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."

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