Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Is America Good?

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the 9-12 protesters. A couple of days ago I wrote of my possible disagreement with some of Glenn Beck's Nine Principles, the first of which is "1. America is Good."

Jacob G. Hornberger suggests A Need for Some Soul-Searching. The last few months has been for me a season of doing just that. Beck and I agree that America faces problems. It's obvious to me that the United States is not "good" today.

But when did it go bad? Bush? Clinton? Nixon? FDR? Wilson? Lincoln?

Tom Woods asks, "Who Killed the Constitution?," but his book only goes back as far as World War I.

We think of our nation as facing a "crisis" today, but it could equally be said that America in 1860 was facing a crisis. Lysander Spooner, writing after the Civil War, said the Constitution itself was the problem: It "has either authorized such a government as we have had, or has been powerless to prevent it. In either case, it is unfit to exist." As Woods writes elsewhere, "A better question, in light of all this, might involve who killed the Articles of Confederation?" Some who consider these issues still have hope for the Constitution. I do not.

What causes the soul-searching is the thought that America never "went" bad. Maybe it was bad ab initio.

One of many "marketing angles" that I have been working on -- and that has prompted the soul-searching -- has been the advertised goal of helping each of my readers become:
  • an extraordinary American
  • an extraordinary Christian
  • an extraordinary Human Being
I took this tripartite goal from Sam Adams' initial letter to the Committees of Correspondence. As a political candidate, I try to align myself with America's Founding Fathers, and compare them (and myself) favorably to today's politicians -- or rather, harshly criticize today's politicians in comparison with America's Founding Fathers. But am I really all that "pro-American?" Are America's Founders really my heroes?

I am not unaware of the Founders' shortcomings. Twenty years ago Gary North wrote about the Political Polytheism of America's Founders.

I have long been critical of the willingness of America's Founders to kill British Christians over a tax rate twenty times lower than ours today, and their unBiblical violent revolution against a government that was far more libertarian and Christian than ours is today. The verses in that link, outlining a program of submission to authority, are problematic for a protestant nation like ours.

If there had been no violent mobs in colonial America, the British government might not have clamped down; it was comparatively mild in its treatment of the colonies, compared to the Bush-Obama regime's treatment of the states today. The Founders admitted they were "alarmists." What were the roots of the colonists' willingness to resort to mob violence? Is this when America went bad? (What were the roots of the British desire to forcibly restore order?*) Would Britain have eventually acquiesced to the demands of the American colonists if those demands had been patiently submitted without violence?

In a review of Gary North's Crossed Fingers, Douglas Wilson observed,

The problems of the twentieth century began in the eighteenth century.... Whenever a crisis is manifest to the world ... the temptation for many is to look back a few years to try to find the cause of the trouble. The difficulty is that the cause of the trouble is usually centuries back. A woman who suddenly finds herself in the middle of birth pangs should not start examining what she ate the night before.

We can carry Doug Wilson's diagnosis back several centuries. Gary North speaks about The Two Wings of the Enlightenment:

The French Revolution produced Napoleon and massive French bureaucracy. It led to a series of bloody revolutions in Europe, including the Russian Revolution. It led to two world wars in the 20th century, high taxes, greater bureaucracy, and the European Union.

The American Revolution led to a conspiratorial coup in Philadelphia in 1787, which centralized the government, followed by the Civil War, the New Deal, and two world wars. After 1913, it led to massive bureaucracy and taxes at levels only marginally less than Europe's taxation: over 40% of production. It also produced an American military empire.

Both systems are financed by a monopolistic central bank, but the right-wing Enlightenment invented the original model: the Bank of England (1694).

Both systems invoked the sovereignty of autonomous man as a species. Neither turned to biblical religion as the definitive standard.

But we can go back a century before 1694 and the Bank of England. Were the colonists' forefathers, who came to the New World from the Netherlands, having fled from England and a state-church which was far more doctrinally correct than the churches we attend today, poisoned by a rebellious and unsubmissive spirit? Did they -- Pilgrims and Puritans both -- get this unsubmissive spirit from the Protestant Reformers a century earlier? The Catholic Church -- as a whole, but especially in Protestant nations -- is immeasurably more Protestant today than it was 500 years ago. Could Protestants have reformed the Church without breaking out of it? Is Christendom better off with tens of thousands of different denominations? Did the Protestant Reformation harden both sides in their worst traits -- Individualism and Collectivism? Freedom vs. Uniformity? Bottom-up vs. top-down?

I don't defend the British government in 1776, the Church of England in the 16th century, or the Catholic Church in 1517. But maybe the failure to protest oppression or injustice patiently and in a Christlike manner is the root problem in America. America is clearly a Protest-ant nation in its origin, and while it's good to try to be more consistently Biblical, perhaps there's something about Protestantism that's inconsistent and unBiblical. (*Maybe this protestant problem is paralleled by a disproportionate number of Catholics and Episcopalians in government willing to use the State to impose order by force.)

No answers here; just soul-searching.

1 comment:

Christ Alone is King said...

Thank you for soul-searching. It helps me to soul-search. :D