Thanks to the mass media and the insanity of an education system run by people none of us trust, politicians, too many people who should know better interpret the Constitution without much regard as to what it actually says. Hence I have asked some of the commenters on this blog a question.
When does it become immoral to give the government more power? What is the moral principle you would apply?
Liberal Democrats (and their fellow travelers) have profound difficulty recognizing an appropriate limit to government power (see here and here). Why?
Why do people, people like us, misinterpret the Bible and even the laws we write? Often what we are trying to do is force the Bible and our laws conform to our own wishes when they do not. When we do not want to be held accountable to certain principles, we will find some way to justify ourselves.
When tsalmon (here) responded to my query, he brought up Federalist No. 44 as an excuse. Supposedly, Federalist No. 44 provides an excuse for a loose interpretation of the Constitution. Federalist No. 44 includes an explanation of why the Framers of the Constitution included that last clause in Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution.
To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.
James Madison wrote part of Federalist No. 44 to explain this clause and why the writers of the Constitution could not be more specific. Even though they did not much trust their judgement (otherwise, why write a Constitution), Madison and the fellows who wrote the Constitution had no choice except to leave some things to the good judgement of the people we elect. As Madison observed in Federalist No. 44, they had four alternatives, none of them especially good.
Without the SUBSTANCE of this power, the whole Constitution would be a dead letter. Those who object to the article, therefore, as a part of the Constitution, can only mean that the FORM of the provision is improper. But have they considered whether a better form could have been substituted? There are four other possible methods which the Constitution might have taken on this subject. They might have copied the second article of the existing Confederation, which would have prohibited the exercise of any power not EXPRESSLY delegated; they might have attempted a positive enumeration of the powers comprehended under the general terms “necessary and proper”; they might have attempted a negative enumeration of them, by specifying the powers excepted from the general definition; they might have been altogether silent on the subject, leaving these necessary and proper powers to construction and inference.
Because the Articles of Confederation had not given the central government enough authority, the first option would not work. Because literally enumerating every task the Congress has would take too much ink, the second option was impractical. Inevitably, the Framers would have forgotten or not have had to the time to include all that is needful. The third option was dangerous, “every defect in the enumeration would have been equivalent to a positive grant of authority.” Silence by implication obtained the same result as including the clause.
Had the Constitution been silent on this head, there can be no doubt that all the particular powers
requisite as means of executing the general powers would have resulted to the government, by unavoidable implication. No axiom is more clearly established in law, or in reason, than that
wherever the end is required, the means are authorized; wherever a general power to do a thing is given, every particular power necessary for doing it is included. (from Federalist No. 44)
So the Framers just included the clause.
Consider again how that last clause in Article 1, Section 8 begins. It refers to the execution of those forgoing powers in Article 1, Section 8. What do things like Social Security and Medicare have to do with the Constitution? Nothing, but we have let Congress get away with creating various welfare institutions, and the expense is wrecking the Federal Budget.
Consider also that a discussion Federalist No. 44 does not address my question. That document considers that division of powers between the States and the Federal Government, the problems of writing the Constitution so as to constrain the Federal Government without stripping it of the powers it must have, and the problems of holding Congress accountable to the Constitution. My questions, however, are not about the Constitution; they are about the morality of government, using government force to control the People.
Oddly, since he wrote quite a bit, tsalmon doesn’t actually answer my question. He says he will look at my question later. Instead, he asks a question, and I have to answer his question first:
What are the moral limits of scientific enquiry and expansion? (from here)
I suppose tsalmon is trying to demonstrate that my question is impossible to answer by asking an analogous question.
Is tsalmon’s question difficult or even impossible to answer? Well, it is difficult. Consider that the Bible is a book of wisdom, and it is a long complex work. The Bible tells us how to glorify our Maker. What does the Bible suggest? Why do we engage in scientific enquiry and expansion? We do so to understand, enjoy, and be thankful for what our Lord has created, to give glory to our Maker. Therefore, we cannot righteously engage in forms of scientific enquiry and expansion that violate the commands of our Maker. To fully understand what our Maker wants from us, we need to read and study His Word.
Where is my question answered? It is specifically answered in the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson defines the purpose of government as the protection of our God-given rights. Consider an alteration.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that God is the Maker of All Things and that He created Man to glorify Him, that all Men are endowed by their Creator with an insatiable curiosity to know the Things of God, that among the things of God are Time, Energy, Matter, and Life. –That to know the Things of God, Fellowships of Scientific Enquiry and Expansion are instituted among Men, deriving their potency from the Inquisitiveness of the Common Man, –That whenever any Form of Scientific Enquiry and Expansion becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Obligation of the People in part or in whole to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Fellowships of Scientific Enquiry and Expansion, laying their foundation on such principles and organizing their powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to Glorify and Please our Creator.
Happy Independence Day!
I think the foundational principle of even having a civil government, civil in the sense of civics rather than politeness, is to protect the God given rights, such as those enumerated in the Declaration of Independence. As our founders recognized, it requires self governing individuals and families to make our system work. John Locke distinguished a “negative” concept of rights, that is our rights are not given by government, rather they must be protected by government from intrusion. The people I call Perfectionist Progressives, that’s people who are seeking perfection on earth, which always ends with the gulag and the grave, have a “positive”, in the sense of additive, concept of rights. They always want more, they enlist or subvert the machinery of government to grant more rights, which necessarily come at the expense of our God given rights. Witness the Dem “debates”, which are like a poker game with rights as chips, always upping the ante.
Inherent in Christianity is the understanding of and the acceptance of our own weakness. When we have the choice, we Christians avoid and flee from temptation. Hence the Framers constructed a government designed to avoid conflicts of interests, but successive generations have nearly wrecked their work. So now we just vote ourselves “other people’s money”.
Just came upon this. Your ignorance of constitutional law and interpretation is only exceeded by your ignorance of your ignorance. 😊
That said, if you read my follow on comments, to your question, you found that I answered much of this, and that your presumptions here of what I think on this subject are incorrect. In some ways and in reasonable areas, we actually agree more than we disagree, but you are so interested in finding an u reasonable straw man extreme to mirror your own extreme that you simply fail to see or elcomprehend anything else, but what else is new
Happy I dependence Day to you too!
Your own comment, the one I cited in this post, said you had not actually answered the question. You still have not. You have answered “much of this,” whatever that means.
You have talked all around the question, but you have not answered the question. Instead, you insist upon talking all about the question, making the matter more complicated, not less. Then you expect to be understood clearly?
Am I being extreme? That’s effectively a statistical term. Given the things the majority has believed at various times in history, I don’t see much benefit in siding with the majority. I would rather be right.
Here (https://citizentom.com/2019/06/28/the-role-of-a-politician/comment-page-1/#comment-88602) you suggested I believe the government is evil or some kind of devil. That’s silly. I have never come close to saying that. I have said the problem is in us. We are sinners. Read Romans 3:9-20 and think about it. Consider the context of that passage in Romans. Jesus died for our sins and redeemed us BECAUSE that is what it took to pay the price of our sins. Justice required it.
America has had a successful government because our Constitution includes checks and balances, checks and balances that make it difficult for anyone to use the government to abuse other people’s rights. The framers put those checks and balances in the Constitution to restrain us, not just our leaders.
Government is a tool just like a gun is a tool. Any tool can be used to do good or evil. Liberal Democrats run around madly trying to ban guns, but government has killed more people, often using guns. Why aren’t they trying to ban the government?
Me? Do I advocate banning guns or government? As this post clearly states, I advocate Thomas Jefferson’s position. We need a government to protect our God-given rights. When government becomes a threat to those rights, we need to alter or change the government.
What makes you so extreme is that your theories are so extremely reductionist. The “only purpose of” is a platitude, not a working philosophy for something so complex as the governing of humans.
Such oversimplification ignores the reality of the our past 250 years, much less the complexity of all of human history and of our human nature. It turns the brutally disputing framers, some of the most forward looking, knowledgeable and argumentative philosophers of government in the history of the planet, into an homogeneous group of like minded simpletons. Really, really smart people like Madison and Hamilton wrote competing volumes on the multifarious purposes of government. As forward thinking as those actual geniuses were, even the best of them could not have predicted how the world would rapidly change. They were not gods. They, especially Jefferson, were wrong as much as they were right.
Jefferson and Madison eschewed commercialism and finance as inherently corrupt, and felt that agriculture was inherently ennobling. They felt the federal government should stay out of the business of promoting trade and finance. Hamilton passionately disagreed and saw our future in our financial and commercial dominance, and as the first Treasury Secretary, he actually did more than anyone to lay those governmental foundations for those institutions that we enjoy prosperous hegemony in in the world today.
Since then, knowledgeable lawyers, philosophers, economists, sociologists and political scientists have written libraries on government, but in your brilliance, you’ve reduced it all down so it fits on a bumper sticker. And you criticize me for not simply answering the question of the ages in a few words. And you see no demagoguery in this?
Perhaps not. That view of you would be unfair. The odd thing is that I don’t doubt your sincerity. You desperately want this unreal oversimplification to be true even if the lie of it constantly stares you in the face. Even this platform that you are arguing with me on was invented by the government (probably our Dad helped in that) and couldn’t exist without the government. You are like a fish suspended by waters of a sea of government, and denying it exists or even should exist.
You are analyzing me instead of considering the issue and making a serious argument for your position. So you are doing a grand job of describing what you think is wrong with me. I have the presumption to disagree with you.
Government uses force to implement its policies. If we agree with those policies then government seems good. If we don’t, then we probably have an alternative vision that seems preferable, one that doesn’t involved being forced to do something we don’t want to do. When we force people to do something they don’t want to do, we had better have a reason that justifies such abuse. Do you have one? Do you even think that important?
Since no one can please everyone, the more government we have — the more we apply the use of government force to solve problems — the more we divide our People. Of course, Liberal Democrats and Socialists everywhere have a solution for that, use those divisions to divide and conquer the People. As one of Obama’s henchmen observed, crises shouldn’t be allowed to go to waste.
Look at our country. Consider how government force is being used to divide us. Consider your own hysteria over Donald Trump. Whenever We the People can do what we need to do without “help” from government officials nobody trusts anyway, then what is the point using the government to force your preferred alternative down your neighbor’s throat?
When someone says “leave me alone,” when is that too much to ask?
“You are analyzing me instead of considering the issue and making a serious argument for your position. So you are doing a grand job of describing what you think is wrong with me. I have the presumption to disagree with you.”
No. I’m criticizing your argument as being reductionist, as in jingoistically simplistic to the point of appearing demagogic. Are you your argument?
“When we force people to do something they don’t want to do, we had better have a reason that justifies such abuse. Do you have one? Do you even think that important?”
Government enFORCES our rights as well as our responsibilities. We have individual rights to have the government enforce our right to be left alone by government just as we have responsibilities to fellow citizens that are also fairly subject to government coercion. Rights often conflict with other rights just as responsibilities often collide with other responsibilities just as rights and responsibilities often conflict. These conflicting interests need to often be weight by government on a balance that is not always black and white.
My three years in law school were predominantly concerned with such tough issues, and by the time I graduated I was still just a novice in my understanding. Black and white cases rarely come before appellate courts so as to become controlling precedents. Once that controlling court decides an issue, then that decision becomes controlling law. It’s decided at the grey margin between black and white, but as for that specific issue, it becomes black and white. This allows some prediction and certainty, even if not an impossible perfection. (After all, this whole system is just an imperfect substitute for simply killing each other). That precedent, however, also is adaptable to reversal (Brown reversed Plessy), limitation (as Rowe has been limited) and sometimes legislation.
I’m not disagreeing that the coercive power of government should cause reticence in granting governmental powers. Said powers should be necessary and proper. But the world is not static. Necessary and proper rights and responsibilities have exploded since we were an insignificant backwoods agrarian new nation. The world is smaller, more complex and people are both more demanding of liberty while being fantastically interdependent upon each other. Most of us can’t feed, drink, travel, work, shelter or cloth ourselves without the efforts of numerous others, along with the rules and umpires to regulate that complex web of interdependence and individualism.
You are giving a simplistic focus on what are very complex and conflicting rights and not considering the governmental role in propping up the multitude of existential responsibilities we have to one another. The size of government, in and of itself, is lees important than whether the governmental power is both necessary and systemically as well as morally proper. Weighing and balancing the necessary and proper is often very debatable, even amoung people who know what they are talking about.
The reason we are divided is because, by nature we are tribal. I think that the reason that we are particularly factious lately is because we no longer have a common understanding of an existential threat that causes us to join together and compromise against that common enemy. Think about it. The last half of the 20th Century was a period of unheard of unity, not only in this country but throughout the free world because the threat of, first fascism and then totalitarian communism, were more dire than our internal regional, ethnic or racial divisions. The Marshall Plan, the passing of Civil Rights Laws, NATO – can you imagine these things happen without the Cold War? A house divided cannot stand when that house is threatened from without and so we made painful concessions to each other during a period of amazing political civility and compromise. Now a house divided threatens to fall because we see each other as the existential threats rather tab that our tribal factionalism is the real threat. We break with our allies and kiss up to tyrants while our real enemies just fan the flames.
Putin gloated the other day that the liberal world order had outlived its usefulness. Why do you suppose that brutal head of a corrupt authoritarian kleptocracy is applauding the nationalist Balkanization and demise of the liberal alliance?
Happy Independence Day indeed. And even that normally unifying day Trump has decided to turn into a partisan lying fest in order to divide us further. I predict massive protest and maybe even riots. You call it hysteria if you want to (without of course making it about me), but I see a love of faction outweighing our common sense and basic human decency.
It is kind of ironic. Here you are using Putin, the head of a corrupt authoritarian kleptocracy, as an excuse to implement what must inevitably become a corrupt authoritarian kleptocracy.
Let’s look at how your argument, propaganda really, works.
1. Propagandists equate needs with rights, thereby making government responsible for fulfilling our needs. Do we have the right to an education, healthcare, food, clothing, shelter, transportation, a job, a retirement plan, …..? No. Someone has to pay for all those things, and none of us has the right to demand someone else give us their property just because we think we need it. We can request charity, but taking “charity” is stealing. When there is no end to our wants, it is stupid to put government in charge of supplying our needs. Even if was ethical to redistribute the wealth, government officials cannot be trusted to distinguish between our needs and our wants, because we cannot be trusted to distinguish between our needs and our wants. We are too damn covetous.
2. Propagandists avoid addressing the management issues with Socialism. Socialism requires government both to operate and regulate whatever runs. That sets up an inherent conflict of interest. It requires government officials both to operate vast institutions and to regulate the operation of those institutions. When government operates a healthcare system, it decides who gets healthcare and when. When private industry operates a healthcare system, competing corporations decide such quality of service issues. Customers can choose between those corporations, and they can go to government regulators if their provider is guilty of misrepresenting their service. Government provided care is monopolistic and customers die while their cases are being appealed.
3. Propagandists say it’s for the children, the old, the poor, the disabled, and so forth. They appeal to our sympathies. In practice, what Socialists do is accumulate power until the system they have created collapses, or the People, anticipating disaster, finally come to their senses. When we vote for a Socialist government, we need to remember who will run this system, a bunch of politicians half of us call liars.
Why do I so often mention public education, mention it to the point you are sick of hearing about it? As Christians and as parents we have an obligation to raise our children in our faith and beliefs. We, not government officials, have the right and obligation to who will teach our children and what they will be taught. Totalitarians, however, understand that if they can teach children and instill their ideas into them, they can imprint their beliefs upon them, and that has been happening in our schools. It happened our generation and with each succeeding generation it has gotten worse.
So here is another question for you? When a private option is workable, why shouldn’t each of us choose what we want instead of having our neighbors choose for us? You don’t like my choice? You care for the children, the old, the poor, the disabled,…. This complaint come from people who think pro-choice means killing the unborn.
“It is kind of ironic. Here you are using Putin, the head of a corrupt authoritarian kleptocracy, as an excuse to implement what must inevitably become a corrupt authoritarian kleptocracy.”
What nonsense! Most of the programs you bemoan have been around for decades, if not Centuries. Our “inevitable” slide into dystopia must be glacial.
We both graduated from public schools, went to public universities, received advanced military training paid for by the public, and yet we are still unindoctrinated and free enough to be a couple of old crackpots comfortably sitting around in our pajamas railing on the internet from opposite directions about our each our own ideas about our desperate slide into authoritarianism. What a pair of privileged and cantankerous old coots we are?
Determinism (in communism, in fascism, and even in capitalism) is one of the most dangerous fallacies of modernity. Read Karl Popper. There’s too many variables, too many unknowns, too many unforeseen vectors of power, for any closer ideological scheme to be inevitable. As soon as you look at a problem, it changes.
You are like someone riding cheaply across the country on an airplane at 550 MPH on public airways, taking off and landing at public airports, with every aspect of your safety (from the pilots’ training to the maintenance of the plane) guaranteed by the government, and yet you spend the whole way complaining about the tyranny of the taxes you pay and how all your freedoms are being taken away, and “Oh Miss, can you get me another meal – this one is cold, and when is the captain going to turn off the fasten seat belt sign? – I am entitled to stretch my legs – I’m going to complain to the CEO of Delta.” Scoff!
“When a private option is workable, why shouldn’t each of us choose what we want instead of having our neighbors choose for us?”
Sure, but don’t you see any hypocrisy in these either/or simplifications in a modern capitalist republic? You and I have been swimming in a mixed sea of government and private afforded opportunities and choices. What is a corporation itself but another governmental contrivance? The lines between government and private are so necessarily and properly blurred that it is actually hard to see where one leaves off and the other begins. Neither can even exist without the other. It is not a question of either/or and it hasn’t been for ages – it’s a question of the right mix and a lot of experimentation on the recipe.
The difference is that I feel grateful and want to pass those same opportunities on to the next generation of Master Sargents’ kids, and instead you’re sitting around in your comfortable retirement whining that you were indoctrinated and now somehow being deprived by propagandists. Sure…
Yeah! I am an ungrateful, selfish jerk. I also admit I was successfully propagandized by the public schools and the mass media. Yet for some reason I rejected that indoctrination.
The news media and the public school system are effectively Democrat institutions. You don’t want to admit that. Instead I need to shut up. That is pretty much the Democrat formula for dealing with criticism. You are still attack me, not my argument. Hence, big corporations like Google, Facebook, and Amazon censor Conservatives. Nike is so politically correct it withdrew a shoe from the market because Betsy Ross’ flag design was on it, and that flag was designed during the era of slavery.
So are those glacial decades really an issue? No. A republic can last several hundred years. Because of cultural differences, every country is different, and every country has different vulnerabilities, but people are much the same. We learn our lessons from suffering, but we have trouble passing what we have learned to our children. What is worse is that we often learn the wrong things.
Look at the Book of Judges. The people of Israel failed to teach their children to love God because they failed to love God. They repeatedly became corrupt, repented and pleaded with God for mercy, and then became corrupt again. These cycles took time, decades.
Republics are historically quite rare. Because we have a difficult time understanding and accepting the principles upon which they are based, republics tend to appear more by accident than design. Demagoguery, however, is not unusual, not even Socialist demagoguery. Socialist demagoguery is simply the latest version of smooth talking men making wild promises for the sake of power. It may take decades or it may not, but sooner or latter when people abandon their principles — when they fail to heed the Bible or at least their consciences — their society begins to fragment.
No personal offense meant. Just making fun of both of us. We ARE just a couple of privileged, cantankerous old coots sitting around trading conspiracy theories, each with enough truth in them to get us all worked up.
“We learn our lessons from suffering, but we have trouble passing what we have learned to our children. What is worse is that we often learn the wrong things.”
Very true. And there are reasons for pessimism in this. The progress of liberty or good Democratic governance is not inevitable, but neither is its downfall.
Fascism, the concept that superior cultures and races should dominate the inferior ones, was thought by its proponents to be rationally inexorable. Class warfare that would lead to a workers’ paradise also was thought rationally inevitable. And more recently, with the fall of the Soviet Empire neoconservatives thought capitalistic liberal democracy would naturally take over the world. Each of these deterministic fallacies took on pseudo religious qualities or conflated themselves with the dominant religion. The simplicity of determinism itself has such a reassuring emotional appeal to human nature that these old ideologies never completely disappear and new ones keep cropping up even as the old ones fall under the weight of so many exceptions that their closed ideological framework collapses.
Don’t you see it Tom? It the not inevitable progress or regression that we have to fear – it is believing in the false deterministic prophet ideologues of either doom or utopia. We are actually living in the best of times in the best of places in the history of humans. Why? No single closed ideology explains it and none ever will.
You still don’t know what the word “ideology’ means. You act like you are somehow above ideology. What rot! You may as well say you are above thinking and don’t have any ideas.
Who is jabbering about deterministic ideologies? You or me?
Does the end justify the means? No.
Should we use government FORCE only for purposes we can morally justify? Yes.
Have you attempted to refute my arguments based upon moral principles? No.
Is this the best of times or the worst? Don’t know. I just want to live among Godly people who strive to make the person in the mirror, not everyone else, do the right thing.
I have yet to hear a consistent moral philosophy from you that needs any refuting. Limited government? You pretend that this is a dogma, but it’s more like a bumper sticker. If, by limited government, you mean something between “all government” and “no government”, then who is arguing with you? However, such shifting and imperfect balance in a dynamic system can only actually be aspirational, not something eternally ordained by the Almighty. You’re attempting to morally sanctify a chimaera, and call yourself righteous. Because I have no such illusions, you accuse me of being an blind ideologue and an immoral pragmatist in the same breath.
In the areas that we are discussing, God’s ultimate command to love is not the choice between absolutes – it is more often the pragmatic, difficult and debatable choices between conflicting goods and conflicting evils. If you think that that practical, nondeterministic, moral philosophy makes me an ideologue, then we only have a semantic difference of opinion, but that is not the reason that you are losing this argument now, is it?😉
Amazing! So I have not written enough? I am losing?😱
You want more detail? Do I need to write something like Karl Marx or Adolf Hitler wrote?
1. I can point to the Declaration of Independence and say that summarizes my political ideology or philosophy.
2. I can point to the Bible as the place I go to for moral decisions.
Why isn’t that enough?
The ideas formulated in the Declaration of Independence were implemented in the Constitution. The Socialist tendencies we see today didn’t take off until the FDR administration. So we know from history what it is like to live without “positive rights” and a welfare state.
The wisdom provided by the Bible includes political as well as just plain moral wisdom. The Bible says stealing is wrong. We don’t have any business using the government to redistribute the wealth. We can come up with all kinds of rationalizations for redistributing the wealth, but private charity works better.
Romans 13:1-7 speaks directly about the Christian attitude towards government. Christians defer to government for the sake of order and justice. No where does Bible encourage Christians to substitute government largesse for personal charity.
Note that the fellow who wrote Romans had his head removed at the command of the Roman Emperor. Because his primary loyalty was to God, he couldn’t please an arrogant, powermad man.
The Bible says the ruler of this world is Satan. Because we battle against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this [present] darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly (supernatural) places, Ephesians 6:10-20 warns us to take up the armor of God. When we are in the midst of such a war, does it make sense to tempt our temporal rulers and our covetous neighbors by giving our government the power to redistribute the wealth?
As this post clearly attests I expect government to protect our rights to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. Given the imaginative way some twist words, giving our government the power to protect those rights will give our government plenty of power. More than enough.