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Does the Right Share the Progressive View of History?

The right and left wings of the Republican and Democratic Parties do not appear to have symmetrical tactics. The right, usually in the House but often in the Senate, refuses to compromise even when that refusal will generate a worse short-term result from their perspective. For instance, the right in the House has refused to vote for federal spending bills even if they were written by the Republican leadership.  In 2012, the most conservative caucus refused to vote for a bill that would have limited tax hikes to those earning over a million dollars a year. And they have blocked some of the compromises that might smooth the passage of a partial Obamacare repeal and health care reform.

As a result, the Republican leadership has had to rely on Democratic votes for the budget, leading to higher spending. Without the leverage of the House bill taxes went up on couples earning over $450,000. The prospects for any substantial legislative reform of health appear dim.

In contrast, the Democratic left is willing to compromise. They all voted for Obamacare, even if it was not a single-payer plan.  And I do not recall any substantial opposition to budgets passed in the Democratic Congress. What explains this difference?

Republican Primary Voters. There is evidence that Republican voters are on average more knowledgeable about politics than Democrats and thus more might know that their representatives are compromising and hold it against them at election time. But that explanation simply pushes back the question of why right-wing voters punish Republican members of Congress for compromises that are better than the alternatives possible at the time.

Intraparty Conflict. Perhaps Republican conservatives in Congress hope these compromises will not satisfy Republican voters and over time will push them in the direction of  demanding stronger representation on the right.  Here the strategy is that by losing now, they will win big in the future. If this is their plan, it does not seem to be succeeding lately.

History Leans Leftward. William F. Buckley famously said that the conservatives should stand athwart history yelling stop. This kind of sentiment implicitly suggests that history is naturally moving left.  Conservatives who accept this view would feel the need to avoid compromise in the hope of striking a dramatic blow, a counterrevolution that would reverse the direction of history. Even a compromise in their favor would just disappear in history’s whirlpool.   On the other hand, the left would rationally be willing to make deals, confident that its compromises born along the current of history will turn into ever bigger victories

There may be kernel of truth that entitlements create their own left-wing current. We are now seeing how hard it is to roll back Obamacare. But non-entitlement spending goes up and down, as do taxes.  It is not surprising that the left subscribes to the Progressive view of history. But if the right does so as well,  their actions risk squandering the periodic opportunities afforded by majorities of the more conservative party.  It would then be the most right leaning legislators who help propel history leftward.

Reader Discussion

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on August 18, 2017 at 00:28:56 am

Writing as an historian, I am not sure what you mean by the "Progressive view of history." You do not seem to mean by it what historiographers who use that term mean. In the absence of a definition of terms, I have to confess to being befuddled here. Maybe I am just obtuse?

What I would expect the term to describe is the kind of history, premised on the kinds of assumptions, represented by historians like Charles Beard , Carl Becker, or Merrill Jensen, and opposed for example by "consensus school " historians like Edmund Morgan. Scholars of the first sort argue for a watered down version of materialism, and generally distill causation down to economic interest of the "base determines superstructure" sort. So the people I (and most other historians) are talking about when we talk about the authors of "Progressive" history minimize the importance of ideas in historical causation. Historians like Morgan or Forrest MacDonald, by contrast, argue that ideas matter. So, for example, Woody Holton is a neo-Progressive historian; Herman Belz, like pretty much any other historian influenced by political theory, is not.

That said, I infer from your post that you have some other distinction in mind, but from what you write here I can not discern it.

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Kevin Hardwick
on August 18, 2017 at 06:16:21 am

It may be that Conservative Republicans espouse the view that Progressives have already brought the country to the very edge of the precipice, and to "stand athwart" at this juncture would be tantamount to having the ability of wading upon the thin air.

The consequence of attempting to apply resistance on the horizontal plane, in opposition to the push of the stampeding mob, while simultaneously applying equal or greater resistance in opposition to the push of gravity on the vertical, would not only insurmountable, but fatal; thus, the wisdom and safety of leading (pulling) from behind...at least from this vantage, you may in the least, be the last man standing instead of the first to fall…

It may be, too, that the bridge they are being asked to build at this current point on the precipice at which the country finds itself, amounts to little more than making a choice between two equally unacceptable outcomes; a bridge too far, or a bridge to nowhere.

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Paul Binotto
on August 18, 2017 at 08:08:59 am

Wow. This is an article that should never have been attempted. JMc has strayed far outside his known area of expertise, precipitating an end product which is scarcely more than an exposition of his own dogma.

History is like science: lt doesn't care whether you believe in it or not. And while it may not exactly repeat itself, it does have an annoying tendency to rhyme. Empires rise on the back of a competitive advantage, overextend themselves, and eventually collapse of their own sheer weight. They always indulge in elective wars, as war is a welfare program for oligarchs.

We study history to avoid making the mistakes of the past . . . but we keep making them because the temptation to repeat them is irresistible. l bow to the wisdom of Calvin and Dale Carnegie: Humans are incorrigibly selfish, and act accordingly. Plutarch first warned us that wealth inequality was the bane of a republic; Thomas Jefferson diagnosed the problem brilliantly from a front-row seat at one of the most notorious object lessons, making a compelling case for progressive taxation:.

"Whenever there is in any country, uncultivated lands and unemployed poor, it is clear that the laws of property have been so far extended as to violate natural right. The earth is given as a common stock for man to labour and live on. If, for the encouragement of industry we allow it to be appropriated, we must take care that other employment be furnished to those excluded from the appropriation. If we do not the fundamental right to labour the earth returns to the unemployed. It is too soon yet in our country to say that every man who cannot find employment but who can find uncultivated land, shall be at liberty to cultivate it, paying a moderate rent. But it is not too soon to provide by every possible means that as few as possible shall be without a little portion of land. The small landholders are the most precious part of a state."

Left to its own devices, capitalism invariably consumes itself. Ergo, a rational capitalist government would take Jefferson's sage advice, using tax and property law to prevent what happened in France. But in all capitalist states, oligarchs seize control of the government, ruling it for their sole benefit. Fascism as defined by Mussolini (the merger of corporate and governmental interests) becomes all but inevitable. We have devolved into a police state, a predictable feature of late-stage capitalism. Why? Because people are incorrigibly selfish, and act in a predictable manner.

Predictably, JMc takes his dogma out for a walk:

"There may be kernel of truth that entitlements create their own left-wing current. We are now seeing how hard it is to roll back Obamacare. But non-entitlement spending goes up and down, as do taxes. It is not surprising that the left subscribes to the Progressive view of history. But if the right does so as well, their actions risk squandering the periodic opportunities afforded by majorities of the more conservative party. It would then be the most right leaning legislators who help propel history leftward."

l'm a good capitalist, who believes in stealing my competitors' best ideas. And the evidence of the entire world is in: Health care is provided more efficiently by government. The savings we would see as a society would be about 7-9% of GDP. So, why do troglodytes on the Right refuse to do the math and embrace the rational?

"But Ah BELlEVE in Jesus, Ste. Ayn of Rand, and the Market Fairy!"?

The concept that there is an optimal level of taxation, distribution of the tax burden, and size of the public commons could be demonstrated on one of Arthur Laffer's napkins. But JMc would rather sacrifice the unfortunate and poison our water on the altar of his Market Fairy.

What amazes me is that some people actually long for his dystopian vision.

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LawDog
on August 18, 2017 at 08:28:20 am

JMc's essay appears to be more about dogma than history. Society is becoming more liberal, and he appears to fear change.

All wars are resource wars; ideology is often little more than an excuse. The idea is to get the other bastard's kids to die for your tribe.

That either makes me a Progressive ... or a cynic. Knowing me, l vote for the latter. :)

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LawDog
on August 18, 2017 at 09:31:23 am

Professor Hardwick: The view of history discussed here is neither an academic one nor one I share. It is the simple notion that at least currently history has a tendency to move leftward. Buckley's perhaps jocular comment seems to accept this premise, as does the left-wing trope that conservative ideas are on the wrong side of history. If one credits this view, it may make sense to be a reactionary, i.e. to believe that a great counterrevolution is needed that will not only reform policy but reverse this fundamental tendency. I am not defending this notion of history or indeed claiming that it is coherent, just trying to figure out why many on the right of the Republican party refuse to compromise even when that refusal leads to worse policy from their perspective.

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John O. McGinnis
on August 18, 2017 at 11:47:21 am

Perhaps McGinnis is using progressive history as a synonym for Whig history. Certainly, the progressives are Whigs as opposed to small "r" republicans and the GOP leadership and the longest serving GOP members of Congress can also be best described as conservative Whigs rather than small "r" republicans, constitutionalists or populists. Perhaps dissent in the ranks of the GOP indicates that there is simply more ideological diversity in the GOP than in the Democratic Party.

McGinnis seems to believe that the Democrat/liberal and GOP/conservative pigeon holes continue to be the only useful way of describing the important factions in Congress. Trump's election and the subsequent events suggest that is no longer true.

It does appear that the entrenched, conservative GOP incumbents loathe Trump as much as does the DNC and MSM. Perhaps this is because Trump, and people who voted for Trump, are not conservative GOPers.

Certainly, the ideas that the Constitution should be upheld as it is written and that the House should produce an annual budget following regular order, and damn the consequences, is much more prevalent amongst the independents who for the last 10 years have been delivering one election after another to the GOP, at all levels of government, than they are amongst the Whigs in government. Such fundamentally republican ideas are anathema to both GOP and Democratic Whigs, who clearly favor Breyer's notion of a living constitution on the British model and who also believe that their commitments to their global interests and clients are more important than their obligations to both the Constitution and the electorate.

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EK
on August 18, 2017 at 12:22:40 pm

“Whenever there is in any country, uncultivated lands and unemployed poor, it is clear that the laws of property have been so far extended as to violate natural right."

Did Jefferson do Winstanley and Everard the courtesy of citing "The True Leveller Standard Advanced" (1649)?

Have you read "Cromwell and Communism" (~1930) by Eduard Bernstein. It's online at several of the internet libraries.

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EK
on August 18, 2017 at 13:44:13 pm

The professor’s use of “even if” jumps out of his “the right in the House has refused to vote for federal spending bills even if they were written by the Republican leadership.” Better replace “even if” with “because”. His reasoning lacks awareness of the heavy effect of the grime of Congress. Read Rep. Ken Buck’s “Drain the Swamp”, and readers with a sense of decency will wince. The reader learns why Republican Leadership must stoop to Democrats for support. Plain and simple, rightist Republicans don’t trust their Leadership. Example upon example by Buck expose Leadership’s diseased, uncollegial realpolitik. The previously naïve voter is illuminated and angered. Leadership’s Hit Parade includes (my titles) “Do it my way--or you’ll be punished,” “Trust me—oops, did I say that?” and, crooning with Nancy Pelosi, “Pass the Omnibus spending bill first, then find out what is in it.” Moral revulsion can lead to rational behavior.

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db
on August 18, 2017 at 13:55:59 pm

ln private correspondence?!? Of course not.

Still, l AM impressed.

l've read the Manifestos; l prefer my history raw. But l took a quick look at the most relevant chapters. This was a process: Cromwell won; effective change didn't come until the Glorious Revolution.

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LawDog
on August 18, 2017 at 14:38:27 pm

Haven't read the book, but l know Ken personally, and had a substantial portion of this convo with him during his abortive Senate run. But you can save yourself the money and a lot of time watching John Oliver's HBO piece: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ylomy1Aw9Hk

How do you clean the swamp? First, increase the number of ConMen to 10,000, in accordance with General Washington's recommendation at the Philadelphia Convention. Even Exxon couldn't bribe 'em all, and most candidates could literally walk their districts. lt would all but obviate the need for political parties, and largely solve the problem posed by the Electoral College. Moreover, there will be more districts without a military base or contractor than those with one. You do the math. :)

As for logistics, they can telecommute. Harder for lobbyists and easier for constituents to find 'em. The only way l was able to get my ConMan's attention was to threaten to run against him. :)

Second, repeal and replace the 17Am. Add another 100-150 Senators, apportioned on the basis of population to mitigate the grotesque inequity inherent in Wyoming voters having 100x the clout of California in that body. Let the states decide whether they elect or appoint members of that body, as both systems have serious drawbacks.

Third, impose a large excise tax on large political contributions. We can't stop the Kochs or Soros from speaking, but we can make them pay handsomely for their oversized megaphones.

Fourth, move as much of Washington, DC out of Washington, DC as possible. Why can't HUD be based in Detroit?

Fifth, limit committee assignments to one term. Hard for Lockheed Martin to buy off committee chairs, as they will be gone six months after they buy the first hooker.

Sixth, impose strict insider trading rules and subject MCs to annual TCMP audits. Nothing will keep them honest better than having lRS crawl up their tails EVERY year....

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LawDog
on August 18, 2017 at 15:09:15 pm

History is neither left nor right; it simply is. Society is moving to the left as it becomes more urban; conservative solutions are less tenable in that environment.

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LawDog
on August 18, 2017 at 15:50:09 pm

Still, if you knew Jefferson's statement was clear lift from Winstanley, et al, why didn't you disclose the connection? Fobbing this bit of jeffersonia off as his original thought is perpetuating the kind of Founder hagiography that is at the root of many of our problems.

Bernstein is worth a full read. His summary of Harington's "Oceana" is excellent.

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EK
on August 19, 2017 at 00:44:50 am

I don’t understand the final paragraph of the article and don't know what the professor means by the “Progressive view of history.” If that view forecasts that America or the world always progresses, he needs to state what “progress” is, especially when he speaks of progress in political terms. "if the right does as well [agrees with the left to the Progressive view of history]" seems to assume that the desired state of the future is the same for both right and left. That would be strange, since the left’s progress is usually the right’s regress. Or if the left’s direction is L, the right’s is R. It’s hard to see that the left’s view of the future is also the right’s.

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db
on August 19, 2017 at 08:41:03 am

B/C l didn't? You are being per se unreasonable. (As l indicated earlier, l am genuinely impressed w/ the breadth and depth of your knowledge of that era.)

The important thing is that Jefferson (who was 3,000 miles from his library) 'got it'.

Concur wrt EB's take on Oceana. Harrington ("Whether a Commonwealth be rightly defin’d to be a Government of Laws and not of Men") doesn't get nearly the credit he is due.

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LawDog
on August 19, 2017 at 11:37:05 am

Db--

The choice of words was confusing, because it risks confusion with two terms that have a specific, technical meaning in a cognate discipline (history). "Progressive history" carries a specific meaning to historians, as I noted in my first post. And as someone else suggested, its also easy to read "Progressive history" to mean "Whig history," which also has a specific, technical meaning among historiographers.

That said, Dr. McGinnis has clarified his meaning nicely in his reply to my first post, above. What he means, at least as I read him, is the simple idea that over time, the US has become more liberal. Another responder in this thread illustrates the idea well because he or she clearly subscribes to the Progressive view of history as defined by Dr. McGinnis. That poster suggested that as the US becomes more urban, it also becomes more liberal (in the modern sense of that word--"liberal" is yet another term that requires specific definition.)

Anyway, its not hard to imagine that both left and right could agree that the US has been becoming more liberal. Whether they approve or disapprove is independent of agreement on the historical trend. They could agree entirely on the history and disagree whether that constitutes "progress."

The question of the relationship between history and politics is compelling, and I think Dr. McGinnis is to be commended for raising it. I would submit, however, that a) a lot of contemporary political discourse is a-historical; and b) Whig narratives of "progress" however defined are NOT the most important or most dominant historical genre of historical narrative in play right now, nor in my lifetime. So the criticism I would levy of this essay is that in this broad sense, it misses the mark. But more narrowly, as an account of why the right has been resistent to compromise--which is after all Dr. McGinnis' focus in the essay--I think he may be on to something.

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Kevin Hardwick
on August 19, 2017 at 11:57:16 am

Kevin Hardwick,

I don't normally read earlier posts, but now having seen yours, I see that my post was redundant. Thanks for your informative reply.

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db
on August 19, 2017 at 12:23:31 pm

Regarding Harrington: part of the reason we see limited reference to his ideas is that they were so widely shared by a much larger group of 17th century English "commonwealth" thinkers, including guys like Algernon Sydney and John Milton, but also lesser known luminaries like Henry Vane.

It is also worth noting that the broad historical argument, pioneered by JGA Pocock and Gordon Wood, that places republicanism at the center of the American founding has come under sustained criticism in recent decades. Let me know and I can point you to the literature. Very few analysts today place guys like Harrington at the center of the story, as was common in the 1970s and 1980s.

I would recommend Forrest MacDonald, NOVUS ORDO SECLORUM: THE INTELLECTUAL ORIGINS OF THE CONSTITUTION (1986) as the best place to start, if you want to put these ideas in perspective. If you want to read the primary sources for yourself, and have the decade or so time free to do that properly, a place to begin is Joyce Malcomson, THE STRUGGLE FOR SOVEREIGNTY: ENGLISH 17th CENTURY POLITICAL TRACTS (2 Vols). If you don't have the time, I recommend locating good secondary sources like MacDonald.

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Kevin Hardwick
on August 19, 2017 at 12:37:48 pm

Mea culpa: the author of the anthology is Joyce Lee Malcom. She is an outstanding scholar--deserves to have her name properly cited. No disrespect at all intended.

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Kevin Hardwick
on August 19, 2017 at 14:02:38 pm

" Society is becoming more liberal..."

Really, and this, I gather includes suppressing the speech of others. Perhaps, you mean to say that society is becoming more licentious (not that there is anything wrong with that, Kramer!)

"All wars are resource wars..."

Let us not get stuck in 18th / 19th century imperial diplomacy (or lack thereof). simply repeating the Code Pink mantra of "Blood for Oil" does NOT make it so. US did NOT get controlling interest in Iraqi reserves as you have suggested, nor are they interested in Venezueal, that socialist, single-payer paradise as the US has the largest known oil reserves on the planet.

So yep, it does make you a cynic - something that is readily apparent.

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gabe
on August 19, 2017 at 14:03:01 pm

All excellent ideas. Have you considered reviving the "Congressional Apportionment Amendment" (aka "Article the First")? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Congressional_Apportionment_Amendment

If ratified, this amendment would expand the House to more than 6000. Obviously, the Members should sit in the federal regional city nearest to their district (there are 11 of them) and the existing congressional infrastructure the District of Columbia could be dedicated to standing committees and support functions. The regional Air National Guards could be tasked with operating shuttles between the regional airports and Andrews AFB.

My further suggestion is that the Supreme Court should be based in Omaha, NE, and required to sit for hearings in abandoned unheated and un-airconditioned strip malls in Lubbock, TX, between October and December and in Minot, ND, between January and March. It could sit for a couple of weeks in DC in July and August but the air conditioning has to be shot off.

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EK
on August 19, 2017 at 14:07:33 pm

Please remember that Jefferson was afflicted with the typical "agarian" bias and like his English counterparts deeply resented (was envious of) the growing power / influence of the merchant / industrial class.

Sad to say, that were Jefferson's vision to have gained ascendance, the "Great Enrichment" would have missed our shores; nor could the immense, and previously unimagined accumulation of capital been available to "raise all boats." (I know cliches - but accurate).

Not would an industrialized and capital rich North have finally been able to defeat the proponents of that *peculiar* form of agrarian society.

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gabe
on August 19, 2017 at 14:29:58 pm

"Society is moving to the left as it becomes more urban; conservative solutions are less tenable in that environment."

Yep - witness the success of such urban areas as New York City, Baltimore, Detroit, LA, Newark, New Haven, etc -Ha!

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gabe
on August 19, 2017 at 14:40:06 pm

Dawg:

"Add another 100-150 Senators, apportioned on the basis of population to mitigate the grotesque inequity inherent in Wyoming voters having 100x the clout of California in that body."

I thought you argued that we have the COTUS that we have not the one we want. The COTUS we have specifically INTENDED for the Upper House to be an organ of the separate, sovereign and "equal" states within the federation. Or do we not recognize anything coming from Connecticut because it IS a small state? -Ha!

Bad enough when judicial decisions so enlarge the scope of one Clause or Amendment (14th for example) so as to diminish the remaining clauses, but now we would wish to obliterate the fundamental structure of the government, i.e., the compromise regarding the duality between population and status as a sovereign State.

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gabe
on August 20, 2017 at 12:30:00 pm

Gabe--

Jefferson's agrarianism DID establish ascendancy in ante-bellum United States politics. It was thoroughly intertwined with slavery in Southern political thought. Ante-bellum Southern politicians, far from espousing "states rights," advocated strongly for the primacy and power of the Federal government to protect Southern agrarianism and slavery.

James McPherson--the pre-eminent living historian of the late ante-bellum and civil war periods and hardly a liberal ideologue, has written recently on this subject. Having read the works he reviews here, if anything McPherson understates their arguments. Here is the link:

http://www.nybooks.com/articles/2001/04/12/southern-comfort/?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=NYR%20Civil%20War%20fantasies%20Jefferson%20the%20brain&utm_content=NYR%20Civil%20War%20fantasies%20Jefferson%20the%20brain+CID_e6b1de6148a1bf590f71181cc0a2f1ed&utm_source=Newsletter

Best wishes,
Kevin

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Kevin Hardwick
on August 20, 2017 at 12:34:52 pm

Shame on me. I erroneously wrote "recent" where I should not have. The dangers of composing on a cell phone. Note to the blog editors: I very much wish you would empower your commentators to edit their prose, precisely for situations like this one.

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Kevin Hardwick
on August 20, 2017 at 18:01:11 pm

Professor McGinnis,

If I may, an alternative view:

Whether or not history is moving in a progressive direction is to some degree a matter of perspective. An economist will have different view of the civil war, or of the Roman republic than will a lawyer, or historian or anthropologist or philosopher. There is no one correct view of events, past or present, nor one correct prescription for the future. If, from your perspective, conservatives seem to be facilitating the drift toward liberalism, you might also note, as Gabe does that the left is drifting away from it. This will seem perplexing if one adopts the view that history has a right and wrong side, that progress is synonymous with improvement and that Utopian planning will not produce dystopian results. None of these propositions is axiomatic, nor likely even true.

One way of looking at "the arc of history" is to start with an observable phenomenon, about which the board's engineers, Beaver, Scott Amorian, et. al. could probably explain in clearer detail. That phenomenon is: Stable, complex systems are stable because they have mechanisms that return them to a state of equilibrium when they are perturbed. The empennage on an airplane will return the craft to level flight when a gust of wind causes it to pitch in one direction or another; inductance resists change in current flow in an electric circuit, etc. This is true of other systems as well: price controls lead to product shortages, gluts lead to collapse in prices, and so on. This tendency of stable complex systems to return to equilibrium means that these systems generally tend to operate near equilibrium points, with small perturbations around those points. When the perturbations become too great, the system breaks. That is true of political, social, and economic systems as well.

What eventually leads to the decline of these systems is, in a word, excess. Zealots, and unchecked deviations from equilibrium are malignant, just as unchecked proliferation of cells within the human body is malignant. Excess kills; it kills ideologies, economies, and societies. One would think that persons with obsessive compulsive disorder would be inherently healthier, being irrationally compelled to hygienic behaviors; one would think hovering parents would have healthier, safer and happier children, when in fact those children are more likely to develop anxiety and depression. One would think that copious use of antibiotics would darn well be the fountain of youth, and one would be wrong. Excesses in the endocrine system leads to diabetes, weight problems, cancer and cardiovascular disease. Excesses in the immune system leads to vasculitis, lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis; excesses in the cardiovascular system leads to blood pressure problems, stroke and kidney failure, etc. All of which are observable instances of the concept that excessive perturbations from equilibrium, or the forces that restore equilibrium are destructive.

So on to your point: is history moving in the "progressive" direction? Some of it is, and some of it is not. History is replete with examples of ideological and political excesses being the undoing of movements: the Taiping Heavenly Movement, the Khmer Rouge, Robespierre, etc. Fanaticism is more virulent than complacency, and complacency is far from being a virtue. If it seems that history is moving away from some conservative principles, it is that some conservative principles are moving away from equilibrium. This is most obvious in the concentrations of wealth in a few individuals and institutions. Capitalism is good, fanatical capitalism is not. The right to keep and bear small arms is good, the right to possess artillery is not. Adequate resources for law enforcement is good, civil forfeiture is not. Private healthcare is good; exclusively private healthcare is not.The same holds true for progressives: as Gabe also notes, an excess of progressivism does not seem to have benefetted many of our larger urban areas. Obsessive compulsive traits are no healthier in poitical movements than they are in individual persons.

Many of the behaviors of progressives, e.g. speech codes, victimhood tournament brackets, etc. are contrary to the interests of progressives. If it seems that some conservatives act contrary to the interests of conservatism, it may be that some conservatives realize that excess conservatism is contrary to the interests of conservatives.

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z9z99
on August 20, 2017 at 19:13:39 pm

Kevin:

Again thanks for the links - WILL get to them after a mini-golf break.

BTW: I think you are right on the "elusiveness" of Progressive as McGinnis presented it.
BTW 2: Thx For the previous recommendation on Novus Ordum.

take care
gabe

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gabe
on August 20, 2017 at 19:21:19 pm

Z:

Good to see you back:

Absotively spot-on.

A world without limits is, perhaps, the MOST limiting of all possible worlds and one in which *prudence* becomes a pejorative.

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gabe
on August 20, 2017 at 20:42:45 pm

Objection, relevance.

Jefferson wrote to Madison about the dangers inherent in too great a concentration of wealth, which is not a problem limited to industrial societies. See e.g., English feudalism.

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LawDog
on August 20, 2017 at 20:58:50 pm

z9z99 makes some very interesting observations. If I understand correctly, you seem to be asserting that all events depend on whatever a system will bear, and any excesses to that particular “sweet-spot” value, necessarily triggers forces of equalization to restore it to its natural equilibrium. Below I will try to test the validity of your argument by isolating a few “arguably” related examples, only as illustration, (and, perhaps to make a point, biased and inflammatory, as it may be).

Please note, my discussion below in no way should be taken to suggest that I am accusing z9z99 of making such connections or assertions, as I lay them down purely in theory, or that z9z99 in anyway supports any of the atrocities I cite. I am merely reacting here to z9z99’s observations (which do in fact appear to be accurate), and I apologize in advance, if z9z99 feels like I am singling him/her out or seeking to deride him/her in any way; please be assured that I am not. My observations and comments are meant to be wholly independent and attributable to me, and in no way attributable to z9z99 own thinking, by anything he may have suggested in his/her commentary, and they are only incidental to z9z99’s own commentary, in as much as they have been derived and inspired from his/her original and very well-considered and stated observations.

And, so I begin by suggesting, as illustration, it may be that, for the 32 years +/- that Stalin was in power, the approximately 2.9 million people who innocently died as victims of his political tyranny was about the number of victims the Soviet System could bear without precipitating a country-wide uprising to depose him from his dictatorship. Therefore, although 2.9 million is a large number, in this case it does not represent excess victims that the Soviet system could not bear, and, it should be of no surprise to anyone that equalizing forces were not naturally triggered to reverse the murderous trends.

Conversely, the approx. 11 million (approx. 6 million of these innocent Jews), innocent deaths over the 12 years of Hitler’s reign, did actually represent an access of innocent victimhood for what the Nazi system could reasonably bear, (and what the world could stomach), thus triggering equalizing forces on an inter-national scale, that would ultimately succeed in defeating this diabolical regime, and an eventual restoration of equilibrium. Perhaps Hitler’s fatal flaw and eventual demise, is not found in the number of innocent victims he claimed, but in his excessive intemperance, ambition, and impatience, and had he properly paced himself, he could have better ensured that the carnage would have remained just within system’s balance, adding years, maybe decades, to the Third Reich, if not the similarly overly ambitious thousand years he predicted. Had he not despised Stalin so greatly, he may have actually learned a valuable lesson from his more measured butchery.

Lastly, but certainly not least, American Progressivism seems to trump even Nazi and Stalinist systems of political ideology, in its effectiveness and longevity, which isn’t so surprising; American’s do everything better, even perpetual atrocity. Or it may be that Progressives are simply better students of history, (irony can be found everywhere), and their success can be found in what they learned from the Nazi and Stalinist forbearer’s practice. During the 44 years since Roe legalized abortion in 1973, 60 million +/- is the commonly accepted, (abortionists are humble people and dispute this amount as being grossly overestimated, or perhaps it is that they rely on the American Slave 3/5’s person rule of thumb method for counting dead baby humans; they have been known to employ fuzzy-math in other instances, such as in the method in which Planned Parenthood calculates that abortions account for only 3% of their total annual procedures) approximation of legal abortions having occurred in the U.S., and despite persistent and widespread resistance over these 44 years by forces seeking to equalize the legal rights and protections due unborn human beings, the 1 million to 1.5 million legal abortions per year still have remained fairly constant; although there does seem to have been some gradual decline overall in recent years. And whereas, these same forces opposed to legalized abortion might argue that even one abortion is excessive, natural forces seem to contradict this sentimental notion (this is odd in itself, as Progressive ideology typically is the more sentimental, excessively so) and suggest the sweet-spot is actually around 1-1.5 million per annum, as the number of dead babies the U.S. system can bear without becoming appalled, or at least introspective.

So it would seem z9z99’s observations in general, and about Progressives in particular, (and Conservatives), are fairly accurate. At least as I narrowly confine them here, it does seem true that “[m]any of the behaviors of progressives, e.g. speech codes, victimhood tournament brackets, etc. are contrary to the interests of progressives” – however, the vigorous promotion and protection of legalized abortion, is not.

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Paul Binotto
on August 20, 2017 at 21:24:02 pm

That was the eventual result of General Washington's suggestion in Philadelphia, but you don't need a constitutional amendment to achieve the effect. That's my point: a simple bill fixes the problem, as COTUS is silent wrt the size of the lower house of Congress. Easy sell for Dems, as it eliminates the Electoral College gerrymander.

l would argue for Memphis, St. Louis, or KC as the new home for SCOTUS. Central to the nation's population.

As for the House, hold sessions in Atlanta, Chicago, and Denver once a year. They are all hub cities, with first-rate convention facilities and again, have the center of US population surrounded. Other business can still be done mostly by telecommute.

Jello Biafra had it right: Unless and until we solve the problem of corruption, we'll never fix the government--at either the federal or state (often, worse!) level.

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LawDog
on August 20, 2017 at 21:54:12 pm

The inequity of giving Wyoming such outsized power has become morally unsustainable, making a mockery of the concept of "one person, one vote." And there's no reason why we can't revisit the composition of the Senate via constitutional amendment.

"But we like being able to force our will on you" is not a sustainable argument, but it is the one that conservatives are making for the status quo. Reminds me of a famous scene from Mel Brooks's Spaceballs (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WgjMZ6vmYWg)

Lone Starr (owes money to Pizza):
A hundred thousand spacebucks? By tomorrow?

Pizza the Hutt:
A hundred thousand? Hahaha! No way! You forgot late charges, which brings it up to ... one million spacebucks.

Lone Starr:
A million? That's unfair.

Pizza the Hutt:
Unfair to the *payor*, but not to the *payee.* Hahaha! But you're gonna pay it, or else!

Barf:
Or else what?

Pizza the Hutt:
Tell him, Vinnie.

Vinnie:
Or else Pizza is gonna send out for *you*!

gabe: "but now we would wish to obliterate the fundamental structure of the government, i.e., the compromise regarding the duality between population and status as a sovereign State."

Why is this arrangement sacrosanct? lt was a compromise the delegates had to make, or it would have been impossible to form the Union. Sort of like slaves equaling 3/5 of a man for apportionment purposes. We let go of the latter; why not the former?

You would still enable the States to select their Senators, but a reasonable level of equity would be infused into the system.

gabe: "Bad enough when judicial decisions so enlarge the scope of one Clause or Amendment (14th for example) so as to diminish the remaining clauses,"

You want the States to be able to sodomize the Bill of Rights? SRSLY?

This was the problem addressed by the 14Am: States could no longer be trusted to respect the rights of their citizens, and federal oversight became necessary.

lt is what the Reconstruction Congress intended, and what the people ratified. The States gave up a significant portion of their sovereignty--for better or worse. How the courts got there is dubious at best, but it is hard to make a serious argument that they shouldn't have gotten there.

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LawDog
on August 20, 2017 at 22:50:53 pm

Mr. Binotto,

I hope the disclaimers of your second paragraph were not for my benefit. Please understand that I regard being offended by the opinions of others as a sign of weak character, and apply the same standard to myself.

You bring up a rather interesting point, if I understand you correctly (and probably so, even if I don't): is morality one of the restorative forces that is necessary to the existence of stable societies? And, in a related consideration, is there such thing as a moral equilibrium? This is a problem for philosophers and ethicists, and even proponents of Natural Law. The ambiguities of real life however often make no room for academic theories. It may be that the Nazis were undone primarily by an excess of faulty racial theories and consequent policies. (I am sure the bland language that I just used will be offensive to someone). The use of the word "final" in final solution itself tips off a suicidal excess. But I think the case could also be made that a more practical excess was Hitler's coveting of the Ukraine and the nutty notion of Lebensraum.. The reality (I suspect that Kevin Hardwick is much more educated in this regard than I am) is likely that there is no single "excess" that, if controlled, would have kept the Nazi regime in place into the twenty first century. Absolute power invites excess and excess invites ruin.

Now with regard to abortion, it can be observed that reality is inconvenient to absolutes on either side. A well-formed conscience can be appalled by the prospect of abortion on demand, or late term abortion, and even consider that these are contrary to human dignity and ultimately destructive to the society that promotes them, but still concede that there are circumstances, such as ectopic pregnancies, where medical facts take precedence over moral dicta. Conversely, even the most avid "Pro-choice" activist might feel unease when forced to confront the prospect of a healthy, vulnerable human fetus, struggling against the interventions of the abortionist, until the disparity of force results in his or her death. Of yet, I know of no Christian baker being forced to bake a cake celebrating someone's abortion, nor do I expect to do so in the near future. There is a reason why abortion advocates sometimes resort to logical fallacies and wild analogies to make their case. To quote Bernie Lincicome "Some things you suspect, some things you guess at and some things you just know." Most people just know that abortion is not just a matter of privacy. Please note here that I am not suggesting a moral equivalence, or relativism, or ambiguity between the two poles of the discussion; I am merely noting that human life presents challenges to moral absolutes.

As uncomfortable as the notion is, there are moral equilibria, even in societies that profess that this or that life matters. We make trade offs that tolerate 40,000 highway deaths a year, so many suicides by firearms, or overdoses; we tolerate 40 ski slope deaths per year; God knows how many motorcycle closed head traumas that lead to lifelong disability, and so forth. The reason is, that were we to take a "zero tolerance" approach to any of these, we would not risk, but guarantee excesses in the use of force to control conduct that sometimes has tragic outcomes. Can we put a price on human life? Medicare does. It used to (I don't know if it still does) use hemodialysis as the cost per year of life saved in determining whether a particular therapy was cost effective. This is the dilemma: sometimes individual conduct that produces morally disquieting outcomes can only be controlled by morally disquieting, demeaning, and ultimately self-destructive excesses of force.

Human life, and human politics and human relationships are sometimes messy, and being human means that you will sometimes be saddened by that fact.

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z9z99
on August 20, 2017 at 23:15:18 pm

As to the other point, is morality a restorative force in societal and political equilibria? I believe that answer is "yes." This of course immediately raises the question of what is the appropriate source of morality?

I think to a degree that morality is inate. The fact that there have been attempts to develop and codify moral and ethical systems by Aristotle and Augustine, and Confucius and Aquinas, and others, orthat nameless persons passed on morality through custom and tradition, is merely a convenience for us. Al; societies and political states will conform to some notion of shared morality. A free society, where persons are able to contribute to morality-based debates will do so better than those that are not.

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z9z99
on August 21, 2017 at 04:31:45 am

Law adapts to meet the changing needs of a society, and urban problems naturally favor more collectivist solutions.

gabe: "Let us not get stuck in 18th / 19th century imperial diplomacy (or lack thereof). simply repeating the Code Pink mantra of “Blood for Oil” does NOT make it so."

Nor do your pejorative denials refute it. Darth Cheney and his ghouls carved up lraq's oil in private session before the war, but popular pressure and an effective resistance movement thwarted their scheme.

As for Venezuela, it's not like we weren't behind the last two coup attempts. We've even overthrown Australia's government. So, why have we engineered ~80 coups since 1953?

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LawDog
on August 21, 2017 at 09:07:34 am

Dear Z9Zpp,

I am relieved but not surprised, that you should possess a strong character to match your obvious and equally strong mind; a rare combination, indeed. Many who frequent these precincts possess one or the other of these strengths, but seldom both. I have found these Hyper-sensitive times often require hyper-sensitive disclosures, so it is in providing one, that I try to spare myself the firestorm of admonishment that will almost always follow from certain quarters.

You are quite right; I am sure, on all accounts. I do question, however, whether or not that the "practical excess [of] Hitler’s coveting of the Ukraine and the nutty notion of Lebensraum" would have provided sufficient rallying-cry for the mobilization of the American public to willingly enter militarily into that conflict. After all, such expansions are widely tolerated even today, with measured, sometimes empty, reaction purposed to contain, not reverse, or prevent, aggressive takings and obnoxious squatting.

You cite a number of obvious examples where zero tolerance is clearly unreasonable, counter-productive, and just plain naïve. Of course, aspiring to perfection is not the same as expecting to ever achieve it, nor that there may not ever be some instances where moral reasoning would deem an undesirable, immoral act justified; but still never deem it inconsequential.

Traffic deaths are an excellent example: It is obvious, mobility is an important individual and common good, and worth the risk of even the great human cost to life that 40,000 deaths represents. This, of course, is very different from arguing that 40,000 dead is a requirement of mobility. Or, put another way, that it is an acceptable risk, that for every time someone climbs into the seat of their car, that they accept, in the name of the moral good of universal mobility, the risk that the person driving behind them may legally, intentionally, and justifiably drive them off the road to their death, for no other reason than that they stand in the way of their forward progress and pose a potential (real or imagined) threat to their future mobility; that it is justifiable that they should take your mobility because it does not perfectly fit with their own. Or, to consider it legitimate that people who drive less expensive, less fuel efficient cars are justified in pushing their passengers out of their moving vehicles in order to improve the distances they may travel on a single tank of gas.

"Of yet, I know of no Christian baker being forced to bake a cake celebrating someone’s abortion, nor do I expect to do so in the near future. - and yet, St. Louis has deemed it unreasonable that Pro-Life pregnancy resource centers should wish not to employ Pro-Choice employees, or that Churches may discipline a minister or teacher for promoting abortion to its congregation or school children, contrary to that Church's religious beliefs. How is this any less alarming than the absurdity that you cite? Who now is it that wishes to have their cake and eat it, too?

Of course, there may be those who will argue, abortion on demand is only the natural and proper response to achieve the population controls once naturally accomplished by once prevalent, but now largely eradicated, fatal childhood deceases. However, this would only seem to suggest that progress can be counter-productive, an oxymoron, no matter how less messy.

Of course, you are quite right, in terms of calculating the value of human life, that those who over-see the economies of health insurance providers likely possess as much incentive to value it cheaply, as much as does the abortion provider.

Human life, politics, and relationships, as you say, are indeed messy business; it’s true and as the adage goes, "nobody ever said life is fair". Everyone who has ever lived would testify to this. Ironic, then, that promoting legalized abortion on demand as a means to equalizing the playing field for woman, less advantaged or otherwise, should seem such an obvious and final panacea as to rightly garner the whole weight and power and imprimatur of the Constitution and government.

That life should be messy is only a rationale observation that is borne out by shared experience, and it is also only rationale that most people should be saddened, but accepting of this as a necessary reality of living. And, I assure all, that I am no less rationale, and no less accepting of reality. Yet, it is the more saddening to me, that so many people have become capable of rationalizing that life should become any less messy, by the intentional deprivation of it to others. This when American’s are normally such an empathetic people, that they risk death in the tearing down of statues, in order to rectify the wrongful glorification of an immoral period in American history; this to the point of demanding the withdrawal of every legal protection against the destruction of things inorganic and inanimate, even while finding little contradiction in also demanding the erection of monumental legal protections to preserve the destruction of animate organisms. Then, too, it may be, that it is necessary to tear down these reminders because they have become uncomfortable juxtapositions to what we currently find worth glorifying.

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Paul Binotto
on August 21, 2017 at 11:17:05 am

Dawg:

Such a forceful / cogent analysis - one might be tempted to say that it *eclipses* all previous understandings of the nature of COTUS.

oops, says Homer Simpson: "Hey, wait a minute. Doesn't an eclipse make things darker? Hmmmmm!"

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gabe
on August 21, 2017 at 12:50:23 pm

Z & Paul:

Excellent series of comments. I was quite taken by them. Z, I will *select* one of your comments (simply for convenience here) as a means of fleshing out a point.

"The fact that there have been attempts to develop and codify moral and ethical systems by Aristotle and Augustine, and Confucius and Aquinas, and others, or that nameless persons passed on morality through custom and tradition, is merely a convenience for us. "

Certainly true - but perhaps it understates the importance of that "custom and tradition." I believe that morality, be it exposited in the form of law, dogma or philosophical musings / teachings on morality (may) come to be perceived and acted upon by all within its sway as a *myth*. N.B. Myth is not herein used in the pejorative sense, but rather as a tale / fable / (and, yes) Truth that acts as a sustaining force within and UPON that polity. It is as Paul says, an expression of that "perfection" which we all, innately and via experience, recognize shall never be attained. Still, absent such a (non-attainable) goal we flounder, we drift, we confuse / conflate morally questionable alternatives with those solutions / practices / behaviors that have, over time immemorial, have proven efficacious in bonding the polity.

Yes, clearly there will be (Oakeshottian) *collisions* as this is consequent upon human intercourse. Often times, we (and I am also guilty of this) limit our recognition / acceptance of the prevalence of Oakeshottian *collisions* to those phenomena (conflicts) presumed to be covered by positive law. (In a sense we are all legal positivists). Yet, I think there is a deeper understanding to be garnered from these *collisions* ; and it is this: Even our myths, our dogmas, our moral absolutes must, indeed, will be tempered by the collisions of human intercourse and human aspiration.

I commented earlier that a "world without limits" ( a reference to a now dated aspirational credo by some Progressives) is perhaps the most limiting of all possible worlds. Clearly, this was intended as a critique of the current "excess liberty" narrative; but it should also be viewed as a recognition / admonition that even our moral absolutes may, as Z has eloquently detailed above, be tested and be found to be wanting in certain "collisions". Attribute this to the frailty / fallacy of human reason and / or human passion, perhaps?
And yet, to discard that which has sustained us for millennia on the basis of an "outlier" condition is a) foolish and b) far more likely to occur (and to my mind, has occured in the present) if we persist in believing / promoting the notion that all morality, all myths are absolute and without limit.

At times, it may be better to accept the old adage that a code or law is more homored in the breach than in the observation. A quick example:

Once had a discussion with a fellow who argued that one could not reasonably argue against abortion and FOR capital punishment. I thought otherwise and advanced the argument that a) becuase life is SO precious (so sacred, without any doctrinal implications here) that b) the unjustified taking of it warrants the ultimate punishment. In effect, by breaching the underlying value, "life is sacred" in the execution of a miscreant soul, we are actually affirming our underlying proposition. Thus, none shall take life, without cause EXCEPT when it is done to affirm our underlying (near) absolute. (OK, shorthand here may distill out some of the force of argument but...)

It is *sad*, indeed, to recognize this but we MUST. We MUST also not abandon those codes / values / morals simply because, in our human frailty and imperfect reason, we are unable to address ALL possible conditions.
We do have LIMITS.
What is important is, as Z says, "A free society, where persons are able to contribute to morality-based debates will do so better than those that are not." - LIMITS and all.

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gabe
on August 21, 2017 at 13:23:07 pm

Mr. Gabe,

Even in shorthand, your argument carries more force than I manage to garner over the course of probably close to 2000 words contained across my separate attempts. You make excellent and well considered points!

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Paul Binotto
on August 21, 2017 at 14:42:49 pm

Only change I would make is to argue for Newark, Detroit , Chicago and other bastions of Democrat Party utopia. _Ha!!!!!!

And yep, corruption is THE problem; but let me clarify that a tad bit: It is not simply the corruption of finances / influence BUT rather the corruption of *virtu* that I find to be a more likely driver of our current political condition.

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gabe
on August 21, 2017 at 14:53:48 pm

Perhaps, if you are using liberal as a synonym for Whiggish and suggesting that a liberal Whig is the opposite of a Tory or monarchist in Whig-world. But the fact remains that in Whig-world the better sort of people are the ones wearing spurs and the rest should be content to be ridden.

I would say simply that after a century and a third of unbridled liberal Whiggism, the Republic is noticeably less republican and leave it at that.

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EK
on August 21, 2017 at 15:37:55 pm

“Whenever there is in any country, uncultivated lands and unemployed poor, it is clear that the laws of property have been so far extended as to violate natural right.”

Did Jefferson do Winstanley and Everard the courtesy of citing “The True Leveller Standard Advanced” (1649)?

Or how 'bout Hugo Grotius, De jure belli ac pacis libri tres [On the Law of War and Peace: three books] (1625):

And if there be any waste or barren land within our dominions, that also is to be given to strangers, at their request, or may be lawfully possessed by them, because whatever remains uncultivated, is not to be esteemed property....

Or John Locke, Two Treaties of Government (1689), Book I, Chapter IV., Of Adam’s title to sovereignty, by donation, Gen. i.28:

§ 41. ….The most specious thing to be said is, that he that is proprietor of the whole world, may deny all the rest of mankind food, and so at his pleasure starve them, if they will not acknowledge his sovereignty, and obey his will. If this were true, it would be a good argument to prove, that there never was any such property, that God never gave any such private dominion; since it is more reasonable to think, that God, who bid mankind increase and multiply, should rather himself give them all a right to make use of the food and raiment, and all conveniences of life, the material whereof he had so plentifully provided for them, than to make them depend upon the will of a man for their subsistence, who should have power to destroy them all when he pleased, and who, being no better than other men, was in succession likelier, by want and the dependence of a scanty fortune, to tie them to hard service, than by liberal allowance of the conveniences of life to promote the great design of God, “increase and multiply:” he that doubts this, let him look into the absolute monarchies of the world, and see what becomes of the conveniences of life, and the multitudes of people.

§ 42. [W]e know that God hath not left one man so to the mercy of another, that he may starve him if he please: God, the Lord and father of all, has given no one of his children such a property in his particular portion of the things of this world, but that he has given his needy brother a right to the surplusage of his goods; so that it cannot justly be denied him, when his pressing wants call for it: and therefor no man could have a just power over the life of another by right of property in land or possessions; since it would always be a sin, in any man of estate, to let his brother perish for want to affording him relief out of his plenty. [C]harity gives every man a title to so much out of another man’s plenty as will keep him from extreme want, where he has no means to subsist otherwise: and a man can no more justly make use of another’s necessity to force him to become his vassal, by with-holding that relief God requires him to afford to the wants of his brother, than he that has more strength can seize upon a weaker, master him to his obedience, and with a dagger at this throat offer him death or slavery.

§ 43. Should any one make so perverse an use of God’s blessings poured on him with a liberal hand; should any one be cruel and uncharitable to that extremity; yet all this would not prove that propriety in land, even in this case, gave any authority over the persons of men, but only that compact might; since the authority of the rich proprietor, and the subjection of the needy beggar, being not from the possession of the lord, but the consent of the poor man, who preferred being his subject to starving. And the man he thus submits to, can pretend to no more power over him, than he has consented to, upon compact. Upon this ground a man’s having his stores filled in a time of scarcity, having money in his pocket, being in the vessel at sea, being able to swim, &c. may as well be the foundation of rule and dominion, as being possessor of all the land in the world: any of these being sufficient to enable me to save a man’s life, who would perish, if such assistance were denied him; and any thing, by this rule, that may be an occasion of working upon another’s necessity to save his life, or any thing dear to him, at the rate of his freedom, may be made a foundation of sovereignty, as well as property. From all which it is clear, that though God should have given Adam private dominion, yet that private dominion could give him no sovereignty: but we have already sufficiently proved, that God gave him no “private dominion.”

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nobody.really
on August 21, 2017 at 15:56:34 pm

I don't follow you here.

I was replying to Gabe's comment that the US did not pursue Jeffersonian agrarianism. The McPherson review is completely relevant, as warrant for my reply.

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Kevin Hardwick
on August 21, 2017 at 16:04:50 pm

Your comment here does not make sense to me. Your opening word, "perhaps," indicates skepticism about some prior comment of mine. But absent greater precision, I don't know to which comment of mine you are objecting.

Are you objecting to my characterization of your earlier comment about urbanization and liberalism? If so, I have to disagree with your characterization here. I emphatically do not have to invoke a neo-Whig understanding of history in order for my comment to be true. Rather, I am suggesting that your argument about urbanization promoting liberalism is precisely the view of history that Professor McGinnis describes as "the Progressive view of history." Per his definition, Whig historiography has nothing to do with it.

But I may very well be misunderstanding you. As I indicated above, I am not sure to what you are responding here.

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Kevin Hardwick
on August 21, 2017 at 16:16:20 pm

EK--

My pardon--I ascribed to you an argument advanced by "Lawdog." Here is what he wrote:

"History is neither left nor right; it simply is. Society is moving to the left as it becomes more urban; conservative solutions are less tenable in that environment."

I am suggesting that the view of historical evolution across time asvanced here by lawdog fits the definition of "Progressive view of history" as expounded by Dr. McGinnis in his reply to my first post.

It may also be a good example of neo-Whig history, although it does not have to be. But that is irrelevant one way or another to the definition proposed by Dr. McGinnis.

But perhaps it is some other argument of mine that you find problematic? Can you clarify?

Thanks . . .

Kevin

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Kevin Hardwick
on August 21, 2017 at 16:23:03 pm

One last point: I am emphatically not conflating liberalism and Whig history. I am pretty sure that most 20th century Whig historians advocated for what today we would call neo-liberalism, that is, free market capitalism. But I don't know for sure that that is true for all of them, nor that it is true of necessity because the two are logically identical. Nor am I yet persuaded that one can be a proponent of neo-liberalism and not be an advocate of neo-Whig notions of progress. So I don't wish to be construed as arguing that the two are synonymous, although I am willing to be persuaded.

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Kevin Hardwick
on August 21, 2017 at 16:34:03 pm

Z--

You are very kind. I can claim scholarly expertise about the American founding, and a number of related 17th and 18th century topics. I have devoted some time to reading about 20th century European history, but not with the same degree of rigor.

Sociological counter-factuals make me uncomfortable--a hazard of my discipline, most likely. I am quite comfortable asserting that the proximate cause for the collapse of the Nazi regime was the failed war with the USSR. Accounts I have read suggest that the Soviets were planning to initiate war with Nazi Germany, but of course did not because the Barbarossa offensive intervened. But it is of course possible that had the Germans not attacked, Germany and the USSR would have remained at peace.

I wish I had wiser observations for you--I have certainly found in your words here much food for thought. Please accept my thanks for taking the time to compose them.

Best wishes,
Kevin

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Kevin Hardwick
on August 22, 2017 at 08:35:06 am

And what evidence do you have that your solutions will yield a better outcome?

As H. Ross Perot predicted, YOUR solution is what hollowed out Detroit in the first place. YOUR solution is what poisoned the people of Flint.

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LawDog
on August 22, 2017 at 08:36:59 am

Endless wars will hollow out any empire, and your man Trump genuflected to the generals.

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LawDog
on August 22, 2017 at 08:46:39 am

lt was aimed at gabe. lt is not relevant to the question of income inequality, which was the topic under consideration. Since Plutarch, it has been understood that (in modern terms) a high GlNl score precipitates social instability. This was widely understood as true by the intellectual lights of the day, such as Grotius, Locke, and later, Alexis de Tocqueville.

The debate over whether an agrarian or a manufacturing-based society is preferable has long been settled; l see no reason to go down that rabbit-hole.

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LawDog
on August 22, 2017 at 08:53:24 am

gabe, Detroit is what happens whenever you take away a town's revenue base, and your Chicago School economics is what killed it--that, and the systematic conservative racism that inspires your fellow travelers to carry tiki torches and poison land (see the Kochs' petcoke dump in Detroit) and drinking water (Flint). You OWN Rick Snyder.

And when has any society been virtuous?

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LawDog
on August 22, 2017 at 09:06:14 am

gabe, you're evading the question. To argue that we should preserve the status quo just because that's the way it has been done since the days of Henry Vlll is grotesque.

This is all about conservatives' love of injustice--but only when it benefits THEM.

Make a defensible argument for preserving the status quo. "But we want to shove our religious and societal views down others' throats by force, which is why we work so hard to suppress the vote" is probably the actual answer, but not an elegant one. lt lacks what you would call "*virtu*."

l take it that you didn't see the eclipse yesterday. l was posting from my convertible (that doubled as a lounge chair!) yesterday, waiting for the celestial show. Breathtaking! Not to be missed.

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LawDog
on August 22, 2017 at 09:16:05 am

Kevin, l am referring to societal evolution. Rather by definition, "history" is born dead.

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LawDog
on August 22, 2017 at 09:31:59 am

Kevin, free-market capitalism hasn't existed in the real world since Leland Stanford was in short pants. Adam Smith's rudimentary equations are useful for analytical purposes, but barriers to entry make a blind--essentially religious--belief in the Market Fairy untenable.

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LawDog
on August 22, 2017 at 10:01:24 am

N.B. Myth is not herein used in the pejorative sense....

I should hope not! That's my maiden name.

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nobody.really
on August 22, 2017 at 10:24:30 am

Lawdog--

No argument from me. But I was describing the normative beliefs of others, not making claims about present realities. My claim was about the underlying ideals of Whig historiography.

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Kevin Hardwick
on August 22, 2017 at 10:34:17 am

Lawdog--

There is an old joke that your comment brings to mind.

Three minor league umpires having drinks at the end of a hot day.

"I calls'em the way I sees'em" says the first.

"I calls'em the way they IS," says the second.

"They ain't nothing 'til I calls'em," retorts the third.

The past is dead. But history is not. History exists only in the mind of a living person, and is at best only a very imperfect account of what happened in the past. Historical knowledge is always the result of a living person posing a question and then marshaling evidence to attempt to answer it. The evidence typically does not change, but the questions certainly do. Historians and that third umpire have much in common.

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Kevin Hardwick
on August 22, 2017 at 10:42:06 am

l think of DeFoe's Divine Satyr; these thoughts did not occur in a vacuum. Whether you choose Harrington over Sidney or Grotius is largely one of personal preference. Hobbes gave us a clear statement of the social contract. Locke divorced it from the need to postulate the existence of a psychotic ancient tribal sky-daddy. Montesquieu solved the problem of supremacy. The right to revolution goes all the way back to Aquinas and Bishop John of Salisbury--at least, within the Christian tradition.

l know that this is what you historians do, but l'm too pragmatic to care.

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LawDog
on August 22, 2017 at 10:58:55 am

I don't think we are in substantive disagreement though. I was just trying to explain why, in the broad historical (but hardly owned exclusively by academic historians!) conversation about the American founding, Harrington remains relatively obscure.

In the late 1950s an historian named Caroline Robbins documented the extraordinarily rich and deep political-theoritical conversation in Great Britain descended from the mid-17th century effort to establish an English comminwealth. Her book has the nicely simple title THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY COMMONWEALTHMAN, and is much cited. Harrington was just one of many, whose influence extended into the 18th century. Many others were more often read than he.

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Kevin Hardwick
on August 22, 2017 at 11:08:48 am

"But we HATES abortion, don't we, my Precious? Gollum!"

Religious bugnuttery rears its ugly head again; l had Mr. Binotto pegged the first time.

An compelling countervailing argument that a woman should have the right to decide when and/or whether to bear a child; that Binotto thinks that it makes his Widdle Baby Jesus CWY (the actual one is too dead to weigh in) is of no legal significance.

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LawDog
on August 22, 2017 at 11:29:28 am

I have long thought that abortion is a thorny issue in the US because it pits two foundational values against each other.

What it means to be free is for my body not to be owned by someone else. That's pretty basic in liberal thought from at least Locke forward, and it was very basic too in much of the liberal critique of slavery in the US from the 1760s forward. Self-ownership underlies the 13th amendment. Only an idiot will deny that reproduction involves work: that gestation and delivery require profound physical work. It's called "labor" for a reason.

Equally, we are, as people committed to living in a liberal society, committed to promotion of human life and human flourishing. And whatever else a fetus may be, it's hard to deny that it is human. Late term abortions are painful to look at, or think about, because the fetus has pretty much all of the attributes of a baby. Miscarriage is tragedy; abortion even more so.

Two lives, one body. There is no morally easy way, at least that I can see, to squaring that circle.

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Kevin Hardwick
on August 22, 2017 at 13:25:03 pm

Some excellent takes, Z.

l would submit that the abortion question sounds more in liberty--or more specifically, your right to do what others regard as improper. lt is amazing how willing people are to claim this right for themselves ... but refuse to begrudge them to others.

The problem with morality as a guiding principle for a society is that everyone's moral code is different, and there is no compelling warrant for picking one moral code over another. Our societal solution for this problem lies in the preservation of as many natural rights as we can, keeping ideologues like Mr. Binotto from imposing his will on the defenseless "other."

When Christians are prepared to accept an absolute, no exceptions ban on Christianity, they can wake me up.

Personally, l abhor telling others what to do. Don't believe in abortion? Fine. Don't have one. But unless the anti-abortion crowd can tear their Jesus away from his crushing schedule of playing canasta long enough to express his clear and unambiguous opinion, whatever they THlNK his opinion is is not germane to the discussion. Rights are not the proper subject of a plebiscite.

My suspicion is that the historical Jesus would disown you.

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LawDog
on August 22, 2017 at 13:27:20 pm

Some excellent takes, Z.

l would submit that the abortion question sounds more in liberty--or more specifically, your right to do what others regard as improper. lt is amazing how willing people are to claim this right for themselves ... but refuse to begrudge them to others.

The problem with morality as a guiding principle for a society is that everyone's moral code is different, and there is no compelling warrant for picking one moral code over another. Our societal solution for this problem lies in the preservation of as many natural rights as we can, keeping ideologues like Mr. Binotto from imposing his will on the defenseless "other."

When Christians are prepared to accept an absolute, no exceptions ban on Christianity, they can wake me up.

Personally, l abhor telling others what to do. Don't believe in abortion? Fine. Don't have one. But unless the anti-abortion crowd can tear their Jesus away from his crushing schedule of canasta marathons long enough to express a clear and unambiguous opinion, whatever they THlNK his opinion is is not germane to the discussion. Rights are not the proper subject of a plebiscite.

My suspicion is that the historical Jesus would disown you.

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LawDog
on August 22, 2017 at 14:02:47 pm

And, while these old sources don't provide for the poor to cultivate uncultivated land, they do provide for the poor to go onto and benefit from land belonging to others.

Constant duties:

Leviticus 19:9-10: When you gather in the harvest of your land, you must not completely harvest the corner of your field, and you must not gather up the gleanings of your harvest. You must not pick your vineyard bare, and you must not gather up the fallen grapes of your vineyard. You must leave them for the poor and the foreigner….

Deuteronomy 24:19-21: Whenever you reap your harvest in your field and leave some unraked grain there, you must not return to get it; it should go to the resident foreigner, orphan, and widow so that the LORD your God may bless all the work you do. When you beat your olive tree you must not repeat the procedure; the remaining olives belong to the resident foreigner, orphan, and widow. When you gather the grapes of your vineyard you must not do so a second time; they should go to the resident foreigner, orphan, and widow.

Deuteronomy 23:24-25: When you enter the vineyard of your neighbor you may eat as many grapes as you please, but you must not take away any in a container. When you go into the ripe grain fields of your neighbor you may pluck off the kernels with your hand, but you must not use a sickle on your neighbor's ripe grain. (To see this in action, read Matthew 12:1; Mark 2:23; Luke 6:1).

Special occasions:

Exodus 23:10-11: For six years you are to sow your land and gather in its produce. But in the seventh year you must let it lie fallow and leave it alone so that the poor of your people may eat, and what they leave any animal in the field may eat; you must do likewise with your vineyard and your olive grove.

Leviticus 25:4-7: [I]n the seventh year the land must have a Sabbath of complete rest — a Sabbath to the LORD. You must not sow your field or prune your vineyard. You must not gather in the aftergrowth of your harvest and you must not pick the grapes of your unpruned vines; the land must have a year of complete rest. You may have the Sabbath produce of the land to eat — you, your male servant, your female servant, your hired worker, the resident foreigner who stays with you, your cattle, and the wild animals that are in your land — all its produce will be for consumption.

In addition, these sources describe a Year of Jubilee whereby every 50 years all Israelite would regain control of land that had originally belonged to an ancestor--arguably a policy that would limit wealth disparities over time.

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nobody.really
on August 22, 2017 at 15:33:49 pm

Don't know anyone wise enough to make that decision for another without her consent. Society shouldn't be making that call.

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LawDog
on August 22, 2017 at 17:57:40 pm

You make valid observations, although I would dispute that the moral reasoning here is all that difficult. Aside from that, I would only its, "Two lives, two bodies": (otherwise, there apparently be such a market for aborted baby body parts in the Medical Research Universities, etc.).

Beyond this. we can agree to disagree; something this Dog fellow seems incapable of doing. He seems to be a text-book bully; fully reducible to a mere coward, who fancies himself to be a Pitt Bull, I suppose. You know, the kind of dog that bites onto someone and refuses to release its grip until someone comes along and clubs it or something. To me, he seems more like that annoying dog who finds an attraction to your leg and is nearly as impossible to shake-off. He seems to have beef with Christians, more so Christ himself, and he thinks that by insulting Christ, he is in someway attacking me, or insulting me. A very peculiar pathology, really. I am almost embarrassed for him; I know this obsession he seems to have developed for me, or perhaps is projecting onto me, (I tend to think the more plausible), because he can't get at the actual cause of his rage, Christ Himself, I presume, is becoming quite embarrassing to me. I tried to make peace by suggesting if we must coexist here, that we do so peaceably, but he seems not to be interested. I suppose he will settle for nothing short of my complete departure.

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Paul Binotto
on August 23, 2017 at 10:05:50 am

Wow, Paul! That essay is as muddled as a $25 mojito.

The only argument that matters regarding abortion involves personal autonomy, and what license the State has to impose the will of the majority--or in this case, America's Taliban--on the individual.

"Murder" is not an act, but a legal conclusion. Abortion before quickening (the essential holding of Roe) was legal at common law.

Conservatives think in black-and-white. The rest of us can distinguish between a fetus of three weeks' gestation and a three-year-old child ... and so does your Bible. Ex. 21:22-23.

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LawDog
on August 23, 2017 at 10:37:22 am

Sir,

You don't share my view, it matters not a shake to me. Your harassment isn't going to change my view of the truth one bit, so either you are stupid not to understand this, or stupid enough to think your harassment is going to shut me up.

You don't like what I have to say, do what I do in regards to your own commentary; don't read it. When you see my name, do as I do when I see yours; I don't bother to read it. Spare yourself the anger. But, if you are incapable of this, please, at least, stop making a total ass of yourself by repeatedly telling me (in not so many words) that you think I am a fool and a hateful idiot. I can't imagine there is anyone who frequents this site on a regular basis who hasn't figured out you have no use for my thinking. Aren't you old enough to not act so childish in response to someone, simply because you find them disagreeable. Get a life, dude!

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Paul Binotto
on August 23, 2017 at 16:42:32 pm

Nobody - where the heck have ya been?

Ahhh! I suspect that in your *maiden* days you were quite the "myth"-maker.

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gabe
on August 23, 2017 at 16:53:58 pm

Kevin:

Again, thank you for your gracious commentary; it marks a distinct and welcome counterpoint (and one that I try to convince the Dawg is more palatable to others) to the somewhat disturbed and intemperate scorn directed by some at some other commenters and their belief systems.

I will say this to the scornful among us:

I have lived a decent number of years and encountered all manner of people in all (and I MEAN all) manner of circumstances. What I have invariably found is that "people of faith" are among the most considerate and kind - and typically far more open to reasoned debate than are the "educationally incapacitated" highly credentialed who appear to have arrogated to themselves both the moral and intellectual high ground.

TO: Paul:

Under no circumstances are you to even consider *departing* There is far more wisdom and strength in one such as yourself who understands that reasoned debate is preferable to tirades; and that mere disagreement with another is NOT proof of either moral or intellectual deficiency in the disagreeing party.

DAWG: No other way to say this: Cut the shit with the Widdle Baby nonsense; or shall we reduce dialogue to alternating exhanges between Widdle Baby and Widdle Womyn / Widdle Gays - or some other such sillness?

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gabe
on August 23, 2017 at 20:11:58 pm

Mr. Gabe - thanks for the kind words and encouragement. No worries, this fellow doesn't intimidate me in the slightest; neither will he succeed in driving me away, nor in silencing me. Still, he's due his opinions. He has a good mind; maybe its simply just that his heart hasn't caught up to it yet. Sometimes folks don't even realize how they come across. Lord knows I don't always communicate well. Hope springs eternal, no?

- Best, Paul

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Paul Binotto

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