A Connecticut Yankee in King Cotton’s Court

by Jeff Taylor on April 6, 2010 · 43 comments <span>Print this article</span> Print this article

in Economics & Empire,Politics & Power

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Jacksonville, AL.   My school, Jacksonville State University, recently hosted Ralph Nader.  It was a successful visit.  A large crowd turned out for the speech.  The event was exciting and thought-provoking.

I drove to Tallahassee to pick up Nader and his aide, Matt Zawisky.  The ensuing seven-hour drive to Alabama was interesting to me as both a political scientist and long-time Nader admirer.  I was glad to learn that the man is authentic.  Up close, he’s the same person I’d hoped he was from a distance.  He has a playful and sardonic sense of humor.  His mental acuity and physical condition are top-notch, which are especially impressive considering he is 76 years old.  He is well-mannered, patient, and considerate.  Nobody is perfect but it’s nice to know that someone can be famous, with influence if not power, and still be a sincere, good person.

The road trip gave me lots of little memories to ponder and share, including the roadside stop at a self-serve peanut stand in rural Georgia.  In the car, we talked about a range of subjects, from Jerry Brown and the Green Party to the RMS Titanic and Johnny Cash.  Nader had positive words for another one of my political favorites, Ron Paul, although he acknowledged substantial differences on the issue of government regulation.

I know there are many conservatives and libertarians, and more than a few trendy and partisan liberals, who have no use for Nader.  He’s dismissed as a meddling do-gooder, baneful socialist, or bothersome crank.  He’s none of the above, but I can understand why these images have been affixed by some.  You don’t have to endorse everything Nader has said, done, or symbolized to appreciate at least some of the good he represents.

Yes, he is a liberal, but he is an older, more genuine type of liberal.  Closer to WJB than LBJ, to Fighting Bob La Follette than Slick Willie Clinton.  There’s a reason he has chosen to run against the pantheon of many modern liberals: Clinton, Gore, Kerry, and Obama.  This is no accident or ego trip.  Contrary to what ignorant Democrats think, there is nothing irrational or self-defeating about Nader running against modern liberals.  We’re talking about competing ideological species, with different traditions, heroes, priorities, funding bases, and levels of honesty.  It’s the difference between Jefferson and Hamilton, Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln, Gandhi and FDR.

Modern liberals focus most on equality, although their main electoral leaders are elitist to the core.  Nader emphasizes justice and democracy.  In the 1940s, Dwight Macdonald pointed out the difference between the newer “totalitarian liberals” coming out of the New Deal and “real, old-fashioned, unreconstructed” liberals who believed in “freedom and justice for everybody,” who were “dangerous men, devoted to high ideals and willing to challenge established institutions.”  A common Jeffersonian perspective—although not identical in every particular—is why conservatives such as Bill Kauffman, Pat Choate, and Justin Raimondo have sometimes supported Nader for president.  Of the three top candidates for president in 2004 and 2008, Nader was clearly the most consistent in his opposition to empire and war.

There is a Front Porch Republic sensibility to Nader the man and Nader the message.  Of course, some of us find him more to our liking than others.  I don’t know if his house has a front porch, but Ralph still returns to his hometown of Winsted, Connecticut, on a regular basis.  I was surprised by how much time Nader spent during his Florida and Alabama speeches talking about the values he learned from his mother and father, and giving moral and character advice to students.  It wasn’t all political and government wasn’t portrayed as the cure for all of society’s ills.  Nader is aware of the rich politics-transcendent and even apolitical tradition of civic engagement.

In my introduction to his speech, I tried to move beyond a Wikipedia sketch, to put his biography into a philosophical context.  My primary intended audience was Calhoun County, Alabama, students and community members who knew little about Nader other than his familiar name and liberal reputation.

The intro:

We are privileged to have Ralph Nader with us tonight.  This is a person named by Time magazine as among the 100 most important Americans of the twentieth century.  Atlantic magazine counts Mr. Nader among the 100 most influential people in American history.  He was one of only four living individuals so honored.

His resume is impressive.  Graduate of Princeton University.  Graduate of Harvard Law School—in the top ten percent of his class.  Became nationally famous in 1965 through publication of his book Unsafe at Any Speed and the resulting confrontation with General Motors Corporation.  Author of many books.  Almost single-handedly responsible for saving thousands of lives by his successful push for seat belts, air bags, and other safety features as standard in automobiles.  The driving force behind multiple laws passed by Congress.  Host of Saturday Night Live.  Four-time presidential candidate.  A folk hero to millions.

Although he is often identified as being on the liberal side of the political spectrum, the appeal of Ralph Nader cuts across ideological lines.  He is best described as a populist—someone who champions democracy, rule by the people.  It’s an old and honorable tradition, stretching back to Thomas Jefferson, who advocated “equal rights for all, special privileges for none.”  We’re gathered here tonight in Jacksonville, so it’s fitting to quote another great American populist: Andrew Jackson.  Jackson warned against “a monied aristocracy dangerous to the liberties of the country.”

Mr. Nader’s populism has come out over the years not only when challenging the power of big corporations to run roughshod over the rights of individual citizens and average Americans, but also as he has pushed for term limits for politicians, worked against congressional pay raises, and condemned outsourcing or exporting of American jobs.  Unlike typical Ivy League graduates, Mr. Nader is a genuine friend of the many—of consumers, citizens, and taxpayers.  He could have easily gone to work for a Wall Street law firm or K Street lobbying group, but instead he chose to become a full-time advocate and activist for folks who don’t have enough money to buy politicians in D.C. and Montgomery.

A son of immigrants from Lebanon, who owned and operated a restaurant and bakery, Ralph Nader grew up in a small town in Connecticut.  He was raised by hard-working parents who taught him traditional values that he holds to this day.  His book The Seventeen Traditions is all about these values.  Things like honesty, thrift, fairness, the common good, and a sense of right and wrong.

Some of us believe that the rise of giant, monopolistic corporations and their influence on government was not a conservative cause.  It was a revolutionary rejection of traditional American values…of competition, free enterprise, and democracy.  The values pushed by many Fortune 500 companies often go against the best American traditions.  What’s conservative about materialism, personal debt, planned obsolescence, and Madison Avenue with its phoniness and artificially created “needs”?

Ralph Nader is a true believer in concepts like the Constitution, the rule of law, checks and balances, local community, and national sovereignty.  Mr. Nader is a patriot.  In the late 1990s, he wrote an editorial in The Washington Times, a conservative newspaper, calling on the owners and managers of the multinational corporations to say the Pledge of Allegiance at every annual shareholder meeting.  For example, “General Motors Corporation pledges allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”  He followed this up with letters to the CEOs of the 100 largest U.S.-based corporations.  The response?  Only one big company said, “Yes, that’s a good idea” . . . and they didn’t end up doing it.  The other 99 were not very interested in pledging allegiance to America.  Their loyalties lie elsewhere—perhaps to the Almighty Dollar.

Caterpillar, Kodak, and Hewlett-Packard decided a once-a-year gesture would not be productive use of their time—even though reciting the pledge would only take 15 seconds!  Coca Cola called itself an “international company.”  Anheuser Busch announced it is a “global company.”  Delta said “No.”  Allstate said it would be inappropriate.  Aetna called it undemocratic.  3M said it would be “disrespectful” to other countries where it operates.

Conservatives like Pat Buchanan highlighted these responses to Mr. Nader’s idea in 1998, noting the irony that corporations who have been chartered in America and have benefitted greatly by government tax breaks, marketing, bailouts, and military protection, have so little sense of loyalty to the United States of America.  But that’s the downside of globalization.  In Jacksonville, we know something about that with Fruit of the Loom.

You’re in for a treat tonight.  The speech is entitled “The Golden Rule or Rule by Gold?”  Afterwards, there will be time for questions and answers, and book signing.  Ladies and gentlemen, please give a warm Alabama welcome to a distinguished attorney, author, and citizen: Ralph Nader.

P.S. – Actually, cotton is no longer king, but there are a couple small cotton fields along Hwy. 204 on the way from Jacksonville to Gadsden.

{ 43 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Patrick April 6, 2010 at 7:51 am

I’d have loved to drove over from Atlanta for the talk. I don’t know much about Mr. Nader, but who doesn’t love a good populist speech?

I do have to ask, though, what is the deal with Jacksonville State’s library? How tall is that thing? Thirteen stories? In a tiny town of two story buildings? I drove through Jacksonville last fall and couldn’t believe it. Any idea how it came to be?

avatar Russell Arben Fox April 6, 2010 at 10:16 am

Jeff, thanks very much for this write-up. What a privilege to have been able to spend some time with the man!

It seems to me that Nader, from the very beginnings of his many crusades, has implicitly understood–though he has not always clearly articulated–the central truth (or, if you prefer, the central problem) of democracy in a post-industrial, late capitalist, globalized, technology-ridden age: that to enable real local democracy, and to engender real civic patriotism, people must be able to seize national power and use it to establish a level playing field for the pursuit of the common good. He’s not the only person who has understood this truth/problem, but he has been perhaps its most notorious, unswerving, unapologetic champions.

That’s not necessarily, in my view, always a good thing. Being an “unreasonable man” (as the excellent film labels him) has costs, and Nader has generated more than a few of such. I’ve never met the man, but by all accounts his narrow focus on the primary issues confronting our democracy sometimes slides over into arrogance, grudges, and blinkered assessment of the real possibilities available to him and his supporters. That’s not a reason to dismiss the man; just a reason to recognize that people, like life, are complicated, and that every crusade will have its missteps. None of which is reason to think the crusade isn’t worth it.

In the end, Nader and his unflagging activism has been all about the authority of the people: their authority to speak, as a community, and demand responsiveness from political institutions, and accountability from corporations. In some ways, thanks to Nader, we have more of that today than we used to; in other ways, in spite of Nader, we have less. I hope he’ll be remembered, in decades to come, alongside with Jane Addams, Martin Luther King, and other great citizen champions of democracy.

avatar John Willson April 6, 2010 at 10:33 pm

Omygosh! Nader did dare to come to Hillsdale once, and refused to answer any good question given to him. As he was walking out of the auditorium after his commie talk, I heard him say that he had never come across a more “brainwashed bunch of fucking students” in his life. Not my words, folks, but his. He is an ideologue, and not anything like RAF’s “authority of the people.” I admire nothing about his books, his “activism,” or his ideas. I do admire his courage.

avatar Robb April 6, 2010 at 11:32 pm

Mr Wilson: Commie? Please… A man who tries to defend the least. A man who asks good questions. A man who cannot connect with everyone who comes across his path. This is Nader. Allow him to be human but spare us the name-calling. Not useful.

avatar ruddyturnstone April 6, 2010 at 11:48 pm

Good article. I have a lot of respect for Nader too.

But (you knew it was coming!), corporate pledges of allegiance to the USA is bunk. And a grandstand play.

Corporations are not natural persons, they are not real citizens of the United States. A private business corporation is, at best and ideally, simply a legally sanctioned vehicle for its shareholders to make money. There is no real person who is General Motors. General Motors, at bottom, is its shareholders, or, even more precisely, its shareholder’s money. And its shareholders are not restricted to American citizens. The Board of Directors and other officers of GM owe their loyalty to, and have a fiduciary duty to, the shareholders, not the USA. Of course, in their capacity as individual citizens, the Directors, officers and shareholders may be said to owe their “allegiance” to the USA, to the extent they are American citizens. And all such natural persons within the jurisdiction of the USA are obliged to follow the laws of the USA, the State, and its subdivisions. Moreover, the corporation itself is obligated, through the actions of the Directors and officers, to obey those laws. (Of course, all of the above are also obligated to obey the laws of whatever other polities they operate in as well.)

As a practical matter, and this, I assume, is what Nader was getting at, a corporate officer who eschews decisions (such as moving jobs overseas, for example) that will benefit the shareholders out of some sense of “allegiance” to the USA is actually NOT doing his duty. And, Pat Buchanon to the contrary, the fact that the corporations “have been chartered in America and have benefitted greatly by government tax breaks, marketing, bailouts, and military protection” has nothing to do with it. The corporations were chartered in America, but part of their charter is the governance set-up I described above. Private business corporations do not exist in nature. They did not exist in law until only a couple of centuries ago. If “America” did not want this form of business set-up, including the agency/principal arrangement that makes consideration of “patriotism” ultra vires, it need not have have sanctioned it. Same with “tax breaks,” “military protection” and the rest of it. The USA, and the States, chose to allow the modern business corporation to exist. If the USA and the States feel this form of business leads to insufficient loyalty to the USA, or that the cost of giving them “tax breaks” or “protecting” them is not worth it, in light of that lack of loyalty, they should simply change theirs laws to disallow this form. Or, if that is too much, and more than is even wanted, the law should be changed to explicitly permit Directors and officers to make what appear to be bad business judgments for patriotic reasons. Of for there to be, on the Board, Directors whose duty is specifically stated as being to the USA, and not to the shareholders (making the corporation a sort of publc-private hybrid).

Finally, I am not a big fan of forcing people to pledge allegiance to the flag generally. Basically, it’s a loyalty oath or test. No such practice adhered in the Old Republic that I believe this blog celebrates. I was born a citizen of this country. To me, that is what matters. Not some rote recitation of my “allegiance.” And certainly not to “the flag” specifically, which is, after all,only a symbol. And, as we see with, for example, the addition of the words “under God” to the pledge, it is not so easy to come up with a formulation that everyone can agree on. I believe a citizen’s allegiance should not be a matter for public avowal, except on a purely voluntary basis. It is enough for a citizen to obey the law. If he does not do so, he can be punished. But he should not be punished or even ostracized merely because he refuses to publicly reveal what is in his heart and mind.

avatar Bob Cheeks April 7, 2010 at 4:23 am

Willson, please, I’m in charge of identifying the commie-rats on this site! However, you are correct re: Ralph, an inveterate do-gooder who would’ve been a really large pain in the arse as a federal bureaucrat or elected official. We can thank goodness he was never particularly successful in his life’s work.

“First the tobacco Nazis came for Sabin’s cigars but I didn’t smoke….”

John, it’s beginning to look like we gotta a cadre of limp-wristed, panty wearing, apparatchik wanna-bees on this site!

avatar John Willson April 7, 2010 at 8:14 am

Robb,
Please, no name calling. “A man who tries to defend the least” is not name calling? St. Ralph? His ideas, applied the way he wants to apply them, would lead to a communist state. That’s not name calling, it’s just fact. I don’t even dislike him, except for what he called my students. But to sanctify his silly ideas? Goodness.
Cheeks, we’re going to have to share the commie-idents.

avatar Empedocles April 7, 2010 at 8:49 am

Well if paleo-conservatism is resisting both centralized political and economic power, at least he’s halfway there :) At least he’s not a corporate fascist neo.

avatar sdf April 7, 2010 at 11:52 am

If you wish to speak against a man, Willson (and Cheeks for that matter), it’s not in the interests of the positive reception of your argument to not hide the fact that you’re an ideological tool.

avatar V. Maro Grammaticus April 7, 2010 at 1:28 pm

All hail Ralph Nader, the true conservative.

War is peace.

This is precisely why I’ve ceased to follow this site.

avatar Bob Cheeks April 7, 2010 at 1:48 pm

VMG, dude, at least here at FPR, you’re allowed to resist and you don’t have the annoyance of a cadre of epigones, other than the “cat food people,” worshiping at the feet of some ideologist.
Don’t go, stay on, offering your biting critique or reasoned argument…join us at the barricades!

avatar V. Maro Grammaticus April 7, 2010 at 8:13 pm

At some point, we have to ask, what is it exactly we are conserving? Or are we just conserving for the sake of conservation? What about the small town do we like, or do we merely like it because it is small?

I cannot help but feel that the answer of an authentic conservative/distributist/localist to those questions and the answer of Mr. Ralph Nader (pro-abortion, pro-stem cell research, pro universal government health care, pro gay marriage, responsible for any number of federal intrusions into all our lives in the name of “safety,” legalize marijuana, anti-school choice, helped establish the EPA, wants to “solve” Third World’s economic problems, pro gun control, pro living wage, anti Social Security reform, pro higher taxes)… this is a man who wants to expand the federal government to Comintern proportions.

But he loves the trees and so he is the real localist.

avatar Steve Berg April 7, 2010 at 10:07 pm

My main beef with Nader was that he managed to destroy an innovative and interesting car, namely the Corvair, while carefully avoiding any criticism of a far more dangerous piece of crap, called the VW Beetle. Compared to a death trap like the Beetle, driving or riding in a Corvair was analogous to being in God’s Pocket.

avatar Jeff Taylor April 7, 2010 at 10:23 pm

Patrick, Yes, the JSU library is 13 stories tall. I don’t know why they decided to build it to look like a pagoda, but they did. Definitely unique. Nader asked about the building when he saw it from a distance upon entering the town.

Russell, Thank you for the comment. As usual, you have something worth saying and you say it well. We think alike on many matters, including this one.

ruddyturnstone, Thanks for the criticism based on reason rather than ad hominem. It takes longer but it’s far more convincing when you’re preaching to anyone other than the choir. In other words, it invites dialogue. You make some good points. Obviously, Nader was grandstanding to an extent, but it’s because he was trying to make his own point. I agree that corporations are not persons, but in the eyes of the state that’s exactly what they are. So Nader was trying to hold them to the same level of loyalty that we expect from other Americans–the loyalty and its profession being freely given, not coerced. (He wasn’t calling for the federal government to pass a law requiring the pledge; he was asking the CEOs to volunteer.) Even if an organization cannot pledge loyalty to a country, the individual persons who lead that organization can. Even that was too much to ask of the TNC owners and managers. I’m not a big fan of loyalty oaths either, but the incredulous response from most of the corporate bigshots was indicative of their disdain for this nation and its people. Nobody is saying they should be fined or sent to prison. It’s just one more little signpost indicating the hypocrisy and bankruptcy of the mega-corporations. For them, being
“American” is strictly a one-way street: all benefits, no costs. That may be good business but there’s more to life than making a buck.

Empedocles, I like how you put it: “Well if paleo-conservatism is resisting both centralized political and economic power, at least he’s halfway there.”

You’ve got a good point, sdf.

VMG, While I say Nader’s populist appeal cuts across ideological lines, I also acknowledged he’s a liberal. I don’t call him “the true conservative.” I don’t say all should hail him. To the contrary, I stated without defensiveness or rancor that many conservatives and libertarians have no use for him and resort to name-calling. Everybody knows this and some of the comments proved my point. No surprise there. You quote the superb book 1984. Orwell was a man of the Left. He was a socialist. Not everyone on the Left belongs to the Marxist-Leninist camp. If Orwell lived in America today, his views would probably converge with those of Nader on some of the issues you list (e.g., universal health care, legalization of marijuana, living wage).

Calling Nader a communist is both silly and grotesque. The word has an actual meaning, historically and ideologically. If we’re claiming to be thoughtful persons, we ought to treat such matters with a little more seriousness. This isn’t Rush Limbaugh or Fox News. To claim that Ralph Nader is a would-be Lenin or Stalin wannabe discredits the writer and trivializes the genuine horrors of totalitarianism.

avatar ruddyturnstone April 7, 2010 at 11:56 pm

Thank you for your cordial response, Mr. Taylor.

If I may, I would like to stress or repeat one point. Leaving aside the strictly symbolic question of “taking the pledge” at corporate meetings, Directors and officers are bound by their fiduciary duty to the shareholders to maximize profits. If a company was owned by one person (a “sole proprietorship”), that owner could determine for himself that his allegiance or loyatly or patriotism outweighs his desire for maximum profits, and forego an otherwise lucrative business move (such as outsourcing jobs) for that reason. So could a partnership (assuming all the partners agreed). But a corporation is different. A corporate Director or officer is an agent; he can’t serve two masters. And it isn’t fair to “whipsaw” such a person with a potential “derivative” suit from dissatisfied shareholders on the one hand (for choosing the “patriotic” option) and claims of disloyatly on the other (for choosing the profit maximizing option). Again, as I mentioned, there are possible remedies for this problem, but just ignoring the dilemma and labeling the Directors and officers as “greedy” or “disloyal” is,in my view, simplistic and demagogic.

Thanks again.

avatar John Willson April 8, 2010 at 7:05 am

No, sdf (another no-namer) does not have a good point. At least when Jeff insults someone he signs his name.

avatar Jeff Taylor April 8, 2010 at 7:19 am

John, I want to clarify what I meant re: sdf. I agree with his general idea that “it’s not in the interests of the positive reception of your argument to not hide the fact that you’re…ideological.” It’s the ideology part that I agreed with although I realize you don’t see yourself as ideological. I did not mean to endorse his calling of you a “tool.” I don’t like name calling of individuals, although I’ll make exceptions for the famous because I figure they can take it and often deserve it (provided the name is deserved). I don’t think you’re a tool. I just disagree with you in this instance. We probably agree on many other things.

avatar John Willson April 8, 2010 at 7:54 am

OK, peace, brother. Just for the record, Rush, Sean, Fox and I have very little in common. And the commie stuff: I grew up in an age when they were real, but one did not have to call everybody a “Stalinist” to know how dangerous they were, and are. I think that men of your age have bought at least part of the package that makes Joe McCarthy the villain. For all his faults, he was on the right side. I think that Mr. Nader, and Mr. Global Warming, are on the wrong side. Cheeks and I may be visceral about this, and maybe a little too thin-skinned when it comes to this kind of evil, but we know the devil when we see him. And I am the least ideological guy you could ever hope to meet. Here’s the test of an ideologue: you can predict which way she will vote on every issue, and for whom. You would be amazed to see a record of my voting habits. And as I said earlier, peace.

avatar Jeff Taylor April 8, 2010 at 8:08 am

Thank you for the olive branch, John. I will happily accept it. I don’t see McCarthy as the villain. Misguided at times, perhaps, but he correctly identified something truly evil and obviously touched a nerve among the U.S. power elite. One thing we have in common is an eclectic voting record. There must be some commonality or we wouldn’t both be writing for FPR, right?

avatar Bob Cheeks April 8, 2010 at 9:42 am

Rev. Taylor: You said, “To claim that Ralph Nader is a would-be Lenin or Stalin wannabe discredits the writer and trivializes the genuine horrors of totalitarianism.”
I ne’er claimed such thing. I identified Ralph, who I’ve met, as a “commie-rat.” I don’t think Ralph wants to be Lenin or Stalin. His ego’s way to big for that.

Also, I did say, “John, it’s beginning to look like we gotta a cadre of limp-wristed, panty wearing, apparatchik wanna-bees on this site!” And, I’ve got to confess that I wasn’t quite accurate. I should have added “bootlicking epigones” to that observation. I mean, jeez, I haven’t seen this many Leftist-statists (commie-rats) congregating since my last union meeting. The FPR is drifting way to the Left in the ‘comment’ box, though it’s actually kinda fun.

Now, I do admit that I’m an enervating provocateur, but it takes practice, dedication, and finally, determination to successfully and regularly irritate Leftist-statists (commie-rats). I see no advantage in maintaining a certain “intellectual,” hauteur in responding to leftist-statists here at FPR since that tack would gain few converts and tends to quickly become officious and boring. And, I am, after all a “workin’ man” who earned his wages in skilled trades.

As far as your comment, “Calling Nader a communist is both silly and grotesque. The word has an actual meaning, historically and ideologically,” I would suggest that you have no knowledge of my experience with communists or communism and as far as its philosophical definition and sundry differentiations and analysis you probably don’t want to get into an in depth critique of dialectic materialism or the Marxist line-of-meaning rooted in the theosophy of Jacob Boehme and his adumbrations re: self-realization and self-consciousness. But, if you do, please write a blog on the subject and I’ll happily respond.

My political remarks here at FPR, my use of a mocking derision of leftist-statists(“commie-rats”), is predicated on the danger these people represent to our society, culture, and nation. These people, whether they know it or not, are the ideological spawn of the 20th Century totalitarians and they have the very same potential for destruction and state sponsored murder as the Nazis and Communists
as evidenced by their religious dedication to abortion. These Leftist-statists do not understand “human nature.” They have lost the sense of human existence as the “dreamer” who believes he has found the power to destroy imperfect existence and yearns to create a lasting state of perfection. They do not live in reality, but in a “second reality,” created by the disturbances of the mind caused, in great measure, by the “horror of existence and the desire to escape it.”

Rev. Willson, these people are not your friends, but you are a better follower of the Jewish carpenter than I.

avatar Jeff Taylor April 8, 2010 at 11:02 am

Bob, Your last post came close to leaving me speechless. But I still have enough wherewithal to utter a short response. I don’t have a religious dedication to abortion. Remember me? I’m the guy who wrote “The Lost Children” on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade a few months ago:

http://www.frontporchrepublic.com/2010/01/the-lost-children/

I’m not a leftist-statist. Using the state to protect unborn human life is one of the few ways in which I’d like to see the federal government intervene in our daily lives. For most things, I would like to see regulation kept to a minimum and kept at the state and local level, as per the Tenth Amendment. I do think, however, if we’re stuck with a Leviathan federal government, it ought to operate on behalf of We the People, not the big corporations. That’s one reason I like Nader.

avatar sdf April 8, 2010 at 11:45 am

If one is going to charge imaginary dragons, Cheeks, he should at least do so with the romanticism and beauty of Quixote. Instead, your silly Coulteresque rants and characterizations of others on this site just invite pity, scorn, and irrelevance. There are more categories in this world, sir, than 1) you; and 2) all those totalitarian nazi/communist/libertine/leftist/statist-rats burning incense to Dear Leader.

avatar Russell Arben Fox April 8, 2010 at 11:48 am

I personally find Bob’s occasional use of the “commie-dem” label rather endearing. Inaccurate, but endearing. (The “commie-rat” one I don’t think works as well, perhaps because I can’t help but hear it said in Bugs Bunny’s voice in my brain. As for “bootlicking epigones,” I’ll have to give it some thought. It does have kind of nice rhythm to it.)

avatar sdf April 8, 2010 at 11:52 am

Or in the case of Russell it invites an indulging pat on the head. :)

avatar Bob Cheeks April 8, 2010 at 12:04 pm

Jeff, you may be a “statist” of one sort or another, but I did not refer to you as a “Leftist-statist” or “commie-dem.” Consequently, there was no need to jerk the knee. The term used was “those people”
and I can not find where I implicitly or explicitly included you in that group.
As you know there’s a wide variety of beliefs among human beings as you’ve differentiated in your response. My critique was directed at “those people” who are psycho-pathologically derailed which occurs, Voegelin tells us, in the our attitude to the tensional structure of existence.
However, Mr. Nader as a supporter of abortion is, indeed, one of “those people.”
The phenomenon is essentially gnostic. Here’s a recent analysis, a few thoughts on the subject:

http://www.firstthings.com/blogs/postmodernconservative/2010/04/05/obama-the-tea-party-and-immanentizing-the-christian-eschaton/

As you know Nader isn’t going to help you defeat the pro-abortion crowd, and considering your oft expressed opposition to the slaughter of the innocents, I am confused as to how you can justify any admiration for Nader. Also, it would do us all well to consider Rev. Willson comments regarding the idea that no “business,” big or otherwise, can do to us what the state can and, under Dear Leader, probably will.

I think you are a very smart fellow and I always enjoy your blogs whether or not I agree with your conclusions. But, I do think, like so many young men educated in recent modernity there’s a certain inconsistency, perhaps the result of what Heidegger described as “Angst,” or Freud’s diagnoses of “openness toward the ground” as an illusion, neurotic relic, or infantilism.”

avatar D.W. Sabin April 8, 2010 at 3:10 pm

My My My, I leave for a few days on business down Florida-way and come back to find the Populist Commie Dems throwing vast handfuls of offal at the Selfish and Mean-spirited Exploitive Libertarians while said anti-socials stand there jeering back and begging for more because they know, deep down, that the Populist Commie Dem really wants everyone to just get along even if they caint stand each other. If this were a bar, I’d have to un-plug the juke box, break a few pool cues and turn up the lights. Come on people can’t we all just get along? I mean, I richly detest that merciless braggart Cheeks as much as the next guy but when you pick on Cheeks, you pick on me and so kiss my ass.

A level of collegiality amongst competing thieves is called for here.

Take for instance a real world problem. Along the yacht-clogged waterways of Fort Lauderdale with its behemoth Pimp My Mansion Glory, one does not have to concern one’s self with the scrawny deer stripping all one’s hard work of artfully arrayed leaves and flowers, nosirree belligerent Bob, we have a different problemmo : Iguanas. Yes Sancho, I said Iguanas…the place is crawling with them, 2, 3, 4, even 5′ long Iguanas, rustling in the underbrush like fat wild boar and climbing your trees and eating everything but the palms and Snakeplant….. thus effectively stripping the place like a cold-blooded pack of locusts. Only the lawn escapes and St Augustine grass is a sadists excuse for lawn. Even worse, during the cold stretch of this past winter, they’d go comatose in temperatures under 40 and drop out of trees onto you while you stood clueless under the trees, shivering in shorts and imported Irish Cable knit Sweater. Mosquitos are one thing but a fainted 3′ long Iguana dropping with a dead thud on your head on only the first cup of coffee in the morning light can be a little unsettling I can assure you. The things end up floating in the pool and causing the pumps to belch into cavitation whence they plug the skimmers with their fat guts stuffed with your prize Hibiscus or Orchid flower buds. Its uncivilized….as if Civilization in Florida was of any principle concern but I digress.

Anyhow, Any Right-Ordered Libertarian Profit-Monger would immediately come to the same solution as I did…something the local downstate librul Floridians caint seem to conjure: Iguana Taco Trucks. I had em more than once down in coastal Mexico and damned if they are not just tasty like Chicken but better than chicken. I’d say they are more like rattlesnake, tender and with a hint of fresh eel. You take Iguana, slather it in cheese, guacamole, tobasco , lettuce and onions in a fresh Corn tortilla and it tastes just like Iguana lathered in cheese, guac. and lettuce in a Corn tortilla. Lo!,they’re finger licken good even before Tequila of this I can personally attest. But no!…we have the Iguana Right To Lifers running around and so we shall be forced to just reduce our plant selection to Bromeliads, Palms and other assorted roughage.

I find em in the underbrush and its creole Lizard BBQ time. If the powers that be were really interested in solving the problem, they’d produce an Iguana Abatement Management Plan and franchise some Iguana Taco Trucks and grant permits for them to dispense their succulent treats wherever there is enough room for the Society For the Defense of of Freely Living and Procreating Iguanas to picket while selling mood crystals and hemp shirts. Properly done, the Iguanas are mincemeat, some enterprising chefs make a few bucks and the libruls get a chance to practice public empathy on behalf of , well, whatever strikes their fancy on any given nanosecond.

Some might call it “killing two birds with one stone”, I call it killing a thousand points of damned Iguana and making a buck or two while at it. Man cannot live on spiky , flowerless plants alone. He can, however, survive quite nicely on Iguana and proper culinary artistry.

avatar RiverC April 8, 2010 at 3:33 pm

@Jeff (last comment)

I don’t think the government can, really, operate on behalf of We the People… or, more importantly, only to a limited extent. I think that there are four forms of social logic: governmental (military), church, market and community. The first is central and autocratic, the second hierarchical and liturgical, the third competitive and entrepreneurial, and the last is democratic and cooperative.

To quote W.H.Auden, I would hold that these ‘social forms’ are not ‘iterations of a type’ but ‘aboriginal objects excluding one another’. Also, I hold to no golden age.

In short, the government *cannot* be democracy but by being less government, but that democracy is not the best way to make decisions, it is in fact, the best way to *not* make decisions which should not be made. The more the ‘people’ use the government to ‘serve’ the people the more of the other parts of society that get converted in the bureaucratic, autocratic form: The contrast with hierarchy is that in hierarchy the power goes up, in bureaucracy it goes down from the autocrat. Lewis’ ‘The Inner Circle’ is a study in what this kind of power actually is (it is not communal or religious; it is militant, charismatic and direct.)

I distrust Nader only because he is a cipher to me. He seems so tired. Why is he even in politics? He needs to retire and rest.

I can only think that top-down power in solving problems at the same time turns those it cures into its own likeness; bureaucracy forms and the autocratic arms branch out. There are places where this is apropos: Police, Fire, Military for certain. Some amount of regulatory commission seems to need this model, though things like ICANN prove that the Market may spawn an independent governing unit if the others cannot handle a regulatory duty.

This is just a shot across the bow: Obama is all about ‘using government to help We the People’ – I know because I am a youngin’ and a bunch of youngin’s I knew argued for voting for him because he would make life easier for middle class white people.

avatar Bruce Smith April 8, 2010 at 4:17 pm

River C. How shall it be decided what individual liberties to allow and deny ourselves?

avatar Russell Arben Fox April 8, 2010 at 4:39 pm

I heard Taco Bell was experimenting with using iguana meat, D.W. But that may just be a rumor.

avatar Bill Martin April 9, 2010 at 9:08 am

What does the presence of Bob Cheeks add to the sight??? My guess is that he is sitting at his desk at the AEI and laughing his ass off when he writes his vile trash.

Yours in Christ

BBM

avatar RiverC April 9, 2010 at 9:31 am

Bruce: Methinks we have to trust in what tradition is telling us, if not completely, at least to a very great extent.

Anyway, all four kinds of logic and their attendant power exist; each has I think, its easily comprehended proper sphere of influence.

In the end it is almost impossible to stop the State from seizing direct control of things, the market from manipulating the value of things, the church from forcing us to change our opinion, and our neighbor from imposing on our space. The world is fallen; I hold out no hope for utopia.

But then: ‘Render unto Caesar’, ‘Use unrighteous mammon to buy friends’, ‘The church is the pillar and ground of truth’, and ‘Love thy neighbor as thyself’ – I suppose the Christian can consider every burden a cross and every cross a victory.

avatar Mark Perkins April 11, 2010 at 4:00 am

What was it Tocqueville said? “The insane fear of socialism drives the bourgeoisie into the arms of despotism.” And he didn’t even know Joe! Whatever side McCarthy was on (populist anger, rabid anti-Communism), count me out.

When it comes down to it, I’m sad Leon Blum’s socialists and the Popular Fronts there and in Spain failed. I prefer them to Petain and Laval or Franco. I also note that the socialists alone (the Communists being already illegal) offered any resistance to the Enabling Act of March 1934, while it was Hitler’s anti-Communism that blunted the resistance of German conservatives.

On the other hand, I’m very grateful it was de Gaulle and not the Communists who controlled France in 1945. I’m glad that Juan Carlos turned out to be a good man, and one willing to tell South-American-wannabe-Castro’s to shut their mouths when needed. And I know that Hitler’s self-proclaimed greatest enemies included reactionaries and the bourgeoisie alongside Jews and Communists.

The point? When you call all leftist-statists Communists, you lose the ability to see anything worth supporting in “them” and the willingness to oppose anything troubling in “us.” You end up supporting the red-faced-hatred of men like Joseph McCarthy.

And you end up being one of those American conservatives who, as John Lukacs has said, hate liberals more than they love liberty.

avatar TT Penny April 11, 2010 at 11:32 pm

First, I must say thanks FPR. Whenever I have time to kill, I kill it here. After following the frugal Mr. Nader’s flat-line trajectory since Corvair was a 4-letter word, I allow that he’s simply an economic exercise in blah-blahtivity. He’s a smart fellow no doubt about it, but you can take it to the bank, he’s in it for the egobucks.

avatar DReveley April 12, 2010 at 6:58 am

Whoa… wait a minute! The roots of Marx nourished by Jakob Boehme?? Isn’t that a bit of a stretch?

avatar John Willson April 15, 2010 at 6:04 pm

Mark Perkins,
Please, what do you know about Joe McCarthy other than what the conventional wisdom has passed on to the third generation beyond me? Goodness. Read his detractors. They outdid him seven times seventy. I like Franco, and unlike most others have actually studied him. It ain’t an “us” and “them”. It’s that, to go back a few score posts, that Nader was originally a libertarian ideologue (did you know that?) and later became a statist ideologue, and all the time with courage. And all the time being wrong.

avatar Mark Perkins April 15, 2010 at 7:28 pm

John,

“Nader was originally a libertarian ideologue (did you know that?) and later became a statist ideologue, and all the time with courage. And all the time being wrong.”

I don’t deny any of that. You say he’s a statist ideologue, but the label in question is “commie.” Perhaps you meant:
(a) all statist ideology is or must become Communism, in which case that’s something of an ideological, not to mention deterministic and inaccurate, statement.
(b) Commie as a shorthand for statist, but not particularly meaning Marxist, etc., in which case that would be a perfect example of an “us” v. “them” statement. “We” are all fascists; “they” are all Communists. Neither is particularly true, but it gets the blood boiling.
Or something else entirely? Or nothing at all?

As for McCarthy, I don’t have a degree in McCarthy studies and am absolutely not an expert, but I have read some here and there. Among other things I read a bit of M. Stanton Evans on the subject, and I heard him speak in McCarthy’s defense. Essentially Evans says (and, I gather, most latter-day defenders of McCarthy now say) that since there really were Communist spies McCarthy’s methods were justified. Yes, there were some Alger Hiss’ running around, and they posed some danger. But, on the whole, that danger paled (and pales) in comparison to the damage that the appeal of rabid anti-Communism has had. McCarthy was a rabble-rousing populist who thrived by maximizing the fear of others. Still, he did believe in his anti-Communism, and he did not have that libido dominandi that would have made him truly dangerous. Thank God.

avatar Mark Perkins April 15, 2010 at 7:58 pm

An aside: Franco was obviously far preferable to Vichy France, the Fascists, or the Soviets. The Popular Front in Spain, meanwhile, was more radical than Léon Blum’s coalition. While Franco is a sympathetic figure, ultimately I still find a legitimate leftist government preferable to a nationalist coup.

avatar Bob Cheeks April 16, 2010 at 2:48 pm

Big Bill Martin (BBM), I love ya man! Actually, I’ve gotten a few jobs at the old AEI magazine by virtue of knowing one of the founders of this site, though I wouldn’t blame him. Re: my office at AEI, I’ve recently recv’d a promotion up to the top floor where I daily write “vile trash” attacking commie-dems across the internet. It’s really a lotta fun, and dude, these people really pay well.

DReveley: “Whoa… wait a minute! The roots of Marx nourished by Jakob Boehme?? Isn’t that a bit of a stretch?”
The analysis is in Voegelin’s werke, Vol. 12, I think.

avatar John Willson April 16, 2010 at 6:03 pm

Mark, As Abba Eben once said on that less-than-enlightening Sunday TV “news” show, “I have my own vocabulary, and I prefer to use it.” Do you really think that if Nader had his druthers we would not have a totalitarian state? Do you really think that a totalitarian state is what Joe McCarthy wanted? If you say no, yes, then we have such a disconnect that I just don’t know what else to say.

Sabin, dammit, quit trying to bring iguanas into the discussion. Pogo wouldn’t like it, and the swamp, well, come to think of it, maybe would profit by Taco Bell’s loss.

avatar Mark Perkins April 16, 2010 at 8:19 pm

Every Communist state is totalitarian, but every totalitarian state is not Communist. I do think a Nader-organized state certainly would be authoritarian, though I have no idea if he would strive for a totalitarian state.

As for McCarthy, like I said, I think he genuinely believed that the Communists were a serious threat, and, as I said, I don’t know that he had the desire to dominate that would have made him a serious threat to American liberty.

John Lukacs occasionally quotes Duff Cooper to the effect that the jingo nationalist is always the first to accuse his countrymen of treason. McCarthy’s career skyrocketed with the rise of anti-Communism. He thrived in an atmosphere of fear and hatred, and what legitimacy there was to his Communist fears disappeared in a squalid mess of accusations against anyone who didn’t share his own brand of nationalism.

avatar Bruce Smith April 17, 2010 at 8:53 am

One of the dictionary definitions of the word “authoritarian” is “showing a lack of concern for the wishes, or opinions of others” (New Oxford American Dictionary. Second Edition). This domineering attitude, or desire to dominate, is a normal part of human nature and is usually met by resistance, or counter-domination, whenever it threatens to produce an anti-social outcome, or one perceived to be not in the interests of the majority. Outside of returning to a state of nature and the use of direct attack, or the threat of it, the only two means that domination and counter-domination are able to be exercised by human society are manipulation of resources and the control of government. The basis of the SEC civil prosecution for fraud against Goldman Sachs announced yesterday is a good example of both domination and counter-domination. To pretend that both capitalism and government are always authoritarian is puerile. Both need to be used and both need to be watched and controlled.

avatar RiverC April 17, 2010 at 11:30 am

Monasteries are communistic, but it is voluntary. The abbot certainly exercises a kind of absolute authority, but the whole is not totalizing or authoritarian in the sense we would use them; If you want to leave he will not stop you. He is, after all, probably just a gentle old man. Nonetheless, holding all possessions in common and giving to each according to need and each giving out according to his ability is certainly the norm.

avatar Jeff Taylor April 29, 2010 at 2:01 am

Postscript ~ Bill Kauffman not only voted for Nader in 2004 but also in 2008. I also notice that a number of Reason magazine and Cato Institute libertarians voted for Nader in 2000, according to a presidential poll Reason conducted in 2008:

http://reason.com/archives/2008/10/29/whos-getting-your-vote/print

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