Randolph Bourne

Nobody asked but …

This morning I listened to Jeff Riggenbach’s podcast, The Libertarian Tradition.  In particular, I heard the episode covering Randolph Bourne’s life and his contribution to the cause of individualism.  The text of Riggenbach‘s presentation is also found at the Randolph Bourne Institute’s web pages.  I realized, too late, that I had failed to mark the 100th year since Bourne’s untimely* death in December 1918.

Bourne packed a lot of ideas into his short life, and did much writing for someone who was repeatedly canned for being so forthright with his ideas.  Today, his legacy includes the Randolph Bourne Institute and its instrument, Antiwar.com.  Furthermore, Bourne is famous for the very durable quote, “War is the health of the State.”  I urge you to read Wendy McElroy’s exploration of this phrase.

But we would be remiss in ignoring others of Bourne’s observations.  To wit:

The American intellectuals, in their preoccupation with reality, seem to have forgotten that the real enemy is War rather than imperial Germany. There is work to be done to prevent this war of ours from passing into popular mythology as a holy crusade.

The ironist is ironical not because he does not care, but because he cares too much.

Really to believe in human nature while striving to know the thousand forces that warp it from its ideal development-to call for and expect much from men and women, and not to be disappointed and embittered if they fall short- to try to do good with people rather than to them- this is my religion on its human side.

For we do not do what we want to do, but what is easiest and most natural for us to do, and if it is easy for us to do the wrong thing, it is that that we will do.

In America our radicalism is still simply amateurish and incompetent.

In your reaction to an imagined attack on your country or an insult to its government, you draw closer to the herd for protection, you conform in word and deed, and you insist vehemently that everybody else shall think, speak, and act together. And you fix your adoring gaze upon the State, with a truly filial look, as upon the Father of the flock.

The State is not the nation, and the State can be modified and even abolished in its present form, without harming the nation. On the contrary, with the passing of the dominance of the State, the genuine life-enhancing forces of the nation will be liberated.

We can easily become as much slaves to precaution as we can to fear.

With the shock of war the state comes into its own again.

I had nearly let Randolph Bourne slip into obscurity.  I now make it one of my life’s purposes to keep that from happening.  I heartily commend Bourne to your attention in that spirit.

— Kilgore Forelle

* Bourne was only 32 when he died in 1918’s flu epidemic.

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The World’s Largest Socialist Economy

Nobody asked but …

Who has the largest military system in the history of the human race?  And who has the largest corporate welfare system to support the industrial arm of that military?  Who has the largest public schooling program in the world?  Could it be China, or India?  I don’t know, but let me know if you are aware of real evidence that it is not the USA.  Who has the highest per capita incarceration rate?  Are you aware of a larger, by total cost, publicly owned and operated infrastructure than the one on America’s lands — with a trillion dollar upgrade purported to be in the wings.  Who has an espionage wing that is greater than all of those which went before the second world war.  Which country has had steady but escalating bureaucratic growth since the beginning of the 20th Century?  Which country makes political promises that all uncertainty will be removed from life?  Which country seeks to satisfy any whim of its least considerate populace no matter how much printing the treasury has to do?

And yet we have demagogic politicians promising to fight “socialism!”  The new McCarthyism.  We’ve been had.

— Kilgore Forelle

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Tempus Fugit

Nobody asked but …

Voltaire wrote:

…So long as the people do not care to exercise their freedom, those who wish to tyrannize will do so; for tyrants are active and ardent, and will devote themselves in the name of any number of gods, religious and otherwise, to put shackles upon sleeping men.

To which I add, we cede the advantage of time to the tyrant, who works on fascist goals 24/7/365. We must split our time among defending ourselves from tyrants, minding our own business, and usurping the business of others.

— Kilgore Forelle

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The Shadow Factory

Nobody asked but …

This book, The Shadow Factory: The Ultra-Secret NSA from 9/11 to the Eavesdropping on America, by James Bamford, is an eye-opener.  It is now in its eleventh year, and nothing has probably changed except details (which Bamford covers exhaustively) — the hardware, software, people (in terms of a collective), data, procedures, and communications most likely have evolved.  While Bamford reports on the phenomena he discovered, at a cross-section in time, the subliminal message is that bureaucrats, given leeway, will expand their ambit far beyond what is seen by myopic and unrealistic planners.  None of this should be a surprise to us, since it is the demonstration to us of how things actually work, as described to us by Ludwig von Mises in his masterwork, Human Action.

All units (individuals) have agenda.  Each human will try to attach her agenda to the agenda at the highest levels attainable — for instance, in The Shadow Factory, the top set of agenda is that of the White House (nominally authored by George W. Bush, truly by Dick Cheney), a lower but very high set of agenda for the NSA, expressed by and through General Mike Hayden. Human action is motivated by opportunities to lessen unease. In this case, Hayden already had an agenda, but the incumbency of new bosses (formally Bush but more actively Chaney/Rumsfeld) created unease for Hayden about how the existing agenda could survive. It would survive by appearing to attach those (NSA/Hayden) agenda to selected agenda of the White House.

These are natural phenomena.

— Kilgore Forelle

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When Will the Media Admit …

Nobody asked but …

Some wishful thinker the other day, on Facebook, wondered in a post “When will the media admit … [blah blah blah]?”  The answer is … NEVER.  “The media” is not a sentient being.  In fact, the media can be relied upon to go for the lowest common denominator.  It is the height of foolishness to expect any such formless blob to save us from another formless blob, politics.  In another column, I stated my belief that out of 45 instances of POTUS, we have had exactly 0 (zero) who could be counted a success.  As impossible as it would be to have an admirable POTUS, it is even more impossible that the ink-stained wretches would save us from a single bad president.

The current installment of POTUS is merely a continuation of a long line of jackasses.  This is a situation that is entirely consistent with the statist glories of every other civilization that has risen and fallen (taking their roads with them).  Checks and balances — Phooey!  Rather than checks and balances, the inevitable force is impermanence.  And the politicians and the pundits are the agents of social erosion.

— Kilgore Forelle

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Who’s In, Who’s Out?

Nobody asked but …

Kaleidoscopic events.  Halls of mirrors.  Fog machines.  As King Lear queried, “Who’s in, who’s out?”  Which echo chamber is the most dominant now?

Last week there was a sort of sea change in the ongoing saga of the ships of fools.  POTUS’s former personal attorney, Mr. Cohen, appeared before an assembled committee of congresspersons.  The first takeaway was that Cohen was not a compelling witness.  The second takeaway was that the warring parties fell all over themselves trying to make something of the proceedings.  Was it just coincidence that this appearance occupied the same newsspace as CPAC and the abortive summit with North Korea?  This was a real three-ring circus.

As usual, one side made less of the situation than it bodes, while the other made more.  Stay tuned.

— Kilgore Forelle

 

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