230 Years of Fascination with Liberty – Are We About to Lose Her?

American’s have had a fascination with liberty for over 200 years and many of us have expressed how important it is to our way of life and warned us about protecting it:

He that would make his own liberty secure must guard even his enemy from oppression. — Thomas Paine

I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. — James Madison

The history of liberty is a history of the limitations of government power, not the increase of it. — Woodrow Wilson

The true danger is when liberty is nibbled away, for expedience, and by parts. — Edmund Burke

The people never give up their liberties but under some delusion. — Edmund Burke

All government, of course, is against liberty. — H. L. Mencken

They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety. — Benjamin Franklin

I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death. — Patrick Henry

I believe that any man who takes the liberty of another into his keeping is bound to become a tyrant, and that any man who yields up his liberty, in however slight the measure, is bound to become a slave. — H. L. Mencken

I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than to those attending too small a degree of it. — Thomas Jefferson

Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their consciences. — C.S. Lewis

If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear. — George Orwell

Liberty is often a heavy burden on a man. It involves the necessity for perpetual choice which is the kind of labor men have always dreaded. — Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.

More liberty quotes …

Until recent years, our liberty has been protected by the rule of law through our Constitution and Bill of Rights. However, with:

our liberty is under attack.

Who is responsible for trying to take her from us?

Dr. Shadia B. Drury, Professor in the Departments of Political Science and Philosophy

Leo Strauss, Philosopher of the neocons

According to Dr. Shadia Drury it started with Leo Strauss, a refugee from Nazi Germany who arrived in the United States in 1937, and has continued with his neocon disciples. Dr. Drury has written two books on Leo Strauss and two of her articles, titled Noble lies and perpetual war: Leo Strauss, the neocons, and Iraq and Saving America – Leo Strauss and the neoconservatives, are used here to explain how the Straussians (neocons) view liberty and why they need to control, minimize or eliminate it.

To be clear, Strauss was not as hostile to democracy as he was to liberalism. This is because he recognizes that the vulgar masses have numbers on their side, and the sheer power of numbers cannot be completely ignored. Whatever can be done to bring the masses along is legitimate. If you can use democracy to turn the masses against their own liberty, this is a great triumph. It is the sort of tactic that neo-conservatives use consistently, and in some cases very successfully.

He [Strauss] is the enemy of liberty in general. It was for love of America that he wished to save her from her disastrous love affair with liberty ….

The wise ancients [Plato] thought that the unwashed masses were not fit for either truth or liberty; and giving them these sublime treasures was like throwing pearls before swine.

In contrast to the ancients, the moderns [us] were the foolish lovers of truth and liberty; they believed in the natural rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. They believed that human beings were born free and could be legitimately ruled only by their own consent.

The ancients denied that there is any natural right to liberty. Human beings are born neither free nor equal. The natural human condition is not one of freedom, but of subordination. And in Strauss’s estimation, they were right in thinking that there is only one natural right – the right of the superior to rule over the inferior – the master over the slave, the husband over the wife, and the wise few over the vulgar many. As to the pursuit of happiness – what could the vulgar do with happiness except drink, gamble, and fornicate?

Instead of personal happiness, they would live their lives in perpetual sacrifice to God and the nation.

The trouble is that neoconservatives have zero tolerance for human vices or follies, and as a result, they are unwilling to give liberty a chance.

So, what is to be done? How can America be saved from her dangerous fascination with liberty? Irving Kristol came up with the solution that has become the cornerstone of neoconservative policies: use democracy to defeat liberty. Turn the people against their own liberty. Convince them that liberty is licentiousness – that liberty undermines piety, leads to crime, drugs, rampant homosexuality, children out of wedlock, and family breakdown. And worse of all, liberalism is soft on communism or terrorism – whatever happens to be the enemy of the moment. And if you can convince the people that liberty undermines their security, then, you will not have to take away their liberty; they will gladly renounce it.

In an essay entitled “Populism Not to Worry,” Irving Kristol argued that Americans should embrace populism, or the rule of the majority, despite the reservations of the Founding Fathers. The latter feared the tyranny of the majority, and institutionalised safeguards to protect the liberty of individuals and minorities. But Kristol and the neoconservatives want to dismantle these very safeguards against majority rule. Kristol tells us not to worry. Why not? Apparently because the neoconservatives believe that America has been ruled by an unwise liberal elite for over two hundred years, and they are willing to gamble that the people will be wiser, which is to say, more likely to endorse conservative policies.

With the neoconservatives in power in the US, it will be difficult to conceal the real nature of neoconservative policies. The “stealth campaigns” are not likely to be as effective. The policies are by now very clear: no gay rights, no liberated women, no uppity blacks, lots of prayer in the schools, a strong commitment to the death penalty, and the re-criminalisation of abortion. The latter is particularly important. Of course it will keep the women at home and out of the way so that the world can be ruled by men in the proper manly fashion; but that’s not all. More importantly, it will keep women busy having babies – lots of babies. In this way, women will become useful once again; they will return to their vocation as factories for soldiers – and we need lots of soldiers, for we will have plenty of wars to fight, if the neoconservatives have their way. And it seems they have.

The neoconservative goal is reactionary in the classic sense of the term. It is nothing short of turning the clock back on the liberal revolution. And it will use democracy to accomplish its task. After all, Strauss had no objections to democracy as long as a wise elite, inspired by the profound truths of the ancients, was able to shape, invent, or create the will of the people. In his interpretation of Plato’s myth of the cave, Strauss maintained that the philosophers who return to the cave should not bring in truth; instead, the philosophers should seek to manipulate the images in the cave, so that the people will remain in the stupor to which they are supremely fit.

It is ironic that American neoconservatives have decided to conquer the world in the name of liberty and democracy, when they have so little regard for either.

Irving Kristol, father of neo-conservatives

So, beware of neo-conservatives, their think tanks and their publications. Here are some links on the disciples of Leo Strauss or “Leo-cons”:

Irving Kristol, devoted follower of Leo Strauss, godfather of neoconservatives, a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. and senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2002 by The Decider.

Paul Wolfowitz, pusher of preemptive strikes

Paul Dundes Wolfowitz, former Bush Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, considered to be one of the most prominent and “hawkish” of the neo-conservatives, is the principal author of the “Wolfowitz Doctrine“, also known as the Bush doctrine, received his doctorates under Strauss in 1972.

Abram N. Shulsky, has worked in the Office of Special Plans, a secretive intelligence outfit in the Pentagon that was charged with digging up information on Iraq that would support the administration’s arguments for going to war, received his doctorates under Strauss in 1972.

Bill Kristol, son of Irving Kristol

William Kristol, son of Irving Kristol and Vice President Dan Quayle’s chief of staff and chairman of The Project for the New American Century – inactive since late 2005, is the neo-conservative editor of the Weekly Standard and now a Time magazine columnist.



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About Andy Hailey

Vietnam Vet, UT El Paso Grad, Retired Aerospace Engineer, former union rep, 60's Republican now progressive, web admin, blogger.

4 Responses to 230 Years of Fascination with Liberty – Are We About to Lose Her?

  1. Pingback: The WAWG Blog Blog Archive » Bad Deeds for 7-26-2010

  2. Andy Hailey says:

    Thanks for the comment and the link Jeremy. I think one could see similarities to Christianist as well as Jihadist philosophies. They are both right-wing authoritarian fundamentalists.

  3. Jeremy says:

    I know it is a little late but , very interesting post. Have you seen Adam Curtis’ “The Power of Nightmares” subtitled “The Rise of the Politics of Fear”? A political documentary produced by the BBC that delves into the Neocon philosophy and Leo Strauss and shows the many similarities to a lot of the jihadist philosophies. One of my favorite docs actually. Here is a link to download the films, in 3 parts: http://www.archive.org/details/ThePowerOfNightmares

  4. Andy Hailey says:

    Here a some quick notes I took while listening to an on-line interview of Dr. Drury about Leo Strauss:

    Leo Strauss believed that liberalism lead to Nazi Germany and that Democracy is dangerous. Rule of the wise by deceiving the masses. Creation and invention of enemies to keep the masses in line. Neocons believe in dangers of Democracy and Importance of religion in politics. Celebrates deception. Neocon facinated with jihadists since they believe to the point of giving their own life. Neocons seem themselves as the leaders for the revolution to convert the US and the world into a Christian based theocracy. Avoid feeling good or getting to know your enemy – it harder to be mean to them. The wise leaders will protect us from liberalism by being the only ones to know it. Extreme liberalism offends and angers evangelicals and increases their fear of loss of their way of life.

    U of Chicago, 1962, Leo Strauss – died in 1973, German Jewish philosopher, escapee from Nazi Germany. Politics is a matter of life and death. You either destroy your enemy or they will distroy you. Unite against them. Nationalism and religion have to be united. God is guiding the nation. Bush – paranoia leads to – let’s kill our enemies before they become enemies. Democracy is rule/tyranny by the majority. Replace it with an aristocracy.

    Hitler was Democracy without control by the proper elite and their use of the noble lie.

    Noble Liar – Society needs lies to sustain it; supreme among these is religion. It is the social duty of the elite few to fabricate for the well-being of the society. He must do this to protect the wise few from the vulgar mass of society.