Steve Klingaman

Steve Klingaman
Minneapolis, Minnesota,
January 01
Steve Klingaman is a nonprofit development consultant and nonfiction writer specializing in personal finance and public policy. His music reviews can be found at

Editor’s Pick
NOVEMBER 5, 2009 10:11AM

Hated Roosevelt, Hate Obama: Paleoconservative Persuasions

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   In the crusade against Obama administration efforts on behalf of economic recovery and health care reform, we encounter lies, damn lies, and Republican talking points.  Touchstones like:  “government takeover,” “government-run,” “profligate spending,” “usurpation of power”—where did they all come from?  Well, in a word, they all came from this guy named Albert Jay Nock.



   Albert Jay Nock was one of the most virulent critics of President Roosevelt and his administration’s efforts to extract the nation from the Great Depression. Nock’s opus, Our Enemy, the State, published in 1935, attacked the New Deal in terms that, well, you’d have to listen to Glen Beck to replicate.  Or Michele Bachmann.  Or Rush.  It is the source code for anti-Obama talking points.

 Our Enemy, The State

     Born in Pennsylvania and based for much of his life in New York and Brussels, Nock was a visiting professor at Bard College and a lecturer at University of Virginia.  He was a failed Episcopalian cleric who wrote proto-libertarian works rooted in a philosophical tradition that would never fly today.  Yet many of his sound bites endure.

            Nock saw the state as “them,” not “us,” and “them” really came to mean Roosevelt.  You must know that Roosevelt was hated by many during the Great Depression.  Not disliked, hated.  The laissez faire crowd saw every move toward government relief of intolerable conditions as government self-aggrandizement—Nock’s term, not mine.  Despite the fact that people were desperate in the streets, extreme-sport capitalists saw only usurpation of the powers of the church (as the precursor to the modern social relief agency) and the individual—that old fall-back, the rugged individual—Nock’s term, not mine.

            Nock preferred alms-to-beggars to a hand-up from the government, and said so, as he does here in lamenting government involvement in social relief programs as somehow causing individuals to fall away from the ethos of mutual assistance:

We can get some kind of rough measure of this general atrophy by our own disposition when approached by a beggar. Two years ago we might have been moved to give him something; today we are moved to refer him to the State's relief-agency.

            Initiatives like the legendary Civilian Conservation Corps, the CCC, were presented as Mr. Roosevelt “announcing the doctrine, brand-new in our history, that the State owes its citizens a living.”  And such a measure, he felt, was simply a pretext for increasing government control.  “Thus the State,” he wrote, “‘turns every contingency into a resource’ for accumulating power in itself…”

Hated Roosevelt, Hate Obama

            The issue was with Roosevelt himself:

State power has not only been thus concentrated at Washington, but it has been so far concentrated into the hands of the Executive that the existing régime is a régime of personal government.

            Professor Nock pulls no punches.  With a Beckian flourish he proclaims, “This regime was established by a coup d'État of a new and unusual kind, practicable only in a rich country.”  Yup.  A coup d’etat.  You almost want to ask for Mr. Roosevelt’s birth certificate.

            Nock’s antipathy to Roosevelt knew few boundaries.  Perversely, Nock saw in the New Deal, “the erection of poverty and mendicancy into a permanent political asset.”  As if, rather than responding to a national emergency, Roosevelt was amassing poverty as political capital, as an opportunistic end in itself even during the depths of the Great Depression.  To a Republican of a certain brand, this was gospel.

Socialists by Any Other Name           

            Here is Nock’s take on the form of relief that would become known as Social Security:

The method of direct subsidy, or sheer cash-purchase, [as if Roosevelt was literally buying the poor] will therefore in all probability soon give way to the indirect method of what is called “social legislation”; that is, a multiplex system of State-managed pensions, insurances and indemnities of various kinds.

            Instead of socialists, Nock railed against “collectivists.”  Nock remarked, “One of my friends said to me lately that if the public-utility corporations did not mend their ways, the State would take over their business and operate it.”  Of course, Nock felt this was repugnant.  But what he doesn’t say is the utilities weren’t bothering to electrify vast expanses of rural America because there was no money in it. 

            Nock was an adherent of mid-19th century English proto-libertarian Herbert Spencer.  Spencer was to contemporary social thought what the reptilian brain is to Einstein.  Spencer characterized any government-run effort as “slow, stupid, extravagant, unadaptive, corrupt and obstructive.”  Interestingly, Nock professed this belief as his own just ten years before the “greatest generation” went to war under Roosevelt and saved the world, for a while anyway, from fascism.

Birthing Cato

            “Every intervention by the State enables another, and this in turn another, and so on indefinitely…” wrote Nock.  And every intervention, life-saving or not, was seen as usurpation of individual power.  In that jealousy he established that elected government was a thing to be hated, and ultimately, abolished.  In this respect, his thought was a precursor to the anarcho-capitalists, or as I call them, anarcho-libertarians.  Little known but influential libertarians such as Frank Chodorov and Murray Rothbard were his intellectual progeny, as was William F. Buckley, Jr., who got to know Nock, a supplicant of Buckley senior, while still a child.  Ayn Rand fits in here, too.  So we see these two strands emanating from the visiting professor’s thought, tangling and untangling over time, but always united in opposition to the State, enemy of freedom.

            In Nock’s construct, individual perogatives were manifest as social power, as opposed to State power.  Corporate power, too, was social power:

Does social power mismanage banking-practice in this-or-that special instance - then let the State, which never has shown itself able to keep its own finances from sinking promptly into the slough of misfeasance, wastefulness and corruption, intervene to "supervise" or "regulate" the whole body of banking-practice, or even take it over entire.

In a rare moment of informality, Nock bends to facetiousness.  Having the State take over failed financial institutions is represented pretty much as a crime against nature.  And somehow, Nock manages to see the Crash of ’29 as a mere “special instance,” an “Oh, that” moment.  Furthermore, he has the temerity to go on the offensive against any and all regulation after the nation’s life savings have been wiped out.  And what were they wiped out by?  The market abuses of a decade of laissez faire government. One can only think, “Cato Institute, here we come!”

            To Nock, as to libertarians today, social power is locked in a zero sum gain struggle with state power.  If state power can in any way said to be increasing, then social power must be decreasing.  Sarah Palin rushes to these ramparts with her codified rhetoric under the banner of freedom.  Michele Bachman is her lesser echo.  Freedom from government.  Freedom from them—us.

            There is a technical political term, called paleoconservatism—you can’t make this stuff up—that describes Nock-inspired thought.  Paleoconservatism espouses anti-communism, isolationism, “family values,” Americanism, rugged individualism, anti-Statism, and religion (Christians only, thank you).  The term is used in opposition to neocon.  The paleoconservative motto might be, “Praise God, but get even.”1  Visiting professor Nock may have been the original paleoconservative, the Lucy of his ilk.

            Nock’s thought arises a multi-layered 19th century tradition of philosophy.  He was well-read in the Federalist papers.  He is about Hegel. And early 20th century anti-statist Franz Oppenheimer.  He even critiques Plato.  Serious scholarship could be performed on this guy.  But why bother?  In his heart of hearts, he was like Beck, a mouthy polemicist.

 “History?  We don’t need no stinkin’ history!”

            It is an overworn truism that those who do not learn from history are destined to repeat it.  But who would have guessed that any party could break its back to repeat it so thoroughly, in the carbon copy reaction we see in the Republicans at this moment?

            The Obama administration will never be able to prove that financial catastrophe was avoided by its interventions (and by the impossibly ironic Paulson-led interventions of the dying Bush regime).  You can’t prove a negative like that.  And, in that respect at least, the present moment is far different than the Great Depression, when they went over the falls.   History, I predict, will attest to the very great likelihood that the Obama administration did stem the tide of disaster.  And it will show that for the most part the administration held its nose as it did so.  Despite this, Obama will forever wear the mantle of usurper, government overstepper, just like Roosevelt, in the rhetoric of that obscure, somewhat creepy (he wrote an essay in the Atlantic Monthly titled "The Jewish Problem in America") ex-cleric from Scranton.

             Let them—the Republicans—say what they will, history proclaims Roosevelt was right, and that only a cohesive federal government can marshal the forces necessary to counter a national economic collapse.

            But we have an entire party, a party bereft of a moderate wing, standing in the town square, fingers in ears, screaming “Redo, redo!” And while the Republicans still envy the spoils that control of the State entails, in their mushy heart of hearts that tiny anarcho-libertarian muscle is beating away, a little Energizer Bunny from a paleolithic era of political thought.


Note to Scholars:   I readily acknowledge that Nock was in no way the only Depression-era antecedent for current conservative talking points.  He was merely one of the most visible and audacious.  We would not want to forget Mr. Hoover, who railed against Roosevelt for the better part of a decade after losing office.

* * *

1  Credit to Robert MacLeay for the disarranged proverb submitted to the New York Times blog, Schott’s Vocab.



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This was fascinating. According to my mother, my grandparents had a similar view of Roosevelt and always referred to him as "that man."

Thanks for the revealing portrait of a man who could be the last century's Glenn Beck. Just shows how some attitudes toward government are deeply held and almost in the DNA of some Americans. Good work.
Don't Nock it until you've lied it.
It may be anachronistic to put Nock in the category, but I refer to him and his kind as Aynal Retentive -- acolytes of the Randian idiocy that letting the greediest bastards on the planet run free, unfettered and utterly unregulated somehow promotes the commonweal. Pure poppycock, and even Poppy Bush knew better -- which is why he called Reaganomics Voodoo Economics.

Ironically, many of these jungle ethicists who believe in the economic survival of the fittest are also anti-evolutionists. A visit to Mexico should convince these folks where their failed philosophy leads. But of course, it won't.

Aand when the banksters and other corporate communists lead us all into the poor house and perdition, the jungle ethicists will blame it all on the govt.
Rated, for learning something new from you today.
Yet another article that needlessly polarizes important if the only legitimate argument against the Obama administration comes from the sorts of people you mention.

The FACT of the matter (not opinion) is: the stimulus package, and the purchase of toxic assets, and our "war" (oh, when is Obama going to end the war of "necessity" btw? ) greatly reduce the value of our money via inflation. You can't just print-off money to fix things!

The recovery is an illusion...numbers are up but the dollar is greatly there is only the illusion of recovery. People point to numbers and try to sound smart but they don't see THE NUMBERS ARE WORTH LESS THAN THEY WERE IN THE PAST.

And even all of you liberals will admit that a substantial portion of the people aren't back to work yet.

I'm not a republican...what I am is someone that actually realizes the consequences of printing off money and buying up toxic assets (btw...none of you even knows the recipient of all that testified by Bernanke under testified by the C. general of the Federal Reserve under oath...they don't have to tell you a thing)

You talk of the history books looking back on Obama and seeing him as fixing our economy. didn't forget about the deficit, did you? Hopefully, for your argument's sake, every other country will forgive the billions that we borrow everyday to pay for
our (actually YOUR...since you voted for the guy who voted to fund this atrocity as a Senator) war.

Your crediting the Obama administration with helping our economy...meanwhile we just borrowed another $300 billion in supplementals this year to fun our overseas empire!!!

The new boss is the same as the old boss: same patriot act, same war (but maybe different place), same disrespect for how economies work, same fear mongering about terrorists.

You and the republicans deserve each other.

-David Logan
Few I know on the Left are defending Obama's failure to pursue prosecution of torturers or his failure to put the clamps on suspect financial products or his failure to do much of anything about obscene executive compensation or his vacillation on Afghanistan.

As for healthcare reform, everyone with any sense knows it HAS to be reformed. Some are trying to do so, and some are doing nothing so they can later blame those who tried. It's not harder to figure out who is who on that score.

Then there are those I've written about it who just want to use reform to line their already bulging pockets.

As for the purchase of toxic assets David Logan wailed about, that $700 billion dollar ruse began and ended with the Bush administration. As far as I'm aware, none of the money went to purchase toxic assets. Instead. Bush and Paulsen handed over $35o billion to their bankster buddies, no questions asked.

Obama is responsible for the other $350 billion Congress wisely kept out of Bush and Paulsen's hands, and he is now considering putting a big chunk of that with smaller banks. Much better idea than letting banksters use it to pay themselves unearned bonuses.

An even better idea would be to put in the hands of ordinary working stiffs, since economists pretty much all agree that provides the biggest multiplier effect for such funds.
This is an outstanding piece about a man I had never heard of. The names have changed but the phrases have not. Great work... deserves the cover spot!
I read this earlier and tried all morning to think of knock nock joke...but Tom's seems best

Most certainly I was complaining about deficit spending during the Bush administration.

It seems that many (maybe you. maybe not) are unable to concieve of any sorts of arguments other than "Democrat vs. Republican". The argument "dislikes Obama so must like Bush" is obviously illogical...or it just me?

Re: your other question...What is there to like about deficit spending? Our billion dollar operation overseas is obviously immoral and unaffordable (Obama thinks it's a "necessity")...but even deficit spending here at home is a problem...when you take loans and print off money (for any reason) this hurts EVERYBODY due to inflation and merely creates the illusion of recovery. (Andy from Shawshank voice): I think I've been
very clear on this point.

Tom Cordle,

The toxic assets I wrote of were: the major auto companies.

But more importantly, Obama voted for (and openly supported) the same legislation you are complaining about! And then you (presumably) voted for him! Oh, but we had to do it to save the economy, right?

One thing we both agree on: money should go to the ordinary working people.

One more thing, since you speak on "what every economist knows", you would agree with me that printing/borrowing hundreds of billions for war and the stimulus package WOULD cripple our currency, right? You would agree that is a fundamentally bad idea?

I hope, for your argument's sake, that the Chinese will fly over here and pay us to play on the golf courses we build with the stimulus money. Then we won't have to worry about exports.

Someone want to defend inflating the dollar for war and golf courses without resorting to partisan name calling?
Actually that's not fair...what I mean is: "without resorting to the "Bush did it, too" argument"
I have no problem owning up to voting for Obama, tho' I did so with some trepidation. I had no alternative, given that the only other electable choice was a man who pronounced the fundamentals of the economy sound a month before it collapsed, on the advice presumably of his putative Secretary of Treasury Phil Gramm, another Ayn Randian economist, who was even more responsible for the financial collapse than Geithner. At least Geithner didn't have his name on the Gramm-Briley-Leach (nearly an aptonym) bill.

Any inclination I might have had to vote for McCain -- and I had very little after he sucked-up to Bush after what Rove and Eskew did to McCain and his family in SC in the 2000 primary -- any such inclination disappeared when this 72 yr-old man who surely should have known better picked an utterly unqualified first term governor of Alaska to be next in line for the Presidency.

It's quite impossible for me to believe any thinking person could see this otherwise. Now that I've answered that question, Mr Logan, how many times did you vote for W, the worst president in US history? And did you vote for McCain? Probably not, I'm guessing after getting burned so badly by Bush, you're now a Ron Paul man.
As for the particulars raise by Mr. Logan:

Call me a Liberal if you must, but I wrote every lawmaker I could reasonably reach urging them NOT to vote for the TARP. Where I come from, when the hogs eat the seed corn, you eat the hogs -- you don't buy them expensive rice from China. Unfortunately for conservatives, the financial crisis happened on their watch, and they initiated the bank bailout. There is simply no intellectually honest way to argue otherwise.

As for the automakers, I reluctantly supported propping up GM for the sake of one of the last few remaining industries that provide a middle-class existence for blue-collar workers. The biggest problem we have in this country -- next to bought and paid for lawmakers -- is the wholesale destruction of manufacturing jobs by the accounting aristocracy that now runs most multi-national corporations.

Most on the right want to blame GM's fall on union workers, but I one GM worker was far more to blame than any other -- Roger Smith -- see Roger And Me for details. Michael Moore may be a propagandist, but he got the essence of that story right.

I certainly agree about the devaluation of the dollar, and I haven't the slightest doubt, it's part of a plan to do just that. Ordinary Americans are too intellectually lazy to concern themselves with economics, but they should be able to understand this much:

If the value of your home has fallen by 25% in dollars, and if the value of the dollar has fallen by 48%, your net worth (and thus your credit worthiness should you need to borrow money to pay for that cancer treatment for your child that your insurer won't pay for) has fallen precipitously. That $200,ooo home is actually only worth $100,000 in real dollars.

Same dynamic applies to your 401K. You may be encouraged by a mild (and likely temporary and manipulated) rebound in the stock market, but a 10% increase in the value of the stocks in you 401K coupled with a 48% decrease in the value of the dollar is a substantial loss -- not a gain.

And what did Obama's predecessor, the erstwhile compassionate conservative decider claim as his mandate on the day he was re-elected in 2004? Privatizing Social Security.

Do you suppose the really big money men at GS and elsewhere knew the house of cards was going to fall soon and wanted to postpone it till after the Harvard MBA president left office? Can't prove it, but that's a bet I'd make -- and I'd be willing to make it without spreading the risk to the AIG casino.

I do think my posts are on topic. The claim in the OP was that Obama will ultimately be seen as "stemming the tide", and also that Federal intervention is necessary to prevent economic collapse. I deny both of these positions and claim that intervention makes things worse via inflation. On topic, no?

"We never will see eye to eye"...OK fair enough. I wish you were right...but the money WILL have to be paid back and the same people that were in need of money WILL have higher costs of goods and services due to inflation. Are you claiming those statements are controversial as well?

Tom Cordle,

Re your first post: I have never voted for Bush and I campaigned against him vehemently in 2004, primarily because of the same issues I am mentioning now. So, your guess is wrong (well, partly wrong...I did support Dr. Paul in 2008).

You are so stuck in your "black and white, partisan matrix" I almost feel bad for you. You are arguing against claims that haven't even been made (I agree with you no thinking person would vote McCain/Palin...what's your point? I agree with you this mess was started by Bush (supported in funding by Obama as well btw)...what's your point?) You make obvious claims and then you say, "how could anyone disagree with me"?

Your second post is confusing as grant all of my major claims (devaluation of currency is a serious problem, the auto buyout was a bad idea) are we really disagreeing here at all?

You know David I think you need to think about getting a life. I can't tell you what a nonstarter your inflation thing is. I mean I really can't. We were flirting big time with deflation until about 15 minutes ago. And, not to push my own button here, but I have written about all that stuff before, right here. I am a deficit hawk, after all. You know, when someone writes a post about a specific topic that isn't exactly an invitation to rewrite Econ 101. Where do you stand on this guy Nock, and his legacy with legs of doom, after all?

P.S. This is strictly nonpartisan. I do not assume you are anything.
Mr. Klingaman,

Nonstarter? Have fun explaining to your kids what a non-starter their currency will be (actually, have fun explaining to yourself if we keep down this road).

Your post makes claims about the so called "averted crisis", and you make presumptions about how Obama (and presumably the economy) will be judged in the future. Knowledge about inflation and the nature of debt is necessary to those claims, is it not? Indeed, Economics 101 is all it takes to realize how bad an idea printing/borrowing money for a war and other projects is. So, this should be the place for that discussion.

Perhaps your post should have only been about Nock without the unfortunate endorsement of the "great borrowing" at the end.

But, if you would like, I will not post anymore on this thread.

And "get a life"...ahhh...the irony of internet arguments :)

-David Logan

You must be kidding. Humongous bailouts are sloppy affairs. Vases get kicked over. You may not have noticed but our entire economy was headed for Niagara Falls and so boatloads of money were pumped into the system to keep our fragile boats afloat. And yes, our children, their grandchildren and their grandchildren will have the opportunity to pay for a little piece of this Mr. Toad's Wild Ride. It is unfortunate. Who would you like to blame?
This school of "thought" is an adolescent monster convinced he's been denied both the chance to be a US Baron or at least a pillar of the Communist Party ... boo hoo hoo hoo

The CCC turned a generation of potentially disaffected folks of all education levels into a force that gave us our Nation's amazing national parks system, among so many other things ... and, it taught young people how to work hard, save and learn ... they went to night school! I've heard seniors who are ex-CCC speak with pride of the forests they planted, to see them now in full glory, and how it taught them work ethic. I know it is true, I was in Johnson's NYC and planted trees too. I've gone back and seen them, huge. what a feeling. I learned to punch the clock, and to prove once and for all the laughable nature of conservatism in this form, I used the money to buy a car and the training to get a better job- in the private sector.

It works, and their nonsense doesn't- as the last 8 years prove.


Thank you for that. I have walked through those forests. There is a place in Wisconsin where you can walk through a grove and see the faintest traces of the camp that was once there. And then you hear the narratives that CCC participants recount about recapturing their dignity, finally working, coming from places like Brooklyn, or Milwaukee, and having no work, but somehow getting in, working for the CCC, and the issue of dignity comes through time and time again, and you understand that this was not a game.
It is amazing that with 25% unemployment and the banks folding with no FDIC, they wanted no change
it will always be so
Excellent post Steve.

"It is an overworn truism that those who do not learn from history are destined to repeat it. But who would have guessed that any party could break its back to repeat it so thoroughly, in the carbon copy reaction we see in the Republicans are at this moment?"

Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose.
This is interesting: "Perversely, Nock saw in the New Deal, 'the erection of poverty and mendicancy into a permanent political asset.'”

If this is so perverse, then how come it turned out to be true. Democrats have been running campaigns on fighting poverty for 75 years now.
MG: Or perhaps you prefer beggars?
Nock sounded a lot like the sainted Ayn Rand. The dark secret at the heart of modern libertarianism is the disgust they feel for the people, as opposed to the downtrodden minority of rugged individualists they picture themselves to be. Obviously, things like poverty and lack of healthcare is easy to accept when you regard most of humanity as "savages," "refuse," "inanimate objects," and "imitations of living beings" (in Ayn Rand's charming words). Why should Nietzschean supermen care about them?

The funny thing about the argument that a Keynesian stimulus will bankrupt the nation and force your children and grandchildren to live in poverty in a maelstrom of hyperinflation, is that we are the children and grandchildren of people who used just that kind of spending to get out of the Great Depression. If the critics were right, our lives should have been a living hell. But that fact doesn't seem to sink in.
Norwonk, I couldn't agree more; you pack a lot in two paragraphs. I had thought of what you refer to as disgust for people as a failure of imagination, of empathy, being unable to understand or react to clearly demonstrated need on the part of another. A job is dignity. A home is shelter. I keep coming back to the allegation of "predatory borrowing" on the part of unsophisticated homeowners as the justification of them losing their homes. There is so much aggression in that attitude, so much contempt for the other guy.
Check out Frederick Townsend Martin's "The Passing of the Idle Rich," (1910) It is available here as a .jpg image (with turnable pages--how cool is that?):


I have corrected and reformatted the UCLA OCR'd file and posted it on my own website as a copyable text file: // This book is a real treasure.
They hated him then and they hate him today. The one constant I find is that if the people receive help from the government then they are lazy and useless but when billions are forked over to private industry then that is necessary to the well being of the nation.
McG- still can't understand why your nom so offends Hawaiians, just like you can't understand the reason for the new deal was the very real fear of nationwide rioting in the streets, thats what hungry people do, even the most casual observer of history can immediately cite a thousand cases elsewhere. Child's play.

Your problem is following the Rand Ranters. Putting yourself behind the rantings of a TWEAKER ... so Kerouacs a freak for writing his screeds on meth, but Rand is a tweakin oracle of civil and financial revealed truth? Bwahahahahahaha. Libertarianism is the Sasquatch of politics.

The futility of trying to reduce "government power" is that power will, by nature, always find its way into somebody or some group's hands. This is true without exception.
As such, the attempt to reduce the governing power of We, the People by allowing a laissez faire "State of Nature" freedom to markets diminishes liberty. As we've seen, twice, in the last century, such ill advised liberty to markets reverts them to the "Might Makes Right" freedom that liberal philosophy and our Constitution wishes to avoid.
Libertarian philosophy, like liberalism, attempts to define liberty. However, the anti-social nature of libertarianism is in conflict. First, with itself, because history shows that unlimited freedom for those who control property and credit will be used to diminish the holdings of the "second class" citizen - those people bound by contract to accept restrictions on liberty.
And secondly with the theme of social contract liberty expressed by the Constitution. We are contractually obligated as a society. "Collectivism," I guess, to the libertarian - conservative ideologue.

I think that might be the reason the libertarian intellectuals scoff at the idea that their theories be held to a standard of "does it work?"
The purity of those theories and principles can't be stained by asking that question.
As I told a Rand Cult member recently - that's why libertarianism is the theory of the future...and always will be.

As to Nock, (whose ideas I was unaware of until reading this) I see his strain of thought less involved with what I call proto-conservatism - Burke and Hayek expressed by Buckley and Kirk - and more connected to the perversion of conservatism today's right wing represents.
Buckley and Kirk represent that slim period of time when conservatism received a "good" check mark in the "Plays well with others" report card.
It was all downhill from there.
Great analysis, Paul. As to that "State of Nature," power abhors a void and I think we have ample evidence in various places around the world that an absence of governmentally structured power ultimately leads to something akin to contemporary tribalism, a far more brutal state of nature.
I hope that I'm not around when life becomes nasty, brutish and short again.
Very, very good article. As I have said recently, what the Democratic party needs to do to counter-act all this Government bashing, is to remind the body public exactly "that" in the coming election(s).

Why would we elect people to run our Government, those who "hate" Government?; should be on every campaign ad for the coming elections.
"Democrats have been running campaigns on fighting poverty for 75 years now."

True enough, because Republicans have shown abundantly that they don't give a shit about it--they're agin fighting poverty, fighting the poor is more their style.

Thanks Steve, good read.
Roosevelt was once asked straight-on by a reporter about what he thought of all the rich people who hated him. He smiled and said, "Well, I do not mind so much, so long as they do not outnumber the poor people." Of course, he had nothing to worry about. Neither does Obama.
Okay, while I have no brief for Nock's politics (government of the people, which apparently he conveniently forgot) or his economics--he predicts an even greater Depression after '41 because of government debt--his article, "The Jewish Problem in America," while creepily titled, is not about the the Jews as a problem in America. He exhibits restrained, genteel bigotry while arguing that the Jewish Problem is that we will replicate the laws and treatment of Hitlerian Germany, for much the same reason--because of a huge economic dislocation. He's afraid of a pogrom in America, in other words--and it will be the government, in his belief, that causes it.

So, yes, he was wrong on just about every count, but his antisemitism is actually more restrained then, say, my grandfather's.
Dr. Smith, I would agree that "genteel bigotry" would be an apt description.
I'm always amazed at the bullshcat a liberal will come up with in order to try to explain the failures of his liberal president. The fact is as leno's on the street interviews could easily prove that most americans may not know who teddy roosevelt is much less anything about the teachings of Noch. Your president will succeed or fail on his own merits and Noch anyone elses.....:)
I believe the person at issue here was Franklin D. Roosevelt.
"But we have an entire party, a party bereft of a moderate wing, standing in the town square, fingers in ears, screaming “Redo, redo!” And while the Republicans still envy the spoils that control of the State entails, in their mushy heart of hearts that tiny anarcho-libertarian muscle is beating away, a little Energizer Bunny from a paleolithic era of political thought."

Mr. Klingaman, I defy you to address you're base talking points with a generalized, assinine statement like this at the heart of your diatribe. And for that matter, Washington, Jefferson and Franklin were leery of a dominating central government too.

You want to make some snide comparisons 0f any of today's conservatives to them?
What I wrote is not snide. Death panels are snide. Birthers are snide.
Who knew that this country could give birth to a Fascist movement that is even more pernicious than Nazism. At least the Nazis glorified their countrymen. Here our masters ie. the corporists and the wealthy have nothing but contempt for people who are not in their ranks.
This is how they think of us while they bleed us white and work us to the point where we have almost nothing left for our families.

Great post, rated and much appreciated.
Thanks for that.

I thought to bookmark this and send the post and many of the ensuing (terrific) arguments to some of the people I know. Then I realized I'd be sending reasoned, intellectual discourse to people who eschew "elitist" intellectualism.

And that's the problem, in my opinion. We can disagree on the best measures to fix an ailing economy - I'm not an expert, you tell me what would work - but you can't argue reason and thoughtful analysis of measured, historical events, societal and economic theories (proven or not) with a group that want to teach others that the dinosaurs, the ones that didn't make it onto Noah's ark, were buried in the flood and became the fossils we find today. (I don't care what the evidence is, it's not what I believe, and what I believe is the truth.)
fascinating stem to stern. Not news to me that such people wtote n smote n promoted, but this guy Nock was unknown to me.

Thank you.

Btw, at least obliquely related: last night on Chris Matthews he had two major astroturfers for tea party movement and events, and he asked them who is their idol/role model/hell-came-even-close to emdoying theri drown gov like a sick puppy idealism. One guy said Reagan and was pounced on by Chris (ready with deficit graphics proving Reagan was a profligate deficit spender) and then backed completely off, admitting they have yet to find ANYONE who has done what they demand. The second guy, wary of the same trap, nominated DeMint. Seriously. Jim "I Am Just Going To Have To Create Pain"DeMint. Just because he mouths off in congress sometimes.

IOW, NO ONE has ever succeeded with these crushkilldestroy government ideas. No one, even Reagan, has ever even promoted a credible strategy that eliminates government's public infrastructure management, health and food safety oversight, trade protections and regulation, etc etc.

The faulty premise you so elegantly parse here for us Steve is the Them fantasy. We regulate and oversee ourselves when we do so to "government".

I think the mid-body duality illusion, writ large, is the real culprit, it makes us think of Other/Insider, about all things, all the time. But I might get traction on that in oh, about a thousand years. Maybe.

Meanwhile: we need better auditors and trust busters, not agency and budget Terminators who think baby Jesus cries every time infant formula is bought with tax money.
Republicans only hate government when government is helping someone else.

But when it's helping the rich get richer, well the Radical Right Wing simply adores Big Government:

When government hands out corporate welfare, loopholes for the rich, subsidies for billionaires, etc...the right-wing wackos are always FIRST IN LINE, with hat in hand, begging for their handouts.

PS Spencer, described as a Republican Forefather, was also a prominent Social Darwinist who believed in the inherent mental and physical superiority of the rich, and fell head-over-heels in love with aristocracy: government of the rich, for the rich and by the rich, which of course is the one and only thing most Republicans believe in, in their heart-of-hearts, but are often too cowardly to admit openly.
Hi Steve:
Love this post! I have been more than ready to discuss this topic because as your summation suggests, Nock's antiquated views continue on in the hearts of many.

If you have not read it, you will enjoy Thomas Sowell's "A Conflict of Visions". It is written like a text book (without one political viewpoint creating a bias) for a presentation of both sides of this exact issue.
We have come to a point in time where the thoughful among us need to take a stand and loudly voice our opinions against the continued existence of the philosophy of the "rugged individual".

At one point in history, a group of often disparate individuals came to our shores to establish a new land and forge a new way of life for themselves. They needed to stand as individual's minimally held together by laws while they carved out an existence in an unsettled land. We thank them for their efforts and the individualistic desires that caused them to carve out a new way of life. Society is more complex than it was 200 years ago, however.

We need political thought to embrace the concept that society was forever changed by the Internet. Members of society have the potential to be more connected than ever in a world where time and space are shrunk to minimally impact our ability to communicate and work together. We are more aware than ever of the interweaving of individuals into a collective. We need our political philosophy to acknowledge same and construct laws and policy to reflect the existing global network and economy that has little to do with individualism.

The xenophobes who want back "their America" need acknowledge that America does not and will never again stand alone on the world stage. We are part and partner in a global economy, where society has spread out, interweaving with the cultures of other countries both on our shores and as we work together with them on their soil or via the connections of the Internet.

I voted for Barack Obama because he understands that the old white man's world is a dinosaur. Their philosophy dominates the airwaves and media, while the reality of our existence as a global society permeates our workaday world. Non-meida spun reality should be making it more difficult to promote the case for the value of politial idealogy that supports the need for the "rugged" individual's existence. Thanks to the media and the Republican party, there are people that cling to the concept of themselves as individuals. This individual sees his value to himself and his family as standing alone minimally involved in a patrician society. Unfortunately, one man shaping his world for his own good is still all too prevalant because that has been the American way for centuries.

President Obama has travelled and worked overtime to repair our relationships with other countries around the globe. He knows in spite of what many Americans believe, that we are all connected in a global economy. He understands the impact of technologies both present and future, and that ultimately our societal growth will come when we acknowledge that America does not stand alone and apart from the rest of the world.

Thanks for waking me up this morning, Steve!
My Jweish grandfather came to this country ambitious to become a successful businessman, but to his dying day he could not reconcile the ways of the old world with those of his new country. He failed and was unemployed throughout the Great Depression. My father and grandmother held the family together through piece work and street peddling. Without Rooseveltian home relief the family might have gone hungry many a day. Without exceptional state run public schools and universities my father would have been uneducated and would been unable to enter a trade. Without progressive labor laws promoting the formation of trade unions he would have had to work for starvation wages.

Without Social Security his retirement and eventually my own would have been a lot less secure. And people wonder why I am a progressive liberal and a "democrat by DNA."
lalucas and Upstate, I'm pleased this piece continues to attract a little bit of interest.

I'll look for that Thomas Sowell book; thanks for the tip. I have also gone back to look at the work of Herbert Spencer, who coined the phrase "survival of the fittest." That alone has to be worth something. He was known to 20th Century readers as the guy who misread Darwin (whom he knew) to further his theories of what I would call social perfectibility. The payoff: that we would evolve towards a world where government was unnecessary. And today, we have libertarians demanding same, despite the fact that the complexity of contemporary society makes rugged individualism, not just passé, but dangerous, as in the case of global climate change and economic meltdowns.

And yes, family narratives of those who survived the 30s with the help of New Deal programs are compelling to all but those who insist on viewing every shred of American history through an ideological lens.
I'm sorry I missed this post when it first came over the wire; I would have enjoyed being in the conversation. As it stands, I'll just thank you, Steve for the pointer to Nock - I'd never heard of him before and thought modern paleoconservatives were simply confused acolytes of Rand and Von Hyek. Love the direct connection to Cato and also really love Paul's "...theory of the future" take on Libertarianism.
Hey, Steve, you might not know this, but I found this post on the front page of big Salon!
Thanks, I didn't know that. That's good of them!
You give much of the right (excpet WFB, Jr.) too much credit. There's little evidence that Limbaugh and Beck read anything other than op-eds, so to the extent they are descendants, they are more like Boxer in Animal Farm, conduits for the most crude and dumbed down version of what the anti-New Dealers were about. Also, you err in your chronolgy: Ayn Rand was a late-comer. Furthermore, associating Hayek with anti-government-ism is a serious misreading. Yes, he is very libertarien and laisse faire, but he also is very Hamiltonian in seeing the necessity for government in participating in meliorism, much like Adam Smith did.

That said, this partisan diatribe is very far off-base, in ways that would do anybody buying into it a lot of good to reconsider. Why, for example isn't Obama seriously proposing New Deal 2.0 (or 3.0 - Truman actually moderated and extended it pretty significantly)? There really are only two answers. 1) He's a corrupt stooge (which I don't believe); or 2) He's wise to the fact[s] that New Deal 1.0 was not very effective, and probably won't be in any re-casted form.

I'll post more if I don't get bored with the partisan foolishness here, but here's a recommended list of names associated with Nock: H. L. Mencken (a liberal favorite), Isabel Paterson, Garet Garrett, Alice Roosevelt (Teddy's daughter). Most were reputable, some were embarassing. See

As a former right-winger who still has Madisonian, Hamiltonian, yet Jeffersonian sympathies, I find the current partisanship of folks absurd.

Obama's biggest problem is that he has a Reaganite Treasury, W's foreign policy, and [I hope I'm not right] Carter's resolve. I truly wish him well (I voted for him and expected a lot more activism, frankly, and I am dumb-founded about the how the right is reacting to his moderate Republican, W-ish agenda).
I'm not sure who the "you" is here. I never mentioned Hayek, nor did I assign a chronology to Rand. And whose diatribe is it? But you are more than welcome to write a post on the topic on OS. I'm sure some readers will be interested in what you have to say.
While I am disheartened that the author of the original post and many of the commenters seem happy to embrace the hubris of political leaders intent on making decisions for others, I am pleased to see the humility exhibited by the blogger and commenters who are unashamed to admit they'd never read Nock. The world needs people who are more curious and less meddlesome!
V., I'm sorry you misread. It would have been a nice trick to quote his work directly without reading it.
Wow, to think that I've regarded the Republicans as robots, parroting the same thoughts, acting out the same attitudes, and voicing the same hate against our President. Thanks for the eye-opening Nock article. Indeed, I can now talk about the republicans as the Nock-programed robots. Hey, doesn't Nock's hating mentality remind you of Glenn Beck's?