Martin Luther as inventor of freedom

1024px-Лютер_в_ВормсеLutherans aren’t the only ones celebrating the 500th anniversary of Luther’s posting of the 95 theses.  Nor are Protestants or other Christians.  Luther had a monumental impact on Western Civilization, so even the secularists are taking the opportunity to study Luther’s cultural contributions, from his impact on universal education to his pioneering use of information technology (the printing press).

Time Magazine has published an article reprinted from History Today by scholar Frank Furedi entitled How Martin Luther Helped Invent Individual Freedom.

Furedi argues that when Luther stood up against Pope and Emperor at the Diet of Wurms, making his stand on his individual conscience, he, in effect, invented personal freedom.  His rejection of temporal and ecclesiastical authority would lead, Furedi says, to the undermining of all authority.  Including, eventually, to the authority of God.

Read Furedi’s argument, quoted and linked after the jump.  After which, I will explain what is wrong with what he says, while acknowledging that Luther did play an important role in the rise of freedom.

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A world without property, privacy, freedom, or problems

World_Economic_Forum_Annual_Meeting_2005aDanish politician Ida Auken has written a provocative essay entitled Welcome to 2030. I own nothing, have no privacy, and life has never been better.  She envisions a time when property is replaced by services, when technology provides for our every need, individual privacy gives way to the needs of the group, and government takes complete care of us.

She says that this is not a utopia that she is actually proposing but a thought experiment about where we might be heading.  Still, that the essay is posted on the website of the World Economic Forum might give us pause.

The World Economic Forum is an organization of global politicians, tycoons, and celebrities that meet annually in Davos, Switzerland, to discuss the future and their plans for the rest of us.  Conspiracy theorists of both the right and the left shudder at the spector of the global elites meeting to plot their world domination.  But that the Davos participants are discussing this article might provoke some justified paranoia.

As Daisy Luther says, who cites the article in a critique of the proposed Universal Basic Income, all of this amounts to a restoration of feudalism–a system where the masters own everything and the peasants are kept under control in exchange for protection. [Read more…]

U.S. no longer makes the “free country” top 10 list

The United States is no longer in the top 10 of the world’s most free countries.  We are number 15.  However, despite our obesity rates and bad eating habits, we are number 1 when it comes to health.  We are #33 in safety and security.  The United States is #11 in economic strength and overall prosperity.

Scandinavian countries take most of the top spots, with Norway winning the top marks when all of the categories are considered, making it the most prosperous of nations.  All of this is according to the Legatum Prosperity Index.  See details after the jump. [Read more…]

All Americans are Whigs

Lutheran political scientist James R. Rogers explains things like gay marriage and transgender bathrooms–and the speed with which they became popular in the American mind–by pointing out that all Americans are basically Whigs.  That is, they believe that history is about unfolding progress and the progressive emancipation of human beings.  Both American liberals and conservatives, in different ways, are Whigs.  So are Christians as well as non-Christians.  (So let’s bring back the Whig party!)
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Happiness vs. Freedom?

In a description of his new book, The Intolerable God, author Christopher J. Insole tells about a central struggle in the philosopher Immanuel Kant:  the conflict between happiness and freedom.

Now this sounds strange to American ears.  Surely, freedom is essential to happiness.  But Kant relates the issue to God.  Here is how Insole describes Kant’s dilemma:

We need God if we are to hope for happiness, as Kant thinks we must. We also need freedom, in a strong sense, in order to be moral. God must withdraw for this freedom to be possible. But if God withdraws, happiness can no longer be attained.

Read about this after the jump.  How would you resolve this dilemma?  I offer some thoughts myself. [Read more…]

Freedom and the new comment system

Thanks, everybody, for trying out the new World Table comment system.  I can relate to the frustrations some of you are registering.  Thanks also to Jack Donaldson of World Table for commenting on the various threads.  We should rate him as “helpful,” “strongly agree.”  He wrote me an e-mail with the subject “Wow! Loving your community!”  That shows a great attitude, given how many of you were “rating” his system rather poorly, but he is right to be impressed with your thoughtfulness and your high level of discourse.  He said this:  “Great feedback coming in so far. I’ve been in the thread answering people’s questions this morning. So far, most everything mentioned is in the works, but we are feeling the pressure, having heard a ton of feedback from your folks.”  We’ll see what happens with all of this.

Anyway, one larger point was raised that deserves discussion in itself.  Is this attempt to create a climate of civility by means of an algorithm part of the same syndrome that has given us politically correct speech codes, trigger warnings, and the hypersensitivity to being offended that shuts down the freedom of speech?  The syndrome that we have mocked and criticized on this very blog?  Do we have such thin skins that we need to be protected from other commenters, lest our feelings be hurt?

I’d like to hear what you think about this, but I think there is a difference in what this new comment system is trying to do, which I will explain after the jump. [Read more…]