Friday, April 29, 2011

The Dangers of Christian Reconstructionism

For those of you who don’t know, I am a graduate of Patrick Henry College, the small Christian liberal arts school sometimes affectionately (and sometimes despairingly) referred to as God’s Harvard. At PHC we were frequently amused by the rumors claiming we were part of a conspiracy designed to “prepare the leadership of a theocratic United States,” “extinguish[] secular governance” or otherwise overthrow the Constitution, mandate church attendance, require tithing, and execute anyone who didn't follow our version of Mosaic law. But while this was grounds for amusement, Christians need to realize that there are thinkers who do advocate these sort of things - and sometimes they are closer to home than we realize.

I'm speaking of R.J. Rushdoony, his son-in-law Gary North, and their following, commonly known as the Christian Reconstructionists. Fundimentally these men err in that they cannot accept a political state with Christians and non-Christians living side by side. North, specifically, was a firm opponent of religious freedom, insisting that the nation broke its covenant with God in the Constitution by not requiring Trinitarian oaths for political officers.
There is no escape from this conclusion: the United States Constitution is an atheistic, humanistic covenant. The law governing the public oath of office reveals this. (Gary North, Political Polytheism, 403-404)
To make possible this hypothetically disinterested examination of politics, the Constitution removed Christian religious tests as the judicial requirement of the judges and officers of the new national government. That, in and of itself, delivered the republic into the hands of the humanists. Nothing else was necessary after that. From that point on, the secularization of America was a mopping-up operation. (Political Polytheism, 367)
His solution is to require not only a Trinitarian oath for every office holder…
The long-term national political goal has to be the substitution of a Trinitarian national oath for the present prohibition against religious test oaths. (Political Polytheism, 568)
What is needed is a very simple modification of the U.S. Constitution. First, the Preamble should begin:” We the people of the United States, as the lawful delegated agents of the Trinitarian God of the Bible, do ordain and establish. . . . “48 Second, Article VI, Clause 3, should state “The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all the executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; and a Trinitarian religious Test shall be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.” (Political Polytheism, 653)
...but also church membership and orthodox Christian belief for every citizen.
The longterm goal of Christians in politics should be to gain exclusive control over the franchise. Those who refuse to submit publicly to the eternal sanctions of God by submitting to His Church’s public marks of the covenant – baptism and holy communion – must be denied citizenship, just as they were in ancient Israel. (Political Polytheism, 87)
The biblical model for a theocratic republic would restrict voting to those who are voting (i.e., tithe-paying) members of local churches, and who are also taxpaying citizens. (Political Polytheism, 597)
God wants every nation to have its political citizenship match its people’s heavenly citizenship. This goal can be achieved positively: by widespread conversions of political citizens to saving covenantal faith in Jesus Christ. This new political order can subsequently be maintained — though not without continuing widespread conversions — on a judicially negative basis: by removing legal access to the franchise and civil offices from those who refuse to become communicant members of Trinitarian churches. (Political Polytheism, 621)
And here he defines orthodox belief.
It is my view that there are three subordinate tests for orthodoxy, once a person has affirmed the obvious: the virgin birth of Jesus, the Trinity, and the bodily resurrection of Christ. These three tests are: affirming the six-day creation, affirming the worldwide Noachic flood, and affirming the doctrine of hell (lake of fire). (Political Polytheism, 642)
So, in North’s utopia, anyone who denies the worldwide flood or has a different view of creation is, on a good day, kicked out of the state-associated church and denied voting rights. On a bad day they’re stoned.
Does Schaeffer mean that, given the freedom to advocate Christianity (he means ‘proselytization), Christians should enforce their views by ‘law’ if people will not accept Christian belief and behavior by choice?” To which any Christian not paralyzed with guilt should reply: “That is what Schaeffer should have meant, even if it wasn’t what he did mean. (Political Polytheism, 190)
Why this burden? In North’s view, we need to because God is depending on our actions, and He cannot move unless we do first. North explicatively ties it in to the second coming of Christ, which, in his view, must be ushered in by this theocratic state.
Christian Reconstructionists are self-consciously attempting to lay new intellectual foundations for a comprehensive moral and therefore intellectual, social, political, and economic transformation of the world. Not until at least the preliminary steps in this theological and intellectual transformation are accomplished can we expect God to send worldwide revival. (Political Polytheism, 610-11)
The implication lurking behind all of this is that it is an illegitimate state that does not acknowledge God. Yet, in the order of creation, God has delegated political authority even to rulers who do not acknowledge Him. Christ, in saying "render unto Caesar what is Caesar's" declared that the pagan Roman empire had legitimate political authority. Paul in telling the Christians to submit to authorities affirmed this. Likewise, in the Old Testament, there is no hint that Babylon or Egypt were illegitimate empires, but rather that God specifically raised up pagan rulers. (e.g. Jeremiah 27)

The Christian Reconstructionists cannot accept this. For them, the mere fact that someone is not Christian (or for some, a Christian of their specific denominational leanings), disqualifies them from holding office or (for North) voting. There is no natural law, no appeal to reason, and no common good, that the Christian can appeal to in political discussion with the non-Christian. For one to win, the other has to lose (or convert, or be publicly executed).

Fortunately, although there are some historic ties between PHC and the Reconstructionists  (PHC founder Michael Farris self-identified as a reconstructionist at one point but then left the movement), any allegiance that PHC graduates have to the movement is in spite of, not because of, their time at the school. If anything, PHC is a liberalizing and moderating force on the prevalence of Reconstructinism in the homeschool movement. And for that, it should be applauded.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Earth Day in light of Good Friday

Orthodoxy (Moody Classics)Darwinism can be used to back up two mad moralities, but it cannot be used to back up a single sane one. The kinship and competition of all living creatures can be used as a reason for being insanely cruel or insanely sentimental; but not for a healthy love of animals. On the evolutionary basis you may be inhumane, or you may be absurdly humane; but you cannot be human. That you and a tiger are one may be a reason for being tender to a tiger. Or it may be a reason for being as cruel as the tiger. It is one way to train the tiger to imitate you, it is a shorter way to imitate the tiger. But in neither case does evolution tell you how to treat a tiger reasonably, that is, to admire his stripes while avoiding his claws.

If you want to treat a tiger reasonably, you must go back to the garden of Eden. For the obstinate reminder continued to recur: only the supernatural has taken a sane view of Nature. The essence of all pantheism, evolutionism, and modern cosmic religion is really in this proposition: that Nature is our mother. Unfortunately, if you regard Nature as a mother, you discover that she is a step-mother. The main point of Christianity was this: that Nature is not our mother: Nature is our sister. We can be proud of her beauty, since we have the same father; but she has no authority over us; we have to admire, but not to imitate. This gives to the typically Christian pleasure in this earth a strange touch of lightness that is almost frivolity. Nature was a solemn mother to the worshippers of Isis and Cybele. Nature was a solemn mother to Wordsworth or to Emerson. But Nature is not solemn to Francis of Assisi or to George Herbert. To St. Francis, Nature is a sister, and even a younger sister: a little, dancing sister, to be laughed at as well as loved.

~G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy

Monday, April 18, 2011

Freedom of Thought

I am often shocked at what does not shock people. Sometimes it is seeing a parent give in to the terrorist demands of a small screaming child. (You know how Iran freed the US hostages the day Reagan took office? That is the kind of fear and authority my parents had. They would not negotiate with terrorists.)

Another thing is freedom of thought. America is unique in many ways, good and bad, but one thing that we have is freedom to believe what we want and to express it.Governments have long tried to control thoughts, and even those that realize that you can't turn the screws on if you try to express it.

Obviously you can see in history dramatic examples

like Nero's persecution of early Christians but it isn't an issue just “in the old days.” Just a few years ago a Canadian Judge ruled that freedom of speech did not apply in Canada because it was an American right, not a human right. “Freedom of speech is an American concept, so I don’t give it any value. It’s not my job to give value to an American concept,’’ he said.

The other night I went to have my hair cut. The gentleman who cut it was Ahmet a Turkish expatriate. He and I talked about his childhood and what he thought about America. I asked him what he felt the best and worst things about America were. The worst thing, he told me, was that youngsters do not respect their elders. The thing he said Turkey (and he also extrapolated) the rest of the Middle East) needed from America was freedom of speech and religion.

Sometimes I am shocked that we are not shocked that so many people do not have freedom to believe what they want. I cannot say it better than Reagan, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn't pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children's children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.”

What shocks you that should shock others?

Saturday, April 16, 2011

The Modern Quagmire

I am going to break with the usual format of this blog and speak about a personal experience I had recently. Hopefully it will not devolve into a simple travelogue, but will instead shed some light on the unique place we have reached in the development of American politics.

I found myself walking into history this past weekend. I took a road trip to visit one of the other writers of this blog who had traveled to a city several hours north of where I live for business. I am absent minded enough that I was not paying too much attention to what was supposed to go on there. When I arrived, I realized I was smack dab in the middle of the presidential straw poll and that live presidential candidates were going to be speaking. This surprised me because the event itself seemed rather low key compared to what I imagined presidential straw polls being, yet there was no mistaking the hubbub of national election proceedings. I subsequently found myself taking pictures of Governor Tim Pawlenty's speech and then tabulating the voting results on my iPad at the end of the weekend. If you've ever seen the Young Indiana Jones series then you'll recall he frequently found himself interacting with (at random) a diverse group of historical figures; as I walked down the hall as part of the governor's entourage, I wondered if I too would live a life on the fringes of history's footnotes. Only time will tell. But my few brushes with the elites of our time have taught be an important lesson.

We live in a time of young, inexperienced politicians. Those with connections to the administrations of days gone by are deceased, or at best, retired, and treated by the world and those who govern as if they were deceased. Men like former secretary of state James Baker, a true statesman with a keen insight into the ambiguities of American foreign policy and decades of experience. Yet men like this cannot even dream of holding high office in America today. Is it ageism? Youthful hubris on the part of city politicians who were in college when James Baker was threatening an Iraqi delegation with American nuclear retaliation with such subtlety the words never had to be uttered? This subtlety is impossible in a world where a round-the-clock media dissects every word and every statement and asks every question and refuses to let anything left unsaid have any meaning in the national dialog.

Men like Pawlenty have a great legacy to live up to. As we clamor for them to listen to our pet ideas and to give no quarter to the pertinent issues of the day, let us not neglect the lessons of the past, and let us not allow our leaders to neglect the lessons of the past. Let us be shrewd and demanding of our leaders, showing no partiality, and showing little tolerance for failure. American politics and policy will be shaped by necessity for the foreseeable future. Necessity leaves no margin for error. Likewise, we can afford none.

Friday, April 15, 2011


Nobody likes tax day. It is a nightmare of paperwork and the sinking feeling in your stomach that you did something wrong and that men in black suits will come to your home and audit you.

Besides the fact that taxes are due there are other headlines that prompt thought on this issue.

Obama’s new budget plan for 2012 claims to reduce the deficit in the next 12 years, primarily, by raising taxes. His first target is Bush’s so called “tax cuts for the rich.” Did you know that one of those “tax cuts for the rich” include the elimination of the marriage penalty tax? Yeah, if you are married you no longer have to pay higher taxes because of it. Under Obama’s plan married peoples’ taxes will go up.

Also, there has been a bit of a spat between Senator Tom Coburn (a solid conservative from Oklahoma) and the founder of the conservative organization American’s for Tax Reform Grover Norquest. Both of these men have admirable records. Both want to reduce the Federal deficit. But Norquist is calling out the Senator for supporting small tax increases to help cover government expenses.

I believe in paying my taxes. It is the right thing to do. There is, however, a problem with both Coburn and Obama’s solution. Raising taxes will not fix the problem. Our government has proven that when they have lots of money they just spend more of it.

Practically speaking there are lots of attractive programs out there; too many for us to assume that the congress will not spend the tax increases. It might start out small. They may say, as they often have, that for every $100 they bring in only a few dollars will go to new programs and the rest will help pay off the debit.

It doesn’t happen.

They need to cut the debit and earn trust by being serious about balancing the budget. They need to have that adult conversation about our budget problem and learn the lesson that you should not spend money that you do not have. Until then, “Read my lips, no new taxes.”

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Lost Cause

This week marks 150 years since the beginning of the Civil War. And in light of that struggle that tore our nation apart, as well as the recent resurgence of nullification, some words must be said about the conflict.

Some time back at a used book sale I picked up a book by Burton Hendrick entitled Statesmen of the Lost Cause: Jefferson Davis And His Cabinet. Unfortunately, I have never made it very far past the preface. That preface, however, is worth well more than $1 I paid for the book. For the author makes a very important, yet often forgotten, point about the Civil War: the war was won not by the military leaders, but by the North's superior statesmanship and superior political philosophy.

While I originally attempted to summarize the argument, I am not sure I can improve upon Hendrick's original. So without further ado, here are excerpts from the preface of Statesmen of the Lost Cause.
Significantly [the South's] hero of that conflict to-day is Robert E. Lee, not Jefferson Davis. Just as significantly the hero of the North is Abraham Lincoln and not Grant or Sherman. . . . Thus does the popular mind, working instinctively, perhaps subconsciously, arrive at a great historic truth, For the fact that the North emphasizes statesmanship in the Civil War and the South military achievement goes far to interpreting the events of 1861 – 1865. In particular, it may answer a question much debated in that era and since. Why did the South lose the war?
. . .
The courage and ability of the Southern armies aroused the admiration of their foes; that Southern generalship, at least in the first two years, surpassed that of the North, stands upon the surface; other facts than an inferiority in military strength must therefore hold the secret of Confederate failure. We shall probably find it rather in civil than in military affairs. Had statesmen ruled its domestic and foreign policies with the same skill that Lee and other generals guided its armies, the result might have easily been very different. In one respect this assertion may look like a reversal of history. Statesmanship was a quality on which the South had always prided itself. Its political thinkers had played a leading role in framing the Constitution. For nearly forty years following 1789 it gave the Union its Presidents. It seems strange, therefore, that at the supreme test of 1861 – 1865 this region should so disastrously fail in exclusive possession. But perhaps there is a solution to the mystery. It may be found in the particular South that organized the Confederacy and plunged the nation into war. The fact to be kept always in mind is that the South which started the Confederacy, and dominated its government for four years, was not the South that wrote the Declaration of Independence, played so important a role in framing the Constitution, and provided so much leadership for the United States in its earliest days.
. . .
The Southern commonwealth chiefly famous for statesman – Virginia – had no hand in organizing the Confederacy. Neither had North Carolina or Tennessee, other states distinguished for political leadership in the Union. These older states came in three months afterwards, for particular reasons; they had no part in framing the Southern constitution, organizing the government, and had little to do in the civil department for four years of war. . . . the new-rich Southwest contributed the political leaders, the old traditional South the military captains.
. . .
Probably the political philosopher would find an even more significant study in the effect exercised upon the Davis experiment by the constitutional ideas that formed its reason for existence. State Sovereignty, the Right of Succession – these were the foundation stones on which this new nation was built. They had provided the theme of impassioned argument for seventy-five years. Now at last Southern statesmen had before them the opportunity of testing the worth of these principles in the practical conduct of a government. Was a nation possible composed of independent units, teach claiming to be a “sovereign state,” joined to a central power only by the loosest ties? Could a Confederacy assert the authority necessary to vital existence in which each “sovereign republic” asserted the right to withdraw at will? The Federalists and Hamiltonians had always objected to Jeffersonism on pragmatic grounds; such theories were preposterous simply because they would not work. They could produce no orderly society – only chaos. The failure of Davis and his colleagues has an important bearing on this point. It seems to prove that the “consolidationists” had the practical argument on their side. . . . Professor Frank L. Owsley, of Vanderbilt University, has probably said the final words on the subject. “There is an old saying that the seeds of death are sown at our birth. This was true of the Southern confederacy, and the seeds of death were state rights. The principle on which the South based its actions before 1861 and on which it hoped to base its future government was its chief weakness. If a monument is ever erected as a symbolical gravestone over the ‘lost cause’ it should have engraved upon it these words: ‘Died of State Rights.’”
Thus the Confederacy failed for two reasons. It produced no statesmen, such as the South had produced in the revolutionary crisis of 1776 and afterword, it was also founded on a principle that made impossible the orderly conduct of public affairs.
Of course, this leaves the question of whether the South could have succeeded with either good statesmen or good political theory - and if the strength of one could have overcome the deficiencies of the other. Or maybe it is simply two sides of the same coin - good statesmen craft good policy, and the South's weak theory stemmed from its poor statesmen.

But more fundamentally, Southern sympathizers today - those who long for the "states rights" model to be implemented more fully - often paint it as an idea prevented by Lincoln and the Civil War. Yet if Henrick is right, and his analysis appears correct, then it is a political idea that has been tried and failed. Indeed, if one includes the Articles of Confederation, it has been tried twice in US history, and both times proved unworkable. Theoretically, at least, the Confederacy's cause was not lost during the Civil War, but during the ratification debates.

Some may object that I have not yet addressed the root issue of the Civil War, that of slavery, and rather painted it entirely as an issue of state's rights. While the theory of the Confederacy was an attempt to implement state's rights, slavery was the issue that brought the theoretical differences between North and South to a head. This is demonstrated by the various secession documents, most notably those of Texas and Mississippi, the later opening with "Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery-- the greatest material interest of the world." So for the Confederacy, the general issue was state's rights, but the specific application was the preservation, and expansion, of slavery.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Homeschoolers Straw Poll

Pacific Homeschool Super Conference Presidential Straw Poll Results Released
Cross-posted from Christian News Wire | 4/11/11 | Jeremiah Lorrig

Pacific Homeschool Super Conference Presidential Straw Poll Results Released Candidates build strong support on path to the Republican nomination.

Contact: Jeremiah Lorrig, Home School Legal Defense Assn., 719-330-9217

SANTA CLARA, Calif., April 11, 2011 /Christian Newswire/ -- CHEA of California and the Home School Legal Defense Association joined together Thursday, Friday, and Saturday for the first annual Pacific Homeschool Super Conference in Santa Clara. 1,200 homeschoolers from California, Nevada, and Oregon gathered just south of San Francisco to hear from homeschool experts, buy school supplies, and participate in the Straw Poll and Presidential Forum.

Candidates vying for support of the influential homeschool vote brought messages of education freedom, family values. Former Senator Rick Santorum won the straw poll with 28%. Tim Pawlenty posted a strong second place with 20% followed by Herman Cain holding 16%.

It is easy to see why Rick Santorum, himself a homeschool father, registered a strong win. In his speech he pointed to his time in the Senate where he championed family issues including the right to life. He told the audience it was America that changed the world, and because of the freedom established by the founding fathers the world has changed.

Candidate Tim Pawlenty encouraged parents to stay involved in the education of their children saying "parental involvement is the number one determining factor in a child's academic success" and reminding the audience of the importance of strong families.

Herman Cain, the last candidate to address the crowd ended the conference with a rousing call to action. "The Founding Fathers got it right," Cain proclaimed. He encouraged people to return to the basics and praised the "people's movement" that has taken form in the Tea Party movement.

All the candidates who came to speak were well-received. The results of the straw poll reflected the wide range of homeschool families' opinions including write-in votes for Marco Rubio and votes cast for President Obama. In the end, the results clumped around a few strong candidates indicating the direction homeschoolers are leaning this election cycle.

Complete results are as follows: Santorum 28%, Pawlenty 20%, Cain 16%, Huckabee 13%, (Ron) Paul 7%, Palin 5%, Bachmann 3%, Trump 3%, Gingrich 3% and Obama, Barbour, Thune, Rubio, Daniels, and Johnson all with less than 1%.


Do you think the homeschoolers got it right? Are you surprised that Obama got any votes? Does Santorum have a chance? Is it telling that Pawlenty drew such strong showing?

The importance of orcs

There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old’s life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.

I have been reminded of this quote multiple times over the past few weeks, partly because both Tolkien and Ayn Rand have been the subject of recent articles I have read.

Over at Touchstone, Anthony Esolen writes that "When my daughter was young, she would often be asked, not usually by fellow homeschoolers, why she kept reading The Lord of the Rings. I told her to reply, 'Because I want to know what's going on in the world.'"

A similar argument was recently made by Mark Mitchell (my philosophy professor) about Jane Austin: "Austen reminds us of the largely forgotten categories of the lady and the gentlemen. It is her genius to make us aspire to these roles even in a world where such notions are strange and often ridiculed."

Reality, honor, family - that is what these stories give us.

Ayn Rand, on the other hand, has no room for such concepts, as poignantly and painfully demonstrated in a recent Salon article entitled "How Ayn Rand Ruined My Childhood."
From what I understood of [my father's] favorite capitalist champion, any form of altruism was evil. But how could that kind of blanket self-interest extend to his own children, the people he was legally and morally bound to take care of? What was I supposed to do, fend for myself?

The answer to my question came on an autumn weekend during my sophomore year in high school. . . . [My dad] and his new wife sat me down at the dinner table with grave faces.

"We were wondering if you would petition to be emancipated," he said in his lawyer voice.

"What does that mean?" I asked, picking at the mauve paint on my hands. I later discovered that for most kids, declaring emancipation is an extreme measure -- something you do if your parents are crack addicts or deadbeats.

"You would need to become financially independent," he said. "You could work for me at my law firm and pay rent to live here."

This was my moment of truth as an objectivist. If I believed in the glory of the individual, I would've signed the petition papers then and there. But as much as Rand's novels had taught me to believe in meritocracy, they had not prepared me to go it alone financially and emotionally. I began to cry and refused.
For Rand's world, unlike Tolkien's or Austin's, is surprisingly unreal. As Whittaker Chambers notices in his review of Rand:
Yet from the impromptu and surprisingly gymnastic matings of the heroine and three of the heroes, no children — it suddenly strikes you — ever result. The possibility is never entertained. And, indeed, the strenuously sterile world of Atlas Shrugged is scarcely a place for children. You speculate that, in life, children probably irk the author and may make her uneasy.
Rand's world stands alone, disconnected by the past (the elderly) or the future (children). Nor is she dependent on anyone (dependence, for Rand, is evil), as Chambers notes "Miss Rand acknowledges a grudging debt to one, and only one, earlier philosopher: Aristotle." Chambers then continues to assert that Rand owes more to Friedrich Nietzsche than to Aristotle.

In contrast to the classics, which address truth and beauty and good and evil, Rand merely has weak and strong, dependent and independent. Not knowing real self-sacrificing good, she is unable to write about real evil, and her characters are reduced to caricatures. If only they had to face some orcs, then we could truly judge their worth.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Nutshell cracked

In case anyone was starting to think that Jeremiah was the only one following the upcoming presidential election, here are my thoughts on his list of candidates.

I could probably support:
  • Pawlenty - seems to be all around solid, powerline people like him, so that's a plus. Has experience.
  • Huckabee - weak on foreign policy, but could convince me on other issues.
  • Daniels - made some big mistakes lately, but could still redeem himself.
  • Bachmann - lacking executive experience, but appears to have the right ideas (as long as she doesn't go too libertarian, aka Paul or Moore).
Skeptical but willing to be persuaded (which means they have an uphill battle):
  • Gingrich - divorce will get him in trouble with religious conservatives.
  • Santorum - read his book and was unimpressed. His solution was more money, just conservative money rather than liberal money.
  • Barbour - don't know him.
  • Cain - don't know much, but first impression is that he lacks political experience
  • Roemer - don't know him.
  • Huntsman - don't know him.
  • Trump - (see Gingrich but plural), is shrewd, but doesn't always project trustworthiness. Lacks political experience.
Can't see myself supporting:
  • Palin - resigning killed her political career, indicates she can't take pressure. She works well as an someone speaking to power, but not someone to entrust with power.
  • Paul (Ron) - too libertarian, poor judge of character, tells the far right what they want to hear, regardless of how practical. The mirror of the 2008 Hope/Change Obama.
  • Paul (Rand) - see above (unless he can distinguish himself).
  • Romney - healthcare in MA undermines credibility, problems with trust.
  • Johnson - pro-abortion.
  • Moore - first 10 commandment stunt was justified, second one was looking for a fight which he didn't lose graciously. Doesn't know how to pick his battles. Too similar to Paul.

Nullification, federalism, and the seperation of powers

I wasn't at CPAC, but Ron Paul was there, and his organization was handing out copies of the Constitution. Now while some copies of the Constitution will include additional relevant information, such as a brief history or the Declaration of Independence, this version included the Kentucky and Virginia resolutions which (supposedly) reserve for the states the right to nullify federal laws they consider unconstitutional. That these resolutions do not reserve such a right was the topic of a recent Heritage blog post.

Yes, it appears that the nullification debates are beginning again. But what the proponents fail to realize is that, in their zeal for curbing excessive federal powers, they are advocating a technique that is itself unconstitutional. Nullification was given a fatal blow by the adoption of the Constitution and confirmed dead by the Civil War. Even the very pro-state Andrew Jackson condemned the idea: "I consider, then, the power to annul a law of the United States, assumed by one State, incompatible with the existence of the Union, contradicted expressly by the letter of the Constitution, unauthorized by its spirit, inconsistent with every principle on which It was founded, and destructive of the great object for which it was formed." In short, nullification is unconstitutional by virtue of Article VI clause 2.
This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the constitution or laws of any state to the contrary notwithstanding.
The Constitution removed sovereignty from the States, who under the Articles of Confederation shared sovereignty with the national government, and deposited it solely in the new Federal Government. As such, the states no longer have the authority to override or veto federal laws, even federal laws that are "unconstitutional."

The question, then, is what to do with unconstitutional laws or actions by the federal government. First, there is always the political check, which involves the removal of offending legislators (or presidents) and their replacement with new and better statesmen. Madison envisioned this when, in Federalist 44, he wrote that regarding overreach by the federal government, the states "will be ever ready to mark the innovation, to sound the alarm to the people, and to exert their local influence in effecting a change of federal representatives." Granted, the states role in this process is severely limited after the passage of the Seventeenth Amendment which took away their power to appoint Senators, but that was a power they forfeited.

Secondly, the three branches serve as checks upon each other. Specifically, Hamilton argues in Federalist 78 that "the courts of justice are to be considered as the bulwarks of a limited Constitution against legislative encroachments." The courts are the agents fundamentally tasked with applying law to a particular case, and as such, have the responsibility to determine which of two conflicting laws is to be applied. When the Constitution conflicts with a federal law, the law must fall, as per the above cited supremacy clause. This is the exact reasoning used by Marshall in the case confirming judicial review: Marbury v. Madison.

Even more broadly, though, the courts are not the only agents that act as a check upon the other two branches. Both the legislators and the president are also expected to uphold the Constitution, and have the responsibility to--within their sphere--ensure that the Constitution is not violated. Legislators do this by voting against unconstitutional laws, executives do this via both veto and interpretation/enforcement (absent a judicial order to the contrary).

Thus, it is not that there is no check upon unconstitutional acts of the legislature, but that the people, the states, the judiciary, and the executive all have a specific role to play, and specific means of countering unconstitutional laws. By resorting to nullification, states are acting beyond their authority and encroaching on the type of constitutional enforcement reserved for the judiciary (judicial review) or executive (veto), just as the judiciary would be encroaching on the authority of the states or people if, rather than refusing to recognize a law, judges started lobbying or campaigning, in their official capacity (i.e. using their office), against officials they considered violating the constitution or otherwise got involved in the legislative/political process.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Project Umubano's impact on UK foreign policy

Guest Post written by a friend of mine (and traveling buddy) on a new trend in international policy. Josiah Cantrall It was originally posted in The Washington Times Communities.

Wisconsin, April 3, 2011 — Recent foreign policy reforms by the United Kingdom have left the American right brimming with jealousy. First, the U.K. issued a harsh review of the United Nation's inefficiencies, then they de-funded four UN programs;now Prime Minister David Cameron has expressed a new attitude towards multiculturalism.

Since when have UK Conservatives become, well, so conservative?

Enter Project Umubano. Outside of the U.K., very few are even aware of it's existence. Yet since its implementation in 2007, the project has steadily transformed the Conservative Party's entire approach to foreign relations.

Prime Minister David Cameron touched on this last December during his speech to the Young International Democrat Union. Seated inside the Houses of Parliament, alongside the Thames River, my colleagues and I listened as Cameron described the historical perception of Conservatives as heartless capitalists with no regard for impoverished nations and individuals. Though dutifully offended, Cameron also noted his party was ill-prepared to change these viewpoints. It all began there.

The following day at 10 Downing Street, the Prime Minister's home and Headquarters of Her Majesty's Government, Andrew Mitchell, UK Secretary of International Development continued the story over tea.

In 2007, as then leaders of a minority party, Mitchell and Cameron began Project Umubano.

During annual two week trips to Rwanda and Sierra Leone, Conservative Party officials and members of parliament participate in civil society projects working directly with underprivileged groups and obtaining an in-depth knowledge of their cultures.

Working with local partners and NGOs, participants use their professional skills to provide medical, business, and educational training and resources. It's not a publicity stunt. Attendees contribute their own money and work alongside common laborers and local ethnic groups.

Lawyers work with justice officials and teach corporate law. Doctors and nurses train local people while providing free clinical work. Businesspeople hold clinics and consult local firms. Athletic individuals and professional coaches teach sports and train coaches. Members of the education field train local teachers, distribute books, and offer English classes for nine hours a day.

Conservative leaders credit the project for their new understanding of human suffering and the opportunities modern countries have to assist the poor and underprivileged.

However, compassion and knowledge haven't changed their stance on fiscal responsibility. If anything it strengthened it. Conservatives are now unashamedly questioning the decorum of wasting British pounds on failing UN programs.

After reviewing their UN contributions, the British government has pulled funding for four programs and issued harsh criticism.

They condemned the UN Industrial Development Organization for not having a significant impact on global poverty and also noted, “UN-HABITAT”-a Nairobi-based agency mandated “to promote socially and environmentally sustainable towns and cities. . . is (not) leading the United Nations system to work more coherently to tackle urban challenges faced in developing countries.”

Cameron and Mitchell, unlike their Labor predecessors, are demanding accountability for monetary aid given and placing immense emphasis on results rather than the size of aid packages. Success has become measured not in pounds spent, but in lives impacted.

Undeniably their coalition-rule with Liberal Democrats has forced many policies to represent conflicting ideologies. Yet by focusing the debate on accountability and results Conservatives have turned foreign relations into the UK's second most popular policy.

And although multiculturalism is generally considered a domestic issue, Project Umubano has influenced Conservative thought here as well. While remaining sensitive to cultural differences, Conservatives now see the consequences of allowing failure to go un-corrected. Empowering radical individuals hasn't worked in Africa or the Middle East and finally the United Kingdom realizes it won't work for them either.

Compassionate conservatism is for spineless moderates? Think again. Project Umubano has taught participants liberty is ubiquitous, and a free world upholding the equality of all mankind is a world where free market and pro-democratic principles prosper.

The heartless capitalist image may be gone forever.

Josiah Cantrall, is a nationally recognized political pundit, columnist, Young Republican Midwest Director, and Delegate to the International Young Democratic Union.

He is a Wisconsin farm boy, descendant of a Titanic survivor, second oldest of 13 children, Christian, and homeschool graduate.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

GOP 2012 in a nutshell.

Last time I wrote about the 2012 Republican presidential hopefuls I expected the field to shrink as time went on. I am shocked to inform you that although three have dropped off (Pence, Thune, and DeMint), the field has widened not shrunk. They are in no particular order:

  • Palin-Fmr VP candidate, TV star, Fmr AK Gov, and momma grizzly.
  • Romney-Businessman, savior of the Olympics, Fmr MA Gov, and Mormon.
  • Huckabee-Front runner is the polls, Fmr AR Gov, Fmr pastor, and TV host.
  • Gingrich-Leader of the Contract with America, Fmr Speaker of the House political speaker, and author.
  • Barbour-MS Gov, Fmr RNC head, and southern insider.
  • Pawlenty-Fmr MN Gov, lawyer, and the guy I was rooting for to be McCain’s VP choice.
  • Santorum-Fmr PA Sen, pro-life leader, and homeschool dad.
  • Daniels-IN Gov, businessman, and wants a truce on the social issues.
  • Cain-Businessman, Tea Party speaker, speech at CPAC flopped, but speech at Conservative Principles Conference was great.
  • Roemer-WHO?!? That’s what I said. Fmr. LA Gov.
  • Paul (Ron)-Libertarian, TX Rep, Medical Dr, and Audit the Fed man.
  • Johnson-Creepy Libertarian, businessman, Fmr NM Gov, and only one to make this list who doesn’t even claim to be pro-life.
  • Bachmann-MN Rep, Fmr Tax Attorney, foster mom, and Tea Party leader.
  • Huntsman-Fmr UT Gov, Fmr Ambassador to China and Singapore, and musician. (Also a Mormon but doesn’t seem to impact his political profile as much as Romney).
  • Moore-Judge, his claim to fame is that he was fired over the 10 Commandments.
  • Trump-TV Star, professional celebrity, businessman, and real-estate mogul.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Obama 2.0

This morning Obama announced that he plans to run for reelection in 2012 via YouTube. Is it strange to have a supporter on there saying that they don't agree with him on everything? Is that cover for his drop in the polls and problems with his political base? You tell me:

And of course, the Republicans were ready for him. What is their theme? Hope doesn't make jobs.

Tim Pawlenty's campaign was ready and came out swinging. "How can America win the future when we're losing the present?"

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...