Freedom and Government

To the list of great political theorists, I would like to add director John Ford. I’d like to raise for your consideration a comment I made on the “Who holds the deed to your house” post:

We watched “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence” last night in my film class. The lawless “state of nature” does NOT promote private property or free enterprise. Rather, in that movie, the lawless cattle ranchers, with their power and gunslingers, were taking the property of the small farmers so they could have an “open range.” Only until law came to Shinbone and the people voted for statehood was private property protected.

(What a great movie, by the way! Jimmy Stewart AND John Wayne AND Lee Marvin AND Lee Van Cleef, not to mention great supporting actors such as Andy Devine. And the incomparable direction of John Ford.)

To expand the point: Many conservatives and libertarians believe that government, by its nature, limits human freedom. In a state of minimal government, free enterprise economics would thrive, and human beings would form in other dimensions of life an analogous self-regulating order.

In the thought experiment that is John Ford’s movie, “Liberty” Valence may have liberty, but he is about the only one. There is no private property. When he wants to take someone’s steak, he just takes it. When the cattlemen want their cattle to graze on farms, they just cut the fences. Because the advocates of the “wild west” do not respect anyone’s private property, there is no free enterprise economics. “Shopkeepers” stand with the small farmers to work for a rule of law and statehood for the territory. The community has to stand up against Liberty Valence. Violence (cf. “valence”?) is indeed necessary to create social order. Liberty Valence has to be shot. And those who can stand up against him, like Tom Donophan (John Wayne), ironically, also have no place in the new civilized order.

But, according to Ford, government is necessary for freedom. Not that government cannot also squelch freedom, as in the totalitarian systems of Fascism and Communism, both of which Ford fought. But a democratic government and the rule of law, in his mind, was a prerequisite for both personal freedom and a free economy. Isn’t he right?

The foreign money accusation

Election rhetoric has become gotcha-games of name-calling and insinuation, a matter of building up one’s own image and damaging the image of your opponent.  This debases the positive argumentation that is necessary for a democratic republic.  Yes, both sides do it.  The latest gambit is Democrats playing the xenophobia card, raising the sinister specter of foreigners buying the American election by funding Republicans, all without a shred of evidence. The President himself is doing this! George Will analyzes a charge that President Obama threw out:

He recently said: “Just this week, we learned that one of the largest groups paying for these ads regularly takes in money from foreign corporations. So groups that receive foreign money are spending huge sums to influence American elections.” It takes a perverse craftsmanship to write something that slippery. Consider:

“Just this week, we learned. . . .” That is a fib. The fact that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce — this is what he is talking about but for some reason is reluctant to say so — receives membership dues from multinational corporations, some of them foreign-owned, is not something Obama suddenly “learned.” It is about as secret as the location of the chamber’s headquarters, a leisurely three-minute walk from the White House.

“Regularly takes in money from foreign corporations.” Obama cites no evidence to refute the chamber’s contention that it sequesters such funds — less than one-twentieth of 1 percent of its budget — from the money it devotes to political advocacy. The AFL-CIO, which spends heavily in support of Democratic candidates, also receives money from associated labor entities abroad, but Obama has not expressed angst about this.

“So groups that receive foreign money are spending huge sums to influence American elections.” The “so” is a Nixonian touch. It dishonestly implies what Obama prudently flinches from charging — that the “huge sums” are foreign money.

via George F. Will – The Democratic vision of Big Brother.

Meanwhile,unions that are giving lots of money to Democrats often have foreign members, not to mention illegal immigrants.

There are also lots of foreign-owned companies whose American affiliates are giving money to candidates. This is legal, as long as the money is just from the American branch. Though these companies give to both parties, according to the Washington Post, Democrats are getting most of it.

Wrestling with God

Our Scripture in church yesterday was another one of those enigmatic, yet profoundly evocative texts:  Jacob wrestling with the LORD (Genesis 32:22-30).  Pastor Douthwaite’s sermon, again, unfolded and applied it in some striking ways.  Read the whole sermon here:   St. Athanasius Lutheran Church: Pentecost 21 Sermon.  I will just quote a few sentences:

We find out that God was there with Jacob. In fact, it was God who was wrestling with Jacob! God appearing in hostile form, in order to help Jacob. . . .

God lets Himself be overcome, to bless Jacob.. . .

The God who appeared hostile in the night was Jacob’s Saviour in the morning.. . .

The Son of God who, just as in His wrestling match with Jacob, allows Himself to be overcome by man on the cross, in order to bless.. . .

So that you, like Jacob and like this widow, though you must wrestle and struggle night and day, not let God go. . . .That in the struggle, you cling to Him alone. That in the struggle, though God seem like an enemy, you cling to Him as your Father.. . .

How do you cling to a God you cannot see? Where do you cling to Him? By, as St. Paul told Timothy, clinging to His Word.. . .

Know this: that the God who came to wrestle with Jacob, the God who came and struggled for you on the cross, the God who overcame sin, death, and the devil, the God who comes now and cares for you, will not let you go.

What were you made to see in this text?

Happy belated Cranach day!

Saturday, October 16, was the day the patron of this blog, Lucas Cranach, the artist of the Reformation, died in 1553, at the age of 81.  (His formal day of commemoration is April 6, set aside to honor him along with other Reformation-era artists, Albrecht Durer and Michelangelo.)  Read about him and contemplate his self-portrait in the sidebar to the right.  He embodies what we keep talking about when it comes to vocation. How should his day be celebrated?

See Commemorating and Remembering Lucas Cranach Today | CyberBrethren-A Lutheran Blog.

Oklahoma Sooners are #1

So say the computers, as the first BCS rating, which averages in the human polls with statistics on strength of schedule and other number crunching, has anointed my alma mater’s football team #1!

Score an early round for Oklahoma.

And for computers.

The Sooners trail Oregon and Boise State in college football’s human-driven polls. But they posted higher computer ratings virtually across the board, and emerged Sunday atop the Bowl Championship Series’ first ratings of the season.

Oregon came in at No. 2 and Boise at No. 3, establishing an initial pecking order for berths in the BCS’ Jan. 10 national championship game in Glendale, Ariz. The top two teams at the end of the regular season advance.

Don’t discount Sunday’s outcome. Ten times in the BCS’ 12-year history, at least one of the first-week top two wound up in the title game.

via Oklahoma, Oregon occupy top two spots in first BCS standings – Campus Rivalry: College Football & Basketball News, Recruiting, Game Picks, and More –

But isn’t this reasonable? The human polls generally keep the previous week’s order, just bumping everybody up when a #1 team gets upset (as happened two weeks in a row, with Alabama and now Ohio State getting beat). Does anyone think Boise State, or even Oregon, has a tougher schedule than Oklahoma? Computers simply apply mathematics to the rankings and are thus bringing objective facts to bear. Isn’t that right? (I know, I know. I wouldn’t be saying that if Oklahoma got consigned a lower ranking because of the computers. But that’s because I’m not objective.)

Reformation Week on “Issues, Etc.”

The web-based radio program Issues, Etc. is planning a special series of programs for an early Reformation week, October 18-22, at 5:00 p.m. Central Time. The structure is following the chapters of my book Spirituality of the Cross.  Here are the topics and the guests:

October 18 – The Doctrine of Justification with Dr. Carl Fickenscher
October 19 – The Means of Grace with Pastor Paul McCain
October 20 – The Theology of the Cross with Dr. Scott Murray
October 21 – Vocation & Two-Kingdom Theology with Dr. Steven Hein
October 22 – Worship with Pastor Will Weedon