A professor in the economics department at George Mason University has assembled a fantastic collection of quotes from central figures in American history regarding individual liberty and limited government.  Many of those quotes reflect a skepticism of the character of man.  While unregulated man might make evil choices, the governor with power over him is (allegedly) prone to even greater evil choices, and those choices will affect everyone.  Here is a sampling of the quotes that reflect this view:

[I]nstituting a Congress with power to do whatever would be for the good of the United States . . . would be also a power to do whatever evil they please.”
— Thomas Jefferson

“All men having power ought to be distrusted to a certain degree.”
— James Madison in The Federalist

 “No man is good enough to govern another man without that other’s consent.”
— Abraham Lincoln, October 16, 1854

“We still find the greedy hand of government thrusting itself into every corner and crevice of industry, and grasping at the spoil of the multitude. Invention is continually exercised to furnish new pretenses for revenue and taxation. It watches prosperity as its prey and permits none to escape without a tribute.”
— Thomas Paine

While I don’t share the view that government ought not regulate anything beyond the harm principle (the strict libertarian perspective), I share the view that man is so fallen that absolute power will always corrupt him.  Thus, limited government is a necessity for all, and the best way to limit it is to decentralize it as much as possible.  The greater the centralization, the greater the eventual evil.

Advertisements

A nice summary of why the burden of persuasion ought to rest against governmental involvement in private business:

The essential problem is that very few people spend other people’s money with anything close to the same degree of care and efficiency that they spend their own. This is particularly true of the sort of narcissistic, superficial individuals who are drawn to careers in politics. In the immortal words of PJ O’Rourke, giving money and power to politicians is like giving car keys and whiskey to teenage boys.

Couldn’t have put it better myself.

I read an absolutely fascinating article a couple months ago, and I have been meaning to post relevant portions of it.  The article in the August issue of First Things explains how the abortion “option” is far better for men than for women.

First, the article notes: Read the rest of this entry »

Love this:

One of the most important differences between education and propaganda is how they deal with great controversies.

In education, students are taught about the controversies. In propaganda, they are shielded from them.

In education, students are taught both sides of the important debates. In propaganda, they are taught only one.

In education, students are taught both the strengths and the weaknesses of the officially favored theory. In propaganda, they are taught only its strengths.

In short, education is the training of minds, while propaganda is the training of prejudices. In a democratic republic, the public schools should not propagandize, but educate.

Enough said.

C.S. Lewis drafted an interesting essay in 1944 that proves to be useful today.  Lewis argues that democracy is warranted not because we all deserve to be our own autonomous rulers, but because none of us do: Read the rest of this entry »

…or so sayeth President Obama.  Not that he is alone.  Republicans call for “bipartisanship” as well.  One media site even argues that the media have been too hard on Obama in examining his bipartisan efforts, and should instead focus on the Republicans’ purported failure to be bipartisan (notwithstanding that the Republicans don’t have any power to block anything the Democrats want to do, so it’s not like they’re obstructing anything). 

Cutting through the rhetoric, bipartisanship is nothing more than bone-tossing.  The masses and the media may be fooled, but no politician is really bipartisan, nor does he or she desire to be.  They are merely cognizant of the need for public approval, so it’s a public relations move.  Does anyone ever really want to compromise unless they have to?  Of course not. 

Bipartisanship for Democrats in power means that they’ll lob Republicans a bone in exchange for good public relations.  Bipartisanship for Republicans in the minority means “if you guys run over us, don’t think we’ll forget it or ignore it in the media, especially if you get everything you want and then you fail.”  (Incidentally, I think the real reason Democrats so badly want bipartisan support on bailouts and universal healthcare is that they don’t want to bear all of the blame if those risky moves blow up in their faces.)

But conversely, bipartisanship for Republicans in power means that they’ll lob Democrats a bone in exchange for good public relations.  Bipartisanship for Democrats in the minority means “if you guys run over us, don’t think we’ll forget it or ignore it in the media, especially if you get everything you want and then you fail.”  You may recognize this from the past election cycle, where the questionable war effort was blamed entirely on the Republicans, and the Democrats went for the throat. 

The media may play a different role on one side than they do on the other, but when it comes to political speeches, politicians left and right are both playing the same game on the same field, and like any championship team, they cheat when they can get away with it.

The Meaning of “Rights”

August 27, 2009

We hear a lot about “rights” in American discourse.  Just watching Sportscenter, I heard the term “animal rights” (in reference to Michael Vick), which got me thinking.  What is a right?

Civil rights.  Animal rights.  Equal rights.  So-called “reproductive rights.”  “Gay rights.”  The right of privacy.  We hear lately that everyone has a “right to healthcare”. 

From America’s founding document: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” 

I did a Wikipedia search on the subject just to see what was there, and the summary was brief and, in my opinion, incomplete, but it still mentioned a couple of the concepts I will discuss below. 

Read the rest of this entry »

Professor Matthew J. Franck gives us an excellent history of the state of abortion law in the United States in the context of the Judge Sotomayor hearings.  The sad fact is, many Americans do not know that “Supreme Court jurisprudence has manufactured a right to unfettered abortion right up to the time of the child’s birth.”  Professor Franck asks and answers, “How did Americans become so confused on this issue and how did the Supreme Court end up where it has?”  I highly recommend reading his full article, but I’ll provide some highlights here. 

He quotes the confirmation hearing Q&A:

Read the rest of this entry »