Saturday, October 26, 2013
A Patriot’s History of the Modern World by Larry Schweikart
I read A Patriot’s History of the Modern World by Larry Schweikart because I love history and I love to hear it told from the perspective of someone who loves America and is not trying to tear it down. It is wonderfully clarifying and honest to look at history through a patriot’s lens.
He begins by acknowledging that America is exceptional. By this he does not mean, as the phrase is often assumed to mean, that America is simply better than all others. He means we are an exception, an exception to the way nations have traditionally been run. He lists the four factors that make us the exception: 1. a heritage of common law; 2. a Christian and predominantly Protestant religious tradition; 3. a free-market economy; 4. property rights. Many nations possess some, some nations possess most of these, but only the exceptions possess all four. America is one of those exceptions. That is what makes us exceptional.
Schweikart believes it is these exceptional qualities that allowed America to catapult to the forefront of the list of successful nations. These four principles allowed us to make mistakes and recover quickly. We loosed the innovative initiative of our population and created a very resilient society. “The American abhorrence of titles and nobility, the widespread availability of property to all who had even the smallest savings, and social strata that permitted easy ascension provided the United States with moorings that European nations not only lacked, but which, by their absence, created tensions that could not be mitigated except by violence on a massive scale.” Europe got WWI and WWII precisely because they were not composed of the exceptional qualities that defined America.
The resulting carnage that sucked America in, led to an optimism that the Progressives used for their own agenda. Progressivism rejected these fundamentals building blocks and has been debilitating to American progress (ironically). “Infused with a liberal interpretation of Christianity, that redirected the individual toward helping his fellow man with materiel blessings, rather than pointing him toward the salvation of Christ, the Progressives became far more dangerous to American liberty than any previous movement.” We can see how this is such a spiritual battle. The enemy would like to replace trust in Christ with trust in government, all in the name of progress. He would replace liberty with slavery to the state and call it helping his fellow man. Progressivism has so blinded so many people with the siren call of feeling like a good person.
The proposed League of Nations was the epitome of Progressive hopes and led to the destruction of the four pillars. “Wilson and other Progressives thought they could eliminate one of the major causes of war; patriotism and nationalism... [they] believed all problems could be solved through better communication.” They saw an exceptional America as problem rather than a role model. Sounds like our current administration.
Of the post WWI Europe, Schweikart states, “...many of the newly formed states, including the German Weimar Republic, created in the mold of European programs, were unraveling. At Versailles, Wilson and others had failed to appreciate the profound nature of the missing elements in the new nations -- namely common law, free-market capitalism, and an American understanding of property rights in a Europe steeped in radical socialism and unionism.” The subsequent failure of this leftist vision led to the rise of fascism in Europe and ultimately Hitler.
Post- WWII, the world changed radically and became substantially less free. Only the US and the USSR remained as the world’s superpowers. The US had been able to harness the power of the free market, once Roosevelt dropped his anti-business crusade, and go on to win the war. Even so, as in WWI, the wrong lessons were learned in Europe.
“Whereas the First World War was popularly seen in Europe as the end of monarchies and unfettered capitalism, its replacement by social democracy had spawned communism and fascism, or socialism controlled by nationalists. Deep in World War II, this view even affected leftist academics in the United States who turned further left, following the European elites by blaming the war on capitalism, seeing Nazism as National-Capitalist, not National-Socialist. Ford, General Motors, ESSO (Exxon), and IBM were castigated for enabling Hitler’s ascent to power, whereas delusional socialism, unable to satisfy the needs of people through state planning was overlooked.” Europe abandoned the four pillars of exceptionalism and America took that opportunity to return to them.
However, the subsequent upheavals in US over civil rights and other domestic demands and theories undermined the four pillars that had made the nation great. He ends the book thus, “Behind these demands and the theories under which the United States attempted to meet them was the astounding ignorance throughout the world and even among America’s elites of what had made America great and why and how it had achieved the dominant place it occupied.”
We are at a point where we forget what makes us exceptional to our own peril. That’s the reason Schweikart wrote this book.