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Dr. Larry Arnn Continues To Preview Churchill’s Trial

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HH: Welcome to the last radio hour of the week with hurricane-threatened Washington, D.C. swirling about me. I’m pleased to talk to Dr. Larry Arnn, president of Hillsdale College, snug as a bug in the middle of Nowhere, Michigan. Actually, he’s in Hillsdale, the lantern of the north. You can read everything you need to know about Hillsdale College at You can subscribe to the newsletter of the college, Imprimis, for free by going to You can listen to all of our now three years’ worth of Hillsdale Dialogues at And I have to begin, Dr. Arnn, by asking you a question that only college presidents can answer, and it’s a sad one. We had another mass shooting at a college yesterday. And I wonder whenever one of these comes about, and they occur with an unusual frequency in our society, and we should talk about why that happens. What goes through your mind as the parent in absentia to these young men and women who are in your charge?

LA: Oh, we worry about that kind of thing a lot. And so we drill for it every year here. And we’ve never had an act of serious violence against the students that I can think of, and pray that we never will. And also, we don’t beat each other up very much. But we, you know, the way you get that is you cultivate it, right? You recruit the right kinds, and you try to teach them right, and you try to conduct yourself well as best you can.

HH: What do you put down the incidents…after Columbine, I thought this would rise, but then after 9/11, I was correct in predicting it would go away as people became serious. And now it’s been 15 years since 9/11, and they’re back rising again.

LA: Well, it’s, these people are crazy, remember.

HH: Or ideological. Some of them have been, like Major Hassan, radical Islamists.

LA: Yeah, yeah.

HH: Others have been haters.

LA: As I say, as I say, crazy.

HH: Crazy. But some of them have been haters like the Charleston, he was a white supremacist. So sometimes, they’re ideological, and sometimes, they’re schizophrenic, crazy people.

LA: Yeah, yeah, and but in some sense, crazy, because you know, not very many, I used to, a friend of mine named Joe Bisset was in the Meese Justice Department and got really good at the crime statistics. The number of people who would deliberately, physically harm a stranger is pretty low, but there’s a number of them. Now the number of people who will kill a bunch of strangers at one time is many fewer than that. And they’re nuts in some important sense of the term. They’re just crazy.

HH: Yeah.

LA: And because why, you know, that’s just a heinous act, especially, by the way, because the people who are being, you know, why would you work at a college? So I could work somewhere else if I wanted to. The charm of the young is very great. You know, their potential, think what they’ll be. You get to watch them grow up. And to go snuff that out? That’s just offensive in the sight of the Lord and man alike. And some people will do that.

HH: How many years have you been the president of Hillsdale?

LA: 15.

HH: So you’ve seen 20 year olds become 35 year olds.

LA: Yeah.

HH: So you’ve seen them enter into their middle years, into their productive years. That’s got to be very satisfactory, and also make you very aware of that potential.

LA: I said to an old friend of mine who’s retired, and I’m giving him a job so he can do some teaching, and I said you’re going to have to learn how to do it, and you probably won’t be very good at it. In fact, it’ll be humbling for you. But I said you can spend the rest of your life instead of being honored for all the great work you did, which gets boring in a hurry, you could make yourself some new sons and daughters. And he said how many do you have, and I said I don’t know, 50, maybe. And you know, just the other day, there’s one of them, I’m not going to tell you who it is, but one of the finest people I ever met in my life. And he’s sick. And he’s not fatally sick, and he’s going to have his life, and he’s going to do fantastic. But he’s kind of sick, you know. And I just saw that and I just thought my heart just breaks when I think of that. You see, and so then think how distorted one would have to be to go harm a bunch of people like that.

HH: Yeah, you would.

LA: You can’t do that.

HH: Now I have to ask you a Churchill question that precedes my Pope question which precedes my Churchill questions. And so I’m laying out for you, because Mr. Murnen every week asks me what I’m going to ask you about, and every week, I give him approximation, but it is only that, an approximation. I was teaching this week from the History of the English-Speaking People about Plassey and Clive, and 17 to 1 odds and mowing them down, and how India was acquired by an accident of mind, actually, but how the Brits did so with technology and discipline. And you have mentioned to me often that Churchill saw firsthand what technology did. As he wrote that, do you think he saw that theme seeps into the book about how technology just made every modern battle a killing field?

LA: Well, you know, at the time of Clive, not so clear that that’s what it all was. There was also a strategy and organization, and Clive was some kind of a genius. But sure, of course he thought that. And he thought, you know, when you have a battle, and people hack each other with swords, with the best will in the world, they can only do so much damage, you know?

HH: Yup.

LA: Your arm gets tired, right?

HH: And they had a four hour cannon aid at Plassey. That’s a lot of shells.

LA: I got in an argument on the road this week with a very intelligent grown up in front of a big Hillsdale bunch, and I said, and he said it doesn’t change war, he says. War has always been the same. The principles are enduring, and they can never change. And I said okay, let’s say it’s 3,000 years ago, and 11 guys, however many there were on 9/11, decide that they’re going to go and assault New York, and they train and they carefully assemble the greatest weapons they can find, and they arrive in Manhattan holding clubs.

HH: You know, everyone who goes on the road with you should speak with me beforehand, actually, about some arguments they don’t want to make.

LA: I said you know, let’s say, you know, at the end of a week, how many are they going to have killed, right? But they didn’t use clubs.

HH: Wait, what was his response.

LA: They used something bigger than that.

HH: What was his response? There is no response.

LA: Okay, okay.

HH: He changed the subject.

LA: (laughing)

HH: He changed the subject. You see, you lose more debating partners that way, Dr. Arnn. They don’t come back. All right, now to question one which I did tell young Mr. Murnen I was asking you. The Pope and Archbishop Chaput went to Independence Hall, and they both gave a speech. And my favorite framer, Alexander Hamilton, was praised by the Archbishop. But all of the signers of the Declaration got the good words from the Pope, and he didn’t bring up the Constitution. What did you make of those speeches?

LA: Well, away the best. So I read your article about them, too. And let me now interpret you to your audience.

HH: (laughing)

LA: (laughing) So first of all, Hugh, you may know, is a Catholic. And I’ve already explained how that’s like being a general. You don’t really have to follow all the orders, but you have to treat them like orders.

HH: Yes.

LA: And so Hugh was dying for the Pope to say something that was fully acceptable. And so the minute the Philadelphia speech happened, Hugh sprung to it, right?

HH: (laughing)

LA: (laughing) And…

HH: Oh, that’s, am I that transparent? I guess I am.

LA: Yes, very clear, very clear, right? And so it doesn’t matter that I agree with you, which I happened to do. It’s just that it’s so great to see. It’s so funny.

HH: And not just me, but millions of Catholic who were sighing in relief.

LA: Sigh of relief. Yeah, okay, there is a good one now, so maybe we’re one for three. There is a good one.

HH: Yes, there is a good one.

LA: It was very good, too. It was beautiful. And the truth is, finally, if what you’re trying to do is serve the God who is the source of the rights of man, that God, right? We’re not talking about Moloch here, who demands that you sacrifice your babies to him, right? this is the God who loves you, who creates you in His image, and who establishes your rights with a divine authority. There are two kinds of people in the world – ones who recognize that, and that means they’re all serving the same end, and the ones who don’t. And that means they’re enemies. And the Pope put himself on that side in Philadelphia.

HH: Yeah, he also said, and I quote for the audience, never forget what happened here two centuries ago. Don’t lose the memory of that Declaration which declared all men and women are created equal, endowed by their Creator with rights which governments exist to protect and to defend. And he did it from a lecturn used by Abraham Lincoln to deliver the Gettysburg Address. Somebody was thinking hard about this, Larry Arnn.

LA: Yeah, I’m telling you. Not only did he do a good job, but he better darn to it if he gets the privilege of standing there using that podium and giving remarks. He’d better have done a good job, and he did.

HH: And he did. What about Hamilton being held up? Some of my conservative friends are upset with Archbishop Chaput, but I point out Alexander Hamilton was a legal immigrant to the United States. And indeed, he did bring immense gifts to our birthing and our early adolescence.

LA: That’s right. You know, Hamilton is, yeah, you’ve got to like Alexander Hamilton. My favorite founders, Hamilton is, what is he, he’s one of the three. And I wouldn’t elevate anybody above George Washington, because that would be wrong, Hugh Hewitt. But you know, Hamilton and Madison, wow, they both made important and great contributions.

HH: They’re on either side of the great man.

— – – —

HH: And now there is a new book. Dr. Arnn has a new book which releases on October 13th, but you can order now, Churchill’s Trial: Winston Churchill And The Salvation Of Free Government. It is listed on Amazon under the category of political leadership, which I quarrel a little bit with, but the people at Amazon shelve what they shelve where they want. I would put it under biography, and under politics, and under philosophy. How would you categorize it?

LA: It’s a study on statesmanship, I guess.

HH: They don’t have that as a category, though. There aren’t many studies in statesmanship. I guess you could put Plutarch in there, but what else?

LA: Yeah, well, you know, anybody. You know, Churchill’s, Malrborough, for example.

HH: Yeah.

LA: To name a better think than my book, that, you know, yeah, that’s great. So yeah, I’m, as I say, I’m enjoying the last few days before anyone has read the book, because I can say whatever I please about it. But it’s coming out soon, and if people buy it, by the way, you should know, that the Hillsdale College is going to make any money that I make on it. It’s going to the college. And I hope I make hundreds of millions for that reason.

HH: Are they going to offer an autographed copy from Dr. Arnn for a premium, which makes you sit in your office and sign stacks of books, but Richard Nixon used to do that.

LA: Yeah, I’ll do that happily, if it’s good. And I hope that, you know, I mean, any author would like for the book to sell. I would like for people to be intrigued by Churchill, because becoming so is a more serious way to ask the question we’re all asking – where are all the statesmen, and who should be the next president of the United States. Everybody, Democrats and Republicans, are asking that question. Here’s somebody that I argue was really great at it. What was he like?

HH: And really great at it in the face of three trials, not one. And if you have read the Introduction, this week, I’m focused on the Introduction. I’m going to paint in broad strokes here so that other, I’m not going to do your work for you. You have to go and read this excellent book, and it’s beautifully written. But in Churchill’s Trial’s Introduction, Dr. Arnn lays out that he had three trials really – the trial with the Nazis, the trial with the Soviets, and the trial with the leftward drift of the West. And what’s interesting, Dr. Arnn, although everyone is acquainted with the first, and most with the second, not many are acquainted with the third, but it actually came first.

LA: It did, yeah.

HH: Let’s talk about that. When did he become aware that everything was shifting on its axis?

LA: The earliest evidence that I know of is in 1898. And he talks, he puts a socialist in a novel, his only novel, called Savrola. And the socialist emerges to be in favor of the community of property and the community of wives, which is another way to say the destruction of the family. And Churchill would soon after that, after he gets into politics and gets elected to the House of Commons, so within three years, he gives the speech and he mentions that this is a bad age in which we pretend that even our families can be collectivized. And Churchill understands that is a revolutionary thing, and it’s revolutionary in the action of the novel. And so he’s on to something there. And socialism is a theme of his from the beginning. And also from the beginning, he broadens that theme to describe something more general than socialism, which is the idea that there can be a comprehensive scientific management of the society and the people in it.

HH: Now the British Labour Party is founded in 1900. It is…

LA: Well, it contests and wins parliamentary elections for the first time in 1900.

HH: Okay.

LA: It was the year he was elected to Parliament.

HH: Well corrected. And so he duels with it his entire life. Now, most recently, 50-plus years after his death, 53 years after his death if I’m counting correctly, they have elected Jeremy Corbin as their leader, and he’s a nut, Larry Arnn.

LA: He’s very left.

HH: No, well, I’m going to go back to our first segment. No, I think he’s just a nut. I mean…

LA: Well, he’s very left. That’s right. Yeah, he’s not, he hasn’t gone into a school and shot anybody, so I’m not going to call him a nut.

HH: Not crazy, not crazy, just eccentric to the extreme.

LA: Well, he, and see, remember that there’s a hope behind this with Churchill. Churchill thought this was dangerous, right? He didn’t think it was, he didn’t think it was something that wouldn’t, you know, recruit followers. And he thought that partly, there were injustices in British society that needed to be corrected, which was their chief case, by the way. And he agreed with that case, in part. And also, he thought that its hope that it could hold out, that it could just sort of make everything right, that all of these inequalities and these disappointments that we suffer in life, that through the application of science to public administration, through a whole sold commitment to equality, which would involve some compromising not just of private property, but of the family, that we could fix all of those things. And he also understood that the amazing competence that we have built in you know, our power over nature. You know, just look at what the world is like today, right? We have gadgets, and we have ability to communicate, and we have longevity, and we have health care. And we have things that are just different in kind from what even our grandfathers and mothers knew. And so that achievement gives color to the idea that we could fix anything by these tools. And Churchill was afraid that we couldn’t, or that we couldn’t.

HH: Your book debuts, Churchill’s Trial comes out on October 13th. That’s when it can be first purchased or delivered if you preorder from Amazon. That is the day of the Democratic debate, the first one. On the stage will be Senator Bernie Sanders, an avowed socialist, who says we need a revolution.

LA: Yeah.

HH: And on the one hand, Jeremy Corbin has discredited the British left. On the other hand, it’s reaching flood tide in the United States.

LA: Well, that’s right. It’s, that guy is raising a lot of money. One reads this week, and has a lot of support, and that’s, and you know, what is that, right? And understand, by the way, that just as this is all plausible, in other words, there’s real reasons why people think that this kind of revolution can succeed and be beneficial. Also, you have to answer this hard question. Somebody is going to have to exercise this power that we’re going to have over society and the people in it. And those people are going to be human beings. And those people are going to have interests, just like we have. And so C.S. Lewis, a contemporary of Churchill’s, wrote, and Churchill wrote very similar things. The power of some men over nature only comes to sight in the power of some men over other men. And so what about that? And you come up against this, the reason for constitutional government that’s stated in the Federalist Papers is men are not angels, and angels do not govern men.

HH: I will be right back with Dr. Larry Arnn.

— – – – –

HH: In the Preface of the book, Dr. Arnn lays out just a glimpse of the three trials which we’ll be talking about at great length – the leftward drift of the West, the Nazis and the Soviets. I am curious, Dr. Arnn, whether or not the rise of the Nazis for a time at least eclipsed the worry over the left wing drift of the West, that they became the death struggle, and that therefore his concern was subsumed in his necessity of defeating the Nazis.

LA: Well, that’s a good question, and there are two things to know about thinking about any question like that in regards to statesmanship. First of all, statesmanship is not a theoretical enterprise. Churchill thought, for example, that the Nazis and the Communists stood for principles that were indistinguishable. He said they differ at the North Pole differs from the South. But on the other hand, there came a time when Churchill made an alliance with the Communists, the Bolshevik Communists, which he hated. He said they would reduce all society to insects. But he made an alliance with them to fight against Hitler, because Hitler was a more eminent danger. So of course, what Churchill did from day to day was always affected by the circumstances in which he lived, just like what every one of us does from day to day, is responsive to those circumstances. And that means the priorities in order of urgency shift all the time, even if the principles do not shift.

HH: You also point out that a theoretical and deeply-sincere distrust of the leftward drift did not make him un-respectful of the men and women who carried it, so that Attlee could, he could speak well of him. He could work with him.

LA: Oh, yeah. And many of these leaders in the Socialist Party, then as now, were very honorable people, and indeed, many of the people who brought socialism first into majority government by defeating Churchill in 1945, had excellent war records, especially in the First World War, including Clement Attlee. And Churchill always respected that. And then another thing was true, and that was Churchill believed that the people had the right to elect the government over them. And he thought that it would be a grievous disaster if they elected the socialists, but it wouldn’t change the fact that they had elected them. And so then they would have to be treated with the respect, just like every one of them sitting in the House of Commons was sitting there by the same authority and principle that Winston Churchill was sitting there.

HH: Now I also have to ask you, because it occurred this week, Putin came to the United States, the Russian czar, in the process, even as he is about annexing Syria and sending tanks and planes and troops into Syria in a way that had not happened since Kissinger flipped the entire region against the Soviets. Does Putin strike you as more of a Nazi or more of a Soviet? Or is Churchill right that they’re all the same?

LA: Well, you know, the Nazis were national socialists, right? And so they were very nationalistic. And you know, the Volk and the people and the blood and the genetics and the breeding, right, they were all over that, Hitler was. And they were socialists. And the Bolshevik regime, you know, in some gross, big ways, has very different principles. Its idea is you know, the class is the most important political characteristic. And so they imagine a class, a process of class conflict that unfolds and gives a pattern to history. So they look very different, right, in theory, but in practice, you know, Stalin was a Russian patriot. So the distinctions, you know, as I say, if you’re at the North Pole, you’re a very great distance, you’re as far as you can be from the South. And yet if you look at them, they look a lot alike.

HH: And they feel a lot alike, and human beings tend to operate the same way at both places.

LA: That’s what Churchill thought.

HH: And not well.

LA: And Churchill also said one of the most controversial things, see, and that means that these things that you’re describing, Churchill believes they stem from related, similar causes. And they come together in his thinking. So the most controversial thing Churchill probably ever said was the say that the socialists, these people whom he respected and who served Britain and were elected by the British people, could not realize their ultimate aims without the use of a gestapo.

— – – – – –

HH: I’m taking a very slow takeoff, these three weeks, until you can actually get your hand on it and catch up in a hurry with it. But when we went to break, you noted, Larry Arnn, that Churchill said the left could not obtain its ends without having its own gestapo. That may have cost him the 1945 election, correct?

LA: Well, he said that, and it caused a storm. And you know, by the way, they, Clement Attlee, said things that compared Churchill to Hitler that didn’t cause such a storm in that election. But never mind. Churchill said it, and he got beat by a lot. He lost in a landslide. And the important thing to note is he said it again. And he had said it before, and he said it again. He always maintained, and it’s an important point that he says, anytime he says something like this, that that’s not what they intend. These are not actually, in their self-understanding, people who would use the means of Hitler. But they will be driven to that step by step over a long period of time, because, he would say, they are at war with human nature.

HH: Now I have to say something very carefully, which is I am not comparing environmental agency bureaucrats to the gestapo. I’m not. They do not use the rack. They do not use the ring. They do not use imprisonment in concentration camps. They do not kill. But the ubiquity of the environmental bureaucratic reach, and the severity of their penalties upon the average lifestyles of those who get cross purposes with them, is something our framers would never have imagined, Larry Arnn.

LA: Well, you know, so I will just tell you what I think about that. I, again, I don’t think that they, anybody dare intends that. If they do, it’s not essential to what they’re up to. What I worry about is this. You have to think like a constitutionalist, right? And that means that James Madison, he didn’t set up a system where he and the other people who led the American Revolution were going to get power to act in any way different from the people. And you have to worry about that here, because the government becomes large. And it has authorities that make is very formidable all the time, including at election time. This is something that Churchill pointed out a lot. After the socialists beat him in 1945, he makes this argument once. They nationalized the steel industry, the last thing he nationalized before he beat them back, and the one thing that he denationalized. And in the speech where he says they’re not nationalizing the steel industry because they want more steel, they’re doing it because they want more power.

HH: Yeah.

LA: And then he says notice what they added in the announcement of the nationalization of the steel. They added that they’re looking for other opportunities, other industries. And they don’t say how they’re going to pick them or what their criteria is, and that’s a warning to everybody in business in Britain that you should keep your head down, because we might pick you.

HH: Yeah, yeah.

LA: And so that, in other words, without thinking about the intentions of the people involved, who are fellow citizens and who ought not to be denounced as Nazis, at least with extreme reluctance, and I don’t do that. I don’t think that’s what they’re trying to do. But you have to worry about whether it can be controlled. And this is a point of which Churchill was fond, right? He says in 1947, he says that the number of people that they’ve hired is bigger than any, you know, to manage, to regulate the economy and the people in the economy, because you can’t regulate the economy, by the way. You can only regulate people.

HH: That’s right.

LA: And he said, he said, it’s bigger than what we used to keep in peacetime armies.

HH: Oh, very well said. Now I, because I want to at least make you sweat a little bit. You only have three minutes left, and my young students that I’m teaching out of the History of the English-Speaking People to, have an objection to Churchill. It’s a two-part objection. He didn’t want women to vote, and he was an imperialist. Now I’m working through them, but let’s assume that there are people in the audience who have those same objections, that he was, didn’t want women to vote and he was an imperialist. What do you say at the beginning of our conversation about Churchill, Larry Arnn?

LA: Well, first of all, he did want women to vote, even if he had reservations about it at some points. In general, he and early and late, he endorsed the principle of the women’s vote, and he voted for it on the big occasions when it was up. Churchill was interested in people voting in households, that is to say, as breadwinners, that is to say, as contributors to the well-being of the society and the government. He once even proposed that people who earned income, man or woman, should have two votes, and everybody else should have one.

HH: Ha, I didn’t know that.

LA: So that’s one thing. and about the empire, we can talk about that at greater length later, but Churchill thought that that was a force for spreading parliamentary government and stable freedom, and that it shouldn’t be pursued anywhere. In fact, I can’t think of anywhere that Churchill advocated adding to the empire during his whole life. He wanted, and you know, he was in control of Iran for a while, for example, Iraq, for a while, for example. And he got out of there. And so Churchill thought that Britain in the places where it had its empire would leave eventually, although keep their association, and what they would leave behind them is parliaments that had not been there when they came.

HH: And here we are, 50-plus years after his death, and as we look at places like India, that is, for the most part, true. And where there is havoc in the world, the Brits never were for long.

LA: We have an Australian student, and his dad was in here, and he was complaining about Churchill in Gallipoli. And it was a lot of fun. I had a great talk with him. I love that guy. And then I said to him, I said so you think parliaments are good? And he said yes. And I said so it’s lucky the British found that, and they brought that to Australia.

HH: And the student is still enrolled at Hillsdale?

LA: Oh, yeah.

HH: (laughing) Dr. Larry Arnn, you know, I always tell people, if you take your kid near Hillsdale, they’re going to end up going there, so go in harm’s way and visit the lantern of the north, and go and get Larry Arnn’s new book, Churchill’s Trial: Winston Churchill And The Salvation Of Free Government, because when I pick up the pace on October 13th, you don’t want to get left behind. Talk to you next week, Dr. Arnn.

End of interview.


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