New Year's Resolutions for the Remnant

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Today, I
want to say happy new year to the Remnant. Like it or not, you’re
one of them. There aren’t many of us. But here’s the good news:
there never are.

The bad
news is that members of the Remnant never feel more isolated and
powerless than when their nation goes off to war, not because
it has been invaded, which is bad enough, but because it is the

During World
War I, H. L. Mencken lost his newspaper job because he dared to
say what became common opinion after the war, namely, that Woodrow
Wilson maneuvered the nation into that war. During World War II,
Mencken had to resign from his job again. His opinions were so
politically incorrect that they could not be published.
The Remnant was silenced.


In the inter-war
year of 1937, a book by H. L. Mencken’s friend Albert Jay Nock
(1870-1945) was published, Free
Speech and Plain Language
. It never sold well enough to
have become long forgotten. But one chapter of it has survived
in the underground that it was deliberately written for. That
chapter has become known as “Isaiah’s Job.” It was reproduced
in abbreviated form by Leonard E. Read’s Foundation for Economic
Education (FEE), and it has served FEE well for over five decades
as its methodology. It remains a libertarian classic.

Nock warned
against deliberately appealing to the mass-man. There is no audience
there, he said, for any developer or defender of ideas on liberty.
Individualism does not appeal to the mass-man. This is why he
is a mass-man. Any attempt to whoop up the troops will fail to
attract the Remnant. Indeed, it will alienate them. They will
go elsewhere.

Nock took
as his starting point God’s call to the prophet Elijah after Elijah’s
public confrontation with King Ahab, when Elijah’s temporary victory
in front of the assembled representatives of the nation backfired.
Elijah was now on the run from the king. He despaired. God told
him this:

I have left me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have
not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him
(1 Kings 19:18).

His ministry
was to them, not to the masses, God reminded him. He had failed
to persuade the masses. He did not need to persuade the Remnant,
which already agreed with him. He merely had to speak the truth
in the name of God before the Remnant. Nock then articulated a
fundamental premise of the libertarian faith, which in our post-“Field
of Dreams” era, I can summarize: “If you speak it, they will come.”
More to the point, “If you post it, they will come.”

Here is
what Nock wrote about the prophet’s job. He used Isaiah as his
example. The prophet’s job is not the job of the promoter.

with a message nowadays is, like my venerable European friend,
eager to take it to the masses. His first, last and only thought
is of mass-acceptance and mass-approval. His great care is to
put his doctrine in such shape as will capture the masses’ attention
and interest. . . .

The main
trouble with all this is its reaction upon the mission itself.
It necessitates an opportunist sophistication of one’s doctrine,
which profoundly alters its character and reduces it to a mere
placebo. If, say, you are a preacher, you wish to attract as
large a congregation as you can, which means an appeal to the
masses; and this, in turn, means adapting the terms of your
message to the order of intellect and character that the masses
exhibit. If you are an educator, say with a college on your
hands, you wish to get as many students as possible, and you
whittle down your requirements accordingly. If a writer, you
aim at getting many readers; if a publisher, many purchasers;
if a philosopher, many disciples; if a reformer, many converts;
if a musician, many auditors; and so on. But as we see on all
sides, in the realization of these several desires, the prophetic
message is so heavily adulterated with trivialities, in every
instance, that its effect on the masses is merely to harden
them in their sins. Meanwhile, the Remnant, aware of this adulteration
and of the desires that prompt it, turn their backs on the prophet
and will have nothing to do with him or his message. . . .

on the other hand, worked under no such disabilities. He preached
to the masses only in the sense that he preached publicly. Anyone
who liked might listen; anyone who liked might pass by. He knew
that the Remnant would listen; and knowing also that nothing
was to be expected of the masses under any circumstances, he
made no specific appeal to them, did not accommodate his message
to their measure in any way, and did not care two straws whether
they heeded it or not. As a modern publisher might put it, he
was not worrying about circulation or about advertising. Hence,
with all such obsessions quite out of the way, he was in a position
to do his level best, without fear or favour, and answerable
only to his august Boss.

If a prophet
were not too particular about making money out of his mission
or getting a dubious sort of notoriety out of it, the foregoing
considerations would lead one to say that serving the Remnant
looks like a good job. An assignment that you can really put
your back into, and do your best without thinking about results,
is a real job; whereas serving the masses is at best only half
a job, considering the inexorable conditions that the masses
impose upon their servants. They ask you to give them what they
want, they insist upon it, and will take nothing else; and following
their whims, their irrational changes of fancy, their hot and
cold fits, is a tedious business, to say nothing of the fact
that what they want at any time makes very little call on one’s
resources of prophesy. The Remnant, on the other hand, want
only the best you have, whatever that may be. Give them that,
and they are satisfied; you have nothing more to worry about.
. . .

We all
know innumerable politicians, journalists, dramatists, novelists
and the like, who have done extremely well by themselves in
these ways. Taking care of the Remnant, on the contrary, holds
little promise of any such rewards. A prophet of the Remnant
will not grow purse-proud on the financial returns from his
work, nor is it likely that he will get any great reknown out
of it. Isaiah’s case was exceptional to this second rule, and
there are others, but not many.

The Internet,
more than any medium in history, is perfect for the Remnant. With
search engines, portal sites, and e-mail, members of many Remnants,
each with its own politically incorrect interests, discover those
people who best represent them in print. They learn that they
are not alone after all. With the click of a mouse, they can send
to their handful of friends some new item that has stated their
case well. Soon, the handful becomes more than a handful.

Never before
has the Remnant found its way to its spokesman, site by site,
unpopular idea by unpopular idea, as rapidly as the Web allows.
Direct mail and newsletters did this for political conservatives
in the 1960’s and 1970’s. The classic example is Hillsdale College’s
Imprimis, which was created by Lew Rockwell. Satellite
television did this for fundamentalists in the 1980’s, and satellite
radio did this for political conservatives in the early 1990’s,
but satellite technology has been dwarfed by the Internet. It
is one of life’s great ironies that the Defense Department laid
down the infrastructure that has made this development possible.


For those
of us who are defenders of the Constitutional hermeneutic of the
original intent of the Framers, offers us a daily
oasis in the desert of conventional opinion. Every day, the postings
remind us of the fact that the vast majority of the tiny minority
who declare themselves to be adherents to the doctrine of original
intent are either frauds or self-deceived. Permit me to explain.

In his now-famous
“Farewell Address” of 1796, President George Washington expressed the following
sentiments — sentiments that are today considered wildly, flagrantly
“politically incorrect” by virtually all Americans, except for
a Remnant.

good faith & justice tow[ar]ds all Nations. Cultivate peace &
harmony with all — Religion & morality enjoin this conduct; and
can it be that good policy does not equally enjoin it? It will
be worthy of a free, enlightened, and, at no distant period, a
great Nation, to give to mankind the magnanimous and too novel
example of a People always guided by an exalted justice & benevolence.
. . .

In the
execution of such a plan nothing is more essential than that
permanent inveterate antipathies against particular Nations
and passionate attachments for others should be excluded; and
that in place of them just & amicable feelings towards all should
be cultivated. . . .

As avenues
to foreign influence in innumerable ways, such attachments are
particularly alarming to the truly enlightened and independent
Patriot. How many opportunities do they afford to tamper with
domestic factions, to practice the arts of seduction, to mislead
public opinion, to influence or awe the public Councils! Such
an attachment of a small or weak, towards a great & powerful
Nation, dooms the former to be the satellite of the latter.
. . .

partiality for one foreign nation and excessive dislike of another,
cause those whom they actuate to see danger only on one side,
and serve to veil and even second the arts of influence on the
other. Real Patriots, who may resist the intriegues of the favourite,
are liable to become suspected and odious; while its tools and
dupes usurp the applause & confidence of the people, to surrender
their interests.

The Great
rule of conduct for us, in regard to foreign Nations is in extending
our commercial relations to have with them as little political
connection as possible. So far as we have already formed engagements
let them be fulfilled, with perfect good faith. Here let us

George Washington
sent the handwritten copy of his now-famous Farewell Address to
a Philadelphia newspaper, the American Daily Advertiser,
in the last full year of his Presidency. Philadelphia at that
time was the nation’s capital. The essay was published on September
19, 1796.

In his essay,
President Washington defined what it means to be an American patriot.
He also identified the characteristic features of “tools and dupes”
who “usurp the applause & confidence of the people, to surrender
their interests.” It is not surprising that this essay is not
assigned to students, even in graduate classes in early American
history. Today, and for the last century, the tools and dupes
have gained control of the federal government, the media, and
the schools.

As the outgoing
leader of what had become the Federalist Party, Washington also
here articulated the sentiments of Jefferson’s Democrats. This
was the last year in which any President can truly be said to
have represented the thinking of virtually all Americans. The
penultimate draft of the essay was written by Alexander Hamilton,
Washington’s Secretary of the Treasury.

Four and
a half years later, Hamilton’s political rival, Thomas Jefferson,
delivered his first inaugural address in
the nation’s new capital, Washington, D.C. In it, he expressed
these sentiments:

to enter, fellow-citizens, on the exercise of duties which comprehend
everything dear and valuable to you, it is proper you should understand
what I deem the essential principles of our Government, and consequently
those which ought to shape its Administration. I will compress
them within the narrowest compass they will bear, stating the
general principle, but not all its limitations. Equal and exact
justice to all men, of whatever state or persuasion, religious
or political; peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all
nations, entangling alliances with none; . . .

Anyone who
is looking for evidence of the annulment of “original intent”
of the leaders of the Constitutional era need search no further.
In politics primarily, and not in the decisions of the United
States Supreme Court, the rejection of original intent is most
blatant. In foreign policy, above all, the original intent of
the Framers of the Constitution has been negated — politically,
ideologically, philosophically, and especially emotionally. On
this point, the Right and the Left, the Democrats and the Republicans,
the conservatives and the interventionists all agree: The United
States government has both the right and a moral obligation to
intervene in the national affairs of the world.

Today, upper-middle-class
American conservatives cheer when the United States government
sends the sons and daughters of the lower classes to die in foreign
adventures. Then they complain about high taxes. They sacrifice
other people’s children to the Moloch State, but worry publicly
about high marginal tax rates. Is it any wonder that their political
opponents do not take them seriously, and their supposed political
representatives regard them as permanent residents of their hip
pockets: suitable for sitting on? All it takes to get conservatives
to stop complaining about high taxes is another splendid little
war, or better yet, a world war. This political strategy has worked
every time since 1898: the Spanish-American War.

For the
last century, the only people who have invoked the doctrine of
original intent where it counts most, and where the Framers said
it counts most — in the life-and-death matters of foreign
policy — are members of the Remnant.

YEAR 2003

It looks
as though the United States government is going to launch an offensive
war against Iraq, but all in the name of defense. In international
relations, this is the equivalent of a governor who sends in state
troopers to gun down people in a small town because their mayor
looks as though he might commit a capital crime sometime in the
distant future.

The only
thing standing in the way of the Bush Administration is the weapons
inspection team of the United Nations. When the United Nations
is the last, best hope of preserving the original intent of the
Framers of the U.S. Constitution, things have gone downhill very

Today, more
than ever, the Remnant must stay informed. It must gather evidence
that demonstrates that the tools and dupes are at it again. In
this task, is the premier clearing house of evidence.

Because has become the clearing house for the doctrine
of original intent in both foreign policy and domestic economic
policy, the Remnant can now find other sites that defend the same
position. That’s why we call the Web “the Web.”

of the Web, the Remnant can seek out sources of information that
confirm what they suspect, at a price lower than ever before.
(Note: when prices fall, more is demanded.) Members of today’s
Remnant take for granted a recent technology that is nothing short
of revolutionary. What Mencken could not do in 1918 and 1943,
Lew Rockwell & Co. can do and is doing. What tens of thousands
of readers could not do in 1918 and 1943, they can do today because


Because of the nature of the income tax code, members of the
Remnant can get a tax deduction in 2003 by taking action on this,
the last day of 2002. All it takes is a click of the button on
the bottom left of this page (or on the next word): Donate.
Why not donate 50 cents for every hour you estimate that you spent
on LRC in 2002? Your time was worth at least 20 times this, right?
At 30 minutes per day, times 6, we get $3, times 52 = $156. For
value received, that’s cheap!

Also important is the other button: Subscribe.
The year 2003 will not be the year for you to miss by mistake
any of the war-related documents that will post.
So, press the Subscribe
button, fill in your e-mail address, and click Submit.
Every day, you will receive the home page in your mail box. You
won’t miss anything by mistake.

If this
nation goes to war in 2003, the Remnant will need ammunition.
This ammunition is digital. So, praise the Web and pass the ammunition.


31, 2002

North is the author of Mises
on Money
. Visit
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