A Tribute to Mr. O and the Bonds of Western Pennsylvania

By Nick Deiuliis

Movie fans marvel how actors on the big screen are famously linked within six degrees of separation from Kevin Bacon.

Western Pennsylvania is far from Hollywood, both geographically and culturally. It’s been home all my life, a place where the connections and relationships run wide and deep. A place where everyone is connected not by six, but only by a degree or two of separation.

In western Pennsylvania communities, the good fortune of one is often enjoyed by many, and someone’s misfortune is willingly shouldered by many. We look after each other as extended family. A big, boisterous, dysfunctional, loving clan of yinzers.1

And no one epitomized the essence of these exceptional people more than “Mr. O.”

I first met Mr. O when I was 13 and his house sat at the beginning of my route that I tended as a paperboy. The street he and I lived on was a long line of modest ranch and split-level homes neatly kept by no-nonsense, middle class, blue-collar types. Real people living normal lives.

He was a good tipper, a trait this old paperboy never forgets. Mr. O was one of those rare adults who could put a teenager at ease while keeping it clear who was boss.

Mr. and Mrs. O had two daughters who I went to school with, the older a year ahead and the younger a few years behind. The girls and their friends would hang out with my friends and our brothers and sisters. When I traded the paper route for another job, and graduated high school to move onto college, I may have from time to time ended up in Mr. O’s backyard at night with friends, sipping adult beverages and playing music.

All that socializing through the years led to wonderful things. Before you knew it, one of my best friends ended up dating Mr. O’s younger daughter. Their wedding ended up being a reunion of the same group of people from decades earlier in that South Hills backyard on my old paper route; just older, better dressed, and less fit.

Mr. O sadly lost his wife too early, but never moved. His girls lived close by (that’s Pittsburgh for you). His home enjoyed a few updates to the exterior through the years, but it still looked much the same as it did in the mid-1980s: happy, neat, and reflecting pride.

A few years ago, I was back at the old childhood homestead working in the front yard when Mr. O drove up in his vintage 1960s-era Volkswagen Beetle. He stopped and as was his custom, started to chat. As I watched him drive away, I experienced an incredibly strong sense of déjà vu, back to 1986. And it felt good.

I continued to see Mr. O each summer at a July picnic party his daughter and my old friend would throw at their house. It was evident Mr. O was taking full advantage of the little things in life. He couldn’t be happier.

Then news came down about a month ago that Mr. O wasn’t doing well. His health took a turn for the worst, and it wasn’t looking good. Thankfully, he was resting comfortably at home.

I asked the family if it would be ok for me to stop by and visit, and one sunny spring afternoon I made that familiar drive of a few miles, parked the car on my old street, and walked up those steps to Mr. O’s front door that I traversed daily for years as a teen delivering newspapers.

‘C’mon in’ I heard after knocking on the screen door. In I went and there in the living room was Mr. O, reclined in a hospital bed. ‘Hey, Nick! Why aren’t you at work?’ That was classic Mr. O and so…Pittsburgh.

We talked. About everything. How he met his wife. His time in the army. All those clean-ups after storms when he worked as a utility lineman. I found out he and I both hailed from the Mount Washington neighborhood of Pittsburgh before we moved to the South Hills, albeit he made the move south as an adult about twenty years before I did as a kid.

Mr. O knew his time was short. But he was grateful for his long journey. He was happy his kids were married to good men. He was content with his eighty-five years of living a genuine life.

Two days after my visit, Mr. O passed away.

Reflecting on the man and his life, I think I stumbled on what he meant to me. He wasn’t a mentor I looked to for advice. He wasn’t a father figure or friend as much as a friend’s father.

Mr. O, when it is all said and done, was a role model.

He showed how to live a complete life. A life not measured by awards, scores, or account balances; but one measured by being comfortable within your own skin and being content with your decisions.

Next time I drive down my old street, as is often my habit, I will come to the house at the start of my old paper route. The old Beetle won’t be in the driveway, the house exterior might wear a different color, and the new owners will be strangers. But to this old paperboy, that house will always remain Mr. O’s home.

Whoever said you can’t go home again sure as hell wasn’t from western Pennsylvania.2

1. yinzer (noun) – a native or inhabitant of the US city of Pittsburgh in western Pennsylvania. “I walked over to a table of yinzers and instantly felt at home.”
2. Apologies to one of my literary heroes, Thomas Wolfe.

Harvesting History: Farmer Activism is Democracy’s Early Warning System

By Nick Deiuliis

Elites have a long history of looking down on and patronizing the working classes. It’s a sad social truth that extends back to America’s founding. Europe’s history of confrontation between the two classes stretches back centuries.

Today’s elites labeling the working class as Deplorables, Flyover Country, and Bible-and-Gun-Clingers is nothing new. It seems the more things change in America and Europe the more they stay the same.

You see the self-perpetuating dynamic with perhaps the original working-class demographic: farmers.

One of America’s first confrontations between the working class and elites was western Pennsylvania farmers initiating the Whiskey Rebellion during George Washington’s presidency. Indeed, farmers have a proud history of being first within the working class to confront excessive government control and elites looking to disenfranchise citizens.

And true to form, farmers across Europe are once again raising the alarm for the rest of society when it comes to loss of individual rights and constriction of liberty. Because the Left, the radical environmental theocracy, and the bureaucrat just can’t stop messing with society’s doers.

With so much at stake, a refresh of farmers’ movements in the United States and a discussion of the current farmers’ uprising in Europe is warranted.

American Farmers: A History of Political Activism

The latter half of the 1800s saw American farmers achieve a new, higher level of political activism that had national implications lasting to this day.1 It all started with disruptive technology.

The 19th century brought unprecedented economic advancement and groundbreaking technology, combining to drastically affect industry and agriculture. Steamships and railroads were game changers.

Along with new, advanced machinery and growing foreign trade, they disrupted everything across the American economy, from the factory floor to the farm field.

But net-net, manufacturing and urban areas benefited much more from the innovation and economic revolution than agriculture and rural areas. The individual farmer and small town were especially hard hit. Cities got bigger, industry became more profitable, but individual farmers found themselves struggling more.

Despite the innovations, farming still lacked scale. And competition was global when it came to demand and pricing for crops. Farmers were affected by global developments out of their control for revenue but had costs set by an inefficient local or regional market. The worst of both worlds created a financial pinch of low, at-risk revenue and high cost.

Adding to the farmer’s difficulty was a reliance on credit and a run-up in debt. As well as having to carry the risks of crop storage and transportation, lease rents for land, and speculators preying on micro-markets.

Indeed, the American farmer was facing seemingly impenetrable headwinds in the latter half of the 1800s.

Farmers decided it was time to unite and become activists to support their cause. Initially they looked to the labor movement in larger cities as the model to follow. The industrial labor unions were posting some impressive successes, so why not copy the playbook?

But farming is not the same as, say, coal mining or steelmaking. Thus, farmers quickly realized they would need their own brand of activism.

Just after the Civil War, the Patrons of Husbandry, also known as the Grange, appeared in the rural South and West.

It was the first national political movement for farmers—focused on setting rate caps on rail rates, which were a key point of contention and major financial risk for farmers in the South and West. The organization is alive and well today, with a Washington, D.C. headquarters and roughly 1,700 local chapters across America’s farming communities.

I feed you all!” lithograph by American Oleograph Co., Milwaukee, 1875.
(Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division)

After the Grange came the Greenback Party, focusing on addressing the problems of currency and inflation that troubled farmers. The party advocated for a break from the gold standard, fiat money, and a cheaper dollar, reflecting aspects of today’s modern monetary theory, or MMT. It was hoped that such an approach would grow farm revenue while making debt more manageable.2

Although the Greenback Party ran presidential candidates over three national elections (1876, 1880, and 1884), it wasn’t very successful politically. But it was quite successful in calling attention to the shortcomings of the US monetary system.

Around the same time of the Greenback Party, the Farmers Alliances in the Northwest and South were created. The idea was to unite farmers, becoming a force in established party politics and taking on the Gilded Age. The Southern Alliance focused on commandeering the dominant Democratic Party by electing candidates to run for state offices and for Congress. While in the Northwest, the Farmers Alliance started to behave as a separate third party that was populist.

The fourth and most impactful farmers movement was the Populists, centered in the West and also having support in the South. It was known as the People’s Party, the Populists, or the Populist Party. Lack of rainfall got things moving as drought devastated farmers in the Plains in the late 1880s and farms began to fail.

Farmers felt that business interests of railroads and bankers were contributing to, and feeding off, their plight and wanted to do something about it. That started a passionate movement, with followers preaching populism. The People’s Party candidate for president, James Weaver, won 22 Electoral College votes in the 1892 election, winning four Western states outright and winning electoral votes in two others. The party eventually merged into the Democratic Party in the next presidential election of 1896.

Although the People’s Party ultimately died, many of its ideas lived on. Subsequent policies in the coming years affecting conservation, trusts, railroads, and banking trace roots back to the populism of the farmers in the late 1800s. Including the creation of the Federal Reserve and many of President Teddy Roosevelt’s positions and accomplishments.

Europe’s Farmers Rise Up in 2024

The American farmer acting up in the late 1800s shares a lineage to European farmers acting up in 2024. Despite over a century and an ocean between the two, the movements have much in common.

Indeed, history is once again rhyming. Because today’s European farmers find themselves under siege by the arrogant elites.

Farmers are protesting across Europe. Spain, UK, Italy, Greece, Hungary, Netherlands, France, Portugal, Belgium, Germany, and Poland; from Ireland to Romania. It’s become a truly pan-European movement.

Videos populate the internet of tractors and convoys of farming equipment blocking roads. Clips abound of farmers dumping wine and feed in front of government buildings.

And the protestors aren’t just the farmers in these nations, but also organizations that are affiliated with farmers and agriculture. These institutions have joined what was originally a grassroots protest and morphed it into something bigger and better organized. The movements are starting to win elections, from the local to the national, as seen in the Netherlands.

Typical of governments run by elites, the continent’s bureaucracy is making things worse and not listening.

For example, Spain issued thousands of sanctions or violations against citizens under its Orwellian Citizen Security Law (commonly referred to as the Gag Law). Yet Barcelona was still brought to a standstill by the protests. And Spanish farmers dumped wine in front of a municipal water authority to protest water restrictions.

Italy saw 1,600 tractors poised to enter Rome. A Milan protest saw a cow join in the march. Italian farmers were angered by the expiration of an income tax exemption. Italy’s Prime Minister ultimately relented and agreed to not let the exemption expire.

Greece is experiencing protests everywhere, with a major highway to Athens blocked. The Netherlands got things rolling on the continent with the Farmers Citizens Movement.

Germany is an especially interesting case. The government desired to camouflage the cost of climate policies by using pandemic emergency funds to fund its forced energy transition. Nice idea, but the courts deemed it unlawful, reasoning quite correctly that climate change is not Covid. So, the government decided that the climate policies would continue and that the cost would be offset by removing diesel fuel subsidies to German farmers.

Following the increased costs to farmers from all the other climate polices within the German net zero nightmare, the removal of the subsidy was the last straw. It stripped away the pretend veneer of the myth that net zero plans don’t hurt anyone. German farmers reacted; roads were blocked, from Munich to Berlin, and the world viewed images of farm tractors blocking the approach to the iconic Brandenberg Gate in Berlin.

Farmers protest at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, Jan. 15, 2024.
AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi

European politicians are finally paying attention and assuring that they feel for the farmers being victimized by the EU bureaucracy and the elites who run it.

Enter the Spin of the Elites

With the farmer protests undisputedly in plain view for all to see, those looking to divert attention from the root cause jump into spin mode.

Mainstream media and politicians caught off guard by the agrarian working-class protests now blame five root causes for catalyzing these protests: climate policies, inflation, food imports, the urban-rural divide, and economic inequality.

Which is sort of true, but not entirely. Because only the first item, climate change policies, is the true root cause. The remaining four are symptoms of those climate policies. Much like the farmer protestors themselves.

Certainly, the European Green Deal is wreaking havoc on European farmers. One of the primary objectives of climate policies is to make it uneconomic to farm, to provide food, and to eat. At least without government support and approval.

A goal of climate policies is empowering the bureaucrat and the state to dictate what one eats and how much. Under the false flag of saving the planet and the pleasant-sounding optical cloak of ‘sustainable farming.’

Farmers understand climate policies will soon eradicate them, just as such policies initially targeted (and are on their way to eradicating) the fossil fuel industry, power grid, and gasoline-powered cars across Europe. But the farmers aren’t taking this lying down; they refuse to make the same mistakes the complacent domestic energy industry, autoworkers unions, and consumer advocates made when allowing the radical environmental movement to roll over their interests.

What about the other cause of the protests identified by the elites: inflation, food imports, the urban-rural divide, and economic inequality?

Of course, the cost of living and inflation are up. Natural gas costs are up and so is fertilizer cost, which requires natural gas as a feedstock. Farming requires carbon-based energy and products like just about everything else in a modern economy. Thus, if you create energy scarcity while inflating energy costs through climate policies, you do the same for the inputs of farming. Farming soon becomes uneconomic.

The European mainstream media point to inflation and pin it on Russia invading Ukraine, which increased energy costs. Or the media blames drought, caused by (you guessed it) climate change, as raising costs.

Climate policies enabled Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and catalyzed general inflation. And yes, somewhere in Europe, right now, there will be drought. And somewhere in Europe, right now, there will be floods. It is a large continent, after all. But change in weather isn’t causing the existential plight of farmers or inflation. Despite media and academic experts wanting it to.

Farmers are hurt by food imports, but that is yet another symptom of climate change policies that dictate who makes and uses what on a global scale. Nations and the private sector within national economies ultimately lose autonomy under all variations of climate policies, from domestic energy industries to the domestic providers of food.

Climate policies are designed to make European-grown food too expensive. Which then has the desired effect of creating food scarcity. The food supply shifts from mostly European to mostly foreign providers, with Europeans now having to look to places like North Africa and Ukraine. Not exactly geopolitically stable places to get your dinner from.

Then there’s the popular elite excuse of the rural-urban divide stoking these protests. Which is ironic.

It’s not that urban elites don’t care about rural citizens. The government bureaucrat and the experts care greatly; the problem is they care about placing the rural, or what we call Flyover Country here in America, in economic chains and assigning them to a life of reliance on the state. Is it any wonder that rural Europeans tend to be more Euroskeptic? They are more astute than the urban elites give them credit for.

And when it comes to economic inequality, that fifth and final excuse proffered by the media as a cause of the farmer protests across Europe, one is hard pressed to think of anything that is a more regressive tax and regressive value appropriator than net zero plans and climate change policies.

Net zero plans radically catalyze income inequality. Like these other red-herring issues, the media wants to label economic inequality as a root cause of the farmer protests. Yet economic inequality is a symptom of the singular, true root cause: climate policies and their net zero scams.

Where Do Farmer Protests Go From Here?

One should be quite optimistic regarding the implications of European farmers standing up for themselves. Wider society stands to benefit three ways.

First, the farmer protests secured shorter-term successes when political leaders in nations such as France and Italy backed off planned moves that would’ve hit farmers disproportionately and that would have increased the cost of food. That’s created an incentive for farmers in other European nations to join the movement. Which is why the protests quickly spread across Europe, why they’ve extended into March and will likely continue. What’s good for the farmer is good for the consumer and the overall economy.

Second, the reaction of the farmers to climate change policies created a deterrent for European politicians and bureaucrats—forcing them to think twice before unleashing additional and similar draconian moves on other sectors of the European economy and society.

As they’ve done for centuries, the farmer has provided a great service to a host of others. This time their resistance and advocacy for common sense has stymied the consequences of climate policies for countless businesses and families.

Third, the farmer protest movement is winning elections, from the local to national level, as seen in the Netherlands. Candidates opposed to economy-killing climate policies trounced leftist parties obsessed about climate change, Code Red, and irreversible state control of the individual.

Despite these realities, a complicit media is still trying to cover for the bureaucrat in Europe. The overwhelming political upheaval and protest by farmers is precipitating a disingenuous discussion about who pays for climate change policies and net zero plans.

Which is nonsensical to debate, because everyone pays for climate change policies and net zero plans in a modern economy. It is not a question about who pays. Instead, it comes down to how transparent will the costs that are being borne by all be brought to light, and how soon.

Do people wake up before reaching the point of no return? Or do the policies become so embedded within an economy and society that it doesn’t matter what happens once society awakens?

European farmers have performed a noble duty for all Europeans. Following a rich history of American farmer movements. Let’s hope the current protests serve as both a moral and economic alarm clock to wake up society to the threat of climate change policies. Before it’s too late.

1. In the 1930s, historian John D. Hicks was a leading voice on populism and farmer movements.
2. It didn’t work then and it won’t work now.
3. Climate change is nothing new; been happening for millions of years.

Revisiting On Liberty: Magnificent Guide in Troubling Times

By Nick Deiuliis

The year 1859 was eventful. Construction on the Suez Canal began, Darwin published The Origin of Species, John Brown raided and was subsequently executed in Harpers Ferry, Colonel Drake drilled the world’s first oil well in Pennsylvania, and Charles Dickens published A Tale of Two Cities.

Yet for classic liberals and libertarians, the year marked another significant milestone and a cause for celebration: the philosopher and economist John Stuart Mill published On Liberty.

The masterpiece was an attempt by Mill to balance the safeguarding of liberal rights with utilitarianism (the greatest good for the greatest many).

On Liberty presents a powerful case for maximum individual freedom, so long as others are not directly harmed by the individual’s actions.

Mill famously states, “The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others.”

Today the Left tramples the individual. Society desperately needs a refresh of On Liberty.

On Liberty’s Core Premises

In a democracy, how does one protect the people from a government of themselves? How does one protect the minority from the majority?

Mill recognized that in a republic or a democracy, the tyranny of the majority can deny the rights of the minority or dissenter. Individuals can easily be oppressed within a climate of collective opinion and by values that may be popular but that haven’t been critically tested.

Mill presents a simple, powerful belief. The individual is not accountable to society for actions if they concern the interests of no one else. Society is free to express its dislike for the views or actions but should not suppress the individual from expressing or acting.

Suppressing individual action cannot be justified because it would be for the individual’s supposed own good. The individual decides and chooses what’s best, and speaks freely, because freedom of speech and thought is requisite for individual freedom.

Only when the individual’s actions directly harm others is the individual justly subjected to social or legal punishment, and only if society feels such are needed for its protection. That doesn’t mean that damage to the interests of others alone justifies interference. Competitive commerce yields winners who gain and losers who suffer loss. Society or the state does not have the right to impede or interfere in such endeavors.

Louis Brandeis would famously sum up On Liberty’s core premises with: “The right to be free is the right to be left alone.”

The Key Question

Mill asks how much power society can legitimately exert over an individual. That simple question has confounded and divided for eons.

Just because a government is elected by citizens and its representatives are from the people, does not mean threat to individual liberty is absent. Political power can be used by one class to coerce another. And it doesn’t matter if the oppressor is a king or an elected president/legislature.

Mill highlights that government should not coerce the individual even when the majority agrees with government. If everyone save for the single individual were of one view, they do not have the right to suppress the opposing view/desire of the single individual any more than the single person has the right to suppress the view/desire of everyone else.

At times, society can be more oppressive to the individual than even government. And there is a potential massive societal cost to suppressing individual thought and action: the beneficial results that would’ve catalyzed, inspired, and advanced society but for the oppression are not realized.

But libertarians and classic liberals recognize some rational level of rules of conduct are needed in a stable society. Throughout history, societies debated where the best balance was to be found across a spectrum of possibility.

On Liberty in America Today

On Liberty is timely and strongly correlates to contemporary issues, as evidenced by the following critical thoughts and insights offered by Mill:

Collective feelings should never trump reason when setting the level of individual freedom and dissent in society.

Serving as a great reminder every time the radical environmental movement shrieks ‘denier’ to silence those daring to voice dissent.

The only situation where coercion of the individual (whether stopping them from doing something or compelling them to do something) is justified, whether by government or society, is to prevent direct harm to others…The individual is sovereign over themselves, in body and mind, and denying such means society oppresses.

I wonder how Mill would feel about vaccine mandates today? And interestingly, you can see both sides of the abortion debate latch on to Mill’s premise to justify and bolster their stance.

Mill sees altruism as the enemy of liberty, and that forcing others to be like you so they may better themselves is anti-liberty.

That sounds like something out of an Ayn Rand essay.

Suppressing an opinion robs not just the individual expressing it, but also society from hearing what might be truth. If the suppressed view is not true, it prevents society hearing the falsehood disproven so that society becomes more assured of truth.

Think of today’s suppression of opinion by the expert class, social media, and Anthony Fauci of gain-of-function views with Covid.

Mill uses religion as an example of why society should not suppress individual rights. Societies and its majorities can be passionate about religion. Yet religion is typically assigned at birth and by coincidence as to where and when one is born. Not because it is the religion that has been proven to be the right one.

Today’s efforts to force an official religion by the Right (requiring school prayer) or to shun certain religions by the Left (institutionalizing the mocking of Christianity) threaten liberty.

There is a big difference between thinking something is true because it has not been disproved by dissent versus thinking something is true to justify oppressing dissent to it.

When Al Gore or John Kerry speak of the need to censor climate ‘disinformation’ on social media and the web, they fail to heed Mill’s sage advice.

Sometimes society or government wrongly protects certain beliefs from critique not because they are true, but because they are deemed important.

The current battles over ‘woke’ culture are a perfect parallel to Mill in 1859.

History shows the law is used to destroy noble individuals and their noble ideas. The noble individual died, but the noble ideas lived on. We laud Socrates but his society and law put him to death for what was thought as a sound reason at the time: daring to dissent. The same is true for Jesus, who was killed by society and the system because he was different from the norm, and most everyone thought it sound judgement.

Marcus Aurelius was a great man, espousing virtue, yet he persecuted Christians who were displaying the very behavior he espoused. It made sense to the Romans but looks illogical today. Mill challenged the reader: if they think they are wiser than Marcus Aurelius to go ahead and persecute what they are convinced is wrong and that society agrees is wrong.

Unfortunately, many today feel confident enough to do so. Today, we condemn those who killed Socrates and Jesus, but we might be making the same mistakes.

Truth is often defeated by persecution, truth doesn’t always prevail, and the same truth can be killed over and over.

Consider the myriad of energy transition myths forced upon economies today: zero carbon electric vehicles, reliable wind and solar power, low-cost battery storage, etc. Reality is now helping to expose these myths and may eventually resurrect scientific fact. But in the meantime, truth is murdered over and over.

Individuals lose moral courage when society suppresses free expression and dissent, which is a huge price to pay for preserving the intellectual status quo. Free thinkers must camouflage ideas by blending them in with safer concepts.

That’s what many contemporary business leaders do when speaking on controversial issues where they disagree with the majority view. In public they speak in vague code while in private they speak bluntly and transparently. Many decline to speak at all.

Great thinkers must follow their intellect to logical conclusions, and if society wants to know all it can, it must allow all to be published and accessed.

Thus, the Left censoring on social media or the Right banning books is wrong-headed.

The worst offense for society is holding individuals with opposing views as immoral.

Sadly, today’s ideological thought police offer too many examples to list.

Society benefits from genius, but genius requires individuality and freedom. Everyone appreciates genius in art. But many disdain contemporary genius that disrupts political, economic, religious, or scientific status quo and power.

Consider how many thought-leaders today run risk of being labeled fascist or reputationally ruined the moment they dare to diverge from the majority consensus or elite ideology.

In politics, public opinion rules, not the free thinker. That often leads to mediocrity and policy paddling in wrong directions for too long.

Heed this every time you hear that ‘the science is settled’ or ‘experts agree’ when it comes to policy prescriptions.

Nonconformity requires social and institutional tolerance, and if the state blindly follows public opinion, progress is held back.

Remember when our universities served as the marketplace of ideas to nurture nonconformity and progress? Now academia rigidly worships the religion of the Left, with the ivory towers serving as the churches and the professors as the priests.

Society will reach a tipping point where diversity of thought can’t survive.

The Left’s indoctrination across education, media, and government makes diversity of thought a rare attribute of modern society.

Many consider as an injury to themselves conduct that is distasteful or hurts feelings, which then serves as justification to suppress. Moral police are used to encroach on the liberty of the individual.

Mill predicted today’s microaggressions, speech codes, and triggering found on campuses.

Using a social right to suppress an individual right is a dangerous threat to freedom and can falsely justify suppressing personal liberty.

The environmental justice movement, vaccine mandates, and disinformation censoring campaigns are examples of such dangers.

Attempts by the state to bias the views of citizens on disputed subjects are evil.

We must be living in incredibly evil times when one considers the ‘whole of government’ effort thrown at the so-called existential threat of climate change, draconian pandemic shutdowns, and open borders.

America Desperately Needs an On Liberty Redux

Mill could be contradicting in his thoughts and publications. He could be controversial and prejudiced.

But On Liberty, in totality, is a brilliant illumination on the importance of the individual to thrive. Conformity leads to decline of civilization.

Tyranny of opinion kills eccentricity, innovation, and progress.

Government should refrain from acting in arenas where the individual acting is superior. And even if individuals may not do something particularly well, it is superior to government action because the individual grows capacity and capability by doing.

Capitalism serves the individual and commerce is a social act. Thus, restriction on trade is wrong, and only a few discrete exceptions justify such restraint.

Restricting the interference of government avoids the danger of unnecessarily growing government power. Mill points out that if the roads, railways, banks, universities, and charities become effective extensions of government, even a free press and a sound constitution would be ineffective in preserving freedom.

He also worried if core businesses fell into the control of government, everyone would look to government for direction and decisions. And the ambitious would want admitted into the bureaucracy of government.

In such a situation, even the president and Congress become slaves to the bureaucracy. Which is what we see today: the modern bureaucracy’s ‘resistance’ to a combative Trump, ignoring the plain language of Congress, and puppeteering an oblivious Biden.

Toward the end of On Liberty Mill reminds us that the worth of the state in the long run is the worth of the individuals composing it. The state that suppresses the individual and makes people small-minded will yield no great accomplishments.

Perhaps it’s time that the individual once again reigns supreme in the United States of America.

It’s Time: Five Baseball Greats Deserving Spots in the Cooperstown Lineup

By Nick Deiuliis

Listening yet again to Billy Crystal and the rest of the geriatric New York-centric elite wax on endlessly about how great the 1950s were for baseball is exhausting. If I have to hear about Willie, Mickey, and the Duke one more time, my head is going to explode. We get it: New York City had three teams back in the day and they all had great players.

My generation knows the greatest of eras in baseball history was the 1970s and early 1980s. Epic dynasties, compelling rivalries, and memorable stars. The best time to be a fan, especially a young one, no matter where in America you called home.

Major League Baseball is the stingiest of pro sports when it comes to allowing entry into its Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. Last year only one individual, manager Jim Leyland, was inducted. And there have been nine years when no players were voted in.

That leaves deserving players on the outside looking in. Most troubling are greats who made their names during the 1970s and early 1980s, and whose window for conventional induction has closed.

Blame those who never played the game but are self-anointed experts at judging those who did: journalists.

Getting into Cooperstown under the standard track requires 75% of the Baseball Writers Association of America to vote to allow it. Media can block any player for any reason. And it does.

There are five players who ruled the 1970s through much of the 1980s that deserve a second look by Cooperstown. Ones that didn’t gamble on the game (by the way, he should be in, too) and that predated the steroids era. They performed at a high level over long careers, with the five resumes ranging between 17 and 20 years.
Consider their cases and ask yourself how Cooperstown is complete without them.

Keith Hernandez (aka The Boyfriend from Seinfeld’s 3rd season)

Hernandez clearly checks more than a few boxes for Cooperstown.

An accomplished winner over his 17-year career. Two World Series titles for two different teams, first the Cardinals and then the Mets. Batting title the same year he was league MVP (1979).

A great contact hitter, finishing just shy of the career 0.300-mark for batting average (he bested the 0.300 threshold in seven seasons). And Hernandez had a great eye in the batter’s box, amassing over 1,000 career walks at a rate of nearly 15% of at-bats. Although he only managed 200+ hits one time, he reached base 250+ times eight different seasons.

Many consider Hernandez the greatest defensive first baseman in history. He won eleven consecutive Gold Gloves at the position. He has 1,682 career assists, third all-time. He single-handedly took away the option of bunting. A player in any sport should be in its Hall of Fame if they were the greatest ever at a key aspect of the game.
Hernandez sports an impressive, Hall of Fame-worthy 60+ Wins Above Replacement (WAR) that reflects his all-around strengths and attributes.

There are two criticisms of Hernandez that contribute to him remaining on the outside of the Hall of Fame looking in. First, he lacked power expected for his position, hitting only 162 home runs over 17 seasons. Cooperstown likes first baseman noted for the long ball. Second, he was one of the players caught up in the Pittsburgh drug trials, with his cocaine use catching up to him.

But this is the National Baseball Hall of Fame, not the Clean-Living Hall of Fame. And the game of baseball consists of more than the home run. Get Hernandez in there.

Dave Parker (aka The Cobra)

During the 1970s, Dave Parker stood above everyone on the field, literally, at a towering 6 feet 5 inches tall. And weighing in at 230 pounds, Parker looming in right field or rounding the bases toward home was an intimidating sight to behold. He would warm up in the batting circle with a sledgehammer (following a practice employed by teammate Willie Stargell).

Add to his physical presence key achievements: two titles with two teams (Pirates and A’s) and a league MVP award.

The Cobra got his nickname from his coiled stance and unleashed strike from the left side of the batter’s box. He was capable of inflicting massive damage with his bat, as his two back-to-back batting titles attest. He could hit for power, amassing over 300 career home runs and nearly 1,500 RBIs, both at impressive at-bat rates. And he could hit for average, finishing with a cumulative 0.290 batting average and over 2,700 hits.

And despite his size, he had impressive speed early in his career. His over 150 stolen bases over 19 years are easily the highest of any of our five induction-worthy players.

Parker won three Gold Gloves, and base runners learned quickly to think twice before testing his arm from right field. Just watch the highlight video of his two legendary throws in the 1979 All Star Game for exemplars; throws that earned him the game’s MVP award. His defensive play tapered off drastically later in his career, but in his prime he was about as electric as it got in right field.

So, what’s keeping a player who passes the eye test out of upstate New York? Parker’s WAR is respectable, at just over 40, albeit not Hall of Fame-caliber. His relatively low walk rate might have detracted from his WAR score (by way of comparison, Hernandez amassed almost 400 more career walks despite having nearly 2,000 fewer at-bats).

Like Hernandez, Parker succumbed to drug issues during his career. He also enjoyed a level of confidence that came across to fans as arrogance, and becoming the first million dollar-a-year athlete in Pittsburgh and then under-achieving at a time when steel mills were being shuttered left and right didn’t help his image.

Fortunately, Parker rebounded from his struggles and today serves as an inspiration for those suffering from Parkinson’s disease. And anyone who had the pleasure of watching The Cobra knows Cooperstown is not complete until his name is in it.

Steve Garvey (aka Mr. Clean)

If you would ask just about any player or sportswriter circa 1982 if Steve Garvey was destined for the Hall of Fame, they would have answered in the affirmative. He was amassing the necessary stats, he played on great teams in a big market, he accomplished the career milestones, and he had the image.

If you doubt that to be the case, consider a Sporting News poll of National League managers in 1986. Garvey came up fifth in the answer to a question about which players would deserve a Hall of Fame plaque if their careers came to an end right away. The only names in front of Garvey’s: Pete Rose, Steve Carlton, Mike Schmidt, and Nolan Ryan.

Over 19 seasons, Garvey accumulated one hit shy of 2,600 hits and finished with a career batting average of 0.294. Garvey reached the 200-hit mark in six seasons, something achieved by 13 other players in history at the time of Garvey’s retirement. All 13 are in the Hall of Fame, except for Pete Rose. And Garvey had good power, hitting home runs at an impressive per-at bat rate.

Garvey was a very solid fielder, winning four Gold Gloves at first base during an era when Keith Hernandez was stringing eleven Gold Gloves in a row at first base in the same National League.

But what makes Garvey most deserving of the Hall of Fame are his career accomplishments beyond the traditional stats. He won a title with the Dodgers in 1981, beating the hated Yankees. He was a league MVP. His playoff performances earned him National League Championship Series MVP, twice. And he was a perennial all-star, winning the MVP award for that game, twice.

But here is the most impressive accomplishment of Garvey’s that not many appreciate: he is the all-time National League iron man. Garvey sits fourth on the all-time consecutive games list, behind American Leaguers Ripken and Gehrig (and lesser-known Everett Scott), making him the National League iron man, with over 1,200 consecutive games played. That streak, spanning nine seasons, exceeds the next closest National Leaguers and legends: Billy Williams and Stan Musial.

Garvey’s career produced a WAR of only 38, below the Hall of Fame norm. A contributor was his desire as a hitter to swing away instead of taking a base on balls. In fact, Garvey has the lowest walk ratio of any of the five on this list. He placed a premium on RBIs at a time when that was the norm.

And some critics hold Garvey’s personal drama later in his career against him. Probably because it was in stark contrast to his polished image. But consider what gets ignored today: celebrated stars despite allegations of domestic-abuse, excessive philandering, and exhibiting boorish behavior toward fellow humans.

Garvey certainly wasn’t perfect off the field, but his faults were quite mild by today’s standards. His stats get him close, and his accomplishments put him over the top. Time for Cooperstown to call.

Al Oliver (aka Scoops)

This is probably the most surprising name of the five when it comes to Hall of Fame consideration. But Oliver had an incredibly impressive career that was overshadowed by bigger names on his great teams or that unfolded in ignored baseball backwaters.

He won a World Series with the 1971 Pirates. That championship team during the ’71 season would enjoy an outfield of Willie Stargell in left, Oliver in center, and Roberto Clemente in right. Talk about a field of dreams, as well as a pitcher’s nightmare.

But then Oliver was off to the Rangers and Expos. Six seasons in total. Yet moving from great lineups with the Pirates Lumber Company to lesser ones to the south and north didn’t hurt Oliver’s offensive production. It improved.

Scoops was a great contact hitter and is the only player of the five that broke the 0.300 mark for career batting average. Oliver has the most career hits of the bunch, at 2,743. His power was good. He won the league batting title in 1982 with the Expos.

Oliver is an interesting study when it comes to Hall of Fame inclusion. He wasn’t an exemplary fielder, never having won a Gold Glove. He didn’t walk enough, similar to the popular criticism of Garvey. And his WAR of just under 44 is lower than that of most players who landed in the Hall of Fame.

But there is a sadly ironic aspect about Oliver’s story that is crucial when considering his Cooperstown credentials. His career was effectively cut short due to baseball ownership colluding to keep him off a major league roster toward the end of his career (which was legally affirmed and resulted in Oliver being awarded damages). His career ended from boycott, not diminishing on-field performance.

If he was given the chance to play out his career to the extent his abilities allowed (especially as a designated hitter), it is safe to say he would have surpassed the 3,000 hit mark. Which would make him a sure-fire hall-of-famer because those with 3,000 career hits that are not in the Hall of Fame are either not yet eligible, are tainted with steroid abuse, or are named Pete Rose.

Major League Baseball’s restitution to Oliver will not be complete until he is in the Hall of Fame.

Dwight Evans (aka Dewey)

Perhaps we saved the best and most surprising for last with the case for Dwight Evans. He played on great Red Sox teams and was oft overshadowed by stars like Yaz, Rice, and Fisk. Evans spent 19 of his 20 years in the major leagues with the Red Sox; he is second on the all-time games played list for the Red Sox, surpassed only by Carl Yastrzemski.

Three attributes place Evans in the Hall of Fame discussion.

First, he had great power. His home run-per-at bat is easily the best and highest of the five up for consideration. Dave Parker is next best and is a distant second to Evans. Evans didn’t start out as a great hitter; he was viewed more as a defensive specialist who then worked himself into being a great hitter.

Second, he had a great eye as a batter and his career walks tally proves it. He accumulated nearly 1,400 career walks, at a rate rivaled only by Keith Hernandez within the group of five. Evans is an impressive combination of power and eye.

Last, he was excellent with the glove in the field. Eight career Gold Gloves don’t happen by accident or luck. His arm in rightfield was matched only by Dave Parker’s, and Parker could only do so in his prime.

All three attributes contribute to Evans’ excellent WAR of over 67, the highest of the five deserving players. That tally is beyond respectable for Hall of Fame inclusion, better than Duke Snider’s (take that, Billy Crystal!) and just a tad under Ernie Banks’.

Evans’ argument for entry to Cooperstown is simple. His case isn’t the what-if of Oliver, or the eye-test of Parker, or the resume of Garvey, or the greatest-ever at some aspect of Hernandez. He was incredibly consistent with his strengths, and those strengths over twenty years constructed a great career case.

Take all the names, videos, and awards away. Leave only the numbers. An objective baseball afficionado will look at Evans’ career stats and wonder how such a player is not in the Hall of Fame. The answer remains elusive.

The Illusion of “The End of History?”: Unraveling Fukuyama’s Miscalculations

By Nick Deiuliis

Today the world is trembling with international strife. Russia continuing its brutal grind in Ukraine, Iran funding terror and disrupting Mideast shipping, Israel facing down dual terror threats of Hamas and Hezbollah in Gaza and the Golan, Venezuela massing along its border with Guyana to invade for oil, North Korea opening another nuclear reactor and firing ballistic missiles, and China signaling to everyone that an invasion of Taiwan is imminent.

The geopolitical gameboard is blinking red, with a new Axis of China-Russia-Iran plotting and building hegemony to counter and ultimately destroy the West.

Meanwhile, Western leaders dither and blabber with hollow phraseology that lacks tangible action. Worse yet, those Western elites insist on focusing more on the abstract fear of future climate instead of the tangible danger of present actors. The West fights with itself, where its once-proud institutions and values are systemically overturned and uprooted by our supposed leaders.

A 1989 Root Cause to What Ails the West in 2024

How did our elites and experts arrive at such a state of ineptitude? How did they not see this coming? And why do they continue to behave as paralyzed ninnies as troubling events unfold, one after another?

Thank a person few outside of elite foreign policy and political science circles have heard of: Francis Fukuyama. He is a noted geopolitical analyst, who has done it all in his field, from serving as an advisor to Muammar Gaddafi to being a thought leader for the US neoconservative movement.

In 1989, Fukuyama published his now famous essay, whose title was in the form of a question: “The End of History?” Fukuyama posited that the geopolitical fight between freedom and totalitarianism was over, that right prevailed over wrong, and that classic liberalism reigned supreme and unchallenged.

“The End of History?” influenced many a policy and leader through the years; it was fundamental to the thinking of everyone from Bush the Second to Obama to Kerry to whoever is running foreign policy in today’s White House.1 It was widely accepted as sage and the authority on how one should view geopolitics.

And that was quite unfortunate. Because the core premise of “The End of History?” has proven to be hogwash.

Contrasting the Expert Prediction and the Current Reality

Consider key excerpts from the influential 1989 paper and then contrast them with reality in early 2024. Doing so exposes the danger of Western elite arrogance, smugness, and overconfidence and their bad consequences.

The paper’s opening paragraph starts with a key sentence: “The past year has seen a flood of articles commemorating the end of the Cold War, and the fact that ‘peace’ seems to be breaking out in many regions of the world.”

What is breaking out across the world today? Iran developing nukes, Hamas manufacturing terror, North Korea firing missiles into international waters, Russia annihilating Ukraine, state-sponsored terrorists disrupting global shipping lanes, and China prowling Taiwan. Is that peace breaking out? Or more like the late 1930s when the Axis Powers were aligning and gearing up?

Fukuyama wrote of “ideological violence, as liberalism contended first with the remnants of absolutism, then bolshevism and fascism, and finally an updated Marxism that threatened to lead to the ultimate apocalypse of nuclear war. But the century that began full of self-confidence in the ultimate triumph of Western liberal democracy seems at its close to be returning full circle to where it started: not to an ‘end of ideology’ or a convergence between capitalism and socialism, as earlier predicted, but to an unabashed victory of economic and political liberalism.”

Do you feel that classic liberalism is alive, well, and winning—in Putin’s Russia or the Ayatollah’s Iran? Is the free market running on all cylinders in Xi’s China? To posit such today is laughable.

Fukuyama saw much of history and conflict stemming from a war between ideologies. Which is true. Then and now. But here’s what Fukuyama misjudged: he argued that the rival ideologies to republican democracy, the West, and capitalism were dead. Vanquished. Beaten.

Fascism and communism were supposedly wrecked and ruined. The first, fascism, was literally ruined by World War II bombs, both conventional and nuclear. And the latter, communism, was assumed to be destroyed by, for lack of a better term, Westernization and liberalization of places like China and Russia.

Fukuyama was dead wrong about communism and socialism being slain.

Once you assume the alternatives are gone, then it’s not a big leap to declare what Fukuyama proposed: that it’s the end of history, as we knew it. In his words: “That is, the end point of mankind’s ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government.”

That assessment was tragically mistaken. The Left might have been on the ropes in the late 1980s and 1990s, but it was far from the point of surrender. And now the Left and its ideologies have Western civilization on the brink and on the ropes.

If you seek perfect examples of how bold statements that might feel good to say then, or enjoy popularity then, can age incredibly poorly, consider these snippets from “The End of History?”:

“…the appeal of communism in the developed Western world, it is safe to say, is lower today than any time since the end of the First World War.”

It was not, and is not, safe to say that.

And: “…those who believe that the future must inevitably be socialist tend to be very old, or very marginal to the real political discourse of their societies.”

Fukuyama should visit an Ivy League campus these days and see what ideological vibe he picks up from students.

There is an interesting pair of sentences on China sitting in proximity in the essay: “…the past fifteen years have seen an almost total discrediting of Marxism-Leninism as an economic system.” And “But anyone familiar with the outlook and behavior of the new technocratic elite now governing China knows that Marxism and ideological principle have become virtually irrelevant as guides to policy, and that bourgeois consumerism has a real meaning in that country for the first time since the revolution.”

Fukuyama should’ve checked with Chairman Xi first. Marxism and the Left are the things that matter most in China today. By cold, calculating design of the elite there.

Epic Miscalculations of China and Russia

Fukuyama was all-in when it came to the once-popular Western elite view that China would simply Westernize itself once it saw how great of a system we had. That China would become a ‘responsible stakeholder’ among enlightened nations.

He wrote, “…the pull of the liberal idea continues to be very strong as economic power devolves and the economy becomes more open to the outside world. There are currently over 20,000 Chinese students studying in the U.S. and other Western countries, almost all of them the children of the Chinese elite. It is hard to believe that when they return home to run the country they will be content for China to be the only country in Asia unaffected by the larger democratizing trend.”

Too bad it was hard for Fukuyama to believe that. Or for Wall Street and DC. Or for Republican and Democratic presidents. They all believed it. And every one of them got it decisively wrong. It wasn’t until Trump, that threat-to-democracy despot, that the West started to wake up. Yes, the crude-angry-narcissist-megalomaniac of social media got right what all the experts got wrong, at least when it came to China.

It gets worse for the aging of China musings from “The End of History?”

Consider: “The central issue is the fact that the People’s Republic of China can no longer act as a beacon for illiberal forces around the world, whether they be guerrillas in some Asian jungle or middle class students in Paris. Maoism, rather than being the pattern for Asia’s future, became an anachronism, and it was the mainland Chinese who in fact were decisively influenced by the prosperity and dynamism of their overseas co-ethnics – the ironic ultimate victory of Taiwan.”

It is painful to read that in 2024, to where one feels embarrassed for Fukuyama. The CCP, the Left, and communism are beacons today for nations with the Belt and Road Initiative; they run the curriculum across Western higher education and elite academia; and they fund chaos when it benefits them, from Ukraine to Israel.

And Taiwan victory? It doesn’t even officially exist in corporate brochures and on foreign office maps. And it may not actually exist by year end, or whenever China decides to move on it.

On Russia, Fukuyama was just as bad with his predictions. He wrote that Russia was reforming and that it was moving toward a society where “…people should be truly responsible for their own affairs, that higher political bodies should be answerable to lower ones,…that the rule of law should prevail over arbitrary police actions…that there should be legal protection for property rights, the need for open discussion of public issues and the right of public dissent…and of a political culture that is more tolerant…”

Did Putin smile to himself or outright laugh when he read that? And be certain that Putin has read Fukuyama. As has Xi. The Left studies its enemies and is always probing for weakness.

Fukuyama took to task those who said the fall of the communist state USSR would lead to a more nationalistic Russia led by a strongman. He wrote: “The automatic assumption that Russia shorn of its expansionist communist ideology should pick up where the czars left off just prior to the Bolshevik Revolution is therefore a curious one.”

Not so curious now, just ask Ukraine and eastern Europe.

He had the same view with China not going aggressive. He proclaimed, “Chinese competitiveness and expansionism on the world scene have virtually disappeared: Beijing no longer sponsors Maoist insurgencies or tries to cultivate influence in distant African countries as it did in the 1960s.”

Proof positive that Deng Xiaoping’s mantra of ‘hide your strength and bide your time’ was effective in lulling Western elites like Fukuyama into a foreign policy coma.

The opening paragraph of the essay’s conclusion does a great job of summarizing the failure that is “The End of History?” and its apostles with China and Russia policy:

“The passing of Marxism-Leninism first from China and then from the Soviet Union will mean its death as a living ideology of world historical significance. For while there may be some isolated true believers left in places like Managua, Pyongyang, or Cambridge, Massachusetts, the fact that there is not a single large state in which it is a going concern undermines completely its pretensions to being in the vanguard of human history. And the death of this ideology means the growing ‘Common Marketization’ of international relations, and the diminution of the likelihood of large-scale conflict between states.”

Today’s darkening world serves as a decisive rebuke of Fukuyama.

What Filled the Supposed Vacuum in the West?

If the United States was truly a unipolar power and it was indeed the ‘end of history’, then something had to replace the old way in the West.

How we should behave in the end of history era was a big question. A vacuum needed to be filled. Ironically, the very ideology Fukuyama said was eradicated: communism, socialism, the Left, was what filled that vacuum of values in the West.

The Left superimposed its value system on the West once experts and elites like Fukuyama assured and convinced everyone that communism and socialism were dead. That China and Russia would surely start behaving like us.

What did the Left fill our culture and values with? Well, it is rigidly secular. To the point where it becomes not just ideology, but a new religion. Strangely, secular purity morphs into a religion. With true, ardent believers.

Some call it postmodernism. Its foundational pillars are evident with the big ideas and movements of today. Three stand out.

First, it manifests in the expert class demanding that the global/universal issue takes primacy over national/local issues. There is an ethical duty and responsibility to put yourself, your community, and your country behind and secondary to what is best for the public good or the planet or humankind. The select few decide what best serves the global/universal, of course.

This leads to things like unbalanced globalization and open borders. Consider the open border issue these days. Texas, of course. But also, Italy. And even, of all places, Finland, on its border with Russia. The Left use open borders as an effective divisive tool.

A second notable manifestation of the value system of the Left is a religious fervor on Code Red and climate change. Where the planet is in peril and we all must take a back seat with our interests and place in life to tackle climate change. Climate alarmism looms so large these days, touching everything, that it deserves to be placed as its own foundational pillar of the Left’s new ‘end of history’ toolkit.

The third manifestation is a cleansing. Not an ethnic cleansing, but a values cleansing. Orwellian in many ways. Wiping away, erasing, vilifying, and, yes, canceling the prior values of the West, of capitalism, of the individual and their rights, and of America. Ignoring science to the benefit of ideology. Replacing factual history with subjective fiction. There are many current examples; you know them well.

Hope?

The epic transformation that Fukuyama predicted was a complete misread. A historic blunder that influenced more historic blunders by those in power who believed it and set policy from it.

The good news is certain thought leaders are calling for a tipping point, where the skewed values that the Left injected into the vacuum created by the “End of History?” crowd are exposed and the West turns against them.2

Carry healthy skepticism about such predictions. Today the Left hasn’t just injected the new values into this ‘end of history’ time, the Left is also running all the wheels of power and influence in the West necessary to keep such ideology in place, fed, and protected.

Academia indoctrinates on behalf of the Left. Indoctrinated minions leave the campus quad and enter the halls of government and corporate America where they end up leading both and setting policy for the former. And many of those minions end up in what has become the ministry of propaganda for the Left: mainstream media.

Yes, have doubts about the tide turning now for the better. It may get worse for America before improving. And let’s hope that prediction ends up being as wrong as Fukuyama’s in 1989.

[1] One example of many: President Obama in 2013 while on a trip to Russia proclaiming an end to the Great Game and how nations now realize no one “benefits from that kind of great-power conflict.” Russia invaded Ukraine six months later.
[2] Gerard Baker of the WSJ is an exceptional thought-leader in this arena.