Introducing The Topic
This is a response to an interesting post at Smash Mouth Politics, Nullifying Tyranny. The post is a book review followed by an exchange of comments. Before you continue here, I suggest reading Nullifying Tyranny.
I also suggest reading A Matter of Legitimacy at the Prince William-Manassas Family Alliance. Since I largely share that author’s conclusions, reading that post will help to make what follows here a bit more easily understood.
The Criteria for Legitimate Government
Although Nullifying Tyranny is only about one book, its authors have written another book about the causes of the Civil War. Thus, it appears, that the comments at Nullifying Tyranny resulted in separate discussions about both books. However, even though I must admit I have yet to read either book, I see both books as closely related. At least I think both revolve about the following question. When does rebellion become immoral for a Christian? How do we know when a government has God’s approval? As the link I provided above suggests, I think that depends upon whether We the People accept the legitimacy of the governing authorities.
Consider that by and large we share the traditions of England. Over the years the character of the government of England has changed considerably. Thus, the People’s criteria for judging the legitimacy of their government had to change accordingly. For example, once the English chose their rulers according to their lineage. Now both they and we decide who rules with elections.
Through all human history, I think there is one common thread. Do We the People share the consensus that our rulers have the right to rule us? When we don’t share such a consensus, we rebel and try to throw the bums out.
The criteria we use to choose a legitimate government has vast ramifications. Because we can either accept or refuse our leaders right to rule over us, on the whole we get the government we deserve. That is, if we don’t like our rulers, we can rebel against them. The Civil War stands as an example. The institution of slavery created a great cultural divide between the Peoples of the North and the South. Because of slavery, each region had its own economic model, and they had competing economic interests. Because of slavery, each side even had different attitude towards manual labor.
Even though it required the enslavement of Blacks, Southerners liked their way of life. To protect slavery — to permanently establish its legitimacy — Southerners sought to spread slavery throughout the Union. Because Northerners wanted no part of slavery, they failed. War began when the South realized they had reached a deadlock with the North. Their differences had become so large the South would no longer submit to a governing authority acceptable to the North.
Today we find it hard to imagine starting a war over slavery. So we even argue over whether it was the root cause. Yet if we thought more about it, I suspect many modern Americans would find stranger than how the Civil War started how it ended.
Both sides fought with bitter ferocity and millions were wounded. Hundreds of thousands died. To bring the South to its knees, the North eventually laid waste to the South, forcing Southern soldiers to return home to feed both themselves and their families. Eventually, the Southern leadership capitulated. Then Southerner men, in return for their freedom, swore loyalty oaths.
Imagine Americans honoring such oaths today. Yet even after Union troops departed, even though they still seethed with anger against the North, the men of the South honored their oaths. Thus, the nation reached a new governing consensus, and the Civil War ended.
Relating The Past And Present
Growing new cultural divides threaten today’s consensus. Here are some examples.
- Differences in language (English and Spanish) and culture (Northern European descent versus Hispanic). Mass immigration from Hispanic nations to our South is balkanizing America.
- Differences in dependence on government. Many Americans have become dependent on government handouts. Government depends on other Americans for paying taxes. Thus, government tax and spend policies directly pit Americans against each other.
- Differences in religious belief. Formerly, Americans just differed over Christianity. Some chose one sect. Others chose another. Yet almost all Americans believed in religious freedom. Today increasing numbers of Americans adhere to beliefs quite different from Christianity. Moveover, American society has become increasingly secular. As a result, the moral foundations of our nation have become uncertain. That is, it is becoming increasing more difficult for Americans to say with any certainty what we believe and why we believe what we believe.
Because it eventually created a deep cultural divide, creating contrary cultural and economic interests, slavery pulled our nation apart. Can differences due language, dependence upon government, and/or religion do the same thing? Time will tell. What is obvious is that the differences between the two major political parties have increased to the point where they stand almost in direct opposition on almost every issue. That is not a good thing.