INCOMPATIBLE VIEWS ON GOVERNMENT — PART 3A

Democritus (center) and Protagoras (right)
17th-century painting by Salvator Rosa
in Hermitage Museum (from here)

The post continues where INCOMPATIBLE VIEWS ON GOVERNMENT — PART 2B left off. Please refer to INCOMPATIBLE VIEWS ON GOVERNMENT — PART 1 for links to the other posts.

Here we will consider another point of view, the view of the Democrat Liberal.

A Democrat Liberal’s Reply

What Is The point Of This Post? Well, the object is to consider how a Democrat Liberal defines virtue with respect to government. In Questions For Democrat Liberals — PART 2A (May 21, 2017) and Questions For Democrat Liberals — PART 2B (May 23, 2017), I answered four questions, addressing moral issues posed by the exercise of government power.

  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?

The problem? The questions and the answers are mine. There is no one who formerly speaks for Conservatives, not even me    😦       .  In fact, most people do not give these questions much thought. We are so far gone down the road to Socialism we take the government’s power to tax us too much for granted.

If it is dubious enterprise for a Conservative to speak for all Conservatives, is it appropriate for Conservative to speak for Democrat Liberals? Not particularly, but if we are to understand Democrat Liberals then we must try to somehow get into their heads. Unfortunately, we will not get straightforward answers.  Here is an example. The commenter, Tony provided answers for all four questions. For the sake of brevity, I quoted only his answer to the first question (below).

1. I would not presume to speak for Democratic Liberals, nor do I think that Democratic liberals always speak for me. While I think current Democratic liberalism is correct on many issues, I agree with you that they often lack the moral religious philosophical foundation that should set the direction of their progressivism. On the other hand, many conservative Republicans believe they have so ideologically closed the loop on an infinite God that they have become bounded by dogmatic rules instead of selfless virtuousness and love. One side wants to go the right way but they are without a compass, and the other side endlessly circles with a stuck rudder. (continued here)

Is just trying to avoid giving a straight answer? I don’t think so. Few of us have given much thought to that question. Also, note the difference describes. Conservatives grasp for God-given rules. Democrat Liberals seek to be selflessly virtuous and loving, but  admits they don’t have a clue as to how to go about it.

In another comment Tony defines the foundation of virtue.

7. Virtue finds its moral universal foundation in unselfish love. Vice is all about selfishness. Because the best of humanist and atheistic moral philosophies also put man at the center, they should not find pursuit if virtue rationally contradictory to their moral beliefs, but instead they should find it complimentary. Because most of the major religions, and especially Christianity at its best, also hold loving one’s neighbor as one of the premises of the highest moral goods, there should be little dispute on this between religions either. Christian philosophy, however, places God at the center. We are commanded to love God and we believe God loves us. God’s very nature is love, and therefore we believe we are following the fundamental nature of the universe to love also, and to try always to act virtuously out of love for God and for each other. This is an important difference between believers and non-believers that goes to philosophical foundation rather than actual moral practice. The morality of virtue remains rational, natural and universal whether one believes in God or just humanity. (from here)

What should we make of ‘s comment? Well, here is my take. Whereas Conservatives generally uphold traditional Christian virtues (as defined in the Bible) and recognize that man is flawed and too easily tempted, the Democrat Liberal’s political ideology proceeds from a secular world view, perhaps best expressed by Protagoras.

Protagoras of Abdera (c. 490 – c.420 BCE) is most famous for his claim that “Of all things the measure is Man, of the things that are, that they are, and of the things that are not, that they are not” (DK 80B1) usually rendered simply as “Man is the Measure of All Things”. In maintaining this stance he pre-figures the existential relativism of writers like Luigi Pirandello (“It is so if you think so”) by some two thousand plus years. It is curious to consider, then, how a man who claimed that what was true to each of his listeners was, in fact, true (including the idea that no one could know the gods’ will objectively) could come to be the most highly paid Sophist in ancient Greece. (continued here)

When each man is the measure of all things, then what is the basis for government? Consensus? Perhaps. Apparently, that is Democrat Liberal approach.

The Conservative, however, says God has defined certain truths and these truths are perceptible by all of us. Thus, the Conservative does not depend upon public consensus to know the difference between right and wrong.

On the face of it then, the Conservative would seem to be all about enforcing collectivist systems and Democrat Liberals would be for a system of government that stresses individualism. Yet the opposite is true. The Conservative supports limited government. The Democrat Liberal advocates Socialism. Why?

What Is To Come?

Since this post was long, there will be a INCOMPATIBLE VIEWS ON GOVERNMENT — PART 3B. In PART 3B, we will consider how well ‘s comments represent those of Democrat Liberals in general.

Please refer to INCOMPATIBLE VIEWS ON GOVERNMENT — PART 1 for links to the other posts.

 

45 thoughts on “INCOMPATIBLE VIEWS ON GOVERNMENT — PART 3A

  1. It’s difficult as you know to have fruitful conversations with those we disagree with politically. I appreciate your series on this subject as it gets to the heart as to why we think so different.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I would like to think I have it all figured out, but people are more varied and too complicated for any one person to well understand. To the extent I do I suppose it is because I was raised with Democrat Liberal notions.

      I have been interested in politics since high school. As I got older, I drifted into Conservatism for three reasons.
      1. I saw Socialism does not work.
      2. I started reading the classics.
      3. I read the Bible.

      Our educational system is now socialized. It is owned and operated by the government. So our children grow up expecting the rest of society to operate the same way. When things don’t work, they think the fix is to vote for better politicians (That is all they learn in civics, apparently.). Since the news media strives to avoid any serious discussion of politics (They cover elections like horse races.), it rarely occurs to most people that that they have no intention of voting for the better politicians.

      To make our government work properly, we must figure out what the framers of our government intended. Then we must stop giving tasks to government that we the people are supposed to do outside of the government, things like health, education, and welfare. Unfortunately, most people can’t imagine sending their children to private schools, saving for their own retirement, buying health insurance instead of getting as a benefit from their employer, and so forth.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. Just cause I creak and may not readily get up when having fallen as these osteoarthritic bones aren’t what they use to be– nor are theses flabby rubber band muscles… but it doesn’t keep me from hunting and gathering– now it’s off to make the blueberry cobbler 🙃😋

          Liked by 1 person

      1. “To make our government work properly, we must figure out what the framers of our government intended. Then we must stop giving tasks to government that we the people are supposed to do outside of the government, things like health, education, and welfare. Unfortunately, most people can’t imagine sending their children to private schools, saving for their own retirement, buying health insurance instead of getting as a benefit from their employer, and so forth.”

        I agree but I don’t think this is such a dichotomy in a complex, very highly populated world.
        Let’s take healthcare as an example.
        I think there’s a pretty obvious vested interest in keeping a population healthy. Polio vaccines were a game changer, for instance. And none of us are well served by an outbreak of some highly deadly contagious plague without an agency to contain it or research a cure…yes, maybe private industry would take on the task but think of the logistical difficulties there. I’ve been working in the healthcare industry (off and on) for many years. I was there when the hospitals started their universal precaution policies as an answer to the AIDs epidemic, and I was there for the change to needless systems. How often does the average layperson think about whether or not the nurse is using a needless system or the correct precautions? Blood born diseases can be slow acting and their origin difficult to determine.

        At any rate, game theory kind of goes into incentive trap situations…where what might be profitable for one person can be poison to a group as a whole. This is why I am not a libertarian. There are some serious practical limitations to that ideology.
        It wasn’t long ago, for example, the DPRK was selling products and we were buying them. Not directly of course, the ROK had a factory in the DPRK (think Nike was one of the brands, if memory serves). We were essentially subsidizing slave labor. Why? Well, it’s cheap of course, and the market speaks. And if my neighbor was enslaving kids to make a profit I would never buy from him but in the global marketplace where it’s happening on the other end of the globe and I can’t see it, everything comes down to price. This, fwiw, is also a security issue…I could go on a long long while about that one. Chinese made hardware in the DOD?!? And so on. These things are all connected.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Good comment!

          We all have an interest in having enough to eat, but do we want government to take over agriculture? No. We should always seek a solution that minimizes the role of government. Yet we are allowing government to slowly take over entire sectors of our society, when the need simply doesn’t exist. In fact, if we were to stop and think about it, debate the matter like we should, we would realize just how undesirable it is for government to run most of the things it is running.

          Yeah! I have used Chinese made hardware on TS systems. Stupid, but our taxes and regulations are running manufacturers out the country, which is also stupid!

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  2. I have a question… and I am not attempting to debate or judge here.. just legitimately curious on the responses.

    If we value the separation of church and state why is it so important to promote any sort of religious morality being reflective in our government? In other words, would you feel more “at home” if America were a theocratic democracy?
    Any person wishing to hold elected office could easily exhibit morality as defined by any number of religions, yet not commit to any specific religion. Is that acceptable?

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    1. Government cannot rightly discriminate based upon a candidate’s religious beliefs, but nothing stops voters from doing so. Why should we? Consider the comment I left at this post.
      => https://freedomthroughempowerment.wordpress.com/2017/06/11/ant-anti-huh/

      The funny thing is that Democrat Liberals think they are logical and you — we — are not.

      Why won’t they embrace “logic”. Two reasons, i think:
      1. They were taught the wrongly.

      It isn’t so much that liberals are ignorant. It’s just that they know so many things that aren’t so. ― Ronald Reagan

      To some extent, all of us have much to unlearn. Democrat Liberals just have more.
      2. Secularists seem to have an affinity for the Democratic Party. Liberal Christians too. Relatively few remain in the Democratic Party who believe the Bible is the Word of God. Relatively few remain in the Democratic Party who believe they cannot with a good conscience cherry-pick the Bible, keep the parts they want and ignore the parts they do not want.

      My point is that Democrat Liberals start with flaw assumptions. Almost all people try to be logical, but if we begin with flawed assumptions, if we arrive at correct conclusions we do so by accident, not by logic.

      This blog post discusses Senator Bernie Sanders applying a religious test.
      => https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2017/06/11/newsflash/
      Do I want our public officials doing that? No. Frankly, they can’t be trusted with that kind of authority. Moreover, when government officials display such religious partisanship, it creates strife. Given government is supposed to maintain order,…..

      Nevertheless, it doesn’t make sense to vote for someone if their sense of what is moral and what is immoral is warped. When we vote for people, we want them to have a good sense of right and wrong, and God has to figure into the equations they use. Why? When our lawmakers make and enforce the law, they are enforcing moral decisions. We prohibit murder, child abuse, stealing, tax evasion, disturbing the peace, speeding, and so forth because infringing upon the rights of others is immoral.

      Christians base morality upon the notion that God commands us to love our neighbors. Secular arguments for morality may sound good, but secularists have no logical reason to love their neighbors as much as they love themselves. So if you really want someone to protect your rights, then it makes sense to vote for an honest to goodness Christian.

      Does that mean I want the guy I vote for telling me to vote for him because he is a Christian. No. I just want his life story to demonstrate he has behaved like one.

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      1. But does not your reply (above) made elsewhere, tend to presume that liberals, for however they are grouped into thinking, reach ignorant and ill-conceived conclusions of life using some level of logic you do not favor… hence your seeming un-Christian like non-acceptance and critiquing of their opinions? I mean, I’m of the opinion that we are all Americans. Conservatives of all ilks believe THEY are the only Americans. I’m seeing here that you are using your Christian beliefs to justify your political opinions. I mean.. no problem.. free country and freedom of speech. But Christianity is not the only religion in the world.. or the country. I guess for me.. why bring the abstract and ambiguity of religion into politics, which is already that way on its own. Why treat liberal thought.. and liberals.. as being intellectual lepers?

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        1. What people believe makes a difference, even to Christians. We can love our neighbor without agreeing with him or supporting the stupid things he may want to do.

          Our beliefs about God provide a foundation for how we choose to deal with others. You are no exception.

          Why treat liberal thought.. and liberals.. as being intellectual lepers?

          I don’t necessarily do that, but with respect to some Democrat Liberals I make no apologies for doing so. You may wish to consider 1 – 3 John in the Bible.

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  3. Thank you for the honor of reposting my comments here and for presenting them in a relatively fair fashion. Some of the conclusions that you draw from my comments are not completely true, however. There is this for example:

    “The Conservative, however, says God has defined certain truths and these truths are perceptible by all of us. Thus, the Conservative does not depend upon public consensus to know the difference between right and wrong.”

    This is a true statement of your own peculiar conflation of political and religious philosophy perhaps and for the fairly recent political ascendancy of what might be labeled as the Christian Right, but to say that ALL “conservatism”, as a political philosophy of government, is theologically homogenous, is simply both historically and presently factually untrue. It is also historically and currently factually untrue that ALL advocates of “liberalism” (or progressivism), as a political philosophy of government, are not morally motivated by any universal religious theology.

    Although they are often necessary for the sake of defining terms, broad labels are always difficult because influential individuals are very unique in their motivations. As just one of numerous examples that can be given, the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr. would certainly be labeled a “liberal” and a “progressive” in political philosophy by most historical standards, however, to assert that King was not also motivated by a perception of certain universal religious truths would display an absurd level of ignorance about the man and about our history.

    My problem with many liberals is that, in an effort to remain secular, they often too easily cede the religious and moral high ground in the political debates against the Christian Right faction of conservatism. My problem with many Christian conservatives is their self righteous hubris in claiming to OWN God’s truth in resolving often complex and multifarious political and economic injustices. As I noted before, in our imperfect fallen world, the application of virtue in such cases is a ruler, not a rule.

    Jesus seemed to eschew petty politics. As God, I doubt Jesus would lower Himself to today to the label of either conservative or liberal, Democrat or Republican. It demeans God for either of these groups to exclusively claim that He is on their side, and the other is against Him.

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    1. @Tony

      Thank you for reading my post and for your comment.

      I think I conceded I don’t speak for everyone who labels themselves as a Conservative. That said, I think you ought to consider the difference between a Classical Liberal and a Democrat Liberal. Compared to what people called Liberal 200 years ago, what a Democrat calls Liberal today is a joke. Hence, Democrats want to relabel themselves as Progressive. Therefore, I do my best to define the term “Conservative” so that RINOs cannot abuse it. Doesn’t what a word means depend upon what the majority of people think the word means.

      Jesus did not eschew politics. He claimed to have a kingdom, and He was executed for political reasons. Consider.

      John 19:19-22 Good News Translation (GNT)

      19 Pilate wrote a notice and had it put on the cross. “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews,” is what he wrote. 20 Many people read it, because the place where Jesus was crucified was not far from the city. The notice was written in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek. 21 The chief priests said to Pilate, “Do not write ‘The King of the Jews,’ but rather, ‘This man said, I am the King of the Jews.’”

      22 Pilate answered, “What I have written stays written.”

      The Sanhedrin, essentially both a political and an religious institution, demanded Jesus’ execution. Pilate, to pacify the Jews, had Jesus crucified as a rebel against the Roman Empire.

      Like it or not, when we practice our religious beliefs, that is a political as well as a religious act.

      Sir, my concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God’s side, for God is always right. Abraham Lincoln

      I am a Conservative because Conservatives actually care whether or not God’ would approve.

      Anyway, I think my reply to Doug (here => https://citizentom.com/2017/06/12/incompatible-views-on-government-part-3a/#comment-74474) addresses the rest of your comment.

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      1. Tom,

        If you define the terms so that “conservative” always means “saintly” and “liberal” is always an epithet for “immoral”, then I suppose the “majority” of conservatives would agree with you here, but I doubt that the “majority” of liberals would concur. You know your characterizations are untrue because you admire and quote the religious and moral values of many historical figures that were considered liberal in their time and that the “majority” of conservatives would undoubtedly shun as liberals today. MLK is one example, Lincoln is another, but I could give you more.

        You claim that these past liberals can be distinguished from the current norm because the term “liberal” has somehow recently morphed into something more sinister, but what you fail to recognize is that the term “conservative” has devolved into an unworkable thing that would also be unrecognizable to the original founders of American conservatism, such as William F. Buckley. I mean, seriously, Donald Trump is currently heading the supposedly “conservative” political party. Many traditional conservatives refused to support him on both moral and ideological grounds.

        It seems that the only way you can cling to the fallacy that your political ideology is somehow inherently more moral is to continuously demonize the other side. Only by taking a microscope to what you see as liberal germs can you ignore the huge moral cesspool that your Party and conservatism itself has sunk into.

        Both political movements and parties have lost their moral way. Both have forgotten the universal language of virtue. It’s just one wants to claim that God blesses their materialism and selfishness, and the other wants to help everyone with everything but considers it impolitic to discuss religion at all.

        As for whether Jesus meant to involve himself in the earthly politics of His time, this is a side issue, but perhaps you might consider John 18:36 where Jesus says “My kingdom is not of this world”. I have been taught to believe this meant that Jesus’s kingdom is not a material place, but of Heaven and in men’s hearts – it is the Body of Christ. I guess your take is that Jesus meant to overthrow the political structure in Jerusalem at that time, but was somehow thwarted by His execution?

        In any event, I don’t disagree with you that, although it is a narrow wall to walk, one can (and indeed should) use one’s religious morality to make political decisions and this can (and indeed should) be done without establishing a state religion or infringing on the religious freedom of others. SCOTUS has been trying to walk that wall for decades, sometimes with more success than others, but the wall is still there.

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        1. @Tony
          You refer to Lincoln and MLK as Liberals, and neither would have shared what you call a Liberal philosophy. Yet you say by conservative” I always means “saintly” and by “liberal” I always mean an epithet for “immoral”. Then you have the nerve to add:

          The term “conservative” has devolved into an unworkable thing that would also be unrecognizable to the original founders of American conservatism, such as William F. Buckley. I mean, seriously, Donald Trump is currently heading the supposedly “conservative” political party.

          What Conservative thinks of Trump as a Conservative?

          The Republican Party is not a Conservative party. It is a party with Conservatives in it. The Conservative candidates divided the vote. So Trump won with a plurality.

          Do I object to what Trump is doing? Compared to what H. Clinton would have done? Compared to what Obama was doing? Of course not.

          The notion that Christianity has nothing to do with politics is just silly. Israel was a type of theocracy. Our laws stem largely from the Bible. You don’t think so? That is because you have never read the Bible. It includes books that are full of laws and legal requirements.

          Instead of reading the Bible, you have allowed yourself to be taught without questioning what you were taught. Bad idea.

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  4. I really like reading this series, Citizen Tom, and I appreciate Tony’s perspective from the “liberal(ish)” side of things.
    It isn’t easy to come into a forum and offer a different perspective. There aren’t many places that are open to really considered and thoughtful discussion these days. The internet is becoming replete with nothing but confirmation bias zones (sometimes intentionally, other times it just ends up that way).

    That said, your questions are pretty deep and would be difficult for me to answer from either perspective. It would take a great deal of time to answer each one thoroughly (in the interest of disclosure: My politics have changed very little if at all in the past twenty years, but in that timeframe I have been registered as Democrat, Republican, and Independent. For the major parties it depended on the state and the Primaries the year I registered to vote in those states. So I get a good dose of SPAM from both political parties, and I typically read it so I know where each side is coming from).
    I lean conservative (in my opinion) but some would call me very conservative and others would call me liberal or perhaps even very liberal. There’s a wide spectrum and (like most things) it’s relative. I’ve found it’s often easier to discuss each issue independently rather than as a whole. For example, I think a liberal could make a good case that universal healthcare is “moral”, whereas many (perhaps most?) conservatives are against it.
    Sometimes it doesn’t come down to morality as much as one side believes in the government solution and the other does not. Typically when a conservative brings up taxes as theft, the liberal will point to farm subsidies and what they call “corporate welfare”.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. @anon

      I generally don’t talk about myself on my blog, and I try to avoid either complimenting or castigating commenters. Sometimes I suppose I slip, but here is why I try. I don’t believe “Man is the Measure of All Things”.

      To understand what is true, then we must strive for humility. Because it is an infinite universe, and we are each finite parts of it, that should not be difficult. Still, it is.

      I’ve found it’s often easier to discuss each issue independently rather than as a whole. For example, I think a liberal could make a good case that universal healthcare is “moral”, whereas many (perhaps most?) conservatives are against it.

      Breaking a problem up into a set of smaller problems takes a large complex problem and creates a set of smaller, simpler problems. So that is a logical thing to do. However, that approach only works well when we have a coherent problem solving methodology that we can apply to all those smaller problems.

      In our society, we are arguing about the purpose of government. We are trying to define the types of problems we want our government to solve. Logically, that matter should have been resolved by the Constitution. Yet in spite of the plain language of the Constitution, Democrat Liberals and Conservatives plainly disagree. Hence, we must battle over basic principles of morality and government, not just how best to solve simple problems.

      When I consider how Democrat Liberals want to interpret the Constitution and the way they want to use government to interfere in the lives of their fellow citizens, I don’t think we can avoid first dealing with the moral issues. What distinguishes taxation from stealing? When government makes healthcare decisions related to abortion and euthanasia, how can we avoid the moral issues? When a patient who cannot pay arrives at a doctor’s office, who is responsible for the bill?

      Consider the problem of defining what we call a “right”. The Declaration of Independence defines rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. These are individual rights to be left in peace by others. Democrat Liberals, on the other hand, speak of rights to healthcare, education, a job, food, clothing, shelter, and so forth. These are “rights” society imposes upon taxpayers to fund “entitlements”. Until, we settle the moral issues involved in defining our “rights”, we cannot truly begin solving the problems Democrat Liberals want to solve. Unfortunately, most of them refuse to entertain such debate without a bunch of hate-filled name calling.

      So it is I try to keep me, thee, and them out of the debate. Democrat Liberals can call me names, but I refuse to take it personally. It is the idea they can’t have their own way they hate, not me.

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  5. “Well, here is my take. Whereas Conservatives generally uphold traditional Christian virtues (as defined in the Bible) and recognize that man is flawed and too easily tempted, the Democrat Liberal’s political ideology proceeds from a secular world view….”

    As I said in another post, I dispute the generalizations of both sides, or that I what I wrote leads to the conclusions that you draw.

    My actual point was that virtue, as a universal moral philosophy, predates Christianity. The Pagan Aristotle most famously first put virtue into language. Christians, most famously St. Thomas Aquinas, adopted and adapted this language into a religious philosophy by using the interpretations of Muslim philosopher who had kept Greek metaphysics alive while Western Civilization festered in barbarity. Saying that Christianity invented the morality of virtue is like saying that Christianity invented God. Like God, unselfish virtue was always there, universal to the loving human heart.

    By way of analogy, let’s take the example of gravity. Newton did not invent gravity nor did Newton discover what causes gravity. To my knowledge, no one has discovered what causes gravity. Newton just brilliantly theorized rules for how gravity acts from which we can make certain predictions. For the Thomist Christian, the “ultimate” cause of gravity and what continuously suspends its existence must have certain attributes of an entity that we call God. However, whether or not one believes in God or not, gravity still exists and Newton’s rules about gravity are mainly true and usable.

    The same is true of the universal values of virtue. The Pagan, the Jew and the Muslim can believe in the universal rules of virtue and love, even if they all disagree on certain aspects about the source of those universal rules. The humanist atheist can also believe that, like Newtons laws, virtue is a universal law, even though he claims their is no God at all. You and I may find the atheist, irrational in this, but just as it is still rational to practice physics even if you don’t believe in God, it is also rational to practice virtue even if you refuse to believe that God is the ultimate source of all virtue.

    One can have a secular world view and still be virtuous. One can also claim to have a dogma driven religious world view, but actually have no concept of what the unselfish rules of virtue are. And that is the problem that I was trying to explain, not that conservatism is actually more virtuous than liberalism, or vice versa. Both sides have lost the language of virtue when they traded it in for myths about rationalism during the Enlightenment.

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    1. @Tony

      Who said Christians invented morality? Here is one of my favorite passages from the Bible.

      Romans 2:12-16 Good News Translation (GNT)

      12 The Gentiles do not have the Law of Moses; they sin and are lost apart from the Law. The Jews have the Law; they sin and are judged by the Law. 13 For it is not by hearing the Law that people are put right with God, but by doing what the Law commands. 14 The Gentiles do not have the Law; but whenever they do by instinct what the Law commands, they are their own law, even though they do not have the Law. 15 Their conduct shows that what the Law commands is written in their hearts. Their consciences also show that this is true, since their thoughts sometimes accuse them and sometimes defend them. 16 And so, according to the Good News I preach, this is how it will be on that Day when God through Jesus Christ will judge the secret thoughts of all.

      Hebrews 11 list Biblical heroes, all from the Old Testament, saved by faith. Even before Abraham (why just go back to the time of Christ), some men and women knew the difference between right and wrong, and the Bible says as much. Where have I argued differently?

      Instead of debating me, it seems to me you are trying to argue against a straw man of your own creation. What a waste! To argue against a straw man, you must either expend thousands of words or your straw man must be so transparently ridiculous no who even skims what I wrote would take it seriously. As it is, all I have to do is quote one passage from the Bible to make it obvious as to why I would never claim Christians invented morality.

      What did I claim? I said the Democrat Liberal’s political ideology proceeds from a secular world view. And what did you do? Well, in addition to creating a straw man, you ignored what your party has been doing and wants to do.

      Are there people who identify as Christians in the Democratic Party? Yes, but don’t most of those Christians pick and choose what they want to believe about the Bible? And what is the basis for that? I expect Protagoras of Abdera (c. 490 – c.420 BCE) would have understood.

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      1. I know someone who is a practicing Buddhist, raised Mennonite (with the exception of him, his family are all practicing Mennonites). He is an extreme pacifist…his father took a tour in India during the Vietnam war, where they stayed several years. That was the background that kind of fostered his belief system. He would say he follows the teachings of Christ more closely than most practicing Christians. He is an interesting guy, and really does “walk the walk” so to speak. His wife was a nurse practitioner in a Native American reservation and my husband an officer in the military. He wanted to know why Conservatives are willing to fund my husband’s salary but would cut his wife’s. It wasn’t an antagonistic question, it was an honest one as we were on the subject.
        I think his perspective, though different from mine, does come from a moral basis. Our political system sort of forces us into the duopoly where we vote for the lesser evil to avoid the greater (case in point, Hillary versus Trump).

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Too many words for you to get the point? Where did I ever specifically make “you” into a straw man in my comment? You are the one who quoted me, just so that you could draw the wrong conclusions about what I wrote. You are the one propping up sweeping untrue generalizations just so that you can knock these giant strawmen down. Isn’t your whole point in quoting me for this article to cast me as your ungodly liberal Democratic straw man (or at least as the apologist for these secular scare crows)?

        I’m just trying to explain that I, like most people, just don’t easily fit into one or the other of the false molds that you want to cast everyone into, and that real unselfish virtue (as part of what we both apparently agree is the natural order devised by God) is timeless and universal. As such, it is profound beyond all the petty political divisions of this tiny moment in time (just as Jesus’ story and words are profound beyond such pettiness).

        Although, as a Christian, I believe Jesus is the incarnate expression of this universal moral law of compassion and sacrifice, one can be from any religion or from no religion, and still aspire to virtue. In this sense of the word, virtue is indeed “secular”, in that it predates religion and transcends all the endless species of religious affiliation.

        One can find people who try to practice virtue and guard their honor in both political Parties and who call themselves Liberals and Conservatives, but they seem to be more and more in the minority. Certainly Republicans do not have the lock on virtuous politics. (After all, the head of your Party glorifies self-centeredness – whine as much as you like about Hillary, but right now Trump represents the virtue, or lack their of, of the Republican Party).

        The whole concept of virtue and honor seems to have become passé, not only in both Parties and political movements, but in the world in general. Nowadays everything has become about “winning” and how we “feel” about things. In my humble opinion, the only institution of our society that actively practices virtue is the military. That is the only place where such a moral code has not gone out of style.

        You want to claim that your political Party or movement is the more religious side, and demonize the other Party and political philosophy as ungodly? Go ahead, but you are only fooling yourself. Just don’t expect me to quietly acquiesce to be your poster boy (or more aptly, “whipping boy”) for such foolish conclusions.

        I’m honored by the fact that you chose my thoughts to post above, but I strongly disagree with the conclusions that you drew from my words. It is simply not true historically or currently that selfless and compassionate people who try to practice virtue, cannot also honestly believe that government can sometimes be the best (and often the only vehicle) for benefiting the community. Military “service” itself stands as a shining example of how that cannot be true. One can be somewhat “liberal” and “progressive” (in the current connotations of those words) when it comes to the government promoting the general welfare and still be very “conservative” when it comes believing in the religious value of practicing virtue.

        Like

        1. @Tony

          You have yet to demonstrate anything I said was wrong. Did I quote you to make a point? Am I perfectly happy to have you comment? Yes and yes. And your replies are just underlining the thesis of this post, that quote from Protagoras of Abdera, Democrat Liberals operate with the assumption that “Man is the Measure of All Things”.

          Have I proven my thesis? I doubt I can do that scientifically, but consider this quote:

          The whole concept of virtue and honor seems to have become passé, not only in both Parties and political movements, but in the world in general. Nowadays everything has become about “winning” and how we “feel” about things.

          Are you certain you don’t agree with me?

          You know, if we talk or write long enough we risk contradicting ourselves.

          What proof have I provided? Well, as we proceed we will look at the Democrat Liberal’s ideology. I think that ideology has to arise from some assumptions about the world. What assumptions? Well, I guess that should be the subject of the next post in this series.

          Anyway, before I close my comment, I should address the remainder of your comment.

          We perceive the world from our own point-of-view. We have no other. However, we err if we make more out of our point-of-view than we should. Then, for example, we can do what you have accused me of doing; we can overgeneralize and extrapolate our observations from too small a data sample.

          Consider your own generalization. Has the whole concept of virtue and honor seems to have become passé? I hope not. People still seek a reason for living, a purpose for their lives and virtues to aspire to, but our educational institutions and the mass media twist those inclinations and deaden them. My guess — my hope — is that we are in the midst of a revolution of a good sort, but it is still too soon to say.

          Is Trump the spearhead of that revolution? Probably not. I think his election is just a sign of how dissatisfied people have become with a status quo that is so utterly complacent with self-centered meebotism (=> https://citizentom.com/2016/01/30/how-do-the-best-and-brightest-become-meebots/).

          Am I trying to make you my poster boy? Whenever someone posts comments on my blog that I find interesting, there is a good chance those comments will become the subject of a post.

          What do I hope you will do? I would like you to provide concise explanation of and defense of this statement.

          It is simply not true historically or currently that selfless and compassionate people who try to practice virtue, cannot also honestly believe that government can sometimes be the best (and often the only vehicle) for benefiting the community.

          You are an intelligent individual, quite capable, wise, and goodhearted. You should know that trying to use the military as an excuse for Socialism is bullshit.

          Our government acts in our name. If we cannot provide a sound moral justification for something our government is doing, then we should do our best to make the government stop doing that something it is doing. Thus far, whenever I have asked you to justify all those health, education, and welfare program, you have not been able to do so. Instead, you have addressed what you think is the desirability of such programs and appealed to the notion that the programs must be good because they exist. Just because it is the status quo doesn’t make it a good thing.

          Like

  6. Tom wrote:

    “The notion that Christianity has nothing to do with politics is just silly. Israel was a type of theocracy. Our laws stem largely from the Bible. You don’t think so? That is because you have never read the Bible. It includes books that are full of laws and legal requirements.”

    Before you jump onto your high Rabbinical horse, you might consider that I have not argued otherwise. All I said was that, although He may have been falsely accused of such, Jesus did not come to stage an actual military or political coop of the Roman or Jewish government. Instead, Jesus came to stage a coop of men’s hearts.

    As for the rest of what you wrote in this comment about liberals and conservatives, we either seem to agree or you have proven my point.

    Like

    1. @Tony

      Think about the nature of the heart change. Try sitting down and carefully reading the Book of Romans. Consider Romans 7 as a teaser to read the whole book.

      Christ taught that if we love God with everything we have and our neighbors as we love our self we will voluntarily each seek to do the right thing because the LAW is written upon our hearts. Pentecost is when He sent the Holy Spirit, not a bunch of big government Democrat Liberals, to help us.

      How do we receive the Holy Spirit? That requires us to be born again. We ask for the faith we need and God gives it to us.

      Do you actually think some Dear Leader is going to create the heart change you want in your neighbors? Then what is the point in giving government huge powers? In your heart you have to know those powers will just be abused.

      Like

      1. I know that this is your favorite non sequitur, but you are assuming arguments and conclusions that I am not making. As I have said often, this totalitarian collectivism verses rabid individualism debate is a stupid argument. Only a fool wants to live in either hellscaped world. Put me down as neither wanting to live in North Korea or Somalia please and move on.

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        1. non sequitur
          noun
          1. Logic. an inference or a conclusion that does not follow from the premises.
          2. a statement containing an illogical conclusion.

          The essential reason for limited government is that government without constraints leads to tyranny. This is a concept that goes back thousands of years. Aristotle wrote of it.

          What you are arguing for is Socialism. You believe that somehow, some way we can control it, harness it for good and benefit from it, but nobody ever has. Takes awhile sometimes, but we are at the point our budget is out of control and Obama was issuing executive orders right and left, even making treaties without the consent of the Senate.

          When I argued that my Christian beliefs argue for limited government, you said I have no business bringing Jesus into it. Yet big government just makes an idol of government.

          Consider again your answers to my questions, => https://citizentom.com/2017/05/20/incompatible-views-on-government-part1/#comment-73983. Then consider my perspective on this when Obama was in charge or your own perspective now. Here we have a bunch of politicians I did not vote for, and I do not trust in charge. If there are no checks on the powers of those men and women, why shouldn’t I be worried?

          You say there are some checks? They are the Constitution. Why am I not reassured? Have you considered your own words?

          Unfortunately, concepts like virtue, honor and integrity have become old fashion, particularly since the 1970’s. People think that these words denote religious self righteousness and arcane Puritanism. (from here => https://citizentom.com/2017/05/20/incompatible-views-on-government-part1/#comment-73983)

          Unless the electorate itself insists upon it, the Constitution cannot work, and that is a moral problem.

          Like

  7. Tom wrote:

    “What you are arguing for is Socialism.”

    No I am not. However, what you may be arguing for is anarchism, whether you know it or not.

    A quick definition of Socialism:

    “Socialism is a range of economic and social systems characterised by social ownership and democratic control of the means of production,as well as the political ideologies, theories, and movements that aim to establish them. Social ownership may refer to forms of public, collective, or cooperative ownership; to citizen ownership of equity; or to any combination of these. Although there are many varieties of socialism and there is no single definition encapsulating all of them, social ownership is the common element shared by its various forms.”

    For almost 20 years now, I have worked for a publicly held for-profit corporation. Although regulatory factors always need reform, I think this form of institution works best for what it does for the public in this case. I give to the charities that I chose. In the areas where charities function best, I like them just the way that they are too, thank you very much. Some public goods are best done by the expertise of contractors (like building complex weaponry for example), and some public goods and services are best controlled directly by the government (like military service for example). Religion is best promoted by churches. And finally, some things are best decided by individuals without any institutional involvement whatsoever. No one of these institutional forms functions best in all cases.

    Have you ever heard the phrase that “form ever follows function”. It is a quote that is most associated with architectural design, but it seems to me that it contains some nugget of truth that is applicable to many things, including this discussion. For example, airplanes can be sleek and beautiful, they can be luxuriously outfitted, they can be powerful weapons platforms, they can transport a massive amount of cargo and people, or they can be super fast. However, no matter what the function, if the airplane does not have a form that will fly, then its just scrap metal.

    For-profit corporations, those great economic engines of modern capitalism, are institutions formed by government and laws to meet certain beneficial functions, but would you want them to be your church? to command armies? to write laws? to decide cases of criminal guilt or innocence? And so on. Without any institutional coordination, would you want each of us doing all these things individually? Should charity be responsible for every function of modern life? Should churches?

    You have a certain ideological cynicism exclusive to your views on government which is ultimately contradictory and I think, self defeating. You assume that if government does a function that it will be inherently corrupting and inefficient. We live in an imperfect and fallen world – everything, every form of institution and every individual is subject to corruption and inefficiency, but especially if the form of the institution is unsuited for its function. There is nothing inherently more corruptible or more inefficient about government in this regard then any other form of institution. Depending on the function, government may be the better (indeed perhaps the only) form of institution to accomplish certain social goals and to provide certain public goods and services, it may be the only form that actual flys. However, as long as enough of us cynically expect our government will be inherently inefficient and corrupt so that we fail to expect the government form of institution that follows the functions we need, then we self-fulfill our own prophesies.

    Right now we are at an historic level of inequality in this country. One family (who inherited it) owns most of the wealth in this country. Less than 10 percent of our population enjoys ninety percent of the wealth we all produce each year. The middle class is shrinking rapidly. This extreme inequality is inherently dangerous to democracy.

    Are corporations going to save us from this dangerous dilemma? Doubtful. Charities? Even more doubtful. Churches? I think a revival of real Christian virtue is certainly a catalyst. But is government the answer? I think it is the institutional form with the only functional viability to actually do anything about this problem. Regardless, government ultimately will be the answer whether you and I like it or not.

    Donald Trump is not a real populist. He is a billionaire con man who is using populist language to pad his own wallet. He is the problem, not the solution. Sooner or later, the desperation of the masses may cause a real socialist populist to arise to power, and government may end up doing a good many things that both of us won’t like or find suitable. It’s just a matter of time before this current cynical ideological idiocy about the inherent evils of government gives birth to its own worst nightmare, and perhaps proves Karl Marx right after all. I hope not. I pray for pragmatism, moderation and a return to the language of simple virtues that is just the opposite of the ideological extremism you present here. I think hope can defeat such cynicism, but that doesn’t mean we are not in for a bumpy flight in the meantime.

    Love to you brother. Keep tilting at those windmills and they may eventually fall, even if they are just productive windmills and not the dragons you imagine.

    Like

    1. @Tony

      Your definition of Socialism makes it clear Socialism is about control, not legal ownership. Hence, the definition is necessarily vague. How Socialism is achieved is not always the same.

      There is more than one way to skin a cat. — American humorist Seba Smith – The Money Diggers, 1840 (=> http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/there-is-more-than-one-way-to-skin-a-cat.html)

      In America, the busybodyists seek their ends via Crony Capitalism. Since corporations are chartered by and created by government, they tend to be easier to regulate than individual enterprises. Large corporations — large collectives — are easier to regulate than small collectives. Large corporations also facilitate crony capitalism. Large corporations may be more difficult to manage, but they have the funds and can more easily form connection with government leaders. That is, they can use their government cronies to stifle smaller competitors. Such Crony Capitalism leads to socialism.

      Consider Obamacare. That piece of social rot is classic crony capitalism run amuck. The thievery is such a mess the conniving cronies cannot make it work. In fact, it looks like it was never intended to work. Instead, the goal was a single payer system (=> https://www.healthinsurance.org/glossary/single-payer-system/). Of course, that is not defined as socialism by its proponents either. What is hilarious about the proponents of socialism is that no matter how much control they demand, it is never enough, but it is still not socialism. Just because we still have those public corporations as middlemen to provide a front, it is still not socialism?

      My point is that your notions about government are unprincipled. Whatever you want to say about Trump, he at least tries to deliver on his promises. Obama just lied and seized power he had no right to exercise. That is what scares me about Democrat Liberals; they are unprincipled. I call them Socialists because they recognize no limits on the powers of their office. They render the Constitution meaningless. Its checks and balances are something they just have to find a way around. Pragmatism? Yep! That’s putting it kindly.

      Anyway, once you can define the moral principles you think we should use define the purpose and limits of government power I would like to hear them. What, for example, is the principle that underlies your pragmatic excuse for redistributing the wealth, and why isn’t that socialism? Form follows function? Taxation results in the collection of money? Other people’s money is a great way to buy votes? And it is always nice to get a cut of the take?

      You say I am cynical about government? Yep! Guilty as charged.

      Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely — British politician Lord Acton (=> http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/absolute-power-corrupts-absolutely.html)

      Look at the greatest crimes in history. Which sort of entity committed those crimes.

      You are worried about the shrinking middle class? Is government the solution, or is government the cause?

      Like

      1. “You are worried about the shrinking middle class? Is government the solution, or is government the cause?”

        Wealth inequality and income inequality (not the same things, though they are often confused depending on the article’s bias) are very heavily correlated to the decline in marriage, increase in divorce rate, and increase in out of wedlock birth rates. Sometimes correlation and causation are confused. For example, a liberal would be more likely to say divorce and out of wedlock birthrates are a result of inequality. Which is similar to saying the fall of Rome happened because the citizens started wearing pants.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. @anon

          I agree. In an economy as large and multifarious as ours, it is hard to pin economic inequality on any one cause. But I think that you are getting to the heart of it when you imply by your example that it has something to do with declining ethical values.

          However, what caused the increase in divorce rates that may or may not be one factor in causing income inequality? What caused the officers of publicly held corporations to think that, as themselves just employees of that corporation, they were showing ethical corporate leadership to get paid hundreds of times more than their fellow employees? (What would happen to the military esprit de corps if the average soldier knew that he could not support his family, but his commanding General took a multimillion dollar salary?). What motivated legislators and executives into legalizing such unethical behavior? What motivated Law makers into legalizing “no fault” divorce nationwide? What are the underlying ethical lapses that leads to the outsourcing of jobs and the offshoring of capital to avoid taxes? Why should the law encourage these things?

          Did a general societal moral collapse of virtuousness lead to economic inequality and bad laws, or did bad government and greedy capitalism lead to the moral collapse? Which are correlations and which are causations? Which is the chicken and which is the egg, and does it really matter?

          Even if we assume that individual and societal loss of a moral compass is at the heart of all these other problems, then wouldn’t it be difficult to remedy all the multifarious immoral effects without first getting to the decline in personal and social virtue that is underlying cause? On the other hand, even making the assumption that moral decay is at the cause, rather than figuring that we can resolve such a moral collapse overnight, wouldn’t it make more sense to make incremental ethical changes trying to solve one bad effect at a time by crafting the most virtuous solutions possible for each problem? And would not ethical governmental action be practically required in many cases?

          I think so, but I’d be interested in your opinion.

          Like

      2. Tom,

        The strange thing is that I agree with much of what you wrote above and you think that I am disagreeing.

        “Redistribution of wealth”? As you point out, the redistribution of wealth of our society to the few at the expense of the middle class has already taken place through what you call “crony capitalism”.

        How did this happen? As you say, government did it by changing its laws to favor this transfer of wealth.

        Who did it? Because we are a democracy, in a sense we did it to ourselves. Republicans and Democrats share responsibility, but I agree, Democrats, the once protectors of the middle class, have been the most guilty of selling the middle class out. After all, it was Bill Clinton who deregulated the banks which directly lead to the financial collapse of the Great Recession.

        Where you are wrong is that you think that, just because “bad” government was responsible for things going terribly wrong with regard to this redistribution of middle class wealth to the rich, “good” government can’t be the solution balancing the equation back out again. And yet you offer no alternative institutional solution to the vacuum you would create by eliminating government oversight, and even though that is what has caused the problem of crony capitalism in the first place.

        Corporations are creations of government. They are principled and beneficial, only in so far as a principled government makes them so. And yet corporate governance laws in each state have raced to the bottom. As just one illustration of this, the idea that corporate officers in large publicly held corporations could make hundreds of times more than there average employees would have been considered fraud, waste and abuse 35 years ago. It would have broken the laws at that time and would have subjected those officers and the company’s board of directors to civil and criminal liability. Now this sort unprincipled behavior is not just legal and accepted, it’s the norm. What changed? Our governments (state and federal) changed the laws so that they allowed this theft. How do we fix it? We change the laws back to something more principled and beneficial to all the stakeholders, including the investors, the consumers and the workers. And changing the laws to something more principled does not always mean complete “government control” of everything, but it practically has to require “government involvement”.

        So I disagree that I am not offering “principled solutions”. That is all that I am offering. I am saying that a principled government should write principled laws that encourage principled behavior in the areas that government necessarily oversees, which includes these amazing creatures of government creation, corporations. And alternatively, I am saying that principled government should write laws that discourage and penalize unprincipled behavior (essentially theft through fraud, waste and abuse) by the officers of these same legal creatures.

        What is “principled behavior”? Essentially, it is unselfish and loving behavior that strives toward virtue and eschews vice. It is the difficult behaviorial balance that favors moral goods at the expense of material goods. Our governmental system has “rigged” capitalism, not just to encourage but to applaud, unprincipled behavior by the leadership of all our institutions, even some of our churches. Donald Trump is the inevitable nadir of crony capitalism in a rigged system. If we remain a democracy, the nationwide worship of such materialism will inexorably lead to a materialist backlash by the majority that is being taken advantage of by the unprincipled minority. However, angry majoritarian materialism will not fill the hole opened by a vacuum of virtue in our leadership. It will just exacerbate the problem.

        I think the principled alternative is to promote unselfish virtue over selfish materialism, and to seek incremental incremental principled legal change that does not necessarily mean more government or less government, just good and ethical government.

        What are you offering except the fallacy that somehow “less government” will somehow solve the problems that “less” principled governing actually lead to in the first place?

        Like

        1. @Tony

          When you find yourself in a hole, quit digging. — Will Rogers

          You just admitted government creates problems, that crony capitalism is a real problem. You vote for people who want more government. Making the government bigger obviously makes it more difficult to control crony capitalism.

          Has it ever occurred to you that income inequality has increased in the United States because of the government growing bigger and bigger? High taxes with a complex tax code. More spending, on everything and anything. Increased regulation of anything moves or sits still, animal, vegetable, or mineral.

          Has it ever occurred to you that income inequality is not necessarily a problem? What is important is that people have what they need. What is important is that those who have more earn rather than steal what they have.

          In a generous society, those who have will help those who need. Government does have the capacity to improve our morals to make us more generous. In fact, when a society starts using the government to redistribute the wealth, that is a bad sign.

          What is “principled behavior”? Essentially, it is unselfish and loving behavior that strives toward virtue and eschews vice.

          Think it through. What has that got to do with using the government to FORCE people to do things they don’t want to do? The IRS exists to unselfishly and lovingly FORCE people to pay taxes?

          Let’s get back to the subject of digging holes. Sometimes digging a hole is necessary. If we want to dig a proper hole, then the obvious thing to do is to use a shovel. If you have to break up a stone, banging that stone with a hammer may be helpful, but when you need to dig a hole, a hammer is no substitute for a shovel.

          On occasion, a natural disaster, for example, government may have a role in saving suddenly destitute people by providing them food, clothing, and shelter. Nevertheless, when charity is needed, government is no substitute for personal charity given privately. When we ask politicians to be charitable with other people’s money, we just create a huge conflict of interest. We make the same people responsible for protecting our property rights responsible for taking our property away and giving it to someone else.

          I think the principled alternative is to promote unselfish virtue over selfish materialism, and to seek incremental incremental principled legal change that does not necessarily mean more government or less government, just good and ethical government.

          Everyone has a right to their own religious beliefs. The right to pursue happiness is actually the right to pursue virtue. In fact, because government exists to protect our rights, freedom of religion is foundational to good government. So if you want to promote unselfish virtue over selfish materialism, please work through your church. That’s is the sort of institution properly designed to do such a thing.

          At one time Democrats were known for this attitude.

          That government is best which governs least. — origin unknown (=> https://www.monticello.org/site/jefferson/government-best-which-governs-least-spurious-quotation)

          Not anymore.

          Like

    2. @Tony

      Anyway, I have some visitors. So I am a bit distracted. Hope you and yours are well. As to windmills, I have your examples with Barack Obama and Donald Trump to contemplate. I think I prefer tilting at policies and principles rather than trying to personally destroy people.

      Like

      1. Enjoy your visitors. I don’t want to “personally” destroy anyone either. Donald Trump will self destruct under the corrupt weight of his own self-centeredness, or he won’t. It’s only a stupid “witch hunt” if there is no such thing as witches.

        Like

  8. Sorry Tom, I seem to have lost one of your comments in the back and forth. You wrote:

    “You should know that trying to use the military as an excuse for Socialism is bullshit.”

    Scatology aside, you have never really distinguished how the government providing the public goods and services related to defending the country is somehow logically, systemically or morally different from providing, for example, roads and bridges. Unless you consider crying “bullshit” an actual argument.

    As I said before, I am not in favor of Socialism as such any more than you are in favor of no government at all, as in the case of government not providing a military. If the government did not provide for national defense, what institution would? It is just one subset of goods and services that we naturally assume should be provided by government because we have historically done it that way, and for very good practical and moral historical reasons.

    Just as I, like you, am in favor of the government providing the goods and services associated with national defense, like you, I am not in favor of government ownership of the provision of ALL goods and services. Therefore, where we disagree is not on the moral and practical “general concept” of government provided public goods and services, but instead on which goods and services are most effectively and ethically provided by government rather than some other institution, such as a corporation, a church, a charity or individuals. In fact, we probably agree in more cases than we disagree.

    In other words, where we may or may not occasionally disagree is on WHICH goods and services are most naturally “public” goods and services, and which are not. For example, I don’t think the goods and services provided by my own employer (an airline) should be instead owned and operated exclusively by the government. I think we probably agree on that. Where we may disagree is on the level of governmental regulation and oversight that such a “public” transportation system should be subjected to.

    There are no bright lines to these questions, as much as you may want there to be where we can categorize that this (like the military) should be more subject to government control and this should not be. I agree that there are both moral and practical implications, but these issues are often just not subject to your wish for black and white moral or practical divisions.

    Like

    1. @Tony

      Remember your own definition.

      Socialism is a range of economic and social systems characterised by social ownership and democrat<c control of the means of production,as well as the political ideologies, theories, and movements that aim to establish them. Social ownership may refer to forms of public, collective, or cooperative ownership; to citizen ownership of equity; or to any combination of these. Although there are many varieties of socialism and there is no single definition encapsulating all of them, social ownership is the common element shared by its various forms.

      The military is innately part of the government. Government helps to create the conditions for a productive society, but it does not produce anything. The notion that the military provides goods and services is laughable. Soldiers kill people and break their things. You should know better than most.

      As I said before, I am not in favor of Socialism as such any more than you are in favor of no government at all, as in the case of government not providing a military. If the government did not provide for national defense, what institution would? It is just one subset of goods and services that we naturally assume should be provided by government because we have historically done it that way, and for very good practical and moral historical reasons.

      As I have
      said before, what your justification for big government and redistributing the wealth amounts to is the simple fact is that big government and redistributing the wealth the status quo. That is not, however, the way this country started. Continuing with status quo doesn’t even guarantee our society will continue to function. The moral and financial issues associated with redistributing the wealth pose huge problems. Big government creates dependent, poorly educated people. Our deficit speaks for itself.

      Like

      1. Tom,

        Your claim that the military is “innately” a part of the government simply proves my point that, from a moral and practical standpoint, certain goods and services are more naturally owned and operated by the government. On the other hand, there is nothing inexorably organic about defense services – it is just the best practices of most modern states beginning in the 19th century. Up until that point, mercenary armies were quite the norm. Furthermore, we have numerous exceptions where we contract out our own defense related services even today.

        Your argument that military “service” is not a “service” defies both logic and language. I can tell you that for the 20 years that I served in the military, I felt that I was providing a “service” to the public. You seem to be confused by the distinction between an organization that produces a “good” and one that produces a “service”. Much of our economy is based upon private and public industries that provide only “services” and that don’t actually make a physical product.

        And while lethality and destructiveness makes the military service unique in some respects, it does not make it any less a government provided socialistic “service” or, except for the enormous scale of it, that much unlike similar services also provided by other private institutions. If you hire a company to demolish a building, are they not providing a “service” to you? Also, as you know, a strong military also deters the need for destruction and lethality, just as banks hiring a private, gun toting armored transport “service” to ship their cash deters their need to shoot and kill would-be robbers, but in that service, like the military and police, the private transport company is also quite capable of legally providing lethality should the need arise.

        The issue is not whether national defense is a “service” provided by the government that meets the most general definition being socialistic. It obviously is and so naturally so that rabid pro-military, anti-socialist ideologues simply prefer to scatoligically ignore the reality that they actually favor socialism, at least in this area, rather than recognize that their supposed free market ideological purity can’t actually be very pure. Setting such “bullshit” aside, the real issue is what makes the military both morally and practically a “service” that we both agree is best provided socialistically by the government, and why other goods and services should also be provided by the government based on similar moral and practical reasoning. I don’t think that it is black and white as you want to believe, or that it can actually be subject to your hole-ridden ideological determinism.

        As for “big government”, like the ad hominem of calling everyone you disagree with “Socialists”, it just does not apply to me (or to the vast majority of Americans who feel as I do) any more or less than it undeniably applies to you. You have already said that you think that the military is an “innate” part of the government (and without even ever questioning the real reasons for why that is true). The U.S. Military is the largest employer in the world. We spend more money on national defense than the next eight or nine countries combined. You and I are both in favor of a strong national defense. Does that make us both “big government” advocates? Or instead, are we both just in favor of the government in this case being no bigger and no smaller than what our national strategic goals and defenses demand? Is our our military bigger than anything the Founders and Framers could have imagined? Absolutely! Does this increasing size reflect the defenses demands of a more complex and dangerous world? Of course. Why would we think it would be otherwise for all the other unforeseen demands on government that have arisen of modernity? In order to meet these often enormous government demands, aren’t we both necessarily in favor of the government distributing the wealth of its citizens toward the defense services that we all share the benefit of (although obviously certain citizens may more directly enjoy more from certain aspects of defense, such as defending trade routes and overseas business interests, than others may gain)? Why would it be different for any number of other goods and services that the government necessarily privides?

        This whole “redistribution of wealth” issue is another dogmatic “dog whistle” of the extreme Right. Just by writing, arbitrating and enforcing property laws, government has always had a profound effect on how wealth is distributed and redistributed. For example, if government passes laws, as it did before the 20th Century, that criminalize the right to join with fellow workers to strike or boycott their company and so as to prevent workers from collectively bargaining for better wages and working conditions, then government is determining the distribution of wealth. In contrast, if government passes laws, as it did in the 20th Century, that set up specific rules for collective bargaining (such as the Railway Labor Act) and the government institutions to enforce those rules (such as the National Mediation Board and the National Labor Relations Board), then it is defining, arbitrating and enforcing the arms length contracting (and therefore how wealth is distributed) between two parties just as it does in the case of billions of contracting parties throughout our economy all the time every year. The result of these changes collective bargaining law led directly and indirectly to the mid-20th Century’s largest increase in middle class wealth in the history of human civilization. The erosion of collective bargaining power (due to many declining factors including labor laws) has lead directly and indirectly to the stagnation and loss of real middle class wages since our middle class heyday in the 1970’s.

        Once again, the issue is not whether government necessarily has a profound effect on the distribution of wealth – the game of market distribution simply does not take place without government anymore than the game of baseball takes place with rules, empires and a playing field – the issue is whether the market rules that government writes, arbitrates and enforces will immorally distribute wealth to the rich in the form of crony capitalism, or whether government will do so in a practical and moral manner that ultimately benefits all of society, including the innovators and entrepreneurs. Either way, the concept of no government involvement is simply not an option if we are to have a prosperous modern state capable of defending itself.

        This is the moral and principled case for a good government doing what good government should do in a democracy, no more and no less, at just the size that it needs to be in a globalizing world economy. I am still waiting to hear a practical and moral case from you on this that does not appeal to overblown generalizations (“Socialism”, “Big Government”, etc.) or innane oversimplification (everyone who disagrees is “lying” and “stealing”). I do enjoy the discussion, however. Thanks for letting me participate.

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        1. @Tony

          Will you cut it out? Stop playing these meaningless lawyer games with words. It is not right to confuse people, particularly ones self. The definition of words is just a matter of consensus. We don’t change reality by changing the meaning of words.

          Try Googling the following: “goods and services” military (=> https://www.google.com/#q=%22goods+and+services%22+military). The military procures goods and services; it doesn’t produce them. Except tyrants for tyrants, nobody sets up a military organization as a means of production. That is why I got this hit => http://www.investopedia.com/ask/answers/042115/what-goods-and-services-do-command-economies-produce.asp.

          Do the soldiers of our nation provide a service? Yeah! Of course, but this “service”, killing people and breaking their things, is the purest of expenses, a hardship even to the people who have to pay it. As Madison said, ” If men were angels, no government would be necessary.”

          Soldiers, policemen, and the like make government possible. Without the means to exert force, government has no sovereignty over a people or the land they inhabit. There is nothing lovely about government service or military service. Both are simply different aspects of the same thing, implied force versus explicit force. The “service” depends upon the effort government employees and military members make to perform their duties honorably.

          This whole “redistribution of wealth” issue, that is, dogmatic “dog whistle”, involves most of the Federal Budget, and you cannot find authorization for it in the Constitution. It literally involves a wealth transfer from some people to other people, and politicians plainly do it to buy votes. But instead defending your position with moral and logical argument, you offer up “dog whistle” and a red herring. What do labor unions have to do with so-called entitlements? What is voluntary about paying taxes?

          This is simply absurd.

          Once again, the issue is not whether government necessarily has a profound effect on the distribution of wealth – the game of market distribution simply does not take place without government anymore than the game of baseball takes place with rules, empires and a playing field – the issue is whether the market rules that government writes, arbitrates and enforces will immorally distribute wealth to the rich in the form of crony capitalism, or whether government will do so in a practical and moral manner that ultimately benefits all of society, including the innovators and entrepreneurs.

          I don’t know about you, but I have played baseball without empires and policemen. The problem of crony capitalism doesn’t even exist without the government. Unfortunately, without government to enforce the rules, eventually robber bands form, and chaos ensues.

          Think long and hard about this. Government does not exist to make rules. The rules — the moral law — existed before government. Government exists to codify the rules — the moral law — and to make certain that sinful men obey those rules. Things like crony capitalism exist because the men and women who govern cannot be trust.

          This is the moral and principled case for a good government doing what good government should do in a democracy, no more and no less, at just the size that it needs to be in a globalizing world economy.

          No it isn’t. You did not appeal to any morals concerns. You did not even identify a principle.

          I have written what I have written. This series of post quite clearly speaks to moral concerns. I asked specific questions about moral issues and principles you cannot clearly answer. Instead you spin off a bunch of rhetoric that just magnifies the complexity of the problem. When are you going to figure out that when you do that you undermine your own argument? We are way pass the point where making government bigger makes a problem simpler. That was back when the Articles of Confederation were replaced by the Constitution. We have now reached the point where the vast majority of the electorate doesn’t even begin to understand the issues. What earthly reason do you have for wanting uniformed, ignorant citizens telling you how to run your life when half of their concerns are just none of their business? The government works like a well oiled machine? Since when?

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  9. Manufactured disdain is not an argument. It is the desparate non-discourse of last resort. I suppose we have worn this one out. One of us is saying the same things over and over again and one of us is apparently giving far too many legalistic arguments. Either way, I suppose neither one of us is getting through to the other.

    Find comfort in the admission that I learn a good deal from what you say here, but it rarely comes through in the heat of discourse. Rather, it comes after some reflection. It’s not that I always agree, but at least I come to better understand and admire you for your point of view. I can only hope that you sometimes do the same for me.

    I think we all have to guard ourselves against hateful cynicism about those that only just have honest disagreements with us. We all should wonder if our refusal to change our minds is really just because we are far too proud of our own rhetoric and our own tribal allegencies, and not because we are actually more right than the other side.

    Both political parties, Democrats and Republicans in different ways, are often guilty of a tribal prejudice that goes beyond any real moral or practical consistency. As Christians, our ultimate affiliation should not be to Parties or political ideologies, but to love God and each other, and especially to care for the least of these. This, I believe, is ultimately a joyful thing and not a hateful or painful thing. Everything else is just noise.

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    1. @Tony

      I don’t have disdain for you. What I have disdain for are some of the beliefs we were taught.

      Proverbs 27:17 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

      17 Iron sharpens iron,
      So one man sharpens another.

      I agree our debates have been worthwhile.

      Not so long ago I would have been making many of the same arguments you have made. Perhaps I just have a harder heart, but for some reason I have found it easier to accept the fact politicians will not spend our money the way we think they ought to do so. Politicians are just men and more ambitious than most. The majority of them will look out for what they perceive as they own interests before they look out for the people’s interests. That is just the way of human beings.

      You want to make a machine work? Grow crops? Run an organization? Then you have to accept the fact that certain causes will produce certain effects, that the system characteristics of a machine, plant, or organization are what they are. We cannot change a system just by wishing it was otherwise.

      Systems work as they work, not the way we want them to work. To understand how systems work, we must use plain language and define our terms carefully. Emotionally charged words may be suitable for deciding our goals, but they do not help us achieve our goals. Consider that the command to love God above all else and to love our neighbor as we love our selves is quite emotional. And why should we obey? Because God is our Creator. He created us to love Him and each other, and He loved us first.

      Yet how do we obey God? First we must clearly understand what He wants of us. To do that we must humble ourselves. As best we can we must each set aside what we want and consider the world — all of Creation — from God’s point-of-view.

      The governments we create are just small subsystems. Each government is just a subsystem within a larger subsystem. That larger subsystem we call a society.

      Why doesn’t Socialism work well? Why is it important to constrain the size of government and the powers of government leaders?

      1. Human nature dictates that if a society wants to see its money well spent upon the needs of the people, then the government should see to it that the vast majority of wealth is retained by the people who earned that wealth. When politicians spend our money, they are spending someone else’s money on someone else. That is a situation ripe for fraud, waste and abuse. Hence, before we allow politicians to tax us, we must determine that the need is an unavoidable moral necessity.
      2. Economic analysis has demonstrated how the supply/demand model leads to an efficient distribution of scarce resources. When people put their own money where their mouth is, we know their desire for what they purchase is more about need than want. On the other hand, the taxation/spending model has more to do with who screams the loudest. Have you have ever sat for hours week after week in traffic jams? Such daily traffic jams primarily result because politicians can just take our money and spend it to buy votes. So commuters have to scream bloody murder for increases in traffic capacity. Since we don’t pay user fees for using the roads, we have completely broken the supply/demand model. Therefore, we cannot simply offer to pay for what we need. Thus, economic analyses dictate that we should each pay for the government services we use when we use them and only when we use them.
      3. Management theory has repeatedly shown the wisdom of delegating authority to the lowest level possible. Yet every time we put Washington DC in charge, we risk violating that rule. Even on their best day, politicians in DC cannot understand the needs of that elderly lady down the street. Moreover, that is not the problem a politician HAS TO SOLVE. To get elected and reelected, politicians must use our money to buy our votes, and we are not honest. Most of us are quite happy to see “other people’s money” spent upon our wants. Therefore, when we give government authority it should not have and cannot properly exercise anyway, we do more harm than good.

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