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Free Citizen

This writer espouses individual liberty, free markets, and limited government.

Location: Jackson, Mississippi, United States

Monday, October 31, 2005

If Miers Was the Trick, Alito is the Treat

Last Friday the Jaded JD blog had a link to a piece by Tom Goldstein in which he predicted that President George W. Bush would nominate Judge Samuel Alito of the 3rd U. S. Circuit Court of Appeals to the U. S. Supreme Court. http://jaded_jd.typepad.com/the_jaded_jd/2005/10/president_bush_.html

Goldstein had predicted on November 7, 2004 that Bush would nominate Judge John Roberts to be chief justice of the United States.

This morning at six o'clock I turned on Fox News, and, to my amazement, the lead story was that Bush was nominating... Judge Samuel Alito!

President Bush has taken a number of actions with which I have disagreed; in fact, I have often said that the best thing about Bush is that he's not Clinton, Gore, or Kerry-- although it's sometimes hard to tell the difference. But, with the Alito nomination, the president has hit one out of the park. This looks like a good step toward stopping the slaughter of the innocents-- 45 million and counting since 1973.

Alito, the 55-year-old son of an Italian immigrant, has served on the 3rd Circuit since 1990, when he was unanimously confirmed by the Democratic-controlled Senate. He has been described as a "mild-mannered Scalia." A physically-imposing man, Alito towered over the president at this morning's announcement. In his remarks, the judge spoke of the "limited role the courts play in our constitutional system." YES!

In 1991, Alito was the 3rd Circuit's lone dissenting (pro-life) vote in Planned Parenthood v. Casey. This Pennsylvania law included a provision requiring women seeking abortions to notify their husbands. What a concept!

Douglas Kmiec, Pepperdine law professor, says, "Sam Alito is in my mind the strongest candidate on the list. I know them all... but I think Sam is a standout... ."

Rick Scarborough of Vision America writes, "Judge Alito is an outstanding nominee with more judicial experience than 105 of 109 justices appointed to the Supreme Court in its entire history."

Predictably, we've already heard from the usual suspects: Sen. Hairless Reid (D-NV); Sen. Upchuck Schumer (D-NY); the Hero of Chappaquiddick; Planned Parenthood; People for the Atheist Way; and the Atheist and Criminal Liberties Union. (The ACLU, of course, has spent a great deal of time, money, and energy fighting those DANGEROUS Nativity scenes. It's been said of the ACLU that there aren't three wise men or one virgin in the whole outfit.)

Democratic hack Bob Beckel snickered that Judge Alito was Bush's second choice. It should be noted that Justices Harry Blackmun and Anthony Kennedy were each the THIRD choice of, respectively, President Nixon and President Reagan.

Hopefully, Judge Alito and Chief Justice Roberts will have 20-30 years to help turn the high court back toward an originalist approach to the Constitution.

President Gerald Ford's biggest mistake, Justice John Paul Stevens, is now age 85 and has been on the court for 30 years. Maybe he'll depart soon and clear the way for, say, Judge Janice Rogers Brown. Isn't it about time we had a black woman on the Supreme Court?

Let the battle begin!!


The post of November 8, 2004 on this blog is closely related to this topic.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Slouching Towards Miers

Bush shows himself to be indifferent, if not hostile, to conservative values.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

With a single stroke--the nomination of Harriet Miers--the president has damaged the prospects for reform of a left-leaning and imperialistic Supreme Court, taken the heart out of a rising generation of constitutional scholars, and widened the fissures within the conservative movement. That's not a bad day's work--for liberals.

There is, to say the least, a heavy presumption that Ms. Miers, though undoubtedly possessed of many sterling qualities, is not qualified to be on the Supreme Court. It is not just that she has no known experience with constitutional law and no known opinions on judicial philosophy. It is worse than that. As president of the Texas Bar Association, she wrote columns for the association's journal. David Brooks of the New York Times examined those columns. He reports, with supporting examples, that the quality of her thought and writing demonstrates absolutely no "ability to write clearly and argue incisively."

The administration's defense of the nomination is pathetic: Ms. Miers was a bar association president (a nonqualification for anyone familiar with the bureaucratic service that leads to such presidencies); she shares Mr. Bush's judicial philosophy (which seems to consist of bromides about "strict construction" and the like); and she is, as an evangelical Christian, deeply religious. That last, along with her contributions to pro-life causes, is designed to suggest that she does not like Roe v. Wade, though it certainly does not necessarily mean that she would vote to overturn that constitutional travesty.

There is a great deal more to constitutional law than hostility to Roe. Ms. Miers is reported to have endorsed affirmative action. That position, or its opposite, can be reconciled with Christian belief. Issues we cannot now identify or even imagine will come before the court in the next 20 years. Reliance upon religious faith tells us nothing about how a Justice Miers would rule. Only a commitment to originalism provides a solid foundation for constitutional adjudication. There is no sign that she has thought about, much less adopted, that philosophy of judging.

Some moderate (i.e., lukewarm) conservatives admonish the rest of us to hold our fire until Ms. Miers's performance at her hearing tells us more about her outlook on law, but any significant revelations are highly unlikely. She cannot be expected to endorse originalism; that would alienate the bloc of senators who think constitutional philosophy is about arriving at pleasing political results. What, then, can she say? Probably that she cannot discuss any issue likely to come before the court. Given the adventurousness of this court, that's just about every issue imaginable. What we can expect in all probability is platitudes about not "legislating from the bench." The Senate is asked, then, to confirm a nominee with no visible judicial philosophy who lacks the basic skills of persuasive argument and clear writing.

But that is only part of the damage Mr. Bush has done. For the past 20 years conservatives have been articulating the philosophy of originalism, the only approach that can make judicial review democratically legitimate. Originalism simply means that the judge must discern from the relevant materials--debates at the Constitutional Convention, the Federalist Papers and Anti-Federalist Papers, newspaper accounts of the time, debates in the state ratifying conventions, and the like--the principles the ratifiers understood themselves to be enacting. The remainder of the task is to apply those principles to unforeseen circumstances, a task that law performs all the time. Any philosophy that does not confine judges to the original understanding inevitably makes the Constitution the plaything of willful judges.

By passing over the many clearly qualified persons, male and female, to pick a stealth candidate, George W. Bush has sent a message to aspiring young originalists that it is better not to say anything remotely controversial, a sort of "Don't ask, don't tell" admonition to would-be judges. It is a blow in particular to the Federalist Society, most of whose members endorse originalism. The society, unlike the ACLU, takes no public positions, engages in no litigation, and includes people of differing views in its programs. It performs the invaluable function of making law students, in the heavily left-leaning schools, aware that there are respectable perspectives on law other than liberal activism. Yet the society has been defamed in McCarthyite fashion by liberals; and it appears to have been important to the White House that neither the new chief justice nor Ms. Miers had much to do with the Federalists.

Finally, this nomination has split the fragile conservative coalition on social issues into those appalled by the administration's cynicism and those still anxious, for a variety of reasons, to support or at least placate the president. Anger is growing between the two groups. The supporters should rethink. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq aside, George W. Bush has not governed as a conservative (amnesty for illegal immigrants, reckless spending that will ultimately undo his tax cuts, signing a campaign finance bill even while maintaining its unconstitutionality). This George Bush, like his father, is showing himself to be indifferent, if not actively hostile, to conservative values. He appears embittered by conservative opposition to his nomination, which raises the possibility that if Ms. Miers is not confirmed, the next nominee will be even less acceptable to those asking for a restrained court. That, ironically, is the best argument for her confirmation. But it is not good enough.

It is said that at La Scala an exhausted tenor, after responding to repeated cries of "Encore," said he could not go on. A man rose in the audience to say, "You'll keep singing until you get it right." That man should be our model.


Mr. Bork is a fellow of the Hudson Institute and editor of "A Country I Do Not Recognize: The Legal Assault on American Values" (Hoover, 2005). He is co-chairman of the Federalist Society.

Copyright © 2005 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

I Did My Friend a Favor Today

A thing of beauty is a joy forever;
Its loveliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness.
-- John Keats

My dear friend had been seriously ill for more than a week. This morning, realizing that no miracle was coming, I ended her suffering. It was the least I could do for someone who had been my constant companion for 17 years.

In the late spring of 1988, I had put some cardboard boxes on my patio. Why, I don't recall. I noticed that a long-haired black cat was spending a lot of time in one of the boxes; whenever I went onto the patio, she would make weird noises. Knowing very little about cats, I didn't stop to imagine why she might be there.

The next thing I knew, on June 23, she gave birth to three kittens, one male and two females. Wanting her to be able to nurse her kittens, I started feeding her.

I've always been a dog lover, and I had never given a hoot about cats. In fact, I considered men with pet cats to be sissies.

I found someone who wanted one of the kittens. One of the females was smooth and black; the male was a black-and-white longhair, and the other female, the most beautiful one, had markings similar to her brother's. Since several of her legs were white, I named her Bootsie, which soon became simply Boots.

My friend really wanted Boots, but I was not about to give her up, so she took the male instead. This left me with three: Sophie, Boots, and the mother, Kitty Poo. Before I could get all of them spayed, I had kittens coming out of my ears; this necessitated several trips to the rescue league. My only defense for this is my then-ignorance about cats. The Good Lord obviously intended for the world to have lots and lots of felines!

Kitty Poo made herself right at home. She was clearly accustomed to lying on the coffee table; this removed any doubt that she had had a previous owner, who evidently had abandoned her. She was loaded with personality-- what a character!

As a friend and I watched, Boots delivered her only litter behind the couch. All six of her kittens entered the world being thoroughly licked by their mother. I called one of them "Pigface" because of the shape of its nose. I remember wearing flip-flops and sitting in the rocking chair; the six kittens would crawl onto my feet and completely cover them.

Sophie went away in March of 1993, and Kitty Poo had to be put to sleep in November of 1998, leaving Boots as my only pet for the last nearly-seven years.

I've never had another pet who lasted 17 years. Not even close. I used to love to watch her run outdoors. Black and white. Black and white. Black and white...

Once, shortly after I had moved, Boots got out in the unfamiliar surroundings. I found her in the bushes beside my neighbor's house. She was scared to death and froze when she saw me, allowing me to pick her up. As soon as we got back indoors, she scrambled to get down and ran and hid under the bed.

I turned her into a total housecat twelve and a half years ago, and this surely gave her a longer life. I was told that, whenever I went out, she would whine until I returned.

Boots always went berserk over lizards. When one was crawling on the outside of the patio door, she would practically go through the glass trying to get to it. Several of the poor creatures made the fatal mistake of getting inside the house.

For most of Boots's life, I couldn't get her to sit in my lap. I blamed myself for not having held her very much when she was a kitten. I used to tell her that I was going to trade her for a lap cat. Then, several years ago, she surprised me and jumped into my lap. She continued to do this for the rest of her life.

"17 years?! That's 120 in human years!"

"She had a good life, and she's better off now!"

All true, but they don't fill the hole in my life. They don't stop the pain in my heart. Only time will do those things.

Paraphrasing William Shakespeare,

When she shall die,
Take her and cut her out in little stars,
And she will make the face of heaven so fine
That all the world will be in love with night,
And pay no worship to the garish sun.

I'll never forget you, Kitty Boots.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Pass This and You Go to the 9th Grade

This is the eighth-grade final exam from 1895 in Salina, Kansas, USA. It was taken from the original document on file at the Smokey Valley Genealogical Society and Library in Salina, KS, and reprinted by the Salina Journal.

8th Grade Final Exam: Salina, KS -1895
Grammar (Time, one hour)

1. Give nine rules for the use of capital letters.
2. Name the parts of speech and define those that have no modifications.
3. Define verse, stanza and paragraph
4. What are the principal parts of a verb? Give principal parts of"lie,""play," and "run."
5. Define case; Illustrate each case.
6 What is punctuation? Give rules for principal marks of punctuation.
7 - 10. Write a composition of about 150 words and show therein that you understand the practical use of the rules of grammar.

Arithmetic (Time, 1.25 hours)

1. Name and define the Fundamental Rules of Arithmetic.
2. A wagon box is 2 ft. deep, 10 feet long, and 3 ft. wide. How many bushels of wheat will it hold?
3. If a load of wheat weighs 3942 lbs., what is it worth at 50cts/bushel, deducting 1050 lbs. for tare?
4. District No 33 has a valuation of $35,000. What is the necessary levy to carry on a school seven months at $50 per month, and have $104 for incidentals?
5. Find the cost of 6720 lbs. coal at $6.00 per ton.
6. Find the interest of $512.60 for 8 months and 18 days at 7 percent.
7. What is the cost of 40 boards 12 inches wide and 16 ft. long at $20 per metre?
8. Find bank discount on $300 for 90 days (no grace) at 10 percent.
9. What is the cost of a square farm at $15 per acre, the distance of which is 640 rods?
10. Write a Bank Check, a Promissory Note, and a Receipt

U.S. History (Time, 45 minutes)

1. Give the epochs into which U.S. History is divided
2. Give an account of the discovery of America by Columbus.
3. Relate the causes and results of the Revolutionary War.
4 Show the territorial growth of the United States.
5. Tell what you can of the history of Kansas.
6. Describe three of the most prominent battles of the Rebellion.
7. Who were the following: Morse, Whitney, Fulton, Bell, Lincoln, Penn, and Howe?
8. Name events connected with the following dates: 1607, 1620, 1800, 1849, 1865.

Orthography (Time, one hour) Do we even know what this is??

1. What is meant by the following: Alphabet, phonetic, orthography, etymology, syllabication
2. What are elementary sounds? How classified?
3. What are the following, and give examples of each: Trigraph, subvocals, diphthong, cognate letters, linguals
4. Give four substitutes for caret 'u.' (HUH?)
5. Give two rules for spelling words with final 'e.' Name two exceptions under each rule.
6. Give two uses of silent letters in spelling. Illustrate each.
7 Define the following prefixes and use in connection! with a word: bi, dis, mis, pre, semi, post, non, inter, mono, sup.
8. Mark diacritically and divide into syllables the following, and name the sign that indicates the sound: card, ball, mercy, sir, odd, cell, rise, blood, fare, last.
9. Use the following correctly in sentences: cite, site, sight, fane, fain, feign, vane, vain, vein, raze, raise, rays.
10. Write 10 words frequently mispronounced and indicate pronunciation by use of diacritical marks and by syllabication.

Geography (Time, one hour)

1 What is climate? Upon what does climate depend?
2. How do you account for the extremes of climate in Kansas?
3. Of what use are rivers? Of what use is the ocean?
4. Describe the mountains of North America
5. Name and describe the following: Monrovia, Odessa, Denver, Manitoba, Hecla, Yukon, St. Helena, Juan Fernandez, Aspinwall and Orinoco.
6. Name and locate the principal trade centers of the U.S.
7. Name all the republics of Europe and give the capital of each.
8. Why is the Atlantic Coast colder than the Pacific in the same latitude?
9. Describe the process by which the water of the ocean returns to the sources of rivers.
10. Describe the movements of the earth. Give the inclination of the earth.

Notice that the exam took FIVE HOURS to complete. Gives the saying "he only had an 8th grade education" a whole new meaning, doesn't it? Also shows you how poor our education system has become... and, NO! I don't have the answers, and I failed the 8th grade test!

Friday, October 14, 2005

Fasten Your Beltway

[The brilliant Peggy Noonan weighs in on the Harriet Miers nomination for the Supreme Court.]

Fasten Your Beltway
It's going to be a bumpy ride.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

I think I know what White House aides are thinking.

They're thinking: This is the part of my memoir where we faced the daily pounding of our allies. They're thinking: This is the "Churchill Alone" chapter. They're thinking: He was like a panther in the jungle night. For five years he sat, watchful, still as marble, his eyes poised upon his prey. And then he sprang in a sudden burst of sleek-muscled focus, and when it was over his face was unchanged but for the scarlet ring of blood around his mouth. But enough about George Will. They're thinking: That's good, save it for later.

They're thinking: This will pass.

They're right. It will.

But they're going to have to make that happen.

Can this marriage be saved? George W. Bush feels dissed and unappreciated: How could you not back me? Conservatives feel dissed and unappreciated: How could you attack me? Both sides are toe to toe. One senses that the critics will gain, as they've been gaining, and that the White House is on the losing side. If the administration had a compelling rationale for Harriet Miers's nomination, they would have made it. Simply going at their critics was not only destructive, it signaled an emptiness in their arsenal. If they had a case they'd have made it. "You're a sexist snob" isn't a case; it's an insult, one that manages in this case to be both startling and boring.

Is there a way out for the White House? Yes. Change plans at LaGuardia. Remember the wisdom of New York's Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia, who said, "I don't make a lot of mistakes but when I do it's a beaut!"? The Miers pick was a mistake. The best way to change the story is to change the story. Here's one way.

The full Tim McCarthy. He was the Secret Service agent who stood like Stonewall and took the bullet for Ronald Reagan outside the Washington Hilton. Harriet Miers can withdraw her name, take the hit, and let the president's protectors throw him in the car. Her toughness and professionalism would appear wholly admirable. She'd not just survive; she'd flourish, going from much-spoofed office wife to world-famous lawyer and world-class friend. Added side benefit: Her nobility makes her attackers look bad. She's better than they, more loyal and serious. An excellent moment of sacrifice and revenge.

The president would get to announce a better nominee--I'd recommend continuing the air of stoic pain--and much of the conservative establishment would feel constrained to go along. Some would feel the need to prove their eagerness to be supportive, and how thwarted their natural impulse to loyalty was by the choice of the unfortunate Harriet. They have a base too, which means they pay a price for marching out of lockstep. Mr. Bush will have an open field. He could even shove Alberto Gonzales down their throats! Or, more wisely and constructively, more helpfully and maturely, he could choose one of the outstanding jurists thoughtful conservatives have long touted: Edith Jones, Edith Clement, Janice Rogers Brown. (Before the Miers pick a man could have been considered, but to replace Ms. Miers now it will have to be a woman. Sometimes you just can't add more layers to the story.)

Connected to this is the the modified Dan Quayle. When George H.W. Bush chose Mr. Quayle to be his vice presidential candidate, the 41-year-old junior senator from Indiana should have said, "Thanks, but I'm not ready. Someday I will be, but I have more work to do in Congress and frankly more growing to do as a human being before I indulge any national ambitions." This would have been great because it was true. When his staff leaked what he'd said, a shocked Washington would have concurred, conceding his wisdom and marking him for better things. He'd probably have run for president in 2000. He could be president now.

The best way to do the modified Quayle comes from Mickey Kaus: "How about appointing Miers to a federal appeals court? She's qualified. Bush could say that while he knows Miers he understands others' doubts--and he knows she will prove over a couple of years what a first-rate judge she is. Then he hopes to be able to promote her. Semi-humilating, but less humiliating than the alternatives. And not a bad job to get. . . . Miers could puncture the tension with one smiling crack about being sent to the minors. The collective sigh of national relief would drown out the rest of her comments." That's thinking.

If Ms. Miers did what Mr. Quayle didn't do--heck, she could wind up on the Supreme Court.

How can the White House climb down after 10 days of insisting Ms. Miers is the one? Mmmmm, sometimes you don't climb down. Sometime you just let gravity do what it's doing. You drop like an apple. Three days of silence and then the trip to LaGuardia.

The White House, after the Miers withdrawal/removal/disappearance, would be well advised to call in leaders of the fractious base--with heavy initial emphasis on the Washington conservative establishment--and have some long talks about the future. It's time for the administration to reach out to wise men and women, time for Roosevelt Room gatherings of the conservative clans. Much old affection remains, and respect lingers, but a lot of damage has been done. The president has three years yet to serve. That, I think, is the subtext of recent battles: Conservatives want to modify and, frankly, correct certain administration policies now, while there's time. The White House can think of this--and should think of it--as an unanticipated gift. A good fight can clear the air; a great battle can result in resolution and recommitment. No one wants George W. Bush turned into Jimmy Carter, or nobody should. The world is a dangerous place, and someone has to lead America. An essential White House mistake--really a key and historic one--was in turning on its critics with such idiotic ferocity. "My way or the highway" is getting old. "Please listen to us and try to see it our way or we'll have to kill you," is getting old. Sending Laura Bush out to make her first mistake as first lady, agreeing with Matt Lauer that sexism is probably part of the reason for opposition to Ms. Miers, was embarrassingly inept and only served to dim some of the power of this extraordinary resource.

As for Ed Gillespie and his famous charge of sexism and elitism, I don't think serious conservatives believe Ed is up nights pondering whiffs and emanations of class tension and gender bias in modern America. It was the ignorant verbal lurch of a K Street behemoth who has perhaps forgotten that conservatives are not merely a bloc, a part of the base, a group that must be handled, but individuals who are and have been in it for serious reasons, for the long haul, and often at considerable sacrifice. They don't deserve to be patronized by people they've long strained to defend.

And next time perhaps the White House, in announcing and presenting the arguments for a new nominee to the high court, will remember a certain tradition with regard to how we do it in America. We don't say, "We've nominated Joe because he's a Catholic!" A better and more traditional approach is, "Nominee Joe is a longtime practitioner of the law with considerable experience, impressive credentials, and a lively and penetrating intellect. Any questions? Yes, he is a member of the Catholic church. Any other questions?"

That's sort of how we do it. We put the horse and then the cart. The arguments for the person and then the facts attendant to the person. You don't say, "Vote for this gal because she's an Evangelical!" That shows a carelessness, an inability to think it through, to strategize, to respectfully approach serious facts--failings that, if they weren't typical of the White House the past few months, might be called downright sexist.

Ms. Noonan is a contributing editor of The Wall Street Journal and author of "John Paul the Great: Remembering a Spiritual Father," forthcoming in November from Penguin, which you can preorder from the OpinionJournal bookstore. Her column appears Thursdays.

Copyright © 2005 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Tax the Internet?

[This article is from the Washington Libertarian Review: walibrev.blogspot.com.]

For several years, state and local governments have been in dispute who has a right to tax an Internet sales transaction. Now, according to the Tacoma News Tribune retailers will soon be asked to voluntarily collect tax money from online shoppers and remit it to the states where those shoppers live. This measure still needs state legislative approval, but given that taxes are the lifeblood of government, the chances of passage are pretty good.

Just wait until the folks at ebay get hold of this one. Anybody who has sold an old watch or a book collection on ebay is not going to want to prepare a form and mail $1.35 to Wisconsin. These guys must be dreaming.

Target to Salvation Army: Drop Dead

Reprinted from NewsMax.com

Thursday, Sept. 15, 2005
Target: Still 'No' to Salvation Santas

The Salvation Army is hard at work providing relief to victims of Hurricane Katrina, but the Target Corp. is sticking to its policy of not allowing the charity’s Santas to solicit donations at Target stores.

With the holiday season approaching, some officials at the Salvation Army thought Target might reconsider its no-solicitation policy, adopted in 2004, which has kept the bell-ringing Santas off Target property.

But Target spokeswoman Paula Thornton-Greear said the company is not changing its policy, claiming it offers shoppers a "distraction-free environment.�

"We don’t permit solicitation by any organization,� she said. The Salvation Army raised $250,000 at Indiana Target locations alone in 2002, reports post-trib.com in Indiana, and $442,000 at Chicago-area stores.

However, Target is not standing idly by in the wake of Katrina and has donated $1.5 million to the American Red Cross, said Thornton-Greear.

"Target has also coordinated large-scale donations of essential products, including water, ice, coolers, diapers and baby wipes.�

[I don't know about you, but I won't be spending any money at Target.]

Lather, Rinse, Repeat

[This piece is from soundpolitics.com of Seattle, Washington.]

Some Lynnwood police detectives, in the course of fighting crime or something, discovered some creative new uses for shampoo:

On April 27, an officer entered the shop [Classic Body Tonic Spa] and paid $60 for and received a full "body shampoo," which included genital and anal touching. The officer returned two other times for massages that also included masturbation — one session with two prostitutes — and again paid for the service.

A second officer also received a massage and was masturbated, according to charging papers.

Lynnwood police Cmdr. Paul Watkins apparently thinks his officers acted in the best interests of city residents:
"We have a very ethical police department," he said. "This does not violate the ethical standards of our department."

[This sounds like one police operation that petered out!]

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Give 'em Hell, Tom!

by George Will

Around 1900, at age 11 or so, Tom Tancredo's grandfather, an orphan, sailed, unaccompanied, from Italy to New York with a note pinned to his shirt, asking that he be directed to Iowa. In Manhattan he was told that, the ocean being in one direction, Iowa must be in the other direction, so he began to work his way west. More than two years later, having rather overshot Iowa, he arrived in Denver. Eight decades later he recalled seeing the Rocky Mountains and thinking, "If Iowa is past that, the hell with it."

Today, grandson Tom is a congressman representing Denver suburbs and voicing the sentiments of many Americans who are incandescent with anger about illegal immigration. Hence he is giving Republican Party officials nightmares about a boisterous Tancredo presentation of those sentiments in the 2008 Republican presidential primaries.

Tancredo says, "I'm too fat, too short and too bald" to be president. Actually, at 5 feet 8 inches "in my cowboy boots" and 177 pounds, he would have towered over President Madison, is 150 pounds lighter than President Taft was and has much more hair than did President Eisenhower. Still, Tancredo knows he is not going to be president and hopes "some tall guy with good hair" will make illegal immigration a big issue in 2008.

But he believes he will have to, and he recently has been to, among other places, Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. He is consulting with Bay Buchanan, who, as Pat Buchanan's sister, knows something about mounting intraparty insurgencies. She expects he will run and hopes she will be Sancho Panza to his Don Quixote.

Tancredo knows his candidacy would be quixotic, and he worries that if he wins few votes his issue will be discounted. But he also knows that presidential primaries are, among other things, market research mechanisms whereby unserved constituencies are discovered and dormant issues brought to life.

Which is what worries Republican officials. They desperately want to avoid giving offense to the Hispanic vote, the rapidly growing -- and already the largest -- cohort in play in American politics. Hence the Bush administration's eagerness to get past hurricanes and Supreme Court nominations and to enactment of the president's immigration reforms.

The basic problem is that the nation's economy is ravenous for more immigrant labor than the system of legal immigration can currently provide. Furthermore, about 11 million illegal immigrants are in America. It would take a lot of buses -- 200,000 of them, bumper-to-bumper in a convoy 1,700 miles long -- to carry them back to America's border. America will not do that -- will not round up and deport the equivalent of the population of Ohio.

Tancredo agrees, and insists that no such draconian measure is necessary. His silver bullet is to "just enforce the law" -- the law against hiring illegal immigrants. Give employers computerized means of checking the status of job applicants, and, he says, the ones here illegally will go home. If only it were that simple. But the details of his plan are less important than his emphatic raising of an issue that many Americans believe is being ignored or treated gingerly for reasons of political calculation or political correctness.

He says that "The Disuniting of America," a 1992 book by one of liberalism's eminent intellectuals, Arthur Schlesinger Jr., alerted him to the dangers of the "cult of multiculturalism." Today's immigrants, he says, do not feel what his grandfather did -- "pressure to assimilate." Because most come from nearby countries in this hemisphere, they do not experience what is called the "psychological guillotine" of being severed from their old country by distance and the difficulty of transoceanic travel.

Elected in 1998, Tancredo is consistently obstreperous, meaning conservative as Republicans used to understand that. He voted against President Bush's prescription drug entitlement because he says we can't afford it, against Bush's education reform, the No Child Left Behind Act, because it is expands federal infringement of state responsibilities, and against the recent $50 billion appropriation for recovery from Hurricane Katrina because of insufficient accountability -- "Not one person on the [House] floor could tell you what it was being spent for." His proposal for paying for Katrina? "Sell 15 percent of all federal land." But not, he says temperately, Yellowstone Park.

Such high-voltage views will enable him to live off the land in 2008, depending on the free media attention that comes to a live wire. So Republicans may have found their Al Sharpton, a candidate who simply has no interest in being decorous.

[Tom's not giving the Bush administration hell. He's just telling the truth, and they think it's hell.]

Monday, October 10, 2005

If Guns Are Outlawed...

"To ban guns because criminals use them is to tell the innocent and law-abiding that their rights and liberties depend not on their own conduct, but on the conduct of the guilty and the lawless, and that the law will permit them to have only such rights and liberties as the lawless will allow... For society does not control crime, ever, by forcing the law-abiding to accommodate themselves to the expected behavior of criminals. Society controls crime by forcing the criminals to accommodate themselves to the expected behavior of the law-abiding." —Jeff Snyder

[I dare anyone who favors outlawing guns to put this sign in his front yard: "THIS PROPERTY IS GUN-FREE".]

Friday, October 07, 2005

"Civil Union": One Man, Two Women

[This timely article is from sicsempertyrannis.blogspot.com. Could this be around the corner for the United States?]

Netherlands: Three People Wed One Another

Once again, the Dutch remain on the forefront of the movement to destroy the institution of marriage. The direction we all predicted gay marriage would inevitably lead manifested itself in the Nethlerlands where 3 people wed one another, one man and two women. They are trying to parade it as something other than polygamy, as if that's a dirty word or something, and if they call it something different, it will be different.

Everyone knows that if gay marriage can be justified, anything can be justified...including the absence of all moral inhibitions. It's sad to see a nation [Holland] that served as a haven to the Pilgrims at a time when religious liberty was not widespread in Europe, that produced the powerful legacy of William the Silent and Abraham Kuyper become the leader in the legalization and regulation of prostitution, the legalization of drugs, the legalization of gay marriage, euthanasia, and now this.


First Trio "Married" in The Netherlands

From the desk of Paul Belien on Tue, September 27, 2005
The Brussels Journal

The Netherlands and Belgium were the first countries to give full marriage rights to homosexuals. In the United States some politicians propose “civil unions� that give homosexual couples the full benefits and responsibilities of marriage. These civil unions differ from marriage only in name.

Meanwhile in the Netherlands polygamy has been legalised in all but name. Last Friday the first civil union of three partners was registered. Victor de Bruijn (46) from Roosendaal “married� both Bianca (31) and Mirjam (35) in a ceremony before a notary who duly registered their civil union.

“I love both Bianca and Mirjam, so I am marrying them both,� Victor said. He had previously been married to Bianca. Two and a half years ago they met Mirjam Geven through an internet chatbox. Eight weeks later Mirjam deserted her husband and came to live with Victor and Bianca. After Mirjam’s divorce the threesome decided to marry.

Victor: “A marriage between three persons is not possible in the Netherlands, but a civil union is. We went to the notary in our marriage costume and exchanged rings. We consider this to be just an ordinary marriage.�

Asked by journalists to tell the secret of their peculiar relationship, Victor explained that there is no jealousy between them. “But this is because Mirjam and Bianca are bisexual. I think that with two heterosexual women it would be more difficult.� Victor stressed, however, that he is “a one hundred per cent heterosexual� and that a fourth person will not be allowed into the “marriage.� They want to take their marriage obligations seriously: “to be honest and open with each other and not philander.�

[Yes, it looks like ol' Victor is plugging two Dutch dykes!]

Jefferson on Helping the Less Fortunate

[Given the continuing repercussions of Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita, I thought this quote from an 80-year-old Thomas Jefferson was most relevant. Does this also remind you of all the American treasure that has been wasted overseas?]

"It is a duty certainly to give our sparings to those who want;
but to see also that they are faithfully distributed, and duly
apportioned to the respective wants of those receivers. And why
give through agents whom we know not, to persons whom we know not,and in countries from which we get no account, where we can do it at short hand, to objects under our eye, through agents we know,and to supply wants we see?"

-- Thomas Jefferson (letter to Michael Megear, 29 May 1823)

Reference: Jeffersonian Cyclopedia, Foley, ed. (134); original
The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, Washington, ed., vol. 7 (286)

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Mother Teresa: the Worst of the Bunch

[A shorter version of this letter ran in The Clarion-Ledger on September 13, 2002. It's a response to the August 15 letter from William E. Wallace of Hattiesburg, Miss., "Religion belongs in church, not in our national government."]

William Wallace rails at the mean, nasty, scary Religious Right and invokes the "separation of church and state." This phrase came from an 1802 letter that President Thomas Jefferson wrote to a group of Connecticut Baptists. This was the same Thomas Jefferson who earlier had written "that all men are ...endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights..."

Concerning religion, the First Amendment had only two purposes. There would be no established, national church, and government should not interfere with the free practice of religion. Sadly, in 1947, the Supreme Court started reshaping this original intent. [The majority (5-4) opinion in Everson v. Board of Education was written by Justice Hugo Black, a former U. S. senator from Alabama and a former member of the Ku Klux Klan.]

In A Christian Manifesto (1981), Francis Schaeffer reminded us that American society was founded on the Judeo-Christian world view, with the Creator God as the final reality. As the 20th century progressed, a different world view gained increasing momentum and now threatens to totally replace our true foundation. This false view argues that energy or material, shaped by pure chance, is the final reality.

Our legal system is based on the English Common Law, which came from... the Bible.

Wallace contends, "Religion promotes hatred, racism, male superiority..." Right-- and Mother Teresa was the worst of the bunch!

Wallace proposes a massive undertaking: "Government and religion... completely separate... religion does not belong in public places, gatherings, laws, documents, or the money..." Thus, we would need to

-- Repeal most of our laws, including the ones against murder and robbery.

-- Remove the Ten Commandments from the wall of the Supreme Court.

-- Fire the chaplains from Congress and all branches of the military.

-- Ban Bibles from all government buildings, including courthouses, and change the oaths that are sworn.

-- Eliminate Thanksgiving and Christmas as legal holidays.

-- Expel the religion of secular humanism from the public schools and all other government institutions. (One out of seven ain't bad!!)

-- Adopt a new calendar, since each of the last 2000-plus years has been called the "Year of our Lord."

"Free thinker" Wallace should read Don Feder's book, Who's Afraid of the Religious Right? He should also peruse the books and videos of David Barton and Peter Marshall.

Our Judeo-Christian heritage empowered that California screwball to file his lawsuit against the Pledge of Allegiance.

This precious heritage also enables people like Wallace to write ludicrous letters to the editor.

[The March 29, 2005 post on this blog relates to this topic.]

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

The Philosopher of Conservatism's Resurgence

[For an excerpt from Weaver's seminal book, Ideas Have Consequences, see the October 29, 2004 post on this blog.]

Richard M. Weaver (1910–1963)

“It is my contention that a conservative is a realist .... He believes that there is a creation which was here before him, which exists now not just by his sufferance, and which will be here after he’s gone.�

Richard M. Weaver lived a life of hard work, self-sacrifice, and quiet virtue. Although he taught English at the University of Chicago for the bulk of his career, he remained deeply attached to the traditions of his upbringing in North Carolina. The part of his Southern heritage that Weaver treasured above all was the “social bond individualism� that he pitted against what he called the “anarchic individualism� of the North. This social bond individualism coupled individual liberty with duty and social responsibility to advance a concept of “disciplined freedom.� Throughout his entire career Weaver defended the values of this social bond individualism, tracing its antecedents through the arc of Western intellectual history. Interestingly, he considered the Middle Ages to be the period that, more than any other, shaped the understanding of liberty that developed in the modern West. Thus, Weaver appreciated the British heritage of liberty under the common law, because such heritage was derived from the medieval model.

Weaver vigorously defended the inviolable right to private property, naming it “the last metaphysical right.� He used this nomenclature to emphasize that the right to private property exists independently from, if not regardless of, its social utility. This metaphysical nature of private property rights derives from the natural connection between honor, responsibility, and the relationship of a person to property. Weaver also contended that work, honorable in itself, tends to result in the accumulation of property. Hence property becomes an extension of one’s labor—and of oneself. Weaver believed that property constitutes a great source for personal growth because of the inalienable bond between a person’s labor and property. Weaver also noted that the ownership of private property can serve as a check on the pressures of majority opinion, allowing anyone to think and to act as he or she chooses without having to appease the majority opinion to secure a place to live or food to eat. Another reason that Weaver labeled private property as a metaphysical right was to show that it is based not in the changing, temporal material order, but rather in the unchanging, eternal order of the spiritual. For Weaver, rights and obligations correlate with each other. To properly preserve the right to property, an obligation to engage in proper stewardship must also be recognized in order to prevent property from being spoiled from use by successive generations. Property rights then essentially promote a communal continuity between the dead, the living, and the unborn. Weaver never tired of advancing these convictions, always confident that these convictions truly reflected reality.

Sources: George M. Curtis, III and James J. Thompson, Jr. eds., Southern Essays of Richard M. Weaver (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, Inc., 1987). Ted J. Smith, III et al. eds., Steps Toward Restoration:The Consequences of Richard Weaver’s Ideas (Wilmington: ISI Books, 1998).

Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty


Richard Weaver: Historian of the South
by Thomas E. Woods, Jr.

Along with Russell Kirk and Robert Nisbet, Richard Weaver was one of the most influential intellectuals of the postwar conservative renascence in America. A professor of English at the University of Chicago, Weaver was also a scholar of Southern history, and his defense of Southern civilization was at once so elegant and insightful that historians continue to study and discuss his work some forty years after his untimely death. Although despised in fashionable circles, the South, Weaver believed, possessed insight and wisdom that a world increasingly enticed by liberalism (in the American sense) neglected at its peril.

In 1830, one of the most famous debates in American history occurred between Massachusetts Senator Daniel Webster and South Carolina Senator Robert Hayne. Weaver analyzed the debate in his essay "Two Orators," and much of what in Weaver’s judgment separated North and South politically, culturally, and ideologically came through in this celebrated exchange. Before a packed and rapturously attentive Senate chamber, the two men delivered a total of five speeches, in which they examined the nature of the American Union.

According to Hayne, the American Union was formed by distinct American states, acting in their sovereign capacity to establish a federal government to act as their agent in a few clearly specified areas. The political consequences of this view were plain. The United States was composed of independent, sovereign political communities, which retained all powers not delegated to the federal government, and which as sovereign states could, through secession, recall the powers delegated to that government. That Hayne’s position possessed merit was evident in the grammatical construction people generally used when speaking about the United States: the United States are rather than the United States is.

Webster, on the other hand, argued that the Union had been formed by the entire American people in the aggregate. In Webster’s conception, therefore, secession (and the less extreme method of resistance to unconstitutional federal action known as nullification) was metaphysically impossible. The Union was not, at root, a confederation of states, but rather an indivisible whole.

Weaver frequently observed that the Southerner was very much a local person, devoted to his particular plot of land and skeptical of distant authorities or grandiose political schemes – and he perceived this attachment to the locality in Hayne’s remarks before the Senate. Hayne’s historical argument, Weaver wrote, "was devoted to the proposition that the United States had been founded primarily to secure the blessings of liberty. For Hayne the implication was clear that liberty required the independence and dignity of the parts, with local attention to and disposition of local affairs. In what may seem to many an excess of particularism, he opposed local improvements financed by funds of the general government. Yet from a strict point of view Hayne was but facing and accepting the price of liberty. Freedom is something that gathers around the hearth, inheres in local associations, and endears to a man his place of habitation."

The issue could also be conceived another way: was the American Union simply a means to an end or an end in itself? For Webster "a nation was something that filled the political horizon; it was a creation which tended to carry its own vindication, and for which the sacrifice of local rights was appropriate." But for Hayne, a nation "was a means toward a higher end, not a self-glorifying structure which improved as it gained size and authority for coercion." This was the fundamental issue at stake in nineteenth-century American political thought.

Although the testimony of history was clearly on the side of Hayne rather than Webster, whose rhetorical flights of fancy tended more to the mystical than the strictly historical, it was Webster’s view that would be established on the battlefield during the American Civil War. Weaver observed with sorrow that "somewhere along the path of events the French revolutionary theory of the people as a unitary whole, governing in the interest of the whole without restrictions on its power, had seeped into the political thinking of some Americans…. The ‘spurious democracy’ of the French Revolution, as Lord Acton was to term it, which placed power and rule above local rights and autochthonous institutions, continued its sway during the nineteenth century and profoundly altered the character of the American Union."

Another aspect of the Southern character that Weaver identified is that it is not utopian. When during the mid-nineteenth century Northerners were setting up self-described "utopian communities" – in which there would be no private property, or no marriage, or whatever – the Southerner shook his head in amusement. The Southerner, said Weaver, "accepts the irremediability of a certain amount of evil and tries to fence it around instead of trying to stamp it out and thereby spreading it. His is a classical acknowledgment of tragedy and of the limits of power." Weaver pointed out that such a mentality was utterly incompatible with another character type with which we are all too familiar. This other character type is "unhappy unless he feels that he is making the world over. He may talk much of tolerance, but for him tolerance is an exponent of power. His tolerance tolerates only the dogmatic idea of tolerance, as anyone can discover for himself by getting to know the modern humanitarian liberal." Although he naturally acknowledged the existence of exceptions, it was these two impulses, Weaver suggested, that comprised the two sections of the Union. (Which of them would ultimately triumph is evident from a glance at current American foreign policy.)

Throughout American history, there have been those who have sought to strengthen the central government and weaken the independence of the states in order to bring about this or that allegedly desirable social outcome. This tendency has manifested itself in many forms. In 1954, the Southern states were told that they had to begin racial desegregation of their schools. By 1957, federal troops were being used against a high school in Little Rock, Arkansas, that had defied the federal government. By the 1960s, the Southern states were being told that desegregation was no longer enough: they now needed to engage in active integration of the races. Simply giving parents a choice of schools was not enough, the ideologues claimed, since they might choose to continue sending their children to single-race schools (as indeed happened in many cases). Even forced busing of students hours each way was said to be a perfectly constitutional way of accomplishing this task of social engineering. Whether any of this actually improved anyone’s educational performance – it didn’t – was scarcely even raised.

By the early 1970s, even Northern states that had never engaged in overt discrimination against blacks were said to be in breach of the mandate to integrate if their school systems were de facto segregated. Now the forced busing would be extended to the North, where there had been no legal discrimination in the past, and where a majority of parents – black and white – opposed this intrusion into their local affairs.

Weaver had warned that the federal government, claiming to act on behalf of freedom, would not so restrict itself for long. "The instrumentality of union, with its united strength and its subordination of the parts, is an irresistible temptation to the power-hungry of every generation," he wrote. "The strength of union may first be exercised in the name of freedom, but once it has been made monopolistic and unassailable, it will, if history teaches anything, be used for other purposes" (emphasis added). He observed in another context that "[w]hen doctrinaire liberalism is applied to societies," the result is "an enforced Utopia sustained by the police state."

The only use a liberal has for power, said Weaver, is to destroy. Anyone who thinks liberalism will restrict its use of federal power to the purely benign is deceiving himself. "If these fanatical destroyers are allowed to have their way," he warned, "the next thing to be challenged will be the basis on which the more general ‘American way of life’ is forming. The same charges of inequity leveled against the Southern regime will be leveled against capitalism, private property, the family, and even individuality."

With the Civil War over and the American nation consolidated (in 1869, the Supreme Court blandly described secession as "unconstitutional," without deigning to justify that statement with evidence), the imperially minded could turn their attention at last to the international arena. Weaver remarked, "One cannot feign surprise, therefore, that thirty years after the great struggle to consolidate and unionize American power, the nation embarked on its career of imperialism. The new nationalism enabled Theodore Roosevelt, than whom there was no more staunch advocate of union, to strut and bluster and intimidate our weaker neighbors. Ultimately it launched American upon its career of world imperialism, whose results are now being seen in indefinite military conscription, mountainous debt, restriction of dissent, and other abridgments of classical liberty."

The American South has often been criticized for being slow to adopt modern ideas, and for being insufficiently "progressive." But the South with which Richard Weaver attempts to acquaint us, while doubtless imperfect, possesses some of the characteristics of the tragic hero. Southerners attempted to resist the spirit of the age – this was, after all, the age of the unifications of Germany and Italy – as well as overwhelming military force. By resisting the idea of a centralized, consolidated nation, the South kept alive a pre-modern conception of political authority that acknowledged the independence and integrity of the constituent parts that comprised political society, and which rejected the idea that a single, irresistible sovereign voice had the right to ride roughshod over traditional local rights. (The South was Althusius to the North’s Rousseau.) Southerners are thus an inspiration to people anywhere who wish to keep regional cultures alive in the face of the standardization and uniformity enforced by modern, unitary states.

Southerners could not have known of the historically unprecedented destruction that such large-scale centralized states would wreak in the twentieth century. But having attempted to resist the transformation of the United States from a decentralized republic of many jurisdictions to a centralized state little different from that forged during the French Revolution, they made a stand against what has proven to be one of the most destructive institutions in history. Indeed, Professor Donald Livingston of Emory University has described the modern unitary state precisely as

one of the most destructive forces in history. Its wars and totalitarian revolutions have been without precedent in their barbarism and ferocity. But in addition to this, it has persistently subverted and continues to subvert those independent social authorities and moral communities on which eighteenth-century monarchs had not dared to lay their hands. Its subversion of these authorities, along with its success in providing material welfare, has produced an ever increasing number of rootless individuals whose characters are hedonistic, self-absorbed, and without spirit. We daily accept expropriations, both material and spiritual, from the central government which our ancestors in 1776 and 1861 would have considered non-negotiable.

In a similar vein, Weaver cited the lament of Alexander Stephens, Vice President of the Confederate States of America:

If centralism is ultimately to prevail; if our entire system of free Institutions as established by our common ancestors is to be subverted, and an Empire is to be established in their stead; if that is to be the last scene of the great tragic drama now being enacted: then, be assured, that we of the South will be acquitted, not only in our own consciences, but in the judgment of mankind, of all responsibility for so terrible a catastrophe, and from all guilt of so great a crime against humanity.

The South, as a result both of the devastation she endured during the Civil War and the orthodox Christianity in which she has believed, has appreciated the element of tragedy in human existence, and has therefore viewed with skepticism those whose utopian schemes neglect both common sense as well as the baneful influence of original sin. An appreciation of this important insight has never been more urgently needed than now, when the American foreign policy establishment believes it reasonable to remake the political culture of an entire region of the world, as if societies were mere tinkertoys, easily taken apart and reassembled.

Around the world, secession and devolution movements abound; even the European Union can at times be heard to acknowledge the desire for devolution. The Confederate Battle Flag, ignorantly condemned by American Jacobins as a symbol of slavery that should be forcibly uprooted wherever it is found, has been seen to fly wherever in the world a people seeks to resist their subordination to unchecked central authority. These are some of the valuable things that Richard Weaver found in Southern civilization, and why we can say, with Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens, that "the cause of the South is the cause of us all."

September 30, 2003

Professor Thomas E. Woods, Jr. [woodst@sunysuffolk.edu] holds an AB from Harvard and a PhD from Columbia. He teaches history, is associate editor of The Latin Mass Magazine, and is co-author of The Great Façade: Vatican II and the Regime of Novelty in the Roman Catholic Church (2002). His next book, on Catholic thought during the Progressive Era, will be published next year by Columbia University Press.

An Italian translation of this article appeared in the journal Ideazione.

Copyright © 2003 LewRockwell.com

Saturday, October 01, 2005

The Father of Modern Conservatism

Edmund Burke (1729–1797)

“I flatter myself that I love a manly, moral, regulated liberty as well as any gentleman... It is one of the gifts of Providence.�

Born, raised, and educated in Ireland, Edmund Burke was one of the most well-known British statesmen and political philosophers of the eighteenth century. After gaining early recognition for his literary skills, Burke entered Parliament in 1766 and remained there for the next two decades.

Burke is often remembered for his vehement opposition to the French Revolution, presented in his Reflections on the Revolution in France. He saw in the French Revolution a fatal danger: A zealous but misguided state can destroy the delicate attachments on which a free society is built.

Because of his defense of tradition, Burke is sometimes thought of as a reactionary. Yet he loved liberty and favored many classical liberal positions in politics, religion, and economics. Burke never separated religion and liberty; he maintained that liberty is only possible because it is part of the eternal and transcendent moral order. His great concern was that freedom should never be confused with license; that true liberty must always be understood as ordered liberty.

In economics, Burke believed that private property is the foundation of a just social order and the spur to personal industry and national prosperity. He argued passionately against intrusive government monopolies and in favor of widespread access to acquiring property, which he thought serves as a powerful check on encroachments by the state. In his view, moral education by intermediary social institutions-the family, the church, the local community-can only flourish if the property that supports those institutions is secure. His support of economic liberty earned him the respect of Adam Smith, and his powerful defense of morally informed liberty earned Burke the admiration of Lord Acton, who regarded him as a timeless model of humane learning, religious virtue, and enlightened political action.

Sources: Selected Writings and Speeches of Edmund Burke edited by Peter J. Stanlis (Regnery Gateway, 1963), and The Political Economy of Edmund Burke by Francis Canavan (Fordham University Press, 1995).



Edmund Burke's Legacy by Andrew Webster

A Tribute on the 200th Anniversary of his Death

ON 9th JULY 1797 the statesman and the philosopher Edmund Burke died, after having contracted stomach cancer. He was buried in Beaconsfield Church near his Buckinghamshire home. Burke had been a distinguished Member of Parliament but never attained high office. His political career must be judged a failure.
However, Edmund Burke's true legacy was contained in his extensive writings. In letters,pamphlets and books he expounded a coherent system of ideas about human nature;the organic state; the benefits of prejudice;the dangers of government by secret consensus and the role of political parties.
Two hundred years on, most scholars would agree that Burke had a gift for deep analysis conveyed in stylish English prose.Yet the content of his work though remains controversial. Supporters included the poet William Wordsworth, who called Burke: "the most sagacious politician of his age". Karl Marx, on the other hand, complained in Das Kapital that Burke was a bourgeois stooge of the English ruling class. Marxists took particular offence at Burke's critique of egalitarianism, perhaps realising the radical threat which this presented to their own vision of a future society.
Modern liberals and conservatives still acclaim some of Burke's ideas, but their interest is largely rhetorical. Burke's liberal tendencies would almost certainly not go far enough for today's liberals. His support for the abolition of slavery was only gradualist, his religious toleration did not extend to atheists (whom he saw as dangerous criminals) and, whilst in favour of curbing royal patronage, Burke supported monarchy and aristocracy. Meanwhile, his conservative defence of Parliament, the nation and the Anglican Church would presumably be a sheer embarrassment to today's Conservative Party, which has embraced European Union and a secular, free market ideology.
This two-part article will outline some of Edmund Burke's key ideas and assess their relevance to nationalism. His contribution is an important one. Sadly, Burke's clarity and complete lack of political correctness must limit his appeal in the modern age. In 1997 and beyond Burke seems destined to become a forgotten prophet except to those who challenge the prevailing orthodoxy.

All societies are based on a particular view of human nature. Today's view, springing from Enlightenment philosophy, is that people are equal, interchangeable units of production and consumption. Differences of race, nationality, culture, gender and ability are seen as obstacles to social harmony which must be removed.Burke witnessed the emergence of this fallacy and condemned it.The intellectuals of his age blamed "special ties" for causing conflict and injustice. A typical example of such thinking was Richard Price's Discourse on the Love of Our Country (1789). Dr. Price argued that patriotism was "a blind and narrow principle,producing a contempt of other countries" and he called upon people to become "citizens of the world". Burke's most famous tract,Reflections on the Revolution in France,strongly attacked Price.
Instead of forcing people to conform to a model of an "ideal society", Burke started by studying man's true nature. He observed that real people were not abstract "men" but Englishmen, Frenchmen, Indians and the like.Burke wrote: "We begin our public affections in our families... we pass on to our neighbourhoods". He accepted that human beings have distinctive identities, that we love our kin above strangers and that this must affect the type of society we create. It is not morally bad, it is simply the way we are. "To love the little platoon we belong to in society is the first principle of public affections. It is the first link in the series by which we proceed towards a love to our country and to mankind". (1)

In defending the family, locality and nation,Burke stood for a natural, organic state as opposed to an artificial one based on planning. At a time when machines like steam engines were transforming the economy,many argued that society could also be planned and precision engineered. The French Revolution was an attempt to redesign a country in this way.
However, advances in botany and zoology showed that, whereas machines were rigid, repetitive and tended to break down, organic life is flexible, adaptable and self-perpetuating. Burke, along with the Romantic poets, preferred to base society on evolutionary nature, making it "a permanent body composed of transitory parts". Today's world is dominated by artificial empires, multinational firms and bureaucracies, which treat human beings as components. If Burke was right, the future will belong not to these, but to human scale structures which have grown over hundreds of years.

"People will not look forward to posterity", Burke wrote, "who never look backward to their ancestors" (2). His famous definition of society was that it was a contract between the living, the dead and those who are yet to be born. Each individual is merely a cell in a larger body. The individual dies, but the body carries on. Therefore it is the body that matters.If we accept that we are citizens in an "eternal society",we must never turn our backs on tradition because this age-old wisdom is the experience of our race.Tradition is a better guide to action than is abstract reason. This is because "the individual is foolish. The multitude is foolish; but the species is wise....as a species it almost always acts right' (3).
Modern society embraces a dynamic change and sees the past as obsolete.It destroys the old to build the new. Burke called this "a liberal descent" and warned "unsocial, uncivil, unconnected chaos". He urged respect for institutions on the same grounds as for men: "on account of their age and on account of those from whom they are descended".
History, claimed Burke's biographer, "was always central to his thought. A nation's manners and morals, its religions and political institutions, its social structure, were all prescribed by its past....the outlines of the "script" were already written" (4). Now we must ask ourselves: is government from Brussels,economic control by multinationals,US cultural imperialism and Afro-Asian colonization prescribed by our past?And is it fair to our children.

Burke's desire to make Britain into "one family, one body, one heart and soul" had important moral implications. Are we obliged to put our nation first, as we do with our families, even when outsiders and foreigners are more in need of our help? Must we stand by our own and related people in every conflict even when `world opinion' decrees that they are wrong? Burke's answer to both questions was yes. He denounced Britons who befriended foreigners whilst oppressing their fellow countrymen. "To transfer humanity from its natural basis, our legitimate and homebred connexions, to lose all feeling for those who have grown up by our sides....and to hunt abroad after foreign affections is a disarrangement of the whole system of our duties." Such "displaced benevolence" was "fatal to society" and worse than bigotry (5).
Charity should begin at home. Of course it does not have to end there. If people wish to donate money to foreign causes they should be allowed to do so. But in cases where outsiders are supported against our own kind this is clearly a moral evil.

As a Christian, Burke acknowledged a certain moral equality of mankind "that is to be found by virtue in all conditions". But egalitarianism as a political programme he opposed on two grounds. Firstly it was unjust,as it relied upon compulsion, encouraged envy and inevitably levelled people down since levelling them up is impossible. (We know it is impossible because people are genetically unequal; Burke, unaware of genetics, used a `scarcity of resources' argument. For example: dividing a chocolate bar among 100 people leaves each person effectively nothing). Secondly, equality undermined the natural order of things, nature being hierarchical. Burke believed that: "Political equality is against nature. Social equality is against nature. Economic equality is against nature. The idea of equality is subversive of order"(6).
Since defying nature is unworkable, equality is "a monstrous fiction" (7). At worst, ambitious elites use equality as a pretext to reallocate resources to themselves. At best,well-intentioned people see equality as no more than a benign aspiration. They think it would be just in theory but of course not when applied to themselves in practice, lest this endanger their own privileges. This is perhaps the greater error. "Abstract principles,however appealing, cannot be applied directly to solve real political problems. Any attempt to do so will have futile or harmful results. There is no such thing as a political principle which is good in itself, but not practicable. If it is not practicable then it is not good.
In Part II of `Edmund Burke's Legacy' the focus will be on other pertinent aspects of Burke's thought. These include his views on:prejudice as being a form of wisdom; "human rights" as being rooted in a specific culture rather than inherited by all people; the dangers of a dual system of government (open and secret) and Burke's belief that political parties should be ideological and that their ideologies should involved "pursuing the national interest'.

1. Reflections on the French Revolution,Edmund Burke, J.M. Dent & Sons Ltd,1955,
(Everyman edition), p 44.
2. Reflections, p 31.
3. Edmund Burke's Works and Correspondence, vol X, (1852), p 97.
4. Edmund Burke: His Life and Opinions,Stanley Ayling, John Murray Publishers
(1988), p 152.
5. Works and Correspondence, vo) VI, p 21.
6. Edmund Burke and the Critique of Political Radicalism, Michael Freeman, Blackwell
(1980), p 21.


By Andrew Webster

PART ONE OF this article (Vanguard N0.51)outlined five of Edmund Burke's ideas which are of relevance to nationalism. These were: that man is tied to a family, locality and nation; that society is organic rather than mechanistic; that the past, present and future are linked; that as a nation we must put our own people first; and that equality, like most abstract doctrines, is "a monstrous fiction". These points were all fundamental to Burke's world view. We will now examine some further ideas which are perhaps less well known, but are nonetheless valuable postscripts which help us to understand Burke in greater depth.

In today's climate, wisdom and prejudice are seen as opposite. Prejudices (pre-judgements in advance of the facts - usually negative pre-judgements) are considered ignorant and irrational. Edmund Burke would have been surprised by this. Unlike modern liberals, Burke examined the origin of prejudice, its nature and function. Prejudice originates in past, collective experiences and contains "the wisdom of the ages". Burke wrote of prejudices: "the longer they have lasted, and the more generally they have prevailed, the more we cherish them". (1)
This is far from irrational. As individuals we have a limited experience of the world, because our lives are short. We rely on knowledge accumulated by generations of our ancestors, which provides a useful shortcut to dealing with our own problems. Our ancestors learned to fear the unknown. When foreign peoples descended on a community (the Danes, Vikings and others) it led to dislocation, conflict and loss. Only people with no experience of history could possibly welcome outsiders and not feel prejudice against them.
The nature of prejudice, is a feeling or emotion which transcends reason. Burke claimed: "When our feelings contradict our theories....the feelings are true, and the theory is false". Feelings are not easy to convey in rational terms. Some of the people who hold prejudices may indeed be ignorant and inarticulate. However the prejudices themselves cannot be ignorant, since they are never the product solely of one mind or time.
The function of prejudice is to act as a survival aid. It rescues us from danger when we do not have time to think from first principles. When humans are confronted by a lion they feel fear. Perhaps they have never met a lion before and its intentions may be entirely benign. But the collective experience of our species is that lions are hostile and so we have a prejudice against them. Burke's conclusion, therefore, is that prejudices are wise. Men of understanding "instead of exploding general prejudices, employ their sagacity to discover the latent wisdom which prevails in them".If they find this wisdom,"they think it more wise to continue the prejudice".

Human rights are a topical issue. Western politicians argue that every adult person should have the right to vote, and they condemn autocratic countries. But is the right to vote universal to all humans? It may be appropriate in certain Western cultures, but it is surely less important in places like Afghanistan or New Guinea, where it has no roots and is an alien imposition. Are there any rights universal to all humans? Some might include the right to hold private property; the right of children not to be physically punished by their teachers; the right of criminals to be treated humanely. But such rights do not have universal assent, so how can they be applied to every nation and every age?
For Edmund Burke, rights were not universal but particular to each society and handed down by our forefathers. Burke claimed that his view of rights was the traditional British view. In Magna Carta and in the 1689 Declaration of Right - the cornerstone of our constitution - there is no mention of "the rights of man". In these documents, rights were regarded as a patrimony or inheritance. Burke defined rights as: "an entailed inheritance derived to us from our forefathers, and to be transmitted to our posterity; an estate specially belonging to the people of this kingdom without any reference whatever to any more general or prior right". (2). We receive and transmit our privileges"in the same manner in which we enjoy and transmit our property and our lives" (i.e. by legal and genetic inheritance).
Modern critics see this position as "startlingly illiberal": It implies, for instance, that people who have no bequest of democracy or liberty from their ancestors have no automatic right to them. "Freedom is not so much a right that is a necessary part of being human but an inheritance that is handed down to the British people as a piece of property ; might be" (3). If Burke is correct, Westminster-style democracies will never flourish in Africa or Asia, which lack the culture out of which democracy emerged. Britain's liberties would have no relevance outside Britain and would not be for export except to people of our own blood.
In Burke's day, Britain's Empire was a possible means of exporting liberties, but, he implied, only to her own colonists. "Wherever the Chosen race and sons of England worship freedom they will turn their faces towards you. The more they multiply the more friends you will have....Slavery they can have anywhere. It is a weed that grows in every soil. Freedom they can have from none but you" (4). It is no accident that Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the U.S.A. are among the world's few stable democracies. Such things as freedom of the press and the secret ballot were British inventions. Our liberties were not derived from universal principles but were the legacy of our ancestors' hard-won battles. As National Democrats we uphold the rights of the British people, but we do not wish to impose such rights on other lands.

Like other M.P.'s of his day, Burke gained his seat as the 'placeman' of a wealthy patron. Aided by the Whig Lord Rockingham, he became M.P. for Wendover and later for Bristol and then Malton in Yorkshire. Even so, by 18th Century standards Burke was an honest politician and his hatred of corruption cut short his career. Burke held office only briefly as Paymaster of the Forces from 1782-3. The establishment probably distrusted him and the feeling was mutual. In Burke's Thoughts on the Cause of the Present Discontents (1770) he exposed a"dual system of government " (open and secret). Burke alleged that behind an appearance of parliamentary debate, "a cabal of the closet and the back-stair was substituted in place of a national administration".
Although opposed to universal adult suffrage, Burke supported both freedom of speech and open debate. He wanted citizens to express their views without hazard "even though against a predominant and fashionable opinion". He believed in principled argument and despised governments in which "all their measures are decided before they are debated". This system of rule by secret consensus is alive and well. Its dangers are twofold. Firstly secret government favours vocal special interest groups which are blind to the needs of the nation. This undermines the authority of Parliament, which is "a trustee for the whole and not for the parts". Burke would have opposed legislation framed by homosexual activists, for instance. Secondly, secret governments are easy to subvert by foreign interests. Burke wrote that the worst factions were those "under the direction of foreign powers". The government is not accountable to Argentina, Ireland or Europe but to its own people.

At a time when governments were drawn from "all the talents", Burke was "the champion and idealiser of party" (5). He ridiculed Chatham's cabinet of 1766 as "a piece of mosaic...here a bit of black stone, and there a bit of white; patriots and courtiers; king's friends and republicans; whigs and tories....". Burke was an ideologist who advocated what was then a novel concept: a party system. Burke defined a party as "a body of men united for promoting by their joint endeavours the national interest, upon some particular principle in which they are all agreed". He hoped that parties would be more public-spirited than factions based on personal ambition. After all, people do not own power for their own benefit, but are "temporary possessors" of it, appointed to serve the nation.
Edmund Burke's ideal party was one of "firm, determined patriots...who will fix the state upon these bases of morals and politics which are our old and immemorial and, I hope, will be our eternal possession" (6). His great fear was that opportunists and mercenaries might take power and, for personal gain, actually dissolve the nation they were elected to run. "The whole chain and continuity of the Commonwealth would be broken. No one generation would be able to link with the other. Men would become little better than flies of a summer". Britain can only be well-governed by people with "long views", committed for ever to the welfare of the indigenous population.

To end on a lighter note, Edmund Burke was a great advocate of leisure and relaxation. As an M.P., he was well-qualified for this. In Burke's day, M.P.'s were on holiday between five and six months of the year - to give time for grouse shooting, fox hunting and other pursuits. In contrast, members of the French Assembly, to Burke's horror, were always working. He declared: "They who always labour can have no true judgement. You never give yourselves time to cool. You can never survey the work you have finished. You can never plan the future by the past" (7). Perhaps readers would like to try this line of argument on their bosses, teachers or partners? It is unlikely to impress them. But, as always with Burke, he does have a valid point.

1. For Burke's view of prejudice, see his Reflections on the French Revolution, J.M. Dent & Sons,1955, p.84.
2. Burke discusses rights in his Reflections on the French Revolution, pp29-33.
3. England and the French Revolution, Stephen Prickett, Macmillan,1989, p.49.
4. Cited in Spirit of England, Arthur Bryant, Collins,1982.
5. For Burke's view of parties, see Edmund Burke: His Life and Opinions, StanIey Ayling, John Murray Publishers,1988, p.73.
6. Letter to a Member of the French National Assembly,1791.
7. Ibid. Note that the last sentence is often quoted out of context, giving the opposite meaning to that which Burke intended. He did think we can plan the future by the past.