I shall keep this blog up on the web for posterity’s sake and purpose of easy reference. But as I have found so many other things in life to be more valuable, both personally and in terms of real impact for good, I have decided not to spend another moment blogging here. This does not preclude me from starting a new, much more tightly focused, blog sometime in the distant future. But this is officially and finally it for Borg Blog.
LewRockwell.com links today to a 2002 article by the great Joseph Sobran, in which the former National Review senior editor and syndicated columnist describes his journey to philosophical anarchism. If you aren’t afraid of being challenged by brilliant argument, of having to re-think things you once considered concluded, then this is a must read. I truly believe you will be better for having read it, whether or not you come to share Sobran’s conclusion, today or at some future date in your own philosophic journey.
I should say that few people have had as great an influence on me as Sobran. I can’t call him a friend, as we don’t know each other well enough, but I’m sure within a few words he would remember me, should we run into each other again. In my days at Accuracy in Academia, Sobran was one of the more regular speakers at the conferences we held on college campuses (you can get small taste of what we did — and of Sobran himself – through the transcripts and audio of lectures featured here, and from these two Campus Report articles of mine, here and here). We featured a whole spectrum of conservatives at these programs, from arch-traditionalists to libertarians to neo-conservatives. But none were as lucid, kind-natured, and humorous (despite a clear political pessimism) as he — nor as fundamentally challenging and convincing, to this mind at least. I count among my greatest influences in political philosophy men like Leonard Read, Frederic Bastiat, Albert J. Nock, Henry Hazlitt, and James Madison. I have had privilege of meeting Ron Paul once, another huge influence, especially over last few years. But the rest I just engaged through their writings. Sobran I met often in person, and the force of his spoken reason and authentic presence on me was powerful.
In this article of his, “The Reluctant Anarchist” – not too long and very readable, as his clear, engaging style always make his writings, regardless of subject – Sobran takes us through his evolution as a political thinker, citing his influences and touching upon the “a ha!” moments that sparked each leap in his philosophical transformation. And I must declare that I agree with almost every one of his conclusions – save becoming an anarchist myself. (I also hold a more favorable view of Reagan’s presidency than he.)
The reason for my final disagreement is as practical as his reason for being an anarchist. No restraint, no constitution, will ever contain the inherently corrupt nature of the State to ever expand its power and scope of control over its citizens’ lives, almost always to our considerable detriment. I agree. And while I also agree that the State does not have to always and ever exist as part of a divine decree, it is also true that some large portion of men in their fallen, corrupt nature will always seek dominion over other men and will attempt to take by force what is not theirs, and maintain and expand their dominion by claiming a monopoly of force as the State. As well, others will seek to defend themselves by banding together, and that even if this can exist for a minute period of time as a voluntary arrangement, the State will emerge in one form or another this way also. Our enemy is the State, as Nock rightfully argued, but it is also very often our fellow man. The key, given the reality that the State will always exist this side of Glory, is to erect checks against the abuse of power, to arrange power against power so that the tug-of-war in government prevents a monopoly of power among one faction or one branch of government. Power must be as de-centralized as much as possible, delegated from lower levels only as absolutely necessary to higher levels. And there must be a lodestar for appeal, to call into check abuses of powers not given — as a law etched in stone against rulers and in defense of our natural rights.
The U.S. Constitution — while not perfect, as admitted by its framers – provides for these things. It is an existing lodestar to which we are blessed with the ability to appeal — right now. It is also, as Sobran points out, a dead letter. It is functionally non-existent in America today, and that was just as true under President George W. Bush a year ago as it is now under President Barack Obama. The Republic has fallen, replaced by an increasingly hideous Empire. But that doesn’t stop me from being a constitutionalist (even as I am both a minarchist — believing government should be dramatically limited in its scope to doing the bare minimum to protect life, liberty, and property — and a radical federalist — believing that while almost nothing should be entrusted to the national government, the competition between the several united states helps mitigate their power, and the right of self-determination of actual communities of individuals makes almost any arrangement through local government permissible, if not always wise). God has a way of resurrecting things, and I believe a resurrected Constitution is our only political hope for America.
Sobran nears the conclusion of his article with the following statement:
“Since the conversion of Rome, most Western rulers have been more or less inhibited by Christian morality (though, often enough, not so’s you’d notice), and even warfare became somewhat civilized for centuries; and this has bred the assumption that the state isn’t necessarily an evil at all. But as that morality loses its cultural grip, as it is rapidly doing, this confusion will dissipate. More and more we can expect the state to show its nature nakedly.”
As Americans, has this ever been more clear than it is now? Sobran takes from this a final political hope in anarchism (if you will permit me the oxymoron). Though as a realist, he is necessarily pessimistic. I share his pessimism, at least in the short run. I believe part of what God will use to revive our Republic is to allow us to nearly destroy ourselves, at least economically. May He have mercy and may His discipline prove light.
I also take from this that the Great Commission has political and cultural ramifications. Even the non-believers among America’s Founders, and especially the many more who were devout, understood that the Republic would exist only as long as we could keep it; that a free government only becomes a virtuous and religious society. That is NOT a call to establishing an ecclesiocracy — we’ve seen how well that worked for England and Spain anyway. But it is a call to evangelism, and to engaging the culture in our physical local communities. Theorectical engagement through politics alone is a form of Gnosticism. The real action is on the ground in flesh and blood relationships, as we love and serve others, modeling Christ to the world around us. We are to be salt and light to the culture. This means we don’t abandon politics and involvement with government, but our task there should be focused on reducing and diffusing power, in part by demanding integrity of the Oath to uphold the Constitution, and by not attempting to use State power for our own ends, only to see those powers then used against us. We must seek to limit and roll-back coercive power in Washington (and then in our state capitals) so that our non-coercive power as ambassadors of Christ in our actual neighborhoods can yield greater fruit: first in saved lives for the Great Harvest and second in liberty and peace for the here and now.
“A declaration of war is the highest and most awful exercise of sovereignty. The convention which framed our Federal constitution had learned from the pages of history that it had been often and greatly abused. It had seen that war had often been commenced upon the most trifling pretexts; that it had been frequently waged to establish or exclude a dynasty; to snatch a crown from the head of one potentate and place it upon the head of another; that it had often been prosecuted to promote alien and other interests than those of the nation whose chief had proclaimed it, as in the case of English wars for Hanoverian interests; and, in short, that such a vast and tremendous power ought not to be confined to the perilous exercise of one single man. The convention therefore resolved to guard the war-making power against those great abuses, of which, in the hands of a monarch, it was so susceptible. And the security against those abuses which its wisdom devised was to vest the war-making power in the congress of the united States, being the immediate representatives of the people and the States. So apprehensive and jealous was the convention of its abuse in any State in the Union without the consent of Congress. Congress, then in our system of government, is the sole depository of that tremendous power.”
Also, it may be well worth your time to read the debate and my further elaboration of my views on war and the Constitution that took place in the comments thread of this post. See esp. my comments at March 6, 2009 11:18 AM , March 6, 2009 11:57 AM , March 6, 2009 12:22 PM , March 6, 2009 02:58 PM , March 6, 2009 03:08 PM , March 6, 2009 04:08 PM , and my concluding remarks at March 11, 2009 01:47 AM .
Dear Mr. President, I read your New Era $3.6 Trillion Budget Proposal. I also listened to your speech Tuesday night. You made a great campaign speech. However, the campaign is over. You won. And the reason you won is you offered hope as well as a promise of change.
With all due respect Mr. President, Tim Geithner and Ben Bernanke are offering the same policies as President Bush and Secretary Paulson. Those policies are to bail out banks regardless of cost to taxpayers. Mr. President, it’s hard enough to overlook Geithner’s tax indiscretions. Mr. President, it is harder still. if not impossible, to ignore the fact that neither Geithner nor Bernanke saw this coming. Yet amazingly they are both cock sure of the solution. Even more amazing is the fact that solution changes every day.
With all due respect Mr. President, Geithner and Bernanke are a huge part of the problem, and no part of the solution and the sooner you realize that the better off this nation will be.
With all due respect Mr. President, your budget proposal is the same big government spending as we saw under President Bush. The only difference is you promised more spending and bigger government, while President Bush promised less government and less spending and failed to deliver on either count.
With all due respect Mr. President, it is impossible to spend one’s way out of a problem, when the problem is reckless spending.
With all due respect Mr. President, you and Congress want to force banks to lend when banks (by not lending) are acting responsibly for the first time in a decade. Mr, President can you please tell us who banks are supposed to lend to? Do we need any more Home Depots? Pizza Huts? Strip malls? Nail salons? Auto dealerships? What Mr. President? What? And why should banks be lending when unemployment is rising and lending risks right along with it?
With all due respect Mr. President, we were hoping your administration would not carry on the war mongering policies of your predecessor. Instead we see amazingly that you Seek $75.5 Billion More for Wars in 2009. Mr. President, do we really need another $75 billion for wars? Was there nothing in the military budget that could be cut?
With all due respect Mr. President, The United States spends more on its military budget than the next 45 highest spending countries in the world combined; The United States accounts for 48 percent of the world’s total military spending; The United States spends on its military 5.8 times more than China, 10.2 times more than Russia, and 98.6 times more than Iran. Isn’t that enough Mr. President?
With all due respect Mr. President, the downfall of every great nation in history has been unsustainable military expansion. Mr. President, the US can no longer afford to be the world’s policeman. You act as if we can. Mr. President, can you please tell us how we can afford this spending?
With all due respect Mr. President, Fannie Mae Reported A Fourth Quarter Loss Of $25.2 Billion. Can you please tell us where you draw the line on taxpayer bailouts of Fannie Mae? Freddie Mac? AIG? Mr. President is there a line anywhere, on anything? If there is, we would appreciate knowing where it is.
With all due respect Mr. President, how can you talk about reducing the budget deficit while proposing the biggest budget in history?
With all due respect Mr. President, how is it possible to talk about reducing health care costs while proposing to increase the health care budget?
With all due respect Mr. President, you have talked about “hard choices”. Can you please tell us what hard choices you have made other than to throw money at every problem? Sure a few programs have changed but Bush orchestrated the biggest Medicaid/Medicare package in history and you upped it. You upped military spending. You criticized McCain for cutting programs that amount to peanuts, and all you can find to cut out of the budget is peanuts.
With all due respect Mr. President, your “Era of New Responsibility” is nothing more than a continuation of the Bush administration Era of Irresponsibility. Mr. President, we hoped for more and deserved more. Yet, behind the charade of campaign messages of hope and change, we essentially see the same fiscal irresponsibility and misguided policies as before. Oh sure Mr. President, your budget priorities have shifted a bit, sadly the irresponsible spending did not.
President Barrack Obama’s speech was masterful last night. Really awe inspiring, and I’m not being sarcastic. I am conceding a fact, b/c it is Obama’s ability to speak like that that makes him so dangerous. And what was best about his speech were the few seemingly off-script joking comments he made, that elicited genuine laughs in a place where very little is genuine, but all carefully calibrated show. (Plus, his “nobody messes with Joe” line was a good one — though also more honest about the frightening truth of state power than anyone wants to admit.)
Two things esp. stood out to me besides his delivery: First, his many threats of coercion by the State — “I intend to hold … fully accountable”, “we will act with the full force of the federal government”, “I refuse to let that happen”, “[health care reform] will not wait another year” — all meant to indicate resolve but actually betraying the fact that the State governs at the end of a gun, and you will comply or else. My favorite: “dropping out of high school is no longer an option.” Really? Mr. President, exactly what sanctions are you going to throw at those who refuse to go along with your re-education schemes? What forceful measures are you going to employ against those who would rather not follow your dictate that everyone now MUST “get more than a high school diploma”?
Second, Obama’s promises suffer from that of most politicians, just exponentially more so: he really wants to eat our cake and have it too. He “pledged to cut the deficit in half by the end of my first term in office.” And yet, look where we are and where he wants to take us. As I write this comment, the “official” U.S. national debt is $10,845,641,002,949.41. That’s almost 11 trillion dollars. In Fiscal Year 2008, the U. S. Government spent $412 billion of our money just on interest payments to holders of the national debt. So, that’s the baseline, which could get dramatically worse if and when interest rates rise. Further, under Bush the federal budget increased from ~$1 trillion all the way to $3 trillion. He took us from a $236 billion budget surplus to a current deficit of over $455 billion. So, that’s what we have inherited from the Bush years.
On top of this, Obama-Reid-Pelosi have just passed into law a $790 billion “stimulus” plan that is “not enough.” And that is outside and above the coming budget, which will surely not decrease one iota. Obama says another bank bailout is on the way. His remarks strongly suggest another auto bailout is in the works. “[O]ur schools … need more resources.” He vows to pick winners in the energy market and heavily subsidize them. Socialized medicine is threatened, er, promised. Obama vows to continue to conduct costly wars and nation-build, just not so much in Iraq (he suggests an interminable 18 months for withdrawal) but much more so in Afghanistan, where he just sent an additional 17,000 troops to augment the 34,000 already there and sure to double by this summer in his own “surge”. And his “tax cut for 95% of Americans” is really a handout to a ton of people who don’t pay federal income tax, forcefully redistributed through the tax code from those that do pay. And he didn’t even address the massive dollars that will be needed to save an insolvent Social Security system.
Obama boasts that he will cut programs that aren’t working, as well as the “waste” that politicians always find a good target in one area while they create more in another. ”Already,” he says, his administration has “identified two trillion dollars in savings over the next decade.” Sounds impressive – yet that works to only $200 billion a year – just a fourth the cost of the recent “stimulus” bill that was added on top of our huge mountain of debt. His promise to “cut the deficit in half” by 2012 is empty.
And then on top of that he makes this promise: ”we will act with the full force of the federal government to ensure that the major banks that Americans depend on have … enough money to lend …” In other words, the Fed and Treasury will be instructed to continue to manufacture huge gobs of money out of thin air, thus continuing that most insidious tax of all: inflation, the devaluing of our dollars and undermining of our purchasing power in the long run. So much for his promise to “save our children from a future of debt.”
Finally, Obama last night repeated the refrain of crisis-mongers everywhere, saying : “But while the cost of action will be great, I can assure you that the cost of inaction will be far greater.” When will Americans start holding their leaders accountable for such unsubstantiated, economically-ignorant b.s.? The more dire the situation, the greater care and deliberation should go into addressing it. At the very least, we should take great care to not just throw more money after bad and perpetuate the very policies that got us in the mess to begin with, and that have proven abject failures in addressing similar past crises.
Obama is amazingly eloquent. Which means he has a great gift for sweet-talking our country down the road to hell.