The Orwellian Right

It’s not just the New Deal they hate; it’s not even the Enlightenment. They hate the difference between truth and falsehood.

One of the slogans of the totalitarian Party in Nineteen Eighty-Four was:

Who controls the past controls the future.
Who controls the present controls the past.

Our own totalitarians (who call themselves “conservative” and “Republican,” as Orwell’s Party called its doctrine “English Socialism”) seem to agree, with Dick Armey in the lead. They’re willing to trash the Jamestown Colony and Teddy Roosevelt, and turn Alexander Hamilton on his head.

Winston Smith says, “Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two makes four. If that is granted, all else follows.” But of course those who think that the new Empire is superior to mere reality agree with the torturer (sorry, that should be “enhanced interrogator”) O’Brien, that “sometimes they are five; sometimes they are three; sometimes they are all of them at once.” After all, if we torture enough captives, and enough facts, we can make our own reality, can’t we, Karl?

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact:

14 thoughts on “The Orwellian Right”

  1. The company that established Jamestown was capitalist. Most of the people who were actually THERE were indentured servants, with no property rights, subject to "From each according to their ability, to each according to their need" distribution rules. Yes, the colony was initially run on socialist principles. Things turned around when the new governor arrived; He didn't just bring more settlers, he also reconstituted private property for settlers, and drastically reduced the amount of redistribution going on. This is not particularly revisionist history. Did you sleep through American history, to be unaware of it?

  2. As far as Hamilton and Dick Armey, it's a fair cop. Pathetic. The best you could say in Armey's defense is that, while Hamilton was a big government advocate in the context of the founding fathers, his idea of big government was a lot smaller than what we've got today. But, yes, you do have to read the federalist papers with the understanding that Hamilton was trying to plant an acorn in the hope of getting a mighty oak tree. (Just not today's Sequoia.)That's why I've always advocated reading them in conjunction with the Anti-Federalist papers. In retrospect, the anti-federalists turn out to have been quite prescient.

  3. Brett: "Most of the people who were actually THERE were indentured servants, with no property rights, subject to “From each according to their ability, to each according to their need” distribution rules."

    Even for you, Brett, this is a whopping big lie. Indentured servants got worked like dogs, and if they died, the only problem was if they hadn't lived long enough to pay their 'owner' for the transport costs.

  4. That's all you got? "Couldn't have been socialist, the peons were treated like dogs."? Sounds about right for your average worker's paradise, to me.

  5. Bonded labour and slavery (cf. the Pyramids) considerably antedate the set of ideas and practices you can reasonably call socialist. Socialism is usually thought of as a radically egalitarian (and hence unrealistic) doctrine that grew out of the Enlightenment: Hébert etc. It has predecessors in the millenarian cults of the Middle Ages (Norman Cohn, The Pursuit of the Millennium, passim), the radical Reformation (Winstanley and the Diggers) and of course the very early Christian Church. By redefining socialism as bondage, Brett is exhibiting Mark´s point.

  6. I think he meant: The peons were treated like Orwellian dogs…

    From Animal Farm:

    Napoleon took no interest in Snowball's committees. He said that the education of the young was more important than anything that could be done for those who were already grown up. It happened that Jessie and Bluebell had both whelped soon after the hay harvest, giving birth between them to nine sturdy puppies. As soon as they were weaned, Napoleon took them away from their mothers, saying that he would make himself responsible for their education. He took them up into a loft which could only be reached by a ladder from the harness-room, and there kept them in such seclusion that the rest of the farm soon forgot their existence.

  7. Thank God for James, or some of us familiar with the socialism in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and other socialist paradises might have thought that the people there did live in a form of bondage. I'm glad that's been cleared up.

  8. Thank God for Thomas, or some us familiar with the meanings of words would have thought that James' comment meant what it said and not something else that only Thomas is capable of understanding. I'm glad that's been cleared up.

  9. It does not seem to be part of conventional history, but it would make sense that King James I sent indentured servants under the guise of the Virginia Company (rather than the military) to help colonize Virginia. This could serve as a supply center for future military activities to combat Spanish influence in nearby Florida and the Caribbean. After all, Spain had embedded a Catholic government in the Netherlands, an affront to England's door to the Continent posing a danger to James' Protestant reign. And having escaped Guy Fawkes' assassination attempt in 1605 in the Gunpowder Plot, James may have been ready to retaliate against Fawkes' Spanish and Catholic patrons in the new world. But what may have started as James' retaliatory effort over a bungled assassination plot,(and protection of his new vernacular bible that limited Catholic power over his English subjects), instead and probably inadvertently brought the world America the good and tobacco the bad.

  10. Note how, even with the 'revisionist' readings, the date at which the US allegedly went wrong keeps getting pushed further & further back in time. It used to be that the right affirmed US history right up until things went bad in the late '60s. Then it was the '30s. Then Wilson. Then the first Roosevelt. (So the whole 20th century is tainted.) In the spiritual home of conservatism, Lincoln remains a touchy subject. (Not accidentally, the part of the Constitution they most want to change is the 14th Amendment.) The logic of the process will inevitably lead them to find further seeds of evil in Polk, Andrew Jackson, etc. This is a nationalist movement that doesn't much like the actual historical nation, a populist movement that can only relate to the bits in powdered wigs. The unacknowledged alienation is breathtaking.

  11. Brett Bellmore says:

    "That’s all you got? “Couldn’t have been socialist, the peons were treated like dogs.”? Sounds about right for your average worker’s paradise, to me."

    Jeez, I guess I'll have to add paraphrasing to the list of things that you can't do honestly.

  12. K- I see what you mean. Don't forget those Pilgrims were the first undocumented imigrants to live off of hand outs from the established population. That of course is why those injuns had to be exterminated being socialist welfare mongers.

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