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 and Questions For Democrat Liberals — PART 2B: 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.
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A STORY OF SACRIFICE FOR MEMORIAL DAY

US Navy TBD-1 Torpedo Squadron Six (VT-6), from USS Enterprise (CV-6), in about 1938 (from here)

We have studied the night before a test. Some of us have awaited the hour before an important interview. About half of us have stood beside our ladies as they suffered, giving birth to our children. We have all waited for the arrival of a crisis, when an important matter would be resolved. Few of us, however, have contemplated our options as the minutes ticked away before the onset of a great battle.

Imagine going into battle knowing you could be a sacrificial pawn. Imagine flying over a vast ocean to battle an enemy fleet in an obsolete war plane. Consider Victor Davis Hanson’s words from Lessons from the Battle of Midway. Continue reading “A STORY OF SACRIFICE FOR MEMORIAL DAY”

A VISIT TO THE BIBLE ON MOTHER’S DAY

Here I am, sitting in the basement. It is Mother’s Day.  I am sort of wondering why I never wrote a post and if I should. So I went to the Bible for some inspiration. What did I find?

In the New King James Version (NKJV), “mother” shows up 306 times. The first occurrence grabbed my attention.

Genesis 2:24 New King James Version (NKJV)

24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.

Our children — my lady and I — now have grown children. They have left us to begin their own lives. The separation is necessary, but it hurts.  In order to raise our children well, we must love them and expect nothing in return. Yet we get much. Still, they must go.

It is Mother’s Day, but what is a mother without a father? Curious, I found out “father” shows up up 1510 times in the Bible, about five times as often as “mother”. I suppose some will call that sexist, but I think some people jump to conclusions too quickly.

The first verse where “father” occurs is also Genesis 2:24. So I guess, like my lady, I also have our Lord’s permission to miss the patter of little feet.

So why does father occur so much more often in the Bible? I am not certain, but given how little importance some people attach to fatherhood these days, it is worth considering.  I suppose I have found a good project for Father’s Day.

What is a mother without her husband? What is a father without his wife? The word “husband” shows up 129 times in the NKJV and the word “wife” shows up 370 times.  Significant? Perhaps.  We have lots of jokes and proverbs that tell us that behind every successful man stands a good wife. Here is one of my favorites.

Behind every successful man is a proud wife and a surprised mother-in-law. — Hubert H. Humphrey (from here)
But what does the Bible suggest? What is the first verse where the word husband occurs?

Genesis 3:6 New King James Version (NKJV)

So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate.

Was the woman a temptation for the man?

What is the first occurrence of wife? Like mother and father, the word wife first shows up in Genesis 2:24. It is the love of a woman that drives a man to leave his father and mother.

There is an old saying that seems to be in accord with the Bible (Proverbs 14:1).

Men make houses, women make homes (from here)

God gave Eve to Adam because he needed her. Eve made Adam whole, and he knew it.  But it does not seem to be easy for a woman to be a good wife. Perhaps she is too preoccupied being a good mother, and it is not easy for a man to be a good father. Perhaps he is too preoccupied with the wrong kind of success.

What is a good woman? She is precious. She is a woman in whose hands her husband’s heart is safe.

Proverbs 31:10-31 New King James Version (NKJV)

The Virtuous Wife

10 Who can find a virtuous wife?
For her worth is far above rubies.
11 The heart of her husband safely trusts her;
So he will have no lack of gain.
12 She does him good and not evil
All the days of her life.
13 She seeks wool and flax,
And willingly works with her hands.
14 She is like the merchant ships,
She brings her food from afar.
15 She also rises while it is yet night,
And provides food for her household,
And a portion for her maidservants.
16 She considers a field and buys it;
From her profits she plants a vineyard.
17 She girds herself with strength,
And strengthens her arms.
18 She perceives that her merchandise is good,
And her lamp does not go out by night.
19 She stretches out her hands to the distaff,
And her hand holds the spindle.
20 She extends her hand to the poor,
Yes, she reaches out her hands to the needy.
21 She is not afraid of snow for her household,
For all her household is clothed with scarlet.
22 She makes tapestry for herself;
Her clothing is fine linen and purple.
23 Her husband is known in the gates,
When he sits among the elders of the land.
24 She makes linen garments and sells them,
And supplies sashes for the merchants.
25 Strength and honor are her clothing;
She shall rejoice in time to come.
26 She opens her mouth with wisdom,
And on her tongue is the law of kindness.
27 She watches over the ways of her household,
And does not eat the bread of idleness.
28 Her children rise up and call her blessed;
Her husband also, and he praises her:
29 “Many daughters have done well,
But you excel them all.”
30 Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing,
But a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised.
31 Give her of the fruit of her hands,
And let her own works praise her in the gates.

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?