The codification of caprice and its aftermath of rule by whimsy

The Passion of St. Thomas a’ Becket

These words from Washington are occasioned by the ongoing, serious and very distressing rift between the Administration and the Church the flashpoint for which respecting issues of contraception. There are a number of levels at which this debate can be joined but it strikes the writer that the Administration’s position that the Executive can, by fiat, simply ordain changes in private Church policy because he feels like it, suggests logical consequences likely not anticipated or intended by the Executive and his supporters.  Regarded properly, this debate is not about a particular disagreement.  Properly understood, it is, by extension of logic, about morality.

Fiat rule, among other very nasty things, smacks of Royalism, dictatorship and governmental absolutism.  Fiat rule is itself governed by caprice, seasoned by mere whimsy and sparks the harrowing abnegation of civilized legal process and ofmorality itself.  All of these things, in turn, obviate against the possibility of having a civilized society.  And, that’s not good news.

The merits of the particular argument lines thus far put forth by the opposing sides left to one side for a moment, it appears clear enough that, for the Executive to lay claim to such powers of fiat governance, occasions the observer to think a bit about both historical and present day parallels that are troubling indeed.

Fiat government is government by caprice and raw force.  Lamentably, history is replete with sad and alarming parallels.  The reader is asked to consider carefully the instant and longer term ramifications of Executive intervention based upon the notion that “I’ll do it because, well, I feel like it.”  This is not a new affectation.  Absolute monarchs lived, and effectively do yet live, by the credo “I will it therefore it will be done.”

Consider please the implications of a society in which from the top down the message is that my actions are in the main governed by the dictum: “I will do what I feel like.”  Man generally agrees not to rob banks and shoot the girls behind the counter.  Such agreement is part of a generally accepted social compact between the government and its citizens. Yet, some clearly think that if they feel like doing so, it’s perfectly fine.  Daily evidence that this is so can be seen in the newspapers.  Banks are routinely robbed and the girls likewise routinely shot during the robberies.  All right minded men would agree that a social construct such as that, driven as it is by mere caprice, is both dangerous and invidious to society.  That is why the flip side of the prevailing social compact harshly punishes cavalier bank robbers and murderers.  Yet, many men feel they are law unto themselves.  It’s perfectly fine to rob money in Wall Street, to cheat, to lie, to lay waste to other nations in savage war and exploitation because, put to the quick, well, “I just feel like it.”

The rule of whimsy has harrowing historical connotations stretching back to man’s abrupt, and jolting, egress from the Garden. Comparatively recent flights of whimsy are downright frightening.  Consider, Russia.  In that great, yet often very sad, country, I am sure that the last Czar of the Russians, Nicholas II, smitten with the heady elixir of absolute, unchecked and “divine” power, thought it just the right move to unleash his Cassocks to butcher the Jews and other innocents of his Empire to quiet social unrest when the population was visited, as it very often was, with flood, famine and pestilence.  Quite clearly, he felt like doing that.  Later, Mr. Stalin appeared to think it his prerogative to butcher and enslave virtually everyone in sight.  I am absolutely sure hefelt like doing that.  The Americans today fret and make faces about Mr. Putin behaving in a manner tyrannical, and perhaps he does, but I am sanguine that Mr. Putin feels unfettered to do so because it catches his fancy and he “just feels like doing it.”

While the incumbent American Executive does not appear to us Czarist, Stalinist or a Mr. Putin, we feel it necessary to issue this cautionary:  His recent, and apparently serious, flirtation with the notion that his office confers upon him the authority to codify his caprices and to be unfettered in hiswhimsy is very dangerous territory to enter.  To cultivate such vanities comes at a very high social price.  He ought to consider the logical corollaries.  They are these:  If you act in a manner suggestive of the mindset of these three mentioned Russian leaders, in logical construct, what is really to prevent any citizen of this Republic from doing whatsoever he “feels like?”  Surely, the Executive is sage enough to know that people learn lessons from observing the actions of their elders and leaders.  After all, the Executive has young children and must daily see that they watch their parents carefully and draw conclusions from what they see their parents doing.

Children, we all know, need very little coaching to adopt with alacrity a keen and ready aptitude for doing just what they “feel like.”  We do live in a democracy, lessons are noted by the citizen and, most particularly by youngsters, and those lessons ought appropriately be sound lessons involving making good, and not selfish, choices.

Respecting democracy, the incumbent Executive and, most particularly his supporters, would do well to consider this element of the case if they are unmoved by listed arguments of logic against their codification of caprice: what happens when their caprice no longer stirs the drink?  What happens when they are out of power?  Do they feel cheered by the notion of their opponent’s fiatwhimsy and caprice holding sway in another day–not too far off?  You see, when one opens the ball on the sort of capricious and whimsical mindset cautioned against here, one must make serious consideration of what will happen when men who one finds disagreeable hold all the high trumps. These men likely will not “feel like” wearing the current fashions.  Then, the incumbent and his followers will have to adjust to what it “feels like” to wear outdated cloth.  Will they like that—I doubt it?  Yet, gravy is, as for the goose, so for the gander.

This last is perhaps the most important lesson here.  If the precedent thus far established by the Executive to codify his caprices is left to stand, the Americans would do very well to consider what the logical corollaries and logical extensions of codifying those caprices are.  Specifically, where does letting such a precedent stand untested end?  I assume no other answer but that it leads to a tyranny of capricewhimsy andfiat government, weather that is the intention of the Executive in the instant case or not.  If the American citizens clearly do see future tyranny in the present over-reaching by the Executive in the codification of his caprices and his rule bywhimsy and fiat, and the citizens do nothing about these miscues, what rejoinder will they have when such encroachments are visited on their own sacred soil?  That is why this is not, at core, a Church versus State issue, but rather a moral concern for all of us.

This is a serious moral issue that, by extension of proper logic, involves all issues of interest to every citizen.  No citizen can rest easy in his comfort thinking “well perhaps this exercise in fiat governancecodification of caprice and rule by whimsy in the instant case is wrong headed and a bit overdone, perhaps even dangerous and surely ill-advised, but it does not apply to me and mine directly in this instance, so I’ll just let it go unremarked for now.” No!  Wrong move!  Wrong move for anyone in our country to allow such unbridled power grabs go unremarked.  If for no other reason than the future projection of enlightened self-interest, all citizens appropriately ought to be very much alarmed by the injection of fiat rule into our democratic system.

I confess that it was through utter inadvertence that recently I stumbled upon a clip of a Mr. George Stephanopoulos on the television speaking at Speaker Gingrich as Speaker Gingrich spoke at George.  The level of discourse in American politics has deteriorated to the point that, what were once intended to be serious discussions have become, in the very best of cases, cheap and seedy game shows. In the illustrated case, the two men spent all their allotted time talking to themselves and at the other.

At events, Mr. Stephanopoulos’game show that day was likely no more or less informed than any other, and, frankly, these vapid modern press conditions are not George’s fault.  The news says that things are bleak out there these days and George is, I suppose, rather well paid, as far as that goes, for a reporter, to be vapid, and, vapid he is.  Besides, it’s just a job and he, apparently, feels like doing it.

It is only as the ostensible subject, at least in part, beingtalked at between the two men was this regrettable disharmony between the Church and the Executive, that I recall it here.  And I ask Mr. Stephanopoulos and Mr. Gingrich both this: is not the logical corollary of fiat governance, a generalized societal fiat behavior in which all the members of the society are moved by this same dictum: “what do I feel like doing today?”  Further, do these gentlemen agree that the logical extension of such a dictum is chaos and, far more seriously, a still further extension is the abnegation of any and all morality?

Our society, devoid of morality, will not survive.  It is quite that simple.  It is from morality that springs personal freedom and its attendant possibilities and responsibilities.  Hence, the true glory of America is a moral glory. I ask Mr. Stephanopoulos and Mr. Gingrich to comment on what sort of society we will have when all strata of men abnegate morality. It would be most unpleasant.  Suppose specifically that, after their game show, Mr. Stephanopoulos and Mr. Gingrich go off together to celebrate their individual and collective brilliance with a swell meal and a bottle of Petrus. You lucky fellas!  Suppose further that afterwards, Mr. Stephanopoulos, in high good spirits, is headed to his flash car where, astounded, he encounters a young ghetto urchin who decides, by fiat, to shoot Mr. Stephanopoulos in the head and take his car because the urchin “feels like it.”  Such a tragedy would likely cause a stir on the television for quite some time, but, logically, the urchin has a sound license in a society that has codified caprice, rules by whimsy and abnegates all moralresponsibility.

It is my fervent hope that all right and fair minded men can agree that the codification of caprice in the instant case of this most sad discordance between the Executive and the Church is a very bad path to tread.  I hope such men can also agree that men governed by mere whimsy and fiat cannot be free and civilized.  I most particularly hope that such men can come to peaceful comity of opinion that the concomitant abnegation of the rule of law and proper process that flows through logical extension from the primacy of capricefiat andwhimsy, ushers in an immoral society in which men are diminished in stature to the point that they are not men any more at all but have rather repaired back to the jungle as savages.

JOHN DANIEL BEGG
WASHINGTON, DC

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Where Waits Our Own Miss Le Pen, Where Waits Our Own Golden Dawn?

Marine Le Pen

I lament that this fascist Golden Dawn business is no surprise and will not stay put in Greece either. While the conventional news services in the West carry the oh so really big news of a dimwitted socialist coming to power in France and other blows against austerity measures in Europe, the news services miss the real point of these elections. That point is the inevitable advance of Fascist movements as the West slowly, but very pointedly, falls apart. In France for instance, the only news of consequence was the remarkable showing of young Miss Le Pen, who, licks her lips in anticipation at watching the hapless establishment parties attempt to make all OK that which can never again be all OK under their hapless governments.

Having reached full 60 and lived officially all those years at Washington observing this circus, I have come in the last few years to think that we in US are likely living in what is our own, impotent, Weimar Republic. When the history of this time is later written of the horrid silliness of, what is, likely, our last oh so terribly important Presidential election pitting two, haplessly weak, men against one another as they attempt to garner faux power and make all OK a nation of people so terminally wounded by the endless financial calamities of the past decade that they have become utterly without trust in the established order, it will be apparent to anyone that we had our own Miss Le Pen or a Golden Dawn licking lips in anticipation of taking real power when the dam shortly breaks.

It can and will happen all over West Europe and here in US because the existing political structures have become altogether useless at a time when the people most need them to be useful. Our very own Miss Le Pen likely crouches somewhere in America while the idiots of the press services ignore her, concentrating instead on concocted issues of no consequence while the people walk in dazed circles looking for their Saviour who is, not fast asleep, merely merrily watching and waiting.

JOHN DANIEL BEGG
Washington, DC

This essay first appeared on Examiner.com

 

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The Cancer of Unemployment/Bad Jobs Can Be Cured Quickly

Depression Era Soup Kitchen

An iron will and collective immediate actions are required

This is first of a series of essays on the present day American experience

Today is a work day in America.  Lamentably, many of our fellow Americans will not be going to work today or they will be working at jobs that barely keep them alive. This is a very serious problem and a simple and direct solution is available if we have the will to pull together as Americans.  What are you prepared to do about that?

Let all who gather here to read this document pray that it be God’s will that we be spared the sorrow of bitter, protracted unemployment and the pity of bad jobs that pay less than necessary to live a decent life, even as so many of our brothers and sisters in America have not been so spared.  And, let us resolve to help those not so spared.

How did America come to this?  How did the great, gleaming hope of the world become reduced to a people who do not smile, a people who cower in fear and live in the shadows and in perpetual anxiety that tomorrow the already long lines of the desperate will grow longer still?  How few are the smiles in America? How rare the upbeat message?  How many look down at the streets as they pass and not at the glorious sky and the radiant sunshine above their heads?

The unemployment and bad jobs situation must be changed and immediately so.  We pray most for the young.  To the young, we who are older than you now say:  we do understand, we have read the list of the forgotten of your age 18-30 and we are aghast at your numbers—fully 35% in no job or in a bad job.  This is ruinous for America.  It is a situation that is cancerous, insidious, and lethal.  Those who are  political leaders have avoided this horror for far, far too long.  Now, we, who are older than you, face it with you, the afflicted, straight on, with clear eyes.  We will change America with you, or she will surely die with you.  Without the implementation of a drastic and immediate solution, yours will be America’s last generation. Our mission is that urgent.

There is a solution!  It simply requires an iron will and great tenacity and very hard work—and a suspension of back biting on all sides.  The solution lies in a collaborative effort between the political, commercial, financial, and worker sectors to bring jobs back to America and to do that straight away.  We are Americans—all of us.  It is time to put the collective shoulder to the wheel and labor mightily to push this nation to the top of the mountain again.  Once on that mountain top, we will see again the clear sky and the golden sun and we will be once again a happy people.

But, first to our very hard work. This crisis must be treated as the absolute moral equivalent of December 8, 1941, that day, plus one, after America was attacked by the Japanese Empire.  Let’s do these things—very quickly:

The president must call an emergency joint session of Congress and that joint session must agree, the day of the President’s address, these laws for him to sign that very day:

*A federal law that eliminates any and all corporate and other business taxes on commercial American enterprises of all sizes.

*A reciprocal law that all tax reduction benefits thus derived by business will be used exclusively to employ American workers, working in American businesses and producing American products and services using American raw materials. Such a reciprocal law will demand of business that it provide detailed, tangible evidence of compliance.

*A reciprocal law that Americans be compensated with a good wage and good benefits to include health care and genuine private retirement benefits, to include continued company paid health care on retirement under this program.  What constitutes a good job and good benefits will work itself out in the subsequent days—not weeks—days—of negotiations between the applicable interested parties.  Put quickly, the employer must take good care of the employees by law.

*A reciprocal law that, in the time it takes for business to hire workers under this program, all evictions and foreclosures in America be halted until the workers have a chance to get back to a stable financial condition.

The next day after these three laws are passed and signed, an arranged meeting of the following groups will meet at Washington to agree their immediate implementation:

  • Leading Representatives of industry, manufacturing, retail and other commercial entities.
  • Representatives of the trade unions.
  • Representatives of the financial and legal sectors.

The goal of all these groups meeting together is to bring good jobs back to America immediately.  It can be done easily.  Large corporations and smaller companies must bring back all jobs now held off shore in order to participate.  The details of this stipulation will be worked out by the finance and legal representatives at the meeting and be monitored by the federal government and the trade unions for compliance.  Every sector does its part and every sector benefits.  Thezero sum game that so preoccupies Washington thinking—that somebody always has to win and somebody likewise always has to lose–does not apply to this plan. The idea here is to jump start the American economy by massive hiring of workers in all commercial sectors.  No group is left out in the cold. No one loses anything and everybody gains.

As we are in a new century, it is time that America begin to live in that century and not in the prior one.  Most of those who will read this have lived the bulk of their lives in the previous century and, as such, think in a manner that is now dated.  This makes solving the new problems that face us difficult because we simply do not know how to approach them in a manner that is likely to work.

The hot button words of the previous century, both in politics and commerce, are simply antique ways of addressing and approaching today’s most pressing problems.   America faces some very real and extremely dangerous problems, but they can be corrected comparatively simply with the right outlook, comity of opinion and will to act on the part of the political, labor and commercial sectors for the common good.

That said, far and away, unemployment and simply bad employment is the number one concern to be addressed in this country today.  We make little distinction between absolute joblessness and the more widespread condition of having a highly educated young demographic working for the foreseeable in dime stores.  America cannot survive with such a bleak employment picture.

It is a national imperative to bring jobs back to America and to keep them here.  It is similarly an imperative to have all American flagged companies employ American workers and that every stitch of retail product is made in America by American citizens.

Rather than turning all elements of the debate over how to create and encourage finding good jobs for good American workers into a political re-hash of old concepts of social structure, let’s take the best elements of seemingly conflicting attitudes and get to the business of solving the problem.  Yet, of course for the reader who has had his mind formed in the previous century, words do have meanings. Can apparently conflicting concepts come together to solve the problem of bad jobs in America?  We say, yes indeed!

Consider first socialism—a word with a most nasty reputation.  America has, indisputably,  been a socialist nation for eighty years and few, if any, would move away from the main elements of that structure.  Yet socialism is an extremely hot, political, and, somewhat less so, commercial hot potato.  No conventional politician admits to being a socialist when in fact, they all are—and we all are.  However, the reality is that socialism, while it plays a role in advanced society, must take a secondary chair to commercial interest.  After all, it is business that hires people and puts them in real jobs.  Likewise, business produces necessary goods and services needed by the nation.  Socialism run amok destroys commerce and that is not in the best interest of the nation.  If this solution is given a proper chance to work, commercial enterprises must take proper care of the workers—providing good pay, good benefits and, of great importance,  good retirement programs of the sort that were prevalent in the very recent past—by law.  Such good pay and benefit laws will serve to calm the social anxiety so prevalent today and make for a happier, more secure and productive work force.

Consider second free market capitalism as a political construct.  There, the vogue obsession is with balancing budgets and eliminating deficits.  In real life, these concerns are academic abstractions.  Again, we ask—what, tangibly, have these things to do with getting Americans good jobs—right now?  Again, the obsession ought properly to be with nurturing commerce–directly.  In the anticipated system, the employer will provide a good wage, sterling health care and good, old fashioned, retirement benefits. The massive new tax base of well paid workers thus created will quickly eliminate deficits and balance all federal, state and local budgets.

Both sides must put aside their intense enmity for one another to get this absolutely imperative program moving.  Right away. This is an idea that cannot have any, legitimate, rhetorical enemies.

It is not complex to accomplish this end.  It requires simply the will to get the massive and spreading cancer of unemployment and low level employment cured and cured quickly.  This aggressive cancer, this wasting of good people who cannot participate properly in the work world no matter how hard they try, must be addressed as such—a hostile enemy of America.  We propose the latter day, moral equivalent of a day, plus one, past Pearl Harbor, to immediately put into place an equally aggressive attack on this employment cancer.  At Washington, any new idea suggestive of real progress is always met by the cry “Oh, but this is so much more complex than that!”  To which, we, Americans all, now say “Just do it—make it uncomplicated—and be doing it right away!”

With God’s Grace and our iron will to work together toward a common American end, we will succeed!

JOHN DANIEL BEGG
Washington, DC

 

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