2010 October 22 Friday
Foreign Ideas And Societal Immune Systems

Mencius Moldbug takes a look at the beliefs of players in mid 20th century political developments.

For instance, when I state that US foreign policy in the 20th century is historically rooted in post-millennial Protestant theology, I can link directly to my favorite primary source - this TIME Magazine article from 1942.

It is simply a fact that in 1942, TIME's writers and its readers knew what a "super-protestant" foreign policy was, because it is a fact that this article was written, edited, and read. It could have been inserted in the TIME archive by crafty anti-Protestant hackers, or for that matter by aliens, but the student of history need not give these fantasies much weight. And without them, globalist foreign policy is the work of "organized U.S. Protestantism." Believe it or not, the YMCA is an important actor in the period. Now, it might be that some even more sinister group was behind the "Y" - the aliens, the Jews, the Ogpu, etc - but when we write the YMCA out of 20th-century history, we are writing bad history. And I can prove it, because I have that link.

The Mar. 16, 1942 Time article about an American Protestant program for a post-WWII world order will sound very familiar.

These are the high spots of organized U.S. Protestantism's super-protestant new program for a just and durable peace after World War II:

>Ultimately, "a world government of delegated powers."

>Complete abandonment of U.S. isolationism.

>Strong immediate limitations on national sovereignty.

>International control of all armies & navies.

> "A universal system of money ... so planned as to prevent inflation and deflation."

> Worldwide freedom of immigration.

> Progressive elimination of all tariff and quota restrictions on world trade.

Yes, these ideas already had currency during World War II. How many of these ideas will die out with the decline the Protestant Ascendancy and, with some delay, the decline of America?

As an aside, this article undermines the view that these policies originated with Jewish and Catholic immigrants. In 1942 the Protestant establishment was in firm control and these items (and more to follow if you click thru) were what they came up with. Open borders. They wanted open borders. The mind boggles. Were these liberal churches? How representative were they of most Protestant churches in America at that time? I suspect that since most of the issues in the Time 1942 article are about foreign policy they represent an elite Protestant view. One can see where George Bush Sr got his ideas from that article. Daniel Larison points out that elites come up with foreign policy and then sell it to the masses. Unfortunately, our elites come up with a lot of bad foreign policy ideas like open borders and occupation of Middle Eastern countries.

More than almost any other kind of policy, foreign policy is something fashioned at an elite level and then rationalized or justified to the public after the fact. Public opinion on foreign policy issues does not existy fully formed, but it is constantly being shaped by what the political class and media tell the public about these issues. Mead is actively creating the consensus that he pretends has always existed.

In the course of a long essay touching on any figures and developments surrounding WWII Moldbug makes an interesting point: A set of ideas moved between cultures will enter a new culture which lacks the immune response which allows the originating culture to prevent the set of ideas from causing great damage.

The division between Henry Wallace and Joseph Stalin, assuming for purposes of argument its reality, is a classic case of sectarian conflict on the left. Leftism is riddled with sects; Trotskyists versus Stalinists versus Maoists, and the like. There is no denying that American liberalism was broadly allied with Moscow in 1944, and broadly in conflict with Moscow in 1948. This is best seen as a sectarian schism in a single church; the "Cold War" is not an existential conflict of Left and Right, like the war on Hitler, but a fracture in a single global movement. As we speak of the Sino-Soviet split, we might speak of the "Anglo-Soviet split."

This is certainly not a point of view that leads us to agree with Hassell's Osservatore Romano, in its judgment that Bolshevism is "an indigenous European growth which by chance has matured in one country (Russia)." The opposite hypothesis is suggested: that Bolshevism is an exotic, non-European growth. Ie, an American growth. Ie, when America infects Russia with liberalism, the spore (lacking native enemies) grows into its malign form of Bolshevism. Contra Hassell, democracy and communism are two forms of the same disease.

Moldbug's specific way of applying this idea might be erroneous. Whether American liberalism mutated into Russian communism or British Marxism (Marx was in Britain when inventing Marxism) mutated into Russian Marxism one could argue that Russia was ill-equipped to handle this foreign system of beliefs. Ditto for China. Their immune systems lacked the dampening and restraining factors needed to prevent the worst excesses of communism. A society with a history of strong unchecked central rule is at greater risk of turning into a totalitarian Marxist totalitarian dictatorship than a society which has always had widely accepted mechanisms (e.g. independent judiciaries, free presses, and societal institutions that exist independent of government) for restraining the power of central governments.

Another argument can be made as well: Some ideas deliver benefits in their early stages of spread. But the ideas have dangerous flaws and as they spread their costs gradually become greater than their benefits. I think liberalism has mutated into something pathological in the United States. It has pushed its program into areas where it has overstepped its limits and amplified the damaging effects of its errors.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2010 October 22 08:08 PM  Civilizations Decay

James Bowery said at October 24, 2010 10:40 PM:

In my interview with him, Prof. Andrew Fraser posits the problem with "protestant" elites springs from Anglo-Saxon universalism. By usage standards typical of those uttering the phrase "Jewish conspiracy", most any emerging phenomenon that someone notices and tries to explain could be dismissed as a "conspiracy theory". Until this kind of rhetorical posturing is transcended, rational dialog, even regarding legitimate empirical evidence, is futile.

Eric said at October 25, 2010 12:25 PM:

James Bowery:

I'm not sure if I've understood your point.

Are you saying that the people who tend to pejoratively use the phrase "Jewish conspiracy" to try to dismiss certain claims or arguments do so according to standards that could just as easily be applied to any explanation of emergent phenomenon? That is, the same standards by which Randall Parker dismisses the "Jewish conspiracy" above could just as easily be applied to dismiss the "Protestant" conspiracy he seems to accept as an explanation?

If this is your point, I think you may be on to something here. A lot of these arguments have an endless quality to them where there doesn't seem to be any progress towards the truth of the matter. They do seem futile. They seem to end being about how cleverly one can cook up arguments that get people excited or fascinated and get them to agree with you, regardless of whether this has anything to do with the truth or not. It does seem to be a lot of "rhetorical posturing" and excessive verbiage.

How do you think it can be transcended? When you say "rational dialog" what do you have in mind?

Randall Parker said at October 25, 2010 6:21 PM:

Eric, James,

There are a whole lot of conspiracies going on. And lots of ethnic groups promoting policies they see as in their interests. But there in 1942 what lots of Protestant (probably liberal Protestant) leaders said is amazing and supports the idea that the Protestants pretty well screwed their own country.

Vanishing American said at October 25, 2010 8:48 PM:

I have a book called The Modern Tower of Babel, written in the 1940s as a warning that Communism/leftism/One-Worldism was infiltrating mainline Protestantism, which of course was the least orthodox and most humanistic branch. The ideas that are being alluded to here came in from the secular world, not vice-versa.

I could quote many, many secular ''thinkers'' from much earlier who were proposing the same things as the Protestants are accused of promoting. The Protestant left-wing was influenced by humanists; the influence was flowing the other way.

And of course, Moldbug would not have any axe to grind here, would he?
As for Anglo-Saxon universalism, the old complaint was that Anglo-Saxons were too ethnocentric and xenophobic. Which one is true? Universalism caught on first not with religious people but with atheists, believers in 'New Thought'-type religions, not with Protestants.

Fisher Ames said at October 25, 2010 11:26 PM:

This Protestant group was the World Council of Churches, (Federal Council at that time), a notorious left liberal group. I think William Sloane Coffin was a leader of their group in the post-WW 2 period.

As a mainline Prot by ancestry, I can tell you the “leaders” did not represent the rank and file. One can verify this by noting voting patterns of mainline Protestants, as well as the massive loss of members of mainline Churches. Recall also that just 20 years before, it was the Wasps who cut off immigration. There was no support for open borders among rank and file Protestants, mainline or otherwise. (It was also the Protestant establishment that created the tariff system, long opposed by Catholic Democrats and Southern non-mainline Prot Democrats).

Compare this with other groups for example blacks and Jews. Many black leaders are more radical than the average black, but most blacks still follow. Many Jewish leaders are more radical than the average Jew, but most Jews follow, as indicated by voting patters and general attitudes. This was not the case with most mainline Protestants. However radical some Prot leaders were, they didn’t have a mass following among their own kind, even among secular mainline Prot leaders in business and even (although to a lesser degree) education. If it had been otherwise, then the Revolution against the Wasp Establishment in the 1960s would not have been noteworthy.

I also agree with Vanishing American, that the radical ideas pushed in 1942 (in response to American entry into the war), had been in circulation for some time previous, and were adopted for various reasons but did not originate with the mainline Protestant leaders posturing at that time.

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