30 November 2008

The mistake of the the Alexanders, and of the Augusti, and of the Napoleons – Wisdom Sunday

Because of what Paul says in Romans 13:1-7, some Christians can almost worship the state. Paul says obey the governing authorities (and above those governing authorities was Caesar) and so we do, almost uncritically.

There was, of course, that little incident in 1776. And a whole lot of Christians supported it. The same thing happened in 1861.

What explains this? The Calvinistic view of the state, how it arises, what are its benefits and what are its detriments.

Man is created from man, and by virtue of his birth he is organically united with the whole race. Together we form one humanity, not only with those who are living now, but also with all the generations behind us and with all those who shall come after us pulverized into millions though we may be. All the human race is from one blood. The conception of States, however, which subdivide the earth into continents, and each continent into morsels, does not harmonize with this idea. Then only would the organic unity of our race be realized politically, if one State could embrace all the world, and if the whole of humanity were associated in one world empire. Had sin not intervened, no doubt this would actually have been so. If sin, as a disintegrating force, had not divided humanity into different sections, nothing would have marred or broken the organic unity of our race. And the mistake of the Alexanders, and of the Augusti, and of the Napoleons, was not that they were charmed with the thought of the One World Empire, but it was this–that they endeavored to realize this idea notwithstanding that the force of sin had dissolved our unity.

In like manner the international cosmopolitan endeavors of the Social-democracy present, in their conception of union, an ideal, which on this very account charms us, even when we are aware that they try to reach the unattainable, in endeavoring to realize this high and holy ideal, now and in a sinful world. Nay, even Anarchy, conceived as the attempt to undo all mechanical connections among men, together with the undoing of all human authority, and to encourage, in their stead, the growth of a new organic tie, arising from nature itself – I say, all this is nothing but a looking backward after a lost paradise.

For, indeed, without sin there would have been neither magistrate nor state-order; but political life, in its entirety, would have evolved itself, after a patriarchal fashion, from the life of the family. Neither bar of justice nor police, nor army, nor navy, is conceivable in a world without sin; and thus every rule and ordinance and law would drop away, even as all control and assertion of the power of the magistrate would disappear, were life to develop itself, normally and without hindrance, from its own organic impulse. Who binds up, where nothing is broken? Who uses crutches, where the limbs are sound?

Every State-formation, every assertion of the power of the magistrate, every mechanical means of compelling order and of guaranteeing a safe course of life is therefore always something unnatural; something against which the deeper aspirations of our nature rebel; and which, on this very account, may become the source both of a dreadful abuse of power, on the part of those who exercise it, and of a continuous revolt on the part of the multitude. Thus originated the battle of the ages between Authority and Liberty, and in this battle it was the very innate thirst for liberty which proved itself the God-ordained means to bridle the authority wheresoever it degenerated into despotism. And thus all true conception of the nature of the State and of the assumption of authority by the magistrate, and on the other hand all true conception of the right and duty of the people to defend liberty, depends on what Calvinism has here placed in the foreground, as the primordial truth –that God has instituted the magistrates, by reason of sin.

In this one thought are hidden both the light-side and the shady side of the life of the State. The shady-side for this multitude of states ought not to exist; there should be only one world-empire. These magistrates rule mechanically and do not harmonize with our nature. And this authority of government is exercised by sinful men, and is therefore subject to all manner of despotic ambitions. But the light-side also, for a sinful humanity, without division of states, without law and government, and without ruling authority, would be a veritable hell on earth; or at least a repetition of that which existed on earth when God drowned the first degenerate race in the deluge. Calvinism has, therefore, by its deep conception of sin laid bare the true root of state-life, and has taught us two things: first –that we have gratefully to receive, from the hand of God, the institution of the State with its magistrates, as a means of preservation, now indeed indispensable. And on the other hand also that, by virtue of our natural impulse, we must ever watch against the danger which lurks, for our personal liberty, in the power of the State. -- Abraham Kuyper, "Calvinism and Politics," Lectures on Calvinism, here.
The state, because of sin, is a necessary evil. And because it bears the sword, in the end the only reliable weapon to be used in keeping that sword in check is another sword.
27 November 2008

The meaning of Thanksgiving...

is the triumph of capitalism over collectivism.

If you're a Christian, as I am, thank God for that victory: it's yours to enjoy.

And celebrate heartily.

And tomorrow, too. Shop victoriously.

And, if you're really thankful then fight collectivism ever more boldly--con mayor audacia.
26 November 2008

Who drives better, parents or their children?

It’s the parents, but they certainly don’t set much of an example:

According to a recent study by State Farm Insurance, 65 percent of parents surveyed talk on the phone while driving, even though 94 percent of them forbid their teenagers from doing so. The majority of parents also drive while tired and when they’re in a hurry. Statistics do show that adults are, in fact, better-equipped to handle the complexities of the road – and even to multitask while driving. But their kids are not. A Ford-sponsored study revealed that teen drivers are four times more distracted by cell phone use than adults. This combination of being more easily distracted, along with having less-developed judgment and emulating parent-teachers who employ a do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do attitude doesn’t bode well for young drivers – or those who share the road with them.


[…]

Obviously, parents are more roadworthy than their kids. But facts show they aren’t setting a very good example on the road by multitasking rather than simply driving. This must change if the next generation of motorists and those who share the road with them are going to travel from point A to point B safely.

Most of parenting involves modeling obedience to the principles you think your children should imbibe. The hard part about being a parent is this: the only person who observes more of your behavior than your children is God.
24 November 2008

They are rich now

This audio really says it all.




Their salvation is at hand. The Lord Barak Obama Epiphanes has made them rich. Sing praises to his name.

You know, I'm not rich. Does this mean that I now get to be rich too? Finally, I can stop suffering and get back to work on that novel. Wait til I tell the wife; she'll be so happy she won't have to take that third job after all. And she can go shopping on Friday.
22 November 2008

Rich man, poor man – Wisdom Sunday

On this, the 45th anniversary of C.S. Lewis’s death, I can’t help but post yet another one by him.

Anyone who’s been around knows that some Christians are pretty awful people and many non-Christians are pretty good. Lewis cautions us: some people are good in the same way they might have blonde hair, and have, therefore, nothing really to boast about. Their goodness is a gift from God, just like their hair color. They are rich. Their contraries are poor.

Christ said, “Blessed are the poor: and “How hard it is for the rich to enter the Kingdom,” and no doubt He primarily meant the economically rich and economically poor. But do not His words also apply to another kind of riches and poverty? One of the dangers of having a lot of money is that you may be quite satisfied with the kinds of happiness money can give and so fail to realize your need for God. If everything seems to come simply be signing checks, you may forget that you are at every moment totally dependent on Gd. Now quite plainly natural gifts carry with them a similar danger. If you have sound nerves and intelligence and health and popularity and a good upbringing, you are likely to be quite satisfied with your character as it is. “Why drag God into it?” you may ask. A certain level of good conduct comes fairly easily to you. You are not one of those wretched creatures who are always being tripped up by sex, or dipsomania, or nervousness, or bad temp. Everyone says you are a nice chap and…you agree with them. You are quite likely to believe that all this niceness is your own doing: and you may easily not feel the need for any better kind of goodness. Often people who have all these natural kinds of goodness cannot be brought to recognize their need for Christ at all until, one day, the natural goodness lets them down and their self-satisfaction is shattered, In other words, it is hard for those who are “rich” in this sense to enter the Kingdom.

It is very different for the nasty people—the little, low, timid, warped, thin-blooded, lonely people, or the passionate, sensual, unbalanced people. If they make any attempt at goodness at all, they learn, in double quick time, that they need help. It is Christ or nothing for them. It is taking up the cross and following—or else despair. They are the lost sheep; He came specially to find them. They are…the “poor”: He blessed them They are the “awful set” he goes about with::and of course the Pharisees say still, as they said from the first, “If there were anything in Christianity those people would not be Christians.”

There is either a warning or an encouragement here for every one of us. If you are a nice person—if virtue comes easily to you—beware! Much is expected from those whom much is given. If you mistake for your own merits what are really God’s gifts to you through nature, and if you are contented with simply being nice, you are still a rebel: and all those gifts will only make your fall more terrible, your corruption more complicated, your bad example more disastrous. The Devil was an archangel once; his natural gifts were as far above yours as yours are above those of a chimpanzee.

But if you are a poor creature—poisoned by a wretched up-brining in some house full of vulgar jealousies and senseless quarrels—saddled, by no choice of your own, with some loathsome sexual perversion—nagged day in and day out by an inferiority complex that makes you snap at your best friends—do not despair. He knows all about it. You are one of the poor whom He blessed. He knows what a wretched machine you are trying to dive. Keep on. Do what you can. One day…he will fling it on the scapheap and give you a new one. And then you may astonish us all—not least of all yourself: for you have learned your driving in a hard school. (Some of the last will be first and some of the first will be last.) Mere Christianity, 180-82.
We poor can take comfort. But let’s not overlook Lewis’s exhortation: Do what you can.

Oh, Red Raiders, where art thou?

I am in shocked disbelief. My Texas Tech Red Raiders are getting beat like they stole something!

I keep telling myself its only a game.

But it doesn't work.

I can't watch anymore.

But I must: I'm a loyal fan to the awful, horrible, terrible, bloody end.

This is gonna hurt.

Correction: 52 to 7. It already hurts.
21 November 2008

Is Obama Epiphanes a hawk in dove’s clothing?

Many of those who voted for His Beatitude are wondering that. (H/T: Ed Morrisey.) As time goes on, they may find themselves wondering about a lot of things. It’s not like they really knew much about him (or his opponent) in the first place:



Getting back to the question: of course he’s a hawk. Ultimately, every statist is a hawk, whether implicitly or explicitly. A statist requires a state always on war-footing. He always needs a war to justify his massive centralist state. A shooting war does the job for a while, but it can’t last forever. But any war will do, a “cold” war against the spread of communism, a war on poverty, a war against lack of healthcare, a war on drugs, a war on crime (especially organized crime), on war against occupational unsafety, a war on terror, a war against anti-statists.

What is interesting is not so much that Obama is surrounding himself with people who supported the war. (He’s going to “discover” that the war is a bigger mess than Bush has let on [wink, wink] and we’ll have to leave the troops there for a wee bit longer.)What is interesting is how many journalists never raised the “gravitas” issue, when he selected Senator Biden (who voted to authorize the use of force in Iraq) as his running mate, like they did when President Bush selected Vice President Cheney. Also interesting is that, given the number of Clinton people His Beatitude is putting on his team is that no one is talking about four more years of Clinton. It makes sense, of course: they liked those eight years. And bear in mind, Clinton had his own war, which he fought from thousands of feet in the air.

NOTE: Regarding the You Tube clip above, to be fair, Zogby should have done a similar survey of McCain voters. I happen to think it highly likely that the ignorance presented here accurately reflects the typical Obama voter, especially if they were getting their news from Colbert and Moyers (or did that old man say Bill Maher?) My own interactions with both McCainiacs and Obamanistas, though anecdotal, just makes it more believable that the McCainiacs would have gotten those answers correct.

But ignorance is only part of the problem. The bigger problem was McCain himself. If you start by conceding the major issue to your opponent, you certainly give no reason for anyone to vote for you. McCain conceded the statist issue. They have different plans for federal involvement in healthcare, but they both fundamentally agree on whether there should be federal involvement If you start by agreeing that the government should act you shouldn’t be surprised if the guy offering the most government action wins. And on it went. McCain can say that he wants everyone to get rich, as he did at Saddleback Church. But we all know everyone can’t be rich. Then comes Obama, saying he thinks federal power should be employed to redistribute the wealth. It’s a slam-dunk. One guy wants the impossible; one guy offers the (seemingly) possible. Your opponent offers an income tax cut to 95% of Americans, and instead of pointing out that over 40% of Americans don’t pay income tax in the first place, you make repeated reference to pork barrel spending.

Ignorance is a beautiful thing, especially when your opponent can, with media help, improve its maximum effective range and when, given the rare opportunity, you offer no correction.
20 November 2008

What a bad economy looks like in America

If we didn’t learn before, one thing we learned this election season was that many of us really don’t want politicians who will tell us the truth, especially (1) when that truth is about us, and (2) it’s not good. We had a candid politician tell us we are a nation of whiners, something the rest of the world (whose good opinion we are supposed to crave) pretty much knows. That politician's former employer (the one who fired him) just lost a certain election. Dog catcher, I think it was. Anyway, we do have it good, even when we have it bad.

Chuck Green, columnist in Colorado, describes it:


So how much will [Thanksgiving] dinner cost the average American, according to the prices that AP collected from the American Farm Bureau Federation?

A whopping $4.61.

That’s right - you’d enjoy this feast and get change back from a five-dollar bill.

The numbers are based on all the ingredients that you could buy, including a 16-pound turkey and two pumpkin pies, three pounds of sweet potatoes, a gallon of whole milk and everything else on the table, for a family gathering of 10 people - $44.61. That is $2.35 more than the same meal would have cost last year.

The cost of $4.46 per person is a mere 23 cents more than last year’s banquet (an increase in cost that could be avoided by dropping the dinner roll from the menu).

That’s the picture of a bad economy in America - stuffing yourself silly with a smorgasbord of delicious food for less than five bucks.

Is this a great country, or what?

Despite the sour economy - a statistical recession by most experts’ reckoning - Americans still are enjoying the best standard of living in human history. We still can get a full holiday dinner for less than five dollars, while hundreds of millions of people around the world are living on less than $100 a year and safe drinking water is a rarity in many parts of some nations.

As a friend of mine recently remarked, only in this country could the War on Poverty, launched under President Lyndon Johnson in 1965, morph into a War on Obesity under President George Bush just 40 years later.

19 November 2008

Rule number one: It’s never the government

Rule number two: It’s never the union.

It’s nice to have a company so big and important that it positively cannot be permitted to fail. Laws, including laws of economics, are for other people. That’s why the Big Three auto makers want bailed out.

They should really file for bankruptcy. In the long run it would good for the auto industry and the consumer, who presently pays too much for a car.

There are, of course, people who don’t immediately benefit from bankruptcy.
Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mas…say[s] choosing the bankruptcy option would likely mean abrogation of labor contracts. “We already have too much union busting,” Frank said.
[…]
Frank…suggested congressional bias in agreeing to help white-collar bankers but not blue-collar auto workers.
Yes, well, those blue-collar workers don’t work for peanuts. Try, on average, $73 per hour.

For Detroit, [bankruptcy] means release from ruinous wage deals with their astronomical benefits (the hourly cost of a Big Three worker: $73; of an American worker for Toyota: $48), massive pension obligations and unworkable work rules such as "job banks," a euphemism for paying vast numbers of employees not to work. – Charles Krauthammer, here.
Getting back to Frank’s point, it’s easy to see why labor union lovers (so to speak) wouldn’t want the Big Three to file for bankruptcy. Think of all those renegotiated union contracts (if the union itself survives) which could result in a loss of union money in campaign coffers.

Oh, and the way to fix that bias for white-collar bankers is to refuse to bail them out too. Even so, giving a bail-out to white collar bankers is no excuse for giving one to blue-collar workers. If there really isn’t money for the one, there certainly isn’t money for the other. And there really isn’t money for the one.

Henry Thompson explains how bankruptcy could help the industry:

Bankruptcy is a normal part of economic life, covered by laws that guarantee stockholders will be compensated as much as possible. More efficient firms move in to take over what is left of bankrupt firms, buying what can be put to productive use. There is no crime in bankruptcy and, if handled quickly, little economic harm. When the largest US energy company Enron went bankrupt a few years ago, there was not even a ripple in the energy markets, much less the economy. Bankruptcy is not criminal and should not be a surprise, but it can be unnerving if large, well-known firms go bankrupt.


It’s especially unnerving to the executives, who aren’t shy about explaining why they don’t want to file for bankruptcy:

Chrysler LLC CEO Bob Nardelli rejected suggestions that the automakers should seek Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection similar to airlines that later emerged restructured and leaner. “We just cannot be confident that we will be able to successfully emerge from bankruptcy,” Nardelli said. Ford Motor Co. CEO Alan Mulally said the three automakers are highly interdependent.


No guarantee that they will “successfully emerge from bankruptcy”? The poor dears. Why should they have to go through life like the rest of us?

And did you note the passivity? Not, “We’re not sure we can manage our companies successfully enough to survive bankruptcy.” But, “We’re not sure we’ll emerge successfully.” These guys want to emerge, not manage. I don’t suppose that could have anything to do with their present condition. I mean, they’ve all but admitted they don’t have confidence in their ability to do the jobs they were hired to do. That’s awfully darn close to taking responsibility.

No, it couldn’t be that. Not surprisingly, politicians know the source of these ills:

Lawmakers complained that many of the industry's problems were self-made, citing their past reliance upon gas-guzzling trucks and SUVs and opposition to tougher fuel efficiency regulations. (Here)
That’s a politician for you. It’s resistance to government intervention which causes problems, never the government’s intervention.

MSN story is here. It’s thrilling, just thrilling.
18 November 2008

A little knowledge makes one a wise guide to the masses

When the novel began to replace the poem in eighteenth century England, cultural elites responded as if it spelled the end of civilization. Matthew Arnold’s father denounced the serialized novel from his pulpit. It was a terrible thing, the serialized novel; poor children (think of the children!) could not concentrate on their studies because all they could think about was what would happen in the next installment. (Sort of like watching Twenty-four.) Other elites worried about the effects of the novel on the working class, who might fritter away time (which should be spent working) on reading novels. The cultural elites so looked down on the novel that many poets who took a turn at novel writing did so under assumed names.

Cultural elites (who are usually a self-selected, self-organized court) always think that anyone who does not share their tastes are cretins. And those who do not share their opinions are “anti-intellectual”, stupid, or insane.

Not surprising that our era’s cultural elites have expressed joy that with the exit from the White House of George W. Bush & Co., the “anti-intellectualism” will be over. One of them, Nicholas D. Kristof, opines:


Barack Obama’s election is a milestone in more than his pigmentation. The second most remarkable thing about his election is that American voters have just picked a president who is an open, out-of-the-closet, practicing intellectual.
Gag me with the quill pen Thomas Jefferson used to write the Declaration of Independence. The American people weren’t looking for an intellectual in this election any more than they’ve ever looked for one.

One just has to wonder: How does Kristof define an intellectual?


An intellectual is a person interested in ideas and comfortable with complexity. Intellectuals read the classics, even when no one is looking, because they appreciate the lessons of Sophocles and Shakespeare that the world abounds in uncertainties and contradictions, and — President Bush, lend me your ears — that leaders self-destruct when they become too rigid and too intoxicated with the fumes of moral clarity.
Maybe he’s right about what makes a person an intellectual. The question ought to be: How much of an intellectual must a leader be? Personally, while I don’t think the man is a genius, I doubt President Bush is utterly uninterested in ideas or complexity. I suspect Kristof’s real problem is the President’s lack of interest in leftist ideas. I don’t blame him.

Adlai Stevenson manages to make Kristof’s list of intellectuals.

Thomas Sowell has a dose of reality to share with Kristof:



It is hard to know whether to laugh or cry.


Adlai Stevenson was certainly regarded as an intellectual by intellectuals in the 1950s. But, half a century later, facts paint a very different picture.


Historian Michael Beschloss, among others, has noted that Stevenson "could go quite happily for months or years without picking up a book." But Stevenson had the airs of an intellectual — the form, rather than the substance

[…]

As for reading the classics, President Harry Truman, whom no one thought of as an intellectual, was a voracious reader of heavyweight stuff like Thucydides and read Cicero in the original Latin. When Chief Justice Carl Vinson quoted in Latin, Truman was able to correct him.


Yet intellectuals tended to think of the unpretentious and plain-spoken Truman as little more than a country bumpkin.


Similarly, no one ever thought of President Calvin Coolidge as an intellectual. Yet Coolidge also read the classics in the White House. He read both Latin and Greek, and read Dante in the original Italian, since he spoke several languages. It was said that the taciturn Coolidge could be silent in five different languages.


The intellectual levels of politicians are just one of the many things that intellectuals have grossly misjudged for years on end.

[…]

How have intellectuals managed to be so wrong, so often? By thinking that because they are knowledgeable— or even expert— within some narrow band out of the vast spectrum of human concerns, that makes them wise guides to the masses and to the rulers of the nation.

But the ignorance of Ph.D.s is still ignorance and high-IQ groupthink is still groupthink, which is the antithesis of real thinking.

I did find something humorous, in Kristof’s column. I hesitate to mention it because, although I fit his definition of an intellectual (you know, someone who reads the classics even when no one is looking, et cetera), he’s won two Pulitzer Prizes. But who cares?

Kristof says “leaders self-destruct when they become too rigid and too intoxicated with the fumes of moral clarity.” I am always amused when I hear or read some leftist pundit make light of anyone’s possession of moral clarity. I find it amusing because the only time the left lack moral clarity is when they are inspecting rightist policies.

There is never any lack of moral clarity when it comes to leftist policies. No leftist I can recall just off hand lacks any moral clarity about the permissibility of a baby’s being ripped limb from limb from a uterus and having his head crushed and sucked out like a bit of garbage.

No leftist I’m familiar with has any lack of moral clarity about taking a man’s money on the grounds that he has “plenty” or, worse, “too much” and giving it to another. No leftist I know has any lack of moral clarity in making the top 1% of income earners pay more than 50% all income taxes paid in this country. No leftist I know has any lack of moral clarity when it comes to leftist morality. None whatsoever.

I don’t think a group of homosexuals (who have acquired favored aggrieved community status among the left) disrupting a church service shows a lack of moral clarity.

Oh. Wait. I get it. The left have moral clarity; they just aren’t intoxicated by it. I see. It’s a good thing they aren’t intoxicated by moral clarity. Can you imagine what they’d do if they were so?

There’s simply not a more congenial spot…

His Beattitude, Barak Obama Epiphanes will be bringing a new “Camelot” to the White House, according to some (like Jocelyn Noveck, who doesn’t actually use the term).

Camelot? Did they say Camelot?



Yeah. It's a silly place.

Snobs, especially the left-leaning sort, probably like to think of it this way:



Frankly, I also prefer Richard Harris. But then I am a bit of a snob, a right-leaning snob to be sure, but still a snob nonetheless. (I do descend from aristocracy, after all. Must be in the blood.)
16 November 2008

The “Ship of State” and “The Abolition of Man” -- Wisdom Sunday

In both the Republic and in the Laws, dialogues on the creation and maintenance of an ideal state, the role of education is discussed at length. While there are differences between the two dialogues in what constitutes the ideal state and how to bring it into existence, they are agreed that education shall be the means by which the citizens, who belong to the state, shall be formed. Both dialogues are, in effect, discussions of how to create the Humanity that the state wants. And the most important element of the educational process is not Reading, Writing and Arithmetic, but values: the citizens are to be educated in such a manner as to possess those values the state wants them to possess.

In his three lectures, published as The Abolition of Man, C.S. Lewis is concerned with education and its role in shaping men. One of the questions he treats is, “How does one group of men come to have a right to decide what values all men are to possess?” To put it a different way, “Who are they to decide what humanity shall be?”


[T]he power of Man to make himself what he pleases means…the power of some men to make other men what they please. In all ages, no doubt, nurture and instruction have…attempted to exercise this power. But the situation to which we must look forward will be novel in two respects. In the first place, the power will be enormously increased. Hitherto the plans of educationalists have achieved very little of what they attempted and indeed, when we read them – how Plato would have every infant “a bastard nursed in a bureau,” and Elyot would have the boy see no men before the age of seven and, after that, no women, and how Locke wants children to have leaky shoes and no turn for poetry – we may well thank the beneficent obstinacy of real mothers, real nurses, and…real children for preserving the human race in such sanity as it still possesses. But the man-moulders of the new age will be armed with the powers of an omnicompetent state and an irresistible scientific technique: we shall get at last a race of conditioners who really can cut out all posterity in what shape they please. The second difference is even more important. In the older systems both the kind of man the teachers wished to produce and their motives for producing him were prescribed by the Tao -- a norm to which the teachers themselves were subject and from which they claimed no liberty to depart. They did not cut men to some pattern they had chosen. They handed on what they had received: they initiated the young neophyte into the mystery of humanity which over-arched him and them alike. It was but old birds teaching young birds to fly. This will be changed. Values are now mere natural phenomena. Judgments of value are to be produced in the pupil as part of the conditioning. Whatever Tao there is will be the product, not the motive, of education. The conditioners have been emancipated from all that.

[…]

[Some] critics may ask, “Why should you suppose they will be such bad men?” But I am not supposing them to be had men. They are, rather, not men…at all. They are…men who have sacrificed their own share in traditional humanity in order to devote themselves to the taxk of deciding what “Humanity” shall henceforth mean. “Good” and “bad,” applied to them are words without content: for it is from them that the content of those words is henceforth to be derived.

[…]

They are not men at all: they are artefacts. Man’s final conquest has proved to be the abolition of Man. – C.S. Lewis, “The Abolition of Man,” in The Abolition of Man, (italics in original; bold emphases mine).
The Abolition of Man is not a sustained plea for mass acceptance of Christian values. Indeed, for Lewis, this thing he calls the Tao or Way (the Natural Law) is so universal that, as an appendix to the lectures, he provides evidence of it from virtually every civilization and culture around the world and throughout history. Lewis didn’t think everyone needed to become Christians in order for society to be good, for men to be men. In fact, he hated the idea that this would be a reason for trying to convert people to Christianity. The point in urging conversion to Christianity was to come to know Aslan by the name he has in this world. Any other purpose would be blasphemous. The Lion of the tribe of Judah is not to be put to use by men to create their ideal states. He thought people, if they did not become Christians, would still live pretty well if they lived as Plato, or Aristotle, or Confucius taught. By doing at least that much, people would be living in accordance with the Tao. They would be living in accordance with a norm external to themselves, from which they could no sooner emancipate themselves than cut off their own heads and go on living.

But the new men recognize no Tao, no set of norms external to themselves and which they must obey and, more importantly, pass on to succeeding generations. Indeed, these new men arrogate to themselves the power to create those future generations by determining, for them and without their consent, what shall be the Tao and, by extension, what they shall be. The Abolition of Man is a shot at these new men. Indeed, there is a reading, I think, of all his works, which shows them all to be a sustained attack on these new men and their divine claims.
13 November 2008

Who's to blame for the downfall of the Republican Party?

According to Ron Paul, that's the wrong question.


[I]n light of the election, many are asking: What is the future of the Republican Party?

But that is the wrong question. The proper question should be: Where is our country heading? There's no doubt that a large majority of Americans believe we're on the wrong track. That's why the candidate demanding "change" won the election. It mattered not that the change offered was no change at all, only a change in the engineer of a runaway train.

So, where are we heading?

The march toward a dictatorial powerful state is now in double time.
On his view, the Republicans have lost credibility in the struggle against this outcome by embracing the very ideas that speed it on its way. To have credibility, Republicans should embrace the following:

• Limited government power

• A balanced budget

• Personal liberty

• Strict adherence to the Constitution

• Sound money

• A strong defense while avoiding all undeclared wars

• No nation-building and no policing the world

How can a party that still pretends to be the party of limited government distance itself outright from these views and expect to maintain credibility? Since the credibility of the Republican Party has now been lost, how can it regain credibility without embracing these views, or at least showing respect for them?


Really.
12 November 2008

Really, what is the “free market”?

I have mentioned, here and here that we do not have a free market economy. I have been remiss in not offering any explanation of the free market. I’m not going to do so now, either. Murray Rothbard does it better, here.

The free market is a summary term for an array of exchanges that take place in society. Each exchange is undertaken as a voluntary agreement between two people or between groups of people represented by agents. These two individuals (or agents) exchange two economic goods, either tangible commodities or nontangible services.

Thus, when I buy a newspaper from a news dealer for fifty cents, the news dealer and I exchange two commodities: I give up fifty cents, and the news dealer gives up the newspaper. Or if I work for a corporation, I exchange my labor services, in a
mutually agreed way, for a monetary salary; here the corporation is represented by a manager (an agent) with the authority to hire.

Both parties undertake the exchange because each expects to gain from it. Also, each will repeat the exchange next time (or refuse to) because his expectation has proved correct (or incorrect) in the recent past. Trade, or exchange, is engaged in precisely because both parties benefit; if they did not expect to gain, they would not agree to the exchange.

This simple reasoning refutes the argument against free trade typical of The “mercantilist” period of sixteenth- to eighteenth-century Europe, and classically expounded by the famed sixteenth-century French essayist Montaigne. The Mercantilists argued that in any trade, one party can benefit only at the expense of the other, that in every transaction there is a winner and a loser, an “exploiter” and an “exploited.”

We can immediately see the fallacy in this still-popular viewpoint: the willingness and even eagerness to trade means that both parties benefit. In modern game-theory jargon, trade is a win-win situation, a “positive-sum” rather than a “zero-sum” or “negative-sum” game.

How can both parties benefit from an exchange? Each one values the two goods or services differently, and these differences set the scene for an exchange. I, for example, am walking along with money in my pocket but no newspaper; the news dealer, on the other hand, has plenty of newspapers but is anxious to acquire money. And so, finding each other, we strike a deal.

Two factors determine the terms of any agreement: how much each participant values each good in question, and each participant’s bargaining skills….

A free market is exactly that – free. It is self-organizing and self-regulating, subject to the limitations that participants place on each other in the bargaining process. As soon as the least bit of regulation occurs it is no longer free. Something external to market enters in and binds the participants, coerces them into making the “right” sorts of exchanges, “fair” exchanges.

What we have is an interventionist/protectionist market. If you like that, then great. But let's stop calling it a free market. That ship sailed before the end of the nineteenth century.

Read the whole Rothbard article.
11 November 2008

What is conservative culture?

Dr. Helen is looking for it, here.



[C]ulture drives politics and not the other way around, at least in my opinion. Because of this, it is imperative that if conservative and libertarian ideas are to survive, we must educate people in ways that they can relate to — and this means popular culture in the form of books, music, television, movies, and social groups, starting with education.





















A commentator, “Wontondon” makes his contributions to the effort, here. Personally, I kind of like this one, which he calls "The Onward Chistian Soldiers Toothbrush Holder, a thank you for his comfortable life.


















A runner up is this one, which he calls a pregnant chick with an ugly tattoo, lying in a pile of leaves, whistling Dixie.

I have to admit, I don’t really get graphic arts. They don’t really “say” anything to me. Poetry says things to me, especially lyrics. One of favorites is this one, by Rush, “Red Barchetta”.


My uncle has a country place
That no one knows about
He says it used to be a farm
Before the Motor Law
And on Sundays I elude the eyes
And hop the Turbine Freight
To far outside the Wire
Where my white-haired uncle waits

Jump to the ground
As the Turbo slows to cross the borderline
Run like the wind
As excitement shivers up and down my spine
Down in his barn
My uncle preserved for me an old machine
For fifty odd years
To keep it as new has been his dearest dream

I strip away the old debris
That hides a shining car
A brilliant red Barchetta
From a better vanished time
I fire up the willing engine
Responding with a roar
Tires spitting gravel
I commit my weekly crime

Wind
In my hair
Shifting and drifting
Mechanical music
Adrenaline surge...

Well-weathered leather
Hot metal and oil
The scented country air
Sunlight on chrome
The blur of the landscape
Every nerve aware

Suddenly ahead of me
Across the mountainside
A gleaming alloy air car
Shoots towards me, two lanes wide
I spin around with shrieking tires
To run the deadly race
Go screaming through the valley
As another joins the chase

Drive like the wind
Straining the limits of machine and man
Laughing out loud with fear and hope
I've got a desperate plan
At the one-lane bridge
I leave the giants stranded at the riverside
Race back to the farm
To dream with my uncle at the fireside
Frankly, given the obvious back-story to these lyrics, they are quite libertarian. Note that the back-story is a powerful state, which has outlawed motors (well, at least those that power automobiles), except, surely, the ones it happens to own.

Examples of conservative/libertarian culture are okay. But what are the defining characteristics of this culture?

H/T: Instapundit

Speaking of Rush, and "REd Barchetta"...enjoy, if you have seven minutes:




10 November 2008

Oh, yes, Lincoln would be proud, but not because Obama was elected



The 5 November 2008 edition of the San Diego Union-Tribune published this by its staff cartoonist, Steve Breen.

We are supposed to think, no doubt, “Aw, Abraham Lincoln would be so proud.”

Bullocks.

Oh, I’m sure old dishonest Abe is beaming. But not because an African-American is now the President-Elect. The Cult of Lincoln (a sect of the Cult of The Strong Executive) would have us believe he’s beaming for that reason, because it is an article of their faith that his whole mission in life was to free slaves and see the black man on a level of equality with whites.


More than 130 years of government propaganda has hidden this fact from the American people by creating a Mythical Lincoln that never existed. Take, for instance, the fact that everyone supposedly knows – that Lincoln was an abolitionist. This would be a surprise to the preeminent Lincoln scholar, Pulitzer prize-winning Lincoln biographer David Donald, who in his 1961 book, Lincoln Reconsidered, wrote that "Lincoln was not an abolitionist." And he wasn’t. He was glad to accept on behalf of the Republican Party any votes from abolitionists, but real abolitionists despised him. William Lloyd Garrison, the most prominent of all abolitionists, concluded that Lincoln "had not a drop of anti-slavery blood in his veins." – Thomas DiLorenzo, here.
Yes, old dishonest Abe is beaming, because although an African-American is going to be in the White House, that is probably a small price to pay to keep in working order the Leviathan, unitary state he (Lincoln) almost single-handedly brought into existence.

The real Abraham Lincoln would probably have preferred McCain, a white man. But I’m sure he would be a fan of President Bush (who he would probably consider rather tame):

The Dictator Lincoln invaded the South without the consent of Congress, as called for in the Constitution; declared martial law; blockaded Southern ports without a declaration of war, as required by the Constitution; illegally suspended the writ of habeas corpus; imprisoned without trial thousands of Northern anti-war protesters, including hundreds of newspaper editors and owners; censored all newspaper and telegraph communication; nationalized the railroads; created three new states without the consent of the citizens of those states in order to artificially inflate the Republican Party’s electoral vote; ordered Federal troops to interfere with Northern elections to assure Republican Party victories; deported Ohio Congressman Clement L. Vallandigham for opposing his domestic policies (especially protectionist tariffs and income taxation) on the floor of the House of Representatives; confiscated private property, including firearms, in violation of the Second Amendment; and effectively gutted the Tenth and Ninth Amendments as well.

[…]

Hundreds of books have been written about Lincoln the humanitarian, a soft and gentle man. But from the very beginning of his administration he intentionally waged a cruel and unbelievably bloody war on civilians as well as soldiers. As early as 1861, Federal soldiers looted, pillaged, raped and plundered their way through Virginia and other Southern states, completely burning to the ground the towns of Jackson and Meridian, Mississippi, Randolph, Tennessee, and others. Historian Jeffrey Rogers Hummel estimates that some 50,000 Southern civilians were killed during the war, and this number, even if it is exaggerated by a multiple of two, most likely includes thousands of slaves. In his March to the Sea, General William Tecumseh Sherman boasted of having destroyed $100 million in private property and that his "soldiers" carried home another $20 million worth.

In his memoirs Sherman wrote that when he met with Lincoln after his March to the Sea was completed, Lincoln was eager to hear the stories of how thousands of Southern civilians, mostly women, children, and old men, were plundered, sometimes murdered, and rendered homeless. Lincoln, according to Sherman, laughed almost uncontrollably at the stories. Even Sherman biographer Lee Kennett, who writes very favorably of the general, concluded that had the Confederates won the war, they would have been "justified in stringing up President Lincoln and the entire Union high command for violation of the laws of war, specifically for waging war against noncombatants."

In the end, if it takes a black man to secure the continued absence of federalism so be it. So, yes, Breen is right: Lincoln would be proud. But if Breen thinks it’s because we have a black President-elect, then he is tragically mistaken.
_______________________________
Note: If you didn’t know those things about Lincoln remember that the victors write the history books. The not-so-federal government which Lincoln created (the victor) controls education in this country. Some of us would like to see the U. S. Department of Education go the way of the dodo bird. It’s a conflict of interest sort of thing. Ignorance is very useful to statists.

His Beatitude to make use of executive order to work his will

That, according to the AP, here.

Wow, he’s going to make use of the same extra-constitutional measure as his constitution-shredding predecessor.

Now that’s change you can believe in. The sort of change which alters appearances without harming reality.

Oh well, he does have a mandate. And, like the constitution says, a President with a mandate gets what he wants, because what he wants is what the people want. He is the voice of the people. And the voice of the people is the voice of God.
09 November 2008

Do you have the right feelings? – Wisdom Sunday

The doctrine of subjective value is so pervasive this it probably seems a silly question. How can anyone have the right feelings? Feelings are just feelings. You like something, or someone; or you do not. You can’t help your feelings. Period.

But consider the case of two people reflecting back upon similar experiences from their respective pasts. One of them savors the moment, reliving every detail, recalling the experience with relish. The other shrinks back in horror, unable to enjoy the memory, grieving it intensely, ashamed both of the event itself and every recollection of it. The experience could be anything, stealing an apple from a neighbor’s tree as a child, a schoolyard fight, ganging up with one’s friends against another child; maybe they killed a stay cat. Why the difference in attitude? Should the first man really be feeling good about the past? Should the second really be feeling bad? (Bear in mind they are remembering the same sort of experience.)

The idea that emotions can be right or wrong probably seems silly to many people today. It was not always the case, however:

Until quite modern times all teachers and even all men believed the universe to be such that certain emotional reactions on our part could be either congruous or incongruous to it – believed, in fact, that objects did not merely receive, but could merit, our approval or disapproval, our reverence, or our contempt…. When Shelley, having compared the human sensibility to an Aeolian lyre, goes on to add that it differs from a lyre in having a power of “internal adjustment” whereby it can “accommodate its chords to the motions of that which strikes them,” he is assuming the same belief. “Can you be righteous,” asks Traherne, “unless you be just in rendering to things their due esteem? All things were made to be yours and you were made to prize them according to their value.” St. Augustine defines virtue as ordo amoris, the ordinate condition of the affections in which every object is accorded that kind and degree of love which is appropriate to it. Aristotle says that the aim of education is to make the pupil like and dislike what he ought [see Nicomachean Ethics, 1104b]. When the age for reflective thought comes, the pupil who has been thus trained in “ordinate affections” or “just sentiments” will easily find the first principles in Ethics: but to the corrupt man they will never be visible at all and he can make no progress in that science” [id., at 1095b]. Plato before him had said the same. The little human animal will not at first have the right responses. It must be trained to feel pleasure, liking, disgust, and hatred at those things which really are pleasant, likeable, disgusting, and hateful [see Laws, 653]. In the Republic, the well-nurtured youth is one “who would see most clearly whatever was amiss in ill-made works of man or ill-grown works of nature, and with a just distaste would blame and hate the ugly even from his earliest years and would give delighted praise to beauty, receiving it into his soul and being nourished by it, so that he becomes a man of gentle heart. All this before he is of an age to reason; so that when Reason at length comes to him, then, bred as he has been, he will hold out his hands in welcome and recognize here because of the affinity he bears to her” [Republic, 402]. In early Hinduism that conduct in men which can be called good consists in conformity to, or almost participation in the Rta -- that great ritual or pattern of nature and supernature which is revealed alike in the cosmic order, the moral virtues, and the ceremonial of the temple. Righteousness, correctness, order, the Rta, is constantly identified with Satya or truth, correspondence to reality. As Plato said that the Good was “beyond existence” and Wordsworth that through virtue the stars were strong, so the Indian masters say that the gods themselves are born of the Rta and obey it. The Chinese also speak of…the Tao. It is the reality beyond all predicates, the abyss that was before the Creator Himself. It is Nature, it is the Way, the Road. It is the Way in which the universe goes on, the Way in which things everlastingly emerge, stilly and tranquilly, into space and time. It is also the Way which every man should tread in imitation of that cosmic and supercosmic progression, conforming all activities to that great exemplar. “In ritual,” say the Analects, “it is harmony with Nature that is prized” [Analects of Confucius, 1.12]. The ancient Jews likewise praise the Law as being “true” [Psalm 119.151].

This conception in all its forms, Platonic, Aristotelian, Stoic, Christian, and Oriental alike, I…refer to…as “the Tao.” Some of the accounts of it…seem…merely quaint or even magical. But what is common to them all is something we cannot neglect. It is the doctrine of objective value, the belief that certain attitudes are really true, and others really false, to the kind of thing the universe is and the kind of things we are. Those who know the Tao can hold that to call children delightful or old men venerable is not simply to record a psychological fact about our own parental or filial emotions at the moment, but to recognize a quality which demands a certain response from us whether we make it or not. I myself do not enjoy the society of small children: because I speak from within the Tao I recognize this as a defect in myself – just as a man may have to recognize that he is tone deaf or colour blind. And because our approvals and disapprovals are thus recognitions of objective value or responses to an objective order, therefore emotional states can be in harmony with reason (when we feel liking for what ought to be approved) or out of harmony with reason (when we perceive that liking is due but cannot feel it). No emotion is, in itself, a judgment; in that sense all emotions and sentiments are alogical. But they can be reasonable or unreasonable as they conform to Reason or fail to conform. The heart never takes the place of the head: but it can, and should, obey it. – C. S. Lewis, “Men Without Chests”, in The Abolition of Man.
Lewis mentions emotional states which can be “out of harmony with reason” as in those cases where we ought to like something but do not. We should also mention those occasions, which he does not mention, in which we feel liking where we ought not to do: we enjoy memories which we really shouldn’t. And we do so because we appraise these memories incorrectly; we do not see them as we ought to do.

Take our two fellows above. Perhaps they both are recalling an incident in which each of them, strong, bullied one who was weaker. One looks back, smiling at the remembrance of the incident. “It’s a dog eat dog world,” he says to himself, “with nature ‘red in tooth and claw;’ some win, some lose. The strong win; if the weak don’t like it, they should make themselves strong. If they do not, what concern is it of mine? Do unto others before they do unto you.” The other looks back in shame. He sees the event as a sin, against Reason, against Nature, against God, or even against humanity. What he did, he should not have done. If he is a Christian, the remembrance is, in the words of the Prayer Book, grievous to him; for he must see that as a sin (one of many) which put Christ on the cross. He cannot look upon one of the causes of the Crucifixion as a fond memory. When one adds his union with Christ into the mix, the memory must take on an additional horrific dimension: it would be Christ looking back upon the event as a fond memory, incongruous in the extreme.

But the key to all this, the wisdom, is in understanding that having the proper feelings isn’t a matter of letting human nature take its course. Lewis, in The Abolition of Man is concerned about education. We must be taught to feel the right things. We have to learn to experience shame for certain actions. All the ancients are agreed: We must be trained in righteousness; we must be taught the Tao.

06 November 2008

Forget rebuilding the conservative movement: it’s dead.

The timid civilized world has found nothing with which to oppose the onslaught of a sudden revival of barefaced barbarity, other than concessions and smiles. -- Alexandr Solzhenistsyn
Ron Paul was right about the Libertarian party it seems. The only way to accomplish anything will be to do it within the Republican Party. Now that the republicans have had their arses handed to them, maybe [they] will be open to the idea of getting away from the NEOCON BS and back to the principles Ron Paul has urged. – (“dewboy910” here)

Yesterday, Rush Limbaugh started with some observations on the elections. Here are several, just the ones which I thought memorable:

1. This loss is the new tone come home to roost.
2. The loss of moderate Republican representation from the Northeast is a testament to the fact that moderates can safely be ignored.
3. McCain’s concession speech was precisely the reason he lost. It was a testament to his campaign, demonstrating to one and all how to lose an election.
4. This was no landslide; and there was no record turnout.
5. We have not risen above the level of our public education.
6.Where conservatism is on the ballot and clearly defined, it wins, for example, Proposition 8 in California, of all places. Conservatism hasn’t been on the ballot since 1994. (Glad to see him exclude the current President from the movement; but then he always has.)
7. The conservative movement is ready to be rebuilt. The first step is to make sure those who left for Obama (those "moderate" Republicans) stay out.

My own observation, with regard to that last: Conservatism can only truly be rebuilt if it will embrace several core elements of libertarianism. Right now conservativism shares too much with “liberalism”, especially the conviction that there are things over and above simply protecting lives and property that government can and must do. In a very real sense, conservatism as we have known it should die. And really, we should consider it dead.

So, forget rebuilding it. If you want it back, it doesn’t need rebuilt. The Frankenstein monster was a rebuild. What you want – what you really, really want – is a resurrected movement, a movement with new life, a movement which is more revolutionary than a Marxist rebellion. (And this is, of course, true because this new, resurrected conservatism is a counter-marxist revolution.)

If conservatives really believe in limited government, as they say they do, they should lay aside the notion of a limited big government, which is really what they have been pushing. McCain’s plans (1) to grow the economy and (2) provide us with 5$K refundable for healthcare were examples of big government ideas that avoid being called “liberal” and “socialistic” only by not involving an explicitly centralized command economy and nationalization (and monopolization) of the healthcare industry.

If conservatives are really serious about limited government and free market capitalism then they should take people like Ron Paul (whom Hugh Hewitt has called a “nutter”) more seriously, especially when it comes to doing away with the Federal Reserve System. Look, if conservatives really believe in free market capitalism then they should favor abolishing the Federal Reserve System. Capitalism is about REAL money, not crap made out of cheap paper and ink. (And Christians who are aligned with conservatism should favor abolition of the Fed because it violates the “just weight” standard.)

If the Fed is, as Hewitt and other dead conservatives say, here to stay, then so is Big Government. And Big Government, no matter how “conservative” it may start out must always become bigger and liberal. The Fed is the real power behind Big Government, and it undermines a free market (with government complicity) by replacing it with a manipulated market in which the activities of buyers and sellers is determined not by individual choice but by raising and lowering interest rates and printing up “money” at its whim. It has to go. Believe that or pick something other than conservative to describe yourself. Otherwise, you’ll need to redefine the term so that it no longer has any connection to free market capitalism. You can call yourself a liberal Marxist.

If conservatives are really serious about the illegitimate power of the federal courts, then, for the sake of their integrity (at this point in history one should laugh right now) they should also get serious about the illegitimate power of the Office of the President (whose usurpations go back not George Bush, or Ronald Reagan, but to Teddy Roosevelt, maybe even Abraham Lincoln) and the illegitimate power of the Congress.

If conservatives are really serious about living in a nation of laws then should get serious about the Constitution and the government which it created, a creation of the states. Conservatives should make clear that they see the federal government as the creation, and therefore the agent of the states rather than the other way around. This means they will have to concentrate the vast majority of their efforts not so much in Washington but at the state level.

Finally, if conservatives are serious about not being simply less-than-liberal (whatever that may mean) then they will have to drop the materialistic philosophy which also undergirds liberalism. (By materialistic I mean the notion that the only reality is the material one and that our entire lives consist in the acquisition of material goods and the maintenance of our physical lives – at any cost.) As Alexander Solzhenistsyn observed, among contending materialistic worldviews, the one which is more consistently materialistic will win. The only real hope against a worldview as materialistic as liberalism is a worldview which isn’t materialistic. (And conservatives should also make clear that its ‘materialism’ is what really makes liberalism socialistic/Marxist).

What conservatism really needs is not rebuilding. Conservatism is dead; it therefore needs to be resurrected.

This talk of resurrection really means that the conservatism which is resurrected must be different, even “brilliantly” different from the conservatism which was buried. How might this resurrected conservative differ from that which was buried?

It will take off the gloves. These people are not interested in republicanism; they are barbarians who have no other interest but to take, and to distribute their plunder to their followers. They will take everything and tell us to be glad they have left us our physical lives, and the handful of pebbles they give out.

The decomposition is complete

The last thing the Founders wanted in a president was a man who could get the job simply by being a golden-mouthed demagogue. That ship sailed long ago and has now arrived at its ultimate destination, as George Will explains:

Under [the Founders’] plan, the nomination of candidates and the election of the president were to occur simultaneously. Electors meeting in their respective states, in numbers equal to their states’ senators and representatives, would vote for two people for president. The electors’ winnowing of aspirants was the nomination process. When the votes were opened in the U.S. House of Representatives, the candidate with a majority would become president, the runner-up would become vice president. If no person achieved a majority of electoral votes, the House would pick from among the top five vote getters. Note well: The selection of presidential nominees was to be controlled by the Constitution.

The Founders’ intent…was to prevent the selection of a president from being determined by the popular arts of campaigning, such as rhetoric. The Founders…were deeply fearful of leaders deploying popular oratory as the means of winning distinction. That deployment would invite demagoguery, which subverts moderation. “Brilliant appearances,” wrote John Jay in The Federalist Papers 64, “… sometimes mislead as well as dazzle.” By telling members of the political class how not to get considered for the presidency, the Founders hoped to…make virtue the ally of interest and shape the behavior of that class.

[…]

The Founders’ presidential selection system, the first of six the nation has had so far, was feasible only when it was dispensable—in the first two elections, when George Washington was everyone’s preference. By the time he left office in 1797, political parties, which were not anticipated when the Constitution was drafted just 10 years earlier, were coalescing.

Subsequent systems included: The selection of presidential candidates by the parties’ congressional caucuses (1796–1820); nonpartisan selection (1824–28); national nominating conventions controlled by parties’ organizations (1832–1908); a system of such conventions leavened by popular choice through a few state party primaries and caucuses (1912–68)—in 1968, Vice President Hubert Humphrey won the Democratic nomination without entering any primaries; since 1972, selection of nominees entirely by popular choice. Thus have conventions been reduced from deliberative bodies to mere ratifying bodies.

The brief nonpartisan system of candidate selection alarmed some thoughtful people because it left ambitious individuals unconstrained by any dependency. Hence the desire to involve the parties in presidential selection, thereby requiring aspirants to submit to principles and agendas not entirely their own. From 1832 until 1936, Democratic conventions required a nominee to win two thirds of the delegates. This constrained candidates by essentially giving a veto to any geographic region. Barack Obama completed the long march away from the Founders’ intent. Most recent presidential candidacies have been exercises of personal political entrepreneurship; his campaign, powered by the “popular art” of oratory, was the antithesis of the Founders’ system.
Part of the very real, and dangerous problem is that the Office of The President has become, like the Supreme Court, for more important to our daily lives than it was envisioned.
05 November 2008

From fascism to socialism in a bloodless coup

That’s Jim Fedako’s reaction to the election.

The only redeeming feature of our political process is that we peacefully accomplished an ideological shift -- a coup of sorts -- that in almost every other instance led to blood in the streets. Of course, the shift is mere window dressing as both McCain and Obama stand for big government, big wars, and big deficits. The only difference between their respective agendas being which group of Americans loses through wealth redistribution and which Third World country watches their women and children suffer and die due to our foreign policy.
Jeffery Tucker delivers this keen comment:

Jim Fedako seems down in the dumps after the Obama victory, and it is easy to see why. If you think of this as a positive endorsement of [Obama's] Keynesian-socialist economic ideas, it looks like a terrible failure for classical liberals.

However, there is another way to look at it: a complete repudiation of the Bush regime of endless wars, welfare, bailouts, attacks on core liberties, and also (and this is important) the incredible arrogance of the Bush regime's assumption that it could forever rule by lie and be utterly disregarding of the ever rising public hated [sic] of him and his administration.

The worst aspect of a McCain victory would have been undeniable: it would have been seen as a ratification of Bush-style government, not only here but around the world. And despite the last-minute attacks on Obama's socialism etc., McCain is even worse than Bush on nearly every issue of foreign and domestic policy.

Bush is one of the most hated presidents in American history, and rightly so. How does an electorate deal with that? Voting against the candidate who is most like him is one way.

Repudiation of Bush? No doubt. But of welfare? No, I think everyone pretty much accepts the idea of welfare.

Repudiation of attacks on core liberties? I don't think so. I think alot of people will eagerly accept the attacks on the core liberty of property rights, attacks which may make Bush look tame by comparison. May.
04 November 2008

The day McCain lost the election

Daniel Gross, of Slate, explains why it was 24 September.

One of McCain's problems was always that he had too much practice reaching across the aisle, rather than lobbing missles across it. His opponent, a rabble-rousing community organizer (polite talk for leftist revolutionary), uninterested in reaching across aisles and practiced in actually fighting to the teeth for a cause (no matter how contrived) was having none of it. McCain really struck me as never really grasping just what he was up against.



Throughout the fall, Obama had rounded up financial icons such as former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker and Warren Buffett to serve as surrogates. They could reassure Wall Street and Main Street that Obama could steer the nation through treacherous financial waters. Rather than enlist a respected businessperson such as Mitt Romney or former eBay CEO Meg Whitman as his chief economic surrogate, McCain turned to an unlicensed plumber from Ohio. McCain mentioned "Joe the Plumber" seven times in the Oct. 15 debate. In the ensuing weeks, McCain routinely trotted out Samuel J. Wurzelbacher's economic folk wisdom as gospel.


Warren the Investor and Paul the Central Banker vs. Joe the Plumber was never going to be much of a fair fight. Given the macroeconomic backdrop of recent years and the microeconomic disasters of recent weeks, neither was the presidential campaign, which is why Obama has won the White House.

McCain, so accustomed to working at getting along never really could launch an argument as if there was something he actually wanted to win.

In the end, though, how much difference will it make that a Big Government liberal (with some fight in him) defeated a Big Government conservative (with no will to fight)?

I suppose there could be some difference. That Big Government conservative wasn't saying that America need to fundamentally change, and that the Warren Court should have tackled the issue of wealth re-distribution, among many, many other things.

Like Jim Carrey said in The Mask: Hold on to your lugs nuts, it's time for an overhaul.

How do you get a bush monkey to vote for you?

Good question.

Caught this at the Powerline blog


Budd Schulberg wrote the screenplay for the 1957 film "A Face in the Crowd" based on his story "Your Arkansas Traveler." According to Richard Schickel, Schulberg's story was inspired by Will Rogers. It featured Lonesome Rhodes, "a good-natured hillbilly with the common touch, who, like Rogers starts working sly political commentary into his corn-pone monologues, and when his wealth and influence grows, becomes a menace to liberal-minded society."

Starting with a Rogers-like character, Schulberg contemplated "the then hot career of Arthur Godfrey, a ukelele-strumming hick with a popular music and talk radio show in Washington who had come to a larger public's attention with his tearful coverage of Frankline D. Roosevelt's funeral on CBS." Godfrey became the host of a popular national radio show. When he moved to television variety programs, Godfrey grew "increasingly tyrannical with his supporting cast" and "increasingly forward with his political opinions." His career flamed out a few years after the release of "A Face in the Crowd."


Elia Kazan directed the film. Playing Lonesome Rhodes, Andy Griffith turns in a performance of astonishing ferocity. The film reflects the concerns of Schulberg and Kazan over the uses to which television might be put by a glib demagogue. In the scene below, Rhodes gives the dauntingly square Senator Worthington Fuller a lesson in how to transform himself into a presidential candidate through the medium of television.


Rhodes is introduced by his sponsor General Haynesworth, manufacturer of the worthless Vitajex pick-me-up tablets. General Haynesworth advises Fuller that he needs a slogan like "Time for a change," "The mess in Washington" or "More bang for a buck." Rhodes takes it from there. It's a hilarious scene that may inspire timely reflections while we're waiting for the votes to be counted tonight.





Great line about a candidate for political office: “Flatter than last night’s beer.” It doesn’t have to be good for you. Just let it not be flat.

Yeah. I’ll be pondering that tonight.

Think you should keep the wealth you’ve earned (or even just inherited)?

How simplistic!



H/T: Rush Limbaugh

The problem is that all those corporate profits haven't been shared? Sure they have been: with the stock holders. As I stockholder in various corporations I'm receiving the share of profits to which I am entitled. By what sort of twisted logic does this man arrive at the conclusion that there are others, who are not stockholders, entitled to shares of these profits? How do they justly come to claim a share of profits of corporations in which they own no shares, have put up no capital of their own?

Thank God, there are no police officers at some polling locations

Otherwise there might be voter intimidation:




Fear not. Those gentlemen are there to protect voters from thugs armed with camera- and microphones.
H/T: Jeff Emanuel

Speaking of dismal news...

Just kidding.

Althouse is supporting Obama in the election. (I suppose, since she’s already voted, I should have put that in the past tense. Oh, well.) If it’s not-Bush you want, according to her, well then, Obama is not-Bush, more not-Bush than McCain. I can think of many others who are not-Bush and for whom we shouldn’t vote, but that would be to go places I swore I’d never go with this blog.

We’ve been told, among many other things, that we can’t afford four more years of the “Bush” economy. Let’s assume for present purposes that this economy can justly be called The Bush Economy and that we cannot afford four more years of it. The instruction in logic in this country is so astoundingly poor, apparently, that it hasn’t occurred to anyone to ask if we can afford four months, much less four to eight years of an “Obama” economy. False dilemma: Either it’s four more years of The Bush Economy (which assumes that it really is a “Bush” economy) or it’s an Obama economy, which, we somehow know, will (of course!) be better than the "Bush" economy. There has been little discussion of which theory of economics the current President adheres to; it most certainly is not free market capitalism. (I have always believed that he falls into the Keynesian school, or at least a school that is Keynesianesque – big time.) There also hasn’t been much discussion of which theory of economics Obama or McCain adhere to, though we have our suspicions about Obama’s economics.

What has been missing in criticism of “Bushonomics” is anything like what we heard about Soviet-style socialism: is not the policy which is the problem; it’s the people trying to execute the policy. This would, of course, leave open the possibility that McCain (assuming his would be a continuation of Bush's "failed" economic policies) could better execute “Bushonomics” than Bush did. More importantly, this blaming of the current President allows the foolish consumer to blame everyone but himself. It also allows the uninformed to believe that laws of economics can be altered like laws of nature. (Some may have to think about that one for a moment.) Someday people will blame floods and hurricanes on some president’s failed meteorological policies.

Oh, Althouse isn’t too concerned about any Obama Supreme Court appointments: it will maintain that balance we have had (she may have used the word enjoyed, but now I can’t relocate the posting) for the last twenty years.

Well if she did use the word enjoy, I didn’t know we were enjoying it. I thought we were tolerating it. And that’s if we were willing to think of it as balance in the first place. I wasn’t. I don’t think people who believe the Constitution is a living, breathing document (*gag*) need to be balanced by those who don’t. I think they need to be replaced by those who don’t. And I certainly don’t think that people who do not believe the Constitution is a living, breathing document need to be balanced by those who do. But then, my own views of constitutional jurisprudence make conservatives look like leftists. (And if she didn’t use enjoy then, just for the record, I still haven’t enjoyed this balance.

Speaking of the Court, David Gordon looks at William J. Quirk’s Courts and Congress: America’s Unwritten Constitution and asks, “Is the Supreme Court supreme?”
If Congress has...power over the Supreme Court, why is it reluctant to use it when the Court abuses the Constitution? Quirk locates the answer in what he terms The Happy Convention. The principal aim of most members of Congress is to secure reelection to office. In order to do this, Congress avoids controversial moral and cultural issues whenever possible. Far better to have the Supreme Court, an unelected body that voters cannot unseat, take the blame for unpopular decisions.

Similarly, the Constitution clearly gives Congress the sole power to declare war. But, wishing to avoid blame should a war go badly, Congress has abdicated its power to the president. It is better, Congress thinks, for him to take the blame for Vietnam or Iraq. By its own lights, the Congressional policy has been remarkably successful. Most incumbents are reelected. The cost, though, is a severe one. Our actual Constitution, one of congressional preeminence, has been replaced by the Happy Convention, in which the president and Supreme Court have supplanted Congress. No Jeffersonian can accept this.
In a democratic republic, that branch of government which is the most directly responsive to the people should be supreme. By being elected by the people of the states, the Congress is that branch, the most democratic branch. Also the Constitution (Article III, Section 2) gives to Congress the power to determine the jurisdiction of the federal courts, including the Supreme Court.

And speaking of voting, while you’re at Mises, have a look at why Bob Murphy doesn’t vote, including a more detailed explanation, here, which includes this gem of a sentence:

The reason I am virtually certain my vote won't affect the outcome, is that I am virtually certain that millions of Americans will stupidly vote.

Number Two!!!

No, it doesn’t mean what you think it means.

In the midst of otherwise somewhat dismal news, at least my Texas Tech Red Raiders are ranked second in the BCS. My sister’s Texas Longhorns have dropped to fourth as a consequence of their Saturday loss to the aforementioned RED RAIDERS!!! (*ahem*).

I can’t remember where my brother’s Aggies are, but no one cares about them anyway. ;)

Note: One has to admit that Texas Tech worked hard for every point, as indicated by the score. I myself thought it was all over in that last minute and a half. Even when Crabtree caught that final pass and made it into the end zone I thought it was no good because he stepped out of bounds. But then, when I saw the replay, I jumped up so high that if not for the vaulted ceiling in my house, I might have bumped my head.

Also, depite being a fan (and therefore biased), I must say I was really impressed by Tech's agility at switching, even from play to play, from a passing game to a running game -- like picking up a beer. It was a beautiful thing. But that's why they call Coach Leach "The Mad Scientist".
03 November 2008

'Twas the night before elections

I have no idea who the author of this is, but it was emailed to me and I found it refreshingly amusing, tired beyond belief of the campaign season.

'Twas the night before elections
And all through the town
Tempers were flaring
Emotions all up and down!

I, in my bathrobe
With a cat in my lap
Had cut off the TV
Tired of political crap.

When all of a sudden
There arose such a noise
I peered out of my window
Saw Obama and his boys

They had come for my wallet
They wanted my pay
To give to the others
Who had not worked a day!

He snatched up my money
And quick as a wink
Jumped back on his bandwagon
As I gagged from the stink

He then rallied his henchmen
Who were pulling his cart
I could tell they were out
To tear my country apart!

'On Fannie, on Freddie,
On Biden and Ayers!
On Acorn, On Pelosi'
He screamed at the pairs!

They took off for his cause
And as he flew out of sight
I heard him laugh at the nation
Who wouldn't stand up and fight!

So I leave you to think
On this one final note-
If you don't want socialism
Get out and vote!!!!
Caveat lector: Technically, Obama is not a socialist since he doesn't advocate government ownership of the means of production. But he doesn't need to be a socialist. He doesn't need to advocate government ownership of the means of production as long as what is produced will be distributed at will by the government. And it is, and shall be.

Fear the government which fears your mind, as well as your guns

“This probably has more to do with our economic future than anything. We’ve got to get our education system right.” -- Barak Obama
There used to be a bumper sticker which said something like, “Fear the government which fears your guns.” (Perhaps it’s still out there somewhere, but I’ve not seen it in a long, long time.) To some, the sentiment expressed by the bumper sticker is extreme, as if the only reason a government would want a disarmed citizenry is to perpetrate some evil which is possible only if the citizens are unarmed and incapable of protecting themselves. Naturally, the people who disapprove of this sentiment are smarter than everyone else, meaning that the people displaying these bumper stickers on the cars are uneducated, stupid rednecks. We don’t need an armed citizenry because, unlike the nation at its founding, we have a standing army. (As if the presence of a standing army isn’t enough of a reason for an armed citizenry!)

Actually, those uneducated rednecks have managed to grasp something that one of the characters in Plato’s dialog, Laws, recognized. At a point in the dialog, discussion turns to the need for a state to be always prepared for its defense. On the The Athenian's view, every citizen must be armed and trained for battle, competent to fight. He identifies two reasons why many states do not truly satisfy this need (except perhaps for the Spartans, with whom, however, he finds other faults). The first reason is simply that too many people in too many states desire a life of personal peace and affluence, not conflict and the perpetual training and preparation for it. The life of perpetual training for combat is not very luxurious, to say the least!

There is a second cause, and that is the nature of the polities involved. They are polities in which the governing class have a vested interest in not having the entire citizenry armed and trained for war. Indeed, such a citizenry is the last thing the governing class truly want.

There lies a cause...in...democracy, oligarchy, and tyranny. For none of these is a [true] polity, but the truest name for them all would be “faction-State”; for none of them is a form of voluntary rule over willing subjects, but a voluntary rule over unwilling subjects accompanied always by some kind of force; and the ruler, through fear of the subject, will never voluntarily allow him to become noble or wealthy or strong or brave or in any way warlike. – (Laws, 832b – d)
Take special note of that last phrase: “…or in any way warlike.” An alternative translation of the Greek could be – and perhaps should be: “…or able to fight.” Take note also of the three polities which The Athenian considers non-polities: democracy, oligarchy, and tyranny. He faults these systems because they result in two classes with respect to governing power: those with it, and those without it. And those with it have a tendency to subject those without to various deprivations. These "non-polities" do not involve a real consent of the governed, leaving open the possibility of armed rebellion against the governing class, or, if not armed rebellion, at the very least a successful intellectual resistance to its claims.

Cutting to the chase, the simple fact of the matter is this: you have only those things – rights, property, whatever – which you can successfully defend by force. Those non-polities The Athenian speaks of want freedom to take whatever actions they desire without opposition. The Few rule over The Many. Being numerically out-numbered, The Few understand that The Many must be disarmed and, in every other way, unable to fight against their rulers.

But I’m not interested in arms alone. Those who have studied the martial arts know that the supreme weapon is not the hand or the foot, the knife or the sword. The supreme weapon is the mind. It’s one thing to have hands and feet, knives and swords (or fire arms); it’s another thing to know how to use them in a disciplined and efficient manner. Every engagement is a battle of wits.

It’s a well known fact that this nation’s public education system stinks. Each campaign season candidates of the two major parties make promises to fix the education crisis. Every fix, of course, still involves leaving the not-so-federal government in de facto charge of every school district in the states. If, however, The Athenian is correct and the governing class doesn’t want people to be capable of fighting, then that class, in addition to keeping the citizenry incapable of fighting must disarm them totally. It is not enough only that they have no arms; they must also be deprived of that supreme weapon: a mind equal to the task of intellectual resistance, ignorant of certain truths, but knowledgable of certain other "truths." Clearly, this means the (benevolent!) rulers must see to the educational needs of the people. Of course, by "educational needs" they always mean the sort of education one needs not in order to be free, but in order to be employable. In other words, education in the public schools is about nothing more than being able to have a good job someday. It's an education, in other -- and blunt -- terms, more fitting for slaves than for free men, rather than the other way around.


One who follows education and politics begins to wonder: Perhaps, despite promises of help to fix our broken (public) education system, the system works exactly the way (Big Government) liberals (to a greater extent) and (Big Government) conservatives (to a lesser extent) really want it to work. Certainly it's a possibility. (I'm trying to re-locate an article I read years ago in which, if I recall correctly, Gloria Steinem, commenting on education, said something very much like, "Johnny may not be able to read when he graduates, but neither will he still believe in God.")

I'm often reminded, when thinking about the size and scope of the national government, of something my professor of ancient history said, commenting on the fall of the Roman republic: One cannot rule an empire with a republican form of government.

Indeed. And an empire dare not permit its citizenry a "republican" education, any more than it can permit those citizens to be armed and trained to resist encroachments upon their liberties. Too bloody dangerous. Leave the fighting to the Big Government's standing (national) army, and the thinking to its bureaucrats.

Reminds me of something Thomas Hobbes said (in Leviathan, I think): He didn't think young people should receive a classical education because it might give them strange ideas about liberty. Modern educrats have extended that thinking exponentially: no one is to receive such an education (which is as much as to say, no one shall be truly educated) lest they all get strange ideas about liberty. As a recipient of such an education (at my own dear mother's feet) I can attest: neither Big Government liberals nor Big Government conservatives really want you to have the sort of strange notions of liberty and government power that you'd get from such an education.

One more thing: The South was right.

About Me

James Frank SolĂ­s
Former soldier (USA). Graduate-level educated. Married 26 years. Texas ex-patriate. Ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America.
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