Friday, July 22, 2016

Independence Day 2016

Note: I posted this on my Facebook page on July 4, 2016. I neglected to post it here, but I would like to give this message a greater permanence than a passing comment on social media. Here was my message:

I AM TAKING THIS MOMENT to remember and honor what too many have forgotten: the idea that makes America unique in the history of the world. That idea -- embedded in our founding documents and defended with the blood of countless patriots -- is individualism. It is the moral principle that the individual is an end in himself, and not a sacrificial pawn of kings, dictators, legislative bodies, "majorities," or collective Society itself. And as a moral end -- not a mere means to the ends of others -- the individual has inviolate rights to his own life, and to the liberty to peacefully pursue his own happiness. Our Declaration of Independence celebrated not just an independence of colonies from another faraway country, but something far more profound: the independence of the individual from the forcible interference of others, no matter how great their number or "need."

That was the revolutionary idea underlying the American Revolution. Never before in the history of the world had that principle been recognized by any other nation or group -- which is why the history of the world is one of chronic, blood-soaked barbarism of man against man. The American conception of individual rights created the original "safe space": a moral barrier around each individual, a barrier against the force, fraud, and coercion of his fellow man. It declared him to be sovereign within that safe space, as long as he, in turn, did not use force, fraud, or coercion against others.

This idea -- even grasped and implemented imperfectly -- led to the creation of the greatest, most prosperous, most progressive (and I mean that word in its literal sense) society and economy in the history of the world. It created more opportunities for more people, higher living standards, and -- yes -- greater happiness than any society anywhere, at any time. America became a beacon of freedom and hope that beckoned to millions around the world, millions who uprooted themselves, crossed vast oceans, and came here with nothing in their pockets -- just for the chance to "make something of themselves."

America was the home of the self-made individual. It was a place where anyone could literally make and remake himself, becoming whatever he wished, without interference. All because of the principle upon which the nation was established: that the individual was a moral end in himself.

Barbaric tribalism is the default position of humanity. It is what happens quite automatically when the sovereignty of individuals is not respected and enshrined into law. Gang warfare is what happens when the social barrier to mutual exploitation -- the principle of individual rights -- is obliterated.

If we are now seeing a horrific, headlong reversion to barbarism -- abroad and here -- it's because generations of "intellectuals," chafing against legal limitations on their power over unruly individuals, have declared all-out war on the philosophy of individualism at the heart of the American project. They have looked at the achievements of individuals and proclaimed "You didn't build that!" and that "It takes a village," instead. They have glorified dictatorial philosophies and praised the thugs that imposed them on their societies. They have enabled, ignored, and rationalized inhuman savagery against millions of individuals. They have obliterated the idea that the individual is a moral end, in order to reduce him to a helpless means to their ends.

On this Independence Day, as we have fun with our friends, eat our hot dogs, and enjoy our fireworks, can we please pause to remember (if we were ever taught it) the true nature of the "independence" bequeathed to us by our ancestors? Can we grasp, if only for a single fleeting, quiet moment, the moral principle that made America distinctive, and then great? Can we soberly re-dedicate ourselves to that principle, and -- following the example of those who spilt blood for it -- vow to weave it anew into the fabric of our society and laws?

If you lack the self-esteem to do that for yourself, then do it for your spouse, or your kids. Or in memory of those heroes before us, who gave their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor so that their ungrateful children could enjoy lives better than their own.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

In the Wake of the 2016 GOP Convention

The Republican Convention is over and, as a force representing a viable philosophic alternative to the Democrats, so is the Republican Party. Hence the double-entendre meaning of "wake" in the title. Let me add this post-mortem to my previous posted commentary about the 2016 election.

What has evolved most for me during this past year is my understanding of supposed allies on the political right: which of them are truly individualists who grasp and are committed to the basic principles undergirding America, and which are simply cultural tribalists waging war against their perceived cultural enemies.

The common core I see in those social conservatives who don't just reluctantly tolerate Donald Trump, but wildly enthuse about him, is their undisguised, gleeful tribalism. For them, the values of individualism, and their expression in the Declaration of Independence and Constitution are, at best, the empty fluff of Fourth of July speechifying and talk-show blather. Such principles are not their basic value-priority or core commitment.

The real question dividing the right today -- and all along, actually -- has been: Which is absolutely foundational for you: your commitment to your tribal-cultural affiliations, or your commitment to the basic principles of America as outlined in those founding  documents?

For a long time, I had been snookered by many who masqueraded as the latter kind of "constitutional conservatives." Right-wing radio talkers (with Mark Levin and a precious few others being admirable exceptions), the Fox News evening lineup, the Drudge and Breitbart websites, et al., have postured for years, even decades, as principled defenders of the Constitution and free markets. But the emergence of Donald Trump has exposed these long-closeted tribalists for what they really are.

They have thrown every one of their alleged principles overboard in order to support this crude national statist, among them: their sanctimonious claims to champion Christian virtues in one's personal life, to stand for property rights against eminent domain overreach, to support free trade and free markets, to oppose crony corporatism, to uphold constitutional limits on government power, to back without reservations the Second Amendment, to repeal (not "renegotiate") ObamaCare, to repeal (not "renegotiate") the Iran nuke giveaway, to stand up against Vladimir Putin in Eastern Europe, and on and on.

Only one election cycle ago, these same "conservatives" were railing mercilessly against those Republican candidates, including Mitt Romney, who failed to pass muster on even a handful of these "litmus test" issues. Such candidates were the hated RINOs, the spineless compromisers, the "sell-outs of our constitutional principles" who "negotiate" and "cut deals" with the liberal Democrats, for their own aggrandizement.

But that was four whole years ago. Things change, right? Now Trump comes along, and what is his, and their, defining issue?

Tribalism -- specifically, all those horrible foreigners coming here to infect our Traditional American Culture and "take away American jobs."

Overnight, "American Greatness" became equated not with the individualist ideals of our nation's founding, but with preserving the demographic composition of the American national tribe. It is now Us against Them -- and all principles be damned. After all, they argue, who can afford the "luxury" of fuzzy abstractions when American Culture is under assault?

Thus the stampede of the tribal right into the open arms of Trump -- and the shocking revelations of the big-name conservatives who are members of that tribalist gang. We watched them, dumbfounded, as they did an about-face on issue after issue, on principle after principle -- and then turned against a host of Trump's GOP rivals who, just four years before, they had extolled as conservative heroes. But not anymore. Instead, they undercut and bad-mouthed these candidates at every turn, handing the keys to their media platforms, 24/7, to a sordid creature much farther to the left than Dole, McCain, Romney, McConnell, and Boehner ever were at their worst.

And in the convention's aftermath, they are unleashing their greatest wrath upon Ted Cruz -- the solitary political figure who dared to take on, from the inside and without hesitation, the very Establishment that these "movement conservatives" so long pretended to oppose. His mortal sin? His refusal, on principle, to join the rest of the tribe, bow, and then kiss the corrupt billionaire's gaudy ring.

Donald Trump's candidacy has at last enticed these fakes to venture forth from their closets, cast off their faux-individualist garb, and stand nakedly exposed as the cultural collectivists they've been all along.

It has been a sobering revelation to me just how many of these fair-weather "constitutional conservatives" and "free enterprisers" are out there -- just how far our nation has degenerated -- and just how great a distance we must travel to win it back.

Any political revolution, however, must be preceded by a cultural revolution. And so I now return to doing the what I can on that front: crafting fictional narratives that offer my own vision of the kind of values and virtues a new culture will require.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

A Vote for #Neither

Though the 2016 GOP presidential nomination has not yet been settled as of this date, it is looking more and more likely that Donald Trump will become the nominee. This prospect has demoralized many, compelling us to confront difficult decisions about what to do on Election Day.

As I witness the slow, gradual, resigned acceptance within the Republican Party of Donald Trump (and within the Democrat Party of criminal Hillary Clinton and socialist Bernie Sanders), by more and more people -- people who, during a more civilized moment just months ago, would never have tolerated the likes of such creatures -- I am reminded how a culture becomes corrupted, then lost.

The late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan -- a thoughtful, pre-Clintonian Democrat and champion of Western civilization -- memorably described the process he called "defining deviancy down." It amounted to slowly lowering the bar of moral and intellectual standards, of social and cultural expectations, inch by inch. Pretty soon, what was unthinkable in January and intolerable in March becomes tolerated in June, then accepted in August -- and finally celebrated by November.

Why celebrated?

Because in order to accommodate and accept the once-intolerable, a person must surrender his standards, piecemeal . . . but then rationalize his self-corruption in his own mind. How better to rationalize the despicable -- and one's own acceptance of it -- than to turn it into virtue, and the despicable person into a non-conforming hero?

I want my friends, some of whom are Trump or Hillary supporters, to understand how seriously I take this corruption.

I am not a bandwagon-joiner. I am not one to stick ‪#‎NeverTrump‬ hashtags everywhere. But neither can I tolerate this crude, ignorant, unprincipled narcissist simply because the alternative would be to vote for a criminal like Clinton. Trump represents the culmination of a process of corruption within the Republican Party, just as Hillary Clinton represents the same within the Democrat Party. To my great sadness, they have come to symbolize and accurately reflect the character of an American people who have, for decades, been defining deviancy down in their own lives and institutions.

I realize that an election is merely a tactical decision, almost always between less-than-ideal options. Oftentimes it is a choice for the lesser harm. But -- and I'm being stone-cold serious -- in a choice between Trump and Clinton, I have no clue who would cause the greater long-term harm to America or to my own values and interests. An unprincipled populist demagogue, whose answer to all problems, foreign and domestic, is an international trade war -- or a pathological criminal with a progressive agenda? We're not talking about two characters who would continue the status quo of steady American decline. We're talking about two human wrecking balls. Each, in his or her own way, would accelerate American decline in a host of political, economic, and cultural ways.

The latter is what concerns me most, because it affects the character of America. As they say, "character is destiny." While these two bottom-feeders sadly reflect the country's slide into decadence, a national leader of character might decelerate that decline. Trump and Clinton would both hasten it.

It might be argued that Trump at least represents what Ayn Rand would have called "the American sense of life," which Hillary Clinton and the left despise and hate. But it would be more accurate to say that Trump has hijacked the American sense of life. He has hitched that pro-American spirit to an anti-American policy agenda, foreign and domestic. He does not stand for constitutionally limited government, free markets, private property, or individual rights. He is trying to wed "Americanism" to populist statism, and call it "conservatism."

That's bad enough on the level of political philosophy, and it would be disastrous on the policy level. But on the more-important level of personal character, Trump would bring into the Oval Office a gutter mentality and behavior, power-hungry narcissism, crude anti-intellectualism, and a mindless personality cult. Yes, America has elected and endured presidents who exhibited one or more of these various ugly traits; however, I cannot recall any single president who embodied them all.

For decades, every time the GOP put forth some lousy liberal loser, we individualists and constitutionalists were told to put aside our reservations and support him at the polls. It was just a short-term compromise, they told us, because we had to beat the Democrat du jour if we hoped for America to survive until the long term, when we might get better candidates. Well, Donald Trump is the long term that all those short-term, expedient compromises have brought us to. If he were to be elected, there would be no long-term future for principled individualists to hope for. 

On the other hand, a vote for Hillary Clinton would be a vote for a pathological liar and crook, for an explicit proponent of statism and unlimited government power. And it would be a moral ratification of her unspeakable betrayal of four brave dead American patriots in Benghazi. That is intolerable.

Because of these considerations (and barring last-minute, unexpected, radical changes of circumstances in an insane year filled with surprises), I've come reluctantly to a decision:

Should the electoral alternatives sink to a choice between Trump or Clinton, I shall vote for neither.

I care too much for America's founders, for those who fought and bled and died for this special nation, to dishonor their memory and legacy with such a vote.

If our nation truly has come to this, then I believe the November 2016 election will be remembered as America's Jonestown -- and I, for one, shall refuse to participate in moral self-poisoning and political mass suicide.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

The Republican Crack-Up, Revisited

Perhaps the smartest political observation I've read in a long time comes from Joel Kotkin, a conservative Democrat and a noted demographer. In the March 20, 2016 issue of the Orange County Register, he wrote a fertile column about the rise of Donald Trump in the Republican Party. Kotkin's piece was laden with excellent observations, but none so important as this:

Successful political parties unite interests under a broadly shared policy agenda. The Clinton Democrats may seem ethically challenged, condescending and bordering on dictatorial, but they share basic positions on many core issues and a unifying belief in federal power as the favored instrument for change.

In contrast, the Republican Party consists of interest groups that so broadly dislike each other that they share little common ground.

This is a great insight, and it explains pretty much everything that has gone wrong with our nation politically for the past century.

The Democrats are a coalition of interest groups held together with a general unifying ideology: big-government progressivism. The Republicans, by contrast, are a coalition of interest groups without any single unifying ideology. Historically, their only basis for unity has been their shared enemies: the Democrats (and various points in the Democrat agenda). Members of the GOP have little in common ideologically -- only occasionally overlapping interests (often for diverse reasons), but mostly opposition to specific Democrats or specific Democrat initiatives and policies (again, for diverse reasons).

Put another way, there has been no basis for Republican unity in principle, except perhaps for a strong national defense. However, on matters of domestic policy, constitutional limitations on government power, economics, immigration, trade, civil liberties, individual rights...on just about everything you can name, Republicans are all over the map. There's no single principle, let alone broader political philosophy, that holds the party factions together.

Which explains why America has moved inexorably to the left over the past century, since the first Progressive Era. You have leftists, represented by the Democratic Party, who know exactly what kind of a society they want, and why. They have an underlying worldview, a Narrative, buttressed by academic theories and rationalizations, and translated into long-term policy goals. By contrast, the Republicans have none of this, and (perhaps except for Goldwater and Reagan) they have not had a leader who imposed upon the party, from the top, a unifying worldview, Narrative, theoretical rationale, or policy goals.

And it has finally led to what many are now acknowledging to be an impending crack-up of the Republican Party.

A Warning from 1996

Not that any of this should be a surprise. In fact, I anticipated the party's disintegration in a long 1996 monograph titled The GOP's Foreign Imports, published by the Institute for Objectivist Studies. In that essay, I observed that "Within the GOP, a philosophical meltdown is occurring." In words that could have been written today, I described how "the Republican majority in Congress is paralyzed and adrift, its energy gone, its direction uncertain." And, foreshadowing the emergence of Trumpism today, I noted: "Meanwhile, the populist/nationalist insurgency of commentator Pat Buchanan in the GOP presidential primaries impelled his nervous rivals to compete with him in bashing big business, immigrants, and imports."

Sound familiar?

I cited an earlier column I'd written, in the January 1995 Freeman, in which I had said: "The GOP stands precariously on deep philosophical fault lines, and already we're hearing rumblings of coming tremors that could shatter the...coalition.... Torn by ideological contradictions, the GOP is coming apart at the seams."

In the monograph, I elaborated:

The party has long maintained a "big tent," sheltering many opposing ideological factions. Cementing this uneasy alliance weren't shared premises, but shared enemies.... The primary contest [of 1996], noted U.S. News & World Report, quickly became "a slugfest over the ideas and identity of the Republican Party," a battle that "exposed a network of fissures and fault lines that is dividing the party and encouraging Democratic hopes of retaining the White House in November."

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.

I went on in the monograph to identify a number of warring ideological factions within the GOP.

Warring Philosophical Factions

First were the "pragmatists" -- "the ballast of the Republican Party," made up of "unprincipled champions of consensus, convention, and compromise. Philosophically vacuous but personally ambitious, pragmatists stand for everything...and nothing." These are most prominently represented by the members of the party Establishment.

Then were what I described as "anti-individualists." These come in several varieties. First are the "conservative welfare statists," who believe in big, activist, "compassionate" government social programs -- but who (in contrast to the Dems) promise to distribute and redistribute government goodies on the cheap. So they don't talk about repealing ObamaCare, for example, but instead "taking the best parts of it and making them work better." Unlike the unprincipled pragmatists, these Republicans (the George W. Bush/John Kasich types) are sincere...but they are liberals at heart. Which is why they have been described as "Democrat Lite."

Another variety of anti-individualists are the "tribalists." I described them as those who "draw their personal identities from collective affiliations. They believe there are inherent conflicts of interests among men that pit their group against all others in a battle for status. This prompts them to see themselves as victims of powerful elites, group favoritism, and dark conspiracies.... These 'angry voters' are drawn to divisive demagogues, from Huey Long to George Wallace to Ross Perot to Pat Buchanan." (And today, of course, to Donald Trump.)

I further subdivided the tribalists into two factions. First, "nationalists, [who] believe there are inherent national, racial, and/or cultural conflicts of interest," and who can be found "shouting 'America First!'" because "they see themselves in a 'cultural war' to preserve our 'national identity' from foreign and minority influences. They thus reject foreign trade, treaties, immigration, and racial/ethnic integration." The second faction are "populists, [who] define themselves not by nation or race, but by economic class. They believe there's a fixed national economic pie to be divided, so any gains by others must be at their expense. They thus see themselves as 'little guys,' exploited by a privileged elite of bureaucrats, businessmen, and bankers." (Trump deliberately appeals to both factions.)

In addition to the various sorts of pragmatists and anti-individualists (e.g., conservative welfare statists and tribalists), there is an anti-Enlightenment faction within the GOP: those who reject the Enlightenment values of reason, individualism, the pursuit of personal happiness and fulfillment, self-realization, and personal choice -- usually on religious and/or cultural grounds. They (wrongly) identify such premises with personal subjectivism and moral relativism, and as an antidote, they advocate the subordination and sacrifice of the individual to the broader society and religious dogma. In short, they promote conservative cultural collectivism. These are the "social conservatives" who believe that government should impose Judeo-Christian values on society, by law if necessary, in order to advance social cohesion and keep unruly, self-indulgent individuals in line.

Finally, the GOP harbors a minority of "individualists...the most intellectual and principled elements on the Right," consisting of "economic conservatives and political libertarians, as well as Objectivists." These are the champions, respectively, of free markets and free trade; of "constitutional conservatism" and limited government; and of the Enlightenment worldview of reason and individualism. But today, this principled minority finds itself increasingly marginalized and outnumbered within the GOP. The hostility of the pragmatic Establishment toward "constitutional conservative" Senator Ted Cruz provides one example; the primary results provide another.

A Coalition Shattered

I wrote all of this in 1996. Twenty years later, nothing has changed -- except that the 2016 GOP primaries have revealed, with painful finality, that these logically irreconcilable factions have no rational basis for continued cohesion. At the outset of the primary season, a host of candidates vied for the Republican presidential nomination, representing every shade of pragmatist (Christie, Gilmore, Pataki, Graham, Trump), conservative welfare statist (Kasich), tribalist (the populist/nationalist Trump), religious social conservative (Carson), cultural collectivist (Huckabee, Santorum), constitutional conservative (Cruz, Fiorina, Jindal), libertarian (Paul), and economic conservative (Rubio, Bush, Walker, Perry). 

Now, ask yourself what any of these factions have in common. Can individualists (constitutional conservatives, libertarians, and Objectivists) make common cause with nationalist or populist tribalists? Can advocates of reason and individual liberty make common cause with conservative collectivists? Can anyone from any faction who is serious about his principles make common cause with -- or trust -- the unprincipled pragmatists?

Moreover, with the presidential nomination of Trump the Tribalist (and unprincipled pragmatist) looming ever more likely, the last pretenses of any principled distinctions between the Republican Party and the Democratic Party have been obliterated. We are likely to face two competing forms of statism, and two equally authoritarian and thuggish candidates for our nation's highest office.

Abraham Lincoln famously said, "A house divided against itself cannot stand." During the 2016 election cycle I have been raising the alarm about the rise of Trumpism in the GOP precisely because it deprives individualists of any hospitable home in a viable major party. And also because whether Trump wins or loses, we have finally, sadly reached my long-predicted crackup of the Republican Party.

So...where do we go from here?

The Path Forward

Our first task is to face and grasp the cause of the problem. The problem is intellectual chaos. In terms of vision, philosophy, goals, policies -- of Narrative -- the GOP is everything, and nothing. That's why even with an electoral majority in Congress today (as in the early 1990s), the Republicans cannot rally around a single alternative to (say) ObamaCare, or a proposed budget, or a policy to deal with the looming disaster of runaway entitlement spending, or even a coherent strategy to deal with ISIS. Philosophically divided, the party is paralyzed by indecision; too many logically incompatible values, principles, and agendas are clamoring for collective agreement, with each splinter faction trying to impose its own on the others.

That can't happen. Collectivist decision-making may work for those who embrace collectivism; they are used to sacrificing individual interests for the sake of the group. But it emphatically does not work for those who champion individualism, by which the ultimate evil is sacrificing one's values for the sake of group "harmony." Those who embrace constitutional conservatism, free markets, and individual rights on principle cannot sacrifice their principles and go along with the statist agendas of pragmatists, tribalists, and social conservatives, in the name of "party unity." (The same can be said of sincere, principled social conservatives.)

 No, individualist ends can only be advanced by individualist means.

In my opinion, bright, articulate advocates of principled individualism who aspire to public office should stop trying to "convert" or "take over" the Republican Party. That's a fool's errand, a futile waste of time, and a contradiction: You can't impose individualism on others.

Instead, I think they should aim to establish themselves first as champions of individualist principles and values on platforms outside the party apparatus, before entering politics. Perhaps through the media -- columns, talk shows, entertainment, public speaking platforms, etc. They should acquire a reputation and public following that way -- independently -- and then enter politics.

Ronald Reagan achieved public fame first as an actor, then as a public speaker touring the country. His famous speech for Barry Goldwater in 1964, "A Time for Choosing," established his "brand" as a principled, articulate conservative. So, when he launched his political career, he already was well-known and well-liked. Because his brand had been so firmly established,
he didn't even bother to go up through the party ranks. His first run for political office was to be governor of California -- not for some smaller office. Similar examples of this "independent outsider" strategy could be cited, including Arnold Schwarzenegger and, yes, Donald Trump. They established attractive brands as individuals first. Then they just marched in and entrenched beachheads within the GOP, pushing aside hostile Establishment rivals by the sheer numbers and force of their followers.

Those of us who do not aspire to public office should look to support qualified, articulate, attractive, principled outsiders who do. (It's one reason I supported Carly Fiorina early this primary season. I wish that Trump's distracting celebrity presence hadn't obscured her many merits.) A second choice would be political insiders who have demonstrated a long track record of standing firmly on principle against the corrupt Establishment within the system. (It's the reason I currently support Senator Ted Cruz against the tribalist Donald Trump and the conservative welfare statist Governor John Kasich.)

As for those of us who don't want any direct involvement in politics, but who still wish to promote the kind of changes that affect politics, I have said for years that the place to focus is not politics, but culture. Ayn Rand and Andrew Breitbart were both courageous visionaries, and they both agreed -- in Breitbart's memorable words -- that "politics is downstream from culture." What affects culture more directly are stories. Not think tanks, not college professors, and not the abstract ideas and theories that flow from either -- but ideas as they are dramatized and romanticized in the form of narratives.

We urgently need to reclaim and romanticize the Western Enlightenment/individualist worldview in popular entertainment. We need the constant celebration of individualist virtues and values in art. We need to patronize and encourage the good stuff, not merely fight the bad stuff.
Negating negatives is not the same thing as producing positives.

Similarly, we need to honor, and to defend from attack, those who champion and protect our basic American institutions. This includes our police and military, our entrepreneurs and self-made individuals, our great historical leaders and cultural icons (including America's Founders). We need to extol their virtues as virtues. We need to celebrate their lives, giving them awards and recognition. Today's kids are tomorrow's leaders, and they need not only fictional models, but real-life exemplars of individualist virtues.

But yes, as a corollary to our positive efforts, we do need to declare war on today's artistic nihilism, whose toxic influence creates the sort of morally vacuous, shapeless entities who are fit for nothing but a welfare state or a collectivist colony. And yes, as a corollary to creating and defending values, we do need to confront evil's enablers -- especially its academic, political, and media enablers. We can't remain mute as our culture's values and institutions are under assault.

However, we must always remember that fighting evil is a secondary task. Our civilization is perishing due to over a century of nihilistic assaults on its basic philosophical values. That nihilism has created a void, a cultural vacuum. You don't fight a void; you fill it.

Our primary focus -- as George Washington put it -- must be to "raise a standard to which the wise and honest can repair."

Advancing a New Narrative


Note that all of this has very little to do, at least directly, with the Republican Party: taking it over, deposing its corrupt Establishment, fighting over its platform provisions at conventions. It has very little to do with politics, period -- at least not directly. It dwells instead on the task of affecting the culture that lies upstream from politics.

The left has long understood the importance of "narrative control," which is why they have colonized Hollywood and the arts. As a result of their efforts, we can now throw facts and logic at people till the cows come home; but because our enemies have shaped the narratives by which people assimilate and interpret facts, we always lose the arguments. They process everything we say to fit a Core Narrative embedded in their brains, the dominant storyline that guides their lives and integrates their thoughts.

We need to take charge of that storyline. We need to advance a new Core Narrative for our American culture, but one rooted in individualist premises.

We need to hammer that Narrative home in every venue, using every media, cultural, and political platform. The Core Narrative of American Individualism needs to be translated into thousands of specific stories and examples, into countless variations on its basic themes, and then applied to new contexts in fresh ways. We need to see it manifested in novels, plays, and movies. We need it in TV shows and historic documentaries and biographies. We need it in video games, and children's picture books, and songs, and poetry.

The Individualist Narrative needs to be romanticized, honored, championed, and defended. And its enemies need to be challenged, opposed, mocked, and fought -- just as they have done for over a century against ours. 

This is not primarily a political battle. It is a battle for hearts and minds, over what it means to be human. It is a battle over the nature of our fundamental ideals, values, motives, and purposes.

It is a cultural war.

But it's not a cultural war whose goals are to be defined and represented solely by social conservatives versus cultural leftists. It's time that those of us who are principled individualists march onto the cultural and political battlefields as a third force, armed with our own Narrative.

Friday, June 26, 2015

How Government Created the Gay Marriage Controversy

There are many unrecognized implications of the June 2015 U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing marriages between (among?) gay and lesbian (couples? groups?). I frame the ruling in those terms not to disparage loving relationships of any kind, but to raise a point lost in this ruling: essentially, the unintentional obliteration of "marriage" as a legal concept. Which is to me a good thing.

Like so many issues in which government (i.e., politics) is improperly involved -- education, agriculture, energy, housing, charity, etc., etc. -- the bitter, divisive social conflicts over "gay marriage" arise precisely from the very fact of government involvement in defining "marriage" in the first place. Why?

Because government -- that is, law -- is force and coercion. Government "solutions" to problems are inherently coercive impositions by some people (the politically dominant) on others (the politically subordinate). Such solutions never result in social harmony, peace, love, etc.; they only exacerbate social hostility, conflict, and division. They allow some people to "win," but only because they force others to "lose."

Force children to go to "public" (i.e., politically run) schools, and force taxpayers to pay for it? You will then pit taxpayers against each other over the content of that "education" (indoctrination), over schedules and hours, over homework, over grading systems, over teacher qualifications, over social engineering schemes (busing students all over the place to achieve racially integrated schools, etc.). over options for dissenters (home schooling, tax credits, vouchers, "magnet" schools, "charter" schools), over "reforms" (Common Core), over testing, etc. Everything concerning education becomes a political battleground...because of the conscription of children into politicized education, and the conscription of taxpayers to pick up the tab.

Put government into the agriculture business, or energy business, or auto business, or banking business, or ANY business, and what happens? You use force (the IRS extracting money from all taxpayers) to support crony businesses (e.g., politically connected ethanol agribusinesses, "green" windmill and solar panel manufacturers, GM and Chrysler, the big New York-based banks) over all their politiically unfavored competitors, who must fund, through taxes, their politically favored rivals.

Put government into the charity business -- all the programs of the welfare state -- and you undercut voluntary, private charity alternatives by sapping them of trillions of dollars of potential funds, which are taxed away from potential contributors. Simultaneously, you create what are called "moral hazards" by providing incentives for millions of people not to work or to solve their own problems, but instead to dump their endless claims of ailments, needs, wants, desires, whims ("Obamaphones"? Really?) onto their hard-working, taxpaying neighbors. Everyone resents this "spread the wealth around" process: those forced to foot the boundless bills, and those issuing endless demands of their "rights" -- i.e., their phony claims of "entitlements" against "society" (which means: their neighbors). In the redistributionist era -- as 19th century economist Frederic Bastiat famously put it -- "The state is that great fiction by which everyone tries to live at the expense of everyone else."

All of this stems from trying to use government -- law, politics, force -- to solve essentially personal or social problems. Politics invariably creates "win-lose" relationships, in which some people benefit but only at the expense of others. For every political beneficiary, there are victims. For every political winner, there are losers.

Now, let's contrast this world of politics and the "public sector" with the world of economics and the "private sector."

Imagine a world in which education were entirely privatized -- in which schools were like grocery stores, auto dealerships, bookstores, or any other private companies. No parents would be forced to put their kids into a school system they didn't like, with teachers they didn't trust, with curricula they loathed -- or to pay taxes to support such private companies. Just as you don't have to subsidize your local bookstore, grocery, or Ford dealer, you wouldn't have to pay for somebody else's school. With all the money you saved in school taxes, you could afford to send your kids instead to one of many competing private schools, with teachers you preferred, teaching courses you decided were most beneficial to your kids' futures. Or, you could homeschool them, utilizing course material from a host of competing sources, including online offerings. You would have no reason or motive to fight with politicized school boards and teachers unions over content, schedules, social-engineering fads, or anything else -- because you wouldn't be forced to be involved with any educational company except the one you freely chose. Imagine: No more wars with your neighbors and fellow taxpayers over textbooks, the teaching of Common Core or evolution or liberal propaganda or conservative propaganda, over teacher salaries and hours, over school taxes, over whether the building ought to have a new gym. You get to pick an educational company for your kids from a host of competitors, just as you pick your own car, your own grocery store, or your own TV provider. Ultimately, just as with those other companies, marketplace competition would determine which educational companies and options succeed. And unlike today's subsidized, bloated public-school monstrosities, those that succeeded would be those that offered the best educational value.

Imagine a world in which government were banned from any involvement with business -- a separation of Economics and State, for the same reasons that we have a separation of Church and State. Imagine businesses having to survive on their own, demonstrating their value to willing, paying customers in a competitive marketplace -- and not by forcibly extracting subsidies from taxpayers, via their crony relationships with politicians and bureaucrats. Imagine how much money would remain in your pocket if we shut down the Departments of Agriculture, Energy, and Housing & Urban Development (just for starters), gave pink slips to their thousands of meddling bureaucrats, and sent them off to seek productive jobs in the private sector. Would you care if somebody started a windmill firm or a bank or an auto company...if you weren't forced to subsidize or patronize it? Would you feel hostility and hatred and anger if your associations with them were not compulsory?

Imagine a world in which you got to keep vastly more of your own money -- and thus have the means and choice to fund your own preferred charities and social causes -- rather than being forced, by law, to subsidize (say) Planned Parenthood abortions, AIDS research rather than (say) cancer or Alzheimer's research, political agitation by ACORN, the politicking of environmental activist groups, the healthcare of illegal aliens streaming across unguarded borders, "voter enrollment" of those same illegals, mosquito control in Africa, typhoon relief in Bangladesh, "public broadcasting" and opera houses for upper-middle-class patrons who could easily afford to pay for their own entertainment, and on and on and on, endlessly. Americans are the most generous people in the world. But they are tired of being played for suckers, forced to fund the politically connected champions of "good causes" who get favored treatment by their friends in court. Does that mutual fleecing further social harmony, peace, love, and mutual respect?

The governmental (political) realm, run by force and coercion and taking, necessarily creates "win-lose" relationships. The economic (private) realm, run by free choice and voluntary association and trade, necessarily creates "win-win" relationships. Yet for many generations, people have been conditioned to seek coercive, political "solutions" to every social problem or personal need -- coercive, political "solutions" that only breed mutual hostility, disharmony, and hatred.

The "gay marriage" controversy is but the latest example of how social disruption has been manufactured -- not solved -- by governmental (political) involvement. The entire controversy stems from the fact that government has been involved in defining what a "marriage" is. 

But why? Why is that necessary? And what have been the consequences?

Government, as our Founders proclaimed in the Declaration of Independence, exists to "secure these rights" to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Period. Not to solve personal problems or social ills, but to protect individual rights. Not to take sides in disputes, but to be an impartial umpire.

Thus, there is a proper role for government (law) in recognizing and enforcing private contracts, and also in protecting individuals in relationships (spouses, children) from violations of their rights by other parties. But recognition and enforcement of private contracts, property arrangements, and the rights of spouses and children, do not require government (i.e., politicians and the force of law) to confer some kind of "legitimacy" on the ceremonial and symbolic aspects of a "marriage."

For all the reasons stated above, marriage should be privatized. A "marriage" should be defined and celebrated by the participants, according to whatever religious or philosophical values they ascribe to that state of long-term commitment. Politics should play no role in that determination whatsoever.

But ironically, the Supreme Court's ruling has -- unintentionally -- pointed us in that direction. Why?

Because (to paraphrase the classic line from the film "The Incredibles") if everything is a "marriage" under the law, then nothing is. The Court ruling and reasoning today opens the door not just to same-sex "marriages," but to polygamy, group marriages, and pretty much anything else. Who can now say that such arrangements are not "marriages," and on what grounds?

Liberals, wedded to governmental (read: coercive) "solutions" to all social problems, won't grasp any of this, sadly. They refuse to realize that their "solutions," rooted in seizing and wielding political power by themselves over others, cannot ever result in that woozy, utopian, John Lennon "Imagine" world of peace-and-love.

Liberals, above all, are complete captives to the zero-sum, class-and-racial warfare, tribal worldview: a social worldview of winners vs. losers, of powerful vs. powerless, of perpetual gang warfare in which each gang seeks power and advantage over its rivals. Economic ignoramuses -- who think every economic relationship is about some people taking from others -- liberals can't even conceive of peaceful, voluntary, trading relationships. They thus can only interpret free market capitalism through the distorting lens of "taking," of "exploitation."

Now, with this new Court decision, they will predictably try to use their new "marital rights" as a bludgeon against private individuals, businesses, and religious organizations that do not share their own elastic definition of "marriage." Rather than take this as an opportunity to celebrate live-and-let-live social arrangements, in which everyone can associate voluntarily as they choose, they will instead eagerly try to use the power of law to force and coerce any private, peaceful individuals who disagree with them to associate and deal with them -- to bake their wedding cakes, cater their weddings, provide venues for their ceremonies, even perform their ceremonies. Why? 

Because the main thing that "liberals" are "wedded" to is not some definition of marriage, but to their zero-sum, tribalist, coercive, us-vs.-them worldview. No, they don't really want peace and love and harmony: That's just their cover story.

They want power and control over others.

In short: Liberalism is sociopathy, masquerading as a political doctrine.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Yes, You Have a Right to Be a Bigot

In March 2015, a controversy roiled in Indiana over passage of the state's Religious Freedom Restoration Act. That divisive controversy is the latest fruit of a terrible legal precedent established during the Civil Rights era -- which was in turn based on terrible confusion and misunderstanding of the nature of "rights."

Protestors of the Indiana law (which in fact mirrors the federal RFRA law and similar laws in 30 states) claim that, by protecting the rights of (say) Christian business owners not to serve or deal with (say) gays, the RFRA violates the "right" of the latter to be served by these private businesses, without discrimination.

But does any such "right" exist? Let me attempt to untangle this mess.

Our individual rights have a moral basis: They are based on the moral premise that every individual is an end in himself -- not a means to the ends of others. Rights are moral principles established to institutionalize that premise as the basis for peaceful social relationships. Individual rights prohibit one person from living at the expense of someone else by means of force, fraud, or coercion.

Which brings us to the role of government. The Declaration of Independence states that the purpose of government is "to secure these rights" to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Government is established to protect these rights of individuals from acts of force, fraud, and coercion by others. And to enforce those protections of rights, government may use force and coercion only in retaliation against those who violate the rights of others.

In other words: Since government is an agency meant to protect the rights of all, and because it is funded by all, it therefore must afford equal legal protection to all. As an impartial umpire and protector, it cannot "play favorites" in its actions without operating unjustly.

To this end, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 did some very good things. In the Act, the Titles (or sections) numbered I, III-VI, VIII, and IX were aimed at ending discrimination on the basis of race, sex, and similar traits by government bodies, officials, and laws. For many decades before passage of the Act, various government bodies did operate unfairly and prejudicially, especially against blacks. Such officially sanctioned bigotry and bias was a moral and legal outrage, and it needed to be put to an end. So, these particular sections of the Civil Rights Act are rightly celebrated as a boon for the cause of individual rights.

However, Titles II and VII of the Civil Rights Act took matters a step too far. They banned owners of private property from exercising their own individual rights of freedom of association on and with that property. In other words, those sections violated an individual's right to choose his own associations, and on his own property, for whatever reasons (rational or irrational). 

To repeat: The basic premise underlying and justifying government and law is that each individual is an end in himself, not a means to the ends of others. But that very premise -- which demands that government act neutrally and impartially toward all -- also protects the right of individuals in the private sector to associate freely with whomever they wish, for whatever reason they wish. Those reasons don't have to be admirable. Let me be clear: I think that discrimination based solely on race or sexual orientation is disgraceful and stupid. However, it is an individual right to be a fool and a bigot.

To compel, by law, some legally specified people to associate with other legally specified people means that...

(1) the first group are not being treated as ends in themselves, but are being forced into the role of being the servants of others;

(2) the government -- which is supposed to be impartial -- is favoring the second designated group at the expense of the first; and

(3) the rights of individuals to peacefully use their private property as they see fit are to be subordinated to collective social purposes.

Ironically, (1) imposes "involuntary servitude" -- exactly what the 13h Amendment made illegal. From Wikipedia: "Involuntary servitude is a United States legal and constitutional term for a person laboring against that person's will to benefit another, under some form of coercion other than the worker's financial needs." To compel a business owner to serve someone not of his free choosing meets the very definition of "involuntary servitude." That may include compelling (say) a Christian baker, who does not believe in "gay marriage," to provide pastries at a gay wedding reception. If you think that is okay, then what would you say if a white racist or -- even worse!!! -- a RICH CONSERVATIVE CHRISTIAN REPUBLICAN (say, Rick Santorum or Sarah Palin) demanded, under the same "non-discrimination" laws, that a liberal, Democratic, gay, female, African-American baker provide pastries for his or her daughter's wedding?

Ironically too, in the name of "non-discrimination," (2) lets the government coercively discriminate on behalf of some people over others in what otherwise would be private, voluntary relationships.

And (3) represents a de facto nationalization of private businesses. Ownership, by definition, means the right to freely and peacefully use and dispose of property as the property holder sees fit. But under those two titles of the Civil Rights Act, property is no longer to serve the individual ends determined by its owner; instead, it is now to serve the collective ends of his customers, by governmental decree. The businessperson's private property rights are thus subordinated to collective ends, just as the businessperson himself or herself is subjected to involuntary servitude on behalf of customers.

I said above that "individual rights prohibit one person from living at the expense of someone else by means of force, fraud, or coercion." To use force and coercion in order to compel the owners of private property to deal with or serve you, is a direct violation of the owner's individual rights.

The fact that these violations of rights are rationalized because they are "for a good cause" is irrelevant. Just as the First Amendment protects the free speech of individuals, even if we despise  what they say, so too does the rest of the Bill of Rights protect the freedom of business owners to hire or serve whomever they wish, even if we despise their specific hiring choices or service policies. The way to deal with bigots, in either case, is through boycott and ridicule -- which is perfectly within the rights of any protester.

But now, the law has been stood on its head: It has become a tool to discriminate against and violate the individual rights of people whom we don't like . . . perversely, in the name of "protecting rights" and "non-discrimination."

As I write, Republicans such Governor Mike Pence of Indiana are back-pedaling frantically, trying to rewrite Religious Freedom Restoration Acts so as to prohibit private acts of "discrimination." But in doing so, they are caving in to those who are using such demands to destroy what little is left of individual and property rights. And they are thus joining the mobs that treat individuals as nationalized means to social ends, and no longer as moral ends in themselves.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

BAD DEEDS Wins CLFA Book of the Year 2014

I am delighted to announce that my second Dylan Hunter thriller, BAD DEEDS, just won the Conservative-Libertarian Fiction Alliance “Book of the Year 2014 Award.”

Given the quality of the finalists — books by prominent, bestselling authors Larry Correia, Sarah A. Hoyt, and Mackey Chandler — I sincerely didn’t think my thriller stood a chance of winning. But thanks to Dylan’s devoted fans, the book won the final vote.

I want to express my deepest appreciation and thanks to all of you who have made my stories and characters a part of your lives. I am touched and grateful to you for your loyal support, and my special appreciation goes to those of you who voted for BAD DEEDS. Thanks to you, this award will bring the book and its unique vigilante hero a lot more attention — and that is why I entered it in the competition in the first place.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Narcissist and The Narrative

He is, above all, the consummate narcissist. 

Consider: By his own admission, he spent most of his youth chasing girls, in a self-indulgent marijuana haze. In school, he used his long-honed tactics of glib, manipulative, arrogant "charm" to coast through, getting grades that, to this day, he has refused to release to the public. He learned to sweet-talk his way through life, also learning early on that white liberals were only too eager to serve as slavish Enablers for a bright, handsome black kid who made them feel noble about themselves.

Along the way, he learned how to con people with narratives, with stories that embodied the liberals' own fantasies and self-flattering aspirations. His biggest narrative con was about himself: He concocted a black kid's Cinderella story. Liberals just ate that up. With precious little effort on his own part, they lined up to elevate him up each political rung of his career ladder, pushing him toward the Narcissist's ultimate objective. He helped mainly by seeking out positions that kept him in the public eye, in front of cheering crowds. He became very, very adept in front of crowds, practicing and refining his narratives till they were polished. Though he could be a slick orator, he added a bit of informal, boyish, countrified charm, strategically dropping "g's" at the ends of words -- you know, so that he'd be "talkin' about changin' the country." He did that only occasionally: Like most of his studied tactics, he could turn these on and off like a faucet, as needed.

In each political position he held along the way, he never actually bothered to do the job. He never left behind any legislative footprints, any actual accomplishment. To him, winning the political position was the accomplishment: It was an end in itself -- an affirmation in his mind that he was loved, noticed, and approved of by thousands. But it was never enough: He wanted that universal affirmation from millions. So, he never stayed more than a few years in any political job. They were only stepping stones to his ultimate objective.

His big break was when throngs of white liberals put the skinny kid from Chicago on stage at the Democratic convention in 2004. He had just won his Senate race, and was now the new black poster boy for white liberals. I saw that speech on TV. I saw how the white liberal crowd responded and ate it up. Do you know something? At that instant, I knew. And I began to work a Barack Obama character into the storyline of the original Dylan Hunter novel that I was then planning, as the first black man to run for the White House. Yes, I knew even then that that was exactly what he was after, and where this adoring crowd of liberals was propelling him.

At that time, his only qualifications for the White House were a couple of faux "memoirs" that advanced his phony, self-inflated biographical Narrative. That. Was. IT. The rest of his resume? A Harvard law student whose grades nobody ever talked about. A figurehead occupant of the position of "Editor" of the "Harvard Law Review," where he never wrote and contributed a single article himself. A Chicago community agitator. A part-time, adjunct college instructor. An ambitious schmoozer and schemer who ingratiated himself into the Chicago political machine. A state representative who, backed by the Machine, used hardball tactics to get elected -- then never did a damned thing in office except run for his next position. Ditto as a one-term occupant of the U.S. Senate while he immediately began running for the White House.

Then, as a candidate whose vacuous political speeches matched his resume: empty odes to "hope" and "change," whatever those things were supposed to be. Barack had learned that all you needed were moral-political narratives, built on vague generalizations, and a personal biographical Narrative, built on the univerally appealing Cinderella story. People would want to believe in those stories; so they would grant any candidate embodying their mythology a free pass from close, critical scrutiny. Nobody would bother to notice that he was just an empty suit: They would fill that empty suit themselves, with a Somebody of their own imagination and aspirations -- all to make them feel good about themselves.

And so The Narcissist was elevated to become President -- any narcissist's ultimate symbol of self-congratulation and universal adulation. That was the goal. That was the objective. He had reached it. Not for any specific things he could actually accomplish; oh, sure, he had a leftist wish list of goals, and he surrounded himself with other hard leftists. But the real pleasure was the ability to wander the grand rooms of the White House; to be saluted getting on and off Marine One and Air Force One; to be able to jet anywhere on the taxpayers' tab; to ride around Washington in The Beast, surrounded by a motorcade of Secret Service agents; to put his feet up on the historic desk in the Oval Office (there are photos of him doing this); but mostly to preen in public before nests of cameras and thickets of microphones, soaking in the attention.

The actual work of the job bores him. Actual work always bored him. He chafes at hanging around in the White House. Sure, it's fun to wander into the Situation Room and be surrounded by nervous generals and fawning lackeys, and to be visited by anxious corporate cronies looking to kiss his ring and get favors, and to chum around with all the Hollywood and sports celebs lining up to entertain him in the evening. But the work is BORING. He just can't wait to get out of the place and away from that damned desk. So, at every occasion, he orders his staff to rev up The Beast, Marine One, and then Air Force One, and get him off to some exotic vacation spot, where he can hang out with his buds on some lush green golf course.

The Consummate Narcissist. That's who America elected -- twice. They still don't understand how they could have been fooled so badly. But Barack understands. He's like another handsome black celebrity narcissist of an earlier generation: O.J. Simpson. Everyone loved The Juice, too, for exactly the same reasons. Why, the two narcissists are virtually interchangeable.

In the end, Barack Obama is merely O.J. Simpson, with intellectual pretentions...and without the knife.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

How "The Wizard of Oz" Refutes the Liberal Narrative

I have been pondering for several months how this classic childhood film presents a remarkable metaphor for the failure of the liberal/progressive/statist view of government. Consider the plot:

A group of humble individuals finds their lives disrupted by frightening events beyond their control. Their entire world is literally turned upside-down, and they find themselves in strange, scary new circumstances. Now, they fear they are out of control of their lives, and they are terribly anxious about their future.

One victim of the disaster seeks a return to her normal world. Another believes he hasn't the courage to meet the fearful challenges ahead. A third fears he lacks compassion and dedication. Yet another wonders whether he has the brains to survive on his own.

From a bunch of "little people," they are told about a wondrous far-off city, where a great and powerful wizard will provide them everything they seek and need -- merely by magical decree. Desperate, they embark upon a difficult pilgrimage to that city of power and favors, which is topped by a towering monument. There, acting like craven beggars, they visit and supplicate themselves before the all-powerful wizard, pleading for his aid. And he promises to fulfill their heart's desires.

But there is a catch. The supplicants are told that first they must pay a price for his help: They must agree to go out and do the wizard's bidding, undergoing a host of ordeals on his behalf. The price of his help is servility. Intimidated, they agree to do so. They perform the tasks he has ordered, suffering terribly, but mastering every challenge along the way. 

At last, they return in triumph and insist that the wizard keep his end of the bargain. But he balks and refuses, accusing them of insolence and improper deference to one of his exalted station.

Suddenly, an innocent young pup pulls back the curtain. The Great and Powerful Wizard is revealed to be nothing more than a pathetic old con man: an incompetent fake, who had achieved his power and status over the little people only through his ability to spin glowing Narratives that promised them whatever they wanted . . . and told them whatever they wanted to hear.

In the end, the adventurers come to a shocking realization. Each discovers that, all along, he or she already possessed all the brains, heart, and courage to live happy lives, to produce whatever they needed, and to accomplish great things. They learn that, all along, they could have stood self-reliantly on their own, solving their individual problems creatively and productively, without paying endless tribute to, or accepting endless abuse from, any fraudulent, conniving, self-appointed "wizards" living parasitical lives of luxury in some distant center of power . . . .


All right, folks: Having now revealed "The Wizard of Oz" as a highly subversive Narrative of individualism, one that brilliantly mocks and fatally skewers the "progressive" Narrative, I wonder how long it will be before the Regime tries to ban it?

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Republican Crack-Up -- and the Path Forward

It is all transpiring as I have foreseen.

Not only has the Republican leadership in both houses of Congress completely capitulated to the Democrats, on every point, in crafting the October 2013 "budget agreement" (i.e., signing terms of unilateral Republican surrender); in doing so, the GOP also has signaled that it will not even try to exercise any of its lawful leverage to oppose any Democratic initiative in the future. On any such occasion, both sides now know that the Democrats inevitably will engineer some new "crisis"; that they and their media lapdogs will blame it on the Republicans; and that the Republicans -- terrified about being unpopular -- will cave.

Thus, what I years ago labeled the policy of "anticipatory capitulation" is now rooted in the Republican DNA. Looking down the road, they will notice and anticipate any potential confrontation in which they will be subjected to criticism . . . and terrified over that prospect, they will surrender preemptively. They already are doing this on the immigration issue, for example: working feverishly behind the scenes to engineer legislation that essentially anticipates and preemptively ratifies everything that the Democrats have ever dreamed of enacting (in other words, a new "Dream Act").

Conservative commentators like Rush Limbaugh say they are "mystified" (his word) by how and why the GOP could so completely implode as any kind of alternative (let alone "opposition party") to the Democrats. Readers here know my answer:

He who shapes the Narrative, wins.

The Democrats have a Narrative. It is built on a primitive philosophical view of social relationships: a world of zero-sum tribalism, where all wealth is "social" and fixed in quantity; where it is not the product of individuals ("You didn't build that!"), but of the tribe, and thus tribally owned; where anyone's gain therefore comes only at the expense of someone else's loss; and thus where a benevolent Ruling Class elite must decide "fair" distributions of tribal wealth among all the tribal members. This atavistic worldview goes back to the dark days when people lived in caves; ironically, today it is labeled "progressive."

The Republicans, by contrast, have no Narrative. That's because they long ago abandoned the only plausible philosophical basis for a counter-Narrative to that of the Democrats: a worldview of creative, self-responsible individualism. In that worldview, human productivity means that wealth is not limited or fixed in quantity; it is produced by and therefore the property of individuals, not the tribe; social relationships therefore are not a zero-sum proposition, where some people gain at the expense of others: instead, they are "win-win," because productive people trade rather than take; and finally, no Ruling Class elite is wanted or needed, because it is both parasitical and dictatorial.

This modern, individualist worldview arose from the Enlightenment Era, and it represented a revolutionary advance over primitive tribalism. It is the worldview upon which Republicans could have fashioned a host of coherent, compelling, inspiring narratives. But it is a worldview that the party's liberal RINOs reject on principle, and that its Establishment pragmatists never understood.

The only serious repository for this individualist worldview in contemporary politics lies in one wing of the Republican Party: a loose, informal coalition of those labeled "constitutional conservatives," "libertarian populists," and "Tea Partiers." In the Senate, this wing comprises only a minority of the Republican caucus, which is still dominated by liberal RINOs (think John McCain) and pragmatic Establishment careerists (think Mitch McConnell). In the House, the conservative/libertarian/Tea Party wing actually constitutes a majority of the Republican caucus. However, among all House members, they constitute a numerical minority. That's because there are just enough turncoat RINOs and Establishment types (including Boehner and the leadership) to give Nancy Pelosi and the House Democrats a de facto voting majority on serious issues.

That explains what is happening today (October 16, 2013) in the pivotal congressional budget vote, which ratifies not just everything that the Democrats wanted, but even ObamaCare funding.

First, in the Senate, Mitch McConnell and the Republican leadership "negotiated" terms of total and unconditional surrender to Harry Reid and the Democrats, rolling over the GOP "Tea Party" minority led by Ted Cruz and Mike Lee. Then, in the House, the Republican Establishment leader, John Boehner, agreed to let the Senate bill come to the floor for a straight vote (one he could have blocked procedurally). Even though the majority of House Republicans, who are principled Tea Partiers and constitutional conservatives, remain utterly opposed to this bill and will vote a resounding no, there are just enough RINOs and Establishment "moderates" who will join Pelosi and the Dems to pass the bill there, too.

And so, the Republican leadership in both houses has set in cement the existing membership roles within the Bipartisan Ruling Class: The collectivist Democrats will remain in charge, setting the progressive agenda as the Evil Party, while the careerist Republicans will act reliably as their passive rubber stamp, ratifying the progressive agenda as the Enabler Party.

Where does this leave things?

Right now, there is a concerted bipartisan effort to use Saul Alinsky tactics to destroy what I'll call the "Principled Individualist Wing" of the Republican Party: the constitutional conservatives, libertarian populists, and Tea Partiers. The Democratic left and the GOP's RINO/Establishment types will try to isolate, freeze, personalize, and demonize this Principled Individualist Wing -- starting, of course, with Ted Cruz, the individual they most fear, and therefore must destroy. It's already begun, but watch this effort ramp up in coming months.

My recommendations now?

First, all-out war within the GOP against the RINOs and the Establishment. After all, that war has already been declared against Principled Individualists by the RINOs; so there is no point in pretending that the two factions can ever peacefully co-exist within the same party. They disagree in principle; no compromise of principles is logically possible. One or the other faction must go.

In the House, the Principled Individualist Wing has already achieved a numerical advantage within the GOP caucus. But they have not yet moved to seize the reins of party leadership there. Until they do, they should realize that when push comes to shove, Boehner/Cantor/McCarthy will always cave and sell them out at the last minute, as they did today, by letting the Senate budget bill come to the floor. That was a key decision; Boehner had the power to reject it; but the leadership team caved. In doing so, they proved, once and for all, that they ultimately are craven careerists, not principled leaders; that they are resigned to being de facto enablers of the Democrats; and that they are laughable as articulate advocates of any alternative Narrative.

In the Senate, the Principled Individualist Wing is a smaller but growing minority. Within the past two years they have established a strong beachhead within that body. Their members, though few, are young, superlatively articulate, and utterly intransigent -- in contrast to the old, mealy-mouthed, weak-kneed Establishment dinosaurs, who won't be around much longer. The goal here must be to hasten their departure, to knock off the worst of the Establishment and RINO population and replace them during upcoming primaries so as to achieve Individualist dominance within the Senate GOP caucus.

As that happens, the most important thing that must occur within the Republican Party is that its Principled Individualists learn how to craft NARRATIVES. First, an overarching individualist "meta-Narrative," telling the compelling, inspiring, positive vision of individual productive achievement and personal fulfillment under liberty. Second, drawing upon that meta-Narrative, specific "narratives" for specific issues and circumstances. 

Principled Individualists must stop communicating to the public at large in terms of wonkish abstractions and eye-glazing political-economic jargon. Instead, they must personalize and dramatize the issues, using the stories of real people who are either examples of heroic individualism, or victims of progressive oppression.

At a time when millions and millions of Americans are being individually victimized by leftist policies, who is telling their stories? Where are their champions? Why aren't they brought to appear, one after the other, before the cameras at congressional hearings? Why don't Principled Individualist politicians stand beside them at rallies, create photo-ops with them before local media, tell their stories again and again in their speeches? Where are the victims of ObamaCare, for example? Why do GOP congressmen ever bother to show up at a news conference without a host of them serving as their backdrop -- without telling their stories, or, better yet, letting them tell their own?

For many decades, the Democrats have become masters of the technique of turning victimization into political theater, in order to win public emotional sympathy. They have exploited such emotional sympathy to steamroller over every logical, theoretical, and empirical argument . . . they have none of the latter on their side. By contrast, while having all of those latter things on their side, why don't Principled Individualists use them as the basis for compelling, dramatic, sympathetic narratives? If they did that, then their arguments -- both logical and emotional -- would gain the force of a tidal wave . . . as Ronald Reagan knew and demonstrated.

This, I believe, is the path forward for Principled Individualists, whether within the Republican Party or out here in Flyover Country. 

Regarding the latter: I counsel you not to wait for some Man on a White Horse to ride into Washington as your champion. You have the power and intelligence to tell persuasive personal stories, drawing upon and applying to your own lives, families, friends, and circumstances. You can tell personal stories that embody and romanticize the aspirational elements of the American dream -- and that also dramatize and demonstrate the personal costs, tragedies, and victimizations generated by progressive statism.

If each of us does that, in his or her own life, then sad days like today in Washington will soon become fewer and less dispiriting. And eventually, we will be able to wake up each morning actually looking forward to watching a TV news program.

Take heart. We're only just beginning.