Has America always been Leftist?
As I anticipated, my claim that America has always been Leftist, provoked some of my patriotic readers. Some even insulted me by telling me that I am a pacifist. I was in fact in my youth (in the Vietnam era!) a Sergeant in the Australian Army, so I am no pacifist. That dull document above is my discharge certificate.
What I oppose is not war but wars fought primarily to empower elites and I think both of America's civil wars fall into that category. They were not necessary wars in any sense.
But I did learn something very important from my critics. It was vividly brought home to me how impressive fine words are to most people. When even patriotic American conservatives can be taken in by them, it shows why Leftists have so much influence. Leftists are nothing but fine words. To me fine words are only provisionally important. They have to be backed up by deeds and it is the deeds that matter.
An excellent example of how fine words impress even conservatives is the preamble to the Declaration of Independence. It is full of fine words and noble sentiments. Most political documents are. Stalin's Soviet constitution also was a high-minded document proclaiming all sorts of rights for Soviet citizens -- rights which were denied in fact.
So once you look past the grand generalizations of the Declaration's introduction and get to the nitty gritty of what the Yankee grandees really wanted fixed, you see that it is very mundane, if not ignoble. What was really bothering them was restrictions on their powers to legislate. They wanted more laws, not less! Very Leftist.
And from THAT starting point you can see why the war was fought and for whose benefit. The grandees concerned had a lot of influence and were good at fine talk so they could muster an army -- and they did. And who benefited from the war? Was it the poor farmers and tradesmen who died as foot-soldiers in it? No way! It was the grandees who started the war. They emerged with exactly what they wanted: More power.
I am sorry if that account sounds offensive to people who still believe the original propaganda, but if you ignore the fancy talk and just look at the facts, that is what happened.
I reproduce the most articulate of the objections have received, I will add some further comments at the foot of it. As you see, it is a reasoned letter, not the mere foaming and abusive anger we get from Leftists:
I'm not here to express any kind of anger over your posting, but I will confess a great deal of surprise. You appear to be using the same intellectually dishonest method liberals commonly employ in that you present a great deal of material that is technically factual, but so bereft of context that it presents a completely distorted picture. For example:
"As most Americans learn around the time of Thanksgiving, America was founded by fanatical communists. They forbad private ownership of land and insisted that all produce be shared communally. If that's not communism, nothing is."
They forbad private ownership because the most modern economic theory of the time they knew theorized that this would improve output and standard of living. They tested the theory. The leader recorded the results, saw the problems, and instituted free market reforms. These are not the actions of "fanatical communists." As we have seen in other countries, "fanatical communists" don't care about how many are starving. They stick to the theory despite the facts or cost.
"That was particularly clear to me because I am a citizen of a country which achieved all the objectives of America's civil wars without a shot being fired. Warring armies have never tramped through the Australian countryside."
I assume that you mean independence and abolition of slavery. Quite true. It is far less obvious how well Australia may have fared on independence had they been of equal value to the empire financially and had America not set the precedent that the British could be thrown out.
As for slavery, I am delighted that Australia came to the same conclusions about slavery as other Western type countries without the need for violence on a national level, though I still hold that slavery was only part of the issue.
Anyway, I hope you are justifiably thankful to Christianity, since it was the only religion/movement that united peoples in the nations to abolish slavery. The atheists, Muslims, and other groups were quite content with the status quo as far as slavery was concerned, at least to the extent that none of them were going to put up serious opposition to it.
"So what should we expect of a nation dominated by the descendants of fanatical communists?"
A more accurate question might be "So what should we expect of a nation dominated by the descendants of Europeans?" I think the answer is a society that eventually comes to reflect the type of society that these Europeans set up, which is where we are heading. I note in some of your blog entries that Australia, though better in some instances, has hardly been immune. My theory, unprovable of course, is that most of the types that really tended towards socialism stayed in Europe for a long time. It was the hearty and adventurous that risked life and limb to have opportunity in a new land. Later, as it became safer and more affluent, the parasitic class began to immigrate in mass. So it goes.
"Portraying the declaration as pro-liberty is a joke. It was pro-liberty for the elite only."
From the Declaration: "That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."
In religious circles, I would say that you were "straining out a gnat" to "swallow a camel." Don't misunderstand me: I am making no excuse or justification for how imperfectly the priniciples played out or were implemented. But the goal, the ideal, was there, and it was liberty.
Your takes on the causes behind the US entry into the world wars is interesting. It is also dripping with pacifist venom. I'll not bother to address such simplistic assertions here. If you would like to discuss the matter separately sometime, feel free to contact me. I will only say that history is full of examples of what becomes of nations that avoid war at all cost. The French were a great example in the run-up to WWII.
"So what is the secret of America's outstanding success in many fields? Leftists are usually not much good at producing prosperity so what gives? It's simple. America is a huge beneficiary of the fact that it has Federal elections every two years."
A gross over-simplification as an attempt explanation. I would ignore it entirely, but for one phrase: "America is a huge beneficiary of the fact"
The "fact" is couched in language to make it seem that America won some kind of international lottery, or randomly drew a good card from some deck in a politics game. America had what the men who met and debated and formed the Constitution chose. While not perfect, it was far from random.
"And the USA is 12th on the Heritage index of economic freedom. Australia is third. Our pioneers were villains, not know-all holy Joes."
That is the present. The past tells a much different story. Contrary to your assertion that "Americans are not in fact unusually prosperous" what began its existence as a group of colonies, damaged by internal war and strife, rose in a remarkably short period of time to become the economic world leader. In short order, much older European countries were sending their economists to see how we were "doing it" so that they could share in the prosperity.
Is America in decline? Undoubtedly. Quite sad for me, because I am a patriot, and I see no end to that decline in sight. It's not just a matter of policies and politics, you see, but a matter of faith. While we embraced a Christian identity in our nation, we rose. It was a flawed, imperfect rise, probably because it was a flaw, imperfect Christianity, made of nothing but flawed, imperfect people. Yet while we held to our faith on a national scale, we improved. It may or may not have occurred to you that most of the countries with the best record on civil rights have strong Christian heritages. Those values are in decline now. As a result, so is liberty and prosperity. I accept that, with sadness.
But to try to make the case that the United States was founded or organized in a lingering way on what we consider modern leftist principles doesn't pass the smell check. In a time when monarchy and class systems held iron grip, it led the way real equality, or at least the best that was available.
I've studied my history enough to know that the best of the founding fathers and patriots were flawed. I don't have a problem with that. As a Christian, I understand that all people are flawed. I do my best to honor the good, and accept the bad, the same as I do with people today.
I find it interesting and ironic that at the end of your essay, you speak of honoring the people of America but not national myths. It's ironic because you spend most of your time trying to dispel the myths by pointing out just how horrible the people are. That's a course that seems pretty self defeating to me. To my way of thinking, the only part of American history truly deserving full honor is the documents such as the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. They state their purpose with wisdom and clarity. Their is no dishonesty in them. The documents, in themselves, never fail. It is only we, as men, who fail to live up to them. And that is why we need them: So that we will constantly have something better than we can ever be to live up to.
You'll not lose me as reader, JR, at least not over this. But I don't think it's your best work. I don't really think it's that good at all. And we'll both survive that opinion.
I hope your weekend is going well. Take care.
If only all disagreements could be stated so civilly! But you can see that he has been taken in by the fine words. He believes in them. I doubt that many of America's leaders ever have, however. Maybe Ronnie Reagan out of them all.
I will add comments in something of reverse order:
He asks why America did so well economically in the 19th century. He seems unaware that Europe -- even Russia to some extent -- also had massive economic gains in the second half of the 19th century. America ended up with a much bigger economy than anyone but that simply reflects the fact that the 19th century was when America began to seriously exploit its huge natural resources. America not only had huge quantities of gold, iron, coal and other minerals but it also had the biggest resource of all -- seemingly unlimited tracts of fertile land that could be used for farming or raising edible animals. And that vast food production was the key to the big population increase at that time. America could simply feed more people. The starving of Eastern Europe and Ireland flocked to it.
And that explanation in terms of natural resources is backed up by the two nations who entered the 20th century with living standards as high as or higher than America. They were Australia and Argentina. Both of those also benefited from huge, freshly exploited natural resources. And I can't help myself from remarking about why one of those fell off the perch and one didn't. Australia is still a great place to live; Not so much Argentina. Why?
I know why but to say why breaches America's biggest and fiercest taboo. But I will breach it carefully anyway. Argentina is 50/50 Spanish and Italian whereas Australians and Americans are predominantly of British and Northern European ancestry. And that difference matters. OK: I have said enough of that.
My critic also thought that I was too glib about WWI. I was certainly brief. But I was dismissive of America's role in that war not because I am a pacifist or a Leftist but because I think American meddling in that war did incredible harm. Wilson dressed up his intervention in the usual high flown talk but let us look at the results.
Before Wilson sent his troops over, the combatants had virtually fought one-another to a standstill. General Ludendorff had been advancing almost up until that point but the men he lost in doing so had exhausted Germany. There is no doubt that some sort of draw would have been declared at some stage and both sides would have gone home devastated but intact and with honour bright. That was how the previous Franco/German fight ended up in 1872.
But thanks to Wilson that did not happen. Germany was defeated, torn apart, degraded, impoverished, and humiliated. And who benefited from that? Who fed on that until it gave him enormous influence in Germany? It was Adolf Hitler. There would have been no Hitler in power had the old German empire endured. I could go into more detail on that but I see Wilson's do-gooder meddling as the prize example of allegedly noble intentions having disastrous consequences. There would have been no WWII except for Democrat President Woodrow Wilson.
I have probably said enough for today -- JR