Careful What You Wish For

Today’s post will take a look at the upcoming election.  It is not meant to be either an endorsement or criticism of any particular candidate(s).  Instead, its purpose is to look at some of the current characteristics of this race in the light of this site’s topics.

Jonathan Edwards referred to rulers as the ‘rods’ for their people.  Strong rods provided stability for their people through the virtue and moral character that they possessed.  The unity these rods promoted provided an environment whereby wealth and prosperity were possible.  Weak rods created division and strife within a people as they were generally not engaged in promoting the public good.  Instead they promoted vice and generated uncertainty; leading to a lack of unity and competition where individuals sought to weaken one another rather than strengthen each other. 

‘And such an unsettled state, if continued, tends to a people’s ruin.  It tends to its ruin from within and from without.  The commonwealth is exposed, to become a prey to the ambition and avarice of men in its own bowels, of those that should be its fathers.’

Certainly we have not been more divided as a people since just prior to the War Between the States, and it is again ideology that divides us.  Only then it was the moral issue of slavery, while today the moral issue is the role and scope of government.  Whether we should continue with a federal government with a limited scope and power as initially chartered, or have instead a large government whose power is virtually unlimited and can reach into most aspects of each of its citizen’s lives.  These views cannot coexist.  They are not only uncomplimentary; they are contradictory.  The issue is a moral one because as government gets bigger, it generally wishes to remove any obstacle that it deems to be in its way.  Often one of the obstacles that tends to get in the way of big government is faith, hence the desire for a secular state.  However without faith, and the moral compass provided by the religion associated with it, there is no foundational basis for the long-term success of a society.

So let us look at the current front runners from both parties.  Mr. Trump deserves much credit for creating discussion on important topics that politicians of both parties have long avoided, and would likely continue to avoid were it not for his presence.  He has provided a voice for many who recognize the track we are on and see where that path leads.  This view is supported by the overwhelming number who believes as a country we are on the wrong track.  But giving a voice to the problems we face is simply one aspect of an election.  Of course solutions are also needed to those issues.  And as has been discussed before in evaluating alternative solutions, it is not only the ends that matter but also the means used to attain them. 

There is no doubt that many of the ends that Mr. Trump has expressed are quite different from those of the other party.  In the areas of immigration and national defense he has expressed the setting of goals that lead to peace through strength that lie within the chartered powers of the federal government.  Other areas such as abortion, taxation, capital punishment, education, energy, and healthcare generally express positions that are often quite different from the Democratic candidates.  These are generally areas where the federal government has not been granted any specific powers, but instead has found a means to insert itself.  However, are the means used to achieve these ends any different from that of the other party?  From Mr. Trump’s statements it often appears that it is only the ends that differ, while the means are largely the same – an increase in federal power or at least just a change in the direction in which that power is applied.  Take for example the tax plan Mr. Trump released today.  Under this plan only one half of our citizens would pay any income taxes.  How can a government function effectively if only one half of its people have any skin in the game?  This is not progress, but progressive.

Care must be taken in selecting such an approach.  In writing about the French Revolution, Edmund Burke warned that the lack of unity and presence of various factions would likely lead to tyranny.  ‘In the weakness of one kind of authority, and in the fluctuation of all, the officers of an army will remain for some time mutinous and full of faction, until some popular general, who understands the art of conciliating the soldiery, and who possesses the true spirit of command, shall draw the eyes of all men upon himself.  Armies will obey him on his personal account.  There is no other way of securing military obedience in this state of things.  But the moment in which that event shall happen, the person who really commands the army is your master; the master (that is little) of your king, the master of your assembly, the master of your whole republic.’  Although he was speaking of the military that would eventually give rise to the like of Napoleon, his observations are no less true for political figures as well. It is merely a different type of general.

So what about the other party’s front runner, Mrs. Clinton?  She has expressed positions that are in many ways aligned with the current administration – an administration which has done more to harm the unity of the people within this country than any president since before the War Between the States over 150 years ago.  And she has increasingly had to lean even further to the extreme left with the rise of Senator Sanders.  Although the ends she professes to be her goals differ from Mr. Trump’s the ends used to achieve them are largely the same. 

She also largely believes that there are at least two sets of rules, one for the elite (of which she is an integral part) and another for everyone else, and further that the elite should set the rules for everyone else as they know best.  Both are collectivist notions.  In case anyone doubts this, several recent comments she has made shed light on her true thoughts.  She recently accused the candidates of the other party of committing acts of terrorism similar to ISIS against women in the area of women’s health.  I took the liberty of looking up the definition of terrorism to see if this were true.  One definition of terrorism is the act of creating extreme fear, fright, or dread.  Surely she cannot be saying this.  No one on either side of the debate has said anything which should evoke personal fear, and she has not provided any examples to contradict that thought.  No one I’ve heard has talked about changing what can be done, only who should pay for it.  A second definition of terrorism is ‘a system of government that rules by intimidation.’  This leads to a second comment she made in conjunction with a conversation she had with some leaders of the black lives matters movement.  Then she stated that it was not about changing hearts, but instead simply changing the rules to enforce achieving the desired ends.  Rule by intimidation?  Isn’t this a true form of terrorism?

In examining the candidates and determining who would best lead, we should not only look at the ends each candidate expresses but also the means they intend to use to achieve them.  Indeed each candidate should be questioned about those means and why the ones they have chosen are best.  After all, our elected leaders do not lead us off into a new direction that is of their own choosing; instead a government is a reflection of its people.  What type of people will we be?

Posted in: Governance


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About Dan Wolf

Dan WolfMy goal is that my writing will help you to get started on your own journey of discovery, or help you along the way on a journey you may have already begun. Our Founders considered education, religion, morality, and virtue to be the cornerstones for any successful society. Being successful requires understanding both the languages of reason and faith; reason alone is insufficient.