Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Respect and Restraint

Acts 2:41 Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.

It was Peter’s message, given to “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem…”  His message was the Resurrection.   I don’t believe that there is an instance of even Jesus drawing so many at one time; this is the power of the Resurrection.  The entirety of Christianity hinges on this event; it is the one thing on which Christians of all denominations agree.  Unfortunately, there is not much else.

At this blog, I explore topics that underlie liberty – these topics include the culture and tradition of the West – call it Christendom.  I write on these with a focus on how this culture and tradition affected the governance of the time as well as how it was necessary in developing whatever positive aspects we see in liberty.

As regular readers know, I try to stay out of the doctrinal and theological aspects of Christianity, and I encourage those who wish to provide comments to also do the same.  Beyond the Resurrection, things start fraying at the edges – and some of this fraying is rather personal (as it should be) to many. 

Why do I bring this up now, especially when – for the most part – this community has been considerate of my request? 

I have started reading this book.  It is going to be difficult for us to work through it and still stick to my desired ground rules.  But it will be a worthwhile endeavor, I believe.  Many relevant topics can be explored through this book:

·        If the decentralized governance of the medieval period offered reasonably libertarian law, it will be helpful to understand why this crumbled.
·        It is worth understanding the costs and benefits to entrenched power in the face of criticism.
·        In a most divisive circumstance, how effective was the decentralized nature of early sixteenth century Europe?  How beneficial?
·        Was such a division of Christendom inevitable, given the realities of the time?

There will be more.  What I will do my best to stay out of are issues that will drive us to want to defend doctrine and theology; to the extent I introduce any such issues, my intent is to limit these only to where I believe these could be helpful in giving color to the governance issues that are my focus here.


As we work together through this book, whenever you feel your blood boil just remember the Resurrection.

Monday, April 29, 2019

It’s Natural

Lewis closes this short book with an Appendix: Illustrations of the Tao.  He offers numerous illustrations of Natural Law to be found in history and in many cultures: ancient Egyptian, Jewish, Chinese, Old Norse, Babylonian, Roman, Hindu, Christian, Anglo-Saxon, Greek, Australian Aborigines.  In some cases, specific authors are noted: Confucius, Locke, Cicero, Plato, and authors of various Epistles from the New Testament.

He formats his review in sections (the summaries are mine):

The Law of General Beneficence: there is the negative (various versions of “Thou shalt not…”) – presenting a list longer than one that would be consistent with punishment under libertarian theory; and the positive (various versions and extensions of the Golden Rule).

The Law of Special Beneficence: drawing out the special relationships of humans with humans – beginning with immediate family, extending to a broader “kin,” and eventually to one’s community and native land.

Duties to Parents, Elders, and Ancestors: demonstrate respect toward father and mother and their traditions, extending even to deceased ancestors.

Duties to Children and Posterity: educate them well, show proper care.

The Law of Justice: three subsets are presented.  Sexual Justice: do not commit adultery; Honesty: do not steal, make shameful gain, do not do mischief unless it is done to you first; Justice in Court, etc.: do not take bribes, bear false witness.

The Law of Good Faith and Veracity: Do not lie; do not make a false oath; keep your promises.

The Law of Mercy: feed the hungry, make intercession for the weak, never strike a woman, do not desert the sick, leave a sheaf from the harvest for the poor.

The Law of Magnanimity: it is injustice to fail to prevent another from injury, show courage and do not leave the battle, death is better than life with shame, put on immortality in your thoughts, the soul should conduct the body, he who loves his life will lose it.

As noted, these are to be found in numerous cultures around the world and throughout history.  God has placed these things in men’s hearts – all men’s hearts.  Yet the fruits – turning Natural Law or the Tao into action – have varied from place to place and time to time.

This brings me back to the development of law, custom, tradition and culture in medieval Europe.  It did develop here, and it did last for centuries.  Why?  Did the Germanic ethic best capture the honor and justice that is called for?  Was this Natural Law best captured in the Christian tradition?  Christians would respond, “yes, obviously!”  As it was the Creator of this Natural Law that was also the foundation for Christianity, what else could be expected?

Further, if these are “Natural Laws,” can a society long survive in significant violation of these?  What might this mean for how to think about the non-aggression principle in such a context?

Finally, what is not drawn out by Lewis – at least in this short book – is the “why?”  Why any of these “Laws” as opposed to others?  What makes this list “Natural”?

For this, it seems to me that the answer is to be found in Aristotle.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Score One for Matt

Matt@Occidentalism April 18, 2019 at 4:47 AM: “Put a fork in it. I won't be part of any "community" which has the NAP as its guiding principle.”

Neither will I; it won't have staying power.  If Matt only stopped his comment here, we might have had a much more fruitful conversation.  Yet, there is much to be gleaned from this.

Any community which has the NAP as its guiding principle is a community that won’t have liberty for long.  I don’t want to go through all of the arguments…again….  Sometimes (like now) this really just becomes too tiresome.  Anyone who actually cares to understand why I believe this (and who hasn’t otherwise been involved in the discussion here) can catch up pretty easily by selecting a few of the posts from here; it won’t take too long – a read of the brief descriptions will point you in the right direction.

There are several organizations and institutions that claim some connection to this idea of libertarianism.  While this isn’t a hard and fast rule, I find that these can be split into two camps based on two factors: one camp both embraces what would be called “right” or conservative values and also embraces Rothbard; the other embraces what would be called “left” or modern liberal values and also despises Rothbard.  The first camp offers some hope for liberty, the second camp…not so much.

In the first camp, I find only one institution…well, technically two, but each is headed by the same gentleman: The Mises Institute and LewRockwell.com.  In the second camp…well, this pretty much includes every other libertarian entity of note – and most other libertarian entities not of note.

Now what does this have to do with Matt?

You Have No Right to Your Culture, by Bryan Caplan.  I am not going to go through his essay or his arguments.  Suffice it to say, if one lives in a community that “has the NAP as its guiding principle,” his arguments are reasonable.  He explains why you do not have this right:

Because culture is… other people!  Culture is who other people want to date and marry.  Culture is how other people raise their kids.  Culture is the movies other people want to see.  Culture is the hobbies other people value.  Culture is the sports other people play.  Culture is the food other people cook and eat.  Culture is the religion other people choose to practice.

Now, if Caplan would write such an essay about Israel, I might stand up and take notice.  But he won’t, and we will never see such a thing – just like no libertarian will write about open borders for Israel.  Why that is…I can only guess.  In any case, Caplan either places the NAP as his guiding principle or he is an immature thinker about liberty – come to think of it, both can be true at the same time. 

As to Caplan’s piece, just a few thoughts:

·        As soon as law and culture (in the form of custom, tradition, religions, etc.) lose all relationship, I might start paying attention to this kind of nonsense
·        When the choices for governance are either common culture or force (and there are no other alternatives), I prefer common culture
·        The only culture that has a history of developing and maintaining the idea we refer to as liberty came from a specific culture (guess where and when)
·        The only people who believe Caplan’s statement are people who despise their culture. 
·        Woke white people, in other words. 
·        They should be on suicide watch.

Friday, April 26, 2019

Philosophy for Dummies

Or, as I can now say for the first time in my life: “Look, mom!  I won first prize!”

This video is a gem.  I am writing this post more because it helps me to gather my thoughts than I am to communicate with you – really, just watch the video.  After this, at least come back and read my concluding thoughts.

Philosophy can be described on three domains: Metaphysics, Epistemology, and Axiology.  It can also be divided into three eras: Pre-Modern, Modern, and Post-Modern.  One need understand only these six words, and one can understand the broad sweep of philosophy.  More words than fingers on one hand…so I don’t know if this is really for dummies….

Every philosophical concept falls into one of the following three domains:

Metaphysics: The study of ultimate reality; gives shape and order to the material world; its claims are either true or not.  Metaphysical claims include: God exists; the soul exists; the world operates according to the laws of logic.

Epistemology: The study of knowledge; how we know what we know; built on logic and subject to logical fallacy.  Epistemological claims are either true or not.  The combination of logic and evidence (two kinds of epistemology) give us the scientific method. Examples include: You are being irrational; we don’t know if God exists.

Axiology: The study of values; not true / false, but measures of degree or relativity; considers aesthetics and ethics.  “This painting is beautiful,” or “you should have done better” are axiological claims. 

The following are three ways of relating the above three domains:

Pre-Modernism: the pre-moderns began all philosophical thought with metaphysical claims; from this, they went to epistemology – their epistemology was built on a metaphysical foundation.  “How does epistemology conform to the metaphysics?”  This was always key.  “I am (a metaphysical claim), therefore I think (an epistemological act).”

Of the pre-moderns, the distinction between Plato and Aristotle is important and also relevant for Christianity and therefore how liberty developed in the West.  Both began with metaphysics.  Plato saw forms as something outside, abstract – an idea out there; the material world was less real than the ideal world – it was a shadow of the incorruptible ideal world.  This ideal world he labeled as “forms.”

Aristotle argued that forms don’t exist in some separate place; they exist in the things themselves.  The metaphysical world isn’t just something out there; it is in the things themselves. 

Take a human being: is it an abstract idea to which humans conform (Plato), or is it an intrinsic potential that he needs to fulfill (Aristotle)?  Christianity was heavily Platonic at its birth – there is an incorruptible essence out there (but not “in here”); through Augustine, Plato became the ruling architecture of Christian doctrine for a millennium.

Aristotle made his way back into the West through Aquinas; this gave Christianity both spirituality and materiality in the same place – in the same substance.  At the risk of starting a food fight, one can see Plato / Augustine in the Lutheran and Calvinist; one can see Aristotle / Aquinas in the Catholic.

Modernism: Placed epistemology in the first position – before metaphysics; metaphysics is either too hard or will eventually be discovered via our knowledge.  This transition is known as the Epistemic Shift; it is also commonly referred to as the Enlightenment. 

Descartes (rationalism): doubt everything.  Yet the act of thinking can’t be doubted, because doubt is a thought.  “I think (epistemological act), therefore I am (metaphysical claim).”  Hume (empiricism) removed causality, removing “is” from “ought,” thus separating ethical claims from metaphysics. 

Kant (Categorical Imperative): a moral law is binding if it can be universalized.  He attempted to reconcile Descartes and Hume; Kant made the distinction of the noumenal world and the phenomenal world – we can trust the sausage maker to make good sausage even if we are not allowed into the factory.

In metaphysics, the noumenon is a posited object or event that exists independently of human sense and/or perception. The term noumenon is generally used when contrasted with, or in relation to, the term phenomenon, which refers to anything that can be apprehended by or is an object of the senses.

Hegel (Rational Dialectic) came along and said Kant didn’t solve the Descartes / Hume disagreement, but made things worse.  Hegel offered that we will become inevitably and unstoppably more reasonable, until one day all human beings will think the same way. 

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Universal Libertarians

Nick Gillespie (Reason) has written a piece advocating broadly along the lines of the title of this post.  The purpose is a movie review for something about Steve Bannon and all that he supposedly represents.  This aspect is irrelevant to me.  He closes with an interesting line:

Watching The Brink made me think that for all the other differences Reason has with the socialist magazine Jacobin, it may matter far more that we share a belief in open borders.

I have to admit, it stuns me that this is the second time in two weeks that I agree completely with an open-borders libertarian – it does matter far more what Reason holds in common with Jacobin than what they might disagree on. 

Let me explain.  I have long held a view along the following lines:

I don't think there is a meaningful "we" when it comes to libertarians. Where left and right libertarians overlap is minuscule relative to where (and, more importantly, on what issues) we diverge.

Those on the libertarian left hold to more of a "we" with Gramsci and Soros; those on the libertarian right hold to more of a "we" with Pat Buchanan and Walter Williams.

Gillespie seems to completely agree:

In the 21st century, libertarians are going to have make common cause with the globalists of all parties, with the people whose core value is the right of individuals to move freely around the planet.

Where Gillespie uses the term “libertarians” he is referring to what is – for simplicity’s sake – referred to as left-libertarian.  As an aside, I am having trouble finding where individuals have a “right” to move anywhere, let alone “around the planet.” 

According to Gillespie, left- libertarians “have to make common cause” with leftists of all stripes – the Jacobins of the world.

We need to show that there is no inherent tension between being a citizen of the world and a proud son or daughter of one’s country, region, and hometown.

This common cause could lead one of two ways – toward socialism as the Jacobins desire, or toward liberty as Gillespie desires.  I don’t think it needs to be said that Marxists of all stripes also see a world where we are all citizens of the world – whether we like it or not.

Gillespie argues against what he sees as Bannon’s vision:

Bannon’s vision is of a world of distinct nations and cultures that might be defined by any number of factors, including race and ethnicity, but also a common history, religious values, or shared geography.

For people who value such things as “distinct nations and cultures” (what a bland world if there were not “distinct nations and cultures”) and given what we see playing out on the Western stage, it seems to me that there is an “inherent tension between being a citizen of the world and a proud son or daughter of one’s country, region, and hometown.”

The communist Antonio Gramsci saw that this idea of being proud of “one’s country, region, and hometown” would stand in the way of bringing communism to the west.  His view was that the culture of the various regions must be destroyed, and after this nothing would stand in the way of utopia.  Gramsci, obviously, saw this as a communist utopia.

Of course, Gillespie might know more than Gramsci.  Maybe such a path will usher in a libertarian utopia.  I suspect Gramsci – along with every other socialist / communist thinker who has spent serious time on this topic – has it right.

Governance will be provided by a common culture and tradition or it will be provided by force – one way or another, governance will be provided.  Gramsci knew this; Gillespie…not so much.


What I took away from the movie was less about whether Bannon might personally be able to scale Trumpism up to the international level and more about the realization that nationalism vs. globalism is the fundamental political cleavage in the 21st century.

It took a movie for Gillespie to come to this realization?  Many of us figured this out before the last election.  This should shed some light on how deep a thinker Gillespie is. 

Gramsci came to this realization about a century before it even happened.  Who do you believe has a better grasp on human nature and the consequences of teaming with Jacobins?  Gramsci or Gillespie?