There are conceptual hints in Scripture and remarks by Jesus on what forms of government are disfavored, but the Framers took inspiration from Aristotle. Many Enlightenment thinkers tended to downplay Aristotle, though the re-discovery of his works is one of the factors leading to the Enlightenment. But many of the Framers read Aristotle directly as well as earlier writers he inspired including Locke and de Montesquieu.
Aristotle spends the first several chapters of Book 4 of Politics cataloging systems of government in a way reminiscent of Linnaeus taking apart the structure of species of flowers. Aristotle gets something of a bad rap here, in which he is frequently said to “favor rule by a strong and virtuous leader.” This misunderstands him, as that is not his most favored arrangement. Here he describes a government divided into three branches:
Having thus gained an appropriate basis of discussion, we will proceed to speak of the points which follow next in order. We will consider the subject not only in general but with reference to particular constitutions. All constitutions have three elements, concerning which the good lawgiver has to regard what is expedient for each constitution. When they are well-ordered, the constitution is well-ordered, and as they differ from one another, constitutions differ. There is (1) one element which deliberates about public affairs; secondly (2) that concerned with the magistrates- the question being, what they should be, over what they should exercise authority, and what should be the mode of electing to them; and thirdly (3) that which has judicial power.
Why is ‘s post worth checking out? Aristotle’s book is ancient. When we read it and consider what it says, we can begin to grasp how our forebears struggled for the right to be free. The notion of a constitutional republic did not just pop into the heads of the men who wrote the Constitution. In a process that took thousands of years, people — many people — slowly and painfully developed the ideas that went into our Constitution. Aristotle was one of the first theorists.
Throughout human history, slavery has been the norm, and that did not change after Aristotle wrote his book. For thousands of years scholars studied Aristotle, but few others. What changed? Why did a group of men meet in Philadelphia and write a Constitution? What motivated them?
Consider. Our success in making our constitutional republic work requires a substantial amount personal integrity and hard work from each citizen. Where people don’t care enough to protect the rights of their family, friends, and neighbors, those people have no rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. So that raises this question. How did the American people acquire such a concern for their neighbors, even people they had never personally met? How did the people who founded of this country do that, and how do we maintain such integrity? Why should we even want to do so?
Are we willing to protect the integrity our Constitution for the sake of our children. Will we work to add what improvements we can?
If you and I just don’t care, that is a bad sign for the next generation and those that follow.
Christmas 2015 has passed. The showy lights and the gift-giving have passed. The cleanup and post-holiday sales remain. What Christians can take away are memories of family time and thoughts about a God who so loved the world.
There is also that time us news junkies spent perusing the Internet and the local paper. One article I read included the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. I wondered. Is the Flying Spaghetti Monster real? Do people actually worship it? The answers to those questions are, surprisingly, yes and yes. The Flying Spaghetti Monster looks to all the world like a spoof. The primary website promoting the “One True Church of our Noodly Lord” obviously poses as a spoof (see here,here, and here) against Christianity. Yet it would be a mistake to assume the followers of the Noodly Lord are not serious.
Why serious? There is money involved. There is prestige. There is the power to make others think “correct thoughts.” There is the power to influence and control government. There is the worship of the state, and the state is quite real and concrete.
Whether inadvertent or not, the Flying Spaghetti Monster is a good symbol for an all-powerful state. The unblinking eyes. Tentacles that reach everywhere. Juicy meatballs that alternatively represent virility and the reward of true believers.
The followers of Islam worship a god they call Allah. Allah, I suppose, is a bit more traditional sort of god, a warrior’s god. No spoofing. Just worship Allah properly, and his clerics promise paradise and endless sex.
Some, such as those as those who run Wikipedia (here) equate Allah and Jehovah. Others (such as here and here) do not equate Allah with Jehovah.
Is Allah real? Do people worship Allah? Let it suffice to say that the dream of Allah — the wish for Allah’s blessing — is real. Because they wish to believe, people follow Allah with the same self-centered ferocity as those who worship the Flying Spaghetti Monster.
Both statists, the worshipers of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, and Muslims have much in common. Both seek salvation through their own works. Where they differ is that statists seek their reward in this life and Muslims seek their reward in the next. Islam, however, is a practical religion. Muslims, their leaders in particular, have been known to eagerly benefit from rewards in this life.
Both the statists and the Muslims need Jesus just as much as I do. These are the sort of people for whom Jesus gave us the Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20).
From a political perspective, I find it difficult to choose between a statist and a Muslim who advocates Sharia. It is the choice between a rock and a hard place. Neither group respects the rights of Christians. Well, perhaps that’s not entirely true. The statist (essentially a Liberal Democrat in this country) thinks Christians have the right to a state funded abortion and/or contraceptives. The Muslim thinks Christians have the right to worship Allah.
Anyone who has studied nations dominated by Islam can figure out Islam is antithetical to God-given rights, but what about those who worship at the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster? What about those Liberal Democrats?
Consider how many Liberal Democrats equate what is moral with what it legal. Consider the Constitution itself. Which is more important to a Liberal Democrat, what the Constitution actually says or what judges says that it says?
What is the basic problem with a Liberal Democrat or a big spending Republican or a Muslim? Consider this verse.
6 For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.
The Christian sees virtue as coming from Jesus. If we have faith in Christ, He justifies us. Christians do not depend upon or even expect virtue to flow from the state. That is, Christians do not believe the state (or the Law (Romans 7:14-25)) can perfect mankind.
Yet both statists and Muslims expect some form of salvation from government or the Law, statists because they worship the power of government, Muslims because Islam ordains a theocracy.
Ironically, both the statists and Muslims prove through their actions the power of sin over man. With cowardly and treacherous glee, statists deride and torment those who recognize their right to make fools of themselves. With suicidal madness, Muslim radicals torture and crush the enemies of Allah. Because their egos demand preeminence, neither group leaves others in peace.
Recognizing and accepting the sinfulness of our nature, the people who founded this country sought a government designed to check our more vile impulses. Hence, James Madison advocated a constitutional republic (see THE ADVANTAGE OF A REPUBLIC OVER A DEMOCRACY). Even so, unless we are willing to see the need for a constitutional republic, we cannot make one work. So our budgets are out of control, much of our infrastructure is crumbling, our foreign policy is in a shambles,….. our government is tottering.
Therefore, if you do not believe you need Jesus, look carefully at what Islam has produced. Consider what those who worship at the altar of government are producing. Then take the time to read and study the Bible. Pray to understand why Jesus is the only cure for what ails the human heart.
14 “Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me.2 In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you.3 If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.4 And you know the way where I am going.”5 Thomas *said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, how do we know the way?”6 Jesus *said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.
“Don’t feed the trolls.” Don’t we all know what that means? Isn’t it a cute expression? It makes us think about feeding the wildlife, and until the wildlife starts biting and clawing, that’s fun.
Here is an example. I once had a friend with a cat who liked being petted. That sounds innocuous, and until I decided to withdraw my hand, the cat was quite friendly. Then the cat made it known that she was not yet done with being petted. My friend should have had that savage little beast declawed.
We are all like that cat. We are all trolls. We are all part of the wildlife, and we can all turn vicious. We don’t even have to be fed. We just have to be petted.
How does that relate to a republic? To maintain a republic, we must maintain a civil society. Can you imagine a civil troll? Therein lies the problem with a republic.
To have a civil society, we must obey the Golden Rule. On our own we cannot do that. Being what we are, we cannot even be honest about the meaning of the Golden Rule. We will bend it to suit the occasion. Somehow, someway we will make doing unto others all about what we want to do unto others, not treating others the way we want to be treated. We will hunt for nuances, craft exceptions, and most “useful” of all, use the ends to justify the means. We will lie to ourselves and to others and do what we want.
It is not that we do not know better. We create laws. We write them down. We try to fix their meaning, but laws are just words on paper. Because we lack integrity with a bit of sophistry we can make our laws say whatever we want them to say. We don’t even have to amend what is written on paper. That is why few nations have ever come close to achieving a civil society, and that is why few republics have lasted very long. Sigh.
So What Is The Point Of A Republic?
In a nation with millions of trolls, no troll by himself or herself can be a grave danger to the peace of the nation. As James Madison observed in The Federalist, Paper # 10, (see THE ADVANTAGE OF A REPUBLIC OVER A DEMOCRACY) the problem resides in our ability to form gangs of trolls, that is, factions. Hence, as Madison observed, we have a choice.
There are two methods of curing the mischiefs of faction: the one, by removing its causes; the other, by controlling its effects.
There are again two methods of removing the causes of faction: the one, by destroying the liberty which is essential to its existence; the other, by giving to every citizen the same opinions, the same passions, and the same interests. (from here)
Since Madison could envision no method of curing the mischiefs of faction that were not worst than the disease, he argued for controlling its effects. Madison advocated a constitutional republic, a limited government designed with checks and balances to check the passions we associate with factional politics.
Even so, we remain trolls. Of what use is a constitution for trolls? Unless we each have the personal integrity to obey a law as those who wrote it meant it to be obeyed, how can the rule of law provide a solid foundation for our government? Is it not like building a house upon shifting sand?
Because most men cannot control their trollish character, most societies opt to control the passions of factions by using tyrannical force to stamp it out. To maintain their own power — their own faction — powerful, tyrannical leaders insist that every citizen voice the same opinions, the same passions, and the same interests.
Because we are what we are, we have no personal integrity of our own. So what else can we do? How can we avoid joining a faction and abusing the rights of our neighbors? How can we avoid the necessity of condemning our family, friends and neighbors to an ironfisted tyranny? Where can we each find a rock upon which to build a foundation for our character? A proper foundation for our government?
Long ago Jesus spoke to us, and the fathers and the mothers of this nation listened.
24 “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock.25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand.27 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”
Because the framers of the Constitution intended a limited government, there is nothing in the Constitution that grants Congress the power to set up health, education, or welfare programs. Hence none of these programs have any right to exist. Yet they do exist. Why? The reason given is that it is the compassionate thing to do. Is that true? Is it compassionate to give the Federal Government that kind of power?
What Once Made America Different?
What once distinguished America? The wisest of the Founding Fathers knew men are sinners, not to be trusted too much, but we have been changed. America has seen its transformation. Think about the sheer hypocrisy of the guy who said this.
We, the people, recognize that we have responsibilities as well as rights; that our destinies are bound together; that a freedom which asks only “what’s in it for me,” a freedom without commitment to others, a freedom without love or charity or duty or patriotism is unworthy of our founding ideals and those who died in their defense. — President Barack Obama (from here)
Obama tells us “we have responsibilities as well as rights,” but the words are empty, said only to assuage the consciences of those not truly interested in taking responsibility for their own thievery, immorality and bigotry. Unfortunately, because we no longer understand and accept our responsibilities, we have elected too many who spout such empty rhetoric.
Consider a still popular quote from a more honest, wiser man.
But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself. — James Madison from The Federalist No. 51
What is the great difficulty? Don’t we each have personal responsibilities we must fulfill? Don’t we each have personal rights that need protection? When we shirk our responsibilities — when we demand that our government fulfill our responsibilities for us — we cannot trust that same government to protect our rights. For example, how can we trust the same people we have given the power to “redistribute the wealth” (stealing from one person and giving to another) to protect our property rights? Where can we find leaders with the moral integrity to resist such a conflict of interest?
What Defines Compassion?
In theory we could make the same government that protects our rights also responsible for giving us our “rights,” but we are morally incapable of making any such thing work. Let’s consider why.
a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering.
Is compassion something we expect from politicians and the bureaucracies they create, or is it something we expect from individual human beings? The answer is obvious, but politicians are good at showing us how much they “care.” They and the news media show us suffering people. Then they offer us grand, “compassionate” solutions. Spend money on a great bureaucracies. Thus, we have education for the masses, housing for the homeless, guaranteed retirement incomes for the aged,” free” medical care for the needy, and so forth. Add it all up, and it is a “war on poverty,” a war that greatly profits the people who run that war.
For whom do we have the greatest compassion? Supposedly, we expect our children to be the greatest beneficiaries of this “war on poverty.” After all, who can list all the things that politicians have told us are “for the children”? In fact, us old people have buried our children in debt. Because us old people vote, we have voted to devote most of the Federal Budget to Social Security and Medicare programs. Those old people programs are not for our children, but those old people programs are most definitely the third rail of politics, untouchable.
What is going on? Perhaps this odd quote explains it best.
A democracy is always temporary in nature; it simply cannot exist as a permanent form of government. A democracy will continue to exist up until the time that voters discover that they can vote themselves generous gifts from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates who promise the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that every democracy will finally collapse due to loose fiscal policy, which is always followed by a dictatorship. — Unknown
There are great many quotes such as the one above floating about on the Internet. Instead of observing the obvious truth of the statement, the big spending activists waste their time attacking the authenticity of the quotes. Yet when we are robbing generations yet unborn, what difference does it make who said it? Are we suppose to ignore the fact the public treasury is being robbed, that we are the ones robbing it?
Is it compassionate to bankrupt our children?
Reverence For The Law
A couple of hundred years ago a group of men met in Philadelphia. They spent most of a summer trying to solve a riddle. How could we receive the benefits of a national government without that government becoming a threat to our rights? They offered up the Constitution as their solution, and a dubious and distrustful People accepted it, quickly adding a Bill of Rights.
What is the key to making the Constitution work? What did Benjamin Franklin say in its support?
In these sentiments, Sir, I agree to this Constitution, with all its faults, — if they are such; because I think a general Government necessary for us, and there is no form of government but what may be a blessing to the people, if well administered; and I believe, farther, that this is likely to be well administered for a course of years, and can only end in despotism, as other forms have done before it, when the people shall become so corrupted as to need despotic government, being incapable of any other. — Benjamin Franklin, speech in the Constitutional Convention, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (September 17, 1787); reported in James Madison, Journal of the Federal Convention, ed. E. H. Scott (1893), p. 742 (from here)
Franklin and the other framers had no delusions that they had written something perfect or that mere men could make it work forever. They just hoped they could avoid corruption and make their Constitution work for awhile.
How do we avoid corruption? There is no simple way.
We the people are the rightful masters of both Congress and the courts, not to overthrow the Constitution but to overthrow the men who pervert the Constitution. — Abraham Lincoln (from here)
Now put that quote in context.
I say that we must not interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists, because the Constitution forbids it, and the general welfare does not require us to do so. We must not withhold an efficient Fugitive Slave law, because the Constitution requires us, as I understand it, not to withhold such a law. But we must prevent the outspreading of the institution, because neither the Constitution nor general welfare requires us to extend it. We must prevent the revival of the African slave trade, and the enacting by Congress of a Territorial slave code. We must prevent each of these things being done by either Congresses or courts. The people of these United States are the rightful masters of both Congresses and courts, not to overthrow the Constitution, but to overthrow the men who pervert the Constitution.
Abraham Lincoln included those words in a speech just before the start of the American Civil War. He knew slavery was wrong; most of the men who wrote the Constitution knew slavery was wrong. Yet without the compromise that allowed state governments to define black men as slaves, there would have been no Constitution. Hence, the Constitution’s framers had settled on a compromise that they hoped would limit slavery and allow it to wither away.
Because we cannot do it, government does not exist to right every wrong. It exists to maintain order, that we might have some rights rather than none at all. We do not honor the laws of men because they are perfect; they are not. We honor the rule of law because the alternative, the rule of man, is a far greater wrong, a despotism that enslaves all wholly and completely to the caprice of a tyrant.
Is despotism compassionate?
We can call anything compassionate. With portraits of suffering victims and showers of lovely words, we can even justify taking money from hardworking people and giving it to people who are not working. In time, the people who are not working will learn to vote themselves more money. Will their thievery make them more compassionate?
As the old saying goes, we cannot have our cake and eat it too. We can either have a government that protects our rights, or we have a government led by people who make lovely promises that they cannot and will not keep. Isn’t the correct choice obvious? Apparently, the answer is no longer obvious. We have been transformed.
When politicians make outrageous promises, some people are gullible enough to believe them. Ironically, those people like to call themselves “Progressives.”