This is Why We Have a Constitution, and Why the Alternative is Tyranny

Wednesday, January 16, AD 2013

New York’s Trespass Act of 1783  offered relief for Patriots who had fled New York City during the time of the Revolutionary “by permitting them to recover damages from persons who had occupied or used their premises during the war.” Common law had typically required  “that actions for trespass must be tried where the property was located, but the act allowed Patriots to sue in any court where the defendant could be found.” It also denied the laws of war by prohibiting the accused of arguing that they had been acting “under orders of the occupying British army, and the act also prohibited the defendants from appealing to a higher court.” (Citations from Forrest McDonald, Novus Ordo Seclorum.)

The New York Trespass Act was but one of many factors that led to the creation of the written United States Constitution. Under the Articles of Confederation government, the states had almost unlimited authority to pass any laws they pleased. The only check on the state governments were the citizens of the several states. Unfortunately, the people themselves were often the impetus behind the enactment of unjust laws.

The Constitution was a reaction to life under the Articles of Confederation. Though conservatives like to point out that the government created under the Constitution is one of limited powers – a fact which is undeniably true – the Constitution actually enhanced the powers of the federal government and was meant, in part, to curb some of the excesses of unlimited state authority.
In truth the Constitution was a perfect balancing act. The Federalists hoped to strengthen the federal government while simultaneously placing significant limits on the powers of said government. They wanted to mitigate the excesses of democratic government in the states while continuing to leave most of the day-to-day governing authority in the hands of local government. The Constitution is a document designed to prevent the outbreak of democratic despotism, but which also aimed at limiting the reach of government. These are not contradictory aims. As much as it may surprise political philosophers such as Piers Morgan to hear, purely democratic governments can become tyrannical – ask Plato and Aristotle about that.
If we understand the genesis of our Constitution then we can better understand why we revere it and strive to live as much as we can by the letter of said Constitution. It’s not because it’s some old, musty document and we just have a blind devotion to old things. There was a wisdom and a theory behind the Constitution that made as much sense in 1787 as it does in 2013.
And now, due to the gun control debate, we have proof of why the Federalists were right, and why we are inching closer to tyranny.
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27 Responses to This is Why We Have a Constitution, and Why the Alternative is Tyranny

  • Excellentem progymnasmam scripsis, Paule. Tibi gratias!

  • “Reasonable” has become, for me, an hated word.

    It is the word used to characterize every proposal one favors and to describe my comming around to the thinking of others. And so, reducing abortions while keeping the practice legal is a “reasonable” position and taking money from the “wealthy” to buy frivolous things for others is “reasonable.” if one holds to a view that a practice is inherently wrong, one is “unreasonable,” an “extremist.”

    So it is with the firearms debate. Requiring citizens to register their firearms is simply “reasonable” we are told. To oppose this is “unreasonable” and fears of tyranny and Constitutional Rights, are viewed as unreasonable fears. So too with concerns about unilateral executive action. Since the legislature isn’t doing what the public clamors for quickly enough, it is “reasonable” for the President to act without authority to cater to the whim of the majority.

    I fear, old friend, that you are right. Having forgotten lessons so painfully learned over 2000 years of Western history that liberty is hard won and easily and incrementally lost, we are wresting power from all authorities to resist tyranny.

  • Kipling said it well:

    “Ancient Right unnoticed as the breath we draw– Leave to live by no man’s leave, underneath the Law–

    Lance and torch and tumult, steel and grey-goose wing, Wrenched it, inch and ell and all, slowly from the King.

    Till our fathers ‘stablished, after bloody years, How our King is one with us, first among his peers.

    So they bought us freedom–not at little cost– Wherefore must we watch the King, lest our gain be lost.”

    The fight for freedom is never finally won or lost, but must be fought for again when dangers to it arise.

  • Jan.16th Religious Freedom Day! What a great President! We cares about us so much and our Constitution that he proclaimed the 16th of Jan. to forever be Religious Freedom Day.

    LIAR! I find it hard to share Christian love with tyrants.

  • Kiplig,

    “Freedom for ourselves
    And, Freedom for our sons.
    And failing freedom – War!”

  • In truth the Constitution was a perfect balancing act.

    No. It is a balancing act.

    If we understand the genesis of our Constitution then we can better understand why we revere it and strive to live as much as we can by the letter of said Constitution. It’s not because it’s some old, musty document and we just have a blind devotion to old things. There was a wisdom and a theory behind the Constitution that made as much sense in 1787 as it does in 2013.

    Ach. It is an organic law, not a piece of canonical literature. The utility or disutility of a set of institutional arrangements is going to be quite sensitive to local circumstances. ‘Local’ can be understood spatially or temporally. Our constitution has been (for the most part) a failure in containing the sturm und drang of our political life for more than 80 years. Some serious adjustments are in order (though adjustments in institutional arrangements cannot in any direct and transparent way correct the toxic culture of the legal profession or official Washington).

  • Our constitution has been (for the most part) a failure in containing the sturm und drang of our political life for more than 80 years. S

    Precisely because a certain subset of our political class has ignored it. That is not a failure of the Constitution, but of both leadership and citizenship.

  • Additionally, I shudder to think what the country would now look like without the Constitution. Imagine Obama issuing an executive order banning “dangerous and unnecessary” firearms, or one banning “seditious speech”. No, the Constitution is not merely an organic law but the concrete manifestation of the dream of the Founding Fathers of a Federal Union that would preserve the liberty that they fought for in the Revolution. In my eyes it is as “sacred” as any piece of secular writing can be composed by fallible men.

  • Pingback: THURSDAY GOD & CAESAR EDITION | Big Pulpit
  • In the hands of the current crop of supreme court justices, the constitution has become a blank piece of paper on which 5 of 9 justices get to write anything they chose. Remember that it was just a few years ago that five justices decided that the second amendment was an actually individual right (DC vs Heller). If Kennedy had woken up that day and decided to play the liberal justice instead of the conservative one, we would effectively not have a second amendment and all this talk of gun rights would be irrelevant.
    Think about that for a moment; the vote of one man has decided whether or not you have a basic freedom. I shudder when I think of what this nation has become.
    The great experiment of the federalists has failed. The fears of the anti-federalists that a large central government would become a tyranny have materialized.

  • “We the people are the rightful masters of both Congress and the courts, not to overthrow the Constitution but to overthrow the men who pervert the Constitution.”

    Abraham Lincoln

  • Precisely because a certain subset of our political class has ignored it. That is not a failure of the Constitution, but of both leadership and citizenship.

    Oh yes it is a failure of our Constitution. Paul, Israel has functioned for more than 90 years with a body of constitutional law but not discrete charter with entrenched clauses and supermajority requirements. If your political elite is satisfactory, you can get along without a charter. The point of a charter is that it contains the discretion of elected officials and others invested with authority, and erects a mechanism which can function passably in spite of a rancid political culture. Ours doesn’t.

    There are certain architectural features of our constitution which have been respected (as Robert Bork put it, “the stuff about elections every two years”), but the enumerated and limited delegations of discretion to Congress, the distinction between executive and legislative action, and the autonomy of provincial authorities have all been trashed. In addition, the immunities of particular communities and of households against federal or state authorities have been subject to judicial whimsies.

    In the years immediately after 1929, there developed immense social pressure due to the economic crisis which was not properly contained by the existing political architecture. The pressure simply blew the existing structure down. What replaced it was a de facto constitution running on stare decisis and judicial misfeasance. A secondary shock was delivered during the years running from 1953 to 1971. The Constitution you are referring to really does not exist anymore. It is going to require some sort of national reformation to restore it even in part.

    Added to all that is a phenomenon you see all over the western world: the efflorescence of a self-aggrandizing, pretentious, and antinomian culture among the professional-managerial class. This is most destructive as it develops in the bar. Students of Israel’s appellate judiciary contend that this body would clearly like to pull an Earl Warren but are constrained by the plenary discretion of the Knesset; what happened to Canadian jurisprudence after the enactment of the Trudeaupian Charter of Rights is well known. So, institutions matter, to a degree.

    Our institutions prevented a set of principled and adaptive changes to the political economy in 1933-39 and did so again in 1954-71. Instead, we had open-ended aggrandizement of the central government. Those institutions continue to prevent effective remedial action against an appellate judiciary for whom misbehavior is the order of the day. They also prevent us from containing the erection and maintenance of a permanent Washington political class (remember what happened to U.S. Term Limits?). We also have an incredible problem of collective action with regard to public sector borrowing. It is hard to imagine a set of institutions less equipped to address that problem than the ones we have.

    There is not much point in turning James Madison into the fictional Hari Seldon. The political culture stinks, but it does not stink so bad that our state legislators, working within political institutions which have some salient differences with federal institutions, cannot pass budgets. Madison and his contemporaries were making do in the matrix in which they were working and their handiwork sufficed in certain circumstances. However, the machine is broke and it is time to stop pretending and fix it.

  • Civil war scares me. However blatant lies from our Govt. leaders ( so-called ) and the abuses of our rights leaves one to wonder. What next?

    Maybe obama (small o ) will declare Jan. 22nd as Freedom for unborn children day.
    Lifenews.com mentioned the absurdity of yesterdays presidential proclamation; “Religious Freedom day.”

  • Obama gives us Freedom From Religious Freedom Day without God.
    Pilate to Christ: “What is TRUTH?” Pilate imposes his definition of TRUTH: “TRUTH is what I say it is. The human being is who I say he is” The despot tells Christ WHO Christ is. Christ responds: “You would have not authority except that it is given from above.” Obama’s proclamation of Religious Freedom Day, January 16, is the usurpation of authentic authority to redefine the Supreme Sovereign Being, the human being, freedom, religion, and the unborn sovereign person. Obama says:”Look, I give you freedom.” and who can argue with a plagiarist? Obama gives us Freedom From Religious Freedom Day without God.

    In proclamation of Freedom of Religion Day, Obama says: Religious Freedom is what I say it is, and only what I say it is. This is the means that Obama uses to dictate to his constituents what their civil rights are. And some fools celebrate it as such. There can be no authentic freedom without the acknowledgment of God, Creator of man’s soul, Endower of unalienable rights. Freedom of Religion Day ought to dissolve the HHS Mandate and reinstate our founding principles.

    !) Man is created equal, not born equal, a self-evident truth we hold.

    2) Man is endowed by “their Creator” with unalienable rights.

    3) Man is endowed by “their Creator” with an unalienable Right to Life.

    4) Man is endowed by “their Creator” with an unalienable Right to Liberty

    5) Man is endowed by “their Creator” with an unalienable right to pursue his Happiness.

    6) Man is free to relate, to speak, to write and peaceably assemble with and for the Supreme Sovereign Being.

    7) These, our founding principles were inscribed 225 years ago and cannot be vacated, redefined or plagiarized by Obama.

    8) The unalienable right to the pursuit of Happiness vacates the HHS Mandate that is violating so many sovereign citizens’ conscience. The unalienable Right to Life vacates the HHS Mandate and abortion. The unalienable Right to Liberty vacates the redefinition of atheism as a religion.

    9) Obama cannot give us a Freedom of Religion Day without God, for that is usurpation.

    10) The Second Amendment cannot be changed without two/thirds of the states ratifying the change. Obama says that he has some Executive authority to change some of the Second Amendment, but Obama is mistaken. Eminent domain is no longer for public use and has been redefined for public purposes, such as the politicians’ new pay raise and vacation or maybe their health insurance. Only with two/thirds of the states ratifying such a change can the change be made. This is our Constitution.

    11) We, the people, have failed “to secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our posterity”

    The Constitution is written for the sovereign person, who has come into existence by the creative power of God. It is the sovereign person’s choice how he will worship and acknowledge God. I do not think that it is through aborting others.

  • Mary De Voe,
    Impeachment!?
    Congressmen / women are career-“minded & hearted” as they occupy a seat that is to be honorable and mission based. Serve the public…right?

    Is this, the current abuses and what seems like run-a-muck hypocrisy the beginning of the end of our freedoms?
    Executive orders and edicts leading to the “powder keg” that will soon feel the heat of a short lit fuse?

    I believe your thread. You have aptly hit it!…the sovereign person.
    I will continue to pray, protest and plead the case of Christ. For in him is our Hope, our Freedom and our Future.

  • Art, I’m not sure I disagree with much of what you wrote. Again, though, it actually affirms what the Framers believed. That society has crumbled as the constitutional safeguards they installed were ignored and done away with only confirms that what they feared about government and democracies was accurate. If there is fault with them and the Constitution is that there is no adequate means of addressing the issue of who has the final say on constitutional interpretation. If Hamilton was naive it was in writing things like the Judiciary would be the least dangerous branch of government. They did not foresee the rise of an imperial judiciary. And while they thought that the Supreme Court should be an arbiter of the Constitutional, they never believed it should be the final arbiter.

    Is the design flawed? No.

  • All designs are flawed, and the utility of designs is perishable.

  • “Though conservatives like to point out that the government created under the Constitution is one of limited powers – a fact which is undeniably true – the Constitution actually enhanced the powers of the federal government and was meant, in part, to curb some of the excesses of unlimited state authority.”
    This conservative in NY would appreciate a little curbing aimed at Cuomo&Co.

  • “Government without justice is mass brigandage.” St. Augustine

    If a gang of fascists or imbeciles in legislatures (none campaigned on gun control) and courts are illegally amending or to repealing parts of the Constituion.

    The political/social “contract” that bind us as a people is being torn asunder.

    These tired, effete “people control” exec orders and gun confiscation laws would not have saved one Sandy Hook school child nor will they make one US pupil safer.

    Criminals and madmen (by nature) don’t obey laws.

    It is a special kind of stupid of which these people suffer. It’s the reason every trillion-dollar liberal wet dream has been a waste of those trillions of dollars and a waste time and effort, with the “beneficiaries” of the liberal wet dreams worse off ever after.

    And, this idiocy explains the re-election (51% of voters) of the worst president in history and, concomitantly, the destruction of American peace and prosperity.

    The deficits, money printing, regulations, and presidential hate-mongering cannot go on forever. And, it will not. Soon, the “fat lady” will have sung her last note.

  • Could she expedite that song? Say yesterday. That would work for me.

  • Those stating that one of the purposes of the constition was to prevent state governments from trampling our freedoms should be aware that this was not true of the original constitution. The limits the original constitution placed on states were how states were to interact with each other and with foreign powers. For the first hundred years the Bill of Rights did not apply to the states, their constitutions had their own BOR’s. it was not till 1897 that SCOTUS decided that wasn’t good enough and started holding the states to selective amendments.

  • Those stating that one of the purposes of the constition was to prevent state governments from trampling our freedoms should be aware that this was not true of the original constitution.

    Well the original Constitution didn’t go as far in this regard as some of the Framers would have liked. Madison’s original plan called for a national veto over state laws, and this was actually a major concern for him. But that got shot down at the convention. That said, the Constitution did pull back from the states some of the unbounded powers it enjoyed previously. But you’re absolutely right about the Bill of Rights not applying to the states until the Supreme Court discovered the magical jujitsu power of the 14th Amendment.

  • This conservative in NY would appreciate a little curbing aimed at Cuomo&Co.

    The text of the 2d Amendment is as follows:

    A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed

    The plain meaning a) recognizes a personal right and b) specifies that what is referred to would be military arms. It does not specify the authority which may not so infringe. On the face of it, the people are immune from the actions of any public authority, not merely Congress and the agencies which act at its direction.

    The thing is, ascertaining what the boundary conditions of this right are is a perplexing task. Clayton Cramer has been building a case that Saul Cornell (an obnoxious advocate of the view that the Amendment protects the franchise of the states to set up militias) has been defrauding his readers by systematically ignoring 19th century case law which recognized this as a personal right. That aside, there is a question of whether it applies against state governments or not. Aside from that, there is the question of how literally to interpret this formulation. As a rule, people do not conceive of a right of free speech to encompass a right to run up and down residential streets at three o’clock in the morning bare assed and screaming obscenities. What would be the analogous situation with regard to 2d Amendment rights?

    (Personally, I would be pleased if Gov. Cuomo would propose amendments and legislation to scrape the barnacles off the state’s hull. Our political architecture is a mess, but no element of the political class seems to care, including the journalists who cover the legislature. At least Mr. Zummo will likely not tell me that the Unified Court System or the Town Law have no design flaws).

  • “As a rule, people do not conceive of a right of free speech to encompass a right to run up and down residential streets at three o’clock in the morning bare assed and screaming obscenities. What would be the analogous situation with regard to 2d Amendment rights?”
    @Art Deco
    1) Only truth is allowed freedom in the public and private spheres. Obscenities are out and a person must be arrested, that is stopped, by peace keeping officers and officials.
    2) Curfew laws are in place even if not widely acknowledged. No noise after ten o’clock.
    3) When I stop laughing I will write. The exposure of the human body must be respected and have an important reason. Take Lady Godiva. Lady Godiva was protesting the heavy taxes. Her husband was the tax collector. She gave him back her clothes, as did St. Francis, informed the town of her protest and asked for indulgence.
    4) Rightfully so. If the government disarms the person and injury is inflicted, the government becomes an accessory after the fact, not only for disarming the citizen, but for not protecting the citizen. The state then becomes liable to restitution for its failure to safeguard the citizen, and also complicit in disarming the citizen. Double jeopardy for the citizen, none for the culprit and his accomplice, the state. Endangerment is against the law, even for Cuomo.

  • @4) Government becomes an accessory before (before) the fact of injury inflicted. Sorry about that.

  • @Philip: The sovereign person constitutes the state. As you have probably read me before, the sovereign person loses his sovereignty when he consents to crime and sin, murder and lying. Criminals do not constitute the state. The sovereign person who constitutes the state and the state, itself must be protected from such and the Department of Justice is called into being by such a need. Any individual human being who presumes to deprive another sovereign person of his sovereignty, civil rights and Creator endowed unalienable rights forfeits his own unalienable rights. The atheist forfeits his own Creator endowed unalienable rights by despising, rejecting and repudiating, actually plagiarizing and impersonating the Creator, the Supreme Sovereign Being and Endower of sovereignty. The proof of this fact is that the atheist does not endow LIFE, nor does the atheist bless LIFE. Life, for the atheist, must be snuffed out by the atheist because HUMAN LIFE gives testament to the Supreme Sovereign Being, creator of LIFE. The Right to LIFE inscribed in the Declaration of Independence is from “their Creator”, and not from the community as the Declaration on Human Rights of the United Nations declares. One nation under the world bank would impose these godless human rights that might be disposed of by the state, by the “community” that plagiarizes these rights from God.
    In an act of free will, the atheist rejects the Creator of his free will, thereby making of himself, a beast of burden to the state, making of himself a human being devoid of his rational, immortal soul. The atheist then imposes his dehumanizing decision on sovereign and free people to make himself “somebody”.
    A real somebody praises God every second of every day for his being.

The Lure of Authoritarianism

Wednesday, March 31, AD 2010

61 Responses to The Lure of Authoritarianism

  • That’s a very poor measure. China is starting from a lower base. Even if it does everything right, the U.S. will have a higher standard of living for a while.

  • “There seems an odd attraction towards Chinese-style authoritarianism among certain more technocratic/elitist segments of the left-leaning political elite.”

    An excellent post as usual Darwin but I disagree that it is odd. Most Leftists since the time of the Russian Revolution have had an attraction towards totalitarian regimes of the Left. Orwell was very much the exception to this rule. China, although it has strayed in many ways from the days of Mao and his little red book which thrilled so many contemporary Leftists in the days of their youth in the Sixties, still is officially a Communist regime and antagonistic usually to the policies of the US, and thus something to be mentioned in praiseworthy terms by the herd of independent minds on the Left, another typical example being linked below.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2009/feb/06/china-useconomicgrowth

  • (it is, after all, rather easy to dislike the US for a number of reasons — we are, as the saying goes, over-paid, over-sexed, and over here)

    The phrase was supposedly common in Britain during the Second World War. The trouble with this thesis is that the overwhelming majority of American soldiers and sailors billeted overseas are in one of seven countries where reside about 5% of the world’s population (Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Korea, Japan, Germany, and Britain). I do not think social contact with the American military explains much of the generic hostility to the United States you find abroad.

    Orwell was very much the exception to this rule.

    Prof. Paul Hollander has said this was true among the subset of chatterati who went on guided tours of communist countries (“for every Andre Gide there were ten G.B. Shaw’s”). In fairness to our leftoid intelligentsia, there has always been a vigorous and at times modal strain which had no time for this sort of thing (Reinhold Neibuhr, Irving Howe, Michael Walzer, and Robert Leiken being examples).

  • “In fairness to our leftoid intelligentsia, there has always been a vigorous and at times modal strain which had no time for this sort of thing (Reinhold Neibuhr, Irving Howe, Michael Walzer, and Robert Leiken being examples).”

    Quite right, although they usually were regarded as heretics by a fair amount of the Left.

  • Art Deco,

    I was perhaps being too clever by half in using the “overpaid, oversexed, and over here” phase, but to clarify: My intent was not at all to convey it was contact with members of the US military which turned people off the US, but rather that:

    1) We are the richest country in the world (and thus its easy for people to claim we’re spoiled, out of touch, greedy, etc. (thus overpaid)

    2) Our popular culture (which is widely exported) is fairly degraded from the point of view of many traditional cultures. (thus oversexed)

    3) Our cultural, financial and political influence per pervasive throughout the world. (thus over here)

    Restrained Radical,

    It seems to me that people general emigrate to a country based on the degree of opportunity they believe they’ll experience there. It would seem pretty clear then, that people see more opportunity in the US than in China. I suppose one could claim that the rapidity of change in China suggests that at some point in the future there will be more opportunity for people there than in the US — but I don’t think you’d actually find many people who believe that.

  • Discussions of net immigration are of passing interest. What is most unsettling in all of this is the admiration of authoritarianism. Although the American Left has always flirted with authoritarianism, and I have no objective historical measure of it, my personal sense is that there’s a growing impatience with democratic processes, a growing desire to use executive and judicial powers to force unpopular or controversial policies, and a growing feeling that we can no longer abide politics as usual.

    I’m not sure why I have this personal opinion, except for perhaps the kinds of stories linked to by Darwin. Even a casual reading of news headlines today gives one the impression that there’s a sense of urgency to the progressive agenda like never before. The previous president was such a bogeyman in the Left’s imagination, they believed that the only way to counter his “disastrous” administration was to have a strong executive of their own. And whatever faults Bush had — one might argue he was at the vanguard of the “strong executive” model — there’s no comparison to the breakneck speed with which the Left wants to take that ball and run with it.

  • Friedman’s Lincoln Steffens-ish cheerleading for China is well past embarrassing.

    Otherwise bright people have the strangest blind spots.

  • Our current cultural elites go on pilgrimages to Cuba and Venezuela. It’s the same thing.

  • Its perhaps human to believe that what you know is perfectly right and it must be implemented. This seems to be more a problem of the left than of the right though both are possessed of it. of course one can say that it is in the nature of the left to want to change society into their “progressive” vision (of course not realizing their progress may be over the edge of a cliff) as opposed to the right which seeks to be skeptical of change.

    It doesn’t help that this country handed those on the left the means to enact a radical agenda (the most liberal president in history, a fillibuster proof Senate and a solid House majority with an ultra-liberal Speaker.) It doesn’t help that most Americans were not informed enough to vote against this.

    One can then understand the impatience of the left when members of Congress didn’t toe the line and enact all of the ultra liberal agenda. The answer then begins to reject the democratic process.

  • Of course all of this in the context of some who believe the “right” to pump breast milk in a special room is a right to life issue.

  • Phillip:

    Weeeelllll…

    While I find the overall illogic of the argument risible (a few sops in a bill that vastly expands abortion funding and access does not make it palatable), I think a good case can be made that provisions which make pregnancy and motherhood more reconcilable with work are in and of themselves pro-life.

  • Though it is quuuuuuuuiiiiiiiiitttttteeeeeeee a stretch to say that mandating a separate, private room for pumping breast milk vs. using a the current, private bathroom for pumping breast milk is a major pro-life move and a major advance for pregnancy and motherhood. Sorry, it really isn’t.

  • And thus the silliness of much current thought on social justice.

  • Maybe some will consider this to label me some sort of knuckle dragger, but I’m not clear how cementing the normality of women going back to full time, in-office work while their children are still nursing age if necessarily a pro-life victory.

    Which is not to say that no women should be working outside the home shortly after giving birth, but it would seem that from a point of view of upholding the natural family, situations that involve putting a child under 12 months in daycare are less than ideal. Not everyone can pull off being a single income family, and perhaps some don’t want to, but I don’t see that pumping breast milk in one’s cube or in the bathroom or in some other private place is a major anti-life problem. And I do see the increasing societal pressure that all mothers should work full time, and do so outside the home starting at most 2-3 months after birth, as being a serious negative from a pro-family point of view.

  • I’m sympathetic to the argument that another mandate from our increasingly intrusive current government is onerous.

    But forcing the mother into the crapper presents its own problems. As my wife (who used a breast pump in the toilet back when she was in the wage-earning workforce) pointed out: “Who else has to prepare their meals in the bathroom?”

  • Even beyond that, there is the silliness of saying that it is a “pro-life” issue. This while the real probability that abortions will be paid for and probably increased as a result is ignored. But heck, we get special breast pump rooms in the workplace.

  • Sure, Darwin, it’s a problem. Ideally, Mom would be able to stay home. That’s what *we’ve* been able to do, all thanks to God.

    But that doesn’t work for everyone, and there are good (as well as not good) reasons for the mom to work. Starting with an absent dad, and going from there.

    I’m not saying it’s ideal, nor should I be construed as regarding it as a pro-life victory for the ages. But we have to meet people where they are, and any reasonable incentive supporting, or removal of stigma from, motherhood in the workplace should be welcome and seen as pro-life.

  • Actually it really isn’t much of a pro-life victory. Not at all. Such thinking belongs in the crapper.

  • Phillip, I said that at the outset. I said it’s an abortion funder. It’s not to be celebrated. In fact, from the perspective of the blog poster in question, it’s as ludicrous as a pro-Iraq War blogger calling the War pro-life because of the reconstruction funds given to Iraqs.

    Bracketing all of that, as I expressly did from the outset, I think those provisions which support pregnancy and motherhood are helpful from a pro-life perspective. Not that any can counterbalance the great evils stemming therefrom, but helpful.

  • Again, pointing out that I do not believe it is a pro-life issue. It is really morally neutral. Some may be in favor. Less bacteria in a separate room (perhaps if it is kept very clean. Though of course there are about as many bacteria in a nursery room as a bathroom and women pump there.) But some may see it as not much of an issue at all from a pro-life perspective. That it really isn’t pro-lefe. And it really isn’t.

  • May you and yours have a blessed Triduum, Phillip.

  • And to yours also as we disagree on this small, prudential point.

  • I guess it’s something that goes both ways. Within the modern context, it is a slight concession towards parenthood, and in that context thus good. On the other hand, it strikes me as upholding a modern, individualized lifestyle over a traditional one, and in that sense strikes me as a negative.

    One thing that sometimes strikes me when progressive pro-lifers list these kind of things as pro-life victories is that things like subsidized child care, extra working-mom mandatory concessions, etc. end up increasing the marginal cost of being a more traditional family. Essentially, I as a single income end up making less (both because of taxes and because my company devotes more money to offering benefits I have no use for rather than to wages) in order to subsidize people who due to their two-income households make twice what I do in order to support fewer kids. (These same people, around the office, often express wonder as to how one could possibly afford to have four kids rather than their own one or two — despite the fact their household incomes are twice mine.)

    So there’s a sense in which pushing these benefits too hard (as, for example, with the amount of subsidized childcare, leave, etc. in Western Europe) makes it even harder to break with the system and have a more traditional family structure instead.

    On the other hand, moves which reduce the “my world will end if I carry this pregnancy to term” factor are clearly a good thing from the pro-life point of view.

  • Phillip:

    Agreed. And I wanted to remind myself that I was speaking with a Catholic brother in Christ. It wasn’t one of those passive-aggressive “I’ll pray for you” digs-drenched-in-piety.

  • Darwin:

    Good points, all. Recognition of “unintended consequences” doesn’t pop up often enough in evaluating these sorts of things.

  • Thanks Dale. I have been brusque and apologize if offense was taken. I will say that I tire of those (not saying you) that will take minor provisions (that often in fact are prudential judgments) and ignore massive support for intrinsic evils. Part of the problem I think with the USCCB Faithful Citizenship document. Seen some use that document to say that so and so is pro-abortion, but is in favor of increased food stamp funding and gun control so he is pro-life on two out of three issues – vote for him.

  • Well, Darwin, there is a considerable degree of antagonism to the United States in Western Europe, which approaches or exceeds us in its level of affluence and in the prevalence of bastardy, among other metrics of cultural degradation. One might also note that the bulge bracket banks in Britain and Spain are actually larger and more inclined toward international business than their American counterparts.

    Maybe the characters at Vox Nova

  • Well, nowhere did I say the breast pump law was a “major pro-life victory.” But it is certainly a pro-life victory. How strange that some ostensibly “pro-life” Catholics can’t see that. Perhaps they are out-of-touch with actual parenthood? Good to see that not everyone in this thread is so dismissive of a pretty significant and praiseworthy bit of progress.

  • DarwinCatholic, there’s greater economic opportunity in the US because of the higher standard of living. Compare the earnings of a restaurant employee in China to one in the US and you’ll see why they come here. There are large immigrant populations in Singapore and Dubai, very authoritarian countries with very high standards of living. Authoritarianism is usually opposed to economic development but there are plenty of exceptions (China today, Pinochet’s Chile, Chiang Kai-shek’s Taiwan, pre-1990’s South Korea).

    There’s also the lure of excellent higher education. An internationally respected university takes many decades, perhaps centuries, to build so the US is safe in that department for a while.

    Ethnic diversity also helps. Pretty much any citizen of the world can move to the US and find an ethnic enclave to live in, making the move much easier.

  • Good to see you here Michael. Actually as Darwin points out and as Dale agrees, there may be unintended consequences to this “pro-life” measure that wind up being anti-life. That as opposed to the actual,intrinsically anti-life reality of the health care bill.

  • Perhaps they are out-of-touch with actual parenthood?

    Hmmm. That’s an interesting theory, Michael. Maybe you could flesh it out a bit. You’ve been a parent for how long, Michael? You have how many children? You have spent how many years, as a parent, working in offices consisting of 50 employees or more and understanding the financial and personal pressures that apply to single and double income families respectively?

    To help ground our discussion, I can provide the following answers to the above questions:

    Eight years. Five. Six years (during my first two years of parenthood I was working for a company with only ~30 employees.)

    Doubltess your longer years being a parent, larger number of children, and more extensive workplace experience as a parent gives you a deeper and broader understanding of all this. Surely you wouldn’t simply be praising this as a “significant and praiseworthy bit of progress” simply because it’s a progressive point-score and you enjoy tweeking the noses of people who actually vote against abortion and support more traditional family structures…

  • Now Darwin, you know our betters know more about parenting and business even though they are not parents and have never been in business. Even as our betters know more about minorities even though they are white Europeans while we are Hispanics.

  • As for authoritarianism being a leftist philosophy, I mentioned above, Pinochet’s Chile, Chiang Kai-shek’s Taiwan, and pre-1990’s South Korea. Add Batista’s Cuba. On civil liberties, Bush was very authoritarian for a US president.

  • RestrainedRadical,

    Agreed that there can be fairly rapid economic growth for a while even under an authoritarian regime, but for Friedman and Meyerson’s concerns to pan it, it seems to me that one would have to argue that the combination of authoritarianism and development seem in such examples is in danger of being a more attractive model to the peoples of the world than the US model. And I’m not seeing why one would think that to be the case.

    Certainly, authoritarian and developing rapidly may be more attractive than authoritarian and povety-stricken (thus making China more attractive than North Korea) but I fail to see the danger that Meyerson in particular is concerned about that developing nations will look at the US and China and conclude, “Wow, we really better have a technocratic dictatorship rather than a democratic republic.”

    That’s the sense in which I think that immigration direction of the US relative to China is indicative. Given the choice, people voting with their feet seem to clearly prefer the US over China.

  • I don’t think anyone was actually dismissive of the provision; in fact, I thought Darwin gave a very balanced view of the matter. (Rarely are matters of public policy win-win situations, anyway. There’s always a cost to every benefit.)

    All of this is beside the point of the article. Even the point about immigration patterns is a side issue. What’s more at issue is our willingness to circumvent the political process and flirt with authoritarianism.

  • This is certainly a wide-ranging thread. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that…)

    I agree, j. christian, that this is a disturbing trend — one more pronounced on the left in that they have many more things that they positively want to do, while conservatives are currently mostly engaged in resisting change. On a number of issues (perhaps most notably environmentalism) there seems to be a waning patience with actually persuading the public to support “the right thing” and an increasing frustration that technocrats cannot simply impose new regulations and structures without consulting the troublesome electorate and their representatives.

  • But it is certainly a pro-life victory. How strange that some ostensibly “pro-life” Catholics can’t see that. Perhaps they are out-of-touch with actual parenthood? Good to see that not everyone in this thread is so dismissive of a pretty significant and praiseworthy bit of progress.

    I don’t really think so, even though I think the existence of a comfortable place for a woman to pump is a good thing – but it’s more of a plain ol’ decency thing. Then again, having six kids, two of whom have special needs, I’m out of touch. Oh, and one of those special needs kids was born with a cleft palate and therefore couldn’t suck. My wife pumped exclusively for over a year – we even had to rent a medical grade pump that was so heavy and awkward that it brought on excessive scrutiny from airline security.

    Yeah, out of touch…

  • Technocrats grow impatient because they “know” what is best for us. They have the knowledge that we don’t have even if they haven’t the experience. Thus someone who is not a parent or business person can know what is good for parents and business. Why someone who is a white European can know what racial programs are good for ethnic minorities even if those minorities disagree.

  • While I see the breast-pumping rooms as something beneficial to working mothers, I still can’t help but see it as an oddity.

  • It seems the briefly aired Firefly series was rather prophetic. The (Sino-American) Alliance exercising galactic totalitarianism in the name of peace, efficiency and happiness. Could it be the Tea Party are the Browncoats?

    The elite financiers and their academic lackeys have always sought to merge the USA with a Communist regime to use capitalism to fund a global totalitarian oligarchy. Used to be think tanks (foundations) were preparing us to merge with the USSR. However, Reagan, Thatcher and Blessed John Paul II put a stop to the attraction for that horror. So now they are working on merging us with China. China is the future model of world government and many people are willing to make a deal with the Devil so they can have the comfort of security (slavery) rather than living in fear of failure (freedom).

    Ai ya women wanle!

  • Darwin, your tactics and “arguments” (bullying) are boring.

  • bullying = pointing out when someone claims authority/experience he lacks

    Well, we aim to please. 😉

  • Darwin, you might be interested in a post I wrote today for Rock and Theology on children. Pay close attention to the seventh paragraph.

  • Let me chime in here as a full-time working mother who pumped milk for over a year for my daughter and plan to do it again for my forthcoming baby (I think MrsDarwin and I are due about a week apart).

    My family is a little unusual because my husband stays home with our children while I work. This decision was not made because of an unexpected unemployment situation but something we deliberately chose. We felt strongly about not sending the children to daycare and having a stranger raise them. One of us was going to stay home and, since the economic potential in my field is much greater than his, we decided it would be my husband. Over time, I think we have made the right decision, but, in these child-bearing years, it can be very hard.

    Now, in a lot of ways, we get the worst of both worlds. We live far out from the city and I have a long commute because we cannot afford to live near the city on one income. Pricing of many things seems dependent on two incomes and the assumption that everyone has a paying job. So I am not in favor of anything that reinforces the “necessity” of a dual income household and that it is proper to outsource the raising of one’s children.

    On the other hand, there is very little corporate support for working mothers beyond pats on the head. I get zero paid maternity leave. All the time I take off of work for childbirth comes from my accumulated sick and vacation time. What that means in reality is that our family just doesn’t go on vacation beyond a handful of days around major holidays to visit nearby family. Taking a week off to go to Florida (or go visit family across the country) is just not feasible. I am relatively healthy and don’t get sick that often, but am fearful of ever getting put on pregnancy bedrest. We can’t afford unpaid leave because I am our only income. And I know that I am lucky in that I actually get sick and vacation time to bank and can actually take time off after childbirth. So it would be nice if working mothers had more concrete support.

    Now the law in my state (Tennessee) already required employers to offer a private, non-bathroom area to pump. So while it is nice thought that federal law now requires everyone to be decent to pumping mothers, I’m not sure it is that great of a pro-life victory. If even pro-business, low tax, redstate Tennessee has this law, it must not be that controversial and could be passed state by state respecting our federal system.

  • bullying = pointing out when someone claims authority/experience he lacks

    This is a great line to remember the next time you pontificate about, say, liberation theology.

  • Or the next time you give an opinion on breast pumping, I suppose. If you want to claim you have more experience at breast pumping than I do, go right ahead.

  • Michael,

    Perhaps you should rely on Jenny’s experience noted above.

  • Michael,

    The reason I called you on your “Perhaps they are out-of-touch with actual parenthood?” line is because you were using it on people some of whom you knew very well to have much more experience being working parents than you do. If I’m out of touch with actual parenthood, then you clearly don’t have standing to even possess an opinion on the matter. Next time I suggest to you in a condescending fashion that you are perhaps out of touch with actual liberation theology, or suggest to a mother that she is out of touch with actual breast pumping, I strongly encourage you to parrot the line back to me. I’ll deserve it.

    As it happens, I read your Rock & Theology post even before you linked to it here (it was a slow day, so I read it when you linked to it at Vox Nova) and I did indeed crack an amused smile at that seventh paragaph, since it seemed like such a classic example of choosing to characterize others rather than understand them. I’ll see about leaving a comment there with more detail, if you’d like.

  • “I did indeed crack an amused smile at that seventh paragraph, since it seemed like such a classic example of choosing to characterize others rather than understand them.”

    ..Sort of like treating people as objects rather than subjects, wouldn’t you agree? That passage was pure argument by assertion. He might’ve just as easily claimed that parents in big families don’t love their children — it would be just as factually correct, and just as devoid of substance.

  • Jenny,

    Fair points. You’ve definitely taken the harder road, and I have a lot of respect for you and your husband on that.

    Certainly, the extra burden to large companies in having a room somewhere which can be used for nursing mothings is not large — I wouldn’t consider it to have nearly the kind of blowback for those of us (like you and me) who are slogging through the single-income lifestyle that mandating company-paid or taxpayer-subsidized childcare would.

    The concern about being forced to subsidize the two-income lifestyle does, I guess, spring to mind for me since the very large company I work for does provide a fair number of benefits clearly designed to help out the two-incomes-two-kids-in-daycare set. And on various teams I’ve been on over the years, it often seems like as someone who doesn’t have to rush out right at 5pm in order to pick the kid up from daycare on “my day to pick the baby up”, I would often get extra tasks dumped on my by my two-income-household co-workers at the end of the day. The combination of working later so they can rush out to daycare on time (and thus getting home later to my own wife and kids), while hearing them talk about how they can’t imagine affording a “large family” like mine, gets to rankle a bit. (Though clearly, excess cynicism isn’t the right response.)

  • (Though clearly, excess cynicism isn’t the right response.)

    Ah, but sometimes it can be a satisfying one. Rather like when I am dealing with a client who is on bankruptcy number three and who is complaining to me about a bank which, for some unfathomable reason, does not wish to extend a loan to him.

  • I also find Jenny’s insight good. She is struggling but still finds that a breast-feeding room is not a “pro-life” issue. Rather, as others have pointed out, it is a decent issue for a mother’s sake where appropriate.

  • Perhaps you should rely on Jenny’s experience noted above.

    My wife’s experience is key for me, as well as women in my family.

    If I’m out of touch with actual parenthood, then you clearly don’t have standing to even possess an opinion on the matter.

    Um, I didn’t say you were out of touch with parenthood.

    He might’ve just as easily claimed that parents in big families don’t love their children — it would be just as factually correct, and just as devoid of substance.

    Why? It’s a completely different, unrelated claim than the claim that I made.

  • So what are your wife’s experiences on breast feeding in the workplace?

  • Phillip,

    I didn’t say the breast pump rooms were *not* pro-life. It is just that they are more in the “children deserve the best nutrition that can be given” vein of pro-life, as opposed to the “it should be illegal for your mother to kill you” vein. But I don’t think it is a grand victory or a significant gain for the pro-life position. If Tennessee has laws protecting public nursing, extended (albeit unpaid) maternity leave, and pumping at work, these issues must not be that great of a battle and could be passed in all the states.

    Darwin,

    My company doesn’t really offer benefits that only apply to dual-income households beyond the flex account for daycare, but I view that as more a federal issue than a company one. And amazingly none of my coworkers have kids in day care, so getting work dumped on me is not really a problem.

    What does set my teeth on edge is the federal tax credit for daycare. I find the provision to be anti-family and discriminatory against one income, two parent households. While it is true that the direct cost of our “day care” was zero dollars, the actual cost of this free service was an entire year’s salary.

    If we, as a society, have decided to subsidize the cost of daycare, then every child’s family should have the cost subsidized, not just the families that have decided to outsource the job. The best way to do this is to increase the child tax credit and abolish the day care credit.

  • Agreed on the federal daycare tax credit.

    Actually, it comes into play far less frequently that some of the child care related programs and policies at my company, but the thing which perhaps galls the most is a policy which was adopted after a PR snafu a few years back that in any layoff, if both spouses work for the company they will never lay both off, even if both would otherwise have been targeted, because they don’t want to wipe a family’s entire income.

    Of course, for those of us who already are our family’s only source of income, no such promises…

  • Actually Jenny then we disagree. I think there is an abuse of language to claim that such an issue is pro-life. Sure there is a charity to allow women a private room to breast feed. But is this a fundamental issue of justice? Is justice violated in a basic sense if a woman has to breast pump in a bathroom? Is it really? Not at all. And the trivialization of what is pro-life is part of the problem with such arguments.

  • While a private pumping room may be a charity for the woman, I *do* believe it is an issue of justice for the baby.

    The problem with pumping in the bathroom is not necessarily that it is a bathroom. It is that the bathroom is a public place. Breast pumping requires a loud machine, an electrical outlet, partially disrobing, attaching two largish suction pumps to a private area of the body and relaxing enough to let the milk flow. Next time you are in a public bathroom at work (or wherever), take notice of the electrical outlets. They probably are not in the stalls, so the pumping would have to be out in the open. Imagine standing in this vulnerable position next to that outlet while your boss, your coworkers, and who knows who else comes in and out of that bathroom.

    Most women will not endure that type of humiliation three or four times a day for however long the child needs breastmilk. They will simply choose to formula feed and some children will pay with their lives. The pro-life angle of the policy is that it allows women better opportunities to feed their children the best possible nutrition and may save lives. http://apnews.excite.com/article/20100405/D9EST98G0.html

    Now all that being said, I do agree that the language can be (and often is) co-opted to justify all manner of minor pro-life policies while allowing the one major pro-life issue to go unchecked. Do these minor victories redeem a monstrous bill? No. And I do agree that it is a trivialization to label a bill “pro-life” because it federally mandates private pumping rooms, but allows funding for abortion.

  • I guess we will still disagree. A benefit perhaps. But an issue of fundamental justice no.