Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

A Tale of Two Philosophies

In light of the news that Governor Palin will soon be a grandmother, many people are comparing her daughter’s decision to bring her baby to term and to marry the father with Senator Obama’s comment
about not wanting his daughters to be "punished with a baby," should they get pregnant at a young age.

The contrast is interesting, as it seems to point to two different philosophies. Senator Obama wishes to diminish the consequenes of mistakes that young people (and adults for that matter) inevitably make. Not an unreasonable wish. On the other hand, Governor Palin’s philosophy is that the best way to help someone grow up is to force them to live with the consequences of their actions, however difficult that might make life. It’s more of a tough love philosophy.

In his speech last week, Senator Obama spoke of responsibility: "That’s the promise of America - the idea that we are responsible for ourselves, but that we also rise or fall as one nation; the fundamental belief that I am my brother’s keeper; I am my sister’s keeper."

But how can one teach people to be responsible unless on lets them fall flat sometimes and suffer the consequences?

P.S. A slightly different point. Obama seems to think of America as a community of 300,000,000 people. Is that possible? Or is that why the founders turned away from the old idea that republics had to be small. In small, city-state sized republics, we truly can be each others’ keepers. In a large republic, there’s probably too much diversity among people and among communities for that to work. For the most part, being our brother’s keeper is done one-on-one, and locally. In that sense, the effort to make us all one big family might, in fact, hinder our ability to help our friends, neighbors, and families in times of need.

Discussions - 14 Comments

I wouldn't push this contrast, but it is a good one.

the best way to help someone grow up is to force them to live with the consequences of their actions, however difficult that might make life.

Yeah - her life, the life of her parents and the parents of the dad, the baby's life . . . Screw all that: we need to teach responsibility, dammit! I think there's a pretty big difference between teaching someone responsibility by letting them fall flat, as you put it "sometimes", and forcing a woman to keep a baby (no abortion or adoption) and marry the dad (a great way to start out a nice, new family). Sounds like a great plan to me. What a happy marriage . . . but at least those kids finally learned, right?

And to your P.S., Mr. Adams - I could not agree with you more. Of course, we'd have to take down mass communication (which forces us to be in everybody else's business all of the time), the mobilization of our economy (which makes every small town look, act, and produce everything in the same way), and the centralized federal government (which I'm sure you've got no problem taking down). Good luck on that. You start, I'll follow. No joke.

When did it become the government’s responsibility to mitigate the consequences of personal choice, especially when those making the choice are young enough to recover from their missteps by dint of work over a long life?

When Slick Willie was being blown in the oval office, we were told that it was to be dismissed as being a matter between “consenting adults.” Now that it is a minor daughter of a Republican, it is a clear indicator of the Republican’s poor judgement, which renders her suspect and, therefore, unsuitable for higher-office. This despite the reality that none of us can control our children’s lives through their rebellious teens.

Each one of us is all too human, meaning obstreperous, venal, and selfish, yet when it’s a Democrat sinning the condemnation is deemed overly harsh and when it is a Republican the condemnation is never harsh enough. This because when Republicans transgress they are being hypocritical. Hypocrisy, whether in a Republican or Democrat, does not invalidate the higher standard we all should strive to live by, even when the advocate of that higher standard turns out to be all too human.

That our children make mistakes, some of which can be adjudged life-shattering, is almost always the luck of the draw, and has little or nothing to do with parental ability. That I didn’t die in a flaming car crash in my teen years was a matter of pure luck, and had nothing to do with my parents’ abilities or for that matter their attempts to teach me to take responsibility for my actions. The sad fact was that I was in love with speed, and craved it like some of my friends craved drugs. Yet, I never did drugs.

The surprising thing about the book ‘The Executioner’s Song’ by Norman Mailer is the portrait it leaves of Gary Gilmore, which is to say that it the impression left by Mailer is that Gary Gilmore, although on the wild side of human, was very much a human being as opposed to the monster we ultimately judge him to be. Perhaps our need to condemn someone such as Gilmore or for that matter historical figures such as Hitler, Stalin, and Mao as monster corresponds with our all too human effort to distance ourselves from them and thereby render ourselves distinct from them. Yet, none of us can say with any certainty that we, under the right circumstances, might not too succumb to the same temptations that came to rule these monsters. As evidence to prove this thesis, all one has to do is contemplate the legions of ‘willing executioners’ that abetted the slaughters of the twentieth century to know the uncomfortable truth that we too can become monsters.

I know the foregoing was too much to lade on an issue of a teen pregnancy, but weakness, whether small or large, is part of the human condition and, surprise, surprise, it is as bipartisan as the fact that we are, each one of us, our brother’s keeper. Sorry for the length of this post.

It is none of my business, but I'd like to see the presumptive father of Bristol's child standing next to her. Whatever shame has come her way is equally his, and it would lay to rest the nagging feeling in my gut that there is something more to this story--but let's hope that "Juneau" has its own Michael Cera. He must be a man of nerve to have impregnated the governor's daughter, whom we've all seen wielding an M-16! I do hope that "Levi" and Bristol are crazy about one another, and hope their mistakes were made in the midst of love and not out of coercion or boredom.

The contrast is interesting, as it seems to point to two different philosophies

Seems?!? Unlike Mr. Lawler, I say you can hardly understate the differences between these two philosophies. It is a difference that goes "all the way down" to quote C.S. Lewis (who was probably quoting somebody - maybe the old Indian talking about the turtles :)

It is a contrasting, contradictory, non-reconcilable difference of opinion about the very essence of human nature itself (and for that matter the nature of the universe and God). They could not be more different...

I am reminded here (for neither the first nor the last time)of George Lakoff's metaphorical constrast between the "sink-or-swim" Republican approach to both parenting and governing, and the "support-while-learning-to-swim" Democratic approaches.

For Lakoff, Righties have no problem casting transgressors out of the nest, while Lefties tolerate a weakening of the herd by supporting and accepting people whose learning curve is a bit more flat, or delayed.

As a parent myself, I am grateful that I was allowed to make some parenting mistakes early on, without having my children taken away. I made some mistakes early on in my career without being fired. In fact, if my kid were to father a child at 17, I would take that as a reflection on my own parenting, and I would review the mistakes that I had made that contributed to that outcome.

Like "anon" above, I wonder why the father doesn't share the camera with the mother, and I hope that the "punishment" of having a child will be equally meted out between mother and father.

I am glad that we still live in a country where the state is not in a position to deny a choice to mother, father, and grandparents. Ironically, as is true of the grandmother in this case, the choice to have a child is viewed as a courageous, moral choice. If the right-to-lifers have their way, then there will be no choice, and thus, no moral responsibility to applaud.

I am reminded here (for neither the first nor the last time)of George Lakoff's metaphorical contrast

Bah! That is a sophomoric (if that) "contrast". It arises out the liberal, modern man's mind (notice it is grounded in modern man's metaphysic of "survival of the fittest").

It is simply a caricature of a classical understanding of human nature, and is self serving in that it merely confirms for the liberal the "meanness" of any other view of human nature that does not agree with the modernist one...

If the right-to-lifers have their way, then there will be no choice, and thus, no moral responsibility to applaud.

Exactly! In your world view, the self is the ultimate arbitrar of right and wrong. Good, Evil, Hope, Love do not exist as external meaning beyond whatever the self grants it at that moment. Man is God, in the sense that he (and his "choice") IS the very ground and determination of what is moral.

Thus, if I "choose" to enslave another, or "choose" to kill, then my "choice" (by the mere act of "choosing") IS what determines the moral of the story.

So Mr. Fung, what page of "Beyond Good and Evil" did your psalm come from today?


"Bah" yourself. You are more sophomoric than I am.


I recently had a relevant discussion with a Saudi, who suggested that U.S. soldiers in Iraq were suffering moral crises because they lacked the permeating, unquestionning faith that their enemies enjoyed, and that gave our enemies the strength to persist.

My Saudi acquaintance also suggested that Americans enjoy too much freedom, and that there is danger in our ability to choose. We are spoiled, he suggested, in our expectation that we can choose a mate, choose a lifestyle, choose a religion or a denomination, choose a party, and so on.

According to my friend, America's overall health was suffering from the bad choices made by too many of us. We choose to smoke, to drink, to engage in sex, to cheat on our spouses, to eat fast food, to carry concealed weapons, to view pornography, and to wear suggestive clothing.

His cure for our ailments was the same as yours; to take away freedoms that led to bad choices. In his mind, as in yours, good and bad were defined by God, and were thus outside of the realm of the self. And, like you, he had no doubt that his interpretation of God's will was the correct one.

I recently had a relevant discussion with a Saudi...

At the risk of sound harsh, this post defiantly does not rise to the sophomore level. It simply reveals your ignorance of classic understandings of human nature and God in the western world (both classical "secular" Greek, Roman and modern ones as well as "religious" Jewish and Christian ones). Can we say "straw man" when comparing say, a Catholic (or even most Protestant) understandings of human nature and God to a Mohammedans??

Mr. Fung, please make a small effort to understand what it is you are disagreeing with before you disagree with it...


Good advice. I will no longer disagree with it. Have a nice evening.

I will no longer disagree with it.

Mr. Fung, in all probability you will still be an orthodox Nietzschean even after understanding the classical western view of human nature (and it's relationship to God).

Still, you using the example of the Mohammedan and his understanding of "God's will", as if that has something to do with the western debate over moral choice and abortion (or any other moral issue - e.g. the Lakoff "contrast"), would be like me comparing your moral philosophy to Hitler/Nazi philosophy. They both may be loosely grounded in Nietzschean metaphysic and morality, in the same way a Mohammedan and Christian would recognize a god or gods, but the crude comparison ends there. such a comparison is ignorant at best, slanderous and untruthful in all other circumstances

Tell you what, you stop pretending your fellow classical western and Christian neighbors are Mohammedans, and I won't call you a Nazi...

The most common complaint in history and today throughout the world always revolves around how others choose to spend/misspend their freedom. When our Saudi 'firends' wake from their oil-fed Wahhabist stupor they, too, might just find us complaining about how they chose to spent their freedom, to say nothing of their fabulous wealth. Mr. Fung, I'd give anything to see the look on your Saudi friend's face when the House of Saud finally falls. And it will fall, sooner rather than later. Want to bet that he'll come begging to the great Satan for arms, intervention, and a green card.

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