Is the U.S. Constitution obsolete?

[An earlier version of this post went up with just the raw quotation and with my introduction, edits, and commentary  not showing up, for some reason.  Sorry for the confusion.]

Conservatives worry that the U. S. Constitution is being ignored.  The next step is for the Constitution to be spoken against and then repudiated.  That seems to be happening, even by a Supreme Court Justice!  In the meantime, the rest of the world has stopped imitating America’s constitutional system, which, in many people’s minds does not parcel out enough rights, and the rights it does recognize are the wrong ones:

In a television interview during a visit to Egypt last week, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg of the Supreme Court seemed to agree [with the irrelevance of the Constitution to new nations today]. “I would not look to the United States Constitution if I were drafting a constitution in the year 2012,” she said. She recommended, instead, the South African Constitution, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms or the European Convention on Human Rights.

The rights guaranteed by the American Constitution are parsimonious by international standards, and they are frozen in amber. As Sanford Levinson wrote in 2006 in “Our Undemocratic Constitution,” “the U.S. Constitution is the most difficult to amend of any constitution currently existing in the world today.” (Yugoslavia used to hold that title, but Yugoslavia did not work out.)

Other nations routinely trade in their constitutions wholesale, replacing them on average every 19 years. By odd coincidence, Thomas Jefferson, in a 1789 letter to James Madison, once said that every constitution “naturally expires at the end of 19 years” because “the earth belongs always to the living generation.” These days, the overlap between the rights guaranteed by the Constitution and those most popular around the world is spotty.

Americans recognize rights not widely protected, including ones to a speedy and public trial, and are outliers in prohibiting government establishment of religion. But the Constitution is out of step with the rest of the world in failing to protect, at least in so many words, a right to travel, the presumption of innocence and entitlement to food, education and health care.

It has its idiosyncrasies. Only 2 percent of the world’s constitutions protect, as the Second Amendment does, a right to bear arms. (Its brothers in arms are Guatemala and Mexico.) . . . .

“America is in danger, I think, of becoming something of a legal backwater,” Justice Michael Kirby of the High Court of Australia said in a 2001 interview. He said that he looked instead to India, South Africa and New Zealand.

Mr. Barak, for his part, identified a new constitutional superpower: “Canadian law,” he wrote, “serves as a source of inspiration for many countries around the world.” The new study also suggests that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, adopted in 1982, may now be more influential than its American counterpart.

The Canadian Charter is both more expansive and less absolute. It guarantees equal rights for women and disabled people, allows affirmative action and requires that those arrested be informed of their rights. On the other hand, it balances those rights against “such reasonable limits” as “can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.”

via ‘We the People’ Loses Appeal With People Around the World – NYTimes.com.

I suspect that in the years ahead, since nations come and go, that eventually we will be hearing calls to eliminate our obsolete constitution in favor of something new.   The new constitution will feature new rights (to food?  to health care? to travel?), but other rights will pass away–the right to keep and bear arms will be sure to go.  Also, if Canada is to be our guide, the right to express criticisms of Islam.  And we can be sure that there will be lots of other “reasonable limits” to what we will be allowed to do.

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.

  • larry

    Many miss an almost obvious point about the US Constitution & its fall apart in our time. Its not just words on paper but as its very obvious title states is the constitution (the foundation, formation, created structure) itself of “these” (individual) states. Without it or the slow removal of it means the opposite is occurring, the de-constitution or very dissolution of these same states. What we find now in our time is that its not the “states” attempting to “dissolve themselves” from it as in the Civil war era, but rather the central operational governing body unconstituting, if you will, the constituted states.

  • larry

    Many miss an almost obvious point about the US Constitution & its fall apart in our time. Its not just words on paper but as its very obvious title states is the constitution (the foundation, formation, created structure) itself of “these” (individual) states. Without it or the slow removal of it means the opposite is occurring, the de-constitution or very dissolution of these same states. What we find now in our time is that its not the “states” attempting to “dissolve themselves” from it as in the Civil war era, but rather the central operational governing body unconstituting, if you will, the constituted states.

  • SKPeterson

    These sorts of articles are telling. In times of perceived national angst or manufactured crises, far too many of our national elites seem willing to chuck our national institutions and cast about the world for the new, sexy thing. (I blame the Boomers – our nation will only be safe once most of them are six feet under. ;) ) This reminds me of the handwringing over losing our economic leadership to Japan or to China and how we need(ed) to emulate them in order to be “successful.”

    India? Indian politics are some of the most corrupt in the world and its Constitution is perhaps more notable for how it is honored more in the breach than in adherence to the letter – ask any of your south Asian counterparts when they’d like to have some good old-fashioned Indian constitutional politics here. South Africa? Really? While South Africa may be a model for Africa, it is only in relation to the rest of Africa that it has any claim to status. And why the disparagement of Botswana? It is the only African country that has had anywhere near a 25+ year history of political stability and democracy. It is imperfect, but credit the Tswanas nonetheless.

    Finally, let me ask this: What would you change in the Constitution? What would you add or take away, and why? Assume, for this exercise, that we actually adhere to the Constitution in our politics and lawmaking.

  • SKPeterson

    These sorts of articles are telling. In times of perceived national angst or manufactured crises, far too many of our national elites seem willing to chuck our national institutions and cast about the world for the new, sexy thing. (I blame the Boomers – our nation will only be safe once most of them are six feet under. ;) ) This reminds me of the handwringing over losing our economic leadership to Japan or to China and how we need(ed) to emulate them in order to be “successful.”

    India? Indian politics are some of the most corrupt in the world and its Constitution is perhaps more notable for how it is honored more in the breach than in adherence to the letter – ask any of your south Asian counterparts when they’d like to have some good old-fashioned Indian constitutional politics here. South Africa? Really? While South Africa may be a model for Africa, it is only in relation to the rest of Africa that it has any claim to status. And why the disparagement of Botswana? It is the only African country that has had anywhere near a 25+ year history of political stability and democracy. It is imperfect, but credit the Tswanas nonetheless.

    Finally, let me ask this: What would you change in the Constitution? What would you add or take away, and why? Assume, for this exercise, that we actually adhere to the Constitution in our politics and lawmaking.

  • Michael B.

    “Is the U.S. Constitution obsolete?”

    In a way, yes. Pretty much every American believes he has rights that are nowhere found in the US constitution. For example, the right for a child to have an education, the right to a safe work environment, and the right not to be discriminated against on the basis of race in housing and a job. Try finding that in the constitution. I won’t even get into the rights that liberals believe we have, such as health care, reproductive rights, and gay marriage.

  • Michael B.

    “Is the U.S. Constitution obsolete?”

    In a way, yes. Pretty much every American believes he has rights that are nowhere found in the US constitution. For example, the right for a child to have an education, the right to a safe work environment, and the right not to be discriminated against on the basis of race in housing and a job. Try finding that in the constitution. I won’t even get into the rights that liberals believe we have, such as health care, reproductive rights, and gay marriage.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    SKP – Botswana has dirty laundy of its own, but in general terms they are certainly one of the better ones.

    But wrt South Africa, I’ll repeat in toto a comment I made to Cincinnatus some weeks ago, regarding to the origins and practice of South African law:

    Cincinnatus – they called it Roman-Dutch law, officially. I would give you, the wikipedia reference, but sigh…… The Britannica article supports your thesis, but only somewhat . That article seems to borrow from the following treatise: http://www.lenel.ch/docs/history-of-sa-law-en.pdf

    An interesting quote from that thesis:

    E.1 Several sources
    The South African law is an uncodified legal system, i.e. several sources are available, namely statute laws, precedents, common law, custom, customary ethnic law, newer doctrine and the constitution. Not all sources have the same authority.

    E.2 Statute law
    In Roman-Germanic systems, the law has been codified for the best part. The South African system, however, is uncodified to a large part. Legislation is only made where newer technical developments or gaps make it necessary. Certain sections were codified
    comprehensively. The South African doctrine criticises mainly the rigidity of codification and the difficulty to codify precedents reaching back a couple of hundred years. The positivist interpretation of laws has the effect that they are applied very
    strictly on one hand and interpreted in conformity with common law on the other hand.

    E.3 Common Law
    It is generally acknowledged in South Africa, that the common law is the primary source of the law, whereby common law means Roman-Dutch, not English law. The former is much more dogmatic and principled than English law. Private law plays a central role,
    while the public law was neglected up to now.
    Some authors regard the “old authorities” even as a source of its own. These so-called“ou Skrywers”, which are often cited, can be divided into four categories:
    - The works the old Roman-Dutch authorities
    o Johannes VOET, Commentarius ad Pandectas
    o Hugo DE GROOT, Inleydinge tot de Hollandsche Rechtsgelertheid
    o Simon VAN LEEUWEN, Het Roomsch-Hollandsch Recht
    o Johannes VAN DER LINDEN, Rechtsgeleerd Practicaal en Koopmans Handboek
    o Less known authors like Arnoldus VINNIUS, Gerard NOODT und Simon VAN GROENEWEGEN, Ulrichus HUBER, D.G. VAN DER KEESSEL
    - The decisions of the courts of Holland and other courts of the Netherlands in application of Roman-Dutch law (collections of Cornelis VAN BIJNKERSHOEK, Willem PAUW)
    - Commentaries of lawyers to practical legal problems
    - The laws, which were in effect up to 1652 in Holland, particularly the political ordinance of 1580, the eternal edict of 1540, the Groot Placaet Boek and the Oktrooi of 1661.

    The works of the “old authorities” are as important as court decisions. Court decisions ignoring them can easily be overturned. Whether authors from other areas of Europe may be cited, is often debated, but current practice.

    E.4 Roman law
    It would go too far to discuss Roman law sources comprehensively, but it shall be noted, that South African courts still apply – probably as the last courts on earth – the Corpus Iuris Civilis and the works the Glossators and Postglossators, whereby in case of doubt
    the Roman-Dutch practice takes priority.

    It then goes on to discuss precedent law, the constitution and then, ethnic law:

    (blockquote>E.8 Customary ethnic law
    African customary law95 is unwritten law, which is found in legislation, precedents, custom, reports of commissions, legal literature and anthropological articles. Important is the “compendium”, which was compiled in the year 1858 under Chief Commissioner Col. John MACLEAN in British Kaffraria, and the reports and statements before commissions from before 1910, whereby the quality of these sources varies. Courts have often referred to them in their decisions.

    In the traditional African law, all details of a case had to be inquired and memorised. There were no summaries, no written notes. Each detail had to be discussed in full, before the leader of a tribe would arrive at a decision. The western ideas of an undefined past, a present and a future are foreign to African communities. The African law does not differentiate between private and public law.

    The South African tradition must be the only one who, while still drawing on ORIGINAL Roman legal documents, as well as Germanic writings, also consults moderns opinions, case laws, Constitutionary law AS WELL as tribal ethnic law and traditional Islamic courts. Talk about an interesting legal system!!

    The above illstrates that the South African legal system, in contrast with being the entirely modern system that the complainants against the US Constitution think it is, is actully a complex hybridised, customised system, incorporating ancient (Roman), modern, Western and traditional, to a greater extent than possibly any other legal system in the world. Therefore you’ll find in South Africa that your average judge is generally an older person, an intellectual heavy weight with a commanding presence. Hardly a fellow that is going to sue an immigrant laundramat owner for the loss of a pair of pants (hint hint nudge nudge :) ).

    The current state of affairs in SA is due to politics. I would not fault the desgn of the legal system, but rather the complexity of the political situation, the interplay of colonial, racial and cold war revolutionary politcs etc etc.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    SKP – Botswana has dirty laundy of its own, but in general terms they are certainly one of the better ones.

    But wrt South Africa, I’ll repeat in toto a comment I made to Cincinnatus some weeks ago, regarding to the origins and practice of South African law:

    Cincinnatus – they called it Roman-Dutch law, officially. I would give you, the wikipedia reference, but sigh…… The Britannica article supports your thesis, but only somewhat . That article seems to borrow from the following treatise: http://www.lenel.ch/docs/history-of-sa-law-en.pdf

    An interesting quote from that thesis:

    E.1 Several sources
    The South African law is an uncodified legal system, i.e. several sources are available, namely statute laws, precedents, common law, custom, customary ethnic law, newer doctrine and the constitution. Not all sources have the same authority.

    E.2 Statute law
    In Roman-Germanic systems, the law has been codified for the best part. The South African system, however, is uncodified to a large part. Legislation is only made where newer technical developments or gaps make it necessary. Certain sections were codified
    comprehensively. The South African doctrine criticises mainly the rigidity of codification and the difficulty to codify precedents reaching back a couple of hundred years. The positivist interpretation of laws has the effect that they are applied very
    strictly on one hand and interpreted in conformity with common law on the other hand.

    E.3 Common Law
    It is generally acknowledged in South Africa, that the common law is the primary source of the law, whereby common law means Roman-Dutch, not English law. The former is much more dogmatic and principled than English law. Private law plays a central role,
    while the public law was neglected up to now.
    Some authors regard the “old authorities” even as a source of its own. These so-called“ou Skrywers”, which are often cited, can be divided into four categories:
    - The works the old Roman-Dutch authorities
    o Johannes VOET, Commentarius ad Pandectas
    o Hugo DE GROOT, Inleydinge tot de Hollandsche Rechtsgelertheid
    o Simon VAN LEEUWEN, Het Roomsch-Hollandsch Recht
    o Johannes VAN DER LINDEN, Rechtsgeleerd Practicaal en Koopmans Handboek
    o Less known authors like Arnoldus VINNIUS, Gerard NOODT und Simon VAN GROENEWEGEN, Ulrichus HUBER, D.G. VAN DER KEESSEL
    - The decisions of the courts of Holland and other courts of the Netherlands in application of Roman-Dutch law (collections of Cornelis VAN BIJNKERSHOEK, Willem PAUW)
    - Commentaries of lawyers to practical legal problems
    - The laws, which were in effect up to 1652 in Holland, particularly the political ordinance of 1580, the eternal edict of 1540, the Groot Placaet Boek and the Oktrooi of 1661.

    The works of the “old authorities” are as important as court decisions. Court decisions ignoring them can easily be overturned. Whether authors from other areas of Europe may be cited, is often debated, but current practice.

    E.4 Roman law
    It would go too far to discuss Roman law sources comprehensively, but it shall be noted, that South African courts still apply – probably as the last courts on earth – the Corpus Iuris Civilis and the works the Glossators and Postglossators, whereby in case of doubt
    the Roman-Dutch practice takes priority.

    It then goes on to discuss precedent law, the constitution and then, ethnic law:

    (blockquote>E.8 Customary ethnic law
    African customary law95 is unwritten law, which is found in legislation, precedents, custom, reports of commissions, legal literature and anthropological articles. Important is the “compendium”, which was compiled in the year 1858 under Chief Commissioner Col. John MACLEAN in British Kaffraria, and the reports and statements before commissions from before 1910, whereby the quality of these sources varies. Courts have often referred to them in their decisions.

    In the traditional African law, all details of a case had to be inquired and memorised. There were no summaries, no written notes. Each detail had to be discussed in full, before the leader of a tribe would arrive at a decision. The western ideas of an undefined past, a present and a future are foreign to African communities. The African law does not differentiate between private and public law.

    The South African tradition must be the only one who, while still drawing on ORIGINAL Roman legal documents, as well as Germanic writings, also consults moderns opinions, case laws, Constitutionary law AS WELL as tribal ethnic law and traditional Islamic courts. Talk about an interesting legal system!!

    The above illstrates that the South African legal system, in contrast with being the entirely modern system that the complainants against the US Constitution think it is, is actully a complex hybridised, customised system, incorporating ancient (Roman), modern, Western and traditional, to a greater extent than possibly any other legal system in the world. Therefore you’ll find in South Africa that your average judge is generally an older person, an intellectual heavy weight with a commanding presence. Hardly a fellow that is going to sue an immigrant laundramat owner for the loss of a pair of pants (hint hint nudge nudge :) ).

    The current state of affairs in SA is due to politics. I would not fault the desgn of the legal system, but rather the complexity of the political situation, the interplay of colonial, racial and cold war revolutionary politcs etc etc.

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    Doesn’t it seem like nations who move from a Christian-centred base of thought inevitably move toward a government-centred base of thought?

    It’s almost as if the State is ready to fill the vacuum of God every time.

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    Doesn’t it seem like nations who move from a Christian-centred base of thought inevitably move toward a government-centred base of thought?

    It’s almost as if the State is ready to fill the vacuum of God every time.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    As to the Canadian system, I have my Citizenship Study Guide in front of me:
    It highlights the sources of Canadian law as English Comon Law, the civil code of France, and the unwritten inherited British Constitution. It begings at the Magna Carta, and then specifcally highlights the following freedoms:

    Freedom of Consciense and Religion.
    Freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of speech and the press;
    Freedom of peaceful assembly; and
    Freedom of association.

    It then goes on to quote the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which starts with the following preamble:

    “Whereas Canada is founded upon principles that recognize the supremacy of God and the rule of law”

    In the words of the Citizenship Guide, the Charter attempts to summarize fundamental freedoms while setting out additional rights. the most important of these are:
    -Mobility rigths (the right to live and work anywhere, enter and leave the country freely, apple for a passport etc)
    -Aboriginal People’s Rights (The rights guarenteed in the Charter will not adversely affect any treaty or other rights or freedomd of Aboriginal peoples)
    -Official languages and Minority Language Educational Rights (French and English have equal status in parliament and throughout government)
    -Multiculturalism – Respect is important here.

    Interestingly enough though, although the following are not listed in the Charter of course, they are listed right next to the preceding discussion in the Citzenship Guide:

    -Equality of Men and Women – with reference to sposal abouse, honour killings, female genital mutilation etc.
    -Citizenship Responsibilities:
    1. Obeying the law
    2. Taking Responsibility for oneself and for one’s famile – getting a job, taking care of one’s family and working hars in keeping with one’s abilities are important Canadian values. (Exact words!).
    3. Serving on a jury
    4. Voting in elections
    5. Helping others in the community (referring to volunteering)
    6. Protecting and enjoying our heritage and environment

    The above is a slightly different type of discussion than what I gave for the SA perspective, as it is what the Governments want new citizes to learn. In that respect it is quite insightful in a different way.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    As to the Canadian system, I have my Citizenship Study Guide in front of me:
    It highlights the sources of Canadian law as English Comon Law, the civil code of France, and the unwritten inherited British Constitution. It begings at the Magna Carta, and then specifcally highlights the following freedoms:

    Freedom of Consciense and Religion.
    Freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of speech and the press;
    Freedom of peaceful assembly; and
    Freedom of association.

    It then goes on to quote the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which starts with the following preamble:

    “Whereas Canada is founded upon principles that recognize the supremacy of God and the rule of law”

    In the words of the Citizenship Guide, the Charter attempts to summarize fundamental freedoms while setting out additional rights. the most important of these are:
    -Mobility rigths (the right to live and work anywhere, enter and leave the country freely, apple for a passport etc)
    -Aboriginal People’s Rights (The rights guarenteed in the Charter will not adversely affect any treaty or other rights or freedomd of Aboriginal peoples)
    -Official languages and Minority Language Educational Rights (French and English have equal status in parliament and throughout government)
    -Multiculturalism – Respect is important here.

    Interestingly enough though, although the following are not listed in the Charter of course, they are listed right next to the preceding discussion in the Citzenship Guide:

    -Equality of Men and Women – with reference to sposal abouse, honour killings, female genital mutilation etc.
    -Citizenship Responsibilities:
    1. Obeying the law
    2. Taking Responsibility for oneself and for one’s famile – getting a job, taking care of one’s family and working hars in keeping with one’s abilities are important Canadian values. (Exact words!).
    3. Serving on a jury
    4. Voting in elections
    5. Helping others in the community (referring to volunteering)
    6. Protecting and enjoying our heritage and environment

    The above is a slightly different type of discussion than what I gave for the SA perspective, as it is what the Governments want new citizes to learn. In that respect it is quite insightful in a different way.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    J Dean – and the Eighteenth Century Constitution was Christian-based ?

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    J Dean – and the Eighteenth Century Constitution was Christian-based ?

  • MarkB

    Interesting comments Klasie. From what I have studied, which is not a whole lot, Roman Dutch law is very rigid on paper, but very flexible in application. An example of this would be the application of euthanasia in Holland. It is officially against the law, but is allowed if not encourage by looking the other way as it occurs.

    On the South African Constitution, it appears to me at first glance that it contains so many elements and nuances that it could easily go one way or another and would create a system of justice that would “flex” with the times. Would that be true Klasie?

  • MarkB

    Interesting comments Klasie. From what I have studied, which is not a whole lot, Roman Dutch law is very rigid on paper, but very flexible in application. An example of this would be the application of euthanasia in Holland. It is officially against the law, but is allowed if not encourage by looking the other way as it occurs.

    On the South African Constitution, it appears to me at first glance that it contains so many elements and nuances that it could easily go one way or another and would create a system of justice that would “flex” with the times. Would that be true Klasie?

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    MarkB – yes. And I think that is intentional. As you can see from the quotes above, SA law is intentionally left with as little codification as possible – and that seems to be a deliberate philosophical approach. I happen to like it quite lot. a friend of mine, a Canadian laywer and ex-politician, with whom i discussed this, also seemd to see a lot of merits in this. Over-codification is a horrible thing, and it produces a plethora of laws that can be used, amongst others, to persue the innocent. But not minimal codification leaves a lot up to a very educated and experienced judiciary, that has to be independant. And wise, I might add. No “Judge Judy’s” in the SA system! ;)

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    MarkB – yes. And I think that is intentional. As you can see from the quotes above, SA law is intentionally left with as little codification as possible – and that seems to be a deliberate philosophical approach. I happen to like it quite lot. a friend of mine, a Canadian laywer and ex-politician, with whom i discussed this, also seemd to see a lot of merits in this. Over-codification is a horrible thing, and it produces a plethora of laws that can be used, amongst others, to persue the innocent. But not minimal codification leaves a lot up to a very educated and experienced judiciary, that has to be independant. And wise, I might add. No “Judge Judy’s” in the SA system! ;)

  • http://www.matthewcochran.net/blog Matt Cochran

    Well, the article seems to equivocate “obsolete” with “not serving the progressive cause.” Nevertheless, there are more legitimate areas where the Constitution is obsolete.

    It’s handling of religion is, I think, a prime example. Freedom of religion is great when you mainly have a bunch of competing Christian denominations. There’s enough common ground that a limited government has little problem remaining denominationally neutral and ensuring the freedom of those denominations to practice what they preach.

    This mostly worked fine with respect to denominational plurality, but is inadequate for the religious plurality we have today–especially when the government does so much more. With so many different religions and ideological belief systems that don’t call themselves religions competing over government services, it’s inevitable that there would be irreconcilable differences (see the recent fight over birth control). There’s no way the government can simply stay out of it.

    While denominational neutrality is possible, religious neutrality is not. Anyone’s reasons for being neutral and their idea of what neutrality looks like is going to be influenced by whatever they find most important–by their god. Even if government chooses to refrain from a particular action, it still does so on behalf of some belief system or another. The political fights over prayer/sex-ed/evolution/etc in school, abortion & birth control funding, and so forth are so bitter because there really is no fair way to resolve them under the current system.

  • http://www.matthewcochran.net/blog Matt Cochran

    Well, the article seems to equivocate “obsolete” with “not serving the progressive cause.” Nevertheless, there are more legitimate areas where the Constitution is obsolete.

    It’s handling of religion is, I think, a prime example. Freedom of religion is great when you mainly have a bunch of competing Christian denominations. There’s enough common ground that a limited government has little problem remaining denominationally neutral and ensuring the freedom of those denominations to practice what they preach.

    This mostly worked fine with respect to denominational plurality, but is inadequate for the religious plurality we have today–especially when the government does so much more. With so many different religions and ideological belief systems that don’t call themselves religions competing over government services, it’s inevitable that there would be irreconcilable differences (see the recent fight over birth control). There’s no way the government can simply stay out of it.

    While denominational neutrality is possible, religious neutrality is not. Anyone’s reasons for being neutral and their idea of what neutrality looks like is going to be influenced by whatever they find most important–by their god. Even if government chooses to refrain from a particular action, it still does so on behalf of some belief system or another. The political fights over prayer/sex-ed/evolution/etc in school, abortion & birth control funding, and so forth are so bitter because there really is no fair way to resolve them under the current system.

  • Cincinnatus

    Is the Constitution obsolete? Effectively, yes: almost none of its clauses are any longer applied literally or meaningfully.

    But I don’t really see the point of this article. It seems to be making two claims:

    1. Our Constitution is atypical in the democratized world. So?

    2. Our Constitution is seldom copied by other countries. So?

    Seriously, so what? The author leaves his intended conclusions implicit. Is he assuming that, obviously, these two claims mean that we need to write a new Constitution? Why?

  • Cincinnatus

    Is the Constitution obsolete? Effectively, yes: almost none of its clauses are any longer applied literally or meaningfully.

    But I don’t really see the point of this article. It seems to be making two claims:

    1. Our Constitution is atypical in the democratized world. So?

    2. Our Constitution is seldom copied by other countries. So?

    Seriously, so what? The author leaves his intended conclusions implicit. Is he assuming that, obviously, these two claims mean that we need to write a new Constitution? Why?

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Cincinnatus – Is what you are trying to say that the author makes the right point, but with the wrong examples?

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Cincinnatus – Is what you are trying to say that the author makes the right point, but with the wrong examples?

  • Cincinnatus

    Klasie:

    No. I’m saying that the author makes no explicit point, but his implicit point is normatively problematic. Personally, I am not in favor of rewriting the Constitution (unless said rewriting includes removing the “necessary and proper” and “commerce” clauses). But if we are planning to rewrite the Constitution, the fact that the world no longer seeks to imitate it on a wide scale is a piss-poor justification for doing so.

    Scalia’s point at the end of the excerpt is well-taken, however: as we Americans have ourselves found out, a parchment Constitution is only as good as the people entrusted to enforce it.

  • Cincinnatus

    Klasie:

    No. I’m saying that the author makes no explicit point, but his implicit point is normatively problematic. Personally, I am not in favor of rewriting the Constitution (unless said rewriting includes removing the “necessary and proper” and “commerce” clauses). But if we are planning to rewrite the Constitution, the fact that the world no longer seeks to imitate it on a wide scale is a piss-poor justification for doing so.

    Scalia’s point at the end of the excerpt is well-taken, however: as we Americans have ourselves found out, a parchment Constitution is only as good as the people entrusted to enforce it.

  • Carl Vehse

    The cartoon of Michael Ramirez puts the issue into better perspective.

    LMMV (Leftist mileage may vary).

  • Carl Vehse

    The cartoon of Michael Ramirez puts the issue into better perspective.

    LMMV (Leftist mileage may vary).

  • Tom Hering

    If there’s nothing good on TV this weekend (and even if there is):

    http://conconcon.org/archive.php

  • Tom Hering

    If there’s nothing good on TV this weekend (and even if there is):

    http://conconcon.org/archive.php

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Cincinnatus – I see. I agree though – if you want to make a case for upgrading it, it should be based on meeting the needs of the people it is supposed to serve, not on being “cutting edge”. Bad argument.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Cincinnatus – I see. I agree though – if you want to make a case for upgrading it, it should be based on meeting the needs of the people it is supposed to serve, not on being “cutting edge”. Bad argument.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Cincinnatus – though here’s a question for you, as a historian: How much does/did the US Constitution foster the development of the current legal culture/climate in the US. IE, how much of the current mess (let’s presume it is a mess, as many wants us to believe) is the fault of the culture engendered by the founding document. If it is only partly, or not all at fault, which factors did lead to the current situation?

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Cincinnatus – though here’s a question for you, as a historian: How much does/did the US Constitution foster the development of the current legal culture/climate in the US. IE, how much of the current mess (let’s presume it is a mess, as many wants us to believe) is the fault of the culture engendered by the founding document. If it is only partly, or not all at fault, which factors did lead to the current situation?

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

    > The Canadian Charter is both more expansive and less absolute. It
    > guarantees equal rights for women and disabled people …

    As if the US Constitution doesn’t. Sheesh.

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

    > The Canadian Charter is both more expansive and less absolute. It
    > guarantees equal rights for women and disabled people …

    As if the US Constitution doesn’t. Sheesh.

  • George

    Strangely, I would disagree with the entire premise of our Constitution not protecting the various “rights” because believe themselves to possess. In fact, the US constitution protects more rights than any other constitution in the world, for a very simple reason: the US constitution is the only document extant that truly professes the existence of “rights” in its original political meaning, that is, certain natural and ultimate moral propositions knowable through their universal acceptance by all people at all times. Other constitutions do not profess that rights actually exist, for they make no reference of a divine order which all laws must be held in relation to. What they call rights are not rights at all, but customary entitlements peculiar to their people. The fact that they can so easily dissolve their constitutions and add new rights testifies to the fact that they believe their “rights” not to be anything absolutely true and “natural,” but rather expressions of their common will, which is to say, they are nothing but customs.

    This is how the US Constitution exceeds all the other constitutions of the world, in my opinion: by taking away to some extent the ultimate power to legislate from ambitious men and desirous crowds, and laying it upon the eternal moral order.

  • George

    Strangely, I would disagree with the entire premise of our Constitution not protecting the various “rights” because believe themselves to possess. In fact, the US constitution protects more rights than any other constitution in the world, for a very simple reason: the US constitution is the only document extant that truly professes the existence of “rights” in its original political meaning, that is, certain natural and ultimate moral propositions knowable through their universal acceptance by all people at all times. Other constitutions do not profess that rights actually exist, for they make no reference of a divine order which all laws must be held in relation to. What they call rights are not rights at all, but customary entitlements peculiar to their people. The fact that they can so easily dissolve their constitutions and add new rights testifies to the fact that they believe their “rights” not to be anything absolutely true and “natural,” but rather expressions of their common will, which is to say, they are nothing but customs.

    This is how the US Constitution exceeds all the other constitutions of the world, in my opinion: by taking away to some extent the ultimate power to legislate from ambitious men and desirous crowds, and laying it upon the eternal moral order.

  • Cincinnatus

    I disagree strenuougly, George. All rights are but customary peculiarities of a specific people. As Bentham said (and as I often repeat, along with Alasdair MacIntyre), natural rights are “nonsense upon stilts.” Think about it: a right only “exists” if it is recognized and protected by an organized entity–the State or some other protective institution, or simply the good will of your neighbors. For example, if a government (or community) doesn’t recognize free speech and doesn’t protect it, then you don’t have it. Appealing to the notion of “natural” or “divine” rights was a useful rubric at the time of the Revolution for some purposes and for some thinkers. But it ultimately breaks down in practice.

    And, in fact, most of the Founders recognized this fact: with the notable exception of Jefferson and radicals like Thomas Paine, the Founders appealed not to “natural” or “God-given” rights, but to the rights of Englishmen. They were fighting to retain the rights to which, through a long historical and constitutional development, Englishmen qua Englishmen, not qua human beings, were entitled. English common law recognized most of the rights enumerated explicitly in the Constitution (we added a few through practice after having resided on a new continent for two centuries–e.g., “state’s rights”), but the theory was that England was abrogating English rights, not human rights–a delusional concept not fully articulated until some decades later.

    The entire notion of rights is predicated upon national and local institutions. Human rights are rooted in an imperial extension of these notions to the entire world, a universalizing cosmopolitanism that, in my opinion, does more harm than good, not least because it is founded on a chimera.

  • Cincinnatus

    I disagree strenuougly, George. All rights are but customary peculiarities of a specific people. As Bentham said (and as I often repeat, along with Alasdair MacIntyre), natural rights are “nonsense upon stilts.” Think about it: a right only “exists” if it is recognized and protected by an organized entity–the State or some other protective institution, or simply the good will of your neighbors. For example, if a government (or community) doesn’t recognize free speech and doesn’t protect it, then you don’t have it. Appealing to the notion of “natural” or “divine” rights was a useful rubric at the time of the Revolution for some purposes and for some thinkers. But it ultimately breaks down in practice.

    And, in fact, most of the Founders recognized this fact: with the notable exception of Jefferson and radicals like Thomas Paine, the Founders appealed not to “natural” or “God-given” rights, but to the rights of Englishmen. They were fighting to retain the rights to which, through a long historical and constitutional development, Englishmen qua Englishmen, not qua human beings, were entitled. English common law recognized most of the rights enumerated explicitly in the Constitution (we added a few through practice after having resided on a new continent for two centuries–e.g., “state’s rights”), but the theory was that England was abrogating English rights, not human rights–a delusional concept not fully articulated until some decades later.

    The entire notion of rights is predicated upon national and local institutions. Human rights are rooted in an imperial extension of these notions to the entire world, a universalizing cosmopolitanism that, in my opinion, does more harm than good, not least because it is founded on a chimera.

  • Cincinnatus

    Addendum: George, if you believe what you said, then you’re also a hardcore historical progressive, for these human rights–the very idea of natural human rights–is only about two centuries old. Was everyone else everywhere else for the previous umpteen centuries languishing in slavery and darkness until the American Constitution came along? I think not. This is one point on which Marx was correct: rights are purely constructs (usually of the State), which means they can be both good (we like rights) and dangerous (they legitimize a powerful state, and a state empowered to protect rights can often destroy them as well).

  • Cincinnatus

    Addendum: George, if you believe what you said, then you’re also a hardcore historical progressive, for these human rights–the very idea of natural human rights–is only about two centuries old. Was everyone else everywhere else for the previous umpteen centuries languishing in slavery and darkness until the American Constitution came along? I think not. This is one point on which Marx was correct: rights are purely constructs (usually of the State), which means they can be both good (we like rights) and dangerous (they legitimize a powerful state, and a state empowered to protect rights can often destroy them as well).

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    What Cincinnatus said in response to George is quite important here. It distinguishes the realisitc approach to law-making and history from the mythological. (“nonsense on stilts” – I like that!). Don’t forget that the US Constitution as well as the Canadian descend from the Magna Carta.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    What Cincinnatus said in response to George is quite important here. It distinguishes the realisitc approach to law-making and history from the mythological. (“nonsense on stilts” – I like that!). Don’t forget that the US Constitution as well as the Canadian descend from the Magna Carta.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “For example, the right for a child to have an education,”

    “I won’t even get into the rights that liberals believe we have, such as health care, reproductive rights,”

    Those can’t be rights because someone else must provide those.

    In order for those to be rights, those who provide them or pay to provide them are effectively a slave class.

    If I am required by law to perform work for you, I am your slave.

    If I must work to pay for you to have goods and services, I am a serf.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “For example, the right for a child to have an education,”

    “I won’t even get into the rights that liberals believe we have, such as health care, reproductive rights,”

    Those can’t be rights because someone else must provide those.

    In order for those to be rights, those who provide them or pay to provide them are effectively a slave class.

    If I am required by law to perform work for you, I am your slave.

    If I must work to pay for you to have goods and services, I am a serf.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “Was everyone else everywhere else for the previous umpteen centuries languishing in slavery and darkness until the American Constitution came along?”

    Actually, you can make a case for that.

    Societies are hierarchies. Slaves at the bottom.

    However, I tend to agree with your argument.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “Was everyone else everywhere else for the previous umpteen centuries languishing in slavery and darkness until the American Constitution came along?”

    Actually, you can make a case for that.

    Societies are hierarchies. Slaves at the bottom.

    However, I tend to agree with your argument.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    SG @ 24: humph. US constitution certainly did not even free the slaves of those who wrote it.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    SG @ 24: humph. US constitution certainly did not even free the slaves of those who wrote it.

  • Cincinnatus

    sg: Theoretically, Aristotle was correct. Any flourishing society needs a slave class. Ours just so happens to be mostly out of sight (offshore industrial servitude) or, as the case may be, in our own communities (there’s a reason we haven’t taken strenuous efforts to eliminate illegal immigration).

    But this is beside the point. Obviously, the race-based slavery common in the West prior to 1865 was pernicious, by contemporary standards at least (I try to avoid judging past societies by modern standards; many actually believed that blacks were an inferior or fundamentally different race, including Lincoln himself). But no Constitution or declaration of rights will ever eliminate slavery in general.

  • Cincinnatus

    sg: Theoretically, Aristotle was correct. Any flourishing society needs a slave class. Ours just so happens to be mostly out of sight (offshore industrial servitude) or, as the case may be, in our own communities (there’s a reason we haven’t taken strenuous efforts to eliminate illegal immigration).

    But this is beside the point. Obviously, the race-based slavery common in the West prior to 1865 was pernicious, by contemporary standards at least (I try to avoid judging past societies by modern standards; many actually believed that blacks were an inferior or fundamentally different race, including Lincoln himself). But no Constitution or declaration of rights will ever eliminate slavery in general.

  • kerner

    Actually, both English and American law (and I presume Canadian, since its roots are English) contain the concept of “law” (the more rigid, codified concept) and “equity” (the more flexible concept based on principles of fairness). South African law sounds like it leans more heavily on equitable principles than legal ones.

    I’m not sure what Klasie means by the distinction between “public law” and “private law”. To me, “public law” means something like criminal law, in which the society itself is one of the parties (i.e. the State, or the “people” vs. the defendant) whereas a “private” action is a dispute between individuals (Smith vs. Jones) inwhich the plaintiff claims he was personally injured by the defendant. Is that what Africans mean?

    Also, while I can appreciate a system (equity) that avoids rigid rules and rather relies more on equitable considerations and guidelines, there is one glaring problem with over reliance on undefined principles. People have a right to know, in advance, what the law forbids or allows, so they can act accordingly. To say to citizens, “You must obey the law, but we won’t tell you what the particulars are…until we think you’ve broken the law…THEN, we’ll let you know where you went wrong based on our collective wisdom (and hindsight).” puts a pretty heavy burden on people. This is not to say that the US hasn’t gone too far in the direction of overregulation, but there needs to be a balance, don’t you think?

  • kerner

    Actually, both English and American law (and I presume Canadian, since its roots are English) contain the concept of “law” (the more rigid, codified concept) and “equity” (the more flexible concept based on principles of fairness). South African law sounds like it leans more heavily on equitable principles than legal ones.

    I’m not sure what Klasie means by the distinction between “public law” and “private law”. To me, “public law” means something like criminal law, in which the society itself is one of the parties (i.e. the State, or the “people” vs. the defendant) whereas a “private” action is a dispute between individuals (Smith vs. Jones) inwhich the plaintiff claims he was personally injured by the defendant. Is that what Africans mean?

    Also, while I can appreciate a system (equity) that avoids rigid rules and rather relies more on equitable considerations and guidelines, there is one glaring problem with over reliance on undefined principles. People have a right to know, in advance, what the law forbids or allows, so they can act accordingly. To say to citizens, “You must obey the law, but we won’t tell you what the particulars are…until we think you’ve broken the law…THEN, we’ll let you know where you went wrong based on our collective wisdom (and hindsight).” puts a pretty heavy burden on people. This is not to say that the US hasn’t gone too far in the direction of overregulation, but there needs to be a balance, don’t you think?

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

    I have a right to healthcare, for free!

    I have a right to education, for free!

    I have a right to cotton field picking, for free!

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

    I have a right to healthcare, for free!

    I have a right to education, for free!

    I have a right to cotton field picking, for free!

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Good point @ #26, Cincinnatus. You are really on a roll today!

    But, I would add, the “offshore slave class” of today is quite likely to be the Middle class of tomorrow (that is already happening – some estimates see 2 billion middle class consumers in China and India before mid-century alone – .http://www.forbes.com/sites/kenrapoza/2011/09/05/within-a-generation-china-middle-class-four-times-larger-than-americas/) Sooner or later we are going to run out of “slave classes”, aren’t we? What then? Robotic slaves?

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Good point @ #26, Cincinnatus. You are really on a roll today!

    But, I would add, the “offshore slave class” of today is quite likely to be the Middle class of tomorrow (that is already happening – some estimates see 2 billion middle class consumers in China and India before mid-century alone – .http://www.forbes.com/sites/kenrapoza/2011/09/05/within-a-generation-china-middle-class-four-times-larger-than-americas/) Sooner or later we are going to run out of “slave classes”, aren’t we? What then? Robotic slaves?

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Kerner – the “private law” thing was in the original article I quoted – I guess you are correct in your attribution. As to your later comments – I can see the hand of the laywer ;) – but don’t misunderstand – the balance is different, lying more towards principle thand fine details. I would suggest reading the entire article though (only 20 pages long). Note that it is an outside article looking in in the SA legal system. As a laywer, you might find it interesting.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Kerner – the “private law” thing was in the original article I quoted – I guess you are correct in your attribution. As to your later comments – I can see the hand of the laywer ;) – but don’t misunderstand – the balance is different, lying more towards principle thand fine details. I would suggest reading the entire article though (only 20 pages long). Note that it is an outside article looking in in the SA legal system. As a laywer, you might find it interesting.

  • Cincinnatus

    Klasie:

    It may be that today’s “slaves” will be tomorrow’s middle class, and of course inherent in the Marxist (and even the Schumpeterian) account of capitalism is the thesis that capitalism will eventually run out of resources, including human resources, to exploit and will thus consume itself. (I happen to think this account is correct, by the way.)

    But not everyone can be middle class. For a host of reasons, egalitarianism–of any sort other than, perhaps, equality before the law–is impossible, both practically and theoretically. Theoretically, because people simply aren’t equal by any meaningful metric–intellectually, morally, physically, whatever–and we can’t make them so. The idea that we can is the chief delusion of the modern project. Practically, because, quite simply, we’ll always need a slave class: someone needs to clean the toilets, pick the lettuce, sort the garbage, butcher the meat. And due to my theoretical claim, some people are not fit for anything “more” than these sorts of tasks.

    But what happens if everyone becomes the middle class? Well, I, for one, don’t think this is actually likely, but is rather yet another progressive delusion. But if it does happen, and the paradise of robots envisioned by many futurists is actually created, then what? Marx envisions an epoch of universal leisure, in which all of us exist in a State-less and enlightened harmony, free from the bonds of labor. This is preposterous. Or it not impossible, it would be disastrous. What are people to do once there is no work for a slave class? Slaughter one another in the streets, I suspect.

  • Cincinnatus

    Klasie:

    It may be that today’s “slaves” will be tomorrow’s middle class, and of course inherent in the Marxist (and even the Schumpeterian) account of capitalism is the thesis that capitalism will eventually run out of resources, including human resources, to exploit and will thus consume itself. (I happen to think this account is correct, by the way.)

    But not everyone can be middle class. For a host of reasons, egalitarianism–of any sort other than, perhaps, equality before the law–is impossible, both practically and theoretically. Theoretically, because people simply aren’t equal by any meaningful metric–intellectually, morally, physically, whatever–and we can’t make them so. The idea that we can is the chief delusion of the modern project. Practically, because, quite simply, we’ll always need a slave class: someone needs to clean the toilets, pick the lettuce, sort the garbage, butcher the meat. And due to my theoretical claim, some people are not fit for anything “more” than these sorts of tasks.

    But what happens if everyone becomes the middle class? Well, I, for one, don’t think this is actually likely, but is rather yet another progressive delusion. But if it does happen, and the paradise of robots envisioned by many futurists is actually created, then what? Marx envisions an epoch of universal leisure, in which all of us exist in a State-less and enlightened harmony, free from the bonds of labor. This is preposterous. Or it not impossible, it would be disastrous. What are people to do once there is no work for a slave class? Slaughter one another in the streets, I suspect.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “SG @ 24: humph. US constitution certainly did not even free the slaves of those who wrote it.”

    That’s it? That’s all you got?

    Anyway, slavery was legal in England and the British Empire at the time of the US Constitution. Maybe it goes to that rights as Englishmen thing.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “SG @ 24: humph. US constitution certainly did not even free the slaves of those who wrote it.”

    That’s it? That’s all you got?

    Anyway, slavery was legal in England and the British Empire at the time of the US Constitution. Maybe it goes to that rights as Englishmen thing.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    sg – sure. I was going along with Cincinnatus’ historical realism theme. And I think “all I got” was a pretty big deal for those enslaved….

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    sg – sure. I was going along with Cincinnatus’ historical realism theme. And I think “all I got” was a pretty big deal for those enslaved….

  • mikeb

    The US Constitution is not a list of enumerated rights or freedoms that people are free enjoy. It’s primary purpose is as the instrument of government and to restrict the power of the government it sets up, hence “Congress shall make no law…” etc. No document could possibly contain and define every right or freedom and if it did what would it be worth if the power of the State was not constrained?

  • mikeb

    The US Constitution is not a list of enumerated rights or freedoms that people are free enjoy. It’s primary purpose is as the instrument of government and to restrict the power of the government it sets up, hence “Congress shall make no law…” etc. No document could possibly contain and define every right or freedom and if it did what would it be worth if the power of the State was not constrained?

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    The other option Cincinnatus, and this Marx doesn’t recognise, is that slave, lower, middle and upper are all relative terms. We were talking about it just the other day, weren’t we? Going to the poor house in an automobile? The average middle class person today is faboulously rich in most comparisons to wealthy people from most periods in the past, with the exception of his land holdings. But he is, well, average compared to his fellow human being. You see were I’m going with this.

    A completely different matter to consider is that we have elimaited a vast number of “low-paying, slave labour jobs” with technology. The main reason why the other low-paying, slave labour jobs are still there has less to do with technology and more to do with economy -it is simply cheaper to employ the lowly-paid labourer, than build the machine. This will not necessarily be the case always.

    But we are getting sidetrack from some really interesting legal discussions…

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    The other option Cincinnatus, and this Marx doesn’t recognise, is that slave, lower, middle and upper are all relative terms. We were talking about it just the other day, weren’t we? Going to the poor house in an automobile? The average middle class person today is faboulously rich in most comparisons to wealthy people from most periods in the past, with the exception of his land holdings. But he is, well, average compared to his fellow human being. You see were I’m going with this.

    A completely different matter to consider is that we have elimaited a vast number of “low-paying, slave labour jobs” with technology. The main reason why the other low-paying, slave labour jobs are still there has less to do with technology and more to do with economy -it is simply cheaper to employ the lowly-paid labourer, than build the machine. This will not necessarily be the case always.

    But we are getting sidetrack from some really interesting legal discussions…

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “Robotic slaves?”

    I don’t think this is absolutely unworkable. We are already doing it. I have automated trash collection. I mean one of the arguments made against slavery is that is stifled labor saving innovation.

    Further, cleaning toilets now is nowhere near as bad as it was 100 or 200 years ago. I clean mine. No biggie. It certainly doesn’t lower my social status or standard of living.

    Also, I just don’t think most people are disposed to slaughtering one another in the streets for no reason (some are, of course). They are more into status, possessions, de facto harems, etc.

    Also, the fact that the US once had a large middle class shows that it is possible to have a really large % of people in the middle class. And robots do increase productivity to the level necessary for a middle class standard of living.

    I would agree with Cin, but I would count myself more optimistic. Basically, we can do better, but we (both left and right) need to give up some of our false premises.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “Robotic slaves?”

    I don’t think this is absolutely unworkable. We are already doing it. I have automated trash collection. I mean one of the arguments made against slavery is that is stifled labor saving innovation.

    Further, cleaning toilets now is nowhere near as bad as it was 100 or 200 years ago. I clean mine. No biggie. It certainly doesn’t lower my social status or standard of living.

    Also, I just don’t think most people are disposed to slaughtering one another in the streets for no reason (some are, of course). They are more into status, possessions, de facto harems, etc.

    Also, the fact that the US once had a large middle class shows that it is possible to have a really large % of people in the middle class. And robots do increase productivity to the level necessary for a middle class standard of living.

    I would agree with Cin, but I would count myself more optimistic. Basically, we can do better, but we (both left and right) need to give up some of our false premises.

  • Cincinnatus

    Klasie@35:

    Good points. I will say this: one reason robot utopia seems implausible is that there are many tasks that simply can’t be performed by anything other than a prudential human being. Perhaps I suffer from a lack of imagination, but I simply cannot conceive of robots capable of working as auto mechanics, plumbers, electricians, or even competent janitors (“roombas” notwithstanding). Not that all these jobs are “slave labor,” but you see my point.

    Anyway, back to constitutionalism:

    Mikeb@34 is correct: the Constitution isn’t primarily an enumeration of rights, and was originally not intended to include a Bill of Rights at all, as I’m sure most of you recall. Even as it is, the BoR recognizes that it is not exhaustive; hence the 9th and 10th Amendments. In fact, I sympathize with many early critics of the Constitution and BoR who worried that a BoR would in fact increase government power to encroach on personal liberties by being interpreted as an exclusive list–the government is only obliged to protect these rights and no others–rather than a “sampling” of particularly important rights. To repeat one prominent critic–and I paraphrase–for every right you can think of to enumerate explicitly, I can think of dozens of others that any nation in the Anglo-American tradition should acknowledge: I have the right to wear a hat, to eat whatever I want for breakfast in the morning, to hang family photos on my wall, etc.

    Despite the bulk of constitutional law since 1950ish, the primary purpose of the Constitution is not to provide a framework for “rights,” whatever they may be. Again, rights are always embedded in practice, not divine writ or, as the case may be, the writ of the Constitutional Convention.

  • Cincinnatus

    Klasie@35:

    Good points. I will say this: one reason robot utopia seems implausible is that there are many tasks that simply can’t be performed by anything other than a prudential human being. Perhaps I suffer from a lack of imagination, but I simply cannot conceive of robots capable of working as auto mechanics, plumbers, electricians, or even competent janitors (“roombas” notwithstanding). Not that all these jobs are “slave labor,” but you see my point.

    Anyway, back to constitutionalism:

    Mikeb@34 is correct: the Constitution isn’t primarily an enumeration of rights, and was originally not intended to include a Bill of Rights at all, as I’m sure most of you recall. Even as it is, the BoR recognizes that it is not exhaustive; hence the 9th and 10th Amendments. In fact, I sympathize with many early critics of the Constitution and BoR who worried that a BoR would in fact increase government power to encroach on personal liberties by being interpreted as an exclusive list–the government is only obliged to protect these rights and no others–rather than a “sampling” of particularly important rights. To repeat one prominent critic–and I paraphrase–for every right you can think of to enumerate explicitly, I can think of dozens of others that any nation in the Anglo-American tradition should acknowledge: I have the right to wear a hat, to eat whatever I want for breakfast in the morning, to hang family photos on my wall, etc.

    Despite the bulk of constitutional law since 1950ish, the primary purpose of the Constitution is not to provide a framework for “rights,” whatever they may be. Again, rights are always embedded in practice, not divine writ or, as the case may be, the writ of the Constitutional Convention.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “But we are getting sidetrack from some really interesting legal discussions…”

    But the economic and technological conditions do matter to the laws that you can make. For example, it is possible for us to eliminate the death penalty because we can afford to permanently incarcerate the criminally insane. In the past, that could not be done. The death penalty only feasible action to protect society. Easy stuff that will have to be done by actual people could be reasonably comfortable like data entry. Laws like minimum wage are appropriate to compensate people above the actual value they contribute. Social custom could develop to pay people slightly above the minimum as a way to elevate their status, etc.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “But we are getting sidetrack from some really interesting legal discussions…”

    But the economic and technological conditions do matter to the laws that you can make. For example, it is possible for us to eliminate the death penalty because we can afford to permanently incarcerate the criminally insane. In the past, that could not be done. The death penalty only feasible action to protect society. Easy stuff that will have to be done by actual people could be reasonably comfortable like data entry. Laws like minimum wage are appropriate to compensate people above the actual value they contribute. Social custom could develop to pay people slightly above the minimum as a way to elevate their status, etc.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “I simply cannot conceive of robots capable of working as auto mechanics, plumbers, electricians,”

    Those aren’t low status or low paying jobs. I would guess that much of the pink ghetto could more easily be eliminated by automation than skilled technicians.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “I simply cannot conceive of robots capable of working as auto mechanics, plumbers, electricians,”

    Those aren’t low status or low paying jobs. I would guess that much of the pink ghetto could more easily be eliminated by automation than skilled technicians.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Cincinnatus at #37 – you answered your own objection, really. Not all those jobs are “slave labour” – actually, none of them are. A good plumber / electrician makes an upper-middle class living nowadays. Heck, the guy who cleans my chimney (and writes saftey reports for chimneys) takes regular overseas vacations! I live more furgal than my chimney sweep!!

    No the real “slave labour” are folks in Apple factories, and clothing factories in Bangladesh etc. And they will move up, and I can see them being replaced by machines, not 100%, but to a larger extent, and the ones remaining will need more training, and will essentially become technicians, and middle class (at least lower middle class on 2 incomes), themselves.

    Inevitable? Not necessarily. Possible? Absolutely?

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Cincinnatus at #37 – you answered your own objection, really. Not all those jobs are “slave labour” – actually, none of them are. A good plumber / electrician makes an upper-middle class living nowadays. Heck, the guy who cleans my chimney (and writes saftey reports for chimneys) takes regular overseas vacations! I live more furgal than my chimney sweep!!

    No the real “slave labour” are folks in Apple factories, and clothing factories in Bangladesh etc. And they will move up, and I can see them being replaced by machines, not 100%, but to a larger extent, and the ones remaining will need more training, and will essentially become technicians, and middle class (at least lower middle class on 2 incomes), themselves.

    Inevitable? Not necessarily. Possible? Absolutely?

  • Cincinnatus

    KK: Perhaps so. I’ll return to an earlier objection, then: I think globalized consumer capitalism is ultimately unsustainable. It’s time to ask the normative questions. We don’t have to order our economies this way, and we don’t have to maintain the sort of standard of living that requires Chinese slaves to build iPads and robots to build cars.

  • Cincinnatus

    KK: Perhaps so. I’ll return to an earlier objection, then: I think globalized consumer capitalism is ultimately unsustainable. It’s time to ask the normative questions. We don’t have to order our economies this way, and we don’t have to maintain the sort of standard of living that requires Chinese slaves to build iPads and robots to build cars.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “Heck, the guy who cleans my chimney (and writes saftey reports for chimneys) takes regular overseas vacations! I live more furgal than my chimney sweep!!”

    Well that he should make a good living. He is doing work that has to be done. I think that is the key. Productivity has to be measured by how necessary and helpful the work is. A waitress is very necessary, a paper pusher in HR? arguable. Some automated program written by a competent technician could eliminate that worker.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “Heck, the guy who cleans my chimney (and writes saftey reports for chimneys) takes regular overseas vacations! I live more furgal than my chimney sweep!!”

    Well that he should make a good living. He is doing work that has to be done. I think that is the key. Productivity has to be measured by how necessary and helpful the work is. A waitress is very necessary, a paper pusher in HR? arguable. Some automated program written by a competent technician could eliminate that worker.

  • mikeb

    Klasie @35

    A completely different matter to consider is that we have elimaited a vast number of “low-paying, slave labour jobs” with technology. The main reason why the other low-paying, slave labour jobs are still there has less to do with technology and more to do with economy -it is simply cheaper to employ the lowly-paid labourer, than build the machine. This will not necessarily be the case always.

    This is a little off track but I wanted to point out that there’s a case to be made that as resources are saved through technology, say the elimination of lowly-paid labor through automation, those resources are freed up to be applied elsewhere. Anyway, as I read your post I couldn’t help remember the old joke about Mao going to a construction site and observed that the workers were digging with shovels instead of earth moving equipment. He asked why and was told it provides more jobs. He replied, “Why not use spoons?”

  • mikeb

    Klasie @35

    A completely different matter to consider is that we have elimaited a vast number of “low-paying, slave labour jobs” with technology. The main reason why the other low-paying, slave labour jobs are still there has less to do with technology and more to do with economy -it is simply cheaper to employ the lowly-paid labourer, than build the machine. This will not necessarily be the case always.

    This is a little off track but I wanted to point out that there’s a case to be made that as resources are saved through technology, say the elimination of lowly-paid labor through automation, those resources are freed up to be applied elsewhere. Anyway, as I read your post I couldn’t help remember the old joke about Mao going to a construction site and observed that the workers were digging with shovels instead of earth moving equipment. He asked why and was told it provides more jobs. He replied, “Why not use spoons?”

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    @ 41

    Consider the affect of marketing. When the media and marketers constantly push discontent, it affects perception. The culture of critique is just freaking tiresome. If our arts and entertainment were more uplifting, I think it could really improve people’s attitude. Gangsta rap? Ugh, soul sucking. The Supremes? delightful.
    Less dark side, please.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    @ 41

    Consider the affect of marketing. When the media and marketers constantly push discontent, it affects perception. The culture of critique is just freaking tiresome. If our arts and entertainment were more uplifting, I think it could really improve people’s attitude. Gangsta rap? Ugh, soul sucking. The Supremes? delightful.
    Less dark side, please.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    SG @ 42: As long-suffering scientist/geek, your last sentence brings me enormous pleasure :) :)

    Cincinnatus – it depends on how we define consumerism. I would say the short consumer cylcle, and the disposable (read – designed obsolescence) nature of hardware is a problem. Not the concept of “consumerism” per se, which is but trade as we humans have practiced it since neolithic times, accelarated and renamed.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    SG @ 42: As long-suffering scientist/geek, your last sentence brings me enormous pleasure :) :)

    Cincinnatus – it depends on how we define consumerism. I would say the short consumer cylcle, and the disposable (read – designed obsolescence) nature of hardware is a problem. Not the concept of “consumerism” per se, which is but trade as we humans have practiced it since neolithic times, accelarated and renamed.

  • George

    Dear Cincinnatus,

    Concerning my alleged historical progessivism: I do not think it wise for you to make such an accusation, for the concept of a natural or absolute law is quite ancient. Your own fellow Roman, Cicero, in fact, expounded upon the precise idea I set forth, in his De Legibus, wherein he describes the relation between the natural laws which are given by the gods and carved into reality, and the laws of the people, which express the custom of the people. He would argue that these “customs” are only laws insofar as they are reflective of the divine, natural law. It is my opinion that Cicero was born before the advent of the 18th century, but if you do not accept the antiquity of this agent, I might also refer to Plato, who, in his Republic, argues for a natural absolute law in the form of the “form” of justice; that anything is only just insofar as it conforms to this ultimate, perfect real.

    I would argue that the idea of a natural law has a ancient and distinguished heritage, for it is found professed as early as Socrates and Plato, through Cicero and Caesar, past Isidore and Augustine, beyond Aquinas and Luther, and at least until Locke and the Founding Fathers. Neither is the concept to be limited to western culture, for the Taoism and Confucianism both profess a version of natural law, which the one terms “the way” which is innate in nature, and the other “righteousness” which is expressed in nature and taught by ritual. Nearly all east Asian cultures historically spoke of “the will of heaven,” which is an ultimate law, that all, even the emperors of China, were bound to live by. Furthermore, it can be found that even among common people, that is, outside of thinkers, the idea of a common, universal law prevails, for everywhere, from Caesar’s Gallic Wars to the Song of Roland, negotiations between disparate cultures can be seen to exist not on the basis of shared custom, but on the basis of a common justice which all people recognized. In addition, all major world religions profess an ultimate law, be it Christianity, Islam, Shinto, or Buddhism; and so these ideas were not only held by certain magnates and philosophers, but also by billions of faithful common people. It is my contention that these religions also precede the 18th century.

    I would argue that, in reality, the concept that there is no “divine law” in the broad sense, but only custom, is rather a very modern idea, professed historically only be disparate skeptics and hedonists (such as Lucretius) until it found a home in the anti-clerical spirits of the 19th century philosophes. The fact that you reference Bentham and Marx as proofs of your point is evidence of this, for, as far as I have understood it, both Bentham and Marx lived a bit after Cicero, and were by no means guardians of the “ancient wisdom.” Rather, they were quite the opposite, hammers to break apart the past ages, and to replace their superstitions and silly nonsense with reason.

    To note another thing: I never personally said, dear collocutor, that I agree with the reasonableness of the idea of natural rights or natural law, I only said that it is the idea professed (or rather) assumed in the Constitution and Bill of Rights. This, I think, is an obvious position, for it is only to say a historical fact, and not to make a philosophical argument. When I do say that it exceeds other constitutions, it is, as I hope I had made clear, for the practical reason of depriving people of the grounds for ambition by expressly subordinating them to a (superstitious?) divine law. If that was unclear, let it now be clear.

    Now, I do believe that you conflate the historic idea of “natural law” with the modern liberal idea of “human rights.” I in no way defend the latter, for as you say, it is merely a turn of phrase to add esteem to the customs of a peculiar western elite. However this is not to denigrate the idea of a natural justice which exists regardless of whether any institution exists to enforce its exercise. Much of what we call “human rights” would never fulfill the “universality” requirement often exacted by natural law; for if how can there be a “natural right to birth control” if birth control is not at all times and in all places possible? It lacks universality and therefore can not be seen as part of the natural law. I think such reasoning applies to much of what we now refer to as “human rights.”

    So all this being said, the real question is, sir, do you believe in absolute good? or is everything relative, which is to say, nothing is right or wrong, but thinking makes it so? To speak of “natural law” is merely to speak of absolute and self-evident good. We might disagree with this point, I presume, and happily so. But please do not assume you are taking the historical position if you speak in favor of moral nihilism, for that would be a fool thing.

    I pray you will find no offense in this response, but will receive the criticism kindly.

  • George

    Dear Cincinnatus,

    Concerning my alleged historical progessivism: I do not think it wise for you to make such an accusation, for the concept of a natural or absolute law is quite ancient. Your own fellow Roman, Cicero, in fact, expounded upon the precise idea I set forth, in his De Legibus, wherein he describes the relation between the natural laws which are given by the gods and carved into reality, and the laws of the people, which express the custom of the people. He would argue that these “customs” are only laws insofar as they are reflective of the divine, natural law. It is my opinion that Cicero was born before the advent of the 18th century, but if you do not accept the antiquity of this agent, I might also refer to Plato, who, in his Republic, argues for a natural absolute law in the form of the “form” of justice; that anything is only just insofar as it conforms to this ultimate, perfect real.

    I would argue that the idea of a natural law has a ancient and distinguished heritage, for it is found professed as early as Socrates and Plato, through Cicero and Caesar, past Isidore and Augustine, beyond Aquinas and Luther, and at least until Locke and the Founding Fathers. Neither is the concept to be limited to western culture, for the Taoism and Confucianism both profess a version of natural law, which the one terms “the way” which is innate in nature, and the other “righteousness” which is expressed in nature and taught by ritual. Nearly all east Asian cultures historically spoke of “the will of heaven,” which is an ultimate law, that all, even the emperors of China, were bound to live by. Furthermore, it can be found that even among common people, that is, outside of thinkers, the idea of a common, universal law prevails, for everywhere, from Caesar’s Gallic Wars to the Song of Roland, negotiations between disparate cultures can be seen to exist not on the basis of shared custom, but on the basis of a common justice which all people recognized. In addition, all major world religions profess an ultimate law, be it Christianity, Islam, Shinto, or Buddhism; and so these ideas were not only held by certain magnates and philosophers, but also by billions of faithful common people. It is my contention that these religions also precede the 18th century.

    I would argue that, in reality, the concept that there is no “divine law” in the broad sense, but only custom, is rather a very modern idea, professed historically only be disparate skeptics and hedonists (such as Lucretius) until it found a home in the anti-clerical spirits of the 19th century philosophes. The fact that you reference Bentham and Marx as proofs of your point is evidence of this, for, as far as I have understood it, both Bentham and Marx lived a bit after Cicero, and were by no means guardians of the “ancient wisdom.” Rather, they were quite the opposite, hammers to break apart the past ages, and to replace their superstitions and silly nonsense with reason.

    To note another thing: I never personally said, dear collocutor, that I agree with the reasonableness of the idea of natural rights or natural law, I only said that it is the idea professed (or rather) assumed in the Constitution and Bill of Rights. This, I think, is an obvious position, for it is only to say a historical fact, and not to make a philosophical argument. When I do say that it exceeds other constitutions, it is, as I hope I had made clear, for the practical reason of depriving people of the grounds for ambition by expressly subordinating them to a (superstitious?) divine law. If that was unclear, let it now be clear.

    Now, I do believe that you conflate the historic idea of “natural law” with the modern liberal idea of “human rights.” I in no way defend the latter, for as you say, it is merely a turn of phrase to add esteem to the customs of a peculiar western elite. However this is not to denigrate the idea of a natural justice which exists regardless of whether any institution exists to enforce its exercise. Much of what we call “human rights” would never fulfill the “universality” requirement often exacted by natural law; for if how can there be a “natural right to birth control” if birth control is not at all times and in all places possible? It lacks universality and therefore can not be seen as part of the natural law. I think such reasoning applies to much of what we now refer to as “human rights.”

    So all this being said, the real question is, sir, do you believe in absolute good? or is everything relative, which is to say, nothing is right or wrong, but thinking makes it so? To speak of “natural law” is merely to speak of absolute and self-evident good. We might disagree with this point, I presume, and happily so. But please do not assume you are taking the historical position if you speak in favor of moral nihilism, for that would be a fool thing.

    I pray you will find no offense in this response, but will receive the criticism kindly.

  • mikeb

    Klassie @45

    I would say the short consumer cylcle, and the disposable (read – designed obsolescence) nature of hardware is a problem.

    Why?

  • mikeb

    Klassie @45

    I would say the short consumer cylcle, and the disposable (read – designed obsolescence) nature of hardware is a problem.

    Why?

  • DonS

    The bottom line is that the U.S. Constitution has a skeptical view of government and its expansionist, intrusive tendencies. Therefore, the rights it conveys, through the Bill of Rights, are designed to protect the citizens and the states FROM the federal government. As amended by the 14th Amendment, these rights were extended to also protect the citizens from overly instrusive state and local governments.

    For this reason, it would be nonsense for the U.S. Constitution to provide the sorts of “rights” guaranteed by many other constitutions, which are designed to provide rights (benefits) from government rather than to protect freedoms from government intrusion. As SG points out, the only way to guarantee the “right” to free health care is to force someone else to provide it. That is true for any other guaranteed government benefit, since the government is unproductive and has no assets that it hasn’t confiscated from another citizen.

    Sure, Cincinnatus is right, in a cynical sense, when he says that natural or moral rights are “nonsense on stilts”, because if government refuses to enforce them against itself, then you have nothing. But that doesn’t mean you simply toss out the idea and pitch your constitution every 19 years, “updating” it to reflect the latest thinking of the majority of social elites about what government should be and what freedom scraps should be tossed to the citizens. To the contrary, you make sure that the judiciary is doing its job to enforce the enumerated, enduring, natural rights set forth in the Constitution. To do that, you need to vote for presidents who respect the constitution and will appoint judges who value it.

    People, that is the most important factor in choosing a president, but the one most overlooked! We don’t want justices and judges like Ruth Bader Ginsberg, who has no appreciation for the objective Truth of the Universe, or the Creator’s love for each of us as individuals, and instead considers government as the ultimate good.

  • DonS

    The bottom line is that the U.S. Constitution has a skeptical view of government and its expansionist, intrusive tendencies. Therefore, the rights it conveys, through the Bill of Rights, are designed to protect the citizens and the states FROM the federal government. As amended by the 14th Amendment, these rights were extended to also protect the citizens from overly instrusive state and local governments.

    For this reason, it would be nonsense for the U.S. Constitution to provide the sorts of “rights” guaranteed by many other constitutions, which are designed to provide rights (benefits) from government rather than to protect freedoms from government intrusion. As SG points out, the only way to guarantee the “right” to free health care is to force someone else to provide it. That is true for any other guaranteed government benefit, since the government is unproductive and has no assets that it hasn’t confiscated from another citizen.

    Sure, Cincinnatus is right, in a cynical sense, when he says that natural or moral rights are “nonsense on stilts”, because if government refuses to enforce them against itself, then you have nothing. But that doesn’t mean you simply toss out the idea and pitch your constitution every 19 years, “updating” it to reflect the latest thinking of the majority of social elites about what government should be and what freedom scraps should be tossed to the citizens. To the contrary, you make sure that the judiciary is doing its job to enforce the enumerated, enduring, natural rights set forth in the Constitution. To do that, you need to vote for presidents who respect the constitution and will appoint judges who value it.

    People, that is the most important factor in choosing a president, but the one most overlooked! We don’t want justices and judges like Ruth Bader Ginsberg, who has no appreciation for the objective Truth of the Universe, or the Creator’s love for each of us as individuals, and instead considers government as the ultimate good.

  • Jon

    @28 Westfall, you mock the right to healthcare while you, most probably, applaud the right to life. A life without the means to afford healthcare is a damned life indeed.

  • Jon

    @28 Westfall, you mock the right to healthcare while you, most probably, applaud the right to life. A life without the means to afford healthcare is a damned life indeed.

  • Jon

    DonS, the readability of this blog would improve if you’d stop using it as a vomitorium for your cheap rants.

  • Jon

    DonS, the readability of this blog would improve if you’d stop using it as a vomitorium for your cheap rants.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    MikeB @ 47: Short consumer cycle and high rate of disposable goods make for inefficient resource management and exacerbated recycling / waste management problems. If we have a planet of middle class people clamouring for goods, our resources will dwindle much quicker if we keep on with the current high frequency of disposable/planned obsolescence goods (sorry about the awkward phrasing there). The short consumer cylce ties in with this. Those are my main objections here.

    DonS @ 48: Try not to let your natural antipathy of “social elites” shine through every comment – it detracts from an otherwise reasonable argument ;)

    George @ 46 – I’m afraid your argument fails to impress. Because you fail to account for the socio-cultural milieu in which those words were written in the first place. Those same folks would use terms like “Your natural lord” etc. – and this referred as much to custom as anything else. For even common justice arises from convention, and although those might be “natural” in one sense of the word, they are not natural as in granite, but natural as in dependant on the nature which gave birth to them which is, the case of the US constitution, largely the laws and Customs of the English peoples, and the heritage of the Magna Carta.

    Romanticism is fun, but it almost always misses the mark.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    MikeB @ 47: Short consumer cycle and high rate of disposable goods make for inefficient resource management and exacerbated recycling / waste management problems. If we have a planet of middle class people clamouring for goods, our resources will dwindle much quicker if we keep on with the current high frequency of disposable/planned obsolescence goods (sorry about the awkward phrasing there). The short consumer cylce ties in with this. Those are my main objections here.

    DonS @ 48: Try not to let your natural antipathy of “social elites” shine through every comment – it detracts from an otherwise reasonable argument ;)

    George @ 46 – I’m afraid your argument fails to impress. Because you fail to account for the socio-cultural milieu in which those words were written in the first place. Those same folks would use terms like “Your natural lord” etc. – and this referred as much to custom as anything else. For even common justice arises from convention, and although those might be “natural” in one sense of the word, they are not natural as in granite, but natural as in dependant on the nature which gave birth to them which is, the case of the US constitution, largely the laws and Customs of the English peoples, and the heritage of the Magna Carta.

    Romanticism is fun, but it almost always misses the mark.

  • DonS

    Jon @ 50: And that was such a wonderful, uplifting contribution you made as well. You should be proud.

  • DonS

    Jon @ 50: And that was such a wonderful, uplifting contribution you made as well. You should be proud.

  • Cincinnatus

    George,

    An eloquent disquisition. First, I hope you’ll permit me to bracket a discussion of the “absolute good,” a topic on which I do indeed harbor many opinions, but do not wish to discuss at the moment due to its comparative immateriality to any discussion of the U.S. Constitution (the liberal assumptions undergirding which intentionally permit the recognition of a plurality of goods by its people). Second, I am also going to bracket your discussion of the natural law quite simply because the natural law (about which I must confess myself a skeptic) is not synonymous with natural right. Natural law, articulated most explicitly by Cicero, on the pagan side, and Aquinas, on the Christian side, as the term “law” would suggest, has more to do with duties and obligations–to God and to one another–than with entitlements, etc. Natural right was invented almost whole cloth by that near-atheist Thomas Hobbes who believed that each human being has a natural right of self-preservation. This notion was later borrowed and differentiated by the liberal tradition, including John Locke, Thomas Paine, etc. Much later it was imported into and superimposed upon Catholic natural law by the likes of Jacques Maritain, etc., who wanted to bring the Church into the modern age and provide a Catholic-sounding justification for universal justice. I’m not going to repeat or expand upon my argument against natural or human rights in general (there’s no effective difference) except to say that a) a discussion of natural right is distinct from a discussion of natural law and b) one need not subscribe to a Platonic Good to believe in natural rights, and one need not deny a Platonic Good if one also denies natural rights. In any case, we’ll probably have to agree to disagree on this entire question.

    But where we can’t simply amicably part is in your understanding of the Constitution. It is quite simply factually incorrect to claim that the United States Constitution, including the BoR, is premised upon a subscription to the idea of natural rights. That’s just wrong, historically and theoretically. I don’t plan to say much on this score to prove my point–this is a blog after all–but the provisions of the First Amendment, for instance, aren’t premised on the assumption that God has granted us a right to free speech or voluntary assembly; it’s premised upon the idea that these liberties are essential for the sort of liberal, limited republic in the English tradition envisioned by the Founders. A child born in the USSR didn’t have a divinely-given right to free speech that the Soviet government simply failed to recognize; he simply didn’t have that right. There is no Scriptural or “eternal” grounding for practical rights like these. I have no problem with Soviets agitating for free speech, for example, and in such agitations it might be helpful (but, significantly, not necessary) to appeal to an authority beyond the State–even though it is solely the State that enshrines such rights in any meaningful sense–but ultimately such appeals are purely mythical. God has nothing to say about free speech or the right to bear arms. Rights are always embodied, pragmatic, tenuous things. And it is simply historically illiterate to claim that the Bill of Rights was premised upon an abstracted notion of divine or natural rights. Jefferson might have wanted it to be. But he didn’t write it.

  • Cincinnatus

    George,

    An eloquent disquisition. First, I hope you’ll permit me to bracket a discussion of the “absolute good,” a topic on which I do indeed harbor many opinions, but do not wish to discuss at the moment due to its comparative immateriality to any discussion of the U.S. Constitution (the liberal assumptions undergirding which intentionally permit the recognition of a plurality of goods by its people). Second, I am also going to bracket your discussion of the natural law quite simply because the natural law (about which I must confess myself a skeptic) is not synonymous with natural right. Natural law, articulated most explicitly by Cicero, on the pagan side, and Aquinas, on the Christian side, as the term “law” would suggest, has more to do with duties and obligations–to God and to one another–than with entitlements, etc. Natural right was invented almost whole cloth by that near-atheist Thomas Hobbes who believed that each human being has a natural right of self-preservation. This notion was later borrowed and differentiated by the liberal tradition, including John Locke, Thomas Paine, etc. Much later it was imported into and superimposed upon Catholic natural law by the likes of Jacques Maritain, etc., who wanted to bring the Church into the modern age and provide a Catholic-sounding justification for universal justice. I’m not going to repeat or expand upon my argument against natural or human rights in general (there’s no effective difference) except to say that a) a discussion of natural right is distinct from a discussion of natural law and b) one need not subscribe to a Platonic Good to believe in natural rights, and one need not deny a Platonic Good if one also denies natural rights. In any case, we’ll probably have to agree to disagree on this entire question.

    But where we can’t simply amicably part is in your understanding of the Constitution. It is quite simply factually incorrect to claim that the United States Constitution, including the BoR, is premised upon a subscription to the idea of natural rights. That’s just wrong, historically and theoretically. I don’t plan to say much on this score to prove my point–this is a blog after all–but the provisions of the First Amendment, for instance, aren’t premised on the assumption that God has granted us a right to free speech or voluntary assembly; it’s premised upon the idea that these liberties are essential for the sort of liberal, limited republic in the English tradition envisioned by the Founders. A child born in the USSR didn’t have a divinely-given right to free speech that the Soviet government simply failed to recognize; he simply didn’t have that right. There is no Scriptural or “eternal” grounding for practical rights like these. I have no problem with Soviets agitating for free speech, for example, and in such agitations it might be helpful (but, significantly, not necessary) to appeal to an authority beyond the State–even though it is solely the State that enshrines such rights in any meaningful sense–but ultimately such appeals are purely mythical. God has nothing to say about free speech or the right to bear arms. Rights are always embodied, pragmatic, tenuous things. And it is simply historically illiterate to claim that the Bill of Rights was premised upon an abstracted notion of divine or natural rights. Jefferson might have wanted it to be. But he didn’t write it.

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

    Jon @49

    A life without the means to afford food is pretty damned, too.

    Shall we insist on a right to free food, too?
    How about a free car, so I can get work to make the money to afford food and healthcare?

    How about free Bon-Bons, because they make me happy, and I have a right to happiness…?

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

    Jon @49

    A life without the means to afford food is pretty damned, too.

    Shall we insist on a right to free food, too?
    How about a free car, so I can get work to make the money to afford food and healthcare?

    How about free Bon-Bons, because they make me happy, and I have a right to happiness…?

  • Cincinnatus

    George:

    An addendum on the right/law distinction. Rights are things we are deemed to possess: I have a right to speak freely, to worship as I see fit, to wear hats. Others are bound to recognize these rights–not to impinge upon them or limit them inappropriately. I, as the holder of the right, don’t have to do anything except, presumably, not violate the rights of others. Rights are about me, not others; laws are about the others, not me.

    Laws are things we must fulfill. I don’t “have” the natural law, though I can transgress it. Fulfilling the natural law involves normative duties and obligations to which I am bound to conform my actions. For example, Aquinas extracts from his notion of the natural law the idea of the “just price.” The idea of the “just price” doesn’t mean that I have a right to be charged only what is “just” for a particular commodity. Rather, the reverse: it means that, if I am selling a commodity, I am morally obligated to do so for a price that is “just.” In other words, natural rights and natural laws are opposites. Even Thomas Hobbes recognized this: while concocting the idea of natural right, he also composed a list of “natural laws,” first being that all should pursue peace. This is an obligation that requires proactive action on my part. I don’t have peace or a right to it.

    Anyway, I think I was intending to say more on this point, but I forgot what, so I’ll leave it there.

  • Cincinnatus

    George:

    An addendum on the right/law distinction. Rights are things we are deemed to possess: I have a right to speak freely, to worship as I see fit, to wear hats. Others are bound to recognize these rights–not to impinge upon them or limit them inappropriately. I, as the holder of the right, don’t have to do anything except, presumably, not violate the rights of others. Rights are about me, not others; laws are about the others, not me.

    Laws are things we must fulfill. I don’t “have” the natural law, though I can transgress it. Fulfilling the natural law involves normative duties and obligations to which I am bound to conform my actions. For example, Aquinas extracts from his notion of the natural law the idea of the “just price.” The idea of the “just price” doesn’t mean that I have a right to be charged only what is “just” for a particular commodity. Rather, the reverse: it means that, if I am selling a commodity, I am morally obligated to do so for a price that is “just.” In other words, natural rights and natural laws are opposites. Even Thomas Hobbes recognized this: while concocting the idea of natural right, he also composed a list of “natural laws,” first being that all should pursue peace. This is an obligation that requires proactive action on my part. I don’t have peace or a right to it.

    Anyway, I think I was intending to say more on this point, but I forgot what, so I’ll leave it there.

  • formerly just steve

    Jon, #49, I think you make several category errors there. For one thing, you confuse “rights” with “means”. They are not the same thing. Everyone in the West has the right to healthcare as they have the right to conduct any other sort of legal commerce. What you mean is the right to free healthcare.

  • formerly just steve

    Jon, #49, I think you make several category errors there. For one thing, you confuse “rights” with “means”. They are not the same thing. Everyone in the West has the right to healthcare as they have the right to conduct any other sort of legal commerce. What you mean is the right to free healthcare.

  • mikeb

    Klasie @51

    Thanks for clarifying (and I hope everyone forgives our side conversation!). I agree that depletion–I prefer the term efficient use–of scarce resources is an issue to be concerned about. And the need to recycle more and landfill less is indeed one of the most paramount and oft ignored issues of our day. We’ve got to get better at reusing things.

    But I’m not sure I buy the argument that we should make less, or that things she be built to last ‘like the good old days.’ Truth is with each new generation of electronics we find that they do more with and sometimes with less power than old ones. Which is the greater cost, the wasted power and loss of productivity or the effort to design and manufacture the latest and greatest? Doesn’t the market do a better job of answering this question than some bureaucrat?

  • mikeb

    Klasie @51

    Thanks for clarifying (and I hope everyone forgives our side conversation!). I agree that depletion–I prefer the term efficient use–of scarce resources is an issue to be concerned about. And the need to recycle more and landfill less is indeed one of the most paramount and oft ignored issues of our day. We’ve got to get better at reusing things.

    But I’m not sure I buy the argument that we should make less, or that things she be built to last ‘like the good old days.’ Truth is with each new generation of electronics we find that they do more with and sometimes with less power than old ones. Which is the greater cost, the wasted power and loss of productivity or the effort to design and manufacture the latest and greatest? Doesn’t the market do a better job of answering this question than some bureaucrat?

  • mikeb

    Mike Westfall @ 54

    …and the right to the NFL package on DirecTV for free ’cause a life without the means to afford watching every game, every Sunday is pretty damned, too.

  • mikeb

    Mike Westfall @ 54

    …and the right to the NFL package on DirecTV for free ’cause a life without the means to afford watching every game, every Sunday is pretty damned, too.

  • SKPeterson

    What we are dealing with in this thread is the difference between negative and positive rights. To quote from Wiki (problematic, but in this case useful and generally correct):

    Under the theory of positive and negative rights, a negative right is a right not to be subjected to an action of another person or group—a government, for example—usually in the form of abuse or coercion. A positive right is a right to be subjected to an action of another person or group. In theory, a negative right forbids others from acting against the right holder, while a positive right obligates others to act with respect to the right holder. In the framework of the Kantian categorical imperative, negative rights can be associated with perfect duties while positive rights can be connected to imperfect duties.

    For example, Jon @ 49 is asserting a positive right to healthcare, however that right requires that the provision of healthcare be compelled – either by forcing doctors and nurses to provide care, insurance companies to pay for it, and tax payers to subsidize it. The provision of the right entails that the costs of provision be borne by others unequally. That isn’t really a right. Positive rights are legal entitlements or privileges.

    Our Constitution is oriented toward the protection of negative rights, while many other constitutions have provision for positive rights. A problematic issue for sure but I have to say I have the preference for protection of negative rights over positive – provision of positive rights can have too serious an impact on negative rights.

  • SKPeterson

    What we are dealing with in this thread is the difference between negative and positive rights. To quote from Wiki (problematic, but in this case useful and generally correct):

    Under the theory of positive and negative rights, a negative right is a right not to be subjected to an action of another person or group—a government, for example—usually in the form of abuse or coercion. A positive right is a right to be subjected to an action of another person or group. In theory, a negative right forbids others from acting against the right holder, while a positive right obligates others to act with respect to the right holder. In the framework of the Kantian categorical imperative, negative rights can be associated with perfect duties while positive rights can be connected to imperfect duties.

    For example, Jon @ 49 is asserting a positive right to healthcare, however that right requires that the provision of healthcare be compelled – either by forcing doctors and nurses to provide care, insurance companies to pay for it, and tax payers to subsidize it. The provision of the right entails that the costs of provision be borne by others unequally. That isn’t really a right. Positive rights are legal entitlements or privileges.

    Our Constitution is oriented toward the protection of negative rights, while many other constitutions have provision for positive rights. A problematic issue for sure but I have to say I have the preference for protection of negative rights over positive – provision of positive rights can have too serious an impact on negative rights.

  • http://www.oldsolar.com/currentblog.php Rick Ritchie

    Cincinnatus@20
    “A right only ‘exists’ if it is recognized and protected by an organized entity.”

    So you are arguing that slaves had no right to freedom, since only what was legally recognized counts. They were not wronged in any way?

    A right is a just claim or title. A natural right is a just claim to be able to do what we could do if not interfered with. (C.S. Lewis offers “not interfered with” as a key definition of the term natural, common since the Middle Ages.)

    If a right must be successfully protected to exist, then there could be no argument that American rights had been violated at the time preceding the Revolution. But the fact that a right is a claim means that it can exist when violated. In fact, that is when the claim is most often made, either afterwards or in face of a threat of violation.

    The notion of rights is predicated upon the idea that we know how we should be treated, a notion that is not just found in Enlightenment societies, but can be found even in higher species within the animal kingdom. Higher human thought includes such ideas of reciprocity within it. It is silly to argue that all human law is just “customary peculiarities of a specific people.” The earliest legal systems have some degree of abstract justice to them. To argue that these are merely pragmatic arrangements we have stumbled upon over time is, historically, a more novel idea than anything that would have been argued in the Enlightenment. The history of human law has rather been the attempt to remove unwarranted exceptions from our ideas of justice.

    The Magna Carta itself speaks as if it recognizes pre-political rights. The language of freedom and rights is shot through the document. Rights are spoken of as being ancient. The one word that may call this into question is the word “grant,” as in “we have also granted, for us and our heirs for ever, all the liberties written out below.” But this word “grant” does not suggest that the state was giving something it could rightly hold back, for earlier in the document it speaks of what it has “granted to God.” Surely God had pre-political rights in England!

  • http://www.oldsolar.com/currentblog.php Rick Ritchie

    Cincinnatus@20
    “A right only ‘exists’ if it is recognized and protected by an organized entity.”

    So you are arguing that slaves had no right to freedom, since only what was legally recognized counts. They were not wronged in any way?

    A right is a just claim or title. A natural right is a just claim to be able to do what we could do if not interfered with. (C.S. Lewis offers “not interfered with” as a key definition of the term natural, common since the Middle Ages.)

    If a right must be successfully protected to exist, then there could be no argument that American rights had been violated at the time preceding the Revolution. But the fact that a right is a claim means that it can exist when violated. In fact, that is when the claim is most often made, either afterwards or in face of a threat of violation.

    The notion of rights is predicated upon the idea that we know how we should be treated, a notion that is not just found in Enlightenment societies, but can be found even in higher species within the animal kingdom. Higher human thought includes such ideas of reciprocity within it. It is silly to argue that all human law is just “customary peculiarities of a specific people.” The earliest legal systems have some degree of abstract justice to them. To argue that these are merely pragmatic arrangements we have stumbled upon over time is, historically, a more novel idea than anything that would have been argued in the Enlightenment. The history of human law has rather been the attempt to remove unwarranted exceptions from our ideas of justice.

    The Magna Carta itself speaks as if it recognizes pre-political rights. The language of freedom and rights is shot through the document. Rights are spoken of as being ancient. The one word that may call this into question is the word “grant,” as in “we have also granted, for us and our heirs for ever, all the liberties written out below.” But this word “grant” does not suggest that the state was giving something it could rightly hold back, for earlier in the document it speaks of what it has “granted to God.” Surely God had pre-political rights in England!

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “A life without the means to afford healthcare is a damned life indeed.”

    Uh, what? I can’t help but think of the thousands of generations that preceded us. Damned life? Really? Think of poor Euler going blind, or Beethoven going deaf or my poor forbears out on the prairies who had to bury more of their children than most people these days even have. Their lives were damned? No, they were productive and blessed many others. Seriously man, you overstate the case.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “A life without the means to afford healthcare is a damned life indeed.”

    Uh, what? I can’t help but think of the thousands of generations that preceded us. Damned life? Really? Think of poor Euler going blind, or Beethoven going deaf or my poor forbears out on the prairies who had to bury more of their children than most people these days even have. Their lives were damned? No, they were productive and blessed many others. Seriously man, you overstate the case.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    natural antipathy of “social elites”

    he, he,

    that my dear, KK, is the American’s defining characteristic. :D

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    natural antipathy of “social elites”

    he, he,

    that my dear, KK, is the American’s defining characteristic. :D

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Rick – here’s another way of looking at it: Even in Biblical times, slavery was common. So to appeal to the Bible against slavery, simply doesn’t work. Only the mistreatment of slaves is addressed, not slavery itself.

    However, if we view human society as evolving so to speak, notions and cultures change with time, and thus slavery was abandoned, and rightly so. But only by Wilberforce (in Britain, for instance), and not by Spartacus. We are children of our times. Much as we revile the idea.

    Of course, this should not be taken as nod to the idea that we can “outgrow religion” – not at all. Just saying, before someone goes off on some tangent or other.

  • Cincinnatus

    Rick Ritchie@60:

    Let me proceed by responding to each of your paragraphs in order:

    1) The slaves had no “natural” right to freedom–at least not by the standards of the time–regardless of the fire-eating rhetoric of the radical abolitionists. The slaves, if they had a right to freedom, has that right because it was embedded within the traditional framework of practices and constitutional provisions of the American Republic, which practices did not permit of a distinction on the basis of race. One can agree that African-Americans had a right not to be coercively enslaved without acknowledging some mystical notion of “natural” rights.”

    2) I agree that, in a sense, right means a right “not to be interfered with.” However, your medieval etymology, while (probably; I’m not going to bother to do the research) correct, is not the meaning of “natural” assumed in the eighteenth century and earlier by anyone in the liberal tradition–including Hobbes, Locke, Grotius, and the Founders. E.g., Hobbes’s “natural right” of self preservation does not assume the medieval meaning of “natural”; it is the “common sense” meaning: something with which one is born, an affirmative grant of something by virtue of being a human being.

    3) Wrong, a thousand times wrong. A few sentences in the (uncharacteristic) preamble of the Declaration of Independence aside, the American Revolutionaries, almost without exception, appealed to their rights as English citizens–rights that were being abrogated. I said nothing about rights having to be “successfully protected.” I said that rights, to exist, must actually be articulated and recognized within a concrete tradition of institutions and practices. E.g., the colonists believed that they had a right to parliamentary representation before being taxed. This, along with all the other rights to which all but the most radical revolutionaries routinely appealed, was an English right, not a natural right.

    4) I have nothing to say about this paragraph, because it is nothing more than a series of unfounded assertions. As such, I’ll just unfoundedly assert that you’re wrong.

    5) The Magna Carta most certainly does not speak of anything resembling “pre-political” rights! Not least because notions like the “state of nature” (in which we allegedly retain various natural rights) and a “pre-political condition” hadn’t even been invented yet, and were thus unthinkable. I don’t even know where to start with the rest of this paragraph! First, “ancient” does not mean “mystical,” “pre-historical,” “pre-political,” “natural,” or whatever you think it means. The nobles were appealing to their ancient, concrete traditions; i.e., according to English customary law, we have always retained these rights and privileges and you, King John, are abrogating them. There’s nothing mysterious or metaphysical about this usage of the term “ancient.” It’s the most concrete idea in the world: an appeal to tradition and practice, to common law and communal standards. Second, unless you also believe that rigid feudal hiarachies are also “natural,” the nobles themselves recognized that the rights and liberties they enumerated (and they are perhaps better understood as “privileges,” “prerogatives,” or “entitlements”) were purely conventional, due to barons and the like due to their status as hierarhical peers in the realm. It would be several long centuries before these rights–e.g., trial by jury of one’s peers–were understood as applicable to other English citizens, much less all human beings universally. The Magna Carta is a highly concrete, particular, traditional document–as is, I am arguing, the Bill of Rights itself.

    By the way, explain to me how being tried by a jury of one’s peers is a “natural” or “God-given” right. It’s surely one of our most essential constitutional rights, but it evolved over time through a process of irreducible particularity.

    The argument I’m making here is similar to the one I make against neoconservatives and their insufferable attempts at democracy promotion: some peoples aren’t entitled to democracy because they can’t handle it, because they haven’t developed the traditions and practices necessary to manage it responsibly. The same goes for rights: a people must earn them. The Iraqi people, for instance, will have rights when they’re willing to articulate them, fight for them, protect them, and recognize them as something pertaining to Iraqi life.

  • Kirk

    So this discussion is tl;dr, but I wanted to make sure that this got in there.

    http://sonsoflibertymedia.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/Jesus-Constitution.jpg

    Really study it.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Rick – here’s another way of looking at it: Even in Biblical times, slavery was common. So to appeal to the Bible against slavery, simply doesn’t work. Only the mistreatment of slaves is addressed, not slavery itself.

    However, if we view human society as evolving so to speak, notions and cultures change with time, and thus slavery was abandoned, and rightly so. But only by Wilberforce (in Britain, for instance), and not by Spartacus. We are children of our times. Much as we revile the idea.

    Of course, this should not be taken as nod to the idea that we can “outgrow religion” – not at all. Just saying, before someone goes off on some tangent or other.

  • Cincinnatus

    Rick Ritchie@60:

    Let me proceed by responding to each of your paragraphs in order:

    1) The slaves had no “natural” right to freedom–at least not by the standards of the time–regardless of the fire-eating rhetoric of the radical abolitionists. The slaves, if they had a right to freedom, has that right because it was embedded within the traditional framework of practices and constitutional provisions of the American Republic, which practices did not permit of a distinction on the basis of race. One can agree that African-Americans had a right not to be coercively enslaved without acknowledging some mystical notion of “natural” rights.”

    2) I agree that, in a sense, right means a right “not to be interfered with.” However, your medieval etymology, while (probably; I’m not going to bother to do the research) correct, is not the meaning of “natural” assumed in the eighteenth century and earlier by anyone in the liberal tradition–including Hobbes, Locke, Grotius, and the Founders. E.g., Hobbes’s “natural right” of self preservation does not assume the medieval meaning of “natural”; it is the “common sense” meaning: something with which one is born, an affirmative grant of something by virtue of being a human being.

    3) Wrong, a thousand times wrong. A few sentences in the (uncharacteristic) preamble of the Declaration of Independence aside, the American Revolutionaries, almost without exception, appealed to their rights as English citizens–rights that were being abrogated. I said nothing about rights having to be “successfully protected.” I said that rights, to exist, must actually be articulated and recognized within a concrete tradition of institutions and practices. E.g., the colonists believed that they had a right to parliamentary representation before being taxed. This, along with all the other rights to which all but the most radical revolutionaries routinely appealed, was an English right, not a natural right.

    4) I have nothing to say about this paragraph, because it is nothing more than a series of unfounded assertions. As such, I’ll just unfoundedly assert that you’re wrong.

    5) The Magna Carta most certainly does not speak of anything resembling “pre-political” rights! Not least because notions like the “state of nature” (in which we allegedly retain various natural rights) and a “pre-political condition” hadn’t even been invented yet, and were thus unthinkable. I don’t even know where to start with the rest of this paragraph! First, “ancient” does not mean “mystical,” “pre-historical,” “pre-political,” “natural,” or whatever you think it means. The nobles were appealing to their ancient, concrete traditions; i.e., according to English customary law, we have always retained these rights and privileges and you, King John, are abrogating them. There’s nothing mysterious or metaphysical about this usage of the term “ancient.” It’s the most concrete idea in the world: an appeal to tradition and practice, to common law and communal standards. Second, unless you also believe that rigid feudal hiarachies are also “natural,” the nobles themselves recognized that the rights and liberties they enumerated (and they are perhaps better understood as “privileges,” “prerogatives,” or “entitlements”) were purely conventional, due to barons and the like due to their status as hierarhical peers in the realm. It would be several long centuries before these rights–e.g., trial by jury of one’s peers–were understood as applicable to other English citizens, much less all human beings universally. The Magna Carta is a highly concrete, particular, traditional document–as is, I am arguing, the Bill of Rights itself.

    By the way, explain to me how being tried by a jury of one’s peers is a “natural” or “God-given” right. It’s surely one of our most essential constitutional rights, but it evolved over time through a process of irreducible particularity.

    The argument I’m making here is similar to the one I make against neoconservatives and their insufferable attempts at democracy promotion: some peoples aren’t entitled to democracy because they can’t handle it, because they haven’t developed the traditions and practices necessary to manage it responsibly. The same goes for rights: a people must earn them. The Iraqi people, for instance, will have rights when they’re willing to articulate them, fight for them, protect them, and recognize them as something pertaining to Iraqi life.

  • Kirk

    So this discussion is tl;dr, but I wanted to make sure that this got in there.

    http://sonsoflibertymedia.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/Jesus-Constitution.jpg

    Really study it.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Kirk :)

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Kirk :)

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    natural antipathy of “social elites”

    It is probably also germane to the discussion of why our Constitution has less appeal to folks around the world who want a king to rule over them rather than a more perfect union under a the authority of the rule of moral laws.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    natural antipathy of “social elites”

    It is probably also germane to the discussion of why our Constitution has less appeal to folks around the world who want a king to rule over them rather than a more perfect union under a the authority of the rule of moral laws.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    SG @ 62: Corollory – the higher on the social ladder, the less American you are? A reverse caste system?

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    SG @ 62: Corollory – the higher on the social ladder, the less American you are? A reverse caste system?

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    @68

    Maybe, the farther you are from the middle. We don’t like those extremists. Always cast your opponents as “extreme”.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    @68

    Maybe, the farther you are from the middle. We don’t like those extremists. Always cast your opponents as “extreme”.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    @ 65

    Creepy!!!

    and blasphemous!!

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    @ 65

    Creepy!!!

    and blasphemous!!

  • Tom Hering

    @ 65, did you notice that the only people hiding their faces from the Constitution Christ are a Supreme Court justice (lower right, with pregnant woman pointing at him) and a Union soldier (upper left)? What’s the message here? Anti-abortion, good? Anti-slavery, bad? (Lincoln, center right, seems to begging the people’s forgiveness.)

  • Tom Hering

    @ 65, did you notice that the only people hiding their faces from the Constitution Christ are a Supreme Court justice (lower right, with pregnant woman pointing at him) and a Union soldier (upper left)? What’s the message here? Anti-abortion, good? Anti-slavery, bad? (Lincoln, center right, seems to begging the people’s forgiveness.)

  • Grace

    I am not surprised at Justice Ruth Ginsburg’s remarks regarding the Constitution of the United States. We have financially supported South Africa, but we need their “human rights” path?

    “Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg of the Supreme Court seemed to agree. “I would not look to the United States Constitution if I were drafting a constitution in the year 2012,” she said. She recommended, instead, the South African Constitution, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms or the European Convention on Human Rights.

    Justice Ginsburg forgets the aid which the U.S. sends to Africa. 574 million – 557 million to fight TB and HIV/AIDS; $3 million for education.

    USAID from the American people:
    INVESTING IN PEOPLE: HEALTH
    “South Africa is home to more HIV-positive people than any other country—5.7 million people. Under the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, the United States provides direct support to 646,927 people receiving antiretroviral treatments. USAID also builds management and technical capacity to address the epidemic, working with the public and private sectors, nongovernmental organizations, and faith-based partners to train and support health care and community-based workers who are helping people with HIV/AIDS.

    The prevalence of HIV/AIDS has fueled a concurrent tuberculosis epidemic and a growing incidence of multi- and extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis. With support from USAID, the South African Government provided tuberculosis treatment to more than 97,000 people co-infected with HIV in 2009. USAID also works with South Africa’s Department of Social Development and nongovernmental organizations to provide care for 486,355 orphans and vulnerable children”

    http://www.usaid.gov/locations/sub-saharan_africa/countries/southafrica/

    Read Justice Ginsburg’s statement on funding abortion:

    Government should fund abortion and childbirth equally

    SEN. GRAHAM: Here is what Justice Ginsburg said in an article she wrote titled, “Some Thoughts on Autonomy and Equality in Relationship to Roe v. Wade.”

    “The conflict is not simply one between a fetus’ interest and a woman’s interest.. Also in the balance is a woman’s autonomous charge of her full life’s course, her ability to stand in relation to men, society and to stay as an independent, self-sustaining equal citizen. As long as the government paid for childbirth, the argument proceeded, public funding could not be denied for abortion, often a safer, and always a far-less expensive course short and long term. By paying for childbirth but not abortion, the government increased spending and intruded upon or steered a choice Roe had ranked as a woman’s fundamental right.“

    GRAHAM: That writing suggests that not only is Roe an important constitutional right to the author, but that government ought to pay for abortions in certain circumstances.

    Source: Sam Alito Senate Confirmation Hearings , Jan 11, 2006

    far-less expensive course short and long term

    The United States is envied around the world. This country has supported and helped millions of people, and hundreds of countries, yet Justice Ginsburg, believes the U.S. needs to pattern itself after countries that have either received our help, (financial aide) or who are socialistic to the core.

  • Grace

    I am not surprised at Justice Ruth Ginsburg’s remarks regarding the Constitution of the United States. We have financially supported South Africa, but we need their “human rights” path?

    “Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg of the Supreme Court seemed to agree. “I would not look to the United States Constitution if I were drafting a constitution in the year 2012,” she said. She recommended, instead, the South African Constitution, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms or the European Convention on Human Rights.

    Justice Ginsburg forgets the aid which the U.S. sends to Africa. 574 million – 557 million to fight TB and HIV/AIDS; $3 million for education.

    USAID from the American people:
    INVESTING IN PEOPLE: HEALTH
    “South Africa is home to more HIV-positive people than any other country—5.7 million people. Under the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, the United States provides direct support to 646,927 people receiving antiretroviral treatments. USAID also builds management and technical capacity to address the epidemic, working with the public and private sectors, nongovernmental organizations, and faith-based partners to train and support health care and community-based workers who are helping people with HIV/AIDS.

    The prevalence of HIV/AIDS has fueled a concurrent tuberculosis epidemic and a growing incidence of multi- and extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis. With support from USAID, the South African Government provided tuberculosis treatment to more than 97,000 people co-infected with HIV in 2009. USAID also works with South Africa’s Department of Social Development and nongovernmental organizations to provide care for 486,355 orphans and vulnerable children”

    http://www.usaid.gov/locations/sub-saharan_africa/countries/southafrica/

    Read Justice Ginsburg’s statement on funding abortion:

    Government should fund abortion and childbirth equally

    SEN. GRAHAM: Here is what Justice Ginsburg said in an article she wrote titled, “Some Thoughts on Autonomy and Equality in Relationship to Roe v. Wade.”

    “The conflict is not simply one between a fetus’ interest and a woman’s interest.. Also in the balance is a woman’s autonomous charge of her full life’s course, her ability to stand in relation to men, society and to stay as an independent, self-sustaining equal citizen. As long as the government paid for childbirth, the argument proceeded, public funding could not be denied for abortion, often a safer, and always a far-less expensive course short and long term. By paying for childbirth but not abortion, the government increased spending and intruded upon or steered a choice Roe had ranked as a woman’s fundamental right.“

    GRAHAM: That writing suggests that not only is Roe an important constitutional right to the author, but that government ought to pay for abortions in certain circumstances.

    Source: Sam Alito Senate Confirmation Hearings , Jan 11, 2006

    far-less expensive course short and long term

    The United States is envied around the world. This country has supported and helped millions of people, and hundreds of countries, yet Justice Ginsburg, believes the U.S. needs to pattern itself after countries that have either received our help, (financial aide) or who are socialistic to the core.

  • Cincinnatus

    Grace’s comment in a nutshell: The United States Constitution is best because AIDS.

  • Cincinnatus

    Grace’s comment in a nutshell: The United States Constitution is best because AIDS.

  • Cincinnatus

    Tom@71: I’ve been waiting quite some time for an apology from Abe Lincoln. And, since I’m going to assume (with no particular evidence) that the ashamed Union soldier is none other than General Sherman himself–well, I’d be weeping too if I were he.

  • Cincinnatus

    Tom@71: I’ve been waiting quite some time for an apology from Abe Lincoln. And, since I’m going to assume (with no particular evidence) that the ashamed Union soldier is none other than General Sherman himself–well, I’d be weeping too if I were he.

  • Grace

    No Cincinnatus, it isn’t a “nut shell” – the foreign aide this country has given in countless ways to help everyone else, and NOW we have a Supreme Justice who believes she has a better answer as of 2012, regarding the Constitution.

  • Grace

    No Cincinnatus, it isn’t a “nut shell” – the foreign aide this country has given in countless ways to help everyone else, and NOW we have a Supreme Justice who believes she has a better answer as of 2012, regarding the Constitution.

  • Tom Hering

    Cincinnatus @ 74, if you’ve been waiting for one, you must have a reasonable expectation of getting one – in person. Considering the place most Southerners think Lincoln ended up in … :-D

  • Tom Hering

    Cincinnatus @ 74, if you’ve been waiting for one, you must have a reasonable expectation of getting one – in person. Considering the place most Southerners think Lincoln ended up in … :-D

  • SKPeterson

    Well, if Jesus can build a hot rod, He can definitely write the Constitution (at least for Mormons).

    And I’d sure hate to be the foreign aide we’re sending around to help people. Talk about slavery!

    Grace – I’ll also assume that your capitalizing “NOW” is a subtle linking of Ginsburg and the National Organization of Women in a feminist cabal.

  • SKPeterson

    Well, if Jesus can build a hot rod, He can definitely write the Constitution (at least for Mormons).

    And I’d sure hate to be the foreign aide we’re sending around to help people. Talk about slavery!

    Grace – I’ll also assume that your capitalizing “NOW” is a subtle linking of Ginsburg and the National Organization of Women in a feminist cabal.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Grace would obviously agree with some other First Century folk that nothing good can come out of Nazareth…

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Grace would obviously agree with some other First Century folk that nothing good can come out of Nazareth…

  • SKPeterson

    KK @ 78 I think “Hair of the Dog” and “Love Hurts” are pretty good things to come out of Nazareth.

  • SKPeterson

    KK @ 78 I think “Hair of the Dog” and “Love Hurts” are pretty good things to come out of Nazareth.

  • Grace

    SKP @77

    “Grace – I’ll also assume that your capitalizing “NOW” is a subtle linking of Ginsburg and the National Organization of Women in a feminist cabal.”

    I don’t believe I “capitalized “NOW” !

  • Grace

    SKP @77

    “Grace – I’ll also assume that your capitalizing “NOW” is a subtle linking of Ginsburg and the National Organization of Women in a feminist cabal.”

    I don’t believe I “capitalized “NOW” !

  • Grace

    Making a joke of Nazareth in regards to Christ is shameful, but there are those who stumble down the path all too often!

  • Grace

    Making a joke of Nazareth in regards to Christ is shameful, but there are those who stumble down the path all too often!

  • SKPeterson

    Grace -

    No Cincinnatus, it isn’t a “nut shell” – the foreign aide this country has given in countless ways to help everyone else, and NOW we have a Supreme Justice who believes she has a better answer as of 2012, regarding the Constitution.

  • SKPeterson

    Grace -

    No Cincinnatus, it isn’t a “nut shell” – the foreign aide this country has given in countless ways to help everyone else, and NOW we have a Supreme Justice who believes she has a better answer as of 2012, regarding the Constitution.

  • Grace

    SKP @ 82

    I thought you were referring to my original post. Sorry.

  • Grace

    SKP @ 82

    I thought you were referring to my original post. Sorry.

  • http://www.oldsolar.com/currentblog.php Rick Ritchie

    Cincinnatus@64

    While I’m working on the other:

    “By the way, explain to me how being tried by a jury of one’s peers is a ‘natural’ or ‘God-given’ right. It’s surely one of our most essential constitutional rights, but it evolved over time through a process of irreducible particularity.”

    Why would I explain this when I don’t hold to it? My argument is that natural rights exist, not that political rights don’t exist. The existence of political rights does not disprove the existence of natural rights.

    “The argument I’m making here is similar to the one I make against neoconservatives and their insufferable attempts at democracy promotion: some peoples aren’t entitled to democracy because they can’t handle it, because they haven’t developed the traditions and practices necessary to manage it responsibly.”

    From my perspective, nobody is entitled to democracy as a natural right. The ability to lord it over your neighbor is not a right you would have in a state of nature. (And from here on, “state of nature” is not to be taken as a condition that happened in pre-history, but what you get if you don’t introduce interference into the situation.) To my mind, democracy goes better with a view that holds that only political rights exist, since the idea violates natural rights. So you tell me how you will argue against democracy once its embedded in your political documents, when they are your final court of appeal.

    “The same goes for rights: a people must earn them. The Iraqi people, for instance, will have rights when they’re willing to articulate them, fight for them, protect them, and recognize them as something pertaining to Iraqi life.”

    Real rights don’t have to be earned. Every Iraqi has the right to his own property. This does not have to be earned. The problem here is that it is imagined that the protection of that right is the duty of the United States. It is not. It is the duty of the Iraqis to protect their own rights. To speak of “earning” rights suggests that some outside group gets to decide when the Iraqis as a group have done sufficient work to earn their rights. But if the Iraqis did, somehow, decide to band together to enforce a lot of good laws, are you suggesting that any nation could go in and take things from Iraq and no wrong had been done, until such a time that some outside country or countries had decided that they had earned the right to keep their stuff?

    The key rights I would want to argue for would be not being stolen from or killed. Or assaulted. I don’t think these need to be earned.

    I see these from a Christian perspective as coming from the Decalog. They are how we treat the neighbor, and the whole Law is summed by St. Paul as love to neighbor (Romans 13:9). This likely comes from Jesus who gave the Golden Rule (Luke 6:31). I think the idea of reciprocity is pretty clearly found there. While the Old Testament law fell short of this in many places, Jesus points us to the beginning as superceding this. Perhaps this is where some idea like a “state of nature” arises. When the legal system falls short of the original state, we know that this is an indictment of either the system itself, or those within it.

    I don’t see how slavery passes the test of the Golden Rule. It doesn’t pass the test of “Thou shalt not steal,” either. Given that, we can fault the society that made it legal, without regard to knowing what its legal traditions were. Figuring out the appropriate remedy, without violating natural rights of those you would wish to use in the fight, is another story.

  • http://www.oldsolar.com/currentblog.php Rick Ritchie

    Cincinnatus@64

    While I’m working on the other:

    “By the way, explain to me how being tried by a jury of one’s peers is a ‘natural’ or ‘God-given’ right. It’s surely one of our most essential constitutional rights, but it evolved over time through a process of irreducible particularity.”

    Why would I explain this when I don’t hold to it? My argument is that natural rights exist, not that political rights don’t exist. The existence of political rights does not disprove the existence of natural rights.

    “The argument I’m making here is similar to the one I make against neoconservatives and their insufferable attempts at democracy promotion: some peoples aren’t entitled to democracy because they can’t handle it, because they haven’t developed the traditions and practices necessary to manage it responsibly.”

    From my perspective, nobody is entitled to democracy as a natural right. The ability to lord it over your neighbor is not a right you would have in a state of nature. (And from here on, “state of nature” is not to be taken as a condition that happened in pre-history, but what you get if you don’t introduce interference into the situation.) To my mind, democracy goes better with a view that holds that only political rights exist, since the idea violates natural rights. So you tell me how you will argue against democracy once its embedded in your political documents, when they are your final court of appeal.

    “The same goes for rights: a people must earn them. The Iraqi people, for instance, will have rights when they’re willing to articulate them, fight for them, protect them, and recognize them as something pertaining to Iraqi life.”

    Real rights don’t have to be earned. Every Iraqi has the right to his own property. This does not have to be earned. The problem here is that it is imagined that the protection of that right is the duty of the United States. It is not. It is the duty of the Iraqis to protect their own rights. To speak of “earning” rights suggests that some outside group gets to decide when the Iraqis as a group have done sufficient work to earn their rights. But if the Iraqis did, somehow, decide to band together to enforce a lot of good laws, are you suggesting that any nation could go in and take things from Iraq and no wrong had been done, until such a time that some outside country or countries had decided that they had earned the right to keep their stuff?

    The key rights I would want to argue for would be not being stolen from or killed. Or assaulted. I don’t think these need to be earned.

    I see these from a Christian perspective as coming from the Decalog. They are how we treat the neighbor, and the whole Law is summed by St. Paul as love to neighbor (Romans 13:9). This likely comes from Jesus who gave the Golden Rule (Luke 6:31). I think the idea of reciprocity is pretty clearly found there. While the Old Testament law fell short of this in many places, Jesus points us to the beginning as superceding this. Perhaps this is where some idea like a “state of nature” arises. When the legal system falls short of the original state, we know that this is an indictment of either the system itself, or those within it.

    I don’t see how slavery passes the test of the Golden Rule. It doesn’t pass the test of “Thou shalt not steal,” either. Given that, we can fault the society that made it legal, without regard to knowing what its legal traditions were. Figuring out the appropriate remedy, without violating natural rights of those you would wish to use in the fight, is another story.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Rick, if slavery doesn’t pass the golden rule test, why didn’t Jesus, or St Paul, or any of the major Church Fathers (as far as I am aware) entreat the slave owners to let their slaves go? Or did they leave it up to the society to grow/evolve into that knowledge/position?

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Rick, if slavery doesn’t pass the golden rule test, why didn’t Jesus, or St Paul, or any of the major Church Fathers (as far as I am aware) entreat the slave owners to let their slaves go? Or did they leave it up to the society to grow/evolve into that knowledge/position?

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Rick, maybe consider this: Why separate “nature” (as in natural rights) and custom/culture? Why must the latter be separate from the former?

    Then, consider, under property rights for instance, that many cultures have entirely different concepts of property than we have – for instance the aboriginal population on this continent (originally) , and many, if not most “indigenous” tribes people scattered across the planet. And where their concept of land ownership collided with the concepts others had, much tragedy followed (often on both sides). Wounded Knee? Blood River? Umgungundhlovu? The Guarani War? The Akuntsu massacres?

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Rick, maybe consider this: Why separate “nature” (as in natural rights) and custom/culture? Why must the latter be separate from the former?

    Then, consider, under property rights for instance, that many cultures have entirely different concepts of property than we have – for instance the aboriginal population on this continent (originally) , and many, if not most “indigenous” tribes people scattered across the planet. And where their concept of land ownership collided with the concepts others had, much tragedy followed (often on both sides). Wounded Knee? Blood River? Umgungundhlovu? The Guarani War? The Akuntsu massacres?

  • http://www.oldsolar.com/currentblog.php Rick Ritchie

    “Rick, if slavery doesn’t pass the golden rule test, why didn’t Jesus, or St Paul, or any of the major Church Fathers (as far as I am aware) entreat the slave owners to let their slaves go?”

    For the same reason the Moses didn’t forbid all divorce even though it failed the Golden Rule test. The hardness of people’s hearts. Given that, you pretty much have to allow societies to grow and evolve to where they can see the true position. There was no way of dropping an ideal position into the first century and expecting everyone to immediately see what was best. Nor could we do it now. I can’t name the ideal polity. But I can fault those in the past that fall below others.

    As to the Golden Rule test, are you really going to argue that if someone enslaved you, that person would be treating you as he himself wanted to be treated?

    “Rick, maybe consider this: Why separate “nature” (as in natural rights) and custom/culture? Why must the latter be separate from the former?”

    Separate or distinct? As concepts, they are quite easily distinguishable.

    Let’s take a political right, the right to free health care. This is a political right that exists in some countries. Now, who would argue that you or I were born with such a right apart from a legal system? This is quite different from a right to free speech, which you could have if you were born on a desert island. It involves meddling with the lives of others to get it.

    As to property rights, if the concept were entirely different in another culture, we would not use the same word to denote it. Two things that are entirely different are not commonly called by the same term.

    The clash of concepts in property rights becomes unable to be solved except through war when the only rights that are recognized are political rights. I think this was worst in the 19th century. But if you read about the dealings between the original colonists and the Indians, from say 1620 to around 1670, there was much less bloodshed. There was some ability to agree about how to handle transactions. It was when land became scarcer that one side or the other thought they could impose their laws on the other.

    If we take something like “Thou shalt not steal” as a mere tribal code, I think we misread. This was not intended to be read according merely to one tribe’s idea of what counted as stealing. Jesus takes various portions of the Decalog and shows how they are to be read, purged of whatever local understandings they had been given. Rooting these ideas in the idea of reciprocity I think points a way forward to a much better way of solving things than, say, Wounded Knee.

  • http://www.oldsolar.com/currentblog.php Rick Ritchie

    “Rick, if slavery doesn’t pass the golden rule test, why didn’t Jesus, or St Paul, or any of the major Church Fathers (as far as I am aware) entreat the slave owners to let their slaves go?”

    For the same reason the Moses didn’t forbid all divorce even though it failed the Golden Rule test. The hardness of people’s hearts. Given that, you pretty much have to allow societies to grow and evolve to where they can see the true position. There was no way of dropping an ideal position into the first century and expecting everyone to immediately see what was best. Nor could we do it now. I can’t name the ideal polity. But I can fault those in the past that fall below others.

    As to the Golden Rule test, are you really going to argue that if someone enslaved you, that person would be treating you as he himself wanted to be treated?

    “Rick, maybe consider this: Why separate “nature” (as in natural rights) and custom/culture? Why must the latter be separate from the former?”

    Separate or distinct? As concepts, they are quite easily distinguishable.

    Let’s take a political right, the right to free health care. This is a political right that exists in some countries. Now, who would argue that you or I were born with such a right apart from a legal system? This is quite different from a right to free speech, which you could have if you were born on a desert island. It involves meddling with the lives of others to get it.

    As to property rights, if the concept were entirely different in another culture, we would not use the same word to denote it. Two things that are entirely different are not commonly called by the same term.

    The clash of concepts in property rights becomes unable to be solved except through war when the only rights that are recognized are political rights. I think this was worst in the 19th century. But if you read about the dealings between the original colonists and the Indians, from say 1620 to around 1670, there was much less bloodshed. There was some ability to agree about how to handle transactions. It was when land became scarcer that one side or the other thought they could impose their laws on the other.

    If we take something like “Thou shalt not steal” as a mere tribal code, I think we misread. This was not intended to be read according merely to one tribe’s idea of what counted as stealing. Jesus takes various portions of the Decalog and shows how they are to be read, purged of whatever local understandings they had been given. Rooting these ideas in the idea of reciprocity I think points a way forward to a much better way of solving things than, say, Wounded Knee.

  • Patrick Kyle

    Cincinnatus, Klaasie,

    In both of your views the only apparent real rights we have are to do what those more powerful than us tell us to do/not do.

    I’ll spare you the profanity that comes to mind, but suffice it to say that those are the ideas that eventually lead to internment camps and genocide.

    No thank you.

  • Patrick Kyle

    Cincinnatus, Klaasie,

    In both of your views the only apparent real rights we have are to do what those more powerful than us tell us to do/not do.

    I’ll spare you the profanity that comes to mind, but suffice it to say that those are the ideas that eventually lead to internment camps and genocide.

    No thank you.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Rick – I’ll start with your second point: I don’t think you understood me there – I understand your line (though somewhat arbitrary) between natural rights and political rights. My question had to do with seperation of nature and culture/custom. Basically, why would natural rights, and I understood you to include property rights in this category, be separated from their cultural milieu?

    As to your first point – I cannot contest your line of reason wrt the golden rule, yet the evidence is absent, if you understand what I’m saying. I’d like to as why, and then consider how the answer to that question impacts this discussion.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Rick – I’ll start with your second point: I don’t think you understood me there – I understand your line (though somewhat arbitrary) between natural rights and political rights. My question had to do with seperation of nature and culture/custom. Basically, why would natural rights, and I understood you to include property rights in this category, be separated from their cultural milieu?

    As to your first point – I cannot contest your line of reason wrt the golden rule, yet the evidence is absent, if you understand what I’m saying. I’d like to as why, and then consider how the answer to that question impacts this discussion.

  • Michael B.

    @Grace
    “The United States is envied around the world”

    A big part of me still says that the USA is number 1 and all that, but I remember when I was younger I visited a major city in Canada, and I have to say that this belief of mine, while wasn’t overturned, was very much shaken. I remember being able to walk several miles downtown in any direction, and never once did I feel unsafe. Anyway, not a big deal, but I remember this being a bit bothersome to me at the time.

  • Michael B.

    @Grace
    “The United States is envied around the world”

    A big part of me still says that the USA is number 1 and all that, but I remember when I was younger I visited a major city in Canada, and I have to say that this belief of mine, while wasn’t overturned, was very much shaken. I remember being able to walk several miles downtown in any direction, and never once did I feel unsafe. Anyway, not a big deal, but I remember this being a bit bothersome to me at the time.

  • kerner

    Boy, has this conversation come a long way since I last weighed in.

    Cincinnatus:

    OK, first of all, what little research I’ve been able to do indicates that Jefferson and Paine were not radical outliers in promoting the concepy of inalienable rights. This is not to say that there weren’t people that were limited to the concept of “Rights of Englishmen”, but the people we think of as the “founding fathers” do seem to have signed onto the concept of “natural” or “inalienable” rights common to all people, and they, as the prominent leaders of their day, prevailed. Plenty of people today like to reinvent the founding fathers to suit their own philosphies. Don’t you start.

    A much more important problem with your analysis is your claim that natural law has nothing to do with rights, but is all about duties. This misses an important concept in law. There are no duties without corresponding rights. If you have a legal duty to treat me in a certain way, then I have a right to that treatment, and vice versa. This is true for the community as well as for individuals. Since all humans, as social beings, relate to other humans, each person has duties and rights viv a vis the other persons around him.

    I grant you that a natural right must necessarily be a pretty general concept. Something like life, liberty, or the pursuit of happiness, or due process of law. And different cultures will organise institutions and rules to establish these rights in different ways. So, the “right” to a trial by jury may be the product of a long evolutionary cultural process, but it still manifests a “due” process designed to get at the truth, without which no person can be deprived of his other rights.

    I have to agree with George and Rick, and Patrick, although @88 sounds a litle dramatic. But if there are no objective “rights”, then there are no objective “wrongs”, either. That is by denying that there are objective rights, you are essentially arguing that there is no such thing as sin (at least sin against your neighbor). Contrary to the second table of the 10 Commandments, you have no right to expect that I should not kill you, take your stuff, lie about you, or have sex with your wife. In such a world there is only power.

    Now, legal rights and duties such as these exist between neighbors, not between humanity and God. God owes us nothing, but gave us everything, and that’s an entirely different concept.

    But under this concept, Iraqis do in fact have rights, even if their culture has degenerated to the point that they have been deprived of them. Average Joe Iraqi has a natural right to expect that other people, including his government, will not arbitrarily kill him, or take his stuff, unless, through some orderly “due” process, his culture finds that he has transgressed in some way such that it is just that these things happen to him. His inability to enforce his rights in the face of overwhelming force, or to even understand them, is beside the point.

  • kerner

    Boy, has this conversation come a long way since I last weighed in.

    Cincinnatus:

    OK, first of all, what little research I’ve been able to do indicates that Jefferson and Paine were not radical outliers in promoting the concepy of inalienable rights. This is not to say that there weren’t people that were limited to the concept of “Rights of Englishmen”, but the people we think of as the “founding fathers” do seem to have signed onto the concept of “natural” or “inalienable” rights common to all people, and they, as the prominent leaders of their day, prevailed. Plenty of people today like to reinvent the founding fathers to suit their own philosphies. Don’t you start.

    A much more important problem with your analysis is your claim that natural law has nothing to do with rights, but is all about duties. This misses an important concept in law. There are no duties without corresponding rights. If you have a legal duty to treat me in a certain way, then I have a right to that treatment, and vice versa. This is true for the community as well as for individuals. Since all humans, as social beings, relate to other humans, each person has duties and rights viv a vis the other persons around him.

    I grant you that a natural right must necessarily be a pretty general concept. Something like life, liberty, or the pursuit of happiness, or due process of law. And different cultures will organise institutions and rules to establish these rights in different ways. So, the “right” to a trial by jury may be the product of a long evolutionary cultural process, but it still manifests a “due” process designed to get at the truth, without which no person can be deprived of his other rights.

    I have to agree with George and Rick, and Patrick, although @88 sounds a litle dramatic. But if there are no objective “rights”, then there are no objective “wrongs”, either. That is by denying that there are objective rights, you are essentially arguing that there is no such thing as sin (at least sin against your neighbor). Contrary to the second table of the 10 Commandments, you have no right to expect that I should not kill you, take your stuff, lie about you, or have sex with your wife. In such a world there is only power.

    Now, legal rights and duties such as these exist between neighbors, not between humanity and God. God owes us nothing, but gave us everything, and that’s an entirely different concept.

    But under this concept, Iraqis do in fact have rights, even if their culture has degenerated to the point that they have been deprived of them. Average Joe Iraqi has a natural right to expect that other people, including his government, will not arbitrarily kill him, or take his stuff, unless, through some orderly “due” process, his culture finds that he has transgressed in some way such that it is just that these things happen to him. His inability to enforce his rights in the face of overwhelming force, or to even understand them, is beside the point.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Patrick, you misunderstand completely. What I’m getting at, which may or may not be a variant of what Cincinnatus is getting at, is that the concept of Rights is wrongly understood (weak pun not intended). Rights are not some independant “written in the sky” thing. Nor are the part of your DNA, although that comes closer to the truth. Rights, as we understand them, have a socio-historical origin, and typically evovle with a people. There are great commonalities amongst the peoples of the world wrt this, but not identical concepts. Thus, especially in cross-cultural contexts, or in melting pot/mosaic cultres such as that of our great 2 countries, this should be taken into account when approaching the subject of rights. This brings us back to the topic of the post, and I believe, to a point made by someone above.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Patrick, you misunderstand completely. What I’m getting at, which may or may not be a variant of what Cincinnatus is getting at, is that the concept of Rights is wrongly understood (weak pun not intended). Rights are not some independant “written in the sky” thing. Nor are the part of your DNA, although that comes closer to the truth. Rights, as we understand them, have a socio-historical origin, and typically evovle with a people. There are great commonalities amongst the peoples of the world wrt this, but not identical concepts. Thus, especially in cross-cultural contexts, or in melting pot/mosaic cultres such as that of our great 2 countries, this should be taken into account when approaching the subject of rights. This brings us back to the topic of the post, and I believe, to a point made by someone above.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Kerner, I see there is some common ground, but let me ask you a question: if there are “natural, inalienable rights” for all of Homo Sapiens, who gets to define them?

    Second question? Let’s presume property rights are one of those rights. And let’s presume you go to one of the uncontacted tribes that still exist (there is a whole bunch of them), and find that the idea of individual property rights is not only foreign to them, but also distasteful. How do you handle the situation?

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Kerner, I see there is some common ground, but let me ask you a question: if there are “natural, inalienable rights” for all of Homo Sapiens, who gets to define them?

    Second question? Let’s presume property rights are one of those rights. And let’s presume you go to one of the uncontacted tribes that still exist (there is a whole bunch of them), and find that the idea of individual property rights is not only foreign to them, but also distasteful. How do you handle the situation?

  • Grace

    Michael @ 90

    Regarding my comment: “The United States is envied around the world”

    Your response: “A big part of me still says that the USA is number 1 and all that, but I remember when I was younger I visited a major city in Canada, and I have to say that this belief of mine, while wasn’t overturned, was very much shaken. I remember being able to walk several miles downtown in any direction, and never once did I feel unsafe. Anyway, not a big deal, but I remember this being a bit bothersome to me at the time.”

    We have done business in Canada many times. I did not feel any safer there than I do where I live/lived. What we did observe was intense envy of the U.S. The spirit of “argument” was obvious. It became annoying. There were however, people who did not exhibit that behavior.

    Canada has lovely parks. And that is always pointed out by our northern neighbors. They however, never consider the fact that their air force is sent to the U.S for training, including aircraft that we produce, design etc. They very rarely make any attempt to thank this country, only to criticize.

    I doubt we would do business with those above our borders again.

  • Grace

    Michael @ 90

    Regarding my comment: “The United States is envied around the world”

    Your response: “A big part of me still says that the USA is number 1 and all that, but I remember when I was younger I visited a major city in Canada, and I have to say that this belief of mine, while wasn’t overturned, was very much shaken. I remember being able to walk several miles downtown in any direction, and never once did I feel unsafe. Anyway, not a big deal, but I remember this being a bit bothersome to me at the time.”

    We have done business in Canada many times. I did not feel any safer there than I do where I live/lived. What we did observe was intense envy of the U.S. The spirit of “argument” was obvious. It became annoying. There were however, people who did not exhibit that behavior.

    Canada has lovely parks. And that is always pointed out by our northern neighbors. They however, never consider the fact that their air force is sent to the U.S for training, including aircraft that we produce, design etc. They very rarely make any attempt to thank this country, only to criticize.

    I doubt we would do business with those above our borders again.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Grace, there are many Americans, includings ones I’ve met, and done business with,that have loved their time spent here. Might I suggest that sometimes the negative experience has as much to do with the one having the experience, as with the people where they are.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Grace, there are many Americans, includings ones I’ve met, and done business with,that have loved their time spent here. Might I suggest that sometimes the negative experience has as much to do with the one having the experience, as with the people where they are.

  • Grace

    As forHomo Sapiens? – “modern species of humans, the only extant species of the primate family Hominidae.”

    There are individuals who consider themselves the offspring of Apes, I however, am not one of them.

  • Grace

    As forHomo Sapiens? – “modern species of humans, the only extant species of the primate family Hominidae.”

    There are individuals who consider themselves the offspring of Apes, I however, am not one of them.

  • http://www.oldsolar.com/currentblog.php Rick Ritchie

    Getting back to Cincinnatus:

    1) As I have defined it, the slaves had a “natural” right to freedom. That is, were they not interfered with they would be free. They were wronged when they were kidnapped and enslaved.

    I would drop the term “mystical.” I think I can make a case both from reason and from Scripture. Neither requires mysticism.

    2) You had earlier drawn a dichotomy between the natural or “God-given” rights and political rights. Given that, I chose to argue for the natural ones. My use of the word “natural” is both in agreement with general argumens from liberal theory, and with historic usage of the more general term “natural,” besides which, whether or not I use the same definition of “natural”, I would agree with many theorists as to which rights I’m describing. I’m not sure what you expect to gain by showing that my usage does not match that of a philosopher I find repugnant.

    3) An appeal to a legal right is not to be taken as evidence against belief in a natural right.

    4) To answer that these are unfounded, I will offer my original statement preceded by an asterisk, and then offer my foundation.

    *The notion of rights is predicated upon the idea that we know how we should be treated,
    I appeal here to the Oxford English Dictionary, which speaks of “right” as “just and equitable treatment.”

    *a notion that is not just found in Enlightenment societies, but can be found even in higher species within the animal kingdom.

    I refer here to observations that can be found compiled in a book titled “When Elephants Weep” by Masson. This book will defend the existence of high levels of animal thought. But my argument doesn’t require even that. An enclosed animal will try to get free. An animal which is attacked will usually fight back. Such behaviors do not require 18th century philosophy behind them, and that really is the point.

    *Higher human thought includes such ideas of reciprocity within it.

    I could refer to any number of examples here. From a Christian standpoint, I would argue that the Golden Rule will show that reciprocity is a good idea.

    Given that native Americans were brought up, I think the Quaker experience in Pennsylvania is instructive. The Quakers had an idea of reciprocal justice which they applied to the Indians. They were much more faithful in keeping their treaties than many other groups. This is explained by David Hackett Fischer in Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways in America (pp. 595-603).

    *It is silly to argue that all human law is just “customary peculiarities of a specific people.” The earliest legal systems have some degree of abstract justice to them.

    The idea of “due process” is implicit in the Code of Hammurabi. Ancient Egyptian judges were required to hear both sides of a case.

    *To argue that these are merely pragmatic arrangements we have stumbled upon over time is, historically, a more novel idea than anything that would have been argued in the Enlightenment.

    St. Augustine famously argued that an unjust law was no law at all. So some of the abstract ideas I am advancing are rather old.

    The history of human law has rather been the attempt to remove unwarranted exceptions from our ideas of justice.

    “There shall be one law for the native and for the stranger who sojourns among you” (Exodus 12:49). In Egypt, apparently, there were two sets of laws. One for the native and the other for the stranger.

  • http://www.oldsolar.com/currentblog.php Rick Ritchie

    Getting back to Cincinnatus:

    1) As I have defined it, the slaves had a “natural” right to freedom. That is, were they not interfered with they would be free. They were wronged when they were kidnapped and enslaved.

    I would drop the term “mystical.” I think I can make a case both from reason and from Scripture. Neither requires mysticism.

    2) You had earlier drawn a dichotomy between the natural or “God-given” rights and political rights. Given that, I chose to argue for the natural ones. My use of the word “natural” is both in agreement with general argumens from liberal theory, and with historic usage of the more general term “natural,” besides which, whether or not I use the same definition of “natural”, I would agree with many theorists as to which rights I’m describing. I’m not sure what you expect to gain by showing that my usage does not match that of a philosopher I find repugnant.

    3) An appeal to a legal right is not to be taken as evidence against belief in a natural right.

    4) To answer that these are unfounded, I will offer my original statement preceded by an asterisk, and then offer my foundation.

    *The notion of rights is predicated upon the idea that we know how we should be treated,
    I appeal here to the Oxford English Dictionary, which speaks of “right” as “just and equitable treatment.”

    *a notion that is not just found in Enlightenment societies, but can be found even in higher species within the animal kingdom.

    I refer here to observations that can be found compiled in a book titled “When Elephants Weep” by Masson. This book will defend the existence of high levels of animal thought. But my argument doesn’t require even that. An enclosed animal will try to get free. An animal which is attacked will usually fight back. Such behaviors do not require 18th century philosophy behind them, and that really is the point.

    *Higher human thought includes such ideas of reciprocity within it.

    I could refer to any number of examples here. From a Christian standpoint, I would argue that the Golden Rule will show that reciprocity is a good idea.

    Given that native Americans were brought up, I think the Quaker experience in Pennsylvania is instructive. The Quakers had an idea of reciprocal justice which they applied to the Indians. They were much more faithful in keeping their treaties than many other groups. This is explained by David Hackett Fischer in Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways in America (pp. 595-603).

    *It is silly to argue that all human law is just “customary peculiarities of a specific people.” The earliest legal systems have some degree of abstract justice to them.

    The idea of “due process” is implicit in the Code of Hammurabi. Ancient Egyptian judges were required to hear both sides of a case.

    *To argue that these are merely pragmatic arrangements we have stumbled upon over time is, historically, a more novel idea than anything that would have been argued in the Enlightenment.

    St. Augustine famously argued that an unjust law was no law at all. So some of the abstract ideas I am advancing are rather old.

    The history of human law has rather been the attempt to remove unwarranted exceptions from our ideas of justice.

    “There shall be one law for the native and for the stranger who sojourns among you” (Exodus 12:49). In Egypt, apparently, there were two sets of laws. One for the native and the other for the stranger.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Rick, in your later examples in #97 you are approaching a middle ground we could explore more. But I still contend that those rights, as. Practiced by the Quakers, or instituted by Hammurabi, were (are) derived from cultural convention/development/evolution, and if one couldd include that as part an parcel of a theory of the development of Natural Right Concepts, we will have something. Of course, the Quakers were informed by the Decalogue. But Hammurabi wasn’t.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Rick, in your later examples in #97 you are approaching a middle ground we could explore more. But I still contend that those rights, as. Practiced by the Quakers, or instituted by Hammurabi, were (are) derived from cultural convention/development/evolution, and if one couldd include that as part an parcel of a theory of the development of Natural Right Concepts, we will have something. Of course, the Quakers were informed by the Decalogue. But Hammurabi wasn’t.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Btw Gene, your comment regarding Canada you added later is a bit unfounded. The case was dismissed – twice. Please correct your statement above: http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_rights_complaints_against_Maclean's_magazine

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Btw Gene, your comment regarding Canada you added later is a bit unfounded. The case was dismissed – twice. Please correct your statement above: http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_rights_complaints_against_Maclean's_magazine

  • Grace

    The Decalogue, better known as the Ten Commandments are not a “code” they are God’s commandments to man. Hammurabi was a king of Babylonia, his was a code of law.

    The difference here is the “Commandments of God were to man, whereas Hammurabi’s are a code of law that have nothing to do with God’s law.

    The most important point being, the Ten Commandments had nothing to do with cultural convention, or “evolution” they were given by God Almighty.

  • Grace

    The Decalogue, better known as the Ten Commandments are not a “code” they are God’s commandments to man. Hammurabi was a king of Babylonia, his was a code of law.

    The difference here is the “Commandments of God were to man, whereas Hammurabi’s are a code of law that have nothing to do with God’s law.

    The most important point being, the Ten Commandments had nothing to do with cultural convention, or “evolution” they were given by God Almighty.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Grace, nobody said anything of the kind. This discussion is about the origin of the concept of Rights.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Grace, nobody said anything of the kind. This discussion is about the origin of the concept of Rights.

  • Grace

    The only true rights are those which are given by God. All other ‘supposed rights’ are manufactured by man.

    The origin of rights was instituted by God – it began with Adam and Eve. HE and HE alone institued the rights of man. What he could and could not do. It is man who likes to quibble about ancient men who had no association with God nor did they seek HIM.

  • Grace

    The only true rights are those which are given by God. All other ‘supposed rights’ are manufactured by man.

    The origin of rights was instituted by God – it began with Adam and Eve. HE and HE alone institued the rights of man. What he could and could not do. It is man who likes to quibble about ancient men who had no association with God nor did they seek HIM.

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

    Anyone who says that economic security is a human right, has been too much babied. While he babbles, other men are risking and losing their lives to protect him. They are fighting the sea, fighting the land, fighting disease and insects and weather and space and time for him, while he chatters that all men have a right to security and that some pagan god — Society, The State, The Government, The Commune — must give it to them. Let the fighting men stop fighting this inhuman earth for one hour, and he will learn how much security there is. — Rose Wilder Lane.

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

    Anyone who says that economic security is a human right, has been too much babied. While he babbles, other men are risking and losing their lives to protect him. They are fighting the sea, fighting the land, fighting disease and insects and weather and space and time for him, while he chatters that all men have a right to security and that some pagan god — Society, The State, The Government, The Commune — must give it to them. Let the fighting men stop fighting this inhuman earth for one hour, and he will learn how much security there is. — Rose Wilder Lane.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    @ 102

    Could you please cite chapter and verse from the Bible on the topic of rights of man.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    @ 102

    Could you please cite chapter and verse from the Bible on the topic of rights of man.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    The antipathy to Canada is really a crackup.

    Funny.

    Anyway, there is show called Dan vs. _______.

    Each week Dan sets out on some harebrained vengeance campaign.

    One week it was Dan vs. Canada.

    Hilarious.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    The antipathy to Canada is really a crackup.

    Funny.

    Anyway, there is show called Dan vs. _______.

    Each week Dan sets out on some harebrained vengeance campaign.

    One week it was Dan vs. Canada.

    Hilarious.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    @88

    P Kyle brings up an interesting point. Psychologically, it may be that people will fight harder for something they feel entitled to. So, if youngsters are brought up to believe that they have no right to complain etc against the king, then perhaps it reduces rebellion? Whereas folks who feel entitled to XYZ may be less inclined to go along? So, teaching kids to believe what P Kyle is implying, means that rule of law is part of the collective consciousness. Thoughts?

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    @88

    P Kyle brings up an interesting point. Psychologically, it may be that people will fight harder for something they feel entitled to. So, if youngsters are brought up to believe that they have no right to complain etc against the king, then perhaps it reduces rebellion? Whereas folks who feel entitled to XYZ may be less inclined to go along? So, teaching kids to believe what P Kyle is implying, means that rule of law is part of the collective consciousness. Thoughts?

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  • kerner

    Klasie @ 93:

    Who gets to define natural, inalienable rights? I don’t know that there is any one person, and I don’t know that designating any one person is naecssary. The Lutheran Confessions teach us:

    ” human reason naturally understands, in some way, the Law (for it has the same judgment divinely written in the mind); [the natural law agrees with the law of Moses, or the Ten Commandments” Apology Article IV (II) 7 and

    ” It is written in the prophet, Jer. 31:33: I will put My Law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts” Apology Article IV (III) 2

    And of course there is Romans 2:14-15:

    “14 (Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, 15 since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.) ”

    In other words, the Bible and the Lutheran confessions both conclude that even unsaved man is capable of discerning basic natural rights and wrongs as written in God’s Law, without ever actually reading it. (SEE FRANK, I’VE BEEN LISTENING!)

    People naturally understand the concepts of the right to life, liberty and property. Any civilization will have some concept of these. How they organize their society around these rights and wrongs may very well be a function of anthropoloty and culture, but the basics are there for all cultures.

    I know there are primitive tribes in which the concept of property is rudimentary, but I question whether there is no concept of property at all. Any culture whose language includes possessive pronouns has a concept of property. If someone can consider something “mine” or “yours” or “theirs”, or even “ours”, even if it is only “mine to use for the moment” that culture understands and accepts the concept of property. The only way a society could exist without it would be one in which everyone had more than enough of everything he or she could possibly want all the time. If such a society exists, you’ll have to show me.

  • kerner

    Klasie @ 93:

    Who gets to define natural, inalienable rights? I don’t know that there is any one person, and I don’t know that designating any one person is naecssary. The Lutheran Confessions teach us:

    ” human reason naturally understands, in some way, the Law (for it has the same judgment divinely written in the mind); [the natural law agrees with the law of Moses, or the Ten Commandments” Apology Article IV (II) 7 and

    ” It is written in the prophet, Jer. 31:33: I will put My Law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts” Apology Article IV (III) 2

    And of course there is Romans 2:14-15:

    “14 (Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, 15 since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.) ”

    In other words, the Bible and the Lutheran confessions both conclude that even unsaved man is capable of discerning basic natural rights and wrongs as written in God’s Law, without ever actually reading it. (SEE FRANK, I’VE BEEN LISTENING!)

    People naturally understand the concepts of the right to life, liberty and property. Any civilization will have some concept of these. How they organize their society around these rights and wrongs may very well be a function of anthropoloty and culture, but the basics are there for all cultures.

    I know there are primitive tribes in which the concept of property is rudimentary, but I question whether there is no concept of property at all. Any culture whose language includes possessive pronouns has a concept of property. If someone can consider something “mine” or “yours” or “theirs”, or even “ours”, even if it is only “mine to use for the moment” that culture understands and accepts the concept of property. The only way a society could exist without it would be one in which everyone had more than enough of everything he or she could possibly want all the time. If such a society exists, you’ll have to show me.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    My dog understands the concept of property. Just try to take his toys, or his bed, or food.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    My dog understands the concept of property. Just try to take his toys, or his bed, or food.

  • Grace

    sg @ 104

    What did God tell Adam he could and could not do in the Garden of Eden? Read post 102 over again. That would entail what their rights were, and the warning for not obeying.

  • Grace

    sg @ 104

    What did God tell Adam he could and could not do in the Garden of Eden? Read post 102 over again. That would entail what their rights were, and the warning for not obeying.

  • Grace

    sg

    See Genesis chapter 2

  • Grace

    sg

    See Genesis chapter 2

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Kerner,

    I’ll try and get back to you Monday on this one. But here’s a teaser: The context of Paul’s letter to the Romans.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Kerner,

    I’ll try and get back to you Monday on this one. But here’s a teaser: The context of Paul’s letter to the Romans.

  • mikeb

    Grace @110

    Interesting idea you have–I do like going to the source. But are we free (endowed with the right) to eat only, excepting the Tree of Knowledge? As I read Gen. 2 I don’t see anything that seems to convey other rights or freedom, just Law.

  • mikeb

    Grace @110

    Interesting idea you have–I do like going to the source. But are we free (endowed with the right) to eat only, excepting the Tree of Knowledge? As I read Gen. 2 I don’t see anything that seems to convey other rights or freedom, just Law.

  • Grace

    mikeb @ 112

    “Interesting idea you have–I do like going to the source. But are we free (endowed with the right) to eat only, excepting the Tree of Knowledge?

    At that time YES, Eve ate, and offered the fruit to Adam, which he ate. We, (you and I,) and everyone else have not had that choice, it was Adam and Eve’s choice. After the fall everything changed.

  • Grace

    mikeb @ 112

    “Interesting idea you have–I do like going to the source. But are we free (endowed with the right) to eat only, excepting the Tree of Knowledge?

    At that time YES, Eve ate, and offered the fruit to Adam, which he ate. We, (you and I,) and everyone else have not had that choice, it was Adam and Eve’s choice. After the fall everything changed.

  • Grace

    mikeb @ 112

    There is another point to this:

    You asked or stated: But are we free (endowed with the right) to eat only, excepting the Tree of Knowledge?”

    This is the question. They had a choice, they chose to disobey God. We as well, have the same choice. This is a conflict which has plagued many.

    If ye love me, keep my commandments. John 14:15

    He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him. John 14:21

    Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. John 14:23

    All of the Scripture above points to man choosing to do what God want FREE WILL!

    QUESTION: what are the Scriptures that point to man choosing to to do their OWN WILL?

  • Grace

    mikeb @ 112

    There is another point to this:

    You asked or stated: But are we free (endowed with the right) to eat only, excepting the Tree of Knowledge?”

    This is the question. They had a choice, they chose to disobey God. We as well, have the same choice. This is a conflict which has plagued many.

    If ye love me, keep my commandments. John 14:15

    He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him. John 14:21

    Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. John 14:23

    All of the Scripture above points to man choosing to do what God want FREE WILL!

    QUESTION: what are the Scriptures that point to man choosing to to do their OWN WILL?

  • http://www.oldsolar.com/currentblog.php Rick Ritchie

    I thought that when sg asked about the rights of man, he was looking for where the key ones came from. Grace pointed him to Genesis 2. While I do see a right to eat of all but one tree in the garden there, I don’t see other key rights that most people are interested in in these discussions, such as the right to life or the right to property. I do think Genesis addresses these issues, but probably not in chapter 2. Chapter 4 gives us Cain and Abel, where God’s reaction to murder seems to imply a right to life. Words related to stealing can also be found in various parts of Genesis and imply a right to property. (If we had no right to property, it would be impossible to steal, since what was taken didn’t belong to anybody.)

    When mikeb asked “But are we free (endowed with the right) to eat only, excepting the Tree of Knowledge?”, was he asking whether this was the only tree we were allowed to eat from, or whether eating was the only right anybody possessed in the garden? The wording was a little unclear.

  • http://www.oldsolar.com/currentblog.php Rick Ritchie

    I thought that when sg asked about the rights of man, he was looking for where the key ones came from. Grace pointed him to Genesis 2. While I do see a right to eat of all but one tree in the garden there, I don’t see other key rights that most people are interested in in these discussions, such as the right to life or the right to property. I do think Genesis addresses these issues, but probably not in chapter 2. Chapter 4 gives us Cain and Abel, where God’s reaction to murder seems to imply a right to life. Words related to stealing can also be found in various parts of Genesis and imply a right to property. (If we had no right to property, it would be impossible to steal, since what was taken didn’t belong to anybody.)

    When mikeb asked “But are we free (endowed with the right) to eat only, excepting the Tree of Knowledge?”, was he asking whether this was the only tree we were allowed to eat from, or whether eating was the only right anybody possessed in the garden? The wording was a little unclear.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    Hey, y’all missed the right to name the animals. I would also infer that God also gave subsequent generations the right to leave mom and dad to get married. Pretty much everything in ch. 2 is command aka law. Wouldn’t in fact a right to freedom of religion be antithetical to God’s law?

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    Hey, y’all missed the right to name the animals. I would also infer that God also gave subsequent generations the right to leave mom and dad to get married. Pretty much everything in ch. 2 is command aka law. Wouldn’t in fact a right to freedom of religion be antithetical to God’s law?

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    Man’s will is corrupt. Even the good we choose to do is less good than the good that God does. We are limited to imperfection in all we do.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    Man’s will is corrupt. Even the good we choose to do is less good than the good that God does. We are limited to imperfection in all we do.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    It appears rights do not appear in the Bible, only commands. We may not demand anything from the universe. The closest we can do is to hold one another accountable by force of government to approximate obedience in the form of our imperfect civil laws.

    It’s kind of like my brother said of the military; they can’t make you do anything, but they sure can make you wish you had.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    It appears rights do not appear in the Bible, only commands. We may not demand anything from the universe. The closest we can do is to hold one another accountable by force of government to approximate obedience in the form of our imperfect civil laws.

    It’s kind of like my brother said of the military; they can’t make you do anything, but they sure can make you wish you had.

  • http://www.oldsolar.com/currentblog.php Rick Ritchie

    A right to freedom of religion could be seen as the duty to leave others undisturbed in their practice of their religions. This would not imply that what they practiced was a good thing. John Locke argued for freedom of religion on the ground that a ruler should not make a choice of religion for his subjects when they had to bear the penalties for a wrong choice. This put the incentive to make a right choice where it should properly be, with the one running the risk. Add to that Protestant convictions that forced worship is displeasing to God, and you have good reason to leave people alone on this matter.

  • http://www.oldsolar.com/currentblog.php Rick Ritchie

    A right to freedom of religion could be seen as the duty to leave others undisturbed in their practice of their religions. This would not imply that what they practiced was a good thing. John Locke argued for freedom of religion on the ground that a ruler should not make a choice of religion for his subjects when they had to bear the penalties for a wrong choice. This put the incentive to make a right choice where it should properly be, with the one running the risk. Add to that Protestant convictions that forced worship is displeasing to God, and you have good reason to leave people alone on this matter.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “John Locke argued for freedom of religion on the ground that a ruler should not make a choice of religion for his subjects when they had to bear the penalties for a wrong choice.”

    John Locke argued that, but the OT is pretty harsh on other religions. So, it is pretty clear that God hates, hates, hates other religions because they are of the devil. It is life or death.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “John Locke argued for freedom of religion on the ground that a ruler should not make a choice of religion for his subjects when they had to bear the penalties for a wrong choice.”

    John Locke argued that, but the OT is pretty harsh on other religions. So, it is pretty clear that God hates, hates, hates other religions because they are of the devil. It is life or death.

  • http://www.oldsolar.com/currentblog.php Rick Ritchie

    “It appears rights do not appear in the Bible, only commands. We may not demand anything from the universe.”

    A right is not something we demand from the universe. It is something we demand from others. Nor is the civil law involved in every demand we make.

    I would also suggest that you read 1 Corinthians 9 before deciding that rights are an unbiblical concept. How we make use of them may be altered by Scripture, but it does recognize their existence.

  • http://www.oldsolar.com/currentblog.php Rick Ritchie

    “It appears rights do not appear in the Bible, only commands. We may not demand anything from the universe.”

    A right is not something we demand from the universe. It is something we demand from others. Nor is the civil law involved in every demand we make.

    I would also suggest that you read 1 Corinthians 9 before deciding that rights are an unbiblical concept. How we make use of them may be altered by Scripture, but it does recognize their existence.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “A right is not something we demand from the universe”

    Of course. I was being silly. Sometimes it just doesn’t come across.

    “I would also suggest that you read 1 Corinthians 9 before deciding that rights are an unbiblical concept.”

    Hey, thanks for the citation. Any other thoughts on 1 Cor. 9?

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “A right is not something we demand from the universe”

    Of course. I was being silly. Sometimes it just doesn’t come across.

    “I would also suggest that you read 1 Corinthians 9 before deciding that rights are an unbiblical concept.”

    Hey, thanks for the citation. Any other thoughts on 1 Cor. 9?

  • http://www.oldsolar.com/currentblog.php Rick Ritchie

    sg@122
    Yes. I do have some other thoughts here. One is that the word translated “right” here is often elsewhere translated as either “authority” or “permission.” (The same word is used in the Great Commission where Jesus claims “all authority.” So it is probably best not to lean too far to mere permission.)

    Also, when St. Paul argues from the Old Testament in verse 9, he is arguing from a case where a prohibition was made on one party (a man) to something for another party (the ox). Even an ox is wronged when it is deprived of hope in its work, so how much more is this true of men? This line of argumentation might be useful in showing that there are more rights to be found in Scripture than are explicitly stated using the language of rights.

  • http://www.oldsolar.com/currentblog.php Rick Ritchie

    sg@122
    Yes. I do have some other thoughts here. One is that the word translated “right” here is often elsewhere translated as either “authority” or “permission.” (The same word is used in the Great Commission where Jesus claims “all authority.” So it is probably best not to lean too far to mere permission.)

    Also, when St. Paul argues from the Old Testament in verse 9, he is arguing from a case where a prohibition was made on one party (a man) to something for another party (the ox). Even an ox is wronged when it is deprived of hope in its work, so how much more is this true of men? This line of argumentation might be useful in showing that there are more rights to be found in Scripture than are explicitly stated using the language of rights.

  • kerner

    I repeat, that in a legal system (between people and each other, not between people and God), a “right” is the opposite of a “wrong”. If it is legally wrong to kill me, then, legally, I have a right to not be killed. On the other hand, if I have no legal right to life, then to kill me is not legally wrong, and there should not be a penalty for killing me. This is not only true of killing, but of everything the law (among people) forbids. Doing X is legally wrong (and penalized)only if someone (an individual or society as a whole) has a right that X not be done.

    From a legal theory standpoint, this is the most basic stuff. X can be something inherent, like not being killed, but where a legal system gets complicated is whe X is something regulatory, like speeding.

    Regulatory rights and duties, like auto speeding regulations, are an attempt to balance the right to life (don’t create a danger of killing me with your car) with the right to liberty (you want to be free to get somewhere as quickly as possible).

    But the fundamentals (life, liberty, property) do not change. Our entire legal system (and, I would argue, to some degree every legal system) is based on the balancing of these.

  • kerner

    I repeat, that in a legal system (between people and each other, not between people and God), a “right” is the opposite of a “wrong”. If it is legally wrong to kill me, then, legally, I have a right to not be killed. On the other hand, if I have no legal right to life, then to kill me is not legally wrong, and there should not be a penalty for killing me. This is not only true of killing, but of everything the law (among people) forbids. Doing X is legally wrong (and penalized)only if someone (an individual or society as a whole) has a right that X not be done.

    From a legal theory standpoint, this is the most basic stuff. X can be something inherent, like not being killed, but where a legal system gets complicated is whe X is something regulatory, like speeding.

    Regulatory rights and duties, like auto speeding regulations, are an attempt to balance the right to life (don’t create a danger of killing me with your car) with the right to liberty (you want to be free to get somewhere as quickly as possible).

    But the fundamentals (life, liberty, property) do not change. Our entire legal system (and, I would argue, to some degree every legal system) is based on the balancing of these.

  • mikeb

    Rick Ritchie @115

    I wasn’t quite clear. My question should have clarifed, are we free just to eat or do anything we want so long as it is not sin. Having thought about it overnight, I think the argument could go either way since the Tree represented something of an anti-sacrament.

  • mikeb

    Rick Ritchie @115

    I wasn’t quite clear. My question should have clarifed, are we free just to eat or do anything we want so long as it is not sin. Having thought about it overnight, I think the argument could go either way since the Tree represented something of an anti-sacrament.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    very interesting, thanks, Rick

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    very interesting, thanks, Rick

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Kerner: Regarding our discussion on Friday/Saturday:

    Paul was writing the letter to the Romans, as well as his other Epistels, in a society where slavery was common. Yet, even in the letter to Phileomon, the practice is never even condemned. Rather, the admonishment is towards proper treatment, not freedom.

    You quoted Life, Property and Liberty as your fundamental rights, and wanted them to be Scripture / God-derived. Yet, slavery violates the last right most fragrantly, and God doesn’t say a word against the practce, all through the New Testament.

    Yet, historically, we know that the anti-slavery movement, from Wilberforce onwards, was heavily influenced by Christians. But only over 1700 years later did the walls seriously start to fall, although slavery was on the wane inside Europe (ie, internal slavery), because it was not economical, much earlier.

    What we have have here is a slow development, or just to upset Grace, an evolution of concepts, heavily influenced by the national cultures and traditions wherein the development occurs. Divine Law is a major influence, but not the only influence. In our shared Anglo tradition, a lot of rights can be for instance traced back to the Magna Carta. In the end one could say that Germanic Tribal custome was ifluenced by Roman law and strongly informed by the teachings of the Church.

    Now to go back, you also quoted Paul wrt the Law in the heart of man. True, but even as we saw above, the working out of that law is a complicated affair, and will express itself differently amongst different peoples.

    Anyway, the law in the heart of man has to do with man’s relation ship with the Creator. The secondary effect of that law is with man’s relationship with his neighbour. The presence of law in two individuals gives rise to the concept of Rights. But at first, this remained a nebulous concept, until codified and expressed by someone who had stamped authority on society, such as Hammurabi. Following, custum and culture starts changing that law, and you get the evolution of that law till you have a 21st Century (or 18th Century, doesn’t matter) Constitution, or Bill of rights etc. But one cannot try and tease the various influences apart. I would not go so far as Cincinnatus and, if I understand him correctly, deny the moral base of Rights. But neither would I go into the opposite direction and deny the slow evolution, with the many cultural influences etc on the various Rights we now treasure as Canadians/Americans/South Africans/whoever we are. That is actually one of the reasons why, noting all the current practical shortcoming on the side (sad story), I kind of like the SA legal system as I quoted way up there in #4 – it comes fairly close to acknowledging the complex past whence we all come.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Kerner: Regarding our discussion on Friday/Saturday:

    Paul was writing the letter to the Romans, as well as his other Epistels, in a society where slavery was common. Yet, even in the letter to Phileomon, the practice is never even condemned. Rather, the admonishment is towards proper treatment, not freedom.

    You quoted Life, Property and Liberty as your fundamental rights, and wanted them to be Scripture / God-derived. Yet, slavery violates the last right most fragrantly, and God doesn’t say a word against the practce, all through the New Testament.

    Yet, historically, we know that the anti-slavery movement, from Wilberforce onwards, was heavily influenced by Christians. But only over 1700 years later did the walls seriously start to fall, although slavery was on the wane inside Europe (ie, internal slavery), because it was not economical, much earlier.

    What we have have here is a slow development, or just to upset Grace, an evolution of concepts, heavily influenced by the national cultures and traditions wherein the development occurs. Divine Law is a major influence, but not the only influence. In our shared Anglo tradition, a lot of rights can be for instance traced back to the Magna Carta. In the end one could say that Germanic Tribal custome was ifluenced by Roman law and strongly informed by the teachings of the Church.

    Now to go back, you also quoted Paul wrt the Law in the heart of man. True, but even as we saw above, the working out of that law is a complicated affair, and will express itself differently amongst different peoples.

    Anyway, the law in the heart of man has to do with man’s relation ship with the Creator. The secondary effect of that law is with man’s relationship with his neighbour. The presence of law in two individuals gives rise to the concept of Rights. But at first, this remained a nebulous concept, until codified and expressed by someone who had stamped authority on society, such as Hammurabi. Following, custum and culture starts changing that law, and you get the evolution of that law till you have a 21st Century (or 18th Century, doesn’t matter) Constitution, or Bill of rights etc. But one cannot try and tease the various influences apart. I would not go so far as Cincinnatus and, if I understand him correctly, deny the moral base of Rights. But neither would I go into the opposite direction and deny the slow evolution, with the many cultural influences etc on the various Rights we now treasure as Canadians/Americans/South Africans/whoever we are. That is actually one of the reasons why, noting all the current practical shortcoming on the side (sad story), I kind of like the SA legal system as I quoted way up there in #4 – it comes fairly close to acknowledging the complex past whence we all come.

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  • rey

    Not obsolete. Just being ignored. There’s a difference. One mistake the founding fathers made was to not put term-limits on congress. That’s where most of our trouble comes from, these dinosaurs who’ve been there 50 years. The other mistake was the religious test clause that no religious test can be put to a candidate for office. They should have said no test of religious denomination but that candidates must profess belief in God and affirm that they have no religious difference with the declaration of independence. Because atheists quite simply deny the very foundation of the country, the declaration of independence. Calvinists do too. Neither Atheist nor Calvinists will assent that “all men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable right, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Calvinists don’t believe in equal creation or in rights. Atheists obviously don’t believe in a Creator. Both undermine the Constitution and are enemies of America.

  • rey

    Not obsolete. Just being ignored. There’s a difference. One mistake the founding fathers made was to not put term-limits on congress. That’s where most of our trouble comes from, these dinosaurs who’ve been there 50 years. The other mistake was the religious test clause that no religious test can be put to a candidate for office. They should have said no test of religious denomination but that candidates must profess belief in God and affirm that they have no religious difference with the declaration of independence. Because atheists quite simply deny the very foundation of the country, the declaration of independence. Calvinists do too. Neither Atheist nor Calvinists will assent that “all men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable right, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Calvinists don’t believe in equal creation or in rights. Atheists obviously don’t believe in a Creator. Both undermine the Constitution and are enemies of America.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Rey, even as a non-American, I have to say that it is seldom that one gets to read somebody that is so far out to lunch on this specific subject matter.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Rey, even as a non-American, I have to say that it is seldom that one gets to read somebody that is so far out to lunch on this specific subject matter.

  • http://freedomfighterusa.wordpress.com Jim White

    Our Constitution is just fine the way it is. It has lasted 223 years because it was done right. The critics think the grass is greener on the other side. They want to point out all the new and extra rights in other constitutions without pointing out that those people learned it from us. We have many guaranteed “Rights” that aren’t in the Constitution. Miranda Rights, Affirmative Action, hate crime laws, et al. We have many agencies to enforce “Rights:” EEOC, HUD, DHHS, OSHA, a gigantic bowl of alphabet soup to protect “Rights.” Why are Americans, especially those who have sworn to uphold and defend the Constitution looking to other constitutions for influence and guidance? That’s like Da Vinci using your child’s refrigerator art as a muse.

  • http://freedomfighterusa.wordpress.com Jim White

    Our Constitution is just fine the way it is. It has lasted 223 years because it was done right. The critics think the grass is greener on the other side. They want to point out all the new and extra rights in other constitutions without pointing out that those people learned it from us. We have many guaranteed “Rights” that aren’t in the Constitution. Miranda Rights, Affirmative Action, hate crime laws, et al. We have many agencies to enforce “Rights:” EEOC, HUD, DHHS, OSHA, a gigantic bowl of alphabet soup to protect “Rights.” Why are Americans, especially those who have sworn to uphold and defend the Constitution looking to other constitutions for influence and guidance? That’s like Da Vinci using your child’s refrigerator art as a muse.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    “That’s like Da Vinci using your child’s refrigerator art as a muse.”

    Arrogant sod. I’m not saying you have to give yours up. But in honouring yours, please do not disrespect the rest of us.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    “That’s like Da Vinci using your child’s refrigerator art as a muse.”

    Arrogant sod. I’m not saying you have to give yours up. But in honouring yours, please do not disrespect the rest of us.

  • Cincinnatus

    KK@131: Defensive, self-righteous, and convinced that Americans are “arrogant sods” and that nothing they have could possibly be superior or exceptional?

    Yup, looks like you’ve almost achieved the status of official Canadian ;-)

  • Cincinnatus

    KK@131: Defensive, self-righteous, and convinced that Americans are “arrogant sods” and that nothing they have could possibly be superior or exceptional?

    Yup, looks like you’ve almost achieved the status of official Canadian ;-)

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Cincinnatus – almost ;) . But I think you know what I mean – calling all others infantile and yourself superior is just, well, infantile.

    BTW, what do you make of Mr White’s denominational screening? No atheists / Calvinists? I wonder if Hindu’s or neopagans are allowed? Buddhists? Animists? Quakers? Anglicans? Baptists? OK, not Reformed Baptists, obviously, but what about SBC? Would people have to write some kind of theological exam? What if someone is an Agnostic? And I thought Grace was weird…

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Cincinnatus – almost ;) . But I think you know what I mean – calling all others infantile and yourself superior is just, well, infantile.

    BTW, what do you make of Mr White’s denominational screening? No atheists / Calvinists? I wonder if Hindu’s or neopagans are allowed? Buddhists? Animists? Quakers? Anglicans? Baptists? OK, not Reformed Baptists, obviously, but what about SBC? Would people have to write some kind of theological exam? What if someone is an Agnostic? And I thought Grace was weird…

  • Cincinnatus

    KK@133:

    Wait, denominational screening? Where was that? This conversation was even more bonkers than I thought (which I why I dropped out a while ago).

  • Cincinnatus

    KK@133:

    Wait, denominational screening? Where was that? This conversation was even more bonkers than I thought (which I why I dropped out a while ago).

  • Tom Hering

    Did anyone watch “Slavery by Another Name” on PBS last night? An excellent documentary on neo-slavery in the South from 1865 to 1945. (A system that flourished with the North’s complicity.) Apparently, the 13th Ammendment left quite a loophole: “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” Seems to me all liberty-loving Americans would want some rewording there.

  • Tom Hering

    Did anyone watch “Slavery by Another Name” on PBS last night? An excellent documentary on neo-slavery in the South from 1865 to 1945. (A system that flourished with the North’s complicity.) Apparently, the 13th Ammendment left quite a loophole: “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” Seems to me all liberty-loving Americans would want some rewording there.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Cincinnatus – # 130

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Cincinnatus – # 130

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Sorry – correction – # 128

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Sorry – correction – # 128

  • Grace

    Jim White is right, when he states below:

    “Why are Americans, especially those who have sworn to uphold and defend the Constitution looking to other constitutions for influence and guidance? That’s like Da Vinci using your child’s refrigerator art as a muse.”

    Name calling such as “Arrogant sod” is just the way it’s hooted from those who’s distain for the United States is voiced all to often, in an angry attempt to SILENCE those in the U.S. Envy has many faces!

    Remember 9-11? I do. I also remember all remarks from the north regarding U.S. partly to blame.

    Majority thinks U.S. partly to blame for Sept. 11

    By SHAWN MCCARTHY
    Ottawa Bureau Chief; Source: Ipsos-Reid
    Saturday, September 7, 2002

    “A vast majority of Canadians believes the United States bears at least some responsibility for the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks because of U.S. policies in the Middle East and around the globe, according to a Globe and Mail/CTV poll.

    Another excerpt:

    “In the Ipsos-Reid survey — which polled 1,000 Canadians last week — 69 per cent of respondents said the U.S. shares some of the responsibility for the attacks, while 15 per cent said all of the responsibility sits on American shoulders. The attacks killed thousands of civilians and U.S. military personnel at the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington.”

    http://www.ctv.ca/special/sept11/hubs/canadian/mccarthy.html

    Such is the sentiment of our neighbors from the north.

  • Grace

    Jim White is right, when he states below:

    “Why are Americans, especially those who have sworn to uphold and defend the Constitution looking to other constitutions for influence and guidance? That’s like Da Vinci using your child’s refrigerator art as a muse.”

    Name calling such as “Arrogant sod” is just the way it’s hooted from those who’s distain for the United States is voiced all to often, in an angry attempt to SILENCE those in the U.S. Envy has many faces!

    Remember 9-11? I do. I also remember all remarks from the north regarding U.S. partly to blame.

    Majority thinks U.S. partly to blame for Sept. 11

    By SHAWN MCCARTHY
    Ottawa Bureau Chief; Source: Ipsos-Reid
    Saturday, September 7, 2002

    “A vast majority of Canadians believes the United States bears at least some responsibility for the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks because of U.S. policies in the Middle East and around the globe, according to a Globe and Mail/CTV poll.

    Another excerpt:

    “In the Ipsos-Reid survey — which polled 1,000 Canadians last week — 69 per cent of respondents said the U.S. shares some of the responsibility for the attacks, while 15 per cent said all of the responsibility sits on American shoulders. The attacks killed thousands of civilians and U.S. military personnel at the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington.”

    http://www.ctv.ca/special/sept11/hubs/canadian/mccarthy.html

    Such is the sentiment of our neighbors from the north.

  • Tom Hering

    A poll from July 2006, sponsored by Scripps Howard and conducted by Ohio University, surveyed 1,010 randomly-selected citizens of the United States, with a margin of error of 4 percent. The survey found that 36 percent thought it somewhat or very likely that U.S. officials either participated in the attacks or took no action to stop them.

    A large segment of Canadian opinion (“the U.S. shares some responsibilty”) pales in comparison to a good segment of our own (“our government was either behind it or allowed it to happen”).

  • Tom Hering

    A poll from July 2006, sponsored by Scripps Howard and conducted by Ohio University, surveyed 1,010 randomly-selected citizens of the United States, with a margin of error of 4 percent. The survey found that 36 percent thought it somewhat or very likely that U.S. officials either participated in the attacks or took no action to stop them.

    A large segment of Canadian opinion (“the U.S. shares some responsibilty”) pales in comparison to a good segment of our own (“our government was either behind it or allowed it to happen”).

  • Grace

    Tom,

    You didn’t give the LINK. Check out your link again, and the graphs of those countries who believed Al Qaeda was responsible.

    Egypt and Jordan ?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/September_11_attacks_opinion_polls

    The poll from Canada was published on September 7, 2002. Just days before the Anniversary of that horrific attack on the U.S. Typical of the Canadian attitude towards the United States

  • Grace

    Tom,

    You didn’t give the LINK. Check out your link again, and the graphs of those countries who believed Al Qaeda was responsible.

    Egypt and Jordan ?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/September_11_attacks_opinion_polls

    The poll from Canada was published on September 7, 2002. Just days before the Anniversary of that horrific attack on the U.S. Typical of the Canadian attitude towards the United States

  • Grace

    Post 140

    SHOULD READ:

    Check out graph regarding Egypt and Jordan!

  • Grace

    Post 140

    SHOULD READ:

    Check out graph regarding Egypt and Jordan!


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