–The answers of a Spurious Jeremiah
In her introduction to Matthew Arnold’s 1869 critique of cultural prejudices, entitled Culture and Anarchy (which you will have noticed, is a chief inspiration for this blog/podcast), Jane Garnett notes that Arnold kept two quotations scribed in his notebook as a guide to his critical reflections upon society:
1. “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” (Proverbs 29:18)
2. “Always place a definite purpose before you.” (Thomas à Kempis, The Imitation of Christ)1
These two quotations, which represent the cultural legacy of Hebraism and the Hellenic legacy of pure reason, or anarchy, define the totality of human experience and the struggle of the individual to navigate the world. Arnold saw Western Civilization as a struggle to balance these two poles and to rein in their excesses through moderation of reason and cultural prejudice. The individual, and particularly the individualist, must navigate the world, balancing empirical and theoretical reality, without allowing the theoretical world to blind one to empirical reality or empirical reality to blind one to theoretical, a priori, truths.
Matthew Arnold was a devoted and remarkable poet in his early life, thought the muse left him as he entered the middle of his life and turned his attention to critical matters. An educator by trade, he became involved in the reform of Victorian schooling as an inspector and thus turned his attention to cultural criticism and the setting of standards for institutional learning. As a literary critic with a poetic sensibility, he was concerned to pass onto succeeding generations the wisdom of the English people. He wished to see a culture arise for a people born again into an Industrial Age; one that would equip that people to achieve the politeness, refinement, and the heights of learning and peace that, in previous times, had only been available to those with political connections and patents of nobility: the kings, the nobles, the lords, the priestly classes of established churches, and the aristocrats. The old world was dead, the ancien regime in shambles, and gone was the specter of permanence for those who thrived upon the suppression of the marketplace and the subjection of peoples who had not yet discovered the arguments sufficient to urge the overthrow of the pre-capitalistic political order and its socialistic underpinnings, and to take upon themselves the trappings of true individualism. Many peoples have yet to find that liberation and sophistication, even in part. In the 1800s, the English peoples in America and England had cast off its infancy to arrive at adolescence, and was only just beginning to search for guides towards the production of peaceful and fruitful society that could be thought of as more than a mere idle fantasy. It was fighting the first purge against slavery and tyranny with success, and simultaneously beginning to question the imperial legacy that characteristically marked the passage of all-powerful States into ascendency upon the world’s stage.
To quote Jane Garnett’s summation of Culture and Anarchy, Arnold “wanted to defend his role as a thinker, rather than a doer (in the political sense), but, in doing so, to promote the idea of culture as an active principle, an approach to life—as the engaged thought without which action was futile. In Arnold’s view, people needed to think more, and in a more disciplined way.”2
What came of Culture and Anarchy? What was its cultural impact?
Lampoons, mostly, of the stodgy old Victorian Englishman, dour-faced Arnold himself, who had overthought the matter in his pursuit of social reform not through political means, but by cultural means. He believed in the importance of the prejudice and morality demanded of a good people in order to fashion and preserve a good society. His was not the vision of utopia imposed, but instead the vision of a peaceful equilibrium at which humans could arrive if only they could temper their own baser instincts to violence and intolerance. His was the vision of a society governed by deep thought, reflection, and calculation, with theory as a guide—not force, socialistic revolution, imperialism, statism, and the organized chaos reminiscent of decrepit Prussianism’s ceaseless warmongering. Politics was a surer means of forcing cultural change, and one utilized in our own age to our own destruction. Even in Arnold’s time, the revolt against reason and the Enlightenment caused anchor-dragging counterrevolutionaries to move towards Marxian dogmas and Victorian welfarism. The regressives rebelled against capitalism and private property, in pursuit of utopia that did not represent a world where real men and women think and act freely. There was a push for social engineering an mechanical doctrines of the overweening materialists. The State, when once the old tyrannies of the Church had been cast off, was the surest means to achieving that goal of cultural suppression, since the State already had the network of graft, force, taxation, and militarism to prosecute secular revenges against faction in favor of uniform economic leveling. It was no coincidence that in the decline of religious moderation as a cultural principle—and, here I speak as an atheist, not as religion’s advocate, but one interested in culture as the alternative to dead-end statecraft—it was no coincidence that this decline in religious power was marked by an ever-increasing faith in the State, in law, in regulation, and in welfarism as a principle of socialization. Progressivism was the heir to the pre-capitalistic age and church bureaucracy, recovered from its obsolescence—the heir to imperialism and colonialism. But now the imperialism was inverted, aiming at a colonization of the self and the colonization of domestic factions. It was the permanent search for the underclass to the prejudice of the culture that made the parasitism and wealth destruction moderately sustainable in the first place by providing the fodder for controversy.
Even today Arnold has the reputation of a conservative reactionary. In the university, he is just one more “old dead white guy.” He was a man trying to suppress the Progressive spirit of the social reformers looking for spiritual ecstasy in egalitarian mediocrity or else to push back against the Tory blowhards looking for social salvation in established church doctrines pushed by law and statute. He was questing for a doctrine of equilibrium.
Arnold was not a radical man, with radical opinions, and I am by no means dedicated to expanding his particular insights. But he was a man with some rather keen insights into human nature and societal progress and the twin forces of reason and practicality that guide human beings every day in their voluntary transactions and unguided lives. In philosophy and epistemology, he was a man savvy to the rising concern over the hypermaterialism emerging from the catholic empiricism of Locke and Hume; a man savvy to the counterarguments of Kant, and the emergence of pure reason as a critical apparatus, which allows the individualist to engage with the world firsthand through deduction, beholden to no man’s mere prejudice. Reason, the anarchy in which an individual grasps the world without third party mediation, had to find a balance to check its excesses where evidence and sensation—the natural sciences—provided checks on feckless optimism. The “rationalist” Jacobins had turned the world upside-down during The French Revolution in the quest to “make the world rational” by force of arms and through social leveling and engineering; and this “rational” progress needed checks, the checks of evidence and reality, since logic and pure reason had obvious limitations. Culture was that balance to rational anarchy.
Anarchy is a harsh word to the modern American. “Anarch,” literally “without a head”—it conjures up the demonic vision of Baltic communists and hoodlums in balaclavas rioting through peaceful streets with Molotov cocktails where no State exists to repel the rioters and looters. It is a word that is associated with violence and destruction, with Satan (in Milton’s terms, the “Anarch old”) and his legions in Hell. We find this kind of anarchy in the power vacuums created by failed States, where political regimes collapse in bankruptcy and devolve into baser tribalism.
But anarchy is also, and always remains, a rational ideal—the ultimate expression of individual freedom. It is the drive to have no other lord or master than one chooses to follow voluntarily; and even to have neither lord nor master at all.
There is always a balance between practicality (culture) and reason (anarchy). The story of this balance is the story of evolved humanity. Reason, logic, and the human sciences give us a world of dead perfections—a world in which we understand humans through deduction from the world as it exists in order to gain a skeleton of human action’s time invariant properties. By making these deductions, we are better equipped to navigate the world and to obtain resources that do not appear out of thin air at our beck and call. The rational, ordered, time-invariant world is a world without scarce resources that have alternative uses. It is the world we understand through reflection and calculation. But as soon as we factor variables into the time-invariant stereotype of human action, which is human nature, and observe how human actors adjust to ever-changing conditions in quality and quantity with regard to human valuations of the means on a margin required for the sustainment of life, the world gets complicated. And, what is even more extraordinary, the world becomes more orderly. People begin to barter and exchange; and as the voluntary sphere expands to prejudice society away from coercion and aggression, the baser aspects of our brutish instincts, a spontaneous order appears, manifesting in money, market prices, and rational economic calculation.
Property becomes a means of dispute resolution and restitution. And as property arises, the brutish instincts re-emerge amongst the least fit to survive in voluntary Society, least equipped for reflection and calculation—a kind of resurgence of unevolved instincts, which have yet to transcend our apish ancestry. There are good actors and bad actors; thinking men and brutes. Anarchy—a world without lords and masters—is the world as represented in pure theory, since it is the world of human interaction and exchange. Such is the world of the individual. But many people see anarchy as a razing to the ground—the abandonment of civil society and traditions in government. As soon as people begin thinking and acting for themselves, what horrors are people not capable of bringing to bear as they stray away from the State that binds them to their lesser brethren in the human tribe?
Meanwhile, the history of the State reveals a single fact: All states fail and devolve into chaos, force, taxation, czarism, and violence. When culture is tied to the State, culture falls into disarray when the State collapses and declines, and the human tribe must rediscover in the chaos the principles and morals capable of sustaining social interrelationships peaceably, such that they should ever find the irresponsibility to institute States amongst themselves to their own detriment and cultural decline.
Anarchy—a world without a monopoly of lords and masters—is the world that we desire, and the one that we tend to be most afraid to seize. It is the free market—a world in tune with nature, a world striving for equilibrium and rational calculation outside of a single Plan, without a single head to guide us all, where supply and demand guide human flourishing and push us all forward, even though no single human mind can grasp at all the variables in order to bring them to heel in a single understanding. It is a dynamic world of constant change; a flurry of motion, of displacement, of property, of happiness. We have to have the courage, conviction, morality, and culture in order to reach that goal—the winnowing of the State into nothing. We can arrive at that abolition of a now existing agency by two means—by pursuing the end state of all States, which is bankruptcy resulting in chaos, oppression, and conquest, or by withering the State away into nothing by the repudiation of national debts, the adoption of decentralized monies, and the adoption of cultural standards that expect more from one’s countrymen than a mere birthright or a sheet of paper.
And still the word anarchy sounds cold to some.
At least, that is how it is now heard by a people hedged in by democratic socialists, unapologetic statists, and outright fascists, who rail against individualism and liberty and argue us all into economic slavery. There was a time when anarchy meant peace—and not just in theory. There was a time when a farmer upon the frontier homesteaded his land, ploughed and planted his own fields, and suffered the elements in a home built with his own two hands. No State pushed him off of his land by taxing him into oblivion, prejudicing his children to sell upon his death. The land and its fruit was his, and his alone. His labor had been mixed with the soil, and he had truly transformed purposeless Nature into an asset for living. He paid no oppressive taxes, except in his sweat under the heat of the sun. There was a time when anarchy was more than idyllic or a mere ideal; when it described reality. Where frontiersmen traded with natives; when natives interacted with homesteaders in peace. When trade marked society before the arrival of States looking to impose orders from above, with centrally-guiding principles forced upon peoples by mandate. There was a time when the pastoral symphony and the pastoral painting were not just pretty pictures and ditties—when the pastoral described Life, both as it exists and as we would wish it. There was a time when Anarchy described the mindset of individuals in the pursuit of happiness. It is not that Anarchy was a thing. It was the striving. Anarchy was the virtue that inspired the Transcendentalists, America’s first cultural intellectuals, who rebelled against the catholic empiricism of the Lockean tradition in epistemology. They moved away from Puritanical Hebraism towards Unitarian Hellenism. The Transcendentalists saw that there was a role for pure reason in living and striving, and not just in a vague religious sense. Reason was living; it was, to parse what Nietzsche later wrote in Beyond Good and Evil (1886), “estimating, preferring, being unjust, being limited, wanting to be different.”3 It was not a principle of being. It was the essence of being. This anarchic tradition was the spirit of the American continent and a Western people looking to transcend the statist thinking of their primitive selves still laboring under lords and continental masters back in Europe, subject to the chiefest armed banditti.
Anarchy was never—as its cosmopolitan critics so perceived it—a longing to “go back” to simple times. Anarchy was always forward thinking. It was always aimed at tomorrow. The best way to end any cycle of arbitrary violences and petty revenges remains peace by contract; an agreement that, on the morrow, the revenges shall no longer be arbitrary or the devolutions into mere bickering over mutual offenses, but limited to revenges against the particular individuals who engage in acts of aggression and property destruction. We do not strive to go back to the original days of the Constitution like the political conservative. Those days are done. We wish to go forward to end coercion and aggression by voluntary contract. That contract can be arbitrated by third parties agreed upon in advance of the contract, but it was never incumbent upon that principle that the arbitration be provided by a State. And in the anarchic days of American society, many times those arbitrations occurred outside of government courts. Law is not the property of the State. It is, in fact, the property of civil society, which explicitly lies outside of the purview of the State. Government is not Society. The State is not Society. Individual self-interest is Society.
But now there are no more frontiers. And now, where humans must find a way to peacefully coexist, there is only one means to peaceful interaction and production—free markets and free trade. We know this to be true, since these are the means to voluntary cooperation and peace that we all desire as an end point, even though we vastly disagree on the means of getting there. And we know that culture and anarchy—the anarchy of the marketplace, where competing firms must peacefully jockey for resources in order to best please the consuming public’s diverse and varied tastes—we know that this is the best means to preserving freedom and peace. If diversity is indeed the source of American strength, that diversity is not in one’s color of skin, one’s gender, or one’s political leanings. That diversity is in the marketplace, where individuals compete to provide one another with what each most desires.
With the decline of frontiers swiftly came the resurgence of artificial restraints to check American anarchy—the restraints imposed by States. States strove to introduce a base Hebraism; to place static impositions upon a dynamic market Society: borders, fences, walls, laws, regulations, tariffs, trade barriers, masters, and taxes. States fought cultural enrichment and interpersonal exchange, often prosecuting those revenges in the name of protecting culture and exchange. They regulated race relations and private property. They continually transgressed the outlines of their social contracts, which were binding upon all peoples except those in the employ of the State machinery. The anchor was thrown over the side of the ship, ending the progress of individualism and marking the rise of the destructive herd instinct: collectivism and Progressivism. And now that anchor hangs around our necks like a millstone. It is the anchor now charged with grinding education to a halt. American history is not a march towards progress. It is a march along a winding path, riddled with switchbacks and dead-ends. And we are, right now, nearing the precipice that lies at the most significant dead-end our people has ever encountered.
In our own age, the political firebrand, Andrew Breitbart, may best have captured the spirit of Matthew Arnold’s thinking with his famous quip: “Politics is downstream from culture.” That is, culture is what drives societal change. Politics, the clunky or idyllic bureaucracy of socialistic pipedreams filled with egalitarian automatons (our current climate of cultural Marxism and political correctness), is a barren wasteland. It is the microscopy of adjectives, dividing all integers into victims and classes in order to set self-interest against self-interest through the means of intersubjective thievery and democratic mobocracy. Politics is innately conservative and anti-market. It weaponizes diversity instead of celebrating the Anarchy of individualism. It is like an anchor thrown over a ship where none amongst the crew has troubled himself to batten the sails because nobody aboard is looking to stay rooted in place. Static equilibrium was never the objective of those who boarded the ship. The sailors were looking for dynamic equilibrium. The shipmates boarded their vessel in order to seek the most productive output of their labors while striving towards some distant shore that each laborer prized for his own reasons. The anchor is the manifestation of the fear that the ship will drift too far, too fast, if nothing forces the ship away from the winds. Nobody knows what lies over the horizon, even though everyone aboard the ship is actively working to push the ship across that horizon just to see what the new vantage offers to view. The anchor drags, causes much of a stir about nothing, while preventing the progress of humankind in its voluntary associations. Neither the anchor nor the ship can determine—outside of fixed coordinates plotted by means of the stars or the occasional sighting of land—where exactly the anchor would keep them, or where they might arrive if they cut the anchor free. The ocean is not fixed and static—it is moving freely in relative anarchy, with the free transfer of energy from crest to trough. The sails billow with renewable energy that blows without purpose, only as a particular link in the purposeless chain of causes. And the sails are carrying men through Nature’s disturbances in search of their own souls’ equilibrium. Were it not imposed upon, the waters themselves would settle into equilibrium. The winds would cease to blow.
While nature cannot reach true equilibrium, the satisfaction of desires, humans can. Humans look for rest and satisfaction, however fleeting it is. Each man knows his labors, works for his profit, and searches for the satisfaction of his subjective wants. The crew knows that the anchor is not holding fast to the ground. It is dragging. It is not defining any specific region of the waters, since that region cannot be charted—it is variable. There are better lands, better deals, better technologies to be had just over the horizon, if only the crew could find the gall to cut the anchor that binds them to their desire for a mere illusion of security.
They fear to cut that cord.
It is the one sure means they have to moor their ship when they get to the destination; but they do not know what the destination is, or that there is an end to all of their labors that could ever be within their reach. The anchor has a purpose—to find a root, to latch fast to the bank, and to halt the progress of the ship. And the anchor weighs down the ship, forestalls the advance, threatens to do damage to the ship, and saps the energy and virtue of the crewmen, who must labor all the harder to offset its drag.
What would happen if culture finally cut the cord, let the anchor fall into the deeps, sailed headily towards the horizon, pursuing new fields and oceans, each taking the position best suited to his nature by voluntary association, improving the efficiency and productivity of a ship that will never find a static state in an ocean of shifting variables—scarce resources with quickly-proliferating alternative uses?
A ship, a Society, without lords and masters—that is the noble ideal. A society where individual self-interest is not in conflict with society’s self-interest, since Society is the pursuit of happiness through individual self-interest.
We hear peoples the world over argue for less government, for individual freedom and happiness, and for the rights of people to coexist freely. And yet we hear the same old tired solutions proposed for our problems: “Reform! Representation! Regulation!” And we get more government, less individual freedom and happiness, and fewer rights of the people to coexist freely. More representation results in less freedom than the marketplace first presents to the human tribe. We want more presentation, and less of the representation. Still the situation becomes direr as representation increases. More stridently the peoples cry: “Reform! Representation! Regulation!” The urgency still increases.
We must rediscover the forbidden virtue of anarchy. We must find the willingness to abandon a now-existing agency, a kind of golden calf of State—the anchor of State that drags us down—in favor of a non-binding, decentralized voluntary order. It is an order that is prejudiced, subjective, and unfixed. It competes; its evolves; it remains open to change. It is an order that is free and dynamic, and finds equilibrium in that dynamism like the surface of water—not a static equality of outcomes. We will not make a better society by setting in place a giant State that will teach us our morals and our equality as some elite class of politicians would engineer them. We are equal when we stand outside of the State and its moral teachings; when we obey the laws governing justly-obtained property and individual self-ownership. Freedom lies not in the separation of any two governmental bodies to prevent conflicts of interest. Freedom lies in the separation—the vacuum that opens up between coercive agencies when competition is allowed to diversify human interests. Remove the coercive agencies, and one finds anarchy. An anarchy governed by voluntary corporations, private defense, and localized cultures.
There is no Game for which humanity is a problem to be played to find the right rules sufficient to achieve a lasting victory for all time, if only we can socially-engineer human activity from the top-down by means of taxes, coercion, and aggression. There is peace through trade and free markets. And then there is violence.
It is our choice to pursue the better option, but the cry of the peoples can no longer be “Reform! Representation! Regulation!” It must be “Repeal! Abolition!” It must be pursuit of anarchy, the toppling of the old order and the rediscovery of a rich and vibrant culture without a demand that the void be filled from the top-down from a human, or elected group of humans, purporting to stand in the shoes of a priestly class speaking on the behalf of a god-like agency. We must argue for the absence of a now-existing agency, the State, in favor of a yet-non-existent agency that has been punished out of existence by the State’s co-optation of resources that would be available to competitors with alternative uses for those resources, if only the State would release its grip upon human destiny.
Freedom is anarchy. It has no other definition. A man is not free to be fed without work. Nature imposes certain restrictions upon us, and we must utilize the means to which we have a just right in property in order to satisfy our wants. Property is our means of dispute resolution; the thing that can be traded for mutual benefit. There will be no other world; no other state of affairs. Where man lives, man acts; and where man acts, he lacks something. Reality does not pause or look for a reset button. Equilibrium is there, just beyond the next horizon, only if on our own horizon we stamp out coercion and aggression in the quest for the Society that every day eludes us in the State’s predations.
As Garnett aptly sums up Matthew Arnold’s reflections in Culture and Anarchy, “the critical categories which [Arnold] developed were dialectical: the tension between the ordinary self and the best self; strictness of conscience versus spontaneity of consciousness; right acting versus right thinking. These were aspects of the overarching critical opposition which he developed in Culture and Anarchy: that between Hebraism and Hellenism. These terms carried different connotations at different parts of the argument; each tendency in theory carried the same aim of perfection, and, if held in proper balance, they would contribute together to that ultimate goal.” Hebraism—the Hebrew ethic driving Christian society and Western Civilization—was the practical guide to life, the imposition of rules and norms. It consisted of guides to action, prescribed taboos, recommended behaviors, prejudices, restrictions, and—even—guides to ostracism: how best to inoculate society against its destructive bad actors without resorting to stoning all bad actors to death, regardless of the severity of offense to sensibility and property. Balancing that practical, earth-bound ethic for interpersonal association was the more metaphysical spirit of Hellenism—that is, the spirit of Greek and Roman philosophy. Hellenism was the quest for reason—for critical thinking in the moment, in the abstract, in the time-invariant theoretical sphere.
In Arnold’s time, Hellenism was most expressed by two rival factions—the free market capitalists and the socialistic reformers. While the quest for individual freedom was in full sway throughout the 1800s, free market capitalism won out for its practicality and its proven track record, even though the theoretical debate would rage until the early 1900s. Free Market microeconomic rationalism has won the theoretical debate; and, in fact, it won the theoretical debate in the 1870s when Marginal Utility Theory and the Austrian school of economics wiped away the errors of objective value theory in Classical Economics, destroying socialism in the process. Even still, the materialists and socialists tore through the world, heedless of the free market critics, breeding enormously oppressive states, genocidal world wars, counterfeiting central banks, and currencies based in government debt, all of which have combined to decimate cultures and peoples through reckless Hebraism. Social engineering won out, but it only won out by oppressing peoples devoted to private property and the natural law while promoting the logical fallacies that cannot work—they violate sound principles of mathematics, every rule of morality, and even basic addition. The socialists found, much to their theoretical (Hellenic) chagrin, that socialism was only practicable if it could co-opt the resources of a capitalist society; and it found the surest means to promoting socialistic parasitism by destroying our Hebraic legacy and trashing culture: by promoting democracy’s inherent attraction to envy, covetousness, revenge, and greed for a neighbor’s house, his wife, his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, and anything else belonging to said neighbor.
How tragic! And how ironic and telling that this same socialistic drive for welfarism lies at the heart of every established religion, from Anglicanism to the Church of Rome. There is something religious in the drive to purge from American life the spirit of anarchy, of individualism.
This debate between the excess of Hebraism and Hellenism has never ended, and it is now being pitched more violently than ever, both in rhetoric and in deathdealing. Politics has supplanted culture. We have lost our prejudices; we have emptied ourselves of our traditions; we have destroyed voluntary association and reared, in their decease, a Welfare State that thrives upon war and egalitarian mediocrity. The patriotism of property owners with moral and cultural links was reduced to the patriotism of parties and conquests. America is no longer seen as something separate from its government. We have become a nation of faction and not of Law. A nation of punishments instead of principles. We have reared upon our ideals vast monoliths, these debtor nations who pay their debts by destroying lesser nations while passing off the burdens of socialism and fascism upon those least able to bear the hardships. We have scrapped the anti-colonial thinking of the free marketers in favor of Western imperialism all over again. We have become the very thing that in 1776 we sought to unbecome. The new colonial legacy is envisioned as social reform, and it is marked by political globalism achieved by means of gigantic international bureaucracies that are irresponsible to individuals and their local governments. Socialistic organizations now rule popular opinion and rear up a generation of ingrates, mere trembling apes that are slouching back into submission—taxed, intellectually and financially, by public schools, public colleges, supranational organizations, and our federal overlords. Gone is the specter of the anarchy that was present in the globalization of free markets and the evisceration of taxation, which would have moved in coordination to cultural change, in stride with sustainable economic gains. Gone is the intellectual tradition of the American Transcendentalists and the frontier farmers, who eschewed stale universities in favor of a balance between Unitarian Hebraism and radically anarchic Hellenism.
This podcast is dedicated to reversing American “Progress.” To be clear, we, the freedom-loving radicals, do not wish to “go back” to anything. The “Progress” that the Progressives thought that they were achieving was a regression; a regression back into feudalism and czarism under collective immiseration. It was always backward thinking; a mere anchor; always looking to experience without the aid of reason. We wish, instead, to move towards the abolition of now-existing agencies, which will not be replaced by any means of force, fraud, or theft. We do not require an all-encompassing Plan for Society. Society is unplanned. It is human progress through the diversity of conflicting ideals and aims. The Twentieth Century was the most destructive century in human history; its wars made the bubonic plague look like a mild case of the flu. We are now fulfilling that destructive legacy in the midst of the longest war in U.S. history, and we have no goals, no means to victory, and no prospect to sue for peace. And despite the burdens saddling human ingenuity from a hundred years of spiritual decline, the human spirit innovated through the Twentieth Century, reacted to the wealth destruction by wealth production, and pushed technological revolutions to counter the State’s predations. Anarchy, a reaction to stifling conformity, revolutionized the American people. The century’s reckless pursuit of political substitutions for culture through socialism and welfare statism destroyed the world’s finest associations—the voluntary brotherhoods and sisterhoods that long sustained local communities. That century brought us to endless war, currency destruction, and debt. That legacy is destroying education by divorcing parents from their role in childrearing in order to make up for the losses imposed upon their incomes by an oppressive tax regime. It is a legacy of predation that has broken apart families and subsidized single motherhood to the prejudice of the family. And we know that such “Progress” is unsustainable. A people without a cultural legacy is a people without a reason to continue living and producing; it is a people always looking backwards, mistaking foolishness for wisdom. This is not a culture prepped to step forward into liberty.
There will come a time, in the very near future, that we shall find ourselves looking once again to our forefathers for wisdom. We must guide our progress with moderation, calculation, and prejudice against what our grandparents allowed to come to pass; and we must look, with clear sight of reason and vision, so that we do not confuse past poisons for future tonics. We must winnow the grain from the chaff; mark the fool from the soothsayer. We will do this as individuals, and we will accomplish this only by cutting ourselves free of that dragging anchor that halts our progress, testing the ground before us with small steps in the anarchy of production.
I am biased and I am prejudiced. I am an unapologetic free market libertarian and voluntarist. I am an atheist and a rationalist with a high esteem for the human spirit. Austrian economics guides my reasoning and deduction in the theoretical sphere. But art—specifically art and history—guide my prejudices. Literature, religion, art, and criticism are the guide to practical living and the pursuit of beauty and perfection where humans are left to pursue their own devices in the decentralized marketplace where liberty thrives. As Mises once noted in his economic treatise, Human Action: “The living is not perfect because it is liable to change; the dead is not perfect because it does not live.”
Perfection is theory; it is static and deductive, time-invariant and a stereotype of action. Life is imperfect, it is liable to change. Our values and our motivations change with regard to the alternatives available to us, but we strive towards self-perfection by finding a balance between self-consistent theory and the best that has been thought and said. We must find a way to bridge the two worlds, one foot in each, and take care to never lose ourselves within prejudice or perfection to the obliteration of freedom. If we are to survive, we need more than theory. We need culture. We need the best that has been thought and said.
This podcast is dedicated to the great story of humankind; it is about America. It is not about the State that governs and destroys America and pretends that it is America in form and function. This podcast is, instead, about the real America: the land, the people, the language, the marketplace, the symbolism, and the pursuit of freedom. Where the people has erred, where statism has crept into American institutions, these errors, of which the Twentieth Century is the fullest expression as the triumph of democratic welfare statism—these errors have had a deleterious effect on American culture. And we must recover—even in our industrialized civilization—the principles of pastoral anarchy. They still exist. They guide the most of us through our daily operations, but we stop ourselves short of realizing those ideals in full when we feel the anchor of past errors tug upon us. We fear to contradict the old talking heads who warn us away from pure reason; and we fear to find that those old talking heads were foolish because they are fearful. It is the brute in human experience that calls us back to the rule of coercion and aggression, when we know that voluntary contract, even for defense, is possible. . Ours are the principles of the family, of decency, of kinship, of principles, and of virtue. A society reared upon these values cannot fail if it has the strength to trust in them. Along with these, we must recover the humor, the subversive deviance, the witty cruelties, and the delicious satire of anti-establishment prejudice. The monstrous regiment of political correctness and statist presumption requires a reversal, and there are a good many patricians dependent upon the State who we must unseat, both in reality and in culture, by ostracism and prejudice—the self-assertion of our own individual values. It is time to secede from the Twentieth Century and to declare our individual sovereignty.
The Culture & Anarchy Podcast will range and romp through philosophy, literature, religion, poetry, and history, by turns, and seek those principles of anarchy in American life while they can still be recovered from the destruction of our unique intellectual tradition. I am particularly versed in the diverse trends that bred the culture which begat the American Revolution, and much of what I will discourse upon in this podcast will be drawn from reflections upon this formative period in American history through the Civil War. This is a podcast in the tradition of Milton, Algernon Sidney, Crevecoeur, The Cato Letters, Jefferson and the Declaration, the hooting and hollering rebels in Boston Harbor; of Emerson, Thoreau, Rothbard, and Mises. It is in the spirit of Albert Jay Nock and Frank Chodorov. It is a podcast for man as he is, not as he ought to be. It is a podcast for man as he is, and as he strives to be.
I will leave this brief introduction (or perhaps a manifesto) to The Culture and Anarchy blog/podcast with the following passage from the first chapter of Culture and Anarchy—a chapter that was originally an 1867 speech that Arnold delivered to an audience at Oxford under its original title, “Culture and its Enemies”:
If culture, then, is a study of perfection, and of harmonious perfection, general perfection, and perfection which consists in becoming something rather than in having something, in an inward condition of the mind and spirit, not in an outward set of circumstances, –it is clear that culture, instead of being the frivolous and useless thing which Mr Bright, and Mr Frederic Harrison, and many other liberals are apt to call it, has a very important function to fulfil for mankind. And this function is particularly important in our modern world, of which the whole civilisation is, to a much greater degree than the civilisation of Greece and Rome, mechanical and external, and tends constantly to become more so. But above all in our own country has culture a weighty part to perform, because here that mechanical character, which civilisation tends to take everywhere, is shown in the most eminent degree. Indeed nearly all characters of perfection, as culture teaches us to fix them, meet in this country with some powerful tendency which thwarts them and sets them at defiance. The idea of perfection as an inward condition of the mind and spirit is at variance with the mechanical and material civilisation in esteem with us, and nowhere, as I have said, so much in esteem as with us. The idea of perfection as a general expansion of the human family is at variance with our strong individualism, our hatred of all limits to the unrestrained swing of the individual’s personality, our maxim of ‘every man for himself.’ The idea of perfection as an harmonious expansion of human nature is at variance with our want of flexibility, with our inaptitude for seeing more than one side of a thing, with our intense energetic absorption in the particular pursuit we happen to be following. So culture has a rough task in this country, and its preachers have, and are likely long to have, a hard time of it, and they will much oftener be regarded, for a great while to come, as elegant or spurious Jeremiahs, than as friends and benefactors. That, however, will not prevent their doing in the end good service if they persevere; and meanwhile, the mode of action they have to pursue, and the sort of habits they must fight against, should be made quite clear to every one who may be willing to look at the matter attentively and dispassionately.4
1 Arnold, Matthew. Culture and Anarchy. Ed. Jane Garnett. Oxford UP: New York, 2006. vii.
3 Nietzsche, Friedrich. Beyond Good and Evil. Beyond Good and Evil: Prelude to a Philosophy of the Future. Trans. Walter Kaufmann. New York: Vintage Books, 1966. 1.2.10.
4 Arnold, 37.