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Posts Tagged ‘liberty’

Abortion is in the Constitution (Indirectly)

Posted by Tony Listi on April 11, 2011

The word “abortion” does not appear in the Constitution because the technology and pharmaceuticals that we have today that can kill babies in the womb did not exist. The very notion of killing a baby in the womb also would’ve been abhorrently immoral to the Framers. This act of murder was outlawed in the American colonies and continued to be illegal in each state until 1967.

But the Constitution does mention abortion indirectly because the Framers say in the Preamble that they created the new constitution for the sake of “Posterity” too, aka the unborn and unconceived:

“We the People of the United States, in Order to…secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.” (emphasis mine)

How can the Constitution secure liberty to unborn posterity if it does not also secure their lives to them?

With all this in mind, how can the Supreme Court have found a “right” to kill the unborn in the Constitution?

Posted in Abortion, American Culture, American History, Government and Politics, The Constitution, Written by Me | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Frank Meyer, Libertarianism, and the Family

Posted by Tony Listi on July 24, 2010

 

Frank S. Meyer

Frank S. Meyer’s book In Defense of Freedom and essay “Freedom, Tradition, Conservativism,” are must-reads IMO. His critique of Russell Kirk in his essay “Collectivism Rebaptized” is also insightful and persuasive. Kirk and Meyer have been the most influential thinkers on my own political views but Meyer most of all.

In his essay “Freedom, Tradition, Conservativism,” Meyer argues his belief that conservatism and libertarianism derive from the same Western political tradition and merely represent two different but complementary emphases that have always been in tension:

I am well aware that what I have been saying can be criticized as eclecticism and attacked as an effort to smother principle. But it is not the laying aside of clear belief, either by the libertarian conservative or the traditionalist conservative, in order to present a front against contemporary collectivist Liberalism, that is here conceived. Rather it is the deepening of the beliefs which each holds through the development of their implications in a dialectic free of distorting narrowness…a dialectic in which both sides recognize not only that they have a common enemy but also that, despite all differences, they hold a common heritage….

[E]ach side emphasizes so strongly the aspect of the great tradition of the West which it sees as decisive that distortion sets in…. [T]he complementary interdependence of freedom and virtue, of the individual person and political order, is forgetten.

Moral order, tradition, liberty, and individualism need not be in conflict in a free society though a healthy tension exists among them.

Notably for contemporary disputes among conservatives and libertarians, in his book In Defense of Freedom, Meyer affirms the exceptional and necessary character of the institution of the family (emphases mine):

To this completely voluntary character of associations proper to the free nature of men, there are only two exceptions–the state and the family. Neither can be voluntary because of the human condition itself…. The family is the institution into which children are born and under which they develop as human beings. As far as they are concerned, it is not voluntary…. As far as their parents are concerned, the family is, however, entered into voluntarily; marriage is, in a free society, originally a mutual voluntary act of two individuals–voluntary, even though any marriage worthy of that exalted name is an unbreakable compact and though the family, proceeding from marriage, creates morally indissoluble bonds of parental obligation.

The family is the most important form through which virtue is inculcated in children. But it is not the institution of the family as such that inculcates virtue; it is the persons who constitute the family–father and mother and other close relatives–who in actuality decide the issue of the moral and intellectual direction that children take…. The family as an institution cannot guarantee the raising of the young in the paths of virtue, although the family is a necessary form; only individual persons, acting through the form of the family, can do so.

Frank Meyer embodies my political philosophy: an Austrian libertarian who recognizes the necessary and exceptional nature of marriage and children. Libertarians would do well to temper their ideology of liberty with the same recognition of the unique nature of the family. One cannot expect limited government and liberty in a society where the institution of the family is weak, if not completely destroyed.

Posted in Abortion, Conservatism, Government and Politics, Libertarianism, Marriage, Political Philosophy, Quotes, Written by Me | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Libertarians Wish to Legislate Morality…Just Like Everyone Else

Posted by Tony Listi on July 17, 2010

I’m getting very tired of hearing libertarians (and others) say, “You shouldn’t legislate morality!” As if their philosophy and policy proposals were morally neutral!

Ironically, most Big Government statists have a sounder grasp of the general relationship between morality and politics than libertarians. The “Don’t Legislate Morality” objection against conservatives and statists alike is mere smoke and mirrors, a rhetorical flourish with no substance whatsoever. Rights are always a matter of morality, regardless of where one’s moral assumptions come from.

Libertarians wish to codify their morality of liberty into law. The most thoughtful and principled libertarians would support liberty even if it did lead to impoverishment, inefficiency, and misery. They see liberty as a moral issue; liberty in itself is not morally neutral. Violence against the life, liberty, or property of another person without just cause (self-defense or reparation for previous injury) is not merely bad for material prosperity but bad for people; it is immoral, a violation of human rights. Moral relativism or neutrality simply doesn’t exist in conscientious libertarianism (or any other political philosophy).

And yet there are many people in this country (socialists, leftists, regressives, liberals, etc.) who disagree with this libertarian morality of non-violence. They believe that it is very moral to enact laws that plunder some people in order to give to others or that make people act in certain ways. In fact, they believe libertarianism in itself to be immoral. So libertarians need to ask themselves: “are we trying to impose our morality of non-coercion on others?” That answer has to be YES. Libertarians oppose the (im)moral assumptions behind statism and statist laws. A law has no less moral or immoral content merely because it allows people to freely act in certain ways, for the allowance of that freedom is based on moral presuppositions.

The question is not whether we should legislate morality (for that is a given) but “what is moral?” and “what can the law prudently do to enforce that morality, if anything?” And conservatives and libertarians agree more on these questions in comparison with the statists, especially when it comes to economic issues. In the realm of economics, I’m about as libertarian and Austrian as they get. Of course, when it comes to issues of abortion and marriage/family, I part ways with libertarianism– for reasons that I can explain in even libertarian/scientific terms, phraseology, and paradigms, showing how libertarianism breaks down in these cases.

So if you’re a libertarian reading this now and happen to disagree with me on these social issues, please refrain from incoherent slogans about “legislating morality.” They’re irrational and self-contradictory. Realize that you and I are both making moral claims. Then we’ll understand each other better, find more common ground, and be better able to cooperate politically.

Posted in Abortion, Government and Politics, Libertarianism, Marriage, Moral Philosophy, Political Philosophy, Written by Me | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

C. S. Lewis on Diabolical Democracy, Socialism, and Public Education

Posted by Tony Listi on December 29, 2008

Is democracy a trap?

Is democracy a trap?

The following quotes below are taken from his satirical Screwtape Proposes a Toast (1959). Screwtape, a demon, speaks at the graduation of other younger demons from Tempters’ Training College.

Hidden in the heart of this striving for Liberty there was also a deep hatred of personal freedom. That invaluable man Rousseau first revealed it. In his perfect democracy, you remember, only the state religion is permitted, slavery is restored, and the individual is told that he has really willed (though he didn’t know it) whatever the Government tells him to do. From that starting point, via Hegel (another indispensable propagandist on our side) we easily contrived both the Nazi and the Communist state….

Democracy is the word with which you must lead them by the nose…. [T]hey should never be allowed to give this word a clear and definable meaning. They won’t. It will never occur to them that democracy is properly the name of a political system, even a system of voting, and that this has only the most remote and tenuous connection with what you are trying to sell them. Nor of course must they ever be allowed to raise Aristotle’s question: whether “democratic behaviour” means the behaviour that democracies like or the behaviour that will preserve a democracy. For if they did, it could hardly fail to occur to them that these need not be the same.

You are to use the word purely as an incantation; if you like, purely for its selling power. It is a name they venerate. And of course it is connected with the political ideal that men should be equally treated. You then make a stealthy transition in their minds from this political ideal to a factual belief that all men are equal…. As a result you can use the word democracy to sanction in his thought the most degrading (and also the least enjoyable) of human feelings. You can get him to practise, not only without shame but with a positive glow of self-approval, conduct which, if undefended by the magic word, would be universally derided.

The feeling I mean is of course that which prompts a man to say I’m as good as you….

No man who says I’m as good as you believes it. He would not say it if he did. The St. Bernard never says it to the toy dog, nor the scholar to the dunce, nor the employable to the bum, nor the pretty woman to the plain. The claim to equality, outside the strictly political field, is made only by those who feel themselves to be in some way inferior. What it expresses is precisely the itching, smarting, writhing awareness of an inferiority which the patient refuses to accept.

And therefore resents. Yes, and therefore resents every kind of superiority in others; denigrates it; wishes its annihilation. Presently he suspects every mere difference of being a claim to superiority…. “They’ve no business to be different. It’s undemocratic.”

Now, this useful phenomenon is in itself by no means new. Under the name of Envy it has been known to humans for thousands of years. But hitherto they always regarded it as the most odious, and also the most comical, of vices. Those who were aware of feeling it felt it with shame; those who were not gave it no quarter in others. The delightful novelty of the present situation is that you can sanction it — make it respectable and even laudable — by the incantatory use of the word democratic.

Under the influence of this incantation those who are in any or every way inferior can labour more wholeheartedly and successfully than ever before to pull down everyone else to their own level. But that is not all. Under the same influence, those who come, or could come, nearer to a full humanity, actually draw back from fear of being undemocratic…. They might (horror of horrors!) become individuals….

Meanwhile, as a delightful by-product, the few (fewer every day) who will not be made Normal or Regular and Like Folks and Integrated increasingly become in reality the prigs and cranks which the rabble would in any case have believed them to be. For suspicion often creates what it expects…. As a result we now have an intelligentsia which, though very small, is very useful to the cause of Hell.

But that is a mere by-product. What I want to fix your attention on is the vast, overall movement towards the discrediting, and finally the elimination, of every kind of human excellence – moral, cultural, social, or intellectual. And is it not pretty to notice how “democracy” (in the incantatory sense) is now doing for us the work that was once done by the most ancient Dictatorships, and by the same methods?…

Once you have grasped the tendency, you can easily predict its future developments; especially as we ourselves will play our part in the developing. The basic principle of the new education is to be that dunces and idlers must not be made to feel inferior to intelligent and industrious pupils. That would be “undemocratic.” These differences between pupils – for they are obviously and nakedly individual differences – must be disguised. This can be done at various levels. At universities, examinations must be framed so that nearly all the students get good marks. Entrance examinations must be framed so that all, or nearly all, citizens can go to universities, whether they have any power (or wish) to profit by higher education or not. At schools, the children who are too stupid or lazy to learn languages and mathematics and elementary science can be set to doing things that children used to do in their spare time…. Whatever nonsense they are engaged in must have – I believe the English already use the phrase – “parity of esteem”…. Children who are fit to proceed to a higher class may be artificially kept back, because the others would get a trauma…by being left behind. The bright pupil thus remains democratically fettered to his own age group throughout his school career….

In a word, we may reasonably hope for the virtual abolition of education when I’m as good as you has fully had its way. All incentives to learn and all penalties for not learning will be prevented; who are they to overtop their fellows? And anyway the teachers – or should I say, nurses? – will be far too busy reassuring the dunces and patting them on the back to waste any time on real teaching. We shall no longer have to plan and toil to spread imperturbable conceit and incurable ignorance among men. The little vermin themselves will do it for us.

Of course, this would not follow unless all education became state education. But it will. That is part of the same movement. Penal taxes, designed for that purpose, are liquidating the Middle Class, the class who were prepared to save and spend and make sacrifices in order to have their children privately educated. The removal of this class, besides linking up with the abolition of education, is, fortunately, an inevitable effect of the spirit that says I’m as good as you. This was, after all, the social group which gave to the humans the overwhelming majority of their scientists, physicians, philosophers, theologians, poets, artists, composers, architects, jurists, and administrators. If ever there were a bunch of stalks that needed their tops knocked off, it was surely they. As an English politician remarked not long ago, “A democracy does not want great men.”

We, in Hell, would welcome the disappearance of democracy in the strict sense of that word, the political arrangement so called. Like all forms of government, it often works to our advantage, but on the whole less often than other forms. And what we must realize is that “democracy” in the diabolical sense (I’m as good as you, Being Like Folks, Togetherness) is the fittest instrument we could possibly have for extirpating political democracies from the face of the earth.

For “democracy” or the “democratic spirit” (diabolical sense) leads to a nation without great men, a nation mainly of subliterates, full of the cocksureness which flattery breeds on ignorance, and quick to snarl or whimper at the first sign of criticism. And that is what Hell wishes every democratic people to be. For when such a nation meets in conflict a nation where children have been made to work at school, where talent is placed in high posts, and where the ignorant mass are allowed no say at all in public affairs, only one result is possible….

It is our function to encourage the behaviour, the manners, the whole attitude of mind, which democracies naturally like and enjoy, because these are the very things which, if unchecked, will destroy democracy. You would almost wonder that even humans don’t see it themselves. Even if they don’t read Aristotle (that would be undemocratic) you would have thought the French Revolution would have taught them that the behaviour aristocrats naturally like is not the behaviour that preserves aristocracy. They might then have applied the same principle to all forms of government….

The overthrow of free peoples and the multiplication of slave states are for us a means (besides, of course, being fun); but the real end is the destruction of individuals. For only individuals can be saved or damned, can become sons of the Enemy or food for us. The ultimate value, for us, of any revolution, war, or famine lies in the individual anguish, treachery, hatred, rage, and despair which it may produce. I’m as good as you is a useful means for the destruction of democratic societies. But it has a far deeper value as an end in itself, as a state of mind which, necessarily excluding humility, charity, contentment, and all the pleasures of gratitude or admiration, turns a human being away from almost every road which might finally lead him to Heaven.

Posted in American Culture, Christianity and Politics, Culture War, Democracy, Education, Fascism, Government and Politics, Intellectual History, Liberalism, Moral Philosophy, Political Philosophy, Politics and Religion, Quotes, Socialism, Written by Me | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 20 Comments »

God, The Absolute Monarch of Ordered Liberty

Posted by Tony Listi on February 29, 2008

God is an absolute monarch, the absolute monarch of everything. Even Americans and Europeans, the most democratic of peoples, are subject to him though they may resist his commands. But he is also a benevolent and liberating monarch. Unlike human monarchs, he is a creator, the Creator of all that is good. He is an omnipotent, omniscient, and all-loving monarch, and thus his rule is never despotism or tyranny. Unlike human monarchs (and all highly centralized government), he does not lack any power, knowledge, or good-will necessary to implement his policies. In a country ruled by absolute monarchy, the monarch is the whole of political life. So it is in heaven.  

Therefore, God is not only Love, not only the Way and the Truth and the Life, but also Politics. He is Government. And yet look how much freedom he allows and gives us (free will). If only governments on earth would reflect and emulate the Government and give their subjects/citizens more freedom, the world would be a better place though still imperfect. If only governments would learn to embrace freedom (especially economic freedom) with all its imperfections, as God has embraced his free people with all their imperfections.

God is also a monarch who respects the dignity of his free subjects (because it is a dignity he himself gave them). Thus, somewhat strangely, he enters into a convenant (or contract, to use a more modern term) with them. Basically, he enters into a deal or bargain with his subjects. This begins with the Jews: “You shall be my people, and I will be your God” (Ezk 36:28). The quid pro quo of the Old Testament convenant is hard to miss. God promises blessings in return for obedience to his commands, which demand both right belief and right action/behavior. And this convenant is continued, renewed, and fulfilled (in the sense that the fact that we can never fully keep our part of the bargain has now been taken into account)  in the New Testament. Yes, Jesus slightly modified or clarified some of the Law (mainly the punishments for its violation) for the time in which people then lived and he demands a personal faith and relationship with himself. But the basic responsibilities of both parties to the convenant have not changed; we must still believe in Him and act according to His will. We are free to carry out the responsibilities and receive our reward or neglect them and face the consequences.

Thus God is not only the giver of freedom (and thus all our human rights), he is a giver of Law and Order (just look at the Old Testament). God demands and commands very specific things of us. There is a purpose behind the freedom he has given us: to always choose all the good that all comes from him and that he commands us to choose. And yet he does not and will not attempt to control us or impose his will on his creation until the End of Time, the Final Judgment; he leaves us free to choose and suffer the natural consequences our disobedience (guilt, alienation, conflict, loneliness, depression, suffering, melancholy, pain, disease, etc.). God punishes, but usually through Nature, the natural order, the overarching framework of reality, that he has already created. Thus the physical laws of nature and the moral laws of human nature punish. Reward and punishment take the form of incentives and disincentives, not coercion (sounds very economical…). 

But here we come to the interesting and complicated question: does God punish through earthly government too? Or perhaps more appropriately phrased: should government become a means or tool for the punishment of God (especially since he has revealed certain laws)? For example, should government punish murder on behalf of God’s justice? How about rape? Theft? Dishonesty? Adultery? Greed? Pride? Sloth? Impiety? I think most of us would accept some of these as the purview of government but not others even though all of them are evil sins. Why? The correct answer is the master political virtue of Prudence: to prevent greater evils that will probably occur when sinners try to govern other sinners with regard to a particular sin. However, most people would probably appeal to the vague and somehwat unhelpful notion of the “separation of church and state.”  However, as easy as it is to separate church and state, it is impossible to separate religion from politics. These people would claim that certain sins or wrong doing are in principle off limits to government punishment. They are imprecise and thus slightly inaccurate in their analysis, though they may reach the same conclusion (I have libertarians in mind). The “harm principle” is ultimately meaningless without an adequate definition of “harm.”

Perhaps it would help if we asked what God has revealed with regard to his relation to government?

Isaiah 9:6-7 “For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, On the throne of David and over his kingdom,To establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness From then on and forevermore The zeal of the LORD of hosts will accomplish this.”
God intends an “increase of His government” in the future that he himself will establish.

Psalm 86:9 “All nations whom You have made shall come and worship before You, O Lord,And they shall glorify Your name.”
All nations will submit to his governance.

Mark 12:17 “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” This must have been important because it is repeated in Mt 22:21 and Lk 20:25. Here Jesus articulates powerfully a separation between church and state in some sense. Specifically, he articulates a division between duties we owe to the state and those we owe to God. On a fundamental level, Jesus proclaims that there is a difference between the state and God! One should never confuse the two and make an idol of the state.

Rom 13:1-10 “Let every person be subordinate to the higher authorities, for there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been established by God. Therefore, whoever resists authority opposes what God has appointed, and those who oppose it will bring judgment upon themselves. For rulers are not a cause of fear to good conduct, but to evil. Do you wish to have no fear of authority? Then do what is good and you will receive approval from it, for it is a servant of God for your good. But if you do evil, be afraid, for it does not bear the sword without purpose; it is the servant of God to inflict wrath on the evildoer. Therefore, it is necessary to be subject not only because of the wrath but also because of conscience. This is why you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, devoting themselves to this very thing. Pay to all their dues, taxes to whom taxes are due, toll to whom toll is due, respect to whom respect is due, honor to whom honor is due. Owe nothing to anyone, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. The commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery; you shall not kill; you shall not steal; you shall not covet,’ and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this saying, (namely) ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no evil to the neighbor; hence, love is the fulfillment of the law.”
Government is meant to establish justice as much as is possible. At its best, it is a servant of God.

Posted in American Culture, Christianity and Politics, Economics, Government and Politics, Political Philosophy, Politics and Religion, Written by Me | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

 
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