The Importance of Not Being Unified

Author's Note
This post is reprinted with some edits from LocalCommentary.com, where you can still see it in its original form and habitat.

Political Differences

Political differences are not sins or any other species of moral failure. Political differences are not treason. We don’t fight political differences with fire, literal or otherwise, even if they run to philosophy and first principles. We don’t address them by calling large groups of people racists, socialists, morons, or extremists. Political differences are highly heat-resistant, but only moderately light-resistant, so we address them with persuasion and reason — and with patience. To be sure, we learn very quickly to expect far less than complete success in doing so.

That’s probably okay. We need political differences. We respect them. We learn from them. We embrace them. But these days, I’m afraid, it would be an improvement if we would all just tolerate them with civility and equanimity.

Somehow, all that relates to the following.

Marilynne Robinson: Capitalism or Freedom?

From Marilynne Robinson, When I Was a Child I Read Books (New York: Picador –Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2012)

Having just quoted Walt Whitman, she writes:

We now live in a political environment characterized by wolfishness and filled with blather. We have the passive pious, who feel they have proved their moral refinement in declaring the whole enterprise bankrupt, and we have the active pious, who agree with them, with the difference that they see some hope in a hastily arranged liquidation of cultural assets. (x)

The key words at the end are “the secondary consequences of the progress of freedom” (my italics) . . .

I know that there are numberless acts of generosity, moral as well as material, carried out among [America’s] people every hour of the day. But the language of public life has lost the character of generosity, and the largeness of spirit that has created and supported the best of our institutions and brought reform to the worst of them has been erased out of historical memory. On both sides the sole motive force in our past is now said to have been capitalism. On both sides capitalism is understood as grasping materialism that has somehow or other yielded the comforts and liberties of modern life. . . .

What if good institutions were in fact the product of good intentions? What if the cynicism that is supposed to be rigor and the acquisitiveness that is supposed to be realism are making us forget the origins of the greatness we lay claim to — power and wealth as secondary consequences of the progress of freedom? (xiv-xv, italics added)

(The link above is to the book at my Amazon store, where purchases support this site. However, libraries and fine local bookstores are also wonderful things. The chief thing is to read.)

Read Mike Lee’s Speech

In August 2009 I first heard Mike Lee speak; this was before he declared himself a candidate for US Senate. My blog post about the experience was entitled, “I Think I Found a Great Candidate.” I’ve thought this before, and I’ve probably said this before, but . . .

I told you so.

At the same time, I was in the middle of publishing three lengthy essays on freedom in America. The second was entitled, “I Am a Tocqueville Conservative.” (I’ve lately republished those posts here at Freedom Habit.com.) The connections here are not obvious, but if you read my Tocqueville piece, then read this recent speech by Mike Lee, you’ll see why I liked him so much in the beginning, to say nothing of now. And you might think he is a Tocqueville conservative.

His speech is important. Even if you don’t read anything of mine, read his speech. Please.

(This speech got a bit of attention in The Washington Post. See also Holly Richardson’s recent piece on “Senator Mike Lee’s Impressive Turnaround.”)

 

Recommended Small, Daily Doses

Books

Many books make sense, more or less, if you read them in small pieces, day after day. Some don’t. Here are some books that are particularly well suited to brief, daily reading.

Audio

A valuable companion to Reagan, In His Own Hand is Reagan in His Own Voice, which features audio recordings of dozens of his radio spots, with some commentary for context. This lives on my iPod and brings back memories of many early mornings in my youth.

(Links here are to my Amazon store. Purchases support this site.)

Do you have favorite daily doses?

Excellent Readings on Voter Identification and Voter Fraud

Here’s a readable, fairly recent study on voter fraud and voter identification in national, state, and local elections in the United States. On one side of this issue, people claim voter fraud is a solution in search of a problem. These gentlemen document it as a significant problem some people don’t want to solve.

 

Basic Economics for Ordinary People

To be well informed, the average citizen doesn’t have to digest thick, heavy economics textbooks which are full of calculus. That’s the good news. Here’s the better news: there are some superb explanations of economics in very readable books, with little or no math. Here are some of the best I’ve found.

Links are to my Amazon store, in case you want to buy a book for yourself, a loved one, or your local library. Your purchase helps support this site.

These two books by Thomas Sowell, studied in order, form a superb introduction to economics and economic policy. Sowell is a master at explaining things without delving into difficult math — or much math at all, really. These are the first two books I recommend for any citizen who wants to understand economics sufficiently to comprehend current issues and to help a nation to remain free. They are surprisingly pleasant reading.

Others have recommended this introductory work; it’s in my pile of books to read:

I highly recommend this classic explanation of capitalism — that is, economic freedom:

Further suggestions are welcome, as are your thoughts on these books.

Consider Character, not Religion

Yesterday’s e-mail brought its share of supposedly urgent political fund-raising notices. All but one went straight to the virtual dustbin.

The message which caught my eye was from Utah right-wing activist Cherilyn Eagar and her American Leadership Fund. It went out again this morning: “Deadline TODAY!”

Judge Not, Unless You’re Fund-Raising

Both messages said, in their subject lines and titles, “Why Harry Reid is an embarrassment to his Mormon faith.” A third message this afternoon added: “Here’s the blunt truth. Senator Harry Reid is an embarrassment to his Mormon faith. I know. I’m a Mormon.”

Essential Books on the US Constitution (Founding)

(Last updated 25 September 2104.)

Many of these books are slow going, but they can be very rewarding. And they’re pretty much essential, if you want to be solidly grounded in a free nation’s founding principles and essential institutions.

The Federalist (or The Federalist Papers) by James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay

This collection of newspaper columns is the book most other books on the US Constitution quote. I suggest that, if you’re disinclined to read the whole book at once, you simply skip the ones that don’t sound interesting.

Notes of Debates in the Federal Convention of 1787 by James Madison

Instead of sitting with the Virginia delegation, James Madison sat near the front of the hall, so he could hear everything and take these notes. You could read this cover to cover, but I use it for reference, to look up discussion on issues and constitutional provisions I’m studying.

Democracy in America, by Alexis de Tocqueville

Writing in the mid-1830s, Tocqueville explores not just government, but American society, as well. He explains how Americans were able to become and stay free, and foretells major threats to our freedom with uncanny prescience.

How to Pray for a Tyrant

To those who are inclined to pray about earthly matters such as government, it seems perfectly natural to pray for the people of a nation with democratic institutions, such as the United States — that they will desire freedom, for example, and that God will grant them wisdom, will, and power to preserve it. Likewise, it’s easy to pray for political leaders we like, such as a president we think is doing well. But what about leaders we don’t like?

Here’s an example. I don’t mean it to be off-putting for some readers who feel otherwise, but describing how strong an example it is serves my point.

I think President Obama is a tyrant and in some respects a lawless thug. I have made no secret of this view. He routinely dishonors and jeopardizes the nation. He misinforms and poisons our public debate. He incites and excuses violence. He whittles away our freedoms with ten thousand petty regulations, thumbing his nose all the while at Congress, the people, and the Constitution which created his office. He frustrates and insults our friends and allies. He arms and emboldens our enemies. He confuses and endangers the world.

I have friends and neighbors who share this view. Most of them are less technical about it. Many of them are more emphatic.

I have other friends and neighbors who would wholeheartedly agree with all this, if I changed the words “Obama is” to “Bush was.” Several years ago, they would have asked essentially the same question their counterparts ask now, when I assert that we should pray for the President of the United States and other leaders we don’t like. (At least I can say that right now without people who know me thinking I’m being partisan.)