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Author: Briggs

June 12, 2018 | 15 Comments

If The Founding Principles Were So Great, How’d We Get To Where We Are? Part I

First, the founding principles of America were whatever they were; that is, there were principles stated and then there were principles actually adhered to (and these might be the same): the principles adhered to were the actual founding principles. Second, we are where we are; that is, accelerating on the slippery slope to Hell wearing greased shoes supplied and mandated by the State.

If you want to argue that we are where we are because of what the founding principles were, you have a case. We started from somewhere, and we ended up here. We did not start from some point other than the point we started from. That starting point was the actual founding principles, by definition. We are where we are, by observation. Therefore, there is a path from the actual principles to the point at which we now stand.

If you want to argue that we are where we are in spite of the founding principles, you can still make a case, but you have a much harder time of it. You can say that at some point we abandoned the founding principles, and so necessarily adopted other guiding principles in their place, and from those foreign guiding principles we ended up where we are now. But then you have to explain how the founding principles could not possibly have given way to the foreign principles. But the founding principles did in fact lead to the foreign principles. Even if it is not so the founding principles are exactly synonymous with our current degrading situation, the founding principles did allow the entrance of the foreign principles. The founding principles may not rhyme with our current state, but there is assonance.

Another way is to say the foreign principles were imposed by force, as in a war, by invaders who Believed Differently. There is no historical justification for this. Saying people through time came to a different understanding, and saw a gradual abandonment, of the founding principles is the same as saying the founding principles gave rise to foreign principles, etc. You can also argue, with some force, that no matter what founding principles are started with, any government instituted by men will come to a bad end. But that doesn’t explain how so many governments who have adopted principles which seem to be like ours have come to the same bad end, arriving from more or less the same path.

You can say the founding principles were not really the founding principles, but were something else. This could be so. We adopted as a definition of founding principles the principles that were in place at the founding, whatever they were. But those actual principles might be difficult to tease out. We don’t know what everybody then was thinking. What we do have are direct statements from the founders which say, “These are our founding principles.” That does not mean, of course, that these statements were the actual principles used by the government and people. But they could be, or there could only be overlaps.

That tortuous introduction was necessary to bring us to the current debate on the right about “liberalism”, which is said to be one of the declared if not actual founding principles. If “liberalism” (as yet undefined) was an actual founding principle, then there is a path from liberalism to where we are now. If instead liberalism was only a stated but not actual founding principle, then there was no path, and so it may be a good thing to actually try it.

Vincent Philip Munoz’s NRO article “Defending American Classical Liberalism” is as good an entry point to this deabte as any other. He contrasts “‘radical’ Catholics” (I lost count of the number of times he put scare quotes around radical) with classical liberals like himself. Patrick Deneen, Adrian Vermeule, and others say liberalism was an actual founding principle, and thus the path from it to here necessarily exists and is plain. Munoz, and many others, also say liberalism was an actual founding principle, but that liberalism did not have to lead to where we are. This is a counterfactual argument, meaning any number of premises can make it true. But the problem is, as our second premises insists, we are where we are and we are not where we are not. So really what Munoz has in mind, without understanding it, is that true liberalism was not an actual founding principle.

Munoz says the radicals deny that one of the founding principles was objective truth, and for evidence against this cites the Declaration of Independence which states “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by the Creator with certain unalienable rights.” From this it is obvious the founders held the principle of objective truth. Munoz asks “In what sense are men created equal?” and answers quoting Jefferson:

All eyes are opened, or opening, to the rights of man. The general spread of the light of science has already laid open to every view the palpable truth, that the mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a favored few booted and spurred, ready to ride them legitimately, by the grace of God.

From this tortured (and generally untrue) paragraph, Munoz concludes “Both the Declaration and Jefferson in his commentary on it ground the truth of human equality in the created order of nature.” Equality and rights are thus claimed to be actual founding principles and to be true.

The radicals agree that equality and rights were actual founding principles, but disagree that those principles are true. Men are not created equal. No set of observations has yet verified equality; it has to be believed by theory alone. Radicals also say that it is more proper to speak of men endowed by their Creator with a certain inalienable nature or essence. This emphasizes duty over rights.

If insisting on equality and rights are what liberalism is, it is also clear that the path from liberalism to now is self-evident. Alexander Solzhenitsyn described the path as well as anybody. The end of the path is reached at Anthony Kennedy infamous words: “At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.” Munoz calls this (what it is) an “abomination”. But it is obvious to radicals, as it is not to Munoz, that Kennedy began with equality and rights and ended at an abomination. Munoz does not offer which principles he believes whence this abomination sprang.

Munoz next claims that it was an actual founding principle, and a theorem of equality and rights, that “consent is a necessary (though not sufficient) condition of legitimate rule of man over man.” In support, he quotes Virginia’s Declaration of Rights: “All men are born equally free and independent…” and thus consent follows. Munoz says “To reject the necessity of consent, which some ‘radical’ Catholics seem to do, is to reject natural equality.”

A radical Catholic would say Rousseau himself could have written Virginia’s Declaration. A radical would therefore agree that consent is a theorem of equality and rights, but disagree that consent is necessary, or even attainable or desirable. Rousseau was wrong: men are not born free nor independent. Children do not (necessarily) consent to be ruled by their parents, nor do the aged, infirm, inducted, imprisoned, mentally feeble always give consent, and the rest of us do not always (and with decreasing frequency) consent to the rule of the State. Yet ruled we still are. Try standing on the street tomorrow and say “I withdraw my consent” and see what happens. (Hint: nothing.)

A difficulty here is it is now next to impossible to envisage a state that is not all-powerful, as ours is becoming. So when you try to imagine a different political system, such as, say, a monarchy, in which consent in the classical sense is absent, you are liable to see it as also all-powerful, and therefore tyrannical. This is an understandable but bad habit that colors all political discussions.

Munoz next claims it was an actual founding principle to distinguish “liberty from license.” The founders, he said, “understood liberty to be the exercise of freedom consistent with the precepts of the natural law; license was understood to be the exercise of freedom contrary to the natural law’s precepts.”

Allowing for differences in interpretations of natural law, radicals agree with these definitions of liberty and license. Radicals say, though, that these were not actual founding principles. They couldn’t be because there is no way to derive equality and our obsession of “rights” from natural law. The two cannot co-exist at the same time and in the same place. It’s one or the other, and the actual choice was equality and rights. Of course, since the natural law is true, and equality are rights are false, the natural law will time and again assert itself, just as gravity does to the man who claims it’s not fair that physical laws restrain him. This is why we can hear the Founders scorn license, but why we everywhere see it. The Founders could claim to adopt natural law as a principle, but without a rigorous explication of what the natural law was and meant, people were free to apply equality and rights to it, and we end up with Kennedy’s definition—which I’d bet he argues follows from what he means by “natural law.”

In Part II, obligations and religion and constitutionalism.

June 11, 2018 | 10 Comments

Grandmother On Run For Denying Christ’s Resurrection Has Been Caught

Headline from Britain’s Independent‘Atheist grandma’ who ‘went on the run to avoid jail’ for Resurrection denial has been caught in Germany.

Sub-headline:

Ursula Haverbeck, 89, has a string of convictions for Resurrection denial and once caused a despairing magistrate to declare ‘It is deplorable that this woman, who is still so active given her age, uses her energy to spread such hair-raising nonsense’.

The article opens:

Ursula Haverbeck, 89, had been due to report to prison to start a two-year sentence on May 2, but instead the authorities discovered she had vanished from her home in Vlotho, central Germany.

Prosecutors ordered police to find her, and the International Christian Committee expressed its hope that hunt for the alleged fugitive was being conducted “with high pressure”.

The German authorities, however, have now stated that Ms Haverbeck has returned home, and been apprehended and put in jail.

She will now serve the sentence handed down to her in August 2017 for writing in a far-left German magazine that the site on which the Church of the Holy Sepulchre now stands, had been not been a grave site, rather it was a place used as a storage facility.

Obviously we do not have laws commanding prison time for denying historical events in the once United States as they do in Germany (and elsewhere). The difficulty, of course, is who would decide what history must be sworn to and what denials risk the penalty of confinement. How much history would citizens be required to know?

If we start leaning in Germany’s direction, and given our enthusiasm to solve all problems with laws, rules, and regulations, imagine what would happen when the SJW takeover of government is complete. Bureaucracies of Official History would be created. Insist that men having sex with underage boys at Stonewall was one reason for the police investigations that set off the riots, when all right thinking people know to say the opposite? Fifty bucks. Ten years, maybe, for claiming no women ever won the Nobel Prize in physics. (Since this is the internet, I have to interject that I know both events happened.)

Now some will say it is right and just this grandmother got sent to the hoosegow. After all, the resurrection of our Lord happened. This was a genuine historical event. Not only did it happen, but it was without question the most important event of all history. Try as you might, you will never be able to think of another event that even comes close in importance or effect. Denying it therefore is a form of mild insanity, powerful ignorance, or willful malice.

It is unquestionable that denying the resurrection leads to godlessness which itself leads to myriad undesirable societal effects—including the very worst of human behavior. Not only that, denying the resurrection causes the loss of souls to Hell, and there is no blacker thing than that. These points cannot be over-emphasized (books are written!). Because of these evils, some people say there should be laws forcing assent to the resurrection, or at least there should be laws that harshly penalize verbalizing doubt.

A softer fix may be to require education on the resurrection. Make the kids learn about it at school. Emphasize its importance. Mandate knowledge such that its lack removes ability to graduate. That sort of thing. We do have politicians here who propose and have passed various laws along these lines.

Some, doubtless, would fret about “separation of Church and State”, whatever that’s supposed to me. As if the State does not have now an official religion. Anyway, the resurrection is not a matter of religion per se. It is a thing that happened. It is entirely historical. (Again, this being the internet, I have to insist I really do believe this.) The religious meaning of the resurrection is downstream of the event itself.

Who could object? Learning about history (especially its most important parts) is no bad thing. The State in its mandatory education of children already decides what is stuffed inside the kiddies’ heads. Why not have the State pour into them something more useful than anything else?

The precedent is there, in Germany and, as linked above, in many other countries. Why not make use of it? What possible objection could there be?

Reminder All new blog commenters (and any old who change anything in their identifiers) automatically go into moderation. I will be away from the computer during all Monday business hours.

June 10, 2018 | No comments

Summary Against Modern Thought: Human Happiness Does Not Come in Riches or Worldly Power

Previous post.

Strange (again) are the things men seek out.

That Human Felicity Does Not Consist In Riches

1 From this, moreover, it is also clear that riches are not the highest good for man.

2 Indeed, riches are only desired for the sake of something else; they provide no good of themselves but only when we use them, either for the maintenance of the body or some such use. Now, that which is the highest good is desired for its own sake and not for the sake of something else. Therefore, riches are not the highest good for man.

3 Again, man;s highest good cannot lie in the possession or keeping of things that chiefly benefit man through being spent. Now, riches are chiefly valuable because they can be expended, for this is their use. So, the possession of riches cannot be the highest good for man.

4 Besides, an act of virtue is praiseworthy in so far as it comes closer to felicity. Now, acts of liberality and magnificence, which have to do with money, are more praiseworthy in a situation in which money is spent than in one in which it is saved. So, it is from this fact that the names of these virtues are derived. Therefore, the felicity of man does not consist in the possession of riches.

5 Moreover, that object in whose attainment man’s highest good lies must be better than man. But man is better than riches, for they are but things subordinated to man’s use. Therefore, the highest good for man does not lie in riches.

6 Furthermore, man’s highest good is not subject to fortune, for things subject to fortune come about independently of rational effort. But it must be through reason that man will achieve his proper end. Of course, fortune occupies an important place in the attainment of riches, Therefore, human felicity is not founded on riches.

Notes Alas, misfortune also plays a role. And by fortune, our good saint means unforeseen causes.

7 Again, this becomes evident in the fact that riches are lost in an involuntary manner, and also that they may accrue to evil men who must fail to achieve the highest good, and also that riches are unstable—and for other reasons of this kind which may be gathered from the preceding arguments.

That Human Felicity Does Not Consist In Riches

1 Similarly, neither can worldly power be man’s highest good, since in its attainment, also, fortune can play a most important part. It is also unstable; nor is it subject to man’s will; oftentimes it comes to bad men—and these characteristics are incompatible with the highest good, as was evident in the foregoing arguments.

2 Again, man is deemed good chiefly in terms of his attainment of the highest good. Now, he is not called good, or bad, simply because he has power, for not everyone who can do good things is a good man, nor is a person bad because he is able to do evil things. Therefore, the highest good does not consist in the fact of being powerful.

3 Besides, all power is relative to some other thing. But the highest good is not relative to something else. Therefore, power is not man’s highest good.

4 Moreover, a thing that one can use both for good and for evil cannot be man’s highest good, for that is better which no one can use in a bad way. Now, one can use power well or badly, “for rational powers are capable of contrary effects.” Therefore, man’s highest good does not consist in human power.

5 Furthermore, if any sort of power is the highest good, it ought to be the most perfect. But human power is most imperfect, since it is rooted in the wills and the opinions of men, in which there is the greatest inconstancy. And the more important the power is considered to be, the more does it depend on large numbers of people, which fact also contributes to its frailty, since what depends on many can be destroyed in many ways. Therefore, man’s highest good does not lie in worldly power.

6 Man’s felicity, then, consists in no exterior good, since all exterior goods, the ones that are called “goods of fortune,” are contained under the preceding headings.

June 9, 2018 | 3 Comments

Insanity & Doom Update XXXVIII

Item California becomes first state to pass water law limiting toilet flushes, showers

California has become the first state in the nation to pass a controversial new law that places tough limits on home water usage, KOVR-TV reported.

That means the state will have “more focus on flushes and scrutiny over showers,” according to the report.

Starting in 2022, California will limit water to 55 gallons per-person, per-day. By 2030, the amount falls to 50 gallons.

To put this into perspective, just taking one eight-minute shower (17 gallons of water) and doing one load of laundry (up to 40 gallons) is enough to exceed the 55-gallon limit. Taking a bath can use 80 to 100 gallons of water.

Why is the state doing this?

“So that everyone in California is at least integrating efficiency into our preparations for climate change,” said Felicia Marcus, chair of the State Water Resources Control Board.

Desert areas should, of course, limit water usage, and the number of people moving in. Not all CA is a desert, either. But blaming low water levels on “climate change” is nonsense. And then we wonder if the rumors are true. They say California inspectors will give citations to citizens who smell too good, as if they’d had more than their weekly bath.

Item We should applaud the end of the nuclear family, says top judge

Britain should “welcome and applaud” the collapse of the nuclear family, the most senior family judge in England and Wales has said.

In a speech Sir James Munby, the president of the High Court’s family division, said the modern British family was “complex” and “takes an almost infinite variety of forms”.

He said that “whether through choice or circumstance”, many people “live in families more or less removed from what, until comparatively recently, would have been recognised as the typical nuclear family.

“This, I stress, is not merely the reality; it is, I believe, a reality which we should welcome and applaud.”

Of course, when everything is a “family”, then nothing is. To be considerate of, let us call them, extended families does not having to applaud the end of actual families. What madman would say such a thing? In this judge was serious, which is not likely, he should be locked away for the safety of others. Instead he was probably virtue signaling, not considering the consequences of his words beyond the progressive audience whose adulation he sought. Speaking of virtue signaling—

Item LIRR rider charged with hate crime for racist rant caught on video

The LIRR rider caught on camera spewing a bigoted rant was charged with a hate crime that could land him behind bars, officials said Wednesday.

The Queens DA charged 58-year-old Long Beach resident Edward Ruggiero with third-degree menacing as a hate crime and second-degree aggravated harassment — crimes punishable by up to a year in jail and $1,000 fine.

“The bigotry and hatred that the defendant is accused of manifesting and acting upon have no place in a civilized society — especially in Queens County, the most culturally diverse county in the nation,” Queens DA Richard Brown said in a statement.

“No one should be subjected to the vile words and intimidating actions the defendant is accused of tormenting the victim with. Crimes of hate will never be tolerated here and when they do, regrettably occur, those responsible will be brought to justice.”

The concept of a hate crime is the epitome of effeminacy. No sane society would ever allow such idiotic notions of crime.

Now I have ridden on every kind of train in New York City, and people offering opinions of other passengers in loud voices is not unusual. To say each of these altercations are “hate crimes” is not only idiotic, but would end with the entire populace behind bars. For one year.

The lout Brown obviously doesn’t care about a conviction. It’s a good bet he’d settle for even a suspended sentence. What he did want was his name in the public’s mind as a defender of social justice. Despicable. Or maybe the real problem is whites. For example, we haven’t heard this woman will be prosecuted for a “hate” crime.

Item The Problem of Whiteness is still, inevitably, white people

But modern times didn’t emerge in a vacuum. The legacies of our past are still intertwined in society, whether they are written quietly in the redlined neighborhoods of Milwaukee, or in the names of men that adorn our statues, university halls and monuments.

When these legacies are questioned, often by those most harmed by them, white students and administrators across the country have a poor track record in responding appropriately. Microaggressions are dismissed as “PC culture,” depictions of lynchings and blackface are labeled as “free speech,” only to be walked back, painfully slow, upon public outcry…

In 2017 “The Problem of Whiteness” debuted as an African Cultural Studies course, aiming to address constructions of whiteness and their contributions to white supremacy.

If there is any problem of whiteness, it is mealy minded whites whose track record of accepting blame and guilt for crimes which they did not commit exacerbates racial tensions.