[N]o one in the world who prizes liberty and human rights can feel anything but a strong kinship with America. Yours is the one great nation in all of history that was founded on the precept of equal rights and respect for all humankind, for the poorest and weakest of us as well as the richest and strongest.
As your Declaration of Independence put it, in words that have never lost their power to stir the heart: “We hold these truths to be self evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness…” A nation founded on these principles holds a sacred trust: to stand as an example to the rest of the world, to climb ever higher in its practical realization of the ideals of human dignity, brotherhood, and mutual respect. Your constant efforts in fulfillment of that mission, far more that your size or your wealth or your military might, have made America an inspiration to all mankind.
It must be recognized that your model was never one of realized perfection, but of ceaseless aspiration. From the outset, for example, America denied the African slave his freedom and human dignity. But in time you righted that wrong, albeit at an incalculable cost in human suffering and loss of life.
Your impetus has almost always been toward a fuller, more all embracing conception and assurance of the rights that your founding fathers recognized as inherent and God-given.
Yours has ever been an inclusive, not an exclusive, society. And your steps, though they may have paused or faltered now and then, have been pointed in the right direction and have trod the right path. The task has not always been an easy one, and each new generation has faced its own challenges and temptations. But in a uniquely courageous and inspiring way, America has
Yet there has been one infinitely tragic and destructive departure from those American ideals in recent memory. Continue reading
Michael McConnell, a Law Professor at Stanford, offers this in a First Things review of Philip Hamburger’s new book titled Law and Judicial Duty:
Hamburger traces the development of modern conceptions of the law to the realization, in Europe and especially Britain, that human reason rarely provided clear answers to moral questions and therefore that an attempt to ground law in divine will, or a search for abstract reason and justice, would inevitably lead to discord. As a result, “Europeans increasingly located the obligation of law in the authority of the lawmaker rather than the reason or justice of his laws.” The task of judges, then, was not to seek after elusive notions of justice and right reason but to enforce the law of the land. Natural law shifted in emphasis from moral content to legitimacy and authority, and increasingly to an understanding of authority based on the will of the people.
This seems to me a profound explanation of how and why we understand law today the way we do. It simultaneously shows you what is wrong with the modern conception of the law and what is right.
Isn’t it obvious that most of our American ancestors came over from Europe because they wanted life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness? They fled totalitarian regimes, socialist governments, and anti-Christian repression for the freedom that is afforded all Americans.
We have the best health care in the world precisely because it is not operated by the government. Private industry drives innovation, government regulation or government-run health care eliminates innovation, awards bureaucrats, and ultimately leads to marginal health care in the long run.
We are Americans, not Europeans. Yet President Obama, Congressional Democrats, and well-meaning liberals and progressives want to emulate European health care programs. What Europeans have is not necessarily right nor good.
[Updates at the bottom of his post]
Governor Sarah Palin recently announced her resignation as governor of the great state of Alaska and there has been a flurry of analysis of her motives, her character, and her future plans. Some of this analysis were sincere, others were borderline antagonistic.
This is all occurring in the midst of an Obama presidency steering both Democratic controlled chambers of Congress that have substantially increased spending and enlarged the government to the detriment of our freedoms. Couple this with the lack of a clear Republican plan to challenge all of this, the American people are in need of a leader to guide us out of this wilderness.
I believe Governor Palin can and should play this important role. She stated in her final address as governor of Alaska that she wants to do what’s best for her state. If she is a person of principle and a patriot then it is logical to presume that she wants what’s best for America. And what’s best for America right now is to have a strong and vigorous counterweight to the liberal agenda of President Obama and his enablers in the Congress.
The plan that Governor Palin should pursue is to proactively lead Americans to take back Congress as part of the pact with America. She should do what then House Leader Newt Gingrich did in 1994 with the Republican Party’s Contract with America that gave the Republicans control of the House of Representatives for the first time in 40 years.
Part 7 of my continuing series commenting upon the follies of modern day Jesuits. None of the following of course applies to Jesuits who are orthodox in their faith and are often among the harshest critics of the antics perpetrated by their brethren. An editorial in America, the Jesuit magazine, expresses concern about the dangers of polarization in the Catholic Church in America. Father Z, the Master of the Fisk, in one of his finest efforts, gives the editorial a fisking to remember here.
On June 14 we celebrate Flag Day — to commemorate the adoption of the flag of the United States, by resolution of the Second Continental Congress in 1777.
It seems that technological development has made its mark on all sectors of daily life. Why not the democratic process?
The arguments seem reasonable.
The city of Honolulu, Hawaii implemented an “all digital” election in recent local elections, i.e. the ballots were cast either on the Internet, or by phone. This experiment hasn’t made a statement either way for other levels of government. But what would it mean, if millions of people voted from the comfort of their own home — how much hassle and money, in terms of state and federal spending, could be saved if we employed a “digital democracy?”
There are more than 500 million units of fixed-line and mobile telephones in a country of about 305 million. And some 223 million Americans enjoy internet access, the majority of which is broadband.
It may seem like overkill to write a multi-part book review, but historian Thomas F. Madden’s new Empires of Trust: How Rome Built–and America Is Building–a New World explores a thesis I’ve been interested in for some time, which has significant implications for our country’s foreign policy and the wider question of what our country is and what its place in the world ought to be.
The US has been often accused, of late, of being an empire. Madden effectively accepts that this is the case, but argues that this is not necessarily a bad thing at all. Among his first projects is to lay out three different types of empire: empires of conquest, empires of commerce, and empires of trust.
An empire of conquest is one spread by military power, in which the conquering power rules over and extracts tribute from the conquered. Classic examples would include the empires of the Assyrians, Persians, Mongols, Turks, Alexander’s Hellenistic empire, Napoleon’s empire and to an extent the Third Reich, Imperial Japan and Soviet Union. Empires of conquest are spread by war, and conquered territory is ruled either by local puppet rulers or by a transplanted military elite from the conquering power.
An empire of commerce is interested only in securing enough of a political foothold in its dominions to carry on trade, and is less concerned over political control or tribute. Examples would include the British and Dutch empires; in the ancient world the Pheonicians and Athenians; and later, medieval Venice. Empires of conquest are typified by a network of far-flung colonies directly controlled by the home country, at locations which are strategic for exploiting natural resources or trading with regional powers. They are less focused on conquering large swathes of territority than with controlling enough of a foothold (and enforcing enough stability in the surrounding area) to carry on their commerce.
The book, however, is primarily concerned with a third type of empire, the empire of trust, of which Madden gives only two examples: Rome and the United States. The term “empire of trust” itself requires some unpacking.
UCLA professor Peter Baldwin pens an interesting priece for the UK’s Prospect in which he argues that the differences between the US and Europe are not as great as is often claimed. Baldwin’s point of view strikes me as left of center, but his argument (mainly a comparison of statistics to see how the US really measures up to various EU countries on questions like poverty, education, environmentalism, etc.) is fairly non-ideological and the overall result is interesting.
Left open ended (though he provides a few thoughts on the matter) is the question of why both Americans and Europeans like to perceive such strong differences between themselves, and what exactly that means about the two cultures.
According to a recent study, the percentage of Americans who profess no religion has been increasing over the last 20 years:
The Catholic population of the United States has shifted away from the Northeast and towards the Southwest, while secularity continues to grow in strength in all regions of the country, according to a new study by the Program on Public Values at Trinity College. “The decline of Catholicism in the Northeast is nothing short of stunning,” said Barry Kosmin, a principal investigator for the American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS). “Thanks to immigration and natural increase among Latinos, California now has a higher proportion of Catholics than New England.”
In broad terms, ARIS 2008 found a consolidation and strengthening of shifts signaled in the 2001 survey. The percentage of Americans claiming no religion, which jumped from 8.2 in 1990 to 14.2 in 2001, has now increased to 15 percent. Given the estimated growth of the American adult population since the last census from 207 million to 228 million, that reflects an additional 4.7 million “Nones.” Northern New England has now taken over from the Pacific Northwest as the least religious section of the country, with Vermont, at 34 percent “Nones,” leading all other states by a full 9 points.
In Matthew 25, Jesus paints an image of His return in glory. On the Day of Judgment, Christ will separate His sheep from the goats. The sheep are those that cared for “the least” of Jesus’ brothers: the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the stranger, those sick, and those in prison. The goats didn’t remember “the least” among them and as Christ foretold, “in all truth,” they have “received their reward,” in this life and will not in the next. Jesus’ teaching is unavoidable.
This message is especially relevant to the injustice of the American healthcare system. To call American healthcare—as a system—immoral makes no judgment on healthcare professionals or hospitals, but rather on the design itself. Many have advocated for universal healthcare in our country and have been rejected for proposing so-called “socialized medicine.” I am personally a proponent of a universal healthcare system. We have the medical care, the financial resources, but we seem to lack the moral will to acknowledge that we are our brother’s keeper.
Okay, maybe not.
But one of his characters was more intellectually- and existentially-consistent that many (or even most) Americans of any religious affiliation, including Catholics. I’m talking about the hitman Vincent in the 2004 film Collateral, starring Cruise and Jamie Foxx and directed by Michael Mann.
“From the dawn of the Republic, America’s quest for freedom has been guided by the conviction that the principles governing political and social life are intimately linked to a moral order based on the dominion of God the Creator. The framers of this nation’s founding documents drew upon this conviction when they proclaimed the “self-evident truth” that all men are created equal and endowed with inalienable rights grounded in the laws of nature and of nature’s God. The course of American history demonstrates the difficulties, the struggles, and the great intellectual and moral resolve which were demanded to shape a society which faithfully embodied these noble principles. In that process, which forged the soul of the nation, religious beliefs were a constant inspiration and driving force, as for example in the struggle against slavery and in the civil rights movement. In our time too, particularly in moments of crisis, Americans continue to find their strength in a commitment to this patrimony of shared ideals and aspirations.
I live in a small town, Dwight, Illinois, about 35 miles southwest of Joliet. It is a lovely place, about 4400 people, set in the midst of a sea of corn and soybeans. My wife and I moved here in 1985 and have been very happy. Soon after we moved to Dwight I joined the local Rotary Club. There I met Jim Oughton and his brother Richard Oughton. Both had served in WW2, Jim as a naval officer, and Dick as a marine fighter pilot. They were also the two richest men in town, the scions of a family that had been the wealthiest family in town for well over a century.