Monday, October 5, 2009

Guaranteeing republican government- a little dialogue

[Once in a while an exchange of comments occurs in response to one of my posts that is so instructive that I believe it should be shared with everyone. Such is the following exchange arising in response to my last post, The saving grace of the republican imperative. )If you have not read it, I suggest doing so before you continue.) I hope this will encourage readers to click more often on the comments button; to leave their own, or just read what's in progress. It's often worth the time.]


chiu_chunling said:

Dr. Keyes, you are apparently making an accusation...but I fail to see the substance or even the sense of it.

My point (and I did not see any others being made), was that you appear to disparage the one tactic for restoring a moral consensus and legal system in opposition to abortion which has any hope of being successful, which also happens to be the one most in line with the particular wording and intent of the Constitution.

If, as you seem to imply, there is some definite agenda expressed on the part of the Pauls to fix the 'peculiar institution' of abortion as an inviolable states' right for all time, I would appreciate it if you would address such statements. As I mentioned earlier, I don't have enough interest in the Pauls to follow their statements in any great detail.

On the other hand, if they have made no such statements of nefarious intent to use the mantra of states' rights to perpetuate the practice of abortion against all attempts to restrict it, then I don't see how their choice of the Constitutional strategy to remove control over abortion law from the province of the national government should be counted as support of abortion.

I once mentioned that even the hopeless battles must be contested sharply. I do not believe this implies that one must deliberately fight all one's battles on the worst possible ground. A hopeless battle is only worth fighting when the alternative is not fighting at all, when the alternative is an advantageous battle, one must wonder at the decision to fix one's standard in ground that cannot be defended.

Especially as I simply do not see the guiding principle that would give such a decision 'moral' merit. Restricting the power of the national government to purely Federal issues (as the Constitution provides) would seem to be the more 'principled' way to address this issue, as well as being more likely to provide success.

If you were to answer the following questions I might better understand your position.

Do you really believe that reversing Roe v. Wade would not be a substantial victory for pro-life activists?

Have those who express a desire to precisely reverse the Roe v. Wade decision made explicit statements that they foresee such a reversal being a fundamental victory for pro-abortion activists?

Is there some essential flaw in the design of the Federal system described in the Constitution, such that it should be considered unacceptable to leave the states with any significant role in making laws?

I would not ordinarily think to ask you these questions, but this last post leaves me in considerable doubt as to what your answers to them could possibly be.


Alan Keyes said:

The Pauls take the position that the states may abrogate their responsibility to secure the unalienable right to life of posterity. Along with McCain, Sarah Palin, etc. they have repeatedly said that laws permitting abortion are legitimate at the state level.

But the goal of republican government is to secure unalienable rights. This is not optional. It is a positive obligation of justice.

If a state abrogates responsibility for the security of the right to life (by declaring open season on posterity via so called abortion rights) it departs from the substance of republican government. The Constitution mandates that the Federal government guarantee adherence to the republican form of government. It is therefore constitutionally obliged to act to remedy the state's breach of republicanism.

This by no means implies taking away the state's right to make laws. Rather it enforces the state's obligation to make provision in the law for the security of unalienable rights, in this case the right to life.

By the way, on account of the constitutional requirement that all persons be accorded equal protection of the laws, the selective abrogation of the state's responsibility for the security of the unalienable rights of nascent posterity is not only a substantive formal dereliction of republican government, it is also a violation of a specific constitutional provision. (By the way, the Pauls, McCain, etc. do not hold to the view that nascent human offspring are not persons. They allow that they are persons, but claim that states can legitimately confer a right to kill them anyway. In this respect, their contradiction of republican constitutional justice is more egregious than is the case with those who hold that nascent posterity are not human beings.)


chiu_chunling said:

I am disinclined to put too much moral weight on the issue of legitimacy of laws. It is nothing more than which laws will actually be treated as law, when you get right down to it. In that sense, it is nothing more than a pragmatic judgment. And in just this sense, those who say that the states have the more legitimate authority to make such legislation have a very strong case.

If we are to hope for a reversal of Roe v. Wade by persuasion of the electorate rather than overthrow of democracy, then stating the principle of that reversal in terms of preserving the guarantee of self-government is prudent. In order for it to be moral, such statements should represent a real willingness to let the issue of abortion be settled by state laws. This in no way implies a abdication of the moral responsibility to advocate good laws, only to keep that fight at the level of the state legislatures.

I have mentioned before that a complete ban on abortion is unenforcible. While I'm willing to withhold the explicit details which would turn that argument into a de facto instruction in how to perform one, I will not let the point slide. Legitimacy of abortion laws may be a matter of pragmatism, but in the case of a law that can so easily be circumvented, it is not unimportant.

To put it very bluntly, where abortion is not regarded as wrong in and of itself, laws restricting it are likely to be ineffective. They will not be obeyed, and are likely to be difficult to enforce as well. A commitment to pursuing such laws through the democratic process at the state level implies persuasion of the majority in each state that abortion is wrong and should be eliminated by law. This persuasive process is precisely what is needed to actually eliminate (rather than unenforceably outlaw) abortion.

A declaration of absolute commitment to achieve some objective which rejects the methods by which it has any possibility of actually being achieved is...not prudent. If one understands that one is undermining the potential for success, then such a statement would be downright deceptive. Fortunately for my opinion of your honor (though it perhaps is something you wish to mend), you do have a notable tendency to lose sight of political realities in your pursuit of ideals.

To argue that the states have the authority to regulate abortion through their democratically elected legislatures is to imply that they may decline to do so. I'm afraid that one cannot disparage this reality of limited government...where an explicit law cannot be enacted through the legislative process, the law is silent. I favor limited government for a number of reasons, not least because it provides for laws to be explicit and regular rather than corresponding only to the whim of those in power. Regardless of whether or not it serves any given social or political end at some moment, limited government is one of the chief principles of the Constitution (and the Declaration of Independence, where--if you'll recall--the whimsical and arbitrary nature of the King's rule was the essential focus of most of the complaints).

In my life-time, there have been a number of different state laws which denied my right to exist or live because of my racial or religious background. I do not hold that any of these laws were good laws, but it never occurred to me that there was any point in disputing the authority of the various states to make them. The point was to fight to get them reversed (a fight in which I never had much interest, to be honest). States may make bad laws, or fail to make good laws. But if you have any love of the principles of limited government then you have to grant someone the authority to make laws, and the Constitution grants the authority over all but a few laws to the states.


Alan Keyes said:

The question of legitimacy is not a "pragmatic" issue unless one assumes that there is no standard of right and wrong apart from human will and imposition. The doctrine of unalienable rights invokes a higher standard, a higher law, the will of the Creator God. Human actions and legislation that contravene the Creator's provision for human nature are unlawful.

The people of the United States, and of each state respectively, base their claim to be the ultimate arbiters of authority for law and government on this provision. When, through their representatives, they make laws they cannot contradict the provisions of the higher law without vitiating their right to govern themselves.

If, without regard to the provisions made for human nature by the Creator, we accept as lawful whatever the people decides to be such, there would then be no difference between constitutional government and the arbitrary rule of despots and tyrants. However, the Constitution does not establish or sanction a tyranny of any kind, including tyranny of the majority.

To be sure, some Americans now wish to overthrow constitutional government, and to replace it with a socialist tyranny claiming to act on behalf of the people. They deny the existence of God, of any higher law and of any standard for human affairs except "history" (i.e., what happens determines what's right.) Put simply, this returns us to a world in which might makes right and success justifies everything.

The majority of Americans don't want to live in such a world. Since our tactical aim is to build a majority, the right tactical goal is to make sure people realize that whether or not we live in such a world is what is really at stake in all our present discussions. Because this is most directly clear when dealing with respect for unalienable rights (like the right to life,) emphasizing this aspect of every issue is the most salient and effective way of achieving the tactical goal.

By the way, the moral consensus we seek to achieve is not just about abortion, it is about justice and liberty. Making clear the unlawfulness of abortion serves and must be seen in the context of this overall purpose. Reducing abortions without restoring respect for God's provision of justice for humanity does not achieve the purpose, though all too many people presently regarded as pro-life leaders mistakenly think that it does.)


chiu_chunling said

The precise point of disagreement is whether directly reversing the national government's arrogation of the authority to decide the legality of abortion would 'vitiate' the principles on which America is based.

My argument (I don't know the details of the Pauls' position) is that the several states, while not individually necessarily any better stewards of this authority, are collectively better because they face competition and work under Federal limitations rather than acting as totally sovereign governments. Whether or not this argument is persuasive, you have advanced nothing in opposition to the argument itself.

I have no vested interest in holding this position, given that I believe that the Federal government is irreversibly delegitimized. I am perfectly willing to be persuaded...but you must make an argument that I can follow from premises I accept.


Alan Keyes said:

Where respect for the republican form of government is concerned, the Constitution clearly states that the U.S. government has responsibility for guaranteeing that it is maintained. This is a positive Constitutional duty. If a state respects the premises of republican government, no U.S. government action is needed. But if it departs from that respect (as it does with legislation that violates the unalienable right to life, for instance) the U.S. government has a Constitutional duty and obligation to act.

Those of us who work under the banner of the Constitution cannot treat its terms as optional. According to those terms, the states must adhere to the republican form of government.

Finally, though we act at a time when strong forces are working to abuse the power of the U.S. government, it has not been "irreversibly delegitimized". Its legitimacy depends on proper respect for Constitutional limits and duties, and will be restored along with that respect. Such is the aim of the work I and others are doing.


chiu_chunling said:

See, the leap you make between "Republican form of Government" and "advocating direct reversal of Roe v. Wade is pro-abortion" is the place you're losing me.

I realize you're connecting them. I just don't see the logic of that connection. Maybe you need to go through it a little slower or something.

For myself, I think the word "form" is in there for a reason. The Founding Fathers may well have realized that it would simply not be possible for the Federal government to actually guarantee that each state would be an ideal Republic. So they might have meant "Republican form of Government" quite literally, since it is easier to enforce forms than ideals. Just thinking...they paid a lot of attention to what might actually be possible in their design for the United States.

I believe in miracles. My existence cannot otherwise be explained, after all. And yet...I also believe in prudence. I don't actually practice it, but I do believe in it.


Alan Keyes said:

In matters of perception the word "form" refers to an object's distinctive appearance in perception. Our sense of its meaning must obviously take account of the faculties through which perception takes place. Reference to the 'form' of a tree calls to mind something different than referring to the 'form' of a piece of music, or of a dancer in action.

The 'form' of government is rather more like the dancer, in that it cannot be perceived except in action. Unlike the dancer, however, its 'body' appears mainly as an object of intellectual rather than material perception. Its form thus corresponds to a certain body of ideas (understood as a logically coherent arrangement of premises and conclusions to be carried into action.) In this respect it is more like the dance than the dancer, in that its form at any given moment is determined by choreography, which exists prior to action as an object of intellectual judgment and perception, an object of thought.

As an object of thought the republican form of government is a body of ideas that starts from the basic premise that "all men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights". Just as a ballet dancer must respect the rules that govern the body's carriage during movement (appropriate flexure of the feet, rectitude of the spine, correct alignment of the shoulders, neck and head, etc.) a republican government must respect this basic premise (and its consequences) in all its arrangements and actions. If and when it departs from it (as legislation violating the unalienable right to life does) it is no longer maintaining the republican (i.e., just and legitimate) form of government.

I believe this clarifies the connection between ending "legalized" abortion and maintaining the republican form of government. The latter involves implementing a certain understanding of justice, so that its 'form' and its 'substance' (from the Latin sub stare, meaning to stand under) are inseparable.

The American founders had nothing but contempt for the idea of letting the U.S. Constitution become an arrangement of insubstantial "parchment provisions." A constitution is justice in action. That's why the oath of all government officials in the U.S. (including officials at the state level) binds them to carry it out (respect it in their actions.)

21 comments:

Terry Morris said...

Very good, sir! I'm personally very happy to see that you alerted your readers to this important exchange.

By the way, I used to be one of these people who demanded a strict interpretation of the constitution on a national level. I changed my attitude towards that when I realized that (abortion being one of the key issues) there was no hope left that the federal government would ever, under current conditions, reverse its position on 'a woman's right to choose,' but that several of the states, including my own, would, without flinching, via the ninth and tenth amendments, tell the feds to take a hike on this and other vital issues ('gay marriage' and so forth).

What we musn't ever forget is that the founders established a government suitable for themselves and the founding generation. "We (heavy on the WE!) hold these truths to be self-evident" doesn't necessarily apply to us, as I've attempted to point out innumerable times in the past. But it still does, in certain cases, apply to WE, as in us -- my state being one of a few examples. How long can this possibly remain so under the current (acceptable) system?

Parrfection said...

Dr. Keyes,

What of the notion of the Declaration of Independence not being judicable? That, although it is a founding document, it is not law? Does the "republican form of government" clause help defend against this notion?

An objection I heard that gave me pause.
Thank you,
SP

Dawg_em said...

Chiu_chunling,

When arguing a position of the highest moral implications how pragmatic is it to hold the position that federal sanction of genocide is unacceptable while promoting the notion such is the province of the states?

It seems to me an unwavering position, devoid of exceptions, can only help to convince the "fence-sitters" that what you proclaim is what you truly believe. Regardless of whether it involves decisions made by federal, state, or personal entities.

Pragamtically speaking, the obese person in a lifeboat adrift at sea must necessarily be concerned for his safety. Afterall, he is best suited to provide sustenance for the others. In this instance, pragmatism takes a back seat to truth and justice. Or at least it should.

Terry Morris said...

Here's the problem, not merely as I personally see it,

but as it IS

--

the federal government has already taken a (longstanding, inviolable) position on this subject, i.e., a 'woman's right to choose' is a legitimate, sustainable, enforceable mandate. That will not change in spite of all arguments to the contrary, period. Why? Because, of course, except to the most idiotic among us, liberalism is the ruling principle for modern American society. Therefore, the states must -- reciprocally speaking -- take this issue up themselves.

Alan Keyes said...

Parrfection:
The reasoning required to understand and apply Article IV, Section 4 is exactly what addresses this notion. Both logically and historically, the Declaration is the reference point for understanding the substance of the "republican form of government." I was first led to research and think about it some years ago when an academic colleague asserted that the Declaration, though part of the organic law of the United States, was not justiciable. In light of Article IV, Section 4 I concluded that it is both justiciable and actionable.
Though he did not make the case so explicitly in terms of constitutional law, I think Lincoln reached the same conclusion. His words in the Gettysburg address (i.e., "Four score and seven years ago our forefathers brought forth upon this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war testing whether any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure")referenced the Declaration of Independence. They suggest that his use of the executive power to prosecute the war should be seen as an example of enforcing the Declaration principles.
If and when one of the challenges to Roe reaches the Supreme Court, I hope that Article Four, Section 4 will be used to challenge, as a dereliction of its constitution duty, the Federal government's failure to defend the unalienable right to life of posterity in the womb.

Dawg_em said...

Terry Morris,

As I see it you are completely wrong.

1. Legitimate? Slaughtering a defenseless, innocent human being is as illegitimate as it gets.

2. Sustainable. Balderdash. Russia, among other nations, is encouraging her citizens to procreate because they do NOT have enough people to support their society. Much like the US doesn't produce enough progeny to support Social Security, Medicare, etc.

3. Enforceable mandate. The enfoceable part I'll agree with. Any fascist, tyrannical regime with the firepower of the feds can enforce almost anything. The mandate portion is almost laughable. Never, not even since before Roe, has there been overwhelming support for this genocide. To call it a mandate flies in the face of reality.

Finally, just because "liberalism is the ruling principle for modern American society" doesn't mean it always has been or that it will always be.

Idiocy being what it is, perhaps you can answer this question for me:

If, as you say, the federal government has taken a "longstanding, inviolable position" on this subject, and it will not change, why must the states reciprocate by taking up this issue?

DixHistory-dot-com said...

Dr. Keyes,

Are you saying, Article IV, Section 4 that the term "against domestic Violence".

This is the term in our Constitution, that should make actionable all human life as well as that of a fetus is to be protected?

If not that then what are you saying?

Alan Keyes said...

DixHistory-dot-com:
Please read the previous post, referenced at the beginning of this one. The language in Article IV, section 4 reads: "The United States shall guarantee to every state in this union a republican form of government." That is the language I am discussing. Respect for unalienable rights is the goal and basic requirement of the republican form of government.

Derek P. said...

"The United States shall guarantee to every state in this union a republican form of government." (Article IV, Section 4)

Would the meaning be clearer if the Article read - 'The United States shall IMPOSE UPON every state in this union a republican form of government.'

Just wondering.

chiu_chunling said...

I am flattered by the elevation of my contribution to the forum, but distressed by the omission of a key part of my arguments

While you may resolve the question of what human laws are in accordance with divine law and which are not, until you establish widespread agreement on the dictates of divine law among those with power to repeal unjust laws and institute just laws in their place, you cannot effectively appeal to divine law in your attempts to persuade them.

And, once all men were enlightened as to the dictates of divine law, it is far from clear that there could be any need of human laws anymore.

As for the legal status of the Declaration of Independence, it is acceptable as law only insofar as it is ratified by the effective source of authority for law. The body of militarily able men in America gathered themselves under the banner of the new nation and made it effective by their courage and sacrifice. But what is the substance of the law they thus ratified? It is nothing more or less than a statement that they had the authority to form their own government, should they have both the will and ability to prevail against the might of the Crown.

I don't know what else the Declaration can be understood to mean, from a legal perspective. It is, in fact, an expression of ultimate pragmatism in establishing human laws. When the existing government sufficiently outrages those required to obey it, they will overthrow it and make new laws for themselves if they have the power to do so.

You do not have power sufficient to use the Federal government's usurpation of the authority to regulate homicide as a tool to eliminate widespread abortion.

Which brings me back to my central, unanswered question.

Exactly how is advocating the reversal of Roe v. Wade to be construed as pro-abortion? This is the substance of what is being asserted repeatedly in this discussion, but for the life of me I cannot understand the logic of this assertion. It is Roe v. Wade which vastly increased the accessibility and practice of abortion in America. I cannot imagine that anyone is asserting that reversing Roe v. Wade would directly increase abortions. But this is the only plausible rational I can imagine for the assertion that advocating its reversal is a pro-abortion policy.

gilbertabrett said...

Since we know that Roe vs. Wade was based on a lie, seems as though the entire mess should be revisited. Even "Roe" goes around the country saying it should be. The country was duped, once again. Seems as though we get a lot of that... and GOT a lot while everyone was smoking weed and being promiscuous back in the 70's... you know ole "Roe" was arrested at the Sotomayor "hearings?"

Someone commented about enforcement of murdering babies in the womb - do like other countries. Pay women to have babies...

I would love to see this blight on our society turned around, but I do not think it will ever happen. There are not enough people left in our society with backbones. No one wants to stand for anything and when they do, they have no concrete reasoning for doing such. No moral compass. We are just too far gone and it is evident throughout our society.

Dr. Keyes, out of (let's say) 300,000,000 people in the US, as of right now only 340,108 have read this blog. It needs more support. WE need more support. The standards that you write and speak about so clearly are attacked from so many directions that it is CLEARLY only GOD that has brought this country through without total destruction - especially in the last 30 years.

People can say what they want and argue law 'til the cows come home but there is one thing we can ALL take to the bank. GOD hears all that blood and HE will not sit on HIS throne too much longer before HE judges us. Either we take our country back and rededicate it, or we pay the piper and get ready to call it quits. GOD will NOT let this go on forever.

I still admire you for your stand at the Notre Dame graduation... there should have been MILLIONS of people there... where were THEY?

Why is it that so many conservatives in this country do not seem to get along long enough to make a determined effort to rid our nation of these career politicians that have stolen our country from us?

Alan Keyes said...

chiu_chunling:
At the end of the day, the purpose of this blog is not merely to debate abstractions, but to help Americans revisit the basis for their identity and help those who still believe in it to articulate and act on the idea of liberty that is at its heart. Though corrupted elements of the elites in the United States have abandoned its principles, those principles continue to command the loyalty of a substantial majority of the American people. That's why those who seek to overthrow the republic must still dissemble and lie about their agenda.
This is by way of saying that the Declaration's clear statement about the nature of justice as it accords with God's authority is not the subject of debate here. As it is the premise from which our Constitutional arrangements are deduced, I take it for granted as the context of the discussion.
I and many others swore an oath to uphold, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, an oath that will end only with our lives. Our constitutional system may be under assault, but it is not yet overthrown. The liberty loyal majority is awakening. I simply aim to help confirm the reasonable conviction on which it must act.
In this respect you seem to misunderstand our situation. We are not confused about the justice of government of, by and for the people; nor about its origins in the authority of God. In that respect your questions about the Declaration's premises and authority are for another day. The task at hand is simply to reason clearly from those premises to conclusions that can confirm and guide the conscientious judgments of the political uprising that is taking shape to repudiate those who arrogantly believe they have already displaced our God given and therefore just freedoms.
As for abortion, you also misconstrue the task at hand. The notion of 'abortion rights' did not originate in a demand from a majority of the people. It was imposed by a narrow, elite minority. Restoring justice for our posterity involves re-establishing the sway of the people's moral common sense. This is far from an impossible mission. It involves a self-evident truth, which commands assent once it is properly articulated. The difficulty is not one of persuading them, just reaching enough of them. But of course, the truth that must reach them is not just about someone else's right to life- it is about their own right to live in freedom. Once they see it in this light, by dint of the natural law that God has written into their hearts they will know what is right and how to act upon it.

chiu_chunling said...

Wouldn't the most effective way of re-establishing the sway of the people's moral common sense (I would say 'common moral sense', but you may mean something particular by your phrase) then be to reverse the narrow, elite minority's usurpation of authority over the matter?

I still fail to understand how it is pro-abortion to argue for the reversal of Roe v. Wade. Please explain this point to me in simple terms.

larry white said...

Thank you, Dr. Keyes, for persevering in this "far from impossible mission." Quoting from the Bishop of Durham Dr. N. T. Wright's book, Simply Christian, "The church exists, in other words, for what we sometimes call “mission”: to announce to the world that Jesus is its Lord. This is the “good news,” and when it’s announced it transforms people and societies. Mission, in its widest as well as its more focused senses, is what the church is there for. God intends to put the world to rights; he has dramatically launched this project through Jesus. Those who belong to Jesus are called, here and now, in the power of the Spirit, to be agents of that putting-to-rights purpose. The word “mission” comes from the Latin for “send”: “As the father sent me,” said Jesus after his resurrection, “so I am sending you” (John 20:21)."

Alan Keyes said...

Derek P: As stated, the clause only requires action in response to dereliction. I think of it like standing guarantee for someone else's debt. You only have to act when they don't.

Alan Keyes said...

chiu_chunling:
I do not argue that supporting reversal of Roe isn't pro life. That reversal would come in response to a state's effort to defend state laws that protect innocent life. Ron Paul however insists that the decision is up to the states, which grants constitutional legitimacy to state laws that do not respect unalienable rights. But passage of such laws triggers the Federal responsibility to guarantee the republican form of government. Paul disregards or denies the existence of this responsibility.
The issue therefore is not abortion per se. It is the primacy of respect for unalienable rights (as an essential feature of the republican form of government) over the legislative prerogatives of the states. When their people accepted the terms of the Constitution (particularly Article IV, Section 4) the states were deprived of any prerogative to discard the republican form of government and the people commanded the Federal government to make sure the no state reneged.
By denying the supremacy of unalienable rights people like McCain, Palin and Paul make the pro-life issue a matter or individual feeling or public opinion, rather than an issue of principle inseparable from respect for liberty. This essentially cedes to the abortion advocates on the key point in political dispute- that respect for unalienable right is a matter of choice, not a requirement of justice.
This may also be where you and I differ. But if I understand your situation correctly, you are not bound to respect the Constitution of the United States, or the premises and principles that maintain it. Unless and until the Constitution is openly overturned, in their public capacity American citizens are.

chiu_chunling said...

So...you acknowledge that the power to raise an effective challenge to Roe v. Wade must lie with the state legislatures, but insist that pointing this out improperly legitimizes those state legislatures that don't actually do it?

And this improper legitimization is therefore a rejection of the notion of inalienable rights, I suppose.

There are two leaps here which I don't quite follow. First, how does insisting it is the responsibility of the state legislatures to regulate abortion legitimize those that don't do so? Doesn't this instead make them subject to being held accountable for the laws they fail to make? As things stand, by not clearly calling on states to shoulder responsibility for making such laws, we accept the prevailing common wisdom that electing pro-life state legislatures doesn't matter because state legislatures have no power to protect the unborn.

Saying that restrictions on abortion are the responsibility of the state legislature would seem to imply the exact opposite of what you claim it implies. I am thus at a loss to understand your first leap.

The second leap is comparatively tenable, in that while it does not appear to follow logically, at least it does not directly contradict the preceding statement. I either do not agree with it, or must reject the notion of inalienable rights. Given my best understanding of the Founding Fathers' thoughts on this matter, that they did not believe the practical suspension of certain rights by governments they declined to overthrow meant that such rights were not inalienable, I must suggest that there is a severe problem with our common vocabulary.

I think that a recurring point of contention is the meaning of the term "legitimate" (in accordance with existing law) when it is applied to governments and laws. In my definition, it is a simple matter of whether the government rules through laws that are generally obeyed and impartially enforced if they are disobeyed. This does not mean that one cannot rightfully advocate changes in the government or the laws, only that it is more prudent to do so through legal mechanisms if such exist suitable to the changes one desires.

It appears that your definition of the term "legitimate" where applied to government and laws (and possibly in other cases, though such would be tangential to the current discussion) is that the government or law in question is in accord with 'higher' or divine law, and that to attempt or even suggest a change in it would be immoral. I will admit (for the purpose of argument) that some laws may be in sufficiently in accordance so as to meet this standard of legitimacy (though I am aware of no such law of human devising). There is a difficulty that arises immediately in relation to such laws, which I have already pointed out.

A more immediate difficulty is that, whatever the nature of such legitimate governments and their laws, it is logically impossible for any republic of human beings to ever be allowed to change it once it was devised (even granting that it were possible for it to be framed by humans in the first instance). Yet even under divine inspiration the best effort of America's Founders offers clearly delineated mechanisms for the government they instituted to be changed through legal means, which would suggest that either they legalized something inherently immoral--thus rendering their legal framework illegitimate--or that they considered the laws they devised as not being perfect, hence illegitimate by your standards of legitimacy.

And again we must pause...

chiu_chunling said...

To finish what I was saying,

Put shortly, you must choose between demanding that the government be perfect or demanding that it be subject to the imperfect people it governs. It is said that, "If men were angels, no government would be necessary." Technically, I regard this statement as fundamentally flawed in its assumption that angels do not require government, but let us haste over that point. Whether or not angels would need a government, human governments are necessary because not all men will obey divine law.

A closing note which does not touch the substance of the current argument. You may not understand my situation perfectly. It is because I am bound to respect the Constitution of the United States of America that I must eventually act to destroy those who have made themselves its enemies. Even though I espouse a theory of legitimacy which is more elastic than that which you apparently propound, the current government of America is now entirely and irreversibly illegitimate.

Which makes me think that I cannot possibly be very far advanced in my attempt to understand what you mean by "legitimate", if it is a quality that you believe America's national government retains but would be lost to any state which...challenged the Federal government's support of abortion?

You have well and truly lost me. I can't make heads or tails out of what you're saying. Also, it is becoming irritatingly difficult to post comments. Is the site experiencing DOS attacks or something?

chiu_chunling said...

I posted to this thread a couple of days ago, but it apparently didn't go through. But my questions regarding your position on this issue have not been resolved.

You acknowledge that the power to raise an effective challenge to Roe v. Wade must lie with the state legislatures, but insist that pointing this out improperly legitimizes those state legislatures that don't actually do it?

And this improper legitimization is therefore a rejection of the notion of inalienable rights, I suppose.

There are two leaps here which I don't quite follow. First, how does insisting it is the responsibility of the state legislatures to regulate abortion legitimize those that don't do so? Doesn't this instead make them subject to being held accountable for the laws they fail to make? As things stand, by not clearly calling on states to shoulder responsibility for making such laws, we accept the prevailing common wisdom that electing pro-life state legislatures doesn't matter because state legislatures have no power to protect the unborn.

Saying that restrictions on abortion are the responsibility of the state legislature would seem to imply the exact opposite of what you claim it implies. I am thus at a loss to understand your first leap.

The second leap is comparatively tenable, in that while it does not appear to follow logically, at least it does not directly contradict the preceding statement. But still I either do not agree with it, or must reject the notion of inalienable rights. Given my best understanding of the Founding Fathers' thoughts on this matter, that they did not believe the practical suspension of certain rights by governments they declined to overthrow meant that such rights were not inalienable, I must suggest that there is a severe problem with our common vocabulary.

I think that a recurring point of contention is the meaning of the term "legitimate" (in accordance with existing law) when it is applied to governments and laws. In my definition, it is a simple matter of whether the government rules through laws that are generally obeyed and impartially enforced if they are disobeyed. This does not mean that one cannot rightfully advocate changes in the government or the laws, only that it is more prudent to do so through legal mechanisms if such exist suitable to the changes one desires.

It appears that your definition of the term "legitimate" where applied to government and laws (and possibly in other cases, though such would be tangential to the current discussion) is that the government or law in question is in accord with 'higher' or divine law, and that to attempt or even suggest a change in it would be immoral. I will admit (for the purpose of argument) that some laws may be in sufficiently in accordance so as to meet this standard of legitimacy (though I am aware of no such law of human devising). There is a difficulty that arises immediately in relation to such laws, which I have already pointed out.

A more immediate difficulty is that, whatever the nature of such legitimate governments and their laws, it is logically impossible for any republic of human beings to ever be allowed to change it once it was devised (even granting that it were possible for it to be framed by humans in the first instance). Yet even under divine inspiration the best effort of America's Founders offers clearly delineated mechanisms for the government they instituted to be changed through legal means, which would suggest that either they legalized something inherently immoral--thus rendering their legal framework illegitimate--or that they considered the laws they devised as not being perfect, hence illegitimate by your standards of legitimacy.

chiu_chunling said...

To put the foregoing shortly, you must choose between demanding that the government be perfect or demanding that it be subject to the imperfect people it governs. It is said that, "If men were angels, no government would be necessary." Technically, I regard this statement as fundamentally flawed in its assumption that angels do not require government, but let us haste over that point. Whether or not angels would need a government, human governments are necessary because not all men will obey divine law.

A closing note which does not touch the substance of the current argument. You may not understand my situation perfectly. It is because I am bound to respect the Constitution of the United States of America that I must eventually act to destroy those who have made themselves its enemies. Even though I espouse a theory of legitimacy which is more elastic than that which you apparently propound, the current government of America is now entirely and irreversibly illegitimate.

Which makes me think that I cannot possibly be very far advanced in my attempt to understand what you mean by "legitimate", if it is a quality that you believe America's national government retains but would be lost to any state which...challenged the Federal government's support of abortion?

chiu_chunling said...

That's my personal record for a double post, by the way. A two post posting reposted two days later because the post didn't appear.

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