June 6, 2009

"Men are as clay in the hands of the consummate leader."

From a don't-miss piece by Jonah Goldberg, You want a more 'progressive' America? Careful what you wish for: (Thanks to Rand)

....Wilson, like the bulk of progressive intellectuals in fin-de-siécle America, was deeply influenced by three strands of thought: philosophical Pragmatism, Hegelianism, and Darwinism. This heady intellectual cocktail produced a drunken arrogance and the conviction that the old rules no longer applied.

The classical liberalism of the Founders — free markets, individualism, property rights, etc. — had been eclipsed by a new "experimental" age. Horace Kallen, a protégé of Pragmatism exponent William James, denounced fixed philosophical dogmas as mere rationalizations of the status quo. Sounding much like today's critical theorists, Mr. Kallen lamented that "Men have invented philosophy precisely because they find change, chance, and process too much for them, and desire infallible security and certainty."

The old conception of absolute truths and immutable laws had been replaced by a "Darwinian" vision of organic change.

Hence Wilson argued that the old "Newtonian" vision — fixed rules enshrined in the Constitution and laws — had to give way to the "Darwinian" view of "living constitutions" and the like.

"Government," Wilson wrote approvingly in his magnum opus, "The State," "does now whatever experience permits or the times demand." "No doubt," he wrote elsewhere, taking dead aim at the Declaration of Independence, "a lot of nonsense has been talked about the inalienable rights of the individual, and a great deal that was mere vague sentiment and pleasing speculation has been put forward as fundamental principle."

In his 1890 essay, "Leaders of Men," Wilson explained that a "true leader" uses the masses like "tools." He must inflame their passions with little heed for the facts. "Men are as clay in the hands of the consummate leader."

Wilson once told a black delegation, that "segregation is not a humiliation but a benefit, and ought to be so regarded by you gentlemen." But his racism wasn't just a product of his Southern roots; it was often of a piece with the reigning progressive obsession with eugenics, the pseudoscience that strove to perfect society through better breeding.....

You can slot-in to the above Lenin or Hillary or Hitler or Obama or Alinsky. Or any random sociology prof at your local community college...

What is the intellectual problem with this statement: "The old conception of absolute truths and immutable laws had been replaced by a "Darwinian" vision of organic change..."   What's wrong is that there isn't any "solid ground." No truth that can be used to measure or define anything else.

A "Pragmatist" would say that "what works" is the measure, but there is in his philosophy no absolute standard of "what works." "What works" means whatever you want it to mean. If Wilson had had the power, he probably would have done to inferior races exactly what Hitler did. (He did have the power to introduce Jim Crow laws into the District of Columbia, and proceeded to do so.) And if you accept his philosophy, he would have been perfectly justified in a Final Solution to the negro problem. Eugenics seemed to be "what works" at that moment in time, and Progressives had abandoned any absolute standard that Eugenics might be measured against.

Once you abandon the Truths handed down from our ancestors, then the only "truth" is the intellectual fashion of the moment. Now, kind hearted reader, you may imagine that today's progressives are "nice" people who would not do the horrid things done by Twentieth Century tyrants. Yes? You may believe they would never kill millions of people for the sake of an idea, right? Kill for an intellectual fad? No no no. Impossible.

Well, if you think that, you are wrong. Millions are dying at this moment because a "Progressive" intellectual fad was imposed on hapless people. Read about it in my post here. If you are a leftist, read. Think!

Posted by John Weidner at June 6, 2009 8:41 AM
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