It’s not news that there is a persistent (and widely promoted) perception that Intelligent Design is little more than Creationism in a cheap tuxedo suit, an attempt to dress up a Christo-fascist, right-wing, theocratic agenda as though it were legitimate science, fraudulently stealing the prestige of science. (For people who believe this, science . . . in Richard Lewontin’s tellingly self-refuting phrase . . . is as a rule viewed as “the only begetter of truth.” [NB: this is a philosophical claim about accessing truth and warranting it, not a scientific one; so, such scientism falsifies itself and tends to cause self-reinforcing confusion and polarisation.])
So pernicious is this insinuation or allegation, that if we are to clear and de-polarise the atmosphere in the public square enough to actually discuss origins science and related issues in a reasonably calm manner, this issue will have to be answered.
That’s our task today — at least, at a 102 level.
A good place to begin, is with the rise of modern constitutional, limited government democracy and its charter, the US Declaration of Independence (1776) and Constitution (1787 – 9, grand statement overview):
>>US DoI: When . . . it becomes necessary for one people . . . to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, [cf Rom 1:18 – 21, 2:14 – 15], that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. –That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security . . . >>
>>US Constitution: We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty [–> a key phrase, reflecting the Reformation era double-covenant view, nationhood and government under the God who blesses righteousness] to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America . . . . [Main Body, Articles I – VII] . . . . Done in Convention by the Unanimous Consent of the States present the Seventeenth Day of September in the Year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and Eighty seven and of the Independence of the United States of America the Twelfth. In Witness whereof We have hereunto subscribed our Names. . . . . [AMENDMENTS, starting with the bill of rights].>>
Now, obviously, the US founders and framers were aiming for the sweet-spot of limited, constitutional government rooted in justice/rights and in the consent of the governed. They were very aware of the vortex of tyranny, abuse, corruption and oppression that governments (of whatever form) are prone to fall into, and are always needing reforms to address. Yes, governments instituted by finite, fallible, morally struggling and too often ill-willed and manipulated creatures such as we are, will always have defects and so will always need reformation. (NB: Before racing off on talking points regarding the sins of Christendom, please cf. here on.)
Likewise, the founders understood the chaotic implications of anarchy and how people facing such will usually clamour for strong rule to restore order and safety — even at the risk or cost of tyranny:
A second helpful point — if we wish to discuss in a calmer mood, is an observation by Bernard Lewis in his epochal 1990 essay, The Roots of Muslim Rage:
>>. . . The accusations are familiar. We of the West are accused of sexism, racism, and imperialism, institutionalized in patriarchy and slavery, tyranny and exploitation. To these charges, and to others as heinous, we have no option but to plead guilty — not as Americans, nor yet as Westerners, but simply as human beings, as members of the human race. In none of these sins are we the only sinners, and in some of them we are very far from being the worst. The treatment of women in the Western world, and more generally in Christendom, has always been unequal and often oppressive, but even at its worst it was rather better than the rule of polygamy and concubinage that has otherwise been the almost universal lot of womankind on this planet . . . .
In having practiced sexism, racism, and imperialism, the West was merely following the common practice of mankind through the millennia of recorded history. Where it is distinct from all other civilizations is in having recognized, named, and tried, not entirely without success, to remedy these historic diseases. And that is surely a matter for congratulation, not condemnation. We do not hold Western medical science in general, or Dr. Parkinson and Dr. Alzheimer in particular, responsible for the diseases they diagnosed and to which they gave their names.>>
By AD 9, at the hands of Arminius (sometime commander of a Cheruscan detachment of Roman auxiliary forces . . . itself a portent), Rome had already suffered the loss of three critically needed legions at Teutoberg Forest in Germany. This meant that Rome was forever vulnerable from the West through Germany and Gaul.
By the 400’s – 600’s the Western Roman Empire collapsed under waves of invasion and immigration, breakdown of government and epidemics. As a result there was one pan European institution still standing in the West, the organised Christian church. And, since by about the same time, a massive defeat at the hands of barbarian cavalry at Adrianople in 378 showed cavalry ascendant, infantry went into a long-term decline. This meant that under the circumstances, the core of effective military power was heavy, well-trained armoured cavalry (cf. here), which was both expensive and required much devotion to training and practice. An elite, expensive, decisive force.
The result was that Europe faced chaos and further invasion, depredations and epidemics, etc. The fury of the Norsemen is proverbial, as the viking age burst upon the world with the notorious devastating raid on Lindisfarne of 793 being iconic. Nor, should we forget the major invasion of Europe from the South and East, by Muslim forces, commonly known as Moors. Charles Martel, victor at Tours, was grandfather to Charlemagne, first Holy Roman Emperor, so-called.
It is therefore unsurprising that the stabilising centre that emerged was in effect a heavy cavalry warrior class (chain, scale or laminar armour at first, the familiar plate armour was much later) allied with the clerics. Survival and the correlation of forces — a very useful Marxist concept — drove that, and if the realistic choice is domineering government or chaos and being at the mercy of marauding pirates, people will pick the former every time: give us a king to rule over us and lead us in battle.
Under such circumstances, the rise of the Feudal era and its governance culture characteristics makes a lot of sense; but, it is painful sense, written in blood and tears. At best, one could hope for lawful government, rooted in the corpus of law synthesised under Justinian as Corpus Juris Civilis, or perhaps the growing body of Common Law that emerged in England starting with Alfred the Great (and especially his Book of Dooms [cf. excerpts]).
As the graphic above hints at, sustainable democratisation only became feasible when first there was a re-balancing of the correlation of socio-cultural and military forces, initially through the rise of pike and longbow-armed infantry able to stand the charge of massed heavy cavalry at places like Crecy, Bannockburn and Agincourt. Muskets came later, and multiplied the trend. Their big brothers, cannon, enabled centralisation of power as only well-pursed kings were now able to afford big enough siege trains able to reduce old fashioned fortifications in short order, and ocean-spanning navies manned by ordinary seamen.
But far more important, was the rise of printing and the spreading of a trade in books, broadsheets, tracts and eventually newspapers, joined to the growing development of a literate general public. In this process, it is no accident that the very first book to be printed was the Gutenberg Bible, and it is no surprise that the Reformation spread across Germany and beyond when printers ran off Martin Luther’s 95 points for an intended debate and distributed it all across Germany in the course of scarcely six weeks.
The effect of this cluster of democratising forces was that modern constitutional limited democratic government only became feasible across the 1600’s and 1700’s.
Before that, all forms of government were only able to access the lower left corner of the space for government, and rebellions or breakdowns triggered or threatened a snap to the upper-right, leading to the call for a new strong man or oligarchy. Mix in selfish, ruthless factionalism, corruption, cronyism and ambitions, and the typical pattern of politics as a vicious blood sport of the elites to the cost of the ordinary people is readily explained.
And of course that is exactly when modern constitutional, democratically accountable — “We the People . . .” — limited government tasked to use the sword of the state in defence of the civil peace of justice emerged, with the United States being a particularly important first demonstration of the success of such modern democracy.
(And yes, the US founders and framers were leery of the dangers of mob rule, so they sought a balanced, mixed system with checks and balances across legislative, executive and judicial arms, with people power not only to petition but to hold accountable through elections.)
However, a very important precursor was the Dutch Republic and its declaration of Independence from Philip II of Spain, 1581:
>> . . . a prince is constituted by God to be ruler of a people, to defend them from oppression and violence as the shepherd his sheep; and whereas God did not create the people slaves to their prince, to obey his commands, whether right or wrong, but rather the prince for the sake of the subjects (without which he could be no prince), to govern them according to equity, to love and support them as a father his children or a shepherd his flock, and even at the hazard of life to defend and preserve them. And when he does not behave thus, but, on the contrary, oppresses them, seeking opportunities to infringe their ancient customs and privileges . . . then he is no longer a prince, but a tyrant, and the subjects are to consider him in no other view . . . This is the only method left for subjects whose humble petitions and remonstrances could never soften their prince or dissuade him from his tyrannical proceedings; and this is what the law of nature dictates for the defense of liberty, which we ought to transmit to posterity, even at the hazard of our lives. . . . . So, having no hope of reconciliation, and finding no other remedy, we have, agreeable to the law of nature in our own defense, and for maintaining the rights, privileges, and liberties of our countrymen, wives, and children, and latest posterity from being enslaved by the Spaniards, been constrained to renounce allegiance to the King of Spain, and pursue such methods as appear to us most likely to secure our ancient liberties and privileges. >>
A mere glance at such documents and underlying thought will at once show them to be deeply rooted in the Judaeo-Christian, Creation-anchored ethical theistic vision of blessed nationhood and just government under God, in accord with the laws of moral government appropriate to our nature. That is, the laws of nature and of nature’s God.
This does not sit well with the preferred secularist narrative of our time: theocracy is the primary threat to freedom, knowledge and progress [to what?]. But, it is historically deeply warranted.
For instance, in his second treatise on civil government, Ch 2, to lay the natural law- rights- equality foundation for what would become modern constitutional, limited democratic government, Locke cites “the judicious [Anglican Canon Richard] Hooker [in his Ecclesiastical Polity, 1594+]” on equality of nature and how our sense of being owed duties of justice leads to understanding and recognition of mutual rights and duties:
>>. . . if I cannot but wish to receive good, even as much at every man’s hands, as any man can wish unto his own soul, how should I look to have any part of my desire herein satisfied, unless myself be careful to satisfy the like desire which is undoubtedly in other men . . . my desire, therefore, to be loved of my equals in Nature, as much as possible may be, imposeth upon me a natural duty of bearing to themward fully the like affection. From which relation of equality between ourselves and them that are as ourselves, what several rules and canons natural reason hath drawn for direction of life no man is ignorant . . . [Hooker then continues, citing Aristotle in The Nicomachean Ethics, Bk 8:] as namely, That because we would take no harm, we must therefore do none; That since we would not be in any thing extremely dealt with, we must ourselves avoid all extremity in our dealings; That from all violence and wrong we are utterly to abstain, with such-like . . . [Eccl. Polity, preface, Bk I, “ch.” 8, p.80, cf. here. Emphasis added.]>>
The echoes of the Golden Rule of Moshe, Jesus and “Paulo, Apostolo, Mart,” in the Judaeo-Christian Scriptural Tradition are patent. Let me cite Rom 13:8 – 10 as that addresses citizenship and law:
>>Rom 13:8 Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. 9 For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong [–> or, harm] to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.>>
Blackstone, in his well-known Commentaries on the Laws of England, 1765, adds:
>>Man, considered as a creature, must necessarily be subject to the laws of his creator, for he is entirely a dependent being . . . consequently, as man depends absolutely upon his maker for every thing, it is necessary that he should in all points conform to his maker’s will. This will of his maker is called the law of nature. For as God, when he created matter, and endued it with a principle of mobility, established certain rules for the perpetual direction of that motion; so, when he created man, and endued him with freewill to conduct himself in all parts of life, he laid down certain immutable laws of human nature, whereby that freewill is in some degree regulated and restrained, and gave him also the faculty of reason to discover the purport of those laws . . . These are the eternal, immutable laws of good and evil, to which the creator himself in all his dispensations conforms; and which he has enabled human reason to discover, so far as they are necessary for the conduct of human actions. Such among others are these principles: that we should live honestly [NB: cf. Exod. 20:15 – 16], should hurt nobody [NB: cf. Rom 13:8 – 10], and should render to every one his due [NB: cf. Rom 13:6 – 7 & Exod. 20:15]; to which three general precepts Justinian[1: a Juris praecepta sunt hace, honeste vivere. alterum non laedere, suum cuique tribuere. Inst, 1. 1. 3] has reduced the whole doctrine of law [and, Corpus Juris, Justinian’s Christianised precis and pruning of perhaps 1,000 years of Roman jurisprudence, in turn is the foundation of law for much of Europe].>>
And so, of course, it is quite plain that the Judaeo-Christian tradition has clearly made a major — but now often forgotten or dismissed — contribution to the rise of modern liberty and democratic self-government.
Why, then, do we see the ever so common insinuation, accusation or simple taken-for-fact assumption that Design thought is a fraudulent front for Christo-fascist, right-wing Creationist theocracy designed to overthrow progress, science, equality and freedom, returning us to the dark ages?
First, because there is a grand myth of recent secularist progress, liberation and enlightenment through the triumph of science in the perpetual war with superstition, elitism and fundamentalist ignorance. Where fundies, everybody “knows,” are oh so prone to use violence and terrorism to impose their dubious agenda on us all.
A classic statement of this, is in Lewontin’s notorious 1997 NYRB review of Sagan’s The Demon-haunted World, in which he stated:
>>. . . to put a correct view of the universe into people’s heads [–> notice, the context of intended indoctrination, with a hint of being backed up by secularist institutional power to enforce such indoctrination] we [–> who? the Evolutionary Materialist elites, that’s who] must first get an incorrect view out . . . the problem is to get them to reject irrational and supernatural explanations of the world [–> note the ready equation of ethical theism with ignorance and irrationality], the demons [–> notice, equating the inherently good Creator God, a necessary and maximally great being, to destructive demons] that exist only in their imaginations [–> assumption of atheism, to be duly dressed up in a lab coat], and to accept a social and intellectual apparatus, Science, as the only begetter of truth [–> NB: this is a knowledge claim about knowledge and its possible sources, i.e. it is a claim in philosophy not science; it is thus self-refuting]. . . . To Sagan, as to all but a few other scientists, it is self-evident [–> actually, science and its knowledge claims are plainly not immediately and necessarily true on pain of absurdity, to one who understands them; this is another logical error, begging the question , confused for real self-evidence; whereby a claim shows itself not just true but true on pain of patent absurdity if one tries to deny it . . ] that the practices of science provide the surest method of putting us in contact with physical reality [–> to an evolutionary materialist thinker, all of reality], and that, in contrast, the demon-haunted world rests on a set of beliefs and behaviors that fail every reasonable test [–> i.e. an assertion that tellingly reveals a hostile mindset, not a warranted claim] . . . .It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes [–> another major begging of the question . . . ] to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute [–> i.e. here we see the fallacious, indoctrinated, ideological, closed mind . . . ], for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door. [–> whose door?] The eminent Kant scholar Lewis Beck used to say that anyone who could believe in God could believe in anything. [–> irrationality projection again] To appeal to an omnipotent deity is to allow that at any moment the regularities of nature may be ruptured, that miracles may happen [–> again, the irrationality thesis, while actually for miracles to stand out as signs pointing beyond the usual course of the world, there must be a reliable usual course backed by the enabling of a Creator who is Reason Himself, an order that was studied and discerned by the foundational modern scientists “thinking God’s [creative and providential thoughts] after him”] . . . [[From: “Billions and Billions of Demons,” NYRB, January 9, 1997. Bold emphasis and notes added. If you imagine this is “quote-mined” kindly cf here.]>>
This is a case where to simply cite, highlight and comment suffices to expose the ruthless power and dominance of the reigning, radically secularist evolutionary materialist, scientism-driven, progressivist elites.
Modern design theory and thought, by contrast, argues that on empirically tested, commonly seen and reliable signs such as functionally specific, complex organisation and associated information, it is reasonable to infer that the world of cell based life is replete with indicators of design as cause. Indicators that are seen to be credible once the a priori evolutionary materialism straight-jacket and blinkers are removed from science. Similarly, the evidence pointing to a cosmos with its physics fine-tuned in many ways that enable C-chemistry, aqueous medium, cell based life also points to design as best current causal explanation. And no, there is no need to appeal to or smuggle in scriptural texts and teachings to reach such conclusions. After all, that Bible-thumping fundy — NOT — Plato is a precursor to design thought.
But aren’t Intelligent Design Movement Creationists in a conspiracy with other Christo-Fascist, right-wing fundamentalists to impose a tyrannical theocracy in which established churches legislate our laws?
This needs some deconstructing.
First, the modern design theory movement is simply not a form of scripture-quoting Creationism, and if one so broadens “Creationism” that anyone who sees signs of design is deemed a “Creationist,” that term simply becomes a means of smearing people with the taint of “Fundamentalism,” “Theocracy,” “Fascism” etc.
Little more than polarising name-calling and guilt by invidious association.
That needs to stop.
Next, it should be patent that in a constitutional limited-government democracy, it is elected representatives in legislatures who account to the public as a whole who have power to make law, not some established church. Something that a lot of Christians helped to put in place, and something that the overwhelming majority of Christians strongly support.
Further, believing in God as the champion of Justice who endowed people with his image and so also responsible, rational, morally governed freedom and rights is not a sure mark of intent to impose tyrannical theocracy. Instead, it reflects a key insight on the nature and roots of a world in which there are responsibly free, reasoning, morally governed creatures. That is, that in such a world as we inhabit, justice, rights, duties and other moral OUGHTs must be rooted in a world-foundational IS.
For, non-being (the real no-thing) can have no causal powers so if utter nothing ever was, such would forever obtain. Thus — as a world now patently is — there was always a necessary being, one which cannot not be, as the very root of reality in any actual world. Moreover, such will forever obtain, by virtue of that necessity of being and so also, some world shall always be.Our temporal world entails an underlying eternal, necessary being reality as its ground.
In such a context, finding ourselves under moral government, we will find that the only serious candidate necessary being and credible explanation for such a world, is that that necessary being, eternal IS is the root of OUGHT. Namely, a necessary, maximally great inherently good Creator-God worthy of ultimate loyalty and the responsible, freely offered reasonable — not irrational, ignorant or superstitious! — service of doing the good as enlightened in the first instance by our evident nature.
And so, morality is an inextricable part of the core fabric of reality.
So also, the laws of nature and of nature’s God that govern us.
The real question (as is posed in the epochal second para of the US DoI) is whether we are willing to acknowledge and live by such self-evident truths, or will instead insist on clinging to the absurdities attendant on rejecting them, to our detriment and the ruin of our civilisation. Whether this happens by sliding directly into the vortex of tyranny or else via the repelling pole by chaos, crisis and anarchy leading to the cry for order, even at the price of liberty and justice, makes but little difference.
Locke, in the introduction to his essay on human understanding, section 5, counsels us soberingly — even, explicitly citing both the New Testament and the Old Testament — that the candle that is set up in us shines brightly enough for all our purposes:
>>Men Men have reason to be well satisfied with what God hath thought fit for them, since he hath given them (as St. Peter says [NB: i.e. 2 Pet 1:2 – 4]) pana pros zoen kaieusebeian, whatsoever is necessary for the conveniences of life and information of virtue; and has put within the reach of their discovery, the comfortable provision for this life, and the way that leads to a better. How short soever their knowledge may come of an universal or perfect comprehension of whatsoever is, it yet secures their great concernments [Prov 1: 1 – 7], that they have light enough to lead them to the knowledge of their Maker, and the sight of their own duties [cf Rom 1 – 2, Ac 17, etc, etc]. Men may find matter sufficient to busy their heads, and employ their hands with variety, delight, and satisfaction, if they will not boldly quarrel with their own constitution, and throw away the blessings their hands are filled with, because they are not big enough to grasp everything . . . It will be no excuse to an idle and untoward servant [Matt 24:42 – 51], who would not attend his business by candle light, to plead that he had not broad sunshine. The Candle that is set up in us [Prov 20:27, cf. Matt 6:22 – 23 and Eph. 4:17 – 24] shines bright enough for all our purposes . . . If we will disbelieve everything, because we cannot certainly know all things, we shall do muchwhat as wisely as he who would not use his legs, but sit still and perish, because he had no wings to fly.>>
What about the dangerous, right-wing fascism?
First, we need to clarify the commonly understood meanings of socialism, capitalism and fascism, per the Collins English Dictionary:
1. (Economics) an economic theory or system in which the means of production, distribution, and exchange are owned by the community collectively, usually through the state. It is characterized by production for use rather than profit, by equality of individual wealth, by the absence of competitive economic activity, and, usually, by government determination of investment, prices, and production levels. Compare capitalism
2. (Government, Politics & Diplomacy) any of various social or political theories or movements in which the common welfare is to be achieved through the establishment of a socialist economic system
3. (Government, Politics & Diplomacy) (in Leninist theory) a transitional stage after the proletarian revolution in the development of a society from capitalism to communism: characterized by the distribution of income according to work rather than need
1. (Economics) Also called: free enterprise or private enterprise an economic system based on the private ownership of the means of production, distribution, and exchange, characterized by the freedom of capitalists to operate or manage their property for profit in competitive conditions. Compare socialism1
1. (Government, Politics & Diplomacy) the political movement, doctrine, system, or regime of Benito Mussolini in Italy, which encouraged militarism and nationalism, organizing the country along hierarchical authoritarian lines
n (sometimes capital)
1. (Government, Politics & Diplomacy) any ideology or movement inspired by Italian Fascism, such as German National Socialism; any right-wing nationalist ideology or movement with an authoritarian and hierarchical structure that is fundamentally opposed to democracy and liberalism
2. (Government, Politics & Diplomacy) any ideology, movement, programme, tendency, etc, that may be characterized as right-wing, chauvinist, authoritarian, etc
3. prejudice in relation to the subject specified: body fascism.
[C20: from Italian fascismo, from fascio political group, from Latin fascis bundle; see fasces]>>
But in fact, it is arguable that the typical political discourse of left vs right wings is outdated once traditional Monarchy lost the contest to classical liberal, constitutional democratic government and liberal, free-market, free enterprise economics has shown itself so superior that the largest nominally communist state in the world, China, has reverted to market economics, including even a stock exchange. Where also, the second most populous Communist — indeed Stalinist — state, North Korea is evidently now a monarchy in its third generation of de facto kings, the first as “eternal president” having been made a god.
But as of recent decades past, classical liberals have been re-labelled conservative rightists, and have often found themselves deemed suspect due to perceived fascist tendencies, fascism (including the National Socialist German Workers Party . . . i.e. the Nazis — and yes, that is a big clue) being deemed a political disease of the Right. However, much of this becomes deeply questionable once we ponder not only the above definitions and compare what fascists actually did.
Daniel Hannan, late of the UK Telegraph’s blogs, offers some re-balancing perspectives, and I will allow myself to clip just one of the posters decorating his blog post:
>>Leftists become incandescent when reminded of the socialist roots of Nazism
By Daniel Hannan Politics Last updated: February 25th, 2014
On 16 June 1941, as Hitler readied his forces for Operation Barbarossa, Josef Goebbels looked forward to the new order that the Nazis would impose on a conquered Russia. There would be no come-back, he wrote, for capitalists nor priests nor Tsars. Rather, in the place of debased, Jewish Bolshevism, the Wehrmacht would deliver “der echte Sozialismus”: real socialism.
Goebbels never doubted that he was a socialist. He understood Nazism to be a better and more plausible form of socialism than that propagated by Lenin. Instead of spreading itself across different nations, it would operate within the unit of the Volk.
So total is the cultural victory of the modern Left that the merely to recount this fact is jarring. But few at the time would have found it especially contentious. As George Watson put it in The Lost Literature of Socialism:
It is now clear beyond all reasonable doubt that Hitler and his associates believed they were socialists, and that others, including democratic socialists, thought so too.
The clue is in the name. Subsequent generations of Leftists have tried to explain away the awkward nomenclature of the National Socialist German Workers’ Party as either a cynical PR stunt or an embarrassing coincidence. In fact, the name meant what it said.
Hitler told Hermann Rauschning, a Prussian who briefly worked for the Nazis before rejecting them and fleeing the country, that he had admired much of the thinking of the revolutionaries he had known as a young man; but he felt that they had been talkers, not doers. “I have put into practice what these peddlers and pen pushers have timidly begun,” he boasted, adding that “the whole of National Socialism” was “based on Marx”.
Marx’s error, Hitler believed, had been to foster class war instead of national unity – to set workers against industrialists instead of conscripting both groups into a corporatist order. His aim, he told his economic adviser, Otto Wagener, was to “convert the German Volk to socialism without simply killing off the old individualists” – by which he meant the bankers and factory owners who could, he thought, serve socialism better by generating revenue for the state. “What Marxism, Leninism and Stalinism failed to accomplish,” he told Wagener, “we shall be in a position to achieve.” . . . . >>
Sheldon Richman in Concise Enc of Econ and Liberty adds:
>>Where socialism sought totalitarian control of a society’s economic processes through direct state operation of the means of production, fascism sought that control indirectly, through domination of nominally private owners. Where socialism nationalized property explicitly, fascism did so implicitly, by requiring owners to use their property in the “national interest”—that is, as the autocratic authority conceived it. (Nevertheless, a few industries were operated by the state.) Where socialism abolished all market relations outright, fascism left the appearance of market relations while planning all economic activities. Where socialism abolished money and prices, fascism controlled the monetary system and set all prices and wages politically. In doing all this, fascism denatured the marketplace. Entrepreneurship was abolished. State ministries, rather than consumers, determined what was produced and under what conditions.
Fascism is to be distinguished from interventionism, or the mixed economy. Interventionism seeks to guide the market process, not eliminate it, as fascism did. Minimum-wage and antitrust laws, though they regulate the free market, are a far cry from multiyear plans from the Ministry of Economics.
Under fascism, the state, through official cartels, controlled all aspects of manufacturing, commerce, finance, and agriculture. Planning boards set product lines, production levels, prices, wages, working conditions, and the size of firms. Licensing was ubiquitous; no economic activity could be undertaken without government permission. Levels of consumption were dictated by the state, and “excess” incomes had to be surrendered as taxes or “loans.” The consequent burdening of manufacturers gave advantages to foreign firms wishing to export. But since government policy aimed at autarky, or national self-sufficiency, protectionism was necessary: imports were barred or strictly controlled, leaving foreign conquest as the only avenue for access to resources unavailable domestically. Fascism was thus incompatible with peace and the international division of labor—hallmarks of liberalism.
Fascism embodied corporatism, in which political representation was based on trade and industry rather than on geography. In this, fascism revealed its roots in syndicalism, a form of socialism originating on the left. The government cartelized firms of the same industry, with representatives of labor and management serving on myriad local, regional, and national boards—subject always to the final authority of the dictator’s economic plan. Corporatism was intended to avert unsettling divisions within the nation, such as lockouts and union strikes. The price of such forced “harmony” was the loss of the ability to bargain and move about freely.
To maintain high employment and minimize popular discontent, fascist governments also undertook massive public-works projects financed by steep taxes, borrowing, and fiat money creation. While many of these projects were domestic—roads, buildings, stadiums—the largest project of all was militarism, with huge armies and arms production . . . >>
Richman also cites Mussolini and Hitler:
MUSSOLINI, 1928 Autobiography:
>>The citizen in the Fascist State is no longer a selfish individual who has the anti-social right of rebelling against any law of the Collectivity. The Fascist State with its corporative conception puts men and their possibilities into productive work and interprets for them the duties they have to fulfill. (Mussolini, Benito. My Autobiography. New York: Scribner’s, 1928., p. 280)>>
HITLER, per citation:
>>The state should retain supervision and each property owner should consider himself appointed by the state. It is his duty not to use his property against the interests of others among his own people. This is the crucial matter. The Third Reich will always retain its right to control the owners of property. (Barkai, Avraham. Nazi Economics: Ideology, Theory, and Policy. Trans. Ruth Hadass-Vashitz. Oxford: Berg Publishers Ltd., 1990., pp. 26–27)>>
So, it is quite reasonable to argue that there is strong evidence that Fascism and National Socialism were in fact socialistic. At heart, fascism is the notion that in a day of “unprecedented” crisis that targets a large — locally dominant or pivotally influential — perceived victim group or class or religious or racial/national body, a super-man figure emerges to rescue the victims; one who is beyond ordinary human powers and limits (including those of morality and just law). A political messiah who stands as champion for the identity group to save it, defending it from the various scapegoated out-groups who are held to be to blame for the victimisation of the in-group. That super-man political messiah then seizes power and is widely recognised as a man of “destiny.”
In an atmosphere of hysteria, slander and propagandistic deception that is usually multiplied by chaos and violence or at least riotous assemblies in the streets baying for blood, the power blocs, political, legal, military, corporate, religious, etc then panic and align with him, hoping to at least influence him while giving him effectively unlimited dictatorial power in the face of a crisis [nothing like a burning Reichstag to get people into a panic!] — which becomes tantamount to ownership by the state concentrated in a politically messianistic autocrat or at most a new oligarchy in alliance with older centres of power too panicked to see the implications of the secret police 4:00 am knock on the door.
That is, we have now reached the threshold of tyranny.
And because of the perceived unprecedented crisis, that super-man “people’s champion” figure is cheered on and supported in taking extraordinary measures; measures that sacrifice liberty and justice for the sake of the promised utopian order. And so reigns of terror and aggressive wars naturally emerge. (Cf. here on the last couple of times around, with particular reference to arms races and where they often lead.)
Crisis — too often, manipulated — and perceived chaos, triggering reversion to the tyrannical vortex as shown above.
From this, we can see that the dynamics of state power, law and leadership are a more potentially fruitful pattern of thinking than trying to attach labels such as left or right wing, especially for the rhetorical purpose of tainting in order to polarise beyond what is justified by actual facts and reasonable consideration of same. And, particularly we can see that the limited government constitutional democracy in defence of the civil peace of justice is inherently vulnerable to chaos and/or tyranny, but with insightful principled support is sustainable.
It is sad that the debates over design theory have been so tainted, but with goodwill such can be removed.
Likewise — given the great and costly contribution of people living, thinking and working within the Judaeo-Christian frame to the growth and success of modern liberty and limited democratic self government in defence of the civil peace of justice — and, never mind the ever present issue of the sins and challenges of Christendom — we should refrain from one-sided litanies of projection and accusation against people who stand within that tradition, as though they are necessarily a peculiar threat to responsible freedom.
I trust we may now be able to proceed in a more even-tempered frame of mind. END