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The Classic Liberal: Philosophy, Ideology and Herman Cain

Below is a guest post from The Classic Liberal in response to “The Mysterious Herman Cain” article we linked to a few days ago.  It’s an outstanding analysis of our current political mindset and peels back the layers of Herman Cain to reveal a bit more about the 2012 presidential candidate.  It’s a must read.

Philosophy, Ideology and Herman Cain

By theCL

Last Wednesday, I published “The Mysterious Herman Cain” in response to all of the excitement suddenly surrounding Cain, highlighting what I believe is a serious, and potentially dangerous, inconsistency between his public persona and his past actions. John added to the conversation with “The Classic Liberal: The Mysterious Herman Cain,” and asked me to participate by responding to the comments. Having trouble with my latest browser update, however, I was unable to directly in the comments section. This post is my response.

Electoral Politics and the Leftward Drift

Let’s face it. Each election cycle the GOP parades a rather drab bunch of nominees in front of us. Each grouping more statist than the last. In the name of party unity, we begin to contrive reasons for supporting whichever candidate “takes the lead,” but deep down inside, we know something is wrong. It just doesn’t feel right to support a candidate who apparently can’t even spell the word ‘liberty,’ let alone adhere to its philosophy.

But then the politicians, pundits, and “experts” come along, and start browbeating us. We’re unrealistic, they say, for expecting an “ideal candidate.” If we “purists” don’t vote for the Republican nominee, we’ll “split the vote” and hand the election over to those scary Democrats.

Hogwash. Politicians are merely human, so there’s nothing “pure” about any one of them. Nor do I believe that anyone can in good faith, characterize some politician, any politician, as his or her “ideal” candidate. That’s absurd. The point of voting is to voice your opinion about the direction of our country. Politics ain’t sports, it’s a philosophical/ideological matter.

Politics is at its best when the parties stake out very different positions on the issues, thus offering a choice between different 2 opposing philosophies. On the other hand, politics is at it’s worst when it’s a competition based on slightly different wordings and essentially identical policies. Isn’t there something cheap and demeaning about Establishment “me too” candidates who quickly compromise their professed beliefs in the name of power and political expediency? Of course there is, which is why the “win/lose” dichotomy keeps our country comfortably drifting leftward.

Always vote for principle, though you may vote alone, and you may cherish the sweetest reflection that your vote is never lost. – John Adams, 2nd President of the United States of America

Philosophy and Ideology

Philosophy involves articulating a comprehensive account of the world and our place in it; in other words, philosophy interprets the world and advises us on how to act. The concept of ideology is narrower, it is the totality of our doctrines concerning individual conduct and social relations; in other words, ideology is a set of principles that provide a systematic way of thinking about the social order and acting within it.

That may very well be the briefest explanation of philosophy and ideology ever written, but I’m more than confidant you understand what I’m getting at. Think about it this way: If your worldview says that man is generally “brutish and violent,” you will act according to a different set of principles than if your worldview is that man is generally “peaceful and cooperative.” In the history of politics, the “brutish and violent” worldview has always led to ideologies supporting redistributive authoritarian states, while the “peaceful and cooperative” worldview has always promoted liberty.

Defining America

My favorite robot recently wrote a wonderful post titled “Defining America,” in which he seeks to answer the question: “What kind of people do we want to be, freemen or slaves?” Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) expressed the same sentiments recently: “We are dealing with a problem in Washington as a budgetary accounting problem and that’s not it. It’s a philosophy problem.” Paul said. “What is the philosophy of government? What should the role of government be?”

Both robot and Paul are correct. Without question, we’re experiencing a philosophical crisis in America.

An enthusiastic personality, the ability to give moving speeches, and having snappy comebacks on news shows and in debates has nothing to do with the constitutional duties of being the president, nor does being “a man with a plan.” Even worse, choosing a candidate based on perceived “electability” in order to “beat the Democrats,” completely ignores the philosophical crisis we’re facing … as we continue drifting left.

A statist is a statist is a statist, no matter what “party” the lapel pin says. This is why a candidate’s ideology matters more than anything else. Is government the problem or the solution? Are we unique individuals or a collective blob? Is theft and bribery acceptable when committed by government agents? What about counterfeiting? Are agents of the government (and therefore their constituents) above and beyond all moral code?

Herman Cain and the Federal Reserve

Herman Cain is a former chairman (1995-96) and deputy chairman (1992-94) of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City.

As I wrote in my previous post about Cain, the “Federal Reserve is a central planning agency in the classic socialist mold, period. Just like the old central-planning boards of the Soviet Union, the Fed is composed of appointed bureaucrats who, in a top-down fashion, plan the complex monetary matters affecting hundreds of millions of individuals and businesses.”

The Fed is a quasi-public institution; the Fed’s Board of Governors is a government agency, however, the member banks are private. In economic jargon: the American banking system is a cartel – a group of banks working in trust to limit competition and fix prices for their own benefit. The Fed itself is the cartel’s enforcement arm and lender of last resort.

If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issuance of their currency, first by inflation and then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around them will deprive the people of all their property until their children will wake up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered. — Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), 3rd US President

By their very nature, central planning institutions are evil. They introduce chaos and uncertainty into an otherwise orderly society. As the KC Fed chairman, Herman Cain was intricately involved in manipulating the economy for his banking cronies benefit, debasing the money you work so hard to earn, and aiding and abetting Congress in running up deficits so ludicrous, your great-great-great-great-great-great-grandchildren are totally screwed.

Herman Cain’s Bailout Philosophy

When the banking system went belly up (as socialist institutions always do) in 2008, Herman Cain immediately agitated for “nationalizing” the banks and bailing his banking buddies at taxpayer expense. Furthermore, he demonized the vast majority of Americans who were against the bailouts, calling them “free market purists.”

Billed as an “outsider,” Herman Cain is anything but. Just stop and think about this for a moment. What are the odds of an “outsider” being appointed a chairmanship of our nation’s most powerful central planner? Pretty slim, huh? There’s better odds you and I will be living on Mars next Tuesday. No stranger to Washington politics, Cain served as senior adviser to the 1996 presidential campaign of Bob Dole, and supported socialized-healthcare advocate and TARP supporter Mitt Romney in 2008.

Filling in on The Neal Boortz Show on December 29th last year, Cain said of auditing the Fed:

I think a lot people are calling for this audit of the Federal Reserve because they don’t know enough about it. There’s no secrets going on in the Federal Reserve … we’ve got 12 Federal Reserve banks, find out which district you’re in, call ’em up and go from there.

No secrets? Really? Here’s just a sample of what we’ve learned from the extremely watered-down version of Ron Paul’s audit the Fed bill:

Are you starting to get a clearer picture of Herman Cain’s worldview and the principles (or lack thereof) from which he would govern? Rhetoric is easy. Politicians will say whatever they think you want to hear … which explains why political rhetoric usually turns into yet more “broken promises.”

Presidential Campaign Magic

It’s amazing how quickly campaigning for office magically transforms a candidate’s thinking, isn’t it? Cain has already flip-flopped on auditing the Fed, claims he prefers a gold (although I can nothing more than a statement) to fiat, and has even attacked Mitt Romney, the guy he once declared as the “candidate with the most leadership substance” in 2008.

Former Fed chair Alan Greenspan’s “Gold and Economic Freedom,” is one of the best defenses of sound money ever written. Yet look at his track record. Once he entered the halls of power, Greenspan became one of the biggest counterfeiters in world history. As Lord Acton famously warned: “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

Think about it. Is RomneyCare, TARP, and central economic planning the kind of “leadership substance” you’re looking for? Because if so, you might as well vote for Obama. I mean, what difference does it make whether its a left boot or right boot when it’s stomping on your face?

“What is the philosophy of government? What should the role of government be?”

It’s long past time we bring these questions back to the forefront of America’s political conversation. “Beating the Democrats” isn’t enough. Does liberty and self-governance even matter in America anymore? Or have we obediently submitted to the state, our benevolent overlords?


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  • rjjrdq May 17, 2011 at 1:29 AM

    How about a Paul/Cain one on one debate, subject, Federal Reserve. That should clear things up once and for all.
    rjjrdq recently posted..Major League Baseball Makes a Mockery of Civil RightsMy Profile

    • theCL May 17, 2011 at 5:41 PM

      While I’m always for debate, I’m not sure what this one would accomplish.

      1. Paul has already made mince meat out of both Greenspan and Bernanke. No offense to Cain, but he’s not going to do any better than they have.

      2. Why would anyone who’s not part of the hard left wish to see a central planner defended?

      3. Most importantly, there’s nothing to debate. It is fact, not opinion, that Herman Cain was a chairman at the Fed, advocated bailouts, and defended the Fed against an audit. You can’t debate away your past.
      theCL recently posted..John Doe and the Religious RightMy Profile

  • Trestin Meacham May 17, 2011 at 2:26 AM

    Bingo! Cain has become second least favorite candidate.
    Trestin Meacham recently posted..FAILING CHURCHESMy Profile

  • Steve Dennis May 17, 2011 at 5:33 AM

    I really was interested in Cain, but these revelations are making it very hard to take him serious anymore. I am becoming more and more sure that the Republicans have no viable candidate and it is disappointing because Obama should be vulnerable.
    Steve Dennis recently posted..Obamacare- The Obama regime hands out another 200 healthcare waiversMy Profile

  • Jim at Conservatives on Fire May 17, 2011 at 12:04 PM

    Looks like we still don’t have a real viable candidate. With all the talented conservatives out there, surely we will be able to find a winner.
    Jim at Conservatives on Fire recently posted..The American Spirit – Do We Still Have ItMy Profile

  • John Galt May 17, 2011 at 12:06 PM

    The Republicans have more valuable and intellectually capable people this time that it is perceived – specially since the media is selling us the concept of conservative infighting in a negative way.
    Witness the purification and self-cleansing that has happened in the last three days: Trump, Huck, and the Professor, out; two voluntarily, one involuntarily via his mouth, as professors tend to do.
    I have a post in the issue. In general I am optimistic in the eventual conservative candidate.
    John Galt recently posted..Happy Debt Ceiling Day !!!My Profile

    • Country Thinker May 17, 2011 at 12:53 PM

      If the WSJ is correct that Romney is the odds-on favorite, we’re all in trouble.

    • theCL May 17, 2011 at 6:15 PM

      @ Steve, Jim, and John:

      I guess it depends on what you want.

      The Old Right was born of the anti-state zeal which was being threatened by TR/Wilsonian progressivism and fierce opposition to FDR’s New Deal. No holds barred. They wanted to reverse the growth of Executive power, end the Fed, dump the New Deal and yes, it was conservatives who wanted to stay out of WWI and WWII. If you read the history of the movement, it becomes clear it’s not Democrats who have been a thorn in their side, but the Republican Party itself.

      But they always knew what they wanted, and would fight anyone who got in their way. The shenanigans that took place at some of the conventions are legendary.

      Somewhere along the way though, we stopped fighting for what we wanted, and started seeking a Republican “winner” instead. Thus, our enemy became the Democrats and no longer the state.

      See the difference?
      theCL recently posted..John Doe and the Religious RightMy Profile

  • KingShamus May 17, 2011 at 1:33 PM

    Romney = Electoral Doom.

    Cain’s connections to the Fed don’t scare me as much as his defense of the bail-outs.

    However, that’s not a deal-breaker for me. I think Cain’s strengths outweigh his weaknesses.
    KingShamus recently posted..Paul Ryan- Herman Cain and 2012My Profile

    • theCL May 17, 2011 at 5:50 PM

      The Fed and bailouts are 2 of the same thing.

      Cain’s weakness is his governing philosophy. If we seek freedom, I’m not sure what “positives” could possibly outweigh bad philosophy.
      theCL recently posted..John Doe and the Religious RightMy Profile

  • Teresa May 17, 2011 at 5:15 PM

    I hope Romney does not end up being our nominee. We don’t need another big government candidate like we had in 2008. As these revelations have come to light my reservations about Cain have also grown over time. I agree with John Galt when he says that the GOP does have valuable and intellectually capable people running for president. The MSM skews the information to favor the Democrats, to give the impression the GOP candidates are unelectable and out of the mainstream when the fact is the Democrats are the ones far out of the mainstream.
    Teresa recently posted..Rule 5 – Uma ThurmanMy Profile

    • theCL May 17, 2011 at 5:56 PM

      The MSM skews the information

      As a blogger, you don’t need to worry about them anymore. You can spread the truth, as you see it, instead. I believe Americans are actively seeking new information and opinions. The country is a mess, yet the same BS talkers (on both sides of the aisle) are still on TV giving their same tired opinions.
      theCL recently posted..John Doe and the Religious RightMy Profile

  • Silverfiddle May 17, 2011 at 7:03 PM

    A presidential primary is a multiple choice test, with no perfect answer just the best one out of who is running.

    I hate what the Federal Reserve has done to our money, but every Fed regional board member is not a wild-eyed central planner dancing on top of the printing press. I’ve read some excellent Bernanke and QE2 dissent from board members.

    Also, Herman Cain did not invent the Federal Reserve, he just chaired a regional board. It is a central planning abomination, but so is the entire federal government. Would Paul Ryan be disqualified? Jim DeMint?

    This is a narrowly focused libertarian criticism. It is true as far as it goes, and if this were the only issue, I might consider it damning. But it’s not, and Cain has a successful career that has given him the varied experience a successful president needs.

    This is really about Ron Paul. News Flash: If Dr Paul got elected (and I don’t think that would be a bad thing for America), he wouldn’t be able to do diddly-squat about the Federal Reserve.

    Gold standard? Perhaps. I myself think we need that, but it is a separate issue from the Federal Reserve. Eliminating the central bank in another matter.

    I like Herman Cain, but I also appreciate information like this. Put in proper context, it is not the damning bombshell the author imagines it to be. Fed critics are already voting for Ron Paul.

    Excellent and interesting article!
    Silverfiddle recently posted..Ill Take The Koran for 500 Alex!My Profile

    • theCL May 17, 2011 at 8:51 PM


      If we were talking about, say, the Dept of Ed, you’d have a point. At the same time however, I would not include it as a critique.

      Paul Ryan is also a bad example. After all, he was elected to office.

      “Narrowly focused libertarian criticism?” Hmmmm … Did you forget about TARP, bailouts, stimulus, record debt, inflation, etc.? Or have we developed political memory loss?

      News Flash: This is really about Herman Cain.

      My entire professional life has been as money and banking guy. Was buying stocks before I got to college. Got the degree in finance.

      There’s a reason I took the long road with this post. We have to start looking at the bigger picture.

      Not only was Cain wrong about the bailouts, but he was wrong when predicting what the result would be too. What assumptions did he base his analysis on? Why?

      Even if I ran in Cain’s circles, nobody would let me chair a branch of the Fed. Yet, I’ve called it right straight through it all. So have countless others. It’s not that hard.

      How is it then? How is it that Cain – who has such deep knowledge of money that he was chair at the KC Fed, and so successful in business too – got it so amazingly wrong? And what makes anyone think he won’t do it the same way again?
      theCL recently posted..John Doe and the Religious RightMy Profile

  • Silverfiddle May 17, 2011 at 9:21 PM

    My point on Paul Ryan is that the Federal Reserve (not a part of government) is not the only central planning joint. The entire federal government is.

    Being an “insider” does not necessarily disqualify someone.

    Finally, Cain got it wrong, like the entire insular, group-thinking finance community did, because he is not an Austrian School economist. Austrian School is foreign to the majority of economists and bankers. The closest they get to libertarianism would be Milton Friedman, and we both know he is barely one, if at all, certainly an outcast at the Austrian School.

    So anyone back in 2008 talking about letting a little creative destruction happen so the smart people could come in and pick up the pieces (that’s what I wanted to happen), was not even listened to. If a Misesian did start making sense, the establishment would close it ears because understanding it would make them scared.

    TARP made sense to the groupthink crowd. Obama’s stimulus is a whole other matter, and Cain certainly was not on that bandwagon, so lets be sure to not conflate the two.

    This is about Ron Paul. I know where you are coming from. Your argument excludes everyone but him.
    Silverfiddle recently posted..Ill Take The Koran for 500 Alex!My Profile

    • theCL May 18, 2011 at 1:10 AM

      The Fed is the single most powerful and unaccountable central planner. Congress is made up of elected officials, regardless of how honest we think those elections are or what they do that we don’t like, it is a very significant difference.

      Many people in the finance community (not necessarily Austrians) knew it was a bad idea. Countless folks who know little if anything about the financial markets, banking, and/or economic theory knew in their gut it was a raw deal too. You don’t have to be a genius to know when you’re getting screwed.

      Btw, what we call “Austrian” economics was just plain old mainstream econ pre-Great Depression. My uneducated grandmother understood the basics. Herman Cain or anyone else for that matter, has no excuse at all.

      Quite frankly, I don’t believe a single supporter of TARP and whatnot did so in honesty. Any member of Congress who got bullied into it doesn’t deserve their seat. TARP was a crime. Straight up theft. The Founders of this nation would have never put up with such crap, how much more money do the have to take? How many more laws do the have to enact? Where’s the line? When will enough be enough?

      That my argument excludes Paul neither weakens my case nor makes it about him. That he’s the only guy in Washington to get so much right says more about the Republican Party, their candidates, and the people who support them (which unfortunately, I was one of) than it does about him. I’ve wanted to “End the Fed” a lot longer than I’ve ever even known of him. I gave you my background for a reason. The Fed has never been a mystery to me.

      Ryan doesn’t matter. His budget proposal is all smoke and mirrors, and he stole taxpayer money to give to the bankers.

      There are no other issues my friend. That’s it. Government finances and the economy. The rest is just bread and circus. That’s where we’re at. Default, depression, hunger … it will end in tears.

      It will end in tears.
      theCL recently posted..John Doe and the Religious RightMy Profile

  • Silverfiddle May 18, 2011 at 6:43 AM

    I agree with you on TARP, and Cain blew it, plain and simple, but he had a lot of company, that’s about the best I can say about it.

    This is a great issue for Ron Paul, but it’s only one issue in a field of them.

    Another issue is the fact that Ron Paul is a career politician, Herman Cain is not. There are many factors besides the Fed, whose actions are supposed to be controlled by congress.
    Silverfiddle recently posted..Ill Take The Koran for 500 Alex!My Profile