An Unpaid Political Announcement

It’s not my practice to get political in this blog, but I feel compelled to point out that something truly weird is happening in the US conservative movement. Here and here Harvey C. Mansfield is openly advocating “one man rule” for “stormy times”, and here we find Thomas Sowell daydreaming about something rather like treason. (Sowell: “When I see the worsening degeneracy in our politicians, our media, our educators, and our intelligentsia, I can’t help wondering if the day may yet come when the only thing that can save this country is a military coup.”)

Sowell’s weepy piece suggests that he simply cannot bear the thought of the party he favors on the losing side of any argument.

Mansfield is more sophisticated and dangerous, putting forth such polished Newspeak as “A free government should show its respect for freedom even when it has to take it away.” Strangely enough, I’m not concerned about whether or not the government may “respect” my freedoms as long as it leaves me the use of them.

I wish Mansfield, as an apostle of Leo Strauss, were spending more time reading Aristotle and less time reading Machiavelli. He might come across the concept that “one-man rule” is the least stable of all governments.

In any case, reading these pieces left me wondering: is this how American conservatives want themselves perceived in this run-up to an election year–as advocates of tyranny? If that’s a winning electoral strategy, we’re all in trouble–American or not, liberal or conservative.

About JE

James Enge is the author of the World-Fantasy-Award-nominated novel Blood of Ambrose (Pyr, April 2009). His latest book is The Wide World's End. His short fiction has appeared in Swords and Dark Magic (Harper Collins, 2010), Black Gate, the Stabby-Award-winning anthology Blackguards and elsewhere.
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16 Responses to An Unpaid Political Announcement

  1. fpb says:

    And I wish that people would study Machiavelli in context. Then they would realize that Il Principe is at heart an escape into fantasy from the intolerable and inevitable realities of the catastrophe of Italy in Machiavelli’s time. Faced with overpowering enemies it could neither resist nor turn away, Machiavelli dreamed a super-statesman, ever deceiving (as the Italians perceived themselves to have been) but never deceived, never out-thought, never outfought, never unlucky. The facts were the that the tiny and immensely rich states of Italy were doomed to fall to larger, less civilized, but overwhelmingly stronger neighbours.

    • ryanharvey says:

      I was going to comment and say the same thing. If Mansfield is reading Machiavelli, he apparently isn’t reading him very closely or making an effort to understand history (well, that last part is obvious). And he’s probably compeltely ignoring Discourses on Livy. There’s a lot of subtlety to “Niccy’s” writings where most people assume there’s none at all.

    • JE says:

      This is well worth saying. And, come to think of it, Aristotle’s Politics is somewhat backward looking as well. Maybe seminal works of political science are always exercises in nostalgia?

  2. jordan179 says:

    American Republicans and conservatives, betrayed by an inept leader (George W. Bush) are engaging in a fantasy-quest for a Man On Horseback. You heard similar whining from the Left during Reagan-Bush, and during Dubya’s more successful years.

    • JE says:

      It must be a depressing time to be a conservative, certainly. But I don’t seem to remember antidemocratic (in the broader sense) screeds in the 1980s from, say, The New Republic or The Nation (i.e. the left-leaning peers of WSJ, Weekly Standard, National Review). Please correct me if I’m mistaken; I’ve no wish to be unfair.

  3. Anonymous says:

    It could be worse. It could be the military leadership pining for a coup. Time to add Seven Days in May to the movie/reading queue?

    Oddly enough, I’ve recently been contemplating a distant-future setting for a story in which an attempt to institutionalize a benevolent dictatorship leads to a house of assassins as an independent branch of government. Like Turkey’s military using the coup to safeguard democracy, the house would use assassination to safeguard benevolence. Chiun would be so proud.

    (I’ve also been contemplating a fantasy setting very similar to Machiavelli’s Italy, but that’s another matter.)

    –Jeff Stehman

    • JE says:

      It could be worse. It could be the military leadership pining for a coup.

      True. There’s no sign of that, at least.

      Oddly enough, I’ve recently been contemplating a distant-future setting for a story in which an attempt to institutionalize a benevolent dictatorship leads to a house of assassins as an independent branch of government.

      Interesting! I toyed for a while with the notion of a future USA with only one branch of government: the judiciary had absorbed the other two, becoming a sort of secular theocracy. I liked the monochrome sort of “Gather, Darkness!” future but could never think of a story to tell in it.

  4. Archbishop Fulton Sheen once said that, when you’ve got a new idea, you should go read what Aristotle had to say about it.

    I’m quite the social conservative, so I’m not going to vote Democrat, but the Republicans seem to be increasingly shunning any kind of conservatism in favor of…still not sure exactly what. I’m not confident in the party if Giulani is the sort of candidate they put forth, though.

    • JE says:

      Archbishop Sheen was a remarkable man. I think he’s right about Aristotle, too–not that the Big A is a final authority, but he’s a good place to start an argument (in the best sense).

      I lean left, but I know what you mean about the Republicans; it’s been disheartening to see them lose their way on fiscal responsibility and hardnosed, pragmatic foreign policy–two historical strengths of the party.

      I could talk about the Democrats, but it’s hard to type when I’m banging my head against the desk.

  5. al_zorra says:

    Yanno, I kinda suspect that the D.C. company store really doesn’t plan to give it up at the end of 2008.

    So, you get one-man proposals. It’s kinda part of the all along plan, along with spending the federal gummit out of business, privatizing the military, etc.

    Love, C.

    • JE says:

      I’m not sure the guys in the executive branch have the collective deftness to put through a coup. (I hope that doesn’t sound too partisan: it’s really an assessment of their track record, without reference to their party affiliation.) Honestly, I think that by Jan. 2009 they’ll be caught in so many cleft sticks of their own devising that they’ll be relieved to be out of there, something like Johnson in ’68.

      Odd that the USA’s two most striking “How Not To Conduct a War” wars were waged by Texan presidents. Coincidence or culture or…?

      • al_zorra says:

        What worries me in this direction is that they’ve been breaking laws at every level with no concern at all about voters’ reactions.

        Imagine if anyone in Clinton’s administration, much less Clinton himself, had refused to accept subpoenas, refused to testify, so contemptuously iterating, “I don’t remember,” refused to provide materials when so ordered?

        They have done this and keep doing this. It seems to be the behavior of a group that is certain it will remain in charge for a very long time.

        Even now we could reverse this if the Dems only would stand up to them. Send in the legal enforcers and put them in jail for refusing subpoenas, as would happen to you and me, if we refused to accept and testify.

        Shoot, they can even arrest you for not answering a subpoena to serve on a Grand Jury.

        Love, C.

        • JE says:

          The Clinton White House wasn’t always as forthcoming as they might have been–but Bush 43, of course, has out-Nixoned the Nixon White House in evasive tactics. I’m not sure it indicates any kind of forethought on their part, though. I think they just anticipated winning everything and succeeding everywhere and they didn’t have a Plan B ready in case their Plan A didn’t work out. That seems to be how those guys operate.

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