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Free Citizen

This writer espouses individual liberty, free markets, and limited government.

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Location: Jackson, Mississippi, United States

Monday, July 27, 2009

Progressive Hopes

Watch Joe Sobran on YouTube.

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"'I have a dream,' proclaimed Martin Luther King Jr., whose 'dream' was inspired by his reading of Marx and other progressive prophets. Like countless visionaries, he was unaware of Michael Oakeshott's admonition: 'The conjunction of ruling and dreaming generates tyranny.' Which might serve as the epitaph for the twentieth century."

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by Joseph Sobran

"Once socialism is established," George Orwell predicted in the 1930s, "the rate of mechanical invention will be greatly accelerated." I read Orwell's prophecy during the 1980s and was struck by how ludicrous it seemed. After more than half a century of socialist economies (including Communist ones), not a single new invention — not so much as a can opener — had been produced. Socialism had only impoverished every country where it existed, and had moreover totally stifled the creative faculties. Nobody could have foreseen how bleak it would actually prove.

All of which is even truer of the purest form of socialism, Communism. Even the few remaining Communists are somewhat chastened, having witnessed the repudiation of Stalin and Mao by their successors. The "New Soviet Man," the Five-Year Plan, the Great Leap Forward, the Cultural Revolution, Building a New Society — all these old slogans sound like grimly ironic epitaphs. "I have been over into the future, and it works," burbled Lincoln Stevens, arriving home from Moscow in the 1920s. The only good news for the Commies and their fellow travelers is that they have never been called to account, a la Nuremberg, for the colossal crimes they committed, ignored, and defended. But we tend to forget how long even most anti-Communists took Communism's insane promises seriously.

As we bid adieu to the twentieth century, it seems worthwhile to review not only its achievements and atrocities but its hopes. Time after time its optimistic expectations have been rendered absurd by events. A whole book keeping score of twentieth-century enthusiasms is long overdue; meanwhile, a brief account will have to suffice.Of World War I it may be enough to quote the archoptimist Woodrow Wilson's description of it as the "war to end all wars." Marshall Foch more sanely called the Versailles Treaty "a 20-year truce." The historian Harry Elmer Barnes even more prophetically spoke of "perpetual war for perpetual peace."

At the 1943 Tehran Conference, the three archcynics — Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin — adopted Wilsonian language
to promise a postwar world of eternal peace, liberty, and justice: "Emerging from these cordial conferences, we look with confidence to the day when all peoples of the world may live free lives, untouched by tyranny, and according to their varying desires and their own consciences." It's doubtful that anyone took this verbiage seriously; but by then utopian democratic jargon had become standard issue, even (or especially) for the bloodiest despots.

Catholics may recall the high hopes for liturgical reform in the wake of the Second Vatican Council of 1962-65. The vernacular Mass and the relaxation of old disciplines were supposed to inspire a new piety in the laity, who were given a larger role in the rites, including the freedom to receive the Eucharist in their hands — traditionally regarded as a desecration. The upshot, as such observers as James Hitchcock and Michael Davies noted many years ago, was... Read more>>>>

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