Farms and Free Enterprise: A Blueprint for Agricultural Policy

Heritage Foundation’s New Report Offers a Free-Market Alternative to the Farm Bill

Daren Bakst / September 22, 2016

 

    The Heritage Foundation report, “Farms and Free Enterprise: A Blueprint for Agricultural Policy” provides not just an alternative to the farm bill, but a free-market vision for agricultural policy.

    Agricultural policy is much broader than the costly and harmful subsidies that exist in the farm bill. In addition to the subsidies, the report analyzes many issues that aren’t usually a focus of the farm bill, such as the Clean Water Act and the Renewable Fuel Standard.

Here’s the free enterprise blueprint at a glance:

Address agricultural programs on their own merits. Before even getting into the substance of agricultural policy, a critical process issue needs to be addressed. The farm bill is really the food stamp bill. At the time of the 2014 farm bill’s passage, the projected costs for food stamps and the nutrition title covered about 80 percent of the farm bill’s costs.

The purpose of separation is to ensure that agri­cultural programs and nutrition programs, which have no business being combined together, are debated and considered on their own merits. They are combined together for political purposes to get the programs passed; legislators who support agri­cultural programs will support food stamp policies in order to get their agricultural programs enacted, and vice-versa. As a result, neither gets the attention they deserve, and this logrolling makes enacting any meaningful reforms more difficult.

Move away from subsidies to address agricultural risk. Agricultural producers, like other businesses, face a wide range of risks. Yet why is there a special taxpayer-funded safety net to help many farmers with risk, when other businesses manage risk without such federal government intervention?

Before even examining the major programs such as the federal crop insurance program and the sugar program, we asked preliminary questions to identify why these programs even existed in the first place. Agricultural producers are well positioned to manage risk and have many private means to do so.

Further, the harm caused by subsidies is far greater than the approximately $15 billion annual cost of the taxpayer-funded safety net. For example, farmers will farm the subsidies. Instead of meeting the needs of the market, farmers will make planting decisions based on how to maximize the subsidies that are being offered to them. This isn’t a criticism of farmers; it is a rational action they take based on the market-distorting incentives created by subsidies.

Congress has gone way beyond providing a taxpayer-funded safety net for agricultural producers. For example, Congress created a major new program called the Agricultural Risk Coverage program in the 2014 farm bill that protects farmers from even minor dips in their expected revenue.

Under the federal crop insurance program, agricultural producers can have bumper crops and still can get indemnities. Basically, the “safety net” has become a pretext for helping to ensure that large agricultural producers (who receive most of the subsidies) do well financially.

The report does recommend moving away from subsidies, but not all at one time. To help ease the transition, we should move away from these excessive subsidies and move to what most reasonable people would think is in fact a safety net.

Specifically, the report recommends keeping programs that only address deep yield losses (such as losses from disasters). This includes keeping the federal crop insurance program, but getting rid of the revenue-based policies that seek to insulate farmers from the market.

Removing the extensive federal intervention would free farmers to engage in agricultural production without government meddling.

End favorable treatment for biofuels and the Renewable Fuel Standard. The report provides significant detail about how the RFS in particular is very harmful. For example, as highlighted by the report:

  • Higher feedstock prices from the mandate unnecessari­ly raise costs for livestock farmers and ranchers.
  • Biofuel policies cost taxpayers $7.7 billion in 2011 and $1.3 billion in 2012—after the expiration of the ethanol blenders tax credit, a 45-cent-per-gallon tax credit for blending eth­anol into gasoline. Over a 30-year time frame, ethanol subsidies have diverted $45 billion in taxpayer money.
  • The RFS has failed to deliver on its promise of reducing dependence on oil.
  • The RFS has increased food prices. The USDA’s Economic Research Service notes that “increased corn prices draw land away from competing crops, raise input prices for livestock producers, and put moderate upward pressure on retail food prices.”

The report calls for the repeal of the RFS and eliminating the bioenergy programs in the farm bill, and argues that producers should be allowed to drive alternative fuel innovation.

It explains that policymakers should “use the repeal of the mandate as momen­tum for greater reform in the energy sector. Such future reforms should include a further leveling of the playing field for all energy companies and technologies. Congress should also remove pref­erential treatment for all transportation fuels and technologies.”

Promote free trade in agriculture. Free trade benefits consumers with lower prices and greater choices and helps agricultural producers with being able to export to new markets.

The report explains, “U.S. agricultural exports have had a ripple effect through the economy. According to the USDA’s Economic Research Service, the $150 billion in agricultural exports in 2014 created an additional $190.6 billion in economic activity and over 1 mil­lion full-time jobs.”

Despite the incredible benefits of free trade in agriculture, the United States continues to create protectionist schemes through tariff and nontariff trade barriers. A key recommendation in the report is for the United States to put its own house in order by getting rid of these barriers.

In addition, though, the federal government does have a key role to play in agriculture: It needs to be proactive in seeking to eliminate the barriers that block domestic producers from entering foreign markets.

For example, the United States should make more aggressive demands and offers in World Trade Organization negotiations, and should litigate more agricultural trade barrier cases before the WTO. The United States has been very successful when bringing WTO cases.

Reduce and eliminate key regulatory obstacles. Usually the policy debate on federal government intervention in agriculture focuses on how to help farmers through subsidies. The report looks at the other side of the equation, too: How does federal government intervention, specifically regulations, make it more difficult for farmers and ranchers?

The long list of harmful and unnecessary regulations impacting agriculture could take up a book on its own. The report explores many of the key regulatory obstacles such as Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act, public lands, and agricultural biotechnology regulation. The recommendations call for significant changes that will reduce this barrage of federal regulations on our nation’s farmers.

“Farms and Free Enterprise: A Blueprint for Agricultural Policy” should serve as a valuable starting point for much-needed public discourse on agricultural policy. At a minimum, it provides a clear choice for legislators when it comes to agricultural reform: maintain the harmful status quo or adopt policies that will free up farmers and ranchers to best meet the food needs of consumers.

FOREWORD  from Farms and Free Enterprise: A Blueprint for Agricultural Policy

“I had rather be on my farm than be emperor of the world.” — George Washington

Centuries before the birth of Christ, there lived a Roman politician named Lucius Cincinnatus. The fortunes of his career had reduced him to a modest living, tilling the soil of his own fields. But he had a reputation for faithful governance.

In those days, Rome was often at war with its neighbors. On one of these occasions, when the situation looked grim, the leaders of Rome came to Cincinnatus to offer him absolute power if he could save them from their enemies. He met them standing at his plow, as he donned his official robes.

He rallied all the men of military age and set out for victory. Within 15 days, Cincinnatus had conquered the enemies of Rome, shown mercy toward the defeated, and returned to his plow. He gave up a dictatorship for the sake of the Republic and the land he loved.

His legacy was mirrored by that of George Washington, who was so beloved by the American people after the Revolutionary War that he could have well become a despot in his own right. But after serving two terms as President, he too returned to his crops and fields. To this day, The Society of the Cincinnati is composed of the descendants of Revolutionary War officers who celebrate the ideal of Cincinnatus as upheld by Washington.

To give up the reins of government for the reins of the workhorse not only reinforces the importance of liberty and patriotism; it points to the timeless role of the land and those who work it. The agriculture which feeds us precedes government in directly serving the needs of the American people.

And yet today, unlike its honored namesake, the city of Washington prefers being an “emperor” which meddles in farming across the nation—quite a reversal.

Subsidies for politically connected industries prop up businesses and insulate them from foreign competition, disproportionately favoring big agricultural producers. Sometimes this has nothing to do with the food we eat, like the government hand¬outs to make inefficient ethanol from corn.

An oppressive regulatory regime drives up costs for farms and consumers, while mandatory labeling requirements and other faddish fears of modern farming techniques sacrifice plentiful, safe food to the altar of pseudo-science.

So many of these measures are excused and justified with appeals to the importance of American agriculture and the vital role of our farms. It is very easy to signal that one cares deeply about agricultural issues by taking money from some citizens and giving it to others—a favorite and practiced pastime in Congress.

Even politicians who normally seek to prevent the government from picking winners and losers in other sectors of the economy, like technology, the Internet, or energy development are loathe to stop interfering in agriculture, lest they be blamed for the failure of a business that was unable to stand on its own.

But we must apply the same free-market reasoning we use for any economic question: supply and demand of our food should be determined by the market, precisely because it is so essential to our day-to-day lives. Agriculture is too important to be left in the hands of the federal government.

Instead, we should treat food like any other product which we want readily and cheaply available to the consumer, from cell phones to cars. Competition—the more open, the better—will always benefit regular Americans.

Our leaders will best honor the vital role of agriculture in our society by letting us return to our plowshares unmolested by the government, and leaving despotism with the rest of the fertilizer.

It is the Washington thing to do.

Jim DeMint, President

The Heritage Foundation

September 2016

 

EIGHT GUIDING PRINCIPLES FOR AGRICULTURAL POLICY: A Free-Enterprise Vision

excerpted fromFarms and Free Enterprise: A Blueprint for Agricultural Policy

Daren Bakst

Over the past 80 years, agriculture has changed dramatically. However, farm bill programs and their progeny are grounded in the same cen­tral-planning philosophies that existed during the Depression. Even some policymakers who claim to be strong proponents of free enterprise and limited government tend to forget these core beliefs when it comes to these programs.

Agricultural policy is not restricted to those farm bill programs that limit choice, stifle innovation, distort consumer prices, and cost taxpayers billions of dollars a year. It also includes food safety, inter­national trade, environmental policy and property rights, research and innovation, and general issues applicable to all sectors of the economy, such as labor policy.

There are alternatives to agriculture beyond the status quo of central planning and subsidies. The same free-enterprise solutions that have allowed the U.S. to flourish are just as applicable to agricul­ture as they are to other sectors of the economy. The following are eight guiding principles for agricultur­al policy.

  1. Markets—Not Government Incentives and Controls—Should Inform Farming Decisions

Many farmers make decisions based on restric­tions imposed by central-planning policies and the subsidies that distort their choices through mis­guided incentives. These policies include loans, disaster assistance, price and revenue guarantees, supply restrictions, import barriers, payments to idle land, marketing orders (which are effective­ly government-sanctioned cartels), and subsidized crop insurance.

Too often, there is an assumption made by pro­ponents of the status quo that the federal govern­ment can use central planning to best allocate resources. No government has the knowledge to plan economies. Instead, agricultural policy should be responsive to markets, thereby freeing farmers to produce what they deem fit—not what a government subsidy encourages.

  1. The Government Should Not Distort Food Prices

Prices provide a signal to agricultural producers as to where to allocate resources and best respond to market demand. By insulating agricultural pro­ducers from prices, the government undermines this critical signal necessary to inform producers regarding how best to meet market demand. As the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Devel­opment (OECD) explains “price interventions will isolate farmers from underlying market fundamen­tals such as high prices that signal a negative supply shock or low prices that signal over-supply.”1

Some existing policies also artificially drive up food prices, such as the sugar program2 and the Renewable Fuel Standard.3 Artificially higher food prices hurt low-income individuals the most because a greater share of their incomes go to food costs compared to individuals with higher incomes.

  1. Agricultural Producers Should Succeed (or Fail) on Their Own Merits

Government should not intervene in the market to help ensure that agricultural producers are prof­itable, such as through the “shallow loss” program that protects farmers from even minor losses.

Like other business leaders, farmers should suc­ceed or fail on their own merits and assume the risks and reap the rewards of doing business. In addition, though, government should not intervene in the market by making it difficult, if not impossible, for farmers to succeed financially. Burdensome regu­lations can harm farmers as can restrictions limit­ing access to capital and labor necessary to meet the unique needs of farms.

  1. Property Rights Are the Cornerstone of American Agriculture

Farmers and ranchers are the best stewards of their property. Property ownership creates power­ful incentives to maintain property. Many farmers and ranchers depend on their land for their very live­lihood: According to the U.S. Department of Agricul­ture, “With a value of $2.38 trillion, farm real estate (land and structures) accounted for four-fifths of the total value of U.S. farm sector assets in 2014.”4

Too often, farmers and ranchers bear an exces­sive cost for government regulations that place restrictions on how they use their property. This problem is particularly egregious with laws such as the Endangered Species Act. Farmers and ranchers bear costs that should be borne by society general­ly, not by a narrow group of property owners alone. In many instances, the restrictions are so great as to amount to regulatory takings, which should trigger just compensation to the harmed property owners.

Clearly defined and strongly enforced property rights might also help develop solutions to address many agricultural challenges. For example, water rights can be used by the property owner to par­ticipate in water markets, likely serving as the best means to allocate scarce water resources.

  1. The Regulatory Burden on the Agricultural Sector Should Be Minimized and Sound Regulatory Approaches Used

Regulations can hinder farmers and other businesses throughout the food supply system. Farm-specific regulations should generally be limit­ed to covering health and safety. Furthermore, when agencies promulgate regulations, they should have clear statutory authority and use sound regulatory and scientific analysis, including adopting the least costly alternative to achieve its objective. Unnec­essary, duplicative, or outdated regulations should be repealed.

One-size-fits-all regulation does not work, espe­cially given the diverse work of farmers and the unique agricultural challenges that exist on the state and local levels. Regulation should become more decentralized with states and local govern­ments having more influence and responsibility as the federal government plays a smaller role.

  1. Obstacles to Agricultural Research and Innovation Should Be Removed

Groundbreaking innovations in fields such as agricultural biotechnology will help the agricultur­al sector feed not only Americans, but the world as well.5 These innovations can yield many benefits including greater productivity, reduced food costs, and improved nutrition. However, misinformation campaigns instead of sound science are creating obstacles that are undermining innovations.

Any approval process for these innovations should be streamlined, consistent, and based on sound sci­ence. When approval is arbitrary and unpredictable, innovators are discouraged from moving forward with their research.6 Other unnecessary govern­ment obstacles that hinder research and innovation should be removed, including any taxpayer-funded research that discourages private research.

  1. Promoting Free Trade in Agriculture Benefits Farmers and Consumers

Trade opportunities are lost when Congress subsidizes domestic agriculture industries, there­by inviting other countries to respond in kind, or even to retaliate if the U.S. is in violation of World Trade Organization rules.7 While other countries will inevitably create protectionist schemes, taking comparable action only hurts American consumers by restricting competition and making free trade more difficult.

Trade policy should not focus on the narrow interests of one industry. Such an approach usually comes at the expense of consumers, other industries, and the economy as a whole.

Free trade in agriculture should be aggressive­ly pursued. This means eliminating domestic trade barriers, which would promote competition by giv­ing consumers access to foreign agricultural prod­ucts, and aggressively seeking the removal of bar­riers that block American products from entering foreign markets.

  1. Agricultural Policy Should Not Promote Special Interests

Everyone is affected by agricultural policy because, after all, everyone eats. When agricultur­al policy debates occur, farming interests and other “stakeholder” interests are usually involved in the formulation of policy, but consumer and taxpayer interests are not. When crafting agricultural policy, lawmakers should remember two important facts: (1) Agriculture exists to meet the needs of the mar­ket; and (2) The government is not spending its own money on agriculture programs; it is using taxpay­er money. The market, not government interven­tion, is the appropriate tool to sort out all of the var­ious interests.

Agricultural policy debates should be conducted in an open and transparent manner. Political maneu­vers should not be used as a way to push legislation through at the expense of thoughtful discourse on agricultural policy, as is currently employed in the farm bill, which combines farm programs with food stamps.

Moving Forward

A free enterprise vision for agriculture starts with recognizing the flaws of government interven­tion while embracing freedom and individual rights. Such broad-based principles, if applied, can help transform agricultural policy, moving it from an era of excessive government control that bestows public largesse to the few to an era of respecting individual freedom that benefits all.

ENDNOTES:

  1. Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development, “Risk Management in Agriculture: What Role for Governments?” November 2011, http://www.oecd.org/agriculture/agricultural-policies/49003833.pdf (accessed March 16, 2016).
  2. Daren Bakst, “Should Government Restrict the Candy Supply?” The Daily Signal, October 31, 2013, http://blog.heritage.org/2013/10/31/should-government-restrict-the-candy-supply/. See also U.S. Department of Commerce, “Employment Changes in U.S. Food Manufacturing: The Impact of Sugar Prices,” November 2006, http://www.ita.doc.gov/media/Publications/abstract/sugar2006desc.html (accessed March 23, 2016).
  3. See Section 6 of this report. See also Nicolas D. Loris, “Examining the Renewable Fuel Standard,” testimony before the Subcommittee on the Interior and the Subcommittee on Healthcare, Benefits, and Administrative Rules, Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, U.S. House of Representatives, March 16, 2016, http://www.heritage.org/research/testimony/examining-the-renewable-fuel-standard.
  4. Economic Research Service, USDA, “Land Use, Land Value and Tenure,” http://www.ers.usda.gov/topics/farm-economy/land-use,-land-value-tenure.aspx (accessed March 21, 2016). See also U.S. Department of Agriculture, “Data Files: U.S. and State-Level Farm Income and Wealth Statistics,” http://www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/farm-income-and-wealth-statistics/data-files-us-and-state-level-farm-income-and-wealth-statistics.aspx (accessed March 23, 2016).
  5. U.S. Department of Agriculture, “Agricultural Biotechnology,” December 30, 2013, http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal/usda/usdahome?navid=BIOTECH (accessed March 23, 2016).
  6. For example, see Henry Miller, “With a Forked Tongue: How the Obama White House Stymies Innovation in Food Production,” Forbes, March 19, 2014, http://www.forbes.com/sites/henrymiller/2014/03/19/the-white-house-flouts-the-law-while-the-fda-commissioner-provides-cover/ (accessed March 23, 2016).
  7. See, e.g., Daren Bakst, “This Program Epitomizes Waste and Favoritism. Lawmakers Now Have a Chance to Repeal It,” The Daily Signal, May 18, 2015, http://dailysignal.com//2015/05/18/this-program-epitomizes-waste-and-favoritism-lawmakers-now-have-a-chance-to-repeal-it/.

Never forget 9/11, … and who did it, and why

Never forget 9/11, … and who did it, and why

Chad Groening, Steve Jordahl

September 10, 2016

911Fifteen years after the 9/11 attacks, there’s plenty of discussion today about Islam – much of it about catering to Muslims’ sensibilities.

The terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, claimed the lives of approximately 3,000 people when al-Qaeda terrorists hijacked two airliners and flew them into the World Trade Center towers in New York City.

The first plane hit the north tower at approximately 8:45 a.m.  and the second struck 18 minutes later.

A third airliner was flown into the Pentagon building and a fourth plane, possibly headed for a target in Washington, D.C., crashed in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, after passengers fought the hijackers.

On the outskirts of D.C., longtime conservative activist Gary Bauer was waiting in traffic due to an automobile wreck. He saw the Pentagon become the target of an airliner-turned-missile that killed 125 people.

“We did not realize at the time,” he says, “but on the morning of 9-10, we were a country in grave danger. On the morning of 9-11, we realized that danger and it caused us to unite.”

Since that time, however, says Richard Land, currently president of Southern Evangelical Seminary, the “high priests” of political correctness have urged Americans to tiptoe around the issues of Islam and its Jihadi followers.

“But I think in the general population,” he says, “they are really fed up with that.”

In the United States, Islamic-linked attacks have killed 94 people since 2001, USA Today reported.

The deadliest to date is also the most recent: the June attack at a homosexual nightclub in Orlando. That attack by Omar Mateen killed 49 and injured more than 50, making it the deadliest in the United States since 9-11.

Mateen, a U.S. citizen born to Afghan parents, had been interviewed by the FBI for possible terrorist connections.

“I think President Bush made a mistake when he referred to it as a war on terrorism,” he says. “I think that, of course, Barack Obama has made that mistake even worse.”

Obama suggested last year that Christians should “get off our high horse” about Islamic terrorism, citing the Crusades in Europe as an example. He was speaking, ironically, at the annual National Prayer Breakfast.

“Progressives have leveraged 9/11 at the expense of human life, national security, the interest of American citizens, to make Muslims victims,” complains Christian apologist Alex McFarland.

At the same time U.S. leaders fail to identify our Islamic enemies, Bauer adds, those same enemies are plotting ways to use weapons of mass destruction to kill far more people than died on 9-11.

Copyright OneNewsNow.com. Reprinted with permission.

Fracking Didn’t Cause Oklahoma Earthquake

Fracking Didn’t Cause Oklahoma Earthquake

Daniel John Sobieski

5 September, 2016

The earth moved for environmental extremists Saturday when a 5.6 magnitude earthquake struck Oklahoma. As soon as the first aftershock, the greenies were in full voice blaming fracking, the technology that has fueled America’s oil and natural gas boom.

Oklahoma state regulators ordered 37 disposal wells used by frackers shut down and Green Party presidential candidate Dr. Jill Stein tweeted:

Fracking causes polluted drinking water + earthquakes. The #GreenNewDeal comes with none of these side effects, Oklahoma. #BanFracking

Hydraulic fracturing, the technical term, does not cause earthquakes nor has there ever been evidence that it contaminates drinking water. Fracking has been used in oil and gas production in Oklahoma since 1949 and now, more than six decades later, the chicken littles of the left are claiming it now causes major destructive earthquakes? As Investor’s Business Daily editorialized:

So desperate have the greenies become to stop the oil and natural gas boom produced by the use of fracking that they resorted to claims that fracking can cause earthquakes. A recent report by the National Research Council dispelled that notion. U.S. Geological Survey seismologist William Ellsworth says he agrees with the research council that “hydraulic fracturing does not seem to pose much risk for earthquake activity.”

The mixture used to fracture shale is in fact a benign blend of 90% water, 9.5% sand and 0.5% chemicals such as the sodium chloride of table salt and the citric acid of the orange juice you had for breakfast. Shale formations in which fracking is employed are thousands of feet deep. Drinking-water aquifers are generally only a hundred feet deep. There’s a lot of solid rock between them….

“This 60-year-old technique has been responsible for 7 billion barrels of oil and 600 trillion cubic feet of natural gas,” according to James Inhofe, R-Okla., ranking member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, and in whose state fracking was first commercially applied in 1949. “In hydraulic fracturing’s 60-year-history,” he says, “there has not been a single documented case of contamination.”

Fracking involves the injection under pressure of the aforementioned mixture of common elements, mainly water itself, to shatter the porous shale rock and releasing trapped oil and natural gas which is then extracted to the surface. Disposal wells do sometimes disturb the earth, but does not cause major destructive earthquakes, according to a study by the National Research Council, part of the National Academies of Science:

Does hydraulic fracturing — the process of forcing water, sand and a few chemicals down the bore hole and into shale formations — cause earthquakes? The National Research Council (NRC), part of the National Academies of Science, says the answer to that would be “no, fracking does not cause earthquakes.” That’s according to a new study just released by the NRC titled “Induced Seismicity Potential in Energy Technologies”….

The study found that out of a sample size of 35,000 oil and gas wells that have been horizontally fracked, earthquakes have been detected — get ready — in one instance. One. Which is statistically dead zero.

But what about those earthquakes in Ohio? And the ones down in Arkansas? That was from fracking, right? No, it wasn’t. It was from injecting wastewater from Marcellus drilling deep underground into what are called injection wells — a method of disposing leftover fracking water. There are over 30,000 active injection wells in the United States. When an injection well is located near or over top of a fault and fluid is forced down into the well and the fluid leaks into the fault, guess what happens? An earthquake. According to the NRC study how many earthquakes have resulted from those 30,000 injection wells? Eight. Once again, statistically zero.

It is fracking that has produced a boom in the production of natural gas, a fossil fuel, that has produced a significant reduction in the U.S. of so-called “greenhouse gases”. As the Washington Times reported:

White House senior advisor Brian Deese cheered the falling carbon dioxide levels at a Monday press conference without mentioning the outsize role played by natural gas, as the cleaner-burning fuel increasingly overtakes coal in electricity generation.

“For those of you who are not breathlessly following the most recent data that has come out, I would note recent data that we’ve seen suggests or finds that for the first half of 2016, energy sector emissions in the United States are actually down 6 percent from last year, and 15 percent from 2005,” said Mr. Deese. “And they’re at their lowest level in nearly 20 years.”

He said nothing about the U.S. natural gas boom, an omission that critics say has become par for the course as the Obama administration highlights renewable energy and emissions restrictions without acknowledging the role of fracking in natural gas extraction.

“To add dishonesty to injury, his administration is bragging about the reduced CO2 emissions of [the] U.S. industry without crediting the fracking for natural gas, a fossil fuel, that largely caused it,” said Alex Epstein, author of the book “The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels.”

Fracking itself is in fact saving the environment by reducing the emission of greenhouse gases the greenies hate. It does not slice and dice birds, including endangered species, en masse like wind turbines, nor does it fry them to a crisp like solar panel farms have done. And it does not cause major disastrous earthquakes.

Daniel John Sobieski is a freelance writer whose pieces have appeared in Investor’s Business Daily, Human Events, Reason Magazine and the Chicago Sun-Times among other publications.

Truth, Ideology, and Education

Truth, Ideology, and Education

 

    Truth is an absolute. Defined in reality by immutable Law, it is independent of human invention or control. More, Truth is often unknown and incomprehensible, conveyed to human awareness in indeterminate time. Ideology, what is believed or accepted as truth, is dependent on human perception. Motivating individual behavior, what one believes derives from and is born of perception. Education, what is learned and accepted as truth, results in the human interaction with the totality of the environment. Political action is a magnification of the individual perception. Education, coming from whatever source – learned by experience or taught, etc., establishes the base from which human relationships move. Regarding those interactions with natural order, humanity is responsible, but inseparably bound by Law. Nowhere is misperception so evident as in the expressions of science and uncorrupted history. Political action, magnifying individual perception, is the part of historical truth chronicling the successes and failures attributable to those perceptions.

 

In the current presidential campaign, what is so particularly disturbing is that one party’s platform is based on lies, deceptions, and flagrant untruths, both historical and scientific. Ideologically, it violates the original intention of the Constitution. For that reason alone, the future composition of the Supreme Court will be critical in determining whether liberty, justice for all, and “government of the people, by the people, for the people”, will endure in America.

 

Calling to the poor, the disenfranchised, marginalized, the immigrant, etc., politicians spewing lies and deceptions create division in the quest to achieve political power. Until the cultural relevance movement placed markers on Americans, those new to our shores seeking the blessings afforded by no other political system or nation, chose to assimilate into the American culture. They sought to dress, speak, and interact with their neighbors in ways that blended in. Most, understanding that hard work and education opened the doors of equal opportunity, cherished equality under the order of law intended by the Constitution. Americans with Mexican heritage imparted a work ethic for those satiated by a standard of living unknown in most societies to emulate. Americans of African descent seeking social equality portrayed a courtesy and self-control in interpersonal relationships that integrated the military and the skilled and educated workforce. All of that was lost as justice for all surrendered to political correctness, reverse discrimination, and welfare to the undeserving. Unearned benefits created a resentment, usually ignored, in working responsible Americans. Lacking appropriate socialization from paternal authority figures, the illegitimate offspring of government failure disregard law and order. Joining the ranks of criminals, those holding to failed ideologies have become the militant enemies of true freedom and justice for all.

 

Looking at the ongoing economic and political failures of socialism described in the beginning at America’s birth by Governor William Bradford of Plymouth Colony in his book “Of Plymouth Plantation”; the economic and political consequences of the Sixteenth Amendment violating the Framer’s intention, ratified by a similar political subterfuge focusing on the disparity between the rich and the poor; American jobs lost because of energy policies riding on global warming coupled with human arrogance ignoring the incontrovertible truth that atmospheric CO2 content has little or nothing to do with cyclical global warming; the unconstitutional regulation and strangulation of administrative state; the Benghazi tragedy; the repeated political compromises of homeland security; and on and on; America is under attack by “enemies, foreign and domestic”.

 

Allied with those politicians seeking to enable a venue for discrimination and prejudice, which is exactly what diversity and political correctness foment, encourage, and establish, are the false propagandists of the liberal media and an education system preaching the lies and deceptions of false science and history revised by those choosing to believe untruths, however incorporated or accepted into their misguided ideologies. Tolerance is the enemy of justice.

 

Look carefully at every politicians’ platform, their past voting record, their past personal history, who supports them, and the platform of the party to which they attach themselves to. Truth and justice for all matter! Remember, George Washington, “the father of our country”, had no experience as president.

 

CftC

 

    The above article is published and endorsed by The Committee for the Constitution. Submitted by Don Brancato, the author of The Attack on America and Beyond Reason, we follow it below with two relevant articles, one by the former Democratic governor of Colorado for twelve years from 1975 to 1987, Richard D. Lamm.

 

  I HAVE A PLAN TO DESTROY AMERICA

revision of October 3, 2003 speech in Washington, D.C.
RICHARD D. LAMM

June, 2005

 

    I HAVE A SECRET PLAN TO DESTROY AMERICA. IF YOU BELIEVE, AS MANY DO, THAT AMERICA IS TOO SMUG, TOO WHITE BREAD, TOO SELF-SATISFIED, TOO RICH, LETS DESTROY AMERICA. IT IS NOT THAT HARD TO DO. HISTORY SHOWS THAT NATIONS ARE MORE FRAGILE THAN THEIR CITIZENS THINK. NO NATION IN HISTORY HAS SURVIVED THE RAVAGES OF TIME. ARNOLD TOYNBEE OBSERVED THAT ALL GREAT CIVILIZATIONS RISE AND THEY ALL FALL, AND THAT “AN AUTOPSY OF HISTORY WOULD SHOW THAT ALL GREAT NATIONS COMMIT SUICIDE.” HERE IS MY PLAN:

  1. WE MUST FIRST MAKE AMERICA A BILINGUAL-BICULTURAL COUNTRY. HISTORY SHOWS, IN MY OPINION, THAT NO NATION CAN SURVIVE THE TENSION, CONFLICT, AND ANTAGONISM OF TWO COMPETING LANGUAGES AND CULTURES. IT IS A BLESSING FOR AN INDIVIDUAL TO BE BILINGUAL; IT IS A CURSE FOR A SOCIETY TO BE BILINGUAL. ONE SCHOLAR, SEYMOUR MARTIN LIPSET, PUT IT THIS WAY: THE HISTORIES OF BILINGUAL AND BICULTURAL SOCIETIES THAT DO NOT ASSIMILATE ARE HISTORIES OF TURMOIL, TENSION, AND TRAGEDY. CANADA, BELGIUM, MALAYSIA, LEBANON-ALL FACE CRISES OF NATIONAL EXISTENCE IN WHICH MINORITIES PRESS FOR AUTONOMY, IF NOT INDEPENDENCE. PAKISTAN AND CYPRUS HAVE DIVIDED. NIGERIA SUPPRESSED AN ETHNIC REBELLION. FRANCE FACES DIFFICULTIES WITH ITS BASQUES, BRETONS, AND CORSICANS.
  2. I WOULD THEN INVENT “MULTICULTURALISM” AND ENCOURAGE IMMIGRANTS TO MAINTAIN THEIR OWN CULTURE. I WOULD MAKE IT AN ARTICLE OF BELIEF THAT ALL CULTURES ARE EQUAL: THAT THERE ARE NO CULTURAL DIFFERENCES THAT ARE IMPORTANT. I WOULD DECLARE IT AN ARTICLE OF FAITH THAT THE BLACK AND HISPANIC DROPOUT RATE IS ONLY DUE TO PREJUDICE AND DISCRIMINATION BY THE MAJORITY. EVERY OTHER EXPLANATION IS OUT-OF-BOUNDS.

    III.     WE CAN MAKE THE UNITED STATES A “HISPANIC QUEBEC” WITHOUT MUCH EFFORT. THE KEY IS TO CELEBRATE DIVERSITY RATHER THAN UNITY. AS BENJAMIN SCHWARZ SAID IN THE ATLANTIC MONTHLY RECENTLY:

…THE APPARENT SUCCESS OF OUR OWN MULTIETHNIC AND MULTICULTURAL EXPERIMENT MIGHT HAVE BEEN ACHIEVED NOT BY TOLERANCE BUT BY HEGEMONY. WITHOUT THE DOMINANCE THAT ONCE DICTATED ETHNOCENTRICALLY, AND WHAT IT MEANT TO BE AN AMERICAN, WE ARE LEFT WITH ONLY TOLERANCE AND PLURALISM TO HOLD US TOGETHER.

    I WOULD ENCOURAGE ALL IMMIGRANTS TO KEEP THEIR OWN LANGUAGE AND CULTURE. I WOULD REPLACE THE MELTING POT METAPHOR WITH A SALAD BOWL METAPHOR. IT IS IMPORTANT TO INSURE THAT WE HAVE VARIOUS CULTURAL SUB-GROUPS LIVING IN AMERICA REINFORCING THEIR DIFFERENCES RATHER THAN AMERICANS, EMPHASIZING THEIR SIMILARITIES.

IV.     HAVING DONE ALL THIS, I WOULD MAKE OUR FASTEST GROWING DEMOGRAPHIC GROUP THE LEAST EDUCATED – I WOULD ADD A SECOND UNDERCLASS, UNASSIMILATED, UNDEREDUCATED, AND ANTAGONISTIC TO OUR POPULATION. I WOULD HAVE THIS SECOND UNDERCLASS HAVE A 50% DROP OUT RATE FROM SCHOOL.

V.     I WOULD THEN GET THE BIG FOUNDATIONS AND BIG BUSINESS TO GIVE THESE EFFORTS LOTS OF MONEY. I WOULD INVEST IN ETHNIC IDENTITY, AND I WOULD ESTABLISH THE CULT OF VICTIMOLOGY. I WOULD GET ALL MINORITIES TO THINK THEIR LACK OF SUCCESS WAS ALL THE FAULT OF THE MAJORITY – I WOULD START A GRIEVANCE INDUSTRY BLAMING ALL MINORITY FAILURE ON THE MAJORITY POPULATION.

VI.     I WOULD ESTABLISH DUAL CITIZENSHIP AND PROMOTE DIVIDED LOYALTIES. I WOULD “CELEBRATE DIVERSITY.” “DIVERSITY” IS A WONDERFULLY SEDUCTIVE WORD. IT STRESSES DIFFERENCES RATHER THAN COMMONALITIES. DIVERSE PEOPLE WORLDWIDE ARE MOSTLY ENGAGED IN HATING EACH OTHER-THAT IS, WHEN THEY ARE NOT KILLING EACH OTHER. A DIVERSE,” PEACEFUL, OR STABLE SOCIETY IS AGAINST MOST HISTORICAL PRECEDENT. PEOPLE UNDERVALUE THE UNITY IT TAKES TO KEEP A NATION TOGETHER, AND WE CAN TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THIS MYOPIA. LOOK AT THE ANCIENT GREEKS. DORF’S WORLD HISTORY TELLS US:

THE GREEKS BELIEVED THAT THEY BELONGED TO THE SAME RACE; THEY POSSESSED A COMMON LANGUAGE AND LITERATURE; AND THEY WORSHIPED THE SAME GODS. ALL GREECE TOOK PART IN THE OLYMPIC GAMES IN HONOR OF ZEUS AND ALL GREEKS VENERATED THE SHRINE OF APOLLO AT DELPHI. A COMMON ENEMY PERSIA THREATENED THEIR LIBERTY. YET, ALL OF THESE BONDS TOGETHER WERE NOT STRONG ENOUGH TO OVERCOME TWO FACTORS . . . (LOCAL PATRIOTISM AND GEOGRAPHICAL CONDITIONS THAT NURTURED POLITICAL DIVISIONS . . .)

    IF WE CAN PUT THE EMPHASIS ON THE “PLURIBUS,” INSTEAD OF THE “UNUM,” WE CAN BALKANIZE AMERICA AS SURELY AS KOSOVO.

VII.     THEN I WOULD PLACE ALL THESE SUBJECTS OFF LIMITS – MAKE IT TABOO TO TALK ABOUT. I WOULD FIND A WORD SIMILAR TO “HERETIC” IN THE 16TH CENTURY – THAT STOPPED DISCUSSION AND PARALYZED THINKING. WORDS LIKE “RACIST”, “XENOPHOBE” THAT HALTS ARGUMENT AND CONVERSATION.

HAVING MADE AMERICA A BILINGUAL-BICULTURAL COUNTRY, HAVING ESTABLISHED MULTICULTURALISM, HAVING THE LARGE FOUNDATIONS FUND THE DOCTRINE OF “VICTIMOLOGY”, I WOULD NEXT MAKE IT IMPOSSIBLE TO ENFORCE OUR IMMIGRATION LAWS. I WOULD DEVELOP A MANTRA – “THAT BECAUSE IMMIGRATION HAS BEEN GOOD FOR AMERICA, IT MUST ALWAYS BE GOOD.” I WOULD MAKE EVERY INDIVIDUAL IMMIGRANT SYMPATRIC AND IGNORE THE CUMULATIVE IMPACT.

VIII.     LASTLY, I WOULD CENSOR VICTOR DAVIS HANSON’S BOOK MEXIFORNIA — THIS BOOK IS DANGEROUS — IT EXPOSES MY PLAN TO DESTROY AMERICA. SO PLEASE, PLEASE — IF YOU FEEL THAT AMERICA DESERVES TO BE DESTROYED — PLEASE, PLEASE — DON’T BUY THIS BOOK! THIS GUY IS ON TO MY PLAN.

“THE SMART WAY TO KEEP PEOPLE PASSIVE AND OBEDIENT IS TO STRICTLY LIMIT THE SPECTRUM OF ACCEPTABLE OPINION, BUT ALLOW VERY LIVELY DEBATE WITHIN THAT SPECTRUM.” — NOAM CHOMSKY, AMERICAN LINGUIST AND US MEDIA AND FOREIGN POLICY CRITIC.

A Frightening Analysis

Author Unknown

 

We all know Dick Lamm as the former Governor of Colorado. In that context his thoughts are particularly poignant. Last week ( October 3, 2003) there was an immigration / over-population conference in Washington, D.C., filled to capacity by many of American’s finest minds and leaders. A brilliant college professor named Victor Davis Hanson talked about his latest book, “Mexifornia,” explaining how immigration — both legal and illegal — was destroying the entire state of California. He said it would march across the country until it destroyed all vestiges of The American Dream.

Moments later, former Colorado Governor Richard D. Lamm stood up and gave a stunning speech on how to destroy America. The audience sat spellbound as he described eight methods for the destruction of the United States. He said, “If you believe that America is too smug, too self-satisfied, too rich, then let’s destroy America. It is not that hard to do. No nation in history has survived the ravages of time. Arnold Toynbee observed that all great civilizations rise and fall and that ‘An autopsy of history would show that all great nations commit suicide.'”

“Here is how they do it,” Lamm said: First to destroy America, “Turn America into a bilingual or multi-lingual and bicultural country. History shows that no nation can survive the tension, conflict, and antagonism of two or more competing languages and cultures. It is a blessing for an individual to be bilingual; however, it is a curse for a society to be bilingual. The historical scholar Seymour Lipset put it this way: ‘The histories of bilingual and bi-cultural societies that do not assimilate are histories of turmoil, tension, and tragedy. Canada, Belgium, Malaysia, Lebanon all face crises of national existence in which minorities press for autonomy, if not independence. Pakistan and Cyprus have divided. Nigeria suppressed an ethnic rebellion. France faces difficulties with Basques, Bretons, and Corsicans.”

Lamm went on: Second, to destroy America, “Invent ‘multiculturalism’ and encourage immigrants to maintain their culture. I would make it an article of belief that all cultures are equal. That there are no cultural differences. I would make it an article of faith that the Black and Hispanic dropout rates are due to prejudice and discrimination by the majority. Every other explanation is out of bounds.

Third, “We could make the United States a ‘Hispanic Quebec’ without much effort. The key is to celebrate diversity rather than unity. As Benjamin Schwarz said in the Atlantic Monthly recently: ‘The apparent success of our own multiethnic and multicultural experiment might have been achieved! Not by tolerance but by hegemony. Without the dominance that once dictated ethnocentrically and what it meant to be an American, we are left with only tolerance and pluralism to hold us together.'”

Lamm said, “I would encourage all immigrants to keep their own language and culture. I would replace the melting pot metaphor with the salad bowl metaphor. It is important to ensure that we have various cultural subgroups living in America reinforcing their differences rather than as Americans, emphasizing their similarities.”

“Fourth, I would make our fastest growing demographic group the least educated. I would add a second underclass, unassimilated, undereducated, and antagonistic to our population. I would have this second underclass have a 50% dropout rate from high school.”

“My fifth point for destroying America would be to get big foundations and business to give these efforts lots of money. I would invest in ethnic identity, and I would establish the cult of ‘Victimology.’ I would get all minorities to think their lack of success was the fault of the majority. I would start a grievance industry blaming all minority failure on the majority population.”

“My sixth plan for America’s downfall would include dual citizenship and promote divided loyalties. I would celebrate diversity over unity. I would stress differences rather than similarities. Diverse people worldwide are mostly engaged in hating each other – that is, when they are not killing each other. A diverse, peaceful, or stable society is against most historical precedent. People undervalue the unity! Unity is what it takes to keep a nation together. Look at the ancient Greeks. The Greeks believed that they belonged to the same race; they possessed a common language and literature; and they worshiped the same gods. All Greece took part in the Olympic Games.

A common enemy Persia threatened their liberty. Yet all these bonds were not strong enough to over come two factors: local patriotism and geographical conditions that nurtured political divisions. Greece fell.

“E. Pluribus Unum” — From many, one. In that historical reality, if we put the emphasis on the ‘pluribus’ instead of the ‘Unum,’ we can balkanize America as surely as Kosovo.”

“Next to last, I would place all subjects off limits ~ make it taboo to talk about anything against the cult of ‘diversity.’ I would find a word similar to ‘heretic’ in the 16th century – that stopped discussion and paralyzed thinking. Words like ‘racist’ or ‘x! xenophobes’ halt discussion and debate.”

“Having made America a bilingual/bicultural country, having established multi-culturism, having the large foundations fund the doctrine of ‘Victimology,’ I would next make it impossible to enforce our immigration laws. I would develop a mantra: That because immigration has been good for America, it must always be good. I would make every individual immigrant symmetric and ignore the cumulative impact of millions of them.”

In the last minute of his speech, Governor Lamm wiped his brow. Profound silence followed. Finally he said, “Lastly, I would censor Victor Hanson Davis’s book Mexifornia. His book is dangerous. It exposes the plan to destroy America. If you feel America deserves to be destroyed, don’t read that book.”

There was no applause.

A chilling fear quietly rose like an ominous cloud above every attendee at the conference. Every American in that room knew that everything Lamm enumerated was proceeding methodically, quietly, darkly, yet pervasively across the United States today. Every discussion is being suppressed. Over 100 languages are ripping the foundation of our educational system and national cohesiveness. Barbaric cultures that practice female genital mutilation are growing as we celebrate ‘diversity.’ American jobs are vanishing into the Third World as corporations create a Third World in America — take note of California and other states — to date, ten million illegal aliens and growing fast. It is reminiscent of George Orwell’s book “1984.” In that story, three slogans are engraved in the Ministry of Truth building: “War is peace,” “Freedom is slavery,” and “Ignorance is strength.”

Governor Lamm walked back to his seat. It dawned on everyone at the conference that our nation and the future of this great democracy are deeply in trouble and worsening fast. If we don’t get this immigration monster stopped within three years, it will rage like a California wildfire and destroy everything in its path, especially The American Dream.

Hug-a-thug or Law and Order? – Do facts matter anymore?

Hug-a-thug or Law and Order?

Do facts matter anymore?

Dr. Thomas Sowell, Ph.D.

August 23, 2016

 

    Amid the rioting in Milwaukee, there is also a clash between two leading lawmen there — Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke and the city of Milwaukee’s Chief of Police Edward Flynn. They have very different opinions about how law enforcement should be carried out.

 

    Chief Edward Flynn expresses the view long prevalent among those who emphasize the social “root causes” of crime, such as income disparities and educational disparities, as well as the larger society’s neglect of black communities.

 

    Chief Flynn puts less emphasis on aggressive police action and more on community outreach and gun control.

 

Sheriff David Clarke represents an opposite tradition, in which the job of the police is to enforce the law, as forcefully as necessary, not to make excuses for law-breaking or to ease up on enforcing the law, in hopes that this will mollify rioters. Sheriff Clarke would also like to see law-abiding blacks be armed.

 

Differences of opinion on law enforcement are sharp and unmistakable — and have been for more than 50 years. However, as the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan used to say, “You’re entitled to your own opinion, but you’re not entitled to your own facts.”

 

Unfortunately, facts seem to play a remarkably small role in clashes over law enforcement policies. And that too has been true for more than 50 years.

 

In his memoirs, the Supreme Court’s Chief Justice Earl Warren declared that “all of us must assume a share of the responsibility” for rising crime rates in the 1960s because “for decades we have swept under the rug” the slum conditions that breed crime.

 

But the hard fact is that the murder rate in the country as a whole was going down during those very decades when social problems in the slums were supposedly being neglected.

 

Homicide rates among black males went down by 18 percent in the 1940s and by 22 percent in the 1950s. It was in the 1960s, when the ideas of Chief Justice Warren and others triumphed, that this long decline in homicide rates among black males reversed and skyrocketed by 89 percent, wiping out all the progress of the previous 20 years.

 

The same reversal in the country at large saw murder rates by 1974 more than twice as high as in 1960. This was after the murder rate had been cut in half from where it had been in the 1930s.

 

Ghetto riots, which erupted in the 1960s, were blamed on poverty and discrimination. But what were the facts?

 

Poverty and discrimination were worse in the South than in the rest of the country. But ghetto riots were not nearly as common in the South.

 

The most deadly ghetto riot of the 1960s occurred in Detroit, where 43 people were killed — 33 of whom were black. In Detroit at that time, black median family income was 95 percent of white median family income. The unemployment rate among blacks was 3.4 percent and black home ownership was higher in Detroit than in any other major city.

 

What was different about Detroit was that politicians put the police under orders that restricted their response to riots — and some rioters said “the fuzz is scared.” It was black victims who paid the highest price for letting rioters run amuck.

 

By contrast, Chicago’s 1960s mayor Richard Daley came on television to say that he had ordered his police to “shoot to kill” rioters who started fires. There was outrage among the politically correct across the country. But Chicago, with a larger population than Detroit, had no such death rate in riots.

 

In later years, New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani’s aggressive police policies in high-crime neighborhoods cut the murder rate down to a fraction of what it had been before.

 

But, in England, opposite policies prevailed, with what London’s “Daily Telegraph” newspaper referred to as “politically correct policing” that has police acting “more like social workers than upholders of law and order.”

 

Although England had long been regarded as one of the most law-abiding nations on Earth, riots that swept through London, Manchester and other British cities in 2011 were virtually identical to riots in Ferguson, Baltimore and other American cities. Most of the British rioters were white but what they did was the same, right down to setting fire to police cars.

 

But do facts matter anymore?

 

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305. His website is www.tsowell.com.

Under Attack By Enemies, Foreign and Domestic – The Great Silencing

Under Attack By Enemies, Foreign and Domestic

 

    The American people need to know that their freedom is actively under attack from the wealthy who imbued with the fortunes made available by free enterprise, equal opportunity, limited government, now want to deny the blessings of liberty and justice for all to those they have robbed of that hope. The liberal media’s false propaganda needs to be countered by the voice of truth and justice. That is our mission and commitment.

The Committee for the Constitution

 

Politics|News

AARP’s Retreat From Conservative Forum Part of ‘Great Silencing’

Kevin Mooney / @KevinMooneyDC / August 10, 2016

    The decision by the seniors group AARP to drop its membership in an influential legislative reform coalition is the latest example of the left’s successful pressure on corporations and other organizations to disown the group.

(“People should be concerned when any group believes solutions come from intimidation rather than discussion,” @ALEC_states says.)

    Since December, according to the liberal website SourceWatch.org, “at least 108 corporations and 19 nonprofits” have announced cutting ties with the American Legislative Exchange Council.

    Among those listed as parting ways with ALEC: Coca-Cola Co., Blue Cross Blue Shield, Johnson & Johnson, Walgreens, Wal-Mart, and Hewlett-Packard Co.

    “A great silencing is taking place across America,” ALEC spokesman Bill Meierling told The Daily Signal. “All people should be deeply concerned when any group believes solutions come from intimidation rather than discussion.”

Of all the organizations in the conservative movement that have antagonized the left during the Obama presidency, this one stands out.

The American Legislative Exchange Council is a nonprofit, nonpartisan network of state lawmakers, policy analysts, and private sector leaders that advances model legislation with an eye toward free market policy solutions.

The organization that became known as ALEC grew out of informal meetings of conservative activists in Chicago during autumn 1973. Forty-three years later, the exchange council includes “nearly one-quarter of the country’s state legislators and stakeholders from across the policy spectrum,” according to its website.

ALEC now has a long history of successfully promoting local and state legislation built on the constitutional principles of limited government, the free market, and federalism.

While the exchange council has attracted both positive attention and negative scrutiny since its founding, well-funded, well-organized opponents on the left have made a concerted effort over the past five years to marginalize, discredit, and defund it.

As previously reported by The Daily Signal, eight of the Senate’s most liberal Democrats also targeted ALEC last month in a letter to national and state-based think tanks and policy organizations demanding to know the names of donors.

Conservative policy analysts and think tank leaders who are familiar with the assault on ALEC have some insight.

A critical turning point came after the 2010 midterm elections, they say, when left-leaning lawmakers lost ground in statehouses across the country, making it possible for ALEC’s proposals to become policy at an accelerated pace.

Matthew Vadum is a senior vice president at Capital Research Center, which investigates the “aims and activities of left-liberal special interest groups.” Vadum said he suspects that because ALEC worked successfully to “frame the debate” during the Obama presidency, it aroused the ire of liberal groups such as Common Cause.

Those groups now see some of their most prized policy achievements in danger of losing their grip at the local and state levels, he said.

Obamacare and Voter ID

After President Barack Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, popularly known as Obamacare, into law in March 2010, ALEC “sprang into action” and “drafted model legislation aimed at blocking states from enforcing the new health insurance monstrosity,” Vadum noted in a research paper.

In November 2011, ALEC published its “State Lawmakers Guide to Repealing Obamacare.”

At least 10 states took up ALEC’s model proposal to block the federal health care law by 2013, Vadum wrote. But what rankled the left above all else is the exchange council’s commitment to passing voter identification laws as a safeguard against voter fraud, he says.

Two opponents, The Nation magazine and the Center for Media and Democracy, have led the charge against ALEC for the past five years.

Founded in 1865, The Nation describes itself as providing a progressive outlook on political and cultural questions. Its print circulation peaked at 187,000 in 2006; by 2010 it had dropped to 145,000.

The Center for Media and Democracy is a left-leaning investigative journalism outfit based in Madison, Wisconsin, that describes itself as a watchdog on the use of public relations by corporations and political figures. The center, founded in 1993 by progressive Wisconsin writer John Stauber, publishes SourceWatch, PR Watch, and BanksterUSA.

In July 2011, the magazine and the center partnered on a series of articles highlighting ALEC’s model bills and emphasizing its connections with the Koch brothers and their companies, organizations, and foundations.

Charles and David Koch, wealthy entrepreneurs and philanthropists, drew the left’s ire by organizing contributions to libertarian and conservative causes and candidates. The Nation’s first article on ALEC called the Koch brothers the exchange council’s “billionaire benefactors.”

The left’s opposition to laws requiring voters to produce photo identification figures prominently in the articles. One, for example, says ALEC is “peddling ‘Voter ID’ laws to disenfranchise voters.”

The Center for Media and Democracy operates a website called ALEC Exposed, also dating to July 2011, that focuses on ALEC’s funding sources and policy proposals. The site criticizes corporations and nonprofits that support ALEC.

Mark Holden, senior vice president and general counsel of Koch Industries Inc., shakes that off.

     “We support ALEC and the work it is doing on criminal justice reform legislation, protecting free speech, and promoting policies that remove barriers to opportunity for all Americans, especially the least advantaged,” Holden said in an email to The Daily Signal.

‘Seek to Silence’

The pressure tactics appear to have met with considerable success.

Since December, according to the Center for Media and Democracy’s SourceWatch.org, “at least 108 corporations and 19 nonprofits—for a total of 127 private sector members—have publicly announced that they cut ties with the American Legislative Exchange Council.”

Four of the 127 returned to ALEC, according to the website, but the left continues to claim new scalps such as AARP.

ALEC declined to comment on membership details or the exchange council’s success rate in state legislatures, saying opponents exploit the information.

Kevin Kane, president of Pelican Institute for Public Policy, a free market think tank based in New Orleans, said the anti-ALEC campaign is undermining free speech and the free exchange of ideas.

     “There has been an important tactical shift in the campaign against ALEC and other organizations that do not toe the line on certain policy issues,” Kane told The Daily Signal. “Many organizations on the left are no longer content to engage in a debate over the issues, instead they seek to silence opponents by convincing donors and sponsors that certain policy positions are beyond the pale and therefore unworthy of consideration.”

    In an email, Kane added:

This creates an environment where policymakers and citizens are less likely to be exposed to a wide range of arguments over important policy questions. Organizations like Pelican Institute do not benefit from this development, but the real losers in this campaign are policymakers and their constituents, who are denied the many benefits that flow from robust and open debate over important policy questions.

Pelican Institute, part of the State Policy Network, a coalition of state-based think tanks, sometimes partners with ALEC on legislative proposals.

AARP ‘Decides Not to Renew

Most recently, liberal advocacy groups succeeded in pressuring AARP, the nation’s most powerful organization of older Americans, to drop its affiliation with ALEC.

AARP, formerly the American Association of Retired Persons, announced Aug. 4 it would not continue membership.

In a letter that same day to Jo Ann Jenkins, chief executive officer of AARP, liberal groups accused the exchange council of pushing for policy changes that harm senior citizens.

“AARP’s support of ALEC is antithetical to your mission to fight for the issues that matter most to families—such as health care, employment, and income security,” the letter to Jenkins said.

    The letter, which called on the seniors organization to withdraw from the exchange council, was signed by the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees; the Center for Media and Democracy; Social Security Works; and ClimateTruth.org, among other groups.

“After hearing from many of you, we’ve decided not to renew our membership to ALEC,” AARP said in a post that evening on its Facebook page. Politico broke the news.

    The liberal organizations’ letter to AARP’s Jenkins said in part:

By partnering with ALEC, you have allowed it to use the powerful AARP brand to lend credibility to legislation harmful to seniors that is introduced in statehouses across the country. ALEC has been at the forefront of protecting drug companies and their ability to charge unreasonable prices, has been a strong advocate against the Affordable Care Act and has opposed Medicaid expansion, forcing lower-income retirees to make terrible choices between paying medical bills and buying groceries. …

ALEC also blocks action on climate change, causing irreparable harm to the world we will leave our children and grandchildren. ALEC has spearheaded calls for a dangerous Article V convention to enact a federal balanced budget amendment that would ultimately gut critical programs for seniors like Social Security, Medicare and the Older Americans Act. ALEC has also spent years pushing the dismantling of retirement security for older Americans by promoting the elimination of defined benefit pensions and the privatization of Social Security, at least in part, in favor of risky investment accounts.

‘Contemptible Betrayal’

“AARP should be ashamed and embarrassed at its action in withdrawing from ALEC,” Hans von Spakovsky, a senior legal fellow at The Heritage Foundation, told The Daily Signal. He added:

     This is another sign of how much the progressive left wants to silence anyone who disagrees with them on matters of public policy. Their basic betrayal of the tenets of the Bill of Rights and the First Amendment is disgraceful—and AARP’s going along with this censorship is contemptible.

    Meierling, vice president of public affairs for the American Legislative Exchange Council, told The Daily Signal that left-leaning activist groups are working to silence organizations such as ALEC that hold alternative views on public policy.

“ALEC members represent many millions of retired Americans and work on issues such as health care, employment, and income security—key AARP issues,” Meierling said, adding:

All seniors benefit when their issues are discussed openly and with as many decision makers and stakeholders as possible. It is a shame that under the banner of good government, activists groups such as the Center for Media and Democracy would pressure any organization out of the free exchange of ideas.

    “The left succeeded in pressuring AARP to disassociate itself from ALEC by using the same smears and pressure tactics it has long used in its jihad against ALEC,” Capital Research Center’s Vadum said in an email to The Daily Signal.

“Here the left claimed ALEC hates minorities and elderly people because it backed electoral integrity laws like photo ID requirements that combat election fraud,” he said. “It’s an absurd argument but it’s been quite effective in hitting ALEC in the pocketbook.”

Vadum also argues that ALEC receives relatively little support from foundations and no government grants, according to tax filings.

That contrasts with the National Conference of State Legislatures, its “left-wing counterpart,” he said, which “relies heavily on taxpayer funding.”

Ken McIntyre contributed to this report.

 

Tocqueville on Christianity and American Democracy – C. Holloway

Tocqueville on Christianity and American Democracy

Carson Holloway, Ph.D.

 

    In his monumental study Democracy in America, Alexis de Tocqueville explained why religion, though in some ways a pre-modern and pre-democratic phenomenon, is nevertheless essential to the health of modern democracy and the preservation of freedom. For Tocqueville, political freedom requires an unshakeable moral foundation that only religion can supply. Freedom can be destroyed by democracy’s tendency to foster excessive individualism, materialism, and the tyranny of the majority. Only religion, Tocqueville contends, can successfully counter these dangerous tendencies by teaching men that they are obligated to respect themselves and to respect the rights of others. Changes in American society since Tocqueville’s time do not render his teaching about the political importance of religion irrelevant. They rather invite us to adapt his teaching to our own circumstances so as to preserve freedom in our own time.

In recent years, Americans have lost sight of religion’s positive contribution to creating and sustaining our democracy. We have not forgotten religion’s relevance to our political life; we are continually reminded of that by our ongoing debates about the proper scope of religious freedom. These debates, however, treat religion more as a private preference than a public good. They concern how much liberty private individuals and groups should have in exercising their religious beliefs. These debates therefore do little to remind us of how religion can act as a unifying social force, a set of common beliefs that are essential to maintaining our democratic way of life.

In forgetting religion’s role as a public institution, we also have lost contact with an old and venerable tradition of political philosophy. Even the great non-theological thinkers in the history of Western political thought—those who considered religion not from the standpoint of the religious teacher concerned with the salvation of souls but from the perspective of the statesman concerned with protecting the common good—tell us that religion is necessary to a healthy political community. This is the teaching of the classical founders of that tradition, such as Plato and Aristotle. It is also the teaching of modern figures such as Edmund Burke and John Locke, who emphasized that free government could not be maintained in the absence of religion.

Coming closer to home, this is also the view held by the American Founders. They intended to institute a secular government but insisted that it required a religious foundation. For example, in his Farewell Address, George Washington reminded his countrymen that “religion and morality” are the “firmest props of the duties of men and citizens” and therefore are “indispensable supports” of “the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity.” He added, moreover, that morality depends on religion: “[R]eason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.” Religion, he thus suggested, is necessary to the preservation of “free government.”[1]

In seeking to renew our understanding of religion’s contribution to freedom, we can turn to no better teacher than Alexis de Tocqueville. Tocqueville explained more thoroughly than anyone else why religion, though in some ways a pre-modern and pre-democratic phenomenon, is nevertheless essential to the health of modern democracy. This is one of the key themes of his monumental study, Democracy in America.

Modern democratic freedom, Tocqueville argues, developed as a result of Christianity’s influence on European civilization, and more particularly as a result of Puritanism’s influence on American civilization. This link is not accidental: Political freedom requires an unshakeable moral foundation that only religion can supply. Moreover, religion is necessary not only to democracy’s emergence, but also to its preservation. Democracy fosters intellectual and moral habits that can be deadly to freedom: the tyranny of the majority, individualism, materialism, and democratic despotism. American Christianity acts as a corrective to these perilous democratic tendencies.

Accordingly, Tocqueville concludes, the preservation of America’s traditional religion is one of the most important tasks of democratic statesmanship. Indeed, he goes so far as to say that religion “should be considered the first” of America’s “political institutions” and even that it is necessary for Americans to “maintain Christianity…at all cost.”[2]

To summarize Tocqueville’s teaching thus is to be reminded of how much America has changed since he examined it, and this in turn raises the question whether Tocqueville’s teaching is any longer relevant to us. Christianity today possesses nothing like the public moral authority that it had in the 1830s. Today’s America is less religious overall than Tocqueville’s America, and religious Americans today are more diverse in their religious beliefs than were the Americans of Tocqueville’s day.

These changes, however, do not render Tocqueville’s account irrelevant. He wrote not as a religious teacher aiming to propagate a particular faith, but instead as a political analyst interested in the kind of religious beliefs necessary to uphold freedom and democracy. Moreover, Tocqueville saw democracy’s dynamism and understood its tendency to change the country’s religious landscape.

Accordingly, Tocqueville wrote not with a view to preserving completely intact a particular religion, but instead to discover the religious essentials of the free society and to explain how and to what extent they can be preserved. His thought therefore invites us not to a fruitless nostalgia for an unrecoverable past, but instead to an intelligent application of the lessons of the past to the obligations of the present—especially our obligation to preserve and pass on the free society that we have inherited.

Christianity and the Origins of American Democracy

Tocqueville opens Democracy in America by reminding us of something that we now tend to forget: The freedom we cherish rests upon religious foundations. Modern democracy could not have emerged but for the influence of Christianity on the Western world. Tocqueville emphasizes the historical rise of equality as both an idea and a social fact. This “revolution,” however, cannot be observed in the world at large, but is instead characteristic of “all the Christian universe.” “Conditions are more equal among Christians in our day,” Tocqueville contends, “than they have ever been in any time or any country in the world.”[3]

The progress of equality, Tocqueville argues, was driven both by Christianity’s influence on society’s institutions and by its intellectual influence. The first occurred with the introduction of Christian clergy into aristocratic societies, which formerly had been divided between the few hereditary rulers and the many who obeyed. “The clergy,” he notes, had opened “its ranks to all” so that “equality” began “to penetrate through the church to the heart of government.” As a result, one who formerly “would have vegetated as a serf” could now take “his place as a priest in the midst of nobles” and “often take a seat above kings.”[4]

In terms of its intellectual influence, Tocqueville holds that Christianity teaches a theological equality that suggests to men’s minds a kind of political equality as well. “Christianity, which has rendered all men equal before God, will not be loath to see all citizens equal before the law.”[5] Christianity’s contribution here might seem superfluous to us as modern human beings: We instinctively believe in equality before the law and in political equality more generally. As far as we can remember, it has always been a fundamental principle of the societies we inhabit. We are accordingly unlikely to feel much gratitude to a religion that lends theological support to the idea of equality.

Tocqueville’s account, however, is based on the long view of human history. It reminds us that if we consider the whole story of the human race, democracy and equality are not society’s default position. The political communities of classical Greece and Rome, Tocqueville observes, had deep social and political inequalities that were so well established and so taken for granted that modern ideas of equality and universal rights were inconceivable even to the “most profound and vast geniuses” of the ancient world. Under these conditions, “it was necessary that Jesus Christ come to earth to make it understood that all members of the human species are naturally alike and equal.”[6]

Christianity in America: A Political Principle

According to Tocqueville, Christianity is responsible for more than the general rise of equality as a European phenomenon. American democracy owes its birth to the influence of a specific form of Christianity: English Puritanism. The Pilgrims, he holds, laid the essential groundwork for America’s experiment in self-government.

America grew from a specific “point of departure,” a political and social state that conditions all that comes after it.[7] This point of departure was provided by the northern settlements. The principal ideas of the northern states “spread at first to the neighboring states” and then gradually “penetrated the entire confederation.”[8]

Religion was in fact the primary reason for the northern settlers’ immigration to the New World. They did not come to improve their material conditions; on the contrary, they left behind a rather comfortable situation to brave the hardships of the American wilderness. They made this sacrifice, according to Tocqueville, in order “to obey a purely intellectual need,” to “make an idea triumph.” This idea was, of course, their conception of the Christian community they wanted to establish. These settlers called themselves Pilgrims because their journey had a religious purpose: They sought to build Puritan communities, to live in America “in their manner and pray to God in freedom.”[9]

Tocqueville is not an uncritical admirer of the Puritans. He acknowledges that the societies they established were marred by excesses and follies. They copied much of their criminal law—including very harsh penalties—directly from the Old Testament, thus carrying “the legislation of a rude and half-civilized people into the heart of a society whose spirit was enlightened and more mild.” Elsewhere, “forgetting completely the great principles of religious liberty” that they had “demanded in Europe,” they used legal punishments to enforce worship and regulate its conduct.[10]

These errors and abuses proved to be temporary and were corrected by later generations of settlers. The positive political contribution of the Puritans, however, proved to be of lasting and fundamental importance to America’s way of life: establishing and sustaining democratic self-government.[11]

Puritanism, Tocqueville explains, “was not only a religious doctrine; it also blended at several points with the most absolute democratic and republican theories.”[12] The Pilgrims came to establish religious communities, but their beliefs called for such communities to be instituted and administered by the consent of the governed.

The Mayflower Compact, for example, identified the purpose of the Plymouth colony as “the glory of God, and advancement of the Christian faith, and the honor” of “King and country.” It also, however, established the colony’s government on the basis of the colonists’ decision to “covenant and combine ourselves into a civil body politick” and to “constitute and frame such just and equal laws, ordinances, acts, constitutions, and officers, from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the general good of the colony.” Other New England colonies similarly “began by drafting a social contract that was submitted to the approval of all interested persons.”[13]

Puritan churches were governed democratically. “The greatest part of English America,” Tocqueville contends, was “peopled by men who, after having escaped the authority of the pope, did not submit to any religious supremacy.” Thus, they “brought to the New World a Christianity” that Tocqueville characterizes as “democratic and republican.” This fact “singularly” favored “the establishment of a republic and of democracy” in politics as well.[14]

Although Tocqueville does not spell out the connection here, we can discern it easily enough. The Puritans no doubt regarded the government of their churches as the most important of their duties. It would naturally have occurred to them that if ordinary people are good enough to manage the community’s spiritual affairs without the approval of a pre-existing hierarchical authority, then they surely are good enough to manage its temporal affairs in the same manner. Moreover, their experience of managing their churches in this way would have fostered the habits and skills necessary to democratic self-government in the political realm.

We might be tempted to dismiss Puritanism’s political contribution to American civilization as worthy but not decisive. From our vantage point, the rise of self-government appears to be a worldwide movement carrying all nations on the path to democracy. Why, we might ask, should the Puritan founders of America get any special credit for going along with what history seems to be doing in any case?

Tocqueville takes care to remind us, however, that in establishing self-government, the New England settlers were not merely following the rise of modern democracy, but were pioneering it. The Puritans’ democratic political principles turned out to be those “on which modern constitutions rest” in the civilized world. Such institutions were not commonplace at the time they were planted in New England. They were “hardly understood” by “most Europeans of the seventeenth century” and were only “incomplete” even in England.[15]

America, Tocqueville’s account thus reminds us, owes its democratic origins to its Puritan settlers. The North American English colonists were not uniformly religious, but it was the religious ones who established and nourished the spirit of self-government that later came to characterize the whole country. Moreover, we might add, this debt to the Puritans is owed not only by America, but also by much of the rest of the world. During parts of the 19th century, America was, if not the only democracy, then certainly the only large-scale, successful, and moderate democracy. Without its example, it is doubtful that the world would have moved as decisively in the direction of democracy as it finally did.

Religion and the Moral Foundations of Freedom

Besides recounting the historical debt that political freedom owes to Christianity, Tocqueville’s Democracy in America also offers a philosophic account of why a free society necessarily requires a religious foundation. Here his argument may surprise us, because it emphasizes society’s need for certain shared beliefs in order for there to be common action. Freedom certainly includes a right to question conventional opinion, but that freedom in turn always rests on some intellectual foundation in which all citizens must partake. For Tocqueville, religion is best equipped to provide that intellectual foundation for society.

Modern Americans understand their society to be a free one, believe that they have an obligation to preserve it as such, and think—rightly—that such a society depends on freedom of thought and discussion. We sometimes talk, however, as if this freedom requires an unfettered skepticism about all things or a willingness to treat all ideas as open to question. This, Tocqueville contends, is a mistake.

On the contrary, all societies depend in some degree or another on shared beliefs or “opinions men receive on trust.” Society is coordinated action, which requires common beliefs, but it is not possible for societies or even for individuals to arrive at such beliefs on the basis of the unguided, independent thinking of each individual. This, Tocqueville claims, is an “inflexible law” of the human condition. “If man were forced to prove to himself all the truths he makes use of every day, he would never finish; he would exhaust himself in preliminary demonstrations without advancing.” Having neither “the time because of the short span of life, nor the ability because of the limits of his mind,” man cannot establish by his own efforts all of the convictions that he needs; those that claim to have done so are dishonest or deluded.

Accordingly, an individual is “reduced to accepting as given a host of facts and opinions that he has neither the leisure nor the power to examine and verify by himself.” The functioning and prosperity of society therefore require “that all the minds of the citizens be brought and held together by some principal ideas; and that cannot happen unless each of them sometimes comes to draw his opinions from one and the same source and unless each consents to receive a certain number of ready-made beliefs.”[16] All societies, and especially free ones, require some intellectual unity, which in turn supports a unity of the citizens’ sentiments.

Religion, Tocqueville thinks, is the most important source of common beliefs for citizens. Here he is careful to note that his defense of society’s religious consensus is undertaken not with a view to what is good for religion, but instead with a view to what is good for society. Such religious beliefs are evidently useful “even if one wants to pay attention only to the interests of this world.” As the author of Democracy in America, Tocqueville is concerned not with the salvation of souls but with the preservation of a decent political order. Such an order depends, however, on the preservation of commonly held religious beliefs.

Here Tocqueville especially emphasizes religion’s contribution to sustaining public morality. Almost all human actions, he contends, “arise from a very general idea men have conceived of God, of his relations with the human race, of the nature of their souls, and of their duties towards those like them.” As a result, men “have an immense interest in making very fixed ideas for themselves about” such questions, “for doubt about these first points would deliver all their actions to chance and condemn them to a sort of disorder and impotence.”

Once again, Tocqueville notes the limited power of the individual human mind, which makes it impossible for common ideas on moral and religious questions to arise from the spontaneous and unregulated thought of each individual. Therefore, he concludes, “general ideas relative to God and human nature” are “the ones it is most fitting to shield from the habitual action of individual reason and for which there is most to gain and least to lose in recognizing an authority.”[17]

We might illustrate Tocqueville’s meaning with an example from recent American history. Fifty years ago, America had a strong national consensus about sexual morality, a consensus that rested on an almost universal respect for the moral teaching of the Bible. Since that time, this consensus has eroded in proportion as respect for the Bible as a source of religious truth has declined. The result, as Tocqueville predicted, is a form of public “disorder and impotence,” with Americans expending vast amounts of social energy fighting each other over political issues—such as the definition of marriage—that arise from disagreements about sexual morality.

Settled, common religious beliefs about morality are especially necessary, Tocqueville argues, for “free countries.” Without such beliefs, men are faced with a kind of intellectual and moral chaos that renders them incapable of preserving their freedom. “When religion is destroyed in a people,” he claims, “doubt takes hold of the highest portions of the intellect and half paralyzes all the others.” As a result, each citizen comes to have only “confused and changing notions” about the most important questions—such as the nature of his duties to himself, to others, and to the community.

Confronted with this uncertainty about the highest things, “one is reduced, like a coward, to not thinking about them at all.” “Such a state,” Tocqueville concludes, “cannot fail to enervate souls; it slackens the springs of the will and prepares citizens for servitude.”[18]

There is a connection, Tocqueville’s argument reminds us, between solidity of conviction and energy of soul, or between the confidence we have in our moral judgments and our ability to act on them. The latter depends decisively on the former. Those who believe with certitude in the rightness of a cause will fight for it most zealously, while those who are uncertain will fight less zealously or perhaps not at all. Such moral certainty and energy is necessary to the preservation of freedom. Political freedom or self-government requires exertion, and such exertion depends on the citizens’ solid belief in the rightness of self-government, or their belief that they are worthy of governing themselves. Without that belief, they cannot rouse themselves to action, and they will let their freedom slip away.

Indeed, Tocqueville continues, they might even go so far as to give it away on purpose. The moral uncertainty that follows the loss of religious belief not only weakens men; it also frightens them. When men are no longer restrained by the moral authority of religion, they are “soon frightened at the aspect of this limitless independence.” Because “everything is moving in the world of the intellect, they want at least that all be firm and stable in the material order,” and since they can no longer recover their lost religious beliefs, “they give themselves a master.”[19]

Human beings, Tocqueville’s argument suggests, desire freedom, but not an unlimited freedom. They want to govern themselves, but they do not want the responsibility of exercising an absolute and unlimited power over each other and the political community to which they belong. When they have firm moral convictions rooted in firmly held religious beliefs, they can be confident that they know how to exercise power justly, but what if they lose their religion and therefore become uncertain about what is morally right while nevertheless retaining a certain decency? In that case, they will no longer want to govern themselves, because they will find the responsibility frightening and oppressive. At this point, they will come to think that they can solve their problem by simply submitting themselves to the state, letting their rulers decide all things for them.

For Tocqueville, the way to prevent despotism from arising in this way is for a religious country to cherish and try to sustain its commonly held moral and religious beliefs. “As for me,” he concludes, “I doubt that man can ever support a complete religious independence and an entire political freedom at once.” If “he has no faith, he must serve, and if he is free, he must believe.”[20] If they wish to retain their freedom to govern themselves, a democratic people must strive to sustain the common religious culture that underlies their common moral convictions.

To be clear, Tocqueville is not contending that democracy requires a complete uniformity of religious belief. He never suggests that such a thing is either possible or desirable, and he admits that it did not exist even in the America of his own day. America never had, and a successful democracy does not need, total agreement about the proper modes of worship or the details of theology. Rather, what is required is a common body of religious opinion in support of the common morality that a free democracy needs. In Tocqueville’s own words, democratic citizens need a shared understanding of “God, of his relations with the human race, of the nature of their souls, and of their duties towards those like them.”[21]

Put more simply, democracy requires citizens who believe that the rules of morality—and hence the rights of their fellow citizens—are not merely convenient fictions but are instead rooted in the mind and will of the Author of all things, to whom they are accountable for their actions. Such shared beliefs were held across the various Christian denominations in Tocqueville’s America and are even held, as C. S. Lewis observes in The Abolition of Man, across different religions.[22] Accordingly, Tocqueville’s call for modern democracies to preserve their shared religious beliefs is not a rejection of pluralism; it is an effort to preserve the moral and religious foundation on which a successful pluralism can exist.

Religion as a Restraint on the Tyranny of the Majority

For Tocqueville, religion not only establishes the positive conditions required for modern democracy to emerge, but also acts as a necessary corrective to some of democracy’s most dangerous inclinations. Tocqueville presents democracy as a new form of freedom that displaced the servitude of the ancient and medieval world. Nevertheless, he warns that this democracy carries within it the possibility of new forms of servitude. Democratic freedom is also a form of power: the power of the people to rule. This power carries with it new possibilities for abuse, and Tocqueville accordingly emphasizes the importance of religion’s ability to impose a necessary limit on the majority’s power.

Tocqueville sees the danger of majority tyranny. Like America’s Founders, he sees that human nature is flawed and that human beings in any form of government are prone to do injustice to each other if they are not restrained in some way.

What “is a majority taken collectively,” Tocqueville asks, “if not an individual who has opinions and most often interests contrary to another individual that one names the minority?” If we can “accept that one man vested with omnipotence can abuse it against his adversaries, why not accept the same thing for a majority?” Men do not change their “character by being united,” nor do they “become more patient before obstacles by becoming stronger.”[23] Accordingly, Tocqueville concludes that the vast power held by the democratic majority carries “consequences” that are “dire and dangerous for the future.”[24]

Tocqueville understands, respects, and explains in his own work the institutional arrangements, such as federalism and separation of powers, that the American Founders established to restrain majority tyranny. He also holds, however, that the preservation of democratic freedom requires more than just an astutely organized government. It also calls for certain social and cultural institutions. Among these, he emphasizes newspapers, the legal profession, and the country’s impressive network of private voluntary associations. But most important, he also notes the role that American religion plays in checking the tyranny of the majority.

“In the United States,” Tocqueville observes, “religion” exercises a beneficial “empire over intelligence.” Almost all Americans believe in or at least respect Christianity, with the result that “everything is certain and fixed in the moral world.” Therefore, in America, “the human spirit never perceives an unlimited field before itself: however bold it may be, from time to time it feels that it ought to halt before insurmountable barriers.”

Tocqueville views this popular sense of immovable moral limits as necessary because of the protection it provides for the rights of those outside the majority, who are subject to the majority’s power. He notes that in America, even the most revolutionary political actors are “obliged to profess openly a respect for the morality and equity of Christianity.” Because of Christianity’s public moral influence, nobody in America up to Tocqueville’s time had “dared to advance the maxim that everything is permitted in the interest of society. An impious maxim—one that seems to have been invented in a century of freedom to legitimate all the tyrants to come.”[25]

In the 20th century, ruthless ideologies like Nazism and Communism arose and took hold of certain countries. These atheistic ideologies boldly and shamelessly held that everything was permitted in society’s interests, even to the extent of destroying certain categories of citizens that were held to be socially undesirable. In contrast, Americans, both in Tocqueville’s time and in our own, cannot think or talk about society’s interests without at the same time professing respect for the rights of individuals and minorities. This decent sense of restraint, Tocqueville suggests, is a heritage of Christian morality. So important is this contribution of religion to the decency of the Americans’ political order that Tocqueville goes so far as to declare that religion “should be considered the first of their political institutions.”[26]

On the basis of these arguments, Tocqueville seeks to correct the anti-religious European thinkers of his day—and, we might add, those of our own day—who fault America for its religiosity, deride religion as nothing but a source of oppression, and promote public atheism as a guarantee of freedom. For such men, “the freedom and happiness of the human species” require us to believe that human beings can be understood as nothing more than an accidental aggregation of matter and not as beings with souls. When such thinkers “attack religious beliefs,” Tocqueville argues, “they follow their passions and not their interests.” That is, they neglect the interests of society while following their anti-theological animus instead.

In reality, Tocqueville argues, religion “is much more necessary” in a “republic” than in a “monarchy,” and “in democratic republics more than all others.” It is safe to give the people power to rule only if they believe that there are moral limits on their power that they must respect and if their belief in such limits is sustained by their belief in religion. Thus, Tocqueville asks: “What makes a people master of itself”—or able to discipline itself to respect justice—“if it has not submitted to God?”[27]

Individualism and the Danger of Democratic Despotism

Democracy in America warns of another grave threat to freedom that arises in democratic times: the danger of democratic despotism. Here the peril is not that the majority will abuse its power in order to violate the rights of the minority. It is rather that the people as a whole will surrender their right to govern themselves, handing themselves over to the rule—perhaps benevolent, but perhaps not—of an all-powerful government directed by one man or perhaps a small elite.

In other words, the danger of democratic despotism is not the abuse of majority rule but the effective end of majority rule. According to Tocqueville, this danger emerges in a way that will be surprising to us. Most Americans, and especially most conservatives, think of individualism as opposed to despotism. Tocqueville, however, suggests that the former can give rise to the latter.

Here again, religion provides a necessary corrective. Despotism can arise within democracy when excessive forms of individualism and materialism make citizens indifferent to their public duties. Religion restrains these tendencies by reminding men of their obligations to each other and teaching them that the virtues of the soul are superior to the pleasures of the body.

Tocqueville praises the tremendous social and economic energy unleashed by the American spirit of self-reliance and individual exertion, seeing its great potential to better the human condition. Nevertheless, he also warns that democracies are susceptible to a debilitating individualism that isolates citizens from each other and therefore undermines their ability to sustain the spirit of cooperative citizenship on which self-government depends.

Here, as in many other places in Democracy in America, Tocqueville warns of democracy’s weaknesses by directing our attention to aristocracy’s strengths. Aristocracies, he observes, bind men closely together in a web of reciprocal duties. The laws of inheritance keep families forever associated with a particular plot of land and thus give each family a prominent place in the imaginations of its members. Moreover, the caste system continually reminds individuals of their duties to members of their own class as well as of their obligations to those who are above and below them in the social hierarchy.

Democracies, by contrast, are devoid of such lasting social bonds. The democratic law of inheritance breaks up large estates, thus narrowing our sense of family obligation by diminishing our sense of the family as an institution with a long history. In addition, while democracies certainly have differences in wealth and status, they do not have permanently established classes that impose extensive duties on their members.

Democracy’s overall effect on citizens, then, is to render them isolated from each other. Not only does it make “each man forget his ancestors, but it hides his descendants from him and separates him from his contemporaries; it constantly leads him back toward himself alone and threatens finally to confine him wholly in the solitude of his own heart.”[28] To some extent, we simply have to accept these consequences of democracy. There is nothing anyone can do to make democratic citizens as closely linked to their fellows as are the subjects of an aristocracy. Nevertheless, Tocqueville warns us that we cannot responsibly permit democratic individualism to go unchecked. We must seek to moderate it because in its unrestrained form, it opens the door to despotism.

Despotism, whether it takes the form of rule by an individual or rule by a small political elite, actually favors a spirit of extreme individualism among its subjects. It wants them to be isolated from each other because their cooperation is a threat to the government’s power. The despot, Tocqueville observes, “readily pardons the governed for not loving him, provided they do not love each other. He does not ask them to aid him in leading the state; it is enough that they do not aspire to direct it themselves.”[29] Democracy thus favors the development of precisely the kind of habits that permit despotism to arise and flourish.

According to Tocqueville, the Americans of his time, aware of the political dangers that arise from the isolation of citizens from each other, took steps to moderate the individualism that democracy fosters. One of their most important tools in this indispensable task was “the doctrine of self-interest well understood.” American moral teachers, Tocqueville notes, work tirelessly to promote the idea that each citizen can advance his long-term interests most effectively by diverting some of his effort from the pursuit of his own needs and dedicating it to the needs of the community. By fostering the cooperation needed to sustain self-government, the doctrine of self-interest well understood helps Americans to maintain their freedom.

Tocqueville also contends, however, that the doctrine of self-interest well understood needs to be enlivened by religious belief if it is to accomplish all that democracy needs. If this doctrine “had only this world in view,” he argues, “it would be far from sufficient; for there are a great number of sacrifices that can find their recompense only in the other world.”[30]

By teaching the existence of an afterlife with rewards for virtuous living, religion gives men the confidence to make the short-term sacrifices demanded by self-interest well understood. Without such beliefs, their sacrifices for the community in some cases would be made only with a certain reluctance and in other cases would be omitted entirely. One could not be sure that they would pay off, for one might die before receiving the return on one’s investment. Such doubts would inevitably stifle men’s public-spiritedness. The religious belief in rewards and punishments after death sustains such sacrifices by making their rewards certain. If one does not live long enough to be rewarded in the here and now, one can be sure of being rewarded in the hereafter. Thus, according to Tocqueville, does American religiosity combat the excessive individualism that can lead democracies to succumb to despotism.

Materialism and the Danger of Democratic Despotism

Another path by which democracy can fall into despotism is by succumbing to an excessive “passion for material well being.”[31] Tocqueville observes that democracy engenders an “ardent” interest in acquiring material comforts. This trait, like the individualism that he also observes, is also dangerous to freedom. If the democratic taste for material comforts goes unchecked, Tocqueville warns, democratic citizens will begin to view the duties of political participation as a burden because they take time and energy away from private economic activity.

Once again, Tocqueville points to religion’s ability to protect democracy from its own worst tendencies. By teaching the immortality of the soul, religion provides the intellectual ground on which democratic man can rise above absorption in material cares, find his self-respect, and attend to his moral duties.

Democracy is not solely responsible for creating the taste for material well-being. On the contrary, Tocqueville acknowledges that this desire is “natural and instinctive” for human beings. But different regimes guide this passion differently: Aristocracy, for example, tends to calm this desire, while democracy tends to agitate it.

According to Tocqueville, “what attaches the heart most keenly” to material well-being “is not the peaceful possession of a precious object, but the imperfectly satisfied desire to possess it and the incessant fear of losing it.” That is, aristocracy tends to quiet the passion for material comfort in all classes by the way in which it presents such comforts to each class:

[In an aristocracy,] the people in the end become habituated to poverty like the rich to their opulence. The latter are not preoccupied with material well-being because they possess it without trouble; the former do not think about it because they despair of acquiring it and because they are not familiar enough with it to desire it.[32]

In contrast, democracy tends to stimulate the love of material well-being universally, among all classes alike. Democracies do not have a fixed social hierarchy. As a result, although there are rich families, most of them have become rich through the exertions of their members. Such people cannot show the aristocrat’s indifference to material comforts because these individuals’ characters were formed while they were striving to acquire such comforts.

The rich in a democracy also know that through mismanagement of their fortunes, they may become poor. They are therefore worried about their material enjoyments even when their possessions are vast. Moreover, because there is the real possibility of social and economic mobility, even the poor in a democracy show a desire for material comforts. Finally, democracies are above all dominated by the middle class, whose position in life is such that it especially stimulates the desire for material comforts. Democracy therefore tends to produce a “multitude of mediocre fortunes.” Those “who possess them have enough material enjoyments to conceive the taste for these enjoyments” but “not enough to be content with them.”

As a result of all of these forces, the “love of material well-being” is the “national and dominant taste” in America. The “great current of human passions bears from this direction,” and “it carries everything along in its course.”[33]

This taste for material well-being can be dangerous to freedom if it is not kept within reasonable limits. Obsessed with improving their economic status and winning material comforts, the citizens of a democracy may lose sight of how their prosperity depends in the long run on their ability to remain free.

According to Tocqueville, there is “no need to tear from such citizens the rights they possess; they themselves willingly let them escape. The exercise of their political duties appears to them a distressing contretemps that distracts them from their industry.” Neglecting these duties, they leave a kind of vacuum in the political realm, a political void that may be filled by despotism. If “an ambitious, able man comes to take possession of power” under such circumstances, he will find “the way open to every usurpation.” And if he chooses the path of usurpation, the citizens will surrender their freedom and submit to his rule.[34]

Alternatively, despotism can also take a subtler but no less dangerous form: A small minority can dominate a nation’s politics, directing it in the name of the people even while acting contrary to the people’s interests:

[The members of such a faction] alone speak in the name of an absent or inattentive crowd; they alone act in the midst of universal immobility; they dispose of all things according to their whim, they change laws and tyrannize at will over mores; and one is astonished at the small number of weak and unworthy hands into which a great people can fall.

Here a democracy may arrive at despotism in practice while retaining self-government in form. The people retain all of their rights of political participation, but they do not use them because they are more interested in private pursuits.[35]

For Tocqueville, religion is necessary to avert this danger. Nothing, he notes, has such a striking power to turn Americans away from their pursuit of gain as their religion. Every Sunday, they stop their work and go to church. There they encounter teachings that remind them of and give them inspiration to live up to their obligations to the community to which they belong. At holy services, the American is “told of the necessity of regulating his desires, of the delicate enjoyments attached to virtue alone, and of the true happiness that accompanies it.” Returning home, he opens “the book of the Holy Scriptures,” finding there “sublime or moving depictions of the greatness and the goodness of the Creator, of the infinite magnificence of the works of God, of the lofty destiny reserved for men, of their duties, and of their rights to immortality.”[36]

To remain self-governing, Tocqueville teaches, people need to believe that they are made for something higher than the production and consumption of goods. Religion is necessary to that belief.

On the basis of these considerations, Tocqueville concludes that it is imperative for Americans—and all of the democratic peoples of Europe as well—to “maintain Christianity…at all cost.” Tocqueville is not writing here as an apologist for any particular religion; he is trying to defend the conditions of human freedom.

Once again, Tocqueville is writing neither as a theologian concerned with the theoretical truth of any particular religion nor as a preacher concerned with the salvation of souls, but rather as a political theorist concerned with the beliefs that are necessary to sustain a democratic people’s capacity for self-government. Thus, he emphasizes what he takes to be Christianity’s most politically relevant teaching, one that it holds in common with many other traditional religions: the immortality of the soul. “Most religions,” he contends, “are only general, simple, and practical means of teaching men the immortality of the soul.” This teaching “is the greatest advantage that a democratic people derives from” religious beliefs and is what makes these beliefs “more necessary to such a people than to all others.”[37]

Belief in the immortality of the soul, Tocqueville argues, is necessary to counter philosophic materialism: the belief that there is nothing but matter and that human beings are therefore nothing but matter. This form of materialism is dangerous to any kind of society but especially perilous to a democracy because of its tendency to encourage the thirst for material well-being. This desire, if it goes unchecked, gradually suggests to men that there is nothing but matter, and the belief that there is nothing but matter can only serve to convince men that material enjoyments are the only real enjoyments and thus to “carry them toward these enjoyments with an insane ardor.”

Such an excessive love of these pleasures is fatal to a people’s capacity for self-government. Therefore, religion should be cherished by democratic peoples because it teaches belief that the human soul is “immaterial and immortal,” which belief is in turn “necessary to the greatness of man.”[38]

Human beings cannot attain the dignity required for self-government, both as individuals and in communities, unless they can subordinate their bodily desires to their moral and political duties. That subordination in turn requires that they believe that they have souls, that some part of their being transcends their ordinary material interests. Religion is essential to that belief and therefore necessary for human greatness.

Tocqueville’s concern to preserve the conditions of human greatness also leads him to warn against the pantheistic impulse in religion. Democracy modifies all traditional religions in the direction of pantheism: the belief that God is the universe and the universe is God. This belief gradually takes the place of the traditional belief that God is the Creator of the universe who stands apart from and above His creation. Pantheism is morally and politically dangerous, Tocqueville concludes, because it presents a God who gives no laws, to whom one can have no duties, and who therefore cannot inspire modern men to transcend their selfishness.

The popularization of pantheism, Tocqueville holds, is the result of equality’s influence on the human mind. Democratic life disposes man to make use of “general ideas.” Because democratic citizens continually encounter human beings who are equal and basically similar—pursuing the same ends by the same kinds of means, enjoying all the same rights and privileges—they are inclined toward simplicity of explanation and like to make use of general ideas that cover a multitude of complex phenomena with one basic idea. This tendency is also encouraged by their lack of leisure for detailed study.

Thus, democratic peoples are attracted to the idea that complex political phenomena, such as war, can be explained by the operation of simple economic motives that govern the actions of all human beings and that complex human phenomena, such our emotions, can be explained by chemical processes found in the brains of all animals. These same habits of mind, Tocqueville argues, lead democratic peoples to pantheistic—which is to say vague and very general—notions of the divine. “God and the universe” become enclosed “within a single whole.”[39]

“All who remain enamored of the genuine greatness of man,” Tocqueville proclaims, “should unite to do combat against” pantheism.[40] Although Tocqueville does not explain in detail why pantheism is a threat to human greatness, his account provides the materials with which the attentive reader can piece together the explanation for himself.

Belief in the immortality of the soul is necessary to man’s ability to look down on and thus transcend his desire for material comforts. That ability is in turn necessary to man’s capacity for self-rule, both as an individual and as a member of a political community. Without the belief that there is a part of his nature that is higher than his bodily desires, he will be unable to control those desires, to subordinate them to some conception of his moral and political duties. And without each man’s ability to exercise such individual self-rule, the community as a whole will be incapable of self-rule, because most citizens will ignore politics while pursuing their own private interests.

Democracy’s pantheistic impulse, however, tends to create the kind of religion that actually undermines man’s ability to look down on his bodily desires and conceive his moral and political duties as something higher to which he must subordinate those desires. Because pantheism places God in all things, because it divinizes all things, it obliterates the sense of a moral hierarchy that is crucial for man to govern his lower nature. If all things are divine, then all activities are divine. If the single-minded pursuit of private gain is just as divine as attention to the common good, there is no compelling reason for the democratic individual to resist his inclination to the former and dedicate part of his life to politics. And when most citizens refuse to fulfill their duties of political participation, the path is cleared for the despotic rule of an individual or a minority.

Tocqueville thus teaches us that religion—or the right kind of religion—is necessary to human greatness within democracy. Religion teaches the immortality of the soul. Belief in the immortality of the soul is necessary to man’s self-rule, on the level of both the individual and the community, and self-rule, in a sense, deserves to be called human greatness. This is perhaps more immediately obvious on the level of the individual. Certainly, we would call no man great who lived for nothing but to satisfy his desire for material comforts, who permitted himself to be borne along by such desires with no effort at all to direct them to anything higher.

It is more difficult to see why popular self-government should be understood as a form of human greatness. We are so accustomed to it that we take it for granted, believing (mistakenly) that it is just part of the ordinary course of politics. Yet Tocqueville took the longer view of human history, realizing that popular self-rule, government by the people, is not the ordinary tendency of things but instead a rare and high achievement. Most societies in history have not attained it. The Americans were able to achieve and sustain it because of their virtuous habits of public-spirited attention to the affairs of the community, and their religion was necessary to sustain those virtues and therefore necessary to America’s claim to political greatness.

The Challenge of Sustaining Religion in Democracy

Tocqueville’s teaching on the role of religion in a modern democracy presents us not so much with a solution to a problem as with a challenge. There is, after all, no button that we can push to activate religion and thus automatically correct democracy’s tendency to lose its freedom. On the contrary, Tocqueville’s teaching reminds us that as responsible citizens of a democracy, we must take care to preserve the country’s inherited religious traditions and that this task in turn requires a clear understanding of democracy’s character and needs.

This task is a challenge because democratic conditions tend to undermine religion—to undermine the system of belief that is so necessary to the preservation of freedom. The inhabitants of a democracy, Tocqueville observes, tend to be natural skeptics and rationalists. Aristocracy fosters a kind of trust in authority: Since most men are uneducated and must rely on a small class of enlightened rulers, they acquire habits of faith in some superior intelligence. Democracy does away with such a hierarchy and leaves all men fundamentally equal. Such men are left to rely primarily on their own understanding to answer the questions they confront in life; as a result, they are not much disposed to trust any human authority, nor sometimes even divine authority.

Nevertheless, Tocqueville certainly does not suggest that religion is doomed to extinction by the rise of democracy. On the contrary, he holds out hope that religion can be preserved within democracy, despite the social and intellectual forces working against it. This is possible, Tocqueville suggests, because religion is rooted in something even more fundamental than the democratic social state: human nature.

Tocqueville indicates repeatedly that man is by nature a religious being, or at least open to religion. The short span of this life “will never confine the whole imagination of man; the incomplete joys of this world will never suffice for his heart.” Man is unique among animals because he alone shows both “a natural disgust for existence and an immense desire to exist: he scorns life and fears nothingness.” The effect of these disparate passions impels man’s “soul toward contemplation of another world, and it is religion that guides it there.” Accordingly, religion is “only a particular form of hope,” one that is “as natural to the human heart as hope itself.”[41]

To sum up the situation as Tocqueville sees it, religion is necessary to the preservation of freedom within democracy but is itself in danger of being undermined by democracy. Nevertheless, it is also rooted in human nature and therefore capable of being preserved even in democratic times. What steps, then, must be taken to preserve and strengthen religion in democratic times? How can we draw on human nature to preserve religion’s influence against the democratic social state’s tendency to undermine it? According to Tocqueville, this essential task requires a certain prudent statesmanship that must be practiced both by religious leaders and by political leaders.

Tocqueville advises religious leaders to take care that their presentation of the faith not needlessly offend modern democratic sensibilities. He does not suggest that they should modify their doctrines to suit modern tastes. That would be counterproductive, since a religion that edits its fundamental teachings to curry favor with the public cannot be taken seriously as a source of divine teaching. It is, however, possible for religious leaders to modify the presentation and practice of the faith in nonessentials so as to avoid alienating their flocks.

As we have seen, democracy favors a certain simplicity in doctrine. The taste for general ideas inclines the democratic mind to prefer a simple system, such as one that emphasizes the relationship between God and the human person, over more complex schemes that emphasize a wide variety of intermediary beings. Accordingly, in democratic times, there should be less emphasis by religious leaders on veneration of the saints and angels, which in the past was so congenial to the aristocratic mind, the kind of mind that had been habituated to think in terms of a complex hierarchy.

Similarly, Tocqueville also advises democratic religions to keep the externals of their worship as simple as possible. Democratic men, he argues, are pragmatic and businesslike. They want any task—including the worship of God—to be completed in as efficient and straightforward a manner as possible. They have nothing like the taste for ceremony and form that characterizes aristocratic ages.

Finally, coming to the question of human conduct, Tocqueville holds that religious leaders should not set themselves too inflexibly against the people’s pursuit of material comforts. This inclination could be condemned in aristocratic ages, but such outright denunciation would go too much against the grain of democratic man’s character. Therefore, religious leaders in democratic times should teach men to restrain their love of such comforts but not tell them to give them up entirely. By making excessively demanding claims, religion would succeed not in reforming men, but instead in making them ignore religion’s claims.[42]

Turning to political leaders, Tocqueville’s advice is both negative and positive. He emphasizes both a fundamental error to be avoided and the things that must be done. He insists, in the first place, that we must avoid the error of creating an official establishment of religion. This advice is congenial to the American mind, since it approves the policy that our Founders placed in the Constitution: The First Amendment forbids Congress to make any law respecting an establishment of religion.

Nevertheless, from the standpoint of the task at hand, Tocqueville’s advice might seem counterintuitive: If democracy needs religion, and if responsible political leadership means providing for the things that democracy needs, then why should our political leaders not safeguard religion’s place in the community by supporting it with governmental power? Tocqueville believes that the American Founders, in setting up a separation of church and state, had actually struck upon an arrangement that would both protect religious liberty and help religion to flourish. He contends that religion is so powerful in America precisely because of the separation of church and state.

The union of religion and politics, Tocqueville argues, actually tends in the long run to weaken the citizens’ attachment to religion by tying it to all of the dissatisfaction and animosity that is inevitably caused by wielding political power. Put another way, the union of church and state actually makes some men—even those disposed to be believers—into political enemies of religion. This danger, he held, is especially acute in a democracy. The politics of an aristocracy is characterized by stability, while the politics of a democracy is characterized by agitation and change. In the latter, power passes from hand to hand, and parties rise and fall, so quickly that it would be folly to think that religion could be aided by being tied to such transitory allies. Given religion’s natural hold on the human mind, then, the first step in ensuring its social and political power is not to hinder it artificially by tying it to the government.[43]

Such negative advice, however, does not preclude the possibility of positive steps that democratic leaders might take to lend their support to religion. Democratic statesmen can use their position to foster religious belief even as they scrupulously avoid using the power of government to do so. In fact, Tocqueville contends, this is one of their most important duties. Religion is so important to democracy’s ability to remain free that “legislators of democracies and all honest and enlightened men who live in them must apply themselves relentlessly to raising up souls and keeping them turned toward heaven.” If such leaders are truly concerned for the “future of democratic societies,” they must “unite” to “make continuous efforts to spread within these societies a taste for the infinite, a sentiment of greatness, and a love of immaterial pleasures.”[44]

How, we may wonder, is this to be done, especially when Tocqueville insists that democratic statesmen must not pursue this end by using the most obvious tool they have at their disposal: the power of the government? Tocqueville hesitates to give his answer, deterred by how strange he expects it will sound to most democratic political leaders, but is nevertheless driven to it by democracy’s need for religion and the lack of alternative means to support it. Recognizing that his claim will “harm” him “in the eyes of politicians,” he declares that “the only efficacious means governments can use to put the dogma of the immortality of the soul in honor is to act every day as if they themselves believed it” and that “it is only in conforming scrupulously to religious morality in great affairs that they can flatter themselves they are teaching citizens to know it, love it, and respect it in small ones.”[45]

Tocqueville expects that most democratic politicians will scoff at this advice because he knows that they ordinarily think of nothing but winning power for themselves by delivering benefits to their constituents. He also knows, however, that the ordinary behavior of democratic politicians is a true indication only of the smallness of their own minds, not of what is necessary to the greatness of a free democracy. He teaches that democratic freedom requires a flourishing religion, which in turn requires that we strive to produce statesmen with the loftiness of vision to see, and the courage of heart to give, democracy what its greatness requires rather than what its passions demand.

Conclusion

America’s religious landscape has changed markedly since Alexis de Tocqueville visited the United States and wrote Democracy in America. The country is not as religious now as it was then, and the religious segment of the country is not as exclusively Christian as it was then. One could not say today, as Tocqueville said in the 1830s, that all commerce and activity stops on Sunday or that everyone in American public life is obliged to profess respect for Christian morality. These changes, however, do not render Tocqueville’s teaching about religion and democracy irrelevant to us any more than other far-reaching changes in American society render irrelevant other institutions bequeathed to us by the Founders and emphasized by Tocqueville as necessary to freedom and democracy.

The national government, for example, is far more powerful and extensive today than it was in the 19th century, and the executive branch is far more powerful and exercises a much more wide-ranging discretion than it did in the 19th century. But we do not abandon our commitment to fundamental American principles such as federalism and separation of powers simply because we can see no hope of making today’s government conform to those principles in the same way that it did in the early years of the republic. We instead seek to sustain and restore these principles to the extent possible in contemporary circumstances, with a view to preserving freedom to the extent that we can do so in our time.

So it is with religion. The responsible democratic statesman could not and should not aim to restore America as a Christian nation such as it was in the 1830s. Such a statesman can and should, however, seek to learn from Tocqueville what Christianity contributed to the growth and flourishing of American democracy and how a certain kind of religion—a religion that reminds majorities of the limits on their just power and individuals of their duties to their fellows and to the political community—is necessary to support democracy in general. Such a statesman would then be in a position to try to preserve what remains of the freedom-sustaining moral culture first planted in America by Christianity; to acknowledge and encourage the politically salutary teachings of America’s non-Christian religions; and to remind everyone, including America’s non-religious citizens, of the positive contribution that religion can make to upholding democracy and freedom in our own time.

Such a Tocquevillian statesmanship would take religion seriously, but without a spirit of religious dogmatism. Such a statesman offers not a sectarian call to a religiously pristine past, but a set of principles by which we can chart our way into a future that will be different but will also preserve the essential virtues of the past and with them the freedom we have inherited.

—Carson Holloway, PhD, is an Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Nebraska at Omaha and chairs the B. Kenneth Simon Center for Principles and Politics’ Council of Academic Advisors at The Heritage Foundation. He is the author of Hamilton Versus Jefferson in the Washington Administration: Completing the Founding or Betraying the Founding? (Cambridge University Press, 2016).

 

 

 

References

[1] “Washington’s Farewell Address,” September 19, 1796, Heritage Foundation First Principles Series Primary Sources No. 12, http://www.heritage.org/initiatives/first-principles/primary-sources/washingtons-farewell-address.

[2] Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, trans. Harvey C. Mansfield and Delba Winthrop (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2002), pp. 279–280, 519.

[3] Ibid., p. 6.

[4] Ibid., p. 4.

[5] Ibid., p. 11.

[6] Ibid., p. 413.

[7] Ibid., p. 29.

[8] Ibid., pp. 32–33.

[9] Ibid., p. 32 (emphasis in original).

[10] Ibid., pp. 38–39.

[11] For a different account that emphasizes, instead of the continuity of American democracy with its Puritan origins, the natural rights doctrine that emerged at the time of the Founding, see Thomas G. West, “Misunderstanding the American Founding,” in Interpreting Tocqueville’s Democracy in America, ed. Ken Masugi (Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 1991), pp. 155–177.

[12] Tocqueville, Democracy in America, p. 32.

[13] Ibid., p. 35.

[14] Ibid., p. 275.

[15] Ibid., p. 39.

[16] Ibid., pp. 407–408.

[17] Ibid., pp. 417–418.

[18] Ibid., p. 418.

[19] Ibid.

[20] Ibid., pp. 418–419.

[21] Ibid., pp. 417–418.

[22] C. S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man (New York: Collier Books, 1947).

[23] Tocqueville, Democracy in America, p. 240.

[24] Ibid., p. 237.

[25] Ibid., pp. 279–280.

[26] Ibid.

[27] Ibid., p. 282.

[28] Ibid., p. 485.

[29] Ibid.

[30] Ibid., p. 504.

[31] Ibid., p. 506.

[32] Ibid., pp. 506–507.

[33] Ibid., pp. 507–508.

[34] Ibid., pp. 515–516.

[35] Ibid., p. 516.

[36] Ibid., p. 517.

[37] Ibid., p. 519.

[38] Ibid., p. 520.

[39] Ibid., p. 426.

[40] Ibid.

[41] Ibid., p. 284.

[42] Ibid., pp. 419–423.

[43] Ibid., pp. 282–288.

[44] Ibid., p. 519.

[45] Ibid., p. 521.

Protect and Defend

Protect and Defend

 

    Of all of the many Framers’ and Founders’ original intentions that standout, three are now totally disregarded in the political onslaught. Equal opportunity, limited government, and, most important, justice for all have been sacrificed in the quest for political power. No longer is the attack on America concealed in the constant lies and deceptions emanating from false propaganda of the liberal media and the candidates they support. Under attack as never before, we, the people are responsible. Hearing what we want to hear, we are tolerant of injustice, bribed by offerings satisfying selfish indulgence, and unaccepting of morality and righteousness. Except for the true patriots, service and sacrifice are never translated into actions that elevate and benefit all. Special interests through unjust corrupt political influence enslave us.

 

When political corruption allowed a former president to escape conviction for perjury, justice for all was lost in the septic tank of indifference and unjust privilege. Also under the watch of this same president, missile guidance secrets critical to our national security landed in the hands of our enemies giving them the ability to target our homeland. Now his spouse, complicit in the Benghazi tragedy, is avoiding justice. This long train of abuses terribly denigrating our entire order of law began long ago in the Arkansas political arena. Not surprisingly, until their occupancy, the Clinton White House was the only one not achieving full national security clearance.

 

With the tyranny of the Supreme Court, now egregiously populated by enemies of the Constitution, judicial activism defying even common sense and natural Law has descended to heretofore unconscionable levels of injustice. Again, injustice is enabled by politically sanctioned violation of the Constitution.

 

The outrageous out-of-control national debt being passed on to our children and taxation without representation spotlight the abyss holding the Framers’ intention for limited government. The primary intention defining states’ rights has been ignored by politicians intending to make government a god.

 

Equal opportunity, the “unalienable Right” to pursue happiness, has been sequestered into the hands of the rich and politically indulged. The following article by Ken Blackwell is telling.

 

CftC

 

Corporate Clinton

J. Kenneth Blackwell

28 June, 2016

    Many leaders of big business support Hillary Clinton. Last week she announced a list of 56 corporate backers. No wonder Bernie Sanders is still running against her.

    Hillary Clinton always has attracted well-connected business supporters. Even before she ran for office. Remember the lucrative cattle trades when she was Arkansas first lady? That came from a local businessman who knew how important it was to have friends in the governor’s mansion.

Bill Clinton had plenty of business support when he ran for president. As New York senator she was quite friendly with Wall Street—a relationship that continued afterwards, with her being paid queenly sums for talks which probably did not emphasize how she was fighting for the common man and woman. While secretary of state corporate behemoths were generous with donations to her family foundation.

Now big business is coming out for her in the presidential race. Admittedly, not all are traditional firms. Magic Johnson, the former basketball player, made the list as Chairman and CEO, Magic Johnson Enterprises. So did Erroll Davis, retired chancellor of the University System of Georgia. State colleges are more politics than business.

What stands out among the companies are the names of those whose business depends on government regulation or largesse. It’s impossible to know what Donald Trump would do in such cases. But we do know what Hillary Clinton would do: Keep the corporate welfare flowing.

For instance, there’s Dan Akerson, former chairman and CEO of Government Motors, er, I mean General Motors. Richard Anderson, Executive Chairman of Delta Airlines, which is at the mercy of government policy at almost every point in its operations. James Bell, former corporate president and CFO of Boeing. Indeed, in the recent battle over the Export-Import Bank, long known as Boeing’s Bank, Hillary Clinton, in contrast to most of the GOP presidential contenders, stood fast for corporate profit at taxpayer expense.

There’s Robert Burt, former chairman of the Business Roundtable, which has been a steadfast supporter of corporate welfare. And Margot Dorfman, President and CEO of the U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce. Her group wants lots of government programs.

Another name on the list is James J. Murren, Chairman and CEO of MGM Resorts International. It’s hard to get more political than the gambling industry. Can you say support for stadium subsidies and antitrust exemption? Gary Rodkin, the retired CEO of ConAgra Foods. There are farm subsidies aplenty.

Of course, all of these executives may be backing Hillary Clinton because they believe she is most likely to bring peace to the Middle East, deter Chinese expansion, and contend with Brexit. Still, surely they, like Sen. Sanders, are aware that Clinton always has been a soft touch when it comes to well-heeled businessmen and women.

Earlier this year Michael Bloomberg bluntly declared: “The Republican Party is no longer the party of business.” He complained that the GOP was appealing to … union members. For instance, while business leaders supported federalizing education through the Common Core, Republicans opposed it: “Some crazy right wing people claimed it was a federal program.”

I guess we can argue whether it’s more regulation or “program,” as if that matters. It certainly is control. Which is why conservatives oppose it.

We see much the same phenomenon with religious liberty. Corporate behemoths are lining up with government, ready to crush small enterprises underfoot if they do not genuflect before the idol of social liberalism.

Big business long ago made its peace with the regulatory Leviathan. Indeed, regulation is a competitive advantage for large firms. The losers are small enterprises: the proverbial “little guy,” like the wedding photographer, baker, and event site. The big companies don’t much care who gets run over by history so long as they are friends of the driver—in this case Hillary Clinton.

Of course Republican candidates should seek support from corporate executives just like anyone else. Many do believe in limited government and individual liberty. And the GOP should be pro- free market, with regulation focused on ensuring a fair process. The objective should not be pro- business per se.

Similarly, the party should be in favor of free bargaining between labor and management over wages and working conditions. And ensuring that the rules are fair to all. That means being friends of working people, not Big Unions.

Alas, economic privilege, not fairness, always has been Hillary Clinton’s agenda. Which is why some corporate executives are joining her campaign.

Ken Blackwell is Senior Fellow for Human Rights and Constitutional Governance at Family Research Council Action.

 

Religion and Government

Religion and Government

excerpted from Natural Law And Liberty, “How Are The Mighty Fallen!

Chuck Baldwin, 21 July, 2016

    America’s colonial pastors were the fire and inspiration for America’s break from the tyranny of the British Crown. Patriot preachers such as John Witherspoon, John Leland, Jonathan Mayhew, Isaac Backus, Samuel Cooper, Ebenezer Baldwin, James Caldwell, John Peter Muhlenberg, and Jonas Clark were as important to the success of the American Revolution as were the patriots Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Sam Adams, Dr. Joseph Warren, John Hancock, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, and Richard Henry Lee.

    John Adams delineated the duty of America’s pastors: “It is the duty of the clergy to accommodate their discourses to the times, to preach against such sins as are most prevalent, and recommend such virtues as are most wanted. For example, if exorbitant ambition and venality are predominant, ought they not to warn their hearers against those vices? If public spirit is much wanted, should they not inculcate this great virtue? If the rights and duties of Christian magistrates and subjects are disputed, should they not explain them, show their nature, ends, limitations, and restrictions, how much soever it may move the gall of Massachusettensis?”

The Bible is a book of science; a book of history; a book of mathematics; a workbook for families; a book of business and economics; a book of geography; a book of archeology; a book of soldiering; and a book of government. To ignore what the Bible teaches on all of these subjects is to make the vast majority of the scriptures completely irrelevant. And, that is exactly what [ politically trashing the original intention of the First Amendment to the Constitution is forcing on (added by the CftC)] the modern pulpit …: [I]t is making the Bible completely irrelevant – especially regarding the affairs of government.

And while many secularists will accuse politically involved pastors (“conservative” pastors, of course – they don’t mind “liberal” clergymen getting involved in politics whatsoever) of trying to create a “theocracy,” they need to be reminded that the religious and secularist communities of colonial America fought side-by-side for America’s independence. The reason they could do this was because, for the most part, both groups understood the Natural Law principles of liberty that are common to all men.

John Adams said on the floor of the Continental Congress as he passionately appealed to his fellow delegates to approve a Declaration of Independence from Great Britain, “Sir, before God, I believe the hour is come. My judgement approves this measure, and my whole heart is in it. All that I have, and all that I am, and all that I hope, in this life, I am now ready here to stake upon it; and I leave off as I begun, that live or die, survive or perish, I am for the declaration. It is my living sentiment, and by the blessing of God it shall be my dying sentiment, independence now and independence forever.”

Adams’ speech, perhaps more than any other, convinced delegates to vote in support of our Declaration of Independence. Without a doubt, it is one of the most important speeches in American history – perhaps second only to Patrick Henry’s immortal “Give Me Liberty, Or Give Me Death” speech. Here is one paragraph from that speech by John Adams:

   “If we fail, it can be no worse for us. But we shall not fail. The cause will raise up armies; the cause will create navies. The people – the people, if we are true to them, will carry us, and will carry themselves, gloriously, through this struggle. I care not how fickle other people have been found. I know the people of these colonies, and I know that resistance to British aggression is deep and settled in their hearts, and cannot be eradicated. Every colony, indeed, has expressed its willingness to follow, if we but take the lead. Sir, the declaration will inspire the people with increased courage. Instead of a long and bloody war for the restoration of privileges, for redress of grievances, for chartered immunities, held under a British King, set before them the glorious object of entire independence, and it will breathe into them anew the breath of life. Read this declaration at the head of the army; every sword will be drawn from its scabbard, and the solemn vow uttered, to maintain it, or to perish on the bed of honor. Publish it from the pulpit; religion will approve it, and the love of religious liberty will cling round it, resolved to stand with it, or fall with it. Send it to the public halls; proclaim it there; let them hear it who heard the first roar of the enemy’s cannon, let them see it who saw their brothers and their sons fall on the field of Bunker Hill, and in the streets of Lexington and Concord, and the very walls will cry out in its support.”

CftC

A Nation On the Brink

Nation on brink of race wars – so now isn’t the time to mince words

Dr. Michael L. Brown

Monday, July 11, 2016

As America stands at the precipice of deadly, coast-to-coast, race wars, this is not the time to mince words. I would rather speak the truth in love, even if it means offending some, than avoid confrontation out of fear of offense. In return, I expect others to be just as candid with me.

I also recognize that, if racial tensions escalate in our nation and more blood is shed, the ones who are likely to suffer the most (and perhaps the longest) are Black Americans. And so, I write this column because I do believe that Black Lives Matter.

Prof. George Yancey, himself an African American, has also urged for open, candid conversations, writing, “Maybe now with people on all sides of the political and racial arguments feeling such pain, we can begin taking the necessary steps to move towards real racial reconciliation.”

It is in that spirit that I write this column, fully aware that I’m not addressing the concerns of Hispanic Americans, Asian Americans, Native Americans, or other minorities in our midst, but that is the nature of this article. I trust all readers will understand.

Although I am a White American (more specifically, a White male, identifying more specifically as a Jewish believer in Jesus), I’m not speaking of “us” and “them” in this column. Rather, I’m addressing all of us together, letting the chips fall where they may.

Shall we proceed?

  • White Americans sometimes do not see racism when it is there; Black Americans sometimes see racism when it is not there. If we will take the time to hear one another out, filling in each other’s blind spots, we can move from perception to reality.
  • There is a real reason for Black frustration and anger. When Whites minimize the pain of Blacks or, worse still, claim that they are just being pawns of the media or political leaders, they deeply insult their Black brothers and sisters. Most Whites really do not understand what it is like to grow up as a minority culture, and they cannot relate to the historic suffering of Blacks in America, a history which is not as far in the distant past we would all like it to be.
  • All Black lives matters, not just the lives of Blacks who die at the hands of White cops. White critics have rightly asked, “Where are the rallies and protests when a three-year-old Black child dies from random, inner-city gun fire? And what about the disproportionate number of Black babies killed in the womb, not to mention Blacks killed by other Blacks?” A Black man named Richard wrote on Facebook, “We cannot pick and choose when we decide to make a stand. We’re either all in (we must address black on black crime in addition to the murder of innocent blacks) or we’re not in at all. We can’t let these race-baiting politicians further divide us; if you haven’t noticed they want a race war. We must stand up and unite, both black and white and whatever other ethnicity and re-claim our freedom.”
  • All rhetoric that leads to violence, let alone that calls for violence, must be categorically renounced and repudiated. Not a few leaders in the Black Lives Matter movement need to do some serious soul-searching in light of the intentional, targeted shooting of cops in several states this past week. (Yancey characterizes Black Lives Matter as “a group that pushes its own racialized agenda and expects compliance instead of communication.”) Their irresponsible rhetoric can easily lead to bloodshed.
  • Everyone must work together to address injustice and inequality wherever it raises its head, be it in the courts or on the streets. Blacks would be greatly encouraged if they saw their White colleagues standing up for their cause rather than always taking a defensive posture. Do Whites automatically give the benefit of the doubt to other Whites, assuming Black claims of injustice are illegitimate?
  • It is social suicide to launch a war against our law enforcement agents. The police to do a good, important, often thankless, frequently life-threatening job, and without their sacrificial service, our nation would descend into chaos. The few bad cops who are out there are the exception to the rule (and they must be held accountable). Law and order is a good thing, not a bad thing, and as one black caller to my radio show noted (he was a career cop), when the bullets started flying in Dallas last week, the crowds ran from the shots; the police ran towards them to try to take out the killer(s).
  • It is important today to state that All Lives Matter. I understand that if a Black man is bleeding to death on the side of the road, having been shot without cause by an irresponsible White cop, it is insulting to say, “Yes, he’s dying, but let’s remember that All Lives Matter.” But when White policemen lay dying in the streets it is insensitive not to say All Lives Matter.
  • There is no comparison between a policeman overreacting and killing someone and another person intentionally targeting a policeman for death. I do not believe for a second that White cops get up in the morning and say to themselves, “I hope I can kill a Black person today!” Sadly, a Black man decided last week that he would murder as many cops as he could. There’s no true comparison between the two, whatever the skin color of the victims or perpetrators.
  • The elephant in the room is the breakdown of the Black American family. This was stressed to me by another black caller to my show. The disastrous, generational effects of fatherlessness are well-documented, and with illegitimacy in Black America at an almost unimaginable high of 74 percent, this is not simply a Black crisis; it is a national crisis. We got into this situation together, and we can only get out of it together.
  • There is far more that unites than divides us. We are, after all, one race, with each of us equally created in God’s image and equally loved by our Creator. And all of us as Americans have the same right to “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” It is the devil who wants to divide and destroy us and the Lord who wants to unite and strengthen us. Let us work with the Lord, not against Him.

Speaking now as a White American to my Black American brothers and sisters, I say from the heart: America cannot be great unless you are thriving, and my own life will not be full if your lives are not full.

Dr. Michael Brown, a Jewish believer in Jesus, is a biblical scholar, apologist, worldwide speaker, and activist. He is the host of the nationally syndicated, talk radio program “Line of Fire,” and he serves as president of FIRE School of Ministry in Concord, NC, as well as adjunct professor at a number of seminaries. He is the author of 25 books, most recently “Can You Be Gay and Christian?”