January 3rd, 2013

Richard Fernandez on Seidman and liberty

Here’s what Fernandez has to say about that Seidman op-ed (the one I previously wrote about here):

The United States was founded on an extraordinary wager upon the nature of the human spirit; predicated on the belief that men valued life and liberty above all; that in order to preserve their individual awareness in order to pursue happiness they would take risks. But let’s face the truth, as Seidel [sic] says, people don’t want the anxiety of liberty. The Founders lost the bet. “Perhaps the dream of a country ruled by ‘We the people’ is impossibly utopian.”

Maybe it was. Maybe the Founding Fathers were wrong after all to imagine that men craved freedom. In reality what men craved was Kings; whether in person or in parliament made no difference, for so long as it was some agency to which they could hand over all responsibility for their daily lives. And in exchange they would receive food in the Hall or its modern equivalent, the Mall, till it ran out. Free food till Grendel comes to Heorot — their sole concern being how near or far to the raised table and fire they were in the interim. If Seidel’s [sic] right that’s all there is to history: a kind of temporary gaiety with one ear open to the approaching sounds of the night. That’s all it will ever be.

Which brings me once more to a quotation from Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov. I first encountered it long ago in high school, when we were assigned to read the Grand Inquisitor chapter from that book (something I find hard to believe; do public high schools require such reading today?).

It made a very deep impression on me back then. Although I don’t think I understood it all that well, it seemed very important. Fortunately or unfortunately, I understand it better today, and it still seems very important:

Oh, never, never can they feed themselves without us! No science will give them bread so long as they remain free. In the end they will lay their freedom at our feet, and say to us, “Make us your slaves, but feed us.” They will understand themselves, at last, that freedom and bread enough for all are inconceivable together, for never, never will they be able to share between them! They will be convinced, too, that they can never be free, for they are weak, vicious, worthless, and rebellious. Thou didst promise them the bread of Heaven, but, I repeat again, can it compare with earthly bread in the eyes of the weak, ever sinful and ignoble race of man?

37 Responses to “Richard Fernandez on Seidman and liberty”

  1. Trebuchet Says:

    In a related story, using his auto-pen, President Obama while still on vacation in Hawaii, signed into law by Executive Order that the National Anthem be changed to “WWWAAAAAAHHHHHHH” in tribute to those who re-elected him.

  2. Trippy Says:

    I have decided to make this a daily read, and to share what i read to others. After diving deep into your blog, your insight is tremendous.

  3. Jim Nicholas Says:

    “The natural course of things is for government to gain ground and liberty to yield.” Thomas Jefferson, 1788.

    The irony is that government grew significantly under Jefferson 1801-1809. Liberty resists, but it does yield.

    How then does a conservative keep from going mad? Perhaps by heeding Andrew Klavan’s advice:

    “As with lives, so with republics. Freedom is a living thing. It dies. Conservatives are like doctors. They can only win for the moment, the day, the year, the election cycle. And no matter the victory, time only goes one way. The republic grows older every day, the people travel further from their founding values and nothing lasts forever.
    There are many responses to that situation. Only one of them is wise: good cheer and defiance. Keep laughing; fight back; fear nothing. Mortality makes time too precious for despondency and death makes a fool of fear. There’s nothing to worry about: disaster is certain. And nothing can be that serious since, whatever it is, it’s guaranteed to end.”

    I believe that what I did as a physician and what we do as conservatives is worthwhile, even if it does not confer immortality.

    Happy New Year, Diva, and to all of your followers.


  4. Bob from Virginia Says:

    Neo, I was thinking of another Dostoyevsky quote that you you gave in which the masses begged to be enslaved. Was this quote it or am I thinking of another? It’s significance is becoming clearer as the lessons of the 2008 and 2012 elections sink in.

    The US seems to be evolving into a ‘dictatorship by election’ type country like Argentina or Venezuela, one without any noble guiding ideology. The contemporary American seems to want a gentle master rather than being a master.

  5. George Pal Says:

    It’s often that I would bring up human nature as the cause of our problems but there’s more that has a fallen nature than just citizens seeking ease. Those who have encamped themselves in government ‘service’ have a twice fallen nature seeking both ease and power.

    Just to take the garden of Eden as a bit of morality play, Eve hadn’t bargained with the devil for ease but for power.

    The Founding Fathers and Framers had not lost the bet. Where in the world and at what time had there ever been men forming a nation or government so vitally aware of the weakness of human nature and who had worked so brilliantly to protect what they had forged against that weakness?

    If it is human nature that works against us it must be understood that human nature is not all weakness but strength also. It is human nature to take up a responsibility to raise our children, to be happy in our families and content in our lives. This strength works against us because there are those whose life’s work is to destroy all this, make it over, recreate not just the country but the entire world in their own image. We are not so much weak, and lazy, and easily bought, as we are forgetful that we are and always have been in a war. And here the churches are as much to blame as the ruling class. Who would go to church to hear from the pulpit about social justice, fair wages, equal rights, etc.?

    I see I’ve fallen onto a tangent.



    “This Court is constrained by law, and under the law, I can only conclude that the Government has not violated FOIA by refusing to turn over the documents sought in the FOIA requests,” – Judge McMahon

    We are not constrained by human nature to get ‘pissed off’ angry and it is a strength every bit as much as a weakness.

  6. Paul A'Barge Says:

    NeoNeo, not just the American Liberals and the Rooskies but the Jews as well:

    Humanity has a long history of voluntarily giving up freedom.

  7. Paul A'Barge Says:

    And as an addendum, the Jews were not putting anything over on G-d:

  8. I R A Darth Aggie Says:

    The US seems to be evolving into a ‘dictatorship by election’ type country like Argentina or Venezuela

    A democracy is over when the electorate discover that they can vote themselves other people’s money. This reminds me of something I read a long time ago, ah, here it is:

    America is at that awkward stage. It’s too late to work within the system, but too early to shoot the bastards.

    Claire Wolfe, 101 Things To Do Until the Revolution

  9. Artfldgr Says:

    Freedom makes happy
    Power over others does too

    When x offers to make y happy by acting upon z, x and y are happy

    So they were not wrong
    The author forgets that not everyone finds the same things as happy. Geophty dahmers idea of happiness is an extreme point.

    Tgis is what law, the common man concept fems flilped, and the bill of rights

    The common man idea was for mass consistency
    Bill was to prevent happiness at anothers expense
    And law would ddvine the difference

  10. Artfldgr Says:

    The US seems to be evolving into a ‘dictatorship by election’ type country like Argentina or Venezuela, one without any noble guiding ideology

    Germany, the original being copied

  11. Smock Puppet, 10th Dan Snark Master and Gravitationally Distortive Object Says:

    do public high schools require such reading today?

    You had an extra word in there. Fixed it fer ya.

    Glad to help. Anytime… ;-D

  12. Oldflyer Says:

    It becomes increasingly difficult to see a way out of the tunnel we are digging. Too bad.

    I see the rants by Gov Christie and Rep King as symbolic of the problem. They assume, and most seemingly agree, that it is the taxpayer’s duty to alleviate the pain caused by a storm.

    Just about fifty years ago, the small town in which we dwelled was struck by a killer tornado. Nineteen died, numerous homes and businesses were destroyed. There was no FEMA. No federal or state government representative appeared, much less President Kennedy. No taxpayer money flowed into that town, nor was it expected. The people who did appear were insurance adjustors. You see, it was expected that property owners were responsible for themselves, that we would pay for insurance to mitigate just such a disaster. We did, and it worked.

    Now, in the aggregate, we abhor personal responsibility. We pass the responsibility for our well being to government, and cede to it whatever amount of freedom that is its price. We accept these changes as though it were a natural process. When did this start? Did we not notice?

    Just one thought. The Founders were dealing with an all together different population. Their constituents were souls who had crossed an ocean to forge a new life; or were their near direct descendants. They remembered well the old systems of serfdom, servitude, and existence at the whim of others.

  13. neo-neocon Says:

    Bob from Virginia: this is the same Dostoevsky quote.

  14. Jan of MN Says:

    As we watch the disintegration of the American idea and disparagement of the Constitution, what can stop it?

    Those of us here still feel connected to the founders, but what about the rest? Public education has helped to make the founding and founders ever more remote and irrelevant. I now see that connection as critical for preserving the idea of checks and balances and understanding of the proper relationship of the citizen and his government. To us, “freedom” isn’t an ornamental, empty word, and we understand that as government grows, freedom is lost.

    Is it time to accept that we’re near the end of the Tyranny-Liberty cycle of government (http://tinyurl.com/bh2cbl9), and that it’s irreversible? That we need to go through revolution before we get to liberty again? Seems like we’re going through a quiet revolution now, but it’s leading to tyranny instead.

    I used to think that, if the cycle is real, Americans wouldn’t let us move past liberty. Now I don’t think we can count on that.

  15. neo-neocon Says:

    Jan of MN: “remote and irrelevant” would be an improvement over what many students are taught these days, I think. Try “racist and elitist.”

  16. Harold Says:

    Well I have no doubt that around the world the concept of freedom is rather limited. Most people (excepting the elites) wish to be not abused and tortured, don’t want the 3am knock on the door taking them away to the Lubyanka (or its equivalent). Even at the time of the revolution only a third of the people were really interested in separating from Britain.

    This should not discourage conservatives. The third of the population of the US (or whatever percentage) that are conservative can still take back the country and implement the founders vision.

  17. Sharon W Says:

    Just this morning I was thinking, “I guess the ancient Israelis aren’t the only ones who wanted a king.” I have been saying since 2008, “I get Obama and all the folks connected to him via the public payroll (federal & state). I do not get our fellow citizens that believe those in public office first and foremost care about __________ (fill in the blank)”.

  18. Jim Sullivan Says:

    Jan of MN,

    “As we watch the disintegration of the American idea and disparagement of the Constitution, what can stop it?”

    Widespread firearms ownership. And I do not necessarily refer to the 2nd Amendment. Purchase a rifle and learn to use it. Only take it out when needed or for practice. Hunting is good practice. And never, ever talk about your weapon(s) with people you don’t know or trust. Get a shotgun and a handgun too. For good measure.

    A wiser man than myself once said,”if you don’t own a weapon, especially a rifle, and aren’t trained in its use, you don’t really care about Liberty, your own or anybody else’s.” I used to think that was extreme. No longer.

    And someday, if the 2nd Amendment goes by the wayside, or indeed if the entire Constitution does, never, ever give up your weapon. It doesn’t matter how polite the request or generous the buyback. Hide it. Use if necessary. Let history be your guide.

    Interestingly, Michael Yon posted this just today:


    One weird thing about the essay involves Mr. Mishin’s assertion that ‘Washington’ assisted the Reds. Not sure about that. Artfldgr might know more.

  19. Mr. Frank Says:

    Jim’s post reminds me of a cute story. A deputy sheriff visited a social event in uniform wearing his sidearm. A woman saw the pistol and asked if the deputy was expecting trouble. He replied, “no, if I was expecting trouble I would have brought my rifle.”

  20. Jim Sullivan Says:

    Mr. Frank,

    LOL. My father used to tell roughly the same tale often. I’m sure you know many hunting rifles, if not most, are far more dangerous in the hands of someone who knows what they are doing.

    But its funny, they almost always get a pass, because “assault rifles” (nonsense), are so much scarier to the uninitiated. And hunting (Animals, of course! Not their preferred prey; conservatives, libertarians and other dissidents) seems to be code terminology used by the statists to show they can be “pro-2nd Amendment”.

  21. J.J. formerly Jimmy J. Says:

    Oldflyer said, “Just about fifty years ago, the small town in which we dwelled was struck by a killer tornado.”

    Was that, per chance, Milton, Florida? If so, my family was among the lucky ones. We lived two blocks south of the devastation. It was as you described. No FEMA, no gubmint money. Just some State Patrol for a time and then the cleanup began with insurance adjusters and homeowners doing their thing. It was a different time. People took their lumps and picked up the pieces.

    We have become a dependent society. We’re all dependent on our running, potable water; non-stop electricity; luxury plumbing; natural gas to heat our homes; TV to entertain us; government to save us from ALL enemies (natural disasters, terrorists, air pollution, crazed killers, radiation, and much, much more); forty hour work weeks; comfortable retirements; high-tech, life-saving medical care; and more. As a nation we are used to these things and too few of us understand that they didn’t materialize out of thin air. Creativity, hard work, and responsibility have raised our living standards to an undreampt of level. All these things that we take for granted can disappear when we no longer have the freedom to improve our lives. And that is what happens when the government decides who gets what and how much. The Constitution is the barrier to that happening. We must do what we can to defend it.

  22. rickl Says:

    Jan of MN:

    Speaking of cycles, last night I read this Market Ticker post (which I recommend), and a couple of the commenters strongly recommended the book The Fourth Turning. I had heard of it before, so I ordered it.

    I poked around a little and found a website devoted to the book and its generational theory of history. I read the links in the left column, which define their terms. Some say that the Crisis phase began on 9/11, while others disagree. (I think that’s probably as good a date as any, if a specific date can be pinpointed.) At the very latest it began with Obama’s election. But there can be no question that we are in the Crisis phase now. Prior Crises were the American Revolution, the Civil War, and the Depression/World War II.

    So we are really in for it. The near future is going to be ugly, uncomfortable, and probably bloody. But interestingly, one of the links I looked at on the website suggests that the survivors will come out of it with stronger and saner values than what we see around us now.

  23. rickl Says:

    Look at the chart at the bottom of this page, and compare the third and fourth columns. We have exited the third column and have entered the fourth one.

  24. parker Says:

    “.. never can they feed themselves without us!”

    No one gets fed without the efforts of those who put their shoulder to the grindstone, those who are productive in a complex variety of ways. I can’t see Americans as slaves working night and day for the party. So, for now at least, I am of the opinion the pendulum will swing back to the right, although it will be a slow and painful process. And, reluctantly I admit it may take blood, but I hope we can avoid the cartridge box.

    Firearms have been apart of my life from an early age, I was taught that they are elegant and useful tools to be used in a responsible manner. Shooting is fun and simultaneously meditative because to shoot accurately at a distance you have to coordinate eye, finger, breath, and heart. As far as rifles are concerned, everyone who wants one should buy one asap and learn to reload. Reloading to what you rifle shoots best takes patience and trial and error. Again, meditative. Peace be unto you all.

  25. parker Says:


    I’ve read the 4th Turning. Yes, there are cycles and yes, there is nothing new under the sun. Even so, nothing is written in stone. We make the future consciously and unconsciously. It is a clumsy process with many dead ends, detours, and surprises. The pendulum swings, sometimes we win and sometimes we win. Peace and prosperity are but a breathing space between episodes of violence.

    I enjoy your comments. Keep on keeping on. Be of good cheer.

  26. Oldflyer Says:

    JJ it was indeed Milton, Fl. We were brushed only. Neighbors next to us had more damage, and those on the street behind had walls and roofs collapse. We had our neighbor’s car-port land on our roof, and that was the source of most of our damage. The deaths occurred on higher ground, and mostly in a trailer park maybe a mile away.

    My wife sensed what was happening, and crouched in the hall with the baby. Her college age brother, who was visiting enroute to New Orleans, joined me in laughing at her–but not for long. I sobered considerably when the rain let up and I could see a station wagon on the next street on its roof. I am still reminded periodically of my faux pas. Brother’s room mate slept through it. Not an experience to forget. My wife still gets very antsy when the skies turn dark.

    I will always be empathetic to those who experience a tornado. Often there is virtually no warning, and you are so helpless in the face of its destructive power.

    Maybe times have changed in this regard as well, but as you said, but the insurance companies were very responsive and professional–at least in our experience, and that of our neighbors who suffered greater damage. I had no idea who my insurance was with until they showed up–whoever the mortgage company had suggested, as we were “Babes in the woods” buying our first house.

    I assume you were based at Whiting? I was instructing in T-28s in VT-2. Supposed to play in a golf tournament on the base that Sat morning, and kept looking out the window and saying, “I think it is getting better”. Wrong.

  27. rickl Says:

    parker Says:
    January 3rd, 2013 at 7:50 pm

    The pendulum swings, sometimes we win and sometimes we win.

    Well, that’s a real load off. 😀

  28. parker Says:

    Oops… sometimes we lose. I was not cut out to be a good editor. 😉

  29. Soviet of Washington Says:

    Rickl, Neil Howe (the remaining living author of The Fourth Turning) discusses dating the start of the Fourth Turning here. For now, He thinks 2008.

  30. Soviet of Washington Says:

    Also in that blog post, see the discussion about the ‘Regeneracy Event’ at the end. I get continually frustrated by my better half wailing about the ‘division’ in the country and when will is end. Answer: once the Regeneracy event happens because the threat is now so extreme that either we ‘hang together or hang separately.’

    John Xenakis (Generational Dynamics) recently updated his threat forecast for 2013 which might be worth viewing also.

  31. J.J. formerly Jimmy J. Says:

    Oldflyer, you have a much better memory of the details than I. I was instructing at VT-3. My wife was in Mobile, AL at a toastmistress event, I was home with our three year old son. The sky grew extremely dark, with a yellowish tinge. The tall pines outside our house were swaying dangerously. I heard a noise that sounded like an express train and then shortly after that things calmed down rather quickly. My first knowledge of the damage that occurred was about an hour after it happened. I saw a couple of State Police cars turn off our street toward the damaged area. I called a neighbor who was a block further north to ask if he knew what was going on. He told me there was extensive tornado damage and the police were securing the area.

    One of our instructors lost the roof of his house while he and his daughter were in it. (His wife was with my wife.) Mercifully, they were both alright. I do remember that most of the fatalities were people living in mobile homes on the east side of the road to Whiting. We resolved to never live in a mobile home, thinking that was a way to be safer. Hah, little did we know.

    I suspected that we might have crossed paths at some point in our Navy days. Now we know.

  32. beverly Says:

    I’ve been thinking of the fall of the Weimar Republic. Dark thoughts.

    This is a fascinating and sobering account of that (ultimately world-splitting) catastrophe, including the hyperinflation of the German mark: from 4.2 marks to the dollar to 4.2 TRILLION marks to the dollar, in 1923. (That is not a typo.) Still, the Republic staggered on for another ten years, before You Know Who took power:


    This historian (Dr. Michael Brooks, above) brings up several popular theories about the cause of the German collapse, and points out the strengths and weaknesses of each.

    Sobering reading for us, now.

  33. beverly Says:


    I’ve been thinking along those lines all week. It’s a load of fertilizer that the unlucky souls are “owed” a bailout by the rest of us: why should someone in Idaho pay for a stroke of bad luck in Coney Island? I mean, it’s a rotten break for the folks in the storm’s way, but why should their bad luck be privileged above all others?

    If they do “owe” the New York/New Jerseyans $$ assistance, can Joe Blow of Boise expect it when the creek on his property floods his house?

    Oh, I see: that’s “different.”

  34. rickl Says:

    Soviet of Washington:

    Thanks for those links. I particularly liked this quote from the second one:

    Since 2009, both the stock market and the broad U.S. economy have been dependent on perpetual support from massive federal deficits and unprecedented money creation. Meanwhile, Wall Street is content to ignore the extent of this support, and looks on every movement of the economy as a sign of intrinsic health – which is a lot like admiring the graceful flight of a dead parrot swinging by a string from the ceiling fan.

  35. Oldflyer Says:

    That is the point Beverly. As I mentioned, when my daughter lost her home, it was ho hum. No political significance to a small catastrophe. Of course she was somewhat negligent, along with the mortgage company, for not having appropriate insurance on a house on the outside of a bend of a “dry” creek bed. (She lost a lot. The mortgage company–actually it was Freddie or Fannie– which would not work with her by allowing a temporary payment respite while she did the repairs, lost more. They now own an uninhabitable structure in a known flood risk area. That’s business?)

    Sometimes you need to pay for your mistakes. Like if you build in a city that is below sea level, or on land that was created by an ancient hurricane.

  36. davisbr Says:

    Actually, I’ve always preferred the pointed piquant elegance of the King James version of that kind of Aesopian moral tale, rather than the Dostoevsky version.

    As I previously commented here (and quote myself quoting, lol).

    1 Sam 8

    And the Lord told him: “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king.

    As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you.

    Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will claim as his rights.”

    Samuel told all the words of the Lord to the people who were asking him for a king.

    He said, “This is what the king who will reign over you will claim as his rights: He will take your sons and make them serve with his chariots and horses, and they will run in front of his chariots.

    Some he will assign to be commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and others to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and still others to make weapons of war and equipment for his chariots.

    He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers.

    He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his attendants.

    He will take a tenth of your grain and of your vintage and give it to his officials and attendants.

    Your male and female servants and the best of your cattle[c] and donkeys he will take for his own use.

    He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves.

    When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, but the Lord will not answer you in that day.

    But the people refused to listen to Samuel. “No!” they said. “We want a king over us.

    Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles.”

    When Samuel heard all that the people said, he repeated it before the Lord.

    The Lord answered, “Listen to them and give them a king.”

    Then Samuel said to the Israelites, “Everyone go back to your own town.”

    Same difference.

    The country appears to be leaning toward the spiritual decendents of those same Israelites.

    The result will, of course, be depressingly similar.

    …he who does not read and understand history is doomed to …. etc., etc.

  37. Armchair pessimist Says:

    OK, call me a crank. But this is a street scene from the turn of the last century:


    A free people doesn’t wait for permission from the state, signified by a colored electric light, to cross a damn street. I know, I know, traffic laws are necessary or we’d all get killed, but it’s inescapable that over the decades they have “trained” us in unthinking obedience.

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