Commerce and Manners in Edmund Burke’s Political Economy

This is a little strange, a post based on a book review. by Samuel Gregg, research director at the Acton Institute and published in Law and Liberty. And yes, I ordered the book yesterday.

It is however a long review so if you don’t read the link you won’t get even all the highlights, so read it! Here’s some with my comments appended.

If there is any moment which marks modern conservatism’s beginning, it is the publication of Edmund Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790). Central to Burke’s critique of the events occurring across the Channel was his insistence that France’s revolutionaries were seeking to construct a new world based on abstractions deeply at variance with the hard-won wisdom of experience. That has become the standard interpretation of Burke offered by admirers and critics alike. It is, however, at variance with Burke’s most extensive economic treatise. His Thoughts and Details on Scarcity (1795), written as a private memorandum to Prime Minister William Pitt the Younger, invokes many of the same highly-theoretical ideas articulated by eighteenth-century thinkers on both sides of the Channel in favor of economic liberalization and against the mercantilist systems which dominated the European world.

I do think it important to compare Burke’s comments on the French Revolution with his on the American Revolution, only`13 years prior, in which he supported the proto-Americans. Be that as it may, Reflections on the Revolution in France, foresaw all too clearly what was to befall France and affects its history to this day. And for that matter increasingly, ours.

Much of Collins’ analysis is framed by his exploration of this “Das Edmund Burke Problem.” It somewhat parallels what mid-nineteenth century German thinkers called the “Das Adam Smith Problem.” This alleged a contradiction between the moral philosophy underlying Smith’s Theory of Moral Sentiments and the economic thought expressed in his Wealth of Nations. Collins’ ultimate conclusion is that there is no essential conflict in Burke’s thought “between traditional virtue and modern economies that could not be integrated and reconciled.”

I’ve never really understood the problem per se. To me, it is the difference between long and short range perception. If you’re trying to get rich irregardless of those around you, you do one thing, if you intend to remain in the community as a respected member you do otherwise. But maybe that’s the German’s problem, I don’t know.

In the first place, Burke did not regard himself as a type of professional economist. Such a designation, Collins points out, hardly existed in the eighteenth century. More significantly, like most of the period’s leading minds, Burke was free of the excessive specialization that distorts much academic inquiry today. Second, Burke studied these questions with a view to understanding and critiquing prevailing practices and promoting reforms (Burke was, after all, a Whig) which facilitated what Enlightenment thinkers called “improvement.”

Third, and perhaps most importantly, Collins highlights how Burke recognized that the general principles underpinning the case for broadening commercial liberties were never applied in a political vacuum, a morality-free zone, or culturally-empty settings. Those who thought such considerations could be ignored when it came to policy design were the people that Burke had in mind when he used the word “oeconomists” negatively in his 1790 Reflections. Context was not everything to Burke, but it did matter. […]

On the one hand, Collins notes, Burke unambiguously affirmed the economic advantages and prosperity associated with a growing liberalization of commerce between nations. He made this point repeatedly: so much so that it brought him into direct conflict with those merchants who resented competition. Burke was deeply skeptical of mercantilist vehicles of empire like the East India Company which epitomized an unhealthy blending of the commercial and the political. They were, Burke believed, of little benefit to Britain and contributed significantly to the corruption of British politics. Burke was also remarkably free of the obsession with bullion that underpinned mercantilist conceptions of wealth and which had fueled the expansion of Spain’s empire in the Americas. […]

The following is what decided me to spend the $50 for the book:

There was, however, another dimension to Burke’s economic thought which Collins’ book brings into full focus. Burke insisted that commercial liberties needed to be embedded in what Collins calls “pre-commercial pillars of religious instruction, social affection, and aristocratic moderation.” Here we find what Collins calls the “manners” part of Burke’s political economy.

On one level, this implied the wealthy embracing the Jewish and Christian teaching that they had concrete responsibilities to the poor. In many places, Burke emphasized the political and economic dysfunctionalities associated with delegating these obligations to the state. But he also maintained that declining to privately assist those in genuine need was morally wrong and corroded those more-than-contractual bonds which bound communities together.

For Burke, commercial societies needed to embody decidedly non-commercial imperatives, many of which stemmed from what we would call pre-modern ideas and institutions. If they didn’t, Burke feared, people’s horizons would become degraded and enfeebled by the single-minded pursuit of lucre. Such moral and intellectual corruption could not be magically confined to the private sphere. There was no way to cordon it off from public life.

Part of Burke’s complaint against mercantilism was how it had facilitated widespread venality in British political life. Members of Parliament and the King’s ministers became very susceptible to undue influence from merchants seeking the monopolies and privileges which were integral to mercantilist policies. He also understood, Collins illustrates, that what was denoted as “economy in government” reduced incentives for such behavior.

Unless people also behaved in accordance with what the eighteenth-century Anglo-American world associated with what Burke called “the gentleman,” commercial societies would come undone. By “gentleman,” Burke had more than mind than noblesse oblige; it also involved civility, cultivation of the virtues, generosity, a commitment to improvement, and “a fidelity to helping others.” This idea of the gentleman and the mixture of pre-modern and Enlightenment expectations which Burke invested in it will seem quaint to some people today. For others, it smacks of paternalism. Nonetheless it was indispensable, to Burke’s mind, for the long-term sustainability of commercial societies.

I, for one, agree.

As do I, wholeheartedly, and the two centuries of experience that we have since Burke wrote these thoughts, only emphasizes them, for we have seen what happens when they are disregarded.

This is long enough to give the flavor of the review and a taste (I hope) of the book. I hope many of you will read one or both because unless we know where we think we should be going, we’ll never get there, and Edmund Burke is one of our best guides.

 

Ordered Liberty

On Saturday, Pontiac, questioned my use of the phrase ‘ordered liberty‘, saying this, ” Lastly, I’m intrigued, Dave, by the words “ordered liberty” used in your preface to Jessica’s article and that it could be a dream. Could you explain more on that because I find those 2 words together an oxymoron.” and that is good, when phrases like that are used, it is to convey a specific meaning, and if one is not to miss the point, one should question. Sadly, I gave him a fairly glib and off the top of my head answer. So let’s do better.

As it happens, on Sunday, our blog buddy Portly Politico touched on this very thing, saying:

Disorder” – Americans love to focus on our rights and our freedoms, but we often do so at the cost of understanding our obligations that flow from those rights.  We also tend to neglect that Burkean wisdom that liberty, to be truly liberty, must be ordered.  One of the most shocking elements of these riots is the continued violation of legitimate authority—of order.  The disorder and chaos these looters have unleashed threatens not just real people and property, but the very foundations of a stable, free society.

If we follow PP’s link above, we find ourselves looking at the work of Edmund Burke, the Father of English conservatism, and at least the uncle of American conservatism. As PP quotes he had much to say in his  Reflections on the Revolution in France written as the French Revolution got underway in 1789, he wrote with reference to the Queen of France:

“I thought ten thousand swords must have leaped from their scabbards to avenge even a look that threatened her with insult. But the age of chivalry is gone. That of sophisters, economists, and calculators, has succeeded; and the glory of Europe is extinguished forever. Never, never more, shall we behold that generous loyalty to rank and sex, that proud submission, that dignified obedience, that subordination of the heart, which kept alive, even in servitude itself, the spirit of an exalted freedom. The unbought grace of life, the cheap defence of nations, the nurse of manly sentiment and heroick enterprise is gone! It is gone, that sensibility of principle, that chastity of honour, which felt a stain like a wound, which inspired courage whilst it mitigated ferocity, which ennobled whatever it touched, and under which vice itself lost half its evil, by losing all its grossness.”

And here is as good an exposition of ordered liberty as one will find from its originator. Burke was an implacable foe of Revolutionary France, as was Pitt the Younger, but twenty years earlier he had been one of the staunchest allies of the Continental Congress to be found in Parliament, along with both Pitt and Charles James Fox, the only time the three agreed on anything.

The difference between the revolutions is vast, the Americans upholding the ancient rights of Englishmen, and vying for a return to the good old law, and the French overturning all convention with a drive for libertinism. Truthfully, exactly as BLM and Antifa are today.

In its basics, this dichotomy goes directly back to the Enlightenment where the French version sought to overturn all norms, creating radical personal freedom for elites by enslaving most of the population, while destroying all traditional things, the church, the family, personal responsibility, private property. The English/Scottish Enlightenment did none of this, it found a way to join ever-increasing personal freedom into the sinews of British society as well as Christianity, creating a free yet ordered society, as cognizant of its duties as it is of its liberties.

And yes, the modern world is built on the British model, because the two countries, the United Kingdom and the United States, who have led modernization since the eighteenth century, are the two countries who adopted Edmund Burke’s concept of ordered liberty. It is that fundamental. It is also the reason that the Regressives in all their multivariate hues, attempt to destroy the Anglo-Saxon powers above all else.

 

Michael Oakeshott

Andrew Cunningham writing in American Thinker a few days ago introduced us to a British conservative that not many Americans are familiar with, and that’s too bad.

Yet, at its core, conservatism is still a practical, applicable, and logical political philosophy — a philosophy deeply concerned with maintaining what is good in society while rejecting dangerous and idiotic pipe dreams from the Left.

The most convincing argument for conservatism was presented by 20th-century British philosopher Michael Oakeshott. Oakeshott presents a conservatism that seems easy to accept and understand. The basis of Oakeshott’s argument for conservatism is the idea of familiarity.

In his landmark work, On Being Conservative, Oakeshott writes, “To be conservative is to be disposed to think and behave in certain manners; is to prefer certain kinds of conduct and certain conditions of human circumstances[.] … [T]hey [conservative values] center upon a propensity to use and enjoy what is available … rather than what was or what may be.” In other words, to be conservative means to prefer certain belief systems and styles of living and human behavior more than other types. It also means to appreciate what exists in the current social system without a pining for a future that might never exist.

A rudimentary view on Oakeshott’s conservatism is that it simply prefers the familiar over the unfamiliar and the proven good over unproven potential, or, as he says it, “present laughter to utopian bliss.” Oakeshott’s conservatism is an appreciation for the good that presently exists in the world.

At the most basic level of human life, there are preferences for food, music, and types of employment. On a more political level, one might prefer to maintain the good aspects of a society, such as basic freedoms of speech and religion, rather than hypothetically seeking what could be.

This is all very good, and it is true. It is also Burkean and explains well why Burke supported the American Revolution while strongly opposing the French revolution. And if one were to look at history since, one will see the utility and correctness of that appraisal. Still today, Americans tend to noisily work out our disagreements, in fact, we have the same government since the Terror was going in France, while the French are on their fifth republic, having had a couple of empires, a king or two, and whatnot since. They still have little idea of how to work out problems while the Anglo-Saxon powers do so as a matter of course.

That said and truly said, because Burkean (or Oakeshottean) conservatism will avoid most problems, it is not quite enough. It is the problem of the British Conservative party, which has no real foundation, and so tends to slide down the slope (almost always to the left). It’s also a problem for many American conservatives.

Most of that foundation in American usage comes from Locke, who provides the foundational beliefs which makes the building which Burke built so solid that it has weathered all the storms that have broken against it since before 1776. There are other sources, including our joint documents, but Locke clarified much.

By all means, read and study Oakeshott, and Burke as well, they are excellent practical guides but also read Locke, so that you can develop the foundational beliefs that have allowed American conservatism to stand as the rock against whichever storm is hurled against it, as it has as long as there has been an America.

And something that greatly pleases me is the author’s blurb for the linked author, to wit:

Andrew Cunningham is a published author and a junior at the University of Illinois, Springfield.  Follow his writings at Conservative Roundtable.

What an excellent start!

 

Edmund Burke, George Will, and the Duke of Sussex

Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri notes in The Federalist that George Will was his introduction to Aristotle and Edmund Burke. I can’t say that but like Senator Hawley Will was for years a must read for me. Too bad that he changed, from Senator Hawley:

Will’s fulminations are typical of a certain set of Clinton and Bush-era commentators who call themselves “conservative” but sound more like a cartoon version of libertarianism. Will shrugs at the decline of the working class and the loss of the communities that sustain them. He celebrates instead the “spontaneous order of a market society,” by which he apparently means woke capital, offshoring, and the growing corporatist alliance between big government and big business.

Will advises working families displaced by lost jobs and neighborhoods to shut up and move, like the Joad family in Steinbeck’s “Grapes of Wrath.” Packing up all their belongings and abandoning their family farm demonstrated the Joads’ “dignity,” Will opines. Interesting. He might want to re-read Steinbeck.

Or Edmund Burke. Will casts himself as a champion of individual liberty, but his reduction of individual freedom to market choice—the right to buy cheap stuff from China—wouldn’t have made any sense to Burke. (Or the American founders. Or the voters who cast their ballots for Donald Trump.)

Burke understood that individual freedom is formed by culture and community, and you have to work to defend both. The “little platoons,” Burke said—home and church, school and neighborhood—are where we grow, where we learn to love, where we find the strength and support to make something of our lives. And they are where we forge the common bonds that sustain our national sense of purpose.

In a nutshell, that sums up much of the never Trump nonsense, doesn’t it? I can’t say with complete confidence that it is choosing one’s paycheck over one conscience, but it sure looks that way. In fact, it stinks of selling out, for a price, to the globalists, who seem to think that the most important part of trade is a cheap workforce. Of course, it also provides a way to prevent competition from other smaller companies (and individuals) who might just find a better way to make things in America (or Britain for that matter). And that’s even better for the corporatists.


A Time for Choosing

Gavin Ashenden has a few comments on the plan of the Sussex’s ‘to carve a progressive role’. I couldn’t agree more with him when he says:

There is a tragic element to the blinkeredness and immaturity that mistakes a bid for independence as ‘carving a progressive role.’It isn’t that at all of course. In reality it is choosing between two competing philosophies or ethics. One, which the monarchy is founded on and depends on, is a Christian one in which doing one’s duty on behalf of others takes priority over self-interest. The other is a concentration on self-interest and self expression (however it is justified) at the expense of self-sacrifice and duty.The problem for the Sussexes is that they  have chosen to put their own self-interests before their public  duty and family. It has been tried before both by ordinary people and by prominent people like Edward 8th. The tragedy is that it almost always ends in a growth of self-pity and sadness.

I can’t say I’m especially surprised, Meghan (or should that be ‘Me Again’?) like most actresses appears to have more ego than sense, not to mention an overdeveloped sense of entitlement, and an addiction to saying ‘Me, me, me!’ incessantly. Harry if he read his family history ought to know better though, and has shown some real leadership at times.

If one were to look at his grandmother’s and especially her mother’s life, one would see just how hard a taskmaster duty can be, even when it comes in a gilded carriage. But as General Lee often noted:

Duty, then is the sublimest word in our language. Do your duty in all things. You cannot do more; you should never wish to do less.

It is a very high and hard standard, in both stories today. But nothing less is acceptable in free people.

FVhF8GU

In large measure this post is a repost of one I wrote in 2013, modified to update to today.

We write a lot here about politics and we write even more (I hope) about history. We try, sometimes well, and sometimes probably not so well, to connect one to the other.

Tomorrow will be that most truly American of holidays, Thanksgiving. Rightly it is the day we stop and give thanks to God, or whatever or whoever we each individually think most appropriate for all the good things we have. This early post is sort of a political history thanksgiving post.

We really have had a good run over the last 400 years, and I refuse to believe we are quite done, either. We have lots of problems but we always have, and in large measure, the mark of American greatness is that we have not only survived, but thrived on them. Always they have forced us to think, and act, and persevere until we worked through them.

Dan Hannan has a new book out, it’s called Inventing Freedom, and in it he discusses how the English-speaking peoples have invented freedom in our stormy trip since before there was an England, let alone America. I’m not going to say too much about it, because I haven’t read it yet. [No longer new, and I have read it, and recommend it] But as the video below shows, his views appear to pretty much parallel mine. And it made me think that we have much to be thankful for, and I’d thought I’d share a few of mine.

First, I’m grateful for you few, you wonderful few, who read my drivel, in the often forlorn hope that I have something useful to say. Thanks 🙂

Second, I’m grateful for all the rest of you wonderful bloggers and writers that have opened up a world of thinking for us all.

Third, I’m thankful that conservatism has, and always has had such wonderful thinkers and writers, I mean, really: Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, St Augustine, St.Thomas Aquinas, Sir Thomas More, Adam Smith, Locke, Burke, Voltaire, David Hume, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, James Madison, and such right on down to guys like Dan Hannan, Mark Levin, and all the others. It makes quite a contrast to Marx, Hitler, and Lenin.

And you, know, I’m grateful to Barack Obama, his ineptitude and attempt to reduce American power and Europeanize America has had us in crisis mode for about five years now, fighting what has often felt like a rearguard action. A crisis is, of course, a time of danger, but I think we all know that the other side of crisis is opportunity.

And the day is coming when the American revolution will happen again, I think. No, I’m not talking about an armed rebellion, although it’s possible, I think it unlikely. I mean in the same sense as the first one, finishing the circle, putting what has been put on its head back on its feet. I think America is going to see a rebirth of individual liberty.

And indeed, we did come out of the ‘reign of error’ flags high and ready to go, and for most of us, America feels much more like the optimistic place we grew up in. Yeah, we got plenty of problems still, including those fool regressives and their thugs, but increasingly the light in the tunnel seems not to be a locomotive.

Then there are our cousins in the old country. They got a serious problem. Imagine if Obama and the Congress gave the UN complete power, never mind the Constitution, over America. That’s what our cousins are fighting off with Brexit. They seem short of leadership at the moment, but hey, remember how it was here after the 2012 election?

I think they’ll pull through, not least because for over a thousand years, they always have. There’s always a dark time, but the flame has never guttered out in either Britain nor America. I doubt it will this year either.

Here’s a bit from Charles Moore’s Telegraph review of Hannan’s book

Edmund Burke, who wrote the greatest British encomium to conservatism, was a Whig. Now Daniel Hannan, who is a Tory (an ultra-sceptic MEP, in fact), has written a great encomium to Whiggery. With the eloquence of Macaulay or Trevelyan – both of whom are liberally quoted here – Hannan sweeps us through English history to show the triumph of law-based liberty and “that total understanding which can only exist between people speaking the same tongue”. With incredible ingenuity, he finds the marks of this genius in almost everything the English have done.

I say “the English”. Hannan has no race theory – pointing out, for example, how “English” oriental people can be in Hong Kong, Singapore or India – but he certainly believes in the Anglo-Saxon tradition. The Norman Conquest was, in his view, a “calamity”. It is because of Saxon Witans, and Saxon law, and Kipling’s Saxon yeoman who “stands like an ox in his furrow” demanding fair dealing, that we are a free people today, he thinks. He even complains that the Normans, being more snooty, let us keep plain Saxon words – cow, pig, lamb – for living animals, but imposed their own French-derived ones for the cooked version – beef, pork, mutton.

Norman and Saxon

"The Saxon is not like us Normans. His manners are not so polite.
But he never means anything serious till he talks about justice
      right.
When he stands like an ox in the furrow--with his sullen set eyes 
     on your own,
And grumbles, 'This isn't fair dealing,' my son, leave the Saxon
     alone."You can horsewhip your Gascony archers, or torture your
      Picardy spears;
But don't try that game on the Saxon; you'll have the whole 
     brood round your ears.
From the richest old Thane in the county to the poorest chained 
              serf in the field,
They'll be at you and on you like hornets, and, if you are wise,
                  you  will  yield.

And a bit of Hannan himself

We are still experiencing the after-effects of an astonishing event. The inhabitants of a damp island at the western tip of the Eurasian landmass stumbled upon the idea that the government ought to be subject to the law, not the other way around. The rule of law created security of property and contract, which in turn led to industrialisation and modern capitalism. For the first time in the history of the species, a system grew up that, on the whole, rewarded production better than predation.

Why did it happen? Why, after thousands of years of oligarchy and tyranny, did a system evolve that lifted the individual above the tribe rather than the reverse? How did that system see off rival models that elevated collective endeavour, martial glory, faith and sacrifice over liberty and property? How did the world come to speak our language?

Continue reading How we invented freedom – and why it matters – Telegraph Blogs.

And Daniel Hannan at Heritage

The Rhymes of History

This is going to be a two or three-part series, and it’s not going to have many laughs in it. What we are going to talk about is the manifest overreach of the federal government, in especially the last few years. We are also going to dispassionately (mostly) compare it to a similar time some 240 years ago, in the 1770s. We’ll start this morning with some discussion about what the Founders were thinking in those days. So, let’s begin.

And so, Sen. Harry Reid thinks that Cliven Bundy and those with him the other week are domestic terrorists. I suppose he is entitled to his opinion, and we’ll come back to that.

It seems to me that we are starting to tread on ground that we haven’t covered in about 240 years. Yes it may be that serious. And so we need to review the basics. America was founded above all to reclaim the liberties afforded to all freeborn Englishmen, and because of when the settlement happened, we inherited them at their zenith. In fact, in 1775, Edmund Burke said this:

Let the colonies always keep the idea of their civil rights associated with your government-they will cling and grapple to you, and no force under heaven will be of power to tear them from their allegiance. But let it be once understood that your government may be one thing and their privileges another, that these two things may exist without any mutual relation – the cement is gone, the cohesion is loosened, and everything hastens to decay and dissolution. As long as you have the wisdom to keep the sovereign authority of this country as the sanctuary of liberty, the sacred temple consecrated to our common faith, wherever the chosen race and sons of England worship freedom, they will turn their faces towards you. The more they multiply, the more friends you will have, the more ardently they love liberty, the more perfect will be their obedience. Slavery they can have anywhere. It is a weed that grows in every soil. They may have it from Spain, they may have it from Prussia. But until you become lost to all feeling of your true interest and your natural dignity, freedom they can have from none but you. This is the commodity of price, of which you have the monopoly. This is the true Act of Navigation, which binds to you the commerce of the -colonies, and through them secures to you the wealth of the world. Deny them this participation of freedom, and you break that sole bond which originally made, and must still preserve, the unity of the empire. Do not entertain so weak an imagination as that your registers and your bonds, your affidavits and your sufferances, your cockets and your clearances, are what form the great securities of your commerce. Do not dream that your Letters of office, and your instructions, and your suspending clauses are the things that hold together the great contexture of this mysterious whole. These things do not make your government. Dead instruments, passive tools as they are, it is the spirit of the English communion that gives all their life and efficacy to them. It is the spirit of the English constitution which, infused through the mighty mass, pervades, feeds, unites, invigorates, vivffles every part of the empire, even down to the minutest member.

And it seems that history does at least rhyme, because we may have come again to that point.

And so, we find ourselves doing the same things as the founders did, studying the writing of the great philosophers of antiquity as we attempt to discern the way forward. And inevitable after watching the confrontation in the Nevada desert, we gravitate to St. Thomas Aquinas, and his just war theory, in Summa Theologica, he writes of the just causes of war, to wit.

  • First, war must occur for a good and just purpose rather than the pursuit of wealth or power.

  • Second, just war must be waged by a properly instituted authority such as the state.

  • Third, peace must be a central motive even in the midst of violence.

Which is all very well, but leaves us with the conundrum of the “properly instituted authority, such as the state”.

The School of Salamanca expanded on his work in this area thusly:

  • In self-defense, as long as there is a reasonable possibility of success. If failure is a foregone conclusion, then it is just a wasteful spilling of blood.

  • Preventive war against a tyrant who is about to attack.

  • War to punish a guilty enemy.

Which sheds a bit more light, with the introduction the term tyrant.

We often have trouble when arguing in the English-speaking world when we work from sources connected with the Catholic church, for all their learning which is immense and very useful, there is also a dichotomy. The Church is properly called The Roman Catholic Church, and it is no misnomer. That is in no way meant to be a disparagement of the church, but since the empire itself, Roman law has always had the principle that the state is the giver, the top of the pyramid, if you will.

In the English-speaking world, which developed from the old north German tribes (Angles, Saxons, Jutes, and others) who migrated to England after the Roman period and never owed allegiance to the empire we have another model. In our history the government has always been the creation of the people, and the government, the servant of the people. This is the thread of which we have spoken so many times that runs from King Alfred’s Charter to, Magna Charta, on to the English Civil War and the Glorious Revolution and the English Bill of Rights, and continued on this side of the Atlantic with the American Revolution (which many see as a reprise of the English Civil War) and finally the Constitution and its attendant Bill of Rights.

That is a very long way of saying that the people are sovereign and may set up their government as they please. And that gives us the properly instituted authority, that Aquinas demands, the people are the highest authority, in our world.

Even the law codes reflect this, in the Roman world we hear such terms as the Justinian Code and the Code Napoleon, which signify law written from scratch by the ruler and imposed on the populace. But in our world we have the Law of the Land, by which we usually mean the Common Law, and it reflects what we have said, instead of being imposed by the ruler, it has been built one case at a time over the centuries, by the people themselves, and their needs.

The clearest manifestation of the difference is in this. In most of Europe it is assumed that you can do most anything if you get the permission of the government. In the UK and even more in America it is assumed you can do anything you please unless it is specifically prohibited by law. It is a very big difference, isn’t it?

That’s all fine and good, but do we have the individual right to resist the government. In some ways that is a question that you have to answer for yourself, but if we go back to St. Augustine we’ll find that while he considered self-defense to be a bit sub-optimal, he did recognize it and further recognized a right to defend the weak and/or defenseless. He recognized that one could be faithful to God and still be a soldier, although it could at times present a decided dichotomy between obedience to God and obedience to the state. In the last analysis, you’re going to have to talk it over with God.

That’s the general background that supported the Revolution, and would have to be satisfied to justify another one. Echoing everyone who ever thought about this Thomas Jefferson said this in the Declaration of Independence:

Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security..

So we need to think long and hard before doing anything like that, and make sure we can’t do it peacefully. But of course, it’s not entirely up to us either.“

In our next post, we will analyze the confrontation between Cliven Bundy and the BLM.

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