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Trump, Hitler, Stalin, and other Tyrants of America

I am a Cruz supporter, but my last two posts could be construed as coming to Trump’s defense, and this one, likewise.  But these posts are not a defense of Trump, but an attempt to point out that if it is really possible for an American president to do all of the things that people are worried Trump might do, then that is really the least of our problems.   It means that the office of the presidency has way too much power.  It means that we have no faith in the checks and balances our Constitution is supposed to embody–and remember, those checks and balances were specifically designed with the deep fear of a tyrannical monarchy in mind.  It means that we think that the States, our Congress, and SCOTUS, will do nothing to prevent a president from doing anything any given president wants.  It means that we worry that our military will obey illegal orders.  It means that we believe the American people are powerless to resist a tyrannical government.

hitler-donald-trumpAnd, sad to say, almost all of these things are true, and all are true to a degree.  Right now.  They have been true for quite a long time, actually.   The dirty little secret, then, is that the Republic is already dead.  It just so happens that there hasn’t been a man audacious enough yet to take advantage of it, or at least, not take advantage of it in a way that lends credence to comparisons with Hitler and Stalin that I have been seeing, such as in the ‘meme’ to the right.

If all this is true, than I almost welcome a Trump presidency, because it might mean that the States may finally assert their 10th amendment rights.  It might mean that the Congress will strip away the various Federal powers that the ‘unitary executive’ presently has access to.  It might mean… *gasp* that SCOTUS might actually follow the rule of law by interpreting the ACTUAL law, instead of making it up as it goes along.

History has shown that people cannot bring themselves to act until it is too late, or admit that something is dangerous or toxic until it is already fully ingested.  For over one hundred years, Americans have allowed the Constitution to be dismantled right in front of their eyes.  It is instructive, when thinking about a Tyrant Trump, to think about the tyranny our presidents have already engaged in:

  • Abraham Lincoln, who suspended the writ of habeas corpus.
  • The progressive president, Theodore Roosevelt, who wrote:  “society has no business to permit degenerates to reproduce their kind.”
  • Woodrow Wilson, the proto-fascist progressive who firmly established the bureaucratic state and enforced the Sedition Act of 1918, actually putting people in jail for exercising their right to speak freely.
  • Franklin Roosevelt, who actually did put Americans into concentration camps.
  • Harry Truman, who incinerated hundreds of thousands of Japanese, instantly.

Are you getting the picture?

Then we may jump ahead to folks like Nixon, who was nearly tossed out of office for using the IRS to target political foes… and Obama, who did the same thing, without facing any consequences whatsoever.

Some of these things were reversed.  Some of them we may even reluctantly concede were necessary and appropriate.  Regardless, the overall trend has been towards more power in the hands of elites and less in the hands of the governed.  And the governed have gone along with it.

Until recently, that is.

In the last 20 years or so, at least on the political right, there has been an overall move away from such things.  The elites have not gotten the message.  Or, they don’t care.  Things really came to a head in 2010 when a truly audacious president came to power and began exercising that power, and the people trounced him and his ideology throughout the country, state, local, and Federal.  In 2012, he was trounced again–winning at least in part because he used the IRS to undermine groups that were organizing to defeat him in a bold, tyrannical, and typical abuse of Federal power.  But in 2014, he was defeated yet again.  After handing this man massive defeats in three successive elections, people expected to see results.

They didn’t.

So, now here we are, with a man like Trump poised to be the nominee and with a good chance of being the next occupant of the White House.   And hence, with access to the same powers that have been used and abused for the last hundred years.  Now, most people are focusing on the man, but I’m telling you, this is the least of our concerns.

You see, our country did not lapse into they kind of nightmare that Germany and Russia fell into because we had better tyrants, who in their benevolence, allowed the peons a greater measure of freedom.  No, many of our presidents and leaders were scoundrels, who desperately wanted to do exactly in America what was being done in Germany and Russia.

It was Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes who, upholding compulsory sterilization, wrote: “The principle that sustains compulsory vaccination is broad enough to cover cutting the Fallopian tubes. Three generations of imbeciles are enough.”   The superintendent of one of our public hospitals, Joseph Dejarnette who complained, in 1934, “The Germans are beating us at our own game.”  It is the sitting chief science officer of the Obama administration, John Holdren, who argued that compulsory abortion was justifiable under the U.S. Constitution.   It’s not that the people in our country are more benevolent than the tyrants in other countries.  It’s that their hands have been tied by the mighty ropes of the Constitution.

It is these very ropes that have progressively been loosened over the last century, landing us in our current predicament.

I would prefer Cruz, but Cruz would probably tighten the ropes back up, and people would howl.  Leftists, who need the power and might of the government to do what they want (because otherwise they’d never get what they want), will fight him tooth and nail.  But if Trump is in fact the president that everyone fears, then that might be the wake-up call that will unite both the left and the right in the awareness that our freedoms and liberties truly depend on a radically scaled back, limited government.  (A Clinton presidency would not have this effect; Clinton would be just as tyrannical as Trump is presumed to be, but since leftists don’t mind tyranny when its them doing the tyrannizing, there is no hope that they will band together with those on the right).

And I should like to mention one last thing.

One of the first things that every tyrant has done before he has done anything else is disarm the masses.

In America, we still have our guns.

People, especially leftists, have had trouble imagining that there could ever be a need in civilized society for the deterrence embodied in the second amendment.  Their eyes may indeed be opened, shortly.

A Trump presidency may very well be our last chance for a bloodless revolution.

 

 

 

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20 Responses to Trump, Hitler, Stalin, and other Tyrants of America

  1. “…since leftists don’t mind tyranny when its them doing the tyrannising…”

    The implication being that people on the political Right have a track record of opposing tyrannies which were in their favour? I think that what you have identified here is really a point about political partisanship and human nature, which you are choosing (ironically for very similar reasons) to pretend only applies to liberals. Do you have any historical examples of mass right-wing opposition to regimes which were dictatorially enforcing their own agenda?

  2. “Do you have any historical examples of mass right-wing opposition to regimes which were dictatorially enforcing their own agenda?”

    I don’t know, what did you have in mind? Nazism? You know, national SOCIALISM?

    They call it ‘right wing’ but it was, as a matter of historical fact, ‘left wing.’

    Next thing you’ll be telling me that communism was a Republican idea.

    Tell me this, DH: do you think that corporations should be forced to pay for their employees contraceptives?

    You’ll answer that “yes.”

    How is that not tyrannical?

    If you’re going to take us into these waters, we’re going to have to get into definitions. So, please define ‘left’ and ‘right’ for me, before we get further.

    and don’t invoke human nature. After our last conversation, I’ll just say that I was born that way. 🙂

  3. I note with interest that you accuse me of partisanship but three of my examples are Republicans. I think you need to ground your objection somewhere besides partisanship.

  4. Oops I had added Lincoln but i don’t see it. I will look into getting it back in.

  5. “Do you have any historical examples of mass right-wing opposition to regimes which were dictatorially enforcing their own agenda?”

    I recall the USA being FOUNDED by a mass opposition of a dictatorial regime based on principles that are more aligned with today’s right-wing than today’s left wing.

  6. LoL nice EB.

    I have officially added Lincoln in now. I had forgotten to click ‘save.’ Three Republicans listed.

  7. What the….?

    What are you smoking AH? Your response was in no way related to my question and was at least 75% bu!!$hit. Seriously, Nazism was a left-wing movement because, “duh, national SOCIALISM”? That facile calibre of logic would necessarily entail some extremely naive conclusions about the DEMOCRATIC Peoples’ Republic of Korea. Also, your pet holocaust expert Joseph Keysor would disagree with you – he explicitly states that Nazism was a right-wing political movement. Shall I quote for you some of your glowing review of the (sporadically mad but undeniably well-researched) book in which he makes this claim? Referring to his extensive study and superior knowledge of the subject? If you disagreed with him then you had plenty of time to do so prior to now.

    Also, how does any of this relate to the question I asked??? A misguided and factually incorrect rant about Nazism being a left-wing movement hardly addresses the question of whether or not you have “any historical examples of mass right-wing opposition to regimes which were dictatorially enforcing their own agenda?”. You’re shooting yourself in the foot, in fact, because if the Nazis WERE left-wing (they weren’t) then representatives of the secular left in the European resistance to Hitler directly contradicts your thesis that “leftists don’t mind tyranny when it’s them doing the tyrannising”. Honestly I feel slightly embarrassed for you to have misjudged your answer so thoroughly. Would you like to have a fresh stab at it?

    EB,

    “I recall the USA being FOUNDED by a mass opposition of a dictatorial regime based on principles that are more aligned with today’s right-wing than today’s left wing.”

    Wow, you’re really much older and more mature than your online persona would suggest. However, credit where credit is due – this at least attempts to address the question posed. It has to ignore a great deal of historical fact in order to do so, but still. So EB, do you really want to claim that either the founding fathers or the instigators of the revolutionary war (I’m not quite clear which you are referring to here) were opposing a right-wing tyranny with which they entirely agreed for the sake of pure liberty? No vested interests involved whatsoever, eh?

  8. If you’d bother researching Nazism you’d find out that both in platform and in philosophy, National Socialism far more resembles the left wing than the right… depending, of course how you define the terms. Which, I notice, you did not, even though I asked you to, if you insisted on further discussion on this tangent.

    Your fixation on a parenthetical rather than the substance of the post strikes me as petty, pedantic, and completely typical. You do not even acknowledge that I gave three examples of Republicans engaged in tyranny, even after I called it to your attention, too. This should suggest that perhaps you haven’t grasped the argument being made, and maybe you should re-read it.

    But IF you are going to force a conversation on the parenthetical, I would probably abandon the terms ‘left’ and ‘right’ altogether. I would probably settle on terms that focus more on the degree in which someone thinks the State is the proper solution to our biggest problems. Statist vs. Limited Governmentalists? I’d have to think about it. But, no matter how you slice it, while there are ‘left-wing’ and ‘right-wing’ statists (Romney, an example of the latter), there aren’t left-wing LGs.

    The rock bottom fact is that YOU and YOUR activities are more likely to result in tyranny than MINE. Period, end of story. It cannot be otherwise–since I would radically strip the government of the power and ability to tyrannize (see substance of this post, dude). You would radically empower the government.

    I can see why this hits a little too close to home for you, but I am not very interested in soothing your constantly ruffled feathers.

    Btw, you never answered my question, and in not answering it, answered it: Do you think corporations should be compelled to pay for their employers’ contraception?

  9. “So EB, do you really want to claim that either the founding fathers or the instigators of the revolutionary war (I’m not quite clear which you are referring to here) were opposing a right-wing tyranny with which they entirely agreed for the sake of pure liberty?”

    I would ask where ‘right-wing tyranny’ came from, given just plain old ‘tyranny’ was your original question, and exactly how you are defining such terms.

    But as noted, you seem to be avoiding being too specific, lest you get called out on just what’s ACTUALLY being discussed – Limited Government Power vs Unlimited Government Power. The former being championed far more by the ‘right-wing’ of the US than the ‘left-wing,’ and is fundamentally incapable of allowing tyranny to take hold.

    And to answer your question – who cares? There were many reasons for why many people threw British rule out (though Paine’s Common Sense gave a concise argument that swayed a wide range of people from across the class and ideological spectrum).

    A more relevant question would be their goal when forming a NEW government. Sadly for your apparently delusional belief that freedom is the exclusive property of the left, that answer is pretty clear when looking at the Bill of Rights and Constitution as it ACTUALLY says. Heck it’s pretty clear from the fact that today’s government only came about on the SECOND attempt, because the FIRST system of government after the Revolution had too little power to stay afloat.

  10. “If you’d bother researching Nazism…”

    Well I referenced a book which an influential figure in online apologetics described as “invaluable”, a “treasure trove” and said that it should be “on every pastor’s shelf and in every college library”. I guess that serves me right for paying attention to what I read on the internet, eh.

    Your overreaction to a relatively mild question seems suggestive of not wishing to concede the point. It takes an extremely principled person, regardless of their political views, to oppose injustice done or freedoms curtailed in a way which privileges them and/or members of their in-group, rather than negatively affecting them. You claim to be one of those people (while, I can’t help noticing, actively supporting a candidate for Republican presidential nominee who has more than a hint of dominionist theology about him), and if you are then good for you.

    If.

    The “Big Government” vs “Libertarian” debate is actually a lot more interesting to me than the “Left” vs “Right” debate, but what I think you rarely acknowledge is that there are liabilities to both views within it. Centralising power has the potential to lead to totalitarianism, just as decentralising power has the potential to lead to anarchy and local tyranny. You claim to overcome the liabilities of your viewpoint by adding constitutionalism to it. Can’t an advocate of “Big Government” (for certain problems) do likewise?

    “The rock bottom fact is that YOU and YOUR activities are more likely to result in tyranny than MINE.”

    I don’t disagree with that. Totalitarianism is more a risk of big government than of small. Are you denying me the ability to regulate the liabilities of my position with (for example) a commitment to individual human rights, as you claim the ability to do for yours with constitutionalism? Also, would you dispute the corollary of your rock bottom fact, which is that YOU and YOUR activities are more likely to result in anarchy, localised oppression, inter-tribal violence and the re-instatement of Jim Crow laws in some states than mine? I’m not saying that they WILL lead to that, by the way, just that they are more likely to do so than my views and activities.

    “Do you think corporations should be compelled to pay for their employers’ contraception?”

    I don’t know, that’s quite a US health system specific question (in the UK the question doesn’t arise). Are corporations compelled to pay for their employees other healthcare needs? Should employers not be required to provide health insurance at all? Perhaps this is a separate argument to you, but if a significant percentage of healthcare coverage in the US needs to be provided by employers – who therefore may be legally required to provide it – then it doesn’t seem like a huge step towards totalitarianism to include certain types of birth control in that provision. I’m open to hearing your views on why that is actually much much worse than mandated employee health insurance without contraceptive coverage, but I feel like we’d need to dig a bit deeper into issues of legitimate ways to fund healthcare on a national level. That is an area where some very reasonable differences of opinion exist, incidentally. Seems like a discussion that could be better had without hyperbolic shrieking about tyranny, to be honest.

  11. “Well I referenced a book which an influential figure”

    To double-down on undefined terms after being asked to define them? Argument ad authority is a fallacy, even if I respect the authority.

    I’m sitting here ready to get into particulars re: the Nazi ideology and all you want to do is win an argument. Lame.

    “Your overreaction to a relatively mild question”

    lol you’re the one who has twice in a week felt that coarse language best represented your argument. It seems suggestive to me that you don’t have an argument, so much as a barbaric yawp. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S6xyHna-NuM

    I’m only reacting in proportion to your (over)reaction. And for the record, I don’t object to that language. I think it is revealing. 🙂 No need to throw in character signs, either. My blog has been blocked by parental filters for a long time, anyway.

    “The “Big Government” vs “Libertarian” debate is actually a lot more interesting to me than the “Left” vs “Right” debate, but what I think you rarely acknowledge is that there are liabilities to both views within it.”

    Well, if you’d paid my original words heed, we’d already be talking about that, wouldn’t we?

    See: “If you’re going to take us into these waters, we’re going to have to get into definitions. So, please define ‘left’ and ‘right’ for me, before we get further.” And, “I think you need to ground your objection somewhere besides partisanship.”

    “Centralising power has the potential to lead to totalitarianism, just as decentralising power has the potential to lead to anarchy and local tyranny.”

    Just when I think you don’t listen to me. 🙂

    “Can’t an advocate of “Big Government” (for certain problems) do likewise?”

    That depends. Eg:

    “I don’t disagree with that. Totalitarianism is more a risk of big government than of small.”

    There is a sense in which equating the kinds of abuse that can be suffered at the hands of BG vs. that of a ‘local tyranny’ is to totally misunderstand the ‘liabilities’ of each. Let me use examples from the extremes to illustrate.

    One could say that an abusive father is a tyrant within his family. It is the most local of tyrannies. Yet, he has no power to abuse the other families in the community, if only because the other fathers will kick his ass if he tries. But now say that you want to fix society so that abusive fathers are rooted out and held accountable. This means creating agencies with investigative and punitive powers, which citizens are not allowed to resist in proportion to the power applied to them. So now, while it is true that the system is built to root out the ‘local tyrant’ it means also that the system is built to oversee and regulate every other house in the community, too, disempowering all the ‘righteous’ fathers, too.

    These two things are categorically different. The kinds of abuses are categorically different. They kinds of ‘tyranny’ that a ‘tyrant father’ can engage in are categorically different than the kinds of tyranny that the County social service agency can engage in, if only for the fact that in the former, there is the ability of other people to defend themselves against abusive ‘tyrants’ whereas in the latter, they not only have no recourse to take matters into their own hands, but if the county’s social service agents are the tyrants, they have little recourse, there, either.

    This is why my position is categorically different than yours: the ‘liabilities’ themselves are categorically different. There is a sense in which the word ‘tyranny’ modified by ‘local’ simply does not reflect what is meant by the word ‘tyranny.’

    Now on the bureaucratic view, we need to add that it is entirely plausible that a member of one of these ‘higher’ agencies is as much of an abusive jerk as that abusive father we were talking about earlier–unless its your position that abusive jerks miraculously refrain from taking jobs in the government. But “nobody is perfect” is a well understood principle, in practice, so this isn’t a problem even the bureaucrats are unaware of. Their solution: create yet another bureaucracy to monitor this bureaucracy. But (shockingly!) it turns out that people are people no matter what their education and expertise, so it is quickly discovered that this bureaucracy in turn needs to be monitored–and this one, too, is found to occasionally abuse its authorities.

    Except, as you go up, the worse the abuse that can be afflicted to more people, and the harder it is for the abused to seek recourse.

    CATEGORICALLY DIFFERENT.

    “Are you denying me the ability to regulate the liabilities of my position with (for example) a commitment to individual human rights, as you claim the ability to do for yours with constitutionalism?”

    Absolutely. I am absolutely denying it. Do you know who else has a commitment to individual human rights?

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Universal_Declaration_of_Human_Rights#Adoption

    Cuba. Iran. Syria. Turkey. Afghanistan. Pakistan.

    http://www.un.org/en/universal-declaration-human-rights/index.html

    The idea that a ‘commitment to individual human rights’ is a check against tyranny is, practically speaking, absurd. Sounds great in theory, but in the real world, it has been demonstrated time and time and time again to represent the thinnest of barriers to tyranny.

    “Also, would you dispute the corollary of your rock bottom fact, …. just that they are more likely to do so than my views and activities.”

    Nope. But I still maintain that these liabilities are categorically different than your liabilities.

    ““Do you think corporations should be compelled to pay for their employers’ contraception?””

    “then it doesn’t seem like a huge step towards totalitarianism to include certain types of birth control in that provision.”

    You misunderstand. I’m not talking about such a measure being a ‘step’ towards totalitarianism. I gave you an example of “leftists don’t mind tyranny when its them doing the tyrannizing.”

    You just provided several reasons and justifications for why you think it is appropriate to make people do something that they are flatly opposed to doing.

    “I’m open to hearing your views on why that is actually much much worse than mandated employee health insurance”

    I also think that’s tyranny. *shrug*

    “but I feel like we’d need to dig a bit deeper into issues of legitimate ways to fund healthcare on a national level.”

    You assume that this is a positive good that everyone should want to do. This assumption itself is a ‘Big Government’ assumption. Again, the categorical difference: if you get your way, the whole country has to move to accommodate, even if vast numbers don’t want to participate at all.

    “That is an area where some very reasonable differences of opinion exist, incidentally.”

    Have you been asleep the last 10 years? It is undeniable that the massive reaction to Obama has been in large part to his enactment of “mandated [] health insurance.” In three straight elections, people opposed to this policy have been won election in overwhelming majorities. The only election NOT won was the presidency itself. What do you think has been going on?

    (The answer in America is, “all those millions must be racists who hate the poor!” And this is why Trump and Cruz are leading. Calling Repubs racists rather than accept that there are millions of people with “very reasonable differences of opinion” is only creating more support for Trump. Ironic.)

    “Seems like a discussion that could be better had without hyperbolic shrieking about tyranny, to be honest.”

    No. Just look at how you framed your statement–“legitimate ways to fund healthcare on a national level” as if everyone accepts the premise that we ought to be doing this. In three straight elections, at the state, local, and Federal level, minus the presidency alone, people opposed to THAT VERY PREMISE have said “NO!”

    But the elites here in America know better than the population, and have decreed that whatever else we’re going to do, we’re going to have some form of national healthcare.

    It is not the ‘mandated health care’ itself that is tyranny, it is the fact that the people were denied the right of self-government.

    This is a perfect example of where it would be in your best interest to pay attention to what people are really saying and what they really believe. If millions of people have been ‘shrieking about tyranny’ re: mandated health care (and a host of other things perpetrated by Obama and facilitated by the people elected to NOT facilitate Obama’s policies) it probably means THEY DON’T LIKE IT.

    It probably means THEY DON’T WANT IT.

    It probably means THEY CONSIDER IT TYRANNY.

    Again, YOU don’t think its tyranny, because YOU agree with it. Which means that the tens of millions who DO think it is tyranny are just going to have to eat whatever excrement you shovel at them, and smile about it, and have a ‘discussion’ about the excrement, and its many nuanced flavors.

    But since WE do think its tyranny, whether you and Bernie Sanders think its reasonable or not, it is UNWISE to dismiss our concerns.

    We do not accept the premise.

  12. A couple of interesting bits on the human rights angle.

    1., The apologetics academy I attended in France was ‘apologetics and human rights.’ I made a very similar argument about the fact that a ‘commitment to human rights’ was an extremely weak ‘check’ on tyranny. I didn’t receive an answer. I mean, like, literally. I asked the question, and they just moved on. To me, there is a hardly a more important question than that. It’s all just fine words if it doesn’t actually obtain the desired results.

    2. I literally just refused to endorse a ‘faith statement’ that included reference to a ‘commitment to human rights as described in the UN statement on human rights’, again pointing out that this would align me with countries like Pakistan and Cuba — or secular humanists — who have an entirely different idea about what constitutes ‘human rights’ than what Christians ought to have. Eg, the UN Declaration invokes a right to life, but this has not prevented countries from adopting euthanasia, abortion on demand, and beheadings.

    So yea, I have a pretty low regard for the efficacy of a ‘commitment to human rights’ as a barrier for abuse. I’m sure you will agree that it has had many remarkable failures over the last fifty years. The difference between us is that you think if “we give it another go this time will be different!” while I think “the dog will always return to its vomit.”

    While I can commend you for your good intentions, I have the overwhelming weight of history (ie, reality) on my side.

  13. Sorry, but this one has been gnawing at me:

    “I can’t help noticing, actively supporting a candidate for Republican presidential nominee who has more than a hint of dominionist theology about him)” [Cruz]

    On the one hand, its like, “He does listen!” And then you say things like this. 🙂

    Re-read the first paragraph of this very post, but substitute the word ‘Cruz’ in for the word ‘Trump.’

    If the office of the presidency is such that whether a person is a dominionist or a Klansman (I know you consider them to be basically the same 😉 ) or even Hitler himself, tyranny is nigh upon us, then the office of the presidency has too much power.

    Whether we have freedom or massive enslavement or worse should not hinge on the whims of a single person.

    We should stop obsessing over making sure that ‘our’ person is the one with the ability to destroy the world (so that he won’t, presumably), and strip away that capability altogether.

  14. AH,

    “I’m sitting here ready to get into particulars re: the Nazi ideology and all you want to do is win an argument. Lame.”

    Because it wasn’t the discussion I came here to have, on this occasion. I don’t mind tangents into related topics when I find them interesting and relevant, but I also don’t have to engage with an issue merely because YOU have decided that it’s what you want to talk about.

    And I personally find that ‘coarse’ language provides useful linguistic emphasis, of the same sort that the occasional use of CAPS can do. I presumed that you were adult enough to handle the full spectrum of English words, and if you choose to imply that my use of them is ‘revealing’ of something then that is of course entirely your prerogative. Thanks for the heads up about parental filters. [celebratory expletive self-censored]

    “Well, if you’d paid my original words heed, we’d already be talking about that, wouldn’t we?”

    No. Because I asked a specific question to clarify a sly remark you made about “liberals”. The choice of terminology was yours, not mine.

    “One could say that an abusive father is a tyrant within his family. It is the most local of tyrannies. Yet, he has no power to abuse the other families in the community, if only because the other fathers will kick his ass if he tries. But now say that you want to fix society so that abusive fathers are rooted out and held accountable. This means creating agencies with investigative and punitive powers, which citizens are not allowed to resist in proportion to the power applied to them. So now, while it is true that the system is built to root out the ‘local tyrant’ it means also that the system is built to oversee and regulate every other house in the community, too, disempowering all the ‘righteous’ fathers, too.”

    I think this is a great example. At the extreme interventionist/big government response end of the spectrum would be a massively expensive bureaucratic intrusion into everyones lives, probably interfering with a lot of entirely appropriate parenting and unnecessarily curtailing the individual freedoms of innocent people. At the extreme libertarian non-response end of the spectrum whatever goes on in your house is nobodies business but your own and we resign ourselves to a certain amount of unchecked physical abuse, domestic violence, a dead kid and/or wife here and there but on the plus side – Freedom!

    I was talking to a psychologist at a lesbian wedding I attended recently (there’s a middle class sentence if ever I heard one), who told me that a twelve year old boy in state care had asked her “How come they’re allowed to hold me down when I try to smash the windows but they aren’t allowed to give me a hug when I’m upset?”. Good question! Rules created to preserve safety and guard against abuse, no doubt, but still a sad and un-nurturing situation for a growing child to find himself in. Probably a lot better than being out on the streets, but still.

    Now, you and I can no doubt agree on many of the failings of the state, some of them exemplified in the story above, but we also ought to be able to agree about the relatively predictable effect when there is no state. Or at most a state which is curtailed from doing many of the things (which you have the privilege of objecting to) which the state does in the US & UK. This is why libertarianism has always seemed to me to be a limited philosophy – it is born of the kind of privilege that can usually only be provided by a state, and grows up to bite the hand that fed it. There are no Somali libertarians (possibly excluding wealthy warlords).

    Perhaps – and I hope this does not seem patronising – there might be a difference in our outlook based upon the fact that one of us has been to countries where the state does as little as you seem to wish, and observed the consequences, and the other has not.

    “Do you know who else has a commitment to individual human rights?”

    Do you know who else proclaims themselves to be libertarian constitutionalists? The KKK. Do you know who else has a commitment to a literalist interpretation of the bible? The Westboro Baptist Church.

    The idea that the utility of a certain principle is entirely undercut by citing examples of disreputable groups who affect allegiance to it is, practically speaking, absurd. Cuba, Iran, Syria etc are demonstrably contravening many universally established human rights principles. Their cosmetic lip service to such principles is a sham which wouldn’t deceive a child. For you to claim that this “proves” that adherence to universal human rights is worthless is vacuous and foolish. These countries are the equivalent of “pro-choice christians” in your worldview.

    “I gave you an example of “leftists don’t mind tyranny when its them doing the tyrannising.””

    You’re still missing the point – I suggested that you are making the mistake of imputing upon liberals a near-universal human trait. If I say that ‘conservatives can’t digest dairy’, that implies that liberals can, yes? If in response to your querying my assertion I merely gave you a list of lactose intolerant conservatives you would be justified in looking at me the way that I’m looking at you right now. With quizzical disappointment.

    “You just provided several reasons and justifications for why you think it is appropriate to make people do something that they are flatly opposed to doing.”

    Yes. Because your inviolable right to swing your fist stops at the end of my nose, whether you are flatly opposed to stopping there or not. And I am not the only person that applies to either.

    “Just look at how you framed your statement–“legitimate ways to fund healthcare on a national level” as if everyone accepts the premise that we ought to be doing this.”

    The alternative is leaving people to die on the street outside emergency rooms. Otherwise it’s being paid for somehow.

    “I literally just refused to endorse a ‘faith statement’ that included reference to a ‘commitment to human rights as described in the UN statement on human rights’, again pointing out that this would align me with countries like Pakistan and Cuba”

    That makes precisely as much sense as me saying that I refuse to consider the principles of Christianity because it would align me with countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo (although hey, they’ve got the word “democratic” in their name, so thats a very positive sign, right?) and Rwanda. Yes, it’s THAT stupid.

    “We should stop obsessing over making sure that ‘our’ person is the one with the ability to destroy the world (so that he won’t, presumably), and strip away that capability altogether.”

    Right. That’s why you’ve been so unfocused on individual candidates these last few elections. 🙂

  15. DB, your continued argument seems to simply further prove SJ’s underlining assessment – liberal’s truly do not mind tyranny so long as THEY are the ones implementing it.

    You are perfectly content with Big Intrusive Government so long as it’s doing what YOU personally feel is appropriate – stopping domestic abuse of children and family, saving the poor from dying in mass outside hospitals (one wonders how the streets weren’t littered in bodies before ObamaCare) and if not everyone likes it too bad. But who exactly defines what constitutes ‘abuse’? Many have already come out and said just teaching the concept of Hell to children is ‘abuse’ and thus logically this is all the grounds one needs to break up a family. And if a homeless guy needs a meal, that’s all the reason needed to mug someone else to provide them lunch, right?

    Would you not agree with such courses of action? Don’t you care about the children and the homeless?

    I believe you personally would not go to such lengths, but then the reality is YOU are not going to be the one to make sure Big Government is only doing the things YOU feel it ought to. Someone else will, and then you find you have to go along with it with no recourse yourself.

    And in this case that someone else may be Trump whom many people and nations seem to think the world will implode if he’s allowed to take office. Then you’re faced with the fact that allowing more intrusive government power in the name of good intentions amounts to little when it just allows to be used by others whose intentions may not be so good (or at least as predictable).

    If all you’re counting on to curtail tyranny is a ‘good’ person/people to be in charge, you’re going to find how flimsy an approach that is.

    But perhaps the difference in outlook is that one of us has been to countries where if you’re so much as outed on Twitter for expressing beliefs not State approved you and your family can get arrested… or worse, and the other has not.

  16. “Because I asked a specific question to clarify a sly remark you made about “liberals”. The choice of terminology was yours, not mine.”

    Then look again. You are the first person on the page to have used the word “liberals.” The choice of terminology was, in fact, YOURS, not mine.

    “At the extreme interventionist/big government response end of the spectrum would be a massively expensive bureaucratic intrusion into everyones lives,”

    Actually, at the extreme of this spectrum would be stacks of dead in the millions. Not in theory, but as the history of the 20th century.

    “Do you know who else has a commitment to individual human rights?”

    “Do you know who else proclaims themselves to be libertarian constitutionalists? The KKK.”

    Not true, historically. See, this is where your flawed understanding of history prevents you from making reasonable arguments. Read the primary source material, and you get an entirely different picture. And actually, if you just exerted a *wee* bit of thought on it, you would recognize how in principle an organization like the KKK would naturally incline towards big government intrusions.

    “The idea that the utility of a certain principle is entirely undercut by citing examples of disreputable groups who affect allegiance to it is, practically speaking, absurd.”

    You’re wrong. You’re wrong because I was clear in my language, but instead of reacting to what I actually said, you are reacting to what I think I mean. I said:

    “The idea that a ‘commitment to individual human rights’ is a check against tyranny is, practically speaking, absurd.”

    And:

    “was an extremely weak ‘check’ on tyranny.”

    And:

    “I have a pretty low regard for the efficacy of a ‘commitment to human rights’ as a barrier for abuse.”

    Pay attention.

    I have said something that I probably feel strongly about, as indicated by making basically the same kind of statement, THREE times.

    Contrast this with your characterization:

    “For you to claim that this “proves” that adherence to universal human rights is worthless is vacuous and foolish.”

    This is not my claim at all.

    Re-read, and start again.

    “The alternative is leaving people to die on the street outside emergency rooms. Otherwise it’s being paid for somehow.”

    Right! Because for thousands of years, that’s exactly what happened! And before EMTALA, that’s what happened!

    Don’t accept the premise. 🙂

    “Yes, it’s THAT stupid.”

    Well, I don’t really trust your judgement on that, seeing as practically speaking, more of your perspective will result in hundreds of thousands if not millions more dead–just as we did in fact see in Rwanda, thanks for bringing it up.

    But probably again your problem is that you didn’t really pay attention to what I said. I said this was part of a ‘faith statement.’ I don’t want to sound patronizing here, but do you know what those are? A ‘faith statement’ that smuggles in the presuppositions of atheists and Muslims and tyrants simultaneously is not the way I wish to express my core beliefs.

  17. I’m a little surprised that in that garbled regurgitation of my comments, you didn’t fixate on ‘the abusive father’ example. Surely you know, in principle, that I think there is a reasonable basis–even on ‘libertarian-constitutionalist’ grounds–for dealing with such ‘local tyrants.’

    You characterize it: “a certain amount of unchecked physical abuse, domestic violence, a dead kid and/or wife here and there but on the plus side – Freedom!”

    … without setting against it the possibility on the other extreme of concentration camps, gulags, a pile of dead people to the moon here and there, but on the plus side — … ? Just what is the plus side? lol Instead, you only set against it a massive, soul-crushing bureaucracy. Think about that.

    But while we may say ‘a certain amount’ it need not follow that it is as many as you think.

    But you did not probe how I believed that this would work without being tyranny. That’s too bad, because I was looking forward to explaining that.

    For the lurker, then, I guess, I will offer some brief thoughts in answer to this basic question: “Is it possible for there to be government without it simultaneously being tyranny.”

    The simple answer is “Yes” but you have to use your brain. And yes, it will mean that you will have to allow that “a certain amount” of bad things will happen in the world. But the idea that the ‘benefit’ from allowing these evils to happen is… DH insinuates… some ‘selfish’ fixation on “Freedom” at the expense of everything else is childish and asinine. It is not selfish to want Freedom for everyone, and it certainly isn’t selfish to note that in proportion to the decrease in Freedom there is a rise in body counts.

    So, how would it work?

    A few conditions need to be in place. Not in theory, but in actual practice. These are not necessarily in order of importance. They all have to be in place.

    1., Ballots not bullets.

    The community has to all agree that they’re going to have to work things out via a particular legislative process, which means abiding by that process when it doesn’t go your way.

    Subverting that process jeopardizes everything–even when it is a ‘good’ cause. Because it means that if you can’t trust the process, the only thing left is ‘might makes right.’

    2. The Rule of Law.

    This is similar, but here I do not refer to the process so much as the content. People have to be willing to act a particular way according to the plain reading of a text. This requires literacy, but it also requires self-control. Someone has to change their behavior just because black smudges on a piece of paper are configured in a certain way.

    When people (eg, judges) twist the text, or simply ignore it, this too undermines hope for peaceful change.

    3. Consent of the governed.

    People say they believe this, but in practice, we find out that they don’t really. And this is one of those cases where we have something in ‘theory’ which is not actually translated in ‘practice.’ For this to be ‘practical’ that consent needs to be actively and deliberately sought, over and over again, with each new successive generation.

    In the U.S., ‘consent of the governed’ is a fiction.

    4. Robust checks and balances.

    There has got to be an easily accessible way to monitor the authorities and hole them accountable. The multiplication of authorities is in itself an erosion of checks and balances, because it is not possible for people to monitor countless agencies, etc. (This is known, which is one reason why authorities are multiplied.)

    A ‘check and balance’ cannot simply be ‘a process.’ Ie, the Constitution allows that certain liberties be infringed, but only in certain circumstances, and only if there is ‘due process.’ But if the ‘process’ itself is compromised (see #1 and #2), people need to be able to take back control.

    So, for example, right now, states and counties have the right to go into any house, for any reason whatsoever, and remove children from that house. (To continue with the ‘local tyrant’ example) This has been abused time and time and time again (people are ‘reported’ for spurious reasons, individual agents have malicious intent, individual agents have different ideas of what constitutes ‘abuse’, etc). The ‘process’ to win back your own kids here is practically speaking extremely difficult. The parent’s resources against the resources of the State/county, and the State/county gets to shoot you. The court system is bloated with laws and regulations and ‘hoops’ that the average person cannot manage, without spending a fortune on a lawyer, which again, is a resource the government has.

    In this kind of situation, the kind of necessary ‘check and balance’ needs to be highly personal. The individual agents of the state need to be held personally responsible, financially and otherwise, for their conduct. Right now, the ‘corporate shield’ protects them. Only if they have skin in the game will they think twice about abusing their power.

    A robust check and balance entails financially gutting public officials when they blatantly abuse their powers and putting them into prison much more often.

    If something like this doesn’t change, I foresee more bullets in the future, rather than ballots. And this is just one example.

    5. Governing only at the level the problem exists.

    Here, perhaps, is the part that most directly addresses the ‘local tyrant’ problem, but instead, let me use the stupid idea that people are going to die in the street if there is not national health care of some kind.

    A person lying in the street is the epitome of a ‘local’ event. When we dial up 911, the call is not routed through the White House or the United Nations.

    This is a situation that already more or less reflects the real world of ‘governing levels’, since the people themselves have decided/realized that the county level is the most effective way to deal with such things. Eg, a person lying in my street will have an ambulance dispatched from 5 blocks away, but the hospital–a private entity–is in an entirely different jurisdiction.

    You don’t NEED to involve the State of Wisconsin for such things, so they are NOT involved. But, to my point, here are folks in Madison (state capital) that are constantly trying to regulate every aspect. And of course, the Feds have involved themselves.

    But, at bottom, the guy in the street needs only about 15 competent people, who do not need massive government agencies to tell them how to do their job.

    Small thing, but now add this governmental intrusion to the twenty thousand other examples, and it is no longer ‘self-government’ at all.

    By contrast, defending the nation’s borders is just not something that can practically be done at the county level. The problem exists at a higher level and so also the solution.

    6. Real self-government.

    Genuine self-government implies people who are prepared to mind their own business and are comfortable with the idea that people are going to mind their own business, and that the values of the community are such that, in general, someone else’s ‘own business’ is not going to result in a punch to one’s own nose.

    So, there is an important role that the value system and cultivation of a value system appropriate for self-governance plays in creating genuine “Freedom.” But some people are afraid to talk about values, or they wish to treat them like playthings, to be molded and crafted as if they will have no effect in the real world.

    But it also means that the bulk of what impacts a person practically speaking must be within his easy grasp for monitoring and holding accountable. However, the trend is the exact opposite. Instead of a person having to worry most about what their local town government is doing–which they could actually influence–more and more of their daily life is regulated by people completely beyond their ability to influence. Counties, the State, the Feds, and of course, increasingly, the UN.

    One can argue that self-government in the US is largely a fiction, because even the things that one’s town is able to do is heavily regulated by the State and Feds, and yes, even the UN (eg, ‘Smart Growth.’)

    These mechanisms, if actually in place, not in theory, but ACTUALLY in place, on a large scale, would radically prevent anyone from being able to slaughter tens of millions of their own citizens, but it would also provide a viable framework for dealing with individuals in the community who wish to rape, murder, rob, etc, whether within their home or their local community.

    Unfortunately, no one thinks its possible that in our day and age, a government could kill so many of its own citizens… even though modern history is filled with so many examples of just that. So, despite this, the trend is to empower the government at increasingly higher, untouchable levels. It is not hard to see the end of it. Really, its only the timing in question.

  18. I apologize for this follow up, but it seemed we have other ‘misunderstandings’ brewing.

    You said:

    “You’re still missing the point – I suggested that you are making the mistake of imputing upon liberals a near-universal human trait.”

    By now, you probably saw that I used the word ‘leftists’ and not ‘liberals.’ The problem is that under nearly all common definitions of ‘leftists’, the one thing that they have in common is the goal of using the State to achieve their aims (statism). Some ‘rightists’ also want to use the State to achieve their aims. Thus, it can be said that while all leftists are to some degree statists, only some ‘rightists’ are statists. And in my post I gave examples of precisely that, right alongside leftist examples.

    So, in point of fact, statism is a “near-universal” trait of leftists.

    This is why I insisted, immediately, that if we were going to get all hot and bothered about my statement, we’re going to have to get more precise about what we meant. Even to this point, you still haven’t bothered to offer up some definitions.

    But definitions are important. For example, Mussolini and his fascists are considered ‘right wing’ but a little known fact is that he was a professional socialist long before he took power. Aren’t socialists ‘leftists’? Did Stalin suddenly become “right wing” just because he became a tyrant? Nonsense. Study the case of Italy, or Germany, for that matter, and strip away the associations with the strongmen and look only at how they proceeded, and it would be indistinguishable from Woodrow Wilson’s endeavors.

    So, just what is it that makes it ‘right wing’?

    It can’t be limited governmentalism, which is not specifically ‘right wing’ but, as it happens, is pretty much only found in the ‘right wing.’ Unless you can give me an example of left wing advocates for a limited government?

    I wait with bated breath. 😉

  19. And the other misunderstanding:

    At the extreme interventionist/big government response end of the spectrum would be […] At the extreme libertarian non-response end of the spectrum whatever goes on in your house is nobodies business …

    No.

    These are not on the same spectrum at all. That’s my point. These things are in DIFFERENT CATEGORIES. They are CATEGORICALLY DIFFERENT.

    In the former, people are powerless to do anything but in the latter they are empowered to act.

    If a Government turns to tyranny (which has happened over and over and over again in history) there is literally nothing a person or a handful of people can do about it. Either there needs to be a mass revolution, where by some happy chance you’re able to all revolt before you’re shot in the head, or some other country’s government decides that the tyrannical government has simply gone too far.

    If a man is beating up his wife in a town, the 2,000 other men are completely able to deal with that problem. And, provided their are built in checks and balances such as the ones I described above, those other 2,000 men are very much constrained in what they can get away with when ‘dealing’ with abusers, etc.

    They are not on the same spectrum.

    Just like ‘limited governmentalism’ is not a place on the ‘left/right’ spectrum, but does happen to be found only among those deemed for other reasons to be on the ‘right’, statism and libertarianism (on your telling) are not on the same spectrum. They are different kinds of animals, with qualitatively different ‘liabilities.’

  20. EB,

    “DB, your continued argument seems to simply further prove SJ’s underlining assessment – liberal’s truly do not mind tyranny so long as THEY are the ones implementing it.”

    Looks like you and I both misread him – he has pointed out to me that he actually said “Leftists”, not liberals. However, this makes very little difference to the primary objection I made to his statement, which was that for it to be coherent there ought to be evidence that such was NOT the case for people on the political Right. Is there any evidence that “Rightists” (of any description) really DO mind tyranny when they are the ones implementing it? I’m still waiting for examples….

    “But perhaps the difference in outlook is that one of us has been to countries where if you’re so much as outed on Twitter for expressing beliefs not State approved you and your family can get arrested… or worse, and the other has not.”

    No, I’ve been to places like that too. Sudan, Zimbabwe, etc. Actually a man was arrested in London yesterday for saying some uncomplimentary things about Islam on Twitter in the wake of the Brussels attack, something that I consider fundamentally illiberal and unjust. So technically, I also LIVE in one of those countries! Perhaps that was what you meant too, but the US has much better protections for free speech than we do.

    SJ

    “The choice of terminology was, in fact, YOURS, not mine.”

    That is my bad. You did indeed say “leftists”, not “liberals”. Does that materially affect the relevance of my objection? I don’t think it does. I wait with bated breath for you to give an example of a time when Rightists were tyrannising people and simultaneously objecting to it. 🙂

    “Actually, at the extreme of this spectrum would be stacks of dead in the millions. Not in theory, but as the history of the 20th century.”

    [rolls eyes] That’s right – the march towards genocide always starts with slightly more risk-averse child protection policies.

    “See, this is where your flawed understanding of history prevents you from making reasonable arguments. Read the primary source material, and you get an entirely different picture. And actually, if you just exerted a *wee* bit of thought on it, you would recognize how in principle an organization like the KKK would naturally incline towards big government intrusions.”

    How? The KKK first emerged in the aftermath of the Civil War in violent response to the Big Government intrusion of freeing all the slaves. They had a resurgence in the 1960s in opposition to desegregation – another example of Leftist tyranny! Historically, the phrase “States’ Rights” is inextricably linked to libertarian/rightist hostility to federal interference in the local right to enslave, lynch and discriminate against minority groups. I am open to the possibility that it can also have positive iterations in areas where local government is the best solution (because I am much less of a partisan historical determinist than you are), but I couldn’t disagree with you more about the history of the KKK, a subject I actually AM fairly well informed about.

    Moving on, I have noted your opinion that a commitment to human rights is an ineffective check against tyranny. However, totalitarian countries whose leaders affect concern about human rights in order to get onto certain UN committees do not strike me as good evidence for that opinion.

    On the subject of healthcare funding, I think that it is a mark of civilisation NOT to leave poor people dying on the street outside emergency rooms. That’s my personal opinion, of course, but it seems fairly widespread (in the UK, at least). That means that emergency rooms have to be funded somehow, and not by rifling through gunshot victims’ pockets for small change, for example. A proportion of my taxes go towards ensuring the availability of free emergency healthcare for the general population in the UK, including me if my life takes a serious turn for the worst, and I’m happy for that to be the case. Other people may not be, but isn’t it funny how any given libertarian’s list of things that they want the government to do for them tends to only include the things that they actively benefit from? I’m reminded of those “Keep government hands off my Medicare” banners from Tea Party rallies. Or as Jon Stewart said, responding to Megyn Kelly, “They’re really only ‘entitlements’ when they’re something other people want. When it’s something YOU want, they’re a a hallmark of a civilized society, the foundation of a great people. ‘I just had a baby, and found out that maternity leave strengthens society, but since I still have a job, unemployment benefits are clearly socialism.” 🙂

    Still, I love how your checks & balances are somehow admissible in discussions of the libertarian-statist spectrum while mine are not – it’s not even a slippery slope anymore, we just drop straight into building concentration camps, apparently. This is special pleading at its finest.

    You wrote a nice essay there about the six principles of limited government. Apparently I’m not allowed to agree with any of them (because, in my capacity as a cautious advocate of government intervention in certain circumstances, I’m an inevitable architect of mass genocide), which is a shame. We might have had a productive discussion if you weren’t so fixated on Hitler-ising the opposition.

    Back to my point:

    “The problem is that under nearly all common definitions of ‘leftists’, the one thing that they have in common is the goal of using the State to achieve their aims (statism). Some ‘rightists’ also want to use the State to achieve their aims. Thus, it can be said that while all leftists are to some degree statists, only some ‘rightists’ are statists. And in my post I gave examples of precisely that, right alongside leftist examples.”

    Yes, but what you didn’t give any examples of were Rightists opposing tyranny which they are either actively implementing, or (I was quite generous) which does not conflict with their beliefs and/or interests. This seems to be an essential piece of evidence to make your statement meaningful. Otherwise, it is as I suggested – that human beings in general tend not to oppose political regimes, no matter how oppressive, which are serving their own interests.

    “Even to this point, you still haven’t bothered to offer up some definitions.”

    Because it’s irrelevant to the logical point that I was making, and therefore a diversion. Define rightists however you like, and give me just ONE example of people on the right opposing a tyranny which they actively benefit from.

    “Unless you can give me an example of left wing advocates for a limited government?”

    http://www.petertatchell.net/religion/free-speech-for-queers–and-homophobes.htm

    I think I’ve mentioned this man to you before – quite a hero of mine. A gay left-wing human rights campaigner who also campaigns for the right of free speech for people arrested for “hate speech” for public comments about homosexuals. This piece is just one example of his admirable ideological consistency on this issue. As I said, it’s easy to agitate on behalf of your own special interest group, but it takes an unusually principled person to advocate for the rights of those whose politics they abhor.

    “These things are in DIFFERENT CATEGORIES. They are CATEGORICALLY DIFFERENT.”

    Yeah ok whatever dude. What you seem to gloss over is that power is a dynamic flow system with two possible tendencies – it can accumulate in one place or it can diffuse throughout the system (society). There are scenarios and problems where you really need centralised power (you’ve cited a couple), and there are other contexts where it would be better for it to diffuse. Different countries have balanced the scales at different points of equilibrium, and while of course it is true that the places and people in which power accumulates have a tendency to want to accelerate that process, it is just not rational to suggest that the necessary end point of any centralised/statist solution is a totalitarian one. You have a lot of excellent points to make about government overreach, but unfortunately they are drowned out (for me, at least) by your wannabe-prophetic Nazi hyperbole.

    “If a Government turns to tyranny (which has happened over and over and over again in history) there is literally nothing a person or a handful of people can do about it. Either there needs to be a mass revolution, where by some happy chance you’re able to all revolt before you’re shot in the head, or some other country’s government decides that the tyrannical government has simply gone too far.”

    That’s the closest I’ve ever heard you come to making a sensible counter-argument to your own position on gun control. 🙂

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