Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Bundy's Ranch: The Rule of Law, Rights, State Powers and Civil Disobedience

I haven't been able to dig very deeply into the material on Bundy Ranch yet, new job & all, but there is a fundamental involved in the case which applies far beyond one rancher in Nevada, it is fundamentally at the root of this controversy and so many others today, and I've seen it referred to, claimed by, or ignored by, both sides: the Rule of Law.

In responding to a tweet the other day, I'd said that:
"When is Law less than Law?When its based upon nothing but laws."
Which baffled and infuriated some fine folks in the twitterverse:
  • "I guess we can ignore any law that is based on laws. All then
  • That is bullshit! Laws r laws! U don't get to pick & choose! That is claptrap! U follow the law or u don't! Its simple!
  • We r supposed to be a nation of laws. #ClivenBundy doesn't get to just ignore laws he disagrees with & pull a gun!"
That sort of response, from the left and the right, worries me more than any other aspect of the case.

Ladies and Gents, 'Rule of Law' means much more than if there's a law, you obey it - nothing in that differentiates the Western conception of the Rule of Law from the expectations of any of the worlds tyrants who also have reams of laws which they fully expect everyone to obey as well. It also means more than the somewhat higher concept that 'No one is above the law', and the lack of depth shown in these very passionate responses, gives an indicator of just how large the problems are that we face in righting the bad laws which burden our courts and our lives. The question that we need to be asking ourselves more than any other, is the one Dana Loesch asked last week, 'What is the Rule of Law?"


Frightening to consider just how wrong
this confrontation could have gone


At the very least you should understand it to mean that no particular law exists separate & apart from the entire body of our laws. Each law must integrate with related laws without direct contradictions, else they must be modified or overruled, forming precedents which themselves must stand the same testing process, and all of which, in America, must fit within our constitutional framework - and that framework must remain rooted in a foundation of Right Reason, which is what all of our laws draw their legitimacy from.

Wait, what? Right Reason? Whu...?

Before looking at what I mean by that, let's first try disregarding it.

Let's assume that "When is Law less than Law?When its based upon nothing but laws." is just silly and meaningless drivel, and let's suppose that laws need no further basis than the agreement of other laws to validate them.

Ok, then ask yourself:
  • Q: What then can become law?
  • A: Whatever the lawgivers provide
Correct?

When law alone justifies law, then by legislation or court judgment, it could be lawful, based upon nothing more than a stroke of the pen to create the necessary basis in law, to take half or all, of your earnings, by law? As it would be lawful to spy on you? To monitor the activities in your bedroom? Lawful to validate or invalidate your marriage? Lawful to prevent you from having more than one child? Or demand that you have more? Lawful to designate unpopular minorities to be used as subjects in medical testing?

Here's another question for you:
  • Q:What is it you imagine that could not become law?
  • A: Nothing.
Correct.

What? Are you wanting to say
"No, they can't just make anything a law, we're a democracy afterall, a majority of the people have to approve!"
No, sorry, EHHH! When you say that laws need nothing but laws to stand upon, then you don't get to reach outside of the laws in order to regulate the writing of them. If you claim that 'the rule of law' requires nothing but other laws to justify them, then that's that. In a circular system such as that, what those who write the laws, say is law, acquires the unquestioned force of law, whether those who write the laws choose to write them fairly or unfairly, passing them by majority rule, or by dictatorial rule, decreeing by law that the laws are hence forth to apply to some, many or all of the people; for whatever the laws say are lawful, are but the result of the arbitrary choices of the lawmaker(s) who have the power to write the laws, and the laws that justify them.

That is the Pro-Regressive ideal of Might Makes Right, and it is the essence of the legal school of Positive Law that has led our judicial system for the last century. With that as the basis for the laws, parents soon find that they have little say in the education of their own children, and indeed children can be lawfully taken from their parents, or it can be ruled, as it was done by Judge Taney's court in the Dred Scott case, that it is perfectly lawful for one person to own another person, or as that judicial titan of the 20th century, Oliver Wendell Holmes, idol of left and right, thought that the Supreme Court could rightfully rule that people judged to be 'botched' could be sterilized against their will, since:
"...It is better for all the world, if instead of waiting to execute degenerate offspring for crime, or to let them starve for their imbecility, society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind..."
, and in each of these cases, and more, each law, as it was justified by other laws, was every bit as legal as laws forbidding robbery - not because the laws are valid and Just, but simply because they are laws which other laws have said are justified. The old maxim of Gresham’s Law,'bad money drives out good'. should be kept firmly in mind because it most certainly applies to law as well, what is Just and Right is driven out by what is unjust and made with more concern for the exercise of power than the evaluation of Right and Wrong. Such laws are laws, not because they aspire to some degree of rightness, but because those in power, whether one or many, favor them - they can make no claim to valuing what is right, let alone of actually being right. And if there is any law, or judgment that is made against you through such laws which you object to, you will find that you have no other recourse but to those same laws, administered by those in power, who are applying them against you.

And should those in power pull out their pens and phones to alter the laws as they see fit? Then what was legal yesterday can become illegal tomorrow, and you may very well wake up to find yourself an outlaw for any number of reasons, such as not turning in your legally purchased arms which have been made illegal with the stroke of a pen, or for not buying health care insurance you'd decided you didn't need. Under such a system of 'justice', if the whims of lawmakers transform you, through your once legal actions, into a criminal, then that's just too bad for you.

You do see the problem here, don't you? 'Dana summed it up well,"
"...What is the rule of law if the rule can be broken? What is the rule of law if it is inconsistently applied according to politics? If we’re going to discuss rule of law, this situation would have never happened in the first place. The Bundys and those who agree with them aren’t devaluing the rule of law, rather, they’re pointing out how those who have violated the rule of law are now trying to hold it up as a standard of measure. Bureaucrats writing their own regulations to later violate is a bad thing. Making a specious argument based on a situationally-endangered turtle is a bad thing...."[emphasis mine]
Those who are writing the laws, those administrating the laws, those writing regulations having the force of law, and who are calling people like Cliven Bundy 'domestic terrorists' for opposing their laws, are themselves the ones who have no visible regard for the Rule of Law. Laws written without reference to anything other than other laws for their own justification, serve only to put you entirely under the power of those who write the laws, and you can be sure that justice will not be their purpose.

Laws, to be good laws, to be Just laws, must be derived through and justified upon some standard outside of the laws themselves, and no, ladies and gents, simply providing a written constitution is not enough. A constitution which refers to nothing but itself, is simply another circular means of having laws justify other laws, and as we just saw, it doesn't take a lot of thought to grasp that without external references, such circular laws are in reality illegitimate. But. We can know that only because you are yourself making that judgment by evaluating them based upon something outside of the laws themselves. Our Constitution, when it was still alive within We The People, was rarely thought of apart from those principles external to it - that was what gave our Rule of Law legs in reality as well as a standard to judge their soundness by. With that as the standard for our laws, then we have a means of discovering its shortcomings, and also a guide for how to right them (see the 13th, 14th & 15th amendments).

So what is that standard?

Right Reason
There are two statements about the Law that are vital to the understanding of what the Western ideal of the Rule of Law is. The first goes at least as far back as Aristotle, and he assures us it goes much further back than that, and that is the idea that :
'No one can be judge in his own cause; Hear the other side'
That is anathema to the rule of tyrants, who by definition rule in their own causes and interests, and care nothing for hearing any other side but their own. That has been foundational to our western conception of law, and was central to the writing and selling of our Constitution, as is easily seen here in Federalist #10:
"No man is allowed to be a judge in his own cause, because his interest would certainly bias his judgment, and, not improbably, corrupt his integrity. With equal, nay with greater reason, a body of men are unfit to be both judges and parties at the same time;"
When Laws require nothing more than other laws to justify themselves, then the law effectively becomes a judge in its own case, and all manner of evils will follow from that.

The second point comes to us from Cicero, and it was something our Founders were very familiar with, as it was found in the common educational materials of their time, and it was also a vital part of every education in the law during that era which produced our Constitution, not because it was old, which it was even then, written in 54 B.C., but because it was understood to be right and true in Cicero's time, as well as in their own time, just as it is right and true today and will still be right and true tomorrow and through times to come (why it is no longer found in any textbooks today is a question for another time). From Cicero’s Commonwealth (often called 'The Republic'), from Book III:
"True law is right reason in agreement with nature; it summons to duty by its commands, and averts from wrongdoing by its prohibitions. And it does not lay its commands or prohibitions upon good men in vain, though neither have any effect on the wicked. It is a sin to try to alter this law, nor is it allowable to attempt to repeal any part of it, and it is impossible to abolish it entirely. We cannot be freed from its obligations by senate or people, and we need not look outside ourselves for an expounder or interpreter of it. And there will not be different laws at Rome and at Athens, or different laws now and in the future, but one eternal and unchangeable law will be valid for all nations and all times, and there will one master and ruler, that is, God, over us all, for he is the author of this law, its promulgator, and its enforcing judge. Whoever is disobedient is fleeing from himself and denying his human nature, and by reason of this very fact he will suffer the worst penalties, even if he escapes what is commonly called punishment."
Right Reason in agreement with nature, means not only must an idea seem to be true, it must also prove to be true in reality. That understanding preceded Cicero and continued on as a maxim of law; shaping and instructing the formation of Western Law in general and English Law in particular. The understanding that ultimately led to conceiving of individuals as having Individual Rights, would not have been possible without that understanding. And because that maxim remained central to our understanding of Law, it continued to develop and continued to influence the formation of our own laws a thousand years and more afterwards.

Thomas Jefferson, in writing to James Madison in Feb, 1826, regarding what were the proper legal books that should be used for the instruction of law in his college, wrote with some urgency, about Sir Edward Coke (1552 – 1634, English Jurist) and his instructions on learning the Law:
"You will recollect that before the revolution, Coke Littleton was the universal elementary book of law students, and a sounder whig never wrote, nor of profounder learning in the orthodox doctrines of the British constitution, or in what were called English liberties. You remember also that our lawyers were then all whigs."
IOW, Coke's instructions on The Law, particularly the The First Part of the Institutes of the Lawes of England, which Jefferson was speaking of, were central to and formative of the legal thinking of those who not only reasoned for our break with England over the injustices done to their 'Rights as Englishmen', but was also implicit in the writing of our Constitution. Typical of Coke's instructions in law, were such as this,
"And this is another strong argument in Law, Nihil quod est contra rationem est licitum.5"-> 5. [Ed.: Nothing that is against reason is lawful.]
That phrase, 'Nothing that is against reason is lawful', is not only central to our understanding of law, it is unreasonable to think that liberty could ever be had without it. As we've been straying further and further from that understanding since the beginning of the 20th century, look around and see if you think it can continue to. And while such a maxim may not be a rule of law itself, one that a judge can rule upon, it does provide the means of reaching outside the circularity of the self referencing laws, so that good law can stand to reason in relation to sound thought, reality, and our lives in it, in order to be considered to be right and true.

Does that mean that our laws can simply appeal to 'Right Reason' in order to justify them? No. Is it a guarantee against ever making errors? No, and nothing is. But what it does do is provide a basis for calling the legitimacy of any law into question, and points to the standard they must comply with in order to be justified. When that understanding animates our approach to the law, it prevents an accretion of laws from creating their own reality, it requires that all law retain their purpose and connection to the reality of human life and right and wrong.

These views are not new, though few of today's legal realities reflect them. When regulatory agency's sit in judgment of their own regulations, the law is being made into a judge of its own interests. When the law, which is the means of upholding the lives, rights and property of the people, is turned against the livelihood of the people in a region, the law is not hearing the other side. When We The People are being afflicted with the law, when people are being strong-armed by the law, when govt agencies such as the BLM, and other incestuously related courts and agencies, demonstrate their intent to write and rewrite whatever regulations seem most likely to prove useful to running off those who have a long history of working the land they seek, such as they have with Cliven Bundy, the last rancher in his region - and his is by no means the only case, or state, it is happening to - then it is clear that these cases are not being heard by the law. When the reasons that are given for these actions is to ostensibly to preserve an idyllic existence for desert turtles (which, btw, are 'euthanized' as their numbers become inconvenient to those claiming the importance of their being preserved), then we have good reason to question what and who the law is being used to serve, for obviously, reason, reality and truth aren't playing a large part in the govt's plans.

Some in congress are starting to realize this, and it even appears that a number of States are beginning to see and do something about it as well. It should be getting clear that the laws our regulatory agencies are imposing upon us are not standing the test of Right Reason, and it should be becoming clearer still that what we are dealing with is not the rule of law, but the means of our being ruled by means of laws.

The Revolutionary Rule of Law
How has this come to pass? What 'The Rule of Law' is, and what the purpose of the law is and what can serve as a basis for it, is the ever revolutionary question we should be asking ourselves today, and the answers you give can still be every bit as revolutionary, as they once were and likely always will be.

If, on the one hand, you see Individual Rights as being an inherent and necessary part of our nature as reasoning human beings, as I do, then law, to be valid, good and proper, must respect, uphold and defend those Rights. To do that it needs a sound framework, such as our Constitution, and with that purpose in mind, the law sets out the powers and limitations of government, within which federal and state laws are to be written, and for that purpose power is gathered and formed into Govts by means of law, and in the same breath is leashed by its laws. Of all of the schools of law, the one that is most compatible with that view, the one whose fundamentals were identified by Aristotle, and Cicero, embodied in Magna Carta, and were expounded upon by Coke, and formed the understanding from which our Constitution and Declaration of Independence were derived, is that of Natural Law. Its insistence that the laws must comport with Right Reason was, is and always will be a truly revolutionary view, and a leap of Progress never before made. Unfortunately for us, very few of our educators, legislators or Supreme Court Justices today still recognize, or attempt to interpret and apply the law, in accordance with that view; not Scalia, Roberts, Alito... Rehnquist, or nominees such as Bork, etc, who hold instead to varying views of textualism, originalism and traditionalist flavors of what is still essentially Positive Law in conservativish drag. Clarence Thomas is essentially alone in his respect for Natural Law, and you've got to go back towards the first half of the 20th century in order to find other Justices who attempted to do the same.

But if on the other hand, you yearn for the spirit of those timeworn views, which assert that the law is primarily a means for government to form, induce or nudge societal behaviors towards a 'greater good', then what you are yearning for is the rolling back of the only true progress made in political science over the last thousand plus years, then at least recognize that the views you hold are truly Pro->Regressive. Those views which see 'rights' as privileges which government can extends to those individuals in society it deems to be the most deserving, the most in need of particular benefits, protections or aids which justify seizing the power to take from some to extend to others - raising some above the law while throwing everyone else under it - they shove Right Reason and Individual Rights off the table. Those seeking the power to use power in order to impose their dreams of social justice and other 'greater goods' upon us, will find fellow travelers in former Justice Breyer, who wants to transform your right to bear arms, as protected by the 2nd Amdt, into a permission for some to retain some particular guns, in some govt approved situations, he is most definitely their guy.

Unfortunately, for the supporters of Positive Law, our Constitution was written and originally amended through the lens of Natural Law. That was once considered too obvious a fact to need repeating. Today it obviously needs stating and repeating often and continuously. And for those who like to say that Natural Law and the principles of the Declaration of Independence have nothing to do with our constitution or with governance in America, I'll direct you to consider (H/T Chris Loesch) how the Congress of the United States of America expressed their expectations for the people of the then Nevada Territory, to consider in their application for statehood: "Act Of Congress (1864) Enabling The People Of Nevada To Form A Constitution And State Government"
"Sec. 4. Authorization to form constitution and state government; limitations. And be it further enacted, That the members of the convention, thus elected, shall meet at the capital of said territory on the first Monday in July next, and, after organization, shall declare, on behalf of the people of said territory, that they adopt the constitution of the United States. Whereupon the said convention shall be, and it is hereby, authorized to form a constitution and state government for said territory: Provided, That the constitution, when formed, shall be republican, and not repugnant to the constitution of the United States, and the principles of the Declaration of Independence: And provided further, That said convention shall provide, by an ordinance irrevocable, without the consent of the United States and the people of said state:— First."
If the principles of the Declaration of Independence had nothing to do with our constitution and of governance in The United States of America, and held no sway past the revolutionary era, as Pro-Regressives stridently claim, then why oh why would Congress include a statement in the legislation for admitting another state into the union and directing them in writing their own constitution, on the terms that "...Provided, That the constitution, when formed, shall be republican, and not repugnant to the constitution of the United States, and the principles of the Declaration of Independence...", eh? It simply doesn't stand to reason that they would do such a thing, for no reason, does it?

Unfortunately for us, it has been the Utopian folly of Positive Law, of legislating on no other basis than claims of 'the greater good', that has most 'consistently' been used and abused upon us, since the opening of the 20th century.

The understanding which once commonly served as the basis for our Rule of Law, is the real revolution that we are fighting today, and those who don't understand it, or who ignore it, or who seek to act against it for 'the greater good', represent the battlegrounds we need to be concentrating upon - if we lose them, we lose the war. Time will tell which view will ultimately win out, but actual liberty can only exist within the context of a view such as that of Natural Law, and if that is snuffed out... we'll get what we deserve.

What's a law abiding person to do?
So what is a person to do when they find themselves up against not only unjust laws, but a judicial system that is itself manifestly unjust, as that of our system of regulatory laws are?

To begin with, it's important that you do not begin making your case upon fundamentally false positions, and one of the most common and treacherous of these false principles, is the bogus claim of 'State's Rights'. It is important to understand that this is NOT a 'States Rights' issue, because the concept of 'States Rights' necessarily means that there can be no Individual Rights unless the state first grants them. I understand the tendency to reach for a shorthand reference, but 'States Rights' is not only not a helpful shorthand summary, it undermines all rights altogether.

Let me say that again: States do not, and cannot, have rights. While States do have powers, as do the people, (see the 10th Amdt:
"The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."
) , only individuals have Rights (see the 9th Amdt:
"The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people."
), and they have them by virtue of their nature as human beings - Rights being those actions a reasoning person must be free to take (or retain what results from them) in order to live as a reasoning being; states most definitely are not reasoning creatures and so they can have no rights.

States are organized power, and those powers which States receive come to them through the consent of the governed who delegate it to them in order to uphold and defend the Rights of their people. It is for our Rights, that governments immense power is leashed by our laws, in order to be served by them. For states to have rights as well, would mean that our rights would be subordinated to the powers of the states, rather than the other way around.

States do not have rights, they have powers. Powers defined and restricted by laws, and the rights of We The People are critically dependent upon those powers being held by laws. Anytime a state is allowed to exercise power outside the bounds of the laws which define them, then everyone's rights are imperiled.

When, as now, those powers are abused by another state, whether a fellow state or federal parent, that is an instance of power escaping from the Rule of Law, and it is a danger to everyone's rights and to the lawful power of all other states. States must resist, in the name of their peoples rights, the encroachment of power acting outside of the law.

However, while states have the power to state their opposition to unjust laws and to withdraw their administrative support of them (see the original Jeffersonian and Madisonian 'nullification', as opposed to the Calhounian sense that animated the Civil War era and many of those agitating for 'nullification' today), they cannot act outside of their defined powers against fellow state or federal powers, without jeopardizing what really is a fundamental basis for the rule of law. What the Rule of Law requires most, is leashing unfettered power to the law - creatures of the law, cannot be allowed off their leash! - that is the path to war and the destruction of the law.

Individuals however, do have both Rights and Powers, including the power to lawfully oppose laws and seek their alteration, and as with states, individuals have the power to not comply with unjust laws, though that does not mean they they can violate or obstruct the law.

When a person finds that the laws being applied to them are unjust, they have a duty to speak out, as all people's rights are in jeopardy by the mere existence of unjust laws. An just law, means unreasonable law, and as Coke said: "Nothing that is against reason is lawful", which in practice means that govt has gained hold of unrestrained power - that is a danger to all. Implicit in 'The Rule of Law' is the necessary and continual attention and re-evaluation of the laws, by the people.

The first stage of non-compliance, is bringing suit against the law, fighting it out in court, and in the court of public opinion. But when you find no response, no redress, when you find yourself facing a system that has set itself up to NOT hear the other side, and which sits in judgment of its own interests, then you have a Right and a duty, to not comply quietly with those laws.

So... wait... how can the laws have the force of law, if they can be ignored by the people?

It can't. And they can't. Which doesn't make matters easy.

The Right road is not an easy one
The Law must have 'force of law' but at the same time the people must call it into question when their laws seem unjust. The lawful form of opposition is through the courts, working your way up through to the State Supreme Court, and the United States Supreme Court. Failing that, there is a legislative path, as well as that which was ultimately taken through the 13th, 14th & 15th Amdts - and hopefully that path can be taken without a Civil War, as the 19th Amdt, recognizing women's right to vote, or ending Prohibition with the 21st Amdt (which repealed the 18th Amdt).

But when the courts provide no justice, and when We The People have been too inattentive for too long, allowing bad laws to accumulate and be imposed upon us, and if those who should have known better, refuse to, enabling those in power to persist in ignoring our laws and amendments, then it is not unreasonable for people to conclude that they have no option but to refuse to comply with the laws being imposed upon them. In such cases there is a recognized path to be taken, that of Civil Disobedience. And long before Thoreau expressed the concept, it had already been identified and recommended as the proper path during the ratification of our Constitution! See Federalist #46:
"Were it admitted, however, that the Federal government may feel an equal disposition with the State governments to extend its power beyond the due limits, the latter would still have the advantage in the means of defeating such encroachments. If an act of a particular State, though unfriendly to the national government, be generally popular in that State and should not too grossly violate the oaths of the State officers, it is executed immediately and, of course, by means on the spot and depending on the State alone. The opposition of the federal government, or the interposition of federal officers, would but inflame the zeal of all parties on the side of the State, and the evil could not be prevented or repaired, if at all, without the employment of means which must always be resorted to with reluctance and difficulty. On the other hand, should an unwarrantable measure of the federal government be unpopular in particular States, which would seldom fail to be the case, or even a warrantable measure be so, which may sometimes be the case, the means of opposition to it are powerful and at hand. The disquietude of the people; their repugnance and, perhaps, refusal to co-operate with the officers of the Union; the frowns of the executive magistracy of the State; the embarrassments created by legislative devices, which would often be added on such occasions, would oppose, in any State, difficulties not to be despised; would form, in a large State, very serious impediments; and where the sentiments of several adjoining States happened to be in unison, would present obstructions which the federal government would hardly be willing to encounter.

But ambitious encroachments of the federal government, on the authority of the State governments, would not excite the opposition of a single State, or of a few States only. They would be signals of general alarm."
[emphasis mine]
You see, under the American understanding of Law, such civil disobedience is not undermining or obstructing the lw, but among the oldest safeguards of the Rule of Law!

And that 'General Alarm' which Madison spoke of, is what We The People must raise - Peacefully, violence would only serve to solidify the Federal Govt's position - but through non-compliance, beginning with the people and then through their states, there is a path to successfully bringing the laws back under the Rule of Law first.

The abolitionist, such as John Brown, chose violence, and we not only had a civil war, but additional complications which spread and went unresolved for another century.

The peaceful path was the path taken by the Woman's Suffrage movement, and it was the path taken by Martin Luther King, as explained in his "Letter from a Birmingham Jail", and both exemplify the best use of a citizens power against unjust laws, peaceful, civil disobedience, and vigorously 'spreading the word' and explaining why their actions are being taken. Peacefully.

Understand - drawing the state or federal powers into a contest of arms, is counter-productive, futile, and not nearly justified as yet. Pointless violence serves to uphold no ones rights, and not only does not advance the cause of justice one whit, but will almost certainly bring about a loss of ground and lend the unwarranted aura of 'moral authority' to the state's benefit - which would be intolerable.

But even worse, those calling for violent action are making the classic mistake of preparing to fight the next war by means of the last war - and it is doomed to failure. Not only will it fail to win, it will fail to even see action, because it fails to ever even set foot upon the real battlefield before us.

Understand this: We do not face or require a revolution in our form of government, or in our laws (though we could use some vigorous repealing of them), but in our understanding of them. We already have the best form of government possible - The Declaration of Independence has already been declared! The Constitution has already been written! The government has already been formed! What we've lost is our understanding of them! Guns are of no use in that battle, and that battle is the battle we must fight - and you don't bring a gun to a mind fight! There are not yet enough people that are familiar with, or have a sound understanding of the constitution, let alone the Rule of Law. Who are you going to get to support you? What happens when you get support from those who don't know what they need to know? What form of government do you suppose will follow from those who don't even grasp the one we already have?!

As MLK's assassination shows, that path is not without risk, and not just from the government - it didn't become so disordered without the people being so as well. We The People do need to realize that there will be consequences for non-compliance with the law and incorrect views that are widely held or tolerated. He knew there would be consequences, but he felt it was justified. Refusing to comply with such laws is in a very great sense, your duty. And if you cannot find the ability to oppose them, then you must at least alert and educate your fellows about such laws, just as you would warn someone that their house was on fire. The good news is that you are not alone in this, and together with others, all exercising your freedom of speech and association, you will bring attention to those unjust laws, to the acute embarrassment of those attempting to justify them.

What about the Bundy's use of arms to oppose BLM? Do I think the incident at the Bundy's ranch was a proper exercise of 2nd Amdt rights? No I don't. Perhaps the Bundy's themselves could have made the case for defending their property, but again, it would have been a futile one, and highly unlikely to help their case, or ours. And as I understand it from the reports I've read from here, 1,500 miles away from the action, Cliven Bundy not only did not ask for supporters to come armed, he specifically asked that they come unarmed. That is the proper approach, IMHO, and those who showed up not only armed to the teeth but aiming their weapons at the BLM, IMHO, nearly turned a likely victory - the national media viewing of unarmed protesters facing ranks of armed BLM SWAT could have ended in no other way than it did, this is still America, they had to back down -but if one shot had been fired by the 'militia', that would have turned it all into a violent failure.

We aren't there yet. Sorry, we're just not. And if you think we've reached the level of government opposition and abuse that was faced by those in pre-revolutionary America, or even by those protesting for Woman's Suffrage, or the repeal of Prohibition, or that of the Civil Rights movement, for heaven's sake, you are simply wrong, and painfully uninformed. Fix that. Please. Quickly.

We are afflicted today with a vast array of laws which we are required to face and oppose and protest. Do not comply quietly with them, but keep your civil disobedience civil. Raise questions. The most effective shot you can fire today is to simply speak out. Just do it. Bundy is doing it. Texas ranchers are doing it. New York and Connecticut residents are doing it in regards to the right to bear arms. Parents across the country are doing it in regards to unjust laws in the education of our children. Study the issues, learn the questions, raise them and discuss them with your family, friends and neighbors, calmly when possible, loudly when necessary. The nature of the battle we face must be pointed out and understood, or it will be lost. Martin Luther King jr. succeeded not because he protested, but because his protests brought attention, and then understanding, and then a pervasive disgust that could no longer be ignored, brought it to bear upon unjust laws and to those supporting them, and then they and their institutions fell of their own weight.

Understanding comes first, first yours, and then others. Then solutions can and will be found. But the attempt to jump straight to solutions, through force of arms, is counter productive and misses out on the real work to be done.

Shortcuts in laws are how we got to where we are today. Man up. Do it right. Question, loudly, Ask 'What is the Rule of Law?', and know the answer.

Saturday, April 05, 2014

RTW: A Right to... What?

RTW: A Right to... What?
Threading your way out of a tangled web can be... painful, and heated. I'd wanted to get a few more posts in on Progress vs. Regress before turning to 'Right To Work', but I'm too slow and the time is here now. But before getting to the RTW bill Missouri is in the midst of debating, or what I think about it, let me make clear my position on Politics and on Unions.

Politics: I'm not here to aid or support anyone, or any bill, or any policy in any election, or in any other pursuit for that matter. I'm here to present the ideas I've learned to be true, ideas I believe are important to people's lives, ideas which I think that a person who values their life should be aware of and understand. The core of these ideas are what made America possible in the first place and which neither it nor liberty can continue for long without. It's been said that 'Politics is downstream of Culture', which is very true, but Culture is itself downstream from the ideas which it is formed from. If you don't alter or deepen the ideas which the people of a culture are thinking or are even willing to consider, then you won't change the culture, and that, the ideas our culture is aware of, is the target I use this blog to aim at. True, there is circulation between the two, but simply presenting yourself more fashionably or being more 'edgy', won't accomplish a damn thing.


Unions: The heart and soul of the union, the central idea they were originally formed around and which they are battling to maintain, or even strengthen today, is that they are an organization designed to get what they have no right to, in order to exercise power upon all. The first victims explicitly targeted by Unions are those they claim to want to 'represent': the worker. Their first actions are not taken against the rich, but towards intimidating those workers who aren't inclined to join them, into their membership against their will. Only once enough of the workforce has been pressed into their ranks, do they then turn their tender attentions to 'the rich', using the workers they claim to represent, as tools of intimidation in order to rob 'the rich' and the worker of their right to make their own decisions, neatly gaining power over them all.

Whatever guise they hide behind, 'Trade Union' or otherwise, I despise them all. Sure, some good things may have resulted from actions unions have taken, no doubt some good things have come from the Mafia as well. I'm not impressed by such 'good deeds' and give them no credit because of them.

And yes I know, everyone knows someone in unions who are just swell. My Brother in Law spent a couple decades in a union. My Wife is in a union. Because they had the choice to join their union? No. Because they were compelled to join a union. Whatever good it is that you want to chalk up to unions, I can show one or more evils that have been condoned and accepted into society to accomplish that 'good', and which compounds the initial evil done. That they have been legalized, simply means that the Law has been perverted into protecting thuggery.

Unions are the embodiment of 'Might Makes Right' and few things are more Pro-Regressive than that. I detest them for what they actually are, not for who might be in them or what good might appear to have resulted from them. Anything that hinders them, I'm for. Anything that can legitimately be done to limit their power, or to dissolve them from the American landscape, I am for.

That being said, it is difficult to be a whole hearted supporter of RTW, as the position we are in is too like having to use Romney to vote against Obama, and far too familiar for us on the Right; but no, it's not an unprincipled vote and yes, we've got to do it. But. Is it possible to take a principled stand on ground that has already been rendered unprincipled? Care must be taken. The distastefulness is not just because of the bill itself, but because of the deforming federal laws it must 'respect', and because of the approach the GOP has taken to sell it. And to understand why that is, we need to know some of the background behind it.

RTW? How about a Right to Rights?!
Firstly, and probably least in the minds of supporters of RTW, I object to the Utopian title: "Right To Work". Why? Take a moment and think about what it presumes and what it neglects. A hint as to the problem in Missouri's bill, is in a comment Michigan's Gov. made upon a similar bill:
"Gov. Rick Snyder, who took a hit in popularity polls after he pushed for right-to-work, has said the law “isn’t about being anti-union,” but is “about being pro-worker.”"
Anyone notice the vital party neglected by that comment upon employment? Yep, the employer. This is Law we're talking about. Laws which directly affect the rights and livelihoods of all Americans, and at the very least, for a law to be 'Pro' one side or the other, is to slight the rights of some - minority or majority matters not in the least - the result is to undermine the rights of all. It is either 'One nation, under law', or one group pitched against another, for the benefit of yet another.

But more fundamentally, I object to the term 'Right To Work' because there is no 'right to work', and there cannot be. It is a Utopian and self contradictory term. What do I mean? To claim that there is a 'Right To Work', means that someone, somewhere, somehow, at some point in time, must be compelled to provide jobs as an end in itself, and so those providing the jobs cannot have full political rights themselves, and so no one in that utopia can have Rights, or at least not Rights as understood to be inherent in their nature as human beings, and that leaves only privileges. Privileges bestowed upon some, by those with the power to compel the material of them from others.

There can be no 'Right to Work' and Individual Rights.

Secondly, the strategy used to promote RTW laws disturbs me. The GOP approach is to focus on jobs:
"The arguments surrounding right to work center on economic issues and fairness. Supporters point to greater job growth in the states, mostly in the South, with right-to-work laws. Opponents counter that these states also have lower wages."
What's disturbing about that? It's because arguments that focus primarily on results, on statistics, in this case economic issues and fairness, or in ObamaCare's focus on the uninsured and fairness, disregard or minimize the Rights of those involved and the principles that must be fully respected for those rights to have any real meaning and power under law.

That, I find disturbing.

Do RTW states experience a rise in wages? Pardon me, but I don't really give a rat's ass whether they do or not! Do their people - employers, employees and those they choose to associate with - experience the ability to exercise their rights to make their own decisions, while respecting the rights of others to do the same? If they do, then their wages will more closely reflect the values that they've produced - and in the context of exercising power over people, I don't care about anything else, and govt sure as hell shouldn't be freed to either.

What's that? You think it does matter?

Let me ask you this: Do you believe people should be paid more than the monetary value their efforts have produced? Yes? You are for 'something for nothing'? Then you, left or right, are the embodiment of the Marxist ideal of 'greedy capitalists' which they've successfully branded the Free Market with (Thanks Schools!). If you are alright with that, then please, go find your position on the proRegressive left. Don't worry, they'll make room for you, as soon as you make it clear you have no principles but those of convenience, they'll find the right group to fit you in with.

The actual issue here is do people have the right to form businesses, do individuals - business owner and employee and organizations - still retain one of the few rights included in the original un-amended Constitution, the right to contract? Do business owners have the right to make the decisions required to operate their businesses? Do the potential employees have the right to accept or decline? Do others have the right to form associations and offer their services to both? (See the various versions of skilled worker placement/consultants/project mgmt companies which populate the tech industry. No reason why the same wouldn't work in the blue color industries that unions prey upon... except that they aren't free to, of course)

Or more succinctly: Do people have the right to live their own lives, or not?

Not a litmus test
Don't get yourself into a tizzy, I'm not setting up a 'with me or against me' litmus test over RTW legislation. In spirit I'm wholeheartedly in favor of what I think the spirit of RTW bills are (which adds up to way more spirit over material fact than I'm comfortable with in any law... but leave that aside for a moment). And yes, the Unions are opposed to this bill, which will likely have a large impact on their ever diminishing power. Good on that. My natural urge is to swallow the bile rising in my throat and back anything, such as RTW, that reduces the power and place of unions, and I think any conservative is naturally going to want to side with RTW laws. In fact, I would assume sight unseen, that any Republican politician that is opposed to RTW, probably found their position more by calculating the electoral votes of union members against the rights of the rest of their constituents, than by a consideration of principles. Sure, there may be some who actually do oppose RTW upon principle, but before accepting their word on that, I'd suggest taking a look at their other votes first, such as on Smoking Ban's, Common Core, Medicaid expansion, and sweet business/govt partnership deals like 'Aerotropolis/China Hub', etc. And then I'd ask them to take a closer look at their principles as a whole, and what they are for - more on that in a bit.

But there is a reason why RTW makes the bile rise in my throat, which a closer look at the bill itself, House Bill 1770 should make clear:
290.591. 1. Except in instances when this section conflicts with or is preempted by federal law, no person shall be required as a condition or continuation of employment to:
(1) Become or refrain from becoming a member of a labor organization;
(2) Pay any dues, fees, assessments, or other similar charges, however denominated, of any kind or amount to a labor organization; or
(3) Pay to any charity or other third party any amount equivalent to, or on a pro rata basis, any dues, fees, assessments, or other charges required of members of a labor organization, in lieu of the payments listed under subdivision (2) of this subsection.
2. Any agreement, understanding, or practice, written or oral, implied or expressed, between any labor organization and employer that violates the rights of employees as guaranteed under this section is declared to be unlawful, null and void, and of no legal effect.
Now take a look at this portion of the first line again:
"...no person as a condition or continuation of employment can be required to..."
, 'can be required', by who? By the person who is offering them a position of employment in their business, the employer, that's who. Why would they not have the right to make an offer of employment on terms which they judged best for their business? Notice that the bill doesn't say that:
'No business owner shall be compelled to offer as a condition or continuation of employment, a requirement that'
Now let me ask you this: What of a business owner, who, for reasons that would be entirely unfathomable to me, wants his business to be a 'Union Shop'?

Does he not have the right to operate his business as he sees fit? Do you see the problem? Why would we want a law further restricting the liberty of employers? It not only infringes upon the rights of the business owner, but does even further damage to the already battered shell of Property Rights (without which no Rights can have any substance) that are still remaining to us.

If you ask the legislators why they've written their bill this way, there response will probably be that federal law compels them to, and those few who aren't just repeating the talking points that'll keep the union vote happy, would likely direct your attention back to the first line in their RTW Bill:
290.591. 1. Except in instances when this section conflicts with or is preempted by federal law
, and the 'preempted by federal law' refers to lines such as these, from the NLRB which forbids businesses:
"(a)(2) "to dominate or interfere with the formation or administration of any labor organization or contribute financial or other support to it"
, and,
"(5) to refuse to bargain collectively with the representatives of his employees, subject to the provisions of section 159 (a) of this title." "
So on one side we have the union promoting legislation already on the books, which forbids business owners from using their own judgment and forces them to 'bargain' with unions, while on the other 'Pro-Worker!' side we have 'Right to Work' laws, which forbids business owners from using their own judgment and forces them to not have a full union shop. The result is that The Law is being used to prevent a business owner from having any say in some of the most critical decisions which their businesses face on a daily basis.

Heads you lose. Tails you lose. Wanna flip again?

Do you know what the worst part is? This is the best and most 'Rights' promoting option available to us today, and it is so because of laws such as the 'Wagner Act' (which created the National Labor Relations Board) that 'Progressive Democrats' placed on the books 70+ years ago during FDR's terms, and which the GOP 'fixed' a few years afterwards with 'Taft-Hartley' when they regained power.

What the Briton said of the Romans: "They make a desert and call it peace", might be said of our bi-partisan govt: "They eliminate an employers rights, and call it a Right To Work.".

How'd we get here? The easy way, of course.
Because our laws have already been corrupted, any new laws must make allowances for that corruption, in order to try and make... ehm, progress. How did we get here? By allowing Pro-Regressives to pass off a position that was actually pro-regress, as 'progress', and because the GOP didn't stand for Principle, but ran on poll tested tactics (as they are still doing today), they missed out on the fact that FDR's position wasn't just a modification of the business to employee relationship, but an elimination of the Right to there even being such a thing. But of course the original spin-meister, FDR, dressed it up a bit nicer than that, as he said of the Wagner Act on July 5, 1935:
“A better relationship between labor and management is the high purpose of this Act. By assuring the employees the right of collective bargaining it fosters the development of the employment contract on a sound and equitable basis. By providing an orderly procedure for determining who is entitled to represent the employees, it aims to remove one of the chief causes of wasteful economic strife. By preventing practices which tend to destroy the independence of labor, it seeks, for every worker within its scope, that freedom of choice and action which is justly his.”
Understand, the Supreme Court had already struck down FDR's previous attempt at legislating such a 'Labor Relations Board', so FDR did then, what today's President Obama recently did: he intimidated the court. FDR threatened to pack the court with new appointees to get his way, and the conservative court, then under Hughes, as in our day under Roberts, caved to executive intimidation and approved it, a tactic forever known as the 'Switch in time that saved nine'. However, in a previous case on nearly identical legislation, the court struck it down, saying that setting up such labor relations boards was:
"...The effect, in respect of wages and hours, is to subject the dissentient minority, either of producers or miners or both, to the will of the stated majority, since, by refusing to submit, the minority at once incurs the hazard of enforcement of the drastic compulsory provisions of the act to which we have referred. To "accept," in these circumstances, is not to exercise a choice, but to surrender to force.

The power conferred upon the majority is, in effect, the power to regulate the affairs of an unwilling minority. This is legislative delegation in its most obnoxious form, for it is not even delegation to an official or an official body, presumptively disinterested, but to private persons whose interests may be and often are adverse to the interests of others in the same business. ..."
No matter what subsequent Supreme Court decisions ruled, that is still at the heart of Union power as imposed upon us today, and my natural urge is to do the only thing that seems left to do, and that's back anything, such as RTW.

But the real problem here is the Right's seemingly instinctive resignation to half-measures and our toleration of 'what else can we do?' approaches.

It is not only easy to make the 'pragmatic' case for such laws and actions, but in some sense it is necessary because once pragmatism has been allowed in, principle is necessarily forced out of the door, and it has been - so what else can you do? There is something more we can do, and it doesn't mean rejecting the distasteful steps we do have to take right now, but it does require insisting that those steps be part of a more clearly defined destination - which I'll come back to shortly.

Is that not the same refrain we hear from establishment republicans against ObamaCare today?

Well it's nothing new, in fact it is nearly as old as the modern left and has defined the GOP response to every Democrat gain since FDR, even when they themselves are the party in power! The Taft-Hartley Act in 1947, was the perpetual short term half measure that the GOP proposed because it didn't have the guts to toss out the Wagner Act altogether. Eyes forever on the polls, even once they've secured the power to do what they campaigned on doing, they sought only to weaken Union power, and even that was only effected on the surface. An adviser to the Senators proposing Taft-Hartley warned them against such half-hearted 'what else can we do' measures, warning that if such 'Right To Work' measures were passed, instead of repealing the Wagner Act outright:
" ...Greaves was closely involved in the issue. At the request of Sen. Robert A. Taft in 1946, he helped draft a precursor to Taft-Hartley. According to Greaves, union activity had caused the Wagner Act to fall out of favor with the public. Taft wanted an ameliorative bill that would win enough votes to override a veto by President Harry Truman — in another words, a watered-down bill. Then, after the Republicans won the White House and Congress in 1948, they would pass a better law.
Greaves “opposed this thinking on the basis that it would be better not to have any new law at that time[, contending] that a successful veto of a better law would result in a growing public pressure for the repeal of the Wagner Act and the election of the party that espoused such a move. The senator was not willing to go that far.” Greaves feared that “if the senator’s plan were successful, the public would be persuaded that the then evident economic distress flowing from union activity had been remedied and the next tide of public opinion might well be in the other direction.”
Taft disagreed, and Greaves left the Senate committee. “Freedom … lost,” Greaves wrote looking back, because once Taft-Hartley passed, the pressure on the Wagner Act disappeared...
[Emphasis mine]
Today, nearly 70 years later, we are still taking such palatable, ultimately self defeating measures. The Right is talked into proposing measures which don't repeal the legislative acts which are the real cause of the problem, and always with the promise of "after the next election, we'll 'pass a better law'". The fact is that Taft-Hartley didn't reduce the unions power, but only consolidated it, as this, from the introduction to a book of economist Henry Hazlitt's essays during that time, points out:
"... Taft-Hartley emerged as the conservative counterweight to the Wagner regime, the product of a Republican-dominated 80th Congress elected in 1946 in response to post-war inflation, excessive government controls, and historic levels of labor strife. Passed by an alliance of anti-labor Republicans and Southern Democrats, Taft-Hartley did not roll back, so much as circumscribe, New Deal labor law. It retained the process of collective bargaining supervised by the National Labor Relations Board, but outlawed wildcat strikes, secondary boycotts, and the closed shop. It prohibited both management and labor from engaging in “practices which [sic] jeopardize the public health, safety, or interest” and required anti-communist affidavits from all unionists. Moreover, it authorized the president to intervene in strikes that threatened national security and enabled individual states to pass “right-to-work” laws outlawing exclusive union shops...."
IOW it had given monopoly control over unionized workers to one union in a shop, whether or not the owner of that shop wanted them there, or even whether any other employee might have preferred another union to represent them. Republicans are heading the very same road with ObamaCare and Medicaid Expansion, such as Missouri sleazeball State Sen. Ryan Silvey has proposed doing, and no doubt 70 years from now our grand-kids will be proposing some sort of 'Right To Prescriptions' laws because of it.

This relentless GOP retreat of 'do what we can' half-measures, with no wider strategy having been defined or committed to, not only does not succeed, but they cannot succeed. While such short term efforts may be necessary, in the short term, to adopt them as our overall strategy, as the GOP has been doing for decades, is suicide.

This isn't about Business vs Labor, but about the inconvenient Rights of both - inconvenient to the established powers that be who just want to tend their power gardens, grooming them sometimes to appeal to the Left, and sometimes to the Right, but always producing a bumper crop of incumbents for the benefit of each. Also keep in mind that politically influential business 'interests' were very much behind the 'Wagner Act' to begin with, because they thought it'd make it easier on their businesses by helping to promote cooler headed unions over the real radicals ('Big Business' is almost always as opposed to a Free Market as the radical Left is)... and they've continued to split the difference between Individual Rights and their own interests ever since.

How do we get a right to our Rights back?
RTW does curb the power of unions. But. But it also increases the power of Govt. RTW as written, reduces the grip Unions have on workers, but it does so by increasing Govt's power over business owners, which in the end, means over all of us. It's hard not to hear Gandalf reading in the background: 'One Ring to rule them all...', right?

So where does that leave us?

In about the same place that Richard Nixon & Teddy Kennedy's HMO bill left health care back in 1973. It leaves us in that place where every attempt to improve the situation, necessarily restricts our liberty even further, compounds our problems, and hastens the time where an ObamaCare-type solution will be proposed to 'fix' it.

So what do you do when placed in a position of choosing between two evils?

Don't.

First, recognize that sometimes acting 'on principle' can be unprincipled behavior. Principles are an aid to thinking, not a substitute for it, and used imprudently, can do more harm than good. When you find yourself in a place where no good choices are possible, that doesn't mean that you make no choice at all, it means that you widen your perspective and clarify your goals.

Choose instead, where there is a choice to be made, that which causes the least damage to your liberty, and the most damage to the forces arrayed against you - and do NOT accept that as your only or final option. The confused morals of our current laws makes measures such as RTW necessary, but we can and must do more to make it only an inconvenient step, rather than a destination of moral compromise.

Widen your perspective - as the situation stands now, our govt has already asserted its right to compel business owners to do what it wants... 'for the greater good'; it has done so in the 'Wagner Act', and 'Taft-Hartley' and Medicaid and so many other laws since, all the way up to ObamaCare, that this... this is just one more lash in a thousand stripes across our backs. So, sad to say, it is not unreasonable to see that adding yet another layer of restrictions upon us, is like painting an '11' on the volume knob - a distinction which makes no further difference. More to the point, for those thinking that not voting for RTW will somehow leave business owners free to conduct their business without govt interference - that's damn near delusional. Isn't it? So please, remember how laughable that argument is if someone makes it to you.

On the other hand, RTW does limit unions access to our fellows, it will limit the power of unions over the workforce, it will reduce their power in our society, and so on that basis, I do see a more solid strike for liberty being made by voting for RTW, than the strike which RTW itself makes against our liberty.

But having made that painful calculus, the only way to prevent it from becoming a choice of lesser evils, is to NOT accept that as your only or final option. You must have a long term goal, a long term strategy to get the Right to our Rights back. We've got to be looking to strike at the real political root, and that isn't unions, but those acts which gave them power over us, such as the 'Wagner Act' and 'Taft-Hartley'. And measures such as this, a 'States Repeal Act', which I'll dig much deeper into in later posts, is one way to enable RTW states to do just that, and help get back the right to our Rights.

For myself, keeping in mind that Politics is downstream of Culture, and that Culture is downstream of the arena of Ideas, I'm keeping my efforts focused there. For the Culture to come around to the idea that restricting liberty doesn't increase it, and to understand why that is, then the ideas which make liberty a conclusion, rather than a starting point, need to be aired, and discussed, and understood. And that's what I attempt to do with this blog. Air the ideas which we as a culture must breathe in, for Liberty to regrow its roots within us. As those ideas become more commonly understood, then our culture will tear out  abominations such as the 'Wagner Act', and the 'Affordable Care Act', root and branch.

So I will support RTW, as one distasteful step in a long journey, while keeping my eyes on the real goal, one which results in real liberty for all.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Farewell to a friend - The Doubtful Roots of Progress

"Far best is he who knows all things himself;
Good, he that hearkens when men counsel right;
But he who neither knows, nor lays to heart
Another's wisdom, is a useless wight."
Hesiod, as quoted in Aristotle's Nichomachean Ethics
"...Last night I saw upon the stair,
A little man who wasn't there,
He wasn't there again today
Oh, how I wish he'd go away..."
Farewell to a friend - The Doubtful Roots of Progress
In the 21st century, we typically like to see ourselves as living the superior lives which civilization has been longing and struggling to progress to for thousands of years, but... have you noticed how uncomfortably difficult it can be trying to find examples of that progress in anything other than technology? Especially amongst those who're most convinced that they're the epitome of progressive thinking?

Case in point, I reconnected last year with an acquaintance of mine from the 1980's, back when I played in a regional rock band and he was a popular local D.J., "Dice Martin", in Vegas - but unfortunately he disconnected us again earlier this month because he disliked that I disagreed with one of his postings. Understand, my replies didn't use profanity (not that that would've bothered him), or attack him or insult him, or ridicule him - though those were S.O.P's for the continual stream of pictures he posted, captioned to insult Republicans, Conservatives and Tea Partiers. When you add to those the additional comments he & his friends made to them, each one ever more inflammatory than the last... and I can't help asking: what was so inflammatory, to him, about someone simply disagreeing with them?

Whatever it was that made this self described supporter of the 'progressive left' so intolerant of other views, is in no way confined to Dice himself, as we'll see in a moment, rather he is reflecting what is progressively becoming the dominant view across the country - demonize the opposition and shutdown discussion or debate - and I can think of few more appropriate ways to describe it than as I do: ProRegressivism.

Person to Person
The last post of Dice's that I was able to see was a split screen picture that showed three pundits from the left with college degrees, and three from the right who either didn't go or dropped out, accompanied with comments to the effect that everyone on the Left were scholarly icons of wisdom, while vilifying Republicans, Conservatives and Tea Partiers as:
A)"... knuckle dragging drop outs and idiots...",
who ,
B)"... are GUILTY of treason ande sedition when they supported shutting The US Govt down last October..."
, whose disagreements with Obama were:
C)" these (racially motivated, right wing, incoherent) rants."
And about the Ukraine:
D)"...Not a peep when in '08 putin went into Georgia on Bush's watch....not one word."
To which I replied that
A),"as the colleges had gotten out of the wisdom business decades ago, trading tens of thousands of dollars in debt for dated and often substandard skills wasn't necessarily a mark of the wisest person in the room",
B) "he ought to look a bit closer at congress's power of the purse and how all sides have used it in the distant and recent past to rein the other branches in."
C) that "IMHO few rants are more racially motivated, or weak and fearful, than when a clear difference of ideas can only be responded to with accusations of racism rather than dealing with the merits of the ideas in question",
D) I noted that "I and many others had indeed 'peeped' many words at the time, condemning his actions as well as his inaction's."
Dice came a bit unglued at this and expressed his true feelings for tolerance and respect for the opinions of others, with
"Fuck you- Rot in Hell asswipe! Another piece of shit who don't know what he is talking about- in the ashcan of history----chumps-----", and he added one final friendly wave with "You won't matter when we get face to face"!.
As I was responding that I'd been face to face with him before and saw no reason to worry about that mattering, he unfriended and blocked me.

So. Progress, eh? But if cutting off debate in civil discussions and demonstrating absolute in-toleration for opposing political views are examples of the progress that 'progressives' have progressed to... I guess it's up to us to tell them that the progress that they're making is going in the wrong direction.

Now I hope you won't be surprised to learn that Dice isn't a mean guy and he isn't a stupid guy. He isn't lazy, he has his own insurance business in Florida; he isn't (in his mind) unpatriotic, and he isn't, at least as it is commonly recognized today, uneducated. What's worth noting here is not whether or not someone was on the Left or the Right side of an issue, but whether or not their positions further Progress or Regress. What's also worth noting here is a certain something that isn't there, a lack of understanding of what Progress is, what it requires and what cannot be engaged in without reverting into regress.

What this most emphatically is not, is a partisan issue... or even a non-partisan affair - this is a matter of societal ProRegress, and it is a problem for us all.

More than an Academic Question
See if you can see the resemblance here, between what Dice demonstrated, and this recent article in the Harvard student journal, The Crimson, by Sandra Y.L. Korn who's been posting in a similar vein since 2010, "The Doctrine of Academic Freedom - Let’s give up on academic freedom in favor of justice" ,
"Yet the liberal obsession with “academic freedom” seems a bit misplaced to me. After all, no one ever has “full freedom” in research and publication. Which research proposals receive funding and what papers are accepted for publication are always contingent on political priorities. The words used to articulate a research question can have implications for its outcome. No academic question is ever “free” from political realities. If our university community opposes racism, sexism, and heterosexism, why should we put up with research that counters our goals simply in the name of “academic freedom”?

Instead, I would like to propose a more rigorous standard: one of “academic justice.” When an academic community observes research promoting or justifying oppression, it should ensure that this research does not continue."
This is a student supposedly in pursuit of a Liberal Education... does that mean something? Indeed it does, in general it means being able to engage, free from the threat of force, in the deliberate examination of opposing ideas in pursuit of acquiring the knowledge and understanding most likely to help yourself become fit for living in liberty with others. And yet she, like Dice, believes that opposing views are not only not to be tolerated, but she's even advocating in favor of using all available power to end the active discussion of opposing views in the academy, in order to suppress dissent, in order to promote 'Academic Justice'. That my friends, is Pro-Regress.

Leaving that aside for just a moment, and looking past the irony clad nature of the last paragraph in that quotation, at first glance, there almost seems to be a sheen of sense to that first paragraph, doesn't there? After all, one of the arguments against the public funding of education in general and of universities in particular, is, why should someone who is paying for an education be forced to pay for divisive research and professors professing ideas which they believe to be false, hateful and opposed to what they believe is true? Except of course that she isn't concerned at all with the rights of those who are making her education possible - public or private - or even of those who might best understand what an education actually is. What she is advocating for is NOT a policy where those who are paying for the students tuition, or the alumni who contribute to the college, or those the college has hired to administer and profess the ideals of a Liberal Education, should have a voice in what the college teaches. Nope. What she's advocating for is 'empowering' those who are the recipients of those seats and funds and services, so that they should be able to demand that they be used against the judgment and interests of those who are providing them! As she says:
"The power to enforce academic justice comes from students, faculty, and workers organizing together to make our universities look as we want them to do."[emphasis mine]
IOW, those who do not yet have even what currently passes for an Education, are to seize the power to determine what an education should be, because in their as yet uneducated wisdom they believe that they have already determined what is best, and so they should use the raw power of the mob to disrupt the process of education until the disagreeable voices cave and they get. what. they. want. Those who've had the benefit of some semblance of an actual Liberal Education, should be able to identify this as one of the oldest of political practices: "Might makes Right".

Or, in my other words, using power to negate rights and force compliance with the ideas of a favored faction - that is Pro-Regress.

"History is philosophy teaching by example..." - Abraham Lincoln"
So that was from a college student, at what's often thought of as the premier college in the nation. If you find yourself wondering what it is that they are teaching in college these days, I suggest directing your attention to an essay by a college professor, Lawrence Torcello, Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Rochester Institute of Technology. This scholar feels that the views of Ms. Korn do not go far enough. This professor, of philosophy no less, feels that we must deal with those pernicious folks who are not convinced that our govts have either the level of understanding, or the means of effectively 'correcting' the global climate, or the political right to impose their final solutions upon us all, and he isn't content with simply demanding, disrupting and shouting down their opposing views to get his way - he wants to take matters to the next level, and put them in jail:
"My argument probably raises an understandable, if misguided, concern regarding free speech. We must make the critical distinction between the protected voicing of one’s unpopular beliefs, and the funding of a strategically organised campaign to undermine the public’s ability to develop and voice informed opinions. Protecting the latter as a form of free speech stretches the definition of free speech to a degree that undermines the very concept"
Remember, he is currently professing his 'wisdom' to a steady stream of young college students, he wants to actually put those who disagree with what he (who btw, is not a scientist, let alone a climate scientist) is so clearly and distinctly convinced to be true, in jail, for the thought crime of holding opposing views. He's got one thing right, it is undeniable that jailing people for their ideas is most definitely the next ProRegressive step which must follow from professing such a philosophy; where else could it possibly lead to?

And if you're sympathetic with his position, then ask yourself this: How do you respond to the position, that what he just described was what others such as myself see as being an example of political factions and corporate interests in our schools, entertainment, media and government, directing the 'funding of a strategically organised campaign to undermine the public’s ability to develop and voice informed opinions'? So then I can get my faction together and say 'Hey, I think this fool is wrong, can I have him charged with a misdemeanor please?' And if, like the young miss in Harvard, your answer is that I have no Right to do what you do, because I do not believe the proper Politically Correct ideas as they do (which really means that those with my views aren't in power - yet)... then you are saying that it is ok to bring down the full force of the govt upon me, but not thee, because...of who has the power to silence who - at the moment.

If that is your position, then you've not only dodged the question, but you've endorsed the course which President John Adams foolishly supported, and which far better minds argued for than the one possessed by this twit of a professor, back in 1799
" ...commonly called the sedition law, subjects to a fine not exceeding two thousand dollars, and to imprisonment not exceeding two years, any person who shall write, print, utter, or publish, or cause or procure to be written, printed, uttered or published, any false, scandalous, malicious writing or writings against the government of the United States..."
The Federalists too had the very best of intentions with the Aliens & Sedition Acts, and they also had what our professing fools do not: the excuse of not having seen it abused here before. We, on the other hand, have a number of examples from the philosophical classroom of history, such as ProRegressive Democrat President Wilson using similar acts to jail thousands of Americans for the crime of disagreeing with his administrations policies.

That my friend, is a step backwards, aka: Regress. And if you are for that, you are Pro-Regress.

Missing the point
My point is not that there is spin in politics or disputes about what climate scientists say the science says, or about what the scientists say politicians say about climate science, but that there is something missing from the views of my friend Dice, from the Harvard student, and from the Professor of 'philosophy', and what is not there, is what enables them to feel perfectly fine about cursing a friend out for disagreeing with them, enables them to feel justified in denying others their freedom of speech, and enables them to advocate jailing those who disagree with their views - and that it is perfectly acceptable, advisable and even admirable for them to do so.

What they are lacking, what their understanding does not have, is not just civility - that's an effect, not a cause - these things they lack are what makes it possible for otherwise intelligent people to advocate actions as progress, which are clearly Pro-Regress.

So what is it they lack, is it simply a lack of knowledge? Simply a matter of knowing who knows what's best? That is after all, the reason why we send our kids to school and on to college, to fill them with the knowledge which good judgment requires, right? Would new books and better tests do the trick? But unfortunately it is no longer as easy as saying what James Madison once said:
"Knowledge will forever govern ignorance: And a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives"
Part of the problem is that modernity has introduced an ambiguity into what the word 'knowledge' now applies to - there's what is in reality true, and there's what people accept as being true, and many if not most moderns not only do not differentiate between the two, but in any (acknowledged) conflict between them, actually lean towards favoring the later (see Keynesian economics). In this day and age, simply knowing what 'reliable authorities' have told you is so, isn't enough.

Knowledge, in the sense Madison was referring to, expects there to be a standard which new information is held up to and that it must integrate into a deeper understanding of what you know to be true. That classical sense doesn't tolerate the urge, which we all feel at times, to allow what you wish were true to override those contradictions you worry might be true, without verifying what actually is true. Modernity, however, encourages us to embrace contradictory information as being 'true' for a variety of excuses ( and not just factually, for instance what movie characters are more enthused over today than those who are 'conflicted'?), ranging from popularity, to some form of cultural 'authenticity' or political acceptability, aided by one form or another of the modernist philosophical position that we cannot actually know what in reality actually is true.

Modernity isn't comfortable with unambiguous statements such as 'the fact is', nevertheless, the fact is that if you tolerate 'knowing' contradictory positions to be true, then you are well on your way to truly knowing nothing at all. What you Know has to be what you can conform your will and your passions to, and not the other way around, and attempting to do so, attempting to put desire over reality, is the essence of being intemperate, which, again in the classical sense, has consequences. As Edmund Burke, remarked :
“It is ordained in the eternal constitution of things, that men of intemperate minds cannot be free. Their passions forge their fetters.” Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France
Intemperate? How does that figure into anything, the word's been out of fashion for a hundred years or more, hasn't it? Well, words have meaning... and what they mean remains even if you change the words you refer to that meaning with. Push a word out the front door, and its meaning will slip in again, unrecognized, through the back door... but you'll no longer have the knowledge to know how to deal with them. See if you hear the sound of the back door slamming in this recent article, entitled "Politicians are good liars 'because they convince themselves they are telling the truth', study reveals", reports that a study, '"Liars or SelfDeceived? Reflections on Political Deception", by a political scientist named Dr. Anna Galeotti, found that for politicians such as Bill Clinton,
: ‘Self-deception is a type of motivated irrationality - the art of believing something simply because it is desired to be true when evidence points to the very opposite.
, and that,
"Because of this, politicians not only lie convincingly, but are still convinced they are telling the truth even after they have proved to have lied, the report added."
IOW the liar becomes mastered by their lies, or more eloquently put:"...men of intemperate minds cannot be free. Their passions forge their fetters....", which applies every bit as much to the electorate who votes for those deceptive policies which they know can't be true ("If you like your healthcare plan, you can keep your healthcare plan"), but still really want them to be true. But the interpretation of such actions as being intemperate and bringing consequences, is only going to follow from the older understanding of what knowledge is. Taken through the more modern sense, it'll be given the spin that we should be more tolerant and understanding towards the liar, and the lie, since they don't really know what they are doing.

Which is a view that understandably still strikes many people the wrong way, such as one fellow who responded to that article's title with words to the effect of:
"Oh come'on, what is this bs! Of course they know that they're lying!"
Which, while I completely understand such a common sense reaction and I certainly don't excuse politicians or any others who are in fact lying, the common sense view of things misses the reality of the squishiness we've allowed to creep into what we call 'Knowledge'; and that reality, and its consequences, goes to the very heart of modernity.

For instance: why is it that Bill Clinton's infamous statement that "It depends upon what the meaning of the word 'Is', is.", wasn't laughed out of court and/or slapped with a contempt charge? Under James Madison's conception of knowledge, it would have been. Under Modernity's formulation... such a statement is actually taken into consideration. Why? What makes that possible? It's not just 'old' vs 'new', there's another ingredient which actively separates the two understandings.

Look at it this way, I can't tell you how many smart and knowledgeable people, friends & family that I know, who still think nothing of behaving as Dice did. Is it really just a matter of not knowing the facts or intentionally lying about them? You probably have friends and family too that, although you're frustrated with them, you still can't quite bring yourself to call them completely ignorant or deliberate liars... am I right?

Well if you don't think that those members of your friends and family are complete fools or bald faced liars... then there must be something else that they are doing, or failing to do... the question is, what?

One of the questions we've stopped asking, is: knowledge of what? And how well, and how deeply, will that knowledge they acquire in school really be known? Or once known, be regarded by them as being consequentially True? Knowledge is of course incredibly useful, beneficial, and oh so advisable to pursue and expand, but bubble tests and 'fill in the blank' level worksheets only serve to transmit data, they don't develop knowledge. It is not enough simply to acquire and catalog a mass of disintegrated facts, mentally piling them on high into towering tables of data, each one unaware of the contents of the one next to it - such dragon hordes might help you score nicely on the SAT, but they are not the same thing as knowledge, and they are very nearly barriers to wisdom. Data doesn't become knowledge until it is integrated, and if that data is not integrated through understanding its relation to other data and the principles which support them, then it will be integrated through those feelings and preferences you have towards the data itself... and how well wisdom follows from that can be gauged by a quick look around you today.

What we are missing is what is behind the conception of knowledge that Madison and his time took for granted, and what we've accepted in its place is the modern philosophical view which presumes that substance is more likely to be found in polls, than whatever it is that the polls are being taken about.

Doubting the Value of Critical Thinking
My point is that there is something vital that is missing from how particular views are held by my friend Dice, and by the Harvard student, and by the Professor of 'philosophy', and what it is that is not there, is what enables them to feel just fine and dandy about cursing a friend out for disagreeing with them, enables them to feel justified in depriving those who don't agree with them of their freedom of speech, and enables them to righteously advocate jailing people for the crime of not agreeing with them, and whatever it is that they lack, is what is enabling them to believe that it is perfectly acceptable, and advisable, and even admirable, for them to be doing so.

Part of what they lack is the habit of questioning what they do and don't know, substituting instead, the easy flattery and convenience of artificial Doubt.

Huh?

Here's what I mean. Doubt arises naturally when our mind detects a conflict, a contradiction, between what we know, and what we are being presented with as being so, and your immediate reaction is "Oh, I doubt that!", followed soon after with the reasons for your doubt "That doesn't add up with this, this and this, so tell me, how does that make sense?", and you're off to reassessing and perhaps correcting, and so strengthening, your knowledge, and understanding. Such doubts are the result of your knowledge, are healthy and should pretty much always be pursued.

But Artificial Doubt, such as what drives modernity's vaunted 'Critical Thinking', is not something that results from our knowledge, it is prompted by no detection of conflicts or contradictions, but only by your pretending to find something to doubt.

This tendency, which has a hand in what the good Dr. Galeotti calls 'self deception', is the hallmark of Modernity and it began with Descartes' "Method of Doubt",
“I thought it necessary that I reject as absolutely false everything in which I could imagine the least doubt, so as to see whether, after this process, anything in my set of beliefs remains that is absolutely indubitable.”
If the test of truth is whether or not you can imagine the least doubt about that something, and nothing other than your imagining it prompted your doubt in the first place... doesn't that make what you imagine, prefer, wish, determine what you do or don't doubt, and the ultimate test of what you will accept as being true? You do see the problem there, don't you?

Worse, there is nothing positive involved in such artificial doubts. Artificial doubt begins with the end result and pretends to find controversies in it which 'need' to be resolved. You haven't detected a flaw, you only pretend one is there... somewhere... on the shallow surface of the data you have in mind at the moment. For instance, a doubt based approach would begin, begin with mind you, as they do in most textbooks and worksheets everyday in our schools, from a perspective of artificial doubts picked off the surface of an issue, such as this recent example:
"Do you think the Bill of Rights is outdated?"
Based upon what?! The students haven't even investigated our particular Constitution, let alone the idea of laws in general, on what basis are they to 'think' if they are outdated or not? The only basis they'll have for their 'doubts' are their feelings, and where will students, especially young students, feelings about government and law likely come from? On top of that, the worksheet goes on to instruct them to:
"Omit two and add two...[amendments]"
Again, based upon what?! They have no knowledge to draw upon, they have nothing they can draw upon but their own ability to artificially and arbitrarily doubt something, anything, about the 'Bill of Rights'.

That is not a means to knowledge, but only a bold step towards its dissolution.

To start with artificial doubts, is to start without any real problems, without any real contradictions and without any real goals; and so what you are seeking is not resolution, but confirmation of the doubts you only imagined to begin with - it's resolution is as artificial as it's instigation. The result of this is not stronger knowledge, but just the opposite. Even those times when you might succeed in acquiring more facts, you necessarily believe them less. When everything is doubtful, nothing is really Known or believed - it might be accepted... but that's data, not knowledge, which are not nearly the same thing.

What this amounts to in practice, is that if you don't like it, it's doubtful - if you do like it, its not doubtful. This is not only an impractical method for thought, it works to corrode confidence in all of your knowledge (see "In Praise of Prejudice" ). This root method of modernity is even often put forward as the basis of the Scientific Method (which it is not)... and you wonder about why we live in such an uncertain age?

Natural doubts, and true questioning,on the other hand, results from and begins with the substance of the issue, such as 'What are Rights?" and would works its way down and in towards the essentials of what it is you are trying to understand. Along the way real doubts will arise, and can be addressed, strengthening understanding, not trivializing it. Such an approach would work on developing an understanding of human nature, social organization, government, Law and Individual Rights first, and only then, after the basics had been grasped, should students work their way back up to considering our Constitution in such a critical way. Whether or not additional amendments should be added to it, or taken away, would and should be the very last step in considering our form of government, not the starting point.

But wait, there's less!
Still though, while self deception and deliberate deception certainly exist, for most every day folks, self deception doesn't quite fit the bill because it isn't deliberate self deception that most people are engaging in, right? But they don't need to deceive themselves, not if the standard which they've accepted as being 'True', was substandard as a standard to begin with, and has left them exposed to even more issues.

The errors of preference which practicing artificial 'Doubt' as a standard introduces, further encourages a narrowing of the scope of your attention and understanding, as well as what you require as verification for it ('Oh, I doubt I need to bother with learning all of that stuff'), which bears a strong resemblance to self deception. What results from restricting the depth of understanding you seek on a given matter, is that it conveniently requires your attention to extend no further than what it is that you prefer to believe.

Our minds, like our muscles, are more than happy to go slack on us. When your 'doubts' are not prompted by conflicts in your understanding, and no conflicts in your understanding need to be resolved in order to dispel these artificial doubts you go through the motions of applying, then you shouldn't be surprised to find that what you choose to call 'truth' no longer requires of you the effort of integrating your understanding.

Not only do favorable sounding truths become believable when you are unaware of what would make them unbelievable, but if you are feeling no need to doubt that something is true (or false) then Truth becomes something that requires no greater depth, or soundness, than the absense of your doubts about it.

That squishily skeptical, vaguely cynical sense which most people have towards most issues in our daily life, is the doubtful bounty of modernity,and the rot of it permeates our culture today.

Don't doubt the benefits of Questions
Has Doubt driven scientific progress? I doubt it. I suspect that, when actually followed, it actually slowed progress. What has driven scientific progress, is what cannot not drive progress, and somewhere between Robert Grosseteste in the 1200's and Roger Bacon in the 1600's, there emerged a general scientific method, which has been summed up as,
"...a repeating cycle of observation, hypothesis, experimentation, and the need for independent verification. He recorded the manner in which he conducted his experiments in precise detail so that others could reproduce and independently test his results..."
, or for everyday use, methodically questioning and verifying the answers your questions logically lead you to. Rinse. Repeat. More often than not, once the clutter of doubt is brushed away from actual scientists journals, you find that it wasn't arbitrary doubts which drew them on (more often than not they slowed them down), it was the careful application of good honest questions - what do I understand this to mean? How well do I understand it? Do I understand, rather than assume, what this means?

Questions are based upon knowledge, and whether that knowledge is strong, or weak, the act of questioning draws you on to making real progress through positive understanding, and not from negative, empty, doubts. And more than that, questioning strengthens your understanding without leaving you defensive against someone else's questions, or their doubts, because having questioned your own understanding, you have the answers... or the desire to seek them out. What the moderns have accepted as being 'Knowledge', lacks what  'Critical Thinking' cannot provide: Understanding, and the fearless unquenchable curiosity which the desire for, and means of attaining understanding, naturally fosters. What its absence supplies instead, is hostility and baseless self righteousness ("There can be no doubt! It's settled science!") and not only the tendency to resort to using force instead of reason, but a satisfaction in doing so, which the actions of Dice, the Harvard student and the Professor trumpet more loudly than their 'tolerant' words ever will: 'Might makes Right, and that more might makes you more right!'.

Doubtful Progressives
Dice didn't have any doubts about what he wanted to be true and feeling no need for further understanding, he certainly didn't feel he needed to seek any greater 'understanding' of what I was saying, in order to conclude that it was false, hateful and even evil. The fact that he disliked - doubted - what I had to say and wanted it to be 'true', was more than enough for him.

The Harvard Student didn't need to bother with considering the requirements of honesty, of understanding or of valid knowledge, she didn't need to worry about whether or not it was right, or even sensible for her to demand that teachers obey the demands of students, it was enough for her to not doubt her own zeal for what it is that she wanted to be true - and for her it was beyond a shadow of a doubt that she is right.

The 'philosophy' professor didn't need to worry about what powers it would be wise to extend to govt, or how it could be controlled or corrected once given to it; he simply finds that what he clearly prefers to be truthful is beyond doubt, and so concludes, logically, that it must be accepted as the right thing to do.

On the face of it, the idea that knowledge will forever govern ignorance seems all very right minded and such... but when the test of knowledge is that it is beyond your ability to doubt, then whether or not this information is in reality true, doesn't come into question. And how likely is it that you or they will ever discover any deeper and more complete answers, if those who do question or disagree with the accepted positions, are forbidden from challenging those positions?

My point is not that there is spin in politics or disputes about climate science, but that there is something missing from the views of my unfriended friend Dice, from the Harvard student activist, and from the Professor of 'philosophy', and what is not there in their understanding, is what enables them to feel perfectly fine about cursing a friend out for disagreeing with them, enables them to feel justified in denying others the freedom of speech they demand for themselves, and enables them to advocate jailing those who dare to disagree with their views - and that it is, beyond a doubt, perfectly acceptable and advisable for them to do so.

And while I do think it is far more pronounced on the left than elsewhere, I've seen plenty of the like from Libertarians and from the Right as well, and that is the larger point to this current series of posts: When I'm speaking of Progress vs Regress, I'm not simply referring to political matters, but to the lack of understanding of what Progress is, and what it is not, and what Progress is not compatible with, which is very much a bi-partisan, tri-partisan, and non-partisan affair. What otherwise intelligent people lack, makes them oblivious to the fact that the positions they are advancing, have far more to do with Regress, rather than with Progress. And to disperse that obliviousness, we've got to take a trip into the past....next post.