Victor Davis Hanson Private Papers

Tag Archives: History

The Idol of Equality

To put equality ahead of liberty is to war against human nature.

by Victor Davis Hanson // National Review Online 

447px-Alexis_de_tocqueville“There is, in fact, a manly and lawful passion for equality which excites men to wish all to be powerful and honored. This passion tends to elevate the humble to the rank of the great; but there exists also in the human heart a depraved taste for equality, which impels the weak to attempt to lower the powerful to their own level, and reduces men to prefer equality in slavery to inequality with freedom.”

—Alexis de Tocqueville

In his famous admonition about the tyranny of the majority, Tocqueville went on to warn that “Liberty is not the chief and constant object of their desires; equality is their idol: they make rapid and sudden efforts to obtain liberty, and if they miss their aim resign themselves to their disappointment; but nothing can satisfy them except equality, and rather than lose it they resolve to perish.” Read more →

The Rural Way

by Victor Davis Hanson // PJ Media 

Hard physical work is still a requisite for a sound outlook on an ever more crazy world. I ride a bike; but such exercise is not quite the same, given that the achievement of

Richard Croft

Richard Croft

doing 35 miles is therapeutic for the body and mind, but does not lead to a sense of accomplishment in the material sense — a 30-foot dead tree cut up, a shed rebuilt, a barn repainted. I never quite understood why all these joggers in Silicon Valley have immigrants from Latin America doing their landscaping. Would not seven hours a week spent raking and pruning be as healthy as jogging in spandex — aside from the idea of autonomy that one receives by taking care of one’s own spread?

On the topic of keeping attuned with the physical world: if it does not rain (and the “rainy” season is about half over with nothing yet to show for it), the Bay Area and Los Angeles will see some strange things that even Apple, Google, and the new Read more →

Is China copying the old imperial Japan

by Victor Davis Hanson // Tribune Media 

In the 1920s, Japan began to translate its growing economic might — after a prior 50-year crash course in Western capitalism and industrialization — into formidable military power. Read more →

2014: Year of Decision

by Bruce S. Thornton // FrontPage Magazine 

This year we will see if America is still a center-right country, or if Obama’s two terms will mark a historic shift to the left. History and recent events give cause for optimism, Photo Credit: DonkeyHotey via Flickrsubject, of course, to unforeseen events.

The champions of big government, wealth redistribution through taxation and entitlement transfers, and a coercive, intrusive regulatory regime have many times exaggerated the death of conservatism and the final victory of progressivism. Remember this famous pronouncement by culture critic Lionel Trilling in 1950? “In the United States at this time Liberalism is not only the dominant but even the sole intellectual tradition. For it is the plain fact that nowadays there are no conservative or reactionary ideas in general circulation . . . But the conservative impulse and the reactionary impulse do not, with some isolated and some ecclesiastical exceptions, express themselves in ideas but only in action or in irritable mental gestures which seek to resemble ideas.” Even as Trilling wrote those words, the work of Russell Kirk, F.A. Hayek, Richard Weaver, Whittaker Chambers, William F. Buckley, and many others were developing a powerful conservative philosophy that would bear fruit in the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980. Read more →

Nelson Mandela, Western Saint

by Bruce S. Thornton // FrontPage Magazine 

The passing of Nelson Mandela has been attended with the usual global encomia we have come

South Africa The Good News / www.sagoodnews.co.za

South Africa The Good News / www.sagoodnews.co.za

to expect from those political leaders who have become international celebrities. Sometimes these extravagant praises and out-sized mourning surpass any real achievement. It is hard to find any justification in Princess Diana’s life for the hyperbolic praise and hysteria that saturated her funeral rites. Many another “leader of his people” or “liberator” has after his death been bestowed with dubious qualities and achievements, while his crimes and flaws are airbrushed from the narrative. That’s why George Orwell famously counseled, “Saints should always be judged guilty until they are proved innocent.”

Future historians may temper the current exalted judgment of Mandela, and there is much to remember as the world rushes to beatify him. His endorsement of communists and support for terrorists he made part of the struggle against apartheid should not be forgotten. Nor should be the victims of machete attacks and  “necklacing,” the gruesome practice of putting around the victim’s neck a tire filled with gasoline and then igniting it, This form of lynching was a favorite of the African National Congress, of which Mandela was a member.

But after spending 27 years in prison, Mandela recognized on his release in 1990 the pragmatic reality that the dismantling of apartheid and the inclusion of the black majority in governing South Africa meant that the revolutionary justice of the sort that has ruined Zimbabwe, and the command economy beloved by Marxists, both were the road to just another form of injustice and ultimately failure. Read more →

How Presidents Lie

It’s nothing new for a president to lie to us, but Obama’s style is unique.

by Victor Davis Hanson // National Review Online 

In the past there have been all sorts of presidential fibbing. Some chief executives make promises that they know they probably cannot or will not keep. Before his reelection for his third term in the midst 450px-Revolving_Doorof a world war, Franklin Roosevelt swore that he would never send American boys to fight in a foreign war. In just a little over a year, he did just that. Lyndon Johnson likewise before the 1964 election said he would not send troops to Vietnam. But once reelected, he sent nearly 200,000 troops to fight the North Vietnamese; by the time he left office, over a half-million Americans were deployed in Vietnam.

In 1988 presidential candidate George H. W. Bush pledged that he would not raise taxes and did so emphatically: “Read my lips — no new taxes!” But in 1990 he flipped and agreed to tax hikes.

Barack Obama has offered all sorts of similar empty pledges, like promising to close the federal detention center at Guantanamo Bay within a year of taking office. It is still open. Obama also promised to halve the deficit by the end of his first term. Instead he doubled it. Ditto Obama’s promises on the good things to follow Cash for Clunkers, on the shovel-ready jobs that would follow the stimulus, and on the summer of recovery to be spawned by massive borrowing. At your own job, if you promise the boss that you will do something and then don’t, you’re likely to get fired; when presidents do the same, it’s called politics. Read more →

Ignoring History: The Folly of Our Iran Pact

Dictatorships abandon treaties when they become inconvenient.

by Victor Davis Hanson // National Review Online 

According to our recently proposed treaty with the Iranian government, Iran keeps much of its nuclear program while agreeing to slow its path to weapons-grade enrichment. The Iranians also get crippling economic sanctions lifted.  Read more →

Why Should We Study War?

Military history tells the story of human nature at its great heights and terrible lows.

by Bruce S. Thornton // Defining Ideas 

In the latter years of World War I, Winston Churchill met with the novelist and poet Siegfried Sassoon. Sassoon was a winner of the Military Cross––he single-handedly routed 60 Germans and captured a trench on the Hindenburg Line––and a fierce pacifist. Sassoon’s reminiscences of that meeting reveal how odd my title question would have struck most people before our time. He recalled that during their conversation, Churchill “gave me an emphatic vindication of militarism as an instrument of policy and stimulator of glorious individual achievements.” Read more →

The Political Debate We Need to Have

Today, we treat politics as a sport, but it’s really a conflict of ideologies between federalists and technocrats.

by Bruce S. Thornton // Defining Ideas 

The media and pundits treat politics like a sport. The significance of the recent agreement to postpone the debt crisis until January, for instance, is really about which party won and which lost, which party’s tactics are liable to be more successful in the next election, and which politician is a winner and which a loser. But politics rightly understood is not about the contest of policies or politicians. It’s about the philosophical principles and ideas that create one policy rather than another—that’s what it should be about, at least.imgres

From that point of view, the conflict between Democrats and Republicans concerns the size and role of the federal government, which is no surprise to anyone who even casually follows politics. But more important are the ideas that ground arguments for or against limited government. These ideas include our notions of human nature, and what motivates citizens when they make political decisions. Our political conflicts today reflect the two major ways Americans have answered these questions.

The framing of the Constitution itself was predicated on one answer, best expressed by Italian philosopher Niccolo Machiavelli: “It is necessary to whoever arranges to found a Republic and establish laws in it, to presuppose that all men are bad and that they will use their malignity of mind every time they have the opportunity.” Throughout the debates during the Constitutional convention, the state ratifying conventions, and the essays in the Federalist, the basis of the Constitution was the view that human nature is flawed.

As Alexander Hamilton wrote in Federalist 6,men are “ambitious, vindictive and rapacious,” and are motivated by what James Madison called “passions and interests.” These destructive passions and selfish interests were particularly predominant among the masses, whose ignorance of political theory and history left them vulnerable to demagogues. Read more →

How Historic Revisionism Justifies Islamic Terrorism

by Raymond Ibrahim // RaymondIbrahim.com 

How important, really, is history to current affairs?  Do events from the 7th century—or, more importantly, how we understand them—have any influence on U.S. foreign policy today?

By way of answer, consider some parallels between academia’s portrayal of the historic Islamic jihads and the U.S. government’s and media’s portrayal of contemporary Islamic jihads.  Read more →

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