This Dark Age

A manual for life in the modern world.

By Daniel Schwindt

This Dark Age is now available in paperback on Amazon. The print version is MUCH cleaner than this online version, which is largely unedited and has fallen by the wayside as the project has grown. If you’ve appreciated my writing, please consider leaving a review on the relevant paperback volumes. The print edition also includes new sections (Military History, War Psychology, Dogmatic Theology).

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2.1. America

The ideal of happiness

The great philosophical traditions know nothing of the ‘pursuit of happiness’ in the modern sense. They spoke rather of ‘the good life’ which is to say, the pursuit of virtue and truth. These two ends are as different as night and day.

In fact, we might go further and say that they might even have warned us away from the ‘pursuit of happiness’ as a dangerous thing. Nietzsche was correct when he asked, “what does happiness matter to us?”[1] And observed that “the superior man is distinguished from the inferior by his intrepidity, by his defiance of unhappiness.”[2] He concluded that “it is a sign of regression when pleasure begins to be considered as the highest principle.”[3] And who can argue that the contemporary notion of happiness does not boil down to an obsession with pleasure in its various forms?

Yes, it can be argued that the ancients did speak of happiness, but their meaning does not factor into the modern one. In the modern sense, happiness is not being what one ought to be, surpassing oneself, transcending oneself, but rather it is a possession of one’s desires, an affirmation that one is already good and the removal of any reminders of our imperfection. Modern happiness is the possession of what one wants to have, and the permission to do whatever one wills. It is a base happiness, shared even by lower forms of life, for a wild animal gnawing at its kill is happy in the way people today mean it.

This vulgar happiness is possible even under perverse and evil conditions. It comes to be a thing granted by authority or product purchased in a store, a creation of the market, a materialistic and individualistic pursuit. It is a feeling. Now there is nothing wrong with pleasant feelings, but as a social goal, we could say that, if we are going to pursue a feeling, it should be mutual affection. This, on a wide scale, would be a much more worthy pursuit than individual happiness.

[1] Will to Power, 781.

[2] Will to Power, 222.

[3] Will to Power, 792.

The extremes of reformers

Most reformers run to one of two extremes: either they operate on ideals lacking any real connection with the realities of life, which is typical of the academic type; or else they embrace a crude utilitarianism along the lines of John Stuart Mill. The founders of the United States of America seem to have achieved a combination of the two, not in the sense that they found a happy medium, but in the sense that their work seems to display the worst characteristics of both tendencies. However, in the end, the tendency toward idealism has prevailed.

The United States is a nation of ideals, where everyone is an idealist and where no one bases any of their policies or principles on the world as it actually is. This is, I think, because the world as it is, and man as he is, is unpleasant most of the time. Only in the more courageous periods of human history could philosophy and reality come into close contact. We are far past that now, in the age of ideals, the age of the fearful fleeing of reality. Spengler was right: ideals are cowardice. And the degree to which a culture lives on ideals is the degree to which it has lost its cultural bravery.

Political messianism

One of the dangers of political idealism is that it leads people to believe that the fundamental problem of evil is itself situated in the political order, as if the answer to human sin is to be found in the pages of the Bill of Rights or the Constitution. Here we can speak of a political messianism.

Political messianism is so universal today that it is difficult to describe the concept without sounding like we are describing a ‘commonsense reality’ that could not be any other way. How many American ‘voters’ see their form of democracy as the solution to many fundamental human problems? How many believe, in sentiment if not in word, that if the correct political framework were established, human suffering, man’s companion from time immemorial, would for the most part be resolved?

Political messianism treats political structures as if they could and should accomplish the work of the Savior of Mankind. It is no coincidence, in this light, that political messianism grew up in the early 19th century when religion as a social force was falling out of favor and the secular state was born.

The disciples of political salvation typically devolve into two camps, depending on whether their psychology tends toward a universalist or a particularist view. Americans and Europeans tend toward the particularist view, and therefore toward liberal democracy. Those of a universalist bent tend toward totalitarian socialism. For both groups, the system and its ideals come to fill the void left after religion has been carved out of the social body and discarded.

As a further clarification, we can also say that for Europe and the United States, the system is identical with ‘the nation’, hence the presence of nationalism and, in its most extreme form, the delusion known as American exceptionalism.

Modernity is a twofold gift

The trouble with a gift is that it cannot be un-given, it must simply be dealt with. Modernity can be considered a gift, but in the old sense, in which a gift is both a blessing and a poison, both a help and a burden. We should take care to understand both the benefit and the cost, and not to take the easy way out by focusing solely on one side of the balance. We find that in many cases the conditions of our world bestow on us great rewards for our successes, and at the same time inflict punishments for our excesses. We credit this world with the rewards, but we forget that it is of its very nature rebuke us.

The Declaration of Independence begs the most important questions

“We hold these truths to be self-evident…” But the truths in question are not self-evident, at least not to anyone prior to the Enlightenment, and not to many thinking men afterward.

Since the Founders considered their notions ‘self-evident’, they did not feel compelled to demonstrate them with any clarity. Hence, we cannot even affirm that they are ‘truths’ since we cannot be entirely sure what ideas are in question, other than a series of vague abstractions. We encounter terms like right, inalienable, and equality, whose meaning it is impossible to determine, and which are inevitably defined differently in the mind of every person who ponders them, and always to his own advantage.

One could argue, in Thomas Jefferson’s favor, that he had a sound defense of these principles in mind but did not have the room to write it in a document such as the Declaration, which was not a philosophical treatise. So be it. But where, then, in the writings of Jefferson or in any other founding father, can we find an adequate defense? We find that in virtually every case, these self-evident truths are not so much conclusions but are in fact the starting point.

Whether the founders arrived at them through carefully reasoned argument, or whether they were simply repeating John Locke, we cannot know, since they are not at pains to cite their sources.

The ideological founding of the American Republic was a grand instance of begging the question. A fallacy, in other words. One that has found almost global success.

Uselessness of abstract constitutions

The importance of written documents is often overemphasized, and they are given place as causes when they are more often effects. In other words, the literary or legal production is evidence of the presence of certain principles or beliefs, but does not create, instill, or guarantee them. They can edify, they can celebrate, those principles, but they cannot guarantee them. Only the life of the culture itself can maintain what the constitution proposes. We can say, as a rule, that constitutions are useful so long as they are superfluous.

This leads us to the problematic idea of constitutions as universally valid. For if the document is only the ‘witness’ of a living entity and not the entity itself, then it is obviously not possible for any constitution to be witness, in the abstract, for any and all nations. Its structure and content must be specific to the political life that it proclaims and describes. There is no constitution for all and that can be ‘carbon copied’ for disparate peoples with the expectation that it will have the same results for everyone. This is what de Maistre warned against:

“A constitution that is made for all nations is made for none: it is a pure abstraction, an academic exercise of the mind, according to some hypothetical ideal, that should be addressed to man, in whatever imaginary realm he inhabits.

“The constitution of 1795, like its predecessors, has been drawn up for Man. Now, there is no such thing in the world as Man. In the course of my life, I have seen Frenchmen, Italians, Russians, etc.; I am even aware, thanks to Montesquieu, that one can be a Persian. But, as for Man, I declare that I have never met him in my life. If he exists, I certainly have no knowledge of him.”[1]

[1] Joseph de Maistre, Considerations on France.

Idolatry of self in secular states

Westerners have been called infidels, and not always without good reason, since infidel refers to one who has abandoned God, and European nations since the Enlightenment have more or less explicitly excluded religion from public life. However, in the place of religion there has grown up a new kind of cult revolving around a variety of divinized nationalisms. These secularized nations attempted to set aside religious sentiments but since this is impossible, they simply replaced god with ‘country’ and piety with ‘patriotism’.

The original sin of the modern nation state is therefore the idolatry of itself in the form of its political ideals: it is not so much that we are infidels, at least not in sentiment, since we feel and act upon the same religious impulses as any other religious radical. It is rather that we have unconsciously chosen to redirect our religious fervor to political objects, namely the country, and usually it is the country as an idea and not so much as a reality.

The United States is perhaps the most extreme case of this self-idolatry. It has primacy of place as the first nation to found itself entirely without reference to a particular religious tradition—to envision and proclaim the political as truly autonomous. The result was that the political became an object of religious worship surrounded by religious language and ritual. This also tends toward an obnoxious exaggeration of the nobility of its institutions, hence the American insistence that their country is the ‘greatest country in the world’, in spite of the fact that those who claim this know no nothing whatsoever about any other country but their own. Who could not see in such a claim an identification of country with god, since it would make perfect sense to say such a thing about one’s god? God must always be the one and the true, and it is only logical to expect that everyone else in the world should also worship this god, and to be baffled when others do not see in this god the loftiness of his glory. This is precisely the nature of the confusion shown by patriotic Americans when someone else in the world does not admit the greatness and superior nobility of their country. They simply cannot understand it, because they cannot understand.

Again, we say that this impulse is in itself perfectly natural provided it is actually aimed at religious objects. But this kind of zeal, when transposed onto the political order, becomes an absurd and dangerous thing. If one accepts that America’s underlying problem is an idolatry of itself, then all of its other problems become easier to grasp, and their ‘pantheon’ comes into view as a theolog of political ideas like liberty, equality, democracy, and the pursuit of happiness. And since these are simply vague aspirations without content, and which are even, in some cases, mutually exclusive, their pursuit is impossible to realize, nor do they deserve the admiration that their patriotic adherents expect. The result is frustration, conflict, condescension, and an insufferable attitude of superiority.

National security by any means necessary

Napoleon once said: “He who saves his country does not violate any law.” In other words, if ‘national security’ is on the line, there is no such thing as a moral law, or at least there is no such thing as a moral law that is not subordinate to the safety of the nation. Survival by any means necessary is the order of the day. The problem is that it only concerns itself with the survival in a vague sense, and usually a materialistic one. It denies the possibility that certain actions can kill the soul even while saving the body. Christ said that if the flesh causes you to sin, you should cut it off and discard it, because the soul is what matters most. In other words, sometimes the flesh must perish so that the soul may live. One can naturally suppose that sometimes the political unit must dissolve so that the spiritual integrity of the people can remain intact. The attitude of modern patriotic nationalists is the reverse: if it is a choice between state and society, society must sacrifice itself for the state and its ideals. In a capitalist regime, where capitalists run the state and where there is little difference between the economic and the political order, this amounts to a situation where the people are asked to sacrifice themselves, physically and spiritually, for the economy, or for the economic well-being of the nation.

It is common for the media and the state to stir up panic with this talk of ‘survival’ but again it is not always clear what is in question, and there is a serious difference between biological survival, economic survival, political survival, and cultural survival. While it might be understandable to react with extreme force against threat of biological destruction, it is not equally justifiable to react in the same way and to the same extreme when it is merely a question of the survival of a certain economic regime or policy. And yet, hearing people talk, the one is equivalent to the other, or at least the distinctions are not important.

As it was put by one of the characters in Frank Herbert’s Dune novels, “What good is survival if you do not survive whole?” How can you sacrifice the most important parts of yourself in order to merely ‘stay alive’? And what kind of a life would that be?

Abstraction and social institutions

We tend to talk about things like education, economy, military, and politics in the abstract, and as a result we try to judge their value in the abstract instead of evaluating things as we actually find them in reality. In other words, if we admit that education, as a general concept, is a good thing, then we tend to attribute this goodness to the educational system as it presents itself to our experience. If education is worth funding, then it must follow that whatever passes for education in this time and place must be worth funding. But the value of an institution is not derived from the abstract idea we have about it. The institution is not identical with the idea. The educational system itself might be an inhuman travesty, regardless of how good ‘education’ might be as an abstract pursuit.

Institutions are products of a given social order. Look not only to the fruits of an institution, but to the underlying social order first, and then you can know ahead of time the value of that institution. Since our social order is based on numerous errors about human nature, for example, and is geared toward ends that are explicitly anti-spiritual, then we can know that our institutions, regardless of the ideals by which they were inspired, will manifest those errors. Economy, education, politics, the ends of foreign policy and military action: we can say that all of these are ‘goods’ in the abstract and necessary in principle for any social order. We can say that, in the abstract, they all support human flourishing. But within the context of a sick culture or a perverse social order, they cannot avoid being perverted in turn, and instead of facilitating healthy human development, they destroy it. This is why, when someone offers a policy in favor of education, or freedom, or national defense, do not allow yourself to be enlisted in support of that policy merely because it appeals to a legitimate principle.

The truth about individual rights

Individual rights are a figment of the humanist imagination. Since today everyone is a humanist—covert or overt—these supposed rights are taken for granted as if their reality could not be more obvious, despite the fact that there is never any real consensus on what they are, how many there are, and how they are to be discerned. One would assume that these were immortal and timeless truths, and it would come as a surprise to find out that they are actually quite young, being an invention of the Enlightenment. Before the Enlightenment, before the American Founders, there were not ‘rights’—there was only ‘right’, and this notion of ‘right’ was fitted into a larger framework of justice. ‘Right’ is, in this sense, nothing other than the ‘object of justice’. To put it as simply as possible, ‘right’ is the thing due to another in a relationship of justice.

Move from this to the notion of ‘rights, and more specifically, ‘individual rights’. In this phrase we can already see that the problem is one of abstraction from social context followed by an indefinite multiplication.

We said, abstraction from social context. The modifier ‘individual’ has the effect of exorcising ‘right’ from its relational framework and atomizing it. If a ‘right’ is a thing due to another in justice, then ‘rights’ only exist in the context of relationships. Thus, rights are communal, not individual. No one walks around “possessing” rights as a collection of powers he gets to exercise at his will. Rights are not something that I get to exercise according to my tastes and whenever I feel like it and in whatever way I choose. Justice is the overarching framework that brings a “right” into existence, and there is always a context. When a man gives a baker some money, the bread is the right of the buyer, since it is owed him in justice. But it is up to the baker to fulfill it and only within that context and in that instance. To abstract a set of “rights” out of the framework of justice ends by denying the primacy of justice as the measure of how rights should operate, and winds up making justice subordinate to abstract rights. And this is precisely the situation we have today. Justice service rights and operates. And that is the definition of liberalism: the political system that absolutizes rights and sees its role, and therefore the role of the entire justice system, not as seekers of goodness and justice, but as protectors of abstract (and individual) rights.

We also mentioned indefinite multiplication, and this follows naturally from their abstraction. Social context and subordination to justice were the limiting factors of right, and without these limiting factors the meaning of the right because subjective, highly theoretical, and is susceptible to endless variations and interpretations. Hence the problem of new ‘rights’ constantly being claimed, infringed, or denied, whatever the case may be.

The meaning of the frontier and the absence of diplomacy

For the immigrants who populated the narrow strip of seaboard during the Colonial Period of American history, the concept of the ‘frontier’ took on a meaning opposite of what it meant in Europe. In Europe, the term ‘frontier’ would simply have meant the border between one’s own power group and some outside power. It implied the presence of ‘the other’ and one’s own separation from this other. It therefore implied relations between two or more peoples and the on-going balance of power that is involved. In other words, for Europe, the term frontier would have implied diplomacy.

In America, this has never been the case. For the colonies, the frontier was a vast and unknown territory populated by ‘savages’ or by no one, something that was ‘free for the taking’ and yet deadly. It was a wilderness, and in order to incorporate that area and ‘civilize’ it, the primary enemy was Nature, with which one does not negotiate. The native peoples, in this context, were viewed more an aspect of hostile nature than a political or cultural entity to be approached with tact and mutual respect. Young America, therefore, could avoid completely the problems of sociability and political tact that come with being surrounded by neighbors who wield power that is equal to or exceeds one’s one.

This situation very naturally created a kind of ego-centeredness and lack of proportion in the American mindset from its earliest age. It is this experience that taught America to see any kind of cooperation as an affront to its ‘liberty’, just as an only child, accustomed to acting in complete freedom and without the need for compromise, perceives the mere existence of a new sibling as an affront to justice and as a kind of attack on its prerogatives. These conditions stunted the development of American diplomacy from the very start, and it has never recovered.

In this unfortunate context another problem festered. The isolation of the Colonies from comparable powers, and the freedom to expand and dispossess the native people with impunity, created a view of alien races and cultures as objectively inferior. For Americans, it is never a question of mere economic or technical superiority—it is always a question of absolute superiority. America is the greatest country on earth, not in a particular area of development, but without qualification. Again, America has never overcome this view. Say what it will about equality and human dignity as universal principles, these have never really been granted to people who look or live in ways alien to white Protestant culture. This is why the institution of American slavery, in comparison to slavery in other places and during other historical periods, was the most barbaric ever practiced. Even the abolition of slavery, of which Americans are so self-congratulatory, occurred after, not before, the abolition of slavery in Europe.

A certain kind of anarchy

We find in the pre-revolutionary period a culture of ‘take what you can and do what you will’ that not only lacked attention to diplomacy but did not even have any real sense of political limits. When limits were encountered, the limiting factor was perceived as an oppression. When the limiting factor was the crown, its political authority was called into question and eventually it was cast out.

A second limit was the indigenous population itself. When the Native American people could not be cast out, like the crown, they were killed or herded like cattle into concentrated areas that held no value for the newly formed nation.

Returning to the analogy of the only child, we say that America, from its birth, would not suffer externally imposed limits of any kind and was at the same time unwilling to impose any limits on itself, stooping even to genocide when it came to the indigenous people.

The genesis of imperialism

If it be asked when American imperialism was born, we can answer that it grew up naturally with the settling of the territories themselves. The State imperialism we know today is only the later expression of the individual imperialism of the early settlers who, as legend has it, fought back the savages and took what land they could. The underlying mentality was that ‘might makes right’, a domestic free-for-all.

Every man who had the gumption could conquer a territory and proclaim himself its master. This, again, was not always organized or overseen by a political authority but was based on individual will and determination. Not only does this set the stage for an inevitably imperialist mindset, but it ensures the formation of an individualist culture where no power is conceivable beyond the will of the isolated person. It is no wonder that the concept of community is mostly absent from this context where the obligations and ties it implies would be seen as oppressive. The ‘individualistic community’ of the settlers was something more like a temporary pact of mutual benefit between free actors whose bond is not so much a kinship as it is an informal business agreement, a pact between otherwise separate political entities for the sake of mutual defense and enrichment, as in a time of war.

Idealism is an expression of senility

Contrary to what we might assume, ideals on the broad social level are not a sign of youth but of old age. Societies become idealistic when their spiritual vitality—always more real than ideals—begins to wane. During this stage of spiritual decline, they must find new and artificial values to pursue.

Unlike Europe, which became idealistic over time and due to a kind of cultural senility, America was born of ideals and was founded on them. America was born senile, an inhabitant of a dream world that cannot be, this world itself being only a product of an imagined history that never was. The Declaration of Independence, for example, tends to address itself to Man and not of the colonials. It is as abstract as it needs to be in order to give the impression of proclaiming universal and transcendent truths. This is the language of idealism and also of propaganda, which never deals in the concrete but always appeals to the imagination. When they spoke of the Rights of Man, it is Man who was in question, and not the Americans. This tactic repeats itself every time those in power wish to garner support from the masses, because it is very effective in veiling any hint of worldliness or self-interest.

It is not unreasonable to attribute this idealism to European senility, and to say that it was ‘inherited’ in such a way that early American culture is an example of lost innocence due to a poor spiritual education (or the absence thereof) at the start and thereby ‘robbing it of its youth’. Remember that all of the original idealist-propagandists, from Jefferson to John Hancock, were formed by thinkers in France and England and there is not an idea in their writings and speeches that we cannot find in Locke, Rousseau, or Mill. And so, again, what is significant here is that while this idealism was, for Europeans, something they entered into with the support of a pre-existing culture, the Americans built their culture on this idealism. In other words, England departed into unrealism but was saved by the fact that it carried the culture, art, institutions, religious sentiments, and habits of its youth with it into old age, and so there was a natural balance. The Americans, on the other hands, went directly to the stage of unrealism and for them it is not so much a final resting place as it is the foundation of everything else.

Those who initiate modern wars to not fight them

We have referred to the Founding Fathers as propagandists. This is not altogether fair, we admit, but it is adequate with respect to the part they played in the Revolutionary War. They provided the propaganda for the war, but, aside from the few exceptions which prove the rule, they did not fight in it.

Of the fifty-six men who signed the Declaration of Independence, none died from injuries inflicted by the British. None. In fact, the only signer who died from a gunshot wound during the war received the wound from a fellow officer in a duel.

The actual soldiers who did the fighting were, just like they are today, from the poorer classes who wanted something better for themselves and whose hearts are readily inflamed by lofty ideals. This phenomenon, which is the inverse of traditional warfare, has become one of the hallmarks of the modern world and the wars waged by its ‘popular’ governments.

The modern upper class is shielded in every way: legally and economically, because they make the laws or else fund those who make them; and also psychologically, being somewhat immune to the same propaganda that recruits the poor, because they have too much to lose and little to gain by dying on the battlefield. The wealthy class provides not so much the leadership as the technology for the war. It provides the means of war but the manpower is drawn from everywhere else. We also said that they are immune to propaganda, first and foremost because they are the propagandists, but also because the materialism of the wealthy makes them deaf to moral and religious appeals, appeals that mean everything to the common man. That is to say, the wealthy have too much to lose when it comes to actual bloodshed and so you will not find them anywhere near it. At most they attend meetings, legislate, issue draft papers, and publish newspapers.

Speaking of propaganda, we can say that the Revolutionary War was also, in a secondary sense, America’s first Civil War. The tactics used against those who opposed the war, the ‘loyalists’, were an example of sheer anarchy, and many were expelled immediately afterward.

History tells the rest of the story. Victory in the Revolution resulted in a federal union, uniting the thirteen colonies in independence. The State, again, was federal and its powers and its relation to the various “states” was formulated in the Constitution, again written not by those who fought the war but by those who started it.

The individual-state opposition

The rhetoric of the Founders fixates on a novel idea—that there exists a real opposition between ‘the state’ and ‘the individual.’ This opposition, being a theoretical abstraction, exists mostly in minds of theorists but, thanks to a small group of such theorists who Founded a nation, it has become a philosophical presupposition for most modern people.

The popularity of the individual-state dichotomy explains why the various state-level constitutions within the union, as well as the many future constitutions modeled on the American one, not only take this opposition for granted but go so far as to emphasize it as the central feature of political life. The whole of political philosophy then boils down to the question of how to balance this relationship and, more importantly, the question of how the individual can be protected from the state, since the state is, in this framework, always odious to him. This fixation leads directly to the elaboration of so many ‘rights’ granted to the individual. These rights are typically rattled off in list form and often without any connection or common justification. The citizen claims these rights against all other political entities, and perhaps invents a few additional ones—why shouldn’t he?—you can never have too many.

The primary antagonist, against which the rights were theoretically directed, was envisioned to be the encroaching state, but in the long run they are handy against anyone and anything that limits the ‘exercise’ of the ever-growing list of rights.

What is conspicuous about this emphasis on ‘the state’ in early American rhetoric is that, at the time, there was no domestic ‘state’ to oppose to the domestic ‘individual’. There was the crown, but the crown does not correspond to what the state would become in the United States Constitution, and so this legislation was in a sense developed ex nihilo and aimed to regulate an imaginary future antagonist. In Europe there was similar legislation, but any such act was a reform of an existing legal tradition and if political power was revised, it was always a long-standing organic relationship that was under revision, rather than the invention of a legal apparatus designed in anticipation of a future relationship.

Individual rights were born in the minds of European philosophers and in the shadow of decadent political institutions that were themselves centuries old, but these rights came into their own in America. European reformers had in view actual political powers that matched the ‘state’ component, but they had to imagine the ‘individual’: the American intellectuals had the ‘individual’ but they had to imagine what it would be like to have a ‘state’. These two different points of departure meant that the imagination had to play a very different role in each situation, and the result is that the blind spots and excesses are very different in the American context than elsewhere.

The presence of anti-state ideology

What created the American ‘individual’ as distinct from people embedded in the various Europeans traditions? This was mostly a result of factors already discussed: the availability of a ‘frontier’ in the non-European sense, the mentality of ‘take what you will’, the absence of any prior political tradition, not to mention a fairly clean slate in terms of religious roots, since in Europe it was never possible to really leave behind the influence of Catholicism, while in the New World the Church had no pre-existing cultural infrastructure. America really was a mass of individuals who could and did proceed outward from a handful of settled areas to claim new lands on a regular basis without oversight or aid. Thus, while it may have been odd to speak of ‘individual rights’ in Europe, it seemed much less so in America.

As for political attitudes, we can say that an anti-state ideology was present from the start, not so much as a reaction to a corrupt state but rather as a fact of life. The Revolution, which was directed against the crown, and therefore against a state, was in fact a result of this anti-state ideology rather than being the explanation for it. Those who say that Americans distrust the state due to their experience with monarchy are putting the cart before the horse.

Americans have never been in a position to appreciate social authority as a good. The state, for European peoples, was (at one time at least) a force for order and prosperity, whatever the abuses of which it might have been guilty. The European states were, and therefore were experienced as, the organic culmination of a cultural lifecycle, and in this sense they ‘belonged’ and had their role to play. They were not perceived as intrinsically alien and oppressive, although capable of oppression. In America, the perception was different. Since the only apparent state was the distant British one—distant and for the most part unnecessary for the colonial individual—such an authority could only be experienced as a parasitic body of distant meddlers.

The Revolution was merely the occasion of the expression of what was already a reality. The Americans were a people destined to perceive any kind of state as an enemy to human flourishing.

America may have been right to think that it did not have need of the British government in order to prosper, but it was self-destructive to move from this idea to the idea that all government is necessarily oppressive. One bite of rotten fruit is not good reason to abstain from it for the rest of one’s life, and to do so is to invite disease. Likewise, a healthy appreciation for government authority and the capacity to feel kinship with that authority is the sign of a thriving culture, and cultural disease is the consequence of a nation’s inability to grow into a familial hierarchy.

Theory over practice

The sacred documents of the American founding can be viewed in two aspects: theoretical and practical. We could also say realistic and idealistic.

They are quite intelligible and even intelligent when they go about putting theory into practice, moving from ideals to systems. The problem is that the ideals themselves are unintelligent, the theory unintelligible. But nonsense can seem intelligible if you’ve already taken it on faith as Gospel truth, for at that point no critical eye is necessary. It just needs to sound good or to appeal to one’s prejudice. This is the nature of ideology. The ideas that compose an ideology are almost always incoherent when taken as a whole and analyzed, but in an immediate sense they are so simple that they seem to ‘speak for themselves’, or in the words of the Declaration, they are always ‘self-evident’, and so they provide convenient fodder for propagandists.

The basic error of the Enlightenment and its ideological children (rationalism, humanism, liberalism) is the preference for theory over and above the facts of concrete experience, and a tendency to try and ‘impose’ theory on a reality that does not pay homage to clever ideas. Man himself is one such ‘fact of concrete experience’ and half the time he does not even pay homage to his own lofty ideals. Idealists always end up being hypocrites, and an idealistic society cannot avoid betraying itself. Slavery is an interesting example. From the time of the Founders until Lincoln and the Civil War, the cant about all men being ‘created equal’ and ‘endowed with rights’ was accepted as commonsense and even held with sincere conviction while at the very same time the native population was herded around like cattle and accorded no dignity whatsoever, and the institution of black slavery for a long time did not warrant a second thought.

The United States and its treatment of blacks, Asians, Catholics, and native peoples throughout its history should serve as proof that to adopt an ideal in theory can actually prevent it from being put into practice. The idea of ‘equality,’ being written into the constitution but not actualized except for a particular group, very likely allowed that privileged group to carry on for generations in the face of barbaric inequality. High thinking blinds us to dark realities. This is because the ideal, accepted in theory, gives those who benefit from it the feeling that it actually exists, and so the job is done. Any objective observer can tell us that America, prophet of freedom and liberty, has not often been the first out of the gate when it comes to the actual implementation of its own gospel, and in some perverse way, this appears to be due to the very fact of its devotion, as if these convictions create their own blindspots. It works the same way in religion: those who make a grand show of worshipping the ideals of the Gospel often have a very confused and immature way of putting them into practice.

Various instances of unrealism

The Founders, armed with their rationalistic humanism, availed themselves of so many ‘self-evident’ truths drawn from abstract thought and having little connection with reality as we live it. The very idea of equality is almost always evidence of a lack of respect for the facts of physical, mental, and spiritual inequality.

The neatly logical formula about governments being ‘instituted’ by groups of individuals and based on their ‘consent’, subject to dissolution if and when it stops serving their purposes, is not something that has ever existed anywhere in the past and cannot exist anywhere in the future. As with the United States itself, the document was conceived and authored by an elite. The proper formula would be the opposite: that governments are necessary and are justified due to the natural inequality of men, not so much to create liberties and ‘secure rights’ but to civilize people to the end of bettering themselves and each other via cooperative pursuit of the good.

Any pretenses at having discovered the one universally valid form of government are also delusional. The form of government of any people must be an organic expression of that culture’s spiritual temperament, stage of development, geographical situation, and mode of living. Obviously this means that there is no ‘ideal’ structure that can be thought up and imposed on all nations at all times without regard to any of these considerations.

There is no such thing as the ‘will of the people’. Not literally, not metaphorically, not as a sociological generality. What we call the ‘will of the people’ is but the carefully manipulated consensus of a uniform population, kept in line by a steady stream of aggressive propaganda and patriotic feeling. The only time ‘the people’ wield an independent ‘will’ of any kind, it is in the form of the unrest that arises when the leadership becomes incompetent and undermines itself. The will of the people surfaces only in chaos, when the lions finally devour the lion-tamer that became lazy or arrogant. Such was the case with the French Revolution. But under normal circumstances, the people do not exercise any kind of unified will whatsoever—they simply subscribe to one or more platforms designed by the few.

Governments are always the expression of the particular genius of a society. They are not founded on any theoretical ‘principles’. Principles may be formulated, but they do not influence the practice of government. They merely provide a vocabulary for the public conversation about politics. That is why these principles are always, in themselves, empty of any objective content: freedom, dignity, rights, equality, self-government, etc. These are not concrete ideas but containers to be filled with various meanings depending on the person or group. But the containers could be changed without affecting the actual practice of government, which does not depend on these ‘principles’ in the least.

One of the most important keywords in American ideology is ‘liberty’. We will devote a separate section to the topic of liberty specifically, but here we will only observe that liberty is more of a feeling than a fact and really isn’t something that is ‘practiced’ in America more than anywhere else, and in fact we could point to ways in which it is practiced less in America than in other places or in the past. To use the example of conscription (which we call ‘the draft’), we can say that they very idea that the state can take men and sons (and soon, daughters as well) from their homes without their consent and send them overseas to fight wars they do not understand against enemies they’ve never heard of—all this is the measure of American ‘liberty’ and evidence of its purely ideal character.

Lastly, we can mention the idea of the ‘separation of powers’ into the legislative, executive, and judicial, and idea that comes from Montesquieu. As usual it is very clean and very logical in theory but convoluted and chaotic when it comes to human realities. Just as the theoretical opposition between ‘individual’ and ‘state’ does not correspond to a reality (since the state is in fact composed of the same individuals it theoretically opposes), so also the ‘powers’ that the constitution seeks to separate can only be separated on paper. In reality they interpenetrate. Likewise, the real ‘power’ that should (but cannot be) separated from all of the others is the money power, which today has become the primary driver of American government. A single man or a small group of extremely wealthy men who, in theory, are opposed to the state, are in practice its engineers and managers. Money reaches into all branches of government, and one hand can pull many strings.

The delusion of universality

We’ve already seen that America’s budding ideology presupposed a certain geopolitical situation, one of isolation and of vast possibilities for expansion, creating a mentality of individualism and individual imperialism that had never before found such full expression. What this situation also created was that feeling of ‘universality’ that Americans have always maintained. America is like the child who spends most of its formative years shielded from any significant external threat and who is never exposed to any thought or habit that is not ‘the way of tribe’. Such a child grows up assuming that our way is not simply a good way among other possible ways, but that it is the only way, and that our tribe is in exclusive possession of the good. In America we observe a kind of national provincialism that does not know how to handle other nations claiming that they too possess legitimate ways of life.

In other words, isolation encourages a narrowness of thought that thwarts the development of true diplomatic savvy. A nation ruled by this condescending mentality cannot really have any ‘allies’ but only ‘subjects’ and ‘political instruments’. The very idea that America might encounter peers seems to have insulting implications of equality.

This is why Americans think that the principles on which their government was formed are the true principles of government and that if the world was interested in truth and goodness it would follow America’s example, and that the choice not to do this is sign of either oppression or ignorance or obstinacy or evil intent.

It is much harder (although not impossible) for European nations to develop this mentality, nestled as they are between so many undeniable peers, each fluctuating in power and deserving of some level of respect. What would America look like if it had grown up with no other choice but to cooperate with, compromise with, and even respect, a technologically advanced native population? What if it had found itself situated between powerful nations to the north and south? We must assume that its social psychology would today be quite another thing.

The ideological paintbrush

The extent to which America is a primarily ideological culture is shown by the fact that from the beginning every enemy is construed as an ideological enemy. America never fights an enemy simply because both America and the enemy are after some material resource or advantageous island or seaport. No, never—even though this is almost always what the conflicts are about. No—American must paint each and every antagonist as an enemy of its very ideological principles: the enemy isn’t just after the same land that we are after, for the same worldly reasons that we are after it. No—they are after our freedom. They are against equality and human dignity. They are against God, and so on, and they therefore pose a threat, not just to our economic advantage, but to our very way of life!

From the Founding Fathers through Lincoln’s framing of the Civil War as an attack on a nation ‘conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal’, America makes every conflict ideological, even when the enemy doesn’t care the least bit about America’s ideology. This habit reached its culmination during the two World Wars.

It is partly instinctive and is an outgrowth of the psychology we’ve been describing. But it is also practical and is a necessity for any popular government. Democracy needs the enthusiasm of the people behind its military experiments or else it would have no soldiers. The entire nation will always run to the defense of liberty and justice and equality. Men with families and much to lose would be less likely to leave home to fight and die when the heart of the conflict is admitted to be nothing more than a trade dispute about corporate drilling rights in the Middle East.

One of the unintended but inevitable consequences of this overuse of the ideological paintbrush has been that any foreign power that, for any reason, happens to ally itself with the United States becomes automatically a ‘pro-freedom’ power. Sometimes this makes very little sense, and it approached absurdity during the World Wars, since it embraced allies like Bolshevik Russia, but it is no less astounding today when it encompasses ‘allies’ like Israel and Saudi Arabia.

As one would expect, there are times when these ‘freedom allies’ do not care to be claimed by America as ideological bedfellows, but we are incorrigible.

Universality and messianism

While America became more convinced of the universality of its ideology, Europe began moving on from that very ideology to something else, and in the face of the outright rejection of that ideology by much of the rest of the world, America took the logical step of seeing itself as the sole possessor of the ‘true ideology’. It was perhaps inevitable, then, that America would begin to see its destiny as savior of the world, with the Gospel of its Declaration of Independence.

It has been said best by Francis Parker Yockey:

In the 20th century, when the Rationalistic type of ideology had been discarded by the advancing Western Civilization, the American universalizing of ideology turned into messianism—the idea that America must save the world. The vehicle of the salvation is to be a materialistic religion with “democracy” taking the place of God, “Constitution” the place of the Church, “principles of government” the place of religious dogmas, and the idea of economic freedom the place of God’s Grace. The technic of salvation is to embrace the dollar, or failing that, to submit to American high-explosives and bayonets.

In this sense, American ideology is a religion, and the nation a mystical body, just as the Church always taught that its believers formed the mystical body of Christ. When the old Catholic mysticism was left behind, it was not difficult for nationalistic mysticism to fill the void.

This is why patriotism in America is not considered a sentiment but is more like a religious devotion—a mandatory one. To be seen as a heretic, it is not even necessary to speak openly against America. A sin of omission is enough. The mere failure to express patriotic zeal according to the prescribed rituals and at the expected time is to deny something about the universe that is good and true. To fail to express one’s patriotism is to do violence to ‘the nation’ to which we owe our existence.

For all its zeal, there is a weakness inherent in American idealism. Since it is not an organic production, it has no roots, and we find that it is easily put aside and then taken back up again. When ‘real life’ or material advantage gets in the way of one of its principles, the principle is quickly discarded. American ideology is the product of rationalism and as such its adherents will find little difficulty rationalizing any application of it, or absence of its application, and will be able to apply or ignore it at will.

We have compared American ideology to a religion, but we find that its adherents are not really convinced. They ‘belong’, but they do not really ‘believe’. That is why its dogmas are so easily discarded, reinstated when convenient, and then discarded again, and why this hypocrisy seems to present little difficulty for the adherents. They love to say the words ‘liberty’ and ‘equality’ and to feel the sweet sentiment that accompanies pronunciation of the words, but they are not rigorous as to the application. Or to put it another way, they do not ‘belong’ to the religion in a mental or moral way, but more as an instinctual and emotional membership, and this kind of membership does not insist on consistency.

While we’re on the subject of American ideology, it should be said that ideas might have a formative impact on intellectuals, but on the people in general, driven as they are by non-rational processes, ideology is only taken on as a kind of clothing. By speaking the same vocabulary they can form movements and communicate, but the actual ideas and their content are always, for the masses, fluid and in the end disposable. The people operate on instinct and according to a certain character and temperament, and these are not touched by rhetoric and philosophy. This goes for every culture, and not just the Americans.

The origin of the party system and plutocracy

For the elitists and intellectuals responsible for the American founding, there was no such thing as ‘party politics’ in the current sense. Parties were known and parties were despised as the source of factions. George Washington did not leave office before openly condemning ‘the spirit of the party’,[1] and Thomas Jefferson said that if he had to join a party in order to get into heaven, he’d settle for hell.[2] The preference was instead for a class-based government ruled by something like Jefferson’s ‘spiritual aristocracy’ which in theory meant anyone but in practice would always mean members of a certain class. But America was populist in spirit, thanks to the propaganda of the Founders, through which they undermined their own designs, and its political mechanisms eventually took on a popular form, and this meant a party system.

We must insist that the structure and operation of the government was destined to lead to a party system. The primary political problem is the acquisition of power, and to keep that power once acquired. When an individual holds office only for a very short period of a few years, then it is clear to all that in order to really seize and hold power, groups must be formed. Although this could, in theory, involve the formation of a large variety of parties depending on beliefs or preferences, for reasons of escalation and efficiency, this process proceeds almost immediately to the reduction of all politics to a battle between two groups. This is because the only goal is to maintain power, and all that is not necessary to that task is discarded, leaving two groups on two sides of an arbitrarily drawn line, whose only consistent positions are that the people opposite them are wrong on all counts.

The party system is also necessitated by the technique of popular elections. Elections require electioneering to organize voters. The organization of voters according to a certain strategy or goal is the essence of the party function. Money is naturally the driving factor of parties and becomes the very fuel of political development since all effective party activities require money. Those who provide or control the most money have the most influence on the party. Thus, the very implementation of liberal democratic theory leads irrevocably to a plutocratic reality.

Ideals are organizational tools for the party; the funds, however, are the substance of the party. Without the funds there would be no party to promote its ideals.

Ideals are powerful motivators for votes, but they remain impotent with regard to actual political direction, since the essence of political activity is the maintenance of power via the influence of money. Ideals are what money looks like once it has been converted into a currency that everyone can share. Money is the God, but ideals are a kind of Eucharist that proceeds mystically from the money power. Money can really only be held by a few, but the ideals of the party can be consumed by all and can give all a sense of mystical participation in power.

Since the operation of democracy via the party system requires two things—money and ideals—and since money is scarce while ideals are plentiful—it is easy to see how money becomes more important and is almost always the determining factor in American elections, with rare exceptions.

[1] From Washington’s Farewell Address.

[2] “If I could not go to heaven but with a party, I would not go there at all.” Letter to Francis Hopkinson, 13 March 1789.

Mixed motives and the Civil War

The Civil War revolved around slavery in rhetoric and in fact, but we should be careful not to ignore every other factor, as if slavery were the only issue at stake. This problem of ‘mixed motives’ is in fact the norm for political phenomena, and it is hardly an original observation to say that various currents were at play, at that the war was more a ‘point of convergence’ than a single-issue line in the sand.

What was unique, in the case of the Civil War, was that the tactics used by the North, the organization of its motives, the legal prerogatives it claimed, and the propagandistic approach it deployed, would combine to lay the groundwork for all future US military endeavors, and would become a kind of ‘blueprint for success’. Moreover, by taking a close look at the secondary aspects of the conflict, we can better understand how much we lose even when we win.

We can and should be grateful that the barbaric ‘chattel slavery’ of the South was destroyed, but we are also inclined to lament that, when the dust settled, certain desirable characteristics of Southern life were lost and could never be recovered. As a result, some of the most unattractive characteristics of Northern economic life would become universal, partially due to the imperialistic nature of industrial economies, but also due to the destruction of any vigorous cultural obstacles to that style of production. All of this was intentional, because the Civil War represents the violent culmination of economic tensions that had been building for quite some time. Yes, many of the men who died, died for the freedom of the slaves, but as for the power groups that orchestrated the project, ulterior motives were almost certainly predominant. In their case we can say that it is always possible to do the right thing for the wrong reasons, and modern political projects tend to operate for the wrong reasons, even if occasionally the right thing is done.

To understand the economic aspect of the conflict, we should note that the richest men in America lived in the north and made their fortunes on manufacture and trade. This put them in a very different economic world from the Southern states, where a distributed, agrarian style of organization was the norm. In the North, wealth was held by capitalists in the industrial sense while in the South it was held by families who were aristocratic in the old sense of nobility and breeding. The North was therefore plutocratic in the commercial and political sense, while the South was patriarchal, the most obvious sign of which was the institution of slavery itself.

We should observe, with the Catholic writes G.K. Chesterton and Hilaire Belloc, that there are different degrees or types of slavery, and what constitutes slavery for us depends largely on the criteria we use to define it. If we understand slavery as the complete dependence (total lack of self-direction) of the individual on a superior, which takes place in a context where there are no real alternatives open to the except to remain faithful to the master, then we can say that the industrial North and the agrarian South each had their own ‘brand’ of slavery. It would, of course, be disingenuous to conflate the two as if they were equally barbaric, but the point remains that by our given definition, it is a question of degrees, and that both fit the criteria. Thus, the war was not so much about the abolition of slavery but about which type of slave-based economy would win out.

As for the Southern agrarian type, we can observe that the slave owner had to provide shelter and enough food for his slaves to live, and it was his loss when slaves became sick and died, since they could not be easily replaced. This placed a certain natural minimum on what he had to provide. Turning to the Northern capitalist, this ‘owner’ did not have to provide either food or shelter, or even consider these things, but only had to offer a wage. As to the nature of this wage, it was determined by ‘competition’ whereby the workers were set against one another, driving the cost of their labor to an absolute minimum that did not have any real relation to food, shelter, and family size or health. The amount of ‘pay’ therefore fluctuating, calculated in the abstract, and under the influence of numerous factors, most of them never acknowledged and still not acknowledged, which had nothing to do with the limits of the human condition. All human and natural considerations were thereby avoided by the Capitalist, whereas in the South they were constantly confronting the plantation owner. This does not, of course, mean that the Southern slave owner was more humanitarian. It only means that, by necessity, his mind was directed to real human needs, whereas the Capitalist was able to avoid these things and think only in terms of money.

The South was organically structured, which implies the presence of established roots, and this meant that it was less mobile, particularly in the sense that it did not have the fluid ‘workforce’ that the North had achieved via wage-slavery. This was yet another disadvantage, from a purely economic standpoint and during war.

The South, being what it was, had to import manufactured items either from the North or from somewhere else. They chose to import from England, and this led the North to demand high protective tariffs. This was a primary political struggle in the decades preceding the Civil War.

What was at first an economic battle became a political one. This is how it always works. To cite a more recent example, we can mention Guatemala (the ‘banana republic’), when it chose to act in its own interest, in opposition to the United States-based corporation, United Fruit. The Guatemalan government repossessed the lands held by the foreign corporation. Propagandists were hired and suddenly the issue became communism vs. ‘freedom’, since that sort of thing always enlists the masses, who would never go to war just to increase the profits for United Fruit but are always ready to glut themselves on ideological struggle.

In this same way, idealists from the North emphasized the slavery issue to the point that it completely obscured the economic battle. It remains obscured in the public mind to this day. The Yankees held the slavery issue high before the public, and of course held up their own wage-slavery as the pinnacle of human self-direction and humanitarian progress against the inhuman cruelty of the plantation owner. A false dichotomy if there ever was one, but the chattel slavery of the South was so ugly that the wage slavery of the North looked dignified in comparison.

We must also address the issue of secession. Leading up to the Civil War, or what could just as easily have been called the Secession War, there was a struggle over representatives in the central government. The South had long been at an economic disadvantage, but this was now becoming real in the legislative sphere, and it was clear that the central government was becoming captive to the interests of the North. This is, again, a kind of illustration of the principle that democracy is driven by money—since the territory that holds the wealth will inevitably hold the government.

The issue that finally actualized the war was whether or not the Southern states had the right to secede from the union. The South, seeing that the union of which it was a part was no longer serving its interests, decided to withdraw. It should go without saying that free people who enter, as a collective group, into a given political union should be able, when they judge it necessary, to dissolve the contract. Was this not the premise of the Declaration of Independence? But the heart of the issue was not the maintenance of liberty, it was rather the maintenance of power, and the secession of the South would have seriously diminished the power wielded by the whole, and so came the war.

The Civil War represents the assertion of ownership by the North of the territory occupied by the Southern states, such that the claims of the Northern states could overrule those of the Southern states. Although it seems oddly contradictory, the freedom of the slaves was pursued with vigor while the freedom of Southern states to secede was vehemently denied.

The fluid nature of the Northern population was perhaps its greatest advantage once the war began, since all of its ‘workforce’, composed of so much homogenous ‘human material’, was easily converted into cannon fodder. Moreover, the Northern capitalists could pay their wage slaves to fight, and they did, although of the course white soldiers were paid twice the blacks. In the South, the confederate soldiers were sometimes offered official wages but in practice, and unofficially, they were paid nothing at all.

Another advantage of capitalist economies is that they can replace lost soldiers immediately and via the same tactics that they use as employers to replace lost wage-slaves. They can either hire more ‘manpower’ from the desperate working class, always ready at hand, or else bring in immigrants. In the case of the Civil War, they did both. The immigrants were mostly German and Irish, and this allowed them to keep fighting and win even while the South won battle after battle against superior numbers. When the dust settled, the union had sacrificed over 150,000 more men than the South. It was a case of quantity over quality, a hallmark of modern warfare. It typically worked, but not always, as would be discovered much later in Vietnam.

What is important to note here is that the Civil War, and in particular the methods used to win it, set the tone for all later American military policy. From that point forward, recruitment would be based on virtue propaganda about the freedoms of this or that abused group, about attacks on American principles of freedom and equality, and the real issue, almost always a question of economic advantage, would not be mentioned. The soldiers would be paid a wage roughly equal to the subsistence wages they normally earned, sometimes higher, and recruited almost entirely from the lower ranks of society. As for the Confederacy, which, whatever its errors, embodied more traditional attitudes, we find that men of all ranks came with or without pay to the front. Never again would that be the norm.

The Civil War abolished chattel slavery, and we cannot but rejoice at that fact; but it came at a cost. It meant the death of the aristocratic spirit in American warfare and governance, and the bringing to fruition of rule and war by plutocracy.

The Civil War also signified the beginning of American isolation in the sense that even if England had a dog in the fight (since it had business with the South) it would not intervene because it did not have the surplus resources. Europe’s concerns at that point were closer to home. Thus, America came into its own as the power in its part of the globe. The United States did not have to fear the interference of outsiders any longer.

Technique versus form

Those who refuse to admit that America is a plutocracy are confusing the technique of government with its form. The technique of American government has always been to appeal to the people, and in that sense America is popular and even democratic, but in terms of what actually gets done, what power drives what gets done, who drives it, and who it benefits, the United States government is undeniably plutocratic. It requires almost no effort to illustrate this. We need only point out that every four years, the people are invited to choose their favorite presidential candidate, but the choice is always between one millionaire and another millionaire. Thus, the technique involves ‘the people’ but their involvement does not affect the form, which revolves around the wealthy class.

To clarify, we can ask what defines a plutocracy. Is a plutocracy merely a situation where those who have the most money are the rulers? Of course not, because, as a rule, those who rule always have the most money. The real difference between a plutocracy and any other form of government is that the money makes the ruler. In other words, the rulers always have money, but do they have money because they are the rulers, or do the rule because they have money by virtue of this fact alone? If the former, you may have any number of arrangements from functionalism to aristocracy to monarchy to socialism. If the latter, you have a plutocracy.

The argument that America is ‘popular’ does nothing to change this. Power in society is always popular in the sense that it is legitimized in some way by some generally respected social principle. Sometimes that principle is force itself. Sometimes it is religion. Sometimes it is class and nobility. The point is that this principle, whatever it is, is the real ‘absolute’ behind power, and it is this absolute that justifies the exercise of absolute power, which acts as its executor, and this executive power, insofar as it (supposedly) embodies the absolute, is answerable to nothing but itself.

Only in the case of theocracy is there a power beyond the power, an authority beyond the temporal government, one which even the government must answer to, but with all other power principles, the temporal power is absolute and not responsible to anyone who is not one of its representatives. Thus, a power based on nobility will not be answerable to anyone but the nobility for the exercise of this power. In America, the power principle may have begun in a kind of intellectual elitism, this ‘spiritual aristocracy’ making the rules and holding itself accountable, but these men were mortal and after a generation ‘spiritual aristocracy’ became an aristocracy of financiers, and today money is the sole power principle in America.

Again, it is important to understand that this is qualitatively different than the traditional situation in which the lords held the gold, but the gold did not make the lord. The barbarian warlords of old were sometimes wealthy, but they were wealthy because they were the most powerful warriors, and they were not the most powerful warriors simply because they were wealthy. Money was drawn to those in possession of a skill or virtue: in a plutocracy, power gravitates to money itself.

With American plutocracy money is at the top and those who rule, rule because they have money, and this is why we say that wealth in America is situated in a unique position by being answerable to no other power principle than itself. Wealth answers only to wealth, and wealth is absolute. Remember, however, that for this to happen, this principle—wealth—must be socially respected on a general level as absolute, as a kind of legitimate determinant of who should rule.

Finally, a remark on how America could become so thoroughly plutocratic, and in such a short amount of time. All other power principles except money require some kind of pre-existing tradition, and they justify themselves with reference to this tradition. For example, both aristocracy and monarchy are sustained by tradition, as is any priestly power, and so on. In America there was no tradition. When Americans try to think of tradition they think of the Constitution, which for them is the beginning of all things. Compared to European civilization, the United States was founded in a cultural void. Only in this fertile and unplanted cultural soil could an individualistic, non-historical, and private power principle grow up and thrive, and in this case, the principle was money.

Public office or spoils of war?

In America there is no public office, at least not since Andrew Jackson set the precedent of treating office-holding as ‘spoils’, and to the victor go the spoils. This rejects the idea of public office as a responsible service and makes those who hold office the mighty victors of a conflict who now, by right, get to enjoy the benefits of their struggle, and it was always a private and partisan struggle.

A republic ex nihilo

Americans view the constitution much like the Protestants in general view the Bible: not as the product of a pre-existing Idea, but as a living, breathing, creator-Idea, the origin of a way of life. In England the constitution is simply the acknowledgement of a reality that has developed over centuries, a kind of legal chronicle not responsible for the creation of anything entirely new. This also what the Bible has been for Catholicism from the beginning. For Protestantism, however, since it had rejected the Church and its Tradition, the Bible had to become something that it never was: the product had to become the producer. The Bible had to be placed before the Church instead of after it, as one of its productions, and had to become the source—the only source—for Christian doctrine and conduct. In other words, the Letter had to replace the Spirit. In fact Protestantism is a kind of combination of idolatry of the letter combined with individualistic rationalist sentimentalism. To return to the American constitution, we can say that it differs from the English one by being viewed as a creative force that brought into being a way of life. The Constitution is the American Bible, but it is a Protestant Bible and not a Catholic one. This is why Americanism and Catholicism have never been able to live in harmony.

In Europe, the forces of tradition were opposed to the constitutionalizing movement that swept over the Western world because for them it represented the antithesis of tradition, as the Letter is the antithesis of the Spirit. It is not so much that constitutions are faulty, but that they are faulty when they are seen as the sole guide and are seen as replacements for Tradition. In other word, it is not constitutions but ideological constitutionalism that is to be feared, and that is precisely when Europe was dealing with. A similar battle occurred within the religion sphere with the Bible, what it was, and what Protestantism made of it. In other words, the Constitution became the equivalent, on the political level, of what Protestantism made the Bible on the religious level: an immortal document that hovers above any real, living authority, and theoretically replaces that authority; this document speaks for itself, in some mystical way, and bestows great liberties (the equivalent of political grace) on everyone who remains faithful to it.

Constitutions, understood in this way, made tradition unnecessary and rendered its existence evil, since traditional authority was a living and breathing and teaching thing, and would constantly be offering specific interpretations of the Holy Document that would not be pleasing to all. That was the underlying conflict in Europe. In America, with no tradition to speak of and therefore no traditionalists to fight for it, there was no ‘alternative point of view’ to oppose the Constitutionalizing movement. That is why the Constitution seems ‘commonsense’ and ‘the obvious best solution’ and it explains the peculiar American blindness to any alternative point-of-view, a blindness that prevails to this day.

The limits of intention in a changing world

The unintended consequences of any action will, as a rule, exponentially outnumber the intended ones. This is the best argument in favor of a minimalist approach to public policy.

In terms of American history, this principle means that whenever we consider the ‘intentions of the Founders’, we must admit that they themselves might not like the actual results of certain policies they favored, and might themselves opt for discarding some things. But aside from that, it also means that there were numerous social actualities in place which, although not explicitly mentioned in the Constitution, were essential to its interpretation and application. As one example, we can say that universal suffrage although reconcilable with the verbiage of the Constitution, would have seemed ridiculous to the Founders, since for them it was taken for granted that social and economic barriers would severely limit political participation by race, property, education, and so on. The continuance of these actualities was (more or less) assumed by the authors of the Constitution, and the fact that these actualities did not, in fact, continue, renders the intentions of the Founders null and void.

This world is not their world and our circumstances and political processes have only a historical connection to theirs. The reason most people do not understand this is because, as I’ve already mentioned, Americans consider the Constitution on par with a doctrinal treatise, or with Holy Scripture, the lessons of which are universal and timeless, and the fact that the authors of the document were not timeless does not matter.

Times change and new mechanics are introduced. For example, the Constitution recognized neither parties nor universal suffrage. That it does not forbid them only speaks to the limits of the imaginations of the authors, and not to forward-thinking.

The Constitution explicitly delegated certain powers to the central government, and explicitly reserved all others to the states. But even in the nation’s youth, there were opposing ideas at play and every administration tried in some way to increase the powers of the head in relation to the body. In the early Federalist government of Washington and Hamilton, Hamilton introduced the idea of ‘implied powers’ of the central government, which was an idea as blatantly opportunistic as it sounds. This sat in opposition the idea of ‘state’s rights’ and a ‘strong central government’ and eventually led to the Secession War.

Another point of departure from anything the Founders could have imagined was the control over the laws of the nation wielded by the judiciary. It was Chief Justice Marshall who introduced the idea, which would become common practice, that the judiciary could disrupt the laws of the entire nation by declaring a thing ‘unconstitutional’. This was a purely negative power, since it allowed the judiciary to delete laws but not make any, and in that sense its only function was to reduce order and increase chaos, but chaos in the legal systems of the states is beneficial for the central government. In this respect, the judiciary is the great destabilizer.

It would be correct to say that the Founders would not have foreseen the development of the judicial veto, since they specifically wrote into the Constitution a separation between the judicial and legislative, but at the same time this development is not foreign to their mentality. They were, by and large, all lawyers, and the Constitutional Convention was formed almost entirely by members of that profession. The Constitution is not a document of practical political wisdom, but of legal phraseology. That is an important point, especially if we recall that one of America’s most long standing problems is an insistence on abstraction and legalism over actual realities.

American legalism meant that, as things developed, many problems were referred to the legal system on the pseudo-religious assumption that they would be dealt with impartially and the outcome would be free of human weaknesses like prejudice and ignorance. This is the same type of ridiculous legal thinking that would think it wise to have a jury of twelve random citizens decide guilt or innocence in immensely complex legal cases.

Law is the result of politics, traditionally. American legalism, with its unique employment of the judiciary, created a situation in which the law and those responsible for its maintenance and interpretation, are enabled to steer politics. Or, to connect all the dots, we can say that the judiciary was susceptible to significant political influence, and once the practice of judiciary veto became the norm, that susceptibility was quickly exploited by various political forces, namely parties and money. Now law is still the result of politics, which is a result of money.

There are no culture wars

In the years leading up to the Civil War, the driving political issue was real and organic, consisting in the balance of power between the North and the South. It was an early polarization due to the fact that there were two different economies and two different cultures. With the victory of the North, that issue died and no ‘organic’ political issue has ever taken its place.

Today there is only party politics, and parties represent money, and so instead of the struggle between organic unities we have the struggle of money against money. Parties surround this battle with rhetoric and propaganda, which formulate ‘the issues’ over which the two parties will fight, because without these ‘issues’ there could be nothing to vote about, but all of this is spectacle. In other words, 1861 was the last time anything significant, in terms of culture, was at stake in a political battle, because the battle was between two different cultural viewpoints. Today nothing cultural is at stake and that is why no matter who wins the general state of things remains the same. There are no currents that really oppose one another; everyone is ‘mainstream’.

It is not uncommon to hear about ‘culture wars’ today but in fact there are no culture wars. The battle is over a small plot of ‘moral ground’, staked out by a particular group. We can grant that one group is wrong and another is right, but the whole war takes place in the same vicinity, on the same ‘cultural plane’ and at a very low elevation. Today’s culture wars are not so much ‘one culture against another’ as they are a battle for control over a single, fundamentally homogenous anti-culture.

We can summarize by saying that the theory of the ‘separation of powers’ has meant, in the American practice of government, the control of all branches by the same interests, or else the division of the branches into two warring factions. When the former occurs, the theory is null but has the appearance of functionality; when the latter, nothing functions and so it appears that things are only temporarily ‘broken’; in both cases, however, the theory is proven utterly impracticable. It is another counterproof of the Enlightenment’s assumption that a society can be created which does not depend on some authority, and creating a regime on this false assumption, the wielders of authority are merely allowed to operate behind the scenes.

America no longer deals in ‘true politics’, but rather wastes its energies in a kind of ‘inner politics’ wherein it consumes itself. Nothing real is ever decided, no action taken, no policy enacted, except accidentally as a means to the end of re-election or as a chip in the party-power bargaining process.

Or, to summarize in a different way, American politics is simply ‘business’, and by the time Donald Trump became president, he was merely the avatar of what American political activity has been for quite some time: a battle of the wealthiest, most opportunistic men in the country trying to amass more and more power to themselves.

The development of lobbying

Where politics is implicitly ‘all about the money’ but explicitly about ideals and votes, the institution of ‘lobbying’ naturally appears. Lobbying today is legitimized and openly accepted as a means of influencing the development of legislation. In a true politics, this practice is called bribery, and the conspicuous absence of any concept of bribery from contemporary political vocabulary speaks volumes. We have no concept of bribery because what that term signifies is the basis of our system.

If electioneering is money-at-work leading up to and during an election, lobbying is money-at-work after the election ends. If the elected officials are (nominally, at least) the representatives of the people, lobbyists are the representatives of money sent to the legislature to assure that money has the final say.

One of the weaknesses of the party system is that it reduces parties to two only, and that means two candidates for each election. This means that if a private interest has enough money to influence both sides so that it can put its own man forward on each side, then it can’t lose. And this has often been the case.

Destiny or dumb luck?

What I’ve already said about America’s almost total lack of ‘true politics’ is true of its inner form, in terms of its participants, the issues at stake, and the mode of operation. This does not mean that the American regime has no relations with the outside world, however. What it does mean is that these relations will be skewed in a similar manner and will represent the ‘other side of the coin’, so to speak.

Just as inner politics in America is little more than a winner-takes-all battle for control of power after the manner of competition between businessmen, with moral, social, religious, and human interests only coming to the front as tools of rhetoric in order to get the masses on board, so also with America’s external politics: in other words, America’s external politics takes on the form of an insatiable imperialism flying under the banner of ideals.

Imperialism means war on all fronts and peace within the sphere of the empire. Empire establishes peace by accepting that war never ends and by leaning into it. The peace of the Roman Empire was a more or less relative peace, peace within the borders but not on them or outside of them. With that said, America has achieved its vast empire with less bloodshed than its historical analogs. Most of this is due to sheer luck. The hardest war America ever fought was against England in the Revolution. Here the colonies were truly overmatched, but it happened that there were other powers to volunteer assistance, namely France; it also happened that England was involved elsewhere and could not devote its entire strength to the suppression of a rebellion across the ocean. Add to that the fact that there was opposition within England which favored the colonies.

The foreign powers in the New World, aside from the English, were France and Spain, but they were each in the twilight of their military strength and were of little concern for the newly independent government. And much like England, France was to prove unable to focus its energies on the maintenance of power in America, especially once Napoleon re-oriented its focus on the re-creation of a European ‘Holy Roman Empire’ rather than a colonial one. This is why the small sum he accepted in the Louisiana Purchase was acceptable to him and was, on the other end, a moment of unbelievable luck for the American union.

The United States interpreted all of these fortuitous circumstances through the narrow lens of its latent politico-Calvinism, which is to say, its ‘collective predestination’ as a member of ‘the elect’ by God Himself. This attitude would remain with the United States permanently, and it explains both its boldness as well as its inability to question the rightness or righteousness of the power it accumulates to itself. No matter what America does, at least in the eyes of Americans, Deus Vult! The elect must rise in the world. This has a double-effect: first, it justifies every political move America makes, since America is identified with Christ-in-the-world and so cannot have bad motivations and cannot be wrong; second, it  means that any opposition to American power is not simple opposition in the political sense, but is an expression of evil plain and simple, and America’s enemies are the personification of Satan sent to persecute the elect.

If we take another instance of grand luck in favor of the early development of American power-the War of 1812—we might actually begin to believe the cant about divine election. In this case Napoleon basically enlisted himself into the cause of American empire. England was far too involved with Napoleon at home to worry too much about America’s involvement and what would have been a superior military position in America became an opportunity for further expansion of the new nation and led directly to the acquisition of Florida in 1819.

The Monroe Doctrine

At this point it seemed that the Americans could do nothing too audacious, and to prove it they brought forward the Monroe Doctrine in 1823. This incredible device was essentially an announcement by the United States that it was going to preempt half of the globe for itself. If conditions had not been ‘just so’, it would have had no effect whatsoever, but here again, the United States found itself conveniently situation outside-but-in-between continental tensions. Had England opposed the doctrine it would have meant nothing, but they supported it because it was in the British interest to dismantle the Spanish colonial empire in Central and South America. It served British policy and so it prevailed. Of course, on the American end this acquiescence was taken not as British instrumentalism but as an expression of fear on the part of the European powers.

What we have only briefly outlined here is the formation of a ‘tradition of success’ in American foreign policy, which could be explained by luck but was explained instead as superiority. This created a certain national boldness and confidence that would go unchallenged for almost a century and would in the meantime continue to affirm that Calvinistic predestined-to-rule sentiment that has been so central to the American identity. When the Monroe Doctrine was finally challenged, America had by that time given itself entirely to militarism and developed a standing army capable of defending what, originally, was a completely indefensible position

Domestic imperialism

This expansive-imperialism has unfolded in a very convoluted way and made it impossible to outline in a simple manner the history and tactics of American imperialism. In this light, it becomes very difficult to see the United States as a global force for liberty and equality. One arrives at the same conclusion by looking at its ‘inner imperialism’, at which we’ve already hinted and which provides, in miniature, a summary picture of the American concern for lofty values.

In the case of the ‘Red Indians,’ we could summarize by repeated the formula used by the early Americans themselves, which is: “The only good Indian is a dead Indian.” Much as with the negro race, the natives were, from the beginning, never really considered people. It seems that they were instead seen as a kind of personification of the wildness of ‘the frontier,’ and as part of the conquest of that frontier they simply need to be moved, if possible and convenient, or else simply demolished. Since the native peoples were not often cooperative in this project, demolition was usually the result.

The imperial instinct in American could not be altered and could not but expand itself. It was not a matter of premeditation but of impulse. If the Europeans had not sold their holdings for money payments, war would have been the result. Since the Indians had not interest in selling their own homelands, since that would have left them not only without homes but without identity or livelihood, the result was violence. For Americans the practical attitude has always been that Might Makes Right and if every last Indian had to be slaughtered in order to make way for the expansive impulse, then it was again justified and inevitable, hence the doctrine of Manifest Destiny.

Treaty after treaty was made with the Indians through which they would make some concession, move to some smaller claim, and agree to peace. The United States, however, simply could not control its impulse and although we can’t say for sure if every treaty was signed knowing it would be broken, we can say that every treaty was sooner or later broken, and in almost every case by it was broken by whites. Always a frontier was laid down that Americans agreed not to pass, and always the imperialist impulse prevailed. War was often the result, and since the Americans wielded a technology superiority, only extinction or complete submission on the part of the Indians could bring peace. It took a century-long series of wars before the Indian finally gave up his dignity in order to survive as an anachronism on small parcels of land without culture or political power, but eventually it was done.

We insist, then, that the American dealings with the Indians are the measure of its benevolence toward ‘the other’; the measure of its commitment to fair-dealing and justice in war; the measure of its greed. Most importantly, however, the American near genocide of the native people is, in miniature, a measure of its attitude and its actions throughout the world. It is benevolent when benevolence is beneficial; it is diplomatic when its enemy is already defeated; it is humanitarian when humanitarianism requires no real sacrifice; it is none of these when its lust for empire is resisted.

Imperialism as instinct

Especially during its development, American imperialism was instinctive rather than calculated and deliberate. This rendered it deniable because it meant that no public official ever stood up and argued for an American Empire. It is still denied today. We could chock this up to cognitive dissonance—to the inability of the mind to entertain two completely opposed beliefs at once. America has always self-identified as the light of the world, as a force for freedom, self-government, and human dignity, and so, how could it possibly acknowledge that its actions were directly opposed to these values, especially when that image is so flattering, and the alternative is not? This is why we see politicians coming very close to speaking the truth, but then fading into the background. Regarding the annexation of the Philippines, William Jennings Bryan observed: “We cannot repudiate the principle of self-government in the Philippines without weakening that principle here.” In other words, when we destroy our principles elsewhere, we destroy them in ourselves. But the instinct had already been given full expression by the time this speech was delivered (August 8, 1900) and it may have received applause and nods of acknowledgement, just as it certainly would today, but it altered nothing and led to no epiphanies of self-knowledge. No policy was altered, because American imperialism has never been a matter of explicit policy, but of subconscious impulse.

We all know of those people who act aggressively toward others and whose aggression is blatantly obvious to every observer, but who, in spite of this, sincerely believe themselves peacemakers, gentle and meek in every conflict. One’s instincts and one’s self-understanding can easily be at odds, and as mentioned already, American politico-Calvinism has ensured that Americans will never search very far in terms of self-understanding and reflection. Calvinistic predestination is in fact directly opposed to an objective evaluation of one’s motives and actions. To question such things is to question the will of God. Thus, Americans were consciously ‘freedom loving and humanitarian’ but objectively imperialistic and brutal toward anyone standing in the way of their expansion, freedom and democracy be damned.

The instinct is deniable, and it wins because it is deniable. The American instinct is still, at least in the popular mind, denied, but it is always in the driver’s seat.

It speaks volumes about the American mentality that they can only interpret diplomacy as a response to fear, rather than simply good statesmanship. Every good turn America receives is, in the eyes of Americans, due to fear of American power, and every bad turn is, on the other hand, an attempt at exploiting American generosity. In an individual we would interpret this kind of thinking as egocentric insecurity. In a nation, it is the same.

During the 30’s, the expansive impulse led Americans into the Mexican Empire where they separated Texas from Mexico, which was then incorporated into the union within a decade. Oregon was also added by 1846. America, not yet done with Mexico, decided to direct itself toward the Pacific, which meant canals and railroads in Central America. Mexico “caused” a war over these issues in the same way that many wars would be caused after: by refusing to simply bow to the desires of the United States. After the acquisition of Alaska from Russia for a paltry sum, the border with Mexico was again rounded off through the Gadsden Purchase. And so, through the second half of the 19th century, the American Empire was at work: Hawaii, Chile, Cuba, Colombia, China, Japan, Siam, Samoa. In 1898, Spanish possessions in the Caribbean and Pacific were attached, and the Spanish-American War resulted not the in liberation of any peoples but in the transfer of the Spanish colonial empire to the American colonial empire. The Philippines. Tutuila. Guam. Wake. Midway. Ports were bombarded and wherever necessary troops were deployed. Such are the demands of freedom and liberty for all… which is to say, all Americans.

The Boston Tea Party

To understand how economic and politics motives are combine, confused, interpreted, and re-interpreted, we can look at the Boston Tea Party.

We have but one first-hand account of the event, published in 1834 under the title: A retrospect of the Boston tea-party, with a memoir of George R. T. Hewes, a survivor of the little band of patriots who drowned the tea in Boston harbour in 1773. It is a lengthy title for such a small work. It centers on the life and witness of one George Hewes, whose account of the events is recorded by historian James Hawkes. The most significant corrective that this account provides is an economic one, for the act itself was a protest against what was perceived to be an unjust tax—there is no doubt about that—but what needs to be added to the picture is that, in addition to the government responsible for imposing the tax, there was also another party in the affair. Keep in mind that the men who “drowned the tea” were not destroying the property of England, but that of a massive corporation called the East India Company.

The East India Company had a government-reinforced monopoly on tea being imported to the colonies (importation from other sources had been deemed illegal). However, when the revolt against the tea tax began, the result was an effective boycott of East India tea, since the refusal of the colonies to pay the tax amounted to a refusal to buy English tea (the East India Company’s tea was stockpiled in England and then shipped through vendors to the colonies). As a result of this boycott, tea began to pile up in the East India Company’s warehouses, and in fact threatened the general welfare of the company.

In the meantime, Dutch tea was being imported illegally (smuggled) into the colonies. This had been an ongoing problem for both the East India Company and the English government because it obviously short-circuited the monopoly of the former and avoided the taxation of the latter. In short, it defeated the corporate-state collusion that had formed to the benefit of both at the expense of the colonists.

Until this point there had been a six pence per pound duty on exports from England to the colonies, and a three pence duty on introduction to the colonies. This made the smuggled tea impossible to beat from a pricing standpoint. Remember also that the tea was normally distributed amongst smaller private vendors and was not exported directly to the colonies by corporate ships.

To solve the problem, the company petitioned the English government and a deal was struck that would allow the East India Company to undercut the “smugglers” of the Dutch product while also asserting the right of England to tax the colonies, thus re-establishing the collusion.

According to Hewes:

The company…received permission to transport tea, free of all duty, from Great Britain to America, and to introduce it there on paying a duty of three pence.

Hence it was no longer the small vessels of private merchants, who went to vend tea for their own account in the ports of the colonies, but, on the contrary, ships of an enormous burthen, that transported immense quantities of this commodity, which, by the aid of the public authority, might, as they supposed, easily be landed, and amassed in suitable magazines. Accordingly the company sent to its agents at Boston, New- York, and Philadelphia, six hundred chests of tea, and a proportionate number to Charleston, and other maritime cities of the American continent. The colonies were now arrived at the decisive moment when they must cast the dye, and determine their course in regard to parliamentary taxes.

For, as has been observed in a preceding page, if the tea was permitted to be landed, it would be sold and the duty consequently must have been paid. It was therefore resolved to exert every effort to prevent the landing.

This new measure would also, in practice, work against the smaller vendors by virtually excluding them from the picture, since it would allow the East India Company to ship directly to their agents in the colonies. And so Hewes remarks that the colonists were receiving petitions from small business owners in England due to,

“…jealousy at the opportunity offered the East India Company, to make immense profits to their prejudice. These opposers of the measure in England wrote therefore to America, encouraging a strenuous resistance.”

And so while it is obvious that “taxation without representation” was a the factor in the event, it is equally true that this is a drastic oversimplification of the problem. As evidenced from the common ground between English business owners and the colonists, we can say that the protest was not simply against a “tax,” but was against what we’d call today a “corporate tax loophole.” The protagonists in the story are the colonists, to be sure, but included are also the small business owners of England, and the would-be entrepreneurs who had taken to smuggling the Dutch product. The antagonists? A marriage of greed between the crown and a corporation seeking to monopolize a market for their exclusive benefit.

All of this matters because it provides evidence for a renewed perspective on the various issues at stake during the Revolution: on this particular point, regarding the Boston Tea Party, we can see that it was instigated by Sam Adams and his hooligans, the Sons of Liberty, but motivated by an unjust collusion between corporation and state, arranged to benefit those two powerful parties while exploiting everyone else. While we have been taught to imagine it as an example of overreach, typical among monarchs and proving the necessity of democracy, it was actually an example of what happens when economic interests are allowed to become so powerful that they are able to dictate foreign policy. So far from being a problem typical of monarchy, this is rather a problem typical of economic Liberalism, that is to say, capitalism. This also shows us how little things have changed, and how far even “Tea Partiers” are from the motivations of the Boston Tea Party. Today America is acknowledged as the “Corporate State” par excellence, the home of Walmart, McDonalds, and where it is illegal to buy milk from the farmer down the street. We swallow all of this (literally) and complain about government taxes, never once complaining of the plutocracy (for the aristocracy of Liberal regimes is always a plutocracy) responsible for writing the laws. In short, the enemy was the king, but he was a king of the Liberal era, when money dictates politics, and when kings became the pawns of economic interests. The Ancien Regime, which the Revolution is construed to have vanquished, was already dead—what the colonists deposed was its corpse.

For America, politics is nothing other than corrupt economics, and this was true even before it has a political identity of its own. This is typically the result of weak political structures in the presence of a powerful economic interests. The economic factors predominate and determine political development. In other words, America is not constituted as a political order but rather an economic order, and political battles take place on the grounds of finance and for financial stakes, for reasons known first and foremost to the financiers in control of trade.

The problem of instability

One of the primary problems for American imperialism has been the fact that empire means war and war requires a stable internal order. This was the advantage of Rome at its height. Internal disorder normally means the death of any imperialistic endeavor. America, with its inner politics being a perpetual chaos with no “long view” to speak of, since every leader at any given time is concerned with nothing other than re-election and enrichment, meant that leadership is always concerned with the now–with what is beneficial at this particular moment, and what opinions are popular today. This should have led to American collapse long ago, but again the fact of America’s isolation and its astounding luck for the past two centuries meant that it could proceed without setback in its empire-building. It was successful, and this success has built an immense self-confidence, but it is always hanging in the balance and its continuance presupposed the absence of any real threat. That would eventually change, but not for some time.

Summary of American empire building

At the beginning of the 20th century, the situation was thus: American had been engaged in successful imperialism from Central America to the Far East, and was isolated in the sense that other world powers were not perceived as a threat. These powers were: England, France, Germany, Austria, Russia, and Japan. American could not easily be attacked by any of these, nor could America pose any imminent threat to them except through allies or by proxies, this latter becoming the preferred instrument over time. This meant that America, although established as a world power, could only play a subordinate role in the world war that was to come.

We can summarize by saying that American empire-building was non-traditional in kind. It was not religious or explicit. It was achieved on the basis of a feeling, and the American success-feeling has always been centered on the economic. America did not need its empire declared openly or structured as such, all lands annexed to itself. It only needed certain tiny islands, ports, avenues of trade, and a canal. That is perhaps why Canada was left as Canada and Mexico left to be Mexico. America was content to leave political entities intact so long as it could be more powerful than any other world power in a sphere larger than that of any of its competitors. It could be content in this because this kind of imperialism allowed for a profound economic advantage, and an economic empire proved to be more powerful than any political empire ever constructed. A further advantage to this style of empire-building, wherein economic interest is sought above any political ordering, and wherein political chaos in a neighbor can be more advantageous than to actually  conquer them, is that the entire project can be realized without ever mentioning it to oneself or to anyone else, and where it can actually be denied with some success.

As an example of America’s ambivalence and in most cases outright confusion about its actions and motivations, we can cite the doctrine of ‘non-recognition,’ whereby America stated that it would refuse to recognize territories taken by force of arms. It did not matter that the entirety of the American empire, and America itself, was the result of armed force. This remains true even when there were ‘purchases’ and treaties made, since these were in almost every case only transacted due to the fact of American military power and the willingness of the government to use it should diplomacy ever fail to get it what it deemed advantageous.

Uniformity and control

After all of what has been said about American government and its conduct at home and abroad, one might ask how these things play out in the minds of the people, as opposed to the minds of the leaders. If we acknowledge as ‘the leaders’ those who sit behind the politicians but are not politicians themselves, then it is not difficult to understand their motivations. But what of the man on the street? How does he come to accept these conditions? It is no stretch, after all, to say that it is the lower classes who provide the manpower that makes all of this possible. The upper classes have not, since the Middle Ages, joined in the mayhem as fodder for their wars. How can those in power exert such an influence and control such a mass? First and foremost, by building up a psychological uniformity the likes of which the world has never seen.

In spite of all the conflict and the rhetoric about ‘melting pots’, te American people tend toward uniformity. They use the same ideas, wear the same clothes, watch the same television shows. In this sense the American people has, perhaps more than any other, been reduced to the condition of ‘herd’. They are schooled in herds, and all schooled according to an identical syllabus. Then, once graduated, they go off to work in herds. When war comes, they are drafted in herds, and they die that way. The success of this push toward uniformity has been astounding, and it owes its success mostly to the fact that America (and not Nazi Germany, as is supposed) was the pioneering nation when it came to propaganda. Propaganda was born of advertising and found a place for itself in society by inventing the profession called ‘public relations.’ That is why I have devoted a separate section to the psychology of the propagandized, in order to discuss that subject in depth.