Wednesday, September 05, 2007

The Blue Wound - part IX - retrospective; Isolationism and today's world; New Deal, Jeffrey Tucker

Check here for parts I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII and VIII of the Blue Wound live blog.

As I wrote earlier, I am glad that I read Blue Wound slowly. I have met many people that have read the large novels of Ayn Rand. Most of them tell me that they read the whole book (Fountainhead or Atlas Shrugged) within a couple of days. I began to realize that those who blast through these books that quickly are missing a great deal. They forget the point of the books. The books become little more than one more book that they read one day years ago. The books are forgotten and their message is lost.

Garrett's books are much shorter than Rand's, but they present their own problems that require slow absorption. Garrett's philosophy is impossible to pigeonhole. While many authors want to use Garrett as a weapon in today's political battles, the true story is not so simple. It is not common to find such a staunch opponent of the New Deal that also happens to be an isolationist. The very concept of isolationism is not simple to define. Isolationism does not mean that the U.S. should never fight a war. Nor does it mean that we should never fight on foreign soil. It does mean that we should remain independent in every way - economically, militarily, etc. Isolationism and "anti-war" are not necessarily the same thing.

Isolationism is neither the concept that has been demonized by today's conservatives nor the concept that has been hijacked by today's leftists. In fact, many of today's leftists that hasten to flee from every war would also be the first to subjugate ourselves to the U.N., foreign treaties, foreign governments, etc. The same leftists hasten to weaken our economy and destroy our domestic industries with minimum wage increases, environmental legislation, union friendly policies, high taxes, etc.

Garrett truly is an orphan in today's political spectrum. But it was not always so. Garrett's philosophy, as expressed in Blue Wound and elsewhere, has its roots as far back as the founding of this country. But because it cannot be easily pigeonholed in today's false political dichotomy, it takes more than one book (and more than one author) to fully grasp the concepts. As an example, It takes reflection, study and time to realize that it was proper to support America's fight in the cold war while also remaining an isolationist.

Many free market advocates are uncomfortable with Garrett's negative treatment of international trade. But they overlook the fact that Garrett's writings are not really a proposal for specific policies, but a description of consequences of present policies. Garrett seeks to understand history and the future through fictional scenarios. Whether we advocate particular policies or not, we should not dismiss Garrett's scenarios.

The main item that limits the usefulness of the Blue Wound is the event that intervened ten years after Blue Wound's publication. The New Deal was the largest single step in the U.S.' march to tyranny. Overnight, the government went from a simple republic to an empire. (See "The Revolution Was" for details.) In some cases, the New Deal accelerated the problems of which Garrett warned. In some cases, the New Deal dwarfed those problems. To the extent that Blue Wound (or any other pre-New Deal Garrett writing) attempted to predict the future, the New Deal stands as a prism that distorts the image projected from those writings to our eyes. It is a pity for us that Garrett did not write novels post New Deal. [American Story and A Time was Born come close to filling this role.] I would have enjoyed a novel that presents the New Deal as an allegory or a parable.

Jeffrey Tucker has expressed some concerns with Blue Wound's analogies and its failure to isolate those problems that result solely from government action:

I suspect that this early in his career, Garrett wasn't quite as alert as he would be later to the distinction between the state means and the economic means.

To the extent that such concepts were blurred in Blue Wound, the New Deal's arrival ten years later forced Garrett and other writers to face and define such distinctions much more clearly.

My advice to anyone that is interested in Blue Wound is to read it, absorb it and let its ideas ferment in your mind for an indefinite period while pursuing other reading on isolationism and the America's march toward tyranny. You will eventually find the proper context for the ideas from this and other Garet Garrett books.

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At October 25, 2007 at 11:26 PM, Blogger Mark said...


Thanks for your postings here.

I am a home school Dad with 3 kids ages 8-15. We read aloud as a family most nights and I am considering reading one of Mr. Garrett's books next. Of those you have read, is there one you would recommend to start with? I have access to all of them, so availability is not an issue.

Thanks in advance for any guidance or advice you might be willing to offer. Unless I hear otherwise, my plan is to begin with Satan's Bushel sometime next week.

At November 1, 2007 at 11:42 PM, Blogger The Cassandra Page said...

Thank you for your comment. I apologize for not responding sooner. I would appreciate knowing how you have access to the Garrett books, as they are all very rare. I am also interested in learning how you found my blog. I hope you will check back from time to time, as I intend to post more reviews in the coming months.

Satan's Bushel is an excellent choice. The Driver is a more traditional novel with a more conventional plot. That one may serve as a better introduction for your children than the esoteric novels such as Satan's Bushel or the others. You might also want to look at Bruce Ramsey's introduction to "Salvo's Against the New Deal." That introduction contains brief summaries of all of Garrett's works. Whichever one you choose, after you are finished, give it time to sink in before you move on to another Garrett book.

[When it comes time to teach your children about the causes of the Great Depression, be sure to read "The Bubble that Broke the World."]

At December 11, 2007 at 4:29 PM, Blogger VikingRaider said...

I've really enjoyed reading the Blue Wound, and would class it as a very insightful book, predicting as it does that Japan will clash with the West at some point, and that Germany will be once more resurgent and that this war would be settled by technology such as fearsome bombs capable of destroying cities.

Anyhow, I disagree to a certain extent that Garrett failed to understand the power of government to interfere, especially in Chapter 5: The Wages of Thrift, where the masked individuals of a village deal with their most hardworking member in a way that sounds very similar to how governments often treat their hardest working members of society. The fact that they are masked and acting as group suggests government to me, since they are acting in a way they would never act as individuals.

Also, the final chapter with the shout of ME-R-E-D. Does the splitting of these letters imply a clue?

Magnificent book, I've done the Blue Wound and The Driver. What do you recommend next?

At December 12, 2007 at 1:44 PM, Blogger The Cassandra Page said...

I still can't figure out the meaning of ME-R-E-D from the final chapter. If you have any thoughts, please let me know.

I agree that Garrett was fully aware of the dangers of government. I like your analogy of the masked men from chapter 5. Garrett obviously had a thorough understanding of history and how government could get out of control. But my point was that no one predicted The New Deal. The New Deal was not merely a raw exercise of government power. It included an intellectual movement that turned tyranny almost into a science or a type of religion for the first time in history. Garrett was writing 10 years prior to that revolution and he tended to be less focused than he would become in the 1930's.

The Foreward to "People's Pottage" makes that point strongly. In that Foreward, he writes of the intellectual forces favoring socialism as loose pebbles scratching at the foundation (only to be collected in a coordinated wave concurrently with the New Deal). My own theory is that because the socialist forces were loose and disorganized prior to the New Deal, then so were the forces in opposition to Socialism.

If you haven't read "People's Pottage," I highly recommend that work. That is the book (actually the first few pages) that got me hooked on Garrett almost 25 years ago.

Thanks for your feedback.

At April 4, 2008 at 6:55 AM, Blogger VikingRaider said...

Hello again,

Do you know which of Garet Garrett's books are in the public domain? By my reckoning, The Blue Wound and The Driver definitely both are, but then later books such as The Bubble that broke the World may well be too.

Reason being, I have a small publishing business and I'd love to bring these books back into print as completely new typeset editions but with unaltered text.

At August 24, 2008 at 3:09 PM, Blogger The Cassandra Page said...

Sorry for my delay in responding, as I have neglected this blog for a while. I believe that all of Garrett's novels are in the public domain at this point. Some of them have been republished in the past year. The Bubble that Broke the World probably might not fall in this category, as that book is composed of reprints from the Saturday Evening Post. Bruce Ramsey of the Seattle Times might have more insight on this matter, as he has reprinted many of Garrett's Post columns in book form over the past 6 years. I would be happy to help in any way in publishing these books. Feel free to contact me at my e-mail address.


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