Follow by Email

Monday, June 23, 2014

Edmund Burke and America 2014

I've been re-reading Edmund Burke's commentary on the French Revolution and I'm astounded at his prescience. He and Alexis de Toqueville were very prophetic in their view of things to come. Burke's tone is both comical and erudite; he pokes fun at the sacred cows of his day, political booster clubs that made grand pronouncements on world affairs as if they spoke for the nation instead of a handful of nutjobs. America is full of those, and now they have the Internet as a tool for spreading their doctrines.

Just a few quotes from Burke will show how right-on he is even when it comes to today's political situation:

"...I cannot stand forward, and give praise or blame to anything which relates to human actions, and human concerns, on a simple view of the object, as it stands stripped of every relation, in all the nakedness and solitude of metaphysical abstraction. Circumstances (which with some gentlemen pass for nothing) give in reality to every political principle its distinguishing colour and discriminating effect. The circumstances are what render every civil and political scheme beneficial or noxious to mankind." (In other words, it's only a good idea if it actually works out in the real world.)

"I should therefore suspend my congratulations on the new liberty of France, until I was informed how it had been combined with government; with public force; with the discipline and obedience of armies; with the collection of an effective and well-distributed revenue; with morality and religion; with the solidity of property; with peace and order; with civil and social manners. All these (in their way) are good things too; and, without them, liberty is not a benefit whilst it lasts, and it is not likely to continue long." (This is a list of priorities that determine if a policy is good for society or not.)

"A state without the means of some change is without the means of its conservation. Without such means it might even risk the loss of that part of the constitution which it wished the most religiously to preserve." (This relates directly to the Convention of States project to amend the Constitution using Article V of the Constitution, which would allow state legislatures to fix problem with federal overreach without having the federal government itself, which is guilty of the overreach, vote on how it is done.)

"A spirit of innovation is generally the result of a selfish temper, and confined views." (As good a description of Progressivism as I've ever heard.)

"Compute your gains: see what is got by those extravagant and presumptuous speculations which have taught your leaders to despise all their predecessors, and all their contemporaries, and even to despise themselves, until the moment in which they become truly despicable. [...] This was unnatural. The rest is in order. They have found their punishment in their success. Laws overturned; tribunals subverted; industry without vigor; commerce expiring; the revenue unpaid, yet the people impoverished; a church pillaged, and a state not relieved; civil and military anarchy made the constitution of the kingdom; everything human and divine sacrificed to the idol of the public credit, and national bankruptcy the consequence; and, to crown all, the paper securities of new, precarious, tottering power, the discredited paper securities of impoverished fraud and beggared rapine, held out as a currency for support of an empire..."

That last quote is uncanny, especially when you compare it to the current state of affairs in the United States. We are being led by ideologues who despise their own country and its traditions. The Progressives want to tax churches. We borrow spend trillions on "economic stimulus" and yet our middle class is drying up. We are printing a paper currency based on nothing, using a fancy term like "quantitative easing" to justify it as a good instead of a means of devaluing the dollar. In other words, we are doing everything the French revolutionaries did wrong. Can we really expect a different outcome?

Edmund Burke's central thesis, that traditions exist because they accomplished a good for society and should not be tossed aside lightly, is the core of Conservatism. The Neo Con revolution has subverted true Conservatism in our country. Radicalism under the guise of Free Market Capitalism and the Bush Doctrine have replaced the wisdom of our Founders. If even our so-called Conservatives are radicals, we're really in trouble.

Anyone who calls himself a Conservative should read Reflections on the Revolution in France. Those of you who think that the current Republican policy positions represent Conservatism will be in for a shock.