Will the Last Capitalist Please Turn Off the Lights When You Leave… by Bill Buppert

“Under a Communist Party Government, South Africa will become a land of milk and honey.”        

                                                                      -Nelson Mandela

 Occupy Wall Street is providing a refreshing new insight into how the collectivist mind works (or does not).  Now that the global warming business is starting to fall on deaf ears, the hard left government supremacist hive mind is having to find new vehicles and venues to press their agenda for universal slavery.  The assault on the tattered remnants of private business is now the subject of much mewling and teeth-grinding by the usual suspects.  I did want to express my personal condolences to Hillary Clinton on the death of Kim Jong Il, her dreams of a happy marriage to a more straight-forward partisan of her most secret ambitions is now dashed on the rocky shoreline of history unfulfilled.  Bill’s trips to Moscow simply did not have the long-term effect desired.

Let’s get back to fundamentals.  What is a private business?  It is a method of trading products and services for wealth to generate profits to enrich the owners and workers in the enterprise and additionally seed the investment, growth and expansion of the business.

What is the business of government and politicians?  To earn wealth and establish punitive control over individual transactions with no merit whatsoever; in other words, to employ the monopoly powers of violence to enrich the few at the expense of the many.   Bastiat said it more eloquently but there it is.  Politicians love to project an image of stately dignity and honorifics for the terrific and self-sacrificing service they do.  The deception is blatant and they are no more than thieves wrapped in expensive state regalia with armed guards to protect them from their victims.  Those victims they have not mentally turned to eunuchs already through the insidious ministrations of television, government education and the soothing bastardization of the language to manipulate the sheeple, are waking up to the sheer audacity of the heist that has been called the state.  Turning the Bolshevik idyll on its head, it speaks to the true nature of government and governance.

Hence some examples of the government “business model”:

What is American-Israel Public Affairs Committee’s (AIPAC) return on its investment of approximately 15 million per annum in memberships and grants?  About 2.77 billion taxpayer dollars plus the special dispensation granted by the DoD and other government agencies for grants and giveaways (30% of the acknowledged US foreign aid budget).  Of course, we all know that per Federal Election Commission (FEC) v. Akins, et al., AIPAC is not a political organization so it is not required to file the onerous minutiae required for political lobbying even though they have five or six registered lobbyists and a host of espionage allegations.

What is the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) and Service Employees International Union (SEIU)?  Both of these fetid organizations would have no reason to exist if the Federal Government weren’t there to provide the backdoor trough from which they rob the taxpayer.  Unsurprisingly, a tremendous amount of socialist and communist influence permeates both ACORN and SEIU.  Along with the radical Apollo Alliance and the Tides Foundation, they helped craft the monstrous stimulus bill which further bankrupted what is increasingly a zombie economy in these united States.

What do the aforementioned organizations have in common?  As with countless other entities in America and around the world, they would not be here except for the existence of the state.  The government is the parasite and these are the looters and tax-eaters that live upon other’s production and sweat equity.  These are the government analogs of organized crime, muggers and other miscreants whose sole purpose is to thrive off of other members of the community at the point of a gun.  Politicians are very well-heeled and equipped highwaymen who are a menace to peace and prosperity throughout the world as history has ably demonstrated.  These are simply the latest group of sociopaths and their enablers who maintain that man should not be free but under harness and micromanaged for their own good.

They have even developed a sophisticated academic rationale and industry to provide the apparent intellectual rigor to justify the rapine and murderous behavior that government creates and endorses as it merrily destroys all that is good in the world and replaces it with the hordes of shambling and compliant shells of humanity that shuffle off to work every day to pay their taxes so they feed the Machine.  When you consider the tax burden just in America, it almost rivals Denmark and France.  I think the graphs and charts once finds on the internet are deceptive because they don’t address the aggregate tax burden (federal, state, local, excise, corporate, etc).  As I have pointed out before, when all is said and done, Americans pay nearly 60% of their income in taxes once all Federal, state and lower echelonment taxes are accounted for not to mention the impossible task of putting a dollar figure on the mountains of regulation that impede and strangle business every day.  Far greater than the estimated 10% of labor the medieval serfs were yoked with.  The universities and major news organs are choked with vine-ripened apologists for statist excess and murder.  Whether it is the “right-wing” talk radio celebrities popping the bubbly for more strangers killed overseas or the massive “left-wing” herd of apparatchiks on the news media mewling benignly about the efficacy of more laws and restrictions on human behavior, the message is the same:  more government power moves us ever closer to perfection of humanity in this mortal coil. They seek the same enigmatic creature:  Homo Sovieticus.

You have to hand it to the self-described socialists and communists like Bernie Sanders and Van Jones, at least they are honest (even though I think all collectivist thought is a form of intellectual drunkenness) in who they are instead of mouthing platitudes about safety, the children and national security to disguise their unbridled lust for power and control over others.  At least they have the fortitude to precisely describe their child-like reverence for the state without resorting to the intellectual gymnastics of the usual suspects in the media.

I have often thought that to be a Communist at the beginning of the twentieth century was possibly an intellectually defensible position looking at the scant history of the movement in power and practice yet one hundred years later this extreme form of collectivism should be universally reviled and is intellectually and morally indefensible; and here in 2009, not only are the same miserable failures and barbaric practices heralded but endorsed by no less than the President of this decaying country known as America.

Do you want to get a chill that makes your hair stand on end?  Visit the Communist Party USA (CPUSA) website and read the naked advocacy of Obamunism.  It would be fascinating to hire some historians to go through the 12,000 cartons of donated archives of the CPUSA at the Tamiment Library at NYU.  They had to move the archives to clear out four floors of the office building housing CPUSA.  Not to mention the Revolutionary Communist Party USA, Socialist Workers Party, Progressive Labor Party and other morally handicapped organizations.  There is yet another future political forensic project to see how much money these organizations have received from the government and how many of its members have jobs in the administration.    RedDR’s administration was so filled with Soviet agents, communist sympathizers like Vice President Henry Wallace and fifth columnists that it dominated the political paradigm in Washington.  The New Deal was informed by all manner of collectivism during what is considered the American Communist Party’s golden age in the 1930’s and now the cycle begins anew.  I highly recommend the books by Harvey Klehr and Robert Conquest if you want a deeper understanding of the juggernaut.

We often take it for granted in the libertarian orbit that it is a slam-dunk intellectually that private individuals in a cooperative sphere absent coercion are the best form of human society.  If the twentieth century taught us anything, it is this: certain sociopaths in our midst have a penchant to rule and legions of willing and able followers are waiting for the chance to don the yoke and assume the role of loyal serfs.  The argument on optimal human order is far from over and the individualists among us have a huge fight ahead of us to convince our fellow man of the merits of volunteerism, persuasion, cooperation and spontaneous market forces.

While the behavior of the Democrat Party makes it self-evident that they are an unabashed socialist enterprise, the behavior of the Grand Old Politburo has certainly gladdened the hearts of dictators around the planet and put the full strength and manpower of the national security state behind the efforts to track diaper purchases.  We have all heard the tired old saw about the satisfaction of the Communist Manifesto in America but what about the Socialist platform from 1912?  The first preamble:

The Socialist party declares that the capitalist system has outgrown its historical function, and has become utterly incapable of meeting the problems now confronting society. We denounce this outgrown system as incompetent and corrupt and the source of unspeakable misery and suffering to the whole working class.

That could have been pulled from the latest editorial by Paul Krugman in the New York Times.  Here is the list of platform demands and I have italicized which items have culminated and made comments in brackets where appropriate.  I offer this thought experiment:  of all the items which have not been adopted, would the regime in Mordor on the Potomac advance and endorse them today if the opportunity availed itself? To wit:

Working Program

As measures calculated to strengthen the working class in its fight for the realization of its ultimate aim, the co-operative commonwealth, and to increase its power against capitalist oppression, we advocate and pledge ourselves and our elected officers to the following program:

Collective Ownership

  1. The collective ownership and democratic management of railroads, wire and wireless telegraphs and telephones, express service, steamboat lines, and all other social means of transportation and communication and of all large scale industries. [This has been effectively achieved through comprehensive vertical and horizontal regulation of the marketplace especially in the Federal arena.]
  2. The immediate acquirement by the municipalities, the states or the federal government of all grain elevators, stock yards, storage warehouses, and other distributing agencies, in order to reduce the present extortionate cost of living. [Read some of the Homeland Security edicts and the emerging law on hoarding.]
  3. The extension of the public domain to include mines, quarries, oil wells, forests and water power. [Look at the percentages of Federal land in the Rocky Mountain Western states for a chilling view of DC ownership of resources and land.]
  4. The further conservation and development of natural resources for the use and benefit of all the people . . .
  5. The collective ownership of land wherever practicable, and in cases where such ownership is impracticable, the appropriation by taxation of the annual rental value of all the land held for speculation and exploitation.
  6. The collective ownership and democratic management of the banking and currency system.


The immediate government relief of the unemployed by the extension of all useful public works. All persons employed on such works to be engaged directly by the government under a work day of not more than eight hours and at not less than the prevailing union wages. The government also to establish employment bureaus; to lend money to states and municipalities without interest for the purpose of carrying on public works, and to take such other measures within its power as will lessen the widespread misery of the workers caused by the misrule of the capitalist class.

Industrial Demands

  1. The conservation of human resources, particularly of the lives and well-being of the workers and their families:
  2. By shortening the work day in keeping with the increased productiveness of machinery.
  3. By securing for every worker a rest period of not less than a day and a half in each week.
  4. By securing a more effective inspection of workshops, factories and mines.
  5. By the forbidding the employment of children under sixteen years of age.
  6. By the co-operative organization of the industries in the federal penitentiaries for the benefit of the convicts and their dependents.
  7. By forbidding the interstate transportation of the products of child labor, of convict labor and of all uninspected factories and mines.
  8. By abolishing the profit system in government work and substituting either the direct hire of labor or the awarding of contracts to co-operative groups of workers.
  9. By establishing minimum wage scales.
  10. By abolishing official charity and substituting a non-contributory system of old age pensions, a general system of insurance by the State of all its members against unemployment and invalidism and a system of compulsory insurance by employers of their workers, without cost to the latter, against industrial diseases, accidents and death.[Social Security and its appendages satisfied this plea.]

Political Demands

  1. The absolute freedom of press, speech and assemblage. [One of the few sane proposals in the entire platform.]
  2. The adoption of a graduated income tax and the extension of inheritance taxes, graduated in proportion to the value of the estate and to nearness of kin-the proceeds of these taxes to be employed in the socialization of industry.
  3. The abolition of the monopoly ownership of patents and the substitution of collective ownership, with direct rewards to inventors by premiums or royalties. [How do you incentivize innovation in the absence of sowing the fruits of individual labor?]
  4. Unrestricted and equal suffrage for men and women.
  5. The adoption of the initiative, referendum and recall and of proportional representation, nationally as well as locally.
  6. The abolition of the Senate and of the veto power of the President.
  7. The election of the President and Vice-President by direct vote of the people.
  8. The abolition of the power usurped by the Supreme Court of the United States to pass upon the constitutionality of the legislation enacted by Congress. National laws to be repealed only by act of Congress or by a referendum vote of the whole people.
  9. Abolition of the present restrictions upon the amendment of the constitution, so that instrument may be made amendable by a majority of the voters in a majority of the States.
  10. The granting of the right of suffrage in the District of Columbia with representation in Congress and a democratic form of municipal government for purely local affairs.
  11. The extension of democratic government to all United States territory.
  12. The enactment of further measures for the conservation of health. The creation of an independent bureau of health, with such restrictions as will secure full liberty to all schools of practice.
  13. The enactment of further measures for general education and particularly for vocational education in useful pursuits. The Bureau of Education to be made a department.
  14. The separation of the present Bureau of Labor from the Department of Commerce and Labor and its elevation to the rank of a department.
  15. Abolition of federal districts courts and the United States circuit court of appeals. State courts to have jurisdiction in all cases arising between citizens of several states and foreign corporations. The election of all judges for short terms. [Another meritorious platform requirement
  16. The immediate curbing of the power of the courts to issue injunctions.
  17. The free administration of the law.
  18. The calling of a convention for the revision of the constitution of the U. S. [I would prefer the abolition thereof and the break-up of these united States.]

With very few exceptions, this and the Communist Manifesto is the intellectual backbone of America’s political leadership.  Excepting Ron Paul, what politician at the Federal level is championing states rights, freed markets and non-interventionism domestically and overseas?  Not a soul.

“We shall tax and tax, and spend and spend, and elect and elect.”

-Harry Hopkins*

*Harry Hopkins was one of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s closest advisers. He was one of the architects of the New Deal, especially the relief programs of the Works Progress Administration (WPA), which he directed and built into the largest employer in the country. In World War II he was Roosevelt’s chief diplomatic advisor and troubleshooter and was a key policy maker in the $50 billion Lend Lease program that sent aid to the allies.

His Soviet code name was Zamestitel.

Copyright © 2011 by zerogov.com








The History You Don’t Know: Ten Questions for Jeff Riggenbach

Jeff is one of my favorite contemporary observers of  liberty and history.  He is a frequent contributor at Mises and his mellifluous voice informs many pod-casts and audio books on libertarian topics and books.  I have a tremendous interest in history and most of the library annex at my house is crowded with books on that very subject.  My essays tend to draw from the historical well frequently and try to tease out the hidden history one will not find in mainstream government media-education complex factories at the schools or the major media outlets.  Jeff offers a unique perspective that is far more informed and nuanced than the professional drones who claim the title of professional historian.  There are some surprises here and please enjoy the interview. -BB

Jeff Riggenbach


Good afternoon, Jeff.  Tell us how you view revisionist history and how it sharpens our perspective on how the world really works.

We should always remember that history is written by the victors.   Or, to put the same idea in a slightly different way, history is invariably written by people who have a dog in the fight – people who have a stake in how the events of the past (and their consequences in the present) are viewed.  These people will, naturally, put what they regard as the best possible face on their accounts of past events.  It is therefore extremely foolhardy to read a book on, say, World War I, by a celebrated, honored, thoroughly mainstream historian who teaches at Harvard or Princeton or Stanford or Berkeley and has served as president of the American Historical Association (AHA) or the Organization of American Historians (OAH) and then say to yourself, “Okay, now I know what happened during World War I and why.  Now I can move on to some other topic.”  Nothing could be further from the truth.  You have only begun your investigations.

 The next step is to ask yourself how a person becomes a celebrated, honored, thoroughly mainstream historian who teaches in the Ivy League or its equivalent and is elected to run the AHA or the OAH.  Isn’t it by telling readers what they want to hear?  Isn’t it by going along with the conventional wisdom – with whatever is almost universally “known” to be true – in order to get along?  Are there historians who take another tack?  Who either adduce different facts or who argue that the agreed upon facts should be understood in a different way, looked at from a different perspective, examined in a different light?  Who are these writers who care so little for their career advancement?  What do they have to say?

Now there can be many reasons why someone might accept the conventional wisdom on any particular subject.  Maybe the conventional wisdom is the truth.  More often, however, I’d say people buy into the conventional wisdom out of naïveté – it never occurs to them that what “everyone” knows and believes could possibly be wrong – or out of opportunistic careerism – you live more affluently and enjoy more influence if you go along to get along.  And, of course, there are many people outside the historical professions for whom the most compelling reason of all pertains – boredom.  History bores them and they really don’t care who’s right about a controversy they never knew existed to begin with.

On one level, you can’t really argue with that position.  The person who is bored by history knows far more about what genuinely interests him or her than I can ever know.  On the other hand, a part of me wants to cry out to such a person: Don’t you understand that you’re missing one of the great eye-opening experiences possible in this life?  You have a chance to read a conventional presentation of a historical topic or period and then read a revisionist discussion of that very same topic or period.  Point, counterpoint.  It makes you realize in a way I guarantee you never have before just how much more there is to say about any subject really worth talking about than initially meets the eye.

Most people associate revisionist history with the history of wars; in fact, Brian Doherty, in Radicals for Capitalism, his very valuable book on the modern American libertarian movement, uses the term “war revisionism” whenever he refers to revisionist history.  This is understandable, certainly.  Through its control of most “education” in this country, and through its enormous influence on the mass media, the State has more to do with shaping the public’s beliefs about American history – especially recent American history – than any other person or institution you can name.  The State also has more to hide than anyone else in society.  It is guilty of more and greater wrongdoing than anyone else.  And its wrongdoing reaches its apex (or, depending on how you look at it, its nadir) in time of war.  During wars, States not only add mass murder and vandalism on a gigantic scale to their ordinary daily crimes of robbery, extortion, abduction and imprisonment; they also use the wars as pretexts for new exercises of State power over the individual or for vast expansions of powers they already had.  Little wonder, then, that revisionists have often focused on wars.

But historical revisionism is a concept that applies everywhere and should be heeded everywhere.  We need a revisionist history of American literature – one that stresses the individualism that lies at the heart of our national letters, exposes the Euro-centric bias of almost all traditional discussion of American literature, and unapologetically acknowledges the literary importance of the so-called “genre fiction” that is one of the greatest and most original contributions Americans have made to the imaginative literature of the world.  We need a revisionist history of American journalism – one that offers a different and more instructive portrayal of the “bad old days” of the 19th and early 20th Centuries when newspapers were openly partisan and there were not yet any established “standards” for those who wrote periodically about current events to adhere to.

 I happen to think a libertarian perspective tends to bring the world into sharper relief.  One tends to be free from a partisan political filter that unbalances evidentiary bars; in other words, believers in a certain system tend to be more credulous of evidence that supports their respective positions.  We tend to look at history as a contest to attain power over others.  What do you think?

 I agree that a libertarian perspective casts the world into sharper focus.  Because a libertarian understands the difference between government and the State and between a country or a people or a culture and the State that attempts to control it, a libertarian is less easily bamboozled by mainstream journalistic and historical accounts that portray the State as some sort of hero, “defending” or “rescuing” ordinary people from some menace or other.  On the other hand, I think “confirmation bias,” which is to say, “the tendency to judge a statement according to how conveniently it fits with one’s settled position,” is quite as common among libertarians as it is among our uncomprehending liberal and conservative friends.  I strongly recommend a short but very instructive piece on this question in the December (2011) Atlantic by the libertarian economist Dan Klein, who teaches at George Mason University in suburban Virginia, outside Washington.  It was Klein’s words I quoted just now on the nature of “confirmation bias.”  His piece in The Atlantic is called “I Was Wrong, and So Are You.”  Read it and weep.

 I love Gore Vidal and find his strong “Old Republic” vision and wonderful lyricism a strong draw for his historical fiction.  I find the same for Alan Eckert’s Narratives of America series.  Our children are homeschooled and I found my love of history was best passed to them through outstanding historical fiction.  Is this one of the reasons you find Vidal so intriguing?

 I’m not a particularly great admirer of Vidal’s fiction as fiction.  I think Vidal is one of the most brilliant writers in American literary history, and I think it’s his personal tragedy that he dreamed as a kid of being a novelist, of writing fiction, and he never gave that up, no matter how obvious it became that he has very little talent for storytelling.  Writing fiction requires two basic skills.  One is writing; the other is storytelling.  There are many novelists who have enjoyed very successful careers without ever being able to write very well.  They got by on their talent for storytelling.  The reverse phenomenon – the successful novelist who writes extremely well but can’t invent vivid and memorable characters, places, situations, plots – is much less common.  Have you ever read any of Vidal’s fiction outside the American Chronicle series?  At its best it’s somewhat painful.  At its worst, it is almost unthinkably bad.  Vidal’s best novels – Burr, 1876, Lincoln – are the ones in which he didn’t have to invent any major characters or make up any stories, just write a pre-existing story already peopled with characters.   Not that doing this and doing it well is an inconsiderable achievement!  These three novels do have some legitimate claim, I think, to literary as well as historical importance.  But for the most part, my interest in Vidal is based on my enthusiasm for his non-fiction writing and for his views on American history.

I’m sure there are many kids for whom historical fiction is a good way to stimulate an interest in history itself.  I suppose, looking back, that I myself was such a kid.  The history I was taught in the public schools I attended in southeast Texas in the ’50s and early ’60s made the entire subject seem dismal and boring, but there were certain works of historical fiction that did excite me.  Two in particular that pop into my mind as I think about your question are a couple of novels by Howard Fast, originally published in the 1940s, just before I was born.  One was Citizen Tom Paine, which definitely played a part in my evolution into individualism.  The other was The American, a fictionalized biography of John Peter Altgeld, the Illinois governor who threw away his political career in defense of principle by deciding to pardon the surviving Haymarket anarchists.

 I happen to think that a Left-Right taxonomy has lost its descriptive value and find the descriptors of Collectivist and Individualist with the appropriate Interventionist or Non-Interventionist preamble more telling.  You take issue with Rothbard’s “Old Right” notions.  Could you expand on that?

 I agree with you that the Left-Right taxonomy has lost its descriptive value, but I also think that as long as we persist in using the Left-Right terminology, even if it’s only in discussing historical cases, we ought to try to be consistent and coherent in our usage.  Rothbard provided an excellent short account of where the Left-Right distinction came from and what it originally meant in his important 1965 essay “Left & Right: The Prospects for Liberty.”  The Right, the Conservatives, stood for the interests of a subsidized, privileged class that used the power of the State to keep itself wealthy and influential – the monarchy and its hangers-on in the beginning; various big business and banking establishments and their hangers-on in later years.  The Left, the liberals, stood for free international trade, free markets domestically, and freedom of thought and expression.

As late as the early 1930s, this remained the standard conception of what Left and Right referred to.  Individualists and libertarians like H. L. Mencken, Albert Jay Nock, Rose Wilder Lane, Garet Garrett, and John T. Flynn – the people Rothbard wanted us to think of as the intellectual vanguard of the “Old Right,” were popularly thought of in the 1920s and early ’30s as liberals or radicals.  People who favored State subsidies and other special favors for big business, people who favored government-managed international trade to benefit big business, people who favored what today would be called “government-business partnerships,” people who were comfortable with government intrusions into personal morality like Prohibition – these people were popularly thought of back then as conservatives.  Herbert Hoover is a good example of what I’m talking about here, but so is any of the so-called “progressive” followers of Teddy Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson (a DINO or Democrat in Name Only, since his policies were pure Rooseveltian Republicanism).  To characterize the opposition to Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal as members of the Right is to concede what ought to be not only rejected but ridiculed into oblivion: FDR’s preposterous assertion that his package of warmed over Hoover administration programs was “liberal” in spirit – that it represented the aspirations and beliefs of the Left.

I haven’t seen the book itself yet, but, judging from early reviews of it, I’d say Corey Robin sets forth a view of contemporary conservatism in The Reactionary Mind: Conservatism From Edmund Burke to Sarah Palin that is at least compatible in its main features with the view of conservatism Rothbard presented all those years ago in “Left & Right.”  Robin’s view is also instructive and interesting.

I happened to see the agendas for both major historical academic conclaves [AHA and OAH] in America and year after year, I get the feeling that absent class, gender and ethnicity, no papers would be presented.  When and why did the practice of history go adrift here in America?

 Have patience.  Before the ’60s and ’70s, too few people wrote about this stuff; now too many do.  Which is worse?  I think it’s always better to have too much of something than too little of it – unless, of course the thing in question is intrinsically worthless.  But I don’t think all examination of history from the point of view of gender or ethnicity or class is worthless by definition.  Most of what’s actually done is pretty worthless, of course.  But it’s easy enough to ignore unoriginal and unimportant work; it’s much harder to produce work from scratch when it isn’t being written by other people at all.  You have to take the long view where issues like this are concerned – or so it seems to me.  Most people in any field lack creativity – lack, really, the temperament to even try to think outside the box provided by their professional subculture.  It never occurs to them to do anything other than what everybody around them is doing.  At this moment in time, what everybody around them is doing is ethnic studies, gender studies, and Marxist class analysis.  But this moment in time won’t last forever.  We need more libertarian academics to choose history as their field.  We need them to write energetically about history and do worthy work that will be presented at the annual meetings of the AHA and the OAH.

 Among my many paradoxes, I am an anarchist whose first love in history is military history (I am also a retired career Army officer) and it almost seems to be the sole sub-discipline that takes cause and effect seriously as a lever to understand why we are where we are.  Yet military history is not only dying like Classics departments across the nation but is even sneered at by “professional” historians. Why?

 Who knows?  I never could get interested in military history, myself.  And thinking about it now does rather remind me of Ambrose Bierce’s definition of history from The Devil’s Dictionary: “An account, mostly false, of events, mostly unimportant, which were brought about by rulers, mostly knaves, and soldiers, mostly fools.”  I think everyone should read the sort of history that interests him or her.  But I think the pretense that particular acts of mass murder (known popularly as “battles”) have been among the most important facts of history is rather like the pretense that class, gender, and ethnicity have played that role in history.

 There is an annual event where the leading court historians are asked who the best presidents are, and inevitably the list is topped by the most bloodthirsty and tyrannical occupants of that office.  Why?  I happen to be fond of Cleveland and Coolidge, do you have any favorites?

 Why do the most bloodthirsty and tyrannical of the presidents win the popularity contest?  Because most members of any profession are both unimaginative and of limited intelligence.  The way you become a leading court historian is not by exhibiting intelligence and imagination in your work.  It’s by parroting the State-sponsored conventional wisdom and by excelling at the packaging job you do on it.  Most of these court historians have never even considered the idea that society might be possible without the State.  To them, the legitimacy of the State is self-evident, whatever the flaws of any particular State.  What you call “bloodthirsty” presidents are those who demonstrate the power and glory of the State – its strength, its valor.

As to my favorite less evil presidents, I’ve always rather liked Cleveland, too, though he’s far from unimpeachable.  I prefer Harding to Coolidge.  In fact, Harding is probably the only Republican president I’d include in my Less Evil Top Ten.  The others would all be Democrats.  One of them, by the way, would be Jimmy Carter, whom I’ve gradually come to realize was one of the least harmful presidents of the 20th Century.

 I do wish more folks would listen to podcasts like those of you and Dan Carlin, you happen to be finding a way to captivate the greater number of non-readers emerging from the government education system.  How do we encourage a more active interest in history?  What new venues are emerging that encourage you?

 The podcasts you refer to so flatteringly are being gradually phased out at the Mises Institute website.  It’s generally felt – by me as well as by the folks at Mises – that I’ve now covered most of the people we had hoped to cover in the Libertarian Tradition series, so it’s time to move on to something else.  I admit to having been a bit startled a couple of years ago when it began to be clear to me that there were a significant number of young people listening to my podcasts and that these young people didn’t read nearly as much as I had always tended to assume all libertarians did.  One of these young people, in correspondence with me (I always answer my fan mail), told me bluntly that he preferred to listen to me reading a book or article aloud than to read it for himself.  I will continue to do libertarian audio of various kinds in the months and years ahead.  It hadn’t occurred to me that an important audience for material of this kind might be casualties of the public school system.  But now that you bring the matter up, I must admit it seems highly plausible.

I’m not the kind of guy who feels encouraged most of the time.  Nor am I the kind of guy who has a master plan for the enlightenment of the masses. I’m the kind of guy who sees the half empty glass.  I just struggle along, lurching forward, doing what I seem best suited for, and hoping for the best.  I tend to expect the worst – or something more like the worst than like the best – but I do hope for the best.

     What particular area of history interests you the most?

American history.  Within American history, intellectual and cultural history.

 Tell us about the future of ongoing projects you have in mind?

 I should have a couple of books coming out in 2012.  One will be a collection of the Libertarian Tradition pieces I wrote for the Mises Institute and published on their website during 2010 and 2011.   This book will have a new introduction by me, some of the pieces in it will be expanded and revised from the versions that originally ran on Mises.org, and there will likely be a new piece or two, written expressly for the book.

The second book is a biography of the Objectivist libertarian Joan Kennedy Taylor.  Taylor is important for a number of reasons.  She was the original pioneer of what is now called “libertarian feminism” or “individualist feminism,” and Reclaiming the Mainstream, her book on that subject, remains indispensable to anyone interested in the topic, not least because of the very persuasive revisionist history of feminism itself that it presents.  Joan Taylor was a fixture in libertarian publishing for 30 years, from the mid-1960s to the mid-1990s.  She knew and worked with nearly everyone of importance in the libertarian movement during those years, including both Ayn Rand and Murray Rothbard.  She “discovered” Charles Murray, who has agreed to provide a foreword for the book.  Joan worked for the Libertarian Review Foundation, the Cato Institute, and the Foundation for Economic Education.  She was the closest friend Roy A. Childs, Jr. had in the world for the last two decades of his life.  She was on hand for some of the most interesting and influential events of the last half century of libertarian movement history.  So her story – my book – turns out to be, not just a biography of Joan, but also a detailed history of a key period in movement history, in which Rand, Rothbard, Childs, Wendy McElroy, Sharon Presley, and other notable libertarians play key roles.

Jeff Riggenbach is a journalist, author, editor, broadcaster, and educator. A member of the Organization of American Historians, a senior fellow at the Randolph Bourne Institute, and an Adjunct Scholar at the Ludwig von Mises Institute, he has written for such newspapers as the New York Times, USA Today, the Los Angeles Times, and the San Francisco Chronicle; such magazines as Reason, Inquiry, and Liberty; and such websites as LewRockwell.com, AntiWar.com, and RationalReview.com. His first book, In Praise of Decadence, a revisionist history of developments in American politics and culture since the 1960s, appeared in 1998 and is still in print.  His second book, Why American History Is Not What They Say: An Introduction to Revisionism, appeared in 2009.  Drawing on vocal skills he honed in classical and all-news radio in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Houston, Riggenbach has also narrated more than 150 audio books, including the audio versions of numerous libertarian works.

Anarcho-Abolitionism: Carrying the Anti-Slavery Argument to its Logical End By Chris Dates

“Even voting for the right is doing nothing for it. It is only expressing to men feebly your desire that it should prevail. A wise man will not leave the right to the mercy of chance, nor wish it to prevail through the power of the majority. There is but little virtue in the action of masses of men.” ~ Henry David Thoreau


Chattel slavery abolitionists stood in defiance of slavery. They argued that men do not have the moral right to own other men, and of course they were correct. The truth was on their side, and it was only a matter of time before the morality of the rest of the population caught up. Now, chattel slavery is seen as universally wrong, and the fact that this abhorrent institution existed for so long has left one hell of a scar on the moral history of mankind.

Despite all of the courageous efforts of the abolitionists, a particularly nasty form of slavery still blankets humanity. It is a dangerous form of slavery, because men have been tricked into thinking this form of slavery is the very pinnacle of freedom. The slavery that infects the world now is more of a free-range style of slavery; an evolutionary adaptation of human ownership. The ballot box is the master, but it is still the individual who is enslaved.  The tyrannous will of the majority has taken the place of the will of the single despotic master. The only civil recourse the individual has against this democratic offensive is to cast a vote himself in order to try and protect his life, liberty, and property. A feeble and incapable defense perhaps, but there are only two other avenues of recourse: peaceful secession, or violent revolution. One only happens when the other cannot peacefully be realized.

To wield power over an individual’s ability to choose is the same as wielding power over his body. It is the power of choice that makes us who we are. The body is the vehicle for free choice, and when the individual’s ability to freely choose is coercively forced, then the individual has become nothing more than an organic robot. An individual’s individuality spawns from the choices he makes; it is what makes up his personality. To remove the decision making from a person because you think he is too stupid or too selfish to decide for himself is to remove the very thing that makes him human. There is no point of having the freedom of movement if the individual does not have freedom of choice. Self-ownership is so much more than just ownership of the body, it is also ownership of the choices we make, good or bad. It is also the ownership of the consequences of those choices, good or bad. An example that we are all too familiar with: how many of you feel charitable on April 15th? I’ll bet not too many. The choice to give money voluntarily to the needy has been almost wholly removed from us. We did not freely decide to give, so we do not feel the goodness that usually accompanies the act of being charitable. This is what collectivists fail to grasp, and what most social scientists fail to admit. Nothing will fix the problems that face humanity, except for letting humans be humans. I have trust in humanity because I have trust in myself.

The collective is made up of individuals, so it’s power is derived from the individual. It is the only logical explanation. From taxation to secession, the group can only possess the powers of the individual. If the group claims the power of taxation then this means the individual has the power of taxation. This would mean that I have the power to not only lay taxes on my neighbor, I would also possess the power to collect, by force if necessary, the taxes I have laid on him. This is called theft, and having a super-majority of individuals who think it’s not theft doesn’t change the reality of it. Providing me with roads and schools with that money does not change the fact that  the money was stolen using force or the threat of force. To possess the power of secession is to possess the power to say no to the collective. Secession usually prompts thoughts of the separation of countries and nations. It’s almost always thought of as the fracturing of the collective; it’s never used in the context of the individual. If the individual does not possess the power to secede from the group, then the group does not possess the power to secede from the bigger group. The power of secession resides in the individual, but it is seen as absurd to take this position. I have actually been ridiculed by others claiming to be secessionists. The same argument that is used against the secession of the individual can be used against the secession of the collective. The insanity of this situation is that taxation is considered to be right, while secession is considered to be wrong. The reason it’s insane is because it’s perfectly backwards.

Secession down to the individual level would be considered to be anarchy and in the minds of most people chaos, but it is considered to be taking a stand for freedom when it’s done in a group. I don’t know where the breakdown comes from, but if an individual cannot hoist his own flag in defiance of the group, he is indeed a slave. If he cannot take his property and go home, then he does not own his home, his property or himself. This is why I am an anarcho-abolitionist/secessionist. I am for abolition and secession all the way down to the individual, it is the only moral choice. In order for one to be able to secede from the group, the group has to be able to identify the powers that reside in the individual, and also be able to identify the powers that collective could never possess, like the power to deny secession. That is the power of enslaving your fellow human, and no individual or group has ever possessed that power. To argue against secession is to necessarily argue for slavery, and that is what I stand in opposition to. Many people fear what would happen if this kind of thinking was ever embraced, but not me. I have studied history and I know the greatness the human race can achieve once they let each other be free.

I don’t have to prove freedom to be true; I only have to prove slavery to be false.


“[The average man] is not actually happy when free; he is uncomfortable, a bit alarmed, and intolerably lonely. Liberty is not a thing for the great masses of men. It is the exclusive possession of a small and disreputable minority, like knowledge, courage and honor. It takes a special sort of man to understand and enjoy liberty — and he is usually an outlaw in democratic societies.” ~ H.L. Mencken

Village Praxis: T.E. Lawrence and the Next American Revolution (Part II) by Bill Buppert

“All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dream with open eyes, to make it possible.”

– T. E. Lawrence, “The Seven Pillars of Wisdom”

Part I: http://zerogov.com/?p=2481

You’ve taken the first step and read Lawrence’s Twenty Seven Articles.  Some are germane to a fight on American soil and some not so much.  We are entering a phase in world affairs where the economic troubles and collapses that are occurring around the globe will come home to roost in America.  Like most governments, the US central authorities in DC will do everything in their power to retain the power and control they now practice over their tax jurisdiction. Like the other USSR in 1989, a fracture is in the future and one state declaring secession will start a stampede the likes of which this country has not seen for nearly a century and a half.  The 320 million subjects are critical components in the tax-eater system to continue feeding the Federal beast.  These cattle will not be permitted to go gently into the night.

Lawrence discovered that successful insurgencies must retain the initiative and establish solid support among the mass base for all actions.  Whether we examine his successes against the Turks, the Irish divorce from the United Kingdom in 1916-1922 or the Basque success against the Spanish government to carve out their semi-autonomous province in Northeastern Spain, the initiative must be seized and retained.

This initiative can be maintained on a shoestring.  The force calculus for insurgencies is a meager ratio compared to the forces Counterinsurgency (COIN) and conventional forces must maintain to defeat incipient and long term guerrilla forces.

The IRA in both its pre- and post-WWII configurations fielded less than a thousand active fighters at peak strength against tens of thousands of deployed British and Northern Irish contingents.  German Colonel Paul Emil von  Lettow-Vorbeck fought more than a half million deployed British and Allied forces to a standstill in German East Africa for nearly four years during WWI with a force that rarely numbered more than ten thousand and at one point had 1200 effectives left.  No less than 127 General officers failed to vanquish him and at the conclusion of the war, he remained the only German General (he was promoted in abstentia in 1917) to be undefeated on Earth in 1918.  He sought to be self-sufficient and managed to manhandle naval guns off the ill-fated Konigsberg in the Rufiji all the way up to the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro.

This illustrates that much like the irregular actions in both the First (18th century) and Second (19th century) American Revolutions, a tremendously small number of active fighters and triggermen can cause a disproportionate headache to large formations of conventional armed forces arrayed against them.  U.S. Grant had to take huge chunks of his fighting forces and devote them to protection of his lines of communication during his siege and investment of Vicksburg.  I would suggest that Napoleon was not necessarily wholly defeated by Wellington at Waterloo in 1815 so much as emasculated by French (southern) and Spanish guerrillas in his lines of communication after his atrocities and overreach enraged the local populations of these areas.  Before, 1850, France was not the monolithic nation state we are accustomed to today.  There were areas of it, like Germany, that did not even share dialects or language.

Lawrence paid attention to these details and more.  He studied the culture and the history deeply.  He was a brilliant and eccentric scholar whose steeping in Medievalism may have given him an edge in understanding the dynamics of the war he was waging with the indigenous forces against the Turks (and at times, against British post-war interests).  He delegated authority to tribal and clan leaders in ways that increased his combat and mission effectiveness.  He deferred to local authority to develop strongholds and effective placeholders when his mobile forces pursued other targets.

If you carefully examine his Articles and replace the use of “Ashraf and Bedu” with Appalachian, Inland Northwestern or Basque, the tenets become universal assignations for the leveraging of cultural intelligence for fighting effectiveness and combat power. I hope to develop a future compendium that examines every article in detail but brevity dictates that I entertain just a few examples.

14. While very difficult to drive, the Bedu are easy to lead, if: have the patience to bear with them. The less apparent your interferences the more your influence. They are willing to follow your advice and do what you wish, but they do not mean you or anyone else to be aware of that. It is only after the end of all annoyances that you find at bottom their real fund of goodwill.

Lawrence is cataloguing what at first glance appears to be an observation savvy only to the tribes he was working with but it makes perfect sense in almost every Western situation.  Why American forces in the Middle East who are the alleged COIN experts fail to grasp the importance of discrete stakeholder-ship in the forces they are mentoring to fight the indigenous fight is beyond me.  In one successful insurgency after another which is at their essence full contact sports to wrest control of a nation or parts of it from the previous insurgency, the mass base and its acquiescence to the insurgents will determine their success.  Once the moral high ground is lost by either antagonist, the fight will be about legitimacy for the present government or the aspirants who seek to replace it or divorce a part of the country from its suzerainty.

22. Do not try to trade on what you know of fighting. The Hejaz confounds ordinary tactics. Learn the Bedu principles of war as thoroughly and as quickly as you can, for till you know them your advice will be no good to the Sherif. Unnumbered generations of tribal raids have taught them more about some parts of the business than we will ever know. In familiar conditions they fight well, but strange events cause panic. Keep your unit small. Their raiding parties are usually from one hundred to two hundred men, and if you take a crowd they only get confused. Also their sheikhs, while admirable company commanders, are too ‘set’ to learn to handle the equivalents of battalions or regiments. Don’t attempt unusual things, unless they appeal to the sporting instinct Bedu have so strongly, unless success is obvious. If the objective is a good one (booty) they will attack like fiends, they are splendid scouts, their mobility gives you the advantage that will win this local war, they make proper use of their knowledge of the country (don’t take tribesmen to places they do not know), and the gazelle-hunters, who form a proportion of the better men, are great shots at visible targets. A sheikh from one tribe cannot give orders to men from another; a Sherif is necessary to command a mixed tribal force. If there is plunder in prospect, and the odds are at all equal, you will win. Do not waste Bedu attacking trenches (they will not stand casualties) or in trying to defend a position, for they cannot sit still without slacking. The more unorthodox and Arab your proceedings, the more likely you are to have the Turks cold, for they lack initiative and expect you to. Don’t play for safety.

Again, Article 22 speaks volumes about the importance of local traditions and what may constitute a military maturity that in Western eyes is unfamiliar and seems on its face, absurd.  Yet after ten years in Afghanistan, there is no safety on the roads for Allied occupiers nor does the enemy afford the military hyper-power a set-piece engagement or lucrative target sets by gathering or bundling in single places.  You will notice the disproportionate number of hits in the last few years on logistical tails such as communications or fuel nodes.  The mujahedeen know that they cannot defeat the Allied forces in stand-up fights so they take the fight to the weaknesses which become apparent to them over time through careful observation and canvassing of sympathetic members of the mass base in locations across the terrain.

Even our much ballyhooed victory over Muslim rebels in 1902 is rather premature when considers the no-go areas in Philippine Muslim strongholds like Mindanao.  There have no Muslim insurgencies defeated since the end of WWII.  None.  Like General Giap in Vietnam, they too pay attention to Lawrence.  They realize that the British were defeated not once, but twice in Afghanistan; the Russians followed their lead and then America, much like the dull schoolboys we were following the French in Indochina, thought technological and economic superiority trumped all other aspects of military victory.  America is defeated by a little known law:  Buppert’s Law of Topography dictates that most mountainous terrain held by people who are savvy riflemen cannot be militarily defeated whether it be the Chechens, Swiss or Afghans.  This may be one reason why the Appalachians in the US were not fully tamed until about the 1930s.  One may find a few historical instances where that may not be true but then there are dozens of other examples that prove it out.  Take a look at Zomia.

Lawrence provides a terrific blueprint for how to conduct a proper insurgency.  In the next installment of this series we will examine the exploits of a man whose efficacy and merit as a warrior matched that of Lawrence in breadth and scope of achievement but on a distinctly different playing field, Michael Collins.

“I’d like to have Two Armies: One for display with lovely guns, tanks, little soldiers, staffs, distinguished and doddering Generals, and dear little Regimental officers who would be deeply concerned over their General’s bowel movements or their Colonel’s piles, an Army that would be shown for a modest fee on every fairground in the country.

The other would be the Real One, composed entirely of young enthusiasts in camouflage uniforms, who would not be put on display, but from whom impossible efforts would be demanded and to whom all sorts of tricks would be taught. That’s the Army in which I should like to fight.”

– Jean Lartéguy, author of The Centurions and The Praetorians

copyright © 2011 by zerogov.com

Village Praxis: T.E. Lawrence and the Next American Revolution (Part I) by Bill Buppert

“Men have looked upon the desert as barren land, the free holding of whoever chose; but in fact each hill and valley in it had a man who was its acknowledged owner and would quickly assert the right of his family or clan to it, against aggression.”
– T. E. Lawrence

Vietnamese General Giap (who vanquished both the French and the Americans) was asked who his greatest influence was in conducting guerrilla campaigns in Vietnam in an interview with (soon to be infamous) French General Salan in 1946: “My fighting gospel is TE Lawrence’s Seven Pillars of WisdomI am never without it.”  Nor am I and I keep a copy both at home and my office.  My copy at home is my dog-eared and duct taped copy from my former days in the Army.  I adore the book and have read it three times but it can be a hard slog for readers unfamiliar with the British idiom and not well acquainted with the history that led to the Arab Revolt.  For the best introduction I have found to the mess that is now the modern Middle East, read David Fromkin’s brilliant book:  A Peace to End All Peace: The Fall of the Ottoman Empire and the Creation of the Modern Middle East

General Giap

For those who won’t take the time to read it, the distillate of his teaching can be found in his 27 Articles.  Some are totally irrelevant to any fight we may concerned with in North America such as 10 but some, such as 12 and 22, are timeless and effective combat multipliers.  Lawrence, of course, was Arab-centric in his nostrums but many of these can be universally applied with a little intellectual effort.

Whether the central bankers like it or not, the EU fiat currency will collapse in the next six to twelve months and take the dollar with it.  This will lead to the hardest times America has known since the War of Northern Aggression tore the continent asunder in the nineteenth century.  Hard times will be a subtle way to describe it.  The US government will react in the same barbaric fashion it does in every crisis:  it will wage war abroad and on its own citizens and systematically strangle every notion of freedom and liberty remaining across the fruited plain.  It will clothe all of these noxious behaviors in the most patriotic tones and cries of threats to national security will scare the woolen-clad subjects into paroxysms of bleating and begging for coddling and protection from their masters.  There will be conflict on American soil again and the guerrilla style of conflict will soon be the only means of opposition for the few who fight for the right to be left alone.  However one anticipates your personal involvement in the emerging crisis, Lawrence provides the basic building blocks for seeing how that fight may be conducted.

I am a guest lecturer in Irregular Warfare and a number of readers have requested that I addressed this subject so I am finally getting around to it.  I will address the top ten tactical/operational/campaign books and manuals one should have in your library to illuminate the best and worst practices in insurgency and guerrilla warfare in Part II of this essay.

Nine-tenths of tactics are certain, and taught in books: but the irrational tenth is like the kingfisher flashing across the pool, and that is the test of generals.
– T. E. Lawrence

The following notes have been expressed in commandment form for greater clarity and to save words. They are, however, only my personal conclusions, arrived at gradually while I worked in the Hejaz and now put on paper as stalking horses for beginners in the Arab armies. They are meant to apply only to Bedu; townspeople or Syrians require totally different treatment. They are of course not suitable to any other person’s need, or applicable unchanged in any particular situation. Handling Hejaz Arabs is an art, not a science, with exceptions and no obvious rules. At the same time we have a great chance there; the Sherif trusts us, and has given us the position (towards his Government) which the Germans wanted to win in Turkey. If we are tactful, we can at once retain his goodwill and carry out our job, but to succeed we have got to put into it all the interest and skill we possess.

1. Go easy for the first few weeks. A bad start is difficult to atone for, and the Arabs form their judgments on externals that we ignore. When you have reached the inner circle in a tribe, you can do as you please with yourself and them.

2. Learn all you can about your Ashraf and Bedu. Get to know their families, clans and tribes, friends and enemies, wells, hills and roads. Do all this by listening and by indirect inquiry. Do not ask questions. Get to speak their dialect of Arabic, not yours. Until you can understand their allusions, avoid getting deep into conversation or you will drop bricks. Be a little stiff at first.

3. In matters of business deal only with the commander of the army, column, or party in which you serve. Never give orders to anyone at all, and reserve your directions or advice for the C.O., however great the temptation (for efficiency’s sake) of dealing with his underlings. Your place is advisory, and your advice is due to the commander alone. Let him see that this is your conception of your duty, and that his is to be the sole executive of your joint plans.

4. Win and keep the confidence of your leader. Strengthen his prestige at your expense before others when you can. Never refuse or quash schemes he may put forward; but ensure that they are put forward in the first instance privately to you. Always approve them, and after praise modify them insensibly, causing the suggestions to come from him, until they are in accord with your own opinion. When you attain this point, hold him to it, keep a tight grip of his ideas, and push them forward as firmly as possibly, but secretly, so that to one but himself (and he not too clearly) is aware of your pressure.

5. Remain in touch with your leader as constantly and unobtrusively as you can. Live with him, that at meal times and at audiences you may be naturally with him in his tent. Formal visits to give advice are not so good as the constant dropping of ideas in casual talk. When stranger sheikhs come in for the first time to swear allegiance and offer service, clear out of the tent. If their first impression is of foreigners in the confidence of the Sherif, it will do the Arab cause much harm.

6. Be shy of too close relations with the subordinates of the expedition. Continual intercourse with them will make it impossible for you to avoid going behind or beyond the instructions that the Arab C.O. has given them on your advice, and in so disclosing the weakness of his position you altogether destroy your own.

7. Treat the sub-chiefs of your force quite easily and lightly. In this way you hold yourself above their level. Treat the leader, if a Sherif, with respect. He will return your manner and you and he will then be alike, and above the rest. Precedence is a serious matter among the Arabs, and you must attain it.

8. Your ideal position is when you are present and not noticed. Do not be too intimate, too prominent, or too earnest. Avoid being identified too long or too often with any tribal sheikh, even if C.O. of the expedition. To do your work you must be above jealousies, and you lose prestige if you are associated with a tribe or clan, and its inevitable feuds. Sherifs are above all blood-feuds and local rivalries, and form the only principle of unity among the Arabs. Let your name therefore be coupled always with a Sherif’s, and share his attitude towards the tribes. When the moment comes for action put yourself publicly under his orders. The Bedu will then follow suit.

9. Magnify and develop the growing conception of the Sherifs as the natural aristocracy of the Arabs. Intertribal jealousies make it impossible for any sheikh to attain a commanding position, and the only hope of union in nomad Arabs is that the Ashraf be universally acknowledged as the ruling class. Sherifs are half-townsmen, half-nomad, in manner and life, and have the instinct of command. Mere merit and money would be insufficient to obtain such recognition; but the Arab reverence for pedigree and the Prophet gives hope for the ultimate success of the Ashraf.

10. Call your Sherif ‘Sidi’ in public and in private. Call other people by their ordinary names, without title. In intimate conversation call a Sheikh ‘Abu Annad’, ‘Akhu Alia’ or some similar by-name.

11. The foreigner and Christian is not a popular person in Arabia. However friendly and informal the treatment of yourself may be, remember always that your foundations are very sandy ones. Wave a Sherif in front of you like a banner and hide your own mind and person. If you succeed, you will have hundreds of miles of country and thousands of men under your orders, and for this it is worth bartering the outward show.

12. Cling tight to your sense of humour. You will need it every day. A dry irony is the most useful type, and repartee of a personal and not too broad character will double your influence with the chiefs. Reproof, if wrapped up in some smiling form, will carry further and last longer than the most violent speech. The power of mimicry or parody is valuable, but use it sparingly, for wit is more dignified than humour. Do not cause a laugh at a Sherif except among Sherifs.

13. Never lay hands on an Arab; you degrade yourself. You may think the resultant obvious increase of outward respect a gain to you, but what you have really done is to build a wall between you and their inner selves. It is difficult to keep quiet when everything is being done wrong, but the less you lose your temper the greater your advantage. Also then you will not go mad yourself.

14. While very difficult to drive, the Bedu are easy to lead, if: have the patience to bear with them. The less apparent your interferences the more your influence. They are willing to follow your advice and do what you wish, but they do not mean you or anyone else to be aware of that. It is only after the end of all annoyances that you find at bottom their real fund of goodwill.

15. Do not try to do too much with your own hands. Better the Arabs do it tolerably than that you do it perfectly. It is their war, and you are to help them, not to win it for them. Actually, also, under the very odd conditions of Arabia, your practical work will not be as good as, perhaps, you think it is.

16. If you can, without being too lavish, forestall presents to yourself. A well-placed gift is often most effective in winning over a suspicious sheikh. Never receive a present without giving a liberal return, but you may delay this return (while letting its ultimate certainty be known) if you require a particular service from the giver. Do not let them ask you for things, since their greed will then make them look upon you only as a cow to milk.

17. Wear an Arab headcloth when with a tribe. Bedu have a malignant prejudice against the hat, and believe that our persistence in wearing it (due probably to British obstinacy of dictation) is founded on some immoral or irreligious principle. A thick headcloth forms a good protection against the sun, and if you wear a hat your best Arab friends will be ashamed of you in public.

18. Disguise is not advisable. Except in special areas, let it be clearly known that you are a British officer and a Christian. At the same time, if you can wear Arab kit when with the tribes, you will acquire their trust and intimacy to a degree impossible in uniform. It is, however, dangerous and difficult. They make no special allowances for you when you dress like them. Breaches of etiquette not charged against a foreigner are not condoned to you in Arab clothes. You will be like an actor in a foreign theatre, playing a part day and night for months, without rest, and for an anxious stake. Complete success, which is when the Arabs forget your strangeness and speak naturally before you, counting you as one of themselves, is perhaps only attainable in character: while half-success (all that most of us will strive for; the other costs too much) is easier to win in British things, and you yourself will last longer, physically and mentally, in the comfort that they mean. Also then the Turks will not hang you, when you are caught.

19. If you wear Arab things, wear the best. Clothes are significant among the tribes, and you must wear the appropriate, and appear at ease in them. Dress like a Sherif, if they agree to it.

20. If you wear Arab things at all, go the whole way. Leave your English friends and customs on the coast, and fall back on Arab habits entirely. It is possible, starting thus level with them, for the European to beat the Arabs at their own game, for we have stronger motives for our action, and put more heart into it than they. If you can surpass them, you have taken an immense stride toward complete success, but the strain of living and thinking in a foreign and half-understood language, the savage food, strange clothes, and stranger ways, with the complete loss of privacy and quiet, and the impossibility of ever relaxing your watchful imitation of the others for months on end, provide such an added stress to the ordinary difficulties of dealing with the Bedu, the climate, and the Turks, that this road should not be chosen without serious thought.

21. Religious discussions will be frequent. Say what you like about your own side, and avoid criticism of theirs, unless you know that the point is external, when you may score heavily by proving it so. With the Bedu, Islam is so all-pervading an element that there is little religiosity, little fervour, and no regard for externals. Do not think from their conduct that they are careless. Their conviction of the truth of their faith, and its share in every act and thought and principle of their daily life is so intimate and intense as to be unconscious, unless roused by opposition. Their religion is as much a part of nature to them as is sleep or food.

22. Do not try to trade on what you know of fighting. The Hejaz confounds ordinary tactics. Learn the Bedu principles of war as thoroughly and as quickly as you can, for till you know them your advice will be no good to the Sherif. Unnumbered generations of tribal raids have taught them more about some parts of the business than we will ever know. In familiar conditions they fight well, but strange events cause panic. Keep your unit small. Their raiding parties are usually from one hundred to two hundred men, and if you take a crowd they only get confused. Also their sheikhs, while admirable company commanders, are too ‘set’ to learn to handle the equivalents of battalions or regiments. Don’t attempt unusual things, unless they appeal to the sporting instinct Bedu have so strongly, unless success is obvious. If the objective is a good one (booty) they will attack like fiends, they are splendid scouts, their mobility gives you the advantage that will win this local war, they make proper use of their knowledge of the country (don’t take tribesmen to places they do not know), and the gazelle-hunters, who form a proportion of the better men, are great shots at visible targets. A sheikh from one tribe cannot give orders to men from another; a Sherif is necessary to command a mixed tribal force. If there is plunder in prospect, and the odds are at all equal, you will win. Do not waste Bedu attacking trenches (they will not stand casualties) or in trying to defend a position, for they cannot sit still without slacking. The more unorthodox and Arab your proceedings, the more likely you are to have the Turks cold, for they lack initiative and expect you to. Don’t play for safety.

23. The open reason that Bedu give you for action or inaction may be true, but always there will be better reasons left for you to divine. You must find these inner reasons (they will be denied, but are none the less in operation) before shaping your arguments for one course or other. Allusion is more effective than logical exposition: they dislike concise expression. Their minds work just as ours do, but on different premises. There is nothing unreasonable, incomprehensible, or inscrutable in the Arab. Experience of them, and knowledge of their prejudices will enable you to foresee their attitude and possible course of action in nearly every case.

24. Do not mix Bedu and Syrians, or trained men and tribesmen. You will get work out of neither, for they hate each other. I have never seen a successful combined operation, but many failures. In particular, ex-officers of the Turkish army, however Arab in feelings and blood and language, are hopeless with Bedu. They are narrow minded in tactics, unable to adjust themselves to irregular warfare, clumsy in Arab etiquette, swollen-headed to the extent of being incapable of politeness to a tribesman for more than a few minutes, impatient, and, usually, helpless without their troops on the road and in action. Your orders (if you were unwise enough to give any) would be more readily obeyed by Beduins than those of any Mohammedan Syrian officer. Arab townsmen and Arab tribesmen regard each other mutually as poor relations, and poor relations are much more objectionable than poor strangers.

25. In spite of ordinary Arab example, avoid too free talk about women. It is as difficult a subject as religion, and their standards are so unlike our own that a remark, harmless in English, may appear as unrestrained to them, as some of their statements would look to us, if translated literally.

26. Be as careful of your servants as of yourself. If you want a sophisticated one you will probably have to take an Egyptian, or a Sudani, and unless you are very lucky he will undo on trek much of the good you so laboriously effect. Arabs will cook rice and make coffee for you, and leave you if required to do unmanly work like cleaning boots or washing. They are only really possible if you are in Arab kit. A slave brought up in the Hejaz is the best servant, but there are rules against British subjects owning them, so they have to be lent to you. In any case, take with you an Ageyli or two when you go up country. They are the most efficient couriers in Arabia, and understand camels.

27. The beginning and ending of the secret of handling Arabs is unremitting study of them. Keep always on your guard; never say an unnecessary thing: watch yourself and your companions all the time: hear all that passes, search out what is going on beneath the surface, read their characters, discover their tastes and their weaknesses and keep everything you find out to yourself. Bury yourself in Arab circles, have no interests and no ideas except the work in hand, so that your brain is saturated with one thing only, and you realize your part deeply enough to avoid the little slips that would counteract the painful work of weeks. Your success will be proportioned to the amount of mental effort you devote to it.

“It seemed that rebellion must have an unassailable base, something guarded not merely from attack, but from the fear of it: such a base as we had in the Red Sea Parts, the desert, or in the minds of the men we converted to our creed.”
– T. E. Lawrence

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