Monthly Archives: January 2017

  • Trump Meant It All

    Reading Time: 3 minutesTrump’s enemies took refuge in the self-created narrative that his campaign was 100% American showmanship. The crooked press and the corrupt establishment, while dissing Trump publicly, scoffed privately. They “knew” his supporters were idiots and yahoos—marginally functional Neanderthals from America’s unreconstructed backwoods whose ability to think, handicapped by genetics, was further crippled by the moonshine […]

  • Rebuilding St. Louis

    Reading Time: 2 minutesA lot of well-connected St. Louis Democrats like to say “everything’s fine” with the city and the St. Louis region. You know, though, that St. Louis is a mess. A hot, simmering mess covered with rot. (Check out StLouisPatina’s photo essay of St. Louis decay.) But the people responsible for St. Louis’s decay want you […]

  • Red, White and Inaugural Blues – a Rant

    On Friday, the 20th of January, 2017, the 45th President of the United States of America, Donald J. Trump, a man I did not support in the recent election (though I opposed his final opponent, with him), will be sworn into office, and with that oath of office, he will become my, and every other American’s, President.

    ‘On each national day of inauguration since 1789,
    the people have renewed their sense of dedication to the United States.’

    We’re told on the eve of his inauguration that somewhere in the area of 70 Democrat members of Congress are declaring that they will not be attending the inauguration, as a means of protesting the man who will occupy the office of the President of the United States.

    These are elected representatives of the government of the United States of America. They were, and are, elected to represent their constituents in the upholding and crafting of the laws of the land, under that very government, whose laws, and governance of them, impacts every one of our individual rights and lives.

    To explicitly attempt to delegitimize the peaceful and complete transfer of power, to the person duly elected by We The People, in accordance with our laws, to the office of the President of the United States of America, for partisan political purposes (whether from the Left or the NeverTrump’r Right), is, at best, extreme political negligence, and it is undermining to not only the peaceful transfer of political power, but to the preservation of every value which these ‘lawmakers’ supposedly believe in, and were elected to represent.

    That, in my book, is despicable, it is disgusting, and they, and those who blithely see that as somehow being worthy behavior, should be ashamed of themselves.

    Yet people are converging upon Washington D.C. to protest, they are churning out gimmick after gimmick to shout down those they differ with, even as being ‘nazis!’, they come to ‘protest’ … what? Whatever distractions they might flood social media with, what they are actually protesting, is the Democracy!‘, the democratic election of their fellow Americans in accordance with the laws of the land, in a peaceful political contest which is understood upon entering into, that one side is guaranteed to lose, and so by their own actions they show themselves to be immature, dishonest and uncivilized wretches, who are made all the more repulsive by attempting to drape themselves in the spirit of ‘Democracy!‘, while deliberately undermining the democratic process.

    Who needs Russians when you have Pro-Regressive Leftists!

    lawful, peaceful, election of the 45th President of the United States of America. They are protesting in the name of ‘

    Who needs Russians, when you’ve got Pro-Regressive Leftists?! They lost the electoral argument, and yet they feel entitled to protest, deride, and even to refuse to abide by the decision of their fellow Americans, with these cheap, juvenile, theatrics. Some of them, friends of mine and even relatives of mine, I’m ashamed to say, have even characterized these protests and pledges of ‘not my President!‘ as, and I quote: Beautiful.

    There is nothing beautiful in people treating the solemn and peaceful transfer of  political power, as if it were some sort of cheap piece of roadside performance art.

    A Presidential Inauguration is the ritualized transfer of the reigns of power – that pure, dangerous, deadly, political power to penalize, punish, put to death and mandate actions and make war – this immense power is not being wrested away by violent slaughter, but is simply, boringly, being signed over across a sea of vastly differing and turbulent political viewpoints, peacefully, according to law, in a ceremony that has been solemnized by 228 years of tradition, under our Constitution which has been proven more successful and enduring than any other system in all of human history.

    These protesters see nothing remarkable in that. They see nothing disturbing or dangerous in delegitimizing that. They see nothing admirable in this incredible and historic track record which we in America have, of binding down the powers of violence and ambition, by nothing more than the cords of law. They seem unaware that our laws don’t gain the strength to do that by the paper they are printed upon, but by being written upon the hearts of We The People of this nation, as they were for We The Peoples and any who show the ‘wrong’ beliefs and allegiances.

    Fascists projecting fascism

    at least least two centuries. What these ‘beautiful protests’ ominously trumpet to the world now, is that that writing is fading from the hearts and minds of We The People; a people who are foolish enough to think that those laws can be made to fade away, and yet somehow imagine that those ever lurking beasts of ambition and brutality which they’ve made to stir with temptations of escape, will simply remain docile, tame, and quiet as they are unleashed, rather than break free and do violence to

    Good Lord People, our Government, IS US – it isn’t in our buildings, or in our courts, in our military or even in our written laws, but is in our understanding and respect for them. Our Government lays in our self-government, our willing agreement to set aside the resort to use of force, or the encouragement of it, for peaceful and reasonable dispute and agreement and our willingness to abide by reasonable judgments, even and especially when we ‘lose’ the dispute. If we lose that IN US, then it all falls apart, and cannot do otherwise.

    For those hysterical supporters of ‘Democracy!‘ who are out to overturn or undermine the results of a democratic election, and the Rule of Law, in order to force the rest of us to comply with their desires, you should keep in mind, that for all of your claims of caring about this or that disadvantaged minority such and such – if our respect for our laws, and our expectations of being able to rely upon those law to subdue the violent passions of ourselves and our fellows – if We The People are made to feel that a just government can no longer be counted upon to provide justice and order, then it’s not the powerful who are going to suffer – no, that only happens under a system of laws – it is the weak, the weird, and the non-conformist, who will be made to feel the brunt of the powers unleashed by your discarded and forgotten respect for individual rights under the Rule of Law.

    No one who is weak or in need of assistance, will survive that – and especially not any snowflakes.

    Think.

    /rant

  • Welcome to the America of Our Dreams

    Reading Time: 3 minutesJim Durbin called me this evening. “Are you excited?” he asked. Jim was in the crowd at the very first Tea Party in St. Louis, February 27, 2009. A cold Friday. He and more than a thousand other folks took off work and school to see what this protest was all about. Like so many […]

  • The Powerful threat from within Representative Government

    Ok, sure, it might be a total Captain Obvious move to point out that the term ‘Representative Government‘, is one that contains two very different words, but what’s less obvious, is the fact that before you can understand why the first of those two word’s meaning is so important, it’s necessary to have a fair understanding of what the second word of the term means, and just how dangerous it is to the meaning and purpose of its first word. As noted in my previous post, the trite heads or tails dilemmas that most of our attempts at discussing such matters are so easily diverted into (‘A Democracy! No, a Republic!‘, ‘Electoral College vs. Popular Vote‘, or ‘He Is/Isn’t my President!‘), do nothing to deepen our understanding of either term, and serve mostly to divert our attention away from the questions we’re supposedly considering. But not even the questions can be compacted into the space of calling heads or tails, and the more you puff up one preferred answer over the other, the further away we are all drawn from a useful discussion of them.

    So, with that in mind, it’s worth reminding ourselves of the basics of what it is that government is, how it derives its power, and how and why it is so important to limit its ability to use that power. As the old saying says,

    ‘Government, like fire, is a troublesome servant and a terrible master’.

    You want to use the Power… don’t you…?

    We don’t need to try and attribute that phrase to one or more Founding Fathers, as it often has been, in order to make the truth of it more important and relevant, especially when we’re so often tempted to turn to govt to impose our very best intentions upon the rest of us. The greatest dangers to our liberty, come from our best intentions to improve upon it. It is precisely when we’re caught up in such
    enthusiasms for ‘doing good!’ unto others, that we’re most in need of being tempered by an understanding from history – that is what it is was that made our form of government possible, it is what made, and makes, it exceptional, and without which, neither it, nor we, can be exceptional – at least not in a good way.

    So what is Government? Stripped of the finery and fanfare:

    Government is the means of harnessing the collective power of a community towards… ends. 

    What those ends are, who determines them and authorizes the pursuit of them, and most importantly, what it, and they, will not be allowed to do, depends upon how well your society delimits the powers of those holding the reigns of power. Where Government gains its power ‘to do’ what it will, is by enforcing claims, in whole or in part, upon the possessions, time and lives of its people, and if there are no limits to its claims or ends, then it will turn the collective power of your society, towards accomplishing whatever those in government (or those with their ear) desire to do, and with all of their very best intentions urging them on to do whatever ‘it’ might be.

    Despite the aspirations of our Declaration of Independence, government does not need your consent – it can gain legitimacy from that, sure – but that’s a later development, a ‘nice to have’ (in the eyes of those in positions of power within it), which is in no way necessary for it to wield its power over you.

    At this point it might be useful to take note of a rather shocking point, especially shocking for those of us, like myself, who look to government as the means of establishing justice and defending our rights, and that point is this: those are not the most basic requirement that a society demands from their government! And with a very grudging nod towards Hobbes, what people do demand, first and foremost, is: Order. As Hobbes put it,

    “…For before constitution of Soveraign Power (as hath already been shewn) all men had right to all things; which necessarily causeth Warre: and therefore this Proprietie, being necessary to Peace, and depending on Soveraign Power, is the Act of that Power, in order to the publique peace….”

    I disagree with him, that that provides either a definition or justification for government, but it is, and should be, a frightening and sobering realization that that is the tipping point of political gravity that is always tugging at our perceptions, eagerly awaiting for us to forget our balance and fall back down to its baseline. That point is extremely dangerous to ignore, or to evade the realization that the government that does not effectively provide that fundamental service, will not stand for long; as a society sufficiently shaken up, will sink to any level, in order to enforce that basic compliance upon its own people, if they think it’ll mean escaping from chaos – real or perceived (and if you think that doesn’t apply to modern man, it’s you who are being primitive in your thinking). That ground floor of order forms what I’ve called the ‘Societal Baseline’, and is what I was pointing out in an earlier post that looked into the Yanomamö Indians in the Amazon, it is what makes the brutality of a tribal thug, preferable to having no order at all, and it is that point which all real progress, is measured through the horizontal (legislative, via Govt) and vertical (ethical, through the people) distance a society manages to put between itself and that baseline.

    The first step of real progress, up and away from that baseline, comes when a society’s begins forming rules for its governance, rather than following exclusively upon the wishes of its rulers, and in making them known for all to see and understand, they give a sign that they are developing what can loosely be called ‘laws’. As societies’ begin doing so, they begin forming political structures that move beyond the moment to moment exercise of brute force, by brutes, and take on the various forms of all of the familiar ___cracys’ and ___archy’s (you remember, democracy, oligarchy, etc), which takes them further up the winding path of Chieftains, Tyrants & Kings, until they finally arrive at the Prime Ministers and Presidents that typically head up what we like to think of as legitimate, Representative Governments.

    If you examine the laws of a society as they progress along that path – if they manage to continue along it – there’s an essential characteristic that you’ll see becoming more and more pronounced, which is what makes it possible for their laws to be able to be regarded as capital ‘L’ “Laws” with a straight face, rather than just an assortment of rules written down by thugs, and it’s a development of an idea that I went into some depth upon in previous posts (two in particular, pt 2:Why a Govt of Laws, and not of men? & pt 3:Who Benefits from transforming Rules into Laws), which, sparing you a few thousand of those post’s words, can be summed up in what’s best captured in two translations of one potent phrase from Aristotle’s Politics,

    ‘The law is reason unaffected by desire’,

    and

    ‘The Law is reason free from passion.’

    The more that a people’s laws adhere to and exhibit that sensibility, the more legitimate they and their Laws, are likely to become – it is the means of putting the point upon the arrow of political progress; pointing their society in the right direction, onwards, upwards, and away from that societal baseline of barbaric order. And while it may seem a bit counter-intuitive, that characteristic, in the raw, is also what is being crudely expressed in that primal desire for the societal baseline of Order; seeking relief from the chaos brought on by violent passions and desires that’ve run rampant. Surprisingly, at least a little bit, it is in seeking that order that they also find that the seeking itself, demands an exercise of methodical reasoning in order to bring even that baseline condition about, and continuing with that, developing and reflecting upon that, refining that, that is the natural means of eventually implementing Laws that one day will tower above the mere scribblings of one or another tyrant’s demands of the moment.

    Following closely on Aristotle’s essential ideal, are two from the Roman jurist, Cicero, with his,

    “No one can be judge in his own cause; Hear the other side”

    , and,

    “True law is right reason in agreement with nature”

    These are also logical developments of Aristotle’s advice to separate your passions and desires from your attempts to realize justice; in pursuing that it soon follows that a fair and impartial hearing should be given to both sides of an issue, it is a result of seriously taking that advice to heart, and as a result, your laws, and the application of them, become more reasonable, and those applying and enduring them also begin seeking conclusions derived from factual evidence, rather than reacting to impassioned desires.

    These are not inventions of The West, they are discoveries about what is common to all of mankind, but they were first fully realized in The West. Following these dictums, and ridding the writing and administering of a society’s laws of personal passions and biased desires, is, in the real sense of making progress away from the baseline, Progressive, and it will be accompanied by a visible increase in the methodical, reasonable nature, of their laws. On the other hand, shedding that quality, seeking to appeal to the passions and desires of the many, is Regressive, and deliberately seeking to do so, while justifying those actions and stirring up the passions of the people in order to satisfy the ambitions of their rulers (whether they be one, or the many), is what I refer to as being Pro-Regressive. If you want to know whether your society’s laws are truly Progressive, or Pro-Regressive, look at how those who propose them, urge you to embrace them.

    The direction that our laws move in can be objectively measured as progress over what came before, moving from chaos, to order, to recorded and predictable rules, to rules which make sense together and integrate with each other, developing a progressively less contradictory nature – reasonable, understandable, and flexible enough to be applied in a variety of circumstances, yet rigid enough to be familiar to, and understood by ‘the common man’; that is the path of progress. As these advanced ideas, and the attitudes which accompany them become the norm, such laws as that people govern themselves through, begin to lose their erratic nature, as both the people and their laws become more ordered, more reasonable, more respectful of their fellows lives.

    The Best of Times, and the Worst of Times
    But as wonderful and profound as such progress is, a society has to be on their guard against their own hubris, for while they may have become convinced of the soundness of their good intentions, the nature of government has not changed – not one bit – and the raw force and power which it is, will seep through such blind spots, like groundwater through an old foundation, progressively saturating and weakening it. Government is power, it is force, it can fine, punish, stifle, intimidate, imprison and persecute, it can kill and it can destroy, it is like fire, a troublesome servant and a terrible master, and if you dare presume that you can fully domesticate such primal forces through law, that you can safely use that primal power best suited to preventing or punishing actions, to initiate and do good unto others for what you consider to be for their own good, then you fail the test of Tolkien’s Ring of Power, and turn towards darkness with all of the urgency and false light of your very best of intentions.

    It is at this point, that the question arises as to who it is that will, and should, write a society’s laws. How are they to be chosen? The means of binding both laws and its officers, from engaging in erratic or passionate actions, is best made by means of those laws themselves being ordered by objectively higher laws (see Cicero’s “True law is right reason in agreement with nature”), so that society becomes compatible with what all can see as being true and right.

     But how will they be written, and how will those charged with writing and attending to them, be chosen? This is where ‘The consent of the governed‘ begins to come into play, but how so? Is their consent to be gathered and given in any way shape, manner or form? Are there good and bad ways to gain that consent? Is it possible to curry that consent in such a way as to subvert the consent of the governed, for the benefit of those who would govern them?

    There’s more to the matter than simply encouraging individual choices and preferences; giving political power to the administration of our laws, if those laws are to be Laws, rather than rules in drag, they must be written and applied in a manner as free from personal passions and desires as is possible. Simply having all of the people of that society participating in that process, appealing to them to ‘express their choice!‘, means putting people into power over the laws, by means of inciting passionate desires for wide approval and calls for collective action, which means turning against the very thing that the Laws, and the administration of them, are designed to bar from issues of Law!

    And yet, the consent of the governed is vital to a ‘Representative Government’ – that’s the puzzle at the heart of the first of our terms, ‘Representative’.

    What the ‘Representative’ portion of ‘Representative Government’ must never forget, is that the 2nd word in its term is representative of a fearsome and dangerous power, one that feeds upon your own confidence in your own ability to master it, and especially through your belief that you can ‘do good‘ by imposing your own best judgment upon the choices that other people are trying to make for their own lives. The 1st word in that term must keep in mind, that it can, at best, tame the beast inherent in the 2nd word, but only as a trainer tames a tiger, and that if you turn your back upon it, thinking that your laws alone will keep it in its place (as if they somehow had the power of judgment outside of your own ability to govern yourself), then you can rest assured that your own government will use them as the means of devouring you, from the inside out.

    Despite all of the fear mongering, the real threats to a ‘Representative Government’ rarely come in the form of thuggery and violence from external ‘others!‘, instead they come upon a society from within themselves, through there own good intentions (and thinly disguised desires), by the means of which Frédéric Bastiat’s understood all too well:

    “Government is the great fiction through which everybody endeavors to live at the expense of everybody else.”

    As a people begin to give in to that con, then soon enough they will discover how the expectations of achieving unworthy ends, through high minded laws, is a most perilous matter. If We The People fail to require that our Representatives be, and be selected by means as free of passionate desires as the laws they are to be in charge of, then the troublesome servant will have become the master of them, once again. Unless they and their laws are bound down by recognizably external, and constitutional fixtures, their representatives will become every bit as representative of the most tyrannical of individual tyrants – and especially as they do so in the name of “We The People!“.

    Progress is made when the people support taking substantial steps towards turning their power towards the service of judgment, rather than passionate desires. The Representative portion of our term ‘Representative Government’, is the means open to us for doing that, at least in part, it is the means of seeking and using good judgment, cool, reasonable deliberation and disinterested action, in service to those interests. But before getting into the best means found for electing the Executive of such a system of laws – the Electoral College – we need to dig a bit more into what we mean by the ‘Representative’ portion, of Representative Government – next post.

  • America’s Business is Jobs, Not College

    Reading Time: 4 minutesMany of us are guilty. I am, too. You, probably. In high school (and after) we mocked the kids who took shop. The “greasers” who got credit for wrenching on cars or welding or making cabinets. It was the 1980s and shop, along with home economics, became an elective in most schools. Until the 80s, […]

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