February 13, 2009

Divine Right and the Modern State

Carroll Andrew Morse

Channeling John Locke and Edmund Burke via Newt Gingrich on last night's Matt Allen Show on WPRO radio (630 AM), Zack the Speculator provided a brief tour of the evolution of the philosophy of government in Western Civilization...

The great Newt Gingrich said this many years ago; he said the difference between us and England and the royalties and the monarchies is that they all believed that God gave the power to the king and the queen and the king and the queen gave a little bit of that to the people. What [John Locke] and [Edmund Burke] and the others that the founders read and believed in said was God gives the power to the people, and the people loan it to the government…that is something we should never forget.
It is interesting to note that if you begin from Zack's description of the authority of government being rooted in divine right…

…then replace God with some secular concept like "the forces of history" or "progress"…

…then replace the monarchy with a group of technocrats, or maybe even with a "vanguard of the proletariat", but in either case with a group of people who supposedly understand the needs of "progress" better than the common citizenry does…

…what you end up with is the Progressive ideal of government, with the leaders of the modern state demanding nearly unlimited power over the individual, to meet the needs of a higher-power of "progress" -- needs that the leadership tells you that only they can fully comprehend!

Alas, the idea of power rightfully belonging to a special class of citizens who are supposedly "closest" to the ultimate authority is still alive and well here in the 21st century.

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Oh, please. It's like saying fascism is the conservative ideal of government. There's authoritarian right and authoritarian left and many who disagree with both.

You set up a strawman and knocked him down... big deal.

Posted by: Russ at February 13, 2009 11:21 AM


I don't think there's a strawman in play here (but maybe you can convince me otherwise), because if you look at the major domestic issues facing the U.S. today (education, healthcare, retirement security), you see a common thread running through proposed Progressive solutions...

They are all based on an assumption that centralized, bureaucratic systems should be the first choice to solve a problem -- if a strong, central bureaucracy can’t deliver a better solution than exists now, then it’s obvious (to liberals) that no system can!
More detail, at the issue level, available here.

p.s. If President Obama really comes out and gives serious support to something like charter schools, it may break this pattern somewhat -- depending on whether Progressives would then view him as an iconoclast on this issue or not.

Posted by: Andrew at February 13, 2009 11:55 AM

Communism, fascism, socialism, "progressivism" are all sub-species of the genus collectivism.

The premise in all being the individual liberty is subordinate to the state, which decides what is "best" for "the people" (a/k/a the collective).

Having an absolute monarch as "the state" has analogous dynamics.

In any case, the genius of the founding of this country was the premise that God grants every individual liberty, and that in turn the U.S. Constitution is the delegation of certain powers to government by individuals, and to the extent that such powers are not granted to government they are retained by individuals (NOT the other way around).

Given the indoctrination in public schools and colleges, many (if not most) Americans no longer understand this.

Indeed many believe that their "Constitutional rights" mean that they can use the levers of government to take from other individuals for their individual gain.

Between "compassionate conservatism" and Obama's Soros-funded stealth socialism being implemented incrementally but very deliberately, we're losing the country that was bequeathed to us.

A tragedy for us, the world and mankind.

Posted by: Tom W at February 13, 2009 12:42 PM

The assumption here is that Obama is progressive. I'd say he's deeply conservative on a considerable number of issues, although I'm at odds with some buddies on the other blog on this one.

But also I think the assumption that the only alternative to corporate solutions is "centralized, bureaucratic systems" (notably true of many corporation solutions as well - ask anyone who works for a large one) is demonstrably false and reflects inside the Beltway thinking. In any case, I'd say bureaucracy is hardly the progressive ideal as was suggested above.

For instance, would say the public library system is centralized and bureaucratic? Certainly we can agree that's a collectivist solution and one that has benefited millions of Americans.

Tom, I suggest you look into libertarian socialism before you go lumping socialists together with fascists (many socialists in fact died fighting the fascists in Spain). Many of us have more in commmon with the libertarian right than with the Washington Democrats.

Posted by: Russ at February 13, 2009 3:56 PM

Sen. Gregg withdrew because (1) Obama’s chutzpah crossed the line and (2) Obama CANNOT put away his “birth certificate” issue.

1. Here’s the chutzpah: The Republicans didn’t get their act together enough to challenge Obama for not being constitutionally qualified to be President as an Article 2 “natural born citizen” so Obama’s White House steals the census from the Commerce Department against the specific instructions of the constitution itself — “actual enumeration” under Article 1.

2. Here’s the “birth certificate” issue: Since Obama’s earnest drive to convince the nation to weaken its economic strength through redistribution as well as weaken its national defense, COUPLED WITH HIS UNPRECEDENTED WHITE HOUSE TAKEOVER OF DECENNIAL CENSUS TAKING FROM THE COMMERCE DEPARTMENT, has confirmed the very threats to our Republic’s survival that the Constitution was designed to avert, it no longer is sustainable for the United States Supreme Court to refrain from exercising WHAT IS ITS ABSOLUTE CONSTITUTIONAL DUTY TO DEFEND THE NATION FROM UNLAWFUL USURPATION. The questions of Obama’s Kenyan birth and his father’s Kenyan/British citizenship (admitted on his own website) have been conflated by his sustained unwillingnes to supply his long form birth certificate now under seal, and compounded by his internet posting of a discredited ‘after-the-fact’ short form ‘certificate’. In the absence of these issues being acknowledged and addressed, IT IS MANIFEST THAT OBAMA REMAINS INELIGIBLE TO BE PRESIDENT UNDER ARTICLE 2 OF THE UNITED STATES CONSTITUTION. Being a 14th Amendment ‘citizen’ is not sufficient. A ‘President’ MUST BE an Article 2 ‘natural born citizen’ AS DEFINED BY THE FRAMERS’ INTENT.

Posted by: Ted at February 13, 2009 5:43 PM


If I propose a solution like either open districting or vouchers for educational reform, both of which non-corporate solutions, instead of "funding formulas" and other money to geographic-monopoly bureaucracies, I'm likely to get very little Progressive support. If I propose health-savings accounts and letting individuals have the same tax-break as businesses get for buying health-insurance -- the second of which weakens the corporate hold on employees -- I'm still likely to get very little Progressive support. And I've not known many Progressives who will even begin to consider a social security reform that cuts $1 or more in projected spending from the existing centralized system.

If bureaucracy is not the Progressive ideal, then well-meaning Progressives need to take some time to ponder why it ends up being a part of the solution to every major problem they consider.

And again maybe you can convince me differently, but one has ever convincingly explained to me how "libertarian socialism" differs from regular socialism, without getting stuck in the "it's the true socialism that no one has ever dared to try" dead end.

Posted by: Andrew at February 14, 2009 5:36 PM

We're dragging out the birth certificate issue again? Somebody please call the ambulance before I break several ribs hitting the floor in hysterical laughter.

Posted by: rhody at February 14, 2009 11:50 PM

Hey Ted,

Get a life will you. Barack Obama was born in Honolulu in August 1961. The state government has verified that there is a valid live birth certificate on file. There is also an announcement of the birth to Mr. and Mrs. Barack Obama published contemporaneously in the Honolulu newspaper.

Anyway, the CJ swore him in (twice!) so good luck with that court challenge. By the way, what exactly is a "14th Amendment citizen?"

As for Zack the Spectacular: I love listening to sweeping statements by people who have no idea of the actual facts.

Edmund Burke, et al were great men and great thinkers, but they were on the scene a century after England decisively settled this Divine Right nonsense.

You may have heard of him. Guy name of Cromwell. Did it the hard way. Ousted the King and executed him. Barred his (the King's) flunkies from ever entering the House of Commons. Led the New Model Army to a decisive victory over the Royalists. Established the fact of the supremacy of Parliament.

Ah, yes, as the Great Reagan told us, "facts are stupid things."

As to Andrew: It's really a great thing to edit something som eone else wrote and respond to an argument that somewhat neverf made. So, in that spirit, I'll strike your entire comment and substitute "The so-called conservatives are pathetic fools who, through their favored leader, not very funny comedian Rush Limbaugh, self confessed drug abuser, openly assert the GOP policy of rooting for failure and misery.

Prepare for the trip to the same graveyard where the Whigs are buried.

Posted by: Ken at February 15, 2009 7:18 PM

Um, citing a military dictatorship led by a General who believed that God had chosen him to lead as your model of 17th century government really doesn't do much to counter Zack's basic point that there are people out there who believe that the legitimacy of government is based on a higher power sharing power with chosen leaders, who in turn may or may not decide to share some with the people.

And amazingly, that's not even the most idiotic part of your rant.

Posted by: Andrew at February 16, 2009 9:50 AM

"If bureaucracy is not the Progressive ideal, then well-meaning Progressives need to take some time to ponder why it ends up being a part of the solution to every major problem they consider."

I gave an example, public libraries. So are they centralized and bureaucratic or not? I say public libraries are a wildly successful, collectivist institutions and that they disprove your categorical claims.

As to bureaucracy, what Andrew is saying is that some government solutions face the same problems as every large corporation. So what? Neither are my "ideal" solutions, and I'm a progressive!

Posted by: Russ at February 16, 2009 11:47 AM
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