I am pleased to announce that The Claremont Institute, in the form of The American Mind, a publication of the Institute, has published a Special Edition of its regular podcast. This Special Edition features, and consists of nothing but, a discussion between Michael Anton, author of the crucial books The Stakes and After the Flight 93 Election, and myself. We talk about Straussianism, Augustus, our past, and our future. You can find the podcast here:
American History, Announcement, Charles, Colloquies, Political Discussion & Analysis, Post-Liberalism, Third-Party Participation
Published on May 3, 2021
Wonderful news and hearty congratulations to you Charles. Looking forward to this!
Just finished listening. Wow, that was phenomenal. And now I need to add Strauss to my must read collection. So much to read and so much information to collect and preserve for those that come later picking through the ashes of our current civilization.
On Strauss, you should read essays “Allan Bloom and Straussian Alienation” and “Leo Strauss and History: The Philosopher as Conspirator”, both short and both by Claes G. Ryn.
In book form, “Leo Strauss: An Intellectual Biography” by Daniel Tanguay would be next.
Why is Hillsdale teaching classes in DC? Anton should leave and speak/write/teach from Red America.
Enjoyable commentary. Nice to know we’re not alone in the doldrums of the internet in thinking all hell is breaking loose. Your last comment about how your blue state friends are buying guns makes a lot of sense.
Reminds me of a conversation I had with some friends in 2019. I said, “I’m thinking of buying a gun” and my buddy who had trained to be a cop (and went into hospital administration instead for a weird turn) said, “Yeah shooting is fun, but the odds that you’ll ever be the target of a home invasion is extremely minor.”
I responded: “I’m more concerned that there might be some widespread civil unrest, or that persecution of conservatives or Christians might become a serious reality that I have to protect myself against.”
They chuckled and my friend said “And what do you think the odds of that happening are?”
I said, conservatively, “In my lifetime? At least 30%”
They both laughed uproariously.
I said “Well what do you think the odds are?”
They both said “Zero Percent. There is no chance at all that either of those things would ever happen in America”.
I haven’t had a chance to revisit the conversation since COVID, but I wonder if they’d say the same now.
I suspect they have updated their views!
It was really interesting, although I was disappointed to not hear about why you’re now using your surname and seem to be angling to get a bigger audience. I hope you can do it again sometime (perhaps having him on your podcast).
There will be more with me and Anton! I will try to cover those topics. (I’m not really angling for a bigger audience, although I’m happy enough when I get one.)
A few comments.
1. On Chinese treasury bonds — it isn’t possible. This article is good, I also recommend this author’s books on global trade, they are excellent and not infected with liberal platitudes. https://carnegieendowment.org/chinafinancialmarkets/79218
2. Your pieces on the Augustan option has some parallels with Yarvin’s response to my most recent piece https://graymirror.substack.com/p/the-frivolity-of-the-pundit-right
And of course similar thoughts are spread about the dissident right all the time.
The essential problem I have with this approach–which is worse in Yarvin’s vision of the Caesarian option than yours/Anton’s, is a perhaps absurd (?) optimism about the success of a Caesarian venture. A lot seems to rest on this notion of immediate collapse; if the collapse is not immediate, Caesarianism means civil war. There is no guarantee that the right side wins this war; even if the right side wins there is no guarantee you get a Salazar instead of a Stalin. Its a dice roll, and I am extremely skeptical that the odds are in virtue’s favor.
And then there is the broader issue of just how much blood the would-be Caesar must bathe himself in to achieve his enemies. I think about imperial Japan a lot in this context, a country whose leaders led their country through years of fire to preserve a way of life. And you know, modern Japanese life kind of sucks. You can see why they would die to prevent modern Japan from being born. Was it worth it? Had the costs been the same, but they were able to avoid occupation and unconditional surrender, would it have been worth it? How many children orphaned, wives widowed, cities burnt, and factories leveled would have been worth that cost?
It’s a real question, and one I hope dissident right/dissident right adjacent folks like yourself will take up. You talk about your children. Are you willing to see them die in civil war? Maybe Caesarism can happen without that level of mass violence; maybe it can’t. Ready to roll that dice?
3. I would like to see your response to Glenn Elmer’s long two-part essay “Two Much of a Unity.” it is an interesting example to answer the question discussed in this podcast (what would Jaffa say in 2021?) https://americanmind.org/features/too-much-of-a-unity/
A pleasure to see you here!
1) Interesting article on bonds. Makes sense to me, although I don’t really understand, as I’ve noted before, a great deal of macroeconomics. Part of that is me, part of it is that, as far as I can tell, it’s mostly fake. So, for example, that article talks about buying Treasuries as “assets.” Which is true enough—but on the other hand, when a huge percentage of the economy is actually completely fake, are they really assets in any meaningful sense of the term? Beats me. But my guess is we are going to find out.
2) As you probably know, I am of mixed mind about Yarvin, but his recent stuff is quite good. (I disagreed with significant portions of your own New Right piece, but perhaps that is a topic for another day. And I generally find Alexander wholly unsatisfying, mainly for the reason that, like Yarvin, he thinks he knows history, and demonstrably doesn’t.) Now you have made me put on my list of things to do to go back and read both yours’ and Yarvin’s piece with greater attention!
3) I am keenly aware, and have frequently written, on the ambiguities and uncertainties, and the great horrors, associated with civil war. (For example, my piece on Javier Cercas’s Lord of All the Dead, and also in my review of Anton’s The Stakes.) But the dice are going to roll whether we want them to or not. I, and (while not speaking for him), I doubt Anton, don’t think that the Time of Troubles will be begun by some group of people hitting a switch (an idea that seems to underly much of Yarvin’s thought on these matters). All human history is organic; all happenings have a thousand causes, and while I am a strong believer that great men modify history, the larger currents of history, in particular the decay of a society, are inevitable. Timing is uncertain, and as you say the ultimate result even more so, but what will come, will come. We can do nothing except prepare.
4) Caesar, or rather Augustus, will have plenty of blood. (Not to mention there will be many pretenders to the title before one emerges victorious, each bathed in blood.) The original Augustus had relatively little, true, and that only in proscriptions and direct battle. The modern ideologized, interconnected world would likely have much more. Again, this is what it is; I don’t endorse it or look forward to it, but rather fear it. However, I fear it less than I fear universal, militarized globohomo, though (which in any case cannot continue for long, despite the fears of some on the Right). I most definitely fear my children dying in a civil war. I more fear them, and their children, being corrupted by globohomo, the enemy of mankind, along with all its proponents. There can be only one, at least within a single society and nation. (I will probably speak more of this in the future, but our best option is probably a split of the country, a la Kurt Schlichter.) Yeah, I’m ready to roll the dice, or as I say, let them roll, because the only way out is through (a phrase I used first in this context, and Sohrab Ahmari borrowed from me, for the record!)
5) I know little about Japan (although I did just buy the six-volume Cambridge history and Toland’s two-volume history of the Showa era). But that modern Japanese life sucks is due, I suspect, to defeat in the war and subsequent adoption of Enlightenment ideas. Past performance is no guarantee, and all that. A basic principle of mine is that, if I am right and the Enlightenment is a mistake, we must get out of the pattern of thinking, into which we have all be brutally indoctrinated, that the Enlightenment ways of thinking and living are inevitable and the only way to view the world. I am quite confident that one could build a wildly successful society in which every vestige of the Enlightenment is held either in contempt or with the detached indifference with which we view Old Kingdom Egypt.
6) I will separately respond to your question about Ellmers (I will respond in this thread).
Does Japanese life suck, objectively? Or does it suck for the Japanese because life there is incongruent with how the Japanese think their lives should be, or once were? Perhaps their cultural malaise is due more to their own expectations and their disappointment in falling short of them.
There might be a lesson in there for us, too. Much of what one makes out of one’s life, in the sense of satisfaction or happiness, is bound up in one’s own head, and the expectations and demands one makes on himself. Does one live up to his own sense of self and what he expects for himself? There are universals there, but the particulars of expectations versus reality, at the individual level, can make or break a person. Perhaps it goes as well with a culture, particularly one such as Japan’s culture, as homogeneous, well defined, and specifically defined as it is by its own people.
My kids are fans of Japanese anime, often in the home language, which they know, and, yet, most of it has a monotony of romantic longing and a universal sense of loss, punctuated by unfocused anger and lashing out (I call it the “anime angst”). The culture seems to be reinforcing this downcast attitude in their (few) kids, just as our popular culture instills so many of our own widely perceived faults into our own youth. At some point, I believe these are self-reinforcing head games that cultures are playing on themselves. We tend to credit ours to specific dominant forces alien to our way of thinking. Perhaps in Japan it is simply that the culture just fully and spontaneously fell into it, without any outside push, be it from the results of WW2, or perhaps their economic crash of the early ’90s.
But from the outside, visiting, Japan appears to me to have a solid cultural and social core that could be a foundation for a very nice way of life, should the Japanese people themselves seize the reins, pull themselves out of their funk, and get on with things. Though, at this point, the lack of younger people, and the failure of motivation among the younger to marry and start households, may be too far gone to retrieve. That just may be the root of all the problems there, at this point.
It seems unlikely to me, given their birth dearth and what (relatively little) I know of the culture, that it has a “solid cultural and social core.” Lack of children alone seems to disprove that. I am not aware of any civilization, ever, and certainly no modern one, that has “seized the reins . . . [and pulled] themselves out of their funk.” I’d be interested in knowing more about Japan (I have the six-volume Cambridge history, and bought Toland’s two volumes on the Showa period), but I probably will not get to it–unless they do turn it around!
And on Ellmers’ piece (which is tied to some other, shorter, ones he’s written in recent months, and apparently has a second part coming out, though it doesn’t seem to be up yet):
I don’t know what Jaffa would say myself. Or Aristotle. But broadly speaking, Ellmers is certainly correct. As I have taken to saying, a people cannot coexist with two radically different notions of the good, or as Ellmers implies, they are not then a people. What cannot go on forever, won’t, as Ben Stein famously said.
A point I have not seen made elsewhere, tied again to the Civil War, is that we are often told that American polarization today is the highest it has been since the runup to the Civil War—but it was worse then. This is false. I am not sure how they are measuring “polarization,” but the simple truth is that although divisions were extreme then, they were extreme only on certain narrow issues. Now, to be sure, those narrow issues were existential as they relate to political organization of the nation, and as to slavery. But other than that, the two sides agreed on a great deal—they had much the same vision of the good, they were Christian, and all across the board shared far more core premises in common than Americans today from either side of the political divide.
We are far more polarized today than in the run up to the Civil War. We, the two sides, agree on functionally nothing. (There are other problems, and the divide is not clean, but that does not change this essential truth.) This division is merely masked by some combination of wealth that allows people to ignore looming problems; spiritual exhaustion and enervation; and a giant and unparalleled combination of propaganda machine and gangster/terror federal government, run by the Deep State, our tech overlords, the media, and the other elements of our ruling classes. When the next crisis comes, such as a real pandemic (not the fake pandemic of the Wuhan Plague, which would have caused trivial real damage if we had not shot ourselves in the face), or an economic collapse, this mask will evanesce, and that will be it. Whether I want this or not is irrelevant; it is inevitable.