#72- G. K. Chesterton’s What I Saw In America
Chesterson was a prolific English journalist and author who traveled to America on a lecture tour of the US in 1921. What I Saw In America begins as a travelogue of his journey but eventually becomes an extended reflection on what makes a nation a nation.
Chesterton is often referred to as the “prince of paradox” and his opening line doesn’t disappoint. He writes, “I have never managed to lose my old conviction that travel narrows the mind.”
Throughout his travels, the main question on Chesterson’s mind— what does it mean to be an American?
As Scott points out, “He’s a perpetual outsider who sees everything clean.”
Tune in for a fascinating discussion on the American ideal, the drawbacks of progress, and what Chesterson deems to be the greatest guarantor of political and economic liberty.
- G.K. Chesterson’s background and life
- Discussion of what makes Chesterson a perpetual outsider
- Scott and Karl talk about what America looked like in Prohibition-era
- The types of observations Chestson is making, and the style of his writing
- The duo digs into the statement, “America is the only nation in the world that is founded on a creed.”
- What does it mean to be a citizen in America?
- What bothers Scott about The Declaration of Independence reference
- “What is the matter with the modern world is the modern world.”
- Discussion of how we have technology before we get the virtues to deal with it
- Karl dives into the different metaphors for tradition that Chesterson uses
- Chesterson’s voyage to Oklahoma
- Aristotle’s Politics
- Continued Chesterson reading
- Discussion of next week’s podcast
Resources/Articles/People Mentioned In The Podcast
- George Bernard Shaw
- H. G. Wells
- prohibition era
- The Declaration of Independence
- Jenny the Mexicats
- Monsieur Periné
- Garbiel Marcel
- Rhetoric (bourbon)
- Andrew Carnegie
- Ulysses S. Grant’s memoir
- Heretics and Orthodoxy
- The Father Brown mysteries
- Inimitable Jeeves
Scott Hambrick: Welcome to the Online Great Books Podcast brought to you by onlinegreatbooks.com where we talk about the good life, the great books, great conversation, and great ideas.
Scott Hambrick: I’m Scott Hambrick.
Karl Schudt: I’m Karl Schudt.
Scott Hambrick: Today, on the Online Great Books Podcast we are going to talk about G. K. Chesterton’s, I don’t know what it is, set of essays or newspaper articles. And it’s titled What I saw in America, one of these travel books.
Karl Schudt: Yeah, and I have to tell you before we started this, I was telling Scott I’m a little down today. The current situation has me down. It is May 7th, 2020; I had to pull up my calendar and check because who knows anymore. I was thinking about it, Chesterton’s 1984 was probably the exact wrong book to do in the current situation. Chesterton, any of his books I think are might be the perfect antidote. If I had one word to describe him, it would probably be cheerful. He’s a polemicist, he’s fighting battles for the people he cares about, which are the people. We’ll get into that but he’s funny and cheerful even when he is doing it. One of his best friends is George Bernard Shaw, who is not cheerful at all. You know, and so how can you be friends with somebody who’s opinions were so different from his or H. G. Wells. But he was, just perpetually happy, even when he’s cutting things to pieces. And I thought, I want to give you a sample quote here, and then we can talk about him a little bit more so. This is in, like, it is somewhere in the beginning. Kindle, well you don’t have my Kindle edition. So he takes this trip in 1922 in the United States. Prohibition was in effect, so he says this line, “The Saloons no longer existed when I was there, owing to the recent reform which restricted intoxicants to the wealthier classes”. And I just think that is a perfect line right there, that just, it’s everything you need to know. It’s ahhh it’s talking about prohibition, it’s talking about wealth, it’s talking about privilege, and it’s talking about the people he cares about which are the ordinary folks who can’t go get a drink anymore but the rich people in Chicago or in New York could go get a drink. But not, you know, not anybody else. Just perfectly in one sentence, it’s funny. One perfect little sentence, it gets everything pretty much that he cares about.
Scott Hambrick: He’s a perpetual outsider. He’s everything clean, you know. I have a friend, my friend Dallas says you can have all the justice you can afford. And uhh you can have all the alcohol you can afford in the prohibition era. And he saw, you know I can imagine people were wining. He would go to New York City and New York Times luminaries would be wining and dining him and wanting to spend time with him, and pulling out their brandy, and their wine, and their stores. And he talks about the stores that make, they never seem to run low.
Karl Schudt: Yeah it’s just stuff you had before the prohibition went into effect right. Right, well you know that the, you know that Gatsby’s based on a real person.
Scott Hambrick: I did not know that.
Karl Schudt: It’s some guy, I think in Cincinnati who made millions getting medical alcohol out to the people that wanted it.
Scott Hambrick: Right
Karl Schudt: And if you went to one of his parties he’d give you a car. There would just be a line of Packards and keys and then take your car and go. So one of the things, the concerns that he has is plutocracy.
Scott Hambrick: Hmmm Yeah.
Karl Schudt: Plutocracy. Saloons were not inns, if that had been inns it would be far harder even for the power of modern plutocracy to root them out. Well Pluto is the god of wealth in Roman mythology, this is not Greek mythology. In Greek mythology, Hates isn’t the god of wealth but Pluto takes over both jobs. So he is the god of death, god of the underworld, and the god of wealth, and Mickey’s dog which doesn’t make any sense because isn’t Goofy a dog.
Scott Hambrick: I haven’t thought of that.
Karl Schudt: So how does Mickey have a friend who is a dog thing and then have a pet is a dog.
Scott Hambrick: The devil mouths. Weird ways over there at Disney.
Karl Schudt: That’s one of his concerns is the preservation of country life, the preservation of, he calls it the peasantry.
Scott Hambrick: He loves the peasantry. When he calls you a peasant, it is not a bad thing.
Karl Schudt: No well what is a peasant?
Scott Hambrick: A person that’s just taking care of their affairs.
Karl Schudt: Well it’s also somebody who has land.
Scott Hambrick: So he talks about squires too. Is a squire a peasant? Or a peasant squires?
Karl Schudt: I don’t know. The squire would be richer, I think.
Scott Hambrick: Okay, he loves the small holder and he talks about it in this book. The people, the Midwest are his peasant ideal because it’s just almost 1922, it’s pre Dust Bowl and it’s just agriculture. And it’s not industrialized, it’s just agriculture. And he loves that, he thinks that’s the best life for people.
Karl Schudt: He actually ends at Oklahoma. Maybe we should save that. There is so much. There is so much good stuff in this. This is just a reaction. I picked this book because when you do a Chesterton he also deals in religious controversy. And some of his best books deal with that. I wanted to keep that low a bit, backburner, you know. So, he has a religious coercion late in his life and becomes a Catholic. He’d been one by intellectual disposition for a long time but it took him a long time to get there.
Scott Hambrick: Everybody knew it but him?
Karl Schudt: Yeah, everybody knew it but him. But what his most famous book is probably Orthodoxy, which is a wonderful read but might be a little bit too, I don’t know, maybe we’ll read it someday.
Scott Hambrick: Too orthodox for this show.
Karl Schudt: Yeah there is one story that I remember from him so I had a biography of his that I read, that I lent out to our friend, our mutual friend Chris in Michigan. I hope he enjoyed it, I never got it back. So Chesterton had long hair and he would go to the barber maybe every two weeks. And he was in a hurry and there is a kid in front of him at the barber shop. And so he pays the kid a shilling, whatever a small English coin is, to let him go in front of him in line. And in two weeks later, there’s five kids and he pays them and gets his haircut. Four weeks later, there’s like twenty five kids. And he just chuckles and starts paying them all and I think that is a hint of his personality, and not getting angry at it but just laughing. I don’t know. He’s a glorious person, I hope you get to know him.
Scott Hambrick: This book is in danger of getting memory holed. He uses words you’re not supposed to use.
Karl Schudt: Yeah there is some of that, well it’s 1922, there is some words that would not be in polite company these days. So if you are of delicate disposition, I think maybe you ought to probably get over it, and read the book.
Scott Hambrick: You could just read it anyway. Yeah, no kidding. What happened to sticks and stones. How many times did you yell that at somebody on the school bus. And we don’t say that anymore.
Karl Schudt: Words are violence Scott.
Scott Hambrick: Well we will read about that later. But he uses words that were perfectly acceptable and frankly he uses it with good will.
Karl Schudt: Yeah.
Scott Hambrick: That would prevent this book from being read in almost any school that receives government money.
Karl Schudt: Oh sure, it’s the same thing with some other works.
Scott Hambrick: Like when do you not watch Richard Prior or not watch Richard Pryor comedy albums. When does that happen?
Karl Schudt: Next week probably.
Scott Hambrick: Next week, May 14th, 2020. There is a lot here that a lot of people would rail at. I refuse to think that they would find it offensive, I think that they just raise hell because they can. But he is a man of good will. In the last chapter, it is about democracy. And he talks of Jefferson’s line about all men being created equal and I think he has a broader, better understanding of that that he carries around with him. I am not going to say then Jefferson did but his understanding of it is better than the one set for the Declaration of Independence.
Karl Schudt: Yeah, dear listener let’s give you a reason to hang on. I think maybe towards the end of the podcast we’ll talk about his comments on Jefferson at the end of the book which I thought were really interesting.
Scott Hambrick: Very interesting.
Karl Schudt: Really interesting, so just stay tuned.
Scott Hambrick: The book’s a slow roll, it’s tempts, just making observations about architecture and New York City and hotels and a few things and him dropping his Chesterton’s style funny lines and observations. But it just gets deeper and heavier and more important as it goes on.
Karl Schudt: Yeah I thought it, this is kind of montane but funnier. The same kind of rambling presentation. He can write a book that is straightforward on it but this one is leisurely. So I wanna go, this would be in the first subdivision of the book, what is America? We’re gonna have trouble, Scott and I, coordinating our paragraphs here.
Scott Hambrick: I don’t think so. I’m in the Kindle.
Karl Schudt: We’re probably different Kindle versions, it’s all out of copyrights, so a lot of people are selling you Chesterton. So he says, let me begin my American impressions, the two impressions I had before I went to America. One was an incident and the other an idea, and when taken together they illustrate the attitude I mean. The first principle is that nobody should be ashamed of thinking a thing funny because it is foreign. The second is that he should be ashamed of thinking it’s wrong because it is funny. So, if I come down to Oklahoma and I hear everybody saying “dang”, “dang it”, “dang it”. I saw a heat map, I think we talked about this last time, of the people who say “dang” in the United States and Oklahoma is the center of the heat map of “dang it”.
Scott Hambrick: What’s the alternative? “Darn”, “Dern”, “Consarnit”?
Karl Schudt: The four letter alternatives.
Scott Hambrick: Yeah
Karl Schudt: Which we say up in Chicago. I knew a guy in Oklahoma who been a roommate, I suppose he’s still around somewhere, he’s a priest in Oklahoma but he went to seminary up in Chicago and he had a roommate who was from Chicago. And the roommate let fly an expletive that begins with ace, with s, and the fellow from Oklahoma was just so shocked because it was so abrupt and clipped and it was like a baseball bat to the face. And when he would say it, it would have three or four syllables.
Scott Hambrick: Right
Karl Schudt: So you laugh at it, right. So you laugh at the customs that you see, they’re funny. They’re funny to you, it’s okay. It’s okay to find the customs of the Japanese, should you go to Tokyo, to find some of their customs funny. Oh they all take their shoes off everywhere and their bowing everywhere and it’s kind of funny, haha. But the bad thing would be to think because it’s funny it must be wrong.
Scott Hambrick: He cautions people over and over again. Observe it, find it funny, never sneer.
Karl Schudt: Right, why would you say dang in Oklahoma and we would say all the bad words in Chicago? There is probably some reasons.
Scott Hambrick: Yeah it lets you, because it’s not puritanical. It lets you hold the really good ones back for when you really need it.
Karl Schudt: Yeah so, I don’t know what to say when I really want to swear. I’m out of words. I’ve gone through my catalogue. So I think that is really good. So he is coming to American and he is finding things that are funny to him. That are unusual, and the typical thing I suppose that in English traveller would do, he’s very very English, but an English traveller would write things about how silly the Americans were. They are all cowboys, and they’re weird, and aren’t they silly, and we are much more cultured in London than they are in Kansas. And that’s not the right way to do it. The right way is to go understand Kansas. And he says there is one thing that he thought was really weird. When you showed up in the United States in 1922 they would give you a test and it would say on this “paper are you an anarchist?” before they let you in the country. And he describes an earlier trip he made to the Middle East somewhere in, that they didn’t care what his political opinions were as long as he didn’t shoot anybody.
Scott Hambrick: Yeah, I think it was Turkey. And I thought about thought crime, you know, they’re trying to sniff out thought crime before you even show up in the United States. And he said. So we will see if our editions are the same here. The bottom of page four, “among many things that amused me, almost to the point of treating the form thus [this is the form he has to fill out about “are you an anarchist?”, “do you want to overthrow the government?”] disrespectfully, the most amusing was the thought of the ruthless outlaw who should feel compelled to treat it respectfully”. I wrote here, gun control. Bad people will obey laws.
Karl Schudt: Oh sure.
Scott Hambrick: You know, we live out this, that fiction every single day in the country, still.
Karl Schudt: Well I guess it’s funny but then you try to figure out the reason for why you would ask such things. You know, somewhere in here he’s got a line where they ask “do you intend to overthrow the government?”. And he says “Against this I should write I prefer to answer that question at the end of my tour and not the beginning”. But there’s questions about political opinions and he draws the conclusion that because what he says here “a man’s perfectly entitled to laugh at the thing because he happened to find it incomprehensible but has no right to do to is to laugh at it as incomprehensible then criticize as if he comprehended it.”. So why would they ask questions of your political beliefs? And his conclusion is he thinks it’s because the United States in 1922 is, well he’s got a good line “the American Constitution does resemble the Spanish Inquisition in this, that it’s founded on a creed. America is the only nation in the world that is founded on a creed”. And so that the question of your opinions and judgments are important because the whole nation was founded on opinions and judgments. At least in the deceleration it is. Whether that’s the case anymore is, that’s another question. If you are going to go visit France, nobody cares what your opinions are. At least they didn’t then. Was France founded on an idea? Maybe in the French Revolution it was.
Scott Hambrick: Fraternity, Quality.
Karl Schudt: Is England founded on an idea?
Scott Hambrick: No.
Karl Schudt: No, it’s just there. It’s just the people that live there. Maybe, that’s the whole America is an idea thing. I have mixed feelings about that.
Scott Hambrick: Yeah it’s not. It’s that and maybe perhaps.
Karl Schudt: Yeah, but you see what he is trying to do. He is trying to understand it. Why aren’t these questions stupid. Yes I find them funny, but why aren’t they stupid? What were people getting at? Presumably, you always think about this. The people you are talking to, the people you are yelling at on Facetagram or Instabook presume that they’re somewhat rational and they have good reasons to think what they think. Rather than putting them in the category of stupid, evil, people to be sent to gulog.
Scott Hambrick: He’s trying, he tries so hard to understand this. I don’t necessarily abide by his creedle nation thing here. And he throws out the whole melting pot metaphor that we’ve all had poured in our ears since we went to Kindergarten. But then he follows up with that introduction to that idea. He says even that metaphor implies that the pot itself is of a certain shape, a certain substance, a pretty solid substance, the melting pot must not melt. And the original shape was traced on the lines of Jefferson’s democracy and will remain in that shape until that shape becomes shapeless. America invites all men to become citizens but it implies the dogma that there is such thing as citizenship.
Karl Schudt: Right.
Scott Hambrick: I think that is an important distinction that is often lost.
Karl Schudt: So you and I, I think are a little skeptical of America as an idea. I wonder if we are skeptical of it because of the practical shape that it has taken or because there is a problem with the idea. If you had.
Scott Hambrick: Do I have to pick?
Karl Schudt: Well, I don’t know. Let me make my case first and then you can.
Scott Hambrick: I should say by the way, we are in the same room together.
Karl Schudt: Shhhh. Shhh. Don’t tell anyone.
Scott Hambrick: I’m not breaking any laws where I’m from. Carl had to run a blockade, it was like mad max, to get here. It’s good.
Karl Schudt: Gosh what was I saying. But okay, if America is in fact an idea, what’s the idea? If there is an idea of citizenship, what is it? And I think if we, I would have much less difficulty with it if we actually have the idea which Chesterton focuses on. It’s that, he says somewhere else in here it’s the Declaration of Independence, it’s the preamble to the Declaration of Indepence, which is a beautiful thing. I know we have a member on Slack who thinks it’s not, he’s really skeptical about it, he thinks Jefferson was lying. I don’t care.
Scott Hambrick: We will talk about it here at the end of this, the last chapter of this book, about what Chesterton thought about, whether he was lying or not.
Karl Schudt: But yeah if you’re going to say “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”. Well that’s a nice creed. If you really believe that, that might be a basis for a nation. If truth is whatever you make it to be, then you don’t have the Declaration of Independence, and then you don’t have America as an idea. For me the problem is not it’s an idea the problem is do we still believe in the idea?
Scott Hambrick: No. The Declaration of Independence reference is always bothering me. I think a great deal of it, in fact it’s over there greithing in leather. I’ve been meaning to hang that on the wall. Jared Markell gave me a little parchment Declaration of Independence. It is not an addendum, or codicil, or attachment, or schedule A to the Constitution. We had the articles of the Confederation between the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. It is, I don’t know. I may have some Constitution scholar or some attorney email me and tell me otherwise, It is not part of our statutes.
Karl Schudt: It’s not a law code, it’s an act. I remember reading a philosopher a while back, I forget the name, we talked about language as performatives. Some use language not to communicate but to a deed, like ‘I take you, Charity’. Which I presume you have said at some point.
Scott Hambrick: Sure.
Karl Schudt: That’s a deed, it’s an action. The Declaration is a declaration, it makes something happen after it’s signed that was not true before it was signed. And the thing that it makes happen is.
Scott Hambrick: What can undo that thing?
Karl Schudt: Well I don’t know, but the thing that did was make an independent nation. Before July 3rd there wasn’t any such thing, July 4th there was. It’s the justification and the document that made it happen. And then Washington had to hold off the English for long enough to make it actually be real. But, that’s its place in our documents.
Scott Hambrick: In our history.
Karl Schudt: Yeah.
Scott Hambrick: But there is nothing about that, that holds our government to any particular practice.
Karl Schudt: Well the part about the consent of the governed.
Scott Hambrick: Your grasping. These papers provide us zero protection. You have to have someone willing to do great violence, to hold people to what the paper says.
Karl Schudt: Yes.
Scott Hambrick: Because if you try to open your beauty salon in Dallas right now and hold the Constitution up, they will shoot your dog and put you in jail.
Karl Schudt: Yeah I’m nodding.
Scott Hambrick: I love Chesterton, I love his commentary here. But it’s 1922 America and not even live there anymore. It’s not the same place. The whole d**n thing, well it pleased me but also made me very sad because a lot of the things he is talking about, and a lot of the predictions he makes, and a lot of the bad eventualities that he sees that could happen have happened. And that weighed on me the whole time I read.
Karl Schudt: Yeah so, it’s 1922, it’s the beginning of prohibition, which is an unbelievable imposition on the rights of people. Can you imagine not being able to go get a beer. When being able to get one your entire life and then not being able to get one. This is what we did, I love the Declaration of Independence, I love what it says.
Scott Hambrick: Yeah
Karl Schudt: If people roll over, then it doesn’t matter what it says. That’s certainly true. I would like, gosh I wish people would read the thing, I wish they would know what the idea was that we were founded on and value it.
Scott Hambrick: I really like the republic.
Karl Schudt: I don’t like the republic, this is Plato’s Republic. I don’t like it for the shape of that state they make. If you worked it out, it would be a lot like the state that big brother has in 1984. In practice, I’m not sure Plato meant it to be taken that way. I think it is a bit of a comic work, but that’s a long story. But one thing that I really like is, in book one when Thrasymachus puts forth the question, he says, well he makes a statement, he says justice is nothing other than the will of the stronger. And Socrates ties him up in a few verbal twists but nobody is really convinced. And everybody lives, wherever you live, if you look around justice is the will of the stronger. Well what are you going to do with that, are you going to take it. And then I guess you have to make yourself the stronger, in you have to join the dominant political party, you gotta play the game, you have to, I would say, corrupt yourself, and then you can have power, and then you can do what you want as long as you don’t step outside their structures. Or, or there is such a thing as justice that you can appeal to that is so compelling that rational people will see it too. And if that’s the case, perhaps you can have a state that was founded on more than just the application of force. That was the ideal of the founding, at least, that was what Jefferson said. Who knows what Jefferson believed, that is what he said.
Scott Hambrick: It’s such a copout to say that, or to speculate that didn’t mean what they wrote, you know. Just read it and just take it for what it is, and argue what the person wrote. You know, who cares. What if he lied through his teeth and wrote all that, it doesn’t matter.
Karl Schudt: He signed it.
Scott Hambrick: Right.
Karl Schudt: And they all signed it and they pledged their lives, the fortunes, and their sacred honor.
Scott Hambrick: Good enough. That’s the creed he talks about, so he says that the United States wasn’t founded on racial preferences or even religious preferences. But in that it was founded on the idea, it’s the nation with the soul of the church because for him he says it’s based on the belief. Later on I think he steps on his shoe laces a little bit when he talks about how Americans are a nation, a people, with a particular sense of humor, a particular energy. Though there may be some sort of a cousin to the Englishman or a distinct thing separate of that Declaration of Independence creed that was put forth. He goes on longer about that than he does this idea.
Karl Schudt: Yeap, If you were going to found a nation on a creed, it’s got to manifest in a type of people. As I may or may not have been evading the blockade to come down here, I was thinking, you know, what are the people in this country side that I am driving through have to do with New York City. Is there anyway in which they are the same people? And I don’t think they are. The concerns are completely different. We speak the same language.
Scott Hambrick: We speak the same language, and we have families, and we love other people, and you know we need food, and shelter, and stuff like that. But once you get past a certain level in Maslow’s hierarchy, our pyramids look much different. What does Self Actualization look like for a Texan versus a New Yorker? I think they are much different.
Karl Schudt: Yeah, and of course the tendency of all of us is to look at the people that live differently than we do, and laugh at them, and call them names.
Scott Hambrick: I told you and your wife this story the night before last, and I will probably get in trouble for this, there was a meme going around Twitter. And it was a picture of some white trash crappy house with an old broken down car in the front yard, and a cracked couch on the front porch, and just think Appalicha or Adair county Oklahoma, and the front yard was a Trump sign. And I saw this on Twitter, and there were the kind of people on the left who were saying well how is that working out for you, your support for Trump.
Karl Schudt: That is a perfect example of what we are talking about.
Scott Hambrick: These are the people that I come from. And they care so little about politics, they vote for the person that is most likely to leave them alone. They don’t care about a nice house, they don’t care about internet speed, all they care about is being left alone. And sometimes it’s real based, you know, sometimes it’s plenty, you know, of pork rinds and natural light beer, but all in all it is about being left the heck alone. There are people that do not understand that at all, and they look at that existence and think that is miserable. They would never want that for themselves or for anyone else or anyone else they cared about. But I know those, those people are my cousins, and they’re just as happy as a pig in s**t, they love it. They love it.
Karl Schudt: Yeah we’re doing, we’re going to do, this is a spoiler, we’re going to do some Jimmy Rogers in a later podcast. And I’m listening to some of these songs about the railroad guy, or the mule skinner, what does he say, I am a do right man, I got a home in every town.
Scott Hambrick: Yep.
Karl Schudt: That’s my grandfather, he worked on a, he was a railroad guy and he had a woman in everytown. You know, it can be kinda low but these, at least on one side of my family, my people too. I see pictures of, I’ve been to New York, I paid fifteen dollars for Scotch, shocked I bet it’s fifty now.
Scott Hambrick: Maybe, yeah.
Karl Schudt: Too me that was very strange. I can’t do it, I don’t like it. What would be the improper reaction if I, as I would see these people live in the little pill boxes in New York. And I would say, they’re so horrible, this strikes me as wrong, these people are stupid and worthless and ought to be. Oh maybe I should try to understand why they think this is a good life, doesn’t mean I have to agree with it eventually. It just means there is something they see there. I want to see a horizon, that’s important to me. I wouldn’t like it, I don’t care if I ever go see a Broadway show again. It’s nice when to get to but it’s so bad to laugh at people and then to sneer at people.
Scott Hambrick: Yep.
Karl Schudt: Because once you sneer at them you can shoot them.
Scott Hambrick: Yeah. I’m getting a little tired of being sneered at. Over here, fly over country. I don’t know, there haven’t been many people smarter than Chesterton. He was a great, big, heavy fellow. He enjoyed his good food. He enjoyed his drink. Seems like he enjoyed his cigar too. He had his tastes, but in no means snobbish. I really like that, I think he is somebody I could have played dominos with. He says citizenship is the American ideal, but is never in the English ideal. This book is as much about England as it is about America. Constantly doing that juxtaposition. I never really thought about what the English think of citizenship. They just had, just had, they have been having this rawl about Brexit. And people have been voting and votes have been, there have just been this whole weird, wackadoo thing. They do have a different concept of what it means to be English or a member. You don’t hear about citizenship over there.
Karl Schudt: You are a subject of the crown.
Scott Hambrick: Subject of the crown, yeah. And he said the king should be a president and the president should be a king by the way.
Karl Schudt: Yeah, nobody is ever mad at the King. They are mad at the Parliament. Cause they know, if you can find the quote you can dig it up, but he says everybody that everyone is out to s***w them. He doesn’t use that word. But they know the King, who is powerless, is probably the last person in the nation that’s able to cheat them. So, when the King goes by, they’re happy with the King. You know, Queen Elizabeth, what has she ever done to anybody. She can’t.
Scott Hambrick: Yeah, can’t remember what his exact words were, let’s see if I can find it. Well, it’s essential that the role of the President in the United States is just to confound. I think he’s right, the President has the veto power, nobody else has that. I mean courts kind of do, but he’s got that veto power. He’s just the focal point of everyone’s ire and always is. And then people, you know we elect a President and then forty nine percent of people hate him. It’s just the worst job in the world. The King’s the good job, the King of England is the good job.
Karl Schudt: Yeah so, in a constitutional monarchy you have a King who does nothing, but is the, I guess the sovereign? But the executive is somebody else.
Scott Hambrick: Yeah.
Karl Schudt: In the Meditation on Broadway, let’s just take a tour through some of these chapters.
Scott Hambrick: Yeah, we have to.
Karl Schudt: Meditation on Broadway, he meets some Bulgarian guy that’s in New York. Who says to him from the earth we come into the earth we return, when people get away from that they’re lost. And he’s thinking about this person telling him this while he is walking through Times Square and seeing advertisements everywhere. He has a joke, as you are going through Times Square and seeing all of the advertisements, what a glorious garden of wonders this would be to anyone lucky enough to be unable to read.
Scott Hambrick: Yeah, and he talks about how it’s like festooned like a constellation. How awful is it that we have the ability to do that, you know you guys know what Times Square looks like. All the neon, now it’s LED lights, and these big screens, and even then it was neon light up. And we take all that artistic ability, all that aesthetic power and use it to get you to buy washing powders. It’s a d**n shame, you know.
Karl Schudt: Decorated like a cathedral. I have actually been doing this in my listening to popular music recently. I’ve been listening to a bunch of Spanish language stuff and I don’t know much Spanish. So I’ve been listening to Jenny the Mexicats, some English girl in a Mexican band, she sings mostly in Spanish. And then Monsieur Periné which is a Colombian jazz, rock, pop group. I like them, I never know what they are saying.
Scott Hambrick: Fine.
Karl Schudt: So I get to listen to the music and enjoy quality of the music without being distracted by, you know, stupid lyrics. Am I breaking my own rule by calling the lyrics stupid?
Scott Hambrick: Nope. There are some pretty dumb lyrics out there.
Karl Schudt: I always listen to lyrics, I can’t not listen to lyrics. But this lets me get away from it, this would be like walking through Times Square and not knowing how to read English. And seeing all the signs flashing and saying how wonderful, how beautiful, look at the colors. And not have to think they’re selling me.
Scott Hambrick: Seventh Heaven Cigars is one he mentioned.
Karl Schudt: But I think that word that, that Bulgarin waiter said to him might be a model for Chesterton’s, if we are going to talk about political thought, “from the earth we come into the earth we return, when people get away from that they are lost”. He really likes the middle west, which would be everything from New York to Oklahoma, I guess.
Scott Hambrick: Yeah. We forget, I’m looking at my stupid phone, that everything that we have, you know we use our intellect, we use our manpower. We use that to manipulate either mining products or agricultural products. So if you’ve got a computer or you are listening to us on an iphone, or an ipad, or whatever the heck it is right now, somebody mined Silica, and Aluminum, and all kinds of ores. And then human labor and ingenuity went into that so you could listen to this. Your phone is a refined mining product. The danger of these cosmopolitan areas is, he doesn’t say it exactly like this, is that being away from the earth makes people lose track where all of this comes from and what the basis of life really is. And it is what you can scratch out of the ground or what seeds sprout. That’s it.
Karl Schudt: I said in a previous show, I confessed that we do watch Hallmark movies in our house. Hallmark movies are full, every single, the woman is usually the main character and every single one of them is a food blogger. You know, they have some sort of non-productive job working in media, or they are making, they are never making podcasts. That hasn’t got to Hallmark yet. But it’s some kind of deracinated profession that has nothing to do. One of the plots they do all the time is she goes back to the country and she meets the guy that is actually working the farm.
Scott Hambrick: Think of any romcom you have ever seen, she’s either edits a lady’s magazine, she’s a food blogger, she’s an HR, a high powered, fast-moving executive at an advertising agency. And she doesn’t get the promotion she wants or she does get it and then finds that it didn’t fulfill her. She goes home for Christmas break because her dad died to be with her mother, and she meets the guy that didn’t go to college, that she thought was okay but he’s now an electrician and he’s got a lot more money than she thought he would. And he’s a salt of the earth. And when he finds her dog hurt, he takes the dog to the vet and pays the bill. And he’s a stand up guy.
Karl Schudt: I’m tearing up right now, I want to see this movie.
Scott Hambrick: You like that. That’s all of them: Hope Floats, Sweet Home Alabama, name it. It’s all of them.
Karl Schudt: I was thinking Love Actually, but I am not sure that fits.
Scott Hambrick: I haven’t seen that one.
Karl Schudt: Well it’s English so maybe it doesn’t count. But so, the reason they are all that way is.
Scott Hambrick: Lots of pencil skirts too.
Karl Schudt: Yeah, well they are pointing to something in human nature. We’re in the room together, he’s laughing at me, as you can see my face. I’m not in my dark room. But all of those silly things, that still move us, move us because it appeals to something. I would say of human nature and we can very easily forget. Chesterton says somewhere that the influence of this city is bad, it needs to be counterbalanced by the influence of the farms, of the peasantry. He says somewhere in here, lets see, monarchies and peasantries can last forever but wage earners. You know who knows, I have to dig up the actual quote.
Scott Hambrick: How about this one, “What is the matter with the modern world is the modern world and the cure will come from another”.
Karl Schudt: Yeah.
Scott Hambrick: “What is the matter with the modern world is not modern headlines, or modern films, or modern machinery. What is the matter with the modern world is the modern world”
Karl Schudt: It might be true, what if it’s true. What are you going to do about it?
Scott Hambrick: Here he talks about progress and how, how there is an optimism, a faith of optimsm. It’s like a religion of optimism that whatever is next is the right thing and whatever was, was the wrong thing and we move past it, you know. That’s one of my problems with progress is that we don’t know towards what, and for what reasons, so that what will happen? So he is very skeptical of modernity. And he talks about American being new, being a new nation. America is talked about as being a young, and he talks about in what ways America is young. It’s enthusiastic, it’s naive, and he says it being young it grasps the new thing more quickly than other nations do. And as soon as they grasp the new thing, they forget the old thing. It is almost like once you learn to ride a bicycle, you forget how to walk. That’s a big danger that he sees being our twentieth century de tocqueville, he sees the problem with America.
Karl Schudt: Yeah, I want to get back to that thing on progress. I was just digging up a quote when you were talking. It’s talking about progress and profits. He’s talking about prohibition. How is this for a good quote, “The same American atmosphere that permites prohibition, premites of people being punished for kissing each other”. While prohibition was very progressive, people used to go to saloons. I’ve read some books on this, the saloon was like when Bertie Wooster goes to the club. I was going to say gentleman’s club but it doesn’t mean the same thing it did then. He’d go to the Drones Club or wherever he went, and meet with his friends. This is what the saloons were but perhaps for the lower class of people. Well that’s no good, they’re not at home. They’re drinking too much.
Scott Hambrick: If they have fun and drink too much, they won’t be productive workers.
Karl Schudt: They won’t won’t be productive workers. And we need to make productive workers. So getting rid of alcohol is helpful to somebody.
Scott Hambrick: The plutocrats. He comes back to America, and he says there isn’t one day that goes by that he doesn’t hear someone in America say something about the almighty dollar. The English never talk about the pound.
Karl Schudt: The almighty pound.
Scott Hambrick: He said that the Amerians use it as an explanation for everything. The almighty dollar. That pursuit of the dollar as a measure of a man, not of price, but of accomplishment, of drive, of energy. Just scares the crap out of him, me too. Has led to this plutocracy.
Karl Schudt: Yeah, let me go a little further on this. “The truth is that prohibitions might of done far less harm, as prohibitions, if a vague association had not arisen on some dark day of human unreason”, I love that, “between prohibition and progress”. The Prohibition became considered to be progress. And it was progress that did the harm, not the Prohibition. “Men can enjoy life under considerable limitations if they can be sure of their limited enjoyments, but under progressive puritanism we can never be sure of anything. The curse of it is not limitation, it is unlimited limitation. The evil is not in the restriction but in the fact that nothing can ever restrict the restriction.” If a restriction on behavior serves the cause of progress or protection of the common good or whatever, progressing towards some future that has no shape, what are we progressing towards? No one can ever give you an answer to that. So there is never a limit to the amount of infringements that can be put on you to get you to that unshapen progressive dream. If restricting alcohol consumption is good, well why not restrict smoking, why not restrict BMI.
Scott Hambrick: No, we can’t be doing that. What’s your BMI?
Karl Schudt: It’s like seventy, it’s enormous.
Scott Hambrick: Mine’s like sixty two I think.
Karl Schudt: It’s enormous, he calls it, the progressives, he calls profits. They’ve got a faith in a future. He calls it an inversion of ancestor worship. Their superstition is an inversion of the ancestor worship of China. Instead of vainly appealing to something that is dead, they appeal to something that may never be born. Some glorious future that nobody knows the shape of it. That is the justification for all sorts of actions in the present.
Scott Hambrick: So this prohibition thing. He makes all these wonderful, wonderful arguments against the prohibition of drinking of alcohol and I buy it. Well we kind of already lost, I say we, dear listener. You and I are listener, have already lost the marjuana thing apparently. I think marjuana, marjuana usage now is decriminalized or legal in probably most states. I don’t really follow it very closely but it’s just all but legal for everyone except Oklahoma at this point. That prohibition is over.
Karl Schudt: They are essential businesses in Illinois.
Scott Hambrick: Yeah and he makes an argument, and I have been looking for this quote. I can’t find it. That the use of alcohol was cultural and traditional. One of the reasons he would let something like that be legal is that it had this long tradition and this long cultural significance. The Liberterian argument that, well you just people eat whatever, ingest whatever plants they want. Because you don’t have the right to use violence against them ingesting whatever plant that they want. That sounds good on the face of it, but traditionally I was protected from having to deal with stoners. I don’t really have a problem with marjuana but I have a problem with stoners. I don’t really want to make marjuana illegal, but I want to make stoners illegal. Maybe I am not philosophically sound here.
Karl Schudt: Can you consistently oppose prohibition of alcohol and oppose the decriminalization of marjuana?
Scott Hambrick: Do I contradict myself?
Karl Schudt: You contain multitudes.
Scott Hambrick: Right.
Karl Schudt: Let me make a cause for it. So your thought about it being an imposition of a new thing on a settled culture is an interesting thought. If I growing up, you know, I met a guy from my gradeschool. This is probably twenty years ago and I haven’t seen him in a long time. And we were chatting, and he is talking about another friend of ours who had been out in the Gulf War, the first, and showed up on T.V. demonstrating how to fire patriot missiles. He said to me, I can’t believe our friend Joe, who I used to go smoke pot with behind the grade school, showing off patriot missiles on the T.V.. And I go, you used to smoke pot behind the grade school? I had no idea, you know whatever was that circle that did that thing was pretty far removed from me. It wasn’t presented to me as a possibility of action.
Scott Hambrick: It’s probably a lot like the drinking was. He says, Chesterton says if you had enough money you could drink during prohibition. If you were willing to maybe get a ticket, do a night in jail, you know if you were willing to deal with some trouble maybe weed was part of your world. I’ll tell ya, It was never a part of my world at all until five or six years ago. And there’s probably someone saying that, ‘where the hell does he live?’ and ‘what kind of sand does he have his head buried in?’. I’m telling ya, not part of my world at all. And now, I have to drive up and down the highway. And there are signs, it’s not really the Marlboro Man or drink Canada Dry billboards but there are billboards advertising marjuana to my children everywhere we go. So somebody is right to injust a plan. And maybe, where is my right to not have to talk about that stuff with my kids every time we go in the car to get to dinner? What would Chesteron say?
Karl Schudt: Chesterton might say it’s necessary to make distinctions on just what alcohol is and just what marjuana is. And I would draw, I don’t know where he says this, I have read so much Chesterton all the quotes are floating around in my head. But, he thinks it would be sinful to drink beyond the point when you lose reason. And his test for it is you can drink until you can no longer compose poetry in praise of drink.
Scott Hambrick: Sounds like a good rule. The problem with is stoners is they think all their first is awesome. They would never know, there is nobody more boring to be around than someone that is high.
Karl Schudt: Well they would need somebody next to them. Was that a good poem? Your good, have another.
Scott Hambrick: I found that quote I was talking about. He said, “I am content here to note that a man’s treatment of his own body in relation to traditional and ordinary opportunities for bodily excess is as near to his self respect as social corcein can possibly go. And then when that is gone, there is nothing left.”. So, he doesn’t want people to extend this to dancing, kissing, tobacco, and so on. But I think that, if I am being an attorney here, his use of traditional and ordinary opportunity for bodily excess is the distinction between a Liberterian fantasy where everything goes.
Karl Schudt: Yeah, way way back when we read Garbiel Marcel, he talked about, we get technology before we get the virtues to deal with it.
Scott Hambrick: Right.
Karl Schudt: And if you have an imposition, I think it’s an imposition, of freely available marjuana everywhere. Do we have the virtues to deal with it? There were virtues about smoking back when I grew up, you didn’t just drop your ash on the floor. You know, you asked people’s permission.
Scott Hambrick: Malboro cant put billboards up anymore. There are no Jack Daniels billboards or advertisements and things like that. There are all kinds of controls on those sorts of things. But every dingbat dispensary in Tulsa, Oklahoma has got a billboard that’s big as a semi truck.
Karl Schudt: But for some reason marjuana is progressive but tobacco is not.
Scott Hambrick: Right.
Karl Schudt: And Jack Daniels isn’t.
Scott Hambrick: As alcohol is so prolific as marjuana is so prolific?
Karl Schudt: You know, I’ve never had it. I don’t know. I don’t know. Are they going to write in? Are we going to have to do a Joe Rogan, Elon Musk thing?
Scott Hambrick: Right, oh god.
Karl Schudt: No thanks, I don’t want to either.
Scott Hambrick: I don’t like being altered.
Karl Schudt: Yeah, me neither.
Scott Hambrick: You know when I drink my beloved bourbon, I do not like to be drunk at all.
Karl Schudt: It takes me half an hour to get through like this much. I’m enjoying it.
Scott Hambrick: Yeah, I drink it because it is delicious. I don’t drink it because of its effects. Though the effects can be had much more inexpensively, than that bottle. Crap. What was it Melissa and I drank last night?
Karl Schudt: Rhetoric bourbon.
Scott Hambrick: Rhetoric, yeah twenty four year old bourbon.
Karl Schudt: Yeah, there are cheaper ways.
Scott Hambrick: To get bit.
Karl Schudt: Yeah that quote you read. I mean, I think that’s a reasonable barrier that you don’t want. If progressivism can get into your body.
Scott Hambrick: Bill Gates wants in your body with his vaccine.
Karl Schudt: If progressivism can get into your body, what do you have left? You know, where is it that you can be yourself? And live your life as you like? Which I suppose you can flip and make an argument for majuana, fine. Maybe you can. But that’s different from the billboards everywhere and them being an essential service. I don’t understand that.
Scott Hambrick: Our liquor stores barely have signage in Oklahoma. And on one hand there is not a lot of liberty for liquor stores because they can’t put up signs like Arby’s. I don’t fu**ing care. It’s not all about them. And not all of these victimless crimes are in fact victimless. They change the material conditions of the world that I was born into. I think I have a property right into the society that I was born into. I was born in 1974, my mom and dad made the decision that it was okay to have a kid at that time. And the world was like it was, it was X. Everything they do that changes those material conditions treads on that property right that I think I have. And they continue to do it. And his test about tradition in terms of the alcohol prohibition is what he is all about. He thinks the tradition exists for a reason. He thinks the people are wonderful, they’re smart, they know something about the soil and the world that they live in. And that their traditions have emerged over thousands of years to give them the best chance at the good life.
Karl Schudt: Yeah, well he has a story, there is a story he tells, it must be an Orthodoxy. It was referenced yesterday, about the fence. If you have a bunch of kids playing inside a fence, do you take the fence down? Not unless you know why the fence is there.
Scott Hambrick: Right.
Karl Schudt: So that is a metaphor for traditions. He does the same thing, in his more religious writings. He talked about liturgical reform, and so if you look at the hugely encrusted Tridentine Latin liturgy, which would have been the Catholic liturgy at the time. And you say well we don’t need this, he’d point at some litany in it. Well, you don’t know why it was there in the first place. So if you take it out, you might break the whole thing. Maybe you think about it for.
Scott Hambrick: Maybe for a few hundred years.
Karl Schudt: Yeah a few hundred years and then if you understand it you can get rid of it. But the smash and dash way of dealing with culture, you don’t know why it is there.
Scott Hambrick: Yeah he says that this tradition for him is a crucial test, he’s Berkian in this way. He believes their tradition exists for a reason and if the thing you propose runs contrary to tradition, you are at risk of doing something terrible. And he says that progressivism, he says it never synthesizes and adds. It slices and dices and atomizes and removes. Does making majuana usage legal slice or dice? It atomizes, I think it takes people farther away from their origins. It has effects on relationships. You know if you’ve got five kids, and they pass a new law saying that majuana is legal. You say to yourself, do I want one of these kids smoking marjuana everyday for the rest of their lives?
Karl Schudt: No, I don’t.
Scott Hambrick: No
Karl Schudt: But there is going to be people selling it to them for the rest of their lives, everyday.
Scott Hambrick: For the rest of their lives. If they are not going to do it. They have to be perfect everyday, everyday.
Karl Schudt: They are going to be targeted ads in every bit of social media they go on. They need social media distancing. We are getting a little far from Chesterton, but I don’t really think it is. I don’t know. There is a mutual friend of ours who told me that he really likes the show. I don’t know about the group feeling this, it’s alright. So if we are firing you up, and you’re like I am all for marjuana.
Scott Hambrick: Yeah go eat an edible. If I made you mad, go eat one of your edibles and just numb out.
Karl Schudt: We’re talking, we believe in the power of reason. So if you can make a rational argument that’s fine, refute me. Come at me bro, that’s alright. It’s okay, we are just talking.
Scott Hambrick: He’s anti capitalist.
Karl Schudt: He’s anti capitalist. He’s pro nation. I wanted to chat about that for a little bit.
Scott Hambrick: Can we do capitalist first?
Karl Schudt: We can do whatever you want.
Scott Hambrick: Pro nation is good too. Page one twenty seven in the Kindle edition I got, Karl. He says,
“Capitalism is never anything so human as a habit. We would say it is never anything so good as a bad habit. It was an accustom, for men never grew accustomed to it. It was never even conservative. For before it was even created, wise men had realized it could never be conserved. It was from the first a problem, and those who would not even admit the capitalist problem deserve to get the bolshevist solution. All things considered, I can not say anything worst of them than that.”
I think he is wrong about that. I don’t think he is wrong about the nature, I don’t think he’s wrong about the consequences of American’s stock capitalism. Where the capital all aggregates, we’re watching it right now. You end up with the plutocracy, where the public health policy is being influenced by a guy who wrote, who stole an operating system in the early 80’s. This is the weirdest thing in the world. But I have been thinking about capitalism a lot. I think it is inevitable. Anywhere where you have a rational person that cares about their work, you are going to have to be somebody who’s doing a better job, and proving the craft, and becoming more productive, and getting more ears of corn per acre. Capitalism follows. It’s a product of rationality.
Karl Schudt: Well, we ought to define terms here. What is capitalism?
Scott Hambrick: Capitalism is the use of capital, which would be land.
Karl Schudt: Money.
Scott Hambrick: Money or people.
Karl Schudt: Money and debt I would say.
Scott Hambrick: Well okay, to pursue a profit. Chesterton is not a communist but he wants that ownership to be private and at the smallest possible level, which would be at the individual or family level. I’ll put some words in his mouth. I think that he would hate the common stock company, and stuff on the New York stock exchange. He would hate corporate personhood, in that as a distributist. He would say that government policy needs to be made to help people own their own needs. He doesn’t want you to be a plumber that fixes bathrooms full time for American Airlines. He wants you to own your own plumbing truck and have your own small business. He wants you to be a smallholder and do your own farming. He wants you to apply your own craft with your own tools, and have the biggest possible stake in your own success or failures. And he doesn’t like this aggregation that happens particularly when there is all the debt, and usury, and financialization, and collateralized debt obligations, and all this weird financial chicanery that we have going on now. Was a natural conclusion from what he was seeing in the 20’s. But if you use capital to increase productivity and to obtain a profit. Then the profit is just the value that is the difference in the inputs that you as a business owner have in a product versu what it is worth to the person who bought it. So if it is worth more to them than it cost you, you make a profit. So if you are rational and you care about what you, can do things at a lower cost, do them more effectively, make them more efficiently, than the other guy who doesn’t care about that thing or doesn’t specialize in that thing. So the profit is a natural consequence of it. I make bows and arrows and you grow corn, and you are better at it than I am. You make a profit.
Karl Schudt: But now what you do. So you make bows and arrows. Well that’s a problem because you’ve got weapons and I just have corn.
Scott Hambrick: You can trade arrows for corn, one way or another.
Karl Schudt: You could, now you’ve got. I have a bad harvest and you loan me money, and now I am in debt to you. And I have a charge on my property every year, that goes up, that goes up. And now you own my farm. You didn’t do anything to own it, you know. I think this is what we are talking about with capitalism and trusts and things getting bigger and bigger. He’s got a line here, I need to look it up, about Andrew Carnegie, hiring gunmen to put down protesters. I knew Rockafellar did that, I did not know Carnegie did that. That’s the thing, whenever we travel we go visit Carnegie libraries, which are these nice little libraries that he donated to all these towns. But, he’s shooting union people. Earning a profit is not the capitalism he is talking about, I think he would be all in favor of that. In fact he is, it’s the allocation of everything into one enormous conglomerate. He lemenced, it was almost as if it was written last week, he lemenced that England has lost its agriculture. It’s a national security issue, they do not have their own agriculture.
Scott Hambrick: He actually does says that. Yeah that, that they can’t grow all their own food is a national security problem.
Karl Schudt: So, gosh I’m not a communist, but I think that’s a real problem.
Scott Hambrick: When people own their own businesses and actually own their own property outright is not communist.
Karl Schudt: Back when we were allowed to have gyms in person, and I would chat with this young man who’s got a pharmacy degree and student debt. And you know, my gut feeling is don’t forgive student debt, they knew what they signed up for.
Scott Hambrick: There fraudulent loans though.
Karl Schudt: Yeah, but I’m looking at this kid, he’s a kid, he’s in his twenties. He’s not married. He’s not going to start a family. He can’t, he’s got student debt. It’s completely contrary to any sort of settled good life.
Scott Hambrick: His future earnings are already pledged.
Karl Schudt: Yeah.
Scott Hambrick: So he can’t give them to a wife and children, he has to give them to Sallie Mae, a student loan servicing company.
Karl Schudt: Yeah, so we don’t have slavery now, hurray. Except we do.
Scott Hambrick: Yeah, Chesterton says in this book that the industrialization is way worse than the slavery was.
Karl Schudt: It’s open to debate, sure but.
Scott Hambrick: Because the people get a wage and they’re treated okay, that it’s not seen for what it is. In that respect it is worse than the salvery that we had in the nineteenth century, I think that is what he is saying. And the plutocrats are conspiring around the clock to, in this case, to get rid of alcohol. They don’t want you to have fun, don’t want you to come into work a little hungover. And they want the total work economy. And, you know, everyone is getting to work from home right now, just wait. Just wait, you are going to have to wear a fitbit. It’s coming. I’ll just tell you, I’ll make my prediction in public, you are going to get a fitbit and a phone app. And if you are supposed to be working from the hours of whatever and whatever and you move and get up from your chair more than X number of times, your fitbit is going to tell the boss and he is going to get on to you about it. They’re already finding out that people are more productive from home. They’re not going to have you back at the office, they don’t have to buy toilet paper for you now, right. You can buy your own toilet paper. You’re not chatting up Susan and causing HR troubles the two of you, so that’s cheaper, that’s awesome. And they are going to be listening to you, if your kids come up to you and ask you questions or talk to you too much during the workday. It’s going to be total work, total work!
Karl Schudt: Yep, and what would stop it because there is no natural limit on progressivism.
Scott Hambrick: No, there is no limit. Oh, I happened to know that you had a forty five minute commute one way and you worked nine to five but you had to leave the house at eight. So we are just going to change your work hours to eight to six because you weren’t able to be at home during those hours before anyway.
Karl Schudt: We’re going to have to ask you to come in on Sunday, fill in your TPS reports.
Scott Hambrick: It’s total work. Your house is their fu**ing office now. It’s going to be great guys. It’s a brave new world.
Karl Schudt: So maybe, I want to talk a little bit more about the notion of slavery and wage slavery. So there is a line in here, “Even southern slavery had this one moral merit”, hold your fire, “that it was decadent, it has this one historic advantage that it is dead. The northern slavery, industrious slavery or what is called wage slavery, is not decaying but increasing and the end of it is not yet.” There is no end in sight. If the gig economy that everybody is working five independent contractor jobs. You know, when I was a kid the dads had a job, this is in the 70’s, might be in a factory. They work their forty years, they get their gold watch. They would retire, they would have had a good life. They were richer, now they didn’t have iphones, but their houses didn’t cost as much. They didn’t necessarily have to have two people work. It was pretty unusual when I was a kid to have both parents work. So you’d go home and your mom would be there.
Scott Hambrick: Your dad didn’t want to work, they would do it because they had good dads. Since then, we’ve been taught that everyone wants to go to work, everyone wants to have a career. When did that happen? When I was a kid every guy, every older guy would say ‘listen son, you know, you’re not going to be on your deathbed wishing you would have worked more’. But now they tell everybody to get a job, fight to keep it, work on your career. It didn’t used to be like that.
Karl Schudt: Well, there is no natural limit to that. The limit is, we had a wonderful little chat on our slack thing about whether the ultimate value is life in this current epidemic that we’re having. People are doing all sorts of extraordinary, and I think destructive things, just to support the mere continuation of life. Well, is that the goal or is it a certain kind of life. Wage slavery, more productiviy, why? What’s the end state? Well, the end state should be, I think, a reasoned understanding of what a human life is. And a human life is not working like a dog, you know, making the GDP go up for the plutocrats.
Scott Hambrick: And keep it, you’re not just manufacturing input. Can we talk about the Irish?
Karl Schudt: You can talk about the Irish.
Scott Hambrick: The Irish problem. This is written in nineteen twenty two, and Chesterton is an Englishman.
Karl Schudt: First person that greets him is an Irishman.
Scott Hambrick: First person that greets him is an Irishman.
Karl Schudt: In America.
Scott Hambrick: An Irishman journalist who interviews him, and he quite enjoyed the interview. But Belfast is still smoking, it’s nineteen twenty two and Ireland is separated. And scary times and the United States at this time, the northeast is overrun with Irishmen. It changed the political nature of the country, the northeast started, he talks about this. That the northeast was born of the Puritans, Chesterton says they were not freedom loving people. They were absolutists, they would put you on the dunking stool and put you in the stocks. And make you wear the scarlet A. And were the opposite of religious tolerant folk. Or folk tolerant of various religions, and very straight laced. Puritans! You know, puritanical, that’s where the word comes from. So you end up with a particular kind of white shoe, Boston aristocracy. A particular type of politics that comes out of the northeast. And you could see the arguments between the atomses and the more conservative folk in the northeast versus the folks in Tidewater Virginia. From the cavalier stock, the squire of the South. By time Chesterton arrives, the potato famines have already happened, there has been an enormous exodus of Irishmen to the northeast who completely changed the political environment up there. This makes Chesterton reflect on the British treatment of the Irish and how poorly the British have done empire. He says nobody impugns France for their annexation and overrun of Brittany, because they were so successful, it’s just France now. But the British were tolerant of Irishness to the degree that they never made them become English, they never assimilated them. And Ireland separated, and he doesn’t say this outright but under all of his writings in this book anyway, I think he wonders how are these Americans are going to keep all of this together.
Karl Schudt: Yeah, so I am armed with quote here, “Nobody knows if this is going to last, slaveries could last and peasantries could last, but wage earning communities could hardly even live and were already dying.” You know, what is the guarantee that our current state is going to endure. You might argue that, well it has been a hundred years since this book was written, ninety eight years.
Scott Hambrick: Middle class is gone, largely since this has happened.
Karl Schudt: Yeah, the thing about the Irish, if you have been able to. He says something about Lincoln, he thinks Lincoln had been right in one thing, that the United States was one nation not two. And the evidence that he was right is that there is no more resistance. You know, that people think of themselves as Americans and not as Confederates or Northerners.
Scott Hambrick: Well he’s fifty seven years out from the end of the war too.
Karl Schudt: Yeah, so that is giving you thought that a nation is a people. So it’s a little bit different from the idea from the beginning of the book that it is a creed. It’s also a people and it’s got to have its own unity in order to last. And so the worry about the Irish is that well we never had any unity. And he makes some jokes about them. They used to say the Saxon could always rule the Celt, well the Celts all moved to America and ruled America. So the exhibit would be the Kennedy family, for example.
Scott Hambrick: Right
Karl Schudt: Which is true, I mean, the Irish came to America and set themselves up. They did very well.
Scott Hambrick: Yeah what else are they going to do?
Karl Schudt: Some of my ancestors. One fourth of my ancestors, actually. Are you Irish?
Scott Hambrick: Not that I am aware of. Everybody acts like they are.
Karl Schudt: Well on Saint Patrick’s day.
Scott Hambrick: He talks about the Irish problem in America. But, I mention this on the Barbell Logic Podcast that came out this morning, that Aristotle on his book in politics, book five. It’s all about revolution, book five is about revolution, and for Aristotle revolution isn’t necessarily just hanging somebody from a lamp post or violent overthrow of a government. He says anything that you do that changes the nature of the government is revolutionary. Duh. So if you change who can vote, the way votes come out is going to be different and by and by you will end up with a different kind of government. So the most common kind of revolution is changing who gets citizenship or who gets the franchise. And in the United States that has happened over and over and over again. Used to have to have property to have the franchise, then you didn’t. Then they had the Emancipation Proclamation, then the slaves, former slaves were allowed to vote, then the women got the vote. And then we took an enormous number of European, mostly Irish and Italian immigrants, who then were given the franchise and on and on and on. So he talks about women’s suffrage in particular, he wanted to debate a public figure. He names a lot of people and I don’t know who the heck they are, you know. Time has passed, you know, and they didn’t hold up like Chesterton did. But he said that this great and glorious demagogue had degenerated into a statesman. He wanted to debate this guy but he refused, the gentleman refused. And he said I never expected that the great order would bother to debate with me at all. But it never occurred to me as a general or moral principle that two educated men were forbidden to talk sense about a particular subject because a lot of other people had already voted on it.
Karl Schudt: Well yeah, I thought that was funny too. Well it’s been decided, you can’t talk about it anymore. Progress doesn’t have an endpoint, all it has in continual motion. And once you’ve moved, you can’t go back. You can’t talk about it, there is no point in talking about it because we’ve moved on. We moved on from there.
Scott Hambrick: That’s not who we are anymore Karl.
Karl Schudt: Right we are not that anymore, I don’t know what we are or where we are going but.
Scott Hambrick: He says, “We are perpetually being told in the papers that we wanted is a strong man who will do things, what is wanted is a strong man who will undo things. And that will be a real test of strength” he says.
Karl Schudt: Yeah, I wonder what he thought of Coolidge. This is before Coolidge.
Scott Hambrick: Yeah.
Karl Schudt: That would be a strong man who didn’t do anything.
Scott Hambrick: Right.
Karl Schudt: I want to talk a little bit about nations. He has some interesting things to say and he’s upset. He doesn’t think anyone has done the right job for his own nation. Talking about how to relate. I want to give a couple of quotes and we can talk about them. “Nations ought to love nations like men love women, not because they are the same but because they are different.”.
Scott Hambrick: Yep.
Karl Schudt: So rather than trying than making the Irish Englishman that live on the island next door, you let the Irish be however they are and you find what’s lovable about Irishness. I suppose nations need poets. I want to read the quote here,
“Men who wish to interest us in Arabs did not confine themselves to saying that they are monotheists or moralists. They filled our romances with the rush of Arab steeds or the colors of strange tents or carpets. What we want is somebody to do for the English for his front garden what’s done for the Jap”, that’s his word not mine, “and his paper house. We shall understand the Englishmen with his dog as well as the Arab with his horse. In a word that nobody is really trying to do is the one thing that really wants doing. It is to make England attractive as a nationality and even as a small nationality”.
What is it about Englishness that’s good? In four hours we are going to be talking Jimmy Rogers. What is it about that particular branch of American culture that is near? We were listening to it last night, this is really good stuff. This is gangster stuff.
Scott Hambrick: Yeah
Karl Schudt: You know.
Scott Hambrick: I took my family to England three years ago, I don’t know when it was, four years ago.
Karl Schudt: They let you in?
Scott Hambrick: They let me in. It is not America, seems plain. But, you know, we both speak English. Americans were, George Washington probably had an English accent, you know. His folks had come here seventy five years here before the war.
Karl Schudt: I think England probably used to have a southern accent.
Scott Hambrick: Well there’s that. There is a lot of talk that says that because England has such proximity to Europe, and the southern United States didn’t have that, that our accent is more like the southern accent, the Carolinas in particular would have been more like.
Karl Schudt: So Shakespeare should have been done with a draw.
Scott Hambrick: Shakespeare, yeah. But it is an entirely different nation. There is a lot of very wonderful things about it. London is quiet, they are an inverted people. There is not loud talking. If you get on an escalator everyone stands on one side so if you are in a hurry you can march up the escalator and not have anybody block your way. The underground is quiet, nobody is blaring music, there is not a lot of horn honking. They’re an inverted, quiet people. I think it is lovely. They love their enclosed garden in the front. Their big breakfasts and they’re their own thing. You know we have a, piss everybody off, there are people that say that we don’t have a culture. I think this is what Chesteron is saying about Engishmen, well we don’t have a culture. They’re not proud of it. Nobody has identified what it is but you’re like a fish in the fish bowl, it’s just the water you swim in. You take it for granted, you don’t understand how different you are. From how different we are in Oklahoma to people who were born in Toronto, you know.
Karl Schudt: Well what you end up doing is saying that everyone else has a neat culture in their all valuable but we’re not.
Scott Hambrick: Right.
Karl Schudt: Well no, they have neat cultures and they are valuable but so are you.
Scott Hambrick: Everybody is, and that’s why I hate Applebees.
Karl Schudt: That’s why I love country music. How that for a twofer, Applebees versus country music.
Scott Hambrick: I don’t like how homogenous everything is becoming, you know. Food service has become industrialized, you know he is talking about, he doesn’t talk about that part but industrialization means that hand craftsmanship goes away. Uniformity of product comes in, and local cuisines are dying. You know, Oklahoma was settled in between the eighteen thirties and the eighteen nineties. And a lot of Germans, a lot of Czechs. Our chicken fried steak is a beef schnitzel.
Karl Schudt: Yes.
Scott Hambrick: But they didn’t make schnitzel in Germany with beef, it was pork, maybe a dunn of chicken. But gonna be pork, but we had beef here. So we end up having this thing that they didn’t have. You know, but we just take it for granted and that is just poor people food and who cares. It’s f**king delicious, you know. But big chain stores, big chain restaurants stamp out the local cuisine. I read Ulysses S. Grant’s memoir many years ago. One of the things I remember most about that, that he talked about. I think he was from Ohio, southern Illinois.
Karl Schudt: Eventually Illinois.
Scott Hambrick: Yeah, when he went to West Point. It was right at the very very beginning of the train services and locomotives in the United States. He said that almost everybody was incompressible because their accents were so thick and so different. And he said by the time the war had started, trains and transportation had sped up everything so much and mixed everybody up so much that those regional dialogues went away. And I hate that.
Karl Schudt: It’s probably somewhat inevitable, what I don’t like about it is people not thinking that where they came from is valuable.
Scott Hambrick: Right.
Karl Schudt: It’s your stuff. I had a student once that, we had a good relationship, he was a smart kid. He’s from a different background from me, certainly. But he said Mr. Shooter, or whatever he called me I forget, Philoctetesis really important to you. And I hadn’t really noticed.
Scott Hambrick: Heck yeah it is.
Karl Schudt: But it is.
Scott Hambrick: You’re like Aeneas.
Karl Schudt: Hey so I agreed. I think it is. We’ve been talking about Aeneas where Aeneas drags his father on his shoulders out of the sea.
Scott Hambrick: Have we ever talked about that where I said you were like Aeneas?
Karl Schudt: I don’t think so.
Scott Hambrick: Yeah, that’s funny.
Karl Schudt: But where you came from, that makes you who you are. And if there is anything of value in you that means there is something valuable in your upbringing and the people you came from. And it doesn’t mean everything was perfect.
Scott Hambrick: No.
Karl Schudt: But it means you probably ought to find the good stuff in it.
Scott Hambrick: It’s not perfect in France.
Karl Schudt: No. So I treasure those stories. My dad sometimes listens to the podcast. But I like all the stories he talks about, you know. It’s just telling stories about going out to that farm. I’ve been to that farm, we don’t own it anymore, I wish we did. The homestead that my great grandfather had, in Lena Illinois, beautiful but he would go out there. And his grandmother would have an apple pie for him, just a German immigrants coming in and setting up their farm. That’s always why we said Gesundheit, I never knew what that meant. It’s about the only German we had. My grandmother is Irish and was a terrible cook, horrible, horrible cook.
Scott Hambrick: Boil everything until it submits. Yeah.
Karl Schudt: Yeah. My mom’s people have all sorts of interesting things about them.
Scott Hambrick: An American apple pie is a strudel with more productive fruit orchards.
Karl Schudt: Yeah.
Scott Hambrick: It is, so you know we got our own thing here and it’s good. I want people to quit sh****ng on it.
Karl Schudt: Right.
Scott Hambrick: How bout that. Hey, if you’re somewhere else, your thing is pretty good too. But it’s entirely different.
Karl Schudt: Even if it’s New York City.
Scott Hambrick: Yeah, you know they get super hot about their pizza versus the Chicago, you know, the weird upside down lasagna you guys have.
Karl Schudt: They used to be block by block.
Scott Hambrick: Yeah.
Karl Schudt: You know, in Chicago in the old days the way you would tell where somebody was from at least if it was, well there are a big chunk of Catholics in Chicago, but what’s your parish? Little Flower, you know, Saint Leo, whatever. You would be known by which parish you were in the city, which little church community you belonged to. Maybe you didn’t go to church but that was your parish.
Scott Hambrick: Right.
Karl Schudt: Regionalism, maybe someday you ought to read Napoleon of Notting Hill, which is another Chesterton book. It’s a science fiction book set in nineteen eighty four.
Scott Hambrick: Uh oh.
Karl Schudt: About regionalism, I don’t know, it’s funny. He does right fiction by the way, the Father Brown mysteries were his. We’ve talked about them before. They’re not Sherlock Holmes, you’ll be able figure out who the murderer is because he’s got bad metaphysics.
Scott Hambrick: Right. I like how Chesterton treasures all these different nations. Even the Hairy Ainu.
Karl Schudt: What is a Hairy Ainu? Did you look it up?
Scott Hambrick: I didn’t because I know that the indigenous people of the northern islands of Japan are the Ainus.
Karl Schudt: Are they harry?
Scott Hambrick: Maybe, I assume that is who he’s talking about, A-I-N-U. But he likes what everyone has to offer and he traveled the world when it was hard to do that. And was a very thoughtful observer of people to the point he had his own methods for observing. And he goes, the first thirty pages of the book are really about how to observe different cultures, and take them for what they are, and see them with clean eyes. I love that about him. Should we talk about the Oklahoma, his Oklahoma expedition?
Karl Schudt: Yes, of course.
Scott Hambrick: He goes to Oklahoma, which is the newest of the new.
Karl Schudt: I was trying to imagine Oklahoma nineteen twenty two.
Scott Hambrick: Yeah, it was the newest of the new. You know we statehood in nineteen’o seven. He shows up there and everything is new. And he meets a crazy man. You should probably talk about the crazy man because I think I knew the guy.
Karl Schudt: I was trying to find the reference. With some guy had all sorts of buttons up and down his vest and he saw Chesterton walking through the town. And he came up to him and he said something like ‘I can tell you are part of the upper ten’. Never explained what it meant.
Scott Hambrick: He has all these silver emblems and dangly metals hanging on his vest that are like stars, and moons, and things like that.
Karl Schudt: Should I read the description?
Scott Hambrick: Yeah, love it.
“I was strolling down mainstreet of the city and looking in at a paper stall vivid with the news of a crime when a stranger addressed me and asked me quite politely but with a curious air of having authority to put the question, what I was doing in that city. He was a lean brown man having rather the look of a shabby, tropical traveler with a gray mustache with a lively and alert eye. But the most singular thing about him was that the front of his coat was covered with a multitude of shining metallic emblems made in the shape of stars and crescents. I was well accustomed by this time to Americans adorning the lapels of their coats with little symbols of various societies; it is part of the American passion for the ritual of comradeship. There is nothing that an American likes so much as to have a secret society than to make no secret of it.”
What are you doing? Well I am lecturing.
“To which he replied without restraint but rather with an expansive and radiant pride, I also am lecturing and I am lecturing on astronomy.”
Scott Hambrick: He’s so generous. He says that makes sense. He says entomologists should bedazzle their waistcoats with spiders and cockroaches. And the concologists, a simple costume of shells. An osteopath should be dressed to resemble a skeleton. He loves this idea.
Karl Schudt: Lets see,
“And then came another turn of the wheel of topsy turvydom, and all the logic was scattered to the wind. Expanding his starry bosom and standing astraddle, with the air of one who owned the street, the strange being continued, “Yes I am lecturing on astronomy, anthropology, archeology, palaeontology, embryology, eschatology,” and so on in a thunderous roll of theoretical sciences apparently beyond the scope of a single universe, let alone of any single professor”
What a perfect character.
Scott Hambrick: Well later he says, it’s a pleasure to welcome here a fellow member of the upper ten. What? And then he flashes him a badge and disappears later.
Karl Schudt: The badge of the upper ten. What are the upper ten?
Scott Hambrick: I want in.
Karl Schudt: Do we have any Oklahoma City listeners?
Scott Hambrick: I’m sure
Karl Schudt: I want to know if they know about the upper ten.
Scott Hambrick: But I knew a guy kind of like this. When I was going to the University of Oklahoma in Norman, there used to be, we called it an insane asylum. In Norman, there were three or four state institutions that were closed down in the late 80’s. And the people that were housed there were just forced out in their communities. And there was a guy that had been a resident there who found a way to live in town. And he would come into my favorite tavern, O’connell’s, at closing time. And the innkeeper let him tell everybody that it was the last call for alcohol and all that stuff. And he would wear a stack of baseball caps, we called him three hat Willie, but he never wore three. He would wear like twelve.
Karl Schudt: Twelve hat Willie.
Scott Hambrick: Three hat Willie, his name was Willie. And he carried a walking stick with a bicycle horn, like Hardwell Marks. And I would sit at the bar and he would come up and sit down. He was mentally handicapped in some way, I don’t know what was wrong with him. But he would say ‘Hey how are they treating you over at that job?’. I’d say, ‘Good, good’. He’d say ‘how’s your old lady?’. ‘ She’s alright’. ‘Is your car still running good?’. ‘Yeah it didn’t run’. ‘Is your job okay right now?’. He listened to people talk to each other in the bar and he’d picked up all these things that people say in small talk but it was just like a script, it was just like a mating dance. He was like an anthropologist but didn’t know the language, he would just say these things. He carried the badge.
Karl Schudt: Yeah what did the badge say?
Scott Hambrick: I have no idea. But when it was time to go home, three hat Willie would tell everybody that they couldn’t stay there. Honked his horn at them, and flash his badge, and run everybody out of the bar. But I was fascinated, I always enjoyed talking to the guy. Because he didn’t understand social interactions but he saw how they worked and he would model them. And when he did that he completely exposed what farce it was.
Karl Schudt: This is why I listen to Spanish music.
Scott Hambrick: Yeah I get it. Three hat Willie just like, there was another guy up in Norman, we called him the glove man. He always wore gloves, and this is when you could smoke in restaurants, and he would go in there and he would start taking things out of his pockets. And it was just tobacco products, Virginia Slims, French cut cigarettes.
Karl Schudt: I gotta tell you, I’ve seen god. God lived in Chicago Heights Illinois and he was an African American gentleman, he’s very stylish.
Scott Hambrick: Of course.
Karl Schudt: Drove a pink Cadillac with the license plate god. And you would see him sometimes, driving by.
Scott Hambrick: That was the end of the deed that you were a pimp.
Karl Schudt: I’m not going to look behind the curtain, I figured it was a good epiphany.
Scott Hambrick: Three hat Willie and the glove man were probably in the upper ten.
Karl Schudt: I think I want to be in the upper ten.
Scott Hambrick: I know I do. But he talks about having asked all kinds of other Americans, telling them this story to other Americans and asking them what this story meant. And he got a different answer from every person. He just happened to walk into a mad man in Oklahoma City in one day in nineteen twenty two, and it just blew his mind.
Karl Schudt: See the attitude there, it was not that he was a mad man.
Scott Hambrick: No, no.
Karl Schudt: Presenting him, immortalizing him in almost poetic language.
Scott Hambrick: He wants to make sense of it. I would just discount it, ah he’s crazy, but he wants to make sense of it.
Karl Schudt: Chesterton is a lot of fun.
Scott Hambrick: “If he wished to watch over the city in a quiet and unobtrusive fashion, why did he blazen himself all over with the stars of the sky and profess to give public lectures? If he was a detective pretending to be an astronomer, why did he tell a total stranger that he was a detective two minutes after saying he was an astronomer?” He just takes it all for face value, it’s so funny.
Karl Schudt: Just chewing on it on the train, probably.
Scott Hambrick: Three hat Willie. And at this same time when he is at the news stand, he picks up a newspaper and he reads about a case where a member of the senate in the American parliament, he says, who was a millionaire and pillar of the republican party. Which might be called the respectable party. Is said to be mentioned as a possible president, was embroiled in this lawsuit and one of the attorneys was Wild Bill McLean. Anyway, he just tells the whole story about his account of the trial, he says, “Nero and Borgia were quite presentable people compared with the Senator Hammond when Wild Bill McLean had been done with him”.
Karl Schudt: I think we should have names like that.
Scott Hambrick: Oh well, yeah.
Karl Schudt: Wild Bill.
Scott Hambrick: Some of those, some reds. He says “there is a certain tone about English trails which does at least begin with a certain skepticism about people prominent in public life”. He talks about how Wild Bill Mcclain uses the Senator Hammond’s accomplishments and his wealth against him as an impeachment of his character in the trial. And that McLean would have done better in the trail if had been a poor man, or not been a public figure.
Karl Schudt: That the Senator would have done better?
Scott Hambrick: Yeah.
Karl Schudt: Yeah.
Scott Hambrick: Interesting, I don’t know if that’s the case anymore.
Karl Schudt: I wonder if someone could look up Wild Bill McLean.
Scott Hambrick: “McLean was appealing to an implicit public opinion when he pelted”, listen to this alliteration, “appealing to an implicit public opinion when he pelted the Senator with his gold.”. So smart.
Karl Schudt: Right, should we go to the end of the book?
Scott Hambrick: Yeah.
Karl Schudt: So in this section “The Future of Democracy” he says some things. When I read this, I thought wow. There is some talk about this problem that America had in this past of slavery. Let’s throw some quotes out, we can chew on them, “In England they preserved aristocracy, in America they preserved slavery”. But he thinks that Jefferson, if you read what Jefferson wrote, Jefferson is not too happy with slavery. He’s a practitioner but not, he’s got some writings that I don’t have at hand. This is a problem, we should not do this. And Chesterton says, let’s see, “one of the best weekly papers in England said recently that even those who drew up the Declaration of Independence did not include negros in it’s generalization about humanity. This is quite consistent with the current convention which we are all brought up. The theory of the heart of humanity broadens an ever larger circles of brotherhood till we pass from embracing a black man to adoring a black beetle.”. Okay, so pause right there. This is the story we tell ourselves is that we are continuing progressing and what we are progressing to is universal, we wouldn’t say brotherhood, universal.
Scott Hambrick: Personhood?
Karl Schudt: Personhood, whatever. We are extending our circles of care wider and wider and wider. He doesn’t think that’s the case.
“The facts show”, he says, “Unfortunately it is quite inconsistent with the facts of American history. The facts show that in this problem of the old south, the eighteenth century was more liberal than the nineteenth century. There was more sympathy for the negro in the school of Jefferson than the school of Jefferson Davis. Jefferson, in the dark estate of his simple Deism, said that the sight of slavery in his country made him tremble, rembering that God is just. His fellow Southerners, after a century of the world’s advance, said that slavery in itself was good, when they did not go farther and say that negroes in themselves were bad.”.
Okay, so what happened was they got scientific about it. “The fact is that utter separation of subordination of the black like a beast was a progress, it was a growth of nineteenth century enlightenment experiments, a triumph of science over superstition”. It was when people started to say there was genetic difference, I mean look at the shapes of their skulls.
Scott Hambrick: It’s post Darwinian.
Karl Schudt: Yeah, it’s.
Scott Hambrick: And it’s pragmatic, it’s the way the world was going. It’s working.
Karl Schudt: You get justifications for it, you get eugenics. Okay, so you get rid of slavery but then you get eugencis, which the Nazi’s got from the state of Indiana. I’m not making that up.
Scott Hambrick: Yeah.
Karl Schudt: You can look it up.
Scott Hambrick: Yeah, the state of Indiana was sterilizing the infirm in the first part of the twentieth century. And had, at the state fair, would have these, not really a beauty pageant. But like selecting the best young men and young women as like breeding pairs at the fairs and stuff.
Karl Schudt: Oh yeah, you know, one of the T.V. shows I used to like, Longmire. They had an episode where there was some doctor, the bad guy was a doctor, spoiler, was a doctor who had sterilized Native American women without their consent. I’m like that can’t happen and you look it up and sure enough. It happened, it happened. That’s scientific, that’s progress. Okay, think about that. There’s no limits on what we can progress to and there’s no limits on what science can do. There’s no reverence. I would say sanctity in human life, integrity of the human person. If you are a cog in a big machine, well we can tweak the cog. Cut a little bit of it out.
Scott Hambrick: He calls it a materialistic hardening, which replaced the remorse of Jefferson.
Karl Schudt: Yeah, he makes a point, he’s got a history of, I think it’s his history of England. Where he makes the point that in the Middle Ages slavery was gotten rid of. So, this is an interesting perspective on history. Slavery was constant, it was ubiquitous in the ancient world. A serf is not a slave. There was no slavery in Midevil Europe. It went away. It came back with the Renaissance, which was progress. That’s a kind of a thorny thing to think, right. That slavery was a colmination of the progress of the European state.
Scott Hambrick: How the hell does that work? Is it because the enlightenment rejected a mythical idea that there is a recognizable, divine spark in all human beings?
Karl Schudt: That’s part of it. Plus you get, well, there is money to be made.
Scott Hambrick: Okay.
Karl Schudt: For sure, you get to read some classical authors where slaverly is everywhere. And you start to think they must be right. You find natural slaves everywhere.
Scott Hambrick: That’s page four of Aristotle’s Politics, “The natural slave”.
Karl Schudt: So you start finding natural slaves wherever it is convenient for you to harvest the sugar cane. That’s progress though, the height of the thinking was ‘this is fine’. Be careful of progress, you don’t know where it’s progressing.
Scott Hambrick: Yeah, if man’s the rational being and you find people that haven’t been taught rationality and syllogism there’re not humans. Is that how it works? Is that part of it?
Karl Schudt: I think so. And maybe you just understand the way they think because you laugh at them and then sneer at them.
Scott Hambrick: Right.
Karl Schudt: And then you can do what you want with them, re educate them, use them for your wars or whatever, you know. That’s the, everybody likes to crap on Appalachia but they sure wanted them to fight their wars.
Scott Hambrick: Still are.
Karl Schudt: All those Scotch Irish.
Scott Hambrick: Yep
Karl Schudt: I get fired up over this stuff. Chesterton’s cheerful but he pulls no punches when and hits you. One last quote from me, it’s later in this chapter, “The Declaration of Independence dogmatically bases all rights on the fact that God created all men equal and it is right for if they were not created equal they were certainly evolved unequal. There is no basis for democracy except in a dogma about the divine origin of man, that the perfectly simple fact which the modern world will find out more and more to be fact. Every other basis is a sort of sentimental confusion full of merely verbal echoes of the older creeds”. I don’t know where you go with that. Either a human being is something that you don’t mess with for your own gain, full stop. Or the human being is not. The way the Declaration puts that is endowed by their creator. That works. If you have trouble with the notion of your creator, where are you going to get the notion of not being able to exploit your fellow human being? Kant says you have to treat them like an end within themselves, I like that. I like that formulation, I think that’s pretty good. Kant also says, even if you don’t believe in God you have to pretend there is one for your morality to make sense. I think he’s probably right on that, if you get rid of it. I know this is controversial, but if you get rid of it then why not do that sort of progress? Why not run Tuskegee experiments? Or that one, what was the one Mckae talked about in Oklahoma?
Scott Hambrick: I think that’s robbers cave.
Karl Schudt: Well why not do that stuff? Why not do that stuff? Well, you don’t do that stuff because a human being has value within himself or herself. That’s gotta be, I don’t know, you have to have reverence for it.
Scott Hambrick: Were not doing Chesterton justice here. You probably ought to go read this, especially if you’re mad. Because in this last chapter here on democracy, he calls it the problem of the world and we need to watch America to figure out how this is going to go. He thinks that the democracy thing, plus the industrialization, is just a toxic, toxic brew. And you end up with a plutocracy, and that seems to be being born out right now, I think. Right there towards the end, he says
“Its rich will riot with a brutal indifference far beyond the feeble feudalism which retains some shadow of responsibility or at least of patronage. It’s wage slaves will either sink into heathen slavery or seek relief in theories that are descrutive not nearly in method but in aim; since they are but the negation of the human appetites of property and personality. Eighteen-century ideals, formulated in eighteen-century language, have no longer in themselves the power to hold all those pagan passions back. Even those documents depend on Deism; their real strength will survive in men who are still Deists; and the men who are still Deists are more than Deists. Men will more and more realise there is no meaning in democracy if there is no meaning in anything”
This is a heavy duty book. He’s got lots of funny stuff in here. And lots of anecdotes, and it’s a loose collection of probably news paper articles, I guess, that they slammed together here. But they all fit and this article, and the next to last chapter on the English character and probably democracy. Just put a bow on it.
Karl Schudt: It’s challenging.
Scott Hambrick: Yeah, this project is still, I don’t like saying young, but he says in here that people say the United States is a young nation and the implicit in that is that it still has another eight hundred years, because nations get old. He says, well that is simply not true. He says you can look over the course of history and see that most of them don’t last very long.
Karl Schudt: Yeah, when was the last time you saw a Prussian?
Scott Hambrick: A Prussian, right, an Austro Hungarian, Hungarian, Bulgars. And I wrote in here, is America Lindy? You know the Lindy effect.
Karl Schudt: Explain.
Scott Hambrick: The Lindy effect, it’s named after some dude named Lindy, the idea is that the older something is the older that it will get to be eventually. Like that Coke can right there is not very old, chances are it will be thrown in the trash. I mean Bauz, people have cared for it for two thousand years, and it’s treasured and it probably will be cared for for another two thousand years. The test of time and utility is a fine sieve that selects for the things with the longest longevity. We don’t know if the American experience is Lindy. We don’t.
Karl Schudt: Yeah, well things. The Karl effect is that things seem like they last forever.
Scott Hambrick: Until they don’t.
Karl Schudt: Until right before they end.
Scott Hambrick: Yeah.
Karl Schudt: The week it’s falling apart, you might notice it’s falling apart. But two weeks before it falls apart, you think it’s going to be there forever. The United States, who knows if it will endure. Democracies tend not to, or they tend not to as democracies. Rome endured for a long time, so Rome, seventeen fifty three to fourteen fifty three, twenty two hundred years. I kinda count Constantinople as Rome because it was, they just moved.
Scott Hambrick: Karl, he just declared that it was.
Karl Schudt: But what did Agustus do, but fundamentally change it, it was no longer a republic. It looked like one but it wasn’t.
Scott Hambrick: Yeah, we’ve been saying democracy and he says it’s a democracy, America is not a democracy or it was. It’s a republic. But it’s not the same thing it was, it’s already not what it was.
Karl Schudt: Who knows, it might last two thousand years but it won’t be what it was.
Scott Hambrick: Nah, it might be for the better. I don’t know, I kinda miss what I think it was, but I wasn’t here.
Karl Schudt: Yeah
Scott Hambrick: When I go to colonial Williamsburg, I can’t hardly even get around, can’t hardly even see it, I’m just in tears, it just destroys me, the sense of loss I have when I go to that place. I felt like that in England too a lot, and Ireland.
Karl Schudt: You know that Yeats poem about the center not holding?
Scott Hambrick: Yeah.
Karl Schudt: And what rough beast slouches towards Bethlehem waiting to be born? Something is coming, you just don’t know what it is. I don’t know what the moral of this story is. If there is anything good about what America has been, I think it’s in the Declaration. It’s in that notion of inalienable rights.
Scott Hambrick: And it’s in the people too.
Karl Schudt: Yeah
Scott Hambrick: It’s a particular kind of person that would get on a wooden ship and jump off on the edge of the water, wade ashore, and carve something out where there wasn’t nothing. And they have a particular kind of parenting style, so they have a particular kind of kid, and so on.
Karl Schudt: Yeah, we went through East Tennessee, there is a valley that you can go through, I think Great Smoky Mountains National Park, I think. And you can drive around this valley, and you can get out of your car. You walk up to this log cabin that somebody, I forget his name I should remember his name, somebody went up there with an axe in seventeen eighty five and made himself a house that’s still there. And this is for me, when Calypso hands Odysseus an axe and says go make a raft. And he does. For me, this is a bit of what those people were that I don’t think I am. Where you could give him an axe and he could go get his sustenance, and get his shelter in a place where nobody ever had been. That is something unique. Europe hasn’t had that for two thousand years.
Scott Hambrick: Two falls ago we drove out east of here, and we stopped in Cleo Spring, Oklahoma. And there is a sod house there. And I just looked it up, I forgot the guy’s name, the guy’s name, Marshall Mcculley, was on a land run. He left Kansas, somebody shot a rifle in the air at high noon and they had a land run. And he went to this property in Cleo Springs, he had a shovel and a pistol, and some coins, and a book of stamps, and he built a sod house. He took that shovel and he cut sod and he built a house. And he and his wife lived in that house for fifteen or eighteen years, he eventually built a frame house, and they kept the sod house. And it was a smokehouse for a while, and his kids essentially built a barn over the sod house to protect it and keep it, and they gave it to the state of Oklahoma. And you can go out there and the hands duct cellar that he dug, that they kept their canning in was there, the guy went and built something where there was absolutely nothing but wind and weather. And I go in there and just cry, cry, cry.
Karl Schudt: Yeah.
Scott Hambrick: Unbelievable.
Karl Schudt: Yeah it was something unique, it was something that hadn’t been seen for a while.
Scott Hambrick: Once he had that sod house, he went back to Kansas, found a wife, found a woman, made her a wife, and brought her back.
Karl Schudt: Come back to my sod house.
Scott Hambrick: Yeah.
Karl Schudt: I wonder what the courtship was?
Scott Hambrick: Now is when I cry. Wait a minute, more. We get told about how great the country is, and our constitution, and all that stuff. How much of this greatness is the fact that a young guy could walk across the border from Kansas into Indian territory, or was that Oklahoma territory not Indian territory and instantly be capitalized with no debt. If you had a shovel and were willing to bust your ass and live there for seven years and improve it, you could have it. You were instantly in business if you were willing to do it and could. No money down, no payments to anybody, it was you in nature and your will. We say oh the industrial revolution, the explosive economic growth, the United States, and our form of government, and all those things are wonderful. But a seventeen year old could leave from Kansas and be a self sufficient person with a shovel. That hasn’t happened but just a handful of times in the history of mankind.
Karl Schudt: I don’t know if it would be, well everything is weird now, who knows. But I don’t know if it would be entirely wrong if we didn’t just not ever think about it. So a seventeen year old, eighteen year old probably, doesn’t even think of going and starting something. Oh I got to go to college, oh I got to go into debt and spend four or five years, or six years, sitting in a college and delaying my life. Come out of it with debt, who could get married then. So family gets pushed off, maybe you don’t have many kids. So it’s not that it couldn’t be done absolutely. There is not too many frontiers you could go and get a homestead. Although there were places, there are towns that would pay you to move there, that’s not New York City. You know, we drove through east Colorado. There’s empty towns out there. There’s places to go, but we don’t really think about it. We think you gotta do this, it’s constrained.
Scott Hambrick: Listen to this, I just looked at their website, okhistory.org, you can look up sod house. So there was a land run in the Cherokee outlet, September 16, 1893. Mcculley first lived in a one room dugout, hollowed out of a ravine bank. He dug a hole and lived underground like a fu**ing prairie dog. Then he built a two room sod house in August of 1894, using blocks of thick buffalo grass from the Oklahoma prairies, and hits his team to a sod plow and split the grass in long row… blah blah blah. He received his homestead certificate, title, and deed in 1902. And they lived in that house, that sod house, until 1909. Crazy, but it’s not.
Karl Schudt: It’s what your people that went before you did, for most of you out there. You might have forgotten it, but they did it. They did great deeds, that I think should be honored. Like Chesterton talks about how someone needs to write about how great the English are. Like people write about Irish, or like Lawerence wrote about Arabia. We did this in passing. I joke that’s why I like country music. It’s a celebration of a culture, all the good things about it. And the bad things. But it is honoring it and preserving it, and I think that’s good. Gosh, people would dig up Yugoslavian folk songs and preserve them. But Hank Williams isn’t cool.
Scott Hambrick: I don’t know if there is anyone cooler than Hank Williams. I don’t know how much Chesterton, that is. This is a good bathroom book too. Each chapter stands alone. They’re mostly fifteen minute chapters, I’d say.
Karl Schudt: Yeah, let me give you some more Chesterton you could read, dear listener. The Heretics and Orthodoxy are a double set. Heretics is where he takes on people like his friend George Bernard Shaw, and says why they are wrong about everything. And then they pestered him into writing a book called Orthodoxy which is to talk about what’s right and what he actually thinks. It’s like when Socrates’ friends yell at him in the republic, but you never said what you think. So he does that. He’s got wonderful short biographies of Thomas Aquinas and Francis of Assisi, which are really good. They are a bit more religious but a perfect book on Thomas Aquinas. I think it’s Ausonge who wrote about this, that Chesterton was like I am going to write a book on Thomas Aquinas. And he’s halfway through the book. And he stops, and he asks his secretary, go get me all the books, current scholarship on Aquinas. And he reads a couple of pages, puts the books back, and keeps writing his book. He was a newspaper man, he wasn’t a theologian. He got it right, he got it right. It’s a really good introduction to Aquinas. He’s got a short history of England which is fun. One of his friends, Belock said, you might want to read some of his stuff too. The Father Brown mysteries are fun, short, talk about bathroom reading. Get one of those done per visit, probably. Depending on your intestinal state, poetry. We don’t talk about the poetry. He was a poet, and he was a good poet. You pick up a collection and dig through that. There is a ballad of the, somebody correct me, it’s a famous poem. The ballad of the white horse I think that he did. He was an artist, you can look up his drawings. He went to art school, an interesting fellow. There is a whole lot there that you can dig into.
Scott Hambrick: Did he get us wrong anywhere in that book?
Karl Schudt: Did he get
Scott Hambrick: Us wrong, the Americans wrong.
Karl Schudt: I wasn’t there in nineteen twenty two. I don’t think so. Yeah, one of the things he talks about is how we abbreviate words for making them longer.
Scott Hambrick: Yeah.
Karl Schudt: Like a lift is an elevator.
Scott Hambrick: He’s fascinated by our house that are all made out of wood.
Karl Schudt: Yeah, I did not really think about that. In England it is all stone.
Scott Hambrick: They cut all their trees down and made houses out of all of them before there was paint. And they have no conifers.
Karl Schudt: Well they might have used them in the Napoleonic wars.
Scott Hambrick: The conifers?
Karl Schudt: How many, for the mast.
Scott Hambrick: Well that’s their hard wood. See this is my theory.
Karl Schudt: Okay.
Scott Hambrick: They don’t have any conifers to speak of. That’s the fast growing stuff. That’s your doug fir and your pines, that you get the good two by fours out of, that grow fast. So they’ve got their English oak and they cut them all down to build houses. And there is no paint, they can’t preserve it. The house rots to the ground before the next ones mature.
Karl Schudt: So they have to pile up rocks.
Scott Hambrick: You get into stone and brick houses, and thatched roofs, and cedar shingles, that are not much different.
Karl Schudt: Yeah.
Scott Hambrick: They ain’t wrong though, by the way.
Karl Schudt: They ain’t wrong building out of stone?
Scott Hambrick: Yeah, they ain’t wrong, the little pigs knew.
Karl Schudt: But I think that’s neat. An Englishman comes here and the thing that strikes him is wooden houses. Well, okay so you can read what he writes and perhaps you can realize something unique about where you live, that wood is so plentiful that you can have a wooden house. In Orthodoxy, he tells a story about the traveler going across the world to see something new. He’s bored with what he’s got, and he comes back to his home country and doesn’t recognize it. And he sees the wonder of how everything on that island is so glorious but it’s his home. So you can do this displacement and recover what is unique, replaceable, and valuable about where you live and what you are from reading what this three hundred pound Englishman wrote about it three hundred years ago.
Scott Hambrick: A lot of Englishman. Well, I think we beat this. We’re getting ready to open enrollment again, we’ll see what happens. We’ll see how many people lived through this plandemic.
Karl Schudt: We’d love to have you.
Scott Hambrick: Yeah, go to onlinegreatbooks.com/podcast and you can sign up to join us there. We open enrollment, on the I think on the eighteenth, we will be open for seven days. So you ought to be able to get in on that. And next we are going to read P.G. Wodehouse’s, W-O-D-E-H-O-U-S-E, Inimitable Jeeves.
Karl Schudt: We are? Okay, awesome.
Scott Hambrick: Yeah we talked about it because you are already reading it. We are getting a twofer from that.
Karl Schudt: I’ve got many things on my mind. You know boy, we pushed some buttons on this episode. I wonder if any of you are going to be mad about this?
Scott Hambrick: Good.
Karl Schudt: It’s alright, come at me.
Scott Hambrick: Just cause they voted on it, doesn’t mean we can’t still talk about it.
Karl Schudt: That’s right, what is this show about? It’s about pointing to beautiful poking at you.
Scott Hambrick: The science isn’t settled yet Kar. I’m so sick of science. That’s for another show. Alright guys, we will talk to you next week.