Wednesday, November 24, 2004

On the Election and its Aftermath:
(Musings of your humble servant at Rerum Novarum)

Now that the campaign is over, everyone and their sister wants to analyze the data and try to formulate theories as to why things went as they did and why they did not. As it is, there are too many factors to account for in a brief weblog entry. Nonetheless, I remind the readers of what I noted back on November 6, 2002 and little has substantially changed in my views of the matter between then and now. The crux of the issue then was summed up in the following terse statement:

The Democratic party is and always will be the party of slavery. The difference is that they have moved from physical slavery to economic and psychological slavery.

The economic slavery element has been done to death by many commentators including yours truly. It seems at this time appropriate to deal with the psychological slavery part of the equation and that will be part of the purpose of this weblog post.

Psychological slavery can take many forms. It would be beyond the purpose of this post to categorize and analyze them all but the root and matrix to them all is the same: a mental barrier that prevents the captive from seeing beyond the inner world in which their subjective perceptions are the only realities that they can grasp. To sum it up in an apt expression: it is solipsism plain and simple.{1}

On top of the latter problems, there is also the manner whereby people of this mindset redefine terms of discourse sometimes to where they mean the exact opposite of what they actually mean. An example of this was present in the congressional budget battles of the 1990's when the Democrats tried to argue that Republican-proposed reductions in spending increases constituted a "cut" in funding.{2} However, this is somewhat understandable in that it is the same mentality that infects our culture to some extent when people are convinced to buy tons of a product to "save" money when in reality, they end up spending more money to do it. Nonetheless, it is a form of psychological slavery because it plays into these people's fears about lacking "security." And that leads to another point that is related to the one we just covered and that is the role of government in the outlook of those from the party of economic and psychological slavery.

For you see, psychological slavery also exists in those who place too much credence on what government could (or should) do for them.{3} When someone approaches the federal government in this manner, obviously they set themselves up as prey for those who will try to convince them that it is the obligation of the government to do things for people -or that individuals have a "right" to various things. The government official who then promises less (or is viewed as providing less) is then seen as "infringing on rights" or taking away what these people would view as something they are "entitled" to. If that outlook is allowed to set in, a form of psychological (and potentially economic) slavery presents itself.

Furthermore, those who are of this mindset are then prone towards theories that serve to confirm this outlook. This is where conspiracy theories of various shapes and sizes come into the picture from{4} and as a former conspiracy theorist myself, I understand the appeal that can lie in these kinds of overly simplistic "solutions" to more complex subject matter. The intellectual involvement (to the extent there is any) is usually spent on bolstering a series of "talking points" on the viewpoints themselves rather than examining critically the presumed validity of these theories and their corroborating theses. For this reason, certain disqualifying features of these kinds of arguments{5} tend to be overlooked -and sometimes they are more than a little problematical to the conspiracy-theorist's weltanschauung to put it mildly.{6} But as this leads back to the subject of solipsism which we have already covered,{7} it seems appropriate to move onto other elements of this analysis and leave the subject of the Democratic party's promotion of psychological slavery amongst the least-informed of the electorate for another time.

Getting back to the election, I was not enthusiastic about supporting President Bush for reasons I have noted many times before.{8} The core reason for this is because he is not an authentic conservative but instead he is a social Democrat for the most part. And this pattern is reflected in much of the Republican Party on key issues. Or to quote this weblog from about a year ago:

[P]erhaps the best way to understand why modern Republicans are not Republicans in the true sense of that term -and further, why I am not and for some time have not been a supporter of the Republican Party in any capacity- is to consider how their leaders view their own party today.

The following discussion between Rush Limbaugh and Ed Gillespie is instructive for one key reason: the Chairman of the Republican National Committee is absolutely clueless about the principles of limited government!!! Limbaugh granted could be more consistent on this subject than he is, but when the head of the RNC quite clearly has no idea what "limited government" is, that is not a minor bagatelle folks. Let me clarify if for you.

Limited government is not [reducing] the size of the increase, as Gillespie claims. How can one claim to be for "limited government" by arguing that [w]hen Bill Clinton left office, he proposed his last budget was an increase of 15% in non-defense discretionary spending. President Bush came in, he brought it down to 6% in his first budget, down to 5% in his second. It is at 2% today, non-defense discretionary spending??? This is a mockery of the entire notion of limited government.

First of all, who cares what the President proposes. The role of setting a budget is that of the Congress. The problem is that the role of impounding funds -shared by every president from Nixon back to Washington- was abolished by President Nixon when he signed the Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974. Since then, deficits have skyrocketed and an important check on Congressional excesses was cast aside.

This Act needs to be rescinded. The following article covers the subject in some detail -certainly better than the laughable Congressional article which tried to make the impounding sound like a novel notion of Nixon's...But it was not. And while there were still deficits prior to 1974, the national deficits starting in 1975 increased at an exponential rate...

What needs to be reasserted -and vigorously so- is the ignored principle of the Constitution (and not the only ignored principle of the Constitution) that [t]he powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people. That is as good a place to start as any. [Excerpt from Rerum Novarum circa October 31, 2003]

This has been a long-standing problem I have had with the Republicans. Authentic conservatism -which is what Bush and company like to campaign on to win elections- is not at all congruent with the kind of legal plunder that Bush and company tend to endorse when they actually govern. For those who are not aware of what I mean by "legal plunder", I quote the classic formulation of this term by the nineteenth century French economist and statesman Claude Frederic Bastiat:

[H]ow is this legal plunder to be identified? Quite simply. See if the law takes from some persons what belongs to them, and gives it to other persons to whom it does not belong. See if the law benefits one citizen at the expense of another by doing what the citizen himself cannot do without committing a crime.

Then abolish this law without delay, for it is not only an evil itself, but also it is a fertile source for further evils because it invites reprisals. If such a law -- which may be an isolated case -- is not abolished immediately, it will spread, multiply, and develop into a system. [Claude Frederic Bastiat: The Law (c. 1850) as excerpted from Rerum Novarum circa October 24, 2002]

It is undeniable that what Bastiat feared about legal plunder has taken place in our day -indeed the last nearly hundred years of US history has seen a steady increase in legal plunder in divers parameters. The two party system is replete with people who believe that the federal government is the solution to most if not all major problems. When this is coupled with people in power using that power to enrich themselves and their constituencies at the expense of others -and in ways that private citizens would be arrested for doing themselves- you have legal plunder taking place. The late Senator Barry Goldwater (an obvious student of Bastiat) articulated the classical conservative position on government masterfully when he noted the following in 1960:

I have little interest in streamlining government or in making it more efficient, for I mean to reduce its size. I do not undertake to promote welfare, for I propose to extend freedom. My aim is not to pass laws, but to repeal them. It is not to inaugurate new programs, but to cancel old ones that do violence to the Constitution, or that have failed in their purpose, or that impose on the people an unwarranted financial burden. I will not attempt to discover whether legislation is 'needed' before I have first determined whether it is constitutionally permissible. And if I should later be attacked for neglecting my constituents' interests, I shall reply that I was informed their main interest is liberty and that in that cause I am doing the very best I can. [Barry M. Goldwater: The Conscience of a Conservative (c. 1960)]

There are very few politicians who understand that their role is not to enrich themselves but instead to divest themselves of authority. There are very few politicians who understand that their role is to encourage the maximum of freedom possible that is consistent with the social order. There are very few politicians who recognize that something is not a "right" simply because someone claims that it is. Legitimate rights which transcend any legislation can be categorized around three specific classifications which are (i) the right to life (ii) the right of an individual to exercise their faculties within the boundaries of just public order and the common good of society, and (iii) the rights of an individual to the creation of products or the lawful acquisition of products or property. The classic exposition of Bastiat (which I have often referred to on this weblog) entails "life, faculties, and production" but these can also be denoted as "individuality, liberty, and property" as life belongs to the individual, liberty applies to their execution of God-given faculties, and property is to a certain extent synonymous with production of goods or services.

Now, as every society needs to have some structure for regulating the just aspirations of individuals, this is the purpose of law in society. Law is a negative in the equation much as any form of government is. The purpose of law is to ensure justice for all people.

It is when government uses the law to advance the whims of some people (whomever they are) over and above the fundamental rights of others is when the law is perverted and governments overstep their lawful boundaries. Another way of saying it is that the purpose of any law is to protect the legitimate rights of individuals and not infringe on legitimate rights of some to promote (however explicitly or implicitly) the whims of others. (Which they not infrequently advance under the false heading of "rights".) When the latter takes place, the law is not protected but instead it is perverted: a circumstance under which justice is not (and cannot be) properly served.

To see just what is wrong with both major parties in our country today, consider how law is usually conducted today and also the more concise exposition of Mr. Bastiat on the actual purpose of laws in a just society:

What, then, is law? It is the collective organization of the individual right to lawful defense.

Each of us has a natural right--from God--to defend his person, his liberty, and his property. These are the three basic requirements of life, and the preservation of any one of them is completely dependent upon the preservation of the other two. For what are our faculties but the extension of our individuality? And what is property but an extension of our faculties?

If every person has the right to defend -- even by force -- his person, his liberty, and his property, then it follows that a group of men have the right to organize and support a common force to protect these rights constantly. Thus the principle of collective right -- its reason for existing, its lawfulness -- is based on individual right. And the common force that protects this collective right cannot logically have any other purpose or any other mission than that for which it acts as a substitute. Thus, since an individual cannot lawfully use force against the person, liberty, or property of another individual, then the common force -- for the same reason -- cannot lawfully be used to destroy the person, liberty, or property of individuals or groups.

Such a perversion of force would be, in both cases, contrary to our premise. Force has been given to us to defend our own individual rights. Who will dare to say that force has been given to us to destroy the equal rights of our brothers? Since no individual acting separately can lawfully use force to destroy the rights of others, does it not logically follow that the same principle also applies to the common force that is nothing more than the organized combination of the individual forces?

If this is true, then nothing can be more evident than this: The law is the organization of the natural right of lawful defense. It is the substitution of a common force for individual forces.And this common force is to do only what the individual forces have a natural and lawful right to do: to protect persons, liberties, and properties; to maintain the right of each, and to cause justice to reign over us all. [Claude Frederic Bastiat: The Law (c. 1850) as excerpted from Rerum Novarum circa October 3, 2002]

Now then, it is patently obvious that the Democratic Party is the enemy of the fundamental rights of man and has been for at least eighty odd years. However, "me tooism" began becoming a problem for the Republican Party -particularly after WWII. And though President Reagan did a lot to overcome this problem in his presidency, he did not completely succeed in weeding this noxious plant from Republican soil and it grew slowly throughout the post-Reagan period to return to full-flower in the four years of George W. Bush's first term as president.

Indeed if anyone cares to explain to this commentator how President Bush is even remotely an authentic conservative, it would be interesting to see. For he knows how to run conservatively and govern liberally. Those who hold onto the idea that somehow the Republicans can be saved from the infection of social collectivist ideas do not have history on their side here. In a recent weblog entry on third parties, I phrased it in the following manner:

I do not make distinctions between one part of Reagan's philosophy and another XXXXXXX. Instead, I take into account the entire picture and just as the Democratic Party left Reagan in the 1950's and early 1960's, the Republican Party has left behind the principles of Ronald Reagan the man and the president since 1988. The so-called 1994 revolution was a joke because they did almost nothing they promised to do: unlike Reagan who kept most of his promises.

They could not even close down a single federal department!!! That is ridiculous since so much of the federal leviathan as Reagan recognized was patently unconstitutional. They had the control of the congress and thus the legislative ability to make changes including (if necessary) changing the rules of procedure to make it harder for the Democrats to resist. But they did not. Care to go over the "Contract With America" with me point by point and see how much they actually enacted??? That alone makes my case since if anything the contract was a drop in the bucket of what needed (and needs) to be done to combat the unconstitutional federal behemoth. [Excerpt from Rerum Novarum circa November 11, 2004]

These undeniable facts are the reason why I have sought to recapitulate divers strands of conservative views into a coherent synthesis for being able to with greater ease navigate the vast oceans of various viewpoints out there. (To aid those who recognize that there is a lot wrong in this country and do not understand the fundamental reasons why.) This is also why I have put forward into the arena of ideas proposals for rider reform in federal legislation and also recasting the third party concept into a viable vehicle for necessary societal changes to return this country to an understanding of what are fundamental rights and what are not (among other areas). These are not short-term notions being proposed here but long-term overhauls of certain points of presupposition in the modern discourse that are seriously deficient and need to be rectified.

Having noted all of that, it should be obvious that though a "President Kerry" would have been a disaster of potentially unprecedented proportions; nonetheless President Bush himself does not get a satisfactory grade overall as president from me. And we are less than a month since his re-election and virtually every move he has made has (or will logically be) detrimental to authentic freedom. And this is what I sensed would happen when I wrote for this humble weblog an election update thread in the days before the election.

So far, I have seen nothing to change how I was feeling then and (if anything) I am for the most part even less enthusiastic about things now than I was then. The only solace of sorts is that we are a lot less likely to have another 9/11 incident with a Bush presidency than we would with a Kerry presidency for reasons too numerous to note here. But that is merely a case of Bush protecting our lives while contributing (albeit less than the Democrats would) to the suppression of legitimate rights in this country with his promotion (again, less than the Democrats would) of legal plunder. Having noted that, I have to wonder if certain friends who saw in Bush the second coming of Ronald Reagan{9} really want me to bring up my past criticisms of this attempted parallel.{10}

I am not about to say that the Democrats are a party on the wane and may well go the way of the Whigs. The former is undeniable and the latter is something that others have said{11} and to which I happen to think is probable as well. Nor am I going to say that it will be "morning in America" in a second Bush term because his actions thus far have been anything but reassuring here. Instead, I will note that this is more a commentary on what needs to be done as opposed to why what happened in the election happened. The latter was covered more in a recent weblog post where I interacted with the views of a liberal Democrat and fellow Washingtonian whose take on the subject was on the whole pretty good.{12}

In summary, the purpose of this post you are reading is for the most part to outline why most commentators who are crowing about a "great conservative victory" in the 2004 elections are missing the boat in not insignificant ways. As perhaps the best way to do this is to consider the reasons why our Founders declared independence from Great Britain two hundred plus years ago, that is what this post will end with doing by quoting from an earlier Points to Ponder segment circa this very weblog:

Most people if asked about the Declaration of Independence know part of the preamble about the rights which are held to be "self-evident." But often not considered were the various accusations brought against the Crown by the colonists. Let us focus on some of them right now:

--He has refused his assent to laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

--He has erected a multitude of new offices, and sent hither swarms of officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance.

--He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his assent to their acts of pretended legislation:

--For imposing taxes on us without our consent:

--For taking away our charters, abolishing our most valuable laws, and altering fundamentally the forms of our governments:

Consider in light of the today's government situation if these are not viable complaints for us to make today against the very kind of unconstitutional federal leviathan we see today. (And which the Founding Fathers sought so manfully to avoid.) [Excerpt from Rerum Novarum circa January 28, 2004]

Frankly my friends, these same complaints can be registered today at the Democrat and Republican Parties alike without distinction. And that is the bottom line really.


{1} Though long implied in my comments on liberal outlooks (among others), I eventually outlined the term explicitly at this weblog and then refined the definition at my Miscellaneous BLOG. To quote the latter source at this time:

[The] epistemological theory of solipsism [is one] whereby the self knows nothing but its own states and their constituent modifications if you will. This is a core philosophical flaw of modern day liberal political views...

This is why certain kinds of people of the extremist liberal mindset such as the Deanings cannot be reasoned with. You can throw all the facts in the world at them and reason until your gray hairs fall out but they will not budge because so much of what you would say does not pertain to them personally. [Excerpt from the Rerum Novarum Miscellaneous BLOG circa February 7, 2004]

{2} It was pathetic to see Speaker Newt Gingrich (at the time) stand before the House with a chart containing pluses and minuses to try and explain with props what to someone with a normal intact functioning brain is obvious. (Though of course those who suffer from solipsism cannot be said to have a normal intact functioning brain.)

{3} To me, the key variable is how they view the proper function of law in a just society. Any candidate that endorses a differentiation between the laws of the individual and the laws of society at large is one who inexorably endorses the plunder of one class of citizens to enrich another class is not a real conservative. And sadly, almost all who run for office under the conservative banner support legal plunder in some form or another. It then becomes a case of ascertaining whether or not their support of legal plunder is based on ignorance of what they are actually supporting or whether they are intentionally in support of it. That is admittedly not easy to determine but a safe norm to follow is to see how much they favour federal involvement or intervention. For the greater they favour those factors, the more they inexorably endorse legal plunder. [Excerpt from Rerum Novarum circa May 24, 2004]

{4} Why must conspiracy theorists passively accept the conspiracies of the left viz. George W. Bush??? Now they no longer have to thanks to Jennifer Bishop Fulwiler and her George W. Bush Conspiracy Generator. Select the ingredients yourself and let the conspiracy generator manufacture for you your own Bush conspiracy.

WARNING: Not for the use of children under twelve or liberal whack job Democrats - the latter of which's reasoning capabilities often make it darn difficult to distinguish them from the former. [A Rerum Novarum weblog entry circa January 24, 2004]

{5} Though I have utilized these terms in this manner before, I have never explicitly set them forth in writing prior to my most recent essay. Quoting from that source, I want to provide here definitions for two key terms of discourse: the definition of a theory and the definition of a thesis. Without further ado, here they are within the context of the introduction to my most recent essay:

[W]hen one is dealing with a theory, they are dealing with both abstract notions as well as coordinating dynamic principles of action. One of the author's intellectual mentors once defined a theory as "a set of non contradictory abstract ideas (or as philosophers like to call them 'principles') which purports to be either a correct description of reality or a guideline for successful action."...

Having established a working meaning of the term theory, it is worth noting also that the word thesis according to the Merriam Webster Thesaurus is related to the word theory. (Both of them having a foundation in the term assumption.) A good way of looking at this in the current context is to view a thesis as "an abstract principle or proposition to be advanced and maintained by argument" and a theory as incorporating a thesis -or a series of theses -with a guideline for successful action. The reason for this is because a theory by its nature must involve either (i) a correct description of reality or (ii) a guideline for successful action. For this reason, any viable theory involves several principles if you will which work together.

Or another way of looking at it would be to consider that a theory is being conceived of a series of non contradictory coordinative theses or points of presupposition. When viewed in this light, a theory clearly is only as strong as the theses which support it. [A Rerum Novarum Miscellaneous BLOG entry circa January 14, 2004]

{6} Evidences Against the "Right Wing Media Conspiracy" Theory (circa August 12, 2004)

{7} See footnote one.

{8} Here is one example of many I could list on this subject:

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. [Excerpt from Rerum Novarum circa March 3, 2003]

{9} I refer here to (among others) Lane Core, Jr. who posited this idea in early 2003.

{10} See these threads for some examples of why the "Bush Jr/Reagan" attempted parallel falls seriously flat:

Why Bush Is Not (At Least Thus Far) "Reagan II" -Part I (circa January 11, 2003)

Why Bush Is Not (At Least Thus Far) "Reagan II" - Part II (circa January 12, 2003)

Why Bush Is Not (At Least Thus Far) "Reagan II" -Part III (circa January 12, 2003)

{11} Senator Zell Miller of Georgia is one who has made this prediction about his own party recently.

{12} "Post-Election Potpourri" Dept. (circa November 20, 2004)

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Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Miscellaneous Musings on the Patriot Act and Legislative Reform

this is an audio post - click to play

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Monday, November 22, 2004

The Real Humanists: Revolution from Afghanistan to Iraq (by Victor Davis Hanson circa November 19, 2004)

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Sunday, November 21, 2004

Points to Ponder:

Congratulations to all American people and to our Iraqi people for this great outcome of the American Elections. This was a great statement by the American people; a statement showing the quality and backbone of this people and affirming their worth and qualification as world leaders. Now that this matter has been settled in satisfactory manner, in my humble opinion; we should emphasize that this is no time for division and rancor. Senator Kerry has acted in very dignified manner when he did not allow the matter to drag, and has shown his patriotism and sense of responsibility and awareness that the interests of the country at these times require national unity and putting this election campaign behind our backs to concentrate on the momentous tasks ahead. Yes at times of war and conflict, the unity of the nation and putting higher interests above partisan considerations is the mark of a great people.

All those who have been following my blog from the start should know how I feel towards El Bush, the Avenger, the Lion-Heart and I cannot hide my happiness for this outcome, purely from a personal feeling of gratitude for what he has done for us, despite all the pain and hardships that we suffered and still do. But the objective is so great and so important that all sacrifices and difficulties pale when contemplating the benefits and goals that are hoped for.

And now that we have this campaign behind us, it is time to roll up our shirt sleeves and attend to the urgent business ahead. We are liberated from electoral worries and can start talking business. So for the near future I plan to tell you some of my ideas in plain and frank terms in the hope of stimulating a serious debate about how to win this war and achieve the desired objectives.

Meanwhile I don’t want to spoil this sublime moment; and raise my hand in military salute to honor our great Allied American people and their fighting men and women, who have demonstrated their true fiber and true worth through civilized democratic choice.

Hail the People’s Republic of the United States of America. It is you who have the right to use such a title and no one else. [Alaa: Excerpt from his weblog The Mesopotamian (circa November 3, 2004)]

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