“ Tell men of high condition That manage the Estate, Their purpose is ambition, Their practice only hate: And if they once reply, Then give them all the lie.”
Sir Walter Raleigh’s malediction of politics
“Republics have a longer life and enjoy better fortune than principalities, because they can profit by their greater internal diversity. They are the better able to meet emergencies.”
“Liberty, the first of blessings, the aspiration of every human soul, is the supreme object. Every abridgement of it demands an excuse, And the only good excuse is the necessity of preserving it.”
James C. Carter
“’The basis of your philosophy,’ Socrates said, ‘is the need for sensation.’ The true enemy of democratic principles is the libido sentiendi, of which the libido dominandi is only one phase.”
Julien Benda On Socrates' response to the sophist Callicles 1
At this time (2010), there has grown a movement in America called the “Tea Party movement”, that seems to represent a grassroots movement within the conservative party of Americans, that emphasizes conservative freedoms and Christian morals 2 as the basic tenants that all Americans should value. The movement is named after the Boston Tea Party, where the colonists threw Tea overboard into the harbor, in protest to England’s taxation of this commodity. The modern day Tea Party movement wants to bring back the idea of minimal government control over the capitalist business “freedoms” that they say are the same ones represented in the Declaration of Independence and Constitution.
What I am afraid is happening with this so-called movement, is that, as usual, special interests in Big Business have taken advantage of the disgust of well meaning citizens with governmental corruption, and used this as a ploy to once again equate the selfish freedom of capitalism with the responsible freedom of a constitutional democracy. The difference between the two is a big one, and one upon which the whole idea of tyranny and Slavery rests. I will repeat now the second footnote in my essay “The Two Poles”, in its entirety to show how these two types of freedom differ:
“By the phrase, “conservative needs and wants”, I mean those rights that ‘conservatives’ hold most dear: these are the right to free speech, the right to bear arms, the right to free religious belief, and all the ‘inalienable rights’ guaranteed in the Declaration of Independence and Constitution
By the phrase “liberalization of these conservative needs and wants”, I mean that these must be made freely accessible and freely obtainable to all citizens; this is something, which the economy denies, through its insistence on the condition of wealth or capital, as the determiner of the means necessary for the satisfaction of these rights. It is the job of government to allow this liberalization of these rights to take place by ensuring that socioeconomic status does not make them impossible to achieve. It does this by neutralizing special interests, and by making a minimum subsistence level available, whereby all citizens can always be assured of the satisfaction of these inalienable rights.
Conservatives and liberals can therefore see that this scenario creates a truly ‘responsible’ freedom, a freedom which hinders no other freedom. The capitalist economy negates this, by always allowing wealth as the vital condition upon which freedom hinges. In this way, it does not create freedom, but a tyranny of wealth; the exact opposite of the freedom the conservatives value so dearly.
If you understand the preceding explanation, you will see that all social freedom must be a compromise of sorts; it must allow that in the situation where one person’s freedom impinges on another’s, both must give up some, to allow all to have the same freedoms. Further, that the opportunities for the exercise of these freedoms must be funded by the society in cases where there are unavoidable deficits due to age or hardship. This is the very purpose of society, to alleviate the harsh reality of fate, which sooner or later will strike all.
Often conservatives blame the ‘liberality’ of liberals for being overly generous to those that must rely on government to help them through social programs; they fail to see that it is capitalism that is really at fault here, because it does not provide society with full employment. On the other side, liberals see conservatives as overly ‘frugal’, and scrooge-like in their repudiation of government ‘waste’ in social programs; here again, there are people who live off the fat of the land, and these must be recognized and punished appropriately (today, capitalism has also created a class of rich parasites who are living off the fat of the land; these must also be held responsible to society); but, overall, it is the ‘responsible’ combination of the conservative and liberal attitudes that should shape government and allow it to compensate for the vacuum that capitalism creates in creating jobs, and the growing disparity that is denying the basic rights of this nation to many of its citizens through the bondage of poverty.
But even more than this, capitalism has created a tyranny within the workplace; a tyranny of the employer over the employed where the God given inalienable rights given to all under the Declaration of Independence are excluded, and the employer has complete control over the welfare of the employed worker, his family and even their beliefs, through the economic stranglehold he lauds over them in allowing them to work for him. This economic tyranny is being further increased today through the slander and bigotry that this system has amplified through the social networking systems, and third party human resources departments that spread rumors and gossip about workers. Thus the slavery of the workplace is a very real slavery; and negates all the supposed freedoms this country is supposed to guarantee. But the political parties do not proclaim these facts to the citizens of our country; instead they hide them beneath the ‘imagined’ attacks on the ‘so-called’ governmental abuse of freedom. This hiding of the economic tyranny of capitalism, and the proclamation of its phony freedom is the greatest deception that these political parties perform; and it results in allowing the abuses of this economy to continue and even be sanctioned by the corrupt government they are fashioning to support the economic slavers. Until the freedom of the economy includes the real freedom of the working citizens of this country, we will all be the slaves of this Economic Fascism capitalism has created. It is not government per se that is destroying this country and the world, but the economic fascism capitalism has created and spread throughout the world under the guise of a hypocritical liberty and justice for all; the same that has denied the workers of this country free speech, free belief, and even freedom of worship in the workplace at the risk of their prosperity and the prosperity of their families.”
We see here that the economic freedom of capitalism is not at all a freedom as meant in the primary documents of the American constitutional democracy. It is a freedom based on the possession of wealth, and therefore a freedom steeped in special interests. If given free reign it becomes just what it has become in America today, a tyranny of the wealthy; a tyranny, which has taken control of government by making it the lackey of the rich and their proxy corporations. It has, in effect, stolen the real conservative freedoms from American workers in the workplace, and replaced them with privilege and favoritism.
Far more, it has sanctioned a society based on the parasitism of wealth on the labor of the impoverished masses. It has distorted the meaning of society into one where competition has replaced cooperation, and privilege and favoritism has replaced merit. Through the deception of creating pseudo-divisions in the population, according to race, ethnicity, language and religion, it has found ways to introduce political, economic and social movements that, instead of uniting our citizenry, despite its diversity, has fractured it into irreconcilable groups. Through using this technique of “divide and conquer” it has caused the true issues that affect all Americans and their prosperity to be buried in the strife and hatred between these competing groups, and has consequently stolen the “representative” from representative government. It has converted the unity from diversity that America was, into separation and alienation.
Its effects on law are just as deceptive and pernicious. For it has replaced law which protects the real freedom of all, created through the representation of all, with laws which uphold the privileges of the wealthy few, which has replaced the democratic freedom that holds society together. This is the same corporatism upon which the Fascist Dictator Mussolini based his state, and upon which all Fascist Dictatorships eliminate real social freedom with rules and regulations dictated by the few in charge.
Freedom, real freedom, is a freedom that always represents all; it is this ‘all’ that the Tea Party wants to eliminate in its creation of a freedom where prosperity and happiness are relegated to the status and conditions of wealth. It is the greed of this “gambler’s mentality” that makes this type of freedom so alluring, and irresistible. It is this motive that beguiles the masses with the lure of “making it big”, that holds the poor to it, and makes them believe that the Horatio Alger myth can become their destiny. But this is not what society is; and it was never meant to be this. The destiny of society hinges on that “all” I mentioned above; and its benefits come from the stability it secures for the families of this “all”, not the insecurity of chance. Even the parasitical business practices of capitalism cannot stand up to the disintegration of society; for society is the host upon which all capitalist business preys. As in all parasitical relationships, if a balanced state cannot be found whereby the host and parasite can form a mutually beneficial relationship, the parasite will eventually kill the host, and both will end up dying as the overall result. So the parasite of capitalism is now killing the society that has made it possible, and sustains it. That is exactly what the roll of government is: to perpetuate society. And in a democracy, that government does this by allowing the responsible freedom of democracy to overrule the irresponsible freedom of capitalism.
What you Tea Party people must understand is that if your rightful disgust with our current politics allows you to further the rule of a system that will eventually destroy our society, and impose the freedom of capitalism to do this through its corporatism, you will be destroying society, and in the end the same capitalism you support.
The answer is to remember that “all” that has always been the focus of America; that “all” that brought the rich farmers like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson into a union with indentured slaves, black slaves, Indians and common working people to build an army that humiliated the greatest power in the world at that time. An “all” that built a dream that would build a security for all families and leave none behind. The same “all” that allowed Lincoln to free the slaves, and make them into the “Dream” that Martin Luther King later immortalized, through unity, and reconciliation. If we do not truly eliminate special interests through once again understanding that “all” means “no losers”, we will fall to our own stupidity, like the sophists did in their zeal for sensation.
So, again I ask you that question with which I began this essay: Is a freedom based on money, real freedom?
1 Quotes from: "The Practical Cogitator" by Charles P. Curtis, Jr. and Ferris Greenslet; Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, 1945.
The last quote by Julien Benda brings up a question as old as democracy itself, and with much to do with popular “movements” in general. It is the question of whether the leaders of these groups, like the leaders of the Tea Party today, are truly sincere in their cause, or merely rabble rousers (the promoters of sensationalism) that promote their own popularity and fame.
In ancient Greece the sophists were itinerant teachers who taught “Philosophy” to the people for a living; but Plato thought them mere “sensation seekers”, aiming to promote their own private agendas. Today talk show hosts have become the new sophists, and now also the promoters of political ideology. I leave it to you Tea Partiers to discover the agenda of your leaders; but it is obvious I follow Plato along these lines (I use the term sophist disparagingly).
By the way, this accusation of sophistry has often been used by the real sophists to disparage true leaders who seek the common good, as being liars and hypocrites. the enemies of Caesar likewise accused him of being a sophist, and rabble rouser. So how do you tell the difference? In Caesar’s case it was easy, he put his life on the line for what he believed in, and for those he tried to help. Those who truly represent the common good are usually easy to distinguish.
For readers with little or no Latin, the term libido sentiendi means the “need for sensation”, while libido dominandi means “the need to control or dominate”.
2 See my essay entitled: “The Two Poles”, footnote 2, where I define what I mean by conservative freedom (which I call there “conservative needs and wants”). Also see the essay entitled: “Universal Love and Christian Religious Love”, where I delineate difference between Christian love, and the true love Christ preached.
Originally Published:September 1, 2010
Revised:July 4, 2014