Traditional European culture has many enemies, some of whom instinctively act for the destruction of European societies and institutions. Until recently men like (((Bill Kristol))) have been judicious enough to maintain public silence about their true feelings, but the rebellion of the working class Trump voter has loosened the tongues of bitter, irrelevant pundits like never before:
Look, to be totally honest, if things are so bad as you say with the white working class, don’t you want to get new Americans in? Seriously, you can make the case—this is going on too long and this is too crazy, probably, and I hope this thing isn’t being videotaped or ever shown anywhere. Whatever tiny, pathetic future I have is going to totally collapse. You can make a case that America has been great because every—I think John Adams said this—basically if you’re a free society, a capitalist society, after two or three generations of hard work everyone becomes kind of decadent, lazy, spoiled—whatever. Then, luckily, you have these waves of people coming in from Italy, Ireland, Russia, and now Mexico, who really want to work hard and really want to succeed and really want their kids to live better lives than them and aren’t sort of clipping coupons or hoping that they can hang on and meanwhile grew up as spoiled kids and so forth. In that respect, I don’t know how this moment is that different from the early 20th century.
It is so simple, I know, but let us parse this paragraph just for the record. Kristol’s first sentence unintentionally reveals that despite being steeped in politics for decades his instincts are terrible and he lacks any ability to learn from recent events. Trump’s entire 2016 campaign can be viewed as an extended extemporaneous riff on this question: “If things are so bad as you say with the white working class, don’t you want to help the white working class?” That is the difference between being a respected, out of touch commentator and a political novice with great gut instincts. That is the difference between being a victorious American President and being Bill Kristol.
The fundamentally uncurious attitude and conventional opinions Kristol exhibits in this paragraph are not worthy of an undergraduate term paper. Go to any decent college history course; pick whatever era or country you want, and write in a graded assignment: “I don’t know how this moment is that different from the early 20th century.” Literally every moment in the history of the universe, except the early 20th century, is different from the early 20th century. Anyone who speaks on public policy questions should be aware of the differences between this century and the last century. For example, the early 20th century America had a white, Christian, European supermajority that rigorously enforced social and cultural norms on all new immigrants. No one felt guilty about expecting English language proficiency, and no one provided special accommodations for Muslims. Traditional marriage and family structures were intact and venerated by public and politician alike. In fact, all of the trends that made the white working class a group Bill Kristol thinks is expendable had yet to gain momentum. Early 20th century American society was so stable and secure that even black Americans were better off then than working class whites are today! You can argue that America has been great because of immigrants. You can also argue that America has become less great with each infusion of new cultures and races. It depends on your definition of greatness, your definition of America, and your definition of immigrants. Before deciding what to do about the white working class, one must decide what the telos, the purpose, of American society actually is.
Kristol is also an obvious (and probably willing) victim of the criminalization of noticing race difference. Does anyone believe that Bill Kristol could be dropped off blindfolded in Dublin, Moscow, Rome and Mexico City and not know the difference between those four places? The cruel irony of Kristol’s stated preference for new Americans is that all of the dysfunction of the white working class would be exacerbated by replacing them with any other group. Social dysfunction is also far worse in the black community than in the white working class; is Bill advocating for the demographic replacement of black Americans with immigrants? Kristol either truly believes that all humans are interchangeable cogs or he is disguising his desire to replace truculent whites with a more pliable, servile underclass. Either way he is in for a rude awakening. Somalis and Mexicans are even less interested in New York neocons than blue collar whites are. Kristol may believe that by listing Irish, Italians, and Russians he has proved that any group can be assimilated in America, but there is a world of historical, religious, racial, cultural, and social difference between even a Russian peasant and a Mexican day laborer. Now, grouping nations that are not exactly alike based on different levels of similarity is a subtle, nuanced activity that requires high level reasoning skills, so lets pause and explain the concept in terms even a cuckservative can understand.
The most egregious fault of Kristol’s reasoning is that he fails to distinguish between the quantitative and qualitative aspects of society. A brief economic digression is justifiable because Kristol’s definition of American greatness is essentially “balance sheet America”; whatever increases economic efficiency is good. This sin is characteristic of libertarians who try to prove that unfettered competition and free markets are good for society using charts and graphs that show how many more dollars the economy gains overall. The qualitative aspect, the quality of life, is lost on such people. I do not care about the total amount of money earned as much as I care about how citizens live. Replacing all the small shops in a city with one Wal-Mart would increase economic efficiency, but can anyone deny the qualitative difference between living in a town where everyone works for Wal-Mart and a town where everyone is the sole proprietor of their own business? The culture is different even if the balance sheets are the same. If given a choice to be magically transformed into the average Swede or the average African-American, with the health, neighborhood, education, and life expectancy characteristic of those two groups, which one would a strict libertarian choose?
Hilaire Belloc addresses all these economic issues in the book The Crisis of Civilization, in which he argues that the best aspects of European culture were shaped by medieval Catholic unity and that capitalism and communism are the two mirror image results of the destruction of medieval unity by the Reformation. Belloc identifies everything Bill Kristol stands for as complicit in the death of Western Civilization. In the following long passage Belloc contrasts the traditional society that knows its telos is securing the good life for its citizens and the modern society corroded by economic fetishism:
First of all, what is “Status?” The word means “standing.” The status of a man is his established condition. In our original Christian society—that society which reached its flower in the Middle Ages—status was omnipresent. It did not cover the whole ground of human activity by any means, but it covered a sufficient area to make status the determining character of all our society. A man’s position was known, the duties and hardens attaching to it were known, as also the advantages, and they were in a large measure fixed; for the spiritual force and motive underlying the whole business was an appetite for security and for making life tolerable on its material side so that there should be room and opportunity for men to lead the good life, as the Greeks put it, or, as the Catholic Church puts it, to save their souls.
Status arose from the strong, instinctive demand of a Catholic society for stable social relations between men, and, what was much more important, for a stable basis of livelihood attaching to the great mass of families in the community. With the loss of religion Status has almost wholly disappeared today, and nowhere more than in the most advanced communities. Its disappearance is particularly striking in modern North America, but it is losing ground everywhere in the mechanized world of Europe.
The artisan was, in the scheme of Society, below the lord of a village, but he had full standing as a member of his guild. The serf, who later became the peasant in the village, was even lower than the artisan in the social scale, but he was certain of his position, he had an hereditary holding, and could not be rendered landless or destitute. He had Status. Status governed the whole arrangement of the Church, of course, but also the main arrangements of civil society.
Now Contract as the main social bond between man is the enemy of Status. Where Contract gains in importance, Status diminishes…With all these influences increasing throughout three hundred years and becoming riotous today—that is, increasing feverishly—we come to the end of a process whereby in the loss of Status and the replacement of it by Contract we have found chaos: a society without bond or cement. We have further produced an economic state of affairs in which the condition of the mass of men deprived of Status is desperate. That is why, in their persistent efforts to re-establish security and sufficiency for themselves, the modern proletariat is really expressing and apparently beginning to satisfy an appetite for Status. p 138-142
Two further consequences following on the destruction of moral unity in Europe appear in our examination of the road by which we came to the pass in which we now find ourselves. These two are the direct fruits of unchecked greed: greed working without the restraint which had been put upon its action by the moral code of the Catholic centuries, but which, once there was no central authority at work, could do its utmost unchecked.
These two primary fruits of greed were Usury and Unlimited Competition.
Through Usury there arose that simplification and consequent centralization of credit-control which was to be so powerful an instrument in the hands of the class newly enriched by the loot of the Reformation; which Competition, no longer checked by the guild, by customary Catholic morals and by the Catholic inspiration of Society, was inevitably to produce that proletariat whose anger with the injustice of their condition has ended in the present menace to civilization.
Competition, working on a society which had lost the idea of Status and had replaced it by the idea of Contract, was to ruin the multitude of small owners and to produce increasing masses of men subject to the mere power of wealth, without a human bond between them and their new masters. This power of wealth was to be accentuated through the centralized control of credit, a product of unchecked Usury. The proletariat so created became a larger and larger part of Society, while their masters, the capitalist owners of the means of production, became a smaller and smaller part of Society, under the rise of the new international commerce and of banking. This development of Capitalism was to be later accentuated by a new rapidity of communication and the extended use of machinery. At the end of the process conditions were becoming intolerable for the mass of workers who had formerly been economically free men but who were now half slaves. p 142-143
The maleficent activity of excessive competition, of Competition unchecked and uncontrolled, was prevented, because it was regarded as a disease in Society (which indeed it is) and treated as a disease mortal to human dignity and freedom; just as we regard grave excesses in drink—though fermented liquor in moderation is natural and does no harm. We have unfortunately in the modern world only too much experience of what unbridled competition will do; there are few who have not come across one or another of its evil effects. p 152 [emphasis added]
Neoconservatives like Bill Kristol have now dropped even the pretense of caring about the American people; the last vestiges of Semitic doublespeak have been shredded in the aftermath of Trump’s victory. One cannot be pro-American while despising actual Americans unless “America” means nothing more than a convenient place to practice usury and maximize corporate profits. None of these divided loyalties or revolutionary tendencies would have surprised the “anti-semitic” Belloc in the least:
That [Russian] revolution was led by a small international clique, largely Jewish in composition, and energized almost wholly by its Jewish members for in these were found not only an intense motive for revenge against the old regime, but also cosmopolitan experience, instruments of secret action and that combination of tenacity, lucidity and strong instincts for social justice which have made the Jews so formidable a revolutionary force in one crisis after another in the West. p 186