Ideas

Against National Unity

Americans are divided not because politicians failed to pronounce the correct phrases, but because we genuinely disagree on questions of public policy, justice, and identity.

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The traditional motto of the United States is e pluribus unum—from many, one. Suggested by the French designer Pierre Eugène du Simitière, the phrase is apparently derived from the Roman statesman and philosopher Cicero. In De Officiis, his treatise on ethics, Cicero proposes that "when men have similar pursuits and inclinations, it comes about that each one is as much delighted with the other as he is with himself: the result is what Pythagoras wanted in friendship, that several be united into one."

Americans frequently recur to the ideal of unity on ceremonial occasions. In his inaugural address, President Joe Biden used the word eight times. "With unity," he promised, "we can do great things." Biden acknowledged the legal disputes and violent interference that preceded his inauguration. But he affirmed that "we come together as one nation, under God, indivisible, to carry out the peaceful transfer of power as we have for more than two centuries."

Ironically, Biden's rhetoric of unity echoed the words of his predecessor on the same occasion. In 2017, newly elected President Donald Trump insisted that "We are one nation….We share one heart, one home, and one glorious destiny." In his address, Biden claimed "History, faith, and reason show the way, the way of unity." Trump emphasized religious motives, noting that the Bible attests "How good and pleasant it is when God's people live together in unity."

Trump did not deliver on that biblical promise. Elected with just 46 percent of the popular vote, he became unique among modern presidents in failing to sustain an average approval rating greater than 50 percent at any time in his presidency.

Although Biden cultivates an avuncular persona, won a majority of the popular vote, and is just a few months into his term, it's unlikely he will do much better. Already, familiar tensions have reemerged. Indeed, Biden seems to face the same inverse reaction to some of his efforts as Trump did.

Pundits tend to blame mistakes of rhetoric or legislative strategy for politicians' failure to achieve e pluribus unum. The truth is, neither cause is primarily to blame. Americans are not divided because politicians failed to pronounce the correct phrases or promoted one bill rather than another. We are divided because we genuinely disagree—not only on matters of public policy but also on basic questions of justice and identity.

At a glance, this should not be very surprising. This is an enormous country that contains a vast number of people with quite various backgrounds. Disappointed Americans sometimes wonder why the United States does not enjoy the levels of consensus or solidarity that seem possible in, say, Denmark. Part of the answer is that the population of Denmark is comparable to that of metropolitan Phoenix.

Some very large states pursue a higher degree of political and moral consensus than we seem to manage. The difficulty is that the means they employ are not very appealing. There are just six other countries with populations greater than 200 million: Brazil, China, Indonesia, Pakistan, India, and Nigeria. Most employ policies of coercion and discrimination against religious, ethnic, or cultural minorities that shock American sensibilities.

The connection between Americans' relative freedom and our unruly diversity is not accidental. "Liberty," wrote James Madison in a famous passage of Federalist No. 10, "is to faction what air is to fire, an aliment without which it instantly expires." We might avoid the challenges of plurality by limiting freedoms to think, publish, worship, move, buy, and sell. The ultimate price, though, would be suffocation.

The original meaning of e pluribus unum, then, could not be that all or even most Americans should share pursuits or inclinations in the manner of friends—even in a federation of just 13 states and about 3 million inhabitants, only a small fraction of whom were qualified by sex, race, and property to vote. It was that a large population distributed among semi-independent mini-polities could govern themselves in many respects, while acting in concert on matters of truly common concern.

This enterprise helps explain an important ambiguity in the Constitution. The preamble famously appeals to "we, the people of the United States of America" as the ultimate source of authority. But it says remarkably little about the characteristics of those people and divides power among different institutions and levels of government. The unity of the people consists in their loyalty to the Constitution itself—the centerpiece of oaths sworn by our civil and military officers.

Although it increased the power of the national government over the Articles of Confederation, the Constitution differed from more centralized and holistic approaches of politics developing around the same time. In 1789, the year after the Constitution was ratified, the French National Assembly issued the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen. Unlike our Constitution, the Declaration of the Rights of Man posits that nations exist independently of laws and political institutions and that they exercise sovereignty over individual citizens. Notably, neither word appears in the U.S. Constitution.

European-style nationalism is not the only possible meaning of unity. Since the early days of the republic, many Americans have argued that our unavoidable political disagreements must be domesticated by shared culture. In addition to a common language, they argued, we need a consensual understanding of the past. The common schools movement of the 19th century was one effort to use formal education to constitute a unified American people. More recently, an op-ed by six former secretaries of education argued that, "To turn pluribus into unum, we need curriculums that achieve a more plural and complete story of U.S. history, while also forging a common story, the shared inheritance of all Americans."

At a sufficient level of abstraction, it is difficult to oppose this plea. In education policy as in our political rhetoric, we all claim to stand on common ground. The challenge lies in the details, though. Nineteenth-century reformers such as Horace Mann sincerely believed the methods and institutions they favored would be appealing to Americans of all ethnic and religious backgrounds in all parts of the country. As it turned out, many of their fellow citizens disagreed. What looked to the reformers like a flexible shared culture seemed to many other Americans more like the imposition of a New England–centric, Anglo-Protestant culture that they neither recognized nor endorsed. The resulting battles over public vs. private schools, religious vs. secular curriculums, and academic vs. vocational preparation have never been fully resolved.

Today's enthusiasts for unity through education are more sensitive to such tensions than their predecessors. That very sensitivity, though, tends to make their proposals inadequate to their goals. It's not that there's something inherently wrong with familiar measures like emphasizing civic instruction. Such measures are simply too weak to unite several hundred million persons into a single cohesive community.

Conservatives have particular reasons to be skeptical of a more standardized and nationalized curriculum. In practice, even the best-intentioned efforts will empower the progressive left, which dominates national teachers unions, schools of education, and other institutions with a large role in implementing policy. Paradoxically, the best prospects for patriotic teaching lie in local control and opportunities for home and religious schooling.

In education as well as politics, then, unity proves elusive. That is not because we haven't hit on the right methods for achieving it. It is because a vision of unity borrowed from the Greco-Roman city-state, the biblical people of Israel, or the European idea of nationhood is unsuited to a vastly extended modern republic.

The question we face is not how to achieve an impossible level of consensus. It is how we can live together peacefully while maintaining the principles of personal freedom and legal equality that make America great.

NEXT: Brickbat: Little White Lie

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  1. The division is simple to explain. Half the country believes in a god, half the country doesn’t. Half believes in doing for others is as important as what we do for ourselves, half has no beliefs other than themselves.

    This country was founded by a people that feared their gods, or at least mortality and tradition. Even the atheists among the founding fathers were men of education and religious background. Today, half the country are secular idiots.

    We need an amicable divorce of regions of idiocy and regions of belief. Two separate Americas. The only way to preserve the country of 1776 for the future, is cast off the cancer that’s taken root among the urban rot.

    1. As a first step – How about we divide the country into 50 semi-autonomous units that pretty much govern themselves and then let people move to the one that most closely aligns with their beliefs. Wouldnt everyone be happier with this arrangement?

      1. That will never work because too many people in some of the units will never rest until people in all the units have to conform.

        1. That’s the rub: Some ideologies are intolerant of the existence of others. These ideologies can either be forcibly kept out or be forcibly eradicated.

          There are no other choices.

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    2. Your gif doesn’t exist so you’re the problem.

      1. *GOD not gif. Jesus fucking Christ my autocorrect is goddamn stupid

        1. Nope it’s all you jackass.

          1. Good one seatbelt!

      2. It’s not my God. It’s God. Just God, and he does exist. Denying that makes you the problem. You did know that one of us is right here and one of us is wrong? Any possibility you’re wrong?

        1. I’m not an atheist. You I’m pretty sure the Christian god doesn’t exist, but I’ll never no for sure and it doesn’t concern me.

          I know for sure the Mormon god doesn’t exist.

          You’re free to believe whatever you want. We should try to do what’s right regardless of religion.

          Saying things like the OP said where he blames people who don’t believe in his god are narrow minded in my opinion.

          They’re what’s wrong with our country.

          Live and let live is what I say.

          Unfortunately Mormons don’t practice that so they need to go.

          1. *know not no
            And I don’t know why that You is there before I

    3. The Nolan Chart on this is not that simple.

      The people screwing up this nation are at least as likely (if not more likely by actual numbers) to be Believers in a God as Unbelievers and idiocy crosses the line between Believers and Unbelievers as well…and some of the worst things done in this nation’s history were justified as being for the “Greater Good” of some “Others” or another.

      Real lone recluses harm no one and by contrast, Dennis Rader, the “BTK” serial murderer was a local code inspector, family man, PTA member, and Lutheran Churchman.

      I say the National Motto should be The Georgia Satellites lyric: “Don’t Hand Me No Lines And Keep Your Hands To Yourself!” and the basic geopolitical unit should be The Yard. Everybody stay off of everybody else’s and we’re all good!

  2. “Americans frequently recur to the ideal of unity on ceremonial occasions. In his inaugural address, President Joe Biden used the word eight times. “With unity,” he promised, “we can do great things.” ”

    With the unspoken line, “Now shut up while my administration does great things to you”. Calling for unity while pursuing a radical agenda merely is a call to silence the opposition..

  3. Keep it simple stupid.

    Value truth.

    1. Truth over facts!

      1. Truth over misinformation.

        Read a dictionary.

        Definition of truth : the body of real things, events, and facts : ACTUALITY

        1. “Truth” is what you believe it to be; for centuries is was unquestionable “truth” that Ptolemy was right, that the sun revolved around the earth. It wasn’t until Galileo, under threat of heresy, contradicted thousands of years of “truth” with new facts.

          Facts are facts; observable, verifiable, replicable. Truth changes according to our perception and understanding of facts.

          1. Uh, you’re contradicting the dictionary, the authority on the meaning of words.

            If you think that you’re entitled to change the meaning of words as you go, you are recognized as a babbling fool.

            1. It seems that you version of “truth” may be one dimensional, perhaps to serve your interest in winning an argument. Per Collins Dictionary, truth is defined as

              COUNTABLE NOUN: A truth is something that is believed to be true.

              Now there are at least four dimensions of “truth:”

              Objective Truth is what exists and can be proved in this physicality. …
              Normative Truth is what we, as a group, agree is true. …
              Subjective Truth is how the individual sees or experiences the world.
              Complex Truth recognizes the validity of all those truths and allows you to focus on the one is most useful at any given time. (The sun is up; the day is bright. Today is a good day)

              So when you say “value truth,” just what kind of “truth” are you talking about? In this case, I very very strongly suspect it is what you want to believe it is.

              Just some things to consider, instead of defaulting to insults and calling me a “babbling idiot;” but then that is what trolls do, is it not?

              1. By your own admission truth is defined as

                Objective Truth is what exists and can be proved in this physicality.

                Fact, reality.

                Why did you disagree with my true statement?

                When an authority on the meaning of words establishes contradictory meanings for the same word in the same context, they corrupt meaning and language itself. They are no longer good stewards of this key tenet of civilization.

                If truth is “defined” by belief and beliefs are contradictory, false then one definition of truth is fact and another is falsehood.

                Why don’t courts specify which is meant when people are sworn in?

                You advocate this stupidity and deserve to be grouped along with it.

                1. If I am sworn to tell the truth, then I tell the “truth” according to what I [honestly] believe it to be.

                  That does not mean it is objectively or empirically true; your statement was “value truth” that you defined as “the body of real things, events, and facts : ACTUALITY”

                  Again, it is what you believe it to be; you are not citing data, offering any information specific to anything, simply touting that we believe “truth” about whatever according to what you believe it to be.

                  Why is this so hard for you?

                  1. And, to get back to [what I think?] is the beginning of this little repartee, when Biden said “we value truth over facts” just what the hell did HE mean by that?

                    1. Unfortunately and unnecessarily, thanks to dipshits in control of dictionaries, you must ask him to clarify what he meant when he said “truth”.

                      Which may be coming soon for every word we use.

                      Imagine the meaning of every word changing while you type it, needing to clarify each, and each word of your clarification changing etc. Etc.

                      Some vision of civilization eh?

                  2. Belief is not fact and does not need to conform with fact.

                    Therefore when the word truth is defined by belief it contradicts with the definition of truth as necessarily defined by fact, reality. Those are contradicting meanings for one word in the same context. That’s irrational.

                    When I swear to tell the truth and don’t know the fact, reality, I’m clear and unambiguous. I say “I don’t know”.

                    1. “When I swear to tell the truth and don’t know the fact, reality, I’m clear and unambiguous. I say “I don’t know”.

                      So I honestly believe I saw someone do something; I take the oath under penalty of perjury, say I saw them do it. Swear it is the “truth” but I am wrong; nonetheless it is what I believe to be “true.”

                      “Truth” is a funny word, with various meanings. And, like Ptolemy’s version of the universe, what is accepted as unvarnished “truth” changes over time.

                      It is not an issue of lexicography, or “dipshits changing the meaning of every word.”

                      It is what people believe it is. When Biden values truth over facts, it is his/their interpretation, based on things like “equity,” “fairness,” and whatever motivates their choir to vote for them that carries the day.

                    2. Having multiple contradicting meanings for one word in the same context is irrational.

                      That’s what you’re advocating.

  4. The United States is not a nation, it is an empire of 50 separate nations. Or it should be – “the United States” is meant to be plural, not singular. The reason the Roman Empire grew so extensive and lasted so long is that Rome ruled with a light touch, they allowed each of their vassal states to maintain local rule, local customs and traditions, local languages, etc., they didn’t try to impose Roman values on the entire empire.

    Washington used to rule that way, they no longer do. They impose a singular rule as if Texas were the same as Massachusetts and Alabama were the same as Wisconsin and Utah the same as Maine. They maintain that tenuous rule through bribery, a zero-sum game of subsidy and censure to maintain the fiction that we are all united on a host of issues. We really aren’t, we are only united on a few issues and the federal government needs to limit itself to those few issues.

    It’s the same as the Rule of Law – it only works when the law is respected and the more laws you have the greater the chances that some significant portion of the citizenry won’t respect them. The government needs to limit the number of laws it tries to enforce to the minimum that are universally respected. I would suggest that we’re far beyond that point, the government is trying to impose far more rule than the people can stand.

  5. The question we face is not how to achieve an impossible level of consensus. It is how we can live together peacefully while maintaining the principles of personal freedom and legal equality that make America great.

    The answer the founders had was federalism. Delegating most powers to the several states meant that decisions by people in Massachusetts about how best to govern themselves had little effect on the lives of people in South Carolina or Georgia. And a fellow from New York who couldn’t tolerate the way his neighbors were organizing their affairs had the option of moving to Virginia.
    As a result, every contest for national office was no longer a question of an existential threat to one’s way of life. Since the Civil War, however, the trend has mostly been toward centralizing power in the federal government. At the same time, since the various protest movements of the 1960s and 70s, the attempts at a unified national culture have mostly fizzled out and at least two distinct cultures have emerged. But, centralization of power with two or more distinct peoples is a recipe for disaster. That leaves us basically three long-term options:
    1. A return to federalism. This seems to me the best option, but not one with a lot of political support.
    2. Disunion.
    3. The triumph of one people over the other and the imposition of their culture on the other, either by one culture giving up or through some form of conquest such as a second civil war.

    1. Repeal the 17th

      1. A good start. But “one man one vote” has become so entrenched, the idea that not individuals, but the states, decide the Senate is almost impossible to explain to most people.

        The concept that the whole system was set up to only work smoothly when there was almost complete agreement is hard to get across when someone wins 47.3 vs 46.9 and declared he has a mandate.

        Sure, devolve the election of Senators back to the states. And then lets kill the 16th too!

  6. Audit: Trump only completed 69 miles of Mexico border wall

    https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2021/jun/20/audit-trump-only-completed-69-miles-wall-system/

    You people were conned. Trump was a failure in everything he did. Shame on you Ken Shulz for cheerleading every move this Con Man did.

    1. That’s still 69 miles too many. I wish we in the Koch-funded #Resistance had held him to zero. And prevented him from building literal concentration camps. And prevented him from putting kids in cages.

      But fortunately those atrocities are in the past. We have President Biden now, and he liberated and dismantled the concentration camps on his first day in office.

      #DemocratsDontCageKids

      1. Not sure if you are being sarcastic here.

        I do note that the link you posted shows kids in cages built by Obama. The article is from 2014…

        Much as it pains me to say it, Trump was and is the finest president we have had in my lifetime. He literally stopped the Obama era’s children’s concentration camps on the border.

        1. OBL is one of our better trolls.

          Welcome to Hit & Run. don’t get me killed, new guy.

      2. Then you won’t mind not having a door for you house would you? Don’t you trust you neighbors enough that you should not have to worry? One more thing, you a complete idiot and are probably going to be butt rapped by greasy beaners. Come live by the border like us and see how nice it is. True, I could leave but I am native to these parts

    2. Well, that certainly has a lot to do with the subject of the article.

    3. Shut the fuck up pedo.

  7. The question we face is not how to achieve an impossible level of consensus. It is how we can live together peacefully while maintaining the principles of personal freedom and legal equality that make America great.

    Yep. Unfortunately, “principles of personal freedom and legal equality” are major aspects of the nonconsensus. One suspects “Live and let live” would poll at 50/50, and equality of opportunity/outcome similarly.

    1. The left has become wholly psychotic and totalitarian.
      Live and let live is anathema to their values.
      There can be no peace with an aggressor willing and capable of inflicting damage on you personally, which the left most definitely is.
      War would be bad.
      Absence of war will probably be worse.

      1. So you’re a traitor too Tardz? Encouraging violence against others just because they differ from you politically?

        Which candidate didn’t care who got more votes and tried to overturn the will of the voters?

        That’s pretty totalitarian sounding to me.

        You rubes are putting your hard on for Trump above your own country!

        Are you black? Someone suggested you were Romanian. However there are a lotta liars like ML around here.

        1. If your straw man were any dryer it would have burst into flames when you typed it.

          Go sell crazy somewhere else… We’re all full up here.

          1. What did I post that you think is a straw man?

        2. Just love how lefty-ignorance so easily ignores their lobbying for Gov-Guns to be pointing at ‘those’ people.

          I guess if they just support and vote for people who love hiring guns to point at those people for selfish causes those guns don’t really exist or something.

          “Differ politically” isn’t just an opinion.
          Political force is Gun-Force!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

          Where and How that political force is used is a matter of life and death so take your ignorance show and shove it where the sun doesn’t shine.

  8. There are certain principles that we should all agree on, and those who adopt opposing views aren’t merely being unpatriotic. They’re assaulting our national character–and, as libertarians, we should excoriate them for it.

    One of the principles we should all agree on is the definition of what it means to be American–as presented in the Declaration of Independence:

    “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

    —-Declaration of Independence

    Believing this may not make you an American citizen, but this is not only what it means to be American–rather than British. It’s integral to what it means to be American, period. It’s essential to our national character, and those who claim to be American and don’t believe this should be denounced as frauds, shunned by the American people, ridiculed, and despised.

    Other essential ingredients of our national character are to be found in the Constitution. This is one:

    “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

    —-First Amendment

    You may disagree on the precise interpretation of those words or how these promises should be implemented in any particular situation, but if you don’t believe that people should be free to speak their minds without fear of retribution from the government or you don’t believe that people should be free to choose their own religion without fear of retribution from the government, then we’re not talking about a difference of opinion. We’re talking about why your betrayal of our national character makes you a phony American.

    There are other aspects of our national character upon which we should always remain unified. Some of them may not be unique to the United States, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t central features of what it means to be American. And if you disagree on those fundamental principles, regardless, you may be an American citizen–and you are certainly entitled to your rights–but you are not American.

    1. if you disagree on those fundamental principles, regardless, you may be an American citizen–and you are certainly entitled to your rights–but you are not American.

      One awaits the basic human right to not be excoriated by libertarians.

      1. “not be excoriated”
        I believe that is called a “safe space” and your feelz doesn’t count.

        1. And among other problems with that, it’s un-American.

          1. Oh you get to decide what is un-American vs authentic American.

            So taking a kneel at the football game. Is that un-American or a legitimate form of protest against injustice and civil disobedience? Depends who you ask. The former president you campaigned for here had this to say.

            “If a player wants the privilege of making millions of dollars in the NFL,or other leagues, he or she should not be allowed to disrespect our Great American Flag (or Country) and should stand for the National Anthem,” “If not, YOU’RE FIRED. Find something else to do!”

            You cool with that Ken?

            1. Biden wouldn’t propose ‘firing’ them; He’d propose legislation so the cops could “fire” on them if they dis-obey.

              You cool with that Echospinner.

            2. The owners, responding to their own preferences or to those of the fans, are certainly allowed to fire people who kneel during the anthem. And sock-boy hasn’t been back, so at least one player has effectively been fired. Are you cool with that? Or at your place of work, do you encourage people who try to piss off the customer base? Trump wasn’t ordering the NFL to do that — which I think most people would oppose — but it wasn’t a bad suggestion as a matter of how to run a business.

    2. As with the preamble of the Declaration of Independence, and with the entire BOR, these are recognition of natural rights, and limitations upon the government to infringe upon them. They are not granted by, but protected from the government.

      What we are experiencing now is a broad lack of understanding or appreciation of these rights, and an insistence that life be made fair and equitable, and that our fellow citizens be protected from “offense.” The scenario is impossible to realize under our constitution and understanding of inherent rights as so eloquently described in the Declaration of Independence. I think the only possible outcomes are that we maintain and further empower our concept of limited governance, or that we descend into a system of oppression in which one group lords it over the other.

      1. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

        —-Declaration of Independence

        Yes, the idea that the legitimate purpose of government is to protect our rights–rather than the government being the origin of them–is central to both small state libertarianism and our national character. No wonder authoritarians and socialists want to undermine our national character!

      2. I think the fundamental divide is encapsulated in the Obama quote:

        “The Supreme Court never ventured into the issues of redistribution of wealth and sort of more basic issues of political and economic justice in this society. And to that extent as radical as I think people tried to characterize the Warren Court, it wasn’t that radical. It didn’t break free from the essential constraints that were placed by the founding fathers in the Constitution, as least as it’s been interpreted, and Warren Court interpreted in the same way that generally the Constitution is a charter of negative liberties, says what the states can’t do to you, says what the federal government can’t do to you, but it doesn’t say what the federal government or the state government must do on your behalf. And that hasn’t shifted.”

        That pretty much sums up the two competing world views on the nature and duty of government. One side believes that the government’s only purpose is to protect rights, the other side believes that the government must affirmatively act in favor of “justice.” But the problem with the “justice” worldview is, what is justice? Who decides what is just? The majority? What about the minority, who is forced to suffer in the interest of “justice?” Don’t they have rights?

        For example, Obama feels that wealth redistribution is justice, but in order to redistribute wealth, first you have to take it from someone else, who worked and earned it, which is an unjust theft of someone else’s labor. What right does anyone have to someone else’s labor? And when is justice achieved with wealth redistribution? When everyone has an equal share? When everyone has a “living wage,” regardless of their talent or effort? The negative liberties orientation says you have no right to anyone else’s labor, only to your own, and only to the opportunity to engage in labor on your own terms, and accumulate wealth according to your own talent and effort.

        Under either worldview, someone suffers. In the justice scheme, the people who suffer are those who are deemed to have too much. In the negative liberties worldview, those who suffer are those who either lack sufficient talent or fail to exert sufficient effort to accumulate a lot of wealth. At least under the negative liberties worldview, you have some level of personal agency. And under that worldview, there is a sense of noblesse oblige, and a moral expectation that the more fortunate will look after the less fortunate. IMO, social mores and social pressure is far more effective than social engineering through laws. Under the justice orientation, my observation is that people will expend enormous amounts of effort to skirt the laws to the greatest extent possible to preserve what’s theirs, rather than engage in generosity out of sense of moral duty.

        1. For example, Obama feels that wealth redistribution is justice, but in order to redistribute wealth, first you have to take it from someone else, who worked and earned it

          Yes, but through deconstructive argumentation, you can convince people that they never worked and earned it. Once you’ve cleared that hurdle, the rest is easy.

          1. Or just tap into the feelz that most people use as a basis for their morality. And for the faction that believes that “fairness” means that we all have to share our wealth regardless of circumstances, no argument to the contrary will ever be effective.

            The choices are give in to them, exile them, or kill them.

        2. Rights are the obligation to respect other people’s choices. They arise from agency like morality itself. You can’t have the capacity to make choices without morality arising from that, and people can’t be able to make choices for themselves without the obligation to respect their choices arising from that. This is how morality and rights arise, and this is why raping and stealing are both immoral and should be illegal.

          Obama’s ideas have no such basis. They just come from his own personal preferences. Even worse, Obama’s ideas are intended as justifications to ignore our obligation to respect other people’s choices. When he talks about “affirmative justice”, he’s trying to justify using the coercive power of government to violate someone’s rights in the name of some greater good–that is only morally good on the basis of his own personal preferences.

          The obligation to respect other people’s choices (their rights) remains intact, however, regardless of whether we acknowledge it. Probably the biggest divide between someone like me and someone like Obama is that Obama imagines that our obligation to respect other people’s choices is a fantasy but his affirmative justice is practical in the real world. He’s wrong about that, too.

          1. In economics, we’re used to seeing the results of ignoring people’s property rights quantified, and we know the government violating people’s property rights is a bad idea for all sorts of practical reasons. It isn’t as easy to quantify the negative consequences of things like violating people’s religious rights, but the negative consequences of doing that are, likewise, more or less the same–cross culturally and all throughout history.

            We could be talking about the Romans violently suppressing the religious beliefs of the locals, and how they would avoid forcing Jews to bow to idols because they knew Jews had a funny thing about that, and making them bow caused more trouble than it was worth. We could be talking about the Muslim fanatics who realized that although the Zoroastrians they conquered in modern day Iraq and Iran weren’t “People of the Book”, they needed to keep them alive and thriving anyway because their armies couldn’t thrive without that tax revenue.

            We could be talking about why the Peace of Westphalia brought more or less a lasting end to the Thirty Years War. Once the princes were free to choose their own religion, regardless of the religion of the emperor, and the people were free to practice their own religion, regardless of the religion of their local prince, the freedom to practice your own faith no longer depended on killing your fellow man until you could put a prince of your own religion in place locally and an emperor of your own faith on the throne of the Holy Roman Empire.

            We could be talking about why ISIS failed so miserably to take hold and thrive in Iraq and Syria, and a lot of that had to do with their inability to tolerate the religious beliefs of those who were under their control. If you make your subjects choose between converting to the faith of ISIS, being slaughtered, or fighting you to the death, at best, they will undermine your authority at every opportunity, and, at worst, they will fight you to the death.

          2. The stakes aren’t nearly so high in the contemporary United States, but, even still, if you want voters to vote for candidates based solely on the basis of how fanatical they are in their Christianity, the best way to do that is for the government to violate the rights of Christians. Obama should use the coercive power of government to force nuns to finance their employee’s fornication. Obama should force people to bake wedding cakes for gay weddings against their will. Obama should force fundamentalist Christians to fund abortion clinics with their own hard earned money–and give their children abortions without their parents’ knowledge, much less consent!

            If the government does that, then the chances of there being negative consequences in the real world, in this case a new slate of religious fanatics entering government on a wave of popularity, are very high–just like there have been negative consequences in every case of the government violating people’s religious rights in every culture all throughout history.

            This the real divide: Progressives imagine that our rights are a fantasy that doesn’t exist in the real world, and they refuse to acknowledge the negative consequences of violating people’s rights for that reason. They imagine that our rights would no longer be an obstacle to their amazing plans if only we stopped believing they existed. The problem is that the existence of our rights–much like the force of gravity–doesn’t depend on whether people believe in them. And we know that because the consequences of violating them are the same in the real world even when our rights are violated by people who don’t believe in them.

            When Hugo Chavez nationalized food distribution and stole the grocery stores, he didn’t believe their owners’ rights existed in the real world. That didn’t matter. Millions of people had to flee Venezuela or face starvation anyway. Hugo Chavez was living in a socialist world of make-believe. The negative consequences of violating people’s rights emerge as a result of violating them regardless of whether anybody believes in them. It’s our rights that are real. It’s the government that is a fantasy. Government is a fantasy that only seems real when it serves its legitimate function to protect our rights.

    3. Now you’re deciding who is a true American and who is not? That’s pretty dehumanizing. What’s the point? If someone isn’t a true American then you don’t have to consider them to be a human being? No need to listen to what they say or anything. Just shoot the fuckers and bury them in a ditch. It’s not like they’re human or anything. They’re progressives. A disease best cured with fire.

      1. “Now you’re deciding who is a true American and who is not? That’s pretty dehumanizing.”

        If you read what I wrote about equality and how respecting each other’s inalienable rights is essential to our national character–and walked away thinking what I wrote was “dehumanizing”–then you’re a fucking retard.

      2. Posts like these are why no one listens to you.

        1. I don’t recall forcing you to read my comments. Do yourself a favor and put me on mute, unless you get pleasure from bitching and moaning whenever I type something you don’t like.

          1. If you insist, Mr Butt Hurt.

            It’s truly fine if someone disagrees with me because they believe or see something differently, maybe I’ll even learn something from them. But comments like “Just shoot the fuckers and bury them in a ditch. It’s not like they’re human or anything. They’re progressives. A disease best cured with fire.” are not intended to stir debate, rather they are meant to incite and produce [if the poster has his way] a pissing match of invective.

            That makes you, in my opinion, a troll.

            [mute]

      3. There’s nothing “dehumanizing” in saying that someone or something is not American. Depending on context, it might be insulting, in others, it may just be a neutral observation.

        If I moved to Spain on June 23rd, I wouldn’t not consider myself a “Spaniard” by the afternoon of June 24th.

        1. Yet according to Ken, if you’re born and raised here, you’re a phony American if you don’t agree with him.

          That’s what dehumanizing is all about. He’s been working hard at painting his political enemies as pure evil, and how he’s saying they’re phonies.

          They’re the embodiment of evil, they’re destroying the country from within, and they’re not even real Americans.

          Why not round them up? It’s not like they’re human beings or anything.

          1. Can you link to this alternate version of Reason you’re perusing?

            Or do you believe that free speech and freedom of religion should be tossed aside even though they are fundamental parts of the American identity from day one?

            If you want neither, tons of places to go. If you want both, we’re about it.

            1. Who are you talking to? Because your comment has absolutely nothing to do with anything I ever said.

          2. “Yet according to Ken, if you’re born and raised here, you’re a phony American if you don’t agree with him.”

            Won’t surprise anyone to hear, that’s not what I wrote.

            “You may disagree on the precise interpretation of those words or how these promises should be implemented in any particular situation, but if you don’t believe that people should be free to speak their minds without fear of retribution from the government or you don’t believe that people should be free to choose their own religion without fear of retribution from the government, then we’re not talking about a difference of opinion. We’re talking about why your betrayal of our national character makes you a phony American.”

            —-Ken Shultz

            I actually said you could disagree with me on all kinds of things and still be American–and with full respect for your rights. What I said was that you’re betraying our national character and being a phony American when you oppose our right to speak our minds and choose our own religion without fear of retribution from government.

            I can’t tell whether you can’t understand what I write or whether you don’t want to understand what I write, but either way, it should be very embarrassing for you personally. I can write some convoluted shit sometimes, but this isn’t one of those times.

            1. “It’s essential to our national character, and those who claim to be American and don’t believe this should be denounced as frauds, shunned by the American people, ridiculed, and despised.
              .
              .
              We’re talking about why your betrayal of our national character makes you a phony American.
              .
              .
              And if you disagree on those fundamental principles, regardless, you may be an American citizen–and you are certainly entitled to your rights–but you are not American.”

              You’re laying out several criteria to classify someone as a real American or a phony American. The next logical step is to do something with the phonies. A solution you might say.

          3. JFC you’re an idiot. People who reject the founding principles and ideals reject the defining aspects of what being an American is thus defining themselves as not American.

            Shocking nobody but Sarcasmic, not all humans are Americans. You’re the imbecile declaring not American is not human.

            1. I didn’t declare a damn thing. I’m following Ken’s logic and taking it a few steps further.

              1. Sure, I’m sure someone a while in Germany once said they didn’t like Jewish people because they wouldn’t buy bacon from him but felt that other than that Jewish people were fine. Let’s call him Porkflake. Then some guy named Adolf comes along and “follows” Porkflake’s logic but takes it a few steps further.

            2. But Amerika is a living document of a nation…. what it means to be Amerikan is whatever the progressives want it to mean… usually in opposition to everything written in the constitution and the DOI

      4. “They’re progressives. A disease best cured with fire.”
        Progressive Gov-Guns is Aggressive against American human/liberty.

        You’re pretending that supporting the pointing of Gov-Guns at American citizens is just an “opinion” instead of the corrective position of self-defense of those liberties.

        Every lefty on this comments section today is trying to sell the idea that PROGRESSIVE Gov-Gun *forced* is just an “opinion” and anyone defending their own freedom are being aggressive against the aggressive Gov-Gun legislation / Nazism.

        Lefties sure have a talent for projection and deception.

    4. yes Ken.
      In the past people were still allowed to disagree and still have a beer together while cheering on the same baseball team. now all sports is political and we have little in common anymore and fear to speak up for fear of public retribution. I don’t know if we can get back to those days.

    5. Ken just quoted rich white nationalist men who owned slaves. I will be contacting all of this sites sponsors to have him removed. My safety is at risk.

    6. Well captured, Ken. Those are the two axioms for any free society:

      1. Government must exist solely to protect the rights of its people, and
      2. Full, free, and open debate is essential to discovering how best to achieve #1.

      These are necessary, and sufficient. If there’s national disunity on these, we’re in trouble.

      1. Let me know when we get there.

        1. “Nothing to see here!” says the leftist simp

    7. Unfortunate there is not much you can take for granted these days.

  9. “It was that a large population distributed among semi-independent mini-polities could govern themselves in many respects, while acting in concert on matters of truly common concern.”

    Couldn’t have said it better myself. As Bill Delasio summed it a couple of comments above, we can either embrace federalism, fall apart, or live under tyranny.

    For me the choice is pretty straightforward; I think nullification [as with marijuana, undocumented immigrants, and now guns] is a great start. I would also add an Article V convention but that would be so opposed as to hardly get off the ground; too big and too easy a target. Much more effective that States individually defy unconstitutional federal laws and regulations and essentially render them moot. And this occurs at the level of State legislatures and local politics, that are much more difficult for entities on a national level to usurp.

  10. The most exceptional thing in the American experiment, and the fundamental ethic that did promote some type of unity, was a shared commitment to personal and local autonomy.

    But actually believing that others have the right to live as they choose, as long as they feel the same, is really, really hard. It looks like humans have not improved much from chimps, with our similar innate focus on inter-tribe competition and intra-tribe status seeking. Any constraint of monkey emotions to support respect of abstract tolerance of is not likely.

  11. I also wonder how many people confuse and conflate unity with uniformity. As Goldman points out, uniformity does make unity easier. But zealots are perhaps more prone to run the connection in the other direction, and embrace unity as a tool to impose their vision of uniformity. Anyone who resists has to reject that kind of unity.

  12. The constitution was never meant as a unifying source it is a document ment for political conflicts to be resolved without violence and that those same political conflicts would actually slow down the growth of government. who needs a document where everyone must get along, may has well have a Monarchy then. unity is for the Borg

  13. As a kid, the Republicans and Democrats were all the same. Even if a Democrat win was a sure sign of the end times, the rank and file were pretty much the same. Hell, my two sets of grandparents never could be in the same room as each other except for funerals and weddings, because one set were FDR Democrats and the other Eisenhower Republicans.

    It’s not that way anymore. I don’t recognize more Democrats, let along most Republicans. They’ve both become tribal crazies.

    Take for instance the matter of identities. Back as kid everyone was pretty much united that being straight was where it was at. I only knew one gay couple, the dainty French teacher and her bull farmer “wife”. But we never talked about them. Today the Republicans are hunky dory with gay Republicans, and even Obama had to “evolve” on the issue. But the difference is that one party insists we must celebrate gays and trans and go out of their way to highlight that they are different, and the other party wants to treat everyone the same so long as they act mainstream. Two completely different views.

    Culturally I’m with the Right, because that’s how I grew up. Politically I’m with neither. Politically I see that the Republicans are doing their best to destroy a conservative culture. Politically I see that the Democrats are doing their best to destroy a liberal culture. Neither can see it because both are so far up their own asses they mistake political party membership as the foundation of their morality.

    The two sides are never coming together as long they are engaged in this destructive us-vs-them tribalism. We used to be Americans. Now we are Republicans and Democrats first and only. To hell with those who are neither.

    1. Good post; sad, but accurate. Or as someone I know put it, we don’t listen to one another any more; it has become a zero sum game where the only options are to win or lose.

      I have deduced that there are essentially only two kinds of people in the world, in terms of their fundamental orientation: those who want to pursue life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and leave others to do so in their own way and who in turn desire to not be interfered with; and those who see themselves living in a literal village, in which their are rules to be followed, and everyone must gee haw. Today, many of the former [but not all] are R’s, and most of the latter [again, by no means all] are D’s. Both are inadequate to the tasks [of preserving freedom, supporting-or at least not trammeling–prosperity] but it is invariably a choice of lesser evils.

      And the Libertarian Party cannot even get off of go. So for me nullification on a State and local level is, for now, the best possible option.

  14. Although Biden cultivates an avuncular persona, won a majority of the popular vote, and is just a few months into his term, it’s unlikely he will do much better.

    Not only did he win the popular vote, he was more voted for than any candidate in the history of Democracy. That’s how much the America love this man. He is quite possibly the platonic ideal of a Good President.

    1. I believe those who voted for him live by the ethos :vote early and often!:

    2. I don’t think many voted for Biden they voted against Trump. Just as they voted against Hillary in the last election.

    3. “…he was more voted for than any candidate in the history of Democracy”

      Which is to say he got more votes than there were people to vote.

  15. The question we face is not how to achieve an impossible level of consensus. It is how we can live together peacefully while maintaining the principles of personal freedom and legal equality that make America great.

    Demonstrating how that actually happened here was the real impact of De Toqueville. But ‘Democracy in America’ is pretty clearly not read anymore – #11,441 bestseller for books on Amazon even if it is #29 for some subset called ‘Democracy’. Not sure it is even read in school now.

    Oh well.

  16. I remember about 15 years ago, someone (smart) said that America was replacing the American ideal of “liberty” with the French ideal of “equity”. If you don’t think we’re on a rocket ride towards that, you’re not paying attention.

  17. Personally I think all this talk about National Character is hogwash. There is no such thing. Oh we have some wonderful founding documents but never really lived up to them.

    My nationality is American. My character is my own damn business.

    Oh not complaining. Life has been very good. I just don’t think I have some sort of set of values derived from my nationality to live up to.

  18. We genuinely disagree?
    No, we are manipulated to believe lies over evidence. Ain’t nothing genuine about it.
    Many Americans agree on many things. None of the things Americans Genuinely agree on are enacted by Congress. The left vs right is a made up fight w it’s flames fanned 24/7. Those manipulated by propaganda are fooled into thinking their manipulated views are held by the majority.
    The numbers don’t agree w the propaganda
    The true story told by the numbers is hidden & demonized along with all others verified facts.
    We live in a oligarchy
    Ain’t nothing genuine about it

  19. We genuinely disagree?
    No, we are manipulated to believe lies over evidence. Ain’t nothing genuine about it.
    Many Americans agree on many things. None of the things Americans Genuinely agree on are enacted by Congress. The left vs right is a made up fight w it’s flames fanned 24/7. Those manipulated by propaganda are fooled into thinking their manipulated views are held by the majority.
    The numbers don’t agree w the propaganda
    The true story told by the numbers is hidden & demonized along with all others verified facts.
    Ain’t nothing genuine about it

  20. If the left would stop forcing CRT, tranny shit, open borders, homelessness, political violence, and rioting down our throats, we could all get back to bickering about tax rates and foreign policy. The Marxists will never accept that, which is why they are now resorting to political violence. They want to force you into submission. THAT is why we’re more divided than ever. Fucking stupid reason can’t see the forest from the trees.

  21. The question we face is *NOT* how to achieve an impossible level of consensus. It is how we can live together peacefully while maintaining the *PRINCIPLES* of personal *FREEDOM* and legal equality that make America great.

    A good remark from a Reason writer.

    The USA isn’t a [WE] foundation of slaves to carry out Gov-God “plans” by the end of a Gov-Gun.

    Once that lefty-proped B.S. mistake is settled everyone can live in peace together. The only time National Gov-Guns are to be used is when they are authorized by the U.S. Constitution.

  22. Looked at the article, looked at the comments.

    Who gains when average Americans are pitted against each other? Government and the media.

    Who pits average Americans against each other? Government and the media.

    In my day-to-day life, I see Americans of all races, all walks of life getting along, working together, tolerating differences, and helping each other. They just live their lives. Those who are stirring everyone else up are in the decided minority and have an ulterior motive for doing so.

    No, absent government and media stirring up trouble, the vast majority of Americans would get along just fine. THAT’s what scares government and the media.

  23. Truth is reality.

    If you can ask yourself, “do I really value truth demonstrated by accepting it even when it contradicts my temptations?” and honestly answer “yes”, you have the spirit of truth and others like you will meet you in peace.

    If not you will be in conflict with those who value truth, reality and your objectives will be irrational.

    It really is that simple.

    1. Accepting Truth and Reality —

      Stuffing one’s theories down others throats by legislative Gov-Guns is dictation and the DNC proudly supports National Socialism (def; Nazism).

      Accepting one’s truth and reality as one’s OWN and not anybody else’s would be a BIG step for the left.

      1. What makes you believe that to be true?

        Truth is reality. If reality needs to be stuffed down your throat, it’s only because your irrationality is a danger to others.

        Your resistance to recognize and share reality is exactly the same problem exhibited by progressives.

        Your problem is that you’re just to stupid to recognize the reality of truth, so you believe it doesn’t exist.

        The rest of us who do, see no difference between you and the left that you vilify.

      2. He has a real issue with that word, “truth.” Those who insist it [their version] is absolute are either trying to convince you or sell you something.

        1. “sell you something”
          That Solar Panel that will stop 90-degree weather over that Air Conditioner that *really/reality* will stop 90-degree weather… 🙂

  24. Something fans of decentralization and federalism have to acknowledge is that most states themselves are not unified, but split into urban and rural areas with very different cultures. I don’t see an easy way of splitting those up.

    1. Actually it’s SUPER easy; LIMITED and area-central Government. The way it’s suppose to be. Someone sold the National Socialism ideology to the peasants and it seems now no-one can see Individuals anymore.

  25. If you insist, Mr Butt Hurt.

    It’s truly fine if someone disagrees with me because they believe or see something differently, maybe I’ll even learn something from them. But comments like “Just shoot the fuckers and bury them in a ditch. It’s not like they’re human or anything. They’re progressives. A disease best cured with fire.” are not intended to stir debate, rather they are meant to incite and produce [if the poster has his way] a pissing match of invective.

    That makes you, in my opinion, a troll.

    [mute]

    1. wrong place for this response; meant for sarcasmic several above.

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