In the latest issue of the periodical formerly known as The Times Higher Education Supplement (it now calls itself simply “Times Higher Education”), the philosopher Simon Blackburn takes a stab at what he sees as the top ten “modern myths”. For those blessed enough to be ignorant of Mr. Blackburn, he is an atheist academic at the University of Cambridge and Vice-President of the British Humanist Association “€” that’s “humanists” as in people who simply cannot conceive of anything greater than themselves, most definitely not “humanists” as in More and Erasmus.

Near the top of Mr. Blackburn’s list is “The myth of religious belief”:

This is delicate ground because lots of people believe themselves to have religious belief, and some can even get quite huffy about it. But David Hume, who was usually right about these things, said that nature “suffers not the obscure, glimmering light, afforded in those shadowy regions, to equal the strong impressions, made by common sense and by experience. The usual course of men’s conduct belies their words, and shows that their assent in these matters is some unaccountable operation of the mind between disbelief and conviction, but approaching much nearer to the former than to the latter.”

According to Mr. Blackburn, religious believers aren’t really believers, you see, because they quite often fail to live up to their beliefs.

People say they believe in life after death but still grieve when people die. Christians try to get rich and Muslims gamble.

Begging Mr. Blackburn’s pardon, but I fail to see the contradiction here. With regard to his second point, no orthodox Christians believe there is anything wrong with “trying to get rich” so long as it is not at the expense of the salvation of one’s soul or those of others. (We will leave to the thinkers of Islam his example of Muslim gamblers.) With regards to grief, there are several reasons for the living to grieve when people die. Firstly, there is the most obvious factor of the separation suddenly enforced between the living and the dying. Even an atheist should be able to appreciate such an obvious human factor.

Then, for Christians, there is the rather uncomfortable matter that not all life after death is heavenly. For many, perhaps even most, of the just, there are first the sufferings of the purgatory fires by which the soul is further cleansed in preparation to enter more fully into the beatific vision. And then, woefully, there are those who have so willfully and obstinately separated themselves from God that they will never enjoy the beatific vision and are dragged down to the infernal kingdom by its ruler. It is of course quite easy to see why an atheist would disagree with such thinking, but one would at least hope, considering the history of the West, that he would seek to understand such thinking.

Returning to “the myth of religious belief”, Mr. Blackburn, alas, only offers us only more denigration:

The state of mind here is unaccountable in the same way as that of the child who pretends that the tree stump is a bear and then becomes genuinely frightened of it, while knowing all the time that it is a tree stump. Like the child’s game, the grown-up one deserves no special respect, but provided it keeps away from the serious side of life it can remain harmless enough. Unfortunately, it is apt to break out, giving bearded men in skirts an amplifier with which to spread one or another arbitrary set of attitudes and demands.

With respect, this state of mind which Mr. Blackburn decries as child-like has produced Augustine, Aquinas, Michelangelo, Caravaggio, Erasmus, Montaigne, Pascal, Bach, Wagner, Cervantes, Chesterton, and so forth. Atheism has produced little more than some top-notch genocides and such interesting characters as Messrs. Lenin, Stalin, Mao & co.

This is not to make the egregious error of falsely accusing Mr. Blackburn of tarrying (even if only on an intellectual level) with genocidal maniacs. (No doubt one can also summon up from history some dodgy Christians in that category). But if we were to presuppose that God did not exist, then I would nonetheless much prefer the fruits of false theism to those of truthful atheism. At the very least, I would not haughtily chide that which has produced such great works of beauty and such great acts of charity as Christianity has as a mere child-like state of mind that is worthy of no special respect.

Putting these explanations aside, there is a simple failure on Mr. Blackburn’s part to take into account that most unaccountable of things: human nature. For example, in his very next myth, “The myth of British values”, he writes that “fair play is supposed to be an essentially British value, although our school bullying is the worst in any country with indoor plumbing.” Again, to Mr. Blackburn, the failure to live up to an ideal is a failure on the part of the ideal, not the human.

As it is, Christianity happens to be true, and people really do believe in it “€” though, because they are human, they often fail to live as they believe. Whether he seeks to understand it and incorporate it into his worldview or not, human nature is one of those basic thing that Mr. Blackburn (and the rest of mankind) will just have to live with. Throughout modern history, it is that splendidly mysterious human element which has wreaked havoc with even the best-laid plans.

As the Lincoln-basher in residence, I suppose I should say a few things about Grant Havers’ article on the subject.  Mr. Havers states at the beginning of his article:

In the conservative house divided, almost everyone agrees that the president was the prophet of democratic imperialism and that his war with the South was a mere dress rehearsal for global crusades for democracy which began half a century after his assassination.

That’s quite a claim, but it’s one that seems to be poorly supported.  Mr. Havers has since written another response to the critique of Thomas DiLorenzo, but besides DiLorenzo I don’t know of anyone who has made any argument even remotely similar to the one Mr. Havers imputes to paleoconservative critics of Lincoln.  As DiLorenzo points out, he does not refer to himself as a paleoconservative, so that is a problem all its own, but more basically he denies that he subscribes to the Jaffaite interpretation of Lincoln that Mr. Havers claims that he holds.  But leave DiLorenzo aside for a moment, and let us consider whether there are actually any paleos who accept the description of Lincolln as the “prophet of democratic imperialism.”  In only the most limited sense would I say that Lincoln was an imperialist, engaged in the project of building what some dissidents refer to as the “internal empire,” in other words the project of consolidation.  With respect to foreign policy (i.e., policy concerning lands outside the United States c., early 1860), Lincoln did not engage in anything like a policy of imperialism, democratic or otherwise.  The imperial phase of our foreign policy finds its real beginning in the 1890s, and the deployment of democracy as a cover story for intervening in foreign wars is a product of the Wilson years.  Indeed, this is stated quite plainly in A Republic, Not an Empire, Mr. Buchanan’s book on U.S. foreign policy and what one might reasonably take as one of the major paleoconservative works on U.S. foreign policy.

It is interesting that Wilsonians have sought to use Lincoln’s name and goals to support their own agenda, as their latter-day successors do even to this day, but that does not mean that people today who are critics of both Wilson and Lincoln have conflated the two or have confused Lincoln’s legacy with Wilson’s policy.  For supporting evidence, Mr. Havers has reached back many decades:

They obviously never shared Jaffa’s idolatrous view that Abe was a “€œgod-like”€ statesman who needed to crush the South in order to advance the cause of liberty, but they have never questioned his more serious view that Lincoln was a democratic imperialist. In the days when National Review still represented traditional American conservatism, two stalwart contributors to the magazine in the 1950s and 1960s, Willmoore Kendall and Frank Meyer, accepted the basic accuracy of Jaffa’s portrayal while they hotly disputed the benefits of this legacy. Although Kendall and Meyer blamed Lincoln for creating a “€œCaesarist”€ dictatorship over the republic, they did not challenge Jaffa’s view that the president had a global ambition to spread equality across all of creation. (Among the early contributors to National Review, only Richard Weaver praised Lincoln as a true statesman.) Mel Bradford, who often debated with Jaffa, agreed with his longtime opponent that Lincoln’s “€œgnostic”€ love of equality logically leads to endless revolutions at home and interventions abroad.

Of course, Bradford was right that a theoretical egalitarianism does logically lead to constant action by the state here and abroad, because equality is anything but natural and requires constant coercion.  That doesn’t mean that Bradford was actually claiming that Lincoln was the forefather of “democratic imperialism.”  As DiLorenzo makes plain, he doesn’t accept Jaffa’s claims that Lincoln was an egalitarian, but rather ridicules this notion.  Mr. Havers allows that both Sam Francis and Paul Gottfried have not accepted the Jaffaite myth, either, which makes me wonder where the positive proof for his claim is.  Who has made this argument?  The problem with Lincoln, of course, is that he was a nationalist and a centralist who trampled on the Constitution and waged a war of aggression against those whom he regarded as his fellow citizens.  Whether or not he may have contributed unwittingly to the self-justifications of later democratic imperialists is actually a distant secondary concern.  To critique Lincoln, or to “bash” him, one does not need to believe that his tyranny led to WWI or WWII or any later conflicts; it is sufficient to remember him as the unconstitutional despot that he was.     

With the visit of Pope Benedict to the U.S., American Catholics are faced with a grave confrontation between Church and State, a conflict between their supernatural faith and their patriotic duty, unparalleled in the English-speaking world since Pope Pius V deposed Queen Elizabeth I”€”and encouraged Catholics in her realm to topple her from power. Right?

That’s what you”€™d think, from reading the statements of open-borders activists alongside the complaints of restrictionist ex-Catholics like Tom Tancredo.

In fact, the current argument is much more complicated, and reflects millennia of tension between the notion of national sovereignty and the universal claims of Christian faith and morals. First, let’s dispose of the nonsense about an absolute “€œseparation of Church and State.”€ Such an idea is simply anti-Christian (anti-Catholic, anti-Orthodox, and anti-Protestant). To the degree that any of our country’s framers supported this principle (and historians disagree), they did so because they were Deists, who saw God as a distant lab technician watching us like rats in a maze. And they were wrong, so it’s our duty to fix their mistake”€”while retaining the freedom of conscience upon which our mostly Protestant Founders insisted. “€œSeparation of Church and State,”€ as it’s currently used, is a mindless piece of rhetoric meant to confuse people, to present the fake alternative of a godless technocracy or the Spanish Inquisition.

If the Church is to be anything more than a hapless, harmless chaplaincy which throws holy water over the latest whim of the State, it’s sometimes going to have to challenge the claims of kings and presidents. Most paleocons were happy when Pope John Paul and Pope Benedict rejected American wars against Iraq”€”just as neocons were testily dismissive. Now the papal Prada is on the other foot. Or is it?

From certain media reports and a few careless statements by bishops, you might really think that the Catholic Church is rejecting its complex, long-time teaching that a given State must balance the interests of civic order and the Common Good against the claims of compassion. (For a splendid history of how the official teaching developed, see Chilton Williamson here.) Whatever you read in the media, whatever reporters try to glean between the lines of a particular speech made by good Pope Benedict for a particular occasion, the official stance of the Catholic Church on the immigration issue can be found”€”who would have thought?”€”in its current Catechism. The key passage is the following:

“2241 The more prosperous nations are obliged, to the extent they are able, to welcome the foreigner in search of the security and the means of livelihood which he cannot find in his country of origin. Public authorities should see to it that the natural right is respected that places a guest under the protection of those who receive him.

Political authorities, for the sake of the common good for which they are responsible, may make the exercise of the right to immigrate subject to various juridical conditions, especially with regard to the immigrants’ duties toward their country of adoption. Immigrants are obliged to respect with gratitude the material and spiritual heritage of the country that receives them, to obey its laws and to assist in carrying civic burdens.”

Real incendiary stuff. Is there anybody out there who”€™d care to assert the contrary, that even when we are able”€”without destroying the wages of our native working class, or endangering our sovereignty”€”to welcome needy poor people who in fact “€œrespect with gratitude”€ our heritage, obey our laws, and “€œassist in carrying civic burdens,”€ we still shouldn”€™t accept any immigrants? There might be a few folks out there who simply want to see America shrunk down to 100 million childless ex-Methodists, stoically driving their hybrids to spend Sunday mornings solemnly watching birds. Apart from them, I doubt there are too many people who want zero immigration, who oppose it on principle. The argument isn”€™t about them”€”and it only serves the cause of open-borders activists to pretend that they represent a serious contingent in the debate.

However, the same can”€™t be said about the true believers on the other side of this chasm. There really are thousands of fervent activists out there who are trying to seize the Church’s chasuble and drape it over a position that goes way, way beyond anything the Church has taught”€”or ever would teach. If you boil down the actions of certain American bishops (and their well-paid lobbyists) on the subject of immigration, and note their opposition to any attempt by Americans to impose some rational, prudent control over the annual influx of some 2 million people (half illegal) into our country, you come up with quite an extreme proposition:

That poor people in any country have an unlimited right to better their lot by migrating to the nearest rich country, whose citizens have no right to stop them. Indeed, the citizens of a richer country have no moral claims or legitimate self-interest, their nation has no meaningful sovereignty, and they have essentially no rights. When you strip away all the weasel-words and manipulative rhetoric, this is precisely what “€œpro-immigrant”€ groups believe and teach”€”that the underdog is always and everywhere right.

Clearly the Church will never teach this, because it is rank heresy. Sure, sovereignty is not absolute”€”any more than are property rights. A starving man with no other options may steal a loaf of bread, St. Thomas teaches; just so, a Jew would be justified in sneaking from Hitler’s Germany into Switzerland. That doesn”€™t justify looters stealing car stereos, or my forging a passport so I can improve my standard of living by moving to Zurich. (Much as I”€™d like to.) It’s a juvenile mind that rejects a moral principle such as property rights or sovereignty just because it admits exceptions. (Indeed, in denouncing the Treaty of Westphalia, the Church rejected the modern notion of absolute State sovereignty”€”and rightly so, unless you think that the government owns us, body and soul.)

Even if one assumed that the Church had no interest in moral consistency, there are solid pragmatic reasons why no pope would ever enunciate open borders as a principle: popes live in Italy, and the Vatican is staffed by Italians. Accepting the open-borders axiom would oblige Italy to accept the entire population of North Africa, much of which is eager to relocate a few hundred miles to the North. (Indeed, Vatican City would have to accept any gypsy or Moslem who applied for citizenship….) Is the Vatican really interested in turning Italy into an Islamic state? I rather doubt it. So those on the Catholic Left (or in the pocket of the cheap-labor lobby) who await a papal denunciation of border control
had better not hold their breath.

Of course, the Church could conceivably teach that only Americans are forbidden to close their borders, while Italians and Poles and Mexicans have the right to defend their national sovereignty…. Indeed, this is implicitly what many Americans, addled by neocon notions of a “€œpropositional country”€ seem to believe. But I don”€™t think the cleverest Jesuit could whip up a theological argument for this.

All of this is not to say there are not conflicts, and will not be painful tensions, between the particular interests of one’s sovereign nation and the policy of a given pope. Historically, popes have opposed:

“€¢ the unification of Italy
“€¢ the revolt of the Poles against the Tsar
“€¢ the Irish rebellions against Great Britain
“€¢ the revolts of Spain’s colonies against the Crown, and
“€¢ Lincoln’s use of force against the Confederacy.

In each of these cases, many good Catholics who also loved their countries had tormented consciences, and agonized between their patria and the papacy. It’s conceivable that such a conflict could arise again, this time affecting Americans. (And it would probably end up in a compromise like the Treaty of the Lateran in 1921 1929″€”which leaves Italians free to venerate, in different ways, both Garibaldi and the Blessed Pius IX.)

But it isn”€™t happening now. Indeed, I”€™d like to step back from my Machiavellian analysis of history, and point to the wise words which the good Pope Benedict actually uttered on the subject at hand.

“It seems to me that we have to distinguish between measures to be taken immediately, and longer-term solutions. The fundamental solution [would be] that there is no longer any need to immigrate, that there are sufficient opportunities for work and a sufficient social fabric that no one any longer feels the need to immigrate. We all have to work for this objective, that social development is sufficient so that citizens are able to contribute to their own future.

On this point, I want to speak with the President, because above all the United States must help countries develop themselves. Doing so is in the interests of everyone, not just this country but the whole world, including the United States.

In the short term, it’s very important above all to help the families. This is the primary objective, to ensure that families are protected, not destroyed. Whatever can be done, must be done. Naturally, we have to do whatever’s possible against economic insecurity, against all the forms of violence, so that they can have a worthy life.”

The voice of the Vicar of Christ is also that of a sophisticated student of history, whose compassion for the needy is not tempered but complicated by a deeply rooted prudence”€”which for statesmen as for streetsweepers is the governing natural virtue.

John Zmirak is author of the new graphic novel The Grand Inquisitor.

Having just fished in troubled waters, by jumping into Marcus Epstein’s debate with his critics over Planned Parenthood and its agendas, I feel obliged to state my views in a more nuanced way than I did yesterday as an addendum to Marcus’s commentary. First of all, I should make clear that I”€™m no fan of the would-be social engineer Margaret Sanger, and there is ample evidence that Sanger hoped to limit the reproductive possibilities of the white working class, made up but not exclusively of ethnic Catholics. (As far as I can determine, Sanger would have been just as happy to keep Southern Baptist sharecroppers from reproducing as she would have been to place ethnic Catholic factory workers on the road to extinction.) Furthermore, I find abortion an abhorrent practice, and I have never (to my knowledge) voted for a pro-choice politician in any election. And contrary to what some of my critics may believe, I applaud Pope Benedict XVI for his unequivocal stand against the outrageously misnamed “€œchoice”€ of feticide.

Having stated where I come from on certain moral issues, let me also point out that I agree with Marcus and Dan McCarthy concerning the stupidity of the pro-life movement and of such fatuous representatives of this cause as Ramesh Ponnuru, who try to build their defense of unborn life on abstract egalitarianism or misapplied natural rights arguments. Such an arsenal of arguments belongs to the cultural Left; and one of the weaknesses of the present debate is that the bogus Right continues to fall back on the “€œequal right”€ of the fetus or of the unborn infant in engaging those who don”€™t recognize the fetus has any such right. The late Murray Rothbard was correct when he derived an individual right to abortion from the mother’s right to the property of her womb. Moreover, the unborn child cannot have a right to life, which it cannot claim for itself and which it has no knowledge of as an individual. But the mother, viewed from a different perspective, would be committing a moral enormity by killing what seems to be at the very least an empirical life. This is where the argument should be joined, on the status of the fetus as a recognizable human life, which the mother has no individual right to destroy, and certainly not as a lifestyle inconvenience or as something interfering with her feminist self-actualization.

But I am writing this primarily to express my disagreement with any misleading comparison between Ms. Sanger and contemporary feminist, pro-choice advocates. For all of her moral mistakes, Margaret Sanger had no desire to destroy the white race as the “€œcancer of humanity,”€ to elect to the American presidency a leftist black politician, to open the borders of her country to be overrun by Third World populations, or to empower Muslims or Rastafarians at the expense of Christians. Unlike the present Left, Sanger was not a cultural Marxist; and in her mind, she thought she was improving the genetic stock of Euro-Americans by calling for certain prophylactic measures. While Sanger was not a particularly admirable individual, she most certainly did not represent the egalitarian, anti-white poison that has invaded Western politics and society. Not all enemies are the same, and Sanger bears about as much relation to the multicultural, antiracist, anti-anti-Semitic, anti-homophobic Left as Hamas does to the fascism of the 1930s. For the record, I have never encountered abortion-happy liberals who are out to destroy the black population while claiming they wish to help women overcome the legacy of a patriarchal society. All pro-abortion maniacs I have known, with the exception of certain rightwing Greens, emit the same egalitarian, antiracist spray as Ponnuru and the Right-to-Life movement.

Marcus is on target when he reminds us that the pro-life movement can”€™t blow its nose without appealing to the (cultural Marxist) shibboleth of “€œantiracism.”€ Nor can the Pope address political questions without bringing up the leftist fantasy of “€œhuman rights,”€ any more than FOXNEWS can criticize the Reverend Wright’s anti-white racism without couching its partisan Republican statements as concern about anti-Semitism. If I read Marcus properly, he seems to be saying, however obliquely, that the egalitarian, antiracist Left has taken over the pro-life movement, and that the social engineering, onetime feminist Margaret Sanger looks, comparatively speaking, like a genuine reactionary, even if not a particularly appetizing one. On all of these points, Marcus is factually correct, although his critics may be justified in suspecting that what he is really up to is bashing the Catholic Church. I shall let him and his respondents hash out this issue on their own.
Finally I would like to register my irritation at those who speak of withdrawing from this website because they do not wish to have any more truck with “€œneo-pagans”€ or imaginary “€œJudeophobes”€ (perhaps in the mold of Marcus). Sid and his friends are not likely to find other websites as congenial as this one. Perhaps they should try hanging out with the neocon zombies on NROnline in order to appreciate the company of our contentious, or at the very least sentient, group. Our murmurers would do well to forget about their annoyance over a disagreeable response to one of their response in order to stay with the enemies whom they know as opposed to other, less interesting ones. 

Though not conservatives, libertarians nonetheless rely on selective portrayals of the past to support their fantasies about drug legalization.  They are particularly fond of painting a scary picture of the drug war replete with thuggish cops, draconian sentences, and a scary authoritarian picture of the new America.  They contrast this picture with the recent past, a time without SWAT teams and drug-sniffing dogs.  But do these accounts square with reality?  Was the policing of the past any more “€œlibertarian”€ than the present? 

The state of the society at any given point in time is typically mixed.  We are often declining in one area, while improving in another.  As Burke noted, “€œThe science of constructing a commonwealth, or renovating it, or reforming it, is, like every other experimental science, not to be taught a priori. Nor is it a short experience that can instruct us in that practical science, because the real effects of moral causes are not always immediate; but that which in the first instance is prejudicial may be excellent in its remoter operation, and its excellence may arise even from the ill effects it produces in the beginning.”€  Criticisms of the drug war, lodged by libertarians and liberals alike, are too often maudlin and sentimental, ignoring the ways the drug war has mollified the mistakes of yesterday’s liberals.  Critics are particularly fond of misleading anecdotes, ignoring that policing of the past was harsher than the present.

Consider Radley Balko, an archetypal libertarian and sometime staffer at the storied Cato Institute.  In a recent entry, he decries police “€œmilitarization”€ as represented by the provision of scary uniforms to a police anti-gang unit.  This is an instance where libertarians”€™ rationalism leads them down to error when trying to make sense of the real world.   Laws and law enforcement do not solely involve questions of abstract liberty.  The question is whether law enforcements leads to an overall improvement in the quality of life:  safety, prosperity, and, yes, liberty too.   Obviously, most people do not want to be mistreated by police.  But most people are law abiding, and they do want criminals to be scared of police.  

Popular attitudes about crime and law enforcement recognize that criminals are atypical.  Thus, most people sympathize more with folks like themselves busted on au courant criminal environmental regulations or for carrying a gun for self defense“€”i.e., the behavior of typical law abiding people”€”than they do when typical criminals are busted for pimping prostitutes or selling dope.  The fundamental error of libertarianism is a monomaniacal focus on the state.  They ignore the fact that we lose our practical freedom equally in a time of high crime and disorder.  The barricaded urban apartments during the 1970s were just as much a signal of restrained freedom as our W-2 forms are today.

Whether on balance drugs should be legal, most people recognize that drug dealers are law-breakers that are often vicious and violent.  Their violation of the drug laws is not so much an expression of their natural rights as it is the manifestation of their naturally anti-social characteristics.  Popular movements to increase penalties for drug dealers and to expand the capabilities of police are sensible and healthy.

There was no libertarian golden age of gentle policing.  Indeed, before the drug war began in earnest during the 1970s, police had a great deal more authority and used a great deal more violence than they do today.  In the 1950s, police could interrogate without a Miranda warning, arrest people for such crimes as “€œprowling by auto,”€ police could shoot a fleeing offender, and suspects did not have a right to state-provided counsel.   All this without a drug war.

The civil rights revolution, coupled with fashionable ideas about rehabilitation, did a great deal to weaken law enforcement in the 1960s and 70s.  Incarceration (and institutionalization) declined, and, predictably enough, crime rates of every kind exploded.   

Before the drug war and the increase in paramilitary SWAT and anti-gang units, police shootings were higher in absolute terms than the present.  Consider the chart below: police shot and killed more suspects than the present in the 1970s, even though the country had nearly 100 million fewer people. 

I”€™ve written about this before, but Radley and other libertarians continue the specious technique of assembling anecdotes about negligent discharges and rogue cops, as if these cherry-picked examples can refute the statistical reality represented above.

Libertarians are correct that the drug war often entails long mandatory sentences, disproportionate impact on young minorities, and that these crimes, strictly speaking, are not violent.  Yet violent crime has dropped in recent years.  Consider the data below:

How can this anomaly be explained if drug dealers are, in fact, hapless victims of over-aggressive law enforcement, no more violent than people picked at random?  The reason is that criminals of one kind of crime are more likely to commit another.  Few offenders stick to one, and only one, type of offense.  This is why incarceration rates in general and rates of violence are strongly linked. Instead of quixotically fighting root causes, it’s easier to lock up criminals when they identify themselves by committing a crime, any crime.

There’s a logical reason that drug laws have been effective at gathering up society’s trash.  It’s much harder to prove burglary, rape, and murder than it is to prove a drug offense.  The evidence, for starters, is easier to come by.  It’s much easier to find a kilo of cocaine in a car trunk or a few rocks of crack in a pack of Newports than it is to match offender DNA or otherwise prove a violent offense.  Drug convictions are analogous to punishing Al Capone for tax evasion. 

Along these lines, the often decried “€œinstitutional racism”€ of the drug war is one reason why violent and other “€œreal”€ crimes are dropping.  Minority offenders are being taken out of commission for drug dealing.  These include young men in general, but particularly young minority men in gangs who are willing to break the law.  For violent crimes, blacks offend in general at approximately ten times the white rate, Hispanics at three times.  Drug offenders surely offend violently at some multiple of these raw demographic differences.) 

The extent to which drug offenders re-offend (or would offend) violently is harder to predict with any exactness.  That is, the net cast by the war on drugs is certainly an overinclusive one, sentencing harmless mules and big-purchasing users for long sentences in ways that do not make sense in particular cases.  But the aggregate result is telling:  violent crime has dropped markedly as the rate of long term drug incarceration has risen. 

There is another factor in their account of the war on drugs that is ignored by libertarians.  Lower rates of incarceration in the past mask the fact that the total institutionalization rate of the past was much higher.  In other words, more people were in loony bins in the pre-drug-war era.  For the rest of us to enjoy the freedom that comes with safety from crime, it is important that the smallish percentage of societal misfits are identified and locked up.  Today’s misfits are often locked up for dealing drugs; in the past, they could be easily labled crazy and put away for life.  Surely this aspect of the present day regime is more libertarian (and overall much better) than that of the 1940s and 1950s, where forced mental institutionalization could take place on a relatively flimsy showing without any criminal behavior having taken place.  This important fact doesn”€™t fit the script, however, and the libertarians instead project their vision of an ideal society onto the much more complicated reality of the past.  Instead of sanitariums and the “€œthird degree,“€ it is instead painted as a time of Officer Friendly and brief stays at orderly, safe prisons.

In short, America locked up more people in the past, and law enforcement was frequently more violent in its tactics.  Law enforcement effectiveness declined under the impact of liberal utopianism in the 1960s and 1970s.  Fed up with high crime, and identifying the culprit in drug gangs, various common sense reforms led to longer sentences for drug pushers. In addition to punishing an inherently predatory and anti-social behavior, these sentences have had the happy byproduct of locking up the self-identified law-breaking young men”€”most of whom are minorities”€”many of whom would otherwise be committing violent crimes. 

Ron Paul and other critics of the present drug war would do well to explain what aspects of the past law enforcement balance they would restore, which they would reject, and how they would continue to suppress violent crime that the drug war is now tamping down quite effectively, albeit indirectly.

The Rev. Jeremiah Wright was out and about this weekend and dropped a few more bombshells. It was a dream come true for the official conservative media, and they didn’t miss a chance to pile on, do a little more shilling for McCain, and express their outrage.

What I found most interesting was that all the conservatives were jockeying to see who could be the most politically correct of them all. The Weekly Standard, NRO, HotAir have all focused on the same portion of the text and all rehearsed the same meme: Wright is saying the same racist things as did that evil Charles Murray in his evil book The Bell Curve

The statements in question are as follows: 

“€œAfricans have a different meter and Africans have a different tonality. European music is diatonic, seven tones. Do, re, mi, fa, so, la, ti, do. That’s Italian. Europe. In west Africa and south Africa, it is not diatonic, seven tones, it is pentatonic with five tones. Wintley [Phipps] points out that if you want to know black music, just look at the black keys on the piano. Do, re, fa, so, la. Just those five tunes. Those are the only five notes you’ll hear and somebody knows the trouble I’ve seen.”€

“€œEuropean and European-American children have a left-brained cognitive object-oriented learning style and the entire educational learning system in the United States of America.”€

All this seems pretty harmless. The “€œleft-brain, right-brain”€ thing is total bunk, but who really cares if Wright perpetuates cocktail party neuroscience? His point about syncopated rhythm is true, and I now wish I”€™d taken a few of those Ethnomusicology courses on offer at UVA so I could comment about the “€œAfrican”€ pentatonic scale. But it all sounds entirely plausible.

Wright is talking about the self-evident fact that African drumming sounds a little bit different than The Marriage of Figaro, and that there are probably deep cultural, and perhaps even genetic, reasons for this. Is there any normal person (i.e. a non-Beltway journalist) for whom such a statement is controversial? 

Victor David Hanson went into hysterics over the “€œThe Scary Legacy of the 2008 Democratic Primary,”€ claiming that Wright’s statements have unleashed the beast of racism in our country. VDH was appalled”€”appalled!“€”that Wright thinks that Africans are more “€œcreative, musical, and spontaneous”€ than whites and that he dared to opine that white men can”€™t rap too good. Au contraire asserts Hanson, Homer was white, and that man was the P Diddy of the Iron Age!

I never knew that Europeans”€™ achievements in lyric poetry were ever in doubt (uh, Shakespeare?). This aside, what Wright was basically saying was that many people of African descent create musical arts that are markedly different than that of Europeans. Pretty basic stuff.

I remember being a freshman in college and attending an orientation party in the cafeteria. A rap group was performing, and at the end of the set, the lead asked for “a witness from the congregation”€: a bunch of white students immediately volunteered, all of whom (I”€™d guess) grew up rapping along to Dr. Dré in the “€˜burbs. Invariably they all sucked. It was the billionth piece of evidence that white men can”€™t rap! Is this controversial? It seems perfectly sensible that talent for rapping”€”spontaneous rhyming to back-beat rhythm”€”is not equally distributed. I also noticed some, ahem, patterns among running backs chosen in this weekend’s NFL draft.

The 300-pound Gorilla in the room is of course variation in IQ, and this is why when Wright raised the issue of cultural-ethnic differences, everyone started talking about a “€œreverse Bell Curve.”€

I agree that IQ does not give a full picture of a person: perhaps Beethoven, Coltrane, and I have about the same IQ, but this says nothing about the fact that first two wrote music of genius and that I cranked out a few forgettable fugal ditties in Music Theory 302. Having a liberal arts background, how genes might affect intelligence is fairly mysterious to me; however, I still find the dismissal of The Bell Curve simply because its conclusions are a bit “€œscarry”€ (read: easily dismissible for political gain) to represent the height of intellectual cowardliness.     

Besides, in his most recent writings, Murray has worked to greatly complicate his earlier theories about racial difference:

“€œHomo sapiens actually fall into many more interesting groups than the bulky ones known as “€˜races.”€™ As new findings appear almost weekly, it seems increasingly likely that we are just at the beginning of a process that will identify all sorts of genetic differences among groups, whether the groups being compared are Nigerian blacks and Kenyan blacks, lawyers and engineers, or Episcopalians and Baptists. At the moment, the differences that are obviously genetic involve diseases (Ashkenazi Jews and Tay-Sachs disease, black Africans and sickle-cell anemia, Swedes and hemochromatosis). As time goes on, we may yet come to understand better why, say, Italians are more vivacious than Scots.”€

This passage was published in the organ of white supremacisism known as Commentary magazine. 

But for mainstream conservative, why ask difficult, complicated questions when you can simply thump one’s chest for being really, really PC? Why admit that Wright might have a few interesting things to say when one can simply bash, bash, bash away for John McCain?

The NRO crew seems to have many uses for Charles Murray: a few weeks ago, they allowed him on “€œThe Corner”€ as the one person who actually liked Obama’s speech on race“€”they then used him as a punching bag. Now they bring him back, for the same purpose. 

Almost two weeks, Dr. Gottfried wrote a helpful clarification of his earlier article about paleoconservatism, elaborating on some of the points I and others had challenged.  After reading the more recent item, I agree that there is greater detachment from the GOP among the “post-paleos,” though the nostalgia for the old days of Reagan or earlier decades is today not terribly great even among the paleos, but I am not sure that I see the lowered inhibitions about discussing taboo subjects.  In my admittedly limited experience, it has seemed to me that most who could fairly be described as “post-paleo” are much less interested in most topics concerning race and the tendency towards Nietzschean critiques of anything, much less Christianity, seem to me to very few and far between.  Dan has already talked about this at Tory Anarchist and made several important points.  Dan pointed to Helen Rittelmeyer’s remark that the “post-paleos” are “more postmodern than pre-modern” in their tone, and goes on to say that he thinks the paleos have become “more pre-modern” over the years, but I would have to say that quite a few traditional and paleoconservatives are also more postmodern in certain ways, i.e., more detached and ironic, than the earnest believers in the glories of modernity, be they liberal or neoconservative.  There may be a serious reactionary out there somewhere who does not recognize the inherent absurdity of his own position, but I have never encountered such a person.  No paleoconservative has actually been “pre-modern” in tone or substance, much as some of us might sometimes like the idea of this, and I would like to think that along with a penchant for romanticism and medievalism, which I certainly know that I have, we would recognize that our impulses to venerate tradition, critique modern rationality or idealize certain periods of history are all products of the modern age.  That does not discredit or diminish these impulses, but we should not pretend that it is even possible to be “pre-modern,” as if we could somehow imitate the habits of earlier centuries without the self-consciousness that we were doing exactly that.  The Byzantines who made a great virtue out of mimesis did not conceive of change as anything other than degeneration; there was not a concept of historical change that they could reconcile with a well-ordered universe.  We do not have the luxury, or the burden, of reflexive hostility to mutability as such, and our own respect and admiration for past eras are colored by the awareness that those eras are well and truly gone.  One thing that seems to me to link paleos and “post-paleos” is the conviction that the passing of these other periods does not demonstrate any clear or obvious progression, but rather tends to confirm the philosophically pessimistic assumption that every apparent advance comes at a steep price and progress is an illusion.

Speaking of Romantics, Richard’s rejection of the definitions of “the West” offered by Robert Spencer and Jim Pinkerton reminds me of one of the great original Romantics, Friedrich von Hardenberg (Novalis), and his essay that was one of the more important 19th century exercises in idealizing medieval Europe.  Never published in his lifetime, partly because its overt religiosity and medievalism embarrassed some of his colleagues, it has become a classic statement of the refusal to define Europe in secular terms, and even the refusal to define it as Europe, except perhaps geographically.  The tendency among some of us to valorize medieval Catholic Europe, noted by Dr. Gottfried in an earlier article, stems in some part from the Romantic reaction of newly converted Catholics such as Novalis, who repudiated the concept of “Europe” in place of Christendom with the same enthusiasm that Richard now critiques the category of “the West.”  In a very important way, Novalis was arguing, Europe as Europe was not the Faith, but was what would become of Christendom once the Faith was rejected or marginalized.  We can either start talking about a renewed Christendom, or we can keep talking about “Europe” and “the West,” but these are opposing, not complementary, concepts.  This is driven home with some regularity each time you hear “conservatives” glorying in the wonders of technological advances and secular modernity.  Unlike “the Rest,” as the majority of the world was rather dismissively described in the title of an otherwise often sound Roger Scruton volume from recent years, we have put religion in its place and don’t take it all that seriously.  

One of the things that brought Novalis to mind was my lingering skepticism about Mr. Pinkerton’s conception of who belonged in this West, and the ease with which he moved back and forth between the fairly meaningless “Western” and the powerfully meaningful “Christian.”  There was also an ongoing tension between an idea that we should live and let live, except that the “we” in question extended to far distant climes to which Americans have very few connections and so what ended up being defined as ours was so expansive as to make living and letting live impossible.  Thus the call for Western solidarity becomes similarly a call for a militarized frontier:

So instead of building missile-defense sites in Eastern Europe, dividing Europe from Russia, the United States should put those sites in Russia’s southern reaches, to face the real enemy, which is Iran and the rest of nuclear Islam.

This was one of the things that kept puzzling me.  If Iran and “the rest of nuclear Islam” are the “real enemy,” why and how are we going to live and let live?  No doubt a more cooperative and constructive relationship with Russia makes a great deal of sense, but Russia has no interest in treating Iran as the “real enemy.”  In truth, neither does America, which is why I have never quite been able to square my obvious sympathy with conceiving of our civilization as a Christian one with Mr. Pinkerton’s proposal.

According to Paul Belien, “€œThe most successful anti-immigration parties in Europe are regionalist/secessionist parties.”€

“€œThey are “€˜apolitical”€™ because they do not particularly like politics. Their militants, members and voters do not like the state, they want to be left alone. They defend local communities that want to run their own affairs. They are parties of the land and the community, rather than the state. They are, as the media and the political establishment derisively call them, “€˜populists.”€™”€

There’s a dialectic here in which it is those localist groups that have done the most to preserve the Judeo-Christian tradition of the continent as a whole (particularly as the mainstream Christian Democrats offer a PC vision of “€œEurope”€ that differs only slightly from that of their Social Democratic rivals.) Secessionist parties like the Vlaams Belang and Lega Nord are not “€œfragmenting Europe,” but preserving a European unity far more legitimant than that of the bureaucratic apparatus metastasizing in Brussels.

Belien discussion serves as a much-needed corrective to the uses and abuses of “€œThe West”€ we experience in the United States”€”and here I”€™m thinking not only of the neoconservatives but also some paleoconservative and anti-jihadist commentators like James Pinkerton and Robert Spencer (no relation).

I don”€™t want to dwell too much on the neocons, I think one of Paul Gottfreid’s quips will suffice: “€œWhen the neocons talk about defending “€˜the West,”€™ they”€™re referring to the upper east side of Manhattan and the patch of the District of Columbia on which sits the American Enterprise Institute.”€

Robert Spencer certainly has some important things to say about Islam; however, his conception of the confrontation with Jihad, and mass Islamic immigration in Europe, as “€œideological”€ should give pause to anyone who wants to establish sane foreign relations with the world (or simply make sure America minds its own business.) “€œIdeological struggles”€ are about conversion, about upturning the other side, “€œThe survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands,”€ and all that. Or at least, every other self-consciously ideological struggle in history has been like this. Pehraps Spencer has something else in mind; however, his affiliation with FrontPageMag makes me think otherwise.

Then there is James Pinkerton’s Romantic, and certainly seductive, vision for “The West” he set down in TAC not too long ago: the “€œknights of the West”€ would defend a renewed Christendom (or, as he calls it, “€œthe Shire”€). Pinkerton delimits this realm in religious”€”or rather meta-religious“€”terms and wants it to include not only Europe but South America, large parts of Africa, and the United States. 

Putting aside the question of whether many people in these areas actually want to define themselves on this basis, there’s a more basic question of what all the people in the Shire have in common with one another.

Conservative Episcopalians might want to pledge allegiance to the Bishop of the Diocese of Bunyaro-Kitara because they both agree on the issue of gays in the clergy, but I can”€™t imagine Bishop Turumanya lending a hand if, say, Falls Church comes under siege or that Virginians would be able to understand the dilemmas faced by the good bishop in Uganda.

In many ways, conceptions of “€œthe West”€ or any kind of anti-Islamic ideology bespeak the same postmodern rootlessness as do those dreams of a post-historical European Union “€œrunning the 21st century.”€ A similar critique could be leveled at “€œWhite Pride World Wide,”€ again a “€œpolitics”€ severed from any kind of discernable place and concrete interest.    

I think there probably is something that could be called “€œthe West,”€ and perhaps it even extends from Plato to NATO. I”€™m sure, however, that it’s far too large and hazy, and far too susceptible to swelling into ideology, to be a sound basis for politics. Let’s defend a nation-state, a class, a particular way of life and let the “permanent things” take care of themselves. 

Following the victory of Silvio Berlusconi’s rightist alliance in Italy, The Economist wrote a condescending editorial, entitled “€œMamma mia.”€ The article stated that Berlusconi was not The Economist‘s choice and said that the “€œItalians may come to regret electing the jester of Italian politics once again.”€ Barely a month earlier, Spain had re-elected its own “€œjester,”€ Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, a man whose main ambition is to destroy Spain’s Christian heritage and substitute it with a postmodern, multicultural utopia where homosexuals marry and the state raises children. At that election, however, The Economist did not feel compelled to snub the winner. It just told its readers that Spain needs “€œa bipartisan approach to […] solve big questions of national identity.”€

Italy and Spain are two frontline states on Europe’s southern border. They are being overrun by millions (no exaggeration) of immigrants, many of whom cross the straits in boats from the African shore of the Mediterranean. Three years ago Spain (40 million inhabitants) announced a collective amnesty for a staggering 800,000 undocumented aliens, despite having already offered six other amnesties in the past 15 years. Two years ago, Italy (58 million inhabitants) amnestied 500,000 illegal immigrants, having already offered five similar regularizations between 1988 and 2006. And still the immigrants keep coming. Immigration, however, is not the “€œbig question of national identity”€ The Economist is referring to.

Obviously, economics is mostly on The Economist‘s mind. Consequently, economic reform is what the above editorials mainly dealt with, though in Spain’s case the magazine also mentioned the “€œnational identity”€ question in a reference to the seats won by regionalist and separatist parties from Catalonia and the Basque country. These parties kept Mr Zapatero from an absolute majority in the Spanish parliament. Hence, he will have to accommodate them in some way.

Strangely”€“though tellingly for a magazine which, like The Economist, is representative of Europe’s mainstream media”€”the editorial on Italy did not mention the astonishing electoral success of the Lega Nord, a constituent of Mr. Berlusconi’s right-wing alliance.

Like the parties in Catalonia and the Basque country, the Northern League (full name: Lega Nord per l’Indipendenza della Padania”€”Northern League for the Independence of Padania) is a regionalist, indeed separatist, party. Padania, in case you have never heard of it, does not exist as a nation; it is the collective name that the League uses to denote the various regions of northern Italy (such as Lombardy, Piedmont, Venice, Tuscany, South Tyrol, and others). The League is made up of several parties (including the Lega Lombarda, the Liga Veneta, the Alleanza Toscana) that want to restore to their regions the sovereignty that they enjoyed prior to the formation of the Italian State in the 19th century.

The success of the Northern League was the pivotal element in the victory of Mr. Berlusconi’s alliance. It enabled him to win an absolute majority in the Italian parliament. The League completely wiped away the left in the north. It doubled in size and won a stunning 8.3% of the national vote, sending 60 deputies (+37) and 26 senators (+13) to Rome. In some northern regions, it had the support of up to 50% of the electorate. This remarkable result, however, was not worth the consideration of The Economist, or of the rest of the European media. As they did not report on the League’s victory, they did not need to explain to their readers why the party had done so extraordinary well. Indeed, the international media preferred to lament the return of “€œthe jester”€ rather than point out that the Northern League won so massively because of its forceful anti-immigration platform.

On Monday (21 April), the leftist Milanese newspaper Corriere della Sera wrote, “€œFear boosted the Northern League’s vote, doubling and tripling its haul in front-line towns where local prosperity is undermined by thefts and burglaries. Unpunished crimes generate anger and people lose trust.”€ It is telling that even this leftist newspaper talks about “€œfront-line”€ towns”€“-as if a war is going on”€”to describe the blue-collar areas around Milan where immigrants are making life unbearable for indigenous workers who no longer feel at home in their own neighborhoods. Roberto Mura, the League’s secretary for the district of Pavia and the mayor of San Genesio, 25 kilometers south of Milan, told the Corriere: “€œWe struggle to shake off […] the image of the rough and ready, apolitical racist League militant. […] I know we”€™ve got to live with immigration, but the rules have to be respected. The League has been saying so for fifteen years. We”€™re now reaping the reward for the coherence and clarity of our project to defend the territory.”€

As Mr Mura points out, the “€œapolitical”€ Northern League is in politics not for the sake of politics itself, but to “€œdefend the territory.”€ There is something remarkable going on here, though it will never hit the mainstream media because the latter do not want to see it:

The most successful anti-immigration parties in Europe are regionalist/secessionist parties. They are “€œapolitical”€ because they do not particularly like politics. Their militants, members and voters do not like the state, they want to be left alone. They defend local communities that want to run their own affairs. They are parties of the land and the community, rather than the state. They are, as the media and the political establishment derisively call them, “€œpopulists.”€

Milan, the capital of Lombardy, is 700 kilometers (430 miles) to the south of Brussels, the seat of the European Union, that supranational European superstate in the making which already accounts for 75% of the legislation in its 27 member states. The League is as opposed to Brussels as it is to Rome: it’s regionalist, restrictionist, and “€œEurosceptic,”€ meaning that it doesn”€™t much like supranational mingling in local affairs.

Let us now travel from Milan to Brussels. First we must cross the Lombardian border into Switzerland, then we cross the Alps in order to reach the valley of the Rhine River. We follow the Rhine, which constitutes the border between France and Germany, until we arrive in the Low Countries, in particular in Flanders, the Dutch-speaking northern part of Belgium, where Brussels is situated. There, we can visit the buildings of the European and the Belgian parliaments but also those of the Flemish Regional Parliament.

The largest party in the latter parliament is the Vlaams Belang (Flemish Interest) party. It represents a quarter of the Flemish electorate and is considered one of the most professional and successful of Europe’s patriotic parties. It is remarkably similar to the Lega Nord. It is separatist, in favor of restricting immigration and Eurosceptic.

The VB was founded in 1978 by Flemish nationalists aiming for the independence of Flanders. The Flemish provinces are the historic southern, Catholic half of the Netherlands. In fact, the Flemish provinces belonged to the Netherlands until the International Powers gave them to the newly created French-dominated state of Belgium in 1831. From the start, the VB warned against immigration by people from a culture entirely alien to that of Flanders; indeed, the VB was the first party to address the issue. It still demands that immigrants assimilate and, hence, that their numbers remain low enough to assure that this is possible. The party’s position is also that immigration from countries with a culture closer to that of Flanders should be given preference, but they have to adapt to the locals and learn the language of the Flemings, Dutch.

The VB is critical of immigration for exactly the same reason why it demands Flemish independence: because it wants to preserve Flemish national identity. As Frank Vanhecke, the then VB leader, wrote in The Flemish Republic in July 2003: “€œWe defend the Flemish national identity, against the Belgian state as well as against immigrants who abuse our hospitality to wage an anti-Western war in Flanders. The VB is a party of Flemish patriots, prepared to defend Flanders”€™ culture and traditions, its values and, above all, its freedom.”€

The Flemish provinces experienced their heyday in the Middle Ages, when the Netherlands was a confederate cluster of autonomous provinces. The provinces were dominated by powerful cities, such as Bruges, Ghent, Antwerp and Brussels, who made it quite clear to the nominal dynastic ruler that he had to leave the burghers in peace or face rebellion. In northern Italy, the situation was almost similar, with powerful city-states running their own affairs. And so it was all along the 700 kilometers that we have just traveled. The cities along the Rhein, such as Cologne and Strasbourg, enjoyed considerable autonomy, while Switzerland was a confederation of tiny, sovereign republics of Alpine farmers. This was not a coincidence. In fact, these regions have a common history that goes back to the time when Charlemagne’s empire was divided, almost 1,200 years ago.

Charlemagne, king of the Franks, a Germanic tribe, conquered most of continental Western Europe and was crowned Emperor in 800 AD. He was the first ruler France and Germany had in common. His son, Louis the Pious, was the last. In 843, the Carolingian empire was divided. Charlemagne’s grandsons, Charles the Bald and Louis the German, became the first kings of, respectively, France (West Francia) and Germany (East Francia). There was, however, a third brother, Lothar, the eldest. He inherited the lands that lay between those of his brothers: Middle Francia.

Lothar’s kingdom was named after him: Lotharii Regnum or Lorraine. Today, Lorraine is the name of a province in the east of France. It is the province where Joan of Arc, France’s national heroine came from. However, contemporary Lorraine is only a tiny part of the Lorraine of old. In Lothar’s time, Lorraine comprised all the countries that lie between France and Germany today”€”the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxemburg and Switzerland”€”plus the eastern part of present-day France, the western part of Germany and the northern half of Italy.

When Lothar’s son died without offspring in 875, the middle territories were divided between Charles the Bald and Louis the German. However, as these regions lay on the periphery of their heartlands, generations of kings of France and Germany were never able to establish a firm rule over them. The result was that throughout the Middle Ages, and for some up to the 18th century and even today, the lands of Lothar, Old Lorraine, were made up of self-governing republics of farmers, independent counties controlled by burghers or city republics.

Self-governing, with little interference from greedy princes, their tax controllers and meddling civil servants, these lands became very prosperous. Capitalism has its origins here. This whole axis from Amsterdam in the north to Siena in the south developed into the economic spine of Europe. The former Carolingian Middle Lands saw not only the birth of capitalism but also of limited government. A decentralized political culture developed where the burghers governed themselves without caring much about faraway rulers.

Later, and gradually, French and German monarchs succeeded in bringing most of the regions of the ancient Middle-Frankish realm under their control. The kings of France and Prussia succeeded in subduing their part of the Rhen region. The French Revolution swept away all the existing self-governing systems, and after the fall of Napoleon only Switzerland returned to its old constitutional order. To a large extent, however, the spirit of Old Lorraine lives on today in the lands of the former Middle Kingdom where citizens are still influenced by centuries of independence, self-reliance and adherence to a local identity that opposes centralizing authorities in far-away capitals.

In Switzerland, the only remaining sovereign part of Old Lorraine (at least until Flanders and Padania regain their independence), these feelings are so strong that the country stubbornly refuses to become a member of the European Union. Switzerland itself is a regionalist nation, made up of 26 provinces (cantons) that to a very large extent rule themselves. The country has strict immigration laws and the Swiss want to make these even stricter. The last elections, in November 2007, were won by the Schweizerische Volkspartei (Swiss People’s Party, SVP), which with 29% of the votes reinforced its position as the biggest party in the country. The international media describe the SVP as “€œfar-right,”€ “€œpopulist,”€ “€œxenophobic”€ and “€œintolerant.”€ Like the Vlaams Belang and the Lega Nord, the SVP is localist. It combines a strong attachment to local communities with a clear affirmation of the right of these communities to “€œdefend the territory”€ and preserve their own, traditional, ethnic identity.

Most of the regionalist parties in Europe, such as those in the Basque country, Scotland and elsewhere, are leftist. Except along the “€œspine of Europe.”€ These parties are the most successful of the parties of the European right. They have a localist quality, and yet they are fighting to protect the Christian, Western heritage of the continent as a whole. The SVP is currently campaigning for a referendum, on 1 June, to “€œstop mass naturalization”€ of immigrants. Italy’s new Interior Minister, Roberto Maroni, comes from the Northern League and has announced “€œtough measures against clandestine immigration.”€ The VB, under constant harassment by the Belgian authorities, is working on a project to export its model to neighboring countries. Last January, the party established an international network called “€œCities against Islamization,”€ in which it has aligned itself with local parties in cities along the Rhine”€”Pro Köln (Pro Cologne) from Cologne in the German Rhineland and Alsace d”€™Abord (Alsace First) from Strassbourg, the capital of Alsace, the French Rhine province. Like the VB, these parties defend local interests and oppose Islamization.

While France succumbs to North Africans and Germany to Turks, the parties from Old Lorraine, the spine of Europe, are preparing to fight for the preservation of their own identity. Owing to the massive immigration by people from an entirely different culture, many ordinary Europeans no longer feel at home in their own countries. Home is that cosy, often small, place where people feel safe among those whom they know and trust. The fight for the preservation of Europe is a fight for one’s own home, village, town, city, provence. That is why it is a localist issue.

Resistance to Islamization is not a matter of ideology, as one prominent American “€œanti-Jihadist”€ seems to think. The successful resistance in Europe has a provincial and an ethnic basis. It is about the right of the Europeans to hand their traditions, their identity, their cultural heritage down to their children so that the latter can continue to enjoy Europe’s ancient freedoms. The spirit of Old Lorraine has survived for 1,200 years. “€œPopulist”€ parties in Flanders, Switzerland, Lombardia, Cologne and Alsace and other regions along the spine of Europe are popular for the simple reason that they are not prepared to let twelve centuries of capitalist self-reliance, self-governance and limited government fade away simply because foreigners are moving in with a spirit adapted to Arabian desert life.

“€œIt is the wrong way to fight the global jihad,”€ writes the American anti-Islamist. “€œTo form one group for indigenous Europeans, as has been done in several countries, reduces virtually every issue to the one non-negotiable issue of race and ethnicity, discourages cooperation, and thus encourages Balkanization, works against the idea of representative government, and obscures the common values of Judeo-Christian civilization that are shared by people of many races and ethnicities.”€

Ethnicity, however, is not by definition a racial concept; it is a cultural one. Ethnicity is about the spirit, the culture that we share. For the above parties this culture is precisely the culture of limited government, of the common values of Western civilization, the adherence to home. Is all this bad because it is indigenous rather than ideological?

Paul Belien is a Flemish journalist and founder of The Brussels Journal, Europe’s leading conservative website. His wife is a member of the Belgian parliament for Vlaams Belang.