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Whatever Happened to Personal Responsibility

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There is an old adage which states that you do not know how big a tree is until you try and cut it down. Today, as cultural forces slowly destroy it, we are beginning to understand that the same thing can be said about personal responsibility.

Society no longer believes that people ought to bear their suffering with dignity and grace. Rather, it now believes that the problems of the individual ought to be made the problems of the community. Individual problems are no longer the consequence of individual decisions, but come as the result of race, gender, class, and so forth.

The result of this move towards collective responsibility has been the invention of victim culture. According to this culture, non-whites are the victims of racism and white privilege, women are the victims of the patriarchy, homosexuals are the victims of a heteronormative society.

The 20th century is a perfect example of what happens when responsibility is taken from the hands of the individual and placed in the hands of the mob. The twin evils of communism and Nazism – which blamed the problems of the individual on economic and racial factors, respectively – led to the deaths of tens of millions of people.

Furthermore, such ideologies led otherwise decent individuals to commit acts of unspeakable violence. Whilst observing the trial of Adolf Eichmann, a former SS soldier who had been one of the architects of the Holocaust, the writer, Hannah Arendt was struck by the “banality of evil” that had characterised German war atrocities. Arendt noted that the men who conspired to commit genocide were not raving lunatics foaming at the mouth, but rather dull individuals inspired to commit evil due to a sense of duty to a toxic and corrupt ideology.

The Bolsheviks taught the Russian people that their misfortune had been caused by the wealthy. And that the wealth was gained through theft and exploitation. Likewise, the Nazis convinced the German people that their problems could be blamed on the Jews. It is not difficult to see how this philosophy led, step by step, to the gulags and the concentration camps.

The same thing is happening today. The only difference is that those who play it have become more sophisticated. Today people are encouraged to identify with identity groups ranked by so-called social privilege. Then they are taught to despise those with more social privilege than them.

Under this philosophy, crime is not caused by the actions of the individual, but by social forces like poverty, racism, and upbringing. Advocates claim that women should not be forced to take responsibility for their sexual behaviour by allowing them to essentially murder their unborn children. Sexually transmitted diseases like HIV is caused by homophobia rather than immoral and socially irresponsible behaviour. And alcoholism and drug addiction are treated as a disease rather than a behaviour the addict is supposed to take responsibility for. The list is endless.

Personal responsibility helps us take control of our lives. It means that the individual can take a certain amount of control over his own life even when the obstacles he is facing seem insurmountable.

No one, least of all me, is going to argue that individuals don’t face hardships that are not their fault. What I am going to argue, however, is that other people will respect you more if you take responsibility for your problems, especially if those problems are not your fault. Charity for aids sufferers, the impoverished, or reformed criminals is all perfectly acceptable. But we only make their plight worse by taking their personal responsibility from them.

Responsibility justifies a person’s life and helps them find meaning in their suffering. Central to the Christian faith is the idea that individuals are duty bound to bear their suffering with dignity and grace and to struggle towards being a good person. To force a man to take responsibility for himself is to treat him as one of God’s creations.

You cannot be free if other people have to take responsibility for your decisions. When you take responsibility from the hands of the individual you tarnish his soul and steal his freedom.

Freedom from responsibility is slavery, not freedom. Freedom is the ability to make decisions according to the dictates of own’s own conscience and live with the consequences of that decision. Freedom means having the choice to engage in the kind immoral behaviour that leads to an unwanted pregnancy or AIDS. What it does not do is absolve you from responsibility for those actions. Slavery disguised as kindness and compassion is still slavery.

WE’RE NOT SUPPOSED TO TRUST POLITICIANS

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The rise to power of Nationals leader and Deputy Prime Minister, Barnaby Joyce has come to a dramatic halt as news of his marital infidelity dominates the headlines.

The political fallout has been immense, but predictable. On Thursday, the Senate passed a motion that called for Joyce for to relinquish his post as Deputy Prime Minister. Greens leader, Richard Di Natale called on Joyce to resign and even demanded that the Nationals fire him if he refuses.

The Prime Minister, who commented that Joyce had made a “shocking error of judgement”, responded to the scandal by changing the ministerial code of conduct to prevent Federal Ministers from having sexual relations with members of their staff.

Joyce’s shocking lack of moral fibre has jeopardised any real political power conservatives in Australia have, and has threatened the delicate balance of power between the right-wing and left-wing factions of the coalition Government.

Following the usurpation of the conservative Prime Minister, Tony Abbott by Malcolm Turnbull – a prominent voice of the left-wing faction of the Liberal Party – many on the right hoped that a Joyce-led Nationals would be able to counteract the centre-left leaning Liberal Party with their brand of traditionalism.

Naturally, Barnaby Joyce’s marital infidelity and dishonesty puts the trustworthiness of politicians in question.

A large part of the fury over Joyce’s affair is not the sexual infidelity, but the fact that he dipped into the public purse to finance the charade. As the political scientist and commentator, Jennifer Oriel stated in her article, “Barnaby Joyce’s Greatest Sin is Being Conservative”, the combination of corruption and marital infidelity violates the most basic codes of common decency.

Barnaby Joyce’s behaviour is precisely the reason Australians are cynical about politicians.

The idea that people ought to be cynical about politicians is hardly news to anyone with any real knowledge of history, politics, or human nature.

The reason countries like Australia place so many checks and balances – separation of powers, the Constitution, an independent judiciary – on those in power is that power tends to have a corrupting effect on the human soul.

As Lord Acton famously put it: “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

The greatest measure against tyranny is the establishment of a political and legal system that places restrictions on power. We should be thankful that Barnaby Joyce’s biggest transgression was marital infidelity, and not much worse besides.

 

SMALL GOVERNMENT MATTERS

 

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(This is derived from an old essay I wrote for university)

The size of government is an important yet seldom discussed issue. This is a peculiar phenomenon as the size of government is integral to our freedom. When government power is not limited those with power are able to encroach upon the freedoms of the people. However, when the powers of government are limited people are able to live in peace, freedom, and prosperity.

The Age of Enlightenment (c. 1685 – c. 1815) represents a period in history where the principles of the old world were replaced by new ideals. It was during the Enlightenment that the concepts of modern democracy (democracy originated with the Ancient Greeks, albeit in a rather primitive form), liberty, and inalienable rights began to emerge. One of its key concepts, limited government, came about during the High Enlightenment (c. 1730 – 1780). The English philosopher John Locke (1632 – 1704), perhaps the greatest defender of limited government, believed civil power should be derived from individual autonomy and that the separation of powers was necessary to protect people from tyranny.

Limited government works on the idea that governments should have a little interference in people’s lives as possible. Supporters of small government believe that big government destroys human creativity and innovation because. As the Austro-Hungarian philosopher, Friedrich Hayek (1899 – 1992) stated: “the more the state plans, the more difficult planning becomes for the individual”. Numerous supporters of democracy and liberty had held limited government as an important, and necessary, ideal. The American statesmen, founding father, and President, James Madison (1751 – 1836) sought institutions which would limit the scope of government and give more rights to the individual. Similarly, the Australian Prime Minister, Malcolm Fraser (1930 – 2015) argued that “the power of the state should be limited and contained”.

In no other area is this been clearer than the economy. The economist, Adam Smith (1723 – 1790) argued that regulations on commerce are not only ill-founded but also counter-productive as countries depend on capital accumulation . According to James Madison, guarding persons and property would: “encourage industry by securing the enjoyment of its fruits.” Nations with small governments create their own fortune by allowing the people to participate freely in the marketplace.

Small government makes them master of their own destinies rather than making the government master of them. The people should never forget, as Ronal Reagan put it, “we the people are the driver, the government is the car.” Only small government can continue to survive into the future, only small government can protect the rights of the individual, and only small government celebrates human achievement. This is why small government matters.

REFERENCE LIST

  1. Adam Smith Institute, ‘the Wealth of Nations’: http://www.adamsmith.org/wealth-of-nations. [23/03/2014]
  2. Australian Greens, ‘the Greens’: http://greens.org.au/. [23/03/2014]
  3. Australian Greens, ‘the Economy: We Live in a Society, Not an Economy’: http://greens.org.au/economy. [23/03/2014]
  4. Australian Greens, ‘Standing Up for Small Business’: http://greens.org.au/small-business. [23/03/2014]
  5. Australian Government, ‘Australian Constitution,: Australian Politics, http://australianpolitics.com/constitution-aus/text [23/03/2014]
  6. Australian Government, ‘Australia’s System of Government’: Australian Government: Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, https://www.dfat.gov.au/facts/sys_gov.html. [23/03/2014]
  7. Australian Government, ‘Australian Government Taxation and Spending’: 2011-12 Budget Overview, http://www.budget.gov.au/2011-12/content/overview/html/overview_46.htm. [23/03/2014]
  8. Moran, ‘Economic Freedom Delivers Results’, Review – Institute of Public Affairs, vol 59, no. 3. 2007.
  9. Australian Labor Party, ‘Australian Labor Party’: http://www.alp.org.au/. [23/03/2014]
  10. Australian Labor Party, ‘Labor is for Growth and Opportunity’: Growth and Opportunity, http://www.alp.org.au/growthandopportunity. [23/03/2014]
  11. Eltham, ‘Size of Government: Big is Not So Bad’: the Drum, http://www.abc.net.au/unleashed/3912918.html. [23/03/2014]
  12. Bonner, ‘the Golden Rule: He Who Has the Gold Makes the Rules’: Daily Reckoning Australia, http://www.dailyreckoning.com.au/golden-rule/2008/03/05/. [23/03/2014]
  13. Bowen, ‘Economic Statement August 2013: Joint Media Release with Senator the Hon Penny Wong Minister for Finance and Deregulation’, Australian Government: the Treasury, http://ministers.treasury.gov.au/DisplayDocs.aspx?doc=pressreleases/2013/016.htm&pageID=003&min=cebb&Year=&DocType. [23/03/2014]
  14. Cracked, ‘Australian Greens’: http://www.cracked.com/funny-6522-australian-greens/. [23/03/2014]
  15. Boaz, ‘Remembering Ronald Reagan’: Cato Institute, http://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/remembering-ronald-reagan. [23/03/2014]
  16. M. Cooray, ‘More About Limited Government and the Role of the State’: http://www.ourcivilisation.com/cooray/westdem/chap6.htm. [23/03/2014]
  17. Western, ‘Big Government is Good for You’: the Guardian, http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/cifamerica/2009/oct/13/obama-healthcare-economy-socialism [23/03/2014]
  18. W. Younkins, ‘John Locke’s Limited State’: Le Quebecois Libre, http://www.quebecoislibre.org/06/060219-4.htm. [23/03/2014]
  19. For Dummies, ‘How the Enlightenment Affected Politics and Government’: http://www.dummies.com/how-to/content/how-the-enlightenment-affected-politics-and-govern.html [23/03/2014]
  20. History, ‘Enlightenment’: http://www.history.com/topics/enlightenment [23/03/2014]
  21. Indiana University Northwest, ‘Two Enlightenment Philosophes: Montesquieu and Rousseau’: http://www.iun.edu/~hisdcl/h114_2002/enlightenment2.htm. [23/03/2014]
  22. A. Dorn, ‘the Scope of Government in a Free Society, Cato Journal, vol 32, no.3. 2012. Pp: 1 – 14
  23. Novak, ‘Small Government Means Better Governance’: the Drum, http://www.abc.net.au/unleashed/4147992.html. [23/03/2014]
  24. P. Sommerville, ‘Limited Government, Resistance and Locke’: http://faculty.history.wisc.edu/sommerville/283/283%20session10.htm. [23/03/2014]
  25. Liberal-National Coalition, ‘the Coalition’s Policy to Increase Employment Participation’: http://lpaweb-static.s3.amazonaws.com/13-08-27%20The%20Coalition%E2%80%99s%20Policy%20to%20Increase%20Employment%20Participation%20-%20policy%20document.pdf. [23/03/2014]
  26. Liberal Party, ‘Our Plan for Real Action’: https://www.liberal.org.au/our-plan. [23/03/2014]
  27. Liberal-National Coalition, ‘the Coalition’s Policy for Trade’: http://lpaweb-static.s3.amazonaws.com/Coalition%202013%20Election%20Policy%20%E2%80%93%20Trade%20%E2%80%93%20final.pdf. [23/03/2014]
  28. Lobao and G. Hooks, ‘Public Employment, Welfare Transfers, and Economic Well-Being across Local Populations: Does a Lean and Mean Government Benefit the Masses?’, Social Forces, vol 82, no. 2. 2003. Pp: 519 – 556
  29. R. Cima and P. S. Cotter, ‘the Coherence of the Concept of Limited Government’, Journal of Policy Analysis and Management¸ vol. 4. 1985. Pp. 266 – 270
  30. Baird, ‘The State, Work and Family in Australia’, the International Journal of Human Resource Management, vol 22, no. 18, 2011. Pp: 1 – 14
  31. New Learning, ‘Ronald Reagan on Small Government’: http://newlearningonline.com/new-learning/chapter-4/ronald-reagan-on-small-government. [23/03/2014]
  32. Parker, ‘Religion and Politics’, Distinktion: Scandinavian Journal of Social Theory, vol 7, no. 1. 2006. Pp: 93 – 115
  33. Public Interest Institute, ‘A Short History of Economic Theory Classical Economic Theory: From Adam Smith to Jean-Baptiste Say’: http://limitedgovernment.org/ps-12-9-p3.html. [23/03/2014]
  34. Hollander, ‘John Howard, Economic Liberalism, Social Conservatism, and Australian Federation’, Australian Journal of Politics and History, vol 53, no. 1. 2008. Pp: 85 – 103
  35. Kelman, ‘Limited Government: an Incoherent Concept’, Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, vol. 3, no. 1. 1983. Pp. 31 – 44
  36. Pryce, ‘the Thatcher Years – Political Analysis: Putting the Great Back into Britain?’: Margaret Thatcher: 1925 – 2013, http://www2.granthamtoday.co.uk/gj/site/news/thatcher/analysis.htm. [23/03/2014]
  37. Dunlop, ‘Small Government Can Equal Big Problems’: the Drum, http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-02-28/dunlop-small-government-can-equal-big-problems/5287718. [23/03/2014]
  38. US Government, ‘Bill of Rights’: the Charters of Freedom “a New World is at Hand”,http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/bill_of_rights_transcript.html. [23/03/2014]
  39. US Government, ‘Constitution of the United States’: the Chapters of Freedom “a New World is at Hand”, http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/constitution_transcript.html. [23/03/2014]
  40. Various Authors, ‘Social Issues and Political Psychology’, International Journal of Psychology, vol 47, no. 1. 2012. Pp: 687 – 697
  41. We the People, ‘Principles, Priorities, and Policies of President Reagan’: Ronald Reagan and Executive Power, http://reagan.civiced.org/lessons/middle-school/principles-priorities-policies-president-reagan. [23/03/2014]
  42. Voegeli, ‘the Trouble with Limited Government’, Claremont Review of Books¸ vol 7, no. 4. 2007. Pp: 10 – 14.
  43. W, ‘Size of Government: Brooks and Ryan’s False Choice’: the Economist, http://www.economist.com/blogs/democracyinamerica/2010/09/size_government. [23/03/2014]

THE PROBLEM WITH PACIFISM

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Otto Von Bismarck, the great Prussian Statesman, once observed that it is better to profit from the misfortunes of others than to learn from one’s own mistakes. With the current threat from North Korea, it would perhaps be wise to learn from the annals of history, and not repeat the mistake of following a pacifist agenda.

We like to see nature as a wise and fair judge which rewards the good, protects the weak and punishes the wicked. In reality, it is a callous and unpredictable maiden.  It should come as no surprise, then, that history shows the human-race to be inherently blood thirsty, violent, and cruel.  This violence is derived not only from competition over resources and mates but also from our social natures. This is an aspect of our character we share with our primate cousins. A team of researchers at Yale University, headed by psychologist Laurie Santos, revealed that primates treat outsiders with greater suspicion and disdain than members of their own group. This trait can also be observed in modern humans, as Santos observed: “one of the more troubling aspects of human nature is that we evaluate people differently depending on whether they’re a member of our ‘ingroup’ or ‘outgroup.’ He went on to explain how this leads to violence: “pretty much every conflict in human history has involved people making distinctions on the basis of who is a member of their own race, religion, social class, and so on.”

In 1942, C.S. Lewis published the essay “why I am not a pacifist.” For Lewis, the question of pacifism was a moral one. Take murder, for example, no one can intuitively argue murder to be wrong under all circumstances, but it is possible to make such a claim using rational arguments. Pacifism, then, is the irrational belief that violence can only be used for evil, and never for good. If this is the case, defeating a tyrannical power like Imperial Japan or Nazi Germany is evil because it necessitates the use of violence, stopping a man raping a woman is evil if doing so requires the use of physical force, and executing a serial killer is immoral because it violates his right to life. Any individual who takes such a position is not a moralist, but a coward and a fool. This type of peace is that of “Ulysses and his comrades, imprisoned in the cave of the Cyclops and waiting their turn to be devoured” (Jean Jacques Rousseau, a Lasting Peace Through the Federation of Europe and the State of War).

When Patrick Henry, an American attorney and politician, gave his famous “give me liberty or give me death” speech, he asked: “Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery?” Pacifism presents nature as passive and just when, in reality, it is unkind, capricious, brutal, unforgiving, ruthless, bloodthirsty, and cruel. With the threat of North Korea looming over our heads, it may serve us to remember that those who do not conform to the laws of reality are always destroyed by them.