Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Meet the Red Tories: The real answer to Rand Paul

All the talk about Rand Paul this week has taken place on a political atmosphere in which the very terms in which the debate is conducted prevenst people from addressing issues in a meaningful way. Either you are a socialist or a libertarian. Either you believe that the engine of government should be harnessed for every good purpose, or you believe the government should be abolished.

Because we have set up this false dichotomy, if you criticize one side (even for simply being hypocritical in its criticism of the other side), you are automatically assumed to agree with the other side. If you point out the stupidity of the criticism of Rand Paul, for example, you are assumed to agree with him on the point.

Are socialism and mercantile capitalism the only alternatives?

In the early twentieth century, G. K. Chesterton and Hillaire Belloc held forth on what was called "Distributism" on the pages of their magazine, The Eye Witness. Their effort was a part of the larger Catholic Land Movement. You can get the gist of what they were saying and how Distributism differs from both socialism and capitalism by reading Chesterton's What's Wrong with the World and Belloc's The Servile State.

Other closely related agrarian statements have also been made. In American, the twelve Southerners wrote I'll Take My Stand, and in his novels, poems and essays, Wendell Berry has articulated similar ideas.

Now Philip Blond and the Red Tories have launched another effort to explain that big government socialism and anti-government libertarianism are not the only alternatives--that capitalism is the exploitation of man by man, and that socialism is the reverse.

Here is Blond, writing in the American Conservative:
We live in a society of decreasing circles. More and more of us know fewer and fewer of us. We live alone and eat by ourselves, often with a TV or computer rather than a human being for company. If we do marry, the time an average relationship lasts decreases with each passing year.

In the Anglo-Saxon world, we abandon our old and increasingly care badly for our young. Our grandparents can recall a vivid life in which aunts and uncles, nephews and nieces wove together the social fabric of a stable, mutual society. Nearly half of all children are born out of wedlock. Many grow up without a father, some without any loving parent at all. The young people emerging from this background, denied any real education in public and private virtues, are easily seduced by glamorous dreams that promise consumption they cannot afford. Untouched by ideals of love and fidelity, they operate free of commitment, discipline, and responsibility. These unreformed teenage idioms become adult habits and ruin lives by creating people unable to bond or relate.

For men, especially those at the bottom of the social scale who are increasingly losing out in education and career advancement, an emasculated life at the margins of society awaits. For successful young women, having a degree is fast becoming an indicator of a childless future. No one would choose this outcome nor wish it upon anyone else, not least because it drains the energy from domestic life and compounds the terrifying fate of getting old alone. Everywhere we look, the ties that bind are loosening, and the foundations of a secure and joyful existence are being undermined.

What is the origin of this degradation? Looking back over the past 30 years, we could blame longer working hours that families must put in, a situation itself compounded by the financial necessity that in most households both adults must work, higher levels of personal debt, job insecurity, distrust of institutions, and fear of each other. Our society has become like a ladder whose rungs are growing further and further apart so it is increasingly difficult to ascend. Those at the top have accelerated away from the rest of us by practicing a self-serving and state-sanctioned capitalism that knows no morals and exists only to finance its own excess. Those in the middle are being crushed by bureaucracy and the effort of squaring stagnating wages with higher demands. Those at the bottom are more isolated and despised than ever before.

But decisive as these factors are, they do not add up to the social disaster that we are living through and that many, perversely, increasingly regard as normal. A healthier society could have resisted these trends. A society that still had strong families could have ensured a lifestyle that secured rather than undermined the economic base of the household. A society that still had neighbors who knew one another could have created trusting communities, and they could have produced institutions that served the needs of people rather than the bureaucratic demands of a distant and hostile state.

But through the privileging of alternative lifestyles, the prioritizing of minority politics, and the capture of markets by monopolies, we have destroyed the sustained and sustaining society. Little wonder that in a world in which binding norms, civil behavior, and notions of the common good have ceased to exist, frightened, isolated individuals call upon an increasingly authoritarian state to impose the order that we can no longer create for ourselves.

... Neither Left nor Right can offer an answer because both ideologies have collapsed as both have become the same. Those who construe the libertarian individual as the center of current rightist thought actually draw upon an extreme Left conception that finds its original expression in Rousseau, who held that society was primordial imprisonment. It was Rousseau whose social theory forced the diversity of the world to conform to the general will—which was but this same individualism writ large—thereby sponsoring the rationalist and secular red terror of the French Revolution. In fact, any anarchic construal of the self requires for its social realization an authoritarian statism to control the forces that are unleashed. Collectivism and individualism are but two sides of the same devalued and degraded currency. And this has been the history of recent modernity—an oscillation between the state and the individual that gradually erodes civil association, which is in reality the only check on the extremes of either.

Forget the moral posturing of Whiteliberals--and the modern mechanist economic reductionism of the libertarians. Read Philip Blond.


KyCobb said...

And Rand Paul continues to quack like a racist, as he tells Russian television that he wants to repeal the 14th Amendment so that brown babies born in the US can be denied US citizenship and deported along with their parents.

Martin Cothran said...


So you saying that, for example, children of Mexicans who come here and give birth should be citizens here? And are you saying immigration policy that prevents this is racist--presumably because it is Draconian and Draconian immigration policies are racist?

But have you seen Mexico's immigration policies? They are more Draconian than Paul would have ours be--and therefore, they are racist, right?

So you're saying we should allow people to come here from a racist state and have their children here. According to your logic, isn't that a racist position?

Shame on you.

KyCobb said...


Your notion of logic is bizarre. Are you telling me that you think babies born in America will be racist because their parents are Mexican? What possible relevance does Mexican immigration policy have to babies born in the US?

KyCobb said...


Based on this story, it doesn't seem to be all that difficult for Americans to emigrate to Mexico. Could the "Mexico has a racist immigration policy" be yet another right-wing myth?


Thomas M. Cothran said...


I'm not sure what your point has to do with this post, as the post is not endorsing Rand Paul's libertarian individualism, but posing a better alternative.

Lee said...

> or you believe the government should be abolished.

Is that a fair characterization of libertarianism? I consider myself a conservative of a sort with libertarian sympathies, and I'm not blind to some of the blindnesses of libertarians. But Albert Jay Nock was the last person I've read who thinks government has no legitimate function. Even libetarians think we need government.

So you're just exaggerating, right?