Sam and I

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by Paul Gottfried by Paul Gottfried

My comments regarding Sam Francis and his review of my book have occasioned such a flood of responses that it might be helpful to offer these clarifications. Nowhere did I say that Dr. Francis had it coming when the Washington Times fired him, as a prize-winning columnist, for not sounding nice enough to designated minorities. At that time I defended Dr. Francis against his detractors and took up the cudgels recently against one of them, the garrulous sixties-liberal posing as a conservative, Linda Chavez, when Chavez was being considered for Secretary of Labor.

Sam also took my side, no less resolutely, when the neocon cabal went after me at Catholic University of America. Needless to say, I would have expected no less from this close friend and political ally. Because we now disagree about my book does not change our relation. Nor will this disagreement have the effect of making Sam’s enemies, who are equally mine, reassess their hatred of me — or cause the useful idiots who serve the neocons to treat either of us with respect.

What my comments were intended to underline was a sharp difference in our perspectives about democracy, the state, and the role of minorities within the majority culture. Underlying our divergent opinions about these subjects are our differing views about the modern administrative state and its determinative power over society. For me, public administration and mass democracy, as they now exist in the Western world, sap the capacity for self-government. Administered democracy eats away at more than the constitutionalism that it lands up undermining. It strips the populace of any desire or ability to rule their lives. Moreover, not all members of the presumed managerial class swing equally large clubs. Corporate executives operate at the mercy of government and the media priesthood; and it is questionable whether even big businessmen can be described in terms of their exercise of power as being as significant as affirmative action officials or anti-trust investigators assigned to the EEOC or Justice Department.

With due respect to Burnham writing in 1940 as a quasi-Marxist, business and corporate moguls play a decidedly secondary role in the managerial order. They provide the funding and consumer products that allow the managerial state to pay off the populace with social programs and to keep them materially satisfied. They also serve as objects of fury when the economy takes a nosedive. That the government does favors for some of "big business" by punishing their competitors, by handing out defense contracts, or by not taxing corporations harshly enough to please intellectuals, does not change the nature of the power relation. Also Sam and I differ in our views about whether multiculturalism can be characterized as a rational ruling strategy: he thinks it can while I think differently. And we obviously hold opposed views about whether the majority Christian population has succumbed to its own politics of guilt — or whether well-placed minorities have caused it to stumble into confusion.

Despite these differences, Sam and I, as my son keeps telling me, agree on far more than we disagree. Looking at immigration, the need to restore constitutional control over bureaucrats and judges, the slobbering outreach practiced by the Bush administration, the invincible stupidity of minicons, and the phenomenon of white self-hatred, there is no critical difference between us. I am delighted that Sam continues to publish his columns and fear there may be no one to take his place once he lays down his work. It goes without saying that Sam is more of a populist democrat and less of a bourgeois conservative or liberal than I. But these differences seem tolerable. As for the possibility of making over the managerial state into a conservative force (he thinks it’s possible but I don’t), we’ll leave that debate for the next time we meet.

August 18, 2003

Paul Gottfried [send him mail] is professor of history at Elizabethtown College and author of, most recently, the highly recommended Multiculturalism and the Politics of Guilt.

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