Civil Discourse Now

Where the far left and far right overlap for fun and enlightenment

In junior high I read “Regarding Civil Disobedience,” by Henry David Thoreau: “I heartily accept the motto, - ‘That government is best which governs least;’ and I should like to see it acted up to more rapidly and systematically.” Sounds like the GOP.

More Thoreau: “Carried out, it finally amounts to this, which I also believe - ‘that government is best which governs not at all;’ and when men are prepared for it, that will be the kind of government which they shall have.” (In Thoreau’s time white males had rights.)

In a Political Science course I took at IU-Kokomo in the summer of 1972, Professor Davidson said people might know some atheists, but few, if any, people know an anarchist. By second year at DePauw, as a poly sci major, I’d read a great deal about the “social contract.”

In “The Crito,” Socrates explains he cannot escape Athens and his sentence of death because he owes allegiance to the State; that at age of majority we choose allegiance to the State that raised us (a debt to those who’ve built things), or go into the wilderness, even then mythical “space.”

A lot of the right-wing’s anti-government animus lay in anarchism. Sen Barry Goldwater spoke, but did not write, that “extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice/moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.” Karl Hess, a writer for other GOP politicians, penned that 1964 speech.

When I met Hess in 1976, he was an artist (in welding; really excellent work) in residence at the University of Illinois. He also was a tax resister. His cynicism appealed to a college SBP. He was against corporatism and is an example of a bridge between the far right and far left.

Europeans came to the “New World” to escape old governments, kill those who already lived here, and enslave labor as they needed it. Liberty and individualism are qualities with merit. We also need to work together. Hess got to U of I over interstate to weld a tax-supported University.

Anarchism is belief in abolition of all government. There are various approaches to Thoreau’s idyll. Very few embrace chaos, but that is the widest-held view of anarchism. Emma Goldman and, later, Hess saw government as the cause of problems.

Ronald Reagan bastardized lots of things and stole a lot of lines. “Government is the problem” was a variation of a line from Eldridge Cleaver. The irony is Reagan, and those who followed who are further right, would employ rhetoric of anarchism to advance authoritarianism.

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Comment by pogden297 on May 26, 2021 at 12:18pm

Reagan tried to advance "authoritarianism?"


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