The Degeneration of Democracy

Pages: 1 2

When Adolf Hitler was building up the Nazi movement in the 1920s, leading up to his taking power in the 1930s, he deliberately sought to activate people who did not normally pay much attention to politics. Such people were a valuable addition to his political base, since they were particularly susceptible to Hitler’s rhetoric and had far less basis for questioning his assumptions or his conclusions.

“Useful idiots” was the term supposedly coined by V.I. Lenin to describe similarly unthinking supporters of his dictatorship in the Soviet Union.

Put differently, a democracy needs informed citizens if it is to thrive, or ultimately even survive. In our times, American democracy is being dismantled, piece by piece, before our very eyes by the current administration in Washington, and few people seem to be concerned about it.

The president’s poll numbers are going down because increasing numbers of people disagree with particular policies of his, but the damage being done to the fundamental structure of this nation goes far beyond particular counterproductive policies.

Just where in the Constitution of the United States does it say that a president has the authority to extract vast sums of money from a private enterprise and distribute it as he sees fit to whomever he deems worthy of compensation? Nowhere.

And yet that is precisely what is happening with a $20 billion fund to be provided by BP to compensate people harmed by their oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Many among the public and in the media may think that the issue is simply whether BP’s oil spill has damaged many people, who ought to be compensated. But our government is supposed to be “a government of laws and not of men.” If our laws and our institutions determine that BP ought to pay $20 billion— or $50 billion or $100 billion— then so be it.

But the Constitution says that private property is not to be confiscated by the government without “due process of law.” Technically, it has not been confiscated by Barack Obama, but that is a distinction without a difference.

With vastly expanded powers of government available at the discretion of politicians and bureaucrats, private individuals and organizations can be forced into accepting the imposition of powers that were never granted to the government by the Constitution.

Pages: 1 2

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/fporretto fporretto

    Sadly, the time when the typical American could grapple with and accept Dr. Sowell's argument above, without being terminally conflicted over "the poor," "the environment," or some other leftist shibboleth, is long past. The Left's "long march through the institutions" has rendered the majority of our fellow citizens emotionally incapable of dealing with such tensions.

    • jinjar

      Your statement above is a sad but true commentary on the American state of mind. However, people such as the author, David Horowitz , Glenn Beck and others are helping Americans re-educate ourselves to become the people the Founders left in charge of this democratic republic. The question is, will enough of us become once again caretakers of freedom before it is too late?

      • http://intensedebate.com/people/ihateretards TNM

        Glen Beck? You have to be joking

        • http://intensedebate.com/people/lovesjeeves lovesjeeves

          I stand up for anyone (in this case Mr. Beck) who can get millions of Americans reading again, whether the works of Thomas Paine, Thomas Jefferson, Frederick Douglas, Thomas Sowell, Marx or Saul Alinsky. How many who criticize him have done anything comparable to that one action? Thus I appreciate "jinjar's" thought. In short, NEVER, never, never give up on the founding principles of America.

          • http://intensedebate.com/people/ihateretards TNM

            I would never give up on the founding principles of America but Beck is no more then a home grown terrorist who hates the core foundation of this country.

          • Barry Cooper

            Am I safe in assuming you have never watched, read, or listened to him?

            Given this, am I safe in assuming your own construction of the "core foundation" of this country does not include the use of reason, fact, or common sense?

            If so, we don't need you. Please check yourself in somewhere for addiction to idiocy. When you are told you are ready to interact with morally sovereign human beings, we can try again.

      • Babs

        just a slight correction jinjar but we are NOT a democratic republic…we are ONLY a republic.

        • jinjar

          Point taken. However our constitution based republic with strong democratic traditions will become a Marxist socialist dictatorship while we argue semantics.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/The_Inquisitor The_Inquisitor

    Message to pragmatic conservatives:

    "It started the first time you sentenced an innocent man to death."*

    *Approximate quote from Judgment at Nuremberg.

    • USMCSniper

      And just who was this innocent man?

      • http://intensedebate.com/people/The_Inquisitor The_Inquisitor

        Those were the words of Spencer Tracy to Burt Lancaster at the end of the movie. As I recall the movie did not go into detail about the FIRST man. Who that might have been was beside the point. The message is that you should not take that first step in abandoning the rule of law. It is a message that is coming back to haunt America.

        It's a great movie. See it if you have a chance.

        • http://www.goodnessmovement.com Barry Cooper

          The question was "how could I have known it would lead to this?" Lancaster's character was trying to pretend he was a decent human being who just got caught up in an evil system.

          We all know the difference between right and wrong. Sometimes it is inconvenient and even deadly to acknowledge it. Yet, there it is.

          It really is as simple as that. All Tracy's prosecutor did was point out the obvious.

          • http://intensedebate.com/people/The_Inquisitor The_Inquisitor

            I don't believe he was pretending. He actually believed he was a decent human being who just got caught up in an evil system. That makes the message of the film even more powerful.

            So many people who see themselves as decent human beings never-the-less believe they can fudge on the rule of law. I count pragmatic conservatives among them.

          • http://www.goodnessmovement.com Barry Cooper

            For practical purposes, moral relativism is equivalent to the fetishization of "legality" denuded of moral compass. Once principles that endure across varied situations and time frames disappear (e.g. the right to life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, and the ownership of property), then what is legal is right. Morality is legality.

            Thus, one can forgive the entirety of the Bolshevik, Maoist, and other atrocities, for the reason that they were committed by the STATE. The State (and the Party which runs it), can never be wrong.

            For this reason I have also argued often that the ACTUAL moral system by which leftists operate is conformity. No matter what rules they are given, no matter what absurdities they are asked to believe and act on, the good ones ask no questions.

          • Barry Cooper

            The end state for a true leftists is the absolute abrogation of the possiblity of moral autonomy. This is what they WANT, since freedom is so painful for them.

            The best example of this I know of is Jean Paul Sartre, who on one hand was trumpeting absolute moral freedom, and on the other condemning as insects anyone who was not a Stalinist. This is perfectly logical, once you peel back a few layers.

            With a name like the Inquisitor, you may have an interest in my little study, in which I rewrote "The Grand Inquisitor": http://www.goodnessmovement.com/Page6.html

  • JasonPappas

    Sowell is right. Compensation should be determined by the judicial branch in a civil court, not the executive branch. There was once a separation of powers and rule of law. There was once due process.

    But apparently this only applies to foreign nationals captured abroad for planing and executing the attack on America on 9/11. Odd, the leftists only discover a constitution when they want to help foreign Islamic terrorists at war with America (and imagine they're covered) but see no constitution when it comes to law-abiding corporations. In the latter case, the end justifies the means and "results" are all that matters.

    The posturing of Eric Holder is meant to distract us from the real loss of rights … of Americans.

    • sflbib

      Re: "…the leftists only discover a constitution when they want to help foreign Islamic terrorists at war with America (and imagine they're covered) but see no constitution when it comes to law-abiding corporations."

      IOW, they have morphed the judicial system into a legal one in which there is no justice because you have no rights until you've committed a crime.

      BTW, "law-abiding corporations" is an oxymoron to leftists.

    • Jim C.

      In the case of terrorism, if the greatest country in the world wants to circumvent its own justice system in order to exact revenge–it loses, because it forfeits its highest ideals.

      In the case of BP, allowing the cases to drag out in court over the course of decades (if history is any precedent) causes businesses and families who suffered immediate catastrophic loss to continue that with no relief, while BP stays cozy.

      Tell you what, you guys can run your representatives on the "shakedown." Call for a lengthy taxpayer-funded investigation (is Ken Starr busy?) of Obama. Do what you have to do.

      We both know if Obama wanted this to drag out in the courts, you guys would say that's the WRONG thing to do, that he's not acting quickly enough.

      20 billion in one day for gulf victims–and you guys are against it. I love it.

      • http://intensedebate.com/people/JasonPappas JasonPappas

        Two points, Jim. We don't run the world. Our Constitution doesn't apply to people around the world–it applies to our jurisdiction. The capture of foreign attackers is covered by treaties.

        Secondly, the excessive length of time to get justice in civil cases needs to be addressed. Exceptions can't be made for expediency.

        • Jim C.

          Jason, I wish we didn't run the world. We act, and appropriate funds, as if we're supposed to.

          In terms of what happened between Obama and BP–why are we assuming coercion or some sort of abuse of power? Is it too much to think both parties mutually agreed? Not sure what BP's bottom line has to do with an American individual's freedom.

        • trickyblain

          Your comparison to foriegn fighters waging war on the US is more correct than you intend.

          The BP spill did not occur in US territory. The platform isn't international waters. BP is registered in London, England.

          They are covered by the US Constitution, how?

          • trickyblain

            errata: "The platform "is in" international waters."

      • Liberty Clinger

        Any "justice" system which stands in the way of man's sacred equal rights to life, liberty or creative pursuit of happiness, is a system of injustice – forfeiting its highest ideals.

      • glpage

        We're sixy some odd days into this mess and Obama is acting quickly. Yeah, right.

      • Rifleman

        Enemy combatants are subject to military law, not civilian law. If enemy combatants have a right to be tried as civilians, why don't our troops?

        At least hussein will be doing something he might be qualified to do, and has any experience doing, doling out a large fund of someone else's money to people he decides deserve it. You won't love living without rule of law for long, enjoy your lesson.

        • http://intensedebate.com/people/JasonPappas JasonPappas

          Damn good question … followed by a wise warning.

      • coyote3

        Yes, because there is no authority to do it. The rest of your comment is totally irrelevant.

        • Jim C.

          Thing is, I'm not sure he had to exercise any "authority." Perhaps he just asked nice.

          • http://intensedebate.com/people/Rifleman Rifleman

            That's what the mafia does.

          • http://intensedebate.com/people/JasonPappas JasonPappas

            LOL. That's it. Obama is making them an offer they can't refuse.

          • coyote3

            Thing is, he didn't even have he authority to ask, nice or otherwise, perhaps or not.

          • trickyblain

            Sure he did. He's asking a foreign company to clean up a mess created in international waters and affecting the general welfare of thousands of US citizens.

          • coyote3

            That's absurd, asking them to clean up is an entirely different matter than setting up a fund for compensation.

          • coyote3

            "….and affecting the general welfare of thousands of US citizens". Also, totally irrelevant. The "general welfare" clause is not a license for the federal government to do thing, "just because" it affects people, and you know it. Indeed, that idea was shot down years ago in case after case that limited the power of the federal government.

  • guest

    "he deliberately sought to activate people who did not normally pay much attention to politics. Such people were a valuable addition to his political base, since they were particularly susceptible to Hitler’s rhetoric and had far less basis for questioning his assumptions or his conclusions."

    Sounds like a description of the successful efforts of the right to mobilize christian fundamentalist foot soldiers in the 1980s. How inconvenient for Sowell's argument.

    • Marianne

      Grasping at straws, are we???

    • Liberty Clinger

      I believe you have fallen for the evil of moral equivalence. The "christian fundamentalist foot soldiers" in the 1980's were interested in conserving the individual's God-given equal rights to life, liberty and creative pursuit of happiness – Classic Liberals – like Thomas Jefferson. Fascist and Marxist useful idiots and foot soldiers were, and are, interested in a collectivist destruction of the individual's sacred human rights – the moral opposite – Classic Conservatives – like King George III, Vladimir Lenin, Joseph Stalin and Adolph Hitler.

    • WEC

      True, the uninformed and unthinking can be mobilized in the service of any cause, not just the ones we happen to agree with.

      But, far from being "inconvenient for Sowell's argument," that observation supports his claim that–in order to avoid being used ourselves–we need to be concerned with the rule of law and the preservation of freedom, rather than immediate events or slightly creepy cults of personality.

    • gpcase

      You equate the American right with the Nazis. This is part of the Big Lie the Left has foisted upon the people for over half a century. Why is this comparison false? Because the American right seeks to restore a limited government that protects life, liberty and property. The Nazis were the opposite of limited government and destroyed individual rights. Nazi means "National Socialist" and were from the left, another gang of thugs and faux-intellectuals who competed with other socialist and Communist parties for power. The European right, composed of monarchy, aristocracy and church, were destroyed by the First World War. If you were an intelligent and honest person, you would recognize the difference between the political philosophy contained in the Declaration of Independnce and Mein Kompf.

  • Liberty Clinger

    “There is no good government but what is republican. That the only valuable part of the British constitution is so; because the very definition of a republic is "an empire of laws, and not of men."… A single assembly, possessed of all the powers of government, would make arbitrary laws for their own interest, execute all laws arbitrarily for their own interest, and adjudge all controversies in their own favor.” John Adams
    http://www.liberty1.org/thoughts.htm

  • Jim C.

    Sowell positively seethes with jealousy of Obama. I must say I enjoy his inferiority complex!

    • USMCSniper

      That comment is quite ridiculous Did you know that at the University of Chicago, Thomas Sowell studied under economist and Nobel laureate, Milton Friedman, and George Stigler. Sowell obtained his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago in 1968. Sowell positively seethes with CONTEMPT of Obama I would accept.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/Rifleman Rifleman

      That's ridiculous Jim. Who'd want to be remembered by history as someone worse than jimmy carter?

      Can you refute anything he's saying?

      • Jim C.

        I'm being flip…Sowell's an honest intellect.

        My problem is not so much disagreement as the timing. What you guys are oh so concerned about now didn't seem to matter much to you for the last 10 years. I'd like to see some consistency. What I see is a one-sided distortion re: government power. It fails to take into account WHY we are where we are–something I attribute to the huge corporate takeover of government which is not exactly new, but has been on steroids since the days of Reaganomics.

        Our government has been bought out from under us and become something of a proxy mega-boardroom–one that acts in private interests that are not always in the public interest.

        Gov't then "overreaches" in order to make up for this.

        So when it comes to, say, the TEA party–I identify with those folks but I think their anger is misplaced. This is not to say "corporations are evil"–most are law abiding. But sometimes, the laws themselves have been cooked & hidden away, by people we did NOT elect.

        • http://intensedebate.com/people/Rifleman Rifleman

          Many, perhaps even most people here, including myself, have been concerned (As Sowell has), with government interference in the market, and the GOP's part in it. That's why many conservatives (but not me), stayed home in '08. I knew that would just be jumping from the frying pan into the fire. The most common complaint from conservatives against President Bush and the GOP congress was his expansion of domestic spending and social programs.

          The conservative end of the GOP were the only ones that ever tried to stop it. Their failure to do so doesn't make them the equivalent of those who actually did it.

          • Jim C.

            Gutting the Glass-Steagal Act, and sneaking his Commodity Futures Modernization Act into an appropriations bill made Phil Gramm and his wife quite wealthy–though they led directly to the financial crisis and Enron.
            The problem is government collusion with private interests, and the formation of laws and policies that benefit some and harm others.

            Everybody likes a robust economy, and its very true that government regulations can be ridiculously arcane–my problem is they hurt the smaller business where the bigger business can eat the costs. I think we've gotten to a point where we have defense contractors and attendant industries driving foreign policy (Iraq War) and huge multinationals driving domestic policy.

            First we need to get these guys out of our government. Corporations should not be treated as individuals–period. That is not "anti-corporation"–we need big business, too, but they have to play fair, or they'll always take advantage, as is their nature. Then, we need to revamp our showbiz nonsense election system.

            THEN, my friend, we can shrink government and make it more efficient. You'll find I have many points of agreement with conservatives on things like welfare and education.

    • Mike

      You simply miss the point of the article and choose to resort to simple minded psychoanalysis- nothing more than rhetoric. When your private property is taken, perhaps then you will care.

      • Jim C.

        Remains to be seen, like every other of the hundreds of doom and gloom predictions of Obama's supposed "tyranny" that have yet to come true, and for which, when they don't, not one of you will come here and say "I was wrong."

        I was being flip with the post because Sowell makes it easy. See my post above for an actual discussion of it.

  • JasonPappas

    Sowell is right to title his essay “The Degeneration of Democracy.” This is precisely what worried the Founding Fathers. From classical political theory and practice, the Founding Fathers knew that when power is concentrated in a man or group of men, it corrupts. This could be the executive (dictator, king, or president) or this could be the legislative branch. The quote from Adams is apropos (see Liberty Clinger, above). Here’s Madison in Federalist 48 on the degeneration of democracy into despotic rule:

    “ … it will be necessary to quote a passage of some length from his [Jefferson’s] very interesting Notes on the State of Virginia, p. 195. 'All the powers of government, legislative, executive, and judiciary, result to the legislative body. The concentrating these in the same hands is precisely the definition of despotic government. It will be no alleviation that these powers will be exercised by a plurality of hands, and not by a single one. One hundred and seventy-three despots [as in the Virginia assembly] would surely be as oppressive as one. Let those who doubt it turn their eyes on the republic of Venice. As little will it avail us that they are chosen by ourselves. An elective despotism was not the government we fought for; but one which should not only be founded on free principles, but in which the powers of government should be so divided and balanced among several bodies of magistracy as that no one could transcend their legal limits without being effectually checked and restrained by the others. …'”

    All three branches of government must follow the rule of law and respect the checks by the other branches if our rights and liberties are to be protected. Excess & arbitrary power in any branch is a threat to republican government and an end to liberty.

    • Liberty Clinger

      We will never have justice in the United States until the Declaration of Independence finally becomes recognized and enforced as law. Even our Constitution has been corrupted by injustice – the 3/5 rule, and the arbitrary “Living Constitution” which is nothing more than "an empire of men, and not of laws.” Natural law – The Declaration – is our supreme unamendable moral law – higher than even our supreme amendable secular law – the Constitution. Both Thomas Jefferson and John Locke recognized the superiority of Natural Law over secular law. When secular law (even our own Constitution) becomes destructive of the individual’s equal unalienable rights to life, liberty and creative pursuit of happiness; then secular law becomes tyrannical law, and “That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”

      • JasonPappas

        I basically agree with you but I'd change your wording slightly. Natural Law precedes Positive Law. The laws enacted by men (positive law), if they are to be just must conform to the laws of nature.

        Of course, nature is secular. The world "secular" just means pertaining to earthly matters. Human society and the nature of human well-being are inherently natural subjects. But human beings can willfully go against their nature and commit injustice. The word "positive" is the correct word for laws created by men. Justice requires that "positive" law follow "natural" law.

        This goes back to the Roman Stoic philosophers and the writings of Marcus Tullius Cicero. I review Cicero's contribution on my blog: http://libertyandculture.blogspot.com/2006_12_01_
        Locke and Jefferson (and all the Founding Fathers) were fully versed in Cicero.

        • Liberty Clinger

          Natural law is not merely secular – natural law is moral – natural law comes not just from nature but also from the God of nature. The individual's equal rights to life, liberty and creative pursuit of happiness are not just natural; they are also sacred. Those equal rights of the individual certainly do not derive from government – they come from God – and securing those equal rights is the entire justification for the existence of government.

        • Liberty Clinger

          "When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them… We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…" Thomas Jefferson – Declaration of Independence
          http://www.ushistory.org/declaration/document/ind

        • Liberty Clinger

          “The state of nature has a law of nature to govern it, which obliges every one: and reason, which is that law, teaches all mankind, who will but consult it, that being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty, or possessions: for men being all the workmanship of one omnipotent, and infinitely wise maker; all the servants of one sovereign master, sent into the world by his order, and about his business; they are his property, whose workmanship they are, made to last during his, not one another's pleasure: and being furnished with like faculties, sharing all in one community of nature, there cannot be supposed any such subordination among us, that may authorize us to destroy one another, as if we were made for one another's uses, as the inferior ranks of creatures are for our's.” John Locke
          http://history.hanover.edu/courses/excerpts/111lo

          • http://intensedebate.com/people/JasonPappas JasonPappas

            Natural law is discovered by empirical means — examination of nature. Locke was the father of British Empiricism and believed that you understood natural law, both physical and human, by empirical means. Now as a believing Christian, he obviously saw both physical and human laws as God’s creation because God created the universe. He believed, however, that reason applied to empirical examination gave one knowledge of these laws. I can give examples if you wish.

            Natural law is secular, i.e. it is “down here” on earth. Divine law is God’s word. Locke, as well as the founding fathers, believed that natural law (via empiricism) and Divine law (via revelation) don’t conflict. To put it another way: what you see with your eyes is what you hear God say. But they aren’t the same by definition. If they are the same, it is because of your theology. Locke and the Founding Fathers thought so.

          • Liberty Clinger

            Science is part of natural law and is fully secular. Natural law in regards to our equal, unalienable human rights is not fully secular because there will always be tyrants and other evil men and women (secular or religious) who, unlike Jefferson and Locke, can't see or refuse to see the self-evident natural moral laws contained in the American Declaration of Independence and in Locke's Second Treatise.

            The Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights have injected sacred natural law (equal human rights to life, liberty and creative pursuit of happiness) into secular law.

          • http://intensedebate.com/people/JasonPappas JasonPappas

            Locke saw ethical laws as natural and empirically verifiable. He is a major philosopher in Western history known for his epistemology (British Empiricism) in addition to his politics (Natural Rights).

            Let’s remember that Locke argued against Filmer’s scripture-based position of the Divine Rights of Kings in the first treatise. Locke then puts forward, in his second treatise, his position on rights in very natural secular terms. There’s a defense of the origin of property using such phrases as “mixing one’s labor with the soil” as well as life in a “state of nature.”

            In “Reasonableness of Christianity” Locke argues that empirical ethnics and religion aren’t in contradiction. The Founding Fathers would agree. However, the leading intellectuals among the Founders were ardent empiricists constantly examining and arguing about historical examples. Human nature was studied by example. Just as any other aspect of nature might be studied.

          • Jim C.

            Your posts are excellent–why do you have that warning sign attached to your name?

          • trickyblain

            He probably said something negative about Sarah Palin, or dismissed the notion that the BP rig was blown up by Obama's daughters.

          • Liberty Clinger

            Like our Founding Fathers I believe in separation of church and state – the Constitution provides the needed separation. On the other hand, the Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights unite a good and rational God with state – with God as the source of our equal unalienable human rights. Marxist-Atheist Communism, Pagan Fascism and Islamo-Fascism separate God from state – they separate man from his/her unalienable equal rights to life, liberty and creative pursuit of happiness.

            "Almighty God hath created the mind free. All attempts to influence it by temporal punishments or burthens . . . are a departure from the plan of the Holy Author of our religion.” Thomas Jefferson

            “God who gave us life gave us liberty. Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God?” Thomas Jefferson
            http://www.monticello.org/reports/quotes/memorial

          • Jim C.

            Though I am a believer, I am fine with non-believers–as long as there is an understanding that rights are not "granted" by the government; and they understand that what it means to consider rights "unalienable."

            Islamic fascism does not separate God from State–quite the opposite. God IS the state. Islam has a "quietist" tradition, however, that is very close to the idea of "let government govern the people, let God govern the heart" & we should encourage this–as it was very much what Iran was heading toward before the mullahs took over.

          • Liberty Clinger

            Islam is totalitarian government – a theocracy – but their god is not the God of unalienable, equal human rights to life, liberty and creative pursuit of happiness. Their god and their government is the enemy of man's equal, unalienable human rights; and therefore not the same god as in our Declaration of Independence.

          • Jim C.

            Well, my God is not at all the same God as "Reverend" Fred Phelps, either. I'm a little cautious to think Al Qaeda's God is the same God as al Sistani's, much less the Sufis. Or all 3 billion people who call themselves Muslim.

          • Liberty Clinger

            Agreed. My God is not the god of Phelps or the god of Totalitarian Islam. My God is the God of the Declaration of Independence.

          • JasonPappas

            The whole point of referring to “nature’s Creator” was to argue that rights are parts of a person just as his brain is. It is inseparable from your being as a man. It isn’t something granted by the state. It’s not by convention that it is true; it is true by nature. This distinction goes back to the Ancient Greeks. The Jewish tradition would say it’s not true by human convention but by God’s convention. Moses doesn’t derive God’s laws but delivers his message and says obey.

            If it turns out that a Christian God didn’t create the universe or Zeus didn’t create the universe it wouldn’t matter to the argument of the Founders. Whatever force brought forth our being and gave us our nature made us who we are. We have to discover and face the laws of nature be they ethical or physical. If we don’t, we suffer as a consequence. Look at how the Founders use their premise in argument. They merely want to say that rights are facts that must be acknowledged.

            They happened to believe the cause of our being was a God. But if you didn’t believe that, it's no reason to suffer under Communism or Fascism. That’s just plain silly. The facts of human nature are there to discover just as Locke did. Just as Cicero did.

          • Liberty Clinger

            Under Fascism and Communism (and Totalitarian Islam) "rights" are not part of a person, they are simply reversible privileges which are part of government – granted by government – here today if you wag your tail just right and lick the hand that feeds you – "rights" that are likely to be gone tomorrow. When "human rights" are derived from government they cannot be unalienable – they are reversible by the nature of government (a group of people prone to jealousy, envy, hate, coercion and violence). The concept of a good and rational God is a necessary precursor to the concept of unalienable human rights – just as our Founding Fathers said – just as Fyodor Dostoyevsky said.

            “If God does not exist, then everything (in the absence of equal unalienable human rights) is permitted” Fyodor Dostoyevsky

          • Liberty Clinger

            Marx and Lenin didn't think it was silly to connect totalitarian government with the absence of God.

            "There are, besides, eternal truths, such as Freedom, Justice, etc., that are common to all states of society. But communism abolishes eternal truths, it abolishes all religion, and all morality." Karl Marx
            http://www.anu.edu.au/polsci/marx/classics/manife

            “Our program necessarily includes the propaganda of atheism.” Vladimir Lenin

            Unfortunately there is an evil side to human nature. For every Jefferson, Locke and Cicero there is a Marx, Hegel and Machiavelli. For every George Washington there is a Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot or Hitler. Not everyone can see the self-evident truth of man's equal unalienable rights to life, liberty and creative pursuit of happiness – there will always by irrational people in this world. Not everyone wants to see those unalienable human rights – they wish to destroy them by expropriation to the state – there will always be evil people in this world.

          • JasonPappas

            Sorry if this is posted twice:

            We had monarchy for the first 17 centuries of Christianity. God didn’t help us get our liberty. Jesus didn’t fight the Roman Empire to free the Jews. His “Kingdom is not of this earth.” Christians never required liberty until the 17th century. Something changed. It wasn’t the religion. It didn’t happen everywhere but in England. It was never fully embraced outside English-speaking nations.

            It was an empirical philosophy that demanded proof from observation. It sought to learn from the lessons of history. And it saw liberty rooted in property rights, respect for the individual, and self-reliance.

            The Continental tradition of Marx and Mussolini rejected the British tradition. It wasn’t only atheists who ran to socialism. Most of those on the Continent were practicing Christians. The most orthodox Christian nation in Europe, Russia, became the first Communist country on earth. Russia was least touched by the British Enlightenment and the philosophy of Locke. Russia missed the rebirth of Classical learning (the Renaissance) and revival of Aristotle.

            Continental Europe favored a more paternalistic worldview where a nation’s leader made the choices and took care of people’s needs. This was true regardless of the degree of religion. Now, I’m ecstatic when conservative Christians believe that individual rights and self-reliance are a natural fit for the secular component of their religious worldview. It’s fairly new in Christian history but it’s welcomed.

            One has to look to the specifics of the English-speaking traditions and see how much of an exception this is in time and space. We had better fight to hold on to that tradition. That’s why I’m worried when conservatives defend our tradition on narrowly religious grounds.

            We didn’t have a special version of Christianity. But we had something in addition and it was rational, empirical, historically-based, philosophically-defended, and honorably established. Must of all, we rejected paternalism: in thought and practice. We were independent in spirit and in the way we lived our lives. It’s that which we most not lose. But without the concept of rights, all that is just fleeting emotion. Rights make the independent spirit objective. That’s the whole point of saying it is by nature and not by convention.

          • Liberty Clinger

            Under Fascism and Communism (and Totalitarian Islam) "rights" are not part of a person, they are simply reversible privileges which are part of government – granted by government – here today if you wag your tail just right and lick the hand that feeds you – "rights" that are likely to be gone tomorrow. When "human rights" are derived from government they cannot be unalienable – they are reversible by the nature of government (a group of people prone to jealousy, envy, hate, coercion and violence). The concept of a good and rational God is a necessary precursor to the concept of unalienable human rights – just as our Founding Fathers said – just as Fyodor Dostoyevsky said.

            “If God does not exist, then everything (in the absence of equal unalienable human rights) is permitted” Fyodor Dostoyevsky

          • JasonPappas

            Totalitarians reject rights because they are paternalistic. Christian socialists today and monarchists (for 17 centuries) also reject rights because they are paternalistic. Rights dovetail with self-reliant individualism.

            What many of my fellow conservatives forget is that Locke and the Founding Fathers had fresh in their mind the religious wars of the 17th century. The Thirty Years War consumed continental Europe and left 1/3 of Germans dead and many others. The butchery and savagery of that war shocked all decent people. It led Hugo Grotius to formulate a rights-respecting philosophy (inspired by Cicero). Locke was a friend and colleague of Grotius.

            One consequence of the religious wars was a new outlook on religion. Locke argued that the differences between sects were less important than the “essential reasonableness of Christianity.” He got into how water with many religious leaders since his “essentials” left out doctrines their sect cherished as important.

            Our Founding Fathers were of such differing religious views that if they had to agree on religion, the Revolution would never have gotten off the ground. However, they took Locke’s view. Locke refers to scripture in the 1st treatise when he argued against the religionist views of Filmer; but in the 2nd treatise he argues from nature, not scripture. The founders didn’t argue from God’s scripture, but from God’s handiwork—nature. They took Locke’s empirical method for granted. Of course, they assumed there would be no conflict but they settled that question privately or in their congregations.

            Today, when conservatives advocate a religious approach, it usually means scripture, not a Lockean empirical naturalism. Of course, a religious person should take his scripture seriously. But common ground has to be established by examining God’s handiwork. Arguing about scripture didn’t prevent the Thirty Years War … it fueled it. Our Founders understood that lesson.

          • Liberty Clinger

            Marx and Lenin didn't think it was silly to connect totalitarian government with the absence of God.

            "There are, besides, eternal truths, such as Freedom, Justice, etc., that are common to all states of society. But communism abolishes eternal truths, it abolishes all religion, and all morality." Karl Marx
            http://www.anu.edu.au/polsci/marx/classics/manife

            “Our program necessarily includes the propaganda of atheism.” Vladimir Lenin

            Unfortunately there is an evil side to human nature. For every Jefferson, Locke and Cicero there is a Marx, Hegel and Machiavelli. For every George Washington there is a Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot or Hitler. Not everyone can see the self-evident truth of man's equal unalienable rights to life, liberty and creative pursuit of happiness – they are irrational. Not everyone wants to see those unalienable human rights – they wish to destroy them by expropriation to the state – they are evil.

          • JasonPappas

            We had monarchy for the first 17 centuries of Christianity. God didn’t help us get our liberty. Jesus didn’t fight the Roman Empire to free the Jews. His “Kingdom is not of this earth.” Christians never required liberty until the 17th century. Something changed. It wasn’t the religion. It didn’t happen everywhere but in England. It was never fully embraced outside English-speaking nations.

            It was an empirical philosophy that demanded proof from observation. It sought to learn from the lessons of history. And it saw liberty rooted in property rights, respect for the individual, and self-reliance.

            The Continental tradition of Marx and Mussolini rejected the British tradition. It wasn’t only atheists who ran to socialism. Most of those on the Continent were practicing Christians. The most orthodox Christian nation in Europe, Russia, became the first Communist country on earth. Russia was least touched by the British Enlightenment and the philosophy of Locke. Russia missed the rebirth of Classical learning (the Renaissance) and revival of Aristotle.

            Continental Europe favored a more paternalistic worldview where the nation’s leader made the choices and took care of people’s needs. This was true regardless of the degree of religion. Now, I’m ecstatic when conservative Christians believe that individual rights and self-reliance are a natural fit for the secular component of their religious worldview. It’s fairly new in Christian history but it’s welcomed.

            One has to look to the specifics of the English-speaking traditions and see how much of an exception this is in time and space. We had better fight to hold on to that tradition. That's why I argue against an narrow religious interpretation of the American Revolution. It isn't anti-religious, of course. But it is inherently rational, secular, empirical, historically-based, philosophically-defended, and honorably founded.

            And, they believed that no God would want otherwise. (But so did the Loyalists!)

          • Liberty Clinger

            Sorry for the double posting – technical difficulties.

          • http://intensedebate.com/people/JasonPappas JasonPappas

            Several of my posts fail to appear! This is a test.

    • Liberty Clinger

      “Rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add 'within the limits of the law' because law is often but the tyrant's will, and always so when it violates the rights of the individual.” Thomas Jefferson
      http://etext.virginia.edu/jefferson/quotations/je

      "Tyranny is the exercise of Power beyond Right, which no Body can have a Right to." John Locke
      http://www.constitution.org/jl/2ndtr18.htm

    • Jim C.

      It is fascinating how the debate between Jefferson and Hamilton continues to this day in almost fractal variation, with our two main parties claiming parts of each.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/lovesjeeves lovesjeeves

    To "Liberty Clinger" and "Jason Pappas" ….excellent posts and writing! Thank you!

    • Jim C.

      I agree. Good to see actual political discussion here.

  • http://www.moderatesunited.blogspot.com Barry Cooper

    Dr. Sowell,

    I read somewhere that "Keynes at Harvard" was required reading at one point at Chicago (from which I also received a graduate degree–albeit only a Masters.)

    Can you not laser in on cretins like Paul Krugman more consistently, who are doing their level best to sound like serious economists as they work to undermine our democracy and free enterprise system?

    The signs are all there, and have been for a long time. None of this requires difficult thinking, although I will admit it makes you sick to the stomach to grasp in a deep way the extent to which we have been betrayed.

    As I "score" our system, inflation is necessarily wealth transfer, which means that the 2,000% inflation we have seen since the Fed was foisted on us implies that our purchasing power–that of normal Americans–should be some 20 times what it is.

    What say you?

  • Art C

    Sowell positively seethes with jealousy of Obama. I must say I enjoy his inferiority complex!

    Dr. Sowells nail clippings are smarter than Mr. Obama is

  • Art

    Are Jim C and Art C the same person? I'd rate them as F.