The Ghost in the Machine

Here is a wonderful article to send to family members and friends still under the delusion that the Bush administration is somehow interested in “freedom” and “democracy”.

Most articles on Strauss are either too short, too long or too cerebral for the average reader. This piece strikes a nice balance and states in plain language exactly what Strauss – and by extension, the neocons – are all about:

Bush seems to enjoy unwavering support by approximately one-quarter of the American population. This bloc is apparently comprised of confused Christian fundamentalists who believe Bush is a man of God, if not the son of God himself;) Yet the philosopher from whose beliefs the neocon agenda derives was anything but religious: he regarded religion in precisely the same manner as Marx. Well almost: “Marx called religion the opium of the people, Strauss thought the people needed their opium.”

According to Sun Tzu, “All war is based on deception”. Strauss believed in perpetual war, and therefore perpetual deception. Who is the real enemy? It is China, Russia, or the homeland itself?

“Because mankind is intrinsically wicked, he has to be governed,” [Strauss] once wrote. “Such governance can only be established, however, when men are united – and they can only be united against other people.”

You gotta hand it to Strauss: if there’s one thing that can be said in his favor it’s that he wore his elitism on his sleeve. In contrast to the philosophers of classical liberalism and Marxism, Strauss does not couch his disdain for the common man with a lot of disingenuous tripe about “individual freedom”. In the pantheon of great (meaning influential) political philosophers, only Hitler approached his level of candor:

“For the Straussian, the people of the United States are the “vulgar many,” chumps, dupes, and ciphers to be manipulated, poked, and prodded in the direction of the “Long War,” a new Hundred Years’ War, as spelled out by Rumsfeld’s latest Quadrennial Defense Review. “A policy of perpetual war against a threatening enemy is the best way to ward off political decay. And if the enemy cannot be found, then it must be invented.”

Ordinarily you have to search long and hard to find the uncensored thoughts of our statesmen and elite thinkers.

So we find Woodrow Wilson arguing that“We want one class of persons to have a liberal education, and we want another class of persons, a very much larger class of necessity in every society, to forgo the privilege of a liberal education and themselves to perform specific difficult, manual tasks.” And John Dewey that the "more intelligent members of the community” must maintain dominance over the “herd” because "the common interests elude public opinion entirely". Or John Jay that the “people who own the country ought to govern to it”. Or Liberal scholar Walter Lipmann that the “masses” are “'ignorant and mentally deficient.” Or Trostsky that “The working class cannot be left wandering all over Russia. They must be thrown here and there, appointed, commanded, just like soldiers.” Or Hitler that “We fight against the idea of numbers and the delirium of the masses. We want to see those who are superior take the reins of government in their hands.”

Or George Washington that “Mankind left to themselves are unfit for their own government."

One could even argue that Strauss is merely the natural extension of classical liberal doctrine. Ideas such as original sin, natural discord and the “pre-social” individual, the necessity of hierarchy and the primacy of the state are the foundation upon which Strauss builds his deranged theories. They derive as much from John Locke and Hobbes as Hitler and Mussolini.

As a result, I disagree with the author on his first characteristic of Straussian philosophy, namely that it is distinguished by a chasm between constitutional government and Plato’s “philosopher king”. He justifies the state on the following basis: “If men were angels, there would be no need for government…But men are not angels…which is why government power must always be limited.”

First of all, this is fallacious reasoning. As Ken Knabb points out in his “joy of revolution”, “It’s often said that a stateless society might work if everyone were angels, but due to the perversity of human nature some hierarchy is necessary to keep people in line. It would be truer to say that if everyone were angels the present system might work tolerably well (bureaucrats would function honestly, capitalists would refrain from socially harmful ventures even if they were profitable). It is precisely because people are not angels that it’s necessary to eliminate the setup that enables some of them to become very efficient devils. Lock a hundred people in a small room with only one air hole and they will claw each other to death to get to it. Let them out and they may manifest a rather different nature.”

Indeed, the author is unwittingly parroting Straussian philosophy in his opening paragraph. In essence he is advocating the idea of “original sin”, the “pre-social” individual, the need for a dominant class and the danger of direct democracy, ideas which have long since been debunked by modern anthropology (among other disciplines).

The other problem with this argument is that he is distorting Madison’s political beliefs. Madison, like Strauss, like Hitler and Stalin, was vehemently opposed to democracy. This should be acknowledged, even if one agrees that democracy is evil. As for the idea of “limited government”, although Madison paid lip service to the idea, it was he after all who argued in the federalist papers for a strong central state to protect the “minority of the opulent”, and indeed went on to help enact such a government in opposition to the majority of the American populace. Why people think that a state in charge of adminstering a land mass the size of the United States could ever remain "limited" is beyond me, but apparently it's a popular idea in some circles.

That caveat aside, this is an excellent summary of Straussian philosophy and should be shared with neocons everywhere. No one likes to be duped, and the minority who still support Bush and his policies would do well to learn of the ghost in the machine. Straussian philosophy might well be considered the apotheosis of fascism. I couldn’t imagine a more sinister doctrine if I tried.

In closing:

"'Incapacity of the masses.' What a tool for all exploiters and dominators, past present and future, and especially for the modern aspiring enslavers, whatever their insignia … Nazism, Bolshevism, Fascism, or Communism. 'Incapacity of the masses.' This is a point on which reactionaries of all colors are in perfect agreement… and this agreement is exceedingly significant."
- Voline

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