Conservative Colloquium

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Posts Tagged ‘government’

Priest’s Blessing or Approval Necessary to Get Married in Early Christianity (with political sidenote)

Posted by Tony Listi on January 22, 2014

Many people incorrectly believe that it was in the 16th century at the Council of Trent that the Catholic Church first began to require a priest’s or bishop’s approval to get married.

Actually, the need for a priest or bishop to bless the union of a man and woman in marriage (when one of them is Christian) goes back to the earliest centuries of Christianity.

Here are two quotes from two early Church fathers that demonstrate this historical fact:

“But it becomes both men and women who marry, to form their union with the approval of the bishop, that their marriage may be according to God, and not after their own lust. Let all things be done to the honor of God.” -St. Ignatius of Antioch (died around 98-117 AD)

“Since the contracting of marriage must be sanctified by the veiling and the blessing of the priest, how can there be any mention of a marriage, when unity of faith is wanting?” -St. Ambrose (340-397 AD)

At the Council of Trent in 1563, the Catholic Church merely reaffirmed what was taught by the earliest Christian leaders: “the approval of the bishop” and/or “the blessing of the priest” is necessary for marriage, at least for a sacramental marriage between two baptized Christians. The council did not declare anything new; it merely reaffirmed early Christian doctrine on marriage because Protestant heresiarchs were contradicting and rejecting such apostolic doctrines.

Political Sidenote:
With the cultural and political ascendancy of Christianity in the 4th century, the State began to recognize as valid civil marriages only those marriages blessed by the Catholic Church. The State did not define marriage ultimately but merely recognized in civil law the definition of marriage in ecclesial canon law.

It was only after the Protestant Revolution that the State began to arrogantly presume the authority to define marriage however it wanted (cf. Henry VIII in England). Almost 500 years later, the State now presumes to call a same-sex sexual relationship a “marriage.”

Posted in Christian Apologetics, Christianity and Politics, Church Fathers, Church History, Government and Politics, Marriage, Politics and Religion, Religion and Theology, Written by Me | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Children and Their Rights Unjustly Absent from Same-Sex “Marriage” Debate

Posted by Tony Listi on November 21, 2011

I’m getting really tired of seeing debates over same-sex “marriage” (SSM) that ignore, dismiss, or downplay children and their rights and that talk about marriage as if it were primarily an adult-centered civil institution. It is so sad that leftists, most libertarians, and many so-called “conservatives” treat children this way. The real debate over marriage as a public, civil institution should not be about adults but about children and children’s rights.

The essential public purpose of marriage is to attach mothers and fathers to their children and to each other for the sake of their children and their children’s rights. Marriage as a civil institution is about children; the law should recognize it as children-centered institution. Children and their rights are the reason why marriage is a public, civil institution (not merely a religious institution) and why it should have special legal status.

While not every marriage can or does bear fruit in the procreation of children, every child has a mother and father, and the well being of that child depends significantly upon the relationship between his or her mother and father, which marriage, as a civil and social institution, is designed to strengthen and stabilize.

The law should recognize these basic facts of biology, social science, and human nature and should protect the child’s rights by protecting marriage. Legal protection of marriage is necessary because children are unable to defend and protect their own rights, and the violation of those rights and consequent harm and damage done is extremely difficult to remedy satisfactorily after the fact.

SSM tries to change marriage from a children-centered civil institution to an adult-centered civil institution, necessarily perverting and destroying the essential public purpose of marriage and harming children, who depend upon marriage for their well being.

Many people often say that same-sex “marriage” (SSM) does “no harm to anyone.” While it might have little to no direct and immediate effect on adults and current marriages, SSM would certainlydirectly, and immediately harm future children by:

  1. Undermining, if not removing entirely, the children-centered nature of civil marriage, which children depend upon for their well being,
  2. Turn children into commodities to be manufactured and possessed that unrelated adults have a “right” to have, separating children from at least one parent as a matter of routine procedure,
  3. Empowering the state to routinely and arbitrarily assign parentage and custody of children without any regard for biology or genetics.

Marriage should not be about self-centered adults who want recognition and approval from the State for their private relationships which serve no public purpose. As a civil institution, marriage is not about the “happiness” or “rights” of adults but the happiness and rights of children. 

SSM strips away the essential public purpose of marriage (children and their rights) and leaves only the inessential private purposes of marriage. Under the new definition(s) of “marriage,” a whole host of private relationships having nothing to do with the procreation and proper raising of children could be considered a “marriage.” By the time the logic of these new definitions reaches its full implications, there will be nothing left of marriage except an absurd and dangerous government registry of roomates and friendships.

A relationship based on homosexual affection or behavior is no more deserving of legal recognition and approval than a relationship based on the activities of living together, golf, chess, dancing, or studying. Homosexual behavior, living together, golfing, playing chess, dancing, and studying are all private behaviors that serve no essential public purpose. If these individuals want to formalize their private relationship and create reciprocal rights and responsibilities amongst themselves, they are free to do that under the law using contracts. But of course, no private individual or corporation outside of that contractual relationship should be forced by government to recognize that contractual relationship and to perform some specific action because of the existence of that contractual relationship.

But marriage, a relationship based on procreating children and securing their positive rights, deserves special legal status that transcends contract law because it serves the very essential public purpose of procreating children and securing their positive rights. Marriage is more than a contract because it intends to create and care for an entirely new human being, an entirely new third party to the “contract” who has special positive rights that depend upon the marriage relationship itself to be secured.

Perhaps some people will argue that SSM and the creation and proper raising of children can go together…. But SSM inherently promotes and encourages the outrageous, immoral, and harmful notion that children are commodities or things which adults have a “right” to have, regardless of whether they are the biological parents of the children or not. On the contrary, children should be loved into existence and are persons with a positive right to a relationship with both biological parents, to know and be known by both biological parents.

Creating a child with the intention of preventing the child from having a relationship with one or both of his or her biological parents is cruel and unjust to the child. Artificial reproduction technology merely makes this injustice and cruelty more possible and likely than before. SSM thus tries to change marriage into an institution that separates children from at least one of their parents as a matter of routine procedure.

Most dangerously, SSM would lead to changes in parentage laws entailing the empowering of the State to assign the parentage of children to adults based on inherently arbitrary criteria rather than on biology. Currently, unless scientific testing shows otherwise, family law assumes that the father of a child is the husband of the mother of the child (i.e. presumption of paternity), if the mother is married. But by changing the legal definition of marriage from one man and one woman, the State is empowered to ignore human nature and biology and arbitarily assign children to the custody certain adults. Such changes create legal precedent for the State having complete and arbitrary control over children and to whom they belong. If you think this sounds far-fetched, it has already happened in Washington State.

This blog post draws heavily from the Ruth Institute’s pamphlet “77 Non-Religious Reasons to Support Man/Woman Marriage.” Click here to get your copy!

Posted in American Culture, Government and Politics, Marriage, Moral Philosophy, Political Philosophy, Science and Politics, Written by Me | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Conservatism, Libertarianism, and Children’s Positive Rights

Posted by Tony Listi on August 13, 2010

Libertarians sometimes complain that Big Government treats its citizens like children (e.g. using the adjective “paternalistic” to describe govt.). They also denounce the notion of natural positive rights, which are rights that compel others to do something, and uphold negative rights only, which compel others to refrain from doing certain things.

The irony of all this is that many libertarians don’t see that these two concepts, children and positive rights, are related. The government should not treat its adult citizens like children because adult citizens have only negative rights and no positive rights. But the inherent logic of this sort of argument seems to dictate that children have positive rights, unless one wants to erroneously assert that no one has positive rights.

Adulthood, legally defined according to age as a matter of prudence, carries with it a moral responsibility to take care of oneself rather than demand others take care of you (which is what children and statists do). Thus one major reason why the welfare state is immoral: it forces some citizens to care for other citizens as if the former were parents and the latter were children when in fact everyone is an adult. Adults are expected to be mature, self-sufficient, cooperative with others, rational, independent. Thus they have no positive rights.

Children are irrational, dependent, and helplessly weak by nature. Yet they are still innocent human beings, persons with human dignity. It is children’s irrational, dependent, and helplessly weak nature that confers upon them natural, individual, positive rights. They have a right to attention and care for their physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual well being. It is an evil and an injustice for a child to be neglected or abused.

But upon whom do children have these rights to attention and care? Not upon everyone. Not upon the State. And not upon just any random person. It is parents who are obligated to provide attention and care insofar as they are able to; it is upon them that children have positive rights. Why upon parents? Because the parents gave their children life and existence and are thus responsible for their children and their children’s rights. One would think this would be self-evident but apparently not in this decadent era and culture.

It is the concept of children’s positive rights that separates conservatives and libertarians philosophically. From this concept springs the conservative’s commitment to pro-life and pro-marriage public policy. The inherent moral differences between adulthood and childhood cannot be ignored or glossed over when it comes to political philosophy.

The purpose of government is to protect people’s rights, both natural and civil, both positive and negative, as far as it is possible for government to prudently do so. Of course, this purpose assumes an accurate determination of what rights human beings actually have and what differences among human beings really matter.

Not only does the child in the womb have negative rights against being killed, but he or she also has positive rights upon the mother, a right to her body and the sustenance it provides. (However, if the baby actually does pose a threat to the life of the mother, which is extremely rare and usually means the baby would not survive either, one may save the life of the mother by infringing on the positive rights of the child but not the negative rights. One may remove the child from the mother but not actively kill the child through violence.)

The government has a duty to protect both the positive and negative rights of the unborn son or daughter as prudently as possible. Outlawing abortion and prosecuting abortionists seems very prudent. Because the preamble to the Constitution reveals that our founding document was meant for “posterity,” i.e. the unborn, and their rights too, I believe one can make a sound originalist, constitutional argument for federal involvement in protecting the rights of the unborn. But if not, I will take the states’ rights alternative as the next best thing. Even pro-life legislation has to be constitutional to be enacted, for the rule of law according to founding principles (e.g. federalism) is more important than any individual right or single issue.

Once born, how well these positive rights of children are secured is intimately tied to the character of the relationship between mother and father. The purpose of marriage as both a civil and religious institution is to ensure that the relationship between mother and father is best suited for the procreation and raising children. As a civil institution, it has no other purpose. Children are best raised by their biological mother and father (see here also). If the relationship between mother and father is unstable and unloving, the child’s positive rights will suffer in a variety of ways.  Because homosexual relationships are absolutely sterile by nature (not by dysfunction), they do not deserve any legal recognition whatsoever. (And the legalized separation of children from their biological fathers and mothers through sperm and egg “banks” is immoral and should be outlawed. No one has a “right” to a child and such “artificial” children suffer psychologically.)

The government has a duty to protect the positive and negative rights of children as prudently as possible. American society recognizes that children have negative rights, thus the laws against physical and sexual abuse. There are very few things that government can prudently do to secure the positive rights of children without causing greater evil. However, through prudent regulation of the institution of marriage, it can promote more stable, enduring marriages, which in turn will help secure children’s positive rights. Legally defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman, repealing no-fault divorce, and treating marriage like a corporation are a few basic, prudent measures government should take to help strengthen marriages and thus better protect the positive rights of children. Because of the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the Constitution, I’m not sure how one can avoid a national marriage policy. But again, if the states’ rights alternative could work, I’ll take it as the next best thing. Even pro-marriage legislation has to be constitutional to be enacted, for the rule of law according to founding principles (e.g. federalism) is more important than any individual right or single issue.

Many libertarians like to say that “liberty is indivisible” and that conservatives are inconsistent for dividing economic and individual/social liberty. But in reality, conservatives absolutely agree that liberty is indivisible. We are not inconsistent; we just have a different view of human nature and rights. It is merely the case that many libertarians are unwilling to acknowledge the obvious and relevant differences between adults and children with regard to rights. This self-evident and empirical distinction among human beings is what libertarianism seems unable to handle morally and humanely.

Posted in Abortion, Conservatism, Government and Politics, Libertarianism, Marriage, Political Philosophy, Written by Me | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments »

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 »

The “Right to Marry Whomever” vs. The Rights of Children

Posted by Tony Listi on March 4, 2010

The whole debate over same-sex “marriage,” like most highly controversial political issues, has reached the level of imprecise, emotional sloganeering. It is hardly surprising but not conducive to good policy-making.

It is time to stop being bamboozled by the rhetoric of the homosexual agenda. Even many young people on the political right have fallen prey to it. As conservatives and libertarians, we of all people should be much more careful about “rights”-talk than the socialists and statists. For every right there must be a corresponding duty. If I have an unconditional right to health care, then the doctor has an unconditional responsibility to give it to me. So then what exactly does it mean to have a “right” to get married?

When one starts thinking precisely in this way, one realizes that it depends on what we mean by “marriage.”  By marriage, do we mean merely the social institution by which one person binds oneself to another person through certain vows? Or do we mean that exact same institution which is also publicly recognized and ratified by government? Every good debate must define its terms.

Clearly, in the first sense, everyone already has the “right to marry.” There are no laws preventing people with same-sex attraction from legally binding themselves to each other, making vows to each other, living together, having sexual relations with each other, sharing property,  expressing affection for each other, etc. etc. Nor am I advocating laws to prohibit such things. This is the emotional straw man that the left and many libertarians like to throw at conservatives.

Of course, it is certainly true that homosexual relationships are currently not recognized and ratified by the state. Rightly so, for why should they be? Why should the state be involved in such relationships? The burden of proof must always be on those who demand more government action. To address these crucial questions, it helps to ask ourselves why life-long, binding heterosexual relationships, i.e. marriages, have been recognized and ratified by the state since the beginning of the institution.

Also, following the wisdom of Aristotle, it is injustice to treat unequal things equally. For example, there is no legal equality between children and adults in America for good and obvious reasons relating to intellectual maturity. It would be injustice for children and adults to be of equal legal standing. Likewise, if we can find reasons that the state recognizes and ratifies heterosexual relationships which do not similarly apply to homosexual relationships, then we have found relevant inequality between heterosexual and homosexual relationships.

So why has the state legally recognized marriage between one man and one woman? Because it is that sexual relationship that brings children into existence, and it is that marital relationship that fundamentally affects the psychological and emotional well being of children. The state recognizes marriage because of children and children’s rights upon their parents and their parents’ relationship.

Homosexual couples are naturally infertile and scarce. So there is no equality between heterosexual and homosexual unions in this regard. They do not bring children into existence and cannot provide a mother and father to children, as heterosexual unions do. They therefore do not deserve recognition by the state. It is as simple as that.

Should the state recognize the relationship between golf partners? Dance partners? Pen pals? Would such people be “oppressed” without such recognition? Of course not! These relationships serve no public good.

Moreover, while many people want the state to recognize “gay marriage” merely for the sake of combating discrimination against homosexuals in other spheres of social life, it seems quite clear that, like affirmative action, this agenda has only increased hostility toward homosexuals. Indeed, giving homosexual relationships public recognition that they do not deserve is just like giving an unqualified minority applicant a job or higher education they do not deserve.

Ultimately, transfers of property, who can visit someone in the hospital, and other common examples are not what marriage is all about and can be remedied through other currently available legal means (e.g. power of attorney, contracts, wills, etc.). They are not essential to the issue of marriage. If currently available legal instruments need some reform to allow greater individual liberty, then we can pursue that.

With all this in mind, it should be clear by now that most same-sex “marriage” advocates are merely trying to use the government to promote and legitimize homosexual behaviors, behaviors which have no public significance or relevance.

Moreover, what is lost in all this self-righteous chest-pounding for recognition are the rights of children. They have a right to care, love, and protection from their mother and father, the two people who gave them the gift of existence, insofar as it is possible. The state has a responsibility to govern and legislate in such a way that encourages parents to fulfill their obligations, that promotes family life without oppressing it.

All people have the right to “marry” whomever (or whatever) they choose. But only heterosexual unions, these unique relationships among human beings, have a true right to the attention and recognition of the state.

Now, who wants to tell me which verses of the Bible I quoted above?… Yeah, I didn’t think so.

Posted in American Culture, Culture War, Government and Politics, Homosexuality, Marriage, Political Philosophy, Written by Me | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 36 Comments »

The “Right to Marry”

Posted by Tony Listi on April 30, 2009

It is time to stop being bamboozled by the rhetoric of the homosexual agenda. We as conservatives and libertarians of all people should be much more careful about “rights” talk than the socialists. For every right there must be a corresponding duty. If I have a right to health care, then the doctor has a responsibility to give it to me. So then what exactly does it mean to have a “right” to get married?

Please pay close attention: When one starts thinking precisely in this way, one realizes that it depends on what we mean by “marriage.” By marriage, do we mean merely the social institution by which one person binds oneself to another person through certain vows? Or do we mean that exact same institution which is also publicly recognized and ratified by government? Every good debate must define its terms.

Clearly, in the first sense, everyone already has the “right to marry.” There are no laws preventing gay people from binding themselves to each other, making vows to each other, living together, engaging in sodomy together,  expressing affection for each other, etc. etc. Nor am I advocating laws to prohibit such things. This is the emotional straw man that the left and many libertarians like to throw at conservatives.

However, it is certainly true the homosexual relationships are currently not recognized and ratified by the state. And WHY should they be? In order to answer that crucial question, we must ask ourselves why heterosexual relationships are recognized and ratified by the state.

Also, following the wisdom of Aristotle, it is injustice to treat unequal things equally. For example, there is no legal equality between children and adults in America for good and obvious reasons relating to intellectual maturity. Therefore, if we can find reasons that the state recognizes and ratifies heterosexual relationships which do not similarly apply to homosexual relationships, then we have found relevant inequality between heterosexual and homosexual relationships.

So why does the state legally recognize heterosexual relationships, i.e. marriages? Because they are the fundamental building block of society. On an existential level, new citizens and thus the perpetuation of society and the state depend upon enduring heterosexual unions. Moreover, heterosexual couples, i.e. parents, are the ones who raise and shape the character of future citizens of the state. These are the benefits that heterosexual couples provide to the state. Even the most powerful state cannot create a new human being and love him or her. Therefore, the state recognizes families, heterosexual couples, legally because of this unique role they play in any society and civilization.

Homosexual couples are necessarily infertile and scarce. There is no equality between heterosexual and homosexual unions. They provide no public benefit such as heterosexual unions do. They therefore do NOT deserve recognition by the state. It is as simple as that.

Ultimately, transfers of property, who can visit someone in the hospital, and every other example that turns into a sap story about “oppression” against homosexuals, all these things are NOT what marriage is all about and can be remedied through other current legal means (e.g. power of attorney, contracts, etc.). So please don’t bring them up. They are irrelevant.

All people have the right to “marry” whomever or whatever they choose. But only heterosexual unions, these unique relationships among human beings, have a right to the attention and recognition of the state.

Posted in American Culture, Government and Politics, Homosexuality, Intellectual History, Political Philosophy, Written by Me | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 8 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: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 21 Comments »

Leadership and the Federal Government

Posted by Tony Listi on May 16, 2008

What does leadership mean to you? What kind of leadership do you want to see in our politicians?

Here are my thoughts on leadership and its tension with centralized government:

Leadership inspires and thus motivates. Government coerces and thus causes bitterness.

Leadership is a bottom-up process. Government has become a top-down process, from Washington, D.C. down to the local city and citizen.

Leadership is personal, developmental, and relational. Government at the national level is inherently impersonal, obstructive, and distant.

Leadership teaches and mentors. Government pontificates and condemns.

Leadership is empowering others by giving them freedom to make their own successes and mistakes. Government has become a command and control system that takes freedom away from people in order to punish the successful and reward the inept.

Leadership seeks the empowerment of all. Government is cannibalistic; it “empowers” people by disempowering others.

So the next time you hear a liberal Democrat claim they can bring “change” and “leadership” to Washington, D.C., take a moment to reflect on what real leadership is and what the federal government actually does.

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Freedom Creates Diversity, Government Creates Uniformity

Posted by Tony Listi on May 16, 2008

Diversity is inextricably linked to freedom. Economic freedom naturally produces a diversity of income levels. Freedom of speech naturally produces a diversity of speech and opinions. And so on.

Uniformity is inextricably linked to coercion of some sort. Government is inherently an instrument of coercion that reduces freedom.

Therefore, because conservatism is for limited government and thus a champion of freedom, conservatism  (NOT liberalism) is the true proponent of responsible diversity!

Global economic inequality is merely economic diversity; each country practices different economic theories (capitalism, socialism, communism, etc.) and are free to do so. Seems liberals do not like economic diversity and that is why they despise economic freedom.

Capitalism, because it is inherently a system of freedom, creates a greater diversity of goods and services than any other economic system (a diversity relative to consumer demand). Because capitalism is based on voluntary exchange, it creates a just diversity.

Now conservatives are NOT devotees of every kind of diversity. Unlike liberals, we are not worshippers of the Idols of Difference and Change. Rather conservatives uphold a value system and a moral code. Therefore, a diversity of moralities is abhorrent to conservatism. Serial killing and living in peace, or homosexuality and heterosexuality, may be merely “diverse lifestyles” according to liberalism, but conservatism upholds and proclaims these differences to have absolute normative value. One is bad and one is good. Now, for the conservative, it is a matter of prudence whether certain tenets of his moral code should be imposed on society. The law is a teacher, but sometimes its good intentions can create more harm than good.

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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.

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