Thursday, February 07, 2013

Putting the small "r" back in republican

For those of you who have loyally or critically followed the ups and downs of "Alexander Marriott's Wit and Wisdom" for any of the past ten years, first let me extend my sincerest and most heartfelt thanks. I am glad that you found some value, however irregularly, in my occasional musings and, I like to think, occasional insights. Second, I will keep all of the old posts up in the archives of this new blog so that anything of the previous writings that were of use or interest can continue to be of use and interest to you and any new readers who stumble along and get bored with the issues of the day.

For everyone, this blog has been reconceived and reborn under a new name and a new mission. Whereas before I blogged mostly to vent or for my own studied amusement, now I am transitioning into something mostly, if not completely, different. This blog, now called "THE rEPUBLICAN OBSERVER," (more on that in a moment) will feel and sound very similar to the old blog (I have not changed my philosophical, moral, or political outlook in any major respect), it will take on a more regular, professional, and high-toned voice. Why? Well, the previous blog was a child of an undergraduate imbroglio and remained afloat as an avenue to occasionally pursue ideas or thoughts in the manner common on many blogs--occasionally well thought out and composed, but just as often poorly executed and managed.

The new mission is to apply my expertise as a scholar, researcher, and thinker to various problems of the day--focusing particular attention on issues that involve the cross-section of history and ideas. These are more numerous than you might, at first, think and many of my most recent posts in the old blog give an indication of the sort of work you should expect in the new blog. Why the small "r" in "rEPUBLICAN"? Simply, first and foremost, so that this blog is neither confused with, nor assumed to be sympathetic to, the modern Republican Party. There was no easy way to invoke this meaning (without using a different, less precise, word) than to simply capitalize every letter except the "r." Republicanism was, and is, a set of radical ideas and ways of thinking that predominated briefly in 17th century England, before refinement in the American colonies during the 18th century Enlightenment, famously eventuating in the American Revolution and the American Constitution. That is, of course, the severely truncated and simple version of the story, but it will suffice here.

Those who know me, and the old blog, know that my politics would not be called conservative by Rick Santorum, the late Robert Bork, or Sean Hannity; they would also not be called liberal by Al Gore, Harry Reid, or Chuck Schumer. No libertarian in a movement largely dominated by the acolytes of Ron Paul would be interested in my affiliation either (and the feeling is very mutual). The best way to describe the political philosophy that will come through in this blog is to reference at least two traditions--one very old and largely dead, the other relatively new, alive, and very controversial. The first is what is now called "classical liberalism" (it was once, simply, "liberalism") and was the social, economic, and political thought of men like William Graham Sumner, David Ricardo, William Gladstone, etc. Liberals were once the dominant force in the Western world--the heyday of the 19th century. At their best, they pushed for freedom of trade, freedom of the seas, peace, commerce, and enlightenment--also the fair and free government of men and the honest and equal application of law. Civil society reached its apex under their tutelage. Sadly, today, it is largely saddled with the prejudices of an era that it had no more to do with than you or I and that, more than any other single force, it was concerned with destroying. Liberalism did not invent racial prejudice and imperialism (those existed in the 16th and 17th centuries, if not earlier) but because some putative liberals were racists and/or imperialists, latter-day Marxists of all stripes have never stopped castigating the movement as moribund and fundamentally unjust.

The second tradition relates to the philosophical elucidation and correction of classical liberalism's real and myriad deficiencies and errors (what is the moral case for self-interest and capitalism, for example? John Stuart Mill spent a life trying to make "utility" the answer to that question and died a defeated fatalist muttering the bromides of socialism). This was achieved by the twentieth century's most unique, provocative, and ingenious philosopher, Ayn Rand. More critical for this blog than the moral case for capitalism and free government, however, are the epistemological insights to be gained from a study and understanding of Objectivism. Reality exists whether we gouge out our eyes to avoid seeing it or not--and we can, with our senses and our reason, evaluate it, categorize it, know it, and understand it. This is a truism of the modern world as regards things like medical science--a fact so implicitly acknowledged that every post-modernist in the country is clamoring to make the certainty of life-saving great technology their own undeniable "right" by the fiat of the state. But it is no less true in the world of the human sciences--the humanities. As much as we hear--and if you listen, the chorus is deafening--that certainty is impossible, that everything is a social construction, that opinions are all there is, this is not the case. Ideas and institutions either comport with evidence and the one and only reality from which all evidence derives or they do not. A is A. If Rand did nothing else for humanity, saving reality and reason from an epistemological dungeon would be enough to enshrine her in the pantheon of great thinkers.

Now that you have some, albeit rather vague, idea of where this blogger comes from and what he is doing, the stage is set for commencement. At least once a week, a new essay will appear here, exploring and documenting some major issue of note and concern. Any and all comments are welcome and appreciated. Please feel free to recommend the blog to any and all comers. If anyone would like to discuss running any of these writings elsewhere, please feel free to contact me at Also, if an issue arises or you think there is a story I would like to write about, feel free to contact me for those as well.

One final thing. As an homage to the men whose pictures border the words of this blog, the revolution they began and won, the republic they founded and protected, I will sign all of my own writings as, "A republican." To adopt a pseudonym familiar to the readers of 18th and early 19th century letters--Cato, Junius, Publius, etc.--would be off putting and forced. To modernize the names from their classical source material, instead opting for Gibbon or Darwin or Edison or Galt, would similarly ring hollow in the modern ear and offend the modern eye. Rather, in keeping with the simplicity of life, form, and the political ideal of the early days of the American experiment--as well as the common bedrock of a people's limited consent that was (and is) the foundation of all legitimate government--"A republican" hits all the correct and proper notes. My identity is well enough known for anyone to suspect me of trying to stay mysterious or affecting a disguise. Owning and running this blog, and being responsible for producing everything on it will, I hope, allow a minor indulgence from my readers for one inoffensive and minor conceit.

To another ten years, at least!

-- A republican

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