Front Page Titles (by Subject) Pound and Politics - Literature of Liberty, October/December 1979, vol. 2, No. 4
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Pound and Politics - Leonard P. Liggio, Literature of Liberty, October/December 1979, vol. 2, No. 4 
Literature of Liberty: A Review of Contemporary Liberal Thought was published first by the Cato Institute (1978-1979) and later by the Institute for Humane Studies (1980-1982) under the editorial direction of Leonard P. Liggio.
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Pound and Politics
“Aesthetics and/or Politics: Ezra Pound's Late Critical Prose.” Centennial Review 23(Winter 1979):1–19
The late critical prose of Ezra Pound was not of the same high caliber of his earlier works. In his later years, Pound became obsessed with the pursuit for a political Utopia, which eventually obscured factual reality.
Pound had always esteemed the artist's unique capacity for drawing cohesiveness to a chaotic world. The artist alone had the ability to instigate a new cultural reality that Pound felt was sorely lacking in the post-World War I era. Pound's primary activity in the 1930s was to search for a new cultural synthesis for this modern, rapidly changing period. In his quest, he transferred the responsibility for salvaging the world from the artist to current political figures. Searching history to find models for his ideal, he found two—Confucius and Thomas Jefferson—and then applied their political wisdom to the rising Benito Mussolini.
Pound's fascination with the Confucian system of ethical behavior was rooted in his passion for the creation of order. The sense of appropriateness, cohesiveness, and precision in language were the aesthetic values Pound used in his own art. To realize the essential human relations and behave accordingly would result in finer degrees of aesthetic, personal, and social integration.
He saw other qualities of a paradisiacal civilization in Jeffersonian America (1760–1830). Seen by Pound as the central energizing force in early American culture, Thomas Jefferson commanded his highest respect. Jefferson was a “total” man to Pound—one who appreciated comprehensive order and internal cohesiveness. Inspired by his interpretation of Jeffersonian politics, Pound easily turned to academic totalitarianism to find his political and aesthetical renewal.
Pound felt that Jefferson had constructed early America with the creative energy befitting an artist as he faced the task of “trying to set up a civilization in the wilderness.” He saw an equally demanding task facing Mussolini, whose raw materials were not the elements of wilderness,
but the fragments of history. “The heritage of Jefferson . . .is HERE, NOW in the Italian Peninsula at the beginning of fascist second decennio . . .,” he wrote.
In his attempts to stress resemblances, Pound overlooked the radical differences between the two men. He justified his composite portrait of Jefferson and Mussolini on the grounds that both men were pragmatists who believed the ends justified the means. However, Pound never defined the “ends,” almost as though simply having a main purpose was a sufficient sign of greatness.
That is the fatal flaw of Ezra Pound's later years: he avoided contradictions by retreating from facts or misinterpreting the facts he did encounter. He searched for an ordering principle, which would triumph over the multiplicity of the modern world, by combining various elements of reality into a unified whole. However, by turning order into an end in itself, rather than seeing it as a factor which could benefit humanity, Pound was led into misinterpreting reality. He eventually pledged allegience to Fascist Italy. Soon after, he was indicted for treason by the United States government, and confined to a hospital for twelve years, after being ruled mentally unfit to answer the charges.