Last Friday the The United States House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) released a memo that shows alleged government surveillance abuse during the 2016 presidential campaign. If anyone thinks that memo was not a big deal deal, they should check around the Internet. Even the post on my little website, THE HOUSE PERMANENT SELECT COMMITTEE ON INTELLIGENCE’S FOUR-PAGE MEMO ON ABUSES OF THE FOREIGN INTELLIGENCE SURVEILLANCE ACT, got plenty of hits and lots of comments.

What is most disturbing about that memo? Republicans and Democrats are completely divided, but why? The truth can be known. At least we ought to be able to discern much of what actually happened, but there is this ideological divide. So instead getting the truth, we get spun.

In public relations and politics, spin is a form of propaganda, achieved through providing a biased interpretation of an event or campaigning to persuade public opinion in favor or against some organization or public figure. While traditional public relations and advertising may also rely on altering the presentation of the facts, “spin” often implies the use of disingenuous, deceptive, and highly manipulative tactics. (continued here)

Which side is most guilty of deception? Each of us will to have to sort that out on our own, I suppose. The subject here is the nature of that ideological divide. What is causing us to refuse to see the obvious and spin, spin, spin,…..

Consider a portion of a comment I left on that post about the HPSCI memo.

What is tearing our nation apart? What once almost destroyed it? What was the American Civil War about? At this point I think most would agree that our country fought over the institution of slavery.

Why did we have to fight over slavery? The North wanted no part of it. The South, on the other hand, insisted upon spreading slavery into the territories and even making northern States hunt down and return escaped slaves. That is, the South insisted that the entire country affirm the righteousness of slavery, or else they would quit the Union.

We have a similar problem today. We have one party that insists upon making the rest of the country adopt its views on long string of issues. What that party has done is turn their politics into a religion. That party is not tolerant of those who disagree.

1. Abortion is okay up until the moment of birth, and government has to pay for it. This is supposed to be an indisputable “right”.
2. Immigration is an indisputable “right”, not a privilege.
3. We have indisputable “rights” to a bunch of different things (entitlements) government is supposed to give us: an education, a job, healthcare, housing, food, a retirement, welfare/unemployment benefits, public transportation, and so forth.
4. Every cotton-picking identity group we can think of, except old white guys, is entitled to claim certain indisputable “rights”. Minority racial groups get affirmative action. Homosexuals get marriage. Women, when they charge men with sexual harassment, get to be automatically believed. Minority religions, (not Christians, of course) get inordinate respect from government officials. The disabled get others to pay to adapt their facilities so that the disabled have access and can work in those facilities. And so forth.
5. And so forth.

Just as slavery was an abuse of the power of government, so is allowing one political party to impose to impose its vision of Utopia on people who don’t want it. Because we each have the right to pursue our own version of happiness, no one has the right to impose their version of happiness on anyone else.

You want to better understand the issue? Look up the difference between positive and negative rights. The academics have defined as “negative” those rights which allow us to be left in peace to go about our own business. On the other hand, the academics have defined as “positive” those “rights” that they think our government should give us. (from here)

What did the “other side” think of that comment? tsalmon replied here, and Doug (FPS/DougLite.com) replied here. Both are thoughtful. I just think they are terribly misguided.

Consider what positive rights involve. That is, when we use government to give people things that they are supposedly entitled to, what are we trying to do? Are we not trying to use government to fulfill certain basic human needs? Doesn’t everyone need food, clothing, shelter, an education, a job, a country, the ability to make decisions about their own body, respect from others, and so forth? Since government has all this power and money, doesn’t seem like a great idea to use it to help the needy? What could possibly go wrong?

What could go wrong? Consider this question.

What is the difference between the “right” to whatever I need and the “right” to whatever I want?

The answer is contentment.

Philippians 4:11-13 New King James Version (NKJV)

11 Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: 12 I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. 13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

Very few of us are content with our circumstances.  Few of us will ever say this and be taken seriously.

I have what I need. This is enough. ― Lailah Gifty Akita (from here)

Most of us are are inclined to say something like this.

If all you do is think about what you need, you’re no better than an animal in the woods, and no smarter either. To be human, you’ve got to want. It makes you smarter and stronger. ― Dan Groat, Monarchs and Mendicants (from here)

Therefore, when we start using government to fulfill certain basic human needs as a practical matter the difference between what people need and what people want quickly evaporates. That is, when we can vote to have government give us what we need, it is just a matter of time until we start voting for the government to give us what we want. Therefore, while it may sound like a wonderful idea to have our government dispense charity through health, education, and welfare programs, in practice we cannot make it work. None of us have the moral integrity. If we did, we would not even consider using the government to take from some people and give their property to other people. That is just stealing. Instead, we would expect people to love and aid each other without compulsion.

So what is the solution for poverty? There is this one.

If you work you will never go hungry. ― Lailah Gifty Akita

Obviously, some people cannot work, but government does not have a solution for poverty. We are the solution. We each have to learn to love our neighbors. Otherwise, we will just confuse our wants with our needs and bite and devour one another.

Galatians 5:13-15 New King James Version (NKJV)

13 For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another!



Add yours

  1. Tom, well thought and insightful as always. Love this: “Obviously, some people cannot work, but government does not have a solution for poverty. We are the solution. We each have to learn to love our neighbors. Otherwise, we will just confuse our wants with our needs and bite and devour one another.”

    Jesus did not beg Caesar to help the poor. Jesus compelled us, as individuals, to do that.

    Be blessed.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Well said Tom. I watched the Sunday political shows today and they were all spinning so fast away from the truth of the memos I thought my TV might flip upside down. It’s a strange world of untruth we live in.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. That is well said, Tom.
    I also agree the TSalmon and Doug offered considered responses there.

    Sometimes I noodle on how and why things have become so divisive. Of course, the internet has played a big part, as well as the 24/7 news cycle monopolizing on outrage du jour.
    Thought about this recently at a military site, run by a person who is no longer on active duty.
    He complains that back in his day “Colonels stood up for things” essentially, but now they don’t.
    Well….could it be he believes that because at one time he was in the service and could see it, and now he isn’t? Much like “crime didn’t happen” isn’t likely to make the news…the “this person performed his/her duty in a mundane and honorable fashion today” isn’t likely to make the news either.
    Outrage sells.
    Add to that the fact Google, Facebook and the others are generally being paid by content providers and advertisers to expose their content to us. We are the product, being presented to the paying customers. So confirmation bias is not only a choice…it’s programmed into the system.

    Don’t know if you’ve read about the Chinese “socially networked repression”. They’re starting to link up social networks with credit scores. It’s like something out of Black Mirror. The scores go down if you break any rules or say “bad things” online (bad things being whatever the powers in charge determine them to be), and that score follows you in life. All public and accessible. I read a recent tweet from someone on the Tianjin train to Beijing. She stated there was an automated announcement warning them that breaking train rules will hurt their credit scores.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Had not heard about the Chinese thing with the credit scores. Their government must have a team of people dedicated to manipulating their populace. Scary. It could happen too easily here too.


  4. I agree completely Tom. You’ve found the answer to it all. If you can’t afford to pay for the private security or the private fire department in your neighborhood, then why should we force tax payers to provide that charity to your emergency? Your misfortune does not constitute an emergency for us. For that matter, a mercenary army that only defends the richer more populated parts of the country is what we need. No more New York and California paying to defend Alabama and Mississippi- let them buy their own planes and aircraft carriers. And why are we building roads in places like Kansas, except toll roads for the folks passing through. Why do we need the CDC? A good pandemic every now and then clears out the dead wood. Universal literacy? Pshaw! Literacy should be a luxury. Of course, if some poor kid comes begging at the door, I’ll buy him a vowel or two. The richer classes have always been benevolent that way, as long as people stay in their place and don’t want all this magnificent wealth that is mine, mine, mine. I earned it all on my own without any help from anyone, not anyone….

    Genius, pure genius Tom. And so simple. Why has no one thought of this before? Why is your system not already in use in all the best counties? Well, I guess your system is kinda already in use in all the worst countries. I don’t understand why no one wants to move to those countries before the economic boom starts there … but instead they want to go to welfare states like Europe and here. It’s obvious that the Norwegians, the Germans, the Swedes and all the rest of the folks in those free education, free healthcare, tax and spend states are absolutely miserable. As your simple plan comes to fruition, we will be unindated with Scandinavian refugees. And Donald Trump will get his wish for more Norwegian immigrants. 🤔


    1. @tsalmon

      Either you are being dumb as a door-nail or disingenuous. I doubt even you know which. I imagine only God knows.

      Government exists to protect our rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Yet here you are trying to equate those God-given rights with so-called positive rights. You know as well as I do that they aint’t same thing. We cannot take money from the “rich” and give it to the poor and solve all the world’s problems, but that is your Utopia.

      When we are taxed to pay for something, there is a moral question, one you ignore. Consider, for example, the notion of taxing people to pay for military and police services.Some people do not want to pay taxes for military and police services. Some are just selfish. Some of the truly rich may think the can pay for their own security and don’t care about anyone else. Some are pacifists. The idea of paying for soldiers morally offends them. Some just don’t see the need. The majority, however, understands that we don’t have an alternative. Without military and police services — unless we make the effort to stop them — evil people will organize and enslave the rest of us. We know this because we can see it happening today in the world around us.

      Fire poses a similar threat. When it is dry, our environment becomes combustible. Most fire departments and EMT organizations use as many volunteers as they can, but such organizations still have to work closely with the police and other government authorities.

      What do government efforts to protect our rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness have in common? Because these are rights that can only be taken away, government can do very little to add to them. Once people feel secure in their persons, they stop voting for more security. Once people believe they have the liberty to travel, speak their minds, read what wish, and go about their own business, they stop voting to be taxed out the wazoo. The pursuit of happiness is not about the right to own property, per se, The pursuit of happiness is about the pursuit of virtue. The notion that we can tax and spend to become virtuous is just funny. All government has ever done when it tried to encourage the pursuit of virtue eventually flopped or created a totalitarian monster. All government can do to protect our right to pursue happiness is protect our right to strive for virtue, and that is exactly what you don’t seem to understand.


      1. I’m sorry Tom. Utopia? Who is making up “an imagined community or society that possesses highly desirable or nearly perfect qualities for its citizens” and who is dealing with current reality? You are the one preaching a brilliant (18th Centuty) philosophy for an imagined perfect moral society. I’m just pointing out what currently works.

        Find me a successful modern democratic state in the world today that does not balance (often quite generous) public goods and services with dynamic well regulated markets? What stares one in the face all over the world today is the relative success in every meaureable positive category (economic and moral) that we might agree on of the states that exist somewhere in mid continuum between pure collectivism and pure individualism. For example, if the government providing certain public goods and services, such as education and healthcare, actually were detrimental to greater equality , prosperity or morality, then why does the opposite appear to be true all over the world today?

        Before you start, I’m not arguing either side of your either/or equation. I was being a little “disingenuous” (I prefer humorous) and I definitely am “dumb”. The complexities of why some modern states are more measurably successful than others in various economic and moral categories is incredibly complex, beyond my understanding. Scholars smarter than me, some of whom I’ve read, have been working on this dilemma their whole adult lives with varying degrees of success in their theories. There are multifarious factors including cultural and religious ones, that influence outcomes more than just the couple that you are focusing on.

        Finally, how does one measure success? China’s economy has been growing faster than ours for some time and, if it has not already done so, will overtake ours sometime this decade, but China lacks so many basic human rights that we don’t even call it a democracy. On the other hand, a state that can’t win the economic competition risks losing the military competition and may not be able to defend itself and it’s moral superiority.

        But you have figured it all out. It’s simple right?


        1. I have no argument with most of this. I’ve said similar. Excluded middle fallacies (anarcho-capitalism versus communism, for example) are useless save for illustrating the risks of too much of either.
          The question really is, how much of each, and what are the mechanisms we have for articulating and maintaining them at their “proper” levels. And those “proper” levels are determined by the values of the society. A lot of this is of course predicated on trust (which ties into a common core value system).
          This all of course ties into issues like immigration…which not a dog whistle for racism, just as pointing to Sweden as an example to emulate (assuming it makes the example), is not a dog whistle for racism).
          Just this morning my oldest son (sophomore at the university) texted me and said the professor in his anthropology class asserted that Trump supports eugenics. She spends about 50 percent of class time talking about the evils of white Christian males in general.


        2. @tsalmon

          You know how politicians manage a press conference? Of course, you do. Instead of addressing the questions reporters ask, they deflect by answering the questions they wish the reporters had asked. So it is that your comment has little to do with my comment or this post. It is not even factually or logically correct.

          Here is the deflection. You mentioned a “brilliant (18th Century) philosophy”. But what philosophy? What was wrong with it? What did we need to change? Did not talk about any of that. Instead, you used the argument a child uses to justify bad behavior: “Everyone else is doing it.” That is a logical fallacy that goes by the name: Argumentum ad populum.

          Look up 1 Samuel 8. As far as the difference between right and wrong is concerned, what everyone else is doing doesn’t much matter. That is why what the founders of this nation did in the 18th Century was so brilliant. Instead of copying what was not working well, they tried to do what they thought God would approve.

          You observed:

          You are the one preaching a brilliant (18th Century) philosophy for an imagined perfect moral society.

          The statement above is factually untrue. That brilliant (18th Century) philosophy is mentioned in the Declaration of Independence. It is about the purpose of government, protecting our God-given rights. In a perfect moral society, from whom would we need to protect our rights? Given that statement of yours, I think you need to reconsider what you think you know about that brilliant (18th Century) philosophy.

          So who actually needs a perfect moral society to make his Utopia work? It is those who preach a socialist agenda, Liberal Democrats. To just giving Democrats all the power they keep demanding, don’t we have to assume our leaders (politicians!!!!) are perfectly moral? Of course, at this point I expect you to offer the observation that you are not a member of the Liberal Democrat tribe, but you are arguing their case.

          Did I ever claim to have all the answers? No. My unspoken assertion is that our leaders don’t have all the answers.

          What is our most important right? Is it not freedom of religion (or freedom of conscience)? Don’t we all cherish our right to freely exercise our own religious beliefs, not the beliefs of someone else? If that is the case, then how should we measure the success of a good government? If government exists to protect our most cherished rights, which gives us the ability to strive to live what we each thinks is a successful life, what kind of government do we need?

          According to some Thomas Jefferson put it this way.

          That government is best which governs the least, because its people discipline themselves.

          Some, however, think the quote above is a rephrasing of this statement by Thomas Paine.

          Society in every state is a blessing, but government even in its best state is but a necessary evil; in its worst state an intolerable one; for when we suffer, or are exposed to the same miseries BY A GOVERNMENT, which we might expect in a country WITHOUT GOVERNMENT, our calamity is heightened by reflecting that we furnish the means by which we suffer.

          Still, I think Jesus Christ put it best. Consider this passage once again.

          Matthew 22:15-22 New King James Version (NKJV)
          The Pharisees: Is It Lawful to Pay Taxes to Caesar?

          15 Then the Pharisees went and plotted how they might entangle Him in His talk. 16 And they sent to Him their disciples with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that You are true, and teach the way of God in truth; nor do You care about anyone, for You do not regard the person of men. 17 Tell us, therefore, what do You think? Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?”

          18 But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, “Why do you test Me, you hypocrites? 19 Show Me the tax money.”

          So they brought Him a denarius.

          20 And He said to them, “Whose image and inscription is this?”

          21 They said to Him, “Caesar’s.”

          And He said to them, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” 22 When they had heard these words, they marveled, and left Him and went their way.

          The Jews who heard Jesus knew that God made each of us in His image, that His image is stamped upon us. We owe God our lives. We only owe Caesar a few paltry coins so that that Caesar can protect the right that each of us have to give our true Lord all that we can.


        3. “When you say you have no argument with most of this, I assume you are talking about tsalmon’s comment. I replied to it. Curious what you think.”

          Yes, his second comment. I also agree with your response below. I think extreme arguments kind of lose the point. On the one end is the FATA, the other the DPRK.

          Liked by 1 person

        4. @anon

          Consider tsalmon’s observation that “positive” rights are an invention of the 19th Century (comment => https://citizentom.com/2018/02/04/what-is-the-difference-between-the-right-to-whatever-i-need-and-the-right-to-whatever-i-want/#comment-78581). For most part, that involved local and state governments involving themselves in caring for the poor and promoting public education. Our national government did involve itself in the promotion of “positive” rights until the 20th Century. Why not? As a practical matter, our national government has no constitution role in the provision of so-called positive rights. However, the concept is tempting to those who would use it to buy votes. So our Federal leaders seized the power of dispersing “positive” rights in complete disregard for the Constitution.

          See my response to tsalmon’s latest => https://citizentom.com/2018/02/04/what-is-the-difference-between-the-right-to-whatever-i-need-and-the-right-to-whatever-i-want/#comment-78581

          Do I think government has a role in building public infrastructure? Is that a “positive” right? Public infrastructure only becomes a “positive” right when the people using it don’t pay user fees that cover the full costs. So I don’t necessarily have a problem with public infrastructure (when possible, private is better), but I don’t like government subsidies.


  5. What happens, if somebody else’s “negative” right is unjustly violated and said somebody is not powerful enough to defend him-/herself. Does this create a duty on you to defend his/her right? If not, is a right that can be taken away from an individual by force without anybody else caring still a right?


    1. @anon

      If we can just classify each other into perfect “ist” or “ism”, then we can argue against the morality and practicality of their personal ideology and thus condemn that person as either irrational or immoral, or, as Tom puts it, “dumb as a doornail”.

      But what do you do with folks who just aren’t ideologues, but instead are critical of all closed loop, deterministic ideologies? How does an ideologue deal with someone who just points out all the obvious moral and practical fallacies of all such absolutist dogmas?

      I’m not claiming that Tom is an anarcho-capitalist, whatever ism that is, and I’m not defending some other opposing “ism” such as Socialism either. I’m just pointing to history and current reality and exposing the immorality and impracticality of all such sociological dogmas.

      It’s hard to pigeon hole someone who doesn’t want to be any your various pigeons, isn’t it?


  6. @anon wrote:

    “Just this morning my oldest son (sophomore at the university) texted me and said the professor in his anthropology class asserted that Trump supports eugenics. She spends about 50 percent of class time talking about the evils of white Christian males in general.”

    LOL. Sounds like my wife, but I think she’s really just referring to me.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Ha! You would have to know my wife to know how hilarious that is.

        At the time of the flower children’s self absorbed love fest, she was making straight “A”s (not one “B”) in college. (When she made her first and only “B” in graduate school, I thought she would cry for a week). After Primary flight training she did reservedly dane to follow her former couch surfing bum of a husband all over the world, but she always managed to land a better job making more money than me. She’s smarter, harder working and more attractive than most men, and that includes me. She’s never wanted to be men’s equal – she knows she’s superior in every important way. I guess she’s kept me around for going on 38 years because I must amuse her somehow.😉

        Liked by 1 person

        1. That’s awesome!
          It’s rare that a military spouse is able to obtain that level of success in a career. I never did (but after about 13 or so moves in the first 15 or so years I kind of gave up trying…plus the kids couldn’t raise themselves as he was gone all the time).
          I’m not elite. I’m proletariat (a floor nurse…proletariat even for the nursing class).

          Liked by 2 people

  7. Tom,

    All your other hyperventilating and out of context quotes aside, I’m just following you down the fallacious rabbit holes of your own creation. For example, let’s focus on this that you just wrote:

    “If government exists to protect our most cherished rights, which gives us the ability to strive to live what we each thinks is a successful life, what kind of government do we need?”

    For someone who claims that we just limit government what’s expressed with the Constitution, it amazes me how far outside the four corners of the document you wander to just make stuff up about the duties of government. Where in the Constitution does it expressly state a right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” or that government has the affirmative responsibility to protect something so amorphous? In, fact where in the original Constitution does it say that the federal government has an affirmative responsibility to protect any rights? The Framers were not ideologically in unison on much, but I think during their lives they would probably scream in perfect harmony at the thought of the federal government coming into the states to protect any of the individual rights implied by the Bill of Rights.

    You mention the 1st Amendment’s religious protections, but the 1st Amendment does not assert a positive right to free practice that the government must protect against infringement or establishment by other individuals, communities or states. Standing alone, the 1st Amendment is only a negative restriction on what the federal government CANNOT do. But then comes the post Civil War Amendments and particularly the 14th Amendment which does establish positive rights and gives the federal government specific positive enforcement powers regarding not only the enumerated and implied rights in the Constitution, but also any other right that the federal government adopts. Furthermore, the 14th requires that all new rights that are granted by the federal government or the states must fall within the constitutional ambit of the 14th Amendments protections, such as the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses.

    All the positive rights protection happened in the 19th Century and not the 18th Century and the philosophical impact was to turn the original Founder’s and Framer’s intentions completely on its head.


    1. @tsalmon

      Out of context? It is not as if my comment was not right below yours.

      Next thing you are going to tell me is that the Constitution is without context. It is a document without history written by anonymous mages who live in The Twilight Zone. Their leading hypnotists just one day appeared and made the people of an isolated land adopt that Constitution as their governing document. Ever since then succeeding generations of Americans have exerted themselves to free themselves from the inexpressible tyranny of its demands.

      As I have said before:

      The Founding Fathers wrote the Declaration of Independence to define the criteria for good government. Then they provided a solution with the Constitution. They referenced the works of theorists like John Locke to write the Constitution. (from https://citizentom.com/2018/01/25/the-jubilee-is-a-creature-of-the-law/#comment-78267)

      And I have also said.

      Without the Declaration of Independence, The United States Constitution is nothing more than a set of rules and instructions. Even The Preamble does not tell us what principles guided the Constitution’s framers. Without the The United States Constitution, we can only speculate upon what it means to implement the spiritual principles contained by the Declaration of Independence. Thus, the Constitution gives life to the Declaration, and the Declaration gives the Constitution purpose and meaning.

      Do you actually think the writers of the Constitution were not following any principles when they wrote the document? If that is not preposterous, what is?

      Because the People had enough sense to distrust their leaders, admitting the limits of humanity, they insisted upon a Bill of Rights. And what comes first in the list?

      Amendment I

      Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

      Does that amendment apply specifically to Congress? Yes, of course. However, that is because the primary threat to our religious freedom has generally come from the government, not our neighbors.

      Virginia has something that protects religious freedom in its Bill of Rights (https://law.lis.virginia.gov/constitution/article1/section16/). The Virginia Bill of Rights was derived from the Virginia Declaration of Rights (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virginia_Declaration_of_Rights). That was adopted in 1776, just before the Declaration of Independence was approved. Surprise! Surprise!

      When those men wrote the Declaration of Independence, they knew exactly what they meant by the God-given rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

      So why does the protection of religious from focus on prohibitions on the government? If you want to, you can figure it out better than I. Imagine. If your neighbor threatened you and demanded that you attend his church, what law would the police charge him with breaking? Would it have anything directly to do with depriving you of your religious freedom?

      Note that the prohibitions in the 14th and 15th amendments expressly apply to state governments. I would have to look it up to be certain, but I guess congress used the interstate commerce clause as an excuse to force civil rights protections on private industry. Too many politicians just refuse to quit and leave well enough alone when they should.

      Let’s also consider this.

      Furthermore, the 14th requires that all new rights that are granted by the federal government or the states must fall within the constitutional ambit of the 14th Amendments protections, such as the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses.

      New rights? From government? Positive rights? As opposed to negative rights? Definitely not God-given. What man can give, man can take away. Such a right is not a right, not as the founders of this nation saw such things.

      All the positive rights protection happened in the 19th Century and not the 18th Century and the philosophical impact was to turn the original Founder’s and Framer’s intentions completely on its head.

      When you say “the philosophical impact was to turn the original Founder’s and Framer’s intentions completely on its head”, I must admit I could not say it better. All those “negative” rights that our officials are suppose to defend they now have the power to abrogate so that they can give us our “positive” rights. Is it any surprise you have been taught — and convinced — that the Constitution is a living document, that it means whenever judges can be convinced to say it means? Do you understand the power that positive rights give those in power?


      1. Tom, brother,

        You’re arguments are so inconsistent that you’re going to give yourself whiplash. Forgive me if I quote religious philosopher Alastair McIntyre from his landmark work “After Virtue” at some length here because, unlike you or I, he kinda knows what he’s talking about:

        “By ‘rights, I do not mean those rights conferred by positive law or custom on specified classes of person; I mean those rights which are alleged to belong to human beings as such and which are cited as a reason for holding that people ought not to be interfered with in their pursuit of life, liberty and happiness. They are the rights which were spoken of in the eighteenth century as natural rights or as the rights of man. Characteristically in that century they were defined negatively, precisely as rights not to be interfered with. But sometimes in that century and much more often in our own positive rights–rights of due process, to education or to employment are examples–are added to the list. The expression of ‘human rights’ is now commoner than either of the eighteenth-centeury expressions. But whether negative or positive and however named they are supposed to attach equally to all individuals, whatever their sex, race, religion, talents or deserts, and to provide a ground for a variety of particular moral stances.

        “It would of course be a little odd that there should be such rights attaching to human beings simply qua human beings in light of the fact, which I alluded to in my discussion of Gewirth’s argument, that there is no expression in any ancient or medieval language correctly translated by our expression ‘a right’ until near the close of the middle ages: the concept lacks any means of expression in Hebrew, Greek, Latin or Arabic, classical or medieval, before about 1400, let alone in Old English, or in Japanese even as late as the mid-nineteenth century. From this it does not of course follow that there are no natural or human rights; it only follows that no one could have known that there were. And this at least raises certain questions. But we do not need to be distracted into answering them, for the truth is plain: there are no such rights, and belief in them is one with belief in witches and in unicorns.

        “The best reason for asserting so bluntly that there are no such rights is indeed of precisely the same type as the best reason which we possess for asserting that there are no unicorns: every attempt to give good reasons for believing that there are such rights has failed. The eighteenth-century philosophical defenders of natural rights sometimes suggest that the assertions which state that men possess them are del-evident truths; but we know that there are no self-evident truths. Twentieth-century moral philosophers have sometimes appealed to their and our intuitions; but one of the things that we ought to have learned form the history of moral philosophy is that the introduction of the word ‘intuition’ by a moral philosopher is always a signal that something has gone badly wrong with an argument. In the United Nations declaration on human rights of 1949what has since become the normal UN practice of not giving good reasons for any assertions whatsoever is followed with great rigor. And the latest defender of such rights, Ronald Dworkin (Taking Rights Seriously, 1976) concedes that the existence of such rights cannot be demonstrated, but remarks on the point simply that it does not follow from the fact that a statement cannot be demonstrated that it is not true (p.81). Which is true, but could equally be used to defend claims about unicorns and witches.”

        But none of that really should matter to a scholarly constitutional strict constructionist or originalist like yourself Tom. What matters is the words “God given rights” or “natural rights” or rights to “life liberty and the pursuit of happiness” simply do not exist in the four corners of the U.S. Constitution, and we do have after all a constitutional democracy, not a Declaration of Independence democracy. If you are going to say that everything that any 18th Century philosopher ever thought or said that may or may not have been bought into by any one of the the elite living in the colonies years before the Constitution (unlike the Declaration) was adopted by empowered representatives from the states and then ratified by each state, then you really do need to change your whole argument that those who make up rights implied by language within the four corners of the Constitution are “liars” into your an argument that literally everyone is entitled to just make shit up that they think is in the Constitution.


        1. We do the federalist papers, and they lay out in some detail the intention of what is written in the Constitution, so we don’t have to guess.
          Quotes from Jefferson:
          “Congress has not unlimited powers to provide for the general welfare, but only those specifically enumerated.”

          “I predict future happiness for Americans if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them.”

          I kind of like the conceptual elegance of negative/positive rights myself. “others cannot stop you from doing X, or force you to do X.”
          Property rights are a factor in determining who’s rights take precedence when there is a conflict. As an example, we are posting at Citizen Tom’s blog, at his discretion. His rights over his own blog trump our rights to say whatever we want at his blog. Free speech is not a “positive right” as nobody is required on account of my right to free speech to provide me with a soapbox, nor is anybody required to listen to what I have to say.

          Liked by 1 person

        2. @tsalmon

          Only a genius and a scholar can make something so simple so complicated it cannot be understood.

          Do you believe that other people have rights you must respect? You have clearly stated that you don’t. You have said human rights don’t exist. Why? At one time the word “rights” did not exist. You have said human “rights” are not self evident.

          If each of us does not have innate, God-given rights, that our fellows must respect, then what is a sin? How long have some form of the words “good” and “evil” been around? If you check here => https://www.etymonline.com/word/evil, the word “evil” has only been around since 1200 AD. So before then no one must have done anything evil? Even the word “bad” has only been around since 1300 AD. So before then no one must have done anything “bad”. Oddly, “good” (=> https://www.etymonline.com/word/good) was also discovered around 1200 AD. You don’t suppose Adam and Eve ate that forbidden fruit in 1200 AD, do you?

          Sarcasm aside, if the rights of our neighbors are not self-evident, then what is good, and what is evil? Is murder and stealing wrong only because the government says murder and stealing is wrong? Can we gossip about and slander another human being to our heart’s content so long as the majority approves? If sin is not an offense against our neighbor’s God-given rights, what is sin?

          Unless God exists, and He has given us commands we must each respect, what is good, and what is evil? Unless God has given each of us an innate dignity — made us in His image — so we must respect each other, how do we define what is right and what is wrong? What is the significance when we do something for our neighbor that pleases our conscience? What is the significance when we do something against our neighbor that offends our conscience?

          All life is precious because it pleased our Creator to make it. So it is that when ancient hunters took the lives of the animals upon whose flesh and bone their lives depended, even as they celebrated their success in the chase, some of them grieved. These knew the life they had taken did not belong to them. These knew they had destroyed something precious and beautiful. Only utter necessity — the belief the gods understood their need and would not condemn their choice — permitted the hunt and the killing. So many of them treated what they killed with whatever respect they could give it.

          Each man and woman is made in God’s image. Each man and woman is God’s servant. We don’t belong to ourselves; we belong to our Creator. We exist to glorify Him. We glorify Him by loving what we see of Him in each other.

          How do we glorify our Maker? Will we even choose to glorify Him? These are decisions He has given each of us. Yet you say we have no such right? You say the government gives us that right. If so, then how can you condemn as wrong those who worship the state, people like the Nazis and the Communists. Why would the ancients who followed vile kings like the ones who sacrificed their children to Moloch offend you? If we have no innate rights — if government gives us our rights — then can anything be right or wrong unless the government says it is or is not?

          I say you would condemn the acts of the Nazis, the acts of the Communists, and the acts of vile kings because even if you could not find the words your heart would weep. What is self evident needs no words.


  8. Since there is a donkey and elephant image at the top of this thread, I’ll pretend this is on topic.
    Just have to vent at the latest headline news. Apparently Trump crashed the market, single handedly.

    Colbert (who has jumped the sharknado with the anti-trump-all-the-time one trick pony schtick he offers these days) proclaims, “The Dow closed 1200 points, erasing its gains for the entire year!”
    That kind of implies 12 months….but, no, he’s talking about 38 days. It’s still well above December and good Lord ANYONE can look this up easily. [/rant]

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Trump takes credit for everything under the Sun. A while back ago he took credit for planes not crashing, so if, God forbid, one does crash, does Trump get the blame? Well no, of course not – that would of course be Hillary’s fault and we should lock her up for it.

      Satirizing Trump for the stock market drop is funny only because Trump has been claiming all the credit for its rise all year.

      It’s no wonder that there are so few successful conservative comedians? If someone acts like a joke, he becomes a joke. Trump’s bombastic narcissism makes him almost too easy a target. 😂


      1. There’s something (in comedy, sales, leadership, pretty all forms of persuasion…and comedy is included there, it might be the highest form of persuasion) called “overselling the close”. Those in the business might recognize it by these two words: “too much”
        Now, it might be very funny to those who can’t get enough of, “impeach Trump, get it!?!? GET IT!?!?!?” To a believer, that seems to forever be funny. Not sure why.

        The Democrats have been doing this for a long while though. In fact, Obama did it and it actually made Trump run for president. Remember that roast? It started out pretty brilliant (at least, I thought so)…if he’d only stuck to the Circle of Life video and a few funny pithy remarks after that. But no…he had to oversell the close and insult Trump personally. As a person who would rather give birth to a live ox than have Hillary in any government office ever again (well….I might let her have the DMV, that seems appropriate), I guess I should be glad he went there. I wanted Kasich though.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Just as a side note: The most sophisticated, best humor can often even make the actual target laugh at themselves. Malice detracts from humor.
          Here’s a nonpolitical example. I started a large group text for an event. One of the people invited was unable to attend, but she stayed in the group so she got all of the texts after the event “High fives” and so forth….there were a great many of them.
          She group texted the following. I opened it while I was parked in my car and it took me a while to compose myself…I was laughing so hard I actually had a stomach ache after.

          Liked by 1 person

  9. “Do you believe that other people have rights you must respect? You have clearly stated that you don’t. You have said human rights don’t exist.”

    I have said nothing of the kind, and neither did McIntyre. Sometimes brother just like to assume far more than is actually presented.

    You are asserting that a God given right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” somehow magically exists in the Constitution. I’m not objecting that people have rights of all kinds, many of which were constitutionally protected strictly in the negative before the Civil War and more in the positive after the Civil War. I’m also not contesting much of what you said about logically and indirectly implying certain rights from what the Bible says that we should do and not do unto others, but this is a much more indirect and convoluted logical argument than just saying something is miraculously “self evident”. If one buys that magical thinking, then who gets to decide what rights are self-evident and what rights are not. You have to admit that rights to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” is a pretty broad and amorphous statement for something that you want government to actively protect:

    “Judge, when he blocked my veiw of the beach with his house, he violated my constitutional right to pursue happiness.”

    The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were written at different times by somewhat different people for completely different purposes. It was a completely different process and only the Constitution was ratified by the states. You think, as I do, that these were some of the smartest and most intellectual men alive in the world at the time, mostly lawyers, and yet you think that they simply forgot to expressly include the Declaration or the concept of “God given rights” in the Constitution, but somehow we are supposed to believe it’s just in there? This is the most novel theory of constitutional interpretation I’ve ever heard of. Judges do look to the writings and record at the time of the drafting and ratification for pursuasive authority on intent, but none of that would be considered, as lawyers say, “controlling”. I studied Constitutional law in law school and practiced it to some extent for a while a long time ago. I’ve tried since then to keep up a little with new developments, but your novel theory that the Declaration IS part of the Constitution is a new one, and quite absurd.


    1. @tsalmon

      The best reason for asserting so bluntly that there are no such rights is indeed of precisely the same type as the best reason which we possess for asserting that there are no unicorns: every attempt to give good reasons for believing that there are such rights has failed. The eighteenth-century philosophical defenders of natural rights sometimes suggest that the assertions which state that men possess them are del-evident truths; but we know that there are no self-evident truths.

      If rights are conferred upon us by government, then they are not innate. If they are not innate, they exist only in so long as those in power find it convenient.

      Look at the way you interpret the Constitution. Whatever those in black robes say it means is what it means. If they find it convenient for the Constitution to mean something other than what was originally intended, that’s not a problem. It is a living document.

      Have I asserted that God-given rights to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” exist in the Constitution? Have I said the Declaration is part of the Constitution? No and no.What I have said is that the Framers of the Constitution attempted to write a document that would protect our God-given rights.

      Originally, what they wanted to do was write the Constitution as a charter that only authorized the Federal Government to do certain things. The People, however, demanded a Bill of Rights. That Bill of Rights lists a bunch of rights that government is supposed to respect and protect, but we have a secular government. So that list is just the best list some men could write. No one claims God wrote our Constitution, or for that matter, the Declaration of Independence.

      What matters is what we find written upon our hearts, what our consciences demand. If we don’t take the rights of our fellows seriously, understand that other people don’t exist just to fulfill our needs and wants, then it doesn’t take long before we twist our government into a tool that puts people in chains instead of protecting them.

      You think I exaggerate? You should know better. Because men run them, there is no government whose powers men have not abused. Because of our pride, we always face the temptation to put others under our heel. In the past Americans owned slaves, and those who governed approve. Today there are those who govern who abuse their powers just as much, and their excuses are no better.


      1. In a sense, Tom, I don’t disagree with anything you just wrote, especially the way that you identify the problem as one where people fail to recognize the interests of others as their own, and act accordingly. That is indeed the problem that begs its own solution as I see it too.

        You make snide remarks about the limitations of men in black robes, but you really have no reasonable dispute with my statement that until government, or something like government, has defined, arbitrated and enforced rights, they simply do not exist in history or practical reality. Your statement that what government gives, government can take away is therefore a tautological truism. It is just a feature of the historical reality that we live in – it is what it is. I’m with you to this point. The question is what to take away from that truism.

        If it is a sad political reality that government can take away rights, it is also a happy reality that, more than any other time in history, governments are also affording more rights than ever to the point that you think it has gone too far. Whether you think rights are explicit from God (doubtful as pointed out earlier) or they derive (as in the Golden Rule) indirectly and negatively from the positive “responsibility” God imposes upon us to love each other, or they are a conclusion of a secular rational argument (also, unlikely, I think), they do not happen in today’s practical reality without good government.


        1. @tsalmon

          You don’t entirely disagree, but it seems you also fail to understand. So you fail to accept the argument even as you seem to accept it. I suppose there is nothing I can do to change that, but studying the problem is interesting.

          Did I make snide remarks about the men in black robes? No. I just made what I think is an accurate observation. It seems snide to you because you disagree with that observation. Even though you cannot point to the Constitution to justify the decisions about which we disagree, you disagree with that observation. Thus, you have shown you failed to accept my argument.

          Humility requires us to accept the fact we can be tempted. Humility requires us to accept the fact that if the temptation is great enough we will sin. The Apostle Paul described this reality in Romans 7:7-25. It is that reality that I think you have refused to accept. Hence, you wrote this.

          If it is a sad political reality that government can take away rights, it is also a happy reality that, more than any other time in history, governments are also affording more rights than ever to the point that you think it has gone too far. Whether you think rights are explicit from God (doubtful as pointed out earlier) or they derive (as in the Golden Rule) indirectly and negatively from the positive “responsibility” God imposes upon us to love each other, or they are a conclusion of a secular rational argument (also, unlikely, I think), they do not happen in today’s practical reality without good government.

          Effectively, what your argument comes down to is that “it just is”. At best, you think a Christian should accept the notion of “positive” rights because with “positive” rights God can use government to force us to love each other. BARF!

          Like a great many Americans you want to believe in inevitability of “progress”, and you hail the development of “positive” rights as progress. Like a great many Americans you also ignore the fact that each of us has the right to define for ourselves what is progress and what is not. If our right to the free exercise of religion is real, then what right do we have to use our government to force our neighbors to pay for things they don’t equate with progress?

          Like a great many Americans you too don’t take the Bible seriously enough to study it carefully. Instead, you want to believe something that upon reflection you must know is not true, that people are basically good.

          We are sinners. Consider why we live in a fallen world. We are sinners. Our fallen nature is our historical reality. Humility requires us to accept the fact we can be tempted. Humility requires us to accept the fact that if the temptation is great enough we will sin.

          How should we define what is progress and what is not. Christians can go to the Bible and strive to discern God’s will. Yet even non-Christians have the means.

          In the following passage Paul compares Gentiles and Jews, those who sin without the Law and those who sin under the Law.

          Romans 2:12-16 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

          12 For all who have sinned without the Law will also perish without the Law, and all who have sinned under the Law will be judged by the Law; 13 for it is not the hearers of the Law who are just before God, but the doers of the Law will be justified. 14 For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, 15 in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them, 16 on the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus.

          The Law is, of course, the Old Testament. In the Bible, God tells to respect our neighbors rights. With His Law, He prohibits us from harming and abusing our neighbors. In addition, God commands us to love each other, that is, to be our brother’s keeper.

          The Bible also makes clear is that love is something we give to God, not government. When we love our neighbor, we express that love in personal acts, not through the payment of taxes. God expects to fulfill our obligation and render our taxes unto Caesar, but that has very little to do with loving our neighbors.

          Government is force. It exist to make people do things they may not want to do. When people won’t respect the “negative” rights of their neighbors, we expect officials to throw those people in jail. When people respect the “positive” rights of their neighbors, they reach into their own pockets and give from the heart. Politicians just use “positive” rights as excuse to tax, spend, and buy votes. That is not the Golden Rule. It is corrupt.


  10. @anon

    Your argument above about positive and negative rights is well put.

    The positive/negative rights argument is an interesting way to analyze an argument. However, it would be a logical fallacy to say it is conclusive. Most negative rights come with positive responsibilities and vice versa. For example, what do you actually “own” when you say that you own certain property. Property ownership is essentially a bundle of rights and responsibilities to use and exclude others from use of defined tangibles and intangibles. That is what you actually own. It is neither an unlimited positive nor negative right, but a combination of both. Your property right may or may not derive in some indirect and attenuated logic from God (say through the Commandment that, however said property is defined at law, it should not be stolen, or from the Golden Rule by the fact that you should do unto others – afford legally defined property rights – what you want them to do to you), but even assuming this is God’s will, the Gospels make it pretty clear that it’s up to some traditional custom and man made law to determine who owns these rights and responsibilities (render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s?). Whether God granted or not, without some sort of governmentallike body to define, arbitrate and positively enforce rights, they simply do not exist in practical reality whether those rights be positive or negative, or a combination of both.

    Is free speech different from property? Yes and no. It’s a different kind of legal right in category but many of the same rules apply, both scriptural and legal, in analysis.


    1. “Your argument above about positive and negative rights is well put.”

      Thank you. 🙂
      I can’t really argue with anything you said above.
      As Thomas Paine said, “Society is produced by our wants, and government by our wickedness”
      Perhaps I am “pithy quote” in Flame warriors.
      This is a fun website. See which one applies to whom.
      Many are recognizable throughout internet discussion sites! 🙂


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