The Wrath of Cons

David Brooks is in an angry and spiteful mood. Perhaps he’s even getting to be a bit unhinged, as history is putting his vision of American conservatism onto its rubbish heap. As Ben Shapiro recently noted, Brooks is ranting that the “dangerous parts of the Republican Party” are taking over,” and tending toward revolution, but, he chastises them, “every revolution tends toward anarchy and ends up devouring its own.” Typically for a “pragmatist” type, he is forgetting one very important thing—the American Revolution.  The practical men of the day thought that Sam and John Adams, not to mention Jefferson, Patrick Henry and others were crazed radicals, and their efforts would ultimately collapse upon themselves. These Tories, or perhaps we should call them colonial “Court Whigs” thought that the patriots were false prophets.  Court Republicans like David Brooks may be similarly misguided.

In the months before the battles of Lexington and Concord, John Adams argued the Americans’ case with Daniel Leonard, a friend and a leading Tory lawyer. Leonard and the other Tories complained that the Patriots’ talk of “Revolution Principles” was dangerous, and would bring on Massachusetts the wrath of the King:

“They,” the popular leaders, “begin by reminding the people of the elevated rank they hold in the universe, as men; that all men by nature are equal; that kings are but the ministers of the people; that their authority is delegated to them by the people, for their good, and they have a right to resume it, and place it in other hands, or keep it themselves, whenever it is made use of to oppress them. Doubtless, there have been instances when these principles have been inculcated to obtain a redress of real grievances; but they have been much oftener perverted to the worst of purposes.”

Adams noted that Leonard was attacking the foundations upon which English government rested:

These are what are called revolution principles. They are the principles of Aristotle and Plato, of Livy and Cicero, and Sidney, Harrington, and Locke; the principles of nature and eternal reason; the principles on which the whole government over us now stands. It is therefore astonishing, if any thing can be so, that writers, who call themselves friends of government, should in this age and country be so inconsistent with themselves, so indiscreet, so immodest, as to insinuate a doubt concerning them.

He found it odd that any colonist would object to a mention of those principles, or be embarrassed by them:

“Yet we find that these principles stand in the way of Massachusettensis and all the writers of his class. The Veteran, in his letter to the officers of the army, allows them to be noble and true; but says the application of them to particular cases is wild and utopian.  How they can be in general true, and not applicable to particular cases, I cannot comprehend. I thought their being true in general, was because they were applicable in most particular cases.”

After the American Revolution, Adams, often regarded as America’s first “conservative,” held that it was essential for Americans to recur to the principles of 1776—otherwise the American people might forget them, and, as a result, the people would cease to be their own governors. (Adams’ reading of history suggested that, most humans being lazy, the danger was that the elites would kindly offer to solve the people’s problems. Unthinkingly, citizens would consent, and feel grateful. Only later would they realize what they had lost—and perhaps after their capacity for self-government had been degraded by neglect.) Hence in the Massachusetts Constitution, Adams, imitating and expanding upon provisions in other state constitutions, included a paragraph:

A frequent recurrence to the fundamental principles of the constitution, and a constant adherence to those of piety, justice, moderation, temperance, industry, and frugality, are absolutely necessary to preserve the advantages of liberty, and to maintain a free government. The people ought, consequently, to have a particular attention to all those principles, in the choice of their officers and representatives. And they have a right to require of their lawgivers and magistrates an exact and constant observance of them, in the formation and execution of the laws necessary for the good administration of the commonwealth.

The “Tea Party” represents a return to these principles. One could even argue that today’s Court Whigs, like those of yesteryear, are simply trying to steal a political base by saying that the common citizen should not worry his pretty head about politics. Leave the negotiations to others, they’ll make a good deal—promise.

Or perhaps Brooks rejects American principle. He defends a conservatism that “see[s]the nation as one organic whole.” That very notion runs contrary to the principles of 1776 which declare that America is built upon devotion to certain self-evident truths about man, nature, and politics, and that “to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men.” It is reflection and choice, based upon consent to state and federal constitutions, through the ratification process that built the American nation. The America nation is not, pace Brooks, an accident of history. Brooks does not understand that man is more than just a social animal, he is the political animal.

It may very well be that a few of the newer GOP members of Congress are too reluctant to compromise. In a large, diverse republic that’s hardly a surprise. But Brooks believes that the party as a whole is grown radical. Shapiro notes that Brooks does not seem to understand what a principled conservatism looks like, or, for that matter, what democracy, rightly understood, looks like.

What does prudence demand in trying political times? For the New York Times’ “conservative” columnist to denounce “right-wing radicalism” is preaching to the choir. Would it not be more helpful, to help bind up our national wounds, to explain that these so called right-wing radicals are, in reality, classical liberals, and that they oppose a Progressive ideology that, they are not wrong to fear, has less and less room for anything recognizable as “liberal” in any reasonable sense of the term? It would be far more helpful, and more prudent, for Brooks to point to essays like Frederick Hess’s on Obama’s education reforms which notes the President’s tendency to describe any criticism of his policies as the result of bad faith. This is not exactly the way to forge a national consensus.  Instead, Brooks confirms his readers’ prejudices.

This prudent failure demonstrates that Brooks misunderstands our situation in America today. His fundamental error might be that he thinks it is possible to have a national politics that never boils over. As an historian, I regard that as a fantasy—nothing in the historical record suggests it is possible. Perhaps Brooks’ trouble is that he was raised during the long, and historically unusual, period of Democrat dominance in the Senate and House, a period that also featured a rare lull in high immigration and a brief window of monopolistic control of information by a few newspapers, magazines, and networks. All that was historically unusual and is gone, and America is returning to type. As that era drew to a close, the first President Bush proclaimed that “The American people . . . didn’t send us here to bicker.” Au contraire, George Will noted. He returned to the point again shortly before Bush’s son was elected, the American people elect politicians to be contentious: “The American people send particular representatives rather than others to Washington so they will bicker (both Bushes use a word calculated to make political differences seem petty and ill-mannered), argue, obstruct, denounce and generally engage in–pardon the lurid word–partisanship. That is why there are two parties.”

Brooks claims that he understands the role of argument in politics, but, he argues, the new GOP rejects compromise altogether: “Politics is the process of making decisions amid diverse opinions. It involves conversation, calm deliberation, self-discipline, the capacity to listen to other points of view and balance valid but competing ideas and interests.” In class, I often suggest to my students that the Founders thought of politicians like we think of toddlers—when they’re quiet, that’s when they’re really up to no good. The more shouting, provided it is contained in the political system, the more chance the public has to be informed.  In a good political system, the government serves the people not the politicians. Making the politicians comfortable might, in fact, be bad for the republic.

Brooks seems to misunderstand prudence. A prudent man understands the ancient Solomonic wisdom, that there is a time for compromise and a time to go to the mats.  Adams put it this way. When his friend Benjamin Rush noted that a friend called prudence a “cowardly virtue,” Adams replied, “his meaning was good. He meant the spirit which evades danger when duty requires us to face it. This is cowardice, not prudence.”  But, Adams noted, prudence, rightly understood, means something else:

By prudence I mean that deliberation and caution, which aims at no ends but good ones, and good ones by none but fair means, and then carefully adjusts and proportions its good means to its good ends. Without this virtue there can be no other. Justice itself cannot exist without it. A disposition to render to every one his right is of no use without prudence to judge what is his right and skill to perform it.

Many years ago, Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., argued that there are Cycles of American History. Schlesinger believed that the cycles were those of reform and reaction (or perhaps of pragmatic consolidation of progress). Schlesinger, of course, also said that “There seems no inherent obstacle to the gradual advance of socialism in the United States through a series of New Deals.”  (Typically for a Left winger, he claimed that there are two forces in America—those of public spirit and progress, and those of selfishness and reaction.  After a few “cycles,” that leaves increasingly less room for civil society—the realm of civic action, in the private sphere, outside of politics.)

In the 20th century history repeatedly demonstrated the futility of socialism. The Left complains that the governing structure created by the New Deal was taken over by “conservative” business types. But, given human nature and the play of forces in the U.S. what the heck else did they expect to happen, as many noted at the time?  Friedrich Hayek noted exactly that in his Road to Serfdom.  And he was denounced for being blind, and behind the times by the sophisticates of the day.  Given that analysis, the Tea Party seeks some retrenchment—fighting crony Capitalism is inseparable from the fight to scale back the administrative state. Even the Scandinavian nations have been scaling back their social democracies. In that sense, perhaps we should follow the Danish political model.

Meanwhile the United States is nearing $20 trillion in debt—and most of that due to our generous welfare state, which, not coincidentally, also benefits many large corporations. Obamacare, for example, has benefitted large, corporate healthcare immensely, even as it has limited choice for citizens—all that was part of the design, and why President Obama should have known, if he didn’t that it simply was impossible for Obamacare to allow people to keep their insurance and their doctors if they liked it.  It’s an iron law—the more government does, the more important it is to be well connected to succeed.  At the same time, the rise of laws made not by our elected representatives, but, instead, by civil servants, with government approved credentials and jobs for life represent a return of the “Civil List” that the Americans made revolution before the King could impose it on the colonies.

As Brooks’ anger and frustration demonstrates, we seem to be entering a more contentious period of American politics. Rather than recognize how things are changing, Brooks is lashing out against change, and is in danger of becoming a sorry relic of a bygone age.

The rise of conflict in politics is hardly cause for alarm, for engaging the argument about what is justice, in a particular time and place, is the essence of politics. If it never spilled over or caused a crisis, it wouldn’t truly be politics.  Brooks’ definition of politics is a narrow and historically ignorant view of politics. Politics not only involves negotiation and compromise, and leadership and followership, but it also involves knowing when to make a deal and when to keep arguing or to walk away.  It is those who think it is possible to keep political discussion within a narrow range who reject politics rightly understood. As a divided United States marched into the War of 1812, Adams reminded Benjamin Rush that:

The similitude between 1773 and 1774 and 1811 and 1812 is obvious.  It is now said by the tories that we were unanimous in 1774.  Nothing can be further from the truth.  We were more divided in ‘74 than we are now.  The majorities in Congress in ‘74 on all the essential points and principles of the Declaration of Rights were only one, two, or three. . . . The history of the world is nothing else but the narration of such divisions. . . . All the great affairs of the world, temporal and spiritual, as far as men are concerned in the discussion and decision of them, are determined by small majorities.  The repulsion in human nature is stronger than the attraction.  Division, separation are inevitable.

Brooks seems to object to those who reject Schlesinger’s model of moving softly toward democratic socialism, and who, therefore, seek to change the premises that drive our political discussion, or perhaps he buys the notion of historical inevitability, and, hence he believes that there never are significant forks in the road in political life. Either way, he believes that American politics can imitate a Yale seminar. Hardly.

Meanwhile, the rise of an explicitly socialist party, or, at least, one that openly embraces America’s leading socialist, represents an extreme effort to change what it means to be an American. As the Democrats grow increasingly extreme, as their moderate wing dies off, and is pushed aside, politics will only grow more contentious. It does not help that we have a President who thinks of bipartisanship this way: “You have to be the one who’s dictating how the compromises work.” Is it really a surprise that Mrs. Clinton views Republicans as her “enemy”?  Contrast that with former Speaker of the House, Tip O’Neill’s famous quip—“The House Republicans are not the enemy, they’re the opposition. The Senate is the enemy.”

If we take seriously Brooks’ definitions of politics, of prudence, and his idea of when compromise is acceptable, we may conclude that his is just being political, or perhaps prudent in the narrow sense. He is being “reasonable” in the context of Timesworld. In 2006, Pinch Sulzberger made it clear just how extreme his “political views” are. In fact, he revealed he rejected politics, by assuming it is possible to solve most human problems:

You weren’t supposed to be graduating in an America fighting a misbegotten war in a foreign land. You weren’t supposed to be graduating into a world where we are still fighting for fundamental human rights, be it the rights of immigrants to start a new life, the right of gays to marry or the rights of women to choose.

He apologized for his, and his generations’ failure to fix the world, “you weren’t. But you are and I am sorry for that.”  That might explain why the folks who work for the Sulzberger family at the Times, from people who they hire to be “reporters” to those who they officially allow to be “opinion journalists” seem to think it’s their job to tell their readers what to think.  Classically, it was the job of journalists in our democratic republic to relate information to allow we the citizens to make our own judgments. If one believes that universal and perpetual peace, at home and abroad is, in fact possible, and that political power needn’t corrupt a significant number of those who wield it, then it might, instead, be the job of newspapers to shape opinions to serve that end.

But if one allows that there are no final solutions in political life, and that it is our job as citizens to think independently about political questions, it soon becomes apparent just how unlikely a general consensus is, especially as the number of issues in national politics increases—and that, perhaps, explains the fracturing national consensus that is driving David Brooks to distraction. Absent a return to a genuine federal division of power, national conflicts will only grow more intense, so long as we are free to be political—hence the Left’s war on politics, a war that Brooks’ narrow definition of politics encourages. Like his boss, Brooks seems to think that it’s possible to create a world in which politics never recurs to first principles and foundations. Yet history is just now reminding us that that is not the world we are given. Given the realities of human nature, administrative government and democratic–republicanism cannot be reconciled. Perhaps we can continue to balance the two, but it is growing increasingly difficult.

Reader Discussion

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on October 16, 2015 at 09:28:50 am

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on October 16, 2015 at 12:10:01 pm

It would be a federal, or federalist, division of power that would precisely anger and threaten the left, an assault on their beloved central government, center of power and control, the engine of progress in their fevered minds. The lessons of such power seem never to touch a certain psychological type, one who forever lusts vicariously to shape the lives and governance of others. Centuries, time, never appear to be the lesson that cries out for recognition, that should teach prudence, yes, and liberty.

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john trainor
on October 16, 2015 at 12:28:47 pm

This chemical engineer likes your post very much, but experience with this forum informs against “it is our job as citizens to think independently about political questions.” This forum seems to require propriety within a closed society rather than within a civic people. I hope you can take some time for a person—fellow citizen.

I am a fiscal conservative and no-harm personal liberal who offers domestic goodwill. I coin the phrase “no-harm personal liberal” to start a conversation about “classical liberal.” It seems to me “classical liberal” in the USA entails some principles I don’t agree with, whereas 2500 years of literature on classical liberalism could accommodate my ideas. For example, things are not confused: we’re confused.

It seems to me that John Adams’ list of principles--“piety, justice, moderation, temperance, industry, and frugality, are absolutely necessary to preserve the advantages of liberty”—entails contradictions. Who defines, on what bases, claims of piety, moderation, and temperance? If by “piety” Adams meant submission to his god, that’s fine for him, just as it was for Michael Polanyi in 1958, but my piety answers to physics: Physics is energy, mass and space-time from which everything emerges; for examples, not only biology but both lies and ethics emerge from physics. (I hope “Gabe” will refrain from silly pretension that I have not defined “physics” as I am using the term.)

If the French had not created a strategy to entrap the British at Yorktown, VA in 1781, and had not supplied some 30,000 military personnel for the campaign (compared to 10,000 British and German mercenaries) accompanied by 11,000 Continental soldiers, the thirteen states might still be dependent on England. In other words, the esteem with which we hold some of the founding principles might not seem so noble to so many professors: There might be more open-mindedness.

I’m confused by two sentences--“Brooks does not seem to understand what a principled conservatism looks like, or, for that matter, what democracy, rightly understood, looks like”—seems internally contradictory and to contradict: “Given the realities of human nature, Administrative government and democratic–republicanism cannot be reconciled. “

Let me explain. Plato’s “democracy” seems a forum of philosophers who dictate politics. Then there’s mobocracy. It seems to me modern “democracy” means anything anyone wants from their government. In contrast, “principled conservatism” seems to mean preservation of classism within American citizenship: capital v labor. And then, democratic-republicanism seems to mean the rule of law through democratically elected representatives.

I hope you will respond to my concerns, above. Additionally, our work needs the help of professors in history, political science, civic theory, and other fields, and I hope you will take interest. Please consider the following paragraphs about civic v private, physics-based ethics, and use of the preamble to the constitution for the USA.

We propose a revolution based not on a return to the principles from 240 years ago, but reformed politics for the lives being lived. In 1790, the free population was 99% Protestant, 1% Catholic, and the balance the “other” who did not bother Thomas Jefferson. Today, there’s 49% Protestant, 21% Catholic, 6% other believers, and the balance non-believers, the latter being the growing demographic. We consider this a positive development and propose that the politic that would serve for today influences a separation of interests: civic necessities separated from private concerns.

“Civic” refers to connections with other inhabitants due to occupation of the same land—literally--rather than “social” which infers choice or preference in associations, such as church, a private interest. We seek a civic culture which is over-arching and nourishing no-harm factional cultures. Thereby, “it is our job as citizens to think independently about [civic] questions,” keeping private questions private. To accomplish this over-arching culture, some traditional principles must adjust, and the most obvious one is use of religious morals to debate civic morality.

Physics (defined above) is a basis for determining civic morality. Albert Einstein’s only example was that a civic people do not lie to each other so that they can believe statements. (One of the most useful ways of lying is to simply stonewall a citizen.) Another example is that we don’t run red lights so we can trust green ones. The object of civic morality is safety and personal well-being, which includes comfort with your god if you have one and appreciation for a no-harm neighbor’s privacy.

When humankind discovers an emergence from physics their next noble work is to determine how to benefit, and knowing how to benefit, ethical consequences are understood. The resulting principle establishes physics-based ethics. We have more examples in the essay that may be found by googling Physics-based Ethics: Civic Examples.

To coordinate civic issues, we propose to update and use the preamble to the constitution for the USA. (Thomas Jefferson proposed that each generation scrap the entire constitution for the USA.) We perceive nine goals in the preamble and consider them sufficient for the interested part of 320 million people to grapple with; some statements of rights are unwieldy. Our framework for discussion may be found by googling "Preamble to the constitution for the USA, 2015,” including the quotation marks.

Best wishes.

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Phil Beaver
on October 16, 2015 at 18:27:58 pm

"(I hope “Gabe” will refrain from silly pretension that I have not defined “physics” as I am using the term.)"

Agreed - if you accept my kind offer of a vacation in Coventry!!!

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Image of gabe
on October 16, 2015 at 18:49:23 pm

1) "(Adams’ reading of history suggested that, most humans being lazy, the danger was that the elites would kindly offer to solve the people’s problems. Unthinkingly, citizens would consent, and feel grateful. Only later would they realize what they had lost—and perhaps after their capacity for self-government had been degraded by neglect.)"

2) The people ought, consequently, to have a particular attention to all those principles, in the choice of their officers and representatives."

Statement #1 being then true and always true, Adams was correct to advance Statement #2. And, perhaps, in his time when the "officers and representatives" were a) actually educated and concerned with history and b) were quite ready to discuss, advance and argue first or basic principles, thereby illuminating the public regarding the same, Adams solution may have worked (as it appears to have done for some number of decades) and would have served as a fair counter to the highly partisan *media* of the day.

Today, however, given the willful ignorance of our "officers and representatives" regarding first principles, an educational system that has been infested with all manner of self loathing (culturally speaking) partisans, there does not appear to be an effective counter to ideological advance of the left.

Would that any "officer or representative" speak of, much less FOR first principles?
While Brooks may be criticized for having more the eye of a tailor (remember the "crease of his pants" line) than that of a prudential spokesman / critic. he has become what he would be expected to become; a hanger-on in an overwhelmingly leftist organization. While I do not like this, his failure pales in comparison with the failure of our "officers and representatives" to enunciate / support and / or defend first principles. I do not expect the leftist officers to do this, but one could at least hope for one or two conservatives to do so.
The sins of these two failed examples of conservative are not equal; the sin of the latter is far more detrimental to liberty - classically understood.

Brooks is free to assume the same mantle of buffoonery as has that other "paragon" of false conservativism, Bill (supporter of the folks, don't ya know (does that clown still say that?)) O'Reilly. A pox on both of them!

Anyway, another great piece.

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on October 16, 2015 at 19:41:51 pm

I would be happy to attend. Just send the necessary provisions. :-)

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Phil Beaver
on October 16, 2015 at 22:03:17 pm

Gabe, I like your comments. Not to annoy, but being sincere, I want to debate "first principles."

On source lists as first principles meritocracy; racial and religious harmony; a clean government; the
rule of law; inclusiveness; and care for the environment. See online at http://lkyspp.nus.edu.sg/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/sp_tk_The-Principles-of-Good-Governance_071009.pdf .

I don't know your list, but would like to.

We would like to discuss the achievable combination no-harm personal liberty and domestic goodwill (PL&DG) derived from candid collaboration for civic morality determined from physics-based ethics, where physics is energy, mass and space-time from which everything emerges.

Let's collaborate for now and to go forward and not try to go back to before.

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Phil Beaver
on October 17, 2015 at 16:40:02 pm

As one of those (the many?) who ceased quite sometime back from following after the words of David Brooks as he left the range of thinking for the corral of wordsmithing, the attention seems overdone.

Still, using even such "words" as reference points (because people see them) can bring some further useful focus on: the electorate, the legislators, the legislature, and the differences in the functions of factions and parties in the participation of each of those in the determinations which lead to changes or persistence.

Professor Samuelson touches upon how some (Brooks?) may presume in what manner the electorate should participate. That might presumably set the functions of parties and factions **in** an electoral process - and thus limit the further uses of those functions **by** the electorate. That would seem to be consonant with the views of a broad range of the "wordsmiths," who serve as today's "public intellectuals."

Less notice seems to be given to the diminution (if not disappearance) of legislator factions (coalitions) within the assemblies, so often labeled (mistakenly?) "bipartisanship." Instead, the factions appear within the legislative ** parties** of legislators in the assemblies; and the functions of parties now begin to appear within the electorate (hopefully).

Of course, the intellectuals may be correct to question whether of not the electorate is qualified to exercise (unguided) those functions. That is whence the similarity to revolution might arise - as it has before.

This possible (probable?) shift of the functions of factions and parties has been attributed in part to the wider and swifter dissemination of information; more rapidly revealing disconnects between intentions and results, in forms that can be more easily understood and converted to knowledge by more of the electorate. The "tools" to act upon that knowledge may still require the functions of parties and factions.

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R Richard Schweizter
on October 17, 2015 at 23:05:23 pm

A civic people, defined by the preamble to the constitution for the USA, candidly collaborate to determine civic morality. "Civic" refers to connections because we live on the same land--as in street, community, city, state, and country. In other words, connections we have not of choice but of necessity.

"Social" connections and other factions differ, because they are made by choice and are therefore private as long as there is no harm to or from other persons. For example, persons choose whether to be religious or not. Such factions are private and appreciated within civic morality as long as there is no civic harm.

A civic people collaborate for the achievable combination no-harm personal liberty with domestic goodwill (PL&DG), in other words civic safety with well-being. Well-being refers to psychologically healthy universal concerns such as politics, education and spirituality--for believers, their helpful relationship with their god and for non-believers their healthy attitude about the objective truth whatever that is.

Past generations, by obfuscating the preamble's civic morality--religiously calling the preamble "secular"--have passed their opportunity to establish A Civic People of the United States, leaving it to our generation. Let's not miss our chance: We can influence We the People of the United States to behave with civic morality.

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Phil Beaver
on October 18, 2015 at 00:12:29 am

Well "civc" usually is connected in to "civil society"--a term that usualy referrs to that space of voluntary action. Traditionally many civic functions in America are taken care of by citizens acting in civil society, rather than through government. The expansion of government has made that more difficult.
Given that the Amerrican tradition is one of democratic-republicanism, that is what American conservatives generally desire to conserve and/ or sustain.
And as for piety, we should recall that both Washington and Jefferson suggested that it would be difficult, if not impossible to sustain a free republic absent a religious citizenry, for religious institutions are the best way to teach men and women to be moral, and absent a moral citizenry liberrty is impossible. There is a distinction, in other words, between what government may require and what it presumes citizens do on their own.
In the Amerrican tradition, freedom of religion begins with the liberty of conscience. In other words, "religion" means faith--things we believe absent certainty, (and the liberty of conscience means we are free to believe them) and the actions that follow from those beliefs.
Part of our trouble, nowadays, is that we are starting to have an established religion that defines itself as "not religion."

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Richard s
on October 18, 2015 at 10:20:10 am

That's the spirit!!!!

Of course, I must ask would these provisions be considered "campaign contributions?"

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Image of gabe
on October 18, 2015 at 10:43:59 am

Right. And most Americans are confused and conflicted by these issues, including this forum, in my opinion. I think confusion and conflict can be reduced by collaborating on word usage.

I offer these distinctions for that purpose. "Society" refers to association by choice/preference and "civic" refers to involuntary association by occupying the same land-time--a neologism inspired by your generous comments. A third word is "legal," lawful, which entails force; volunteers neither brook nor impose force, except through democratic-representatives to constrain non-civic persons and aliens. Finally, there is private association, such as church membership. In my writing, I avoid "civil" by using the modifier "no-harm." That does not mean I do not address "civil," rather that I try to not confuse usage of "civic." Rather than separation of state from church, I advocate that each person keep his or her private pursuits private so as not to confuse and conflict their need for private civic governance and their collaboration to supervise government of the land-time; that is, supervising governments of cities, counties, states, and the USA.

"Land-time" improves on "land" from my earlier post because this land in 2015 is not the same as this land in 1787 nor is 1787 land like the land in 1776. More importantly, the free inhabitants in 1787 were almost 100% Christian, wheres today inhabitants are all politically free and are less than 70% Christian, declining more than 1% per year. And Christian sectarianism is more more diverse today; for examples, 99% Protestant in 1790 versus 49% Protestant in 2014. Protestantism has black church vs white church. Skin colors of gods is a valid debate and natives say the color is red.

America cannot go back to before, and the sooner religious conservatives realize that the sooner they can volunteer to collaborate for civic morality that establishes a civic super-majority, a culture of a civic people. A civic people strives for safety and well-being for all inhabitants. "Well-being" involves peace between a body and mind's person and the person's sources of motivation and inspiration--whether that involves souls and gods or not. I have no entry in the god wars: I am inspired by the objective truth of which most is undiscovered and some is understood. I will not turn my back on the objective truth again but do not want to impose my inspiration on anyone: I do not know the objective truth about other people's inspirations.

Google dictionary says "civil society; society considered as a community of citizens linked by common interests and collective activity." Wikipedia says "In the United Kingdom, a civic society is a voluntary body or society which aims to represent the needs of a local community." In both definitions, "society" seems preferential.

The most important sentence coming from the 1787 constitutional convention by the thirteen states that found themselves independent from England by the partnering military strategy and strength of France in the French war against England at the battle of Yorktown, Virginia in September 1781, is the preamble to the constitution for the USA. It took the Americans six years to realize that they were now in charge, four years after George Washington told them so in his farewell speech of June 8, 1783. The four pillars he spoke of did not include religion or religious morality but outlined civic morality. Conservatives have buried both Washington's 1783 pillars and the 1787 civic sentence, the preamble, under a religious word: sectarian. "Sectarian" has no meaning without a definition of religion, even if "sectarian" is taken to mean "areligious." However, "civic" has no opposition to religion that is not harmful.

A civic people recognize that issues like death and afterdeath (that vast time after the body, mind, and person have stopped functioning) are sincere, heartfelt concerns for a majority of inhabitants; that most human beings truly want to be responsible for their person; and that when a person believes they can influence outcomes in their afterdeath, they are going to try. Because the truth about afterdeath is not known, intellectual constructs about afterdeath cannot be refuted: no-harm religious beliefs cannot be refuted. No-harm religious morals cannot be refuted. However, a civic people must have the means to determine civic morality.

Everything emerges from physics, physics being energy, mass and space-time. By everything, I mean the objective truth, lies, fiction, hate, appreciation, intellectual constructs, religion, ethics, civics, and the rest. A civic people use physics-based ethics to determine civic morality until a better basis is discovered.

I cannot imagine a factional leadership more qualified to collaborate on these concepts than those constitutional law professors whose first principles relate to fiscal conservatism, no-harm personal justice and liberty, and civic morality which appreciates the privacy of no-harm religious morals. My suggestion, I think in support of Albert Einstein's 1941 speech, is physics-based ethics to determine civic morality. Those who don't care for these principles won't collaborate for them, but I think some will want these principles or their improvements.

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Phil Beaver
on October 18, 2015 at 13:38:26 pm

Not at all. All I need is name, address, telephone number, and suggested dates.

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Phil Beaver
on October 18, 2015 at 15:41:13 pm

I am not sure what rewriting the language of politics into the language of physics accomplishes, other than making it difficult to have a common conversation. I do not see how any of the concepts you are developing are different from those long familiar to American politics, but conducted in language other than that of physics. The new language might, in fact, obscure the basic continuity and, therefore, get in the way.

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Richard S
on October 18, 2015 at 17:17:34 pm

Anyone who defies physics is inviting woe. (Borrowing from Abraham Lincoln much like I borrow from Albert Einstein: with free thought.)

Take for example the defense of marriage between a man and a woman.

Judeo-Christian scripture opines that same-sex sex is an abomination, creating unwarranted alienation respecting relations between adult persons. DOMA, based on tradition got thrown out on its ear, as it should have.

Physics informs that only a man and a woman can independently procreate. Borrowing Einstein's thoughts, there is no opinion, no emotion, no agenda, but with this fact, human misery and loss can be lessened.

Scholarly law cannot compete with physics-based ethics, novel as the thought may be to constitutional law professors. But the ones in this forum are getting early opportunity to ponder the possibilities, and some might decide to help advance its consideration.

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Phil Beaver
on October 19, 2015 at 17:08:03 pm
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M Hanson

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