UNIVERSAL NEW DEAL'
readers will recall the fuss over M. J. J. Servan-Schreiber's
The American Challenge (1967), which told the
Euro-business community to shape up and manage right
before the Americans took all their markets. Der
Spiegel gave a cover-story to the furor and interviewed
DeRiencourt had already weighed in with The Coming
Caesars (1957), a neo-Spenglerian meditation wherein
the Americans played a pragmatic, successful, imperial
Rome to the Europeans' bickering, divided, but more
cultured Greece. There was enough truth there to call
up an angry denial from Frank Meyer, libertarian conservative
and cold warrior.1 Thirty years
on, Meyer's brave answer looks a bit thin.
who could ever forget M. Jean-Francois Revel's Without
Marx or Jesus? about the Americans'
looming post-Christian and non-socialist society,
which rested on a firm foundation of mass consumption
by newly liberated individuals detached from all tradition.
At least that's how I remember it. It made some us
wonder if there might be more than one kind of "individualism."
Fortunately, Revel took up writing Cold War devotionals
for a while.
IN THE WORLD'
candidate in the praise-America-for-all-the-wrong-reasons
sweepstakes is Senhor Alfredo G. A. Valladao. The
writer is said to be a Brazilian political scientist
working and writing in Paris. His The
Twenty-first Century Will Be American (1996)
spreads the happy news that US imperialism rules –
and is a good thing, too.2
first problem is that the book is far too pro-American
– that is, slavishly devoted to the American state
– to have been written by anyone who wasn't paid truckloads
of paper dollars by unknown (but guessable) agencies
of influence. Perhaps the good work which made the
Congress for Cultural Freedom possible still goes
on. But I am being unkind. If the Greek Polybius and
the Celt Virgil could sing the glories of Rome, why
can't some foreign fellow honestly proclaim Uncle
Sam the Savior of Mankind Soter tou kosmou,
or something like that? It's just possible.
TO SAM'S CLUB
I hate to think that I, or anyone else who reads this
book, might be the victim of an elaborate hoax. Some
people are still feeling burned by The
Report from Iron Mountain (1962). Let us,
nevertheless, take things at face value, and stride
must rule because it alone "possesses the three
pillars of power: military, economic and cultural"
(p. xi). Here, Valladao reinvents the wheel. Anyway,
it is "pointless to fret" about the inevitable
or "withdraw into a nostalgic cult of the national
past." No, America is "a democratic empire
with a vocation to merge with the entire planet, even
at the expense of American domestic interests"
(p. xii). Bill Clinton is an ideal leader, who knows
that "the distinction between internal and foreign
policy is becoming increasingly blurred" (p.
xvi). I think we can reserve judgment, since with
the Prez all distinctions are blurred.
HISTORY BRIEFLY MISREPRESENTED
Americans enter their "final frontier"[!],
their traditional "piety" finds new outlet
in a "Saviour"-President, who blathers on
about new "covenants." Once, we were so
decentralized that the Second Amendment allowed individuals
to bear arms and "gave the states the
right to raise their own militias" (p. 6, my
emphasis). But, moving along, the covenant shifted
to the "national civic level." Unfortunately,
the poor federal government became "the tool
of private interests" since it had "no vocation
of its own." Actually, it did, Senhor – the common
defense and two or three other things mentioned in
the Constitution – but our politicians found that
vocation too boring and got themselves new ones.
to Valladao, government "showered gifts on industry"
after the War of 1861-1865, which to his mind constitutes
"a virtually unlimited economic laissez faire."
(p. 9) Such conceptual confusion does not augur well.
He quickly takes us through the Social Gospel and
Progressivism, which saved us from all that laissez
faire, and on to "mass culture" (recorded
music, radio, television). Between mass culture and
the Great Depression, we were soon blessed with Saviour
FDR, in whose reign Washington got its "hands
on a large, permanent military machine" (p. 15).
With the Good War, Korea, and NATO, "isolationism"
(my quotation marks) became "impossible"
ABOUT MY GENERATION
sees baby boomers as "grave," by which he
means that they are morally serious. My generation
could be called many things – most of them deserved
– but never mind. Any how, alongside NUKES, which
furthered the cult of national security and a "technocratic
conception of the presidency" (p. 19), the kids
invented the New Age, whose "god is a rational
principle of unity, bringing humanity together with
nature" (p. 23). Gee, I thought we were already
in nature, which is why we had to invent clothing,
roofs, central heating, chainsaws, etc. And you people
laughed at those conservatives who went on and on
somehow pulls the new political activism of American
Catholic Bishops into this framework, alongside the
decline of Protestant fundamentalism. Absent the old
WASP religion, then, "the only sentiments shared
unanimously by all Americans are love and respect
for the supreme magistrate" (p. 28)! Has the
man ever lived here? It's been years since
I saw many people who "love and respect"
the president (of either party), but then I try to
stay out of bad neighborhoods.
the Prez mediates between us and the divine, as the
"main factor of cohesion" in US society.
Elections become "cyclical refoundations"
of the state (p. 29). In an interesting insight, Valladao
notes that Reagan was "crucial" in this
by repeating ritualistically the rhetoric of the 1780s
while strengthening The Office. The empire allows
"a radical separation between public religion
and private religions" (p. 30) – to the good
of both, I suppose. My copy of the Constitution doesn't
mention a public religion. Odd.
REFUSE DO IN THE OLIGARCHIC REPUBLIC
chapters tell the happy tale of how immigrant masses
thronged in, undermining our wicked original arrangements
which were "Protestant, white, oligarchic, republican,
powerful and isolationist" (p. 34). Could more
EVIL be packed into one sentence? I ask the jury.
Dear me. Any how, by letting it happen, the original
political nation signed its own apparently well-deserved
– Cold War refugees, post-1965 ethnic immigrants,
and Southern Blacks who moved north – could count
on the Prez, and he found them politically useful.
These pressures melted all the Old Ethnics into mere
white folks. Uncle Sam built up a new "federal
aristocracy" of professional world-meddlers while
espousing "multiracial centralism." Everything
worked out, proving "the great vitality of American
institutions" such that World-America (his term)
can "absorb any culture or belief" (p. 53)
– and believe them all simultaneously, I guess. Good
job we have a Constitution so flexible it can be pulled
around the world with no loss of legitimacy.
CULTURE FOR WORLD-BURGHERS
chapter five we are entertained with some Jazz determinism.
Interwar cosmopolitanism – what with all the American
writers living in Paris – prepared the way of Universal
Pop Art from America. We got Kurt Weil and bad social
theory from the Frankfurt School. Weren't we lucky?
The world got bebop and rock music. My joy cannot
and later Washington big-shots developed European
tastes. How nice. American film and TV conquered the
planet with images of "detached" individuals
solving their individual problems in a cultural vacuum.
As TV advertised the rising US empire, federal elites
"blurred the distinction between business and
politics" (p. 64). Pssst, Senhor, they've been
blurring that distinction for a long time. We call
it mercantilism or corporatism and, overseas, Open
and political correctness are necessary parts of the
happy process under way.
EXECUTIVE DECIDES LIFE AND DEATH
BOMB changed everything, Valladao says. Armed with
this unprecedented power of life and death, supported
by a permanent standing army, the Great Executive
swept away the "local oligarchies" and "local
freedoms" of the American Republic. Much of this
was FDR's doing, and his "achievement" was
consolidated by the Cold War. While Congress abdicated,
the executive won new friends and created new dependents,
wielding his colossal budget. These dependents included
the states, localities, and sections of the people.
Reagan's "pretext of a 'new federalism'"
(p. 78) sped the process along. TV democracy and PACs
did their bit.
PAINS OF EMPIRE
Supreme Court's "reapportionment" decisions
helped kill off the old politics based on genuine
local interests (the ones derided as "oligarchical").
State and local officials "acquir[ed] a business
mentality" – by which he means they wanted a
share of the loot gathered in Washington. The president
sat in the middle of "this immense spider's web"
(p. 89). This phrase – calling to mind Edmund Burke's
comment on Jeremy Bentham's social engineering schemes
– gives me hope that Valladao is actually a very gifted
democratic empire needs "a new nobility"
to run things. Valladao (writing in 1996, remember)
sees hope in Bill Clinton's and Vaclav Havel's gaseous
rhetoric about new civic virtues. (Again: is he doing
satire?) With or without a proper ruling elite, the
US government has gone global, and is "emancipated
from its territorial limits" (p. 98).
WORLD MARKET, WORLD-WIRTSCHAFTSWUNDER
has developed overseas operatives, bureaucrats and
capitalists, well versed in global management. US
control of the world monetary system allows the US
to export inflation and live on debt. Reagan's "miracle
on credit" is noted (p. 118). Are you
gonna ask Goliath to pay up?
is now the world capital. (I suggest renaming it Worldville.)
America has, since 1945, avoided "mercantilist
temptations" (p. 117). Não, Senhor, Uncle won!
He's the most successful mercantilist competitor.
That's what the Open Door was all about. The fact
that it worked for these people does not make it a
species of "free trade" or "universalism."
now discusses US economic "leadership" and
new information technologies. Throughout, he fails
to unpack – disaggregate – his abstractions, so that
"America," "Americans," etc. remain
indistinguishable from the US state apparatus, and
this undifferentiated blob – "America" –
takes collective credit. I like to think that America's
private sector did some of these things on its own.
Not to worry, Bill Clinton's and Al Gore's heartfelt
love for information technology assures Valladao that
all will be properly managed soon.
lovingly of the US policy of "muscular free trade,"
which is "forcing the doors" of reluctant
traders in an "attack on everything" outside
the system (p. 159), Valladao almost makes me sympathize
with protectionists. I do support their right to adopt
bad policies without immediate threat of aerial bombardment
or "economic" blockade. Fortunately for
everyone, Uncle has called the Europeans' bluff and
brought them into his big tent. Only Russia and China
remain to be jollied along.
NEW WORLD ORDERING
gives much credit to G. H. W. Bush and James Baker
for "creatively" building their New World
Order, on the collapse of communism. Under Bush, NATO
"gave itself permission" to go out-of-area,
which if nothing else, is interesting commentary on
what passes for international law these days. Various
US operations/invasions under the UN fig-leaf also
get Valladao's endorsement.
is very keen on Secretary Baker's announcement of
a "new Atlanticism" – "from Vancouver
to Vladivostok" (p. 176). This is very odd, as
it only takes in the Bering Sea. Oh, I'm sorry, he
meant it the other way round. I'm glad Hitler
never said that; we'd never hear the end of it.
TALKIN', SLOW WALKIN', GOOD LOOKIN' MOHAIR SAM
itself is merely the base of operations for all these
armed philanthropies. This fellow almost maketh me
accept the full thesis about the new international
elite as set out by Samuel Francis and Justin Raimondo.
No matter. With his satellites, missiles, bombs so
smart they write their own moral theory, and his new,
mobile praetorian armies, World-America Sam can deal
with "any threat" he chooses to imagine.
is all good, because the new empire is "not autocratic"
(p. 185) – and thank God for that. World-America is,
however, "corrosive" to all other states
– the narrow ones, you know – and all those backward
cultures out there. Fresh from his successful experiments
in managing his own multicultural children, whom he
has made to love one another, World-Sam and his "neo-Stoical
elite" will bring order and peace to the planet.
And Brotherhood/Sisterhood. Or else.
will clamor to "enter the service" of this
wonderful overlord. This imperial drama will succeed
if World-Sam fosters "sexual freedom, respect
for the State and the networks of personal bonds that
nurture devotion and channel the interplay of purely
individual interest" (p. 196). This is the state-directed
"individualism" of which Robert Nisbet so
eloquently wrote and which Tocqueville opposed. No
wonder we are living in an era of Late Hellenistic
had thought that no writer could outperform Francis
Fukuyama in these matters. Unless Senhor Valladao
is the cleverest kidder since Jonathan Swift, I stand