According to a fifth century presbyter named Lucidus, the natural law was the first grace of God written in every human heart (Romans 2:15). The ultimate ground of legal authority resides in the very fabric of man, not in the priority of the human mind or the positive laws constructed by society. Natural law offers a set of “prior premises” of human law, as Yves Simon tells us.

What is human law? The great Thomas Aquinas tells us that law is the divine directive of reason promulgated by a competent authority for the common good. But as natural law is prior and foundational, human law cannot ignore natural law without terrible consequences.

In similar fashion, the state cannot usurp the realm of personal liberty without negative effects. Again, Aquinas tells us that natural law itself prescribes limits to human authority (See Summa Theologiae II-II, 104-5). There is a space of human autonomy that must remain sacred space.

However, in this realm of individual autonomy Thomas did not include any liberty to work an injustice contrary to the moral order because there is no such individual liberty (See Russell Hittinger, The First Grace, pp. xxx-xxxi). The fact that there is a right not to be forced to act, a negative liberty from human authority, does not offer the individual boundless autonomy as if he is cast into a pre-moral order where his mind is the source of law. An argument for liberty is not the same as an argument against authority.

As the state is powerless to alter the moral order and does it only at its own peril so does the individual, he is powerless to alter the same order and can only do so to the detriment of himself and of society. This is why the pro-abortion Casey case was so terribly constructed. In the opinion, they cast the individual into the phantom of boundless power over the self and even over the moral law:

“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. Beliefs about these matters could not define the attributes of personhood were they formed under compulsion of the State.” (Planned Parenthood vs. Casey, 847)

The measures of justice in this statement are not the divine law or the natural law. They are not the order of nature itself or the common law. They are definitely not the revealed law or the laws of the states. There is no lower or higher law said to become a measure of justice here but man is said to become a law unto himself; his whim is law.

In radical democracy what seems to constitute natural justice is the summary of public opinion while in the radical individualism of Casey it is unfettered individual opinion. It is not necessarily conscience, as conscience is an external law written in the heart and discovered by reason, but the pure radical autonomy of man to become his own law; anarchy of the heart.

Again, autonomy is never to violate the natural order and an argument for liberty is not the same as an argument against authority. In truth, human law can become a positive aid to autonomy when it becomes what Thomas Jefferson called it: “written reason.” (The Writings, 9:480; 18:1)

Otto Eduard Leopold von Bismarck was a Prussian statesman and diplomat of the late 19th century who played an important role in world affairs.  He became Chancellor of the North German Confederation in 1967 and the first Chancellor of the German Empire in 1871. Bismarck is also the creator of the first modern welfare state.  Ironically, Bismarck created his welfare system to prevent a radical socialist take over.

 Although idealism and compassion are offered by politicians to justify every government take-over, it is shrewd politics and tactical opportunism what often drives them to act. As Germany rapidly industrialized, it experienced what has happened elsewhere: massive migration from the countryside into the centers of industry. Its population rapidly expanded from 41 million in 1871 to 50 million in 1891. By the 1880s a majority of Germans were living in towns rather than in the rural areas. Masses of people moved quickly only to find themselves momentarily impoverished and isolated. Under such conditions many were easily lured by Socialist propagandists. As the Socialists grew in numbers, and after Bismarck failed to suppress them, he cleverly found an answer: beat them at their own game!

The socialist’s loyalties to an international movement made Bismarck distrust them as they posed a threat to a strong national identity pursued after the German reunification under the Second Reich. Using attacks against the life of the Kaiser in 1878, Bismarck introduced laws banning most socialist newspapers, trade unions associated with the socialist movement, and depriving them of a right to assemble. In 1880 the Social Democratic Party, which gathered most socialist groups and now de facto underground, met in Switzerland to plan a resistance movement against Bismarck.  Knowing that the socialists could not be tamed simply by force, Bismarck enacted socialist laws against the socialists.

Prussian nationalism was the reason for Bismarck’s injection of socialist ideas into the body politic. The radical socialists were opposed not for their specific economic policies but for being “un-German.” In a sense, the Bismarckian experiment was a precursor of Hitler’s National Socialism. In effect, the Nazis claimed to follow Bismarck’s attempts to unify the nation and enact policies enhancing the collective national organism in need of consolidation. Hitler considered himself “a second Bismarck.”[1]  The workers were cogs in the machine of the nation, centrally directed by the state.  In both instances a managed economy was promoted to defeat parasitical radical movements attaching themselves to the nation but with intolerable foreign allegiances. As is often the case, socialism hides behind other ideas. Ho Chi Minh said it much later, “We have a secret weapon…it is called Nationalism.”

 

Bismarck stunned Germany in 1881 by introducing in the Reichstag a legislative program that ended with the creation of a series of welfare reforms such as a national health and accident insurance, as well as retirement pensions for German workers. In doing so, Bismarck planted the seed of doubt in the capacity of the market to provide jobs and security for all and thus initiated the slippery slope of government interventionism that will eventually confirm the socialist analysis of capitalism.  Let’s listen to him:

“The real grievance of the worker is the insecurity of his existence; he is not sure that he will always have work, he is not sure that he will always be healthy, and he foresees that he will one day be old and unfit to work. If he falls into poverty, even if only through a prolonged illness, he is then completely helpless, left to his own devices, and society does not currently recognize any real obligation towards him beyond the usual help for the poor, even if he has been working all the time ever so faithfully and diligently. The usual help for the poor, however, leaves a lot to be desired, especially in large cities, where it is very much worse than in the country.”

The insecurity that drives individuals to action was seen as a hindrance and a threat to human dignity. Insecurity creates a sense of helplessness, said Bismarck. Entitlement was then proposed as the solution for the illness of insecurity. Bismarck affirmed that the state should offer the poor “a helping hand in distress…. Not as alms, but as a right.” The individual has a claim against the state and the state has an obligation toward the individual. The statesman called his system Staatssozialismus or “state socialism.”

In capitalism, to the contrary, security is not granted as a right to anyone. In effect, insecurity becomes the great engine of invention motivating men to thrust forward and recreate their environment. Instead of a social illness, insecurity is a healthy heart, the heart that pumps life into the social arrangement.  It is insecurity what allows men to first create a universe of plenty in their minds and then move to actualize it.  If you take away insecurity, you destroy the system piece by piece and rights-giving program by rights-giving program.

Conceived in Germany, the idea rapidly spread throughout industrialized Europe under the same rubrics of protecting workers from the socialists and shielding families from the perceived hazards of industrial society. Little by little, the capitalist system was assaulted in the name of saving it. Socialists all over denounced it as a new capitalist tool of oppression. It was simply another facet of the capitalist system intent on moderating the tensions of class conflict by pacifying the workers and controlling the conditions under which capital is organized.[2]  In effect, however, the policies helped the socialists destroy capitalism without the need for total war.

Destroying it has become the hallmark of American statists who have looked to Bismarck for inspiration. For example, as Professor Anthony Bradley of The King’s College tells us, Bismarck is praised as a visionary on the official U.S. Social Security Administration’s website.[3] The site says the following about Bismarck:

“Despite his impeccable right-wing credentials, Bismarck would be called a socialist for introducing these programs, as would President Roosevelt 70 years later. In his own speech to the Reichstag during the 1881 debates, Bismarck would reply: ‘Call it socialism or whatever you like. It is the same to me.’”[4]

Bismarck has become a species of patron saint for the intellectual left, almost as much a saint as Roosevelt. The very same kind of failed policies that were tried by Bismarck first and by Roosevelt later are being enacted now.  And the same rhetoric about security and want remains untouched. Whole generations of Americans have been indoctrinated into the idea that Roosevelt, modeling his welfare system on Bismarck’s, saved our country from economic doom and that now Barack Obama is saving us again.

We must be reminded, however, that the contemporary welfare state is not Barack Obama’s doing. Much of what has expanded its reach has occurred under Republican and supposedly conservative administrations. The prosaic idea that the government has an expansive responsibility for social protection and a sort of cosmic justice-enacting power to protect individuals from their own bad decisions, from bad luck and from all sorts of personal misfortunes remains entrenched in the minds of all sorts of politicians.  The self-preservation instinct of political aspirants responds to the voter’s demand for welfare, even as voters often do not call it that way. Income transfers, coated with the rhetoric of fair shares, are always popular with those who are at the receiving end. The more people at the receiving end, the more votes they get. It is a simple cost analysis.

T.H. Marshall’s evolutionary theory for the development of the nanny state tells of the change in the meaning of citizenship in a rapidly evolving industrialized culture. Such change in the meaning of social allegiance may serve to explain the steady growth of the welfare state and how politicians can justify it without recurring to explicit Marxist analysis.[5] Social mobility broke the bonds of solidarity existing in local communities and shifted such solidarity toward larger social structures. The state then came to embody the whole of society, a given “community” I could embrace wherever I go.  The different basic communities that used to provide the greatest unifying bonds eventually collapsed under the institutions of the state.  Instead of the intimate bonds of family, friends, and neighbors, we now had an overarching reality of a larger community and the bonds were now more detached and less comprehensive. Civil rights, under such construct, would give way to political rights which in turn would lay the ground for the social rights of the welfare state.  All of it happened as the inevitable evolutionary development of the industrialized world. Accept it, live it, get over it.

What is most destructive to the fabric of a free nation in this evolutionary analysis of the welfare state is that it destroys the place of basic communities and the comprehensive place they had in molding the lives and values of individuals. It detaches the person from the intimate social group, giving way to economic independence from the clan via dependency on the amoral and detached system of the state. Herein lies what is most appealing and at once devastating in the analysis―it confers on the state and its welfare institutions the legitimacy and place of a basic community that promotes the creation of true human capital. The “Bismarckian” trade-off of freedom for security eventually destroys the whole of the social fabric of a nation.


[1] See Robert Gerwarth, The Bismarck myth: Weimar Germany and the legacy of the Iron Chancellor. (Oxford, England, UK: Oxford University Press.) Pp. 131.

[2] For a Marxist analysis of the welfare state in capitalism see Regulating the Poor by Richard Cloward and Frances Piven and The Fiscal Crisis of the State by James O’Connor.

[5] See T.H. Marshall, Sociology at the Crossroads and Other Essays (London: Heineman, 1963).

I come to America, this blessed land, and learned three things very soon; two very good ones and another no so good. The first was that America values me, as a person. The individual matters, he is not supposed to fade away behind a collective label. I come here, I had very good grades and the university decided to offer me a full assistant-ship! They paid my studies while I still hated them. “This is not supposed to be happening. I hate their guts and they still reward me?” What I then learned was the wondrous connection between reward and accomplishment; one that we are quickly losing under the powerful influence of victim mentality and entitlement attitude.

The second was that what you called poverty was really a joke. How can you call poverty a lifestyle that is the envy of the world? According to the 2010 census we learn these things about the “poor”:

● 80 percent of poor households have air conditioning. In 1970, only 36% of all Americans had it.
● 92 percent of poor households have a microwave; two-thirds have at least one DVD player and 70 percent have  a VCR.
● 75 percent have a car or truck; 31 percent have 2-3 cars.
● 80 percent of poor adults and 96 percent of poor children were never hungry at any time during the year because they could not afford        food.
● Nearly two-thirds (63.7%) have cable or satellite television.
● Half have a personal computer.
● More than half of poor families with children have a video game system such as Xbox or PlayStation.
● Just under half have Internet access.
● A third have a widescreen plasma or LCD TV.
● One in every four has a digital video recorder such as TiVo.

Blessed poverty! Give me more!

Finally, I learned something bad. As I stepped here I learned that written in the law there was already a remedy against my discrimination! I have already been made a victim of America even as I have experienced nothing but blessings! I have been decreed a victim, a “protected specimen” as if I was some kind of endangered species. How degrading!

It is time for all of us to draw the line and say, enough!

 

I am a defender of the principle of limited government. The term, however, is not synonymous of just. Now, that the power of government is “limited” means that it is not regal or plenary. Plenary jurisdiction gives the state a kind of general authority that is not prevented even by law.

Although a government can be limited and unjust, a characteristic of limited government is consistent with justice as it calls for a regula that prevents the whim of men to impose itself or the appetites of the masses to trample on individual rights. In other words, limited government can better contain the passions of men by emphasizing on the dictates of reason. The law is such dictate.

Here is where believers in natural law find a congruence with respect for human law. They believe not that natural law must whimsically substitute human law but that it ought to inform it; as natural law is the dictate of reason about reality itself while human law is the dictate of reason limiting the whims of men in society.  The natural law, as can be easily discerned, is deeper than human law and human law-givers have a responsibility to listen to its injunctions; they are not exempt from the constraints of natural law based on having a mandate from the people.

The founders recognized such inalienable rights and saw them as a law informing the constitutional foundations of the nation. Our practice of law was from the beginning built on a prior law discoverable by reason. That is why limited government cannot be simply reduced to a government that allows the uncoerced activity of citizens with the only boundary being the harm principle.  Yes, with many defenders of freedom, I believe that the primary role of government is to protect our freedom but that freedom is recognizable only by the boundaries that define its limits. Lawmakers do well in understanding the limits of human action in natural law and, even more, to discover what are the human goods necessary for social cooperation. In essence, the common good is an instrumental purpose of government. That is, the reasons for action in society demand the discovery of a certain intelligible benefit.

Here is where we can see a chasm with certain the liberal positions defining the role of the state as neutral between diverse understandings of the good life.  If that is the case, where resides the constraint that majorities have to impose a will, however ill-informed it is? If it is the non-harm principle, what are the contours of harm? How can we know without a guide what causes harm? How can the state fulfill its purpose of advancing the common good if it is neutral or non-cognitivist about the human goods (and ills) important in social cooperation?

After a few drinks an American politician took a friend to a window and asked him to look for a brand new bridge nearby. Pointing a finger at his own chest the grinning politician said, “twenty percent.” This of course referred to his cut on the deal.

The same scenario is now transferred to an African gathering. There, after looking through the window, the African fellow could not see any bridge, only a cow pasture. “Where is the bridge?” he asked. With an even wider grin the African politician replied, “One hundred percent.” This tale is apt in showing the depth of corruption that exists in other places of the world where government officials acquire insane fortunes and there is nothing in return for the people. In America, however, the level of corruption is lesser and things get done. Great for us.

After considering the scenarios one might think that the American one is much better as, at least, there are social benefits from political activity, even if corruption is involved. Not so fast.  When tempted to think this way it is good to remember Sir Francis Bacon’s dictum: “Truth emerges more readily from error than from confusion.” Although the African example is pitiful, it allows one to see evil nakedly and the dangers of political power and cronyism are unavoidable.  Their problem is daunting as it requires dethroning those in power but the reality of freedom being better than statist control is clear; freedom has a chance! There might be hope under the skin of  oppression and a seed of liberty might have already been planted and is waiting to burst.

The American scenario, on the other hand, is pitiful. It is the scenario of a nation that experienced the blessings of freedom but is slowly losing them; it is a scenario of decay. When things get done by the state, whether in corrupt ways or not, there is an incentive to believe in the inevitability of government activity and the impossibility of things being any other way. Some might contemplate that trading  a few liberties for the promise of security might not be a faustian bargain after all.  The civic memory of the people shifts toward an acceptance and support for more government intervention as, “we need things to get done.”

The incremental loss of liberty is a sad scenario as it steadily moves in the wrong direction. As the shift is so gradual, people  deny that  it is happening until the final chapter comes swiftly, as if “from nowhere.” That, I might say is the greatest reason not to support government intervention even in areas that may appear so obvious; one of them being the supposed need for “infrastructure.” We must remember that we are crawling just so gently toward statist disaster when tempted to think, “What is so wrong with the Federal government re-building our roads and bridges?!” Unless one can determine that there is some unique wisdom in government activity, so unique to state activity that things cannot be performed otherwise, our attitude ought to be to reject their intervention. To have that attitude, however, we need a painful renewal of the mind. That is why the “twenty percent” analogy is the worst!

Living in Htrae is a common experience in modern America. Htrae, also known as Bizarro World, was a fictional planet in Superman comics where all things were inverted, the opposite of life on earth. The planet was popularized by the sitcom Seinfeld where in one episode Elaine meets a group of friends the exact opposite of Jerry, George, and Kramer: considered, kind, reliable and intelligent.[1]

That is what some accuse supporters of limited government of doing, living an opposite version of what they say to believe. A comparison of how much money the Federal government takes in taxes from people living in “Red” states against how much money these states receive in Federal funds is a version of the accusation. If the dollar per dollar ratio of Federal aid exceeds taxes collected pundits accuse liberty-minded people of duplicity: “Look, your state receives more than it pays in taxes, hypocrites!” After all, they add, the Federal government is not “stealing” anything from anyone, if anything the Federals are giving away more to conservatives than what they take. How can that be theft?

There are plenty of reasons for thinking that some who say government should shrink are just “talking the talk”; we all know of politicians who go to Washington only to be swallowed by the power that comes from handing out the bacon. Yes, they live by the Bizarro Liberty Code: “Us do opposite of all Liberty things!

However, the generalized comparison of taxes versus Federal aid does not seem to obtain. We can come back from the cube-shaped planet into the real world of political analysis and see that maybe the bizarre world lies elsewhere. One of the problems with the analysis is that it is based on a false notion of property rights.  I am walking down the street and you come down and steal my wallet. Some weeks later I see you again and I confront you.

“Hey, you are the guy who took my wallet the other day!”

“Hold on a minute, sir, I did not steal your wallet. In fact, I took only $100  and added $20 more I took from elsewhere and gave the money to several of your neighbors in need. After I determined they were more in need than you I gave them more than what I took from you!”

In essence, any analysis comparing the amount of money confiscated through taxation to the amount of money offered through Federal aid fails because it assumes that property is collectively held and can be extracted from those momentarily holding it. That collective loot can then be re-distributed by bureaucrats as they see fit. They think that the guy whose wallet was taken should reply, “Oh, I see, you did not steal my wallet, after all. Thank you!”

Only in the Bizarro World of statism can one get away with that! Down is up and theft is charity. Being logical is a capital offence in the world of collectivism. If you steal from a given individual you can only repay by returning the money to him. He moment that you take property from me and leave my home, you stole from me. It does not matter if later, you give the money back to someone else, or if I might benefit in some way from something you created with my property.

How do we know when property was unduly confiscated? Whenever the Federal government extracts wealth from me for purposes other than those enumerated in the Constitution, theft has taken place.  Whenever those funds are used by others to determine who will get them back and what criteria one must meet to get back a portion of what was confiscated, theft occurred. Theft occurs precisely when property is extracted from rightful owners by those who have no right to do so. If the constitution does not allow for a given purpose, then I have a right to keep that money and you have no right to force it from me. You are a thief!

Moreover, in the htrae scenario of statism the higher one’s income is the less one can claim from a number of means-tested programs. Regularly, those who did not earn the money taken by the government are seen as more deserving than those from whom the money was confiscated. Many from the former group vote in favor of the thieves, after all, the good and loving government commissary gave the property to them, so it must be that they deserve it.  States do not vote nor see their taxes taken, individuals do. Within “red” states you have a number of people who vote for statist policies and benefit from them.[2]

Finally, in what form is the supposed Federal aid returned to the states? It often returns in the form of programs or grants. These programs employ people and create systems to determine benefits and track and disburse them. In other words, most of the money taken from individuals is eaten up by the bureaucracies of redistribution, never reaching individuals in the general population. The Federal behemoth gets fat in Washington but its tentacles spread wide across America.

On occasion, corporate power teams up with the state precisely because the former wants a good portion of the stolen goods; why ask the guy with the stolen wallet to buy my products if I can go to the guy who now has it all? Here is where we get the super-villain, the Machiavellian industrialist Lex Luthor of collectivism: crony capitalism.

In the end, there is no hypocrisy in so-called Red states and Federal aid. The hypocrisy is in the statist system that confiscates property from rightful owners and distributes it at will, very often to those invested in the perpetuation of the theft system. Where is Superman when you need him?

 

 


[2] Many smaller and poorer states vote Republican but within those states, poorer people vote Democrat. See http://www.cbsnews.com/election-results-2012/exit.shtml?state=US&race=P&jurisdiction=0&party=G

Atheists love to play psychologist when trying to explain faith in God and religion. Marx explained it as a sort of drug, an opiate that numbs your senses so one need not accept the reality that there is no ultimate triumph of justice in an afterlife. Freud spoke of escapism from the realization that we are food for worms once we die. Like children, we take comfort in a tall tale of coming back to life. In other words, religion is a childish refuge for the weak.

God is a fiction of man’s imagination, a psychological construct that help us not to look at reality as it is and allowing us to escape into a world of wishful thinking. Finally, others see the power of religion in mind-control from men looking for monetary gain, leaders who see in religion a good way of making money, getting accolades, and having power over others. These atheist psychological explanations are offered as gospel, with the arrogant flair of those who think that they are superior intellectual beings, not alienated in any way from reality, perfectly secured in true knowledge; they are the “brights”! Well, if they can play psychologist, let us do the same with atheists. Let us turn the tables and place them on the spot. What is the psychological attractiveness of atheism?

In effect, some atheists have stated that they prefer a world where there is no God.  H.L. Menchen, for example, has stated  his inclination is “to hope that it is not so.”[1] In any event, why the desire for there not to be a God? It seems as they want a sort of liberation. It cannot be a liberation from a god that after all does not exist. The emancipation must be from moral constraints.

Certainly, many atheists tell us that they want to practice virtue and that moral norms can be derived from nature itself. They tell us that the atheist is not for moral corruption and that the good can be discovered and pursued without a belief in god.  But why give them the benefit of the doubt if they do not give it to theists? If even when we pursue the good and act honorably they see some fancy mythical and psychological factor at play, why not do the same to them?

Some tell us that they are atheists and yet they want to pursue a nobler world, a world where justice and goodness prevail. However, they can pursue such lofty goals without getting rid of religion! Just look at the history of how hospitals were created; they arose from the work of nuns. Look at Mother Theresa’s work for the poorest of the poor or to the incredible charitable work of Christians all over the world. Their reaction? Condemn Mother Theresa and ignore or defame the work of Christians.

There must be a different reason than pursuing lofty goals and moral goals then. Let us psychologize their pursuits. Could it be that they are stewing in anger due to early losses in life? Darwin had a very devout Christian wife, Emma. They had a daughter, Annie, who was especially loved by him. He suffered much due to the death of his ten-year old daughter.[2] Another case is that of Stephen Hawkin. Could it be that his physical condition due to contracting motor neuron disease brings about in him a hatred of God?  Isn’t it possible that the psychological reasons for unbelief have something to do with anger and a desire for revenge against a god they perceive as uncaring?

Another psychological reason might be the desire to fulfill one’s appetites and wishes without fear of retribution. Isn’t it possible that if one gets away with the notion of eternal punishment one can find an alibi for a number of lifestyles and decisions? If matter is all there is, the threat of punishment ends with the material world. In other words, by positing a purely material world, one can do as one wishes as long as one does not get caught. If you accomplish that you can get away with it.

When an atheist looks at existence he sees a world where pleasure is the only intrinsic good, all other goods being instrumental to maximize one’s ease or minimizing one’s suffering. But here come the gods telling him, “Do not do this or that.”  Moreover, Christianity says that you cannot get away with it because there is a final judgment after death! If I see pleasure as the great value and escaping pain as a pressing goal even death is relief from the quest and any idea of punishment nothing more than tyranny.

Moreover, even in the here and now we can experience psychological relief if we convince others that there is no “ought” in human nature and that traditional morality in fact detracts us from what is in effect “moral”: following the natural inclinations of the flesh. Only imagine the psychological relief that can come from the idea that there is no moral constraint. “Cool!” Imagine the relief experienced by those who think life has no ultimate meaning and you better just enjoy without any fear of retribution or mental anguish for doing something wrong. This is the ultimate case of defining deviancy down.

All these atheists tell us now that if God is dead does not mean morality is but let them destroy religion and their psychological urges will take over only to tell us, “We did not mean that. The party is on!”

I can only hear the atheists yelling that I am misrepresenting them as atheists often are so good people and have big thoughts on things. Well, if they can pseudo-babble belief in God now you know how it feels…


[1] S.T. Joshi, ed., H.L. Mencken on Religion, p. 38 cited in Dinesh D’Souza, What’s So Great About Christianity (Wahington, D.C.: Regnery, 2007) p. 263.

[2] See Robert Krulwich, “Death of Child May Have Influenced Darwin’s Work” in http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=100597929; Desmond & Moore, Darwin (New York: W.W. Norton, 1991) p. 387.

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