Wednesday, January 23, 2013

With Allies Like These... Who Needs Enemies?

The mysterious sinking of the USS MAINE led directly to the Spanish-American War.

A Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor led to the US involvment in WWII.

The Gulf of Tonkin incident led to our involvement in Vietnam.

9/11 led to a decade of war with Afghanistan.

A brutal attack by a Middle Eastern state on the USS LIBERTY, including strafing life boats to murder survivors, led to... Washington recalling the US fighters coming to her rescue, a hasty investigation in Congress, and no justice for the 34 dead and 171 wounded Americans?

Taki gets at least one thing wrong in this article: the LIBERTY was certainly a "spy ship" by almost any standard. But it was a legal spy ship in international waters with every right to be doing what it was doing. The rest is spot on.

Remember the LIBERTY.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

A Nation of Sheep

When a wolf threatens a herd of sheep, the sheep instinctively hide behind the shepherd, looking to him for protection from the predator.

If that same wolf were to be so unfortunate as to stumble into a lion's den, he would do well to quickly plan a quiet escape. The lion, you see, will recognize the wolf as another predator--one with whom the lion must reckon in order to protect the pride.

Are James Holmes, Adam Lanza, and their ilk predators? Certainly.

The real question, though, that seems to be lost in all of the gun control debate, is: are we a nation of sheep or lions?

To listen to Anderson Cooper, Piers Morgan, and the other girlie-men of the national media, it is clear they view themselves and the rest of us as sheep in need of an armed shepherd to protect us from the nasty wolves. Problem is, when we turn on CNN and make an attempt to stomach their liberal claptrap, all we can hear is bleating, because...

Real Americans are not sheep; we are lions. We don't even understand your sheepish language.

In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, majestic lions sailed to a foreign land and protected their families from the savage inhabitants as they carved out a kingdom for themselves.

In 1776, it wasn't sheep that signed the Declaration of Independence and used their guns to send the British home.

In the nineteenth century, a pride of lions conquered the frontier and transformed the vast western wilderness into American civilization.

In the twentieth century, a nation of lions used their brains and their brawn to build an industrial civilization, fight two world wars, and make this land the wealthiest in human history.

We have admittedly gotten lazy somewhere along the way. Like Simba in the Lion King, we have forgotten our roots and abdicated our responsibility to rule the pride. We have elected sheep to our highest offices. We listen to sheep on our television sets. We have let sheep take over the government school system and teach our cubs.

But like Simba, we are awakening, and we are coming home to send the hyenas scattering. We are homeschooling our children and sending them to private schools. While the next generation of sheep is learning from their schoolmasters how to stand still and be sheared, how to stand in line for government handouts, and how to misread American history as Mary Had a Little Lamb, we are teaching our children how to exercise godly dominion over their homes, their businesses, and their communities. How to be REAL Americans.

When sheep hear of a tragedy such as Sandy Hook, they instinctively whine, "Where were the shepherds?" When lions hear of a tragedy such as Sandy Hook, we instinctively say, "How can we protect our cubs from the wolves, while teaching them to sharpen their claws and teeth for the future when they will have kingdoms of their own to protect?"

We are lions. We don't need or want your shepherds. And if you sheep insist on pursuing a society in which only the shepherds have staves, tell them to Beware the Lion's Den.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Don't Ask, Don't Tell, Don't Get Busted

So one of the interesting things about the debate surrounding repealing the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy in the U.S. military is that almost no one (and exactly no one that I've encountered) realizes that Don't Ask, Don't Tell (DADT) did not make it illegal for gays to serve in the Armed Forces. The policy, in fact, served almost exactly the opposite function.

Long before DADT, homosexuality was a violation of the Uniformed Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) and was subject to punishment by administrative discipline (Captain's Mast or Article 15) and/or Court Martial. It still is.

DADT was an attempt by President Clinton to bypass the UCMJ (Congressional law) by winking at the gays and saying, "Yes, it's technically illegal to engage in homosexual acts, but we won't ask you if you're gay if you won't tell us you are." Previously, it was an element of the enlistment questionnaire to ask prospective soldiers and sailors whether or not they were gay. Answering in the affirmative would effectively preclude their service.

Repealing DADT does nothing to make it legal for gays to serve in the Armed Forces. In fact, if one were clever and interpreted it liberally, it would only mean that the Services could start asking again. For, it is still a violation of the UCMJ to engage in sodomy.

As it should be.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Blessed are the Peacemakers

Check out this piece written in 2005 by the late Joe Sobran (Ed. note: Sobran died just a few weeks ago; if you're not familiar with him, I highly recommend perusing his writings on the site linked above).

Sobran notes the irony that conservative Christians, whose Messiah is named Prince of Peace and is well known for saying things such as "blessed are the peacemakers" are often pilloried by their own for opposing war. A history lesson is in order, as it hasn't always been this way.

Remember that Woodrow Wilson was a liberal seeking to "make the world safe for democracy" and was widely opposed by the Old Right. FDR, architect of America's entry into WWII, was also a liberal of the most extreme sort. Again, "America First" conservatives opposed Americans fighting European wars overseas.

It wasn't until the Cold War that this began to change. As Communism spread across the eastern hemisphere and started to make inroads into the West, William Buckley and National Review took up the standard of containment to oppose its spread by fighting proxy wars (think Korea and Vietnam). Opponents of these wars were largely leftists and "peaceniks" who were in reality socialists and communist sympathizers themselves. The left-right divide wasn't "warmongers" vs. "peaceniks" but capitalists/conservatives vs. socialists/communists, the former being in favor of fighting wars, if necessary, to oppose the spread of communism.

With the fall of the Berlin wall and the retreat of Communism throughout the world, the perfect opportunity arose for conservatives to return to their historically- and ethically-oriented principled opposition to war.

Enter the neo-conservatives.

These so-called "conservatives" weren't really conservatives at all but were largely Jewish intellectuals who sought the expansion of American empire, arguably to continue propping up the state of Israel. Ever wonder why Bush II, who was surrounded by more neocons than any President in U.S. history, presided over a much larger expansion of the State than the conservative nemesis, Bill Clinton?

It is time for real Christian conservatives to recognize--not that all war is unjustified--but that even necessary wars are necessary evils. Like our Savior, we should be peacemakers.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Subsidiarity

A month or two ago, I blogged on the anachronistic idea of local politics. Today, almost no politics is local, at least in America. It is all dominated by the goings-on in Washington, D.C.

As Americans start to wake up en masse to the foolishness of trusting the clowns in D.C. with our money and our problems, and the possibility of collapse becomes real, we need to start thinking about what comes next. Do we need a new Constitution? Do we need to enforce the old Constitution? Do we need a different form of government? What?

One concept that needs to be front and center in any debate over reform is the notion of subsidiarity--that the specific tasks of governing ought to devolve to the lowest level of government possible. It is an idea found, though not articulated as such, in all of the founding documents in America. An elementary understanding of our Constitution would reveal this to be true. What powers we find given to the federal government in the Constitution are those unable to be handled by the States themselves. For example, coordinating wars against foreign entities, regulating commerce between states, coining a common currency for the States to engage in trade, etc.

What you do not find in the Constitution are laws that can and should be handled locally. For example, criminal laws that deal with crimes on persons or property.

But, we have been innoculated against thinking in these categories. We talk about the "national health care problem," or the "war on poverty". Friends, these are abstractions that distract from the real problem of caring for the sick and poor in our midst. There is no national health care problem. There are people in our local neighborhoods that are sick and suffering. There is no need for a war on poverty. There is a need for local communities to care for the poor and suffering among them. One of the side effects of turning everything into a national problem is that local responsibility is abdicated in direct proportion. We have become statists--looking to the state for salvation--while abdicating our personal and local responsibilities. According to R.J. Rushdoony in his excellent work, Politics of Guilt and Pity:

The politics of the anti-Christian will thus inescapably be the politics of guilt. In the politics of guilt, man is perpetually drained in his social energy and cultural activity by his over-riding sense of guilt and masochistic activity. He will progressively demand of the state a redemptive role. What he cannot do himself personally, i.e., to save himself, he demands that the state do for him, so that the state, as man enlarged, becomes the human savior of man. The politics of guilt, therefore, is not directed, as the Christian politics of liberty, to the creation of godly justice and order, but to the creation of a redeeming order, a saving state.

In contrast, the idea of subsidiarity is that higher levels of government should not be asked to do what lower levels of government can and should do for themselves, keeping in mind always that "government" does not equate to "state government," and includes the concepts of self-, family- and church-government. According to Pope Pius XI in his Quadragesimo Anno encyclical:

It is an injustice and at the same time a grave evil and disturbance of right order to assign to a greater and higher association what lesser and subordinate organizations can do.

Ask yourself how well our "savior" has performed in liberating we, his people, from the ills upon which he has declared war.

Let us recover the power (and taxes) we have sent to the national temples in D.C. and apply them to the local problems that surround each and every one of us. I trust St. Louisians (<--?) to handle poverty and sickness in St. Louis better than I trust anyone in Washington so to do. And I trust the church to handle poverty in her local parish better than the Department of Health and Human Services, especially if all of her members weren't sending 40% of their resources upstream.

Place no faith in the god who cannot and does not save.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Fescue, Life, and Death

This afternoon I planted grass seed in between our Sunday morning worship service and our evening gathering.

Just prior, in the morning service, we baptised Glenn Greeno, the young child of one of the newest families in our congregation. This evening, we will be gathering in memorial of a dear friend and brother, Tim Werkema, one of our deacons who passed away in a tragic accident this week.

I couldn't help but be struck by the stark contrast of celebrating new life and mourning recent death in such close proximity one to another--in fact at the same time. After church, as I was engaged in my chore of planting seeds, I remembered these words: "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit."

Just as new fescue comes from the old, I guess our life and death aren't so radically separated after all. For our brother Tim also experienced new life this week, just as our new brother Glenn was brought into the new life of the body of Christ.

Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die."

Saturday, September 18, 2010

A Distributist Bibliography

My friend, Matt, over at Christocentric asked me the other day to provide a Distributist Bibliography. Here goes:

The Outline of Sanity, by G.K. Chesterton: The astute reader will pick up on the propriety of listing this work first. Chesterton, the consummate democrat (with a lower case 'd'), was everywhere and always to be found in favor of anything that benefited the common man. And he definitely viewed the wide distribution of capital (the means of production) as favoring the common man. Chesterton argues that modern industrial capitalism has trended more and more towards the inhumane, and that a correction is necessary if we are to avoid becoming a proletarian people. In so doing, he argues for "proportion." Here's a quote:

Distributism may be a dream; three acres and a cow may be a joke; cows may be fabulous animals; liberty may be a name; private enterprise may be a wild goose chase on which the world can go no further. But as for the people who talk as if property and private enterprise were the principles now in operation--those people are so blind and deaf and dead to all the realities of their own daily existence, that they can be dismissed from the debate.

The Restoration of Property, by Hilaire Belloc. In this work, Belloc presents Industrial Capitalism and Socialism as two halves of the same coin--the former in which the means of production are concentrated in the hands of a capitalist elite; the latter in which the means of production are concentrated in the hands of the State. In both cases, the laborer becomes a proletarian, selling his labor to the capitalist. Belloc's book is much more of a primer on Distributism than Chesterton's. It includes definitions, a short history of the economic development of the West, and concrete policy suggestions that can be enacted to reverse the trends at play.

Beyond Capitalism and Socialism: A New Statement of an Old Ideal, ed. by Tobias Lanz. This work is a modern collection of essays by Chesterbellocians sympathetic to the distributist ideal. An essay or two leave something to be desired, but Part of this Complete Breakfast: G.K. Chesterton's Distributism (Dale Ahlquist), Capitalism and Distributism: Two Systems at War (Thomas Storck), and Economics Begins at Home (Tobias Lanz) are alone worth the price of the book, and more. This book would be a great place to start for anyone interested in exploring Distributism for the first time. A quote from Lanz' essay:

When the Southern Agrarians, the English Distributists and other radical Christians defended the family farm and rural life, they were not simply spewing forth nostalgic pap--they were defending the only economic culture that could truly counter the spiritual and material destructiveness of modernity.

I'll Take My Stand: The South and the Agrarian Tradition, by Twelve Southerners. Previously introduced at length here.

Who Owns America? A New Declaration of Independence, ed. by Herbert Agar and Allen Tate. This collection of essays brought together the English Distributists and Southern Agrarians in perhaps the most important conservative book published in the 1930s, during the course of the Great Depression. It was a self-conscious "sequel" to I'll Take My Stand published ten years earlier, for which Tate was one of the contributors. The two groups common ground was a "belief that monopoly capitalism is evil and self-destructive, and that it is possible, while preserving private ownership, to build a true democracy in which men would be better off both morally and physically, more likely to attain that inner peace which is the mark of a good life."

Rerum Novarum, by Pope Leo XIII. This encyclical was distributed to all Catholic bishops in 1891, and was subtitled "On Capital and Labor." While I would be loathe to endorse many of the recommendations found herein, its foundational influence on distributism is profound.

Small is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered, by E.F. Schumacher. Schumacher's text is not self-consciously distributist in nature, but he does write in a similar vein. Schumacher observes that modern capitalism has become destructive and unsustainable and that fundamental reform is necessary to preserve even the advances that we've made thus far. For those of us who are predisposed to dismiss all environmentalists as left-wing nuts, Schumacher is a corrective in that he presents what could be called a conservative environmentalism.

Small is Still Beautiful: Economics as if Families Mattered, by Joseph Pearce. This is the single work on this list that I haven't read (yet!), but it has received enough positive reviews from people whom I respect that it deserves mention.

The list above is a layman's list, since a layman is all I pretend to be on this matter. Others could probably add worthy titles, and I invite you to do so in the comments section. Let me know if you read any of these and become a fellow sympathizer!

The list below I'll call "honorable mentions." They're probably not in the same category as those above, but would appeal to the same audience and extend the thought somewhat:

Revolt from the Heartland: The Struggle for an Authentic Conservatism, by Joseph Scotchie.

The Paleoconservatives: New Voices of the Old Right, by Joseph Scotchie.

The Servile State, by Hilaire Belloc.

The Road to Serfdom, by F.A. Hayek.

The American Way: Family & Community in Shaping of American Identity, by Allan Carlson.

What's Wrong with the World?, by G.K. Chesterton.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

The Limits of Tolerance

In many respects, Tolerance (with a capital 'T') has become the single cardinal virtue of American culture. Or at least the virtue that the talking heads directing our public discourse value most, with Diversity perhaps coming in a close second.

We must tolerate homosexuals, Muslims, illegal immigrants, and a host of others in our diverse, multicultural society.

I hardly ever hear anyone praising the twin virtue of Intolerance.

Isn't Intolerance a virtue also, depending on the circumstances? If someone were to attempt a break-in of my home with my wife and children present, my tolerance of such an act would be cowardice. This example is obvious.

What if, though, I took in an orphaned teenager who had been raised in a delinquent lifestyle? If his actions in my home included setting his own curfew, refusing to clean up after himself, and otherwise disrupting the peace of the household, should there be limits to my tolerance? Most would agree limits are appropriate in this case, as well.

How about in a free society? Are there behaviors worthy not of tolerance, but of intolerance? If so, what are they?

First, I think, we must distinguish between intolerance and hatred. Jesus said we must love our enemies. He even gave examples of the types of behavior this involved: feeding them when they are hungry and giving them water when thirsty. Notice, though, that he presupposes that we will have enemies. According to Webster's, an enemy is "one that is antagonistic to another; especially : one seeking to injure, overthrow, or confound an opponent."

So, according to the Lord, when we encounter someone antagonistic to us--one who seeks to injure or overthrow us--we must love him and minister to his needs. The starkest example we have of this is the duty of an army to care for the enemy's wounded left on the battlefield. After opposing them with violence--even attempting to kill them--we then nurse them back to health in our own hospitals.

I.e., we love them, but we do not tolerate them, and there is no contradiction.

We must learn to make these same distinctions in America. Because of the diversity of our society, we must always remember to love those who are different than us. We do not, though, have any biblical duty to tolerate all behaviors. In fact, we are told in the Bible to "test everything, and hold fast to what is true" and that we are armed such that the "weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God." God's people are to be warriors, and are not to sit idly by while our enemies infiltrate our territory.

Homosexuality, for example, is one particular form of behavior that should never be tolerated. Homosexuality is clearly portrayed in Romans 1 as the just desserts of the perverse man. He who does not give glory to God is given over more and more to his own sins, until finally "likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due." When repentance still lags, God will then:

(Give them) over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.

Notice the end of the passage, in which those who "approve of" (tolerate) these behaviors become guilty with the perpetrators.

While this argument is directed at God's people in the Church, it is extensible to our interaction with society at large. If Jesus Himself finds no contradiction between loving someone whom we do not tolerate, we can rest assured that we are on safe ground in following Him.

As we seek to define the limits of tolerance in a free society, we would do well to remember that the liberties we enjoy in America rest on the foundation of the Christian religion that has been in steady retreat for over 100 years. Our second president, John Adams, once stated, "Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other."

Do we find liberal (free) governments in the lands of Islam? What about in pagan Africa? Are these historical accidents, or is there something in the Muslim religion or in African culture that militates against the formation of liberal democracies? I ask rhetorically.

So while the public clamors over the alleged Muslim faith of our current president, or the building of a mosque near Ground Zero, there remains an inability to articulate our opposition to these things. After all, doesn't the Constitution forbid a "religious test" for taking office? Don't we welcome mosques in America; just not there due to the insensitivity of the whole thing?

We have become so indoctrinated by the priests of the new god and their doctrines of tolerance and diversity, that we do not even realize that our land is being invaded and attacked by those whose religion does not value tolerance and recognizes no doctrine of loving the enemy. Do we really think that Perez Hilton and his ilk would practice tolerance if he could muster enough like-minded individuals to take over the reigns of government? Hardly. If the expansionist religionists of Islam ever succeed in forming a majority in America, what would the resulting government look like? (hint: look in Iran, Iraq, Syria, or Pakistan)

We must not be lulled into believing that we must tolerate these attacks on the culture and land that we love. We must love the people who practice them, but we need not--and indeed, should not--tolerate the odious doctrines they preach. There are groups demanding tolerance today that are antagonistic towards us and seek to injure, overthrow, or confound their opponent (i.e., us). They use our tolerance against us and do not intend to return the favor.

We would do well to start thinking how we should instantiate in law appropriate limits to their ability to revolutionize the society we cherish. I might invite a rebellious, orphaned teenager into my home that I might care for his needs and show him the love of Christ, but I would not give him a vote in the family meeting; at least not until his behavior had been transformed and become part of the common culture of the family. Citizenship and the suffrage would likewise be a good place to start as we define what it means to be an American. Receipt of public benefits would be another. The alien may live peacefully among us and be free from persecution, but he may not vote in our elections or live off of our taxes, for the doctrines he preaches are inconsistent with the moral and religious order we inherited. The Constitution is not a suicide pact, and we need to be ready to amend it, where necessary, to keep it from becoming such.

"Tolerance is the virtue of the man without convictions." -- G.K. Chesterton

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Teaching as a Subversive Activity

One of the latter twentieth century's more insightful authors, Neil Postman, wrote a book of the same title as this post.

I've never read it.

I'm sure if I did, I would find much in it to be admired, for the author is a keen cultural critic of the first order, and the title packs a punch. In fact, it is the title itself that will be the focus of this entry, for teaching is a subversive activity. The problem is that few of the parents of the almost 50 million students in America's public schools recognize they've enlisted their children in a revolutionary army.

I will not spend my time discussing the teaching of evolution, the removal of prayer from the public schools, the normalization of homosexuality in the curriculum and in the libraries, the downward spiral of standardized test scores, or the elevation of "self-esteem" issues over traditional standards of excellence -- including the reward of excellence and the strictures on failure. All of these may be lamented in and of themselves, to be sure, but they all rally the troops and waste energy attacking peripheral issues while ignoring the elephant in the room. It is not the content of the public schools that is the problem -- it is their mere existence that is objectionable.

Before we run for the pitch forks and torches, consider:

- The first compulsory attendance law in the nation was passed in 1852 by the State of Massachusetts
- Prior to this law, in 1800, Thomas Jefferson could write that not more than four school children in a thousand could not write legibly (even neatly), and that nearly all Americans could read, write and cipher. (Note: and no Department of Education!)
- Per student spending on education has risen from $3400 in 1960 to >$9000 today in constant, inflation adjusted dollars, while nearly every metric reveals decline in actual educational achievement
- Actual spending on public education is likely 44% higher than reported spending, and is far more expensive than private education, which consistently outperforms public education in achievement metrics

These are only a few illustrative facts and statistics. They do not, however, in and of themselves make the point regarding the propriety of government schools (note: we would do well to remember that "government" school is a much more accurate title than the euphemistic "public" school).

In the book of Proverbs, Solomon states that "the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge." In other words, all knowledge (and therefore, all education) is by its very nature religious. There is no such thing as neutrality in education. It is not possible to separate the knowledge of the Cosmos, the knowledge of mathematics, or the wisdom of history from the fear of the Lord who is the author of science, math, and all history.

While the modern educational prophets would have us believe that we have a truly neutral, secular educational system in which religious questions are left to the parent and/or the sunday school, the founders of the modern system suffered under no such delusions (if you grant that the arguments are delusions and not outright lies). As R.J. Rushdoony demonstrates beyond any reasonable doubt in his Messianic Character of American Education, the thought leaders in the establishment of the modern government school system were utopians, statists, Marxists, and in some cases very misguided Christians who saw the school systems for what they are -- fertile ground for the reshaping of the next generation of Americans in the image of the creators of the system. Consider Horace Mann, the Father of Public Schools, who wrote:

Let the Common School be expanded to its capabilities, let it be worked with the efficiency of which it is susceptible, and nine-tenths of the crimes in the penal code would become obsolete; the long catalogue of human ill would be abridged; men would walk more safely by day; every pillow would be more inviolable by night; property, life and character held by a stronger tenure; all rational hopes respecting the future brightened.

Mann died in 1859. Still waiting on those crimes becoming obsolete...

And while the majority of gullible Protestants rallied to the cause of the new system as a way of indoctrinating the rising Catholic population against the doctrines of their parents (thus giving rise to the Catholic parochial schools), many were not fooled. Consider these words from A.A. Hodge of Princeton Theological Seminary, written in 1887:

I am as sure as I am of Christ's reign that a comprehensive and centralized system of national education, separated from religion, as is commonly proposed, will prove to be the most appalling engine for the propagation of anti-Christian and atheistic unbelief...which this sin rent world has ever seen.

The tendency is to hold that the system must be altogether secular...that the education provided by the common government should be entirely emptied of all religious character...

It is capable of exact demonstration that if every party in the State has the right of excluding from the public schools whatever he does not believe to be true, then he that believes most must give way to him that believes least, and then he that believes least must give way to him who believes absolutely nothing, no matter in how small a minority the atheists or the agnostics may be.

It is self evident that on this scheme, if it is consistently and persistently carried out in all parts of the country, the United States' system of national popular education will be the most efficient and wide instrument for the propagation of atheism which the world has ever seen.

The revolution is not being foisted upon us by the abortionists, Marxists, and homosexuals of the 21st century. The revolution is in the past -- it was won by the proponents of the government school system over 100 years ago. What we are witnessing today is merely the consolidation of the conquered territory by the victors.



Author's note: This should not be read as disparagement of any particular individual participating in the public school system. I am not attacking the intentions or the performance of the teachers, principals, or librarians who are often well-meaning and hard-working individuals doing their best in a broken system. It is the system that should be discarded. Fast. And furiously.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Calhoun Contra Publius

My good friend over at The Linton Village posted today a reminder of Publius' (almost surely Madison, in this particular case) argument in Federalist 51. In short, the argument runs thus: While in most cases republics should cover small territory, in our particular case the large variety of interests across the vast U.S. will prevent any one faction from developing a "tyranny of the majority" over the various minorities with different interests. Madison's faith in this idea is great:

By comprehending in the society so many separate descriptions of citizens as will render an unjust combination of a majority of the whole very improbable, if not impracticable... (This) method will be exemplified in the federal republic of the United States. Whilst all authority in it will be derived from and dependent on the society, the society itself will be broken into so many parts, interests, and classes of citizens, that the rights of individuals, or of the minority, will be in little danger from interested combinations of the majority... In the extended republic of the United States, and among the great variety of interests, parties, and sects which it embraces, a coalition of a majority of the whole society could seldom take place on any other principles than those of justice and the general good.

Madison's argument is lofty and reasonable, and it is repeated in American History 101 classes everywhere.

The only problem with it is this: Madison is dead wrong at every turn.

Q. Where are Madison's great variety of interests, parties, and sects today?
A. They're all collaboratively organized in interested combinations known as "Republicans" and "Democrats"

He neglected to consider what America's last great political philosopher, John C. Calhoun, readily understood, albeit a generation of valuable experience later--that absent necessary reform, the American political scene will always revert to a two-party system. Those two parties may be Federalists/Antifederalists, Federalists/Republicans, Whigs/Democrats, Republicans/Democrats, or any other combination, but it will always revert to exactly two. The real driver of the system is economic. The two parties could rightly be labeled:

1) Net Tax Payers
2) Net Tax Consumers

The Immutable Laws of this two party system are as follows:

1) Net tax consumers will always outnumber net tax payers, due to the uneven distribution of wealth combined with progressive tax laws
2) Net tax consumers will always favor a liberal construction of the Constitution, empowering the federal government to do Good Things with the Common (wink, wink) tax money
3) Net tax payers will always be in a minority
4) Net tax payers will always favor a strict construction of the Constitution, limiting the federal government's ability to do Unnecessary Things with their tax money
5) When third parties arise, the interests will quickly re-arrange to find a new equilibrium around the two parties described above

Excerpted from Calhoun's Disquisition on Government:

Few, comparatively, as they are, the agents and employees of the government constitute that portion of the community who are the exclusive recipients of the proceeds of the taxes. Whatever amount is taken from the community, in the form of taxes, if not lost, goes to them in the shape of expenditures or disbursements. The two — disbursement and taxation — constitute the fiscal action of the government. They are correlatives. What the one takes from the community, under the name of taxes, is transferred to the portion of the community who are the recipients, under that of disbursements. But, as the recipients constitute only a portion of the community, it follows, taking the two parts of the fiscal process together, that its action must be unequal between the payers of the taxes and the recipients of their proceeds. Nor can it be otherwise, unless what is collected from each individual in the shape of taxes, shall be returned to him, in that of disbursements; which would make the process nugatory and absurd. Taxation may, indeed, be made equal, regarded separately from disbursement. Even this is no easy task; but the two united cannot possibly be made equal.

Such being the case, it must necessarily follow, that some one portion of the community must pay in taxes more than it receives back in disbursements; while another receives in disbursements more than it pays in taxes. It is, then, manifest, taking the whole process together, that taxes must be, in effect, bounties to that portion of the community which receives more in disbursements than it pays in taxes; while, to the other which pays in taxes more than it receives in disbursements, they are taxes in reality — burthens, instead of bounties. This consequence is unavoidable. It results from the nature of the process, be the taxes ever so equally laid, and the disbursements ever so fairly made, in reference to the public service...

The necessary result, then, of the unequal fiscal action of the government is, to divide the community into two great classes; one consisting of those who, in reality, pay the taxes, and, of course, bear exclusively the burthen of supporting the government; and the other, of those who are the recipients of their proceeds, through disbursements, and who are, in fact, supported by the government; or, in fewer words, to divide it into taxpayers and tax-consumers.

But the effect of this is to place them in antagonistic relations, in reference to the fiscal action of the government, and the entire course of policy therewith connected. For, the greater the taxes and disbursements, the greater the gain of the one and the loss of the other — and vice versa; and consequently, the more the policy of the government is calculated to increase taxes and disbursements, the more it will be favored by the one and opposed by the other.

The effect, then, of every increase is, to enrich and strengthen the one, and impoverish and weaken the other.

Calhoun's entire essay is worth reading and can be found here.

"Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for dinner."

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Biblical Basis for Nullification

I've written frequently about nullification on this site. The Christian reader may ask, "is there biblical justification for nullification?" especially in light of Romans 13:1-7, which reads:

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.

The short answer is 'yes,' and the justification is found in the passage above. One could go further and argue that the passage above demands the doctrine of nullification, or something akin to it.

Let me state up front that Romans 13--and the entirety of the word of God--forbids rebellion. The Christian is forbidden from rebelling against the state and its officers, for "he is God's servant for your good."

However, what must be distinguished is that nullification is not a private act; it is a public act undertaken not by a citizen, but by another public servant instituted by God in the Romans 13 mold. In our form of government, the Governor of a state and the respective state's legislators are equally God's servants appointed for wrath, just as the President of the United States, Congress, and/or the Supreme Court. As such, they have a duty according to Romans 13
to be ministers of God for the good of the people whom they serve. In the case of a federal government that has exceeded the powers delegated to it by the States, the state officers are required to resist this usurpation in order to protect the people that God has given them to serve.

The theological doctrine is known as interposition. It is the same doctrine that served as the theological justification for the War of American Independence. It should be no surprise to the student of history to find that its clearest proponent was John Calvin, the spiritual father of American Presbyterianism. Not the mainline, wimpy Presbyterianism with the backbone of a jellyfish. The historical, manly Calvinism that caused the war to be called in England The Presbyterian Rebellion and caused Horace Walpole (Member of Parliament) to observe that "cousin America has run off with a Presbyterian parson!"

Calvin writes in his magnum opus, the Institutes of Christian Religion, book IV:

Although the Lord takes vengeance on unbridled domination, let us not therefore suppose that that vengeance is committed to us, to whom no command has been given but to obey and suffer. I speak only of private men. For when popular magistrates have been appointed to curb the tyranny of kings (as the Ephori, who were opposed to kings among the Spartans, or Tribunes of the people to consuls among the Romans, or Demarchs to the senate among the Athenians; and perhaps there is something similar to this in the power exercised in each kingdom by the three orders, when they hold their primary diets), so far am I from forbidding these officially to check the undue license of kings, that if they connive at kings when they tyrannise and insult over the humbler of the people, I affirm that their dissimulation is not free from nefarious perfidy; because they fraudulently betray the liberty of the people, while knowing that, by the ordinance of God, they are its appointed guardians.

In order to be free from "nefarious perfidy," the Bible requires lesser magistrates to resist the usurpations of kings.

And Presidents, Congresses, and Supreme Courts.

"If this be treason, make the most of it!" -- Patrick Henry

Tobacco and the Soul

We're back from a one-week vacation. While there (I'm not sure why...), I found myself remembering an article out of First Things magazine that I stumbled upon back in 1997: Tobacco and the Soul.

It's a very insightful article. As an occasional pipe and cigar smoker, I can relate to Foley's description of the weed and those who smoke it in those particular forms. Pipe smoke is, after all, one of the 15 manliest smells in the world.

You won't want to read it, though, if chewing tobacco is your particular vice.

For the pipe smoking humorist, you may also enjoy J.M. Barrie's (author of Peter Pan ) My Lady Nicotine.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Not Yours to Give -- Davy Crockett

Originally published in "The Life of Colonel David Crockett,"
by Edward Sylvester Ellis.

One day in the House of Representatives a bill was taken up appropriating money for the benefit of a widow of a distinguished naval officer. Several beautiful speeches had been made in its support. The Speaker was just about to put the question when Crockett arose:

"Mr. Speaker--I have as much respect for the memory of the deceased, and as much sympathy for the sufferings of the living, if suffering there be, as any man in this House, but we must not permit our respect for the dead or our sympathy for a part of the living to lead us into an act of injustice to the balance of the living. I will not go into an argument to prove that Congress has not the power to appropriate this money as an act of charity. Every member upon this floor knows it. We have the right, as individuals, to give away as much of our own money as we please in charity; but as members of Congress we have no right so to appropriate a dollar of the public money. Some eloquent appeals have been made to us upon the ground that it is a debt due the deceased. Mr. Speaker, the deceased lived long after the close of the war; he was in office to the day of his death, and I have never heard that the government was in arrears to him.

"Every man in this House knows it is not a debt. We cannot, without the grossest corruption, appropriate this money as the payment of a debt. We have not the semblance of authority to appropriate it as charity. Mr. Speaker, I have said we have the right to give as much money of our own as we please. I am the poorest man on this floor. I cannot vote for this bill, but I will give one week's pay to the object, and if every member of Congress will do the same, it will amount to more than the bill asks."

He took his seat. Nobody replied. The bill was put upon its passage, and, instead of passing unanimously, as was generally supposed, and as, no doubt, it would, but for that speech, it received but few votes, and, of course, was lost.

Later, when asked by a friend why he had opposed the appropriation, Crockett gave this explanation:

"Several years ago I was one evening standing on the steps of the Capitol with some other members of Congress, when our attention was attracted by a great light over in Georgetown. It was evidently a large fire. We jumped into a hack and drove over as fast as we could. In spite of all that could be done, many houses were burned and many families made houseless, and, besides, some of them had lost all but the clothes they had on. The weather was very cold, and when I saw so many women and children suffering, I felt that something ought to be done for them. The next morning a bill was introduced appropriating $20,000 for their relief. We put aside all other business and rushed it through as soon as it could be done.

"The next summer, when it began to be time to think about election, I concluded I would take a scout around among the boys of my district. I had no opposition there, but, as the election was some time off, I did not know what might turn up. When riding one day in a part of my district in which I was more of a stranger than any other, I saw a man in a field plowing and coming toward the road. I gauged my gait so that we should meet as he came to the fence. As he came up, I spoke to the man. He replied politely, but, as I thought, rather coldly.

"I began: 'Well, friend, I am one of those unfortunate beings called
candidates, and---‘

"Yes I know you; you are Colonel Crockett. I have seen you once before, and voted for you the last time you were elected. I suppose you are out electioneering now, but you had better not waste your time or mine, I shall not vote for you again."

"This was a sockdolager...I begged him to tell me what was the matter.

" ’Well, Colonel, it is hardly worth-while to waste time or words upon it. I do not see how it can be mended, but you gave a vote last winter which shows that either you have not capacity to understand the Constitution, or that you are wanting in the honesty and firmness to be guided by it. In either case you are not the man to represent me. But I beg your pardon for expressing it in that way. I did not intend to avail myself of the privilege of the constituent to speak plainly to a candidate for the purpose of insulting or wounding you. I intend by it only to say that your understanding of the Constitution is very different from mine; and I will say to you what, but for my rudeness, I should not have said, that I believe you to be honest.
…But an understanding of the Constitution different from mine I cannot overlook, because the Constitution, to be worth anything, must be held sacred, and rigidly observed in all its provisions. The man who wields power and misinterprets it is the more dangerous the more honest he is.'

" 'I admit the truth of all you say, but there must be some mistake about it, for I do not remember that I gave any vote last winter upon any constitutional question.’

“ ‘No, Colonel, there’s no mistake. Though I live in the backwoods and seldom go from home, I take the papers from Washington and read very carefully all the proceedings of Congress. My papers say that last winter you voted for a bill to appropriate $20,000 to some sufferers by a fire in Georgetown. Is that true?’

" ‘Well, my friend; I may as well own up. You have got me there. But certainly nobody will complain that a great and rich country like ours should give the insignificant sum of $20,000 to relieve its suffering women and children, particularly with a full and overflowing Treasury, and I am sure, if you had been there, you would have done just as I did.'

" ‘It is not the amount, Colonel, that I complain of; it is the principle. In the first place, the government ought to have in the Treasury no more than enough for its legitimate purposes. But that has nothing with the question. The power of collecting and disbursing money at pleasure is the most dangerous power that can be entrusted to man, particularly under our system of collecting revenue by a tariff, which reaches every man in the country, no matter how poor he may be, and the poorer he is the more he pays in proportion to his means. What is worse, it presses upon him without his knowledge where the weight centers, for there is not a man in the United States who can ever guess how much he pays to the government. So you see, that while you are contributing to relieve one, you are drawing it from thousands who are even worse off than he. If you had the right to give anything, the amount was simply a matter of discretion with you, and you had as much right to give $20,000,000 as $20,000. If you have the right to give to one, you have the right to give to all; and, as the Constitution neither defines charity nor stipulates the amount, you are at liberty to give to any and everything which you may believe, or profess to believe, is a charity, and to any amount you may think proper. You will very easily perceive what a wide door this would open for fraud and corruption and favoritism, on the one hand, and for robbing the people on the other. 'No, Colonel, Congress has no right to give charity. Individual members may give as much of their own money as they please, but they have no right to touch a dollar of the public money for that purpose. If twice as many houses had been burned in this county as in Georgetown, neither you nor any other member of Congress would have thought of appropriating a dollar for our relief. There are about two hundred and forty members of Congress. If they had shown their sympathy for the sufferers by contributing each one week's pay, it would have made over $13,000. There are plenty of wealthy men in and around Washington who could have given $20,000 without depriving themselves of even a luxury of life.' "The congressmen chose to keep their own money, which, if reports be true, some of them spend not very creditably; and the people about Washington, no doubt, applauded you for relieving them from the necessity of giving by giving what was not yours to give. The people have delegated to Congress, by the Constitution, the power to do certain things. To do these, it is authorized to collect and pay moneys, and for nothing else. Everything beyond this is usurpation, and a violation of the Constitution.'

" 'So you see, Colonel, you have violated the Constitution in what I consider a vital point. It is a precedent fraught with danger to the country, for when Congress once begins to stretch its power beyond the limits of the Constitution, there is no limit to it, and no security for the people. I have no doubt you acted honestly, but that does not make it any better, except as far as you are personally concerned, and you see that I cannot vote for you.'

"I tell you I felt streaked. I saw if I should have opposition, and this man should go to talking, he would set others to talking, and in that district I was a gone fawn-skin. I could not answer him, and the fact is, I was so fully convinced that he was right, I did not want to. But I must satisfy him, and I said to him:

" ‘Well, my friend, you hit the nail upon the head when you said I had not sense enough to understand the Constitution. I intended to be guided by it, and thought I had studied it fully. I have heard many speeches in Congress about the powers of Congress, but what you have said here at your plow has got more hard, sound sense in it than all the fine speeches I ever heard. If I had ever taken the view of it that you have, I would have put my head into the fire before I would have given that vote; and if you will forgive me and vote for me again, if I ever vote for another unconstitutional law I wish I may be shot.'

"He laughingly replied; 'Yes, Colonel, you have sworn to that once before, but I will trust you again upon one condition. You say that you are convinced that your vote was wrong. Your acknowledgment of it will do more good than beating you for it. If, as you go around the district, you will tell people about this vote, and that you are satisfied it was wrong, I will not only vote for you, but will do what I can to keep down opposition, and, perhaps, I may exert some little influence in that way.'

" ‘If I don't’, said I, 'I wish I may be shot; and to convince you that I am in earnest in what I say I will come back this way in a week or ten days, and if you will get up a gathering of the people, I will make a speech to them. Get up a barbecue, and I will pay for it.'

" ‘No, Colonel, we are not rich people in this section, but we have plenty of provisions to contribute for a barbecue, and some to spare for those who have none. The push of crops will be over in a few days, and we can then afford a day for a barbecue. This is Thursday; I will see to getting it up on Saturday week. Come to my house on Friday, and we will go together, and I promise you a very respectable crowd to see and hear you.’

" 'Well, I will be here. But one thing more before I say good-bye. I must know your name.’

" 'My name is Bunce.'

" 'Not Horatio Bunce?'

" 'Yes.’

" 'Well, Mr. Bunce, I never saw you before, though you say you have seen me, but I know you very well. I am glad I have met you, and very proud that I may hope to have you for my friend.'

"It was one of the luckiest hits of my life that I met him. He mingled but little with the public, but was widely known for his remarkable intelligence and incorruptible integrity, and for a heart brimful and running over with kindness and benevolence, which showed themselves not only in words but in acts. He was the oracle of the whole country around him, and his fame had extended far beyond the circle of his immediate acquaintance. Though I had never met him, before, I had heard much of him, and but for this meeting it is very likely I should have had opposition, and had been beaten. One thing is very certain, no man could now stand up in that district under such a vote.

"At the appointed time I was at his house, having told our conversation to every crowd I had met, and to every man I stayed all night with, and I found that it gave the people an interest and a confidence in me stronger than I had ever seen manifested before.

"Though I was considerably fatigued when I reached his house, and, under ordinary circumstances, should have gone early to bed, I kept him up until midnight, talking about the principles and affairs of government, and got more real, true knowledge of them than I had got all my life before.

"I have known and seen much of him since, for I respect him - no, that is not the word - I reverence and love him more than any living man, and I go to see him two or three times every year; and I will tell you, sir, if every one who professes to be a Christian lived and acted and enjoyed it as he does, the religion of Christ would take the world by storm.

"But to return to my story. The next morning we went to the barbecue, and, to my surprise, found about a thousand men there. I met a good many whom I had not known before, and they and my friend introduced me around until I had got pretty well acquainted - at least, they all knew me.

"In due time notice was given that I would speak to them. They gathered up around a stand that had been erected. I opened my speech by saying:

" ‘Fellow-citizens - I present myself before you today feeling like a new man. My eyes have lately been opened to truths which ignorance or prejudice, or both, had heretofore hidden from my view. I feel that I can today offer you the ability to render you more valuable service than I have ever been able to render before. I am here today more for the purpose of acknowledging my error than to seek your votes. That I should make this acknowledgment is due to myself as well as to you. Whether you will vote for me is a matter for your consideration only.’"

"I went on to tell them about the fire and my vote for the appropriation and then told them why I was satisfied it was wrong. I closed by saying:

" ‘And now, fellow-citizens, it remains only for me to tell you that the most of the speech you have listened to with so much interest was simply a repetition of the arguments by which your neighbor, Mr. Bunce, convinced me of my error.

" ‘It is the best speech I ever made in my life, but he is entitled to the
credit for it. And now I hope he is satisfied with his convert and that he will get up here and tell you so.'

"He came upon the stand and said:

" ‘Fellow-citizens - It affords me great pleasure to comply with the request of Colonel Crockett. I have always considered him a thoroughly honest man, and I am satisfied that he will faithfully perform all that he has promised you today.'

"He went down, and there went up from that crowd such a shout for Davy Crockett as his name never called forth before.'

"I am not much given to tears, but I was taken with a choking then and felt some big drops rolling down my cheeks. And I tell you now that the remembrance of those few words spoken by such a man, and the honest, hearty shout they produced, is worth more to me than all the honors I have received and all the reputation I have ever made, or ever shall make, as a member of Congress.'

"Now, sir," concluded Crockett, "you know why I made that speech yesterday.

"There is one thing now to which I will call your attention. You remember that I proposed to give a week's pay. There are in that House many very wealthy men - men who think nothing of spending a week's pay, or a dozen of them, for a dinner or a wine party when they have something to accomplish by it. Some of those same men made beautiful speeches upon the great debt of gratitude which the country owed the deceased--a debt which could not be paid by money--and the insignificance and worthlessness of money, particularly so insignificant a sum as $10,000, when weighed against the honor of the nation. Yet not one of them responded to my proposition. Money with them is nothing but trash when it is to come out of the people. But it is the one great thing for which most of them are striving, and many of them sacrifice honor, integrity, and justice to obtain it."

Thursday, August 5, 2010

One Big(ger) Gay Mistake

Over at Live Out Loud!, Dr. Gina Loudon wrote a post entitled One Big Gay Mistake in which she admits she must now grudgingly endorse a Constitutional Amendment on marriage being between one man and one woman.

No she mustn't.

I don't know Dr. Loudon, but I've heard her on the radio and read her blog. I haven't heard her say it, but my read would be that she would describe herself as a libertarian-oriented conservative, or something along those lines. This position is not consistent with her otherwise libertarian principles.

A judge overturning the will of the majority on this issue is a travesty. But pursuing a constitutional amendment to fight it is to surrender ground and fight on the enemy's terms. The whole federal experiment has failed and it has failed at precisely the point that Dr. Loudon writes earlier in her post:

There is a huge undercurrent desire to restore State Sovereignty which is unique in the American experiment. Our Founding Fathers meant for an extremely limited Federal government to handle only those duties expressly assigned to them and let the States handle most. They even clarified this position with the 10th Amendment which expressly reserved power to the States. Had you told a Founder in Philadelphia in 1779, that you believed the federal government should be regulating abortion “rights” or marriage “questions” they would have locked you up in an asylum as clearly delusional.

Dr. Loudon is correct on all counts. But then she waffles:

State Sovereignty advocates who favor a limited Federal role now have to consider a position I now must grudgingly endorse–the only way to respect the rights of Californians and solid majorities in nearly every State that has had a simple up or down referendum on gay marriage, is to pass a United States Constitutional Amendment declaring marriage to be between one man and one woman.

Fighting gay marriage with a Constitutional Amendment is to admit defeat on the most fundamental problem facing America today -- a federal government (and its court system) that is completely unbound by the U.S. Constitution coupled with a country full of sheeple who are either unable or unwilling to call them to task. Dr. Loudon has the right idea in her first quote, above: The only organized bodies with the power to fight the federal government on this are the 50 states of the union. However, fighting this issue with a constitutional amendment is a flawed strategy. It is flawed because it attacks at the margins rather than at the heart of the issue. It is akin to the NFL fighting a corrupt referee's union by organizing to pass a constitutional amendment to make the referees put both hands in the air when the ball crosses the goal line.

They already know they are bound to do that.

They are revolutionaries at heart and they are using their power to revolutionize the system, and unless you challenge them at their power source, you will be chasing your tale for generations. If and when you pass that amendment (which takes years in the case of an amendment to the Constitution), they will already have played you for a fool in 75 other ways and be well on their way to planning the next 75.

As I've argued before (e.g., here and here), we need to organize and fight with real weapons, not with the rubber swords handed to us by the enemy when we knock on his door to come "fight" him in his own living room.

Jefferson and Madison and Calhoun knew what those weapons were:

Nullification.

Nullification.

Nullification.

And if/when that fails, secession.

Let's not be played for fools any longer. Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's.

But not one farthing more.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Anarcho-Tyranny

Arizona Sheriff Paul Babeu didn't use these words, but the situation he describes ("our own government has become our enemy") is precisely what the late Sam Francis aptly described as "anarcho-tyranny."

Anarchy: a state of lawlessness or political disorder due to the absence of governmental authority

Tyranny: oppressive power exerted by government

So, how can both of these co-exist in actuality? Francis explained that we have reached "a combination of anarchy (in which legitimate government functions—like spying on the bad guys or punishing real criminals—are not performed) and tyranny (in which government performs illegitimate functions—like spying on the good guys or criminalizing innocent conduct like gun ownership and political dissent). The result of anarcho-tyranny is that government swells in power, criminals are not controlled, and law-abiding citizens wind up being repressed by the state and attacked by thugs."

Francis wrote those words in 2003. I bet Sheriff Babeu and other law-abiding Arizonans are wishing he wasn't so prescient.