Tuesday, February 21, 2012

There's No Shame in Being a Liberal

A couple of weeks ago we discussed several universal principles -- or moral absolutes -- that any normal person should be able to discover on his own. One of these is the "silver rule," i.e., do not do unto others what you would not have them do unto you.

For example, since most people are presumably happy and relieved they weren't dismembered and sucked out of their womb, it's just good manners to extend the same courtesy to others.

Of course, someone who hates his life or detests or devalues himself (or others) will reason otherwise, but that's the whole point: note that I use the qualifier normal. Obviously, when dealing with an abnormal person, all bets are off. Until quite recently, "normality" and "reason" were pretty much synonymous terms. A person who had gone mad had "lost his reason."

In fact, let's consult the thesaurus and consider some of the synonyms for crazy: bereft of reason, reasonless, irrational, unreasonable, haywire, off the hinges, minus some buttons, one brick shy of a full load, rowing with one oar in the water, etc.

Each of these implies that something vital is missing. And that missing thing touches on the essence of our humanness, which has to do with reason, or, more to the point, being able to give reasons. Only human beings can give reasons for what they believe, plan, do, and have done.

But reason isn't "just anything." It cannot be the same as "giving pretexts," at which human beings are also fiendishly adept. Rather, reason is either universal -- which is another way of saying absolute -- or it is not reason (and then there is no reason). For example, the principle of the excluded middle cannot be true on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, or true here but not in another cosmos. Rather, it is true, period.

How do we know this? Because if it weren't true, we could never know it. In other words, there are certain axioms of reason that permit reason to take place, and without which it cannot. If something isn't even what it is and not something else, then surely we cannot reason about it.

Note, for example, how such a perversion of logic permits the leftist's unseemly enthusiasm for abortion. The Constitution makes reference to people and persons, but nowhere, of course, does it distinguish between persons inside and outside the womb. This is because the Framers weren't rubes or idiots, and did not want to appear as such. In a document intended to speak to the ages, they didn't want to insert clauses and qualifiers that any minimally educated person already knows, and only an ill-educated or miseducated person can not know.

For example, Arkes points out that many of the Framers didn't want to include an explicit prohibition of ex post facto laws, since the injustice of such is self-evident to any reasoning person. To permit ex post facto laws -- in which the state can prosecute behavior that was legal at the time it was undertaken -- undermines the very basis of jurisprudence. And just as there are axioms without which reason or justice cannot take place, there are moral axioms without which moral reasoning is impossible.

The Constitution does distinguish between persons, for example, between persons over and under age 25 (to be a representative), between persons who have been citizens for more or less than seven years, or between persons over and under 30 (senator). But nowhere does it suggest, imply, or even hint at the notion that a person under 25 or 30, or a citizen of less than seven years, is not a person. Indeed, even slaves were persons, which was an explosive little premise inserted into the Constitution that would assure the eventual elimination of slavery, on pain of a fatal self-contradiction.

So how did we ever get this crackpot idea that a person is not a person if he is less than nine months old, and therefore doesn't come under the protection of the law? Before 1973, it never occurred to any normal person that an eight month old human being isn't a human being. What sort of reasons were given, what sophistry promulgated, what semantics deployed, to deny that self-evident truth?

It occurs to me that one of the properties -- or penumbra, if you will -- of reason is that human beings are a little embarrassed when they are exposed as being unreasonable. In fact, more generally, if you consider the sources of shame, they often revolve around the exposure to public view of a side of ourselves that is "less than human," or animal.

What puzzles me is how the justices responsible for the judicial sophistry of Roe v. Wade weren't positively mortified at their abandonment of reason, if not while writing the decision, at least afterwards, when it was picked apart and exposed for what it is. A normal person responds to the shameful exposure of his lack of reason by rectifying the situation. (Think of Col. Nicholson's mortification in Bridge on the River Kwai, when he exclaims, What have I done?! That's the reaction a decent man, albeit too late to undo what he's done.)

But an abnormal person, either because he cannot tolerate shame or because he has abandoned it altogether, will dig in his heels and insist that he is being reasonable. You will have noticed that one of the problems in arguing with a leftist is not just that they are unreasonable, but that they cannot be shamed.

Examples are far too numerous to chronicle: Ted Kennedy was not ashamed of his treasonous contact with the Soviet Union to try to undermine President Reagan; Jane Fonda is not ashamed of her deep-throated support for our enemies; Jimmy Carter is not ashamed of his anti-Semitism; Obama is not ashamed of his spiritual apprenticeship under the vile Rev. Wright; Jesse Jackson is not ashamed of his personal enrichment through corporate blackmail; Joe Biden is not ashamed of his sudden abandonment of natural rights law when it became necessary to slander and vilify Judge Bork.

Arkes describes the process through which Justice Blackmun hatched the novel idea that a human being isn't one. Since he couldn't find it in the Constitution, he noticed that whenever the latter refers to "persons," they're always doing something, "such as voting or migrating or escaping from being extradited" (Arkes).

Ah ha! The next point is subtle, perhaps too subtle if you're not a constitutional scholar, so pay close attention: notice that you never see folks inside the womb voting, or migrating, or being extradited. "From these clues he concluded that 'persons' did not refer to people before they were born and mobile." This is a clear instance of bogus induction to a first principle, which means that it isn't really first. Rather, it's just the secondary conclusion of a prior false premise. Might as well argue that a paralyzed or sleeping person is no longer himself but something else entirely.

Recall what was said above about giving pretexts rather than reasons. Only an abnormal person does this, at least without feeling shame. I know this because of my work as a forensic psychologist. When I write a report, I never want to reason in such a way that I am ashamed of what I am saying.

But the typical forensic psychologist has no shame (to say nothing of the attorneys, who have long since overcome their ability to feel shame), and that is what I am up against. You know, whores. People who conclude first, and find the pretexts later.

Even on its face, Blackmun's logic doesn't pass the snuff test, because you'd better have some extraordinarily compelling reasons to justify the snuffing of millions upon millions of unique human lives. Why? Because the first sentence of the Constitution states that its very reason for being is to secure certain specified Blessings for ourselves and for our Posterity (upper case letters in original).

Posterity, what does that mean? Among other things, it means future generations, who are by definition none other than the presently unborn. They too are entitled to the Blessings secured by the Constitution.

And what is a Blessing, anyway? In my dictionary, to bless means to consecrate or hallow, or to pronounce holy.

Human life is sacred. Who knew?

The security of a people... must lie in a frequent recurrence to first principles. --John Marshall

Monday, February 20, 2012

Everybody Love 'Dem Dead Presidents

Remember when Grant could get you out of whatever you're in? Good times...

Friday, February 17, 2012

Your Constitutional Right to Make Up Shit About the Constitution

Continuing with yesterday's line of thought, Arkes agrees that behind "ordinary laws" are "basic laws," that is, "the laws that [tell] us, in effect, just what constitutes a 'law.'"

As such, "the fundamental law of a constitution bears then a logical precedence over the statute or the ordinary law." The Constitution is therefore not just chronologically prior to any basic or positive law, but ontologically prior.

Taking the analysis one step further, it is clear that the law-making body -- the legislature -- cannot claim to be the source of the fundamental law (heretofore Law), but is "itself the artifact or creation of a constitution."

Arkes quotes Locke on the matter, who wrote that a constitution is "antecedent to all positive laws." For the Framers, it was axiomatic that the Constitution "cannot spring then from the positive law," but must be grounded in something deeper, something above, beyond, or prior to the positive law.

Note that none of this touches directly on matters of religion or revelation, or on any legal theory per se. To the contrary, it is simply a reflection of "the canons of propositional logic" (Arkes), or derived "from the nature and reason of the thing" (Hamilton, quoted in Arkes). It is true of necessity, not opinion, consensus, experience, etc., as is the case in any axiom of formal logic.

As we have discussed before, logic alone cannot prove anything with finality, because it has no power to furnish its own premises. This latter requires an unavoidable act of judgment, and there is no mechanism for reducing judgment to logic -- which is why, for example, women are so confusing to the pathetic man who would attempt to fit them into his cramped little logic box.

Women are nonlinear, for starters, and we wouldn't have it any other way. To say that they are intuitional is not to say that they are illogical, but that they possess -- or are possessed by, depending on the time of the month -- a different order of logic, one that can, for example, "see around corners" in a way that bypasses local constraints. Nor does it imply that they lack the other kind of logic, unless they are full blown feminists who have given themselves over to girlish hysteria, like our William.

James Wilson, one of the more brilliant founders and a member of the first Supreme Court, made some interesting remarks in the very first case that came before them. Think of it: there existed "no cases to draw upon as precedents" (Arkes). Therefore, before saying anything, "he found it necessary to speak... about 'the principles of general jurisprudence'" in general, and a philosophy of mind in particular. In so doing, he rejected the "skeptical and illiberal philosophy" that "prevailed in many parts of Europe," regarding it, in the words of Arkes, as "the fount of all forms of relativism in morality and law."

Let us now fast-forward to our post-enlightened, progressive age. In order to impose its statist utopia on the rest of us, the left must not only twist the Constitution to its own ends, but distort the reality upholding it, and without which it is truly just a "piece of paper."

Mainly, it must transform absolute to relative and abolish logic altogether, replacing it with expedience, or just plain will. For the left, where there is a politicized will, there is always a legalistic way to see what it wants to see in the Constitution.

Arkes provides a quintessential example of the latter type of "thinking," courtesy of Justices O'Connor, Kennedy, and Souter in the case of Planned Parenthood v. Casey. It is especially sad to contrast the brilliance of a Hamilton or Madison with these clowns, who reduce the Law to a vulgar exercise in deepaking the chopra, right down to the nub. In defending the constitutional right to a dead baby, they mused on the level of an eighth grade graduation speech that

"At the heart of liberty is the right to define one's own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life."

To which the only appropriate response is: could I buy some pot from you?

A nice, if bland, sentiment, to be sure, but what does it have to do with the Constitution? More to the point, does the baby in question get to define his own concept of the mystery of human life? Or is he somehow excluded from the pot party?

We all know how assouls such as Deepak write with such sugary but vacuous rhetorical flourishes in order to conceal what is otherwise empty to the core. We expect this of a sleazy used karma salesman. But of a Supreme Court justice?

The whole passage is beyond irony, and doesn't bear the slightest scrutiny. For example, let us stipulate that a person has the right to define his own existence. Why? What's so special about a person? I mean, dogs don't get to define dogginess. Why do humans have the right to make up shit about themselves?

Easy. Because if we don't have this right, then leftists have no right to make up shit about the Constitution.

Well, that's fine for the justices, but the problem is that in their case, they have the power to impose their shit on the rest of us. Look at me. Every morning I ramble on about the mystery of life. But I would never presume to impose this on anyone else. I just throw it out there. And no, you can't buy any pot from me.

Arkes writes of how these pettifogging mediocrities, "products of the best law schools in the land, affirm the right of a person to make up his own version of the universe." Bueno. "But what of that person himself, the one who was conceded now the right to define his own relation to the universe? Was there any reality or truth attaching to him? And what was there about him that commanded the rest of us to respect these decisions he reached about himself and the universe?"

Indeed, "Why were the rest of us not entitled, in turn, to make him up, or to conceive him in a different way, far more diminished as a bearer of rights?"

Well, we are. We just call him a "fetus" instead of a "baby," and now he has no right to define his own existence. To save him the trouble of linking to it again, I will tell you that reader William has his knickers in a twist over the Virginia legislature's proposed law that will require an ultrasound prior to abortion.

Now, an ultrasound is a routine part of any pregnancy, and I would be willing to bet that Obamacare mandates them for all pregnant women. Indeed, it would be an insult to women, not to mention a danger to the baby, if this service were denied.

Unless the right to decide who is a human being trumps the Law.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

From the Rule of Law to the Rule of the Lightbringer

We all know that America was founded upon the rule of law, but how do we know this is a good thing? In other words, what Law accounts for the rule of law? What is the cosmic Law beneath -- or above -- the terrestrial law?

I ask this because it is by no means obvious, at least if history is to be our guide. If it were obvious, then man would have discovered the principle long before he did. Obviously, for most of history (and for the majority of human beings alive today) man has been subordinate to the rule of man.

And what is the law or principle beneath or behind the rule of man? Why, power, of course. For the law of power to be operative, it must be based upon the implicit principle that man ≠ man, for no man has the natural right to dominate his equal. Rather, men must be unequal if such domination is to be legitimate and "in the nature of things."

Thus, the rule of man is always the rule of power and inequality, unless said man subordinates himself to the higher Law, in which case it is no longer the rule of man, precisely.

This introduces an interesting twist -- one of which the founders were well aware -- because it means that just because one has a formal democracy, this fact alone has nothing to do with whether or not one is subordinate to the rule of law.

Indeed, most serious thinkers realize that democracy in and of itself is indistinguishable from mob rule in the absence of a higher principle. Which, of course, is why reader William is forever alerting us to inane polls that reflect his policy preferences, as if no appeal to the intellect is necessary. Vox mobulie!

In fact, we may put forth the general rule that since the left is by definition unprincipled (since it denies transcendence), it must ultimately find its legitimacy in power, including the power of the demos when convenient. If not convenient, then it will simply bypass the citizenry and impose its newly discovered or improvised principles from on high, as in Dred Scott or Roe v. Wade.

Those latter two cases are only the most visible and dramatic instances of judicial malfeasance, but in fact, the malfeasance has been going on in systematic form since FDR, who understood full well that in order to exercise the type of power he coveted, it couldn't be within a constitutional framework.

Therefore, it was necessary to intimidate and/or replace the referees, who would change, reinterpret, or just ignore the rules. But to change the rules in this manner is again the rule of power, now made even more malicious because it is being imposed upon us by people for whom the rule of law ought to be sacred.

And I mean this literally. Not for nothing is the Supreme Court building conspicuously honored with the image of Moses the Lawgiver. Likewise, it is with good reason that justices dress in robes that are designed to efface personal identity and to remind us that they are analogous to a kind of impersonal priesthood to whom we owe our respect. In this case, clothes are supposed to unmake the man, and reflect the law only.

But nowadays, if the outer garments were to match the interior soul, then four of our justices would have to dress as thugs, another as a clown. For only Thomas, Scalia, Roberts, and Alito attempt to render themselves invisible by actually subordinating themselves to our constitution. Only do they deserve to be swaddled in majestic anonymity.

In order to bring about the statist polices they desire, leftists cannot and will not pin their grandiose aspirations on so unreliable a principle as the rule of law. This has been recognized since Woodrew Wilson, who was at least honest enough to argue the point openly and transparently, without so much as a fig-leaf of the type of modern-day spin that tries to tell us that what we see with our own eyes is not really there -- or that what is not there is there, concealed behind some emanation of a penumbra seen only by the unelect.

Steven Hayward provides numerous example of Wilson's refreshingly candid sentiments about the grave defects of our Constitution, and how it just interferes with the rule of Overeducated Elites who Know Better.

If only today's devious progressives could be as forthright, then we could actually have a meaningful discussion instead of a shoving match, in which we quote the Constitution and they tell us to shove it.

It is no little irony that before being permitted to sit as executive of the federal government, the president-elect must swear an oath of fealty to the Constitution of the United States, that is, to protect and defend it. This is as fine an example as one could imagine of a person subordinating himself to the Law behind the law, otherwise the oath is meaningless and we are right back to the rule of man.

In his book, Hayward assigns a letter grade to each president for how well they fulfilled the modest task of protecting and defending the Constitution (Wilson, of course, gets an F). And I say "modest," because even a nodding acquaintance with the literature of the framers -- e.g., the Federalist Papers -- demonstrates that these men already did all of the heavy philosophical, metaphysical, anthropological, historical, religious, and political lifting.

Wilson, who was a Hegelian and a Darwinian, essentially wanted to replace the divine right of kings with the divine right of the state (in Hegel's sense of the state embodying the Divine Idea or absolute principle). If Darwin and Hegel were correct that nothing is static and that history unfolds in a progressive direction, then it is simply absurd to maintain that there is any kind of final truth embodied in our founding documents:

"In our own day, whenever we discuss the structure or development of anything, whether in nature or in society, we consciously or unconsciously follow Mr. Darwin.... The trouble with the [Newtonian] theory is that government is not a machine, but a living thing.... Living political constitutions must be Darwinian in structure and in practice" (quoted in Hayward).

That being the case, we must not limit ourselves to "the original intent of those who drew the paper, but by the exigencies and the new aspects of life itself" (ibid). Which, of course, immediately devolves to the rule of pretentious jackasses such as Wilson.

Wilson's argument -- such as it is -- ignores the fact that the framers left a clearly articulated means with which to alter or add to anything they might have missed, for example a law prohibiting grog, which, thanks to progressive do-gooders, was enacted in 1920. Nowadays progressives would have simply banned it based upon their expansive reading of the power to regulate commerce by rendering drunk driving impossible.

The Self-Soothing Myth of our elites pretends that the rule of law was a natural outgrowth of the gradual secularization of man, which commenced after the Renaissance. You might say that in this masturbatory fantasy of the tenured, history has groaned and labored through the dark millennia in order to finally arrive at the Harvard faculty lounge.

But this is not what Eric Nelson finds in his carefully documented The Hebrew Republic: Jewish Sources and the Transformation of European Political Thought. Rather, the opposite; largely because of the Protestant rebellion, which focused on the written word, for the first time (at least on any widespread scale), "Christians began to regard the Hebrew Bible as a political constitution, designed by God himself for the children of Israel."

In this context, it became immediately apparent that the divine right of kings represented a kind of idolatry: "The Hebrew revival made republican exclusivism possible by introducing into Protestant Europe the claim that monarchy is sin." This leads directly to the idea of the rule of man, for now Moses is not merely an analogical and symbolic forerunner of Jesus, but is "to be understood as a lawgiver, as founder of a politeia in the Greek sense."

Which brings us to our current president, for whom the judicial tyranny of the Warren court didn't go far enough in undoing the rule of law and replacing it with the rule of man. Ah, but this is no ordinary man! For

"I’ve heard from far too many enormously smart, wise, spiritually attuned people who’ve been intuitively blown away by Obama’s presence -- not speeches, not policies, but sheer presence -- to say it’s just a clever marketing ploy, a slick gambit carefully orchestrated by hotshot campaign organizers who, once Obama gets into office, will suddenly turn from perky optimists to vile soul-sucking lobbyist whores, with Obama as their suddenly evil, cackling overlord....

"Many spiritually advanced people I know (not coweringly religious, mind you, but deeply spiritual) identify Obama as a Lightworker, that rare kind of attuned being who has the ability to lead us not merely to new foreign policies or health care plans or whatnot, but who can actually help usher in a new way of being on the planet, of relating and connecting and engaging with this bizarre earthly experiment. These kinds of people actually help us evolve. They are philosophers and peacemakers of a very high order, and they speak not just to reason or emotion, but to the soul" (Mark Morford).

This is very clever, because it recognizes the need to ground the rule of law in a higher law, but simply identifies the man with the law. You know, as in Deutschland c. 1933-1945. If this weren't such an elevated blog, we might call Obama's new political hybrid Doucheland.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Welfare State: Monument to a Barbarian

One of the unfortunate Rules of Life is that any institution that is not explicitly conservative will eventually devolve to liberalism. This proves, among other things, that liberalism is a kind of default state of the untutored mind. It is what we regress to unless we mature or are educated up and out of it.

For example, yesterday reader Julie linked to an article called American Catholicism's Pact With the Devil, which makes the point that Catholics who vote Democrat have no right to complain when they are deprived of their first amendment rights by the very regime they voted in.

Likewise, the Republican party has only rarely been the explicitly conservative party. As such, just as liberalism is slow-motion socialism, Republicanism has tended to be slow-motion liberalism, or super slow-mo socialism.

I have once again been reminded of this sobering truth in reading Steven Hayward's new Guide to the Presidents, from Wilson to Obama. I've read a number of these "Politically Incorrect Guides," some of which are quite good, others rather lame (especially the ones that come from a far-right paleo-conservative perspective -- you know, the usual suspects who argue that Lincoln was an evil dictator or that states have "rights").

I've almost finished the book, and one implicit theme is just how temperamentally conservative American presidents have been, even when they have been politically liberal. This shows the extent to which conservatism (by which I mean classical liberalism) is in America's DNA if not its DNC. In turn, this is why undisguised leftism has been such a tough sell in America, and why the left must always resort to deception or force (as in judicial force) in order to enact their schemes.

Some of our worst presidents, e.g., Wilson, Roosevelt, LBJ, and Carter, were clearly at odds with their own conservative impulses, which is probably what made them so damaging. Each of them exemplifies Murray's point about liberals not preaching what they practice.

Let's take the wretched LBJ, whom acquaintances describe as "power-hungry, cruel, bigoted, ruthless, deceitful, vain, grasping and... immoral." People who knew him more intimately characterize him as "treacherous, dishonest, manic-aggressive, petty, [and] spoiled."

As a senator, the dignified Johnson routinely whipped out his and "urinated in public, raged at and belittled his staff, used racial epithets with abandon, stole elections, and collected prodigious sums of campaign donations in cash."

Indeed, "despite" spending his entire life as a "public servant" in DC, LBJ somehow amassed a fortune of some $15 million. In other words, typical liberal.

The fact of the matter is that Johnson had no articulated political philosophy, but was a .... what was he?

I raise this question because the current fiscal crisis we are living through is a direct result of policies put into place by LBJ, who is responsible for more liberal legislation than any other president, including FDR. But upon what principle is all of this founded?

Answer: no principle (and certainly no constitutional principle).

So: trillions of dollars down the drain, and trillions more charged up to future generations, all in defense of the principle of... no principle.

If LBJ wasn't motivated by principle, then what did motivate him, and is it fair that we should all be on the hook for it, forever?

As to the first question, "Johnson had a voracious appetite for political achievement, and an unquenchable thirst for distinction and adulation." As to the second, we might say that our multi-trillion dollar festering sump-hole of Great Society debt is like an ongoing monument to Johnson's awesomeness.

As Hayward writes from out on his limb, "There do not appear to have been any political principles at Johnson's core." By now it is common knowledge how much damage the "War on Poverty" has caused to black Americans, but the truth of the matter is that Johnson couldn't have cared less.

Before becoming president and building his leviathan legislative monument, he was as racist as any other mainstream Democrat, for example, writing in 1960 that "I am firmly opposed to forced integration and I firmly believe that the doctrine of states' rights should be maintained." Acting on his beliefs, he "worked to water down the civil rights legislation that President Eisenhower had proposed to Congress" (Hayward).

Not only was Johnson uninterested in the damage caused by his programs, he didn't even want to know if they were effective. And yet, despite it all, he still nurtured a tiny core of American conservative principle inside his desiccated soul, in that he absolutely never envisioned putting into place a permanent welfare state and thus fundamentally altering our way of life.

Which means that not only are we on the hook for the grandiose dreams of an unprincipled barbarian, but that this has been followed by a systematic misapplication of his lack of principles, which we call the Welfare State. His absence of principle has been turned into one.

In other words, the War on Poverty, like all wars, was intended to be time-limited. Instead, five decades on, it has resulted in a permanent war that is a completely unsustainable fiscal cancer.

Consider how the idealistic Johnson reacted when he discovered that welfare was subsidizing bastardy: "They want to just stay up there and breed and won't work and we have to feed them.... I don't want to be taking taxpayers' money and paying it to people to just breed."

In other words, WTF?!

Too late! To the everlasting consternation of the left, human nature is human nature, and it cannot be changed. The tiny little flaw at the root of liberalism is the insane belief that human beings will not respond to the perverse incentives it puts in place. Other than that, it works beautifully.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Liberalism: The Key to Failure and Secret of Unhappiness

Socialism is the philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy. --Churchill

I just wanted to say a few more things about Murray's Coming Apart, mostly for my own benefit. It's a very important book, not one to race through and toss aside.

One of Murray's most important takeaways is that for some fifty years our elites have been preaching a doctrine which legitimizes dysfunctional values and behavior, but which they themselves would never practice, except perhaps at the margins. In other words, they toy with certain degenerate behaviors and attitudes as a means of gaining "authenticity," but you generally don't see liberal politicians, CEOs, lawyers, and educators with barbed wire tattoos around their necks and six baby mamas.

Insofar as culture is concerned, when the elites sneeze, the lower classes catch pneumonia, the reason being that the poorer one is, the less margin for error there is in one's behavior; or, to put it the other way around, the more likely it is that one will receive negative feedback, i.e., punishment. The wealthy and powerful such as Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson, or ___ Kennedy, can get away with years of dysfunctional behavior, where you or I would have long ago hit the wall financially, vocationally, legally, or medically.

Murray makes it clear with abundant statistical evidence that successful elites, to the extent that they are successful, do not practice what they preach or preach what they practice. If anything, they are more narrowly bourgeois and predictable than the conservatives of my acquaintance, but for some reason like to pretend that they are "liberated," or "free-thinkers," or "avant-garde."

Apparently there is some sort of guilt over being a successful conformist, so they must rebel in symbolic ways -- a discrete tattoo here, the trace of a pierced ear there, the proudly ignorant contempt for traditional religion, which is to say, religion. These are all status markers of the new elite, like an invisible code they all share.

Murray reminds us that another important part of the liberal elite code is nonjudgmentalism. We all know this is an empty pose, since they just shift their harsh judgmentalism to agreed upon targets:

"Nonjudgmentalism is one of the more baffling features of the new-upper-class culture. The members of the new upper class are industrious to the point of obsession, but there are no derogatory labels for adults who are not industrious. The young women of the new upper class hardly ever have babies out of wedlock, but it is impermissible to use a derogatory label for nonmarital births....

"When you get right down to it, it is not acceptable in the new upper class to use derogatory labels for anyone, with three exceptions: people with differing political views, fundamentalist Christians, and rural working-class whites."

A prerequisite of any successful culture -- in fact, culture, period -- is recognition of the morality that attaches to human sexuality. I have discussed this at length in previous posts, but it is clear that sexuality is a force that must be bound and channeled in order for culture to develop.

And to the extent that this obvious truth is denied, a culture or subculture will degenerate, as we have witnessed over the past half century. For example, for blacks, the problem of fatherless children absolutely dwarfs the problem of racism to the point of insignificance. We have identified the behaviors that almost guarantee poverty -- and intergenerational poverty -- but the left doesn't care.

It isn't just success that these behaviors bring about, but happiness. Naturally, studies show that conservatives are happier than liberals. A big reason is that liberals externalize agency and thereby internalize an attitude of passivity, helplessness, and dependence.

But Murray brings out other reasons, backed by statistical analysis. After sorting through all the variables, he identifies the four that are most likely to result in a self-report of being "very happy"; these are family, vocation, community, and faith (for the record, Murray is an irreligious libertarian). For example, he writes that "The relationship of marriage to happiness is as simple as can be. There's hardly anything better than a good marriage for promoting happiness and nothing worse than a bad one."

Now, note how the left has spent the past fifty years devaluing marriage as the telos of human sexuality and ideal for men and women. The result? Among the lower classes, marriage has indeed become the exception and not the rule, which brings with it the likelihood of unhappiness. Thus, it is no surprise that the Democratic party reaches out to these unhappy people, promising more of the very drug responsible for their unhappiness.

Yesterday I heard a statistic that 85% of single mothers vote Democrat, which makes perfect sense. Although "liberated" from men, these helpless women have simply married the state instead (which is a kind of perverse inversion of nuns who are "married" to Jesus). And this is progress?

The same applies to religiosity, to such an extent that it is almost as if God exists. In describing the statistical correlation between religiosity and happiness, Murray says that "Social scientists rarely find such an orderly relationship.... At the bottom, only 23 percent of the white adults who never attend worship services report they are very happy."

Putting the statistics together, Murray finds that if one is unmarried, dissatisfied with one's work, professing no religion, and harboring a low level of social trust, the probability of being "very happy" falls to just 10 percent.

Conversely "Having either a very satisfying job or a very happy marriage raised that percentage by almost equal amounts, to about 19 percent.... Then came the big interaction effect: having a very satisfying job and a very happy marriage jumped the probability to 55 percent." Toss in social trust and the figure rises to 69 percent. Top it off with religiosity, and we reach 76 percent.

Think of what liberals preach and the unhappiness it engenders, say, for blacks: a woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle. Religion is nonsense. Our culture is fundamentally racist. White people hate you. Don't bother trying, because the cards are stacked against you. Wait for the white liberal massa' to bail you out.

Liberalism is indeed the key to unhappiness in general and black discontent in particular.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Abortion: Your Intrinsic Right to No Intrinsic Rights

Let's dispassionately analyze the question of abortion from the bottom-up -- or top-down, since, in either case, we're talking about first principles. In other words, even if one is a materialist, one's belief in materialism presumably transcends matter, on pain of self-refutation.

No materialist literally believes in materialism -- or believes in materialism literally. To the extent that he believes he does, it is only because he is uncritically lost in his own abstractions, a victim of what Whitehead called the fallacy of misplaced concreteness.

This doesn't mean we have to bring religion into the discussion. However, for the vast majority of people, their religion is the primary means with which they are able to think about, embody, and discuss first principles. Although few people are metaphysicians, religion allows a person to be one, just as, say, one needn't be an artist to enter the world of beauty.

First principles are axiomatic. In a way, they are simultaneously where we begin and end. One might say that we are always either arguing toward or from first principles that are either explicit or, more likely, implicit.

Now, no one can reasonably dispute the idea that America is rooted in certain first principles that, by definition (i.e., because they are axiomatic), cannot be surpassed or overturned. Calvin Coolidge famously put the matter with a finality that is exceedingly restful when he wrote that

"About the Declaration there is a finality that is exceedingly restful. It is often asserted that the world has made a great deal of progress since 1776.... But that reasoning can not be applied to this great charter. If all men are created equal, that is final. If they are endowed with inalienable rights, that is final. If governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, that is final. No advance, no progress can be made beyond these propositions. If anyone wishes to deny their truth or their soundness, the only direction in which he can proceed historically is not forward, but backward toward the time when there was no equality, no rights of the individual, no rule of the people. Those who wish to proceed in that direction can not lay claim to progress. They are reactionary. Their ideas are not more modern, but more ancient, than those of the Revolutionary fathers" (emphasis mine).

It can truly be said of progressives that the further they go, the behinder they get.

(In looking up the above passage, I found many similarly luminous insights from the same speech, all of which go to the idea of first principles. A few of them are appended below, at the conclusion of the post. But here is a sample:

"In its main features the Declaration of Independence is a great spiritual document. It is a declaration not of material but of spiritual conceptions. Equality, liberty, popular sovereignty, the rights of man -- these are not elements which we can see and touch. They are ideals. They have their source and their roots in religious convictions. They belong to the unseen world. Unless the faith of the American people in these religious convictions is to endure, the principles of our Declaration will perish. We cannot continue to enjoy the result if we neglect and abandon the cause.")

Since I was once very much "pro-choice," it might be useful to reflect upon how I arrived at that position. To be perfectly honest, I didn't. Rather, it was completely reflexive and mimetic. Although I was in high school at the time, I don't remember Roe v. Wade making a big impact in California, where abortion was already legal. And if nothing else, I was an unthinking product of my unthinking liberal surroundings.

If you had asked me to name the principle that enshrined abortion, I suppose I would have parroted the usual talking point that a woman has the right to control her own body. If confronted with the fact that we are talking about another body, I might have deployed word magic and responded that we were actually only talking about a "fetus," not a human being. It was only "potential life," so to end its life (sic) didn't impinge upon moral considerations.

But when you come right down to it, I was probably just obeying my hindbrain, which, like all testosterone-driven men, wants to enjoy sex without consequences (although I wouldn't have expressed it as eloquently as this thinker: “Let’s stop fooling around here. What we’re talking about is our right to f*** whoever we want, however we want, whenever we want.”)

The latter is a sexuality detached from anything transcending itself, and therefore no longer human sexuality at all. Interestingly, another part of me knew this all along, so I couldn't possibly be a happy hindbrain. And thankfully it is possible to recover one's innocence, so long as one hasn't strayed too far and made a complete commitment to the lesser world.

One of Arkes' ironic conclusions is that the belief in an intrinsic right to abortion -- as opposed to being a positive right -- inevitably overturns long-settled notions about the source of our rights, and ultimately eradicates their ground.

For example, let us ask the question: supposing a woman has the unlimited right to an abortion, when and how did she obtain this right? When does it become operative? Surely it can't be in the womb, so it cannot be a natural right. And yet, the left treats it as if it is a natural and even sacred right. That is to say, they treat it as a first principle, an axiom with which they begin and therefore end the argument.

The principles upon which our nation was founded are, of course, very different. These principles affirm that our rights are not "positive" -- i.e., given by the state -- but natural, i.e., "in the nature of things." Thus, there is no point in our temporal development that we "acquire" them. Rather, they literally go with the territory -- or somatory -- of being human. We have them by virtue of existing, and that is all.

Therefore, it makes no sense to argue that we have a right to abortion as a consequence of our existence, for human existence is precisely what the abortion advocate claims the right to terminate.

And with this maneuver, we remove "the very logic and substance of rights. For what we call 'rights' then are simply things declared to be right by the opinion that is dominant in any place." And any such scheme "can be put into place only by denying, at the root, the logic of natural rights. In that event, this grand 'right' is evacuated of its moral substance" (Arkes).

Thus, in a very real sense, one can only have an intrinsic right to abortion if human beings have no intrinsic rights at all.


More cool Calidge:

"It is not so much then for the purpose of undertaking to proclaim new theories and principles that this annual celebration is maintained, but rather to reaffirm and reestablish those old theories and principles which time and the unerring logic of events have demonstrated to be sound."

"The American Revolution represented the informed and mature convictions of a great mass of independent, liberty-loving, God-fearing people who knew their rights, and possessed the courage to dare to maintain them."

"[I]t is but natural that the first paragraph of the Declaration of Independence should open with a reference to Nature's God and should close in the final paragraphs with an appeal to the Supreme Judge of the world and an assertion of a firm reliance on Divine Providence. Coming from these sources, having as it did this background, it is no wonder that Samuel Adams could say 'The people seem to recognize this resolution as though it were a decree promulgated from heaven.'"

"[W]hen we come to a contemplation of the immediate conception of the principles of human relationship which went into the Declaration of Independence.... They are found in the texts, the sermons, and the writings of the early colonial clergy who were earnestly undertaking to instruct their congregations in the great mystery of how to live. They preached equality because they believed in the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man. They justified freedom by the text that we are all created in the divine image, all partakers of the divine spirit."

"[T]he Declaration of Independence.... is the product of the spiritual insight of the people. We live in an age of science and of abounding accumulation of material things. These did not create our Declaration. Our Declaration created them. The things of the spirit come first. Unless we cling to that, all our material prosperity, overwhelming though it may appear, will turn to a barren scepter in our grasp. If we are to maintain the great heritage which has been bequeathed to us, we must be like minded as the fathers who created it. We must not sink into a pagan materialism. We must cultivate the reverence which they had for the things that are holy. We must follow the spiritual and moral leadership which they showed. We must keep replenished, that they may glow with a more compelling flame, the altar fires before which they worshipped."

Friday, February 10, 2012

Eradicating the Cosmic Law at the Moral Root

Let's talk about the culture war in general and about abortion in particular, since the latter is one of several major flashpoints, where two elements come into contact to produce combustion.

This article (HT G the VdL) summarizes a few of the areas of truly irreconcilable conflict, irreconcilable because their differing first principles can under no circumstances be brought into harmony -- any more than one could harmonize, say, the logical principle of non-contradiction with its converse (although Raccoons understand that the two modes of logic actually exist harmoniously in vertical consciousness, where symmetrical logic rules the night; but that would take us far afield, so let's just stay down in secular 4D for the purposes of this post).

Now, one could say that our first principles are embodied in the Constitution, but that wouldn't be quite correct. For in reality -- and this should be axiomatic -- the Constitution itself reflects certain first principles for which its very purpose is to protect, e.g., life, liberty, religion, property.

And to the extent that the state fails in its duty to preserve and expand these rights, we also have an intrinsic remedy called "revolution." This was the very remedy the Founders exercised in declaring independence from the crown. It is not something to be spoken of lightly, for it is the nuclear option. It is when a culture war goes hot.

In each case of conflict, the flashpoint is caused by the aggression of the left, an aggression they like to call "progress." For example, for them, a reversion to pre-Christian, pagan polymorphous sexuality is "progressive," whereas for us it is just irony.

One of the principle acts of cultural aggression occurred with Roe V. Wade, which involved a handful of elites running roughshod over the democratic process.

Before that, the most egregious example of judicial tyranny might have been the Dred Scott decision, and we all know where that led. In each case, a few men from a narrow class of elites declared that certain human beings were beyond the pale, and not entitled to any legal protection. In so doing, they conjured a kind of non-existent being, since even animals have some intrinsic rights.

And just as in Dred Scott, the decision was entirely arbitrary, and simply deployed legal and metaphysical sophistry in the service of arriving at the desired end.

What I mean is that, if there were no such thing as abortion, it would never have occurred to anyone that a fetus is anything other than a human being. Obviously, crushing, dismembering, and sucking the brains out of a baby is by no stretch of the imagination "natural," and yet, for the left, it is their bedrock right, the one for which they will go to the mat every time if you should want to limit it in any way, shape, or form.

Without the least fear of polemicism, it can be affirmed that this represents a complete inversion of the first principles that animated the Founders. The left may well be correct in rejecting these principles, but they should at least be honest about it, as was, for example, one of our ur-progressivess, Woodrew Wilson, who spoke openly of his contempt for the principles embodied in our founding documents.

Rather, Wilson was an avowed Hegelian and Darwinian, meaning that, like everything else, the Constitution was subject to evolution. It reflected no permanent truths about human nature or about political philosophy, for the simple reason that there is no such thing.

Now, like many of you, I began life as a doctrinaire and unthinking abortion advocate. To this day -- and I want to be completely honest -- I have some residue from that era which I don't quite know how to resolve, more on which as we proceed.

Actually, allow me to present these while I'm thinking about them. We can all agree that the Holocaust was a great evil, so great that anyone would have been morally justified in killing a Nazi in order to try to end or limit it. Why would this be justice? Because of the sanctity of innocent human life, for starters.

That being the case, since a fetus is the quintessence of innocent human life, why is it evil to kill abortionists? There is a tiny fringe of activists who apparently believe that it is acceptable. I believe they are wrong, but why are they wrong? Since I want to be completely logical, this is an area where I have difficulty accepting the implications of my own first principles.

Outta time. To be continued...

Thursday, February 09, 2012

An Important Announcement

Nah, not really. Just that I'm back from my tour of duty in Sarasota, having successfully pacified the in-laws and negotiated a framework for additional frank discussions of my shortcomings.

And to be honest, I've lost the plot. Where were we? Charles Murray, right? Just read the book. I've already moved on -- and on -- and on: one book on the way to Fla., one on the way back, and now three more in the mail.

By the way, this book by Hadley Arkes on Natural Rights and abortion is the most robust and penetrating analysis of the issue I've ever encountered. Pretty much compels assent, unless one is a moron or psychopath. After reading it, I don't see how any rigorously logical or intellectually honest person could ever promulgate the constitutional right to a dead baby, irrespective of whether or not one is religious.

Some readers have reported difficulty keeping up with me and trailing behind my doublewide sillybus, but so do I. Slippery fellow. Where'd ego!

I expect a resumption of abnormality tomorrow. Meanwhile, enjoy this complementary open thread.

Friday, February 03, 2012

Government Of, By, and For the Ungovernable

Apologize for the Sun Ra freakout yesterday. Obviously my wires got crossed as a result of trying to blog while watching the Holder thingy, and that's what came out. Although Ra appears regularly in the 'Coon Club Au Go-Go showroom, I do not advocate him to the uninitiated.

It did form quite a contrast, however -- the penultimate retrograde reactionary establishment negro overseer of the Victim Plantation vs. the only-begotten post-racial interplanetary musical transponder of happy tomorrows: the entirely predictable type vs. the unprecedented and unrepeatable individual. I suppose Holder must have provoked his opposite number in positive space.

But none of this is actually irrelevant to our topic, which involves the limits of freedom. Much of Charles Murray's Coming Apart -- which is a must read -- revolves around the same subject, which ultimately comes down to the question of how a people can remain free if they reject the virtues -- i.e., the intrinsic limits -- that undergird the very possibility of freedom.

Murray cites various founders and foreign observers who were acutely aware of this. Indeed, in order to not know it, you must have either attended graduate school or else be among the underclass victims of the toxic ideology of our academic elites.

This is indeed one of the striking conclusions of the book, that our elites, instead of preaching what they practice -- i.e., the behaviors and attitudes that resulted in their own success -- preach exactly the opposite. In THE NEW CLASS: PROFITING FROM DECLINE, PowerLine links to a piece at Falkenblog that relieves me of the need to lay the foundation:

"Murray argues the well-off should set a better example by not apologizing for their squareness, but rather, by advocating their lifestyle and scorning those who fail to live up to it -- we need more of what is usually called ‘blaming the victim.'"

Nevertheless, the lower classes never stop hearing of "how great it is to be a victim, how noble it is to be poor, powerless, or discriminated [against]; to be wronged is the ultimate in righteousness." But this is not something our hyper status-conscious elites would ever indulge in themselves:

"Alas, successful people are ashamed to assert they have better genetics, values, and habits -- even though they quietly believe it to be true -- and so are content to let the media and intellectuals push the delusional idea that success is like when Paris Hilton had sex on a digital camera and built a career out of it: luck, connections, and chutzpah, but no discipline, ingenuity, and perseverence. With such examples it becomes defensible to suggest most of the rich are like that -- mere lucky hacks in the game of life. The flip side is that those who are unsuccessful are suffering for no fault of their own" (Falkenstein).

Speaking of Falkenstein's monster, the whole thing is a weird and twisted academic experiment in reverse-prometheanism: a misguided attempt to make man better by making him worse, or transcendence via regression.

I know many successful liberals who are full of covert (and not so covert) narcissistic superiority, which they deny through assimilation of the liberal sensibility described above. There is nothing empathic or compassionate about them. They live their own lives in a conservative, even blandly bourgeois, manner, and yet, advocate an entirely different set of values for the unsuccessful.

These unsuccessful victims of someone else's success function only as props in the liberal's personal psychodrama. They have no interest whatsoever in understanding the actual behaviors that result in poverty or in success. Indeed, they need the poor in order to elevate themselves, which helps explain their dogged adherence to policies that are guaranteed to create more of them.

Murray attempts to distill the cardinal virtues that resulted in America's unprecedented success -- which for him are marriage, industriousness, honesty, and religiosity -- and in so doing, show how unique they were to America.

In fact, this is something everyone once knew, both here and abroad. He cites an example from 1825, when a European observer wrote that "no government could be established on the same principle as that of the United States, with a different code of morals."

Furthermore, our Constitution "can only suffice a people habitually correct in their actions, and would be utterly inadequate to the wants of a different nation. Change the domestic habits of the Americans, their religious devotion, and their respect for morality, and it will not be necessary to change a single letter of the Constitution in order to vary the whole form of their government" (Francis Grund, emphasis mine).

How extraordinarily prescient! Yes, the ACLU is a strict adherent to the Constitution -- the perverse Constitution that results from a complete rejection of the spirit and values that inspired it.

Murray cites various founders, such as Madison: "To suppose that any form of government will secure liberty or happiness without any virtue in the people is a chimerical idea."

Franklin: "only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become more corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters."

Patrick Henry: "bad men cannot make good citizens.... No free government, or the blessings of liberty, can be preserved to any people but by a firm adherence to justice, moderation, temperance, frugality, and virtue."

Tocqueville: "travelers who have visited North America.... all agree in remarking that morals are far more strict there than elsewhere."

Even Jefferson (not that his erratic thought process should hold any particular weight, except that he seems to be the perennial favorite of the adultolescent left): "Can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are the gift of God?"

One could go on and on. The point is, self-government requires first and foremost government of oneself. But with the symbolic ascendence of Obama, we have reached the dangerous tipping point of a government of, by, and for the ungovernable. Or, perhaps of the insufferable over the ungovernable, the former enabling the latter with a poisonous and destructive ideology that is guaranteed to produce more of the victims that justify the ideology.

Again, all of the above goes to the ninth of our Ten Universal Principles, which concerns the limits of freedom. I couldn't possibly express it more clearly than Tocqueville, who is quoted by Murray:

"Thus, while the law permits the Americans to do what they please, religion prevents them from" doing so. The latter "must be regarded as the first of their political institutions," for "Americans combine the notions of Christianity and of liberty so intimately in their minds that it is impossible to make them conceive the one without the other."

But as we have said before, leftism is quintessentially "the possibility of the impossible," endeavoring always to bring about what can never be, through ideas and principles that should never have been.

To be continued, but no posts for several days....

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Thank God Almighty, I'm Unfree at Last!

I'll be honest. I'm distracted by Eric Holder's dramatic (in a soap opera sort of way) testimony before congress. Very difficult to listen to it while blogging. It's not something I've ever before attempted. Kind of giving me a headache. Probably not healthy to divide one's attention in this manner.

We've already established that human beings have an intrinsic right to freedom. But freedom in the absence of limits reduces to nihilism, just as, say, absolute musical freedom -- in which there are no scales, no melody, and no rhythm -- can produce nothing more interesting or involving than sonic chaos.

But sometimes it can be difficult to distinguish between chaos and a very high degree of order.

For example, Sun Ra himself, the interstellar ambassador, said "I can write something so chaotic you would say you know it's not written. But the reason it's chaotic is because it's written to be. It's further out than anything [my musicians] would be doing if they were just improvising."

In fact, when a new player came into the band, he first had to serve time in the "Ra jail" and learn the cosmo-musical rules: "Freedom wasn't Ra's bag. In his view, the rhetoric of freedom was the downfall of black America" (John Corbett, When Angels Speak of Love). Could a brother from Saturn have been correct about this? What can he know of the struggle of black people on earth?

In 1970 he said: "I couldn't approach black people with the truth because they like lies. They live lies… At one time I felt that white people were to blame for everything, but then I found out that they were just puppets and pawns of some greater force, which has been using them… Some force is having a good time [manipulating black and white people] and looking, enjoying itself up in a reserved seat, wondering, 'I wonder when they're going to wake up'" (wikipedia).

What Ra was talking about is the mind parasites that can only operate because man is free. To put it another way, they exploit man's freedom and hijack the host in order to do their will.

This is not some type of neo-Gnosticism, at least as far as I am concerned. Rather, it is a very objective and experience-near description of what's happening here on earth.

Since they aren't free, other animals can only do so much harm. But man's capacity for evil is as (relatively) infinite as is his capacity for freedom. Thus, if we don't recognize the divinely authored limits to freedom, then limits will be imposed by lesser forces and factors of which we often aren't aware, say, "political correctness."

Leftists often pride themselves on being "free speech absolutists." That they can say this with a straight face only shows the extent to which they are unaware of the constraints they are under.

For example, a white man from saturn could never get away with suggesting that he "couldn't approach black people with the truth because they like lies. They live lies." In fact, the other day, a black man from Florida said something similar, which resulted in a white man from Virginia revoking his blackness.

The third of Spitzer's three universal principles of justice and natural rights goes to this question of the limits to freedom: One person's (or group's) freedoms cannot impose undue burdens upon other persons (or groups).

An immediate corollary of this is that "governments should not grant freedoms to one group of individuals that will likely create undue burdens for others or threaten the safety of others."

For example, does Roe v. Wade, in granting a new constitutional right to women, result in an undue burden being placed on the condemned children who will be deprived of their lives?

Spitzer reminds us that our rights do not emanate from government but from the Creator. Is it possible that the Creator meant for us to have the intrinsic right to kill our unborn children? I suppose it's possible. But that would argue for the Gnostic idea of a renegade, evil god that rules this world. Frankly, I wouldn't trust him.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Pleasure (Not Necessarily in that Order)

We are up to the eighth of our Ten Universal Principles. This one goes to the issue of how we resolve a conflict of rights, say, my right to property and your freedom of assembly.

Spitzer calls it The Principle of the Fundamentality of Rights: The more fundamental right is the one which is necessary for the possibility of the other; where there is a conflict, we should resolve in favor of the more fundamental.

This makes sense to most Americans, but not to the Occupy Wall Street crowd, the one percent who insist that their right of assembly trumps the right to private property.

What this ultimately means is that the OWSers believe they have a constitutionally protected right to crime. Which they do. Like all Americans, they can apply for a job with the government.

You might say that there are necessary rights and sufficient rights. As in logic, a sufficient right is one "with which," whereas a necessary right is one "without which." Thus, the most Necessary Right of all would be the right without which no other rights are possible. Is there such a right? I don't know yet. Let's find out!

As we know, the Declaration of Independence mentions three such rights: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. And of course, for the founders, "happiness" has a specific meaning. It has nothing to do with its contemporary usage, but with the idea of actualizing our potential and perfecting our human nature. You might say that it doesn't connote transient states but permanent traits.

But of those three, is there one that is more necessary?

Well, let's see. It looks to me as if Life must trump the second two, since without it, we cannot be free, much less perfect ourselves. Compared to Life, liberty and the p. of h. are reduced to sufficient rights, i.e., rights with which Life may aim the teloscope at its own celestial coonsteliation and achieve its end.

Of course, when the Declaration speaks of Life, it is not referring to plant life, or to that stuff growing in my bathtub. Rather, it obviously means human life, since back then, people weren't yet stupid enough to confuse animals and humans. Animals do not have rights. Rather, human beings have obligations toward them.

Thus, in order to understand the "right to Life," we must first define what we mean by human life -- or a human for short. After all, we're talking about living humans, not dead ones. But even there, a subtle caveat is in order, since we are talking about the totality of human lives, past, present, and future.

Which means that we have an obligation to future generations, something even liberals believe, so long as the future generation isn't unlucky enough to be in the womb. That generation has no rights. Unless the fetus in question is homosexual. Then you have no right to kill it.

We also have an obligation to the past. It seems that this is something the temperamental conservative is "born knowing," whereas the temperamental liberal almost defines himself in terms of not knowing it -- or at least not respecting it.

This is one of the virtues of studying history -- no, not the kind of ahistorical history promulgated by the tenured, but real history. For example, I recently read biographies of Washington, Hamilton, and Lincoln, and was reminded all over again how much I owe these great men. It's a debt I can never repay, but one I must always be mindful of.

I've mentioned this before, but I remember walking out of the theatre after watching Saving Private Ryan, and thinking to myself, "how can I ever repay these people," especially the ones who are buried somewhere on the coast of France? To think in these terms is a quintessentially human thing to do. To forget our obligation to the past is to render ourselves less than human.

So man qua man is entitled to the pursuit of the natural perfection of his nature. That's my opinion, anyway.

Now, when we say "right to life," we mean that we have a right to ourselves. Every human being is being-for-himself and master of his domain. But the essence of humanness -- for it is a condition without which humanness is impossible -- is our intersubjectivity, or our trinitarian nature.

As such, when we talk about the second right, liberty, there is an ineluctable complementarity to it, which essentially involves responsibilities, duties, and obligations to go along with our freedom. To talk about the latter in the absence of the former is to speak of a monster, not a human being.

Thus, we may only speak of the "yoke of liberty," for man is condemned to freedom. And we use the word "condemned" advisedly, for liberty means different things to different people and cultures. For example, in Islam, freedom doesn't mean what people think it means:

"[M]ost Americans still do not know that hurriya, Arabic for 'freedom,' connotes 'perfect slavery' or absolute submission to Allah, very nearly the opposite of the Western concept." Ironically, the primary complaint of, say, the Muslim Brotherhood, is not over the denial of (Western style) freedom, but the repression of Islam (Andrew McCarthy, National Review, 1.23.12).

McCarthy estimates that maybe 20% actually long for the type of freedom we enjoy in the west. Here again, this is one of the points where leftism and Islamism converge, i.e., the devaluing of freedom and its progeny, the individual. If there's one thing they can't stand, it's the intolerance of intolerance.

The bottom line is that on any objective or logical basis, "the right to life is more fundamental than the right to liberty and the right to property, and the right to liberty is more fundamental than the right to property."

Actually, it is difficult to disentangle those last two, but just ask yourself, would you rather go to jail (lose your liberty) or pay a fine (give up some property)? And would you rather go to prison or the gas chamber?

Note also that for the left, the pursuit of transient happiness trumps the right to life, with the result that their most necessary right is convenience or expediency. Which is why theirs is a philosophy of barbarism.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Declaration of Independence is Unconstitutional

In our review of Ten Universal Principles, we've covered three that pertain to epistemology (the true) and three that apply to ethics (the good). What about the collective good, i.e., politics?

Here again, Spitzer outlines three principles with which any normal person should be able to agree.

We might go so far as to say that this is one of the things that defines a person: the ability to arrive at abstract and universal truths. Obviously, no mere animal can do this.

Or, to paraphrase something E.F. Schumacher wrote, a human isn't just an "animal plus X"; rather, the animal is "human minus X." This is because one cannot get from contingent to universal, or accident to essence, by simply adding some measurable quantity to the former. Contingent + Contingent ≠ Universal.

But what is X?

I would suggest that X is the absolute, although it goes by many names. As Spitzer describes elsewhere, man is always and everywhere aware of "the unrestricted, the unconditional, and the perfect," not just in truth, but love, goodness, beauty, and being as such.

To put it another way, man is always in communion with O, or, in other worlds, suspended somewhere between relative and absolute. Animals are wholly in the relative; God is wholly Absolute; a proper man has one foot in the former, one in the latter. An improper man has one foot in his mouth and the other on a banana peel.

Spitzer lists some of the names of O: Creator, Pure Being, Unconditioned Existence, Being Itself, First Cause, Ground of Being.

To which we might add Unmoved Mover, Tao, Brahman, Primordial Slack, Escape from the Planet of the Clocks, Something for Nothing, SomeOne for Nobody, Same Old Ombuddhi, the Free Launch, the Error in My Favor, the Found Money, the Beautiful Genie, Barbara Eden, the Womb with a Pew, the Tippling Point, the Last Day of School, the Summa Vacation, etc.

Spitzer's first principle of justice and natural rights is: All human beings possess in themselves (by virtue of their existence alone) the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and property ownership; no government gives these rights, and no government can take them away.

There. How difficult was that?

Very difficult if history is our guide and Obama is our example. For instance, did you know that Obama has the power to override your first amendment right to freedom of religion? It's true. I'm not sure who or what grants him this extra-constitutional authority, for he's never disclosed it.

Please note again that this principle is by no means "natural," for if it were, then the Declaration of Independence wouldn't have represented such an audacious haymaker right in Satan's breadbasket.

To this day, the vast majority of governments and people do not accept this principle. Indeed, any secular, materialist, or atheistic person cannot accept it, on pain of immediate self-contradiction.

For the intellectually honest liberal -- surely one must exist somewhere? -- the Declaration of Independence is unconstitutional, pure and simple.

But so too is the Constitution unconstitutional, since one of its reasons for existence is to "secure the blessings of liberty," and blessings come from God. Unless you're a liberal, in which case they emanate from the penumbra of the state.

Spitzer references the old-school Jesuit Francisco Suarez, who adds that the purpose of law -- which is the scaffold of a free government -- is "the due preservation and natural perfection or happiness of human nature."

In other words, the Law has a telos, which is the actualization of man's potential and free discovery of his end. Thus, the state has no right to limit, let alone terminate, your real personhood (which is what all leftist tyrannies do, which is to say, permit only one type of person or none at all; the same goes for speech).

Note that governments do not have "rights." Rather, they have only powers. This obviously goes for states as well, which is why it is absurd to argue for "states rights" in order to bypass the Constitution and restrict human rights.

Which is why the Confederate assouls who used "states-rights" as a pretext to restrict and deny the rights of human beings were anything but conservative. For only a leftist could believe that the state has a supernatural right to strip man of his natural rights.

To be continued....

Friday, January 27, 2012

Cosmic Rules of the Road

We're discussing the Ten Universal Principles with which you can't go wrong -- or, more like it, without which you will definitely go off the realroad.

Why is the cosmos built in this "negativistic" manner? Because if it were not so, free will would essentially be impossible. In other words, if there were a one-to-one relationship between action and outcome, the world would be just one big operant conditioning chamber, or Skinner box, as in the helpful illustration below:

Think of yourself as the rat, the response lever as the Divine Law, and the food dispenser as instant gratification. In such a set-up, there is no real possibility of growth, risk, learning, development, etc. Rather, you'll just keep hammering the joystick. Better to provide a wider field of action, with boundaries indicated by various Don't Go Theres, or Thou Shalt Nots, so you don't fall off the edge of the cosmos and into the abyss in the course of your terrestrial sojourn.

This is the purpose of the system of ordered liberty devised by our founders, in which we are free to do all sorts of things that are impermissible. Conversely, the left always wants to force us to do things it regards as the only things permissible, for example, to discriminate on the basis of race, to fund Democratic campaigns by stealing from future generations, or to purchase certain products of which it approves.

Think about how you raise a child. Now that Future Leader is almost seven years old, I've been exposed to a fair sample of children, and there is a certain quality that always attracts me, or at least doesn't annoy me. To put it simply, these are children who are well behaved and yet full of spontaneity, adventure, fun, and imagination. This is in sharp contrast to children who are well behaved but repressed, so that the life force is quashed; or children who are full of life, but who are obnoxious.

So the problem is, how do we introduce "rules for living" that don't end up making life a crashing bore? Clearly, there is some truth to the liberal caricature of this type of person, e.g., Ned Flanders.

We'll address that question as we proceed. Yesterday we discussed the three principles of epistemology, or of evidence and truth: 1) The best opinion or theory is the one that explains the most data, 2) Valid opinions and theories have no internal contradictions, and 3) Nonarbitrary opinions or theories are based upon publicly verifiable evidence.

Next up are three principles of ethics, or of how to behave toward others. Note that they aren't at all repressive, so long as one has truly internalized and assimilated them.

In fact, that's not quite right, because it is more the recognition of a reality that is already there, not something that is radically extrinsic to us (for if it were extrinsic, we could no more learn it than can a rattle snake or grizzly bear). It is a kind of "intrinsic morality" that nevertheless needs to be modeled in order to awaken and actualize. And the best way to model it is in interacting with one's child, day in, day out.

The first principle provides a minimal ethic that would nevertheless, if it were respected by everyone, result in a kind of terrestrial paradise: Do not do unto others what you would not have them do unto you.

Notice that this is not the "golden rule," but rather, the silver rule; instead of asking us to do good, it merely enjoins us to do no harm. You don't need to be a saint. Just don't be an assoul.

But again, to the extent that this principle is internalized -- or recognized -- it is rooted in a kind of deep intersubjective empathy through which we are able to put ourselves in the place of the other, and understand that "my brother is myself."

Once one is capable of reliably intuiting this, one doesn't have to be reminded or goaded into not gratuitously hurting people. Rather, it just "comes naturally," even though it is what would more accurately be described as a "supernaturally natural" capability.

As Spitzer explains, this principle is "the most fundamental of all ethical principles, because if it fails, then all other ethical principles fail as well." He points out that the logic behind the principle is as cogent as, say, the principle of non-contradiction.

Why? Because denying it immediately introduces a kind of primordial injustice, i.e., "I am permitted to harm you, but you are not permitted to harm me," and acquiescence to the latter principle would render civilization impossible. It would reduce to a Hobbesian war of each against all. Conversely, "if others are obliged not to harm us unnecessarily, then we are obliged not to harm them unnecessarily."

The second ethical principle is the consistency of means and ends, i.e., the end does not justify the means. The only exception to this rule -- and it is an important one -- is that "one can use an objectively wrong means (such as lying) to prevent a greater evil (such as murder)" (ibid.).

This is a principle that secularists (obviously) and many religious people get wrong, the former because they imagine that the exception proves morality to be entirely relative, the latter because they concretize the rule so as to deny the exception.

Dennis Prager often discusses this, and he gets a considerable amount of disagreement from the fundamentalist crowd, i.e., that there are degrees of sin. (Lower case o) orthodox Christians have no difficulty with this idea, but a lot of fundamentalists seem to occupy a kind of unambiguous either/or, saved/damned universe, which goes back to what was said above about obsessive-compulsiveness masquerading as religiosity (there is a considerable amount of this religious OCD in the Islamic world as well).

The third ethical principle is full of implications that I won't have time to fully explicate, but it is The Principle of Full Human Potential: Every human being (or group of human beings) deserves to be valued according to the full level of human development, not the level of development currently achieved.

This principle results from the fact that man is always simultaneously himself and not himself; rather, he is always "on the way" to himself, from the moment of conception to the moment of death, and we have no right to impose some arbitrary time slice and insist that anything less is not a human being. Which is why, for example, the entire legal basis of abortion is completely illogical.

For it is pure sophistry to define a human being by one of his stages instead of by his totality.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Truth and Consequences

The irony, of course, is that we can never have objective knowledge of the objective world, whereas we may have objective knowledge of the subjective world. In other words, the cosmic situation is exactly the opposite of what materialists imagine.

What I mean by this is that -- for starters -- Gödel's theorems render any totalistic scientific explanation strictly impossible.

And frankly, I don't even think we need Gödel to tell us that any scientific theory is going to contain premises for which it cannot account. The most complete "theory of everything" is, by definition, going to have a gaping omission.

After all, one has to start somewhere, and one must arrive at this somewhere prior to one's eventual explanation. Thus, the bottom line is that any merely scientific account is going to be either consistent or complete, but not both. D'oh!

As we have mentioned in the past, many postmodern types who do not understand Gödel use his theorems as a bulwark against absolutism. Since no theory is complete, all theories become equal, and we descend into the nihilism of deconstruction.

But that is not what Gödel meant. Here again, we do not need Gödel to remind us that human beings know any number of truths which cannot be proved with mere logic. Gödel was not saying that objective truth doesn't exist because logic cannot prove it; rather, that there exist truths beyond logic.

After all, logic cannot furnish its own materials, but requires an alogical -- or translogical -- being to do so.

So the first axiom of logic is not the law of identity, or of the excluded middle, but: the middleman, the human being, who, by definition, transcends the logical system he deploys. If he doesn't, then man cannot actually prove anything, for he can never escape the closed circle of logic.

Nevertheless, many people use Gödel as an excuse to plunge into subjectivism, relativism, multiculturalism, and all the rest. The reasoning apparently goes something like this: if even science cannot prove any ultimate truth, how much less is religion entitled to make such a claim?

On the surface this sounds plausible, but if we look a little deeper, we can detect the systematic stupidity of the tenured. For Spitzer puts forth ten principles that he suggests are undeniable by reason. Or, to put it another way, these are ten principles that any reasonable person -- and a "person" is a being endowed with reason -- will accept as true.

Some of them touch on "science," others on virtue and on the very possibility of civilization. As Spitzer explains, "Three of them concern evidence and objective truth, three of them concern ethics, three of them concern dignity and treatment of human beings within civil society, and one of them concerns personal identity and culture."

Now, what is truth? Well, for one thing, it is the thing that results in bad stuff happening if we fail to appreciate it. This applies to every level of reality, from the lowest (i.e., physics) to the highest (i.e., spirit). Ignore the law at your own peril, whether it is the law of gravity ("I can fly!") or the law of humility ("I'm a god!).

So, we are always free to disobey the law. But "Failure to teach and practice any of these principles can lead to an underestimation of human dignity, a decline in culture, the abuse of individuals and groups of individuals, and an underestimation of ourselves and our potential in life."

And "Failure to teach and practice several of these principles will most certainly lead to widespread abuse and a general decline in culture" (Spitzer).

Take the example of the Islamic world. Why is it so systematically f*cked up? Conversely, why is America that shining city on the globe? The latter (mostly) obeys the law (or used to, anyway, before the ascendence of the left). The former is a metacosmic scofflaw.

Let's start with the first three principles, which apply to evidence and objective truth. Notice that one is always free to ignore them, but that doing so will result in less freedom and a more dysfunctional adaptation to life.

Principle 1: The best opinion or theory is the one that explains the most data.

I mean, right?

Principle 2: Valid opinions and theories have no internal contradictions.

You know, like "This country needs an all-out, all-of-the-above strategy that develops every available source of American energy," and "except the Keystone pipeline." That's what you call an "internal contradiction." Another one is "we reject supply side economics" and "feeding a massive top-down state is the key to economic prosperity."

Principle 3: Nonarbitrary opinions or theories are based upon publicly verifiable evidence.

All tyranny begins and ends with violation of this principle, e.g., "Jews are an inferior race," "poverty causes crime," "the constitution is a living document that means what we want it to mean," etc.

Without question, truth is the most important value of a civilization: "No bias, ostracization, marginalization, or persecution ever occurred without someone claiming that their biases were the 'truth'" (ibid.). Once the lie is accepted as truth, then horror follows, owing to man's innate respect for truth. For man so loves truth, that he will commit heinous acts in defense of it.

For example, if it is really true that the black man has no rights the white man is bound to respect; or that a fetus is not a human being; or that men and women have no essential differences; or that America is the "great satan," then people will act on these "truths" in good conscience.

To be continued....

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Stuff Not Even a Liberal Can't Not Know

Underneath it all, the fundamental division among Americans is between relativists and absolutists.

Which, of course, makes no sense -- it is absolute nonsense -- because who is more certain of the truth of his convictions than the sanctimonious liberal who knows all conservatives are racists, or the naive Darwinian who can explain everything but the explainer, or the hammerheaded atheist who regards God as the big nail in the sky?

So the real division is between absolutists and people who pretend not to be. Which means that there is always this make believe element to leftism, in that the leftist must pretend to not know things one cannot not know. In many ways, a college education -- I mean a thorough one -- systematically trains one to deny the undeniable and therefore promulgate the unthinkable. By which I mean sling the bullshit.

What distinguishes man from the beasts is this knowledge of the Absolute in all its forms. We may think of the Absolute as a kind of central sun, with its rays extending down into creation. Each ray is a "mode" of the absolute, for example, with regard to truth, beauty, virtue, justice, etc. "Judgment" is what allows humans to determine where a particular instance falls along the ray.

For example, to say that this is more beautiful than that is to locate the entity in question higher up on the spectral ray. Thus, the existence of absolute truth necessitates the existence of relative truth.

But the converse could never be true; and in fact, it could never be at all. In other words, absolute relativity is a contradiction in terms, because the relative is always testimony of the absolute.

The moment one realizes this -- assuming one really and truly does -- one understands that the human state is not and cannot be any kind of Darwinian "extension" of the animal state, but something fundamentally inexplicable on any materialistic basis.

Yes, there is continuity, of course, and it is the task of science to explain this continuity. But there is also irreducible discontinuity, and to the extent that science ignores this, it will generate ambiguity, absurdity, and paradox.

For example, let us say that man and chimp share 99.6% of their DNA, or whatever it is. Far from explaining the continuity, this only shows how DNA is powerless to account for the shocking discontinuity between man and beast -- unless one wishes to argue that all the painting, poetry, and music, all the novels, symphonies, games, and jokes, all of the science, religion, mathematics, and genetics is in that little accident of biology.

Is the study of genetics genetic? No, of course not. Humanness is in fact the gate of exit out of mere animality -- indeed, out of the relative cosmos itself. Humans are the "hole" in creation that permits knowledge of the whole of creation; in our heart is a mysterious absence that potentially holds all the Presence. To put it another way, man is an incomplete completeness, which is another term for our neoteny, or endless childhood.

Please note that there is this critical relationship -- and all religions speak of it -- between the absence and the Presence, the relative and the Absolute. Animals do not know this absence, which amounts to the recognition of one's relativity, hence one's dependence. But to be aware of absence is to know in an instant that one stands in relation. To what? Or, more to the point, Whom? I AM, for starters.

Having said that, it is eminently possible for human beings to deny the absence, which results in two conditions, both fatal. First, it forecloses knowledge of the absolute; second, it inserts a false absolute in the space the real one should occupy. In short, this is the zone of the graven image that exiles one from eternity.

For in knowing absolute truth, human beings may participate in eternity on this side of manifestation -- in the relative world. We do this by 1) aligning ourselves with truth, and 2) assimilating truth.

By "assimilating," I mean that we must metabolize truth so that it is interiorized and becomes mingled with our own psychic substance. We must "eat and breathe" truth in order to become it and live it.

Some people think Catholics are primitive, but we all practice theophagy in one form or another, even -- or especially -- coprophagics (and let's not even talk about chopraphagics. Disgusting!).

Now, the typical irreligious yahoo does indeed believe in the absolute, even if his metaphysic denies its possibility. For example, physicists believe there must be a "theory of everything" that unifies all physical forces and explains creation without remainder. Likewise, many biologists believe natural selection to be a universal principle that doesn't only apply to biology, but even to cosmology.

Indeed, most of us don't have difficulty with the idea that there are universal scientific truths such as E=MC² or the second law of thermodynamics.

But what about the moral law? And what about beauty? For some reason, even as science has penetrated more deeply into the physical laws that govern matter, people have backed away from the idea that man can also draw nearer to virtue and beauty (with exceptions, for example, physicists and mathematicians who are guided by a sense of "explanatory beauty" in their equations).

Since I'm almost out of time, I guess that was a longwinded introduction to Ten Universal Principles, by Robert Spitzer. In the thoughtful words of the ubiquitous Professor Backflap,

"How do we make sense of life? How should we treat others? How should we reasonably be expected to be treated by others? When human life is at stake, are there reasonable principles we can rely on to guide our actions? How should our laws be framed to protect human life? What kind of society should be built?

"Many people rely on their religious beliefs to answer these questions. But not everyone accepts the same religious premises or recognizes the same spiritual authorities. Are there 'public arguments' -- reasons that can be given that do not presuppose agreement on religious grounds or common religious commitments -- that can guide our thoughts and actions, as well as our laws and public policies?

"In Ten Universal Principles, Jesuit Father Robert Spitzer sets out... ten basic principles that must govern the reasonable person's thinking and acting about life issues."

And so he does. And so we will. Tomorrow.