Meet Carroll Quigley, Bill Clinton’s Prof

While an undergrad at Georgetown Bill Clinton along with 700 other undergrads took a course from istorian Carroll Quigley.  Bill got a B.  That wasn’t bad.  Half the class got D’s or worse.  It must have been a very good class for them to be willing to “pay” for it like that.   Bill was inspired by Carroll’s teachings, going so far to credit him during his 1992 nomination acceptance speech.  How many historians get national exposure like that?  Not many.

The late Quigley’s main book is Tragedy and Hope,a history of the Western world since 1890.  It is quite to my liking.  Most history is a series of biographies of great men who allegedly bent the world to their will.  I think that in modern democracies more often leaders are figureheads whose role is to sell to the public the unpalatable programs of the powerful.  The true powers are behind the scenes, not subject to elections or public scrutiny.   Money is the power to direct human effort.  Big money directs big efforts.  Big efforts often succeed.

Prof. Carroll Quigley

Rule by money is common knowledge now but it wasn’t in 1966 when the book was published.  The publisher was strangely unenthusiastic. The book sold out but they would not print more.  Demand in the used book market was hot and heavy.  Macmillan pretended the book was still in print so that the rights would not revert to Quigley.  He “went after them with a lawyer,” won, and had the book republished elsewhere.  He later opined his book was suppressed.  It does seem that way, but nevertheless it became well known, after a fashion.

The John Birch society got hold of Tragedy and Hope and used it to support their conspiracy theories.  They distributed millions of copies of misleading excerpts.  Dr. Quigley wasn’t enthusiastic about this.  He had studied some low-profile behind-the-scenes groups and felt that while were quite important they were not dominant.  Besides, he felt that many of their goals were good ones.  Perhaps such groups should have more influence.  Quigley made his displeasure with his right wing fans concrete by suing for copyright violation.  That didn’t stop them.  To this day the John Birch Society uses Quigley as a primary source.   Carroll calls this “a Radical right fairy tale.”

I find his works packed chock full with insights, as readers may see in reports to come.  So, why isn’t Carroll Quigley more famous?  Hard to say, but I think it is because his works don’t lend support to any particular faction.  Propaganda is much more popular than truth.  You can use propaganda to win support for your side.  Truth?  Meh.   Exposure of your side’s history of blunders is not apt to win the confidence of the public.

Truth has its uses though.  You want the few future leaders of the country to have some contact with reality.  It’s all well and good for the common man to live in a jingoistic fantasy, but it is not so nice when the leaders do.  Think W.

Even North Korea realizes this.  For the most part it is a living dream where the people are taught they are the richest nation on Earth, but a few closely guarded Westerners are brought in.  They are allowed to educate a few hundred students who are to be the future administrators of the nation.   One such teacher tells the tale here.

Quigley’s reality-based theories were useful for the education of the Bill Clintons of this world.  They need the information.  Many future government employees were heavily influenced by what Quigley had to offer.  The masses though, that’s different.

So why are John Birch-style conspiracy theories so popular these days?   Perhaps it’s because the Birchers now have very Big Money.  The Koch brothers are the sons of one of the Bircher founders.  Maybe they spend a lot of that Big Money to spread those views.  See?  It works.