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Which Words Work January 30, 2014

Posted by Dr. Robert Owens in Politics.
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What words mean is important.  The ability to speak, to transfer complex and symbolic knowledge from one person to another is one of the hallmarks of humanity.  When words lose their meaning communication loses its ability to transmit thoughts.  Obviously words can change their meanings over time.  One example is the word prevent.  This word now means to stop something from happening.  Hundreds of years ago it meant for one thing to happen before another: pre-event.

This is natural and is the organic outgrowth of how people speak.  All languages change over time.  What isn’t natural is when, for ideological reasons, groups work to change the meanings of words to either confuse the discussion or to attract support from people who normally would not lend them their support.

Leaving aside the natural organic change of meanings and looking instead at the contrived control of meaning for political purposes we recognize the need to establish precise meanings to convey precise thoughts.

A perfect example is how the words liberty and democracy have become intertwined and confounded.  Knowing that equality before the law is a necessary bridge on the road to liberty advocates of liberty rightfully believe that all citizens should have a share in making the law.  This is where the advocates of liberty and the proponents of the democracy movement share a preference for a means while they do not necessarily share a preference for the ends.

The advocates of liberty standing on the foundation of the enlightenment thinking of the 18th century and the classical liberal traditions of the 19th see democracy as a means for limiting the coercive power of government no matter what form that government may take.  Conversely to the dogmatic democrat the only legitimate limit on government power is the current majority opinion.

The difference between these two positions is starkly revealed if we understand what each side sees as the opposite of their idea.  To the dogmatic democrat it is authoritarianism and to the classical liberal it is totalitarianism.  Neither of these two opposites excludes the other.  It is possible for a democracy to use totalitarian methods, and an authoritarian government might implement the principles of liberty.

Both of these terms democracy and liberty are used in vague and wide references by those who seek to lead our people.  Their precise meanings have been blurred by this usage to the point where many people confound them and believe if they can vote they have liberty.  However if we can return the meaning to these words we will find that it is possible to separate the two and find clarity.

The doctrine of liberty deals with what laws ought to be.  The doctrine of democracy deals with the manner of determining what will be the law.

The advocates of liberty agree that it is best if only what the majority accepts should be law however they do not agree that all majority driven law is always good law.  They seek to persuade the majority that the principles of liberty should be the hallmark of all laws.  They accept that majority rule is the fairest method of deciding what the laws are.  They do not agree that this gives the majority the unlimited authority to decide what the laws ought to be.

The doctrinaire democrat holds that majority opinion not only decides what the law should be and that this majority opinion is also the measure of what is good law.

Therefore when we confound the concept of liberty with the use of democratic action it is natural to accept that everything democratically decided upon is an advance for liberty.  One has only to look at the fact that the German people voted to give Hitler dictatorial powers to see that this is an illusion.

For while the principles of liberty are one of the paths which may be chosen through democratic action the use of democratic action does not preclude other choices and it says nothing about what is the proper role of government.  While the spread of democracy, especially the idea of one-man-one-vote, has advanced the cause of liberty in many nations there is nothing that demands that it do so.  In America today many popular policies are advanced on the merit that they are the democratic desire of a majority.  This does not necessarily mean that they will advance the cause of liberty.  To require a citizen to purchase certain products such as health care and to use the coercive power of the state to enforce it may have passed as part of a democratic procedure; however, this does not advance the cause of liberty.

Giving someone the power to vote does not magically give them the knowledge or the information as to how to vote.  When the franchise is extended to more and more low information voters this may advance the cause of democracy; however, it does not advance the cause of liberty.  Low information voters are easily manipulated by demagogues who exploit the desires of the day to build their own kingdoms and enhance their own power without regard to our constitutional limits.

We have a growing mass of low information voters, a progressive government who makes it their business to shape the majority opinion, and a media that is dedicated to the government party.  This is the prescription for a totalitarian democracy.  The constraining hand of the constitution and tradition has fallen away and the manipulated voice of the majority calls for more entitlements, more regulation, more government to solve the problems caused by entitlements, regulations and government.

We have come full circle.  In our revolution the advocates of liberty rose up against an autocrat to demand freedom.  They then used that freedom to craft a government limited in power so that people could live their lives and build their fortunes without oppression.  Today we have elected leaders who have progressed past these limits.  Leaders who seek to control every aspect of life.  We may have reached the dreams of the democratic fathers however these dreams are turning into the nightmares of our Founders: advocates of liberty one and all.

Dr. Owens teaches History, Political Science, and Religion.  He is the Historian of the Future @ http://drrobertowens.com © 2014 Contact Dr. Owens drrobertowens@hotmail.com  Follow Dr. Robert Owens on Facebook or Twitter @ Drrobertowens / Edited by Dr. Rosalie Owens

 

Whose Responsibility is It? January 24, 2014

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God makes all of us to be round pegs in round holes.  In a free society if we end up a round peg in a square hole…..that’s on us.

There is no feeling worse than believing we have squandered our talents, wasted our life, and made no difference in our short time upon the world stage.  If we live in a society that chooses what, where, and how we do things it is easy to feel as if the opportunity to become who we were created to be was stolen.  However in a free society where we can choose for ourselves the responsibility for those choices as well as the freedom belongs to us.

Freedom does not merely mean that each individual bears the responsibility and the burden of choosing their path.  In a free society it also means that each individual will also receive either the praise or the blame that results from those choices.  Freedom and responsibility cannot be separated if either is to have a realistic bearing upon the individual.  If you cannot choose you are not responsible.  If you can you are.  A society cannot call itself free unless individuals ultimately occupy the positions and bear the consequences resulting from their own actions.  For that society to remain stable the individuals need to recognize that their positions and the concurrent consequences are the result of their own choices and actions.

A free society can only offer the opportunity to choose, and in a society of free agents this can only provide the chance for success.  The outcome always depends on the accidental interactions between circumstances and others.  Someone who has taken their destiny into their own hands while cognoscente of what they cannot control will concentrate their attention on what they can as if these are the only aspects of the endeavor which matter.  Circumstances and chance will either be advantageous or limiting.  Only the individual will know whether they have made the most advantageous use of either their talents or their circumstances therefore the responsibility for their actions resides with them.

In America today the knowledge of and the belief in this link between freedom and responsibility has become as rare as the honest man Diogenes spent a life time looking for.  Today victimhood has been raised to an art form.  It is inspired and rewarded by a complex system of laws and social conventions that offers praise for the helpless pawn and reviles the individual who succeeds.  Driven by the apathy and antagonism it elicits from those who accept the arguments that “You can’t fight city hall” and “It wasn’t my fault” even the word responsibility disappears from the vocabulary of motivation from the pulpit to the hustings.

The I’m OK you’re OK culture that accepts infanticide, suicide, and much else of what was once known as vice as not only morally acceptable but as civil rights flees from moralizing.  This throw-away culture elects people of the lowest morals and of the most glaring narcissism: media rock stars who rule instead of lead and who trample upon the freedoms our forefathers fought and died for.  This is not only accepted it is voted for since if our leaders are morally bankrupt it is all right for us to do whatever feels good.  If our leaders are attempting to weld the shackles of a totalitarian gulag in every sphere of life we truly are deprived of choice and are mere victims.

If you attempt to tell people that they are responsible for their choices and their conditions it will often provoke outright hostility.  These people have been taught that society has made them what they are.  It has determined their position in life and it is nothing but external circumstances that decide whether they succeed or fail.  They have rejected all responsibility because they fear it and in consequence they have rejected freedom.

In a large part this is a development that is not purely either religious or political in nature.  The rise of science and of the attempt to apply it to our understanding of humanity leads to several conclusions which are incompatible with freedom.

The first of these misapplied axioms is that everything is governed by iron-clad laws.  While this may apply to thermodynamics it does not relate in the same fashion to free agents in a free society.  Thoughts are infinite and new thoughts can always inspire new choices.  The second axiom erroneously used to understand human action is the idea of universal determinism.  The idea that all things are the inevitable consequence of prior action directed by inherently immutable outside forces precludes spontaneity and freedom of choice.  In such a system human will becomes an illusion and reality a maze with always only one way out.

Of course based on reality as experienced by everyone it has to be admitted that except on rare occasions the outcomes of human action could not be predicted and the results of particular circumstances interacting with particular individuals could not be foreseen.  However from genetics to economics from sociology to politics the belief that everything is determined by laws eliminates the space for a belief in freedom of the will and the responsibility which its operation engenders.

Those who accept the determinist position assert that it is genetics shaped by education tempered by society that constructs and controls all of us.  We are all the product of both nature and nurture and we exist within a grid designed, created, and controlled by society.  Whatever we are and whatever we become it isn’t our fault and it isn’t our choice or our effort.  This position was summed up brilliantly in the statement, “You didn’t build that.”  If you accomplished something you didn’t do it on your own just as if you fail it isn’t because of you, you’re merely a victim and as such society owes you support.

Divorced from morality and excluded from personal experience by education and an ever more regimented society responsibility has become a legal concept.  There are intricate webs of laws used to determine liability in the case of negatives while the “You didn’t build that” mentality erodes the concept of responsibility for success.  Once the link between choice and responsibility has been severed one of the major motivators for excellence has been silenced.   For the greatest significance of this fundamental concept is that a feeling of responsibility for one’s own choices is its role in guiding the decisions and actions for free people.

If nothing is ever your fault, if nothing is ever your achievement what does it matter what you choose or what you do?   If we are to be free we must bear the responsibility of that freedom or else we will search our whole life to learn whose responsibility is it.

Dr. Owens teaches History, Political Science, and Religion.  He is the Historian of the Future @ http://drrobertowens.com © 2014 Contact Dr. Owens drrobertowens@hotmail.com  Follow Dr. Robert Owens on Facebook or Twitter @ Drrobertowens / Edited by Dr. Rosalie Owens

 

Who Will Win the War Against Income Inequality? January 17, 2014

Posted by Dr. Robert Owens in Politics.
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From each according to their ability to each according to their need was the hollow promise of the Soviet Union.  It was long known to be merely the cover for a ruthless Communist Party that pretended to build a worker’s paradise while in fact enslaving a nation for its own gain.

Today this infamous lie has been resurrected in America as the war against income inequality.

The war on poverty has failed.  After decades of propaganda, trillions of dollars, and tens of thousands of regulations there is no less poverty in America than when LBJ sounded the charge of the contrite brigade. Of course it was a shell game all along.  The idea that you could take money out of one pocket and put it in another while dropping some along the way aptly describes the effort to tax the rich to alleviate poverty.  If all the money that has been expropriated to end poverty had been given directly to the poor we would have ended poverty.

However this isn’t what happened.  It was never what was intended to happen.  It will never happen because instead of a direct wealth transfer the loot is filtered through politicians, programs and bureaucrats who all siphon off enough to make sure the pennies that eventually dribble out of the welfare pipeline have little resemblance to the dollars that went in. They certainly don’t want to actually eliminate the poor since their campaign slogans and their jobs would evaporate with them.

Anyone who has ever stood hat-in-hand at a welfare office knows the scorn dished out with the meager fare always makes the meal a little less satisfying than imagined.  Jesus told us that “The poor will always be with you.”  Yet somehow the political savants who hold sway are always able to convince the low information voters that they will end poverty, or as we call it today, income inequality.

The only equality that is compatible with freedom is equality before the law.  By this I mean that whenever society, as expressed through government, makes rules they should apply to everyone the same.  In other words if a millionaire commits murder and a homeless person commits murder they should both stand before the same tribunal charged with the same crime.  Or if a tax is passed everyone should pay the same percentage.  We know that in the first case the difference between a dream team of lawyers and a public defender may mitigate the equality just as in the second case a progressive tax system will distort it.  However, this goal of equality before the law is the only one where actual equality is what is required to make it work.

All other types of equality, of income or opportunity or outcome require inequality.  If this sounds like circular thinking don’t be surprised; it is.

Since people are obviously not equal in talents, abilities, resources or nature the only way to make everyone start in the same place and end up in the same place is to treat them differently.  Some must be slowed down and some must be artificially pushed forward.  Some must get less than they earn so that some can get more.  This is the dirty little secret hidden behind the campaign slogan to end income inequality.  In reality it is just another way to describe income redistribution or as our president calls it, “Spread the wealth around.”

Those who make their living selling these illusions are supported by those who make their livings distributing the loot and by all those who think they will get something for nothing.   Unfortunately after generations of Progressive education, incremental socialism, and the sloth that is the bread by the bread and circus culture of the couch potato this may now be a majority of the votes counted.

Having sunk beneath the contempt of the Russian people and drown in the red capitalism of the Chinese it seems as if the infection of class envy co-joined to state power has emerged from the faculty lounge and fastened its death grip on America.  In the 2012 election the campaign slogan, “GM is alive and Bin Laden is dead” trumped a devastated economy to re-elect the inspiration of the IRS and the excuser of Benghazi.  If the war against income inequality proves the media enhanced key to return Nancy Pelosi to the Speakership and retain Harry Reid as the agenda setting leader of the Senate the Progressives will know they have two years to seal the deal.

We will still call it the United States of America.  We will still tell ourselves we are free, prosperous, and powerful however we may all be whistling in the wind.  Our politicians may win their war to end income inequality as they seek an American version of a worker’s paradise.  The comatose voters may even notice that things aren’t quite like they used to be, but then half-time will be over and that will be that.

Look at the results of the 2012 election.  GM is moving overseas after ripping off the American tax payers.  Al-Qaeda is marching to victory.  Think about the pledge that gained passage for Obamacare, “If you like you plan you can keep your plan.  Period.”  Reflect on this swindle and ask yourself how equal will anything be if we swallow the next big lie: ending income inequality.  Ask yourself who will win the war against income inequality.  The answer is those who distribute the loot will keep the lion’s share.

 

As an added bonus this war against income inequality as a campaign tool to fool the masses is leading us further into the unconstitutional waters our president has sailed for so long.  Brazenly saying, “We’re not just going to be waiting for legislation in order to make sure that we’re providing Americans the kind of help they need. I’ve got a pen and I’ve got a phone.”

The question here is, “Will anyone in the House have the courage to do something about it?”

Dr. Owens teaches History, Political Science, and Religion.  He is the Historian of the Future @ http://drrobertowens.com © 2014 Contact Dr. Owens drrobertowens@hotmail.com  Follow Dr. Robert Owens on Facebook or Twitter @ Drrobertowens / Edited by Dr. Rosalie Owens

 

What’s the Reason? January 10, 2014

Posted by Dr. Robert Owens in Politics.
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Just as the pursuit of perfection can often end in the sacrifice of what is good so too the worship of reason often results in the exaltation of mediocrity and the circumscription of reasonable thought and action.

Daily the Progressives aggressively push forward against positions which have long been the traditional battle lines of the conservative movement.  The front lines in the culture war move ever closer to the transformed America they envision.  First prayer was expelled from School.  Then the sexual revolution wave peaked with the nullification of state abortion laws by the Supreme Court and then crashed into the mainstream with condoms and birth-control distributed to school children.  Divorce became common-place, and out-of-wedlock births account for the majority in several demographics.  Pornography is a constitutional right and as close as a mouse click away in most homes.

Those who want to hold on to the America we were raised in are ridiculed in the press, movies, and by our elected officials as a wild-eyed fringe of traditionalist America-firsters clinging to our guns and Bibles.  This is why it is important to examine the place of reason as opposed to tradition in the operation of society.

To paraphrase the infamous phrase of George Bush the Younger, “I have sacrificed free market principles to save the free market system,” I would say, “At times we must suspend the rule of reason for reason to flourish.” Or follow in the footsteps of David Hume who was said to have turned against the Enlightenment its own weapons to whittle down the claims of reason by the use of rational analysis.

It is the ability to think in symbols and imagine abstract things that sets man apart from the rest of the animal kingdom.  Therefore at the outset let me say this is not an appeal for irrationality or any type of transcendental mysticism.  It is instead meant to be a rational examination of the anti-rationalistic position which is necessary for the preservation of individual freedom, personal liberty, and economic opportunity, and the only conditions under which reason can flourish and evolve.  For the attempt to apply reason and reason alone to the organization of society’s intricately woven interface of conventions stifles creativity, leaves no place for innovation, and is ultimately unreasonable.

When we attempt to apply the laws of science or the mechanical practices of engineering to human activity we run the risk of building a maze so perfect the mouse can never find the cheese.  Or in other words we can seek to make our processes so ideal that there is no room for free thinking, free action, or for the splashes of genius that are the real catalysts of societal evolution.

Those who stand by the idea that reason and reason alone should shape the future must of necessity seek to abandon tradition; for traditions are not built upon reason.  They are built upon trial and error.  That which doesn’t work is discarded, and that which works becomes accepted through use and time.  However it is impossible to completely disregard tradition.  Every day each of us moves through life acting upon hundreds of unconscious rules and procedures that we don’t think about because they were bred into us by those who raised us.  It is the consensus of a common culture and heritage which makes a people one, E Pluribus Unum.

Those who worship reason believe that they can design a perfect society, a utopia, and that all of their dreams of perfection will stand the light of day.  History proves over and over that those who seek to guide the evolution of man through the evolution of society do not create the heaven on earth they advertise.

Look to the French Revolution which cast down Christ and enshrined Reason as their God.  It didn’t produce the liberty, equality, and fraternity it promised; instead it brought forth Terror, dictatorship, war and ruin.  The Russian Revolution overthrew the absolute monarchy of the Romanovs and installed an even more absolute dictatorship that promised a worker’s paradise and delivered the gulags, starvation, and collapse.

When those who think they are wise enough to make everyone’s decisions about everything try to manufacture a society that looks like their computer models they must use coercion to force those who do not accept their vision to act as if they did.  Rules, regulations and red tape bind the human spirit and prevent the growth of the un-designed, the unforeseen, and smother the spark of genius.  As counter intuitive as it may sound a free society will always be in large measure a tradition bound society. For traditions, though they may seem unbreakable at times, are always evolving while rules are cast in concrete.

Patrick Henry told us, “Virtue, morality, and religion. This is the armor, my friend, and this alone that renders us invincible. These are the tactics we should study. If we lose these, we are conquered, fallen indeed . . . so long as our manners and principles remain sound, there is no danger.”

John Adams said, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

Our virtue is embodied and defended in our traditions.  Once these walls have fallen how can our virtue stand unprotected assailed on all sides in what is becoming an alien culture?

The ethics of virtue tells us “virtue is determined by the right reason. Virtue requires the right desire and the right reason. To act from the wrong reason is to act viciously. On the other hand, the agent can try to act from the right reason, but fail because he or she has the wrong desire. The virtuous agent acts effortlessly, perceives the right reason, has the harmonious right desire, and has an inner state of virtue that flows smoothly into action. The virtuous agent can act as an exemplar of virtue to others.”

The virtuous person acts in the way they do because it is their nature.  They have imbibed the virtue of their society and they act naturally as an embodiment of the good.  They have absorbed the traditions and they act as they do without thought, without regard or reliance on reason.  They do not question what is right or wrong.  They know what is right or wrong and act accordingly.  They follow tradition.

The worshipers of reason reject the traditions that have grown up organically in society and design their own.  They reject the good and seek the perfect.  The problem is that perfection is impossible in this life.  Perfection does not belong to the realm of man.  The air castles and utopias of the rationalistic social engineers may look good on paper; however they never materialize into anywhere we can live.

Why is it hell the Progressives will deliver instead of the heaven they promise?   This is what has traditionally happened and that’s the reason.

Dr. Owens teaches History, Political Science, and Religion.  He is the Historian of the Future @ http://drrobertowens.com © 2014 Contact Dr. Owens drrobertowens@hotmail.com  Follow Dr. Robert Owens on Facebook or Twitter @ Drrobertowens / Edited by Dr. Rosalie Owens

 

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