Van Harvey

  • Civics Classes, and a Future Past

    Recently, the actor and sometimes leftist activist, Richard Dreyfuss, was interviewed on Tucker Carlson’s show, and as you may have seen, or heard snippets of, or at least heard about, Dreyfuss soundly denounced the ‘Antifa’ activists who’ve been using violence on campus, to squelch people’s ability to freely speak and associate. Kudos to Dreyfuss on that. But. For those of you on the Right, who are enthusing “Wow! There’s a sensible Leftist that we can get behind!“, please, for once, slow down a bit. While I too like the sound of much of what Dreyfuss says in this video – particularly his call to engage in the ‘Battle of Ideas’ in open discussions, and of course his call of ‘Let’s get back to the constitution and the Bill of Rights!‘, it is well worth remembering that what we think we are hearing, isn’t always what the speaker meant for us to be hearing, and that what was actually meant (or will inevitably follow, despite their best of intentions), will often turn out to be something that we really do not want to hear, let alone experience.

    That very situation, is, of course, what a good discussion should ideally expose and clarify for those in the conversation – but that cannot happen, if we, as we too often do, assume that their words, are said with our meaning, and so we, especially those on the Right, don’t ask, don’t check, don’t clarify, what was meant – and so we are continually blindsided when their actual meaning is put into action. Ya know, for a group that’s so fixated on the need to improve their messaging, you’d think that they’d notice that ‘Wuht?! How did this happen?!‘, isn’t a particularly attractive message to be habitually messaging from your group.

    What sort of words could I mean? Well, words, for instance, such as the ‘Civics’ that Dreyfuss said he wants to see us getting back to,

    “Civics has not been taught in the American public school system, since 1970…”

    ‘Civics’ is a word that sounds very significant. And our schools’ lack of such a class – which is intended to be ‘the training of students for democracy‘ (hmm) – sounds like a shocking situation, and a very sensible concern (although, as I, sadly, had to sit through the drudgery of Civics classes in 1972-74, in a Las Vegas public school at “Hyde Park Junior High”, his blanket statement is at least questionable). But before we on ‘The Right’ go backing up his call, we should remember that the ‘Civics Education’ which he most likely wants to see, came from a concept of civics classes, that was once among the first of those ‘bold, innovative thrusts‘ promoted by the education industry, from the opening of the 20th century, on. Such Civics classes were a particular favorite of ‘educational reformers’ such as John Dewey, who, for what he thought were very good reasons, was very big on pragmatically abandoning our past, and our traditional reverence for Truth, as well as the idea of ‘the training of students for democracy‘ (isn’t putting the ‘training’ of students in political views, into the hands of a government institution, even a trifle concerning?), so as to do ‘what works’, in order to take America ‘into the future!‘.

    Maybe it’s just me, but doesn’t it occur to anyone else, that it’s quite possible that the current situation we find our educational system, and our society, to be in, is a result of those very Civics classes, which Dreyfuss is advocating for us to engage in? Again?

    Are we really going to blindly accept, that what we assume they mean by that word, is such a good thing for us to want to ‘get back to‘ engaging in? Again? Perhaps, rather than seeking to get back to their future in civics, we should take a little time to consider what teaching Civics, as we once did, does, to a students understanding of civics, and to their understanding of individual rights, and to their understanding of the role of government within that society, that they are soon to become the future civic members and leaders, of?

    One thing that both sides should be clear on, is that what we think we hear when we hear the word ‘Civics’, is highly unlikely to be what the other side means by it, because there exists among us such vast differences of opinion on political philosophy. We don’t simply have differing perspectives on
    the same object, but starkly divergent belief systems, that have grown to be poles apart, and the result is that the meaning of a word such as ‘Civics’, to someone on ‘the Right’, has a very different meaning from the meaning which self described ‘Progressives’ typically attach to it, because what an ideal system of government is – which is what Civics Classes were designed to train students in – is precisely what the different groups differ on!

    The person on ‘The Right’ (supposedly) is looking to have governmental powers securely bound by laws which abide our Constitution, and which puts the rights of individuals, before what others might want to use the power of government to serve ‘the greater good’ with, and they expect a Civics class to be oriented around those sometimes less than obvious supports for the vital ‘self evident’ truths, that a society of liberty rests upon.

    That is not the perspective which the ‘Progressive’ idealizes. Their view, which they’ve held since their early thought leaders, such as Washington Gladden, is that America’s constitutional ideas of Liberty, are that,

    “The tradition of respect for individual liberty, was “a radical defect in the thinking of the average American.”

    , and what they thought would be a better, smarter, more modern view, would be to have the civic power under an ‘Administrative State‘ which was empowered to ‘do good!‘ as social experts thought best, even if it meant that some people’s rights were somewhat ‘the worse for wear’ because of it. In the view of those oriented around the ‘Administrative State’, the ‘greater good’ requires the authority to restrict those who have what government experts determine to be unfair advantages, or privileges, from exercising their liberty in ways which they find to be ‘in the way of progress‘, or in some wayunacceptable’, and those are the ideals that our Civics classes were oriented around, from the start.

    Not surprisingly, being a fan of such Civics classes, Mr. Dreyfuss has often expressed how he very much wants the media to be controlled by govt, that he wants govt to put a limit on their profits, and to put further limitations on what can, and cannot be said by, and in, the ‘media’, because he – self appointed expert that he is – thinks that would be best for us,

    “News divisions are obligated to cover the news, not profit from it!” and “I want a constitutional amendment that completely separates money, television, and politics”, and “We license the networks, we don’t sell them, we never sold them, they must behave as we need, not as they wish, for their own profit.”

    What Dreyfuss means, is that he wants a constitutional amendment to give power and authority, to some in government who are, perhaps elected, though probably not (the bureaucratic ‘Administrative State’ of appointed experts regulating how you should live, is an original pro-regressive ideal), who will then be empowered to put limits on our freedom of speech – call me crazy, but I’m not convinced that seeking some a sort of anti-1st Amendment, amendment, to undo our ability to speak, support speech, and associate freely, is the way to go. That legalistic muzzling, is but a ‘kinder, gentler’ Antifa, with textbooks and laws, rather than riots, and it is not a sentiment that you’ll find in a Civics class that’s oriented around the Constitution and its Bill of Rights, but it is what a Civics Class that’s oriented around an ‘Administrative State’ view, was designed to do; that is ‘the training of students for democracy’.

    An ‘Administrative State’ oriented Civics, has to blur, and bury, a knowledgeable understanding of our Constitution, because it runs counter to their day-to-day interpretation of it. Given that, the school’s Civics classes, were written to assist in making their a-constitutional views acceptable, not so much by outright contradiction, but by treating them proactively with an ‘out of sight, out of mind‘ focus, to those ‘educated’ in them. Which was the thinking behind the hugely influential report by the NEA (National Education Association), in 1918, “Cardinal principles of secondary education“, which while making much noise and fanfare over encouraging civic understanding, and understanding of the constitution, had ideas such as this, at its core:

    “…Civics should concern itself less with constitutional questions and remote governmental functions, and should direct attention to social agencies close at hand and to the informal activities of daily life that regard and seek the common good. Such agencies as child-welfare organizations and consumers’ leagues afford specific opportunities for the expression of civic qualifies by the older pupils….”

    The ‘Constitutional!’ sizzle that Civics classes are sold with, soon fizzles out, and the underlying message of the ‘Administrative State’ is what carries forward without it. Yes, a feeling of “Wow!” most definitely comes over me when I hear Pro-Regressives speak of ‘Civics education!‘, but not in a good way, because what I hear them calling for, is a desire for even more of what got us into this mess in the first place. However encouraging it may sound when people like Richard Dreyfuss say they want to engage in a ‘battleground of ideas’, I have grave doubts, stemming from of an understanding of the founding and sustained beliefs of those who’re pleased to refer to themselves as ‘Progressives’, on how willing he and they will be to objectively identify what grounds they’d permit such battles upon, or in how, or to whom, the wins and loses would be scored. Yes, we should be willing to engage with them – absolutely! – and on that basis we should welcome the “Dreyfuss Civics Initiative aims to revive the teaching of civics in American public education and to empower critical-thinking skills students need.“, and all such efforts, but only if we are extremely wary of such cases of ‘Progressives bearing gifts’, especially as their ‘gifts’ have already evidenced a history of effectively eliminating those gifts of Self Governance and Justice under law, which the Greeks have handed down to us.

    To me, that’s not Progress, but the enthusiastic pursuit of its opposite: Pro-Regress.

    What has already been historically proven, is that what all of these innovative bold new thrusts in ‘educations’ serve to accomplish, through Civics classes that ‘…concern itself less with constitutional questions…’ and more ‘…direct attention to social agencies close at hand …’, is to deaden student’s minds with disintegrated (though highly testable!) factoids, while obliterating their conceptual understanding of those principles which make an admirable and American civic life, possible – understanding the value of each person, the importance of respecting each individual’s rights, and the key role which the recognition of property rights, plays in that. That understanding, and the importance of a Rule of Law that follows from it, is what made our society, and our federal and state constitutions, possible in the first place. Lose that, and actively removing what brought it into being, causes it to be lost, and you shouldn’t be surprised that your society is liable to ‘progress’ to the point of having college students dressing up in black block hoods and goggles, throwing Molotov Cocktails at police, and who, though they may very likely test quite well in standardized Civics Tests, will happily do so, even as they justify beating and silencing those speakers they feel triggered by.

    The problem we are experiencing is not a lack of civics classes in our public schools, but the result of what decades of these type of classes, taught as a means of memorizing factoids devoid of conceptual understanding, so as to be testable in class, and utterly useless in life, which has chiefly succeeded in removing from our education, the concepts of individual awareness, responsibility and the essentials of self governance. IOW: Count me out of the call for ‘Civics’.

    A Textbook case of putting ‘out of sight, to keep ‘out of mind
    Unfortunately, modern education has been so effective, that when making that point to someone, the reply I often receive, is:

    “I don’t understand what you are talking about when you say that something has been removed from education.”

    People today, don’t even know, what they don’t know. And it is just as true of the Right, as the Left. Most any middle aged person today, should have tones of anecdotal evidence for this, because those of us who came of age in the 20th Century, were at least made aware of what we didn’t know, as key names and concepts were mentioned, though rarely delved into. But today, the concepts are rarely, if ever, even mentioned, so most people really don’t know, what they don’t ( but should) know – and with those concepts out of the way today, easy answers and propaganda, are easily slid in to take their place, perhaps by meme, and without a fight. I’ve had kids in the public schools for the last twenty years, and I’ve seen a marked decline in the content I’m talking about, even between those that graduated in 2008, and that of the one graduating this year. My own grammar, junior and high school textbooks (I graduated HS in 1978), had vastly more content and depth, than has any of my kids textbooks had, and I consider what I had, to have been pure crap. I have a number of my Grandfather’s grade and high school textbooks (published between 1899 – 1908), complete with his comments (and much highly disrespectful classroom doodles), and they are vastly superior to even the college textbooks that I, my wife, or our kids, have had the use of.

    One such small example, one of his Aurora, Illinois, public school textbooks, “Readings in English History” (1908) (this is an edition from a decade later, but much the same), which his penciled in cover notes as “2A History”, is 780 pages of mostly text, in the words of the people who made England’s history, and which contains only a few, small, illustrations, and which concludes with the section “Growth of Democracy” (a heading that, IMHO, is already corrupted), though still promoting the then very common idea, that a student could not be expected to understand the meaning of, need for, and threats to, society, individual rights and the kind of Rule of Law which can only be depended upon to rule over those in power, if their people have first grasped the need for, development of, and the inherently risky application of, those ideas. That, as an educational norm, is, in any meaningful form, gone today from our public (and most private) schools, from grammar school through college. And it is not simply due to incompetent teachers, or even teachers unions, it’s baked into the very structure and purpose of our modern public school system, from school boards, to teachers colleges, and centralized district directed class curriculums.

    I recently served with a dozen others, including parents, school superintendents, principals, teachers and curriculum writers, over the course of a year, in one of Missouri’s curriculum work groups, ours being History, that were formed as an attempt by state’s legislature, to restructure and improve our K-12 school curriculums. We managed to produce a very good, deep and broad, set of standards, which was unanimously approved of by all in our committee of wildly differing political views. Our state dept of education quickly reformatted, hacked and slashed it into something that is hardly distinguishable from that which has been in place for the last twenty years. Their reasons for doing so, which has to do with an agenda that will not tolerate even a hint of the content that I’m speaking of.

    The content which they find to be politically acceptable, may have altered and changed over the decades, but what has not, what has been the explicit intention from the start, is using the power of government to ‘mold the perfect citizen‘, and using ‘our’ schools to do it. Two centuries of self appointed reformers, beginning in earnest with the likes of Horace Mann, and James G. Carter – and many more of our Founders era than most would be comfortable in hearing – looked to Europe, and particularly to Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and later Fichte & Hegel, for ideas on how to do it.

    “The objective of educational action by government had little to do with economic or egalitarian goals; it was to shape future citizens to a common pattern. Like Jean-Jacques Rousseau and educational theorists during the French Revolution, Carter turned to the model of Sparta to illustrate what the state cold and should do. “If the spartan could mold and transform a nation to suit his taste, by means of an early education, why may not the same be done at the present day?” (Glenn, 1988, p. 75).
    A crucial step was taken by the Massachusetts legislature in 1837, when it voted to create a state board of education to collect information about schools and to provide advice on how schools could be improved.”

    NOTE: The crisis of their time was not a lack of schooling, or of poor schooling, or even of a later time’s concerns over immigration, their worry was that for America (irony alert: land of liberty) to survive, there needed to be imposed upon all, a uniform system of schooling, intent upon molding all minds, into a common ‘understanding’. Their honest, profusely stated aim, was to use government directed schools to manually form a new type of person, who’d be better suited to being an American.

    And I, we, are way behind the times in our alarm over this. Only three years after Massachusetts created their first school board as an entity with the political power to ‘oversee’ their already existing system of public education, some state representatives, such as Allen W. Dodge, saw what was happening, saw where it would lead, and attempted to put an end it. As you can see from this snippet of his reaction then, their concerns then, weren’t too far from our concerns now:

    “After all that has been said about the French and Prussian systems, they appear to your Committee to be much more admirable, as a means of political influence, and of strengthening the hands of the government, than as a mere means for the diffusion of knowledge. For the latter purpose, the system of public Common Schools, under the control of persons most interested in their flourishing condition, who pay taxes to support them, appears to your Committee much superior. The establishment of the Board of Education seems to be the commencement of a system of centralization and of monopoly of power in a few hands, contrary, in every respect, to the true spirit of our democratical institutions; and which, unless speedily checked, may lead to unlooked-for and dangerous results.”[emphasis added]

    Sadly, they failed to discontinue the imported experiment of politicizing public education, which is exponentially worse today (still, there’s no time like the present to correct an old mistake). I highly recommend reading his full report “Report on the expediency of abolishing the Board of Education and the Normal Schools“.

    With political power established, the new purposes of ‘educational systems’, began to leap from the state level, to the national level, through a number of national education reform efforts, such as The Morrill Act (1863) which established a Federal role in education, and set up the first prototype for the Dept of Education, as well as what I noted above, the NEA’s “Commission on the Reorganization of Secondary Education” (1913), which set about to dumb down, the already pro-regressively stunted, though vastly superior recommendations, of the earlier “Report of the Committee of Ten“, under the chairmanship of Harvard’s president, Charles Eliot, in 1893, which they found to be too concerned with content and ideas.

    The fact that Charles Eliot was the president of Harvard, and his panelists were experienced academics as well, held no sway over the NEA’s ‘Gang of Twenty Seven‘ political appointees and functionaries, as what they were primarily seeking, not unlike their predecessors in the early 1800’s, was the political power to mold the form of their ideal citizen, but unlike those who first sought to establish that power over the minds of the young, and they include Founding Fathers such as Dr. Rush, Noah Webster and even Samuel Adams, the new pro-regressive ideal of an ideal citizen, was not one who would be best suited to carry on their ‘Republican’ ideal of the Founder’s era, but those who would best conform to their presumed ‘democratic’ needs of ‘modern society’; an ideal ‘citizen’ that could work in factories and do ‘what was best‘, as experts such as themselves defined it. Soon after the 20th Century was underway, these new pro-regressive ‘Progressives’ now had the political power to do what their expertise determined was ‘for the greater good‘, and knowing very well what they wanted not to see in the minds of their students (such as a knowledge of Individual Rights and the important reasons for them, and other problematic ‘data’) and they went about ensuring that their curriculum would be less and less likely to be familiarize students with, and then less and less likely to inform them of them at all, until finally, we today are almost entirely unaware of such names and ideas at all, of what was once considered the ‘common American mind’, having been progressively moved from known knowns, to known unknowns, until in the future – our present – such names and ideas of Aristotle, Cicero, Sydney, Locke, are very nearly unknown, unknowns.

    But the fact remains that that sense of what made America exceptional, was once there, which is evident in this, a once common means of teaching our Constitution and its amendments (mostly without benefit of political school boards directing them), “Elementary catechism on the Constitution of the United States”, to grade school children, this version published in 1828 (and this was already an example of degrading from how the ideas those documents express, were learned prior to that time), and I daresay that the content of the catechism is something that most Law School graduates are almost entirely ignorant of today (and yes, I’ve paid very close attention to the development of, and the teaching of, The Law, over both our, England’s, and Rome’s history. I’m weird that way).

    Knowingly or not, the structure and design of our modern educational systems, centralizing and standardizing content as fed by the latest concerns of public opinion (and profit seeking interests) demanded, resulted in ridding Americans of their familiarity with and understanding of our common individual rights under the Rule of Law, their meaning and need, which are the only effective defenses against the good (or ill) intentions of those in positions of elected power, is essentially absent from our modern understanding, an absence which is often visited upon us under the cover of the name (used or not) of ‘Civics‘, and an education which results in that, is like fertilizing the populace for harvest by public demagogues. What we see happening across the nation today, from black block riots, to leftist Antifa & Alt-Right responses to them on college campuses, is that harvest of the demagogues, a harvest made easy by our having removed from our common understanding, those ideas that make America possible, and without which, we cannot be either exceptional or America.

    Back to the future
    These ‘Civics’ classes – as opposed to history taught in depth – of which Mr. Dreyfuss speaks so determinedly, were taught as ‘the way of the future!‘ over a century ago, and they are what pro-regressives then, such as John Dewey, and today, such as Richard Dreyfuss, are wanting to take us back to the future of, today. The problem with that, is, that we’ve already been to their future, our present, which most of us can clearly see, it does not work!

    As I hope you’ve guessed from the above examples from the 1840’s, 1860’s, 1893, and 1913, the ideas which our Civics classes were formed from, are not new, and are serving to combine a mixture of the bigotry of soft expectations, benevolent despotism, and the hubris of those who not only believe that ‘they know best‘, but that they should be empowered to reform the masses lives, as they deem to be best for them. Far from being modern and ‘progressive!‘, these are some of the oldest, most backwards of views, and those ‘Progressives’ who hold them, are truly advocating for our pro-regressing into a world once past, as an error unlearned from, and repeated yet again. Whether their message comes clothed in the earnest republicanism of a James G. Carter, who, idealizing the old Spartan Republic’s ability to ‘mold children into a uniform character‘ (or end their lives should they not measure up to their utilitarian standards) or that of the more modern reformers such as John Dewey, who also seek that utilitarian, pragmatic approach, they are all rapping out rhymes from history’s most foreboding hits.

    Such a rhyme as that, can be heard ringing out fairly clearly in the popular ‘progressive’ view from just a century ago, as was here explained by Woodrow Wilson, then president of Princeton, in a speech to the Federation of High School teachers:

    “We want one class of persons to have a liberal education and we want another class of persons, a very much larger class of necessity in every society, to forgo the privilege of a liberal education and fit themselves to perform specific difficult manual tasks.”

    The position of deciding who is to forgo such privileges, has always been eagerly filled by corporate busybodies, from Carnegie, to Thorndike and Rockefeller, and that of Bill Gates today, who’s spent millions of dollars to establish the data mining that standardized testing requires, and which “Common Core” usefully accompanies – why? To track your student’s progress, so that their programmed algorithms can be trusted to determine what your children will receive, or forgo, in the business friendly, skills based ‘educations’ of their planned societies. And hardly noticed by most, is that through a system founded upon usurping political power from the bottom up, their own economic power is transformed into real political power, without need or benefit of representation, or even a market – only their own ‘expert’ judgment upon us.

    How Bill Gates pulled off the swift Common Core revolution

    And what of people like Richard Dreyfuss, you can see how passionately he feels about his foundation, and about civics, it seems just as unlikely that he’d knowingly align himself with the profit seeking amusements of billionaires, and it’s just as unlikely that my school teacher cousins in northern California, are either – so why are all of them so united in promoting a form of education that has such dark implications? It can’t be because it’s so difficult to discover, the information on what they are advocating for, and the historical and measurable results of them, are freely available to him, them, and you too – yet most people are ignorant of it.

    Why? Partly, I suspect, because it is so easy and enticing to think that one’s own ‘noble’ ends, somehow justify their using government power as a means to their ends – it’s for ‘the greater good’ after all. And they are Pro-Regressive Progressives, such ends and means are what they think schools, and education, are for – to reform our people, your children, into their ideal, for us. And conveniently, as can be seen from their own statements, it is a fact that they are personally disbelieving of, and opposed to, that understanding of Individual Rights, Law, Property Rights and Justice, which our Constitution was formed from – and which it cannot long stand without the support of.

    They aren’t, on the whole, bad people, they aren’t stupid, they are simply enthusiastic supporters of easy answers from smart people, who see no need to integrate their ideas any further than their own immediate interests and passions. That IS the modern, pragmatic, sense, purpose, and design, of our ‘public educational system’, which, is now neither public, nor educational, and yet it has replaced what our once thriving system of educating ourselves, was. It was only a dozen years after Allen W. Dodge’s warning against what the centralizing of power away from the control of those it would be used upon, under the cover of education, that the passage of America’s first compulsory schooling statute, in Massachusetts in 1852 (there were earlier measures, but they didn’t make the state into the definer and provider of their education), and because it was so generally accepted that education was a broad societal good, which people could, would, long had and still did, achieve and pursue in, and out of, formal schooling, that few took note that political powers now had the power, to decide upon the daily activities and formation of the mind and sentiments, of each parents most valued treasure – their child. What greater power is there than that? What tyrant, greedy to feast on power, could seek more than that? Could mere taxation be more satisfying? I don’t think so. All else, IMHO, from then to know, all the visible falling away from the understanding and regard for our constitutional form of self-governance, has been but a more or less leisurely flexing of the powers we’ve long ago ceded to Leviathan, and without our conscious awareness of what we’ve so willingly lost.

    Note: I am not trying to say that, unreforming our system of public education, will solve all our problems, that it will somehow return us to some mythical time when attentive students were all good, peaceful, citizens. Education will not produce any perfect cure. Nothing ever will.

    But a system of education that is more concerned with providing a worthy education to its students, rather than training them to be useful as other people’s human capital, or even more usefully as cogs in political machines, will tend to result in a vastly better society, than the society that the later two lave left us with: where ‘educated’ people advocate the public to ‘punch a nazi‘, while understanding ‘nazi’ with little more depth than ‘anyone I disagree with‘ – and yes, this goes just as much for any alt-right response of ‘punch a leftist!‘, as well as any anarchic libertarian equivalent that might pop up.

    Those who are unhappy with We The People understanding that which secures us our liberty, are also going to be, as they always have, a people who’re unhappy with our having and exercising our freedom of speech. And people who disrespect the right of others to differ in opinion, are most likely to resort to that which is the only alternative to reasonable discourse: Violence – and the fervent self-justification of it.

    The desire for power, and the urge to use violence to get it, are natural human tendencies.

    One of the purposes of getting an Education, in the Western sense, is to better understand how you yourself are naturally tending towards that desire for power, and a willingness to exert force to satisfy your impulses; it is by way of an educated understanding, and habituation to true principles, that we learn how to try to rise above those tendencies. To Educate a student, is to ‘Educere est educare’, a process of bringing you up and leading you out of darkness, to liberate you, from those passions and small minded habits that are normal for human beings who’ve not learned better. That purpose and process, is what led our ‘liberal education‘ to become the most valuable jewel in the crown of Western Civilization in general, and in American culture in particular, as being the means that societies which are predicated upon the need to respect the rights of others, and to understand why, are better able to do so. It is that ‘Liberal Education’ (not to be confused with Leftist Indoctrination), which pro-regressives of the Left and Right, are most opposed to – and one of the few paths to where the future might actually be found.

    The whole modern pro-regressive view of education, with their view of taking us into “the future!“, is rooted in modernity’s formative past, especially with Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s declaration that Civilization was not a ‘Good’, but was in fact the source of all of our misery. It was Rousseau that formulated the political roots of Fascism, by declaring that those who don’t believe as ‘The Legislator’ determines to be best, can’t be free, and as they prevent society from progressing, this ‘means nothing less than that he will be forced to be free‘ for the greater good. As I summed it up a few years back, that,

    “… he’d traced the origins of injustice to the first man who fenced off property and called it his own, married a woman and started a family. Everything else in political modernity is rooted in that thought, and it is in absolute opposition to what this nation was founded upon, Property Rights and the family.”

    Robespierre brought Rousseau’s seeds to bloody flower, Babeuf economized them into Socialism, and Marx helped them go viral internationally, via Communism, and all of them find both willing and unwitting pollination through the re-forming of ‘Education’, which Rousseau made sound so sweet and alluring… which is a song that self important, comfortable, lazy busybodies have never been able to resist.

    As with Greece, then Rome, then England, and now us, the same old self important ‘debased posterity‘, bored with the ‘restrictions’ handed down from their forefathers, decides that the ‘the old ways’ no longer suit their ‘modern’ preferences and tastes (of the 4th century B.C., and the 1st, 19th & 20th centuries, A.D.), and so they stop teaching them to the generations following them, substituting their own desires and whims dressed up in intellectualized drag. Clearly they are not philosophers, they do not love wisdom, they are, at best, annoyed by it, and more likely are hostile, and even hate, wisdom – they are not philosophers, but only misosophers.

    But fortunately for us today, we aren’t limited to the choices that they’re telling us we have to choose from, because we have something which history’s doomed masses who were brought down by the ‘new ideas’ of their privileged classes, whether the Greeks, Romans, or the English, didn’t have, and that is: the Internet. Not because of its technological glitz, but because it provides the means for the first time in history, of giving access to that knowledge which those who think of themselves as being our superiors, shun themselves, and seek to withhold from us – the wealth of learning and information that is the inheritance of the West. And as the dated smallness of their notions becomes known to us, we should be asking ourselves, who in their right mind wants to give such backwards ‘educational reformers‘, the power to decide that their children must ‘forgo the privilege of a liberal education‘, in order to serve society as their human capital?

    Civilization comes down to a matter of choice between a civilization that is civilizing, or one that seeks the power to force ‘the other’ to be what it describes as ‘free’. Civilization is ultimately a choice between seeking what is true, with the liberty to act accordingly; or seeking the power to reform your fellows through force and violence. People, of course, always have, and always will, tend towards violence, but, if they are familiar with the idea of being better, and are educated on how to be Civilized in that way, then they can choose to master themselves. And a Civics without that, is an end to Civilization as we still might know it – an uncivilized civics will turn your bright future, into the darkest past. Choose differently.

  • Why is America fired up over President Trump telling Comey: “You’re fired!”

    If you’ve had it already with the ‘James Comey fired from the FBI!’ stories, I get it, but as no one seems to have any more facts than I do, I’m going to add one more comment to the mix.

    Do try to recognize, that asking and answering ‘Why did Trump fire James Comey?!‘, is, in absence of an exhaustive cross examination of Donald Trump, nothing more than an exercise in expressing your own feelings about Trump, and Comey. Period.

    The only facts that we can actually know at this time, is that shortly after the Deputy Attorney General, Rod Rosenstein, was finally confirmed by the senate, with high bi-partisan support (and which satisfied some procedural protocols for removing the agency director, from a staffing perspective), and he was asked to write a report on Comey’s status as director of the FBI, and his conclusion (which as he adamantly expressed, even reportedly threatening to resign if it was misrepresented, was not the causal reason for Comey’s firing, but simply an evaluation of the existing situation) was that Comey was compromised and ineffective, and that the FBI would be better off with a new director.

    Of course, as I posted last year, Comey, by his own testimony, had used his position as head of investigations, to make prosecutorial, and even judicial judgments, about whether charges should be brought or pursued, against Hillary, Huma Abedein, Anthony Wiener, etc. For me, that alone warranted his instant termination. My own question on why Trump fired him, is not ‘Why now?’ but ‘Why not earlier?’. However, as James Comey himself noted in his farewell letter, the president has the power and authority to fire the director of the FBI at any time, for any reason. You should note, that his removal does not halt or impede any ongoing investigations. It’s also worth noting, that his temporary replacement as Director of the FBI, Andrew McCabe, is a Clinton appointee, who has shown, especially through his wife’s campaigning for office a potential for highly partisan leftist leanings – Trump is unlikely to get much aid and comfort through his position as director, so do tailor your pet conspiracy theory appropriately.

    Why did Trump fire him? Because he felt it was time to. And in typical Trump fashion, having reached that decision, he acted swiftly, and in a dramatic fashion worthy of Reality T.V. – Comey found out that he’d been fired while standing in front of a room full of FBI agents, as they saw that the TV monitor behind him, was running the news crawl that Trump had fired him. Talk about your ratings moment!

    For those of you who are all up in arms about this, honestly, I can only laugh and shake my head. America as a whole, Left, Right, Center and Libertarian, has shown itself to be uninterested in, and unfamiliar with, the concepts of, and structures of, our constitutional republic, preferring popularity, personal interest, and ‘gotcha!’ partisan political posturing, to prudent wisdom in governing. America, sorry, but as you clearly prefer to be entertained by the likes of South Park, The Simpsons, and Reality T.V., and YOU voted on that basis, whether for Clinton, Trump or the also-ran obstructionists, for President of the United States of America.

    THIS is what that looks like! What did you expect?! Personally, I expected much worse, and so far I’ve been pleasantly surprised with what Trump has, and has not, done in office – I was imagining much worse. I dislike his lack of understanding our constitutional principles, and especially his economic views, but despite your angst and caricatures, he has a long history of capable executive, management and administrative abilities, a fond regard for Americana, as well as a flare for drama and publicity, which he’s honed through a decade or more of Reality T.V., and so far, he has used all of that to deliver above my expectations. Fingers crossed. Salt tossed over shoulder. Wood knocked.

    For those whose reactions are dramatically different from mine, they might have been summed up best by Stephen Colbert’s startlement at his audience’s failure to be up to speed with the PC Media’s latest ‘against him, for him, against him’ positions on Comey, as they cheered when he announced his firing. The thing that came to mind for me, when I heard that, was George Orwell’s ‘1984’, as the crowd is being led in 5 minutes of hate against “Eurasia”, and the speaker receives a message and stops mid word, and changes to “Eastasia”, as the hate continues on unimpeded. Unfortunately, Wiki is the best source ref that I can do at the moment, but I think it captures the Colbert moment in ‘1984’:

    “At the start, Oceania and Eastasia are allies fighting Eurasia in northern Africa and the Malabar Coast.

    That alliance ends and Oceania, allied with Eurasia, fights Eastasia, a change which occurred during Hate Week, dedicated to creating patriotic fervour for the Party’s perpetual war. The public are blind to the change; in mid-sentence an orator changes the name of the enemy from “Eurasia” to “Eastasia” without pause. When the public are enraged at noticing that the wrong flags and posters are displayed, they tear them down—thus the origin of the idiom “We’ve always been at war with Eastasia”; later the Party claims to have captured Africa.”

    Ladies and Gentlemen of America, if you disregard the concepts and principles and history that made this nation uniquely American, in favor of idle and base amusements, while giving political power over your lives, to people who have more regard for their own power, than your individual rights – what did you think would follow after that? Last year, the HBO series “Westworld” made masterful use of a Shakespearean nugget of a quote, from “Romeo & Juliet”,

    “These violent delights, have violent ends”

    When you comment, and act, not from careful consideration, but simply to give swift vent to your passionate and emotional feelings, you transform yourself into the ideal audience for taking part in ‘Hate Week’, and lacking any solid conceptual foundation, you too will hardly skip a beat in venting your emotions, as the label of your hated enemy is switched, from one set of letters, to another… and seriously, why would you think such labels would have any more value or purpose, to those you’ve put in charge of running the show, than a red cape to a bull?

    Again I’ve got to ask, America, what did you expect? SMDH.

  • Earth Day: Comply, or be put six feet under it!

    The underlying meaning of Earth Day, a day that was chosen to coincide with Vladimir Lenin’s birthday, shouldn’t be all that difficult to realize. The fact that one of its original promoters and first MC, was a fellow who later murdered his girlfriend …

  • A question for ‘REAL Conservatives’™

    I’ve got a question for my ‘REAL Conservatives’™ friends out there. While I’ve come to think of myself as more as more of a Liberal Conservative – Politically Liberal (Not Leftist, but Liberal in the classical sense of advocating for liberty), and culturally Conservative (not socially conservative, but seeking to conserve the ideals and treasures of Western Culture) – I like to think of myself as someone who has an understanding of the nature of Principles, to the point of preferring Principled thinking, over attempting to think with prefabricated store bought ‘principles’ (IOW I can get a bit obnoxious over it).

    Between Scylla and Charybdis

    I like to think of myself as someone who has an understanding of the nature of individual rights, the vital role that property plays in upholding them under a system of justice based upon the Rule of Law, which restrains and restricts the necessary power of government to defending the lives and rights of its people from all enemies, foreign and domestic. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking through how those abstract rights, follow from perceptual realities, in a conceptual chain that is perilous to abridge. And while I rarely find politicians who think as I do, I do seek out and support those who at least show a deep regard for our rights, for the rule of law, and the structure and purpose of our Constitution.

    Given that focus, I couldn’t find a way to support Donald Trump in the Primaries, because I didn’t see any evidence that he understood, or gave much thought or regard, for what I did. I couldn’t exactly support him in the general election either, although I strongly advocated for casting your vote, as I did, with his name on it, as the most effective means of defeating the greater evil facing us, from the Pro-Regressive Left.

    My question for ‘REAL Conservatives’™, is this: Why is it, that with all the ‘REAL Conservatives’™ we’ve supported and elected over the decades, why is it that this billionaire, Twitter headed, Reality T.V. star, Donald J. Trump, is the ONLY one to propose the type of budget measures he has, the ONLY one who’s moved to slay the Hydra of the Administrative State, the ONLY one who’s used his executive powers to attack it, the ONLY one whose told the hell hole of North Korea that the era of ‘strategic patience’ is at an end, and the ONLY one to begin to pull back from the Charybdis of suck that is the United Nations?

    That seems like a question that might be worth giving some thought to.

  • Would Judge Gorsuch on the Supreme Court be some of that promised ‘Winning’? Maybe so!

    Well. I’m late to the SCOTUS party and just getting started on looking into Judge Neil Gorsuch’s legal opinions, but… suffice to say that for the moment, it’s looking good. While skimming various bios of him last night, my attention was caught by this bit from the Atlantic,

    “…The most remarkable thing about the book is its measuredness. Gorsuch is a Jesuit-educated Episcopalian, but he does not rely on theology to make his argument. In fact, he takes pains to ground his work in “secular moral theory,” laying out a careful case based on the writings of thinkers from Aquinas and Epicurus to contemporary scholars Peter Singer and Ronald Dworkin. His work reads more like a philosophy paper than a legal brief, which is appropriate given his background: He holds a doctorate in philosophy from Oxford.

    Gorsuch reveals a few interesting lines of thinking in his book. First, it’s clear that he’s deeply interested in fundamental moral principles. The common wisdom around his nomination is that he’s an originalist, reading laws and the Constitution based on their authors’ intended meaning. During his nomination announcement, he emphasized this principle: “I respect … the fact that in our legal order it is for Congress and not the courts to write new laws,” Gorsuch said. “It is the role of judges to apply, not alter, the work of the people’s representatives.”…”[emphasis mine]

    This was especially timely, in that I was just grousing to folks, about how, with the rare exception of someone like Justice Clarence Thomas, few in our courts have much, if any, regard for the concepts of Natural Law that our Constitution was drawn out of in our Founder’s Era. Instead, we’ve had to settle for, at best, the more primitive modernist ‘Originalists‘ and ‘Textualists‘ – and now here this fellow Gorsuch is sounding as if I may have to, well, not quite ‘eat my words’, but I may possibly have to nibble on them a bit. Around the edges.

    And frankly, that’s the kind of crow I’d gleefully chow down on all day long – fingers crossed!

    Then this evening, in the first opinion I selected, his concurring opinion (starting on about pg 15) in Gutierrez-Brizuela v. Lynch, 834 F.3d 1142 (10th Cir. 2016), which focuses upon how Administrative Agencies have been allowed to overstep their power (to say the least (which the ‘Chevron‘ case is referring to), the concurring portion starts with a Bang! and keeps getting better, and better.

    “There’s an elephant in the room with us today. We have studiously attempted to work our way around it and even left it unremarked. But the fact is Chevron and Brand X permit executive bureaucracies to swallow huge amounts of core judicial and legislative power and concentrate federal power in a way that seems more than a little difficult to square with the Constitution of the framers’ design. Maybe the time has come to face the behemoth…”

    , and they just keep coming,

    “…Even more importantly, the founders considered the separation of powers a vital guard against governmental encroachment on the people’s liberties, including all those later enumerated in the Bill of Rights. What would happen, for example, if the political majorities who run the legislative and executive branches could decide cases and controversies over past facts? They might be tempted to bend existing laws, to reinterpret and apply them retroactively in novel ways and without advance notice. Effectively leaving parties who cannot alter their past conduct to the mercy of majoritarian politics and risking the possibility that unpopular groups might be singled out for this sort of mistreatment — and raising — along the way, too, grave due process (fair notice) and equal protection problems. Conversely, what would happen if politically unresponsive and lifetenured judges were permitted to decide policy questions for the future or try to execute those policies? The very idea of self-government would soon be at risk of withering to the point of pointlessness. It was to avoid dangers like these, dangers the founders had studied and seen realized in their own time, that they pursued the separation of powers. A government of diffused powers, they knew, is a government less capable of invading the liberties of the people. …”

    , and,

    “…But however that may be, none of it rescues us from our riddle. For whatever the agency may be doing under Chevron, the problem remains that courts are not fulfilling their duty to interpret the law and declare invalid agency actions inconsistent with those interpretations in the cases and controversies that come before them. A duty expressly assigned to them by the APA and one often likely compelled by the Constitution itself. That’s a problem for the judiciary. And it is a problem for the people whose liberties may now be impaired not by an independent decisionmaker seeking to declare the law’s meaning as fairly as possible — the decisionmaker promised to them by law — but by an avowedly politicized administrative agent seeking to pursue whatever policy whim may rule the day. Those problems remain uncured by this line of reply”

    , and,

    “…Even supposing, too, that we could overlook this problem — even supposing we somehow had something resembling an authentic congressional delegation of legislative authority — you still might wonder: can Congress really delegate its legislative authority — its power to write new rules of general applicability — to executive agencies? The Supreme Court has long recognized that under the Constitution “congress cannot delegate legislative power to the president” and that this “principle [is] universally recognized as vital to the integrity and maintenance of the system of government ordained by the constitution.” Marshall Field & Co. v. Clark, 143 U.S. 649, 692 (1892). Yet on this account of Chevron we’re examining, its whole point and purpose seems to be exactly that — to delegate legislative power to the executive branch…”

    , and,

    “…Even under the most relaxed or functionalist view of our separated powers some concern has to arise, too, when so much power is concentrated in the hands of a single branch of government. See The Federalist No. 47 (James Madison) (“The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands . . . may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.”). After all, Chevron invests the power to decide the meaning of the law, and to do so with legislative policy goals in mind, in the very entity charged with enforcing the law. Under its terms, an administrative agency may set and revise policy (legislative), override adverse judicial determinations (judicial), and exercise enforcement discretion (executive). Add to this the fact that today many administrative agencies “wield[] vast power” and are overseen by political appointees (but often receive little effective oversight from the chief executive to whom they nominally report), and you have a pretty potent mix… “

    My initial reaction to all of this?

    I’m feeling like I’m in judicial heaven, or at least the Court Candy Store… but… that’s a first impression. And yes, I’ve heard some folks complaining that he didn’t come out with a full throated defense of the 2nd Amdt in another case – worrisome, but it’s a bit difficult to see how that gibes with the ideas put out in this case – if he is stays consistent with the ideas dealt with here, having this judge on the Supreme Court, would be a big step back onto the road to restoring the Rule of Law.

    Still though, I’ve got quite a bit more reading to do before I really buy into it – good or bad.

    But so far? This is the kind of ‘Winning!‘ that I could get used to.

  • The Donald becomes The President

    Ok, so, a few quick comments about Trump’s inaugural speech. It was simple, direct, unpretentious, even pithy in its restatement of those themes he campaigned upon, which, given his reputation, is all the more striking, as he apparently waved off the s…

  • Red, White and Inaugural Blues – a Rant

    On Friday, the 20th of January, 2017, the 45th President of the United States of America, Donald J. Trump, a man I did not support in the recent election (though I opposed his final opponent, with him), will be sworn into office, and with that oath of office, he will become my, and every other American’s, President.

    ‘On each national day of inauguration since 1789,
    the people have renewed their sense of dedication to the United States.’

    We’re told on the eve of his inauguration that somewhere in the area of 70 Democrat members of Congress are declaring that they will not be attending the inauguration, as a means of protesting the man who will occupy the office of the President of the United States.

    These are elected representatives of the government of the United States of America. They were, and are, elected to represent their constituents in the upholding and crafting of the laws of the land, under that very government, whose laws, and governance of them, impacts every one of our individual rights and lives.

    To explicitly attempt to delegitimize the peaceful and complete transfer of power, to the person duly elected by We The People, in accordance with our laws, to the office of the President of the United States of America, for partisan political purposes (whether from the Left or the NeverTrump’r Right), is, at best, extreme political negligence, and it is undermining to not only the peaceful transfer of political power, but to the preservation of every value which these ‘lawmakers’ supposedly believe in, and were elected to represent.

    That, in my book, is despicable, it is disgusting, and they, and those who blithely see that as somehow being worthy behavior, should be ashamed of themselves.

    Yet people are converging upon Washington D.C. to protest, they are churning out gimmick after gimmick to shout down those they differ with, even as being ‘nazis!’, they come to ‘protest’ … what? Whatever distractions they might flood social media with, what they are actually protesting, is the Democracy!‘, the democratic election of their fellow Americans in accordance with the laws of the land, in a peaceful political contest which is understood upon entering into, that one side is guaranteed to lose, and so by their own actions they show themselves to be immature, dishonest and uncivilized wretches, who are made all the more repulsive by attempting to drape themselves in the spirit of ‘Democracy!‘, while deliberately undermining the democratic process.

    Who needs Russians when you have Pro-Regressive Leftists!

    lawful, peaceful, election of the 45th President of the United States of America. They are protesting in the name of ‘

    Who needs Russians, when you’ve got Pro-Regressive Leftists?! They lost the electoral argument, and yet they feel entitled to protest, deride, and even to refuse to abide by the decision of their fellow Americans, with these cheap, juvenile, theatrics. Some of them, friends of mine and even relatives of mine, I’m ashamed to say, have even characterized these protests and pledges of ‘not my President!‘ as, and I quote: Beautiful.

    There is nothing beautiful in people treating the solemn and peaceful transfer of  political power, as if it were some sort of cheap piece of roadside performance art.

    A Presidential Inauguration is the ritualized transfer of the reigns of power – that pure, dangerous, deadly, political power to penalize, punish, put to death and mandate actions and make war – this immense power is not being wrested away by violent slaughter, but is simply, boringly, being signed over across a sea of vastly differing and turbulent political viewpoints, peacefully, according to law, in a ceremony that has been solemnized by 228 years of tradition, under our Constitution which has been proven more successful and enduring than any other system in all of human history.

    These protesters see nothing remarkable in that. They see nothing disturbing or dangerous in delegitimizing that. They see nothing admirable in this incredible and historic track record which we in America have, of binding down the powers of violence and ambition, by nothing more than the cords of law. They seem unaware that our laws don’t gain the strength to do that by the paper they are printed upon, but by being written upon the hearts of We The People of this nation, as they were for We The Peoples and any who show the ‘wrong’ beliefs and allegiances.

    Fascists projecting fascism

    at least least two centuries. What these ‘beautiful protests’ ominously trumpet to the world now, is that that writing is fading from the hearts and minds of We The People; a people who are foolish enough to think that those laws can be made to fade away, and yet somehow imagine that those ever lurking beasts of ambition and brutality which they’ve made to stir with temptations of escape, will simply remain docile, tame, and quiet as they are unleashed, rather than break free and do violence to

    Good Lord People, our Government, IS US – it isn’t in our buildings, or in our courts, in our military or even in our written laws, but is in our understanding and respect for them. Our Government lays in our self-government, our willing agreement to set aside the resort to use of force, or the encouragement of it, for peaceful and reasonable dispute and agreement and our willingness to abide by reasonable judgments, even and especially when we ‘lose’ the dispute. If we lose that IN US, then it all falls apart, and cannot do otherwise.

    For those hysterical supporters of ‘Democracy!‘ who are out to overturn or undermine the results of a democratic election, and the Rule of Law, in order to force the rest of us to comply with their desires, you should keep in mind, that for all of your claims of caring about this or that disadvantaged minority such and such – if our respect for our laws, and our expectations of being able to rely upon those law to subdue the violent passions of ourselves and our fellows – if We The People are made to feel that a just government can no longer be counted upon to provide justice and order, then it’s not the powerful who are going to suffer – no, that only happens under a system of laws – it is the weak, the weird, and the non-conformist, who will be made to feel the brunt of the powers unleashed by your discarded and forgotten respect for individual rights under the Rule of Law.

    No one who is weak or in need of assistance, will survive that – and especially not any snowflakes.

    Think.

    /rant

  • The Powerful threat from within Representative Government

    Ok, sure, it might be a total Captain Obvious move to point out that the term ‘Representative Government‘, is one that contains two very different words, but what’s less obvious, is the fact that before you can understand why the first of those two word’s meaning is so important, it’s necessary to have a fair understanding of what the second word of the term means, and just how dangerous it is to the meaning and purpose of its first word. As noted in my previous post, the trite heads or tails dilemmas that most of our attempts at discussing such matters are so easily diverted into (‘A Democracy! No, a Republic!‘, ‘Electoral College vs. Popular Vote‘, or ‘He Is/Isn’t my President!‘), do nothing to deepen our understanding of either term, and serve mostly to divert our attention away from the questions we’re supposedly considering. But not even the questions can be compacted into the space of calling heads or tails, and the more you puff up one preferred answer over the other, the further away we are all drawn from a useful discussion of them.

    So, with that in mind, it’s worth reminding ourselves of the basics of what it is that government is, how it derives its power, and how and why it is so important to limit its ability to use that power. As the old saying says,

    ‘Government, like fire, is a troublesome servant and a terrible master’.

    You want to use the Power… don’t you…?

    We don’t need to try and attribute that phrase to one or more Founding Fathers, as it often has been, in order to make the truth of it more important and relevant, especially when we’re so often tempted to turn to govt to impose our very best intentions upon the rest of us. The greatest dangers to our liberty, come from our best intentions to improve upon it. It is precisely when we’re caught up in such
    enthusiasms for ‘doing good!’ unto others, that we’re most in need of being tempered by an understanding from history – that is what it is was that made our form of government possible, it is what made, and makes, it exceptional, and without which, neither it, nor we, can be exceptional – at least not in a good way.

    So what is Government? Stripped of the finery and fanfare:

    Government is the means of harnessing the collective power of a community towards… ends. 

    What those ends are, who determines them and authorizes the pursuit of them, and most importantly, what it, and they, will not be allowed to do, depends upon how well your society delimits the powers of those holding the reigns of power. Where Government gains its power ‘to do’ what it will, is by enforcing claims, in whole or in part, upon the possessions, time and lives of its people, and if there are no limits to its claims or ends, then it will turn the collective power of your society, towards accomplishing whatever those in government (or those with their ear) desire to do, and with all of their very best intentions urging them on to do whatever ‘it’ might be.

    Despite the aspirations of our Declaration of Independence, government does not need your consent – it can gain legitimacy from that, sure – but that’s a later development, a ‘nice to have’ (in the eyes of those in positions of power within it), which is in no way necessary for it to wield its power over you.

    At this point it might be useful to take note of a rather shocking point, especially shocking for those of us, like myself, who look to government as the means of establishing justice and defending our rights, and that point is this: those are not the most basic requirement that a society demands from their government! And with a very grudging nod towards Hobbes, what people do demand, first and foremost, is: Order. As Hobbes put it,

    “…For before constitution of Soveraign Power (as hath already been shewn) all men had right to all things; which necessarily causeth Warre: and therefore this Proprietie, being necessary to Peace, and depending on Soveraign Power, is the Act of that Power, in order to the publique peace….”

    I disagree with him, that that provides either a definition or justification for government, but it is, and should be, a frightening and sobering realization that that is the tipping point of political gravity that is always tugging at our perceptions, eagerly awaiting for us to forget our balance and fall back down to its baseline. That point is extremely dangerous to ignore, or to evade the realization that the government that does not effectively provide that fundamental service, will not stand for long; as a society sufficiently shaken up, will sink to any level, in order to enforce that basic compliance upon its own people, if they think it’ll mean escaping from chaos – real or perceived (and if you think that doesn’t apply to modern man, it’s you who are being primitive in your thinking). That ground floor of order forms what I’ve called the ‘Societal Baseline’, and is what I was pointing out in an earlier post that looked into the Yanomamö Indians in the Amazon, it is what makes the brutality of a tribal thug, preferable to having no order at all, and it is that point which all real progress, is measured through the horizontal (legislative, via Govt) and vertical (ethical, through the people) distance a society manages to put between itself and that baseline.

    The first step of real progress, up and away from that baseline, comes when a society’s begins forming rules for its governance, rather than following exclusively upon the wishes of its rulers, and in making them known for all to see and understand, they give a sign that they are developing what can loosely be called ‘laws’. As societies’ begin doing so, they begin forming political structures that move beyond the moment to moment exercise of brute force, by brutes, and take on the various forms of all of the familiar ___cracys’ and ___archy’s (you remember, democracy, oligarchy, etc), which takes them further up the winding path of Chieftains, Tyrants & Kings, until they finally arrive at the Prime Ministers and Presidents that typically head up what we like to think of as legitimate, Representative Governments.

    If you examine the laws of a society as they progress along that path – if they manage to continue along it – there’s an essential characteristic that you’ll see becoming more and more pronounced, which is what makes it possible for their laws to be able to be regarded as capital ‘L’ “Laws” with a straight face, rather than just an assortment of rules written down by thugs, and it’s a development of an idea that I went into some depth upon in previous posts (two in particular, pt 2:Why a Govt of Laws, and not of men? & pt 3:Who Benefits from transforming Rules into Laws), which, sparing you a few thousand of those post’s words, can be summed up in what’s best captured in two translations of one potent phrase from Aristotle’s Politics,

    ‘The law is reason unaffected by desire’,

    and

    ‘The Law is reason free from passion.’

    The more that a people’s laws adhere to and exhibit that sensibility, the more legitimate they and their Laws, are likely to become – it is the means of putting the point upon the arrow of political progress; pointing their society in the right direction, onwards, upwards, and away from that societal baseline of barbaric order. And while it may seem a bit counter-intuitive, that characteristic, in the raw, is also what is being crudely expressed in that primal desire for the societal baseline of Order; seeking relief from the chaos brought on by violent passions and desires that’ve run rampant. Surprisingly, at least a little bit, it is in seeking that order that they also find that the seeking itself, demands an exercise of methodical reasoning in order to bring even that baseline condition about, and continuing with that, developing and reflecting upon that, refining that, that is the natural means of eventually implementing Laws that one day will tower above the mere scribblings of one or another tyrant’s demands of the moment.

    Following closely on Aristotle’s essential ideal, are two from the Roman jurist, Cicero, with his,

    “No one can be judge in his own cause; Hear the other side”

    , and,

    “True law is right reason in agreement with nature”

    These are also logical developments of Aristotle’s advice to separate your passions and desires from your attempts to realize justice; in pursuing that it soon follows that a fair and impartial hearing should be given to both sides of an issue, it is a result of seriously taking that advice to heart, and as a result, your laws, and the application of them, become more reasonable, and those applying and enduring them also begin seeking conclusions derived from factual evidence, rather than reacting to impassioned desires.

    These are not inventions of The West, they are discoveries about what is common to all of mankind, but they were first fully realized in The West. Following these dictums, and ridding the writing and administering of a society’s laws of personal passions and biased desires, is, in the real sense of making progress away from the baseline, Progressive, and it will be accompanied by a visible increase in the methodical, reasonable nature, of their laws. On the other hand, shedding that quality, seeking to appeal to the passions and desires of the many, is Regressive, and deliberately seeking to do so, while justifying those actions and stirring up the passions of the people in order to satisfy the ambitions of their rulers (whether they be one, or the many), is what I refer to as being Pro-Regressive. If you want to know whether your society’s laws are truly Progressive, or Pro-Regressive, look at how those who propose them, urge you to embrace them.

    The direction that our laws move in can be objectively measured as progress over what came before, moving from chaos, to order, to recorded and predictable rules, to rules which make sense together and integrate with each other, developing a progressively less contradictory nature – reasonable, understandable, and flexible enough to be applied in a variety of circumstances, yet rigid enough to be familiar to, and understood by ‘the common man’; that is the path of progress. As these advanced ideas, and the attitudes which accompany them become the norm, such laws as that people govern themselves through, begin to lose their erratic nature, as both the people and their laws become more ordered, more reasonable, more respectful of their fellows lives.

    The Best of Times, and the Worst of Times
    But as wonderful and profound as such progress is, a society has to be on their guard against their own hubris, for while they may have become convinced of the soundness of their good intentions, the nature of government has not changed – not one bit – and the raw force and power which it is, will seep through such blind spots, like groundwater through an old foundation, progressively saturating and weakening it. Government is power, it is force, it can fine, punish, stifle, intimidate, imprison and persecute, it can kill and it can destroy, it is like fire, a troublesome servant and a terrible master, and if you dare presume that you can fully domesticate such primal forces through law, that you can safely use that primal power best suited to preventing or punishing actions, to initiate and do good unto others for what you consider to be for their own good, then you fail the test of Tolkien’s Ring of Power, and turn towards darkness with all of the urgency and false light of your very best of intentions.

    It is at this point, that the question arises as to who it is that will, and should, write a society’s laws. How are they to be chosen? The means of binding both laws and its officers, from engaging in erratic or passionate actions, is best made by means of those laws themselves being ordered by objectively higher laws (see Cicero’s “True law is right reason in agreement with nature”), so that society becomes compatible with what all can see as being true and right.

     But how will they be written, and how will those charged with writing and attending to them, be chosen? This is where ‘The consent of the governed‘ begins to come into play, but how so? Is their consent to be gathered and given in any way shape, manner or form? Are there good and bad ways to gain that consent? Is it possible to curry that consent in such a way as to subvert the consent of the governed, for the benefit of those who would govern them?

    There’s more to the matter than simply encouraging individual choices and preferences; giving political power to the administration of our laws, if those laws are to be Laws, rather than rules in drag, they must be written and applied in a manner as free from personal passions and desires as is possible. Simply having all of the people of that society participating in that process, appealing to them to ‘express their choice!‘, means putting people into power over the laws, by means of inciting passionate desires for wide approval and calls for collective action, which means turning against the very thing that the Laws, and the administration of them, are designed to bar from issues of Law!

    And yet, the consent of the governed is vital to a ‘Representative Government’ – that’s the puzzle at the heart of the first of our terms, ‘Representative’.

    What the ‘Representative’ portion of ‘Representative Government’ must never forget, is that the 2nd word in its term is representative of a fearsome and dangerous power, one that feeds upon your own confidence in your own ability to master it, and especially through your belief that you can ‘do good‘ by imposing your own best judgment upon the choices that other people are trying to make for their own lives. The 1st word in that term must keep in mind, that it can, at best, tame the beast inherent in the 2nd word, but only as a trainer tames a tiger, and that if you turn your back upon it, thinking that your laws alone will keep it in its place (as if they somehow had the power of judgment outside of your own ability to govern yourself), then you can rest assured that your own government will use them as the means of devouring you, from the inside out.

    Despite all of the fear mongering, the real threats to a ‘Representative Government’ rarely come in the form of thuggery and violence from external ‘others!‘, instead they come upon a society from within themselves, through there own good intentions (and thinly disguised desires), by the means of which Frédéric Bastiat’s understood all too well:

    “Government is the great fiction through which everybody endeavors to live at the expense of everybody else.”

    As a people begin to give in to that con, then soon enough they will discover how the expectations of achieving unworthy ends, through high minded laws, is a most perilous matter. If We The People fail to require that our Representatives be, and be selected by means as free of passionate desires as the laws they are to be in charge of, then the troublesome servant will have become the master of them, once again. Unless they and their laws are bound down by recognizably external, and constitutional fixtures, their representatives will become every bit as representative of the most tyrannical of individual tyrants – and especially as they do so in the name of “We The People!“.

    Progress is made when the people support taking substantial steps towards turning their power towards the service of judgment, rather than passionate desires. The Representative portion of our term ‘Representative Government’, is the means open to us for doing that, at least in part, it is the means of seeking and using good judgment, cool, reasonable deliberation and disinterested action, in service to those interests. But before getting into the best means found for electing the Executive of such a system of laws – the Electoral College – we need to dig a bit more into what we mean by the ‘Representative’ portion, of Representative Government – next post.

  • What gifts has Christmas brought you?

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