Page 141 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 41

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S INGERMAN / NORDAU’S
CONVENTIONAL U E S
135
vailing religious dogmas and the royal houses o f Europe,
Conven­
tional Lies
was banned in Austria and confiscated whenever found
there , a fact tha t undoubtedly contributed to the book’s raging
success and subsequent translation into fou rteen languages.
T hough also banned in czarist Russia and condemned by Pope
Leo X III , the book was never placed on the Chu rch ’s
Index
Librorum Prohibitorum
as sometimes claimed.
POLITICS CONDEMNED
For the contemporary reader, N o rdau ’s examination o f the
political lie is perhaps the most endu r ing chap ter found in
Con­
ventional Lies
for its classic libertarian slant. A hund red years ago
before mankind was blighted with two world wars, dictatorial
superpowers o f the left and the right, and unspeakable genocidal
ho rro rs committed in the name o f the state, Nordau admonished:
T he life and property o f the individual are no more p ro ­
tected by the m odern complicated machinery o f State, by
the everlasting writing, recording, office holding, permits
and injunctions than entirely without the whole intricate
apparatus. For all the sacrifices o f blood, money and liberty
offered to the State by the individual citizens, he receives in
re tu rn hardly any o the r actual benefits than the adm inistra­
tion o f justice . . . T he pretext tha t the liberty o f the one is
only restricted ou t o f regard for the rights o f others, is a bad
joke; this pre tended regard does not preven t the oppression
o f the individual and deprives all o f the larger part o f their
natura l liberty o f action.
Equating the state with Moloch for a confiscatory tax code bo r­
dering on tribute (Fiscalism), Nordau argued tha t the sovereignty
o f the people is a fiction as long as the governmental bureaucracy
is the real master (Mandarinism), not the servant o f the people as
we are led uncritically to believe.
Max Nordau ’s presentation o f the economic lie is largely o f aca­
demic interest for his iteration o f still commonly accepted truisms
such as the glaring disparities between the rich and the poor in a
capitalist economy, the evil o f excessive manufacturing in a
consumption-oriented society at the expense o f life-supporting
agricultural production , and the abiding dignity o f manual labor.
The absurdity o f communist doctrine is also noted because the