A great summary of where we are/how did we get here.
Here is Judge Napolitano’s closing argument yesterday on his FreedomWatch.
Does the government work for us or do we work for the government? Is freedom in America a myth or a reality? Tonight, what if we didn’t live in a free country?
What if the Constitution were written not to limit government, but to expand it? What if the Constitution didn’t fulfill the promise of the Declaration of Independence, but betrayed it? What if the Constitution actually permitted the government to limit and constrict freedom? What if the Bill of Rights was just a paper promise, that the government could avoid whenever it claimed the need to do so? What if the same generation – in some cases the same people – that drafted the U.S. Constitution enacted laws that violated it? What if the merchants and bankers who financed the American Revolution bought their way into the new government and got it to enact laws that stifled their competition? What if the civil war that was fought in the name of freedom actually advanced the cause of tyranny?
What if the federal government were the product of 150 years of stealing power and liberty and property from the people and the states? What if our political elites spent the 20th century importing the socialist ideas of big government Statism from Europe? What if our political class was adopting the European political culture from which our founding fathers fought so hard to break free?
What if our political leaders no longer acknowledged that our rights come from our humanity, but insisted instead that they come from the government? What if you had to produce your papers to get out of or into our once-free country? What if you couldn’t board a plane, a train, or a long-distance bus without providing documentation telling the government who you are and where you’re going, without paying the government, and without risking sexual assault? What if your local police department could shoot down a plane? What if government agents could write their own search warrants, declare their own enemies, and seize whatever property they want? What if the feds could detain you indefinitely, with no visitors, no lawyer, no judge, and no jury? What if they could make you just disappear? What if the government broke its own laws in order to enforce them? What if the government broke down your front door in the middle of the night and shot your dog, and claimed it was a mistake?
What if you were required to purchase a product that you didn’t need, didn’t want, and couldn’t afford, from a company you never heard of, just as a condition of living in the United States? What if the government told you what not to put in your body as well as what to put into it; and how much? What if the government claimed that since it will be paying your medical bills, it can tell you what to eat, when to sleep, and how to live? What if the government tried to cajole and coax and compel you into behaviors and attitudes it considered socially acceptable? What if the government spent your tax money to advertise to you how great the services are that it provides? What if the government kept promising to make you safe while it kept stripping you of your liberties and committing crimes in your name that made you a target of more violence?
What if you didn’t have a right to every dollar you earned? What if the government decided how much of your earnings it will keep and how much it will permit you to have? What if the government took money from you and gave it away to its rich banking and corporate friends whose businesses were failing? What if the government thought it knew better than you did how to lead your life and had no problem telling you so? What if the government took the credit for every success your own human actions helped you achieve? What if the government told you that only it could build roads, run schools, keep you safe, and collect trash even though it’s never been able to do so efficiently before? What if the government spent nearly twice as much as it took in? What if it couldn’t pass a budget on a timely basis and funded itself just weeks at a time? And what if the government kept borrowing money against the wealth of future generations to pay for wasteful programs today?
What if you worked for the government and the government didn’t work for you? What if freedom were a myth? What if we don’t live in a free country? What do we do about it?
From New York, defending freedom; so-long America.
September 30, 2011
When Man Invented Science
by Scott Locklin
Pope Benedict’s trip to Ole Blighty is over, and that sanctimonious gasbag Dawkins didn’t manage to arrest him in the name of secular humanism. While I’m not a believer myself, I often wonder at such professional atheists who cover themselves in the mantle of “science.” Don’t they know any history?
What we refer to today as “science” is something which was invented by humans, rather than springing forth from Jove’s forehead in some ancient time before time. There is a definite date before which there was no science and a date after which there was science. This isn’t controversial or mysterious: We know exactly when it happened, and some of the original manuscripts which invented science and modern thought still exist.
Science was invented in the “High Middle Ages.” This was an era of great prosperity in Europe (and everywhere else, really). It was warmer than it is now: Grapes grew in Northern England. Since Europe was an agricultural economy, this meant much more prosperity than in years previous. During this era, Europe was wealthy enough to fund the Crusades, something we arguably can’t afford today.
The Black Death ended this era. Had this disease not spread to Europe in the 1340s, we might have had a different world. Europe didn’t reach the High Middle Ages’ economic development or population densities again until the Industrial Revolution. Considering that Europe’s economy at the time was agricultural, Europe never really rose to those heights again.
This was a time of knights. It was a time the Vikings’ descendants reached their true potential as civilized people. The pagan Vikings were fierce warriors, but the civilized Christian Normans were unstoppable. This tiny tribe of supermen conquered southern Italy. They conquered Byzantium (with help from the treacherous Venetians). They were the last people to conquer England. They conquered the Holy Land. The other Christian Vikings, the Kievan Rus, founded a prosperous trading state on the Volga, which remains one of the highest forms of Russian civilization (also destroyed by the treacherous Venetians’ connivance). Great conquerors such as El Cid and Gualdim Pais forced the Saracens from Spain and Portugal during this time. The great European universities were founded during this era: Bologna, Coimbra, Paris, Oxford, Salamanca, Cambridge, Montpelier, Padua. The very idea of a university was invented at this time, and it came straight from Roman Catholic monasticism. Venice, Genoa, Kiev, and the Hanseatic League made vast fortunes in international commerce. Musical notation was invented. Windmills, eyeglasses, printing, and improved clocks were all invented around this time, with inventions such as paper, the spinning wheel, and the magnetic compass being introduced from abroad by the great commercial city-states.
“Science was invented to give glory to God by examining his natural laws, not to overthrow him from his throne.”
We have visual evidence of this era’s glory and prosperity in the form of the Gothic cathedrals. Sleepy little towns such as Chartres were so wealthy and had so much free time, they were able to construct these magnificent structures. Think about Chartres Cathedral for a moment. Chartres could not afford to build such a thing today with all of our technology and wealth because it doesn’t have any spirit as it did in those days. In fact, no place in modern Europe has either the artistic spirit to build such a magnificent object or the spiritual will to make something so grand. This is an object which required 75 years to complete. When was the last time a modern culture had the spirit to create something which takes 75 years to construct? Yet, it was built by semi-literate laborers in an agricultural economy, as were dozens of other such things all over Europe at around the same time. One can look at the Gothic cathedrals as the physical crystallization of the heroic spirit which produced science in the same sense that one can look at the Parthenon of Pericles as the physical crystallization of Plato and the Greek philosophers’ spirit.
History’s first scientist was Robert Grosseteste, although his work is little known in popular education today. He was born in 1170 or so to a humble Suffolk family. He found his calling in the Catholic Church, as important a source of social mobility then as the university system is now. It was Grosseteste who formulated the first description of the scientific process. He was the first European in centuries to study Aristotle’s works and the first to study Arab natural philosopher Abu Ibn al-Haytham’s writings. From these thinkers he developed the idea of “composition and resolution,” which is the scientific method in itself. He advocated using mathematics to learn about reality. He also developed the idea of peer review. He built upon the notion that one could learn natural law’s general principles by studying specific examples. He developed the all-important idea of falsification, to separate true from false ideas.
Grosseteste was a deeply moral and pious man. He made sure the common people had proper moral instruction in English and that everyone knew the Lord’s Prayer and the Ten Commandments. He fired all of the clergymen under his authority who led immoral lives and was a passionate advocate for religious instruction in his native tongue of Middle English. We have this idea from the 1800s of a scientist as a sort of deranged Promethean character bent on upsetting the natural order, but Grosseteste was practically saintlike, and he was the first scientist. I think this is why we don’t hear more about these guys. They were not what we expect of scientists from popular culture. They were clerics. They were extremely good and moral clerics; examples to the others in a time where there was no shortage of very bad and immoral clerics. They were not the mad scientists of yore, nor did they cut the antinomian figure of modern charlatans such as Dawkins; they were extremely pious figures. Their study of science was a form of prayer or religious devotion, not a way of rebelling against their societies’ constraints. Science was invented to give glory to God by examining his natural laws, not to overthrow him from his throne.
Roger Bacon could probably be considered the great systematizer of Grosseteste’s work. He put science in the form and words we know now. He used the terms we know today: observation, hypothesis, experimentation, and independent verification. He also detailed many of the ways in which people can fall into error: resort to authority (a particular peeve of mine), custom, cultural opinion, and pretentious blather. Bacon’s the one medieval scholar you’ve likely heard of, and his contributions to human knowledge were many.
Another important early scientist of the era is Albertus Magnus. The Catholics canonized him as St. Albert the Great. He is considered one of only 33 Doctors of the Church; no Promethean he. One of his most important contributions was the idea that experiments were imperfect, so you could be surer of your conclusions if you did multiple tests on different systems to prove a given natural law. He also discovered arsenic, almost invented photography, and wrote books on mineralogy, botany, physiology, metallurgy, zoology, and a host of other topics. Albertus’s intellectual achievements are so numerous, he makes the entire concept of “Renaissance man” ridiculous. We have no thinking men alive today who can compare to Albertus Magnus, and only a few thinkers in human history can be considered as wide-ranging and important to modern thought. Yet most of you have never heard of him.
Other figures from the era: Petrus Peregrinus, a crusader and monk-knight, wrote detailed accounts of his experimentation with magnets. Witelo of Silesia developed perspective optics, which eventually led to the beauties of Western painting. Johannes de Scartobosco made important contributions to mathematics and astronomy that we take for granted today. William of Ockham—yes, the guy who invented Ockham’s razor—made important contributions to logic and physics.
All of these guys were deeply pious. They didn’t come from the rebellious clerics, of whom there were no shortage in that time. They were religious, but not ignorant mystics; they were their era’s most learned men. They were not provincial rubes as we like to portray the religious today: They were greatly inspired by men from other cultures. They were religious men, not rebels against the Church, as is the modern conception of science opposed to religion. They also came from a time of spirit and prosperity of a magnitude the world hasn’t seen since. In my opinion, this was one of the high points of human history, like the time of Pericles.
Modern atheists with no sense of history like to think of the Church and religious people as the forces of darkness, but in reality, the Catholic Church was the birth of the light of reason. Those religious people are the ultimate heroes of reason; without them, no science would have come into being. The High Middle Ages is also an unsung era because modern people don’t like to think of a historical decline having happened so recently. We safely dismiss the Gothic cathedrals’ knightly era as a time of primitive post-Roman rapacious barbarians rather than an era of high culture and achievement. Thinking about this era is painful, as it was the peak before a big decline, the likes of which are only happening now. Europe’s current depopulation is the first one since the end of the High Medieval times. We like to think of history as a story of steady progress from barbarism, and we like to imagine the enemies of progress as all wearing clerical robes, but history is much more complicated. We move forward and we are hurled back by titanic forces, whether disease back then or anomie and apathy today.
In 1863, Lincoln delivered his Gettysburg Address at the dedication of the national cemetery on the Civil War battlefield of Gettysburg, Pa.
We wouldn’t be doing our job if we didn’t include H.L. Mencken’s famous rejoinder:
The Gettysburg speech was at once the shortest and the most famous oration in American history…the highest emotion reduced to a few poetical phrases. Lincoln himself never even remotely approached it. It is genuinely stupendous. But let us not forget that it is poetry, not logic; beauty, not sense. Think of the argument in it. Put it into the cold words of everyday. The doctrine is simply this: that the Union soldiers who died at Gettysburg sacrificed their lives to the cause of self-determination – that government of the people, by the people, for the people, should not perish from the earth. It is difficult to imagine anything more untrue. The Union soldiers in the battle actually fought against self-determination; it was the Confederates who fought for the right of their people to govern themselves.
by Walter E. Williams
Recently by Walter E. Williams: Our Contemptible Congress
One tragedy of war is that its victors write its history and often do so with bias and dishonesty. That’s true about our War of 1861, erroneously called a civil war. Civil wars, by the way, are when two or more parties attempt to take over the central government. Jefferson Davis no more wanted to take over Washington, D.C., than George Washington, in 1776, wanted to take over London. Both wars were wars of independence.
Kevin Sieff, staff writer for The Washington Post, penned an article “Virginia 4th-grade textbook criticized over claims on black Confederate soldiers,” (Oct. 20, 2010). The textbook says that blacks fought on the side of the Confederacy. Sieff claims that “Scholars are nearly unanimous in calling these accounts of black Confederate soldiers a misrepresentation of history.” William & Mary historian Carol Sheriff said, “It is disconcerting that the next generation is being taught history based on an unfounded claim instead of accepted scholarship.” Let’s examine that accepted scholarship.
In April 1861, a Petersburg, Va., newspaper proposed “three cheers for the patriotic free Negroes of Lynchburg” after 70 blacks offered “to act in whatever capacity may be assigned to them” in defense of Virginia. Ex-slave Frederick Douglass observed, “There are at the present moment, many colored men in the Confederate Army doing duty not only as cooks, servants and laborers, but as real soldiers, having muskets on their shoulders and bullets in their pockets, ready to shoot down … and do all that soldiers may do to destroy the Federal government.”
Charles H. Wesley, a distinguished black historian who lived from 1891 to 1987, wrote “The Employment of Negroes as Soldiers in the Confederate Army,” in the Journal of Negro History (1919). He says, “Seventy free blacks enlisted in the Confederate Army in Lynchburg, Virginia. Sixteen companies (1,600) of free men of color marched through Augusta, Georgia on their way to fight in Virginia.”
Wesley cites Horace Greeley’s American Conflict (1866) saying, “For more than two years, Negroes had been extensively employed in belligerent operations by the Confederacy. They had been embodied and drilled as rebel soldiers and had paraded with white troops at a time when this would not have been tolerated in the armies of the Union.”
Wesley goes on to say, “An observer in Charleston at the outbreak of the war noted the preparation for war, and called particular attention to the thousand Negroes who, so far from inclining to insurrections, were grinning from ear to ear at the prospect of shooting the Yankees.”
One would have to be stupid to think that blacks were fighting in order to preserve slavery. What’s untaught in most history classes is that it is relatively recent that we Americans think of ourselves as citizens of United States. For most of our history, we thought of ourselves as citizens of Virginia, citizens of New York and citizens of whatever state in which we resided. Wesley says, “To the majority of the Negroes, as to all the South, the invading armies of the Union seemed to be ruthlessly attacking independent States, invading the beloved homeland and trampling upon all that these men held dear.” Blacks have fought in all of our wars both before and after slavery, in hopes of better treatment afterwards.
Denying the role, and thereby cheapening the memory, of the Confederacy’s slaves and freemen who fought in a failed war of independence is part of the agenda to cover up Abraham Lincoln’s unconstitutional acts to prevent Southern secession. Did states have a right to secede? At the 1787 Constitutional Convention, James Madison rejected a proposal that would allow the federal government to suppress a seceding state. He said, “A Union of the States containing such an ingredient seemed to provide for its own destruction. The use of force against a State would look more like a declaration of war than an infliction of punishment and would probably be considered by the party attacked as a dissolution of all previous compacts by which it might be bound.”
November 2, 2010
Walter E. Williams is the John M. Olin distinguished professor of economics at George Mason University, and a nationally syndicated columnist