Wednesday, November 18, 2009

One Mind at a Time

The great question of our time is whether or not a powerful and wealthy republic can maintain itself in perpetuity or if it is doomed to collapse under its own weight. If it is doomed to collapse, whose fault is it?

As I’ve said before, we’re different than the rest of the world. The rest of the western, “democratic” world is moving to a democratic socialism (probably, in actual function, closer to Marx than the Declaration of Independence). These systems are tyrannies of the elite backed by the majority. Individual freedom is dying a slow death in Europe and now maybe in America.

Europe has come to believe the purpose of government is the preservation of the “community.” Don’t understand what that means? Let’s look at it in a microcosm, let’s look at Taxes.

In a community oriented view, citizens are obligated to pay taxes to government because it is in their common interest. It’s hard, at first glance, to argue with this logic. You want roads? You must pay taxes so government may build them. You want to make sure all children have a good education, you must contribute to public education.

The implication of such logic however is that individual liberties are subservient to the good of the society as a whole. Therefore governments are instituted among men (and women) for the benefit of the community and anything that threatens the supremacy of society should be destroyed.

What is it then that threatens society and its government? Anything that requires an allegiance to something other than the society or its representative government. Think that’s a stretch? Consider this: No one member of a committee (say 535 members of Congress) can be said to represent society, but collectively they form a body that does, by definition, represent the interests of society. They, under oath to serve and protect society, aggregately form a government.

In this case the name, government, is even more significant because it is a clear description of what this body does; it governs society. It disciplines appetites and desires, motivates, directs, and even controls society for its own benefit. It is the only single actor that can because it represents society in the aggregate.

Under such a paradigm, such a government’s power must be infinite. It must have the power to achieve its aims. It must have the coercive ability to herd the many felines of differing interests.

Europe has adopted such a worldview. Fine. Let them. They are willing to accept unemployment rates continually in double digits in exchange for public goods.

The current American administration holds that view. That is why President Obama admittedly and openly says he’s going to redistribute wealth to those who need it. It is why, he believes anybody making over $250,000 a year has an obligation to pay more than they do now. He’s willing to accept the consequences (higher unemployment, larger welfare bureaucracy, more government intrusion into the lives of every day citizens). I’m not.

The American Republic was built under the rubric of a very different paradigm. America’s constitution was built on the belief that society’s role is to protect the freedom of the individual. This world view holds that every individual (with obvious exceptions) is capable of being totally self sufficient. Given basic tranquility and blind law, every man (and woman) is capable of not only feeding themselves but of excelling in whatever field they desire.

This, of course, does not imply that all people born have the same abilities, or even the same opportunity to achieve. The human experience is replete with enough examples to prove that is not the case. But it does mean, given a framework (law) that is open to opportunity, everybody is better off left to succeed or fail based on their own merits.

Here, as with the reverse philosophy (and especially in a republic), government “represents” the people and makes decisions and institutes laws. But here, the goal of the government is not what is best for society, but rather what is best for the individual. If you take care of individual liberties and success, society will be taken care of by weight of all the individuals succeeding. (As opposed to the effort to ensure the success of some over others which is an oligarchy.)

But what of those that can’t you ask? In a highly successful and free society or nation, surplus is almost always available. A free people, successful and flush with the rewards of their hard labor do not feel threatened and therefore are willing to share with those “less fortunate” or less capable. (Hence the origin of the belief in a basic public safety net or a willingness to pay higher taxes to take care of the poor.)

Under such a view, the individual’s freedom is paramount because only when the individual feels free from threat will he be most willing to build or create, take risks and push the boundaries of what is possible. Thus government is limited and restricted (restrained by a list of “negative rights” as some immature critics have called it).

The reverse is also true. When an individual feels that all they have worked for can be taken away, they tend to hide and hoard their individual rewards. Hence they don’t build, they don’t invest, and they don’t create jobs.

Ironically enough, the only way a nation can shift between the two views and the resultant governments, is through an attitude shift of its populace (and, if you believe Thomas Jefferson, the natural elite). That is; the people must be willing to embrace the change a single individual at a time.

Who then is responsible for the shift in government’s focus seen over the last 100 years in America? You! In the end, it is we the people that will chose, one person at a time. It’s in your hands.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Glen Beck is a Wacko and Rush Limbaugh Got Hosed!

The marketplace of ideas is vital to the republican form of government. Without the free exchange of opinion and ideas, governments become excessive, tyrannical and destructive of man’s prosperity.

The American marketplace of ideas is under attack. Glen Beck doesn’t strike me as much more than an entertainer. His predictions of rampant inflation and economic turmoil sound ridiculous as I drive home everyday after working for a company that grew more than 40% last year. His investigations into ACORN and some of the appointed “czars” hired by the Obama administration aside, he just struck me for the past year as Chicken Little.

The national media and the democrat party have attacked him ruthlessly accusing him of fear mongering, lying, and racism. They’ve vilified him, and attacked him personally in fearful, childish ways that are just plain mean.

The one thing his critics haven’t done is critique his facts. They can’t. The truth is, the facts are on his side. At its current pace (not including the debacle of Senator Baucus’ Health Care Reform bill) the government is spending $53,000 a second this year. How can you argue with his facts when the government is borrowing money from the Chinese so quickly that even the Chinese are getting nervous?

The fact is, however they don’t even try. There’s nobody out there in the mainstream media willing to critique his facts. They’re only willing to smear his reputation.

This kind of behavior is running rampant. The current political strategy of the left and elites is to avoid debate in the marketplace by clearing it. That is; they eliminate alternate ideas by smearing the source so as to avoid closer inspection of their own failings.

Clearly Glen Beck is a target of this strategy. So is Rush Limbaugh.

Here’s the timeline in case you missed it: Rush joins Dave Checketts and others as a minority investor in a group looking to buy the St. Louis Rams. Somebody inside Goldman Sach’s leaks the information to the press despite signed confidentiality agreements. A few days later, an unattributed quote appears on an entry in Wikipedia that claims Rush said slavery was a good thing and while it wouldn’t be wise to bring it back “at least the streets were safe at night.” The quote is suddenly repeated by media outlets including the show Pardon the Interruption (PTI) on ESPN.

Rush immediately denies the quote and demands retractions. Research indicates the quote comes from a book attacking Rush published several years ago and doesn’t include a citation. While PTI and others retract their use of the quote, Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton appear on national media continuing to repeat the quote without challenge by reporters. A day later, Dave Checketts announces Rush has been dropped from the investment team and the NFL commissioner denounces Rush as too divisive to be an owner in the league.

There is no legitimate indication the quotes are genuine and not fabrications. For those who listen to Limbaugh, the quotes are clearly out of character.

Once again, no critique of Rush’s ideas or the arguments he makes on a daily basis, but rather an attempt to eliminate him from the marketplace of ideas.

Conservatives are always open to debate. Why? Because history is on our side. Limited, controlled, government protecting freedom is the only path to prosperity and safety in this world. The marketplace is under attack.

Glen Beck isn’t crazy. His interpretation of current of events is dire but not without a factual basis. He might even be right. If we’re facing sudden and intense inflation next year, you’ll know he was, at a minimum, on the right track.

What will happen to this country when people are scared to speak the truth? Try not to contemplate that question too much. If you give an honest answer, you might end up sounding like Glen Beck.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

A Natural Aristocracy

“People living their life for you on TV, they think they’re better than you and you agree.” - Jewel

In a recent video posted on Representative (NY) Tim Bishop meets with protesters in his home district. They are protesting government intervention in their life and are quite agitated.

Obviously trying to set a standard of decorum and control in this environment the representative says: “We have an obligation to discuss those issues in a fashion that is civil and respectful. And let me say one other thing, in a fashion that is informed.”

Now let’s state first and foremost that this isn’t the fun part of being a congressman. This sucks. Let’s even suppose these people are a little over the top in their words and actions.

Even with that stipulated, did you catch what the congressman said? He revealed something very enlightening about his view of his constituents: They’re the uninformed proletariat and they don’t know as much as the congressman about the issue of health care reform.

Not sure that’s really what he meant? Why didn’t he just leave it at civil? Certainly his audience was worked up and it was in everyone’s best interest to let cooler heads prevail. But why did he have to add in the “informed” comment? Because he felt anybody who didn’t see the need for a massive overhaul of health care reform must be uninformed.

The arrogance of the modern politician is stunning, but it isn’t new.

One of the great fears of the founding fathers during the American revolution was that an American victory would result in chaos and that, in turn, would lead to a despotic ruler restoring order. It was why the Articles of Confederation were abandoned in favor of the Constitution, and a much stronger central government was created.

The French revolution was however very different. Chaos did reign in Paris after their revolution. With a citizenry more bent on getting revenge for past wrongs than obtaining freedom, the rule of law quickly turned into mob justice. In response to this mob rule an authoritarian board was set up. After long turmoil and bloodshed the country got so tired of the chaos that they abandoned their new won freedom in exchange for security and gave Napoleon power. They did so because they had come to the conclusion that during times of upheaval a true and natural aristocracy arose that was, by virtue of their superior intellect, supposed to lead.

In the Americas, men like Alexander Hamilton decried this notion as elitist and no different than outright mob mentality. To believe the general population to be inferior in some way to ruling elite was no different than hereditary rule, they thought (ok a bit of an over simplification of their views, but essentially accurate).

There was however one of the founders that embraced the notion fully. Thomas Jefferson wrote numerous times of the natural aristocracy that would naturally, by their superior intellect and prowess at government, rise to the top of the barrel and rule. Society was the better for it, because the aristocrats were able to manipulate the world to the betterment of all mankind.

There is a certain logic to it, and anybody that lives in any society has to know that people gifted with talents succeed in this life at a greater rate that people of lesser skill and intelligence. With that in mind, however, what is the consequences of such a belief?

The first and foremost affect is that a republic infected with this belief is dead. How can one represent the will of one’s constituents if one believes they are ignorant and their opinions shallow? If the masses are indeed ignorant, then should a representative listen to their constituents?

The second effect is the destruction of the rule of law. If you are better able to govern yourself and master yourself than the average person, why should you be subject to the same laws as that person? Don’t you have an obligation to protect the masses from themselves and their propensity to fail? If 47 million Americans can’t seem to find a way to get health insurance, under this belief system, aren’t you obligated to provide it for them even if your system is separate from theirs?

The third affect is to change the motivation of serving in Government. Now, because it is essential that you, the superior intellect, stay in power so no less capable person (who is “uninformed”) can damage the progress you’ve made; isn’t it appropriate to manipulate the system in any way necessary to make sure you stay in power? After all, you cannot effect a better world for the “uninformed” masses unless you wield the power to do so. Therefore the accumulation of power is paramount and essential in fulfilling your role. You can not assist the people without it.

Fourth; Any other kind of Elite, is a danger. What sets people apart as this natural aristocracy? Election, of course. The fact that the masses of people, who are generally stupid in all other aspects, votes you in, proves that they look up to you as a person that can do for them what they can’t do for themselves?

Fifth and most dangerously, this belief leads to a natural belief that the good of the masses out weighs the individual rights of the people that make up the masses. Everyone must sacrifice to serve the community (except of course the natural aristocracy because they are above the law).

I don’t think I really need to, but here’s a few examples of what I’m talking about.

Representative Bishop’s response to his constituents.
The fact that even in the mid nineties, although smoking wasn’t allowed in any other federal buildings in the country, it was still legal to smoke in the capital building and adjacent office buildings in Washington DC.
The fact that Congress was not subject to the following laws until 1995:
  • The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (Overtime pay for non-exempt workers)
  • Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Discrimination)
  • The Age Discrimination in Employment act of 1967 (Discrimination)
  • The Americans with Disabilities act of 1973 (Wheelchair access, discrimination, etc)
Recent campaign finance regulation is focused on limiting contributions to campaigns and not the activities of those campaigns (including prohibiting when you can denigrate a candidate).
The vilification of corporations and “the rich” as somehow getting their money unfairly and the desire to “spread” that money “around a little.”

And finally as proof I proffer the following comment from a former President:

“For it is very clear, that in fundamental theory socialism and democracy are almost if not quite one and the same. They both rest at bottom upon the absolute right of the community to determine its own destiny and that of its members. Men as communities are supreme over men as individuals… Democracy is bound by no principle of its own nature to say itself nay as to the exercise of any power… the difference between democracy and socialism is not an essential difference, but only a practical difference- is a difference of organization and policy, not a difference of primary motive.” Woodrow Wilson as Quoted by Glen Beck in his new book Glen Beck’s Common Sense (pg. 65)-bolding added.

Yes, I think Representative Bishop meant what he said. He didn’t want to argue with the uninformed and betrayed his view that Americans that disagree with him are of lesser intelligence and inferior to the natural aristocracy. Oh don’t worry he isn’t alone; there are plenty of politicians on both sides of the isle with the view.

I would like to challenge that notion. I challenge any member of Congress (either chamber) that supports the President’s plan for health care reform to a debate. I’m no expert and am certainly not part of the natural aristocracy of this country, but rather am an average American. It’s time that they understand, their job is to keep government out of my way so I can achieve the great things I want to achieve, not the other way around.

Any takers? Cowards! Afraid the “uninformed” know more than you about health care?

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Reading Between the Lines: Pelosi’s Fight for Power

To understand politics you must be able to read between the lines, especially when it involves the “elites” of modern American politics. Take Nancy Pelosi for example.

A recap of recent events would help set the stage.

Earlier this year Nancy Pelosi and other prominent democrats continued to criticize the Bush administration and accuse it of breaking the law by water boarding terror suspects. They called it torture and demanded that Bush administration officials be investigated and prosecuted for having provided the legal precedence and opinions that provided cover for the program.

Republicans responded that Democrat leadership in Congress was fully informed of all techniques being used. Pelosi stepped into a hornets’ nest by stating that she, for one, was never apprised of the practice.

Leaks soon appeared in the media that the Speaker was informed of Bush era policies and their implementation. Pelosi responded by openly accusing the CIA of lying to her and Congress (she bypassed the usual term “mislead” and almost immediately went to “lie”).

Unidentified sources in the CIA immediately leaked the dates of the briefings at which the Speaker was present and what was discussed in those meetings, including memo’s and agenda’s proving the subject was discussed. Ms. Pelosi lamely stated she wasn’t at the briefings and made excuses that members of her staff never briefed her on what was said in those meetings (yet took to disciplinary action against the staff members).

Republicans, sensing blood in the water called her bluff and called for hearings into the Ms. Pelosi’s accusations. The Democrat director of the CIA even released a statement stating that the briefings did take place and that there was no indication the CIA had lied to or mislead the Speaker.

So now let’s read between the lines. Almost everything you need to know is included in the synopsis above.

The first thing to understand is that President Obama has allowed Democrat leaders to write most of his legislation for him. The President then stood back and took credit for additional TARP (Troubled Asset Recovery Project) and ARRA (American Recovery and Restoration Act) legislation. Naturally you can see why some of the leadership of his own party might feel slighted at that.

Next understand that the Democrat Party base was after Bush administration blood and desperately wanted investigations into “enhanced interrogation techniques”. To appease these people Obama released memo’s detailing what techniques were used, on who, and how often (although he didn’t release what the outcome of those techniques was). This fanned the flames of the left, but the administration refused to start investigations.

In hope of appealing to the party faithful the Speaker echoed the cry for investigations. It also would serve as a spotlight for her if she could pressure the administration into conducting the investigations.

At this point you have to ask yourself that if she was indeed briefed, why would she say she wasn’t? That has to be easy to understand; she wanted to grand stand and she felt the administration would dare call one of their party leaders a liar. She miscalculated.

It’s easy to understand why the administration wouldn’t want to investigate legal opinions that allowed torture. The administration’s own lawyers had just come to the same legal opinions as the Bush administration had (they were deporting a former Nazi under the same legal interpretation that if he was tortured in Germany for information the US couldn’t be held responsible because it didn’t undertake its actions with the intent of torturing the prisoner). They were suddenly looking for any way they could to divert attention away from the subject and here was the Speaker forcing their hand.

I think the initial leaks out of the CIA were genuine leaks by agents that feared investigation and felt betrayed by the Speakers comments, but you know that in an organization such as the CIA, leaks don’t continue if the agency doesn’t want them to.

Pelosi’s response therefore was a slap in the face of the administration and probably intended to force it into caving into the Speaker’s demands (and ultimately sharing power and spotlight). It should be obvious to anyone that Leon Panetta’s public statement backing the CIA was the administration’s power punch in response. They left the Speaker publically isolated and alone. She was a public laughing stock overnight.

In short, the administration put her back in her place and retook control of the public agenda.

If you can’t read between the lines and you think it’s all about ideology, you’ll never understand American politics. It’s important to ask why people are saying what they are saying and examine the long term effect of every statement.

I’m not saying that nothing is done on the basis of principle in Washington, I’m just saying that there are always power considerations, and the elitist establishment throws the hardest fastball. Do both sides of the isle play this game? Yes. Who does it the most? The people who think they have been born with a superior intellect and think of themselves as not just another American, but as part of an elite group which understands better than almost anybody else.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Nie Nie's America

We teach our kids in school that “divine right” was a blasphemy that everyone always knew was wrong and oppressive. It kept the rich in power and the poor enslaved. The truth is, however, that almost everyone in the western world thought it the natural order or humanity until just before the American Revolution. When the American Revolution ended in success, Europe, and the entire civilized world, watched closely.

Can you understand why they thought our “experiment” was doomed to failure? People are stupid they would have said. They make poor choices they would have added. They pointed to Greece and Rome as examples of what happened when a people were free to express and govern themselves. Monarch and thinker alike feared the inevitable plunge into madness and chaos that never came.

Why didn’t it come? Why didn’t our fledgling nation tare itself apart in violent convulsions? Well … there were a lot of reasons. Some of them are cultural, others are institutional and some are… Stephanie. I’ll explain.

I came home one day and my wife was crying while reading something on the internet. Being the caring husband I am, I went over to ask her what was wrong. She had heard about a couple from Arizona that had recently been in a plane crash. The husband was badly burned, the wife was worse off.

After finding the blog, my beautiful wife had gone back and read their history, got to know the family. She told me who they were, where they came from (the wife, Stephanie, was from Provo). My wife told me of their incredible love affair and the husband’s penchant for learning to fly. She told me of how the husband wanted to fly out of town to get his wife a pair of shoes as a gift. To be extra sure all went well, they had the husband’s flight instructor fly the plane.

Tragedy struck on their way home. The engine died and they crashed. The pilot died. The couple was thrown from the wreckage and badly burned. She was burned over 83% of her body. Her heart failed twice on the way to the hospital and the rescuers brought her back both times.

There in the hospital, their burns were so extensive doctors decided to put them both in chemical induced comas.

The woman’s sister started posting on the family blog as a way of updating friends and relatives, and that’s about the time my wife saw it for the first time. She and I both watched that blog on a daily basis for the next five months. We shed tears at tales of their children staying with family and memories of the couple, and prayed for them.

Near the end of that time, Mr. Nielson (the husband) awoke. He demanded to see his wife and to speak to her. There he pored out his heart to his lover and willed her out of her sleep.

That’s all well and good. That alone was worth the tears we shed for them. It was a story of tragedy and personal loss. What has happened since then, however, is what brightens my world.

You see, the real story isn’t that Stephanie woke up and lived. It’s that she has to fight on a daily just to get out of bed or to kneel in prayer and is not giving up. Think of being her. She can’t sleep at night now sometimes. She has to have somebody come to her home several times a week and stretch her skin for her. She routinely goes back in for surgery. She wakes up on a daily basis in so much pain she winces and cries. Stephanie used to take pictures of herself all the time and thought herself beautiful, now she can’t stand to look herself in the mirror.

Why doesn’t she curse God and die? Why doesn’t she give up? I admit, I’m not sure. There is something about her that wills to fight on. She routinely comments on her blessings and the necessity of going through “tribulations”.

I have no doubt but that she will overcome this particular tribulation. I have no doubt but that one day, I’ll look on her website and see a new picture of her smiling.

I admire her very much, but Stephanie isn’t unusual. She’s a normal woman fighting her own goliath. Your local newspaper covers such stories regularly and I’d even be willing to bet that you know someone who’s fighting a similar uphill fight.

With that knowledge in mind, why do we need government to fix our bad mortgages? Tell me why it is that our politicians talk to us like we’re children and pander and patronize our every whim? Why? Because we let them.

The human race is capable of so much more. The freer we are, the more we can overcome. We are not weak, we do not need a hand up from the Government! In the long hours of the night when we can’t sleep and scream in pain, we are then in our finest hour. It is then that our spirit rises and fights. Only after such hours, alone in the dark, do we become stronger and more capable.

We conservatives believe in you. We didn’t need the government to bail us out and we surely don’t need them to take our money to spend it wisely. If there’s someone in my neighborhood that’s going to lose their house, I’m willing to help out in any way I can.

The human spirit is capable of so much more than our current generation of politicians think. While I am nervous over the current state of our nation, we have not gone so far down the path of degradation of the human spirit that we can’t recover at any time. We are still the freest nation on the earth.

Our experiment is a success so far. The next time you hear the talking heads question the validity of our capitalistic institutions, think of Stephanie. With people like Stephanie out there, do we really need someone to try and fix it all for us? We conservatives don’t think so.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

I am American

“[Bradshaw had written:] The opposers of liberty have very little else to urge for themselves besides inconveniences. But the defenders of the magistrate’s power offer something more when they tell you that a man cannot part with his liberty and have it too, convey it by compact to the magistrate and retain it himself. ‘The first inconvenience is the impossibility to fix a point where the imposer will stop. For do but once grant that the magistrate hath a power to impose, and then we lie at his mercy how far he will go.’” – John Locke

An open letter to the President:

Mr. President;

I have been stunned at the power government now wields. Without reference to the Constitution, our government now tells private citizens how much they are allowed to earn, that any money over $250,000 earned in any year belongs to somebody else, and that the government itself knows how to run businesses better than its citizens.

Mr. President, I warn you that the policies you are pursuing do not lead to prosperity. We’ve been down this road before. Are you so young that you don’t remember the stagnating inflation of the late 1970’s and early 1980’s? Do you not remember the elite politicians of the age thinking they knew better than the American people? Government ownership of industries, interference in the economy, runaway deficits, and exorbitant taxes where the hallmarks of the era. You threaten to take us back in time.

Ronald Reagan spoke of it in his first inauguration: “From time to time, we have been tempted to believe that society has become too complex to be managed by self-rule, that government by an elite group is superior to government for, by, and of the people. But if no one among us is capable of governing himself, then who among us has the capacity to govern someone else?”

Mister President; I am fully aware that your administration orchestrated the bonus scandal at AIG, orchestrated a union take over of Chrysler, forced banks to accept federal loans and then changed the terms of those loans, and is now moving legislation that would institute government control over health care.

While I fully understand the collapse of the financial markets, I am aware that you have purposefully exacerbated public fears to justify the “remaking of America.” I know that your administration considers anyone who believes in smaller government an extremist and terror suspect.

I also understand that, without much effort, you could squash my future into dust. I know that you could and might be (by your recent interpretation of the Patriot Act) listening in on my conversations without a warrant.

But the one thing you are missing in all of this is that I’m an American and I can not be defeated. Americans aren’t stupid. We understand power better than you think. We don’t need you to save us from the economy; we’ve seen worse (no matter what doom and gloom you parley) in our history and overcame it. We can overcome this without you spending our children’s future.

You see what I understand and you don’t is that “We the People”, collectively are wiser and more capable than any one leader, no matter how gifted. I and my fellow American’s can not be defeated, only betrayed. We are a special people; the world’s last best hope for freedom and prosperity. We are the culmination of every society that has ever dared to dream of freedom.

Now I see you shaking your head. Yes it is true, I’m not black. I’m not a “minority” picked on and bullied for centuries by my fellow citizens. No, but like all other American’s I have seen injustices committed in this country and corrupt men break the rules and get a way with it. I was raised on stories of my religious forefathers receiving notice that the state governor had authorized their extermination, and I have known my fair share of disappointment. I have known little of easy breaks.

I have lived in former communist countries and seen grown men abandoned by society lying in their own urine. I have met women widowed because they crossed paths with dictators.

Oh, I am not na├»ve, I understand perfectly. That is why I recognize what you are doing. I ask you to turn back now before you betray our freedom any further. In the law we are free, in our freedom we are safe. I will take my chances with the vicissitudes of life, Mr. President, without your help, thank you. I will overcome because, I am American and that’s what we do.

Your Fellow Citizen,


“The crisis we are facing today does not require of us the kind of sacrifice that Martin Treptow (a soldier killed in WWI) and so many thousands of others were called upon to make. It does require, however, our best effort, and our willingness to believe in ourselves and to believe in our capacity to perform great deeds; to believe that together, with God’s help, we can and will resolve the problems which now confront us. And, after all, why shouldn’t we believe that? We are Americans.” – Ronald Reagan, First Inaugural Address

Friday, February 13, 2009

Universal Recognition of Right and Wrong; Self Evident Truth and Man

The following was written by a guest writer, Lysis. A brilliant man, who has influenced thousands in his over 20 years of teaching, he is an expert in European history, classic literature, and the Roman Empire. It is a great honor to have his original writings part of the Grange's record.

By Lysis-

On January 31, 2009, an event gave evidence to the equality of all men. The media, obsessed with fluctuations in economies, football games, and the misbehaviors of celebrities, chose to all but ignore it; there was a short AP story; buried on page A7 in the newspaper. As a student of History, I have hope that the significance of the day will be recognized and celebrated when the politics of “hope” and “change” return to the governance of reason. The event – the peaceful and democratic provincial elections conducted throughout Iraq - demonstrates the existence of Truths which are self evident to all reasoning beings. In spite of years of terrorist atrocities, decades of brutal dictatorship and centuries of superstitious indoctrination: given their freedom, the Iraqis behaved, quite naturally, like humans.

While the Iraqi miracle gives empirical evidence that neither geography, climate, race, religion, culture, nor language can override the common nature of men, it is in the study of our history that we can find proof of our common mind and expose the truths reason reveals. Faced with the horrific evil wrought by those whose glory and power rested on the thralldom of others, George W. Bush proposed that, given freedom, people would choose the right. President Bush followed up his words with deeds, crushing oppressive terror states in Iraq and Afghanistan to let in the light of truth and gave fifty million the chance to be human and thus humane.

His ditracters, sadly more interested in political power for themselves and their causes than in the safety of Americans or the freedom of mankind, have actually gone so far as to argue that democracy and freedom are American ideas not suitable for Muslim states or necessarily desirable for all nations. I actually heard an MSNBC talking head equating bringing freedom to Iraq and Afghanistan to British Imperialism, and the emergence of democracy; a right for which thousands of Iraqis gave their lives to procure for their fellows; compared to the imposition of puppet monarchies by the French and British in their mandates carved out of the wreckage of the Ottoman Empire. Such opinions are either disastrously uninformed or dastardly deceptive. The inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are not an expedient concoction scribbled down by Thomas Jefferson to justify war; they are an incantation invoking eternal truths.

In spite of the universal failure of Marxism, and the exposition of the abominations perpetrated in desperate attempts to impose communism on mankind, it is still fashionable, in some circles, to cling to the baseless myths of historical determinism, the pseudo-social science that Marx invoked in his attempt to bind all things to his phantasm of economic progress. Marx claimed that new truths come into existence marching lock step through history with his arbitrary truncations of human existence. Such a view shows a simple lack of study. It is still fashionable about the halls of academia to ascribe the ideas of capitalism and democracy to the “age of Enlightenment” and claim that the “natural rights theory” was crafted by European men: Hobbs to Lock to Montesquieu to Voltaire to Jefferson; linked to Adam Smith. Once this silliness appeared in the text books and became enshrined in the generationally regurgitated lecture notes of professors; now dutifully posted on Wikipedia; it became accepted by those whose learning is limited to listening to lectures. It is far from the truth. None of these men would have claimed to have invented the ideas attributed to them any more than Copernicus would have claimed to have originated the idea of the heliocentric model, nor to have himself, placed the sun at the center of the world. The truths which Lock and Jefferson evoked not only predated their time, but have quite simply always existed, and have been recognized, if not realized, by humans as long as they have had the capacity to reason.

Words allow the communication of ideas and writing allows for the communication of ideas over time and space. From the day when the most ancient of oral traditions were put down in written words, the historic evidence of the universal existence of human reason and the reasoned recognition of universal truths has been documented.

The events recounted in Homer’s Iliad, as attested to by the archaeology of Schliemann and records found at Nineveh, occurred about 1200 BC; approximately the same time that Moses climbed Sinai. In this “oldest of books”, a poem four hundred years in the making, we clearly see the truths recognized by Jefferson and aspired to by the free peoples of Iraq. The day came when Agamemnon, King of Men, unjustly took the woman Briseis from Achilles. The words of Achilles, the archetypical hero, demonstrate his understanding of the natural laws which enable justice and underpin all good governments. His affirmation is the same as Jefferson’s. Any king who does not fulfill his duty to protect the rights of his people is no king. It is the right and the duty of free men – of heroes – to desert such tyrants. Achilles speaks:

Why must we battle Trojans, men of Argos? Why did he muster an army, lead us here, that son of Atreus? Why, why in the world if not for Helen with her loose and lustrous hair? Are they the only men alive who love their wives, those sons of Atreus? Never! Any decent man, a man with sense, loves his own, cares for his own as deeply as I. I loved that woman with all my heart, though I won her like a trophy with my spear. . . But now that he’s torn my honor from my hands, robbed me, lied to me – don’t let him try me now. I know him too well – he’ll never win me over!

Three hundred years after Homer’s poem recorded Achilles’ “revolution”, Sophocles wrote the tragedy Antigone. Neither the story recounted in the play nor its Truths were original to the poet. Sophocles tells of a princes’ act of civil disobedience; the justice of which rang as true to the Athenian audience then as the acts of Gandhi, Martin Luther King, and Nelson Mandela made sense to reasoning minds in the twentieth century. It is this universal recognition of justice, that conscious acceptance of Truth that is demonstrably common to the experience of all free people. The two brother kings of Thebes had fought for power. Eteocles defended his city with his warriors; Polyneices attacked his own people with foreign troops. At the end of the battle, both kings lay dead. Creon, their uncle, took the throne. Eager to demonstrate his power and judgment, he decreed that his nephew, Polyneices, should be left unburied; his purpose was to damn the young man’s soul. Whether one believes that leaving the body of the dead to the dogs condemns the soul to eternal wanderings was not the issue – it was that Creon believed it would and determination to usurp that power; placing his man-made law at odds with Laws of nature and nature’s God. Antigone defied injustice and buried her brother. Dragged before her uncle, Antigone confronted the tyrant with reason, the unfailing and logical proposition that one must place eternal Laws above the whims of men. When Martin Luther King defied the statutes of segregation, thinking people knew he was right and that the legislators and sheriffs who decreed otherwise – even though they represented the will of the majority - were wrong. The wrong opinion of the many collapsed before the power of the Truth. Sophocles gives voice to reason:

Creon (to Antigone) You – tell me not at length but in a word.
You knew the order not to do this thing?

Antigone I knew, of course I knew. The word was plain.

Creon And still you dared to overstep these laws?

Antigone For me it was not Zeus who made that order.
Nor did the justice who lives with the gods below
Mark down such laws to hold among mankind.
Nor did I think your orders we so strong
That you, a mortal man, could over-run
The gods’ unwritten and unfailing Laws,
Not now, not yesterday’s, they always live,
And no one knows their origin in time.

Confucius, contemporary with Sophocles but a world away, admonishes his disciples, “Faced with what is right, to leave it undone shows a lack of courage.” Confucius brings his wisdom to bear on unjust government and the obligations of all men to recognize tyranny and act. “If what he [the ruler] says is good and no one goes against him, good. But if what he says is not good and no one goes against him, then is this not almost a case of leading the state to ruin?” At the same time, the wisdom recognized in China was stirring action in Rome.

Confident of the power his position gave him, the son of the king of Rome raped Lucretia. Once she had revealed the crime to her husband Lucretia killed herself, Lucius Junius Brutus, the savior of the Roman people, took action. With the bloody knife in hand he brought the truth to the oppressed people. They would recognize the same natural Laws that were self evident to Achilles, and would inspire Jefferson. Livy recounts Brutus’ words:

By this girl’s blood – non more chaste till a tyrant wronged her – and by the gods, I swear that with sword and fire, and whatever else can lend strength to my arm, I will pursue Lucius Tarquinius the Proud, his wicked wife, and all his children, and never again will I let them or any other man be king in Rome.

In the waning days of the Roman Republic, Cicero appealed to the same reason in his defense of Justice in his dialogue On the Laws. He and his brother Quintus discuss the nature of natural and eternal Law as opposed to the often unjust statues of men. They conclude that one can actually judge a state and its laws by their agreement with universal Truths. Cicero also makes the same conclusion I am seeking to expose; that the Truths upon which just nations are based are eternal and recognized naturally by all men. When men are free to choose, they will naturally choose justice and right.

Marcus Ever since we were children, Quintus, we have learned to call, “if one summon another to court”, and other rules of the same kind, laws. But we must come to the true understanding of the matter, which is as follows: this and other commands and prohibitions of nations have the power to summon to righteousness and away from wrong-doing; but this power is not merely older than the existence of nations and states, it is coeval [of the same age] with the God who guards and rules heaven and earth. For the divine mind cannot exist without reason, and divine reason cannot but have this power to establish right and wrong . . . Even if there was not written law against rape at Rome n the reign of Lucius Tarquinius, we cannot say on that account that Sextus Tarquinius did not break the eternal Law by violating Lucretia, the daughter of Lucretius! For reason did exist, derived from the Nature of the universe, urging men to right conduct and diverting them from wrongdoing, and this reason did not first become Law when it was written down, but when it first came into existence; and it came into existence simultaneously with the divine mind. Wherefore the true and primal Law, applied to command and prohibition is the right reason of supreme Jupiter.

Quintus I agree with you brother, that what is right and true is also eternal, and does not begin or end with written statutes.

Cicero wrote before the birth of Jesus, before the reign of the first Roman Emperor, before the Anglo Saxons reached England, before Muhammad, the invasions of the Huns, or the Mongols. An ocean of time and space separate Cicero and the people of Iraq, but they recognize the same truths. Clearly, Cicero predated the Enlightenment philosophers of the 18th century. There can be little doubt that all of these men had read their Cicero, but it is just as certain that when he is read in Bagdad his words ring as true. I have a friend in Bagdad today, a Coast Guard officer, instructor of military law, and a lawyer who is teaching the Rule of Law to the Iraqis. It will not be easy – the Achaeans, the Romans, the Chinese and the Americans have often fallen short of their duty to the Truth, but after so much sacrifice and so much wisdom, we can hope they too will choose the right, they will realize their humanity. For as Cicero says:

Law is the highest reason, implanted in Nature, which commands what ought to be done and forbids the opposite. This reason, when firmly fixed and fully developed in the human mind, is LAW. And so they believe that Law is intelligence, whose natural function is to command right conduct and forbid wrongdoing . . . Now if this is correct, and I think it to be in general, then the origin of Justice is to be found in Law, for Law is a natural force; it is the mind and reason of the intelligent man, the standard by which Justice and Injustice are measured. . . But in determining what Justice is, let us begin with that supreme Law which had its origin ages before any written Law existed or any State had been established.

A new state has been established in Iraq, its constitution crafted by the will of the people, its freedom bought by their blood. If it succeeds, it will be a great victory for justice and reason; if it fails it will be a harbinger of man’s inability to reach his divine potential. Either way, that so many have tried so hard and achieved so much is empirical proof of the ancient arguments that reveal the eternal nature of Truth, Justice and the human way!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

American Exceptionalism

Lately I’ve been rereading the amazing Harry Potter books (ok, really I’ve been listening to them on my i-Pod). I’m stunned by J.K. Rowling’s incredible talent for relating the story of the exceptional “boy who lived.” She has written an English classic for the ages that stands in the great pantheon of that language’s finest works.

As I finished the final installment however, I found myself disappointed all over again at the somewhat trite ending. After all the sacrifices made by Harry, nothing, in the end, changed other than Voldemort’s death.

I’m not sure Rowling was consciously aware of the extremely political nature of her work. Oh sure, she intended the obvious references to racism and Western arrogance, but I think she was wholly unaware of the finer points of her commentary on governmental abuses, corruption, graft, bureaucracy’s addiction to power, and conservatism.

OK, before you liberals start rolling your eyes, here’s what I mean: She had spent three full novels itemizing the ways which government and bureaucracies abuse their power and destroy freedom. Sham trials, control of a “free” press, outright lies, arrests for political purposes, and the list goes on and on. Her portrayal was perfectly insightful and accurate.

The story ends with the death of the villain and Harry Potter, a truly good person, returning to a normal life. There’s not a single mention of the consequences of all that abuse of power, no mention of the trials of those people who served in the corrupt government under the dictator’s rule. In fact the only story line that gets resolved is Harry’s.

I had to think for a long while about why that bothered me so much. What did I care if it had a fairy tell ending? It’s a children’s story after all. Oh sure, I’m a political junky, but that doesn’t explain it.

It bothered me because I’m American.

We American’s have a unique view on the world. We were the first nation ever founded on the principles of freedom. We are the “great experiment” in self government. We are unique in the world. We are different. By definition, we’re exceptional.

Intrinsic in our exceptional nature is a special role or destiny. It’s Ronald Reagan’s belief that the United States of America is a shinning city on a hill that can not be hidden. We are a beacon to all people everywhere that “yearn to breath free.”

Don’t misunderstand, we are not superior, but rather blessed. We are right in our assessment of human nature and potential and therefore powerful in our rightness, but we’re not superior. In fact, that is part of what sets us apart; we believe anyone can achieve what we have done.

We therefore have a responsibility to help all like minded peoples in their quest to achieve what we have. When we shirk that responsibility and turn our back on those around the world less fortunate, we betray our sacred responsibility to humanity.

I read today of Europeans slamming Sara Palin by saying she is the quintessential American, a “cowboy,” “hick,” and know-it all. Frankly, I don’t expect them to get it. I think I’d be less supportive of her if they approved of her quintessential Americanism. (Even our recession riddled economy is better than their boom economies.)

The unique American culture continues, despite the Europeanization of many of our views, to benefit the world in innumerable ways and will continue to do so for a very long time.

Harry’s happy ending was unfulfilling to me because, I’m American. I expect that when governmental abuses happen, the people rise up and reclaim their freedom, people are held accountable, and freedom marches on. But that’s an American view and American views are just as exceptional as their country. As a matter of fact, they are their country. Conservatives understand that.