A Voice in the Wilderness In Defense of "Mere Conservatism"

11Feb/10Off

The Economics of Mere Conservatism: Part II

by: R.J. Moeller

Economic freedom is an essential requisite for political freedom.  By enabling people to cooperate with one another without coercion or central direction, it reduces the area over which political power is exercised.  In addition, by dispersing power, the free market provides an offset to whatever concentration of political power may arise.  The combination of economic and political power in the same hands is a sure recipe for tyranny.

Milton Friedman, Free To Choose

Let’s not kid ourselves: Everyone has an opinion on the matters that matter most.  Despite the pervasive lack of understanding in this country about even the most basic economic terms and concepts, I’d love for someone to try and convince me that economic matters – your job, income, investments, personal property, charitable donations, and taxes – don’t matter a great deal to every Tom, Dick, Harry and Sally in your neighborhood.

Of course they matter.  They matter more than almost anything else.

Happy Rich BusinessmanContrary to the caricature perpetrated, it’s not only “greedy” conservatives and Republicans who are interested in how goods, services, and taxes are saved, spent, regulated and collected.  In fact, the exact opposite is true: modern American liberals and progressives fervently believe that economic issues are the most important factors to consider in nearly every single political, cultural, and moral decision a country makes.

But where the Left relies upon flawed ideology and fickle emotional pleas to make their case for top-down socialism and the systematic re-distribution of wealth, those of us who champion personal liberty, free enterprise and property rights stand on the firm ground of quantifiable facts, recorded history, Judeo-Christian teachings, and common sense. There is, of course, an emotional aspect to the “case for free market conservatism”, but it is a thin layer of topsoil above deep bedrock of truth, wisdom, and experience.

If you haven’t already, you should be asking yourself, “How is it then that liberalism, and progressive economic policies, so dominate the national consciousness?”

Dr. Thomas Sowell of Stanford University’s Hoover Institution believes the answer is fairly simple: because the Left believes so deeply in having the government “fix” things, their solutions are always political and political solutions are much more glamorous and get much more attention from a complicit media (and academia).  The Right believes in personal responsibility, free market competition, and limited government.  Not very sexy.

You won’t see George Clooney starring in an Oscar contending film about a hard-working, God-fearing businessman who just wants to live within his family’s budget and appreciates the freedoms his forefathers procured for him.

As Sowell puts it in his book Applied Economics: Thinking Beyond Stage One: Politics offers attractive solutions but economics can offer only trade-offs…Economics cannot answer all of your questions.  It can only make you aware of the need to ask them.

Well, fortunately for us, mankind has been asking economic questions for millennia, and those interested enough to seek for answers (and wise enough to discern them) have found many unavoidable truths.  The United States of America, blessedly, has applied some of the best of those answers and truths in its on-going attempt to “form a more perfect union.”  Last week in The Economics of Mere Conservatism: Part 1, I teased six of the most important answers (scarcity, property rights, division of labor, competition, rule of law, and a need for religion and morality among the citizenry).  We have succeeded where others have failed because of these things.

Today we move from the birds-eye view of Economics in Part I and descend to the on-the-ground facts that ground free enterprise in reality instead of just theory; truth instead of emotion.

What follows are brief descriptions of the six things you must know, and be able to explain, should you hope to identify yourself as a proponent of the free market system that has enabled the United States of America to become the freest, most prosperous civilization in the history of the planet.Woods_crash

1. Scarcity- We live in a finite world.  There is only so much of everything.  This doesn’t simply pertain to oil or diamonds or beach-front property or even Kanye West’s talents.  There are only so many hours in the days, people who can drive a 3-wood (and Cadillac SUV) like Tiger Woods, and jobs you can work at the same time.  There are only so many people born to rich families who waste their un-deserved good luck, just as not everyone born into poverty overcomes great odds to play a piano like Ray Charles.

The miraculous nature of the human mind is such that we can apply our Creator-endowed talents to natural resources in order to produce many things that we would otherwise be lacking.  But even to what we produce or engineer there is a limit to the amount of money we have to use to buy all of those equally limited goods or services.

Because scarcity is a reality, the world we live in is a world of trade-offs.  This means decision-making abilities are paramount, and experience, although not infallible, becomes a prized asset.  We all have to make value judgments every day about which products we want/need to buy, how much we will work, where we will live, and whom we will give charity to.

Some Left-of-Center ideologies would prefer to make most of your decisions for you, but then a society quickly learns how scarce things like freedom and liberty are in this world.

2. Private Property (Property Rights)- The term “private property” can conjure up images of a foreboding “No Trespassing” sign in a Scooby-Doo cartoon.  In a sense, this is completely fair and accurate, for “private property” essentially means that an individual owns something to the exclusivity of others.  Or in other words, it’s yours and no one else has claim to it unless you say so.  (So stay out, you meddling kids.) The alternative to being able to (legally) own something that someone else cannot take or use without your consent is tyranny.  It is collectivism, socialism, and communism.

Despite admittedly boiling down centuries of meaningful thought and discourse on the matter, so much of the modern disagreement over the importance of “private property” can be explained by the differences in worldview between two particular people: the Brit John Locke (17th century) and the Frenchman Jean-Jacques Rousseau (18th century).

The constitutional and cultural fascination with personal freedom and liberty that is uniquely American comes from the school of Locke.  Building upon the Judeo-Christian belief that man is created “in God’s image”, Locke maintained that while we all enter the world with the same “natural rights”, the individual could (and should) claim ownership over something as simple as a piece of fruit they themselves climbed a tree to pick.

In his Second Treatise on Government, Locke states:

God gave the world to men in common; but since he gave it them for their benefit, and the greatest conveniences of life they were capable to draw from it, it cannot be supposed He meant it should always remain common and uncultivated.  He gave it to the use of the industrious and rational, and labor was to be his title to it.

This is a very basic and simple concept: If a man works, he should be compensated.  If he buys, he should own.  If he owns, then someone else cannot take.

But some are not happy with that kind of set-up.  Jean-Jaques Rousseau did not care for the accent mark of mankind’s history to be put over the individual and his or her rights.  Rousseau believed that in order for a society to truly progress, individuals needed to forfeit their claims to natural rights, individual liberty, and the entire concept of private property.  He taught that man derived his purpose from the collective.

From this type of thinking we get socialism, Marxism, and leaders like Hugo Chavez.

Private property, and the property rights that logically spring forth from it, is the basis of economic, political, and religious freedom.  It gives the individual a vested interest, a meaningful stake, in the world, nation, state, town, and neighborhood around him.  It creates incentives to work harder, save more, and spend wisely.  To deny that human beings are hard-wired to respond to incentives is counter-intuitive and a key reason for why Left-of-Center thinking is inherently flawed.

al-gore-404_682507c3. Division of Labor- In the past, a farmer and his family would have to produce for themselves nearly everything they needed to survive.  Other than the occasional 4-mile horseback ride to borrow a cup of sugar from the neighboring farm to make those Johnny Cakes your brother Zebedee loved so very much, families relied on what they could make or grow, and the lack of technology, transportation, and communication prevented Americans from effectively maximizing their time, resources and talents.

Whereas Joe, Jim, and Jack used to have to each grow their own corn, milk their own cows, and raise their own hogs for bacon, it became more sensible (and cost effective) for Joe (who lived for tilling the fields) to grow corn, and Jim (who raved about his cows) to focus on dairy-related products, and Jack (who never met a BLT he didn’t love) to raise himself some pigs.  That is “Division of Labor”, or "specialization", in a nutshell.

I think it is fairly obvious how much more effective and productive this way of doing things is as compared to the “self-sufficient” farms of centuries past, or the centrally-controlled planning systems of Soviet Russia, but I’m not sure most people appreciate just how important Division of Labor is to their own lives.  Although not everyone gets the job of their dreams (see: scarcity), the fact that human beings can even theoretically pursue the career they want is a direct result of the fact that you do not have to churn your own I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter or extract the Guava for your herbal shampoo.  Think about it.  I barely tolerate having to dress myself in the morning.  I cherish Division of Labor.

4. Competition- When you combine scarcity with property rights and division of labor you eventually arrive at “Competition.”  When a man decides to become a dentist, he has chosen a profession that will require him to be reliant upon other people to produce his food, clothes, and shelter (Division of Labor).  The dentist is able to purchase the goods and services he wants and needs because the fruits of his labor (i.e. clean teeth, root canals, etc.) were rewarded with compensation from his patients and he has exclusive claim to said compensation (Property Rights).  His patients came to him because there are only so many people who choose to be dentists (Scarcity).mcgwire-juice

But while there are many dentists listed in the Yellow Pages, his patients chose his office because he was either better or cheaper than the dentist down the street.  This is Competition.  It is as natural as fish in water or syringes in Mark McGwire’s back-side.  Competition breeds invention and innovation.  Competition, in its proper legal and moral context (more on this in a second), is necessary for human beings to achieve their full potential in the marketplace of goods, services, and ideas.  Please understand that I’m not advocating the “Gordon Gekko” cut-throat, self-indulgent caricature of competition that unfortunately exists in any system that offers personal freedom.

Competition is what makes sports worth watching.  It’s what spurs bio-chemists to create a life-saving medicine quicker than the “other guy.”  It’s what keeps people on their toes and from growing complacent and indifferent in their work (a hallmark of communist societies).  If everyone won, if the entire world was run like a grade school’s Field Day Awards Ceremony, you can rest assured you wouldn’t be reading this essay on your iPhone right now.

But there is an even more important benefit of competition to consider: de-centralization of power.  People hate monopolies in business, but often don’t know why.  The reason monopolies are almost always a bad thing is because they leave the consumer with no options or recourse if they are unsatisfied with the good or service the monopoly provides.  The same idea rings true in terms of how powerful a government becomes.  When everyone is an employee of the “State”, when a federal government knows the people have to come to them for everything, freedom disintegrates.

5. Rule of Law- Without law and order, economics, like most everything else in a society, is chaos.  If I cannot trust that the local government will do what it can to protect me from burglars, my habits will change (or my address will).  If I cannot trust the state government to enforce the laws the legislature has voted into law, I have no way to gauge the impact zoning laws will have on my business.  If the federal government cannot be trusted to protect me from foreign invaders, I will spend less time working and more time at a target practice range.

Private property is meaningless if it cannot be protected and legally enforced and recognized.  If I produce pencils in my factory, but I cannot rely on the government to enforce a broken contract between me and my lumber supplier, I will not keep the factory open and all my employees lose their job.  If I invest my money in an institution that is, unbeknownst to me, buying bad loans that are subsidized by the federal government (via Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae), I lose my shirt and never trust the market again.  No one wins.

Everything is dependent upon the rule of law.  Our “law”, at a very basic, foundational level, is the Constitution.  The Founders envisioned a republican democracy (as opposed to a straight democracy and “mob rule”), with a limited and de-centralized government.  It should come as no surprise to any of us that as both political parties have wandered off the Constitution’s reservation; we’ve seen the economy grow more and more volatile.  A significant reason for this is that Americans involved in the private sector cannot rely upon the public sector (our government) to abide by the same “rules” year-to-year.

Economist Milton Friedman explained it as follows:

Just after the Berlin Wall fell and the Soviet Union collapsed, I used to be asked a lot: "What do these ex-communist states have to do in order to become market economies?" And I used to say: "You can describe that in three words: privatize, privatize, privatize." But, I was wrong. That wasn't enough. The example of Russia shows that. Russia privatized but in a way that created private monopolies-private centralized economic controls that replaced government's centralized controls. It turns out that the rule of law is probably more basic than privatization. Privatization is meaningless if you don't have the rule of law. What does it mean to privatize if you do not have security of property, if you can't use your property as you want to?

For the college student returning from a semester abroad in a poorer country than their own, the reason your adopted homeland isn’t better off usually has little to do with the price of Italian beef in Chicago and everything to do with the rampant, unfettered corruption at every level of that country’s government.  Will every country have the advantages and wealth that the United States has?  Of course not.  But does Costa Rica or Ghana or a former member of the Eastern Bloc have to remain a slave to 3rd world-like conditions?  Absolutely not.  The rule of law, and the protection our military affords us, is the thing that enables prosperity to flourish.  Throwing money at the problems other nations will only exacerbate the problem if it is not coordinated with the implementation of stable governments.

But, you ask, what about human nature and the fact that people, even in free, safe America, will always look for ways to circumvent the law?

I’m so glad you brought that up.

6. Morality and Religion- It is in this sixth and final category where Mere Conservatism parts with the secular-progressive thought of modern liberal Democrats in the media and academia, and stands with the Founding Fathers (and their innumerable influences).  Many people would be thrilled to support the first five concepts I’ve described already, but stop short when discussions of morality and religion enter the equation.  The problem with stopping short is that you end up denying the one thing that really can be proven about religious, Judeo-Christian teachings: sin and the fallen state of mankind.

As I explained in the Theology of Mere Conservatism, the often unpleasant realities of this world mandate we impose constraints on ourselves, and when necessary and appropriate, on one another.  In a relatively free society such as our own, unless the citizens are accountable to something higher than their government, you will end up with either anarchy or tyranny.  Too little constraint will bring anarchy; too much, tyranny.  The Founding Fathers, even those only nominally religious, understood that an immoral and irreligious country was a doomed country.

“We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge, or gallantry, would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” –John Adams

"For my own part, I sincerely esteem it [the Constitution] a system which without the finger of God, never could have been suggested and agreed upon by such a diversity of interests." -Alexander Hamilton

“God who gave us life gave us liberty. And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are a gift from God?” -Thomas Jefferson

“We have staked the whole future of American civilization, not upon the power of government, far from it. We’ve staked the future of all our political institutions upon our capacity…to sustain ourselves according to the Ten Commandments of God.” -James Madison

If such quotes come as a shock to you, relax: you’re a normal American and likely a product of the public school system where the entirety of the history you learned consisted of Hiroshima, Jim Crowe, and the economic salvation FDR offered to a beleaguered nation that had been abused by capitalism.

My purpose, and the quotes I’ve used to help supplement it, is not to castigate the non-religious among us, but simply to clarify what values underpin our national identity.  That identity is one of political, religious, and economic freedom.  You cannot separate the three, and you cannot truly experience any of them without a citizenry predominantly comprised of moral and religious people.  Values matter, and you’ve got to be able to define and explain those values if you hope to maintain them for future generations.  It is my opinion that “You are a collection of randomly-gathered protoplasm” doesn’t have the same effect as “You are fearfully and wonderfully made by a Creator” when attempting to explain to a young person why they should care about the rule of law or property rights.

And so we come to the end of my description of what "The Economics of Mere Conservatism" entails.  If you’ve read this far, you at the very least recognize the importance of engaging ideas and thinking through what it is you believe, and why you believe it.  There is more to learn, more specifics to grasp, and I would suggest as a jumping off point from here that you familiarize yourself with the “Invisible Hand” theory 18th century philosopher-economist Adam Smith developed in his classic Wealth of Nations.

Economics is an exciting, multi-faceted topic, with endless sub-sets of concepts and ideas, but what I hope you take away from this piece is the general outline of what one means when they use the term “free market conservative” to describe themselves.cheney_snarl

If Americans don’t begin to think more seriously and substantively about economic matters, others will do our thinking for us.  Are you comfortable any longer with that set-up; with trusting politicians and bureaucrats to make decisions in your best interest?  Does anyone really believe that the economic crisis we find ourselves in is the result of George W. Bush’s “dumb” accent and Dick Cheney’s sullen demeanor?  Or equally as silly a notion that Barack “How Organized Was My Community” Obama and “Fighting” Joe Biden have “fixed” thing by spending more in one year than their predecessors’ previous four?

Develop a set of criteria by which you can judge everything from an economic policy touted by a politician to a seemingly attractive loan offered by a bank.  If you aren’t reading contemporary economists such as Thomas Sowell (Stanford’s Hoover Institution) Arthur Brooks (American Enterprise Institute) and Walter E. Williams (George Mason University), if you aren’t even loosely familiar with the prolific ideas espoused in Milton Friedman’s Free to Choose and F.A. Hayek’s Road to Serfdom, you are less wise than you might otherwise be.  There are great minds and articulate thinkers out there, providing intellectual ammunition for the cultural battle currently (and perpetually) being fought over the type of economy and government we will have over the next 100 years.

Read.  Study.  Pay attention.  Teach yourself so you can teach your kids.

Freedom and liberty, the kinds Americans have generally enjoyed for more than two centuries, are at stake.

Comments (22) Trackbacks (5)
  1. Under number 5, it should be exacerbate, not exasparate.

  2. Fantastic blog! Keep up the good work. Economics is logical and appeals to basic reason. Most people will “get it” when explained in the way you did here. I even think if you could get a liberal or independent to sit still for 10 minutes and read this, they would wake up. Thanks.

  3. One of your best posts. And I’m not just saying that.

  4. Great message. Your last point (read, study and pay attention and particularly teach yourself) I think is the most important. Being aware and having your own judgement is the best guarantee of freedom. Unfortunately, the central planner or socialist is banking on the fact that you don’t understand these basic points you outline above on the free market. Thank you.

  5. Absolutely fantastic piece! A little longer than normal, but I don’t think a single word should have been cut. I am amazed that someone at your age grasps all of these concepts, and what is more, can articulate them with such clarity, wit, and humor. I know you reference Chesterton a lot, and I think you are well on your way down the same path. God bless.

  6. “I’d love for someone to try and convince me that economic matters – your job, income, investments, personal property, charitable donations, and taxes – don’t matter a great deal to every Tom, Dick, Harry and Sally in your neighborhood.
    Of course they matter. They matter more than almost anything else.”

    If I remember correctly, Hayek in “Road to Serfdom” explained step by step why control over economy is effectively control over human life, that most of the liberties we take for granted (freedom of the press, freedom of movement for) are impossible without economic liberty. Even democracy is completely impossible to sustain without economic freedom.

    I am glad that you took the time to reitirate this point (and many others) once again – because so many people are oblivious that these are not just “matters of economics” or “greed” – this is where all our essential freedoms either die or survive.

    Sincerely,
    Alex

  7. Well, I finally read this.
    Slap me for not reading it sooner.
    I will pass this on to people I know.
    I will be back for more.

    Scrap Iron

  8. Once again you have exceeded excpectations. each post is better than the last and I love the way closed this part up:

    Read. Study. Pay attention. Teach yourself so you can teach your kids.

    Nothing can help anyone more educationg yourself and your kids.

    We have taught our kids what to correctly, and as not being perfect, they have learned from our mistakes. we do not have much yet we are rich in other ways
    others are not.

    Hillsdale College’s IMPRIMIS is also an excellent source for reading and learning
    conservative values and teachings.

    https://www.hillsdale.edu/news/imprimis.asp

  9. Imprimis is an EXCELLENT resource, and thanks for reminding people about it!

    Great article/essay RJ. I came across it on Townhall.com where someone had linked to it. You should be writing for those guys!

    I’ll check back often for more insights and wisdom.

  10. Why do so many otherwise rational people insist on believing the 100% absolute nonsense that morality somehow derives from, or indeed is reliant upon _in_any_way_, religion? _Any_ human being who has ever watched young children begin to socialize, can _easily_ observe that the majority of them pretty much figure out the ‘rules’ of existing together. Even if they cannot articulate them! Now here comes the hard part. Imagine, if you will, that no one ever mentions to them the totally irrelevant concept of “God”. How on earth can anyone say that they have no moral character? If you want to believe in, let me re-phrase, if you _choose_ to be theistic, fine. But for God’s sake, (!), take some credit for figuring out for yourself that people are naturally, rationally social animals. The Universe did not create you. You are a happy by-product of the second law of thermodynamics, nothing more…why ask why? It’ll make you more happy to have a god???

  11. Sorry, Jeff. Children are the product of their parent’s attitudes and values. They do not develop in a vacuum prior to meeting other children. They have already learned and absorbed that morality and character existing in their familial environment. If it works at home, then perhaps it works at play. It is whatever remains from past generations of believers which provides the positive outcome, not the second law of thermodynamics. The second law stuff was very funny, though!

  12. The truths and concepts put forth in your writings are plain to see for those of a conservative mindset. I have friends and work with others that are intelligent, educated, and have Faith based value systems. How is it possible that they can have such different perceptions of reality? How does one help a friend that is so misguided? Perhaps sharing this will be of value. Thank you!

  13. Stephen, I challenge you to produce three research studies that conclude that children learn most of their interpersonal social skills in the vacuum of their home. Or their interpersonal behavioral ‘characteristics’. I’m not saying that I do not believe you, I’m just saying that children can learn very little about how to act in public by observing only their nuclear family’s behaviors.

    I will go so far as to say that if everyone thought your point was pretty much on the mark, nobody would see much need to put their kids through the kindergarden, preschool, and other such normal playtime activities.

    Back later…

  14. Its weird that Jeff G doesn’t direct his attacks at the Founders or all of the brilliant men/women throughout history who have believed that morality and religion are linked…almost as if he didn’t want to have to go on record as saying people like John Adams and George Washington and Abraham Lincoln and FDR and Barack Obama himself are all ridiculous for believing such a thing.

    It’s not that you can only ACT morally if you belong to a religion…its that the Founders (and RJ…and me) were convinced that the values of the Judeo-Christian faiths best served the attempt (not guarantee) of producing moral, law-abiding citizens. Anyone can act morally, but where do those morals come from? When you trace it back and back throughout history eventually you find that the most important political/moral teaching came from the Hebrew people…man is created in God’s image. Atheist societies don’t produce this type of thinking (which leads to freedom).

    I’m not trying to be a jerk, but feel very strongly about this and think RJ has articulated the position of many of us who read him in his Mere Conservatism Theology article. Check it out.

  15. Greg, I do _NOT_ question the power of religious tendencies to make for a better world. I _never_ question a person’s ‘assessment’ of how religious activities enrich their lives, and the lives of those around them.

    I _believe_ in the power of your God’s presence in your life. (!!)

    I do _not_ question the existence of _your_ God.

    I merely point out, that any otherwise healthy person, without ever being introduced the the concept of God, can, and usually will, learn to behave in what could only be called a moral way.

    It’s an excruciatingly difficult challenge, to engage in the thought exercise of imagining a group of people with _NO_ concept of a god, or deities, or spirits, or essences, or whatever……to _really_ work through the possibilities, but it can be done.

    And here’s the fun part. It is an article of _FAITH_, in my life, for _MY_ part, that people are naturally good, moral, conscientious, and worthy of the label “Moral”.

    Without the need for _any_ explanation that relies on the supernatural.

  16. Chad0, in what way did I attack, or even _question_ the idea of morals derived from one’s religious up-bringing? What I take exception to is the [in my personal opinion] ignorant practice of the religious right always implying that our countries good character must be based upon our founding fathers religious tendencies, rather than their f**king intelligence. You alienate significant portions of the electorate by constantly trying to, in essence, attribute our great country’s _greatness_ to some religious influence.

    I got news for you people. It takes _very_little_ imagination to come to the conclusion that our constitution could have been written by, (GASP), Buddhists! Hebrews! Sikhs! Even Atheists!

    Our founding fathers were far, far ahead of the average joe in terms of, most importantly, innate intelligence. Our constitution is a fantastic outline for a limited, balanced system. The guys, Praise Providence(!!), were Smarter than us. __NOT__ ‘more Christian’ than us.

  17. And in closing, read here what you just wrote:

    “Anyone can act morally, but where do those morals come from? When you trace it back and back throughout history eventually you find that the most important political/moral teaching came from the Hebrew people…man is created in God’s image. Atheist societies don’t produce this type of thinking (which leads to freedom).”

    I can’t help you if you believe that the world is only 6,000 years old. But what you have essentially just said, is that every human born before the book of genesis was written, was not capable of being ‘moral’.

    That is truly sad.

    I’m certainly glad my ‘morality’ and ethical ‘makeup’ are 100% pure common sense.
    If they ever find a way to disprove the existence of God, I’ll still be a ‘moral’ and ‘ethical’ person. What’ll you be? I say that with a smile on my face, because my ‘faith’ tells me that you’ll be the same moral, ethical person you always were. It doesn’t take ‘God’ to make you good.

    Here endeth my rant. I know when I’m the ‘third wheel’. Time to leave the room…

    SeeYa!

  18. Jeff, what Chad was saying (I think) is not that we are the way we are as individuals because of our Founders, but that they established a framework that they knew would only work if people did go above and beyond in the moral realm of things. I’m not a Christian, I’m not good or bad, specifically because John Adams believed in God and wrote about it extensively…or because Thomas Jefferson went to church in the Capitol building….or because Abraham Lincoln was a devout Christian…or because Barack Obama went to church for 20 years (but strangely never heard his pastor’s sermons). No one’s arguing that. You can be whatever you want to be, believe whatever you want to believe. What we’re all saying is that we appreciate that we were founded by men who believed certain things, and knew that mankind was fallen and needed to hold themselves and each other accountable, and de-centralize power, etc. That’s all. Morality and religion are important, and I believe, the bedrock of this nation. That’s all.

    I appreciate your thoughts on the matter and like engaging in debate about this stuff. Don’t feel like a third wheel. RJ is a good writer and thoughtful person and you should continue to engage him (and us) on things you disagree with us about. As RJ says at the top-right of his website’s mainpage…all ideas are welcome, not all are correct.

  19. Jeff G-

    I am adamant in my belief that the system of government/economy/society that we’ve enjoyed in this country was/is only possible in the moral framework of Judeo-Christian values/beliefs. This takes NOTHING away from the intelligence and foresight and courage of the Founders. Marx was a genius. Liberals in Hollywood who go to visit Castro rave about his wit, humor, and intelligence. Lots of people are smart and possess knowledge.

    Although I did not invent what I’m about to say, I firmly believe it: What differentiated our “experiment in republican democracy” from any other system devised/implemented in human history was the belief that mankind existed with Creator-endowed rights that superseded all others. Other faiths may ascribe to this (generally speaking), but no other nation has implemented as we have (and to the success we have). These are simply facts. They do not impugn your intelligence and they do not discount that the Founders “figured these things out” with their own brains. But where does that brain come from, if, as the Founders articulated, they were Creator-endowed beings? And which theologically specific view of that Creator did the overwhelming majority of the Founders (and American colonialists) hold? The Judeo-Christian understanding of God, as articulated by the Holy Scriptures.

    Any “beef” you have with these sentiments I’ve just shared is a beef with history, not with me.

    I genuinely appreciate your spirited thoughts and interactions with other people on my site. PLEASE return to debate another day!

    God bless.

    -RJM

  20. RJ,
    Wow you are smart. Well thought out and well written. I am a capitalist at heart and have to be in my line of work.

  21. I’m very sorry, but I actually lost the browser history that I rely on to revisit pages. It wasn’t until 5 minutes ago that I did an igoogle search on the following string:
    “The Universe did not create you. You are a happy by-product of the second law of thermodynamics”.
    I was AMAZED that google actually pointed me here. (How’s THAT for “God works in mysterious ways”?) That means, IMHO, that google has _vastly_ improved their search engine performance…
    That being said, I need to read the “RJ Moeller” post just above here. I caught it in my inbox, and filed it away for ‘check later’…without reading it. _Then_ I lost my browser history, and couldn’t remember which page to reply on.
    Which I will do, as, so far, this is the only site I’ve ever read/posted that didn’t almost immediately devolve into argumentum ad hominem attacks on me personally. I’ve never said this in so public a forum…in fact, I may not have told anyone at all, but I sometimes get a little argumentative when it comes to ‘Christian ethics’. I was kicked out of the Frederick Rescue Mission, in Frederick, MD, by its Head Honcho, a man who, until that time, I had a bit of actual respect for. He being the only person I ever met who could read scripture in the original three languages. I figured he must, at least, be someone capable of appreciating that although I was, and am, a “strong atheist”, I was nonetheless able to ‘suspend my disbelief’ and try to approach their religiously-based ’12 step program’ with a contextual ‘it’ll-work-if-I-try-it-their-way’ frame-of-mind. Even with that sincere approach, (which was in fact keeping me sober whilst there), I know for a FACT that he kicked me out of ‘his’ mission because I was not about to lie about my atheistic philosophy. He actually stooped _so_low_, that he made sure that my bags were placed outside, while I was in the emergency room overnight for an injury that occurred while I was ‘doing the lord’s work’ at said Frederick Rescue Mission. In Frederick, MD. Case I didn’t mention that earlier.

    I’ll be back…

  22. Isn’t anyone watching this thread anymore?

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The basic ideas, ideals, and values that generally define and characterize the central tenets of what today might be termed "modern conservative thought."

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