American Tea Party Politics Arrives in China?

Mark Lilla, writing in the New Republic, tells a fascinating anecdote, which occurred just a few years back, of an end-of-semester discussion that he had in his office with a bright student from Beijing that he taught at the University of Chicago:

[The student] was already well known in Beijing intellectual circles for his writings and his translations of Western books in sociology and philosophy into Chinese. But his inability to express himself in written or spoken English had frustrated us both in a course of mine he had just taken. I began asking about his summer plans, eventually steering the conversation to the subject of English immersion programs, which I suggested he look into. “Why?” he asked. A little flummoxed, I said the obvious thing: that mastering English would allow him to engage with foreign scholars and advance his career at home. He smiled in a slightly patronizing way and said, “I am not so sure.” Now fully flummoxed, I asked what he would be doing instead. “Oh, I will do language, but Latin, not English.” It was my turn to ask why. “I think it very important we study Romans, not just Greeks. Romans built an empire over many centuries. We must learn from them.” When he left, it was clear that I was being dismissed, not him. This conversation came to mind recently after I returned from a month of lectures and interviews in China. I had heard that Strauss was popular there, as was, to my surprise, Carl Schmitt, the Weimar anti-liberal (and anti-Semitic) legal theorist. The New Yorker had even run a piece that spoke of “the new generation’s neocon nationalists,” mentioning the interest in Strauss as some sort of disturbing development. . . . Strauss and Schmitt are at the center of intellectual debate, . . .  

I find this whole anecdote, frankly, troubling. If you don’t know who Leo Strauss was, and his influence on contemporary “fight nihilism with nihilism” conservatism in the United States, see here. And if you don’t know Carl Schmitt, he was also an anti-liberal authoritarian intellectual. He wrote his most influential works during Germany’s Weimar period. And when the Nazis came to power in the early 1930s, he joined the Nazi Party. Below is a taste of his writing, circa 1926 (from pgs. 334-335 of the excellent Weimar Republic Sourcebook, edited by Anton Kaes). Observe how he drips with cynicism toward liberal ideals of democratic dialogue and compromise based in the exchange of reason and evidence among good-faith contending factions:

It is like a satire if one quotes [Jeremy] Bentham today: ‘In Parliament ideas meet, and contact between ideas gives off sparks and leads to evidence.’ . . . Who still believes in this kind of openness? And in parliament as its greatest platform? . . . The numerous definitions of parliamentarian which one still finds today in Anglo-Saxon and French writings and which are apparently little known in Germany, definitions in which parliamentarism appears as essentially ‘government by discussion,’ must accordingly also count as moldy. . . . The belief in parliamentarism, in government by discussion, belongs to the intellectual world of liberalism.

And liberalism, of course, is a very bad thing, a moldy thing, for Carl Schmitt. His alternative is what we might call today a We-the-People Tea Partier version of democracy: a populist leader channels the heartland conformist majority’s “spirit,” and vanquishes from the political scene corrupt and urban bourgeois liberals. Put more directly, what Schmitt means by “democracy” has nothing to do with elected parliaments, vulnerable dialogue, and Enlightenment ideals concerning reason and evidence in civic discourse, but with populist dictatorship. For Carl Schmitt, democracy is: (1) homogeneity, the expulsion of all that is heterogeneous; and (2) absolute control of a nation’s borders by keeping outsiders out:

Every actual democracy rests on the principle that not only are equals equal but unequals will not be treated equally. Democracy requires therefore first homogeneity and second—if the need arises—elimination or eradication of heterogeneity. To illustrate this principle it is sufficient to name two different examples of modern democracy: contemporary Turkey, with its radical expulsion of Greeks . . . and the Australian commonwealth, which restricts unwanted entrants though its immigration laws, and like other dominions only takes immigrants who conform to the notion of a ‘right type of settler.’ A democracy demonstrates its political power by knowing how to refuse or keep at bay something foreign and unequal that threatens its homogeneity.

What Karl Schmitt is saying here is something to be absorbed with sobriety, for recall that it is Schmitt and Strauss who are being closely read, according to Mark Lilla, in China:

Strauss and Schmitt are at the center of intellectual debate, but they are being read by everyone, whatever their partisan leanings; as a liberal journalist in Shanghai told me as we took a stroll one day, “no one will take you seriously if you have nothing to say about these two men and their ideas.” 

Over the next generation, instead of friendliness between the United States and China, we could find that both countries’ political leaders are leaning their ears into the whispers of intellectuals weaned on the same anti-liberal and Herderian Machiavellians: Strauss and Schmitt.

Here’s an excellent primer on Leo Strauss via Adam Curtis’s BBC documentary, The Power of Nightmares:

And for a bit more reflection on this whole topic, here’s Sandy Levinson on John Yoo (President Bush’s intellectual justifier of torture) in relation to Carl Schmitt.

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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39 Responses to American Tea Party Politics Arrives in China?

  1. andrewclunn says:

    So now we have a linkage between the Tea Party movement, Nazi Germany and Chinese nationalism. Oh the mental back-flips and selective venues of thought that you must have gone through Santi, to convince yourself that all your ‘enemies’ are allied in some philosophical conspiracy against you. Even if such an alliance were true, then the likes of Carl Schmitt are not to be cast aside without the appropriate response.

    I will not dismiss even the Nazis because “My heart rejects it!” I shall meet them on the intellectual field of battle and it shall be from the advancement and the invention afforded by a critically thinking populous that the authoritarians shall lose, not because of appeals to the fickle emotions that are so easily molded and altered in support of authoritarianism by state propaganda. The heart has no place in defending the truth, in fact it is an ally of deception. Cut it from yourself and embrace the mind, the sole defender of the truth.

    • santitafarella says:

      Andrew,

      I would suggest Jonah Lehrer’s excellent book, How We Decide, for reflection on how the heart and mind actually do interact in decision making, and why they ought to.

      As for linking Herderian and right-wing American nationalism, German nationalism, and Chinese nationalism, I would recommend Zeev Sternhell’s book, The Anti-Enlightenment Tradition, as an intellectual defense of this position. The flies change, but the shit is the same. And the intellectual history of ideas matters.

      Lastly, I don’t deny that there is a libertarian faction within the Tea Party movement, but I do not think it is the chief animating force of the movement. If it were, the movement would have emerged during the Bush administration. Instead, the chief animating forces are nostalgia-based Herderian nationalism based in white racism, militarism, and authoritian religion.

      —Santi

      • TomH says:

        Bush kept the temperature in the pot from rising too fast. Obama wasn’t as smart and the frogs got wise to the fact that they were being cooked. Lots of libertarians despise Bush.

        The Enlightenment is not beyond criticism, as we see from Nietzsche and others. The French Revolution showed that authoritarianism and enlightenment thought are not necessarily mutually exclusive. Furthermore, many would argue that marxism is merely the logical, scientific development of the enlightenment.

      • santitafarella says:

        Tom,

        You say that many libertarians despised Bush, and please notice that they were NOT able to start a mass movement on the basis of it. It took Herderian passions against a black president to achieve that.

        As for what “many people” say about Marxism and the Enlightenment, obviously every secular phenomenon in the modern world has some line that you can draw via the Enlightenment. What I think you mean to imply is that characteristically Enlightenment modes of thought lead to Marxism, which is ridiculous. The Enlightenment consisted of diverse strains. Absorbing the ideas of Thomas Jefferson, John Locke, Francis Bacon, Benjamin Franklin, Mary Wollstonecraft, and Voltaire does not “lead” to Marxism.

        —Santi

  2. TomH says:

    Who the hell are Schmitt and Strauss? Who cares about some boogermen cooked up in some liberal spaceship fantasy just because one Chinese student likes their codswallop? What Tea Party members pay attention to S&S? Tea Party members are likely to follow Austrian economics and be libertarians in their philosophy. Either you are completely ignorant of the forces at work in the Tea Party, or you are just laying out The Big Lie.

    Your boys Obummer, Reid-Dick-U-Louse, and Pe-Lose-Si are such libertarians! Notice how they closed Gitmo and repealed the Patriot Act. Oh wait…. Maybe the dems are closer in totalitarian thought to Castro and Chavez than they like to admit. They are frequent purveyors of The Big Lie.

    • I think that you have missed the connection Santi is trying to get across. While many teabaggers express a support of Hayek’s economic model – there is much more to the equation. Even the name “Tea Party” expresses the basic ignorance of many teabagger stances. The original Tea Party occurred due to taxation without representation – as any 4th grader can tell you. The teabaggers have representation. Our officials are elected, and as of recently, many by republicans and the teabaggers. the name is the very first indicator of the ignorance of most teabaggers.

      It goes deeper. All of these teabaggers that are so vocal about the horrors of Obama were utterly silent as Bush pissed away money and the US economy. So, 8 years of fiscal mismanagement the teabaggers are silent. Yet as soon as a democrat is elected, the rage begins. Pile on this the numerous blatant misrepresentations by teabaggers of Obama wrecking the economy, Obama building the largest deficit, etc. A simple look at history shows you that over $2 Trillion of the new debt in Obama’s first year as passed under Bush. Perhaps teabaggers are too ignorant to understand how the US budget process works and how basic accounting rules are implemented. how about the teabagger material blaming immigration for much of our economic issues and unemployment? Again, gross misrepresentations at best. Calling this “Obama’s recession” when the recession was in full swing under Bush. Lastly, layer in the Christian fundamentalist arm which now encompasses most teabagger rhetoric and you have the picture of ignorance complete.

      It is the death by a thousand cuts. Teabagger philosophy is based on so many inaccuracies and misrepresentations it is absurd. If ALL the teabaggers did was push for balanced budget and Hayek economics, you would see a ton of us sign up. I have been a libertarian for years – and while the teabaggers pay lip service to fiscal conservancy, it is hard to believe them as so much of what they say are quantifiable lies.

      • andrewclunn says:

        “All of these teabaggers that are so vocal about the horrors of Obama were utterly silent as Bush pissed away money and the US economy”

        Not true!

        ‘Teabagger… teabagger… teabagger…”

        I believe you should to get your head out of Stephen Colbert’s ass long enough to form an independent thought.

        “I have been a libertarian for years – and while the teabaggers pay lip service to fiscal conservancy, it is hard to believe them as so much of what they say are quantifiable lies.”

        What lies are exclusive or even majority opinions within the Tea Party that are not amongst Republicans? And I’m going to want sources referenced.

      • Not true? Please, direct me to links where the teaparty formed up while Bush was still in office and the the mountain of Republicans that were bitching about Bush spending. I will wait.

        Colbert? If you think the term teabagger originated there, then you are far behind the curve. I do not even watch Colbert, nor the Daily Show. The only political shows I watch at all are on BBC America.

        The lies are not exclusive to the teabaggers. To claim that the teaparty is anything but an extended republican party is a mistake. Amazing how the teabaggers never bothered to vote libertarian before, nor that they did not embrace the libertarian ideals – seeing as fiscal conservancy and small government are intrinsic to what we seek. Why do you think that is?

      • andrewclunn says:

        Clearly you have never read my comments here before. I’m a self-described Objectivist. This post might show you the… disagreements that Santi and I have had concerning the Tea Party in the past:

        http://omgobama.wordpress.com/2010/09/01/disagreeing-with-santi/

        http://omgobama.wordpress.com/2010/01/15/you-say-teabagger-i-say-youre-a-homophobic-elitist-prick/

      • I am all about low taxes, small government and a balanced budget .. like most libertarians. I was turned off to the tea party early on for several reasons: I personally know one of the early organizers here in FL and he is a nut job, gross misrepresentation that our spending problems and economic woes are the fault of Obama, and lastly, the religious tones. I greatly dislike Obama’s government, but I try to be honest about issues and see that Bush was as much of an abject failure on fiscal policy as Obama has been. In fact, most of the massive deficit incurred in Obama’s first year was due to spending (bailouts, etc) enacted under Bush. Obama saw the train wreck and, instead of fixing it, drove a few more trains into the wreck. How someone could decide that the spending abomination (not to mention unconstitutional nature) of ObamaCare was a good idea is beyond me.

        It also seemed clear early on that the teaparty (I will drop my slander :)) had issues far different than just fiscal conservancy. If they did, the Libertarian party was a no-brainer. Yet, rather than that, the tea partiers continued to embrace the republican party. Which is ironic, since the Republican Party has, for the last 75+ years, been WORSE for fiscal conservancy than even the Democrats.

      • TomH says:

        Jared,

        You fail to catch the sublety of what the Tea Party activists were aiming for. Their brand is “activism against oppression, especially through taxation.” You are being far too narrow in saying that it is “taxation without representation.” There is no ignorance from the Tea Party about what they stand for.

        I’m glad to see that you are abandoning the puerile slander wherein you referred to Tea Party activists as “teabaggers.” Even Jon Stewart acknowledged that the term was only funny for a day or so. I personally think that it was only ever funny to those whose humor never advanced out of the sixth grade.

        I recall lots of conservatives decrying Bush’s free-spending ways and his “compassionate conservatism,” which was little more than a euphemism for liberal statism. I called Bush “Obama-lite” for his fiscal policies. Bush’s policies, especially his liberal housing policy, contributed heavily to the great recession. Of course, Obama merely compounded Bush’s errors, so, due to degree, he bears more blame. Obama clearly has done nothing to fix our economic problems, but has exacerbated them. He expected to get away with his flim flam because he believed the economists who said that unemployment wouldn’t rise above 8%.

        “Lastly, layer in the Christian fundamentalist arm which now encompasses most teabagger rhetoric and you have the picture of ignorance complete. ”

        Wow. You really are clueless about conservative politics and “fundamentalism.” In our nation’s recent past, religious and nonreligious conservatives united against the common foe of nanny-state socialism, which is an aberration of enlightenment thought. Conservatives used to realize that, whether religious or nonreligious, they had more in common with one another than with socialists (aka “nanny-staters”). Furthermore nonreligious conservatives used to realize that, even if they didn’t believe Christian doctrines, there was a benefit to society in advocating moral behavior. So your rabid anti-religion shows that you are confused about what your principles are and that you have failed to understand the recent history of nonreligious conservative thought.

      • I always hear the teapartiers and republicans now days saying how many people decried Bush spending. Yet, no one ever posts links. You would think that if there was so much complaining that it would be easy to post a handful of links where cons were clamming Bush. Even with your claim of this being common and you decrying his spend, not a single link.

        I guess I still have a 6th grade sense of humor. More likely, I just like how it irritates teapartiers.

        Your last paragraph is inaccurate on numerous levels. First off, the nanny state is just as much a republican mechanism as a democrat one. The dems seek the nanny state through wealth redistribution. The right seeks the nanny state through legislating morality. Both are examples of government where it should not be. Your statement that advocating moral behaviour benefits society is laughable. Limiting stem cell research, discriminating against gays, the war on drugs, telling a woman what she can do with her body and most other conservative doctrine do nothing to benefit the nation. Your blind and unprovable statement that such policies do, shows the degree of your delusion that conservative principals are best – regardless of facts. And, how about this as a fact, Republican administration for the last 75 years, with few exceptions, have left the nation in WORSE economic shape than Democratic administrations. By almost all measures (debt, deficit, unemployment, etc) Carter outperformed Bush.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_debt_by_U.S._presidential_terms
        http://home.adelphi.edu/sbloch/deficits.html

        Even now, you spout the typical rhetoric that Republicans are less of a nanny state or give small government – yet that position is disproved by the facts. Which is why I am a Libertarian. I REALLY want small government.

        My rabid anti-religion? I always find this funny. The fact that I provide a counter whenever someone tries to push their religious mumbo jumbo makes me rabid about anti-religion? Amazing how that works. The people who throw out their mythology are not rabid, but the guy who points out that it is full of holes and utter BS is rabid. I guess it is much like your claims that conservatives were up in arms over Bush spending or that legislating morality is good for America – you need no evidence to support your silly beliefs, but anyone challenging those beliefs, particularly with facts and data, must be a loon.

      • TomH says:

        Jared,

        One assumes that you are at least moderately aware of conservative sites like mises.org, heritage.org, weekly standard.com, etc. and are literate. Those assumptions are likely false. (with minimal effort, I googled http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/012/762fiyke.asp)

        Understand, your calling one of the teaparty organizers a “nutjob” sounds very ironic, considering your lack of awareness of conservative politics while decrying it.

        Your equation of “conservative” with “republican” shows that you are very much unaware of important distinctions when it comes to politics. The term RINO (“republicans in name only”) was coined by conservatives. Your generally mushy thinking is so very puerile.

        You assume that I am a republican. LOL

        You pick out controversial issues, as if they constitute the majority of moral thinking. How puerile.

        You fail to realize that stem cell use is no longer an issue, which is more ideological ignorance.

        You use euphemisms to describe controversial issues with no acknowledgement on your part that you might just be wrong about these issues. You fail to acknowledge the best arguments of the other side with your ideological baiting. How rabid of you!

        I voted for Carter, a vote which I rue to this day (though I was quite liberal then). Bush was Obama-lite in my view, so attacking him does nothing to persuade me of the validity of your position. Maybe you don’t understand my position because your thinking skills are weak.

        “My rabid anti-religion? I always find this funny. The fact that I provide a counter whenever someone tries to push their religious mumbo jumbo makes me rabid about anti-religion?”

        You only provide a counter in your own mind. Your ideological, anti-religious rabidness is evident to all. Compare your writings to those of Santi–he is much more measured and less stridently ideological about his skepticism and acknowledges that some religious arguments have some force, though he doesn’t find them to be compelling. You, on the other hand, are quite blinkered.

        About legislating morality–all law is about legislating someone’s morality. How puerile to not realize this!

      • Ah, so one article is the extent of the outrage at Bush spending. Yet The Teaparty springs up within months of Obama being in office.

        I am quite familiar with the nomenclature RINO. Yet, how does this make sense? No republican administration in the last 75+ years has been fiscally conservative. The term RINO attempts to implicitly state that republicans are fiscally conservative. It is direct contrast to what, indisputably, Republicans have been for the last 75 years.

        I am quite aware that stem cell research is no longer an issue. Yet, when it was an issue, it was conservative ideals which stifled development for more than 6 years. I was refuting your claim that conservative ideals benefit the nation. I gave examples of how this is not true. You still have not supplied anything to back up your claim. Rather than attacking my rebuttal as no longer relevant on ONE of the topics, perhaps you could strive to actually prove your assertion?

        You seem to not understand basic logic and debate. If you make a claim, like “there is a god.” then you need to be able to prove your claim. Santi is a much softer voice than I – since he is agnostic. You say there is a god, he says there might be. I say prove it or admit there is nothing but your unvalidated opinion. This is the classic approach from the religious – you are so used to making ridiculous claims, without interrogation, that when you are interrogated you feel attacked. Just as someone saying “I was abducted by aliens” “I married bigfoot” or any other outlandish claim, the obligation is on you to prove your claims.

        You should read more and expand your vocabulary, you way overuse the word puerile. Saying that all legislation is about morality may be true, but secular morality, as america was founded to be a secular nation, is vastly different than religious morality. And no, morality is NOT a religious domain, but that is another debate entirely.

      • TomH says:

        Jared,

        “Ah, so one article is the extent of the outrage at Bush spending.”

        There are so many problems with your thinking, reading, etc. First, you said that no one had provided links. So, I provided one. You have not acknowledged your error that conservatives haven’t complained about Bush. Also, you need to work on your reading skills. The article references several major conservatives who had problems with Bush–way back in 2006. There are many other articles, but you are obviously too lazy to remedy your lack of information–you seem to prefer being ill-informed. I wonder why? Maybe because it fits your ideology better.

        I’ve already provided one possibility for why the Tea Party didn’t arise until after the Big Spend by Obama et. al. You have failed to address this, perhaps because either you are lazy or lack reading skills.

        “I am quite aware that stem cell research is no longer an issue. Yet, when it was an issue, it was conservative ideals which stifled development for more than 6 years.”

        False. Are you really this stupid? Lots of conservatives are very interested in stem cell research.

        “The term RINO attempts to implicitly state that republicans are fiscally conservative.” By what standard would some group be “fiscally conservative?”

        “It is direct contrast to what, indisputably, Republicans have been for the last 75 years.”

        On the contrary, I dispute your claim, though I’m no Republican. You are obviously ignoring the Gingrich Congress which attempted to impose a measure of fiscal responsibility. The citizens overcame that attempt and rejected fiscal responsibility.

        “I gave examples of how this is not true.”

        You cherry picked some controversial examples which I rejected. You ignored the overwhelming uncontroversial examples which are present all throughout society. Just look at some sermons sometime and you’ll find lots of encouragement to live moral lives–don’t steal, don’t cheat, don’t lie, etc. These are uncontroversial. Don’t be a boor.

        “You seem to not understand basic logic and debate.” Unlike you, I understand logic quite well.

        “If you make a claim, like “there is a god.” then you need to be able to prove your claim.”

        On the contrary, absolute proof about such a claim would require omniscience on the part of both the claimer and the hearer. A weaker standard is what most people go by–provide evidence and a reasoned argument, of which there are many examples all over the net. If you don’t find the best arguments compelling, perhaps your epistemology needs work. I’ve referenced some books to read in my comments to Santi.

        I don’t accept religious claims merely because they’re religious, I examine them carefully, like I would with any other claim. Your argument about getting upset because people don’t accept claims is pretty stupid.

        “Saying that all legislation is about morality may be true, but secular morality, as america was founded to be a secular nation, is vastly different than religious morality.”

        Prove that secular morality in America is independent of religious morality (prima facie, America was founded by religious Pilgrims and their morality informed the culture to a large extent; also the Great Awakening played a major role in America’s morality). Prove that America was founded to be a secular nation (when was it founded and upon what). These are controversial points. Remember, logic and debate–those items you thought to batter me with?

      • At least try to quote me correctly if you are going to attribute yourself with victory over what I wrote. Here is the quote.

        “Please, direct me to links where the teaparty formed up while Bush was still in office and the the mountain of Republicans that were bitching about Bush spending. I will wait.”

        You then proceed to claim there were many conservatives complaining about Bush, to which I wrote:

        “I always hear the teapartiers and republicans now days saying how many people decried Bush spending. Yet, no one ever posts links. You would think that if there was so much complaining that it would be easy to post a handful of links where cons were clamming Bush. Even with your claim of this being common and you decrying his spend, not a single link.”

        And you post 1 link. Far from the mountain and not even the “easy” handful. I just did a few more google searches. The 1 link you posted appears on the first page. the rest of the links are more related to people asking why republicans did not complain. I am lazy because you cannot find much of anything for people complaining about Bush. Got it.

        The impetus for stopping stem cell research was entirely based on conservatives. While there may have been conservatives that did not agree with this .. it was all conservatives that drove it. Again, this topic surfaced because you claimed that conservative values benefit America – a claim for which you have still provided no evidence.

        You reference the gingrich congress and their attempts at fiscal responsibility and say:
        “The citizens overcame that attempt and rejected fiscal responsibility.” Please, explain how the citizens overcame this? The citizens are not directly involved in legislation at all. The Republican majority in congress could have passed legislation for fiscal responsibility if they had the balls. They did not. Which means that all they did was pay lip service to fiscal responsibility, as I wrote.

        You really think that there are compelling arguments for the existence of God? I have read what seem like innumerable articles and attempts. They all fail miserably. Probably because they all reference the bible as their proof. Are you even aware that there are ZERO original copies any book in the NT? The majority of what exists as the basis for the bible was not even authored until decades to over 100 years after Christ supposedly died. And aside from having no originals, there are no whole copies either, just fragments. The bible is no more credible a work than any other mythology – and is actually less credible than Islam, since the historical record of M. is pretty well documented. Now, take it even further. The bible supposedly consists of eye witness testimony – but it does not
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Synoptic_Gospels
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gospel_of_John

        And even if it did contain eye witness accounts written by the witnesses, it means nothing. There are literally 1000s of eye witnesses to UFOs. 100s of eye witnesses of Bigfoot and the Loch Ness monster. Which means that each of these claims should be weighted as even more believable, since there are more credible witnesses.

        But hey, I guess you knew all that already and used your superior logic to determine it all irrelevant?

        As for morality, I am going to write a blog entry on that. I will link to it once it is up.

      • TomH says:

        Jared,

        Yeah, I forgot about your lack of reading comprehension skills. Sorry. I’ll decipher the link for you.

        “WHEN THE Washington Monthly recently asked seven conservatives to explain why they were rooting for GOP defeat this November, some of them complained about the Iraq war, some about the Bush administration’s expansive view of executive power, some about the GOP’s opposition to stem-cell research. But nearly all of them agreed on at least one point: If you were to boil down the domestic policy failings of the Bush years to just three words, those words might be spending, spending, and spending.”

        Seven — the number that comes after six. Seven leading conservatives were complaining about Bush fiscal policies.

        Here’s another link. http://www.wnd.com/index.php?pageId=143805

        And another. http://www.cato.org/pub_display.php?pub_id=3184

        And another. http://www.slate.com/id/2095237/

        Try to get informed, will you? And do your own work next time, you lazy slob.

        “The citizens are not directly involved in legislation at all. The Republican majority in congress could have passed legislation for fiscal responsibility if they had the balls. They did not. Which means that all they did was pay lip service to fiscal responsibility, as I wrote.”

        Hey, moron, the Republican Congress passed budgets which Clinton vetoed. Then citizens called their representatives to complain about not getting the budgets passed and that they needed to go along with Clinton. You don’t know anything about this history. Get informed.

        “The impetus for stopping stem cell research was entirely based on conservatives.”

        Stem cell research didn’t stop, pinhead. Most conservatives weren’t complaining about stem cell research in general.

        “You really think that there are compelling arguments for the existence of God? I have read what seem like innumerable articles and attempts. They all fail miserably.”

        More nonsense. Just because you’re a nitwit doesn’t mean that the best arguments aren’t strong. Try to get more than one of your two neurons to fire, will you? Go read about the epistemology of testimony instead of blathering about the weakness of testimony. Without testimony, we couldn’t do science at all, ya lousy, good-fer-nothing pinhead. I’ll give you to the count of three to reach the door. One….two….rat-a-tat-tat-tat…three.

      • santitafarella says:

        Tom,

        You seem to be having a cranky morning, but please try to maintain a generally civil tone. Nothing is lost from the supports you offer for your claims by doing so. Insults generally reflect badly on the person delivering them, not the person to which they are directed. I’m not talking about you. You are usually more than civil. And, of course, I’m certainly not above taking digs at people (obviously). But when I notice it in a thread, I ask people to chill a bit (so that the level of discussion on the thread doesn’t degenerate).

        —Santi

      • At least you are up to 2 articles now. Good job. The other crap was an article from 2010 and a study from a non-partisan group. But yeah, I see how you think that is comparable to the significant movement of the Teaparty AFTER Obama was elected. Like most Republicans – the care for being fiscally conservative only occurs when a Dem is in office.

        I guess that is all you have then. Calling me a lazy slob because you can find all of 2 articles of cons complaining about Bush. Your failure equates to me being lazy. No real surprise, that is Teaparty 101 – blame others for your own ineptitude.

        I guess I should have been clear on stem cell research. I should have know that you would not have the mental capacity to zero in on the fact that I was referring to federal policy yanking fiscal support for stem cell research for the majority of studies.

        Calling me a nitwit is your retort? Seriously? Was there something I wrote in my list of details on the Bible that was incorrect? It seems that SOP for you is the “nuh uh” and “you are a pinhead” defense. Bravo.

        The bible is NOT a credible document. You focus on testimony, and ignore that all we have are fragments of copies of copies. Such things would be laughed out of a court of law. Try bringing “I wrote down part of what a friend of a friend told me” as evidence. And as for testimony, I am not saying that all testimony is irrelevant. I am saying that testimony which makes great claims requires great proof. Again, this is the norm for all people – except were religion is concerned. I guess that since all testimony is equal, that you fully believe in aliens and bigfoot? After all, we have testimony from quite a few people and from very credible sources. Far more credible than fragments of copies of copies penned decades after an event and by not even the eye witnesses.

        Please aim for an intelligent reply next time maybe? Actually having links that support what you are saying and addressing the credibility issues with the bible would be a great start if you can manage it.

    • santitafarella says:

      Tom,

      It’s not Sarah Palin who reads Strauss, it’s the neoconservative intellectuals who make her candidacy for president viable (and who would populate her administration) who read him.

      You’re free to pretend that the intellectual history of ideas don’t matter, or dismiss the intellectual lineage by which those ideas move into the political mainstream. But for those who are willing to look, such an exercise is informative. Santayana famously said that those who ignore history are condemned to repeat it.

      —Santi

      • TomH says:

        Santi,

        Funny that you didn’t name the neocon intellectuals who follow “Herderian” impulses and thought who would support a Palin presidential candidacy, though I don’t know what Palin has to do with anything when it comes to Tea Party ideas. She’s hardly an ivy league political science intellectual nor does she follow Austrian economics from anything that I can tell.

        You fail to appreciate the historical lineage of ideas. Spinoza and Voltaire, leading “lights” of the enlightenment, were very much motivated by an anti-religion impulse; that anti-religion motivation was very much in force in France during the French Revolution. Furthermore, the idea of equal rights for all which came from the enlightenment was also expressed during the French Revolution as class warfare. Marxism merely took these enlightenment ideas of anti-religion and the hyperbolic class warfare and systematized them. Marxism is all very logical and scientific, given its foundation of an rabid anti-religion doctrine and class warfare (which impulses are so apt to motivate the liberal statists). You, of course, have the right to pretend that what is obvious to the rest of the world is a fantasy, but you risk marginalizing yourself. You might benefit from your own advice and recall Santayana….

  3. santitafarella says:

    Tom,

    Neocon Bill Kristol has been, from the earliest surfacing of her name to McCain, a vocal cheerleader of Palin. It’s my understanding that her name was first brought to McCain by some neoconservatives at National Review.

    As for Voltaire, yes, of course he was against institutional religion, and was skeptical of religious claims and demands, dismissing them as outmoded and unnecessary. Recall that Jesus himself cleansed the temple and told people not to worry about eating in accordance with Jewish law or obeying the laws of the Jewish Sabbath. All intelligent and sensitive people are outraged by religious abuse and stupidities, and are skeptical of religious claims (as well they ought to be). I assume that you are as well (even if you’ve become convinced that the claims of one particular religion are true). Voltaire is just skeptical of one more religion than you are. And Voltaire was a friend of the king of Prussia. He hardly drew the kinds of political conclusions that Marx did.

    If you want to talk about the intellectual underpinnings of Marxist ideals, you might look no further than the Sermon on the Mount, or the Book of James in which the rich are vociferously condemned. It was Christianity that, over two millenia, inculcated leveling doctrines into the European mind (as Nietzsche so rightly observed). And throughout much of Christian history, lending money at interest was a sin and forbidden to Christians. Muslims still hold this view. Before Marx hated bankers and the private accumulators of capital, Christians hated them.

    Peter said in Acts, “Silver and gold have I none.” But contemporary American conservatives, who also claim to be “Christians”, are eager purchasers of gold and silver as investment vehicles. Ironic, don’t you think?

    —Santi

    • TomH says:

      Santi,

      So you’re saying that Schmitt drives the thinking of Bill Kristol? I googled Kristol and Schmitt and got zero hits.

      “Recall that Jesus himself cleansed the temple and told people not to worry about eating in accordance with Jewish law or obeying the laws of the Jewish Sabbath.” Jesus cleansed the temple. About the rest–you are misinformed.

      You are way too easy on Voltaire. His writings drove the French revolutionists to confiscate church lands.

      Voltaire, in his “skepticism,” made up a lot of nonsense about the origins of stories. He was a purveyor of fiction which he claimed was fact (Dictionnaire philosophique). Claims of fact require evidence, not stories. Voltaire lacked a practical epistemology, like you. I recommend John Locke (An Essay Concerning Human Understanding–b. 4, ch. 14+), Tony Coady The Epistemology of Testimony, and Steven Shapin (The Scientific Revolution) to you in order to correct your deficiency in that area.

      You’re totally wrong about the biblical view of the rich, sorry. The Bible attacked the selfishness of some of the rich, not their wealth. Your reading skills need work.

      Islam only opposes charging interest on loans made to fellow muslims. They are permitted to charge interest to anybody else. You are misinformed.

      Peter wasn’t carrying money with him–that didn’t mean that he didn’t have access to it. Besides, it was merely a device to point out his power to heal. Keep working on those reading skills.

      • santitafarella says:

        Tom,

        I’m not saying that Kristol sits around reading former Nazis like Schmitt; Schmitt and Strauss arrived, by different routes, to similar authoritarian conclusions. That’s why they are being conflated and paired in contemporary China. And it’s why Kristol was so deeply influenced by Strauss: Kristol is an authoritarian Machiavellian.

        As for Jesus with regard to food and the Sabbath, didn’t Jesus explicitly say that it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a man, but what goes out of it? And didn’t one of the gospel writers explicitly write that Jesus, in saying this, declared all foods clean? And didn’t his early followers—most particularly, Paul—understand Jesus to have abolished the law?

        As for not being fussy about Sabbath keeping and the condemnation of property accumulation, one needs only to cruise around in the gospels for numerous examples. There’s a reason that Christians, for millenia, frowned upon such activities as money lending and admired those who took vows of total poverty. They did so because their texts praise the relinquishing of possessions. If the European Dark Ages were dark (and I think that they were), it is due in large part to the medieval Christian attitude toward money and the mind.

        “Blessed are the poor . . . Woe to you who are rich! . . . It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God . . . If a man takes your coat, give him your shirt . . . Turn the other cheek . . . Those who take up the sword will perish with the sword.”

        Jesus was an altruist. He was not Ayn Rand or Nietzsche.

        —Santi

    • TomH says:

      Santi,

      I fail to see how any modern political leaders aren’t machiavels, from Clinton to Palin to Obama to Ron Paul. Obama quite cleverly borrowed from Yeltsin’s glasnost, yet has been as secretive as any previous administration. In that sense, he is even more the machiavel than Bush or Clinton. Machiavelli’s ideas still rule politics and are likely to remain so. Thinking otherwise seems to be hopelessly idealistic. Saying that Kristol, Palin, Wolfowitz, and other conservatives are machiavels is cherry picking and foolish.

      When Jesus cleansed the Temple, that was an assertion of the Law. So how could Jesus have abolished the Law? You are hoisted on your own petard.

      “All intelligent and sensitive people are outraged by religious abuse and stupidities, and are skeptical of religious claims (as well they ought to be). I assume that you are as well (even if you’ve become convinced that the claims of one particular religion are true).” Irrelevant.

      Regarding Voltaire’s skepticism–skepticism may be rational or irrational. Do you think that creationist skepticism about darwinist claims are rational? The point is–we ought to be judicious in our thinking and not subscribe to an idea simply on the basis of authority. You are wont to defer to academic authority in fields like archaeology and cosmology, which is very anti-enlightenment in spirit and reeks of scientism.

      • santitafarella says:

        Tom,

        It is one thing to play the political game in a spirit of concern for the truth—it is another to do so in a postmodern and nihilistic fashion, without any real concern for the actual truth of matters at all. Politicians should not be Johnny Cochran, getting their “clients” off by any means necessary. Politics should not be war by other means, accompanied by persistent defamation.

        Politics, ideally, should be done in a spirit of dialogue, reason, respect for truth, compassion, and fairness. It should seek common ground with fellow citizens and actively look for opportunities where compromise and win-win outcomes can be had between competing factions. It should not be a persistent torch parade of propaganda and audience targeting, lacking in any real human interaction and vulnerability. Our form of representative government really only functions well in the context of civility, and we ought to strive for it. I think that Obama often behaves with a degree of civility, decency, and dignity that is radically different from the way that someone like Newt Gingrich plays politics.

        As for Jesus’s clear commands to his followers concerning poverty and nonviolence, I notice that you have no response. Nor do you have any response to Jesus declaring all foods clean. And Jesus was outraged at the greed in the temple, and people turning it into a “den of thieves.” That’s why he cleansed it. Oh, and how can one engage in capitalist enterprise or banking if you take seriously Jesus’s command to his followers not to concern themselves with tommorrow?

        As for Voltairian skepticism, you fail to make the important distinction between AUTHORITY and EXPERTISE. An appeal to authority is different, obviously, from an appeal to expertise. If I appeal to the authority of Genesis to back up my claim that the first humans appeared in a garden in Mesopotamia, it will only have weight insofar as you accept the religious authority of Genesis by faith. And my appeal to authority (as opposed to reason) is likely to prove wrong.

        But if I appeal to the expertise of medical researchers who say, “Get your flu shot this season,” you can accept the recommendation knowing that the consensus of experts has been arrived at via a process of reason, dialogue, evidence, and experiment. Where it is frequently not foolish to disregard appeals to authority, it is extraordinarily foolish to disregard the opinions of experts (especially where the consensus among them is strong, as it is with regard to, for example, the antique age of the earth).

        —Santi

  4. santitafarella says:

    Tom,

    Here’s a scholar who explicitly links Schmitt and Strauss:

    —Santi

  5. TomH says:

    Santi,

    “I think that Obama often behaves with a degree of civility, decency, and dignity that is radically different from the way that someone like Newt Gingrich plays politics.”

    Your naivete is charming. Obama selected Rahm Emanuel to be his chief of staff–a man who is a consummate machiavel. You couldn’t be more wrong. Obama talks as though he were an anti-machiavel, but he walks like a machiavel. If Newt were very good at machiavellian politics, he wouldn’t have been caught divorcing his wife who was dying of cancer.

    I don’t disagree with you about the need to discuss issues openly and candidly, but the execution of policies is a whole ‘nother animal.

    Jesus said to his followers at a particular time to buy a sword for a particular purpose. This doesn’t generally mean that we are all weaponize ourselves.

    Jesus declared all foods clean, but that doesn’t mean that the Jews weren’t obligated to keep the Law, depriving themselves of certain foods. It only means that the principle that they assumed for keeping the Law was invalid.

    With regard to thinking about tomorrow–didn’t you notice that little phrase, “for yourselves?” The point was to show compassion. The accumulation of wealth was certainly not prohibited. Furthermore, hyperbole is frequently used in biblical texts and we have to be careful to recognize (though not impose it!). The point about wealth was to not serve it, not that the accumulation of it was wrong.

    “And Jesus was outraged at the greed in the temple, and people turning it into a ‘den of thieves.’” On the contrary, Jesus was outraged because his father’s house was being used against his father’s wishes–especially with regard to thievery, which was against his father’s rules (i.e., the Law). Jesus’ act was to uphold the Law, especially with regard to thievery. How can you be so blind?

    Jesus’ admonition was to not worry about tomorrow. Worry was the problem, not ordinary planning.

    “As for Voltairian skepticism, you fail to make the important distinction between AUTHORITY and EXPERTISE.” Banging the pulpit doesn’t make your point any stronger. What is the difference between these two concepts when it comes to engaging the subject matter? Experts are authorities.

    “…you can accept the recommendation knowing that the consensus of experts has been arrived at via a process of reason, dialogue, evidence, and experiment.” In all cases, including controversial subjects? Hardly. Emotion frequently plays a huge role in controversial subjects, even among so-called scientific experts. There is no reason in appealing to experts. Reason requires engaging the subject matter directly, not quoting someone else who has engaged the subject matter or relying on their opinion.

    • santitafarella says:

      Tom,

      Baconian process is what assures that expert opinion is far more valuable than non-expert opinion (or appeals to authority based on faith). If your logic was correct, a group of nonexperts would be as likely as a group of experts to be correct on a matter pertaining to an area of expertise (law, medicine, biology, etc). This is obviously not the case. When you have a grave medical diagnosis, you consult experts about what to do next—not religious authorities or your local health food store clerk.

      The way that expert opinion is legitimately used is this: if what you are claiming contradicts expert consensus, and you yourself are not an expert, however good your reasons for believing something appear to you, you ought to apportion your belief cautiously (because other smart people, looking at the same data, and with actual expertise in the subject, disagree with you). If, for example, you think ground up shark bones cure cancer, you do well to hold that view (at best) lightly if you discover that expert medical researchers disagree. The reasons that you may have heard for the curative powers of shark bone may seem compelling to you, but expert opinion is a very important datum for you to consider before throwing down a thousand dollars on crushed shark bone capsules.

      Contrast this with authority on matters theological: if a pope or holy book disagrees with you concerning a matter (such as whether there are angels or not, or at what moment the soul enters the body), there is no reason whatsoever for assuming that your opinion is better or worse than those authority sources. Opinions on angels and souls are a total crap shoot. Not so matters medical, biological, and archeological. There are experts in these fields, and their epistemic methods are grounded in reason, open dialogue, and evidence.

      As for Jesus, you are very good at turning things that he appears to have plainly said into their opposite. It just goes to show how completely open to interpretation ancient texts can be, and why they are really not valuable as guides for living. You can obviously make them say whatever you want. You can carry swords (or not). You can pursue money (or not). You can lend money (or not). You can follow the Jewish law (or like Paul, who was a Jew, you don’t have to). Jesus can be a mascot for Republicans and Marxists.

      Francis Bacon helped put a stop to all this. He said that there must be a better way, a better method, for getting at the truth of matters. He found one. It’s called empiricism, and, over the last couple of centuries, experts have formed around the various empirical disciplines. Experts, unlike religious authorities, are actually worth hearing from.

      —Santi

      • TomH says:

        Baconian process in medicine? Please. Medicine is still more an art than a science.

        I see that you are still dogmatically holding to your anti-enlightenment views. Reason requires examining the evidence and arguments, not appealing to experts for their dogma. Expertise should not be regarded as full-on or full-off. We need to use reason to determine on which questions expertise should be less highly regarded rather than simply deferring to experts. Medical experts, enlightened by darwinism, told us that the tonsils and adenoids had no function for decades, simply on the basis that they had no evidence of their function. The more cautious creationist doctors, considering that absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, were more conservative and didn’t recommend removing these organs unnecessarily. Subsequently, medical research validated the approach of the creationist doctors. Now we are seeing the same sort of results regarding the appendix. It has been found to have important functions–restoring the beneficial flora to the gut after its sudden death and providing some immune function. However, darwinist medical experts managed to enact law requiring that the appendix be removed whenever the abdomen was opened, believing that it had no function. So, we must be cautious about listening to experts, whether medical or religious. We dare not delegate our critical faculties.

        Regarding theological matters–you are obviously taking the negative side of a controversial issue and I find your argument to nothing more than question begging.

        Regarding the question of what Jesus said–it is a question of correct interpretation and careful reading. Just because a lot of people misinterpret scripture doesn’t mean that there isn’t a correct interpretation for a passage. Your argument that interpretations differ so we can’t understand scripture is weak and anti-intellectual.

        Bacon, unfortunately, is hardly influential in much of science (e.g., economics, meteorology, cosmology, and paleontology). Your scientism is showing.

      • TomH says:

        Santi,

        You brought up the issue of interpretation of scripture. Here is an example of how to properly read scripture.

        Let’s consider Matthew 6:19-24.

        19“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20“But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; 21for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. 22“The eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. 23“But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! 24“No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.”

        Looking simply at the first sentence, many people read this passage as prohibiting the accumulation of wealth. However, Jesus includes the modifier, “for yourselves,” which only prohibits the accumulation of wealth for selfish purposes. Jesus gives reasons why the accumulation of wealth brings problems–those who accumulate wealth may lose it for a variety of reasons, which means that it affects their life by requiring maintenance, including moth prevention and security issues. Jesus provides an alternative, which is accumulating wealth in heaven. But how do we move our money to the Bank of Heaven? Clearly, Jesus is speaking of a different kind of wealth–one based on charity–that isn’t subject to the problems of the world we live in. Jesus says that our minds will be on the location of our treasure. He is concerned about our focus–that it be Heaven.

        In verse 23, the “bad eye” is an idiom for greed. Jesus is playing on words here, saying that greed perverts the use of the eye to do the opposite of what its proper use is.

        Later on, Jesus provides a little more light on the human condition–that we are necessarily servants. We can serve God or we can serve wealth (or something else). This has implications for those who desire to serve God yet have wealth.

        This passage is not about prohibiting the accumulation of wealth for Christians. One may accumulate wealth without seeking to do so. The message is to not go under the yoke of wealth. Control it–don’t let it control you.

  6. andrewclunn says:

    It seems like left wing politics still dominate China after all:

  7. Scott says:

    Tom H, very good interpretation of what Jesus Christ was saying.

    He didn’t condemn wealth, he was talking about the wrong attitude that people can have toward wealth. They put it above everything and everyone else.

    • TomH says:

      Thank you, Scott.

      I had another thought about the idea that Herderian nationalism is behind Tea Party politics. Tea Party sympathizers and members tend to be for legal immigration, so that tendency undermines the notion that Herderian nationalism is involved.

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