TCS Daily


Religion, Government, and Civil Society

By Arnold Kling - February 21, 2007 12:00 AM

In public schools, which do you think is right?


(a) teaching students to recite the Pledge of Allegiance, including the words "under God"

(b) teaching students to recite the Pledge of Allegiance, without the words "under God"

I say, "Neither." With or without the words "under God," the Pledge of Allegiance feels to me like a prayer. It's a fairly nice prayer, and I have no problem with having it taught in private schools. I have no problem praying for my country -- such a prayer is included in the standard weekly service at my synagogue. But government institutions ought not to be telling people how to pray.

If we define religion broadly to include anything that involves prayers, ethical precepts, and moral codes, can we rely on the American Civil Liberties Union to maintain the first amendment separation between church and state? What sort of rules or boundaries can be drawn to ensure that public schools serve only to educate, not to proselytize? How do we draw the line?

As far as I can tell, there is no way to draw the line between church and state in public schools. To me, the only way to separate church and state in schooling is to have private schools. Getting government out of the schooling business would return schooling to the realm of civil society, where values and ethics may be taught without inhibition.

The religion of the public school system tends to be a mixture of environmentalism, political correctness, and worship of big government. Many private schools preach the same thing, so perhaps little would change if we had a system of all private education. However, if there is any chance that students might delve more deeply into issues of ethics and social problems, it would be in a setting that is not constrained by government bureaucracy.

Civil Societarian

My recent "Request for Ideological Comment" drew a number of helpful responses (I am still planning an essay on those). Some of them made me realize that I tend to put myself on the defensive when I say that I am libertarian. So I want to try a new label.

Call me a Civil Societarian. I strongly support the institutions of civil society. These include families, corporations, religious groups, private schools, charities, trade associations, and the other peaceful, voluntary collective organizations that promote our individual and collective well-being.

The stereotypical libertarian might cite Ayn Rand and exalt the independent individual. Instead, a civil societarian would cite Alexis de Tocqueville, and his observation that "Americans of all ages, all conditions, and all dispositions constantly form associations." These voluntary associations are what a civil societarian sees as the key to civilization.

Government may contribute to civil society, but it also intrudes on it (see the essay on Group Power). As an economist, I am keenly aware that government interference with markets tends to weaken them. Even the most well-intended interventions often have adverse consequences.

But the challenge that government poses to civil society goes beyond economics. When we treat government as a parent, we weaken the family. When we worship government, we overpower other religions. When we look to government every time there is a problem, we undermine those who have independent, creative solutions. Katrina-ravaged New Orleans was let down by its Democratic mayor, its Democratic governor, and its Republican President. It was not let down by private-sector volunteers.

Social Service Vouchers, Charitable Tax Credits

Marvin Olasky, a mild-mannered journalism professor who tried (apparently without success) to shape "compassionate conservatism," proposes two ideas that would help channel government spending back into civil society. One idea is a social service voucher. The other is a charitable tax credit. They are interesting concepts, although they are not without pitfalls.

The idea of a social service voucher is to give poor people a choice about where to obtain drug rehabilitation, social work, counseling, or other services. Instead of the government acting as monopoly supplier, the poor would receive vouchers which they could take to any private organization that offers suitable services. This would empower the poor to choose what services to obtain. Like any consumer, the voucher recipient could essentially fire providers who are ineffective and only give business to those who genuinely meet their needs.

(As I write this, I wish we had "snow plow vouchers." One of my neighbors hired a private snowplow to clear the ice blocks pushed in front of his driveway by the government road "service," and we have negotiated with the plow operator to do the same for our driveway. If a private vendor had done to us what the government road crews did, we would have fired that vendor by now.)

A question about vouchers concerns regulation. With no regulation at all, the voucher simply becomes a cash transfer that can be spent on anything. Once we assume that government regulation will be involved, how heavy-handed will it be? Will government not allow drug rehabilitation programs that accept voucher funds to use explicitly Christian teachings as part of their method?

Another idea is a charitable tax credit. Today, when the affluent give to charity, they receive a tax deduction. When the poor contribute to charity, they get no benefit. If instead the poor were given a tax credit (one that they can receive even if they pay no taxes), they would be just as rewarded as the rich for donating to charity. The poor might be more likely to give money to hands-on charities that solve problems in their neighborhoods than to make their donations to Harvard or some other upscale beneficiary.

Of course, a tax credit has an opportunity cost. Either other taxes have to be raised or government spending has to be reduced in order to finance a tax credit for charitable contributions.

I would like to see more charity and fewer entitlements. This may be particularly important for health care going forward. If people treat health care as a government entitlement, then there is nothing to stop them from obtaining unnecessary medical procedures, apart from the discomfort and inconvenience involved. (Discomfort and inconvenience are real costs, which ought to be added to the costs that providers charge and then compared with benefits in order to make sure that the latter are higher). We see the consequences in our current Medicare system, where the evidence of wasteful overuse of services and the expenditures on futile care are significant.

Charities are unlikely to give dollar-for-dollar reimbursements for health care expenses. More likely, a charity would give an ill person a lump sum that reflects how the illness affects the person's life, both in terms of medical expenses and in other ways. Recipients would turn around and spend some of this money on health care services, but they would be conscious of the cost as they did so. (See "Five Big Questions About Health Care.")

Church and State

"In my view people will believe in the transcendent no matter what. An attempt to erect society without transcendence leads to the worship of the state."
-- Tyler Cowen (note that Alex Tabarrok writes the original post, and Cowen is making a comment)

Cowen is affirming the views of Deirdre McCloskey, who wrote,

"Characterizing humans as Prudent Only, or even as prudent and just, with love of others, will not do. People also have identities (faith), and projects (hope), for which they need courage and temperance, those self-disciplining virtues, and they all have some version of transcendent love—for God, the traditional object, though as I say science or humanity or the revolution or the environment or art have provided modern substitutes."

I was in the audience when McCloskey gave her lecture. In fact, I was sitting right next to Tyler Cowen, who was proofreading a manuscript as he listened. Like Cowen, I found her persuasive.

McCloskey says that "Faith is the virtue of identity and rootedness." My secular, liberal friends clearly derive much of their identity and their rootedness from their political faith. I do not begrudge their having a political faith. I just wish they had chosen more wisely. Civil Societarianism is a better faith than a faith in the evil of George Bush, in the need to punish the rich, and in the virtue of any well-intended government program.

If McCloskey is correct, then there is an element of theocracy in any political belief. We have no choice but to live under a theocracy, but some theocracies are worse than others.

One of the most frightening aspects of radical Islam is its version of theocracy. Fortunately, the Muslims I know are Americanized. In America, every religion is a minority religion, and everyone understands that we do not want government by sharia.

Liberals worry that religious conservatives will impose a Christian theocracy. That threat is both obvious and far-fetched. Instead, I wish that liberals could recognize the dangers that their own religion poses to civil society. Price controls on pharmaceuticals would represent a much more serious war on science than denial of funds for embryonic stem cell research (although I personally would not oppose such government funding).

We need to love something larger than ourselves. Many people love God. Perhaps civil societarians can love our ideal of a civil society. I am happy to love the flag and the republic for which it stands. Just not in public schools.

Arnold Kling is author of Learning Economics and Crisis of Abundance.

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226 Comments

Arnold Kling is author
I just read the beginning to start this, written by Arnold Kling. I very much enjoyed the contents and his style.

His writing including the word "feel" is just what the problem is now in our government either in Washington, State, Local or Federal and not limited to the Courts especially the Fed-courts. To many are adding their feelings on the matters instead of looking at the state of moral and the enviroment at the time and instead of looking at the precedence set in law and case law, the Pledge Allegiance, Our Natinal Anthem(hello-Anthem)song, Constitution and Bill of Rights and on and on, and all the sub notes that are part of that History-Our History was written in its' intended intent and the pertinence of keeping it that way. That is why the Word of God or saying God is used so often in the beginning and establishing of this Country America. It is the full reasons Words Of and From Gods' written word is engraved or written or established on many of our American Country Buildings and Historical Documents. To take away the "One Nation Under God" writting is to warp and twist, and de-moralize, what God and the founding Fathers led by The God-Holy Spirit guided us in the making and developing of this country. But, I am no longer too concerned of this anymore.
It is very clear to many who are not of the Faith and those who are of the only True Faith of God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ that we are in the last generations of this earth and country as we now know it. This is the only Century in and on record that many of the signs to watch for signaling the end of this time and season are coming together within a short period of time in the same century and not spread out over many. Do I need to list the signs? Probably so but, not at this time.

Liberalism a religion?? Then let's get the religious tax breaks for liberal orgs
does this mean that the ACLU, Sierra Club should get exemption from property tax? But then what about the Heritage Foundation and Ayn Rand organizations. Why not the Freepers and (for that matter) TCS?

Calling anything and everything in the nature of political belief structure 'religion' is a new variation on the old joke: "how many legs does a dog have if you call it's tail a leg?"

Humans have gotten along perfectly well for millenia with a quite consistent idea of what religion is. It's embedded in our tax code and legal structure. To try to diddle with this in the name of scoring cheap points against liberals is a box that, trust me, conservatives don't want to open.

But thank your Arnold for, as always, providing a useful reductio-ad-absurdum for silly right wing cliches.

Under God
OK, time for a history lesson... "Under God" was added to the pledge in 1954. So it's really pretty damned funny when anyone who was over the age of about 5 in 1954 (58 today) writes about how the world is going to end if "Under God" is removed or challenged. Personally, I couldn't give a rat's @$$, except that adding it totally screwed up the pentameter of a nice poem.

Separaters
"Under God" is a historic phrase capturing a historic idea, and this idea is itself a bit of American history. Therefore, teaching kids the Pledge of Allegiance with this phrase in it is not teaching prayer, but American history. Therefore, those who would remove the phrase seek to renovate American history to suit their tastes, just as those who put it in sought to do, both relying on state power to get their "version" of history before a captive audience. For what purpose other than brainwashing, or as the NEA likes to call it, "educating"?

The idea that state power can and should renovate history to suit its aims is not a new one, yet its own history proves it a failed one. As a political tool, history is synonymous with belief, meaning that it doesn't matter what actually occurred in the past, but only what people believed happened in the past. Yet the truth will out, for lies have costs that pile up quickly.

The point? We can bicker without resolution about "Under God", but when my kid asks me: "Dad, how come we have to say that the USA is under God?", I'll answer, "Because if it were the other way around, we'd have to move to Canada."

"Call me a Civil Societarian" What is wrong with "liberty"?
Homosexuals were able to hijack a perfectly fine word to mean something totally different.

One significant feature of 'libertarians' I believe, is their belief in principles and standards.

When someone like Kling, who has some multi-political audience, runs from the term, he has lost the opportunity to educate the ignorant.

Libertarians, should take a lesson from all of the other minority groups in the USA and demand people define them in their terms.

Running from liberty will not advance liberty.

indivisible
was also added, but that addition was further in the past.

eric proves the point
He don't need no stinkin facts to believe what he does.
He frequently calls for those who don't believe as he does to be punished.

He shows all the traits of a religious extremist.

Words have meaning.
"Religion is the adherence to codified beliefs and rituals that generally involve a faith in a spiritual nature and a study of inherited ancestral traditions, knowledge and wisdom related to understanding human life. The term "religion" refers to both the personal practices related to faith as well as to the larger shared systems of belief."
Wiki

Based upon this definition, modern liberalism is a religion.

on the other hand
Before one can educate, one must communicate.
If a particular word causes such strong emotional reactions in your audience, that they cease to pay attention to what you are saying. Then stop using that word.
It's the ideas that are important, not the label we use to identify those ideas.

Religion vs. heresy
"Heresy is an opinion or doctrine in philosophy, politics, science, art, etc., at variance with those generally accepted as authoritative (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heresy)."

It's pretty clear to me that liberalism is a "faith based community".

Liberals take in "on faith" that "experts" should run everything. Think back to the introduction of City Managers instead of elected Mayors in the early 1900's - what was the rationale?

Consider Global Warming - how is the "consensus opinion" anything but a "faith based result"? There isn't any independently repeatable and verifiable science, which means it's not science.

Consider liberal economic policies - higher taxes and more government have consistently destroyed economic growth, yet higher taxes and more government are consistently proposed by liberals to stimulate the economy. It's a matter "of faith".

And, of course, the notion that liberals care for the working man, the poor, the downtrodden - all of that is a matter "of faith" since the economic and governmental policies they propose do nothing but make the poor poorer, crush the downtrodden, and remove the working man from the workforce. Yet liberals believe as a "matter of faith" that their policies are the correct ones and that they help those they claim to care about. It has to be a "matter of faith" else why would the liberals continue to propose the same policies that have had consistently disastrous results? There are only three reasons:
- liberals are truly stupid people, they are incapable of learning from the past mistakes
- liberals intend to harm those they claim to care about because making things worse gives them more power
- liberals truly believe their policies are the right ones, it's just those conservative devils that mess things up

Once one understands that liberalism is a religion it's much easier to accept the liberal arguments. To liberals I'm a heretic, I don't worship at the feet of big government (or small government for that matter), I don't blindly accept the word of "experts", and as I'm a firm believer in Occam's Razor I don't accept convoluted arguments about the "fairness" of economic and social polices that have demonstrably failed time after time.

It's clear that non-believers in liberalism are heretics.

Mark can't prove any point
just fact-free insuts

Indeed they do, and by those meanings the charge is wildy suspect.
Except it doesn't have "faith of a spiritual nature," nor is it particularly a sutdy of codified beliefs and rituals (are you talking about lawyers or professors), anything like that found in say, Buddhism or Baptism or any other religion I can think of. . It also doesn't have :
churches or temples or synogogus or mosques or , prayer meetings, prayer, non-civil communion/barmitzvah/baptism; priests with ecclesiastical tasks and one zilliion other things usually associated with religion. It's not recognized as a religion by (say) the army (which does recognize wicca) and it doesn't get exemption from real estate. Again, call a dog's tail a leg, doesn't make it one.

Oh, brother...
this is really something.

>Liberals take in "on faith" that "experts" should run everything.

Not exactly. Liberals think that people who do a job should be qualified and know what they're doing. Elected officials are a special category

>Think back to the introduction of City Managers instead of elected Mayors in the early 1900's - what was the rationale?

The rationale was too many elected mayors were usiing their offices to distirbute graft. Why no read the history.

>To liberals I'm a heretic,

No, you are not. You are someone who disagrees with them politically. In order to be a heretic you have to be part of the religion.

Dump the term 'Libertarian' ...
... For the simple reason that it's tainted with years of failure. Nobody wants to fly ValuJet anymore, that's why they renamed it AirTran. As a philosophical concept, there's nothing wrong with Libertarianism. But as the name of political party or movement, it's a joke because they have never won more than a few elections for lower offices.

Big 'L' vs. little 'l'
It's essays like this one from Kling that highlight why the Libertarian Party is less benign than the bunch of kooks most of us take them for.

I suspect that a pretty good segment of the US population is libertarian (maybe 20%) and the percentage is probably much higher among us political junkies. However, most of us cringe in horror at the prospect of being affiliated with the Libertarian Party.

The sad fact is that use of the small-l "libertarian" label gets conflated with the Big-L version to some extent. It cheapens an important concept.

(Yeah, this is sorta like Randy Newman complaining that "South America stole our name." It's a nit, but a substantial nit.)

Liberal conservative
"Civil Societarian"

Ugh.

Since you quote Toqueville, it may be useful to point out that Russell Kirk described Toqueville, without irony, as a "liberal conservative." That works better for me than "civil societarian", which sounds like something a wet-behind-the-ears left-wing college student would make up.

"A question about vouchers concerns regulation. With no regulation at all, the voucher simply becomes a cash transfer that can be spent on anything. Once we assume that government regulation will be involved, how heavy-handed will it be? Will government not allow drug rehabilitation programs that accept voucher funds to use explicitly Christian teachings as part of their method?"

Glad you see the problem. Surely the entity providing the voucher is going to decide who is qualified to redeem it. If it's a government voucher, that means the government decides who gets to provide the service. That doesn't mean government vouchers is a worthless idea -- they still eliminate the conflict of interest inherent in the government being both the regulator and provider of services -- but it suggests that we would do better to rely on private charities to provide the voucher. Which implies a shift of revenue from government to charity. Which further implies that the tax credit for charity should be the priority.

Incidentally, I cringe at the Pledge even in private contexts. It's the "one nation ... indivisible" part that bothers me. I'm not sure I can articulate why, unless it's my instinctive fear of mononlithic social entities.

Not as silly a cliche as you think
I don't actually have a problem with extending tax breaks to liberal (and conservative) nonprofits. Any excuse for a tax break!

But the statement that

"Humans have gotten along perfectly well for millenia with a quite consistent idea of what religion is. "

is a bit silly. During all those millenia, religion was closely integrated with government. Our secular state is a rare and historically recent exception. To suggest that modern political movements might slip back into the old way of thinking is hardly outrageous or implausible. If there is a difference between conservatives or liberals in this respect, it is that the conservative religious inclinations have retained a central God figure and the liberal have not -- unless you count Gaia.

fits the definition
religion - something one believes in and follows devotedly; a point or matter of ethics or conscience

and just to clear up any confusion

ethics - a system of moral principles

conscience - the complex of ethical and moral principles that controls or inhibits the actions or thoughts of an individual

and finally we must define liberal itself, we will use the modern definition. this definition has been abridged in an attempt to more quickly arrive at a conclusion.

liberalism - a belief that the government should provide for a degree of general welfare, including benefits for the unemployed, housing for the homeless, and medical care for the sick.

given these facts it seems that liberalism = religion is not just a cliche, it is the absolute truth. at the most basic level modern liberals belive that those with means should provide for those without means. furthermore they do not believe that individuals, left to their own devices, would choose to make this decision themselves and that should they choose to they will not do so in great enough numbers. because of this belief they advocate the government act as an agent in the exchange, an agent that can appropriate for itself as it sees fit and redistribute to those it deems fit. this is a moral principal, one that only the most arrogant or foolish could fail to recognize as one. as we know from our defintions above it is obvious that leberalism is the advocation of a religion because liberalism deals with matters of ethics. more importantly it is a moral code they would forcably apply to everyone around them using the government as their agent.

By this definition, almost any and every human institution or belief is a religiion
What's the bottom line here?

If liberalism is a religion, what political tendency isn't a religion?

And specifically where does science come into this? Is the idea that if we need to figure out whether a pesticide is dangerous, we just take a guess, or leave it to market to sort it out, so as not to impose "religiion?"

1984: Gay means happy, Democrats support democracy ....
and Republicans supporta a rebpublic.

libertarians need to reclaim their name
If you advocate and support liberty, what else are you going to call your self?

If homosexuals can hijack the word gay, surely lovers of liberty can reclaim the term libertarian?

gald you asked
"If liberalism is a religion, what political tendency isn't a religion?"

well it would have to be a political ideology that did not advocate state sponsered morals and instead made decisions based on emperical evidence...

so if we remove moral institutions from government economic interactions and abolish welfare programs AND we remove moral insitutions from social legislation like what you can and can't do in your bedroom what would we have?

in point of fact it doesn't matter if all political tendancies are religious in nature as long as you're willing to admit liberalism is. if the rest of us are unwilling or unable to admit when we're making moral judgments instead of emperical ones then shame on us, that shouldn't stop you from admitting you are.

where the science comes in is simple. science can tell you what would happen as a result of varying degress of exposure to a pesticide and individuals can decide for themselves if they want to accept those risks or not.

you missed one
liberals support maximum individual liberty

I am gald I asked
You're talking about a contradiction in terms.

>well it would have to be a political ideology that did not advocate state sponsered morals and instead made decisions based on emperical evidence...

Empircal evidence of what? That babies aren't getting medical care? That an unsafe drug is being marketed? Things like that are empiracal facts. But what if anything government should do are moral judgements. And not doing something is just as much a moral judgment.

These kinds of decisions have long been in the political realm. To say that they are not political but religious just clouds the issue. It doesn't offer any guidance about what to do, it just provides an excuse to avoid dealing with the decision.

horay!
"Empircal evidence of what?"

efficency

"That babies aren't getting medical care? That an unsafe drug is being marketed?"

facts and emperical evidence are not the same thing. it may be a fact that babies do not have medical care.

empirical evidence would be a cause and effect relationship estabilshed by experemental evidence and mathmatics. empirical evidence could show, for example, that saving babies is only worth a specific amount to society as a whole and therefor it would not make logical sense to spend more than that doing so. liberals counter this science with the belief that all babies should be saved no matter the cost. in reality the just solution would be to leave maters of moral belief up to the individuals and stop making them on a governmental level.

the result? well in the speicific case of the dying babies a government governed by emperical evidence would step in when science told it that a babies average value to society should they reach working age and live out a natural life would be a specific amount and it would be the government duty to step in if and ony if that amount was not already applied towards saving the baby privatly.

sure it's cold, sure it's logical, sure it's science, but it's the only way to run it without saying that one set of morals supercedes another and by extension impedeing the civil liberties of certain individuals in favor of other individuals.

The all knowing all seeing is blinded by the light of BoscoH
I am sorry Boscoh, I almost forgot to cap the H in the subject line of your title. Is that supposed to be capped to be ensured as to be pronounce with emphasis?

Sorry also that you really mis-read my writing. At no point did I state the Pledge or the Words added to it was done at the beginning of this country. I put all of the different subjects together in that line to partially group Our Heritage History together. I just re-read what I wrote again more than once to be sure of this. But, I know some things have to be spelled out for some, so Here I am writing so.

Sorry also, that you mis-read understood the part about the world ending. My specific words did not does not say the world is ending because of the words "One Nation Under God" being removed. Also, the old school I grad from which taught school far, far bette than they do now days; Taught us that the Pledge is just what it is: "A Pledge of Allegiance" not a poem as so many try to make it to be.
But, I do understand from the all knowing and all seeing BoscoH. So please tell us more sir.

Say it again mhoward; Some didn't have their hearing aids turned on
Name: mhoward

Subject: Religion vs. heresy

Date/Time: 21 Feb 2007, 8:33 AM



See the above posting for clear clarifications.

Does it matter if Arnold's right?
With apologies to marjon, I don't think "liberty" when I hear "libertarian" - I think "kook". I sorry but I don't think Libertarian stand for liberty any more that Democrats stand for Democracy or Republican stand for Republics.

Having said that though, I also don't think it much matter what Libertarians call themselves. They're simply not going to amount to anything until they find viable electable candidates who run on something other than legalizing drugs. My choice is tax reform since I believe it will ultimately lead to smaller government once people figure out how much they're spending and how little they're getting.

Think about Reagan. Reagan revitalized the Republican party, not the other way around. The Republican party didn't bring Reagan back from the dead, Reagan transformed the Republican party with his vision. The national Republican party didn't want Reagan, they wanted Bush; they didn't want Reagan's vision, they liked the do nothing, be nothing plan. Today's Republican party is the Republican party of the 1970's. It's not because they don't have a good platform, it's not because they don't have good talking points, it's because they have lousy candidates who have a fondness for the "spend more, get less" status quo.

IMHO, the Libertarians will never amount to anything until they find their Reagan. The platforms don't matter, the talking points don't matter, the navel gazing doesn't matter, it's the candidates that matter and those candidates need a vision that they can articulate. The candidates need a "big idea" to rally voters to the cause, they don't need 934 well debated talking points.

Very interesting.
It's obviously true that it would be more 'efficient' to let sick 80 year olds, early premature infants and lots of other classes of sick people simply die.

>In reality the just solution would be to leave maters of moral belief up to the individuals and stop making them on a governmental level.

Why is this more 'just?" You have two children, one poor and one not. Why is it more 'just' that the poor child dies? And why is a decision to forbid government from involvement not a moral aka religious judgement.

>n science told it that a babies average value to society should they reach working age and live out a natural life would be a specific amount

But why stop here? By the same calculation, shouldn't government (or righteous individuals) step in and terminate people who have overdrawn their balances to avoid further costs. If not, why not? If so, why isn't this a moral judgment?

Thank You Mr. Robert Bennett Sir------separaters
I quote Mr. Bennett Sir, here before I state again with emphasis.

"Under God" is a historic phrase capturing a historic idea, and this idea is itself a bit of American history. Therefore, teaching kids the Pledge of Allegiance with this phrase in it is not teaching prayer, but American history. Therefore, those who would remove the phrase seek to renovate American history to suit their tastes, just as those who put it in sought to do, both relying on state power to get their "version" of history before a captive audience. For what purpose other than brainwashing, or as the NEA likes to call it, "educating"? end of quote:


Mr. Bennett clearly states as I stated in my posting "History" of America; Only Mr Bennett put it better by adding' and I add with "emphasis here"; ["their [version] of history before a captive audience. For what purpose other than brainwashing, or as the NEA like to call it, "educating"]

I also quote Mr. Bennett Sir again, [" but when my kid asks me: "Dad, how come we have to say that the USA is under God?", I'll answer, "Because if it were the other way around, we'd have to move to Canada."]end of quote.
Glad to see some will tell their kids the truth of American History, and NOT POLITICAL CORRECTNESS..

AND AS FOR A HISTORY LESSON: See if any of you remember this one. When I was in early grade school in the early 60's; It was allowed for any school in America that wanted to; to teach on "current issues". At that time their was I will call it a "flyer" or article that had the statements of Russia and or the Communist government on it that was broadcasted to America. In short it stated that Russia would not destroy America as we looked for them too; but, that they would destroy America from within. Hello....ring a bell anyone? All one has to do is chew away at the foundation like termites do a home and sooner or later it comes crashing down. The foundation of this Country has and is still being chewed away by the liverals, political correctness groups, all is ok to do groups not limited to the homosexuals and lesbians movements. WHEN THE FOUNDATION FALLS APART, THEN THE GOVERNMENT, AND CIVILNESS OF CIVIL SOCIETY GOES AWAY WITH IT.. End of History Lesson except we see it repeating it self, as every country in record civilalization has seen, and unless we make the direction change, America has been falling down that road for years now. And like it or lump it. God's wrath has just started with the erasing of New Orleans, the floods and droughts and freezing of crops, hello the earth quake big enough last year to effect the earths' rotation for nearly three seconds.


not the point
the point is not, and has never been in spite of your repeated attempts to characertize it as such, that it would be moral to let the baby die instead of helping it if you were able. the point is that the decision should be made by the individual and not by the government.

the decision to forbid government from involvement from moral issues IS a moral judgment ascribing to the moral that individuals should not be forced to make moral decisions by the government. you can agree with this moral or not, that's completely up to you. but you already knew that because i've pointed it out several times.

"But why stop here? By the same calculation, shouldn't government (or righteous individuals) step in and terminate people who have overdrawn their balances to avoid further costs. If not, why not? If so, why isn't this a moral judgment?"

this happens every day. lines of credit are cancled, credit ratings are reported, further applications for credit are denyed, checking accounts suspended. unless you're actually suggesting it would be logical to kill them in which case i would have to point out that it would not be necessary emperically to kill a debtor to minimize the risk.

It's the "one nation ... indivisible" part
ie quote of: kgbudge

Incidentally, I cringe at the Pledge even in private contexts. It's the "one nation ... indivisible" part that bothers me. I'm not sure I can articulate why, unless it's my instinctive fear of mononlithic social entities. end of quote

This use to be American indivisible with liberty and justice for all. But since we are talking about the Pledge of Allegiance being the words "One Nation Under God" and all that around and before it that falls under its' umbrella. American has lost its indivisibleness and until American finds its' creator, and establisher, and original founder and proclaims itself so; the supplications of many will go unheard and so being unanswered because of their-our failure to stand up to those who are nothing but liberal or conservative money whoremongers-after the lust of power and money and greed; American will continue its' down ward spiral.

By which individual?
Now we're really in deep water.

>the decision should be made by the individual and not by the government.

What decision? The calculation is the baby, assuming it was an average or below average baby over the course of its life would not contribute as much to society as it would cost to keep it alive. Who makes this calculation?

Note that if a parent doesn't have enough money to keep the baby alive, they're not able to make a 'moral choice." The baby dies, even if they believe it should be kept alive.

>t individuals should not be forced to make moral decisions by the government.

You mean, if they think it's ok to kill people, it's immoral for government to tell them they can't? What if they're just trying to save society money by killing people that 'science' has shown will cost more to society than they're worth? Aren't these peoole heroes?

>it would have to point out that it would not be necessary emperically to kill a debtor to minimize the risk.

Then how about slavery. If the debtor can't pay, why shouldn't she or he be foreced into involuntary servitude to the creditor?? That's the way it's been done in many religious societies?

Human Institutions are Bureaucracies
I have come to the conclusion that all large-scale human institutions are bureaucracies. As such, they suffer from all of the flaws and evilness that is inherent to all bureaucracies (i.e. Pournelle's Iron Law of Bureaucracy, Max Weber, etc.). Bureaucracy, by definition, is incapable of positive achievement. As such, no form of bureaucracy is worthy of any support or merit, whatsoever. They are unworthy of my attention.

I also believe that all philosophy, ideology, and religion are just rationalizations used by such institutions to undermine personal autonomy and to compel membership in/and support for these various institutions. There is NO underlying reality to these various thought patterns. It is all about power and control. Hense, I reject this as well.

All true interpersonal interactions are based on mutual exchange of "value" (not necessarly economic) between the parties. If a particular human institution is not capable of operating on this basis, it has no legitimate basis for existing.

As such, I have decided that the best course of action for me to take, with regards to creating my long-term future and to maximize my enjoyment of life, that I will minimize
my association with all large-scale social institutions as much as possible.

If this makes me a libertarian, so be it. I will make the most of it.

Justice for all
Well, I object to the line: "With liberty and justice for all." Liberty's fantastic stuff, but it seems to me some Americans have to do without their liberty so that others can get their justice.

For example, over 100 Seattle area kids can't go to the high school of their choice, some of them black, because of slavery, segregation, and nowadays the pseudo-secular diversity cult known as "multiculturalism", which prescribes morally good and evil mixes for public school bodies, not to mention the public at large.

So if "Under God" has got to go, how about we eighty-six "justice" as well? For I'd much rather have liberty for all than see liberty strangled for all in the name of justice for all.

Human Institutions are Bureaucracies- and more....added
I have come to the conclusion that all large-scale human institutions are bureaucracies. As such, they suffer from all of the flaws and evilness that is inherent to all bureaucracies (i.e. Pournelle's Iron Law of Bureaucracy, Max Weber, etc.). ie quote kurt99

Thank you kurt99. Oh yes now the But, you left out i.e. man. I am one of those men that on occasion tests the water. Back in the 80s' I tested the water of mind diagnosis, i.e. pyscological counselors. Why? Partly to see if just maybe my ex wife had any merits to her misguided conclusions. To make it short I found that when I lied to the counselor man/female, that as long as it 'agreed' with their i.e. learning or education they believe it. But, If I told a lie that did not agree with their learning, I was "in denial" ha... So it did not take me long to see, they came to their diagnosis by what they learned in educational classes, and not by if they heard the truth or not during the sessions. Toward the end I let them know why I was really there, and paid them for their [services] ha.. Their reactions was strained to say the least after many months.
So, I agree whole heartedly with you on staying away from the large corporate orgs of anything, reglious, non-religious, segretarian or not, liberaltarian or not.
The main reason I do is because they can not think in individualness to much, so they group everyone into individual groups and by so putting many into groups they do not belong which only confuses the matters worse.
And as many as put it....The large scale words of many that form the English Language are easily misunderstood all the time is to why open discussions like this is good, i.e. as long as each one really hears all and not only just what they want to hear.

The Pledge of Allegiance always seemed a little pagan...
...to me. Pledge of Allegiance to the state??? Milton Friedam said that he did not like the quote "Ask not what your contry can do for you, but what you can do for your country." I wonder how he felt about the Pledge of Allegiance.

and for conservative orgs?
eom

Heck, why not for exercise clubs?
with a definition that broad, almost anything is a religious movement or organization.

le sigh
"What decision?" - any moral decision, in this case the one to help the baby or not

"Who makes this calculation?" - given the information necessary almost anyone with an even basic knowledge of mathematics can make this calculation. given no information anyone properly educated in econometrics could provide a solution in the form of a resonably accurate confidance interval.

"Note that if a parent doesn't have enough money to keep the baby alive, they're not able to make a 'moral choice." The baby dies, even if they believe it should be kept alive."

wrong, they can make a moral choice to do all they can which includes asking others for help. forcing others to help would also be a moral choice, the wrong one in my opinion.

"You mean, if they think it's ok to kill people, it's immoral for government to tell them they can't?"

no. i also don't think that not helping someone is the same thing as killing them.

"What if they're just trying to save society money by killing people that 'science' has shown will cost more to society than they're worth? Aren't these peoole heroes?"

the situation you discribe is impossible. any individual not capable of producing their own costs would die on their own, there would be no need to activly kill them. such individuals should seek help from others as they have always done and i would be 100% in support of people providing said aid freely, i'm moral opposed to helping being required as liberalism dictates.

"Then how about slavery. If the debtor can't pay, why shouldn't she or he be foreced into involuntary servitude to the creditor?? That's the way it's been done in many religious societies?"

first of all, if you sign up for a credit card and can't pay it back and servitude was written into the contract as a consequence of default then it can hardly be characterized as involuntary, can it. secondly, threatening people with servitude in the event they default is not a very marketable strategy. i suspect that in a free market this would not be the norm because if it were there would not be many cases were individuals would be willing to risk a loan.



overall you continue to bring up situations that seem to be designed to have obvious moral conclusions to them as examples of what the government should be forcing people to do. this seems to me a non-sequitor, if the moral conclusions are so obvious then why would government intervention even be necessary? you could argue that people are only out for themselves and therefor cannot be trusted to do what they know to be right but then you're left with the conundrum of how to set up a government. how would a measure that advocates something most people wouldn't do of their own volition obtain democratic approval?

"Old ways of thinking" and Gaia: Replacing God for the modern Left.
kgbudge made some great points in his post, and I would like to add a few thoughts of my own. This is a long comment, but I think it is worthwhile…

The Left in this country has formed its philosophy around two key intellectual traditions: Romanticism and Communism. The result is a movement that denies God, and replaces Him with the all-powerful State. We all know about the atheism and class-warfare of Communism, so I will briefly describe Romanticism and how it shapes the Left's worldview.

The Enlightenment was a period around the 18th century where the order of the day was reason. Science and rationalism were revered, and this school of thought produced men like Locke, Bacon, Newton, etc. Romanticism was a reaction to Enlightenment thought. It showed up around the 19th century, and lasted through the early 20th. Romanticism valued intuition and emotion over reason, as well as agriculture over industry. It placed poets and artists on the pedestals where Enlightenment thinkers put scientists.

The Left adopted Communism long ago, and in accepting Communism they abandoned God. The masses needed a new opiate, and the marketing geniuses of the Left found a new one quickly: Compassion.

mhoward mentioned the total blindness of liberals to facts and logic, by pointing out that they keep suggesting the same policies that never work. There is a reason for this: These policies FEEL good! Voting for somebody who says they really care about the children, and will do everything they can to make sure that schools get more cash makes people feel like they are doing something good for kids, even if they are not. The same is true for people who say they care about poverty, defenseless little cuddly animals, our air and water, etc. The fact that the "caring" candidate proposes things that have failed repeatedly and are obviously unworkable from a logical/economic standpoint is irrelevant, a vote for Congressman Care Bare is a pat on the back for you.

The need to stir emotions is why the left tends to frame ideas in stark terms: "If you care about X, you will devote lots of time and resources to it." Regulating and allocating money are very clear actions that can be taken to DO something about a problem. The rationalist solutions tend to involve the invisible hand of the market, and relying upon that hand is a less impressive action upon casual inspection. Since the rationalists do not appear to be doing anything, the case can be made that they do not “care” as much as the Left. The secret to the Left’s success is that emotion hits harder and faster than logic. Since most people do not have time to really look in to or think about many issues, the Left appeals to their emotions in order to circumvent the logic centers of the brain, and has been very successful for almost a century in their attempts.

Once the communists did away with God, they needed to replace both the Father figure and the moral code with their own inventions. The Father figure role was filled by the all-powerful State. The State is consistently portrayed by the Left as impartial, fair, all-knowing and the only agency capable of overcoming the massive forces that oppose their quest for compassion: Churches, businesses, the rich, etc. The State is capable of controlling prices, redistributing income, eliminating racism, even making us lose weight! Who needs a prayer when you have AFDC and WIC? Today, many in the environmental movement seem to favor “Gaia” as God, replacing the Lord with some hypothetical “will of the living planet.” Gaia, unlike the State, is an angry god who demands sacrifice: SUV’s must be destroyed, alongside petrochemicals and Western civilization.

Replacing the moral code was a little more difficult. First, they had to come up with something that implied quality in order to keep consistent with their Communist roots. Second, the State had no inherent moral code (unlike God.) The Left’s replacement code reflects the ultimate in Romanticism: Do what feels good. The Left gave everybody license to decide for themselves what they thought was right and wrong, rather than having to live by the moral code imposed externally by God. The doctrines of free love (hetero- or homosexual,) abortion on demand, multiculturalism, and indifference towards evil at home in the form of criminals at home and dictators abroad. All of these doctrines stem from the idea that there is not universal moral order, but only the good and evil that we decide for ourselves. Moralizing is the only thing that is absolutely immoral, because it implies superiority.

The Left combined the emotionalism of Romantic thought with the idea of the all-powerful State and the morality of the self, and formed a pseudo-religious political movement. They punish their heretics (Lieberman,) do their best to exorcise demons and blasphemy from their houses of worship (protesting speeches by conservatives, trying to re-institute the fairness doctrine, kicking religion out of the schools,) and offer sacrifices to their angry Gods (Kyoto, banning DDT, animal rights, etc.) just like any other religion. They are, however, much more dangerous than any other religion because they can credibly claim to be secularists and get away with spreading their filth in the public square with public money. Luckily (?), the War on Terror provides a number of opportunities for shattering the faith of most Leftists. It will only take one nuke exploding on American soil ti make most of them think like rationalists for a minute... and that is usually alkl it takes.

Want to join something bigger? Join the space movement!
Arnold Kling ends his article with the common rejoinder that many conservatives harp on - the emphasis of being a part of something larger than onesself. I have never felt the need to be a part of someone else's balawack at all. I have always been happiest when left alone to pursue my own choices and to live my own life. I know it sounds like an Ayn Rand cliche (and I don't even like Ayn Rand that much), but I really do consider my life to be my own and want nothing to do with any "larger scheme".

Nevertheless, I am well aware that many people feel the need to be a part of some bigger design or idea. This is why organized religion exists. Whenever I find myself in an argument with these people (which is almost never), I tell them to forget about religion or the nation-state, go join the space movement. I then offer to provide them with the contact info for the relevant space organizations.

The space movement can be a large-scale social effort. It can also help us get the large scale human expansion into space going, which would offer tangible benefits to everyone (unlike religion or nation-state stuff).

Space Movement as Religion
I am well aware of the fact that many people (most?) feel a need to be a part of something bigger than themselves. Hence, the existance of organized religion.

My idea is to make space colonization movement into the national religion of America!

America was founded on the principles of achievement, freedom, and pioneering. Effective space colonization emphasized all of these values. It would also promote hard-work, long-term goal orientation, and would provide a long-term enough objective to involve the immagination and energies of the entire nation-state.

The most significant characteristic the space movement has with religion is that it would be a long-term collective endevour. We all know full well that people join religions, not to seek personal immortality, but to be a part of a larger community, a larger communal effort to achieve some great work. The space colonization movement precisely fits this bill.

Unlike conventional religion and nation state communitarianism, successful human expansion into space will bring about untold benefits and opportunities for everyone, whether you are in the movement or not. It would be more inclusive in that it would allow gays and other alternative type people to join and contribute, who would normally not be able to join a conventional religion.

It would provide more opportunities for people on the lower end of the economic ladder. Much of the space colony designs by Gerard O'Neill and others in the 70's would involve a considerable amount of "metal-bending" work. Precisely the kind of work for blue-collar and other people who are left out of the currently in control "new class" economy (doctors, lawyers, big company CEOs, and investment bankers).

As more and more space colonies are built, with both lunar and asteroidal materials, people of different religions, life-styles, and other characteristics will be able to build their own habitats and create their own societies. Humanity will benefit. The liberal-left, religious right, and flakey libertarians can all go off in their separate directions.

Some conservative bio-ethics people think that transhumanism is a new religion. This is a flawed analogy. Transhumanism is about individuals using the tools of biotech and nanotech to improve their minds and bodies. This is a self-decipline, much like meditation or a martial art. Transhumanism is not a collective endevour like space colonization or conventional religion. So, transhumanism does not qualify as a religion.

So, what shall we name our new religion of the human expansion into space?

It was called the L5 Society.

Two problems with this article
Silly me; for almost 50 years I have maintained the apparently mistaken notion that the Pledge of Allegiance was mostly about molding refugees, immigrants and school children into Americans. I rarely thought about it as a prayer. At my public elementary school, those many years ago, prayer was what we did before lunch. The Pledge was what we did at the start of the class day, the rotation of recitation leaders adding a teachable moment in public speaking.
Second objection: to say that New Orleans. or rather, the people of New Orleans, was let down by a string of governments, and by extension, all governments, omits the example of Houston and Dallas, and probably other municipalities as well. The City of Houston made a concerted effort to find accomodations for anybody displaced by the storms, and has helped find jobs for most of those people. As Mayor White commented last week, he doesn't refer to the people displaced by the storm as refugees: they are now Houstonians.

weirder and weirder
OK, so anyone can make the calculation, but it doesn't connect with the outcome.

You have a sick child who needs (say) $10,000 in care. You say this is a good deal for society if this number is less than expected total contribution to the economy over the course of the child's life - but this calculation has nothing to do with whether the child can or can't get the $10,000, so it's irrelevent.

>ong, they can make a moral choice to do all they can which includes asking others for help. forcing others to help would also be a moral choice, the wrong one in my opinion.

And having government step in to use tax money to save a sick child's life is a wrong moral choice?? But wait: I thought moral choice wasn't involved; the important thing was just an empircal calculation of the child's value to society, and once that calculation was made, we don't have to worry about morals.

>any individual not capable of producing their own costs would die on their own, there would be no need to activly kill them

But wait: these individuals contain valuable organs that could benefit society if placed on the open market. Surely entrepreneurs should be able to identify useless members of society - on skid row, for example, or orphan children, and turn a loss into a gain by harvesting them for organs.

>econdly, threatening people with servitude in the event they default is not a very marketable strategy. i suspect that in a free market this would not be the norm because if it were there would not be many cases were individuals would be willing to risk a loan.

But it's been a marketable strategy in the past. The only reason it's not marketable now is because government steps in and forgives it. Should government allow (say) credit card companies to enslave their bad risks, instead of allowing these risks to escape into bankruptcy.

>if the moral conclusions are so obvious then why would government intervention even be necessary?

Really: apply this to the situation above. The moral conclusions were obvious, but slavery nevertheless existed, because people were making empiracal calculations.

>you could argue that people are only out for themselves and therefor cannot be trusted to do what they know to be right but then you're left with the conundrum of how to set up a government. how would a measure that advocates something most people wouldn't do of their own volition obtain democratic approval?

I suggest you read the federalist papers.




So Publius is rooting for terrorists to H-bomb an American city
Because that will bring back traditional values. Surely if this is true, patriots could do the same and blame it on the terrorists, in the interest of making America great again!

Interesting that you bring up history in the context of the flag pledge of allegiance
http://www.legion.org/?section=our_flag&subsection=flag_history&content=flag_history

History of the Pledge of Allegiance
The original Pledge of Allegiance was written by Francis Bellamy. It was first given wide publicity through the official program of the National Public Schools Celebration of Columbus Day which was printed in The Youth's Companion of September 8, 1892, and at the same time sent out in leaflet form to schools throughout the country. School children first recited the Pledge of Allegiance this way:

"I pledge allegiance to my Flag and to the Republic for which it stands one Nation indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for all."

"The flag of the United States" replaced the words "my Flag" in 1923 because some foreign-born people might have in mind the flag of the country of their birth instead of the United States flag. A year later, "of America" was added after "United States."

No form of the Pledge received official recognition by Congress until June 22, 1942, when the Pledge was formally included in the U.S. Flag Code. The official name of The Pledge of Allegiance was adopted in 1945. The last change in language came on Flag Day 1954, when Congress passed a law, which added the words "under God" after "one nation."

Originally, the pledge was said with the right hand in the so-called "Bellamy Salute," with the right hand resting first outward from the chest, then the arm extending out from the body. Once Hitler came to power in Europe, some Americans were concerned that this position of the arm and hand resembled the Nazi or Fascist salute. In 1942 Congress also established the current practice of rendering the pledge with the right hand over the heart.

The Flag Code specifies that any future changes to the pledge would have to be with the consent of the President.

Why civil societarianism is doomed from the start.
Pot meet kettle on CAPItaliZatioN. Hey, I wasn't really responding to your particular points, just using them as a jump off. If my e-mail is any indicator, most netizens receive about 10 e-mails a week bitching about the evil liberals trying to take "under God" out of the pledge and how it will lead to people and dogs sleeping together. And they get 10 e-mails bitching about how the ultraconservative Christian Mullahs want to make schoolchildren say "under God" while exhulting toward the sky in one massive group religious orgasm.

Look, this is exactly why civil societarianism is doomed from the start. 8 out of 10 people are fed up with both sides of this "under God" spat. Truly fed up, annoyed, etc. Until we have a round of uncivil societarianism where we let Richard Dawkins and his sheep fight to the death with Pat Robertson and his sheep, and then have the survivors face hungry alligators in a playoff, civil societarianism will never take hold.

The whole "under God" thing is a stupid argument. Both sides of it. The recitation of the Pledge itself is eerily Prussian to begin with. That it matters so much to both opposing parties to the debate is a hint that they're the same side of opposite coins or something like that.

No Subject
i.e.quote: We all know full well that people join religions, not to seek personal immortality,
i.e.quote: I am well aware of the fact that many people (most?) feel a need to be a part of something bigger than themselves. Hence, the existance of organized religion
i.e.quote: America was founded on the principles of achievement, freedom, and pioneering. Effective space colonization emphasized all of these values. end of quotes

I do not know what planet you came from; But;

You must not know many people in the as you call it "religions". The are in it because to not believe that we are here for a bigger plan than existing and dieing; what is the reason to strive a better perfection if die and all is invalid? They do not seek they know there is an after life better than this.

Next; Yes there is some organized religions or many, but, not all are organized as you put it. So you must be shy on knowledge of this also.

And finally; You should go to the archives or available information sites that has the acute truth in written info on the 'dream for America' or the intent of the Founding Fathers to exstablish America. It was to live away from tyrany type persons or dictators like England and many others was back then and many still are. It was to live under our own rules that we decide not some dictator or a dictators militia force. I could go on but you should really go back and do your History course over again.
How well did you do in History, achievment wise anyway?

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