Formal or informal Constitution

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Re: Formal or informal Constitution

Unread postby WeiWenDi » Thu Feb 14, 2013 1:49 pm

Objectivist wrote:Not really, in my opinion. More about secession and separation than an attack.


More about welching on war debts incurred for provoking the Seven Years' War, which the colonial landowners didn't want to pay. Let's face it, their rhetoric of freedom and self-determination, juxtaposed with institutionalised chattel slavery, was so transparently hypocritical that even Thomas Day, a sympathiser with American colonial rights in Britain, said: 'If there be an object truly ridiculous in nature, it is an American patriot, signing resolutions of independency with the one hand, and with the other brandishing a whip over his affrighted slaves.'

Objectivist wrote:The Constitution is the supreme law of the land. I didn't mean to suggest it gave the federal government "supreme" power. Obama may have misread that... the same way.


It is a flaw of the Constitution itself that it can be so misused even by Constitutional law scholars. The basic philosophy of the Constitution is power and how it can be most efficiently distributed. Being a document blind to traditional Christian morality or traditional, proportional reciprocalities of duty and right, is it any wonder that individuals seeking to usurp power for themselves are drawn to the institutions founded by such a document?

Again, though, this is far from a new development. Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe wanted to use the principles of their revolution to create an 'empire of liberty' that knew no boundaries or limitations. The growth of the Imperial Presidency since Reagan is but the logical consequence of those principles.
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Re: Formal or informal Constitution

Unread postby Strategist » Sat Feb 16, 2013 6:53 am

Sorry for the delay- computer problems make it hard for me to put quote tags around things.
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Re: Formal or informal Constitution

Unread postby Objectivist » Sun Feb 17, 2013 1:57 pm

WeiWenDi wrote:Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe wanted to use the principles of their revolution to create an 'empire of liberty' that knew no boundaries or limitations.


I'm always a bit amazed to hear a free man refer to freedom in such a tyrannical way.

WeiWenDi wrote:The growth of the Imperial Presidency since Reagan is but the logical consequence of those principles.


The imperial Presidency has been around long before Reagan... and it is the people's lack of knowledge about the Constitution that allows for such a thing.
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Re: Formal or informal Constitution

Unread postby WeiWenDi » Sun Feb 17, 2013 3:27 pm

Objectivist wrote:I'm always a bit amazed to hear a free man refer to freedom in such a tyrannical way.


On the contrary. I am a great friend of freedoms in the concrete - I merely do not believe in turning it into a grand idol and slavishly worshipping it. Certainly a greater proportion of people were able to enjoy actual freedoms under the rule of King George III and his descendants in British North America (later Canada) than were able to under the new American Republic, which is why so many from the thirteen colonies fled there.

And the reason that Canada was a freer society, particularly for blacks escaping slavery and Indians escaping genocide, was precisely because it was founded upon the Tory principles of peace, order and good government (paix, ordre et bon gouvernement), and retained the monarchy and the established Church as touchstones and visible expressions of those values.

Objectivist wrote:The imperial Presidency has been around long before Reagan... and it is the people's lack of knowledge about the Constitution that allows for such a thing.


I agree that the Imperial Presidency has been around long before Reagan. Reagan merely kicked it into overdrive with his unrestrained military expenditures, his foreign grandstanding, his hollowing-out of the state, and his repudiation of Carter's favoured policy of consumer frugality, particularly with regard to energy.

As to the fault lying in the American people's 'lack of knowledge about the Constitution', that is a strong claim which requires proof. Certainly, thanks to the Internet and public education, the great mass of voters are more aware of the Constitution now than at any prior time in American history.

The more convincing argument is that the problem is and always has been within the Constitution itself, which creates a monistic state power at the centre of public life, within which three bodies vie for power over each other, motivated solely by personal political gain. Because the Constitution officially banishes the religious from any role in public life outside of voluntaristic personal piety, it renders the Church toothless to act as an advocate for society's most vulnerable and banishes charity (again) to a woefully inadequate individual volition, creating the very conditions whereby the state can usurp for itself all the humanitarian responsibilities which traditionally belonged to the Church.
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Re: Formal or informal Constitution

Unread postby Objectivist » Tue Feb 19, 2013 12:39 am

WeiWenDi wrote:As to the fault lying in the American people's 'lack of knowledge about the Constitution', that is a strong claim which requires proof.


How often have you discussed the Constitution with random people you know or happen to meet? Most people cannot name more than two of the first ten Amendments passed. Most people have no clue who wrote the document, who influenced it or any general theory behind why it was written the way it was and why it contained what it did.

Having grown up in a lower class home and surrounded by people of all different status levels in life... I can honestly say that most people I have known really do not know the document and cannot tell you what it limits or allows our government to do. I do agree with you that more people are learning about it now than ever before, due to the internet.

WeiWenDi wrote:Because the Constitution officially banishes the religious from any role in public life outside of voluntaristic personal piety, it renders the Church toothless to act as an advocate for society's most vulnerable and banishes charity (again) to a woefully inadequate individual volition, creating the very conditions whereby the state can usurp for itself all the humanitarian responsibilities which traditionally belonged to the Church.


The Constitution also banishes state endorsed forced indoctrination of religious influence into people's lives. Our government is set up specifically so that no religious influence can control the government in the name of their religion. I wouldn't want the same muslim leaders operating with Sharia law in middle eastern nations forcing their religion upon people in America or anywhere else.

The church/government complex you endorse is not more charitable than the system developed here in America. But then again... I never see taxation as charity. To me it's phony postering when someone believes that. Wanting to take something that doesn't belong to you from someone you don't know, to give to someone you don't know is not charity and is not moral. It's a form of bullying.

Nothing is humanitarian if it is not voluntary or based in voluntary exchange.
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Re: Formal or informal Constitution

Unread postby Shritzu » Tue Feb 19, 2013 5:58 am

Objectivist and Wei Den Di. always with interesting debate.
All in all. You must identify what is goverment? What is a constitution? Is a goverment consistent of it's people or the other way around? If people make and preserve goverment in thier whole collective interest,then shouldn't people ensure that presevation? After all, a constitution is a part of the relationship between a goverment entity and it's creators. Therefor the creators must preserve said constitution. In the case of america...it can be suggested that complacency and invigilence has allowed a thin line to be thoroughly crossed over time resulting in an imbalanced equation. Now people serve thier goverment,the goverment serves those in office,the people are protected from themselves and other goverments by the goverment.Are there any disagreements in the equation so far?
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Re: Formal or informal Constitution

Unread postby WeiWenDi » Thu Feb 21, 2013 10:06 am

Objectivist wrote:How often have you discussed the Constitution with random people you know or happen to meet? Most people cannot name more than two of the first ten Amendments passed. Most people have no clue who wrote the document, who influenced it or any general theory behind why it was written the way it was and why it contained what it did.


Really? It was a requirement of graduation from the middle school I went to.

But it does appear that you are right on the money about this one.

Objectivist wrote:The Constitution also banishes state endorsed forced indoctrination of religious influence into people's lives. Our government is set up specifically so that no religious influence can control the government in the name of their religion. I wouldn't want the same muslim leaders operating with Sharia law in middle eastern nations forcing their religion upon people in America or anywhere else.


I should probably point out that if this were said about Jews and kosher laws, it would rightly be censured as hate speech.

That said, the relevant parts of the Constitution are the Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise Clause -- the first saying Congress shall not legally promote one religious view over any other, and the second saying that it shall not infringe upon the free exercise of religious views. Laicism is a nice and fluffy idea, meant to give each realm of authority its own neat and clean separate space, but reality is messy and what's written on paper doesn't always work out so well in practice. How do you deal with repressive cults like Scientology which employ coercion and psychological conditioning techniques on their followers? How do you deal with religious groups which reject vaccination and modern medicine, like Christian Science and other 'faith healing' groups? How do you deal with religious groups whose practises have known adverse health effects, like Falun Gong?

And the Establishment Clause, in practice, serves only to give the state all the moral authority of a religion in its own right - as slavish, mythologised Founder-worship and Constitution-worship seem to bear witness; whilst the authority of the established axial faiths is carefully policed and relegated to the realm of private piety.

Objectivist wrote:The church/government complex you endorse is not more charitable than the system developed here in America. But then again... I never see taxation as charity. To me it's phony postering when someone believes that.


Sorry. You don't get to redefine English words at whim to suit your own 19th-century political tastes and bigotries.

Let's take a leaf out of the recent writings of the largest, most credible and most successful charitable organisation in the history of the world, shall we? Certainly they don't engage in 'phony posturing' - they not only wrote the freaking book on charity, they've lived it.

Here is what Pope Benedict XVI had to say on the matter, here (in a document fittingly titled Caritas in Veritate):

Pope Benedict XVI wrote:In the search for solutions to the current economic crisis, development aid for poor countries must be considered a valid means of creating wealth for all. What aid programme is there that can hold out such significant growth prospects — even from the point of view of the world economy — as the support of populations that are still in the initial or early phases of economic development? From this perspective, more economically developed nations should do all they can to allocate larger portions of their gross domestic product to development aid, thus respecting the obligations that the international community has undertaken in this regard. One way of doing so is by reviewing their internal social assistance and welfare policies, applying the principle of subsidiarity and creating better integrated welfare systems, with the active participation of private individuals and civil society. In this way, it is actually possible to improve social services and welfare programmes, and at the same time to save resources — by eliminating waste and rejecting fraudulent claims — which could then be allocated to international solidarity. A more devolved and organic system of social solidarity, less bureaucratic but no less coordinated, would make it possible to harness much dormant energy, for the benefit of solidarity between peoples.

One possible approach to development aid would be to apply effectively what is known as fiscal subsidiarity, allowing citizens to decide how to allocate a portion of the taxes they pay to the State. Provided it does not degenerate into the promotion of special interests, this can help to stimulate forms of welfare solidarity from below, with obvious benefits in the area of solidarity for development as well.


Certainly, Pope Benedict XVI thinks that the welfare state requires review and believes it ought to be more participatory, but he regards it as charity. He does not question the need for citizens to pay taxes to the state, but thinks they should have more direct say in where their taxes go (something I also support, by the way). He also sees official development aid as charity, as measured as a portion of their gross domestic product - and this has been the Vatican line for years, since Pope John Paul II.

Intriguingly enough, the top five most charitable countries in this regard are Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. All of them are monarchies, and all but one - the Netherlands - has a traditionally-established state religion.

Objectivist wrote:Wanting to take something that doesn't belong to you from someone you don't know, to give to someone you don't know is not charity and is not moral. It's a form of bullying.

Nothing is humanitarian if it is not voluntary or based in voluntary exchange.


That is a falsehood, but an understandable one which arises from a misconstruction of what property is and what its proper ends are. The only reason we have property rights in the first place - the only reason why taking things from nature as property is objectively 'a good thing' - is so that human beings can make use of them for their own survival and flourishing. In other words, property is not an absolute right, but rather a contingent right - secondary in consequence and importance to the right to life.

St Thomas Aquinas puts it thus:

St Thomas, Summa Theologica wrote:Objection 1. It would seem unlawful to steal through stress of need. For penance is not imposed except on one who has sinned. Now it is stated (Extra, De furtis, Cap. Si quis): "If anyone, through stress of hunger or nakedness, steal food, clothing or beast, he shall do penance for three weeks." Therefore it is not lawful to steal through stress of need.

Objection 2. Further, the Philosopher says (Ethic. ii, 6) that "there are some actions whose very name implies wickedness," and among these he reckons theft. Now that which is wicked in itself may not be done for a good end. Therefore a man cannot lawfully steal in order to remedy a need.

Objection 3. Further, a man should love his neighbor as himself. Now, according to Augustine (Contra Mendac. vii), it is unlawful to steal in order to succor one's neighbor by giving him an alms. Therefore neither is it lawful to steal in order to remedy one's own needs.

On the contrary, In cases of need all things are common property, so that there would seem to be no sin in taking another's property, for need has made it common.

I answer that, Things which are of human right cannot derogate from natural right or Divine right. Now according to the natural order established by Divine Providence, inferior things are ordained for the purpose of succoring man's needs by their means. Wherefore the division and appropriation of things which are based on human law, do not preclude the fact that man's needs have to be remedied by means of these very things. Hence whatever certain people have in superabundance is due, by natural law, to the purpose of succoring the poor. For this reason Ambrose [Loc. cit., 2, Objection 3] says, and his words are embodied in the Decretals (Dist. xlvii, can. Sicut ii): "It is the hungry man's bread that you withhold, the naked man's cloak that you store away, the money that you bury in the earth is the price of the poor man's ransom and freedom."

Since, however, there are many who are in need, while it is impossible for all to be succored by means of the same thing, each one is entrusted with the stewardship of his own things, so that out of them he may come to the aid of those who are in need. Nevertheless, if the need be so manifest and urgent, that it is evident that the present need must be remedied by whatever means be at hand (for instance when a person is in some imminent danger, and there is no other possible remedy), then it is lawful for a man to succor his own need by means of another's property, by taking it either openly or secretly: nor is this properly speaking theft or robbery.

Reply to Objection 1. This decretal considers cases where there is no urgent need.

Reply to Objection 2. It is not theft, properly speaking, to take secretly and use another's property in a case of extreme need: because that which he takes for the support of his life becomes his own property by reason of that need.

Reply to Objection 3. In a case of a like need a man may also take secretly another's property in order to succor his neighbor in need.


Of course, in remedying these needs, one should always use one's own property first. But those who have property in superabundance, to use the Thomistic language, have a special duty to treat their superabundance as though it were common, in cases where real human needs have to be met by it. It is a point too obvious to bear repeating that extreme need and poverty still exist in the world, and that there exists the superabundance to quench that need many times over, but there is a failure of distribution, and thus, logically speaking, failure of voluntary giving. In such cases, taking another's property without their consent to keep from starving to death, or to prevent another person from starving to death, is lawful.

Moreover, it is humanitarian in the truest sense of the word - taking human life and flourishing as the central value, rather than an abstracted notion of absolute individual property rights.

Shritzu wrote:Objectivist and Wei Den Di. always with interesting debate.


:lol: Well, I try.

Shritzu wrote:All in all. You must identify what is goverment?


Well, starting from the fact that we are biological beings with a level of intelligence that allows us to make long-term individual plans (trades, hobbies) and linguistic abilities that allow us to make cooperative, collaborative plans (families, clubs, worship organisations, causes), and continuing with the observation that, in spite of the commonalities of our plans and goals, we aren't always necessarily the best at making these plans mesh together without conflict or violence when left to our own devices, government is the need which follows from these facts.

Government is three things: an organising principle of the common good which directs these heterogeneous plans to mutually supportive and beneficial common ends; a set of rules formed around that organising principle; and an organisation tasked with enforcing that set of rules. Government arises naturally from human beings as situated (as in, having families, homes, &c.), habitual, intelligent planners whose true aim is cooperation, but who aren't that good at getting along with each other perfectly.

Shritzu wrote:What is a constitution?


That's the 'set of rules' bit. In most societies, these rules are usually grounded in tradition, though they can also be religious or ideological. They can also be written or unwritten, explicit or customary.

Shritzu wrote:Is a goverment consistent of it's people or the other way around?


Um... neither, necessarily?

Naturally, a government consists of people. And its raison d'etre as an organising principle is to serve the common good and to secure the basic goods - survival needs, dignities, rights - of the people under it.

Shritzu wrote:After all, a constitution is a part of the relationship between a goverment entity and it's creators. Therefor the creators must preserve said constitution. In the case of america...it can be suggested that complacency and invigilence has allowed a thin line to be thoroughly crossed over time resulting in an imbalanced equation. Now people serve thier goverment,the goverment serves those in office,the people are protected from themselves and other goverments by the goverment.Are there any disagreements in the equation so far?


Not quite sure what you're getting at here. Are you trying to figure out with this equation what Objectivist and I believe the proper state of affairs and relations between the US government and its people should be? Or what the actual state of affairs and relations between the US government and its people is?

First off, I'm in favour of having government serve what Burke called the 'little platoons' - families, towns, clubs, cooperatives, churches - which form the basic glue of civil society and hold it together, also and try to keep the society healthy. There are three levels of analysis in my view - the individual, the civil society, and the government. The government should be as confined as possible in favour of the civil society, which in turn should confine itself from certain areas best left to the individual. Individuals, in turn, have to recognise that they have duties to both government and civil society - otherwise what they have isn't liberty, it's licence. And the costs of licence have to be socialised somehow.

Our society has made it so that those costs of licence (whether of individuals or of businesses) are delegated to the government at the highest level. Libertarians, rejecting all levels of analysis but the individual and seeing licence as a good rather than as a costly excess, fail to understand this dynamic. As a result, they see all government- and civil society-level attempts to create ordered solutions to absorb the costs of licence as either futile or harmful.

Modern American liberals invariably take an opposite approach: they minimise civil society levels of analysis but prioritise government ones over individual ones. So you have various sanctioned forms of socially-costly behaviour (no-fault divorce, for example, or legal repression of unions by businesses) which are disruptive of civil society, and you use the government to absorb all of the costs, whether through welfare or social-service offices or expanded roles (babysitter, psychologist, medicinal expert and, if we're not careful, prison warden and security guard) for the ever-overworked, ever-shabbily compensated public school teacher.

What I support is an expanded role for civil society, more strategic cooperation between civil society and government, a clear role for government in enforcing justice (particularly distributive justice - even if we never get there, we should work toward approaching the Aristotelian / Nicomachean ideal where property is distributed as widely as possible, with the wealthiest individuals owning no more than five times as much productive property as the poorest individuals), and clear limits on the authority of both the individual and the government: putting the 'ordered' back in 'ordered liberty'.
Some more blood, Chekov. The needle won't hurt, Chekov. Take off your shirt, Chekov. Roll over, Chekov. Breathe deeply, Chekov. Blood sample, Chekov! Marrow sample, Chekov! Skin sample, Chekov! If I live long enough... I'm going to run out of samples.
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Re: Formal or informal Constitution

Unread postby Strategist » Thu Feb 21, 2013 11:15 am

Still having problems, but thought I might point out that Aquinas's arguments for his theological posistion are rather silly. Will try and get a more detailed addition later.
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Re: Formal or informal Constitution

Unread postby Shritzu » Thu Feb 21, 2013 5:24 pm

WeiWenDi wrote:Not quite sure what you're getting at here. Are you trying to figure out with this equation what Objectivist and I believe the proper state of affairs and relations between the US government and its people should be? Or what the actual state of affairs and relations between the US government and its people is?


In short: Both. Interesting...
(you know i can't ask questions blantantly,it's not my way)
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Re: Formal or informal Constitution

Unread postby Objectivist » Thu Feb 21, 2013 9:22 pm

WeiWenDi wrote:It was a requirement of graduation from the middle school I went to.


Just so we are clear...I'm saying that most people are clueless about the document. I'm not saying that people have not been exposed to it through schooling. I think the fact that everyone has been exposed to it in school, and so few people fully understand it and what is in it...tells us everything we need to know about compulsory schooling. Forcing people to memorize things, then measuring how well they can memorize things in a standardized test really does nothing for us in the long term.

Objectivist wrote:The Constitution also banishes state endorsed forced indoctrination of religious influence into people's lives. Our government is set up specifically so that no religious influence can control the government in the name of their religion. I wouldn't want the same muslim leaders operating with Sharia law in middle eastern nations forcing their religion upon people in America or anywhere else.


WeiWenDi wrote:I should probably point out that if this were said about Jews and kosher laws, it would rightly be censured as hate speech.


Why Judaism but not other religions? I only used sharia law as one example...not as the only example.

WeiWenDi wrote:How do you deal with repressive cults like Scientology which employ coercion and psychological conditioning techniques on their followers?


What do you mean how do you deal with it? How do you allow people to believe things that are not based in science? It's my personal opinion that all religions employ coercion and psychological conditioning techniques. Most religions demand that you live your life a certain way for a positive end result. Most religions also claim that only their religion is correct. If that is true from just one of the religions...basically everyone is going to hell or down the chain of karma.

Walk into a large Catholic church and just stand there and watch the crowd and participants. They chant in low voice, in sync, word for word, then kneel down, they stand up, etc. The body and blood of Christ is consumed while candles are lit everywhere. The whole thing is ritualistic. If you've never been in a Catholic church like that before and were to walk in and witness it for the first time... you would probably walk out of that place realizing that some psychological conditioning has happened with the people in there, whether it's a good or bad thing...that's a matter of opinion.

WeiWenDi wrote:How do you deal with religious groups which reject vaccination and modern medicine, like Christian Science and other 'faith healing' groups?


If people are part of the religious group voluntarily and they reject modern medicine and die...let them. It's just Darwin taking out the trash. Natural selection at work. These people didn't make it. They own their own lives, and deaths.

WeiWenDi wrote:Certainly, Pope Benedict XVI thinks that the welfare state requires review and believes it ought to be more participatory, but he regards it as charity.


Who cares what a religious leader's opinion is on this matter? Why is the church an authority on our tax system? They do not even pay taxes...and they talk about how charitable taxes are. Hypocrisy.
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