Monday, January 25, 2016

Artificial Reason turns the Pen into the might of the sword - The Rule of Law in Progress or Regress pt.7

Penning Laws mightier than the sword...
Hopefully over the last three posts on the Three Key Steps required for the Rule of Law, you've not only followed along, but also felt some concern about where I've been going with this. In New Year's Eve's post, I emphasized the importance of Philosophy and questioned the common assumptions that the Big Ideas of the West have little or nothing to do with everyday life, and in New Year's Day post we looked at how, through the ideas of men like John Locke, The Law, in a general sense, functions as applied Philosophy. But then at the opening and close of my previous post on Property, showing how it is central to those steps being completed and a society able to enjoy the Pursuit of Happiness, I cautioned that,
"... you should be uneasy about the "♫ ♪ ♬ it's as easy as 1,2,3...♬ ♪ ♫" nature of these three steps to the Rule of Law that I've given."
And you should be cautious towards anyone promoting the idea that 'Men of Reason know what's best!' - if you know anything about the French Revolution, or even the PC Culture of our Wackademic Universities, that should be cause for serious and well founded alarm. Stick with me, because in this post, as we look at how The Law does have a very real and direct connection into our daily lives through the concept of Property, and the West's Big Ideas, we'll also see that the Rule of Law, as our Founders understood it, provided an antidote to the very real threat of 'those who know best!'.

As we've seen, the initial hardships and innovations of the first colonists in America, were hard and clarifying experiences, which made their way back to the old world through the actions and words of men like Thomas Hooker (see the previous post), and they helped in establishing clearer understandings of what Liberty required, as well as the need for limits to what the Law could and should do. Such experiences had an influence on the pens of men like John Locke, who, decades later, distilled those essential principles of life, liberty and property, into a clearer understanding of the importance of the Rule of Law. Americans drank those ideas in, embodied and refined them even further still, as an 'expression of the common mind' through the pen of Thomas Jefferson, as life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, but that phrase expressed far more than simply swell sounding words.

In this series of posts, we've traced a line from Aristotle, to Cicero, Coke, Locke and our Founders and have stressed the importance of knowledge and reason, but there is a very real danger in giving the impression that Reason alone is fit to describe or lay down the law - and in fact letting it do so comes dangerously close to violating one of the first maxim's we noted, that above all else,

'No one can be judge in his own cause; Hear the other side'
To ignore that, to put your exalted 'Reason' above that, is the path of self inflated elitism, be it of Kings, Experts or Talking Heads, and it is our Laws themselves, when respected, that save us from that. On the other hand, Reason, when given power to depart from the wider reality of a nations laws, not because an error has been found in earlier judgments (which is a valid basis for overturning precedent), but because a judge, legislator or executive has a 'better idea' for 'the greater good' in spite of their existing laws, that is when 'Reason' becomes just as dangerous a beast as any other predator in the jungle. The French Revolution was a good example of that, where for all its talk of 'Reason!', it brought unreasonable rivers of blood and mounds of severed heads until finally, it provided sufficient reasons for the greatest tyrant since Alexander, Napoleon Bonaparte, to come to power and plunge Europe into a decade of devastating war and conquest.

The English Jurist Edward Coke, understood very well, the dangers of individual men's reason being given power to define or direct the law, and his unique formulation of an answer to that, helped him in holding his own king at bay:
Notes on Coke: 1608 "Then the king said that he thought the law was founded upon reason, and that he and others had reason as well as the judges. To which it was answered by me that true it was that God had endowed His Majesty with excellent science and great endowments of nature; but His Majesty was not learned in the laws of his realm of England, and causes which concern the life or inheritance or goods or fortunes of his subjects are not to be decided by natural reason, but by the artificial reason and judgment of law , which law is an act which requires long study and experience, before that a man can attain to the cognizance of it "
Meaning, that it was not enough for one man, one king, one executive, or even an entire legislature, to consider and declare the law to be this or that, separately from the body of the law - that would be every bit the 'rule of rules' as any other arbitrary whim someone justifies to themselves - it is placing you as a judge of your own cause.

Artificial Reason, as Coke spoke of it, required reasoning along with, and in concert with, preceding judgments that made up the common law, which served as a steadying rudder against the whims of the moment's 'Good Idea!' from steering society in a new, unexpected and rash direction. It is not

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

No despair over the State of the Union - how sad.

The State of the Union, should be in a state of despair, but sadly it doesn't seem to be. If you're not sure what I mean, I mean that those who could listen to President Obama, a man who said 37 times... over and over and over, that:
"If you like your healthcare plan, you can keep your healthcare plan."
, while knowing that to be a lie; that those who could listen to the man who forced ObamaCare's passage through without compromise, who trotted out his officials to push the lie that the Benghazi attacks were caused not by terrorists, but by protests over a video - knowing That to be a lie; those who could listen to the man who has compared supporters of the Tea Party, Republicans and even returning veterans, to terrorists; those who could listen to the man whose administration has sought to prosecute reporters for reporting opposing views and sought to expel a News network that expressed more conservative opinions than his own from the White House Press Corp - those who could listen to all of that, and could then approvingly listen to that same person say this in his State of the Union speech:
"Democracy does require basic bonds of trust between its citizens. It doesn't work if we think the people who disagree with us are all motivated by malice, or that our political opponents are unpatriotic. Democracy grinds to a halt without a willingness to compromise; or when even basic facts are contested, and we listen only to those who agree with us. Our public life withers when only the most extreme voices get attention."
... I mean that those people are a people who are without concern for, or respect for what is true - is that something to feel optimistic about? What can the State of a Union be, whose people not only feel no anger or despair over being lied to, but will applaud those lying to them?

I sometimes despair of finding the right words to describe the state of such a union as that.

Thursday, January 07, 2016

Property - The Progress of Cause and Effect into Life and Law - The Rule of Law in Progress or Regress pt.6c

Step Three
I made a claim in my New Year's Eve's post that there were three concepts that were key steps to the Rule of Law, which if missed or denied, would saddle you with its Doppelganger, the Rule of Rules, instead. That post looked at the First Step as being the importance of Philosophy and emphasized the need to question the common assumptions that the Big Ideas of the West have little or nothing to do with everyday life. In the New Year's Day post we looked at the Second Step, how, through the ideas of men like Cicero and John Locke, The Law, in a general sense, functions as applied Philosophy. In this post we'll look at the Third Step, that the revolutionary concept of Property (as opposed to possessions), brings The Law into the very real interests, concerns and smallest details of our daily life - whether that's good or bad, depends upon how well the previous steps are taken. BTW, if you're a little uneasy about the "♫  ♪ ♬ it's as easy as 1,2,3...♬ ♪ ♫" nature of these three steps, good, you should be. We'll get into some of the Why's of that in the next post, but for today, first things first: Step Three, following the reality of our thoughts and actions in the world, and the vital connection between them, Property, the Biggest Ideas of the Big Thinkers of the West, and your ability to live your own life as you choose, and in society with others.

Ultimately what it comes down to when we're talking about the importance of Property to our lives, can be looked at, believe it or not, as a recognition of the unity of cause and effect in human actions.

Think of the concept of Individual Rights as a recognition of those actions which the nature of being a human being requires of us to choose to take, in order to live life as a human being
(Chief amongst those actions being: thinking, acting, speaking, associating, retaining the fruits which those actions produced, and a recourse to arms to defend them all if need be)
; and of the concept of Property as the recognition that, those effects which result from our actions having been taken, would not be as they are, in that way, in that context, without that person's time, decisions and actions having been contributed to it, and that involves that person's life in those effects which resulted from their having taken those actions. That unity of cause and effect is easily observable (whether or not they recognize it) in any people, of any time, and in any place, and it establishes the principle of a man's right, not just to, but in his property (Aristotle's recognition of four causes is better suited to this, but that's a whole 'nother post), rather simply the possession of it.

More simply put, to see a clay pot is to know that it was caused to come to be - someone did build that. The pot is the effect of the potter's thoughts and actions; you get no pottery, the effect, without its cause, the Potter, and to take that pottery by force, is taking away what some portion of that person's life went into creating.

Property, in its original understanding here, wasn't only an indicator of possession, or of monetary value, but the rightful recognition of a relation established between a person and that which they acted upon. Those actions which you legitimately take, establish your Property in your speech, in your actions, in your associations, in your effects and most of all, and first of all, in your life, in your right to it, and in your right to defend it. Importantly, to recognize and respect one person's right to their property, is to implicitly recognize every person's right to take those actions that are required by the nature of being human, and that by virtue of being human, every person shares in those same rights - and each owes

Friday, January 01, 2016

Locke's Lab for DIY Political Science Experiments - The Rule of Law in Progress or Regress pt-6b

Step Two - The American Locke on Liberty
America in the 17th & 18th centuries was a living political 'State of Nature' laboratory, perfect for tweaking old formulas, making observations, and serving as a state of the art lab for carrying out revolutionary real life Do It Yourself Political Science experiments. The philosopher of political science who was the keenest observer, and who contributed the most, and the most sound theories, for unlocking the liberty that America was formed from, was John Locke (1632-1704), who, as a child, lived through the violence of the English Civil War.

Few issues were actually resolved during that conflict, and so as the fatigue of it passed, the political climate began heating up once again, especially with questions surrounding ideas of royal power and the still developing ideas of liberty, even as the Colonies in America were being established abroad. The period that Locke grew up in was rife with political turmoil, executions, persecutions and exiles, which would eventually be resolved with the 'Glorious Revolution', and see England switching out its own monarch, for a pair more open to the idea of putting even the King's power under that of the Law. But up until that point, Royal Power ran rampant in England and those who questioned it, would become the painful focus of it. Locke, together with his compatriot and employer, the Earl of Shaftesbury, felt the sharp focus of royal power because neither one of them believed in the 'divine right of kings', and worse than not believing in it, and worse even than daring to say so, Locke explained why it wasn't so, and that, the exercise of Freedom of Speech, is something which those employing the Doppelganger's Rule of Rules cannot tolerate, and will soon seek to resolve their discomfort with orders of 'Off with their heads!' - and so off Locke and Shaftesbury went, into exile in Holland.

During that six or so years of exile, Locke devoted serious consideration to practical political philosophy (the 1st of the the three steps which we reviewed in the previous post), Richard Hooker's "Of the laws of ecclesiastical polity" found its way into his writing, and he could not have missed the strange new political developments coming from the colonies in America, particularly the likes of Thomas Hooker (possibly related to Richard Hooker) and his Fundamental Orders of Connecticut, with
"...the first written constitution known to history that created a government..."
, establishing representative government with the freedom to think and worship as a person saw fit, without interference from the government. Such ideas percolated for years in Locke's brain, and were refined into principled form, and, helping to give much weight to the adage that 'The Pen is mightier than the sword', would help contribute to that coming revolution, as well as our own, decades afterwards.

The primary work that John Locke ultimately produced, "The Two Treatises of Civil Government [1689]" (published anonymously), was the first to propose and give clear expression to the concept of Individual Rights and the critical importance of Property Rights to them, and on top of that, in his view, upholding those rights were the primary purpose of Govt and its laws (the 2nd key step pointed out in the previous post, and the focus of this one). The linking of those three together: law, rights and property; brought the highest ideas of Law into direct contact with nearly every concern of every person living under it, but now as a benign a promise to defend their actions, rather than as a malignant limitation upon those actions they'd be permitted to take (the 3rd key step pointed out in the previous post). It also established a palpable link from each person's daily concerns to the highest ideals of Western Thought. Locke's ideas found recognition and appreciation in England, but it was in America that they were taken most seriously and were given the most direct application and formal expression and expectations of (see the 1733 Freedom of the Press case of Peter Zenger).

Life in the American colonies had little or no patience for niceties without substance, in thought or deed. It was a place where the matter of a couple careless steps off the beaten path would put you face to face with raw nature and/or hostile peoples, conditions which served to clarify the importance