Profundus Maximus

Supposition and conjecture on such subjects as political history, literary and cinematic criticism, and the true sport of kings, baseball. Following this format will doubtless make this site a perfect cure for insomnia. All of this comes to you from the mind of an anonymous graduate student, so you know it's nothing but Grade-A bullplop.

Sunday, July 04, 2004

Dies Libertas

As most of us well know, today is the day that we honor and celebrate the declaration made by the American colonies to break their ties with Britain and assert their own independence. One of the things I always found interesting though is that we choose to mark this day as our national date of birth, rather than say Constitution Day, September 17th, 1787, which is the formal beginning of our specific social contract, or perhaps even October 19th, 1781, when Cornwalis surrendered at Yorktown marking the practical end of the war, or perhaps the formal end of the war and recognition of American sovereignty with the signing of the Treaty of Paris on Sept. 3, 1783. But all of those and other important dates in the foundation of this country are contingent upon the adoption of the Declaration of Independence by the Continental Congress on this day in 1776.

That is, however, only a surface reason for choosing that date, and as point of fact it is not even the day itself that matters, but rather the ideals commemorated on this day within that essential document, that are at the heart of the matter. While the practical considerations upon which the Declaration itself rests are necessary (the "long train of abuses" section that is so important in understanding the basis for the colonists' argument), they would carry only subjective weight on their own without the objective standard which the Founders recognized as binding upon all people. Allow me to exerpt the particularly relevant statements from the Declaration of Independence itself, which you can read, among other places, at Yale's Avalon Project:

When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident:

That all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that, to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.


One must note that the ideas about humanity and liberty are somewhat at odds with much of Modernity. On the one hand you have absolutists like Hobbes who view liberty in binary terms--either a person holds it and is completely autonomous, or he cedes it entirely to the State ostensibly for his own protection (though in reading Hobbes one could be reminded of the sort of "protection" offered by a Mafia Don and his henchmen). There exists no right of revolution in such an understanding of liberty; no idea of the State having to be dissolved if and when it becomes destructive to natural liberty.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, you have the notion of liberty as humankind's freeing himself from his attachments to unnatural things like property, which is the sort of idea seen in Marx or certain other (mostly German) Rational Historicists. This is liberty construed as being who you ought to be, not becoming who you are, but in doing so it misconstrues the whole world of experiences within which humans must operate by necessity as temporal creatures. There is a third alternative view of liberty that comes in at the very end of Modernity; that it is merely a construct of human life much as anything else; that liberty is whatever we say it is (or is not), contingent upon the assertion of our own will. This last notion, however, is perhaps too far-flung from the world in which the Founders operated, and so is not really relevant to this topic.

The notion of liberty as seen in the Declaration and other writings of certain Founders, is almost Classical (or at least Neoclassical) by comparison to those mentioned above. When Jefferson and the others on the committee for writing the text of the Declaration wrote that:

Whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness"

They echo the words of Plato in Book IV of The Laws:

But anyway, in our consideration of the nature of the land and the order of the laws, we're looking now to the virtue of the regime. We do not hold, as the many do, that preservation and mere existence are what is most honorable for human beings; what is most honorable is for them to become as excellent as possible and to remain so for as long a time as they may exist.

The preservation of a particular political order is insignificant, then, by comparison to the preservation of the ends of good living, and if the regime is no longer suitable to this then it must cease to exist and a new order established in its place, one that sufficiently provides for these ends.

Of course there are Modern aspects to the American Founding as well, particularly with respect to the idea of the State as something created entirely by humans rather than as part of a natural/historical/divine process. After all, the interlocutors in the above cited Platonic dialogue were on their way up to the temple of Zeus on Crete where the mythic lawgiver had handed down the laws to Minos, as the proper place to offer prayers and sacrifices in setting out on an endeavor to form a new colony.

We do see some homage to that divine language in the Declaration (the four references to the deity being: "Nature's God," "Creator," "Divine Providence," and "Supreme Judge of the World"), though we don't get the same feeling here as we do from the ancients that the hand of the divine is what establishes a new regime, and in point of fact it is the people themselves who are throwing off the chains of the old oppressing order and setting forth a new one...with providential blessings being asked for of course. And yes, it is extremely important to the idea of natural rights that we understand they do not come from any human or institution made by humans, but rather are innate and able to be understood equally through natural reason.

So there is a Modern and a Classical part to the American Founding, which is why it is often said to be the bridge between the two (often disparate) views on politics and liberty. I wouldn't call it perfect by any means, particularly since we've seen the need to modify it as our understanding of the application of liberty has evolved over the many years, and clearly the reasoning set forth in the Declaration holds true that should the regime be irredeemably hostile to the rights of her citizens that it ought then be cast off in favor of one that is not. Nevertheless, it is definitely worth celebrating the ideas and the affirmation of them upon which this regime is based. And with that I wish an excellent Independence Day to everyone.

Thursday, July 01, 2004

Leges sexualium impuberium

The esteemed law professor Eugene Volokh today issued a request to his readers at The Volokh Conspiracy to send their thoughts on what might entail suitable and effective public policy on the issue of teenage sexuality. Being a topic I have addressed frequently on the forums but not one I have yet tackled in this new space, it sparked an interest in me to not only offer up my own policy suggestion but to give a bit of the intellectual background on why laws governing human sexuality ought to exist.

Now it is true that the human reproductive system is a biological and evolutionary necessity, as much as respiration, digestion or any other process. Yet we do not legislate most of the human body's functions, so why should sexuality be any different? The harm that one can cause with respect to most of our biological functions is entirely in the negative--if you don't eat, don't sleep, don't breathe, etc., you will die--and is entirely of a self-destructive nature, and these facts are evident to anyone upon experimentation, so the argument makes some sense that we would not need laws to tell us to expel waste. Yet the potential harm that sexuality can cause is entirely in the positive, and is inherently of a social nature--one does not cause harm by not having sex, and the harm one can cause is not just to oneself but to one's partner(s) and potential offspring. Sexuality being a function of social living as much as biology, it is therefore open to the rules that govern social interaction.

Now we still may not need laws of sexuality when dealing with adults who are aware of the risks they take unto themselves and are prepared (at least theoretically) to deal with those risks. Men and women who have earnings potential that can offset the costs of contraception, pregnancy or health care for sexually transmitted diseases, will not place an undue burden upon society by engaging in consensual sex with each other. However, a teenager who may be of a mature mind and body but not of a capacity to make his or her own way in society, and as such not able to offset the costs of sexual behavior, might not be someone that we as a whole want engaging in those practices with abandon. Hence we begin to see the foundation for legislating an age of consent; a purely utilitarian measure of what society believes to be the boundary between adulthood (and the responsibilities it entails) and childhood (which is characterized here as a state of natural dependency).

I consider age of consent laws to be inextricably tied to the existence of child labor laws, for proper consent requires the presumption of an ability to deal with the responsibilities incurred by particular instances of consent, be it signing a contract or having sexual intercourse. If by force of law, however, you are prevented from providing for yourself a means of living in a reasonably independent manner (as independent as one can get in social life at any rate), then it follows that your ability to give consent is as limited as your ability to take on the responsibilities of consent. Our active policy in this country is to drastically limit the legal earnings potential (not talking about illegal acts that generate profit of course) of a person under the age of sixteen by imposing a limit on the amount of hours that such a person can work. We also prohibit them from operating a vehicle, which is almost a necessity in order to produce the fruits of labor even in our age of high-speed communication. Furthermore, there is a natural qualitative limit on the sorts of labor that such persons can realistically engage in: it is only with age and experience that a person improves his or her marketability. It follows that low-skill, low-experience jobs will offer comparably low pay and benefits (if any).

All of this may seem like I am skirting the issue entirely, but I do not think so: when looking at a real policy consideration that affects a large segment of society, we cannot ignore the macro-economic argument that is tied to it. If as standard policy we say that people under sixteen cannot be sole or co-proprietors of their own lives, that they must be dependents of their parents/guardians or the state itself, then it ought to follow that they are unable to consent for themselves about serious affairs such as sexuality. We could eliminate the labor prohibition (and as such allow young teens to have full ownership of their lives) but I do not think that is a good idea. Low-skill work tends to be disproportionately demanding physically, and I do not think it a wise decision to allow someone who has not fully reached their physical development to work long hours in such employment. Nor do I think that children of that age are mature enough to live as responsible and productive members of society wholly of their own accord, so it would be unwise to give them such latitude.

The policy I advocate then, would be that persons of thirteen through fifteen ought not be able to consent for themselves with respect to sexual behavior, but I would leave open the loophole of those legally responsible for them to give consent in their place, with that permission from them for the teenager to have sex overriding the law. After all, it's the parents who will be paying for contraception, who will be taking them to physicians and whose health insurance will cover the potential costs incurred, so they should have the final say in the matter. I will not consider exceptions for any younger than thirteen, however, as the natural development of puberty in aggregate has not even fully began in children of that age, so it is necessary that we protect their physical health (not to mention mental and emotional). For those who are sixteen and seventeen years old I would not legislate an age of consent, as labor restrictions tend to be more lax at those ages and they can begin to be responsible young adults. If we allow persons that age to operate a motor vehicle independently, then we obviously think that they are ready to handle the responsibilities of adult living, and that by necessity includes sex.

Perhaps then we also ought to consider reducing the legal limit for other controlled activities such as smoking, drinking alcohol, and gambling, though I would not include voting in that list. But then I am someone who thinks that no one under the age of 25 is realistically and sufficiently prepared by life to understand enough about human social interaction in order to know how best to govern it, and I do not think that one who is not yet able to hold office ought to be able to vote for those who are. That equally controversial topic, however, is going to have to be saved for another day.

Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Lazy cross-posting: conserva libertatem

Been busy with Latin class and battling lower back pain, which has taken away from my writing time. Also haven't been able to come to an effective conclusion on the civil religion issue that satisfies me, which just means that it's a tough issue for me to grapple with due to some internal contradictions of opinion and thought. So instead of continuing to hit my head against the proverbial wall, I'm going to change gears slightly and add a few thoughts to this post made over at one of my favorite haunts on the web (ommitting a segment that is in response to another person on a different issue):

Changing gears for a moment, I don't really think that Bush has governed as a true conservative would. Going to war with the osensible goal of advancing Western liberalism is a liberal, not a conservative act. Increasing the growth of the national government with a new entitlement and a new branch of the executive that encorporated what had been a sizeable private industry is not conservative. Nationalizing public education standards is not conservative. Calling for an amendment to the Constitution is not conservative regardless of the content of said amendment. Maybe I am more conservative than I had thought since I am opposed to all but the first of those ideas (war as means to advance the ideal of liberty). But then words tend to change in their meaning especially in political context, so labels like "conservative" and "liberal" probably don't mean very much in the long run.

So, I am conflicted about this election since my views have so little in common with today's Republican Party, with exception to how to deal with the threats facing liberal society today, which is the only reason I would consider voting for Bush in 2004 since I don't think that the alternatives are serious about the issue. Granted, some evangelical dogma when applied to politics is a threat, but it's a much more passive threat than flying airplanes into buildings and blowing up schoolbuses. Unfortunately, liberal society has a difficult time dealing with aggressive threats and tends to emphasize the passive ones overly much. Ironically, it's the passive threat that itself has the fortitude to deal with the aggressive one, which is why support for the war is I think stronger among Christian conservatives than it is among liberals who should theoretically be in favor of it the most. But perhaps Hegelian liberalism, best embodied in America by Woodrow Wilson, is a dying breed.


The second paragraph is the real kicker though, and I think it highlights a few of my own contradictions: my tendencies are "conservative" by today's standards since I think that it is better to limit the aggregation of the State in its dealings with the personal lives of its citizens (though this is properly a "classically liberal" position), such as their education, marriage, or generation of wealth. Perhaps one day the species will evolve to the point where it is possible that the good of the individual becomes in complete alignment with the good of the whole body politic, but we aren't there yet and I have my doubts about the species ever achieving such a state of being. This is, quite frankly, not in line with the sort of Hegelian or Wilsonian liberalism that considers the State to be the proper means to achieve liberty in all modes and aspects of human life.

On the other hand, I my tendencies are "liberal" in that exact same Wilsonian sense with respect to relations between disparate ideals (speficially international relations), specifically that the stronger system of government will win out Historically speaking over the weaker one, with strength being measured purely in terms of the ability to preserve and extend liberty. Then again, I also conceive of liberty in terms of natural right, as in that which will always be arrived at through proper natural reasoning, an idea which is definitely conservative and very far from the sort of Rational Historicism espoused by Hegel and Wilson.

So perhaps the best way to explain how these apparently contradicting views work together to form a (reasonably) cohesive political ideology, is in this pithy Latin phrase: libertas naturalis conservanda est. Natural liberty must be preserved. Sometimes this means adhering to the status quo, and others times it means making a change for the better, but these are all temporal matters and what always remains is Liberty herself.

As a housekeeping note, I will try to maintain a regular posting schedule and treat this space as if it were a regular column, and thrice per week seems to be about the absolute most I can hope for at this time. In all likelihood I will just end up writing in this space when the Muse strikes me, and about whatever topic I am chewing on at the time, but I do plan on finishing up my previous thoughts left hanging in earlier posts whenever I am able.

Friday, June 25, 2004

Lazy cross-posting

I'm finishing up the last segment of Religio Civitatis and will hopefully have it up this weekend at the latest. In the meantime, I thought I might do a little cross-posting of something I wrote over at The Fray in response to this review of Fahrenheit 9/11 by David Edelstein. Here's the post in its entirety:

If Fahrenheit 9/11 is as inflammatory, vitriolic, "unfair and outrageous" as it has been billed by its partisans and detractors alike, then yes I do take issue with such a construct as I would with any such an effort to further degrade the level of political discourse in this country.

I think, however, that Moore and his ilk on both the radical Left and reactionary Right are simply symptoms of a broader cultural disease that afflicts us: the increasing accessibility of information and opinions that has come with the digital age has allowed conflict of this extreme sort to spread at a correspondingly rapid rate. I'm no Luddite and I think the technologies we've developed at communication will be of stong social utility...as soon as we've evolved to the point where we put them to the proper uses.

It is true that there is a usefulness to strife in that it helps people to work harder at improving their conditions, it also can be a negative when it begins to dominate their daily social interaction. I do not think that it improves our mental wellness when we are waging wars of opinions every day in civil society against people we do not know; it may sharpen the arguments and allow them to cut to deeper truths, but how much human empathy is trimmed away in the process? Far too much I would estimate.

While I would hardly advocate that people cease to engage each other's minds in discussions of the world of ideas, I would suggest that they try to moderate themselves not only in what they say and think but also in what they observe. Avoid taking as Gospel Truth the words of any polemicist (or especially propagandist), and broaden your perspectives as much as you can so that you can begin to see the points of view of the so-called "other sides" of civil society.

History may show that people are more civil here and now than they were at any point previous, but there's still much progress left to be made. I just don't think we'll hit the next step in human social evolution so long as we give serious attention to the rantings of the Moores and Coulters of the world.

And yes I realize both the ironies that I'm communicating these ideas via the medium I warned against, and that I'm giving the likes of Moore more of my time than he deserves. But then one of the enjoyable things about life is that it is filled with irony.


I would just add that I have no plans of seeing this film, nor of writing at length about people like Moore, but I think for my next writing project I might further explore those ideas I made generalized claims about in that post with respect to the role of the internet in spreading immoderate behavior and radical/reactionary opinions. I really do think there's a dissertation to be written about online political discussions in chat rooms, message boards, and comment boxes on major weblogs, though I'm probably not the one to write it. The interweb is the new Forum after all, or perhaps the new Areopagus is the more accurate analogy, if only because likenesses of the Furies (the most famous of the mythical litigants at that ancient court of public opinion) are so often displayed therein.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Religio Civitatis III

In the previous installment of my extended essay on the religion of the state, I briefly noted a few examples of Western classical Myth and History that point to an ancient trend of mixing the religious with the political in civil life. I also noted that the deeper into the past we go, the more human social arrangements become the purview of the church (or, even further back into primitivism, loosely organizes tribal cults). In this segment, however, I will move the proverbial time clock several centuries forward and look at how the state began to develop as an entity of increasing independence from the church, and will hopefully be persuasive in showing why this is a Historical advancement, with the proposition put forth being that as the state becomes more rational and secular the ability for it to objectively fulfill its proper duties (the preservation of rights) increases.

Now Medieval and Renaissance History may not be my specialization, and as such I will have to gloss over them in even less detail than I did with other ages in previous postings, but I think I can say with some gravity and veracity that the fall of Rome brought with it a power vacuum in Europe that would at some point have to be filled by human institutions. The central forces in human societal development over the millennia have been the church and the state, so as such these two social entities in their new (but all too familiar) forms would continue to contest each other for dominion. In the new Holy Roman Empire, this took shape in power struggles between the Emperor (and the nobles who elected him) and the Pope (and the cardinals who elected him).

An early issue that developed was over how much authority a sitting emperor had over the election of a new pope, which turned out to be quite a lot in many cases. Still, strong popes would try to exert their own authority over secular matters, as with Gregory IV involving himself in the succession dilemma of Emperor Louis the Pious’ sons, which turned out disastrously for the Franks (most of whom were slaughtered in the resulting war) and the end of their empire. One of his future namesakes, Gregory VII, is famous for him assertion of the papacy’s authority over secular powers in his contest of wills with Henry IV, going as far as repeatedly excommunicating the emperor almost succeeding in destroying him but for his own errors and excesses. And most famous of all of course is the great struggle between Henry VIII of England and the Catholic Church over whether or not he could divorce his wife, leading to his breaking from the Church and instituting the Church of England with the monarch asserting his primacy over the faith.

These are all examples of excesses taken by both secular and religious leaders in their efforts to exert themselves over the other and cement the institutions of human society under themselves, and all led to bloodshed and strife. The strife and violence would only continue at a faster pace into and beyond the Protestant Reformation, as regimes that had adopted the new outlook on the faith would go to war and persecute those who did not, and vice versa for those who continued to adhere to the old ways. While there were brief periods of relative calm between warring states (who still continued to persecute those living within them that didn’t conform to their ways), hot conflict raged long enough so that the age would be known as the Thirty Years War. In observing all the destruction that humans imparted upon each other at the time, Thomas Hobbes came to the conclusion that in order to keep people from constantly recurring to the State of War they would have to subject themselves fully to the state itself, and thus Absolutism entered the West and completed the transition to Modernity that Machiavelli had began a century beforehand. Thus the State was solidified as its own entity in political philosophy as something created by man to save himself from himself.

Of course absolute monarchism or statism carried with it problems of its own, primarily as it in a roundabout way returned back to the ancient view of the ruler as divine--after all, what else is a divinity other than absolute in its authority? Louis XIV, the "Sun King", is the most famous example of such a ruler, whose excesses and hubris in a few generations in part would lead to the French Revolution. While this supposed "divine right of kings" would not take hold as strongly in Britain, mainly due to the liberties enjoyed by the members of Parliament, we still saw in Albion the mixing of sacred and secular in the person of the monarch, for as we have noted he or she was the head of the Church from Henry VIII onward (and this meant for real power over the faith back before our Postmodern era). And in the former Holy Roman Empire, a new regime was in the process of formation under the mantle of the Prussian king, which later would be used by G.W.F. Hegel as his model in crafting what he posited as the state at the end of History—the rational state that was in essence the will of the Spirit of History itself, arrived at after all this human toil and suffering.

Even as we were moving away from control of civil life by an independent church, we still continued to have a mixing of secular and sacred authorities. "If God is with us, who could be against us?" That is the question put forth on behalf of all such regimes that view themselves as the absolute earthly authority, and that was the problem of politics not only in the Ancient world as earlier posted, but still in this Modern world of emperors and divine constitutions. If you believe that you are infallible, there are no ethical standards that would hold you back from doing whatever you wished—you are above reproach in your own eyes. This is of course problematic however when you realize that humans constantly make mistakes and governments are nothing more than collections of humans making collectively more mistakes, so the self-deluding ideal will always collapse upon itself. And this is true regardless of the beliefs held as absolute by the particular society, for the religion of the state comes in all manner of forms, from fundamentalist Islam to evangelical Christian to the ardently atheist worship of the so-called "common good" as seen in communist regimes.

I have yet to come to the remedy for this civil ill, but I fully intend to in my fourth and final installment in this essay, in which I shall also put forth my final reasoning on the matter of the Pledge (which I fear I may have wandered too far away from by now so that any sense of coherence has been lost) and American politicization of religion in general. After that I will assess whether this serialized essay format is working out or not, and perhaps make some changes to the way I’ve began to write in this space.

Saturday, June 19, 2004

Computer troubles

Was not able to update yesterday as my computer was having serious issues due to spyware and other corruptions. Let this be a word to the wise to always keep track of what is on your hard drive. At any rate, should have the next segment up my extended essay up later this evening or sometime tomorrow. Now, back to the process of reinstalling.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

Religio Civitatis II

In the first segment of my extended essay on state religion, I wrote very briefly on examples of civil and religious conflict in Colonial American History, on what the Founders thought to establish in order to curb the potential for the state to become involved in religious strife, and by way of that allow the people to practice their religious beliefs freely and in peace. In this section I intend to explore the deeper History behind civil and religious entanglements in order to get at where we as a species have come in relation to those ancient days, and eventually hope to answer why those developments that we have made in this area are so important.

Distinctions between church and state tend to slip away the further back we look into our History. A Roman in the age of Augustus, having lived through periods of nasty behavior on the part of his leaders, would not likely have considered their new emperor to be a "sacred" being--that adjective from which he received that name had only ever been applied to objects prior to himself, and so a sacred person was somewhat of a new and rather self-deluding concept to them, even if it did ostensibly make him their god-king. But to a Babylonian living almost four thousand years ago, the laws written down by Hammurabi would have been taken prima facie as the words of Marduk: when your continued existence is dependent upon the "protection" given by an absolute ruler and his forces, the likelihood of accepting his words as divine will rise in accordance. Going back further to when humans lived outside of an organized church/government, it was the eldest member of the family or clan, the one who had memories of older times and had proven by his very longevity to be worth listening to, who held the leadership position in all things physical and spiritual. If he said that wind was the breath of the gods, it was so; if fire was their tool or their scourge, it was so; if they ruled from the tops of inaccessible mountains, it was so.

The interesting observation that I can make out of these (admittedly undeveloped and generalized) examples is that the further back into History one goes, the less developed is the idea of the state and the more developed is the idea of divine rule over humans. I think Plato supports this observation when he writes in The Laws about the Age of Kronos, when the father of the gods ruled over men: the men of this time were simple folk and were able to be ruled in this manner. This is akin to the Golden Age that Hesiod writes of in Works and Days, when the golden men of virtue could live in virtual harmony with the deity. And of course the parallel that we modern Westerners know most of all is that of the Genesis story of creation, when man was without sin and thus able to live according to the ways of God. At some point though, those ages end, whether it be the result of one god usurping another (Zeus overthrowing Kronos); of the golden souled men just fading away because they could not reproduce without women (which brings us to the last option...); or of woman, and through her man, being tempted to disobey God.

Out of the ends of those ages, however, would eventually grow civil society. St. Augustine observed this in writing City of God that the city of man comes about only when he is in a condition of separation from God, and that all cities are founded on some great crime. Cain founded the “first city” after he went into exile for killing Abel; this story is paralleled by Romulus and Remus, and to a lesser extent by Theseus' various crimes and vices both prior to and after his mythical founding of [Athens]. And even though these are myths and they are meant to tell about the vices of civil society, there is some truth in what they say, for the Roman republic was founded on the tyrannicide of Tarquinius Superbus by Junius Brutus among others, and his alleged ancestor Marcus Brutus helped (inadvertently) to usher in the new age of Roman kings by killing the one who would be the first of a two thousand year line of world emperors to bear his name. The democracy of Athens came about under Cleisthenes only as a result of civil unrest, and into the Modern World bloody revolutions are the mainstay of establishing a new state.

The point that I am building to through these references is that there is a very old meme that has persisted throughout History that there is something intrinsically corrupt about human society and that it is best to have a god or gods rule either directly (as in Eden or the Age of Kronos) or indirectly (through the divine laws of Hammurabi). For even Publius writes, “if men were angels, no government would be necessary.” As such the state has tended to exist at the behest of its religious leaders, which generally breeds intolerance for other ideas and a clash of the state’s arms whenever different sets of beliefs comes into open conflict with one another. Are those good things for humans? I think the right answer to that question begins to be given in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries of our era, but before getting there we ought to cover the ground between the end of Classicism and the start of Modernity. I shall save that subject for my next posting.

[Edit: minor factual change made in the second to last paragraph.]

Feelin' fine

The illness has almost completely passed so blogging should resume as normal later today. Also I’m feeling pretty good about myself having just had an e-mail I sent to the inestimable Jonah Goldberg put up on The Corner. Perhaps I will also send a letter to Andrew Sullivan considering he is the subject of the matter. I enjoy both Goldberg and Sullivan's (hmm...sounds like a familiar pairing) writings, and agree and disagree with them on various issues, but I think Jonah will remain the superior as he doesn't let himself go rhetorically overboard even when faced with severe personal attacks.

At any rate, I don't know that my words carry any special weight compared to such giants, but I will just say what I think is right nonetheless.