Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Civility

It is too bad that some who comment on NLT are uncivil and rude. While I call for civility (as has Joe), I am inclined to think that my call will not be heeded. I believe the reason for that is clear: It is the purpose of such people to make war, rather than talk. Well, that is not our purpose on this blog. Our purpose is to have a conversation and that is what we will have. In that conversation, even if we disagree, we provide a great boon to one another, and I am grateful for it. Over this weekend I will be in touch with my patient friends who take the time to blog on NLT and we will decide what we should do. My guess is that we will end the "Comments" section as it has existed for all these years. Either we will have no comments, or we will allow only those to comment (through magic codes and such) who are willing to be civil. In the meantime I suggest that Joe, Julie, Peter, Steve, John, et al, do not respond to any comments. In fact, don’t even bother to read them. Give the shouters no satisfaction. We will act by Monday. In the meantime I ask everyone to accept my apologies, my sincere apologies. Thank you.

Update: Thanks for your comments on this issues (yes, I do read them). The issue is not a "spirited exchange" It is civility. It is certainly not wanting to end conversation or disagreement. After all, none of the contributors at NLT are made of cotton candy. I am interested in moderating my own passions, as well as those of others, for the sake of a good conversation. As some on the thread say, we do learn from disagreements. Of course. But "spirited exchange" is different from rude, corse, intentionally ill mannered statements whose design, by definition, is not to encourage conversation over disagreements, but rather to make others angry. Let us all moderate our own passions, please. That has to do with civility, citizenship. That is what we are asking. I am still open on all this, decisions have not yet been made. Again, I thank you kindly.

Discussions - 48 Comments

Peter,

I am sorry if it has to come to this. I’ve very much enjoyed the exchanges with some of the regular commenters, and will miss that, especially since much of what had been said was actually devoted to advancing the conversation.

But under current circumstances, I wouldn’t want the thankless task of moderating the comments.

Joe: We can talk later, but I am thinking we can do it without a moderator. I will be talking with folks on how to do it. I am told it can be done. As soon as I learn anything, I will let you know. But, (irritated though I am) I am not keen to put an end to conversation. Much of the conversation on the Comments section has been very good. I am hoping we can find a way of keeping those. As you know, it’s civility we are after, not agreement.

That’s a damn shame. And I hope you don’t do anything hasty.

Why not assign several students to keep watch on the comment threads?

And have them fire out the occasional email warning that one’s comments were crossing the threshold of the acceptable.

Why not draw up a code of conduct for the comment threads. Lay out some clear guidelines, and see if that solves the problems.

Banning the comment threads seems like the equivalent to the NCAA’s "death sentence," where whole programs are forbidden to participate for a period of time.

A little imagination here can assure the comment threads staying open, yet also maintaining the tone that you desire.

Comment sections will naturally elicit disagreements, qualifications, clarifications and are also apt to see points taken to their logical extremes. All as a means of testing a statement. Recall that statement of Chesterton, truths that are challenged become dogmas. Comment threads are challenges.

Don’t you guys have secretaries, interns, who you could task to keep an eye on the comment threads?

I would caution against imposing a delay before a comment gets posted. Comment threads where there are delays, such as the blog at The American Spectator, have no one posting. A comment should be immediately posted, yet subject to review. Where someone posts comments that call for frequent excision, then fire that person an email, warning him he faces a ban.

That should work.

If it doesn’t, more draconian measures lie in wait.

Lastly, there is a war on, passions are running high, both for those that desire victory, and for those that desire to see America fail in Iraq, and in the wider war. As the election looms closer, those passions are likely to intensify. There’s a great deal at stake, not the least of which are those two Supreme Court nominations the next President will likely get.

This website is frequently viewed by many across the blogosphere. Hannity, Limbaugh, the guys at Powerline, just to name a few. And they read the comment threads too, which allow them to get an increased feel for the electorate.

I would think long and hard before closing these comment threads. I don’t think it’s a wise move, although monitoring the threads is proving increasingly irksome.

Delegate. Isn’t there anyone you could delegate the task to?

For what it’s worth, I think Dan makes a good case for a first move, with another waiting if necessary.

Peter S., et. al.,

I understand the move, but hope there is a way you can keep the comments section.

I do benefit from the reasonable and civil responses by Joe, Peter L, Julie, and others, to genuine questions. Here’s one vote for finding a way to preserve that.

Well, I’ve enjoyed your blog, but if you prefer inbreeding to spirited exchange, nothing can be done. Farewell.

dain - Do you not agree that in recent days we have seen something other than "spirited exchange"? You usually do spirited exchange, and your put-downs are comparatively amusing. I think you misunderstand Peter if you think he is looking for "inbreeding."

Well, it’s true that I pulled back from some of this, and some of it I simply didn’t have time to follow. And it’s also true that the narrower the ideological disagreement, the more vehement and nasty things can grow. But I do hope that Peter (who apparently doesn’t read any of this) understands a simple truth: no comments, no readership. It will be you Claremont/Ashbrook folks talking to one another - you might as well revert to a listserve. I have no interest in reading the simple pontifications of the CA Axis, but I am anxious to interact with and learn from them (and, in turn, perhaps to influence them in some small way). All strands of conservativism must interact now if we are to pull together at the last need.

I really hope the C/A folks understand how lucky and rare a thing it is to have an academic base to operate from. The Left pulls back, the Left insists on ideological purity, the Left starts clubby associations that exclude heretics. Now the Right will do the same thing?

I wasn’t following some of the longer thread sections of late, particularly the ones dealing with Lincoln/Douglas and Ron Paul, but a quick gander shows that things do seem a bit heated.

But I would pause before taking a spate of recent spirited comments as par for the course at NLT. What’s been the overall tone of the threads over the last year, over the last 18 months? What was the tone during the superheated ’04 Presidential campaign? The answers to those questions should inform any final decision taken on the comment threads.

I think the fellas at NLT have a greater obligation to keep the threads open, especially since Claremont shut down theirs.

But I can’t help but recall Jefferson Davis’ last words in the well of the United States Senate, {perhaps they’ve come to mind because of the thread concerning Cooper Union and the post over "Copperheads"}. "THERE have been points of collision; but whatever of offense there has been to me, I leave here. I carry with me no hostile remembrance.... I go hence unencumbered by the remembrance of any injury received, and having discharged the duty of making the only reparation in my power for any injury received." Ladies and gentlemen, "having made the announcement which the occasion seemed to me to require, it remains only for me to bid you a final adieu."

It would be awful to eliminate all responses. It would be a less interesting product and there would be significantly fewer readers -- which means that the links and the Ashland people’s observations on them would have fewer readers. Quite self-defeating. And I don’t see how it would take a lot of time to judge which comments, given the context in which they are made, cross the line and eliminate them -- if not immediately, then fairly soon after posting. Personally, I think all blogs should be "censored" in this way. It would improve the quality substantially. Just don’t eliminate all comment.

While I oppose some here, I do not want the opportunity to exchange ideas to stop.

I, for one, do not believe I am the cause of the this injunction, however I do know that I have been the inspiration for others’ comments that may have given rise to this current sitution (my support of Lincoln and the pro-life movement for instance).

Listen, I am no intelletual (yeah, I know, many here agree), yet I do realize that suppressing the free exchange of ideas by stopping commentary is antithetical to being an intellectual.

I am a street cop working a medium sized town in North Texas. I work within the bounds of the Constitution daily. Joe Blow Citizen can call me a fuckin’ fascist cop, but there is not a thing I can legally do about that. Granted, if they violate some law, be it state or city, then I can attempt to ’correct’ their lack of respect for the law and myselft, but otherwise I am powerless, which brings me to this just floated idea of banning comments on posts. While some comments may be caustic and extremely idiotic, it should not be banned by intellectuals because they are such, but, rather, they should reasonably and intellectually be countered, unless of course they are soo outrageous that they stand alone as an indictment on themselves, whereby no countering be needed (many ab anti-Lincoln reply comes to mind).

Let’s keep this going, if we can. And let’s try to preserve what’s best about NLT, the sense that there’s a common enterprise of seeking clarity and mutual understanding. I have welcomed contributions from those with whom I disagree. I have come to admire and respect many of them. But those only interested in ideological warfare can conduct their campaigns elsewhere on the web.

I don’t think there’s an ideal solution here, but the best option might be to leave things as they are, but to give the contributors carte blanche to delete comments that they consider over the line. Joe’s right--the job of moderating the discussion is too big for any single person.

What about granting the primary posters - Peter, Julie, et al -- the ability with a single mouse click to simple "lock" a comment thread? It’s common technique on other forums, and it seems to work. It frustrates the uncivil and, over time, drives them away.

If NLT will end as it has been, I would like to express my thanks for what it has been. The openness that allowed even self-confessed non-intellectuals like Dale Michaud (see #14) and myself to participate in the conversations has been simply lovely, and I thought, very American. I have had such fun.

I would still read, as I do some days when I find myself with nothing to say. Even if there was no chance to comment I would certainly read, because it is interesting what those who post here have to say. For me, this has been a delight, and I am grateful.

Well, looking at some of the more "nuclear" exchanges, they seem to revolve around "neocon-hood" and, of course, Lincoln. Is anyone surprised that a Lincoln thread reaps the whirlwind?

Whether the "comments" function is retained or not, I’m laying down a challenge to the C/A Axis. Here it is: Lincoln seems to be a totem among you folks. OK, please explain why. What EXACTLY did Lincoln achieve that you think is so emblematic of American political thought in general and, more specifically, American conservativism? And, please, if you take up this challenge, nothing lame like "he saved the Union." Go deeper, please. Lincoln’s actions clearly violated some aspects of the Founding while championing other aspects...tell us why the C/A community thinks that Lincoln’s political priorities ESPECIALLY epitomize conservative.

I do hope someone in authority at NLT will take this up in a special thread. I am truly perplexed by this Lincoln-totem, and I would GENUINELY like to understand it better. And, if civility is lost, then by all means hit the ’delete’ button, but do so as quickly for accusations of "racism" as you would for "Lincoln-as-Hitler" comments. Such "flaming" will not get us closer to common understanding and, therefore, to common cause.

It seems to me that the people in charge of the "delete button" are often the ones who say the most uncivil things: comparing people to Holocaust deniers, Klansmen, etc. etc.

The Ashbrook people put up a post about the civil war era, and then accuse the people who post comments of being obsessed with "re-fighting the War." I’m not the one who keeps going back to Lincoln. They are.

Brutus, behave. However true that may be, I really am interested in understanding this Lincoln dynamic. Maybe they see something in Lincoln that we miss? Let’s come not to celebrate Lincoln, but to understand him...and his fans.

dain -

Whether the "comments" function is retained or not, I’m laying down a challenge to the C/A Axis. Here it is: Lincoln seems to be a totem among you folks. OK, please explain why. What EXACTLY did Lincoln achieve that you think is so emblematic of American political thought in general and, more specifically, American conservativism? And, please, if you take up this challenge, nothing lame like "he saved the Union." Go deeper, please.

I agree that would be a good conversation. Pieces of it appear from time to time. I hope it might be possible to continue it. Doing so requires, as Peter Schramm says, the distinction between discussion - including your style of "spirited debate" - and ideological warfare between paleos and neocons.

Well O.K. But one suggestion I would make is this: whenever someone switches his nom de plume, especially in order to comment on a previous post made under another name, the editors should just delete it. I agree with John Moser on many issues, but none more than his statement that name switching is "LAME."

Dain, All,



I really do think I understand the whole Lincoln/WBTS issue. (See my comment # 92 on the Lincoln/Douglas thread.) Normally sleepy blogs go ballistic when this subject comes up.



First of all, most people are not philosophically minded, so for a lot of people it is a purely regional issue. An us against them issue. A home team vs. visiting team issue. It is understandable that emotions would run deep.



But here there is more at work. We are having a very philosophical (despite the heat) pointy headed debate about a very fundamental/elemental issue. Do you support a pre-modern polity and social order and the conservative impulses that ordered that, or do you support a modern post French Revolution style (I hope that is not argumentative. That is the way I see it.) polity and social order and the liberal assumptions that order it? That is it in a nutshell.



It is a debate about who owns the "Founding." (Even that word is problematic and gets at an important element of the debate.) Was America "founded" as a liberal by its day, but still pre-modern polity and social order, with deep continuity to Europe and beyond? Or was America the first modern republic? Imperfect and not radically liberal in the modern sense, but waiting to be perfected.



There are very few Divine Righters on the paleo right. Most American conservatives embrace elements of liberalism. And the new/modern conservatives (is that OK since neocon seems to be inflammatory?) embrace elements of conservatism. (Traditional values for example and a rejection of relativism regarding the virtues of liberal democracy.) So are we, as Mark C. Henrie has put it, liberal conservatives or are we conservative liberals. The problem is that this is not a short distance on the political spectrum. It is a cavernous divide.



Lincoln believed the later, and it is fair, I believe, to call the WBTS the Second American Revolution. Lincoln made sure that the Second did what the first one didn’t do or did only incompletely. He ushered in a post-French Revolution style modern nation state/polity/social order (although all those things were still in a state of "imperfection" long after the War). Those of us who oppose that see him as the villain. Those who support that see him as a hero. So, IMHO, all the heat really is quite simple at a fundamental level.



I believe that you could argue that New England rightly saw itself as the later (especially after it quickly shed itself of that pesky Puritanism), and the South rightly saw itself as the former. That is why the Union, in my anti-Federalist opinion, was unwise from the beginning.



Southerners have long argued that the South represented the more authentic American strain, and New England was the aberration. Originally everything south of the Hudson was arguably more "Southern" than "Yankee" (read New England) in nature. Since the North won the War, that has allowed them to re-write the history making New England the authentic America and the South the aberration.



Given the subject of this thread, I hope this post does not seem inflammatory or argumentative. That is not my intent. This is what is really behind the heated debate as I see it.



I would appreciate it if some of the wise folks here would comment on the soundness of the political science of what I have just written.



Really we could get past some of the vitriol of the Lincoln/WBTS issue and just argue the virtues of the old order vs. the new order.

As a fairly neutral observer of the onging fracas here it seems to me that Lincoln is largely irrelevant to the beliefs of the Jaffa faction. That is, I think Jaffa’s ideas do not require Lincoln to have existed to be valid or otherwise. By linking his philosophy so closely to Lincoln, Jaffa ends up incorporating a lot of elements which do not really advance his own position, and which are in fact a distraction from it.

So, contra dain, I’d be more interested in hearing “Jaffaism” discussed as a thing in itself, rather than its Civil War implications.

John Moser - Your suggestion might make things easier - but only briefly: you’d quiet the neoconfederates, and inspire the anti-Straussians. But I’m not sure it makes much sense to think of "Jaffaism" without his Lincoln. True, Jaffa’s interpretation of the American founding does not entirely rest on Lincoln, but it grew (as I understand it, as an outsider) out of his Lincoln studies.

In any case, Jaffa’s is a variation (there are others of special interest to Jaffa: e.g., Diamond and Mansfield) of an approach associated, of course, with students of Strauss, red meat among conservatives of the "paleo" persuasion. Their Declaration is different; their American founding is different; they seem to think that the Straussian focus on "historicism" is a device to smuggle the egalitarian doctrines of liberalism into conservatism, thus subverting it from the get-go.

Another approach - to practice our civility - might be to rehearse the old intellectual debate between Jaffa and Bradford. That would be a challenge.

The Jaffa fight is new, as far as I can tell...the Lincoln fracas is perennial and uber-hostile. Regardless, a Jaffa thread could also be started, although let’s not conflate them...separate threads for separate themes.

dain

"The Jaffa fight is new, as far as I can tell.."

Frank Meyer and the rest of the staff of National Review were having this same argument with Jaffa back in the 1960’s. Unless you mean new to this comment thread.

Dan Phillips, I don’t think you’re the type of person that Peter and the rest of us have been complaining about. I might disagree with many of your arguments, but you make them rationally and civilly. The comments that need to be deleted are those like #11-13.

Also, I regret if any of my own comments directed toward you have been interpreted as uncivil.

Dan Phillips - Very interestingly put, and not at all "inflammatory."

I wish I could type as fast as you evidently can.

Dan, yes, well-said, but I want C/A community members to discuss this and articulate their views. It has been my experience that often people form emotional attachments to points of view but never closely examine the assumptive foundations of those attachments. Moreover, it has also been my experience that the fastest way for people to examine those foundations is to have to elaborate them for non-believers. So, I’d like them to start this thread, make their initial statements about why Lincoln should be a key figure in American Conservativism, and then we can go from there. Fair enough?

Love seems to be breaking out.

Steve Thomas

If you were replying to post 24, I’m not John Moser. I may go for a name change here since John is not exactly unique.

Turning off comments altogether isn’t a good solution if you truly value conversation. But it’s okay if you just want to play pamphleteer (nothing wrong with that).



You could adopt some version of Scoble’s "family room" policy on comments, and simply warn commenters that violating comments will be deleted and repeat violators may be banned. Of course, if the bloggers here are too busy to monitor the comments section, that may not be a good option (and if that’s the case, it also says something about how much you value conversation versus pamphleteering -- again, nothing wrong with that).



Another option might be to require people to register to comment (if your software will handle that), and to enforce the "family room" policy, with the proviso that violators will be banned (easier to enforce bans that way). We do something like that at blogHOUSTON, and I rarely have problems in the message boards. On those occasions when I do, it’s easily handled.

#20. Brutus,

I think the name-calling has been pretty equal on both ends. "Aristotle Meets Burke" in this thread already referred to neo-cons as "the scum of the earth." This seems to be painting with a pretty broad brush, don’t you think? And this is not the first time. Not to mention that I doubt a single poster on here even considers himself a "neo-con." Neo-conservative is just a term, apparently an epithet in the Lincoln/Jaffa hating circles, for anyone who disagrees with their world view.

Apparently people like this "Aristotle Meets Burke" fellow believe that they alone can define what conservatism is. That, to me, seems rather absurd. I personally don’t think that Bush and Co. are terribly good representatives of conservatism, but anyone who has read Jaffa and knows what the Ashbrook Center and the Claremont Institute do on a daily basis knows that they are true patriots and good conservatives, regardless of what the Lincoln haters would have everyone believe.

Dominick,

I agree with you about "Aristotle Meets Burke." And what an astonishingly immodest name.

As for the word "Neoconservative": there was a time when a certain group embraced the term. It seems that that time has passed. But the Claremont/Dallas/Ashbrook people do have a view and style distinguishable from that of other parts of the conservative community. I have a tendency to call them Neoconservatives because I don’t know of any other name. I have a suspicion that no other name will present itself, largely because those "Neoconservatives" want their vision of the world to be the regnant conservative vision.

I tend to think of them as Staussian conservatives, or sometimes as "Midwestern shopkeeping "cloth coat" Republicans. Probably inaccurate, but Brutus is right to call them distinctive. It’s the only place I’ve encountered such views...I suspect Ashbrook is a small colony of the far-flung (and rather smallish) Claremontian Empire (rather like the Phoenician Carthage). A small rightwing presence in the leftist desert of academe. A bit out of place, but rather like an oasis, also refreshing, even if the water tastes a bit funny.

Was Ashbrook started by Claremont, and was there an original patriarch who kicked this all off (other than Strauss)? Enlighten us with hidden textual meaning, NLT folk.

Here you go, dain.

Although Congressman Ashbrook was one of the founders of the draft Barry Goldwater movement in 1963 and supported Goldwater’s presidential candidacy in 1964, he supported Nixon’s bid for the Republican presidential nomination in 1968. He urged fellow conservatives not to bolt to the third party candidacy of Alabama governor George Wallace arguing that Nixon’s election would provide a unique opportunity to build a nationwide conservative coalition. By December 1971 Ashbrook publicly broke with the Nixon administration, criticizing "the presentation of liberal policies in the verbal trappings of conservatism." He especially opposed the president’s budget deficits, wage and price controls, and recent rapprochement with China, he claimed, " have not been changed but extended and refined" under the Nixon presidency.

I don’t see where the Jaffa connection comes in, but I’ll keep looking around.

Come oh.. Jaffa and Karl Hess were the speach writers for Goldwater in 64... esp the famous convention speach. There was the story that Jaffa called Kendall up in the middle of the night and told him he came up with the line that would win Goldwater the election.. after telling it to Kendall, it convinced Kendall to vote for Johnson... :) Or so Nelly Kendall joked to me.

The term "neoconservative" applies to the group that surrounded Irving Kristol and Norman Podhoretz in the late 1970s. They were New Deal Democrats who were horrified by what their party had become. They were not Straussians--thank you, Clifford, for reminding us that Harry Jaffa wrote Barry Goldwater’s famous acceptance speech at the 1964 GOP convention.

The Ashbrook Center was founded by friends of Congressman Ashbrook after the latter’s untimely death in 1982. The first director was Clifton White, who managed Goldwater’s primary campaign, but who was shamelessly pushed aside by party regulars after Goldwater received the nomination.

So, John, how did the Claremont connection come about? I ask out of genuine interest.

In the late 1980s--long before I got here--the Ashbrook Center hired Peter Schramm as Director of Special Programs. In 1997 he became Executive Director of the Center. Peter has a PhD from Claremont. To the best of my knowledge, he is the only Claremont PhD working at Ashland University.

My own intellectual provenance is (basically, but not simply) "East Coast" Straussian, though my impression is that the East vs. West battles of a couple of decades ago have died down considerably.

I think Peter Schramm has assembled a relatively diverse and very collegial group of conservative bloggers here. As someone who has read a good bit (but far from all) of Harry Jaffa’s work, I wouldn’t presume to speak for him (or his students), but I would say that, for me his contribution to the study of America is to point to the centrality of the principles of the Declaration and to offer a compelling (but not the only) interpretation of their relationship with the natural law tradition.

I recognize that there are conservatives who think that natural law--with its roots in classical and Christian thought--is unconservative, but I wonder how else one can be a Christian conservative (as opposed to a conservative Christian). Perhaps I’m mistaken (if I am, I’m sure that someone can, without too much heat, enlighten me), but I wonder how traditionalist conservatives can regard their faith, such as it is, as anything other than a contingent product of the place in which they are born. This strikes me as much closer in spirit to paganism than to Christianity.

Please note that I offer this comment humbly and in the spirit of opening an inquiry, rather than as a polemical accusation.

So, then, does "Lincoln as totem" stem from Peter Schramm, who I’m supposing had some role in picking colleagues and students? I’m genuinely interested in how this community got started...you don’t seem to be monolithic (few communities are), but you do seem to be united in a brand of conservatism that’s relatively distinct from Southern populist conservativism as well as eastern Rockerfeller conservatism (if such it is).

No offense at all, Joe. Informative, even. But I do note that there is no post-master (excuse the pun) like, well...me. There is virtually no Southern conservatism in NLT’s "family," although I note a very strong presence of the Religious Right (e.g., Peter Lawler and yourself). I suspect that "Southern conservatism" is considered overtly racist at Ashbrook, and so only "respectable" strands of conservatism are tolerated, at least in the "family."

Too bad, really, because race drives a lot of American politics, for good or ill, and it colors (again, forgive the pun) major issues that run the gamut from individual liberty to immigration to warmaking. And an aversion to race as a serious political question means that you give the field, by default, to the Left. Of course, we know how race is used by Democrats/liberals...as a moral lever to get their way at every turn.

. . .an aversion to race as a serious political question means that you give the field, by default, to the Left.

That is dain. Fair enough. But just before, Joe I think brought us to the heart of the matter. The heated objections to Lincoln and to the "neocon" Jaffa have concerned the nature of the American founding, to the place of the Declaration in our history, to the meaning of equality, and to whether the regime is propositional/creedal. The "aversion" that dain notices comes from the assumption that Lincoln was right about the Declaration: that it left slavery in place contingently or expediently, not philosophically, and that Dred Scott was as wrongly decided as Lincoln said it was.

We know there is a brand of conservatism that relies more upon historical development, upon veneration of ancestral hierarchy, and upon natural authority. Jim Ceaser likes to quote John Adams to the effect that the Second Continental Congress had alternatives to the reliance upon a "foundation of right." The alternatives amounted to a foundation of history, to which experience pointed. But they chose principles of right and so (in Lincoln’s phrase now) made Independence something other than "merely revolutionary." Some contemporary conservatives, we know, think that the Continental Congress got it wrong.

As best I can make it out, that’s what divides "neocons" from "paleos."

Mr Knippenberg raises a number of excellent points in #44, which represent good lines for further discussion.

It is important to distinguish between personal philosophy and political philosophy. Beliefs which are appropriate for individuals to hold may be inappropriate as official government dogma.

There is nothing wrong at all with a natural law philosophy on the individual level, in fact there is a lot right with it. As a guide to how judges should rule however, it is a disaster.

On one level, it can look a lot like an attempt to incorporate Christian beliefs into law via a back door. I’m one who feels that Christian belief should be better represented in our laws, but there is a right way and a wrong way to do that, and natural law judges are the wrong way.

And the huge danger, of course, is that once you accept the proposition that natural law exists and that the role of judges is to determine it and apply it, you arrive at a state very like the one we have at present, where we are effectivily ruled without our consent by a largely self-selecting judicial class. I’m sure the people here disagree with much of what the courts do with their power, but Jaffaism, unlike conservatism, does not seem to take exception to the fact that this source of unaccountable power exists. Who is to say what natural law is? If the current left wing bloc on the SCOTUS cite natural law instead of international law as supporting their positions, should we all applaud?

Whatever judges believe in their private lives, if they do not believe as judges in positive law and in the right of the people to make law, then they are tyrants.

I’ll try to pick up on some other issues raised by Knippenberg later.

Steve Thomas

"Lincoln was right about the Declaration: that it left slavery in place contingently or expediently, not philosophically"

I assume you meant the Constitution and not the Declaration, in which case I agree. The Declaration has no legally binding force on anyone in the US, much to the frustration of Harry Jaffa. Government officers swear an oath to uphold and protect the Constitution, not the Declaration.

John - Of course you are right.

Lincoln’s position tied the two together: for him, the animating principle of the Constitution was found in the second paragraph of the Declaration. Of course this is disputable. It was disputed at the time by Southerners - as well as by Democrats like Douglas and Whigs like Rufus Choate. It is disputed, for example, by Mansfield, surely a fellow "neocon". And it is certainly disputed by dain’s "southern conservatives" nowadays, including paleoconservatives.

I was trying to capture tendencies of mind.

Although it is heretical for a Jeffersonian to say it, I wonder if the country would not be better off if Jefferson had simply used George Mason’s language from the Virginia Declaration of Rights. Instead of saying that "all men are created equal," he should have said "all men are by nature equally free and independent...." It’s the same philosophy, more acurately if less poetically expressed.

While I no longer post nearly as much as I did in the past, I think it would be a shame to close down the comment section on this blog. I find it to be a great distraction, and normally am able to learn quite a bit from it. The conversations, and they are almost always just that, are substantive; and as such it allows a person to consider, and the qualities that are present in conversations on other blogs on such topics, planning, scheming, or listing, are normally absent.


Also, just imagine that, but for the comment section, dain and Fung would not have become such good friends. Can you imagine such a world? And if so, would you want to?

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