By Charlie Johnston
In his influential Revolutionary War pamphlet, “Common Sense,” Thomas Paine argued that it is dangerously stupid to conflate society and government – that they are two very different concepts:
“Society is produced by our wants, and government by our wickedness;” he said, “the former promotes our happiness positively by uniting our affections. The latter negatively by restraining our vices. The one encourages intercourse, the other creates distinctions. The first is a patron, the last a punisher. Society in every state is a blessing, but Government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state an intolerable one…”
This goes a long way to explain why the left has been so desperate to conflate government with society. Society is governed, as it were, by the consensus of those who eagerly, but voluntarily, choose to be part of it. Modern American government is controlled by those who hold official titles, either as elected officials or bureaucrats. It is not a matter of what is best for people, but who controls the whole thing.
The American Revolution was as much a revolution against the very idea of control by a centralized bureaucratic state as it was a specific revolt against a specific country, England. The Americans opted for a very different form of government, one that had never been successfully mounted for more than a decade or two: government by the consent of the governed. The most frequent error in trying to promote self-government was the use of pure democracy – majority always rules. Pure democracy has always been among the most unstable forms of government imaginable, quickly degenerating into a tyranny of the majority. As Benjamin Franklin pithily explained the problem, “Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch.”
The founders also well understood that, whatever their original purpose, all institutions and bureaus ultimately degenerate into battling for their own privilege and supremacy. Thus, those founders were loathe to vest government power in a single source. In fact, one might say they were almost obsessive about decentralizing and dividing power. First, they separated power into theoretically co-equal legislative, executive and judicial branches. They were not naïve: they knew very well that each branch would try to obtain supremacy over the others, but figured by setting up a permanent game of ‘king of the hill’ between the branches it would give ordinary people a fighting chance against any branch seizing permanent plenary power. Between Franklin Roosevelt and Richard Nixon there were growing concerns about the ‘Imperial Presidency’ seizing such power. Whatever the pretensions and partisan flimflam of the Watergate prosecutors, it did put an end, for a while, to the imperial presidency. But with the ruling on Roe v Wade in 1973 came a growing and unaccountable imperial judiciary, increasingly untethered to the Constitution and determined to rule on all matter of social issues by judicial fiat. Ordinary citizens came to think of the Supreme Court as the final word on all things – and that is not what the Constitution says. In cases where actual law is being adjudicated, it is. But when it is making up social policy rather than interpreting the Constitution, it is not. Its rulings are not even technically binding in those situations. There are areas where the Constitution bars the courts from intruding at all – such as with the president’s war-time powers (the legislature can check these and proscribe them if they choose, but not the courts). Yet the courts have jumped into every area of modern life, acting as supreme legislature, executive AND court – and people have gone along with it rather than force a Constitutional confrontation. Up until this year, that had only encouraged the court’s hubris. Insanely, after the court this year chose to enforce actual, enumerated rights and retreat from acting as the national legislature in overturning Roe, ignorant lefties shrieked that the court was seizing power – even as it gave back power it had actually seized generations ago.
The only time I am aware of when the legislature attempted to seize supreme power was during the Civil War, when many of the radical Republicans thought President Abraham Lincoln was too moderate. They failed – but did manage to make Lincoln’s job much tougher. Otherwise, legislators have generally sought to increase their own wealth and perks while trying to shift hard decision-making either to the courts or the executive. For the most part, they’re just along for the ride.
The founders sought to avoid the “tyranny of the majority” by adopting the Bill of Rights, areas upon which no government might encroach at all. Moderns have completely bowdlerized what a right is. A right is what each person holds, under natural law, before there is a government at all. How a government defends those rights is a test of its very legitimacy. Whoever legitimately grants a right may legitimately revoke it. So recognizing rights as given by God – or by nature – puts them beyond the whims of each generation’s transient governing authorities. Or at least it should. By errantly calling every congenial program a “right,” the last few generation’s leaders have been effective in making government seem the source of rights – which makes it easier for that government to intellectually and practically encroach on actual rights.
The founders went much deeper than this, though. Absolutely terrified of the potential rise of centralized power, they limited the federal government only to those powers specifically enumerated in the Constitution, mostly concerning national defense and regulating interstate commerce. All other powers were specifically reserved to the states or the people. Kind of astonishing, isn’t it? With a federal government that has usurped so much authority that states are treated as branch offices of the federal government and people treated like subjects of imperial rulers, we have ventured far from the vision of the founders. It was a vision whose success, in practice, astonished the crowned rulers of Europe, who preferred to govern by authority and imperial decrees…kind of like what America has degenerated into today.
Things began to go seriously sour with President Woodrow Wilson, who regarded the idea of popular sovereignty with utter contempt. He thought the government should be run by “experts” he chose who would dictate what Americans must do. At the same time, we started to unravel the safeguards the founders had enacted to inject stability into the system. America was, theoretically, a federation of sovereign states united into a national government for the purposes of national defense and to adjudicate disputes between states. The House of Representatives was supposed to be an amateur body filled with citizen legislators who would sit for a time and then return to a real job. (Once in Washington I suggested in a caucus that we should not adopt term limits, but instead abolish all pensions and annuities for service in the House. Ha! A lead balloon had a much better chance of rising than that proposal. Everyone in the room except me looked like he had bitten into a lemon doused in ammonia.) The Senate was supposed to be the home of professional legislators who would make a career of it – and the senators would be chosen by the state legislatures to represent their states. That was changed in 1912 to make things “more democratic” and, thus, more volatile. And the slow process of empowering factions while removing the brakes from factionalism began. It chugged along, eating away at the concept of a republic until the great depression and Franklin Roosevelt.
I have mixed emotions about Roosevelt. There is no doubt that, in the first years after his election, he reignited hope for the future in Americans. His actual domestic policies extended the depression for a good 10 years longer than it should have been. He filled people with confidence, but did not have a clue what he was doing economically. But when the winds of war swept through Europe, Roosevelt conceived of the lend-lease program to keep England afloat at a time when Winston Churchill was the only firewall against Hitler and tyranny Europe had. For his many flaws, Roosevelt struck the one truly vital inspiration that was critical to keeping liberty alive in the world. In many ways, Roosevelt and Richard Nixon are mirror images of each other – incompetent domestic leaders who were brilliant geo-political actors. The major difference, of course, is that the press loved Roosevelt and hated Nixon.
Roosevelt dramatically enhanced the notion that all salvation comes from the federal government. Though he did warn, after establishing welfare in 1935, that it must be a stopgap to get through a crisis, not permanent lest it create a permanent dependence that sapped American vitality. His acolytes were not eager to hear that, as they saw that the dependent classes always voted for the people they depended on. It was a great way to centralize power. Interestingly, at the turn of the last century, some members of the English Parliament argued that any citizen who received welfare should have their right to vote suspended until they got off the dole. They reasoned that otherwise, it would be very tempting for a faction to create a permanent class of dependents to harvest their votes. Certainly, this was a milestone in the transformation of America consisting of a free and independent people and, instead, being subjects of a benign national government.
With Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society,” the transformation to dependency was nearly complete. Then began the initially slow transformation of American citizens into subjects of their “betters” in Washington – a transformation largely completed by Barack Obama’s, “I have a pen and a phone” style of renewed imperial executive power. Donald Trump was backlash to that, but the left came unmoored from any semblance of respect for law, rights or citizens during his term. Now we are ruled by naked aspirants to full authoritarianism, with Democratic politicians (and far too many Republicans, as well) demanding that they set the terms for what people can and cannot do or think. The government demands it decide what is truth and what is not – and you can keep your mouth shut about it or lose your job and be cancelled. Astonishingly, the establishment media cheers the government on, imagining that they will be commissars in the new dictatorship. (They should read a little more history: useful idiots who have potential influence that help authoritarians rise to power are the first ones to be exterminated after the authoritarians seize power. It does amuse me that the media nags are likely to be taken to the firing squad before I am if their fevered dreams were to become reality. In a very real way, as I defend my liberty, I am defending their pathetic lives.)
It has always been the case that if Americanism and individual liberty are to be re-established, it must be the people (and individual states) which must reclaim it. We are there.
I have long maintained that all of this decadence and dystopia is being played out in a way in which God is giving us a chance to renew ourselves and the world in fealty to Him. Since making a serious interpretive error regarding divine rescue as an event rather than a process several years back, I have come to think hard about the various stages of that process. First the depth of the rot has to be revealed – which began in 2017 with the ongoing administrative coup attempt mounted by almost all departments of the federal government against Donald Trump. It picked up speed dramatically after the Revelation 12 sign in the sky on Sept. 23, 2017. After that came a flood of revelations of serial sexual dystopia and predation among the ruling class. These revelations force people to choose where they will stand, the first step in forming the cultural battle lines. At first, a timid people desperately wanted a champion – first expecting Donald Trump to be their man on a white horse and now, expecting the Republican Congress that will be elected in November to be their men on a white horse. Not gonna happen. It is the people who must force, first Democrats, and then recalcitrant Republicans, to acknowledge that the people are sovereign, under God. If the battle lines are now well-defined, they are not yet fully formed. There are a host of conservative political leaders and orthodox Christian leaders who know what the good is, but prefer to hedge their bets by compromising with a system that is already crumbling before us.
Now comes what I believe to be the next stage in the renewal of the face and faith of the world. It is a stage where God directly, if opaquely, intervenes in human affairs. I think a lot of the rules have changed – and we will see the results of those changes very quickly. Now comes the time when one of the most dangerous things you can do is “play it safe.”
At the very best of times leaders and prominent people are led by a volatile mix of self-interest, ambition, patriotism and faith. I have often counseled officials and candidates who confided in me that their better natures are sometimes over-ridden by their ambitions that they should not spurn that ambition: it is a useful tool in inspiring action and in weathering the storms that inevitably come in a public life. The key is to never let the tool take command. Unfortunately, when God is wholly abandoned – or just given cynical lip service, all that remains is the quest for power. As the norms instilled by a moral and religious society are steadily eroded, the gambits in that quest for power grow strikingly more bold and immoral. In our increasingly pagan culture, lying, cheating, and stealing have not just gotten to be a more common means of getting ahead, they are publicly celebrated by increasingly ignorant and immoral partisans. I first noticed we had reached this stage with Bill Clinton. Many of his strongest advocates did not dispute that he was a serial prevaricator: they admired the skill with which he pulled it off. When large segments of the general public begin to admire vice more than virtue, collapse is on the horizon. Effectively, for far too long, our leaders have been governed by ambition and self-interest without the leaven of either faith or patriotism. That has filled them with an insatiable hunger for power to fill the hole that the abandonment of faith and patriotism has left in them. Alas, when you try to fill a spiritual vacuum with things, the vacuum only grows in strength and intensity. The search for meaning in life becomes a naked quest for dominance over your fellows – and every success in that endeavor leaves you more bereft of meaning, feeding the irrational hunger rather than the soul.
If I am right, the manipulations, the betrayals, the efforts to play both sides against each other, the efforts to shrink cowardly from the field while calling it diplomacy are rapidly going to start blowing up in the faces of the immoral and amoral practitioners who have used such techniques to advance. I think God is about to increasingly force people to live what they preach. In one way, in what can be either a blessing or a curse depending on your internal disposition, I think He is about to cause people to merit exactly what they sincerely wish or do for others back onto themselves. It is not going to be pretty. For a time, the schemers and manipulators will be utterly baffled as everything that has always worked for them is now become the cause of their undoing. Now the dictum of Acknowledge God, Take the Next Right Step, and Be a Sign of Hope will no longer just be sound spiritual advice – but the only practical advice that allows you to thrive. At CORAC, we are a society founded on faith, family and freedom. It will get very ugly for a time, but be not afraid. This is our time to thrive.
First principles are a big part of how I think. These are those fundamental principles by which a person can ground their analyses consistently. One of the most important of these is that truth will stand the test of examination. Anyone who tries to shut others down rather than undergo that test is immediately dismissed by me as, at best, ignorant and unreliable and, at worst, a lying schemer. Obviously, in modern culture, there are precious few voices I pay attention to.
For millennia, governments and institutions sought to be the arbiter of what is truth and what is misinformation. The original Americans had a better idea: let every opinion contest openly for predominance and the people would, generally figure it out. It worked beautifully for a good long time. But now the left wants to go back to the bad old days where, instead of persuading people in the marketplace of ideas, they attempt to silence any dissent from their (usually ignorant) decrees. All of you know what contempt I have for that, but I doubt any of you know what smoking contempt and revulsion I truly have for it and all of cancel culture.
As irritated as I get at all the political and media lightweights playing at enlightenment, I find myself feeling a bit sorry for them from time to time these days. For decades they have been pretending to intellectual superiority with repulsive smugness. Now, for a year and half, they have gotten their way almost in toto – and everything is falling apart. As I said recently, leftists do not think intelligence and acuity is the result of hard work, long study and careful analysis. They think it is an intrinsic quality of their make-up, like their hair or eye color. They have been calling all who dispute them rubes for so long that it must be utterly terrifying to them to see the disastrous results of their policies in action. I wonder how many, alone at night, wonder with horror if, perhaps, they have been the rubes all along. What a revolting development for them. But if some few get off their high horse, they may actually be able to have a life of meaning. A hard lesson in the wages of hubris.
I have come to think I am, sometimes being shadow-banned on Facebook and Twitter. My podcast interview with David Daleiden has been getting about a tenth of the engagement I usually get on those sites. It has been normal on Gab, but Gab is where I normally get the least engagement. I am going to put it up again on both those sites next week, but tout it as “The future of Abortion” instead of mentioning David by name.
The venue for my talk in the San Francisco area next Thursday has been changed. It will be at the Chez Nous Café, 2159 Roosevelt Ave., Redwood City, CA 94061. Doors will open at 5:30 p.m. Come on out and let’s celebrate that the times are beginning to change.
If communication goes out for any length of time, meet outside your local Church at 9 a.m. on Saturday mornings. Tell friends at Church now in case you can’t then. CORAC teams will be out looking for people to gather in and work with.
Find me on Gab at Charliej373 or at the CORAC group.
Find me on Twitter at @Charlie62394802
The Corps of Renewal and Charity (CORAC)
18208 Preston Rd., Ste. D9-552
Dallas, Texas 75252