333 “Socialism Sucks”

It’s increasingly evident that many Americans now embrace socialism.  A 2016 “Harvard survey found that a third of eighteen- to twenty-nine-year-olds supported it,” and another survey “reported that millennials supported socialism over any other economic system.”  They apparently favor what David Horowitz calls “morally-sanctioned theft” and are either unaware of or deliberately deny the appalling reality of socialism’s genocidal history.  Add to this the amazing left-turn of the current Democrat Party, now espousing a Sanders-style socialistic agenda!  So it behooves us who treasure freedom to better understand what awaits us should we follow the pattern discernible in the “unfree world” examined by two Texas economists.  Having established themselves as bona fide academicians by publishing scholarly articles and books, Robert Lawson (a professor at Southern Methodist University) and Benjamin Powell (a professor at Texas Tech University), decided to take a light-hearted (anecdote-studded) but deeply serious (data-laden) tour of socialist utopias to experience first-hand their reality.  This resulted in Lawson’s Socialism Sucks: Two Economists Drink Their Way Through the Unfree World (Washington:  Regency Publishing, Kindle edition, c. 2019).   Lawson and Powell launched their travels in Sweden, a allegedly “socialist country” which “is not a socialist country.”  Certainly there are generous welfare and entitlement programs, but that does not make a country socialist, since our economists insist the abolition of private property and a state-owned means of production are necessary components of a truly socialist regime.  In time they also visited China and concluded that it too is not economically socialistic (although it is, for sure, politically dictatorial).  In fact, “China’s economic development since 1978 is one of the greatest successes of its kind in human history” (#939).  It is, they concluded, a “fake socialism.”  

So they decided to visit three countries that remain starkly socialist:  Venezuela, Cuba, and North Korea.  In Venezuela they encountered a “democratic socialism” which has almost overnight plunged from prosperity to poverty.  “At least until recently, it was the model that Western intellectuals admired and held up for emulation as a socialist paradise.  Now things are falling apart, but the apologists still insist the country’s problems have nothing to do with socialism” (#203).  Hugo Chávez “won the 1998 presidential election” promising to eliminate economic injustices and securing  much popular support.  Then (following the model of Stalin and Mao) he “confiscated more than ten million acres of private farmland” which led to a 60 percent collapse of food production and the skyrocketing of food prices.  Consequently:  “Venezuelans lost an average of twenty-four pounds in 2017.  Venezuela’s socialist policies are literally starving the country” (#338).  Of the 800,000 booming businesses in 1998, only 230,000 were afloat in 2016.  In fact, everywhere the authors looked in Venezuela they found suffering and sorrow—the dividends of little more than a decade of the “democratic Socialism” so praised by “useful idiots” such as Sean Penn, Oliver Stone, Michael Moore, and Bernie Sanders.  

From there Lawson and Powell went to Cuba to study a “subsistence socialism” that has persisted under the Castro brothers for 60 years.  Before the 1959 “revolution, Cuba had a thriving urban middle class, along with widespread rural poverty” (#455).  Fidel Castro promised to build a utopia featuring prosperity and equality.  Instead, he imposed poverty and dictatorial oppression.  Sitting in a Havana’s Hotel Tritón they saw its “decaying edifice” as “a crumbling tribute to Cuba’s central-planning problems.”  No longer subsidized by the Soviet Union, Cuban authorities eliminated funding for the hotel and it “was rotting, inside and out.  And nobody cared because nobody owned it.”  Almost immediately Lawson said:   “‘This place sucks.’  ‘Socialism sucks,’ said Bob as he drained his beer” (#475).  Thus they found a title for their book!  Researching by walking about the city, they became increasingly sad as they saw how poorly a state-run economy functions.  The food in restaurants was tasteless (ironically, “Cuban cuisine is excellent—just not when it’s served in Cuba”), the buildings were decaying, and the people (70 percent of whom work for the state and get twenty-five dollars a month) were pitifully poor.  

But Cubans are not as poor as North Koreans!  Our economists next flew to Seoul, South Korea, and found that the “Korean peninsula is a rare natural experiment where capitalism and socialism can be compared side by side.  The comparison is particularly informative because North and South Korea share a common history, language, culture, and, before they split, level of economic development.  . . . .  At the end of World War II, North Korea had about 80 percent of Korea’s industry, 90 percent of its electrical power, and 75 percent of its mines” (#761).  Following the war and the division of the peninsula, GDP per capita was basically the same.  Yet today South Korea is an economic powerhouse.  Seoul’s “economic output ranks it fourth in the world among metropolitan areas (behind Tokyo, New York, and Los Angeles)” (#780).  But thirty-five miles to the north there’s an entirely different country, North Korea.  Lawson and Powell were not allowed to cross the border, but they learned that the people earned little more than $1000 a year and in the 1990s “up to three million North Koreans died of starvation and related diseases” (#831).  Nothing better proves the fundamental goodness of free enterprise than the dramatic contrast between the two Koreas.

Concluding their journeys, our two freedom-loving economists visited “hungover socialisms” in Russia and Ukraine, witnessing the ravages resulting from Marx’s flawed theories.   Standing near a statue of him in Moscow, “Bob said, ‘I bet there’s never been a guy who has been so wrong about every major thing he wrote about and who still has as many followers as Marx’ (#1046).  Bob’s right.  Profits don’t represent exploitation, because the labor theory of value is wrong.  Instead, at least in a free market, profits represent created value.  Capitalism can’t be the cause of alienation because workers inevitably do better under capitalism than under socialism, and market prices provide a higher standard of living and more economic opportunity.  Finally, industries haven’t become more concentrated and wages haven’t been pushed down under capitalism.  Instead, capitalism has been the engine of prosperity, innovation, new industries, and rising wages, while socialist economies have stagnated or even regressed. ‘Yeah, there’s only one great Marx,’ I said. ‘Groucho.’  Groucho’s definition of politics is Marxism in a nutshell:  “Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly, and applying the wrong remedies”’” (#1053).  In Russia and Ukraine, those “wrong remedies” resulted in millions of deaths as Lenin and Stalin imposed their version of “scientific socialism,” including the savage liquidation of the Cossacks and Kulaks and others resisting the imposition of a communal paradise.  Lawson and Powell’s loathing for Lenin and Stalin oozes from every page.  So too they loath Walter Duranty, the New York Times reporter who lied on their behalf, garnering for himself a Pulitzer Prize, claiming that rumors of famine in Ukraine was “mostly bunk” and penning “columns with titles like ‘Soviet Is Winning Faith of Peasants,’ ‘Members Enriched in Soviet Commune,’ and ‘Abundance Found in North Caucasus’” (#1139). 

The bright exception to the general malaise in the former USSR is the tiny republic of Georgia (Stalin’s birthplace), where a “new capitalism” has virtually overnight (following the 2003 “Rose Revolution”) generated prosperity.  “I [Bob] love Georgia—the people, the food, the beer, the wine, and of course the economic reforms that have taken a Soviet backwater and given it new life” (#1244).  Reformers eliminated many superfluous government workers—reducing the Ministry of Agriculture from 4,374 to 600, Tbilisi City Hall employees from 2,500 to 800, the Ministry of Environmental Protection from 5,000 to 1,700.  In 2004 they sold government-owned factories, hospitals, and apartments—“everything was for sale except Georgia’s honor.”  In that year “Georgia ranked fifty-sixth on the economic freedom index.  In the 2017 edition of the index, Georgia ranked eighth in the entire world, ahead of the eleventh-ranked United States” (#1330).  The capital city, Tbilisi, “has better-paved streets than Dallas. The once dark city now gleams like Paris at night. Tourists come from all over Europe and the Middle East to enjoy Georgia’s famous food, wine, and other attractions, including . . . the redeveloped medieval section of town with its quaint shops and hip restaurants” (#1338). 

Returning to the United States, Lawson and Powell “infiltrated” a 2018 convention of American socialists.   “After traveling the unfree world and witnessing the economic stagnation, starvation, poverty, and political tyranny imposed by socialist regimes, Bob and I came to the Socialism Conference to answer our own question:  How can so many Americans, particularly millennials, view socialism so favorably?  We wanted to hear what these self-described young socialists had to say, and there were plenty of millennials to ask” (#1438).  But when asked they had only the haziest notion of what they supported!  If they actually knew that socialism calls for the abolition of private property and government controlling the means of production they talked little about it.  Instead, they relished the exhilaration of shouting slogans, such as “Free abortion on demand.  We can do it.  Yes, we can.”  Abortion rights and environmental activism seemed to be the real hot button issues at the conference, and this largely explains why so many young people were attending.  When speakers deigned to mention failing socialist states like, they inevitably said they weren’t “real” socialisms.  “When socialists, democratic and otherwise, held up Venezuela as a great socialist experiment in the 2000s, the message was, ‘See, we told you so; socialism works!’  But when the failure happened, the message changed to, ‘No, wait—that’s not real socialism!’” (#1532).   

But our two economists have seen “real socialism” in various parts of the world, and they believe no one who thinks honestly and reasons clearly could support a system which inevitably fails and causes horrendous human suffering.  

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One of the finest essayists currently writing English is Theodore Dalrymple (the pen name of Anthony Daniels), a psychiatrist who has traveled widely and worked in medical facilities and prisons in some of the most impoverished realms of Africa and England.  Ever empathetic with the poorest of the poor, he writes to illuminate various social ills and enlist the reader’s concern.  Consequently, in The Wilder Shores of Marx: Journeys in a Vanishing World (Monday Books, Kindle Edition, c. 2012; first published in 1991), he took a tour of formerly-communist lands devastated by a singularly pernicious ideology, Marxism.  “Individually unimportant as the countries might be in world history, collectively they tell us much about one of the central political currents of the twentieth century” (#179).  Visiting some of “the peripheral countries of the communist world, then in the process of dissolution,” he determined “to pre-empt the nostalgia for what was an anti-human system in the likely event that the transition to something more normal would be difficult and unsatisfactory.  Apart from the massacres, deaths and famines for which communism was responsible, the worst thing about the system was the official lying:  that is to say the lying in which everyone was forced to take part, by repetition, assent or failure to contradict” (#151).  So he seeks to to simply tell the truth—to tell it as it was.  

Early in his life Dalrymple had studied and interacted with several young socialists, and he saw that the “fons et origo” of the “appeal to intellectuals” is “snobbery.  Left to themselves, people invariably display bad taste (a crime for which Lukacs, the Hungarian Marxist luminary who was also a murderer, thought they should be punished).  Therefore, they must not be left to themselves” (#3233).  Elite intellectuals must guide the masses, ruling (whether in economics or culture) by decrees!  “It didn’t take me long to conclude that communism was dismal, and that the words of Marx and Lenin betrayed an infinite contempt for men as they were, for their aspirations, their joys and sorrows, their inconsistencies, their innermost feelings, their achievements and failings.  Below the surface of their compassion for the poor seethed the molten lava of their hatred, which they had not enough self-knowledge to recognize.  I make no claim, therefore, to have travelled in a neutral frame of mind.  But neutrality is not a precondition of truth, which itself is not necessarily the mean between two extremes.  One does not expect neutrality of someone investigating Nazism, and would be appalled if he affected it;  why, then, expect it of someone investigating a different, but longer-lasting, evil?” (#198).  

Marx once wrote:  “Communism begins where atheism begins,” so when Dalrymple visited Albania and encountered an aggressively atheistic state he declared:   “Where religion is compulsory, I am an atheist; but where religion is forbidden, I am a believer.”  All public worship ceased in Albania in 1967, when churches and mosques were closed.  The regime was following Marx’s malice, implemented by Lenin, who declared:  “‘. . . any religious idea, any idea of god at all, any flirtation even with a god, is the most unutterable foulness . . .   It is the most dangerous foulness, the most shameful ‘infection’” (#226).  To gain access to the country Dalrymple joined a group of English tourists (most of them devout socialists), who were assigned a hotel in the nation’s capital, Tirana.  Walking about the city streets, he noted that “not even the firmest of Enver Hoxha’s partisans would maintain that Tirana is an exciting or vibrant city, but it is safe” (#392).  Safe, but dead!  As dead as the innumerable number of museums, inevitably devoted to the dictator Hoxha and the nation’s grandeur, the tour guides insisted the group visit.  Thereafter, “the very idea of a museum induced in me a faint sensation of nausea – still I cannot enter one without being overcome momentarily by a feeling of profound gloom” (#437).  He left one of these museums, “this cathedral of untruth, with a strange knot in my stomach.  The idea that Hoxha should have gone to his grave triumphant filled me with rage.  I felt I should have screamed ‘Lies, lies, lies!’ and trampled on the red carpet leading to his statue, just to let everyone know that I, at any rate, did not acquiesce in this elevation of mendacity to the status of religion” (#556).  

Following his trip to Albania Dalrymple joined a British delegation attending the World Festival of Youth and Students in Pyongyang, North Korea, where “thousands of young people” assembled “to dance, sing and denounce the United States.  The festivals, which last two weeks, are the Olympics of propaganda” (#914).  Other than himself the delegation consisted of English socialists, most of whom identified with various victimized groups and effusively aired their grievances.  They’d locked into an identity “that obviated the need for consideration of others.  Persecution, real or imagined, was sufficient warrant for the rightness of their behaviour.  The trouble was, of course, that the majority of the delegates considered themselves persecuted, whether as women, members of splinter communist parties, vegetarians, homosexuals, Irish by descent, proletarians, immigrants, or any combination of these.  Hence almost everyone acted more-persecuted-than-thou” (#939).  Needless to say, Dalrymple found his companions difficult to stomach and often disgusting!  But in Korea they suddenly became a “people of consequence,” rightly esteemed for their “manifest talents” (#957).

The delegates were allowed to see nothing but what the regime prescribed.  Thus they could see modern highways without automobiles.  They were marched through museums celebrating the Great Leader.  But beneath the veneer of grandeur Dalrymple “rapidly became convinced – absolutely and unshakeably convinced – that one day stories would emerge from North Korea that would stun the world, of cruelties equal to or surpassing those of Kolyma and the White Sea Canal in Stalin’s time” (#1108).  He was in fact face-to-face with one of the most inhumane nations ever established.  In due time the delegates joined a great throng assembled in a stadium seating 150,000 to witness a parade of the representatives from the world’s nations.  In one section of the stadium 20,000 Korean children with colored cards created a variety of portraits and slogans.  The children, Dalrymple learned, had not attended school for six months in order to daily practicing these routines!  Rather than being impressed Dalrymple was angered:  “Here was a perfect demonstration of Man as a means and not an end; of people as tiny cogs in an all-embracing machine” (#1308).  

When at last Kim Il Sung (“the Great Leader”) appeared “a kind of controlled pandemonium broke out instantaneously all around the stadium” (#1355).  Since only 15,000 of the attendees were foreigners, the stadium was basically packed with Koreans following orders, and Dalrymple “recalled a passage from Vaclav Havel:  ‘Each person somehow succumbs to a profane trivialisation of his or her inherent humanity . . .   In everyone there is some willingness to merge with the anonymous crowd and to flow comfortably along with it down the river of pseudo-life.  This is much more than a simple conflict between two identities.  It is something far worse: it is a challenge to the very notion of identity itself’” (#1318).  At that moment Dalrymple determined to stay singularly seated, “even if I were to be threatened with torture or death itself.  I was so appalled by the sight and sound of 200,000 men and women worshipping a fellow mortal, totally abdicating their humanity, that I do not think I am exaggerating when I say I should rather have died than assent to this monstrous evil by standing (my mother was a refugee from Nazi Germany)” (#1361).  Clearly he had “glimpsed the terror that underscores the tombstone orderliness of North Korea” (#1503).  And he could hardly wait to escape the prison of Kim Il Sung’s Democratic Republic of North Korea.

Subsequently Dalrymple visited Romania, Vietnam, and Cuba.  Inevitably he found the same physical drabness and societal decay characteristic of socialist nations.  Once “magnificent” cities, such as Bucharest or Havana, “the pearl of centuries of exploitation, is an inhabited ruin; the inhabitants are like a wandering tribe that has found the deserted metropolis of a but dead civilisation and decided to make it home” (#3270).  Shortages of virtually everything weighed down the people.  Totalitarians inevitably impose shortages, for  the “perpetual queuing for the bare necessities of life is the best guarantee against subversion” (#3414).  People were depressed.  Whenever he could talk privately with persons who knew they would not be reported to the authorities, he found deep dissatisfaction with anything socialistic.  He asked a Vietnamese man whether he thought Ho Chi Minh had deceived the people—and received an emphatic “Yes!”  The incessant state propaganda, the omnipresent quotations promoting either the Great Leader or his agenda, he came to see, was not designed to persuade but to humiliate.  “From this point of view, propaganda should not approximate to the truth as closely as possible:  on the contrary, it should do as much violence to it as possible.  For by endlessly asserting what is patently untrue, by making such untruth ubiquitous and unavoidable, and finally by insisting that everyone publicly acquiesce in it, the regime displays its power and reduces individuals to nullities” (#2041).  So too history must be destroyed.  “To put an end to the past: to begin again, the dream of adolescent revolutionaries everywhere” (#3990).  George “Orwell grasped intuitively but with astonishing precision the importance to a totalitarian regime of control over the past” (#2047).  So whether reporting the news or writing history, truth is irrelevant, for it “does not depend on correspondence to reality; it depends merely on who propounds it, and when” (#2093).  

In the book’s “Afterword,” Dalrymple scoffs at the utopian fantasies of socialists everywhere.  In fact:  “It was never a utopia, of course. The extraordinary deadness of communist countries, detectable even at their airports, is simply the deadness of communist prose transferred to life itself.  The schemes of communist dictators to reform the whole of humanity, to eradicate all vestiges of the past, to build a new world with no connection to the old, are not the whims of despots made mad by the exercise of arbitrary power, but the natural outcome of too credulous a belief in a philosophy which is simple, arrogant, vituperative and wrong.  When men reach power who believe that freedom is the recognition of necessity, is it any surprise that tyranny ensues?” (#4077). 

332 “Stripping the Altars”–The Anglican Reformation

Growing up in the Church of the Nazarene I learned we were Wesleyans—a theological position demonstrably different from both Catholicism and Calvinism.  In time I also learned that John Wesley was, throughout his life, a priest in the Church of England, so Nazarenes derive their heritage not from Luther and Calvin but from the church brought into being by King Henry VIII in the 1530s.  In graduate school I studied ancient and medieval history, but my knowledge of the English Reformation was largely derived from textbooks—and they generally cast a positive light on the English Reformation and its established Protestant church.  However, my understanding of that era was significantly challenged and changed by reading Eamon Duffy’s deeply-informative reassessment of Reformation historiography:   The Stripping of the Altars:  Traditional Religion in England 1400-1580 (New Haven:  Yale University Press, c. 1992).  Born in Ireland and a “cradle Catholic,” Duffy is a professor of history at Cambridge University, and he describes (drawing almost exclusively from primary sources) and illustrates (providing extensive photographs) the rich and vibrant religious life in late Medieval England before the Reformation—or what is more accurately labeled the “Anglican Schism.”  The bulk of the book is devoted to describing the laity’s religious life in the late Medieval period, whereas the final third of the book is devoted to the changes wrought in the church by Henry VIII and his children.  It is, as Jack Scarisbrick said:  “A mighty and momentous book . . . which re-orders one’s thinking about much of England’s religious past.”  

“It is the contention of the first part of the book,” Duffy writes, “that late medieval Catholicism exerted an enormously strong, diverse, and vigorous hold over the imagination and the loyalty of the people up to the very moment of Reformation.  Traditional religion had about it no particular marks of exhaustion or decay, and indeed in the whole host of ways, from the multiplication of vernacular religious books to adaptations within the national and regional cult of the saints, was showing itself well able to meet new needs and new conditions” (p. 4).  Documenting the various realms of religious activity—liturgical practices, mass attendance, seasonal feasts, pilgrimages, educational materials, devotional materials and practices, corporal and spiritual acts of mercy, etc.—Duffy shows how surprisingly literate and spiritually satisfied were these Medieval English believers.  

Consider, for example, the many “prayers of late medieval English men and women” which survive “in huge numbers, jotted in the margins or flyleaves of books, collected into professionally commissioned or home-made prayer-rolls, devotional manuals, and commonplace books, all gathered into the primers or Books of Hours (Horae) [scriptural prayer books], which by the eve of the Reformation were being produced in multiple editions in thousands, in formats ranging from the sumptuous to the skimpy, and varying in price from pounds to a few pence” (p. 209).  Remarkably, most all of these primers were written in Latin, indicating how widely it was used and understood by large numbers of laymen.  Handwritten entries in these primers indicated “a minimal competence” in both English and Latin and show “a wide spectrum of lay people using and supplementing the Latin devotions of the primers with familiarity and freedom” (p. 225).  

This flourishing spirituality ended abruptly in the 1530s when the “violent disruption” of Henry’s Reformation (the “Henrician religious revolution” as Duffy terms it) quickly and effectively demolished “traditional religion” in England.  Though Henry VIII stoutly denounced Luther’s reformation in its first decade, retaining an allegiance to Catholic liturgy and (to a degree) Catholic doctrine, his determination to divorce his first wife (Catherine) and marry his mistress (Anne Boleyn) led him to create a new church, the “Church of England,” with himself as head.  From that position he appointed utterly amoral men, most notably Thomas Cromwell, to carry out his edicts, including the rapid dismantling of hundreds of monasteries that were a vital part of the Catholic world.  Monastic lands were thence given to powerful nobles, supporters of the king, who thenceforth staunchly supported the revolution and its dividends.  Churches, too, were despoiled, losing great quantities of gold and silver reliquaries, jewels and tapestries—anything of monetary value.  Revealingly, when a devout man entered the despoiled shrine of Our Lady of Worcester, he lamented:  “‘Lady, art thou stripped now?  I have seen the day that as clean men hath been stripped at a pair gallows as were they that stripped thee’” (p. 403).  Within a handful of years, Henry’s “stripping of the altars” eliminating 1000 years of English piety and worship.  

With Cromwell’s “Injunctions” in 1536 and 1538, the radical dimensions of the Henrician revolution became clear.  Popular devotional practices, including processions, pilgrimages, lighting candles before saints’ statues, praying for the dead, reciting the rosary, were outlawed.  Even the shrine of St Thomas Becket in Canterbury was pillaged and his bones scattered.  Pilloried as “a maintainer of the enormities of the Bishop of Rome, and a rebel against the King,” he was declared a persona non grata and his name was “to be erased from all liturgical books and his Office, antiphons, and collects to be said no more” (p. 412).  But then, in 1539, a scant five years after his divorce, the king paused the process and promulgated the Act of Six Articles, which “marked a decisive turning-point for the progress of radical Protestantism” (p. 424) as he tried to reverse some of Cromwell’s endeavors.  Indeed, Cromwell himself would soon fall from favor and lose his head to the busy executioner.  Many traditional ceremonies and devotional practices were restored to favor, and the “unauthorized reading of the scriptures”—especially Tyndall’s New Testament— was forbidden since they threatened to undermine royal authority.  

In the 1540s Thomas Cranmer replaced Thomas Cromwell as Henry’s chief overseer of the reformation.  Skillfully trimming to the wind, Cranmer managed to stay in the king’s good graces while continuing to implement certain aspects of his own radical Protestant agenda.  Whereas Cromwell had employed violence in the extreme, Cranmer (a gifted scholar) relied on education and ecclesiastical pressure, setting forth new primers for devotions and prescribing revised liturgies for the Church of England.  When Henry VIII died in 1547 his nine-year-old son, Edward VI, succeeded him.  Edward would be clay in the hands of a “Council” (powerful nobles who had been enriched by the dissolution of church properties), which supported Cranmer as he moved quickly to advance the reformers’ iconoclastic agenda—destroying, for example, images in stained glass church windows as well as statues in the walls.  Even images and pictures in private homes were outlawed.  He composed and issued a Book of Homilies and demanded they be read every Sunday in every church.  In 1549 Cranmer issued a prayer-book which sought “to transform lay experience of the Mass, and in the process eliminated almost everything that had till then been central to lay Eucharistic piety” (p. 464).  In 1553 he issued his epochal Book of Common Prayer and make clear his intent “to break once and for all with the Catholic past, and to leave nothing in the official worship of the Church of England which could provide a toehold for traditional ways of thinking about the sacred” (p. 473).  

Young Edward died in 1553 and his half-sister Mary succeeded him.  As the daughter of Henry’s first wife, Catherine, she was quite like her mother—a kindly, devout Catholic.  And she sought to bring England back to the Catholic fold, a move which was widely welcomed throughout the countryside.  (Inasmuch as Duffy has written a treatise on her which I’ll review a bit later, I’ll not deal with the “Marian restoration” here.)  Following Mary’s death in 1558, her half-sister Elizabeth (Anne Boleyn’s daughter) succeeded her as Queen of the realm.  Since she was considered illegitimate by the Roman Catholic Church and thus ineligible to rule, Elizabeth naturally re-imposed an Henrician/Edwardian Protestantism upon England, issuing an Act of Uniformity in 1559 that abolished the Mass and required identical rites in all parishes.  She moved decisively to control all aspects of religious life.  

Throughout these tumultuous decades, Duffy says:  “The picture that emerges from them is unmistakably that of a slow and reluctant conformity imposed from above, with little or no evidence of popular enthusiasm for or commitment to the process of reform” (p 573).  Many rebellions and widespread resistance showed the people’s attachment to the traditional religion, but the ruthlessness with which Henry, Edward, and Elizabeth responded finally established the new church throughout England.  By the 1570s it was clear that the Church of England had become not only the established church but the accepted authority now shaping religious life.  “But for most of the first Elizabethan adult generation,” Duffy concludes,” Reformation was a stripping away of familiar and beloved observances, the destruction of a vast and resonant world of symbols which, despite the denials of the proponents of the new Gospel, they both understood and controlled.  The people of Tudor England were, by and large, no spartans, no saints, but by the same token they were no reformers.  They knew themselves to be mercenary, worldly, weak, and they looked to religion, the old or the new, to pardon these vices, not to reform them” (p. 591).  

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More than a decade after publishing The Stripping of the Altars, wherein he noted that there was no reliable study of Mary Tudor, Eamon Duffy sought to rectify the deficit by writing Fires of Faith:  Catholic England under Mary Tudor (New Haven:  Yale University Press, c. 2013).  Rather recently “a good deal of scholarly work” has led historians to move away from the “Bloody Mary” epithet and judge her more positively.  In 1553 the deeply Catholic queen inherited a church deeply wounded by the “reforming” endeavors of her father and half-brother.  Their regimes “had bulldozed away centuries of devotional elaboration, and had stripped bare the cathedrals and parish churches of England.  The most devastating impact had probably been in music, since the heavy emphasis of reformed protestantism on the intelligibility of the written or spoken word in worship left no place for Latin word-setting and elaborate polyphony.  . . . .  But, after music, it was architecture and its attendant arts—paintings, statuary, stained glass—that suffered most.  Virtually all the altars had been pulled down, their consecrated table-slabs or mensal often deliberately broken up, or profaned by use” in various construction projects (pp. 3-4).  Desperate for money, Edward’s government had “carried through the largest government confiscation of local property in English history” (p. 4).  

Queen Mary and Cardinal Reginald Pole moved to undo all this and make England Catholic again.  Taking issue with many historians, Duffy insists their endeavors were (briefly) effective examples of the Counter-Reformation, restoring the ancient Catholic faith in many contested places in Europe.  Cardinal Pole, especially, had a vision and commitment that, had Mary reigned longer, might well have accomplished their goals.  Having played a prominent role in the initial sessions of the Council of Trent, Cardinal Pole returned to his native land following Mary’s accession to the throne.  And he was, Duffy says, “in charge” of the movement to make England Catholic again.  Addressing Parliament in 1554, Pole made a “remarkable speech” that endeavored to “reconcile England to the Holy See” (p. 43).  He condemned the overturning of traditional religion and the parallel erosion of civic justice, lamenting:  “‘Neither was any man so sure of his goodes and possessions, but he stood continually in abject danger and hazard of his life too’, and ‘the best sorte, and the most innocente’ had the most to fear” (p. 44).  To Duffy, “Pole’s long-pondered analysis of the English reformation, indeed of the whole sweep of English religious history, provided a rationale for theological renewal that was stark, clear and uncompromising, and that endorsed the conservative instincts of the majority of the population, while shaking itself free of the intellectual and moral compromises of Henry’s church” (p. 46).  Following Pole’s intellectual guidance, the clergy under Mary largely returned to the ancient Catholic traditions.  

They were aided by a number of pro-Catholic literary works that clearly emphasized “the real presence of Christ in the eucharist and the doctrine of the sacrifice of the Mass; the spiritual primacy of the pope; the antiquity, unity and holiness of the visible catholic church, embodied in European Christendom generally, and specifically in the restored church of England; the sold authority of the church to interpret scripture; the value of penance and good works for salvation; the freedom of the human will” (p. 62).  Conversely, they decried much of the Reformation, including:  “the novelty, contradictions and confusions of protestant teaching; the lust, licentiousness and avarice of its founding fathers, from Luther to Henry VIII; the arrogance and ignorance of rank-and-file protestant believers; the singularity and lack of charity in their withdrawal from the parish and its ceremonial round; and the wedge that protestantism drove between its followers and the rest of society” (p. 62).  

But the Marian counter-reformation entailed force as well as persuasion and led to the execution (mainly by burning) of 284 Protestants.  Given the prominence of this phenomenon in the public mind, Duffy devotes a significant, deeply-detailed section of his book to it.  These were the men and women celebrated in John Foxe’s famous and thoroughly polemical Actes and Monuments (popularly known as The Book of Martyrs) and are the main reason for labeling the queen “Bloody Mary.”  In fact, her father, step-brother, and half-sister executed dissidents and “heretics” in equal numbers, for religious persecution was widely practiced in that era and was endorsed by eminent Protestants such as Thomas Cranmer and esteemed Catholics, including Cardinal Pole.  In fairness to Pole, he energetically tried to “convert rather than punish heretics.”  But when necessary, he thought capital punishment acceptable.  One of the most prominent Protestants, the Duke of Northumberland, who’d helped Edward VI pursue his radical agenda, renounced on the scaffold his earlier views and “attributed the ruin of England and his own corruption to the heresy into which the country had been led” for the past 16 years “‘by seditious preachers and teachers of new doctrine.  He called on those present ‘to remember the ould learning’ and return to the faith and unity of the catholic church” (p. 88).  

Most of the “martyrs,” however, died courageously, staunchly defending their reformation views.  Bishops Ridley and Latimer were, in John Foxe’s view, the finest exemplars of their faith, with Latimer famously saying:  “‘Be of good comfort master Ridley, and play the man:  we shall this day light such a candle by Gods grace in England, as (I trust) shall never be put out’” (p. 155).  Ever the diligent researcher, Duffy concludes this speech was a “pure invention, added by Foxe in the 1570” edition of his book.  But it certainly entered the hagiography of Reformation lore and, to a degree at least, certifies the courage and commitment of the dying faithful.  Less resolute than Ridley and Latimer, Archbishop Thomas Cranmer first renounced his reformed beliefs but then recovered them shortly before his execution, holding his hand in the fire to signify his repudiation of his earlier recantation.  

Within five years the Marian counter-reformation, by mixing persuasion and force, had largely succeeded, Duffy says, and was widely embraced throughout the realm, for Duffy contends that “the spirit of the counter-reformation was in fact alive and well in Marian England” (p. 190).  Had Mary lived England may very well have returned to the Catholic fold.  Yet though England returned to the Reformation world, Duffy thinks the work of Queen Mary and Cardinal Pole laid out the agenda for a counter-reformation that famously succeeded in many European lands.  Their Catholic “reform programme, embodied in the published acts of Pole’s synod, would help shape one of Trent’s most momentous innovation—the seminary.  The revived populism that was Pole’s legacy was the inspiration for what can fairly be described as the heroic stand made by those most unexpected heroes, the bishops and dignitaries of the English church.  Marian catholicism inspired the generation of ardent activists who would provide Elizabethan catholicism with its core convictions, its best writers, its most characteristic institutions and its martyrs.  It set adrift in mainland Europe a diaspora of talented academics and administrators whose interest and convictions merged seamlessly into those wide movements for reform that we call the counter-reformation, and who would themselves contribute to its creative ferment.  The Latin term ‘Inventio’ is a very rich one:  it carries the meanings to devise or create, as well as to find or discover.  In  both senses, the Marian church ‘invented’ the counter-reformation” (p. 207).  

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Historians, whenever possible, endeavor to thoroughly research “primary sources” when probing the past.  Providing much valuable first-hand information on the English Reformation is Nicolas Sander’s The Rise and Growth of the Anglican Schism (Rockford, IL:  Tan Books and Publishers, c. 1988), first published in Latin in 1588.  The book’s English editor says it is “the earliest and most trustworthy account which we possess of the great changes in Church and State that were wrought in the reign of Henry VIII,” and it became the primary source for Roman Catholic historians writing about the period.  An English priest, born to a distinguished family, and educated at Oxford during King Edward VI’s reign, Sander emerged under Queen Mary as an expert in canon law and enjoyed the respect and support of the Catholics trying to reclaim England for the ancient faith.  When Elizabeth came to power he sought refuge on the Continent and spent most of his remaining days in exile, working to reestablish the Catholic faith in his native land.  

He began his treatise by noting that:  “The Britons are said to have been first converted to the faith of Christ by Joseph of Arimathia, then confirmed therein by Eleutherus, the Roman Pontiff” in the second century.  Thus for precisely 1000 years “none other than the Roman Catholic faith prevailed in England” before King Henry VIII established his own Church with himself as a Protestant Pope.  Marrying his deceased brother Arthur’s wife Catherine in 1509, Henry wed a saintly woman considerably older than himself who bore him several children, including Mary, but no boys.  Unlike his godly wife, Henry disdained chastity and was soon “was giving the reins to his evil desires, and living in sin, sometimes with two, sometimes three of the queen’s maids” (p. 8).  After two decades, when Catherine failed to provide him a male heir he determined to divorce her and marry Anne Boleyn.  

Many pages of the book are devoted to describing the assorted maneuvers Henry launched to get papal approval to divorce Catherine, and his associates realized that he was prepared to “renounce the faith together with his wife, rather than live without Anne Boleyn” (p. 50).  He offered bribes to distinguished professors in various universities to support his cause but found most of them upholding the validity of his first marriage—though in Germany Luther’s associate, Philip Melanchthon simply urged Henry to stay married to Catherine and “treat Anne Boleyn as a concubine” (p. 84).  Then Thomas Boleyn suggested the king to get the Pope to make his chaplain, Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury, for “he will do whatever may be asked or even desired, for any subject’” (p. 87).  When eminent counselors, including Bishop John Fisher and the Lord Chancellor Thomas More, refused to accept his break with the Catholic Church they would be imprisoned and executed.  The swordsman beheading More, Sander said, “struck off the head of justice, of truth,, and of goodness” (p. 126).  

Though far more polemical than Eamon Duffy’s historical works, Sander anticipated (by 400 years) his conclusions:  the Anglican Schism not only birthed a new Protestant denomination but in the process destroyed a vibrant religious society, leading to a land despoiled of its cultural legacy and charitable economic structures—described in elaborate, statistical detail by a celebrated modern historian, W.G. Hoskins, in The Age of Plunder:  The England of Henry VIII, 1500-1547.

331 Heather Mac Donald

During the past several decades no journalist, said George Will, “has produced a body of work matching that of Heather Mac Donald.”  With degrees in literature from Yale and Cambridge universities, plus a law degree from Stanford, she brings unique credentials and scholarly depth to her essays (generally dealing with poverty and education) published in New York’s City Journal.  She also has a rare quality in today’s journalists—courage!  She seeks to uncover and disclose truths in America the ruling elite find unpalatable.  Thus, when she published The War on Cops:  How the New Attack on Law and Order Makes Everyone Less Safe (New York:  Encounter Books, c. 2016; Kindle), she became a regular target for leftist anger.  Reading her treatise in the light of riots and destruction in the summer of 2020, moreover, reveals how presciently she read the signs of the times, for she looked at crime in the streets as more than a simple criminal matter.  Murders and mayhem certainly do much harm and take thousands of lives, but “it is not, in itself, the greatest danger in today’s war on cops.  The greatest danger lies, rather, in the delegitimization of law and order itself” (#120).

For 20 years, following 1994, city mayors and police would generally follow New York City Mayor Rudolph Guiliani’s prescriptions and “crime would fall 50 percent nationwide, revitalizing cities across the country” (#81).   Cops actively engaged in “Broken  Windows” policing—stopping criminals engaged in misdemeanors before they moved on to felonies.  But by 2016 things had changed and crime was “shooting up in cities across the United States.  Homicides in the country’s 50 largest cities rose nearly 17 percent in 2015, the greatest surge in fatal violence in a quarter-century” (#57).  Under President Barack Obama—who campaigned promising “change” and “repeatedly charged that the criminal-justice system treats blacks differently from whites” (#93)—one of the most dramatic changes was in crime.  “Fueling the rise in crime in places like Baltimore and Milwaukee is a multi-pronged attack on law enforcement.  Since late summer 2014, a protest movement known as Black Lives Matter (a fraudulent, thuggish organization in Mac Donald’s judgment) has convulsed the nation.  Triggered by a series of highly publicized deaths of black males at the hands of the police, the Black Lives Matter movement holds that police officers are the greatest threat facing young black men today.  That belief has spawned riots, ‘die-ins,’ and the assassination of police officers.  The movement’s targets include Broken Windows policing and the practice of stopping and questioning suspicious individuals, both of which are said to harass blacks” (#89).

Sensitive to media-fueled criticism, inner-city police understandably did less policing.  Arrests plummeted.  And as darkness follows dusk “a bloodbath ensued, and its victims were virtually all black. When the cops back off, blacks pay the greatest price.  That truth would have come as no surprise to the legions of inner-city residents who fervently support the police and whose voices are almost never heard in the media” (#106).  The virulent anti-cop movement gained impetus from the August 2014 police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.  A white police officer, Darren Wilson, shot an 18-year-old black man—a “gentle giant” who supposedly had his hands raised saying “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” and was shot in cold blood.  Soon thereafter, rioters burned and looted Ferguson businesses.  When a grand jury exonerated the policeman, more riots erupted, and “Black Lives Matter protests grew ever more virulent as a second myth took hold:  that the American criminal-justice system is rigged against blacks” (#137).

Promoting this myth—and while while looters were ravaging Ferguson—President Obama “betrayed the nation” by condemning the grand jury’s failure to indict Darren Wilson.  “Obama had one job and one job only in his address that day:  to defend the workings of the criminal-justice system and the rule of law.  Instead, he turned his talk into a primer on police racism and criminal-justice bias.  In so doing, he perverted his role as the leader of all Americans and as the country’s most visible symbol of the primacy of the law” (#154).  The president “left no doubt that he believed the narrative of the mainstream media and race activists about Ferguson.  That narrative held that the shooting of Brown was a symbol of nationwide police misbehavior and that the August riots were an ‘understandable’ reaction to widespread societal injustice” (#178).  He and his Attorney General Eric Holder toured the country reciting this incendiary litany.  This narrative has absolutely no factual basis, but that deterred neither the president nor the press.  

Soon after Obama spoke, the New York Times pontificated on the Ferguson riots:  “A more perfect example of what the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan called ‘defining deviancy down’ would be hard to find.” Revealingly:  “The Times could not bring itself to say one word of condemnation against the savages who self-indulgently destroyed the livelihoods of struggling entrepreneurs and their employees in Ferguson, Missouri” (#260).  Blaming the grand jury for failing to indict the policeman, the Times proceeded to assert “that ‘the killing of young black men by police is a common feature of African-American life and a source of dread for black parents from coast to coast.’  A ‘common feature’?” Mac Donald asks.  In fact:  “This is pure hysteria” promoted by “the media frenzy that follows every such police killing, rare as they are, compared with the silence that greets the daily homicides committed by blacks against other blacks” (#305).  In fact, only a handful of unarmed blacks are annually killed by police—about half the number of whites!  “Blacks made up 60.5 percent of all murder arrests in Missouri in 2012 and 58 percent of all robbery arrests, though they are less than 12 percent of the state’s population.  Such vast disparities are found in every city and state in the country” (#485).   Unfortunately for this nation’s well being, “America’s elites have talked feverishly about police racism in order to avoid talking about black crime” (#532).

In time the Justice Department issued an official report on the Ferguson killing, “eviscerating virtually every aspect of the pro-Brown, anti-Wilson narrative,” and demolishing “the incendiary story that had fueled the riots in Ferguson, Missouri— that a teenaged “gentle giant” was gunned down by a trigger-happy cop who feared black people— and made it clear why the department would not be bringing civil rights charges against Officer Darren Wilson” (#378).  The report also explained that Brown’s body was left one the site for four hours because the police wanted to carefully examine the evidence and were hindered by protesters chanting “Kill the police.”  (This became a theme song for Black Lives Matter, chanting while marching in protests:  “What do we want?  Dead cops.”)  But the report was largely ignored by our politicians and journalists, who were determined to push the anti-police narrative, a “lie” that flooded much of “the country and grew into a kind of mass hysteria.  That lie holds that the police pose a mortal threat to black Americans—indeed, that the police are the greatest threat facing black Americans today.  Several subsidiary untruths buttress that central myth:  that the criminal-justice system is biased against blacks; that there is no such thing as a black underclass; and that crime rates are comparable between blacks and whites, so that disproportionate police action in minority neighborhoods cannot be explained without reference to racism” (#628).

The riots in Ferguson were followed by riots in Baltimore and other cities.  The pattern was set.  And as a result, Mac Donald believes, our legal system has begun to “fray.”  Police officers—illustrating the “Ferguson effect”—are less willing to confront lawbreakers lest they be accused of “racial profiling.”  The twenty-year decline in crime has been reversed as violent crimes have surged.  “There are signs that the legal order itself is breaking down in urban areas.  ‘There’s a total lack of respect out there for the police,’ says a female sergeant in New York.  ‘The perps feel more empowered to carry guns because they know that we are running scared.’  The lawful use of police power is being met by hostility and violence, which is often ignored by the press” (#1033).  When then FBI Director Jim Comey admitted the evidence substantiated this, President Obama charged him with “shoddy, biased analysis.  ‘We do have to stick with the facts,’” Obama said, but:  ‘What we can’t do is cherry-pick data or use anecdotal evidence to drive policy or to feed political agendas.’  The idea that Obama knows more about crime patterns and policing than the FBI director is ludicrous; the one with a “political agenda” is Obama, who has spent the last two years disseminating the dangerous lie that the criminal-justice system is racially biased” (1092).

In the book’s final section, Mac Donald turns to analyzing some of the fundamental realities fomenting crime.  Unsurprisingly:  “A straight line can be drawn between family breakdown and youth violence.  In Chicago’s poor black neighborhoods, criminal activity among the young has reached epidemic proportions.  It’s a problem that no one, including the Chicago Police Department, seems able to solve.  About 80 percent of black children in Chicago are born to single mothers.  They grow up in a world where marriage is virtually unheard of and where no one expects a man to stick around and help raise a child” (#1896).  For four years Barack Obama worked as a “community organizer” in South Side Chicago, promoting Saul Alinsky’s agenda of “change” and creating “mass organizations to seize power and give it to the people.”  As president, Obama routinely mouthed “Alinskyite bromides about school spending, preschool programs, visiting nurses, global warming, sexism, racial division, and income inequality” (#2177).  Throughout his years as an organizer, Obama ignored “the disappearance of the black two-parent family,”  illustrating a “myopia” that “continues today, guaranteeing that the response to Chicago’s current youth violence will prove as useless as Obama’s activities were a generation ago” (#1911).  Various governmental initiatives have sought to deal with Chicago’s children, spending billions of dollars without demonstrable effect.  If these programs could have compensated “for the absence of fathers,” Mac Donald thinks, “the black violence problem would have ended years ago” (#2057).  Yet:  “The official silence about illegitimacy and its relation to youth violence remains as carefully preserved in today’s Chicago as it was during Obama’s organizing time there” (#2144).  

Though published four years ago, The War on Cops could easily have been published in 2020.  Urban details have changed—Minneapolis instead of Ferguson, LA instead of Baltimore—but the issues remain much the same.  

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For an explanation of the anti-cop rioting in American cities, an examination of American universities provides plenteous clues.  In The Diversity Delusion:  How Race and Gender Pandering Corrupt the Universities and Undermine Our Culture (New York:  St Martins Press, c. 2018).  Heather Mac Donald begins by noting that English majors in our universities no longer study Chaucer, Spenser, Shakespeare and Milton because they might offend “students of color.”  The dismantling of the traditional canon gained currency, in a dramatic fashion, when Jesse Jackson led Stanford Students chanting “Hey, he, ho, ho, Western Civ has got to go.”  And it is largely gone!   Zealously seeking victim-status, students now demand “safe spaces”where they will suffer no racial or sexual micro-aggressions.  They reveal the changing face of higher education, wherein “human beings are defined by their skin color, sex, and sexual preference; that discrimination based on those characteristics has been the driving force in Western civilization; and that America remains a profoundly bigoted place, where heterosexual white males continue to deny opportunity to everyone else” (p. 2).  UCLA English majors no longer study classic writers, but are required to take courses in “Gender, Race, Ethnicity, Disability, and Sexuality Studies; Imperial, Transnational, and Postcolonial Studies; genre studies, interdisciplinary studies, and critical theory; or creative writing.  In other words, the UCLA faculty was now officially indifferent as to whether an English major had ever read a word of Chaucer, Milton, or Shakespeare, but was determined to expose students, according to the course catalog, to ‘alternative rubrics of gender, sexuality, race, and class’” (p. 211).  

A primary plank in this endeavor is “affirmative action,” eminently evident in California.  Though a 1996 initiative supposedly made it illegal, the state’s elites found clever ways to circumvent it under the umbrella of “diversity,” an ideology which routinely trumps the law.  Admitting blacks and Hispanics to the state’s elite universities, despite their poor qualifications, demonstrates how administrators reveal a bigotry of low expectations as pernicious as that of Southerners before the civil rights movement.  They “relied on wildly unequal double standards to achieve its smattering of ‘underrepresented minorities,’ especially at Berkeley and UCLA, the most competitive campuses.  The median SAT score of blacks and Hispanics in Berkeley’s liberal arts programs was 250 points lower (on a 1600-point scale) than that of whites and Asians.  This test-score gap was hard to miss in the classroom.  Renowned Berkeley philosophy professor John Searle, who judges affirmative action ‘a disaster,’ recounted that ‘they admitted people who could barely read’” (p. 38).  In 2002 UC Berkeley admitted 374 applicants “with SATs under 1000—almost all of them “students of color”—while rejecting 3,218 applicants with scores above 1400” (p. 45).  Such admitted students, as one would imagine, rarely survived the rigors of the university and routinely dropped out.  But the elites in the system cared not for graduation rates—only “diversity” in admissions counts! 

Equally harmful is the “micro-aggression farce” making university life fearful.  Casual comments in class discussions easily lead to accusations of racism or sexism or whatever “ism” you fancy.  Even demanding that students write grammatical English may elicit protests.  One Teaching Assistant said:  “‘Asking for better grammar is inflammatory in the school.  You have to give an A or you’re a racist’” (p. 66).  A UCLA law professor arranged a softball game for his students, who decided to get T-shirts with whimsical lettering.  Minority students, however, discerned a covert “white privilege” racial message and claimed to feel “triggered” by the shirts as well as traumatized by some “‘racist/classist/sexist comments made inside and outside of the classroom’” (p. 72).  Rather than defend the eminently defensible professor, administrators equivocated and appeased the protestors, making life miserable for a highly esteemed scholar.  And it is not only UCLA!  Mac Donald provides persuasive examples from a variety of places to show how micro-aggressions harm university education.  

Turning from race to gender, Mac Donald shows the great harm being done to universities by radical feminist ideology.  For example, contrary to the “rape-culture” atmosphere feminists lament, actual interviews revealed that when asked if they’d been raped “very few women” assented.  In one notorious incident at Columbia University, the “victim” took “six months to decide that she had been raped” (p. 145).  Few campus “rapes” are reported to the local police, “because the accuser and her counselors know that most cases wouldn’t have a chance in court” (p. 146).  What’s actually harming women, unfortunately, is the “hook-up” culture spawned by feminists themselves.  “While there are thankfully few actual rape victims on college campuses, there are thousands of girls feeling taken advantage of by partners who walk away from casual sex with no apparent sense of thwarted attachment” (p. 145).  Yet the “rape culture” has migrated from the university to the workplace, styling itself as the “Me Too” movement, egregiously evident in the Justice Brett Kavanaugh hearings.  

After looking at the devastation demonstrably evident on university campuses, Mac Donald concludes by recommending alternative forms of education, such as the phenomenally successful “Great Courses.”  She pleads for a return to traditional liberal arts studies and responsible campus behavior.  Given all the evidence she presents in her essays, however, the university (or at least the elite universities) is almost ruined beyond redemption.  

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Twenty years ago Heather Mac Donald collected a series of essays in The Burden of Bad Ideas:  How Modern Intellectuals Misshape Our Society (Chicago:  Ivan R. Dee, c. 2000).  Therein she documented the harm done to the recipients of social engineering.   “These essays record,” Mac Donald said, “my travels through institutions that have been perverted by today’s elite intellectual orthodoxy, from an inner city high school that teaches graffiti-writing for academic credit . . . to the Smithsonian Institution, now in thrall to a crude academic multiculturalism; from New York’s Dantean foster care system to Ivy League law schools that produce ‘scholarship’ urging blacks to view shoplifting, and pilfering from an employer, as political expression” (p. xi).  

In “The Billions of Dollars That Made Things Worse” Mac Donald explored the impact of philanthropic foundations such as Carnegie and Ford which long ago abandoned their founders’ aspirations (e.g. Carnegie libraries) and now see themselves as agents of social change, funding radical “community activists” around the country, seeking to transform “a deeply flawed American society” (p. 4).  “When,” for example, “McGeorge Bundy, former White House national security advisor, became Ford’s president in 1966, the foundation’s activism switched into high gear.  Bundy reallocated Ford’s resources from education to minority rights” and “created a host of new advocacy groups, such as the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Educational Fund” and “the Native American Rights Fund, that still wreak havoc on public policy today” (p. 9).  These foundations have routinely provided the funds to establish social justice centers on university campuses devoted to race, class, and gender.  They also have subsidized public interest litigation, enabling legions of lawyers to push for bilingual education, voter rights, racial quotas, sexual equality, prisoners’ rights, etc., all designed to  “establish in court rights that democratically elected legislatures have rejected” (p. 20).   No one should be surprised that the Ford Foundation recently gave $100 million to Black Lives Matter, giving it ample funds whereby to destabilize our republic.  

Paralleling the changes in powerful foundations have come similar changes in powerful media, preeminently evident in the New York Times.  Whereas the paper Adolph Ochs bought in 1896 was devoted to sound money, low taxes, and “‘no more government than is absolutely necessary to protect society, maintain individual and vested rights, and assure the free exercise of a sound conscience’” (p. 39), a century later it championed precisely the opposite positions.  Charting the ways poverty has been portrayed in the Times, Mac Donald shows how appeals for individual charity early in the 20th century shifted to demands for an ever-expanding welfare state.  With the passing decades, “elite opinion came to see the cause of poverty not in individual character and behavior but in vast, impersonal social and economic forces that supposedly determined individual fate” (p. 26).  No longer were individuals (including the poor) held accountable to moral standards, which were discarded in favor of a psychoanalytic model.  Distinctions between the “undeserving” and “deserving” poor disappeared from the Time’s pages.  Bad luck rather than bad character explained the plight of the city’s burgeoning welfare recipients. 

The varied titles of the essays indicate the scope of Mac Donald’s authorial lens, and she successfully pillories many of the conventional liberal ideas that so shape public policy not only in New York but throughout the country.  Refuting the “bad ideas” of the intelligentsia are the realities of a world wherein three things seem clear.  “First was the depth of the dysfunction that I often saw—the self-destruction wrought by drugs and alcohol and promiscuity, the damage inflicted on children by a world from which the traditional family had largely disappeared (though throughout the most troubled neighborhoods I found individuals of extraordinary moral strength fighting for order).  Second was the extent to which government programs shaped life in the ghetto, influencing the choices that individuals made and distorting the forms the social interaction took.  Finally, I was continually amazed by the trenchancy with which those I interviewed could judge their situations and the policies that had gone into making them.  If you want to know how well social policies are working, I learned, ask the poor—when their advocates weren’t around” (pp. vii-viii).

330 Reclaiming Common Sense

Dr. Ben Carson, the distinguished Secretary of the Housing and Urban Development department, recently sought to calmly assess the COVID-19 pandemic and the equally virulent panic paralyzing the nation.  Concluding his remarks he said we really need some “common sense” to deal with the crisis.  In the light of his Christian faith, he probably shares the view of G.K. Chesterton, who (in one of his Father Brown stories, “The Oracle of the Dog”) said:  “the first effect of not believing in God is that you lose your common sense.”  The need for such common sense is urged in Reclaiming Common Sense:  Finding Truth in a Post-Truth World (New York:  Encounter Books, c. 2019), by Robert Curry, who seeks to follow the example of George Orwell, of whom Lionel Trilling said:  “The medium of his thought is common sense, and his commitment to intellect is fortified by an old-fashioned faith that the truth can be got at, that we can, if we actually want to, see the object as it really is.”  Curry wants to introduce Americans to a way of thinking that was quite common a century ago, for it was “the coin of the realm in American thought.”  

Unfortunately, such common sense realism has been largely supplanted by ideologies (e.g. Romanticism or Progressivism or Freudianism or Postmodernism or Transgenderism) of various sorts.   For example, powerful elites in America deny the self-evident differences between men and women.  “Today, academic and cultural elites as well as government officials insist that ‘gender identity’ is more real than biology” (p. 23).  Thus they claim to discern 63 or more “genders,” and we’re asked to embrace the dogma that “marriage” can describe unions of alternative sorts.  As Bruce Fleming says:  “‘The dogma of the intellectual upper classes today is a bedrock belief in what I call “linguistic realism”  . . . .  If I say I am a woman, I am a woman, whatever others think.  If I say I feel myself to be oppressed, I am.  If I say that I was the victim of what we call sexual assault, I am—even if a court later decides there was no assault and hence no victim’” (p. 95).  To have asked a farmer in Kansas in 1890 about such “genders” or “assaults” would have elicited from him, most probably, sheer speechlessness!  One could not even imagine such silliness.  This farmer’s reaction would be simple common sense!  

The Kansas farmer would not likely have attended school very long, but such schooling would have been rooted in a common sense philosophy then widely embraced by the schools.   Common sense was, the historian Arthur Hermon said, “virtually the official creed of the American Republic.”  This faculty, he says, “‘belongs to everyone, rich or poor, educated or uneducated; indeed, we exercise it every day in hundreds of ways.’”  It’s not infallible, of course, but many things are simply self-evident—“‘the existence of the real world and basic moral truths’” that “‘are no sooner understood than they are believed’” because they “‘carry the light of truth itself’” (p. 27).  In leading universities, such as Princeton, this “common sense realism” held sway for much of the 19th century.  It was deeply shaped by an important 18th century Scottish philosopher, Thomas Reid, a Professor of Moral Philosophy at the University of Glasgow, who said:  “‘If there are certain principles, as I think there are, which the constitution of our nature leads us to believe, and which we are under a necessity to take for granted in the common concerns of life, without being able to give a reason for them; these are what we call the principles of common sense; and what is manifestly contrary to them, is what we call absurd’”  (p. 29).

Curry seeks, in this treatise, to simply explain and defend the thought of Thomas Reid.  So doing he rejects many modern philosophers, starting with Rene Descartes, who doubted everything other than their own subjective selves.  Descartes, the “father of modern philosophy,” famously declared “Cogito ergo sum—I think, therefore I am.”  He began with with himself and erected a philosophical system, setting forth an approach largely followed by hundreds of other less astute thinkers.  But Reid and his epigones thought we are equally if indeed not more certain that the world and other people really exist.   “There is no need to prove that the world and other people exist, just as there is no need to prove that tables can’t sing arias or that carafes cannot at the same time be women.  Stated, put into language, they are self-evident truths, which cannot and need not be proved.”  And these are the truths we must assert.

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The United States was founded, Robert Curry believes, by thoughtful men who took their bearings from the Scottish Common Sense tradition (“one of the most remarkable developments in the history of the world”), and he defends this thesis in Common Sense Nation: Unlocking the Forgotten Power of the American Idea (New York:   Encounter Books, c. 2015; Kindle Edition).  Bearing witness to this position he cites Alexander Hamilton, who said:  “The sacred rights of mankind are . . . written, as with a sunbeam, in the whole volume of human nature, by the hand of Divinity itself, and can never be erased or obscured by mortal power.”  His frequent adversary, Thomas Jefferson, put the same truth more famously:  “We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”  Trusting the perspicacity of such Founders, Curry dedicates his book “to the proposition that we need to understand the language of the Founders if we want to understand the ideas of the Founders.  It will also tell the story of the systematic effort to bury the ideas of the Founders ” (p. xvii).

The Founders’ ideas were grounded in those self-evident truths they considered foundational.  They thereby embraced the Scottish common sense philosophy shaped by eminent thinkers such as Thomas Reid and Adam Smith.  It came to America via emigrating scholars (preeminently clergymen such as John Witherspoon) and young Americans such as Benjamin Rush who studied in Scotland—major figures in the “American Enlightenment,” which was something quite different from the French Enlightenment.   Consequently, historian Allen Guelzo, says:  “‘Before the Civil War, every major [American] collegiate intellectual was a disciple of Scottish common sense realism’” (p. 7).  The Founders certainly cited Montesquieu and John Locke, but it was the Scots who showed them ways “to fashion government along unprecedented lines—and to find a hitherto undreamed of way to realize Locke’s revolutionary claim that the supreme political power in every commonwealth is the people.  When it came time to lay the foundation for the new nation and its government, the Founders went to work thoroughly grounded in the philosophical arguments the Scots advanced.  It was those arguments that showed the Founders a way forward. It enabled them to go beyond the idea of a monarchy with its power somewhat limited by a Bill of Rights, and to make the American experiment in government by, for, and of the people” (p. 14).

They did so, in part, because the Founders were largely educated by Scots such as William Small, “by far the most brilliant member of the faculty at William and Mary,” who taught Jefferson.  At Princeton Madison was quite influenced by President John Witherspoon, who had studied with Adam Smith and Thomas Reid in Scotland.  Witherspoon himself would sign the Declaration of Independence, and his influence was prodigious, for his “students by one count included, among many others, five delegates to the Constitutional Convention, twenty-eight U.S. senators, forty-nine U.S. representatives, twelve governors, three Supreme Court Justices, eight U.S. district judges, three attorneys general, and many members of state constitutional conventions and state ratifying conventions.  Is it any wonder that the ideas and arguments of Reid and Smith and their Scottish colleagues are everywhere in the writings of the Founders?  Witherspoon’s course in moral philosophy, which he dictated year after year in largely unchanging form and which his students copied down faithfully, is almost certainly the most influential single college course in America’s history” (p. 19).  Hamilton was tutored at King’s College (now Columbia), by Robert Harpur, who had also studied at Glasgow, absorbing the Scottish Common Sense perspective.  “The ideas of the Scottish Enlightenment were studied and hotly debated just about everywhere in colonial America.”  Throughout the land, in all the colonial colleges, says Douglass Adair, “‘the young men who rode off to war in 1776 had been trained in the texts of Scottish social science’” (pp. 16-18).  

Importantly, Common Sense thinkers believed we have an innate “moral sense” providing important ethical precepts.  There are some things we can’t not know!  Recently advocating this perspective, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn said: “We are born with a sense of justice in our souls; we can’t and don’t want to live without it!”  Similarly, in 1787, writing to his nephew, Thomas Jefferson said:  “Man was destined for society . . . He was endowed with a sense of right and wrong merely relative to this.  This sense is as much a part of his nature as the sense of hearing, seeing, feeling; it is the true foundation of morality . . . The moral sense, or conscience, is as much a part of a man as his leg or arm.  It is given to all human beings in a stronger or weaker degree . . . It may be strengthened by exercise, as may any particular limb of the body. “  Twenty-eight years later he said virtually the same thing in a letter to John Adams.  These words clearly reflect the views of Francis Hutcheson, the leading spokesman for Scottish moral sense philosophy. 

Textbook treatments of the Declaration of Independence routinely credit John Locke for the views set forth by Jefferson.  Curry, however, wants us to see it in the light of Scottish thinkers who constantly critiqued Locke.  Consider the famous “self-evident truths” Jefferson cited.  In an 1825 letter to Henry Lee,  he said that while writing the Declaration he sought:  “Not to find out new principles, or new arguments, never before thought of . . . but to place before mankind the common sense of the subject . . . it was intended to be an expression of the American mind.”  This is not a Lockean notion!  Rather, it was Thomas Reid who had “made self-evident truths the foundation of his philosophy, the philosophy of common sense realism.  Reidian common sense is the human faculty by means of which we can grasp self-evident truths. It is a power like Hutcheson’s moral sense or the sense of sight or of hearing.  Therefore,  common sense is the power that makes human understanding possible” (p. 55).  Reid at times equated “self-evident truths” with “first principles,” which are “‘propositions which are no sooner understood than they are believed . . . [having] the light of truth in itself.”  Similarly, Alexander Hamilton said, in Federalist 31, that “there are certain primary truths, or first principles, upon which all subsequent reasonings must depend.  These contain an internal evidence which, antecedent to all reflection or combination, commands the assent of the mind.”  Saying so, Hamilton could easily have been quoting Reid!

After analyzing the Declaration of Independence Curry turns to the Constitution, and its defense in the Federalist Papers, which obviously leads to citing their primary authors, James Madison and Alexander Hamilton.  Unlike the utopian romantics, such as Rousseau, who helped shape the French Revolution, American revolutionaries took a realistic approach to human nature and politics.  In important ways their views resembled Scottish Presbyterianism; indeed King George III called the Americans’ revolt “a Presbyterian Rebellion.”  The church in Scotland, with its uniquely representative form of government, illustrated the popular sovereignty invoked by the Founders.  At the Constitutional Convention, Madison’s “Virginia Plan” closely resembled the Presbyterian system.  And so did Madison’s understanding of human nature.  Thus:  “Madison was fighting for a radical re-conception of the relationship of mankind and the state” based upon natural rights, given by God and not the state, nor by any “contract” established by earlier generations.  “‘The rights were there all along.’  That is to say, our rights are inherent, part of our nature as human beings, unalienable.  In order to understand the Founders, we need to recognize their intent:  to design America’s government guided by this new understanding of the nature of our rights, and, insofar as possible, to design government so as to protect and preserve those rights” (p. 85).  

The Founders’ common sense philosophy, however, was abandoned by the Progressives who gained power at the beginning of the 20th century.  Emblematic of this change is Woodrow Wilson, who embraced an evolutionary worldview that justified replacing the written Constitution with constantly changing edicts and laws designed to meet current demands.   He scoffed at any notions of “self-evident” truths or “inalienable rights” as fantasies of earlier times.  Wilson embraced the philosophy of G. W. F. Hegel which was in vogue when he went to graduate school at Johns Hopkins, where virtually all the professors had secured their Ph.D.s in Germany.  Hegel celebrated the powerful state rather than personal freedom.  “For Hegel, the movement of the state through time was the ‘march of God on earth” (p. 164).  Successive progressive presidents, including Teddy Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Lyndon B. Johnson, followed Wilson and rejected “the Constitutional safeguards of individual liberty in favor of the government’s ability to bring about social change, favors an ever expanding and activist role for government in society, such as government control of health care, government intervention in the economy and so on” (p. 150).

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In my many years teaching introductory philosophy classes I never discussed Thomas Reid.  And I’d never read any of his books.  Recently prompted by Robert Curry’s discussion of common sense philosophy I secured and read Reid’s An Inquiry into the Human Mind, on the Principles of Common Sense (Kindle Edition).  He begins with a simple declaration:  “Wise men now agree, or ought to agree, in this, that there is but one way to the knowledge of nature’s works—the way of observation and experiment” (#65).  Throughout history man has reasoned from observable events to their explanations, employing “the same method by which Newton discovered the law of gravitation and the properties of light.  His regulæ philosophandi are maxims of common sense, and are practiced every day in common life; and he who philosophizes by other rules, either concerning the material system or concerning the mind, mistakes his aim.  Conjectures and theories are the creatures of men, and will always be found very unlike the creatures of God.  If we would know the works of God, we must consult themselves with attention and humility, without daring to add anything of ours to what they declare.”   

Descartes, uttering his famous Cogito ergo sum, “resolved not to believe his own existence till he should be able to give a good reason for it.”   If, in fact, he could actually doubt his own existence, Reid thought, “his case would have been deplorable,” for anyone who “disbelieves his own existence” is as deranged as one who “believes he is made of glass.”  Nevertheless Descartes sought to move from certain internal truths to then “prove the existence of a material world:  and with very bad success.”  He (along with John Locke and William Berkeley and David Hume in different ways) invoked “philosophy to furnish them with reasons for the belief of those things which all mankind have believed, without being able to give any reason for it” (#174).  Without intending to, they all espoused positions that would inevitably lead to an “abyss of skepticism” as was demonstrably evident in the works of David Hume.   To refute the skeptics Reid devoted successive chapters to describing and analyzing the five physical senses—smelling; tasting; hearing; touching; seeing.  When we smell the scent of a rose, we simply testify to the undeniability of an existing reality.  We can do no more than observe that something smells.  Likewise we have memories of scents in the past.  “Sensation and memory, therefore, are simple, original, and perfectly distinct operations of the mind, and both of them are original principles of belief.  . . . . Sensation implies the present existence of its object; memory its past existence” (#362).  From our sensations we can infer that we have a mind capable of knowing the world around us.  We know the things we sense—not simply the ideas in our minds concerning these things.  But the “wisdom of philosophy” sought to demonstrate the primacy of sensations or ideas in the mind rather than assume the reality of the material world.  Implausibly, to Reid, “wisdom” philosophers such as Descartes and Locke “maintained, that colour, sound, and heat, are not any thing in bodies, but sensations of the mind.”  Denying color resides in things, Reid contends, is “nothing else but an abuse of words,” capriciously changing the “meaning of a common word” (#1342).  He sided with ordinary folks who simply assume that colors and sounds reside in things independent of the mind. 

If Descartes and Locke are “wise men,” Reid declared,“let me be deluded with the vulgar.”  To him, “Common sense and reason have both one Author, —that Almighty Author, in all whose other works we observe a consistency, uniformity, and beauty, which charm and delight the understanding:  there must therefore be some order and consistency in the human faculties, as well as in other parts of his workmanship.”  Obviously the “belief of a material world is older, and of more authority, than any principles of philosophy.”  So too is our awareness of “first principles” given us by the Author of our being, our human nature.  “Such principles are parts of our constitution, no less than the power of thinking: reason can neither make nor destroy them; nor can it do any thing without them . . .  A mathematician cannot prove the truth of his axioms, nor can he prove any thing, unless he takes them for granted.  We cannot prove the existence of our minds, nor even of our thoughts and sensations.  A historian, or a witness, can prove nothing, unless it is taken for granted that the memory and senses may be trusted.  A natural philosopher can prove nothing, unless it is taken for granted that the course of nature is steady and uniform.  How or when I got such first principles, upon which I build all my reasoning, I know not; for I had them before I can remember: but I am sure they are parts of my constitution, and that I cannot throw them off” (#1060).

Concluding his essay, Reid explains, with compelling clarity:  “when I feel the pain of the gout in my toe, I have not only a notion of pain, but a belief of its existence, and a belief of some disorder in my toe which occasions it; and this belief is not produced by comparing ideas, and perceiving their agreements and disagreements; it is included in the very nature of the sensation.  When I perceive a tree before me, my faculty of seeing gives me not only a notion or simple apprehension of the tree, but a belief of its existence, and of its figure, distance, and magnitude; and this judgment or belief is not got by comparing ideas, it is included in the very nature of the perception.”  Such “original and natural judgments are therefore a part of that furniture which nature hath given to the human understanding.  They are the inspiration of the Almighty, no less than our notions or simple apprehensions.  They serve to direct us in the common affairs of life, where our reasoning faculty would leave us in the dark.  They are a part of our constitution, and all the discoveries of our reason are grounded upon them.  They make up what is called the common sense of mankind, and what is manifestly contrary to any of those first principles, is what we call absurd.  The strength of them is good sense, which is often found in those who are not acute in reasoning.  A remarkable deviation from them, arising from a disorder in the constitution, is what we call lunacy; as when a man believes that he is made of glass. When a man suffers himself to be reasoned out of the principles of common sense by metaphysical arguments, we may call this metaphysical lunacy; which differs from the other species of the distemper in this, that it is not continued, but intermittent: it is apt to seize the patient in solitary and speculative moments; but when he enters into society, common sense recovers her authority.  A clear explication and enumeration of the principles of common sense, is one of the chief desiderata in logic” (#3841).  

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Paul A. Boer, Sr. has edited a helpful book:  Selections from the Scottish Philosophy of Common Sense, (Veritatis Splendor Publications, c. 2002; Kindle Ed) and included writings by Thomas Reid, Adam Ferguson, James Beattie, and Duncan Stewart, who were all alarmed by the skepticism of David Hume.  Reading them reminds one of the perduring wisdom of the philosophical realism variously espoused by Aristotle and Aquinas and of the fact that “the Philosophy of Common Sense was the dominant philosophy in the American Universities,” and left its imprint on this nation, both theologically (in the Princeton school) and politically (in the thought of the Founders). 

329 Humanitarian Woes

During the past two centuries, Man has replaced God in various quarters (including many “modernist” churches).  Consequently humanitarianism—the abstract love for mankind—has increasingly replaced charity as the ultimate mark of righteousness.  The course was set in the 19th century when the highly influential bible critic David Strauss called for “the carrying forward of the Religion of Christ to the Religion of Humanity.”    Yet, as Feodor Dostoevsky insightfully noted in The Idiot:  “In abstract love of humanity one almost always only loves himself.”  Thus it is not surprising that folks who have given their lives in purely humanitarian endeavors end up disillusioned if not deeply jaundiced.  With that in mind one can learn much from Travesty in Haiti:  A true account of Christian missions, orphanages, fraud, food aid, and drug trafficking (Smashwords, c. 2012; Kindle) by Timothy T. Schwartz.  In 1995 Schwartz went to Haiti to finish his Ph.D. in cultural anthropology by doing “field work” in a clearly needy place.  He had no religious bent, but he did hope to make a difference by studying and understanding the country.  And he “was enthusiastic.  My enthusiasm and belief that I could make a contribution kept me returning despite the hardships, the violence, the coups, and the embargoes.  But ten years later I was a different person.  Perhaps I was simply burned out” (p. 228).  He illustrates rather nicely the downside of humanitarianism all over the world—without a transcendent perspective trying to help hurting people drives one to despair.  So while reading his books one must always remember Schwartz sees his world through rather jaundiced glasses!   His is animus doubtlessly distorts his presentation, but his woeful data still deserve consideration.

Schwartz says he “was supposed to do what is called participant observation, meaning that I was to live in the community, take part in the lives of the people there, live as they live, interfering as little as possible so that I could learn about their culture and how impoverished Haitians deal with problems of daily survival.”  Thereafter, he hoped “to join the ranks of foreign aid experts who work for charitable organizations such as CARE International, experts who design and carry out farm, commerce, and health projects meant to help the poor in their struggle to overcome hunger and disease” (p. 6).  For a year he lived in a rather remote fishing “hamlet” wherein his naive presuppositions and aspirations quickly vanished—in part because he “made the mistake that so many blan [whites] make in Haiti:  I started giving” (p. 19).  Regardless of their status, his neighbors incessantly begged, asking him to part with virtually everything he owned.  And when they didn’t beg they stole.  In time Schwartz simply left his personal property locked away with a missionary family some distance from the hamlet.  

After successfully completing his Ph.D., Schwartz found employment with a number of NGOs (Non-Government Organizations) that had begun arriving in Haiti in the 1950s.  This included CARE (the Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere), the most prestigious of them all.  He mainly conducted surveys to document educational, economic, and medical conditions in the country.  But as he looked at the data and  roamed about seeking to better understand Haiti, he found, to his dismay, that many of the humanitarian “aid” programs harmed the very people they were designed to help.  This was due primarily to their lack of accountability for the distribution of massive amounts of money collected from sincere donors who want to do something to “help” the needy.  Food aid, dumped in great quantities, inevitably harmed Haiti’s farmers and encouraged widespread theft and graft.   Easily stolen from the distribution sites and sold in the markets, aid parcels brought a tidy profit for the thieves.  A country that was exporting food in 1950 had become impoverished as “food aid” from rich countries overwhelmed it.

Technological assistance, often in the form of machinery (generators, tractors, etc.) sent to impoverished rural areas, did little good simply because Haitians could not effectively use it.  And, since it was designed for advanced economies, it was fundamentally unsuited for the country.  Illustrative of the problem, Schwartz points to five wind generators looming high on a hill near Baie-de-Sol, a provincial capital.  They were put there in the 1990s by the German embassy at the cost of several million dollars.  Each generator could produce 50,000 kilowatts of electricity, but within six months they were all destroyed by vandals tearing out their electrical wiring.  Copper brings cash in the market!  No one on the site knew anything about them, much less had the ability to get them working.  To Schwartz, “it is the typical story regarding development all over Haiti:  ‘It is broken, can’t be fixed, and nobody knows anything else about it.’  And that was the whole point.  To me the wind generators epitomized foreign aid.  Their guts ripped out, never having functioned for longer than a blan sat watching and caring for them, they are a summary statement of international development efforts in Haiti” (p. 66). 

The “missions” in the book’s subtitle refer not to the churches established to preach the Gospel.  Though emphatically not a Christian, Schwartz has no criticism for these evangelistic endeavors, frequently led by native preachers.  What he finds appalling are the many humanitarian ventures, almost always focused on helping Haitian children, under Christian auspices.  Virtually all of these are “orphanages” featuring impoverished children that collect enormous sums from sincere supporters in the United States.  In fact, many of the “orphans” have at least one parent.   And they are mainly in the facility to receive a quality education unavailable elsewhere.  Still more:  most “orphans,” have several sponsors in America sending monthly checks to support them, enabling entrepreneurs to nicely profit thereby.  In all the establishments Schwartz investigated, operators were spending “only a fraction of the money they raised for the children and pocketing the rest.  Orphanages in the area were a business” (p. 134).  After visiting “every single orphanage” one province, he concluded:  “They all look like scams to me” (p. 148).

Sadly enough this indictment ultimately held for the mission he had most trusted, run by an American family that portrayed itself as altruistic Christians devoted to the Haitians.  Visitors were inevitably impressed by their piety and charitable work.  To Schwartz, initially, they were bona fide good folks.  He “respected them, admired their honesty, their good works, the closeness of their family.  I had gone to their church services, stood with them holding an open bible in my hand as the Reverend read the words” (p. 215).  But then he learned the truth.  The Reverend was sleeping with the servants!  And the funds they raised supported a lavish lifestyle.  In the end:  “It was like CARE, a perversion of American charitable ideals, with its false claims to be aiding the “poorest of the poor” when what it was really doing was throwing exquisite banquets at plush hotels while carrying out U.S. political policy in the interest of international venture capitalists and agro-industrialists”  (p. 216). 

Summing up his book Schwartz says:  “This is the inside story of those projects and the impact on the people they were meant to help.  It is largely a story of fraud, greed, corruption, apathy, and political agendas that permeate the industry of foreign aid.  It is a story of failed agricultural, health, and credit projects; violent struggles for control over aid money; corrupt orphanage owners, pastors, and missionaries; the nepotistic manipulation of research funds; economically counterproductive food relief programs that undermine the Haitian agricultural economy; and the disastrous effects of economic engineering by foreign governments and international aid organizations such as the World Bank and USAID and the multinational corporate charities that have sprung up in their service, specifically, CARE International, Catholic Relief Services, World Vision, and the dozens of other massive charities that have programs spread across the globe, moving in response not only to disasters and need, but political agendas and economic opportunity.  It is also the story of the political disillusionment and desperation that has led many Haitians to use whatever means possible to better their living standards, most recently drug trafficking; and how in the service of international narcotraffickers and money launderers, Haiti has become a failed State” (p. 2).

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In The Great Haiti Humanitarian Aid Swindle (n.p., Kindle, 2017), Timothy T.  Schwartz extends the expose he began in Travesty in Haiti.  He dedicates the book “to the millions of people who have donated money to help impoverished Haitians,” to the “tens of thousands of rescue workers and sincere aid employees who have gone to Haiti to help,” and “to the impoverished Haitians who are meant to benefit from aid, but the many, if not most, who do not benefit.”  Importantly, all these folks “deserve explanations for the wasted aid and they deserve explanations for the exaggerations, misrepresentations and outright lies about the Haitian people that came both after the 2010 earthquake and for decades before it” (frontpiece).  

Lest the reader suspect differently, Schwartz fully endorses charities of all sorts.  Loving others and giving them aid is a fully admirable thing.  But too many “charities,” however well-intended, ultimately do much harm and become sophisticated forms of stealing.  “Millions of people are engaged in ripping off the neediest people on the planet.  They participate in duplicity, exaggeration, and outright lying.   . . . they publish images of what they claim are enslaved children and raped women.  They invent or exaggerate statistics.  They seek out the most horrid stories of abuse.  They insinuate themselves into the stories or the statistics as saviors who are rescuing those in dire need.  And then, of course, they ask us for money” (p. 3).  

Yet they often do little to actually help needy people!  “Instead they spend the bulk of the money, not on the needs of the desperately poor or wretched and distressed, but on themselves.  They use the money to pay for their own homes, to pay school tuitions for their own privileged children, to pay their pension plans and vacations” (p. 3).  Even worse, Schwartz thinks, they are aided and abetted by a compliant media which get us to “believe the stories, the radically inflated numbers, and the twisted statistics.”  Anyone reading Schwartz quickly realizes how “fake news” oozes from to “those bastions of supposedly credible news, such as The New York Times, London’s The Guardian, wire services such as the Associated Press and United Press International, Agence France-Presse and prime time news shows such as CBS’s 60 Minutes and CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360°” (p. 3).  

The focus of this book is the 2010 earthquake which devastated Haiti and ignited an incredible humanitarian response.  Schwartz was living in the Dominican Republic when the earthquake occurred and drove immediately to Port-au-Prince, hoping to help as an interpreter as well as observe humanitarian endeavors.  Though highly-trained and well-equipped, the rescue teams generally arrived too late to really help and then failed to enter the areas most devastated by the quake.  They failed, it seems, because they feared the violent, knife-wielding rioters featured by the media!  Indeed, he says:  “Anyone who read the headlines would have been afraid.  The disgrace was the press; those professionals we count on to tell us what’s happening.  They were fomenting the fear” (p. 31).  But the fears were utterly groundless.  In fact, even the most devastated areas in Port-au-Prince were much safer than usual.  Most (90 percent or more) of the folks actually rescued were saved within eight hours by friends and neighbors and even looters, digging through the rubble with their hands and simple tools in the hours immediately following the quake.  “In the years since the earthquake, dozens of people have told me how looters dug them out.  I have never met anyone saved by an official rescuer” (p. 27).  A total of 67 search and rescue teams managed to rescue only 137 people—a number widely celebrated by the press.  “And it cost a fortune.  The total cost was 243 million U.S. dollars, about 1.84 million dollars for each of the 137 to 147 rescues that were, fairly or unfairly, attributed to international rescue teams” (p. 65).  Meanwhile, hundreds of seriously-injured Haitians were desperately needing medical attention.  Rescue teams (flush with skilled paramedics) drove by hotels and shelters housing hundreds of injured Haitians in order to dig through rubble vainly seeking survivors.  “If, instead of devoting their time to the rescue efforts . . . the 1,918 paramedics and doctors assigned to the rescue squads had been treating just ten people per day per paramedic, they would have treated 134,260 people in the first week” (p. 67).  But dramatic rescues make better TV!  And raise more money!

Money, as well as rescue teams, began almost immediately flowing into the country.  Corporations and individuals sent $3.1 billion and foreign governments would give another $10 billion.  The Red Cross made an “emergency flash appeal” for $10 million, but when funds began arriving the amount was raised to $100 million and ultimately reached $1.2 billion.   Save the Children first asked for $9.8 million and quickly raised $20 million.  By the year’s end the amount was $87 million.   “World Vision asked for $3.8 million.  But they then kept asking for more, and more, and more, until they had collected a total of $191 million.  UNICEF originally called for $120 million.  When they brought in $229 million in six months—almost double what they requested—they decided they needed another $127 million.  . . . .   The NGOs and UN agencies were as a rule insatiable.  In all post-earthquake Haiti, only Doctors Without Borders told donors they had enough money, and that was after bringing in a whopping $138 million” (p. 9).   Then the  “squandering and waste began almost immediately” (p. 5).  “The stories go on and on.  . . . Food for the Poor was building permanent houses in Haiti before the earthquake for $2,000 per home.  After the earthquake, the U.S. government partnered with Food for the Poor to build 750 of what were essentially the same houses, but at a cost of $38,000 per house, 19 times the pre-earthquake costs.   Red Cross CEO Gail McGovern said that $100 million of the $500 million given to the Red Cross would go to ‘provide tens of thousands of people with permanent homes.’  Five years later NPR would report that the charity had built six permanent homes” (p. 7). 

Ever the conscientious scholar, Schwartz meticulously documents his assertions with extensive notes and appendices, though this was made difficult by the charities’ failures to disclose their finances.   Of the 196 organizations the Disaster Accountability Project examined, only six provided up-to-date accounting.  “Only one provided what DAP considered ‘complete and factual information.’  The majority—128—did not have factual situation reports available on their websites, relying instead upon anecdotal descriptions of activities or emotional appeals.  Many claimed to provide details of their activities on their blogs, but the blogs were almost entirely ‘appeals to emotion, pictures of children, and purely anecdotal accounts about touching moments during a particular delivery of relief’” (p. 8).  They told anecdotes because they had little data demonstrating how they helped respond to the “disaster.”  Numbers were inflated as well as difficult to discern.  Take Cassandra Nelson, who worked for Mercy Corps.   She flew into Haiti and said:  “‘it is like opening a window on unprecedented levels of ruin . . . by far the worst devastation that I’ve ever seen.’”  Flying home 16 days later, she declared:  “‘Literally everything is destroyed.’”  On the contrary, Schwartz, who actually knows the country quite well, says there were remarkably few scenes such as Nelson described.  Yet, “wherever you were in the world, you could have turned on the television, logged on to the internet, or opened a newspaper and found pictures that made you think that Port-au-Prince was like that.  But if you were actually in Port-au-Prince at the time, to see those scenes you would have had to search them out” (p. 83).  In short, things were not nearly so bad in Haiti following the earthquake as we were led to believe!  Many buildings collapsed, but over 90 percent of them did not!  Journalists lamented the lack of electricity and running water but never checked to learn that such was the daily reality Haitians faced long before the earthquake!  They also aired astronomical figures for the lives lost, untruths given them by humanitarian aid agencies who knew they would increase their revenues thereby. 

Schwartz was employed by USAID (the United Nations International Childrens Emergency Fund) to document how many people returned to their homes following the earthquake.  This necessarily involved ascertaining how many people actually died.  When he presented his report, however, a USAID official unleashed a tirade against him since he didn’t accept the official Haitian government’s number of 316,000—the number cited by most NGOs soliciting donations around the world.  “Where the figures were coming from nobody knew” (p. 92).  In fact, Schwartz believes, only around 60,000 people died.  But neither the government nor the press nor the NGOs were interested in the truth.  They just wanted inflated figures.  “The disturbing thing about all this, and what really suggests that regarding the number of people killed there was indeed a type of Great Haiti Humanitarian Aid Swindle complete with falsified data at the highest levels of the government and cover-ups at the highest level of the press, is that the press knew from the beginning that the government was inflating the figures.  And by corollary, U.S. government bureaucrats knew” (p. 94).  It took Schwartz five years to fully figure it out, but he concluded that “the executives at humanitarian agencies, such as Steve McAndrew of the Red Cross or Sophie Perez of CARE International” demanded high numbers.  “The more people dead, the more the good-hearted people of the world would be inclined to give donations.  It’s a no-brainer.  For the press it was obvious too.  The bigger the tragedy, the more horrific the scenes and the more harrowing the tales, the more people would buy newspapers, log onto their internet sites or turn on their televisions and watch the news” (p. 111).

Beyond exaggerating death statistics, child protection workers and orphanage owners cleverly massaged the images of homeless Haitian children.  “With UNICEF and Save the Children leading, orphanages fanning the flames, and the press publishing almost anything anyone said—no matter how scant the facts—the scramble to save Haiti’s children took on apocalyptic dimensions.  They told us that there were over 1 million lost, separated or abandoned children, conjuring up images of little children aimlessly wandering through the ruins of Port-au-Prince.  As time went on the experts added images of sexual predators and slave hunters prowling the rubble in search of the children.  They told us that people were selling children for $50.  It came to be known around the world as the ‘Haiti Orphan Crisis.’  Almost none of it was true.  As will be seen, the number of orphaned, lost or separated children was inflated by factors that ran into the hundreds and perhaps thousands.  No network of slave hunters or perverts was ever verified.  Nor was there ever a confirmed case of someone selling a child” (p. 129).  It was all a scam!  Certainly less than 1,000 children were separated from their parents—and the number was probably around 100.  Yet UNICEF celebrated its work of reuniting families and collected some $100 million from donors.  Precisely how many families were reunited?  Twenty! 

“Whatever their intentions, it was a massive swindle. The world’s largest child protection agencies, UNICEF, Save the Children, World Vision, Compassion International and others, together with the orphanages and the world’s three largest news services, Agence France-Press, Reuters and the Associated Press, used untruths and exaggerations about children to precipitate a media hysteria that sustained an avalanche of donations from concerned citizens in almost every country on earth.  The success of that swindle is not only in the money they brought in.  Nor is the success of the swindle limited to the fact that more than 90 percent of the money went to internal expenses, including pension plans, salaries, school tuitions for the children of UNICEF staff and the staff of those organizations to which UNICEF distributed money” (p. 170).  Sadly enough:  “The most outstanding mark of swindle is that when it was all over, after having never apologized or even publicly acknowledged the duplicity, UNICEF officials were still looking into cameras, gushing with heartfelt sincerity, and asking for more money to help the Haitian children.  And they were getting it” (p.172).

For his efforts to rightly report such facts, Schwartz was roundly assailed.  He was called “a spiteful piece of garbage,” a “criminal,” a “liar,” a “despicable vampire” responsible for Haitian woes!  He was, for sure, a threat to highly-paid employees of humanitarian agencies.  “USAID-Washington would go on to blacklist me,” though he’s one of the best informed Haitian scholars (p. 96).   (The fact that Schwartz has self-published these works may very well indicate how he violates the modern humanitarian credo!)  

328 Post-WWII America

 Few of us, having lived through the last half of the 20th century, would discount the massive cultural changes that have transpired during our lifetimes.  But understanding these phenomena, digging into the real causes of the transformation, proves rather daunting.  Given the nature of historiography, no one has the capacity to fully describe, much less to fully understand the past.  Every thoughtful historical monograph, as Alfred North Whitehead said, in his Adventures in Ideas, is “a sort of searchlight elucidating some of the facts, and retreating the remainder into an omitted background.”  A highly-readable, descriptive narrative of important developments during one decade (from the mid‘60s to the mid-‘70s) is provided by Amity Shlaes in Great Society:   A New History (New York:  Harper, Kindle ed., c. 2019).  The “great society” was a phrase appropriated by Lyndon Baines Johnson to represent his aspirations as president, and it became one of the most ambitious social engineering endeavors in American history.  

Shlaes begins with a telling vignette of Michael Harrington, the author of The Other America:  Poverty in the United States—a 1962 treatise widely discussed in the final year of the John F. Kennedy administration.  Semi-humorously, Martin Luther King quipped:  “You know, we didn’t know we were poor until we read your book’” (p. 73).  Harrington was a self-identified socialist who had been briefly involved in the formation of Students for a Democratic Society.  When Lyndon B. Johnson became president in 1963 he and many in his administration (most especially Sarge Shriver, JFK’s brother-in-law and LBJ’s poverty czar) were quite taken by Harrington’s ideas.  Given an office in the White House, Harrington noted:  “‘the abolition of poverty would require a basic change in how resources are allocated.’”  Shriver mentioned this to LBJ, an aspiring Franklin D. Roosevelt, who “told him that if serious economic redistribution was necessary to realize the long-delayed completion of the New Deal, then redistribution might be worth it” (p. 3).  

Whether or not LBJ’s endeavors would bring about the “great society”—great because it is good—Amity Shlaes seeks to show.  So she begins with JFK’s “New Frontier,” brought into being by the election of 1960.  The nation was then prospering, amply illustrating The Affluent Society described by Harvard economist John Kenneth Gailbraith.  Businesses such as GE and GM were fiscally sound and most working men made good money.  The president himself was notably pro-business, sending “his progressive advisor” Galbraith off to India as an ambassador rather than embracing his socialist ideals.  But he also made clear overtures to labor unions, issuing an executive order enabling federal employees to unionize.  However, when he gave a speech indicating his admiration for Britain’s National Health Service the stock market plunged and he quickly retreated into the security of the status quo.  JFK was no FDR, seeking to engineer societal change.  There were, to be sure, pockets of poverty, but by-and-large the Ozzie and Harriet world of the ‘50s gave much impetus to considerable optimism for the coming years.  

Cynically discounting such optimism, however, a group of students met in 1962 near Port Huron, Michigan, in a camp developed by Walter Reuther, the president of the United Auto Workers and named “Four Freedoms”—the items listed by FDR in his last inaugural address.  Styling themselves the “New Left” and led by the likes of Tom Hayden, they felt “it was like God was sending us a message.”  Many of the youngsters imagined they were attending something of a “participatory democracy,” but in fact their input was unimportant, for the real message had been carefully crafted months before by Hayden, Harrington, and operatives funded by the UAW.  Harrington and Hayden were “Catholic activists” and were also “drinking buddies” (p. 77).  One of Reuther’s union officials considered the students were “our kind of youngsters,” and his brother Victor provided ample funding for the group’s endeavors by helping distribute the “Port Huron Statement,” substituting the word “statement” was for “manifesto” in order to distance it from the Communist Manifesto!  Much of the “Statement” had been earlier incubated in Reuther’s UAW “propaganda mills” which constantly decried income inequality and the fact that “‘the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans own more than 80 percent of all personal shares of stock’” (p. 78).  Indeed, Walter Reuther was determined to distribute the wealth by nudging the nation toward a “social democracy.”  And for that he needed “an American president to lead his redistribution revolution” (p. 62). 

FDR, of course, had earlier moved “the country toward socialism while sustaining democracy” (p. 63).   So Walter Reuther needed another FDR.  But he knew JFK’s New Frontier would not update the New Deal.   When John Kennedy was killed, however, Lyndon Baines Johnson proved more amenable to the Reuther agenda.  Indeed, one of the first persons LBJ called was Walter Reuther.  “‘I’ll need your friendship more than I ever did in my life,’ Johnson said.  Reuther promised ‘every possible help I can offer’” (p. 87).  Within a few months Johnson declared “unconditional war on poverty” in his State of the Union address, and a new national tilt toward “social democracy” was underway.  This was evident in a 1964 speech at the University of Michigan, wherein LBJ set forth “a vision as fantastic as the vision of Port Huron, as transformative as that of Reuther” (p. 97).  Poverty must end, civil rights must be insured, and a “Great Society” must be brought into being. 

Thenceforth came a cascade of legislation and federal programs, launched without concern for financial accountability, justified simply as what “ought” to be done by compassionate Americans! The list is almost interminable—medicare; medicaid; civil rights injunctions; minimum wage edicts.  LBJ was on a roll and his triumph in the election of 1964 apparently illustrated the people’s support for his programs;  the “Great Society” was an effective expansion of the New Deal.  But implementing the agenda proved far more difficult than passing legislation!  Take, for example, a rather simple prescription, the minimum wage.  Designed to reduce unemployment, it in fact increased it!  “Black and white youth unemployment had run about the same until the middle of the 1950s, 8 to 11 percent.  But when Congress raised the federal minimum wage by a third in 1956, unemployment rose far higher among black teenagers than among whites, to 25 percent” (p. 183).  The War on Poverty flooded communities with money that counterproductively encouraged irresponsibility, enabling men avoid work.  When you could get $200 a month from welfare, why work hard to earn the same amount!     

Equally vain were the Great Society’s housing programs.  Facing depressed sections in the nation’s great cities, progressives pressed for federally-funded housing projects.  After all, Walter Reuther had declared:  “The choice before the people of every major urban center is simple and clear.  It is build or burn.”  Government housing for the needy had long been a progressive ideal, and their projects revealed an architectural aesthetic.  Consider what was erected in Washington, D.C. to house the newly-created Department of Housing and Urban Development.  It was was, architecturally, a monument to “Brutalism,” a movement celebrating massive, concrete, featureless, geometric structures.  But to most Americans it signified a “brutalist” bureaucratic obsession.  No matter what experts said, “brutalist” had to mean what it sounded and looked like, possessing brute power” (p. 230).  To deal effectively with city slums, old neighborhoods were razed and replaced with soaring, sterile concrete structures—“projects” designed improve living conditions for the impoverished.  Yet with a rapidity impossible to imagine these “projects” in St. Louis, Chicago, and elsewhere became cages of squalor and crime.  They would be, in a rather short time, simply demolished. 

But unlike the brutalist housing projects, Great Society programs persisted.  President Nixon tinkered a bit with some of them but dared not seek to reverse them.  Indeed, he pursued policies, such as wage and price controls in 1971, that were flagrantly socialistic!  Ronald Reagan, both as Governor of California and President of the United States, spoke frequently and passionately against some of them, but Democrats successfully obstructed most all of his proposals.  Half-a-century later, Shlaes says, with trillions of dollars expended, one can only look back at the Great Society and lament its many failures.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

In The Age of Entitlement:  America Since the Sixties (New York:. Simon & Schuster, c. 2020; Kindle Edition), Christopher Caldwell provides a helpful lens with which to understand current developments in America.  He begins by noting how deeply the ‘60s shaped subsequent decades.  Indeed:  “For two generations, ‘the sixties’ has given order to every aspect of the national life of the United States—its partisan politics, its public etiquette, its official morality.  This is a book about the crises out of which the 1960s order arose, the means by which it was maintained, and the contradictions at its heart that, by the time of the presidential election of 2016, had led a working majority of Americans to view it not as a gift but as an oppression” (p. 3).  This was because many of the “reforms” pushed through in that decade “came with costs that proved staggeringly high—in money, freedom, rights, and social stability” (p. 6).

Caldwell’s disillusionment provides a stark contrast to the ‘60s utopian optimism.  Following the traumatic assassination of John F. Kennedy, the welfare state rapidly expanded—Medicare, Medicaid, Civil Rights and Voting Rights acts—and was expected to fulfill the aspirations of the “best and the brightest” who engineered it.  Most importantly, Caldwell argues:  “Civil rights ideology, especially when it hardened into a body of legislation, became, most unexpectedly, the model for an entire new system of constantly churning political reform” (p. 5).  Here the law of unexpected consequences held true, for the “changes of the 1960s, with civil rights at their core, were not just a major new element in the Constitution.  They were a rival constitution, with which the original one was frequently incompatible,” and we are in the midst of a titanic struggle which will determine which will prevail:  “the de jure constitution of 1788, with all the traditional forms of jurisprudential legitimacy and centuries of American culture behind it; or the de facto constitution of 1964, which lacks this traditional kind of legitimacy but commands the near-unanimous endorsement of judicial elites and civic educators and the passionate allegiance of those who received it as a liberation.  The increasing necessity that citizens choose between these two orders, and the poisonous conflict into which it ultimately drove the country, is what this book describes” (p. 6).

In particular, the march toward desegregation, launched by the Supreme Court’s Brown vs. Topeka Board of Education ruling in 1954, inevitably eroded the constitutionally guaranteed freedom of association.  Equality, rather than freedom, became imperative!  Inevitably, the “sanctity of private property” was softened whenever racial discrimination called for correction.  Though some legislators, debating the civil rights laws, feared unanticipated consequences (e.g. mandated school busing, lowering school admission standards, hiring quotas, etc.), they were dismissed as devotees of an antiquated social system.  Nevertheless, many of their fears materialized, and lawmakers “who opposed the legislation proved wiser about its consequences than those who sponsored it” (p. 22).  Rather quickly civil rights leaders and federal bureaucrats moved from eliminating segregation to calling for widespread social and economic changes.  Then, only two months after LBJ signed the Voting Rights Act, the Watts neighborhood in Los Angeles exploded in a deadly race riot, revealing that more than “civil rights” was at stake.  

In fact, more than delivering justice to the black population was envisioned by the progressives now governing the nation.  “Not just excluded and exploited Southern blacks but all aggrieved minorities now sought to press their claims under this new model of progressive governance.  The civil rights model of executive orders, litigation, and court-ordered redress eventually became the basis for resolving every question pitting a newly emergent idea of fairness against old traditions:  the persistence of different roles for men and women, the moral standing of homosexuality, the welcome that is due to immigrants, the consideration befitting wheelchair-bound people.  Civil rights gradually turned into a license for government to do what the Constitution would not previously have permitted. It moved beyond the context of Jim Crow laws almost immediately, winning what its apostles saw as liberation after liberation” (p. 34).  So “women’s liberation” hitched its wagon to the civil rights movement, demanding “equality” for the sexes.  Consequently, while in 1960 married and unmarried women shared similar attitudes regarding most everything today they differ in most all things!  Feminists vigorously promoted contraception, abortion, and full equality in the marketplace.  But they also unleashed “irresistible demands for further sexual freedoms.  Just as Americans were getting comfortable with the things feminism had meant to Betty Friedan and her followers (liberation from household drudgery and loneliness, a fair shake in the workplace, equal dignity elsewhere), feminism began showing signs of what it would blossom into half a century later (gender studies, queer theory, a questioning of all rules about sex)” (p. 56).  Such “freedoms” deeply changed the culture.  

Another culture-changer was the war in Vietnam, beginning with “an act of presidential deceit,” the Tonkin resolution.  But within four years the war had proved so unpopular that everyone running for president in 1968 promised to extricate the country from what seemed to be a quagmire.  Militarily the war might have been won, but politically it was lost—particularly among the younger elites.  Thus a Harvard anti-war student said:  “On the one hand we were angry about the war, about racism, about the countless vicious acts we saw around us.  But on the other hand, we viewed America as one great wasteland, a big, monstrous, mechanized, air-conditioned desert, a place without roots or feeling.  We saw the main problem, really, as:  THE PEOPLE—the ways they thought and acted towards each other.  We imagined a great American desert, populated by millions of similar, crass, beer-drinking grains of sand, living in a waste of identical suburban no-places. What did this imagined ‘great pig-sty of TV watchers’ correspond to in real life?  As ‘middle-class’ students we learned that this was the working class—the ‘racist, insensitive people.’  Things already going on at the time of the Vietnam War inclined privileged people to look on ‘average’ Americans as the country’s problem” (p. 78).  

The counterculture evident in this student’s lament asserted itself and would spread its tentacles throughout every crack in America.  An alienated elite would ultimately dominate virtually all important institutions (schools, media, churches) and demand societal transformation funded by the taxpayer.  Endless funding of proliferating anti-poverty, anti-racist, anti-sexist bureaucracies continued, and not even Ronald Reagan could arrest it.  “Having promised for years that he would undo affirmative action ‘with the stroke of a pen,’ lop the payments that LBJ’s Great Society lavished on ‘welfare queens,’ and abolish Jimmy Carter’s Department of Education, he discovered, once he became president, that to do any of those things would have struck at the very foundations of desegregation. So he didn’t” (p. 110).  Reagan tacitly complied with the “second constitution created by the civil rights movement which led, by the end of the century, to increasingly strident racial politics.  

This was manifestly evident in the metastasizing power of  “affirmative action” and “political correctness”—important planks in the nation’s new constitution, largely shaped by judicial decrees.  It is now clear that by passing the 1964 civil rights laws Americans “had inadvertently voted themselves a second constitution without explicitly repealing the one they had” (p. 172).  In fact:  “Affirmative action was deduced judicially from the curtailments on freedom of association that the Civil Rights Act itself had put in place.  Political correctness rested on a right to collective dignity extended by sympathetic judges who saw that, without such a right, forcing the races together would more likely occasion humiliation than emancipation.  As long as Americans were frightened of speaking against civil rights legislation or, later, of being assailed as racists, sexists, homophobes, or xenophobes, their political representatives could resist nothing that presented itself in the name of ‘civil rights.’ This meant that conflict, when it eventually came, would be constitutional conflict, with all the gravity that the adjective ‘constitutional’ implies” (p. 172).

One of the ultimately disastrous consequences of this shift surfaced in 1992 when President George H.W. Bush, following race riots in Los Angeles, signed a Housing and Community Development Act.  “It inaugurated the process we have seen at many junctures in this book:  the sudden irruption of civil rights law and diversity promotion into an area from which it had been mostly absent, in this case mortgage finance” (p. 178).  This act opened the gates to “the financial crisis that, in the following century, would nearly destroy the world economy under the presidency of Bush’s even more reckless son” (p. 179).  Sandwiched between the two presidents Bush, Bill Clinton manipulated the mortgage finance system, denouncing “the dearth of private housing credit in poor, black, urban neighborhoods” fomented by racist white bankers, and demanding low mortgage rates for blacks buying homes.  In Caldwell’s judgment:  “Sometime between the passage of Lyndon Johnson’s civil rights laws and the long Bush-Clinton march through the country’s financial institutions, the victims’ perspective had won. Now any inequality was an injustice, and one did not need a clear account of what had caused it to demand redress from the system” (p. 180).

Another realm dramatically unexpectedly changed was the institution of marriage.  Other than a few gay activists, no one imagined it possible that same-sex marriage would ever be legally imposed on the nation by a Supreme Court mandate (Obergefell v. Hodges) in 1916.  But homosexuals adroitly fused their “liberation” agenda with the “radical feminist cause of delegitimizing” traditional, heterosexual marriage “and the traditional idea of masculinity” it implied (p. 216).  Gay activists wanted “not just tolerance but a conferral of dignity.  . . . .  Civil rights was always this way:  dignity was an integral and non-negotiable part of what was demanded, and a government interested in civil rights must secure it, no matter what the cost in rights to those who would deny it” (p. 217).  “As Rosa Luxemburg had written of the Russian Revolution, ‘The real dialectic of revolution stands the parliamentary cliché on its head:  The road leads not through majorities to revolutionary tactics, but through revolutionary tactics to majorities’” (p. 225).

Justice Antonin Scalia saw this clearly, dissenting from Obergefell, declaring it to be undemocratic.  “‘A system of government that makes the People subordinate to a committee of nine unelected lawyers,’ Scalia wrote, ‘does not deserve to be called a democracy.’  He called the decision an upper-class ‘putsch,’ noting that every single member of the Supreme Court had gone to either Harvard Law School or Yale Law School, and concluded:  ‘The strikingly unrepresentative character of the body voting on today’s social upheaval would be irrelevant if they were functioning as judges, answering the legal question whether the American people had ever ratified a constitutional provision that was understood to proscribe the traditional definition of marriage.  But of course the Justices in today’s majority are not voting on that basis; they say they are not’” (p. 229).  Writing for the majority, Justice Kennedy had “explicitly repudiated certain conceptions of democracy that had until recently been sacrosanct.  ‘It is of no moment whether advocates of same-sex marriage now enjoy or lack momentum in the democratic process,’ he wrote.  Unless someone was expecting the Court to apologize for Brown v. Board of Education, this thwarting of majority rule in the name of civil rights was what the Supreme Court was for” (p. 229).  Kennedy, of course, was enforcing the “second constitution”—the living constitution of Al Gore, not the original constitution of Antonin Scalia.  

With amazing rapidity the practical ramifications of Obergefell became evident.  Bakers were brought to trial for refusing to bake cakes for gay weddings.  Transgender students insisted they should use restrooms of their choice or compete as athletes in accord with their self-definition.  “A terrible irony of civil rights, obvious from the very outset but never, ever spoken of, was making itself manifest . . . .  The civil rights approach to politics meant using lawsuits, shaming, and street power to overrule democratic politics.  It encouraged—no, it required—groups of similarly situated people to organize against the wider society to defend their interests.  Now it became clear that the members of any group that felt itself despised and degraded could defend its interests this way” (p. 232).  

327 Re-Writing American History

When we talk about “culture wars” we rarely think about historians as armed and significant partisans!  But they frequently are!  This is patently evident in the “1619 Project” recently launched by the New York Times, which promises to “reframe American history” and examine this nation’s history through the singular prism of slavery.  This, says Princeton historian Allen Guelzo, “is not history; it is conspiracy theory.  The 1619 Project is not history; it is ignorance.”  The Times editorial staff is, however, replicating the scenario portrayed in George Orwell’s 1984, wherein history was routinely rewritten and “every record has been destroyed or falsified, every book has been rewritten, every picture has been repainted, every statue and street and building has been renamed, every date has been altered.”  It’s bad enough that Americans know little history—three fourths of the people in one study could not name the three branches of our constitutional system and one-fourth couldn’t name even one!  But, even worse, they’re being deliberately misinformed by schools and books and media committed to fundamentally transforming the nation by destroying its memory.    

For nearly 20 years I routinely taught survey courses in American History.  Then the university changed its core requirements, excluding these courses, so I rarely did so thereafter and rather lost track of texts being used in them.  But I did, now and then, hear of a textbook widely used in many high schools and universities—Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States:  1492 to the Present (New York:  HarperCollins, c. 1980).  I secured and read a copy, dismissing it as an egregious propaganda polemic disguised as history.  On the very first page I noted Zinn’s dishonest deletions from a Christopher Columbus quotation.  Equally evident was his undisguised Marxism.  Turning to his chapter on Indian Removal—a topic I know quite well—I was astounded by his repeated errors—placing the Chickasaws in North Carolina, the Creeks in Mississippi, calling eastern Oklahoma an “arid land, land too barren for white settlers,” and labeling Sequoyah a Cherokee chief!  My negative appraisal was widely shared by many distinguished historians, some of whom wrote scathing reviews of the book, denouncing it for its biased polemics, selective quotations, and pervasive misleading assertions.  He was denounced for selective quotations, factual errors, and overt bias.  Even a Marxist-oriented historian, Eugene Genovese, found it so flawed he refused to review it!  Another noted historian, Arthur Schlesinger, called Zinn “a polemicist, not a historian.”  Then Harvard’s Oscar Handlin reviewed the book in the American Scholar and called it a “fairy tale” with “biased selections” that “falsify events.”  He said the book “conveniently omits whatever does not fit its overriding thesis.”  

Nevertheless, ignoring the warnings of such eminent historians, many high school (especially) and college teachers have used the book as a basic text, and its theses rather quickly entered the minds of radicalized youngsters (some of whom—e.g. Bernie Sanders and  Alexandria Ocasio-Cortes—now serve in Congress).   Rather revealingly, in 2006 Zinn praised the Vermont senator for giving us an “accurate picture” of the problems this nation faces, primarily the gap separating the rich and poor.  So it’s good to have a thorough analysis of  A People’s History of the United States—Mary Graber’s Debunking Howard Zinn: Exposing the Fake History That Turned a Generation against America (Washington:  Regency History, c. 2019; Kindle Edition).  She writes because she believes Zinn has deeply damaged this nation by “convincing a generation of Americans that the nation Abraham Lincoln rightly called ‘the last best hope of Earth’ is essentially a racist criminal enterprise built on murdering Indians, exploiting slaves, and oppressing the working man.  It obviously needs to be replaced by something better.  And of course, Zinn has the answer:  a classless, egalitarian society.  Yes, what Zinn is selling is the very same communist utopian fantasy that killed more than a hundred million human beings in the twentieth century” (#81).  

Zinn’s influence in popular culture was evident in a film staring Matt Damon titled “Good Will Hunting.”  In one conversation he says:  “If you want to read a real history book, read Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States.”  Interestingly enough, while in elementary school Matt Damon was a Zinn’s neighbor.  And Damon was reared by a single mother, an education professor deeply committed to “social justice.”  As a ten-year-old Damon “took the family copy of the newly published People’s History to school and read from it to his class for Columbus Day” (p. 122).  Damon’s endorsement has been duplicated by luminaries such as Alice Walker, Marian Wright Edelman, Mumia Abu-Jamal, Bill Moyers, and Jane Fonda; by mainstream newspapers (the New York Times, the Boston Globe, the Nation, and the Washington Post); by TV outlets (The Daily Show, NPR); and even by the American Historical Association and the Organization of American Historians!  The book’s widely used a text in many schools, and if students don’t read Zinn’s book they frequently him quoted in other materials written for their age group.  Even the prestigious College Board, designing questions for the Advanced Placement U.S. History exam, now “promotes Zinn’s version of history by including his books in AP teacher-training seminars” (#140). 

One of the few public officials daring to oppose Zinn’s version is former Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, now president of Purdue University, who “questioned the use of Howard Zinn’s book to teach children in Indiana public schools.”   The governor proposed denying credit for any course using Zinn’s text and wondered “‘how do we get rid of it before any more young people are force-fed a totally false version of our history?’  He called A People’s History ‘a truly execrable, anti-factual piece of disinformation that misstates American history on every page.’”  In response:  “Ninety outraged Purdue professors signed onto an open letter” defending Zinn and claiming to use his text in their syllabi and scholarly writings (# 4800).  Though Daniels was supported by the National Association of Scholars’ President Peter Wood and some prominent journalists, both the American Historical Association and the Organization of American Historians sided with Zinn.  Ultimately, Daniels had to acknowledge he was out-gunned and backed away from his efforts. 

Zinn’s influence is dramatically evident in the nation’s celebration of Columbus Day.  He portrayed the “Admiral of the Ocean Sea” as a brutal, genocidal conquerer, unworthy of the respect he enjoyed for 500 years.  Consequently, the radical, violent group Antifa calls for a “Deface Columbus Day” and street gangs threw red paint on his statues.   “In New York City, the large bronze statue in Columbus Circle at the corner of Central Park has had ‘hate will not be tolerated’ scrawled on the base and Columbus’s hands painted red.  And the transformation in Americans’ attitudes toward the man who discovered America wasn’t limited to a few vandals.  Besides the physical attacks, there were continual demands for the government to take down the statue.  Zinn is the acknowledged inspiration behind the current campaign to abolish Columbus Day and replace it with ‘Indigenous Peoples’ Day.’  High school teachers cite his book in making the case for the renaming to their local communities” (#527).  Some sixty major cities (including Columbus, Ohio) and six states have obsequiously followed the leader and replaced Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day.  Graber demonstrates how maliciously and mendaciously Zinn depicts Columbus—especially emphasizing the ellipses in his Columbus quotations, deviously designed to delete sections disproving his assertions.  You need no Ph.D. to know how a person’s position can be utterly misrepresented by simply linking together phrases taken out of context.  Yet this is Zinn’s modus operandi!  There’s also little evidence that Zinn actually read primary, eyewitness sources, including Columbus’s journals or the works of Bartolome de Las Casas (the great defender of the Indians who condemned much the Spanish did in the New World but also said many positive things about Columbus).  Doing some careful sleuthing, Graber contends that Zinn simply lifted his account of Columbus from a book written for high school students by Hans Koning, one of his friends (and a fellow anti-Vietnam War activist).  

Koning was novelist who occasionally worked as a journalist, but he was not a historian.  He was, however, a doctrinaire socialist who had helped (along with Noam Chomsky and Zinn) found the War Resist organization to oppose the America’s presence  in Vietnam.  The book viciously smeared the explorer, and it “is the source for Zinn’s indictment of Columbus, which is the opening gambit of A People’s History.  The first five-and-a-half pages of A People’s History of the United States are little more than slightly altered passages from Columbus:  His Enterprise.  Graber points out the passages in Zinn that duplicate passages from Koning.  “Zinn lifts wholesale from Koning the very same quotations of Columbus.  He also includes an attack on the historian Samuel Eliot Morison, just like Koning—complete with references to the Vietnam War.  That’s a rather odd coincidence, given that both Zinn and Koning were purportedly recounting the fifteenth-century discovery of America” (#604).  Adding to his many sins, Zinn was clearly a plagiarist!

But his take on Columbus bore fruit.  Illuminating this, Graber describes how differently recent presidents have portrayed him.  In his final Columbus Day proclamation, George H.W. Bush praised the “‘one man who dared to defy the pessimists and naysayers of his day [and] made an epic journey that changed the course of history.’”  A year later  Bill Clinton praised not of Columbus but “‘the mutual discovery of Europeans and Native Americans and the transformations, through toil and pain, that gave birth to brave new hopes for a better future.’”  Then Barack Obama, in 2009, lamented the fact that “‘European immigrants joined the ‘thriving indigenous communities who suffered great hardships as a result of the changes to the land they inhabited’ ” (#1548).  Whether or not any of the presidents had read him, Zinn’s views percolated through the schools and popular media to significantly alter presidential pronouncements.  To understand Zinn and his biases, Graber gives us some biographical details, emphasizing his deep immersion in the Communist Party following WWII.  While studying at Columbia University, he taught part-time at several nearby colleges and also “taught a class in Marxism at the Communist Party headquarters in Brooklyn.   That’s according to his FBI file.  Zinn’s Communist activities came to the attention of the FBI beginning in 1948 when an informant reported that Zinn had told him that he was a member of the Communist Party and attended meetings five nights a week” (#1150).  The FBI also noted he worked for the Henry Wallace presidential campaign in 1948 and was “a member of the CPUSA (Communist Party USA) from at least 1949 to mid-1953” (#1157).  Though he subsequently denied being a Party member much evidence indicated he surely was.  

In 1956, still working on his PhD, Zinn landed his first full-time teaching position at Spelman College, a Christian school which served as a “finishing school” for black women in Atlanta.  But rather than work to advance the college’s mission, which was strongly Christian, Zinn determined to change it!  He scoffed at the school’s mandatory chapel requirement, labeling it a “pompous and empty ritual,” and  Marian Wright Edelman, a Spelman student at the time,  remembers her “shock” when Zinn declared he didn’t believe in Jesus Christ.  As the civil rights movement gained momentum he worked to involve his students in it.  Though fellow professors tended to see him as a “rabble rouser,” many of his students found him inspiring and energetically engaged in off-campus protests of various sorts.   Rather than giving tests in his courses he granted credit for off-campus protests, leading to brief jail stints for some of his students.  He easily found impressionable youngsters willing to follow someone who nurtured their adolescent rebelliousness and hostility to administrative authority.  Consequently, in 1963 he was fired.  

Moving north to Boston, he found a teaching position at Boston University (once a paragon of Methodist orthodoxy) and promptly promoted radical anti-war and civil rights protests.  Though he did virtually no seriously scholarly work he proved to be extremely popular with students.  One of his famous Spelman students, Alice Walker, recalled how her peers “swooned” over him, and at BU “his rhetoric inspired tears in draft resisters and in young women reading Black Boy for class.  Zinn’s classes routinely filled up and had students waiting on overflow,” and “one of his students was so inspired that he would go on to commit a portion of the fortune he earned later to establishing the Zinn Education Project” (#1413).  His students took no tests nor wrote research papers, nor did any of them fail.  Instead they were credited for working in community organizations and interviewing members of various oppressed minorities.   Whatever course he taught, he used the lectern as a pulpit to promote his vision of social justice and engage his students to pursue it.  He had little contact (personal or written) with his peers in the academic world, preferring to regale young people in classes, rallies, and teach-ins.  

He especially delighted in denouncing America as a “racist” nation.  This is quite evident whenever he treats American Indians—always portraying them as “noble savages” brutalized by invading Europeans or westward-moving American pioneers.  And, iff possible, the African slaves were even more mistreated—evidence that “‘there is not a country in world history in which racism has been more important, for so long a time, as the United States’” (#2002).  To dramatize his thesis Zinn dealt cavalierly with the facts, misrepresenting “the slaves’ truly horrific suffering for his own purposes.  For example, he claims that ‘perhaps one of every three blacks transported overseas died’” when, if fact, “according to the best quantitative evidence, 12 to 13 percent of slaves died in transit from Africa to the Americas during the history of the Middle Passage.  Sometimes a larger percentage of the slave ship’s crew died on the voyage.  In the Dutch slave trade, one in five crewmen died at sea.  But it suits Zinn’s purpose to exaggerate the true numbers and to ignore the historical context of a time and place when life was more perilous for all” (2018).  He grants the reality of African slavery, but just as he romanticized the “noble savage” Indians he also waxed nostalgic about the “communal,” “gentle” African tribal cultures.  He grants that Africans enslaved Africans in Africa, but he insisted it was “a kinder, gentler kind of slavery”—rather like feudal serfs in Medieval Europe!  It was in the New World, Zinn declares, with its capitalistic structures, that slavery became truly odious!  And the Civil War, he says, was fought “to perpetuate a racist capitalist state,” not to free the slaves!  The “great liberator,” Abraham Lincoln, was basically a “cowardly racist political beholden to powerful money interests,” and little he did merits commendation (#2263).  To Zinn, it was the radical abolitionists such as John Brown, not the statesmen such as Lincoln, who merit praise.    

Amazingly, neither the Yankees in the Civil War nor the GIs in World War II garner Zinn’s endorsement.  “Through a series of four long, leading questions about ‘imperialism, racism, totalitarianism, and militarism,’ Zinn insinuates that the ‘enemy of unspeakable evil,’ ‘Hitler’s Germany,’ was no worse than the United States and her allies.  Imperial Japan, too, was a victim of American aggression” (#2401).  Americans fought not to defeat the Axis powers but to escalate American imperialism,  As with Lincoln, Zinn disparages Franklin D. Roosevelt.  Interning Japanese-Americans during the war is equated with Hitler’s concentration camps.  Indeed, he portrays most all American presidents negatively.   They’re all “irredeemable, greedy, capitalist war-mongers.  Zinn’s project is to destroy the credibility of the American presidency—and of America, itself” (#2513). 

Zinn’s treatment of the Cold War was as misleading and biased as his treatment of other wars.  He consistently defended Soviet policies and disregarded any evidence of front groups or communist infiltration in America.  The House Committee on Un-American Activities was purely paranoid, guilty of “‘interrogating Americans about their Communist connections, holding them in contempt if they refused to answer, distributing millions of pamphlets’ that claimed that Communists could be found  ‘everywhere—in factories, offices, butcher shops, on street corners, in private business’” (#3145).  But in fact, Graber reminds us, “they were there.  And, we would add, in classrooms” (#3149).  We now know, thanks to the Venona Papers, that the Communist Party USA was “a fifth column” seeking to destroy this country and that all-too-many government officials, such as Alger Hiss, were secretly working to advance it.  It’s abundantly clear that the Ethel and Julian Rosenberg were guilty of espionage, eminently deserving their execution.  But Zinn stoutly defends them, insisting they were victims of a frame-up.  

His slant on the Vietnam War further reveals Zinn’s ideology, for he vehemently sided with the communists doing battle with an evil, capitalist, imperialistic America—repeating in print the speeches he made as an anti-war agitator in the midst of the war.  He portrays Ho Chi Minh as a “reformer” and touted his righteous role as the leader of North Vietnam, conveniently ignoring the fact that in “redistributing” the nation’s wealth he killed tens of thousands of landlords and funneled peasants into collective farms.  (It should be noted that Zinn was intimately involved in the leaking of the “Pentagon Papers” in 1971, personally hiding for a time the documents stolen by Daniel Ellsberg.  Doing so seriously harmed America’s war effort, for they persuaded the public {by obscuring the actual progress made between 1968 and 1971} that the war could not be won.  As usual, relying on clever ellipses, Zinn cited sources he misrepresented.  Thus the valuable work Douglas Pike, accusing the Viet Cong of “genocide,” is twisted to suggest they were in fact heroic social reformers.  Pike warned that a Communist victory would doom “‘thousands of Vietnamese, many of them of course my friends, to death, prison, or permanent exile,’” warning that if America ever abandoned the South Vietnamese people she would “betray her own heritage.”  Zinn, however, cited Pike’s “book to justify that betrayal, distorting Pike’s analysis to make it appear to support the opposite case” (#4233).  

In her final chapter, Graber says:  “No assessment of Howard Zinn’s People’s History of the United States would be complete without some consideration of his perverse take on the founding of our nation.”  To him the American Revolution was not really revolutionary!  It failed to achieve what the Bolsheviks did in Russia!  A real people’s revolution would have “smashed the capitalist system and toppled the ‘elite’ to whom he refers” (#4578).  Even worse, as Charles Beard had argued, the Constitutional Convention secured the elite’s control of the country.  Written by the likes of John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton, it subjected the people to the rule of the upper class.  Though Beard’s An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution has been thoroughly discredited by historians interested in actuality rather than ideology, Zinn considers it authoritative.  In constructing his “people’s history,” he works “by lying, distorting and misusing evidence, hijacking other historians’ work, and falsifying the facts, as we have seen again and again.  The problem is not that, as Zinn liked to pretend in his own defense, he wrote a “people’s” history, telling the bottom-up story of neglected and forgotten men and women.  The problem is that he falsified American history to promote Communist revolution” (#4731).

Both Zinn’s  autobiography, You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train, and Original Zinn:  Conversations on History and Politics, co-written with David Barsamian, reveal his approach to writing history.  As a “radical,” he wanted to focus on the poor and oppressed.  So he sought to tell us the untold story, the story of the world’s poor, the world’s workers, the world’s homeless, the world’s oppressed, the people who don’t really qualify as real people in official histories.  In his mind, he shared the “radical vision” of Franklin D. Roosevelt, who in 1944 proposed an Economic Bill of Rights, including the right to a good job, a good income, a “decent” home, easy access to medical care, comfort in old age, and a good education.  So Zinn hungers for a world without national boundaries wherein everyone shares equally in the “riches of the planet” and works only a “few hours a day.”  In other words, Marx’s utopian vision can be secured by socialists such as Zinn, and to promote this agenda he wrote his one-sided “people’s history.” 

# # # 

326 Wonders of Light, Water, Fire

In the beginning—at a primordial stage of the creative process making heaven and earth—“the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.”  Planet Earth is rightly called the “watery planet,” for  nothing is more evident in all of life than the miraculous properties of water.  So, writing a short treatise as part of his “Privileged Species Series,” Australian biologist Michael Denton treats The Wonder of Water:  Water’s Profound Fitness for Life on Earth and Mankind (Seattle:  Discovery Institute, c. 2017; Kindle Edition).  He rightly employs the word wonder to indicate his thesis, for this is much more than a descriptive text.  He is (as Socrates noted about Theaetetus) by nature “a philosopher; for wonder is the feeling of a philosopher, and philosophy begins in wonder.”  Similarly, Plato’s more scientifically-oriented student, Aristotle, said:  “In all things of nature there is something of the marvelous.”

And there are indeed many wonderful aspects to water!  Now and then we’re painfully aware of it.  Especially when desiccated by a drought—or battling flood waters—we know something of its enormous  power.   More positively, we know that the slow erosion of rocks makes soil and moist soil incubates organic life.  Yet there is “another unseen and very different magic” working “inside our bodies.  The same wonder substance that is eroding those rocks and providing life with essential nutrients and minerals is doing something else!”  It’s sustaining our circulatory system.  “With each beat of our heart, water carries to our tissues oxygen and many of those very same nutrients leached from the rocks in the fall.  Water also ferries away the waste products of respiration—carbon dioxide to the lungs, other waste products to the kidneys, and excess heat to the skin, where it is vented from the body.  Our vital dependence on those beautiful tumbling waters for the life-giving minerals she draws from the rocks and our equally vital dependence on the water coursing through our arteries carrying many of those same elements around the body brings us face to face with a revelation as extraordinary as any other in any domain of science.  The one substance, water, is uniquely fit to serve two utterly different vital ends—ends as different as can be conceived: the erosion of rock and the circulation of the blood.  Both are absolutely vital to our existence.  No other substance in nature comes close to having the essential set of properties needed to do these two jobs” (p. 12).

More deeply, the wonders of water indicate that our world—and we ourselves—are no cosmic accidents.  “Through its magic, water sings a universal song of life, and in its special fitness for human physiology it sings a special song of man.  The properties of water show that beings with our biology do indeed occupy a special central place in the order of nature, and that the blueprint for life was present in the properties of matter from the moment of creation” (p. 14).   Uniquely, water exists in three forms—solid, liquid, gas.  Rocks remain rocks and oxygen and helium remain gasses.  But water, uniquely, takes various forms on the planet’s surface, and:  “Of all known substances, only water is fit for the hydrological cycle, the delivery system of water to land-based life” (p. 18).  Going into fascinating detail, Denton shows how this cycle works, saysing:  “There is a beautiful and elegant teleology in all this.  The same process which draws from rocks the minerals and essential elements for life generates at the same time—in the clays and sands and silts that together form soil with organic debris—an ideal water- and mineral-retaining matrix that provides the means by which the mineral-enriched water can be used by plants” (p. 28).  It also lubricates the movement of the tectonic plates, shifting continents and casting aloft mountains. 

“The notion that the tectonic system is the result of design rises unbidden from the evidence.  How could such an elegant system of integrated elements of unique fitness, which has fashioned the world for life over billions of years, and which transcends in its reciprocal self-formative abilities any artifact created to date, have arisen out of blind collisions of atoms?  And how could the manifold fitness of water, which conveys every impression of having been fine-tuned to turn the wheels, be mere happenstance?” (p. 58).  Indeed:   “The design of such systems, in which the parts are reciprocally self-formative, transcends the design of any artifact or machine ever created” (p. 58).  Illustrating this is the temperature regulation provided by earth’s oceans, which serve as a hemostat, regulating temperatures and conserving water, providing us with a mechanism “without any parallel in human engineering” (p. 75).  Water’s thermal properties sustain and regulate the earth’s climate, “transporting and redistributing heat around the globe.  If either of these two properties did not have the values they do, the entire climate machine would grind to a halt, permanent ice might cover the region where New York currently stands, and all tropical regions would be hellishly hot.  So the thermal properties of water help produce the atmospheric currents . . .  that contribute to ocean currents, which also use water’s thermal properties to better redistribute heat” (p. 103).

There are also currents circulating within living organisms.  “Steven Vogel, in The Life of a Leaf, describes the way water manages to get to the top of tall trees as a phenomenon mirabile dictu (“wonderful to relate”)” (p. 107).  Two of water’s unique properties are its high surface tension and tensile strength, which enable it to soar 100 feet or so to the tops of trees.  As water evaporates from the tree through its leaves, suction lifts fresh water from the tree’s roots.  “It is a basic law of hydraulics that pressure in one part of an enclosed hydraulic system is transmitted to all other parts.  As water molecules are lost from the leaves at the top of the tree, others must enter the roots to take their place” (p. 109).  Vogel “waxes lyrical in contemplating the way it’s done:  ‘The pumping system has no moving parts, costs the plant no metabolic energy, moves more water than all the circulatory systems of animals combined, does so against far higher resistance, and depends on a mechanism with no close analogy in human technology” (p. 110). 

After celebrating water’s role in human physiology and cellular life, Denton concludes his treatise by asking:  “Is there a tale like the tale of water?  Can one conceive of a substance as profoundly purposeful, serving such a diversity of vital ends?  Has any substance remotely like water been described even in the most outré annals of science fiction?  Who might have guessed or imagined in even the most unrestrained flight of fancy that in this simple substance, one of the simplest of nature’s creations, composed of only three atoms—two of hydrogen and one of oxygen—and only a ten-millionth of a millimeter across, there would be so much design?  There are more ends served in these three magic atoms than in any other natural form, and far, far more, and far more marvelous, than in any artifact created by or conceived of by man.  No words can express the wonder of such manifold purpose, so many vital ends, compressed in such a tiny piece of matter.  Water is the matrix of the cell, the blood of the Earth, the maker of mountains, the sustainer of life” (pp. 179-180).  Still more:  “In these extraordinary features, water’s design for life is transcendent!  Nothing in the artificial realm of our own limited designs comes close.  Reason recoils at the notion that such designs could be the result of blind, unseeing processes.  There is no domain in which astronomer Fred Hoyle’s celebrated confession is more appropriate:  ‘A common sense interpretation of the facts suggests… that there are no blind forces worth speaking about in nature’” (p. 183).

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

In addition to the Spirit moving upon the face of the waters, God said:  “Let there be light, and there was light.”  So began the creative process, fueled from its inception by the wondrous power of light.  In Einstein’s world, the sole constant throughout the universe is the speed of light.  So it is fitting, when Michael Denton crafted another treatise in the “Privileged Species Series” (celebrating the wonders of the world) he would write about Children of Light: The Astonishing Properties of Sunlight that Make Us Possible (Seattle:  Discovery Institute, c. 2018; Kindle Edition).  As with water, sunshine is such a daily reality in our world that we rarely pause to ponder its splendor.  Though at one time or another we probably studied and appreciated the importance of photosynthesis, whereby plants miraculously transform light into biological beings, we’re doubtlessly less aware of the importance of the sun’s invisible electromagnetic radiation that’s needed for an amazing variety of necessary ingredients for earth’s intricate workings.  

  Still more:  earth’s intricacies seem perfectly designed for us, her residents, living in a truly “Goldilocks region” that is just right, indeed a perfectly designed, place for us.  We get just enough illuminating light and just enough heat to make this a truly “privileged planet.”  Thus Denton says:  “In addition to being perfectly fit for photosynthesis and hence for our kind of oxygen-utilizing advanced life, sunlight is also just right for high-acuity vision, which depends on another set of extraordinary coincidences in the characteristics of visual light.  And sunlight is just right not only for any type of high-acuity visual device or eye, but just right in terms of its wavelength for beings of our size and upright android design.  What is so significant about the fitness of the Sun’s light for photosynthesis and for high-acuity vision is that these are elements of natural fitness exclusively for our type of life—for beings possessing the gift of sight, breathing oxygen (aerobic), and inhabiting the terrestrial surface of a planet like the Earth” (#147).

The rightness of light for our world is facilitated by a remarkable blend of atmospheric gasses (oxygen, nitrogen, carbon dioxide, water vapor and ozone), for the “life-giving light of the Sun must penetrate the atmosphere right down to the ground to work its magic, and a proportion of the Sun’s IR radiation (heat radiation) must be absorbed by and held in the atmosphere to warm the Earth above the freezing point of water and animate the atoms of life for chemistry.  Amazingly, the atmosphere obliges us in this critical task.  But as we shall see, its capacity to let through the right light and absorb the right proportion of heat depends on an additional suite of hugely improbable coincidences in the combined absorption characteristics of the atmospheric gases” (#629).  Indeed, Denton says:  “If I can be excused for expressing the coincidence in animist terms, it is as if the atmosphere were intelligently colluding with the Sun to ensure that only the right light for photochemistry . . . reached the Earth’s surface and that only the ‘right’ proportion of the IR was absorbed to warm the Earth into the ambient temperature range” (#669).  The three most important gasses—CO₂, H₂O, and O₂—effectively “ensure—by their collective absorption properties in the atmosphere—the availability of the vital light energy necessary to drive the reaction to completion.  It is as if these three gases were colluding intelligently together to promote their incorporation into the substance of living matter.  Altogether these coincidences convey an overwhelming impression of design.  The improbability that they are the outcome of the blind concourse of atoms is equivalent to the improbability of drawing the same card twice from a stack of 1025 cards stretching from Earth beyond the Andromeda Galaxy.  How else can we describe these coincidences except as miracles of fortuity?” (#903). 

Though we see only a tiny bit of the EM spectrum, we are blessed with visual capacities, and our high-acuity eyes are themselves wondrous to behold!  [Many years ago, while teaching at Point Loma Nazarene University, I attended a lecture by Francis Crick, the co-discoverer of DNA.  He gave a fascinating lecture on the eye, acknowledging that scientists were still quite puzzled by its complexity, though he was confident they would figure it all out.  I was also struck by his dogmatic declamations regarding the origin of the universe while admitting his mystification at the eye!]  As did Crick, Denton describes the eye and explains its functions.  But unlike Crick he acknowledges its improbability of emerging through purely materialistic developments.  That we have eyes to see—and that there is light illuminating our world for us to behold—is little short of miraculous, for it requires “the same tiny magic band that has just the right energy levels for photochemistry and detection by bio-matter.”  The probability that it all “just happened” means we have “had to select the same playing card from the stack that stretches that inconceivable distance beyond our nearest neighboring galaxy” (#1555).  Denton notes that most scientists, like Crick, reject his position, for the current naturalistic Zeitgeist hardly allows for any anthropocentric interpretations of our place in the cosmos.  But:  “No matter how unfashionable the notion may be in many intellectual circles, the evidence is unequivocal:  Ours is a cosmos in which the laws of nature appear to be specially fine-tuned for our type of life—for advanced, carbon-based ‘light eaters’ who possess the technologically enabling miracle of sight!  I do admit that the claim—that our existence depends on a profound fitness in nature for our specific form of being—is among the most outrageously ambitious claims in the history of thought.  Could the cosmic dance have really been arranged primarily for beings like us?” (#1745).  * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Before publishing his works on water and light, Micheal Denton wrote the first of his Privileged Species books, titling it Fire-Maker: How Humans Were Designed to Harness Fire and Transform Our Planet (Seattle:  Discovery Institute Press, c. 2016; Kindle Eduction).  “Of all the discoveries made in the course of mankind’s long march to civilization,” he says, “there was one primal discovery that made the realization of all this possible.  It’s a discovery we use every day and take completely for granted. But this discovery changed everything.  Humankind discovered how to make and tame fire.  Darwin rightly saw it as ‘Probably the greatest [discovery], excepting language, ever made by man’” (p. 10). 

Building fires for heat and cooking were important for early man, and simple camp fires sufficed.  But in order to smelt metals—copper, iron, etc.—something that burned hotter was needed.  And it was discovered:  charcoal!  By burning charcoal in vented kilns you can smelt copper to make bronze and iron (thus the “Bronze Age” and “Iron Age” we study in history).  “Given the range of temperatures in the cosmos and the fantastic diversity of the properties of matter, it beggars belief that the smelting temperatures of metal ores are in reach of the temperatures that can be generated in wood or charcoal fires—a coincidence upon which the whole subsequent development of technology depended” (p. 16).  The elements of earth are just right for us—and we’re rightly designed to use them!  Only humans—conscious, rational, creative creatures with dexterous hands—“could ever have exploited the wonderful fitness of nature for fire and for metallurgy” (p. 17).  We alone are “capable of maintaining and controlling fire, of building kilns, of mining for ores, of felling trees and manufacturing charcoal, and so on” (p. 47). 

Fortunately for us, planet earth is wondrously endowed with fire-friendly ingredients!  It’s just the right size with just the right mass possessing just the right gravity “to retain permanently the heavier gaseous elements such as nitrogen, oxygen, and carbon dioxide, but weak enough to permit the initial loss of the lighter volatile elements such as hydrogen and helium.  Only on planets of similar mass and size to the Earth’s could there exist an atmosphere containing sufficient quantities of oxygen to sustain fire” (p. 27).  Ours for sure is a Goldilocks planet!  And it contains precious ores!  As Alfred Russel Wallace said:  “‘The seven ancient metals are gold, silver, copper, iron, tin, lead, and mercury.  All of these are widely distributed in the rocks.  They are most of them found occasionally in a pure state, and are also obtained from their ores without much difficulty, which has led to their being utilised from very early times… Each of the seven metals (and a few others now in common use) has very special qualities which renders it useful for certain purposes, and these have so entered into our daily life that it is difficult to conceive how we should do without them’” (p. 32).  To smelt these metals required the right fuel—and we have it:  wood.  In various forms—firewood, charcoal, coal, oil—wood has fueled civilization. 

In conclusion:  “Overall, the evidence suggests that the cosmos is uniquely fit for beings of our biology to thrive on a planet like the Earth and to master fire and develop complex advanced technologies.  Surely there could not be an equivalent ensemble of fitness in nature for some other type of life.  Lawrence Henderson made the same point in his classic Fitness of the Environment when he argued that the sorts of ensembles of fitness which make carbon-based life possible are so absurdly improbable that they are almost certainly unique, without any analogue in any other area of chemistry or physics” (p. 66).  “Whatever the ultimate causation may eventually prove to be, as it stands, the evidence of fitness is at least consistent with the notion that the fine-tuning for life as it exists on Earth is the result of design” (p. 67).  “Although the current Zeitgeist would have us believe that humanity is little more than a cosmic accident, one of a million different possible outcomes that happened to arrive and survive on an unexceptional planet, the evidence examined in this short book suggests otherwise—that whatever the causation of the fine tuning, we are no accident of deep time and chance.  On the contrary, as Freeman Dyson famously proclaimed, from the moment of creation ‘the universe in some sense must have known that we were coming’” (p. 69).

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

In 1985 Micheal Denton published Evolution:  A Theory in Crisis, seriously questioning the Darwinian theory of evolution through natural selection.  Reading that work helped embolden the late Philip Johnson to write The Case Against Darwin and help launch what is frequently called the “Intelligent Design” movement.  Though Johnson and others were theists, Denton (an Australian academic) writes purely from a biologist’s standpoint, leaving theological issues in others’ hands.  Just recently he revised and upgraded his position in Evolution: Still a Theory in Crisis (Seattle:  Discovery Institute Press, c. 2016; Kindle Edition.)   “My major goal in this new book,” he says, “is to review the challenge to Darwinian orthodoxy and the support for typology provided by the novelty and extraordinary invariance of the homologs [i.e. primal patterns]” (p. 13).  There are, he argues, perduring “types” of biological structures embedded in and best explaining the natural world.  

Taking this position leads him to align himself with leading 19th century biologists, most especially Richard Owen, who believed in quite specific “laws of biological form” which set limits to the development of species, providing “a few basic designs or Types, just as the laws of chemical form or crystal form limit chemicals and crystals to finite sets of lawful forms.  This view implies that many of life’s basic forms arise in the same way as do other natural forms—ultimately from the self-organization of matter—and are genuine universals.  Structuralism—at least in the form it took in the nineteenth century, and in the version I am defending here—implies that the basic Types of life, and indeed the whole evolutionary progression of life on earth, are built into nature.  Thus, life is no artifact of ‘time and chance,’ as it came to be seen after Darwin, but a predictable and necessary part of the cosmic whole” (p. 15).

Scientists such as Owen were structuralists, while Darwin was a functionalist.  “Where functionalism suggests that function is prior and determines structure, structuralism suggests that structure is prior and constrains function” (p. 19).  When, in 1985, Denton advanced an essentially structuralist view he was very much alone is his advocacy.  But he now says times have changed!  The evidence for a structuralist approach has mounted to almost to a cascade supporting “Owen’s distinction between homolog [the melody] and adaptive mask [tuning the piano]):  ‘We think of natural selection as tuning the piano, not as composing the melodies.  That’s our story, and we think it’s the story that modern biology tells when it’s properly construed’” (p.  29).  Denton believes:  “along with Owen and many other nineteenth-century biologists, that life is an integral and lawful part of nature and that the basic forms of life are in some sense built into nature.  I see this notion massively reinforced by the evidence of twentieth-century cosmology that the laws of nature are uniquely fine-tuned for life.  Inevitably, therefore, this book is a defense of the typological world-view similar to that subscribed to by many nineteenth-century biologists:  that the taxa-defining homologs represent a special set of natural forms which constitute the immutable building blocks of the biological world.  If the Types (or, more specifically, the homologs which define them) are indeed natural forms, their origin can never be explained by cumulative selection.  Thus, Darwinism is bound to fail as a comprehensive explanation of life” (p. 29).

# # # 

325 Impeachment and the Plot to Remove a President

As the Trump impeachment process gained steam during the past year I perused  two scholarly works devoted to explaining precisely what the Constitution provides should Congress should decide to impeach and then remove a President from office.   Years ago I’d read and reviewed Raul Berger’s Government by Judiciary: The Transformation of the Fourteenth Amendment and commended the depth and perspicuity of its analysis.  Knowing he’d written Impeachment:  The Constitutional Problems (Cambridge:  Harvard University Press, c. 1973), I acquired a copy and found it to be, in the words of Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., “an admirable and powerful work  . . . reliable and illuminating.”  After devoting many pages to English legal history, demonstrating why the British Parliament had developed the process of impeachment, Berger (a Harvard Law School professor) showed how America’s Founders incorporated the process into the Constitution.  Committed to an originalist position, Berger sought to follow the Founders’ injunction and primarily understand the Constitution by considering the explanations of those who actually wrote it.  He especially sought to show what “treason, bribery, and other high crimes and misdemeanors” meant in 1787.  These terms did not necessarily mean criminal behavior, for as Justice Joseph Story (an associate of Chief Justice John Marshall) said, three decades later, impeachment is:  “‘a proceeding purely of a political nature.  It is not so much designed to punish an offender as to secure the state against gross official misdemeanors.  It touches neither his person nor his property, but simply divests him of his political capacity’” (p. 84).  However, the Founders were determined to preserve the balance of powers they deemed essential for the republic and were especially concerned that the legislative branch might become dictatorial.   “Nothing is clearer than the intention of the Founders to repudiate and reject ‘legislative omnipotence’” (p. 273).  

Though impeachment is surely a political recourse, the Founders said it should be rarely used and then only for demonstrably egregious offenses.  Thus, though the House of Representatives could draft articles of impeachment, it was left to the Senate to decide whether or not to remove a President.  As Alexander Hamilton explained, this was ‘because what other body would be likely . . . to preserve, unwed and uninfluenced, the necessary impartiality between an individual accused, and the representatives of the people, his accuser.’  The senate was made judge, not in order to lessen the guarantees, but to insure that the accused would not be crushed by the  oppressive weight of the House of Representatives.  The President, no less than the lowliest citizen, is entitled to the protection of due process, and the essence of due process is fair play’” (p. 277).  In accord with the English tradition, rooted in the Magna Carta, due process and fair play were due everyone.

When Berger wrote his book, only once in American history had a president been impeached—Andrew Johnson, who had defied a law he considered unconstitutional.  Devoting considerable attention to that event, Berger declared the effort by Radical Republicans to remove a President with whom they disagreed overtly spurious.  It serves as a historical reminder of “a gross abuse of the impeachment process, an attempt to punish the President for differing with and obstructing the policy of Congress.  . . . . It undermined the separation of powers and constituted a long stride toward the very ‘legislative tyranny’ feared and fenced in by the Founders” (p. 308-309).  

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Cass Sunstein is a Harvard Law School professor who recently published Impeachment:  A Citizen’s Guide  (New York:  Penguin Publishing Group, c. 2019, Kindle Edition).  Though issued amidst the clamor for President Trump’s impeachment, the book is “designed to answer more enduring questions, including:  Why does the U.S. Constitution include an impeachment mechanism?  What’s a ‘high crime or misdemeanor’?  How does impeachment work?  Is impeachment a question of law or politics?” (p. xiv).   As a young man Sunstein had studied the impeachment endeavors targeting President Richard Nixon.  Two  decades later, he was brought to Washington as a distinguished professor to testify before Congress during the Bill Clinton hearings, trying to explain the “high crimes and misdemeanors” phrase in the Constitution.  He also worked within the Clinton White House, preparing to defend the president when he was brought to trial before the Senate.  Sunstein now seeks to take an impartial stance, intent on celebrating “the majesty, and the mystery, of impeachment under the U.S. Constitution” (p. 15).

Rightly interpreting the Constitution, of course, means different things to different folks!  Justices such as the late Thurgood Marshall looked at it as a “living document” endlessly malleable in the hands of judges who install such things as abortion and same-sex marriage as constitutional rights.  Others, such as Antonin Scalia, took an “originalist” view and tried to come to conclusions based upon what the Founders intended and take history as our surest guide.  On most issues, Sunstein supports the “living document” approach, but when it comes to impeachment he actually thinks an “originalist” stance is best.  In part this is because only two American presidents had been impeached and there are few judicial precedents to give the on-going tradition needed for a “living document” approach.  Still more:  the two actual impeachments (presidents Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton) provide little guidance, for they both “were unconstitutional, even farcical—case studies in what the United States should avoid” (p. 86).  

Sunstein concludes his treatise noting that Trump adversaries were calling for his impeachment as soon as he was elected.  They were determined to do so and went looking for a reasons, ranging from tweets to insulting athletes to denying climate change.  Whatever!  “They did so not because they could point to impeachable offenses, but because they disliked him and they strongly opposed his policies.”  Though Sunstein differs with the President on many issues, he finds him guilty of no impeachable offenses.  So:  “One of the original motivations for this book—not the driving force, but still—was to counteract what seemed to me to be reckless and irresponsible arguments for the impeachment of President Trump before his presidency even got started.  My much larger goals were to correct some recurring misunderstandings of the impeachment clause, which have played a significant role in debates over impeachment at least since the 1990s” (p. 177).  

And my guess is he would find the latest House of Representatives impeachment action sadly misguided—an offense to the majesty of the Constitution he reveres.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

During the past two years I’ve read a number of books devoted to the Democrats’ efforts to impeach and remove President Trump from office.  These include:  Compromised:  How Money and Politics Drive FBI Corruption, by Seamus Bruner; The Russia Hoax:  The Illicit Scheme to Clear Hillary Clinton and Frame Donald Trump, and its sequel, Witch Hunt:  The Story of the Greatest Mass Delusion in American History, by Gregg Jarrett; The United States of Trump:  How the President Really Sees America, by Bill O’Reiley; Resistance (At All Costs):  How Trump Haters are Breaking America, by Kimberly Strassell; Ball of Collusion:  The Plot to Rig an Election and Destroy a President, by Andrew McCarthy; Unmasked:  Big Media’s War Against Trump, by Brent Bozell; Unfreedom of the Press, by Mark Levin; The Red Thread:  A Search for Ideological Drivers Inside the Anti-Trump Conspiracy, by Diana West; and Spygate:  The Attempted Sabotage of Donald Trump, by Dan Bongino.  The authors include lawyers, journalists, and former federal prosecutors.  They all tell essentially the same story, presenting evidence recently and almost totally confirmed in detail by the DOJ’s Inspector General’s report and by the FISA’s rebuke of the FBI’s duplicitous behavior.  They critique the effort to remove President Trump from office, though they do so with considerable variety.  Some authors—Andrew McCarthy, Gregg Barrett, and Mark Levin—provide meticulous documentation; others, such Kimberly Strassell are more journalistic in their approach.  Some are Trump supporters; others mainly find the efforts to destroy him unfair and reprehensible.  All together, however, they reveal an alarming event:  a malicious effort to nullify a presidential election.  

Rather than try to sum up these various treatises, I’ll examine in some detail one of the most recent and readable books:  Lee Smith’s The Plot Against the President:  The True Story of How Congressman Devin Nunes Uncovered the Biggest Political Scandal in U.S. History (New York:  Center Street, c. 2019).  Nunes, as chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, knows as much as any American could regarding the machinations of the intelligence community, for he was charged with their oversight.  Smith, an experienced journalist who has worked for The Village Voice and The Weekly Standard,  seeks “to present the known, as well as previously unreported, details in the anti-Trump operation.  The basic outline of the story, however, is shockingly simple.  Hillary Clinton’s campaign used political operatives and dirty cops to frame her opponent.  When she lost, Obama officials employed the resources of the federal government to try to topple President Trump.”  This endeavor was widely supported by the media, who “weren’t simply partisan or lazy or complicit” but were “an integral component” of the endeavor.  “All in all, it is a tragic story about criminality, corruption, and a conspiracy of lies at the highest levels of important US institutions that were designed to keep the public safe, such as the FBI, and free, such as the press.  But there is another story running parallel to that account, and that is a story about a small handful of Americans, public servants, who stood up, assumed responsibility, and did the right thing at a crucial time” (pp. 13-14). 

The handful of heroes who did the right thing were Congressman Devin Nunes and the investigative staff he assembled which “uncovered the biggest political scandal in American history” (p. 14).  (Contributing significantly to their work was Iowa’s Senator Chuck Grassley, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee).  Leading the investigation was Cash Patal, who had worked as a terrorism prosecutor at the Department of Justice (DOJ).  He’d been outraged by FBI Director James Comey’s exoneration of Hillary Clinton.  “‘He hijacked the Clinton investigation,’ he says.  ‘That was not his call to make.  You don’t go on TV and say, “I, the FBI director, am deciding what is a prosecutor’s decision.”   And by the way, all my colleagues in the national security division, all truly apolitical, every one of us would have taken the Clinton case to a grand jury’” (p. 179).  Patal had also became acquainted with some of the folks he would later investigate—Glenn Simpson, a journalist who had founded Fusion GPS, a firm known for doing “opposition research” (working for the 2012 Obama campaign looking for dirt on Mit Romney) that was hired by the Clinton campaign to find damaging information on Trump;  Christopher Steele, a former British intelligence officer with some past Russian connections who often worked for the FBI; Bruce Ohr, a senior Justice Department official, and his wife Nellie, who did research for Simpson.  These folks fed information to the FBI team (including deputy director Andrew McCabe, deputy assistant director for counterintelligence, agent Peter Strzok, and Lisa Page, McCabe’s special counsel) which orchestrated the “Crossfire Hurricane” investigation of the Trump campaign.  

Early in 2016 they took aim at influential Trump advisors, including retired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn.  He had gained renown for his significant work in military intelligence and was appointed by President Obama to head the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) in 2012.  As a devoted reformer and outspoken critic, however, he quickly alienated establishment bureaucrats and offended Obama by challenging both the president’s refusal to release the documents captured in the Osama bin Laden raid and the Iran nuclear deal.  Thus Flynn’s work for the White House ended within two years and he launched a consulting firm.  He then became involved in the 2016 presidential campaign, advising Republican hopefuls such as Ben Carson, Carly Fiorena, and Donald Trump, because he “was willing to talk to anyone if it would help keep Hillary Clinton out of the White House” (p. 20).  

Two days after the election, President Obama spent significant time defaming Flynn while talking with president-elect Trump.  “Obama had allies throughout the intelligence community, hundreds of them.  And they had their own reasons to go after Flynn.  ‘Flynn was talking about remaking the NSC staff and getting rid of the Obama holdovers to put Trump’s people in there,’ says Nunes. ‘He was going to cut the NSC staff down to a third of its size under Obama.’  Even more significantly, Flynn was going to address the problems with the intelligence community as a whole.  ‘He wanted to remake the entire IC,’ says Nunes.  He had Trump’s ear.  They were going to drain the Swamp” (p. 136).  Flynn’s adversaries then launched a vicious and dishonest campaign to discredit and defame him, “erasing facts” and doctoring photographs in order to suggest the Trump team was aligned with the Kremlin.  He would be the first of Trump’s appointees to be fired—within a few weeks of the inauguration.  Trump thought this would end the Russia controversy, but:  “‘He was getting bad advice from some of his advisers,’” says Nunes.  ‘He didn’t understand that after they got Flynn, they’d have momentum.  After Flynn went down, they believed they could get the president, too’” (p. 147).  

Central to the plot against the president was what came to be known as the “Steele Dossier.”  In April 2016, Hillary Clinton and the DNC “hired Fusion GPS to build a Trump-Russia echo chamber.  Fusion GPS garnered more than $1 million to compile information about Trump’s ties to Russia and distribute it to the press.  By the end of the spring, every major US media organization was involved in pushing the big story about the Republican candidate:  Trump and his associates were tied to Russian and other former Soviet Bloc business interests.  Fusion GPS was the Clinton campaign’s shadow war room—and subsequently became its dirty tricks operations center” (p. 42).  Christopher Steele was recruited (and paid $168,000) to gather information on Trump’s Russian ties and proceeded to pen a number of unsubstantiated allegations and rumors.  “What had started as an opposition research project that had turned up little of substance had transformed into a smear campaign” (p. 74).  Thus the “Steele Dossier” became the main basis for the FBI’s appeal to the FISA court for permission to surveil suspected members of the Trump team.  “But the dossier is not an ‘intelligence’ product.  It’s a fiction, a literary forgery, populated with real characters, but who did not do or say the things attributed to them.  And the dossier’s authors are not intelligence officers but journalists and academics accustomed to running smear campaigns and dirty tricks operations and lying” (p. 286).

The dossier mentioned Carter Page, a volunteer consultant on the periphery of the Trump campaign staff.  A graduate of the Naval Academy with considerable knowledge of and contacts in Russia, Page had frequently worked with the CIA, providing information gained on some of his trips abroad.  Though the Crossfire Hurricane group claimed he was a foreign agent, he’d actually helped the FBI locate Russian agents working in New York.  (We now know the FBI actually altered a CIA document indicating Page had worked with the agency to say he had not worked for it!)  The evidence cited by the FBI was little more than the Steele Dossier, as well as newspaper articles which were based upon Fusion GPS claims.  Page had earlier left the Trump campaign, but the FBI wanted to uncover his past emails and find incriminating evidence.  The claimed Page was paid involved in a deal which involved hundreds of millions of dollars.  But he obviously didn’t have that kind of money and it could have easily been disproved had the FBI wanted to do so.  “It was clear the story in the dossier was nonsense” (p. 183).  What  Crossfire Hurricane actually wanted was permission to surveil Page in order to get at Trump and, as Nunes says, “‘They were sure they were going to find something, the golden ticket’” (p. 98).  But they found nothing!  And they virtually destroyed an honorable man.  

All of this took place before the 2016 presidential election, when Crossfire Hurricane assumed Hillary Clinton would be elected and their activities safely ignored.  But when Trump was elected “the operation designed to undermine his campaign transformed.  It became an instrument to bring down the commander in chief.  The coup started almost immediately after the polls closed” (p. 103).  On December 6, 2016, President Obama directed CIA director John Brennan to “review of all intelligence relating to Russia and the 2016 elections” (p. 106).   Brennan almost immediately reported that the Russians had helped Trump win the election—and then leaked that information to a variety of friendly media outlets.  Congressman Nunez immediately saw what was transpiring—an effort to destroy Trump.  “‘I couldn’t have dreamed they’d be that dirty,’ says Nunes. ‘As soon as we saw they’d abused the FISA process, we opened up the investigation right away because the FISA issues bled into other matters, like how they started the whole investigation.  It was all a setup.’  It was then he realized he’d come across the biggest political scandal in US history.  ‘They used the intelligence services and surveillance programs against American citizens,’ he says.  ‘They spied on a presidential campaign and put it under a counterintelligence investigation so they could close it off and no one else would see what they were doing.  They leaked classified intelligence again and again to prosecute a campaign against a sitting president.  Ninety percent of the press was with them, and the attorney general was out of the picture.’  That meant it was up to Nunes and his team to expose the hoax, get out the truth, and uphold the rule of law” (p. 172).

They found that when President Trump fired Director Comey, the acting director, Andrew McCabe, urged deputy attorney-general Rod Rosenstein to name a special counsel.   Comey then leaked a story to a friend which was printed in the New York Times claiming Trump had urged him to “drop the Flynn investigation.”  That story, said Rosenstein, justified the appointment of a special counsel—former FBI director Robert Mueller III.  He assembled a dozen of anti-Trump prosecutors who did everything possible in the next two years to show how Russia supported Trump and enabled him to win the 2016 election.   “‘It was a team of dirty cops,’ says Nunes.  ‘Andrew Weissmann was the worst. He already had a history as a hard-core anti-Trump partisan.’” (p. 205).  For these upper-echelon bureaucrats, “Trump wasn’t their president.  And the America that had elected him was beneath contempt” (p. 199).  

The Crossfire Hurricane group imagined themselves to be replicating the work of the heroic FBI “deep throat” agent who helped spark the resignation of Nixon.  “‘They all wanted to become the next Deep Throat,’” says Nunes.  And they benefited from “elite teams” of journalists ensconced in the Washington Post and New York Times whose articles largely shaped the media frenzy calling for Trump’s removal from office.  The two papers’ staffs were awarded a joint Pulitzer Prize for “‘deeply sourced, relentlessly reported coverage in the public interest that dramatically furthered the nation’s understanding of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and its connections to the Trump campaign, the President-elect’s transition team and his eventual administration’” (p. 274).  These bureaucrats and journalists envisioned a paper coup d’etat and knew, as Edward Luttwak says in Coup d’État: A Practical Handbook, that the media are essential:  “‘Control over the mass media emanating from the political center will still be our most important weapon in establishing our authority after the coup’” (p. 193).  “‘The anti-Trump operation,’ says Luttwak today, ‘was a very American coup, with TV denunciations by seemingly authoritative figures as a key instrument.’  The plot against Trump was a bureaucratic insurgency waged almost entirely through the printed word.  It was the ‘Paper Coup’” (p. 193).

But after two years of investigating every lead, the Mueller Commission failed to establish any “Russian collusion” with the Trump campaign.  There was a fully fraudulent endeavor to remove a president, and it failed.  So, almost immediately the Democrats found another cause celebre—Trump’s phone call to UkraineThus the beat of the impeachment drums goes on! 

324 Untethered Minds

As a  prototypical, optimistic “progressive,” believing the world was getting better and better, and after devoting his life to celebrating biological and societal evolution, H.G Wells in 1945 wrote a final, deeply pessimistic book, entitled A Mind at the End of Its Tether, sorrowing that everything seemed to be flying apart and nothing made sense.  A few years earlier the great Irish poet, E.B. Yeats had written an equally doleful poem, “The Second Coming,” lamenting the shape of things to come:  

 Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the center cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loose upon the world;
The blood-limned hoard is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity. 

Such passionate intensity is routinely visible in today’s campus protests, fueled by angry, profanity-spouting youngsters determined to prohibit controversial speakers from speaking.  Sure enough:  “Mere anarchy is loose upon the world”!  Their adolescent incoherence is thoughtfully analyzed by Mary Eberstadt in Primal Screams:  How the Sexual Revolution Created Identity Politics (West Conchohocken, PA:  Templeton Press, c. 2019).  Screaming youngsters, she insists, are indirectly asking a deeply personal and unanswered if perennial question:  Who Am I?  In the past, living in families and surrounded by stable communities, answering that question was relatively simple.  (For example, I could say I am my father’s son, reared on the high plains, and immersed in the life of a local Church of the Nazarene.)  Today, however, increasing numbers of folks cannot really find roots in such communities and turn to various groups wherein they seek to anchor their identities.  When this turn takes on political dimensions, they embrace “the desires and agendas” of aggrieved factions, providing a base whereby “human beings outside those chosen factions are treated ore and more not as fellow citizens, but as enemies to be eliminated by shame, intimidation, and, where possible, legal punishment” (p. 7). 

Allen Bloom had earlier discerned this development in his widely-discussed The Closing of the American Mind, wherein he described students as reared in accord with Rousseau’s prescriptions in Emile, “in the absence of any organic relation between husbands and wives and parents and children.”  Consequently, Bloom said:  “That is it.  Everyone has ‘his own little separate system.’  The aptest description I can find for the state of student’s souls is the psychology of separateness.”  Bloom blamed divorce as the primary reason for such separateness.  Now, thirty years later we must factor in the astonishing increase of out-of-wedlock births, all together resulting in what Eberstadt calls “The Great Scattering.”  Fractured families frequently mean not only missing fathers but fewer (if any) siblings and cousins and grandparents who are part of one’s life.  Still more (a point made in Eberstadt’s How the West Really Lost God):  youngsters without stable families have difficulty believing in and worshipping God.  Without family or faith to tether them to abiding realities, growing numbers of people seek to find their identity in self-selected groups.

Thus we witness the emergence of “identity politics.”  To answer the question “Who Am I” when traditional ways have collapsed, millions of moderns have relapsed into “one of the most revealing features of identity:  its infantilized expression and vernacular” (p. 64).  To speak personally, I have been utterly perplexed while witnessing utterly irrational behavior on university campuses as well as committee meetings in Congress!  Allegedly educated persons are, in fact, screaming rather than speaking coherently.  There are now “safe spaces” as well as “tiny ersatz treehouse stuffed with candy, coloring books, and Care Bears” on the campuses of the nation’s most prestigious universities (p. 66).  Apparently taking their clues from university professors, thousands of alienated youngsters take solace in identity groups, including feminism, androgyny, the #MeToo movement, etc., etc.

“‘Destroying the family life of highly social, intelligent animals leads inevitably to misery among individual survivors and pathological misbehavior among the group.’ J. M. Coetzee, recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature has explained.  He was speaking of elephants, of course” (p. 103).  But it’s also true of humans.  Consequently:  “Identity politics is not so much politics as a primal scream.  It’s the result of the Great Scattering—our species’ unprecedented collective retreat from our very selves.”  Indeed:  “Anyone who has ever heard a coyote in the desert, separated at night from its pack, knows the sound.  The otherwise unexplained hysteria of today’s identity politics is nothing more, or less, that just that:  the collective human howl of our time, sent up by inescapably communal creatures trying desperately to identify their own” (p. 109).

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

An important aspect of our current culture is diagnosed by Douglas Murray in The Madness of Crowds:  Race, Gender, Identity (London:  Bloomsbury Publishing. Kindle Edition, c. 2019), explaining that “we have been living through a period of more than a quarter of a century in which all our grand narratives have collapsed” (#36).   Consequently, “We are going through a great crowd derangement.  In public and in private, both online and off, people are behaving in ways that are increasingly irrational, feverish, herd-like and simply unpleasant” (#31).  As Yeats lamented, “Things fall apart, the center cannot hold; / Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.”  For many centuries the West was nourished by some “grand narratives,” including the heritage of the classical world of Greece and Rome as well as the religious traditions of Judaism and Christianity.  For half-a-century now that story has been shunted aside in favor of a “new religion” best evident in various versions of “‘social justice’, ‘identity group politics’ and ‘intersectionalism’” (#60).  Consequently:  “identity politics” provides “the place where social justice finds its caucuses.  It atomizes society into different interest groups according to sex (or gender), race, sexual preference and more” (#66).  The identity groups Murray describes are gays, women, non-white races, and transsexuals.  Much of the book is devoted to detailing illustrations of these four groups, and anyone wanting a very up-to-date journalistic accounting of what’s taking places throughout our world can glean ample information from perusing its pages. 

But the real worth of The Madness of Crowds is the philosophical analysis Murray provides.  All these identity groups share common intellectual roots are manifestly Marxist (updated by fashionable, academic postmodernists such as Foucault and Gramsci) and feel they are engaged in a great class struggle.  There are the haves and the have-nots, but today’s exploiters are not so much capitalists as patriarchs.  So:  “At the top of the hierarchy are people who are white, male and heterosexual.  They do not need to be rich, but matters are made worse if they are.  Beneath these tyrannical male overlords are all the minorities: most noticeably the gays, anyone who isn’t white, people who are women and also people who are trans.  These individuals are kept down, oppressed, sidelined and otherwise made insignificant by the white, patriarchal, heterosexual, ‘cis’ system.  Just as Marxism was meant to free the labourer and share the wealth around, so in this new version of an old claim, the power of the patriarchal white males must be taken away and shared around more fairly with the relevant minority groups” #975).   Thus when we hear about “toxic masculinity” or “white privilege” or “rape culture” we need to remember such slogans are all lethal weapons in our  cultural war. 

Many of these phrases are manifestly nothing more than phrases or slogans which frequently contradict each other.  But “Marxists have always rushed towards contradiction. The Hegelian dialectic only advances by means of contradiction and therefore all the complexities – one might say absurdities – met along the way are welcomed and almost embraced as though they were helpful, rather than troubling, to the cause” (p. 1099).  To those of us perplexed by declarations of men claiming they are women—as irrational as any statement could possibly be—the cultural Marxists simply dismiss us a “logocentric” (e.e. thinking logically).  This, as Stephen Pinker (a Harvard psychologist) “wrote in 2002, ‘Many writers are so desperate to discredit any suggestion of an innate human constitution that they have thrown logic and civility out the window . . . The analysis of ideas is commonly replaced by political smears and personal attacks . . . The denial of human nature has spread beyond the academy and has led to a disconnect between intellectual life and common sense.’  Of course it had.  . . . . The purpose had instead become the creation, nurture and propagandization of a particular, and peculiar, brand of politics. The purpose was not academia, but activism” (#1119).

This essentially Marxist narrative has been recently amplified, Murray argues, by the social media.  In literally the blink of the eye the world has been transformed by “a communications revolution so huge that it may yet make the invention of the printing press look like a footnote in history” (#2030).  Thoughtful books and wisely-edited newspapers have smaller audiences today, for “twitter” and “facebook” postings have superseded them.  “It is there that assumptions are embedded.  It is there that attempts to weigh up facts can be repackaged as moral transgressions or even acts of violence” and enables anyone “to address everything, including every grievance.  And it does so while encouraging people to focus almost limitlessly upon themselves – something which users of social media do not always need to be encouraged to do” (#2056). 

And not only can one say anything about anything—everything he he has ever sent into cyberspace is forever there.  Using words or espousing positions which were once quite acceptable may be used to assail folks.  Something one may have tweeted a decade ago as an adolescent can be uncovered and weaponized to destroy him through excoriation and “public shaming.”  Social media “appears able to cause catastrophes but not to heal them, to wound but not to remedy” (#3280).   Especially absent is any possibility of forgiveness.  We face “the question that the internet age has still not begun to contend with:  how, if ever, is our age able to forgive?  Since everybody errs in the course of their life there must be – in any healthy person or society – some capacity to be forgiven.  Part of forgiveness is the ability to forget.  And yet the internet will never forget” (#3320).  Even the words of one’s father may be resurrected to punish a person, as the British race car driver Conor Daly found out when he lost a sponsorship when it was discovered that 10 years before he was born his father gave a radio interview and used a racially inappropriate word.

To cope with the madness of crowds, more common sense reasoning,  such as Murray provides, must be recovered in all segments of our society.

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A significant and largely unintended consequence of the sexual revolution is elucidated in Warren Farrell and John Gray in The Boy Crisis:  Why Our Boys Are Struggling and What We Can Do About It (Dallas, TX:  BenBella Books, Inc., c. 2018; Kindle Edition.)  Older men, such as myself, grew up in a time when “masculinity came with a built-in sense of purpose of being the provider-protector (e.g., warrior; sole breadwinner)” (p. 10).  As boys we wanted to grow up and assume the responsibilities of mature adults.  We had good reason to be.  But young men today frequently fail to find it.

To prove there is in fact a crisis Farrell considers boys’ mental, physical and economic health as well as their educational success.   Men kill other men and themselves far more frequently than do their female counterparts.  Indeed, the data are depressing!  Though “only 6 percent of the overall population, black males make up 43 percent of murder victims.   More black boys between ten and twenty are killed by homicide than by the next nine leading causes of death combined” (p. 16).  As many white men have killed themselves as have died of AIDS.  As soon as they enter puberty, boys turn suicidal:  “between ten and fourteen, boys commit suicide at almost twice the rate of girls.  Between fifteen and nineteen, boys commit suicide at four times the rate of girls; and between twenty and twenty-four, the rate of male suicide is between five and six times that of females” (p. 16).  Indeed, “the male-female suicide gap in the United States has tripled since the Great Depression” (p. 273).  “Women cry, men die!”  Men also go to jail in alarming numbers and “93 percent are male and are disproportionately young” (p. 18).

Though women were in the distant past called the “weaker” sex, that is certainly not true if one considers longevity as a marker of physical well-being, for men and boys are twice as likely to die as their female counterparts of the same age, making for “a greater life-expectancy gap than at any time since World War II” (p. 20).  Indeed:  “Being male is now the single largest demographic factor for early death,” says Randolph Nesse, Director of the Center for Evolution and Medicine at Arizona State University (p. 20).  Young men are alarmingly overweight and unfit.  As another indicator of physical well-being, an alarming decline of sperm count has been tracked by researchers.  “Boys today have sperm counts less than half of what their grandfathers had at the same age” (p. 20). Economically, the picture is equally drear, especially for men who don’t go to college.  “Over the last forty years, the median annual earnings of a boy with just a high school diploma dropped 26 percent.”  He is 20 percent more likely to be unemployed for significant times.  And if a young man lives “in an urban area, he’ll likely live in one of the 147 US cities in which young women under thirty haven’t just caught up to their male peers, but now outearn them (by an average of 8 percent)” (p. 26).  If he had a university degree things would be different, of course, but many men are failing to pursue higher education. 

“Worldwide, reading and writing skills are the two biggest predictors of success. These are also the two areas in which boys fall the most behind girls.  In the United States, by eighth grade, 41 percent of girls are at least ‘proficient’ in writing, while only 20 percent of boys are.  Many boys used to ‘turn around’ in about their junior or senior year of high school.  Anticipating the need to become sole breadwinner, and therefore gain familial pride, peer respect, and female love, they got their act together.  The expectation of becoming sole breadwinner became his purpose.  No longer.  In one generation, young men have gone from 61 percent of college degree recipients to a projected 39 percent; young women, from 39 percent to a projected 61 percent” (p. 28).  And these well-educated young women almost always refuse to consider lesser educated men as potential husbands!

Digging more deeply into the boy crisis, Farrell identifies a lack of purpose as one of its primary reasons.  “The Japanese call it ikigai, or ‘a reason for being.’  Japanese men with ikigai are less likely to die of heart disease.  And both sexes with ikigai live longer.   Whether we call it ikigai or sense of purpose, when we pursue what we believe gives life meaning, it gives us life.  Historically, a boy’s journey to prove himself is what gave him that sense of purpose” (p. 46).  To protect and provide for his wife and family have, throughout human history, given men ikigai.  But today, in Japan as well as much of the modern world, boys struggle to find it.  Much of this results from men being less and less needed to provide food and shelter for their families.  They also have far fewer heroes to emulate.  “What is a hero?  The word hero derives from the root ser, from which we also get the word “servant” (think “public servant”), as well as slave, and protector.  In Japan and China, the word samurai also derives from the word for servant, saburai.  Billions of boys throughout history have embraced the opportunity to serve and to protect in the hope of being labeled a hero or samurai.  Though the fiercer the enemy, the greater their chance of death, boys were willing to exchange their lives for the label.  They were, in a sense, slaves to the potential honor they might receive if they served and protected their families, villages, or countries” (p. 62).  Occasionally our youngsters see such heroes in action.  Consider the first responders on 9/11—99% were males!  In fact 76% of the firefighters in the country are volunteers, virtually 100% men!  So there are heroes in our midst, but too often young boys are fed anti-hero messages in feminist-run schools and popular culture. 

Thus parents need to strategically prepare their sons for adulthood, and that requires preparing them for employment in our digital age.  If they do well in school, opportunities abound for them if they persevere and find a well-paying slot in the economy.  If they’re not academically-inclined, it’s important to help them train for well-paying blue collar jobs—welders, plumbers, etc.  Participating in athletics is often crucial in helping boys become men.  Farrell provides lots of practical tips for parents (and grandparents) wanting to help their boys mature.  Above all, in a culture celebrating instant gratification and victimization:  “The discipline of postponing gratification is the single most important discipline your son needs” (p. 98).   But practical advice may mean little unless we face “the most important single crisis in developed countries:  dad-deprived children, and especially dad-deprived boys” (p. 102).  Boys reared without an attentive father are inevitably harmed.  If their dads dies, boys do OK, for they have memories of good men.  But when they lose their dads through divorce or never even know them because they were born out-of-wedlock, their stories frequently end poorly.  For those concerned, Farrell provides an appendix listing “some seventy ways that children benefit from significant father involvement—or put another way, seventy-plus ways in which dad-deprived children are more likely to suffer” (p. 117).  They are more likely to fail in school, to join gangs, to go to prison, to lapse into various addictions, to fail in marriage.  To cite only one painful fact:  “Prisons are the United States’ men’s centers (93 percent male).  A staggering 85 percent of youths in prison grew up in a fatherless home.  More precisely, prisons are centers for dad-deprived males—boys who never became men” (p. 120).  In short:  boys without dads do poorly!

But Farrell does more than alert us to problems.  He sets forth quite detailed ways in which dads can help rear healthy boys.  Simply being present in a boy’s life is hugely significant.  Merely interacting with a father boosts a boy’s IQ, strengthens his ability to trust others, reduces aggressive behavior, and enables him to rightly develop.  Stepfathers, unfortunately, have less (if any) positive influence.  Nor do same-sex parents!  Only biological fathers can do the crucial role of fathering.  Added to being present, good dads should preside over routine family dinners—a remarkably important ritual for children.  They can also enforce behavioral boundaries, whereas moms often set but fail to enforce them.  “One boy half-joked, ‘My mom warns and warns; it’s like she ‘cries wolf.’  My dad gives us one warning, and then he becomes the wolf” (p. 136).  Still another illustration:  women are more likely than men to give underage teenagers alcohol, admitting “that their desire to please trumped what they knew was right” (p. 140).  Dads normally roughhouse with and tease their kids—teaching them important lessons never derived from a woman.  They can lead them on wilderness excursions, camping trips, adventures of various sorts demonstrably valuable for youngsters.  They challenge their kids to accomplish things (whether in sports or school) and allow them to deal with defeats.

Farrell devotes many pages to the problem of divorce—and to ways to cope with it.  He also suggests legal changes to better enable men to be better fathers.  But the main message of The Boy Crisis is just that:  it’s a crisis and it’s devastating our culture.  Though wildly overstating the case, Jed Diamond claims:  “The Boy Crisis is the most important book of the 21st century.  Farrell and Gray are absolutely brilliant,” showing “why our sons are failing.”  Indeed:  ‘If you care about the very survival of humankind, you must read this book.”