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    • crakpot

      “We hold these truths to be self-evident”
      Not our opinion. Not a proposed system. Truth. The founding was more than some social experiment. The founders were making a statement of conscience about right and wrong on matters of government. I can not find a syllable of untruth in the words that followed.

      They did “settle the goals of government” – to help secure our God-given rights to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. Securing the right to life obviously includes deterring aggression and defending the nation when that fails. “Liberty” does not mean getting to do whatever you want – there is no such thing as a right to do a wrong. It is freedom, from unjust power, to do as one ought. “Happiness” is the conscious possession of that which is good, which includes family, work and property, and the true religion. It is right to pursue that which is due.

      The founders also settled for government the “grounds of its decisions” – consent of the governed. For us, that means overwhelming approval for Constitutional powers limited to helping secure those rights. Elections are just to hire people temporarily to execute those powers. It is wrong to take power without consent of the governed, no matter how right you think your goals are.

      • http://jimkalb.com/ James Kalb

        Do you think that Jefferson meant by “liberty” the freedom to do what is right, and by “happiness” the good life crowned by the true religion? Seems optimistic. I doubt, for example, he would have wanted to government to take action to make the true religion more readily available to people.

        On your other point, consent of the governed is the ground of government decisions only in a pure democracy, which the United States has never been and was never intended to be. In other cases it serves as a limitation on decision.

        • crakpot

          I do not care to read Jefferson’s mind – it is only the voice of conscience that flowed through his pen that matters:

          It is illogical to define rights as coming from God, then say one of them, liberty, is a right to do a wrong. John Paul II made this point about freedom beautifully. Happiness was well defined by St. Thomas Aquinas, and it is ludicrous to suggest that a function of government is to supply religion to the people (isn’t that what Robespierre did?). In fact, it is elements within government itself that are usually the threat to our pursuit of the truth on spiritual matters, which is why the 1st Amendment is a prohibition on Congress. It is important to note that this amendment does not acknowledge a “right” to practice whatever you might call “religion,” nor a “right” to say whatever you want. It is not right to so much as take the name of the Lord in vain, and the first three Commandments make it clear that it is wrong to worship false gods. All we have is the right to pursue truth and act on it when we find it, and the right to freedom from elements within government to do so.

          Pure democracy was well defined by Benjamin Franklin as “two wolves and a sheep voting on what’s for dinner.” Catholics would do well to remember what the vote was between Barabbas and Jesus. There was consent from white people to enslave black people at the founding. We have a ruler with consent (from 51% of the 40% of the population who bothers to vote) to steal from Catholic collection baskets to pay baby killers. I would bet there is consent of men in the Middle East to stone women and torch churches. What these examples of democracy have in common is that they do not have true consent of those truly governed, or if they do have it, it is consent to powers that violate the rights of the minority.

          • http://jimkalb.com/ James Kalb

            I think we agree that the best way to support what has been best in American life and thus make sense of it is to adopt the Catholic outlook. I agree that government does not supply the people with religion, any more than it supplies the people with the good, beautiful, and true or for that matter with good health and prosperity, but it does seem to me that things go better when government understands such things correctly and treats them as important goods.

            • crakpot

              I certainly agree that Catholicism holds the truth, but God can pick whomever he wishes to speak through, even if only for a single sentence of conscience, including a remorseful slaveholder who’s religion is unclear.

              As to government people, things go better when they restrain themselves to only using the powers we lend them, only to help secure certain God-given rights. If they don’t understand, they shouldn’t be there in the first place, but often are. In that case, all I want is their obedience to our law, the Constitution. It’s not our job to teach them, nor are positions of power any place for on-the-job training. George Washington was very pragmatic about them:

              “Government is not reason; it is not eloquence; it is force. Like fire, it makes a dangerous servant, and a fearful master.”

              • http://jimkalb.com/ James Kalb

                In order to figure out what the rights are, and how to interpret and apply them in various situations, governments have to have some sort of understanding of what man, life, and the world are all about. Otherwise they won’t be able to act rationally and coherently. So you can’t exclude religious considerations from public life.

                • crakpot

                  Amendment 9
                  “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”

                  Government doesn’t start from scratch to “figure out what the rights are.” We’ve already listed the few we have given them power over. Most “interpretation” of those few is in reality distortion to suit their ends.

                  One defect I see with our Constitution is that we’ve entrusted government to police itself on breaking our law. The checks and balances within government have proven too weak. The States are not enforcing the Tenth Amendment as they should. The only answer remaining seems to be “whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it.” However, I think there should be some power in the hands of the people between these hopeless elections and court challenges and the provisions of the Second Amendment.

          • Michael Paterson-Seymour

            Scalia J put it rather well in an interview with Catholic News Service, June 14, 1996 “”The minority loses, except to the extent that the majority, in its document of government, has agreed to accord the minority rights.”

            “Thus in the United States Constitution we have removed from the majoritarian system of democracy the freedom of speech, the freedom of religion, and a few other freedoms that are named in the Bill of Rights. The whole purpose of that is that the people themselves, that is to say the majority, agree to the rights of the minority on those subjects — but not on other subjects.”

            That seems simple enough.

            • crakpot

              Scalia has voted well, but he is wrong about our rights. Rights come from God, not majorities. Only power, or freedom from power, comes from them. That’s what happens when you look only at the form of government (the Constitution), and not the purpose of it (the Declaration).

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