Category Archives: Learning

John Lilburne, Libertarian Hero

One of my heroes who fought unceasingly for liberty and freedom his entire life is John Lilburne.  As we study individuals like him, we gain a better appreciation for what we have and gain a better understanding of what we should do to spread principles and ideas of freedom.

One of his greatest legacies is the notion of rights that all individuals are born with.  At his time in England, there was a class structure (there still is, to some extent).  Royalty was at the top, followed by lords and gentlemen.  Commoners or peasants were at the bottom.  John was part of the middle-class.  Of course, those born into royalty or lordships were treated differently because of their perceived social status.  On the other end of the spectrum, peasants were looked down upon by nearly everyone.  There was this idea that rights were correlated with social or class status.  Royalty had more rights than lords and gentlemen, for instance, who had more rights than the middle-classes, who had more rights than peasants and commoners.

The idea of freeborn rights was revolutionary: all people are born with certain rights, regardless, (so the implication went) of social status.  Similarly, John fought for equality before the law, regardless of social status, increased voting rights, and religious tolerance.

John fought for his individual rights in remarkable ways.  For instance, early in his life, he smuggled in literature which went against licensing laws, a prime example of civil disobedience.  He was brought before the Star Chamber, a high court in England.  He demanded to know the charges brought against him in English, as the court spoke French in those days.  Thus began a series of trials and imprisonments which lasted nearly his whole life.

He was also revolutionary in writing proposed Constitutions for England.  Prior to this time, the idea of a constitution was much different than our conception; the English constitution was what constituted the body of English judicial, executive, and legislative tradition and legal history.  There was no such thing as a written Constitution; the concept was not even in the minds of Englishmen.  John Lilburne’s two attempts to write Constitutions for England were again revolutionary and paved the way for the founding of our nation, founded, as it were, by a written Constitution, which, in the minds of the Framers, bound the government by chains and fetters to enable a system based on individual liberty.

As we study the lives of people like John Lilburne, we better understand what we can do to further the cause of freedom; we are enlightened, enriched, and encouraged by his example.  In examining history, we see so much of growth of government, tyranny, and the shrinking of liberty.  But there are also shining lights which give us hope in greater liberty and freedom.  John Lilburne is one of those lights.

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Ahistorical Culture of Laziness

We are at spiritual war.  The adversary, Satan, seeks to destroy us.  He seeks to make us miserable.  One area the adversary is laboring dilligently regards our work ethic and related culture of gratitude and cultural awareness.  All three are related, and as the paths to destruction are many and varied, the adversary would be pleased with us taking one or more of these.

One of the marks of a declining civilization and sagging culture is an overall sense of laziness.  Each of us likely has countless tales of individuals in the workplace or classroom (or chapel) whose laziness and apathy knows no bounds: they seem unwilling to do much of anything, and unconcerned at the notion of accomplishing little or nothing.  If honest, most of us could recount instances where we ourselves manifested an unholy laziness, an idleness which does not breed the best in individuals or families spiritually, emotionally, socially, mentally, or temporally.

A recent co-worker was lamenting over the hardship of sitting in a relatively long (by our standards) meeting.  An hourly five minute break, he claimed, barely made the whole experience tolerable.  I was annoyed at this attitude.  After all, he was at work.  Was he getting paid for self-amusement or entertainment?  If only he could go back a few generations and see the sort of subsistent farming his ancestors (or mine) required to merely survive, laboring sixteen hours a day in cold, heat, etc., with no retirement plan or paid holidays.  How can sitting in an air conditioned room be considered any sort of hardship?

It is a sad indicator that few people understand where we have come from, and therefore lack any sort of significant appreciation for the good in our current circumstances.  There exists neither motive for improvement, nor gratitude for current blessings, nor awareness of the billions today who live literally in poverty, in the humblest of circumstances, living day-to-day and meal-to-meal.  This sort of ahistorical and myopic, self-centered view on life is emblematic of our entire culture.

And it is counter to teachings of Latter-day prophets.  For instance, the admonition in D&C 88:79 for all to seek knowledge:

Of things both in heaven and in the earth, and under the earth; things which have been, things which are, things which must shortly come to pass; things which are at home; things which are abroad; the wars and the perplexities of the nations…and a knowledge also of countries and of kingdoms.

We could consider other examples related to gratitude and charity, to name a few others. 

There are opposing forces to this over-arching laziness.  Redemption continues to be possible, not just for liars, thieves, and Sabbath-breakers, but for the lazy and ignorant as well.  If such poses a significant barrier to spiritual growth and progress, then we are assured that the Savior’s grace is indeed sufficient (i.e. Ether 12:27).  His power is able to save and redeem us from not only external enemies, but from internal constraints which inhibit spiritual growth and development.

Scripture is full of admonitions to shake off our laziness, to awake and arise, to gird up our loins, to shake off the dust or chains which bind us, etc.  Surely the Lord wants us to take this counsel to heart!

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Sunday Morning Thoughts on Nihilism and Transcendentalism, and Exaltation in Film

I recently have been persuading my four year-old to watch snippets of the Disney film Fantasia 2000 (one of my favorite all-time films) on youtube.  So far, he has been willing to do so.

I have a passion for classical music, and I find that the music featured on Fantasia 2000 (similar to the music featured on the original Fantasia) includes some of the greatest musical achievements of western civilization.  I have a desire to show my children that there is something valuable, something profound, something meaningful, something transcendent, and even something divine in these great orchestral works, and thus in life itself.

The stories told by the animators, too, are primal and transcendent.  Themes include pure romantic love, family love, the power of community, transcendent communal unity with the divine, individual strength, sacrifice, and timeless struggles of life vs. death and light vs. dark, among others.  Thus, the movie is moving, enjoyable, and profoundly meaningful.  I realize how far off the mainstream I am with this analysis: for instance, when watching this movie nine years ago with a friend and two siblings, I was the only one who thought the movie was better than a marginal “OK.”

And yet, when I compare these transcendent, timeless themes coupled with sublime music, I cannot help but compare this film presentation to that of the other extreme: nihilism, (or meaninglessness) as in The Dark Knight and The Fountain.

Discussing nihilism is pointless and contradictory: if everything is meaningless, then why put forth any effort to preach such a philosophy?  If there is meaning or purpose in preaching meaninglessness, then one does not truly believe in meaninglessness.

It does not take a brain surgeon to comprehend this: such is really the default philosophy of existence.  Just as failure is the default mode of success in life (if we do nothing, we fail to accomplish anything), so nihilism is the default mode of existence (if there is no meaning in anything we do, life must be meaningless).

Who is it that encourages us to adopt this philosophy, that life is dark and meaningless, that values bind us down, and that there is nothing else beyond this dark and dreary existence?  The answer is obvious: the adversary wants us to believe this.

In contrast, the Lord wants us to be happy and to find joy even in darkness and despair.  As we do so, we find the sublime fruits of progression, unity, love, and holiness.  Living the disciples’ life, we can find the good wherever we look and wherever we go, if we choose to do so, and use that knowledge and those experiences to our eternal benefit and our exaltation.

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300,000 Pounds and Ducks

I sometimes listen to Radio 2 Morning on CBC in the morning commute.  It’s the most entertaining radio show I have ever heard, both musically and in prose.  The songs are pure, simple, subtle, and sincere, both musically and lyrically, not overly sugary, forced, or over-the-top as I find some American music to be.

Prose is frequently entertaining.  Yesterday, radio host Tom Allen told about a scientific study, conducted by English scientists from the prestigious University of Oxford, which cost British taxpayers 300,000 pounds.  The study aimed to ascertain whether ducks preferred water in troughs, ponds, or rain.  The study pointed out that ducks preferred rain.

Many farmers in England, as you might imagine, have a difficult time with so much British taxpayer money being appropriated for such a silly purpose.  English farmers have known, colloquially, that ducks love the rain, for hundreds of years.  They did not need 300,000 pounds to tell them this.  They are understandably frustrated.

This is a silly story which brings up some important questions which are never discussed, but which should be:

Is it just to appropriate taxpayer money for scientific research?  Where in the U.S. Constitution is such explicity justified?  Did our Founding Fathers support such spending?  Why do taxpayers not have a say in where their money goes and how it gets spent?

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Filed under Austrian Economics, fiscal policy, Learning, politics, role of government

Watts Up With That?

Anthony Watts, a former TV meteorologist, has a very interesting blog that should appeal to most skeptics of mainstream discussions of global warming.  It’s called Watts Up With That?

There’s a recent post about some very embarrassing science information from Congressman Henry Waxman of California.  It is very scary that such an individual is one of those responsible for judging the best solution to manmade global warming.

Another post talks about thin ice at the North Pole in the late 1950s.  Thin arctic ice is not a new phenomena.

A third attacks an article that appeared widely in mainstream media a year ago about arctic ice disappearing completely in 2008.

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Sharing a Few Articles

These three are recommended: the first two are short:

Miracles we Take for Granted

Pitchfork Time

Money and Interest

I find the last, along with Mises on Money by Gary North, to be excellent explanations of the business cycle, and answer the following questions (among others): why do we get recessions?  What’s a central bank?  How does our banking system really work?  What’s the big deal with gold?

Read and be enlightened.

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On President Obama and Economics

Considering yesterday’s post, you may wonder whether I have some sort of vendetta or personal grudge against our president.  I do not.  I have a grudge against the welfare-warfare state, and since President Obama is heading it up, and bringing us more welfare and warfare, I am opposed, staunchly, to his policies which lead us in that direction.  I pray for him and hope for the best, and certainly have reason for some optimism.  But I am not expecting a liberty-based perspective from him.  I am relatively ambivalent about his superpopularity: that will be an achilles heel, a constant barrage of special interests that can in no way find complete satisfaction at his hand, and they will one day turn on him, in my opinion.  My wife and I are in agreement: with popular (and celebrity) expectations so high, how can he possibly meet them without becoming a tyrant?

I am staunchly opposed to his narrow-minded economic perspective.  He wants to transcend ideology by embracing it.  Namely, that ideology which trusts central economic planning and the powerful hand of government to fix problems.  The more numerous the problems, the more heavy-handed the government response.  The narrow-mindedness stems from the lack of regard to infringements on personal liberty and the misunderstanding that government intervention is the source of many of these problems to begin with.

Mr. Obama has said very recently, “Every economist, even those who may quibble with the details of the makeup in a package, will agree that if you’ve got a trillion dollars in lost demand this year, and a trillion dollars in lost demand next year, then you’ve got to have a big enough recovery package to actually make up for those lost jobs and lost demand.”

On January 9th, he said something similar, “”There is no disagreement that we need action by our government, a recovery plan that will help to jump-start the economy.”

I recommend you consult this interview for a perspective into the actual disagreement.  There are economists from the Austrian School that trust liberty over statism and freedom over government control.  They understand the great irony that statism is largely to blame for many of the weaknesses government tries to remedy.  It’s as if one tries to cure mercury poisoning by consuming more mercury, not understanding the cause, nor the effects of the cure.

Please note this ad: there is certainly disagreement with the idea that further government spending will fix the problem.

Mr. President, if you truly desire change that leads to greater prosperity, peace, freedom, and unity for all, you do yourself and the American people a huge disservice by discounting this growing school of thought that puts individual liberty ahead of collectivism.

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