New York Times Guilty Then and Now

Anniversary of a Fake News Classic by The New York Times

By Humberto Fontova

 “One Thousand Killed in 5 days of Fierce Street Fighting!” read a New York Times headline on Jan 4, 1959. The fake news headline dealt with the (utterly bogus) “battle” of Santa Clara in central Cuba where Ernesto “Che” Guevara earned much of his enduring (and totally bogus) martial fame.

“Commander Che Guevara appealed to Batista troops for a truce to clear the streets of casualties,” continues the breathless The New York Times article. “Guevara turned the tide in this bloody battle and whipped a Batista force of 3,000 men!”

A year later, Che’s own diaries revealed that his forces (which actually numbered a few dozen) suffered exactly ONE casualty (“El Vaquerito”) during this Caribbean Stalingrad, as depicted by The New York Times!

True to New York Times-form, during this “battle,” the paper didn’t have a reporter within 300 miles of Santa Clara! Instead, it relied on trusty Cuban Castroite “correspondents.” So who could blame Fidel and Che for GUFFAWING at the scam they pulled! (thanks to the New York Times.)

Your humble and hard-working servant interviewed several eye-witnesses (on both sides) to this “battle” and their consensus came to about five casualties total for this Caribbean Gettysburg, as depicted by The New York Times.

And true to Che Guevara-form, the genuine bloodbath in Santa Clara came a week after the (utterly bogus) “battle,” when Che’s opponents (real and imagined) were utterly defenseless. That’s when Che sent his goons to drag men and boys from their homes and set his firing squads to work in triple shifts.

But absolutely nothing appeared in the trusty New York Times on the genuine bloodbath at Santa Clara. True to Castroite practice, only when “Peace was Given a Chance,” only when their enemies were utterly defenseless, did the bloodbath crank into high gear.

And true to (proud Walter Duranty employer) practice, The New York Times helped cover-up yet another communist atrocity.

Any more questions about why Castro honored New York Times’ reporter Herbert Matthews with his Stalinist regime’s most prestigious medal/awards?  “To our American friend Herbert Matthews with gratitude. Without your help,” a beaming Fidel Castro said decorating Herbert Matthews during a visit to the New York Times offices in April 1959, “and without the help of the New York Times, the Revolution in Cuba would never have been.”

To be fair, the New York Times was hardly alone in its mendacity and/or stupidity:

Upon entering Havana on January 7, 1959, Cuba’s new leader Fidel Castro broadcast the following promise into a phalanx of microphones. “Cuban mothers let me assure you that I will solve all Cuba’s problems without spilling a drop of blood.” As the jubilant crowd erupted with joy, Castro continued. “Cuban mothers let me assure you that because of me you will never have to cry.”

The following day, just below San Juan Hill in eastern Cuba, a bulldozer rumbled to a start, clanked into position, and started pushing dirt into a huge pit with blood pooling at the bottom from the still -twitching bodies of more than a hundred men and boys who’d been machine-gunned without trial on his brother Raul Castro’s orders. The murder victim’s wives and mothers wept hysterically from a nearby road (absolutely nothing from the New York Times about this, however.)

On that very day, the U.K. Observer ran the following headline: “Mr Castro’s bearded, youthful figure has become a symbol of Latin America’s rejection of brutality and lying. Every sign is that he will reject personal rule and violence.”

These two events perfectly symbolize mainstream media “reporting” on the Castro regime, even 60 years later: The regime oppresses, steals and murders while issuing a smokescreen of lies not merely devious but downright psychopathic. The worldwide media abandons all pretense as “investigators” or “watchdogs” and adopts a role, not merely as sycophants, but as advertising agency.

By the time of his delirious, deafening, foot-stomping receptions at Harvard Law School and the National Press Club (most of whose members oppose capital punishment) in April 1959, three months after the New York Times headline, “Mr. Castro’s” and Che Guevara’s firing squads had slaughtered 1,168 men – and boys, some as young as 15.

By the time Norman Mailer (another opponent of capital punishment) was hailing Fidel Castro as “the greatest hero to appear in the Americas!” his hero’s firing squads had piled up 4,000 corpses and one in 18 Cubans was a political prisoner, an incarceration rate that surpassed Stalin’s.

By 1975, when George McGovern (another opponent of capital punishment) was calling him “very shy and sensitive, a man I regard as a friend,” the bullet-riddled bodies of over 10,000 Cubans lay in unmarked graves, and Cuba still held the most political prisoners as a percentage of population on earth, surpassing Nazi Germany’s prewar rate by several multiples.

He brought the world closest of anyone to nuclear Armageddon by pleading, begging, and finally trying to trick Nikita Khrushchev into launching a surprise nuclear strike on the U.S. Yet he was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize by Norwegian parliamentarians.

He jailed and tortured at a rate higher than Stalin. Yet Cuba sits on the UN’s Human Rights Committee.

His legal code mandated 18 months in prison for anyone overheard cracking a joke about him. Yet “comedians” Jack Nicholson and Chevy Chase sang his praises.

He abolished habeas corpus while his chief hangman, Che Guevara, declared that “judicial evidence is an archaic bourgeois detail. We execute from revolutionary conviction.” A month later Harvard Law School invited him to address them and erupted in cheers and tumultuous ovations after his every third sentence.

He drove out a higher percentage of Jews from Cuba than Czar Nicholas drove from Russia and Hafez Assad drove from Syria. Yet Shoah Foundation founder Stephen Spielberg considered his dinner with Fidel Castro “the eight most important hours of my life.”

He overthrew a black Cuban head of state (Fulgencio Batista) and jailed the longest suffering black political prisoners in the modern history of the Western hemisphere. He sentenced black dissidents to 20-year sentences in horrible dungeons essentially for quoting Martin Luther King Jr. in a public square. Yet he’s a hero to the Congressional Black Caucus and received passionate bear hugs from Charlie Rangel.

His firing squads murdered pregnant women, his coast guard machine-gunned mothers with their children for trying to escape on rafts, and his regime made Cuban women into the most suicidal in the world, tripling their pre-Revolution suicide rate. Yet “feminist” Barbara Walters hailed “the great health he has brought to Cuba”; Andrea Mitchell referred to him as “an absolutely fascinating figure!”; and Diane Sawyer was so overcome in his presence that she rushed up, broke into that toothy smile of hers, wrapped her arms around the mass-murderer and smooched him warmly on the cheek.


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Mazie Hirono and Kamala Harris put Catholic Charity in the Crosshairs

Democrats Crusade Against ‘Extreme’ Works of Christian Charity

I was concerned that such an extremist organization could exist right under my nose. I decided to use my contacts and do an investigation into this mysterious, problematic group.

By Helen Raleigh

January 2019

Two Democratic senators, Mazie Hirono of Hawaii and Kamala Harris of California, recently raised questions about Omaha-based attorney Brian Beuscher, who has been nominated for a judgeship on the U.S. District Court for the District of Nebraska. Their main concern: Beuscher is a member of the Catholic service organization Knights of Columbus, which these Democrats insist has taken a number of extreme positions.

Since I have deep ties to Omaha, I was concerned that such an extremist organization could exist right under my nose. I decided to use my contacts and do an investigation into this mysterious, problematic group.

The first thing I learned: this group is an intersectionalist nightmare. It is made up of 100 percent Catholic men. I was not able to find any members who were Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, or Sikh. Unfortunately, I learned that this lack of diversity affected every aspect of what they do.

This group likes to say that they are devoted to service. What I found, though, is that they often prey on some of our most vulnerable. One member I talked to commits to drive some elderly community members to Catholic Mass every week. Obviously, he viewed this as a way to brainwash some of our most vulnerable.

On the other side of the spectrum, the Knights participate in a number of outreach programs focused on high school students. I was not able to learn the content of these attempts at indoctrination, but one can only guess.

I tried, but failed, to find evidence of their attempts to round up LGBTQ citizens or bar women from seeking abortions. But I was able to learn about some of their more public efforts. Every year, they have a basketball free-throw competition. A minimal fee ($1-$2) is charged for admission, and 100 percent of the proceeds go to local schools.

This ableist display shocked the senses. The declared winner each year is someone able to perform an act of athleticism. They make no compromises for those less physically able.

Every week, the Knights bake and sell soda bread to raise money, again for local schools. At first, I cheered the sight of these men (again, they are all men) baking, seemingly overturning gender roles. But, I soon recognized that was the result of my own privilege. In actuality, what I was seeing was men appropriating a traditionally female space.

Every week, the Knights set out a dish of Tootsie Roll candies while asking for donations. I found this perhaps the most problematic aspect of their so-called service. The disparate impact of diabetes is well-known, yet clearly means nothing to this extremist group who ply their victims with thousands of calories. Between the soda bread and the Tootsie Rolls, this reporter found no gluten-free options offered by the Knights.

In fact, their association with groups committed to poisoning our inner cities is well-known. The Knight I spoke with reported an annual pancake breakfast, the proceeds of which go to the Ronald McDonald House. While nominally a charitable group that gives homes to families of seriously ill children while these children have long hospital stays, in reality the Ronald McDonald House is nothing more than advertising for a capitalist institution peddling unhealthy products to those with few other options.

In all seriousness, Hirono and Harris are exhibiting the latest in a troubling trend. Anti-religion bigotry is becoming more and more accepted on the left. Last year, the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, California Democrat Dianne Feinstein, objected to judge Amy Barrett on the basis of her religion, saying “The dogma lives loudly within you.”

Feinstein was mildly questioned about her bigotry by the mainstream media at the time. But it is no surprise that a year later Hirono and Harris’s attack on a Catholic organization like the KOC has received little pushback from their mainstream media allies.

Here’s a quick history lesson for the two senators who like to style themselves champions for women and immigrants. The Knight of Columbus was founded in 1882 to address the United States’ prevalent anti-Catholic bigotry. Back then, Catholics, most of whom were poor immigrants, were “regularly excluded from labor unions and other organizations that provided social services.”

As a priest in a largely immigrant community, Father Michael J. McGivney saw the rest of society refuse to care for Catholic immigrants’ widows and orphans when the breadwinner of the household died, simply because of their faith. So, he founded KOC to serve the most vulnerable women and children after they lost husbands and fathers.

More than 100 years later, KOC has expanded its charitable outreach to many corners of our society. In the last 10 years alone, KOC donated $1.1 billion in charitable contributions and performed more than 68 million man-hours of voluntary service.

The KOC doesn’t serve Catholics only. In fact, “More than $382 million has been given over the past three decades to groups and programs that support the intellectually and physically disabled. One of the largest recipients of funds in this area is the Special Olympics.” The only thing extreme about KOC is their generosity.

Unfortunately, historical truth and charitable work don’t matter much in the eyes of the left. From the anti-Semitism of the Women’s March to the state of Colorado’s attempts to destroy cake baker Jack Phillips to the anti-Catholicism of a growing percentage of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, anti-religion bigotry seems to be the last accepted prejudice.


Helen Raleigh is a senior contributor to The Federalist. An immigrant from China, she is the owner of Red Meadow Advisors, LLC, and an immigration policy fellow at the Centennial Institute in Colorado. She is the author of several books, including “Confucius Never Said” and “The Broken Welcome Mat.” Follow Helen on Twitter @HRaleighspeaks, or check out her website:

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Is American Academia Destroying the Pursuit of Knowledge?

“The Diversity Delusion” Interview

Brian Anderson with Heather MacDonald

Heather MacDonald discusses the decline of the university and the rise of campus intellectual intolerance, the subjects of her important new book, The Diversity Delusion How Race and Gender Pandering Corrupt the University and Undermine Our Culture. She spoke at a Manhattan Institute event in autumn 2018.

Toxic ideas that originated in academia have now spread beyond the university setting, widening America’s cultural divisions. Too many college students enter the working world believing that human beings are defined by their skin color, gender, and sexual preference, and that oppression based on these characteristics defines the American experience. In The Diversity Delusion, Mac Donald argues that the root of this problem is the belief in America’s endemic racism and sexism, a belief that has spawned a massive diversity bureaucracy, especially in higher education.

Heather Mac Donald is the Thomas W. Smith Fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a contributing editor of City Journal, and a New York Times bestselling author. 

Brian Anderson: Welcome to the 10 Blocks podcast. This is your host, Brian Anderson, editor of City Journal from the university to the workplace. Diversity is now the most important criteria in everything from hiring decisions, to reading assignments, to cafeteria food selection. Rejecting the diversity mantra constitutes an assault on the received wisdom of elite American culture, and there’s no right or better suited to that task than City Journal’s own long-time contributing editor, Heather Mac Donald. Heather is the author of the new book, The Diversity Delusion: How Race and Gender Pandering Corrupt the University and Undermine Our Culture. (This was recorded at a Manhattan Institute event earlier this year).

Heather Mac Donald: Thank you so much Brian, for that extraordinarily generous introduction. It’s been my great honor to write for City Journal under both you and Myron Magnet, and I could not have done what I’ve done without your insights and support — thank you.

This is a different experience. I’ve been speaking on college campuses recently, so you know what that means. I’ve received the walkout, the storm-the-stage strategy, and at Claremont Mckenna in southern California, the blockade that prevented anyone from actually attending my talk. So-called called students of color at nearby Pomona College, announced that I was a quote, “fascist white supremacist, war-hawk, transphobe, queer-phobe, classist,” and “ignorant of interlocking systems of domination that produced the lethal conditions under which oppressed people are forced to live.” End quote. So, to actually have an audience still in its seats and apparently willing to listen is an unusual experience that may take me a while to get accustomed to.

We’ve been hearing a lot of late about the crisis of free speech on college campuses, but not much about its root cause. The narcissistic victimology that is rapidly spreading from academia to the rest of culture. In a word: The American University is in the grips of a mass hysteria. Students actually believe that they are victims of oppression, at risk of their lives from circumambient racism and sexism. The degree of howling and caterwauling is impossible to overstate.

At Brown [University] students of color occupied the president’s office and complained about having to meet such academic expectations as attending class, when they were so focused on quote, “staying alive at Brown.” At Yale, a mob of minority students surrounded a highly respected sociologist and cursed and screamed at him for three hours because his wife had sent an email suggesting that students could choose their own Halloween costumes, free from the ministrations of Yale’s diversity bureaucracy. Among the shouts of “shut the F up,” and I’m censoring that, and “you are disgusting” that were directed at this mild-mannered left-wing professor, was a cry of “we’re dying” from one of the rancors referring to the allegedly endangered status of Yale’s minority students. But my favorite moment in this parade of narcissism came from Princeton. In 2015, Princeton’s black students chanted, “We’re sick and tired of being sick and tired.” Now, this phrase was first used by Fannie Lou Hamer, a civil rights activist who was beaten in the 1950s for trying to vote. Fannie Lou Hamer had grounds a plenty for being sick and tired of being sick and tired, but any Princeton student, I don’t care if he’s green, purple or orange, who thinks of himself as oppressed, is in the grip of a terrible delusion that will encumber him for the rest of his life.

Well, perhaps you’re thinking, at least the adults on campus are trying to give students a firmer grip on reality. To the contrary, the adults actively encouraged the hysteria. A massive diversity bureaucracy is devoted to cultivating the students ever evermore arcane species of self-involvement and evermore preposterous forums of self-pity. Do you want another reason for astronomical tuition? Look no further than this bureaucratic bloat. Students regularly act out little psychodramas of oppression before an appreciative audience of diversity dean-lets, vice provosts of equity, diversity, and inclusion, who used the occasion to expand their dominion.

Many campuses have created bias response teams, modeled presumably on active shooter response teams on the assumption that discrimination is so rampant and lethal, that a rapid defense force is needed. Freshmen orientations and dorm sessions in variably feature seminars in toxic-masculinity and white-privilege. Students are taught that they are either the oppressed or the oppressors. If you are not female, black, Hispanic, gay, or any of the 116 and still metastasizing categories of gender, the only way that you can escape being an oppressor is by becoming a quote “ally.” Allies are something usually associated with war, and indeed the reigning thinking is that female students and students of color are literally in a war-zone on college campuses and need allies from the opposing side to survive. Am I exaggerating? I am not. You see Berkeley’s division of equity and inclusion hung on banners throughout campus, reminding students of the university’s paramount mission; assigning guilt and innocence in the ruthlessly competitive totem pole of victimhood.

One banner featured a female black student and a Hispanic male student allegedly pleading — “allow people other than yourself to exist”– a message directed to Berkeley’s white students and faculty. This is not hyperbole. They mean it literally. College presidents are the worst offenders in encouraging this delusional victimology. After the three-hour expletive filled tirade against the Yale sociologist, Yale’s President Peter Salovey actually thanked the boarish thugs for making him proud of his student body. Yale subsequently conferred a racial justice prize on two of the most aggressive participants.

The Dean of the Harvard Medical School recently removed the portraits of its greatest physician scientists from the entrance hall to the school. You can guess the reason: they were all male and thus looking on them would make Harvard’s wilting medical students feel uncomfortable and unsafe. We can only wish these budding doctors’ luck in the operating room.

Narcissistic identity-politics has destroyed the serious pursuit of knowledge throughout the humanities and most of the social sciences. Students are being given a license for ignorance. All they need to be told about a book is the Melanin content and gonads of its author to know whether they can dismiss its contents as thoroughly repugnant and not worth reading. Shakespeare, Milton, Plato, Conte, and Locke, have all been variously defenestrated by students who have not the slightest clue about Periclean Athens, the renaissance, or the enlightenment. A Columbia undergraduate groused about Columbia’s beleaguered core curriculum. Quote, “who is this Mozart, this Heiden, these superior white men?” The core, she said, quote, “upholds the premises of white supremacy and racism.” No professor has ever defended our intellectual patrimony against such shameful outbreaks of ecstatic no nothing-ism without adding some pooling qualification about respecting diversity. Academic identity politics are now rapidly spreading throughout the culture at large. Every nonacademic institution, no matter how previously meritocratic is now vulnerable, and that means above all, the stem fields.

Exhibit A: in our cultures’ descent into identity driven mediocrity and thought-control is the firing of computer engineer James Demore from Google in August 2017. Demore had written a carefully reasoned, fact-based memo suggesting that the average career preferences of males and females may explain why there’s not a 50-50 gender parody at Google and other tech firms. The language that Google CEO used in firing Mr. Demore was a direct import from academic victimology. Google’s employees were “hurting,” he said because Demore had dared to challenge the reigning feminist-orthodoxy. What followed Mr Demore’s firing was even scarier. A regional branch of the national labor relations board upheld Google’s actions on the same bathos drenched victim grounds. Mr. Demore’s memo had made Google’s employees feel “unsafe at work,” according to the NLRB, associate general counsel. The memo thus constituted quote “discrimination and sexual harassment.”

Consider for a moment what this NLRB ruling means for science. Any evolutionary biologist, psychologist, or economist who studies the different risk preferences and appetite for competition among males and females, is now at risk of his job. These branches of science could shut down completely, no matter that their findings are true.

The thinking that got Mr. Demore fired is now the dominant characteristic of our time. It holds that the absence of exact proportional representation of various racial, ethnic and sexual groups in any institution is by definition a result of discrimination. To suggest that different groups have different capacities, cultures, skills, and behaviors that explain the lack of proportional representation is not just taboo, it will get you fired. And so, the mad rage for gender and racial proportionality in the workplace is accelerating, especially in the Me-too era. From here on out, everything you read, everything you watch in the mainstream media will have been calculated in conformity with the demands of diversity. If you are a white male, no matter how talented, you are going to have to meet a higher standard to get hired or promoted.

This summer, California Polytechnic University proudly announced that its crusade to lower the number of whites on campus was succeeding. Every college is in essence doing the same thing, if not as publicly. Newsrooms are under enormous pressure to find reporters, select sources, and originate stories that will improve their diversity profile. Book publishers are obsessively engineering their lists to prioritize quote “diverse authors and themes.” Thanks to media pressure and their own human resources departments, corporate boardrooms have made a fetish of gender proportionality.

Even before California mandated female board hires, I voted against every female who shows up on a proxy ballot because I assume that she is there because of her sex, not her business experience. Case in point, Drew Gilpin Faust, the outgoing president of Harvard, recently accepted a position on Goldman Sachs’ board. Who knew that left-wing American history professors were experts in investment banking? But university administrators and faculty may hate capitalism, but they love capitalist dollars.

Even classical music is being poisoned by identity politics. New Yorker music critic Alex Ross triggered outrage against the Chicago and Philadelphia symphony orchestras this spring by tweeting that they had programmed no females in their female composers in their upcoming season. Nevermind that at the very moment of Ross’s tweet, the Chicago symphony was performing Jennifer Higdon’s concerto for low brass at Carnegie Hall. A work which Chicago and Philadelphia had commissioned no doubt at grotesquely inflated cost. It is absurd to expect gender parody in the concert hall. The reality is this, the greatest composers of all time, whether Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Chopin, or Brahms, were male. Get over it and be grateful for the beauty that they gave us unworthy mortals. But classical music boards are also under enormous pressure to hire by gender and race for conducting positions and everything else. A classical music agent told me, wistfully, “if only I had a trans conductor, I’d be rich.”

Now, it is an unalloyed pleasure that Hollywood is being forced to sacrifice its best box office judgment to meet the demands of the race and gender being counters, but it is in the sciences where the diversity imperative becomes actually dangerous. Every academic science department, whether physics, math, or chemistry, is in the victimology crosshairs. The federal government is demanding that science departments hire based on gender and race rather than scientific merit. Science education is being slowed down and watered down in the hope of graduating more females and underrepresented minorities. An oncologist at an Ivy League medical school was berated by his dean for an examined pharmacology that was quote too fact based. I don’t know about you, but if I’m going for cancer treatment, I would like my doctor to know the facts about drug interactions.

The National Science Foundation is spending billions of your taxpayer dollars on programs to boost diversity in science, arguing that only a diverse laboratory can achieve scientific breakthroughs. That’s funny because somehow the 200 National Science Foundation grantees who won Nobel prizes, managed to discover dark matter, and the genetics of viruses, among other breakthroughs without conforming to today’s diversity metrics.

And of course, this mania for gender and race parody in science continues into the private sector. After James Demore was fired, a human resources manager at Youtube and Google, sued Youtube for firing him because he had refused to go along with the mandate to interview only females, blacks and Hispanics for entry level engineering jobs. Potentially groundbreaking scientists are being passed over today because they are of the wrong race and gender.

Guess who does not care about diversity metrics? China. The best thing that Trump could do to level the playing field, would be to air lift a few cargo planes of gender theorists from American universities and dump them on Beijing University and China’s research labs. Until that happens, China will inexorably pull ahead in science because it cares only about one thing in its science labs: accomplishment.

Academic identity politics is tearing our society apart. It is teaching young people to hate, to hate the greatest thinkers and creators of the past and to hate their fellow Americans.

The diversity delusion therefore must be nipped in the bud. The next time self-engrossed students occupy a campus building demanding more reparations. Here is what their college president should say: “Are you kidding me? You are the most privileged individuals in human history. You have at your fingertips the thing that Faust sold his soul for: knowledge. You’re surrounded by libraries that would have driven the renaissance humanists mad with envy and desire. You can read any book that has ever been written. You have access to scientific laboratories that are the most advanced in the world. You can pursue languages, literature and history. Everything is available. Far from discriminating against minorities and females and hiring, every faculty search here is one long effort at finding remotely qualified underrepresented minority and female candidates who have not already been snapped up by better endowed schools. Far from discriminating against underrepresented minorities in admissions, we employ double standards in order to engineer so called diversity. I can assure you that my faculty are not bigots. They have nothing but goodwill for history’s oppressed groups and want all their students to succeed. At this very moment. Millions of Asian students are studying night and day for the privilege of experiencing this alleged Maelstrom of hatred. If you feel so oppressed, step aside and let them take your place.”

But college presidents never say any of these things, of course. Instead, they are silent before these outbreaks of narcissistic delusion. Happy to sell out their faculty as alleged racists and penitently promising to make further amends for so mistreating the oppressed students.

It becomes imperative then for the rest of us to rebut the victimology narrative. It is not enough to call for free speech. That is, if I may borrow a term, a relatively safe stance to take. Even some liberals will back you up. No. If we’re going to restore sanity and civil harmony, we’re going to have to take on the victimology narrative directly and assert that racism and oppression are not the predominant characteristics of American society today. For all our historical sins and they have been large, there has never been a more tolerant opportunity filled polity than our present one. The preservation of freedom requires knowledge of how unique has been the west development of the rule of law, the scientific method, and the concept of individual rights. Passing on that knowledge was once one of the university’s noblest callings. But a university’s highest calling is to convey the full glory of Western inheritance, to inspire students to get down on their knees in gratitude instead of raising their fists in protest. To grasp the beauty, wit, and profundity of a vast and rich tradition, one to be discovered, if you will permit me a highly selective and somewhat personal list, in the work of Escalas, Rabelais, Tieplo, Twain, and despite the risk of student complaint, Mozart. Thank you for your attention.


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This transcript was lightly edited by GospelBBQ.

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Exploring American Liberalism as the Antithesis of Liberty

Liberalism in America

By Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn

When words lose their meaning, peoples lose their liberty.—Confucius

In spite of local and temporal differences, the authentic meaning of liberalism is un­derstood correctly throughout the world, with the possible exception of contempo­rary America.

Whereas “democracy” answers the ques­tion: “Who should rule?” and answers that it is directly or indirectly the majority of politically equal citizens, liberalism an­swers the question: “How should govern­ment be exercised?” Whatever the form of government, the exercise of power should not prevent citizens from enjoying the greatest amount of liberty compatible with the Common Good. (Not even the most celebrated liberal has the right to drive 100 miles per hour through a village.)

Democracy can be liberal or illiberal, but while an absolute monarchy cannot be democratic, it can be liberal. The monar­chy of Louis XIV, who allegedly said “I am the State,” was in many ways far more liberal than a number of modern democ­racies. He could not require an annual income tax or conscript his subjects for military service, nor could he issue a law banning champagne from dinner tables. Conversely, many of the horrors of the French Revolution were democratic (but not liberal).

During the nineteenth and twentieth centuries a gradual and problematic syn­thesis of democracy and liberalism took place. Since its beginning, this union suf­fered from the democratic principle of equality, the antithesis of liberty. We are either free or equal since equality is “un­natural” and can only be realized by artifi­cial, if not repressive, measures. (Think of a garden hedge. How can an equal height be achieved? Only by constant clipping!) Af­ter all, William Dean Howells called “Lib­erty and Inequality” the two great Ameri­can ideals, and Charles Beard insisted that the Founding Fathers loathed democracy more than Original Sin. Furthermore, the word democracy appears neither in the Declaration of Independence, nor in the Constitution.

Still, the democratic-liberal synthesis created endless confusion in the minds of many people and often caused them to confuse freedom with equality, or equality with freedom. The confiscation of a peri­odical, for instance, is often denounced as “undemocratic,” although it is quite pos­sible that the majority of citizens were in favor of its termination. A measure like this, however, is certainly illiberal.

The term “liberal” in the political sense originates from Spanish. The supporters of the 1812 Constitution of Cadiz called them­selves liberales and their opponents serviles. In 1816, Southey first used this term in English (with its Spanish spelling), while Sir Walter Scott used the French version and wrote about the libéraux. This should not be in the least surprising to those famil­iar with Spaniards who are basically liberal (and in their excess anarchical). George Ticknor, who visited Spain in 1816, wrote to his father Elisha that “this is the freest country in the world.” In Britain, after the English parliamentary reform in 1832, the Whigs assumed the “liberal” label while the Tories adopted the term “conservative.” Here the reader should be reminded that the American War of Independence was fought under the Whiggish banner and that Loyalists were frequently called “To­ries.” Yet Edmund Burke was himself a Whig and a conservative at the same time. Simi­larly, the liberal Chateaubriand coined the term “conservative.”

There are four genuine liberalisms that have freedom as their ideal. The first group I call “Pre-Liberals,” like Adam Smith and Burke. The second group, which includes Alexis Tocqueville, Montalembert, and Lord Acton, I call “Early Liberals.” These noblemen had few economic interests. Then came the “Old Liberals,” who were indeed economically committed, yet somewhat “anticlerical,” and inclined to flirt with philosophical relativism. These include founders of the so-called Austrian School of Economics, such as Carl Meyer and Eugen von Böhm-Bawerk, with Ludwig von Mises being the last modern representative. Fi­nally, the more modern “Neo-Liberals” are those who formed the Mont Pélerin Society in 1961. The outstanding representatives of this school were Wilhelm Roepke and Alexander Ruestow. It should be mentioned here that several of the most prominent liberals were rather skeptical about democ­racy because they felt that majority rule could elect real tyrants to power.

How did the genuine meaning of liberal­ism become so misunderstood in the United States? Many other terms have become mis­nomers in the U.S., such as “Middle East” for the Near East, and “extreme Right” for the National Socialists (who prided them­selves for being the German Left). We see “humanism” equated with atheism (al­though it was a profoundly Catholic move­ment during the Renaissance against which the Reformers protested), or “Orientals” identified with people from the Far East. Just as a variety of reasons can be offered to explain these errors, so too can reasons be given why a certain leftist ideology in the United States had been named “liberalism” by supporters and enemies alike. There is a history to it and it is a fairly recent one.

It began during the Roosevelt (FDR) presidency when America experienced a major on­slaught of Leftism. The time was propi­tious: a huge economic crisis was under­way, causing real misery to grip the masses. People expected relief from the govern­ment, but since Americans are basically “conservative” (in the etymological sense of the word), socialism could not be promoted as “unmasked.” It was, and still is, a “bad” word. (On the European continent the liberals are considered to be the arch­enemies of socialism and are usually seated in the parliaments on the Right.) The aver­age American does not like to be an extrem­ist, and a sentence like “Only extremes are bearable,” uttered by Anatole France, is alien to him. So, the “liberal” label had to replace the socialist one. It was “handy” and could well be adopted by artists and intel­lectuals and by persons of means who did not want to look ridiculous by using a Marxist trade mark.

All Americans love freedom, or at least pay lip-service to it, so the term “liberal” seemed attractive, while the country’s genuine liberals neither had the will nor the organization to defend it. At the beginning of World War II, the American Mercury, then under the editorship of that wonder­ful man, Eugene Lyons, published a series of “Creeds.” There was the creed of a conser­vative, a reactionary, a socialist, an “old fashioned” and a new liberal. In these es­says, one could clearly trace the rupture. Of course, it also must be admitted that hon­est, though not very bright, liberals drifted leftward. Since freedom, openness of mind, generosity, and a certain impartiality char­acterizes the genuine liberal outlook, liberalism’s “house” had all its doors and windows open so that the winds blowing from the outside could enter. At the time, practically all the prevailing “winds” had a leftist, a Marxist, a “libertine,” and cer­tainly anti-conservative character. In a sense, the metamorphosis was inevitable.

The real American liberals went in sev­eral directions. A great many became con­servatives (thus adding to the complexities of the conservative camp); others, fright­ened by the conservative label, and having sacrificed their good old name on the altar of public consent, called themselves “liber­tarians.” When I wear my Adam Smith necktie, I tell my European friends it is considered a “conservative” tie in America. They usually respond with utter bewilderment. “Adam Smith, a conserva­tive?” they say, incredulous that this most classical of liberals is considered by many Americans to be a conservative.

What is the basic content of American liberalism? It is a synthesis of many different ideas, some having American and British roots. A review of these elements brings to mind Proudhon, who said that there is always a theological background to all po­litical problems. American “liberalism” is very definitely not theistic and not even deistic in character. Yet this liberalism is certainly a manifestation of anthropolatry, of a “worship of man.” There is, of course, a certain connection between American “populism,” the programmatic belief in “We, the People,” and the optimistic “belief in man.”

I first encountered Americans in 1930 at the age of twenty-one when I spent the summer in the Soviet Union. So many of these tourists and inospyetsy (“foreign specialists”) came fully prepared to adore the Soviet Union and could not really see what they saw. Faith had completely blinded them.

Yet there were some uniquely American angles to this enthusiasm. Empathy for the Soviet system was expressed despite the in­credible squalor, dirt, stench, the general misery and disorganization of almost ev­erything. The driving psychological force behind these American “fellow travelers” was their “futurism,” which brings to mind the words of Lincoln Steffens, “I have seen the future and it works!”

One visited hospitals, schools, even a number of prisons (all make-believe). There were obviously no class differences, all were “equal,” illiteracy was eliminated, and criminals were rehabilitated. Waiters were even prevented from taking “humiliating” tips (as notices exhorted). Several visitors asked the Soviets how free people really lived. To dispel any criticism, the enthusi­ast could reply that before 1917 everything was infinitely worse: for instance, there had been “serfdom” (actually abolished two years before American slavery), “racism” (to­tally absent), clericalism (unknown). Their historic ignorance notwithstanding, these mostly “liberal” Americans I met were ex­tremely nice people, much nicer than my own Europeans.

Of course, not all American “liberals” were devotees of Red Russia. A great many were devotees of Red China and they were “building” on an old Sinophile American tradition. We found the apogee of this “complex” in the Student Revolt of 1968 when fanatic youngsters praised Mao’s Little Red Book which contained the tritest of trite phrases. Today we realize that the Cultural Revolution was infinitely worse than any­thing the Bolsheviks perpetrated, and com­petes successfully in nightmarish horrors with the French Revolution and the mis­deeds of the Vietcong and the Khmer Rouge. In China’s Quangxi Province the people were forced to eat the corpses of the butch­ered “class enemies,” and those who did not comply were immediately suspect.

American liberalism is not a closed ideol­ogy like Marxism-Leninism or National Socialism, but a very mixed bag with a number of internal contradictions. It is like a compendium of nearly every nonsense that we in the West have produced since the Enlightenment and the French Revolution. In spite of its lack of patriotism it has be­come part of the American scene, deriving advantage here and there from certain items of American folklore. It can do this because of its intellectual duplicity, which com­bines a masked elitism with a bogus popu­lism. American liberalism exalts the pro­verbial three men sitting on cracker barrels in the general store talking politics, but at the same time hides the arrogant contempt the half educated have for the common sense of simple people. What are the com­ponents of this “mixed bag”? Nearly noth­ing from the Founding Fathers, but a great deal from European democracy, a bit of Marxism, a few items from anarcho-liber­alism, and several loans from fashionable trends: philosophic relativism, hedonism, totalitarianism.

To thinking persons these internal oppositions might cause concern, but most people tend to feel rather than think. And to many, the approach of Ameri­can liberalism is agreeable: it is optimistic and carries many promises. Yet unlike a clever pagan existentialism, such as that of Sartre, who told us that life is absurd and that the history of every person is a history of failure, contemporary liberalism is sim­ply ignorant. It ignores the Biblical mes­sage that “the mind of every human being from childhood onward is directed towards evil” (Genesis, 8:21).

And just like an ignorant person, this liberalism is stubborn and does not learn from past mistakes or from history. In spite of its relativism, it is highly aggressive and, in defiance of pleas for tolerance, it is itself extremely intolerant, alternating savage attacks with silent disregard.

The first big challenge posed to Ameri­can liberalism came from the broadly popu­lar National Socialist totalitarian dicta­torship. Germany’s military alliance with the Soviet Union and the Fall of Paris in June, 1940, inspired the compilation of a “liberal” manifesto entitled, significantly, The City of Man. In its pages, the worship of man reached a zenith. The mostly Ameri­can authors proposed to judge and license the various religions according to their relationship to democracy. We can also read the following statement: “Democracy is nothing more and nothing less than hu­manism in theocracy and rational theoc­racy is universal humanism.”

Yet the democratism of these liberals always causes them dilemmas. Should they not have supported the rule of the Shah to favor the popular rule of the mullahs in Iran? Should they not support the present military dictatorship in Algeria against a regime of Fundamentalists based on demo­cratic majority rule? (Hardly any true-blooded American liberal would readily admit that the temporary military dicta­torships of Franco and Pinochet were pref­erable to a red takeover.)

“Progress” is written large in America. Ever since its independence, the United States has seen a great deal of progress. The population has increased phenomenally, people live longer, literacy has multiplied, obnoxious laws have been abolished, travel is more frequent, and huge advances in science and technology surpass that of other nations. Nevertheless, the European achievements of past centuries that have survived are a reminder that civilization might have progressed, but culture has taken a setback. (The art museums and architec­ture show this very visibly.)

The American liberal attitude towards religion is complex. There are atheistic lib­erals who hold dogmatically to the convic­tion that all religion is hokum and poten­tially dangerous to human freedom, de­mocracy, equality, progress, and sanity. There are agnostic liberals who reserve judg­ment, while there are others who think religion is a human weakness that ought to be respected. In religious conversation this third group of liberals will assume a solemn expression, a tremor creeps into their voice and they make a real effort to appear im­mensely tolerant and “understanding.” There are many others who are determined to “liberalize” their religion; even to use it as a prop to advance the cause of welfare statism, pacifism, animal rights, feminism, and every other modern political nostrum.

To most American liberals, however, religious “fundamentalism” is the natural enemy. The American liberal does not like “dogmas,” “commandments” nor, natu­rally, solid foundations. Nothing for him is black or white, only different shades of gray. Religions should be respected if people sincerely believe in them, he says. But what about other convictions like the thugs of India who waylaid travelers and garroted them in front of a statue of Kali? (They became victims of British colonialism that exterminated these nice people.) Or con­sider, for instance, the “sincere” political convictions of Nazis who believe in the Brown Creed?

When necessary, as noted above, liber­als will turn to folklore to advance their agenda. Take Jefferson’s “Wall of Separa­tion” letter, which is used to read religion out of American public life. For instance, they ignore the fact that the First Amend­ment merely prohibits the “establishment” of a Church on the federal, and not on the state, level. There were in fact privileged state churches in America into the nine­teenth century, and religious disqualifica­tions into the 1870s. Yet one of the latest and finest victories of American liberalism was the prohibition of public Christmas carol singing in Vienna, Virginia.

To reach the masses, American liberals have not only made a concerted effort to disintegrate or manipulate churches, but also to bring education and the mass media under their influence. Here their efforts began some time ago, even well before the term “liberal” was debased. I remember asking a professor of a prestigious univer­sity whether he was active in its department of education. He answered with an em­phatic “No!”: “This is the place where they throw false pearls to real swine.” In all too many high schools, colleges, and universi­ties, real efforts are being made to wage war against the religiously inspired values of our civilization. The current assault against “Eurocentrism” is motivated by this hostil­ity toward Western values.

To make matters worse, not only the content but also the quality of education has been sacrificed at the altar of egalitari­anism. Although high school students re­ceive highly inadequate instruction, they are permitted to attend college. Professors have no social prestige, so the most “fa­mous” universities are, in fact, financially elitist, a situation unknown on the Euro­pean continent. (In old Russia, three quar­ters of the university students paid no tu­ition.) Beginning at age fourteen, students can choose their subjects up to graduate school. And the professors, poorly paid with little security, tend “sociologically” to embrace contemporary “liberalism”—a situation once well analyzed by Ludwig von Mises (who had difficulties at New York Univer­sity). Most universities are dominated by American liberalism.

Unfortunately, even conservative indi­viduals and foundations have made few efforts to remedy that situation. Regretta­bly, there exists in the United States, except among outspoken conservatives, a certain awe if not respect for these liberals. They are seen as “modern,” “enlightened,” and “pro­gressive,” and they might have a lien on the future. Even many parents say: “Let us be broadminded and give the kids a chance to get exposed to new ideas in these presti­gious places of learning.”

On the wall of one American college there appear the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson: “We are of different opinions at different hours, but we always may be said to be at heart on the side of truth.” This sounds very nice, but would that be the right guideline in a dialogue with a Stalinist, or a supporter of Pol Pot? One thing is certain: polite doubt will not save this world.

The American liberal infiltration of the mass media was extremely easy, needing no “conspiracy.” These American liberals were able to win over with ease their colleagues in journalism because they held what Tocqueville called des fausses idees claires, clear but false ideas. Error can easily appear as “commonsense.” Yet truth, as a rule, is not at all simple but very complex.

With the mass media it is difficult to raise the level of discourse to avoid expressing ideas that coincide with popular sentiments and folkloric imagery. Thus, during (and after) World War II, National Socialism was portrayed as an extreme rightwing movement of aristocrats, big landowners, monarchists, industrialists, and bankers against the working class and the little people. To America’s man-in-the-street, Hitler was merely a paper tiger and a “stooge.” This erroneous view, originating from Marxist theory, was adopted by American occupation forces. Fearing a re­surgence of Nazism, applicants for public office in American occupation zones were required to fill out a questionnaire that asked whether one of their four grandpar­ents belonged to the nobility. Vice-Presi­dent Henry C. Wallace declared a “Cen­tury of the Common Man” following the Soviet defeat of Nazi Germany, but in fact this began with Woodrow Wilson in 1918. Had Hitler possessed a sense of humor, he would have erected a giant statue of Wilson right in front of Munich’s Brown House.

In domestic and foreign affairs, there is hardly an issue in which American liberals have not misled their country. They are touchy and thin-skinned people who want to lead mankind toward a heavenly future, absent of injustice and social misery. While Christians place their hopes in the beyond, believing this world will always be a vale of tears, liberals seek to establish paradise on earth through human effort.

To prepare the way, these liberals have introduced politically correct language to avoid disagreements and hurt feelings. For example, by marrying Anne I am discrimi­nating against Mary; by buying a copy of the Washington Times, I am discriminating against the Washington Post. Discrimina­tion is a law of life. We must simply choose between just and unjust discrimination.

Where do we find the most dynamic American liberal assault today? Surely not in the field of economics, when even the most socialistic European governments are trying to auction off state enterprises. No, the radical nature of American liberalism leads it to affect the very roots of life that are found in human sexuality. It wants to hit us below the belt, to undermine and pervert the relationship between the genders, hu­man sexuality, and the family which is the nervus rerum. If everything else is to be submitted to the omnipotent state, it is argued, there should at least be sexual “free­dom.” And yet, here is where discipline is most necessary.

One need not be a Freudian to under­stand its importance in human relations. He who “devalues” the family by promot­ing promiscuity and perversion devalues the very fabric of society. He who denies the biological differences of men and women, and the unique roles each must fill, rebels against nature. The Soviets boasted that the equality of the genders in their realm was perfect since women were permitted to work in coal mines. In the United States, too, women are now accepted as combat­ants in the armed forces as equally as men are.

Another danger lurks in the emancipa­tion of sexual deviations. Our sexuality is of a rather “plastic” nature—even in its nor­mal course. For instance, a male will more easily fall in love with an extremely slender girl, if thinness is the fashion, or with one of opposite bodily qualities, as in the fashion of Rubens’s age, if that is the day’s trend. Perversions or other forms of immorality often become fashions and can destroy na­tions. For instance, generations of father­less children from single mothers will likely lead to social perdition.

Contemporary liberalism reveals its he­donistic character with the mass murder of the unborn. What we have in the West is Childermass of “unwanted life,” similar to the practices of National and International Socialism in Europe and East Asia. What did Nicolas Gomez Davila, brightest thinker on the Right, tell us? “The cult of man must be celebrated with human sacri­fices.” As a result, pregnant women no longer walk as cradles but as swinging cof­fins.

How did the Right fail in curtailing the growth of the Left? Many errors can be cited. In the United States, the conservative reaction to these developments had, at least initially, too much of an economic bent and lacked theological and philosophic depth. In addition, a tendency towards na­tional “navel gazing” developed without sufficiently countering liberal international interventionism. On top of it all, the Ameri­can right failed to organize itself, allowing a certain lethargy to prevail for several decades. When young F. A. von Hayek first came to New York in the 1920s as a student, he was soon visited by a lady who wanted to assist him in this foreign land. She came from leftist quarters. There was nobody from the right who wanted to support him.

Will contemporary American liberal­ism end? It will because, as an unknown Viennese coffeehouse philosopher once said, “everything has an end, except the sausage which has two.” It will end once a huge reaction is caused against it. This re­action will probably be most strongly di­rected against its anarchical character that shows indifference to all imaginable crimes. These deviations are not punished because society, not individual persons, is respon­sible for the disorder. The staggering crime rate touches on a highly neuralgic spot. Drugs already appear in elementary schools. Walker Percy’s prediction in Love in the Ruins that by 2035 nobody would leave home without their submachine gun may indeed come to pass.

The reaction against all this should be rational and reasonable, but the provoca­tion is such that the response might take on an irrational and violent character. It is the task of the American right to make this a kalos agon, a “beautiful fight” (2 Timothy 4:7), ending in a positive history.


Erik Maria Ritter von Kuehnelt-Leddihn (1909-1999) was an Austrian political scientist and journalist. Describing himself as an “extreme conservative arch-liberal” or “liberal of the extreme right”, Kuehnelt-Leddihn often argued that majority rule in democracies is a threat to individual liberties, and declared himself a monarchist and an enemy of all forms of totalitarianism, although he also supported what he defined as “non-democratic republics,” such as Switzerland and the United States.  He is most known for his book Liberty or Equality and for his critique of unbridled-democracy. Kuehnelt-Leddihn traveled and spoke all over the world for decades. His highly entertaining lectures frequently employed the anecdotal to articulate substantive lessons of the human experience.

Quote: “If there is no personal God, everything is permissible, and if God exists, everything is possible.”

Article from Intercollegiate Review (1997):

Posted in All-Encompassing Gospel, Church and State, Theology/Philosophy, X-Americana, Z-Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Song of Celebration, Commemoration, and Worship

Wine Song

Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the first-fruits of all your produce; then your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will be bursting with wine.               (Proverbs 3: 9-10)

You may spend the money for whatever you desire – oxen or sheep, or wine or strong drink, or whatever your heart desires. And there you shall eat in the presence of the Lord your God and rejoice, you and your household.            (Deuteronomy 14: 26)

Go eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart, for God has already accepted your works. (Eccl. 9: 7-8)

Ho! Every one who thirsts, come to the waters; and you who have no money come, buy and eat, Come buy wine and milk without money and without cost. (Isaiah 51: 1)

And in this mountain shall the Lord of Hosts make unto all people a feast of fat things, a feast of wines on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of wine on the lees well refined (aged wine). (Isaiah 25: 6)

I will bring back the captives of my people Israel; they shall build the waste cities and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and drink wine from them; they shall also make gardens and eat fruit from them. (Amos 9: 14)

I will not again give your grain to be food for your enemies, and foreigners shall not drink your wine for which you have labored; but those who garner it shall eat it and praise the Lord, and those who gather it shall drink it in the courts of my sanctuary. (Isaiah 62: 8)

From your lofty abode you water the mountains; the earth is satisfied with the fruit of your work. You cause the grass to grow for livestock and plants for man to cultivate, that he may bring forth food from the earth and wine to gladden the heart of man, oil to make his face shine and bread to strengthen man’s heart. (Psalms 104: 13–15)

In that day sing to her, a vineyard of red wine!
I, the Lord, keep it, I water it every moment;
Lest any hurt it, I keep it night and day.

(Isaiah 27: 1-3)




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The Perennial Story of Political Corruption

Governments Have Been Corrupt Since Before Christ

By William H. Peterson

How prevalent has political corruption been over recorded history—and how did it originate? Quite an inkling as to its prevalence and origin can be found in a book written by H. J. Haskell and published by Alfred A. Knopf in 1939. The book is The New Deal in Old Rome.

Haskell, a newspaperman with the Kansas City Star, was both puzzled and inspired in the late 1930s when he and his wife drove across the Pont du Gard, the stone bridge and aqueduct that soars 165 feet above the river bed near Avignon in southern France. This triumph of engineering and architecture was built by the Romans some two millennia earlier. It still stands, mute testimony to the genius of Rome. Yet it raises the question: What happened to the glory that was Rome?

The magnificent Pont du Gard cast a spell on Haskell. Perhaps the spell was of the same sort that fascinated Edward Gibbon when he walked along Hadrian’s Wall, which demarcates the northern boundary and defense line of Roman Britain. Gibbon went on to write The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, the first volume appearing in 1776.

Back to H.J. Haskell. He reflected on the possible meaning of the Pont du Gard and asked himself: Just what kind of a civilization had created such an awesome, durable, and most beautiful structure, survived a thousand years, and then disappeared? And, pondered the American journalist further, why the disappearance? Back in the United States, Haskell discussed these questions with Katharine Dayton, a friend and playwright.

The time was the Great Depression, the heyday of the New Deal, of massive interventionist measures following in the wake of Federal Reserve expansion and contraction of the money supply in the late 1920s and early 1930s, and of failed Hoover Administration programs—most notably the Agricultural Marketing Act of 1929, the Smoot-Hawley Tariff of 1930, and the Reconstruction Finance Corporation of 1932. But now a number of New Deal programs had also backfired. The depression dragged on, even though FDR and his New Deal won in 1936 by a larger majority than in 1932; severe unemployment persisted year after year and even escalated in 1938.

Miss Dayton told Haskell of her conversation with eminent antiquity historian and archeologist James Breasted shortly before he died. She had inquired if he had discovered any New Deals in the ancient world. He responded: “Yes, my dear, I’ve dug up at least a dozen.”

Hence the reference to the New Deal in the title of Haskell’s book. In it he argued, as had Gibbon, that it was not the strength of the Germanic invaders that sank Rome but the Eternal City’s moral and economic corruption. The corruption arose, Haskell held, from a pattern of majoritarianism (popularism) and interventionism (widespread government interference in a market system).

Such interference is seen in the Roman equivalents of, in New Deal terms, a Farm Debt Conciliation Committee, a Resettlement Administration, a Public Works Administration, a Food Relief Administration, a Home Owners Loan Corporation, an Ever-Normal Granary, and so on.

This potpourri of interventionist measures is frequently shorthanded by historians of Rome as “bread and circuses.” It pushed Rome, Haskell held, into amorality, further intervention, more corruption, bouts of inflation, and eventually into a totalitarian state—all contributing to Rome’s decline and fall.

Amorality? Note how Ludwig von Mises similarly plays on “the standards of morality” in commenting on Rome in Human Action:

“The marvelous civilization of antiquity perished because it did not adjust its moral code and its legal system to the requirements of the market economy. A social order is doomed if the actions which its normal functioning requires are rejected by the standards of morality, are declared illegal by the laws of the country, and are prosecuted as criminal by the courts and the police. The Roman Empire crumbled to dust because it lacked the spirit of liberalism and free enterprise. The policy of intervention-ism and its political corollary, the Fuhrer principle, decomposed the mighty empire as they will by necessity always disintegrate and destroy any social entity.”

A Tuneless How-to Message

Newspaperman Haskell observed that much amorality if not immorality was involved in Roman majoritarianism and interventionism. In this vein, see his references to the Handbook on Politics by Quintus Cicero, younger brother of the great Marcus Cicero (B.C. 106-43), leader in the Roman Senate. Marcus was running for the Roman consulship in the latter days of the Roman Republic, and Quintus evidently figured his brother was too principled, too unschooled in the devious ways of politics, to make a winning race. Hence while his blunt handbook was dedicated to Marcus Cicero (just as Machiavelli later dedicated his similar handbook on politics, The Prince, to Lorenzo de Medici of Florence), its how-to message seems timeless—relevant to machine politicians today, some 2,000 years later—as well as conducive to corruption.

Look, said Quintus to his brother. As a senator and leading attorney, with many successful cases to your credit, remind your clients of your brilliant services and collect your political I.O.U.’s. Too, since citizens in outlying districts also vote, best swing around the circuit, greet your rural constituents, wish them happiness, caring families, long lives, good health, good crops, and, of course, urge them to vote.

And, of course, with urban citizens as well, kiss babies, embrace old ladies, smile in public, shake hands, slap backs, tell stories, and, above all (or underneath all), gather votes—the politician’s raison d’être. Tell the citizens, in the city and in the outlying regions, that they are the salt of the earth, the strength of the country, God’s chosen people. Tell them anything.

Let them personally know, Marcus, how highly you admire them and value their counsel, their friendship, their affection—and their vote. That is, fawn on the voters, butter them up, play the game. As Quintus wrote for his brother, as quoted by Haskell: “One has great need of a flattering manner, which, wrong and discreditable though it may be in other walks of life, is indispensable in seeking office.”

Another thing, Quintus went on, don’t be overly conscientious or careful in your electioneering. Be generous, even lavish, with pledges of booty, bounty, jobs, contracts, public works—favors you can bestow once in office. “Human nature being what it is, all men prefer a false promise to a flat refusal. At the worst the man to whom you have lied may be angry. That risk, if you make a promise, is uncertain and deferred, and it affects only a few. But if you refuse you are sure to offend many, and that at once.”

Quintus covered all the angles. He wrote: Again, dear Brother Marcus, no need to be reserved or above questioning the honesty and integrity of your opposition. Your rivals for office are certain to resort to bribery and other underhanded tricks. Right? Hence fight fire with fire, Quintus counseled. Try bribery yourself, buy off your enemies, convert them into allies. Too, why not try scandal? “Contrive, if possible,” said Quintus, “to get some new scandal started against your rivals for crime or immorality or corruption, according to their characters.”

This last idea struck home. Catiline, the key rival of Marcus Cicero in the election, was apparently making illicit payments to voters and key officials. But in Senate speeches Cicero went beyond such peccadilloes and accused Catiline of crime after crime, outrage after outrage, including murder, adultery, attempted massacre, attempted incest, and marriage to a daughter whom he had fathered with a mistress. Demanded Cicero: “Quo usque, Catilina, abutere patientia nostra? [How long, Catiline, will you abuse our patience?]” The accusations, however wild, fell on receptive ears. Catiline lost the election.

The More Things Change …

Now, what was really going on here two millennia ago of relevance to us in our own age of political corruption and rather unlimited government? Consider. Cicero’s election campaign was all part of a universal game that goes to this hour, a bidding war, a slander war between rival parties and candidates, with each party and candidate trying to out-promise and out-denigrate the other, while the wooed and all-too-frequently- grasping voters swoon over the adoration and public loot showered or to be showered on them.

Historically parties and candidates have long resorted to a campaign strategy of half-truths if not calculated deceptions, artifices, illusions, and other stratagems that many voters, then and now, only half understand and half suspect of hood-winkery. But many if not most of the electorate are nonetheless tantalized and corrupted by an election campaign—political gladiators skewering the reputations of their opponents, the temptation of something for nothing, the longing for certainty in an uncertain existence, the wish for security in an insecure world. Many a voter echoes the thought of Oscar Wilde: “I can resist everything except temptation.”

So, today’s campaign tantalizers and tantalizees are part and parcel of the story of corruption. They are not basically different from political contests of yesteryear. Fanfare and knowing winks persist, accompanied by standard political charisma and oratorical flair, by cascades of rhetoric and bombast, by political conventions complete with campaign buttons, ribbons, flags, bunting, and balloons, by parades of marching bands and shiny open cars topped off with the smiling candidates waving at adoring multitudes along a parade route.

All this classic showmanship is at once benumbing and mesmerizing, if not confusing, to the electorate. But it is also, on the whole, enthralling, persuasive, and enveloping. As are the political slogans: “Carthage Must Be Destroyed.” “A Chicken in Every Pot.” “Death to the Huns.” “Reunite the Two Germanies.” “Peace and Prosperity.” “Veni, Vidi, Vici.” “Workers of the World, Unite.” “Tippecanoe and Tyler Too.” “A New Deal.” “The Square Deal.” “The New Freedom.” “The European Community.” “The Worker’s Paradise.” “A New Beginning.” “Greater Asia’s Co-Prosperity Sphere.”

For then in the time of Cicero and now on the eve of a millennium, do candidates tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth? Do the voters themselves really believe all that campaign rhetoric and bombast? Many, perhaps most, obviously do. But quite a few of them nudge each other in the ribs and wink an eye. As Haskell commented on the electioneering goings-on in Ancient Rome: “Probably Cicero would have been surprised to know that his election charges [against Catiline] would be taken seriously by posterity.”

H.J. Haskell concluded his book with an appendix of interventions, of campaign promises, and ploys that went wrong. He called it a “Chronology of Roman New Deal Measures and Other Economic Experiments.” Some highlights:

367 B.C.—Licinius Stolo: moratorium on debts.

357 B.C.—Maximum interest rate set at 8 1/3 percent.

342 B.C.—Interest abolished to favor debtors; law soon ignored.

217 B.C.—Monetary devaluation to meet financial stringency in second war with Carthage.

133-121 B.C.—The Gracchi: Resettlement Administration; Public Works Administration; Ever-Normal Granary; two-price system for wheat, sold by the government at 32 cents a bushel (1939 equivalent), well below the market price, to those willing to stand in line.

58 B.C.—Wheat furnished free as a dole. 49-44 B.C.—Julius Caesar: panic in Rome when Caesar crosses Rubicon; flight of capital; collapse in real estate. Remedies: debts scaled down on basis of prewar values; Resettlement Administration, 80,000 taken off relief and settled away from Rome; relief rolls cut in half with means test (320,000 to 150,000); anti-hoarding measures, with compulsory investment in Italian land; Public Works Administration, work on roads, public buildings, reclamation projects.

29-9 B.C.—Augustus: more extensive Public Works Administration projects; large soldier bonuses; easy- money policy from spoils of Egypt and large coinage of gold and silver from government mines; rising prices; relief rolls, which had expanded after Julius Caesar’s death, cut from 320,000 to 200,000.

91 A.D.—Domitian: Agricultural Adjustment Administration, half of provincial vineyards destroyed to stop overproduction of wine.

97-106 A.D.—Nerva and Trajan: Farm Credit Administration, with loans to farmers at half the market rate; government aid to children of poor families; senators required to invest one-third of their wealth in Italian land.

117-211 A.D.—Hadrian and successors: extravagant spending on public works by central government and cities, followed later by heavy expenditures for wars, exhausting both reserves and tax resources.

212-273 A.D.—Heavy taxation and inflation, demoralization of business, breakdown of the middle class.

27 A.D.—Aurelian: relief extended, with bread substituted for wheat and addition of free pork, olive oil, and salt; right to relief made hereditary. Ruinous taxes; galloping inflation.

284-476 A.D.—Diocletian and successors: spiraling taxation; inflation from overvalued currency with skyrocketing prices; Diocletian’s ill-fated edict of 301 A.D. mandating wage and price controls under pain of death; totalitarian state; collapse of agricultural production; invasion of Germanic tribes; relocation of capital; end of Western Empire.

The push of Roman intervention and corruption is matched by the surge of Roman inflation. And that surge is reflected in the decline of silver content in the Roman coin of circulation, the denarius, from practically pure silver (save for a hardening agent) in the rule of Augustus (44 B.C.-14 A.D.) to practically pure copper (with just a wash of silver) by the role of Diocletian (284-305 A.D.)


Originally published as The Taproots of Political Corruption in The Freeman Dec 1990.

William H. Peterson (1921-2012) was the winner of the 2005 Schlarbaum Prize for Lifetime Achievement in the Study of Liberty. He was an adjunct scholar of the Mises Institute and distinguished Lundy professor emeritus of business philosophy at Campbell University in North Carolina. A “Tribute to Mises’s Student and Colleague William H. Peterson” panel was held at AERC 2018.

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Since When are Fascism and Socialism Considered Cool?

Miseducated or Stupid?

By Walter E. Williams

A recent Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation survey found that 51 percent of American millennials would rather live in a socialist or communist country than in a capitalist country. Only 42 percent prefer the latter ( Twenty-five percent of millennials who know who Vladimir Lenin was view him favorably. Lenin was the first premier of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Half of millennials have never heard of Communist Mao Zedong, who ruled China from 1949 to 1959 and was responsible for the deaths of 45 million Chinese people.

The number of people who died at the hands of Josef Stalin may be as high as 62 million. However, almost one-third of millennials think former President George W. Bush is responsible for more killings than Stalin ( By the way, Adolf Hitler, head of the National Socialist German Workers’ Party, was responsible for the deaths of about 20 million people. The Nazis come in as a poor third in terms of history’s most prolific mass murderers. According to professor Rudolph Rummel’s research, the 20th century, mankind’s most brutal century, saw 262 million people’s lives destroyed at the hands of their own governments (

Young people who weren’t alive during World War II and its Cold War aftermath might be forgiven for not knowing the horrors of socialism. Some of their beliefs represent their having been indoctrinated by their K-12 teachers and college professors. There was such leftist hate for former President George W. Bush that it’s not out of the question that those 32 percent of millennials were taught by their teachers and professors that Bush murdered more people than Stalin.

America’s communists, socialists and Marxists have little knowledge of socialist history. Bradley Birzer, a professor of history at Hillsdale College, explains this in an article for The American Conservative titled “Socialists and Fascists Have Always Been Kissing Cousins.” Joseph Goebbels wrote in 1925, “It would be better for us to end our existence under Bolshevism than to endure slavery under capitalism.” This Nazi sentiment might be shared by Sen. Bernie Sanders and his comrade Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Goebbels added, “I think it is terrible that we and the Communists are bashing in each other’s heads” (

When the tragedies of socialist regimes — such as those in Venezuela, the USSR, China, Cuba and many others — are pointed out to America’s leftists, they hold up Sweden as their socialist role model. But they are absolutely wrong about Sweden. Johan Norberg points this out in his documentary “Sweden: Lessons for America?” Americans might be surprised to learn that Sweden’s experiment with socialism was a relatively brief flirtation, lasting about 20 years and ending in disillusionment and reform ( Reason magazine reports: “Sweden began rolling back government in the early 1990s, recapturing the entrepreneurial spirit that made it a wealthy country to begin with. High taxation and a generous array of government benefits are still around. But now it’s also a nation of school vouchers, free trade, open immigration, light business regulation, and no minimum wage laws.” School vouchers, light business regulation and no minimum wage laws are practices deeply offensive to America’s leftists.

Our young people are not the first Americans to admire tyrants and cutthroats. W.E.B. Du Bois, writing in the National Guardian in 1953, said, “Stalin was a great man; few other men of the 20th century approach his stature.” Walter Duranty called Stalin “the greatest living statesman” and “a quiet, unobtrusive man.” There was even leftist admiration for Hitler and fellow fascist Benito Mussolini. When Hitler came to power in January 1933, George Bernard Shaw described him as “a very remarkable man, a very able man.” President Franklin Roosevelt called Mussolini “admirable,” and he was “deeply impressed by what he (had) accomplished.” In 1972, John Kenneth Galbraith visited Communist China and praised Mao and the Chinese economic system. His Harvard University colleague John K. Fairbank believed that America could learn much from the Cultural Revolution, saying, “Americans may find in China’s collective life today an ingredient of personal moral concern for one’s neighbor that has a lesson for us all.”

Are Americans who admire the world’s most brutal regimes miseducated or stupid? Or do they have some kind of devious agenda?


Walter E. Williams is a professor of economics at George Mason University. To find out more about Walter E. Williams and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at

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