Why democracy is in trouble

Herbert London, a conservative academic drawing on Plato and others, gives six reasons why he thinks American democracy is in trouble:

First, and perhaps most notably, a democratic republic depends on an educated populace and adherence to certain norms of behavior. It is evident, however, that Americans have a far greater interest in amusing themselves than in educating themselves. Even the extraordinary number of college graduates reveals little about educational attainment since so many are trained in incapacity. Many colleges in the United States are only faintly related to education at all, and many that purport to train simply instill an ideological canon on their students.

In a recent ISI survey on civil knowledge, a majority of college graduates could not name the three branches of government. . . .

Second, a government that assumes enlarged authority over the economy can browbeat those in the private sector to accede to its desire. . . .

Third, the power of demagoguery is enhanced by a press corps that engages in cheerleading. . . .

Fourth, as Juvenal once wrote, those in power want to remain in power. In order to do so, they will make any gesture, compromise any principle, and purloin any aspect of the economy in order to retain their positions. Acting in what is reputed to be the public interest, a class of politicians acts to build constituencies for reelection. The public welfare is mere cover for actions that lead to incumbency.

Fifth, if self-restraint does not exist, external restraint must be imposed to assure domestic tranquility. At issue is the moral basis for civic cohesion, namely, families, churches, associations, and schools, which are in disarray and cannot provide the mediating structures between the individual and the state. As a consequence, government is obliged to fill the moral vacuum playing a role that was not intended in a democratic republic.

Sixth, a democracy cannot work if the system of taxation is used to take from the productive elements of society and give to the unproductive sector.

via Pajamas Media » Democracy Imperiled?.

Is he right?  What’s the alternative?

If Democracy is no longer possible in this country,  who should we pick for King to get our hereditary monarchy started?  Who would be our aristocrats?

Maybe the Queen of England would take us back, though she’d need to dismantle democracy in her country. Or maybe we could just complete our sale to China.

Seriously, some of these six reasons to worry seem to be due to a lack of democracy, not its collapse.  Can some of these be remedied through a proper exercise of democracy?

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Philip

    We are not nor have ever been a democracy. The founding fathers knew that majority rule could never work and set up a republican system of government. Our current Democratic and Republican political parties don’t have much to do with these original concepts. Democracy was never to have been possible in this country, what we need to do is to get back to responsibility in the Republic.

  • Philip

    We are not nor have ever been a democracy. The founding fathers knew that majority rule could never work and set up a republican system of government. Our current Democratic and Republican political parties don’t have much to do with these original concepts. Democracy was never to have been possible in this country, what we need to do is to get back to responsibility in the Republic.

  • Dan Keflex

    Monarchy!?! Did NOT see that one coming.

    I think more along the lines of FEDERATION, as opposed to Federal. The original design of the constitution, to my understanding, was a federation of empowered states, themselves governed by counties. It is very bottom-up, which is the primary check against federal power.

    Today the thinking seems to be very top down–not just in practice, but in the concept of average citizens. Counties have to toe the line if they want money from the state, who in turn must toe the line if they want money from the federal government. True, this federal power is checked to some extent by the three branches of government, but they wield power that should not be theirs in the first place. (Light bulb ban, anyone?) Once “democracy” becomes nothing more than a choice between two parties that rule from distant Washington, we become remarkably similar to the parody of the Simpsons during the Clinton-Dole election cycle, when two identical aliens took over the candidates. (“It’s a two party system. You’ve got to vote for one of us!”)

  • Dan Keflex

    Monarchy!?! Did NOT see that one coming.

    I think more along the lines of FEDERATION, as opposed to Federal. The original design of the constitution, to my understanding, was a federation of empowered states, themselves governed by counties. It is very bottom-up, which is the primary check against federal power.

    Today the thinking seems to be very top down–not just in practice, but in the concept of average citizens. Counties have to toe the line if they want money from the state, who in turn must toe the line if they want money from the federal government. True, this federal power is checked to some extent by the three branches of government, but they wield power that should not be theirs in the first place. (Light bulb ban, anyone?) Once “democracy” becomes nothing more than a choice between two parties that rule from distant Washington, we become remarkably similar to the parody of the Simpsons during the Clinton-Dole election cycle, when two identical aliens took over the candidates. (“It’s a two party system. You’ve got to vote for one of us!”)

  • Dan Kempin

    Oops! Had an old name in the computer from the discussion on pharmaceuticals and spam. It’s really me.

  • Dan Kempin

    Oops! Had an old name in the computer from the discussion on pharmaceuticals and spam. It’s really me.

  • Cincinnatus

    I agree with this man and would like to subscribe to his newsletter.

  • Cincinnatus

    I agree with this man and would like to subscribe to his newsletter.

  • Porcell

    As Churchill remarked, Democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried. Despite London’s points, the Tea Party movement in a rather democratically royal way dramatically affected the 2010 election.

    London raises some valid issues, though they don’t constitute a compelling argument for any other form of government.

  • Porcell

    As Churchill remarked, Democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried. Despite London’s points, the Tea Party movement in a rather democratically royal way dramatically affected the 2010 election.

    London raises some valid issues, though they don’t constitute a compelling argument for any other form of government.

  • Cincinnatus

    Porcell: Well, they do make one pine for the days of the settled aristocracy. But one has to be somewhat of a medievalist to appreciate such things, and I suspect few contributors to this blog would consider themselves such. And even fewer are willing to question the validity and efficacy of democratic regimes in general.

    Regardless of your affections for democracy, I do commend to your perusal the writings of Jouvenal (cited, refreshingly, by the author), however, especially On Power.

  • Cincinnatus

    Porcell: Well, they do make one pine for the days of the settled aristocracy. But one has to be somewhat of a medievalist to appreciate such things, and I suspect few contributors to this blog would consider themselves such. And even fewer are willing to question the validity and efficacy of democratic regimes in general.

    Regardless of your affections for democracy, I do commend to your perusal the writings of Jouvenal (cited, refreshingly, by the author), however, especially On Power.

  • Rose

    In regard to uneducated graduates:
    There is collusion between teachers and students
    to water down curriculum in many high schools and colleges.
    Teachers and students both don’t want to work very hard.
    College exit exams and report cards would help this.

  • Rose

    In regard to uneducated graduates:
    There is collusion between teachers and students
    to water down curriculum in many high schools and colleges.
    Teachers and students both don’t want to work very hard.
    College exit exams and report cards would help this.

  • http://gslcnm.com Pastor Spomer

    “If Democracy is no longer possible in this country, who should we pick for King to get our hereditary monarchy started?”

    Me. Or at least someone who agrees with me on all essencial things. If not that, we might as well have a democratic republic.

    P.S. It’s interesting, considering that this is a web site that is both conservative and religious, that monarchy instead of theocracy was the alternative suggestion. I guess we’re not what Bill Maher thinks we are.

  • http://gslcnm.com Pastor Spomer

    “If Democracy is no longer possible in this country, who should we pick for King to get our hereditary monarchy started?”

    Me. Or at least someone who agrees with me on all essencial things. If not that, we might as well have a democratic republic.

    P.S. It’s interesting, considering that this is a web site that is both conservative and religious, that monarchy instead of theocracy was the alternative suggestion. I guess we’re not what Bill Maher thinks we are.

  • Jerry

    These points are all true. What’s alarming is the downfall of democracy has been promoted by those who feel that democracy is responsible for evil in the world. While appealing to the laziness in all of us, they are working their own schemes. The tea party movement is just America awakening and saying wait a minute.

    Furthermore, it’s not just democracy that they blame, but also directly related for whatever reason, Christianity. This is where we feel most helpless.

  • Jerry

    These points are all true. What’s alarming is the downfall of democracy has been promoted by those who feel that democracy is responsible for evil in the world. While appealing to the laziness in all of us, they are working their own schemes. The tea party movement is just America awakening and saying wait a minute.

    Furthermore, it’s not just democracy that they blame, but also directly related for whatever reason, Christianity. This is where we feel most helpless.

  • http://facebook.com/mesamike Mike Westfall

    Don’t worry too much about the uneducated graduates that our public school system is cranking out.

    But what about the masses of unsocialized kids that are starting to be unleashed on society now!

  • http://facebook.com/mesamike Mike Westfall

    Don’t worry too much about the uneducated graduates that our public school system is cranking out.

    But what about the masses of unsocialized kids that are starting to be unleashed on society now!

  • http://www.thirduse.com fws

    we dont need to really worry.

    God is in control of his earthly kingdom and he will make sure that his goodness and mercy happens even for all the wicked even without our prayer.

    But as Dr Luther points out, we should learn to serve others and so do his earthly will willingly, so that he does not have to make us do those things by sending punishments and pestilences.

  • http://www.thirduse.com fws

    we dont need to really worry.

    God is in control of his earthly kingdom and he will make sure that his goodness and mercy happens even for all the wicked even without our prayer.

    But as Dr Luther points out, we should learn to serve others and so do his earthly will willingly, so that he does not have to make us do those things by sending punishments and pestilences.

  • SKPeterson

    Well, if I had to pick – Prince Hans Adam II of Liechtenstein would suit. Especially if stayed in Vaduz, 99% of the time.

  • SKPeterson

    Well, if I had to pick – Prince Hans Adam II of Liechtenstein would suit. Especially if stayed in Vaduz, 99% of the time.

  • CRB

    Mike,
    Very encouraging stats! If I had it to do over, I would have home-schooled all of my children. Perhaps this movement will continue to grow, at least, I hope so!

  • CRB

    Mike,
    Very encouraging stats! If I had it to do over, I would have home-schooled all of my children. Perhaps this movement will continue to grow, at least, I hope so!

  • Porcell

    Cincinnatus, at 6, anyone who pines for the days of the medieval “sett;ed” aristocracy, ought to read deTocqueville’s Democracy in America that argues the necessary corruption of an aristocratic state. For all its faults, the vast majority of democratic peoples are better off spiritually as well as materially.

    As to deJouvenal, a minor aristocrat, I remember slogging through some of his dense, though essentially romantic, stuff in college. All one really needs to know about him is that he was one of the French intellectuals involved in the Institut pour l’Étude du Fascisme during the Thirties. I haven’t read his work on power. What is he saying ?

    Democracy, for all its faults, is far superior to aristocracy or monarchy. It, also, fits well with the sort of equality and freedom that Jesus taught for a kingdom on earth. While the level of invincible ignorance is high in contemporary democracies, it pales compared to the good old days of the medieval period.

  • Porcell

    Cincinnatus, at 6, anyone who pines for the days of the medieval “sett;ed” aristocracy, ought to read deTocqueville’s Democracy in America that argues the necessary corruption of an aristocratic state. For all its faults, the vast majority of democratic peoples are better off spiritually as well as materially.

    As to deJouvenal, a minor aristocrat, I remember slogging through some of his dense, though essentially romantic, stuff in college. All one really needs to know about him is that he was one of the French intellectuals involved in the Institut pour l’Étude du Fascisme during the Thirties. I haven’t read his work on power. What is he saying ?

    Democracy, for all its faults, is far superior to aristocracy or monarchy. It, also, fits well with the sort of equality and freedom that Jesus taught for a kingdom on earth. While the level of invincible ignorance is high in contemporary democracies, it pales compared to the good old days of the medieval period.

  • helen

    Cincinnatus @6
    Porcell: Well, they do make one pine for the days of the settled aristocracy

    And a compliant serfdom?

  • helen

    Cincinnatus @6
    Porcell: Well, they do make one pine for the days of the settled aristocracy

    And a compliant serfdom?

  • helen

    Rose @ 7
    In regard to uneducated graduates:
    There is collusion between teachers and students
    to water down curriculum in many high schools and colleges.

    Teachers who think that students should work hard, be in class, be attentive and attempt to learn, are blasted on the “evaluation forms” at the end of every term, and nowdays, on line as well.
    Too much negative feedback and teacher is out of a job.

    What would you suggest?
    [I'll hold my suggestions: I was once told that no more than 10% of any high school class should fail, to avoid arousing enough voters to defeat the annual school budget. I said, "What if the 10% are all in my sections?" (They were; I was a newbie and got "the sweepings of the corps.") Then I proceeded to let the chips fall as I had promised in September.]

  • helen

    Rose @ 7
    In regard to uneducated graduates:
    There is collusion between teachers and students
    to water down curriculum in many high schools and colleges.

    Teachers who think that students should work hard, be in class, be attentive and attempt to learn, are blasted on the “evaluation forms” at the end of every term, and nowdays, on line as well.
    Too much negative feedback and teacher is out of a job.

    What would you suggest?
    [I'll hold my suggestions: I was once told that no more than 10% of any high school class should fail, to avoid arousing enough voters to defeat the annual school budget. I said, "What if the 10% are all in my sections?" (They were; I was a newbie and got "the sweepings of the corps.") Then I proceeded to let the chips fall as I had promised in September.]

  • Cincinnatus

    Porcell@14: Read your Tocqueville again. He was actually quite nostalgic for the aristocracy of late medievalism (he was himself an aristocrat after all); the aristocracy he critiqued was the corrupted, enervated nobility of late-eighteenth-century France, which had abandoned noblesse oblige and which, he asserted, deserved to have been overthrown in the revolution (though he despised the Revolution itself).

    His project was an attempt to come to an accommodation with democracy, of which he wasn’t a particular fan, by noting the habits and institutions that could keep it from devolving into precisely the situation that is outlined in the article Veith cites. In short, Tocqueville believed democracy to be dangerous, but he also believed it to be inevitable, and so we must do our best with it.

  • Cincinnatus

    Porcell@14: Read your Tocqueville again. He was actually quite nostalgic for the aristocracy of late medievalism (he was himself an aristocrat after all); the aristocracy he critiqued was the corrupted, enervated nobility of late-eighteenth-century France, which had abandoned noblesse oblige and which, he asserted, deserved to have been overthrown in the revolution (though he despised the Revolution itself).

    His project was an attempt to come to an accommodation with democracy, of which he wasn’t a particular fan, by noting the habits and institutions that could keep it from devolving into precisely the situation that is outlined in the article Veith cites. In short, Tocqueville believed democracy to be dangerous, but he also believed it to be inevitable, and so we must do our best with it.

  • helen

    Mike Westfall @ 10
    But what about the masses of unsocialized kids that are starting to be unleashed on society now!

    “Homeschoolers clearly learn about the real world, possibly more than do their public school counterparts,” commented Dr. Michael Romanowski, an education professor at Ohio Northern University. “While the purpose of public education is to educate future citizens who take an active role in improving the social, economic, and political conditions in society, Ray’s research indicates that public schools, not homeschooling, should be scrutinized for their efforts regarding ‘citizenship training.’ ”

    Mike, do you know any homeschooled children?
    In what way do you think the home schooled child is “unsocialized”?

    Shared study is common; field trips are more directed toward educational value rather than ‘a day out of school’; some schools allow the home schooled to participate in extra curricular activities.
    The homeschooled student does as well or better on standardized tests, which he has to take in most states. He’s not burdened with the public school notion of ‘group study’ (assign a bright kid to several not so bright, or just lazy, and let him a. teach unpaid or b. do all the work for three or four).
    So he can dig deeper into topics that interest him than he could ever get in a public school class.
    [I got some of that "group" stuff even on grad school level.]

  • helen

    Mike Westfall @ 10
    But what about the masses of unsocialized kids that are starting to be unleashed on society now!

    “Homeschoolers clearly learn about the real world, possibly more than do their public school counterparts,” commented Dr. Michael Romanowski, an education professor at Ohio Northern University. “While the purpose of public education is to educate future citizens who take an active role in improving the social, economic, and political conditions in society, Ray’s research indicates that public schools, not homeschooling, should be scrutinized for their efforts regarding ‘citizenship training.’ ”

    Mike, do you know any homeschooled children?
    In what way do you think the home schooled child is “unsocialized”?

    Shared study is common; field trips are more directed toward educational value rather than ‘a day out of school’; some schools allow the home schooled to participate in extra curricular activities.
    The homeschooled student does as well or better on standardized tests, which he has to take in most states. He’s not burdened with the public school notion of ‘group study’ (assign a bright kid to several not so bright, or just lazy, and let him a. teach unpaid or b. do all the work for three or four).
    So he can dig deeper into topics that interest him than he could ever get in a public school class.
    [I got some of that "group" stuff even on grad school level.]

  • http://facebook.com/mesamike Mike Westfall

    Hi Helen,

    I agree with you 100% about the socialization of home-schooled kids.

    I probably should’ve used a smiley on my post to indicate facetiousity (if S. Palin can make up words, so can I). My own kids are home-schooled.

  • http://facebook.com/mesamike Mike Westfall

    Hi Helen,

    I agree with you 100% about the socialization of home-schooled kids.

    I probably should’ve used a smiley on my post to indicate facetiousity (if S. Palin can make up words, so can I). My own kids are home-schooled.

  • Porcell

    Cincinnatus, at 17, While Tocqueville knew the virtue of aristocratic rule, as well as its defects, he came to the understanding that its time had come to end. He, also, understood the virtues and defects of democratic rule, though on balance he arrived at a classic liberal position that favored democratic rule.

    He thought America at its best, not having the baggage of Europe, had evolved a fine balance of a sort of democrat rule by men who, while not formally aristocrats, understood the virtue of aristocracy. He thought that Bradford, Winthrop, Washington, Adams, and Jefferson were far from populist democrats; they were in a sense natural aristocrats. Modern presidents, including Lincoln, the Roosevelts, Kennedy, Reagan, and, yes , both Bushes, while democrats at heart, also, had an aristocratic aspect.

    Harvey Mansfield and Delba Winthrop, who translated and edited Democracy in America, knew that Tocqueville was both an aristocrat and a democratic liberal. They, following Tocqueville, in an introduction, remarked that, though difficult, there is no good reason that democracy cannot stand for rule of the best, which is the essence of aristocracy. In fact America at several points in its history has had a modicum of rule by the best.

    I should suggest that you read Mansfield and Winthrop’s introduction that begins with the following sentence: Democracy in America is at once the best book ever written on democracy and the book ever written on America.

    I understand your concern about the present state of democracy in America, though yearning for some other more authoritarian form of government is a dangerous illusion. As the traditional German saying about marriage goes, … Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t know.

  • Porcell

    Cincinnatus, at 17, While Tocqueville knew the virtue of aristocratic rule, as well as its defects, he came to the understanding that its time had come to end. He, also, understood the virtues and defects of democratic rule, though on balance he arrived at a classic liberal position that favored democratic rule.

    He thought America at its best, not having the baggage of Europe, had evolved a fine balance of a sort of democrat rule by men who, while not formally aristocrats, understood the virtue of aristocracy. He thought that Bradford, Winthrop, Washington, Adams, and Jefferson were far from populist democrats; they were in a sense natural aristocrats. Modern presidents, including Lincoln, the Roosevelts, Kennedy, Reagan, and, yes , both Bushes, while democrats at heart, also, had an aristocratic aspect.

    Harvey Mansfield and Delba Winthrop, who translated and edited Democracy in America, knew that Tocqueville was both an aristocrat and a democratic liberal. They, following Tocqueville, in an introduction, remarked that, though difficult, there is no good reason that democracy cannot stand for rule of the best, which is the essence of aristocracy. In fact America at several points in its history has had a modicum of rule by the best.

    I should suggest that you read Mansfield and Winthrop’s introduction that begins with the following sentence: Democracy in America is at once the best book ever written on democracy and the book ever written on America.

    I understand your concern about the present state of democracy in America, though yearning for some other more authoritarian form of government is a dangerous illusion. As the traditional German saying about marriage goes, … Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t know.

  • Cincinnatus

    Thanks for repeating what I just said, Porcell.

    (some of my work deals with Tocqueville, btw)

  • Cincinnatus

    Thanks for repeating what I just said, Porcell.

    (some of my work deals with Tocqueville, btw)

  • Cincinnatus

    Also, the aristocracy was not “authoritarian.”

  • Cincinnatus

    Also, the aristocracy was not “authoritarian.”

  • Porcell

    Cincinnatus, Actually, what you said is that Tocqueville overall favored aristocracy over democracy, which is quite untrue. He said nothing about an ideal medieval aristocracy. He demonstrated well the inherent corruption of aristocracy in all periods that is based on the inherent superiority o a certain class. He understood that in a democracy men and women of all classes have to some degree a shot at being natural aristocrats.

    In a recent remarkable book, The Political Teachings of Jesus, Todd Lindgren, a conservative, remarks that Jesus in terms of the earthly kingdom premised his teaching on the essential freedom and equality of all people.

  • Porcell

    Cincinnatus, Actually, what you said is that Tocqueville overall favored aristocracy over democracy, which is quite untrue. He said nothing about an ideal medieval aristocracy. He demonstrated well the inherent corruption of aristocracy in all periods that is based on the inherent superiority o a certain class. He understood that in a democracy men and women of all classes have to some degree a shot at being natural aristocrats.

    In a recent remarkable book, The Political Teachings of Jesus, Todd Lindgren, a conservative, remarks that Jesus in terms of the earthly kingdom premised his teaching on the essential freedom and equality of all people.

  • http://www.thirduse.com fws

    porcell @ 23

    “the political teachings of Jesus…

    must be stuff like, “if you dont hate your father and mother you have no part of my kingdom, ” “the poor you will have with you always ” said as a woman cried and washed his feet with ridiculously expensive perfume at a dinner he was having with jewish equivalent of the local pastors and priests…. um ” take up your instrument of capital punishment and follow me”. .. or “my ministry is intended for the house of israel” prompting a woman to compare herself to a dog (with christ’s praise for doing so)…. um…

    Jesus sounds like a republican to me! ;)

  • http://www.thirduse.com fws

    porcell @ 23

    “the political teachings of Jesus…

    must be stuff like, “if you dont hate your father and mother you have no part of my kingdom, ” “the poor you will have with you always ” said as a woman cried and washed his feet with ridiculously expensive perfume at a dinner he was having with jewish equivalent of the local pastors and priests…. um ” take up your instrument of capital punishment and follow me”. .. or “my ministry is intended for the house of israel” prompting a woman to compare herself to a dog (with christ’s praise for doing so)…. um…

    Jesus sounds like a republican to me! ;)

  • Cincinnatus

    “Actually, what you said is that Tocqueville overall favored aristocracy over democracy.”

    No I didn’t. But maybe I will now. You originally stated that Tocqueville hated/despised aristocracy and/or rejoiced in its passing while celebrating the inherent superiority of democracy. You were/are wrong. He was an aristocrat (literally, of ancient vintage), and he favored the aristocratic way of life and government (read his descriptions of native Americans: he marvels at their aristocratic tastes and habits, while also critiquing their savagery). He emphatically did not “demonstrate the inherent corruption of aristocracy in all periods.” He lamented its passing. But he also recognized its (inevitable) passing, realizing (rightly or wrongly; we report, you decide) that democracy was ineluctable. He believed democracy itself–which he defined strictly as the social condition of equality–could just as likely result in democratic despotism as it could democratic liberty (i.e., in his words, “equality in liberty” or “equality in servitude”; cf. Veith’s linked article for the latter; interestingly, he posited Russia and revolutionary France as examples of developing democracies that exemplified equality in servitude, that were the inverse of the democratic coin of which the United States was the obverse). In fact, he was highly, damningly critical of democracy itself, stripped of the mediating institutions peculiar to America; indeed, his primary critique of the French Revolution was that it established democracy without the institutions and habits that preserved America’s democracy from despotism, obviously leading to a condition of slaughter and servitude in France. Democracy in itself was not good for Tocqueville; aristocracy in itself was good for Tocqueville because it came attached with the institutions that preserved liberty (separation of powers, secondary institutions, localism, emphasis on family, dispersion of power, etc.; one must also recognize Tocqueville’s specific definitions for “freedom” and “liberty”). His project, I repeat, was to examine the conditions and institutions under which democracy could be nurtured and accommodated in liberty, under which it could achieve the stability, order, and liberty he believed (again, rightly or wrongly) to be typical of a proper aristocracy (eighteenth century France did not possess a “proper” nobility, but rather a vitiated nobility that had, as I mentioned earlier, abandoned its public duties and virtues). In its American form, he came to develop an affection for democracy and for liberalism. In other words, he did believe that democracy could be, if nurtured properly, in some ways superior to aristocracy (but certainly not in other ways!). But the question of whether he was a democrat and a liberal is still hotly contested, and with good reason. While I don’t claim to have exhaustive knowledge of Tocqueville (indeed, that is why I dedicate my studies to him–precisely because I don’t> know), if you disagree with this, I will have good reason to doubt that you’ve actually read Democracy in America, much less The Old Regime and the French Revolution, his report on the American penitentiary system, and his other publications. In all of them, he’s rather clear and explicit on this point, if nothing else. I’ll expect textual evidence if you plan to contradict my reading of Tocqueville.

    Meanwhile, why are you playing the Jesus card? Arguing that Jesus favored any form of government is always a dangerous proposition, and it appears here to be irrelevant. On the other hand, Tocqueville himself, at one point waxing eloquent on the excellences of aristocracy in contrast to the crudities of democracy, confesses that God himself probably favors the natural equality exalted in democracy.

  • Cincinnatus

    “Actually, what you said is that Tocqueville overall favored aristocracy over democracy.”

    No I didn’t. But maybe I will now. You originally stated that Tocqueville hated/despised aristocracy and/or rejoiced in its passing while celebrating the inherent superiority of democracy. You were/are wrong. He was an aristocrat (literally, of ancient vintage), and he favored the aristocratic way of life and government (read his descriptions of native Americans: he marvels at their aristocratic tastes and habits, while also critiquing their savagery). He emphatically did not “demonstrate the inherent corruption of aristocracy in all periods.” He lamented its passing. But he also recognized its (inevitable) passing, realizing (rightly or wrongly; we report, you decide) that democracy was ineluctable. He believed democracy itself–which he defined strictly as the social condition of equality–could just as likely result in democratic despotism as it could democratic liberty (i.e., in his words, “equality in liberty” or “equality in servitude”; cf. Veith’s linked article for the latter; interestingly, he posited Russia and revolutionary France as examples of developing democracies that exemplified equality in servitude, that were the inverse of the democratic coin of which the United States was the obverse). In fact, he was highly, damningly critical of democracy itself, stripped of the mediating institutions peculiar to America; indeed, his primary critique of the French Revolution was that it established democracy without the institutions and habits that preserved America’s democracy from despotism, obviously leading to a condition of slaughter and servitude in France. Democracy in itself was not good for Tocqueville; aristocracy in itself was good for Tocqueville because it came attached with the institutions that preserved liberty (separation of powers, secondary institutions, localism, emphasis on family, dispersion of power, etc.; one must also recognize Tocqueville’s specific definitions for “freedom” and “liberty”). His project, I repeat, was to examine the conditions and institutions under which democracy could be nurtured and accommodated in liberty, under which it could achieve the stability, order, and liberty he believed (again, rightly or wrongly) to be typical of a proper aristocracy (eighteenth century France did not possess a “proper” nobility, but rather a vitiated nobility that had, as I mentioned earlier, abandoned its public duties and virtues). In its American form, he came to develop an affection for democracy and for liberalism. In other words, he did believe that democracy could be, if nurtured properly, in some ways superior to aristocracy (but certainly not in other ways!). But the question of whether he was a democrat and a liberal is still hotly contested, and with good reason. While I don’t claim to have exhaustive knowledge of Tocqueville (indeed, that is why I dedicate my studies to him–precisely because I don’t> know), if you disagree with this, I will have good reason to doubt that you’ve actually read Democracy in America, much less The Old Regime and the French Revolution, his report on the American penitentiary system, and his other publications. In all of them, he’s rather clear and explicit on this point, if nothing else. I’ll expect textual evidence if you plan to contradict my reading of Tocqueville.

    Meanwhile, why are you playing the Jesus card? Arguing that Jesus favored any form of government is always a dangerous proposition, and it appears here to be irrelevant. On the other hand, Tocqueville himself, at one point waxing eloquent on the excellences of aristocracy in contrast to the crudities of democracy, confesses that God himself probably favors the natural equality exalted in democracy.

  • Cincinnatus

    I should learn to use paragraph breaks. I also forgot to turn off italics at one point (“if you disagree with this” and following).

    Apologies!

  • Cincinnatus

    I should learn to use paragraph breaks. I also forgot to turn off italics at one point (“if you disagree with this” and following).

    Apologies!

  • Porcell

    Cincinnatus, you gave yourself away on this thread recommending the radical effusions of deJouvenal.

  • Porcell

    Cincinnatus, you gave yourself away on this thread recommending the radical effusions of deJouvenal.

  • Cincinnatus

    I guess I should have expected this given that I’m conversing with Porcell, but really Porcell? I take time to compose what I thought to be a serious and moderately thoughtful argument and I get a flippant, vague insult in return? Really?

    I’m not sure if I should dignify it with a response, but I have so many questions. First, what, exactly, did I “give away” and what exactly did I give myself away as? And what was I originally concealing? And why was I concealing it? These inquiries are ones for which I truly do not have the answer, but you seem to know me better than myself. Perhaps this is another instance of my “heartland isolationism.” I can hardly wait to find out. More importantly, since when was de Jouvenel a “radical”? Usually, he is regarded as a conservative (not to mention a serious social scientist), and he is extremely popular in conservative intellectual circles (which is where I first discovered him). On the other hand, so what if he is a radical? What kind of radical? How does that diminish his argument and why is that an insult? Aside from the fact that it’s a classic ad hominem (your favorite logical fallacy), I might play a card you dealt earlier: Jesus is often characterized as a radical.

    In short, I’m baffled. Perhaps I should open my well-worn copy of Porcell’s Rules for Debate. Ah yes, here we are. Rule #1 (we learned this one over the holidays): “Never concede an argument, even if you are wrong and know that you are wrong.” Well, I take your utter abandonment of the topic and hand to be a veiled concession of sorts. Rule #2 (all readers of this blog are familiar with this one): “When in doubt–or even when not in doubt–insult your opponent and attempt to impugn the validity of his or her argument by labeling him or her with an arbitrary, random, thoughtless, and presumably pejorative aspersion, regardless of its accuracy or applicability. Do not engage the actual substance of the argument at hand.”

    Oh, well that explains everything. Porcell, if I had known–and I really should have known–that you were going to start behaving like a troll again, I wouldn’t even have bothered. I really shouldn’t have expected a serious, much less scholarly and honest, discussion of Tocqueville when I engaged you.

  • Cincinnatus

    I guess I should have expected this given that I’m conversing with Porcell, but really Porcell? I take time to compose what I thought to be a serious and moderately thoughtful argument and I get a flippant, vague insult in return? Really?

    I’m not sure if I should dignify it with a response, but I have so many questions. First, what, exactly, did I “give away” and what exactly did I give myself away as? And what was I originally concealing? And why was I concealing it? These inquiries are ones for which I truly do not have the answer, but you seem to know me better than myself. Perhaps this is another instance of my “heartland isolationism.” I can hardly wait to find out. More importantly, since when was de Jouvenel a “radical”? Usually, he is regarded as a conservative (not to mention a serious social scientist), and he is extremely popular in conservative intellectual circles (which is where I first discovered him). On the other hand, so what if he is a radical? What kind of radical? How does that diminish his argument and why is that an insult? Aside from the fact that it’s a classic ad hominem (your favorite logical fallacy), I might play a card you dealt earlier: Jesus is often characterized as a radical.

    In short, I’m baffled. Perhaps I should open my well-worn copy of Porcell’s Rules for Debate. Ah yes, here we are. Rule #1 (we learned this one over the holidays): “Never concede an argument, even if you are wrong and know that you are wrong.” Well, I take your utter abandonment of the topic and hand to be a veiled concession of sorts. Rule #2 (all readers of this blog are familiar with this one): “When in doubt–or even when not in doubt–insult your opponent and attempt to impugn the validity of his or her argument by labeling him or her with an arbitrary, random, thoughtless, and presumably pejorative aspersion, regardless of its accuracy or applicability. Do not engage the actual substance of the argument at hand.”

    Oh, well that explains everything. Porcell, if I had known–and I really should have known–that you were going to start behaving like a troll again, I wouldn’t even have bothered. I really shouldn’t have expected a serious, much less scholarly and honest, discussion of Tocqueville when I engaged you.

  • Porcell

    Cincinnatus, what I meant by that admittedly too terse statement is that you apparently follow deJuvenel who in the thirties was well known to have been devoted to fascism. In general, he opposed classically liberal democratic order, something that deTocqueville quite favored despite its limitations.

    As to Tocqueville, I simply didn’t say in that first post that he hated aristocracy. I’m well aware that he admired enlightened aristocrats. He simply understood that many of them had become corrupted. Perhaps the most concise expression of this is the following passage in the introduction to Democracy in America:

    The kings ruin themselves in great undertakings; the nobles exhaust themselves in private wars; the commoners enrich themselves in commerce. The influence of money begins to make itself felt in the affairs of state. Trade becomes a new source of opening the way to power, and financiers become a political power that is scorned and flattered.
    Little by little enlightenment spreads; one sees the taste for literature and the arts awaken; then the mind becomes an element in success; science is a means of government; intelligence is a social force; the lettered take a place in affairs.

    Tocqueville was well aware that monarchy and aristocracy had become badly corrupted including during the medieval period; fundamentally, he sided with the enlightenment against monarchy and aristocracy.

  • Porcell

    Cincinnatus, what I meant by that admittedly too terse statement is that you apparently follow deJuvenel who in the thirties was well known to have been devoted to fascism. In general, he opposed classically liberal democratic order, something that deTocqueville quite favored despite its limitations.

    As to Tocqueville, I simply didn’t say in that first post that he hated aristocracy. I’m well aware that he admired enlightened aristocrats. He simply understood that many of them had become corrupted. Perhaps the most concise expression of this is the following passage in the introduction to Democracy in America:

    The kings ruin themselves in great undertakings; the nobles exhaust themselves in private wars; the commoners enrich themselves in commerce. The influence of money begins to make itself felt in the affairs of state. Trade becomes a new source of opening the way to power, and financiers become a political power that is scorned and flattered.
    Little by little enlightenment spreads; one sees the taste for literature and the arts awaken; then the mind becomes an element in success; science is a means of government; intelligence is a social force; the lettered take a place in affairs.

    Tocqueville was well aware that monarchy and aristocracy had become badly corrupted including during the medieval period; fundamentally, he sided with the enlightenment against monarchy and aristocracy.

  • Porcell

    Cincinnatus, another point is that at 14, not having read Juvenel’s work on power, I asked you what he was saying in this book. Reading back through this thread, I’m not really clear on your position regarding Jouvenel.

  • Porcell

    Cincinnatus, another point is that at 14, not having read Juvenel’s work on power, I asked you what he was saying in this book. Reading back through this thread, I’m not really clear on your position regarding Jouvenel.

  • SKPeterson

    @Porcell – I’m not sure what you mean by the “radical effusions” of de Jouvenel, unless you are coming from a European perspective. In that case then, yes, de Jouvenel would be not only radical, but probably a Radical. From my admittedly casual reading of de Jouvenel he levels his critiques at the failings in European democracies, but they are also quite applicable to our present American situation, enamored as so many of our political class are of things smacking of Eurosocialism.

    His criticism of democracy is rather trenchant, in outlining the subversion of democracy that de Tocqueville warned against in Democracy, and observed in the dissipation of the French aristocracy in Ancien Regime. He also warns against the ethical and moral corruptions inherent in a redistributivist state, which lines up quite nicely with some of von Mises economic criticisms in Socialism and Bureaucracy. Hayek notes similar themes in Constitution of Liberty. I believe, but am not entirely certain, that this theme is also addressed in several works by Oakeshott, but I am relying on commentaries and not directly from the works themselves.

  • SKPeterson

    @Porcell – I’m not sure what you mean by the “radical effusions” of de Jouvenel, unless you are coming from a European perspective. In that case then, yes, de Jouvenel would be not only radical, but probably a Radical. From my admittedly casual reading of de Jouvenel he levels his critiques at the failings in European democracies, but they are also quite applicable to our present American situation, enamored as so many of our political class are of things smacking of Eurosocialism.

    His criticism of democracy is rather trenchant, in outlining the subversion of democracy that de Tocqueville warned against in Democracy, and observed in the dissipation of the French aristocracy in Ancien Regime. He also warns against the ethical and moral corruptions inherent in a redistributivist state, which lines up quite nicely with some of von Mises economic criticisms in Socialism and Bureaucracy. Hayek notes similar themes in Constitution of Liberty. I believe, but am not entirely certain, that this theme is also addressed in several works by Oakeshott, but I am relying on commentaries and not directly from the works themselves.

  • http://www.thirduse.com fws

    sk peterson @ 31

    I think this is all right on the money sk. Andrew Sullivan is the most prominent english speaking groupie for Oakeshott.

    Sullivan suggest that american conservatives are pursuing the exact same utopianism as are liberals. the only distinction between american liberals and conservatives today is what their utopian end vision is. He uses oakeshott to unravel this.

    I think he is right. There is really no difference in motive or method between “focus on the family” and “liberals”. There is merely a different vision of the Utopia they both feel can be ushered in by political force.

    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0060188774

    Now here is the official Lutheran position on capitalism and economics. I do not hear even Lutherans here sounding like this in tone:

    224] For to steal is nothing else than to get possession of another’s property wrongfully, which briefly comprehends all kinds of advantage in all sorts of trade to the disadvantage of our neighbor. Now, this is indeed quite a wide-spread and common vice, but so little regarded and observed that it exceeds all measure, so that if all who are thieves, and yet do not wish to be called such, were to be hanged on gallows, the world would soon be devastated, and there would be a lack both of executioners and gallows. For, as we have just said, to steal is to signify not only to empty our neighbor’s coffer and pockets, but to be grasping in the market, in all stores, booths, wine- and beer- cellars, workshops, and, in short, wherever there is trading or taking and giving of money for merchandise or labor.

    227] Furthermore, in the market and in common trade likewise, this practise is in full swing and force to the greatest extent, where one openly defrauds another with bad merchandise… and by nimbleness and queer finances or dexterous tricks takes advantage of him; likewise, when one overcharges a person in a trade and wantonly drives a hard bargain, skins and distresses him. And
    who can recount or think of all these things? 228] To sum up, this is the commonest craft and the largest guild on earth, and if we regard the world throughout all conditions of life, it is nothing else than a vast, wide stall, full of great thieves.

    229] Therefore they are also called swivel-chair robbers, land- and highway-robbers, not pick-locks and sneak-thieves who snatch away the ready cash, but who sit on the chair [at home] and are styled great noblemen, and honorable, pious citizens, and yet rob and steal under a good pretext.

    231] This is, in short, the course of the world: whoever can steal and rob openly goes free and secure,unmolested by any one, and even demands that he be honored. Meanwhile the little sneak-thieves, whohave once trespassed, must bear the shame and punishment to render the former godly and honorable.

    For we have to preach this not to Christians, but chiefly to knaves and scoundrels, to whom it would he more fitting for judges, jailers, or Master Hannes [the executioner] to preach. 233] Therefore let everyone know that it is his duty, at the risk of God’s displeasure, not only to do no injury to his neighbor, nor to deprive him of gain, nor to perpetrate any act of unfaithfulness or malice in any bargain or trade, but faithfully to preserve his property for him, to secure and promote his advantage, especially when one accepts money, wages, and one’s livelihood for such service.

    239] And indeed, if there were a well-ordered government
    in the land, such wantonness might soon be checked and prevented, as was the custom in ancient times among the Romans, where such characters were promptly seized by the pate in a way that others took warning.

    240] No more shall all the rest prosper who change the open free market into a carrion pit of extortion and a den of robbery, where the poor are daily overcharged, new burdens and high prices are imposed, and every one uses the market according to his caprice, and is even defiant and brags as though it were his fair privilege and right to sell his goods for as high a price as he please, and no one had a right to say a word against it. 241] We will indeed look on and let these people skin, pinch, and hoard, 242] but we will trust in God,—who will, however, do this of His own accord,—that, after you have been skinning and scraping for a long time, He will pronounce such a blessing on your gains that your grain in the
    garner, your beer in the cellar, your cattle in the stalls shall perish; yea, where you have cheated and overcharged any one to the amount of a florin, your entire pile shall be consumed with rust, so that you shall never enjoy it.

    243] And indeed, we see and experience this being fulfilled daily before our eyes, that no stolen or dishonestly acquired possession thrives. …And though they gather much, they must suffer so many plagues and misfortunes that they cannot relish it with cheerfulness nor transmit it to their children. 244] But as no one minds it, and we go on as though it did not concern us, God must visit us in a different way and teach us manners by imposing one taxation after another, or billeting a troop of soldiers upon us, who in one hour empty our coffers and purses, and do not quit as long as we have a farthing left, and in addition, by way of thanks, burn and devastate house and home, and outrage and kill wife and children.

    245] And, in short, if you steal much, depend upon it that again as much will be stolen from you; and lie who robs and acquires with violence and wrong will submit to one who shall deal after the same fashion with him. For God is master of this art, that since every one robs and steals from the other, He punishes one thief by means of another. Else where should we find enough gallows and ropes?

    For although you despise us, defraud, steal, and rob, we will indeed
    manage to endure your haughtiness, suffer, and, according to the Lord’s Prayer, forgive and show pity; for we know that the godly shall nevertheless have enough, and you injure yourself more than another.

    247] But beware of this: When the poor man comes to you (of whom there are so many now) who must buy with the penny of his daily wages and live upon it, and you are harsh to him, as though every one lived by your favor, and you skin and scrape to the bone, and, besides, with pride and haughtiness turn him off to whom you ought to give for nothing, he will go away wretched and sorrowful, and since he can complain to no one, he will cry and call to heaven, then beware (I say again) as of the devil himself. For such groaning and calling will be no jest, but will have a weight that will prove too heavy for you and all the world. For it will reach Him who takes care of the poor sorrowful hearts, and will not allow them to go unavenged. But if you despise this and become defiant, see whom you have brought upon you: if you succeed and prosper, you may before all the world call God and me a liar.

    249] It behooves us to do no more than to instruct and reprove with
    God’s Word;

    but to check such open wantonness there is need of the princes and government, who themselves would have eyes and the courage to establish and maintain order in all manner of trade and commerce, lest the poor be burdened and oppressed nor they themselves be loaded with other men’s sins.

    250] Let this suffice as an explanation of what stealing is, that it be not taken too narrowly, but made to extend as far as we have to do with our neighbors. And briefly, in a summary, as in the former
    commandments, it is herewith forbidden, in the first place, to do our neighbor any injury or wrong (in whatever manner supposable, by curtailing, forestalling, and withholding his possessions and property), or even to consent or allow such a thing, but to interpose and prevent it. 251] And, on the other hand, it is commanded that we advance and improve his possessions, and in case he suffers want, that we help, communicate, and lend both to friends and foes.

    as KingSolomon also teaches Prov. 19, 17: He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth unto the Lord; and that which he hath given will He pay him again.

    http://www.bookofconcord.com 7th commandment. large catechism.

    a reading of the 4th petition of the Lords Prayer is also very helpful in understanding the Lutheran view on how government is duty bound to regulate free markets.

  • http://www.thirduse.com fws

    sk peterson @ 31

    I think this is all right on the money sk. Andrew Sullivan is the most prominent english speaking groupie for Oakeshott.

    Sullivan suggest that american conservatives are pursuing the exact same utopianism as are liberals. the only distinction between american liberals and conservatives today is what their utopian end vision is. He uses oakeshott to unravel this.

    I think he is right. There is really no difference in motive or method between “focus on the family” and “liberals”. There is merely a different vision of the Utopia they both feel can be ushered in by political force.

    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0060188774

    Now here is the official Lutheran position on capitalism and economics. I do not hear even Lutherans here sounding like this in tone:

    224] For to steal is nothing else than to get possession of another’s property wrongfully, which briefly comprehends all kinds of advantage in all sorts of trade to the disadvantage of our neighbor. Now, this is indeed quite a wide-spread and common vice, but so little regarded and observed that it exceeds all measure, so that if all who are thieves, and yet do not wish to be called such, were to be hanged on gallows, the world would soon be devastated, and there would be a lack both of executioners and gallows. For, as we have just said, to steal is to signify not only to empty our neighbor’s coffer and pockets, but to be grasping in the market, in all stores, booths, wine- and beer- cellars, workshops, and, in short, wherever there is trading or taking and giving of money for merchandise or labor.

    227] Furthermore, in the market and in common trade likewise, this practise is in full swing and force to the greatest extent, where one openly defrauds another with bad merchandise… and by nimbleness and queer finances or dexterous tricks takes advantage of him; likewise, when one overcharges a person in a trade and wantonly drives a hard bargain, skins and distresses him. And
    who can recount or think of all these things? 228] To sum up, this is the commonest craft and the largest guild on earth, and if we regard the world throughout all conditions of life, it is nothing else than a vast, wide stall, full of great thieves.

    229] Therefore they are also called swivel-chair robbers, land- and highway-robbers, not pick-locks and sneak-thieves who snatch away the ready cash, but who sit on the chair [at home] and are styled great noblemen, and honorable, pious citizens, and yet rob and steal under a good pretext.

    231] This is, in short, the course of the world: whoever can steal and rob openly goes free and secure,unmolested by any one, and even demands that he be honored. Meanwhile the little sneak-thieves, whohave once trespassed, must bear the shame and punishment to render the former godly and honorable.

    For we have to preach this not to Christians, but chiefly to knaves and scoundrels, to whom it would he more fitting for judges, jailers, or Master Hannes [the executioner] to preach. 233] Therefore let everyone know that it is his duty, at the risk of God’s displeasure, not only to do no injury to his neighbor, nor to deprive him of gain, nor to perpetrate any act of unfaithfulness or malice in any bargain or trade, but faithfully to preserve his property for him, to secure and promote his advantage, especially when one accepts money, wages, and one’s livelihood for such service.

    239] And indeed, if there were a well-ordered government
    in the land, such wantonness might soon be checked and prevented, as was the custom in ancient times among the Romans, where such characters were promptly seized by the pate in a way that others took warning.

    240] No more shall all the rest prosper who change the open free market into a carrion pit of extortion and a den of robbery, where the poor are daily overcharged, new burdens and high prices are imposed, and every one uses the market according to his caprice, and is even defiant and brags as though it were his fair privilege and right to sell his goods for as high a price as he please, and no one had a right to say a word against it. 241] We will indeed look on and let these people skin, pinch, and hoard, 242] but we will trust in God,—who will, however, do this of His own accord,—that, after you have been skinning and scraping for a long time, He will pronounce such a blessing on your gains that your grain in the
    garner, your beer in the cellar, your cattle in the stalls shall perish; yea, where you have cheated and overcharged any one to the amount of a florin, your entire pile shall be consumed with rust, so that you shall never enjoy it.

    243] And indeed, we see and experience this being fulfilled daily before our eyes, that no stolen or dishonestly acquired possession thrives. …And though they gather much, they must suffer so many plagues and misfortunes that they cannot relish it with cheerfulness nor transmit it to their children. 244] But as no one minds it, and we go on as though it did not concern us, God must visit us in a different way and teach us manners by imposing one taxation after another, or billeting a troop of soldiers upon us, who in one hour empty our coffers and purses, and do not quit as long as we have a farthing left, and in addition, by way of thanks, burn and devastate house and home, and outrage and kill wife and children.

    245] And, in short, if you steal much, depend upon it that again as much will be stolen from you; and lie who robs and acquires with violence and wrong will submit to one who shall deal after the same fashion with him. For God is master of this art, that since every one robs and steals from the other, He punishes one thief by means of another. Else where should we find enough gallows and ropes?

    For although you despise us, defraud, steal, and rob, we will indeed
    manage to endure your haughtiness, suffer, and, according to the Lord’s Prayer, forgive and show pity; for we know that the godly shall nevertheless have enough, and you injure yourself more than another.

    247] But beware of this: When the poor man comes to you (of whom there are so many now) who must buy with the penny of his daily wages and live upon it, and you are harsh to him, as though every one lived by your favor, and you skin and scrape to the bone, and, besides, with pride and haughtiness turn him off to whom you ought to give for nothing, he will go away wretched and sorrowful, and since he can complain to no one, he will cry and call to heaven, then beware (I say again) as of the devil himself. For such groaning and calling will be no jest, but will have a weight that will prove too heavy for you and all the world. For it will reach Him who takes care of the poor sorrowful hearts, and will not allow them to go unavenged. But if you despise this and become defiant, see whom you have brought upon you: if you succeed and prosper, you may before all the world call God and me a liar.

    249] It behooves us to do no more than to instruct and reprove with
    God’s Word;

    but to check such open wantonness there is need of the princes and government, who themselves would have eyes and the courage to establish and maintain order in all manner of trade and commerce, lest the poor be burdened and oppressed nor they themselves be loaded with other men’s sins.

    250] Let this suffice as an explanation of what stealing is, that it be not taken too narrowly, but made to extend as far as we have to do with our neighbors. And briefly, in a summary, as in the former
    commandments, it is herewith forbidden, in the first place, to do our neighbor any injury or wrong (in whatever manner supposable, by curtailing, forestalling, and withholding his possessions and property), or even to consent or allow such a thing, but to interpose and prevent it. 251] And, on the other hand, it is commanded that we advance and improve his possessions, and in case he suffers want, that we help, communicate, and lend both to friends and foes.

    as KingSolomon also teaches Prov. 19, 17: He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth unto the Lord; and that which he hath given will He pay him again.

    http://www.bookofconcord.com 7th commandment. large catechism.

    a reading of the 4th petition of the Lords Prayer is also very helpful in understanding the Lutheran view on how government is duty bound to regulate free markets.

  • Porcell

    SK, like you, I’ve not read any of Juvenel’s books. A college professor of mine, Perry Miller, assigned an essay of his that discussed the virtues of sovereignty during the Middle Ages. Miller spoke of Jouvenel’s connection with fascism in the thirties and regarded him to be rather a romantic about the medieval period, though he did acknowledge that he was an original thinker. Miller, also, told amusingly of Juvenel’s affair with Collette, his father’ seconds wife.

    I have ordered Jouvenel’s Sovereignty, regarded by some as his masterpiece. Say nothing to Cincinnatus about my lack of knowledge about the fellow.

  • Porcell

    SK, like you, I’ve not read any of Juvenel’s books. A college professor of mine, Perry Miller, assigned an essay of his that discussed the virtues of sovereignty during the Middle Ages. Miller spoke of Jouvenel’s connection with fascism in the thirties and regarded him to be rather a romantic about the medieval period, though he did acknowledge that he was an original thinker. Miller, also, told amusingly of Juvenel’s affair with Collette, his father’ seconds wife.

    I have ordered Jouvenel’s Sovereignty, regarded by some as his masterpiece. Say nothing to Cincinnatus about my lack of knowledge about the fellow.

  • SKPeterson

    My lips are sealed. I’ve read large selections of On Power and some swathes of <Ethics of Redistribution, but not his Sovereignty or Pure Theory.

  • SKPeterson

    My lips are sealed. I’ve read large selections of On Power and some swathes of <Ethics of Redistribution, but not his Sovereignty or Pure Theory.

  • Jimmy Veith

    To get back to the original question, Herbert London stated American Democracy is in trouble because:
    “Second, a government that assumes enlarged authority over the economy can browbeat those in the private sector to accede to its desire…”.
    In light of the current recession, it seems to me that government did not “browbeat” the tycoons at Wall Street enough. Government failed to the extent it allowed the unchecked and unregulated greed on Wall Street to run amuck. Not because it “assumed enlarged authority”.
    “Sixth, a democracy cannot work if the system of taxation is used to take from the productive elements of society and give to the unproductive sector.”
    The federal income tax rates for the top 5% of Americans in the last 8 years are at historically low levels due to the Bush tax cuts. If his theory is correct, then one would think that the current tax rates would have the effect of actually strengthening the democracy in the last several years. Yet, he is saying it is in trouble now.
    Is he suggesting that the tax rates should be even lower? Isn’t the national debt an even bigger threat to democracy than the current tax rates for the super rich? Isn’t it time that the supper rich do their part to lower the debt?

  • Jimmy Veith

    To get back to the original question, Herbert London stated American Democracy is in trouble because:
    “Second, a government that assumes enlarged authority over the economy can browbeat those in the private sector to accede to its desire…”.
    In light of the current recession, it seems to me that government did not “browbeat” the tycoons at Wall Street enough. Government failed to the extent it allowed the unchecked and unregulated greed on Wall Street to run amuck. Not because it “assumed enlarged authority”.
    “Sixth, a democracy cannot work if the system of taxation is used to take from the productive elements of society and give to the unproductive sector.”
    The federal income tax rates for the top 5% of Americans in the last 8 years are at historically low levels due to the Bush tax cuts. If his theory is correct, then one would think that the current tax rates would have the effect of actually strengthening the democracy in the last several years. Yet, he is saying it is in trouble now.
    Is he suggesting that the tax rates should be even lower? Isn’t the national debt an even bigger threat to democracy than the current tax rates for the super rich? Isn’t it time that the supper rich do their part to lower the debt?

  • http://steadfastlutherans.org/ SAL

    Democracy is in trouble because the assumptions it is founded on weren’t true.

    That used to be glossed over by the common virtues implicit in our traditional cultures. As our cultural heritage has faded the basis for democracy has eroded. That’s why we largely only give lip-service to liberal Enlightenment ideals.

    I think democracy can work but I doubt we’re civilized enough for it.

  • http://steadfastlutherans.org/ SAL

    Democracy is in trouble because the assumptions it is founded on weren’t true.

    That used to be glossed over by the common virtues implicit in our traditional cultures. As our cultural heritage has faded the basis for democracy has eroded. That’s why we largely only give lip-service to liberal Enlightenment ideals.

    I think democracy can work but I doubt we’re civilized enough for it.

  • Jimmy Veith

    Can you think of a point in time in our nation’s history when our democracy has not been in trouble?
    In the very beginning, the lofty words of equality were contradicted by the reality of slavery. Twenty years later, the British returned and burned down our nation’s capital. Fifty years later, our nation was immersed in a civil war. This was followed by the industrial revolution where women and children were exploited in sweat shops. Then came World War I, the Great Depression followed by World War II. I am certain that every generation believes that democracy is in serious trouble. However, democracy has demonstrated an ability to survive by adapting to the challenges of the times.
    I agree with some of the points made by Mr. London but to imply that democracy is in more trouble now than it has ever been shows a serious lack of historical perspective.

  • Jimmy Veith

    Can you think of a point in time in our nation’s history when our democracy has not been in trouble?
    In the very beginning, the lofty words of equality were contradicted by the reality of slavery. Twenty years later, the British returned and burned down our nation’s capital. Fifty years later, our nation was immersed in a civil war. This was followed by the industrial revolution where women and children were exploited in sweat shops. Then came World War I, the Great Depression followed by World War II. I am certain that every generation believes that democracy is in serious trouble. However, democracy has demonstrated an ability to survive by adapting to the challenges of the times.
    I agree with some of the points made by Mr. London but to imply that democracy is in more trouble now than it has ever been shows a serious lack of historical perspective.

  • Cincinnatus

    Porcell@33: “I have ordered Jouvenel’s Sovereignty, regarded by some as his masterpiece.”

    Bravo!

    Meanwhile, I think we’re using the term “democracy” unacceptably loosely by the time we get to Jimmy’s platitudes (democracy is in serious trouble because the shenanigans on “Wall Street” and the Bush tax cuts precipitated an economic recession?).

  • Cincinnatus

    Porcell@33: “I have ordered Jouvenel’s Sovereignty, regarded by some as his masterpiece.”

    Bravo!

    Meanwhile, I think we’re using the term “democracy” unacceptably loosely by the time we get to Jimmy’s platitudes (democracy is in serious trouble because the shenanigans on “Wall Street” and the Bush tax cuts precipitated an economic recession?).

  • http://facebook.com/mesamike Mike Westfall

    I think I’d say that it’s Liberty that’s in trouble.
    We got plenty of democracy, evidenced by all the citizens voting themselves largess from the public till, and all.

    That’s what’s eating away at our liberty.

  • http://facebook.com/mesamike Mike Westfall

    I think I’d say that it’s Liberty that’s in trouble.
    We got plenty of democracy, evidenced by all the citizens voting themselves largess from the public till, and all.

    That’s what’s eating away at our liberty.

  • Jimmy Veith

    Sorry if I did not make myself clear.

    I am not saying that democracy is in trouble because of the shenanigans on “Wall Street” and the Bush tax cuts that precipitated an economic recession. I just think that the second and sixth arguments that he made to support his assertion that democracy is in trouble are pretty weak, and that they are more of a reflection of his “conservative” ideology than current reality.

  • Jimmy Veith

    Sorry if I did not make myself clear.

    I am not saying that democracy is in trouble because of the shenanigans on “Wall Street” and the Bush tax cuts that precipitated an economic recession. I just think that the second and sixth arguments that he made to support his assertion that democracy is in trouble are pretty weak, and that they are more of a reflection of his “conservative” ideology than current reality.

  • Cincinnatus

    Jimmy@40: My brief responses to your contentions:

    Per #1: The American government at all levels exercises massive authority over the economic sector–and, incidentally, vice versa. Big business and big government are mutually interdependent and mutually aggrandizing. To blame an unharnessed Wall Street for the economic crisis is myopic at best; the financial sector is and was one of the most tightly regulated industries in the nation. Indeed, big banks would have no hope of survival in the first place if they were not protected, sustained, and nourished by the intricate regulatory frameworks provided for them by big government. Moreover, the “solution” to big business is not bigger government.

    Per #2: While Bush may have “cut taxes for the rich” (and, uh, everyone else too), almost half of Americans don’t pay any income tax at all. Our total tax burden for the average American member of the middle class approaches Scandinavian levels. Our redistributive programs are truly staggering in scale (and are also perilously close to collapse). In evidence of the danger this sort of thing presents to democracy, I present People’s Exhibit A: Greece, Spain, Portugal, Ireland, most of the rest of the European Union. Exhibit B: the municipal debt crisis impending in America; New York, California, Wisconsin, Illinois. As John Tyler (and Tocqueville, while we’re on the subject) prophesied, a democracy can only survive until the people discover–as they have done–that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury.

    Boilerplate talking points put aside, let’s move on…

  • Cincinnatus

    Jimmy@40: My brief responses to your contentions:

    Per #1: The American government at all levels exercises massive authority over the economic sector–and, incidentally, vice versa. Big business and big government are mutually interdependent and mutually aggrandizing. To blame an unharnessed Wall Street for the economic crisis is myopic at best; the financial sector is and was one of the most tightly regulated industries in the nation. Indeed, big banks would have no hope of survival in the first place if they were not protected, sustained, and nourished by the intricate regulatory frameworks provided for them by big government. Moreover, the “solution” to big business is not bigger government.

    Per #2: While Bush may have “cut taxes for the rich” (and, uh, everyone else too), almost half of Americans don’t pay any income tax at all. Our total tax burden for the average American member of the middle class approaches Scandinavian levels. Our redistributive programs are truly staggering in scale (and are also perilously close to collapse). In evidence of the danger this sort of thing presents to democracy, I present People’s Exhibit A: Greece, Spain, Portugal, Ireland, most of the rest of the European Union. Exhibit B: the municipal debt crisis impending in America; New York, California, Wisconsin, Illinois. As John Tyler (and Tocqueville, while we’re on the subject) prophesied, a democracy can only survive until the people discover–as they have done–that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury.

    Boilerplate talking points put aside, let’s move on…

  • Cincinnatus

    I should also add this: quibbles about the tax code and regulatory schemes are, in general, just that–quibbles and trivia. Jimmy is obviously aflame (as are many progressives) that Bush “cut taxes for the rich” by, what, a few percentage points? Truly radical stuff! The Obama administrations speaks of piling on a few more banking regulations? Revolutionary! The Republic is saved! Meanwhile, the coarser sort of Republicans seem to believe that lowering taxes a bit, maybe removing a volume from the literal library of regulations, will save liberty for posterity.

    In other words, the partisan debates are so heated in America perhaps, as Henry Kissinger remarked about academic politics, because the stakes are so laughably small. Democracy is in trouble, and the reasons far transcend minimal adjustments to the tax cuts and regulatory regimes. Again, I think you would find Jouvenel–particularly his account of the rise of the bureaucratic apparatus, democratic power (pejoratively intended), and the militarized state–to be helpful here, as well as Tocqueville. We’re not talking about partisan fads and the sorts of things that are very serious business to the pundits on MSNBC and Fox. We’re talking about enormous secular changes that have taken centuries to develop, that pass unnoticed to the average observer, that do, in fact, threaten democracy once and for all.

  • Cincinnatus

    I should also add this: quibbles about the tax code and regulatory schemes are, in general, just that–quibbles and trivia. Jimmy is obviously aflame (as are many progressives) that Bush “cut taxes for the rich” by, what, a few percentage points? Truly radical stuff! The Obama administrations speaks of piling on a few more banking regulations? Revolutionary! The Republic is saved! Meanwhile, the coarser sort of Republicans seem to believe that lowering taxes a bit, maybe removing a volume from the literal library of regulations, will save liberty for posterity.

    In other words, the partisan debates are so heated in America perhaps, as Henry Kissinger remarked about academic politics, because the stakes are so laughably small. Democracy is in trouble, and the reasons far transcend minimal adjustments to the tax cuts and regulatory regimes. Again, I think you would find Jouvenel–particularly his account of the rise of the bureaucratic apparatus, democratic power (pejoratively intended), and the militarized state–to be helpful here, as well as Tocqueville. We’re not talking about partisan fads and the sorts of things that are very serious business to the pundits on MSNBC and Fox. We’re talking about enormous secular changes that have taken centuries to develop, that pass unnoticed to the average observer, that do, in fact, threaten democracy once and for all.

  • Jimmy Veith

    To the extent that he is talking about “enormous secular changes that have taken centuries to develop”, then I agree. That is why I have no problems with four of the six things that he identified that are threats to democracy. It is his second and sixth arguments that he makes that sound like the sort of “partisan fads” and the talking points made by the pundits on Fox, which you rightly criticize.

    One more populist rant before I go to bed.

    Mr. London says: “a democracy cannot work if the system of taxation is used to take from the productive elements of society and give to the unproductive sector.” I would like to know who he identifies as the “unproductive sector”. Is it the working poor like the short order cook, waitress or hotel maids? Is it the people that do the jobs that we don’t want to do, like trash collectors, roofers and the people that pick our fruits and vegetables? Or is it the sick, disabled or elderly people that are no longer “productive”. Who does he think makes up the “productive sector” of society? CEO’s that run their companies in the ground and rewards themselves with million dollar bonuses?

    Are we not judged by how we treat the poor and the “least” among us?

  • Jimmy Veith

    To the extent that he is talking about “enormous secular changes that have taken centuries to develop”, then I agree. That is why I have no problems with four of the six things that he identified that are threats to democracy. It is his second and sixth arguments that he makes that sound like the sort of “partisan fads” and the talking points made by the pundits on Fox, which you rightly criticize.

    One more populist rant before I go to bed.

    Mr. London says: “a democracy cannot work if the system of taxation is used to take from the productive elements of society and give to the unproductive sector.” I would like to know who he identifies as the “unproductive sector”. Is it the working poor like the short order cook, waitress or hotel maids? Is it the people that do the jobs that we don’t want to do, like trash collectors, roofers and the people that pick our fruits and vegetables? Or is it the sick, disabled or elderly people that are no longer “productive”. Who does he think makes up the “productive sector” of society? CEO’s that run their companies in the ground and rewards themselves with million dollar bonuses?

    Are we not judged by how we treat the poor and the “least” among us?

  • SKPeterson

    Why do we need government, or even democratic government, to treat well the poor and the least amongst us? Is that not the charge given to the Church? I’ll speak up for the poor – it is not the case that they do not pay taxes, insofar as the government (Democrat and Republican) regularly takes money right out of the mouths of the working poor by means of payroll tax so that it can compel them to provide the government with a short-term interest free loan and then send back to them their own money sometime in the next year. Help the poor – eliminate the payroll tax for incomes under $30,000/year. And, if you really want to help the poor, the elderly, the least amongst us, quit printing so much damn money. Inflation is the biggest enemy of the poor – it hits hardest on the things that they buy (which is why we remove “volatile” food and energy prices from the CPI – so we can print money til the cows come home and then say with a straight face that prices are “stable”), while their incomes are the last to rise from any inflationary pressures on wages. They are also the first ones to get laid off when the wage bill from those inflationary pressures begins to increase. See Zimbabwe for an example of how well democracy thrives under inflation (or Argentina if you want a more “American” example).

  • SKPeterson

    Why do we need government, or even democratic government, to treat well the poor and the least amongst us? Is that not the charge given to the Church? I’ll speak up for the poor – it is not the case that they do not pay taxes, insofar as the government (Democrat and Republican) regularly takes money right out of the mouths of the working poor by means of payroll tax so that it can compel them to provide the government with a short-term interest free loan and then send back to them their own money sometime in the next year. Help the poor – eliminate the payroll tax for incomes under $30,000/year. And, if you really want to help the poor, the elderly, the least amongst us, quit printing so much damn money. Inflation is the biggest enemy of the poor – it hits hardest on the things that they buy (which is why we remove “volatile” food and energy prices from the CPI – so we can print money til the cows come home and then say with a straight face that prices are “stable”), while their incomes are the last to rise from any inflationary pressures on wages. They are also the first ones to get laid off when the wage bill from those inflationary pressures begins to increase. See Zimbabwe for an example of how well democracy thrives under inflation (or Argentina if you want a more “American” example).

  • http://www.thirduse.com fws

    @44 SKPeterson January 16, 2011 at 6:19 am
    “Why do we need government, or even democratic government, to treat well the poor and the least amongst us?”

    Original. Sin.

    All the fatherly goodness and mercy of the 1st article and 4th petition are done by applying the Law to Old Adam. The govt is one way God does this.

    The Lutheran Confessions say loaves of bread should be placed on the symbol of countries because the role of govt is to make sure that daily bread is provided.

    Conservatives focus on the negative side of the moral law which is “do no harm” , so this means that the sole proper role of the govt is basically police action. This is what philosophy would teach us. It tells us that Virtue=morality. This is almost right. But a miss is as good as a mile as they say.

    Scripture and Confessions say that Virtue IS necessary, but it is pure means and never end . The end or real righteousness is the positive part of the commandments “we should help and befriend our neighbor in every bodily need”

    God WILL have this happen whether we do this will of God willingly or not. We should learn to do this willingly so that God does not need to send the government to punish us with taxes and other pestilence. If we do not hear the cries of the poor, they will cry to heaven, and God WILL answer their prayers.

    Does anyone here really claim to have done or be doing all they can to assist those in their community in need? What things and wealth do we have that we would gladly sell if our dear ones needed to pay for urgent health care? But we arent feeling so urgent about the poor whom are everywhere are we? So we are the cause of God sending the heavy hand of government to oppress us and punish us and do for those poor what we are refusing to do. Every. one. of. us. here. Look in the mirror if you want to see the reason why God is sending the government to tax us to death. Old Adam will only do love if he is being done to death. This is what the Law does. It always kills us. It always accuses each and every one of us personally if we are really understanding what it is telling us.

    That fully includes me of course.

    Further reading:

    http://www.bookofconcord.com

    Large catechism: 5th commandment, 7th commandment, 1st article, 4th petition

  • http://www.thirduse.com fws

    @44 SKPeterson January 16, 2011 at 6:19 am
    “Why do we need government, or even democratic government, to treat well the poor and the least amongst us?”

    Original. Sin.

    All the fatherly goodness and mercy of the 1st article and 4th petition are done by applying the Law to Old Adam. The govt is one way God does this.

    The Lutheran Confessions say loaves of bread should be placed on the symbol of countries because the role of govt is to make sure that daily bread is provided.

    Conservatives focus on the negative side of the moral law which is “do no harm” , so this means that the sole proper role of the govt is basically police action. This is what philosophy would teach us. It tells us that Virtue=morality. This is almost right. But a miss is as good as a mile as they say.

    Scripture and Confessions say that Virtue IS necessary, but it is pure means and never end . The end or real righteousness is the positive part of the commandments “we should help and befriend our neighbor in every bodily need”

    God WILL have this happen whether we do this will of God willingly or not. We should learn to do this willingly so that God does not need to send the government to punish us with taxes and other pestilence. If we do not hear the cries of the poor, they will cry to heaven, and God WILL answer their prayers.

    Does anyone here really claim to have done or be doing all they can to assist those in their community in need? What things and wealth do we have that we would gladly sell if our dear ones needed to pay for urgent health care? But we arent feeling so urgent about the poor whom are everywhere are we? So we are the cause of God sending the heavy hand of government to oppress us and punish us and do for those poor what we are refusing to do. Every. one. of. us. here. Look in the mirror if you want to see the reason why God is sending the government to tax us to death. Old Adam will only do love if he is being done to death. This is what the Law does. It always kills us. It always accuses each and every one of us personally if we are really understanding what it is telling us.

    That fully includes me of course.

    Further reading:

    http://www.bookofconcord.com

    Large catechism: 5th commandment, 7th commandment, 1st article, 4th petition

  • http://www.thirduse.com fws

    sk peterson @ 44

    for lutherans the govt is just and only another form of the Law. so when you ask what the function and purpose of the government is , it is exactly and completely everything we can and should say about the law.

    We lose sight of this because we Modern Lutherans have a calvinistic or neo-scholastic idea of the doctrine of the two kingdoms. we imagine that two kingdoms is about the secular estate vs the churchly estate, and so we make romans 8 flesh/body again about the scholastic notion of secular vs sacred, vice fs virtue, secular vs churchly.

    So where do we look to find the doctrine of the Two Kingdoms and their respective currencies of Two Kinds of Righteousness?

    Answer: Everywhere! Wherever Law and Gospel is being taught (which in the confessions truly is everywhere!), also the doctrine of the Two Kingdoms and the Two Kinds of Righteousness that God demands of us is being taught.

    This is because the doctrine of the two kingdoms IS precisely and only just another modality of teaching Law and Gospel.

    and what is the entire point of Law and Gospel? a special two drawer systematic theology to sort bible passages and properly know what drawer they go into ? no.

    The law and gospel is intended, only, to show us that everything we can see and do in our bodies, especially including Churchly things like administration of word and sacrament and even preaching of law and gospel itself goes into the drawer labeled “Law”.

    and why is this so important to understand?

    answer: so that we can see clearly that that second drawer labeled “Holy Gospel or Heavenly, left hand kingdom” is apparently empty! for what alone belongs in this drawer is alone invisible faith alone, in alone Christ alone.

    this is the Righteousness from above that God demands in the first commandment and that we cannot do without those “new movements of the heart” (ap XVIII) that alone the HS can work in us.

    this heavenly Righhteousness includes NONE of the things we can see and do in our bodies, like administer baptism, the supper, confession or preaching the Gospel. how could the heavenly kingdom include any of those things? they are already ALL included fully in that other Earthly Kingdom of Law and the Visible Righeousness that God demands of all Old Adams that pleases him and will be done without any faith or asking. out of pure first article goodness and mercy.

    this heavenly Righteousness is meaningless on earth except to God and a troubled conscience.

    Additional reading from the Lutheran Confessions on this:
    http://www.thirduse.com/?p=10

  • http://www.thirduse.com fws

    sk peterson @ 44

    for lutherans the govt is just and only another form of the Law. so when you ask what the function and purpose of the government is , it is exactly and completely everything we can and should say about the law.

    We lose sight of this because we Modern Lutherans have a calvinistic or neo-scholastic idea of the doctrine of the two kingdoms. we imagine that two kingdoms is about the secular estate vs the churchly estate, and so we make romans 8 flesh/body again about the scholastic notion of secular vs sacred, vice fs virtue, secular vs churchly.

    So where do we look to find the doctrine of the Two Kingdoms and their respective currencies of Two Kinds of Righteousness?

    Answer: Everywhere! Wherever Law and Gospel is being taught (which in the confessions truly is everywhere!), also the doctrine of the Two Kingdoms and the Two Kinds of Righteousness that God demands of us is being taught.

    This is because the doctrine of the two kingdoms IS precisely and only just another modality of teaching Law and Gospel.

    and what is the entire point of Law and Gospel? a special two drawer systematic theology to sort bible passages and properly know what drawer they go into ? no.

    The law and gospel is intended, only, to show us that everything we can see and do in our bodies, especially including Churchly things like administration of word and sacrament and even preaching of law and gospel itself goes into the drawer labeled “Law”.

    and why is this so important to understand?

    answer: so that we can see clearly that that second drawer labeled “Holy Gospel or Heavenly, left hand kingdom” is apparently empty! for what alone belongs in this drawer is alone invisible faith alone, in alone Christ alone.

    this is the Righteousness from above that God demands in the first commandment and that we cannot do without those “new movements of the heart” (ap XVIII) that alone the HS can work in us.

    this heavenly Righhteousness includes NONE of the things we can see and do in our bodies, like administer baptism, the supper, confession or preaching the Gospel. how could the heavenly kingdom include any of those things? they are already ALL included fully in that other Earthly Kingdom of Law and the Visible Righeousness that God demands of all Old Adams that pleases him and will be done without any faith or asking. out of pure first article goodness and mercy.

    this heavenly Righteousness is meaningless on earth except to God and a troubled conscience.

    Additional reading from the Lutheran Confessions on this:
    http://www.thirduse.com/?p=10

  • collie

    Well, I believe everyone should pay tax. Make the amount smaller, maybe, for those at the very bottom of the income scale, but don’t take it away. You could even make it tiny, like $20 a year, but I believe everyone should pay something. Yes it would be symbolic, but wouldn’t we produce more responsible citizens this way? You’re giving people a small lesson in how our government works; to function, it needs money. Where does it come from? Comes from us. (see WJR 760-Detroit for audio clips of people standing in line to get “Obama money” two years ago. They had no idea where it came from, just that Obama was giving it to them. Yes, that’s what they really said, sorry.)

    I’ll never forget my first paycheck for a part-time job that paid $1.65/hr. What a rude shock to see the taxes that were taken out. I’ll never forget it. Now maybe they came back later in a refund, but still it was a good lesson. Then, when I filed my return, another shock, they taxed my savings account! I’m trying to be good and save my money, and the government takes some of it away. Another lesson learned.

  • collie

    Well, I believe everyone should pay tax. Make the amount smaller, maybe, for those at the very bottom of the income scale, but don’t take it away. You could even make it tiny, like $20 a year, but I believe everyone should pay something. Yes it would be symbolic, but wouldn’t we produce more responsible citizens this way? You’re giving people a small lesson in how our government works; to function, it needs money. Where does it come from? Comes from us. (see WJR 760-Detroit for audio clips of people standing in line to get “Obama money” two years ago. They had no idea where it came from, just that Obama was giving it to them. Yes, that’s what they really said, sorry.)

    I’ll never forget my first paycheck for a part-time job that paid $1.65/hr. What a rude shock to see the taxes that were taken out. I’ll never forget it. Now maybe they came back later in a refund, but still it was a good lesson. Then, when I filed my return, another shock, they taxed my savings account! I’m trying to be good and save my money, and the government takes some of it away. Another lesson learned.

  • SKPeterson

    @fws – so now you bring politics into it. Government is part of the Left Hand kingdom, but it is not the entirety. The governance of the Church is also part of it, our businesses, our social organizations, our cultural societies are all part of this kingdom.

    You asked if any of us have done all that we can for those in need – the answer is no. But, compulsion by the government also does not provide – and its exercise often impoverishes many to the benefit of none.

    fws – who will you trust more to care properly for the poor – a small church-based food bank or the Social Security Administration? If you answer either the SSA or both, you’ll need to brush up on your Buchanan and Tullock.

    One reality Luther faced when he talked about the “government” was that he was dealing with monarchs and the landed aristocracy who were individually and familialy “the government.” Therefore, they could be individually called to account by the Church, and they were admonished as good Christians to use the power they had for the benefit of the poor. This could range from poor funds to improving the economic conditions of the territories under their control.

    The problem is democracy or republic. How many SSA bureaucrats are regularly called to account by the Church? The Church today now merely says “tax the rich more and give some to the poor.” (Because we know that all profit is evil, so therefore all of the rich must be rich through evil means.) The government through its elected officials readily agrees to tax and then spends with little thought to the consequences to the poor, but proclaims that it has taxed the rich to feed the poor. The Church is now happy that the rich are taxed, and trusts that the government (made up of the same sinful evil people that populate the “rich”) will care for the poor, all the while believing that by this “advocacy” they have been a “prophetic voice to power for those without a voice,” or some such blather. Their consciences are absolved and the dirty work gets handed over to a faceless bureaucracy to deal with the great unwashed. Democracy in action.

    Not.what.Luther.ordered.

  • SKPeterson

    @fws – so now you bring politics into it. Government is part of the Left Hand kingdom, but it is not the entirety. The governance of the Church is also part of it, our businesses, our social organizations, our cultural societies are all part of this kingdom.

    You asked if any of us have done all that we can for those in need – the answer is no. But, compulsion by the government also does not provide – and its exercise often impoverishes many to the benefit of none.

    fws – who will you trust more to care properly for the poor – a small church-based food bank or the Social Security Administration? If you answer either the SSA or both, you’ll need to brush up on your Buchanan and Tullock.

    One reality Luther faced when he talked about the “government” was that he was dealing with monarchs and the landed aristocracy who were individually and familialy “the government.” Therefore, they could be individually called to account by the Church, and they were admonished as good Christians to use the power they had for the benefit of the poor. This could range from poor funds to improving the economic conditions of the territories under their control.

    The problem is democracy or republic. How many SSA bureaucrats are regularly called to account by the Church? The Church today now merely says “tax the rich more and give some to the poor.” (Because we know that all profit is evil, so therefore all of the rich must be rich through evil means.) The government through its elected officials readily agrees to tax and then spends with little thought to the consequences to the poor, but proclaims that it has taxed the rich to feed the poor. The Church is now happy that the rich are taxed, and trusts that the government (made up of the same sinful evil people that populate the “rich”) will care for the poor, all the while believing that by this “advocacy” they have been a “prophetic voice to power for those without a voice,” or some such blather. Their consciences are absolved and the dirty work gets handed over to a faceless bureaucracy to deal with the great unwashed. Democracy in action.

    Not.what.Luther.ordered.

  • http://www.thirduse.com fws

    collie@ 47

    everyone does pay taxes. who does not pay sales tax? If one owns property one pays property tax. including the poor. and then there are all the other taxes paid by the poor such as excise taxes on tires and gasoline, use taxes, etc etc etc. the working poor pay state local and fed payroll taxes

    Lordie. Listening here one would think that the poor who pay no income tax pay no tax at all. The fact is that as a percentage of income the working poor and those who cannot work for whatever reason, pay ALOT of taxes relative to income as compared to anyone else.

  • http://www.thirduse.com fws

    collie@ 47

    everyone does pay taxes. who does not pay sales tax? If one owns property one pays property tax. including the poor. and then there are all the other taxes paid by the poor such as excise taxes on tires and gasoline, use taxes, etc etc etc. the working poor pay state local and fed payroll taxes

    Lordie. Listening here one would think that the poor who pay no income tax pay no tax at all. The fact is that as a percentage of income the working poor and those who cannot work for whatever reason, pay ALOT of taxes relative to income as compared to anyone else.

  • http://www.thirduse.com fws

    skpeterson @ 48

    Your first paragraph is one most modern Lutherans miss because our drift back to scholasticism via the neo scholasticism of calvin and melancthon. we imagine that what visibly happens in church is Heavenly Kingdom (is that left or right handed?) . I get confused with right/left hand. where did that terminology come from anyway? I cant find it in the confessions. why not use the Law/Gospel “Earthly/Heavenly Kingdom terminology?”

    I agree completely with what you said in that first paragraph!

    Now as for your second paragraph regarding the difference in form of government: government is all about the Law. Why would the Law be preached and applied any differently then than now? And how would who it is given to as an office to preach and apply that Law and whom to apply it do differ in any age? I am not getting that. Luther referred to all in his age as Christians. He did this out of the obligation of love because all were baptized and so he was obligated to address all as christians , but based on the law of love not as an article of faith. This is why, whenever he wanted to refer to unbelievers in his age, he had to reach outside of his society and refer to the “Turks” as standins for non-christian unbelievers in general. We should not let this circumstance confuse us when we read his writings or those of the Lutherans in our confessions. But it must be taken into account when we are talking about vocations and what it means to be christian, which meaning fully excludes talk ethics and morality except to accuse and kill the Old Adam in christians, which Old Adam of course is not christian even though it clings to every one of them.

    Now your last paragraph. The Law does us. we do not do it. it does us to death. And , in fatherly grace and mercy on earth, God orders the law to order Old Adams to do love and provide daily bread till it, quite literally, kills them to do so. This WILL be done. We should learn to do all this cheerfully therefore, so God does not need to make us do it with punishment, plague and pestilence. I put government in the category of both blessing as a provider of daily bread and love by force of sword, and also , at the same time as punishment, plague and pestilence. What else could it mean when we say that the Law ALWAYS accuses and the Law ALWAYS kills. This can only mean that the Governments job is to always accuse us and kill us . This is what bearing the sword means precisely.

    now in that ideal world that we dont live in, and in our New Man, we need no government or even Law or preaching of it. We already died fully to it.

  • http://www.thirduse.com fws

    skpeterson @ 48

    Your first paragraph is one most modern Lutherans miss because our drift back to scholasticism via the neo scholasticism of calvin and melancthon. we imagine that what visibly happens in church is Heavenly Kingdom (is that left or right handed?) . I get confused with right/left hand. where did that terminology come from anyway? I cant find it in the confessions. why not use the Law/Gospel “Earthly/Heavenly Kingdom terminology?”

    I agree completely with what you said in that first paragraph!

    Now as for your second paragraph regarding the difference in form of government: government is all about the Law. Why would the Law be preached and applied any differently then than now? And how would who it is given to as an office to preach and apply that Law and whom to apply it do differ in any age? I am not getting that. Luther referred to all in his age as Christians. He did this out of the obligation of love because all were baptized and so he was obligated to address all as christians , but based on the law of love not as an article of faith. This is why, whenever he wanted to refer to unbelievers in his age, he had to reach outside of his society and refer to the “Turks” as standins for non-christian unbelievers in general. We should not let this circumstance confuse us when we read his writings or those of the Lutherans in our confessions. But it must be taken into account when we are talking about vocations and what it means to be christian, which meaning fully excludes talk ethics and morality except to accuse and kill the Old Adam in christians, which Old Adam of course is not christian even though it clings to every one of them.

    Now your last paragraph. The Law does us. we do not do it. it does us to death. And , in fatherly grace and mercy on earth, God orders the law to order Old Adams to do love and provide daily bread till it, quite literally, kills them to do so. This WILL be done. We should learn to do all this cheerfully therefore, so God does not need to make us do it with punishment, plague and pestilence. I put government in the category of both blessing as a provider of daily bread and love by force of sword, and also , at the same time as punishment, plague and pestilence. What else could it mean when we say that the Law ALWAYS accuses and the Law ALWAYS kills. This can only mean that the Governments job is to always accuse us and kill us . This is what bearing the sword means precisely.

    now in that ideal world that we dont live in, and in our New Man, we need no government or even Law or preaching of it. We already died fully to it.

  • Cincinnatus

    Well, this thread has taken a stale turn overnight.

  • Cincinnatus

    Well, this thread has taken a stale turn overnight.

  • utahrainbow

    Interesting that you should feel that way, Cincinnatus @ 51, because I feel exactly the opposite. I think the discussion between fws and SK is deeply interesting, and gets at some of the things I wrestle with frequently when thinking about government and what it DOES. I think it would make a very excellent blog post to discuss. I know that some think they have it all figured out: government here, church there, poor taken care of here, not there, etc, but the older I get, the more I realize how messy all this is, and it has never been or ever will be “purely” administered according to a specific political formulation this side of heaven.

  • utahrainbow

    Interesting that you should feel that way, Cincinnatus @ 51, because I feel exactly the opposite. I think the discussion between fws and SK is deeply interesting, and gets at some of the things I wrestle with frequently when thinking about government and what it DOES. I think it would make a very excellent blog post to discuss. I know that some think they have it all figured out: government here, church there, poor taken care of here, not there, etc, but the older I get, the more I realize how messy all this is, and it has never been or ever will be “purely” administered according to a specific political formulation this side of heaven.

  • Cincinnatus

    utahrainbow: The topic is stale because it’s been rehashed on this blog (specifically by fws) many, many times, and the conclusions (especially from fws) are always the same.

    fws: The Confessions mandate social welfare programs!!!11
    [his interlocutor]: No they don’t! The market and Church are better!

    You can see where this gets us: nowhere, because free marketeers (of which I may be one) believe what they believe, and just try to adjust fws’s particular understanding of the Confessions. Meanwhile, democracy is still in ever-greater danger.

  • Cincinnatus

    utahrainbow: The topic is stale because it’s been rehashed on this blog (specifically by fws) many, many times, and the conclusions (especially from fws) are always the same.

    fws: The Confessions mandate social welfare programs!!!11
    [his interlocutor]: No they don’t! The market and Church are better!

    You can see where this gets us: nowhere, because free marketeers (of which I may be one) believe what they believe, and just try to adjust fws’s particular understanding of the Confessions. Meanwhile, democracy is still in ever-greater danger.

  • utahrainbow

    Well, I can understand that you feel there is no progress in this discussion, but I read this blog frequently, and it seems to me that discussions of other issues could have a similar problem. And I’m pretty sure its not just fws and his “particular” understanding of the Confessions at fault.

    I think he’s trying to get free-marketeers to explain why they believe what they do in line with what our host and many others here (including myself) hold as our Confession. Like I said, I really find this interesting!

    And, meanwhile, democracy is in danger as much as it ever has been.

  • utahrainbow

    Well, I can understand that you feel there is no progress in this discussion, but I read this blog frequently, and it seems to me that discussions of other issues could have a similar problem. And I’m pretty sure its not just fws and his “particular” understanding of the Confessions at fault.

    I think he’s trying to get free-marketeers to explain why they believe what they do in line with what our host and many others here (including myself) hold as our Confession. Like I said, I really find this interesting!

    And, meanwhile, democracy is in danger as much as it ever has been.

  • Tom Hering

    “… the productive elements of society … the unproductive sector.” – London.

    A society that ranks (values) human beings in terms of production can only barely be called a society. Social welfare is a force for good precisely because it counters (subverts) a culture that reduces human beings to production units (useful but disposable means to an end). Redistribution justifies itself, solely, on the basis that recipients are human beings in need (are ends instead of means).

  • Tom Hering

    “… the productive elements of society … the unproductive sector.” – London.

    A society that ranks (values) human beings in terms of production can only barely be called a society. Social welfare is a force for good precisely because it counters (subverts) a culture that reduces human beings to production units (useful but disposable means to an end). Redistribution justifies itself, solely, on the basis that recipients are human beings in need (are ends instead of means).

  • http://www.thirduse.com fws

    cincinatus @53

    It’s interesting that you are reading what I am quoting from the confessions as saying that the confessions have a particular view on government or government programs that would seem to support what we americans would call a “liberal” or “conservative ” viewpoint.

    I dont believe they do.

    I think that the confessions actually teach us that there is one “correct” way of thinking about all this politically.

    What they say is that the purpose of the Law on each of our pagan Old Adams is to always accuse us and to always kill us. The government is just one version of the Law of God we call conscience collectivelyt applied. That’s really all it is.

    And the Law is good just as St Paul says, even though we see that the Law (aka govt) does nothing but make us do things we really dont want to do.

    God uses the Law in all its forms, including govt, to make old adam, with carrot and stick, do love for his neighbor and provide his neighbor daily bread.

    What the confessions do not support is the idea that it would be wrong for govt to step outside the libertarian limited govt role of police and military and that govt can only legitimately do police action. This is govt enforcing virtues.

    Virtue is very good. it is necessary and important. it pleases God and he demands it be done.

    But it is not righeousness even for pagans. Love and daily bread which is whatever we do or produce that makes the creaturely earthly lives of others better is the earthly righeousness that God demands.

    And yes, he will have the govt make us do it in the form of oppressive taxation and inefficient programs. This will inevitably include a measure of waste and fraud that are an unavoidable cost of delivery when it is the govt that does this Godly goodness and mercy.

    Does that sound like I think govt programs are a good idea? If you anwer “no” then that means you were actually reading and digesting rather than slotting me as a liberal cincinatus!

    There seems to obviously be ground to cover here because what you write indicates that you are just not getting what I am suggesting the Lutheran Confessions say about all this. This is just law and gospel stuff Cincinnatus.

  • http://www.thirduse.com fws

    cincinatus @53

    It’s interesting that you are reading what I am quoting from the confessions as saying that the confessions have a particular view on government or government programs that would seem to support what we americans would call a “liberal” or “conservative ” viewpoint.

    I dont believe they do.

    I think that the confessions actually teach us that there is one “correct” way of thinking about all this politically.

    What they say is that the purpose of the Law on each of our pagan Old Adams is to always accuse us and to always kill us. The government is just one version of the Law of God we call conscience collectivelyt applied. That’s really all it is.

    And the Law is good just as St Paul says, even though we see that the Law (aka govt) does nothing but make us do things we really dont want to do.

    God uses the Law in all its forms, including govt, to make old adam, with carrot and stick, do love for his neighbor and provide his neighbor daily bread.

    What the confessions do not support is the idea that it would be wrong for govt to step outside the libertarian limited govt role of police and military and that govt can only legitimately do police action. This is govt enforcing virtues.

    Virtue is very good. it is necessary and important. it pleases God and he demands it be done.

    But it is not righeousness even for pagans. Love and daily bread which is whatever we do or produce that makes the creaturely earthly lives of others better is the earthly righeousness that God demands.

    And yes, he will have the govt make us do it in the form of oppressive taxation and inefficient programs. This will inevitably include a measure of waste and fraud that are an unavoidable cost of delivery when it is the govt that does this Godly goodness and mercy.

    Does that sound like I think govt programs are a good idea? If you anwer “no” then that means you were actually reading and digesting rather than slotting me as a liberal cincinatus!

    There seems to obviously be ground to cover here because what you write indicates that you are just not getting what I am suggesting the Lutheran Confessions say about all this. This is just law and gospel stuff Cincinnatus.

  • collie

    Hi Frank: My point was not that people on the lower income scale should pay a lot of tax, but that they should pay a tiny bit of tax. We’re all in this thing called citizenship together, and I just think that we should all participate, to the best of our abilities even if it is more symbolic for those on the lower end. That is all – I do not want them burdened, but I do want them to understand how their government works and how it’s funded.

    I believe we used to require Michigan students to take a class called citizenship, or one focused on it. I wish we would do so again.

  • collie

    Hi Frank: My point was not that people on the lower income scale should pay a lot of tax, but that they should pay a tiny bit of tax. We’re all in this thing called citizenship together, and I just think that we should all participate, to the best of our abilities even if it is more symbolic for those on the lower end. That is all – I do not want them burdened, but I do want them to understand how their government works and how it’s funded.

    I believe we used to require Michigan students to take a class called citizenship, or one focused on it. I wish we would do so again.

  • collie

    Frank – I’m refering mainly to income taxes, here. I take your point on all the other taxes that everyone, including the poor, pay.

  • collie

    Frank – I’m refering mainly to income taxes, here. I take your point on all the other taxes that everyone, including the poor, pay.

  • SKPeterson

    Tom @ 55 – are those who London terms “productive” also not viewed as means to an end by a government bureaucracy?

  • SKPeterson

    Tom @ 55 – are those who London terms “productive” also not viewed as means to an end by a government bureaucracy?

  • http://www.thirduse.com fws

    collie @ 57

    please forgive me. i have absolutely nothing to criticize in your comments. they are actually quite good. i agree with your point that the more we make people feel included in society the better that is . and that includes letting people be responsible at some level. pay the widows mite, but make it mandatory to at least pay some token amount. I think that is a great observation.

    and it is love and mercy then rather than pity and respect rather than patronizing that gets telegraphed.

  • http://www.thirduse.com fws

    collie @ 57

    please forgive me. i have absolutely nothing to criticize in your comments. they are actually quite good. i agree with your point that the more we make people feel included in society the better that is . and that includes letting people be responsible at some level. pay the widows mite, but make it mandatory to at least pay some token amount. I think that is a great observation.

    and it is love and mercy then rather than pity and respect rather than patronizing that gets telegraphed.

  • http://www.thirduse.com fws

    skpeterson @ 59

    yes.

    but not in the same way.

    there was an exposition on the life of the founder of the communist party here in brasil… and one of his famous sayings that they showcased was something like ” those members of society who are not productive lose their right to exist.” (my translation from Portuguese is probably a little off).

    I was sorta floored when I read that and considered the implications. eg communist cambodia, etc etc. So in this view, which is held in common by communists and free marketers, those productive ones are faceless cogs in a machine who exist for utilitarian ends. but at least they have earned the right to a place in that utilitarian and oppressive and anti-human system.

    as opposed to christ inviting us to be lilies of the field and birds of the air.. How does that invitation mesh with worker bee free enterprise?….

    we christians sometimes too succumb to a utilitarian view of God’s Ordering. This is where morality-by-the-metrics takes us. It is man-is-made-for-the-sabbath-or-to-be-cog-in-gods-m0ral-clock-counting-down-to-teleological-conformity-to-Gods-eternal-will-manifest-in-the-Law. It is “god wants sacrifice.”

    This is powerful error because it is only a hair split off from the truth since God does will, and is the author of, those metrics. In fact, if we dont do them he will make us do them. and he promises earthly blessings and even heavenly crowns if we do them. But it is still not the earthly visible Earthly Kingdom righeousness God demands.

    What is wrong is that the Virtues, or morality-by-the-metrics are lowly means . They are not right-eous End. Virtue is NOT its own reward. It is useless if there is no love for others manifest in its conduct. And love is lowering ourselves below others and doing what is beneath us to do and obedience to the needs of others and not God.

    Law and Gospel. It applies everywhere.

  • http://www.thirduse.com fws

    skpeterson @ 59

    yes.

    but not in the same way.

    there was an exposition on the life of the founder of the communist party here in brasil… and one of his famous sayings that they showcased was something like ” those members of society who are not productive lose their right to exist.” (my translation from Portuguese is probably a little off).

    I was sorta floored when I read that and considered the implications. eg communist cambodia, etc etc. So in this view, which is held in common by communists and free marketers, those productive ones are faceless cogs in a machine who exist for utilitarian ends. but at least they have earned the right to a place in that utilitarian and oppressive and anti-human system.

    as opposed to christ inviting us to be lilies of the field and birds of the air.. How does that invitation mesh with worker bee free enterprise?….

    we christians sometimes too succumb to a utilitarian view of God’s Ordering. This is where morality-by-the-metrics takes us. It is man-is-made-for-the-sabbath-or-to-be-cog-in-gods-m0ral-clock-counting-down-to-teleological-conformity-to-Gods-eternal-will-manifest-in-the-Law. It is “god wants sacrifice.”

    This is powerful error because it is only a hair split off from the truth since God does will, and is the author of, those metrics. In fact, if we dont do them he will make us do them. and he promises earthly blessings and even heavenly crowns if we do them. But it is still not the earthly visible Earthly Kingdom righeousness God demands.

    What is wrong is that the Virtues, or morality-by-the-metrics are lowly means . They are not right-eous End. Virtue is NOT its own reward. It is useless if there is no love for others manifest in its conduct. And love is lowering ourselves below others and doing what is beneath us to do and obedience to the needs of others and not God.

    Law and Gospel. It applies everywhere.

  • Stephen

    Cinncinatus & utahrainbow

    Well, I might as well take a shot at it. Why does Frank keep repeating what he is saying? And why is it NOT about being liberal or conservative? Let me explain:

    It is God’s world. God is love. As such, in God’s world he desires that his creatures (that would be all of us, including unbelievers) receive love and mercy aka daily bread. And he will have his will be done on earth as it is in heaven. This is as our Confessions state.

    So, how do we all get those gifts of love that are His will for us? We get them through means. What are those means? Earthly institutions and such, for one thing (read: other people and creation itself, and all that this implies). This is both the fatherly goodness of the Lord’s prayer and the neighbor love called for in the commandments. This whole blog is about vocation and its implications. That is how we get it. Through vocation.

    But this does not mean it comes only through believers or “good Christians free to do charity” etc. For one thing, good Christians are themselves sinners and fail to love their neighbor perfectly, that is, to follow the law. They fail. They need forgiveness. They need Christ. And they need the law to keep them busy mortifying that old Adam in love for the neighbor so that the neighbor gets loved.

    We also receive these things from God through lots of other means. When was the last time every service or thing you ever needed was provided to you by a baptized Christian? This is an example of how God works through all of creation to get gifts to all of us without our asking. He uses whatever means he chooses. He certainly cannot depend on Christians to do it all. It isn’t a matter of them having enough freedom and then finally a Christian moral utopia would suddenly break out, is it?

    So, given that we all fail in this, that our institutions fail, our plans, our ideas, our systems, our very best intentions, personal, professional, etc. what is God to do with us? What is left? He uses means, after all. It is His creation to use to do this work and his aim is to get love and mercy to us in the form a daily bread.

    The law is God’s way to make love and mercy happen. It gets Christians to see the needs of the neighbor. It is the conscience in all of us, believer and unbeliever, nagging away to do what is right. It works its way into every half-baked attempt we make at doing the right thing, none of which are perfect, all of which are temporal and will not remain forever (have no eternal consequences).

    Here is where to plug in what Frank is saying. It is not about what kind of govt. is “better” it is about what serves God”s purposes at the current moment because we are sinners and we do not love our neighbor’s as we should. So, if that means that we get our butts taxed so people can have the health care that they need (as an example), the theological point here is not whether it is the “most efficient” means of doing so. It isn’t being done and it needs to be done. That may be why it is happening. Perhaps now is the time as far as God is concerned. Setting aside how it is paid for, is it not a good thing for people to have health care? I think we can all agree that it is. If so, if it is a good and moral thing in itself, then when these sorts of things come along, rather than immediately grousing and complaining, perhaps the proper response for a Christian is repentance:

    “Lord, I have not loved my neighbor as myself.”

    When we hear the accusations of the law, it ought to orient us toward Christ in whom we live and move and have our being, not our politics. That is Frank’s point and it is completely in line with the Lutheran Confessions. It has nothing to do with being a liberal or a conservative. It has to do with reflecting upon one’s inability to love their neighbor. It has to do with the law and how it accuses us over and over in these kinds of situations, and how we want to argue against it nonetheless.

    It might be a different thing if the govt. were doing some kind of truly notorious thing like rounding up citizens and executing them. Then we might have cause to take up arms or something. The law of love would imply other things perhaps. But that is not what is happening in Frank’s repeated example of confiscatory taxes for which he is accused of being a “liberal.” That is a huge missing of the point.

    Now, should we work for more just and equitable solutions? Sure. Those come, and they go, and imagining that we have complete control over them or that we ever will is not faithful. For the Christian, what does not begin in repentance is just an exercise in more futility – my liberal law is better than your conservative law or vice verse. It is all law is the point, and it is accusing all of us all the time.

    Now read this paragraph from Frank again and see if it makes any more sense:

    Does anyone here really claim to have done or be doing all they can to assist those in their community in need? What things and wealth do we have that we would gladly sell if our dear ones needed to pay for urgent health care? But we arent feeling so urgent about the poor whom are everywhere are we? So we are the cause of God sending the heavy hand of government to oppress us and punish us and do for those poor what we are refusing to do. Every. one. of. us. here. Look in the mirror if you want to see the reason why God is sending the government to tax us to death. Old Adam will only do love if he is being done to death. This is what the Law does. It always kills us. It always accuses each and every one of us personally if we are really understanding what it is telling us.

  • Stephen

    Cinncinatus & utahrainbow

    Well, I might as well take a shot at it. Why does Frank keep repeating what he is saying? And why is it NOT about being liberal or conservative? Let me explain:

    It is God’s world. God is love. As such, in God’s world he desires that his creatures (that would be all of us, including unbelievers) receive love and mercy aka daily bread. And he will have his will be done on earth as it is in heaven. This is as our Confessions state.

    So, how do we all get those gifts of love that are His will for us? We get them through means. What are those means? Earthly institutions and such, for one thing (read: other people and creation itself, and all that this implies). This is both the fatherly goodness of the Lord’s prayer and the neighbor love called for in the commandments. This whole blog is about vocation and its implications. That is how we get it. Through vocation.

    But this does not mean it comes only through believers or “good Christians free to do charity” etc. For one thing, good Christians are themselves sinners and fail to love their neighbor perfectly, that is, to follow the law. They fail. They need forgiveness. They need Christ. And they need the law to keep them busy mortifying that old Adam in love for the neighbor so that the neighbor gets loved.

    We also receive these things from God through lots of other means. When was the last time every service or thing you ever needed was provided to you by a baptized Christian? This is an example of how God works through all of creation to get gifts to all of us without our asking. He uses whatever means he chooses. He certainly cannot depend on Christians to do it all. It isn’t a matter of them having enough freedom and then finally a Christian moral utopia would suddenly break out, is it?

    So, given that we all fail in this, that our institutions fail, our plans, our ideas, our systems, our very best intentions, personal, professional, etc. what is God to do with us? What is left? He uses means, after all. It is His creation to use to do this work and his aim is to get love and mercy to us in the form a daily bread.

    The law is God’s way to make love and mercy happen. It gets Christians to see the needs of the neighbor. It is the conscience in all of us, believer and unbeliever, nagging away to do what is right. It works its way into every half-baked attempt we make at doing the right thing, none of which are perfect, all of which are temporal and will not remain forever (have no eternal consequences).

    Here is where to plug in what Frank is saying. It is not about what kind of govt. is “better” it is about what serves God”s purposes at the current moment because we are sinners and we do not love our neighbor’s as we should. So, if that means that we get our butts taxed so people can have the health care that they need (as an example), the theological point here is not whether it is the “most efficient” means of doing so. It isn’t being done and it needs to be done. That may be why it is happening. Perhaps now is the time as far as God is concerned. Setting aside how it is paid for, is it not a good thing for people to have health care? I think we can all agree that it is. If so, if it is a good and moral thing in itself, then when these sorts of things come along, rather than immediately grousing and complaining, perhaps the proper response for a Christian is repentance:

    “Lord, I have not loved my neighbor as myself.”

    When we hear the accusations of the law, it ought to orient us toward Christ in whom we live and move and have our being, not our politics. That is Frank’s point and it is completely in line with the Lutheran Confessions. It has nothing to do with being a liberal or a conservative. It has to do with reflecting upon one’s inability to love their neighbor. It has to do with the law and how it accuses us over and over in these kinds of situations, and how we want to argue against it nonetheless.

    It might be a different thing if the govt. were doing some kind of truly notorious thing like rounding up citizens and executing them. Then we might have cause to take up arms or something. The law of love would imply other things perhaps. But that is not what is happening in Frank’s repeated example of confiscatory taxes for which he is accused of being a “liberal.” That is a huge missing of the point.

    Now, should we work for more just and equitable solutions? Sure. Those come, and they go, and imagining that we have complete control over them or that we ever will is not faithful. For the Christian, what does not begin in repentance is just an exercise in more futility – my liberal law is better than your conservative law or vice verse. It is all law is the point, and it is accusing all of us all the time.

    Now read this paragraph from Frank again and see if it makes any more sense:

    Does anyone here really claim to have done or be doing all they can to assist those in their community in need? What things and wealth do we have that we would gladly sell if our dear ones needed to pay for urgent health care? But we arent feeling so urgent about the poor whom are everywhere are we? So we are the cause of God sending the heavy hand of government to oppress us and punish us and do for those poor what we are refusing to do. Every. one. of. us. here. Look in the mirror if you want to see the reason why God is sending the government to tax us to death. Old Adam will only do love if he is being done to death. This is what the Law does. It always kills us. It always accuses each and every one of us personally if we are really understanding what it is telling us.

  • http://steadfastlutherans.org/ SAL

    What troubles me is the reality that often the government harms us (including the poor) by trying to aid us. It undermines our communities, our dignity and our social life.

    Is it worth a few handouts if it takes away your dignity, if it breeds complacency or helplessness? What troubles me about liberalism is its lack of compassion for the poor.

    Liberals are usually materialists who feel poverty is solved by handouts of goods or services. Poverty is solved by providing a way to meet our needs with dignity. Otherwise we reduce the human being to an animal that needs only physical things and not the social or spiritual.

    That sort of materialism that turns the poor into mere animals isn’t in keeping with the Lutheran Confessions.

    Just because the welfare state may kill the Old Adam doesn’t actually mean it does more harm than good for the poor.

  • http://steadfastlutherans.org/ SAL

    What troubles me is the reality that often the government harms us (including the poor) by trying to aid us. It undermines our communities, our dignity and our social life.

    Is it worth a few handouts if it takes away your dignity, if it breeds complacency or helplessness? What troubles me about liberalism is its lack of compassion for the poor.

    Liberals are usually materialists who feel poverty is solved by handouts of goods or services. Poverty is solved by providing a way to meet our needs with dignity. Otherwise we reduce the human being to an animal that needs only physical things and not the social or spiritual.

    That sort of materialism that turns the poor into mere animals isn’t in keeping with the Lutheran Confessions.

    Just because the welfare state may kill the Old Adam doesn’t actually mean it does more harm than good for the poor.

  • http://www.thirduse.com fws

    sal @ 63

    ok sal. that is a valid criticism. so then the law tells YOU: “dont do that, try something else”. But if your neighbor is in need, DO try something!

    And this is all very situational isnt it? And the fact that this is all extremely situational is exactly why the extended nuclear family that once was the social safety net was far, far better than a one-size-fits-all government program isnt it?

    Example: If I am really starving or my loved ones are, does it really rob my dignity for me to get bread however? I would even consider stealing that bread in a desperate situation (eg hurricane katrina and I raid the local 7-11 for canned goods rather than starve. And the store owner, if he is a good man, might actually want that to be done. And yes , in normal circumstances, my sinful old adam might be tempted to lose my dignity and cheat and get a handout when I could work. I suspect that is why they did food stamps rather than handing out cash. but people quickly overcame that control on sin and started selling those for cash.

    Ok now health care. if my child is sick this is not about working or not working. I dont see how this robs anyones dignity sal. so please give me a scenario just as I have give above about starving and needing food.

    thanks!

  • http://www.thirduse.com fws

    sal @ 63

    ok sal. that is a valid criticism. so then the law tells YOU: “dont do that, try something else”. But if your neighbor is in need, DO try something!

    And this is all very situational isnt it? And the fact that this is all extremely situational is exactly why the extended nuclear family that once was the social safety net was far, far better than a one-size-fits-all government program isnt it?

    Example: If I am really starving or my loved ones are, does it really rob my dignity for me to get bread however? I would even consider stealing that bread in a desperate situation (eg hurricane katrina and I raid the local 7-11 for canned goods rather than starve. And the store owner, if he is a good man, might actually want that to be done. And yes , in normal circumstances, my sinful old adam might be tempted to lose my dignity and cheat and get a handout when I could work. I suspect that is why they did food stamps rather than handing out cash. but people quickly overcame that control on sin and started selling those for cash.

    Ok now health care. if my child is sick this is not about working or not working. I dont see how this robs anyones dignity sal. so please give me a scenario just as I have give above about starving and needing food.

    thanks!

  • http://www.thirduse.com fws

    stephen @ 62

    what he says. that is exactly it. better than I could say it.

  • http://www.thirduse.com fws

    stephen @ 62

    what he says. that is exactly it. better than I could say it.

  • Stephen

    And the reason to have bread on the coat of arms is because God desires we live in peace. Again, it is God’s world. He created it. Love is his purpose for it. We need look not further than the cross of Christ to have this affirmed and revealed in everything. This is the Confessional point. In God’s world what matters is love.

    It is a mistake to think that in God’s world here is a world of civil order i.e govt. where we keep God out as best we can and run things ourselves using our reason. No matter how much we say we are doing this, God is still doing his “strange work” (Luther) in, with and under all that to get love and mercy to us. So he will foul up our plans if he must because our plans aren’t working. It may sound best and truly virtuous to let the free market roll on, and I am not even disagreeing on any necessary level, but if those forces do not provide what they promise, God will, and he will use means. He answers prayers, the prayers of those who cry out in their need. He is not going to wait around until the church, filled with sinners and hypocrites, pulls it together and feeds the hungry and gets them health care, etc. He’s not going to sit around until representative democracy and free markets work the way they ought to and we get all the bugs worked out once we have argued all the finer points and all the smart people have finished their PhDs and written their books. He is going to answer prayers through the means of his creation at hand.

    So, if we want peace, and we do not want insurrection (Frank’s point about the coat of Arms) govt’s should consider the daily bread of their citizens. Why? Because this is God’s NUMBER ONE consideration, and he will have his way. He is in charge of EVERYTHING, not just the church and its ministrations tucked neatly on 7th street with those clowns in funny robes who do nice things for pathetic people.

    On earth as it is in heaven. Yes, there are two kingdoms – an earthly and a heavenly, one of law resolved in love, and one of gospel that is Christ alone. Both are ruled by Christ. Jesus is Lord of all. This is Confessional.

  • Stephen

    And the reason to have bread on the coat of arms is because God desires we live in peace. Again, it is God’s world. He created it. Love is his purpose for it. We need look not further than the cross of Christ to have this affirmed and revealed in everything. This is the Confessional point. In God’s world what matters is love.

    It is a mistake to think that in God’s world here is a world of civil order i.e govt. where we keep God out as best we can and run things ourselves using our reason. No matter how much we say we are doing this, God is still doing his “strange work” (Luther) in, with and under all that to get love and mercy to us. So he will foul up our plans if he must because our plans aren’t working. It may sound best and truly virtuous to let the free market roll on, and I am not even disagreeing on any necessary level, but if those forces do not provide what they promise, God will, and he will use means. He answers prayers, the prayers of those who cry out in their need. He is not going to wait around until the church, filled with sinners and hypocrites, pulls it together and feeds the hungry and gets them health care, etc. He’s not going to sit around until representative democracy and free markets work the way they ought to and we get all the bugs worked out once we have argued all the finer points and all the smart people have finished their PhDs and written their books. He is going to answer prayers through the means of his creation at hand.

    So, if we want peace, and we do not want insurrection (Frank’s point about the coat of Arms) govt’s should consider the daily bread of their citizens. Why? Because this is God’s NUMBER ONE consideration, and he will have his way. He is in charge of EVERYTHING, not just the church and its ministrations tucked neatly on 7th street with those clowns in funny robes who do nice things for pathetic people.

    On earth as it is in heaven. Yes, there are two kingdoms – an earthly and a heavenly, one of law resolved in love, and one of gospel that is Christ alone. Both are ruled by Christ. Jesus is Lord of all. This is Confessional.

  • http://www.thirduse.com fws

    stephen @66

    wow. why cant I write with that kind of clarity???!!!

    that was excellent. A+++++

  • http://www.thirduse.com fws

    stephen @66

    wow. why cant I write with that kind of clarity???!!!

    that was excellent. A+++++

  • http://steadfastlutherans.org/ SAL

    #64 If our neighbor is in need, it doesn’t necessarily follow that we can do him any good. We’re in a fallen imperfect world where civil action has limits. Just because a need exists doesn’t imply we have any moral means to meet it.

    In some situations we may be able to do good that causes less harm.

    However when we raise taxes necessarily some fraction of that taxation destroys jobs the poor could have. It destroys opportunities the poor could use. It destroys resources that could be used in their communities.

    In cases of absolute poverty, needs should be met by charity and if necessary government action (although national action is suspect). In cases of relative poverty economic growth is more of a remedy than the welfare state.

    In my estimation we’ve erred too much in the welfare state direction by creating broad universal programs that aren’t safety nets but entitlements. These entitlements remove from the economy, vast resources that could be used to gainfully employ millions of people.

    We may have a moral obligation to feed the hungry but we don’t have a moral obligation to give social security checks to well-off elderly individuals far removed from poverty or material need. We don’t have a moral obligation to subsidize health insurance for those who could afford it.

  • http://steadfastlutherans.org/ SAL

    #64 If our neighbor is in need, it doesn’t necessarily follow that we can do him any good. We’re in a fallen imperfect world where civil action has limits. Just because a need exists doesn’t imply we have any moral means to meet it.

    In some situations we may be able to do good that causes less harm.

    However when we raise taxes necessarily some fraction of that taxation destroys jobs the poor could have. It destroys opportunities the poor could use. It destroys resources that could be used in their communities.

    In cases of absolute poverty, needs should be met by charity and if necessary government action (although national action is suspect). In cases of relative poverty economic growth is more of a remedy than the welfare state.

    In my estimation we’ve erred too much in the welfare state direction by creating broad universal programs that aren’t safety nets but entitlements. These entitlements remove from the economy, vast resources that could be used to gainfully employ millions of people.

    We may have a moral obligation to feed the hungry but we don’t have a moral obligation to give social security checks to well-off elderly individuals far removed from poverty or material need. We don’t have a moral obligation to subsidize health insurance for those who could afford it.

  • http://www.thirduse.com fws

    sal @ 68

    SAL “However when we raise taxes necessarily some fraction of that taxation destroys jobs the poor could have. It destroys opportunities the poor could use. It destroys resources that could be used in their communities.”

    FWS This is right. goodness in a sinful world is about tradeoffs. we build a dam and lose farmland and displace people and degrade the enviroment. the trade off is that we create jobs by generating power and building and maintaining it, reduce flooding, increase irrigation.

    There is no right or wrong here. That IS the point. reasonable men can debate the RELATIVE good and bad between choices.

    What some of us are arguing against is the idea that conservative or liberal ideas can be made into right or wrong moral or immoral.

    SAL We may have a moral obligation to feed the hungry

    FWS is this “may” or “do have” a moral obligation?

    SAL we don’t have a moral obligation to give social security checks to well-off elderly individuals

    FWS what about those who are not well off?

  • http://www.thirduse.com fws

    sal @ 68

    SAL “However when we raise taxes necessarily some fraction of that taxation destroys jobs the poor could have. It destroys opportunities the poor could use. It destroys resources that could be used in their communities.”

    FWS This is right. goodness in a sinful world is about tradeoffs. we build a dam and lose farmland and displace people and degrade the enviroment. the trade off is that we create jobs by generating power and building and maintaining it, reduce flooding, increase irrigation.

    There is no right or wrong here. That IS the point. reasonable men can debate the RELATIVE good and bad between choices.

    What some of us are arguing against is the idea that conservative or liberal ideas can be made into right or wrong moral or immoral.

    SAL We may have a moral obligation to feed the hungry

    FWS is this “may” or “do have” a moral obligation?

    SAL we don’t have a moral obligation to give social security checks to well-off elderly individuals

    FWS what about those who are not well off?

  • Cincinnatus

    “What about those who are not well off?”

    Since we’ve reduced ourselves to discussing the relative merits of specific policies, I’ll just jump in and answer this one: No. We do not have a moral obligation to send checks from the federal government to elderly individuals, no matter how poor. The Social Security system is a terrible program–terrible in its administration, in its fiscal (in)solvency, and in the investment and distribution principles upon which it is founded. There are better ways–much better ways–to care for the indigent and elderly in our communities.

  • Cincinnatus

    “What about those who are not well off?”

    Since we’ve reduced ourselves to discussing the relative merits of specific policies, I’ll just jump in and answer this one: No. We do not have a moral obligation to send checks from the federal government to elderly individuals, no matter how poor. The Social Security system is a terrible program–terrible in its administration, in its fiscal (in)solvency, and in the investment and distribution principles upon which it is founded. There are better ways–much better ways–to care for the indigent and elderly in our communities.

  • utahrainbow

    Stephen @ 62 & 66,
    I commented on today’s post about Ike and said something very much the same, but I’ll say it again here, thank you, that’s a pretty good “shot at it”! Very lucid and well put comments, and really hits right on what I’ve been thinking a lot about lately. Particularly in this time of economic stress, there are so many who are struggling.

    I guess for a while I considered myself a free-market type, particularly after being influenced by a government high school teacher who happened to be a libertarian. It seemed to make so much sense, seemed very logical, now why didn’t everyone just get it so we could put it in place (or take it out, as the case may be) and make things right? If we could just get it all “free” it would work itself out. If government would get out, the church would naturally take over in helping the needy. But, particularly in the past couple of years, I have struggled with how this doesn’t really fit in with those articles of faith that I hold above any political persuasion, or at least surely it isn’t the whole picture. I have also been reading a bit of history, which has, uh, disabused me of simplistic political judgment on past events.

    Anyway, I don’t have anything to say that you haven’t said better. I hope that others will read your comments. What you and fws are saying here is actually very “freeing”. Hey, everyone, you don’t have to pick a side! You don’t have to be a liberal or a conservative! You don’t have to know the perfect political formula!

  • utahrainbow

    Stephen @ 62 & 66,
    I commented on today’s post about Ike and said something very much the same, but I’ll say it again here, thank you, that’s a pretty good “shot at it”! Very lucid and well put comments, and really hits right on what I’ve been thinking a lot about lately. Particularly in this time of economic stress, there are so many who are struggling.

    I guess for a while I considered myself a free-market type, particularly after being influenced by a government high school teacher who happened to be a libertarian. It seemed to make so much sense, seemed very logical, now why didn’t everyone just get it so we could put it in place (or take it out, as the case may be) and make things right? If we could just get it all “free” it would work itself out. If government would get out, the church would naturally take over in helping the needy. But, particularly in the past couple of years, I have struggled with how this doesn’t really fit in with those articles of faith that I hold above any political persuasion, or at least surely it isn’t the whole picture. I have also been reading a bit of history, which has, uh, disabused me of simplistic political judgment on past events.

    Anyway, I don’t have anything to say that you haven’t said better. I hope that others will read your comments. What you and fws are saying here is actually very “freeing”. Hey, everyone, you don’t have to pick a side! You don’t have to be a liberal or a conservative! You don’t have to know the perfect political formula!

  • Stephen

    Utahrainbow @ 71

    Hey thanks a lot! Your comment is really good for me to hear. And I saw the one on the other thread. Thanks for that one too. fws has taught me a lot. He can be difficult to parse, but he’s the true Confessional “broken record” around here – bold and beautiful. But he gets mistaken for other things. We all do, because we are so ready to put each other into the evermore familiar right/left slots. It gets exhausting. In my experience, it depends on who you are talking to as to just how conservative or how liberal you are at any given moment. The labels are silly, but we like them, or shall I say Old Adam likes them.

    If I have anything else to add at the moment, it’s to keep reading the Book of Concord and get your “doctorate” in law and gospel (it’s a life-long thing as far as I can figure). This is what Luther says makes a real theologian. It will bring the scriptures into sharp focus – grace becomes real grace and sin become real sin. Be a real theologian. If you feel any freedom, I hope it is because you know you do not serve in the kingdom of law. That is the earthly righteousness that will perish and has to do with all these discussions of politics, none of which has some perfect or perfected (sanctified) answer. If you are free it is because you are kept through faith in the kingdom of heaven, the kingdom that does not perish. That kingdom is Christ alone.

    I’m so glad you are here.

  • Stephen

    Utahrainbow @ 71

    Hey thanks a lot! Your comment is really good for me to hear. And I saw the one on the other thread. Thanks for that one too. fws has taught me a lot. He can be difficult to parse, but he’s the true Confessional “broken record” around here – bold and beautiful. But he gets mistaken for other things. We all do, because we are so ready to put each other into the evermore familiar right/left slots. It gets exhausting. In my experience, it depends on who you are talking to as to just how conservative or how liberal you are at any given moment. The labels are silly, but we like them, or shall I say Old Adam likes them.

    If I have anything else to add at the moment, it’s to keep reading the Book of Concord and get your “doctorate” in law and gospel (it’s a life-long thing as far as I can figure). This is what Luther says makes a real theologian. It will bring the scriptures into sharp focus – grace becomes real grace and sin become real sin. Be a real theologian. If you feel any freedom, I hope it is because you know you do not serve in the kingdom of law. That is the earthly righteousness that will perish and has to do with all these discussions of politics, none of which has some perfect or perfected (sanctified) answer. If you are free it is because you are kept through faith in the kingdom of heaven, the kingdom that does not perish. That kingdom is Christ alone.

    I’m so glad you are here.