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The Triumph of the State

An Englishman once observed that the presidency (if we may be lenient enough to call it that) of Barack Obama had taken on the vestiges of the once-deposed ancien régime. Yet this ascendancy to the ranks of divine royalty by the left’s anointed one should be no surprise, given that is has been the priority of America’s elites for over a century to reverse the gains of The Enlightenment.

To understand how this tragic turn of affairs has come about, we must first assess the constituency of the modern American left, which we may describe as a criminal syndicate of megalomaniacs, casuists, and an endlessly expanding list of victim clientele.

Progressives purport to break down social hierarchy and thereby usher forth a never-before-seen utopian world order; but inevitably their anti-institutional agenda produces a stranglehold on the body politic, leading ironically to social ossification into the most primitive of class structures: A pyramid of power elites, a secular priesthood (sophists and entertainers), apparatchiks, and the great unwashed masses.

For those familiar with history, the parallels between the culmination of the leftist program and the pinnacle of stratified societies in ancient civilizations are too unmistakable to miss.

It should be noted that although America’s road to serfdom began in earnest under Bush’s presidency, during which the squealing Democrats lined up like pigs with their curly-q tails in tow to back all manner of statist excess: the Patriot Act, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (for all intents and purposes, the Congress abrogated its responsibility to declare war), as well as the massive expansion of Medicare.

The presidency of Obama built upon Bush’s police state infrastructure and meanwhile institutionalized a permanent state of economic chaos. The whiff of totalitarian ambition is now unmistakable.

It is crucial to recognize that the reason the United States is being transformed into a neofeudal society is not due to any particular party, but due to the fact that we are swimming in the modern manifestations of primitive ideology: Mysticism and socialism.

What the world is currently experiencing, threatening the upheaval of freedom in the West, and thus on the entire planet, is a convergence of European etatism and American welfare statism. What is the basis of this convergence, and to what condition of humanity is it leading?

Unbeknown to the majority of people, who are disposed to ignoring how ideas rule their lives, the source of the universal drive to construct the all-powerful State is political ideology. Essentially, it can be summed up as the left’s non-conscientious program to erase The Enlightenment.

To appreciate the significance of such a program we must turn to the history of ideas, and how certain philosophies reflect and drive specific kinds of politics. Recognizing first that the American and European political experiences are quite different, we must proceed along two tracts.

First, Europe. We begin with The Enlightenment, the political philosophical movement best encapsulated by John Locke, but abutted by Scottish Enlightenment philosophers such as Adam Smith, David Hume, and Adam Ferguson.

Locke disintegrated the premises of the “Divine Right” of kings by invoking rational argumentation and Christianity itself. Locke would inspire such American revolutionists as Thomas Paine and Thomas Jefferson, whose thoughts represent key touchstones connecting the European and American political experiences.

Briefly following the American Revolution, the French undertook their own program to rid themselves of the ancien régime. Unfortunately for France and the whole of Europe following, the Frenchmen did not take seriously the entirety of the tripartite schema of liberté, égalité, fraternité,” which conflated ‘liberty’ with ‘libertine.’ The democratic fervor in France, which dispensed of the monarchy of King Louis XVI, was whipped up into the Great Terror, followed by the Thermidorean reaction against the Jacobins, ushering in the emperor Bonaparte. The bloody turn of events proceeded as the American Founders familiar with the cautions of Edmund Burke might have foreseen, save the participant in the French Revolution Thomas Paine.

The Prussians, aghast at the brutal effectiveness of the nationalistic French under Bonaparte, were driven even further along in their proto-nationalistic impulses by romanticism and the thinking of the statist-collectivist Hegel. Hegel’s vision of the unity of the universal in the particular, and the particular in the universal, is the essential drive of all totalitarian regimes.

Multi-culturalism, diversity, and tolerance under the rubric of submission to the state is the perfect Americanized expression of this Hegelian ideal. We must only briefly mention the German philosopher’s pupil Karl Marx in order to more fully appreciate the significance of Hegelian thought in both American and European history.

Karl Marx’s materialist dialectics represented the perfect ideological canon to destroy not just capitalism, but all economics based on reality (based on the assumption of scarcity, viz.). Marxism’s assertion that change is synthetic wars against reason itself, and the Aristotelian assumptions that underpin Western notions of causality. Marx’s philosophy, if taken seriously, destroys social orders, leading ineluctably and inevitably to dictatorship.

Back to Hegel. Today’s left, not just in Europe but in America, are not followers of Marx in the pure sense, though they instrumentalize Marxian concepts such as class warfare, but are more driven to the Idealism of Hegel. Fusing Hegel with the nihilism of Nietszche, the categorical imperative of Kant, and the pragmatism of William James and John Dewey, today’s New Left carries out a program of social re-engineering using lies, myths, and “critical theory.”

Critical theory, developed by the Frankfurt School of neomarxists, is the deconstructive program that asserts no positive remedy for mankind except to destroy capitalism, whose assumption of private property is the lynchpin that undergirds the individual freedoms espoused by The Enlightenment.

The Frankfurt School was led most notably by Theodore Adorno, who reworked Marxian radicalism into a more Hegelian idealist program and then set up the Institute for Social Research at Columbia University. Adorno and his colleage Max Horkheimer would go on to write The Dialectic of Enlightenment, a critique of The Enlightenment that is the core text of Critical Theory.

Other European neomarxists, such as Gyorgy Lukacs and Antonio Gramsci, would inspire the New Left in America. Saul Alinsky, one such neomarxist who taught the “radical pragmatists” in his charge that the ends justify the means, changed the attitude of leftists towards power and exhorted them to seize it at all costs. And that is precisely what the self-styled Alinsky followers Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton did.

The Marxist redistributive policies of Europe are leading it inexorably to their nadir. The last bastions of fairly free economies are descending along their rosy welfare-paved paths and converging towards their inevitable immolative ends. Their spectacularly ugly fates will be partly due to unfavorable demographics and partly due to quixotic social welfare schemes that defy human nature. Men do not seek out punishment for achievement, but they will take the road of least resistance to failure if subsidized by the state; and particularly if cheered on the entire way by the anti-competitive elites who cynically and gleefully wield its monopoly of coercion.

The trajectory of Europe is the vision of America’s future: The triumph of the state, and the return of the pre-modern, arbitrary rule of self-appointed elites, shameless fawned upon by sycophantic intellectuals. And beneath their petty heights of arrogance and condescension, shuffle the great, brooding underclass of humanity — perpetually in need and perpetually restrained from improving its own lot.

Note: Published originally at American Thinker

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