That Which is Seen and That Which is Not

Syria crisis: Obama 'has the right' to strike regardless of vote, says Kerry - The Guardian 9/2/13

Syria crisis: Obama ‘has the right’ to strike regardless of vote, says Kerry – The Guardian 9/2/13

The President of the United States believes that our role in the global community is to punish the Syrian government for military strikes on Syrian civilians resulting in hundreds of deaths and diminishing the Assad regime’s ability to deploy biological agents in the future.

Whether or not it is the duty of the U.S. to punish another sovereign nation against which we have not declared war is an important question.

Another pertinent question is, is it possible for the U.S. to retaliate on behalf of innocent victims without further civilian casualties?

War is armed conflict between nations.  It is unrealistic and dishonest to suggest that any act of war (or international violence) can be accomplished without civilian casualties or “collateral damage.”

Another questions is, is the U.S. bound by international law?  I have my own opinion, but what matters is, does the Obama administration adhere to international law or not?

Does the United Nations and the International Court of Justice have the force of law globally?  If they do have the full force of law, then how does Obama justify military action without the approval of the UN Security Council?

imagesThese questions and others to follow, came to mind as I was contemplating the advice that would have been given in this situation by the little remembered French economist and legislator Fredric Bastiat (1801-1850).

Bastiat is well-known by his readers for expounding the philosophy of “that which is seen and that which is not seen.”

In essence, he taught that every action taken based on what is seen or known in the moment would always be followed by a myriad of unaccounted for or unseen consequences.

He predicted that as we then attempted to deal with these unforeseen results of our initial rash actions, we would typically make more ill conceived decisions that simply complicate and make matters worse.

Bastiat’s solution was to think about the unseen for a long time before taking any kind of action, and like an expert chess player, think about the consequences of a single move many moves into the future before taking that first move.

Take Syria for instance.

images (2)WHAT IS SEEN? A totalitarian regime allegedly targeted civilians, hundreds were killed.

For this, the U.S. president and some members of Congress wish to respond with more military action.

WHAT IS NOT SEEN? This question leads us to ask more questions:

Were the targeted civilians viewed by the standing government to be actively engaged in the current rebellion against the Assad government?

Did the Assad government warn these civilians before the suggested attack?

Were known rebels using civilians as human shields and setting up their operations in civilian populations?

How will Syria and her allies react to U.S. military intervention?

How will U.S. intervention impact the region and consequently the U.S. economy?

How will the U.S. react if Syria or its allies retaliate?

How many U.S. soldiers will loose theirs lives in escalated U.S. intervention?

This thought process begs more questions:

What is the proper role of the U.S. government? Policing the world or protecting its soil and citizens?

Does the international community have the right to discipline the United States as it sees fit? If not, why not? And if not, why then do we have the right to take such offensive actions?

Are human rights and dignity best protected by military force?  What other options are there?

images (3)Does the U.S. government have the right to risk the lives of our soldiers— our fathers and mothers, our sons and daughters—simply to protect the rights of foreign civilians?

If yes, then why are we not intervening in the affairs of at least ten other troubled nations around the globe currently abusing the human rights and freedoms of their own citizens?

I don’t have all the answers but I do have many more questions that need to be asked and answered before I would be in favor of a strike on Syria.  I would ask lots of questions about our 12 years in Afghanistan and our more than 20 years in and out of Iraq.

Have we ultimately increased American freedoms and human rights through these military actions?  Was the cost worth the effort, or another way to ask the question, was the threat sufficient for the price we have paid both in lives and in dollars?

I encourage all of you to take some time to read the full essay “That Which Is Seen And That Which Is Not Seen.”

If It Saves Just One Life

images (4)I was shocked, dismayed, and like you I personally grieved for the families who lost children at the Newtown, Connecticut shooting just two month ago. What a severe act of violence.

Who can make sense of 27 senseless deaths? It will indeed be a black mark on American history.

And as much as I try to feel their loss and grieve with those parents, siblings, aunts and uncles, and grandparents, I still believe that citizens have a right and duty to maintain our constitutional second amendment rights according to the founding era original intent.

At the time of this tragedy, President Obama tasked Vice President Biden with finding a solution in 30 days so this never happens again.  Vice President Biden has offered his recommendations and as a result we have or will have a slew of new executive orders limiting the inalienable right to bear arms for self-protection.

During this process, the vice president was explaining the attitude of the president concerning this issue and said, “And as the president said, if our actions result in only saving one life, they’re worth taking.”

Wow, if one were to take that logic serious, if it only saves one life, we should ban cars.

If it only saves one life, we should ban peanuts, sports, and fishing.*

If it saves only one life, we should ban electricity.

If it only saves one life, we should ban alcoholic beverages, hammers, and knives.

If it only saves one life, we should ban travel, mountains, and water.

If it only saves one life, we should consider banning everything but sitting around.

* Not my material.

But by that same logic, if it saves just one life we should arm every citizen.

If it only saves one life, we should encourage all citizens to take gun safety courses.

If it only saves one life, the government should encourage all fathers and mothers to stay married and love each other.

If it only saves one life, fathers should spend more time with and showing true affection to their sons and daughters.

If it only saves one life, families should start going back to church.

If it only saves one life, we should stop the spending and start living within our means.

The real question is not so much if it saves one life, but do we give up liberty for security?

The immortal words of Mill answer that question for us:

A people may prefer a free government, but if, from indolence, or carelessness, or cowardice, or want of public spirit, they are unequal to the exertions necessary for preserving it; if they will not fight for it when it is directly attacked, if they can be deluded by the artifices used to cheat them out of it, if by monetary discouragement, or temporary panic, or a fit of enthusiasm for an individual, they can be induced to lay their liberties at the feet, even of a great man, or trust him with powers which enable him to subvert their institutions, in all these cases, they are more or less unfit for liberty: and though it may be for their good to have had it for a short time, they are unlikely long to enjoy it.

John Stuart Mill On Liberty (1859)  

English economist & philosopher (1806 – 1873)

imagesThe Problem Reaction Solution Paradigm 

It is part of human nature to press our advantage.  We do it in sports, we do it in business, and unfortunately we do it our personal relationships.

People who have government power also do it, frequently out of the best of intentions, but that power is often used to press the advantage in the moment, which leads to laws and policies that forever impact our lives.

To defeat such tactics, the population must develop the ability to keep a clear head, to not be reactionary, to remain calm in a crisis, to develop the habit of stopping and considering the results of any set of actions to their likely and long-term conclusions.

One of the long-standing strategies employed by many tyrannical powers over time to “press the advantage” has been the misuse of the Hegelian Dialectic (who I will talk about a little later) or what is known today as the Problem/Reaction/Solution Paradigm (PRSP).  The PRSP is a strategy employed to expand power, usually of the executive, and employs a three-step process:

1) Problem – The government or powerful entity creates or exploits a problem, blaming it on others.

2) Reaction – The people react by becoming very alarmed and demanding a solution immediately, often without thinking about long-term consequences.

3) Solution – The government offers a solution that was planned or desired long before the crisis.  The citizens are more than happy to accepting help from the government when offered and the citizens seem generally willing to give up their rights in the process.

The essence of such a strategy is to either create a crisis/tragedy or wait for one to occur (the scarier the better) that frightens the people enough to demand some immediate solution. The strategy requires that the people become very uncomfortable and even emotionally shaken, then to offer a solution that removes that fear.

Taking advantage of the emotional state of the populace is exemplified by former Gov. Ed Rendell in this news clip. The end result of such a strategy is never good for the people and almost always results in more power for the government.  Using this strategy to disarm civilian populations is one of the oldest games in the book.

In the case of restricting and discouraging armed citizens, in the 20th century alone there are at least 10 separately documented cases (Poland, France, Denmark, Finland, Burma, China, Russia, Hungary, Italy, and Romania) in Europe and Asia where a nation was invaded as a direct result of having an unarmed citizenry or a tyrannical government was able to maintain its control by having previously disarmed the population.

There are also 3 very obvious cases (United States, Switzerland, and Israel) where a country was not invaded specifically because there existed a privately well-armed citizenry.

There are some things that once sacrificed in exchange for security (real or imagined), can never be regained. The second amendment is not a hunting provision, it was not designed or intended to support sportsmen.  It was the result of 8 terrible years of war for independence followed by 4 years of civil strife. It represents a solution to tyranny and invasion—from outside or inside our borders. It is the final defense for human liberty, when all else has failed.

If we ban firearms, if we allow this to happen at the level that the president is demanding, we deserve whatever follows.

Now on to Hegel.

images (1)The Hegelian Dialectic

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770-1831) was a 19th century German philosopher and theologist who wrote The Science of Logic in 1812.

In an effort to explain his understanding of historical change or the means of human progress, he developed what he called the Dialectic.

Hegel taught that as man struggles to overcome the division between reason/morality and selfish desire the following process ensues:

Process

He said that the Geitst (mind and spirit – self/reality) comes to know itself as it is combined with influence from a supernatural force. The greater the development of mind, the greater the internal desire for freedom (increased awareness of the concept of freedom and increased knowledge of self).  This occurs in a revolving process of three steps.

  1. You see the world in your way (your reality)
  2. Outside influences challenge that perspective creating a conflict in perception. This leads to an internal struggle to reconcile the two
  3. The reconciliation creates a new perspective and a new reality

This new reality (new step 1) is again challenged which leads to a new step 2 and so forth.

The terms used by Hegel to express these steps are:

  1. Thesis (abstract)
  2. Antithesis (negative)
  3. Synthesis (concrete)

This process is in and of itself harmless and perhaps helpful for those searching to understand philosophy.  However, when understood and purposely used to twist reality and control people, it can be very bad.

images (2)Karl Heinrich Marx

Marx was a German philosopher and revolutionary socialist who died penniless in1883.

He published numerous books during his lifetime, the most notable being The Communist Manifesto (1848) and Capital (1867–1894).

He worked closely with his friend, fellow revolutionary socialist, and benefactor Friedrich Engels.

Marx took what was a benign theory of human development and hijacked it to suit his own purposes. He said that if the dialectic was accurate and people were already accustomed to the process naturally, why couldn’t he engineer the antithesis to lead to his desired synthesis (the Problem/Reaction/Solution Paradigm), thus having the power to direct the general actions of society of Socialist purposes.

Below are the very different perspectives of Hegel and Marx concerning the dialectic.

Hegel – Reality is a matter of mind and through the individual process of ideas and acting on those ideas we will eventually come to the perfect Synthesis (new thesis) that does not change after the fire of the Negative or is not abstract and needs no Negative.

Marx – Reality is a matter of means of production and by adjusting the means of production via revolution, man will become more equal and improve together in a very egalitarian/communitarian way.

Even Marx did not envision the global impact his ideas would have less than 75 years after his death. As a result of Marx’s misuse of Hegel’s Dialectic, the 20th century saw countless millions being denied basic human rights and more than 200 million human exterminations all as a result of the use of Marxist theories or what is called today the Problem/Reaction/Solution Paradigm.

This paradigm is being used in America as I write these words. It was used during the terrible 9/11 Crisis. It was used during the bursting of the Real Estate bubble and the subsequent “trillion-dollar” bail out.

It is being used as the government takes advantage of the deaths of 25 elementary school children.

 

Sources:

http://pjmedia.com/tatler/2013/01/09/if-it-only-saves-one-life/http://www.glennbeck.com/2013/01/10/biden-obama-could-rule-on-gun-control-by-executive-order/?utm_source=Daily&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=2013-01-10_191741&utm_content=24556866&utm_term=_191741_191749

 

 

Controversial Article: Read At Your Own Risk

This is an article worth reading. It is a liberal critic by a normally liberal news outlet.

It is the kind of scrutiny that all potential presidents should be subjected to (before the election) and it addresses the issue of racism.

I Too Have Become Disillusioned

—by Matt Patterson (Columnist, Washington Post, New York Post & San Francisco Examiner)

August 27, 2012

Years from now, historians may regard the 2008 election of Barack Obama as an inscrutable and disturbing phenomenon, the result of a baffling breed of mass hysteria akin perhaps to the witch craze of the Middle Ages.

How, they will wonder, did a man so devoid of professional accomplishment beguile so many into thinking he could manage the world’s largest economy, direct the world’s most powerful military, execute the world’s most consequential job?

Imagine a future historian examining Obama’s pre-presidential life: ushered into and through the Ivy League, despite unremarkable grades and test scores along the way; a cushy non-job as a “community organizer;” a brief career as a state legislator devoid of legislative achievement (and in fact nearly devoid of his attention, so often did he vote “present”); and, finally an unaccomplished single term in the United States Senate, the entirety of which was devoted to his presidential ambitions.

He left no academic legacy in academia, authored no signature legislation as a legislator. And then there is the matter of his troubling Associations: the white-hating, America-loathing preacher who for decades served as Obama’s “spiritual mentor”; a real-life, actual terrorist who served as Obama’s colleague and political sponsor.

It is easy to imagine a future historian looking at it all and asking: how on Earth was such a man elected president?

Not content to wait for history, the incomparable Norman Podhoretz addressed the question recently in the Wall Street Journal: To be sure, no white candidate who had close associations with an outspoken hater of America like Jeremiah Wright and an unrepentant terrorist like Bill Ayers, would have lasted a single day.

But because Mr. Obama was black, and therefore entitled in the eyes of liberal-dom to have hung out with protesters against various American injustices, even if they were a bit extreme, he was given a pass. Let that sink in: Obama was given a pass – held to a lower standard – because of the color of his skin.

Podhoretz continues: And in any case, what did such ancient history matter when he was also so articulate and elegant and (as he himself had said) “non-threatening,” all of which gave him a fighting chance to become the first black president and thereby to lay the curse of racism to rest?

Podhoretz puts his finger, I think, on the animating pulse of the Obama phenomenon – affirmative action. Not in the legal sense, of course. But certainly in the motivating sentiment behind all affirmative action laws and regulations, which are designed primarily to make white people, and especially white liberals, feel good about themselves.

Unfortunately, minorities often suffer so that whites can pat themselves on the back. Liberals routinely admit minorities to schools for which they are not qualified, yet take no responsibility for the inevitable poor performance and high drop-out rates which follow.

Liberals don’t care if these minority students fail; liberals aren’t around to witness the emotional devastation and deflated self-esteem resulting from the racist policy that is affirmative action. Yes, racist. Holding someone to a separate standard merely because of the color of his skin – that’s affirmative action in a nutshell, and if that isn’t racism, then nothing is.

And that is what America did to Obama. True, Obama himself was never troubled by his lack of achievements, but why would he be?

As many have noted, Obama was told he was good enough for Columbia despite undistinguished grades at Occidental; he was told he was good enough for the US Senate despite a mediocre record in Illinois; he was told he was good enough to be president despite no record at all in the Senate.

All his life, every step of the way, Obama was told he was good enough for the next step, in spite of ample evidence to the contrary.

What could this breed if not the sort of empty narcissism on display every time Obama speaks? In 2008, many who agreed that he lacked executive qualifications nonetheless raved about Obama’s oratory skills, intellect, and cool character. Those people – conservatives included – ought now to be deeply embarrassed.

The man thinks and speaks in the hoariest of clichés, and that’s when he has his teleprompters in front of him; when the prompter is absent he can barely think or speak at all. Not one original idea has ever issued from his mouth – it’s all warmed-over Marxism of the kind that has failed over and over again for 100 years.

And what about his character? Obama is constantly blaming anything and everything else for his troubles. Bush did it; it was bad luck; I inherited this mess. Remember, he wanted the job, campaigned for the task. It is embarrassing to see a president so willing to advertise his own powerlessness, so comfortable with his own incompetence. But really, what were we to expect? The man has never been responsible for anything, so how do we expect him to act responsibly?

In short: our president is a small-minded man, with neither the temperament nor the intellect to handle his job. When you understand that, and only when you understand that, will the current erosion of liberty and prosperity make sense. It could not have gone otherwise with such a man in the Oval Office.

 THIS REALLY BOTHERS ME.  And it should greatly concern you.

How does a man of this caliber attain the highest office in the land?

 

How can a majority of the people be so duped? We are talking hundreds of millions here, and what does that say about our educational system?

 

And most importantly, what are we going to do about it?  Sorry to say it, but electing a really good president (only time can tell) is not the answer.  What happens when no really good candidate is running–lesser of to evils, right?  If I hear that phrase one more time I think I will be sick.

 

Only its people can determine the long term direction of a nation.  If a people are strong culturally, morally, economically, and are well educated, they will naturally choose good leaders who will continue providing leadership that promotes these things.  If a people are culturally weak, bankrupt in both their morals and their finances, and have little personal discipline, they will always choose leaders who promise the moon, provide bread and circuses, and who look the other way.

 

From a historical perspective, things do not look good for Americans.  Heard that before?  Great, here are our current choices:

1. Become aware of our dire situation (foreign policy, economy, domestic affairs, culture, national morality, etc.) and develop a personal, family and community plan to rectify the deficiencies.

2. Acknowledge our real situation but continue as we are and hoping for the best, someone will eventually fit it.

3. Actually ignore our situation and living the good life as long as it lasts.

 

Personally, I am putting all of my eggs in basket number one. Other concerned citizens are helping me create a college that produces future moms and dads of the highest caliber, future citizens, business owners and community leaders who know and live by the Creed of Disinterestedness (a habit of high personal conduct, the mastery of all urgings that drive a man from his duty and the elimination of all calculations of benefit or gain at the expense of others) , and potencial state and national leaders who actually sacrifice for their country, voluntarily leaving office after a reasonable time of service, not having lined their own pockets in the process.

 

 

Why the Federalist Papers are a Primary Text at Monticello College

The May 7th issue of the Wall Street Journal printed an article with this title :

 

 

OPINION

May 6, 2012, 7:03 p.m. ET

Peter Berkowitz: Why Colleges Don’t Teach the Federalist Papers

At America’s top schools, graduates leave without reading our most basic writings on the purpose of constitutional self-government.

Berkowitz begins his article:

It would be difficult to overstate the significance of The Federalist for understanding the principles of American government and the challenges that liberal democracies confront early in the second decade of the 21st century.

 

Yet despite the lip service they pay to liberal education, our leading universities can’t be bothered to require students to study The Federalist—or, worse, they oppose such requirements on moral, political or pedagogical grounds. Small wonder it took so long for progressives to realize that arguments about the constitutionality of ObamaCare are indeed serious.

 

He then lays out the origin of this forgotten road map to freedom,

 

The masterpiece of American political thought originated as a series of newspaper articles published under the pseudonym Publius in New York between October 1787 and August 1788 by framers Alexander Hamilton, John Jay and James Madison.

 

The aim was to make the case for ratification of the new constitution, which had been agreed to in September 1787 by delegates to the federal convention meeting in Philadelphia over four months of remarkable discussion, debate and deliberation about self-government.

 

By the end of 1788, a total of 85 essays had been gathered in two volumes under the title The Federalist. Written at a brisk clip and with the crucial vote in New York hanging in the balance, the essays formed a treatise on constitutional self-government for the ages.

 

The Federalist deals with the reasons for preserving the union, the inefficacy of the existing federal government under the Articles of Confederation, and the conformity of the new constitution to the principles of liberty and consent. It covers war and peace, foreign affairs, commerce, taxation, federalism and the separation of powers. It provides a detailed examination of the chief features of the legislative, executive and judicial branches.

 

It advances its case by restatement and refutation of the leading criticisms of the new constitution. It displays a level of learning, political acumen and public-spiritedness to which contemporary scholars, journalists and politicians can but aspire. And to this day it stands as an unsurpassed source of insight into the Constitution’s text, structure and purposes.

Berkowitz continues with a list of Ivy League and similarly rated undergraduate and graduate schools that lightly touch on or completely skip the reading of the Federalist.

Touching on the treatment of the Federalist by progressive ideology and the corruption of political science in general, he ends by pointing out the forgotten value and common sense of reading the Federalist Papers,

And thus so many of our leading opinion formers and policy makers seem to come unhinged when they encounter constitutional arguments apparently foreign to them but well-rooted in constitutional text, structure and history.

 

These include arguments about, say, the unitary executive; or the priority of protecting political speech of all sorts; or the imperative to articulate a principle that keeps the Constitution’s commerce clause from becoming the vehicle by which a federal government—whose powers, as Madison put it in Federalist 45, are “few and defined”—is remade into one of limitless unenumerated powers.

 

By robbing students of the chance to acquire a truly liberal education, our universities also deprive the nation of a citizenry well-acquainted with our Constitution’s enduring principles.

Why are the Federalist Papers a primary text at Monticello College?

If you have to ask, we need to talk.

 

 

Full Berkowitz article below:

Peter Berkowitz: Why Colleges Don’t Teach the Federalist Papers

At America’s top schools, graduates leave without reading our most basic writings on the purpose of constitutional self-government.

By PETER BERKOWITZ

It would be difficult to overstate the significance of The Federalist for understanding the principles of American government and the challenges that liberal democracies confront early in the second decade of the 21st century. Yet despite the lip service they pay to liberal education, our leading universities can’t be bothered to require students to study The Federalist—or, worse, they oppose such requirements on moral, political or pedagogical grounds. Small wonder it took so long for progressives to realize that arguments about the constitutionality of ObamaCare are indeed serious.

The masterpiece of American political thought originated as a series of newspaper articles published under the pseudonym Publius in New York between October 1787 and August 1788 by framers Alexander Hamilton, John Jay and James Madison. The aim was to make the case for ratification of the new constitution, which had been agreed to in September 1787 by delegates to the federal convention meeting in Philadelphia over four months of remarkable discussion, debate and deliberation about self-government.

By the end of 1788, a total of 85 essays had been gathered in two volumes under the title The Federalist. Written at a brisk clip and with the crucial vote in New York hanging in the balance, the essays formed a treatise on constitutional self-government for the ages.

The Federalist deals with the reasons for preserving the union, the inefficacy of the existing federal government under the Articles of Confederation, and the conformity of the new constitution to the principles of liberty and consent. It covers war and peace, foreign affairs, commerce, taxation, federalism and the separation of powers. It provides a detailed examination of the chief features of the legislative, executive and judicial branches. It advances its case by restatement and refutation of the leading criticisms of the new constitution. It displays a level of learning, political acumen and public-spiritedness to which contemporary scholars, journalists and politicians can but aspire. And to this day it stands as an unsurpassed source of insight into the Constitution’s text, structure and purposes.

At Harvard, at least, all undergraduate political-science majors will receive perfunctory exposure to a few Federalist essays in a mandatory course their sophomore year. But at Yale, Princeton, Stanford and Berkeley, political-science majors can receive their degrees without encountering the single surest analysis of the problems that the Constitution was intended to solve and the manner in which it was intended to operate.

Most astonishing and most revealing is the neglect of The Federalist by graduate schools and law schools. The political science departments at Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Stanford and Berkeley—which set the tone for higher education throughout the nation and train many of the next generation’s professors—do not require candidates for the Ph.D. to study The Federalist. And these universities’ law schools (Princeton has no law school), which produce many of the nation’s leading members of the bar and bench, do not require their students to read, let alone master, The Federalist’s major ideas and main lines of thought.

Of course, The Federalist is not prohibited reading, so graduates of our leading universities might be reading it on their own. The bigger problem is that the progressive ideology that dominates our universities teaches that The Federalist, like all books written before the day before yesterday, is antiquated and irrelevant.

Particularly in the aftermath of the New Deal, according to the progressive conceit, understanding America’s founding and the framing of the Constitution are as useful to dealing with contemporary challenges of government as understanding the horse-and-buggy is to dealing with contemporary challenges of transportation. Instead, meeting today’s needs requires recognizing that ours is a living constitution that grows and develops with society’s evolving norms and exigencies.

Then there’s scientism, or enthrallment to method, which collaborates with progressive ideology to marginalize The Federalist, along with much of the best that has been thought and said in the West. Political science has corrupted a laudable commitment to the systematic study of politics by transforming it into a crusading devotion to the refinement of method for method’s sake. In the misguided quest to mold political science to the shape of the natural sciences, many scholars disdainfully dismiss The Federalist—indeed, all works of ideas—as mere journalism or literary studies which, lacking scientific rigor, can’t yield genuine knowledge.

And thus so many of our leading opinion formers and policy makers seem to come unhinged when they encounter constitutional arguments apparently foreign to them but well-rooted in constitutional text, structure and history. These include arguments about, say, the unitary executive; or the priority of protecting political speech of all sorts; or the imperative to articulate a principle that keeps the Constitution’s commerce clause from becoming the vehicle by which a federal government—whose powers, as Madison put it in Federalist 45, are “few and defined”—is remade into one of limitless unenumerated powers.

By robbing students of the chance to acquire a truly liberal education, our universities also deprive the nation of a citizenry well-acquainted with our Constitution’s enduring principles.

Mr. Berkowitz is a senior fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. His latest book is “Israel and the Struggle over the International Laws of War” (Hoover Press, 2012).

A version of this article appeared May 7, 2012, on page A17 in some U.S. editions of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: Why Colleges Don’t Teach the Federalist Papers.

 


Attention Span: Our National Education Crisis, Part Four

Read Part One Here

Read Part Two Here

Read Part Three Here

 

Fallacy Number 4: “Balance” means balancing work with entertainment.

Today’s adults don’t usually find out what really hard work is until they graduate and have to support a family.

The average person supporting a family in modern America puts in over fifty hours a week at work; in most countries the amount is much higher.

But the American high school system conditions most students to attend class five hours a day and do outside study a few extra hours a week.

The rest of the time is filled with activities, friends and occasional family time. And this has become the standard for balance.

Most college students follow suit: they are in class three to five hours a day, they study a couple of hours a day, and they fill the rest of the time with activities and friends.

Again, this is considered “balanced.”

Once people get out of school and go to work, “balance” most often means the need to spend more time with their family.

But while in school, they say it to mean that they need to spend more time with their friends engaging in fun activities. Family time and study time are shoved aside.
One of my mentors, a religious leader from my faith, taught that the right approach to daily life is eight hours a day of sleep, eight hours a day of work, and eight hours a day of leisure.

And he spoke at a time when leisure didn’t mean entertainment.

Indeed, leisure means serving people, studying, learning, being involved in community service and government, and so on—whereas the slaves in Rome were considered incapable of leisure and so their masters gave them entertainment to keep them pacified.

The media age has tried to convince us all, quite successfully, that we need entertainment—and often.

I take the eight hours sleep, eight leisure and eight work quite literally—it is a solid and realistic approach to “balance.”

In all my years of teaching, I have never had a married, working 40 hours a week student complain about not having time to study. They all make the time.

Those who complain are always those wanting more time for entertainment, never those who want more time for work or family.

Every single one of those complaining that they want balance has been someone without a full or steady part time job. That is amazing to me.

The simple truth is that they are right—they do need balance. They need to start working and studying as if they were college students.

Studying a minimum, and I mean minimum, of forty hours a week in college is balance—it balances the pre-college years where most students did real, intensive study only a few hours in their whole life.

And a few college students actually studying enough to become Jeffersons and Washingtons is balance to a whole generation of college students playing around.

If you really want to invoke balance, I think you could make a strong argument that entertainment is not part of a balanced life—unless it is the leisure sort done with family or to learn or serve. Get rid of entertainment time, and fill it with studying, and you will start to find balance.

Until then, you will continue to feel unbalanced—and whatever you blame it on, the study will not unbalance you.

On occasion I have had students who did become unbalanced in the side of their studies, and I have recommended that they cut back and spend more family time. But this has happened perhaps three times out of hundreds of students.

In contrast, it always surprises me who tries to argue for balance—they are usually the ones in no danger whatsoever of becoming unbalanced studiers.

Fallacy Number 5: Opinions matter.

This is perhaps the biggest, most widespread and most fallacious lesson of the electronic age.

A time traveler visiting from history might well consider this the most amazing thing about our age. Everybody has an opinion, which can be delivered in 30 seconds or less, and these opinions are considered newsworthy, valuable, and a sound basis for public policy and individual action.

But an opinion is really just something you aren’t sure about yet–either because you haven’t done your homework, or because after the homework is thoroughly complete the answers are still a bit unclear.

Opinions are at best educated guesses, at worst dangerously uneducated guesses. In any case, opinions are just guesses.

Great people in history know and choose. Opinions are really nothing more than the lazy man’s counterfeit for knowing and choosing. Again, there is a place for opinion, but after the hard work is completed, not as a replacement for it.

In short—opinion is not a firm basis for anything except passing time (which may be one of the reasons the market won’t listen to more than 30 seconds of it at a time).

Imagine what the educational system might look like in a society that values opinions over knowledge. Or try to imagine the future governmental and moral choices of a society where all opinions are created equal, and endowed by their creator with inalienable rights.

Certainly such a society will not be wise, or moral, or free.

III. How to Increase Attention Span

Now, in pointing out these false lessons of the electronic age, my point is not that books are better than computers or televisions. There is nothing I know of that makes paper and binding inherently better than plastic and silicon.

Computers are better than books for many things, such as tracking and storing large amounts of information, speeding up communication and technological progress, and increasing the efficiency and even effectiveness of business.

Television is better than books for many purposes, including mass and speedy communication, business advertising and marketing, and entertainment options where important ideas can be portrayed and carried to the hearts of people more quickly.

My point is not that books are inherently better than electronic screens, nor is it that electronic media is bad. Nor is my point that the electronic media undermines our morals; the truth is that many books are at least as bad.

My point is that books are better than television, or the internet, or computer for educating and maintaining freedom.

Books matter because they state ideas and then attempt to thoroughly prove them.

The ideas in books matter because time is taken to establish truth, and because the reader must take the time to consider each idea and either accept it, or (if he rejects it) to think through sound reasons for doing so.

A nation of people who write and read is a nation with the attention span to earn an education and a free society if they choose.

The very medium of writing and reading encourages and requires an attention span adequate to deal with important questions and draw sound and effective conclusions. The electronic media arguably does not do this in the same way.

Now, idealism aside, the reality is that 30 second sound bites is how public dialogue takes place in our society, and we can either whine about it or we can adapt to the realities and develop our skills to be leaders.

A leader of public dialogue in our day must use the 30 second method; in fact, the reality is closer to 6 seconds than 30.

I am not saying that we should ignore this reality and prepare for 7-hour debates to impact public opinion. The electronic age is real and statesmen should be prepared to utilize it effectively.

But there is a huge difference between those who just polish their media technique and those who do so after (or at minimum, while) acquiring a quality liberal arts education.

Technology is a valuable tool, and a person who has paid the price to know true principles and understand the world from a depth and breadth of knowledge and wisdom, and then applies his or her wisdom through technology is much more likely to achieve statesmanlike impact.

His 6-second sound bites will not be opinions, but rather ideas that have been fully considered, weighed and chosen.

Indeed, and this is my most important point, in the electronic age your attention span is even more important than it was at other times in history.

The future of freedom may well hinge on one thing—our attention spans. And certainly your future success as a leader and statesman depends on your attention span.

One thing is certain: there will be no Lincolns, Washingtons, Churchills, Gandhis, or the mothers and fathers who taught them, without adequate attention span.

CONCLUSION

I wish I had some tricks to give you to increase your attention span.

But there is only one that I know of: discipline and hard work, hours and hours and hours studying, with hopefully some prayer and meditation in the mix.

There will be leaders of the next 50 years; I believe you will be among them. But only if you increase attention span.

Otherwise, you will be one of the masses, going along with whatever those in power do to society, led along by your “betters”—not because they are better morally, but because they have a longer attention span.

Too many leaders in history have been people without virtue, who ruled because they had the knowledge. Knowledge truly is power. In this day, it is time for people of virtue to also become people of wisdom.

I challenge each of you to be one of them.

Don’t let your habits of entertainment, your attachment to fun and slave entertainment stop you from becoming who you were meant to be. Become the leader you were born to be—spend the hours in the library. Let nothing get in your way.

Many things will arise to distract you; study will often seem the least attractive alternative for the evening. But you know better. You were born to be the leaders of the future.

Now do it—not in 30-second sound bites of opinion, but in seven to ten hour daily stretches of building yourself into a leader, a statesman, a man or women capable of doing the mission God has for you.

Endnotes:

  1. Postman, Neil. 1985. Amusing Ourselves to Death. New York: Penguin Books. p.44
  2. Ibid.
  3. Thucydides, The Pelopponesian War, 1,1.84.4. For a fuller treatment of this subject, see Josiah Bunting III. 1998. An Education for Our Time. Washington D.C.: Regnery Publishing, Inc.

My Experience At The Utah State Legislature: Part Four, Legislation

 Read Part One Here

Read Part Two Here

Read Part Three Here

(This resolution was passed onto the full House for debate with a favorable recommendation on February 13, 2012)  Rep. Galvez is leading the way to a sound monetary system for Utah.

Representative Brad J. Galvez proposes the following substitute bill: JOINT RESOLUTION ON MONETARY DECLARATION

2012 GENERAL SESSION STATE OF UTAH

Chief Sponsor: Brad J. Galvez

Senate Sponsor: ____________

LONG TITLE General Description:

This joint resolution of the Legislature expresses support for the legal and commercial framework necessary to establish and maintain well-functioning, sound monetary
systems.
Highlighted Provisions:

This resolution:

  • expresses support for the legal and commercial frameworks that are conducive to constitutional, well-functioning, monetary systems and that feature gold and silver coin as natural, sound, circulating money, protect against any impairment of financial contracts, and ensure the security and equal protection of the people’s monetary holdings.

Special Clauses:

None

Be it resolved by the Legislature of the state of Utah:

WHEREAS, the inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness require, for their full enjoyment, the indispensable right to honorably acquire, use, hold, and transfer property;

WHEREAS, money, serving as a medium of exchange, a unit of measure, and a store of value, facilitates the free exercise of inherent property rights, both individually and collectively;

WHEREAS, natural money arises from reliable value stemming from a medium’s intrinsic uniformity, divisibility, durability, portability, desirability, and scarcity;

WHEREAS, sound money promotes the general welfare of society by maintaining stable purchasing power over extended periods of time;

WHEREAS, circulating money only functions when the exchange of one form of legal tender for another is proportional between denominations, free of taxation and of debilitating regulation;

WHEREAS, government should never compel payment in a form of money inconsistent with the intent of transacting parties, except with respect to amounts directly payable to government itself;

WHEREAS, the extent and composition of a person’s monetary holdings should never be subject to disclosure or search and seizure except upon strict adherence to the safeguards of due process; and

WHEREAS, for a check and balance on congressional monetary authority, states retain the constitutional right to make gold and silver coin a legal tender for payment of debts:

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Legislature of the state of Utah expresses support for the legal and commercial frameworks that are conducive to constitutional, well-functioning, monetary systems which feature gold and silver coin as natural, sound, circulating money, protect against any impairment of financial contracts, and ensure the security and equal protection of the people’s monetary holdings.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that a copy of this resolution be sent to the President of the United States, the Majority Leader of the United States Senate, the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, the legislatures of all 49 other states, the Secretary of the United States Treasury, and to the members of Utah’s congressional delegation.

1st Sub. (Buff) H.J.R. 9 02-13-12 2:08 PM             HJR 9

Another bill I am working to support is HB 148 or TRANSFER OF PUBLIC LANDS ACT AND RELATED STUDY which is scheduled to go to committee on Tuesday, February 21, 2012 at 8am.  If you want to come and experience this committee be at the Capitol no later than 7:30am and give me a call from the Capitol steps and I will get you to the meeting. (435) 590 1661.

One bill I am not happy with is SB 63, which promotes a national popular vote.  Read below for my take on this.

Why James Madison is Against a National Popular Vote

Madison’s Rule: Use factions to protect majorities and minorities from each other

The same logic that governs our Presidential electoral system, applies to many sports—which Americans do, intuitively, understand.

In baseball’s World Series, for example, the team that scores the most runs overall is like a candidate who gets the most votes.  But to become champion, that team must win the most games.

In 1960, the New York Yankees scored more than twice as many total runs as the Pittsburgh Pirates yet the Yankees lost the series, four games to three. And nobody walked away saying it was unfair.

Runs must be grouped in a way that wins games, just as popular votes must be grouped in a way that wins states. In this case the concept of majority rules applies to the states not the individual citizens.

In sports, we accept that a true champion should be more consistent than the Yankees were in 1960.

A champion should be able to win at least some of the tough, close contests by every means available—bunting, stealing, brilliant pitching, dazzling plays in the field—and not just smack home runs against second-best pitchers.

A presidential candidate worthy of office, by the same logic, should have broad appeal across the whole nation, and not just play strongly on a single issue to isolated blocs of voters.

Experts, scholars, and deep thinkers can make errors on electoral reform, but nine-year-olds can explain to a Martian why the Yankees lost in 1960, and why it was right.

And both are based on the same underlying principle.

As Madison, the chief architect of the Electoral College explained in Federalist Paper 10, “a well-constructed Union” must, above all else, “break and control the violence of faction,” especially “the superior force of an … overbearing majority.” In any democracy, a majority’s power threatens minorities. It threatens their rights, their property, and sometimes their lives. A well-designed electoral system might include obstacles to thwart an overbearing majority. But direct, national voting has none.  The Madisonian system, by requiring candidates to win states on the way to winning the nation, has forced majorities to win the consent of minorities, checked the violence of factions, and held the country together.*

Interestingly, with a National Popular Vote, even though a majority of voters (generally a minority of eligible voters – less than 42%) could choose the president, it could do so with as little as 20% of the states.  Democracy is always promoted as the champion of the majority but in reality it almost always serves the minority.

 These 10 states combined could elect the President of the United States

 

Sources:

*Math Against Tyranny, Will Hively, Discover Magazine, November 1996 ￿￿￿￿

http://elections.gmu.edu/Turnout_2010G.html