Saturday, February 13, 2016

Laugh of the Day: Libertarian Charles Murray says only business elites, the Republican establishment and New Dealers remain true to the American creed!

In The Wall Street Journal, here:

For the eminent political scientist Samuel Huntington, writing in his last book, “Who Are We?” (2004), two components of that national identity stand out. One is our Anglo-Protestant heritage, which has inevitably faded in an America that is now home to many cultural and religious traditions. The other is the very idea of America, something unique to us. As the historian Richard Hofstadter once said, “It has been our fate as a nation not to have ideologies but to be one.”

What does this ideology—Huntington called it the “American creed”—consist of? Its three core values may be summarized as egalitarianism, liberty and individualism. From these flow other familiar aspects of the national creed that observers have long identified: equality before the law, equality of opportunity, freedom of speech and association, self-reliance, limited government, free-market economics, decentralized and devolved political authority. ...

Who continues to embrace this creed in its entirety? Large portions of the middle class and upper middle class (especially those who run small businesses), many people in the corporate and financial worlds and much of the senior leadership of the Republican Party. They remain principled upholders of the ideals of egalitarianism, liberty and individualism.

And let’s not forget moderate Democrats, the spiritual legatees of the New Deal. ... But these are fragments of the population, not the national consensus that bound the U.S. together for the first 175 years of the nation’s existence. ... Operationally as well as ideologically, the American creed is shattered.


Of all the objections to the essay which leap to mind perhaps the most important objection is the way Murray glosses over the religious interpretation of the formation of the American character in favor of the modernist preoccupation with ideology.

The English Dissenters who helped establish our country from the beginning did so finally out of a frustration born of being treated as second class citizens, for whom the chartered rights of Englishmen were denied on specifically religious grounds. The desire for equal status has to be understood from its Christian setting, not from the arid point of view of a seminar in political philosophy. These Dissenters went on to populate our country along with other Christians who set about erecting a society, not a libertarian paradise where everyone did as he pleased. Built on agrarianism and the local Protestant church, it is hard to imagine a place less conducive to letting people be all that they could be.

The Richard Hofstadter reference is telling. A former communist, the liberal historian was a life-long anti-capitalist who had a reputation as an historian as something of a hack because he relied on secondary sources, ignoring the primary.

As every ideologue knows, when the evidence doesn't support your view, just ignore it.

1 comment:

  1. Charles Murray discussed Americans’ supposed rejection of tradition and adherence to Enlightenment values in his pamphlet American Exceptionalism (2013): In 1789 “four million people…founded a new nation from scratch.” (p. 2) For Murray this is not a theory: “American exceptionalism is a fact of America’s past” (p. 6), recognized by European observers and discussed by Murray under four headings: Industriousness (hard work), Egalitarianism, Religiosity and Community life.
    “Religiosity” appeals to Murray the libertarian. “American churches have had to compete in the marketplace for adherents and the result throughout our history has been a riotous variety of religions, many of them completely new sects.” (p. 25) He manages to discuss American piety (religiosity means affected or exaggerated piety) without mentioning the Bible, i.e., he ignores the fact that most Americans base their religion on a two thousand year old book. Not exactly starting from scratch.