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.