Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Butterworth’s Response

Mark Butterworth has responded to my post on his own blog with his thoughts on what he sees as an inevitable civil war. He says:

I’m trying to recall the circumstances which first prompted my musings on a future civil war. I believe that it was in watching the Democrats attack the Republicans in the run up to the last election that had something to do with it.

Well I don’t know what led to those thoughts, but the immediate context, as you can see in your original post, was you taking the side of Dennis Prager in a dispute with Jonah Goldberg over whether cultural wars are metaphorical or literal, and it was particularly about same-sex marriage. Prager had written:

America is engaged in two wars for the survival of its civilization. The war over same-sex marriage and the war against Islamic totalitarianism are actually two fronts in the same war — a war for the preservation of the unique American creation known as Judeo-Christian civilization.

And Jonah Goldberg had pointed out in response that there was no literal war over same sex marriage but a political and cultural dispute, and he said, “In short, Prager equates a metaphorical war with a literal one and not once does he distinguish between the two.” You wrote that Goldberg was wrong and that we were headed for an inevitable civil war over such issues. So rather than being a response to Democrats attacking Republicans, it was a response to an argument between two Republicans, with you taking the side of the more radical of the two.

My response to Prager would have differed greatly from Goldberg’s response. First, I would have pointed out that there is no such thing as a “Judeo-Christian civilization”, this being little more than a recently developed catchphrase that is bandied about but essentially meaningless. Jon Rowe wrote an excellent and thorough examination of this term and Prager’s use of it a few weeks ago. As Rowe pointed out, the founding fathers would surely have been made livid by the use of such phrase, especially the more orthodox Christians among them. The hardcore Christians of that day grouped Jews in with infidels and Turks (Muslims) and “Hindoos” as people who needed to be kept out of public office.

Second, I would have pointed out the delicious irony in Prager’s claim that the battle against same sex marriage and the battle against Islamic fundamentalism are “two fronts in the same war” given that Islamic fundamentalists and Christian fundamentalists are in fact allied together in their hatred of same sex marriage. Indeed, many voices on the right in recent months have argued that by allowing same sex marriage, we will invite more terrorism because the Islamic radicals hate it so much. So in fact Prager – and you, presumably – are on the same side of the battle against same sex marriage as the Islamic radicals. If there is a war there, it is between those who seek to impose their fundamentalist religious beliefs on others and those who seek genuine freedom from such impositions.

Thus, with the ascendancy of the Republican Party, I am less inclined to think that an aggrieved Right will convulse itself into action squads of some kind as I am to see the Left (which has advocated and used violence for decades now, Weather Underground, ELF, ALF, PETA, Anarchists against globalization, and so forth) seek to use violence more and more.

This is absurdly one sided. You mention a few fringe groups who have used violence in isolated situations over the course of the last few decades. But you don’t bother to mention the numerous groups on the right wing fringe who have engaged in violence during that same period of time. You don’t mention Eric Robert Rudolph and his bombing spree that apparently included the Olympic park bombing in Atlanta and numerous abortion clinics. You don’t mention Clayton Waagner or James Kopp, both convicted of domestic terrorism. In 2001, those 3 were on the FBI’s ten most wanted list at the same time. For that matter, you don’t mention the Oklahoma City bombing, which was pulled off by right wing militia types. Not only do you not mention those, in the original article I responded to you actually said you didn’t mind the bombing of abortion clinics, writing:

It was often insisted upon that Christians revered life and thus condemned those few lone wolves who were going around trying to murder abortionists. Yet, as much as I deplore violence, I never could quite join the vehement chorus of horror that formed everytime an abortionist was killed.

Would I have booed if someone had shot a Dr. Mengele or sniped at a Nazi executing Jews? How can I hate the death of a doctor who got up everyday and went to a place to murder unborn babies? I can’t, anymore than I can condemn the violence that set this nation free, which killed and drove out Tories to Canada and England.

So I think you’re being quite hypocritical in claiming that the left engages in violence while ignoring the violence, especially the violence you appear to endorse, on the right. For that matter, you also left out violent reactions to peaceful actions on the part of the left – the brutal beatings lynchings on civil rights activists, the use of attack dogs and water hoses on peaceful demonstrations for civil rights in the 1960s, the shooting of anti-war protestors, and so forth. The often violent reactions of the government to civil rights marches is no less an example of right wing violence.

And while we’re on that subject, I think it is issues like this that shows why your position on allowing local control of such issues is a farcical one. The very same argument has always been made in defense of unjust policies, going back as far as slavery. Indeed, Prager’s argument about a battle to “preserve a Christian civilization” was also used, quite literally word for word, to defend every instance of injustice in American history. That is precisely the rhetoric used by the defenders of slavery; indeed, it is the same language that neo-confederates (your compatriots in calling for local control and the possible need for peaceful secession or, failing that, civil war) use today to defend the institution of slavery in the south. You can see examples of such arguments here. We could simply have allowed the south to continue to own slaves, but that would have been wrong, and it is wrong in all places at all times. We could have allowed them to continue to use Jim Crow laws to dehumanize blacks, but that would have been wrong. It took the imposition of legal equality from Federal courts to change that situation, but those who opposed those changes said the exact same thing about those court rulings 50 years ago, that they were “the ruination of representative democracy by the Courts”, to use your words. Indeed, contrary to your claims, this was precisely a way to avoid balkanization, not a cause of it. By enforcing the legal equality so central to our founding principles (though obviously incompletely applied), we avoided the balkanization of “separate but equal”.

But the rhetoric of the Democrat Party has become so heated and violent, the mainstreaming of the Michael Moores and the Howard Deans has ratcheted up the conflict in a visibly unhealthy way.

Wow. Your ability to pretend that only one side engages in heated and violent rhetoric is astonishing. If you’re going to criticize the “rhetoric of the Democratic party” by pointing to Michael Moore, why do you ignore the rhetoric of folks like Ann Coulter, Michael Savage and others? Has any popular voice on the left written a book accusing virtually everyone on the left of being traitors, as Coulter has? None that I know of. Michael Moore is, in my view, a pure demagogue, but there is nothing that I’ve ever seen from him that is anywhere near as heated and violent as what Ann Coulter says on a daily basis about the left. Do you ever hear voices on the left saying that conservatives are all traitors who should be rounded up and deported? I hear that kind of rhetoric constantly from people on the right from the likes of Coulter and Savage and a dozen other right wing hatemongers. Indeed, you engage in precisely this sort of rhetoric yourself while hypocritically decrying the heated rhetoric of the left:

I can imagine that if we suffer another 9/11 as great or worse, I wouldn’t bet a plug nickel as to the future health of the Left and the Dems who made it difficult, nay, nearly impossible, to prevent such things through PC laws and undermining military and diplomatic efforts to destroy the terror movements in the world by cowardly attempts at appeasement. Too often now dissent is no longer disagreement, but in fact treason.

For example, if it were in my power to succeed, I would be happy to arrive at Michael Moore’s home with my “gang” and politely “suggest” that he relocate himself to another country just as the Sons of Liberty “suggested” that various Tories consider a different climate for their health between 1776 and 1786 or so.

If someone on the left wrote that we should have vigilante gangs go to people’s homes and “suggest” that they leave the country, you would go ballistic in response to it. Yet you blithely engage in the same rhetoric yourself without any hesitation or consideration. This is a textbook example of pointing to the splinter in someone else’s eye while ignoring the log in your own.

The power that I primarily want is the same as my forefathers – I want to be left alone by government as much as possible as originally determined by our Constitution.

I want the power to shape my own local community and its laws and social customs. That means in my little town or State, you don’t publicly swear unless you hit your thumb with a hammer. No private business has to accomodate anyone it doesn’t want to. No one can take my money from me for their charitable causes. And wherever possible, obscenity laws and codes will be rigorously enforced. We will probably have to do away with public schools.

In other words, you want to go back to the pre-civil war days when states and localities were allowed to ignore the Constitution and violate the rights of individuals. But again, this is the very same argument used to defend slavery and a wealth of other nasty laws at the state level. I think it’s a good thing that, after the civil war, we no longer allow states to violate the inalienable rights that the Declaration refers to. If those rights are truly inalienable, and I believe they are, then they should not be violated by any government no matter what level. Under your notion, the states would be allowed to have established churches and throw in jail anyone of a different religion. And this is hardly farfetched, by the way, the first amendment was motivated primarily by reaction to such jailings. Under your notion, the states would be allowed to violate freedom of speech, free exercise of religion, freedom of the press and the other rights guaranteed to us by the Constitution. So what you really want is not freedom, you want the authority to violate the freedom of others through your local or state government. But that’s not freedom, it’s just oppression moved down one level. It is no less oppressive when done by state governments than when done by the federal government. You do not really believe that we have inalienable rights, you only believe we have rights that can’t be violated by one level of government. And that is a fake relic of genuine freedom.

Comments

  1. #1 mark butterworth
    February 25, 2005

    Ah, Ed, I had hoped to find a a fairly reasonable being here at this sight, but your distortions of my point of view are a bit incredible. It’s the classic shotgun effect and the creation of straw men.

    The occasion for the first post was the Prager/Goldberg disagreement. The circumstances that made me reflect on the notion of civil war were broader.

    I wonder that you are surprised that many religions share similar moral codes, and such codes are indeed usually fundamental; otherwise, what’s the point? They aren’t the Ten Suggestions as some have wagged. Let’s see, Christianity opposes murder as does Islam, Hinduism, and maybe even you. I guess that means you’re a radical fundamentalist religious nut job or his next of kin.

    As for the imposition of moral codes on others, are you suggesting there shall be no more moral codes or impositions of law on your planet? What genuine freedom is it that you think you can have without moral codes?

    I can’t get into the Coulter vs. Moore debate with you or Tim McVeigh vs. the Left. One, McVeigh was not a righty. Nobody really knows what he was except a nut job. You don’t find the Left all that extreme. I do. You find the Right extreme, I agree. Some of it is, but it isn’t endorsed by the Republican Party front and center. It is the fringe. Nor do I carry Republican water. I could care less about it in most respects. But there’s no point in debating it. My point was that serious, organized violence is more likely to come from the Left these days. They are angrier and more frustrated. The people you cite as from the violent right were pretty much loners with little support. There was a pro-life group that helped some violent men, but it wasn’t much help and didn’t last.

    Your citing of violence against Civil Rights people is not serious. I was there. I faced angry mobs surrounding us on the streets. It was religious people and conservative Republicans that supported the movement. The South was entirely Democrat at the time. You ought not to ignore that. It is the Republicans who passed the Civil Rights laws of the 60′s. Not the Dems.

    As for local control of government, your argument is counter intuitive. Slavery was not a local injustice. It was a national, legal, and constitutional. It was changed through democracy (and war).

    As for every injustice being defended by Christianity, that’s just plain silly. There is something that is usually much stronger than faith, and that is Custom. There was no injustice that Marx wasn’t used to justify in the USSR, either. And there is no injustice that you create or do that isn’t rationalized in some glib way, too.

    When you use the courts because you are in a hurry for justice, the result is nearly always worse than if you let matters sort themselves out. There is a strong case to make that the Civil War was unnecessary. Slavery was on its way out and would have died on its own in the South, but the conflict over the new states precipitated the disaster.

    America didn’t change because the courts ordered it, but because America was ready to and wanted to in most of it.

    As to my “suggesting” Moore relocate, are you saying you believe that those you consider treasonous and who behave evilly should remain where they are and free to do as much harm as they please to the body politic? But of course, you were wise enough to realize that I was not referring to any immediate likelihood of Moore being encouraged to emigrate by “persuasion”, and my example was meant as tongue-in-cheek.

    Why do you ignore what the Sons of Liberty did? Do you endorse what it took to make this country free and the violence it took or would you prefer it never happened?

    Forgive my assumption that you would fight strenuously for your own beliefs if push came to shove. I already know that the Left would love nothing better than to come to my house and tell me to leave. If they had the power, they would do it. Why do you think that would shock or outrage me? When people want power and have a chance to grasp it ruthlessly, they often do so. I don’t have a problem recognizing that this world is governed by the aggressive use of force.

    You forget about the Constitution. The Bill of Rights only applies to what Congress can or can’t do. Not the states.

    Your argument isn’t really with me. It’s 1) against human nature; and two; against democracy and the rule of majorities.

    Are you shocked and outraged that life is frequently unfair in both democracies and under tyrannies? Do you really think the answer to all human problems is more laws? Do you really want an elite (the courts) determining what our rights are going to be or not; or do you want the people to determine how they wish to live, and what their rights should be? Are you a member of a group or a team even when that team is occasionally wrong, or is it all or nothing with you?

    You refer to our inalienable rights, but I wonder where you think those rights are derived from? God or man? If they come from man, then they aren’t inalienable, are they. They are infinitely mutable. If they come from God, then that puts a whole ‘nother spin on reality, doesn’t it?

    Anyway, I hope you will focus your arguments on one particular thing rather than the scatter gun approach. If we can have a reasonable discussion, let’s take one matter at a time.

  2. #2 G-Do
    February 25, 2005

    Ah, Ed, I had hoped to find a a fairly reasonable being here at this sight…

    Like poetry, isn’t it? Ed, have you read the dude’s blog?

  3. #3 Ed Brayton
    February 25, 2005

    Good lord, I took a line by line approach, posted the specific part of your post that I was replying to, and posted a logical response to it. You reply with a list of a dozen or so arguments, most of them not in answer to arguments I actually made, and then criticize ME for taking a “shotgun approach”? I don’t think my irony meter can handle that. I’ll give this one more try, point by point.

    I wonder that you are surprised that many religions share similar moral codes, and such codes are indeed usually fundamental; otherwise, what’s the point? They aren’t the Ten Suggestions as some have wagged. Let’s see, Christianity opposes murder as does Islam, Hinduism, and maybe even you. I guess that means you’re a radical fundamentalist religious nut job or his next of kin.

    Well, duh. All societies share a basic set of rules, including that you can’t murder or steal the property of another. That’s because those rules are necessary to any society, and without them, no society could possibly survive. But I don’t see what relevance this has to anything I said.

    As for the imposition of moral codes on others, are you suggesting there shall be no more moral codes or impositions of law on your planet? What genuine freedom is it that you think you can have without moral codes?

    No, I am suggesting that there is an enormous difference between public morality and private morality, between actions that harm others and actions that do not. That is, according to Jefferson and a sizable portion of the founding fathers, what separates legitimate law from illegitimate law. Jefferson said that the law existed only to protect one person from another, and that it should otherwise leave men free to live their lives according to the dictates of their own conscience. Hence, a law against murder is a legitimate law and a law against, say, blasphemy is not a legitimate law. The former protects one person from another, the latter is the imposition of a private moral code in violation of the individual’s freedom of speech and freedom of conscience. The “all law is morality” argument is simply irrelevant.

    Your citing of violence against Civil Rights people is not serious. I was there. I faced angry mobs surrounding us on the streets. It was religious people and conservative Republicans that supported the movement. The South was entirely Democrat at the time. You ought not to ignore that. It is the Republicans who passed the Civil Rights laws of the 60′s. Not the Dems.

    You can’t imagine how little I care about party politics. I am neither a Republican nor a Democrat, I refuse to vote for either party, so this simplistic dichotomy is absolutely useless in any discussion with me. The fact, which you did not address, still remains that those on the side of civil rights were, by definition, liberals – they were seeking to make a major change in society. Conservatives are, by definition, those who seek to preserve traditions and the status quo. And the further fact, which you also did not dispute, is that the very same arguments you are using today against gay marriage were used by those who opposed civil rights as well. They railed against “unelected judges” subverting the “will of the people” in ordering desegregation and overturning state laws against interracial marriage. They claimed that the courts were “ruining representative government”, just like you claim today. And they claimed that the legalized discrimination inherent in anti-miscegenation laws and segregation laws was not only traditional, but endorsed by God himself.

    As for local control of government, your argument is counter intuitive. Slavery was not a local injustice. It was a national, legal, and constitutional. It was changed through democracy (and war).

    Is violating someone’s free speech or free exercise of religion a “local injustice”? The Declaration does not say that we are endowed with inalienable rights unless local or state governments want to violate them, in which case they don’t matter at all. Injustice is injustice, and oppression is oppression. It doesn’t become any better just because it’s enforced by the state police rather than the FBI.

    As for every injustice being defended by Christianity, that’s just plain silly.

    Good, but since I didn’t say anything even close to “every injustice is defended by Christianity”, this isn’t relevant.

    When you use the courts because you are in a hurry for justice, the result is nearly always worse than if you let matters sort themselves out. There is a strong case to make that the Civil War was unnecessary. Slavery was on its way out and would have died on its own in the South, but the conflict over the new states precipitated the disaster.

    First, the courts were not used to end slavery. We went to war to end slavery. And the notion that slavery was on its way out simply isn’t supported by any evidence. It’s an often repeated cliche, but there is no evidence for it whatsoever. The fact is that the southern economy was inextricably tied to slavery and there is absolutely no reason to believe it would have gone away without the civil war. The mere fact that the south was so hellbent on preserving slavery that they were willing to secede and fight a war over it is prima facie evidence that slavery was not about to just go away by itself.

    America didn’t change because the courts ordered it, but because America was ready to and wanted to in most of it.

    Again, the evidence is squarely against you. Would the south have desegregated without Brown v. Board of Education? The state governments were so adamantly opposed to desegregation that it took troops to insure that it happened. “Segregation now, segregation forever” was the motto, remember? The 14th amendment demanded that the court do what it did, and that sparked an enormous change in American society. And again, the exact same arguments you use today were used then, that these unelected judges were subverting the democratic will of the people. But you see, in our system, freedom trumps democracy. That was the entire point of the bill of rights, to protect freedom from democracy.

    As to my “suggesting” Moore relocate, are you saying you believe that those you consider treasonous and who behave evilly should remain where they are and free to do as much harm as they please to the body politic?

    No, I am suggesting that you can’t just say “I think he’s a traitor” and make someone leave. Michael Moore, obnoxious though he is, has not broken any law. He disagrees with you politically, and for that you say that if you had the power, you would take a gang of thugs to his house and make him leave the country. I am also suggesting that for you to criticize the rhetoric of the left while engaging in this same kind of rhetoric yourself is the height of hypocrisy.

    Why do you ignore what the Sons of Liberty did? Do you endorse what it took to make this country free and the violence it took or would you prefer it never happened?

    It has no relevance. We are not in a war, and we now have a Constitutional system that did not exist at the time, and that system guarantees the right of people to disagree with your politics whether you like it or not. I suggest you be very careful about giving to government the power to decide whose views are protected and whose are not; you may well find your own views on the unprotected list one day. But libertarians like me are honest enough and consistent enough to fight for that right regardless of whether we agree with the political views.

    See, I think that you are the worst kind of anti-american because you reject the founding premise that no majority no matter how large may violate the rights of individuals to speak their mind. You reject that, and I think that makes you anti-American and opposed to the very essence of our Constitutional system. But I don’t think it makes you a “traitor” who should be forced to leave. I think it just makes you wrong, and rather than using thugs to silence you, I’ll just stand up and show why you’re wrong. That’s what a commitment to freedom means.

    Forgive my assumption that you would fight strenuously for your own beliefs if push came to shove. I already know that the Left would love nothing better than to come to my house and tell me to leave. If they had the power, they would do it. Why do you think that would shock or outrage me? When people want power and have a chance to grasp it ruthlessly, they often do so. I don’t have a problem recognizing that this world is governed by the aggressive use of force.

    Your problem here is that you are projecting your own lust for power onto others. I would not silence you even if I had the power to do so, as I am a consistent libertarian. But you have this very simplistic conception of “the left” whereby you project all the evil intentions you want them to have on to you.

    The ACLU, for example, would certainly fight for your right to speak out for your beliefs. They do it all the time. They have even fought for the rights of the KKK even though they hate to the core what they stand for. You can’t give me an example of any prominent liberal who has called for conservatives to be rounded up and shipped out of the country. I, on the other hand, can give you many examples of prominent people on the right calling for such things. Again, splinters and logs.

    You forget about the Constitution. The Bill of Rights only applies to what Congress can or can’t do. Not the states.

    And you conveniently forget about the 14th amendment. If the privileges and immunities guaranteed by the 14th amendment don’t mean, at the very least, the protections found in the bill of rights, what DOES it mean?

    Your argument isn’t really with me. It’s 1) against human nature; and two; against democracy and the rule of majorities.

    I have exactly the same argument against the rule of majorities that the founding fathers had against them. Have you never read the Federalist papers, for crying out loud? Majoritarianism was a major concern of the founders, and the entire purpose of the bill of rights was to place limits on the rule of majorities. This really is basic political philosophy 101, Mark. You should have learned this in high school.

    Do you really want an elite (the courts) determining what our rights are going to be or not; or do you want the people to determine how they wish to live, and what their rights should be?

    I want each individual to determine how they wish to live and I want the only limitation on that to be the proviso that their actions not intentionally harm another person or deprive them of their property and their equal rights. That, by the way, is exactly what Jefferson wanted too. But you don’t want the right to control your own life, you want the right to control others. You think you have a right to control others as long as you can get enough people to agree. But the Constitution and the bill of rights was written specifically for the purpose of rejecting that idea. Your argument is not with me, it’s with the founders themselves.

    You refer to our inalienable rights, but I wonder where you think those rights are derived from? God or man? If they come from man, then they aren’t inalienable, are they. They are infinitely mutable. If they come from God, then that puts a whole ‘nother spin on reality, doesn’t it?

    Like Jefferson, I think that we are endowed with inalienable rights by nature and nature’s god. But this isn’t really relevant, since you reject the notion of inalienable rights entirely. You think that rights are entirely alienable, as long as the states violate those rights. But that’s not freedom, it’s just choosing the size of your oppressor.

  4. #4 mark butterworth
    February 26, 2005

    Ed B.,
    Just to get this out of the way, you wrote:

    “Indeed, Prager’s argument about a battle to “preserve a Christian civilization” was also used, quite literally word for word, to defend every instance of injustice in American history. ”

    I paraphrased that you essentially stated that people used Christianity to defend “every instance of injustice”. As I said, there is nothing really meaningful in that observation. People use everything and anything to justify their injustices. You think that characterization is unfair. I don’t.

    I wanted to avoid a line by line argument this time, but I hope you won’t mind if I don’t respond to every point you attack me on, and instead focus on, well, fewer than you bring up.

    I did the 14th amendment elsewhere. You say it refers to the Bill of Rights. I disagree. Did the states give up their own bill of rights by ratifying the 14th? I don’t think so, but I don’t know what all the arguments made at that time were or why the states approved it. I have to do more research on it.

    You wrote: “If there is a war there, it is between those who seek to impose their fundamentalist religious beliefs on others and those who seek genuine freedom from such impositions.”

    Something is going to be imposed on people whether a majority does it to you or you do it to a minority. There is no possible “genuine freedom” from such impositions as you realize. You just think that your impositions are better than somebody else’s or are fewer and that makes them better. Most of the time, you’re outvoted. People are fundamentally religious although societies often fail for a lack of obligatory or disciplined practice or useful creed.

    While your philosophy of what is legitimate and illegitimate law is interesting, it isn’t determinative to a democracy. The law is what the people create whether you think it is good or bad. The Demos killed Socrates. A Tyranny killed Jesus.

    What you seem to be especially objecting to is my insistence that a democracy (and republic) is entirely in the hands of the people. They can do anything. They can change the laws and constitution at will if so moved. Nothing you can do will change that at this time unless you institute a tyranny that prevents the free exercise of voting rights.

    You seem to think that my observation of that fact is wholly to my power lusting approval. But I merely prefer the will of the people even when they are wrong to that of elites who occasionally do some good.

    (BTW, slavery ended pretty much over most of the civilized world in the 19th century without violence. There is every reason to believe it would have ended here peacefully, too; and no credible reason to believe it wouldn’t have.)

    You are right when you say that I want to control other people and not just myself. But I only want to do that as a majority or super-majority (if the need be). If you find that essentially anti-American, I am amazed since that has been the nature of most Americans since we began forming this country. That is what people do since we were created. We control each other in various ways, including formal declarations of codes and creeds. What’s wrong with that?

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but what you seem to strenuously object to is having to live in a society that may restrict your actions in many areas of life you consider private, and which religious people may consider immoral behavior. Well, if you’re outvoted, you are free to search for a place to live with people who prefer your way of life. That’s how Rhode Island and other states were established.

    The Founders intended to make it hard to alter the Constitution. They didn’t intend to make it impossible. Yet, the Courts have rather easily altered the Constitution beyond recognition in many instances. My argument is with the judges.

    Majoritarianism was a deep concern of the Founders. I do not dispute it. They did not intend to negate it, but impede it under stated conditions. The fact remains – majority rules under our code of law. The People are Supreme.

    I don’t see how you think I said human rights aren’t inalienable. How could I have given that impression? But you can’t have it both ways. You can’t assert they come from Nature’s God, and then say it is irrelevant since you don’t actually believe in Nature’s God as Jefferson did. That’s disingenuous. If you do not actually believe that we are endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights, you have no cause for complaint about any injustice. It’s just your opinion, and not an observable fact. If you believe we do have a Creator, that’s another thing as I said.

    You wrote: “Your problem here is that you are projecting your own lust for power onto others. I would not silence you even if I had the power to do so, as I am a consistent libertarian. But you have this very simplistic conception of “the left” whereby you project all the evil intentions you want them to have on to you.

    100 million people killed because of Communism has given me a fairly jaundiced view of the Left; the ruination of so many lives through social policies of liberalism and the Left, well, again, I guess that just makes me silly. You really don’t think the Left silences debate and is eager to do so now?

    As for my vaunted lust for power, it consists simply in wanting to be in a majority, and that majority ordering its society to its desire for the well being of all, though the consent of the governed. As such I would regulate certain kinds of speech. When our military was in action, I would define sedition, and prosecute those who gave aid and comfort to our enemies and undermined the morale of the people and the troops.

    You are always free to speak your mind. No one can stop you. But there may be consequences for that. There always have been, always will. Discretion is the better part of valor. If you have a boss, or engage customers in business, I bet you censor yourself all the time, and frequently choose your words carefully so as not to offend. Why? Because you don’t want to suffer the consequences if you do offend.

    (Quick aside. You definition of a conservative is wrong in too many ways to want to enumerate, but “status quo” is the worst. Not even close to the way a conservative defines himself these days.)

    Well, this is probably too long, but it takes some length to try and clarify a few things.

  5. #5 mark butterworth
    February 26, 2005

    Are the people who come to this site primarily libertarians?

  6. #6 Matthew
    February 26, 2005

    Are the people who come to this site primarily libertarians?

    I think, like anywhere else, most people who read this blog have views at least similar to Ed’s, but I have noticed many people who post in the comments who are liberal or conservative. I myself am not a libertarian.

  7. #7 Guitar Eddie
    February 26, 2005

    No, Mr. Butterworth, I’m not a Libertarian. I am a Democrat with a Libertarian bent on social issues. That is, like Mr. Brayton, I believe that a person should be able to live his/her life according to private conscience as long he/she refrains from rape, murder, and pillagement.

    I’m also a religious person. I practice Nichiren Buddhism. This is a fairly liberal religion which teaches that the individual is responsible for his/her own life.

  8. #8 bethiris
    February 26, 2005

    I’m not a Libertarian.
    I’m a prospective graduate student in American cultural history of the Revolutionary and Early Republic eras to 1865.
    My interest in what I read here is based on my intellectual inclinations. In the early 19th century, there were laws on the books against blasphemy, and the very first cases having to do with what we call freedom of speech involved it.

  9. #9 coffeedrinker
    February 26, 2005

    100 million people killed because of Communism has given me a fairly jaundiced view of the Left; the ruination of so many lives through social policies of liberalism and the Left, well, again, I guess that just makes me silly. You really don’t think the Left silences debate and is eager to do so now?

    Oi, oi. Look, before you challenge my history credentials, Mr. Butterworth, I’m just a high school student who’s never completed a world history or political science course, and I won’t pretend to be more than I am. I also think political labels are overgeneralized, silly, and far too open to multiple interpretations, but I’ll attempt to figure out what you mean when you use them.

    You seem to define what you consider as “Left” when you say

    what you seem to strenuously object to is having to live in a society that may restrict your actions in many areas of life you consider private, and which religious people may consider immoral behavior.

    Please, forgiving the fact that I’m just an ignorant kid, tell me how you can then in good conscience characterize Mao Zedong’s reign as “Left”-ist.

  10. #10 J
    February 26, 2005

    100 million people killed because of Communism has given me a fairly jaundiced view of the Left; the ruination of so many lives through social policies of liberalism and the Left, well, again, I guess that just makes me silly

    Yeah, you’re pretty silly.

    Fallacy: Composition

    Description of Composition

    The fallacy of Composition is committed when a conclusion is drawn about a whole based on the features of its constituents when, in fact, no justification provided for the inference.

    The fallacy of Composition arises when a person reasons from the characteristics of individual members of a class or group to a conclusion regarding the characteristics of the entire class or group (taken as a whole). More formally, the “reasoning” would look something like this.

    Individual F things have characteristics A, B, C, etc.
    Therefore, the (whole) class of F things has characteristics A, B, C, etc.

    http://www.nizkor.org/features/fallacies/composition.html

  11. #11 Dan
    February 26, 2005

    Mr. Butterworth seems to profess allegiance to the principle of majoritarianism:

    The law is what the people create whether you think it is good or bad.

    But I merely prefer the will of the people even when they are wrong to that of elites who occasionally do some good.

    Frankly, I doubt that Mr. Butterworth is familiar with the mountain of scholarship on majoritarianism, counter-majoritarianism, and the responses to counter-majoritarianism. But here’s a quick test to determine the depth of Mr. Butterworth’s committment. On Monday, Mr. Butterworth’s state legislature passes a law prohibiting Mr. Butterworth from posting comments like those he’s posted here on weblogs. Given what you’ve said here and on the other thread, Mr. Butterworth, I have to conclude you’d be OK with that?

  12. #12 Ed Brayton
    February 26, 2005

    ME: “Indeed, Prager’s argument about a battle to “preserve a Christian civilization” was also used, quite literally word for word, to defend every instance of injustice in American history.”

    I paraphrased that you essentially stated that people used Christianity to defend “every instance of injustice”. As I said, there is nothing really meaningful in that observation. People use everything and anything to justify their injustices. You think that characterization is unfair. I don’t.

    But you’re wrong, there is something very meaningful in that observation. It’s about the arguments used, not whether the arguments are true or not. If the same argument, literally word for word, has been used to defend every heinous instance of discrimination and injustice in our history, from the treatment of the Indians to slavery itself to the Jim Crow laws to bans on interracial marriage, and now you want to use that same argument to defend a status quo that treats another group as second class citizens, I’d say you have quite a burden on you to show why in this instance, the argument is true whereas in all those past instances it was false. The situations were identical in all relevant respects.

    And it’s not just the “preserving Christian civilization” argument that is the same, it’s also the legal argument you’re making. You are arguing that judges have no authority to overrule anything done by state legislatures whatsoever, no matter how heinous or unjust it is. You say that when judges do that they are engaging in “the ruination of representative democracy” by overruling the will of the people. I doubt you’d apply that consistently, but that is another discussion. The fact is that is the same legal argument that was used against Brown v. Board of Education, Loving v. Virginia, and every other case in which the courts correctly and justly intervened to stop states from violating the rights of American citizens. Because, again, you’re not interesting in equal rights, you’re only interested in having the authority to violate other people’s rights in a certain geographical area.

    I did the 14th amendment elsewhere. You say it refers to the Bill of Rights. I disagree. Did the states give up their own bill of rights by ratifying the 14th? I don’t think so, but I don’t know what all the arguments made at that time were or why the states approved it. I have to do more research on it.

    In other words, you don’t have any idea what you’re talking about, but you just know you’re right. Do you really consider that intellectually honest? The fact is that you don’t have any basis for claiming that the 14th amendment means anything at all because you’ve never studied it, and you claim it doesn’t mean the incorporation of the bill of rights solely because you don’t want that to be true. But it is true regardless of your wishful thinking, and the evidence for it is overwhelming. All you have to do is look up the Congressional Record and read the debates over the amendment that went on. I’ll give you a few highlights.

    In early 1866, a movement began in both houses of Congress to add an amendment to the Constitution to prevent individual states from violating the rights of American citizens. The battle was led in the house by Reps. Stevens of Pennsylvania, Bingham of Ohio and Deming of Connectictutt, and in the Senate by Brown of Missouri. In urging his colleagues to pass such an amendment, Brown said it should be adopted “so as to declare with greater certainty the power of Congress to enforce and determine by appropriate legislation all the guarantees contained in that instrument (the Constitution).” Rep. Donnelly said that Bingham’s proposed amendment “provides in effect that Congress shall have power to enforce by appropriate legislation all the guarantees of the Constitution.” Bingham himself said that the amendment would give the Federal government “the power to enforce this bill of rights as it stands in the Constitution today” and to “punish all violations by State Officers of the bill of rights.” Senator Poland of Vermont went even further, arguing that it not only incorporated the bill of rights, but the inalienable rights mentioned in the Declaration as well:

    It is essentially declared in the Declaration of Independence and in all the provisions of the Constitution. Notwithstanding this we know that State laws exist, and some of them of very recent enactment, in direct violation of these principles. Congress has already shown its desire and intention to uproot and destroy all such partial State legislation in the passage of what is called the civil rights bill…. It certainly seems desirable that no doubt should be left existing as to the power of Congress to enforce principles lying at the foundation of all republican government if they be denied or violated by the States.

    I could go on with such quotes all day long. There simply is no doubt from the historical record that the 14th amendment was intended to give the Federal government the authority to overrule state laws that violated the rights guaranteed by the Constitution. The fact is that it can’t mean anything but that. As I’ve asked numerous times, and you’ve dodged numerous times, when the 14th amendment says that, “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States”, what else could it possibly mean if not the rights guaranteed to US citizens by the Constitution? It can’t conceivably mean anything else, could it?

    So now that we have established that your entire argument about states having the right to violate the bill of rights is, after the passage of the 14th amendment, completely false, your entire legal argument falls apart.

    Something is going to be imposed on people whether a majority does it to you or you do it to a minority. There is no possible “genuine freedom” from such impositions as you realize. You just think that your impositions are better than somebody else’s or are fewer and that makes them better.

    Not even close. This is the surreal logic used by Bork in his attack on Griswold, that the right to do something and the right to stop someone from doing something have equal validity. But that’s utter nonsense. You have the right to control what you do; you do not have the right to control what others do, unless their actions harm another person or violate their rights. All rights are individual. Groups of people don’t have “rights” to control other people. Denying you the authority to control others does not impose on your rights because you don’t have such a right.

    What you seem to be especially objecting to is my insistence that a democracy (and republic) is entirely in the hands of the people. They can do anything. They can change the laws and constitution at will if so moved. Nothing you can do will change that at this time unless you institute a tyranny that prevents the free exercise of voting rights.

    Unless you do what the founders did and declare that no majority, no matter how large, may violate the inalienable rights of each individual. Now it’s obviously true that if you had sufficent numbers of votes, you could pass a Constitutional amendment to eliminate all of those rights and changing the fundamental nature of our government into a theocracy. But that would establish tyranny, and to advocate such only proves that you are, at the core, oppposed to freedom. The only freedom you want is the freedom to control others, but that isn’t freedom at all, it’s tyranny. And when you dare to invoke the founding fathers as supporting majoritarian tyranny, you are being a hypocrite and proving that you abhor freedom.

    You seem to think that my observation of that fact is wholly to my power lusting approval. But I merely prefer the will of the people even when they are wrong to that of elites who occasionally do some good.

    Okay, I call bullshit. I don’t think you really believe that at all. I think you only believe that if the majority is on your side and you think you can get your way. If your home state passed a law prohibiting going to church or reading the bible, you wouldn’t just pack up and move to another state. You, and many others who decry those horrible judges, would be sprinting to the courthouse to ask them to overrule the “will of the people” and reestablish your right to worship freely. And you would be absolutely right to do so, because the right to practice your religion is an inalienable right under our system and no majority, no matter how large, may justly infringe upon it. The courts were put in place specifically for the purpose of insuring that.

    So your complaint, again, is with the system of government the founders put in place. You want (or at least say you want) a purely majoritarian system where all questions are decided by popular vote without reference to any legal restrictions on what that majority may do. But that isn’t the system we have in America, nor should it be. We have a system of checks and balances, the most vital of which is the courts and their power to restrain majorities from violating the inalienable rights that governments are instituted to protect.

    I don’t see how you think I said human rights aren’t inalienable. How could I have given that impression?

    By taking the position that majorities may violate then whenever they feel like it. You think it is perfectly just to violate someone’s rights as long as the majority agrees. I, on the other hand, agree with the founders that governments are instituted among men solely to protect individual rights and that no majority, no matter how large, may justly violate them. And that when they do violate them, they cease to be a just government and may duly be done away with.

    But you can’t have it both ways. You can’t assert they come from Nature’s God, and then say it is irrelevant since you don’t actually believe in Nature’s God as Jefferson did. That’s disingenuous. If you do not actually believe that we are endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights, you have no cause for complaint about any injustice. It’s just your opinion, and not an observable fact. If you believe we do have a Creator, that’s another thing as I said.

    Okay, I’m beginning to wonder if you’re trolling. For crying out loud, you accuse me of distorting your position, then you say that I said I don’t believe in nature’s god? Let me quote you what I said:

    Like Jefferson, I think that we are endowed with inalienable rights by nature and nature’s god. But this isn’t really relevant, since you reject the notion of inalienable rights entirely. You think that rights are entirely alienable, as long as the states violate those rights. But that’s not freedom, it’s just choosing the size of your oppressor.

    How on earth do you get from that unequivocal statement to claiming that I don’t believe what I just said I believe? Are your reading comprehension skills that bad, or are you being deliberately obtuse?

    100 million people killed because of Communism has given me a fairly jaundiced view of the Left; the ruination of so many lives through social policies of liberalism and the Left, well, again, I guess that just makes me silly. You really don’t think the Left silences debate and is eager to do so now?

    I’m more amused by your simplistic tendency to label everything you don’t like as “the left”. I am the furthest thing from a communist, for crying out loud, I’m a libertarian. If anything, I am a hyper-capitalist. You really need to break out of this simplistic “right vs left” dichotomy; it really has little to do with real ideas and real people.

  13. #13 Ed Darrell
    February 26, 2005

    There is so much to say.

    But let me limit it to two points:

    1. Prager’s claim that the literal war against terrorism is the same war as the misguided “war” against homosexuals is specious and repugnant, as well as grotesquely inaccurate. We must assume, since it is our national policy, that there are hundreds if not thousands of homosexuals in U.S. uniform, in Afghanistan and Iraq, fighting against people with real bullets who shoot at all Amerians. For Prager to suggest that the homosexuals are on the other side is bizarre, and deserves condemnation. (Did Prager ever serve, by the way? Is he yet another chicken hawk? One might be justified in thinking so, since he so confuses what is war and what is not).

    A similar case would have been the war against fascism in Europe. Certainly we were not fighting the fascists in order to preserve our own discrimination against African Americans at home. But if we must claim that every issue is on one side or the other, that would be a logical conclusion, since fighting Hitler didn’t change the laws in the U.S. The post-World War II civil rights movement took a lot of fuel from the fact that African Americans fought and died for freedom for others, and then were unfairly and unjustly discriminated against when they got home. The real war exposed the injustice in the discrimination, and claiming that they were just two different fronts in the same war not only hopelessly confuses who is in favor of what, it also distorts history.

    2. Eschewing violence is one of the pillars of our civilization. If these right wing guys assume that it is necessary to go to war, destroying the civilization in the process, in order to save some vestige, they’ve missed the point completely.

    But, hey, if some Republican-sympathetic guy starts thinking civil war is necessary from watching the pathetic response of the Democrats to the wild, unfair, unjust and repugnant attacks of the Republicans, he’s pretty much lost to rational thought on the entire issue.

  14. #14 Bill Ware
    February 26, 2005

    Speculating on where our inalienable rights came from became a moot point once the Bill of Rights and the 9th and 14th amendments became part of our Constitution. Since then, applying the law to insure our rights needs no supernatural influence, nor should there be one.

    As far as politics is concerned, I’m a fiscal conservative who sees Pres Bush as the most fiscally irresponsible president in our nation’s history.

    As someone who believes in understanding and respect for others, I find Pres Buch’s playing to the prejudices of uninformed people in order to get elected to be shameful.

  15. #15 mark butterworth
    February 26, 2005

    coffee drinker,

    Why would I challenge your history credentials? I haven’t challenged anyone’s. And when it comes to knowing the history of the 14th Amendment, I was flat out incorrect. And leapt before I looked.

    I haven’t actually attempted to define the Left although I referred to communism as an example of it. But socialism is essentially Left, too. You’re wrong and right about labels. They are necessary, and not always an oversimplification. I am a Christian. A simple truth. A communist believes in communism. Another basic fact. The exigencies of any belief or self-identification can become rather complex.

    J.

    Wrong application. You’re not actually denying that Communists were/are responsible for the death of 100 million people or so; and that communism is a belief that is generally found in people called the Left, those who profess to believe in or work toward a system of government known as communism or socialism? I take people as what they say they are. When individuals (F) say they want a different form or style of government (or have created such systems) which are communist and based on Marx or share close similarities to it, I take them at their word.

    Dan,

    It depends on what the law states. If it put the same restrictions on me that the Queen put on Shakespeare’s speech in public, I wouldn’t have a problem.

    But the point is irrelevant since each state already had a Bill of Rights protecting such speech. If the State had, by majority or super-majority repealed those freedoms, I would probably look for another state or country to live in. The People have the power to do as they will regardless of whether you agree with it or not.

    (I am aware of the arguments about majorities. What you seem to be asserting, though, is that there has to be some greater authority than the people to insure your freedom or you can’t call yourself a free man. But there isn’t unless you want to point to God. Otherwise, everything is going to be determined by people who have the power of numbers or force.)

    Ed B.,

    You do believe in Nature’s God, that you are endowed by your Creator? But then declare that irrelevant when it is the very crux of the matter regarding rights. My mistake was in not trusting that you are fully committed to a powerful belief in Deity and that has strong effect on your world view. I apologize.

    “If the same argument, literally word for word, has been used to defend every heinous instance of discrimination and injustice in our history, from the treatment of the Indians to slavery itself to the Jim Crow laws to bans on interracial marriage, and now you want to use that same argument to defend a status quo that treats another group as second class citizens, ”

    And very much the same Christian arguments have been made to attack injustices throughout our history. It is still meaningless. The argument you say Prager uses by saying – “a war for the preservation of the unique American creation known as Judeo-Christian civilization. ” you seem to insist is one always used to oppress or injure Yet, it is the same argument Jew and Christians have used to attack injustice. All you’ve done is insist that the idea or principles of a Judeo-Christian civilization can’t be used to protect freedom. I disagree. It isn’t what Prager means or implies at all. Your underlying principle is that a Judeo-Christian civilization is basically a bad thing. It injures freedom. I strongly disagree. Freedom is at the very heart of Christianity. I won’t speak for Judaism. (Whether homosexuals are actually treated as second class citizens is another debate.)

    I have conceded my former ignorance of the intent of the 14th amendment. My bad.

    “You have the right to control what you do; you do not have the right to control what others do, unless their actions harm another person or violate their rights. All rights are individual. Groups of people don’t have “rights” to control other people. Denying you the authority to control others does not impose on your rights because you don’t have such a right.”

    This must be approached carefully. What may be in dispute here is what we consider is that which harms or violates others’ rights. How much control of others are we talking about? I certainly have a right to control my children, don’t I? They are people separate from me, though. Do I have a right to control a madman even though it can’t be shown that they are injuring others or violating other people’s rights?

    How do you divide people from groups? No one can ever say, I met a man. You met an Englishman, a Frenchman, or an American man. Our constitution says in fact that rights are reserved to states and people or to the federal state its own powers. That means people grouped together have rights as a body.

    “that would establish tyranny, and to advocate such only proves that you are, at the core, opposed to freedom. The only freedom you want is the freedom to control others, but that isn’t freedom at all, it’s tyranny. ”

    It appears that you don’t want people to have the freedom to choose good or bad in concert. That freedom of theirs is what you call tyranny. There is a basic inherent contradiction in your view. If a persons or people as a group do not have the freedom to act unjustly, are they free? Of course not.

    I am indeed willing to make trade-offs when it comes to ordering a society for the good of its inhabitants. I am willing, in concert with my fellows if we agree, to make laws which you think affect you unjustly. I consider them small injustices balanced by a greater good. (The great injustices you cite like slavery, Jim Crow were not derived so much by law or majority as by Custom. If nobody in the world until the last few centuries ever considered slavery an injustice, how was it so? When it became an injustice in the minds of many, it was abolished along with Jim Crow laws. That alteration may have seemed too slow to you, and certainly it was to those who longed for freedom, but that’s how life and culture works.)

    Perfection here is the enemy of the good. The proof of it is in our history and our national character. America has been the greatest force for good that the world has ever seen (apart from Christ, if any want to assert that).

    I am eager to sustain that good even though you may smart from resentment at a few perceived injustices. That’s simply the way life is. You cannot create any other system or practice that would satisfy humanity or make a better world where injustice (real or perceived) does not occur.

    It seems to me the question is then how practical and wise do you intend to be under the circumstances of human nature and the behavior of societies in general?

    “If your home state passed a law prohibiting going to church or reading the bible, you wouldn’t just pack up and move to another state. ”

    I answered this above, but not entirely as this requires. It is not easy to pack up and move to another state (but it’s not that hard, either). Perhaps a difference between me and you (is that grammatically correct? I forget.), is that I may be more willing to suffer the consequences of acting according to my conscience. I don’t mind dying. I have no fear of death (just pain). I have endured some very harsh imprisonment and unnecessary physical torture in my life. I can bear suffering for the sake of doing as I please. (Well, maybe not as much as when I was younger, but you get the point.)

    If the State should dramatically turn against me, I don’t know what I would do, but I don’t have that much fear of my state or my neighbors.

    I am sorry if you think I have been deliberately annoying. Rather, I have been pleased to engage in dispute with you in a generally civilized manner. There have been some misunderstandings, but isn’t that par for the course when you have two strongly held but different points of view? Mistakes are made in the translation of belief into word when done quickly which is what bloggers do quite often.

    I think this pretty much answers what you wrote above.

  16. #16 mark butterworth
    February 26, 2005

    hmm, I used tags for style but they don’t seem to work. Ahh, blogger is using different tags in my posts now. They work on blogger but not here. darn.

  17. #17 Andrew Reeves
    February 26, 2005

    Mark, you’re making my brain hurt.

    You’re not actually denying that Communists were/are responsible for the death of 100 million people or so; and that communism is a belief that is generally found in people called the Left, those who profess to believe in or work toward a system of government known as communism or socialism? I take people as what they say they are. When individuals (F) say they want a different form or style of government (or have created such systems) which are communist and based on Marx or share close similarities to it, I take them at their word.

    Mark, suppose that we were to have a conversation and I were to take an anti-Iraq war position because I was uncomfortable with starting a war and then you were to argue back that it was the morally justified to remove an evil dictator. Suppose I were then to respond, “Well, you follow an ideology that murdered eleven million people in the holocaust, so you obviously don’t really believe in fighting against evil dictators.” Suppose further that you were to argue that there is a difference between being an American conservative and a Nazi, at which point I responded, “Well, you are an anti-communist, and since anti-communism was behind the holocaust, I take you at your word that you support the ideology that led to the holocaust.”

    You would, I hope, realize that I was talking from my nether regions. Likewise, the inability to tell a social democrat apart from a Marxist-Leninist bugs the hell out of me.

  18. #18 coffeedrinker
    February 26, 2005

    I haven’t actually attempted to define the Left although I referred to communism as an example of it.

    Mr. Butterworth: thank you for your reply, but you don’t seem to have answered my original question: If you believe that “Left” philosophy is (as I quoted) “Object[ion to] having to live in a society that may restrict your actions in many areas of life you consider private”, how can you possibly in good conscience refer to Communist China’s “social policies of liberalism” (assuming “liberalism” = “Left”)?

    You’re wrong and right about labels. They are necessary, and not always an oversimplification.
    Of course labels are necessary – all words are labels. I merely said I believe people in our society often overgeneralize, deceive and generally abuse realities through use of political labels. However, I think you and Mr. Brayton are discussing this kind of terminology a bit, so I won’t pontificate here.
    I am a Christian. A simple truth. A communist believes in communism. Another basic fact.
    By the way, your first example isn’t such a simple truth – it’s certainly obvious that you *identify* as Christian, but no matter what your denomination/orthodoxy, I’m pretty sure there will be *some* self-identified Christian out there will say “he’s not really a Christian, because a true Christian would believe/be part of…”. This, even though “Christian” is still a lot less vague a label than “left”. (The second one isn’t really a “fact” so much as a definition.)

  19. #19 Ed Brayton
    February 26, 2005

    You do believe in Nature’s God, that you are endowed by your Creator? But then declare that irrelevant when it is the very crux of the matter regarding rights. My mistake was in not trusting that you are fully committed to a powerful belief in Deity and that has strong effect on your world view. I apologize.

    Seriously, are you trolling? Or do you comprehend this poorly when you read? For the third time, this is what I said:

    Like Jefferson, I think that we are endowed with inalienable rights by nature and nature’s god. But this isn’t really relevant, since you reject the notion of inalienable rights entirely. You think that rights are entirely alienable, as long as the states violate those rights. But that’s not freedom, it’s just choosing the size of your oppressor.

    What I said is really quite clear and you have now distorted it for the second time. First you claimed that I didn’t believe in “nature and nature’s god” as Jefferson did, when I clearly said that I did believe that. I said it’s not relevant because YOU don’t believe in inalienable rights, you believe that rights can be justly done away with as long as a majority votes to do away with them. Regardless of what the source of inalienable rights is, I believe in them and you do not. You cannot say on the one hand that you believe that rights are inalienable, and on the other hand claim that majorities may justly do whatever they wish to do and that those whose rights are being trampled should just move somewhere else. You reject the very foundation of our entire political system and you don’t even realize it.

    And very much the same Christian arguments have been made to attack injustices throughout our history. It is still meaningless. The argument you say Prager uses by saying – “a war for the preservation of the unique American creation known as Judeo-Christian civilization. ” you seem to insist is one always used to oppress or injure Yet, it is the same argument Jew and Christians have used to attack injustice. All you’ve done is insist that the idea or principles of a Judeo-Christian civilization can’t be used to protect freedom. I disagree. It isn’t what Prager means or implies at all. Your underlying principle is that a Judeo-Christian civilization is basically a bad thing. It injures freedom. I strongly disagree. Freedom is at the very heart of Christianity. I won’t speak for Judaism. (Whether homosexuals are actually treated as second class citizens is another debate.)

    No, I think the entire concept of “Judeo-Christian civilization” is a meaningless one. There is no such thing, it’s a meaningless catchphrase. I said so, and explained the reasons why, in my original reply to you. As far as the notion that freedom is “at the very heart of Christianity”, I think that’s utter nonsense. There is not a single verse in the bible that implies anything even close to the notion of political freedom, nor did the concept exist in Christian theology at all for some 1700 years. There is no instance of an officially Christian nation that had anything like freedom, and literally dozens of examples of allegedly Christian civilizations that violated rights wholesale. That is true from the Roman empire to the Papal states of Europe to Calvin’s Geneva and yes, to the original 13 colonies in America before the revolution. None of them had anything like political freedom and there is nothing in either the bible or in Christian theology up to that point that endorses such a concept. It was the influence of the Enlightenment that led to political freedom, and it was attached to Christianity as an afterthought later.

    ME: “You have the right to control what you do; you do not have the right to control what others do, unless their actions harm another person or violate their rights. All rights are individual. Groups of people don’t have “rights” to control other people. Denying you the authority to control others does not impose on your rights because you don’t have such a right.”

    This must be approached carefully. What may be in dispute here is what we consider is that which harms or violates others’ rights. How much control of others are we talking about? I certainly have a right to control my children, don’t I? They are people separate from me, though. Do I have a right to control a madman even though it can’t be shown that they are injuring others or violating other people’s rights?

    No, it doesn’t need to be approached carefully. The rule is what it is, and it is entirely valid. Of course it involves only adults capable of giving informed consent, not to children or to the mentally ill. You may justly deny to your children what you cannot justly deny to another adult with the same equal standing before the law that you have. The fact that you don’t get that is mind boggling, as it is absolutely central to the political philosophy upon which this nation was founded.

    How do you divide people from groups? No one can ever say, I met a man. You met an Englishman, a Frenchman, or an American man. Our constitution says in fact that rights are reserved to states and people or to the federal state its own powers. That means people grouped together have rights as a body.

    This is patently false. All rights are individual. The Declaration says that all men (meaning all people) are created equal. Not that all groups of people, but all people, all human beings are endowed with the same inalienable rights. Jefferson said that if all men save one were of the same opinion, the majority would still have no justification in violating the rights of that one who does not agree. Majorities may not justly deprive an individual of the rights they are endowed with, no matter how large the majority. It is just mind boggling that you think otherwise, especially while claiming fealty to the vision of the founding fathers who were squarely opposed to you on this.

    It appears that you don’t want people to have the freedom to choose good or bad in concert. That freedom of theirs is what you call tyranny. There is a basic inherent contradiction in your view. If a persons or people as a group do not have the freedom to act unjustly, are they free? Of course not.

    I want exactly what Jefferson wanted, for each person to be free to pursuit happiness in any way they choose so long as in doing so they do not harm another person against their will or deprive them of their own right to self determination. If rights are indeed inalienable, as I believe and you clearly do not, then no majority may justly violate them. The claim that if people are not free to act unjustly they are not free is simply idiotic to the core. You as an individual do not have any “right” to take away the rights of another consenting adult. If you get 50 friends together who agree with you, you do not as a group have the right to take away the rights of another person. If you get 5 million people together, you STILL do not have any right to take away the rights of another person. You continue to confuse rights with powers. Individuals have rights; governments have powers. But the just powers of government, as Jefferson said so eloquently, extend only to those actions that are injurious to others and no further.

    I am indeed willing to make trade-offs when it comes to ordering a society for the good of its inhabitants. I am willing, in concert with my fellows if we agree, to make laws which you think affect you unjustly. I consider them small injustices balanced by a greater good.(

    Where’s the tradeoff? You’re willing to get together with a majority and deny to a minority their right to live their life as they see fit. And you give up what? Not a damn thing. You are quite willing to give up the freedoms of others. All tyrants are.

    I answered this above, but not entirely as this requires. It is not easy to pack up and move to another state (but it’s not that hard, either). Perhaps a difference between me and you (is that grammatically correct? I forget.), is that I may be more willing to suffer the consequences of acting according to my conscience. I don’t mind dying. I have no fear of death (just pain). I have endured some very harsh imprisonment and unnecessary physical torture in my life. I can bear suffering for the sake of doing as I please. (Well, maybe not as much as when I was younger, but you get the point.)

    But the point is that you shouldn’t have to suffer any loss of liberty just because a majority says so. The difference is that you only care about liberty when if effects you. If a law was passed that forbid people to read their bibles, I would fight vehemently to overturn that law because the law is unjust and a violation of the basic liberties that underlie our system of government. I wouldn’t just move away. Where would we be if the founding fathers had just decided to move somewhere else rather than fight for the cause of liberty? And I don’t believe for a moment that you would just acquiesce to a law that deprived you of your rights; you only acquiesce to laws that deprive others of theirs. And that’s what separates you and me. I’ll fight for your rights but you don’t give a damn about mine.

  20. #20 Rick Dakan
    February 27, 2005

    Great Work on this Ed, I’ve really enjoyed the way you’ve carefully and politely taken apart every one of Mr Butterwoth’s frightening arguments.

    My only comment I want to throw in is a purely nit-picky grammatical point, because it’s one of my pet peeves and I’ve noticed a couple different people making this mistake.

    the word “insure” should only be used when talking about insurance. You “ensure” people of their rights.

    yes, yes, I know, utterly trivial in the context of this serious debate, but I like to do my part for the common grammatical good.

  21. #21 Fluffy Halifax
    February 27, 2005

    I have a great suggestion for Mark Butterworth.

    Move to Provo, Utah!

    After you’ve been there a year or two, come back and tell us how much you love majorities imposing their will upon minorities. I suspect you, like so many people who do not belong to the prominent religious group that dominates the state, will hate every minute of it. You will discover that even if you share major portions of your moral code with that group, you are not part of that group, and you will be on the outs.

    Trust me, you’ll LOVE the First Amendment after a year or so and will cheer on the ACLU.

  22. #22 mark butterworth
    February 28, 2005

    Ed B.

    Okay, this has gone on long enough and their is no possibility of even a common definition of terms.