Tuesday, July 31, 2007

No Free Exercise of Religion

The modern concept of "separation of church and state" is a myth, and it should be obvious to any informed and thinking person that it's a myth. If you're not informed, think about a recent example from the Acton Institute blog: a high school valedictorian has his speech censored because of its religious content.

Nothing new here, really.

Religious content was banned from school graduations by the U.S. Supreme Court back in 1992, when "School principals in the public school system of the city of Providence, Rhode Island, invite[d] members of the clergy to offer invocation and benediction prayers as part of the formal graduation ceremonies for middle schools and for high schools."

What's wrong with prayer at a graduation ceremony? Nothing. Let's review.

The First Amendment:
Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

By "Congress" the Framers certainly included the Executive and Judicial Branches. (Actually, it never occurred to the Framers that the Judicial Branch would make laws -- that power was given only to Congress. But if the First Amendment prohibits Congress from making certain laws, it certainly was intended to prohibit those branches which have no legitimate law-making powers at all from making a law.)

What is a law "respecting an establishment of religion?" A federal law establishing the Anglican Church as the official state church of the United States would be such a law. A federal law requiring the establishment of the Anglican Church as the official state church of Pennsylvania -- when Pennsylvania had already made the Quaker religion the official state church -- would also be such a prohibited law. An attempt by the federal government to prohibit Pennsylvania from making the Quaker religion the official state church of Pennsylvania would be a violation of the First Amendment's "establishment clause."

The states demanded the Bill of Rights as an amendment to the federal Constitution because they wanted assurances that the new federal government wouldn't be messing around with the way the states dealt with religious matters in their own state.

The Framers of the Constitution felt no need to include in the original document a provision expressly upholding a general theory of freedom of speech, undoubtedly holding to the belief that the government they envisioned, limited to the enumerated powers, could not constitutionally enact a law in derogation of the principle of free speech. Popular pressure, however, demanded a more articulate expression of the guarantees of individual rights from governmental interference.
Nowak, Rotunda, and Young, Constitutional Law, 833, (1986). See also Pfeffer, Church State and Freedom, 126 (1967) ("The 'public clamor' for a bill of rights was so great that Madison and the other proponents of the Constitution could persuade several states to ratify only after promising to work for the addition of a bill of rights."), and J. Rutledge, dissenting in Everson v. Board of Education of Ewing Tp., 330 U.S. 1 at 39, 67 S.Ct. 504 at 522-23 ("[Madison] pledged that he would work for a Bill of Rights, including a specific guarantee of religious freedom, and Virginia, with other states, ratified the Constitution on this assurance [note omitted].").

The federal Constitution simply would not have been ratified if the states knew that the newly-created federal government would have the power to ban prayer from high school graduation ceremonies throughout the various states.

This is a no-brainer.

In 2000, the federal court went beyond the case of school officials planning a prayer ("establishment"). The Court went after "free exercise." Voluntary prayer before a high school football game by a student chosen by other students in a school election was banned. The Court upheld the ruling of the Court of Appeals which said, "Regardless of whether the prayers are selected by vote or spontaneously initiated at these frequently-recurring, informal, school-sponsored events, school officials are present and have the authority to stop the prayers."

In other words, if the government school officials ask a clergyman to say a bland non-denominational vaguely theistic prayer at graduation, that's an "establishment of religion." But if a students seeks to exercise her First Amendment right to free speech and the free exercise of religion and the government school officials permit it, then they have created "an establishment of religion."

The new rule appears to be: If a school official sees that the free exercise of religion is about to take place and does not actively intervene to stop it, the school is guilty of "establishing a religion."

None of this nonsense would have been tolerated by Americans in 1776. If Parliament or King George III had passed similar edicts, the American Revolution would have resulted even if there had been negligible taxation with perfect representation.

Monday, July 30, 2007

More on Poverty

A follow-up on my previous post (I'm catching up on my reading at the Acton Institute): Presidential candidate John "$400 haircut" Edwards is preaching envy and resentment to any who will listen in the poorest parts of America. But according to the AP, even the Appalachians are skeptical of Edwards' poverty tour.

We have long thought of the Appalachians as a place of hard-core poverty. But
much has improved here. Four-lane highways have opened communities to retailers and chain restaurants and, thus, more jobs. Regional hospitals have put health care within reach. Community colleges have expanded into the mountains, making higher education affordable.
mobile homes built shortly after [Robert] Kennedy's [1968] visit are now rusting and inadequate. People in remote hollows still await water lines. Many feel chained to coal mining - a fluctuating industry that's left many jobless due to mechanization.
What is the cure for this kind of poverty?
What is the cure for people who are living in the same mobile home they lived in in 1968?
What is the cure for people who choose to live in remote hollows with no piped-in water?
What is the cure for people who "feel chained" to coal mining?

Is the answer atheistic socialism (by which I mean, the U.S. federal government as it is today)? A heavy tax on the wealthy, buttressed by threats of imprisonment with sociopaths, with dollars absorbed by bureaucrats and pennies for the poor?
Is the answer Soviet socialism (the kind that allegedly collapsed 30 years ago) or a violent socialist revolution?
Is the answer a ban on machines? Think of the countless unemployed that could be given jobs with shovels!

All of America was at the same economic level as the worst of the Appalachians in 1776. But America became wealthy.

The difference between America in 1776 and Appalachia in 1968 was moral and spiritual.

That means the problem is largely one of perspective. After all, some wealthy people dream of having the time to get away from "the rat-race" and spend a week hunting, fishing, and drinking well water in a remote mountain hollow.

What socialists and "liberal do-gooders" won't face is that it is capitalism that makes such vacations possible for ever-larger numbers of people, and poverty can't be permanently cured without cultivating a desire for wealth, which Americans had in 1776, an expression of what some call "the Protestant work ethic."

Can Charity Solve Poverty?

My mother grew up in poverty. My definition of "poverty" is no electricity.

But my mother did not grow up in poverty. She never thought of herself as "poor." Millions of other Americans similarly situated in that day did not think of themselves as "poor."

I would not want to live as the richest man in America did in 1776. No electricity, no anesthesia, primitive health care, horse manure instead of smog, soot-filled houses -- yet no one in such conditions thought of himself as being "poor."

Did "charity" help move America from 18th-century poverty to 21st-century wealth? Will "charity" help the developing nations? Does "charity" help "the poor" in America?

Who does "charity" really help? Can charity solve poverty?

Personal charity can help Job, the Biblical Patriarch who lost everything through no fault of his own, and will recover when his time of testing is over. Charity can help the truly (but only temporarily) needy person. But let's redefine "poverty" as a social phenomenon and "charity" as a social institution, whether a government program or the Salvation Army.

During my decade at the Catholic Worker, I was involved in "charity," serving tens of thousands of meals to thousands of people the government would say were below the "poverty level," giving extended hospitality to hundreds more in my home. While talking with one of my favorite brain-stormers the other day, the subject of "success stories" came up. Many social service organizations like to keep a catalog of "success stories" -- people we've helped that have gone on to "success." Donors often look for "success stories": formerly homeless people who are now "self-sufficient," and whose children will not need "welfare."

They are few and far between.

Most of the true success stories are those who volunteered to help. They experienced the greatest transformation. (And even then, most of the transformation took place before they spent a single minute volunteering at our House of Hospitality. A person has already been transformed who feels empowered to leave the comfortable suburbs to spend a day with street people in the inner city.)

Most of the verses in the Bible that speak of poverty or the poor address those who are not poor or seek to avoid poverty. There is seldom a case in which the action prescribed will permanently eliminate poverty or even has that as a goal. The goal is transformation of the giver.

In the book of Proverbs, poverty is held out as a curse upon the lazy. The goal is transformation of the lazy into workers.

The permanent end of poverty comes with two things.
First, we must have "a firm reliance on the Protection of Divine Providence," to use the words of the Declaration of Independence. Deuteronomy 15:4-5 says there will be no poverty if we obey "the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God" because God materially blesses obedience.

Second, we have to repudiate the idea of "self-sufficiency" -- ironically the goal of most charitable institutions. The richest people in the world are those who have become dependent on the greatest number of people, and tangibly express their gratitude to them. The man who is very wealthy because he owns the largest pencil factory in the world could not make a pencil by himself if his life depended on it. The "division of labor" is the source of the world's wealth, humanly speaking. You specialize in one area of production, and depend on a million other specialists for the fruits of their labor. Wealth comes from cooperation between millions of people who are not "rugged individualists." Specialization depends on private property, and effective cooperation depends on freely fluctuating prices and a dependable medium of exchange (money).

In short, capitalism solves poverty.

But Capitalism depends on moral virtues which are the heart of cooperation. This is why Capitalism also ends war.

In my experience, most of the poor are "rugged individualists." They are not capitalists (in the sense above: systematic cooperation and dependence). They will not submit to parents, employers, or the Market. They are at war with others. They want to be served, rather than serve. They resist the character traits that undergird social cooperation.

The government says there are over 30 million people in America who are "poor." Of that number, 76% have air conditioning, nearly 75% have a car, 97%have a color television (over half own two or more color televisions) 78% have a VCR or DVD player; 62% have cable or satellite TV reception, 73% own microwave ovens, more than half have a stereo, and a third have an automatic dishwasher. They are "wealthy" by American standards of a couple of generations ago.

Of the true have-nots -- those occupying the smaller percentages, the flip-side of the numbers above -- some are truly destitute, having lost their possessions and now on the street. Others have calculated that the energy and discipline required to obtain those things does not outweigh the freedom of "camping out" on the streets and enjoying the fruits of misguided people seeking to "help the poor," including free food from soup kitchens and the occasional government check for the drug dealers.

It is far better to be "truly destitute" in a developed capitalist nation than in an undeveloped pagan nation.

My parents never thought of themselves as "in need of welfare." Those who are poor but not in their own eyes don't demand charity as an "entitlement." They will have children who are "success stories." If you give them practical pointers on how to follow the path America followed from poverty to wealth, they will be grateful. Invite them over for dinner, and you'll enjoy the conversation.

My conservative friends have criticized me for feeding homeless people who refuse to work. They quote the Bible: "If any will not work, neither should he eat." But this is not a command to me, but a command to many of those I served who sought a free meal in order to avoid work. I have the right to invite non-violent but lazy homeless goof-offs over for dinner in preference to wealthy workaholic CEOs who ignore their families in the pursuit of superfluous wealth.

Poverty as a social condition cannot be solved by charity. It will not be solved by socialism, which is coerced charity. Like everything else, it's a moral problem.

Most so-called "capitalists" do not believe in capitalism as I've defined it. They are in fact socialists, crying out for more government handouts, and relying on government coercion rather than persuasion and tangible expressions of gratitude for the cooperation of others. You will seldom see forthright defenses of capitalism as a solution to poverty in such publications as Business Week because so-called capitalists see pure capitalism as a threat to their government assistance. College campuses promote Che Guevara more than they do Ludwig von Mises, even though capitalism has benefited more poor people than any socialist revolution.

Charity does not produce wealth. Wealth is produced by work, in a spirit of service, which is cooperation and gratitude.

Questions, comments, complaints, insults, and threats from my friends in social service organizations are always appreciated.

Colossians 3:13-15
Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man hath a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also [do] ye.
And above all these things [put on] charity, which is the bond of perfectness.
And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Letters of Marque and Reprisal

Ron Paul has re-introduced legislation he has introduced before:

H.R. 3216: To authorize the President to issue letters of marque and reprisal with respect to certain acts of air piracy upon the United States on September 11, 2001, and other similar acts of war planned for the future.

This is an attempt to deal with terrorism without expanding the powers of the already-bloated federal government and the military-industrial complex. It is an essentially private solution to terrorism.

This is significant for those who seek to shrink the power of The State.

And, of course, it is not even on the radar of the mainstream media or most Americans. It is a forgotten part of the Constitution. Article 1, Sec. 8, clause 11 gives Congress this power:
To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;
Although we have a "War on Terrorism," no war has been declared. No neo-conservative has suggested granting "Letters of Marque and Reprisal." Only libertarians are thinking the way America's Founding Fathers thought and the way the Constitution prescribes.

Here are some resources to gain further understanding of this concept:

A Sad State of Affairs, by Rep. Ron Paul, MD

Introduction to Letters of Marque and Reprisal

Discussion in Early American sources of Article 1, Section 8, Clause 11

More from The Founders' Constitution, UChicago.edu

Resources on Letters of Marque and Reprisal at Mises.org

Resources on Letters of Marque and Reprisal at LewRockwell.com

All the fuctions of the government can be discharged with greater efficiency by "the Free Market" -- even "national defense."

National Defense


"National Security"

Friday, July 27, 2007

"The Lust of the Eyes"

Chris Hedges has written an article that's like a punch in the gut. It reminds me of a great book written in the early 1970's by Robert Nisbet, Twilight of Authority. Also a more recent article by Will Grigg, "Disposable Children," which I can no longer find on "TheNewAmerican" website (which, in disgust, I'm not even linking to). (Here it is at "The Free Library.") I have posted the substance of Grigg's article (and this blog post) here.

Initially I didn't think I agreed with Hedges' exegesis of 1 John 2:16, and I doubt he intends it as serious Biblical study, but after reading Ezekiel 23:16 (read the whole chapter), I'm more inclined to accept it.

Perhaps this post should have been entitled "Two Kinds of Armies."

In my post on George Washington, we find help in understanding the character of the Continental Army. On May 2, 1778, when the Continental Army was beginning to emerge from its infamous winter at Valley Forge, Commander-in-Chief George Washington commended his troops for their courage and patriotism and then reminded them:

While we are zealously performing the duties of good citizens and soldiers, we certainly ought not to be inattentive to the higher duties of religion. To the distinguished character of Patriot, it should be our highest glory to add the more distinguished character of Christian.

This was typical of General Washington. The first order he issued after he took command, July 4, 1775, read:

The General most earnestly requires and expects a due observance of those articles of war established for the government of the army, which forbid profane cursing, swearing, and drunkenness. And in like manner he requires a expects of all officers and soldiers, not engaged in actual duty, a punctual attendance on Divine Service, to implore the blessing of Heaven upon the means used for our safety and defense.

The next year, his General Orders read:

The honorable Continental Congress having been pleased to allow a chaplain to each regiment, ... the colonels or commanding officers of each regiment are directed to procure chaplains accordingly, persons of good characters and exemplary lives, [and] to see that all inferior officers and soldiers pay them a suitable respect and attend carefully upon religious exercises. The blessing and protection of Heaven are at all times necessary, but especially so in times of public distress and danger. The General hopes and trusts, that every officer and man, will endeavour so to live, and act, as becomes a Christian Soldier defending the dearest Rights and Liberties of his country.

People who oppose my pacifism are usually living in this past. They think I'm against these virtues, and that I advocate the kind of lawlessness seen among anti-war protesters in the 1960's. I champion Washington's understanding that religion and Christian morality is the foundation of American government. But the past is not the present. The War for Independence bears little resemblance to the War in Iraq.

In November of 2005, 24 men women and children in the Iraqi city of Haditha were killed. Marines initially reported that the civilians were killed when a roadside bomb was detonated, killing one U.S. Marine. That report is now known to have been a lie and a cover-up.

The June 12, 2006 issue of Newsweek Magazine described the Marines who massacred civilians in Haditha:

The Marines know how to get psyched up for a big fight. In November 2004, before the Battle of Fallujah, the Third Battalion, First Marines, better known as the “3/1” or “Thundering Third,” held a chariot race. Horses had been confiscated from suspected insurgents, and charioteers were urged to go all-out. The men of Kilo Company—honored to be first into the city on the day of the battle—wore togas and … helmets, and hoisted a shield emblazoned with a large K. As speakers blasted a heavy-metal song, “Cum On Feel the Noize,” the warriors of Kilo Company carried a homemade mace, and a ball-and-chain studded with M-16 bullets. A company captain intoned a line from a scene in the movie “Gladiator,” in which the Romans prepare to slaughter the barbarians: “What you do here echoes in eternity.”

Fallujah was a vicious battle. But the Marines were prepared. The men of the Thundering Third had been given liberal rules of engagement to make sure people who looked like civilians didn’t trigger hidden roadside bombs. “If you see someone with a cell phone,” said one of the commanders, half-jokingly, “put a bullet in their f---ing head.” During the battle, a TV camera crew photographed a Marine shooting a wounded, unarmed man. The Marine was later exonerated.

In the fall of 2005, this Kilo Company arrived in Haditha.

William Norman Grigg describes the U.S. invasion from an Iraqi (and perhaps George Washington's) perspective:

When people find themselves on the receiving end of an unwarranted foreign attack, they will get angry and fight back against the invaders in any way they can – and they are entitled to. Were our nation invaded by a foreign power possessing an overwhelming military advantage, Americans would set roadside bombs, seek refuge in civilian dwellings, and kill the enemy without remorse. It wouldn’t matter to us one bit if the invaders justified the invasion in humanitarian terms, or invoked their “superior” political and cultural insights. We would fight as hard as we could, for as long as it takes, to expel the foreign invaders from our home soil.

Imagine a roadside bomb goes off in Haditha. Out of a sense of frustration, the Iraqis in the vicinity –– who may have had absolutely nothing to do with manufacturing or detonating the device ––cheer the explosion and taunt the invading Marines. Out of a greater sense of frustration, the Marines respond to the jeering by breaking into the homes and executing 24 men, women, and children.
This may have been what happened in the massacre in Haditha. On December 21, 2006, eight Marines from 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines were charged in connection with the incident.

Will Grigg helps us compare today’s secular army with that of General Washington’s when America was still a Christian nation. The following is from his article “Disposable Children,” The New American, May 2, 2005.

Writing a little more than a decade ago in Parameters, the journal of the U.S. Army War College, Major Ralph Peters warned of the emergence of a global “warrior class” of “erratic primitives of shifting allegiances, habituated to violence, with no stake in civil order.”

Peters distinguished between “warriors” and “soldiers.” The former are savage, self-serving hedonists; the latter are disciplined, self-sacrificing individuals motivated by a love of a particular community. The American ideal is embodied by those who stand “between their loved homes and the war’s desolation,” eagerly returning to civilian life when the crisis has passed. For the “warrior class,” by way of contrast, “the end of fighting means the end of good times.”

“The primary function of any civilization is to restrain human excess,” observed Peters. However, “as society’s preparatory structures such as schools, formal worship systems, communities, and families are disrupted, young males who might otherwise have led productive lives are drawn into the warrior milieu.” Decades of totalitarian rule left critical social structures in ruins throughout the Balkans, Africa, and the former Soviet Union, thereby producing millions of adolescent males eager to join the warrior class.

In future military conflicts, Peters predicted, the warrior class “will not be impressed by tepid shows of force with restricted rules of engagement. Are we able to engage in and sustain the level of sheer violence it can take to eradicate this kind of threat?” Citing the 1993 debacle in Somalia––our first collision with the “warrior class” –– Peters said the answer, at the time, was “No.” Ten years after Peters published those words, war correspondent Evan Wright published Generation Kill, recording what the author observed during the invasion of Iraq while embedded with the second platoon of Bravo Company of the Marine Corps’ First Reconnaissance Battalion. Wright offers finely etched portraits of individual Marines, for whom he displays abundant respect and genuine affection. He also offers telling, and probably unintentional, insights regarding the progress made by America’s welfare/warfare state toward cultivating our own “warrior class.”

“They are kids raised on hip-hop, Marilyn Manson and Jerry Springer,” notes Wright of the fighting men he came to know. Many of them consider an unprintable 12-letter word describing Oedipal intimacy to be “a term of endearment.” For some, murdered rap star Tupac Shakur “is an American patriot whose writings are better known than the speeches of Abraham Lincoln.”

“These young men represent what is more or less America’s first generation of disposable children,” he continues. “More than half of the guys in the platoon come from broken homes and were raised by absentee, single, working parents. Many are on more intimate terms with video games, reality TV shows and Internet porn than they are with their own parents.” They went to war “predisposed toward the idea that the Big Lie is as central to American governance as taxation…. Even though their Commander in Chief tells them they are fighting today in Iraq to protect American freedom, few would be shaken to discover they might actually be leading a grab for oil. In a way, they almost expect to be lied to.” “We’re like America’s little pit bull,” one Marine wryly told Wright. “They beat it, starve it, mistreat it, and once in a while they let it out to attack somebody.”

It might be said that these fighting men represent a significant military innovation. “In World War II, when Marines hit the beaches, a surprisingly high percentage of them didn’t fire their weapons, even when faced with direct enemy contact,” one lieutenant told Wright. “Not these guys. Did you see what they did to that town? They f---ing destroyed it. These guys have no problem with killing.”

The question is: what are they killing for? Deprived of permanent attachments and fully aware of the cynical dishonesty behind the decision to invade Iraq, many of these young men are not acting out of idealistic motives, apart from the commendable desire to protect each other (a trait shared with soldiers from every country in every war). While not yet representative of the current military, they may herald the emergence of an American “warrior class” of the type Ralph Peters described.

It’s significant that current military recruitment shortfalls reflect growing opposition from parents of potential enlistees. As USA Today reported on April 5, 2005, the Pentagon has devised a multi-million dollar PR campaign intended to overcome parental resistance. Pending a return to conscription –– a possibility being openly discussed in both the press and policy-making circles –– recruiters will continue to depend heavily on young people from broken homes.

Sociologist Alan Carlson observes that wars “swell the size and power of the state; and as the state grows, the family declines.” Since 1917, he notes, U.S. involvement in foreign wars has been “used to re-engineer our society to serve a total state, which in turn engages in a perpetual social and moral revolution.” What modern warfare requires –– a reliable supply of “disposable children” –– the degenerate welfare state provides.

[end Grigg excerpt]

Hedges' article suggests that the best we can hope for is that Iraq veterans come back psychologically devastated. The worse alternative is that they return to our society looking for "some more action." This was Nisbet's concern.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Vengeance vs. Self-Defense

I take "self-defense" to mean protecting oneself from attack.

What should I do if my defensive measures do not prevent an attack?

The usual answer, and the answer that guides U.S. foreign policy, is vengeance.

Obviously the federal government failed to defend us from an attack on 9/11, whether as the result of an intentional conspiracy ("inside job") or simple human failure.

I don't mean to downplay in any way the loss suffered by the families of those who were killed on 9/11. But U.S. policy can be analyzed by asking this question: If a member of my immediate family were one of the 3,000 killed on 9/11, which of the following would I choose:

(1) A tax will be imposed on all Americans who were not victims of 9/11, and all the revenue generated by that tax (approximately $500 billion) will be divided up and distributed to relatives of victims of the 9/11 attacks ($50 million per person for each of 3 people related to each victim).

(2) Given that fifteen of the 9/11 attackers were from Saudi Arabia, two from the United Arab Emirates, one from Egypt, and one from Lebanon, the $500 billion in tax revenue will not be given to families of victims, but will be used to kill 68,000 civilians in Iraq.

(3) No tax on Americans will be imposed, but the U.S. will freeze and nationalize $500 billion in Arab, Lebanese and Egyptian assets in the U.S. in proportion to national representation among the hijackers, and the money will be (a) divided up among 9/11 victims, or (b) used to destroy hospitals, roads, and power plants in Iraq.

(4) A tax will be imposed on all Americans, and an equal value of American labor will be diverted away from economic productivity into long lines at senseless security checks at airports in which Arab, Lebanese and Egyptian passengers will not be "profiled." The 4th Amendment will also be suspended, and vast amounts of civil liberties will be curtailed because "the attackers hate us for our liberties."

If I suffered an attack in which the attackers allegedly died, why would I demand that more suffering be inflicted on the living?

Sheldon Richman criticizes Randy Barnett's "libertarian" defense of the Iraq war. Barnett says:
[L]ibertarian first principles of individual rights and the rule of law tell us little about what constitutes appropriate and effective self-defense after an attack.
Am I the only one who thinks "self-defense after an attack" is a self-contradiction? Isn't this just vengeance? Richman doesn't ask that question, but makes this equally good rejoinder to Barnett:

But they sure as heck tell us what constitutes inappropriate "self-defense" after an attack. Such as: don't commit mass murder, don't destroy a people's infrastructure so they will die of starvation and disease, and don't violate the rights of the people allegedly being defended.

The principles also provide guidance in how to avoid attacks and the need for self-defense in the first place. Such as: Don't prop up and arm dictators, don't overthrow elected regimes, don't aid those who oppress others, don't go out of your way to acquire enemies, etc. etc. etc.

There are about 200 million Americans who call themselves Christians, and yet America -- supposedly a "democracy" in which the will of the majority governs -- is an unChristlike imperialist nation dominated by vengeance, killing tens of thousands of innocent people around the world at a cost of hundreds of billions of dollars, and violating the most obvious principles of sensible Christian foreign policy. How can this be?

Friday, July 20, 2007

Hindu Prayers in the Senate

Last week the "separation of church and state" was in the news when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, invited a Hindu chaplain to open the Senate in "prayer." The Hindu chaplain was interrupted by three Christians who denounced the event as idolatrous, and are interviewed here.

This was the first time in Senate history that a Hindu prayer began the Senate's workday. It was not a result of a massive groundswell of grassroots lobbying by millions of Hindus across America. It was partisan theatre by Democrats designed to attack the idea -- perceived to be a Republican one -- that America is a Christian nation. "We appreciate your courage," chaplain Rajan Zed told Reid in the Senator's office. "You stood up to them." The Senate prayers have now become a way for one party to "stand up" to the other.

Is America a Christian nation? Would there be Hindu chaplains in the Senate in a Christian nation? (Would there be a Senate in a Christian nation?)

Another way to ask these questions is, "Does the Constitution require Hindu prayers in the Senate against the wishes of Christians?" Further, "Does the Constitution prohibit Christian prayers in the Senate?"

One way to answer these questions is to ask, "What did the Framers of the Constitution intend?" That's a question I would ask, but most "constitutional scholars" denounce that question, claiming that ours is a "living constitution."

I agree with James Madison, "the father of the Constitution," that coercive extortion of taxes to pay for a Congressional chaplain is wrong. But then, I believe the coercive extortion of taxes to pay for anything is unChristian. Even if the Chaplain were a volunteer, or were funded by private donations, we would still have a constitutional issue: can the government endorse Christianity by permitting Christian prayers in the Senate? This "endorsement test" is the current trend among Supreme Court Justices. It is the right question, even though the Court answers it the wrong way.

How should we answer it? How would the Founding Fathers answer it?

The Court has ruled that a copy of the Ten Commandments cannot be posted in a public school classroom, even if the poster was paid for with private funds. Not a single person who signed the Constitution would agree with that decision. The Constitution would not have been ratified if the states had been told that the new federal government would have the power to remove the Ten Commandments from local schools. If Britain had attempted to impose recent Supreme Court decisions on the colonies, the American Revolution would have ensued even if there had been no taxation and perfect representation.

The Founding Fathers generally believed that the government should endorse Christianity. I believe that every individual and every institution has a duty to promote Christianity. I believe the Mafia has a duty to endorse Christianity. I believe the government has a duty to endorse Christianity. But that leads to the question of "ends and means." Are the tactics and strategies of the Mafia a legitimate way to promote Christianity? Are the tactics and strategies of "the government" a legitimate means to promote Christianity? The Founding Fathers believed Christianity should be promoted, not Hinduism, but there was a difference of opinion as to means. Only a pure libertarianism can correctly sort out these issues and safely sail between Scylla and Charybdis.

If the Framers of the Constitution could travel through time, they would gain a measure of "epistemological self-consciousness." That is, they would understand the implications of the Christian position with greater clarity, as well as the implications of other religions. They could see America and thus understand the implications of Christianity, they could see India, and understand what Hinduism produces, and they could see the gulags of the Soviet Union and understand what the religion of Secular Humanism leads to.

And as a result, their endorsement of Christianity would be even stronger than it was when the Constitution was ratified.

At about the time the American War for Independence was being fought against Britain, mercantilist Britain was nationalizing the British East India Company's power in India. A movement began among the British to destroy the religion of Kali, the Hindu goddess of chaos and annihilation. Followers of Kali believed in systematic robbery and murder. Britain also minimized the baneful effects of the caste system, and such practices as suttee (the burning of a widow on her husband's funeral pyre).

There is debate over what empire does to a culture. Some have cited examples of cultural progress under colonialism, such as the less-developed more-pagan British colonies experienced, and the contrast is also drawn when a colony loses all economic and cultural progress made under colonialism and descends into tyranny (think "Mugabe"). After defeating George Foreman for the heavyweight title in Zaire, Muhammad Ali returned to the United States where he was asked by a reporter, “Champ, what did you think of Africa?” Ali replied, “Thank God my grand-daddy got on that boat!”

Both the Founders and the U.S. Supreme Court in the first 100 years under the Constitution understood "freedom of religion" in a Christian context. Followers of Kali thuggism, Joseph Smith polygamy, or Huitzilopochtli human sacrifice, were all denied their "religious freedom" because, the Court said, this is a "Christian nation."

The Founders were evangelistic. They disagreed over which version of Christianity should triumph, but they all wanted to see their own version prevail. Even Jefferson was an optimistic postmillennialist:

Once primitive Christianity was fully restored . . . Christianity would escape all danger of being eclipsed or superseded. "I confidently expect," Jefferson wrote in 1822, "that the present generation will see Unitarianism become the general religion of the United States." And to the Harvard professor and Unitarian Benjamin Waterhouse, Jefferson that same year observed: "I trust that there is not a young man now living in the U.S. who will not die an Unitarian.
(Gaustad, Faith of Our Fathers: Religion and the New Nation, p. 105.)

"Unitarianism" in Jefferson's day was far more fundamentalist than it is today. Jerry Falwell and Thomas Jefferson were both enthusiastic promoters of public unitarianism. All Falwell wanted taught in public schools was unitarianism. That's all he asked for. All that Tom Paine wanted taught in public schools was "intelligent design."

But none of the Founders wanted Hinduism to prevail. And if Calvinists and Arminians, Trinitarians and Unitarians disagreed slightly on the end in mind, they also were not perfectly clear on the means. Neither Falwell, Paine, nor Jefferson clearly saw that government-run schools were a powerful engine of tyranny and ignorance. I would like to think that both the unitarians and Calvinists among America's Founders would both become pure libertarians if they were alive today. The ACLU and its ilk want to impose atheism on America using the coercive power of civil government.

I agree with these words from Virginia's Act for Religious Freedom:

"Whereas, Almighty God hath created the mind free; that all attempts to influence it by temporal punishment, or burthens, or by civil incapacitations, tend only to beget habits of hypocrisy and meanness, and are a departure from the plan of the Holy Author of our religion, who, being Lord both of body and mind, yet chose not to propagate it by coercions on either, as was in his Almighty power to do; that the impious presumption of legislators and rulers, civil as well as ecclesiastical, who, being themselves but fallible and uninspired men, have assumed dominion over the faith of others, setting up their own opinions and modes of thinking as the only true and infallible, and as such endeavoring to impose them on others, have established and maintained false religions over the greatest part of the world, and through all time; that to compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves, is sinful and tyrannical, and even the forcing him to support this or that teacher of his own religious persuasion, is depriving him of the comfortable liberty of giving his contributions to the particular pastor whose morals he would make his pattern, and whose powers he feels most persuasive to righteousness, and is withdrawing from the ministry those temporary rewards which, proceeding from an approbation of their personal conduct, are an additional incitement to earnest and unremitting labors, for the instruction of mankind;

The Act, written by Thomas Jefferson, was passed by The Virginia General Assembly on January 16, 1786, and January 16 is now observed as "Religious Freedom Day." This is one of the most important declarations of law in American history. It says three things that are not popular among those who insist that America must be a "secular" (atheistic) nation, or who believe in the modern myth of "separation of church and state," the myth which prohibits government from "endorsing" or "promoting" belief in the God of the Bible:

First, following the Declaration of Independence, the statute acknowledges that our rights come from "Almighty God" -- that our nation is "under God," and no "wall of separation" exists between God and government to negate our nation's duty to acknowledge and obey God.

Second, as the U.S. Supreme Court said in the days before the invention of the myth of "separation of church and state," America is a Christian nation. The Statute speaks of "the Holy Author of our religion." "Our" religion? This is an obscenity in the ears of the ACLU. What is "our" religion? Hinduism?

On July 9, during the war of 1812, when Madison was President, he issued a proclamation calling for a national day of prayer to "Almighty God"

that He would inspire all nations with a love of justice and of concord and with a reverence for the unerring precept of our holy religion to do to others as they would require that others should do to them....

The Author of "our holy religion" is the One who said to do to others as they would require that others should do to them (Luke 6:31), and it was not Mohammed or Krishna that Madison was quoting, nor were they in the mind of the Virginia General Assembly in 1786, nor "We the People" in 1789.

Finally, according to the Statute for Religious Freedom, there is such a thing as a "false religion." Today's myth is "tolerance." When someone does something that is abusive, oppressive, immoral, or unethical, too many Americans will refuse to criticize the offender: "Who am I to judge?" they say.

It is trendy in our day to speak of all religions as equally valid (except Christianity, which teaches that all other religions are false religions). There is "one mountain, but many paths up the mountain."

It should now be obvious that this thinking about religion is horribly wrong. All religions are not the same. Some are false religions. Today, most clearly, we see at least one religion -- Osama bin Laden's religion -- that is not climbing up the same mountain as the other religions. In fact, Osama's co-religionists are standing next to the mountain, strapping explosives to themselves in the hopes of blowing up the entire mountain, killing every man woman and child climbing the mountain because they are all "infidels." So much for harmony among the "different paths."

America's Founding Fathers realized that not all religions are equal, and that America must always seek to be founded on the true religion. This religion is Christianity, and as the Statute for Religious Freedom above makes clear, the true religion is a libertarian religion, eschewing the use of force and government coercion to Christianize the world.

Secularists and separationists criticize people like former Alabama Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore, whose Ten Commandments monument was confiscated by federal thugs in a most blatant violation of the First Amendment, which was demanded by the states as an assurance that federal thugs would never interfere in religious affairs among the states. Moore would probably agree with the Virginians who adopted the Statute for Religious Freedom, and who believed the following:

1. Any legislation should be voted down if the policy of the bill is adverse to the diffusion of the light of Christianity.
2. The first wish of those who enjoy this precious gift, ought to be that it may be imparted to the whole race of mankind.
The first charter of Virginia, granted by King James I. in 1606, after reciting the application of certain parties for a charter, commenced the grant in these words:

"We, greatly commending, and graciously accepting of, their Desires for the Furtherance of so noble a Work, which may, by the Providence of Almighty God, hereafter tend to the Glory of his Divine Majesty, in propagating of Christian Religion to such People, as yet live in Darkness and miserable Ignorance of the true Knowledge and Worship of God, and may in time bring the Infidels and Savages, living in those parts, to human Civility, and to a settled and quiet Government; DO, by these our Letters-Patents, graciously accept of, and agree to, their humble and well-intended Desires."

As President, Jefferson appropriated money to fund Christian missionaries to evangelize the heathen, that is, "native Americans," who lived in darkness. These were "the merciless Indian Savages" Jefferson mentioned in the Declaration of Independence, "whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions."

Roy Moore would continue analyzing Hindu prayers in the Senate by comparing

3. the number of those who have as yet received the light of Christianity with the number still remaining under the dominion of false Religions; and how small is the former! Does the policy of the prayer tend to lessen the disproportion? No; it at once discourages those who are strangers to the light of (revelation) from coming into the Region of it; and countenances, by example the nations who continue in darkness, in shutting out those who might convey it to them.

Benjamin Rush, Bible-thumping Signer of the Declaration of Independence, said he would rather have heathen but monotheistic prayers in public schools than none (and some have argued that the Hindu prayer in the Senate was vaguely monotheistic):

Such is my veneration for every religion that reveals the attributes of the Deity, or a future state of rewards and punishments, that I had rather see the opinions of Confucius or Mohammed inculcated upon our youth than see them grow up wholly devoid of a system of religious principles. But the religion I mean to recommend in this place, is that of the New Testament.

This is debatable. Some would argue that no prayer is better than an idolatrous "prayer." But an any rate, a Christian Congressman should view all bills and all public acts on the floor of Congress through the lens of "Liberty Under God." "Liberty" means the refusal to coerce or compel religious belief using government force or violence. "Under God" means a recognition that America is based on the true religion, and as a shining "City on a Hill," seeks to bring all other nations out of the darkness of false religions.

But the ACLU wants us to believe that the Constitution turned America into a secular nation, and that Roy Moore is wrong.

The most famous work of James Madison, "the father of the Constitution," is "The Memorial and Remonstrance" of 1785, written in opposition to a bill in the Virginia legislature to raise taxes. In section 12, Madison opposed the bill on the following grounds (these are Madison's words, not Roy Moore's):

12. Because, the policy of the bill is adverse to the diffusion of the light of Christianity. The first wish of those who enjoy this precious gift, ought to be that it may be imparted to the whole race of mankind. Compare the number of those who have as yet received it with the number still remaining under the dominion of false Religions; and how small is the former! Does the policy of the Bill tend to lessen the disproportion? No; it at once discourages those who are strangers to the light of (revelation) from coming into the Region of it; and countenances, by example the nations who continue in darkness, in shutting out those who might convey it to them. Instead of levelling as far as possible, every obstacle to the victorious progress of truth, the Bill with an ignoble and unchristian timidity would circumscribe it, with a wall of defence, against the encroachments of error.

All legislation should endorse and promote the true religion, and lessen the number of people trapped in the darkness of false religions.

The Hindu prayer in the Senate did not do what America's Founding Fathers would have wanted done. It moved us away from -- not closer to -- the ideals of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and America's organic

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Who is more "Radical?"

The word "Radical" comes from the Latin word for "roots." A "radical" is a person who:

  1. holds or follows strong convictions or extreme principles; extremist.
  2. advocates fundamental political, economic, and social reforms by direct and often uncompromising methods.
A "fundamentalist" wants to get back to the "fundamentals." Sounds like he's also a "radical."

What are the "roots" to which a "radical" seeks to return? The Constitution? The Articles of Confederation? British monarchy? The Lex Mercatoria? Unalienable rights in a "state of nature?"

"Radical" is also "pejorative," meaning it is usually used by one's opponent to cast aspersions on one's position.

I am proud to be a "radical," a "fundamentalist," an "extremist," and even a "bigot."

¿Who is more radical:

• A person who wants to "restore the Constitution" or
• A person who wants to abolish the Constitution altogether.


Imagine today is March 5, 1789. Yesterday the new government under the Constitution went into effect. As an anarchist, I would call for the complete abolition of this new government and repeal of the entire Constitution. Wow! Is that "radical" or what? That would entail the firing of over 900 people, and cutting several thousand dollars in government spending. ( Patrick Henry and George Mason would already be on board! )

In 2007, there are people calling for "the restoration of Constitutional government." They do not call for abolishing the Constitution; they support the Constitution and want all unconstitutional government repealed. Imagine the change! "Restoring Constitutional government" today would involve firing tens of millions of people and cutting trillions of dollars!! This would require more education, more conversions, more regenerated hearts, more transformed worldviews, and a whole lot more footwork than convincing every American in 1789 to abolish entirely the federal government as it then existed.

But these people are called "conservatives" and I am considered the "radical" because I'm an "anarchist."

Saturday, July 07, 2007

1776-Style Theocracy

On July 3, 1776, every state in America was a Christian Theocracy.

On September 21, 1776, every state in America was a Christian Theocracy, including Delaware, whose state constitution, adopted on the previous day, required in Article 22:

Every person who shall be chosen a member of either house, or appointed to any office or place of trust . . . shall . . . make and subscribe the following declaration, to wit: "I ________, do profess faith in God the Father, and in Jesus Christ His only Son, and in the Holy Ghost, one God, Blessed for evermore; and I do acknowledge the holy scripture of the Old and New Testaments to be given by divine inspiration."
The Constitution of 1787 did not change anything. The states remained Christian Theocracies, loosely united by a very libertarian and federally insignificant national government, hardly the centralized Leviathan and focal point of all political thought, as in our day. James Wilson, who later became a Justice on the U.S. Supreme Court, joined Thomas Mifflin in signing the U.S. Constitution, including Article VI, yet returned home to Pennsylvania to help draft the state constitution in 1790, which required that each member of the legislature,
before he takes his seat, shall make and subscribe the following declaration, viz, "I do believe in one God, the Creator and Governor of the universe, the rewarder of the good and the punisher of the wicked, and I do acknowledge the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament to be given by Divine Inspiration."
After George Read, Richard Bassett, and John Dickinson signed a federal Constitution which forbad any "religious test" (Article VI), they likewise returned to their home state and drafted Delaware's constitution, which, without contradicting their work in Philadelphia, retained the provision of Article 22 above.

After signing the Federal Constitution, William Blount returned to Tennessee and helped create the 1796 Tennessee Constitution, a document which makes perfect sense to a Christian Theocrat, but is internally self-contradictory by ACLU standards:
Art. VIII, Sec. II. No person who denies the being of God, or a future state of rewards and punishments, shall hold any office in the civil department of this State.
Art. XI, Sec. IV, That no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under this state.
Before the Revolution, only members of the Church of England could hold office. After the Revolution, any Christian of any denomination could hold office, without taking a "religious test."

The ACLU and the US Supreme Court do not like "Theocracy." This means they do not like America, which was a Christian Theocracy, a land of Liberty Under God. The word "Theocracy" means "ruled by God." It has nothing to do with rule by priests or rule by churches. A nation whose official motto is "In God We Trust" is, by definition, a Theocracy.

The ACLU and the US Supreme Court deny that the U.S. government has a duty to acknowledge God. They claim that the Constitution ended the Christian/Theocratic character of America by making our government "secular" (that is, a-theistic). Now, we are told, the government can neither "endorse" nor "promote" belief in God. We now have a "wall of separation" between "church" (that is, God) and government. Notre Dame Law Professor Charles Rice has pointed out that this is a "false neutrality" which would
logically prevent an assertion by any government official, whether President or school teacher, that the Declaration of Independence — the first of the Organic Laws of the United States printed at the head of the United States Code — is in fact true when it asserts that men are endowed "by their Creator" with certain unalienable rights and when it affirms "the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God," a "Supreme Judge of the world" and "Divine Providence."
According to the judicial standards now being enforced by the Supreme Court, the Declaration of Independence -- because it endorses and promotes belief in God -- is a blueprint for Theocracy.

1776-Style Radical Transformation

America's Founding Fathers were "radicals."

They proposed a radical, revolutionary change, a change as "Copernican" as that described by Benjamin Rush, Signer of the Declaration of Independence, upon hearing of Locke's rejection of the doctrine of the Divine Right of Kings:
Never before had I heard the authority of kings called in question. I had been taught to consider them nearly as essential to political order as the sun is to the order of our solar system.
The shift from "Divine Right of Kings" to "consent of the governed" was a spectacular leap, and many Americans (the "Tories") weren't ready for it.

The idea of "consent of the governed" was a political reflection of Presbyterianism. Calvinists gave us the idea of "consent of the governed" as we have argued here. The doctrine of the Divine Right of Kings held that nothing the king did could be criticized by the People even if they did not consent to the king's act. The "Consent of the Governed" was the near-opposite: Nothing the king did was legitimate unless the people consented. Instead of the people revolving around the king, the king revolved around the people.

People accuse me (an anarchist) of being a radical. But my idea (abolishing even government powers which are enumerated by the Constitution) is not that revolutionary. The transformation from "Divine Right of Kings" to the Constitution was not as great a transformation as a move from our present system of government back to the Constitution would be.

"Divine Right of Kings" sounds ominously totalitarian, but as Hans-Hermann Hoppe has shown, kings were more conservative or libertarian than we (having been brainwashed with the myth of "Democracy") might think. It's a simple fact that King George III did not exercise as great a range of political powers as our present leader, George the W.

The Constitution limits government power, but it did not alter the degree of government power all that much in practice. Taxes weren't lowered all that much. The number of government forms colonists had to sign didn't diminish all that much. Life didn't change all that much when the government was abolished and the Constitution ratified.

This is why the shift from George III to the Constitution (1761-1787) was a smaller shift than trying to go back to the Constitution from George W.

Privatizing the post office and national defense (the enumerated powers in Article I Section 8 of the Constitution) as well as all the other powers in Articles I-III would not be that drastic a change from a government that was purely Constitutional. Because the Constitution created a government of limited, enumerated powers, only a few powers were given to the federal government, and only a few powers would have to be eliminated in the eyes of an anarchist.

But today's government does not consist only of the powers enumerated in the Constitution. Today's federal government is virtually unlimited in the powers it has usurped from the states and from the People. Simply getting "back to the Constitution" is now a more radical revolutionary agenda than abolishing the Constitution would be once we get back there.

Resistance against pure libertarianism (anarcho-capitalism) is not resistance against "anarchy" -- abolishing the government of the Constitution -- it is resistance against abolishing unconstitutional government. If we could convince Americans to abolish unconstitutional government programs, it would be a piece of cake to convince them to become anarchists and abolish the entire federal government and the repeal the whole Constitution.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Shunning Government Down

If America's Founding Fathers were to travel through time to our day, there can be no doubt that they would see that everything they risked their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor for, had been undone and lost.

They would have to start over.

And they would, too, because the U.S. government is far more tyrannical than the government they worked to overthrow in 1776. The United States is an atheistic dictatorship with taxes ten times greater than those fought against in 1776, a nation where school teachers are no longer permitted to teach America's next generation that the Declaration of Independence really is true.

But America's Founding Fathers made a mistake by using armed violence to change things. Taking up arms -- muskets and cannons -- against the British Empire was as unChristian as Jewish proposals to take up arms against the Roman Empire. Jesus said No to these tactics.

But if it was right to call the British government over the colonies a tyranny, and seek to end tyranny, it is more right to call the U.S. government a tyranny, and seek to abolish it.

Here is how:

No Force, No Fraud: Shunning government down

Thursday, July 05, 2007

U.S. Ready for a Third Party?

A new Zogby.com poll reveals a majority of those polled are unhappy with the current two-party system of government. At least 67 percent said they were dissatisfied with the current system while 31 percent said they were happy with it.

A majority of Democrats and Republicans polled are unhappy with the two-party system, but not everyone wants third parties to have a greater voice. The poll shows 64 percent of liberals and 58 percent of Democrats believe more parties would improve the political system but only 38 percent of conservatives and Republicans said the same thing.

At first glance this would appear to be good news for third parties.

But the release also says "As the nation marks its 231st birthday Wednesday, most Americans believe the U.S. Constitution is still serving the nation well."

This is, as we have pointed out, a fantasy. This could well mean that those who favor third parties favor parties which are even more radical a departure from the Constitution and limited government than the two major parties.

"Nine out of 10 respondents to a recent online survey said that, despite the massive changes that have occurred in the U.S. since the ratification of the Constitution in 1788, the guiding document of the nation is still relevant to modern life in America."

The reality has been known for over half a century, when the great constitutional scholar E. S. Corwin was told that Professor Powell of Harvard carefully warns his class in Constitutional Law each year against reading the Constitution, holding that to do so would be apt to "confuse their minds." Certain it is that of the 6,000-odd words of the constitutional document, at least 39 out of every 40 are totally irrelevant to the vast majority, as well as to the most important, of the problems which the Court handles each term in the field of constitutional interpretation.

Politicians today believe the oath to "support the Constitution" is a mere "formality." The Constitutional Republic set forth in the Constitution has been gutted and replaced with what scholars call an "Administrative State," a completely different form of government. Not a single person who signed the Constitution would recognize today's government as anything approaching a faithful discharge of the oath to "support the Constitution." Those who signed the Declaration of Independence, risking their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor, would immediately see the current government as a "tyranny," and would begin their labors all over again.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

What Would the Signers Think?

Today we celebrate the Signing of the Declaration of Independence.

Suppose America's Founding Fathers came back to the present day. Do you think the Founding Fathers would generally be pleased about the way America has turned out, or would they be disappointed?

That's a poll question from CBS News, posted by The Club For Growth.

Certainly the Founders would be impressed with our technology ("invention" might be the word they would use). No chopping wood to heat the house, unimaginably good health care, the ability to travel to the capitol in minutes rather than days in our own car, and global trade that puts 10,000 hygienically-packaged items on the shelves of our store, which the working class can purchase with real wages which have grown staggeringly high since the Declaration of Independence was signed 231 years ago.

But consider two obvious facts: (1) our taxes are 10-20 times higher than theirs were; (2) George III wouldn't have dreamed of spending tax revenues on the projects George W has orchestrated.

Some polls have suggested that many Americans don't know why we celebrate the 4th of July. Many believe we commemorate the freeing of the slaves. Most just don't care: fire up the Bar-B-Que, strike up the band, light the fireworks! Who cares why we party, let's just party!

So the results of the CBS poll are actually encouraging. Americans think the Founders would be:

Pleased - 20%
Disappointed - 72%
Mixed - 3%
Unsure - 5%

I'd like to think that the 20% are thinking about our technology, not our government. I'd like to think that the 72% are thinking about our government, not our technology. I myself am confident the Founders would be appalled, outraged, or inconsolably despondent. They risked "our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor" for -- democracy? the "Administrative State?" The "Unitary Executive?" "Freedom from religion?"

I believe they risked their lives to defend "Liberty Under God." Instead we have what they would recognize (and perhaps we don't) as an atheistic tyranny.

They did risk a lot, too. Dr. Benjamin Rush wrote to John Adams, “Do you recollect the pensive and awful silence which pervaded the House when we were called up, one after another, to the table of the President of Congress to subscribe to what was believed by many at that time to be our death warrants?”

The more I read from the Founders' pens, I have to ask myself, "What am I risking?" Modern technology saves me several hours a day compared to the Founders; what do I do with my time? Watch American Idol?

The Founders' government is dead meat. Virtually no politician or bureaucrat pays any attention to the Constitution or the Declaration of Independence. There's no doubt in my mind that the Founders would be disappointed in the government. Would they also be disappointed in me?

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Stem Cells Endowed by Their Creator

As we approach the commemoration of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, let's unpack the meaning of its second paragraph:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.
Rabbi Marc Gellman, writing in Newsweek online, discusses "Good and Bad Arguments" on the embryonic stem cell issue.

He opens with this needed challenge:
The way we discuss the big moral questions has got to change. We yell too much and listen too little, and demonize those with whom we merely disagree. We need to practice critical thinking that recognizes good and bad reasons for tough ethical issues. Let's practice some forced reasonableness today on the roiling debate over embryonic stem-cell research.
After dismissing arguments which he correctly labels "unwarranted antireligious prejudice," he is left with what he calls the only good argument on the issue:
  • A human embryo is not a bearer of moral rights until much later in its development.
In other words, human beings are not "endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights" upon fertilization, but only later, at some "moral moment" when rights attach to a life. The Rabbi says that there are two lines of defense of this argument -- but they are really the same argument. First:
the essential moral moment for a human embryo is implantation into the uterine wall. The argument in support of this claim is that if nothing is done to an embryo in a dish, it will not grow to be a person, but if it is implanted, it will.
The second is really the same as the first:
neither the human embryo in a dish nor the fetus in a womb is a bearer of moral rights until birth or perhaps viability. The argument in support of this claim is that the ability to live outside a host body is an essential moral requirement to qualify for moral rights.
In 1983, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor pointed out that
As medical science becomes better able to provide for the separate existence of the fetus, the point of viability is moved further back toward conception. The Roe [v. Wade] framework, then, is clearly on a collision course with itself.
But if we define "viability" as the ability of a post-fertilized human being to survive "if nothing is done" by parents or society to keep the newly-created human being from dying of starvation or thirst, then killing 1-, 2-, or even 3-year-old infants can be justified, none of whom are "viable" "if nothing is done" to perpetuate their lives.

So when is it "OK" to kill another human being? When the killer deems the other person to be "a life not worth living?" What if a human being gives no objective indication that she wants to be killed by starvation or dehydration, and that human being's parents are willing to provide food, water, and necessary care: can the State declare such a human being to be "a life not worth living" and legally prohibit the parents from caring for their otherwise-"unviable" child?

Such a legal prohibition on care was the result in the case of Terri Schiavo, based on the desires of her killer.

Should we expand the powers of the government to take control in these decisions? Did the Signers of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution anticipate the government using legal force to prohibit parents from caring for their children, or taxing citizens to pay for the killing of lives "not worth living?"

Or was the purpose of "the government" to prevent killings in cases where a human being is unable to defend herself?

Those most likely to make the correct decision regarding the killing of "unviable" human beings are those
  • who understand with what rights the "unviable" have been "endowed by their Creator,"
  • who understand what rights "the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them,"
  • who believe they are morally obligated to appeal "to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions,"
  • and seek such answers "with a firm reliance on the Protection of Divine Providence."

This was the spirit in which the Declaration of Independence was written, and the spirit which made America the most prosperous and admired nation in history.