Category: Politics

Kuyper-Ons-Program-freedom-conscience1As persecution intensifies around the world, and as the incremental fight for religious liberty only begins here in America, Christians have an obligation to better understand the role of religious liberty and how it intersects with God’s design for political institutions.

Unfortunately, as a recent video from John MacArthur demonstrates, the confusion is more widespread than I’d like to believe.

“We can’t expect religious liberty to exist as some kind of divine right, as some gift from God,” he says. “…We were never promised religious liberty. We were only promised persecution.”

MacArthur goes on to paint a confusing and convoluted picture of the Christian’s role in government, arguing that, when it comes to the erosion of religious liberty here in America, it simply “doesn’t matter” because “our political conditions have nothing to do with the advancement of the kingdom of God.” “We don’t fight for quote-unquote ‘religious liberty,’” he says. “We might talk about it. We might vote to make it happen. We don’t fight for that.” (more…)

publicdefenderThe Atlantic published an article by Dylan Walsh about the growing fight in many states for the right to legal counsel. This article focuses on the state of Louisiana, and looks specifically the Concordia Parish along the Mississippi river. Like many poor, rural areas of the country the Concordia Parish suffers from drug problems and the local courts see a high volume of cases involving illegal substances. The district’s chief public defender’s office handles around 3,300 cases per year, three times what the state recommends. Therein lies the problem.

The spiraling problem in the arena of public defense is the growing number of cases and the parallel need for more lawyers and more funds to pay them. One example given in the Louisiana case claims that some lawyers were being paid $1,000 for 100 cases, or just $10 per case. With this level of income, public defenders in his parishes often need more than one job to cover costs and cannot live on their salary as a lawyer. In one parish, the office stopped representing some accused of certain misdemeanors because of financial needs and understaffing. Walsh quotes the Louisiana Public Defender Board (that oversees each district office) which predicts the “systemic failure in the public-defense system” this summer. The failure began months ago when New Orleans public defenders office announced it would begin refusing certain cases, even serious felonies involving murder and rape.
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Today at The Stream, I examine the dissonance between the goals of Vermont senator Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign and his recommended means:

[W]hile Sanders’ goals may seem comparable to Scandinavia, there’s little Nordic about his means. It all reminds me of a quip from the Russian Orthodox philosopher S. L. Frank, a refugee from the brutality of actual, Soviet socialism. “The leaders of the French Revolution desired to attain liberty, equality, fraternity, and the kingdom of truth and reason, but they actually created a bourgeois order. And this is the way it usually is in history,” Frank wrote. Sanders wants Scandinavia, but his policies would put us on a track more in line with Argentina or Greece. Good intentions are not enough.

Sure, Sanders is nicer than Trump, for example, and there are real differences between them. Sanders rails against the evils of America’s “millionaires and billionaires.” Trump is one.

But Sanders’ brand of politics still amounts to populist demagoguery, still ultimately appealing to the worst in us. It is to our great shame that we now have no major candidate who consistently appeals to the best. In the meantime, we’d do well to resist such polarizing demagoguery in whatever form it takes.

Read my full article, “Sorry Bernie: Scandinavia Isn’t Socialist,” at The Stream here and see the rundown on why Sanders’ policies wouldn’t get us what Nordic countries have.

venezuela-food-shortagesThe Venezuelan economy is buckling under the weight of its severe socialist policies, and even as its president admits to a nationwide economic emergency, the government continues to affirm the drivers behind the collapse, blaming low oil prices and global capitalism instead.

This was supposed to be the dawn of “21st-century socialism,” as the late President Hugo Chavez proclaimed over 10 years ago, complete with the right tweaks and upgrades to its materialistic, mechanistic approach to the human person. “We have assumed the commitment to direct the Bolivarian Revolution towards socialism,” he said, “and to contribute to the socialist path, with a new socialism…which is based in solidarity, in fraternity, in love, in justice, in liberty, and in equality.”

Alas, with a shrinking economy, booming inflation, violent outbreaks, and empty food shelves, “21st-century socialism” is feeling mighty nostalgic in all the wrong ways.

In the years before Chavez, the country was in better shape than much of the continent. Now, thanks to the temptations of centralized power, the arrogance of centralized planners, and a series of faux upgrades to age-old bad ideas, the nation is crumbling. The oil prices simply served as the messenger. (more…)

cracked-flag-fragment-america-dividedThe fabric of American society is tearing at the seams. Whether witnessed through the disruptive insurgencies of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders or the more mundane fissures of pop culture and daily consumerism, Americans are increasingly divided and diverse.

Yet even in our rash attempts to dismantle Establishment X and Power Center Y, we do so with a peculiar nostalgia of the golden days of yore. You know, those days when institutions mattered?

This is particularly evident in the appeal of Mr. Trump, whose calls to burn down the houses of power come pre-packaged with a simultaneous disdain for the power of bottom-up diversity and the liberty it requires. Once the tattered castle on the hill is torched to the ground, we’re told, we will receive a greater castle on a higher hill with a far more deserving king. The scepter will be yuge, and with power restored to the hands of a man shrewd enough to exploit it, surely we will “win” again. (more…)

Yesterday was both Star Wars Day (May the Fourth) and the day that Donald Trump became the presumptive presidential nominee for the Republican party. I reflected on the confluence of these two phenomena in a short essay on what Mr. Trump might learn from Emperor Palpatine. It is not well-known, perhaps, but Palpatine was instrumental in creating the so-called Book of Sith, which includes a treatise by him on “Absolute Power.” I draw a couple of lessons for Mr. Trump from Darth Sidious’ work, but there’s another element that I want to highlight briefly as well.

At one point Sidious reflects on his rise to prominence, his control of the Galactic Senate, and eventual consolidation of power under the Empire. “Fear is the spark that drove my march to power. Even now it fuels the engine of my Empire,” he writes. “The weak must be trained to fear the consequences of betrayal. They must dread that their neighbor’s loyalty is greater than their own. The anxious will whip themselves into hysterical nationalism without further prompting” (emphasis added).

13174032_848140198624580_2869438526186601064_nHere Sidious provides a key insight into the nature of despotic tyranny and it’s corruption of human relationships. Such tyranny isolates individuals from one another, making sure that they no longer relate to anyone except as mediated by the despot or his machinery. Or as Tocqueville put it, “A despot readily pardons the governed for not loving him, provided that they do not love each other.” Love having been excluded, fear is left alone to reign.

At Catholic Vote, Acton Research Director Samuel Gregg joins the web site’s political director Josh Mercer to look into the reasons why socialist and Democrat presidential candidate Bernie Sanders “was invited by ‘the Vatican’ (actually: Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences) to speak on income inequality.” Gregg and Mercer also discuss whether socialism is on the rise here in the United States. Tune in here.