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Tuesday, May 13, 2003

The clothes of our emperors

US policy-makers may wrap themselves in the flag and profess the ideals of democracy, freedom, and liberty, but their primary political and philisophical influence had some less-than-democratic ideas.
"Strauss was neither a liberal nor a democrat," [Shadia Drury, author of Leo Strauss and the American Right] said in a telephone interview from her office at the University of Calgary in Canada. "Perpetual deception of the citizens by those in power is critical (in Strauss's view) because they need to be led, and they need strong rulers to tell them what's good for them.
Like Plato, Strauss taught that within societies, "some are fit to lead, and others to be led," according to Drury. But, unlike Plato, who believed that leaders, which he called philosopher-kings, had to be people with such high moral standards that they could resist the temptations of power, Strauss thought that "those who are fit to rule are those who realise there is no morality and that there is only one natural right, the right of the superior to rule over the inferior."

Moral law was nonetheless indispensable Strauss' view because "it is necessary to keep internal order." It should be propagated through religion, which, like Karl Marx, Strauss considered to be "the opiate of the people," or in Strauss' own words, "a pious fraud." But religion is for the masses alone; the rulers need not be bound by it; indeed it would be absurd if they were, because they know there is no reality behind it.

For Strauss, "religion is the glue that holds society together," according to Drury, who added that Irving Kristol among other neo-conservatives has argued that separating church and state was the biggest mistake made by the founders of the U.S. Republic.
"Secular society in their view is the worst possible thing," because it leads to individualism, liberalism and relativism, precisely those traits which may encourage dissent that in turn could dangerously weaken society's ability to cope with external threats. "You want a crowd that you can manipulate like putty," according to Drury.

These people aren't conservatives, they're reactionary neo-Bismarckians who wish they were Alexander III of Russia. Read the whole article here.


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