Monday, January 02, 2012



"The issue which has swept down the centuries and which will have to be fought sooner or later is the people versus the banks"

- Lord Acton

I thought that the above quote from Lord Acton was the most appropriate for our times, even more so than his famous "power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely". Acton is very much like the Bible; often quoted but rarely read. In recent times conservatives have tried to claim him as their own, but the more intelligent denizens of the conservative world recognize that he was actually a classical liberal. Thus they hope to claim him for their so-called commitment to liberty which is more honoured in the breech than in reality. I know, I know. There are conservatives who actually have an ideological commitment to liberty, but in order to try and carry their views into politics they have been content to ally themselves with the most illiberal segments of society. In our times the example of liberals/socialists/anarchists allying themselves with Leninist thuggery are few and almost insignificant outside of the USA. What is not insignificant is the tendency for classical liberals/libertarians to ally themselves with social conservatives of varying degrees of thuggery. As Acton says;

"At all times sincere friend of freedom have been rare, and its triumphs have been due to minorities, that have prevailed by associating themselves with auxiliaries whose objects differed from their own; and this association which is always dangerous, has sometimes been disastrous, by giving to opponents just grounds of opposition."

-Lord Acton

I have already posted on Garry Wills' book 'Papal Sin' in which Wills, as a dissident Catholic, lays out the system of deceit that underlies the modern Papacy. The book is broad-ranging, going back all the way to Augustine versus Jerome, but one point particularly grabbed my attention. After his farcical attack on the modern world in his 'Syllabus of Errors' (1864) Pope Pius IX was not satisfied with the totalitarian control he had attempted to impose on the Catholic Church. His next step was a Church Council, Vatican I, that he plotted to have his "infallibility" recognized at.

To say the least Pius' manoeuvres were conspiratorial in this case, and he managed to have his declaration accepted even despite the fact that a majority either rejected it totally or felt that such a declaration was ill advised at the time. Here is where the Anglo-Catholic Lord Acton comes into the book, and it must be said that he had a more active historical role than that of a quote mine. Moving from country to country Acton solidified the opposition to Pius. In the end he failed, but the struggle was heroic. If there were only one reason to recommend 'Papal Sin' this glimpse into Acton's life would be it. The man was far more than the common quote from him. As Acton said of his opponents;

"There is no worse heresy than that the office sanctifies the holder of it."

I recommend the Wikipedia article on Acton highly as an enlightening glimpse into somebody who was far more than what he is remembered for.

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