Saturday, December 6, 2008

Liberalism And The Certificate

The founders of the United States did not believe that democracy or majority rule was a sacred process or even that it was of preeminent importance, but rather that democracy was a safeguard against incursions on liberty. Much of the Federalist Papers, written by Hamilton, Madison and Jay, was devoted to explaining why the availability of a frontier and the checks and balances inherent in a republican form of government could counteract faction and tendency toward tyranny inherent in democracy. Until the time of the founding, democracies and republics had been short lived and had inevitably devolved into tyranny. These included the Athenian democracy and the Roman republic.

By 1900 the American democracy had lived longer than the Athenian democracy and by a number of measures had been more successful. The claim that the frontier would provide an overflow space to which persecuted minorities could escape hearkened back to the days of Roger Williams, who had founded Rhode Island after being kicked out of Massachusetts for religious heresy. But by 1900 the physical frontier had been filled and the "Progressives" of that day began to call for a reassertion of democratic (as opposed to republican) principles based on European and Rousseauean arguments that there is a "popular" or "general" will that can be expressed through democracy and that the republican safeguards of liberty that the founders had established were unnecessary because American democracy had matured. This was an explicit rejection of the concept of natural rights and freedom on which American republican had previously been based. It was not, as the historian Louis Hartz argued, a liberal argument. It was a rejection of liberalism in favor of statism and authoritarianism.

The chief Progressives, Herbert Croly and Walter Weyl, made the Progressive arguments in slightly different ways. Croly saw Progressivism as the fulfillment of democracy and he saw democracy as an end in itself. Weyl saw Progressivism as a stepping stone to socialism, and in this he was closer to the New Deal Democrats who in many ways fulfilled the aims of the earlier Progressive politicians, especially Theodore Roosevelt.

One far reaching aspect of Progressivism was its claim that there is no such thing as rights. Institutionalist economists such as John R. Commons, who based their doctrines on the German historical school of economics, argued that natural rights were mystical or illegtimiate constructs. Rather, the popular will ought to be ascendant. Of course, this argument can be made about any moral value, including democracy, popular will, social justice and the like. However, the Progressives had a one-sided skepticism that smashed the individual as it mystically exalted the collective.

The claim that democratic processes lead to benign decision making is itself a mystical belief. This is so because the belief in "social good" is an emotional, artificial construct that is vacuous of meaning. As well, and more concretely, the political processes that democracy opens up counteract democracy. More means less. That is, on a practical level the reduction of republican safeguards results in less, not more, democracy.

This latter observation has been made by economists like Mancur Olson and George Stigler who have studied the behavior of special interest groups. The economics of public choice inhibit intelligent decision making by population masses because the economics of obtaining information inhibits most people from learning the facts. Conversely, narrow special interests, which include economic interests like banks, the auto industry, public employee unions and environmental and other do-good lobbies, tend to be more effective at lobbying than the general public. The reason is that economic incentives favor narrow interest groups that enjoy high levels of economic benefits. Two classic examples are the role of Wall Street and the banking industry in lobbying the Federal Reserve Bank and the health industry in securing licensure and favorable regulation. Of course, there are countless lobbies that get their way, from hair dressers to insurance agents to school teachers. The one thing you can be sure of is that Joe the Plumber cannot tell you the ramifications of an oil depletion allowance or the details of a regulation under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974. However, lobbyists can tell you, and often write the law.

America was not founded on the doctrine of popular will but rather of protection of liberty. The election of president increased in importance because of Progessivism, and Herbert Croly explicitly argued that the election of President ought to reflect the newfound popular will.

The question has recently arisen as to Barack Obama's citizenship. It is probable that there is nothing wrong with his elibilibity to be president, but the question is a Constitutional one. Article II of the Constitution requires that the president be a natural born citizen, and there is little reason to change this requirement. The question of divided loyalty is important enought to take seriously.

The quickness with which today's Progressives, ill-educated in elite universities that indoctrinate as to the values of Progressivism as opposed to Lockean liberalism, would ignore or amend the Constitution to reflect Mr. Obama's election is indicative of a long standing trend toward authoritarianism cloaked in democratic garb. The Constitution serves as a safeguard against incursions on liberty, and its erosion implies the expansion of state power, the reduction of individual freedom and, therefore, the erosion of the freedom on which American success rests.

This is not a picaynune or partisan claim. The Founders were right to be concerned about what de Tocqueville called tyranny of the majority. As Madison pointed out, faction is an ever present threat to liberty, and constitutional safeguards are necessary to protect liberty. Over time, America has seen an erosion of liberty even as democratic processes have been enhanced. One cannot save much of one's income because it is taken by taxation. One cannot freely start a business because regulation inhibits free enterprise even as the state's favored businesses, banks and automobile companies, receive massive tax transfers. These erosions have been made possible in part because of a lax attitude toward the Constitution.

The question of Mr. Obama's birth certificate is a legal one, and if Mr. Obama is ineligible to be president because he does not meet constitutional requirements, he cannot be allowed to serve. Without a clear constitution, the United States will continue along the path to centralized, authoritarian rule. This is entirely consistent with democracy by a slow witted, easily bamboozled public that is susceptible to media manipulation and has been miseducated to believe in authoritarian, statist solutions.


Diogenes said...

Do you wear a powdered wig beneath that tinfoil hat? Knee breeches, snuff, the whole panoply of ceremonial accoutrements for the well-coiffed and well-bred gentleman of leasure in the 18th Century?

And you, of all people, talk about "elite universities"? Your employer wouldn't normally be listed as such, but it appears that you are doing your single-handed best to give them at least a small corner of elitism at their little workingman's college.

Barry Truthgun said...

"The question of Mr. Obama's birth certificate is a legal one"

Well his certificate states prima facie on it so once someone can implicate in court it is fake they have a case. Anonymous bloggers with fake Phd is pretty thin for court when Hawaiian officials counter them.

Mitchell Langbert said...

Meletus, your illiterate, Progressive arrogance is once again shining through. Why don't you sit down and read, a process hardly known to Progressives. Start with the Federalist Papers, and you will begin to see why Progressives are not Americans. And why Progressivism is the ideology of elitist exploiters, whose lackey you are.

Diogenes said...

"The question of Mr. Obama's birth certificate is a legal one."

And SCOTUS, to put it as politely as possible, threw Donofrio out on his ass.


George Arthur said...

"Anonymous bloggers with fake Phd is pretty thin for court when Hawaiian officials counter them."

They say a "mind is a terrible thing to waste," but when you read a statement like that, it makes you wonder if there is anything left to waste.

First of all Dr. Polarik is not anonymous. His name and his research have been on the Free Republicfor the past six months. His name and his 160-page, fully detailed, fully document research report has been featured on World Net Daily and about 300,000 other websites.

Not exactly "anonymous" and not something that a person with a fake PhD would even dream of doing.

Now, the real fakes are the glory seekers, the ones looking to trash Polarik as a way to pimp their own, sorry butts.

There is this one guy who has gone out of his way to shout his name everywhere he can, someone jealous of Polarik's well-deserved attention, someone who waves around his run-of-the-mill geek degree as if it meant something special -- which it doesn't -- and he thinks that can go toe-to-toe with Dr. Polarik's four months of documented research with something that looks like he threw together on his lunch-hour.

Polarik, in turn, pointed out how his "review" is filled with opinions, irrelevant facts, and what little concrete evidence provided makes no sense whatsoever.

Other than the three letters, "P", "H" and "D" being the same, comparing Polarik's professional doctorate, along with 25 additional years of experience beyond that, to this buy's technical degree, is like comparing a Nobel Prize to a box top.

You know, if you cannot appreciate the hard work that Polarik has done, and his attention to detail and documentation, and don't have any sense of what was proven, then you have nothing to offer in return, except lame excuses to protect your boy, Obama (or is it Soetoro?)

Anonymous said...


A few comments:

1 lighten up
2 SCOTUS made no comment on the substance of the allegations. No matter, this will continue to erode and smolder away. No one, not a single party, is well served by this ruling. For what it is worth, I cannot send my children to school with a long form certificate AND a full physical which includes current and past medical history. Mr. Obama has done neither, or perhaps there is no money left in his $700B warchest for a $12.00 long form certificate?
3) you'll have to excuse me, but a native of the land of Lincoln, we have grown a little bit cynical and skeptical of our elected officials. The lack of transparency in too many matters can cause problems.
3) Nothing will stop Mr. Obama from sitting in the oval office. To that end, he is now our guy at the helm, and I sincerely wish him the best. I certainly hope that he matures, governs from the center, and learns to avoid the types of people and indescretions of his youth while here in IL.


Barry Truthgun said...

Polarik isn't his real name. He admits that. He got his Phd online and never testified in court as an expert. The Hawaii Health Dept. is more credible and contradicts him.