Thursday, April 14, 2016

Refraining from Doing Evil, and the Rise of Determined Assassins

By Douglas V. Gibbs

In addition to being a political junkie, and advocate for the original intent of the United States Constitution, I am a science fiction fan.  Among the reasons for me being a science fiction fan is that in SciFi, especially when it comes to the biggest writers of that genre, the opportunity exists to apply various political concepts to a myriad of unknown societies.  Often, the political leanings of the author corrupts the reactions the characters have to those political systems, but often a nugget of truth emerges that even the writer may not expect.

George Orwell, for example, was a socialist.  His writings about what could be construed as socialist (and even communist) societies in his books (particularly concerning "1984" and "Animal Farm") come across as horrific potential realities regarding the leftist/statist ideology.  His books, when you would think he should have been coddling the concept of a socialist system considering his political leanings, serve more as stark warnings regarding the dangers of a government-dominated kind of world.

Isaac Asimov, a science fiction writer I came to love because of his non-science fiction books I read when I was a child (such as his book about Benjamin Franklin titled, "The Kite That Won The Revolution"), created complex worlds and political systems in his Galactic Empire novels, his Robot Novels, and his Foundation novels.  His message was not as much the danger of statism as it was that no matter how good the intent of men when it comes to engineering civilizations, human nature, and the capacity for doing evil, always seem to appear as a monkey wrench in the great scheme of good intentions.

Ray Bradbury showed us the danger of killing knowledge, and the freedom to learn, in Fahrenheit 451.

Robert Heinlein, however, was probably the most provocative and prolific when it came to political messages.

Mr. Heinlein, from a reader's standpoint, was a difficult one to understand, and pinpoint.  He inhabited in his personal writings, and fiction writings, a vast array of political opinions that made it almost impossible to figure out truly where he stands (or should I say "stood").  He understood the necessity of a strong military force that is well trained and operating in good order, while also warning about the existence of a standing army that could be used against the populace.  Yet, at the same time, Heinlein insisted that peace, love, dope and non-conformity for the sake of being different, is a healthy avenue as well.  He was, indeed, a man who lived through, and was influenced by, a few generations, and in many ways an obvious product of his environment (spanning from the World Wars, the post war prosperity, and the rise of the hippie culture in the sixties and seventies).  Myself, I love peace, but I firmly believe the best way to nurture peace is to be so magnificently strong militarily that no tyrant would dare to try to disrupt that peace for fear of having his evil behind kicked into the last millennium, or two.

Heinlein also wrote about the need for big government, and small government.  His worlds were often a mixture of the two, and he would reveal what he believed to be the pluses and minuses for each of the systems, and the various combinations of them.  In truth, that is a concept in line with the Founding Fathers.  Ours is a mixed constitution.  Too much government, and tyranny arises.  Too little government and there is not enough protection to hold back the hordes of evil, and out of the chaos a tyranny is sure to rise.  Government, a necessary evil, is potentially dangerous; but having no government can be just as dangerous, if not more so.  So, there must be a delicate balance of both ingredients - a strong central government limited in its authorities.

With all of that said, I am in the process of rereading Heinlein's classic, "Time Enough for Love."  While reading this evening, I came across two passages in the book that caught my attention.  The funny thing is that I didn't consider these antidotes to be very interesting that last time I read the book.  Granted, I was a different person back then, much younger, and not as in tune with political thought in the way I am today.  When we are younger our view of government is definitely much different than it is after we have had a few decades to put up with such nonsense from our "leaders".

I must add that I did not decide to write this piece you are reading regarding Heinlein's quotes of wisdom to get you to read his books, or to convince you that "Time Enough for Love" is a book you should read.  Heinlein, to be honest, is much like lobster.  His writings are an acquired taste, and require an ability to recognize the ironic sarcasm he often inserts into his tales.  His books may not be for you.  However, these two passages, I believe, were just too juicy not to share with my readers on Political Pistachio.

We must also take into consideration that we do not truly know what Heinlein's intended meaning was behind the passages I am getting ready to share with you.  The purpose of this essay is not to attempt to dismantle his thought process and interpret his original meanings.  This article is simple written to explain my own personal understanding of his statements, and how they pertain to my own constitutional understandings when it comes to the form of government created by the men who debated on the floor of a room in Independence Hall, in Philadelphia, back during the Summer of 1787.

The first tidbit from Heinlein's "Time Enough for Love" I would like to share with you goes as follows:  "The purpose of my government is never to do good, but simply to refrain from doing evil."

Initially, when I read the passage, an old idiom came to mind.  "The road to Hell is paved with good intentions."

I have a friend who serves on a local city council who once said to me that his idea of a successful City Councilmember, or a successful politician for that matter, is one who has done a great deal of work for their city (or government).  The more proposals the better.  He referred to another "lawmaker" and said, "he has no proposals, nothing he has added.  He is not a successful member of his government."

My first thought was, "You do realize you are saying this to a person that believes in limited government, right?"

Thomas Jefferson is often given attribution to the quote, "That government is best which governs least."  It is something we would seriously expect Jefferson to say.  Truth is that the motto was by a man named Henry David Thoreau, of which he used to open his pamphlet, "Civil Disobedience."

James Madison in Federalist #45 captured the concept of a government that is not there to do good, but to refrain itself from doing evil perfectly when he wrote, "The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite. The former will be exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace, negotiation and foreign commerce. ... The powers reserved to the several States will extend to all the objects which in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives and liberties, and properties of the people, and the internal order, improvement and prosperity of the State."

Madison wrote in Federalist #51, " If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself. A dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary control on the government; but experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions."
When it comes to the central government, in our case the federal government, it is not within their authorities granted to try and do good within our society.  That is simply not their job.  The federal government was not created to place pillows under our bottoms should we fail, provide healthcare should we get sick, nor dictate to us what we should do regarding our rights (or their perception of what might be a right) should we get into local entanglements regarding cultural issues.  Our representatives in the federal government from all three branches of government are not there to interfere with our local systems in the name of good intentions, but is there instead to protect us from external threats, and to do the things necessary to protect, preserve and promote the union (and the sovereignty of the States).  While in that capacity, the federal government is also supposed to restrain itself from going beyond the authorities granted to it, for such an intrusion into localism would be an evil thing to do from the point of view of constitutional federalism.  In other words, to go back to what Heinlein wrote, the federal government is not there to do good (force what it believes to be good for the community upon society), but to refrain from doing evil (to refrain from stepping beyond the authorities granted to it).

The second passage from Heinlein's "Time Enough for Love" I wanted to address here is as follows: "A population ... so contented, so uniform, so smug that not one determined assassin shows up in a double decade is seriously ill no matter how healthy it looks."

Thomas Jefferson's "Tree of Liberty" quote comes to mind, doesn't it?

"... can history produce an instance of a rebellion so honorably conducted? I say nothing of it's motives. They were founded in ignorance, not wickedness. God forbid we should ever be 20 years without such a rebellion. The people can not be all, and always, well informed. The part which is wrong will be discontented in proportion to the importance of the facts they misconceive. If they remain quiet under such misconceptions it is a lethargy, the forerunner of death to the public liberty. We have had 13 states independent 11 years. There has been one rebellion. That comes to one rebellion in a century and a half for each state. What country ever existed a century and a half without a rebellion? And what country can preserve it's liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to facts, pardon and pacify them. What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is it's natural manure."

A population that is content is likely not informed.  An uninformed populace is one that believes and accepts the tyranny offered by those in government as government inevitably becomes more tyrannical through the passage of time.  The unwillingness of the people to correct their government, and alter it so that it may return to its original course, is a sign of ignorance and apathy.  Though it may seem healthy on the surface, the reality is that the system is diseased and tyrannical.  Silence of the people in the face of tyranny either means the people are so uninformed that they do not realize that shackles are on their limbs, or they know they live under tyranny, but they are too steeped in fear to do anything about it.

I fear we may be in that zone in the Tytler Cycle where society is so selfish and content that apathy and complacency has overtaken us, and blinded us to the fact that we are in the process of entering a period of bondage brought on by a statist tyranny that truly believes it is not doing evil, but that it is doing good.  That contentment and smugness is a sign that a rebellion to water the Tree of Liberty may be on the horizon, if such a rebellion is not upon us within the next few years.

-- Political Pistachio Conservative News and Commentary

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