since the New York Times published a long article explaining that most
of the architects of the Bush foreign policy are "Straussians,"
more and more journalists have been asking the question, "What the heck
is a Straussian?" A number of common principles have emerged after these
writers have examined the writings of Leo Strauss, the godfather of
Principle #1 is the perversion of the idea of natural rights,
as understood by John Locke and the American founding fathers. The natural
law tradition holds that man possesses natural rights to life, liberty, and
property and that the state is always and everywhere the greatest threat to
these God-given rights. To the founders, this meant that government should be
"bound by the chains" of the Constitution, to paraphrase Jefferson.
If men were angels, there would be no need for government, Madison wrote in
defense of the Constitution. But men are not angels, Madison continued, which
is why government power must always be limited.
(and his followers) rejected this view of natural rights in favor of
Plato’s philosopher-king model of government: Eliminating restrictions
on state power is fine as long as that power can be wielded by an elite few
who can pursue their own vision of "the public good." As David
Gordon has written, "Straus, while favoring what he
considers to be the classical and Christian concepts of natural law, is
bitterly opposed to the 17th and 18th Century
conceptions of Locke and the rationalists, particularly to their . . .
championing of the rights of the individual: liberty, property, etc."
Far from advocating limited government, Strauss was a proponent of unlimited
state power in pursuit of "nationalism" (as are his American
neocons tend to repeat the words "prudence and moderation" ad
nauseum, to the point of absurdity. In all their critiques of my writings
on Lincoln some of the most apoplectic criticisms have been over my
"failure" to acknowledge Lincoln’s alleged prudence and
moderation (as though waging an unnecessary war that killed 620,000 Americans
was either). (Eric Root of the John Lock Foundation even went so far as to
condemn me for failing to pontificate upon these Magic Straussian Words while
admitting that he had not even read my book!)
buzz words are merely deceptive euphemisms for "unlimited and
unconstitutional executive branch power." Strauss himself was fond of
praising British imperialism and Caesarism for their supposed "prudence
and moderation," just as his contemporary followers are now using these
same words to praise the Bush administration’s foreign policy (of which
they are the main architects!).
is obviously why the Straussians have labored so furiously to make Abraham
Lincoln even more of a cult figure. He essentially declared himself dictator,
suspended habeas corpus, mass arrested thousands of political dissenters,
shut down hundreds of newspapers, ordered the murder of New York City draft
protesters by federal troops, deported an outspoken Democratic Party
opponent, Congressman Clement L. Vallandigham of Ohio, censored all telegraph
communication, nationalized the railroads, confiscated private property,
rigged Northern elections, and waged war on civilians as well as combatants.
The reason he gave for these shocking acts of tyranny was to destroy the
secession movement and abolish the voluntary union of the founding fathers. Or,
as he deceivingly put it, "to save the Union."
and the Republicans wanted to replace the American republic with an empire
that would rival Great Britain’s. To accomplish this they invaded the
Southern states, killing one out of every four white males of military age,
and pillaged, plundered, and burned their way through the South, destroying
could be no better role model for aggressive, dictatorial, militaristic
nationalism, which in fact is Straussian Principle #2. Strauss
believed that human aggression could only be restrained by a powerful,
nationalistic state (See Jim Lobe, "Leo Strauss’ Philosophy of
Deception," Alternet.org, May 19, 2003). He believed that such an
omnipotent state can only be maintained if there is an external threat,
"even if one has to be manufactured." This is why Straussians
believe in perpetual war, and is another reason why they have formed a cult
around "the church of Lincoln," whom they hold up as "the
greatest statesman in history." Lincoln manufactured many
"threats," including the truly bizarre notion that representative
government would perish from the earth if the Southern states were permitted
to secede peacefully. In reality, peaceful secession would have been a victory
for self-government, keeping in mind that neither Lincoln nor Congress
ever said that they were launching an invasion for any reason having to do
with liberating the slaves.
Principle #3 is aggressive lying. In "Leo
Strauss’ Philosophy of Deception" Jim Lobe noted that Strauss
believed in the necessity of "perpetual deception" of the ruled by
their rulers if nationalistic objectives are to be achieved. Straussians
routinely claim to possess unique understanding of the "hidden
meaning" of history and historical documents, which is often directly at
odds with the plain historical truth. This is all a part of their perpetual
campaign to confuse the public and keep it ignorant of their political designs.
example of this phenomenon is the "special meaning" of the
Declaration of Independence that Straussians claim to have discovered. The
Declaration declared to the world that the colonists were seceding from the
British Empire, but Straussians incredibly insist that it is an anti-secessionist
document because Lincoln quoted the "all men are created equal"
phrase in the Gettysburg Address. They repeat Lincoln’s tall tale that
the Declaration made the Union "perpetual" even though the states
describe themselves in the document as "free and independent."
Declaration announces that government derives its just powers from the
consent of the governed, and that whenever governments become destructive of
the peoples’ natural rights it is the duty of the people to abolish the
government and replace it with a new one. That is exactly what
Jefferson Davis announced he intended to do in his First Inaugural Address,
yet the Straussians claim that it was Lincoln, not Davis, who was upholding
though the free and independent states ratified the Constitution to create
the federal government as their agent, Lincoln held that there was
never any such thing as state sovereignty because "the Union is older
than the states." This of course is impossible, since the union of two
things cannot be older than either thing that it is a union of.
tell us that Lincoln had to destroy the Constitution in order to save it,
that he was a great humanitarian who nevertheless waged war on civilians, he
favored equality even though he loudly denounced racial equality throughout
his lifetime, and a thousand other deceptions.
#4: Fake religiosity. Several of the journalists who have recently
written about Strauss have noted that he was a proponent of a greater role
for religion in affairs of state, a position that has endeared some
Christians to the neocon movement. But Strauss’ position was that the
political rulers and the intellectual elite (philosopher kings?) need not be
bound by religion themselves; religion was primarily a propaganda tool to be
used to get the masses to acquiesce in state intervention on behalf of
aggressive nationalism. As Ron Bailey of Reason magazine has pointed
out, "Neoconservatives are pro-religion even though they themselves may
not be believers."
again, Lincoln is the perfect Straussian role model. Lincoln never joined a
church and was opposed by almost all the ministers of Springfield, Illinois,
when he ran for president. He was infamous for his dirty jokes and even his
criticisms of Scripture. There is no explicit evidence that he ever became a
Christian, and some of his contemporaries even believed that he was probably
an atheist. As James Ostrowski has written ("DiLorenzo vs. His Critics on the Lincoln Myth,"
LRC Archives), the "church of Lincoln" is "the church of a man
who had no Church."
was nevertheless brilliant in his use of religious language and images to
mesmerize Northern audiences, especially the hyper-puritanical New England
Yankees and their upper Midwest brethren. After launching a war that he
apparently thought would last only a few months, Lincoln distanced himself
more and more from responsibility for his own decisions by invoking religion.
By the time of his Second Inaugural, when over a half million young American
men had been killed in the war, he was to the point of absolving himself entirely
from any responsibility for all the war’s death and destruction.
He declared that "the war came," as though he had nothing to do
with it, and said that it was all out of his hands and a matter of
God’s will. He theorized that God was punishing America for the sin of
slavery. This argument was nonsensical on its face, however, since it ignored
the fact that some 95 percent of all the slaves that were brought to the
western hemisphere ended up outside the U.S., where no such
"punishment" was being executed by the Lord. Why would God punish
Americans for the sin of slavery but no one else?
Second Inaugural Lincoln quoted at length Mathew 18:7 and Luke 17:1 in order
to make the argument that both North and South were being punished for the
sin of slavery. This in itself is, well, Straussian, since Lincoln claimed to
know the "inner meaning" of God’s Word.
Charles Adams writes in When in the Course of Human Events (p.
205), "Lincoln’s Jehovah complex gave the war a
psychopathic Calvinistic fatalism, with God directing the whole affair and
punishing both North and South for tolerating slavery." The slaughter of
hundreds of thousands of young men, the killing of civilians, the massive
theft of private property, and the burning of entire towns by federal
soldiers would continue until God decided otherwise. "Not even the
maddest of religious fanatics," Adams writes, "ever uttered words
to equal Lincoln’s second inaugural address."
cynical political manipulation of religion was the perfect Straussian
subterfuge. It was the perfect propaganda tool for sugarcoating a bloody and
imperialistic war of conquest. Little wonder that contemporary Straussian
neocons think of Lincoln as "the greatest statesman in world
history": He was an extreme nationalist; an enemy of constitutionally
limited government and genuine natural rights; a skilled political
conniver, manipulator and deceiver; and a phony religionist. Perfect.
by Thomas DiLorenzo
J. DiLorenzo is professor of economics at Loyola College in Maryland and the
author of The Real Lincoln; Lincoln Unmasked: What You’re Not Supposed To Know about
Dishonest Abe and How Capitalism Saved America. His
latest book is Hamilton’s Curse: How Jefferson’s Archenemy Betrayed
the American Revolution – And What It Means for America Today.
© 2009 by LewRockwell.com