The St. Croix Review speaks for middle America, and brings you essays from patriotic Americans.
Our Mission Is to Reawaken the Genuine America Spirit . . .May I Be Inspired
The Sermon on the Mount: The Key to Success in Life, by Emmet Fox. HarperCollins, www.harpercollins.com, copyright 1934, ISBN 978-0-06-062862-8, pp. 183.
"The Golden Key," by Emmet Fox. BN Publishing, www.bnpublishing.com, ISBN 978-1-60796-641-8, pp. 13.
Around the Year with Emmet Fox, A Book of Daily Readings, by Emmet Fox. HarperOne, wwwharpercollins.com, copyright 1931, ISBN 978-0-06-250408-1, pp. 378.
In the last issue of The St. Croix Review there was much writing about the motives and techniques of progressive activists. They are not capable of genuine introspection. They don't have much empathy. They categorize people by gender, race, sexual preference; they don't value individuals. They invent myths to manipulate people. They desire power and domination. They deceive and force their will on us. Their ambition is inexhaustible. Their prescriptions for society fail because they lack wisdom.
How might Americans who cherish liberty, and the best traditions of our nation, defeat progressives? How may we each realize the American dream? Where may we find strength of character?
We do need strength of character. We need liberation from bitterness, because a bitter person is consumed with angry thoughts, and is often borne down by hopelessness too. How can a hopeless and angry person be effective?
Wisdom is a gift from God. Wisdom is intelligence, love, and peace of mind. To grasp hold of ever-present, wondrous possibility, a peaceful and receptive mind is necessary. Anger narrows vision, and hopelessness drains energy, but peace makes room for inspiration.
Inspiration comes like lightning. God provides the inspiration. I need to seek out a connection to God, who resides within me.
Emmet Fox was born in Ireland, schooled at a Jesuit college, and trained as an electrical engineer. He discovered that he had healing powers, and became involved with the New Thought movement. An American with the marvelous name of Phineas Quimby founded the New Thought movement in the early 19th century in America - spiritual movements are a prominent part of our history.
Emmet Fox immigrated to America, and in 1931 he was appointed minister of New York City's Divine Science Church of the Healing Christ. He was immensely popular, and regularly spoke to audiences of over 5,000 people during the Great Depression - a time of great suffering - filling the Hippodrome and Carnegie Hall.
The three works cited above are inspired. The Sermon on the Mount: The Key to Success in Life, interprets the ministry of Jesus; "The Golden Key," is a pamphlet of few pages about a method for escaping any difficulty; and Around the Year with Emmet Fox, A Book of Daily Readings, may uplift us each day.
The following paragraphs have been woven together from The Sermon on the Mount:
. . . All day long the thoughts that occupy your mind, your Secret Place, as Jesus calls it, are molding your destiny for good or evil; in fact, the truth is that the whole of our life's experience is but the outer expression of inner thought.
. . . Now we can choose the sort of thoughts that we entertain. It will be a little difficult to break a bad habit of thought, but it can be done. We can choose how we shall think - in point of fact, we always do choose - and therefore our lives are just the result of the kind of thoughts we have chosen to hold; and therefore they are of our own ordering; and therefore there is perfect justice in the universe. No suffering for another man's original sin, but the reaping of a harvest that we ourselves have sown. We have free will, but our free will lies in our choice of thought.
. . . Whatever you give your attention to is the thing that governs your life. Attention is the key. Your free will lies in the directing of your attention. Whatever you steadfastly direct your attention to, will come into your life and dominate it.
. . . You must get rid of all sense of resentment and hostility. You must change your own state of mind until you are conscious only of harmony and peace within yourself, and have a sense of positive good will towards all.
. . . fear, hatred, and resentment are ideas heavily charged with emotion, and these, when added to any difficulty, recharge it with fresh and vigorous life and make it all the more difficult to overcome.
. . . With a new difficulty of any kind, it is the reception that you give it mentally, and the attitude that you adopt towards it in you own thought, that completely determine its effect upon you. . . . What matters to you, truly, is not people or things or conditions in themselves, but the thoughts and beliefs that you hold concerning them.
. . . the world of which we are normally aware, and with whose laws alone most people are acquainted, is only a fragment of the whole universe as it really is; and that there is such a thing as appealing from a lower to a higher law - from a lesser to a greater expression.
Jesus concerned himself exclusively with the teaching of general principles, and these general principles always had to do with mental states, for he knew that if one's mental states are right, everything else must be right too, whereas, if these are wrong, nothing else can be right.
. . . Prayer does change things. Prayer does make things happen quite otherwise than they would have happened had the prayer not been made. It makes no difference at all what sort of difficulty you may be in. It does not matter what the causes may have been that led up to it. Enough prayer will get you out of your difficulty if only you will be persistent enough in your appeal to God.
How has change come for me? I received a gift: I was guided to pay attention to the quality of my thinking. One of the best times to observe my consciousness is while I'm driving with the radio off. Most thinking is scattered. It takes effort to focus. Often there is disturbance. Harsh judgment - of myself, or others - arises in an instant, and if I am not careful I may be consumed by bitterness for stretches of time.
I am not responsible for my first angry thought, because it comes unlooked for, in an instant. No fault attaches to my first angry thought.
Self-centeredness and fear generate anger. God gave me self-centeredness and fear so that I have someplace to grow from. This is the secret of life, that I may tame my selfishness and have peace. Peace does not come by accident. I have to seek peace and good will.
I may fall into habitually negative thinking, because I haven't been paying attention. Habits are formidable, especially if practiced for a long time. Becoming aware of my habits is a gift, because with awareness comes the possibility for spiritual growth.
If I try to wrench my thinking elsewhere there arises frustration. The best method for escaping a funk is to watch harsh thoughts passively - not to fight them. It is the nature of thoughts to come and go. Possession isn't necessary. I can let frustration go. There is a simple prayer: "May I have peace" - saying these words over has brought me peace.
God changes me. God brings peace when I ask for peace - this has been my experience. To have found peace consistently, and to have discovered the source of peace in God's strength is the best gift of all.
The cynicism of others, no matter how intelligent the cynic, is of no account after the source of peace is discovered, because it is clear that the cynic lacks the experience of peace.
In The Sermon on the Mount Emmet Fox examines the Beatitudes:
Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven:
To be poor in spirit means to have emptied yourself of all desire to exercise personal self-will, and, what is just as important, to have renounced all preconceived opinions in the wholehearted search for God. It means to be willing to set aside your present habits of thought, your present views and prejudices, your present way of life if necessary; to jettison in fact, anything and everything that can stand in the way of your finding God.
Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
. . . trouble and suffering are often extremely useful, because many people will not bother to learn the Truth until driven to do so by sorrow and failure. Sorrow then becomes relatively a good thing. Sooner or later every human being will have to discover the Truth about God, and make his own contact with Him at first hand. He will have to acquire the understanding of Truth, which will set him free, once and for all. . . .
Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
. . . the word "meek" in the Bible is a mental attitude for which there is no other single word available. . . . It is a combination of open-mindedness, faith in God, and the realization that the Will of God for us is always something joyous and interesting and vital, and much better than anything we could think of for ourselves. This state of mind also includes a perfect willingness to allow this Will of God to come about in whatever way Divine Wisdom considers to be best, rather than in some particular way that we have chosen for ourselves.
Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.
Righteousness means, in the Bible, not merely right conduct, but right thinking on all subjects, in every department of life. . . . If you want material prosperity, you must first think prosperity thoughts, and then make a habit of doing so, for the thing that keeps most people poor is the sheer habit of poverty thinking. If you want congenial companionship, if you want to be loved, you must first think thoughts of love and good-will. . . . but unfortunately the doing of it is anything but easy. Now, why should this be so? The answer lies in the extraordinary potency of habit; and habits of thinking are at once the most subtle in character and then most difficult to break. . . .
Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
The thing that really matters is that you be merciful in your thought. Kind actions coupled with unkind thoughts are hypocrisy, dictated by fear, or desire for self-glory, or some such motive. . . . the true thought about your fellowman blesses him spiritually, mentally, and materially; and blesses you too. Let us be merciful in our mental judgments of our brother, for, in truth, we are all one, and the more deeply he seems to err, the more urgent is the need for us to help him with the right thought. . . .
Blessed are the pure of heart: for they shall see God.
Heaven lies all about us - it is not a distant locality afar off in the skies, but all around us now - but because we are lacking in spiritual perception, we are unable to recognize it. . . . Heaven is the religious name for the Presence of God, and Heaven is infinite; but our mental habit leads us to mold our experience into three dimensions only. . . . Heaven is the realm of Spirit, Substance; without age, or discord, or decay; a realm of eternal good; and yet, to our distorted vision, everything is ageing, decaying, wearing out; getting born only to die, blossoming only to fade.
Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
. . . prayer is the only real action in the full sense of the word, because prayer is the only thing that changes one's character. A change in character, or a change in soul, is a real change. When that kind of change takes place, you become a different person and, therefore, for the rest of your life you act in a different way from the way in which you have previously acted, and in which you would have continued to act had you not prayed. In other words, you become a different man. . . .
The great essential for success in prayer - for obtaining that sense of the Presence of God, which is the secret of healing oneself and others too; of obtaining inspiration, which is the breath of the soul; of acquiring spiritual development - is that we first attain some degree of true peace of mind. This true, interior soul-peace was known to the mystics as serenity, and they are never tired of telling us that serenity is the grand passport to the Presence of God. . . .
The question remains: How might Americans who cherish liberty, and the best traditions of our nation, defeat progressives?
I have faith the progressives are not equal to God. I pray for inspiration, doing what I can without becoming bitter, knowing that God determines outcomes, and that a wondrous result is possible.
America has been sent noble statesmen: Ronald Reagan successfully navigated economic difficulty and the Cold War because he had faith in God. His cheerfulness and optimism were founded on strength greater than his own. He was a channel for the divine, and thus realized wondrous accomplishments.
Abraham Lincoln was an eloquent man and we are lucky to have his speeches. There is vigorous intelligence in his speeches. Intelligent and eloquent politicians are commonplace, but Lincoln's passion for justice, his humane spirit, his persistence, and his sincerity are extraordinary. In his first inaugural address, on the eve of the Civil War, he said:
We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory will swell when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.
Abraham Lincoln lost battles for years before he found competent generals; 51,000 Americans died at Gettysburg alone (50,000 died during the entire French Revolution); wounded soldiers had limbs sawed off; Lincoln signed orders for the execution of deserters to prevent massive desertion; he was presented with innumerable political difficulties; he was ridiculed unmercifully; his son Willie died during the war - somehow he bore burdens beyond seemingly human capacity. The photo taken near his death, with his sorrowful eyes and deeply lined face, show the burdens he bore.
The closing words of his second inaugural address, given after the war was won, are:
With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan - to do all which may achieve and cherish a just, and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations.
Abraham Lincoln wasn't consumed by bitterness. He prayed. He sought strength from God, and he followed the teachings of Christ. He is an enduring example. *
The following is a summary of the October/November 2014 issue of the St. Croix Review:
In a "Letter to the Editor," Piers Woodriff responds to the mission statement in the June/July editorial, and he comments on the importance of the virtue of honesty that Angus MacDonald practiced in life.
In "Unbridled Power," Barry MacDonald traces the origins of progressive thinking, motives, and methods.
Paul Kengor, in "Death's Progress: Part 2," shows the ever more extreme positions of Progressives concerning abortion and contraception.
Allan C. Brownfeld, in "Every Tragic Incident - Such as That in Missouri - Produces Cries That America Is a 'Racist' Society, but Overlooks a More Complex Reality," points out that the breakdown of the black family has much to do with violence plaguing black males; in "Ferguson, Missouri: Making Things Worse with Al Sharpton Fanning the Flames," he recounts the Tawana Brawley hoax, that Al Sharpton helped to instigate, that helped plunge America into the racial animosity still going on today.
Mark Hendrickson, in "The Flood of Illegal Immigrant Children: Why the Secrecy?" asks many questions about how these children came to America, and why the Obama Administration is behaving in a suspicious manner; in "Deja Vu: Misplaying the Patriotism Card Again," he shows that Obama's henchmen who condemn American executives for moving their company headquarters out of America - to avoid the highest-in-the-world corporate tax rate - are the very henchmen who created the policies that drove the companies away. They leave so that they can survive.
In "Islam Vs. Islamism," Herbert London wonders whether the West can safely assume that Islam is capable of peaceful co-existence with non-Islamic nations.
In "Dealing with Barbarism: V-J Day and Beyond" Marvin J. Folkertsma considers the lengths the U.S. military had to go to to defeat Japan in W.W. II, and wonders whether the West has the resolve to defeat ISIS.
In "Hiroshima," Michas M. Ohnstad writes about his experience of the aftermath of the atomic bombing.
Philip Vander Elst, in "Vindicated by History: Statism's 19th Century Critics," shows, through the writings of profoundly perceptive observers, why liberty and socialism cannot coexist - one must destroy the other.
S. Fred Singer, in "Climate Science Does Not Support IPCC Conclusions," discusses future temperatures and rising sea levels, and shows how the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change twists evidence to reach an alarming result.
Peter Searby, in "Of Hedges, Storytellers, and Home," writes of persevering American folklore, family, culture, and homeschooling-in opposition to our current bureaucratic-heavy educational system.
In "American Memories," Jigs Gardner relates some encounters with Native Americans.
In "Kenneth Grahame and the Cult of Childhood" Jigs Gardner shows, that charming though "children's books" are, they were meant as much for adults as for children.
In "The Follies of Feminism," Fayette Durlin and Peter Jenkin relate stories of political correctness run amok at universities.
Fayette Durlin and Peter Jenkin write from Brownsville, Minnesota.
The 6/30 issue of the Weekly Standard features two striking articles about what I suppose we should call sexual politics on campus, one by Charlotte Allen - "The Professor's Tale" - and one by Harvey Mansfield - "Feminism and Its Discontents." The first tells us a story that seems incredible to us, but must be commonplace today. A young woman, a graduate student in Philosophy, writing anonymously in an online magazine, writes an account of how she was seduced by a professor (incidentally a specialist in "global justice" and "moral philosophy"). She was not his student, nor were they at the same institution. Her account reveals astonishing navet, noted amusingly by Charlotte Allen. Eventually, of course, she discovers that he's an active philanderer and, is disillusioned:
I falsely assumed that the man who calls affluent Westerners human rights violators would treat women with dignity.
She writes the online piece, but also sends it to a feminist blog, and now the story gets complicated. The blog is "What Is It Like to Be a Woman in Philosophy?", a forum for disgruntled female grad students in philosophy. It seems that philosophy is the only department in the humanities that is still overwhelming male, and feminists, eager to find a patriarchal conspiracy against them (instead of the obvious: Most women aren't interested in the subject), are conducting a vendetta against philosophy departments. As a result of the blog, Anonymous was put in touch with a female Yale grad who is suing Yale and the professor (the sometime lover of Anonymous) for sexual harassment, even though the university had cleared him of the charge, and now the professor has been publicly identified. The picture is further complicated - and darkened - by the U.S. Education Department's Office of Civil Rights (OCR) that, under the Obama administration "has been issuing increasingly draconian rules and press releases regarding campus harassment."
The situation is a beautiful set-up for vindictive feminists to put pressure on colleges and philosophy departments (and some prominent male academics have joined the wolf pack) who fear the OCR and yearn "to be perceived as sufficiently enlightened and woman-sensitive." It does not matter now if actual sexual harassment is proven; it is not even necessary to actually file suit - this is "extra-judicial sexual-harassment 'justice,'" in other words, a witchhunt.
The Harvey Mansfield article - "Feminism and Its Discontents" - tells a simple story: a woman undergraduate at Harvard wrote anonymously to the student paper claiming that she was pressed into intercourse while drunk, something that made her feel "hopeless, powerless, betrayed, and worthless." Immediately the university created committees to consider the matter. The author construes the situation as a result of two foundational principles of feminism:
. . . that there is no essential difference between men and women. . . . men and women . . . are arbitrary "social constructions" containing nothing "natural" or permanent.
If this is true, if women are defined by society, then they are not independent, being dependent on society's definition.
The feminist model of sexual independence wants women to be equal to men; it is therefore taken from the independent male whose main feature is the ability to walk away from sex afterwards . . . the predatory male from whom the Harvard woman suffered and whom feminism imitates and paradoxically glorifies.
Then Harvey Mansfield contrasts it with the old ideal of feminine modesty that gave women some protection as well as the pleasure of courtship (which also restrained men). It is the culture of feminism that led the woman "into consenting to a very bad experience." And this mess is worsened by the government, as the author describes the Office of Civil Rights' efforts to force universities to prevent a "'hostile environment' caused by sexual assault." Of course, the university hastens to aid in this
. . . ridiculous accusation against itself . . . for having failed to establish a culture of sexual adventure that never results in misadventure.
He concludes with this plaintive question: "How can we recover some sense of feminine modesty and male restraint?" *
The Indians in Nova Scotia are MicMacs, kin to the Abenakis of Maine, and on Cape Breton they live on five reservations, called reserves. We didn't know them at all in 1971 until they started coming to the farm for butter and cheese and bacon, but that was a couple of years in the future. In the meantime there was an Indian family nearby, living in a shack just a mile down the railroad tracks where there used to be a station, within a stone's throw of the lake. He had served in the army during the war, so he had a pension and was independent of the reserve. When I was driving out that way - we still had the truck then - in the early morning sometimes I would see him in his skiff hauling a herring net, and he would stand out sharply through the mist, like those 19th century portrait photos that blank out everything but the face.
Of course, Indians figured in our correspondence with our friends in the States. Curious about our Canadian venture, our friends seemed to think of our farming almost romantically, as something exotic, an expedition into the Great North Woods, and Indians filled the bill: the Indians lived in our letters as parenthetical asides, enigmatic figures at a distance.
And then one day the Indian's wife flagged us down as we were passing in the truck.
"I go doctor. Bad pain," clutching her side, pulling at the door handle.
Jo Ann opened the door, and the woman huddled in the seat, moaning. Jo Ann tried to find out where it hurt, but the woman would have none of it, turning her head away, refusing to answer, muttering about the doctor. She was gaunt and severe, in some sort of black garment, and she never looked at us. It was 35 miles to the town, and I hadn't planned to go there, but I could get grain on the way back. I drove as fast as I dared on the wretched roads.
When we offered to go in the hospital with her she snarled and jerked away, so we left her in the parking lot and went our way.
What were the chances of that happening in the same way a week later? Pretty small, you'd think, but again she waved us down, "I go doctor, bad pain," and again she resisted Jo Ann's solicitations. This time, however, she perked up as we went along and she insisted on getting out in the town instead of going on to the hospital. I mentioned it to a neighbor and he laughed. "She wanted a ride to the liquor store. It's an old story. She's been doing that for years. Nobody pays any mind to her, but she figured you were a newcomer who wouldn't know." He laughed again and shook his head.
I was astonished and embarrassed. To be taken in once, all right, but twice, and when she didn't even bother to keep up her act! We wouldn't be taken in like that again.
The occasion didn't arise, but three weeks later, on a Sunday, the sow came in heat. The boar was in Middle River, a good 25 miles away, so we loaded her in a travelling crate on the truck with the two boys riding in back with the sow. We set off. When I rounded the turn by the tracks where the Indians lived, there was a human barrier across the road: the Indians and their two little boys, and a bum from town, Three-Fingered Archie. When I stopped, they mobbed the truck, climbing in, thrusting money on the dashboard, demanding to be taken to town. What the hell, I thought, the town's only five miles. Archie and woman settled in and the Indian got in back. The two little boys were left standing in the road, crying their hearts out. I got out to soothe them - "Don't cry, your mother'll be right back" - but they ignored me, until their mother shouted one word - it meant nothing to me but it was hard and harsh and the two little boys, still bawling, ran toward the shack. I got back in the truck and turned it around toward town. No one said anything; I noticed that the money was gone from the dashboard.
When we arrived at the crossroads where a left went toward the village and a right led to the TransCanada highway, it turned out that they wanted to go some place on the highway, not far, and money again appeared on the dashboard. There was much jabbering. Meanwhile the Indian, seeing through the back window that Archie had his arm around the woman, climbed out and demanded that Archie get in the back. When everyone was resettled, I turned right and set off again. At the highway I was told to turn right and head for the reserve, but before we got there the Indian pointed to a lane which I followed up to one of the garishly painted houses the Indians favored. The passengers jumped out of the truck and ran to the house. I sat there looking at the house, talking to the boys, who wanted to know what was going on. "I guess it's a bootlegger," I said. I should explain that bootleggers weren't distillers but entrepreneurs who spent weekdays buying quantities of liquor from the Provincial liquor stores that they sold, at double the cost, to their customers when the Provincial stores were closed. The stores weren't open on Sunday or at night, and they were few and far between, so the bootleggers filled a need. The Mounties didn't bother them much.
They weren't in the house long. They came out carrying a case of beer and two cases of Canadian sherry, and as soon as they got in the truck each one started in on a bottle. By then, my brain had begun to function and I realized that if a Mountie saw what was going on - and how could he miss it? - and stopped me, I'd be in big trouble. So instead of going back the way I had come, a dozen miles on the TransCanada, I'd go a couple of miles beyond the reserve and then take a side road down to the ferry, which would put me back on the peninsula, where Mounties were seldom seen.
I was relieved when I turned onto the ferry road, but when I drew up in the line of cars waiting for the ferry, I was horrified: I had forgotten it was Sunday. The service in the Presbyterian Church beside the ferry had ended, and a large crowd of parishioners from our end of the peninsula was standing out front, 30 yards away. The Indians beside me were pouring the stuff down, and worst of all, Archie was sitting on the sow crate with a bottle lifted to his lips. We had lived here only a few months, and I knew we were regarded as eccentrics at best. Every eye was upon us. That's when I started to laugh.
"Suddenly I saw it all as if from the Cosmos and I saw how funny it was," I told Jo Ann.
"Oh, wonderful! The Cosmos! Listen to me: we don't live in the Cosmos, we live in Cape Breton!"
That's all she said about it, but you can be sure I didn't pick up any more Indians, and in fact, I had no opportunities. Occasionally I saw the Indian in his skiff out in the cove, but that was all. Then winter came, and one day the woman beat the little boys with a poker and they ran away to hide in a neighbor's barn. The Children's Aid society took them away, and by spring the Indians were gone, moved to the reserve on the other side of the island. Some Indians started to dismantle the shack, but the storekeeper, who had some sort of lien on it, stopped that, and the tiny building (it wasn't more than 10 feet on a side) stood there until some kids burned it down one Halloween. Now all that's left are some charred bits and broken glass in the midst of the weeds.
When I wrote to my friends about our Indian adventures, they didn't say much - I guess drunks weren't very romantic. Later, when we had Indian customers and I got to know them, I had stopped writing letters about our romantic life in Canada.
But sometimes, when I drive by the cove with the team, and look over the water on a misty morning, I remember the Indian in his skiff checking his nets. I can almost see him, and then I remember ourselves then, full of illusions and naivete. *
Peter Searby is a teacher, musician, and director of the Riverside Center for Education, a center dedicated to providing boys a new landscape of action where they can learn to become young men of courage and imagination. Riverside is a new educational model that combines active hands-on learning with the great heritage of the liberal arts. His web site is located at: http://www.rside.org/art-of-boyhood/.
Once there walked the storytellers of the Emerald Isle, who taught the young beside hedgerows, in secret places, far from the suspicious eyes of reigning "Educrats." They were the village folklore masters, carriers of story and song. They were the guardians of tradition and wisdom - the kind of wisdom that roots a people's soul to their soil and sows the seeds of timeless truths. When they told the old tales in their lilting voices, under ancient oak trees and quiet hollows, the young ones ran to them to spring into that great narrative of their history. With them they learned who they themselves were, where they came from, and where they could someday go. The hedge school sages of Ireland where the last keepers of folk lore, of the people's story, wandering the byways, bestowing the treasure, sowing seeds in word and song.
In America, there are hedge schools cropping up here and there - informal gatherings, where the young learn how to speak, write, sing, and study. This movement is a healthy reaction to the great monstrosity of centralized education that has been growing for many years in this land. This movement is taking place in the homeschooling communities. Families are yearning for an authentic culture, rooted in their cultural identity, their faith, and the stories that inform them of who they are. Parents hope for a culture, where neighborhoods come to life again, where the front porch culture of old America returns, and we are confident to let our children go out, explore, and learn from the adults who carry in their hearts the lore of our culture.
Many parents are fed up with schools, and the boxy notion of what it means to "go to school." The homeschooling movement is one of the most powerful manifestations of "home rule," where authentic family culture is not separate from education but part and parcel of it. There is an old video of Doc Watson, the famous bluegrass guitar player from North Carolina, playing with his family and friends in their backyard. Doc and Earl Scruggs, the famous banjo player, were masters of their instruments, and yet there they are, playing for fun and for family in the yard for no other reason except that that's what families do: they sing and play music together. They know the lyrics to old ballads, and take time to show the young a lick or two. Doc was known to spend afternoons on his front porch playing, and folks could just walk up and listen, and chat with him. He was a local folklore master.
I have met many families in the Christian homeschooling communities of Illinois, a state that is one of the most liberal (in the good sense of that word) in the Union with regards to homeschooling. I have had the privilege to spend time around backyard fires, in living rooms, on porches, and in their kitchens talking about family cultural renewal and education. I know one family that hosts Irish Music Sessions, where master fiddlers and whistlers play traditional tunes late into the night alongside their younger understudies, and over one hundred people, men, women, and children, enjoy an evening of true leisure. I know another merry meeting of families who gather every other Sunday afternoon in a park to pray prayer together and take part in a potluck dinner.
The rich tapestry of family cultures in such a small area is inspiring. Here many are yearning for a new way to build authentic community in these days of digital relationships, long distance consumer travel, porchless houses, and squareless towns. There are many influences and factors in our pop culture and in our landscape that work against family culture and education, and yet there are ways to rekindle the old traditions.
The hedge schools and home rule of families are re-enlivening culture. Homeschooling is certainly not the only way to achieve this, and there will always be a need for centers and schools that supplement the family. However, it will take a new civilization of cheerful, vibrant, authentic family cultures to change the country, and reestablish the natural link between education and the home.
Like any country, the adult culture tends to seep down into the schools and educational models. When there is not a meaningful and vibrant adult culture, with traditions, coming of age rituals, and true leisure to induct the young into, the young will not grow into this adult culture, but remain stunted in an extended adolescence.
When the Hedge Schools of Ireland started in response to the oppressive educational system of the English, who restricted the teaching of the Catholic faith, the Irish language, and the stories of the people, the adults acted in the most natural way: they began to covertly pass on the traditions, language, stories, and songs of the Irish people through these hidden schools.
When a people begin to lose the narrative of life, they tend to forget who they are and what living is all about. It is then that the storytellers and poets are most in need, lest the young forget where they came from and where they are going on the road of life. C. S. Lewis and Tolkien both believed in the power of stories to give ultimate meaning to our lives. Tolkien especially believed that God chose to save us in a way consonant with our nature, and it is in our nature to tell stories, and to live out an epic narrative in which our actions make a difference, and have eternal consequences. Great storytellers wake us up to the eternal realities that lie beneath the thin veneer of mundane ordinary life, like windows in the walls of our living rooms. They help us peer into a more meaningful narrative wherein we perceive our lives anew within a grander narrative.
One of the most dangerous realities of the current educational system is the great divorce of culture and schooling. More than anything, it is the culture that educates. It is the culture that helps the young come of age, and see themselves in the context of a grander narrative. Family culture is the key to the renewal of America. The homeschooling response to an over-centralized bureaucracy is the same response that occurs any time centralization begins to create an inhumane culture, one that is not rooted in authentic traditions and wisdom.
Where are the storytellers, town musicians, poets who seek to bestow upon the young the treasures of knowledge and wisdom? When schools try to take over family culture, when schools lose a sense of what it means to be human, and what it means to be a happy and flourishing society, they no longer have the ability to lead the young out of ignorance into the great narrative of life. The current attempt by the government and textbook companies to develop a common core is almost laughable. To think that a large group of educrats in a pluralistic society, which a long time ago lost a true vision of the human person can construct a curriculum to suit all families, is ridiculous.
We must work to build a solidarity movement of families, who in their own locales, seek to rejuvenate culture and education. One joyful family can transform a neighborhood. Many joyful families can transform the whole country. New storytellers and poets will arise from the homes and communities of these families, and they will travel along the neighborhoods of America telling the tales that once inspired saints and heroes, and singing songs that enlivened the hearts of weary pilgrims along this epic journey to heaven.
Many of the greatest teachers in the history of mankind began with "Hedge Schools." They walked along the byways of their homeland, gathering disciples, who, inspired by their stories and conversation, felt a fire kindle within their hearts - a fire that changed their lives and the world forever. *
S. Fred Singer is professor emeritus at the University of Virginia and director of the Science & Environmental Policy Project. His specialty is atmospheric and space physics. An expert in remote sensing and satellites, he served as the founding director of the U.S. Weather Satellite Service and, more recently, as vice chair of the U.S. National Advisory Committee on Oceans & Atmosphere. He is a senior fellow of the Heartland Institute and the Independent Institute, and an elected fellow of several scientific and engineering organizations. He co-authored the New York Times best-seller Unstoppable Global Warming: Every 1500 Years. In 2007, he founded and has since chaired the NIPCC (Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change), which has released several scientific reports [See www.NIPCCreport.org]. For recent writings, see http://www.americanthinker.com/s_fred_singer/ and also Google Scholar. This article is republished from The American Thinker.
Since 2008, the Chicago-based, libertarian-leaning Heartland Institute has organized nine ICCCs (International Conferences on Climate Change). Norman Rogers (American Thinker, Aug. 9, 2014) has given a general overview of ICCC-9 (at Las Vegas), which attracted an audience of well over 600 and featured speakers from 12 nations. Here I present a more detailed and personalized account of the two main science issues that appear to be of general concern. The first has to do with future temperatures and the second has to do with future sea level rise (SLR).
When it comes to global average surface temperature, the concern seems to be to remain below 2 C. It should be recognized that this limit is entirely arbitrary. There is no established scientific basis for assigning special significance to it; it just happens to be the "Goldilocks" number. Here is what I mean: If one were to choose 0.5 ¼C, people will say "we've already seen that and nothing much has happened." However, if we were to choose 5 ¼C, people will say, "we'll never see that much warming - hence of no significance." That is why 2 ¼C may have become the alarmists' choice.
The real question relates to climate sensitivity - defined as the temperature rise associated with a doubling of CO2 (the definition varies slightly between different authors).
The UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) initially claimed a very large climate sensitivity. But after the first Assessment Report of 1990, climate sensitivity dropped from 4.5 to about 2.5 ¼C. From then on, IPCC only considered the last part of the 20th century and no longer claimed the earlier warming (1910-40) to be manmade.
In my view, climate sensitivity may actually be close to zero. This means CO2 has very little influence on climate change - probably because of negative feedback. There is still debate, however, about what kind of negative feedback to expect: Should it come from water vapor or from clouds?
I want to critique IPCC reports #1 (1990) to #5 (2013). As a so-called "expert reviewer" I have enjoyed a unique platform for observing successive IPCC drafts. It is rather amusing that IPCC Summaries talk about increasing certainty for anthropogenic global warming (AGW or, in other words, human caused global warming), while at the same time modeled temperatures increasingly diverge from those actually observed.
We note that each report "Summary" is produced by a political consensus, unlike the underlying scientific report. (Doubting readers can visit the IPCC web site.) As Rogers points out, the UN mandate is:
Understanding the scientific basis of risk of human-induced climate change. . . .
There is no mandate to consider any other causations, such as natural ones related to solar change and ocean circulation cycles - just presumptive human causes, mainly fossil fuels. The IPCC sees a human climate-fingerprint everywhere because that is what they are looking for.
Specifically, IPCC Assessment Report 1 indicates a climate sensitivity of 4.5 ¼C, by considering both reported temperature increases (1910-1940 and 1975-1997) to be anthropogenic (human caused). After severe criticism of this "evidence," IPCC dropped the climate sensitivity to 2.5 ¼C by considering only the most recent decades of reported global warming as anthropogenic. The earlier warming (1910-1940) is now considered to be caused by natural forces.
Having given up on anthropogenic forcing for 1910-40, IPCC then considered different types of evidence to support anthropogenic global warming for the interval 1975-2000. In their 1996 report, Assessment Report 2, Ben Santer "manufactured" the so-called Hotspot, a calculated maximum warming of the upper troposphere, and claimed it as a fingerprint of AGW. This is incorrect on two counts: The Hotspot is not a fingerprint of AGW at all; and, it does not even exist. It was cherry-picked from the (balloon-radiosonde) temperature record, where a segment shows a short-term increase while there has been no long-term increase - as clearly seen from the actual data.
The disparity between models and observations is striking. It nicely illustrates the major source of scientific disagreement - between those who rely on model calculations vs. those who rely on observations.
In IPCC Assessment Report 3 , IPCC no longer uses the Hotspot but have gone to Mike Mann' s notorious Hockey Stick Graph - claiming that, in the past 1000 years, only the 20th century showed unusual warming.
A close examination of the proxy data used in the Hockey Stick Graph shows that the warming was not unusual at all and was probably less than existed 1000 years ago - and that major warming comes only by adding the (reported) temperature curve from instruments. Note also that Mann suppresses his post-1979 proxy data, which probably showed no such warming.
Because of many valid criticisms, the Hockey Stick argument has now been dropped by IPCC and is no longer used to claim AGW. Instead, both Assessment Report 4  and Assessment Report 5 , in their chapters on "Attribution," rely on very peculiar circular arguments for supporting AGW.
Both reports "curve-fit" a calculated curve to the reported temp data of the second half of the 20th century. (This can always be done by choosing a suitable value of climate sensitivity, and an assumed aerosol forcing.) After having obtained a reasonable fit, they then remove the greenhouse-gas forcing, and of course, obtain an unforced model curve that no longer shows any temp increase. But they then claim that this gap with respect to the data represents sure evidence for AGW. This claim defies logic and makes absolutely no sense. They simply modified the calculated curve and then claimed that the resultant gap proves anthropogenic warming.
It is generally accepted that sea level has risen by about 400 feet (120 meters) since the depth of the most recent ice age, about 18,000 years ago. The best values come from coral data in the Caribbean.
The UN's IPCC in its five reports has attempted to estimate seal level rise (SLR) expected by the year 2100. These estimates have been decreasing, with the lowest values obtained in the draft of Assessment Report 4 . However, the final version of Assessment Report 4 shows slightly larger estimates.
Assessment Report 4  still produces reasonable values for SLR. But by the time Assessment Report 5 came around, we can see a rough doubling of both lowest and highest estimates.
We now look at the summary result (from chapter 13 of Assessment Report 5) in some detail in and pose the crucial question: Is there reliable evidence for acceleration in SLR associated with temp rise and CO2 increase during the 20th century? As we shall see, the answer is NO.
The first question one might ask of why does SLR suddenly accelerate in 1880, going from zero to about 7 inches per century (18cm/cy)? The answer may be that IPCC data does not agree with other data that show no such acceleration.
Next, why is there an acceleration shown at 1993? The answer may be that IPCC introduced a new observational method, based on Radar from satellites. But as cogently argued by Willie Soon, the new data set is problematic and disagrees with the traditional data from tidal gauges. The latter do not show any acceleration during recent centuries. On the contrary, some tidal-gauge analyses show a deceleration around 1960. The cause is not known but its reality has not been questioned. It certainly disagrees with the more rapid rise reported from satellites.
My best estimate for the year 2100 is a further sea level rise of about 15cm and continued rise thereafter of about the same value (18cm/cy) - independent of any short term temp fluctuations. In my opinion, there is nothing we can do about this natural rise, which will continue until the next Ice Age - when sea level will drop as ice accumulates in the Polar Regions and on glaciers. Meanwhile, we should follow the Dutch example: relax and build dikes.
What is the single most important fact about the 20th century? The answer must surely be that it was the century that saw the birth and spread of totalitarian socialism. That is not what most school children are taught or what most people in the West believe, but it is a justifiable conclusion. Not only was totalitarian socialism directly responsible, through the 1939 Nazi-Soviet Pact and invasion of Poland, for provoking the bloodiest war in history. It has also been the biggest single cause of internal repression and mass murder in modern times.
According to The Black Book of Communism (Harvard University Press, 1999), at least 94 million people were slaughtered by Communist regimes during the 20th century, a truly colossal figure. Yet this is only a minimum estimate. Professor R. J. Rummel, in his landmark study, Death by Government (Transaction Publishers, 1996, pp.v-vi), puts the death toll from Communism at over 105 million, and his detailed calculations do not include the human cost of Communism in most of Eastern Europe or in Third World countries like Cuba and Mozambique. Even so, his figure is double the total number of casualties (military and civilian) killed on all sides during World War II.
The full horror of this totalitarian socialist holocaust cannot, of course, be adequately conveyed by these grim statistics. Behind them lies a desolate landscape of economic collapse, mass poverty, physical and mental torture, and broken lives and communities. In fact, nothing illustrates the destructive impact of totalitarian socialism more vividly than the tsunami of refugees it has generated in every continent in which it has taken root. Between 1945 and 1990, over 29 million men, women and children voted against Communism with their feet in Asia, Africa, Europe, and Latin America.1 Had it not been for the landmines, border guards, and barbed wire lining their frontiers, the world's Communist states would have been emptied of their populations long before the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.
What provoked this vast tide of human despair? What was it that made life intolerable for most of the inhabitants of these socialist countries? The greatest Russian writer of the last century has given us the answer. To quote Alexandr Solzhenitsyn:
Socialism begins by making all men equal in material matters. . . . However the logical progression towards so-called "ideal" equality inevitably implies the use of force. Furthermore it means that the basic element of personality - those elements which display too much variety in terms of education, ability, thought, and feeling - must themselves be levelled out. . . . Let me remind you that "forced labour" is part of the programme of all prophets of Socialism, including the Communist Manifesto . There is no need to think of the Gulag Archipelago as an Asiatic distortion of a noble ideal. It is an irrevocable law.2
It was therefore always predictable that by requiring the abolition of private property and the family, and monopolistic State ownership of agriculture and industry, the socialist pursuit of equality would necessarily produce the evil fruit of totalitarianism. One party rule, the secret police, the imprisonment and torture of dissidents, concentration camps, mass executions, the political indoctrination of the young, the persecution of religious minorities - all these horrors have been the inevitable result of that concentration and monopolisation of power which invariably corrupts the ruling elites and bureaucracies of all full-blown socialist societies. As an eminent Russian-born political scientist, the late Tibor Szamuely, wrote a generation ago in a pamphlet that should be read by the citizens of every civilised democracy:
How could it be otherwise? . . . How can there be any freedom when one's livelihood from cradle to grave depends totally upon the State, which can with one hand give and with the other take away?3
Unfortunately, left-wing intellectuals and other critics of free enterprise have always been reluctant to acknowledge the totalitarian logic of socialism, wedded as they are to a benevolent vision of the State and the dream of using its power to create a more just society. Consequently, despite all the evidence to date, many of them still pursue the phantom of "democratic socialism," believing that democratic institutions can be relied on to prevent socialism degenerating into tyranny. The great classical liberal thinkers of the 19th century, by contrast, harboured no such illusions. Every single one of them discerned the incompatibility of socialism with the maintenance of free and democratic institutions. They did so, moreover, long before the advent of the socialist tyrannies of the 20th century.
One of the earliest warnings was sounded by John Stuart Mill (1806 - 1873) more than 50 years before the Russian Revolution. In a now famous passage in his essay On Liberty (1859), Mill declared:
If the roads, the railways, the banks, the insurance offices, the great joint-stock companies, the universities and the public charities, were all of them branches of the government; if, in addition, the municipal corporations and local boards, with all that now devolves on them, became departments of the central administration; if the employees of all these different enterprises were appointed and paid by the government, and looked to the government for every rise in life; not all the freedom of the press and popular constitution of the legislature would make this or any other country free other than in name.4
As Mill understood, you cannot maintain freedom of speech and of the press, or freedom of assembly and association, if all the means of communication - newsprint, meeting halls, radio stations, etc - are in the hands of the State. It is equally impossible, in such conditions, for opposition parties to win elections, since a State controlled economy also prevents them from acquiring the capital to finance their political campaigns. That is why democratic socialism is a contradiction in terms. Either socialism must be diluted or abandoned for the sake of democracy, or democracy (as well as liberty) will be sacrificed on the altar of socialism.
What is so tragic about the Russian Revolution, is that the triumph of Communism in October 1917 aborted the embryo of a developing liberal society. As Tibor Szamuely points out
. . . few people in the West are aware of the extent of freedom in Tsarist Russia before the Revolution, in the early part of our century. It enjoyed full freedom of the press - censorship had been abolished, and even Bolshevik publications appeared without restrictions - full freedom of foreign travel, independent trade unions, independent courts, trial by jury . . . a parliament, a Duma with MPs representing parties of every political shade, including the Bolsheviks."5
By the early 1920s, by contrast, all this had been swept away. To quote Solzhenitsyn's summary of the first period of Communist rule under Lenin:
It dispersed the [democratically elected] Constituent Assembly. . . . It introduced execution without trial. It crushed workers' strikes. It plundered the villagers to such an unbelievable extent that the peasants revolted, and when this happened it crushed the peasants in the bloodiest possible way. It shattered the Church. It reduced 20 provinces of our country to a condition of famine.6
Democratic socialists may object, at this point, that pre-revolutionary Russia was not as free and democratic as Britain or the United States, and that the cause of socialism was compromised by the Bolsheviks' violent seizure of power. But even if Lenin had triumphed in a peaceful election, his subsequent takeover of the economy and nationalisation of all previously independent institutions would eventually have produced the same totalitarian outcome.
The inherently despotic nature of socialism, so vividly confirmed by the history of the Russian Revolution and all subsequent socialist revolutions, was clearly perceived by John Stuart Mill's great Italian liberal contemporary, Joseph Mazzini (1805 - 1872). In an essay on "The Economic Question" written in 1858 and addressed to the workers of Italy, Mazzini not only defended private property as an institution essential to human progress and wellbeing; he also denounced socialism with passion:
The liberty, the dignity, the conscience of the individual would all disappear in an organisation of productive machines. Physical life might be satisfied by it, but moral and intellectual life would perish, and with it emulation, free choice of work, free association, stimulus to production, joys of property, and all incentives to progress. Under such a system the human family would become a herd. . . . Which of you would resign himself to such a system?7
In addition, Mazzini pointed out, the establishment of a socialist society would, ironically, create the very worst form of inequality, because universal State ownership would require the establishment of an all-powerful ruling bureaucracy. "Working-men, my Brothers," he asked,
. . . are you disposed to accept a hierarchy of lords and masters of the common property? . . . Is not this a return to ancient slavery?8
The prophetic discernment of the 19th century classical liberal critics of socialism is again very apparent in the writings of Frederic Bastiat (1801-1850), the leading French economist and free trade activist of his generation. A constant critic of Statism in general, and socialism in particular, Bastiat summarised his objections in The Law, a short but lucid pamphlet published in 1850, the same decade, curiously enough, during which Mill and Mazzini raised their warning voices.
In this brief yet comprehensive analysis, Bastiat offered many valuable insights, of which three deserve particular mention. The first drew attention to a fatal contradiction within the ideology of democratic socialism, one that continues to characterise many of the attitudes of present-day European leftists and American liberals. On the one hand, complained Bastiat, socialists are passionately committed to the cause of democracy, insisting that all adults are responsible individuals who should have the vote and an equal share in all political decision-making; yet on the other, they consider the same sovereign people incapable of running their own lives without the intervention and supervision of all-powerful State officials. "When it is time to vote," wrote Bastiat,
. . . apparently the voter is not to be asked for any guarantee of his wisdom. His will and capacity to choose wisely are taken for granted. . . . But when the [socialist] legislator is finally elected - ah! then indeed does the tone of his speech undergo a radical change. The people are returned to passiveness, inertness, and unconsciousness; the legislator enters into omnipotence. Now it is for him to initiate, to direct, to propel, and to organize.9
As well as being arrogant, socialists were also deeply misguided, argued Bastiat, because they confused society with the State, and altruism with collectivism. As a result, he predicted, their economic programme would only undermine the spirit of true fraternity and impoverish society, since moral and social progress depended on individual creativity and voluntary co-operation, not government planning and coercion. "When law and force keep a person within the bounds of justice, they impose nothing but a mere negation" declared Bastiat.
They oblige him only to abstain from harming others. They violate neither his personality, his liberty, nor his property. They safeguard all of these. . . . But when the law, by means of its necessary agent, force [i.e. the State], imposes upon men a regulation of labour, a method or a subject of education, a religious faith or creed - then the law is no longer negative; it acts positively upon the people. It substitutes the will of the legislator for their own wills; the initiative of the legislator for their own initiatives. When this happens, the people no longer need to discuss, to compare, to plan ahead; the law does all this for them. Intelligence becomes a useless prop for the people; they cease to be men; they lose their personality, their liberty, their property. . . .
For these reasons, concluded Bastiat, "We repudiate forced fraternity, not true fraternity."10
Finally, Bastiat pointed out, by concentrating all resources and decision-making in the State, socialism only offered a recipe for permanent social conflict and revolution, since it would arouse expectations that could never be satisfied, and encourage everyone to live at each other's expense through the tax and benefit system.
As long as it is admitted that the law may be diverted from its true purpose - that it may violate property instead of protecting it - then everyone will want to participate in making the law, either to protect himself against plunder or to use it for plunder. . . . Good fortune and bad fortune, wealth and destitution, equality and inequality, virtue and vice - all then depend upon political administration. It is burdened with everything, it undertakes everything, it does everything; therefore it is responsible for everything. . . . Is it surprising, then, that every failure increases the threat of another revolution in France?11
The intellectual assault on socialism mounted by Bastiat, Mazzini, and Mill in the middle of the 19th century, was renewed by the next generation of classical liberal thinkers in response to the rapid growth of socialist militancy throughout Europe during the 1880s and 1890s. During this period, four of its leading figures in Britain: Herbert Spencer (1820 - 1903), Charles Bradlaugh (1833 - 1891), Auberon Herbert (1838 - 1906), and William H. Lecky (1838 - 1903), condemned socialism with prophetic insight and unsparing severity. Three of them, Herbert, Lecky and Spencer, also linked their attack on socialism to a more general critique of the State, warning of the corrupting consequences for democracy of the growing contemporary trend towards big government and State welfare.
"We object that the organisation of all industry under State control must paralyse industrial energy and discourage and neutralise individual effort," wrote Bradlaugh in 1884.12 Lecky agreed with him. "The desire of each man to improve his circumstances, to reap the full reward of superior talent, or energy, or thrift," he wrote in 1896,
. . . is the very mainspring of the production of the world. Take these motives away . . . cut off all the hopes that stimulate, among ordinary men, ambition, enterprise, invention, and self-sacrifice, and the whole level of production will rapidly and inevitably sink.13
The destructive economic consequences of government ownership and control of all farms and businesses, added Lecky, were not only due to the removal of all personal incentives to innovation and wealth creation. They also flowed from the fact that because of their bureaucratic training and mentality, government officials lacked the necessary skills and reflexes to engage successfully in trade and commerce. Obeying orders and observing administrative routines and procedures did not encourage or leave much scope for personal flexibility and initiative. To quote Lecky:
The tact and foresight which anticipate changes in the course and conditions of commerce or fashion; the promptitude which seizes the happy moment for contracting or expanding supply, meeting half-disclosed wants, and giving to enterprise new direction and impulses; the rare combination of daring, caution, and insight by which alone these great forms of industry can succeed, will never be found in routine-ridden Government officials."14
For these reasons, concluded Lecky, the attempt to convert the State "into a gigantic shopkeeper, or storekeeper, or manufacturer, providing for the vast and ever-changing variety of human wants and tastes," was "hopeless."15
This has certainly proved to be the case in the 20th century. Wherever you look, the failure of nationalisation and central planning has been universal and disastrous, as anyone who reads David Osterfeld's article, "Socialism and Incentives" (The Freeman, November 1986), Clarence B. Carson's study, Basic Communism (American Textbook Committee, 1990), or Kevin Williamson's book, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Socialism (Regnery, U.S. 2011), can see for themselves. Tibor Szamuely's aforementioned pamphlet, Socialism and Liberty, is especially valuable on this subject because in the case of Russia, he reveals the extent to which Communism reversed the rapid economic progress of the last two decades of the pre-revolutionary period. Professor Richard L. Walker's 1971 U.S. Senate Report on The Human Cost of Communism in China (published by the ACU Education and Research Institute, Washington D.C. 1977), provides equally detailed evidence of the dreadful economic and political price exacted by revolutionary socialism in the world's most populous country. On the other side of the Atlantic, British scholar, John Marks, has provided a similarly compelling and comprehensive account of the economic and social failure of Communism in his book, Fried Snowballs (Claridge Press, London), published appropriately in 1990, a year after the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Bradlaugh and Lecky's objections to socialism were not, of course, confined to its material destructiveness. They too, like their classical liberal predecessors, perceived its hostility to freedom and the family. "If the establishment of a Socialistic State be conceived possible," said Bradlaugh,
. . . it is certainly not possible to imagine such a State co-existing with free expression of individual opinion, either on platform or through the press. All means of publicity in a Socialistic State will belong to and will be controlled by the State. It is not conceivable that a Socialistic government would provide halls for its adversaries to agitate for its overthrow, print books and pamphlets for its opponents to show that its methods and actions were mischievous. . . .16
Remarkably, Bradlaugh even predicted that the successful imposition of socialism would require the ideological re-conditioning of the entire population - a phenomenon that has subsequently proved characteristic of all Communist regimes, notably China before and during the Cultural Revolution, Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge, and North Korea today. To quote his prophetic words:
But a Socialistic State, even if achieved, could not be maintained without a second (mental) revolution, in which the present ideas and forms of expression concerning property would have to be effaced, and the habit of life (resulting from long-continued teachings and long-enduring traditions) would have to be broken. The words "my house," "my coat," "my horse," "my watch," "my book," are all affirmations of private property which would have to be unlearned. The whole current of human thought would have to be changed.17
In chapters 8 and 9 of the second volume of his wide-ranging book, Democracy and Liberty (1896), W. H. Lecky showed the same prophetic discernment in his analysis of socialism as Bradlaugh, but with the added advantage of covering more ground at greater depth. His treatment of socialism included a detailed historical survey of the rise of socialist ideas and organisations in Britain and Europe, as well as a penetrating analysis of industrial relations, the trade union movement, and the changing conditions of the working class. In the course of his extensive examination of socialist ideas and movements, Lecky exposed Marx's theoretical errors and misconceptions, and demonstrated the empirical falsity of all his predictions about the growing misery and impoverishment of the workers under capitalism. Above all, however, he emphasised the illiberal and reactionary nature of socialism.
In a section, for example, describing the activities of the First International (1864 - 1876), Lecky refers approvingly to the opposition of one French delegate to the abolition of private property in land, "a policy of spoliation" adopted by the First International at its Congress in Basle in 1869. "One French representative," wrote Lecky,
. . . warned his fellows that the course they were taking would alienate from them the whole body of the French peasant proprietors, and that it was the opposition of this class that crushed the Republic of 1848. He added, that the only result of a collective ownership of the soil would be that the whole rural population would become a population of serfs, performing forced labour at the command of the agents of the State, and that they would gain nothing in material well-being that could compensate them for the total destruction of their liberty.18
How often and how terribly has that prophecy been fulfilled in Europe, Asia, Africa, and Central America. Whether in Russia or China, Cuba or Mozambique, Vietnam or Nicaragua,19 Rumania or Ethiopia, every socialist revolution between 1917 and 1990 has treated its farmers and peasants like cattle, stealing their land, confiscating their produce, herding them into collectives, and reducing their numbers through mass slaughter and starvation. And this is not simply a matter of past history. The same pattern has, with some variation, repeated itself more recently in present-day Zimbabwe, under the murderous dictatorship of Robert Mugabe.
Lecky's clear-sighted recognition of the totalitarian character of socialism was reinforced by his awareness of its inherent hostility to traditional religion, morality, and the family. As he saw it, allegiance to God, belief in absolute moral standards, and respect for private property and the family, were so inextricably intertwined, their continued existence could not be reconciled with the establishment of a full-blooded socialist system. They erected barriers against the absolute authority and claims of the State. It was therefore understandable, in Lecky's view, that most European socialists were militant atheists and sexual revolutionaries. Whereas "many English Socialists treat questions of religion and marriage as wholly extraneous to their theory," he observed,
In the opinion of Marx, and of the great body of continental Socialists, they are intimately, and, indeed, necessarily connected with it. In my own judgment, the continental view is the more just. It is perfectly true that marriage and the family form the tap root out of which the whole system of hereditary property grows, and that it would be utterly impossible permanently to extirpate heredity unless family stability and family affection were annihilated. It is not less true that a system which preaches the most wholesale and undisguised robbery will never approve itself to the masses of men, unless all the foundations and sanctions of morality have been effectually destroyed. The sense of right and wrong must be blotted out of the minds of men before the new doctrine can triumph."20
Lecky's tragically vindicated anticipation of the horrors of socialist revolution in the 20th century, including its persecution of religious believers, is not the only issue about which he showed himself to be a true prophet of our times. He was equally perceptive about the growing danger, already visible in his day, that the advance of democracy would have an increasing tendency to corrupt representative government and undermine liberty. As more and more people obtained the vote, he argued, the temptation to use the power of the State to advance sectional interests at the expense of unpopular minorities (or the nation as a whole) would become irresistible. This in turn would encourage ambitious politicians to use the coercive arm of government to bribe voters and placate powerful lobbies. "Growing democracy," he said,
. . . had weakened the connection between property and taxing power, and had made it easy for a majority of voters to throw the burden of the taxation they voted, upon other shoulders than their own.21
The growth of State employment, and socialist influence within the trade unions, further aggravated this problem, because it created an ever-larger popular constituency in favour of big government and pork-barrel politics. "Where democracy reigns," explained Lecky,
. . . few things are more to be feared than a great increase in the number of those who are in the direct employment of the State and the municipality. If a dominant proportion of the voters in each constituency are in the pay of one or other of those bodies, it is idle to suppose that the relations between the representative and his electors can long be kept distinct from the relations between the employer and the employed. The temptation of the representatives to use public money and public works as a means of electioneering, and the temptation of the electors to use their political power as a means of obtaining trade advantages for themselves, will soon become irresistible, and the floodgates of corruption will be opened.22
If, as Lecky pointed out in his chapter on "Labour Questions," this process of corruption had already become notorious within 19th century America's cities and municipalities, and had begun to rear its ugly head in Britain's "dockyard towns" in the 1890s, how much worse has that problem become in our present century! The politics of nearly all western democracies are now bedevilled by the fact that large sections of their electorates either work for the State at national or municipal level, or are dependent for much of their livelihood on municipal housing and government-provided welfare. This not only favours the political fortunes and interventionist policies of socialist parties and pressure groups; it also means that attempts to roll back the State and reduce government spending always encounter powerful resistance, especially at regional and local level, and during economic recessions.
Herbert Spencer's analysis of socialism, democracy and the State, developed the same critical themes as Lecky's. In an eloquent essay revealingly entitled, "The Sins of Legislators," one of four essays making up his 1884 book, The Man versus the State, Spencer underlined the contrast between the creative dynamism of civil society, and the incompetence and destructiveness of government down the ages. It was creative individuals and families, wishing to better their condition and lead fuller and happier lives, he argued, who were responsible for the inventions and advances that constitute human progress. It was they who had first tamed the wilderness, developed agriculture, built homes, and engaged in trade. And whilst governments had occasionally furthered this process by discharging their proper function of maintaining law and order, they had all too often hindered it and reversed the tide of progress through tyranny, wars, and extortionate taxation.
"It is not to the State," declared Spencer,
. . . that we owe the multitudinous useful inventions from the spade to the telephone; it was not the State which made possible extended navigation by a developed astronomy; it was not the State which made the discoveries in physics, chemistry, and the rest, which guide modern manufacturers; it was not the State which devised the machinery for producing fabrics of every kind, for transferring men and things from place to place, and for ministering in a thousand ways to our comforts. The worldwide transactions conducted in merchants' offices, the rush of traffic filling our streets, the retail distributing system which brings everything within easy reach and delivers the necessaries of life daily at our doors, are not of governmental origin. All these are results of the spontaneous activities of citizens, separate or grouped."23
The socialist belief that government should be the principal engine of social progress, continued Spencer, was therefore not only economically and historically illiterate, but positively dangerous. Modern industrial societies, with their multitudinous activities, could function efficiently and harmoniously, he explained, because the needs and desires of their millions of inhabitants were satisfied and co-ordinated by thousands of independent shops and businesses. Supply and demand, for countless products and services, were constantly brought into balance through voluntary co-operation and the profit motive, operating within a competitive free enterprise system based on private property. This meant, concluded Spencer, that central planning was unnecessary and freedom could prevail. If, however, this system were to be replaced by a government planned and controlled economy, it would require the creation of a huge and all-powerful army of State officials to supervise and control the population at large. And the inevitable result of that, warned Spencer, would be the destruction of liberty.
"Imagine," he wrote,
. . . the vast administration required for that distribution of all commodities to all people in every city, town and village, which is now effected by traders! Imagine, again, the still more vast administration required for doing all that farmers, manufacturers, and merchants do; having not only its various orders of local superintendents, but its sub-centres and chief centres needed for apportioning the quantities of each thing everywhere needed, and the adjustment of them to the requisite times. Then add the staffs wanted for working mines, railways, roads, canals; the staffs required for conducting the importing and exporting businesses and the administration of mercantile shipping. . . . Imagine all this and then ask what will be the position of the actual workers! Already, on the continent, where governmental organisations are more elaborate and coercive than here, there are chronic complaints of the tyranny of the bureaucracies - the hauteur and brutality of their members. What will these become when not only the more public actions of citizens are controlled, but there is added this far more extensive control of all their respective daily duties? What will happen when the various divisions of this vast army of officials, united by interests common to officialism - the interests of the regulators versus those of the regulated - have at their command whatever force is needful to suppress insubordination and act as "saviours of society"?24
As this passage suggests, Spencer's forebodings about socialism and the growing tendency of modern democracies to enlarge the powers and functions of government, were not merely rooted in his awareness of the monopolistic and coercive nature of the State. They were also based on his realistic view of human nature, reinforced by his knowledge of history. For instance, in his essay, "From Freedom to Bondage," originally published in 1891 but included in the current Liberty Fund edition of The Man versus the State, Spencer does not emerge as an uncritical supporter of laissez-faire capitalism. He agreed that there was much to complain about in contemporary Victorian society, like poverty, class divisions, and commercial dishonesty. But unlike so many of his reform-minded contemporaries, and the politically correct leftists of our own day, Spencer did not suffer from the utopian illusion that all social problems have a solution, or are best dealt with through new government legislation. Instead, his writings are full of warnings about the harmful unintended consequences of government action, and the persistent tendency of all human institutions to deteriorate owing to the inherent corruptibility of human nature. "From Freedom to Bondage," for example, drew attention to the potential significance for the socialist future of the ruthlessness and selfishness then to be found within existing trade unions.
"Instead of the selfishness of the employing classes and the selfishness of competition," wrote Spencer,
. . . we are to have the unselfishness of a mutually-aiding system. How far is this unselfishness now shown in the behaviour of working men to one another? What shall we say to the rules limiting the numbers of new hands admitted into each trade, or to the rules which hinder ascent from inferior classes of workers to superior classes? One does not see in such regulations any of that altruism by which socialism is to be pervaded. Contrariwise, one sees a pursuit of private interests no less keen than among traders. Hence, unless we suppose that men's natures will be suddenly exalted, we must conclude that the pursuit of private interests will sway the doings of all the component classes in a socialistic society.25
In "The Coming Slavery," the second essay in The Man versus the State, Spencer's realism about human behaviour and socialism anticipated some of the key findings of "public choice theory" - one of the most important branches of modern economics and political science. In one striking passage, for instance, he explained how difficult it is for any democratic electorate to arrest the expansion of State bureaucracy, and the extension of its powers, once it has grown beyond a certain size.
A comparatively small body of officials, coherent, having common interests, and acting under central authority, has an immense advantage over an incoherent public which has no settled policy, and can be brought to act unitedly only under strong provocation. Hence an organisation of officials, once passing a certain stage of growth, becomes less and less resistible; as we see in the bureaucracies of the Continent.26
In addition to this, Spencer pointed out, there were other equally compelling forces at work encouraging the spread of government regulation and interference beyond its originally prescribed limits. One of these was the constant need to introduce new measures to correct the unforeseen damage inflicted by earlier legislation. Another was the ever-increasing prejudice in favour of State intervention derived from past precedents. Thus the more people relied upon government to solve all their problems and deal with every crisis, the more they would favour its continued growth and involvement in every aspect of their lives. Even worse, wrote Spencer,
The multiplication of careers opened by a developing bureaucracy, tempts members of the classes regulated by it to favour its extension, as adding to the chances of safe and respectable places for their relatives. The people at large, led to look on benefits received through public agencies as gratis benefits, have their hopes continually excited by the prospects of more. A spreading education, furthering the diffusion of pleasing errors rather than of stern truths, renders such hopes both stronger and more general. Worse still, such hopes are ministered to by candidates for public choice, to augment their chances of success; and leading statesmen, in pursuit of party ends, bid for popular favour by countenancing them.27
Can anyone deny the relevance of these prophetic insights to modern democratic politics? Are we not constantly deluged by new laws and regulations, demands for more government action, and endless promises of a better tomorrow, usually at the taxpayer's expense?
Spencer's contemporary and follower, Auberon Herbert, would not have been surprised by these developments. He not only anticipated them, as well as the advent of modern totalitarianism. He was also especially prescient about the moral and psychological destructiveness of State coercion and government social engineering.
In The Right and Wrong of Compulsion by the State and Other Essays, (Liberty Fund, 1978), a collection of his lectures and writings between 1880 and 1906, Herbert developed a passionately eloquent case against all attempts to use the power of the State to do good or reform society. Believing that every individual is the sole legitimate owner of his own person, and therefore has a "natural right" to the product of his labour, Herbert argued that there was no justification for the State to seize his property in order to force him to contribute to the relief of the poor. Whilst he agreed that it was morally desirable that individuals should help one another and be ever ready to pool their resources for the common good, he insisted that genuine altruism and true community could only flow from voluntary co-operation and freely directed personal effort. Government coercion, by contrast, however good the cause invoked to justify it, necessarily violated the individual's right to self-ownership, as well as inhibiting his creativity and moral growth. Human beings, Herbert explained, needed to be free to set their own goals and learn from their own mistakes if they were to grow and develop as moral agents. To subject their wills, instead, to State compulsion, was therefore a reprehensible step. It sapped personal motivation, discouraged self-reliance, and frustrated personal enterprise. Even worse, argued Herbert, it had a positively corrupting effect on the whole of society, because it encouraged its individual members to disregard each other's rights and interests in the competitive pursuit of power, blunting their feelings of solidarity and their sense of moral obligation.
"If you wish to know how power spoils character and narrows intelligence," he wrote,
. . . look at the great military empires; their steady perseverance in the roads that lead to ruin; their dread of free thought and of liberty in all its forms; look at the sharp repressions, the excessive punishments, the love of secrecy, the attempt to drill a whole nation into obedience, and to use the drilled and subject thing for every passing vanity and aggrandizement of those who govern. Look also at the great administrative systems. See how men under them become helpless and dispirited, incapable of free effort and self-protection, at one moment sunk in apathy, at another moment ready for revolution. Do you wonder that it is so? Is it wonderful that when you replace the will and intelligence and self-guidance of the individual by systems of vast machinery, that men should gradually lose all the better and higher parts of their nature - for of what use to them is that better and higher part, when they may not exercise it? Ought we to feel surprise, when we see them become like over restrained children, peevish, discontented and quarrelsome, unable to control and direct themselves, and ever loud in their complaints that enough cake and jam do not fall to their share?28
As this extract makes clear, Herbert's analysis of the moral corruption engendered by absolute power was supported, in his view, by solid historical evidence. Perhaps he was thinking of the Roman and Ottoman empires or of Napoleonic France. But whatever examples he had in mind, how much truer do his words seem today as we look back on the experience of Fascism and Communism. Are they not equally applicable to all the post-colonial revolutions and dictatorships that have so blighted the Third World since 1945?
The prophetic quality of Herbert's writings is again apparent when we read what he, like Spencer, had to say about socialism.
Have you ever carefully thought out what life would be like under the schemes of the socialist party, who offer us the final, the logical completion of all systems of force? Try to picture the huge overweighted groaning machine of government; the men who direct it vainly, miserably struggling with their impossible task of managing everything, driven for the sake of their universal system to extinguish all differences of thought and action, allowing no man to possess his own faculties, or to enjoy the fruit that he has won by their exercise, to call land or house or home his own, allowing no man to do a day's work for another, or to sell or buy on his own account, denying to all men the ownership and possession of either body or mind, necessarily intolerant . . . of every form of free thought and free enterprise, trembling at the very shadow of liberty. . . .29
The warning voice of classical liberalism, protesting against the growing contemporary trend towards collectivism, was not confined to Europe in the closing decades of the 19th century. It also made itself heard on the other side of the Atlantic through the lectures and writings of Yale scholar and sociologist, William Graham Sumner (1840 - 1910). Like Auberon Herbert, an admirer of Spencer, Sumner was similar to both men in his realism about human nature and the State, and the totalitarian logic of socialism.
For instance, in his essay on "Socialism" written in 1880, Sumner anticipated Lecky's argument that the socialist pursuit of material equality would end up destroying both freedom and the family. "The love of children," he pointed out,
. . . is an instinct which, as I have said before, grows stronger with advancing civilization. All attacks on capital have, up to this time, been shipwrecked on this instinct. Consequently the most rigorous and logical socialists have always been led sooner or later to attack the family. For, if bequest should be abolished, parents would give their property to their children in their own life-time; and so it becomes a logical necessity to substitute some sort of Communistic or socialistic life for family life, and to educate children in masses without the tie of parentage. Every socialistic theory which has been pursued energetically has led out to this consequence. I will not follow up this topic, but it is plain to see that the only equality which could be reached on this course would be that men should be all equal to each other when they were all equal to swine.30
Sumner was as perceptive about the potential conflict between liberty and democracy, as he was about the despotic tendencies of socialism. Coming, like Spencer, from a Christian family background, it is arguable that both men were influenced in their thinking by the biblical doctrine that man is a fallen creature. But whether or not this was really the case, they certainly had no illusions about human motivation and behaviour in relation to politics and the State. Like Spencer, Herbert, Lecky and Bastiat, Sumner was all too aware of the vulnerability of human nature to the corruption of power. He, too, saw the danger that as democracy developed, the voting majority, particularly those in the public sector, would inevitably be tempted to use the power of government to obtain material benefits for themselves at the expense of wealthy minorities and the taxpayer. Looking to the future, therefore, he asked the question:
Can the State find anywhere power to repel all the special interests and keep uppermost the one general interest or the welfare of all? Will the State itself degenerate into the instrument of an attack on property, and will it cripple wealth making or will the wealth-making interest, threatened by the State, rise up to master it, corrupt it, and use it? This is the alternative which the twentieth century must meet.32
Sadly, we now know the answer to Sumner's question. Under socialist regimes, the State has been a relentless instrument of plunder and the biggest single obstacle to wealth-creation and economic growth. Elsewhere, especially in Latin America and the Middle East, under both feudal monarchies and so-called "right-wing" military dictatorships, government and the economy have been dominated by traditional aristocracies of rich landowners and businessmen, allied to ambitious and successful generals. In all these cases, however, the lesson has been the same: The State has signally failed to "keep uppermost the one general interest or the welfare of all" - to use Sumner's telling phrase.
In our modern liberal democracies, by contrast, it could be argued that a free press and an independent judiciary have acted as a check on the ability of sectional interests to manipulate the political process for their own purposes. But as modern "public choice" theory has abundantly proved their success in this regard has been limited. The expansion of both government employment and government intervention in the economy has, as the classical liberals warned it would, created powerful vested interests against which the ordinary voter and citizen tends to battle in vain. This is because the involvement of the modern State in so many areas of our lives creates endless opportunities and incentives for special interests to get into bed with politicians for their mutually selfish ends. Whether this involves "right-wing" business groups or "left-wing" unions and public sector workers, is a secondary issue. The general welfare still suffers because of the failure to keep the powers and functions of government within strict limits.
The corruption of democracy by special interests is, of course, facilitated by the widespread and popular belief that the State can create jobs and increase people's incomes by printing money and increasing government spending. But as the 19th century classical liberals repeatedly pointed out, especially Bastiat, the State has no real resources of its own. It can only spend what it has stolen from the people through taxation or inflation. Sumner, for example, was particularly eloquent on this subject, referring to the ordinary plundered citizen as the "Forgotten Man" ignored by politicians.
"Wealth comes only from production," he reminded his contemporaries,
. . . and all that the wrangling grabbers, loafers, and jobbers get to deal with comes from somebody's toil and sacrifice. . . . The Forgotten Man is delving away in patient industry, supporting his family, paying his taxes, casting his vote, supporting the church and the school, reading his newspaper, and cheering for the politician of his admiration, but he is the only one for whom there is no provision in the great scramble and the big divide.32
As this final quote from Sumner confirms, the great 19th classical liberals have proved to be true prophets. Their warnings about socialism and the growth of the State, and the potential conflict between liberty and democracy, have all been sadly vindicated. But what about the future? Will the lessons they have taught us be heeded? Is the cause of freedom on an upward path?
These remain urgent questions despite the fall of Soviet Communism and its empire 20 years ago. Totalitarian Communist parties still remain in power in China, Cuba, Vietnam and North Korea. "Despite economic liberalisation, the Chinese Communists have killed an estimated 1 million people for political reasons since 1976 [and] the laogai prison system [the Chinese gulag] still operates today with about 1,000 camps" ("Communism," The Encyclopedia of Libertarianism, p.83). Elsewhere, Islamism threatens to spread its particular brand of theocratic tyranny throughout the Middle East and central Asia, and according to Freedom House surveys, around half the world's population live under dictatorships of one sort or another. As for our Western democracies, there seems no end to the growth of the regulatory and politically correct "Nanny State," despite its wastefulness and incompetence, and the whole movement towards supranationalism, in all its various manifestations - from the European Union to the United Nations and its agencies - threatens a further and dangerous centralisation of power.
If, then, we are to preserve what remains of our liberties, let alone extend them, we must heed the warnings that they are never secure, but must be fought for anew in every generation.
1 For details & sources see: Philip Vander Elst, Idealism Without Illusions: A foreign policy for freedom, (Freedom Association, England, 1989, pp. 29 & 49).
2 Aleksandr Solzhenitzyn, Words of Warning to the Western World, (The Bodley Head & BBC, p. 43).
3 Socialism and Liberty, (Aims for Freedom and Enterprise, London, England, 1977, p. 6).
4 On Liberty and Other Essays, (Oxford University Press, 1991, pp. 122 - 123).
5 Socialism and Liberty, op. cit. p. 6.
6 Solzhenitsyn: The Voice of Freedom, (AFL-CIO, 1975, p. 7).
7 The Duties of Man, (Everyman's Library, J. M. Dent & Sons, London, 1961, p. 106).
8 Ibid, p. 107.
9 The Law, (Foundation for Economic Education, U.S. 1974, p. 59).
10 Ibid, pp. 28 - 29, and p. 32.
11 Ibid, pp. 18, 65, 66.
12 "Some Objections to Socialism," p.102, A Selection of the Political Pamphlets of Charles Bradlaugh, (Augustus M. Kelley Publishers, New York, 1970).
13 Democracy and Liberty, (Volume 2, Liberty Press, Indianapolis, 1981, p. 310).
14 Ibid, pp. 339 - 340.
15 Ibid, 339.
16 "Socialism: Its fallacies and dangers," 1887, p.12.
17 "Some Objections to Socialism," p. 105.
18 Democracy and Liberty, (Volume 2, pp. 252 - 253).
19 See: Paul Staines, In the Grip of the Sandinistas: Human Rights in Nicaragua 1979 - 1989, (London: International Society for Human Rights - British Section, July 1989). 20 Democracy and Liberty, (Volume 2, pp. 295 - 296).
21 Ibid, 319.
22 Ibid, p. 338.
23 The Man versus the State, (Liberty Fund, Indianapolis, 1982, p. 101).
24 Ibid, pp. 507 - 508.
25 Ibid, pp. 511 - 512.
26 Ibid, pp. 47 - 48.
27 Ibid, p. 54.
28 "A Plea for Voluntaryism," p. 320.
29 Ibid, pp. 341-342.
30 On Liberty, Society and Politics: The Essential Essays of William Graham Sumner, (Liberty Fund, Indianapolis, 1992, p.176).
31 Ibid, p. 380.
32 Ibid, p. 219.
When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?
. . . says Psalm 8. Psalm 89 declares in verses 11, 12, and 14:
The heavens are yours, and yours also the earth; you founded the world and all that is in it. You created the north and the south; Tabor and Hermon sing for joy at your name. . . . Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; love and faithfulness goes before you.
Compare these songs of praise to God the Creator with these words of Philip Pullman, the atheist author of the best-selling His Dark Materials fantasy trilogy:
. . . if there is a God and he is as the Christians describe him, then he deserves to be put down and rebelled against.
Bertrand Russell, the 20th century's most famous atheist philosopher, speaking in a similar vein, declared in 1927:
The whole conception of God is a conception derived from the ancient Oriental despotisms. It is a conception quite unworthy of free men.
How can one explain these totally contrasting attitudes towards God? Why are so many Western intellectuals and opinion-formers not only unbelievers, but hostile unbelievers, who think that Christianity involves the degrading worship of power because the idea of God implies some kind of Cosmic Dictator or Hitler? Why, also, are Christians in this country so often lukewarm and apathetic about their faith, behaving as if relating to God was like dealing with a difficult relative or the Inland Revenue?
I have become increasingly convinced over the years that the main reason for these negative attitudes towards God is that so many people simply do not understand who He really is and what they owe to Him. There is also the paradox that many who claim not to believe in God are angry with Him because of the problem of evil. They blame Him for the suffering they see in the world and encounter in their own lives. Unpacking the truth that God is the Creator and our Creator, with all that this implies, is, I believe, the key to overcoming these negative attitudes. It is also the key to understanding what life is really about.
How, then, do we know that God is real and is our Creator? How do we know that He is loving and good? Answer: because the evidence for His existence and goodness is under our noses if only we have eyes to see!
Look, to start with, at the incredible complexity of our own human bodies. Think about our eyes and ears and hands, perfectly designed to enable us to see and hear, hold objects and use tools. Think about our digestive systems that allow us to fuel our bodies with food and get rid of waste. Think about our bodies' complex immune systems that protect us against disease and help us to recover from illnesses. Think, above all, about the "miracle" of human reproduction - how babies are conceived and then developed in their mothers' wombs. It is estimated that our human DNA - that incredible biological software system driving and directing the whole process of human reproduction and development - contains more organised information within every human cell than the Encyclopaedia Britannica! Is all this evidence of purposive design simply an illusion? Not according to Dean Kenyon, America's leading scientist in the field of chemical evolution. Abandoning his former belief that unguided natural forces could explain the origin of life, Kenyon now argues:
This new realm of molecular genetics [is] where we see the most compelling evidence of design on the Earth.
If we take our eyes off ourselves, and look at the animal kingdom, and the rest of Nature, what, again, do we see? The same evidence of intelligent design. We see it, for instance, in the migratory and nest-building instincts of birds. We see it in the extraordinarily effective navigational systems of bats and whales. We see it in the significant fact that our universe appears to be governed by a few simple laws of physics finely tuned to support life, and expressible in the language of mathematics. Do all these features of our world suggest that it has a purely accidental origin? I don't think so, and I speak as a former atheist. More to the point, many top scientists don't think so either, and they include Nobel Prize winners and former sceptics and unbelievers.
To quote one of Britain's most famous astronomers, the late Sir Fred Hoyle:
A commonsense interpretation of the facts suggests that a super-intellect has monkeyed with physics, as well as chemistry and biology, and that there are no blind forces worth speaking about in Nature.
Another distinguished contemporary astronomer and former atheist, Allan Rex Sandage, dubbed the "Grand Old Man of Cosmology" by The New York Times, has publicly declared:
It was my science that drove me to the conclusion that the world is much more complicated than can be explained by science. It was only through the supernatural that I could understand the mystery of existence.
Finally, let me quote to you the words of Dr. Arno Penzias, a Nobel Prize-winning astrophysicist:
I invite you to examine the snapshot provided by half a century's worth of astrophysical data and see what the pieces of the universe actually look like. . . . In order to achieve consistency with our observations we must . . . assume not only creation of matter and energy out of nothing, but creation of space and time as well. The best data we have are exactly what I would have predicted had I nothing to go on but the five books of Moses [including Genesis], the Psalms, and the Bible as a whole.
These quotes, and the facts underlying them, are surely an impressive testimony to the truthfulness of the opening words of the Bible: "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth."
The evidence that God exists and is our Creator, as Psalm 8 and many other parts of the Bible proclaims, is therefore overwhelming, but it is further reinforced by two other significant facts about human consciousness. The first of these is the very existence of the religious impulse in human beings. From the dawn of history, belief in a God or a collection of gods, and the instinct to pray and worship, has been common to all peoples and cultures. Why should this be the case if there is no Creator? Why should the unintended human products of a random and accidental universe, be under the illusion that there is some ultimate Power or Being behind all things? We experience hunger because our bodies are designed to run on food. We feel sexual desire because our bodies are designed for sexual reproduction. Is it not therefore likely that we have an instinct to worship God because He exists and created us to be dependent on Him?
The final piece of evidence pointing to the reality of God the Creator is the existence of our moral consciousness, our sense of right and wrong. The very fact that so many people disbelieve in God because of the problem of evil and suffering, reveals the existence within them of an internal moral standard by which they judge the world and find it wanting. But where does this moral standard, this sense of right and wrong, come from? If it is purely subjective, like our taste in clothes, it cannot be used as a credible argument against God's existence and goodness. If, on the other hand, it is an objective moral standard - an expression of ultimate truth - not something we have made up in our heads, this suggests that it has an eternal and non-human origin, and therefore points us to God as the divine source of our deepest and most precious values. In short, when we look at all the facts, weighing the existence of evil and suffering against the evidence of intelligent design and our knowledge of right and wrong, we are not confronted by the non-existence of God. Rather, we see a created order that is basically good but seemingly spoiled. Something appears to have gone badly wrong. Why?
It is precisely at this point that we can begin to see our need for the revealed truth of God's Word in the Bible, notably in the Book of Genesis. Since only God was present at the beginning of all things, being the Creator, only He can reveal to us the real truth about our origins. Only He can reveal to us how the universe, and all its living creatures, including human beings, really came into existence. Only He can reveal to us why things have gone wrong. Modern scientists, by contrast, are fallible human beings like the rest of us. They can only make informed guesses about this dim and distant past, since they were not present as observers and cannot conduct adequate experiments to test their rival theories about it.
What, then, does the Book of Genesis reveal in its first three critical chapters? It boldly tells us that God is not only the Creator of all things, but that His original Creation was good. It then reveals how evil, suffering, and death came into our world as a result of an act of disobedience to God by our ancestors, Adam and Eve, the first human couple. How are we to understand these famous opening chapters of the Bible, and their relevance not only to the doctrine of God the Creator, but also to our own lives today?
The first thing that needs to be said is that these chapters are not, repeat not, just an edifying fairy story. Whilst there are legitimate disagreements among Christian scholars about the correct interpretation of some of the details of these opening chapters of Genesis, they tell, I believe, a true story based on real events. I have three reasons for saying this.
First, in Matthew 19:4-5 and Mark 10:6-9 we have the testimony of Jesus, no less, to the historicity of both the creation of the universe and the creation of Adam and Eve. Adam is also named as the founder of the human race in the genealogy of Jesus listed in the last 14 verses of Luke, chapter 3. In Matthew 23 35, Luke 17:26, and Matthew 24:37-39, we also have the testimony of Jesus to the historical reality of both the murder of Abel (described in Genesis, chapter 4), and the story of Noah and the Great Flood, described in Genesis, chapters 6-9. Now if Jesus was only a first century Jewish carpenter from Nazareth, his testimony to the truthfulness of Genesis can be ignored. But we know better, don't we? We have the eyewitness testimony of the Gospels to the fact that Jesus performed many mighty miracles, was acknowledged to be sinless even by His enemies, and rose from the dead after His crucifixion. Consequently, as God the Son Incarnate, through Whom (before His Incarnation) all things were made, as we are told in the opening verses of John's Gospel, Jesus' testimony to the truthfulness of Genesis is authoritative. He should know since He was there at the beginning!
The second reason for believing the story told in Genesis about Creation and the origin of evil, is that it is supported by a great deal of circumstantial anthropological evidence. Nearly every culture and religious tradition in the world, including that of the ancient Chinese, has stories about one God, some original golden age, the alienation of humankind from God or the gods, and the destruction of an evil human race through a great Flood which only spares one righteous man and his family. If you want to see the evidence for this, and the scholarly studies supporting it, read the last chapter of The Long War Against God, a very thought-provoking and well documented book by the late Henry Morris, a fine creationist scientist and Bible scholar. I can also recommend other creationist scientific literature if you're interested.
The third piece of circumstantial evidence supporting the truthfulness of the Genesis story is the significant fact that human beings down the ages have always acknowledged a Moral Law which they seem unable to obey, a truth documented by C. S. Lewis in the appendix to his book, The Abolition of Man. Why is there this gap between our knowledge of right and wrong and our actual behaviour?
Only the story of the Fall of Man in the Garden of Eden really explains this paradox, since it illuminates the whole issue of Who God is and what we owe Him. Let me explain.
If God is the Creator of the universe and of ourselves, what does this tell us about Him and our relationship to Him? It tells us that God is the source and fountainhead of all life, all love, all intelligence, all beauty, goodness, and truth. It tells us, to put it another way, that as Creator, God is life personified, love personified, beauty, goodness and truth personified. As such, God is the source of our being, the fuel on which we are supposed to run. By creating us in His own image, God has loved us into existence so that we can share His life and His love with Him and with each other, and do so, moreover, in a perfect and beautiful universe for all eternity. That was and is the Divine plan. That is what life is supposed to be about! And please note, at this point, the significance in this respect of the revelation that God our Creator is a unity of three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Since love always involves relationships between people, and God is Love - as the Bible tells us repeatedly - it makes perfect philosophical sense that the relationship of love has existed from all eternity within God between the different persons of the Trinity! And it is in order to be drawn into this Love, which has created all things, that we, and the whole universe, were made! That is why, on reflection, it should not surprise us that the first indication that our God is a unity of different persons crops up in Genesis 1:26: "Then God said, 'Let us make man in our image, in our likeness . . . etc.
What has all this got to do with the Fall of Man and the origin of evil? Everything! Because we have been created by God, we depend on Him like a plant depends on sunlight. Because we have been created in God's image, we have been given the gift of free will, since without it we cannot make that willing gift and surrender of ourselves to God, and to each other, that true love always involves. God has also given us free will so that we can create beauty, discover truth, and explore and understand all that He has made. But there is a catch. Our possession of free will gives us the ability to reject God and turn away from Him through disobedience to His will. And that is what happened in the Garden of Eden. By eating the forbidden fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, Adam and Eve separated themselves from God, and by doing so, gave evil an entrance into their hearts and into the world. Like plants refusing to grow towards the sunlight, the first human couple not only sinned by failing to trust the wisdom and love of their Creator. They cut themselves off from the source of all physical and spiritual life, and death - physical and spiritual came into God's originally perfect Creation.
How can fallen and sinful human beings be reconnected with their Creator? The answer to that question is provided in the whole of the rest of the Bible, which describes God's rescue plan. That is what the Gospel is about, and I don't need to explain it to a Christian audience. The question we need to consider is what are the implications of the theology of Creation for us today as Christians?
The first and most important is that we belong to God and we should live for Him. He ought to be the centre around which our lives, our work, our possessions, and our relationships revolve. Do you put Him first in everything?
The second and related implication is that the only appropriate response to God is obedience and worship. His infinite love, goodness, wisdom and beauty, should naturally inspire in us complete trust and adoration. Is it not significant, in this regard, that most of the world's greatest composers both recognised the existence of God and responded to His goodness and beauty in imperishable music? Handel did so, Bach did so, Haydn did so. So too did Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Mendelssohn, Liszt, Dvorak and Stravinsky. "God is ever before my eyes," wrote Mozart:
I realise His omnipotence and I fear His anger; but I also recognise His love, His compassion, and His tenderness towards His creatures.
The third implication of the theology of Creation is that God can meet every need and perform miracles in our lives, and the lives of those around us, if we will only surrender to Him and let His will rule our lives. George Mueller proved this in the 19th century when he raised the equivalent, in our money, of 100 million for his orphanages, through prayer alone rather than fundraising.
The fourth implication of the theology of Creation is that since God is the source of all life, goodness, beauty and truth, He is present in all human activities that reflect and celebrate these values. His face can be seen and shown in the arts and the sciences, in Nature and in human relationships. Ask God to open your eyes and baptise your imagination, so that you can hear His voice in music, see His joy in the birth of a baby, glimpse His sense of humour when you see a cat chasing its tail, and see His beauty in the face of a lovely princess in a fairytale.
Finally, and most important of all, the theology of Creation should teach us to value individuals as ends in themselves, beings made in God's image (however marred by sin) with immortal souls and an infinite potential for good or evil. To quote C. S. Lewis:
You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilization - these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit - immortal horrors or everlasting splendours.
May these truths, by the grace of God, and the help of the Holy Spirit, renew our hearts, our relationships, and our lives. *
Michas Ohnstad is a veteran of World War II, a Lutheran Parish Pastor in Minnesota, and a former Minnesota State Representative. Editor's Note: The St. Croix Review will publish stories from our readership that reflect American history or the genuine American spirit.
With the advent of the atomic age world history have been separated into before the bomb and after. There is no erasure; there is no turning back. The atomic bomb is a fact and a reality. And it came into being in my generation. I was associated with the era of the inception of the atomic age through my military service in WWII.
World War II raged on in Europe and in the Pacific in 1945. I lost several high school classmates and friends in both theatres and only months after one classmate friend was killed in action in the Philippines I, too, was at Cabanatuan, Luzon, with 43rd Infantry Division.
In the Field, at that time, word was out that the next major move of the U.S. military would be the invasion of the Empire of Japan. We were told that we could expect to sustain a million casualties if we had to invade that Japan. Not a happy prospect for an 18-year-old soldier.
Field radios told us that by order of President Harry S. Truman "atomic" bombs had been unleashed the morning of 6 August 1945 over the city of Hiroshima and on 9 August over the city of Nagasaki.
What kind of incredible thing was this "atomic" bomb? We had not heard of such a weapon. Neither had the world. It was unlike anything that had ever been used in the history of warfare. It was speculated that these new bombs were so deadly that vegetation would not grow for a hundred years!
Then, on August 14, 1945, my 19th birthday, Japan surrendered, and I received a birthday present to last me the rest of my life. My 43rd Infantry Division returned to the United States and I was transferred by troopship to Yokohama, Japan. Six days later I received orders from General MacArthur dated 30 September 1945 for duty at Hiroshima and Nagasaki with the atomic bomb commission.
The investigation group that I served with at Hiroshima was a relatively small assembly of American and Japanese medical specialists and nurses and support personnel charged with investigating the effects of the atomic bomb on the populace. Our area of work was "off-limits" to any other troops in the general area because of radiation concerns. One example may illustrate the point of the hundreds of persons examined ranging from autopsy of the deceased to those interviewed with seemingly limited radiation damage: A typical young Japanese lady came in for interview. She looked quite well and I wondered why she came in for interview and examination. When she removed her headscarf - her hair was just starting to grow back!
It is estimated that some 140,000 persons were killed at Hiroshima as a result of the bomb. At Nagasaki some 74,000 persons died.
As with most veterans I am proud to have served my country even though as an "atomic veteran" I, too, am one of the so-called walking wounded; over the head of every radiation-exposed veteran hangs the Damoclean sword - the unanswerable question of when, whether where or how will the consequence of radiation exposure affect me.
For me, the best answer lies in the realization that in war men are expendable - like the rounds of the military rifle!
General Eisenhower told the nation the truth that "history does not long entrust the care of freedom to the weak or timid."
And finally, Douglas MacArthur, the great American General who ordered me to Hiroshima in 1945 reminds us with his words: "In war some live. And some die. And oftentimes the difference is but an eyelash."
In all likelihood because of the atomic bombs and by that "eyelash of difference" I lived and I conclude these comments not by alleging any "heroics" on my part but that I was only doing that which is the responsibility of any soldier, namely, I was "carrying out the lawful orders of my superiors." *
Marvin J. Folkertsma is a professor of political science and fellow for American studies with The Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College, Grove City, Pennsylvania. The author of several books, his latest release is a high-energy novel titled The Thirteenth Commandment. The essay is republished from V & V, a web site of The Center for Vision & Values.
On September 2, 1945, V-J Day, the funeral-like solemnity of the Japanese surrender aboard the USS Missouri was shattered by the thunder of 400 B-29 bombers flying overhead, accompanied by an additional 1,500 carrier aircraft. In a bay packed with 260 Allied warships, the effect of such an overwhelming demonstration of power could hardly fail to impress. The aerial procession roared over the remains of an empire whose hordes had swept across Asia like a scythe of murder and annihilation for the previous decade and a half.
Probably no country suffered more under Japanese occupation than China, especially after Japan initiated its "Three All" offensive in 1941: "Kill all, burn all, destroy all." Millions of Chinese were slaughtered during this campaign. But perhaps the best measure of a nation's level of civilization is found in how it treats those it has captured - i.e., prisoners of war. Here the Japanese record is best summarized by Max Hastings's superb account in Retribution. Hastings writes:
The casual sadism of the Japanese towards their prisoners was so widespread, indeed, almost universal, that it must be considered institutional. There were so many cases of arbitrary beheadings, clubbings, and bayonetings in different parts of the empire that it is impossible to dismiss these as unauthorized initiatives by individual officers and men.
In fact, Hastings goes on to report that victorious Japanese soldiers often mailed pictures of beheadings and bayonetings to their families back home, proudly depicting their macabre contributions to the war effort, faithfully adopting practices authorized by their code of the warrior, the "Bushido." Indeed, it was this grotesque manual of Dantesque horrors that compelled Japanese soldiers hardly ever to surrender, until very late stages in the war. And what is one to make of the hundreds of Kamikaze suicide pilots who ravaged the American fleet off Okinawa, sinking or damaging 191 ships, killing thousands of American sailors, inflicting far more damage than the spectacular raid on Pearl Harbor? The Japanese had descended to a level of barbarism that could only be countered with extreme measures.
Hence the firebombing of Japanese cities by General Curtis LeMay's B-29 bombers, a military aircraft whose research and development costs exceeded even those associated with building the atomic bomb. On March 9, 1945, the bombers leveled 16 square miles of Tokyo, killing at least 100,000 people and leaving another million homeless. City after city was scorched, culminating in the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Russian invasion of Manchuria, and Emperor Hirohito's reluctant decision finally to meet the Allied demand for unconditional surrender on August 14. Overwhelming force had obliterated the empire and its leadership's ambitions, and Japan has been at peace ever since.
Which brings us to a consideration of a current scourge of barbarism, this time occurring in the Middle East, the self-proclaimed Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Compared to Japan, ISIS is "JV" - junior varsity, to use President Obama's term. But there is nothing "JV" about ISIS's methods. We have seen them before, in different clothing: beheadings, impaling, suicide attacks, dying for a higher cause (this time for Allah to establish a caliphate instead of for a Mikado to establish an empire), boundless contempt for others, and commitment to a way of war that, like "Bushido," resembles a death cult.
There is also nothing "JV" about the goals of ISIS. Japan's grand mission during World War II was to establish what it called a "Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere," beyond which the military leadership was less concerned; mostly it wanted to be left alone by the United States. On the other hand, the mission of ISIS is global and strategic in that its leadership is determined to conquer the world, one piece at a time, and to see its flag raised above the White House.
What should be done about ISIS and similar totalitarian movements? The answer, unfortunately, is the same as the one forced upon Allied decision makers during World War II in the struggles against Germany and Japan. This does not mean using atomic bombs or reinstating the draft. Rather it means a recognition that this organization is not going to go away by itself and that it will take a determined effort among an alliance of nations to rid the region of the barbaric madness that has overtaken it. The Kurds should be armed; regional players should be committed to the struggle; and American airpower should continue to support such efforts.
Short of taking these measures, expect ISIS to be around indefinitely. The question is, will Western leaders summon the resolve to deal with the barbarism of today as they did during World War II? The answer undoubtedly will shape the politics of our century, in the Middle East and throughout the globe. *