More on Presidential Power as Rescuer: A Rejoinder

Joe Hargrave’s response in Crisis to my articlePresidential Power: A Rescuer, Not a Nemesis” was thoughtful, but contained certain problematical assertions. The first was his suggestion that my call for a new American Cincinnatus—an utterly virtuous, capable, and self-limiting leader who will exercise sweeping executive power in our critical current situation—is an “appeal to authoritarianism.” Authoritarianism means strong-arm rule. It opposes liberty, insists on something approaching unquestioning obedience, and suppresses political opposition. I made clear that, quite the contrary, what the strong—maybe even unprecedented—exercise of presidential power is needed for now is to restore our ebbing liberties and the democratic republic of our Founding Fathers.

Hargrave’s alternative is to call for the states to take the lead in resisting abusive federal power. I certainly agree that excessive centralization must be reversed and a sound notion of federalism restored; this is part of what the new American Cincinnatus is needed to do. Hargrave’s openness to state nullification of federal actions is based upon the false premise that the states and the federal government are equally sovereign. The supremacy clause of the Constitution simply defeats that argument. The best that can be said of the states is that they are semi-sovereign entities. The Republic established by the Constitution was something different than the Confederation that preceded it. A defining characteristic of a confederation is that its constituent elements can withdraw at will, for the very reason that each is sovereign. Both Abraham Lincoln and the great “states rights” figure Andrew Jackson before him maintained that that was not so. Lincoln prosecuted the Civil War to stop such a thing from happening and Jackson made clear when he send a warship into Charleston Harbor during the Nullification Crisis—yes, the threat of a state to nullify a federal policy—that he was prepared to do the same thing. Well short of nullification, the seminal 1859 Supreme Court decision of Ableman v. Booth—in line with the status of the states as semi-sovereign—said that state courts don’t even have the authority to overturn federal court decisions.

If Hargrave thinks that the states are even likely to mount a major campaign of opposition to federal overreaching and the destructive trends that have been part of it, he should consider that the states have shared the responsibility for the weakening of federalism and their own power. As I argued in The Transformation of the American Democratic Republic, one of the major reasons for this development has been federal grant-in-aid programs to the states. The states can hardly ever turn down federal largesse—even though it requires them to accept conditions that result in the trimming of their policymaking authority. Indeed, I mentioned that the president to be sought must put the country on the path of gradual disengagement from policies that have created excessive centralization and inordinate federal power. Further, the states that Hargrave wants to turn to as the leaders of opposition to destructive trends have, in many cases, helped to further them. This is seen with same-sex “marriage”—it’s the states that are legalizing it—and the Justina Pelletier case I mentioned in which the outrageously anti-parent child protective system—administered by the states, even if the federal Mondale Act was the enabler—was in full relief. Let’s also remember that it was the states that mandated the repressive Jim Crow racial system. While Catholics certainly stress the principle of subsidiarity, we shouldn’t have any illusions about the abundance of virtue at the local and state level.

While Hargrave may be correct that “the culture war issues” weren’t intended “to be under the purview of the federal government,” the fact of the matter is that many of them are—and federal government institutions have imposed on the country resolutions to them that are inimical to the natural law (as seen with the Supreme Court legalizing abortion, pornography, sodomy, and perhaps soon same-sex “marriage”). It is also with the current federal administration that we are seeing some of the most pronounced assaults on traditional liberties and constitutional principles. The reality is that it has to be at the federal level that the crux of the opposition to this must occur. One can talk all one wants to about nullification and the like, but it is almost purely in the realm of academic, theoretical discussion. If bringing forth the new American Cincinnatus will be difficult, it is at once unrealistic, unconstitutional, unhistorical, and dangerous to push for something like nullification. There certainly can and should be state resistance to the increasing growth of the federal administrative state (if state officials would be willing to wean themselves from federal dependency), but that resistance can go only so far. Nullification or interposition would not be legitimate, or even effective, in the very unlikely event things even got to that point.

To be sure, as Hargrave states, there is a distinct danger to relying on an unprecedented exercise of presidential power. Another occupier of the office who is not the man of virtue and self-restraint that a Cincinnatus or Solon-type of figure would be could then have an easier path to despotism. There is, however, another way of looking at it. As I said, this kind of president would take dramatic initiatives to restore our crumbling traditional liberties, compromised Constitution, and the very democratic republic that our Founding Fathers established (that I concluded in The Transformation of the American Democratic Republic has slipped away). Such an insistent effort—over, hopefully, a full eight years—will make likely (presuming he’s as competent, politically astute, and prudent as he will be exemplary of character) significant success in this. That will hardly lead to a despot after him; if anything, it will make this much less likely.

Further, if he begins the effort of cultural renewal—and there are innumerable ways, big and small, at his disposal to do this even if as I said actually changing a culture is much beyond one man—this will help to rejuvenate the societal norms that must undergird a democratic republic and make it additionally unlikely that despotism would emerge. By the way, we shouldn’t underestimate the influence that an American president can have in igniting cultural and moral renewal. Queen Victoria—who had virtually no political power—had a major influence on this in nineteenth-century Britain. Moreover, we should also keep in mind that I said that the Founding Fathers intended the presidency to be a very strong office and that many of the powers I argued he should exercise are legitimately at his disposal. If the Founders were willing to take such a chance, why shouldn’t we?

By the way, contrary to Hargrave’s assertion, I nowhere in the article called for the executive to “defy” Congress. I spoke specifically about resisting and opposing the courts, including the Supreme Court, in “truly serious situations” and when confronted with “the most blatantly unconstitutional decisions.” As I said, there’s historical justification for this. It’s just regrettable that it hasn’t happened more in our history. Congress can resist the Court as well—I first called for that in my book, Abortion: Politics, Morality, and the Constitution—but if it doesn’t have the will or is crippled by political polarization, the president doesn’t have to wait for it. If it contributes to the problem, he doesn’t have to go along with it. I state again: in critical times, it has been executive power that has been turned to because it is best in the position to act decisively, sweepingly, and with dispatch.

Hargrave is concerned that a new American Cincinnatus could not act effectively on cultural issues because the defenders of sound morality are in the minority. As I said, he won’t himself change the culture, but don’t underestimate the effect he can have. Also, remember that Obama hasn’t necessarily had a majority behind some of his deleterious initiatives but he nevertheless has pursued them. We don’t need to wait for some new broad national consensus—if it ever comes—to reverse them. Besides, as I said, when this new president moves insistently in a different direction after initial resistance people may begin to accept it. Also, let’s remember that the major effort of this president would be to restore traditional liberties and constitutional principles. We don’t need a consensus to justify that. They are the very core of our Republic, whether or not many people any longer wish to embrace them.

Finally, Hargrave thought that the “short-term gains” that could be achieved under a new American Cincinnatus would not be worth the “long-term risks.” I’ve already answered the questions about the risks. There is no sharp disconnect between the so-called short-term and the long-term here: If we don’t act soon to restore these traditional liberties and constitutional principles, there may not be a chance in the long-term. That may open the door to despotism. Also, should we keep biding our time to wait for the changing consensus on abortion to come to full fruition so that the Supreme Court will become more likely (we hope) to change its mind when we may—possibly—have a chance to save so many more lives so much sooner?

Relying on very strong executive power, for a time, in our current critical situation may be the most likely way to address it and effectuate the changes needed. Critics often provide no other solution and have almost a fatalistic assessment of our prospects, or else—like Hargrave— offer a solution that is not likely to be workable (or, similarly, successful) and presents the specter of greater dangers.

Editor’s note: The image above titled “Cincinnatus Leaves the Plow for the Roman Dictatorship” was painted by Juan Antonio Ribera in 1806.

Stephen M. Krason

By

Stephen M. Krason's "Neither Left nor Right, but Catholic" column appears monthly (sometimes bi-monthly) in Crisis Magazine. He is Professor of Political Science and Legal Studies and associate director of the Veritas Center for Ethics in Public Life at Franciscan University of Steubenville. He is also co-founder and president of the Society of Catholic Social Scientists. He is the author, most recently, of The Transformation of the American Democratic Republic (Transaction Publishers, 2012), and editor of three volumes: Child Abuse, Family Rights, and the Child Protective System (Scarecrow Press, 2013) and The Crisis of Religious Liberty (Rowman and Littlefield, 2014); and most recently, Challenging the Secular Culture: A Call to Christians (Franciscan University Press). His next book is Catholicism and American Political Ideologies (forthcoming this fall from Hamilton Books). He is also the author of a new novel, American Cincinnatus.

  • Art Deco

    I do not think I was alone in being perplexed by your first article. The one thing I can imagine a Cincinnatus doing that would be salutary would be to withdraw the U.S. Marshal’s Service from selected federal circuits. There was a case in 1985 where a federal judge jailed three members of the Yonkers, N.Y. city council because they refused to comply with his effort to seize control of housing policy in Yonkers. The President should simply have ordered them released and told the judge he was on his own.

    That aside, our constitutional system is a broken down wreck and only a convention can repair it. The state legislatures, not Cincinnatus, must call one.

  • Michael Paterson-Seymour

    One recalls Walter Bagehot, “It is often said that men are ruled by their imaginations; but it would be truer to say they are governed by the weakness of their imaginations. The nature of a constitution, the action of an assembly, the play of parties, the unseen formation of a guiding opinion, are complex facts, difficult to know and easy to mistake. But the action of a single will, the fiat of a single mind, are easy ideas: anybody can make them out, and no one can ever forget them… The issue was put to the French people; they were asked, “Will you be governed by Louis Napoléon, or will you be governed by an assembly?” The French people said, “We will be governed by the one man we can imagine, and not by the many people we cannot imagine.””

    • Arriero

      Joseph de Maistre once said: «Wherever an altar is found, there civilization exists.» [1] He also had something to say about the misunderstanding of freedom within the pseudo-calvinist – and anti-Catholic – liberal tradition: «Man in general, if reduced to himself, is too wicked to be free.» [2] This was not new at all, insofar as the Spanish Scholastics had already understood and explained the really Catholic and consistent definition of human freedom, free of harmful subjectivism and relativism. That’s why de Maistre also added: «We are all bound to the throne of the Supreme Being by a flexible chain which restrains without enslaving us. The most wonderful aspect of the universal scheme of things is the action of free beings under divine guidance.» [3] It’s worth ending with a very wise – and prophetic – observation: «We are tainted by modern philosophy which has taught us that all is good, whereas evil has polluted everything and in a very real sense all is evil, since nothing is in its proper place.» [4]

      The evil of pseudo-calvinism – a direct heir of the Reformation – has certainly polluted everything. American Catholics need to go for the real sources of Catholicism, avoiding the play with fire. There is nothing intrinsically Catholic in the anti-government-per-se rethoric. Atheism is the necessary root of anarchism.

      [1] In The Works of Joseph de Maistre, ed. Jack Lively (1965). The count, in “Second Dialogue,” Les Soirées de Saint-Pétersbourg (1821).
      [2] The Crooked Timber of Humanity (1990). Four Chapters on Russia, ch. 1 (1859).
      [3] In The Works of Joseph de Maistre, ed. Jack Lively (1965). Considerations on France, ch. 1 (1796).
      [4] In The Works of Joseph de Maistre, ed. Jack Lively (1965). Considerations on France, ch. 3 (1796).

      • TheAbaum

        “There is nothing intrinsically Catholic in the anti-government-per-se rethoric. Atheism is the necessary root of anarchism.”

        And there is nothing intrinsically Catholic in pro-government-per-se rhetoric. The belief in limited government is based on prudence and subsidiarity and a recognition that elections, appointments and coronations do not remove original sin. It has nothing to do with anarchism or atheism.

        • Arriero

          – «The belief in limited government»

          You should read this magnum opus of three volumes about the history – moral, economic, social and political – of commerce:

          1) http://www.amazon.es/Los-enemigos-comercio-ESPASA-FORUM/dp/8467029773

          2) http://www.amazon.es/Los-enemigos-del-comercio-propiedad/dp/8467037989

          3) This volume has not yet been published.

          These books would help you a lot to put your ideas in order and speak properly (about facts and concepts and not about this cheap metaphysics concepts like this «limited government»). You say nothing when you mention «limited government». It is a hollow concept and also an oxymoron (government cannot be limited).

          The first volume analyzes «empirically» (not ideologically) the development of commerce from the ancient greeks to the french revolution. The second volume analyses in depth the XVIII and XIX centuries until the russian revolution, with impressive analysis of the relation between the birth of marxism and protestantism and the profoundly «communist spirit» (geist) of the first protestant sects that came to America. The third volume analyzes the XXth century with especial attention in China.

          I do not talk nonsense, any of my thesis are well-grounded, though here I only have space to enumerate them in an aforistic way. There is wonderful intellectual life (Catholic life actually) outside the Ivy League.

          • TheAbaum

            “I do not talk nonsense, any of my thesis are well-grounded”

            I see no evidence to support that assertion, on the contrary, I see you write only nonsense, and none of your theses have solid grounding.

            As for your comment on the Ivy League, I have no respect or loyalty to those institutions, nor have I ever expressed loyalty to them. On the contrary, I consider them high priced concentration camps peddling noxious doctrines masquerading as education.

            • Arriero

              – «On the contrary, I consider them high priced concentration camps peddling noxious doctrines masquerading as education.»

              Then we agree on something.

              • TheAbaum

                “Then we agree on something.”

                Fantastic. It makes me want to reconsider my position.

                • Arriero

                  Mine is well-grounded. I won’t reconsider it, I already know it’s the right one.

                  • TheAbaum

                    Convince yourself, you’re way beyond convincing me.

                  • TheAbaum

                    This captures my sentiments succintly.

                    • Arriero

                      I’m sure this cat has a better understanding of reality than you.

                      «No hay peor ciego que aquel que no quiere ver» (There is no worse blind than that who does not want to see).

                      I’m already convinced. It took some centuries to convince the Roman Empire. It took some centuries to convert the world.

                    • TheAbaum

                      “I’m sure this cat has a better understanding of reality than you.”

                      How would you know?

  • Arriero

    Let me shed some light on the matter and add something to the discussion:

    Donoso Cortés [1] said in a speech in the Spanish House of Representatives
    (January 30, 1850) that the Catholic civilization rests on three claims: 1) there
    is a personal God who is everywhere; 2) this God reigns in Heaven and on Earth,
    3) God governs the divine and human things. But these propositions, according
    to Donoso, corresponds to three policy statements («because the policy
    statement is the consequence of a religious affirmation»): 1) there is a King
    who is everywhere through his agents; 2) that the King reigns in his subjects;
    3) that the King also governs his vassals. But – and Donoso Cortés continues –
    the negative civilization is based on successive negations, theological
    denials, with their political denials: 1) God does not rule, although He exists
    and reigns; to theological deism corresponds the constitutional monarchy, the
    King reigns but does not govern; 2) there is no personal God but a diffuse and
    pantheistic power; to this theological doctrine corresponds in politics the
    idea of Republic, and to the pantheistic diffusion of power corresponds
    universal suffrage; 3) behind the deist is the pantheist, and behind the
    pantheist, the atheist, who says God does not exist; and Donoso affirms: «then
    comes Proudhon, gentlemen, and says ‘no government’.» To Atheism corresponds,
    therefore, anarchism. [2]

    [1] Juan Donoso Cortés, marqués de Valdegamas (6 May 1809 – 3 May 1853) was a
    Spanish author, political theorist, and diplomat. He was of conservative
    ideology, belonging to the political environment of «moderantism»
    (http://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moderantismo » and the neo-Catholics
    (http://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neocat%C3%B3licos ). He is one of the most
    important figures within the Spanish conservative – democratic and liberal –
    movement (similar to the influence of Burke in the anglo-saxon conservatism).

    [2] This comment is extracted from the book «El mito de la izquierda: las
    izquierdas y la derecha» (an impressive book of compulsory reading to
    understand the development, concept and tendencies of the differents lefts),
    written by Gustavo Bueno, probably the greatest intellectual-philosopher – in
    Spanish language – in the seconf half of the XXth century. He is, however, a
    complete stranger in anglo-saxon circles.

  • Watosh

    It seems that Americans find it obligatory when discussing Constitutional issues, to refer to the authors of the Constitution as our “founding fathers.” Which in a sense is an understandable reference, however I am uneasy about this as it has a resemblance to the regard that we Catholics hold for the early “fathers of our faith.” The use of this term, “founding fathers,” has the effect of endowing our man made, liberal Constitution, with a aura of sacredness. It seems to be another manifestation of the American tendency to self worship and self glorification.

    I expect this comment will draw the outrage of those who have drunk deeply of the drug “American Exceptionalism.” Now I am an American, and realize that we are not exempt from being born, like the rest of humanity, affected by original sin. We have done good things, and we have done bad things. We are not a “master race,” and we are not descendants of any sun goddess, two delusions that led the countries that held them to ruin. However I sometimes feel like a sober person attending a party where everyone is drunk.

    • Art Deco

      The phrase is now favored by secularists who are peddling the line that the country was foundationally areligious. That there had been British settlement in the country for 180 years before anyone sat down to meet in Philadelphia, that the the federal constitution was an adaptation of the extant political architecture of the country’s constituent units, and that 12 of the 15 constituents of British North America had formal religious establishments (and another had a religious test for public office) is waved away.

      • Watosh

        They were foundationally fervently anti-Catholic too, by the way.

        But regarding the widespread belief in certain quarters, of the religiosity of our “founding fathers,” David Holmes in his book “Faiths of our Founding Fathers,” states, Deism influenced, in one way or another, most of the political leaders who designed the American government….[I]f census takers trained in christian theologies had set up broad categories in 1790 labeled ‘Atheism’, ‘Deism and Unitarianism,’ ‘Orthodox Protestantism, ‘Orthodox Roman Catholicism’ and “Other,’ and if they had interviewed Franklin, Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison and Monroe, they would have undoubtedly have placed every one of these six founding fathers in some way under the category of “Deism and Unitarianism.’ You can look it up. Deism and Unitarianism hardly qualify as Christian religious beliefs, but rather as products of the liberal, secular “Enlightenment.”

        One does not enjoy telling children Santa Claus is a myth because this spoils a pleasant dream for them. I suppose certain people will lash out at me for supporting a position taken by secularists. I am no secularist, I am a realist, which is why I am a Catholic. I always prefer the reality rather than some myth that is supposed to pretty up a reality, because I feel knowing by knowing the truth, one can better combat error, rather than putting a gloss on an undesired reality so one can feel better about it. I am sorry for destroying anyone’s illusions. (I trust no children will be reading this, what I have said is meant for adults only.)

        • Art Deco

          Which who? You’ve got 55 men who attended the Philadelphia convention in 1787. Which were fervent on this point?

          Maryland, which had a comparatively large Catholic population, also had ugly legal disabilities imposed on that population. For the most part, the Catholic population in the late 18th century was too small to matter.

          • Watosh

            One of the things the King of England did that fueled the desire of the colonists to revolt, was allowing the Catholics of
            Quebec to freely practice their Catholic religion. This infuriated the Colonists. I merely cited some of the leaders in drawing up the Constitution. All of the 55 you mentioned did not equally contribute to the writing of the Consitution and the authors of the Constitution that are given the most credit were the men mentioned when attributing authorship.

            • Art Deco

              The same history texts who list this as a grievance pull another rabbit out of their hats and tell you that the majority of colonists were indifferent to the outcome of the Revolutionary War or favored the King. Truth is, you cannot tell much about public opinion at this distance. The religious establishments present ca. 1775 were seldom severely enforced.

              • Watosh

                I started to make a comment , but discovered I had to walk the dog, but DISCUS said that I could not just cancel out once I began, but I had to make a comment, so I said that I had to walk my dog, I wondered just what kind of a malign interpretation of this Art Deco would make of this, because he has this compulsion to take exception to most comments. So far he has shown remarkable restraint and made no comment.

                However Art did recognize that a number of colonists favored the King. Maya Jasanoff wrote an excellent history, “Liberties Exiles” of what happened to a number of Loyalists and how they were treated by those wanting independence from the “tyrannical” King. Now I fully expect Art to say that there are a number of historians who felt the freedom loving revolutionists treated those who were against the Revolution or those who merely did not want to take sides. I am not implying Art will pull something out of his hat, as I believe he has other sources. For full disclosure American Loyalists on my mothers side had their lands confiscated and had to flee to Canada after american gained its independence.

                Again, my point from the very beginning is that the U.S. is not always doing the work of the Lord, and so deserves our worship. No human construct deserves our worship.

                • Art Deco

                  I do not care about your dog.

                • TheAbaum

                  Feel free to take your reservations to Britain and become a subject of the British Crown.

        • Thomas

          You have not unveiled the Santa Claus Myth. It has been known for many years that the Founding Fathers were Deists. America was founded by men who read the Bible, called themselves Christian, but like their forefathers, they were not necessarily fond of the Pope.

          • Art Deco

            No, some portion of the political class of late 18th century America

            was Deist, not all 55 who attended the Philadelphia convention.

            • Thomas

              Would you please provide me an online source? Thank you!

            • Watosh

              I have to walk the dog. Sorry.

          • Watosh

            It has been known for many years true, but just look at some of the comments that have been made. Belief on Santa Claus dies hard. The thing is many Americans and among these a large number of conservative, ardent practicing Catholics, have conflated Catholicism with American Exceptionalism. Americans are raised on a Parson Weems version of American History, and it is exhilarating to believe that your nation is the best nation that ever was. People like to believe that. Those conservative sincere religious minded Catholics find it attractive to embellish our origins, it yarn gives them something to brag about and to be proud of. So they believe it. Again, no question, the American Constitution is and was considered as being a very liberal document, based on principles advanced by very liberal thinkers. No question. Don’t challenge me to give online sources, anyone with any competence can research anything they desire online on their own.

            The thing is Catholics who are serious about practicing their religion in this country are discovering basic difficulties in conducting themselves as Catholics. A Catholic who wants to gain elective office has to promise he will not let his religion get in the way of carrying our laws passed by the state. Catholic hospitals may be forced to allow abortions to be performed. Now we have had two incidents recently where Catholic parents have lodged strenuous protests because their children were told homosexuality was wrong. (For you pendants, I am abbreviating these incidents for sack of time and space, but you know very well what I am referring to.) Why? Because they have been indoctrinated with secular values and these values have displaced their religious principles. They have now such absolute faith that America is uniquely good and a force for good in the world, that they are outraged to consider going against America’s values. I think this is not good. On the one hand you have catholics who say, “I am against abortion myself, but if you think abortion is okay, I won’t stop you, and on the other hand you have Catholics who say since corporations are persons they should be able to buy elections for their candidates. And by their fruits ye shall know them. Our fruits are Pres Obama, Hilary Clinton, George Bush, Dick Cheney, John Kerry and John McCain among other politicians who lead this country.

            • Thomas

              I made the request for an online source to Mr. “Deco;” I was not putting a challenge to you or him. My research skills are just fine, thank you.
              My understanding of the Founders is that most (I sloppily said “they) were Deists. Mr. Deco said “not all.” HIS reply prompted me to ask for a source since the source I was reading apparently still believed in Santa Claus.

    • Michael Paterson-Seymour

      “The use of this term, “founding fathers,” has the effect of endowing our man made, liberal Constitution, with a aura of sacredness.”

      Contemporaries did not so regard it. In a letter of 6 September 1789, Jefferson wrote to Madison, “On similar ground it may be proved, that no society can make a perpetual constitution, or even a perpetual law. The earth belongs always to the living generation: they may manage it, then, and what proceeds from it, as they please, during their usufruct. They are masters, too, of their own persons, and consequently may govern them as they please. But persons and property make the sum of the objects of government. The constitution and the laws of their predecessors are extinguished then, in their natural course, with those whose will gave them being. This could preserve that being, till it ceased to be itself, and no longer. Every constitution, then, and every law, naturally expires at the end of thirty-four years. If it be enforced longer, it is an act of force, and not of right.”

      That the earth belongs to those who are on it, not to those who are under it, that the future would be unlike the past, that it would be better, and that the experience of ages may instruct and warn, but cannot guide or control, were among the leading principles of another Revolution that had just broken out on the other side of the Atlantic.

  • TheAbaum

    There is no other possible conclusion to this article than that Mr. Krason is a state idolater who believes in the concentration of power.

    He writes: “Let’s also remember that it was the states that mandated the repressive Jim Crow racial system.”, but forgets that the Federal government gave us Executive Order 9066, and a myriad of other offenses that continue to this day.

    Indeed, the greatest damages to the country come under periods of excess executive power. Obama is just latest installment in long line of Presidents who have acted lawlessly, or who used exigency as justification to ignore “the societal norms that must undergird a democratic republic and make it additionally unlikely that despotism would emerge”. Wilson gave us the income tax, Roosevelt used it to frivolously prosecute a former Treasury Secretary for legal deductions. Today, the tax code that was supposed to provide the federal government with adequate revenue, equitable burdens and freedom from oppressive tariffs has given us tens of thousands of indecipherable pages of gobbledy-gook and arbitrary and capricious provisions that nobody in their right mind believes is fair and $17,000,000,000,000 and counting in debt.

    To listen to a “political scientist” advocate for the architecture of government is a little like seeking stock tips from an economist. For all their bluster and words that “scream for your submission”, their record is poor.

    • Art Deco

      Take a pill. He penned two articles which manifest a large degree of confusion. He’s not Mussolini.

      • TheAbaum

        I didn’t say he was Mussolini, but nice try.

        • Arriero

          Louis Blanc, in his «Historie de la Révolution Française», already interpreted (although critically) the «freedom principle», which was raised PRIMARILY by the girondins, as a principle INSPIRED in the individualist tradition (in which he placed LUTHER, VOLTAIRE, D’Alembert, Helvetius, Condoncet, etc.) and oriented to a federalism typical of a burgueois and oligarchic Republic. This was – he continues – the first definition of the left, because «Left» were all those who sit down at the left in the Assemblée parlementaire.

          Jacques Maritain wrote a very interesting phrase in his book «Letre sur l’independence» (1935): «There are no more terrible revolutions than those leftist revolutions made ​​by right-wing temperaments (Lenin). There are no more weakest governments than those right-wing governments led by left-wing temperaments (Louis XVI)»

          There was nothing intrinsically Catholic in the Foundation of America (as a commenter points out below and as any Cintelligent atholic understands). The problem of Catholics in America is that they’re a minority, a very ill-considered minority by both the WASP right and the atheist left. It’s profoundly disturbing that instead of going to real Catholic sources (Scholastics, St. Aquinas, Fathers of the Church, Spanish mystics, etc.) some Catholics like to play with the fire of pseudo-theories (heirs of the Reformation) whose only aim is undermining the Church’s Authority; i.e.: the government of the Church on Earth.

    • Art Deco

      He has a point about one thing: Mississippi etc. did yeoman’s work toward discrediting the idea of local discretion. It was not merely the substance of public policy, but the refusal to respect and adhere to regular rules and procedures and the failure of police and courts to actually function as police and courts.

      Re Executive Order 9066, this was bad, but it was in effect for all of three years. The various legal disabilities the Southern black population was under (as well as informal political terror) were erected in stages over a period of more than three decades and dismantled in stages over three decades. The whole process took place over a period of nearly a century.

      • TheAbaum

        No, EO 9066 wasn’t in effect for three years. Lives were upended, and the idiot SCOTUS upheld this action in Korematsu. It took 40 years before some inadequate official action was taken, after many affected were dead.

        As for segregation and slavery, let’s not forget the Fugitive Slave Act, which extended the power of Slavery into the non-slave states. I’ll see your Mississippi of the 1950’s with Wisconsin of 1854 and the courage of the individuals who engaged in jury nullification.

        Now if you want to minimize the dangers inherent in making a President a monarch, go right ahead. Look, I get it. You work as part of the federal apparatus and don’t appreciate any attack on your paymaster.

        • Art Deco

          I am minimizing nothing, I am noting the comparative dimensions of the problem. Local political communities acted in ways that discredited the notion of local discretion, because that discretion was used for decades to abuse a discrete and insular minority. Local political communities continue to behave abusively, but we have some institutions (e.g. bankruptcy courts) which can address abuses without extending political manipulation to non-offending polities.

          No, I am not a federal employee nor do I think no one could ever question my benevolent master (whoever that is) nor are your remarks here anything but non sequitur re anything I said.

          • TheAbaum

            Oh come on Art, I didn’t say you were a federal employee, I said you were part of the federal apparatus and you know and I know your job is dependent on FFP.

            And you did minimize the issue of EO 9066 with quip about “three years”. You really should talk to somebody who dealt with that.

            he litany of federal abuses is long and severe and federal supremacy has been used to abuse people more frequently. It wasn’t the states that decided to poison people to assure their temperance.

            • Art Deco

              I am part of ‘the federal apparatus’ but somehow you never said I was a federal employee. Got it.

    • Arriero

      – «Christ said “my Kingdom is not of this world” and sought to redeem souls, not government-something the state idolaters refuse to acknowledge.»

      Have you ever opened a book about the Church’s history?

      The Church is what it is because CATHOLICISM WAS THE OFFICIAL RELIGION OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE. First it was the religion of the Roman Empire and then it was the religion of the Spanish Empire. Therefore, it became an universal, powerful and respected religion. To forget this is to know nothing.

      Stop this protestant nonsense about «my kingdom is not of this world», and read some history of the Church. The Church is and has always been OF THIS WORLD TOO.

      Atheism is the necessary root of anarchism. And there are too many harmful anarchists in America. I don’t care for the protestant or atheist anarchists, but Catholic anarchists disturb me.

      – «There is no other possible conclusion to this article than that Mr. Krason is a state idolater who believes in the concentration of power.»

      And the Pope is a marxist, no? If you don’t believe in the concentration of power you’re denying the same pillars upon where the Church stays.

      And please, can you think besides the boring American political zoo. The milions of Catholics of the world are not «american state idolaters paid by someone you call Soros (who is a dirty popperian, i.e. anti-socialist in its roots)».

      • TheAbaum

        I’ve read many books, and I suspect you favor fiction over history and are thoroughly unable to distinguish between those genres.

        And since the Pope said Marxism is wrong publicly, I must conclude that he is not a Marxist.

    • Arriero

      – «[…] in their right mind believes is fair and $17,000,000,000,000 and counting in debt.»

      In a discussion thread in an Acton Institute article («Is the $17t federal debt inmoral») Roger D. McKinney said (the capitals are mine): «The national debt IS NOT a moral issue; it’s PURELY PRACTICAL and ECONOMIC. It would be immoral if the government borrowed WITHOUT INTENDING to repay the debt. The immorality happens when the Fed destroys the value of the money so that it pays off debt with money worth much less. This is the sin/crime of using false measures and weights condemned in the OT. It’s also a sin/crime for politicians to break the law and all presidents, congressmen and judges have done that for 150 years by violating the Constitution. When Supreme Court justices violate the original intention of the Constitution and claim that the document gives the government powers that the writers never intended, they have become criminals, and any president or congressman who goes along with the justices’ crimes are criminals as well. THERE IS A LOT OF INMORALITY IN OUR GOVERNMENT, BUT IT’S NOT IN BORROWING MONEY».

      Exactly the same idea I exposed to you when you rant about the federal debt without giving any rational explanation of why it was a problem. As I already said then, there is a personal side (we dont like high federal debt) and a technical side (under a world-respected dollar and a functioning FED*, there is no such debt problem).

      * When Sadam Hussein and Muhamar Gadaffi wanted to sell oil in euros and not in petro-dollars, both were swiftly hanged. Yet, under the current «shale revolution», things have changed, and America is less tied with the world (this explains Obama’s foreign attitude: why should he care about Ukraine?).

      • Thomas

        They also say “The Constitution is a living, breathing document that changes with the times.” The same people say “The Church must change with the times.” At what point will it become impossible for the US to repay its debt?
        I like your posts.

        • Arriero

          – «The Constitution is a living, breathing document that changes with the times.»

          This is very debatable. In the US and in everywhere. In the US is even more debatable because of the importance given to the Constitution. In Spain there is currently a Constitutional debate because a part of that country – Catalonia – want to do a referendum of autodetermination «à la Quebec» and, obviously, the Spanish Constitution does not allow such referendums. Personally, I believe that what has been written it’s written and period. Words do have a meaning (probably Chomsky and some french structuralists would disagree here). The issue is that Constitutions are usually incredibly diffuse and generic, so they allow many different interpretations. What is freedom? What does we understand by happiness? Who is the Creator? etc. Constitutional interpretation is like protestants reading the Bible, everybody is «free» (misunderstood freedom) to see a different thing. We Catholics have a Church and a Tradition which sets the record straight and clears the doubts.

          – «The Church must change with the times».

          This is not even debatable because it’s wrong, at least ill-posed.

          I think it’s worth citing here Chesterton: «We do not really want a religion that is right when we are right. What we want is a religion that is right when we are wrong» («The Catholic Church and conversion», 1927).

          About the dogma, must be said that the Church considers that the divine truths have always existed, only that when you have a question, or doctrinal deviation is necessary to reaffirm that truth by a dogma. So the principles are already established, so that nothing really changes. The Church cannot change or «invent» the dogma.

          Of course, the Church as a divine Institution formed by humans have earthly details that can change. Because people change. But the fundamental are already established. Those who seek a «changing Church» don’t understand what is the Church. And I would ask them something: Why changing? Changing for what? Changing to what? Changing what? Of course they should read the whole magisterium, the history of the Church, the works of the Fathers and so on to know what is susceptible of being changed and what cannot change because «by definition» is already established. Otherwise they’re just babbling.

          • TheAbaum

            Marx and Chomsky.. you really can tell a person by the company they keep.

        • Arriero

          I forgot to answer this:

          – «At what point will it become impossible for the US to repay its debt?»

          When the dollar loses his credibility, or when the world stops from loving (demanding) the dollar. Insofar as the dollar stays as the world reserve currency (and it has no rival yet), the federal debt is not a problem. Meanwhile, hence, focus like a laser in unemployment or whatever other more «real» problem. You can see Japan, for instance; do they have any problem to finance themselves with the highest debt level in the world? Or France: why France has such a low risk premium having higher debt levels and higher deficits than many other countries?

          And let me ask a question: who says what is a «high» debt level? Where we should put the line? Rogoff said that 90% debt was counterproductive for growth. It was demonstrated that his study had major mistakes and that historical data was not conclusive.

          I repeat: there is a personal side (I don’t like as a rule «high» debt levels and unbalanced budgets) and a technical side (the federal debt is not currently a problem, or at least not the main problem).

          • Thomas

            Your comments about the debt don’t calm my nerves, and you sound like a Keynesian; but economics is not my major area so I cannot be sure. I need an economics lesson, but don’t expect to get it here.

            Below you address questions I posed only rhetorically, or for the purpose of demonstrating how secular and Church progressives think about “change.” As for the Constitution, of course the current administration has trampled all over it. The Tenth Amendment is practically non-existent, and so are the principles of Limited Government and Federalism. As to the issue about “aggiornamento,” I just read a paper on The Claremont Institute’s website, an interview with James V. Schall, S.J., who nicely addressed that by saying,

            JVS: “There would be those who say Pope Francis’ rhetoric has been “necessarily” confusing. He has drawn great attention to himself by many of his remarks on homosexuality, on poverty, on capitalism, on clerical life, and on several other issues. His defenders point out that he never advocates any heresy or real change in teaching. He just never says much about it when he is in the limelight. This practice makes it seem like there are two Pope Francises, a conservative one and a radical one. Several writers have compared the similarity to the effect of Francis to the whole issue of the “Spirit of Vatican II” as opposed to what was actually said. Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI spent much of their time correcting this confusion.”
            Thanks, and God bless you.

            • TheAbaum

              He has Keynesian elements, but really he’s a garden variety spendthrift.

            • Arriero

              If you want to learn some basics about economics (mainly macro), I recommend you:

              1) About money and monetary policy: a) http://www.bankofengland.co.uk/publications/Documents/quarterlybulletin/2014/qb14q1prereleasemoneyintro.pdf b) http://www.bankofengland.co.uk/publications/Documents/quarterlybulletin/2014/qb14q1prereleasemoneycreation.pdf

              2) About IS/LM (keynesian models): http://bilbo.economicoutlook.net/blog/?p=25226#more-25226

              3) A short course on macroeconomics: http://www.themoneyillusion.com/?p=20599

              Then you would see clearer if what I say is «keynesian» or not. By the way, roughly 80% of economists nowadays are new-keynesians which is somewhat a synthesis between old monetarists and keynesians.

              I read Marx as I read Keynes and as I read Hayek. To judge, you first have to know.

              • TheAbaum

                You are hilarious, you send a guy to Scott Sumner’s site (money illusion) who has misgivings with the IS-LM, after sending him to read about the IS-LM as posited by a think-tank Australian.

                http://www.themoneyillusion.com/?p=915

                Even better, after attempting to depose anybody you disagree with charges of insidious Calvinism, but Keynes’ documented agnosticism and homosexuality couldn’t possibly discredit him.

                • Arriero

                  False. Scott Sumner has a very personal way of understanding the IS/LM model but he does not despise it. Read a bit, please: http://www.themoneyillusion.com/?p=10721

                  In fact, his whole monetarist approach can easily be explained from a IS/LM model.

                  Thankfully, Scott Sumner is a bit less pseudo-calvinist in economics than the crazy anti-state-per-se (and he is not precisely a state lover. Who said he should be?).

                  • TheAbaum

                    I’m beginning to think your obsession with Calvin is some sort of bizarre necrophilia.

                    Here’s a quote from the POST YOUR LINKED. Are you dyslexic?

                    “So he’s work out what a correct IS-LM diagram would look like. Does this rescue IS-LM? I don’t see how. It’s pretty clear that the new IS curve is simply a pictorial display of what we know about the economy from observation. It’s not derived from any sort of basic theoretical model. One can’t spend 70 years arguing that the IS-LM model is useful because it has a downward sloping IS curve, and then suddenly say; “Oops, the IS curve is actually upward sloping, but it’s still useful anyway.” It’s just a pretty picture, nothing more.”

                    • Arriero

                      I very well know what Scott Sumner writes. In another article he just says:

                      «IS-LM proponents also tend to argue that the IS curve is downward sloping. Nick Rowe recently argued that it is upward sloping. I THINK NICK’S RIGHT, at least if we use the yield on T-securities as “the interest rate,” and use a time frame that is relevant for business cycle analysis (a few months or years.)»

                      http://www.themoneyillusion.com/?p=11277

                      Scott Sumner and the MMs have a very PERSONAL way of understanding the IS/LM model.

                    • TheAbaum

                      Apparently not.

                      Here’s Summer on the Sovereign debt.

                      http://www.themoneyillusion.com/?p=16985

                    • Arriero

                      I don’t really see what you want to show with this post. Sumner says too many times the word «assume» (or «suppose»), and I don’t usually like that word.

                      Apart he ends saying: «Is this a big problem? NO. But the deficit is a big problem for other reasons.»

                      There ISN’T yet a conclusive theory about the impact of high debt levels over growth and the economy.

                    • TheAbaum

                      Like I’ve written before, you apparently can’t grasp the consequences of excessive debt. I no more need a “conclusive theory” about debt levels than I need one about the dangers of playing with fire or failing to brush my teeth.

      • TheAbaum

        “Exactly the same idea I exposed to you when you rant about the federal debt without giving any rational explanation of why it was a problem. ”

        There’s all kind of lunatics with “ideas” and most are dead on arrival at the doorstop of somebody grounded in reality. Your idea that debt should be piled on without regard for repayment or adverse consequence is insane.

        The reason I don’t provide you with an explanation that appears rational is that you are incapable of apprehending it. I’d have an easier time explaining the calculus to a kindergartener.

        I’ve spend thirty years working in finance, I’ve earned my academic and professional credentials (whose recitation would bore other readers)and I’m not about to subordinate my PROFESSIONAL judgment to some wingnut with a penchant for tedium or entertain it as legitimate.

        • Arriero

          I’m not new in finance, nor in economics.

          Unlike many americans, I know what has happened in the east, and in the west of the Atlantic.

          The dollar is not my chain. I’m immune to pseudo-calvinist theories*.

          * Try to mention whatever «axiom» from austrian economics and I will be keen to discuss it in depth, and using Catholic sources.

          • TheAbaum

            “I’m not new in finance, nor in economics.”

            I don’t know what you imagine experience with these subjects is, but it’s rather easy for experienced professionals to distinguish poseurs from other competent professionals.

            You have demonstrated no indication of any substantive education in the area, and certainly no professional experience.

            The first indication is your penchant for excessively long and tedious prose. People who work in finance are very long on an affection for brevity and clarity and short on patience for tedium, logorrhea and monomania.

            The second indication is your penchant for appeal to authority and ad hominem arguments. If you had a deep well of experience to draw upon, you’d posit original arguments and wouldn’t try to depose everything with a charge of Calvinism. If one of my employees demonstrated a peculiar obsession like this, we’d be having a conversation about the necessity of psychological counseling, perhaps as a condition of continued employment. At the very least, your annual performance appraisal would note the deficiencies in your written communication, with a corrective action plan that would include attendance at some remedial business communications.

            As for attempt to engage me in a debate about Austrian economics, I’m not an Austrian, nor a representative of Austrians, and you have no authority to speak authoritatively on behalf of the Church.

  • Thomas

    Any government, secular or Catholic, cannot endure without, first, an enlightened and properly educated and catechized flock. Our kingdom is not of this world, but we can transform souls one at a time, beginning with our own. Do this first, and then watch what happens.

  • CadaveraVeroInnumero

    As a test case, how would you apply the premises and conclusions here to the crisis at he Bundy Ranch, Nevada.

    To be a Westerner (of the American West) defines me almost as being Catholic.

    For the latest updates best to visit Infowars. Doing so does not commit oneself to any stance the site (others say) holds. American Thinker, today (4/12) has an interesting piece.

    I live across the the summit in California. Childhood in Idaho. Have a major work on my easel (in oil) titled “She died on Ruby Ridge”.

    Would your American Cincinnatus have firebombed Waco, shoot a lone woman protecting her child? Better yet, would your American Cincinnatus pull down the coming statues of Obama?

    • Art Deco

      The problem here is that the discretionary decisions were made not by the President but by officials several layers down. The scandal was that (outside the Treasury department) the Attorney-General and the FBI director failed to address the defects of institutional culture which generated these fiascos and acted to protect abusive officials. The President’s failure was in not issuing a pink slip to Janet Reno when it came to be a matter of public record how deeply implicated she was in the Waco disaster and how it was of a piece with her abusive tenure as state’s attorney in Dade County, Fla.

    • hombre111

      Given the political, economic, social, moral, and religious complexities of a nation of 300,000,000+, a Cincinnatus is wishful thinking, especially with the country divided more and more into red and blue, and the .01% owning the lion’s share of American wealth.

      • Art Deco

        And it is especially true now that the conservatives on the Supreme
        Court have given permission to the .01% owning the lion’s share of
        American wealth to buy and manipulate America’s electoral system.

        Numeracy is not your strong suit. Figures on asset distribution are notoriously soft data, but the conventional enumeration has it that most assets by value are typically held by about 2-3% of the population, not 0.01%. The sort of entrepreneurship that allows you to build wealth (and pass it on to your posterity) is not particularly evenly distributed; of course, there is a rent-seeking element who acquire wealth from law practice and lobbying; they’re largely Democrats. Please note, wealth is a store of income accruing to factors of production other than labor. At this time, about 62% of all personal income is received in the form of compensation of employees. Most true wealth is human capital, which is not assessed in enumerations of assets.

        Without a doubt, most of the wealthy are not active in politics nor would give more than a four figure sum to any candidate.

        • hombre111

          After all mathematical blather, the law gives wealth the advantage and keeps the wealth flowing uphill. The Koch brothers alone have decided the fate of elections, and that was before the Supreme Court gave them carte blanche. All you need is a few kajillionaires from the left (a few) or the right (lots of those guys, including the guy who kept Gingrich going long after he was crocodile lunch).

          • Art Deco

            The Koch brothers? Always the gauchiste meme du jour with you. I am beginning to suspect that you’ve never had an original observation in your life. (Oh, and the Tea Party’s racist).

            Here’s a handy compilation of data on where Koch Industries ranks as a donor among big donors:

            http://www.opensecrets.org/orgs/list.php

            You’ll notice with a little math that 60% of the contributions made by those donors who exceed the Koch’s in significance are distributed to Democrats. That’s public sector unions, mob unions, and the financial sector. On top of that, the Democratic Party gets masses of free media from their operatives in the press corps.

          • TheAbaum

            And Steve Jobs widow has just pledged her support to that crazy right-winger Hillary Rodham Clinton.

            The Koch brothers are nothing compared to the money that flows to the left from Hollywood.

            • hombre111

              You miss my point, as usual. No rich person of any stripe: liberal, conservative, or libertarian, should be able to buy an election. The Supreme Court has allowed just that.

              • TheAbaum

                One-sided, hysterical clichés and slogans are not “points”.

                If you really were against the sale of elections, you’d understand how your welfare state (whether it’s food stamps or corporate subsidies that make food more expensive in the first place) is little more than a vote buying scheme.

                As long as the state has favors to offer, the occupants of high office will sell them.

                It’s sort of like you. You don’t really believe in the Church or its doctrines that you claim to represent, but you are fond of the safe little sinecure it offers, so you keep on performing the sacerdotal duties.

                • Art Deco

                  If you really were against the sale of elections, you’d understand how
                  your welfare state (whether it’s food stamps or corporate subsidies that
                  make food more expensive in the first place) is little more than a vote
                  buying scheme.

                  It is not.

                  • TheAbaum

                    You may imagine that your ipso facto is an insuperable argument, but no reasonable person who OBJECTIVELY evaluates the reliable and durable voting loyalties of the dependent classes would conclude otherwise.

                    • TheAbaum

  • John Albertson

    Non sequitur – but why has the Austin Ruse article on Thomas Williams Agonistes suddenly disappeared from this website and even from the Crisis archives without explanation? Consequently, it is not possible to follow up on the Comments.

    • Art Deco

      I take it he thought better of it. Like this article, it seemed infected with confused authorial intentions.

    • TheAbaum

      I saw that too.

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