'You do not know, and will never know, who the Remnant are,
nor what they are doing or will do. Two things you do know,
and no more: First, that they exist; second, that they will find you.'
Albert Jay Nock — 1936
The Remnant has always existed, since the beginning of man and it survives today. It is not possessed with extraordinary intelligence, wealth or power. Those that comprise it are just ordinary human beings, average by—and—large and you will never recognize them for what they are when you meet them, see them or hear them. They are the builders, re—builders and redeemers of humanity. They are the ones who sustain and regenerate society — and above all else — they persevere. You can guess who they are or might have been but you will never know with any certainty. They are friends of liberty though, that much I know.
Albert Nock (1873? — 1945) was not just a man of his time; he was a man, as they say, for all time. When you read Our Enemy, The State, Free Speech and Plain Language, Memoirs of a Superfluous Man, or any of his other works, you become immediately cognizant of its relevancy as applied to present conditions. Whether he is speaking of the Welfare State (an oxymoron), social power versus State power, Mr. Jefferson, the Constitution or a number of other important issues, you will find it to be a learning experience that is still pertinent. Friends, when in his presence, 'surpassed themselves.' 'You find yourself coming out with things you didn't know you had it in you to say,' recalled one acquaintance. To me, that's remarkable but then Mr. Nock was a remarkable man — an American original.
I would attempt to write at length about him, however, I know he would not be content to see any sort of lionization of his life. He was, above all else, an individualist and so I will only speak to one aspect of his life — the Remnant.
Once, when a friend told Nock he wanted to spend the rest of his life spreading his own 'doctrine far and wide among the population,' and then asked for advice as to whether he should do it, Nock referred the scholar to the prophet Isaiah. The lesson here is; trying to convince the masses (majority) that their shortcomings will lead to calamity and disaster can be an exercise in futility, doomed to failure from the beginning. (You see this currently, as a sane and well—meaning few try to admonish the Democrat Party—at—large regarding their failed present positions.)
Instead, it is Nock's contention that when one has something of value to say, a strong and workable principle if you will, speaking to the masses and expecting wholesale results is the incorrect approach, rather, speaking through mass—man to the 'reachable' few is the accurate and rewarding path to take. In that way your message is not prostituted or diluted in any way and remains true and whole. It reaches those 'with ears to hear,' who are able to understand and make use of its intelligence.
About 740 B.C., the Lord assigned Isaiah to his unenviable task and some four hundred years later we find it next mentioned when Plato described the Remnant as, 'those who possess a saving force of intellect and force of character....' That is to say, those few who have the precise intellectual honesty to capture the ethics necessary for a free, yet orderly and civilized life and then the strength of character to use those principles, consistently, as rules of daily conduct.
Nock, as caretaker of the Remnant knew it had to be braced—up, nourished and fortified from time to time. He spoke to it, and for it, not just with an unyielding truth, but rather, with a pure, unadulterated and rock—solid truth — a 'hard truth.' ('Truth tampered with is truth lost.') This was not always palatable to those on the periphery of candid thought; however, AJN (Albert Jay Nock) was not speaking to marginal believers, rather, his discourse was aimed at minds willing to accept unvarnished reality — the Remnant!
His hard truth was illustrated when he spoke of the questionable and sometimes unscrupulous land grabbing of Patrick Henry, John Adams, Ethan Allen, Samuel Adams and others — all patriots and heroes of the American Revolution. This is not meant to diminish their overall contributions, merely an historical reality. On this subject (political profiteering), AJN cites a positive example of two Founders who had it right — the two great antagonists — Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton — who were in accord on this issue; it should be held as unsavory (Jefferson) or non—desirous (Hamilton) to benefit in a monetary way while serving the public.
The Remnant includes people of all colors, political parties, religious beliefs, gender, languages, cultures and ages. It is not just one thought process, other than truth, and while I cannot tell you who they are, I know who they are not. They are most definitely not Communists, Socialists, Fascists, self—serving elitists, nor anyone who believes in the power of the State. Simply put, the Remnant believes in good, limited government everywhere. And while tyrants, despots and dictators frequently appear from time to time, aided and abetted by those that serve them, and social experiments at the expense of liberty come and go, the Remnant is always there, ready to rebuild and try once more.
When it came to the improvement of society (welfare, for instance), Nock suggested the way to do real service for others: 'There's only one way to improve society,' he used to say; 'present it with one improved unit — yourself.'
As for political institutions, Albert Nock suggested two — Government and State. When the law safeguards an individual's private domain, protects his inherent rights and allows each one of us to act out our personal dreams — you have Government. Conversely, when the law is distorted so as to advantage some at the expense of others, you have the State.
In a recent op—ed article, George Will, so rightly described the Remnant (without using the term) when he mentioned 'a universal human nature.' From this comes the doctrine of 'natural right,' which was the Founders philosophy, to wit — good government as envisioned by Mr. Nock. That people are born with certain 'inalienable rights' and innate aspirations precludes the notion, held by some, that people come into this world with nothing much in their heads and must be 'nurtured,' and taught what 'rights' they should have and how they should think.
The Remnant, unlike the masses, only 'wants the best you have, whatever that may be. Give them that and they are satisfied; you have nothing more to worry about.' Mass—man, on the other hand, makes mercurial demands and insists you give them what they want. This unpredictable changeableness of mood eventually contributes to the doom of supercilious, self—appointed 'gate keepers' who think their philosophy is superior to the natural rights of all.
Although Albert Jay Nock, ' a genuine political mind' and 'intellectual hedonist,' passed on in 1945, his work remains as a testament and inspiration to all who are friends of liberty. While he knew his efforts would not yield monetary rewards, he remained undaunted, integrity intact and continued as a spokesperson for all who chose to hear him — and to all that needed to.
If you believe, as I do, that there will always be men and woman with a natural yearning to be free and an innate sense of right and wrong within their hearts, then you may take heart for the future freedom of humankind. In the end the Remnant will be there.