My interview with author John Horvat II about his new book "Return to Order."
Virginia Gentleman: You mention in your book about the problem of "Frenetic Intemperance." Could you explain what you mean by that?
John Horvat: We have an economy that is constantly working itself into a frenzy that I call “frenetic intemperance." I use frenetic intemperance to describe a restless and reckless spirit inside certain sectors of modern economy that favors a drive to throw off all legitimate restraints and to gratify disordered passions.
Frenetic intemperance is not just greed and ambition, but an explosive expansion of human desires beyond traditional and moral bounds. It leads to economic activities where people resent the very idea of restraint and scorn the spiritual, religious, moral and cultural values that normally serve to order and temper economic activity. It creates an almost irrational element that enters into and destabilizes the economy and leads to frantic dealings, speculation and exaggerated risks.
You can’t solve this economic problem by legislation, regulation and planning. It’s a problem deep inside the soul of modern man. The only real response to frenetic intemperance is a corresponding return to temperance.
Virginia Gentleman: What is an example of frenetic intemperance and how does it cause social imbalance?
John Horvat: You need only look back to the 2008 subprime mortgage crisis. It’s a textbook example of frenetic intemperance and we have not yet recovered. Here you have a case of home buyers who took out loans without the means to pay for them; bankers who extended loans to people they knew or suspected could not afford them; brokers who took these bad mortgages and turned them into securities; high-return-seeking investors who snatched up these securities or betted on them, believing the government would bail them out. Everyone threw caution to the wind and as a result the whole system almost came down. As of Nov. 30, 2012—four years after the debacle of Lehman Brothers—RealtyTrac states that over 1.5 million U.S. homes are in foreclosure proceedings while Lender Processing Services claims another 1.58 million, while not in foreclosure, are in arrears 90 or more days.
One of the aspects of frenetic intemperance is that it throws all society out of balance. It tends to undermine social institutions like the family, community, State and Church. This has the effect of diminishing those natural social restraints that normally temper economy and make it human by keeping it within bounds.
With this frenetic intemperance, we also see the quickening of the pace of life, the erasing of the human element from economy so that we’re always talking to machines and keeping up a machine-like pace in life. People have been reduced to cogs, so to speak, in a giant economy.
Frenetic intemperance takes the warmth of human interactions out of economy. It makes life brutal by taking out the moral aspects. It is part of the reason why communities have broken down. When people communicate more on their cell phones than face-to-face, you don’t have the relationships you once had. It takes away what economists call “social capital.” That is to say, we are losing the idea of community where people are linked together with the bonds of confidence and trust that allow an economy to work in a smooth and human way.
Virginia Gentleman: I have always believed that America is a right of center country, but after last election I am not so sure anymore. Has America lost her conservatism and moved to a big government European view?
John Horvat: I think we must make the distinction between a traditional country and a conservative country. In the context of Western nations like our own, a traditional country holds to its Christian roots and founding principles. It sees these principles as a wellspring and foundation in face of all the crises that the nation may face.
A traditional society tends to develop a family-like spirit that unites in face of adversity and make them disposed to sacrifice in favor of the common good. I believe that there are many Americans that vaguely sympathize with this view of the nation but they have not articulated their position adequately. It is what Richard Weaver referred to as primitive conservatism which articulates very little, does not discern issues, and fails to produce leaders in the battle of ideas.
There is the second position of a conservative nation, which in Return to Order is described as a nation organized like a cooperative or shareholding company. In times of prosperity, people show great enthusiasm for this nation and desire to conserve a cooperative union to continue reaping personal benefits.
Such a position tends to be conservative since its partisans desire to conserve the present situation. They react to anything that threatens the security of their prosperity. And so, our political situation is like that of people in a boat. When one political party makes the boat lean too far to the right or left, the natural tendency is to balance the boat and lean in the opposite direction to keep the boat from swamping. I think many co-op Americans do this in elections .They vote to keep their co-op afloat. They elect a right or left-leaning government and change them when they perceive their positions threaten the stability of the co-op boat.
The weakness of this co-op conservatism is that in difficult times, people tend to become quarrelsome and, as conflicts worsen, people just abandon this cooperative union since it no longer provides benefits. I think we see this reflected in the present polarization. It only underscores our need to return to a Christian order.
Naturally, the more secure position is the first, more traditional one, since it bases itself on principles and holds firm regardless of the winds that blow. It leads to the formation of a Christian organic society. The second, the co-op option can very well lead us to an economic collapse.
Virginia Gentleman: Does your book, Return to Order, provide a path to reverse our crisis and offer solutions for the future?
John Horvat: If by reversing the crisis, you mean turning the clock back to the prosperity and relative stability of the fifties, the book does not do this. In fact, it points out the “frenetic intemperance” that existed back then and which prepared the way for the present crisis.
The book does, however, offer solutions for the future by outlining the foundations of an organic Christian society that tempers and orders economy. It explores the refreshing and creative ways in which economy can be run without frenetic intemperance or big government.
Virginia Gentleman: Out of frustration many Americans are considering secession. Is that a wise or necessary move?
John Horvat: It is wrong. I can understand the angst and frustration of many conservatives. However, I take issue with secession since it seems to be me to be a way not to confront the core issues but to run away from the problems. It reflects something of the mentality of those that see America as a cooperative union which provides wonderful benefits in good times but can be abandoned in bad times like a shareholder that sells his stocks.
There is nothing wrong with love of one’s native state, but the love of country is given to America. Despite its shortcomings, it is our native land with a common history, economy and culture. When realizing that there are those with an agenda who would destroy our country, our reaction should not be to abandon America in its time of need but to come to its aid. Our attitude should be “love it and not leave it.”
The real solution is to identify and address the problems afflicting society. What we need now is not political divisions but unifying principles that will bring us back together and help us weather the huge crisis that looms upon the horizon. We need a return to order that will allow us to find organic, not artificial, solutions to the very real problems that plague us.
Virginia Gentleman: Many pundits say Republicans should move to the left on illegal immigration, and embrace gay marriage. Do you think that would be wise?
John Horvat: Obviously not. Abandoning principles only leads to ruin. America is a country of immigrants, but we are also a country built on the rule of law. Like untold countries everywhere and throughout history, we have always held that government has the right to control the influx of immigrants in order to safeguard and advance the common good of the nation. Embracing same-sex “marriage” destroys the family as the basic social unit and is a recipe for disaster. We can gauge how morally decadent things our society is when we consider that prior to our days, no country ever—not even pagan Greece or Rome—ever legalized same-sex “marriage.” Principles not polls should determine policy. Return to Order explains how we can both affirm timeless principles and offer an enormous variety of applications that adapt to the circumstances.
Virginia Gentleman: How can someone buy your book.
John Horvat: Return to Order will only be available in early February, but we are taking pre-sales of the book at a 30 percent discount (plus free shipping). You can take advantage of this offer and order the book now by visiting the book’s website at www.returntoorder.org. I invite everyone to visit the site, watch the videos, and sign up for a free bumper sticker and the weekly e-newsletter. The site also has a “Join the debate” page with ongoing discussion of current events and the topics broached in the book.
Virginia Gentleman: Thanks John. I have ordered the book, and can't wait to read it.