Saturday, August 22, 2009

Romans and Barbarians in American History

The qualities of the Roman Empire fulfilled the expectations of the ancient western mindset. First of all, slavery was the basis for economic profit, and military expansion, imperialism, was the method by which economic growth was achieved. Roman society was based on hierarchy, with the elite senatorial class followed by the equestrian class, citizens, freemen and then slaves. Centralization was viewed as necessary because the economy depended on military conquest and exploitation. The Romans were catholic because their Empire encompassed multitudinous ethnic groups, nationalities and religions.

The qualities of the barbarians, the Franks, Picts, Jutes, Goths, Vandals, etc. was also warlike. However, they were tribally focused and more decentralized than the Romans. They did not choose decentralization over centralization for strategic or economic reasons. Rather, tribal or ethnic prejudice was at the root. When they occupied the various parts of the Empire they wanted to emulate the Romans and to enjoy the economic benefits of Romanism, but they were not interested in a catholic worldview. Charlemagne's conquest of Germany and Italy was in the name of Frankish or Carolingian power, not in the name of re-establishing a catholic empire.

Thus, there were two important effects of the barbarian conquest of western Europe. First, the Empire became decentralized. This led to 15 centuries of economic progress. Secondly, tribalism became instituted in European culture. The European ruling classes continued to see themselves as Frankish or Norman until the 19th century, when aristocratic tribalism was transformed into nationalism.

In American history the two impulses of Romanism and tribalism followed a similar pattern. The Romans were the Federalists, Whigs, Progressives and social democrats, who were anti-racist and less nationalistic than the decentralizers, at least until the twentieth century when the Progressives adopted some of the racism, nationalism and imperialism that was characteristic of the Democrats in the 19th century.

The decentralizers in American history were the Anti-Federalists and Democrats in the 19th century. The southern Democrats were most famously for states' rights. As well, Andrew Jackson was responsible for the Trail of Tears; hated Indians; and was a racist. In contrast, the abolitionists were Whigs. The racists in 19th century America were characteristically working class Democrats. For instance, the draft riots in New York City were an anti-African American protest by working class Democrats who lynched a number of African Americans, including a number of children.

However, like the Barbarians of Europe, the working class Democrats in America were responsible for innovation and economic growth. Their pattern was similar to the Barbarians. They favored decentralization, aggressive expansion (the Mexican American War and the Indian Wars were very much Jacksonian).

The Barbarians were the innovators. The Romans the advocates of scale economies. Both principles are useful, and there is always a danger that one will proceed too far. Flexibility in the creation and destruction of economic institutions is therefore important to re-balance excessive centralization or excessive competition.
But this is best accomplished through capitalist, private institutions that are flexible and can be allowed to go bankrupt. Government, the Romanizing power in America, refuses to terminate any of its programs. Therefore, America, once the product of Barbarian thinking, especially of Montesquieu, the Physiocrats and Adam Smith, has become increasingly elitist and Romanized as the New Deal Democrats have instituted Roman philosophies.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Mitchell Langbert's Blog Breaks 100,000 Visits

I was pleased to see a large response to the piece I wrote on the American Senior's Association, which pushed me over 100,000 visits since March 2008 when I began keeping track. During the past 17 months I have been covered in the New York Sun and got some publicity concerning the Obama birth certificate issue. I appreciate your reading this blog and I hope to improve with time!

Otis Jennings for Mayor of Syracuse

Otis Jennings is a fine mayoral candidate and I am pleased to endorse him for mayor over his Democratic opponent, Stephanie Miner. However, this endorsement is not without qualification. I would like to see Mr. Jennings make his commitment to cutting waste and spending in Syracuse more specific. Also, it should not be difficult to find spending cuts, and he should do so during the campaign, not after election. Although Mr. Jennings says that he would like to cut spending, he is equivocal enough to wriggle out of his commitment when the time comes to risk offending vested public employee and union interests.

Nevertheless, he has a number of good ideas, and his candidacy is preferable to the politics of economic decline to which the Democrats are committed. Mr. Jennings says that he aims to set priorities for spending reductions. He would replace property taxes with a fee for service for fire and police protection, requiring not-for-profits to pay the charge. That is an idea that all Towns in New York should consider. As well, he would market Syracuse police services to neighboring communities on a fee-for-service basis. His approach of using service fees rather than taxes is good, as is his commitment to refrain from hiding behind hidden fees, taxes and charges.

I agree with his broad aim of reducing non-essential services and "right sizing" of Syracuse government but I urge him to be more specific. Syracuse's budget is probably large enough to contain considerable dross. Finding cuts in the Syracuse budget is like catching fish in a barrel. He should do his homework and make commitments to specific cuts now.

While I agree with Mr. Jennings's aim of reducing the cost of government, centralization is not the answer. It is unfortunate that he quotes the son of the Emperor of Waste (who was the inventor of those hidden fees and taxes he opposes), Andrew Cuomo. As the son of the Emperor of Waste, perhaps Andrew Cuomo should be called the Prince of Waste.

In any case, centralization of government is NOT the path to lower costs. The reason New York State has high taxes is NOT that it is too decentralized, but that it is TOO CENTRALIZED. The bloated Medicaid costs, due to incompetence and corruption in Albany, are the reason for the state's INSANE property tax burden. The solution to bloated costs is to hack away Albany's and the counties' power and download authority to the towns, not to centralize. Although there may be economies of scale, diseconomies of corruption and stupidity will dwarf any cost savings.

Clearly, Mr. Jennings is thinking like a Republican while his opponent thinks like a politically correct tax-and-spend Democratic Party waster. I certainly hope the good people of Syracuse make the right choice this November and vote for Mr. Jennings.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Otis Jennings for Syracuse Mayor

I received this message from the New York State Republican Liberty Caucus:

Corey Mitchell sent a message to the members of Otis Jennings For Mayor of Syracuse.

Subject: Urgent requset for massive volunteer outreach

To All Volunteers & Otis for Mayor2009 Supporters:

Thanks to the encouragement that many of you provided, Otis is on his way towards being elected Mayor of Syracuse. It has been a long, hard road, but we are making progress! We need your assistance again to ensure that this becomes a reality!

Otis is going door to door to drop off literature & meet the community in designated neighborhoods. We need a team to go out and distrubute literature packets for Otis every day this week and the weeks coming up prior to Otis going door to door so the people will have it before he gets there. It is fine if you want to volunteer for specific days or whatever. Please let us know when you are available. We really need you and are counting on you all to help.

We need to have at least 2 people go out with Otis in the evenings from like 4:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m when he goes knocking on doors in the specific neighborhoods. Please email or call us as soon as you can as this will be a very intense effort prior to the Primary date in September!

On behalf of Otis Jennings and his team, we thank you all in advance for your assistance in these very important matters.

Corey Mitchell
Office Manager
Otis Jennings foir Mayor 2009

Connie Collins
Volunteers Coordinator
Otis Jennings for Mayor 2009
phone: Home: 849-4290
Work phone: 446-3403

Sunday, August 16, 2009

American Universities and Nazism

Carlin Romano of the University of Pennsylvania has an excellent review of Stephen H. Norwood's Third Reich in the Ivory Tower: Complicity and Conflict on American Campuses in the current issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education (paid access).

Romano raves about Norwood's book and points out that with respect to the Nazis in the 1930s:

"students, journalists, labor leaders, and elected officials—at least some of them—are the heroes of Norwood's book, showing more moral courage and activism than university administrators did."

Romano may be right that Iran poses a parallel to Nazi Germany (although one reader has pointed out that the parallel may be weak). But he falls down (and by implication Norwood does as well) in referring to Nazism as "fascism". Nazism is as much a form of socialism as of fascism, "Progressivism" or the more general "corporatism". Whereas Stalin advocated "socialism in one country", Hitler advocated "national socialism". As John Lukacs points out, the two phrases mean the same thing. But academics and journalists have shamefully hidden this by referring to Nazism as "fascism", which was Mussolini's system. Romano follows this disgraceful convention, which is an Orwellian way to lie about socialism. Nazism was not fascism, "Progressivism" or "corporatism". It was more extreme. It was socialism just as Stalinism was.

Hitler elevated race in his ideology, but Stalinism was also anti-Semitic and racist. All four ideologies, corporatism, Nazism, Communism and Fascism, emphasized centralization of authority and centralized economic planning, ideas that both American "Progressives" and Straussian conservatives, who have recently dominated the Republican Party, advocate.

Although some journalists may have been heroes, others have not been. In particular, the pissant New York Times covered Hitler's anti-Semitism but buried the story off the front page. Nor was support for Hitler limited to US universities. The Swedish socialist economist Gunnar Myrdal, who wrote a classic book on American race relations, American Dilemma, supported Nazism in the 1930s at the same time as the presidents of Harvard and Columbia did.

Even if Fascism and National Socialism are as similar as National Socialism and Communism, why do the Democrats and social democratic academics continue to refer to Nazism as "fascism" rather than its true name, "National Socialism"? Why don't they refer to Mussolini's Fascism as "national socialism", which would be a more descriptive and meaningful depiction? "Fascism" is murkier. "National Socialism" accurately describes the facts.

Moreover, while some academics, like Romano and Norwood, (also see Phil Orenstein's Frontpagemag article about the dual origins of the American university and Nazism in the idealism of Fichte) are willing to confront the academic support for Hitler, academics have been unwilling to confront the equivalent support for Mao that continues in the American academy to this day.

The famous linguist Noam Chomsky has been a persistent denier of the Cambodian holocaust and John Kenneth Galbraith had high praise for Maoist China in the pages of the pissant New York Times at a time when Mao had already murdered at least 25 million people. Academics continually criticize Milton Friedman, who helped a Chilean government that ultimately killed about 3,000 people, but praise Castro, who has murdered 100,000 people and imprisoned and tortured many more. Indeed, Michael Moore had high praise for Cuban socialism in his movie Sicko just last year. Both Galbraith and Friedman died two years ago. In Friedman's obituary the Democratic Party propaganda outlets mentioned Friedman's assistance to Chile, but in Galbraith's they did not mention that he had visited China and praised Mao in the Times.

Romano's point that Iran poses a parallel to Hitler is a good one. But academia's response to Maoism and Stalinism deserves careful scrutiny as well. The term "fascism" should not be applied to Nazism. It is an Italian term that refers to Roman history. Nazism and Communism are Roman derivatives, but "state activist liberals" have been apologetic about the mass murder of left wing Romanism and have attributed the mass murder to ideological causes rather than its true cause: centralization of state power.