, and I don’t know how I can possibly introduce it except to say, quite simply, that even the Victorians thought it was pretty extreme.
That England would have to take the Niagara leap of completed Democracy one day, was also a plain prophecy, though uncertain as to time.
The prophecy, truly, was plain enough this long while:—“For who can change the opinion of these people!” as the sage Antoninus notes. It is indeed strange how prepossessions and delusions seize upon whole communities of men; no basis in the notion they have formed, yet everybody adopting it, everybody finding the whole world agree with him in it, and accept it as an axiom of Euclid; and, in the universal repetition and reverberation, taking all contradiction of it as insult, and a sign of malicious insanity, hardly to be borne with patience. “For who can change the opinion of these people?” as our Divus Imperator says. No wisest of mortals.
This people cannot be convinced out of its “axiom of Euclid” by any reasoning whatsoever; on the contrary, all the world assenting, and continually repeating and reverberating, there soon comes that singular phenomenon, which the Germans call Schwärmerey (‘enthusiasm’ is our poor Greek equivalent), which simply means ‘Swarmery,’ or the ‘Gathering of Men in Swarms,’ and what prodigies they are in the habit of doing and believing, when thrown into that miraculous condition. Some big Queen Bee is in the centre of the swarm; but any commonplace stupidest bee, Cleon the Tanner, Beales, John of Leyden, John of Bromwicham, any bee whatever, if he can happen, by noise or otherwise, to be chosen for the function, will straightway get fatted and inflated into bulk, which of itself means complete capacity; no difficulty about your Queen Bee: and the swarm once formed, finds itself impelled to action, as with one heart and one mind.
Singular, in the case of human swarms, with what perfection of unanimity and quasi-religious conviction the stupidest absurdities can be received as axioms of Euclid, nay as articles of faith, which you are not only to believe, unless malignantly insane, but are (if you have any honour or morality) to push into practice, and without delay see done, if your soul would live! Divine commandment to vote (“Manhood Suffrage,”—Horsehood, Doghood ditto not yet treated of); universal “Glorious Liberty” (to Sons of the Devil in overwhelming majority, as would appear); count of Heads the God-appointed way in this Universe, all other ways Devil-appointed; in one brief word, which includes whatever of palpable incredibility and delirious absurdity, universally believed, can be uttered or imagined on these points, “the equality of man,” any man equal to any other; Quashee Nigger to Socrates or Shakspeare; Judas Iscariot to Jesus Christ;—and Bedlam and Gehenna equal to the New Jerusalem, shall we say? If these things are taken up, not only as axioms of Euclid, but as articles of religion burning to be put in practice for the salvation of the world,—I think you will admit that Swarmery plays a wonderful part in the heads of poor Mankind; and that very considerable results are likely to follow from it in our day!
But you will in vain attempt, by argument of human intellect, to contradict or turn aside any of these divine axioms, indisputable as those of Euclid, and of sacred or quasi-celestial quality to boot: if you have neglected the one method (which was a silent one) of dealing with them at an early stage, they are thenceforth invincible; and will plunge more and more madly forward towards practical fulfilment. Once fulfilled, it will then he seen how credible and wise they were. Not even the Queen Bee but will then know what to think of them. Then, and never till then.
In our own country, too, Swarmery has played a great part for many years past; and especially is now playing, in these very days and months. Our accepted axioms about “Liberty,” “Constitutional Government,” “Reform,” and the like objects, are of truly wonderful texture: venerable by antiquity, many of them, and written in all manner of Canonical Books; or else, the newer part of them, celestially clear as perfect unanimity of all tongues, and Vox populi vox Dei, can make them: axioms confessed, or even inspirations and gospel verities, to the general mind of man. To the mind of here and there a man, it begins to be suspected that perhaps they are only conditionally true; that taken unconditionally, or under changed conditions, they are not true, but false and even disastrously and fatally so.
Ask yourself about “Liberty,” for example; what you do really mean by it, what in any just and rational soul is that Divine quality of liberty? That a good man be “free,” as we call it, be permitted to unfold himself in works of goodness and nobleness, is surely a blessing to him, immense and indispensable;—to him and to those about him. But that a bad man be “free,”—permitted to unfold himself in his particular way, is contrariwise, the fatallest curse you could inflict on him; curse and nothing else, to him and all his neighbours. Him the very Heavens call upon you to persuade, to urge, induce, compel, into something of well-doing; if you absolutely cannot, if he will continue in ill-doing,—then for him (I can assure you, though you will be shocked to hear it), the one “blessing” left is the speediest gallows you can lead him to. Speediest, that at least his ill-doing may cease quàm primùm. Oh, my friends, whither are you buzzing and swarming, in this extremely absurd manner? Expecting a Millennium from “extension of the suffrage,” laterally, vertically, or in whatever way?
All the Millenniums I ever heard of heretofore were to be preceded by a “chaining of the Devil for a thousand years,”—laying him up, tied neck and heels, and put beyond stirring, as the preliminary. You too have been taking preliminary steps, with more and more ardour, for a thirty years back; but they seem to be all in the opposite direction: a cutting asunder of straps and ties, wherever you might find them; pretty indiscriminate of choice in the matter: a general repeal of old regulations, fetters, and restrictions (restrictions on the Devil originally, I believe, for the most part, but now fallen slack and ineffectual), which had become unpleasant to many of you,—with loud shouting from the multitude, as strap after strap was cut, “Glory, glory, another strap is gone!”—this, I think, has mainly been the sublime legislative industry of Parliament since it became “Reform Parliament;” victoriously successful, and thought sublime and beneficent by some.
So that now hardly any limb of the Devil has a thrum, or tatter of rope or leather left upon it:—there needs almost superhuman heroism in you to “whip” a garotter; no Fenian taken with the reddest hand is to be meddled with, under penalties; hardly a murderer, never so detestable and hideous, but you find him “insane,” and board him at the public expense, a very peculiar British Prytaneum of these days! And in fact, THE DEVIL (he, verily, if you will consider the sense of words) is likewise become an Emancipated Gentleman; lithe of limb, as in Adam and Eve’s time, and scarcely a toe or finger of him tied any more. And you, my astonishing friends, you are certainly getting into a millennium, such as never was before,—hardly even in the dreams of Bedlam. Better luck to you by the way, my poor friends;—a little less of buzzing, humming, swarming (i.e. tumbling in infinite noise and darkness), that you might try to look a little, each for himself, what kind of “way” it is!
If you really must have some sort of a proper introduction to Carlyle, try this, from an 1881 obituary:
The way to test how much he has left his country were to consider, or try to consider, for a moment, the array of British thought, the resultant ensemble of the last fifty years, as existing to-day, but with Carlyle left out. It would be like an army with no artillery. The show were still a gay and rich one—Byron, Scott, Tennyson, and many more—horsemen and rapid infantry, and banners flying—but the last heavy roar so dear to the ear of the trained soldier, and that settles fate and victory, would be lacking.
The author: Walt Whitman, a man absolutely opposed to all of Carlyle’s politics, as we can clearly see in ‘Carlyle from American Points of View’ (1882).
To which I add an amendment that under no circumstances, and no matter how completely time and events disprove his lurid vaticinations, should the English-speaking world forget this man, nor fail to hold in honor his unsurpassed conscience, his unique method, and his honest fame. Never were convictions more earnest and genuine. Never was there less of a flunkey or temporizer. Never had political progressivism a foe it could more heartily respect.
Whitman, you see, was a Progressive, much like Barack Obama, that “creature of a strong progressive movement,”—or Joseph Stalin, “Leader of Progressive Mankind.” Carlyle, on the other hand, was a reactionary—and Whitman was having none of it:
Carlyle’s grim fate was cast to live and dwell in, and largely embody, the parturition agony and qualms of the old order, amid crowded accumulations of ghastly morbidity, giving birth to the new. But conceive of him (or his parents before him) coming to America, recuperated by the cheering realities and activity of our people and our country—growing up and delving face-to-face resolutely among us here, especially at the West—inhaling and exhaling our limitless air and eligibilities—devoting his mind to the theories and developments of this Republic amid its practical facts as exemplified in Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Tennessee, or Louisiana. I say facts, and face-to-face confrontings—so different from books, and all those quiddities and mere reports in the libraries, upon which the man (it was wittily said of him at the age of thirty, that there was no one in Scotland who had glean’d so much and seen so little), almost wholly fed, and which even his sturdy and vital mind but reflected at best.
“Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Tennessee, or Louisiana.” Interesting…
All that is comprehended under the terms republicanism and democracy were distasteful to him from the first, and as he grew older they became hateful and contemptible. For an undoubtedly candid and penetrating faculty such as his, the bearings he persistently ignored were marvellous. For instance, the promise, nay certainty of the democratic principle, to each and every State of the current world, not so much of helping it to perfect legislators and executives, but as the only effectual method for surely, however slowly, training people on a large scale toward voluntarily ruling and managing themselves (the ultimate aim of political and all other development)—to gradually reduce the fact of governing to its minimum, and to subject all its staffs and their doings to the telescopes and microscopes of committees and parties—and greatest of all, to afford (not stagnation and obedient content, which went well enough with the feudalism and ecclesiasticism of the antique and medieval world, but) a vast and sane and recurrent ebb and tide action for those floods of the great deep that have henceforth palpably burst forever their old bounds—seem never to have enter’d Carlyle’s thought. It was splendid how he refus’d any compromise to the last.
“The promise, nay certainty of the democratic principle.” Even more interesting…
At this point, Whitman refers us to James A. Froude, Carlyle’s disciple and best biographer. Froude writes (1882):
An adequate estimate of Carlyle’s work in this world is not at present possible. He was a teacher and a prophet in the Jewish sense of the word. The prophecies of Isaiah and Jeremiah have become a part of the permanent spiritual inheritance of mankind, because events proved that they had interpreted correctly the signs of their own times, and their prophecies were fulfilled. Carlyle, like them, believed that he had a special message to deliver to the present age. Whether he was correct in that belief, and whether his message was a true message, remains to be seen.
He has told us that our most cherished ideas of political liberty, with their kindred corollaries, are mere illusions, and that the progress which has seemed to go along with them is a progress towards anarchy and social dissolution. If he was wrong, he has misused his powers. The principles of his teachings are false. He has offered himself as a guide upon a road of which he had no knowledge; and his own desire for himself would be the speediest oblivion both of his person and his works.
If, on the other hand, he has been right; if, like his great predecessors, he has read truly the tendencies of this modern age of ours, and his teaching is authenticated by facts, then Carlyle, too, will take his place among the inspired seers, and he will shine on, another fixed star in the intellectual sky.
Time only can show how this will be.
Did the prophet speak truly? Or did time and events disprove all his lurid vaticinations? Well, we’re about to find out! Join me, my new friends, and we’ll resolve the Carlyle-Whitman quarrel once and for all.
Whitman vs Carlyle, Round 1: Kansas
In Specimen Days (1892), Walt Whitman invites us to join him on a tour of Gilded Age America with a series of diary entries about a great “western journey” he took through Kansas and Illinois, among other places, in the fall and winter of 1879, finally “fetching up at Denver, Colorado, and penetrating the Rocky Mountain region enough to get a good notion of it all.”
We thought of stopping Kansas City, but when we got there we found a train ready and a crowd of hospitable Kansians to take us on to Lawrence, to which I proceeded. I shall not forget my good days in L., in company with Judge Usher and his sons, (especially John and Linton), true westerners of the noblest type. Nor the similar days in Topeka. Nor the brotherly kindness of my RR. [railroad] friends there, and the city and State officials. Lawrence and Topeka are large, bustling, half-rural handsome cities. I took two or three long drives about the latter, drawn by a spirited team over smooth roads.
In due time we reach Denver, which city I fall in love with from the first, and have that feeling confirmed, the longer I stay there.
These days, it pays to be careful when you ride the train from Lawrence to Denver:
Trenton Foster’s spring break ended violently early Sunday with an armed robbery in a Denver light-rail station that left three friends with gunshot wounds.
Denver police say the incident involving Foster and his friends was the latest in what they think is a string of four violent robberies, with a total of six shooting victims, since Friday. “Their descriptions are quite similar,” Denver police spokeswoman Virginia Quiñones said. She said all of the incidents, except for one, occurred between 5 a.m. and 5:20 a.m. and were in the same area.
Foster, his Lawrence roommate Ian Dumpert and KU student Joseph Kuebel had traveled to Denver and joined Kansas State University students Kenneth Giefer, Dakota Hensley and John Watt, who also were on spring break in the city.
The group headed to the nearby light-rail station but had trouble getting tickets from the machine, Foster said, and then walked to the next station only to find the second machine broken. The young men then walked back to the first station and managed to buy their tickets when they were approached by two men wearing ski masks, Foster said. The suspects, one wielding scissors and the other pointing a revolver, demanded money, Foster said.
The men emptied their pockets, handing over wallets, cell phones and other items. Foster and Hensley, a K-State student, both said they recalled a slight pause before one of the men began shooting. “They didn’t say anything,” Hensley said. “It was just a look. There may have been a nod.” Dumpert, 22, was shot in [the] jaw. Watt, 22, was hit with two bullets to the neck area, Foster said. He said the suspects began to flee, but turned and fired two more shots, one grazing the 23-year-old Kuebel in the leg, the other hitting him in the back.
The suspects were described as two black males in dark blue clothing and face masks. “They were cool, calm and collected and knew exactly what they were doing,” Foster said of the suspects. “The worst part is we did everything they wanted… We all had our hands in the air. None of us was going to make any attempts at them at all. They just shot them for the fun of it.”
Unlucky, I guess. As for the “brotherly kindness” of state officials in Topeka, standards are higher in 2012:
About 50 high school and college students whose parents illegally brought them to the United States protested Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s tough immigration laws Tuesday afternoon and called on him to drop a lawsuit against a program that could allow them to legally work in the country.
In spite of these “tough immigration laws,” the mob of foreign invaders was able to conduct their intimidation of the Secretary of State in comfort and safety.
Luis Sosa, a Butler Community College student, said he just wants to be able to take care of his parents like they took care of him. He said going to college as an illegal student is already tough, but it gives him a chance to be part of the American dream.
“I just don’t see why he’s so troubled with it and is trying to take it away,” he said.
By “it,” Luis is referring to the ongoing invasion of the United States by Central America. Notice that a foreign invader attending an American community college has no apparent problem with giving out his full name to news reporters.
[Erika] Andiola said a get-tough immigration law that Kobach drafted in Arizona led to her mother being arrested two weeks ago. “That’s just not fair,” she said.
Arrested? Merely for breaking the law? So unfair.
“The audacity of these illegal aliens is amazing. First they demand that we not enforce the laws against them. And now they demand that a public official who believes in the rule of law should step down,” Kobach said. “Illegal means illegal, and that’s a very simple concept to understand and yet they want me to ignore the fact that the law has meaning in Kansas.”
For which Kobach is widely considered to be a “hard-core conservative activist” specializing in “anti-immigrant fervor” (SPLC), who has been “pushing questionable legal theories” (Mother Jones), such as the notion that foreign invaders should not get to pay less than American citizens to attend public universities (FAIR).
In May of that year, Kansas Governor Sam Brownback felt the need to sign a bill prohibiting state courts and agencies from using non-U.S. law. Various political groups opposed the measure for various more or less incomprehensible reasons; e.g., that it is unconstitutional and un-American, somehow; that it will ridicule and demonize the many unassimilated Muslims we’ve imported for no particular reason, somehow; that it is unnecessary because U.S. law always prevails, and when Islamic law prevails that decision is eventually overturned, and 49 other documented cases are not real and do not count, so you must have hallucinated them; that Muslims should be protected by U.S. law, an argument I cannot even begin to wrap my head around; and that the bill will embarrass the state and make it seem unwelcoming to the many more unassimilated Muslims we continue to import for no particular reason.
The Transportation Security Administration was created “to strengthen the security of the nation’s transportation systems while ensuring the freedom of movement for people and commerce” in the wake of a political mass murder made possible by the importation of large numbers of unassimilated Muslims for no particular reason (see above). In April, the TSA declared a four-year-old girl a “high security threat,” accused her of smuggling firearms, and threatened to shut down the Wichita airport, after they observed the child hugging her grandmother. Although everyone not actually employed by the TSA agrees that everything it does is either useless or evil, no one has any idea how to stop it. Maybe we should all vote on something.
In December, acting on “the promise, nay certainty of the democratic principle… to gradually reduce the fact of governing to its minimum,” the Wellington City Council ruled that no household may have more than four cats and one litter of kittens.
Whitman vs Carlyle, Round 2: Missouri
Whitman talks personal safety in Missouri:
Of Missouri averaged politically and socially I have heard all sorts of talk, some pretty severe—but I should have no fear myself of getting along safely and comfortably anywhere among the Missourians.
And, topping democracy, this most alluring record, that it alone can bind, and ever seeks to bind, all nations, all men, of however various and distant lands, into a brotherhood, a family. It is the old, yet ever-modern dream of earth, out of her eldest and her youngest, her fond philosophers and poets. Not that half only, individualism, which isolates. There is another half, which is adhesiveness or love, that fuses, ties and aggregates, making the races comrades, and fraternizing all.
How far has democracy taken us towards this noble goal? We turn our attention to St. Louis in the year 2012. (I’ll skip the usual boring stuff, like two quintuple shootings in a single night, one of them with an AK-47.)
In April, June, August and October of 2011 (and three more times, according to police), February, March, again in March, April, May and August of 2012, and January, July and November of 2013 (and 10 times in 2010, but good luck finding them), we saw in the papers—were we inclined to look—that mobs of young black people are ambushing pedestrians and bicyclists, mostly white, and beating them unconscious, sometimes to death, as part of a fun game we’re all supposed to pretend doesn’t exist.
Obviously this isn’t a race thing. Oh, wait:
A white man said he was beaten by a group of African-American youths who used racially derogatory terms during the assault.
This has been going on since at least 2008, when the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported on a series of mob attacks at Metro stations, some involving as many as 100 attackers; the latest against a family of five by a group of at least 20. Of course, the Post-Dispatch won’t actually tell us that the attackers are black; for that, you need to ask an independent journalist, or look at mugshots. You know, it’s awfully difficult to document a pattern of racial violence when the newspapers won’t report basic facts! And obviously the FBI does not keep any records because really, why bother?
You can follow the trend in other cities in the United States and Europe, if you like, or you can read Colin Flaherty’s book on the subject—or not. “None so blind as those that will not see,” and all that. Moving on.
In September, a crowd of 150 gathered to support Reginald Clemons, one of four black men who raped a pair of white sisters and forced them off a bridge to their deaths in 1991. Clemons has been awaiting execution for his crimes since 1993, which is considered normal. One of the other murderer/rapists is already free on parole, which is also considered normal. The crowd was participating in Social Justice, a new, more democratic replacement for justice Whitman would already have been familiar with back in 1882. The object of Social Justice is to incarcerate the least possible number of black criminals, particularly the ones with white victims, who are the majority; and to turn them loose again after the shortest possible span of time.
In August, two serial robbers (black, obviously) shot and killed Megan Boken (white), a former college volleyball star, for absolutely no reason as she sat in her car in front of an apartment building on a sunny Saturday afternoon. In the 21st century, these robberies gone wrong are an accepted part of urban living in a civilized society. Actually, I’m not sure why I even brought it up—or any of these stories, selected at random from the many thousands of similarly normal occurrences in St. Louis in 2012—especially since many people will take any interest at all in them as evidence of racial hatred, which is considered to be the worst, most terrible thing in the entire universe, unless of course it’s being directed at white people.
Whitman vs Carlyle, Round 3: Illinois
From Democratic Vistas:
The eager and often inconsiderate appeals of reformers and revolutionists are indispensable, to counterbalance the inertness and fossilism making so large a part of human institutions. The latter will always take care of themselves—the danger being that they rapidly tend to ossify us. The former is to be treated with indulgence, and even with respect. As circulation to air, so is agitation and a plentiful degree of speculative license to political and moral sanity.
Whitman might be surprised to see what indulgence and respect we accord to our revolutionists today. Take William Ayers of Illinois: political murderer; political rapist; and co-founder of a communist revolutionary militia and sex club through which he murdered a San Francisco police officer, bombed banks and public buildings including the Capitol Building and the headquarters of our Defense Department, and plotted to overthrow the government of the United States and murder 25 million Americans. Communism, of which Billy Ayers remains an unrepentant adherent, is a form of Progressivism that murdered 100 million people in the 20th century.
On September 11, 2001, Mr. Ayers expressed “no regrets for a love of explosives” in The New York Times.
“I don’t regret setting bombs,” Bill Ayers said. “I feel we didn’t do enough.”
Mr. Ayers, who in 1970 was said to have summed up the Weatherman philosophy as: “Kill all the rich people. Break up their cars and apartments. Bring the revolution home, kill your parents, that’s where it’s really at,” is today distinguished professor of education at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Yes, indeed: today, Billy Ayers, Vice President of Curriculum Studies for the American Educational Research Association, is a respected expert on elementary education and a retired professor in the College of Education at the University of Illinois at Chicago, where he held the titles of Distinguished Professor of Education and Senior University Scholar; in other words, he tells children what to believe. He’s also a probable past mentor to the current President of the United States. I guess it’s a good thing his agitation is to moral sanity as circulation is to air.
So, would Mr. Ayers do it all again, he is asked? “I don’t want to discount the possibility,” he said.
From Democratic Vistas again:
Leaving the rest to the sentimentalists, we present freedom as sufficient in its scientific aspect, cold as ice, reasoning, deductive, clear and passionless as crystal.
Democracy too is law, and of the strictest, amplest kind. Many suppose, (and often in its own ranks the error,) that it means a throwing aside of law, and running riot. But, briefly, it is the superior law, not alone that of physical force, the body, which, adding to, it supersedes with that of the spirit. Law is the unshakable order of the universe forever; and the law over all, and law of laws, is the law of successions; that of the superior law, in time, gradually supplanting and overwhelming the inferior one.
Indirectly, but surely, goodness, virtue, law, (of the very best,) follow freedom. These, to democracy, are what the keel is to the ship, or saltness to the ocean.
All right, so where has this “superior law” got us, if not into “a throwing aside of law, and running riot”? We might cast a glance at the great city of Chicago in the year 2012.
On a single August weekend, 21 people were shot, including a 15-year-old boy. The next weekend, 30 more were shot; seven died, including a 17-year-old girl. Another victim was a 14-year-old boy, shot on “Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive” in the Bronzeville neighborhood—more on that shortly. The following Thursday, 19 more were shot; 13 of them over one half-hour period, eight in a single shooting. Chicago has strict laws against carrying a firearm, thus disarming anyone who follows the law.
The shooters generally belong to the various racial paramilitary bands that have conquered and ruined much of the South Side—formerly home to a thriving black business district: Bronzeville’s “Black Metropolis.” Today, after the passage of no fewer than six universally acclaimed Civil Rights Acts, the Black Metropolis is gone; instead, the neighborhood features one of America’s countless incredibly dangerous streets named after its new national hero and official deity.
How did Whitman put it? “Indirectly, but surely, goodness, virtue, law, (of the very best,) follow freedom.” Not just law, but the very best of law—and surely. But what was it Carlyle wrote, in Shooting Niagara, that Whitman thought “so insulting to the theory of America”?
That a good man be “free,” as we call it, be permitted to unfold himself in works of goodness and nobleness, is surely a blessing to him, immense and indispensable;—to him and to those about him. But that a bad man be “free,”—permitted to unfold himself in his particular way, is contrariwise, the fatallest curse you could inflict on him; curse and nothing else, to him and all his neighbours. Him the very Heavens call upon you to persuade, to urge, induce, compel, into something of well-doing; if you absolutely cannot, if he will continue in ill-doing,—then for him (I can assure you, though you will be shocked to hear it), the one “blessing” left is the speediest gallows you can lead him to. Speediest, that at least his ill-doing may cease quàm primùm.
The gallows? God forbid! What sort of Social Justice would that be? Accordingly, in March 2011, Illinois became the 16th state to abolish the death penalty. These days, many Americans, who invariably claim to hold the absolute moral high ground, consider capital punishment uncivilized, somehow, and are glad to get rid of it.
One year later, a remorseless 24-year-old man smiled as a judge sentenced him to 50 years in prison for raping a 90-year-old woman during a home invasion that yielded him four frozen dinners and seven dollars.
In December, a man (black, of course) boarded a Chicago train and, without saying a word, for no conceivable reason, struck a 21-year-old woman (white, of course) in the face with a sock filled with his own feces. The woman, a college student, described it as “the biggest degradation” she had ever experienced, and wished that “he had just hit” her. I really don’t know if this is considered normal yet, but in any case, it was obviously just an isolated incident, freak occurrence, black swan, or some other kind of rare bird. We couldn’t possibly have made any progress towards anarchy and social dissolution (as Froude put it). That would be crazy! American society is more lawful than ever: just look how thoroughly we regulate cat ownership.
In December, a foreign invader named Jorge Mariscal received a free kidney transplant in Chicago, an option not generally available to Americans. “Why can’t we be treated the same?” Asked Señor Mariscal, without apparent irony.
From Democratic Vistas yet again:
With regard to the mental-educational part of our model, enlargement of intellect, stores of cephalic knowledge, &c., the concentration thitherward of all the customs of our age, especially in America, is so overweening, and provides so fully for that part, that, important and necessary as it is, it really needs nothing from us here—except, indeed, a phrase of warning and restraint.
Did you, too, O friend, suppose democracy was only for elections, for politics, and for a party name? I say democracy is only of use there that it may pass on and come to its flower and fruits in manners, in the highest forms of interaction between men, and their beliefs—in religion, literature, colleges, and schools—democracy in all public and private life, and in the army and navy.
In September, the Chicago Teachers Union ended an eight-day strike in exchange for an 18 percent raise and other benefits. Out of the 10 largest metropolitan areas, Chicago has the shortest school year, and was already paying its teachers more than any other city, yet 39 percent of those teachers use the money to send their own kids to private schools. Well, what’s another $74 million, when the state is already going bankrupt?
Oh, right, I almost forgot to mention: states are going bankrupt now!
Speaking of bankruptcy, here we see the U.S. President’s budget request for 2012, as depicted by Jess Bachman (click for the full-size version). Let us always remember “the promise, nay certainty of the democratic principle”—
—“to gradually reduce the fact of governing to its minimum”!
Whitman vs Carlyle, Round 4: Tennessee
Whitman’s notion of the purpose of government, from Democratic Vistas:
We believe the ulterior object of political and all other government, (having, of course, provided for the police, the safety of life, property, and for the basic statute and common law, and their administration, always first in order,) to be among the rest, not merely to rule, to repress disorder, &c., but to develop, to open up to cultivation, to encourage the possibilities of all beneficent and manly outcroppage, and of that aspiration for independence, and the pride and self-respect latent in all characters. […]
Political democracy, as it exists and practically works in America, with all its threatening evils, supplies a training-school for making first-class men. It is life’s gymnasium, not of good only, but of all. We try often, though we fall back often. A brave delight, fit for freedom’s athletes, fills these arenas, and fully satisfies, out of the action in them, irrespective of success. Whatever we do not attain, we at any rate attain the experiences of the fight, the hardening of the strong campaign, and throb with currents of attempt at least.
On a Friday night in March of 2012, four imported Africans, one of them only 15 years old, abducted two young men (presumably white) in Antioch. They beat and stabbed them for at least an hour, and forced them at knifepoint to perform sex acts on each other. This is considered normal and no cause for alarm.
On another day in March, 29 imported Somalis were charged with sex slavery in Nashville for abducting girls as young as 12 from Minnesota and smuggling them to Tennessee, among other states, to have sex with up to 10 men a day. We refuse to let these unfortunate episodes call into question the merits of importing and unleashing large numbers of Africans—whatever those may be.
In May, we learned that Tennessee has imprisoned a 33-year-old Knoxville man who cannot support his 24 children by 11 different mothers. Five years in prison will develop in him “the pride and self-respect latent in all characters,” or at least train him to be a responsible adult and not rely on the state to provide for him and his offspring, which it does and will continue to do in the name of Progress and Social Justice. At least he won’t be able to keep more than one litter of kittens in Wellington, Kansas!
In January, the principal of Germantown High was forced to apologize for an assembly where he broke down the school’s test scores by social construct, revealing that in Germantown, like everywhere else in the world, some social constructs are consistently smarter than others, not to mention visibly different in many other heritable traits. Officially, this cannot possibly be related to the preceding paragraphs. The state continues to throw millions of dollars at this troublesome anthropological fact, to absolutely no effect whatsoever.
Oh, and speaking of democracy’s ability “to develop, to open up to cultivation, to encourage the possibilities… of that aspiration for independence” which is “latent in all characters”: since the reign of ultra-Progressive President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the U.S. has been subsidizing indigence through “welfare,” a preposterously named official dysgenics program. In the following Heritage Foundation graph, you can see America’s total “welfare” spending from 1950 to 2010 (adjusted for the hyperinflation induced by Keynesian economic pseudoscience). Bear in mind, democracy is “the only effectual method for surely, however slowly,” achieving “the ultimate aim of political and all other development”—
—“training people on a large scale toward voluntarily ruling and managing themselves”!
Whitman vs Carlyle, Round 5: Louisiana
From Democratic Vistas once more:
In fond fancy leaping those hundred years ahead, let us survey America’s works, poems, philosophies, fulfilling prophecies, and giving form and decision to best ideals. Much that is now undream’d of, we might then perhaps see establish’d, luxuriantly cropping forth, richness, vigor of letters and of artistic expression, in whose products character will be a main requirement, and not merely erudition or elegance.
Intense and loving comradeship, the personal and passionate attachment of man to man—which, hard to define, underlies the lessons and ideals of the profound saviours of every land and age, and which seems to promise, when thoroughly develop’d, cultivated and recognized in manners and literature, the most substantial hope and safety of the future of these States, will then be fully express’d.
Nor must I fail, again and yet again, to clinch, reiterate more plainly still, (O that indeed such survey as we fancy, may show in time this part completed also!) the lofty aim, surely the proudest and the purest, in whose service the future literatus, of whatever field, may gladly labor. As we have intimated, offsetting the material civilization of our race, our nationality, its wealth, territories, factories, population, products, trade, and military and naval strength, and breathing breath of life into all these, and more, must be its moral civilization—the formulation, expression, and aidancy whereof, is the very highest height of literature. The climax of this loftiest range of civilization, rising above all the gorgeous shows and results of wealth, intellect, power, and art, as such—above even theology and religious fervor—is to be its development, from the eternal bases, and the fit expression, of absolute Conscience, moral soundness, Justice.
Welcome to Louisiana!
In March of 2012, an elementary school teacher in Tallulah was fired because she failed to notice a third-grader performing oral sex under a desk. This is outrageous! Everyone knows that oral sex should be deferred until seventh grade.
In February, five men invaded a Gonzales home, where they proceeded to slit the throats of an entire family before stealing a rare coin collection. All five perpetrators were promptly captured by police. Actually, one was already in jail for an unrelated shooting he committed days later. This is considered normal.
In June, three black teenagers invaded a Mansfield home and proceeded to beat and rape a 76-year-old woman. In November, nearby Shreveport saw a similar crime, in which a black man invaded a woman’s home and proceeded to beat and rape her. In fact, Shreveport had recently seen an almost identical crime, in which a black teenager invaded an elderly woman’s home and proceeded to beat and rape her. (Incidentally, it was his second rape of an elderly woman in two years.) Nevertheless, when yet another home-invading rapist is loose in Shreveport, the press will not report his most obvious physical features, because protecting people’s lives is not considered as important as fighting racial stereotypes (all of which are completely true).
In August, Louisiana deployed the National Guard in New Orleans in order to prevent looting during a tropical storm. Widespread looting ensued. In the following week, police made a historic 42 arrests. “Nearly everyone we found looting… had already been arrested multiple times,” said the police superintendent. This is, of course, considered normal.
In December 2012, the Southern Poverty Law Center hired Theo Shaw as a “community advocate” in New Orleans. Shaw was one of six black teens convicted of ambushing a white student at Jena High School in 2007. Witnesses testified that the racially motivated gang “stomped him badly,” “stepped on his face,” and “slammed his head on the concrete beam.” The SPLC is a widely respected “nonprofit civil rights organization,” which has accumulated a profit of almost $250 million by “fighting hate and bigotry,” which are an emotion and an attitude, respectively.
“Carlyle’s grim fate,” Whitman said,
was cast to live and dwell in, and largely embody, the parturition agony and qualms of the old order, amid crowded accumulations of ghastly morbidity, giving birth to the new.
The darkness drops again but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
You know, we got to sit around at home and watch this thing begin,
But I bet there won’t be many left to see it really end.
Well, that brings us to the end of the Walt Whitman “Republicanism and Democracy” Memorial Tour. I think we’ve resolved that historical quarrel. We could go on, for there have been plenty of other promises and prophecies, besides Walt Whitman’s, for the glorious future of democracy—now its rather shabby present. But you’re all veterans now; you don’t really need me to guide you on the Herbert Croly “Cash for Heroes” Safari. You’ve got your time machine, and you’ve got his Promise of American Life (1909).
Do we lack culture? We will “make it hum” by founding a new university in Chicago. Is American art neglected and impoverished? We will enrich it by organizing art departments in our colleges, and popularize it by lectures with lantern slides and associations for the study of its history. Is New York City ugly? Perhaps, but if we could only get the authorities to appropriate a few hundred millions for its beautification, we could make it look like a combination of Athens, Florence, and Paris. Is it desirable for the American citizen to be something of a hero? I will encourage heroes by establishing a fund whereby they shall be rewarded in cash. War is hell, is it? I will work for the abolition of hell by calling a convention and passing a resolution denouncing its iniquities. I will build at the Hague a Palace of Peace which shall be a standing rebuke to the War Lords of Europe. Here, in America, some of us have more money than we need and more good will. We will spend the money in order to establish the reign of the good, the beautiful, and the true.
Ah, yes, the abolition of hell—in 1909.
New York City police parade, 1899 (image)
You might also try Looking Backward with Edward Bellamy (1889).
To the stream of tendency setting toward an ultimate realization of a form of society which, while vastly more efficient for material prosperity, should also satisfy and not outrage the moral instincts, every sigh of poverty, every tear of pity, every humane impulse, every generous enthusiasm, every true religious feeling, every act by which men have given effect to their mutual sympathy by drawing more closely together for any purpose, have contributed from the beginnings of civilization. That this long stream of influence, ever widening and deepening, is at last about to sweep away the barriers it has so long sapped, is at least one obvious interpretation of the present universal ferment of men’s minds as to the imperfections of present social arrangements. Not only are the toilers of the world engaged in something like a world-wide insurrection, but true and humane men and women, of every degree, are in a mood of exasperation, verging on absolute revolt, against social conditions that reduce life to a brutal struggle for existence, mock every dictate of ethics and religion, and render wellnigh futile the efforts of philanthropy.
All thoughtful men agree that the present aspect of society is portentous of great changes. The only question is, whether they will be for the better or the worse. Those who believe in man’s essential nobleness lean to the former view, those who believe in his essential baseness to the latter. For my part, I hold to the former opinion. Looking Backward was written in the belief that the Golden Age lies before us and not behind us, and is not far away. Our children will surely see it, and we, too, who are already men and women, if we deserve it by our faith and by our works.
All parties are now declaring themselves to be Progressives, and all mean in substance the same thing by this claim, viz.: the increase of governmental power over the constitutional Immunities of the Individual, the solution by force of the problems of the social relations heretofore regulated by influence, by religion, conscience, charity, and human feeling, the substitution of the club of the policeman for the crosier of the priest, the supersession of education, morals, and philanthropy by administrative ordinance.
And let us also profoundly reflect what may be the effect of a vast advance in governmental power and activity. In his criticism of Hasbach’s recent most valuable work upon Modern Democracy, Professor Schmoller relates that when, in the year 1890, the question of social reform was being considered by the Prussian Council of State, the Emperor uttered these profound, and for so young a man, remarkable words. He said: […] a permanent, stable, powerful Government, a Government standing over all classes in the Society and independent of them all, might be trusted to say how far force can be safely employed in requiring sacrifices from one class to another, but a changing, shifting Government, a Government representing either the property class, or the propertyless class, especially a Government representing the propertyless or small-property class, a Government representing the modern democracy under universal suffrage, a Government representing the class to be benefited by the confiscation and redistribution of wealth through governmental force, cannot be safely trusted with any such power. It would become a temporary despotism, which would destroy property, use up accumulated wealth, make enterprise impossible, discourage intelligence and thrift, encourage idleness and sloth, and pauperize and barbarize the whole people.
This is no idle prophecy. The whole history of the world’s political development sustains it. The history of that development shows beyond any question or cavil that a Republic with unlimited Government cannot stand, that a Republic, which makes its Government the arbiter of business, is of all forms of state the most universally corrupt, and that a Republic, which undertakes to do its cultural work through governmental force, is of all forms of state the most demoralizing. If a state will have Government undertake those tasks which naturally belong, or have come through historical development to belong, within the sphere of Individual Liberty, then it must have a Government lifted so far above all class and party interests that it cannot be controlled or even influenced by any of them. But this is authority reaching from above downward and not from below upward. This is Monarchy in the original sense of jure-divino sovereignty. This is the reason for and the advantage of its existence. But, for us, this is not progress. It is for us retrogression of the most positive kind known to political history.
In the face of this consideration, it is time, high time, for us to call a halt in our present course of increasing the sphere of Government and decreasing that of Liberty, and inquire carefully whether what is happening is not the passing of the Republic, the passing of the Christian religion, and the return to Caesarism, the rule of the one by popular acclaim, the apotheosis of Government and the universal decline of the consciousness of, and the desire for, true Liberty. The world has made this circuit several times before. Are we making it again or is it only a step backward in order to get a better foothold for another advance in the true direction? Let us hope it is the latter and make it so by keeping always consciously before us as the goal of political civilization the reconciliation of Government with Liberty, so that, however, the latter shall be seen to be the more ultimate, shall be seen to be both end and means, while the former is only means. This is fundamental in the profoundest sense and there can be no sound progress in political civilization without it.
I think you’ll find this to be an illuminating exercise. Others have: in 1992, Robert Heilbroner, another political Progressive (though he preferred the term “socialist”), acknowledged the failure of his ideology with this “discomforting generalization”:
The farther to the right one looks, the more prescient has been the historical foresight; the farther to the left, the less so.
Thank you for reading. From everyone here at the Carlyle Club: Happy New Year, and best wishes for 2013.
Want to learn more about the topics covered in this issue of Radish? We recommend the following resources. (We do not, however, necessarily endorse all opinions expressed in them: some are not nearly extreme enough.)
- ‘Why Carlyle matters’
- ‘Carlyle in the 20th century: fascism and socialism’
- ‘From Mises to Carlyle: my sick journey to the dark side of the force’
- ‘The case against democracy: ten red pills’
- ‘Popularchy: rule of the People’
- ‘Democracy as an adaptive fiction’
- ‘Against political freedom’
- ‘Divine-right monarchy for the modern secular intellectual’
- ‘How Dawkins got pwned (part 1)’
- ‘An open letter to open-minded progressives (part 1)’
- ‘A gentle introduction to Unqualified Reservations (part 1)’
Libertarians Against Democracy
- ‘The Education of a Libertarian’
- ‘Beyond Folk Activism’
- ‘The Myth of the Rational Voter’
- ‘“Democracy can’t be fixed. It’s inherently broken”’
- Democracy: The God That Failed