Category: Individual Liberty

The double-headed eagle is a historical symbol of symphonia.

Today at Acton University, Fr. Michael Butler examined the history of Church-State relations in the Orthodox Tradition with special reference to the modern, Russian context in his lecture “Orthodoxy, Church, and State.” The audio of his lecture will be available via Ancient Faith Radio sometime in the coming weeks. As a teaser, I would like to briefly examine two concepts of Orthodox political theory to which Fr. Butler devoted specific attention: symphonia and sobornost.

Due to the influence of Max Weber, symphonia is often mischaracterized as caesaropapism (a term he coined), the state in which a nation’s sovereign is supreme in all ecclesiastical matters as well as those of state. It would be, then, a complete absorption of the Church by the state. Actual historical instances of this would include (to varying degrees) the Church of England where the monarch is the head and Imperial Russia from Tsar Peter the Great’s Westernizing reforms to the Bolshevik revolution. In the latter case, as Fr. Michael noted, one can see a distortion of symphonia for the elevation of state power, but not its essence or, by far, the complete historical picture. (more…)

Blog author: ehilton
posted by on Friday, June 14, 2013

“There, comrades, is the answer to all our problems. It is summed up in a single word– Man” ― George Orwell, Animal Farm

We are clearly at a point where we are all to be treated as criminals. Why? Because it’s politically incorrect to name the actual criminals. If a terrorist is fueled by a fundamentalist vision of his religion, such as the Tsarnaev brothers, we are told that their radical roots are “mysterious” or religion wasn’t even a factor in their choice to bomb the Boston marathon. If we, as a society, are unable to pin down what is behind terrorism, then everyone becomes suspect. (more…)

Blog author: ehilton
posted by on Thursday, June 13, 2013

AEI Scholar Christina Hoff Sommers is on a quest to reclaim feminism. Her new book, Freedom Feminism and Why It Matters Today, explores why so many women today reject the title of “feminist.” She discusses the topic further in the following video.

On June 11, 1963 Alabama Governor George Wallace became a national symbol for racial segregation by blocking the doors of a school to physically prevent the integration of Alabama schools. According to the Alabama Department of Archives, Governor Wallace “stood in the door-way to block the attempt of two black students, Vivian Malone and James Hood, to register at the University of Alabama. President John F. Kennedy federalized the Alabama National Guard, and ordered its units to the university campus. Wallace then stepped aside and returned to Montgomery, allowing the students to enter.” Unfortunately, the way Wallace defended what he did compromised the promotion of political and religious liberty for the generations that followed.

At the standoff, Wallace defended his actions by an official proclamation saying:
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Alliance Defending Freedom has released a transcript and audio of a phone conversation an IRS agent placed to a non-profit organization that provides support to women in abusive pregnancy situations. In the recorded phone conversation, the agent lectures the president of the organization about forcing its religion and beliefs on others and inaccurately explains that the group must remain neutral on issues such as abortion.
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12 year old girls are a lot of things, but keenly aware of their own bodies, biological functions and the side effects of medications are typically not among their strong suits. Imagine a 12 year old girl who isn’t even sure how she might get Adolescent Girl with Head in Handspregnant, let alone if she is. Imagine a 12 year old who’s been coerced into having sex or has even been raped. Imagine she may or may not be pregnant, but has contracted an STD and doesn’t know it. Imagine she’s so afraid of being pregnant that she takes the ‘morning-after’ medication 2 or 3 times, “just to be sure.” Imagine the harm being done to her young body and mind, with no counsel from a parent and a medical professional. In fact, the parents have no rights here, despite the fact that there are only five states in the U.S. that do not have laws regarding piercings and/or tattoos for minors. The Obama administration has decided that a child facing an unplanned pregnancy needs less parental supervision than one who wants to get a nose ring. (more…)

Three years ago the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that corporations have the same rights as individuals to engage in political speech. As Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the Citizens United decision, the “corporate identity” of a speaker did not justify a reduced level of free speech protection. Can that same concept about corporate identity be applied to religious liberties? Do corporations have religious liberty rights too?

Some legal scholars are claiming they do not:
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Last night in Dublin I was having a conversation with a 65-year-old man who was ranting about the high unemployment rate in the European Union, which in the 17-nation currency area rose to 12.2 percent in April. The current unemployment rate is a new record since the data series began in 1995. My new friend was very open about being an outright socialist and said that Europe’s problem is that people are not being treated fairly.

Capitalism, he explained, promotes a culture where people do not share their resources because it encourages inequality. To solve the European unemployment crisis, my friend suggested that Europe “needs a dictator” to come in and simply tell everyone what to do so that there will be true equality. The problem, however, my Irish friend confessed, is that when someone gets in a power “they get carried away with it,” and people end up being taken advantage of. He did not seem able to connect the dots that countries that have tried socialism and dictatorships are countries where the poor are worse off in the long-run. Therefore, his proposal will not work.

The conversation raised several questions for me. To start, I wondered why this 65-year-old man drinking a Smithwick’s beer, sitting next to me drinking a pint of Guinness, did not see that we were both experiencing equality thanks to the free market, property rights, and the rule of law. I also wondered why he thinks that something like socialism would be the best way forward given the fact that a form of it is currently not working in the European Union.
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Blog author: jballor
posted by on Thursday, June 6, 2013

The conservative-libertarian fusionism conversation is gaining new life as discussions and reflections about the state of the Republican party reverberate after last year’s election. Ben Domenech has a particularly worthwhile outline of what he calls a “libertarian populist agenda.”

Last month’s discussion at Cato Unbound also focused on fusionism, and in this post I’d like to bring together some of the various threads to conclude for a vision of conservative-libertarian fusionism (or at least co-belligerence) in the economic sphere.

In one of his discussion posts, Clark Ruper asserts that “a libertarian can be ‘socially conservative’ or ‘socially progressive.’” But he then proceeds to use the research of Boaz and Kirby, which identifies a group as “fiscally conservative and socially liberal-libertarian” as definitive of a new generation of liberty-minded voters. This ambiguity gets precisely at what Domenech calls in today’s edition of The Transom the difficulty posed for fusionism by “the more atheist and agnostic strands of libertarianism, particularly the urban variety.”

It’s easier for these strands to give lip-service to the openness of the libertarian cause to “social conservatives” than to really identify the coherence of conservative social values with libertarianism. This gets precisely at the dynamic I intended to highlight in my initial post about the limitations of libertarianism as a political philosophy of limited government as opposed to a fully-blown world-and-life view. If you think that libertarianism is really a political philosophy that remains largely agnostic about things other than government, then you are more likely to really think that “a libertarian can be ‘socially conservative’ or ‘socially progressive.’” But if you think of libertarianism as an ideological worldview that has to do with maximizing individual choice and autonomy in every conceivable sphere (political or not), then you are much more likely to see libertarianism as entailing social liberalism (or what some conservatives deride as libertinism).

The upshot of this is that I think the key to any constructive fusionism must deal on the basis of seeking liberty in the realm of political economy, something that both conservatives and libertarians ought to be able to unite on. We ought to be able to come together to defend and promote a system of political economy that best promotes human flourishing, particularly by addressing the problem of poverty and the complex challenges of wealth creation. This is in part why I find a movement like the Bleeding Heart Libertarians is encouraging.

In another dialogue about fusionism, Jonah Goldberg asserted that there should always be a “libertarian in the room,” referring to the context of political discussions, because “the libertarian in the room asks the right question: Why is this a job for government?”

I think we might be able to bring Jonah Goldberg and Johnny Cash together on this point, to say that there always ought to be a “libertarian in black” in the room, asking the right questions about what government policies do for the people, particularly the poor. As Johnny sang,

I wear the black for the poor and the beaten down,
Livin’ in the hopeless, hungry side of town,
I wear it for the prisoner who has long paid for his crime,
But is there because he’s a victim of the times.

I wear the black for those who never read,
Or listened to the words that Jesus said,
About the road to happiness through love and charity,
Why, you’d think He’s talking straight to you and me.

Well, we’re doin’ mighty fine, I do suppose,
In our streak of lightnin’ cars and fancy clothes,
But just so we’re reminded of the ones who are held back,
Up front there ought ‘a be a Man In Black.

sowell-intellect-raceThe more I read of Thomas Sowell’s latest book, Intellectuals and Race, the more I am persuaded that the era of progressivism may have been just as damaging to the history of black progress in American than the Jim Crow era. From the latter part of the 19th-century through the 1930s progressives sought to use government as a means of addressing the social ills of society. It was an era where leading intellectuals, in partnership with politicians, expanded the scope of the government’s decision-making authority to address the needs of the poor. It was an era where good intentions created more problems than policy makers anticipated. Sowell explains how these policies were especially harmful to minorities in chapter 3 of the book.
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