Should Pedigree Matter?
Ideas have pedigrees. That is, someone, somewhere, came up with
them in the first place. Someone, somewhere, wrote them down for
the first time. Someone, somewhere, put them to use before anyone
else. Should it matter to us today who first thought of, proposed,
or implemented a specific idea?
The question is a nagging one because, upon scrutiny, a growing
number of recent practices reveal their antecedents in less than
Take for instance the well-orchestrated attack on the "right
wing," making it responsible for all the president's troubles.
That kind of campaign was first proposed in Mein Kampf. The author,
Adolf Hitler, instructs us that we ought "not to divide the
attention of the people, but to concentrate that attention on a
single enemy. A great number of basically different enemies must
always be described as belonging to the same group, so that as far
as the mass of your followers is concerned, the battle is being
waged against a single enemy. This strengthens the belief in the
rightness of your cause."
Or take "School-to-Work," the grandiose program enacted
by the Clinton Administration. In the Communist Manifesto, written
in 1848 by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, we encounter ten essential
steps of which the last prescribes "Public and gratis education
of all children. Elimination of child labor in its present form.
Combining education with industrial production."
On the subject of education, we seem to take our cue more and more
from Anton Semionovich Makarenko, Lenin's hand-picked expert, who
admonished parents about the ways their children should grow up.
"It is not a matter of indifference to society what kind of
people they will be. In handing over to you a certain measure of
social authority, the Soviet state demands from you correct upbringing
of future citizens."
Are we to believe that ordinary Americans in large numbers consciously
and purposely avail themselves of such sources? No, chances are,
these sources are quite unknown to them. Is it likely that various
ordinary Americans accidentally come up with the same ideas as these
infamous predecessors? Hardly.
Somehow, these ideas make their way through many transmissions,
until the original source disappears in the mists of time. Does
it ennoble an ignoble idea that it is now separated from its inventor?
Does it ennoble an ignoble idea that it now appeals to persons
who are not monsters? Hardly.
In any event, Hitler and Lenin were monsters, but Makarenko was
not. He just happened to sign on to a monstrous ideology.
Is it possible that some ideas which saw the light of day as part
of a monstrous ideology are in and of themselves good?
That being the case, perhaps we should call upon present-day Americans
to check out the ideas they advocate and employ. They owe it to
us. In this day of library exchange and the Internet, the job is
Society needs to pay attention to all so-called new ideas. Generally
speaking, they do not exists. New ideas have always been rare, by
now they are almost non-existent. Every time we hear of one, the
odds are that it has been around the block more than once.
If so, it will have a track record. If so, investigating where
it has been gives us a good indication of where it might take us.
We can then decide if we want to be taken there. We can then decide
if the person advocating them is the appropriate travel guide for
A fringe benefit accrues to the advocate as well. People who like
to advocate because they are good at it might become more discriminating
in the ideas they adopt.
Many among those in public life need to be. Many of them would
want to be. Nothing is further from my mind than to intimate that
the president's defenders read Mein Kampf. In fact, I am convinced
that they would be the first to recoil from their own tactics if
they knew where those tactics originated.
Let us tell them.