Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Coming clean philosophically

[The following first appeared in the March 1994 issue of my old out of step newsletter. It was written shortly after the notorious Northridge earthquake, which explains the rubble reference.]

A colleague and I were navigating freeway rubble and Caltrans detours from downtown to Santa Monica one morning last month. Our conversation had touched on Schindler’s List, illegal immigrants, and the proposed national health care ID card. “I can’t figure it,” he said finally. “Just when I’ve got you pegged a reactionary, you make a liberal remark.”

My friend revels in being part of the “proletariat.” Gerry Spence calls that faceless majority the “breathing dead.” I call it the “rabble.” And whenever I confound the rabble, I suppose I’m on the right non-track. So I accepted the compliment without comment. Then our talk moved on to issues less tricky, like Macintosh versus IBM for desktop publishing.

This month marks a two-year anniversary for this broadsheet. And there are still readers, both regular and occasional, who don’t quite get where I’m coming from. One was aghast at the vitriol I launched at the Clinton White House in January. “I suppose you think George Bush was a better president than Bill Clinton!” she charged, misunderstanding me altogether.

Granted, in the course of the past 18 issues, I’ve never stated specifically my social/political philosophy. I’d thought it would become gradually clear as we proceeded month to month. But maybe not. So, before entering another year of publication, perhaps I should briefly define my viewpoint, just for the record.

It’s simple: I am for individuals applying social power, creating voluntary relationships in a free environment. And I oppose State power passionately.

The State, as Albert Jay Nock pointed out so eloquently, is an anti-social institution — no matter who heads it or what “philosophy” fuels it. In response to my angry Clintonite: Clinton Bush Reagan Carter Ford Nixon ad nauseum — all of them have promoted greater State power and weaker social power. Each has had a utopian faith in the State. Each has believed that through political action (i.e., coercion and violence), mankind can be made better — despite history’s evidence that quite the opposite always occurs. What’s worse, I think each of them confirms Thomas Paine’s assertion that “the trade of governing has always been a monopoly of the most ignorant and the most vicious of mankind.” As Hemingway might have said, In any “democracy,” the scum also rises.

At any time, based on our discussion of the moment, I may call myself an anarchist, a libertarian, an anarcho-capitalist, a paleo-rightist, a radical Lockean, or any number of things. But I am always an ardent individualist. I have absolute confidence in the capacity of individuals to improve their own lives. I have no faith, on the other hand, in the ability of the collective masses to do the same.

For that reason, I am not a joiner. I am not a member of any political party. Nor am I a small-D democrat or a small-R republican. Nor a reformer per se. Like the great Frank Chodorov, I’m “inclined to distrust political power no matter who uses it.” So I am content to better my understanding, lift my values, and act as an intelligent and responsible human being.

And, of course, I am content to occasionally “minister to the Remnant,” letting off a little steam along the way. Such is the purpose of this letter.


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