Jonah’s Job

Previously by Chris Sullivan: The Lesser Evil

Seventy-five years ago, Albert Jay Nock wrote a column called Isaiah’s Job that was published in The Atlantic Monthly. It advanced the idea that there is in any society a "Remnant" of people who are interested in the truth and in doing the right thing by their fellow man, but who are pretty much isolated from each other and go about their business without ever knowing how many others there are like themselves, if any.

The people of the Remnant can spot a phony immediately and will pay them no mind, but they can spot the purveyor of the genuine article or "true faith" just as easily. Isaiah is preaching to this Remnant and to everybody else that wants to listen, but he has no way of knowing who they are and they have no way of identifying each other.

I have thought about this essay many times over the years in relation to some of the modern Isaiahs such as Nock himself, but also people like Leonard Read, Frank Chodorov, Lew Rockwell, Murray Rothbard, Joseph Sobran, Jacob Hornberger and Ron Paul. These people disseminated their ideas, but had no effective way to reach a mass audience. You almost had to be in a clique to find out about The Freeman, The Rothbard Rockwell Report, analysis or Sobran’s. Most of the publications were preaching to the choir for the simple reason that you had to be in the choir to even find out about them.

Ron Paul is probably the most visible Isaiah of modern times, at least in the political realm because he had a little bit of a forum by virtue of his congressional office.

The efforts of the Remnant have always been unorganized or disjointed because it had no effective way of recognizing and communicating with its members over a large area until the last fifteen years or so.

In Nock’s day, if you wanted to make others aware of his Isaiah article, you would have to read it to them, buy multiple copies of the magazine or perhaps mimeograph copies of it, since nobody had copying machines or FAX machines or computers, and most people didn’t own a newspaper.

This has all changed with the advent of the internet. Now anybody can alert all their friends in Botswana, Lichtenstein or the Azores about anything they wish. This allows the message to get out quickly and without a middle man "filtering" or censoring it, which of course leads me to Jonah.

For most of his congressional career, Ron Paul has been an Isaiah, but now he seems to be turning into a Jonah. When Jonah told the people of Nineveh that in forty days the city would be destroyed, they repented and took remedial action, thus averting disaster. Paul has been saying the same thing for years, but now it is becoming obvious that what he was saying is true, and the people – still a small percentage – are ready to put on sackcloth and ashes. Much of this is because of his unrelenting fidelity to the message, but a greater part is probably because the message can’t be suppressed like in the recent old days.

News stories in the old-time news organs still try to ignore or minimize his accomplishments, but they are becoming less relevant by the day. With email, blogs, YouTube, world-wide access to unfiltered news and opinion sites, social networking etc., it’s as though a hydra-headed genie has escaped the bottle.

Four years ago, many of the comments about news articles concerning Ron Paul would refer to him as "moonbat," "wingnut," "kook," "lunatic," or some other derisive term. Now almost all the comments are in support of his ideas. It’s as though the people have heard the modern Jonah and are ready to put on the sackcloth – figuratively – and ashes.

There is something about truth that makes it recognized when heard – not always, but more often than not. When somebody has demonstrably been speaking the truth his entire public life without apology and can finally be heard, he will eventually be believed over the equivocators and apostles of mendacity.

Here is a man who said that the housing market is a bubble, we shouldn’t go to war with Iraq, and the Fed is an engine of inflation. Is he a kook or a modern Jonah? Many people are starting to see him as the latter.

Reprinted with permission from Different Bugle.