Saturday, March 20, 2010

Recommended books.

This idea of giving a list of must reads books has been doing the round on many blogs. I thought I might as well give it a go.

There are so many important books though that I thought I'd make a split between the 10 must read books that are directly decentralist, localist, distributist or regionalist or very close and those 10 who set the scene and background for my traditionalist, Christian decentralism. Of course though there is bound to be some overlap, in particular the background list is unlikely to include any books directly contrary to the ethos of the decentralist/regionalist one.

Oh and I thought I'd rule out any scriptural works from the Bible to the Tao Te Ching, in my opinion the scriptures of the orthodox traditions are worthy reads by definition(though the right background and mindset is always required of course.) as well as other pre-reformation works(which rules out the best works but deciding upon the key ancient and medieval works, particularly if you include those outside the Western tradition, would be a task I'm not worthy of and would necessarily take away from majesty of these works.).

The first five of the top ten background works on religion, politics and society post-1500:

1. Logic and Transcendence by Frithjof Schuon, this is one of the greatest works of one of the greatest thinkers of the 20th century. It elucidates key planks of Philosophia Perennialis and sets forth the reality of the divine, the role of faith, the Intellect and reason and the spiritual life. It is an excellent aid to understanding the transcendent unity of the orthodox traditions, the importance of following a particular tradition and the basis for an understanding of metaphysics truth which is the ground of all truth including politcial and social truth. Schuon's essential works are also key readings.

2. The Reign of Quantity and the Signs of the times by Rene Guenon. Guenon is another key perennialist thinker and this work represents not just an excellent presentation of that philosophy but an extremely detailed attack on key areas of modernism and the modern world using principles derived from the Perennial tradition. Jacob Needleman has described Guenon's work thus:

“Many of Guenon’s books . . . are such potent and detailed metaphysical attacks on the downward drift of Western civilization as to make all other contemporary critiques seem half-hearted by comparison.”

He helps to show the correct attitude man should have to God, the universe, nature and his fellow man and how the modern world is getting it so very wrong and hence it is an excellent foundation for sound politics.

3. Reflections on the revolution in France by Edmund Burke. The foundational text, in many ways, of modern conservatism. It contains many of the key components of conservatism, at least in embryio.

4. The Conservative mind, from Burke to Eliot by Russell Kirk. This epic work charts almost two centuries of conservative thought, particularly the more romantic and traditionalist strains, including such key figures as Burke, John Adams, John Randolph of Roanoke, Disraeli and John Henry Newman. Kirk ably shows the insight of these figures and draws out the similarities of their thought into a cohesive and all-ranging, but adaptive and non-rigid, whole.

5. Ideas have Consequences by Richard Weaver. This work is a reiteration of Platonism in a modern context, showing the importance of ideas, hierarchy, distinction and idealism in a balanced and healthy society and political opinion. Another excellent foundational text for dealing with man, the universe and society.

To be continued.....

Monday, March 8, 2010

Federalists, antifederalists, founding fathers and regionalists.

Here's another rather slap-dash offering for the Wessex regionalist forum that might be worth sharing.

"Recently I've been study American politics at uni and been doing an essay on the
origins of the US constitutions through which I've been reacquainted with the
federalists, antifederalists and founding fathers, all of which I'm convinced
have something to aid us regionalists and decentralists.

These figures are of interest to Wessex regionalists for several reasons.

I think importantly they deal with constitution making and nation building
which is an important area for us regionalists and they tend to do so not in the
fanciful, abstract way of the Jacobins but in a far more measured and
historically minded way. Particularly when taken together the federalists,
antifederalists and founding fathers, particularly Jefferson and John Adams,
show an encyclopedic scope of interest and ideas, perhaps due to their living
before the growth of modern ideologies, but still seem to retain that necessary

This is particularly true with their solution to the problems of a federal
system and one where the central gov't is limited in size and scope. There is a
difference in the individual authors but they deal ably with the need for unity
in diversity, this in my opinion is particularly true of the abler
antifederalist writers such as Brutus, the federal farmer, Cato and Centinnel
who deal with the need to limit central gov't power and deal with the individual
branches of gov't(Brutus deals particularly well with the judiciary.). Balanced
with the federal papers, just so the need for some central coordination and how
to best manage this is not forgotten, and Jefferson and John Adams and I can
imagine few better guides to regionalists and decentralists in the mechanics of
subsidiarity and "federalism".

What is also good for us Englishmen is the level of reliance these figures tend
to place on the English political tradition which may help us to remember and
reformulate our own traditions of political liberty and balance. Blackstone,
Magna Carta and Coke for instance are as important to the debates around the
constitution as Locke and Montequieu. Which brings me to the final positive
which is a more personal one, they actually, through some alchemy manage to
produce some good from the likes of Locke, Hume, Montesquieu and such who in my
opinion have very little offer otherwise.

There are obviously a few negatives though. The major ones are they deal mainly
with politics and not so much society and economics, although these both are
touched on quite a bit and even quite masterfully at times particularly by John
Adams(also Thomas Paine's only worth, in my opinion, is his economic ideas but
these go halfway to making up for the rest.). However the emphasis is still very
much on the more narrow task of constitution and nation building, although you
can't have everything of course.

Another negative is that although they largely manage to avoid the naive and
crude radicalism of the philosophes and Jacobins there is still a lack of overt
traditionalism and that vein of Burkean conservatism that is necessary for a
complete perspective on politics and society, particularly for decentralist.
However there is enough implicit traditionalism and the overt and extremely
insightful conservatism of John Adams to partially make up for this,
particularly if one takes into account John Randolph of Ranoake from the next

Some of the key documents including the federalist and anti-federalist papers
are available online:

Otherwise the political writings of Jefferson, John Adams, Madison and Paine's
Agrarian Justice are all very much worth reading as Wessex regionalists and
simply as those interested in politics.

What the antifederalists were? By Hertbert Storing,and The library of America's
debates on the constitution parts one and two(which contain most of the key
primary documents of both sides.) are good works of reference as well."

Saturday, March 6, 2010

US neoliberalism versus European social democracy.

What with university I haven't posted for ages but I thought this post on the Wessex regionalists discussion board was good enough to be repeated here:

"I'm hardly a defender of the US system. I simply don't consider social democracy
as any better. Both systems have their many faults, some similar and some
different. Basically neoliberalism and social democracy(or the Keyneisan
consensus.) are statefueled, very similar systems which ultimately are just
about supporting corporate-capitalism in slightly different ways.

What one needs to recognise about corporate-capitalism and capitalism is they
are state creations; state intervention has been used to benefit the rich and
corporations. This however creates a structural imbalance, which is at the heart
of Keynes' diagnosis of the problems of capitalism and which is key to Marx'
business cycle theory and to many other similar observations(for instance JA.
Hobson's and the Hammonds.).

This imbalance is basically that the state intervention upsets the distribution
of wealth so that a few are very rich compared with most people's income and
most importantly these few take a very large proportion of the proceeds of the
production of goods compared to their numbers(or indeed their actual input.).
This means that there are too many goods being produced for most people to buy,
ie there is overproduction of goods, as the rich simply cannot or will not use
all their income to buy the goods being produced and the average people, taken
as a whole, cannot afford to. Linked to this the rich end up with a lot of
money, far more than even the most debauched is likely to spend on luxury, which
they need to do something with and they naturally, due to the internal dynamics
of the system, feel they need to invest. But as mentioned there is already an
overproduction of goods domestically so that this accumulated capital is too
much to be normally useful investment which leads to the situation of an
overaccumulation of capital.

So basically the original imbalance leads directly to a situation of
overproduction of goods, where there are goods being produced without the
effective demand to purchase them and an overaccumulation of capital which
cannot be invested with any likelihood of a decent return. So this means that
either the system will experience a crisis(such as a depression.), it will be
dismantled or the state will have to intervene further in order to manage demand
and provide reasonable outlets for investment. The middle option is that chosen
by distributism, the last one is that of both the neoliberals and social

Obviously there is a lot of shared ground between these latter ideologies, they
both attempt to open up more markets overseas(in which their nation's companies
are advantaged.), they both enact demand management and guarannted outlet
programs, they both attempt to try and maintain labour discipline and maintain
discipline among the populace at large so as to ensue the largest, safest profit
for big business and the rich. The difference is only in emphasis. Social
democracy, or the "Keyneisan consensus", attempted to bring big businsess, big
gov't and big labour together in a relatively harmonious attempt to deal with
these problems and it tends to have an important place for social welfare within
the demand management and population pacification realms. Whereas neoliberalism,
reacting to several problems like stagflation, accumulation crises and the 60s
legitimisation crisis that arose in social democracy, emphasises bringing labour
and the population to heal rather than working so hard to bring them on board.
It also downplayed the importance of social welfare compared to direct markets
and subsidies to corporations(although this was only a minor readjustment;
direct markets and sudsidies were important during the Keynesnian consensus as
well.) and made sure the balance between big gov't and big business was
maintained and gov't, who big business utterly relies on, did not overstep the
boundaries that the corporations decide upon.

Obviously this continued state intervention leads to the production of even more
goods and the accumulation of even more capital which perpetuates and increases
the original imbalance. Hence unless even more demand is conjured up by the
state to get enough of these goods purchased and even more outlets are found for
enough successful investment of overaccumulated capital then the system will
crash. the obvious inference is that this cannot go on for ever, one day the
operations will become too much for even the most energetic of modern gov'ts and
whether it is in 10 years or a 100 the system will collapse, unless it is
dismantled beforehand, and the crash will be that much bigger for all the effort
aimed at keeping it at bay for so long.

This is why distributism is not a luxury but a necessitity, the only other
solutions are the chaos of an evential massive collapse of global capitalism or
a new form of slavery, as Belloc realised.

Social democracy therefore is little better than neoliberalism, they are both as
corrosive to local and regional loyalties, to intermediate associations such as
family and local community and to traditional values. They are both as
state-driven and opposed to real economic freedom for most individuals where
they have the ability to own their own houses, their own land and productive
property and, if they do choose to work for a wage, where they can have a proper
dignity as an artisan and not a proletariat wage-slave. Certainly most employees
in Britain, Australia or Western Europe are hardly in a much better ultimate(not
in mariginal ways like a bit more pay but real econommic freedom such as
independence, control, dignity creativity and such.). I have only worked casual
jobs myself but everything single one has been like pulling teeth, I doubt
socially democatic Australia is much better than the US in this respect(although
obviously my personal experience doesn't go past partime jobs while I'm

When to the US, it is the federal gov't which created the corporate-capitalist
system far more than the state, the states would have not been able to engineer
such a system if the feds had been kept in their place, or it is unlikely
anyway. It has taken massive intervention since 1789 including opendoor
imperialism, the Brettonwoods institutions(which are little more than a way for
Western capitalists to dominate the world's economies.), corporate personhood
and welfare, guaranteed buyer schemes like the military-industrial complex and
so on. Did you know that congress' own 1980 report showed that in 1976 direct
subsidies to industry outweighed corporate profits?

Certainly we need to be more intelligent than those who paint the feds as always
bad and the states and locales as always good, we are talking of humanity and
there needs to be balance(although whether that requires a gov't the
size[geopraphically as well as other kinds.] of the US federal gov't is
obviously questionable.). But as regionalists and decentralists it is obvious
that we are going to feel that on balance the states and locales are better and
should have more power than the higher up levels and on balance we are supported
by the evidence.

One positive of the American system is that, outside the liberal coasts, the
elites and the media, there is a far more conscious and cohesive section of
social conservatives who, misled as they are in choosing allies and in how they
view economics, still maintain old fashioned values and committment to the key
smallscale associations like the family and a necessary idea of social cohesion
which under so much threat in Europe and which when undermined results in the
tensions and problems of social atomism and the clear scope for centralised
power to move in with the barriers and support of a healthy, strong society and
social bonds removed. Obviously corporate-capitalism and its necessary statism
will achieve this social disintegration almost as fast in the US, but at least
there is a more cohesive, conscious faction(because we exist in Britain and
Europe but lack group consciousness and cohesion.) which doesn't consider social
disintegration and atomism a good thing(the only difference between atomists
seems to be the divide between the right atomists who want powerful corporations
to provide for an atomised society and left atomists who want a powerful,
centralised state to provide for an atomised society.) unlike a lot of
Europeans(and liberal yanks.) who have come to celebrate the lack of any but the
most vague and fluffy social values, social authority and social bonds as a
positive development; as if an individual shorn of all his social and cultural
supports is likely to find freedom, contentment or peace."