Time to start betting back to regular operations around here, I think. It was good to take some time off, and I thank all of you who visit here regularly for your patience. I’ll confess that it’s been a little harder lately for me to keep to daily blogging; I’ve had many distractions, and I do feel occasionally that I’ve already said everything I have to say. (I’m sure I will get over it.)
Readers may have noticed that this website was down again for a while on Friday. I thought it was Bluehost coming after me again (as they seem to have done a few weeks ago, the day after I remarked on Twitter that their service wasn’t what it used to be). But when I called them this time I was immediately connected to a very helpful representative, who explained that I had come under a spam attack. I was already using a spam filter, but in order to get the site back up I had to activate a “Captcha” plugin as a bulwark against spam-bots. This means, dear readers, that you will have to demonstrate your humanity in order to comment. (That said, I’m sure that my left-leaning critics will be surprised that the thing lets me post anything at all.) Sorry for the inconvenience, but such are the times.
One of the reasons that I’ve been less inclined to write much is that I feel the need, for now at least, to read and think more, and to say less. I’ve got a stack of books I want to get to, and there are only so many hours in the day. Another reason is that I’ve been focusing a lot of attention lately on music and recording, which I’ve neglected for too long. (I’ve been putting together a mixing room, and have been catching up on recent audio technology.)
Among the books I’ve been reading is Forrest McDonald’s Novus Ordo Seclorum (1985), a truly outstanding account of the historical and intellectual origins of the Constitution. Mr. McDonald, who died earlier this year, was Professor of History at the University of Alabama. He was also an extraordinarily diligent scholar, a witty and engaging writer, and a staunch conservative. If you want to understand how the Framers meant this nation to work, and why, you will find no better source.
An excerpt, chosen almost at random, shows the relevance of Professor McDonald’s analysis to current reactionary thought (I have bolded a key passage):
“Speaking broadly, even grossly, one may characterize American schools of republican thoughtas being in two categories: those which reduced their principles into systems or ideologies, and those that did not. Those which did — again speaking broadly, for there were shades and overlappings, and the substantive differences are clearly visible only at the extremes — may likewise be characterized in two categories. One, the more nearly classical, may be described as puritan,; the other, more modern, may be described as agrarian.
The two versions of ideological republicanism held a number of attitudes in common, the most crucial being preoccupation with the mortality of republics. (“Half our learning,” said [Thomas] Dawes, “is their epitaph.”) The vital — that is, life-giving — principle of republics was public virtue. It is important to understand just what these two words signified. Like their Greek counterparts, polis and arete, they did not connote what is suggested by the idea of Christian virtue, with its emphasis upon meekness, passivity, and charity; quite the opposite, for the Christian concept of virtue was originally formulated as the central ethic of a counterculture that arose as a conscious protest against the classical culture of manliness. Nor did the public (or the polis) include everybody. Not coincidentally, public, like virtue, derives from Latin roots signifying manhood: “the public” included only independent adult males. Public virtue entailed firmness, courage, endurance, industry, frugal living, strength, and above all, unremitting devotion to the weal of the public’s corporate self, the community of virtuous men. It was at once individualistic and communal: individualistic in that no member of the public could be dependent upon any other and still be reckoned a member of the public; communal in that every man gave himself totally to the good of the public as a whole. If public virtue declined, the republic declined, and if it declined too far, the republic died. Philosophical historians had worked out a regular life cycle, or more properly a death cycle, of republics. Manhood gave way to effeminacy, republican liberty to licentiousness. Licentiousness, in turn, degenerated into anarchy, and anarchy inevitably led to tyranny.
What distinguished puritanical republicanism from the agrarian variety was that the former sought a moral solution to the problem of the mortality of republics (make better people), whereas the latter believed in a socio-economic-political solution (make better arrangements).
It appears things are proceeding right on schedule.