Monthly Archives: June 2008

Albert Jay Nock’s “Remnant” in Mormonism?

Albert Jay Nock discussed what he referred to as “The Remnant,” included, for instance, in this article about the Old Testament prophet Isaiah.

Albert Jay Nock describes the masses thusly:

The mass man is one who has neither the force of intellect to apprehend the principles issuing in what we know as the humane life, nor the force of character to adhere to those principles steadily and strictly as laws of conduct; and because such people make up the great and overwhelming majority of mankind, they are called collectively the masses.

He describes the “Remnant” in this way:

The Remnant are those who by force of intellect are able to apprehend these principles, and by force of character are able, at least measurably, to cleave to them. The masses are those who are unable to do either.

Albert Jay Nock refers to others, including Aristotle and Marcus Aurelius, when referring to the remnant, trying to show that working with the “Remnant” is the task of the ages.

How does this apply to Mormon doctrine?

The prophets in the Book of Mormon, like Alma and Nephi, prayed and hoped that all could be saved.  Salvation is free, as Nephi taught.  The Savior’s grace is sufficient for all that come to him, as Moroni was taught.  Nephi prayed that many of us, if not all, would be saved.  These doctrines seem at odds with the idea of the remnant.

But we also know that many are called but few are chosen, as the Savior taught.  Joseph Smith further clarified that this was due to the heart: men’s hearts are “set so much upon the things of this world”, that they are unable to learn that the “principles of righteousness” only can be used to handle the powers of heaven (D&C 121:34-40).

We speak of the gathering of Israel, of the earth being cleansed by fire, of three Degrees of glory (even more, as in D&C 131), of spirit prison and spirit paradise.  Yes, all are given an opportunity to choose.  But we’re taught that many will not choose the good and the right, but will choose something lesser.

Much more could be said on the subject, but I leave it to you to think over the relationship between the “Remnant” and Mormonism.

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Rumors of War: Iran

And when ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars, be ye not troubled: for such things must needs be; but the end shall not be yet.     -Mark 13:7

It’s not lookin’ good, folks.

According to this article from Pat Buchanan, It looks like Ehud Olmert and President Bush have gotten together and concocted a plan to deal with Iran.  The solution looks like a military solution, and one to be enacted soon.

Most of the evidence is circumstantial: mock Israeli military missions, bellicose rhetoric, etc.  We’ve heard this before.  Thankfully, this has been thwarted before, when the US intelligence community released a report that flew in the face of the Bush administration’s frequent assertions about Iran’s nuclear capabilities.  The report indicated Iran is still years away from developing a nuclear weapon.

What makes me worry is the following: First, President Bush is on his way out, and an Obama victory is likely, in my opinion.  As inept as Senator Obama appears, Americans will probably vote for change rather than essentially the status quo, as a vote for McCain.  Second, the American foreign policy on its “Axis of Evil” of Iran, North Korea, and Iraq has already had failures in dealing with two of these countries: Iraq and North Korea, as Iraq is in a very costly mess and North Korea now has nuclear weapons.

Might the Bush administration feel motivated to act by the end of his term?  Why not?

The sad thing is that Congress has not stepped in his way, but have essentially kept the door open for a unnecessary military confrontation with Iran.

As I said, we have heard this rhetoric before, and there are plenty of intelligent individuals in the intelligence and military communities who would not support such a move (at least privately).  They know better, as does most of the American public.  Few want war.  If the public opinion has its way, war will be averted, or at least delayed.  This is the good news.

The Bush administration has been pumping the airwaves with anti-Iran propaganda for years.  They keep trying.  It only took a year or two before there was enough public support to attack Iraq once they got going.  Iran has taken longer.  I think it’s unlikely an attack will occur unless there is more public support than there currently is. 

Is support building?  Hard to tell. 

Will there be enough support built by the end of President Bush’s term?  Let’s hope not.

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The Anti-Establishment Show: All Are Welcome!

I’m tired of establishment shows like Anderson Cooper 360, Larry King, Bill O’Reilly, the evening news, and even Glenn Beck.  It’s time to address our society from the perspective that something is broken very badly and drastic measures are needed to fix it.

If I were a television producer for a news show, I would love to start a show called “Anti-Establishment.”  It would feature four political, anti-establishment pundits: a paleolibertarian, a paleoconservative, and then two more statist guests, like a Socialist Trotskyite and a Marxist, with some sort of anti-establishment host (maybe a communitarian or disgruntled European?) as a facilitator.

The show would have several segments.  These may include:

1. Front page: this would be how the show gets kicked off.  The panel would select a story or stories from the front page of the Washington Post or New York Times and comment on it, each from a different perspective.

2. Looking Back: This would be a historical glimpse into some event that happened on this day years ago.  Each individual on the panel would weigh in on the historical and current implications.

3. Ask the Expert: This would be a segment where called or emailed questions would be asked of the candidates, without their having time beforehand to formulate a response.

4. Missing Story: This segment would be where pundits would select an important news story they feel was neglected that day and then they discuss it from their perspective.

5. For your Edification: This segment would have each pundit recommend a book, article, film, magazine, or website which would be of value to the viewer to better understand the pundit’s perspective.

6. Debate: This segment would feature two or more pundits squaring off on some hot-button issue in a debate setting.

The show would work to dismantle the corporate, warfare state, albeit from different angles.  But one goal would be to build popular opinion against warfare and corporatism.

Any thoughts on a title?

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Taxation and the State, Part IV

The Constitution was written to bind down government, and hence severely limit its powers of taxation, but it has long since been twisted, distorted, and misinterpreted as to be far different than what it was originally intended to be.

How did this happen?  There are three clauses which have been completely taken out of context: the interstate commerce clause, the general welfare clause, and the necessary and proper clause.  Each one of these clauses have been linked to an abrogation of rights, to the scaling up of the state in power and influence and the scaling back of individual freedom and personal liberty.

This deterioration is an on-going process that affects many aspects of government.  Examination of just one example will illustrate the general pattern of how these rights are compromised.  In the 1970s, Congress passed the FISA act, which allowed the Fourth Amendment (opposing unlawful search and seizure) to be violated at the discretion of the President, so long as a secret federal court was notified within 72 hours after the spying event.  Notice this was not a Constitutional Amendment, but merely a congressional act.

In recent years and in response to the 9-11 terrorist attacks, the Executive Branch (President Bush) has declared this to be inconvenient and not feasible: they is spying on American citizens without FISA approval.  The implication is that either the FISA court will not support specific spying incidents, or that a FISA court would be unable to deal with the volume of spying incidents.  Either implication is troubling.

Civil liberties advocates threatened to sue telecom companies which had complied with Executive Branch (Presidential) requests for information and assistance.

Democrats, in general, seemed upset at the prospect of deliberately disobeying the FISA Act.  Both Democrats and Republicans, in general, express a concern about American security, and both parties support increasing government power to spy, monitor, arrest, etc., to keep America safe.  Both parties, for instance, support the PATRIOT Act, or at least huge portions of it.  (It should be noted that historically speaking, empowering the government usually does not go far towards keeping the citizens safe).

Just this week, another congressional majority passed a compromise, supposedly the best of both worlds: the government retained the right to have warrantless searches at the discretion of the Executive Branch, and the telecoms were protected from lawsuits.  Peachy.

This is one example of how rights can and are taken away gradually, by degrees, rather than in a sudden manner such as in Nazi Germany or Soviet Russia.

With respect to taxation, this means that any act of government must be paid for by the citizens being governed, via compulsory means.  Increases in government power and spending mean compromises in liberty and increases in taxation (direct, indirect, or hidden, as in inflation).

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Taxation and the State, Part III

How can taxation be limited in its effects to tyranny and oppression? The Constitution was a brilliant and inspired solution to the problem of unchecked taxation.

The Constitution, as written, was intended to limit the scope, size, and cost of government.  The thirteen states had enough of King George III’s British tyranny.  They wanted freedom, and so they were very cautious in making sure that the freedoms they had fought for during the Revolutionary War would be protected by the new Constitutional government.

The idea of a written constitution is not terribly British.  The British constitution was the aggregate of all previous judicial and legislative (perhaps even including executive) decisions over British political history.  This constituted the British constitution.

The American perspective was much different.  Thomas Jefferson put it this way: “In questions of power, then, let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution.”

The Ninth Amendment states:

The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

The Tenth Amendment states:

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

We see these critical ideas essentially flaunted, ignored, or declared anachronistic today.  The Departments of Energy, Education, and Agriculture, for instance, are nowhere to be found in the Constitution.  Nor FEMA, nor standing armies, nor the FCC, SEC, National Parks, nor the EPA, nor infinite regulatory power with the environment, workplace safety, the food we eat, cars we drive, and toys we play with, nearly ad infinitum.

This has expanded into our lives with greater intrusion than King George III would have ever dreamed.  We have seen a second American Revolution, one towards statism and away from individual freedom.

In summary, the Constitution was written to bind down government, and hence severely limit its powers of taxation, but it has long since been twisted, distorted, and misinterpreted as to be far different than what it was originally intended to be.

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Taxation and the State, Part II

Most people accept compulsory taxation as a necessary evil, some even as a public good (thanks, Keynes).  The result is that there is some popularly-accepted middle ground in most countries these days: the government is entitled to some amount of one’s wealth.  Another question arises: what is this amount?  How is this amount determined?  How much is too little?  How much is too much?

A co-worker once intimated to me that governments have no rights, except those they are given by the people they govern.  According to this line of thinking, the people governed decide what the government is entitled to, as the government is not an independent entity (it is dependent on someone to govern).

Supposing the governed really are pulling the strings (a genuine historical rarity), there is a fundamental issue at stake: I may be allowed to determine how much of my income to concede to the government (it is mine, after all), but under what authority or right do I determine how much of my neighbor’s, friend’s, or enemy’s wealth is transferred to the government?

Delegating this responsibility is technically feasible, but unless the government funding mechanisms are kept incredibly simple and transparent and thus trackable by most of the populus, one would easily lose track of how much the government is appropriating in various circumstances and methods (this may sound eerily familiar to some).

Since power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely, as Lord Acton might say, or, as Joseph Smith taught in D&C 121:39, “It is the nature and disposition of all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion,” we can see how once transparency and simplicity are lost, the government leviathan has a tendency to grow large quickly, as there is no unified restraining force.

People ultimately rebel once the rate of tax increases surpass a certain point, but as long as the government operates marginally below this critical level, the government is safe from the populus.

How is this problem resolved?  How can taxation be limited in its effects to tyranny and oppression?  The Constitution was a brilliant and inspired solution to the problem of unchecked taxation.

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Taxation and the State, Part I

I see taxation as a moral problem: how much of my money is the state entitled to?

Does it all belong to the state? If so, then we throw property rights out the window (the ancient economic foundations of society), along with the market economy, one of the great bastions of human progress.

Does none of it belong to the state? If so, then an individual is entitled to keep all the wealth they have produced. Many would remark it is hard to fund a government on voluntary donations: taxation must be compulsory or the government would not get financed, and would struggle to fulfill its function (defending life, liberty, and property rights). Of course, this is another serious moral issue: if people are unwilling to pay for something, who determines whether they should be forced to pay for it? Who determines what they should be forced to pay for? There is a whole multitude of questions that should come up in the minds of us, the governed.

Most people accept compulsory taxation as a necessary evil, some even as a public good (thanks, Keynes). The result is that there is some popularly-accepted middle ground in most countries these days: the government is entitled to some amount of one’s wealth. Another question arises: what is this amount? How is this amount determined? How much is too little? How much is too much?

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