BEN WEINGARTEN

Reader. Writer. Thinker. Commentator. Truth Seeker.

Month: November 2013

Stoll on JFK Part III: Gold, Goldwater, libertarianism and more on anti-Communism

In a wide-ranging interview with Blaze Books in connection with his newest title, JFK, Conservative, Ira Stoll provided his insights on JFK’s political ideology, religiosity, foreign policy views and a whole host of other topics. Below is the final part of our interview, conducted via email. You can find Part I here and Part II here. The interview has been slightly edited for clarity.

In your book you indicate that JFK took a number of public stances that were fiscally and monetarily conservative. Who were some of the thinkers that influenced his economic philosophy?

Stoll: His father was a successful businessman who was quite concerned about the flow of gold. His Treasury Secretary, Douglas Dillon, was a Wall Street Republican who wanted tax cuts. Kennedy’s friend Phil Graham, the owner and publisher of the Washington Post, was also pushing Kennedy for tax cuts to spur economic growth. I also detect in Kennedy’s speeches the influence of a libertarian writer named Albert Jay Nock, author of a book called Our Enemy, the State and of an introduction to Herbert Spencer’s The Man Versus the State, both of which were on Kennedy’s bookshelf.

How do we reconcile the more leftist items on Kennedy’s agenda such as increased social spending with his ideological principles?

Stoll: Increased social spending wasn’t an item on Kennedy’s agenda, at least not in any significant way that he fought for or achieved while in office. He gave a speech or two in favor of Medicare and for increased aid to education, but liberals within the administration were disappointed that instead of pushing for those things he focused on free trade and the tax cuts. Anyway, one can be for a modest government safety net for the elderly, disabled, and mentally ill, and for efforts to expand opportunity to the young through education, as Kennedy was and as many conservatives are even today, while still being skeptical of or resistant to the excesses of the ever-expanding federal welfare state.

Read more at TheBlaze…

An interview with British Member of European Parliament Daniel Hannan: Bullish on the Anglosphere despite impending defaults and revolt-worthy tax levels

In a wide-ranging interview with Blaze Books in connection with his newest title, Inventing Freedom: How the English-Speaking Peoples Made the Modern World, outspoken British MEP Daniel Hannan provided his insights on American exceptionalism, Western governmental defaults, why he is bullish on the West in spite of such defaults, and a whole host of other topics. Below is our interview, conducted via email. The interview has been slightly edited for clarity.

What would you say to critics who argue that there are strong bedrock principles that have come from cultures outside the Anglosphere (or to paraphrase the President, that he believes “in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism”)?

Hannan: The President was right about one thing. Most Brits do indeed believe in British exceptionalism. But here’s the thing: we define it in almost exactly the same way that Americans do theirs. We believe it resides in certain values and institutions, such as the rule of law, free contract, secure property, jury trials, personal liberty, regular elections, habeas corpus, and uncensored newspapers. In Greece, as in pretty much the rest of the world, people expect – indeed demand – far more intervention from the state. That’s why they’re in the mess they’re in. Come to think of it, maybe it wasn’t a coincidence that the President, back in 2009, cited Greece in that answer: with a $17 trillion national debt, he seems pretty keen on taking America in that direction.

It seems as if Anglosphere principles are being implemented to some degree more faithfully by folks in the East than the West. Do you see this trend occurring? What are the implications?

Hannan: Anglosphere principles are transportable. They are passed on through intellectual exchange, not gene flow. They are why Bermuda isn’t Haiti, why Hong Kong isn’t China, why Singapore isn’t Indonesia. But it’s striking that, in the league table of economic freedom, the top four territories are all common law and Anglophone: Australia, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Singapore.

One topic that you do not mention in Inventing Freedom is the effect of the Israelites, Greeks/Romans and others on our political system. Do you see Anglosphere roots in these peoples, or otherwise care to comment?

Hannan: I don’t claim that we invented the idea of law. When Moses came down from Sinai, the fathers of the English were still grubbing about with their pigs in the cold soil of northern Germany. What we invented, rather, was the extraordinary idea that the law is the property of the people. Think of that commonplace, yet peculiarly English, phrase ‘the law of the land’. Not the king’s law, nor God’s law, but the law of the land – the patrimony of every citizen. Even now, people raised in the European Roman-law tradition are astonished by our beautiful, anomalous common-law system. They can’t get their heads around the idea that, instead of writing down a law and then applying it to particular cases, the law grows up, like a coral, judgment by judgment. It’s the property of the people as a whole, not of the state: an ally of freedom, not an instrument of government control.

Nor do I claim we invented democracy: the rooting about with the pigs thing was still going on when Cleon and Demosthenes were making their speeches. But we invented the idea of personal freedom within a democratic system – a very different tradition to the Continental one, inspired by Herder and Rousseau, which elevated the will of the majority over the rights of the individual and which, in the end, whelped the two misshapen pups of fascism and communism.

Our system worked. Anglosphere countries never fell to revolution or dictatorship. Our countries never elected a single fascist legislator, and no more than half a dozen revolutionary socialists. We made the defense of freedom everyone’s business, and people responded.

Read more at TheBlaze…

Ira Stoll on JFK Part II: Catholicism, social programs, Joseph, Robert and Teddy Kennedy

In a wide-ranging interview with Blaze Books in connection with his newest title, JFK, Conservative, Ira Stoll provided his insights on JFK’s political ideology, religiosity, foreign policy views and a whole host of other topics. Below is Part II of our interview, conducted via email. You can find Part I here. The interview has been slightly edited for clarity.

One of the big focuses of your book is on JFK’s religiosity: How do we reconcile his devout Catholicism with his personal failings? How did JFK’s religiosity influence his politics?

Stoll: One possibility is that Kennedy was so diligent about Mass and confession and daily prayers and meatless Fridays because he knew he was sinning and felt a need to compensate for it or confess. I do argue in the book that Kennedy saw the Cold War as, as he put it in a speech in the 1960 campaign, “a struggle for supremacy between two conflicting ideologies; freedom under God versus ruthless, Godless tyranny.” In a 1955 speech, he spoke of the Cold War as “the battle for the preservation of Christian civilization.” There’s a lot of evidence given in the book that this was really what Kennedy thought — it wasn’t just rhetoric.

Speak a bit to JFK’s relationship with Senator Joseph McCarthy.

Stoll: In 1953 Kennedy voted with McCarthy and Barry Goldwater to cut U.S. aid to countries that traded with Communist China. Liberals like Albert Gore Sr. and Hubert Humphrey opposed the measure. Kennedy attended McCarthy’s wedding, and Kennedy was absent when the Senate voted to condemn McCarthy. Robert Kennedy had worked on McCarthy’s Senate staff.

Read more at TheBlaze…

Ira Stoll on JFK Part I: Tax cuts, tough on military, tough on communists, attacked by left-wingers

In a wide-ranging interview with Blaze Books in connection with his newest title, JFK, Conservative, Ira Stoll provided his insights on JFK’s political ideology, religiosity, foreign policy views and a whole host of other topics. Below is Part I of our interview, conducted via email. The interview has been slightly edited for clarity.

What inspired you to write this book?

Stoll: I grew up in Massachusetts and went to Harvard, and so it was hard to avoid the Kennedys. When the JFK Presidential Library opened in Boston, I went with my parents, with my high school, with my Boy Scout troop. As I got older, I heard my conservative friends dismissing all Kennedys as a bunch of drinkers and philanderers, and I heard my liberal friends admiring JFK for what I thought were the wrong reasons. So I wrote this book to set both the conservatives and the liberals straight and to restore an accurate picture of Kennedy.

Why should skeptical conservatives read this book?

Stoll: This book is the antidote to the false story put out by liberal Kennedy historians and journalists after the president’s death that Kennedy was a liberal. If you want to understand tax cuts and economic growth and peace through strength, you’ve got to understand Kennedy. Even if you think you don’t like JFK, you should buy and read this book — it may well change your mind. It explains why President Ronald Reagan talked about Kennedy as his inspiration for his tax cuts and military buildup. The only way to correct the distortions put out by the liberal historians in their bestselling JFK books — distortions I point out in my book — is to make this book a bestseller.

Read more at TheBlaze…

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