Saturday, December 22, 2012

Antony Sutton's "America's Secret Establishment"

I read Antony Sutton’s history of Skull and Bones*(America’s Secret Establishment) last summer.  I’m not a conspiracy theorist, but Progressivism fits the Hegelian model that Sutton describes as Skull and Bones's ideology; moreover, the Hegelian model seems to have guided the direction of American politics for the past century.  The concept of gradual socialization leading to a socialist America was characteristic of many Progressives, particularly Walter Weyl in his New Democracy.  Sutton says something more:  the American political process has been an orchestrated dialectic between two apparently competing factions, but the end result of the dialectic will be a synthesis that benefits the elite of both factions.  As America becomes increasingly oligarchic there seems to be some meat on Sutton's discussion of Skull and Bones.

Sutton's history of Skull and Bones says more about American conservatism's being a form of Progressivism than it does about the left-wing Progressivism of Theodore Roosevelt and his cousin Franklin.  Everyone already knows that left-wing Progressives favor socialism.  There is more confusion about American conservatism, which claims to favor traditional American values.  There is, though, a socialist tradition in America that arches from Hamilton to the Whigs to the Progressives.  The Whig ideology was necessarily couched in individualist rhetoric just as Hamilton claimed to favor states' rights in The Federalist Papers.  In other words, Whig liberalism was baloney, just as today's Republican Party's claims of being for small government is baloney.  

The Whigs didn't picture themselves as more conservative or more radical than the Democrats, only more in favor of public works, centralized control,  the public good, central banking, and subsidies to business.  Both American conservatism and American progressivism in their current forms are descended from the Whigs'  and Progressives' ideologies, but there was no Federalist, Whig, or Republican conservatism until  1912.   Since then, both American conservatism and American "liberalism" have been Progressive, and have had little regard for Jacksonian or Jeffersonian republicanism except in apologia.   Warren G. Harding ran on a platform of normalcy, as did Calvin Coolidge.  Normalcy or consolidation has been part of Republican Progressivism pattern ever since.  Reagan claimed that "government is the problem," but he consolidated government. He did not reduce it.  In order to attract Americans who continue to believe in 19th century liberalism, the Republican Party has continued to lie and claim that it favors small government.

 Skull and Bones was present at the founding of both major political factions.  Much later, the Kennedy administration appointed Skull and Bones members (McGeorge Bundy, William Bundy, and Averell Harriman, along with a range of cronies.**  Kennedy had asked Skull and Bonesman Robert Lovett to join his cabinet, but Lovett  refused, recommending the Bundys instead. ) As well, Skull and Bonesmen have dominated American conservatism:  William F. Buckley, George H.W. Bush, and George W. Bush were members.  There is little of Jefferson or Jackson in American conservatism, which is pro-bank, pro-banker, pro-big business, and pro-elite.

Before I had heard of Skull and Bones or knew of his membership in the Skull and Bones order, I had concluded that William Howard Taft was the founder of American conservatism; it turns out that his father, Alphonse Taft, was the founder of Skull and Bones, and William F. Buckley, who adapted Taft conservatism to the post-war era, was also a member.  Recall that Buckley did his best to destroy Ayn Rand, in particular through a review of Atlas Shrugged by Whitaker Chambers.

Thesis: left-wing Progressivism (Roosevelt, Perkins, Rockefeller, Morgan), 
Antithesis: conservative Progressivism (Taft, Buckley, Bush)
Synthesis: American oligarchy and crony capitalism

Since 1912 American politics has been a Hegelian battle between two versions of Progressivism; the ideas of the founding fathers are recognized rhetorically, especially in the conservative version, but are ignored in operation by both factions.    The outcome is a mix of fascism and socialism, an oligarchy based on money printing and finance.   


**Domhoff credited Lovett, Harvey Bundy and John McCloy with having a close working relationship; and credited John F. Kennedy as accepting Lovett's advice to appoint Dean Rusk as Secretary of State, Robert McNamara as Defense Secretary, and C. Douglas Dillon for the Treasury.

***Thus, TR became president, and the Order of Skull & Bones for the first time moved into the White House. Roosevelt surrounded himself with Bonesmen. His successor in 1908, William Howard Taft, was himself a second generation member of Skull & Bones.

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