Friday, June 26, 2015

How Government Created the Gay Marriage Controversy

There are many unrecognized implications of the June 2015 U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing marriages between (among?) gay and lesbian (couples? groups?). I frame the ruling in those terms not to disparage loving relationships of any kind, but to raise a point lost in this ruling: essentially, the unintentional obliteration of "marriage" as a legal concept. Which is to me a good thing.

Like so many issues in which government (i.e., politics) is improperly involved -- education, agriculture, energy, housing, charity, etc., etc. -- the bitter, divisive social conflicts over "gay marriage" arise precisely from the very fact of government involvement in defining "marriage" in the first place. Why?

Because government -- that is, law -- is force and coercion. Government "solutions" to problems are inherently coercive impositions by some people (the politically dominant) on others (the politically subordinate). Such solutions never result in social harmony, peace, love, etc.; they only exacerbate social hostility, conflict, and division. They allow some people to "win," but only because they force others to "lose."

Force children to go to "public" (i.e., politically run) schools, and force taxpayers to pay for it? You will then pit taxpayers against each other over the content of that "education" (indoctrination), over schedules and hours, over homework, over grading systems, over teacher qualifications, over social engineering schemes (busing students all over the place to achieve racially integrated schools, etc.). over options for dissenters (home schooling, tax credits, vouchers, "magnet" schools, "charter" schools), over "reforms" (Common Core), over testing, etc. Everything concerning education becomes a political battleground...because of the conscription of children into politicized education, and the conscription of taxpayers to pick up the tab.

Put government into the agriculture business, or energy business, or auto business, or banking business, or ANY business, and what happens? You use force (the IRS extracting money from all taxpayers) to support crony businesses (e.g., politically connected ethanol agribusinesses, "green" windmill and solar panel manufacturers, GM and Chrysler, the big New York-based banks) over all their politiically unfavored competitors, who must fund, through taxes, their politically favored rivals.

Put government into the charity business -- all the programs of the welfare state -- and you undercut voluntary, private charity alternatives by sapping them of trillions of dollars of potential funds, which are taxed away from potential contributors. Simultaneously, you create what are called "moral hazards" by providing incentives for millions of people not to work or to solve their own problems, but instead to dump their endless claims of ailments, needs, wants, desires, whims ("Obamaphones"? Really?) onto their hard-working, taxpaying neighbors. Everyone resents this "spread the wealth around" process: those forced to foot the boundless bills, and those issuing endless demands of their "rights" -- i.e., their phony claims of "entitlements" against "society" (which means: their neighbors). In the redistributionist era -- as 19th century economist Frederic Bastiat famously put it -- "The state is that great fiction by which everyone tries to live at the expense of everyone else."

All of this stems from trying to use government -- law, politics, force -- to solve essentially personal or social problems. Politics invariably creates "win-lose" relationships, in which some people benefit but only at the expense of others. For every political beneficiary, there are victims. For every political winner, there are losers.

Now, let's contrast this world of politics and the "public sector" with the world of economics and the "private sector."

Imagine a world in which education were entirely privatized -- in which schools were like grocery stores, auto dealerships, bookstores, or any other private companies. No parents would be forced to put their kids into a school system they didn't like, with teachers they didn't trust, with curricula they loathed -- or to pay taxes to support such private companies. Just as you don't have to subsidize your local bookstore, grocery, or Ford dealer, you wouldn't have to pay for somebody else's school. With all the money you saved in school taxes, you could afford to send your kids instead to one of many competing private schools, with teachers you preferred, teaching courses you decided were most beneficial to your kids' futures. Or, you could homeschool them, utilizing course material from a host of competing sources, including online offerings. You would have no reason or motive to fight with politicized school boards and teachers unions over content, schedules, social-engineering fads, or anything else -- because you wouldn't be forced to be involved with any educational company except the one you freely chose. Imagine: No more wars with your neighbors and fellow taxpayers over textbooks, the teaching of Common Core or evolution or liberal propaganda or conservative propaganda, over teacher salaries and hours, over school taxes, over whether the building ought to have a new gym. You get to pick an educational company for your kids from a host of competitors, just as you pick your own car, your own grocery store, or your own TV provider. Ultimately, just as with those other companies, marketplace competition would determine which educational companies and options succeed. And unlike today's subsidized, bloated public-school monstrosities, those that succeeded would be those that offered the best educational value.

Imagine a world in which government were banned from any involvement with business -- a separation of Economics and State, for the same reasons that we have a separation of Church and State. Imagine businesses having to survive on their own, demonstrating their value to willing, paying customers in a competitive marketplace -- and not by forcibly extracting subsidies from taxpayers, via their crony relationships with politicians and bureaucrats. Imagine how much money would remain in your pocket if we shut down the Departments of Agriculture, Energy, and Housing & Urban Development (just for starters), gave pink slips to their thousands of meddling bureaucrats, and sent them off to seek productive jobs in the private sector. Would you care if somebody started a windmill firm or a bank or an auto company...if you weren't forced to subsidize or patronize it? Would you feel hostility and hatred and anger if your associations with them were not compulsory?

Imagine a world in which you got to keep vastly more of your own money -- and thus have the means and choice to fund your own preferred charities and social causes -- rather than being forced, by law, to subsidize (say) Planned Parenthood abortions, AIDS research rather than (say) cancer or Alzheimer's research, political agitation by ACORN, the politicking of environmental activist groups, the healthcare of illegal aliens streaming across unguarded borders, "voter enrollment" of those same illegals, mosquito control in Africa, typhoon relief in Bangladesh, "public broadcasting" and opera houses for upper-middle-class patrons who could easily afford to pay for their own entertainment, and on and on and on, endlessly. Americans are the most generous people in the world. But they are tired of being played for suckers, forced to fund the politically connected champions of "good causes" who get favored treatment by their friends in court. Does that mutual fleecing further social harmony, peace, love, and mutual respect?

The governmental (political) realm, run by force and coercion and taking, necessarily creates "win-lose" relationships. The economic (private) realm, run by free choice and voluntary association and trade, necessarily creates "win-win" relationships. Yet for many generations, people have been conditioned to seek coercive, political "solutions" to every social problem or personal need -- coercive, political "solutions" that only breed mutual hostility, disharmony, and hatred.

The "gay marriage" controversy is but the latest example of how social disruption has been manufactured -- not solved -- by governmental (political) involvement. The entire controversy stems from the fact that government has been involved in defining what a "marriage" is. 

But why? Why is that necessary? And what have been the consequences?

Government, as our Founders proclaimed in the Declaration of Independence, exists to "secure these rights" to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Period. Not to solve personal problems or social ills, but to protect individual rights. Not to take sides in disputes, but to be an impartial umpire.

Thus, there is a proper role for government (law) in recognizing and enforcing private contracts, and also in protecting individuals in relationships (spouses, children) from violations of their rights by other parties. But recognition and enforcement of private contracts, property arrangements, and the rights of spouses and children, do not require government (i.e., politicians and the force of law) to confer some kind of "legitimacy" on the ceremonial and symbolic aspects of a "marriage."

For all the reasons stated above, marriage should be privatized. A "marriage" should be defined and celebrated by the participants, according to whatever religious or philosophical values they ascribe to that state of long-term commitment. Politics should play no role in that determination whatsoever.

But ironically, the Supreme Court's ruling has -- unintentionally -- pointed us in that direction. Why?

Because (to paraphrase the classic line from the film "The Incredibles") if everything is a "marriage" under the law, then nothing is. The Court ruling and reasoning today opens the door not just to same-sex "marriages," but to polygamy, group marriages, and pretty much anything else. Who can now say that such arrangements are not "marriages," and on what grounds?

Liberals, wedded to governmental (read: coercive) "solutions" to all social problems, won't grasp any of this, sadly. They refuse to realize that their "solutions," rooted in seizing and wielding political power by themselves over others, cannot ever result in that woozy, utopian, John Lennon "Imagine" world of peace-and-love.

Liberals, above all, are complete captives to the zero-sum, class-and-racial warfare, tribal worldview: a social worldview of winners vs. losers, of powerful vs. powerless, of perpetual gang warfare in which each gang seeks power and advantage over its rivals. Economic ignoramuses -- who think every economic relationship is about some people taking from others -- liberals can't even conceive of peaceful, voluntary, trading relationships. They thus can only interpret free market capitalism through the distorting lens of "taking," of "exploitation."

Now, with this new Court decision, they will predictably try to use their new "marital rights" as a bludgeon against private individuals, businesses, and religious organizations that do not share their own elastic definition of "marriage." Rather than take this as an opportunity to celebrate live-and-let-live social arrangements, in which everyone can associate voluntarily as they choose, they will instead eagerly try to use the power of law to force and coerce any private, peaceful individuals who disagree with them to associate and deal with them -- to bake their wedding cakes, cater their weddings, provide venues for their ceremonies, even perform their ceremonies. Why? 

Because the main thing that "liberals" are "wedded" to is not some definition of marriage, but to their zero-sum, tribalist, coercive, us-vs.-them worldview. No, they don't really want peace and love and harmony: That's just their cover story.

They want power and control over others.

In short: Liberalism is sociopathy, masquerading as a political doctrine.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Yes, You Have a Right to Be a Bigot

In March 2015, a controversy roiled in Indiana over passage of the state's Religious Freedom Restoration Act. That divisive controversy is the latest fruit of a terrible legal precedent established during the Civil Rights era -- which was in turn based on terrible confusion and misunderstanding of the nature of "rights."

Protestors of the Indiana law (which in fact mirrors the federal RFRA law and similar laws in 30 states) claim that, by protecting the rights of (say) Christian business owners not to serve or deal with (say) gays, the RFRA violates the "right" of the latter to be served by these private businesses, without discrimination.

But does any such "right" exist? Let me attempt to untangle this mess.

Our individual rights have a moral basis: They are based on the moral premise that every individual is an end in himself -- not a means to the ends of others. Rights are moral principles established to institutionalize that premise as the basis for peaceful social relationships. Individual rights prohibit one person from living at the expense of someone else by means of force, fraud, or coercion.

Which brings us to the role of government. The Declaration of Independence states that the purpose of government is "to secure these rights" to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Government is established to protect these rights of individuals from acts of force, fraud, and coercion by others. And to enforce those protections of rights, government may use force and coercion only in retaliation against those who violate the rights of others.

In other words: Since government is an agency meant to protect the rights of all, and because it is funded by all, it therefore must afford equal legal protection to all. As an impartial umpire and protector, it cannot "play favorites" in its actions without operating unjustly.

To this end, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 did some very good things. In the Act, the Titles (or sections) numbered I, III-VI, VIII, and IX were aimed at ending discrimination on the basis of race, sex, and similar traits by government bodies, officials, and laws. For many decades before passage of the Act, various government bodies did operate unfairly and prejudicially, especially against blacks. Such officially sanctioned bigotry and bias was a moral and legal outrage, and it needed to be put to an end. So, these particular sections of the Civil Rights Act are rightly celebrated as a boon for the cause of individual rights.

However, Titles II and VII of the Civil Rights Act took matters a step too far. They banned owners of private property from exercising their own individual rights of freedom of association on and with that property. In other words, those sections violated an individual's right to choose his own associations, and on his own property, for whatever reasons (rational or irrational). 

To repeat: The basic premise underlying and justifying government and law is that each individual is an end in himself, not a means to the ends of others. But that very premise -- which demands that government act neutrally and impartially toward all -- also protects the right of individuals in the private sector to associate freely with whomever they wish, for whatever reason they wish. Those reasons don't have to be admirable. Let me be clear: I think that discrimination based solely on race or sexual orientation is disgraceful and stupid. However, it is an individual right to be a fool and a bigot.

To compel, by law, some legally specified people to associate with other legally specified people means that...

(1) the first group are not being treated as ends in themselves, but are being forced into the role of being the servants of others;

(2) the government -- which is supposed to be impartial -- is favoring the second designated group at the expense of the first; and

(3) the rights of individuals to peacefully use their private property as they see fit are to be subordinated to collective social purposes.

Ironically, (1) imposes "involuntary servitude" -- exactly what the 13h Amendment made illegal. From Wikipedia: "Involuntary servitude is a United States legal and constitutional term for a person laboring against that person's will to benefit another, under some form of coercion other than the worker's financial needs." To compel a business owner to serve someone not of his free choosing meets the very definition of "involuntary servitude." That may include compelling (say) a Christian baker, who does not believe in "gay marriage," to provide pastries at a gay wedding reception. If you think that is okay, then what would you say if a white racist or -- even worse!!! -- a RICH CONSERVATIVE CHRISTIAN REPUBLICAN (say, Rick Santorum or Sarah Palin) demanded, under the same "non-discrimination" laws, that a liberal, Democratic, gay, female, African-American baker provide pastries for his or her daughter's wedding?

Ironically too, in the name of "non-discrimination," (2) lets the government coercively discriminate on behalf of some people over others in what otherwise would be private, voluntary relationships.

And (3) represents a de facto nationalization of private businesses. Ownership, by definition, means the right to freely and peacefully use and dispose of property as the property holder sees fit. But under those two titles of the Civil Rights Act, property is no longer to serve the individual ends determined by its owner; instead, it is now to serve the collective ends of his customers, by governmental decree. The businessperson's private property rights are thus subordinated to collective ends, just as the businessperson himself or herself is subjected to involuntary servitude on behalf of customers.

I said above that "individual rights prohibit one person from living at the expense of someone else by means of force, fraud, or coercion." To use force and coercion in order to compel the owners of private property to deal with or serve you, is a direct violation of the owner's individual rights.

The fact that these violations of rights are rationalized because they are "for a good cause" is irrelevant. Just as the First Amendment protects the free speech of individuals, even if we despise  what they say, so too does the rest of the Bill of Rights protect the freedom of business owners to hire or serve whomever they wish, even if we despise their specific hiring choices or service policies. The way to deal with bigots, in either case, is through boycott and ridicule -- which is perfectly within the rights of any protester.

But now, the law has been stood on its head: It has become a tool to discriminate against and violate the individual rights of people whom we don't like . . . perversely, in the name of "protecting rights" and "non-discrimination."

As I write, Republicans such Governor Mike Pence of Indiana are back-pedaling frantically, trying to rewrite Religious Freedom Restoration Acts so as to prohibit private acts of "discrimination." But in doing so, they are caving in to those who are using such demands to destroy what little is left of individual and property rights. And they are thus joining the mobs that treat individuals as nationalized means to social ends, and no longer as moral ends in themselves.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

BAD DEEDS Wins CLFA Book of the Year 2014

I am delighted to announce that my second Dylan Hunter thriller, BAD DEEDS, just won the Conservative-Libertarian Fiction Alliance “Book of the Year 2014 Award.”

Given the quality of the finalists — books by prominent, bestselling authors Larry Correia, Sarah A. Hoyt, and Mackey Chandler — I sincerely didn’t think my thriller stood a chance of winning. But thanks to Dylan’s devoted fans, the book won the final vote.

I want to express my deepest appreciation and thanks to all of you who have made my stories and characters a part of your lives. I am touched and grateful to you for your loyal support, and my special appreciation goes to those of you who voted for BAD DEEDS. Thanks to you, this award will bring the book and its unique vigilante hero a lot more attention — and that is why I entered it in the competition in the first place.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Narcissist and The Narrative

He is, above all, the consummate narcissist. 

Consider: By his own admission, he spent most of his youth chasing girls, in a self-indulgent marijuana haze. In school, he used his long-honed tactics of glib, manipulative, arrogant "charm" to coast through, getting grades that, to this day, he has refused to release to the public. He learned to sweet-talk his way through life, also learning early on that white liberals were only too eager to serve as slavish Enablers for a bright, handsome black kid who made them feel noble about themselves.

Along the way, he learned how to con people with narratives, with stories that embodied the liberals' own fantasies and self-flattering aspirations. His biggest narrative con was about himself: He concocted a black kid's Cinderella story. Liberals just ate that up. With precious little effort on his own part, they lined up to elevate him up each political rung of his career ladder, pushing him toward the Narcissist's ultimate objective. He helped mainly by seeking out positions that kept him in the public eye, in front of cheering crowds. He became very, very adept in front of crowds, practicing and refining his narratives till they were polished. Though he could be a slick orator, he added a bit of informal, boyish, countrified charm, strategically dropping "g's" at the ends of words -- you know, so that he'd be "talkin' about changin' the country." He did that only occasionally: Like most of his studied tactics, he could turn these on and off like a faucet, as needed.

In each political position he held along the way, he never actually bothered to do the job. He never left behind any legislative footprints, any actual accomplishment. To him, winning the political position was the accomplishment: It was an end in itself -- an affirmation in his mind that he was loved, noticed, and approved of by thousands. But it was never enough: He wanted that universal affirmation from millions. So, he never stayed more than a few years in any political job. They were only stepping stones to his ultimate objective.

His big break was when throngs of white liberals put the skinny kid from Chicago on stage at the Democratic convention in 2004. He had just won his Senate race, and was now the new black poster boy for white liberals. I saw that speech on TV. I saw how the white liberal crowd responded and ate it up. Do you know something? At that instant, I knew. And I began to work a Barack Obama character into the storyline of the original Dylan Hunter novel that I was then planning, as the first black man to run for the White House. Yes, I knew even then that that was exactly what he was after, and where this adoring crowd of liberals was propelling him.

At that time, his only qualifications for the White House were a couple of faux "memoirs" that advanced his phony, self-inflated biographical Narrative. That. Was. IT. The rest of his resume? A Harvard law student whose grades nobody ever talked about. A figurehead occupant of the position of "Editor" of the "Harvard Law Review," where he never wrote and contributed a single article himself. A Chicago community agitator. A part-time, adjunct college instructor. An ambitious schmoozer and schemer who ingratiated himself into the Chicago political machine. A state representative who, backed by the Machine, used hardball tactics to get elected -- then never did a damned thing in office except run for his next position. Ditto as a one-term occupant of the U.S. Senate while he immediately began running for the White House.

Then, as a candidate whose vacuous political speeches matched his resume: empty odes to "hope" and "change," whatever those things were supposed to be. Barack had learned that all you needed were moral-political narratives, built on vague generalizations, and a personal biographical Narrative, built on the univerally appealing Cinderella story. People would want to believe in those stories; so they would grant any candidate embodying their mythology a free pass from close, critical scrutiny. Nobody would bother to notice that he was just an empty suit: They would fill that empty suit themselves, with a Somebody of their own imagination and aspirations -- all to make them feel good about themselves.

And so The Narcissist was elevated to become President -- any narcissist's ultimate symbol of self-congratulation and universal adulation. That was the goal. That was the objective. He had reached it. Not for any specific things he could actually accomplish; oh, sure, he had a leftist wish list of goals, and he surrounded himself with other hard leftists. But the real pleasure was the ability to wander the grand rooms of the White House; to be saluted getting on and off Marine One and Air Force One; to be able to jet anywhere on the taxpayers' tab; to ride around Washington in The Beast, surrounded by a motorcade of Secret Service agents; to put his feet up on the historic desk in the Oval Office (there are photos of him doing this); but mostly to preen in public before nests of cameras and thickets of microphones, soaking in the attention.

The actual work of the job bores him. Actual work always bored him. He chafes at hanging around in the White House. Sure, it's fun to wander into the Situation Room and be surrounded by nervous generals and fawning lackeys, and to be visited by anxious corporate cronies looking to kiss his ring and get favors, and to chum around with all the Hollywood and sports celebs lining up to entertain him in the evening. But the work is BORING. He just can't wait to get out of the place and away from that damned desk. So, at every occasion, he orders his staff to rev up The Beast, Marine One, and then Air Force One, and get him off to some exotic vacation spot, where he can hang out with his buds on some lush green golf course.

The Consummate Narcissist. That's who America elected -- twice. They still don't understand how they could have been fooled so badly. But Barack understands. He's like another handsome black celebrity narcissist of an earlier generation: O.J. Simpson. Everyone loved The Juice, too, for exactly the same reasons. Why, the two narcissists are virtually interchangeable.

In the end, Barack Obama is merely O.J. Simpson, with intellectual pretentions...and without the knife.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

How "The Wizard of Oz" Refutes the Liberal Narrative

I have been pondering for several months how this classic childhood film presents a remarkable metaphor for the failure of the liberal/progressive/statist view of government. Consider the plot:

A group of humble individuals finds their lives disrupted by frightening events beyond their control. Their entire world is literally turned upside-down, and they find themselves in strange, scary new circumstances. Now, they fear they are out of control of their lives, and they are terribly anxious about their future.

One victim of the disaster seeks a return to her normal world. Another believes he hasn't the courage to meet the fearful challenges ahead. A third fears he lacks compassion and dedication. Yet another wonders whether he has the brains to survive on his own.

From a bunch of "little people," they are told about a wondrous far-off city, where a great and powerful wizard will provide them everything they seek and need -- merely by magical decree. Desperate, they embark upon a difficult pilgrimage to that city of power and favors, which is topped by a towering monument. There, acting like craven beggars, they visit and supplicate themselves before the all-powerful wizard, pleading for his aid. And he promises to fulfill their heart's desires.

But there is a catch. The supplicants are told that first they must pay a price for his help: They must agree to go out and do the wizard's bidding, undergoing a host of ordeals on his behalf. The price of his help is servility. Intimidated, they agree to do so. They perform the tasks he has ordered, suffering terribly, but mastering every challenge along the way. 

At last, they return in triumph and insist that the wizard keep his end of the bargain. But he balks and refuses, accusing them of insolence and improper deference to one of his exalted station.

Suddenly, an innocent young pup pulls back the curtain. The Great and Powerful Wizard is revealed to be nothing more than a pathetic old con man: an incompetent fake, who had achieved his power and status over the little people only through his ability to spin glowing Narratives that promised them whatever they wanted . . . and told them whatever they wanted to hear.

In the end, the adventurers come to a shocking realization. Each discovers that, all along, he or she already possessed all the brains, heart, and courage to live happy lives, to produce whatever they needed, and to accomplish great things. They learn that, all along, they could have stood self-reliantly on their own, solving their individual problems creatively and productively, without paying endless tribute to, or accepting endless abuse from, any fraudulent, conniving, self-appointed "wizards" living parasitical lives of luxury in some distant center of power . . . .


All right, folks: Having now revealed "The Wizard of Oz" as a highly subversive Narrative of individualism, one that brilliantly mocks and fatally skewers the "progressive" Narrative, I wonder how long it will be before the Regime tries to ban it?

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Republican Crack-Up -- and the Path Forward

It is all transpiring as I have foreseen.

Not only has the Republican leadership in both houses of Congress completely capitulated to the Democrats, on every point, in crafting the October 2013 "budget agreement" (i.e., signing terms of unilateral Republican surrender); in doing so, the GOP also has signaled that it will not even try to exercise any of its lawful leverage to oppose any Democratic initiative in the future. On any such occasion, both sides now know that the Democrats inevitably will engineer some new "crisis"; that they and their media lapdogs will blame it on the Republicans; and that the Republicans -- terrified about being unpopular -- will cave.

Thus, what I years ago labeled the policy of "anticipatory capitulation" is now rooted in the Republican DNA. Looking down the road, they will notice and anticipate any potential confrontation in which they will be subjected to criticism . . . and terrified over that prospect, they will surrender preemptively. They already are doing this on the immigration issue, for example: working feverishly behind the scenes to engineer legislation that essentially anticipates and preemptively ratifies everything that the Democrats have ever dreamed of enacting (in other words, a new "Dream Act").

Conservative commentators like Rush Limbaugh say they are "mystified" (his word) by how and why the GOP could so completely implode as any kind of alternative (let alone "opposition party") to the Democrats. Readers here know my answer:

He who shapes the Narrative, wins.

The Democrats have a Narrative. It is built on a primitive philosophical view of social relationships: a world of zero-sum tribalism, where all wealth is "social" and fixed in quantity; where it is not the product of individuals ("You didn't build that!"), but of the tribe, and thus tribally owned; where anyone's gain therefore comes only at the expense of someone else's loss; and thus where a benevolent Ruling Class elite must decide "fair" distributions of tribal wealth among all the tribal members. This atavistic worldview goes back to the dark days when people lived in caves; ironically, today it is labeled "progressive."

The Republicans, by contrast, have no Narrative. That's because they long ago abandoned the only plausible philosophical basis for a counter-Narrative to that of the Democrats: a worldview of creative, self-responsible individualism. In that worldview, human productivity means that wealth is not limited or fixed in quantity; it is produced by and therefore the property of individuals, not the tribe; social relationships therefore are not a zero-sum proposition, where some people gain at the expense of others: instead, they are "win-win," because productive people trade rather than take; and finally, no Ruling Class elite is wanted or needed, because it is both parasitical and dictatorial.

This modern, individualist worldview arose from the Enlightenment Era, and it represented a revolutionary advance over primitive tribalism. It is the worldview upon which Republicans could have fashioned a host of coherent, compelling, inspiring narratives. But it is a worldview that the party's liberal RINOs reject on principle, and that its Establishment pragmatists never understood.

The only serious repository for this individualist worldview in contemporary politics lies in one wing of the Republican Party: a loose, informal coalition of those labeled "constitutional conservatives," "libertarian populists," and "Tea Partiers." In the Senate, this wing comprises only a minority of the Republican caucus, which is still dominated by liberal RINOs (think John McCain) and pragmatic Establishment careerists (think Mitch McConnell). In the House, the conservative/libertarian/Tea Party wing actually constitutes a majority of the Republican caucus. However, among all House members, they constitute a numerical minority. That's because there are just enough turncoat RINOs and Establishment types (including Boehner and the leadership) to give Nancy Pelosi and the House Democrats a de facto voting majority on serious issues.

That explains what is happening today (October 16, 2013) in the pivotal congressional budget vote, which ratifies not just everything that the Democrats wanted, but even ObamaCare funding.

First, in the Senate, Mitch McConnell and the Republican leadership "negotiated" terms of total and unconditional surrender to Harry Reid and the Democrats, rolling over the GOP "Tea Party" minority led by Ted Cruz and Mike Lee. Then, in the House, the Republican Establishment leader, John Boehner, agreed to let the Senate bill come to the floor for a straight vote (one he could have blocked procedurally). Even though the majority of House Republicans, who are principled Tea Partiers and constitutional conservatives, remain utterly opposed to this bill and will vote a resounding no, there are just enough RINOs and Establishment "moderates" who will join Pelosi and the Dems to pass the bill there, too.

And so, the Republican leadership in both houses has set in cement the existing membership roles within the Bipartisan Ruling Class: The collectivist Democrats will remain in charge, setting the progressive agenda as the Evil Party, while the careerist Republicans will act reliably as their passive rubber stamp, ratifying the progressive agenda as the Enabler Party.

Where does this leave things?

Right now, there is a concerted bipartisan effort to use Saul Alinsky tactics to destroy what I'll call the "Principled Individualist Wing" of the Republican Party: the constitutional conservatives, libertarian populists, and Tea Partiers. The Democratic left and the GOP's RINO/Establishment types will try to isolate, freeze, personalize, and demonize this Principled Individualist Wing -- starting, of course, with Ted Cruz, the individual they most fear, and therefore must destroy. It's already begun, but watch this effort ramp up in coming months.

My recommendations now?

First, all-out war within the GOP against the RINOs and the Establishment. After all, that war has already been declared against Principled Individualists by the RINOs; so there is no point in pretending that the two factions can ever peacefully co-exist within the same party. They disagree in principle; no compromise of principles is logically possible. One or the other faction must go.

In the House, the Principled Individualist Wing has already achieved a numerical advantage within the GOP caucus. But they have not yet moved to seize the reins of party leadership there. Until they do, they should realize that when push comes to shove, Boehner/Cantor/McCarthy will always cave and sell them out at the last minute, as they did today, by letting the Senate budget bill come to the floor. That was a key decision; Boehner had the power to reject it; but the leadership team caved. In doing so, they proved, once and for all, that they ultimately are craven careerists, not principled leaders; that they are resigned to being de facto enablers of the Democrats; and that they are laughable as articulate advocates of any alternative Narrative.

In the Senate, the Principled Individualist Wing is a smaller but growing minority. Within the past two years they have established a strong beachhead within that body. Their members, though few, are young, superlatively articulate, and utterly intransigent -- in contrast to the old, mealy-mouthed, weak-kneed Establishment dinosaurs, who won't be around much longer. The goal here must be to hasten their departure, to knock off the worst of the Establishment and RINO population and replace them during upcoming primaries so as to achieve Individualist dominance within the Senate GOP caucus.

As that happens, the most important thing that must occur within the Republican Party is that its Principled Individualists learn how to craft NARRATIVES. First, an overarching individualist "meta-Narrative," telling the compelling, inspiring, positive vision of individual productive achievement and personal fulfillment under liberty. Second, drawing upon that meta-Narrative, specific "narratives" for specific issues and circumstances. 

Principled Individualists must stop communicating to the public at large in terms of wonkish abstractions and eye-glazing political-economic jargon. Instead, they must personalize and dramatize the issues, using the stories of real people who are either examples of heroic individualism, or victims of progressive oppression.

At a time when millions and millions of Americans are being individually victimized by leftist policies, who is telling their stories? Where are their champions? Why aren't they brought to appear, one after the other, before the cameras at congressional hearings? Why don't Principled Individualist politicians stand beside them at rallies, create photo-ops with them before local media, tell their stories again and again in their speeches? Where are the victims of ObamaCare, for example? Why do GOP congressmen ever bother to show up at a news conference without a host of them serving as their backdrop -- without telling their stories, or, better yet, letting them tell their own?

For many decades, the Democrats have become masters of the technique of turning victimization into political theater, in order to win public emotional sympathy. They have exploited such emotional sympathy to steamroller over every logical, theoretical, and empirical argument . . . they have none of the latter on their side. By contrast, while having all of those latter things on their side, why don't Principled Individualists use them as the basis for compelling, dramatic, sympathetic narratives? If they did that, then their arguments -- both logical and emotional -- would gain the force of a tidal wave . . . as Ronald Reagan knew and demonstrated.

This, I believe, is the path forward for Principled Individualists, whether within the Republican Party or out here in Flyover Country. 

Regarding the latter: I counsel you not to wait for some Man on a White Horse to ride into Washington as your champion. You have the power and intelligence to tell persuasive personal stories, drawing upon and applying to your own lives, families, friends, and circumstances. You can tell personal stories that embody and romanticize the aspirational elements of the American dream -- and that also dramatize and demonstrate the personal costs, tragedies, and victimizations generated by progressive statism.

If each of us does that, in his or her own life, then sad days like today in Washington will soon become fewer and less dispiriting. And eventually, we will be able to wake up each morning actually looking forward to watching a TV news program.

Take heart. We're only just beginning.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Obama, Holder, and the New McCarthyism

In the wake of George Zimmerman's acquittal of the murder of Trayvon Martin, the Attorney General of the United States, through his underlings at the Department of "Justice," is appealing to the general public to supply the federal government with "tips," i.e., dirt, on a private citizen--and is now enlisting private political gangs to help them in this witch hunt:
Barbara Arnwine, president and executive director the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law – who earlier in the day joined calls for federal civil rights charges against Zimmerman, said that later in the afternoon, she joined a U.S. Department of Justice conference call to discuss the prospects.

“They were calling on us to actively refer anyone who had any information," that might build a case against Zimmerman for either a civil rights violation or a hate crime, Arnwine said. "They said they would very aggressively investigate this case."

Arnwine said the call was convened at about 3:30 p.m. by Tom Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division of the United States Department of Justice, and included representatives from the FBI, and several federal prosecutors, she said. DOJ officials also said they would open a public email address so people could send in tips on the case....[I refuse to publish that email address here.]

In addition to Arnwine’s group, Sherrilyn Ifill, President and Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund; Laura Murphy, Washington Chapter head of the ACLU; and several national, Florida and Sanford-based 'human relations' groups participated, Arnwine said.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is the last straw.

America is a nation where every individual is supposed to be presumed innocent until proven guilty, under the rule of law. For purely political reasons, George Zimmerman was dragged into court on flimsy evidence, but then acquitted by a jury of any crime.

But that is not enough for the gangsters of this regime. They won't let a little thing like the verdict of a jury be the last word.

So the highest law enforcement official of the United States, acting at the behest of his boss in the Oval Office, is now leading a full-blown witch hunt about the private life and views of an individual citizen--and enlisting a gang of private political cronies and allies to assist them, in order to railroad that same individual behind bars for the "crime" of--are you ready?--"hate."

Let's get this straight. Hatred is an attitude...a frame of emotion based on certain ideas. Hate may or may not be justified, depending on the circumstances. A victim of a heinous crime or a despotic regime, for example, may be fully justified for feeling hatred. It would be a just, though certainly not pleasant, emotional response to mistreatment.

But to convict a person of "hate crimes" is a variation of George Orwell's totalitarian concept in 1984 of thought crimes: of punishing an individual, not for criminal actions, but for merely holding ideas and emotions that are offensive to the political regime in power.

In short, the Attorney General and his boss have just declared open war on the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, as well as on the privacy protections afforded by the Fifth Amendment. Moreover, they are encouraging a witch hunt by private citizens against a fellow private citizen: encouraging people to go spying and reporting to the government about a political target.

Before anyone replies that a "hate crime" must also be an actual crime, and that the "hate" is only its motive, let me point out that in Zimmerman's case, he was exonerated of any underlying crime which could be motivated by "hate," or by anything else. Thus, persecuting Zimmerman for an alleged "hate crime," when no crime exists, can only mean that he is being targeted for his presumed motive alone. In other words, for a "Thought Crime," a la Orwell's 1984.

Please forget the name George Zimmerman for a moment, and whatever your opinion of the man may be. Consider only the principles at stake. To do that, put yourself in the shoes of such a targeted individual.

How would you feel if you became the target of the enormously powerful federal government, which insisted on continuing to persecute you for something, anything, such as your thoughts and emotions, even after you were exonerated in a court of law of the alleged crimes?

How would you feel if hundreds of armed apparatchiks from the FBI and other police agencies were dispatched after the trial to continue to hound you, under orders of the chief law officer of the land?

How would you feel if he, acting under orders of his boss in the White House, dispatched investigators around your neighborhood, digging into your past, perhaps looking into your emails and social media (there are precedents), soliciting any idle rumors and unprovable claims about your attitudes, ideas, and temperament from everyone you know now or had ever known; from old lovers or spouses who might bear some grudge against you; from any past employer you ever argued with or who may have fired you; from any casual acquaintance who might want his 15 minutes of celebrity fame on an MSNBC show hosted by the likes of Al Sharpton, or perhaps in exchange for the promise of some government your expense?

My friends, this is goon squad stuff, right out of the playbooks of Nazi Germany, Soviet Russia, Communist China, and North Korea. In a nation supposed to be distinguished from such dictatorships by our Bill of Rights, the contemptible Obama Regime is establishing the horrifying precedent of targeting enemies, then soliciting neighbors to spy and report on them.

And this sickening witch hunt is being led by the same "liberals" who endlessly, self-righteously preach against the dangers of "McCarthyism." Perhaps the most grotesque symbol of hypocrisy is the fact that one of the groups participating in this witch hunt is the Washington chapter of the ACLU--the self-proclaimed "liberal" champion of the Bill of Rights.

I have said that there is no bottom to the depths to which this power-lusting group of sanctimonious gangsters won't sink. Every day they prove me right by descending to yet a lower rung. But this is the lowest yet...and the most dangerous.

The Obama Regime is loaded with nothing but wannabe despots, starting right at the top. We have already seen how far these people are willing to go, with the scandals of the IRS, EPA, SEC, NSA, and many other agencies. They have zero respect for the rule of law and contempt for the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, which they regard rightly as impediments to their quest for boundless, unending power over the rest of us.

If we continue to perpetuate them in office after the next election, we as a nation deserve the complete destruction and chaos toward which we are rapidly sinking.

Meanwhile, though, we need to SPEAK UP against this outrageous new step toward totalitarianism. Please link to this message on your social media, and to the Orlando Sentinel report. This ugly precedent must be stopped dead in its tracks, now...or you and I will not recognize this nation in another year.

Saturday, June 08, 2013

So, You Wanted Your Government to Become Santa Claus?

In view of the shocking, scary revelations about invasions of privacy and abuses of power by the IRS, NSA, FBI, EPA, Department of Justice, and other government agencies: It occurs to me that this is exactly what people get when they want government to become Santa Claus:

"He sees you when you're sleeping. 

"He knows when you're awake. 
"He knows if you've been bad or good, 
"So be good for goodness sake. 
"You better watch out..."


Be careful what you wish for, people.

Thursday, May 09, 2013

Federal Snoopervisers on My Doorstep

The U.S. Census Bureau -- in the person of Virginia, a mild-mannered lady with an official government I.D. hanging around her neck -- showed up on my doorstep yesterday. Lucky me: I have been statistically selected to "participate" in an "interview" known as the American Community Survey.

"There is a great need for information about the types of homes in whic
h people live and the characteristics of these homes," says the postcard that Virginia left with me. The interrogation...oops, "survey"...will eat up about 45 minutes of my ever-diminishing time on this planet, and I will be "asked" all sorts of questions about my house, my sources of income, where I shop, what I know, all the sorts of intrusive details that the Founding Fathers surely intended when, in the Constitution, they provided merely for "an enumeration" of the population every ten years.

"Your community is counting on you!" the postcard blares on its front, stamped in big black letters over a photo of the kind of house that Beaver Cleaver lived in during the 1950s. And just in case I disappoint the expectations of My Community, there's a little detail that the postcard doesn't state: I can be fined $5,000 for refusing to spill my guts to Virginia about all the personal aspects of my life and finances.

So, who wants all this info, and for what?

Well, the federales surely do: It provides statistical ammo for those "progressives" always looking for rationalizations to expand governmental programs and spending that are already wildly out of control. "The government makes investments and allocates tax dollars with guidance from a survey that costs $225 million this year, with the resulting shaping choices and projections made by the Energy Department, the Environmental Protection Agency, and Transportation Department among others," reports The Fiscal Times. That's why (according to a publication called Government Executive) "the liberal-leaning Center for American Progress" and "the Census Project, a coalition of 600 associations, think tanks, academics, local officials and civil rights groups" is fighting congressional efforts to restrict the Census to the "enumeration" intended by the Framers.

Also, private businesses mine the Census for free economic and demographic data that they otherwise might have to pay for by conducting surveys of voluntary  participants. That's why such crony-corporatist outfits as "The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Retail Federation, and the Mortgage Bankers Association have previously lobbied to protect the ACS," according to The Fiscal Times, "saying it’s vital for shaping business investment. As an example, the ACS contains 24 questions about housing. This includes the age of your home, its plumbing, its insurance costs, and the type of heating fuel used. For bankers and economists trying to evaluate the state of the real estate sector after the 2008 bust, it’s essential information."

How nice for them to get all that, by ordering me by law to be interrogated for 45 minutes under the threat of a $5,000 fine -- and, I assume, incarceration should I refuse to pay the fine.

Virginia is supposed to call me at 5:30 pm today. I will tell her, politely, to tell her bosses that Mr. Bidinotto refuses to participate other than affirming the number and identity of the people in his home; and that he looks forward to the opportunity to write high-profile articles about all of this, naming names, should the Census Bureau decide to prosecute him for non-compliance.

Oh, and have a nice day.

Monday, April 08, 2013

Margaret Thatcher, R.I.P.

I've been watching the news coverage about the life and legacy of the late Baroness Margaret Thatcher. And I am struck by how applicable her example is to our own situation here in the United States.

When she launched her political crusade, entrenched all-out socialism permeated and gripped every part of Great Britain's economy and political life. Unapologetic communists ran the trade unions, which held a stranglehold on many industries. The economy languished in deep recession. The public was demoralized, adjusted to the "new normal" of British decline. When she spoke, her message was reviled and ridiculed by all of her nation's "intellectuals," culturati, and media -- a hatred that was echoed here, across the Pond. And her own party was run by people who would make John McCain sound like Ludwig von Mises (look him up). She had no firm allies, no base of support.

But this one woman, the daughter of a grocer, armed with nothing but superb intelligence, a thorough grasp of free-market economics, and an unyielding commitment to moral principle, stood up courageously against them all...and she won. Not only did she eventually beat all of her opponents, including treacherous "allies" in her own party, but she turned around the entire British economy, government, and -- most importantly -- its Narrative about itself and its place in the world.

One woman. The Iron Lady. An instructive example of the power of a principled individual against the mindless mob.

If a single Republican politician grasped the message of her life, I have no doubt that he or she could turn our own nation's wretched course 180 degrees. For here, we have a legacy of individualism unknown to Europe.

Our "progressive" left, of course, wants to convince us that its ascendancy is inevitable. They want to paralyze all opposition, leaving us in despair and defeatism, to pave the way for their complete takeover of our lives. In fact, they believe this fantasy. Committed determinists, Marxists smugly declared that communism was "the wave of the future"...

...until the wave turned, and swept them away. The left would not grasp, still refuse to grasp, that "waves" of history are set in motion by the undeniable force of pivotal individuals unwilling to bend to the tides of stupidity.

Will we find our own Thatcher in coming years? Will a Marco Rubio, or Rand Paul, or some figure yet unknown step up to fill the moral vacuum of our age, and lead a rebirth of liberty?

I do not know. All I do know is that Margaret Thatcher showed how much is possible.

Now, we shall discover whether America still has men who can match this brave, towering woman in intelligence and unbending conviction.

Saturday, March 09, 2013

An "Endangered Species Act" for Ex-Cons?

The federal Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EOEC) has made it a federal crime for an employer to "discriminate" against hiring certain "protected" classes of convicted ex-felons, unless the employer jumps through all sorts of hoops of justification.

In fact, it is easier for the employer to refuse to hire an ex-con who happens to be white; however, he has to leap ever-higher legal hurdles of justification if the convicted former felon happens to be a member of a "protected" minority.

Folks, I am not making this up. Eminent legal scholar Richard Epstein offers this long article about this particular symptom of "progressive" insanity. Writes Epstein:

With the [EOEC's] Enforcement Guidance [document], all private employers and all state employers must use detailed and particularized inquiries before turning down a minority applicant who has a criminal arrest or conviction on his record, even though employers can turn down a white applicant with the same past record without going through such hoops.
You can read that EOEC "Enforcement Guidance" document for yourself. Here is an excerpt from Section V (my translation of bureaucratese is in brackets):
A covered employer is liable for violating Title VII [of the 1964 Civil Rights Act] when the plaintiff [i.e., the ex-con seeking a job] demonstrates that the employer’s neutral [that means NON-discriminatory] policy or practice [of hiring] has the effect of disproportionately screening out a Title VII-protected group [i.e, someone regarded as "protected" due to race, color, religion, sex, or national origin] and the employer fails to demonstrate that the policy or practice is job related for the position in question and consistent with business necessity.
Translation: Even an employer who has a perfectly non-discriminatory policy and record regarding hiring minorities, but who refuses to hire some convicted ex-felon who just happens to be a member of one of the "protected minorities," may still be breaking the law...unless he first somehow manages to prove that even his neutral policy of refusing to hire ex-cons is required "for the position in question and consistent with business necessity."

Got that? The businessman is "guilty until proven innocent" for refusing to hire some guy who may have been convicted for robbery or violence...simply because the businessman hasn't proved that his policy against hiring thugs is "job-related."

But gets even worse. Section V continues: 

With respect to criminal records, there is Title VII disparate impact liability where the evidence shows that a covered employer’s criminal record screening policy or practice disproportionately screens out a Title VII-protected group and the employer does not demonstrate that the policy or practice is job related for the positions in question and consistent with business necessity. [my emphasis]
What does the EOEC mean by "disproportionately screens out a Title VII-protected group"? The document goes on, in Section V. A. 2, to grouse that "Nationally, African Americans and Hispanics are arrested in numbers disproportionate to their representation in the general population." That, you see, is prima facie evidence of how "unfair" things are in Racist America, folks. Never mind that members of these minority groups also are "disproportionately" responsible for committing far more crimes per capita than Caucasians do...which of course happens to explain their higher arrest and incarceration rates.

No, the "disproportionate" number of minorities behind bars is simply assumed to be unfair, per se. From the mere fact of these incarceration statistics, the EOEC's conclusion must be read slowly, to be understood and believed:

National data, such as that cited above, supports a finding that criminal record exclusions [from hiring] have a disparate impact based on race and national origin. The national data provides a basis for the Commission to further investigate such Title VII disparate impact charges. During an EEOC investigation, the employer also has an opportunity to show, with relevant evidence, that its employment policy or practice does not cause a disparate impact on the protected group(s). For example, an employer may present regional or local data showing that African American and/or Hispanic men are not arrested or convicted at disproportionately higher rates in the employer’s particular geographic area. An employer also may use its own applicant data to demonstrate that its policy or practice did not cause a disparate impact. [emphasis added]
What does this mean in practice? Take this example:

A local restaurant owner refuses to hire some Mexican gang member who's just been released from the slammer. The ex-con, because he is Hispanic, and thus a member of a "protected minority," files a complaint with the federal EOEC. The EOEC then investigates, looking for a "disparate impact" against minorities. The hapless small businessman may already have a number of other minority employees -- obvious evidence that he doesn't discriminate based on race or ethnicity. But that is not enough. Now he is also supposed to prove that his "practice does not cause a disparate impact on the protected group" -- Hispanics -- by somehow digging up "regional or local data showing that...Hispanic men are not arrested or convicted at disproportionately higher rates in the employer's particiular geographic area."

Leaving aside the outrageous reversal of the legal burden of proof -- leaving aside, too, the enormous cost to this small businessmen of hiring attorneys and jumping through all these egregious legal hoops -- who will subsequently bear liability for a massive lawsuit if he hires this former felon, and the thug then goes on to rape a fellow employee or swindle his clients?

Richard Epstein's excellent piece offers a detailed legal analysis of this ideologically driven absurdity, which can allow thugs to be hired as security guards and thieves as bank tellers...if they're demographically lucky enough to fall under the protections of this twisted, "progressive," racial/ethnic variation of the Endangered Species Act.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

A Manifesto for "Coercive Paternalism"

"You're too stupid to know what's best for you. I'm from the government; I know better; and I'm here to straighten you out...for your own good."

Insulting, eh? The essence of everything we, as Americans hate, right?

Well, comes now a $95 tome titled--are you ready?--Against Autonomy: Justifying Coercive Paternalism.  

No, I am not making this up. 

The book's product description on Amazon notes that, in America,

to respect autonomy is often understood to be the chief way to bear witness to the intrinsic value of persons. In this book, Sarah Conly rejects the idea of autonomy as inviolable.... Thus in many cases it would advance our ["our"?] goals more effectively if government were to prevent us ["us"?] from acting in accordance with our ["our"?] decisions. Her argument challenges widely held views of moral agency, democratic values and the public/private distinction.
Quoth the author from her own faculty page listing:
I argue that autonomy, or the freedom to act in accordance with your ["your"?] own decisions, is overrated—that the common high evaluation of the importance of autonomy is based on a belief that we [including her?] are much more rational than we actually are. We now have lots of evidence from psychology and behavioral economics that we [her too?] are often very bad at choosing effective means to our ends. In such cases, we [her too?] need the help of others—and in particular, of government regulation—to keep us [ditto] from going wrong.

This apology for naked totalitarianism was written by one Sarah Conly, an assistant professor of (what else?) philosophy at Bowdoin College--at least nominally an American institution of Higher Learning. A wet dream for dictatorially minded "progressives," her book naturally earned the honor of publication by the Cambridge University Press, and spotlight review treatment in the New York Review of Books--the reviewer being none other than Cass Sunstein, Barack Obama's very own former Administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs.

Prof. Sunstein, it should be noted, is author of his own nanny-state tribute to technocratic governmental manipulation of the citizenry: NUDGE: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness. Sayeth Sunstein, on his own book's Amazon product page: "We think that it's time for institutions, including government, to become much more user-friendly by enlisting the science of choice to make life easier for people and by gentling nudging them in directions that will make their lives better." 

Why, how kind and thoughtful of him!

Of course, those writing and enforcing government regulations (and books like these) are NEVER part of the "we" who are irrational, the "we" who are making so many "wrong" choices. Oh no: The progressive nanny statists are always the epitome of uber-rationality, higher education, dazzling expertise, superior taste, and sound judgment in all things. Yes, what a wonderful utopia we would inhabit...if only us rubes would surrender to them our damned autonomy. Who needs that Bill of Rights with such technocrats to (their words) "coerce" and "nudge" us?

When I say that the ultimate objective of "progressives" is to impose totalitarian control over every aspect of our lives--that they are motivated by an unquenchable lust for unlimited power--some of you undoubtedly think I'm wildly exaggerating. 

But how, then, to deny their own words, as they spell it out so clearly and ominously?

(A hat tip to my friend Bob Hessen for calling my attention to this, and you also might give Ann Althouse's brief blog about it a look.)

Saturday, January 26, 2013


As both a nonfiction author and a bestselling novelist, I've pondered certain puzzles for decades.

Why do people find certain ideologies and philosophies appealing, but not others? Why do we so often hold to our points of view dogmatically, intractable to all facts, reason, and logic? What is the source of dreams? Why do certain common myths seem to be indelible and universal, across cultures and throughout history? Why does music conjure in us mental imagery? What is the key to the kind of motivational commitment that impels some people to face and triumph over incredible odds and obstacles? Why do we find certain people, at first glance, overpoweringly attractive, and others repulsive? Why do we love some books and movies, and hate others?

These and many other mysteries of the human mind and personality are central to the concerns of the artist, psychologist, historian, or person plying any field of communication or persuasion. But is there anything that links together all of these apparently disparate things?

In his brilliant and engrossing The Storytelling Animal, Jonathan Gottschall reveals the central, essential, and seminal role played by story -- or "Narrative," as I've called it -- in human thought, action, and culture. Moving with seemingly effortless creative ease from riveting personal anecdotes to abstract sociological theories, from baffling historical phenomena to intriguing psychological experiments, Gottschall offers a key to understanding much that has baffled man throughout the ages.

For decades, I had believed that philosophical ideas and ideologies reigned paramount in the culture. But over time, events and experience began to collide with that assumption. I began to wonder, for example, why people holding the same ideas, nominally, could live so differently -- and why some philosophies seemed to have more cultural traction and durability than others. I was introduced to the extraordinary power of stories when reading the works of mythologist Joseph Campbell. Aspiring to write fiction, I also became fascinated by how timeless, transcultural myths found their way into fiction and film. Building upon Campbell, "script doctor" Christopher Vogler even uses mythological archetypes to help craft hugely popular movies, and -- in his book The Writers Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers -- to school authors in the craft of fiction-writing. (Let me add that I employed some of these concepts in writing HUNTER; the novel's success is at least in part a testament to their validity and usefulness.) While conducting research on a nonfiction book project about the roots of the contemporary environmentalist movement, I also came to realize how certain ancient, mythic storylines served as the basis for modern ideologies and major religions. (Gottschall himself demonstrates this latter truth with his sobering account of the career of Adolph Hitler, who was inspired and guided decisively by the heroic operatic dramas of composer Richard Wagner.)

The Storytelling Animal touches upon all of this, and much, much more, drawing the kinds of interdisciplinary and personal connections that most of us would never make in a hundred years. Yet even so, I think Gottschall has barely scratched the surface of the far-flung implications of narratives and stories in our lives. To take just one example, I believe our current president has understood intuitively, and for years, the power of crafting a compelling "personal narrative" in order to launch and propel his political career to wildly improbable success -- and how he relied on crafting a similar "morality play" about himself and his opponents in order to win re-election in 2012. But that is just one of the important implications to be drawn from this extraordinary work.

Let me add that Gottschall himself is a wonderful writer and storyteller. A book that could have been an imposing intellectual chore and bore never flags for a moment in holding the reader and keeping him turning pages. So as not to distract or interrupt his own narrative, he sequesters a formidable array of endnotes and a vast, impressive bibliography unobtrusively, after the text.

I love books like this -- books that upend my previous understanding, books that augment my grasp of the world, books that draw breathtakingly unexpected links among apparently unrelated things. For all these reasons, I can't recommend The Storytelling Animal strongly enough. A joy to read and ponder, it's the most intellectually fertile nonfiction work I've read in years.