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476 Rome, 2008 Washington D.C.

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476 Rome, 2008 Washington D.C.

On the Dead End America Reached in Politics, and How the Way Out Has to Begin in Metaphysics

One of the many reasons why Ancient Greece was and remains the greatest among history's great nations is the fact that Greek civilization never collapsed. It never died the kind of ugly death that Rome died during the 5th century, or the United States has been dying in our days. The Greeks fell in battle: they were defeated by the Macedonians, and later the Romans. Their culture, which was respected and admired by their conquerors, lived on as part of the Macedonian and Roman empires, and took centuries to gradually fade away. The name of Greece continues to ring clean and honorable in our ears because the Greeks never chose their own destruction. They never surrendered their greatness out of their own will.

If one looks at American culture as a whole, it is evident that the United States no longer has a chance to earn such an honor. Thanks to our military strength, there has never been the remotest possibility of our being conquered by a nation like China or the United Arab Emirates--nations that, like Macedon and Rome of old, admire the material fruits of our culture and seek to imitate some of its concrete aspects, but lack the fundamental spirit that made it possible--and more importantly, American culture, taken as a whole, has been rejecting that fundamental spirit.

The collapse of a civilization is a drawn-out process that does not happen within one day, nor even one year. Rome had been declining for centuries before Odoacer--the first Barbarian king--took it over in 476, and that particular year brought little visible change into the lives of the inhabitants of the empire, who continued to refer to themselves as Romans. Similarly, the United States has been adopting Socialist policies ever since the passage of the first "anti-trust" act in 1890; the 2008 election is just another step down a road we have been traveling on since before Ayn Rand was born. Assigning a date to the collapse of a civilization is an exercise in abstraction: one has to choose the date of an event that symbolizes the whole centuries-long process; an event that summarizes the essence of what brought about the downfall; an event that marks a point of no return.

Dr. Peikoff recenty called Obama "the first anti-American candidate." Indeed, while there have been many un-American candidates and Presidents in the past (in fact, most of the Presidents in the 20th century can be called un-American), none of them has been as avowedly anti-American as Obama. None of them kept hearing "God damn America!" as the gospel of God during their regular Sunday visits to the institution most responsible for shaping their sense of life, their ideas of morality, and their whole implicit philosophy. None of them had the likes of Bill Ayers as their closest associates. If we give them the benefit of the doubt, we might still say about all past Presidents that they were fundamentally well-meaning individuals who honestly wanted to secure a bright future for America, but were awfully handicapped as a result of the betrayal of the nation by its nihilist intellectual establishment. Obama's choice of his friends and mentors makes it clear that securing a bright future for America is definitely not his goal.

A nation cannot elect one of its enemies as its chief executive and survive for long. If we want to find a date symbolic of America's descent into statism, I cannot think of any event in the past, nor do I think there will be any event in the future, that captures it better than the election that turned the first anti-American candidate into the first anti-American president and gave him the full support of the House as well as the Senate. November 4, 2008, is the date history ought to record as the day the first American Republic fell.

Like all ideas, such historical symbolism has far more significance than most people realize. When told of an event that took place in the city of Rome in 450 A.D., most people will automatically consider it to have been an event in the Roman Empire. The more historically savvy among them might note that it was very late in the history of that empire, i.e. in its declining stage, but they will still be naturally inclined to think of it as a part of Rome's history and as a product of Rome's culture. Because 476 A.D. is the widely accepted year of the fall of Rome, very few would think of it as a medieval event. On the other hand, when told of an event in the year 500, everyone will easily recognize it as one that happened in the early medieval times, and one that had nothing to do with the original Roman culture.

Thus, like all abstractions, assigning a date to the fall of the original United States is much more than just an idle academic exercise. Until it becomes widely accepted that we have not been able to keep the constitutional Republic the Founders gave us, everything that happens in America will continue to be seen as an American event, and as a product of American culture, i.e. of capitalism. Only when people become aware that Washington has been taken over by an element foreign to the nation's founding spirit will they stop identifying Washington's actions with that of a capitalist government; only then will they naturally think of it as having nothing to do with the original American culture.

Many patriotic Americans will say that it is premature at this point to declare the end of the Republic. Shouldn't I at least wait to see what policies Obama actually implements (given that he has yet to fully disclose the exact nature and extent of the changes he has in store for us) before pronouncing him the Odoacer of America? But I think, if anything, one has to wonder whether November 4 of this year is too late a date to name: the United States has been much closer to a democracy than a republic for several decades now. This was not the first election in which a candidate tried to gain the support of 51 per cent of the voters by promising them a little money, to be taken from the remaining 49 per cent--and did not even find it necessary to try and explain how his plan was to be reconciled with the inalienable rights Jefferson had written about. However, it was the first election in which the candidate flatly said into the face of a member of the victimized 49 per cent that his intention was to spread their wealth around, and that he knew this will make them vote against him, but it was the other 51 per cent whose vote he was counting on.

But have we really passed a point of no return? Many are hoping to see a repeat of the 1994 elections in 2010 that will give Obama a Republican Congress, making him as impotent to do too much harm as Bill Clinton was. One has to realize, though, that the Republican Party is in a very different situation today than it was sixteen years ago. Back then, the more patriotic half of America's population still had confidence in them as the representatives of their principles and ideals. The elder George Bush was seen as a bad apple among them, and his four years of pseudo-capitalism as an aberration. Today, after having witnessed how the Republicans rose to full power in all branches of the Federal Government and how they used that power to deliver the nation into the hands of its enemies, it is much more difficult not to notice that all the apples are rotten. A defeated, demoralized, and discredited party cannot mount an effective opposition to a determined gang of ruthless power-lusters they have just surrendered to without a fight.

Restrictions on free speech, such as the Campaign Finance "Reform," which was personally gift-wrapped for the Democrats by Senator McCain and autographed for them by President Bush, and the "Fairness" Doctrine whose hideous ghost has risen from the grave to haunt us, will make it even more difficult for any opponent to challenge the Democrats' power.

A genuinely pro-American idealist in the Republican Party who is a good communicator, and also happens to have a lot of his own funds, might yet bring about a second Reagan Revolution. But such people are very rare--and you have to realize that this very period, the last couple of lame-duck months of the Bush administration, is nothing other than the final petering out of the Reagan presidency's afterglow in the Republican Party's fortunes. A second such Republican resurgence would bring a very welcome break from the onmarch of nihilism, but the nature of the Republican Party precludes it from being anything more than a temporary respite, after which the nihilist destroyers are bound to continue marching on. The rare revolutionary is inevitably going to be succeeded by compromisers, "compassionates," "mavericks," and collaborators like the ones who have succeeded Reagan and handed power back to the Democrats. He may delay them by a couple of decades, but he will not bring about a restoration of the Republic.

It is time to make it official: Washington, D.C. has fallen to the Barbarians.

America, however, consists of more than the District of Columbia. American culture consists of more than the nation's intellectual establishment. As the heroic spirit of Greece lived on within the empires that conquered it, the true American sense of life has continued to persist under the rule of the nihilist intelligentsia. The antagonism between these two elements is so sharp and irreconcilable that it is a mistake to "look at American culture as a whole." It would be an injustice to many freedom-loving, independent-souled individuals to accuse them of having chosen their own destruction, or willfully surrendered their own greatness. What has in truth happened to them is that they have become a minority in a what is now a democracy. The ancient Greeks were conquered on the battlefield; the modern Americans, the ones who truly deserve the name, have been outgunned in the cold civil war of a democracy's voting booths.

They will continue to be outgunned until they are armed with and have learned the use of the only weapon that can allow them to defeat the Barbarians and successfully establish a new Republic of freedom and justice: a rational philosophy. That weapon has been manufactured and is ready to be delivered--but it has yet to be ordered in the first place. Most Americans have not yet realized that their current guns are and will forever remain useless against the Barbarians and will rarely allow them to achieve anything but to shoot themselves in the foot. And most of them are genuinely at a loss to understand how a philosophy--the abstractest of all the abstract ideas, the most "academic" of all "academic exercises"--is going to help defend them from the very concrete machine guns of Obama's agents. In this respect, too many Americans are still with Stalin: "How many divisions does the Pope have?"

In the Iliad, it was not until the death of Patroclos that Achilles decided to rejoin the fight against the Trojans, armed with a brilliant new shield made for him by Hephaistos and delivered by Thetis. The role of Antilochos--who brought Achilles the news of his friend's death--now falls upon us: we have to awaken people to the fact that the Republic that was born in 1788 is no longer alive; that conservative political activism has failed to conserve it, and will be equally unable to bring it back to life.

The second part of our task has more to do with metaphysics than with politics: We have to get Americans to recognize that there is something that can give them back their country. We have to shed light on the fact that philosophy, far from being an idle ivory-tower pastime, has a momentuous influence on a nation's life (as it has on life in general). We have to explain them why it is crucial for their survival to know the truth not only as far as concretes are concerned, but also to form the right abstractions. We have to make them see why they cannot afford to rely on faith in any area of life. In a nutshell: we have to clear up the confusion surrounding the relationship of consciousness and existence--we have to explain why ideas matter.

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It's a good and well-written essay, but I have to differ from you in a few regards. The first is that I think the Republicans should take more blame, since their party and platform is disgusting (I think Reagan in particular should be singled out as disgusting). Secondly, I wouldn't mark Nov 4 2008 as the date. My thesis is that Sept 11, 2001 is the modern date of a sort of permanent change for this country.

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Nicely done.

Responding to adrock3215:

Reagan wasn't "disgusting" but had too many mixed premises. He was emphatically pro-American, less willing than the current president to engage in nation building, and to some degree (not much) got the government off our backs and out of our wallets. However he was unable and unwilling to actually cut the spending side, as a result of all of this the government burgeoned and the barbarians simply lay in wait. He probably served to delay this date 15-20 years. Another term of Carter might have led to some slightly worse figure in 1984, followed by an anti-American disaster in 1988 or 1992. (BTW I think Kerry was fundamentally anti-American too. Maybe not so rabid as Obama, but on balance, when push came to shove, I think he bought into the leftist narrative of America being a net problem to the world.)

11 September 2001 being given as the date instead of 4 November 2008 is a very different issue. A strong argument could be made that it was our very last chance to turn back from the abyss, much as 1905 was Russia's. A stronger president would have perhaps done better. In that case, it doesn't *quite* qualify as the end of the Republic, but our response just made 4 November 2008 inevitable. It was just a matter of "when," not "if."

It could also be argued, strongly, but rather pedantically to be sure, that you have to wait for Obama to actually be inaugurated. Odoacer is not the king *yet*.

But these are details. The central thesis is strong.

The question comes: will we avoid a dark ages? I did not say "another Medieval age"--such can be looked on as a period of slumber, waiting for another forward looking culture to arise. We will have that, by definition. Hopefully it will be brief, but I frankly do not expect to see it end in my lifetime (if I am lucky I have another 50 years).

Dark Ages refers specifically to the timespan 476-about 800 AD, when there was basically no civilization whatsoever in Western Europe; things were sort of fragmentary. (There is some evidence that there was a climate shock with accompanying famine in the mid 500s if I recall correctly; the final nail in the coffin of ancient civilization, even rebranded as the barbarian kingdoms. And some of those kingdoms did want to keep Roman civilization alive, but were clueless how to do so.) By the 800s new states were forming, and the Medieval order was establishing itself. The question is will we avoid a dark ages? First off it's helpful to know the warning signs. I would say, if Barbarian America fragments or falls completely under the sway of religous nuts (either Christian or Islamic), we will not. If we remain militarily strong and intact, we skip over the Dark ages and there is a chance we could win the war of ideas and reform America (drastically to be sure), otherwise some utterly new nation will have to form on the ashes of something else--to say nothing of rebuilding a technological standard of living--and it may not be in North America. In fact it most likely will not be. Note that enlightenment civilization formed on the fringes of the old Roman Empire, England (just inside the old boundaries) and Scotland (just outside). Rome formed on the fringes of Greek civilization. Greece itself was on the fringes of the old Bronze Age civilizations. In all cases (save one), the original locus became a backwater and got to watch some hick outlier become the new civilization. The exception is Italy, which was indeed a backwater for a while but recovered admirably in the last century or so (despite Mussolini), and was fully a part of modern Europe. (Even in medieval times the powers were France, England, the Holy "Roman" Empire, which was actually in Germany, and to some extent Poland/Lithuania. Italy was nothing.)

Things that to me would indicate America is fragmenting and totally collapsing as a power, and that we are in for a Dark Ages: increasing dhimmitude, like we see in Europe. A full takeover by the theocrats--which seems unlikely at this point but 4-8 years of Obama may lead to a backlash. Race war. This could be caused by Obama's friends, or it could be touched off if some idiot assasinates him. Any sort (except one) of secession. (The exception would be a large portion leaving and forming a more Objectivist society; it would have to be a *large* portion, however, or it will simply be prey to somebody else.)

It does not encourage me that most children are being educated in a way that makes it impossible for them to argue against the anti-American left. that would be because the left (both anti-American and pro-American but confused) has taken over the educational system.

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I would like to nominate this as "Best Post Ever", and by far the best writing I've ever saw by a non-professional writer on any subject. Of course, I am just assuming the latter as I don't know CF or his professional qualifications personally. I don't know what else to say but excellent post. :)

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It's a good and well-written essay, but I have to differ from you in a few regards. The first is that I think the Republicans should take more blame, since their party and platform is disgusting (I think Reagan in particular should be singled out as disgusting). Secondly, I wouldn't mark Nov 4 2008 as the date. My thesis is that Sept 11, 2001 is the modern date of a sort of permanent change for this country.

Thanks for your comments; I'd more or less second Steve D'Ippolito's response to both of them. On 9/11: While the fact that is was allowed to happen is certainly symbolic of the nation's moral weakness, it wasn't really a final takeover of America by a foreign element. It was a blow, but blows can be recovered from, and while it was absolutely tragic for those involved and their families, it did not directly affect the lives of most Americans, nor America's political system.

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Thanks for your comments; I'd more or less second Steve D'Ippolito's response to both of them. On 9/11: While the fact that is was allowed to happen is certainly symbolic of the nation's moral weakness, it wasn't really a final takeover of America by a foreign element. It was a blow, but blows can be recovered from, and while it was absolutely tragic for those involved and their families, it did not directly affect the lives of most Americans, nor America's political system.

I think that is where you and I would differ. Indeed 9/11 did directly affect the lives of most, case in point: the housing bubble. My thesis revolves around the fact that Greenspan's hand was forced--he had to lower rates dramatically to spur consumption and forestall a post 9/11 recession. Unfortunately all he did was buy time and magnify the inevitable economic downturn. We know what his cheap money led to (the housing boom), and the role its effects have had on this election (this is the political system effect you mentioned). I single out 9/11 as a prime marker for a turn toward permanently larger government, with increased involvement in both economic and social affairs (how many policies have been enacted to "keep America safe from terroism"?).

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I think that is where you and I would differ. Indeed 9/11 did directly affect the lives of most, case in point: the housing bubble. My thesis revolves around the fact that Greenspan's hand was forced--he had to lower rates dramatically to spur consumption and forestall a post 9/11 recession.

I definitely beg to differ on consumption being able to prevent a recession (but I agree that Greenspan probably thought it could prevent it, and he may indeed have acted on that mistaken premise). I am also not sure whether 9/11 would really have caused a significant recession in the absence of Fed intervention. A brief, temporary economic slowdown, yes, but growth could soon have picked up its previous pace if producers had been free to create wealth.

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Yeah, Greenspan definitely acted on that mistaken Keynesian premise. And I agree with you in that the slowdown would have been brief in a free market. My point is that Greenspan's cheap money (or the Federal Reserve system in general) caused the worst financial crisis in a century. We will get to double digit unemployment before this is over. The thing is to think of the public's response to it, i.e. "the greedy suits on Wall St did it". Either way the economy played center stage in this presidential election, with each candidate trying to pitch a sort of 'New New Deal'. My second point is the ramifications of 9/11 on our social liberties (wiretapping, etc). Put the two (loss of economic+social freedoms) together and you get big government gone wild.

I see your point that Nov 4 was a pivotal day, and indeed it was. But no one looks back at the earlier part of this century and says the day FDR won the elction was the the day of change. People do, however, look back and say that Oct 24 1929 was a day of change for this country, that it led to Roosevelt, that it caused the Depression, etc. Of course they're wrong in their concretes, but even one who believes in the Austrian Business Cycle (as I do) can grant that Oct 24 1929 was a pivotal point, after which the American attitude became increasingly anti-capitalist.

Either way, don't get me wrong. I think your paper is really good.

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Fabulous post Capitalism Forever. Thank you :)

I think the great corruption of the American way has been fostered mostly by our good professors and teachers in the institutions of learning, indoctrinating young minds with the collectivist drivel that of course led to the result we have before us. Elections of presidents are a reflection of the ideologies of the majority, a majority that has been dumbed down so much that no rational argument could make it clear to these sheeple and change their minds (what minds indeed).

To elevate the level of minds to a state of actual thinking, the schools are of prime importance. I think the ARI is doing a fantastic job doing just that with their book and essay programs. Talking to and engaging young people is our only hope.

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Fabulous post Capitalism Forever. Thank you :)

I think the great corruption of the American way has been fostered mostly by our good professors and teachers in the institutions of learning, indoctrinating young minds with the collectivist drivel that of course led to the result we have before us. Elections of presidents are a reflection of the ideologies of the majority, a majority that has been dumbed down so much that no rational argument could make it clear to these sheeple and change their minds (what minds indeed).

To elevate the level of minds to a state of actual thinking, the schools are of prime importance. I think the ARI is doing a fantastic job doing just that with their book and essay programs. Talking to and engaging young people is our only hope.

Right, this really isn't a political fight, it's a philosophical one. If you change the way people think, you'll finally get decent candidates for the presidency.

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Right, this really isn't a political fight, it's a philosophical one. If you change the way people think, you'll finally get decent candidates for the presidency.

And you think that will happen? The fact is that most people don't want to think about things, and it doesn't surprise me. One of my friends and I are looking at countries with more freedom to move to once we leave college so we can research immigrating there.

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One of my friends and I are looking at countries with more freedom to move to once we leave college so we can research immigrating there.

And you think that will work? Leaving America to find freedom is like leaving an oasis to find water.

The fact is that most people don't want to think about things, and it doesn't surprise me.

It should be surprising, given that thinking about things is man's primary means of survival. But it is not surprising in today's culture, where most people have simply not been taught how to think--and most of those who do think, do not find it important to think about philosophy, because they don't realize why philosophy is important. This is why freedom is declining in America, and it is not different in any other country.

Teaching men how to use their primary means of survival is not a trivial job, but it is by far not as hopeless as finding water in the desert.

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And you think that will work? Leaving America to find freedom is like leaving an oasis to find water.

There's a big step between researching alternatives like I implied and actually leaving the country.

It should be surprising, given that thinking about things is man's primary means of survival.

Who said I was talking about men. I was talking about people. When people are taught to behave the way they do today, they cease to be men.

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Who said I was talking about men. I was talking about people. When people are taught to behave the way they do today, they cease to be men.

Absolutely. But will you find any more men abroad than in America? I do wish you well for your research of opportunities, but if it is men you are looking for, I'm afraid the outlook is not very good in any part of the world at the moment.

And it will stay this way as long as people continue to be taught the same ideas. The only way to change it is to change the ideas.

(By "change," I mean "improve," of course. There is a natural tendency in honest people to automatically assume that the reason you want to change something is you want to improve it. Like all automatisms, it can be perverted and turned against you if you're not careful, as Obama's campaign amply illustrates!)

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I was thinking of this, as it is now 47 minutes before the skies will open up and we will be shrouded in light forever, no one will ever hunger, no one will ever suffer, cats and dogs will make peace, the lion will lie with the lamb...

The Messiah arrives at 10 AM mountain time (there are other time zones?) today.

Well, hopefully it will be better than I fear.

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If you turn the sound off it's kinda reminiscent of Stalin's funeral.

I was thinking of this, as it is now 47 minutes before the skies will open up and we will be shrouded in light forever, no one will ever hunger, no one will ever suffer, cats and dogs will make peace, the lion will lie with the lamb...

The Messiah arrives at 10 AM mountain time (there are other time zones?) today.

Well, hopefully it will be better than I fear.

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