God is in Control

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God is in control, he has been for all of human history. I would never argue that point, but have you read history...? I have heard this phrase repeated often in 2020. What exactly does it mean in the context of our current world? Does it mean that God will lead us out of this? That peace and prosperity are in our future if we but pray for it and are faithful in our belief we will receive it?

I do not intend to be insulting, but that sounds a lot like Prosperity Gospel. Tweek it just a bit here and there, change a couple of words and it is Prosperity Gospel entirely. Kenneth Copeland level stuff. I only hear this phrase from my evangelical friends. None of my Catholic friends say this. I disagree with Catholic theology, but they are not wrong about everything!

Why do Catholics look at this so differently than protestant evangelicals? That is a loaded question, there are many reasons. Broadly speaking, I think it all relates to our inherited traditions. Some protestant denominations encourage a faith and reason tradition and learning more than others. Certainly, not all Catholics read history and the classics. However, in general, and broadly speaking their tradition does. Perhaps I have oversimplified it, maybe the cause I see is all wrong - but in my observation, there is a difference, protestant evangelicals say this, Catholics do not.

Maybe it is because we protestants do not have a living memory of oppression. Catholics in America know a little bit more of that, perhaps not them personally, but there is a collective memory in their tradition of not being accepted universally. Maybe they spend more time in the Old Testament than some evangelicals. I do not know.

I have lost friends this year because I have become dogmatic in certain areas. I believe the small errors we have accepted and embrace need to now be removed. We are headed for hard-times I think, real oppression and real ostracization (Rod Dreher called this our 8:20 moment this week). But I hear "God is in Control". Yes, he is, but what do you mean by that?

Solid old Christian ladies die painful deaths to cancer. Young children die to leukemia. Faithful Christians are murdered in the middle-east. Christian fathers lose their jobs and can not feed their families. If by "God is in Control" we mean all that bad stuff will not happen to us - then we mean we just need to name it and claim it and everything will be ok. Why then does it happen to other Christians?

God is in control cannot mean what people imply when they say it to shut down conversation about the state of our world. There is no conceivable reason that America should be shown any additional favor or protection. We are in many ways as bad as Sodom and Gomorrah. We murder thousands of babies a year.

God may have a plan that leads us out of this, but there is nothing Biblical or historical to indicate that he will our should. If he does it is because we have a purpose to serve, not because we have been faithful.

Uttering this phrase is almost heretical at this point. It tells people not to tighten their belts and do the things required to shape our own future.  If people listen to you, if you have authority, maybe you need to reconsider how and when you use this phrase. Throughout history, in times of great trouble and crisis, men of God stood in pulpits and preached fiery words of action. Not words that agreed with the world, real and hard truth. Telling people to "not worry and be happy" is not helpful. Preaching that this is all just a phase and God is in control is an error. It is almost as damnable as preaching that Christians should be following the ideas of the world right now.

We live in a transcendent metaphysical reality but we are also part of the material world. Just throwing it all on God was never part of His plan. We have work to do.

Where are The Critical Thinkers

Watching the world each day, I am struck by the absolute lack of any critical analysis or thinking among large swaths of all segments of society. I admit and recognize there are elements of this on the ‘right’; diehard MAGA folks that believed Qannon was real and that Trump had a plan. However, I suspect, that is not really a very large part of the population. I am also aware that while this group has been susceptible to believing many theories that did not pass the reasonableness test, they had many things right in their memes.

What has become increasingly disturbing is the elements of society that when presented with clear facts, facts that any reasonable person would look at and draw similar conclusions from, yet, many vocally and doggedly support a version of the story that comports in almost no way with reality. Oftentimes the major news outlets are complicit in these events through dishonest, biased and misleading headlines and perhaps a picture taken out of context becomes the only snippet of the story many every look at.

The situation in Michigan yesterday where three women essentially stalked, harassed, made verbal threats of violence and then blocked the car of a couple attempting to leave are the latest example. Most mainstream media outlets carried headlines such as “white woman in Michagan points gun at two balck women and a teenager”. If they included a video clip is is only of the last few seconds of the incident. Their stories have not included a full description of what went on before.

On social media, there are droves of people claiming the most absurd things related to this event. “The man tried to run the women over”, “the white woman threatened to kill the black women”. None of that is in the video. We have to always be careful judging events in videos, but several facts are clear enough to anyone that analyzes that situation honestly and with critical thinking.

But, that is not where we are. The event in Michigan is just the latest in what is beginning to appear to be a pattern. Videos that begin after something has happened, the filmers in the video make bold proclamations about the ‘wrong’ the person they are filming just committed. As in the case in Michigan, most of the folks subject to these events initially looked either shocked that this is occurring because they have no idea why the other person seems so upset OR, the person in the video seems upset as if they have been threatened in some way. Several videos of this nature that have appeared recently are later reveled to have begun after the one filming said something that was threatening, only to resume a calm and cool voice once they begin filming.

It all seems very organized, it seems very much like there are guidelines out there that tell folks how to do this. Does that sound like a crack-pot theory? Rules For Radicals listed instructions for the use of ridicule to achieve political objectives. Assuming these events are not just random is not crack-pot at all.

Anyone that spends any time at all truly seeking to understand what is going on right now – stepping away from ideology and the narrative of the world that says we need to listen and understand and relies instead on observing events, facts and reactions cannot help but see how nefarious all of this is. The fact that entire swaths of the public consume the initial misrepresentations of these events ought to be terrifying to any rational man. The reality that so many news outlets are quick to publish stories, most never retracted, that tell thing consistently wrong in a specific way ought to scare the hell out of anyone looking.

Yet it does not.

Something, some force has closed the minds and eyes of many people (a hint that force is Evil). It has turned some into rabid, hateful violent street demons. It has blinded others to the reality and seduced them into willing support of the narrative on the edges. Entire institutions that should be protecting civilization are now complicit in its downfall.

Does any reasonable person want to live in such an uncivilized world where it is perfectly ok to yell at people, tell them you will kick their ass, block, and hit their car? That is not speech, it is not civilized. These are not acts we have ever tolerated. Do we want to live with such hate? Why have so many ran to the banners of division, strife, and hate? These are things a prosperous and free nation can tolerate.

Yet we do. Videoes like described above are just a small part of the disconnect form objective reality we observe. Absurd is all around us and embraced now.

Unfortunately, I know more fools than wise men. “Friends” that are pastors, parents, college-educated ‘Christians’; so many have proven themselves to be fools. This is the biggest test of the current epoch and most are utterly failing the test because they want to be relevant and listen or to be accepted and not make wave – instead, they should be observing and thinking and speaking truth.

I left social media because even so many that I once considered friends are too lost to save. It is for me not an over-reaction to consider these folks former friends. What is occurring is a existential crisis. Left unchecked this will damn America, our kids and grand kids. All Americans for generations will suffer under the anarcho-tyranny to come. If a person says they stand on principles and cannot summon those principles to see this reality, I suspect their principles were always different than mine anyway. We were never friends, I merely thought we were.

These are the saddest days I ever thought I would live to see. It will grow far worse. My greatest sadness is that I was unable to lead some that I love out of danger and that I perhaps invested love and friendship in people that when the world got really real, they were no capable of seeing reality.

I am not sad for me, I am sad for the future.

A Primer in Truth

Antonio Gramsci conceived of the need for long-march through Western institution in order to facilitate Marxist revolutions. The church was one such institution that had to be infiltrated. This happened log ago with the UMC, PC (USA) Episcopalian and others. It began in earst with the SBC a few years ago. The megachurch, is unique in that is was built upon communitarian ideology that will eventual man these churches fall lock-step into compliance and support of Marxism and away from Christianity.

I challenge you, spend time watching the videos below, and follow some of the links. Follow the facts yourself, check the sources, and question the conclusions of the folks below. The men below are both qualified to speak, by education and experience, and they speak quality as determined by measuring their words through discernment and reason. They are not speaking from new and ‘interesting’ ideologies or currently popular ideas, they speak truths based upon the Bible, history, and ideas long tested by many reasonable and intelligent people.

Do not follow the world (Romans 12:2), even if it comes in the form of a church. If a church is following the world – it is probably wrong.

Follow the links below long before you read a list of ‘recommended books’. Books often are written by people that quote people that cite ideas that are unproven and unsound. No matter how ‘recommended’ many of these books may be by the crowd, you have to evaluate the intent before the content – you have to understand the ideas the books are based upon and where they come from and what the real purpose of the book has. If you fail to do this, if you read these books and follow the crowd without rightly applying Biblical principles you will be made a fool. If you blindly follow leaders that tell you how to think and tell you not to question but just to ‘act and serve’ you will become nothing more than a Menshevik (a useful idiot to the Marxist – their term, not mine.)

Late addition to list, look at the The Statement on Social Justice & the Gospel. Read the statement, argue from Biblical principles that the statement is wrong. Would your pastor sign this based upon what he has been saying from the pulpit? If not, ask yourself what he is using to justify his words if not the Bible. If you doubt the assertions, look at the resources on the SJ&G site. Why do these real, authentic and concerned Christians disagree so firmly with what progressive churches are saying? Look at the site, read the statement, look at the resources below, check the facts, read you Bible, pray – You already know what right looks like, you are just so far in to your social group you are unwilling to see it.

  1. Watch Dr. Thomas Sowell, the brightest economist of our day explain why all the troubles on the street that people are rioting and protesting about are really public policy and economic problems, not racism.

2. John MacArthur and an expository review of the Biblical explanation for the current troubles.

3. Watch Voddie Baucham explain what Cultural Marxism is, the real objective behind the crisis. (Optional) read this Washington Times editorial about progressive pastors supporting anti-biblical organizations.

4. Hear Voddie Baucham explain why the racialism of the current crisis is really Ethnic Gnosticism and anti-Biblical.

5. (Optional) if you are brave, read ‘Cultural Marxism, Antonio Gramsci, and The Frankfurt School

6. If you do not believe or understand that the bad and dangerous ideologies of Postmodernism and Cultural Marxism have infected the church, watch the Founder’s Ministries presentation below.

7. If you are confused as to why your megachurch pastor is not saying anything like the pastors above and why they have told you to stop having opinions and just listen to the leaders and act, watch Chris Rosebrough’s presentation below (open up the PowerPoint that goes with the lecture first).

8. (Optional) If you do not believe Chris I suggest you check his work. Begin at the Leadership Network ( the organization that was foundational in the creation of your church) read what they say of Peter Drucker. Google and read Druker’s own words about social change and why he got involved with churches (hint: it was not about Christ). Google “Peter Drucker Cult’, there are numerous books papers and articles about leadership cult etc, even people that applied his management theories realize the cult-like elements. Look at these [1], [2], [3], [4], [5], [6], [7], [8], [9], [10] for some examples of this in the church, there are many more. Think about how preachers in these churches place themselves in every sermon, other preachers do not do this – that is part of the cult of leadership, it is intentional. Go find where your Bible says that ‘truth can only be found in community’ (in context and in agreement with the whole Scripture), ignoring the Biblical principles of the authority of conscience. Ask why preachers in these churches are so fast to follow the WORLD in this time instead of rightly applying the Bible – where are they leading you? Are these false teachers? (Matthew 24:24)

9. See Dr. Stephen Hicks explain Postmodernism (the stuff that fills up those books on that recommended list you are provided continually)

10. (Optional) a discussion of America’s New Religion…and How To Stay Christian.

11. Read deeply about China’s Cultural Revolution, dig for facts, not just Wikipedia, and much of the muted stories that appear high in Google searches – go deeper to find the true and horrible story. Read how 100 million people died and countless others were tortured and imprisoned and an entire nation impoverished because of the same sorts of radical ideas and ideologies at play in our world right now. See below for one example.

12. A description of the Marxist plan from 1966

13. I know nothing about the folks that produced the video, but I have been familiar with the lecturer Yuri for years, he is the real deal – the video would be much better without the commentary.

If you watch and read all of the above and more, from folks that apply a Biblical understanding of these issues in a way that is tried and true and tested over the generations you will come to understand a few things about the world. You will see that some folks you have come to trust are wrong and have led you astray.

Don’t listen to me – but also don’t let others tell you how you are supposed to see all of this. There are fools and charlatans out there and many bad ideologies. If you listen to them you forfeit your inheritance to a good future and damn your children to suffer under the mess you went along with the crowd in creating.

Be a true man and woman of God, Be brave, seek truth, think for yourself, don’t follow the crowd, don’t follow charlatans!


Blackstone’s Influence on American Political Philosophy

The question before us, ‘how did the writings of Blackstone influence American political philosophy, and what evidence for this influence is seen in Tocqueville's observations of American political life?’ is perhaps best quantified with qualifiers such as influence ‘upon whom’, ‘for how long’, ‘to what extent’. If we accept a genealogy of ideas from Blackstone’s conception of positive law reinforcing and being built upon convention – A Burkean view – we might argue that his influence was temporary and transient at best. If on the other hand, we assume, as many now do[1], that the jurisprudence of positive law – as presently conceived in legal positivism separate from morality - is one driver of political philosophy, then the argument could be plausibly made that Blackstone indirectly influences American political philosophy today, albeit not in a manner true to Blackstone’s conception of the law. This paper presupposes that Blackstone’s intended influence, as surmised from the breadth of his writing, was limited in reach and duration while the influence of ideas of others, tenuously derived from Blackstone’s principles[2], have been and are profound. Therefore, Blackstone’s influence on American political philosophy is foundational because both those that interpret him as he intended to be read and those that read in his works a transformative power within positive law to shape culture and society, absent convention, rely upon axioms established by Blackstone.

Blackstone begins, conducts, and ends his work with an acknowledgment of the foundation of the law, situated below the divine law, rooted in natural law and a creature of the accidents and circumstances of the people it is designed for. The ‘first and primary purpose’ of the law is to maintain and regulate absolute rights and in the case of those beneficiaries of British heritage, personal security, personal liberty, and private property.[3] Blackstone dismisses in his theory the notion of the original state of nature as having any contemporary relevance. He conceives of the circumstance of man where law forevermore requires a state necessary to enforce it and the impossibility of the destruction of law by law.[4] The foundational principles upon which law must be drawn in his view is custom or convention. He places a high value on deference to prior generations.[5] To Blackstone, the law is not reason, he is opposed to the “rage of modern improvement”[6] – the attempt to template reason onto law to achieve idealized ends. Blackstone saw the progression of the law as a slow process, over time, gradual and relying heavily upon and firstly on the decisions, customs, and conventions of the past. The view of jurisprudence held by Blackstone was best articulated by Burke as ‘a contract between the living, the dead and those yet to be born.’[7]

Numerous previous works have detailed the influence of William Blackstone on the generation of men that framed[8] the U.S. Constitution. Certainly, these men widely read Blackstone, as did many aspiring lawyers and politicians for subsequent generations. The question is not, did he influence them, the relevant question is what parts of Blackstone did they carry forward. We might, as many are apt to do, read the words of these men themselves to discern that answer. This is a wholly inadequate approach. If we begin by reading The Federalist, we would admittedly be reading a document of propaganda[9] intended to sway public opinion.[10] A work that, in more than one entry, contained examples of historical ignorance or perhaps outright deception.[11] If we are to truly understand the impact that Blackstone had on these men, we must examine their contemporary critics, what did they argue against in the proclamations in The Federalist that have proven true? We must look to the generation immediately following the framers to the political debates and to men like Calhoun that warned against the rising manifestation of ideological deficiencies previously warned about by the Antifederalists, to Tocqueville and his observations and warnings and perhaps finally to Lincoln and his war[12] that solidified and ‘corrected’ deficiencies of the Federalist ideology into the very Leviathan-like central state the Federalist promised would never arise.

Hamilton and Madison argued in The Federalist against generally held common sense notions that; only state governments could be free and republican, large countries turn to despotism and they are warlike. The opposing view observed that it is impossible to avoid these circumstances because the people must be vigilant, patriotic, and informed.[13] One can argue that every argument of those originally opposed to the Federalist position has materialized, and likely will only manifest more.[14] Their subtle references to equality over convention, natural law, subsidiarity, and the common good were a drastic departure from the prescriptions of Blackstone.

Tocqueville observed that passion for equality was compatible with both tyranny and liberty and democratic principles unchecked by morality and virtue could lead to unprecedented levels of tyranny.[15]  He saw the inevitable problems of the ‘march toward equality’, begun subtly with a few words in the Declaration of Independence, woven into the centralizing nature of the Federalist ideal of the Constitution. These notions were completed twenty-five years after Tocqueville's observation by war and a ‘second revolution’ by Lincoln. Materialism, mediocrity, domesticity (de-masculinization), and isolation were the dangers of the equalizing and centralizing plan of the Federalist. Tocqueville foresaw the tyranny of the majority that John C. Calhoun attempted to thwart[16], and that no breakthrough in education could raise the poor to the level of sufficient knowledge to rule.[17] To thwart these dangers Tocqueville saw the need for subsidiarity and morality. ‘Democratic expedients’ such as local self-government, a free and independent church as a societal institution, independent judiciary, and associations were required.[18] Finally, in agreement with Burke and Blackstone, Aquinas, and Aristotle, he saw freedom as impossible without morality.[19]

It was the Jacksonian democratic dream that Tocqueville observed in 1835, and warned of the potential dangers of. A few short years later, in 1842, it was Calhoun that warned of an ‘American political nightmare’.

As the Government approaches nearer and nearer to the one absolute and single power, the will of the greater number, its actions will become more and more disturbed and irregular; faction, corruption, and anarchy, will more and more abound; patriotism will daily decay, and affection and reverence for the Government grow weaker and weaker, until the final shock occurs, when the system will rush to ruin, and the sword take the place of the law and Constitution. [20]

It was Lincoln that completed the centralization and transformation beginning in 1861 in what George P. Fletcher observes as a second constitution after 1865. One based on “organic nationhood, equality of all persons, and popular democracy” concepts in opposition to those of our first constitution which promulgated “peoplehood as a voluntary association, individual freedom, and republicanism”.[21] These new principles align very well with the foundation and words in The Federalist, yet at a base level, they are completely detached from the whole of Blackstone’s philosophy.

Thus, it can be argued the Federalists were wrong, the very things they denied, and their opponents predicted occurred.  They were wrong because they applied only a positivist interpretation of Blackstone and ignored his reliance on foundational matters; the source of law[22], the importance of subsidiary institutions, of checks and balances, convention and ultimately of the role of morality and of institutions that engender morality.  This was an ideology based upon defective philosophy[23], ultimately it was deceit we have been warned to avoid (Colossians 2:8). Blackstone’s influence is still immense, legal positivism is derived in a perverted way from his philosophy; this, of course, does not comport with his meaning as it lacks the prudence in the spirit of the law that Montesquieu, Blackstone, Burke, and even Tocqueville would prescribe. There is little else he might recognize or approve of in our system.

@onlyBarryLClark


[1] Cotterrell, Roger. “Common Law Approaches to the Relationship between Law and Morality.” Ethical Theory and Moral Practice, vol. 3, no. 1, 2000, pp. 9–26. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/27504116.

[2] ‘Tenuously derived principles’ here is meant to imply that if one strips from Blackstone his conception of the foundation of the law, the relationship of the civic and common law to natural, revealed and divine law and retains only his principles of the progressiveness of the law one arrives at legal positivism.

[3] Strauss, Leo, Cropsey, Joseph. History of Political Philosophy. United States: University of Chicago Press, 2012. p. 623.

[4] Ibid. pp. 626-627.

[5] Ibid. p. 629.

[6] Ibid. 630.

[7] Ibid. 697.

[8] As Burke stated, ‘the dead are not founders’ (Strauss, Cropsey., p. 697), America was certainly not ‘founded’ in 1776 nor 1789. The Constitution framed and ratified in 1789 merely formed a central government limited in powers by the sovereign states.

[9] Coenen, Dan., “A Rhetoric for Ratification: The Argument of The Federalist and its Impact on Constitutional Interpretation” Duke Law Journal, Vol. 56:469. https://scholarship.law.duke.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1303&context=dlj. p. 472.

[10] Strauss, Cropsey., p. 659.

[11] J.R. Pole. The Federalist. Hackett Publishing, Cambridge,  2005. p. 87. See Hamilton in Number Sixteen, “I confess I am at a loss to discover what temptations the persons entrusted with the administration of the general government could ever feel to divest the states of the authorities of that description.” Such usurpations were amply observed in history prior to this statement and have been rampant in U.S. history since ratification.

[12] See previous argument, Clark, Barry, “The First War of the New Order: How Rule of Law and the Form of Government Changed in America's Second Revolution” (February 7, 2016). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2728971 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2728971.

[13] Strauss, Cropsey., p. 663.

[14] See previous argument, Clark, Barry, “From Radical Progressivism to Authoritarianism” (December 19, 2019). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3506918 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3506918.

[15] Strauss, Cropsey., p. 763.

[16] Kirk Russell, “Calhoun Vindicated”, https://calhouninstitute.com/calhoun-vindicated/, Southern Partisan Magazine, Volume III, Number 1 (1983)

[17] Strauss, Cropsey., 770.

[18] Ibid. 773.

[19] Ibid. 779.

[20] Cheek, H. Lee. Calhoun and Popular Rule: The Political Theory of the Disquisition and Discourse. United States: University of Missouri Press, 2004. p. 156. Calhoun, J.C., Speech in Support of the Veto Power” 28 February, 1842.

[21] Fletcher, G P. 2003. Our Secret Constitution: How Lincoln Redefined American Democracy. Oxford University Press. https://books.google.com/books?id=P5VSyor50fIC.

[22] Tamanaha, Brian Z., “The Contemporary Relevance of Legal Positivism”. St. John's Legal Studies Research Paper No. 07-0065; Australian Journal of Legal Philosophy, Vol. 32, 2007. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=960280

[23] See previous argument, Clark, Barry, “The Rise of Absurdity in Western Philosophical and Political Views” (January 22, 2020). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3523995 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3523995

Coronavirus and Civil Liberties

In a recent Newsweek piece, an article typical of so many, left and right, that incorrectly view the philosophical questions related to Coronavirus. Painting the struggle as one of liberty versus safety, the freedom of the individual versus the power of the centralized state the article misses entirely the question of the implications of such a struggle. It also ignores the question of what role should other important institutions be playing and to mitigate evil, and suffering as well as encourage citizens to use freedom ethically and government to act as little as required.


 

A recent Newsweek article[i] is representative of the much of the zeitgeist of the current state of American politics, left and right. A view of Natural rights, shaped by the Lockean view, have come to dominate both sides of the political spectrum, manifesting over separate issues, but deriving from the same root. Roger Parloff’s piece approaches the issue from the left-liberal progressive position; he is concerned with voting rights and abortion. One could easily find a piece approaching gun control[ii] or religious freedom deriving from the same flawed foundation. All such appeals begin with errors found in Locke’s conception of the state of nature, an incorrect view of natural law. Essential, both right and left approach these issues from a form of Pelagianism[iii] and an extreme focus on the individual; these approaches assume man alone can consistently choose good without divine aid and that the needs and rights of the individual are equal to the importance of the community and tradition and convention. Such a view is of course theologically flawed (James 2:8) but also is contrary to our history and traditions. It is a binary view that places the law and the central government’s role at odds with the individual, it completely ignores the historical importance of other institutions -subsidiarity - and the permanent things of a culture. It is also an appeal to an originalist view, left and right, that holds certain presuppositions about the de facto versus de jure nature of our system and the rule of law, premises that history calls into question.[iv]

Parloff begins his article with an assumption, that coronavirus is an “extreme crisis” that creates a conflict between safety and liberty. In this, he demonstrates two errors. First, it is impossible to know that Coronavirus is a crisis in and of itself because we simply do not know the nature of the thing.[v] Second, his assumption that a liberty/safety conflict must exist demonstrates the fundamental flaw of the ideologies of liberal societies. He goes on to equate delaying primaries as an affront to voters rights, prisoners being denied a ‘right to life’ because they may become ill, he conflates basic triage strategies with discrimination against disabled people and finally, the curtailment of medically ending the life of babies in the womb as an afront to human rights.

The conflict between liberty and security is a problem only insofar as the Western liberal democracies have abandoned the partnerships for the common-good Aristotle wrote about in the opening to Politics.[vi] This, compounded with the abandonment of subsidiarity, of institutions that ought to have co-equal roles with the central government in the nurturing and maintenance of culture and people, has led to the conflict Parloff and so many others see.[vii]

Looking to history, the problems that Parloff highlights would be considered absurd. The individual is a member of a community, that is his natural state.[viii] His community is in partnership with others for the common good. John C. Calhoun warned repeatedly that a strong central government without subsidiarity would invariably lead to these sorts of conflicts.[ix] Thus we find ourselves faced with an event we cannot define, partially because we listen to sophists, in a crisis we do not understand, leaving us to discuss balancing liberty with security while applying no philosophic principles other than flawed concepts of man and nature – individuality and fear.[x]

Parloff is not alone in his mistakes and errors, the central theme of all such pieces is their failure to understand that liberalism, progressivism, and individualism is bound to end in authoritarianism and tyranny.[xi] He has framed the wrong question and has failed to ask what role other institutions should play in an event like this to ensure common-good[xii] and morality and virtue at the local level. Instead, he assumes that the individual and the central government are the only actors, an assumption that if true, will invariably lead to the individual losing.

[i] See, Parloff, Roger., “The Coronavirus Crisis Threatens 2020 Voting Rights, Abortion, Other Civil Liberties, Watchdogs Say”, Newsweek, Monday, April 06, 2020. https://www.newsweek.com/coronavirus-crisis-threatens-2020-voting-rights-abortion-other-civil-liberties-watchdogs-say-1496304

[ii] See as one example, Fernadez, Stacey,. “Texas gun stores are essential businesses, may stay open during the pandemic, attorney general says”, The Texas Tribune, March 27, 2020. https://www.texastribune.org/2020/03/27/texas-ag-says-gun-stories-are-essential-businesses-during-coronavirus/

[iii] See, “The Pelagian Controversy”, https://www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/pelagian-controversy/

[iv] See, McDonald, Forrest., “Was the Fourteenth Amendment Constitutionally Adopted?”,  The Annotated Secessionist Papers, Second Edition, Abbeville: The Calhoun Institute, 2018, https://books.google.com/books?id=-jVhDwAAQBAJ. pp. 41-60. Dr. McDonald presents an argument that the 14th Amendment was not ratified in accordance with law or convention. This one amendment is the foundation of much left-liberal, progressive and libertarian-conservative ideology yet, it does not comport with de jure law.

[v] It is impossible, simply because the data related to COVID19 is all over the map and ‘experts’ have been wrong at each step to know what the true nature of this virus is and the implications of that. Marcus Aurelius warned in Mediations, Book X, “Focus on what nature demands, as if you were governed by that alone. Then do that, and accept it, unless your nature as a living being would be degraded by it. Then focus on what that nature demands, and accept that too—unless your nature as a rational being would be degraded by it.” The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius. United Kingdom, Routledge, 1894. https://www.google.com/books/edition/The_Meditations_of_Marcus_Aurelius/5qcAEZZibB0C.

[vi] Strauss, Leo, Cropsey, Joseph. History of Political Philosophy. United States, University of Chicago Press, 2012. p. 134. https://www.google.com/books/edition/History_of_Political_Philosophy/E7mScxst9UoC.

[vii] Organized religion, State and local government, business and trade organizations, fraternal and community based organizations – all have had a traditional and historic role in both protecting and nurturing communities and people locally but in allowing people, through voluntary organization to take care of themselves. Liberalism in the west has replaces all f this with Government and the individual.

[viii] Strauss, Leo, Cropsey, Joseph. History of Political Philosophy. p. 121.

[ix] Cheek, H. Lee. Calhoun and Popular Rule: The Political Theory of the Disquisition and Discourse. United States: University of Missouri Press, 2004. p. 156. https://amzn.to/2w3agBE

[x] See previous argument, “How Locke and Hobbes Were Wrong: State of Nature”, http://barryclark.info/how-locke-and-hobbes-were-wrong-state-of-nature/.

[xi] See previous argument, “From Radical Progressivism to Authoritarianism”, http://barryclark.info/from-radical-progressivism-to-authoritarianism/ or Clark, Barry, From Radical Progressivism to Authoritarianism (December 19, 2019). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3506918 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3506918

[xii] See previous argument, “Government for the Common Good”, https://calhouninstitute.com/government-for-the-common-good/

Natural and Revealed Law and Originalism

Coronavirus has taught us much about our culture, form of government and neighbors. Our system does not engender morality and the common-good as virtues. It is perhaps time conservatives reconsidered originalism.

Natural and Revealed law have very little influence on the dominant political philosophy in the U.S. Our political philosophy, an evolved form of Classical Liberalism[i], in the aggregate is shaped primarily by modernist and postmodern ideologies that derive from flawed continental philosophy. Only one of the political margins is shaped or influenced by concepts of Natural and Revealed Law – with little practical effect. Therefore, the influence of these concepts is minimal at most because the ideologies that have developed from Classical Liberalism either deny universals or define justice in terms that simply do not rely upon Natural or Revealed law.

Classical Liberalism, as defined and conceptualized by the two competing dominant ideologies (conservatism and left-liberalism), is the de facto political philosophy in the U.S. Both rely upon a form of reverence for Constitutional originalism. By necessity, this view holds the ‘Founders’ in a revered light and prefers the Federalists position.[ii] This position paints as salutary the revolt against tradition and convention that comprised the true founding of America nearly two hundred years before the birth of the United States.[iii] This is the core of the primary political philosophy in the U.S.,[iv] insofar as one might argue a political philosophy exists at all.[v]

The only remaining influence that Natural and Revealed Law has on political philosophy is only tangentially, on the margins and in some specific issues; abortion and marriage being prime examples.[vi] Few can explain how general revelation points to the truth of these positions. Without the aid of logic, reason, and philosophy, the growing minority is incapable of being understood by the growing majority that holds to no truth. Thus, even at the margins Natural and Revealed law have a shrinking practical effect.[vii]

Augustine argued that the temporal and the spiritual constantly intersect and that philosophy provides the common ground whereby the interaction between believers and nonbelievers can dialogue.[viii] This presupposes s functional philosophy. However, modernism and postmodernism have rendered philosophy impotent.[ix] Augustine held Plato in high regard but acknowledged the inability of pagan philosophers to effect a just society.[x] Augustine’s prescription for human government relied, overly so, on “eternal law…always and everywhere”[xi] History and events have proven man to fallen (Romans 8:3) to hear and abide by the eternal law alone.

Aquinas distinguishes between faith and reason in such a way that a failure of philosophy does not necessitate a failure of theology.[xii] He saw civil society not as deriving from nature[xiii] but as an integral part of the nature of man.[xiv] In his conception, the best form of government would comprise elements of monarchy, aristocracy, and polity.[xv]

The primary framers of the U.S. Constitution valued a theoretical, idealized, Neoplatonic conception of government. The Federalists in their writing demonstrated either a complete lack of comprehension of history and human nature or, perhaps more nefariously, a lie. Consider Hamilton in The Federalist number Seventeen discussing fears the central government would usurp local and state powers, abolishing subsidiarity. “I confess I am at a loss to discover what temptations the persons entrusted with the administration of the general government could ever feel to divest the states of the authorities of that description.”[xvi] History before and after 1787 proves that statement wrong, and Hamilton knew or should have realized this fact.

Originalism, a harkening back to the intent of the ‘Founders’ by conservatives is a plea to Neoplatonic idealism, a system that depends on citizens being good.[xvii] It is not sustainable, it lacks mechanism that ensure morality and the common good[xviii] as a virtue.[xix] Under such a system, Revealed and Natural Law have little practical effect or influence.

@onlyBarryLClark


[i] Classical Liberalism was flawed at the start and necessarily had to end in an abandonment of reverence for the Divine as it began focused on the power of man’s reason.

[ii] See, M. Diamond. Democracy and the Federalist: A Reconsideration of the Framers’ Intent, The American Political Science Review, Vol. 53, No. 1 (Mar., 1959), pp. 52-68. DOI: https://www.jstor.org/stable/1951730. For an example of ‘conservative’ Straussian arguments that synthesize the Framing and the Declaration of Independence.

[iii] We must first acknowledge that “America” had numerous founding’s, each with different goals, philosophical outlooks and worldviews. The U.S. was founded in 1787, but America has a much more diverse and longer history. Regions, states and the people that lived in each often had very different views of the role of Natural and Reveals Law in the political process. We must acknowledge that not all Framers held to the political philosophy. The debates before Ratification and until 1850, have influence that resonates to some degree with a minority view that persists. We must therefore acknowledge that The Federalist Papers were public relations documents, propaganda if your will, designed to appeal to support. They are inadequate to inform us of much of the intent of the Federalists themselves as they contain contradictions and, in some cases, outright misrepresentations and falsehoods (Federalist #68 for example). We must acknowledge the fundamental change in the nature of the Federal compact in 1861-1877. This change solidified Platonism as the dominant political philosophy in the U.S.

  For instance, most Americans accept that the “right to bear arms” is enshrined in the U.S. Constitution. Americans in the early eighteenth century would have understood this to be a state issue. Most would have understood that the concept of that right and others was a result of ancient British liberties rather than a Lockean social contract and a Federal constitution. 

[iv] See, “Government for the Common Good”, https://calhouninstitute.com/government-for-the-common-good/ for the arguments related to the presuppositions that support the argument presented here.

[v] Deviation only exists on the margins, paleoconservatism on the right and socialism on the left. The vast middle majority is shaped much more by ideology than true philosophy. Where issues that ought to be informed by Natural and Revealed law are debated in the public square these matters are shaped and corrupted by flawed notions deriving from events prior to the Framing and after. Because of our diverse founding coupled with the opposing views of political philosophy that were prominent until the mid-nineteenth century, and resident in some local and state laws until the mid-twentieth century, many Americans hold conceptions of politics that are best described and philosophically dissonant. This dissonance manifests for instance in ‘conservative’ Christians in the last several years that have accepted and fully supported national security policies that abandoned entirely the Thomistic concept of jus ad bellum as well as policies and programs that expand the power and scope of the central government. “Conservatives” cling to rights but attach the origin of those rights to a Ciceronian jurisprudence, not to ancient liberties and accidents of history as Burke might suggest. The left has essentially abandoned entirely the notion of universals as a basis for justice. It has abandoned the Lockean aspects of Classical Liberalism for a Hobbesian view. However, despite the subtle differences in the majority middle, these ideological divides share a Platonic foundation.

[vi] Even on those issues, the approach, and perhaps the understanding of most that support a position that aligns with Divine Law typically do so more ideologically than philosophically.

[vii] See, “Natural Rights and the First Amendment”, The Yale Law Journal, Volume 127, Number 2, 2017-1018, https://www.yalelawjournal.org/article/natural-rights-and-the-first-amendment. For an argument that the Framers held presuppositions about rights harkening to Natural Rights and a distinction between the Federalist and Anti-Federalist position of Common-law as a source of illumination of the Natural law.

[viii] Cropsey, Joseph. History of Political Philosophy. United States: University of Chicago Press, 2012. p. 177.

[ix] See polemic argument, http://www.openculture.com/2018/02/noam-chomsky-explains-whats-wrong-with-postmodern-philosophy-french-intellectuals.html

[x] Strauss and Cropsey, pp. 180-181.

[xi] Ibid. p. 184.

[xii] Ibid. 252.

[xiii] See argument why the Lokean/Hobbesian concept of the state of nature is wrong, “How Locke and Hobbes Were Wrong: State of Nature”, http://barryclark.info/how-locke-and-hobbes-were-wrong-state-of-nature/

[xiv] Strauss and Cropsey, p. 253.

[xv] Ibid. 257.

[xvi] J.R. Pole. The Federalist. Hackett Publishing, Cambridge,  2005. p. 87

[xvii] Tocqueville, Alexis de., Zunz, Olivier. Democracy in America. New York: Library of America, 2004. See, “Liberty cannot be established without morality, nor morality without faith.”

[xviii] Erler, E.J. The Problem of the Public Good in “The Federalist”, Polity, Vol. 13, No. 4 (Summer, 1981), pp. 649-667. https://www.jstor.org/stable/3234644

[xix] See, “Beyond Originalism”, https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/03/common-good-constitutionalism/609037/ and “Government for the Common Good”, https://calhouninstitute.com/government-for-the-common-good/.

Pandemic, Liberty, Justice and the Future

I came into 2020 intending not to watch much news, not to blog, to stay away from Twitter and to spend time reading, reflecting and thinking. But, how could one avoid the crisis after crisis that we have 'endured', impeachment, the 'threat' of WWIII, and more? In mid to late January I was watching foreign news wondering why nobody was talking about the Coronavirus event in China. Tucker Carlson it seems was the first and only major media figure to talk about it. I do not watch cable news so I was unaware that he was doing so in January until recently. At the time, I saw the headlines from the other 'trusted' news sources; "just the flu", "not that bad" etc. A local doctor, an epidemiologist from Augusta University, was quoted in a 28 January Government Technology article parroting the same stuff; "won't be bad here or Europe", "I don't think it will be that big of a deal here, I really don't.", 'no need to freak out and cancel travel plans'. he was not alone, Dr. Drew, the TV guy said the same thing.

I am not an epidemiologist, nor a doctor. However, if Communist China locks down an entire city of millions and then a region and it is too big to cover up - it is a big deal. I am also no longer 'in the government', I do not have access to classified intelligence data and have seen no briefings on this. However, I know how these things work. If epidemiologists at research hospitals, TV doctors and, news personalities that were too busy foaming at the mouth creating panic over war with Iran and the impeachment fiasco fine, we can accept those people have no credibility. But the intelligence people knew. The National Security Council knew and the President knew (but he was occupied with impeachment). If I knew it was a big deal, just watching open-source reports, many people knew.

Acting Locally

I will admit, and the record is there on Twitter to see, I cannot hide it, I aggressively 'attacked' other people that also should have known, beginning the week of 9 March. I berated the president of George Mason University to implement online classes. My daughter was in DC studying this semester. There were just a couple hundred cases in the US when I started pinging GMU's president. I began reaching out to local organizations like the Master's Tournament, reminding them it was careless and negligent to continue to plan that event. I pinged the president of Augusta University, one of my city's largest employers demanding he implement online classes and telework. I did these things as a father and a citizen of my community - did not want to see it in Augusta. Organizations and institutions taking preventative steps that cost them nothing really was just smart. These people should have been executing a plan long before folks started yelling at them. (I realize this cost the masters and the local city millions of dollars, but I suspected they would have had no choice - acting sooner probably saved them lawsuits)

We all should have been aware and acting locally. We all should have ignored any quacks that were saying things contrary to what obvious evidence showed us. If it was too big for China to hide, it was big!

But We Failed

Americans listened to news outlets that lie, sensationalize stories, create panic after panic and in the case of Coronavirus, downplayed the entire thing because they were so worried about carrying on with the normal news cycle of partisanship. We listened to 'experts' that misled us. We failed to listen to that voice of common-sense inside us that said take a look at what was going on. In late February Americans were still traveling. Some universities failed to call their students home, only later to ask the US Government to go get them (foolishness). In New York City the Health Director urged New Yorkers to attend Lunar New Year events in Chinatown. Jet setting celebrities flew to resorts and then through major cities, a process we now see was a major source of transmission and spread.

By the week of 9 March, few had begun to pay attention. The WHO had declared Coronavirus a pandemic, we were beginning to see the news reports from Italy, but employers, institutions and individuals continued on as normal. Thousands of youngsters went to spring break destinations, without a care or concern.  On 12 March President Trump made an Oval Office address and by 13 March many organizations began to react. Individually, we still acted not as citizens of a commonwealth that should be acting for the common good - but as selfish, careless individuals. We experienced the toilet paper apocalypse as greedy individuals bought up more then they will use a year. People still went out, socialized, attended large gatherings and went on oblivious.

All of that is history. Did we ever have to come to a point that we 'needed' to shut down the entire country? I suspect not. Not if:

  • Fools had stopped traveling, in a time when common sense and decency indicate it is a bad idea.
  • We had closed international travel sooner and tighter. Yes, Trump closed travel from China quickly, but there were many ways in. To do it right would have required an opposition party that was willing to work for the country occasionally and a media that did not scream racist at everything that goes on.
  • Some companies could have initiated remote work sooner (this is 2020). No need to shut the entire economy, just send some folks home - reduce.

Perhaps it never needed to get to the point of the shutdown with just those few simple steps. What we know is all those media people that either paid no attention for two months began to scream for action.

How Did We Get Here

How did it get from 'no big deal' to 'the world is ending, shut it down and give everyone money'.

Trump has some blame for this, a lot of blame. He said some stupid things about it early on. He was essentially, non-plussed. He repeats now, often, that he inherited a flawed system. If I were The President, seeing what I saw in January, people would have been fired and things changed, long before the last week. This assumes he knew, and that assumes the people that should have told him did. Again, many heads need to roll, either in the intelligence services or in doctors that somehow convinced him that the intelligence was wrong.

The Democrats have much to answer for. I watched all of the impeachment hearings. There was nothing impeachable there. Trump is as dirty and an uncivil as who he appears to be, and not unlike almost all of the politicians sitting in Congress. That was a silly, sad, tragic waste of time and resources. And, dangerous it seems. One cannot imagine that the entire process did not place stress on Trump, divert his attention from important matters and perhaps even make him cautious to act immediately afterward. Those people, those smug, clueless, hateful people have much to answer for in this. We did not have to get to this point if everyone in DC was doing their jobs and not playing games of stupid.

The media has much to answer for. Organizations that went from no big deal to fix this on a dime cannot be trusted. These people were looking for their next big crisis and scandal to attach to Trump. They were not doing their jobs. They cannot be trusted. Perhaps Americans will come to realize that.

Shutting the economy down, telling business they cannot operate, telling businesses the government will 'knock on your door' if you have supplies we need, activating the Defense Production act - these are big things, draconian things that set a terrible precedent. Do not let that pass by without reflection. These are all things tyrannical governments do and we have just set the precedent that is is just fine to implement these actions. If Obama had implemented half of that, many that have read this far would literally be up in arms - very literary speaking, UP IN ARMS.

Despite those draconian measures...All of that and fools still are out and about and spreading! (clueless children that likely need a dictator to take care of them)

Do not delude yourself - this leads to tyranny, we have set the stage.

So how did we get here?

You and I.

  • We sat by, some of us cheering the entire impeachment debacle. Our government has work to do, and no matter how much we dislike the results of an election and no matter how much a guy in office offends us it is stupid and dangerous to interfere in the government doing the things it is supposed to do - it has consequences.
  • We elect stupid, corrupt, incomplete people, from both parties.
  • We do not act like responsible citizens, from jet-setting celebrities and rich flying around the world as 'spreaders' to folks chasing cruise line deals in a time when prudence says stay home, shame on you all.
  • We only care about life when it might be our life! College kids on spring break - don't care. Governor Cuomo screaming about ventilators and saying the economy is not worth a human life, but deeming abortion clinics that kill babies an essential medical service...yeah.
  • Most Americans are in debt and cannot afford to go without a paycheck. Who shall we blame for that? Shame on you, especially you 'conservatives' now screaming for government payouts.
  • We have abandoned the faith of our fathers - we are a nation that believes in nothing but self, or the group we 'identify' with. Shame on us all.

Basically, we are fat, soft, lazy, weak, immoral and stupid. We got here because there are consequences to being fat, soft, weak, immoral and stupid. We listen to liars, we elect scoundrels and we waste the bounty that we produce.

Since August I have been working on a book that argues that classical liberalism has failed, precisely because of the nature of man as demonstrated over the last several years. Classical liberalism was built upon flawed premises and assumptions. The last several years have proven that so, but never more acutely than right now. The events of the last week have convinced me not to complete that book - why, what is the point, who would read it and who that read it would take steps? If I continue to write anything at all it will be directed at the Zoomer generation, to tell them how wrong this all is so that they may fix it in forty years when the crazy idealistic, socialist millennials begin dying off.

But

The die is cast. We are going to create billions of dollars of Federal debt to pay for the collective stupidity of us all. I admit, we have to do this now, failure to pay the proles their bread allowance would only have a bad end. How did we come here, to this place? We have come full circle, we have laid all the foundations for tyranny, socialism and authoritarianism. You know what? Maybe that is what we need, we have proven to be too childish, and stupid to maintain a free Republic.

 

If my tone in this post was polemic and pissed off - well I am pretty polemic and pissed off right now. I told my daughter in December I was going to evaluate why I had taken to scowling so much, well I see know I was not wrong. There is a lot to scowl about. I suspect that this will not win me many fans, but I have already used all of my good words long before this. It really does not matter what is said now.

We will get out of this, the virus will pass and eventually many will go back to work - but the damage is done. The precedence is set, the debt is there, the loss of income is there, and people will die that did not need to die - but it will pass. Things will never be the same again, there will return a semblance of the old, but everything has changed and we are on a very different trajectory now.

History will judge Trump as a baffoon, a man that stumbled arrogantly into this and then created systems that laid the foundation for the tyranny to come, they will see the Democrats as feckless fools; the media as incompetent and us as peasants that found ourselves incapable of self-governance.

Take care of you and your own!

@onlyBarryLClark

 

Something is Coming

TLDR: My daughter informed me that the text below was dark and gloomy. My wife said it was more positive than she expected. YMMV. Bottom line. If the stimulus works and Coronavirus ends soon - we will all still be a little poorer. If COVID-19 lasts longer or is more intense, no stimulus package can avert economic troubles for long. Be smart, start thinking about the next phase now. Take steps with your family, community and church. Do things now, and make decisions now that will make life easier for you over the next 18 months. There is no point in doom and gloom. Americans have historically risen to the occasion. Get moving.

 

I 'knew' what was coming in January. I regularly watch Foreign news media and saw the real situation with Coronavirus, I was tame in the post because - nobody cared then, we were still mired in talk of impeachment.

Something is coming, everything just might change. I am not a prophet. It is not my intention to predict the future, nor to spread gloom. I admit, my bias leans toward considering the worst-case scenario, but I am also pragmatic. I spent much of my life parsing intelligence data, applying risk assessments to complex military operations and reading history as an avocation. However, I am no more qualified than all the fools talking on the internet right now.

Despite that, I believe there is a distinct possibility I am right about much I will say below. Take my words from what they are and consider the source, but please, if you have arrived here, at least consider them. Let us begin as one should begin evaluating any operation, with facts and assumptions.

Facts

  1. (F1)People in the U.S., many of them at least, are afraid.
  2. (F2)The scale of the shutdown, economically speaking is unprecedented.
  3. (F3) The supply chain for regular and essential items is strained.
  4. (F4) Increasing the money supply faster than the growth in real output will cause inflation - i.e. the bailout packages.
  5. (F5) Coronavirus is just that, a virus. Modern medicine has proven deficient in creating drugs that effectively treat viruses.
  6. (F6) Some economists predicted the U.S would enter a recessionary period in early 2020, this had nothing to do with Coronavirus. If their facts are correct the market and economy were already vulnerable.
  7. (F7) Depression is a period of recession and inflation.
  8. (F8) Some economists and financial experts now predict a global depression.  Goldman Sachs is forecasting a 24% drop in second-quarter GDP.

Assumptions

  1. (A1)When people are afraid, some of them can become dangerous.
  2. (A2)The shutdown can't continue long, Americans will either just refuse, or the government will take steps to force compliance.
  3. (A3) Americans are not eating or consuming more than normal, we are simply buying from different sources.
  4. (A4) Suppliers of restaurants will soon figure out ways to shift delivery to the consumer market.
  5. (A5) Recessionary monetary trends may offset inflation caused by (F4) - that is the theory of modern monetary theory at least.
  6. (A6) Coronavirus appears to be past containment, and will likely 'burn' through the U.S. population.
  7. (A7) We assume that effective treatments will arise, but (F5) indicates this is difficult with a virus.
  8. (A8) Coronavirus, therefore, will be with us for a while.
  9. (A9) If depression(F8) becomes a reality, everything changes.

Something is Coming

Whether you accept the worst-case scenario of depression or the milder version of a recession, I think it is hard for any thinking person not to realize it will be significant, painful and transformative. Only the most rabid socialist could possibly think that the government can prop up or sustain the economy for long by simply creating money and injecting it into the system. Modern monetary theory, the sort advocated by so many on the left, is not that different than the monetary policy of the Weimar Republic. It has never worked historically. At best it is a temporary band-aid to keep people home and stop panic. Even in the best circumstance, it is dangerous and extremely destructive. But, this is the path we are on, it is a done deal. It cannot continue for long, not without adding many additional negative effects.

What does this Mean, What Practical Steps Should the Individual Take?

Work

As we get ready to go through this, the smart among us will realize that entire sectors of the economy are going to change during the event and then after. The Great Depression changed how people worked and lived, the 2008 Recession did the same on a smaller scale. A full-blown depression in 2020 will be more transformative than the 1930s. People are different now.

Smart people will right now begin to evaluate what they did for a living before this all began. There are many occupations and roles that are not critical to recovery and production. Administrative, marketing, middle-management, salespeople hawking unnecessary items, some lawyers, journalists and many many more - will soon find themselves redundant. Take a look at what you do for a living, what benefit you bring to actually producing or delivering the good or service your firm offers, and perhaps even what goods or services your firm is in. The government may bail out folks for a bit, but a depression is more transformative than a government can control.

If you are sitting at home reading the news on Facebook and Twitter, doing a little telework - this may be the time to try and figure out how to learn something new, to transform yourself and your skills. Doers act in a crisis, losers go hungry or cry for government tyranny. Take steps now.

Money

As mentioned above, depression means less production and higher inflation. Essentially your inflated dollars will chase fewer goods. People have already taken it on the chin in terms of investments, none of that will come back in a big way if (A8) becomes a reality. Speculators will rally the market some in the coming days, people do get rich in depressions and recessions, but these rallies will be just that, opportunism, not something the ordinary guy can risk.

The smart money right now is on shoring up the things we need to make it through. Chase lower interest rate loans now, while there is still money to lend. Pay down things you can. Buy things that last. Stop buying luxuries. Invest in sustainable things. Don't speculate unless you are willing to wear a sandwich board if it all does not work out for you.

Commitments

Don't sign leases, buy expensive new things, buy 'deals' you see for vacation packages in the fall. Save your money and reduce your expenses and commitments.

Food

Stop stressing over the availability of food. We are not eating more than we did a month ago. We are simply not going to restaurants, we are buying all that the groceries have. Suppliers will soon figure out how to get the food normally delivered to restaurants packaged and delivered to groceries. The only danger is the unknown of the virus. What happens if truckers start getting sick? You cannot just create new long-haul truckers from thin air.

Here is a fact that should reassure you. The government has a lot of capability they can throw at a problem. If in a worst-case the truck network stops or slows, the rail system will work, it is aligned with the strategic transport network. The military has trucks and drivers and planes. Food will be delivered, even in a worst-case scenario for a bit. This virus is not a world-killer. It will not get bad enough to stop civilization.

However, that does not mean your income will buy as much food as you might want in a depression. It does not mean that people may not have hungry bellies.

Plant a victory garden, in your back yard, on your balcony, in your common area. It is close to spring in many parts of the country. This all happened at basically the perfect time for us to take steps to make life easier. Some potatoes and fresh vegetables will reduce your financial burden, give you a physical task to work on, relieve stress, reduce anxiety and help the nation. Smart Americans need to do this right now and stop worrying and complaining. The generation in the Great Depression did this, so did the WWII generation. We have this in us. We have t can beat this. Plant a garden!

Skills

Learn to fix things. We have the Internet - learn stuff. Get ready to make some of the things at your home last longer than they might have otherwise, without the need to call a handyman. Give yourself the option.

Family

Parents - Prepare to make room for your adult kids. Go ahead and start rearranging things now so that they have a safe place to land. Adult kids - You should face no shame in moving back in when the time comes. Bring your resources, respect the house and the roof, endeavor to contribute and prepare to thrive through this. Do not be prideful and think you alone can get through this with no job or work if only you had an extra $thousand bucks loan. Know when it is time to change course.  Families will likely, in many cases, have to pool resources. Parents, if you have been stupid, selfish and wasteful and cannot provide a safe nest for the family to return to - take steps now.

Church and Community

This could be the genesis of the Fifth Great Awakening. Stay connected to your local church community. Come together, help one another, reach out to others. Pray and study. Find ways to help each other become more sustainable. Plant a church garden of vegetables that glorifies Christ's garden on Earth.

Crime

Be aware. Prepare for this. Scared, confused people are dangerous. It is not bad yet. But, a depression in 2020 will not be the sort of the 1930s. Many people are selfish, greedy, evil and violent. If you are not now prepared for this, it is too late - it is pretty expensive to buy a gun or ammo.

Disclaimers

All that I said above has little to do with Coronavirus itself. For good reason. I am not an expert and many of the 'experts' we listen to on the television or the Web have been wrong about so much - how contagious it is, how it is transmitted, when people are contagious, how deadly it is, etc. We do not know and I would be hesitant to say.

Some reports indicate that Italy is a special case, with an older population that smokes a lot. I saw a disturbing and unconfirmed report today that demonstrated that active cell phone accounts in China have shrunk by millions since the event started there. The first data point would indicate it may not be nearly as deadly here. The second, if true, has all sorts of potential implications. But I do not know.

The virus is not a threat to how we live long-term. People will suffer, some will die and many will be afraid. I am not making light of that by pointing out what comes next. None of us can do a lot about the virus. We can try and avoid becoming sick or passing it along, but ultimately, what becomes of the virus is not in our hands as individuals.

What comes next, stage two of this event, the economic effects, these are things we can have an impact on. If you have read this far down, you know in your heart that this is different and things have changed. Take steps to prepare yourself and your family for stage two.

Winter Comes Again

William Strauss and Neil Howe predicted in The Fourth Turning, that once the cultural war was complete we would enter a period of great crisis, the fourth turning. They thought the cultural war would conclude perhaps around 2005 (ish). Most of us can see now, it ended in 2019 with total defeat of anything close to an authentic conservative worldview. Read chapter four of their book; pandemic, the great economic devaluing, grey champions - it is all there. Their observation of the cyclic nature of history is spot on from my observation, and it is hard to argue that their book, originally written in 1999 is not proving accurate as well.

What Does This Mean?

They predicted a crisis that would define the lives and worldview of a generation, specifically generation Z, those youngsters still in college or freshly graduated. These folks just entered a world or were preparing to enter on filled with hope, promise and prosperity. The events surrounding COVID-19 have done damage to the economy we cannot yet even reckon. This will change the lives of these youngsters - it will shape them in the way it shaped the youngsters coming of age in the depression and WWII. I have written a lot about the Fourth Turning here and in a couple books, I hoped it would never become a reality. But here we are.

However, all is not doom and gloom. The thing that has always emerged from past events is a young generation that went into adulthood and changed things. Hardened and shaped but the smack of dire reality, it has been the crisis generation that has in each prior event rebuilt, changed and corrected things.

I am sorry this burden falls to my children, to their generation, but this is the nature of things. We older folks need to love them, support them and pass along everything our grandparents taught us.

 

The excerpt below is from The Philosophy of Commonsense, published December 2019

A Love Letter to Generation Z – the Great Hope

Dear Zoomers,

When you came into the world in the late 1990s or the 2000s you provided your parents something to actually care about.  We, Gen Xers, were accused all of our lives of being aloof and nihilist but we had our reasons.  We were a small generation, ignored by advertisers and sandwiched in between two lame and uncool groups of people.

Our older cousins the Boomers we found to be full of it.  Self-righteous about their exploits in the 60s and so smug about all the stuff they bought in the 80s and 90s.

Our little cousins the Millennials were just annoying. From the time they could talk they were entitled.  As soon as they went to college, they thought they were smart enough to change the world. Many as young adults live with their Boomer parents, protest to tell everybody else what they should say or think, rail against capitalism yet they buy a lot of things.  Boomers hire these brats to actually run things, thinking they know how to talk to others of their ilk.

We have looked around at these lame hypocrites all of our lives and shook our heads. Those people are simply not cool.

Perhaps we were nihilist, perhaps our sense of sarcasm and irony was well developed seeing others mess things up.  We certainly were not perfect.  I think you are already aware of that.

Perhaps my generation was never meant to change the world, we were just too small and surrounded by two loud-mouthed know-it-all generations.

I am sorry you will have to spend much of your adult life dealing with the trouble the Millennials will cause.  I am sorry you will inherit a world that is far less perfect than it ought to be.

The political system in the United States that was described by Alexis de Tocqueville in 1835 as the finest example and a shining hope to the world has descended into lies, petty arguments, deceit, and ineptitude.  It will only get worse I am afraid in the coming years.

If the theories related to generational turning are correct, there will be, within your lifetime a major crisis.  This will be no mere market crash or a small war.  It will be a defining event such as the American Civil War, the American Revolution or World War II.  It may or may not involve a lot of violence but it will threaten to fundamentally change the very nature of society and government.  Everything that is and was may be threatened, the good and the bad.  What replaces it is uncertain.

That what, the thing that comes after, the solution that moves us forward is for you to figure out.  You will be the calmer, more reasoned, practical and creative voice in society.  The Boomers started this and the Millennials will take it to a climactic conclusion, you will end it and put it all back together.

Much rest upon your shoulders.  We and future generations are depending upon you. To coin a cliché, the fate of the free world is in your hands.

At the conclusion of all this mess, once the Millennials have enacted all of their ideas and ideologies, only to see them create more problems, less freedom, and less prosperity it will be you that finds a new way. You will have to find ways to balance liberty and responsibility, to define the nature and source of truth, to figure out what a just and good society and the government looks like.

We, your parents, had the privilege of knowing some great people in our lives.  Our grandparents from the depression, the WWII generation, and our parents from the Silent generation.  These were good, solid people that believed in traditional values of self-regulation, hard work, personal freedom, charity, justice, and responsibility.  They went to church and respected the God of their fathers.

We literally went to “old school” in hot and cold basic classrooms, where we were taught the story of American exceptionalism and the American Creed.

We have observed the idealist and hypocrite Boomers and Millennials and we have come to know a few things.

We know that there was a lot of value in the words of those old men and simple preachers we interacted with as youngsters.  Their common-sense and realist approach made them a lot smarter than all the other folks we have seen trying to change the world and tell everybody else how to think and talk.

After a rocky start of apathy and silent rebellion, we found our way back to church.  In fact, 94% of all adults that attend church weekly are Generation Xers, and 64% of all Generation X claim a belief in God. (Pew 2019)

We have come to know that those old folks we knew when we were young were right about a lot of things. We have come to know that those that advocate loudest in the public square from the generations before and after us are wrong about a lot of things.

We do not know how to handle the crisis you will face, we do not know the exact way that crisis will play out. We know that you are special, you were special to us because you gave us something to actually care about.  You are special in the minds of theorists like Strauss and Howe because you are a generation that fixes things.

I think there is one thing my generation was supposed to do.  That is to serve as something of a link between traditional America and you.  To be a living, speaking and perhaps writing testament to the words and ideas of people that were better than us.

What we are supposed to do is pass along some of that knowledge and insight to you.  To explain the values and ideas that made those people so much better than the ones running things now.

In the near future, as you look at problems and seek solutions don’t forget to look back and ask questions of those people.  Read some of their ideas, try and understand what they thought and why. Use common-sense.  Know that universal truth exists and seek a relationship with the Creator. Trust realism and over idealism until idealism can firmly prove an idea wrong.  Be stoic in your approach to life, self-governing, self-improving, humble and steadfast. Seek first principles based upon real truth to answer pressing questions.

I am sorry that this challenge is your lot in life, but you are well prepared for it. You gave us a reason to care.  You will fix things.