June 7, 2009

Principles

Over time, after many conversations regarding the role of government and the importance of freedom, I have come to realize that I often operate on a different premise than those I discuss these matters with. This realization has been difficult to deal with because I have come to recognize that my outlook on life is considered irrelevant by some. I will attempt to explain what I mean.
My life philosophy is based on the idea that there are certain principles, which, if applied correctly, are universal and uncompromising in every situation. Thus, I have tried to discover those principles and apply them so that my actions have a consistency which is based on unchanging principles. Whenever I realize that my behavior does not conform to one of these principles that I have previously determined to be correct, I have to re-evaluate my actions and/or the principle to understand if I need to change my behavior or my understanding of the principle.
By this, I have come to certain conclusions about liberty. According to my understanding, liberty is a principle that is universal and correct. It is a virtue in and of itself that is to be protected at all costs, even if it allows for uncertainty. In my attempt to understand the principles that are related to liberty, I have started these discussions of the laws of liberty so that I can evaluate my own behavior and understanding of the principles.
However, as I wrote before, I have recently been realizing that many people do not base their understanding or beliefs on such a premise. Many do not accept the notion that there are universal principles that can govern behavior. So far, I have been limiting my discussions to the role of government since I see the government as the most prominent idea whereby human beings seek to legitimize coercion. The idea of coercion directly opposes the principle of liberty. Thus, the principle of government which relates to liberty must be that government (force) can only be used to protect the principle of liberty. Anytime government becomes destructive to the principle of liberty, instead of upholding it, government has overstepped its bounds.
This principle is foreign to many, so much so that even when presented, it has no effect to change their ideas because they do not base their ideas or philosophies on principles at all. Their ideas and philosophies are based on sound-bytes and emotionalism. They are based on short-sighted political whims and false traditions. Some are based on ignorance and hypocrisy.
At times, even the most basic principles are rejected by some because they are not "practical". I ask: if a principle is not practical, is it even a principle? If we cannot follow principles because they are not practical, we have no principles at all. It seems that for some, their only principle is practicality. Thus, they are subject to the sound-bytes, emotionalism, political whims, false traditions, ignorance, and hypocrisy that plagues our society and has literally destroyed faith in the supremacy of principles at all.
My call is for a return to principles and a realization, as a good friend puts it, that principles ARE practical, and if we defer to practicality instead of principles, we will find we lose our principles all together.

18 comments:

Taylor and Stephanie said...

It's true that there are universal principles but can one principle override another? There are plenty of examples of this in the scriptures. So where does the principle of liberty lie on the scale of importance?

BEN said...

True principles don't conflict, only our understanding of them. Apparently liberty is important enough to die for and sacred enough that God paid the ultimate sacrifice to bestow and preserve it.

Taylor said...

Do you think there are circumstances that warrant one's liberty to be taken from them though the consequences of their actions?

BEN said...

One takes liberty from oneself when laws are broken. Law inherently defines consequences. Helaman 14:30-31.
God said to Adam, if you take the fruit, you will die. That is the way things are. Adam took the fruit and became subject to a carnal nature. When we break laws, we lose liberty in a sense. That is justice; hence the need for mercy.

S. Logan said...

Maybe I should blog about "law". I just don't have all that time... but until then, here's a stab...

Law is simply that which defines things as they "are". Each of us adhere to a different law (we adhere to a unique interpretation to how things "are"), and "repentance" (as spoken of in the Bible Dictionary) is the process whereby we change our hearts, minds, and perceptions to be in line with God's law (definition and structure to how things are; or, in other words, "truth"). Again, in other words, God's law defines truth.

There are laws Celestial, Terrestrial, and Telestial. How it is that we perceive "lost" liberty is in what we have chosen to accept and what "law" we adhere to. "Lost liberty" is merely a perception, but is not an intrinsic state of existence. A person who adheres to a Terrestrial "law" will only have full liberty in acting within that fellowship or state of existence, but will not even comprehend that which is of a Celestial law (or how things exist Celestially). In one sense it appears that the Terrestrial person has "lost" liberty, but this is only accurate depending on how you measure "gain" and "loss" against a Celestial existence. The Terrestrial person does not see a net loss of liberty, because there is no comprehension of anything greater -- that's the law they adhere to.

What amount of liberty a person is willing to accept in their life is directly correlated -- as I would argue -- with what law they are willing to live, accept, and perceive. There are no direct commands in Celestial Law, but only decrees of being and existence. God decrees who he IS, and a Celestial person becomes that without being compelled in action. A Celestial person is at full liberty to act, because there is full self-government in simply being like our Father.

Many of the confusions of seemingly contradicting principles stem from a mixing/convolution of eternal laws and their misinterpretation within a base and corrupt Telestial existence. Mix with that the philosophies of man mingled with scripture, and you have a hodgepodge of convoluted gospel/political theory. How God deals with his people is not always an eternal window to the personal state of existence of our Celestial Father, but of the His infinite ability to lead his children along within the law (reality) that they chosen and have defined for themselves.

Can "liberty" be taken away or lost? Not if it is an intrinsic and inalienable right given by God himself. Otherwise, by definition, liberty is alienable. The expression of liberty can, however, be limited by coercion, but this does not diminish liberty. Liberty shines on for whoever will perceive it, in spite of those who decide to reject its reality and intrinsic place in their creation and existence. I can deny the sun at noon-day, but the scriptures don't look highly upon such a state of existence.

Taylor said...

But there are other intrinsic goods that can be lost. Take the light of christ for example, that's an intrinsic good that can actually be totally lost in a person.... thoughts?

S. Logan said...

The prophets have taught that the light of Christ can never be totally "lost" or "given up". Even the devils have a spark of the light of Christ, in that even the devils know who Christ is. The light of Christ gives life and existence to all matter and substance; even the adversary himself must carry a spark of the light of Christ, in that he exists and has personal knowledge of Christ. This makes even devil even a bigger hypocrite than we tend to give him credit for, for he is the ultimate denier of his very existence -- even the light of Christ that is within himself.

This all may be a semantics battle, but that's what we're reduced to because of our language. Could it be perceived that a person who chooses a lesser light, law, or kingdom to have "lost" certain things? Yeah, it can be perceived as such. However, the "losing" of something is a matter of perception as gauged in its relationship to something else of greater or lesser light, truth, or knowledge. The same event of "lost" light (physically perceived event) can also be described in terms where loss is nowhere present. If the person has no perception of the greater, then there is absolutely no loss.

This may seem like a matter of semantics, but this is a needful clarification. Why? Because we believe there are certain things that are inalienable, even if we want to alienate them. As Sam Adams said:

"If men, through fear, fraud, or mistake, should in terms renounce or give up any natural right, the eternal law of reason and the grand end of society would absolutely vacate such renunciation. The right to freedom being the gift of Almighty God, it is not in the power of man to alienate this gift and voluntarily become a slave."

We can define an event in two ways: (1) where rights are alienable and there is a net loss and alienation of agency and liberty, or (2) where rights are inalienable, but we merely choose something because that is our choice and our accepted law (reality). Neoconservativism, neoliberalism, liberalism, socialism, communism, and almost every other "ism" in modern political thought defines events within the paradigm of "alienation" and "alienable rights". This was not the foundational philosophy of our country, nor is it in tune with correct gospel teachings and principles of our Church.

The same event can be seen in two ways. The importance here becomes seeing the event as God sees it, and God has even spoken in terms of inalienable liberty wherein HE has made us free.

Taylor said...

Do you have any references as to where church leaders talked about the light of Christ referring to its inalienability or implication thereof? Sorry to make you work so much Shiloh...

S. Logan said...

Sadly, I have a select amount of books and resources that I have brought with me to Texas, and in none of them can I source what you're asking for. I will, however, look over several files that I have to find bits and pieces to answer your question.

Taylor & Stephanie Cane said...

So what you and Ben are saying is that liberty is actually inalienable. I can understand that point of view. So then what would you call a person sitting in jail. Haven't they effectively lost their liberty? Or would you just say they have lost their ability to express their liberty...

That sounds a lot like a semantics battle. Either way don't we give up some liberties (the some of our ability to express that liberty) when we create government? Isn't government a necessary evil? How then do you interpret Jesus' statement "render that which is Caesars unto Caesar" ?

S. Logan said...

Yes, I know it is hard to imagine, but the Founders actually meant what they said: "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." Liberty IS inalienable. So, how do we justify incarcerating an individual without "taking away" his liberty?

It doesn't matter where my body is placed or in what physical space/position my physical body may be coerced, I retain the liberty God gave me -- man cannot take it away from me. The full and outward expression of that liberty may be physically restricted, but this is where the importance of how man admonishes each other according to Earthly statutes comes into play. How we act in concert with each other will have eternal consequences in the eternities. Do we honestly think that unalienable liberty is like a light bulb that can be turned on and off with the flick of a switch? Does my jumping in and out of a jail cell repeatedly negate my liberty and restore it again and again? This is a ridiculous thought when you actually think about it.

Yes, exactly like what I said in the second paragraph of my second blog on this thread -- this may be a semantics battle; however, it is an important differentiation. Why? Well, why did the Founders think it important enough to include the word "unalienable" in the Declaration anyway? If it didn't REALLY matter and was just a semantics game, why even include it?

One of the greatest matters of importance concerning why they included "unalienable" was because they asserted that rights were not given by a king, a priest, or even the majority -- they were given by God. God was the source of all rights, and, therefore, were not alienable. Once you step into the arena of alienable rights, you fundamentally reject the premise that rights came from God -- and that he alone can take them away. To further illustrate this point, I would strongly suggest reading Hugh Nibley's "The Ancient Law of Liberty": http://mi.byu.edu/publications/books/?bookid=54&chapid=506 ... Herein he makes the important distinction: "Men may check and admonish each other in their little affairs, but where the great decisions of life are concerned, God alone is the judge." How can we possibly reason that in our "little affairs" we negate the entire foundation of agency: to somehow alienate what God has made inalienable? For a man to think this places him on slippery ground, for he must assume that he has the power of God on Earth. As Elder Oaks said, in quoting C.S. Lewis this past General Conference: "What Satan put into the heads of our remote ancestors was the idea that they could ‘be like gods’—could set up on their own as if they had created themselves—be their own masters—invent some sort of happiness for themselves outside God, apart from God. And out of that hopeless attempt has come... the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy." It is within this paradigm of trying to be "god on earth" that man rejects the inalienable for the perception of that which is alienable.

The concept of abdicating rights when government is formed is a political philosophy that was expressly rejected by our founders. I could name each Founder that specifically rejected this idea, but the list is too long. The Lockean idea (as well as that held by our own Latter-day scripture) to Liberty is that rights are inalienable, and that only certain DELEGATED "duties" (as deemed necessary) are bestowed upon other men to act in our stead. It is certainly ridiculous to think that you could possibly take away my unalienable and God-given rights, just because I allowed/delegated to you to act for me in a specific duty! Again, once we really think about this, it is quite absurd to think of rights as alienable.

S. Logan said...

Furthermore, Christ's reference about Caesar is not an absolute commandment to be subject to tyranny and injustice! Otherwise, Christ contradicts himself in Section 134:5 that states that "all men are bound to sustain and uphold the respective governments in which they reside, while protected in their inherent and inalienable rights by the laws of such government; and that sedition and rebellion are unbecoming every citizen thus protected..." God does not contradict himself, neither is he schizophrenic; the obvious contradiction between what Christ said in the New Testament and the D&C is not intrinsic, but exists only in the common misinterpretation of the scripture. Here, even the D&C talks about "inherent and inalienable" rights. What good does it do to talk about "inalienable" rights if they are alienable -- even if they are alienable to small degrees? Yes, rebellion and sedition to government that protects the expression of our inherent and inalienable rights and the "free exercise of conscience" (vs 2) is wrong while we are "thus protected"; however, nothing is ever stated that we must remain under a yoke of tyranny or that we cannot peacefully practice our inherent and inalienable rights that God gave us! D&C 134:5 (and many other scriptures) fly at the face of the commonly held interpretation of Christ's command to "render unto Caesar". In the actually language, Christ was reasserting the teaching taught in Joshua 24:15: "Choose ye this day whom ye will serve". Is it of any wonder that these same Pharisees crucified their Creator and Savior while proclaiming: "We have no king but Caesar" (John 19:15)? They chose their king, and, today, we are called to make the same choice and decision. As President McKay stated:

"I come with another theme this morning -- Two Contending Forces. Those forces are known and have been designated by Satan on the one hand, and Christ on the other.

"In Joshua's time they were called 'gods of the Amorites,' for one, and 'the Lord,' on the other. Paul spoke of 'the works of the flesh' on the one hand, and 'fruits of the spirit' on the other. They are often spoken of as 'selfishness' for one, 'life of service,' on the other. In these days, they are called 'domination by the state,' on one hand, 'personal liberty' on the other; communism on one, free agency on the other." (McKay BYU, 5/18/60)

What God do we worship? We have become an idolatrous people and have set up for ourselves many graven images (I, for one, have many of my own graven images that I'm trying to rid myself of). Who do we look to for protection, for our sustenance, for our livelihood? Christ expounded the same thing, and -- as the Creator who spoke harshly against the hypocrisy of the Pharisees who asked him concerning lawful tribute to Caesar (Matt 22:18) -- worship the God who protects you and who you look to for your rights. It was Karl Marx's purpose to use the structure of the Christian Church and assert government to replace God! It is easily seen that each of the 10 planks of the Communist Manifesto has direct correlation to God's professed order.

Sadly, today, our own membership of the Church holistically accepts nearly every plank of the Communist Manifesto as -- at the worst -- a necessary evil, and -- at the best -- the movement of the Lord's hand within government to force morality, goodness, and self-accountability on the masses.

Choose ye this day...

Taylor and Stephanie said...

No I don't think any of the planks are necessary evils, they are just evils, but what's evil to one person is good to another and in order to form a more perfect union we have to compromise just a smidgen. Like condoning slavery in the constitution. The need for this compromise is the reason for why the constitution was written the way it was written, which is: THE NATURAL MAN IS EVIL.

I don't think there is anything wrong with wanting to reduce evil instead wanting to immediately eliminate it all together. It's like a bishop telling a smoker to slowly reduce the number of cigarettes used every week as opposed to telling the person to stop cold turkey, which can be extremely difficult/impossible sometimes because the smoker has become clinically addicted to the drug. I think it's a fair comparison to the state of the State.

Taylor and Stephanie said...

Also, I am sure our founding fathers meant what they said, but whether they actually based their beliefs on eternal truths has yet to be answered in my mind. I know they were generally (and not all of them) inspired with regards to the creation of constitution and that they (but not all of them) were good and just men (basic D&C stuff). But could they have been wrong about some things? Were blacks not people with inalienable rights? So why allow the 3/5th's compromise/continuation of slavery?

hmmm.... at best sounds like a utilitarian calculation to determine the greatest amount of expressed liberty/good, i.e. the restriction of liberty of blacks vs. restriction of liberty of everyone under King George

I'm sure you've thought about this before, just want to hear you and Ben's opinions.

BEN said...

Shiloh explains some important principles. I think the difficulty of semantics is the use of the word liberty to apply both to moral agency and physical freedom. While I believe these two are both based on the same eternal principle, the physical is a type and likeness of the spiritual. Our physical freedom may indeed be restricted (or theoretically taken away) but never can I remove the moral agency from a person. He always maintains the power to choose liberty and eternal life through Christ or captivity and death according to the captivity and power of the devil. In essence, this is also true for physical bondage as the Lord has delivered his people from physical bondage also.
I maintain, and Shiloh and I have discussed this, that a person can find that through sin he has brought himself into bondage, effectively losing a portion of his moral agency or spiritual liberty, thus becoming subject to the devil. However, as I said before, the gift of agency is ultimately ours because of the power of Christ to make us free through repentance.

The question of slavery and the Constitution is an interesting one, but as far as I am concerned, it is pretty apparent that the founders intended for slavery to be abolished. There are certainly arguments to support the conclusion that slavery was unconstitutional regardless and in spite of any implied license for it in the Constitution. I refer you to Lysander Spooner on this one, but suffice it to say that any violation of individual rights is inherently unconstitutional regardless of how people have justified it.
As far as compromise, I don't think I can agree with Taylor's assessment of its necessity. There is an interesting read by Mises titled "Middle-of-the-Road Policy Leads to Socialism". I think it illustrates what I am arguing when I speak of compromise:
http://mises.org/midroad.asp

The last thing I wanted to touch on was Taylor's example of the bishop counseling to use less and less cigarettes until a person stops. I don't believe this is accurate counsel given to bishops, but either way, it doesn't hold up to scrutiny. If someone is addicted to sex, you don't tell them to just fornicate less and less every day until they stop. I also remember helping people to stop smoking on the mission and nowhere in any instructions given were we told to say the person could smoke less and less. The program was for the person to stop immediately and to then help them maintain that by various means, relying on the Lord to deliver them from this bondage.
Remember, nowhere in the scriptures are we commanded to repent gradually. Rather, we repent with faith in Christ relying on his power to change our hearts and give us no more desire to do evil.

S. Logan said...

Yes, the slavery issue in the Constitution is a favorite chestnut to bring up in PlSc 110, but it's a bit ridiculous. The issue was not a moral decision, and few people actually care to study enough about the issue to learn that the "slave states" actually wanted to include "the negro" to be counted as a full man. In fact, it was what we call the "non-slave states" that pushed hard to have the slaves be only counted as 1/3 of a man... Interesting, no? No, not really. The reason was not a moral decision about determining the stature of a man, but of how to count the people in determining the number of U.S. Representatives in Congress. The "Slave states" wanted to claim the slaves as a full man, because it would give them more power in the House of Representatives; however, the "non-slave states" didn't want to include the slaves as a full man in the count, because this would skew the ratio of Representatives in Congress.

Taylor and Stephanie said...

Thank you Shiloh I was however already aware of how the 3/5th compromise worked.

However the constitution did essentially classify slaves as "other persons" by birth not equal to the same representation of a citizen. That's like writing a letter to a friend and throwing in; "oh and when you murder bob, make sure to do it quickly" Sure you are not establishing law or making any moral decisions about murder itself but by showing your compliance with the act you are in a sense condoning it.
This is one of the reasons why certain founding fathers such as Benjamin Franklin almost didn't sign the thing because they wanted no mention of it in the constitution. There were lots of other issues they had to compromise on.

Personally I simply don't hold physical liberty as high as you do, I do hold moral agency at the highest but I have yet to see how my moral agency is affected by a little bit of compromise (in the right direction)
For example, if I were president, I would slowly reduce government and peoples dependency on it. During that process I would inevitable have to temporarily sustain things I don't agree with (like franklin and the 3/5ths compromise), but I would do it with the desire to eventually do away with them.

Taylor and Stephanie said...

p.s. I think it's possible to compromise away from evil, i.e. I want to get rid of all taxes but for now I will reduce them, that's moving away from evil while stepping further toward good.

When you say compromise got us into this mess I would agree 100%, but it's been compromises toward the wrong direction. We wouldn't be in this mess if our taxes had been progressively smaller and our freedoms more and more untouched.