The View From 1776
Tradition & Morality
Friday, February 20, 2015
Restoring The Unwritten Constitution
Liberal-progressivism, exemplified in President Obama, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, is aimed at destroying the essence of constitutionalism that gave birth to the United States.
Intellectuals since the so-called Age of Enlightenment have theorized that political societies are merely projections of ruler’s minds and that a ruler, or ruling intellectual elite, can make of a society whatever it wishes. Liberal-progressives’ atheistic materialism leads to their faith that whatever exists is the product of rational minds and, therefore, rational minds can change things at will in order to perfect them.
In the materialistic world view dominating society today, no weight is given to the essentiality of spiritual matters expressed in religion and societal cultures, from the tribal level to national states. Liberal-progressivism emanating from the corrupting continental European so-called Aage of Enlightenment propounds the faith that reality is only what is perceptible by human sensory organs. From this flows the hubristic assurance that intellectuals, having transcended the ignorance and superstition of the Judeo-Christian foundation of Western civilization, have conquered nature and are able to shape it to their vision of societal perfection.
Lenin envisioned the brutal force of collectivized tyranny as creating the New Soviet Man, a creature who would selflessly give his all for society, asking in return only what he needed to live in a classless society. Today we see the same hubristic certainty expressed in liberal-progressive collectivism evidenced in regulatory homogenization ranging from President Johnson’s Great Society to ObamaCare and President Obama’s regulatory assault on production and use of coal, petroleum, and natural gas. Resistance from half or more of voters persists, because liberal-progressivism ignores the essentiality and power of spiritual religion as a primary source of morality, respect for constitutional authority, duty to family, community, and national patriotism.
No weight is given to historical precedent. There is no sense that political order is the product of centuries of accumulated adjustments and understandings among people who constitute the society. There is no sense that societies do not survive without a set of core beliefs and principles to which almost everyone subscribes.
Nations don’t survive because government welfare programs provide them material goods. Nations survive because people share a common vision and are willing to work hard and, if necessary, to fight for that vision.
The statement of purpose for this website puts it this way:
The View from 1776 presents a framework to understand present-day issues from the viewpoint of the colonists who fought for American independence in 1776 and wrote the Constitution in 1787. Knowing and preserving those understandings, what might be called the unwritten constitution of our nation, is vital to preserving constitutional government. Without them, the bare words of the Constitution are just a Rorschach ink-blot that politicians, educators, and judges can interpret to mean anything they wish.
In the United States, immigration abetted by multiculturalism is corrupting society’s unwritten constitution, which is the positive embodiment of the spirit that animates a society and gives it a driving force of unity in belief and national aims.
No society can survive without a consensus about right and wrong, about what constitutes moral conduct. That consensus is the unwritten constitution of society, the content that gives meaning to a written constitution, the meat on the bones of the structure of government.
Without that consensus there can be only a disparate group of people with little or no attachment to their new homes. That is what we see increasingly, here , under the impact of a tsunami of immigration from alien cultures and religions.
It’s not immigrants who are undermining the unwritten constitution, however. The source of corruption is liberal-progressive beliefs, endlessly preached in our multicultural educational system and the mainstream media, that the United States is, and has always been, a corrupt, oppressive society conceived by the rich to plunder the American public and the rest of the world.
Accommodating immigration is both a major means of survival for the United States and a device for liberal-progressives to recruit new voters (including illegals) for the Democrat/Socialist Party. Immigrants have become a major source of new business and employment creation and the source of the higher birth rate needed to keep the United States from becoming a replica of western Europe: an aging society of dwindling numbers of young workers to support the burden of rising welfare-state obligations.
Combining the huge flood of immigration with a liberal-progressive ethos of rootless multiculturalism sets the stage for disintegration of American society more effectively than terrorist attacks by Islamic jihadists. No longer is education viewed as a melting pot to teach our history and the principles of our government.
Without the pre-existing unwritten constitution of 1776, which Jefferson said was the source of his words in the Declaration of Independence, our written Constitution has become vulnerable to destructive distortion by activist judges and liberal-progressive educators.
Judeo-Christian traditions of right and wrong underlie the unwritten constitution that prevailed in 1776. Those traditions taught generations of Americans that every person should always do his best to do the right thing, even if doing so did not benefit him personally. A flood of judicial decisions since the 1950s reveals, however, that doing away with precepts of right and wrong is one of the primary objectives of liberal-socialism.
The “me” generation of the Baby Boomer era were taught that the only standard is immediate gratification of their sensual urges. Hence today’s generally accepted belief that sexual promiscuity, murdering babies via abortion, drug abuse, biological fathers abandoning partners and the children they father, and living off the welfare state are acceptable life styles.
Myron Magnet expands upon this theme in What Must We Think About When We Think About Politics? appearing in the City Journal website.
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Sunday, December 21, 2014
Caring Liberal-Progressivism And Anti-Semitism
Ben Stein outlines the growing, irrational racism of liberal-progressivism, in the United States. That racism, anti-semitism and anti-Israelism, is even more virulent in Europe.
In part liberal-progressivism’s racism is resurgence of scape-goating, blaming one’s failures and miseries on a convenient group of “others.”
Liberal-progressivism’s across-the-board failure is manifest in the miseries of high unemployment rates here and in Europe; in high rates of violent crime; in never-before-experienced high rates of illegitimate births and single-parent families; in the murder of millions of unborn babies; in current generations of students far less well educated than earlier generations. Meanwhile the birth rate in the United States (except among immigrant groups) and in Europe has been falling and is now below the rate necessary to keep populations from shrinking in total. Given the unsupportable costs of welfare-state hand-outs, we and Europe are approaching a point at which the dwindling numbers of those working to produce economic goods will be outnumbered and overwhelmed by the non-working beneficiaries of welfare programs.
This dismal record since the 1960s is the direct result of liberal-progressivism’s hell-bent campaign since the French Revolution to destroy all of the religious morality and social customs that are essential to creating and maintaining social and political order.
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Tuesday, December 02, 2014
What’s The Real Deal In Ferguson?
We are confronted with a fundamental Constitutional issue: protecting the rights of individuals against mindless mobs in the streets.
Only liberal-progressives could feel justified in mobilizing a media campaign to incite further rioting, believing that “caring” in the abstract for “victims of oppression” trumps maintenance of law and order for the benefit of all citizens, black and white.
Only liberal-progressives could ignore the rights of innocent residents whose property was vandalized in Ferguson and elsewhere; after all, in socialist ideology, capitalism and property ownership are evils that must be controlled or eliminated by collectivized government in the name of social justice.
Only liberal-progressives could attribute to racism the anger of the majority of Americans when they see gangs of people in the nighttime streets looting and burning businesses of people who had nothing whatever to do with the Ferguson incident.
Only liberal-progressives could dismiss legitimate grievances of citizens alarmed by rampant crime among young black males and the readiness of their elders to blame the white community for conduct that raises fear for the survival of our political society.
Only liberal-progressives could sneeringly dismiss people with those concerns as racists who “cling to their Bibles and guns.”
In Class Prejudice Resurgent (New York Times, December 1, 2014), columnist David Brooks correctly observes that the Ferguson fulminations are different from civil rights issues. He doesn’t, however, note that more fundamentally Ferguson represents refusal of liberal-progressives and their black political supporters to accept responsibility for their own actions. Liberal-progressive hippies and flower children were fond of spiritual concepts such as karma, but failed to understand its substance: you reap what you sow.
Responding to one of liberal-progressives’ gauzy platitudes, Mr. Brooks writes:
It’s often said after events like Ferguson that we need a national conversation on race. That’s a bit true. We all need to improve our capacity for sympathetic understanding, our capacity to imaginatively place ourselves in the minds of other people with experiences different from our own. Conversation can help, though I suspect novels, works of art and books like Claude Brown’s “Manchild in the Promised Land” work better.
But, ultimately, we don’t need a common conversation; we need a common project. If the nation works together to improve social mobility for the poor of all races, through projects like President Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper initiative, then social distance will decline, classism will decline and racial prejudice will obliquely decline as well.
In a friendship, people don’t sit around talking about their friendship. They do things together. Through common endeavor people overcome difference to become friends.
Mr. Brooks’s “common endeavor” is a pipe dream.
As I noted in Ferguson Again, the root cause is President Lyndon Johnson’s 1960s Great Society welfare state, which destroyed the cohesion of so many black families and spawned large numbers of black young men raised in single-parent, welfare-addicted households. Liberal icon Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan predicted at the time that the result was going to be black neighborhoods terrorized by remorseless, conscienceless young black men. One of those was Ferguson’s Michael Brown.
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Friday, November 21, 2014
Traditional Virtues Perish Under Onslaught Of Deficit Spending And Federal Reserve Loose Money
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Thursday, November 13, 2014
Like sausage, few people knew everything that was packed into it.
Nancy Pelosi notoriously said that Congress had to pass enabling legislation in order to find out what was in the bill. At the time Pelosi and Harry Reid jammed the bill through Congress no one had read all of its 1,200, plus or minus, pages.
The administration’s current plaint that limiting subsidies to citizens of states that enacted their own ObamaCare insurance exchanges was a “typo” is obviously contradicted by the plain and extensive language of the act itself. If the Supreme Court rules that the law is the law and that a president may not unilaterally change or ignore laws passed by Congress, Obama will have been hoist by his own petard.
As James Taranto wrote, in his November 13, 2014 column in the Wall Street Journal:
This is beginning to take on a man-bites-dog quality. More video has surfaced in which ObamaCare architect Jonathan Gruber acknowledges the dishonesty that underlies the law. The Washington Examiner reports this one—a 2012 talk at the University of Rhode Island—has to do with the so-called luxury tax on employer-provided medical coverage:
“In America, we have a pernicious feature of our tax code, which says that if MIT pays me in wages, I get taxed,” Gruber, an MIT health economist, said during his address. “But if your employer pays you in health insurance, you do not.”
Gruber explained that most Americans become defensive and object when policymakers try to change this, because they don’t want their health insurance to be taxed. But it wasn’t until Secretary of State John Kerry, another Massachusetts “hero,” came along that he realized how to sell such a plan successfully.
“John Kerry said, ‘No, no. We’re not going to tax your health insurance. We’re going to tax those evil insurance companies. We’re going to impose a tax that if they sell insurance that’s too expensive, we’re going to tax them,’” Gruber said. “And, conveniently, the tax rate will happen to be the marginal tax rate under the income tax code.”
“So, basically, it’s the same thing: We just tax the insurance companies, they pass on higher prices that offsets the tax break we get, it ends up being the same thing,” he added. “It’s a very clever, you know, basically exploitation of the lack of economic understanding of the American voter.”
And CNN’s Jake Tapper reports on a fourth video, albeit one in which his “language is not as stark”:
“Barack Obama’s not a stupid man, okay?” Gruber said in his remarks at the College of the Holy Cross on March 11, 2010. “He knew when he was running for president that quite frankly the American public doesn’t actually care that much about the uninsured. . . . What the American public cares about is costs. And that’s why even though the bill that they made is 90% health insurance coverage and 10% about cost control, all you ever hear people talk about is cost control. How it’s going to lower the cost of health care, that’s all they talk about. Why? Because that’s what people want to hear about because a majority of American care about health care costs.”
You can tell this stuff is worrying ObamaCare supporters, because they’re anxiously trying to rationalize it away. The New York Times’s Neil Irwin, referring to one of the Gruber videos revealed earlier, writes:
It looks like a shocking instance of a onetime Obama adviser saying that the administration pulled the wool over America’s eyes in advancing major legislation. That is certainly how many conservatives are interpreting it after a video of the remarks started circulating this week.
But here’s the dirty little secret: Mr. Gruber was exposing something sordid yet completely commonplace about how Congress makes policy of all types: Legislators frequently game policy to fit the sometimes arbitrary conventions by which the Congressional Budget Office evaluates laws and the public debates them.
What doesn’t seem to occur to Irwin is that if this is commonplace, that makes Gruber’s candid acknowledgment of what he and other ObamaCare designers were up to all the more shocking.
Meanwhile, the Washington Post’s Aaron Blake has a post titled “Why Jonathan Gruber Won’t Change the Obamacare Debate.” His main argument is true, but somewhat trivial: Gruber cannot turn the public against ObamaCare because the public is already against ObamaCare. But why can’t the opposition become broader, or more intense? Here’s Blake’s answer:
And Gruber’s comments, while damning, aren’t exactly the most fertile political territory. That’s because, while “stupidity of the American voter” is a pretty strong soundbite, Gruber’s connection to the law takes some explaining. And we’re not sure most people—apart from those who already decided the efficacy of the law years ago—are really keen on the latest Obamacare debate a week after the 2014 election.
In other words, the American people are too stupid to figure out who the guy calling them stupid is. But the Hill reports that one of the guy’s chief co-conspirators is pleading ignorance:
The ObamaCare consultant churning headlines this week for questioning voters’ intelligence is a stranger to Rep. Nancy Pelosi, the House Democratic leader from California said Thursday.
“I don’t know who he is,” Pelosi said of Jonathan Gruber. “He didn’t help write our bill.”
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Friday, October 31, 2014
Liberal-progressives deny the existence of moral principles, but don’t hesitate to employ moral rhetoric to cudgel those who disagree with them.
Assessing a column by New York Times writer David Brooks, Peter Wehner asks, “Should I think less of the character of the coach of my son’s soccer team, or my daughter’s piano teacher, or the couple in my Bible Study, or the person who volunteers at a homeless shelter because of their views on climate change or the Affordable Care Act? On whether or not they want to raise or lower corporate tax rates? On whether they think illegal immigrants should be given a path to citizenship?
Mr. Wehner continues, “The answer for some people is yes. Jonathan Chait of New York magazine argues that those who hold political views contrary to his “live in a different moral universe” than he does and he therefore believes “their political views reflect something unflattering about their character.” This attitude shapes how he and others like him approach political debate.”
What is particularly odd about the liberal-progressive stance, to the extent that Jonathan Chait exemplifies it, is that a fundamental principle of liberal-progressivism is the denial of moral principles.
Since the advent of Darwinian evolutionary theory, its champions have attacked the Judeo-Christian faith that there are unchanging moral principles flowing from human nature endowed by our Creator God. For “scientific” liberal-progressive-socialists since the days of Karl Marx, religious morality has been regarded as no more than a hoax created by the ruling class to oppress the masses. Darwin’s fiercest contemporary supporter, Thomas Huxley, asserted flatly that there is no such thing as sin, no such thing as morality; there is, he said, only the struggle for survival. In that view, if liberal-progressives have the political power, there is nothing to forestall their forcible imposition of the materialistic religion of socialism upon the entire nation.
This paradigm remains robustly alive among liberal-progressives. Obama’s defiant assertion that what the Constitution ordains is not to be regarded as an impediment to unilateral executive action is but the most grating reminder at present. The Democrat-Socialist Party’s brute-force imposition of Obamacare, in the face of roughly 60% opposition by voters, is another. Nancy Pelosi was notoriously astonished that anyone could even raise a question about the Constitution’s standing in the way of Obamacare.
Underlying today’s “get used to it” attitude is the earlier theory of legal realism (today’s critical legal theory), popularized by liberal-progressive icon Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., our first socialistic Supreme Court Justice. Holmes proclaimed that the law should be whatever the majority of voters wanted it to be. Politics in his view was just raw power. He wrote that, if a majority of voters wanted to swap our constitutional political structure for a Bolshevik government, the Constitution should not stand in the way. Ironically, Holmes is depicted by liberal-progressive writers as a defender of the Bill of Rights. But, were his real views to prevail, our society would degenerate into a mobocracy in which unrestrained enthusiasms of the moment, driven by media propaganda, would sweep away all the protections of individual rights intended by the Bill of Rights.
It’s time for today’s degraded educational system to teach again that the Constitution was written expressly to curb tyranny of the majority, mob actions vitiating rights of individuals, however, unpopular, and that the Constitution was structured to prevent the grasping of tyrannical power by any branch of government.
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Monday, September 22, 2014
The Scottish Renaissance In America
Scottish scholars were the most influential single group of teachers during the founding of the United States. Today none of these great educators could find employment at major universities, because of their non-politically-correct understanding of reality.
Educating the Founders
By Robert Curry
“At age sixteen Jefferson and Madison and Hamilton were all being schooled by Scots who had come to America as adults.”
Garry Wills, Inventing America
This remarkable fact was no mere coincidence. Scholars from Scotland were held in the highest esteem in colonial America because of the preeminence of Scottish thinkers and Scottish universities at that time. The Scottish Enlightenment (it lasted from about 1730 until about 1790) was an explosion of creative intellectual energy in science, philosophy, economics, and technological innovation. It arrived just in time to have a decisive influence on the Founders.
Jefferson, Madison and Hamilton are the architects of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and The Federalist Papers. If we want to understand their thinking and their writings, we need to start with the fact that the Scottish Enlightenment provided their teachers.
Jefferson’s tutor, William Douglas, had studied at Glasgow and Edinburgh, but the great intellectual influence on Jefferson was William Small. Small was a powerful representative of the Scottish Enlightenment, and he was by far the most brilliant member of the faculty at William and Mary. He came to America to teach only from 1758 to 1764—at precisely the right time to guide Jefferson’s studies there. Small left America when he did in response to an urgent request from James Watt. Watt wanted his help with the development of the steam engine.
Madison’s tutor, Donald Robertson, was also a product of the Scottish Enlightenment at its peak, but the great intellectual influence on Madison was John Witherspoon, also a Scot. Witherspoon’s own education can help us see just how close the Founders were to the Scottish Enlightenment. Before coming to America, he studied with Adam Smith and Thomas Reid. When Madison entered Princeton in 1769, under the leadership of Witherspoon it had become the American university where the great thinkers of the Scottish Enlightenment—Francis Hutcheson, Thomas Reid, Adam Smith, Adam Ferguson and David Hume—were studied most intensely.
Hamilton had set out from the island of St. Croix to enroll at Princeton in 1772. He was sent by two sponsors, men who had recognized his astonishing gifts, his employer and Hugh Knox, a Scot and a Presbyterian minister who was a Princeton graduate. When Witherspoon did not accept Hamilton’s typically bold proposal that he be allowed to blaze through his studies at a rate only determined by his intellectual powers, Hamilton made the same proposal at King’s College (today’s Columbia) and was accepted. His tutor there, Robert Harpur, was also a product of the Scottish Enlightenment, having studied at Glasgow before coming to America.
The ideas of the Scottish Enlightenment were studied and hotly debated just about everywhere in colonial America. In the words of the eminent scholar Douglass Adair, “At Princeton, at William and Mary, at Pennsylvania, at Yale, at King’s, and at Harvard, the young men who rode off to war in 1776 had been trained in the texts of Scottish social science.” James Foster’s admirable book Scottish Philosophy in America states it this way:
The Scottish Enlightenment provided the fledgling United States of America and its emerging universities with a philosophical orientation. For a hundred years or more, Scottish philosophers were both taught and emulated by professors at Princeton, Harvard and Yale, as well as newly founded colleges stretching from Rhode Island to Texas.”
It is well known that the Founders were on the whole remarkable for their learning. It is fair to say that by modern standards they were as a group almost unimaginably learned. They knew their Aristotle, they knew their Cicero, and they knew the Bible—and often read the texts in the original languages; Jefferson and Adams read Greek, Latin and Hebrew. What is not so well known is how much the Scots contributed to the Founders’ thinking. Those who overlook the Scots’ contributions to the American Founding end up overlooking the American Idea itself.
Witherspoon is no doubt the most important example of the influence of Scottish educators. In the words of Jeffry Morrison in his excellent biography of Witherspoon:
“No other founder (not even James Wilson) did more to channel the Scottish philosophy into the colonies and thus into American political thought.”
In addition to Madison, Witherspoon’s students by one count included twenty-one U.S. senators, twenty-nine members of the House, twelve governors, three Supreme Court Justices, and five delegates to the Constitutional Convention. Is it any wonder that the ideas and arguments of Reid and Smith and their Scottish colleagues are everywhere in the writings of the Founders?
Witherspoon’s course in moral philosophy, which he dictated year after year in largely unchanging form and which his students copied down faithfully, is almost certainly the most influential single college course in America’s history.
Beyond his enormous influence as an educator, Witherspoon was also one of the most important of the Founders. He was an early and influential champion of American independence, and much more than merely a signer of the Declaration of Independence. In fact, he played a central role in the signing.
When the Declaration was completed and ready to be signed, the signers-to-be wavered. For two days they hesitated to affix their signatures. To sign it, after all, was to provide the British with documentary evidence of treason, punishable by death. John Witherspoon rose to the occasion, speaking in his famously thick Scottish accent:
“There is a tide in the affairs of men, a nick of time. We perceive it now before us. To hesitate is to content to our own slavery. That noble instrument upon your table, which ensures immortality to its author, should be subscribed this very morning by every pen in this house. He that will not respond to its accents and strain every nerve to carry into effect its provisions is unworthy the name freeman.”
His speech broke the logjam and, as we all know, the delegates then swiftly signed the Declaration.
Robert Curry is the author of the forthcoming book, Common Sense Nation. You can visit him at https://www.facebook.com/CommonSenseNationBook
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Today’s Secularity vs. Constitutional Liberties
In his latest book, Professor Ellis Sandoz explores the origins and nature of personal freedoms in the Western world, especially as those freedoms came to be embodied in the Constitution of the United States.
Professor Sandoz is director of the Eric Voegelin Institute at Louisiana State University. The first portion of his book (Give Me Liberty: Studies in Constitutionalism and Philosophy, St. Augustine Press, 2013) , is devoted to exploring the grounding of Western civilization in individuals striving toward religious and political rectitude, exemplified in the American founding experience. In the later portion of his book, Professor Sandoz relates these matters to the philosophy of Eric Voegelin, who is generally regarded as one the 20th century’s greatest philosophers of history.
As Professor Sandoz writes in the preface to his work, “The drift of [the book] is to show the connection of the individual consciousness with Liberty in persons and in politics as this has emerged in Western and endured in Anglo-American civilization…In the teeth of our witheringly secularist times, the argument raises the banner of human nobility through participation in the infinite Good as the foundation of all we hold dear and worthy of devotion…”
The book’s back-cover copy tells us, “The Liberty for which Patriot Patrick Henry was willing to die was more than a rhetorical flourish. The American Patriots and Founders based their ideas about Liberty upon almost 200 years of experience on their own as well as the heritage of English Common Law and even back to the natural order of Thomas Aquinas, not to mention the philosophy of Aristotle and the Biblical Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt.”
Of particular importance was John Adams’s claim for the origin of political liberty: “Rights antecedent to all earthly government - Rights that cannot be repealed or restrained by human laws - Rights derived from the great Legislator of the universe…” Needless to say this conception stands in diametric contrast to the secular and materialistic position advocated by liberal-progressive-socialistic government. Think of President Obama’s assertion that “You did not do that yourself,” with the clear meaning that what individuals possess is given to them by collectivized government, things which liberal-progressive-socialistic government is therefore entitled to take from individuals to satisfy government’s vision of social justice. Think also of President Obama’s abrogation, through ObamaCare, of individuals’ religious liberties that, in the past, were guaranteed by the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights.
This decadent, liberal-progressive-socialistic conception of human nature and of mankind’s place in the order of being grew to crisis proportions in 19th century Europe and was imported into the United States after the Civil War by newly secularist major universities. Darwinian evolutionary theory and the philosophical doctrine of materialistic determinism led, on the one hand, to a view of humans left adrift, without spiritual sustenance, and, on the other hand, to the proclaimed necessity of heavy-handed, collectivized government as the only source of people’s well-being. Hence Nietzsche’s observation in the late 1800s that God was dead. As Thomas Huxley, Darwin’s champion of the evolutionary hypothesis, earlier had asserted, evolution “proves” that there is no good or evil, just the struggle for survival. Powerfully collectivized, arbitrary government thus is both obliged and entitled to regulate the populace into conformity to preconceptions of the self-anointed elite.
In contrast, as Professor Sandoz notes, the historic American tradition was a politics of aspiration, in Jefferson’s phrase in the Declaration of Independence, “the pursuit of happiness.” This aspiration, in the Declaration, was enumerated under God-given, inalienable rights. But under the now regnant paradigm instilled by our education establishment, individual pursuit of happiness is merely an excuse for selfishness and, worst of all, the pursuit of business profit. Our callow youth are schooled to believe the Marxian doctrine that profit is money stolen from the workers and that government’s job is to confiscate profits and redistribute them to the working masses. Unfortunately, as we know too well, membership in the employed, working masses has sharply dwindled under the tender mercies of liberal-progressive-socialistic government.
Professor Sandoz explores in considerable detail the philosophical understandings of Eric Voegelin, one aspect of which was, Professor Sandoz writes, “For while the physical safety of a society may be the cardinal political priority, the spiritual health nurtured by truth and justice in the public order and civic consciousness is essential to the happiness of individuals and to the thriving of the societies they compose.” He quotes Voegelin, “…the divine reality lets the light of its perfection fall into the soul; the illumination of the soul arouses the awareness of man’s existence as a state of imperfection; and this awareness provokes the human movement in response to the divine appeal.”
In contrast, liberal-progressive-socialists, in some quarters, deny the existence of the human soul, and in all quarters dismiss the spiritual realm and human relationship to Divinity as ignorant superstition that impedes the progress of materialistic socialism, which is explicitly an atheistic ideology.
Professor Voegelin was among the first philosophers of history in modern times to understand that liberal-progressivism in all its forms - American liberalism, Marxian socialism, Mussolini’s Fascist state capitalism, and Hitler’s National Socialism - is a gnostic, secular religion. The unbridgeable difference between liberal-progressivism and the Constitutional ethos of our founding generations is liberal-progressivism’s conviction that it is the sole possessor of ultimate knowledge. Professor Sandoz notes that, “…Voegelin insists, the philosopher is a lover of wisdom, never its possessor, for only God is wise and can have knowledge of the Whole.”
In Voegelin’s analysis, a gnostic, secular religion such as liberal-progressivism hubristically claims exclusive, secret knowledge of the proper ordering of political society. Since only the elite have such knowledge, they are entitled to regiment the rest of us, compelling conformity to their vision of society. The views of traditionalists and conservatives, and most of all believers in Judeo-Christian morality, are properly subjects of ridicule and suppression.
Liberal-progressivism’s gnosticism leads to the view the world is a fallen version of the Garden of Eden’s perfection and to interpret society’s fall as resulting from the advent of private property. Property rights, of course, were among the rights that formerly prevailed under the Constitution’s Bill of Rights, hence the continuing attacks on the Fifth Amendment.
The Judeo-Christian tradition postulates that only God has knowledge of perfection and that perfection cannot be created by man here on earth. Salvation is a matter for transcendent reality. Voegelin noted that however much liberal-progressives and other gnostics yearn to create an earthly society of perfect social justice, reality remains unchanged. Liberal-progressivism cannot change reality, but it can dangerously derange political and social order.
Professor Sandoz remind us that, “Now as always before, resistance and conviction form the sine qua non of any Liberty worthy of the name.”
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Wednesday, August 20, 2014
Read Robert Stapler’s analysis of American presidents succeeding or failing to meet the challenges of their times (it’s presented as a comment on another recent post).
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Wednesday, July 02, 2014
The Religious Foundation Of The United States
While the First Amendment prohibits the establishment of any official religion at the Federal level, Judeo-Christian moral values and religious faith were inseparably interwoven with all political issues in 1776 and in 1787, when the Constitution was crafted.
Alexis de Tocqueville visited the United States in 1831, traveling from New England to New Orleans. The year before, in 1830, France had been convulsed by one of its repeated political upheavals after the 1789 Revolution. Tocqueville’s purpose was to discover how the United States had managed to avoid the episodic armed rebellions and bloodshed in the streets of Paris that plagued French political life under socialistic egalitarianism, the societal condition called social justice by liberal-progressives.
His observations were set forth in Democracy in America, often cited as one the best surveys ever written regarding American political, social, and religious life.
Two things struck Tocqueville forcibly as he traveled across the United States. Everywhere there was a strong attachment to the equality conferred by political liberty, and everywhere there was an unwavering devotion to Christianity. The two, he concluded, were inseparably connected.
“On my arrival in the United States,” he wrote, “the religious aspect of the country was the first thing that struck my attention; and the longer I stayed there, the more I perceived the great political consequences resulting from this new state of things. In France I had almost always seen the spirit of religion and the spirit of freedom marching in opposite directions. But in America I found they were intimately united and that they reigned in common over the same country.”
“[Christianity] contributed powerfully to the establishment of a republic and a democracy in public affairs; and from the beginning, politics and religion contracted an alliance which has never [as of 1831] been dissolved.”
“The sects that exist in the United States are innumerable. They all differ in respect to the worship which is due to the Creator; but they all agree in respect to the duties which are due from man to man…. all sects preach the same moral law in the name of God.”
“In the United States religion exercises but little influence upon the laws and upon the details of public opinion; but it directs the customs of the community, and, by regulating domestic life, it regulates the state…. Thus, while the law permits the Americans to do what they please, religion prevents them from conceiving, and forbids them to commit, what is rash and unjust. Religion in America takes no direct part in the government of society, but it must be regarded as the first of their political institutions; for if it does not impart a taste for freedom, it facilitates the use of it.”
“When [people in France] attack religious opinions, they obey the dictates of their passions and not of their interests. Despotism may govern without faith, but liberty cannot.”
A century later Bancroft Prize-winning historian Clinton Rossiter, who described himself as a centrist, somewhere between labor union radicals and the late Senator Barry Goldwater, wrote in The First American Revolution (1956):
“Finally, it must never be forgotten, especially in an age of upheaval and disillusionment, that American democracy rests squarely on the assumption of a pious, honest, self-disciplined, moral people. … Whatever doubts may exist about the sources of this democracy, there can be none about the chief source of the morality that gives it life and substance. From Puritanism, from the way of life that exalted individual responsibility, came those homely rules of everyday conduct – or, if we must, those rationalizations of worldly success – that have molded the American mind into its unique shape. … The men of 1776 believed that the good state would rise on the rock of private and public morality, that morality was in the case of most men and all states the product of religion, and that the earthly mission of religion was to set men free.”
Tocqueville would have said that present-day American liberal-progressives’ advocacy of libertine license in personal life and smothering regulation of economic activity and public expression of religious faith represent all the worst elements of French political life, the very sources of France’s social and political instability. French revolutionaries had destroyed the monarchy and the Catholic Church, making the nation a secular and socialist republic. It was the absence of religious moral restraint that had permitted the slaughter in the Reign of Terror of more than 70,000 people in the name of perfecting humanity. This same secular irreligion in the 20th century was to murder as many as one-hundred-million people in Soviet Russia, National Socialist Germany, Mao’s China, Castro’s Cuba, Cambodia, and other liberal-progressive-socialistic countries.