Studying and reporting on America's role in the world

From the introduction of John Courtney Murray, Time/Life, and The American Proposition by David Wemhoff

Ideas have consequences as Richard Weaver observed in 1948.  Societies are ordered, organized and operated in accordance with ideas or principles.  Some of the more important principles are those that pertain to man’s nature and his relation to a higher power or deity or deities, the relation of the spiritual and the material, the relation of the individual to others, the nature of the state or government, and the economic system.  These principles or ideas recognize and establish a certain hierarchy of values which serve to define good and bad in a real sense for the members of that society.  The society known as America, and the political entity known as the United States, are not exceptions to these rules.

The Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution are two important documents that order American society and the institutions of the United States.  These documents are based on and reflect a set of principles, or political philosophy, and establish something called a political economy for American society.  The man perhaps most responsible for articulating or crystallizing the principles underlying and forming America was Thomas Paine (1732-1809), and he did so in Common Sense which first appeared on the streets of Philadelphia on January 9, 1776.  These principles, which I term the American ideology, consist of several main points.

First, government is evil, though a necessary evil, and society at large is good.  Hence, government’s powers must be limited and its primary purpose is to protect individual rights.  Second, the individual is the measure of all things and ethnicity is eschewed.  Third, religion is defined as worship and is a private and personal matter while government is there to keep it that way in the name of religious liberty or religious freedom.  Fourth, America is dedicated to the accumulation of material wealth and the satisfaction of worldly desires.  Finally, the American ideology is universally applicable as it is the way “to begin the world over again” and serves to give birth to a “new world.”

There are, and have been, several consequences to the implementation of this ideology.  First, spiritual values, or religious faiths, do not inform the policies or laws of government, or the civil authorities.  The result was the secular state, the first one in history, and that secularism was insured with the First Amendment’s “Establishment Clause.”  The secular state ultimately results in the secular society for the public comes to shape the private, and the higher comes to control the lower.  The secular state, or government, ultimately comes to control religion and the various religious groups as Catholic Bishop Josef Fessler (1813-1872), Secretary of the Vatican I Council, observed and called “heathen Caesarism.” (Appendix B contains a more detailed explanation of his ideas.)  This control, as this book helps show, consists largely of attempting to change doctrine or policy of the Church (and other religious groups), and influence the leadership of the religious bodies to endorse the American ideology.  Second, government policies tend to favor primarily, or mainly, the powerful private interests that are also protected in the name of limited government in their efforts to shape and control the culture and hence society.  With freedom of the press, the ability to shape thoughts, values and perceptions lie in the hands of private parties.  These private parties control society by exerting power through the various cultural engines they control (especially the press, media, and entertainment) or through the government over which they have inordinate influence.  In sum, under the American ideology, private parties come to control religion either directly or through the government.  Third, society becomes infused with, and oriented towards, material values or materialism.  Italian statesman and Catholic professor, Amintore Fanfani (1908-1999) explained that as materialism rises, spiritual values or faith declines and as spiritual values or faith declines, the capitalist spirit rises.  He explained that the capitalist spirit is a spirit of consumerism or a desire to acquire and enjoy an ever growing number of things.  The capitalist spirit seeks the reduction or elimination of hindrances to the spreading of that spirit, and that means the reduction of barriers to markets, the free flow of capital, and commerce.  Those best situated to gain from the capitalist spirit and its increase in society are the most powerful individuals or groups in society, usually the financial interests.  One of the barriers they seek to eliminate is a state established church and a state-established religion because these things hinder their ability to pursue the accumulation of wealth and power.  Hence, even greater importance is given to the concepts of religious liberty, which means the individual chooses how he or she wishes to worship, and the separation of church and state, which means religious beliefs are not to form the basis of public policies.  Other barriers targeted for elimination by the wealthy private interests are ethnicity or any other group not authorized by these elites.  (Appendix A contains a more detailed explanation of Amintore Fanfani and some of his ideas key to this book.)

The American ideology is part of Liberalism, or Anglo-American Liberalism.  It is part and parcel of the Enlightenment.  If people accept it as good, several things happen.  First, they organize or reorganize their societies to be like America.  Second they accept as good American ideas, ideals, policies and actions in the world thereby aligning themselves with the political entity known as the United States and opened themselves to American influence.  Third, they adopt the American worldview and came to look at themselves and the world itself in terms devised by the Americans.  Fourth, they spread American ideas and ideals.

The Americans had been on the march for a long time, but by the 1940s they had the motive, means and opportunity to take their ideology around the world.  To do that, they recruited, among others, the religions of the world.  One of the more important religions was the Catholic Church which has a presence in every country if not practically in every province or town.  The US Government, ostensibly in response to the threat posed by Soviet Communism, formalized a program of Doctrinal Warfare that aimed to establish America as good in practice and in principle in the hearts and minds of the people of the targeted societies.  To that end, it relied heavily on the American Proposition which consisted of a set of ideas devised during the early days of the Cold War by Jesuit John Courtney Murray and his good friend Henry R. Luce, media mogul and founder of Time, Inc. which had close dealings with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).  These ideas justified as good in principle, if not as the ideal, the ideology, with its underlying political philosophy, which gave rise to the American system of social, political, and economic organization, and thereby placed power in the hands of powerful private interests.