In fourteen hundred ninety-two Columbus sailed the ocean blue…

In fourteen hundred ninety-two Columbus sailed the ocean blue…

On October 11, 2019, President Trump issued a proclamation declaring October 14, 2019, as Columbus day. He did the same in previous years as did presidents before him since the day was made a national holiday in 1937 by Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

This year whoever wrote the proclamation for Trump cited Columbus’ ” intrepid pioneer’s spirit of adventure.” He also mentioned “16 million Americans who claim Italian heritage and to carry forth the legacy of generations of Italian Americans who helped shape our Nation.”

Tens of thousands of people marched up Fifth Avenue in Manhattan for the 75th annual Columbus Day Parade. It’s more a display of Italian solidarity and ethnic pride than it is celebrating the virtuous life of a presumed fellow Italian.

Christopher Columbus was not Italian

picture of Columbus by Alejo Fernández

Christopher Columbus depicted in The Virgin of the Navigators by Alejo Fernández, 1531-1536.

Columbus was not Italian. He was born in the Republic of Genoa, known in the 1400s for its banking and trading while occupied by the French. It was also known for its slave trade.  Cristoforo Colombo left Genoa and went to Spain, where he became known as Cristóbal Colón, genovés.  His own penchant for slave trading had little to do with his birthplace.  Slavery was endemic. When he could not reward his Spanish masters with gold, he opted to give them slaves instead.

It’s Time to Scrap Columbus Day

It’s time to stop the charade. Americans of Italian descent cannot be proud of the scoundrel.  Spaniards should not be proud of him either. By today’s post enlightenment standards he was a rapist, mass murderer, thief, tyrant, scoundrel, pimp, masochist, sadist, opportunist, fraudster, kidnapper, slave trader, charlatan, deceiver…  But so were many of his coreligionists. He was a man of his time.

Some state and local jurisdictions are changing Columbus day to Indigenous Peoples’ Day. In 1989, South Dakota Governor George S. Mickelson proclaimed 1990 as the “Year of Reconciliation” between Native Americans and whites and to change Columbus Day to Native American Day. Alaska, Minnesota, and Vermont officially celebrate  Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

Purpose of National Holiday

A national holiday is to commemorate an important event in the nation’s history.  Columbus did not discover North America. He made no meaningful contribution to our history.  If the inhabitants of Hispaniola believe that Columbus made Haiti or Dominican Republic a better place, let them commemorate Columbus’ landing there and decimating the native population.

Making Columbus Day a national holiday was a mistake. The best way to fix a mistake is to cancel the holiday, not rename it to celebrate the victims of European colonization.

Revisionist History

The story of European colonization of the Americas is plagued by revisionism, as is most of the world’s history. Romantic stories of intrepid explorers and colonists fail to portray the brutality of those earlier times. To judge them by our current standards is a mistake and is a form of chronological snobbery. Native Americans, Indigenous Peoples were certainly victims of a clash of civilization. Such clashes have always happened and continue to happen.  How they are portrayed in history falls victim to human imagination.  Author Washington Irving contributed to the pro Columbus myth in 1828 with his fictional biography, “A History of the Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus.” In it he portrays Columbus as a friend to indigenous peoples.

Columbus wrote memoirs of his voyages, mostly to document why the king of Spain should pay him 10% of everything gained from his exploits.

Columbus’ son also wrote a history of his father. We will never know whether the father invented his history and the son believe him and wrote an account of it, or if the son knew the history was false and perpetuated the fraud to enhance is own reputation. The Cristóbal Colón family was in it for the money. The narrative was part of that claim for money.

Columbus and his brothers were eventually charged with crimes and spent time in jail until King Ferdinand released and eventually pardoned them.

Bartolomé de las Casas is known for writing an accurate depiction of Columbus’ and Spanish atrocities.

What Really Happened

Columbus happened to come along at a time that European Monarchs were looking abroad for treasure. Sailing ships and navigation advanced to the point that they were more reliable.  It was the dawn of an age of exploration. If Columbus had not conned the king of Spain into finance his venture,  others would have done so. And indeed, others did.

Early globalism, starting around the time of Columbus  resulted death and destruction on both sides of the Atlantic. Native people died from European brutality and diseases while the royalty of Europe were among the first to experience the wrath of Syphilis, which has been demonstrated archeologically to have existed in the pre-Columbian Americas.  It soon spread among the soldiers of Europe and from there around the world.  This is nothing to celebrate.

Why the Controversy?

One problem with dumping Columbus Day is widespread perception that Columbus actually contributed something.  He did not. Italian Americans have adopted a myth that has taken on almost religious proportions.  The holiday and parades are now tradition. This article in the NY Post illustrates an emotional appeal to keep the holiday.

Suggestions

Rather than trying to substitute Indigenous Peoples’ Day for Columbus Day, expand the scope of the holiday to celebrate the Age of Enlightenment/ Age of Reason that directly led to the U.S. Constitution. It took place in Europe during the 18th century, well after Columbus’ atrocities of the 15th century. It undermined the authority of Europe’s monarchs and paved the way for the American Revolution.

If that is not a good enough reason for a national holiday, simply declare the day as the first day of the Christmas Shopping Season.

Is Self-Defense a Natural Right?

Why would it be even necessary to ask such a stupid question?

Of course self-defense is a natural right and to think otherwise is further evidence of a distorted view of reality prevalent among some factions of society in the United States. Denial of physical and biological reality is finding its way into public discourse in ways that should sound alarm bells for people who believe in personal Liberty and its attendant Responsibility.

Tools for Self-defense are Highly Regulated

Despite the Second Amendment to our Constitution, the rights of citizens to keep and bear arms, including knives, swords, bows and arrows, pistols, rifles, shotguns, AK-47s, machine guns, rocket propelled granades, tanks, fighter aircraft, and nuclear bombs has been and continues to be highly regulated. If self defense is really a natural right, to what extent are we able to exercise that right if the tools we may depend on are denied us?  What tools may we rely on besides our teeth, fingernails, fists, and ability to run slower than the wind on a calm day?

Biological Basis of Human Existence

The fact that we are alive is all we have. We exist individually and as a species for just a brief moment on the planet we call earth whose age is almost beyond our comprehension.

Postulating an existence beyond this life further complicates how we interpret our conscious existence. Martyrdom is the antithesis of self-defense, but so is altruistically sacrificing one’s life to save another.

Everything we own, people we know, our ancestors and posterity, real and imagined, are part of our brief trip through life. Most of us will do everything possible to preserve our lives.

image of Byzantine-era mosaic of gazelle in Caesarea, Israel

Byzantine-era mosaic of a gazelle in Caesarea, Israel

Other living beings also do everything possible within the limits of their physical abilities to stay alive. Gazelles can run in bursts as fast as 60 mph as they try to outrun a pursuing carnivore that depends on catching the gazelle for food to stay alive. Gazelles eat grass and run to stay alive. Lions run to catch and eat gazelles to stay alive. All plants and animals that survive in their environment have developed survival mechanisms to keep them alive long enough to reproduce.

Humans are not alone in banding together to help each other survive. Animals hunt cooperatively in packs for food.  Water Buffalo and Wildebeests defend the herd with their formidable horns. Chimpanzees and monkeys cooperate on many levels to find food and defend each other.

Humans are not alone in defending one-another at the peril their own lives, but humans do appear to be alone among living things when they invent language and words to express intangible ideas like rights, natural rights, natural law, social contracts, constitutional law, statuary law, common law, and regulatory law. Humans hold the law of the jungle in disdain until they couch it in terms like natural law. The law of the jungle sounds harsh. Natural law sounds like the words of an enlightened philosopher. But the law of the jungle clearly allows for both self-defense and the common defense. And so does natural law. They are the same.

Natural Rights

Political theorists and philosophers have long argued that human beings have natural rights. Thomas Hobbs was one such philosopher who stated in his work, Leviathan, that individual humans have a natural right to survive but unless there were some kind of government to protect them life would be “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” A gazelle may agree.

Image of Thomas Paine

Portrait of Thomas Paine

Thomas Paine was a philosopher, political theorist, and influential voice in the American Revolution.  He wrote a clear definition of natural rights when he said. “Natural rights are those which appertain to man in right of his existence.” He went on to say, ” Of this kind are all the intellectual rights, or rights of the mind, and also all those rights of acting as an individual for his own comfort and happiness, which are not injurious to the natural rights of others.”

Paine defined civil rights as those, “which appertain to man in right of his being a member of society. Every civil right has for its foundation, some natural right preexisting in the individual, but to the enjoyment of which his individual power is not, in all cases, sufficiently competent. Of this kind are all those which relate to security and protection.”

Paine addressed Hobbs’s observation that without the protection of society, humans would be left to defend themselves against insurmountable odds.  It is within the context of understanding and agreeing with Paine’s definitions of natural rights and civil rights that the Founders drafted the U.S. Constitution.

Natural Rights in the Constitution

When the Founders were drafting the Constitution, they had to juggle conflicting interest of many factions all of whom had rights and privileges that they wanted to defend. State’s rights were high on the list.  Freedom was a difficult objective if it included freedom for everybody. Slavery was an issue that was left for a later time because at that particular moment in history it was necessary to craft a grand compromise.

If it were not for the Amendments to the Constitution known as the Bill of Rights, it would have been impossible to have ratified the Constitution. Most people in that day assumed that people naturally had rights, whether they called them natural rights or not, and that a legitimate government must protect the rights of the people. They were certainly aware that civil law can easily conflict with natural law when the King quartered his troops in the houses of the colonists.  That conflict between the King’s civil law and natural law prompted the inclusion of the now immaterial amendment number 3.

Life, Liberty, and Property

John Locke was the English philosopher who expanded on ancient discussions about natural law when he wrote that the most important natural rights are Life, Liberty, and Property.  His writings may have been the single greatest influence that shaped the creation of our limited constitutional government. He asserted that natural law can be discovered through reason alone. An aspect of natural law that he stresses here is each individual’s duty to preserve himself, and then when sufficiently secure in his own safety, he should strive to secure the well-being of others:

“Every one, as he is bound to preserve himself, and not to quit his station wilfully (sic), so by the like reason, when his own preservation comes not in competition, ought he, as much as he can, to preserve the rest of mankind, and may not, unless it be to do justice on an offender, take away, or impair the life, or what tends to the preservation of the life, the liberty, health, limb, or goods of another.” John Locke (1632-1704) – The Two Treatises of Civil Government

Self-preservation is not just limited to saving our lives, but also our liberty, health, limb, and goods.  This is why some states have codified the justifiable use of force to include defending the lives, health, and property of ourselves as well as others.

Constitutional Protection of Natural Rights to Self-Defense

Self-defense is often more than protecting only physical safety. We have the right to verbally protect ourselves from what others may say to us or about us. President Trump famously does so using social media.

The first amendment to the Constitution in the Bill of Rights prohibits the government from stifling our speech.  Around the world and in some quarters in the U.S., there are factions who want to outlaw certain types of speech that they deem offensive. Pejorative but highly subjective labels like “Hate Speech” are used to justify their attempts to ban speech, publication of such language, or assembly where such ideas are expressed.

The second amendment following right after the important first amendment prohibits government from interfering with the right of the people to defend themselves by force of arms.  Humans are not well suited to defend themselves physically without weapons. When violence is necessary to defend ourselves and others, we have a natural right to do so.

A Supreme Court (opens in PDF) decision reaffirmed that the right to keep and bear arms is a personal right. The mention of the militia in the amendment is a slightly archaic way of  asserting Locke’s argument that while securing our own safety, we “ought,” as much as we can, to join together to “preserve the rest of mankind.”  When Locke says we “ought” to defend others, is he implying that we have some kind of moral duty to do so, or is it just his opinion?

There are many who believe that ethics and morality are ideas hatched in the minds of humans, while others bestow more authority on such ideas by claiming they are mandated by a creator.  This is an argument that is bound to go on as long as humans have ideas that they think are original and try to impose their ideas on others, whether through gentle persuasion or outright aggression. Both methods seem to be part of human nature.

A Moral Argument for Self-Defense

Are there objective standards to establish what is moral or are all moral judgements necessarily subjective? Go back to the Gazelle being pursued by the Lion. Both are doing what the nature of their existence dictates that they do to stay alive.

If you decide that you will protect the helpless Gazelle by shooting the lion, the Gazelle runs safely away. Suppose instead you shoot the Gazelle and treat the lion to an easy meal. Whichever decision you made was likely based on some preconceived notion or bias. Is either a moral decision? Animal conservationists would probably claim that both actions are immoral. Let nature take its course.

Suppose again that you see a lion attacking a park ranger. You would surely shoot the lion to save a fellow human.

The ranger could fight the lion with all his strength but unless he, or you, is in possession of a weapon that is more deadly than the lion’s awesome jaws and claws, both you and the ranger would likely become a meal for the lion. These examples involve a limited number of individuals defending themselves from imminent death.  Morality does not weigh heavily on the instinctive decision to defend individual lives.

Where Self-Defense is not a Natural Right in the U.S.

Most would argue that we have a natural right to defend our individual lives through the use of deadly force.  If I have a handgun with 15 rounds of ammunition, and I am set upon by three murderous assailants and I am able to kill all three, most would agree that I had the right to defend myself. But they would be wrong. A natural right does not translate into a legal right in many jurisdictions. And in some jurisdictions, having 15 rounds is illegal.

Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nebraska, New York, New Jersey, North Dakota, Ohio, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington DC, and Wisconsin  (15 States) require you to run from an assailant if you are in public, even if you are suitably armed and able to defend yourself. They call it a duty to retreat.  Hopefully if you run but have to stop to defend yourself, the judge or jury will believe that you retreated to the extent required by law before exercising your natural right of self-defense.

Running is all the Gazelle has and they can easily outrun a lion unless ambushed. You cannot outrun or retreat fast enough from most assaults.  You may have only a split second to defend yourself.  Duty to retreat imposes and additional burden of proof to defend yourself from potentially unjust charges.

Stand-Your-Ground States

Twenty-eight (28) states are called stand-your-ground states: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, West Virginia, and Wyoming. Seven (7) other states are not statutorily stand-your-ground states, but do not require a strict duty to retreat: California, Colorado, Illinois, New Mexico, Oregon, Virginia, and Washington. In these thirty-five states, you do not have a duty to retreat and grand juries are more likely to find that your use of force was justified if  the circumstances demonstrated that you clearly felt your life was in imminent danger.

Even in stand-your-ground states, it is logical to avoid deadly force whenever possible. Display a weapon, issue a strong warning, and if you are in fear of your life, do what must be done. Save yourself.

Proportional Defense

AR-15 Semi Auto Rifle 5.56 NATO

People using weapons such as firearms need to train themselves in their use as one would with any tool.  The idea of proportional defense suggests that the defense should be proportional to the threat. If a person has a weapon but is not skilled in its use, it is doubtful that the defense will be proportional to the threat.  If a person is skilled in the use of weapons but has an inferior weapon, the defense may not be proportional to the threat.

This idea has important ramifications in the on-going debate about so-called assault weapons. A handgun is often sufficient for self-defense, but when the level of threat increases, the tools available for defense have to increase accordingly. A small caliber semiautomatic weapon like the popular AR-15 looks scary to some people but it may be enough to intimidate a would-be aggressor without ever having to fire a shot. If a more robust defense is necessary, the AR-15 is capable of projecting greater force at a greater distance than a handgun.

A large unarmed man threatening a small woman with a knife is not proportional. She may easily be overpowered, disarmed, and stabbed with her own knife.  A small person aggressively confronted by a much larger person may need a firearm to mount a porportional defense. In 1872, the Colt New Model Army Metallic Cartridge Revolving Pistol became known as the Equalizer because it allowed individuals to protect themselves from multiple or more powerful assailants.

Today’s equalizers can be found in such modern firearms as the AR-15 designed by ArmaLite in the late 1950s. The design was later sold to Colt who successfully launched the fully automatic version M16 as a military personal defense weapon.  In 1964 Colt began to offer the semiautomatic Model R6000 Colt AR15 SP1 Sporter Rifle in the civilian market.

People who use a firearm should be very familiar with the meaning and limitations of proportional defense. Often simply displaying a firearm with enough resolve will stop an aggressor. Retreat if you can safely do so. Give warnings. But don’t sacrifice an advantage because of indecision. Most aggressors already know what they are going to do and you don’t unless you have practiced using the tools of self-defense.

Other Tools for Self-Defense

Self-defense does not always involve firearms. A simple walking stick in the hands of a healthy person may ward off an opportunistic attacker. Police style tactical expandable steel batons are easily carried and concealled in a woman’s purse. Stun guns and pepper spray may be useful in some circumstances but they are often over-rated and can provoke an even more violent attack by a large aggressor.

Knives are very effective at close range but like any tool, a person carrying a knife should learn how to use it for self-defense. Blade lengths dictate what may be legally carried in some jurisdictions. What ever happened to swords?

A folding pruning saw is a very effective self-defense weapon that is usually considered to be a garden tool. They are incredibly sharp. Carried in a car, it is highly doubtful that it will be questioned as a weapon, especially if it has a few green stains on it from cutting branches. Leave it laying on the floor along with a few rusty garden tools.

WARNING: This discussion of firearms, saws, knives, or other devices in not intended to suggest that you may legally possess or use any of these devices where you reside. The Constitution is a wonderful document meant to protect our rights, but local and state governments routinely infringe on what we may consider to be a right guaranteed under the Constitution.  It is up to citizens to lobby their elected representatives to change the laws when laws no longer serve or protect the people.

Brass Knuckles are legal for self-defense in most states, but even Texas outlawed them at one time, along with California, Illinois, Michigan and Vermont. Now Texas has seen the error of its ways and will allow brass knuckles, clubs, and those cute wild kat keychains to be used for self-defense.   In South Carolina it is illegal to possess brass knuckles only if “they are used with intent to commit a crime.”

A Few Self-defense Tools


A Kubotan is a 5 inch keychain stick that can inflict painful wounds. They are generally legal everywhere except on airplanes even if made of Lexan.

This ice pick has a threaded cover. It is also unsuitable for travel on airplanes. Its stainless shaft is 2.68 in long. It is not a knife and may presumably be carried for defense in Seattle, WA. But is it a dangerous weapon in WA State under RCW 9.41.250?

A Seattle, WA city ordinance declares it illegal to “carry concealed or unconcealed…any dangerous knife,” defined as a knife with a fixed blade longer than 3-1/2 inches.


Knife Length Laws in the United States

The American Knife & Tool Institute (AKTI) incorporated in the state of West Virginia in 1997 as a 501(c)3 national nonprofit advocacy and education organization embracing every segment of the knife industry. Prior to the AKTI’s pioneering efforts, laws regarding knives in the U.S were hopelesslyconfusing. This is beginning to slowly change as states and municipalities reform their laws to conform to uniform definitions and standards promoted by AKTI. Some of their success can be seen on the AKTI Website HERE.

In 2005, AKTI published their Knife Measuring Protocol, which was the first time standard definitions were applied to knives. Since then numerous states have updated their laws to give citizens a clearer picture of which types of knives are legal under varying circumstances.

AKTI provides information about which knives are forbidden or prohibited under state law; which knives cannot be sold or other restrictions on sale or manufacture; and which knives may be carried and whether concealment is an issue.

Click HERE about knife laws in your state. (Opens in a new window)

Although the information provided by AKTI is not considered legal advice, it is a good place to start to understand what restrictions states have placed on weapons, including knives. Consult local law enforcement, an arms dealer, or qualified attorney in your state to better understand the details of local laws.


For those who do not have the patience to read long boring discussions:

What tools may we rely on besides our teeth, fingernails, fists, and ability to run slower than the wind on a calm day?

In the U.S., and apparently in the whole world, there is a constant fight between the Left, who instinctively deny the existence of a biological human nature, and the Right, who dogmatically assert that Darwin was correct and Utopia is the greatest threat to individual Liberty ever contrived in the Minds of Men.

The Left instinctively wants to disarm the populace, provide cradle to grave security, and eliminate all crime, dissension, mental illness, poverty, and unhappiness.

The Founders of our Republic were pragmatists, , brave and realistic.  They knew that if the Revolution against the English Monarchy failed, they would all hang.  There would be no appeal to a benevolent court. Enshrining individual Liberty in a new nation was their goal. Correcting the errors of the past, including slavery, would have to wait for subsequent generations to achieve by using the Freedoms that the Founders bestowed on their posterity.  We are that posterity.

We have an obligation to understand why we have what has been given to us.

John Locke (29 August 1632 – 28 October 1704) had already made his huge contribution to human understanding of nature.  Adam Smith (16 June 1723 – 17 July 1790) provided the bones to what would become an economic miracle, Capitalism. Karl Marx came later. His legacy is one of destruction and on-going dissention,

Some of the concepts we should understand relate to the basic biological nature of our existence:  Natural Liberty, laissez-faire, the Invisible Hand, self-interest, division of labor, universal opulance, ‘the system of natural liberty.’  We do not want to get carried away talking about economics when we are trying to show that natural law gives us the right and duty to defend ourselves and allow us to have access to the tools to make it not only possible but easy. It’s just that liberty, economics, and self-defense are all tied together.

So we will make one last reference to a modern philosopher who is seldom given the credit he deserves: Malcome X said, “I am not against using violence in self-defense. I don’t call it violence when it’s self-defense, I call it intelligence.” In his 1964 speech he stated: “We don’t do anything illegal.”

Indeed the Second Amendment gives us an individual right to arm ourselves in defense of ourselves, our property, and our fellow beings. The problem is that other people and even our own governments try to take these rights away from us under whatever guise is popular at the time.  Right now in the summer of 2019 after several well publicized murders, frantic utopian Leftists are again crying for a general disarmament.  So we too must continue to defend ourselves in the political arena and keep the pressure on our elected representative to protect the Constitution.

So what types of arms are appropriate and who should have them.

Who Should have Them?

First, society has a right to protect us collectively, so there are people who should not have weapons, and there are people who should not have their personal freedom. They should be locked up. But if we cannot lock them all up, we individually must have the means to defend ourselves from them, and we must support those whom we hire to defend us, the police, the FBI, ICE, the military, etc.

Background checks are reasonable and may be strengthened with technology, but safeguards must be built in to prevent background checks from infringing our rights.  Protection orders are also a logical defense of public order. It’s already in Federal Law.  Gun violence Emergency Protective Orders are also appropriate if the are not abused.

What Types of Arms

Firearms

Because the principle of proportional defense always applies, the type of weapon available in the hands of a law-abiding citizen should be capable of meeting any potential threat.  If the treat does not measure up to the available weapon, the law-abiding citizen is the one to decide proportionality by limiting the use of the weapon to the actual force needed. This is why any semiautomatic weapon with any magazine capacity should not be banned. We need to have them if necessary and we are free to limit their use.

The present laws of taxing fully automatic weapons, although infringing to some degree, is not causing  too much hardship.  If a situation arose where more people need to have automatic weapons, current access to semiautomatic weapons could fill in the gap until more appropriate weapons for the new threat are made available.  To legally own a fully-automatic weapon now requires three things: time, money, and a spotless criminal record.

The bottom line is this: All rifles, shotguns, and handguns, of any caliber presently available, and magazines of any capacity should be available in commerce, subject to reasonable regulations. Many states currently impose unreasonable regulations, particularily in the states of California, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Ikkinois, Hawaii, and Massachuetts. The City of Washington DC  also abuses citizens rights.

Other Weapons

Any device, concealable of not, that can be safely deployed to protect an individual against aggression by another should be freely available in all the trritory of the United States. Most weapons of this sort should be small and easily accessable. Three of our favorite are pictured above.

Swords, pikes, and large weapons like maces, hatchets, and hammers are obsolete in most circumstances. Hatchets, hammers, saws, screw drivers, ice picks, kitchen knoves, and other tools can make excellent weapons in a pinch. Their possession for any reason should not be restricted.

Chemical and Electrical Weapons

In the right hands, such as law enforcement trained in their use, weapons like mace and TASER can be effective. TASERS are not legal in all states. DC, HI, MA, NJ, NY, and RI ban the civilian sale of TASER weapons. CT, IL, MI, and WI are legal with certain restrictions and requirements. We disagree with the rationale for banning them in those states.

These weapons are used to de-escalate a violent situaltion, but the person deploying the device needs to be prepared if the violence does not de-escalate. What if ist gets worse?  A law enforcement officer carries the equipment to take it to the next level and we believe that civilians using these devices must also be prepared to respond if the Taser or mace doesn’t work.

They have drawbacks that should be considered. Some TASER devices look like pistols and in the dark may be mistaken for a firearm.  Why not just carry a firearm and follow firearm safety procedures, including properly identifying yourself to a law enforcement officer and following directions.

We believe that pepper spray and many low power electrical devices are not effective enough to be reliably deployed.  Take a professional self-defense class to learn what is worthwhile.

screen shot of Fox News broadcast 26JUL2019

Poorly informed Electorate is a Danger to the Republic

We generally refrain from commenting on current events because such events almost always fade into obscurity along with the people responsible for those events. But there is something happening currently that is troubling. It’s not just one thing; it’s a constellation of events and the people behind them that cause us to question where it will lead our country and the Liberty we cherish.  Among these events are clueless voters, illegal immigration, deep state operatives, and pathological educational institutions.

Clueless Voters

There are pockets of voters in certain regions of the country that are electing people who do not seem to share our common understanding of limited government, personal Liberty, and property rights. While we label some rank and file voters as “clueless,” their leaders in the DSA, and public icons like Elizabeth Warren are clearly not clueless idiots. Now, if some polls are to be believed, 40% of Americans are willing to embrace various tenants of socialism. Their numbers are enough to elect inexperienced representatives who are masters at self-promotion but very weak on intellectual achievement.

Among these unusual new representatives are the four congresswomen known as the “Squad.”  They openly call themselves Democratic Socialists. That by itself is nothing new.  There is also the granddaddy of Democratic Socialists, Bernie Sanders, who is mercifully coming to the end of his long political career feeding at the rich bosom of capitalism that he claims to despise.  It is highly doubtful that the  hapless voters who put him and the Squad into power have ever heard of Eugene Debs or Michael Harrington, who have also mercifully faded into obscurity.

Socialism is Incompatible with Freedom

A generation of self-indulgent citizens has failed to learn enough about history and economics to understand that free market capitalism has produced unprecedented wealth for the great mass of humanity. It has lifted people out of starvation around the world.  It is responsible for the freedom that people need to be creative. Despite these obvious lessons of history, many current voters are willing to sacrifice our freedom to once again experiment with failed Marxist philosophy.

Democrats who call for socialist policies stress that their socialism is not that of Venezuela and Nicaragua.  They like to claim that theirs is the “third way,” like Norway, Sweden, and Denmark.

If anyone was paying attention, these countries did indeed experiment with a few socialist policies in the 1970s, and subsequently corrected their mistakes. They are small enough countries to quickly change direction.  They are now in many respects more free than we are, with no guaranteed jobs, no minimum wage,  and no “Green New Deal.”

James Madison knew that people need to educate themselves if they want to be self-governing. The alternative is for carelessly ignorant people to submit to the tyranny of dictators. In 1822, Madison wrote to his friend William Taylor Barry:

“Knowledge will forever govern ignorance: And a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.”

Illegal Immigration

One of the issues that is popular among Democratic Socialists is globalization and the eventual dismantling of nation states. They may not frame their arguments in this way, preferring instead to advocate for compassion, free medical care, free education, free housing, and sanctuary cities. (Last month we published a lengthy article on this subject)

Some states and many cities are becoming  microcosms for socialists policies. This is actually a good thing because it demonstrates the long-term problems of socialism before too much damage is done.  It also gives current generations of idealistic voters time to mature and learn from their mistakes.

Migration between states is a feature of our Republic.  When one area of the country becomes too socialistic, those who cannot thrive in that environment can move. The opposite is also true. Masses of homeless people and illegal immigrants are flocking to large west coast cities seeking a myriad of benefits, such as Medicaid and Section 8 housing.

Deep State Operatives

The subject of deep state operatives is controversial. Wikipedia classifies it among conspiracy theories. Eventually more information will reach the light of day and it may cease to be a theory.

At a rally in Billings Montana, President Trump referred to “unelected deep-state operatives who defy the voters to push their own secret agendas are truly a threat to democracy itself.”

Many believe that elements in the CIA, FBI, and Department of Justice, conspired, and may continue to conspire through elected representatives in Congress to remove Donald Trump from office. It is obvious from their public statements that they hold president Trump in disdain.  While a classic coup d’état, South American style, is not a possibility, a more sophisticated campaign to impeach the president or at the very least prevent his reelection is not mere conjecture. It is playing out daily in Congress and on all the news outlets.

Regarding the ongoing investigation by Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said, “I can’t tell you what he found, but I can tell you that if you care about the rule of law you’re going to be very upset about how the DOJ and the FBI behaved themselves during the 2016 election,”  “If you hate Trump, you won’t care. If you love the rule of law, you’ll be very upset.”

Senator Lindsey’s calm characterization of the investigation gives a hint that those involved will fade into obscurity. Then the famous words of the Bard will once again intrude on our skeptical minds:

Macbeth:
To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

Macbeth Act 5, scene 5, 19–28

Pathological Educational Institutions

Universities are one part of the educational institutions that we address here. They, in contrast to smaller community colleges, have become breeding grounds for theories that interfere with students’ rational thinking and their ability to enter the job market. Ideology is a luxury that should be reserved for tenured professors.

Jordan Peterson is a Canadian clinical psychologist and a professor of psychology at the University of Toronto. He has become one of the foremost critics of what Universities have become in North America.

We accept as axiomatic Madison’s assertion that if people are to govern themselves, they have to be smart enough to do it. Prof. Peterson makes a strong case that Universities are actively promulgating spurious ideas that weaken the ability of people to make historically informed decisions.  Watch the video below.

Further educational institutions such as community colleges, trade and technical schools, and military colleges/academies are more targeted to preparing student for an occupation, and so they generally avoid the culture battles taking place on some university campuses.

Another significantly pathological educational institution is the Internet as a whole.

Internet

The Internet with the omnipresent screens, both large and small, give us an endless about of information. The great barrier to turning knowledge into wisdom is that most people are not prepared to deal with the vast amount of information. They don’t have the critical skills to know what is true. Nor do they question the concept of truth.

Added to blatantly fake content on the Internet is the reality that the Internet is the hunting ground of thieves, robbers, child molesters, murderers, Nigerian princes, fake IRS, fake banks, and fake people.

Most people think that what they believe is true. Very few people have developed the ability to separate emotional beliefs from potentially empirical truth. And in our zeal to embrace all that is new and exciting, we reject the wisdom of history and tend to repeat the same stupid mistakes.

Current Events

Invariably students don’t understand what a current event is all about. Ideally teachers should train students to use their intellectual faculties to evaluate events and put them into a historical perspective. As much as this would be an ideal outcome, current events in most of the country point to an electorate that makes decisions based on emotions.  And the teachers are themselves part of that emotional electorate.

How can a student, or anyone for that matter, discover the truth behind what is happening. The bias of news outlets borders on criminality. Who has time to spend hours comparing opposing opinions?  And those who spend the time will have a very difficult time separating fact from propaganda. A cynical view of network news is that it’s an extension the entertainment industry, which distracts the populace from their lives of quiet desperation.

If we venture into an arena that should be relatively free of fake information such as medical research, what can we believe?

In the International Journal of Surgery, (2006), and article entitled Deceit and fraud in medical research laments a loss in public trust in medical research and doctors. It shows how researchers misuse statistics to give weight to incorrect conclusions. It reminds us of Benjamin Disraeli’s opinion of statistics, “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.”

Dr. Jordan Peterson

7 Fatal Errors Universities Make
“Postmodernism is  just a shell game for Marxism”

Illegal Immigration and the End of Prosperity

Introduction

Illegal immigration is aggression, a home invasion on a larger scale.

But clearly the motives of most illegal immigrants are not those of home invaders. Or are they?  More about this later.

But the central question of this discussion is this: Will illegal immigration cause an end to American prosperity?

The answer is YES, but not for the reason you may imagine.

NOTE:  This discussion is about illegal immigration. It assumes that people of goodwill, working for a common cause, can eventually devise a system of legal immigration that systematically adds to our economic social capital.  If we are unable to decide what kind of immigrant can add to our social capital, then immigration and a borderless state will be our downfall.

Contentious Issue

One of the most contentious issues facing the United States on the 4th of July, 2019 is illegal immigration. Congress seems paralyzed in the face of hords of immigrants crossing our southern border. Why can’t Congress pass a law to fix what is increasingly being recognized as a crisis?

The simple answer is that there is no agreement about immigration policy. The political Left advocates for open borders and free immigration; the Right pushes for changing the laws to prevent the incentives that promote illegal immigration. Most agree that legal immigration is not only desirable, but essential to our economy.

Claims about the economic value of immigration vary widely, primarily because the economy is another point of contention between the Right and the Left.  America’s favorite Ponzi scheme, Social Security needs more workers to support it.  Microsoft wants programmers from India via the H-1B visa program, and healthcare pushes for increases in nurses admitted on H-1A visas. Farmers used to want guest workers until that program flopped and the farms got bought up by international corporations. Now the guest workers are old and their children and grandchildren are proud Americans who shop at Walmart and pay sales taxes.

We are told that Americans don’t want to work in the harvest. Maybe the wages are too low, or maybe there are enough underpaid immigrants entering the country illegally to fill the demand.

Illegal Immigration and the End of Prosperity

Our title is intentionally provocative. It is intended to draw attention to an overlooked aspect of economic growth. The people of a country, collectively, determine the type of economy and degree of prosperity of the country. A nation of poorly educated people divided by tribalism will remain poor for generations. Such a country is destined to be ruled by elite dictators.

A nation of well-educated people sharing a high degree of cooperative effort is likely to choose a government that helps promote their common interests . Such a nation is likely to enjoy a high standard of living, and will tend to maintain that standard throughout subsequent generations by promoting the educational and ethical standards that fostered it in the first place.  Philosophers have dubbed such a nation an open society although as with any concept, there are those who interpret the term to suit their own ends.

Americas Are Lands of Immigrants

Colossal Olmec Head

The United States and the all of the Americas are lands filled with immigrants.  It’s just a question of when they arrived. The ancestors of Native Americans arrived at various times, possibly as long as 30,000 years ago, and in various waves until about 10,000 years ago.  Archeology does not tell us very much about the wars that must have occurred anciently as one wave overran another. Mesoamerica offers some clues but that record goes back only to about 2500 BCE, and really only dates from the mysterious so-called Olmec culture about 1600 BCE.  Did the Olmecs simply, and peacefully, evolve into the Maya culture, or did they disappear through genocide or natural disaster?

European Invasion

Beginning in 1492, European nations began their competitive colonization of the Americas.  England ended up with most of North America except what is now Mexico.  She also got a few islands in the Caribbean, the Falkland Islands off the coast of Argentina, and British Honduras in Central America.  Spain and Portugal got most of the rest. Holland still has a toehold that makes a nice place for European tourists.

In an early demonstration of low trust societies, Spain and Portugal entered into the Treaty of Tordesillas, supposedly sanctioned by the Pope (but not really) to divide the new territory, only to be followed by numerous subsequent treaties in recognition that everybody was cheating.

The present languages of the Americas reflect that early immigration. Their religions also reflect the dominant religions of the earlier home countries. For many years the U.S was predominantly protestant, while from Mexico and south were Catholic. Much of that is changing now.

Most counties in the Americas have growing economies with the notable exceptions of countries that dabble in socialism, or frankly embrace it. Socialism stands out as an impediment to a growing economy.

U.S. and Brazilian Economies

What accounts for the difference between the United States economy and the Brazilian economy?

There is a joke that Brazilians tell on themselves:

A certain citizen had the following conversation with the Supreme Being during the creation of the world.

–  Lord, You created the world and the countries, and in them you put earthquakes, tempests, tornadoes, and even deserts.

–  That’s true, my son.

Zé Povinho from 1875 cartoon

– All well and good!  But in Brazil You put green forests, a marvelous ocean with fresh breezes and rivers with clear water. All of nature in Brazil is beautiful and tranquil.

– That is true, my son.

– <mild Brazilian expletive!> Lord, that doesn’t seem fair to me!

– Relax my son; I haven’t finished my work yet. Just wait to see the povinho that I’m putting there!

We didn’t translate povinho because it’s one of those wonderful Brazilian words that defy translation into one word within the context of the story. It also is part of a history of Brazilian self-deprecation, admiration of simple people, and acquiescence to corruption as a fact of life.  Look up Zé Povinho.

So to answer the question, “What accounts for the difference between the United States economy and the Brazilian economy?”

Corruption…

Language and Culture?

Dominant religion?

Brazilians readily admit to corruption. But where did the corruption come from?  In Brazil, it is difficult to trust anyone without getting to know them for a long time. The same is true in southern Italy. And China…

Corruption has been part of Brazil’s cultural landscape for years. People joke that justice can be had by buying a judge. Corruption in Brazil even has its own Wikipedia page, but so does the U.S.  Most folks in Brazil complain about corruption, Idealistic young people demonstrate against it. Yet, it is so endemic that as the young people mature, most simply go along with the system. And when they emigrate to the U.S. they bring their skepticism and distrust with them.  Nevertheless, Brazilians, as a nationality, demonstrate an amazing ability to assimilate into American life, especially those who immigrate legally. The rest live on the fringes looking over their shoulders and struggling to find legal employment.

Other South American Countries

The easiest way to gauge other countries’ current level of corruption and distrust in a society is to check their rankings on the Transparency International Website.

Francis Fukuyama Explains It.

In his seminal 1995 book, Trust: The Social Virtues and the Creation of Prosperity, Francis Fukuyama picks up where Adam Smith in his  An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations left off and subsequent economists have generally passed over.

Adam Smith

Adam Smith taught that wealth is produced when government is limited and stays out of the way of enterprising free citizens. It is an enduring argument that may account for most economic achievement. But Smith also recognized that economic life is dependent on the morals of society.  Yet Smith did ascribe to any clear system of religious morality; he was critical of both Christianity and Judaism. Wealth of Nations is not about economics. It’s more about political philosophy, which seeks to explore ethics, and ethics and trust are linked inextricably.

The word trust occurs at least 20 times in Wealth of Nations but Smith does not dwell on it; he seems to take it for granted that people who are trustworthy will enjoy the extension of credit increased commerce, and ultimately wealth. Smith was not an economist. His Theory of Moral Sentiments is the work of a philosopher.  In it he tries to describe natural principles that govern morality and how people attain. Fukuyama gives a clearer picture of how people become trustworthy.

Fukuyama stresses the importance of cultural factors in economic growth, including the degree of trust that exists in the society.

Trust is the expectation that arises within a community of regular, honest, and cooperative behavior, based on commonly shared norms, on the part of other members of that community … Social capital is a capability that arises from the prevalence of trust in a society or in certain parts of it. It can be embodied in the smallest and most basic social group, the family, as well as the largest of all groups, the nation, and in all the other groups in between. Social capital differs from other forms of human capital insofar as it is usually created and transmitted through cultural mechanisms like religion, tradition, or historical habit.”  Fukuyama, F. Trust: Social Virtues and the Creation of Prosperity. (Simon and Schuster, 1996): 26. 

Read the above quotation again and let it sink in.

How to get Social Capital

There exists some disagreement among social scientists whether attainment of social capital is a conscious decision or if it happens as a consequence of activities outside the economic sphere. Fukuyama believes that  “all cultures seek to constrain the raw selfishness of human nature in some fashion through the establishment of unwritten moral rules.” (p.35) The degree to which society as a whole acquires these values depends on how each individual acquires them.  It is not hard to imagine how these values can be taught by example within a family, with reinforcement from society (schools and churches) as children grow to be adults and enter the work force. It would be necessary for these values to have the character of habits:  honesty, loyalty, and dependability. These are qualities that employers value highly and lead to job stability. They are habits acquired through language, religion, education, and cultural reinforcement.

“Social capital, which is practiced as a matter of arational habit and has its origins in “irrational” phenomena like religion and traditional ethics, would appear to be necessary to permit the proper functioning of rational modern economic and political institutions – a fact that has interesting implications for the nature of the modernization process as a whole.”  (Ibid p.325)

Which Are High and Low Trust Societies

Fukuyama explores the development and expression of trust in different countries, grouping them into high-trust and low-trust categories. It is not hard to guess which countries fall into which category.  Any businessman doing business internationally knows the difference.

High Trust

Japan – Keiretsu – High Trust Integration of Businesses

The size of the Japan’s individual corporate entities is a bit misleading because the Japanese are masters at business relationships, which require incredibly high trust. Keiretsu is the system whereby industries share capital and technology.

Japan has formed huge corporations that dominate world commerce: Toyota (167.2 Billion USD); SoftBank Group; Nippon T&T; NTT Docomo;  Keyence Corporation;  Sony; Fast Retailing Co.; Mitsubishi UFJ Financial; KDDI Corporation; and Recruit Holdings. These are the top ten (by capitalization) There are many more, with more famous names. Value Today has 144 Japanese companies on their list.

German Giants

“The German economy is Fukuyama’s second example of a high trust society that has built giant corporations.

Among the huge corporations are: SAP SE (166.29 Billion USB); Linde AG; Allianz SE; Siemens AG; Volkswagen AG; DT. Telekom AG; BASF SE; Bayer AG; Adidas AG; and Daimler AG. (271 on the Value Today List)

United States Dwarfing all Others

Fukuyama devotes a whole Section (IV) of his book to the United States, which he titles, “American Society and the Crisis of Trust.”

Obviously the U.S dominates the world of large corporations. Value Today currently lists 1798 of them. This number is misleading because many of the companies are U.S. Companies with predominantly foreign operations that have listed on U.S. stock exchanges. As listed companies they publish audited financial statements that greatly increase transparency and trust.  Many foreign companies sell their stock in the U.S, because it is seen a place where capital flows more freely, also a characteristic of trust.

But even back in the 1990’s when he wrote the book, Fukuyama was aware of changes coming to the American nation. Now in 2019, his vision is even clearer to all of us.

“From school boards enlarging curricula to include the study of non-Western languages and cultures, to corporations staging ‘diversity training’ seminars to sensitize their employees to subtle forms of discrimination, Americans in the 1990s have become preoccupied-pro and con- with the issue of ‘multiculturalism’.”  (p. 269) “Under these circumstances, it may seem odd to sound an alarm, however modest, about the economic consequences of a decline in American social capital.” (p.321)

Low Trust

Fukuyama’s short list of low trust societies includes China and some parts of Italy, which place high regard on loyalty to family. Others on his low trust list are Korea and France. When considering the state of national economies in the early part of the 20th century, most of Asia, Africa, South America, Southern Europe, and the Middle East can be added to the low trust list. Decide for yourself where Russia belongs.  Is it a nation where people trust each other?  Is it run by a dictator propped up by oligarchs?

Do you personally know Russians who have immigrated to the United States?  The first generation still carries the scars of living in the communist USSR.  Pay attention to their spontaneous level of trust.

The wealth of a nation is not among the criteria that define low/high trust, although high trust nations are wealthier, and high trust regions within nations are wealthier.  France is a wealthy European nation but it, along with southern Italy have built prosperity around family enterprises rather that more widely held corporate entities.

Image of Tel Aviv in 2010

Construction boom in Tel Aviv – 2010
Continues to this day.

The Israeli Dichotomy

A visual depiction of high and low trust resulting in prosperity and poverty is obvious when one travels around Israel.

Without delving into the substantial cultural and religious differences, nor confronting claims of political exploitation of one group over another, the Jewish state has become an oasis of technical innovation in a sea of impoverished nations run by monarchs and dictators.

Refugees from the turmoil of the Middle East pouring into Europe will have long-lasting consequences for the countries that are so generously welcoming them into their midst. Hopefully the dominant culture of Germany is strong enough to assimilate the refugees. Historians will write that story several hundred years from now.

Decline of Trust – Increase in Tribalism

When a nation allows large numbers of people to immigrate, whether legally of not, that nation is importing the cultural and moral orientation of all those people. Go to any city where there are large numbers of immigrants and you will see the changes. The first generation of immigrants likes to associate with others from their homeland. To some degree the children of those immigrants identify with their parents, but inevitably they lose the language skills of their parents. By the third generation, most of the children have assimilated to some degree with only a small affinity for their grandparents’ countries of origin. While assimilating into the culture of their new country, they have lost most of their parents’ and grandparents’ culture but have gained little of the shared understanding, values, trust, or cooperation of their new country’s older generations.

Interstate Migration

Migration between the states in the United States is legal and guaranteed under the Constitution. It is a microcosm of illegal immigration. The states receiving the new people into their midst do not get to choose what type of people they get.

Although John Steinbeck did not write Grapes of Wrath as a documentary, he correctly describes the effects on both migrants and society when large numbers of poor, often uneducated, people invaded California from the middle of the country that had become a dust bowl. The tragedy of Grapes of Wrath, is not the long lasting effects the migration had on California, which had its own economic struggles. The migrant family ended up in worse shape than they were in when they left Oklahoma. California got bailed out by World War II and the massive employment provided by the military-industrial complex as President Eisenhower called it.

How is current migration from one state to another different from migration from one country to another?  The simple and obvious answer is that interstate migrants mostly share the same national language and culture. At least most have unconsciously agreed to abide by the social contract we call the Constitution and the rule of law that flows from it. Illegal immigrants by the very act of defying the law and crowding to the front of the line demonstrate that their economic distress takes precedence over respect for the law.

Even Interstate Migration Affects Regional Economies

Emigration and Immigration within the United States is essentially economic migration. When conditions become uncomfortable or even unbearable in Los Angeles, Chicago, or New York, people relocate to places that seem to offer more opportunity. They bring their political ideas with them, often being an acceptance of social programs like welfare.

Eventually Arizona, Texas, Nevada, and Florida see a subtle shift in the way people vote. There is fear among those of the dominant population that the factors that made their state attractive in the first place will be eroded by the new-comers.

This is not just a theoretical observation. Big cities in Texas, including the capitol of Austin, have seen political shifts where the populations are now voting in ways that resemble the places where the immigrants came from. If Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles enacted high taxes and restrictive regulations on business in response to the demands of the electorate, why would anybody imagine that newly transplanted citizens from those cities not bring their fundamental ideas with them and demand regulations and the taxes that support social programs?

The City of Austin, Texas is documenting these changes on their website.  ” The center of wealth in Austin has slowly migrated into the hills west of the city.”  “Austin is becoming a more divided city, divided not just in terms of income but also in terms of cultural attributes, linguistic characteristics and political persuasions.”   They also report that highly entrepreneurial Vietnamese households are fleeing Houston to open new businesses in Austin. A possible explanation of the flight from Houston to Austin is Houston’s high violent crime rate reported at 75.90/1000. This is not a sign of a high trust society.

After several generations, will the descendants of Californians in Texas resemble old Texans, or will the grandchildren of Texans become more like Californians?  Only time will tell, but what is certain, there will be changes.  How that relates to the resulting population’s ability to create prosperity remains to be seen.

An exception to this generalization about economic migrants, are the millions of retired people flocking to the south. Many are fleeing the high taxes, crime, and other perceived problems of their home states to enjoy warmer climes. They settle in the suburbs among others of a similar social status and find themselves welcome.

It is doubtful that the reverse of this migration, a Texan moving to the Big Apple, will make an impact on the City that Never Sleeps.

Internet

The Internet has become a kind of virtual reality for many people. Their experiences on the Internet can be totally imaginary as in a video game or painfully real, exceeding normal casual reality. How can the Internet impact culture and the social capital we all depend on?

In 1995, Fukuyama hinted at the possibility that Internet hackers might not share the ethical norms of what we might call the “legacy society.”  He worried that junk email might overwhelm the system. Other than a few shallow observations, the Internet was too new for Fukuyama to express informed predictions. He did not comment on the possibility that adverse foreign actors could assault our constitutional republic through the glass fiber that connects the world.

He could not foresee the enormous amount of theft and fraud perpetuated over the Internet. It is doubtful that he could have foreseen Facebook, Twitter, Google, Apple, and Netflix, nor envision that their market capitalization exceeds the entire FTSE 100.

Invasion of Privacy is not Virtual

Internet invasion of privacy is a frequent topic of concern. So too are questions of personal narcissism, as people purposely expose every aspect of their personal lives.

Does the Internet foster that sense of shared community (Ge·mein·schaft) that contributed Germany’s economic miracle?  Or does it reduce it into a contentious platform for identity politics?

The Internet is efficiently making a billion Chinese citizens into reliable consumers of goods and services, not only for global giants like Baidu and AliPay, but also for millions of small mom and pop businesses selling food, clothing, and entertainment. The Chinese are not alone. Americans make efficient 2 click purchases from Amazon for goods to be delivered the same day or in a few days.  That’s a short enough time that anticipation replaces immediate gratification.

There is a lot of research about whether the Internet contributes to the kind of social capital that leads to prosperity. The very definition of social capital is being questioned.  The Internet has expanded relationships among people. Some researchers focus on social ties and resources, others on civic engagement and trust, as Fukuyama did in his book.

In the end, the Internet may be a marvelous tool to augment social capital, foster collaborative businesses, and promote prosperity.

Prosperity is not Equal for Everybody

In a nation like the United States, it is obvious that the absolute level of prosperity is increasing.  Most people are better off now that they were in the recent past. But is the level of prosperity increasing as fast as it could?  Is prosperity diminished by the influx of millions of immigrants who enter illegally, and will be condemned to live on the margins of society?   Do immigrants bring ideas with them that limit the sense of shared community and trust that Fukuyama identified as the way Japan, Germany, and the United States built huge corporate economies?

There is currently a lot of discussion on the political Left in the United States about a great chasm that exists between the fabulously wealthy (1%) and the poor. Never mind that the poor in the United States are wealthy by comparison to the truly poor in many nations. The Left panders to the electorate by offering free healthcare, forgiveness of student debt, free college education…  So-called millennials apparently accept socialism as a viable alternative to the free market capitalism that has created our unprecedented wealth.

Rather than being concerned about how big government will be able to pay for such social programs, society should be concerned about how widespread are the attitudes among a segment of the population (millennials and Gen Z) that appear to have abandoned their trust and loyalty with business.

Are there Two Enemies within the Gate?

If there are both a growing population of younger generations who display little trust of American institutions, and a very large low-trust immigrant population, what is the future of the engine of growth that generates our prosperity?

Millennials are people born between 1980 through 2000 (depending on who defines it), with Gen Z classified as anyone born from 2001 until the next meaningful cohort is identified. These two groups comprise slightly over 60% of the global population.

Immigration is adding more numbers to the millennials than any other group. The Millennial population is projected to peak in 2036 at 76.2 million. Thereafter, the oldest Millennial will be at least 56 years of age and mortality is projected to outweigh net immigration.  By 2050 there will be a projected 74.3 million Millennials.

Legatum Institute

The Legatum Institute is a London-based think-tank “with a global vision: to see all people lifted out of poverty. Our mission is to create the pathways from poverty to prosperity, by fostering Open Economies, Inclusive Societies and Empowered People.” (From their website)

It posts a ranking of countries in terms of their prosperity. The United States ranks Number 17!

The good news is that we have not changed since the list started in 2007.  HERE is a link to the entire list

In compiling their index, Legatum looks at what they call the nine pillars to prosperity, namely: Economic Quality, Business Environment, Governance, Personal Freedom, Social Capital, Safety and Security, Education, Health and Natural Environment.

All of the nine pillars relate directly to the trust and social capital of the citizens of the countries. The economic quality, governance, etc. are all a product of the people who created them over time and those currently in charge of maintaining them, including the electorate.

Open Economies, Inclusive Societies and Empowered People

The  Open Society Foundations  founded by George Soros, (born Schwartz György; August 12, 1930),  pours billions of dollars into countries world-wide to “build vibrant and inclusive societies, grounded in respect for human rights and the rule of law, whose governments are accountable and open to the participation of all people. ”  Also, ” Our vision is a call for change—change in the way we think about others, and in the ways we work together.” (From their website)

The terms open society and closed society are attributed to a French philosopher,  Henri Bergson in his Two Sources of Morality and Religion (1935).  He developed the idea that human instinct naturally excludes others who are not members of one’s closed society, e.g. clan.  The British philosopher Karl Popper picked up on the idea and developed it further in The Open Society and Its Enemies.(“Open Society”)

George Soros is a fan of Karl Popper. In a widely published essay in 2016, Soros said, “As a student at the London School of Economics, I came under the influence of the philosopher Karl Popper, and I developed my own philosophy, built on the twin pillars of fallibility and reflexivity. I distinguished between two kinds of political regimes: those in which people elected their leaders, who were then supposed to look after the interests of the electorate, and others where the rulers sought to manipulate their subjects to serve the rulers’ interests. Under Popper’s influence, I called the first kind of society open, the second closed.” We underlined Soros’ assertion that he developed his own philosophy. Soros’ closed society deviates substantially from Popper’s use of the term.

When living in Vienna, Popper was a socialist, and The Open Society reflects its radical character. Later in his life he reportedly rejected some of the socialist ideas of his youth. Yet a careful reading of Popper shows that he really never abandoned his socialist sympathies and advocated for government intervention in the economy and piecemeal social engineering. (Underline ours)

The Wikipedia article about Open Society and Its Enemies says, “The last chapter of the first volume bears the same title as the book, and conveys Popper’s own philosophical explorations on the necessity of direct liberal democracy as the only form of government allowing institutional improvements without violence and bloodshed.”  Nowhere in Open Society does Popper use the term “liberal democracy” or “direct democracy”

Popper’s Development of Closed and Open Societies

What Popper really develops in Volume 1, Chapter 10 of Open Society and Its Enemies is what Fukuyama identified as the reason societies succeed in building prosperity. They abandon the closed, tribal society and begin to function cooperatively with a high degree of trust.

“Our Western civilization originated with the Greeks. They were, it seems, the first to make the step from tribalism to humanitarianism…

A closed society resembles a herd or a tribe in being a semi-organic unit whose members are held together by semi-biological ties—kinship, living together, sharing common efforts, common dangers, common joys and common distress….

Thus when we say that our Western civilization derives from the Greeks, we ought to realize what it means. It means that the Greeks started for us that great revolution which, it seems, is still in its beginning—the transition from the closed to the open society.”  (Volume I, chapter 10)

Closed Societies, Immigration, and Home Invaders

Petri dish with skin bacteria and black plague bacteria
“A closed society at its best can be justly compared to an organism.(Popper)

The Petri Dish

A Petri dish is a closed environment with nutrition to allow microorganisms to grow. It can serve as a metaphor for the world we live on.

There are good microorganisms and bad microorganisms, which is admittedly a very subjective statement depending on who is being helped or hurt. Saccharomyces cerevisiae is yeast that makes it possible for people to have beer and bread, presumably a good thing. Other microorganism like the ones picture above can be also good or bad. Certain strains of Staphylococcus live on the skin and make it difficult for bad staph to take hold.  Yersinia pestis growing on the dark red part of the Petri dish was responsible for killing up to half of Europe’s population during the Middle Ages.

On a very basic level, humans are organism competing for space in a closed environment. The marauding wars of the closed society may be somewhat diminished in our current enlightened state, but has it really been that long since the glory of Greece and Rome?  Our wars that are creating refugees, and the dysfunctional low trust societies that produce economic refugees, are dragging us down to where we came from.

If one were to introduce a bacterium called Streptomyces rimosus onto the above Petri dish, the current residents of the dish would soon experience the ravishes of an invading population, proving that on a biological level that diversity is not a good thing.

Are Illegal Immigrants Home Invaders

In reading through the foregoing, you may logically conclude that we are making an argument that illegal immigrants bring attitudes or moral values with them that will eventually overwhelm and dilute the degree of social capital that has help the United States provide a high standard of living for her citizens.

You may also logically conclude that illegal immigrants will cost more to society than they produce. Proponents of immigration, both legal and illegal argue that immigration is a net plus to the economy. Opponents correctly claim that illegal immigration costs more than they contribute in sales taxes and property taxes paid by their landlords. Illegal immigrants cannot get social security numbers and they do not pay social security taxes or income taxes when they are being paid illegally under the table. They can get ITIN numbers and pay taxes in the hope that it will help them become legal someday. The IRS reported in 2015 that 4.4 million tax returns without SSNs paid 23.6 billion in taxes. Forbes reported that about 50% undocumented taxpayers paid 12 billion in state and local taxes using an ITIN.

To put these numbers into perspective, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador reported that their citizens residing in the United States sent over $17 billion home in 2018 alone.

Although it is nearly impossible to correctly calculate the economics of illegal immigration, and any such calculation necessarily covers a sort time span, the long term result of illegal immigration is a society-wide disrespect for law and decline in trust of the kind that builds prosperity.

Regardless of the merits of philosophical or economic arguments, can you conclude on a rule-of-law basis that illegal immigration is akin to a home invasion?  The motives of most illegal immigrants are not those of home invaders. Most of them don’t want to directly steal your stuff. Stealing your taxes probably doesn’t occur to them.

You Invited Them

Here’s the reality of it. They are not home invaders because a large cohort of your fellow citizens invited them to come into your country to steal your stuff and bring their ideas with them. This large cohort is comprised mostly of younger generations who believe in globalization and the international humanity of humans. They allowed our laws, either through apathy or design, to become dysfunctional and cause people to stream across the borders in numbers that make assimilation difficult if not impossible.

And now it is time to fix the problem but 50% of the political class cannot agree with the other half.  Calls for comprehensive legislation make it even more difficult. “Comprehensive” for the Left is code for Utopian, everything we ever hoped for.  For the Right, comprehensive means they will have to compromise with their closely held personal beliefs to the extent that the solution becomes unacceptable.

As previously mentioned, Karl Popper understood the necessity of undergoing social engineering with deliberation when he advocated “piecemeal social engineering in opposition to Utopian engineering.”

Little Downside for Illegal Immigrants

When an illegal immigrant uses a fake social security number, as many do, the taxes are withheld and paid into social security. When a name and number on a submitted W-2 do not match, the Social Security Administration may notify the  employer but cannot take any enforcement action. The IRS could fine the employer $50 for each wrong SSN but generally do not. So any taxes withheld on a fake SSN are just paid in and no refunds are legally filed for.

Persons living in the U.S, whether citizens or not, and earn wages  are required to file a tax return even if the wages are so low that no tax would ordinarily be collected.

The Bipartisan Policy Center, a Washington, D.C. based think tank, sums it up this way:

“At the heart of this issue of undocumented immigrants and taxes is the fact that U.S. immigration and taxation laws are misaligned. Agencies are singularly focused on their own mandates: the IRS is interested in maintaining a broad tax base and collecting all taxes owed to the government, regardless of the source, whereas immigration enforcement officials want to enforce the law against unauthorized work. Meanwhile, other actors within the system, including employers and workers, are doing the same. Addressing these conflicting interests would require legislative change and implicate millions of taxpayers, which means the current state of affairs will likely prevail for the foreseeable future.”

Will Illegal Immigration Cause an End to American prosperity?

Yes, unless a Black Swan comes along to save the Republic.

The reason is that social capital is being lost and immigration is part of the reason. We have been losing it slowly for years and while it is true that the wrong kind of immigration can diminish social capital, the right kind of immigration could increase it.

At this point is seems rather remote that Congress will be able to determine what kind of immigration will add to social capital.  In the year 2019, Congress is divided and squabbling over distractions. Many in Congress are not concerned about increasing immigration of people who will add to our social capital; all they want is to win reelection. The cohort divide in congress is glaring as the old guard seems unable to curb the demands of Millennials and GenXers in their midst. Congress itself is a victim of the same loss of social capital that is evident in the general population. If all the doctors and nurses in an Ebola clinic themselves have contracted the disease, it is hard to see how anybody will come out alive.

There appears to be an obvious effort among some politicians to recruit certain demographics in an effort to amass power. Immigrants are perceived to be sympathetic with the political Left. While it is difficult to demonstrate, it is human nature to vote for people who offer all sorts of benefits and that is what the current crop of leftists is doing. If immigration can increase the ranks of Millennials and Gen Xers enough to pass a plethora of socialists’ policy objectives, the Left hopes to remain in power for generations to come.

 Early Warning

The decline in social capital is not a new phenomenon but it has not been widely discussed in the popular press. Scholarly articles abound.

As is customary in scholarly articles, a list of works cited gives proper attribution to others who contribute to the discussion. One frequently cited name is Robert Putnam.

This is from a Master’s Thesis dated 2007 by a Smith College student:

References

Putnam, R. D. (1993). Making democracy work: Civic traditions in modern Italy. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Putnam, R. D. (1995). Bowling alone: America‟s declining social capital. Journal of Democracy, 6 (6), 65-78.

Putnam, R. D. (2000). Bowling alone: The collapse and revival of American community. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Robert David Putnam  is Harvard professor who sounded an early warning in the 1990s along with others such as Francis Fukuyama, previously cited. Putnam contends that individuals born before 1930 are more trusting and civic-minded and that subsequent generations are less likely to be civically engaged, volunteer time, donate money or contribute to the production of social capital.

Work by April K. Clark  finds that not all aspects of social and civic life have been in decline but the greatest fall has been in trust. She attributes the fall in trust to differences among people in educational attainment, race, and religious preferences. Prof. Clark’s definition of social capital is a broad definition in opposition to Nan Lin’s succinct definition, “Investment in social relations with expected returns in the marketplace.”  ((Lin 2001) Social capital: A theory of social structure and action. London: Cambridge University Press). 

It is interesting that Dr. Clark may have inadvertently reinforced Popper’s observation that tribalism is a feature of low trust societies.  She says “Not only is there no evidence of an across-cohort decline in social capital, but rather I find support for a modest cohort-based increase – beginning with individuals born in the mid-1960s – for spending time with relatives.”  (Reference is HERE)

“Greater diversity means inevitably that we have less in common, and the more we encourage diversity the less we honor the common good.”Edward J. Erler, professor emeritus of political science, California State University, San Bernardino

Conclusion

On a basic biological level, human beings have genetically determined instincts that go mostly unrecognized. The hormonal release of adrenaline and glycogen in the fight or flight response kept our ancestors alive long enough to give us their genetic legacy.  Instinct still accounts for what appears to be a universal fear of snakes, although more enlightened humans have learned how to get along with snakes.

Some of our other instincts such as tribal loyalty, revenge, greed, and urge to procreate excessively are claimed to be impediments to an open society that promotes the welfare of all its citizens.  The modern nation-state has evolved as a place that can nurture and preserve democracy. The idea of what constitutes democracy continues to be debated but nobody has materially added to what has already been said before.

The Founders of the U.S. devised a system of government that combined what they considered the most equitable parts of democracy, with structural features of the new government that they hoped would lessen the chance of mob rule, the dictatorship of the majority over the minority.  It really did not envision “one man, one vote.”  Rather decisions would be filtered through various layers of elected representatives, with checks and balances put in place to ensure as much as possible that no one part of government could amass dictatorial control.

The Swiss have done a good job of governance that continues to recognize the value of the individual. It stresses individual responsibility and is very close to being a direct democracy. Yet voter participation is near an all-time low. Voter turnout in national elections has not exceeded 50% for almost 40 years.

The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) is an organization of 36 nations that are committed to a market economy and democracy. The stated goal of the OECD is to shape policies that foster prosperity, equality, opportunity and well-being for all. The OECD has been at the forefront of documenting rising levels of income inequality, and the emergence of an elite global ruling class.

There are many among those who control vast wealth and power that do not trust the rule of the majority. They fear mob rule – the natural tendency of human beings to revert to their biological heritage of greed and self-preservation.

They also do not trust powerful nations such as the United States and try to dilute the influence of one nation over another. So in all nations, they quietly work behind closed doors to pull the levers of power to accomplish ends that preserve their privileged existence.

Proponents of globalization advocate open borders where nation states exist in name only.

Is this the Open Society envisioned by the Soros’ Open Society Foundations or is it Karl Popper’s open society. Popper says that nationalism appeals to tribal instincts, and our “nostalgic desire to be relieved from the strain on individual responsibility.”  He was talking about nationalism in Nazi Germany where individuals gave up their individuality.  Nationalism is not the same as supporting and preserving the nation-state. The nation-state is a place to preserve democracy, not National Socialism.

Preserving the nation-state and democracy requires engagement by citizens, cooperation, and acceptance of individual responsibility as the essential element to preserve personal and collective Liberty. The antidote to globalism is more engagement on the local and state level, which is a hallmark of the Swiss Confederation.

Open borders, gratuitous immigration, and the inability of host countries to assimilate newcomers will gradually diminish the social capital that has lifted so many people out of poverty during the 20th century. Historians will write the obituary of the 21st century where over-population, environmental degradation, and foolish experiments with immigration, democracy, and free markets killed the goose that laid the golden egg.

image of goose that laid the golden egg

The Price of Liberty Is no longer just Eternal Vigilance

What is the Price of Liberty?

John Philpot Curran answered part of the question when he uttered these words during a speech in Dublin in 1790: “The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt.”

Later, a shortened version found its way into the early history of our Republic.  In 1809 the biographer of Major General James Jackson, Thomas U. P. Charlton, wrote, “The price of liberty is eternal vigilance.” and in 1852 the American abolitionist Wendell Phillips declared in a speech, “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.”

That’s the version that is engraved in stone at the National Archives Building in Washington, DC.

Federalism was the Safeguard

As long as the people and their elected representatives understood and preserved the federal nature of the Republic, individual Liberty was protected as the Founders had envisioned. But when citizens think we live in a direct democracy and have no knowledge of the 10th amendment, the continuing erosion of federalism is assured.

Read about Federalism, the Commerce Clause, and the Tenth Amendment (CLICK HERE)

The sad truth is that an uninformed electorate goes to the poles in what has become a popularity contest rather than a well informed election. On the other side, elected officials become masters at self promotion in an era of mass communications fed by special interest money.

The power of the federal government to tax and dole out huge sums of money has fundamentally changed the nature of our representative federal republic. The saying that he who has the gold makes the rules now applies to the federal government more than ever before.

Like beggars, the states and many citizens hold out their hands for federal subsidies, which always have strings attached. The strings are like those that move the puppets’ arms and legs, and the puppets always dance to the tune of the puppeteer.

Direct Democracy

We have discussed elsewhere some of the problems with direct democracy. Inevitably it ends with the majority abusing the rights of the minority.

The electoral college was a compromise that the Founders devised to protect the rights of smaller states. Now the political Left is loudly calling for the elimination of of the electoral college.

Fortunately technology and the Internet have allowed all citizens to have their voices more easily heard. Citizens who love Liberty and understand the fundamentals of representative government can supplement their eternal vigilance with frequent direct communication with their elected representatives in both the U.S. Senate, and the House of Representatives.

Let Your Voice be Heard

The price of Liberty is no longer just eternal vigilance. Eternal vigilance sounds a lot like “watchful waiting, expectant management, active surveillance and masterly inactivity,” common to the practice of medicine. Inactivity is the problem, not a solution. Your voice must be heard!

The House of Representatives’ web site lets you find your representative by your zip code. Just type in your zip code, and then your physical address, and the site will give you the name of your representative.  Under the picture of your representative are two small icons: the small monitor takes you to the representative’s web site, and the other (envelope) to the contact form where you can send a message about your concerns.

Most people are too lazy to do this so your voice is amplified by the apathy of others.

The web site for the U.S. Senate lets you scroll alphabetically through the 100 senators.  Then click the link below the name of your senator and it takes you to the contact page.

Fill in the form. After proving you are not a robot, your message goes to your senator’s office where a staff person tallies it along with others who voice the same concern.

One of the required fields is your email address, which assures that you will receive frequent communication for your senator, including appeals for money. He who has the gold, makes the rules.

United States House of Representatives

United States Senate


The Supreme Court Keeps the Constitution Up-to-Date

Once again the Supreme Court has taken a step to keep the Constitution up-to-date.

On February 20, 2019, the Court unanimously ruled that the prohibition against excessive fines contained in the Eighth Amendment applies to state and local governments.  The case was Timbs v. Indiana, 586 U.S. (2019) .  The Court held that the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment requires the states (and local governments) to observe the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against excessive fines to the same extent that the Federal Government does.

Amendment 8
Excessive Bail, Fines, and Punishments Forbidden

Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

The simplicity of the individual amendments contained in the Bill of Rights gives courts wide latitude to interpret laws as the country grows and new laws adapt to ever changing conditions. Similarly as conditions change, some previous laws become obsolete and have to be discarded.

Nevertheless the fight for Liberty cannot be passively left to the courts and legislatures. Individuals have to be aggressively vocal in order to both restrain and compel our elected representatives. When representatives fail, the courts are often our last, albeit expensive, resort.

But it can be very expensive and difficult for individuals, and even many well-funded organizations, to compel or restrain their elected representatives. And when elected representatives create laws resulting in injustice, it is equally expensive and difficult to get the courts to overturn a law.

For Tyson Timbs in Indiana, the right combination of events combined to result in a favorable verdict from the Supreme Court.

Indiana is the only state that outsources prosecutions for civil forfeiture to independent law firms on a contingency basis. This creates a moral hazard for law firms to go after easy cases with potentially big payoffs when valuable property is seized. The triviality of Timbs’ case, his huge forfeiture, and the inherent injustice of Indiana law made for an attractive test case.

The Institute for Justice asked the Supreme Court to hear the case. Both the American Civil Liberties Union and the United States Chamber of Commerce filed friend of the court briefs supporting Timbs.

The verdict was unanimous with the liberal minority siding with the conservative majority.

Constant Fight

“The price of liberty is eternal vigilance” is a quote usually attributed to Thomas Jefferson. But as Anna Berkes at the Jefferson Foundation contends, “Everybody was saying it, but nobody knows who first said it.”  As nice as it sounds, the phrase does not adequately express the cost of Liberty.  More than just vigilance, the cost of Liberty is a constant fight.

The Constitution is a document that recognizes the natural tendency of people to try to dominate over others.  It places restraint on governments that inevitably infringe on the rights of individuals but it does not totally prevent heavy handed regulation, excessive fines, or even cruel and unusual punishment. Unfortunately when unjust practices are put in place by government, it often takes a lot of time and expense to correct them.  The fight against the excessive fines involved in civil forfeiture has lasted at least as long as the failed War on Drugs.

War on Drugs

High minded people elected to government service invent all kinds of programs and laws, purportedly to make the lives of citizens better. The War on Drugs was one such program. It is increasingly obvious that many of its provisions have failed. People were and still are being needlessly jailed for non-violent drug crimes. Lives are being ruined in the Land of Liberty while other nations whose constitutions do not explicitly guarantee such Liberties have dealt with the same problems in a more humane way, treating drug abuse as a public health problem rather than criminal activity.

The excessive fines involved in civil forfeiture were aimed at curbing the traffic in illegal drugs. One could argue convincingly that civil forfeiture made the police act in their own perceived self-interest instead of in the name of justice.  Even after the State of New Mexico passed a state law limiting civil forfeiture, the City of Albuquerque continued to confiscate cars from innocent owners, not even the ones charged with a crime.

Eventually law enforcement will get the message now that the Supreme Court has spoken. Local jurisdictions will have to reassess their policies and inevitably seek new ways to finance their operations instead of claiming that assets seized in civil forfeiture saved the taxpayer money.

Civil Forfeiture is Still Legal

All the Supreme Court said in its ruling was that civil forfeiture could be unconstitutionally excessive depending on the circumstances. Property used to commit a crime can still be seized and the owner will have to fight in court to get it back.  Sometimes proving the case against an individual is too difficult for a prosecutor, so the individual goes free while the property seized is forfeit or tied up in expensive court proceedings.

This list of state laws may not be totally up-to-date but it shows how entrenched civil forfeiture laws are in the United States: LIST HERE

Citizens Should Lobby Legislators to Reform Asset Forfeiture Laws

If you love the Rule of Law and revere the Constitution, you should inform yourself about the insidious nature of civil forfeiture laws.  Such laws can make crooks out of otherwise honest police. It’s easy to rationalize that the seized property is saving the taxpayer money, or it is only hurting the bad guys.

The Founders were well aware of John Locke’s writings. Locke  argued in his Two Treatises of Government that political society exists to protect “property”, which he defined as a person’s “life, liberty, and estate.”  That is still the obligation of our governments, but lazy or uninformed citizes have allowed the creeping cancer of over-legislation to infringe on our Liberties and allow governments to over-reach.

Do you know that in many jurisdictions it is illegal to cut down a tree on your own property?  It’s time to wake up and stop goofy self-serving do-gooders from achieving their Orwellian dream.  Don’t be a sheep!   “Four legs good, two legs better”

Useful Resources

We will occasionally add to these and perhaps take some down if they do something stupid.

The Drug Policy Alliance is an organization that is carrying on the fight to stop government from hurting the citizens from whom it constitutionally derives its power.

The Institute for Justice is an Arlington Virginia based non-profit organization whose tag line is “Litigating for Liberty.”  They are worthy of your support.

Martin Luther King, Jr. | American Patriot

Martin Luther King was a True Patriot

The vapid chattering class complains that the Founders were racist slave holders, that the Constitution says black men counted as only 3/5 of a person, and that this somehow discredits our entire foundation. To discredit the Declaration of Independence and Constitution on the basis of a faulty understanding of history is doing a great disservice to the legacy of Martin Luther King. King was a true patriot who looked to our founding documents as a fountain of inspiration and hope. He correctly understood that the Constitution is an aspirational document, a statement of what will be and must be, not a memorialization of what is set in stone.

There is little reason to doubt that King understood Jefferson’s dilemma.  Jefferson clearly detested slavery but he had many difficult choices. He could work for a union of the colonies to found the United States, or he could work to abolish slavery; he could not have both.

Thomas Jefferson, who famously wrote “all men are created equal,” also wrote:

“There must doubtless be an unhappy influence on the manners of our people produced by the existence of slavery among us. The whole commerce between master and slave is a perpetual exercise of the most boisterous passions, the most unremitting despotism on the one part, and degrading submissions on the other. Our children see this, and learn to imitate it; for man is an imitative animal. This quality is the germ of all education in him.” (Notes on the State of Virginia, Query XVIII: Manners)

Jefferson realized that slavery was a cancer  on society but he also knew it would take time and education to correct the evil.  Looking back, Jefferson undoubtedly knew the long history of slavery stretching back millennia. Looking forward and knowing that his current generation had learned by the example of slavery, Jefferson could only imagine its eventual demise.  During his life he made a number of proposals to gradually eliminate slavery, recognizing the almost insurmountable economic barriers at his time.

Immediate gratification is an attribute of children and adolescents.  Wise men know restraint and patience.  Undoubtedly Dr. King knew this because he chose the path of restraint and non-violence to achieve his goals. His goals are not yet achieved but his legacy serves as an example to those who continue the task.

Enumeration Clause (Census Clause)

Let’s put the 3/5 of a person problem to rest. Article 1, sections 1 & 2 of the Constitution outlined how representatives to the House of Representatives would be apportioned among the states.  The new nation being formed was a tinderbox of dissension.  It was only through compromise that the nation got a start and left the question of slavery to be settled during the Lincoln presidency and a terrible civil war.

The Enumeration Clause says:  “Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons.”

This section was later modified by the 14th amendment, section 2. It was purposely left vague. The founders envisioned a Constitution that would change over time. It does not say that a black man is 3/5 of a person! It talks about free Persons. Stay tuned to this language as the 2020 census counts free Persons living within the “Union.”

The Negro and the Constitution

The Negro and the Constitution is the title of  Martin Luther King, Jr.’s winning high school essay.  It clearly shows that Dr. King looked to the Constitution as well as to his faith to achieve the equality that they promise.  King saw Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation as the embodiment of the equality promised,  but not immediately delivered, by the Declaration of Independence and Constitution.

Martin Luther King, Jr. (1944)

“Negroes were first brought to America in 1620 when England legalized slavery both in England and the colonies and America; the institution grew and thrived for about 150 years upon the backs of these black men. The empire of King Cotton was built and the southland maintained a status of life and hospitality distinctly its own and not anywhere else.

On January 1, 1863 the proclamation emancipating the slaves which had been decreed by President Lincoln in September took effect–millions of Negroes faced a rising sun of a new day begun. Did they have habits of thrift or principles of honesty and integrity? Only a few! For their teachings and duties had been but two activities–love of Master, right or wrong, good or bad, and loyalty to work. What was to be the place for such men in the reconstruction of the south?

America gave its full pledge of freedom seventy-five years ago. Slavery has been a strange paradox in a nation founded on the principles that all men are created free and equal. Finally after tumult and war, the nation in 1865 took a new stand–freedom for all people. The new order was backed by amendments to the national constitution making it the fundamental law that thenceforth there should be no discrimination anywhere in the “land of the free” on account of race, color or previous condition of servitude.

Black America still wears chains. The finest Negro is at the mercy of the meanest white man. Even winners of our highest honors face the class color bar. Look at a few of the paradoxes that mark daily life in America. Marian Anderson was barred from singing in the Constitution Hall, ironically enough, by the professional daughters of the very men who founded this nation for liberty and equality. But this tale had a different ending.

The nation rose in protest, and gave a stunning rebuke to the Daughters of the American Revolution and a tremendous ovation to the artist, Marian Anderson, who sang in Washington on Easter Sunday and fittingly, before the Lincoln Memorial. Ranking cabinet members and a justice of the Supreme Court were seated about her.

Seventy-five thousand people stood patiently for hours to hear a great artist at a historic moment. She sang as never before with tears in her eyes. When the words of “America” and “Nobody Knows De Trouble I Seen” rang out over that great gathering, there was a hush on the sea of uplifted faces, black and white, and a new baptism of liberty, equality and fraternity. That was a touching tribute, but Miss Anderson may not as yet spend the night in any good hotel in America. Recently she was again signally honored by being given the Bok reward as the most distinguished resident of Philadelphia. Yet she cannot be served in many of the public restaurants of her home city, even after it has declared her to be its best citizen.

So, with their right hand they raise to high places the great who have dark skins, and with their left, they slap us down to keep us in “our places.” “Yes, America you have stripped me of my garments, you have robbed me of my precious endowment.”

We cannot have an enlightened democracy with one great group living in ignorance. We cannot have a healthy nation with one tenth of the people ill-nourished, sick, harboring germs of disease which recognize no color lines–obey no Jim Crow laws. We cannot have a nation orderly and sound with one group so ground down and thwarted that it is almost forced into unsocial attitudes and crime. We cannot be truly Christian people so long as we flaunt the central teachings of Jesus: brotherly love and the Golden Rule. We cannot come to full prosperity with one great group so ill-delayed that it cannot buy goods. So as we gird ourselves to defend democracy from foreign attack, let us see to it that increasingly at home we give fair play and free opportunity for all people.

Today thirteen million black sons and daughters of our forefathers continue the fight for the translation of the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments from writing on the printed page to an actuality. We believe with them that “if freedom is good for any it is good for all,” that we may conquer southern armies by the sword, but it is another thing to conquer southern hate, that if the franchise is given to Negroes, they will be vigilant and defend even with their arms, the ark of federal liberty from treason and destruction by her enemies.

The spirit of Lincoln still lives; that spirit born of the teachings of the Nazarene, who promised mercy to the merciful, who lifted the lowly, strengthened the weak, ate with publicans, and made the captives free. In the light of this divine example, the doctrines of demagogues shiver in their chaff. Already closer understanding links Saxon and Freedman in mutual sympathy.

America experiences a new birth of freedom in her sons and daughters; she incarnates the spirit of her martyred chief. Their loyalty is repledged; their devotion renewed to the work He left unfinished. My heart throbs anew in the hope that inspired by the example of Lincoln, imbued with the spirit of Christ, they will cast down the last barrier to perfect freedom. And I with my brother of blackest hue possessing at last my rightful heritage and holding my head erect, may stand beside the Saxon–a Negro–and yet a man!”

Chronological Snobbery Endangers the Constitution

The Constitution of the United States is our Enduring Social Contract. Drawing on the ideas of great thinkers such as Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, and  Jean-Jacques Rousseau, our Founders devised a way to preserve our Liberty while surrendering as little as possible of our Natural Rights to the State in exchange for safety. They devised an excellent balance and our social contract has achieved the results the founders undoubtedly sought, yet the Constitution is under constant attack. The attack always seems to be in the direction of surrendering more of our freedom to the State in exchange for the State taking care of our every need, not just protecting our freedom.

Recently the attack is also from people who want to extend the rights we have under the Constitution to immigrants coming into the country illegally.  By the very act of entering illegally such people demonstrate that they are not a party to the Social Contract. The Rule of Law is an integral part of our Social Contract.

Chronological Snobbery

We are compelled to ask, “What is it about human nature that encourages succeeding generations to reject the wisdom of their ancestors?”  The answer may lie in a common flaw in the way people think.

Unfortunately human beings are so biased in their opinions, beliefs, and ideas that without great effort to recognize and overcome their biases, it is very difficult for most people to make rational, objective decisions.  What among our many biases would prompt some citizens and even their elected representatives to call for radical changes to the foundation of our exceptionally successful civilization?

The answer may lie in a concept first made popular by C.S. Lewis in his autobiographical work, Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life, published in 1955.

Lewis coined the phrase Chronological Snobbery  (chapter 13, p. 207–208) to describe why he originally subscribed to atheism, believing that the science of the modern world had rendered religion obsolete. He defined chronological snobbery as “the uncritical acceptance of the intellectual climate of our own age and the assumption that whatever has gone out of date is on that count discredited.”

When Lewis recognized that his chronological snobbery was hindering his quest for meaning in his life, he sought to contain it and eventually found a joyful refuge in the religion that he earlier rejected. That Lewis found an answer to his own life questions does not mean that others would not reach different conclusions based on their own biases or rejection of recognized biases.

Chronological snobbery fools people into thinking that old ideas are obsolete. A closer examination of most subjects reveals that there are very few original ideas, just new people selling old ideas relabeled as their own. The aphorism “There is nothing new under the sun,” while not strictly true should compel people to give correct attribution to prior beliefs before claiming a new interpretation of an old idea as totally their own. It is healthy to explore mature ideas and retain what history has proven to have enduring value.

Anecdotally it appears that young people are swayed by chronological snobbery more than older people. Many are being swept up in the so-called Progressive Movement. The implication by those who have highjacked the word progressive is that progress implies change in a better direction. This is the big lie. The change they envision encompasses discredited experiments from the past. Marxism and Socialism have failed. Not only have they failed, they have brought misery and destruction to millions of people.

Democratic Socialists and “Nordic Socialism”

The current mob of progressives or “democratic socialists” as they call themselves say they want Nordic Socialism, not Venezuelan Socialism, nor any of the other failed socialist schemes. It’s Socialism “Lite!”

Their public pronouncements show that they are not students of history or economics. They naively advocate free tuition for all, single payer healthcare,  and forgiveness of student loans. It sounds like a post adolescent wish list from recently graduated and under employed students who flunked economics 101.

They fail to acknowledge the degree of governmental corruption that accompanies the failed socialism of Venezuela, Cuba, and North Korea.

The United States is a much more diverse nation than the Nordic States. It is also the home of the world’s reserve currency, not to mention the world’s policeman. The U.S. is home to some of the world’s largest corporations with their accompanying lobbyists.  And the United States ranks more than a 10 points below the Nordic States on Transparency International’s global corruption index.

We are becoming more corrupt. That itself places our Constitution in danger, but that is a discussion for another time.

The Nordic states are small with a combined population of less that 30 million people. They all have market economies, strong labor unions, and a large welfare sector including healthcare financed by heavy taxes. Corruption is low. Military spending is low. There is little social unrest. Crime is low. They share a unique social morality that is not universally shared in the United States. They are compassionate capitalists, NOT Socialists.

Democratic Socialism

Wikipedia has become the gold standard of Internet definitions.  (that is also a discussion for another time).

“Democratic socialism is a political philosophy that advocates political democracy alongside social ownership of the means of production with an emphasis on self-management and democratic management of economic institutions within a market or some form of decentralized planned socialist economy.”

Most of the young ill-informed people who call themselves Democratic Socialists probably do not agree with the Wikipedia definition. Bernie Sanders has had more time to think about it and should have a more nuanced view of the subject,  yet his web site definition of Democratic Socialism is the same laundry list of problems that need to be solved, but fails to address the painful economic realities.

The political reality is that some people want to get elected by promising free stuff to poor people with the false promise that the rich people will pay for it.

If  that happens, all will become poor, expect for the very rich who will always hide their wealth behind corporations, lobbyists, judges, and hard assets.

There is little discussion in the U.S. about the means of production coming under social ownership.  Venezuela nationalized its oil industry and the result is disaster. We shouldn’t have to keep repeating the question about what happens when governments own and run the economy. HERE Steve Forbes explains why governments don’t run economies very well.

The Nordic countries have strong property rights and an economic environment that encourages free enterprise. This is done in the face of very high taxes. That is what Bernie and his acolytes have in mind.

 The Founders Knew that Change Would Be Necessary

Benjamin Franklin was one of the principle architects of the Constitution. He did not see the venture through rose colored glasses. He knew that changes would be made to adapt to the times.

His greatest concern was the character of the people charged with making the changes. That should be our concern also.

In arguing for ratification of the Constitution, Franklin wrote as follows:

“I confess that there are several parts of this constitution which I do not at present approve, but I am not sure I shall never approve them: For having lived long, I have experienced many instances of being obliged by better information, or fuller consideration, to change opinions even on important subjects, which I once thought right, but found to be otherwise. It is therefore that the older I grow, the more apt I am to doubt my own judgment, and to pay more respect to the judgment of others. Most men indeed as well as most sects in Religion, think themselves in possession of all truth, and that wherever others differ from them it is so far error. Steele a Protestant in a Dedication tells the Pope, that the only difference between our Churches in their opinions of the certainty of their doctrines is, the Church of Rome is infallible and the Church of England is never in the wrong. But though many private persons think almost as highly of their own infallibility as of that of their sect, few express it so naturally as a certain french lady, who in a dispute with her sister, said “I don’t know how it happens, Sister but I meet with no body but myself, that’s always in the right-Il n’y a que moi qui a toujours raison.”

In these sentiments, Sir, I agree to this Constitution with all its faults, if they are such; because I think a general Government necessary for us, and there is no form of Government but what may be a blessing to the people if well administered, and believe farther that this is likely to be well administered for a course of years, and can only end in Despotism, as other forms have done before it, when the people shall become so corrupted as to need despotic Government, being incapable of any other. I doubt too whether any other Convention we can obtain, may be able to make a better Constitution. For when you assemble a number of men to have the advantage of their joint wisdom, you inevitably assemble with those men, all their prejudices, their passions, their errors of opinion, their local interests, and their selfish views. From such an assembly can a perfect production be expected? It therefore astonishes me, Sir, to find this system approaching so near to perfection as it does; and I think it will astonish our enemies, who are waiting with confidence to hear that our councils are confounded like those of the Builders of Babel; and that our States are on the point of separation, only to meet hereafter for the purpose of cutting one another’s throats. Thus I consent, Sir, to this Constitution because I expect no better, and because I am not sure, that it is not the best. The opinions I have had of its errors, I sacrifice to the public good. I have never whispered a syllable of them abroad. Within these walls they were born, and here they shall die. If every one of us in returning to our Constituents were to report the objections he has had to it, and endeavor to gain partizans in support of them, we might prevent its being generally received, and thereby lose all the salutary effects & great advantages resulting naturally in our favor among foreign Nations as well as among ourselves, from our real or apparent unanimity. Much of the strength & efficiency of any Government in procuring and securing happiness to the people, depends, on opinion, on the general opinion of the goodness of the Government, as well as well as of the wisdom and integrity of its Governors. I hope therefore that for our own sakes as a part of the people, and for the sake of posterity, we shall act heartily and unanimously in recommending this Constitution (if approved by Congress & confirmed by the Conventions) wherever our influence may extend, and turn our future thoughts & endeavors to the means of having it well administred.” (Constitutional Convention – 1787)

George Washington also knew that things would need to be changed over time. He was also acutely aware of the danger of ideologically driven political parties. In his Farewell Address Washington gave several insightful warnings:

“Here, perhaps, I ought to stop. But a solicitude for your welfare, which cannot end but with my life, and the apprehension of danger, natural to that solicitude, urge me on an occasion like the present, to offer to your solemn contemplation, and to recommend to your frequent review, some sentiments; which are the result of much reflection, of no inconsiderable observation, and which appear to me all important to the permanency of your felicity as a People. These will be offered to you with the more freedom, so you can only see in them the disinterested warnings of a parting friend, who can possibly have no personal motive to bias his counsel. “…

“However combinations or associations of the above description [political parties and other combinations] may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people, and to usurp for themselves the reigns of government; destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.”…

“Towards the preservation of your government, and the permanency of your present happy state, it is requisite, not only that you steadily discountenance irregular oppositions to its acknowledged authority, but also that you resist with care the spirit of innovation upon its principles however specious the pretexts.—One method of assault may be to effect in the forms of the constitution alterations which will impair the energy of the system, and thus to undermine what cannot be directly overthrown.”

James Madison also had warning about how Congress could spend money and eventually corrupt the system if left unchecked. The so-called Welfare clause of the Constitution originally place restraint on Congress. The Supreme Court subsequently ignored Madison’s warning. We now have 20+ trillion in debt with no end in sight except for ominous implications of disaster.

“If Congress can employ money indefinitely, for the general welfare, and are the sole and supreme judges of the general welfare, they may take the care of religion into their own hands; they may appoint teachers in every state, county, and parish, and pay them out of the public treasury; they may take into their own hands the education of children, the establishing in like manner schools throughout the union; they may assume the provision of the poor…. Were the power of Congress to be established in the latitude contended for, it would subvert the very foundations, and transmute the very nature of the limited government established by the people of America.”

Chronological Snobbery Revisited

Chronological Snobbery,  like the rest of the cognitive biases, encourages us to make bad decisions while all the time letting us think that we are absolutely correct and our way is the only way.  While we celebrate our modernity and think we have all the answers, half of all the studies you read may be wrong.

John P. A. Ioannidis wrote an excellent essay about the subject, which does not tell  you which studies or  news is correct, but it does raise the warning that we are all probably wrong about a lot of things we believe, So before imposing our ideas on others, maybe we should resist hopping on the most popular current bandwagon. We should resist giving good money to finance some pressing issue. Step back and remember that just because we exist at this moment in time (if such a thing as time is real), we are no more relevant that smart people in the past, who are now dead as we all soon will be.

Christmas is the Season to Be Jolly and Exhibit Ignorance

Every year at Christmas time, a new flock of educators, administrators, and political activists feel compelled to reveal their ignorance about the Establishment Clause of the U. S. Constitution and push what they feel is the correct place for Christmas in an ever evolving religious landscape.

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”.

To be fair, the Establishment Clause is not as simple as it appears in the Bill of Rights.

The Founders’ Perspective (Simplified)

The Founders were concerned about doing away with government’s support of the Established Church of England, the supreme governor of which is the monarch. For over a thousand years  Christian Churches remained part of the political establishment in Europe affirming Monarchs’ divine right to be kings. The Founders ended that cozy relationship on the Federal level. It took many years for the 14th Amendment and the Supreme Court to eliminate religions’ meddlesome relationship with people at the state level.

The 14th Amendment granted citizenship to all persons born or naturalized in the United States. It was an incremental step in providing equal protection under the laws to all people including former slaves.

Even after the Founders plainly said that church and Federal Government must be separate, state legislators continued to push religious agendas in state government. They did so because a majority of the people wanted it, and it was perfectly legal to do so.

The Texas Constitution said, and still says, “”No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office, or public trust, in this State; nor shall any one be excluded from holding office on account of his religious sentiments, provided he acknowledge the existence of a Supreme Being.” (Article 1, Section 4 – underline is ours)  Like many archaic state laws, this clear violation of the now fully incorporated first amendment is not being enforced.

The Scopes Monkey Trial is now history but there is still a tendency for special interests to try to instill their beliefs in legislation.  In the end, belief and religion are inseparable. Unfortunately legislation based on belief alone is very prevalent.

The new heretics are the “Deniers,” those who do not follow or accept the wisdom of prevailing belief.

How can a Christian Holiday Possibly be Constitutional?

At the time of the founding of our Republic, Christmas was not a national holiday. When it became a holiday in 1870, it was fashioned around gift giving and the nostalgia of immigrants yearning for their old customs.

In colonies heavily influenced by Calvinist Christian dogma, Christmas was banned  during much of the 17th century. Massachusetts passed a law in 1659 to punished Christmas observers with a fine of five shillings, now equivalent to about $31.76.

Gradually the commercial aspects of a year-end holiday eroded religious opposition. Christmas was well on its way to becoming a beloved secular holiday.  Still it did not happen quickly, and for reasons that are difficult for some to understand, the fight continues.

Courts Keep the Constitution Current

Over the years courts have had to rule about how restrictive the Establishment Clause is.

There are many who argue that any relationship between government and religion must be totally banned. Even saying Merry Christmas in the work place must be banned! Now for some, saying Merry Christmas demonstrates how brave they are to buck the political correctness police.

Where is the fine line between encouraging religion and actively impeding the “free exercise thereof…?”

The Constitution of the State of Wyoming in its Declaration of Rights has solved one of the questions relating to government financial support of religion; they forbid it.

§019. Appropriations for sectarian or religious societies or institutions prohibited.

No money of the state shall ever be given or appropriated to any sectarian or religious society or institution.

The Federal Government has been less disciplined in its largesse, doling out money to all manner of charitable institutions, many of which have strong ties to religious entities. Then it becomes necessary for citizens to question the line between helping religion, remaining neutral, or impeding it.  Courts have decided these questions in an evolving web of complexity. The complexity of the question may provide limited cover to the annual display of ignorance about Christmas.  School administrators are not expected to be experts in Constitutional Law, but they should know the basics. Here are a few of the basics.

Establishment Clause – Supreme Court Decisions

Nativity Scenes: Lynch v. Donnelly, 492 U.S. 573 (1989).    A Nativity scene, as part of a larger public holiday display, was declared unconstitutional by both a District Court and the Court of Appeals.  The Supreme court reversed the lower courts and explained the rationale behind its ruling: “The Constitution does not require complete separation of church and state; it affirmatively mandates accommodation, not merely tolerance, of all religions, and forbids hostility toward any. ” (underline ours)

When the Nativity Scene contained the proselytizing phrase, “Gloria in Excelsis Deo! ” it was declared unconstitutional in County of Allegheny v. American Civil Liberties Union, 492 U.S. 573 (1989)

Christmas Trees and Menorah: County of Allegheny v. ACLU   “…menorah display does not have the prohibited effect of endorsing religion, given its “particular physical setting.” Its combined display with a Christmas tree and a sign saluting liberty does not impermissibly endorse both the Christian and Jewish faiths, but simply recognizes that both Christmas and Chanukah are part of the same winter holiday season, which has attained a secular status in our society.  

Free Exercise Clause

In Cantwell v. Connecticut, 310 U.S. 296 (1940), for the first time the Supreme Court held that the peaceful expression of beliefs is protected from infringement by both the Federal Government and all of the States (Incorporation).  The free exercise of belief includes both belief in religion and non-belief in religion.

Examples of  Recent Overzealous Prohibitions

Every year at Christmas time, news reports abound about people instituting restrictive policies for holiday observations.

A Principal in the Elkhorn School District (Omaha, Nebraska) banned Christmas decorations at her school. She was quickly corrected by her administrators.  Among the banned items were candy canes because the “J” shape clearly denotes Jesus!  As an on-going personnel matter, the District cannot comment on the matter.  We can only speculate that her youth and ignorance of Constitutional Law got her in trouble with the old people.

A Washington State senior center reportedly banned religious Christmas expression including saying “Merry Christmas,” singing  Christmas Carols, or displaying Christmas cards in any of the complex’s common areas, including doorposts of the apartments. The building manager of Providence Place in Chehalis, WA may have incorrectly told a resident that the display of such items violated HUD regulations.  The same manager is reported to have allowed the display of a menorah in the common area while requiring a resident to remove a Mezuzah from her doorframe. The weasel words, “may,” “reportedly,”  and “reported” are used here because it is hard to know the truth of news articles nowadays. Management now denies the claims by residents who wish to remain anonymous.

Here is the truth about organizations that get HUD money

HUD Policy in Support of Religious Symbols During Holiday Season

Merry Christmas Texas

In 2013, the Texas State legislature passed HB 308 which guarantees First Amendment rights to everybody involved in Winter Celebrations in the State’s school districts.

WINTER CELEBRATIONS.
(a) A school district may educate students about the history of traditional winter celebrations, and allow students and district staff to offer traditional greetings regarding the celebrations, including:
(1) “Merry Christmas”;
(2) “Happy Hanukkah”; and
(3) “happy holidays.”
(b) Except as provided by Subsection (c), a school district may display on school property scenes or symbols associated with traditional winter celebrations, including a menorah or a Christmas image such as a nativity scene or Christmas tree, if the display includes a scene or symbol of:
(1) more than one religion; or
(2) one religion and at least one secular scene or symbol.
(c) A display relating to a traditional winter celebration may not include a message that encourages adherence to a particular religious belief.

The author of the bill decided to help create an environment in the schools that allows everybody to celebrate in traditional ways without fear of criticism when his son came home from school and told him that his class decorated a holiday tree with holiday ornaments.

The Texas law appears to anticipate any criticism by following Supreme Court rulings, some of which were cited above.

Nevertheless the  ACLU criticized the law because it says the law lacks a required secular educational purpose, even though paragraph (a) states the avowed educational purpose is to learn about traditional winter celebrations.

The reality is that Winter Celebrations have become highly secular.  An additional educational purpose of such a law could be to reaffirm the wisdom of the Establishment and Free Exercise Clauses of the First Amendment.

Winter Celebrations

There exist evidence that the Christian Church chose the date of December 25 to commemorate the birth of Jesus because it conveniently coincided with earlier celebrations around the time of the winter solstice. The history of choosing that date and controversies over its selection are beyond the scope of the present discussion.

The English word Christmas is also subject to debate. Deriving from Old English Cristes-messe, meaning Christ’s Mass, the origin and meaning of the word Mass itself in the Christian sense is speculative.

As noted above, there were times when Christmas itself was outlawed by Christian communities because it did not commemorate a historically accurate day for the birth of Christ.  Establishing such a date has always been impossible because of the lack of extra-scriptural references to an event lost in time.

Every year there is a lot of  discussion among some Christian groups to “put Christ back in Christmas.”   Certainly devout Christians could do this on a personal observational basis, but to force the issue into the secular realm would only encourage the annual assault on the word Christmas.

The celebration of the Winter Solstice dates back to ancient times.

Stonehenge is a prehistoric monument in Wiltshire, England. Its primary axis aligns with the sunset at the winter solstice. Not much can be authoritatively known about prehistoric people but the fact is they built impressive structures that show obvious astronomical features. It is logical to assume that they celebrated astronomical events and probably related their observations as having something to do with gods.

Newgrange is another very large structure in England that aligns with the winter solstice at sunrise.

A few well documented ancient winter solstice celebrations include: Saturnalia, the most popular of Roman festivals; Dōngzhì Festival (Chinese: 冬至) celebrated throughout east Asia; Inti Raymi, celebrated in winter (June) in Peru; Shab-e Yalda, celebrated by Iranians, originally to celebrate the triumph of of the sun god, Mithra, over darkness;  Tekufat Tevet.” ( “תקופת טבת”), one of the four seasons of the year recognized by Talmud scholars.

Anciently just about everybody celebrated the seasons as a demarcation of activities that governed their ability to provide food and shelter, and stay alive.

How to Prove that you are not Ignorant at Christmas Time

The U.S. Constitution, Supreme Court decisions, Lower Court Decisions, and undoubtedly other unimpeachable authorities all say it’s OK to observe Christmas, Hanukkah, Ramadan, Kwanzaa, Diwali, the Chinese New Year, and the Winter Solstice with no concern that the First Amendment and its Establishment Clause will be in danger.  The politically correct crowd seem eternally intent on interfering with the Free Exercise Clause.  They are miserable sheep, and some say insufferable Grinches.

To be on the safe side, you may consider consulting an excellent guide published by the Rutherford Institute, entitled  “Twelve Rules of Christmas.”  The choice of the number 12  has nothing to do with the 12 Apostiles, Jewish Numerology, or donuts.

CLICK ON THE IMAGE FOR A PDF VERSION OF THE RULES

Practical Advice to Get Along and Enjoy Christmas

As practical advice, be aware of when Chanukah begins and tell your Jewish friends “Happy Hanukah,” especially if your Hebrew is not very good and you cannot pronounce Chanukah. ( חנוכה)

An interesting fact about Chanukah is that the date shifts around because of the Lunar Calendar. It has nothing to do with a solstice. It lasts eight days from the 25th day of Kislev to the second day of Tevet, and involves lots of food and fun.

The way Court decisions have come down over the years, one could argue that Hanukah saved Christmas. The healthy secular nature of Hanukah has rubbed off on Christmas displays rendering them sufficiently secular.

If your intended audience for a Winter Holiday Greeting doesn’t speak English very well, try to determine which of these is most appropriate: Feilz Navidad; Feliz Natal; Buon Natale; Bon Nadal; (yes, these all deal with a birth but they will be happy you tried); Joyeux Noël; Fröhliche Weihnachten; Vrolijk Kerstfeest; God Jul; Glædelig Jul; Nadolig Llawen; Wesołych Świąt (This is Polish. Guaranteed to make any Pole happy).

While there are Christian Arabs who may appreciate, eid milad mjyd! (عيد ميلاد مجيد!), stick with English and say Seasons Greetings!  That was what President Eisenhower put on his Holiday Cards.

Otherwise if you are in WalMart in Texas, say Merry Christmas.  They may reply Happy Holidays and smile at you.  The smile is worth the exercise.  Everybody should lighten up.  For most of the country, Christmas is a miserably cold time of year. A little Christmas Cheer (secular, of course) goes a long way to bring people together. So say Merry Christmas, and spend your money wisely, if not abundantly.

The Constitution guarantees that you are free to exercise your religious belief,  but you are not entitled to interfere with that same right afforded to all other citizens.

Contrary to what the New York Times opined in 2016, there is a war on Christmas, but it is only a small part of an on-going war on the First Amendment, and particularly free speech.  Nowhere is this war more apparent that on college campuses where the free exchange of competing ideas is being challenged by an intolerant cabal of administrators, instructors, and compliant juveniles.

The First Amendment is about Toleration. Look it up.

If John Milton were alive today and could opine about the assault on free speech, all he would have to do is define oligarchy as university administrators who tolerate the banal assault on free speech.

image of John Milton-1644

John Milton (1644)

What should ye do then, should ye suppress all this flowery crop of knowledge and new light sprung up and yet springing daily in this city? Should ye set an oligarchy of twenty engrossers over it, to bring a famine upon our minds again, when we shall know nothing but what is measured to us by their bushel? Believe it, lords and commons! they who counsel ye to such a suppressing, do as good as bid ye suppress yourselves; and I will soon show how. If it be desired to know the immediate cause of all this free writing and free speaking, there cannot be assigned a truer than your own mild, and free, and humane government; it is the liberty, lords and commons, which your own valorous and happy counsels have purchased us; liberty which is the nurse of all great wits: this is that which hath rarified and enlightened our spirits like the influence of heaven; this is that which hath enfranchised, enlarged, and lifted up our apprehensions degrees above themselves. Ye cannot make us now less capable, less knowing, less eagerly pursuing of the truth, unless ye first make yourselves, that made us so, less the lovers, less the founders of our true liberty. We can grow ignorant again, brutish, formal, and slavish, as ye found us; but you then must first become that which ye cannot be, oppressive, arbitrary, and tyrannous, as they were from whom ye have freed us. That our hearts are now more capacious, our thoughts more erected to the search and expectation of greatest and exactest things, is the issue of your own virtue propagated in us; ye cannot suppress that, unless ye reinforce an abrogated and merciless law, that fathers may dispatch at will their own children. And who shall then stick closest to ye and excite others? Not he who takes up arms for coat and conduct, and his four nobles of Danegelt. Although I dispraise not the defence of just immunities, yet love my peace better, if that were all. Give me the liberty to know, to utter, and to argue freely according to conscience, above all liberties. (John Milton,  in a speech before Parliament in 1644)

Is the U.S. Constitution Outdated?

We keep hearing from snarky post-adolescents that the Constitution is outdated. They routinely demean the notion that our founding fathers are worthy of our respect. The fact that the Founders risked their lives to establish our nation means nothing to the current crop of narcissistic historical revisionists.

The Founders created the Republic when slavery was common worldwide. Indeed Brazil was the last country in the Western Hemisphere to abolish slavery on May 13, 1888. The entire world struggled with slavery. It is unrealistic to expect that our Founders could have magically and immediately abolished slavery when they were dangerously involved in creating the social contract that would eventually allow the abolition of slavery.

Immediate gratification appears to operate in the lives of the vocal proponents of changing the Constitution. Such gratification is impossible to apply retroactively.

The Constitution Has Endured

The Constitution has endured through the formative years of the Republic with growing pains that included bitter conflicts over slavery, a national bank, single party rule, the War of 1812, Aaron Burr killing Hamilton over an early succession plot, rampant patronage, the Civil War, and innumerable other scandals that would fill our current crop of pundits with rage.

They see the world through the false constructs of political correctness and fashionable morality. Their lack of historical context diminishes their credibility.

Who Are the Current Mindless Pundits?

A true pundit is someone who offers an opinion or commentary based on a profound knowledge of the subject. Many scholars know enough about a subject to offer a well reasoned opinion but are seldom afforded an opportunity.

Unfortunately there exists an over-abundance of people with questionable doctorates in pseudo sciences, or worse yet pathetically weak bachelors’ degrees in  journalism or English, whose shallow analysis floods the news cable networks. Their sole objective is to entertain and gain advertisers.

They are not pundits, nor are they worthy of our respect. Yet their passionate drum beat that the Constitution is no longer relevant has gained some traction and must be refuted.

The Constitution Is Constantly Being  Updated

The original document that we call the Constitution is contained on six handwritten pages. The first four pages are the base text, page five is a letter of transmittal from the Constitutional Convention to the Congress, and page six is the Bill of Rights.

The remaining 2,850 (approx.) pages of the “Constitution Annotated” prove that it is a living document, which has undergone many changes when necessary. The entire 2,882 pages of the Centennial Edition of the Constitution of the United States, Analysis and Interpretation including Supreme Court Decisions can be downloaded HERE.

The Supreme Court Is the Last Word in very Few Cases

The Supreme Court is the last word in the cases it hears but there are thousands of decisions by lower courts that reaffirm the Constitution and the protections that it affords citizens.

In the federal system, decisions from 94 district courts can be appealed to 12 Circuit Courts of Appeal plus the  Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. Of all of the cases reviewed by the Circuit Courts of Appeal, only about one-tenth of one percent (0.1%) are accepted by the Supreme Court for review.

The Constitution is constantly being made relevant to our time by the approximately 725 federal judges serving in the 94 district courts, 13 appeals courts, and the Supreme Court. These judges know the Constitution and the case law that supports a wide web of constitutional guarantees.

The sheer inertia built into federal law, and what some call congressional dysfunction, make it difficult to capriciously change laws.  Even in areas such as immigration law, where changes are clearly needed, change will come slowly, carefully, and eventually will conform to the Constitution.

Fortunately amending the Constitution is even more difficult, making emotional demands for gun control or abolition of the electoral college difficult for advocates to achieve.

Unanimous Decisions by the Supreme Court

In the 2016-2017 term of the Supreme Court approximately 57 percent of decisions were unanimous and only 15% were split, 5-4, decisions.

During his confirmation hearing in 2005, Chief Justice Roberts affirmed that he intended to work toward a consensus on the court. He has subsequently reaffirmed his commitment to consensus on the Court when he addressed the 2018 Stein Lecture at the University of Minnesota. The video runs 1 hour, 15 minutes.

Judicial Independence is the Guard Against the Transitory Will of the People

An Important Upcoming Supreme Court Case

Every case taken up by the Supreme Court is a reaffirmation of our Liberty.

We have previously commented about how civil forfeiture can constitute a moral hazard for law enforcement agencies.

Civil forfeiture traces to ancient Roman and medieval English law; both made objects used to violate the law subject to forfeiture to the king. It was allowed because anciently it was often difficult to physically detain  guilty individual who had fled to a foreign land so property used in the commission of a crime was seized.

Now civil forfeiture is a leading method for imposing economic sanctions against narcotics traffickers who sometimes are in a foreign jurisdiction.  Increasingly however, significant, and some say excessive, property is taken away from persons accused of relatively minor drug offenses.

The case is  Tyson Timbs and a Land Rover LR2 v. State of Indiana, 17-1091.

The Supreme Court has agreed to look at whether the 8th Amendment clause forbidding “excessive fines” applies to the states. The First, Second, Fourth and Sixth Amendments have been fully incorporated to the States via the Fourteenth Amendment Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses. The Fifth Amendment is almost fully incorporated; the Third and Eighth Amendments are partially incorporated; the Seventh Amendment is unincorporated; the Ninth and Tenth Amendments are not applicable.

If the Court decides for the plaintiff in this case it will contribute to fully incorporating the Eighth Amendment at the state level.