New Year's Resolutions for the Remnant

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 invader.

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 His opinions were so politically incorrect that they could not be published.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:

Yet 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.

Everyone 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. . . .

Isaiah, 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.

Observe 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. . . .

Excessive 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 stop.

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:

About 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.


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 far.

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.”

Because 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 of


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.


December 31, 2002

Gary North is the author of Mises on Money. Visit For a free subscription to Gary North’s twice-weekly economics newsletter, click here.

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