INCOMPATIBLE VIEWS ON GOVERNMENT — PART 1

James Madison by John Vanderlyn, 1816 (from here)

Introducing The Subject

It is very difficult to understand another person’s point of view. It is actually difficult to comprehend our own point of view. Yet to live a satisfactory life we must try.

Consider the words of Socrates. For speaking his mind, the citizens of Athens  condemned him to death. What did Socrates desire for the citizens of Athens. He wanted them to be virtuous. He wanted them to think about what it means to be virtuous, but the citizens of Athens did not want to examine virtue too carefully. So they condemned Socrates. Here is how Socrates replied.

Some one will say: Yes, Socrates, but cannot you hold your tongue, and then you may go into a foreign city, and no one will interfere with you? Now I have great difficulty in making you understand my answer to this. For if I tell you that to do as you say would be a disobedience to the God, and therefore that I cannot hold my tongue, you will not believe that I am serious; and if I say again that daily to discourse about virtue, and of those other things about which you hear me examining myself and others, is the greatest good of man, and that the unexamined life is not worth living, you are still less likely to believe me. Yet I say what is true, although a thing of which it is hard for me to persuade you. (from APOLOGY By Plato translated by Benjamin Jowett)

James Madison, like Socrates, was a philosopher of sorts. Instead of balking at the prospect, he and many of his countrymen carefully examined the role of virtue in government. Instead of abhorring the prospect, he and his countrymen rebelled and tried something new. Instead of continuing to regard government as something God imposed upon the People through divinely appointed kings, Madison made the following observation.

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. (from here)

In a world dominated by authoritarian monarchs, Madison observed that angels did not governed men, that because men lacked the virtue of angels the power of government had to be limited. And so in The Federalist Papers Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay promoted the ratification of the United States Constitution.

In our era, we have nearly discarded the Constitution that Madison, Hamilton, and Jay promoted in The Federalist Papers. Therefore, the Federal Government has become a leviathan, an immense beast of fantastic proportions, totally unlike the limited government the founders envisioned. The realization that our rulers have nearly undone the Constitution has engendered a political war in this nation, but the nature of the war is mysterious to most of us. How so? We don’t actually understand the thinking of the other side. Conservatives don’t understand Democrat Liberals, and Democrat Liberals don’t understand Conservatives.

Would understanding the view point of other side help Conservatives to resolve the conflict? No and yes. It would seem that Conservatives have been trying to compromise with Democrat Liberals for years. What happens with each compromise? Democrat Liberals just start working on the next compromise to further enlarge their blessed leviathan. So what should we expect to gain by trying to understand the other side? We may understand something about the assumptions that Democrat Liberals make about government and the nature of man. We may understand why Democrats Liberals do not seem to have any intention of limiting the size and the power of government.

What Is To Come?

    • Questions For Democrat Liberals — PART 2A (May 21, 2017) and Questions For Democrat Liberals — PART 2B (May 23, 2017): The subject of this post is four questions. The first question is covered in PART 2A.
      1. Why is it moral for the government to tax us?
      2. When does it become immoral for the government to tax us? That is, where do you draw the line and say no more?
      3. How do we ensure that a government that runs our lives will exercise its power for our benefit and not someone else’s benefit?
      4. How big and powerful does the government have to be before the people have lost the ability to refuse it anything it wants?

      If Conservatives want to understand Conservatism, we need to answer those four questions, and we need to understand why Democrat Liberals think those questions are just dumb.

    • A Democrat Liberal’s Reply— PART 3A (June 12, 2017) and A Democrat Liberal’s Reply— PART 3B (June 25, 2017): The subject of this post is how Democrat Liberals defines virtue with respect to government. Do Democrat Liberals answer those four questions? No.
    • An Aside = GOD-GIVEN RIGHTS OR GOVERNMENT-GIVEN RIGHTS? (June 30, 2017):

      Here we have an extended debate on the nature of human rights. One commenter observed the following: This is a great post which goes right to core of the greatest problem that confronts a free people. (from here)

      Please consider reading the comments as well as the post.

    • Restoring Our Constitutional Republic — PART 4: Is there a way to resolve the conflict? No. However, if we are prepared to fight for it, we can slowly restore our constitutional republic.

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