Thursday, June 27, 2013

Villain and Vampire: Businessmen in Literature



Fair sir, you spit on me on Wednesday last. You spurn'd me such a day; another time you call'd me dog; and for these courtesies I'll lend you thus much moneys? 
     Shylock to Antonio, Act I, Scene III, The Merchant of Venice1.

This article originally appeared in Reason Magazine in October 1986 (Vol. 18, No. 5). I revisit it here for the edification of readers who are familiar with Shakespeare and with the dearth in past and modern literature of stories that regard the businessman as a hero. I have edited it to correct very minor errors.
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I never got to study Shakespeare in high school. By the time I started, he had been supplanted by J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye and other contemporary, topically relevant literary works, most of them forgettable and authored by lesser, meaner minds than the Bard's.

Later, I was grateful that I was spared an introduction to his work then. No doubt it would have been filtered through the Deweyian strainers of gender consciousness, minority appreciation, and antiviolence sensitivity and blended in a potpourri of egalitarian mixers. His plots, characters, the beautiful profundity of his language – the whole broad landscape of Shakespeare – were left for me to discover without benefit of interpretation via the National Education Association.

Nor was the subject of the role of businessmen in literature broached in those generously labeled "literature" courses. Business didn’t exist in literature. It just barely merited mention in sophomore history and senior civics, where, if it was noticed at all, it was portrayed either as a glum spectator to the parade of the state or as a recalcitrant sheep that needed its hind legs nipped periodically by the Lassies of the public interest.

"Businessmen" is a broad category, encompassing bankers, merchants, industrialists, manufacturers – anyone responsible for the production of material wealth or services. They have appeared in literature since before the Greeks, but I arbitrarily begin with Shakespeare, and specifically with his Merchant of Venice, because the author and his work are closer to our time, and because Shakespeare was probably the first major writer to create an important business character.

The "merchant" of the title is Antonio, not Shylock the moneylender. Of the two characters, Shylock is the more interesting, if only for the intensity of his feelings. Antonio is something of a pompous, profligate windbag and not very convincing as a captain of commerce. Shylock is a three-dimensional character, even though his overall treatment reflects an unpopular view of Jews in the Elizabethan and subsequent eras.

Sentiment against usury was so strong that only Jews were permitted to practice it with near impunity. Shylock's legal claim to a slice of the merchant's flesh served two purposes: It was his revenge for being maligned in public by Antonio, and it was the central conflict of Shakespeare's usual family of conflicts. The ethics of usury may have even intrigued him, and this might have been his only means of addressing the subject. In the end, Shylock is compelled to waive both Antonio's debt and the pound of flesh, to become a Christian, and to have half his property given to Antonio. He also must bequeath his entire estate to his daughter and the Christian she has married against his will. In return, he retains his life and half his wealth. This was the most justice Shakespeare dared give him in his time.

The businessman has ever since been ranked with the vampire, the criminal, and the tyrant as a stock pariah and nemesis of society. It would be fair to say that he has been accorded markedly less sympathy than the werewolf. Until the 19th century, the merchant, the entrepreneur, and the banker were all relegated to minimal roles in literature, usually as minor antagonists or as subjects of satire. While businessmen made the rise of the West possible, few writers bothered to explore the possibility that they might have been just as rich a potential for dramatic expression as lords, vagabonds, or picaroons.

"Go make my coarse commodities look sleek, with subtle art beguile the honest eye," urges a woolens draper in Thomas Middleton's Michaelmas Term (1606). Middleton's unflattering portrayal of the trader may be taken as a moderate instance of the esteem in which businessmen were held up through the Enlightenment. "Shoddy goods" were only an excuse for writers to ignore the morality of profit and value-for-value trading. In their eyes, the ethics of created, earned wealth was too contemptible a subject to treat seriously.

But the power of the Enlightenment inevitably altered that view. Writers could no longer feign blindness to or remain incurious about the incredible explosion of wealth and the rise in living standards spawned by that intellectual revolution. God against king and king against prince fast faded as handy or exciting vehicles of moral conflict. The literature that used those themes and that survived were written by such titans as Hugo, Schiller, and Goethe. The rest has almost vanished from serious critical attention.

The problem was that most writers could not conceive of treating the businessman as an autonomous individual whose problems and conflicts were as uniquely personal and universal as those of any other highly visible "role model."  They could not accept him at face value as they could a king, statesman, cleric, or soldier. A king had has conscience, a cleric his temptations, a soldier his honor. What could a merchant do that was virtuous? The risks and rewards of trade, of investment, of innovation – these were actions viewed as outside the bounds of morality, even though they were the source of a writer's quill, foolscap, and fashionable clothes.

The best writers could do was portray the businessman as an upright, respected, responsible member of his community, or as an enemy of that community. The novels of the early Victorian age, particularly those of Charles Dickens, are chock-full of business characters, some of them "upright" and even admirable, others insatiable, often charming frauds who prey on a gullible public.

The attitudes of novelists and playwrights in the early to mid-19th century mirrored those of such prominent theoreticians as John Stuart Mill and such beaux espirts as John Ruskin and Samuel Taylor Coleridge. "I confess I am not charmed with the ideal of life held out by those who think that the normal state of human beings is that of struggling to get on," wrote Mill in Principles of Political Economy (1848). He described the "success ethics" as one of the "disagreeable symptoms of one of the phases of industrial progress." Ruskin fantasized about how the Industrial Revolution might be disguised, for example, by designing railway trains to look like dragons, while Coleridge bemoaned the demise of an "enlightened aristocracy" and the exodus of the rural poor to the cities and manufacturing towns, away from the ministrations of a patronizing gentry.

To this day, Europe has never entirely expelled the vapors of caste. Its culture has yet to allow business to rid itself of its inferiority complex. But what was happening during this period in America, which had no philosophy of predestination and no built-in prejudice against business?

For the most part, America's preeminent thinkers, intellectuals, and observers wished that the opposite were true. The outstanding champion of business was Horatio Alger, whose novels of hard work and success may have helped to popularize the ethics of individualism but did not explain why that ethics ought to have been a value.

And American novelists and playwrights did produce business literature. However, just as many of America's leading intellectuals, in philosopher Leonard Peikoff's words, were "alienated by the basic premises of the country, [and] hostile to the essential character of its institutions, its traditions, and its people,"2.  many of the leading novelists, especially in the latter half of the 19th century, were tongue-tied by the unabridged individual, by galloping industrial progress, and by a population that was almost universally unresponsive to their charges that the "success ethic" was a cruel hoax. What they finally did was abandon their frontal assaults and launch a literary flanking movement.

In 1884, John Hay published what was regarded as a major pro-business, pro-success novel, The Bread-Winners. Its convoluted, saccharine plot is the genteel ancestor of television's Dallas and Dynasty. A year later, H.F. Keeton answered it with his antibusiness novel, The Money-Makers, a similarly contrived work written, however, with much more conviction. In it, Hay's original industrial magnate/union organizer, warm-hearted-fellow/conniving rabble-rouser roles were simply reversed.

In both novels, confused, sensitive scions of the tycoons are unsure of where their duties lay until outside events precipitate action one way or the other. And in both novels, these duties concerned the welfare of others and a heightened sense of noblesse oblige to some segment of society.

The two major American novelists of the late 19th century were Henry James and William Dean Howells. James was the finer, sounder writer. His most acclaimed works are The Bostonians and Washington Square. But he found America barren of serious subject matter and viewed Europe as his intellectual and artistic home. He moved to England and, a year after acquiring British citizenship, died there in 1916.

His friend and colleague, Howells, though, felt right at home. While not as prolific as Alger and certainly not as perceptive as James, Howells virtually cornered the market for "serious" novels of business and success. James, in his novels, specialized in pitting Americans against "superior" European sensibilities.

In Annie Kilburn (1889), The Minister's Charge (1887), A Hazard of New Fortunes (1890), and in many other novels, Howells devolved the creed that money isn't everything, that the lower classes have legitimate grudges against the reigning moral and economic system, and that the pursuit of one's own happiness inherently entails injustice and suffering for others. His most famous work, The Rise of Silas Lapham (1885), which chronicles the progressive corruption of a successful man as he seeks to be accepted by Boston society, was a standard subject of study in American high schools for decades.

What was the answer of American businessmen to these novels? Many chose to say nothing. Most ignored them as unimportant. But the muteness was understandable. An explicit ethics sanctioning capitalism had never been formulated. An explicit political philosophy separating the state from the individual had yet to be invented.

In the meantime, the only noteworthy response was Andrew Carnegie's The Gospel of Wealth (1889), in which he asserted that great industrial enterprises, such as his own, are created by the strong and ruthless (without any reference to rights). These enterprises, he offered in expiation, are but trusts administered by the winners of the struggle for the benefit of the public.

These positions were meant to be the finger in the hole of the dike, but all they did was help to enlarge the rupture. What followed was a deluge of antibusiness literature. Frank Norris produced The Octopus (1901) and The Pit (1903); Robert Herrick, The Common Lot (1904) and The Memoirs of an American Citizen (1905); Jack London, The Iron Heel (1908) and Burning Daylight (1910); Theodore Dreiser, The Financier (1912) and The Titan (1914); and Upton Sinclair, The Jungle (1906), The Metropolis (1908), and King Coal (1917).

Not all of these novelists urged complete condemnation of the businessman. London's Burning Daylight and Howells's Silas Lapham, for example, claim that spiritual renewal and moral salvation may be found through the renunciation of business, finance, and innovation. These and other redeemed business characters retreat to the wilderness or to old-time religion or to some other form of passivity. They accept the nostrum that integrity, honesty, and genius are incompatible with capitalism, which can only corrupt the truly moral man by inculcating ambition and selfishness.

With the publication in 1943 of Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead, the game, to paraphrase Shakespeare, was up. Rand must have taken some pleasure in turning all the standard assumptions on their heads. Gail Wynand, the ruthless, self-made newspaperman, for example, unwittingly practices everything that had been preached to businessmen and the public in the past. He is ultimately obliged to endorse the destruction of his best friend, Howard Roark, an architect, innovator, and something new in the pages of literature – a man of independent self-esteem whose soul is not tied to society, nor crippled by any altruist notion.

On the other end of this novel's spectrum of business characters is Hopton Stoddard, the aging, itinerant millionaire who "found relief in religion – in the form of a bribe." When a shaken Stoddard returns from a worldwide tour of religious shrines – undertaken to find a creed that would forgive him for his dubious business ethics and shady life – Rand says of him with dark humor that: "He had returned from his journey, crushed by the universal spectacle of religion, most particularly by the various forms in which the promise of hell confronted him all over the earth. He had been driven to the conclusion that his life qualified him for the worst possible here-after under any system of faith. It had shaken what remained of his mind."3. 

In Wynand, she illustrated the tragedy of a great man who molded his life on a second-hand morality, altruism, or the "gospel of power." In Stoddard, she created a foil who was almost a caricature of previous novelists' conceptions of a "redeemed" businessman.  

Gail Wynand's conflicts are refined in the character of industrialist Hank Rearden in Rand's Atlas Shrugged (1957), with the difference that Rearden questions the moral code that is supposed to govern both his business and his personal life. When he has his day in court – when he publicly rejects the right of a tribunal to penalize him for having conducted "illegal" business – we know that his end will not be the same as Wynand's.

Atlas Shrugged was not written exclusively as an answer to any particular antibusiness novel, but it is important to note an inversion in its characterizations that is a product of the novel's radical theme. All the virtues that previous novelists had asserted businessmen ought to be imbued with – including the primacy of service over self-interest and the disavowal of the profit motive – are precisely those possessed by businessmen in this novel who are the heavies, the incompetents, and fence-sitters. Moreover, they are also the sneaks, the frauds, the cowards, the looters, and the extortionists, not in spite of their altruist virtues, but because of them. Among many other things, Atlas Shrugged developed the theme that the altruist virtues in men have clung to for centuries are actually vices, and can turn them into tragic figures, or into monsters.

In terms of the business novel, was there life after Atlas Shrugged? Yes, if one concedes that to be comatose, one must first be alive. Business novels have been published since Atlas, but overall they perpetuate the altruist-collectivist theme – or no discernible theme at all.

In retrospect, Atlas Shrugged was a literary supernova whose light has yet to reach the lifeless pages of modern literature. Our novelists, critics, and professors of literature have neither the equipment – intellectual or literary – to grasp that novel, nor the inclination to acquire it.

Nearly 6,000 miles and 360 years separate a Venetian court of law from a Chicago appellate court and the verdict against another moneylender, banker Midas Mulligan (one of the earliest "strikers" in Atlas), who was ordered to loan his money to men who claimed a right to it because they needed it. And a whole new philosophy governed his response to the wrong dealt him by the court. Literary justice was exacted after all – and for much, much more than a mere pound of flesh.

1.William Shakespeare: The Complete Works. Eds. Stanley Wells and Gary Taylor. Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1988. p. 430, lines 24-27.
2. The Ominous Parallels: The End of Freedom in America, by Leonard Peikoff. New York: Stein & Day, 1982. p. 325.
3. The Fountainhead, by Ayn Rand. Indianapolis/New York: The Bobbs-Merrill Company, 1943. p. 362.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Our Perilous Trust in Government



I possess an enameled tray that holds five flash drives containing two sets of the texts of my columns, the texts and artwork of my books, and photos and other images. One set is my primary source, the other is a backup. I don't trust my computer or the power not to fail at some critical juncture in the future. For the same reason, I periodically backup my computer on an external drive to preserve its operating systems and other software as a failsafe against my computer being zapped by a lightning strike, overwhelmed by a power surge, or invaded by a hacker (government or freelance) to introduce a killer virus.

Of all the likelihoods in the current political atmosphere, the last one is more credible.

Oh, yes, the government is just as capable as a punk hacker of infecting one's computer through unlawful entry. In the government's case, if you've been targeted for special attention and monitoring because the term "Islam" or "patriot" or "individual rights" occurs repeatedly in your correspondence (red-flagging, it's called), and wants to haul you into court, it can plant the incriminating evidence in your computer and you won't know it until it's too late and you're being led away in handcuffs and a federal prosecutor presents the "evidence" at your arraignment.

However, on the tray of flash drives has been reproduced Eugène Delacroix's "Liberty Leading the People." I have been contemplating it a lot, lately. That image never fails to make me smile. I can always trust it to give me a morale boost.

But I ceased trusting the government many years ago, as I watched it acquire more and more powers over my life and over all other Americans. The revelations of Edward Snowden – traitorously or not – have only underscored that distrust. And I think that many Americans, taking into account  the attacks on Snowden as a traitor, as against his being exalted as a true, liberty-loving patriot, have been thrust into a purgatory of doubt and mistrust that can only come about when they have strong, justified suspicions that they are living in a watershed era.

I frankly do not know what to make of Snowden. He remains an enigmatic figure who abruptly emerged from nowhere – in the course of the Benghazi scandals, the IRS scandals, and just the general reckless, authoritarian tenor of the Obama administration – to state that the government, via the National Security Agency (NSA), has been "mining data" from Americans' emails, phone call records, and so on, and has been doing so for years.

One would have expected Snowden to flee to a relatively free political entity, such as Singapore, or Iceland. Instead, he winds up in Hong Kong, a "special administrative" area of the communist/fascist Mainland, which censors the Internet, has millions in its own Gulag, and threatens to invade and conquer Taiwan. Then he pops up in Moscow. He might wind up in communist-controlled Ecuador, or even Castro's Cuba. There are indications that he may be allowed to stay in Russia by a fascist régime headed by an ex-KGB officer.

Combine this information overload with the news about the NSA's $2 billion Bluffdale, Utah facility that is supposed to collect all information on all Americans and all foreign communications traffic here – is there really a cause for concern?

Yes.

Cliff Kincaid of Accuracy in Media (AIM), for example, has inveighed often and rightly against the numerous depredations of the Obama administration. So I do not understand why he dismisses any possibility that the Obama and his cohorts would use the NSA for nefarious, totalitarian purposes. The possibility seems to have escaped him in his tirades against Snowden and conservatives who champion Snowden. 

On the other hand, Glenn Greeenwald, Snowden's "handler" of the British newspaper The Guardian, is a committed Marxist dedicated – one might say, working hand-in-hand with Barack Obama – to knocking down America. Kincaid exposes this journalist's political predilections. 

And, on another hand, the NSA has been caught fibbing about its alleged exclusive purpose of identifying and tracking down terrorists and wannabe terrorists. 

So, Americans are faced with a contradiction. One or the other scenario is true, but not both. Snowden was a Russian or Chinese mole, or a traitor who has damaged the country's national security, or he wasn't either of these things. He is an individual who doesn't want to live in a Big Brother society. But he appears in two countries governed by totalitarian régimes. Go figure.

I can't. 

"Data mining" is a program probably necessitated by the literal prohibition of collecting intelligence on Muslims and on Islamic terrorists. Excuse me if this sounds "simplistic," but if a government agency is charged with protecting Americans from terrorist attacks is banned from focusing on the most likely terrorist candidates, then it must collect information on everyone and hope to identify and catch them that way. Anyone for "Pin the Tail on the Donkey"? Or a round of blind-folded piñata bashing? 

There is no way to credibly reconcile the 24/7 invasion of Americans' privacy without restraint or legality and also protect and uphold the entirety of the Bill of Rights. 

Focusing on a relatively small handful of suspected terrorists or individuals likely to "go jihad" in this country, would be a comparatively simpler task. But, no, the Obama administration, following the lead of President George "Islam was hijacked" Bush, condones the data mining, because that kind of program meshes nicely with his authoritarian behavior and agenda and virtually exempts Muslims from surveillance. 

Would Obama use the NSA data to his own political advantage? Yes. Observe his record. After all, his Department of Justice went after a journalist's phone records, and participated with the IRS in the targeting of Tea Party groups before and during the 2012 election. Must we review all the scandals that have surfaced around the White House since Obama's second inauguration? And the ones that preceded it? Benghazi? Fast and Furious? If you hear something "fishy"? Obama's associations with Rev. Jeremiah Wright and terrorist Bill Ayers?  And his whole murky – indeed, opaque – past?

I won’t recount them all here, because the administration's "playbook" is beginning to become as thick as Victor Hugo's opus, Cromwell, which is a very long play with a "cast of hundreds" about an autocrat who would be king if the non-electorate would let him and if he were so inclined. (I blush in apology for putting the literary giant Hugo in the same company as the tin pot Marxist, Obama, but I couldn’t resist the analogy. The play, incidentally, is very good.) 

Scott Holleran published a very penetrating article on why we should be grateful to Snowden for his revelations, "Snowden vs. Fascism." 

The fascist state, and that is what America is becoming, is rising based on the false premise – supported by those on the left and right alike – that we must have government control of individual rights in order to protect lives and defend the republic – or, worse in the case of the leftists, to serve the collective and, worst of all, in the case of conservatives, to serve God, tradition and family.

Moreover:

Liberty is not contingent upon security – a proper national defense neither requires nor necessitates surrendering liberty – and individual rights are inalienable, as America’s founders knew and wrote when they created the United States of America.

So, as Mr. Holleran points out, should we really trust our government, and especially the Obama administration, to exercise restraint and not use the mined data for its own sinister purposes? As he notes, trusting the government and Obama to do that is sheer fantasy or perilous wishful thinking. Our government is already on the road to serfdom – our serfdom. In his article, "The Government vs. America," he makes an important observation that it isn't the Tea Partiers who are "anti-government," but the government itself, which is "pro-statism." 

This is especially important when we learn that Obama has consulted with the envoys of Islamic jihad on how best to "get along" with Islam and jihadists. Steve Emerson's Investigative Project on Terrorism has this to report:

The White House's National Security Council has confirmed that staffers held a June 13 meeting with Shaykh Abdallah bin Bayyah, an Islamist cleric who shares leadership of the International Union of Muslim Scholars, where he is vice-president and the terror supporter Yusuf al-Qaradawi is president….
'Like many in the global Muslim Brotherhood movement who pose as moderates to the press and to liberal intellectuals by issuing condemnations of al-Qaida,' it read in part, 'Bin Bayyah refuses to label the acts of groups such as Hamas, Hizballah or Palestinian Islamic Jihad as terrorism.'
He has also issued 'an endorsement of the push by Muslim intellectuals to criminalize blasphemy against the Muslim prophet Muhammad and Islam,' the group reported.

We can trust Obama to do one thing, and that is to sell out our country to Islam – while he "transforms" the country into an impoverished socialist pigsty. 

So, shall we quote Michael Montaigne about the heroes of Thermopylae and compare Edward Snowden with them?

He who falls obstinate in his courage, if he has fallen, he fights on his knees (Seneca)… The most valiant are sometimes the most unfortunate. Thus there are triumphant defeats that rival victories. Nor did those four sister victories, the fairest that the sun ever set eyes on- Salamis, Plataea, Mycale, and Sicily – ever dare match all their combined glory against the glory of the annihilation of King Leonidas and his men at the pass of Thermopylae.

Or shall we regard Snowden as another Alger Hiss who has done irreparable damage to the country's national security, and curse his name? 

The question will be answered in future chapters of the Edward Snowden story. Until then, I must defer judgment of the man. He sounds sincere, says the right things, and I feel grateful that he has exposed the duplicity of our government. At the same time, I can't ignore the bizarreness of his travel itinerary and his close association with Glenn Greenwald. 

Had the U.S. a rational foreign policy – and I'm including a policy that would hale back to at least the 1950's – these national security issues would never have cropped up. But the fact is that our irrational foreign policies have allowed the U.S. to paint itself into a corner. 

I must laugh darkly whenever I hear or read that the U.S. is a "free country," because there is very little freedom left in it. What freedoms we have left exist only by default. Our policies enabled the Soviet Union to exist for decades, from the 1930's onward. Had we let the Germans overrun Russia during WWII, there would have been no "Cold War" that required the creation of a vast intelligence network to combat its espionage and incursions and invasions since the end of that war, because without our unpaid-for assistance, the USSR would have collapsed. 

What "data mining" operations it would have pursued would have targeted known enemies of this country, and not "required" the search and seizure of Americans' personal correspondence and activities on the chance that terrorists and terrorist plots might be detected and foiled. (And this data mining failed to red-flag the Boston Marathon bombers, even with Russia's advice that the one Tsarnaev brother was a "person of interest"). 

The Soviets are gone, but now we are faced with Islam, and our government is now white-washing Islam with the same fervor it white-washed the Soviet Union in the 1930's and during WWII. 

It taxes my imagination about how we, who are concerned about our freedom, can extract ourselves from our authoritarian conundrum. 

I trust the evidence of my senses and my own mind when it comes to trusting the government and evaluating its commitment to freedom – which, at this point, is virtually nil. In the meantime, I have Delacroix's magnificent painting to serve as a constant, trustworthy reminder of what, someday, we may be forced to emulate in spirit and in action.  

Monday, June 24, 2013

Critical Tunnel Vision at The Washington Times



On June 19th, the Washington Times ran Frank Csongo's review of Diana West's book, American Betrayal: The Secret Assault on American Character. It was a supercilious review that ignored West's chief themes, labored under inaccuracies and fallacies, and generally was meant to discredit West and her book. I was so startled by its inherent injustice that I wrote the editor asking if the paper would be willing to run a counter-review. As of this date, I have not received a reply. Consequently, I address some of Csongo's errors and assertions here.

For a discussion of issues covered in West's book, see "Our Enemy Inside The Gates," many of them overlooked by Csongo in his review.

First, Csongo insinuates that the causes of the Great Depression were a mystery. However, it was caused and perpetuated by government intervention in the economy. Real economists such as Friedrich Hayek and Ludwig von Mises, among others, have demonstrated that it was the creation of the Federal Reserve Bank and the passage of numerous regulatory laws that allowed the government to "redirect" the economy in the direction which Wilsonite and other Progressives wished it to go – which was socialism by stealth. The New Deal simply aggravated and prolonged an already skewed and injured economy. But for Roosevelt's policies, it would have recovered.  

No, the government didn't pay "the salaries of many artists and photographers," as Csongo asserts. It took money from millions of impoverished Pauls to give to a passel of socialistic Peters or "artists" – or hasn't Csongo ever read or seen the work of these artists? One notable example is the murals in the ground floor of the former RCA building in Rockefeller Center (now the G.E. Building), which were originally done by a Mexican communist, Diego Rivera; what replaced some of them (by José Maria Sert) aren't much better; it's all "socialist realism."  

As for writers, many who are now famous had their start in the WPA writers' program and have since then been elevated to the broken-down sharecropper's shack that otherwise passes for the pantheon of American literature, including John Cheever, Kenneth Rexroth, Studs Terkel, and Saul Bellow.

Csongo attempts to make a distinction between Soviet-style "socialism" and the Roosevelt brand. He fails because Roosevelt, who didn't actually want to "save" capitalism – his saying he did was just rhetorical taqiyya to throw off those who feared he wanted to abolish it – adopted a fascist policy of regimenting everything he could lay his hands on. Remember that before Hitler could impose National Socialism on Germany, the socialism had to exist first; that was the work of Otto von Bismarck. If fascism comes to the U.S., it will be because a long line of socialist (liberal) and Republican presidents and compliant Congresses have prepared the way. That line extends back to Teddy Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson.

In spite of Roosevelt's economic policies, the U.S. was on the way to recovery before its entry into WWII. The war didn't take the country out of the Depression; it prolonged it until years after the war's conclusion. Militarizing the economy and drafting millions of men into the armed services was not "recovery"; it was again redirecting the economy to a command economy, complete with price controls and rationing. Or does Csongo agree with Big Brother that "war is peace"? Orwell, a socialist, had a better grasp of economics than does Csongo.

Whether or not Roosevelt was "naïve" about Stalin and the totalitarian nature of Soviet Russia doesn't relieve him of the responsibility of having surrendered half of Europe to the looting, raping, and destructive Soviets. Csongo does not even touch on West's main point of contention: that our foreign and domestic policies were established and enforced by fellow traveling communists in the government, who numbered in the hundreds, and by Soviet espionage, which began immediately after Roosevelt's diplomatic recognition of the Soviet Union in 1933. Our pre-war and wartime foreign policies, as West documents and argues, were guided and dictated by Stalin's ideological proxies in our government.

Yes, Europe was betrayed by Roosevelt, Harry Hopkins, Alger Hiss and a bevy of other Soviet and pro-Communists operating within the government – none of whom Csongo deigns to discuss. What was Roosevelt's attitude about the fate of Europe? He more or less said that the Europeans would just have to get used to the Soviet occupation. Does Csongo delve into Roosevelt's first priority, to save the Soviets from the Nazi onslaught? No. But Roosevelt said he'd rather hamstring our own military (even before we got into the war) and surrender Australia, Singapore and the Philippines than delay military aid to the Soviets. You would think that Csongo would be so startled by this revelation that he would at least have highlighted it. But, he remained silent.

His review is a puerile essay that could have been written by a brainwashed public high school student who has been taught by his teachers that FDR saved the day.

Quite the contrary. FDR left us a combined political, economic, and cultural legacy that poisons us to this day.

This is the lesson that Diana West imparts in her book, but which Csongo failed or refused to see. West began her project in an attempt to understand why our government is currently white-washing Islam – and, in fact, aiding and abetting its depredations and spread. She learned that this white-washing had a precedent in the white-washing of Soviet Russia.