PRESIDENTIAL PROS AND CONS: THE PURPOSE OF GOVERNMENT

Caption: The committee chosen to draft a declaration of independence for the 13 North American British colonies is shown at work in this 19th century engraving. The five members are, from left, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Philip Livingston and Roger Sherman. On July 1, 1776, the committee submitted their draft to the Continental Congress, which voted on July 2 for final separation, and approved and formally adopted the Declaration of Independence on July 4. (© AP Images)
Caption: The committee chosen to draft a declaration of independence for the 13 North American British colonies is shown at work in this 19th century engraving. The five members are, from left, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Philip Livingston and Roger Sherman. On July 1, 1776, the committee submitted their draft to the Continental Congress, which voted on July 2 for final separation, and approved and formally adopted the Declaration of Independence on July 4. (© AP Images)

We actually have as part of our heritage a document that clearly states the purpose of government, the Declaration of Independence.  Here are the key words.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. –That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…

Unfortunately, when we take the passage above out of context, we forget why men came from all over the 13 original colonies to draft and sign the Declaration of Independence. We forget that at the risk of their lives and their fortunes they were preparing to battle to strongest military power of their age. We forget they were about to embark upon a long and miserable war, and we forget why. Instead of protecting his subjects, the government of King George III just saw the wealth of the colonies and wanted to exploit it. Hence the colonists responded forcefully: “no taxation without representation”.

Do most of us (Americans) still believe that God gives us our rights, or do we believe that government gives us our rights? Given how our government spends our money, it does not seem likely. Most of the Federal budget goes to cover “pension” expenses like Social Security and “health” expenses like Medicare (see here). Since everyone likes being taken care of for “free”, there is a huge constituency such “entitlements”.

Because nothing is free, our national debt is out of control (see here).  Yet, ironically, many of the same people who want the free “entitlements” blame the deficit on defense spending, something the Constitution actually authorizes Congress to do. Those foolish people are wrong. Defense is only 21 percent of the Federal budget (see here again).

So what is the problem? Few of us spend much time studying what the Framers of our Constitution studied.  Few of us bother to read what they wrote.

Consider this webpage, The Purposes of Government. That webpage never mentions the Declaration of Independence. Instead, the author focuses upon the evolution of government. Then he describes our present state.

In more recent years, government responsibilities have extended to the economy and public service. An early principle of capitalism dictates that markets should be free from government control. But when economies spun out of control during the 1930s, and countries sank into great depressions, governments acted. The United States Congress created the Federal Reserve System in the early twentieth century to ward off inflation and monitor the value of the dollar. Franklin Roosevelt and his “Brain Trust” devised New Deal programs to shock the country into prosperity. (from here)

The economies just spun out of control?  Don’t economies spin out of control when people are encouraged to borrow recklessly, nations put up trade barriers, and government taxing and spending saps the strength of the economy? That is the fault of capitalism spun out of control?

Similarly, http://www.cliffsnotes.com provide a lame answer, What is the purpose of government, and how does a bill become law?

When you try to figure out the purpose of government, you can easily get bogged down in all of the many things a government does or should do — from defending the people to managing the federal budget. And if you ask a dozen people what the purpose of government is, you’d probably get a dozen different answers, depending on individual point of view.

That’s because everyone — and I mean everyone — has a different view of what a government should and shouldn’t do. Some think the government should control everything, while others think government should have a limited role in people’s lives. Some think that the government should be run by one person, as in a dictatorship, while others think the people should have the right to elect their representatives and leaders, as in a democracy. In fact, the purpose of government has been at the root of philosophical and political debates for many hundreds of years. Just think of any presidential debate you’ve seen: If you boil down what the candidates say, you basically end up with their views on the purpose of government. And, of course, their views usually differ quite a bit! (continued here)

What about the perspective of a journalist of renown?

Call me old-fashioned, but I still hold with the ancient Greeks who said government has only one purpose, to improve the lives of citizens. If it doesn’t, there is no reason for it, no reason at all, which is why I was a little surprised that with the nation at war, our intelligence services in a complete mess, as we just heard, the deficit soaring and jobs going overseas, the Senate decided the most important thing it needed to do was debate a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. The House will soon follow.  (from here)

Bob Schieffer provided that back in 2004. That was back when the mass media had just begun to work up to a full-throated roar for “same-sex marriage”.

Still, we began as a nation with an answer. We knew the purpose of government. At least, we once did. So with some effort we can still find websites that speak to that purpose.

So what about Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump?  What I suggest is clicking on the links in their names and visiting their websites. Then read the quote below.

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

Which candidate do you think would most concern James Madison? Which candidate is more concerned with the acquisition of power? Which candidate is most interested in protecting our rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness? Which candidate causes you to fear more for the sake of your children?

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30 thoughts on “PRESIDENTIAL PROS AND CONS: THE PURPOSE OF GOVERNMENT

  1. “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

    So what do you do with a country when it is out of control? You do the same as every parent does with a child having a ‘meltdown’ in my opinion. What kind of time out is needed for a country, it is fairly apparent to me.

    WE NEED A TIMEOUT FROM LONG TERM POLITICIANS.

    TRUMP IS NOT A POLITICIAN, THAT IS HIS BIGGEST ASSET TO CLEAN UP AND RID THE LONG TERM POLITICAL SWAMP IN WASHINGTON.

    Regards and goodwill blogging.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Term limits is an idea I think most of the electorate will embrace. It is funny how everyone realizes that other people’s congressman needs to go, but they think their congressman is okay. Sigh. What are people thinking?

      Liked by 1 person

  2. The purpose of our sovereign government?

    “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.” Preamble to the Constitution

    “No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” From the 14th Amendment to the Constitution

    The first was written to establish the federal government. The second was written after a bloody Civil War to make all federal rights (including those in the Bill of Rights) national and gave the federal government the premier power over the states in the protection those national rights.

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    1. @Tony

      Think it through. The Preamble to the Constitution explains the reason for of the Constitution; it does not explain the purpose of government. We needed a Constitution to meet the challenge as defined by the quote I gave from James Madison.

      When he debated Stephen Douglass, Abraham Lincoln said the signers of the Declaration of Independence were serious when they said “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights”. When the people of the United States voted for Lincoln they indicated they agreed.

      The framers feared that if they made the issue of slavery non-negotiable they would be unable to unite the colonies. So they settled on a compromise, hoping the economics of slavery would kill it. Eventually, however, the slave masters, the master minds of their time, found a way to make slavery sufficiently profitable, and they would not accept a compromise. So after hundreds of thousands had died, the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments legally ended slavery. Except as punishment for a crime, state governments lost the power to arbitrarily deprive people of their rights, especially based upon race.

      Did 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments give the Federal Government premier power over the States? Need I remind you that the Civil War predates those amendments? With respect to its primary functions, the Constitution had already made the Federal Government was already the premier power over the states.

      Section 4 of Article IV had already required the Federal Government to guaranteed every State a Republican Form of Government and protect the States. Therefore, I think you need to explain your claim that 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments made the Federal Government premier power over the States. Please use what the amendments actually say, not some weird judicial interpretation, so as to clearly your claim.

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      1. Definition of a “Preamble”: the introductory part of a statute or deed, stating its purpose, aims, and justification.

        For someone who claims to be a Constitutional Originalist, it’s funny that you think that the plane language stating the purpose of the document that is the preeminent authority on our government is somehow less controlling than a document that is essentially a manifesto for Revolution. One took years to draft and for the states to ratify while the other was drafted by brave men (who quite arguably did not even have the authority to do so) stating the reasons for rebellion. As important as the Declaration is, if you read whole document, it is mainly a list of grievances.

        Anyway, the Preamble to the Constitution states the purpose of the blue print of our government in plain language. It is hilarious to me that you want to interpret black as white when it suits you to do so, but, when it doesn’t suit you, then the plain language is just “some weird judicial interpretation”. 😂

        The 14th Amendment also says what it says. It gives the Federal Government premier power over the States with regard to “Rights”, not necessarily in every other area of Federal and State sovereignty addressed in the Constitution (such as in “the Commerce Clause” as just one example).

        Before the 14th Amendment, the Constitution’s Bill of Rights protected individuals and the States from the Federal Government’s infringement upon those rights, but the Constitution did not protect the individual from any given State’s infringement upon those rights. For example, prior to the post Civil War 14th Amendment, the State of Pennsylvania could establish and promote a state religion and it could infringe upon the freedom of individuals to practice other religions if Pennsylvania chose to do so, and there would be no federal or state legal remedy. (Some states actually had state religions at the time of the Founding and those laws were uneffected by the Constitution). After the 14th Amendment (and after Congress passed laws like US Code Section 1983 which the 14th Amendment authorizes), an individual could seek regress in federal courts against a state or state actor if any federal right, including the Bill of Rights, were infringed upon.

        The plain language of the 14th Amendment essentially turned the Bill of Rights from a shield that the States and individuals could use against the Federal Government’s infringement into a sword that the Federal Government could use against the states in the protection of individuals. Because the Bill of Rights were not actually written with this purpose in mind, the 14th Amendment has been the cause of literally volumes and volumes of federal court holdings seeking to interpret these rights in light of the Post Civil War Amendments (and the 14th Amendment’s “Equal Protection Clause” is a whole line of case study all by itself).

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        1. What the Preamble to the Constitution says it states is the purpose for the Constitution. What Declaration of Independence says is why governments are instituted among men, that is, the purpose of government.

          Need I remind you of the obvious? We don’t celebrate Constitution Day. We don’t celebrate the day we officially achieved our independence. We celebrate the Declaration of Independence.

          When Abraham Lincoln debated Stephen Douglass, did he justify his opposition to slavery by pointing to the Constitution? No. The Constitution is just a bunch of rules; it does not contain the principles of how we govern ourselves. What Lincoln cited was the Declaration of Independence.

          Did the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments radically change the character of our government? No. They were not intended to do that. What they were intended to do is free the slaves and to some extent they succeeded. Unfortunately, racial prejudice remained.

          What you refer to as the plain language of 14th amendment is funny. Nobody discovered much of that plain language until the 1960’s. That in part was due to racists in the Democratic Party. The Democrats liked their Jim Crow laws.

          However, in the 1960’s brave men like Martin Luther King took a firm stand against racism. So modern Democrats had to adapt, and they did. They discovered identity politics, a new way to be divisive demagogues. They twisted the 14th Amendment into a ridiculous tool for promulgating new and better “rights”.

          Here is all the 14th Amendment says that comes even close to applying to their malarkey.

          Section 1.
          All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

          Just as the Bill of Rights only prohibits the Federal Government from infringing upon the rights of citizens, the 14th Amendment only applies to State governments. That, however, has not stopped politicians from spreading their gospel of infinite rights at somebody else’s expense.

          So now, instead of discussing important matters — is it really a good idea to allow H. Clinton to run every aspect of our lives? — we argue about whether transgender men should be using the lady’s room. Another fine example of the progress that come from Progressives.

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  3. I remember the analysis of the 2006 Congressional elections, in which it was determined (based by the actual votes and by post-ballot polls) that the average voter wanted the government to take care of his/her parents and of his/her children. J.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Not only did they expect to save money–they were also leaving responsibility for care-giving, and for caring, to a faceless government. “Just let me live my own life; don’t let my family be a burden to me.” J.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Tom,

    Actually, I think that celebrating Constitution Day would be a great Idea, but any excuse to have a picnic and a parade is alright by me.

    The Declaration is not controlling law in any juris prudential sense, but it is certainly persuasive language. It also does not give the purpose of government as much as it gives a rational for rebellion. The two are the same thing, but I’ll grant you that they not necessarily mutually exclusive either.

    This is, of course, an odd argument as I’m not really sure what you are arguing about. Are you saying that the Constitution does not provide the blue print for our government and its sovereign powers and limitations of powers, as well as giving a number of rights? Isn’t the Preamble, by its own statement, the purposes for the creation of such a constitutional government?

    I get the impression that you don’t like the language in the Preamble for some reason, perhaps because it states such sweeping purposes (such as providing for the “general welfare”). If this is your problem, then you will be happy to know that the Supreme Court has been highly reticent to interpret the Preamble’s language as “empowering” language. As in any part of the Consititution, the Preamble’s language can be “persuasive” in determining other empowering provisions of the Constitution (such as, for example, the federal powers inherent in the Commerce Clause). So if you are worried about the Supreme Court interpreting “the General Welfare Clause” or some other part of the Preamble as empowering the government to create the collectivist welfare state, then don’t sweat it too much. It’s mostly just nice language about the reasons for government and it is not actually that dissimilar to the Declaration.

    What you don’t understand about the 14th Amendment and the other post Civil War Amendments is similar. Unlike the Preamble, the 14th Amendment definitely empowers the Federal Government. It gives federal government the power enforce rights in three specific areas, and then it gives Congress the power to create jurisdiction and standing in the courts. In other words, until Congress passed certain enforcing laws under the enforcement provisions of the post Civil War Amendments, individuals had rights under the 14th Amendment, but may not have had a way to seek remedy.

    Some laws were passed and some cases were brought very early on, but you are right in that Congress did not actually start passing enforcement provisions until fairly recent history when provisions like the Civil Rights Acts and the Voting Rights Acts were passed. As a result, blacks throughout the South suffered under Jim Crow for almost a century. They had a right under the post Civil War Amendments, but until Congress stepped up, they simply had no effective remedy as, in many cases, they had no standing and the courts simply had no jurisdiction.

    The clear language of the 14th Amendment also does not say anything about racial discrimination being it’s only purpose. It is quite clearly and generally applicable to all federal rights, to all cases of unequal protection and to all problems where Due Process is lacking. The 14th Amendment has three distinct clauses that each have a rich and interesting case history of Congressional enforcement and judicial interpretation:

    1. The Privileges and Immunities Clause which gives the federal government the ultimate say in federal rights.
    2. The Equal Protection Clause which says a state cannot afford rights (even ones that a State gives that is not found Federally) unequally.
    3. The Due Process Clause. This is a big deal and very hard to explain in short space, but do some research. You will find it very interesting. There are actually two Due Process Clauses in the Constitution. Did you ever wonder why and what applies to what? It’s worth the time to find out.

    I know. At this point you are thinking that the Constitution is a pretty short document. Why do “activist” lawyers and judges have to make it so complicated? Because we’d be out of a job otherwise, that’s why? 😉 This reminds me of another lawyer joke:

    Two lawyers are arguing in front of a judge. One lawyer is so frustrated that he finally says “judge this case is frivolous, absolutely frivolous”. The other lawyer thinks a minute and then finally responds “judge, he is getting paid to be here, I am getting paid to be here, you are getting paid to be here, so how can the case be frivolous”.

    Ok, back to being serious. Let’s take an example of how intent changed under the 14th Amendment, and why it has to be interpreted even though the language may seem plain. The 2nd Amendment to the Constitution reads: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

    When this was originally written, it was obviously meant to protect each state’s right to have or to raise an army, not only in its defense against that state’s internal and external enemies (Native Americans?) but also in defense of the nation as a whole. Look at all those commas, and supporting clauses. The plain language is both ambigous as to affordeing an individual right and grammatically kind of clear as to its main intent. Quite arguably, the 2nd Amendment was also put in by slave holders to give them the ability to rebell should the federal government decide to take their slaves away. At the time that it was written, however, the authors and ratifiers would have scoffed at the idea that a given state could not completely regulate the weaponry and the militia within its own jurisdiction. The 14th Amendment turned that intent upside down.

    Obviously we fought a war over whether states could have a militia which rebels against the union. You like to quote the Lincoln debates, but there is nothing in the Constitution that says that states could not leave the Union anytime they damn well wanted. Quite arguably the states had a constitutional right to secede and even to rebel against the tyranny of the federal government that was exceeding what they thought were its limited constitutional powers, and therefore Lincoln quite arguably fought an unconstitutional war. But then the North won and the victors get to, not only write the history, they get to rewrite the Constitution, which the 14th Amendment effectively does in many ways.

    So now an Amendment that was only designed to be a shield against the federal government has to be reinterpreted under the power of the 14th Amendment so as to defermine whether a state can limit the right of an individual to own guns. The thing is, whether we agree with it or not, the Supreme Court has interpreted the 2nd Amendment, through the lens of the 14th Amendment, to afford individuals (not just states and militias) a limited right to own weaponry and that 2nd Amendment right can neither be infringed upon by any state nor by the federal government.

    Was this the orginal intent of the founders and framers of the 2nd Amendment? Who knows? The original founders, framers and ratifiers were not even close to being monolithic on very many of the things that you seem to want to ascribe to them, but the fact is, even if they were in this case, the original founders did not even know about the 14th Amendment. They may have been prescient but they weren’t psychic.

    On the other hand, was the Supreme’s decisions on 2nd Amendment cases the original intent of the founders and framers of the 14th Amendment? That’s a better question, but again, who knows? It is very debatable.

    However, a case or controversy was brought before a court that had jurisdiction to decide that case, and an absolute responsibility to decide that case one way or another. Juris prudence has a wonderul logic that is more perfect in deciding such things than anything that has come before it, but it is not God. It is an institution that seeks to have us be, as best as we can, a nation of laws, not men. And once the Supreme Court decides it, it is the law.

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  5. @Tony

    It is my responsibility to speak the truth as I see it. I cannot make anyone believe what I believe. Since I am only human and could not be trusted with such power, that is I think a good thing. Therefore, I find it sort of reassuring that I cannot get you to abruptly change your mind. Nevertheless, I think you should take the time to read the Lincoln-Douglas Debates of 1858. I suspect that would at least help you to understand why I think the Declaration of Independence serves as a foundation for our Constitution. America went to war with itself over an idea expressed in the Declaration of Independence, not the Constitution.

    What is my problem with the 14th Amendment? I don’t have one. I have a problem with the propensity of man to sin.

    When the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments were written, most Americans still believed in God-given rights and limited government. Now we have a far greater tendency to believe government gives us our rights.

    When Americans believed in God-given rights and limited government, they still understood that we each belong to God, that our salvation rests in Him. They understood that no man can replace God. The best we can expect from government is that our leaders will protect us from the rogues among us and help us to resolve our disputes. In fact, to keep the government itself from posing a threat to us, we must limit the powers of our officials and put them in the position of checking and balancing each others powers. Yet that understanding is fading. When only God is good, we have a great many people willing to state “I am a good person.”

    Now our leaders invent “rights” that only they can give us. Thus, the equal protection clause in the 14th Amendment gives government officials expansive powers. When Federal officials spin up their printing presses and spend and spend and spend, they can make all kind of rules that appeal to our covetous nature. Otherwise, we don’t get any of that lovely money. So it is we penalize the successful and glorify and reward slackers and misfits. Without spending a cent, our leaders can even tell employers who they must hire. They just leverage their powers over corporations to control other people’s money. Eventually, it appears our leader will control who we must allow into our bathrooms, demonstrating there is no end to their presumption or powers.

    Rather than write a long comment responding to your “scholarly” dissertation on the 14th Amendment, I will refer you to a couple of old posts I wrote.

    https://citizentom.com/2011/02/01/living-out-of-the-box-—-part-2/ This post gets into the concept of rugged individualism. I doubt you know the history of the word.

    https://citizentom.com/2012/06/20/corrupted-by-our-supposed-generosity-part-3/ Here we get into how FDR used the Great Depression as crisis he did not let go to waste.

    As a side note, I don’t consider the 14th Amendment one of the reasons our republic is failing. That problem is more spiritual than technical. Here is the first post in a series that looks at both.

    https://citizentom.com/2009/05/18/what-happened-to-our-constitution-part-1/

    What has happened to the 14th Amendment I just consider part of the general corruption of our republic. You, of course, attribute it to a living Constitution, an ironic word choice. When a constitutional republic has a living Constitution, that republic is dying.

    You say the words of the Supreme Court are law. Just because the Supreme Court says something does not make it true or even the Law. If the Supreme Court decided to suspend the Law of Gravity would you step off the edge of a tall building?

    Marriage, for example, is between a man and woman. Bozos in black robes cannot change that. When a guy marries a guy or a gal marries a gal, it is just about as stupid as thinking that just because somebody says something or has a “legal” document it has to be true.

    It was not that long ago that some men declared themselves to be gods. Yet when they demanded to be worshiped, some Christians refused. The truth is important. Sometimes the truth is more important than our life.

    Note that I am not especially interested in trying to defend the Second Amendment. There are already plenty of enthusiastic gun owners doing that better than I would. Go argue with them about the ambiguity of the Second Amendment.

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    1. Tom wrote:

      “You say the words of the Supreme Court are law. Just because the Supreme Court says something does not make it true or even the Law. If the Supreme Court decided to suspend the Law of Gravity would you step off the edge of a tall building?”

      Is what you are referring to above as the “law” of gravity the actual empirical phenomenon of the natural universe, or is it just the human “theories” about how gravity operates? They are not the same thing you know. Newton described how gravity works, and we like to call it “Newton’s Laws” but in actuality it is really a scientific theory that in some ways and on the larger scale was proven wrong and further developed by Einstein’s scientific theories. Even as well as they have withstood experimental and mathematical falsifications, Einstein’s theories are not “laws” either – they are just theories (like The Theory of Evolution) that either work or don’t work, accurately or not, to describe a universe that God caused to come into being and continues to cause to exist through His will. We do well to follow the direction of these theories in so far as the have predictive benefit, but they are not immutable.

      You certainly could say that God’s engendering and continuously suspending “will” is God’s “law”, but I think that it would be hubris to say that everything that every theory that we have advanced in science through the wonder of human reason truly is the last word on God’s “law”. To believe so is to make a god out of God’s gift of reason and substitute that god for the real God.

      Science is not God and scientific theory is not God’s “law”. At best, it is just a useful, but imperfect, abstract tool in theorizing about and predicting how God’s universe works. Much of the confusion today among both theists and nontheists is this idolatry of reason and science at the expense of our awe and wonder of God. This is what has Aethists falaciously claiming that believing in reason and science has replaced our “superstition” of believing in God, and even worse, it is what has caused devout Christians to build supposed “natural history” museums where dinosaurs hang out with Adam and Eve. And now you want to say that a smart 18th Century American Deist, using the corruption of both theology and reason that began with Decartes and that culminated at that time in Locke, drafted God’s law into our Declaration of Independence, much less in the Constitution?

      I think we both would agree that the Constitution is our most foundational human “law” in this country, but it is very much “human” law. I would like to think that it comports to some greater degree with God’s “law” than not, but the document is mostly a systemic process document that pragmatically checks human foibles rather than promoting our individual or national holiness. It certainly nowhere claims to be God’s law.

      Similarly, in interpreting the Constitution, I don’t remember the Supreme Court claiming whether or not same sex marriage was “God’s Law”. Under our system of human law, courts of justice don’t claim to speak for God on which marriages are sacredly approved by God and which are not. Do you really want our government or our courts to have such power? If so, I think we should say that only Catholic marriages carry the God seal of government approval. 🙄

      I have no idea if idea if same sex marriage violates God’s law. There are theologians and Christian churchs on both sides of the issue. I understand the pros and cons of the “natural law” argument perhaps better than you do, and for now, I remain unconvinced that they are determinative. Based on a Thomist and Aristotelian extrapolation of teleological natural law view, my denomination is against same sex marriage, so I guess they won’t be performing them in Catholic Churches any time soon. On the other hand, my church doesn’t think any marriage not done by a Catholic priest carries the same sacramental significance and therefore that non-Catholic marriages are arguably not the true natural law. The Catholic Church also thinks divorce violates natural law. (I guess in Trump’s case only the third marriage was sacred though?)

      It’s easy for me to say that I think someone else’s marriage or someone else’s divorce violates my religion’s beliefs on God’s natural laws. After initially being married in my wife’s Protestant Church, I was eventually married in a Catholic Church (I remember my very Catholic mom saying “now you are really married”). I don’t really intend to get divorced, and I’m certainly not interesting enough to get gay married any time soon, so I’m unharmed by my church’s views on all marriage issues, but do you really want my church deciding all the legal rights and responsibilities of the marriage contract as a governmental legal issue? Based upon a far more developed and consistent philosophy of natural law than most Protestants have, if we get to decide which laws and rights are “God Given” then Catholics will also be legally outlawing all forms of birth control, adultry, any premarital sex, cremation, capital punishment and, of course, abortions of all kinds, just to name a few laws that will change.

      Or is it only your particular theories on what is “God’s Law” and which rights are “God given” that should be legally infallible? And this is supposedly to be based upon the theology of the Reverend Thomas Jefferson? And you don’t find that laughable?

      It is not that I am unsympathetic to your position. Although I do not see it in the dark apocalyptic terms that you do and I also don’t share your revisionist view that the people of the 18th Century were particularly more moral or religious than they are today, I do think that, on a philosophical level, modern American society has gone morally astray to some extent. I think, however, that that wrong turn happened when we started to worship reason and we lost our humble sense of awe and wonder at how little we actually do know about the universe and about the God that created and sustains it’s existence.

      During the Enlightenment, philosophers sought to use the tool of reason exclusively and absent what is empirically obvious to rationally prove God. Because they failed so miserably, they opened the way for the likes of Hume and Hobbes and ultimately Nietzsche to leave God out of the machine all together. “Natural Law” now, for most rationalist and modernist Christians, is some sort of weird combination of the law of the jungle combined with what they prefer to cherry pick out of the Bible. On the other hand, the Catholic Church now leans heavily upon Aristotelian and Thomist metaphics of formal and final causes as a basis for natural law moral theories.

      Thomist metaphysics proved perhaps about as much as reason can logically surmise about the attributes of God and about the soul of the rational human animal long before Cartesian dualism took us down that blind ally we are stuck in now. However, where we Catholics I think go wrong is that we take this sound Thomist metaphysical foundation of natural law and then, ignoring all the multifariousness and complexity of what little we can know and what immensely we just don’t know about God’s universe, and we then try to extrapolate absolutist determinative moral statements. Such determinism failed with Marxism and Facsism, and it fails with natural law theories, because, as Karl Popper pointed out, social schemes spawned from moral determinism always turn out monstrosities that simply do not work in the big, complex and amibiguous real world. But there is something about the black and white, absolutist nature of determinism schemes to which people, especially very conservative people, are naturally attracted over and over again like moths to a new flame.

      My point is that, while I have no doubt that there is God’s law, I don’t trust you or I to inflict our determination of what that legally should be on other people who are not harming us by violating it. If you don’t think that same sex “legal” marriage is God’s law, or is even a marriage in God’s eyes, then don’t get gay married. If you think divorce and birth control are abominations before the eyes of God, don’t get divorced and don’t take the pill. However, if your only argument for why someone else should legally not have the right to do something that is not essentially harmful is that it violates your particular religious principles, then I think that under our constitution, you should not get your way. Fortunately, my way of thinking is and has been since the founding, the judicial norm and it is what our Constitutional calls for.

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      1. @Tony

        Our laws have to based both upon sound scientific and moral principles. Otherwise, they just don’t work.

        1. The vast majority has to believe in the law. Otherwise, a trial by jury will not gain a conviction. Of course, if legislators contrive the matter properly, I suppose it is possible to put people out of business and even in jail without a jury trial. Living Constitution? If it is inconvenient, what difference does the Bill of Rights make?
        2. The people have to understand the law. To begin with, the law has to comport with reality. Laws have to make some sort of sense in a constitutional republic. On the other hand, in tyrannical states where fear reigns, the law works “best” when uncertainty exists. When the people don’t know if they are obeying the law or not, the authorities reward the obsequious by leaving them in peace.
        3. The law has to be enforceable. That is, when people break a law, we can generally figure out who broke the law and bring those people to trial with sufficient evidence to convict. Even in tyrannical states, that is true to some extent. However, in a tyrannical state, criminals are just competitors who can be arbitrarily co-opted or destroyed. In a tyrannical state, the law exists to control the population. The people only have to be protected to the extent necessary to keep them from rebelling in sheer desperation.

        Does religion have anything to do with the observations above? Yes. America did begin primarily as a Christian nation. Hence the Declaration of Independence says what it say. To make our government work, we do have to have some shared values. That’s why some look in horror at what the Democrats have done with respect to our school system and with respect to open borders.

        Listen to yourself. You are preaching a philosophy that largely ignores the substance of our religious heritage.

        Their were two Enlightenments. One took place in France and parts of Europe and led to the Reign of Terror. The philosophy you are supposedly describing came from that miserable failure. The second Enlightenment took place in England and America. In England, people like John Wesley and William Wilberforce took the lead in reforming the church and then the government, ending slavery for example. In the United States, we had the American Revolution. Later, we too experienced a religious revival.

        Can we prove the existence of God? Not to some people. They are plenty of good proofs, but some people just don’t want to believe. I can say that from personal experience. Nothing can be done about that. The excuses are endless. We can take a horse to water, but God makes it want to drink.

        Your last paragraph is just absurd. I don’t have faith in big government, but you always act like I am the one determined to be a busybody. Yet it is your party that defines tolerance in such a fashion that it forces the opposition to water down its beliefs or accept the title of bigot and legal retribution.

        Deny it all you want, but the candidates you vote for are determined to impose their beliefs upon others. “Same-sex marriage” is a simple example. Unopposed, the threshold for compliance will be raise until the government requires the clergy to speak in support of “same-sex marriage” and perform “same-sex marriages.”

        Are Christians organizing gangs to stop idiots from doing stupid things in their bedrooms? No. We just claim the right to disapprove of things the Bible clearly defines as wrong.

        Freedom of worship is not the same as the free exercise of religion. If I own a private business and I am a mean-spirited jackass, it is up to my customers and employees to punish me by going elsewhere. That’s what the free exercise of religion involves. We enforce most of our beliefs through custom, not law. When politicians like Obama and H. Clinton try to impose their beliefs upon us by twisting the Constitution and saying it says what it clearly does not, that is not tolerant. That is both lying and just plain tyrannical.

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  6. Tom-

    I guess our country is full of “busybodies”. There are the busybodies who want to make sure that the environmental costs of producing a given product are not externalized outward to make other people’s children sick but rather are internalized and spread into the cost of the product. There are busybodies that insist on making sure that workers can organize to bargain for a fair share of what their labors produce and for safe working conditions. There are also those busy bodies who fight for a good education for all children and for social safety nets for everyone. And finally there are busybodies who insist on regulating what women can do with their bodies, who can contract to marry who and who cannot, what religions will be allowed in the country or not, and who gets to what use bathroom because they personally disapprove of someone else’s changing of there sexual identity. All these “busybodies” excuse their meddling by giving very practical reasons for insisting that their busybodiness is for our own good, but it all sounds like “busybodies” to me. I guess our bodies just have a good work ethic in this country.

    There has always been a conflict inherent in our laws and our social structure between the right to be left alone and the responsibility that we have to each other. It is not a case of one or the other extreme, and there is no simple formula for solving it. Like most virtues, it is a case of pragmatically balancing between extreme vices, and finding the sweetest spot in a constantly moving target.

    It is alright to talk about the right of private business to be intolerant, but what happens if his community of supposed Christian customers with the most money will punish his restaurant or his hotel or his private school if he lets blacks or Muslims or gays eat there, and what if they will reward him with more business if he doesn’t? Farfetched? No. Not if you remember the South only about 60 years ago.

    You say that it is just a short step before government is telling churchs who they have to marry? Well, I think even the ACLU would take up the case in favor of the church if that happened. And a sign that that is unlikely to even come up is that, even after all these years of fighting against discrimination, churches still can refuse to have black members if they want to. So I think you can turn down a notch at least that part of all your hyperbolic rhetoric.

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    1. @Tony

      If people have God-given rights to life, liberty, and they pursuit of happiness, then they obviously have the right to expect those who might pollute to properly dispose of their garbage. On the other hand, if government gives us our rights, then government officials have the right to decide how what pollutants their special friends can dump on the rest of us.

      After the Civil War, the North tried to impose 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments upon the South. Eventually, the North accepted the fact that they did not know how to do it. They ended the enslavement of blacks, but they could not end the persecution and the abuse. They could not even stop it in the North.

      Changing people’s hearts and minds is easier said than done. A constitutional amendment is not enough. What is enough? Martin Luther King forced the bigots to see themselves as they were. He put a mirror up in front of them. When the police beat up and turned the dogs on peaceful black demonstrators, news crews recorded those events, and people were horrified by what they saw.

      Government did not actually solve the problem. That mirror did.

      Tyrannies have a much more simple solution. What tyrannies do with people they consider troublesome is get rid of them.

      Trust the ACLU to do the right thing?
      :mrgreen:

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  7. That is rather distorted view of history, particular the Civil Rights era, and what Dr. King did to help get the Civil Rights Acts passed. Without government definition, arbitration and enforcement rights have historically only ever existed in theory. Go to China and tell them that you have a God given right to happiness and they will give it to you, as long as your idea of happiness is a small dark room with locks on the doors.

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    1. A living Constitution is next to useless. That’s the sort of law they have in China.

      Jeremiah 31:33-34 New King James Version (NKJV)

      33 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. 34 No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”

      It is what was in the hearts of our people that made us a free people.

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      1. Tom-

        Below is a link to Martin Luther King’s “Paul’s Letter to American Christians”. It is an imaginary letter from the Apostle Paul in which the Reverand Dr. King channels what he thought Saint Paul would say to America if he were alive during King’s time. King’s letter from St. Paul full is lofty, it is poetic, it is intellectual and it is divinely profound. In it Dr. King proclaims that the governmental institutions of our democracy could be transformed by Christians united in the power of love to overcome the injustices of legal segretion and to channel the misuse of capitalism away from massively unequal wealth distribution.

        I incourage you to read the whole letter, but here is one passage that stood out to me and inspired almost to tears:

        “The greatest of all virtues is love. Here we find the true meaning of the Christian faith and of the Cross. Calvary is a telescope through which we look into the long vista of eternity and see the love of God breaking into time.”

        http://kingencyclopedia.stanford.edu/encyclopedia/documentsentry/doc_pauls_letter_to_american_christians/

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        1. @Tony

          I read the MLK speech at the link you provided (=> http://kingencyclopedia.stanford.edu/encyclopedia/documentsentry/doc_pauls_letter_to_american_christians/ ). Since the Apostle Paul wrote so well, I would never have the nerve to write such an imaginary letter. Even MLK’s effort comes up short, but he made an admirable effort.

          Anyway, I can only guess what MLK means by working within the framework of democracy to bring about a better distribution of wealth. Since he emphatically disapproved of Communism, I guess he would not approve of redistributing the wealth. So I am guessing he had other ideas. Were they good ones? I don’t know.

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  8. @Tony

    Thank you for the link to MLK’s speech.

    I have will have to take the time to read it.

    In it Dr. King proclaims that the governmental institutions of our democracy could be transformed by Christians united in the power of love to overcome the injustices of legal segregation and to channel the misuse of capitalism away from massively unequal wealth distribution.

    I have yet to read the MLK’s speech. So what he said in that speech I don’t know. Nonetheless, I already find it ironic that you scream foul constantly, and you justify your protestations by angrily protesting that I am trying impose my religion on others.

    I don’t have big dreams for what we can do with government. The best I think government can do is to stop us from abusing each other. Given how often government has been used by one group of people to enslave another group, that still is a revolutionary idea.

    Christianity says we each belong to God. We are brothers and sisters. He is our Father. So I have not got and you have got the right to make brothers and sisters act as they believe something they don’t. All we can rightfully do with the government is strive for relatively simple ideas about justice.

    There is also a very practical problem. Once we make the government too big and powerful we lack the capacity to control it. Why? Doesn’t Christianity teach we are all sinners? When we lack the capacity for self-control, what makes us think we can control a big, huge, powerful government? Charity?

    Charity — love — is something we give as individuals. Within any institution, we will find individuals who love God and their neighbors, but government agencies, private corporations, labor unions, non-profits, and so forth are simply mechanisms. Any large organization is more machine like than human. That is why the worst atrocities are seemingly premeditated acts committed by governments.

    When the Nazis and the Communists murdered people by the millions, who had control of the government? The People? The elites? Madmen? One man? Is it possible the machinery of a mad dream had run amuck, relentlessly carrying the organization goals that lead to its creation?

    When you study an organization as big and complex as our national government, do you really understand how it works? I don’t. Do you think such an organization can be trusted? I don’t. All I can say is that we are better off putting our faith in God than we are in putting our faith in man.

    Hence, I believe in a limited government, and I trust God will help those who believe in Him to pursue Godly dreams.

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    1. I have been reading “Strength to Love” which contains several of Dr. King’s amazing writings. My wife and I have taken to reading some of these writings aloud. I highly recommend the book to you.

      Senator John Danforth once wrote:

      “The problem is not that Christians are conservative or liberal, but that some are so confident that their position is God’s position that they become dismissive and intolerant toward others and divisive forces in our national life.”

      I share many of your concerns about the size and power of government. I also agree that perhaps the most important role of government is to protect rights, although I fear we may never agree on a comprehensive list of those legal rights, much less on which are God given. I also think that government has a necessary role to play in positively regulating equality of economic opportunity. Although I claim no God given absolutes in this regard, my Christian faith really does inform this belief.

      What concerns me is not that Christians may adamantly disagree in this regard, but that one side claims that their beliefs are divinely immutable and then questions the intentions of well meaning Christians the other side as somehow evil or not Christian. (Dr. King also says as much in the article that I linked above). Tom, I think you are wrong in many of your political and religious beliefs, but I have never thought that you were lying to me or that your intentions were anything less than honorable.

      As I write this, Donald Trump has just been proclaimed President Elect. You and your sophisticated philosophies on religion and government didn’t elect him. A whole lot of angry middle class Americans elected Mr. Trump because they expect him to use government to change the slip of their lives away from the American dream of opportunity that their fathers and grandfathers bequeathed to them and that has eroded because of globalization and the deindustrialization of the American labor force. Rightly or wrongly, to the voters who actually elected Trump, the Democrats and Hillary Clinton looked more like part of the system that is failing them. They will want President Trump to use the power of government to make their lives better again, not take government apart and dismantle all the remaining social safety nets that are holding their lives together. This is not a Republican validation on limited government so much as it is Brexit in the U.S.

      I congratulate you in that your candidate won, but be careful what you wish for. I think you are in for some big surprises as Donald Trump and your “Radical Party of No” try to actually figure out how to govern rather than just being a roadblock to government. Make sure your seat belt is fastened; we are in for a wild ride. 😬

      Like

      1. @Tony

        As I write this, Donald Trump has just been proclaimed President Elect. You and your sophisticated philosophies on religion and government didn’t elect him.

        I cannot even figure out why you think it was necessary to say that.

        I voted for Trump because I think he is somewhat more likely to leave my family, my friends, my neighbors, and my countrymen in peace to run our own lives. I hope he will focus on protecting our God-given rights and our national security, but I don’t expect it. Donald Trump is not Ted Cruz.

        With rabid enthusiasm Obama has worked to transform our country, and Clinton promised more of the same. Since he actually ask for my vote and took positions I advocate, I voted for Donald Trump.

        You want to know why the election was even close? Look at California, the state that once elected Ronald Reagan. Our government has allowed uncontrolled immigration to transform the electorate. People once came to America for freedom, for the adventure of the opportunity of pursuing a dream. Such people, regardless of race or even religion, can make good citizens. Even so, many such immigrants, unable to adapt to America’s culture, use to go back where they came from. Now too many immigrants come here because everything is “free”, and that’s what they vote for.

        Hence California has become a welfare Mecca, and the same thing is happening where I live. That can only lead to bankruptcy and tyranny.

        What do people expect from Trump? I only know what I hope for, less self-destructive transformation than we would have gotten H. Clinton. One man by himself cannot change a nation for the better. He can only set a good example, and I can only pray Trump might do that. Who knows?

        Like

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