By: Thomas Lee Abshier, ND
Tom, I read your latest essay and haven’t had a chance to digest and write a reply. But I will say that I see a gigantic distinction between one’s own children (and the power and moral right over one’s own children) and other people in society – the distinction being that we undertook to create these people and bring them into the world, so we have an obvious obligation to love and train them. I disagree that any such obligation exists to the same degree to the public at large.
John, I am pleased to hear that you are considering the concepts that I offered in my latest essay.
Your comment is important, and the distinction between countries and parents deserves more elaboration. Obviously, there is a distinction between the literal parent and the parental role one must take at times with those who are not our children. There is a difference, but there is a similarity also. As always, life is a continuum, and it is necessary to recognize the differences, similarities, and mix as we move through the gradient between the poles.
Embedded within this distinction is the moral stand that justifies Libertarianism. The primary standard held by the Libertarian is the freedom to act according to one’s own conscience. Thus, the right of homosexuals, consenting adults, drug users, or revolutionaries to follow the path they consider right. I do not call myself a Libertarian (holding liberty as the superior/highest organizing principle of the individual and group) because I believe we are all constrained by the Law. God’s standard for Right relationship is the highest principle, but having established and identified that, I totally support the individual having all the degrees of freedom that the divine Law allows.
The question then is how much moral obligation do we each have in correcting another person? (As an aside: When we correct another person (or nation) we place ourselves at risk of being confronted with correction. When we play the parent role, we risk being put in the child role in response.)
When we are in the corrective/counseling role it is a parent-type role, and the parent has the moral obligation to exert the appropriate amount of force to influence the child to move rightly.
We cannot divorce ourselves completely from the well being, and actions of all other nation-states and live in isolation. In other words, we are in a relationship with people as individuals and groups, and we should adopt any polarity that the interaction properly requires. But, the question is always, “What is the appropriate role, polarity, or response to the action of another person/nation?”
(This question introduces the question of whether the situation falls into the category of being governed by an Absolute Standard. The answer to that question naturally dictates the proper course of action. If there is an absolute standard, then we are certainly justified in acting according to that standard. Likewise, if there is no absolute standard, then we have no obligation to act any particular way, and we are free to act according to taste, habit, or personal theory of proper life flow.)
This is, in essence, the substance of the discussion. Is there a Right way for a person or nation to act in response to another? – The Libertarian response would often be, “Each person and nation is sovereign, and each sovereign should behave as he wishes.” But, I contend that no man or nation is completely sovereign, instead, we each have an obligation to serve each other.
In the case of a badly behaving nation, treating them like a child (age appropriate for their level of development in the path to maturity) is appropriate. The influence and the moral obligation is progressively stronger when there is a close client/dependent relationship as was present with Egypt. Obviously, the child/nation must be treated with respect, and given freedom to the extent that their behavior is good, and use discipline of various sorts (withdrawal of approval on the world stage, teaching in the form of media commentary, supporting good decisions and leaders…) when behavior is bad. Letting them simply make decisions that will destroy themselves or others, will produce poor results, for them and for us. It is easier to let people just be themselves and not apply corrective influence, but the degeneration will later prove that course was unwise as evidenced by the various forms of pain that arise from bad behavior. Every interaction has a little bit of parent, peer, teacher, student, child, elder… in it. There is seldom the monovalent relationship experience. Rather, we must simply flow into the proper valence and relate as best we can, applying pressure, yielding ground, taking a position, influencing, and being influenced. Nation to Nation is just another one of the relationship dyads, and it can assume any of the possible combinations of relationship pairs.
—– Original Message —–
From: Thomas Lee Abshier, ND
To: John Sent: Saturday, February 05, 2011 1:42 AM
Subject: Campaign for liberty
John, hopefully the following will move our discussion forward. I had some new revelations about choice and freedom as I confronted the issues of this essay, and I am interested in your feedback. This article was in reference to the von Mises article on Egypt.
Sadly the most likely outcome of the Egypt drama is that the tyranny of the fascist dictatorship will be replaced by the tyranny of Sharia Law. Giving children democracy, i.e. the freedom to choose, is harmful when the child has no maturity in moral discrimination.
Releasing children (a culture) to “choose” Sharia is akin to allowing a child to choose to smoke dope, have sex, drive fast, and join cults. Yes, freeing people from tyranny is good. But, it is not good, inspiring, or a wonderful example of “freedom” to allow them to choose another tyranny. The outcome of the freedom will be poor when people choose badly. The consequences of some choices are not easily reversible, and it is best not to give choice to the child, imbecile, madman, or rebel.
As the de facto puppet masters of Egypt, America has squandered its time of hegemonic influence — a time when we could have used our overbearing parental position to strongly influence the culture, dictatorship, corruptocracy, and economy. Of course, the distance between their present cultural/economic reality and true prosperity and righteous rule of law is of epic proportions, but we could have applied pressure slowly, in the right direction, and the hearts, minds, and actions of the people would have followed. A paradigm shift is needed, and we could and should have used our time of influence to move the culture incrementally toward the formation of a Christian Constitutional Republic.
(I know this was not the purpose of the various administrations or power structures. They got what they wanted and paid for. And, this is exactly the reason why you oppose governments, espouse Libertarianism, and want to form a society free of such top-down tyranny.)
What I am proposing is not politically correct. I know we are supposed to respect all religions, let everyone believe whatever they believe, never say that one religion more true or correct, and above all we are never to say that there is only one way to the Father. But, we are operating under a double standard that actually reveals an agenda. The Godless Left wants to separate Christianity completely from State, despite the blessings that it has brought America. But, they loudly advocate for the right of the Islamists to rule themselves under the authoritarian rule of Sharia.
Moving a culture involves progressing gradually upward through steps such as: food, water, sanitation, housing, power, transportation, communication, righteous rule of law, and finally a Right standard of Law. But, starting with the Right Standard (i.e. Godliness) speeds up the process, which is what we saw with the rise of America. The fact that we were largely a Christian nation at our founding may have been the major factor in her meteoric rise to dominance of the world stage.
As nation builders, as shapers of the cultures of the world, we could have applied gentle pressure along multiple axi in the direction of Righteousness. People long for freedom within the limits of righteousness. But freedom and a righteous society come slowly when under the weight of a totalitarian theocracy. The change comes faster in an environment of free exchange of ideas and prosperity. We did not foster this in Egypt, to our shame. We deserve the coming caliphate and all the horrors it will bring to our economy, world, and freedom. No one can use the devil for his own benefit — it’s only a matter of time until he is used.
We could have used our influence to change hearts and minds by showing them the fruit of Godliness. The problem is we are hypocrites, claiming to embrace freedom and democracy while propping up dictators and enabling their suppression for our benefit. We must first live and be the ideals before we can export them. My real critique is of ourselves; we are not the change we advocate.
The major consideration for the Libertarian could be phrased as, “What right do we have to exert an influence or lifestyle upon other people?” And the answer is, “We have the same right that a righteous parent has to mold a child.” As parents, we have the right and obligation to teach children to love, distinguish good from evil, give honor to whom honor is due, treat others as you want to be treated.”
But, the more important question is, “Do people have the right to do what is wrong?” The answer is context dependent. From God’s frame of reference, He gave men free will. So, one could argue that God intended that men have the right to do anything they please.
But, this opinion is brought under question when we consider the same question relative to the perspective of man. “Do men have the right to do anything they want?”
The answer is “No.” Men have no right to do anything that makes the world worse because doing wrong hurts other people. There are no victimless crimes. No sin that affects only self. There is only disagreement about whether an action is right or wrong. If it is right, no one is hurt, self or other. If it is wrong, both self and others are hurt. No one has the right to hurt anyone else.
Men only have the right to do the Right and Godly thing. Every action, to self or others, makes the world better or worse, and we have no right to make the world worse for another person. Good and evil are not equivalent. Pleasure and pain are not equivalent. Poverty and wealth are not equivalent. Love and hatred are not equivalent. There are choices that make the world a worse place to live for our fellow man, and we have no right to inflict that polarity of pain, evil, hatred… upon him.
As fellow travelers on planet Earth, we all make wrong choices. And, we each give each other the grace to make mistakes, learn and change. I do not have the right to make your world a worse place. But, I do have a right to make the world a better place, whether you like it or not. I may have to suffer through opposition to make my world better. I may have to exert the hard force of persuasion and alienation to change/enroll hearts and minds in embracing a new standard. It takes effort to oppose a man’s world, to convince him that he should not do x/y/z. Opposing another’s wrong action should be done in the same respectful way in which I want to be corrected for my errors of thought, speech, and action. We are all proud, insecure, fragile, and a gentle, kind rebuke, with faith in the other’s innate desire for goodness is always appreciated. In other words, “Speak the Truth with love.”
Of course, men can (are able to) do what is wrong, but they will suffer for it. They may prosper for a while, and the party may be quite exciting for a season, but in the end, the piper will be paid, the hangover will be felt, and the bill for violations of space will come due. The world will be degraded just a little because of every imperfection of thought, speech, and action.
Yes, God gave us the freedom to rebel, to choose other gods and self-destructive lifestyles, but none of those choices will optimize our happiness. If chosen, the value is only in experiencing the pain and rejecting the temptation for future repetition. The man who wishes to make a habit of sin should be shunned from the community and given refuge only by a hard teacher or others of like mind. There is no kindness extended in consolation and codependent enabling of the addict to evil/sin. Communities of reprobates should be isolated and made a public example so as to serve as a warning to the wise. As a parent, it is imperative to have and teach a right perspective/pattern of life; otherwise, the child will follow the ways of his scoundrel parents.
Of course, who can know for certain that he is truly embracing Godly principles? Which, is why we choose to live in community and be subject to its standards, rules, and culture. Likewise, we should be able to choose our community, since we will either be brought up, down, or fight the environment.
We each make choices about right and wrong, and we all support, choose, and teach by example our concept of righteousness. The parent has no right to train the child in the ways of crime and self/other abuse. The child will lead a life of suffering at the hands of a parent who trains him in the ways of evil. What right does the parent have to abuse the child by training him in ways which will inevitably produce suffering? A parent has the God-authorized right to direct a child’s mind, using all the tools of teaching, training, and discipline (the soft tools of force). As a nation, we have the same right, and obligation, if we love our brother nations.
A People’s Uprising Against Tyranny
By Lew Rockwell View
all 27 articles by Lew Rockwell Published 02/04/11
Those of the young generation, people too young to remember the collapse of Soviet bloc and other socialist states in 1989 and 1990, are fortunate to be living through another thrilling example of a seemingly impenetrable state edifice reduced to impotence when faced with crowds demanding freedom, peace, and justice.There is surely no greater event than this. To see it instills in us a sense of hope that the longing for freedom that beats in the heart of every human being can be realized in our time.This is why all young people should pay close attention to what is happening in Egypt — to the protests against the regime of Hosni Mubarak as well as the pathetic response coming from his imperial partner, the United States, which has given him many billions in military and secret-police aid to keep him in power.The United States is in much the same situation today as the Soviet Union was in 1989, as a series of socialist dominoes toppled. Poland, Romania, Hungary, East Germany, Bulgaria, and Czechoslovakia all experienced dramatic meltdowns, while the Soviet regime, supportive of these systems since the end of the Second World War, sat by helplessly and watched. Leaders made vague statements about the need for peaceful transitions and elections, while the people on the ground completely ignored them.What has sparked the uprising? There are economic considerations, of course. A good rate of inflation in Egypt is considered to be 10 percent, and currency depreciation works as a massive punishment against savings and capital accumulation. Unemployment is high — about the same rate as the United States’ — but it is even higher for young people who are worried about the future.Economic growth has been much better in the last decades, thanks to economic reforms, but this tendency (as in the old Soviet bloc) has only worked to create rising expectations and more demands for freedom. It remains a fact that nearly half the population lives in terrifying poverty.The core of the problem, it appears, relates to civil liberties and the very old-fashioned conviction that the country is ruled by a tyrant who must go. Mubarak tolerates no challenges to his martial-law rule. There are tens of thousands of political prisoners in the country, and it is easy to get arrested and tortured simply by calling the dictator names. The press is censored, opposition groups are suppressed, and corruption runs rampant. Mubarak’s will to power has known no bounds: he chooses all the country’s elites based solely on personal loyalty to himself.Mubarak has ruled for 30 years, and yes, there have been elections every 6 years, but these are widely seen as being only for show. Opposition candidates end up prosecuted for a variety of invented crimes. Democracy in Egypt is merely a slogan for one-party rule. And this is striking: the main excuse for his martial law is one that is all too familiar to Americans — the war on terror (and never mind the terror dispensed by the warriors themselves).Probably a more substantive issue concerns the digital revolution and the opening up of the entire world through the Internet — a species of the very thing that the United States cited as the reason for the anti-Soviet uprisings of the late 1980s and early ’90s. Many young people in Egypt are as connected to the world through social media as American teenagers, and they enjoy access to the sights and sounds of the modernity that the regime so opposes.To understand what is driving the protests, consider the date that they began: National Police Day on January 25. This holiday was created by Mubarak only in 2009. Talk about misjudging the situation! And sure enough, the government’s response was to jam nearly all Internet communications and shut down all cell-phone service on the day of the planned protest. But it didn’t work: Thanks to what is now being called “hacktivism,” the revolution is being broadcast around the world through Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube, even as Wikipedia is being updated minute by minute. And the Al Jazeera English live feed has, as usual, put the biased US media to shame.Meanwhile, official government voices in the United States have been pathetically behind the times. Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton have been refusing to describe Mubarak as a dictator and lamely urging a transition to an election — run and ruled over by the Mubarak regime. The protest leadership immediately saw that line for what it was and rejected it outright. It is unbearably obvious that the United States is nearly alone in more-or-less supporting Mubarak, but that is exactly what you would expect of the imperial backer of the despot.What are the protestors’ demands? It is not complicated. As in 1989, the one demand is that the dictator go. This makes complete sense and is the only solution that accords with what is right and just. This and only this will establish the basis for a transition to anything. What follows after that is really something that has to be worked out, not by the CIA, but by the Egyptian people, who have had their voices muzzled for far too long.What the uprisings underscore is a fundamental reality that the world too often forgets. It is at the core of the relationship between any government and any people, in all times and all places. The people far outnumber the government, and for that reason — and even when the government is heavily armed — every government must depend on some degree of consent to continue its rule. If the whole of a people rise up and say no, the bureaucrats and even the police are powerless. This is the great secret of government that is mostly ignored until revolution day arrives.More than the anti-Soviet protests of the late 1980s, the Egyptian uprisings reveal what might eventually come home to the American empire itself. Under the right conditions and at the right time, consciousness might dawn right here at home. It could happen here for the same reason it could happen anywhere. Government knows this, and hence its accumulation of weaponry and relentless propaganda. The difficulty for the state comes when its will to power generates what Thomas Jefferson called “a long train of abuses” that create a burning desire within people to rise up and demand freedom. Because, after all, it is the right of a people — is it not? — to alter and abolish the form of government under which they are forced to live.
Reprinted from LewRockwell.com and Mises.org
Also by Lew Rockwell :Hazlitt and Keynes: Opposite Callings 01/27/11
The Unthinking Right 12/31/10
The Economic Lessons of Bethlehem 12/24/10
What’s Wrong With the Jobs Market? 12/03/10
Another Smear of Anti-Fed Forces 11/22/10
View all 27 articles by Lew Rockwell