Saturday, March 08, 2003

The Mighty Barrister dialogues with Dr. Monika Hellwig (President/Executive Director of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities or ACCU) HERE in a link well worth reading.

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Ash Wednesday Homily:
(From 2/13/02)

I was unable to find Fr. John Adams OP's homily from two days ago in the archive as it has not been posted there yet. Therefore, I am posting Fr. Reginald Martin OP's Ash Wednesday homily from the church index for 2002:

Our dictionary defines hypocrisy as holding or pretending to hold attitudes or beliefs one does not actually maintain.  When I studied German in college I learned a simpler definition. It's a single word: Scheinheiligkeit. It means "apparent holiness," and it gets us right to the heart of the falsehood Jesus condemns in the gospel.

Moral actions are all spread out along a continuum, and hypocrisy is no exception. On the one hand we have the polite fictions Miss Manners says lubricate nearly every human exchange on the planet. On the other we have the thorough-going, hard-working "apparent holiness" that Jesus finds so offensive in today's gospel.

Jesus identifies three activities that provide good opportunities to demonstrate this hypocrisy. The first is giving alms, the second is praying, the third is fasting. These are all praiseworthy occupations. They have been commended from the earliest days of our encounter with God, and the Church still holds them up to us today as the preeminent ways to fulfill the two great commandments of the Law — unless, as Jesus warns us this evening, we pursue them in such a way that everyone knows what we're doing. Then they become blameworthy.

Oscar Wilde said that a cynic is someone who knows the cost of everything and the value of nothing. Similarly, the hypocrite confuses price with value and wants the full reputation for virtue without bearing the full responsibility. Bargain hunting may be a cornerstone of retail commerce, but Jesus tells us today that virtue never goes on sale. We should give alms and pray and fast, but we should do so privately, quietly, and, above all, without looking glum. Our right hand should not know when the left is performing an act of charity, and the world should not know when we are praying or fasting.

This said, one needn't be a fundamentalist to see a certain danger in the ashes that give today its name. To humble ourselves by doing penance is a praiseworthy act. Ashes on the head are an old and hallowed gesture of this penitence. But to wear these ashes is to call attention to what we're doing, and that's always dangerous. So before we put these ashes on we ought to be very clear what we're about. Ash Wednesday will be over in a few hours, but Lent lasts six weeks.

I think I mentioned once that when I was assigned here before, back in the days when I had the knees for it, I joined everyone else who had taken up running. It finally happened that I needed a new pair of shoes, so I checked all the running magazines and read all the ratings and finally decided on the pair I'd buy. They cost an entire month's allowance and they had a very distinctive look. I realized at once that these shoes represented a real moral dilemma: if I wore them, everyone who saw me would assume I was a serious runner. And if I wore them and didn't run, I would know I was a hypocrite.

Something interesting happened almost immediately: I liked the shoes, so I found myself running faster and farther and more regularly. They called me to a greater and greater responsibility, and I didn't want to let them down. 

It's the same with these ashes. They have, it seems to me, certain rights, one of which is to call us to a certain standard of accountability. Before we put them on, we ought to think carefully about what we're doing, lest we be guilty of hypocrisy. We lose nothing if we do not wear these ashes. The world will never know, and God, I suspect, would appreciate our acknowledging honestly that we cannot live up to the challenge the ashes represent.

These ashes are not a cosmetic that simply change our looks; they are a sign that we are willing to change our hearts.  And if we're not, we ought to ask ourselves whether we want to advertise our hypocrisy. 

Listen a moment again to the words of the prophet Joel from today's first reading:

Sanctify a fast, call an assembly, gather together the people, sanctify the Church, assemble the ancients, gather the little ones... let the bridegroom go forth from his bed and the bride from her chamber... Between the porch and the altar let the priests, the ministers of the Lord, weep....

Whatever else Lent may be, it's not business as usual. These ashes are serious stuff. If we wear them we commit ourselves to listen to God's call to come back to Him with all our hearts. These ashes are a call to change. If we're unwilling to change we have no business wearing them.

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Friday, March 07, 2003

On Jeff Culbreath and Lenten Sacrifices:

Jeff Culbreath will be "turning off, tuning out, and (therefore) not dropping out" for Lent. I will therefore refrain from my planned response to him until after Lent. I agree that TV can be overrused and for many it is a good thing to give up. I watch maybe an hour a day if I watch at all so giving up TV for me is not a sacrifice. Nor is giving up alcohol since I can easily go for weeks without a drink. Nor is giving up cigars since it is the same as with alcohol. But my morning (and often afternoon) large 20-24 oz. soy chai tea??? Well that is among the things I am doing without. The frequent - even if small - snacking. Basically I am following the older Lenten fast requirements food-wise.

On top of that, I have cut back my radio listening time (which is harder to do without than TV), have significantly increased my exercise, have decided to focus on spiritual reading instead of theology, and I also hope to re-establish a pattern of an entire rosary (4 sets of mysteries) prayed weekly over the course of Lent. Briefly on this which is not a "cut back" but instead is an attempt to establish a good habit.

In the past two years my daily set of mysteries fell to six a week then five, then four, then three, etc all of which was very gradual until by early December of 2002 I was barely getting in one a week oftentimes. (By early January of 2003 it was even worse.) This pattern did not start turning around until a couple of weeks ago (the last week of January approximately) and I have thought that I burned out due to being too legalistic before.

I also believe that following the completed Spiritual Instruction on Prayer that I had my solution available all along and was overlooking it. So by applying it, I concluded that saying few rosaries better will be better than saying more rosaries less better. It is akin to saying one intelligible Confiteor at mass rather than two fourteen second rambled, and unintellibible Confiteors as is par for the course with the older liturgy.

So I hope during the course of Lent to continue the pattern I started a couple weeks ago and praying the full rosary of twenty mysteries every week. (And by the end of Lent to have solidified a very good habit in the process.) That brings me to the proposed response to Jeff.

Jeff, as you have given up blogging for Lent, may I wish you a fruitful period of renewal. May you enjoy your brier more in this time period. I will finish the response and archive it at my backup weblog. I look forward to resuming the thread with you (on defining modernist indicators/influence) after Lent.

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Thursday, March 06, 2003

An Open Letter To The Hollywood Bunch:
(From Charlie Daniels)

I am not sure if the great Charlie Daniels of southern rock, blues, and country fame wrote this or not but based on what I know about him, I would not doubt it for an instant. Correction: Charlie Daniels *DID* write this and I have the proof now. Since it is copyrighted by him, here is the link to the entry I originally had posted here.

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PS to the Last Post:
(And a Brief Correction on "Conservationist Conservatives")

Before taking issue with Jeff a little in my upcoming response, I want to point out two more areas where we agree - the second building on the previous entry to Rerum Novarum.

To start with, I concur with Jeff that mothers should be less disciplinarian than fathers. To add to the last response, my fathers corporeal approaches were rare but they would have been a little more frequent if not for my mother saving my bacon a couple of times. This is not to say that my mother was not a discipliner but she tended to reserve the bigger stuff to my father. And therefore, words like "you can wait for your father to get home" could send chills down the spine of younger kids in a way that mere grounding or other non-corporeal punishments could not do.

To complete the trifecta of agreements with Jeff Culbreath, I also concur with this view for the most part but one correction is needed on the link Jeff supplied.

Mr. Beer is in error to pin this on the late Senator Goldwater - one of my mentors in critical political thinking - but that is a minor quibble.{1} Otherwise, I have no real disagreements with Mr. Beer's premise at all. (Indeed I have considered myself a conservationist for a good portion of my "conservative" life and have never understood the seemingly artificial dichotomy many so-called "conservatives" have on the issue of the environment.)

Note:

{1} Senator Goldwater noted in his must read book The Conscience of a Conservative that the spiritual side of man's nature was both directly intertwined with his material side and also superior to it (cf. pgs 11-14). So whatever influence those who were mentored in Goldwater's outlook had, the late Senator's opposition to unconstitutional intrusion on environmental issues was directly connected to his love of nature.

And finally, anyone reasonably familiar with the late senator knows of his committment to conservation one example of which can be read HERE. In short, Mr. Beer should know a little more about the great Barry Goldwater before propping him up as some forerunner of the non-conservationist conservative.

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On Corporeal Punishment:
(Musings of your humble servant at Rerum Novarum)

To Jeff Culbreath: have your library handy for my next response to you. (It is about half done and I hope to finish it tonight if I have time.)

In the meantime, Rerum Novarum must show solidarity with El Camino Real on the subject of corporeal punishment. I understand the rationale of those who claim that spanking can be abused but frankly any form of discipline can be abused. My parents did not resort to spanking or other physical discipline very often but when they did, I can safely say that I had it coming at least 90-95% of the time.

My mothers father would punish his sons by having them put on the boxing gloves and go a few rounds with him. (Grandpa's younger brother was a champion middleweight in his prime and apparently he could not beat his older brother.) But then when your sons are about your size that works fine I suppose. When they are not then parents have to find other means of dealing with them.{1} Which reminds me.

I remember once when I was about seventeen and I got too big for my britches on one occasion. (Precisely what it was I do not recall but I presume I had really distressed my mother at the time: that tended to rile him more than anything else.) By this time I was physically larger and stronger than my dad and it had been a long time since the days of corporeal punishment.

When I was a kid the threat of spankings or slaps were almost always far worse than what actually happened. Nonetheless, on this occasion he and I had gotten into a shouting match and with two Irish tempers flaring, hell hath fewer worse furies I am sure.

At one point I stormed angrily down the hallway, slammed the bathroom door, locked it{2}, and started lathering my soap mug for shaving.{3} My father stormed after me and told me to unlock the door and I refused to. (I told him I was "busy".) Before I knew what hit me he had broken the doorjam, rushed up to me, and clocked me on the side of the jaw. My head was about two feet from the side wall and it hit the wall on recoil. (And I dropped the soapbrush almost falling to one knee in the process.) I was livid but my father was gutsy on that one because whatever defects I had as a teenager (and I had many) I would never strike my father and he knew it. At least I believe he did.

What resulted from that was he returned about fifteen minutes later and apologized. I responded with an apology of my own and we reconciled. That was the most extreme example of corporal punishment and the side of my jaw hurt for about a week afterwards. (He really pinpointed his shot well.) I am sure some readers stand aghast as they read this but my friends, I had it coming and I believe I am a better man today as a result of it. I saw growing up what happened when my fathers brother was not allowed to lay a hand on his step-daughter and she was a little hell-spawn. All because her mother wanted to be her "friend" rather than her mother first and her "friend" second. (And I noticed that this pattern was not uncommon amongst parents who had never laid a hand on their children to discipline them.)

Should I have kids someday, I will take my fathers approach which used corporeal punishment very judiciously. For children should fear their fathers wrath; otherwise they would not appreciate properly his love for them. I believe when my father and I both when I reached full adulthood became so close because my love and respect for him were strengthened because of my upbringing. He was not unwilling to set me right when I had strayed - and yes, on rare occasions when words or other punishments were not sufficient a bit of corporeal correction.

Again, this element can be abused certainly but I believe it is needed on occasion. Otherwise children respect their parents the same way criminals respect our judicial system when they receive little to no sentences of substance for serious crimes committed.

Notes:

{1} My mothers mom once dealt with her eldest son after grandpa's passing by knocking him down the stairs. He was about eighteen and much bigger than her so she had to obviously pick her spot on that one. Nonetheless, it must have worked well as my uncle related it to me in her presence once. She had forgotten about the incident but he never did. (May they both rest in peace.)

{2} It was customary to lock the bathroom door: something I note here lest anyone get the wrong impression from the above sequence.

{3} Two rituals of the many I adopted from my father directly were boiling water in a kettle for tea (no microwave) and always shaving with a soap mug and horsehide brush for lathering (no canned foam crap). The kinds of rituals I tended to adopt all take longer to accomplish than the modern utility approaches but I believe in retrospect that patience is best inculcated incrementally in this manner.


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Wednesday, March 05, 2003

My recommendations (and those of other St. Blog parishoners) for Lenten reading. (Courtesy of Amy Welborn.)

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"Envoy Encore" Dept.
(More discourses from your humble servant of Rerum Novarum on the war subject)

I hope before the week is out to change the bordercolours of my weblog back to their original royal purple for Lent. (And back to the current colour after Easter.) In the meantime, please bear with the current colour scheme. I do not tend to make a habit of changing blog colours but Lent and Advent seem to call for purple. Though I had purple colours from about September to January previously, the current blue seems a bit less somber and better for general border colouring - Lent and Advent excluded of course. But enough about blog colours.

The purpose of this entry is to post some of my responses from the Envoy weblog.

First Response to Pete Vere (on the War Subject) and David Smith (on Obedience to Civil Authorities)

Second Response to David Smith (on Obedience to Civil Authorities and on the War Subject)

Second Response to Pete Vere (on the war subject) with a brief intro response to Al (on General Norms of Theological Interpretation)

First Response to Al (on General Norms of Interpretation and His Misuse of Pius XI's Encyclical on the Social Order)

Second Response to Al (Further Refutation of His Arguments on General Norms and Why My First Entry Was Not "Disingenuous") and brief intro response to Breier (on his very good response to Al)

Because David Smith has given up posting for Lent, I decided to not respond to his last message.{1} I disagree with David on this but he and I have a history of dialogue and he knows when we disagree that it is respectful on both sides. Likewise Pete and I disagree on this subject but hopefully I have given him some food for thought on this subject.

Also recommended reading other than Pete and David's entries are Breier Scheetz's posts to the scroll and Bob Flummerfelt's. As for Al{2}, he seems like a nice fellow; however, as I hopefully have made clear, his take on these issues is not sufficiently nuanced. He confuses the Pope's role as diplomat or as private theologian with his role as Supreme Pontiff. See the links for more details including my already reiterated position on the war and why my disagreement with the pope is not inconsistent with a traditional notion of obedience to the Holy Father. (To say nothing about to the rest of the episcopate and my local ordinary and his auxillary.)

Notes:

{1} If he wants to resume the subject after Lent, I will be happy to do so - particularly the US and others who in varying degrees contributed to Iraq's military in various ways.

{2} This is not Albert Cipriani.

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More "Flower Power" Catholic Style:

I received this email earlier today. As per the request I have by invoking my authority as Sovereign Thane and Lord High Executioner of Rerum Novarum decided to go against my usual Welborn Protocol dictum and post this email with full name, the contact information, and the whole ball of wax. Please consider supporting this venture or else cease to have credibility with me on the subject of bemoaning the lack of Catholic presence in the movies and arts.

I'm writing to tell you about the launch of a new web site for the movie THERESE, produced by Luke Films and scheduled for theatrical release October 2003. If you haven't heard about the film it's a beautiful full-length feature on the life of St. Therese of Lisieux. We strongly believe that this film can have a powerful impact on today's society and culture, but we need your support. Help us get the word out about this wonderful film by either writing a review of the site or by posting the following message. If you need anymore info just let me know. Please e-mail me to let me know what you do. Thanks.

In Christ,
Mike


Please post this:

Hey Everybody,

I want to tell you about the launch of a new web site for the movie THERESE, produced by Luke Films and scheduled for theatrical release October 2003. Please visit the site and support this beautiful family film on the life of St. Therese of Lisieux. There are all kinds of things to do and see on the site. You can learn about the people who made the film, learn more about St. Therese and join the discussion group, plus there's a contest where you can win a free trip to the movie premiere. The more of you who visit the site the greater the impact the film will have and it'll show the theater owners and the distributors what kind of films you want to see. Make sure you post a message on the discussion board to show your support. Here's your chance to make a difference in the entertainment industry.
Check it out, www.theresemovie.com.

Mike Masny
Luke Films

(800) 683-2998


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Tuesday, March 04, 2003

Please pray for the eternal repose of the soul of my beloved father Richard Dunn McElhinney. Today would have been his 62nd birthday.



Eternal rest grant unto his soul oh Lord and may thy perpetual light shine upon him. May he rest in peace, Amen.

May his soul and all the souls of the faithfully departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

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Monday, March 03, 2003

"Bastiat's Corner" Dept.
(The Final Installment)

Blogger appears to have finally corrected the links in this series. From all appearances I have fixed the glitches but if it appears that a section was overlooked, please let me know. (Including the uberretentive one who likes to critique the typos of St. Blogs'.) The last installment of this series can be read HERE. The first part of this series can be read HERE. This is the final installment of this department; however I will keep this series on my weblog in perpetuity. Those who are just tuning in, as I have tended to do in recent installments I exhort you to skip this entry and start from the beginning. I have linked backwards and forwards through all the threads so it is not difficult to follow this series. It took some effort but I feel that strongly about this series and the content it contains. Without further ado, the late Mr. Bastiat (may he rest in peace) has the floor:

Politics and Economics

Now let us return to a subject that was briefly discussed in the opening pages of this thesis: the relationship of economics and of politics -- political economy.*

[*Translator's note: Mr. Bastiat has devoted three other books and several articles to the development of the ideas contained in the three sentences of the following paragraph.]

A science of economics must be developed before a science of politics can be logically formulated. Essentially, economics is the science of determining whether the interests of human beings are harmonious or antagonistic. This must be known before a science of politics can be formulated to determine the proper functions of government.

Immediately following the development of a science of economics, and at the very beginning of the formulation of a science of politics, this all-important question must be answered: What is law? What ought it to be? What is its scope; its limits? Logically, at what point do the just powers of the legislator stop?

I do not hesitate to answer: Law is the common force organized to act as an obstacle to injustice. In short, law is justice.

Proper Legislative Functions

It is not true that the legislator has absolute power over our persons and property. The existence of persons and property preceded the existence of the legislator, and his function is only to guarantee their safety.

It is not true that the function of law is to regulate our consciences, our ideas, our wills, our education, our opinions, our work, our trade, our talents, or our pleasures. The function of law is to protect the free exercise of these rights, and to prevent any person from interfering with the free exercise of these same rights by any other person.

Since law necessarily requires the support of force, its lawful domain is only in the areas where the use of force is necessary. This is justice.

Every individual has the right to use force for lawful self- defense. It is for this reason that the collective force -- which is only the organized combination of the individual forces -- may lawfully be used for the same purpose; and it cannot be used legitimately for any other purpose.

Law is solely the organization of the individual right of self-defense which existed before law was formalized. Law is justice.

Law and Charity Are Not the Same

The mission of the law is not to oppress persons and plunder them of their property, even though the law may be acting in a philanthropic spirit. Its mission is to protect persons and property.

Furthermore, it must not be said that the law may be philanthropic if, in the process, it refrains from oppressing persons and plundering them of their property; this would be a contradiction. The law cannot avoid having an effect upon persons and property; and if the law acts in any manner except to protect them, its actions then necessarily violate the liberty of persons and their right to own property.

The law is justice -- simple and clear, precise and bounded. Every eye can see it, and every mind can grasp it; for justice is measurable, immutable, and unchangeable. Justice is neither more than this nor less than this.

If you exceed this proper limit -- if you attempt to make the law religious, fraternal, equalizing, philanthropic, industrial, literary, or artistic -- you will then be lost in an uncharted territory, in vagueness and uncertainty, in a forced utopia or, even worse, in a multitude of utopias, each striving to seize the law and impose it upon you. This is true because fraternity and philanthropy, unlike justice, do not have precise limits. Once started, where will you stop? And where will the law stop itself?

The High Road to Communism

Mr. de Saint-Cricq would extend his philanthropy only to some of the industrial groups; he would demand that the law control the consumers to benefit the producers.

Mr. Considerant would sponsor the cause of the labor groups; he would use the law to secure for them a guaranteed minimum of clothing, housing, food, and all other necessities of life.

Mr. Louis Blanc would say -- and with reason -- that these minimum guarantees are merely the beginning of complete fraternity; he would say that the law should give tools of production and free education to all working people.

Another person would observe that this arrangement would still leave room for inequality; he would claim that the law should give to everyone -- even in the most inaccessible hamlet--luxury, literature, and art.

All of these proposals are the high road to communism; legislation will then be -- in fact, it already is -- the battlefield for the fantasies and greed of everyone.

The Basis for Stable Government

Law is justice. In this proposition a simple and enduring government can be conceived. And I defy anyone to say how even the thought of revolution, of insurrection, of the slightest uprising could arise against a government whose organized force was confined only to suppressing injustice.

Under such a regime, there would be the most prosperity -- and it would be the most equally distributed. As for the sufferings that are inseparable from humanity, no one would even think of accusing the government for them. This is true because, if the force of government were limited to suppressing injustice, then government would be as innocent of these sufferings as it is now innocent of changes in the temperature.

As proof of this statement, consider this question: Have the people ever been known to rise against the Court of Appeals, or mob a Justice of the Peace, in order to get higher wages, free credit, tools of production, favorable tariffs, or government-created jobs? Everyone knows perfectly well that such matters are not within the jurisdiction of the Court of Appeals or a Justice of the Peace. And if government were limited to its proper functions, everyone would soon learn that these matters are not within the jurisdiction of the law itself.

But make the laws upon the principle of fraternity -- proclaim that all good, and all bad, stem from the law; that the law is responsible for all individual misfortunes and all social inequalities -- then the door is open to an endless succession of complaints, irritations, troubles, and revolutions.

Justice Means Equal Rights

Law is justice. And it would indeed be strange if law could properly be anything else! Is not justice right? Are not rights equal? By what right does the law force me to conform to the social plans of Mr. Mimerel, Mr. de Melun, Mr. Thiers, or Mr. Louis Blanc? If the law has a moral right to do this, why does it not, then, force these gentlemen to submit to my plans? Is it logical to suppose that nature has not given me sufficient imagination to dream up a utopia also? Should the law choose one fantasy among many, and put the organized force of government at its service only?

Law is justice. And let it not be said -- as it continually is said -- that under this concept, the law would be atheistic, individualistic, and heartless; that it would make mankind in its own image. This is an absurd conclusion, worthy only of those worshippers of government who believe that the law is mankind.

Nonsense! Do those worshippers of government believe that free persons will cease to act? Does it follow that if we receive no energy from the law, we shall receive no energy at all? Does it follow that if the law is restricted to the function of protecting the free use of our faculties, we will be unable to use our faculties? Suppose that the law does not force us to follow certain forms of religion, or systems of association, or methods of education, or regulations of labor, or regulations of trade, or plans for charity; does it then follow that we shall eagerly plunge into atheism, hermitary, ignorance, misery, and greed? If we are free, does it follow that we shall no longer recognize the power and goodness of God? Does it follow that we shall then cease to associate with each other, to help each other, to love and succor our unfortunate brothers, to study the secrets of nature, and to strive to improve ourselves to the best of our abilities?

The Path to Dignity and Progress

Law is justice. And it is under the law of justice -- under the reign of right; under the influence of liberty, safety, stability, and responsibility -- that every person will attain his real worth and the true dignity of his being. It is only under this law of justice that mankind will achieve -- slowly, no doubt, but certainly -- God's design for the orderly and peaceful progress of humanity.

It seems to me that this is theoretically right, for whatever the question under discussion -- whether religious, philosophical, political, or economic; whether it concerns prosperity, morality, equality, right, justice, progress, responsibility, cooperation, property, labor, trade, capital, wages, taxes, population, finance, or government -- at whatever point on the scientific horizon I begin my researches, I invariably reach this one conclusion: The solution to the problems of human relationships is to be found in liberty.

Proof of an Idea

And does not experience prove this? Look at the entire world. Which countries contain the most peaceful, the most moral, and the happiest people? Those people are found in the countries where the law least interferes with private affairs; where government is least felt; where the individual has the greatest scope, and free opinion the greatest influence; where administrative powers are fewest and simplest; where taxes are lightest and most nearly equal, and popular discontent the least excited and the least justifiable; where individuals and groups most actively assume their responsibilities, and, consequently, where the morals of admittedly imperfect human beings are constantly improving; where trade, assemblies, and associations are the least restricted; where labor, capital, and populations suffer the fewest forced displacements; where mankind most nearly follows its own natural inclinations; where the inventions of men are most nearly in harmony with the laws of God; in short, the happiest, most moral, and most peaceful people are those who most nearly follow this principle: Although mankind is not perfect, still, all hope rests upon the free and voluntary actions of persons within the limits of right; law or force is to be used for nothing except the administration of universal justice.

The Desire to Rule over Others

This must be said: There are too many "great" men in the world -- legislators, organizers, do-gooders, leaders of the people, fathers of nations, and so on, and so on. Too many persons place themselves above mankind; they make a career of organizing it, patronizing it, and ruling it.

Now someone will say: "You yourself are doing this very thing."

True. But it must be admitted that I act in an entirely different sense; if I have joined the ranks of the reformers, it is solely for the purpose of persuading them to leave people alone. I do not look upon people as Vancauson looked upon his automaton. Rather, just as the physiologist accepts the human body as it is, so do I accept people as they are. I desire only to study and admire.

My attitude toward all other persons is well illustrated by this story from a celebrated traveler: He arrived one day in the midst of a tribe of savages, where a child had just been born. A crowd of soothsayers, magicians, and quacks - - armed with rings, hooks, and cords -- surrounded it. One said: "This child will never smell the perfume of a peace- pipe unless I stretch his nostrils." Another said: "He will never be able to hear unless I draw his ear-lobes down to his shoulders." A third said: "He will never see the sunshine unless I slant his eyes." Another said: "He will never stand upright unless I bend his legs." A fifth said: "He will never learn to think unless I flatten his skull."

"Stop," cried the traveler. "What God does is well done. Do not claim to know more than He. God has given organs to this frail creature; let them develop and grow strong by exercise, use, experience, and liberty."

Let Us Now Try Liberty

God has given to men all that is necessary for them to accomplish their destinies. He has provided a social form as well as a human form. And these social organs of persons are so constituted that they will develop themselves harmoniously in the clean air of liberty. Away, then, with quacks and organizers! Away with their rings, chains, hooks, and pincers! Away with their artificial systems! Away with the whims of governmental administrators, their socialized projects, their centralization, their tariffs, their government schools, their state religions, their free credit, their bank monopolies, their regulations, their restrictions, their equalization by taxation, and their pious moralizations!

And now that the legislators and do-gooders have so futilely inflicted so many systems upon society, may they finally end where they should have begun: May they reject all systems, and try liberty; for liberty is an acknowledgment of faith in God and His works.

To those who have read this entire series, it was well worth your time was it not??? I ask you to share this with others who are interested in promoting the proper usage of law in society for the greatest maximization of human freedom.

This means doing away with all forms of socialization including many which are supported by the various socialist parties from US Communist and Workers World to the Democratic Party, and even most of the "me too Republicans" who simply want to prune the socialist tree back to what it was ten, twenty, or whatever years ago. My friends, the whole thing needs to be removed root and branch. Anything less is arbitrary and does nothing to prevent the tree of socialization from growing back.

It is like the hydra of Greek Mythology: each time one of its heads was cut off, two or three grew back in its place. The hydra was only killed by slaying it through the body. Only then was the creature killed. And Frederic Bastiat in what you have just finished reading outlined an irrefutable theory for the proper application of law in society.

History shows us that his contemporaries ignored him. He is virtually unknown today. However some of those who were heavily influenced by him (Barry Goldwater, Ronald Reagan) have been influential. But because of the system they inherited being corrupted already, they were not able to roll back the tide.

We now have a Republican president and Congress for the first time in nearly fifty years. The last two times there have been all Republican governments, it was for two year periods only ('47-'49, '53-'55). We need to break that pattern and re-elect President Bush in 2004 and return larger majorities to the houses of Congress.

Are the Republicans perfect??? No they are not. But they are the most viable option to turn things around in this country. They are the ones most likely to nominate constructionists to the Supreme Court. They are the ones most likely to take the first steps to prune the government leviathan. And until we can get into power people who take the theory of Frederic Bastiat seriously - who take the Founding Fathers and the Constitution seriously - then we need to try to take it a piece at a time. But you can do your part to make this theory and its corroborative theses better known.

Unless you like the idea of more creeping socialism in this country and more arbitrary abuses of the law by professional bureaucrats who see mankind as one big experiment instead of creatures made in the image and likeness of God. Please consider this carefully and do your part to make this masterwork better known.

Or continue to do what you have done and bitch about the degeneracy of our society while you do nothing substantial to contribute to fixing it except promote facile and sophistic arbitrary theories. The choice is yours, the way of protecting life and liberty or the way of hastening enslavement and death (cf. Didache §1). Which do you choose???

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Bastiat's Corner:
(aka "Must Read Blog Material")

Blogger is still not correcting the links from previously. I will try republishing my archives anew to correct the problem after this entry but I cannot promise that will help.

The last installment can be read HERE. To start from the beginning, please go HERE.

If my calculations are correct, this department will wrap up with the next installment which I may well post tonight or tomorrow. (Depending on my mood.) Those who have just joined us, this series is essential reading if you want to understand the essentials of the scourge of socialism and how to get at the problem at its root and matrix. I assure you that without this knowledge any attempt to roll back the socialist slide of our nation is in vain. But without further ado, here is today's installment:

The Socialist Concept of Liberty

But ought not the people be given a little liberty?

But Mr. Considerant has assured us that liberty leads inevitably to monopoly!

We understand that liberty means competition. But according to Mr. Louis Blanc, competition is a system that ruins the businessmen and exterminates the people. It is for this reason that free people are ruined and exterminated in proportion to their degree of freedom. (Possibly Mr. Louis Blanc should observe the results of competition in, for example, Switzerland, Holland, England, and the United States.)

[Ed. Note: This was written in 1850 and Mr. Bastiat would not speak so glowingly of those countries today considering how they have frittered away their freedoms - ISM]

Mr. Louis Blanc also tells us that competition leads to monopoly. And by the same reasoning, he thus informs us that low prices lead to high prices; that competition drives production to destructive activity; that competition drains away the sources of purchasing power; that competition forces an increase in production while, at the same time, it forces a decrease in consumption. From this, it follows that free people produce for the sake of not consuming; that liberty means oppression and madness among the people; and that Mr. Louis Blanc absolutely must attend to it.

Socialists Fear All Liberties

Well, what liberty should the legislators permit people to have? Liberty of conscience? (But if this were permitted, we would see the people taking this opportunity to become atheists.)

Then liberty of education? (But parents would pay professors to teach their children immorality and falsehoods; besides, according to Mr. Thiers, if education were left to national liberty, it would cease to be national, and we would be teaching our children the ideas of the Turks or Hindus; whereas, thanks to this legal despotism over education, our children now have the good fortune to be taught the noble ideas of the Romans.)

Then liberty of labor? (But that would mean competition which, in turn, leaves production unconsumed, ruins businessmen, and exterminates the people.)

Perhaps liberty of trade? (But everyone knows -- and the advocates of protective tariffs have proved over and over again -- that freedom of trade ruins every person who engages in it, and that it is necessary to suppress freedom of trade in order to prosper.)

Possibly then, liberty of association? (But, according to socialist doctrine, true liberty and voluntary association are in contradiction to each other, and the purpose of the socialists is to suppress liberty of association precisely in order to force people to associate together in true liberty.)

Clearly then, the conscience of the social democrats cannot permit persons to have any liberty because they believe that the nature of mankind tends always toward every kind of degradation and disaster. Thus, of course, the legislators must make plans for the people in order to save them from themselves.

This line of reasoning brings us to a challenging question: If people are as incapable, as immoral, and as ignorant as the politicians indicate, then why is the right of these same people to vote defended with such passionate insistence?

The Superman Idea

The claims of these organizers of humanity raise another question which I have often asked them and which, so far as I know, they have never answered: If the natural tendencies of mankind are so bad that it is not safe to permit people to be free, how is it that the tendencies of these organizers are always good? Do not the legislators and their appointed agents also belong to the human race? Or do they believe that they themselves are made of a finer clay than the rest of mankind? The organizers maintain that society, when left undirected, rushes headlong to its inevitable destruction because the instincts of the people are so perverse. The legislators claim to stop this suicidal course and to give it a saner direction. Apparently, then, the legislators and the organizers have received from Heaven an intelligence and virtue that place them beyond and above mankind; if so, let them show their titles to this superiority.

They would be the shepherds over us, their sheep. Certainly such an arrangement presupposes that they are naturally superior to the rest of us. And certainly we are fully justified in demanding from the legislators and organizers proof of this natural superiority.

The Socialists Reject Free Choice

Please understand that I do not dispute their right to invent social combinations, to advertise them, to advocate them, and to try them upon themselves, at their own expense and risk. But I do dispute their right to impose these plans upon us by law -- by force -- and to compel us to pay for them with our taxes.

I do not insist that the supporters of these various social schools of thought--the Proudhonists, the Cabetists, the Fourierists, the Universitarists, and the Protectionists -- renounce their various ideas. I insist only that they renounce this one idea that they have in common: They need only to give up the idea of forcing us to acquiesce to their groups and series, their socialized projects, their free- credit banks, their Graeco-Roman concept of morality, and their commercial regulations. I ask only that we be permitted to decide upon these plans for ourselves; that we not be forced to accept them, directly or indirectly, if we find them to be contrary to our best interests or repugnant to our consciences.

But these organizers desire access to the tax funds and to the power of the law in order to carry out their plans. In addition to being oppressive and unjust, this desire also implies the fatal supposition that the organizer is infallible and mankind is incompetent. But, again, if persons are incompetent to judge for themselves, then why all this talk about universal suffrage?

The Cause of French Revolutions

This contradiction in ideas is, unfortunately but logically, reflected in events in France. For example, Frenchmen have led all other Europeans in obtaining their rights -- or, more accurately, their political demands. Yet this fact has in no respect prevented us from becoming the most governed, the most regulated, the most imposed upon, the most harnessed, and the most exploited people in Europe. France also leads all other nations as the one where revolutions are constantly to be anticipated. And under the circumstances, it is quite natural that this should be the case.

And this will remain the case so long as our politicians continue to accept this idea that has been so well expressed by Mr. Louis Blanc: "Society receives its momentum from power." This will remain the case so long as human beings with feelings continue to remain passive; so long as they consider themselves incapable of bettering their prosperity and happiness by their own intelligence and their own energy; so long as they expect everything from the law; in short, so long as they imagine that their relationship to the state is the same as that of the sheep to the shepherd.

The Enormous Power of Government

As long as these ideas prevail, it is clear that the responsibility of government is enormous. Good fortune and bad fortune, wealth and destitution, equality and inequality, virtue and vice -- all then depend upon political administration. It is burdened with everything, it undertakes everything, it does everything; therefore it is responsible for everything.

If we are fortunate, then government has a claim to our gratitude; but if we are unfortunate, then government must bear the blame. For are not our persons and property now at the disposal of government? Is not the law omnipotent?

In creating a monopoly of education, the government must answer to the hopes of the fathers of families who have thus been deprived of their liberty; and if these hopes are shattered, whose fault is it?

In regulating industry, the government has contracted to make it prosper; otherwise it is absurd to deprive industry of its liberty. And if industry now suffers, whose fault is it?

In meddling with the balance of trade by playing with tariffs, the government thereby contracts to make trade prosper; and if this results in destruction instead of prosperity, whose fault is it?

In giving protection instead of liberty to the industries for defense, the government has contracted to make them profitable; and if they become a burden to the taxpayers, whose fault is it?

Thus there is not a grievance in the nation for which the government does not voluntarily make itself responsible. Is it surprising, then, that every failure increases the threat of another revolution in France?

And what remedy is proposed for this? To extend indefinitely the domain of the law; that is, the responsibility of government.

But if the government undertakes to control and to raise wages, and cannot do it; if the government undertakes to care for all who may be in want, and cannot do it; if the government undertakes to support all unemployed workers, and cannot do it; if the government undertakes to lend interest- free money to all borrowers, and cannot do it; if, in these words that we regret to say escaped from the pen of Mr. de Lamartine,"The state considers that its purpose is to enlighten, to develop, to enlarge, to strengthen, to spiritualize, and to sanctify the soul of the people" -- and if the government cannot do all of these things, what then? Is it not certain that after every government failure -- which, alas! is more than probable -- there will be an equally inevitable revolution?



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Sunday, March 02, 2003

Points to Ponder:

Perhaps my rudest awakening to the secular world after a lifetime in yeshiva was the amount of lashon hara I encountered. I remember the first time I heard that people could make a living as a 'gossip columnist.' 'A lashon hara columnist!' I thought. I could hardly believe it. . . . Of course, all the public lashon hara is more than matched by all the private lashon hara that people engage in. At yeshiva, I learned the power of the tongue to destroy. Think of how long it takes to form a good opinion of a person after hearing just a few seconds of lashon hara about him. [ Dennis Prager (as quoted in the October 1995 edition of First Things)]

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