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Sunday, July 8, 2012

What's So Bad About Profits?

Originally published at Renew America on April 13, 2012.

Much of anti-capitalistic rhetoric finds its genesis in the supposed wrongheadedness of the profit motive. The basis for this rhetoric is that all of society is endangered by the free market, which is corrupted because it places profit above all else. This line of thought — criticizing the market economy on moral grounds — according to H.B. Acton, [1] was advanced by such notable collectivists as Carlyle, Tawney, Ruskin, and Engels.

Suppose, for a moment, that it is granted that the free market is a corrupted and damnable place. Why do these critics then fear for all of society? Because they mistakenly believe the market and society to be identical to one another. But clearly they are not.

The market comprises only a part of society, and not the whole of it. Society members participate in the market with some goal in mind. These critics acknowledge that the desire for men to provide for themselves and their families is, or may be, the impetus for their market dealings, but they dismiss the possibility that these same men may intend what their market dealings yield to provide for other, disinterested concerns. The great hole in the contention that trading for a profit harms the whole of society is that profits have the potential to be put to use to promote religious, patriotic, social, charitable, and philanthropic causes and, therefore, cannot be judged as immoral in principle.

But does the free market system in fact breed corruption?

Aristotle offered one of the most significant criticisms along these lines. He posited that, in the competitive free market, the desire for the producer to satisfy the consumer's needs is supplanted by his desire to accumulate more and more money. Aristotle pointed out that, where the satisfaction of needs has a definite limit, money can be collected ad infinitum. His criticism, then, is that the tendency of producers in an economy where goods and services are sold for profit is to pursue an end which is quite insatiable.

However, if this criticism was aimed solely at free market economies, then it missed its mark because any force it has
applies not only to competitive markets but to any economy in which money is used. It is money values that can be conceived as being added to indefinitely, and these could be the gross national product of a socialist economy as well as the profits made in a competitive market economy. [2]
In any event, the leveling processes of the market ensure that the profits between, for example, any two firms A and B are confined to what the competition between them will allow. A's desire for the infinite is checked by the mere presence in the marketplace of B, which will prevent A from, say, charging whatever it would like for what it sells.

"Even more fundamental than this is the claim that... men are necessarily dominated by avarice," and so they compete with others in the market only to selfishly pursue their material goals. [3] There are two entirely separate answers to this criticism.

Firstly, there is an implication here that doing as well as possible for oneself and one's family is never good or right, and that therefore the free market system must be evil or wrong. But if this implication is true, then it must not only apply to producers and merchants, but to all self-interested market participants as well. This includes the laborer who makes an advantageous wage bargain and, of course, the ultimate consumer whose aim is to get the best deal for what it is that he buys. This criticism indicts every worker who believes their accepted wage to be beneficial and every shopper who has taken advantage of bargains or coupons. Thus, the profit motive should not be morally thought of as dissimilar to the advantages sought by all market participants — from those who wish to gain for themselves by selling to those who wish to do the same by purchasing or working for a wage.

Secondly, if men are selfish and consumed by avarice, why should society trust them in their regulation of the free market? The very thing that is present in the free market and is the cause of all its supposed failings is also present in markets that are not free: human nature. As Bastiat has offered:
[If] the natural tendencies of mankind are so bad that it is not safe to allow them liberty, how comes (sic) it to pass that the tendencies of organizers are always good? Do not the legislators and their agents form a part of the human race....? They say that society, when left to itself, rushes to inevitable destruction, because its instincts are perverse. They presume to stop it in its downward course, and to give it a better direction.... They would be our shepherds, and we are to be their flock. This arrangement presupposes in them a natural superiority, the right to which we are fully justified in calling upon them to prove.
If members of the marketplace are to entrust their social organizers, price-setters, and government planners with the authority to arbitrarily infringe upon their free and private dealings — and to redistribute their private property — then these planners, Bastiat suggested, ought to demonstrate, foremost, that they
are formed of a different clay from other mortals; that they in their turn will not be acted upon by the fatal principle of self-interest; and that... their judgments will be exempt from error, their hands from rapacity, and their hearts from covetousness.
For fear of hypocrisy, officials of the state would do well to refrain from attempting to bind the hands of those in the marketplace on the shaky grounds of the shortcomings of human nature. Unless, of course, it is the case that these fine specimens do not at all populate the realm of humanity, but instead are angels sent from above and charged with organizing society for mankind.

There are only a limited number of ways for one in need or in want of scarce resources to attain them when they are in the possession of others. He may simply take these resources by force, or deploy an intermediary to do so on his behalf, which is the system espoused by the collectivist wherein private property has no place or, in any event, is in no manner secure. This is the system of spoliation or piracy, and it is no less a system of theft simply because it is the government which plays the intermediary role in acquiring and distributing to others what does not belong to them. One may ask others for these resources, appealing to the ideal of hospitality to furnish his wants. But then, as a beggar, he has no say in precisely what, when, or in what manner he obtains them. According to H.B. Acton, not only is making a gift of resources, or selling them below their market price, an unintelligent and reckless way of demonstrating generosity, but "in a society of casual benevolent donations little progress is likely to be made in the arts of production." [4] The final possibility of attaining these sought after scare resources is to offer something in exchange for them. This is the system of the free market. This is the system wherein each party of an exchange, in order to profit himself, must profit the other, or, somewhat differently phrased, in profiting the other, profits himself as well.

NOTES:

[1] Acton, H.B. The Morals of Markets and Related Essays. Indianapolis: Liberty Fund. 1993. (p. 37-38). Many of the arguments contained in this article derive from this book.

[2] Ibid. (pp. 36-37).

[3] Ibid. (p. 39).

[4] Ibid. (p. 17).

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Rules by Which a Great Republic May be Reduced to a Broken One

Originally published at Renew America on December 17, 2011.

"An ancient Sage valued himself upon this... he knew how to make a great City of a little one. The Science that I, a modern Simpleton, am about to communicate is the very reverse." — Benjamin Franklin, Rules by Which a Great Empire May Be Reduced to a Small One

The following is addressed to those in the United States Government who, rightfully or not, wield the most influence and are, as a result of their positions, most apt to affect, by the careful enactment of the following recommendations, the transformation of this land of opportunity into one of hindrance.

I. To begin with, please take into consideration that a great republic, like a great family, is most effectively broken at its pocketbook. Act then upon the finances of the citizenry — that as you place command first over this front, others may submit in procession.

II. The most useful of contrivances through which your end may be happily attained is the establishment of a centralized banking institution that might, if you so allow it, multiply the existing supply of paper money. First, however, the people must be led to believe in fiction rather than in fact. You are therefore to use whatever means to convince them that money is the symbol of wealth, and that an expansion of the symbol is an expansion of that which is symbolized. This will illicit the proper effect. The people, everywhere surrounded by the results of an increased money supply, will begin to realize that these symbols, of which they are now in bountiful possession, represent something quite the opposite of what they had supposed them to, and that the central bank which was to be their benefactor foments not fortune, but destitution. If the invasive actions of this institution should happen to manifest a discoordination in the economy, a disruption of market processes, or rampant malinvestment — all the better. Time will certainly demonstrate that your encroachment into this area will have left in disarray what was, before, in order.

III. Knowing that the patriot is never more apt to shrink from conviction than when he is forced to choose between reverence for his country and food for his family, you are to levy a broad and crippling corporate tax. This tax is to be onerous enough so as to have your nation's good and responsible businessmen relocate to countries abroad solely so that they may seek the reasonable comfort of profiting from the services that they provide to others. This undertaking would prove fruitless, however, if, after effectively banishing them, you did not portray these citizens as enemies of national labor, traitors, or capitalists. After exiling all but the privileged producers, it is advisable for you to punish the consumers. Have them pay a fair amount for imported goods. Nothing will serve better your aim of disassembling the republic than to protect the right of a number of your nation's producers to have the whole of its consumers pay more for goods where they might otherwise have paid less.

IV. Of your actions that might have the republic attached less firmly to its foundations, none affect as much as ably as making public that property which is private. To this end, it is recommended that you coercively withhold the income of your citizens — granting them access to the fruits of their own labor only after having first relegated their property to the satisfaction of your ends. In this way an atmosphere of resentment, adequate to secure your goal, may have occasion to develop among the people.

V. That such agitation may be extended, ensure next that these laws of taxation are, to a substantial extent, applied inconsistently; that they affect, however arbitrarily, some subjects more severely than they do others. This will elicit the worthiest of results. By regarding supposedly equal citizens in a fashion so openly unfair, you will (to keep the simile of the family) behave as a partial mother, favoring one child over another. By this means, the desired degree of rivalry might then breed among the social classes so as to drive what was once in harmony toward disunion.

VI. It would indeed be a sorry consequence if the nature of your republic has had the unfortunate effect of causing you, the wise masters, to be valued as something short of royalty. If such is the case, it may be appropriate for you to proceed as though your government of representatives is nothing more than a factory of regulations. Behave in a manner so as to suggest that the measure of your emoluments and terms of office ought to be extended in proportion to the degree to which your orders, laws, decisions, and rules constrain the lesser citizens and deplete both the nation's treasury and its promise.

VII. Justly appointed judges and administrators — having not simply received the consent of the people, but also their esteem — may work with integrity to empower the nation entire. Officials of this type are therefore to incur your disaffection. If you can find inexperienced academics, recommend them for justices; for they will be keen to rid the bench of any standard of prestige. Activists too are desirable, as they would have the high court reformed from a hall of justice into one of passions; the very impulses responsible for its empathy, responsible also for its wrath. For supervisors and cabinet directors, the chief executive is to appoint only ideologues, awash in favors and expert solely in partisanship, to serve at his pleasure. If these appointees are radicals, or are otherwise corrupted — even in the fields which they have been assigned to oversee — so much the better. Such officials, managing their great and growing dominions, are indeed fit for a republic whose bureaucracy would have it frustrated into dissolution.

VIII. In order to make certain that you are provoking your republic toward division, it may become necessary to closely monitor and manipulate the behavior of its people. Forget that they have any reasonable expectation of autonomy, privacy, or due process of law. Involve yourself in their personal communications. Suppose their presumption of fair and equal treatment to be baseless, and claim of this presumption that it is trivial or, otherwise, idealistic — that it derives not from right, but from your sole and arbitrary discretion. Adherence to such a method, effectively, will have you assuming the role of parent and treating the people as though they were children. Experience attests to the suitability of this strategy — as children tend to tire of supervision, as it becomes more and more invasive, so too might a people grow weary of the actions of their government.

IX. To safely guarantee this outcome, and further its impression, wherever there exists poverty, hunger, or homelessness you are to profess the product of your meddling as the only just remedy. A number of your citizens will most likely complain to your legislature that it is government intervention in these matters that is sustaining their prevalence and that, if only they were not so heavily taxed, these citizens, through expressions of fellowship and voluntary donation, might be capable of better addressing these ailments. It will become necessary, then, for you to label such citizens as haters of the poor, and to trivialize their unbidden contributions. Such a program, it is hoped, will serve to impede not simply the people's ability, but also their willingness to charitably give.

X. If the people are wise they will have beforehand established a contract through which they might foresee and counter the reach and whimsy of your encroachments. It may be necessary — in order to properly attend to your purpose — to, by all resources available, diminish the significance of this contract. Its provisions are therefore to be dismissed as mere process, and its scope as insufficient. If, in any way, this contract or its amendments should serve to draw the boundaries of your authority, you are to deem these boundaries limitless. If its framework should happen to narrow the functions of your government, you are to have these functions at length extended. In this manner and with hope, an environment will surely arise in which the contract is, by you, disregarded and, by the people, in want of renegotiation.

It is likely, if you have observed these few excellent rules, that all of the constituent states of the republic, and its people, will, at last and for all time, rid you of the trouble of governing them, and free you from the burden of further attending to any destructive and abusive actions that would have them longing for safety, security, and reorganization.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Ugly Side of Social Justice

Originally published at American Thinker on May 16, 2010.

Behind the social justice banner lurks an ugly choice.

Nineteenth-century French thinker Frédéric Bastiat's summation of free will is quite succinct: "Society has for its element man, who is a free agent; and since man is free, he may choose -- since he may choose, he may be mistaken -- since he may be mistaken, he may suffer."

A basic understanding of free will elicits a particular truth about God's ordained relationship with man: that He wishes for us to obey Him, but for us to obey Him freely.

Can a comprehension of free will -- of our relationship with God -- give us clues as to how He would have us relate to each other? Can it give us clues as to how He would have our institutions relate to each of us individually?

If it is agreed, for instance, that charity is a desirable human action, should charity therefore be a forced action? And if charity becomes a forced action -- if governments, rather than citizens, mandate its application -- does it cease to be charity? Is it reduced to mere obedience?

This is the essence of the debate over social justice.

The faith-inspired proponents of social justice seek not only to assist the poverty-stricken, but also to altogether dissolve the conditions that allow for poverty. These noble ends, though they may appear universally appreciated, have drawn vehement opposition due to the coercive means through which they are to be obtained.

On his website, Reverend Jim Wallis -- ringleader of the leftist anti-poverty group "Sojourners" -- has outlined the mission of his organization: "... to articulate the biblical call to social justice." Further perusal of the site elicits how this "biblical call" is to be answered:

By means of a government-directed redistributive effort.

By spreading the wealth through taxation.

By force.

To this end, the "Sojourners" site stipulates that "[t]here is a biblical role for the state," and "social justice requires economic support from government."

It is this governmental role that has the critics of social justice reeling. One such critic is conservative Fox News host and liberal media lightning rod Glenn Beck. Beck has been attacked for his opposition to social justice, most vocally by Reverend Jim Wallis, and the clash between the two has been much-publicized.

Although Beck has been adamant in expressing that his objections are concerned solely with how -- not whether -- the needy should be assisted, Wallis nonetheless seems content in portraying him as antagonistic to the plight of the poor. And because of this unfair portrayal, Beck has been painted in the media as a monster for simply emphasizing his belief that it is better for individuals to donate their assistance to the downtrodden by choice rather than by dictate.

During a March 12 interview on MSNBC's "Countdown with Keith Olbermann," after repeatedly mischaracterizing the subject at the core of Glenn Beck's criticism, the Reverend offered Beck a challenge: "Let's go back through the bible, verse by verse, and look at what in fact God says about justice."

Here, Wallis uses the term justice as if it were synonymous with coercion. This is no mistake. However, if such a verse-by-verse challenge were ever to take place, the results would likely have the Reverend quite dismayed, because such a detailed biblical review -- once the subject of the debate had been adequately defined -- would place the onus on Wallis to demonstrate where the Good Book calls for a governmental role in charity.

Its often the case that liberal Christians, like the "Sojourners" and others, will operate under the misconception that government is the subject of the Gospel's appeal to charitable action. Christian apologist Greg Koukl, in articulating this error, aptly describes the fallacy upon which it is based:

A significant mistake ... is to take the commands that Jesus has given ... applying to the church; the followers of Christ; the believers ... and then apply that principle to government. Government cannot be loving because an organization -- a government -- cannot love.

Such mischaracterizations of biblical verse are representative of the way in which the advocates of social justice would prefer the debate be carried out: based on subjective interpretation. Passages like Luke 4:18 are perverted and said to express God's desire for man to strong-arm his brothers into donation. And for every 2 Corinthians 9:7 that the conservative claims for his side, the liberal will find countless other verses to misconstrue.

The subscribers of social justice -- socialists using the guise of Christianity to promote their unpopular view -- offer their deliberately twisted interpretation of the Gospel as a means of having the public at large conform to their notions of proactive and coercive government redistribution.

These constant manipulations should prompt conservative Christians, and indeed all opponents of redistribution, into redirecting the debate away from the analysis of biblical verse and toward that which is objectively evident in the truth of our existence -- the nature of free will.

Our experience shows us that we are not forced to love God, or to obey Him, or even to acknowledge His existence. He has left those decisions to us.

But which philosophy should we adopt based on this reality: Conservatism or Progressivism?

Freedom or obedience?

Bastiat acknowledged that he found this choice to be quite simple when he declared, "I have faith in the wisdom of the laws of Providence, and for the same reason I have faith in liberty."

Equal Treatment vs. Equal Results

Originally published at American Thinker on April 27, 2010.

There has been, for some time in this country, a polarizing political discussion. The debate has hinged on people's idea of the term "fairness" and how this idea is to be applied. The result of the exchange has been the widening ideological gap between conservatives, who believe that fairness is best ensured by obedience to the rule of law, and liberals, who quite adamantly attest that fairness can best be realized through the satisfaction of individual wants as a consequence of a government redistribution of property.

Equal treatment vs. equal results.

And though the discourse has remained constant throughout the twentieth-century, it has not, as a result of its long duration, lost any of its heated contention.

As recently as the end of March, this year, Vice-President Joe Biden (God bless his soul) revealed, during an interview with Yahoo Finance, the philosophy into which his conviction was vested: "I don't call it [a redistribution of income]... I call it just being fair."

It is true, economically speaking, that people are not born into equal circumstances. And it is also true that life is not fair; what one strives diligently to obtain can be tragically lost. However, in a society where citizens are guaranteed equality before the law, those financially less fortunate or those who may be upon hard times can find solace in the fact that there would be, in the very foundation of their system of laws, no favoritism among the people; no privileged classes. In such a society, the rule of law would lay firm and every attempt made by any citizen to improve his condition would not be hindered by either individuals or the government, but instead fostered by the protection of an objective legal arrangement.

On the other hand, if by choice or dictate, a people were to enter into a system which navigates its laws not on the warrant of objectivity, but on the basis of the achievements or property of some as compared to those of others, then fairness and equality as they are typically understood would be, in all ways, lost.

F.A. Hayek, in "The Road to Serfdom," (1) masterfully explains that, in an economic and political system where equality is arrived at through the procurement of results, the rule of law cannot exist:
Formal equality before the law is in conflict, and in fact incompatible, with any activity of the government deliberately aiming at material or substantive equality of different people and... any policy aiming directly at a substantive ideal of distributive justice must lead to the destruction of the rule of law.

Because the government would be required to regard supposedly equal individuals or entire classes of citizens in a different manner than it regards others, the law would have to be applied inconsistently.

What the agents of the liberal philosophy do not understand, or perhaps what they understand so well, is that equality of results, as a necessary condition of its existence, forbids the equality of treatment. And by promising to distribute to the people fairness, the liberals would have instead delivered its counter and, in so doing, they would have crippled any chance that the ordinary man ever had to foresee the actions of his government that would keep him ordinary forever.


1. Hayek, F.A. The Road to Serfdom: Text and Documents--The Definitive Edition. Routledge, London: The University of Chicago Press. 2007 (Originally published - 1944). Page 117.

Obama's Tea Party Straw Man

Originally published at American Thinker on April 27, 2010.

Why does it seem that the public is being told that the only demand the Tea Party activists have is that their taxes be lowered? Though the activists would doubtless welcome such an outcome, it is by no means the sole impetus of their objections. In fact, the demand is explicitly absent from their "Contract from America."

The contract -- a written expression of the will of those like-minded Americans who would sign it -- serves to convey to U.S. public officials a consensus outcry for a policy agenda of individual liberty, limited government, and economic freedom.

Interestingly, only two of the ten recommendations from the Tea Party's contract involve the topic of taxation, and contrary to what the public has been presented from both the White House and the news media, each of these recommendations is devoid of any mention of protest in response to cripplingly high taxes. The movement's members request, and the contract stipulates, that the U.S. government ought to:  

Adopt a simple and fair single-rate tax system by scrapping the internal revenue code and ... permanently repeal all tax hikes, including those to the income, capital gains, and death taxes, currently scheduled to begin in 2011.

It should be evident from this declaration that rather than concerning itself with tax rates, the Tea Party pines for the upheaval of the current tax code. The distinction is an important one, and the fact that it has not been recognized by the administration is seriously troubling.

This mischaracterization of the Tea Party's view reigns broadly. We hear it, most conspicuously, from President Obama:

In all, we passed 25 different tax cuts last year. And one thing we haven't done is raise income taxes on families making less than $250,000 a year ... so I've been a little amused over the last couple of days where people have been having these rallies about taxes. You would think they would be saying thank you.

The same straw man argument was presented last week by intellectual powerhouse Bill Maher. On his absurd cable television show (just before -- in absolute defiance of history -- he accused all staunch conservatives of being Ku Klux Klan members), Maher offered that the Tea Party people "were venting their anger, their rage, at taxes. Which of course, in most cases, for them went down."

But if a brief look at the Tea Party contract could aptly elicit the truth of the matter -- that tax rates are so obviously not the issue -- then why the misunderstanding?

The answer is that there is no misunderstanding; we are witnessing a deliberate misclassification. The administration and the media are, at all times, intentionally misrepresenting the goals of their opponents.

Is it not reasonable to accept the sorry conclusion that those who pursue tangents rather than facts perhaps have as their aim diversion rather than solutions?

And if it is agreed that this administration's most vocal and sincere conservative opposition is purposefully misidentified (though their goals have been expressly documented), then the question inescapably arises:

To what end?

It indeed seems the case that without first attempting to correctly identify a problem, the chances of encountering a solution grow increasingly slim. And because it seems to me impossible that such an uncomplicated concept could slip so effortlessly over the heads of our nation's leaders and opinion-makers, I believe that there is something much more sinister at work

The public is being misinformed plainly because the Obama administration wishes to redirect the public away from a recognition and understanding of a political philosophy that desires to implement a redistributive social system.

In its call for individual liberty and economic freedom, the Tea Party expresses an understanding that the redistribution of wealth presently desired by Washington, the media, and liberals at large would be best guaranteed by the continuation of the current tax code -- a tax code perceived by its critics as perpetuating a gross injustice by utilizing the coercive income tax to negotiate the satisfaction of ends to which those fleeced have not consented.

Ought an injustice be permitted to endure so long as some class or constituency benefit from its presence? Signers of the contract, liberty-oriented people from across the growingly constrained nation, all rightly reason, "No!"

There is a danger in the Obama White House honestly appraising the Tea Party's criticisms: It may bring illumination to the consequences of their policies. And because, as poll after poll suggest, an enlightened citizenry would reject absolutely the continuation of said policies, such honesty would be politically suicidal.

Where the Tea Party openly provides its recommendations and cites its complaints, the Obama White House and its allies in the media take quite a separate approach. It is difficult to tell behind which goal they place the stronger thrust of their efforts: concealing their own agenda or wrongfully portraying the intentions of their critics.

On the campaign trail, Barack Obama sold a bill of goods (to those interested in his product): the possibility that this nation might finally be presented with the opportunity to rip through the ever-present and seemingly insurmountable partisan divide to achieve the Holy Grail of political discourse more commonly known as the civil debate of issues. However, now it is evident that he is actively pursuing an attitude of the very dissension which it was his stated goal to diminish.

Candidate Obama once said, "Let's debate our genuine differences on the issues that matter."

Hear, hear, Mr. President!

Hear, hear.

The Walrus and Mr. Clinton

Originally published at American Thinker on April 20, 2010.

There is a special type of idiocy that finds its hiding right out in the open. It's the smartest type of idiocy in existence. For the most part, it's not even recognized for what it is due to its being smuggled into ire-filled diatribes; blasted over by booming sentiments of passion and accepted as intelligent on the basis of its author's authoritative and spirited style. This breed of idiocy is particularly dangerous because its often demonstrated by those we are apt to trust; the news media, for instance, or former presidents. My first recent witness to such an account occurred two weeks ago while watching MSNBC.

I'm sure by this time we are all familiar with Chris Matthews' Walrus comment, but I'd like to briefly recite the statement in an effort to offer a more telling examination and as a favor to those who were so much drawn into his caustic rant that they may have missed the smart idiocy of it all. Matthews, as if in the throes of a fiery sermon, offered to a guest:
I`ve never seen language like this in the American press, referring to an elected representative government, elected in a totally fair, democratic, American election... And this guy, this walrus underwater, makes fun of this administration, calling it a "regime."

Okay. Lots to look at here.

Forget for a moment that it has been shown that language like this has previously been used in the American press (including - oh, jeez! - by Matthews himself). Forget for a moment that, negative connotation aside, the term "regime" is synonymous with the term "administration." And please pay no attention to the idea that Mr. Matthews believes that authority, democratically originated, is sole evidence of its absolute legitimacy.

Wait... What was that last part?

The focus of most all of the surrounding popular criticism has been sadly donated to Matthews' hypocrisy and to the shock value of his Limbaugh-directed ad hominem, where it should have been on Matthews' totally flawed notion of tyranny. My good friends! Ask yourselves, "Which is more important for the security of the freedom of a people: that they fairly elect their leaders or that their fairly elected leaders follow a set of rules that determine the borders of their governance?"

Matthews is not alone in his confusion. His sentiments were echoed on Friday by Former President Bill Clinton; a Rhodes Scholar. Clinton claims that the current tea parties are somehow less genuine than the Boston original because the colonials were protesting taxation without representation and the current dissidents are rallying in opposition to taxation from elected officials who must account for their actions at the end of their terms.

Here, Mr. Clinton partially mistakes both the subject of the tea party movement's opposition and the mechanism by which power becomes arbitrary. Is taxation the important mutual concern between eighteenth and twenty-first century tea party attendants?

Or is the issue representation?

If the consent of the governed is shed - even if for a potentially short period - or ideas are made law through means of some unenumerated or irresolute charter, does it make a difference somehow if a leader is appointed courtesy of a democratic election or if his authority is qualified by the divine right of kings?

As Americans, we should take great pride in our democratic procedure, however infinitely more gratification should be derived from the presence of our constitution and our obedience to it. After all, what achievement is it if a people freely select who is to run them and not how they are to be run? And what great glory can a nation claim if the architects of its cultural and political society are permitted to pervert its greatest victory by misclassifying its greatest threat?

A threat which is continually misapprehended by the agents of the public should not be doubted to be among the public's most dangerous.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Abortion; or, The Three Chatty Ideologues: A Demonstration in Two Scenes

Originally published at Renew America on March 23, 2011.

SCENE I – House of Mistress Elizabeth, the Abortion Advocate

Elizabeth and Mary are seated near a good fire.

ELIZABETH: Mary, although our views differ on many topics I believe that we can both agree that we are blessed to live in a country where a citizen's freedom of choice and right to privacy are so highly esteemed.

MARY: I am inclined to agree with you, Elizabeth, however in this country we enjoy so many liberties. Why do you exclusively dwell on privacy and choice?

ELIZABETH: Because they are the protections that allow for abortion rights, and the battle for abortion rights is the battle for equal rights.

MARY: I must admit that I disagree. I believe that, were abortion rights to become permanently obtained, any notion of equal rights would be destroyed.

ELIZABETH: Do you hold as much to be the case due to your tired conviction that a fetus somehow possesses rights? Do you subscribe to irrationality? Do you believe that abortion is murder?

MARY: Murder is precisely what is taking place. This is speaking
bluntly, but the thing is very evident. It is crude, but clear.

ELIZABETH: This is why I abhor these discussions! You anti-choice fanatics always sneak murder into the abortion debate.

MARY: “Is it the word or the thing that frightens you?”

ELIZABETH: ... silly Mary! On what else could the abortion debate depend, if not on a woman's privacy of choice?

MARY: I believe that I can demonstrate that LIFE is at the discussion's core. Privacy and choice are important, my dear – as are liberty and property – but all rights are meaningless without life. Don't you agree?

ELIZABETH: Yes, however, a fetus is not a life. And I defy you to prove that it is!

MARY: But it is not necessary to determine such a thing. Only to understand government's proper role.

ELIZABETH: Please explain further.

MARY: Would you agree that it is the duty of the government to ensure to its people their natural rights? Unalienable rights, like those mentioned in the Declaration of Independence? Life? Liberty? Property? Do you grant it is the government's job to secure those rights?

ELIZABETH: I do. However, like I've said, a fetus cannot be proven to be a life and therefore has no guarantee to those rights.

MARY: If the babe in the womb cannot be known to be a life – and if the prevailing obligation of government is to protect the life of its people – then government should be compelled to err on the side of life.

ELIZABETH: I'm not sure I entirely understand your meaning.

MARY: Perhaps Dr. Ravi Zacharias explained it more aptly when he said:

Here is the question: Is that life within that mother's womb a life or not? If you don't know the answer to the question... how many more decisions are we going to base on an agnostic platform that could be costing millions of lives?

ELIZABETH: I see. So, from your perspective, life is the predominant right without which all others are secured in vain?

MARY: Correct.

ELIZABETH: And further, if there ever is a doubt as to whether or not the lives of a people are in danger, the protection of life rights should remain the prideful duty of a just government?

MARY: Correct.

ELIZABETH: And is it also your belief that this duty is to be executed not by the states, but by the federal government?

MARY: Only if the state governments fail to guarantee natural rights to their citizens.

ELIZABETH: I think there are many – like our friend, the states-rights advocate – who would regard such centralized enforcement as an assault on federalism.

MARY: Shall we pay him a visit then?

ELIZABETH: A fresh perspective would be a delight!

SCENE II – House of Master Timothy, the States-Rights Advocate

Timothy and Mary are seated near a window overlooking a fine park. Elizabeth is seated across the room.

TIMOTHY: Mary, you and I see eye-to-eye on many things. How is it that a limited government proponent, such as yourself, can advocate federal encroachment into the affairs of the individual states?

MARY: Timothy, perhaps an analogy will help to explain my case?

TIMOTHY: Perhaps, Mary. Go ahead.

MARY: Very well. In the military, along with other concerns, it is the responsibility of the commander to ensure that his subordinates protect the lives of the soldiers under their command.

TIMOTHY: Okay...

MARY: What is the commander to do if his subordinates report to him their desire to implement an artillery strike on an enemy structure without first having determined whether or not the structure is occupied with friendly soldiers?

TIMOTHY: I suppose the commander should order his subordinates to cease the assault until the structure is known to be empty of all friendly soldiers.

MARY: In other words, the commander should err on the side of life.

TIMOTHY: I see. So in your analogy, the commander is the federal government, the subordinates are the individual states, and the soldiers are the citizens?

MARY: Correct.

TIMOTHY: And you feel that, as it is the duty of the commander to protect the lives of his soldiers, the federal government should protect the lives of its citizens.

MARY: What I am saying, more correctly, is that it is the job of the federal government to ensure that the individual states protect the unalienable rights of their citizens.

TIMOTHY: Mary, although I am personally against abortion, I respectfully disagree with your position. Per the Tenth Amendment, the states maintain the option to allow or disallow the practice of abortion because the protection of unborn life is nowhere enumerated in the U.S. Constitution as a federal responsibility.

MARY: But the Declaration of Independence states that...

TIMOTHY: I know what the Declaration states, however the Declaration, though part of the organic law of the United States, is not justiciable. It is not a legally actionable document. The Declaration is not the Law of the Land. It does not determine how we are to be governed – as the Constitution does. You should defer in your knowledge to me. I know the Constitution.

MARY: Timothy, it is an entirely consistent view for the proponent of limited government to advocate the federal encroachment into the affairs of the individual states, so long as that encroachment is in agreement with Declaration principles and finds its justification in the Constitution. Would you subscribe to my opinion if I could successfully argue for its constitutionality?

TIMOTHY: I suppose that I would. I do not adhere to emotionalism. I am no liberal. No offense, Elizabeth.

ELIZABETH (from across the room): None taken, Timothy.

TIMOTHY (continuing): If such an argument were valid, Mary, I would abandon my previous worldview and adopt the more sound option.

MARY: In that case, I will attempt to convert you. Are you familiar with Article 4, Section 4 of our Constitution?

TIMOTHY: I don't quite have it committed to memory.

MARY: It states that "The United States shall guarantee to every state in this union a republican form of government."

TIMOTHY: Yes, but what makes you claim that “a republican form of government” consists of the protection of life rights for the unborn?

MARY: Dr. Alan Keyes answered that question when he said:

Respect for unalienable rights is the goal and basic requirement of the republican form of government... Both logically and historically, the Declaration is the reference point for understanding the substance of the 'republican form of government.'

TIMOTHY: Historically? Bah! The Declaration has never been legally used as a basis for any enforcement of its principles! It's not justiciable!

MARY: Oh, but I believe that it is. And so did Abraham Lincoln when he referenced the Declaration in the Gettysburg Address by proclaiming that ours was a nation "dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal."

Lincoln's use of executive power to prosecute the war must be seen as a historical example of the enforcement of Declaration principles. If Declaration principles, natural rights, can be seen as necessary components of a republican form of government – and if the state governments fail in their obligation to secure those rights – then it becomes the responsibility of the federal government to do so.

TIMOTHY: Very interesting logic, Mary.

MARY: However, Timothy, it is important to state that during the Civil War the unalienable right under contention was not life – but LIBERTY. And it is my belief that liberty ought to be granted to all, but first so must life be.

TIMOTHY: I knew we wouldn't finish this conversation without that word coming up!

MARY: What word do you mean?

TIMOTHY: Liberty! As if the fight for liberty is the same as that of your cause.

MARY: The fight for life is the fight for liberty because liberty, without life, becomes nothing.

TIMOTHY: This is why I abhor these discussions! You anti-choice fanatics always sneak liberty into the abortion debate.

ELIZABETH (from across the room): “Is it the word or the thing that frightens you?”

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