Skip to comments.Church and family: scapegoats for the welfare state? [Alan Keyes]
Posted on 08/26/2007 9:37:02 PM PDT by EternalVigilance
Part 12 of 'The Crisis of the Republic'
Given the shallow misconceptions that plague contemporary discussions about them, we must carefully consider the implications of the understanding of marriage and the family we have derived from the principles of American liberty.
It is not a merely legalistic definition with which we're concerned. In the legalistic sense, marriage laws are human artifacts that reflect the disposition and prejudices of different societies, religions, and governments down through the ages. They may or may not reflect the disposition and judgment of the Creator ("the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God") that we Americans rely on as the ultimate authority for our claim to rights and to government by consent of the people. Unless we have discarded or intend to discard these claims, our understanding of marriage must respect the natural disposition from which they arise.
If we fail to do so, we are not just changing the legal definition of marriage, we are abandoning the conceptual basis of democratic, constitutional self-government.
Marriage and liberty
Every aspect of the thinking presented in this series of articles reflects my commitment to understand, articulate, and preserve the principles of American liberty. If one definition of marriage is compatible with those principles, and another is not, I believe we must hold fast to the one that is. Those who defend the other, or who appear indifferent to the choice between them, are at best no friends of liberty and at worst its active enemies.
Nor is this a merely conceptual disagreement. According to our Constitution, the people of the United States ordain and establish its form of government. We do so "in order to form a more perfect union." This means that the union of the people, their society, takes precedence over their formation of a government. The ongoing purposes of government, culminating in the aim of "securing the blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our posterity," reflect this priority.
The government exists to represent, secure, and serve the liberty of the people. But the family is the building block of human society, the social unit on which the existence and strength of the people first depends (a fact that, at least in their rhetoric, most of our politicians pretend to recognize). Weaken the family, and you weaken the society of the people. Weaken it enough, and you eliminate the people's ability to control the form of government ordained and established by their strength. (Literally, you destroy its democratic element. The term democracy is, in the original Greek, a compound of two words which refer to the strength or power of the people.) Eliminate that control, and you altogether destroy government of, by, and for the people i.e., the republican form of government established and required by our Constitution.
Emergence of the welfare state
On the issue of marriage, most of our people have the common sense to prefer the understanding of marriage and family that logically arises from the principles of our free institutions. But the arrogant elites who stand to gain from the collapse of democratic self-government regularly employ specious epithets of bigotry and intolerance to intimidate the good sense of the people on this issue while the conservative leaders and politicians who supposedly side with the majority show little or no familiarity with the principled ideas and arguments that justify the right opinion of the majority.
The more thoughtful statesmen who authored the U.S. Constitution and the Declaration principles from which it is derived would easily understand the intrinsic relationship between respecting the nature of marriage and family life and the perpetuation of republican self-government. Many of them were familiar with Montesquieu, the political philosopher whose work on The Spirit of the Laws thoughtfully and thoroughly explored the relationship between different forms of government and the different kinds of social institutions required to sustain them. The crisis of our times requires statesmen with something like our founders' ability to follow and appreciate this relationship. Tragically, as we discussed in the first articles of this series, our present political process is woefully biased against the participation of such leaders.
Contemporary politicians lack the knowledge and ability to conceive of, much less understand and defend, the social institutions characteristic of liberty. They talk about the marriage issue as if it is just a matter of sexual or religious preferences. They typically treat the concern for liberty as if it is merely a rhetorical device, with no relevance to practical politics and decision making. It seems never to have occurred to them that the real issue for statesmanship has to do with the relationship between marriage and liberty.
We can see a good example of this incompetent mentality, and of its destructive implications for self-government, in the development of the policies and programs now collectively referred to as "the welfare state." The main target of destruction has been the natural family and its unalienable rights.
Three radical changes
The story begins during the twentieth century era of the Great Depression, when the American people suffered from the devastating collateral damage that accompanied the inception of centralized elite control of our national income (i.e., the de facto nationalization of the U.S. banking system). Three radical innovations of the early twentieth century marked its inception: (1) the passage of the Sixteenth Amendment, which supposedly removed the constitutional barrier to a federal tax on individual income; (2) the establishment of a banking system funded mainly by the flow of federal tax receipts that constitute the Federal Reserve; and (3) the passage of the Seventeenth Amendment, which eliminated representation of the state governments in the U.S. Congress.
The first two measures made possible the self-serving manipulation of the money supply on a national scale, by a clique of private elite interests. The third eliminated national representation of the organized institutions (the state governments) through which the people could most effectively identify and mobilize against such pernicious effects.
Few constitutional changes are as misunderstood as the Seventeenth Amendment. Before passage of the Seventeenth Amendment, U.S. Senators were elected by the state legislatures. They therefore represented the states' governments, not their geographic entities. As governments, the states have concrete interests, arrived at through the experience of dealing with the everyday affairs of their people. But as geographic entities, they are malleable abstractions, whose interests are more a matter of rhetoric and perception than concrete experience. As geographic entities, they can more easily be manipulated by demagogues seeking to use the states as stepping stones to national control.
Under our federal system, the state governments take the place of the lords and nobles of the old English constitutional system, whose power and influence helped to keep the king (the national government) from abusing his power. But where the old nobility represented the interest of powerful family dynasties in control of certain lands, the states are supposed to represent the body of the people organized within different geographic boundaries.
In order to establish their national tyrannies, the powerful monarchs of continental Europe, like Louis XIV of France, broke the independent power of the nobility in their kingdoms by luring them to live at the regal court. This took them away them from the daily control of their lands and people that sustained their real power. In like fashion, the Seventeenth Amendment uprooted the U.S. Senators, so that they have become adjuncts of a controlling national elite, rather than representatives of the organized body of the people of their States.
Both the continental tyrants and the elites that nationalized the U.S. banks seem to have understood the lesson that Machiavellian political strategists drew from ancient stories like the one about the tyrant of Corinth. In response to an inquiry about the secret of maintaining his tyrannical power over the people, the tyrant of Corinth simply walked through a cornfield breaking off the heads of all the stalks that grew taller than the rest. The Machiavellians know that the strength of the people cannot be maintained without outstanding leadership that stands with the people. Under the guise of giving the people a more direct say in the national government, the Seventeenth Amendment actually deprives them of true representation at the national level, representation from leaders who remain rooted, as it were, in the same ground as the people they represent because they are elected by, and answer to, the state governments that work on that ground every day.
Scapegoating family and faith
Rather than acknowledge the role of elite manipulation in bringing on the national calamity of the Great Depression, the ideologists of the New Deal made convenient scapegoats out of the institutions of family and faith:
According to the architects of the New Deal, the developments of the industrial era made personal income the sine qua non of individual security. They proposed to secure individuals by establishing an extensive structure of government-controlled programs that would collect and redistribute money in order to provide a guarantee of income to all.
Though the New Deal planners and ideologists still referred to people as citizens, their analysis recasts them as workers, cogs in the industrial machinery for whom income is primary while constitutional rights and privileges and the security of their national sovereignty (symbolized by our national borders) are secondary. The report cited above, for example, asserts that "without social and economic security there can be no true guarantee of freedom." With this deceptive logic, the New Dealers insidiously redefined the terms of American political life in such a way that the preservation of liberty is no longer its essential goal. The "land of the free" becomes the "land of workers with a government-guaranteed income."
During the 1996 presidential campaign, Senator Phil Gramm of Texas often compared welfare to a situation in which some people on a trip were riding in a wagon while others were pulling the wagon. Whenever I got the chance, I liked to point out that this folksy analogy begged the most important question, which is not "Who's pulling the wagon?" or "Who's riding in the wagon?", but "Who's driving the wagon?" When people see themselves first as workers rather than citizens, they push the key political issue (who governs?) into the background. They are ripe for "let's you and him fight" manipulation, through which shrewd demagogues set one group against another in squabbles over who's working, who's not, and how much they get for it.
Meanwhile, the lion's share of the produce goes to the folks who set themselves up as the paymasters, using resources they get from the people with no more effort than it takes to keep them quarrelling with each other. It's an improvement on the banker's principle ("get rich risking other people's money"), since you persuade people to work for you by guaranteeing their chance to work for you. The welfare state politicos call it a jobs program, a government guaranteed income, a caring, compassionate society (soon to be complete with guaranteed universal health care). Among my ancestors, even the pampered house Negroes knew it for what it was: slavery.
Need to fix things
In the land of the free, people ride in wagons, pull wagons, drive wagons but most important of all, they can fix the government's wagon when it gets out of hand. People first control themselves and something of their own, using family and church to sustain that capacity. Having provided for themselves through private institutions, they have the strength and confidence to control the government, the "public things," the republic.
But when the sufficiency of the primary institutions of individual self-control is discredited in order to pave the way for a government-provided or -guaranteed individual income; when the process of establishing these programs is used to extend and solidify elite control of the national income; when, as a result, the people end up with no collective strength that cannot be manipulated by the political and money elites can a people thus manipulated, thus controlled, thus reduced to dependency upon the government still claim to be sovereign over it?
Can they sustain the moral will to claim and exert that sovereignty when the institutions mainly responsible for its character and strength have been sapped or maneuvered into irrelevance?
I think the answers to these questions will be clear to anyone who makes the effort to think through the relevant experience of the American people in the last three-quarters of a century. Our upcoming essays will do just that.
© 2007 Alan Keyes
Read later here too. Thanks E.V.
Bttt. Such beautiful sentence structure ...