INCOMPATIBLE VIEWS ON GOVERNMENT — PART 2B

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

Here we will consider the last three of four questions.

When does it become immoral for the government to tax us? That is, where do you draw the line and say no more?

When does it become immoral for the government to tax us? That is, where do you draw the line and say no more? Well, consider what we established as the justification for taxation in INCOMPATIBLE VIEWS ON GOVERNMENT — PART 2A.

Therefore, because some agency has to exercise the force required to maintain order and protect everyone’s rights, forcing everyone to pay taxes to maintain a good government is one of those cases where the means is in accord with the end and therefore justified.

That is, we can justify forcing people to pay taxes because government has an indispensable purpose which requires all of us to pay for it. However, what if government starts doing other things with our tax funds? Then what justification do we have for raising taxes to pay for those additional things?

Consider what we have added. In this country we have various health, education, and welfare programs. Supposedly, because you have a right to:

  • Life = government has to provide our healthcare.
  • An education = government has to educate us.
  • Food, clothing, shelter, a job, and so forth = government has to give whatever it is we can get enough people to vote for.

Does the Constitution authorize Congress to spend our money on health, education, and welfare programs? No. So why does Congress do it? Why do some people rob banks? Because that’s where the money is. Congressmen rob the Federal treasury because that’s where the money is that they can use to buy our votes.

The purpose of government is to keep us from infringing upon each others rights, not to give us our neighbor’s property. When government starts taking some people’s property and giving it to other people, we have too much government. The answer to the next question explains why that is a problem.

How do we ensure that a government that runs our lives will exercise its power for our benefit and not someone else’s benefit?

How do we ensure that a government that runs our lives will exercise its power for our benefit and not someone else’s benefit? Well, if the government is running our lives, we already have a big problem. Consider the issue.  Government is supposed to protect the rights of All the People, not skew things to the benefit of special interest groups (We are all members of some special interest group.). Therefore, we have to keep politicians focused on protecting the rights of the People. That is, to make certain our politicians are not tempted to skew things to the benefit of some special interest group, we have to make certain they don’t have a conflict of interest.

The Conflict Of Interest

What usually causes politicians to have a conflict of interest? Instead of just expecting politicians to protect our Rights to Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness, we start expecting them to give us so-called “rights” like “free” healthcare, schooling, food, clothing, shelter, job benefits and so forth. Unfortunately, no politician can give us anything unless he starts taking what he gives us from our neighbors, and there lies the conflict of interest. When politicians start giving us stuff for “free”, we make the same people responsible protecting everyone’s Rights also responsible for taking away some people’s Rights. That’s how politicians get the stuff they use to give “other people” their “rights”. Such a system is not charity; it is just thievery on a mass scale that seems okay because everyone is doing it.

So How Should We Help The Needy?

So how should we help the needy? In an old post, THE RIGHT OF FREE ASSOCIATION, I cite what Alexis De Tocqueville observed about 1830’s America in his classic work, Democracy in America. Here is a sample. I suggest reading the entire post.

Wherever, at the head of some new undertaking, you see the government in France, or a man of rank in England, in the United States you will be sure to find an association. I met with several kinds of associations in America, of which I confess I had no previous notion; and I have often admired the extreme skill with which the inhabitants of the United States succeed in proposing a common object to the exertions of a great many men, and in getting them voluntarily to pursue it.

What De Tocqueville observed is that when Americans saw a need, they voluntarily banded together and did something about it. If you love your neighbor, that is what you do.

How big and powerful does the government have to be before the people have lost the ability to refuse it anything it wants?

In a constitutional republic the People instill their values into their government. In an authoritarian or totalitarian regime, government seeks to indoctrinate the People in politically correct values. What is the distinction? In a society that operates as a constitutional republic, a limited government, the People disperse control of the educational system and mass media infrastructure among many people who operate independently of each other. An authoritarian or totalitarian regime, however, seeks survival by indoctrinating the People. To that end authoritarian or totalitarian governments monopolize the educational system and the mass media infrastructure.

The Education Problem

We want our children to have a good education, one that helps us as parents to instill the right values, right? What makes us think we can depend upon politicians to help us? Who trusts politicians? Yet that is what we have done. We have put government in charge of our educational system and turned what should be a blessing into a predicament.  Instead parents being in charge of what the children they love learn, children learn whatever the dominant political party thinks important.

The Problem Of A Free Press

We want to find out what is going on in the world, right? Ideally, we would choose from a variety of independent mass media outlets. Then we would compare notes with our family, friends and neighbors and decide which outlets are the most credible and informative. But what if the mass media is dominated by the government or a relatively small number powerful men and women interested in influencing the political system (see section on Crony Capitalism)? What if much of the mass media seems more interested in dispensing propaganda than in being trusted?

An Observation From The Past

If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be. The functionaries of every government have propensities to command at will the liberty and property of their constituents. There is no safe deposit for these but with the people themselves; nor can they be safe with them without information. Where the press is free, and every man able to read, all is safe.– Thomas Jefferson, Letter to Colonel Charles Yancey (6 January 1816) ME 14:384.

For the time being control of our educational system and mass media infrastructure is still somewhat dispersed. If we want to remain a free people — if we do not want government lackeys corrupting our children and feeding us falsehoods — we need to support school choice for parents and fight any effort to concentrate the mass media into the hands of a few wealthy men or government official officials.

What Is To Come?

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

INCOMPATIBLE VIEWS ON GOVERNMENT — PART 1

James Madison by John Vanderlyn, 1816 (from here)

Introducing The Subject

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

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

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

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

If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself. (from here)

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

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

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

What Is To Come?

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

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

    • A Democrat Liberal’s Reply — PART 3: The subject of this post is how a Democrat Liberal defines virtue with respect to government. Did that Democrat Liberal answer those four questions? No.
    • Restoring Our Constitutional Republic — PART 3: Is there a way to resolve the conflict? No. However, if we are prepared to fight for it, we can slowly restore our constitutional republic.

IDENTITY POLITICS AND THE GUILT TRIP

Representation of an ornamental hermit in Germany in the late 18th century (1795) by Johann Baptist Theobald Schmitt: Eremit in Flotbeck. (from here)

Because some people abuse the privilege of anonymity, anonymity is an issue on the Internet. Some people put their names out there proudly and fearlessly. Perhaps as a consequence of what they have said others have no desire whatsoever to be exposed. Since I blog about politics and religion, I suppose I might seem to be in the latter category. Am I dreadfully fearful of being exposed? Could I be shivering in my hiking boots preparing to spend my last days hidden in a wilderness cave. That is an interesting thought to some, I suppose, but it is not the subject of this post. This post is about identity politics and the guilt trip.

I just finished an interesting debate. Neither of us minced words. Considering my host called his post Healthcare Hypocrisy and I probably qualify as one of his hypocrites, we did well to avoid name calling. As the debate careened to its ending, my host (The blog is named american secularist.) posed a question. Here is his question and the dialogue that followed.

  • BTW – just curious Tom; by no means do you have to answer. But I’m kinda ‘full disclosure’ on my site. You can see a real photo of me, taken just a few weeks ago. I’m posting under my real name. You can run a search on me on bing or google, and you’ll find my voting and license registrations, my former addresses in Ohio an Virginia, maybe as far back to my college days in Tennessee. You won’t find a criminal record, a judgement for non-payment, or anything negative on me. I’m addressing you as Tom, but I know that’s a pseudonym in deference to the great Thomas Paine – whose secularist ideas, by the way, were in much greater harmony with my opinion than with yours.

    I’ve also disclosed my healthcare status on my site, as I find it disingenuous to discuss what should apply to Americans in general without doing so. What’s your healthcare status? Did you have employer-provided insurance for most of your working life – something people in their 20s and 30s increasingly don’t have access to? Are you a recipient of Medicare or Medicaid? These are very personal questions, I know, and I understand if you don’t want to disclose. But I just want to make it clear that I am first of all, not a hypocrite or partisan, and secondly, that I’m not advocating for programs out of self-benefit. Much of what I support would raise my taxes considerably once I return to the US.

  • Don

    When Thomas Paine first started writing in support of the American Revolution, he did so anonymously. Since the British probably would have hung him, he had a much better reason than I for writing under a pseudonym. Nevertheless, part of the reason….well, this quote is on my About page.

    Who the Author of this Production is, is wholly unnecessary to the Public, as the Object for Attention is the DOCTRINE ITSELF, not the MAN. Yet it may not be unnecessary to say, That he is unconnected with any Party, and under no sort of Influence public or private, but the influence of reason and principle. — from the introduction to “Common Sense” by Thomas Paine

    Am I a member of the Republican Party? Am I a Conservative? Yes and yes. I don’t go to great lengths to hide my identity. Nevertheless, if what I say does not make sense, then no one has to attack me. They can revel in attacking the DOCTRINE ITSELF. If the DOCTRINE ITSELF does make sense, however, then no one has any reason to attack or make me the issue. Therefore, who I am does not matter.

    You see it differently. You make known who you are. You think it matters. Then I suppose you think personal experience very important. Sometimes it is, but with respect to issues of public policy, I don’t give the experience of one person much weight. Granted, some people take a political position just for personal gain, but I don’t read minds. I am not equipped to judge that sort of bias. Therefore, I try not to argue against the policy positions of ordinary citizens on that basis. So rest assured I will do my best, especially where we disagree, to focus on the DOCTRINE ITSELF, not the man. Rather than needlessly anger someone, I think it better to make a friend.

  • I think more direct to the point, Tom, is that there are people who argue against public healthcare when they are beneficiaries of such – Congress, for example – seems a bit hypocritical to me. It’s not my experience that matters – my experiences are important only to me – it’s my objectivity. If, for example, you were arguing against public healthcare for others, while receiving it yourself – I think that would be important for people to know. A lot of people out there preaching one thing while benefiting from another. The purity of the message can be diluted, even spoiled by the messenger.

  • Identity politics of some sort always seems to be something of an issue. Even if I cannot be objective, how about you? Why don’t you just pretend I am a black, transgendered, abused spouse? If that is not enough, you can add that I am a disabled, Muslim, short, refugee (illegal immigrant) woman from Haiti. Thus, I can appropriately as speak as a huge victim on almost any consequential issue of the day.

    Are you talking about a real problem? Yes. If a poor man robs a rich man, other poor men may tend to lack sympathy. Other rich men will, however, find the incident more disturbing. We see things from our own point-of-view, but our point-of-view does not change what is right or what is wrong. Robbery is wrong regardless of who robs who.

After my last comment, added this tidbit and closed comments.

  • Tom your last 2 answers are just a lot of dissembling – reading your comments helps me to understand the audience Kellyanne Conway actually makes sense to. My question was whether you were arguing against public healthcare for others while enjoying the benefits thereof yourself. I’d find that incredibly hypocritical if you were – more support for the title of this post.. But in all the verbiage above I find no answer – really yes, no, or none of your business is all that’s required.

    It has nothing to do with identity politics or ‘victims’ – it’s all about transparency and objectivity. The fact that I disclose who I am allows readers to judge both for themselves.

When I had no desire to make either of us the issue, insisted upon making the issue personal.  Ironically, he was so determined to lump me into an identity group, he did, “the audience Kellyanne Conway actually makes sense to”.

What is the point of identity politics? Why is it a danger? Well, one is rather obvious. We tend to form political factions. That is, we combine forces with people who have similar interests.  As James Madison explained in The Federalist, Paper # 10, the Constitution was at least in part designed to combat factional politics (See also my post, THE ADVANTAGE OF A REPUBLIC OVER A DEMOCRACY.). What I had not considered more seriously is the way those who make use of identity politics use it as a scheme for shaming their opponents. However, that is probably the main point of identity politics. Is not every identity group also a victim group? Don’t Democrat Liberals try to shame us as selfish or bigoted if we don’t give in and spend Federal dollars on this or that program for this or that identity group?  It is either give in or suffer a guilt trip. Right?

So what is the solution? Do we need to update the Constitution so that is unconstitutional for Democrat Liberals to shame Conservative Republicans? When Democrat Liberals don’t pay attention to the Constitution, what good would that do?  In this case we need to laugh. We are going broke taking this nonsense seriously.

Consider. Here we have an openly professed Secularist trying to guilt trip us into adopting his politics. What is the usual complaint we get about Christianity from unbelievers? Christianity is a guilt trip?

Consider what  John 10:10 says.

John 10:10 New King James Version (NKJV)

10 The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.

Jesus died and rose from the dead so that we might be forgiven, not loaded with guilt. When we discuss politics, religion, or anything else, what matters is doing the right thing for the right reason. When people try to shame us to get what they want, we need to encourage them to reexamine their paradigm for problem solving. Shaming people instead of seriously considering the issues does no one any good.

On the health care issue, posed as an objective observer, but there is no such thing. The minute we take a public position and start arguing for that position our ego involved. Ironically, the very thing he wanted me to do makes losing a public debate more threatening. Because he has publicly identified himself and staked out such a fiercely maintained position, anyone could easily question his objectivity. How willing is he to admit a mistake?

So what about being a hermit? Well, it is a possibility.  Know any rich guy who needs a Garden hermit? I have no desire to be an object of amusement, but I would happy to give that rich guy advice. Anybody have Donald Trump’s phone number?

 

WHEN WE INSTRUCT OUR CHILDREN IN HATRED

Battle of Jericho (biblical)
Depiction by Julius Schnoor von Carolsfeld (1794-1872) (from here)

Cal Thomas has a column that got me to thinking. Here is the key to that column.

Here’s the danger for President Trump. The Quran allows Muslims to lie to “nonbelievers” in pursuit of Islam’s goal of an earthly kingdom ruled by their religion.

An example occurred last week when Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas met at the White House with President Trump. Abbas said, “Mr. President, I affirm to you that we are raising our youth, our children and grandchildren, in a culture of peace.”

That is a flat-out lie, as even a cursory Google search or visit to the Palestinian Media Watch website proves.

Do the Palestinians instruct their children to detest non believers, even to lie to them and kill them? As Thomas said, it is easy enough to look up. Google Do Palestinians Teach Their Children to Hate? The mainstream press does not like to talk about it, but even The New York Times has occasionally carried a story. Here is one from 2013, To Shape Young Palestinians, Hamas Creates Its Own Textbooks. Apparently, Hamas was not satisfied with what it got from the Palestinian Authority.

Textbooks have long been a point of contention in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, in which dueling historical narratives and cultural clashes underpin a territorial fight. And they are central examples of what Israeli leaders call Palestinian “incitement” against Jews, held up as an obstacle to peace talks newly resumed under American pressure.

Beyond their take on Israel, the new texts are also a salvo in the war for influence between the rival Palestinian factions: Gaza-based Hamas and Fatah, which dominates the Palestinian Authority and the West Bank. They reflect a growing gulf between the 1.7 million Palestinians living in the densely populated Gaza Strip and the 2.5 million spread among the West Bank’s cities and villages. (from here)

How seriously should we take this sort of thing? We have an excellent point of reference, our own American Civil War. In the South, children grew up learning to approve of slavery. In the North, children grew up believing slavery wrong. Most in the North may have thought the Negro inferior, but they refrained from believing Negroes should be enslaved. Considering that the whites in the South did not want to enslave the whites in the North, the conflict that eventually ensued between the North and South grew extremely violent. One can only imagine what that war would have been like if all the people in the North had been Negroes.

So what does Christianity teach about race and culturally based hatred? This is a question that confuses many Christians.  In its May 4, 2017 broadcast, If God Is Good, How Could He Command Holy War?, Derek Thomas examined the issue for Renewing Your Mind. His subject was the Book of Joshua and the Holy War (or herem) God declared against the Canaanites. In the Book of Joshua, the Hebrews execute God’s command to move into the Holy Land and kill the Canaanites.

The Victory of Joshua over the Amalekites by Nicolas Poussin (1594–1665) (from here)

When we read the about the destruction of Jericho, we usually marvel at the miraculous collapse of the city’s walls, but what happened after that?

Joshua 6:15-21 New King James Version (NKJV)

15 But it came to pass on the seventh day that they rose early, about the dawning of the day, and marched around the city seven times in the same manner. On that day only they marched around the city seven times. 16 And the seventh time it happened, when the priests blew the trumpets, that Joshua said to the people: “Shout, for the Lord has given you the city! 17 Now the city shall be doomed by the Lord to destruction, it and all who are in it. Only Rahab the harlot shall live, she and all who are with her in the house, because she hid the messengers that we sent. 18 And you, by all means abstain from the accursed things, lest you become accursed when you take of the accursed things, and make the camp of Israel a curse, and trouble it. 19 But all the silver and gold, and vessels of bronze and iron, are consecrated to the Lord; they shall come into the treasury of the Lord.”

20 So the people shouted when the priests blew the trumpets. And it happened when the people heard the sound of the trumpet, and the people shouted with a great shout, that the wall fell down flat. Then the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they took the city. 21 And they utterly destroyed all that was in the city, both man and woman, young and old, ox and sheep and donkey, with the edge of the sword.

What does Derek Thomas point to in the Bible to justify utterly destroying all that was in the city, both man and woman, young and old, ox and sheep and donkey, with the edge of the sword?

Genesis 15:16 New King James Version (NKJV)

16 But in the fourth generation they shall return here, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.

God had decided iniquity of the Amorites was complete.  Because the answer is unsatisfying, Thomas grieves over this.  Yet Thomas did not finding the answer unsatisfying for the reason some might expect. When Thomas considered himself and the rest of us, sinners all, what is remarkable is that God has any mercy to spare for any of us.

There but for the grace of God, go I. — John Bradford (1510–1555) (from here)

We are not worthy of God’s grace, but we can choose to receive it. Fortunately, when Jesus died on the cross and rose on the third day, He established a new covenant. Instead of destroying unrepentant sinners, we now spread His Gospel.

So what about Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and his lies? As best we can, we need to help the Palestinians understand the truth. The Allah that he and his fellow Muslims worship is an invented god.  What too many Muslims worship is war, not peace. Only with Jesus can have peace.

Gustave Doré, The Death of Agag. Agag was executed by Samuel as part of God’s command to put the Amalekites under herem (1 Samuel 15). (from here)