Steven Alan Samson
Steven Alan Samson
Ph.D. in Political Science, researcher and publicist
The Power of Vague Things: A Cautionary Tale

The Power of Vague Things: A Cautionary Tale

Paul Valery contends that power is founded on belief (a “vague thing”). Harold J. Berman believes the rule of law relies more on moral force than a police force. Yet the modern positivist worldview emphasizes the practical rather than the moral dimension of power. What are some consequences of this positivist belief?  More


A Strategy of Subversion

A Strategy of Subversion

Half a century ago the German sociologist Helmut Schelsky succinctly dissected the political strategy of left-wing radicals in West Germany and the West generally. His essay, “The New Strategy of Revolution,” remains one of the best summaries of an ongoing strategy of cultural subversion.Directed towards the “conquest of the system,” the revolutionary strategy depicted by Schelsky, which was inspired by the Italian communist Antonio Gramsci and implemented by Rudi Dutschke, is premised on destroying the most significant features of political democracy. It bids to root out the fundamental political and social ideals and the corresponding patterns of life of the major groups within the system by discrediting the values, intellectual outlook, and institutional foundations of these groups, their ideals, and even the most ordinary interactions of their members. A useful comparison may be drawn with what Thomas Farr calls “China’s Second Cultural Revolution,” where Xi Jinping’s government controls the commanding heights and is endeavoring to introduce a utilitarian, soft-power “social credit” system to fine-tune its control. More


Engines of Liberty: American Experiment in Self-Government

Engines of Liberty: American Experiment in Self-Government

Brague’s Challenge. In an American Spectator blog post, “Sin No More,” dated May 1, 2008, Rémi Brague stated a thesis worth exploring: “What cultures that were influenced by the Jewish and Christian religions made of the ideal of liberty that I have been finding in both Testaments is a task for historians. Impartial historians will observe how miserably the ideal and its realization often jarred with one another. On the other hand, they will have to acknowledge that free institutions hardly ever developed in places that were not influenced by Jewish and Christian ideas. Outside the Judeo-Christian tradition, it has been rare for thinkers to suppose that God endowed us with a nature of our own, that freedom is part of that nature, and that it is through the exercise of freedom, and the errors that inevitably stem from it, that we fulfill God’s plan… And when Lord Acton tells us that ‘liberty is not a means to a higher political end; it is the highest political end’, he is echoing voices that can be heard in all the sacred books of our tradition, from the Torah to the epistles of St. Paul”. What follows is a lightly edited excerpt from this writer’s Crossed Swords: Entanglements Between Church and State in America (1984), chapter 5, “The American Commonwealth”. It illustrates the practical ways the ideal and its realization have been imaginatively developed even as they “jarred” with each other. More


The Crisis of Our Age: A Retrospective Glance

The Crisis of Our Age: A Retrospective Glance

As a political philosophy and system of governance, liberalism is a product of Western Christian civilization. Yet some of its roots are decidedly illiberal. Thomas Hobbes offered an intellectual framework for our burgeoning Provider State, reducing people to hedonistic machines that accept the oversight of a Sovereign who serves as theologian-in-chief. Jean-Jacques Rousseau cited man’s natural compassion in support of rendering everyone collectively dependent on a sovereign General Will, which Jacques Maritain later called an “immanent social God”. Frederic Bastiat dismissed these pretensions by noting how self-serving lawmakers bend morality to justify—via greed and false philanthropy—the legal plunder that divisively empowers them.  More


Breaking the Long Truce

Breaking the Long Truce

The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element of democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the ruling power of our country.[1] – Edward Bernays, 1928Ressentiment is directed at something which at the deepest level of his being the individual recognizes as good. Although there may be evil mixed with it (as in the sinful preacher), it is not the evil which is hated primarily but the good. Dwelling on the evil is ressentiment’s ploy for attacking the good.[2] – James Hitchcock, c. 1983  More


A Primer on Political Economy

A Primer on Political Economy

Economist Walter E. Williams learned a principle of success by missing lunch. “At 13, I was a typical barbarian growing up in the slums of Philadelphia”, he recalls. “My mother supported us by working as a maid. Frivolous consumption often meant that I’d used up my school‑lunch funds by midweek, so I’d go to Mom to borrow money. Finally, one day Mom said ‘You knew you’d have to buy lunch when you spent the money’ and refused to fork over a dime. Saddled with what I was sure was the most callous mother on Earth, I went without lunch the rest of the week. I never frittered away my food money again – taking my first step toward civilization.”  More


Revolt of the Disdained: Sovereignty or Submission

Revolt of the Disdained: Sovereignty or Submission

The 2016 presidential election hinged on the return of overlooked or marginalized middle-class and working-class Democrats and independents – many of whom had earlier supported Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan – to reinvigorate traditional patriotism and help form a new “populist-conservative fusion in rural and industrial areas” within the Republican party. Donald Trump’s political fortunes rest to a considerable degree on his ability to secure broad public support while maintaining the loyalty of his original coalition of the disdained.  More


Stealing into Power by Opposition to Power

Stealing into Power by Opposition to Power

Two acute observers of the American system and its decentralized character were Alexis de Tocqueville, who with his friend Gustave de Beaumont traveled through America for around nine months while studying America’s prisons, and Francis Lieber, a German émigré who met with them in Boston over the course of several days in September 1831.[1] The first published fruits of their budding relationship were Lieber’s translation and notes to Beaumont and Tocqueville’s On the Penitentiary System in the United States (1833) followed by Lieber’s Letters to a Gentleman in Germany (1834), which reproduced and embellished at least one of their conversations.[2] Lieber sent along with them several completed volumes of his Encyclopaedia Americana (13 vols., 1829-1833). Tocqueville likely drew on some of this material for his two-volume Democracy in America (1835, 1840).[3]  More


The Restless Desire of Power for Power

The Restless Desire of Power for Power

Today, the regulatory operations of central governments impinge upon virtually all areas of life, leading to widespread efforts by interest groups to have their vision of the good life implemented through law and regulatory oversight. Much of the resulting fiscal, educational, and social intervention is largely invisible to the electorate. Nevertheless, what Thomas Hobbes called “the restless desire of power for power” has set into motion an insatiable empire of debt and dependency, redistribution and retribution, while it divides and rules. More


Protecting Fiscal and Constitutional Integrity

Protecting Fiscal and Constitutional Integrity

Liberty thrives under rule of law when it applies equally to all. What Francis Lieber called institutional liberty hinges on a willingness of the public and their leaders to recognize and uphold constitutional limitations on the state. Civil liberty and self-government suffer when the law is misused as an ideological instrument to remold society. Given the relative ease with which institutions are captured and diverted from their original purposes, political courage is required to resist, oppose, and reverse any acquired needs or rights which might result. Two 19C American exemplars of principled resistance to plunder are President Grover Cleveland and Justice Stephen Field.  More


The Grapes of Parnassos: Is the West Withering on the Vine?

The Grapes of Parnassos: Is the West Withering on the Vine?

The West – what Philip Rieff called “church civilization” – is succumbing to the false fruits of cultural revolutions which succeed in part because the passing of a single generation is all it takes to wipe the slate and in part because its custodians lack the requisite faith and courage to resist. First, the public memory fades or is subtly reinterpreted. Then, citizens fail to convey the wealth of their experience and tradition through nurturing, teaching, and testing. Finally, they even neglect to produce heirs to carry the enterprise forward.  More


Political and Economic Fallacies: A Tribute to Sir Roger Scruton

Political and Economic Fallacies: A Tribute to Sir Roger Scruton

Adam Smith’s invisible hand, Frederic Bastiat’s essay “What Is Seen and What Is Unseen,” Michael Polanyi’s Tacit Dimension, Friedrich Hayek’s “spontaneous order,” and the Christian doctrines of subsidiarity and sphere sovereignty – these are ideas we ignore at our peril. We may not understand exactly how they work, but, as Shakespeare put it in another context in Hamlet: “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”  More


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