COMPROMISE: THE ALTERNATIVE IS ANARCHY

“Massachusetts Militia Passing Through Baltimore”, an 1861 engraving of the Baltimore Civil War riots (from here)

This post is a follow-on to OF TWISTED WORDS => LEFT-WING AND RIGHT-WING. When I got this comment, I decided to write my answer as this post.

What issue does OF TWISTED WORDS => LEFT-WING AND RIGHT-WING address? That post references a video that points out that the type of government that maximizes liberty is a republic. What are the alternatives? Check out that post.

What issue does this post address? How do we keep our republic?

In this post, I will not address specific issues. That is what I hope you will comment about.

  • Do you believe the moral character of the people of the United States is in decline? Why or why not?
  • Are we a divided nation? If we are divided, what is causing the division? If we are united, then why do we appear to be divided?
  • What are the issues that divide us? How much do they divide us? How can we resolve those issues peacefully?
  • Did I address the issues brought up in this comment? What should I have said?

What Is Our Republic?

We tend to view government as benign and helpful, but history and a quick look around the world suggests that is foolish. In fact, the people who worry about gun control would be wiser to worry about government control.

As the Declaration of Independence contends, we need a government to protect our liberties. However, it pays to remember why the founders wrote the declaration. The 13 American Colonies were rebelling against a government that had become tyrannical. Can imagine what the colonists must have thought when King George III sent boatloads of Hessian mercenaries to pacify their ardor for liberty?

As OF TWISTED WORDS => LEFT-WING AND RIGHT-WING points out, liberty is maximized when government has just enough power and no more. In fact, the people who framed The United States Constitution had to work out some very difficult compromises.

  • They had to give government officials enough power to do their jobs, but not so much power they would be tempted to abuse it.
  • They had to create checks and balances that pitted various elements of government against each other without making government so inefficient it would be tied up in knots.
  • They had to give the majority of the people enough power to express their will thorough government, but they still protect the rights of the minority.

Therefore, perhaps the best way to describe the Constitution is to call it a set of carefully constructed compromises work out between the 13 original states. The Articles of Confederation had failed. So the colonies realized they needed a stronger national government to prevent anarchy.  So it is we ended up with a Constitution that provides us representative democracy with limited government powers. That is, we ended up with a constitutional republic. Yet it is fairly obvious that our government is now assuming powers clearly not given to it by the Constitution. Why?

Who Is The Principle Foe Of Our Constitutional Republic?

Who is the principle foe of our constitutional republic? We are. Consider.

In these sentiments, Sir, I agree to this Constitution, with all its faults, — if they are such; because I think a general Government necessary for us, and there is no form of government but what may be a blessing to the people, if well administered; and I believe, farther, that this is likely to be well administered for a course of years, and can only end in despotism, as other forms have done before it, when the people shall become so corrupted as to need despotic government, being incapable of any other. — Benjamin Franklin, speech in the Constitutional Convention, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (September 17, 1787); reported in James Madison, Journal of the Federal Convention, ed. E. H. Scott (1893), p. 742 (from here)

Some years back I wrote a post that considered the difficulty of maintaining a constitutional republic, WHAT IS THE LAW OF THE LAND? — PART 4. That post was part of a series that considered the rule of law. The last post looked at how we might pervert the rule of law, how we might be corrupted. Abraham Lincoln well understood the problem. Yet here I will use a different quote.

The world has never had a good definition of the word liberty, and the American people, just now, are much in want of one.  We all declare for liberty; but in using the same word we do not all mean the same thing.  With some the word liberty may mean for each man to do as he pleases with himself, and the product of his labor; while with others the same word may mean for some men to do as they please with other men, and the product of other men’s labor.  Here are two, not only different, but incompatible things, called by the same name—liberty.  And it follows that each of the things is, by the respective parties, called by two different and incompatible names—liberty and tyranny.  — President Abraham Lincoln, Address at Sanitary Fair, Baltimore, April 18, 1864

What do demagogues seek to do? With clever words, they seek to convince us that evil is good, and good is evil. Demagogues would have us believe what we know is not so, that the law does not matter, that what we want — that what works for us — is all that is important. In fact, the demagogues are merely tempters, opportunists taking advantage of our gullibility. It does little good to try defeat them; we must defeat the desires that they use to tempt us.

How Do We Defeat The Desires That Tempt Us?

When a nation becomes corrupt, what does that mean? What was Franklin talking about? Why was he was concerned about the moral character of the People?  When we no longer have the moral character to honor the law and hold our public officials accountable to the law, what purpose does our Constitution serve?

When a nation becomes corrupt, what has been lost? I believe Alexis De Tocqueville would say the safeguard of morality. Here is a quote from Democracy in America.

Religion perceives that civil liberty affords a noble exercise to the faculties of man, and that the political world is a field prepared by the Creator for the efforts of the intelligence. Contented with the freedom and the power which it enjoys in its own sphere, and with the place which it occupies, the empire of religion is never more surely established than when it reigns in the hearts of men unsupported by aught beside its native strength. Religion is no less the companion of liberty in all its battles and its triumphs; the cradle of its infancy, and the divine source of its claims. The safeguard of morality is religion, and morality is the best security of law and the surest pledge of freedom. (from here)

Without, the safeguard of morality, proper instruction in moral wisdom, we do stupid, evil things. Instead voting for the good of our neighbors and countrymen, we vote for demagogues who promise us other people’s things and privileges we don’t deserve. That is what demagogues call liberty.

What Should We Do?

What should we do? How can we save our republic? In truth there is very little we can do save our republic.

What is worst of all is to advocate Christianity, not because it is true, but because it might prove useful… To justify Christianity because it provides a foundation of morality, instead of showing the necessity of Christian morality from the truth of Christianity, is a very dangerous inversion; and we may reflect that a good deal of the attention of totalitarian states has been devoted with a steadfastness of purpose not always found in democracies, to providing their national life with a foundation of morality — the wrong kind, perhaps, but a good deal more of it. It is not enthusiasm, but dogma, that differentiates a Christian from a pagan society. — T. S. Elliot (from here)

Instead of saving our republic we must first learn to love our neighbors. We must fear for those who are lost and desire to save their souls. And if we are among the lost, if we do not know Jesus, then we must learn about Him. We must read and study the Bible.

Once we have saved ourselves, we can serve our neighbors. That includes proudly participating in the governing of our nation. Yet this is a secondary benefit.

We strive to do the right thing because we are Christians. We do not — cannot — become Christians just to do the right thing. We can only become Christians when we have repented of our sins and learned to trust Jesus Christ.

8 thoughts on “COMPROMISE: THE ALTERNATIVE IS ANARCHY

  1. Do you believe the moral character of the people of the United States is in decline? Why or why not?-Yes, I do believe we are in a period of moral decline. The uniqueness of this current period of decline compared to others is, I believe, the hostility towards Christianity from cultural Elites.

    Are we a divided nation? If we are divided, what is causing the division? If we are united, then why do we appear to be divided? Yes, we are extremely divided, no more so I would think than at others times in our nation’s history. What’s unique to our situation is the massive amount of information accessible to anyone with access to the internet and our 24/7 news cycle. Accessible information to the masses is a double edge sword with benefits on one side and mass brain washing on the other.

    What are the issues that divide us? How much do they divide us? How can we resolve those issues peacefully? I think it all boils down to whether one believes their rights come from government or God. A representative government, states that are allowed to experiment with their own rules via federalism an individual liberty go a long way towards keeping us from physically fighting over our differences. The free flow of ideas of course is essential too. All of these concepts are eroding though so it remains to be seen if things stay peaceful.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. @Tricia

      If one measures a comment by how much we are in agreement with the commenter, then I think yours is a splendid comment.
      😀

      Seriously, I think you put your point succinctly and well. In particular, I think this sentence right on target.

      I think it all boils down to whether one believes their rights come from government or God.

      Liberal Democrats don’t see themselves as ideological, but the belief that our rights come from government is ideological, and it provides the basis for all their so-called pragmatism.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Love you Tom, but my best response is probably “meh?”.

    Perhaps rather than arguing about what the 18th Century dead white slave holding elite (who argued constantly) may or may not have thought about an American history and present that would be beyond their wildest dreams, respectfully, perhaps you might consider some other questions:

    1. What is progress and how do you measure it? Other than the obvious increase in material wealth, might progress also include greater individual liberty of all kinds, or greater literacy, or greater individual opportunity, or greater freedom of conscience, etc.? It really comes down to what actually makes life meaningful on both a subjective and objective basis. And remembering Maslov’s Hierarchy of Needs, we should recognize that, until the lower level needs on Maslov’s ladder are met, we may never even get to the upper needs.

    2. Once you determine what progress is, how do you apply your concept of progress to all of history and to the current modern world? Which nations have progressed most and which least? What do the successful nations have in common and what do nations that have stalled or retreated in terms of human progress have in common? What do they do differently? Does radical ideological extremism work better than rational incremental change and pragmatic compromise?

    3. Finally, what does the data say? For example if your favorite bugaboo, public education, really is actually detrimental to human progress, why is it that all the governments that the concensus of humanity would consider high on most indicia of human progress have public education systems? Can you actually prove that we would be better or worse off had really good public education systems and other public safety nets and equal opportunity programs not become the gold standard in most most (if not all). Modern democracies? In another example, as a result of public investments in super highways, you see corruption and traffic jams, but I just drove across country and I saw a highway crowded with tens of thousands of semi trucks moving an amazing number of goods throughout the nation. On the supply/demand graph, how does such public goods and services change the price point so as to shift supply and demand curves upward thus increasing the overall economy? With each of the multifarious acts or omissions of modern democratic states, how can you actually show that we are either better or worse off as s society or as individuals than we might otherwise be but for that specific governmental action or program?

    You say that morals have declined, but I don’t see the evidence in the long term. Atheists often make the mistake of arguing that religion has harmed moral progress by making us dogmatically backwards, violently superstitious and mercilessly condemning, but these atheists fail to note that without religious morals, we don’t even have a moral measuring stick for their otherwise compassionless, cold calculating, amoral reason. Christians make the same mistake when they think that humanity is going morally downhill – they forget that the good news of love and life in Christ dramatically changed human history and potential into something better than it could have ever been without Jesus’ words and example. I’m not saying that individual and national moral decline is not possible or that moral progress is inevitable. I’m just saying that if the moral scale is how much we help the least of these for whatever moral motivation, whether it is true or false, the people of our country and the world in average terms are actually acting more morally than at any time in history. If you only look at the News, then you only see the tragic and the awful. However, actually pick a time in history and realistically compare it. The best proof of this is that (other than the time of Jesus in Palestine) pick a time and place in history when you as an actual average individual would honestly like to live. By any measure, right here and now is the best time to be alive.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. @tsalmon

      Long, thoughtful comment. Thank you.

      Since I have to run, I am not going to try to digest it in a hurry and then answer. Not fair to either of us.

      Love you too! I pray all is well with you and yours.

      Like

    2. @tsalmon

      Perhaps rather than arguing about what the 18th Century dead white slave holding elite (who argued constantly) may or may not have thought about an American history and present that would be beyond their wildest dreams, respectfully, perhaps you might consider some other questions:

      Every time you put down the founders, I just experience a moment of sadness. You should know better than I the value of what they accomplished.
      1. What is progress and how do you measure it? “Progress” is in the eye of the beholder. We all have certain requirements for food, clothing, and shelter, but what we choose to do with our lives is an individual decision. Think about that Declaration of Independence those 18th Century dead white slave slave-holding elitists wrote. That is what they said they were fighting for. They battled British aristocrats so their families, friends and neighbors could make their own choices. When they were in possession of their God-given rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, they thought they making progress. And yes, many of them did agonize, including Thomas Jefferson, about the hypocrisy of owning slaves.

      2. Once you determine what progress is, how do you apply your concept of progress to all of history and to the current modern world? Check out my reply to insanitybytes => https://citizentom.com/2018/05/13/compromise-the-alternative-is-anarchy/#comment-80860. Look at that list of stupid things. If that is not a list extreme responses to various issues, what is? And that list is growing.

      If we walk off cliff or drive a speeding race car off a cliff, does it make any difference? Does walking off a cliff make radical ideological extremism any less extreme?

      What exactly is radical ideological extremism? Have you played this game where you create phrases that sound meaningful by taking three words, each from a different list, and put them together? Well, radical ideological extremism is a phrase that sounds meaningful, but doesn’t tell you anything. Consider Tricia’s comment => https://citizentom.com/2018/05/13/compromise-the-alternative-is-anarchy/#comment-80866. Note this passage in particular.

      What are the issues that divide us? How much do they divide us? How can we resolve those issues peacefully? I think it all boils down to whether one believes their rights come from government or God.

      If our rights come from government, then we are slaves of the government. You say that is not true. We have a democracy. But that just means that each of us can be tyrannized by the majority. Instead being the slave of one master, each of us is the slave of an entire nation. Of course, majoritarian tyranny inevitably leads to the tyranny of an oligarchy.

      If our rights come from God, then we are each a servant of God. We answer to Him, not the government. Government just exists to make certain we each have the opportunity to serve Him as best as we can.

      3. Finally, what does the data say? I would say the data is quite explicit. Socialism does not work, but men want power.

      To educate our children, do we have to put politicians, people nobody in their right mind trusts, in charge of their education? No.

      When we finance our transportation systems, is it really a good idea to make the use of them “free”, so that politicians have total control over what transportation systems are built and where they are built? No. Because they are not free, as much as possible the people who use each of our transportation systems should pay. As much a possible, we should constrain our politicians to build what users want, not what their campaign donors want.

      Have our morals declined? It is difficult to measure such a thing, but I think it obvious that we have a variety of groups trying to force others to give them what they want. Thus, most of the Federal Government’s budget involves transfer payments. In addition, the Democratic Party future now rests upon a coalition of various identity groups demanding special rights. None of that is good.

      You want to save the world? I think that is fine goal, but government exists to keep peace between us. You have Utopian ideals? Okay, but when we use government to force our beliefs upon others, to force others to meet our Utopian standards, we pervert our government. We make war on our neighbors using the instrument we should be using to keep the peace.

      Justice, not charity or love, is the role of government. To make government about charity or love, we must sacrifice justice. Charity or love is a choice. Government is force.

      Does forcing people be charitable or to love others have anything to do with charity or love? No. It is just using what government has, force, to coerce others to practice our beliefs, to force our definition of “progress” on others. Instead making government about justice, it makes government theocratic.

      Like

  3. Lots of good food for thought there, Tom. I’m going to say “no” to both of these, “Do you believe the moral character of the people of the United States is in decline? Why or why not? Are we a divided nation? If we are divided, what is causing the division? If we are united, then why do we appear to be divided?”

    These are probably just philosophical question without actual concrete answers, but my reason for disagreeing with them is because I believe they are narratives, concepts promoted by the media. Is our moral character in decline? Well, compared to what? Slavery, the whiskey rebellion, mass murders? If you look at some of the darker side of US history, there is no point in time we can claim to have had moral goodness, perfection, utopia? We’re just sinners who fall short, which is kind of why the founding fathers created checks and balances.

    Are we divided? Well, yes and no. It certainly appears that way in the media and sometimes on the internet when we encounter dogmatic ideologies. Just the same, I think we’re more united than it appears on the surface. The loudest noise is coming from the far ends of the spectrum. There’s very little voice coming from the working class,even some Dems who actually voted for President Trump. Kind of funny, but “jobs,the economy, end the opioid epidemic, and make America great again,” kind of resonated with a big chunk of us.

    Needless to say, I can get myself into all kinds of trouble from both sides for suggesting these things, but I just don’t believe the nature of people has changed all that much.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. @insanitybytes22

      Thank you for appreciating this post and a very thoughtful comment.

      Do I disagree with your two “no’s”? Since we cannot quantify morality or measure the depth of the divisions between the different factions that make up our nation, I don’t know if you are right or wrong. As you suggest, none of us have concrete answers. At least, if there are concrete answers, few of seem to be able to appreciate the firmness of those answers.

      As many have observed, the object of a constitutional republic is to provide a conflict resolution process that allows us to substitute ballots for bullets, but it does not always work. When it fails, we have civil war. When it fails completely, we have tyranny.

      Is our constitutional republic failing? Not entirely certain. I have just slowly come to the realization that we are doing some very stupid things.
      — Some parents cannot afford to educate their children. So we have put government in charge of the entire education establishment, including the attainment of advanced university degrees?
      — Some people cannot afford healthcare. So we have put government in charge of everyone’s healthcare?
      — Some people will not save for retirement. So we have forced everyone to participate in a government-run retirement program?
      — Some people who come to the United States from foreign countries face persecution if they return to their nation of origin. So we have effectively open our borders to anyone who asks for asylum?
      — Some women who are pregnant will die if they try carry their baby to term. Others are pregnant as the result of rape or incest. Must our government pay for any woman who wants an abortion, even women in other nations?

      I could go on, but kind of thinking is idiotic. Yet there it is. Our elites think we are too stupid to think for ourselves, that we are nothing more than ignorant unwashed, opiated masses. Yet they promote majoritarian tyranny. I have to wonder how long this absurdity can go on.

      Have people changed? In the United States? We are innately no better or worse than the people who created this nation. Even the framers of the Constitution understood that they had been blessed by divined providence. However, there is a difference, I think. Imagine asking asking a man or a woman at the beginning of the 19th Century this question:

      Are you a good person?

      How would those of that generation have answered? How do people answer today? How many remember what Jesus told that rich young ruler who earnestly wanted to inherit eternal life (Matthew 19:16-22). How many today have taken to heart the Apostle Paul’s reminder that all have sinned (Romans 3:9-20)? I am not certain how people would have answered in 1800, but today I think most people would say: “I am a good person.” Yet Jesus said:

      No one is good but One, that is, God.

      As a result we put too much trust in man and not enough in God.

      Liked by 1 person

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