Submitting to Government Doesn’t Mean Surrendering Constitutional Rights

Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared on RealClearReligion.

COVID-19 and the public health measures in response to it have transformed the religious life of the United States, and not for the better. Until recently, many religious authorities have acquiesced to government mandates without acknowledging their right to dissent; still others have adopted an overly deferential view of the biblical command to be subject to governing authorities. For their part, the laity have mostly remained silent where they should voice their concerns to their church leadership, expressing the time-honored American tendency to see pastors and elders as something like hired specialists who will mind the matters of the church while the rest of the faithful go about their lives. Christians owe respect to both their civil and ecclesiastical governments, but our deference to authority has gone too far.

Recent acts of protest and civil disobedience offer hope that at least some Christians understand the threat. These have varied widely: for months, many churches have continued to operate in defiance of orders against it. More recently, Sing It Louder USA has helped organize events where groups could come together to celebrate Christmas in song in defiance of restrictions. With increasing success, a number of churches and synagogues have launched lawsuits against the restrictions (two major examples include Capitol Hill Baptist and Agudath Israel of America), and the Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn’s suit resulted in the Supreme Court issuing an injunction against Governor Cuomo’s restrictions on religious services. But the majority of churches remain dutifully compliant with all state restrictions.

One of the most prominent and outspoken opponents of government restrictions on worship is John MacArthur’s Grace Community Church, which has remained open in spite of fines and threats of arrest. In July, the church published “Christ, not Caesar, Is Head of the Church,” which offered a scriptural defense of their uncompromising refusal to “acquiesce to a government-imposed moratorium on… weekly congregational worship or other regular corporate gatherings,” alongside an equally stark defense of deference to governing authorities in all other matters—in effect, they claim that apart from matters crucial to defending the liberty of the church, citizens do not have any rights to civil disobedience.

In framing their objections in these terms, MacArthur and many other critics still cede too much ground to the government—and they do so by not appreciating the difference in context between Imperial Rome and the modern day. The New Testament addressed subjects, not citizens, and this is a critical difference that is easy to miss. If John Calvin, writing in the context of early modern Europe, could hold governments accountable to “the general purpose” of the law, how much more can modern Americans have a legitimate expectation that the laws made by our representatives will be “good and just” in truth, not merely cloaked with facile claims about the public health risk.

First of all, Christians ought to realize that Romans 13 and 1 Peter 2 don’t require obedience to governmental authority in all cases whatsoever. Rather than counseling obedience to all “powers that be,” many Reformers argued that Romans 13 is better understood as freeing individual believers to resist what Calvin described as powers that “are not ordained,” that is, powers that are usurping the type of authority over individual conscience that belongs to God alone. This clearly applies in the most extreme instances of executive orders restricting religious activity in 2020, such as bans on corporate song, severe limits on the size of gatherings, or outright bans of in-person worship.

Calvin’s exposition of the proper relationship to civil authority goes even further: “all obligation to observe laws,” he wrote in the Institutes 4.10.5, “looks to the general purpose, but does not consist in the things enjoined.” In other words, while we have a general obligation to obey government because it is ordained by God, because the purpose of ordinances is our good, our specific duty depends on whether the government over us is “good and just.” The line here is very fine—a respect for the rule of law is necessary if rights are to be protected, but a respect for rights is necessary if the law is to fulfill its purpose in any meaningful way.

Second, and perhaps even more importantly because it applies more widely, nothing about Romans 13 prevents Christians in America from protecting their constitutional rights. In its original context, Romans describes the believers’ relationship to an absolute imperial power, not to a constitutionally limited one. Reformed Christians have long held that to neglect to defend one’s civil liberties is the equivalent of political suicide and just as verboten to believers.

Consider the example of Loyalty Vindicated, a 1698 pamphlet which condemns “the damn’d doctrines of passive obedience and nonresistance,” and those false preachers who had told the people “that we ought patiently to hold our protestant throats to be cut by the command of a popish king.” Writing to justify Jacob Leisler’s overthrow of the royal governor of the colony of New York almost a decade earlier, the author argues that the colonial government’s failure to protect its citizens’ liberties was tantamount to a failure to protect their lives. The rights of representation and assembly—of a voice in one’s own government—were not understood as merely civil rights in the 17th century, but rather as part of a suite of protections against arbitrary power. And this author—like most other Reformed thinkers in the period— saw arbitrary power as naturally unjust, ungodly, and most importantly unordained. Resistance to such governments was not only justifiable, it was a necessary measure of self-defense.

Leisler’s group in New York, as well as others similarly motivated in Long Island, Boston, and Virginia during the period were proactive in their response to threats to liberty. They did not wait until the governments under which they lived suspended their worship services to recognize the threat of tyranny.

The governments they opposed claimed, of course, that their actions were necessary and proper, and in fact, not a danger to the people at all. Likewise, the United States today is a signatory to the COVID-19 and Religious Minorities Pandemic Statement and official CDC guidelines recognize “a fundamental right to gather for worship”—yet in practice, policies adopted by the states in response to the pandemic have not only failed to protect religious and other liberties, they have often intentionally threatened them.

After months of “emergency powers” rhetoric, we have a right to expect that any new public health measures will be laws passed by duly elected representatives, and not simply imposed by experts and executives as if we were subjects of imperial authority.

Governments around the globe have imposed tighter restrictions on worship services than other types of public gatherings, and have, in some cases attempted to interfere with religious observances directly. California’s guidelines, for example, state that places of worship “must…discontinue indoor singing and chanting activities,” despite the fact that such activities are often central to the actual exercise of any given religion.

Many of the experts religious and political authorities consult, like Italian professor Massimo Marchiori, argue not from the perspective of fundamental rights, but entirely from that of safety: “It’s our humanity that is actually bringing us toward the virus… You have to take away a bit of humanity, to become a bit antisocial, to protect humanity.” When reasoning such as this influences decisionmakers, life itself becomes an idol and the foundation for liberty collapses.

It is, perhaps, excusable that secular leaders are swayed by such arguments—they have, as it were, no official stake in the notion of transcendence, or the idea that life is given to human beings not simply for existence but for the purpose of reflecting and glorifying the Creator. Yet few religious leaders or lay persons have offered much in the way of dissent from this line of thought either. Despite the few examples of dissent we note above, the vast majority of American worshippers from all backgrounds have attempted to accommodate their religious practice to the state orders. A report released by an ecumenical group convened by the Chandler School of Theology is indicative of the ways many have even gone above and beyond the government’s guidelines, calling for the creative use of silence in worship, abbreviated preaching, and the abandonment of traditional liturgies. Likewise, the Central Conference of American Rabbis’ statement on the acceptability of virtual minyan in times of ‘emergency’ (in contradiction of their earlier rejection of such technological presence) is a display of risk-aversion that suggests temporal rather than spiritual priorities.

There is another way. Drawing on the heritage of Reformed resistance theory, American Christians can and should cast a wary eye on public policies imposed by executive fiat. After months of “emergency powers” rhetoric, we have a right to expect that any new public health measures will be laws passed by duly elected representatives, and not simply imposed by experts and executives as if we were subjects of imperial authority. This would be an important first step towards reclaiming our rights—but even then, all policies rooted in the rejection of transcendence ought to be publicly resisted. Both religious leaders and the laity ought to make an even stronger stand in favor not only of religious liberty but of human flourishing and undertake a renewed assessment of COVID’s real risks to our faith and freedom alongside the virus’ threat to our health.

Reader Discussion

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on December 23, 2020 at 11:46:47 am

Well framed and probative to rightly measured depths all around. A tell-tale indicator of the in-fact rabid extent of government's overreach attendant to this Wuhan-CCP Virus - mixing what is reasonable/responsible with obfuscations, misdirection and disinformation - is Angelo Codevilla's coinciding comment upon our ruling class, our pharisaical poseurs and pretenders, in general at this critical and darkened time, emphasis added:

"By its campaign and conduct of the 2020 election, the ruling class ceased pretending to be part of a constitutional republic. By treating fellow Americans as inferiors through word and deed, its members renounced their common citizenship with us. Eschewing persuasion, they set about compelling obedience to an openly manipulated election. ..."

A still simpler indicator of unreflective submissiveness is the kneejerk tendency to criticize Trump of all people (who can be more responsibly critiqued about specific statements, but he is after all the prime mover and impetus behind Operation Warp Speed) while simultaneously avoiding wholly warranted and indeed severe criticisms (plural, from many vantage points) of China and the CCP.

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Michael Bond
on December 23, 2020 at 12:19:27 pm

Interesting post. Yet, and with all due respect, Romans 13, can't be understood, but for calling for total obedience to authorities. Unconditional obedience. I quote relevant parts:

1 Everyone is to obey the governing authorities, because there is no authority except from God and so whatever authorities exist have been appointed by God.

2 So anyone who disobeys an authority is rebelling against God's ordinance; and rebels must expect to receive the condemnation they deserve.

And why even, it is stated:

4 it is there to serve God for you and for your good. But if you do wrong, then you may well be afraid; because it is not for nothing that the symbol of authority is the sword: it is there to serve God, too, as his avenger, to bring retribution to wrongdoers.

End of quotation:

It is strictly commanded so. The only implicit objection, may be found, in those verses, that state that love in another ultimate command, I quote:

"..... You must love your neighbor as yourself."


"10 Love can cause no harm to your neighbour, and so love is the fulfilment of the Law."

So, the only chance of the respectable author of that post with all due respect, was, to connect in dialectical terms, love and restrictions due to the pandemic.

P.S: Representatives, anyway, have the duty to consult with experts. Medical experts. Why would they necessarily reach other conclusions than restrictions? Also, executive orders, were of governors, not the federal government typically. On the contrary, the federal government, preached and fight for lifting restrictions. Intervening for example, in many litigation(by DOJ).


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El roam
on December 23, 2020 at 13:01:48 pm

Oh, gosh, could it possibly be that the interpretive dialectic provided by the topos of love (not exactly a narrow or dogmatically restrictive topos, love, in the literature of the ages) is not the solitary, the one and only, interpretive grinding stone a Christian, or non-Christian, should apply to the text?

Could it be - mirabile dictu! - your own dicta on the matter is simply your benighted interpretation, and not the final say on the matter?

With all respect due, thanks.

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Michael Bond
on December 23, 2020 at 13:25:52 pm

I brought the topos of love, only for the rhetoric. Means, the text, is so absolute(concerning obedience) that one couldn't be mistaken here. The only slim chance, is love. Love as so conspicuous and prominent, in light of such unconditional command. Nothing can be found there, asserting disobedience, but love. And love, is slim chance. Prima facie, unrelated item. Too speculative. Just for exhausting every possibility. Every unturned stone.


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El roam
on December 23, 2020 at 12:37:45 pm

This essay is an enthusiastic effort to energize a thoroughly intimidated, largely acquiescent and lethargic, if not mostly indifferent, American religious community to arise on grounds of principle and, for God and Church, oppose what by any reference to American political and constitutional history (post 18th century disestablishment) constitutes an unrivalled campaign of government tyranny against the freedom to hold, express and exercise religious faith. Our faithful, God fearing forefathers came here to escape the kind of governance that is now being inflicted on their descendants.

In hopes, I suppose, of winning converts to the faith while inciting the choir to sing, this essay preaches a concise Reformed exegesis of the Biblical principles which, so the author-preachers preach, provide a springboard for lawful political resistance to that tyranny. To which I say, "Good luck with that and Blessed be the Lord for evermore. Amen, and Amen."

We would benefit from a fuller explanation of what the preacher-authors say of the faithful is "their right to dissent." Legally, "their right to dissent" is the right peacefully to voice their opposition, not the right to oppose. As far as compliance goes, theirs is not the "right to dissent" but rather the "duty to obey," unless the law is unlawful when tested against established, controlling, higher principles of positive law (statutory or constitutional) or, perhaps, natural law, as only some, a small minority including me, would argue. If not, the matter is one of "civil disobedience," which is to engage in and endure the legal consequences of unlawful disobedience to a legally valid law as the political expression of opposition to that legally valid law. Disobedience as the political expression of opposition to a law because it contravenes the higher natural law, the Law of Nature or of Nature's God, is unlawful according to current interpretation of the US Constitution, an interpretation with which Hadley Arkes and I and possibly Randy Barnett disagree.

The author-preachers make no mention of the natural law or the constitutional "right to dissent" and do not discuss the restraint against tyranny provided by positive constitutional law, except for passing reference to the fact that, now, the positive law restraint of the First Amendment (finally, belatedly and at long last) appears to be gaining sufficient public traction as, surprisingly, to have attracted some attention and warranted even some mention by what is, except for Justices Thomas and Alito, an intellectually peripatetic, constitutionally nomadic, culturally hierophantic, morally challenged, religiously unprincipled Supreme Court.

Yay for even that mini- attention and mention by the Black Robes! But the natural law tradition is historically a much longer and intellectually a much stronger foundation to incite a revolutionary fight for what's right than either the author-preachers' mini-Biblical exegesis or the latest Free Exercise opinion of our quixotic Supreme Court-as-defender-of faith.

One other very important but also unaddressed point is raised in this very important essay, that of contemporary political motivation for the rising intensity of tyranny against religious people, principles and practices. The essay's authors note that "policies adopted by the states in response to the pandemic in practice, policies adopted by the states in response to the pandemic have not only failed to protect religious and other liberties, they have often intentionally threatened them."

That is true, and it's not historical coincidence. For the Democrat Party, the China Virus Pandemic is the political gift that keeps on giving, the mother of all crises, the crisis opportunity not to be wasted of all crisis opportunities not to be wasted; the golden political opportunity to win presidential and Senate control, permanently alter the political landscape, crush political opponents (including communities of faith) and install permanently in power those best suited by virtue of education and attitude to lord it over and rule forever the rest of us.

Just as the several Democrat crusades over four years to defeat and destroy President Trump were at their core, in the immortal words of Senator Chuck You Schumer, strategic Democrat campaigns ''to change America," so is the ongoing, intensified fight against people of faith a part of that very same warfare. The plans have been laid, the trial runs run, including the attack on worshippers, and execution of the plans has been flawless. The bad guys are now winning bigly, the run-up to the final push has been made, and, now, the last battle can be waged and the Democrats' victory won, wielding their weapon of mass destruction, climate change scientism.

The essay authors' express alarm that "the states in response to the pandemic have not only failed to protect religious and other liberties, they have often intentionally threatened them." It is unequivocal that that is so, that the threats are intentional threats, made for a primary purpose, which is not to protect public heath. The threats against people and places of faith are part of a much bigger plan to destroy religious, political, moral, cultural and intellectual opposition to totalitarian, bureaucratic, woke rule by those best endowed with the right to rule.

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on December 23, 2020 at 13:16:00 pm

Just clarification to my comment above:

What I have proved there, is that Romans 13, can't be challenged whatsoever. While, the respectable author of the post, has asserted that can be challenged. Not to understand, that the respectable author of the post, has claimed, that Romans 13, is source for disobedience. But, he claims that to some degree can be challenged and reserved. While It has been proven by me, that, in noway can be challenged whatsoever.


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El roam
on December 23, 2020 at 16:17:47 pm

First of all, Christians ought to realize that Romans 13 and 1 Peter 2 don’t require obedience to governmental authority in all cases whatsoever.

This should be obvious from the concept of martyrdom. Christians were martyred in the Colosseum by government authority for refusing to comply with...government authority. Moreover, Aquinas informed us:

...a regime is called politic and regal when someone rules free men who, though subject to the regulation of the sovereign, have nevertheless some power of their own whereby they may oppose the command of the one who gives the orders.(emphasis added)

There appears to be no serious argument supporting the notion that moral and spiritual obligations are discharged by mere deference to temporal authority. Furthermore, there are circumstances, e.g. prisoners of war, when people of conscience are subject to two competing authorities. Sometimes laws are held to be unconstitutional, i.e. legislative authority conflicts with Constitutional authority. If religious obligations must await ruling on a petition for certiorari, the moral authority of religious institutions would have little claim to be taken seriously. There is no obligation, religious, temporal, ethical or otherwise that demands that civil authorities be treated as infallible.

COVID has exposed a great many details about the state of American society and political life. It has shown us that confidence in dubiously anointed experts is largely unjustified. It has shown that many politicians, particularly governors, are in turns tyrannical, unprincipled, stupid, untrustworthy, dishonest, uneducated, gullible and opportunistic. It has shown that when fears begin to be perceived as irrational the submission that fear induces begins to decay, long before "authorities" and "experts" are aware of the fact. COVID has shown, in short, that our political class isn't very good at the moment.

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on December 23, 2020 at 16:38:32 pm

While "roam-ing" around the internet, I came across this:


Well, if the Beatles said it, then Calvin must be wrong, right?????

Perhaps, others should *roam* around a little more intensively, they may find that the essayists distinction between "subjects" and "citizens", between an Imperial Regime and a Constitutional Republic may be of some import.

As for me, I was never a big fan of the Mopheads.

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on December 23, 2020 at 18:15:07 pm

Let it Be

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on December 23, 2020 at 19:11:15 pm

"Let it Be"

I can't stop loving....

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on December 23, 2020 at 19:08:38 pm

Let me add to Z99 and Paladin's comments.

I am sympathetic to the essayist's arguments that there is no imperative for a person of faith, nor for ANY citizen, to mindlessly demonstrate deference to civil authorities. This has never been the position of the Church, either Reformed or traditional. Admittedly, some early post-Reformation theologians may have adopted / advanced a near-Hobbesian position relative to deference to Civil authorities. These were minority views and must be understood in light of the hostility evinced towards them by the then Established Church and, or more importantly of the LOCAL Prince who had adopted one of the several Faiths and employed that 'conversion" as a means to gain power over, or from competing Civil . Central authorities. Thus an incentive was present under that Prince, induced /impelled by that Prince, for those religious types first adopt that same Faith and second, to respect and obey that Prince.
These were not "constitutional" regimes as we understand them today. While differing in numerous substantive ways from the Roman Imperium, inhabitants of those local fiefdoms were not yet "citizens" as have come to understand that term.
Or, at least, we thought we did until the late 20th Century.
I'll not rehash the causes of this fundamental change in epistemology of the citizen. LLB readers are aware of them.
I would like to simply present some of the changes.
1) As the essayists (and Paladin and Z,Bond, etc) have asserted, citizens now appear to prioritize "safety" over liberty.
2) This same epistemological change is also present in elected *representatives* (italics for a purpose later) and it may be asserted that a) the epistemological change in *representative* class is more apparent than real, b) coincident with the change in the citizenry, some portion of the *representative* class has also adopted "safety" over liberty.
3) The citizenry, having grown "fat, lazy, ignorant", having been supplied with all manner of "entitlements" from the Federal Teat has, as would be expected, adopted a deferential stance to the repeated mischief, couched in terms of safety, social justice, etc. of the *representative* class, and it's Cadre of elite experts and functionaries.
4) The citizenry AND the intellectual class has willingly accepted the substitution of Constitutional FORM over substance. So long as OUR *representatives* manufacture a bill, employing bicameralism and Executive approval, the citizenry ACCEPTS it, irrespective of a) it's constitutionality, b) it's efficacy and c) it's "fairness" It may be loaded with all manner of undisclosed pork, special and barely legal set-asides contrary to the interests of the citizenry.
5) Yet, I would be remiss were I not to take notice of another phenomenon, and one that is also a product of the changed epistemology. It is this: The *representative* class has also adopted a distinct and pronounced "DEFERENCE" toward the 20th century's incarnation of the Star Chamber - the Federal Administrative State, albeit for rather different reasons, incentives and purposes than that found in the citizenry.
6) Greg Weiner has written effectively and accurately of this new Congressional posture. I'll not repeat it other than to say that it deploys Legislative "cowardice" as a weapon of obfuscation, legerdemain and virtue signalling. In place of Legislation, we are presented with a Bill of "High and Mighty" aspirational gobbledygook.
7) Yet the "High and Mighty" aspirations are to be defined, implemented, interpreted and adjudicated by this "NON- representative" class, the Federal Administrative State (FAM), whose very obscurity only strengthens its hold on power and it's ability to impose obligations on an all too-ignorant / willing citizenry.
The next and logically consistent step in the new epistemology has been reached.
No longer does the *representative* class actually compose the laws. This task has been sublet to the FAM who carefully craft obscurantist dicta, designed to achieve THEIR purpose under the guise of implementing Legislative intent. In so doing, the FAM agencies quite often assure that increased FUNDING and SCOPE of authority for the FAM agency is included as a virtual Bill of Presentment payable by the citizenry.
9) The most recent example is the latest Covid-19 (ChiComm Flu) Stimulus. This monstrosity, totaling some 5,500+ pages, and presented to the ever deferential *representative* class for approval within 4-6 hours was prepared in large measure by the FAM experts and not our willfully ignorant *representatives* who either by definition are incapable of crafting such involved and technical "legislation", are either too busy or simply not so inclined, and have demonstrated, over the past seven decades, all the courage of The Cowardly Lion with respect to "offending" some constituent part of the citizenry.
Thus, we have set asides for Tibet, The Dalai Lama, Sudan, Border Wall Security for Lebanon, Syria, etc BUT a diminution of funds for America's own borders, millions for "gender equity" in Pakistan, protections for Video Streaming Services. protection for horses (are you bleeping kiddin' me/), etc etc
$600 each for a subset of the citizenry.
Who but those who are both aloof and isolated from the citizenry would include such provisions? Cui bono? The FAM and the ideologues that populate the cubicles of governmental obscurity.
And if you want an example of DEFERENCE look no further than the compliant acceptance of the Covid Relief package by both Houses of our *Representative* leaders. Consider no more than the time frame allotted for review, discussion and debate in "The Greatest Deliberative Body" in the world - and Yes, I am in the market for a suspension bridge that crosses the East River.
10) We are approaching now the line of demarcation where we finally abandon even the FORM of Constitutional governance. Up until now, *representatives* behaved as if they were representing their voters and the citizenry accepted their facile representations of constitutional form. It is becoming apparent to any barely competent observer that the *representative* class not only does not represent the interests of the citizenry but as demonstrated by the Covid Relief Bill the *representative*, simultaneously assists the FAM AND in "deference" to the expertise of the FAM is quite prepared to INTENTIONALLY INSULT AND DEFY THE INTERESTS OF THE CITIZENRY whilst allowing the ideologues of the FAM to implement their "purposive" governance.

The dance is approaching its predictable conclusion now that the Masks have been removed.

Shall we dance?

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on December 24, 2020 at 14:36:40 pm


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on December 24, 2020 at 14:46:56 pm

Luvv'd it!

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on December 24, 2020 at 14:52:38 pm

Here is a an essay that while not directly related provides some insight into the background causes and support structure of the ever increasing cadre of "woke" elite authoritarian classes and the political imperative driving the ever burgeoning adminstrative "disciplinarian" functionaries.
A Must-read!!!!!


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on December 25, 2020 at 10:28:52 am

Gabe, what am I missing? I read and then re-read the Bellows article. My take is that it is very confusing, tosses ideas into a hopper, shakes them 'round and then restates the resulting jumble of thought as some kind of, to me, unintelligible theory of class warfare without classes. Is his point that the west has a huge supply of labor in the form of college educated for which their is no legitimate demand. These people form a new (non-Marxian) class of rent-seekers desperate to find employment other than Starbucks. Their efforts to find jobs cut across ideological lines. The job-hunting effort is aimed at gaining government employment by convincing government 1) that they (the college-educated unemployed) are needed in order to solve social and racial problems and 2) to fund wars on these social and racial problems (as in LBJ's "War on Poverty.") The success of this job-hunting campaign by the new class of college-educated rent-seekers depends on creating a dirigisme in which government hires the rent-seekers to run the wars against whatever evil the rent-seekers focus on as the path to their full employment.
Is that it?

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on December 25, 2020 at 12:50:20 pm


Perhaps, it is my tendency to "extend" the thought / thesis present in some essays that garner my interest and praise for this essay.
As an example, the educated rent-seekers, while of many ideological persuasions, are not all successful in finding those jobs. Indeed, if lucky enough to find those jobs, they are in ever present danger of being cancelled. No big news BUT... consider then the effects this has on K-16 education. First off, we provide certification to barely literate, unthinking, self-important and self aggrandizing third rate minds who then proceed to demonstrate their conviction with all the zeal of the newly converted.
This serves their own selfish interests BUT it also serves the interest of the dominant progressive left, who while in power conjure new and more expansive government responsibilities (read: new agencies, new rules, etc) such as to accommodate the new cadres of credentialed rent seekers. And this occurs at many GS levels. But who is left out?
This is not new. It happened even in my industry some 30+ years ago. The difference now is that it is so thoroughly a part of the modern environment that it is now brazenly open - no longer is there a pretextual excuse offered - and it is global in scope.
No, not a conspiracy BUT a confluence of interests. having perhaps an even greater effect than the former. Yes, much is jumbled together, much is left unexamined but it IS an essay not a book.
I also mentally "extend" the impact of "overproduction" of university credentials by the academy as evidence of the academy's own self interest and hypocrisy as they engender nothing more than frustration in the mass of "gender / critical studies graduates. Clearly they must see the true "value" of such credentials - NONE.
Now come the calls for forgiveness of student debt - all to help the Academy as much as the indebted student.
Yep, there is a lot there BUT it should be a book not an essay, one in which the connections he argues could be explored further.
One example, WHY did EU cities have demonstrations over George Floyd?
What is the connection between credentialed frustration and the petty tyranny of a Starbucks barista 'cancelling" a fellow barista of a police officer patronizing the store - and how is that tyranny predictable as a result of K-12 indoctrination by thes ame (ill) credentialed K-12 educators.

So I just may have read too much into it. Perhaps, I am just anxious for some scribe to do as I suggest.

take care, now the grandkids are about to arrive and tear the place up in search of Santa.

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on December 25, 2020 at 13:02:24 pm

Oops! consider this.
The modern day Boss Tweeds have extended their "spoils system", their patronage system to encompass "Defund the Police" and propose replacing the police with a cadre of credentialed Social Wokers ("wokers" is NOT a typo). Simultaneously, we cancel the un-credentialed police while elevating / employing the credentialed SJW's, who will no doubt enter the loving embrace of a new democrat controlled union.

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on December 25, 2020 at 14:05:21 pm

I was not disagreeing, just trying to make certain that I understood.
In essence, the lobbying and race hustling of 1968-2016 for welfare, special privileges and other forms of free stuff on behalf of the lower class has been expanded to include rent-seeking by and for the job-seeking/career-building middle and upper middle classes, so as to obtain government welfare and corporate benefits in the form of guaranteed jobs working (in government, academia and Big Business) to solve social and racial problems that are manufactured by them. In effect, this is the scam: this new, ascending class of rent-seekers is expert in fabricating both problems and solutions, so that institutions of government, academia and business will be forced (politically, because of the media) to hire the rent-seekers to deploy their solutions to solve their fabricated problems. The massive employment in the "diversity industry" in government, academia and Big Bus devoted to deploying that BS panacea is a good example.

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on December 25, 2020 at 16:20:56 pm

I too had to read the Bellows article a couple of times, but noticed a few useful points. Therefore, I have a couple of opinions.

As background I would note a basic fact of the way things change. This fact concerns the relationship between causes and effects, and is quite straightforward: when phenomena are both their own cause and effect, an unstable system results. In engineering this is referred to as positive feedback, and results in instability. The same concept is applicable to the world in general. In medicine cancer is both the cause and effect of new malignant cells. In pandemics, infections are both the cause and effect of the spread of disease. A Ponzi scheme is a situation where the contributions of investors are the cause and effect of new contributions. Such systems have one of two fates: their instability causes them to collapse, or they are constrained by the natural responses of outside forces.

Applying this observation to the Bellows article, a necessary inquiry is whether "worthless degrees" are a cause or an effect. If they are both, i.e. if it is possible to consider them as either with equal justification, then it is the case that the cause and effect are the same, and reflect an unstable system that will eventually experience one of the two fates mentioned above. Another relevant example is diversity bureaucracies on college campuses. They are arguably both the cause and effect of new diversity bureaucracies. The same observation may be made of the civil rights environment on college campuses, as the author of the Bellows article notes: the more "woke" Evergreen State College became, the more the demands of "wokeness" intensified.

These phenomena are relevant to another issue identified in the Bellows article, although mentioned only in reference to the right. The current political activity, nebulously outlined as class war, is both an inter- and intra- class phenomenon. The left realizes this. The savvier operatives on the left know that the current situation of political extremism being both a cause and effect is transiently desirable, but ultimately unstable, and that this inevitably leads to intra-class winners and losers. This helps explain why prominence on the left is transient; why Alexandria Ocasio Cortez's star is dimming, and why she is provoking suspicion from people who once thought her useful. It is why once reliably liberal journalists are being fired from increasingly irrelevant media organizations.

What we are seeing on the left is not the fruition of a decades-long plan, patient executed. One has to wonder what went wrong if such a plan left power in the hands of doddering octogenarians, a failed expert class, and tech billionaires whose life experiences and curiosity of the world is insufficient to their ambitions.

One phenomenon unremarked upon in the Bellows article is the increasingly shrill, of not outright crazy claims of diversity activists, anti-Trump obsessives, and assorted leftists mono-maniacs. The rightwing punditry attributes this to "gas-lighting," but I think another explanation may be considered. What we see on the left is an intra-class struggle, analogous to the ridiculously prolonged applause-athons in which Communist party members did not want to be noticed as the first to stop clapping. The applauders were competing with each other. The modern analogue is that the individual member of the woke class does not want to be seen as the first to "settle" for the current list of woke demands. This has blind-sided such as Ocasio-Cortez who is neither smart enough not politically adept enough to understand that the intra-class struggle has a different objective than the inter-class struggle. She incorrectly perceived that the cause of woke demands, which was also the effect of woke demands, would accommodate her political ascent and could be controlled. Instead, it blew right past her.


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on December 26, 2020 at 14:13:46 pm


Yep on positive feedback loops. This is a more accurate, a more granular explanation than the "confluence of interests" that I mentioned.
Yet, I think something is missing in this "feedback" explanation.:
At least for a certain subset of the "woke", i.e., the academy.
Relying upon feedback alone as the explanation may cause us to view the phenomena as one primarily of passive reactions to a seemingly Skinnerian stimulus response experiment. While this may very well be descriptive of many of the "worthless degree" cadre and the "un-degreed" followers, the ones who by nature are excessively restrained in criticizing "wokeness" or fear for their livelihoods, it may not be sufficient to explain some of the "fantasy" indictments by the academy and media of the systemic evil inherent in Western (read: white) culture and governance.
For the academic, the psuedo-intellectuals as well in the media, something more akin to "purpose" is at play. Consider the struggling, non-tenured academic. He ( I will not use "She") is entrapped in the oft cited "publish or perish" system of academia, a corrupted form of meritocracy, by which the academic may "distinguish" himself, and through which, given sufficient publication, he may earn sufficient badges of distinction ultimately resulting in tenure. Let us leave aside the psychological benefits associated with a "collegial" faculty lounge / milieu of which he may become an active player.
The simple but substantial benefits accruing from tenure are economically quite significant as is the comfort and security that lifetime tenure provides.
How does one earn a badge of distinction in academia? To simply follow the prevailing, au courant rhetoric may open the academic to a charge of banality or worse plagiarism.
No, "novelty" is required. Something new, something that no other observer has as yet apprehended such as today's charge that "Wishing Merry Christmas" is indicative of White Supremacy. This is how one stands apart from the herd.
There is another aspect to this striving for 'distinction." I have found that one of the character traits of the "intellectual", the academic, is a not insubstantial ego - the smartest person in the room syndrome. They must be the ones who open new avenues of thought, new syncretics, a new understanding. This is properly practiced and rewarded in the physical sciences where empirical methodology / doctrine is, or may be used to prove or disprove the syncretic.
Consider the "social sciences" where the constraint of "falsifiability" is neither present nor desired. The opportunities for "distinction" are greatly improved as are the opportunities to "publish."
Anyway, far too much of the "woke" pronouncements are, I believe, the result of "purposive" behavior on the part of the academy in a never ending battle of "one-upmanship". All serving to assure the distinction owed to the superior intellect AND to assist one seeking tenure.
It is purposive. It is beneficial to those in the game. It is also, as you assert, ultimately self-defeating. I would add it is destructive of social comity.

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on December 25, 2020 at 14:35:22 pm



"this new, ascending class of rent-seekers is expert in fabricating both problems and solutions,"

It was bad enough, in a certain sense and in certain instances in the past, when politicos "fabricated" solutions to problems about which government had no business involving itself; what we observe now as you correctly point out is that politicos are now both quite willing and quite adept at fabricating PROBLEMS which are imagined, illusory yet still manage to serve the interests of the credentialed cadres and their corporate enablers / acolytes - I present to you, the newest and Greatest Crisis of Humanity - Global Warming. How many will be enlisted into this Great Crusade? How many will PROFIT from it.
And finally, How large will be the Bill of Presentment the deplorable masses will be asked to pay?
Now back to the little ones where I may experience the joy of watching innocence burst into Joy! There is so precious little of it that remains in our World.
God Bless you, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!!!!

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