Get FREE NRO Newsletters

 

Dennis Prager

Still the Only Solution to the World’s Problems
The Decalogue is as relevant today as it was 3,000 years ago.

There is only one solution to the world’s problems, only one prescription for producing a near-heaven on earth.

It is 3,000 years old.

And it is known as the Ten Commandments.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

ADVERTISEMENT

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Properly understood and applied, the Ten Commandments are really all humanity needs to make a beautiful world. While modern men and women, in their hubris, believe that they can and must come up with new ideas in order to make a good world, the truth is there is almost nothing new to say.

If people and countries lived by the Ten Commandments, all the great moral problems would disappear.

Or, to put it another way, all the great evils involve the violation of one or more of the Ten Commandments.

Here is the case in brief for the Ten Commandments (using the Jewish enumeration which slightly differs from the Protestant and Catholic):

1. I am the Lord your God

There are moral atheists, and there are immoral believers, but there is no chance for a good world based on atheism. Ultimately, a godless and religion-less society depends on people’s hearts to determine right from wrong, and that is a very weak foundation. Plenty of people have died in history in the name of God. But far more have been killed, tortured, and deprived of liberty in the name of humanity and progress or some other post-Judeo-Christian value. Religion gave us an Inquisition and gives us suicide terrorists, but the death of God gave us Nazism and Communism which, in one century alone, slaughtered more than 100 million people. All the founders of the United States — yes, all — knew that a free society can survive only if its citizens believe themselves to be morally accountable to God.

2. Do not have other gods.

The worship of false gods leads to evil. When anything but the God of creation and morality is worshiped, moral chaos ensues. No one is godless. Either people worship God or they worship other gods — nature, intelligence, art, education, beauty, the environment, Mother Earth, power, fame, pleasure, the state, the fuhrer, the party, progress, humanity. The list is almost endless. And no matter how noble (false gods are often noble), when they become ends in themselves, they lead to evil.

3. Do not take God’s name in vain.

People have misinterpreted this commandment. They think it prohibits saying something like, “Oh, my God, what a home run!” The Hebrew literally means “do not carry” the name of the Lord in vain. In other words, we are forbidden from doing evil in God’s name. Only when thus understood does the rest of the Commandment make sense — that God will not “cleanse” (i. e, forgive) the person who does this. Thus, the Islamist who slits an innocent’s throat while shouting “Allahu Akbar” is the perfect example of the individual who carries God’s name in vain and who cannot be forgiven. These people not only murder their victims, they murder God’s name. For that reason, they do more evil than the atheist who murders.

4. Keep the Sabbath day and make it holy.

Leaving the world one day a week and elevating it above the others is the greatest vehicle to family harmony and to harmony with friends. One day a week without video games, without parents leaving to go to work or to do their own thing on the computer forces parents and children to spend time together and to actually talk. It even encourages couples to make love. It also weakens the institution of slavery. If even your servants get a day off because God commands it, that means you do not have absolute control over them.

5. Honor your father and mother.

The first thing every totalitarian and authoritarian movement does is try to undermine parental authority. That is why it is dangerous even in a democracy. Take our universities, for example. Woodrow Wilson, the first progressive president, said that “the use of the university is to make young men as unlike their fathers as possible.” And that is exactly what colleges have been doing for over half a century. Instead of searching for truth and beauty, the universities have been alienating American youth from their fathers’ — and the Founding Fathers’ — values.

1   |   2   |   Next >

COMMENTS   139

EXPAND  

 SORT  
 
: 08/28/11 10:40

Mr. Prager fabricates factoids to bolster his extraordinarily lame argument. For example, he said: "Plenty of people have died in history in the name of God. But far more have been killed, tortured, and deprived of liberty in the name of humanity and progress....but the death of God gave us Nazism and Communism". Really?! Extraordinary claims like this require some evidence and apparently Prager is okay with insulting the intelligence of his readers and listeners. Secondly, Nazism and Stalinist Russia were state religions that borrowed the same unquestioned totalitarian structure celebrated in Christianity. Like Yahweh, Stalin and Hitler were also thought to be infallible powerful beings. Thirdly, when Nazi soldiers gassed families, tortured children, and massacred millions of Jews they did so while wearing polished belt buckles that were part of the Nazi uniform with the words "Gott mit uns" which translates to "GOD WITH US".

Reply to this commentLinkReport Abuse
: 08/20/11 19:25

Seems to me that if we dispensed with the Ten Commandments, or any other commandments, and also dispensed with any religious concepts (including the concept that humans are in any way different from (say) brown rats, then all the world's problem would also be solved.

We would live by tooth and claw according to survival of the fittest, in a soulless chaotic void.

There being no moraily, nothing would be immoral. There being no reason why the less fit should not starve to death, there would be no depressions. There being no reason why some should not exterminate others, there would be no difference between just and unjust war.

In the end, either humans would exterminate all other humans, or not. If so, life would go on with other critters. If not, then clearly morality makes no difference.

It's all good.

Really, I cannot tell the difference between that and free-market economics. And I cannot tell the difference between dispensing with the Ten Commandments, and the de-regulation of business to supposedly create more jobs.

Reply to this commentLinkReport Abuse
: 08/19/11 16:03

Thanks for this column.

You don't have to be a religious person to believe in the ten commandments. They are part of the natural law, which anyone can discover by making the effort.

The hard part is living them, even when you want to!

Reply to this commentLinkReport Abuse
: 08/19/11 14:03

Come on, Chrisboltssr, neither of us is saying spending's not a problem.

The point we're both making is that all that garbage about the financial crisis being a Freddie/Fannie thing is just that -- garbage.

We know the cause, and we know that the Right doesn't want to admit the cause. Yet another truth that gets challenged because it doesn't fit the Right's ideology.

You get to have your own opinion, but not your own facts. Fannie and Freddie came late to the game, they didn't buy most of the mortgages, and the mortgages they did buy performed lots better than the garbage that the private sector sliced and diced.

Reply to this commentLinkReport Abuse
: 08/19/11 13:49

Wow, just wow. It seems that both blsdaniel and MikeB will have us believe that the problem we have with the country is a mythical "shadow banking system" that no one knows about and not rely on what is in front of them. And then we have to believe that spending is not our problem.

"What I am saying (and what rightlibertarian has agreed with) is that the spending is not what got us in the bad position to which we are now in. Can you see the difference?"

No, it's you that can't see the difference. I asked you a simple question: Which is preferable, to have $14 trillion in savings or $14 trillion in debt? You failed to answer that question or didn't want to. Then you go and say that we need to raise the debt ceiling to address our spending deficit. Of course, the debt ceiling was raised and the markets still reacted negatively. Now, do you honestly think this would happen IF we actually began to address spending?

Also, please understand that even the Obama administration is cutting spending around the edges.

You don't realize that the argument you are making to try and justify your position is incoherent. It sounds like you have gone to the Obama school of Economics: It's everyone else's fault except my own.

Reply to this commentLinkReport Abuse
: 08/19/11 15:21

Chris,

YOU: It seems that both blsdaniel and MikeB will have us believe that the problem we have with the country is a mythical "shadow banking system" that no one knows about and not rely on what is in front of them.

ME: So are you saying that there was no shadow banking industry (or at least that we can't be sure there was one), or are you saying that there was one but it didn't issue much of the subprime loans, or are you saying that subprime loans weren't a major part of our current problem.

YOU: And then we have to believe that spending is not our problem.

ME: I've no problem with the idea that we have a spending problem and need to slow the growth rate of Medicare (and Medicaid, S-CHIP, etc.). I don't think, however, that high spending is what's causing our current problems of low demand, high unemployment, financial distress, over-leveraged consumers, etc. THAT is the differnce I see. What's the difference you see?

YOU: I asked you a simple question: Which is preferable, to have $14 trillion in savings or $14 trillion in debt? You failed to answer that question or didn't want to.

ME: I interpreted your question to be based on the premise that I thought there was no spending problem. As there is not true, I didn't answer it. But, if you really want it answered, my answer is the obvious one: all other things held constant, surplus is generally better than debt (though I'm not sure the US government sitting on 14 trillion indefinitely would be what we want either).

YOU: Then you go and say that we need to raise the debt ceiling to address our spending deficit. Of course, the debt ceiling was raised and the markets still reacted negatively. Now, do you honestly think this would happen IF we actually began to address spending?

ME: If by "address spending" you mean "not raise the debt ceiling and therefore have to balance the budget all at once this year", then I think that the economic carnage would have made what did happen look like a walk in the park. You don't take that kind of meat cleaver to the economy all at once when you are running a 9%+ rate of unemployment. Once agin, see: 1938.

Beyond that, even if you mean something milder, the market crash seems to have been locked in at that point. Much of it is driven by worries about what is going to happen in Europe, and that is generally not a function of what we do with our budget. I guess, if you mean something like "do the big 4 trillion doallar deal with mostly spending cuts but some tax increases, tax expenditure elimination (bye bye home mortgage deduction, etc.), lower marginal rates, etc., THEN you would have seen less carnage, as the rating drop wouldn't have happened. But still, most of the this late storm blew in from Europe.

YOU: Also, please understand that even the Obama administration is cutting spending around the edges.

ME: I assure you, as a federal employee, it was understood a while ago.

YOU: It sounds like you have gone to the Obama school of Economics: It's everyone else's fault except my own.

ME: No, the school of economics I got my master's degree from was the University of Colorado, Boulder. So, not Ivy League, but still very much a salt water school. Hardly Obama U.

Still, many of the actions that have put us this far in debt DID happen before Obama, at times when Republicans ruled both houses (though not with a fillibuster-proof margin in the Senate) and had the Oval Office in their power as well. Obama has done no small amount of new spending as well, but the lion's share is from the Republican side of things, or simply due to the falloff in revenue from the recession.

Well, if that doesn't set a record for longest post, I don't know what will ;-)

Reply to this commentLinkReport Abuse
: 08/19/11 10:59

Wow, Lawrence. Selfishness is one thing, but pure malevolence?

Ok, sorry to waste your time.

Reply to this commentLinkReport Abuse
: 08/19/11 10:36

MikeB, I notice that you apply your inquisitive skepticism only to the issue of one's rights, but never to the issue of government coercion. The despotic impulse runs through the heart of every man, but you not only refuse to suppress that impulse, you denigrate as selfish those who do.

I notice all this only in passing. There are diminishing returns in talking with you, the returns weren't ever that high to begin with, and they're now far below the costs of time and effort.

Reply to this commentLinkReport Abuse
: 08/19/11 09:48

Blsdaniel, I can answer Chrisboltssr for you:

Because for every bad mortgage encouraged by poor housing policy, there were many more encouraged by "the system" of mortgage brokers, banks lending with the intent of selling their mortgages into the non-Fannie/Freddie securitization market, a very vigorous securitization industry, an enormous institutional appetite for high-yield investments represented by the RMBS, rating agencies willing to be pushed into rating slop sink grease as filet mignon for fees, and lots of investors who either couldn't read prospectuses very well (e.g., Germans) or wanted to (e.g., financial industry hacks) but could point to a rating as a seal of approval.

It's just a numbers thing. Check the stats in the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission report.

Reply to this commentLinkReport Abuse
: 08/19/11 09:39

Lawrence, it seems to me that the first part of your post is about the hunger for power. I have an idea about what I think that means. What do you think it means, how do you think it plays in a powerful person's daily life? Take a really venal guy like Nixon. What do you think "got him off," so to speak? How about Pope Benedict XVI or John Paul II? What do you think they thing about when they go to bed at night?

That sort of bleeds into your second part. Frankly, you got me thinking and googling (thanks!). How does one alienate an inalienable right? What's an inalienable right? Are there inalienable rights?

This is going to sound silly but:

1. Do I have the inalienable right not to be killed by a tree falling in the forest while walking alone there?

2. Do I have the inalienable right to raise and lower my hand every five seconds while walking alone through the forest?

3. Do I have the inalienable right to do so in a crowded classroom?

4. Do I have the right to waive my right to do so forever? How about your right too?

5. Do I am a majority of us have the right to waive our right to do so forever? How about your right too?

Right now the answers aren't all that clear. Philosophers differ, apparently! Particularly Bentham and Locke.

Reply to this commentLinkReport Abuse
: 08/19/11 09:25

blsdaniel, I don't think I called you crazy in my response to you, but I will call you crazy after I read this from you:

"If you want to blame spending, blame private spending (people borrowed too much for houses, took too many equity loans, ran credit cards too high, etc.)"

Forget that there was a Fannie and Freddie and a policy pushed by the government to force banks to lower lending standards. How exactly, in the aggregate, can private spending ever amount to something that would put the economy in danger? The key word there is "aggregate". I don't use that word lightly, because the underlying theory will point out the foolishness of your argument.

Also, it's rather sad that you keep pushing this meme that somehow spending is not our problem so let me pose these questions to you. 1) Is it better to have $14 trillion in savings or $14 trillion in debt? and 2) Which is a better long-term risk, Google or GM? If you answer those questions honestly then you should see that your position that spending is not the problem is even more foolish than your position that private spending is somehow the blame for or malaise.

Reply to this commentLinkReport Abuse
: 08/19/11 10:10

chrisboltssr,

For every dollar lent by Fannie and Freddie, there was a private actor borrowing, but the reverse can't be said. Many borrowed without Freddie or Fannie being involved. They didn't run the shadow banking sector, who made many of the subprime loans. Nor did Freddie and Fannie account for all the of home equity loans that got made against equity that has now vanished.

I guess you're just going to have to spell out your theory of aggregate spending that precludes bubbles and panics, because that's what we just lived through.

Finally, it is your reading comprehension that is sad, not my claiming that we don't have a spending problem, because...I never said we don't have a spending problem. Quite the opposite. In conversing with rightlibertarian, my response to whose post you have now been responding to, I said, "yes, we do have a spending problem." Just look about nine comments down from your last post (i.e, the one to which I am now responding).

What I am saying (and what rightlibertarian has agreed with) is that the spending is not what got us in the bad position to which we are now in. Can you see the difference?

There was a weakening economy. The expansion was already getting old (at 73 months, it was the fift longest expansion since 1854 and third longest peacetime expansion).

There was a housing bubble. Yes, Fannie and Freddie helped cause this (and, no, the Community Reinvestment Act was NOT a big player, in case anyone was wondering). But the lion's share of blame here goes to the shadow banking system, which wrote most of the subprime loans, the people to took out said loans, and the rating agencies, which boffed on their respobsibility of accurately rating the MBSs that the loans got bundled into. OK, the Fed didn't have to keep interest rates so low for so long.

There was a financial crisis.

And now Europe is looking to go supernova on us. (If you want to say that over spending was the cause of Greece's problems, go ahead. It was. But it's a lot harder to say that of places like Spain and Ireland.)

Those are the major players in our current economic plunge. Not our over-spending. An anyone idiotic enough to call for not raising the debt limit (and I'm not saying that this is you, chris) seriously needs to look at what happened in 1938, the last time we were dumb enough to try to balance a budget in the middle of balance sheet downturn: we had a double dip.

Hope that clears things up. If you're saying we have a spending problem, fine. But if you're saying that that was the CAUSE of our current recession/depression, not so much.

Reply to this commentLinkReport Abuse
: 08/19/11 09:24

Sorry, ProudDuck, not sure I understand.

I'll take as a given your assumption re setting to zero the benefits of cronyism (yes, we can discuss that too). What did you mean by conservative practictioners of public entity law? Government contracts lawyers and the like? Legislators?

Reply to this commentLinkReport Abuse
: 08/19/11 08:11

MikeB, who is more power hungry? The person who wants to regulate his own life, or the person who wants to regulate everyone else's lives? How else does the liberal fight selfishness except by accumlating power -- that is, by depriving other individuals of their right to act in a manner that this busybody megalomaniac considers selfish?

(You say you suffer by paying higher taxes, too, but you benefit by imposing your will on others.)

In dragging other people "kicking and screaming" to give ('til it hurts) to bring about THE LIBERAL'S vision of the Good Life rather their own, the liberal ceases to treat his fellow man as his neighbor. He begins to see him as a resource to exploit or subject to control, even for that subject's own benefit.

That you cannot grasp just how tyrannical your instincts are is reason enough that people like you should never be given political power over others.

--

About God's law, I agree that we are to live by faith in God's grace, not by asserting our own rights OR EVEN deluding ourselves into thinking we can possibly conform to His law on our own.

And I agree that the focus should be on our moral obligations rather than our rights, but one can put that another way. One can say that our focus should be on OTHERS' rights rather than on our own -- on God's right to be worshipped on His own terms, on others' right to life and to property, on others' right not to be treated as a mere object, and (in our relationships) the other person's right to our loyalty and fidelity.

Nothing that you've written -- NOTHING -- undermines the central premise I stated at the very beginning, that one's moral obligation entails someone else's right.

There two sides of the same coin, and I hope I'm not being too clever by half in my wondering whether there's a reason a statist like you wants to discount ENTIRELY a person's God-given rights and focus entirely on his obligations.

If you focus on a person's obligations to care for everything and everybody else, you can always justify one more tax and one more regulation.

But if you acknowledge that person's rights to property and self-determination, you might actually have to constrain your lust for power over him, and we can't have that.

Reply to this commentLinkReport Abuse
: 08/18/11 20:25

"I am talking about liberal policymakers. They are acting against their own self-interest because they're generally pretty well off."

If you appraise at zero the value to their class of expanded government -- with all its opportunities to trade favors and go on to, say, become the head of Fannie Mae despite having no discernable talent whatsoever *cough Jamie Gorelick cough*, as well as the value of buying Paul's vote with benefits paid for with Peter's money, then yes, they're acting at least somewhat against their own interest...just as a conservative practitioner of public-entity law might be seen as acting against his own self-interest by advocating a smaller administrative state.

But if "charity" comes to be defined by who can bid to throw more public money at the needy (who are always with us even if we have to redefine poverty seriously upwards to keep their numbers up), then the loser is always going to be the guy who allows other virtuous considerations, such as prudence and justice (which includes the concept of consensual government) to come into play.

Reply to this commentLinkReport Abuse
: 08/18/11 17:36

The Ten Commandments, how do we enforce them? Stoning or blood sacrifice? I say let the Muslims and Jews fight with each other and see who can be the most cruel to each other while hypocritically not following their own laws. Mr. Prager, the only way out of our current mess is for people to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ. His New Commands were love the LORD your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and your neighbor as yourself. Christians are supposed to love one another as the Lord loved them. Peace to all that find Christ.

Reply to this commentLinkReport Abuse
: 08/18/11 17:16

Lawrence: Look at what you're saying in the first part of your post. Your tapping into power hunger, as though that doesn't play equally in both parties. And you can't get around the idea that, when a liberal taxes himself and his brethren to do something, he's doing something for his own benefit at your expense, as opposed to doing something at his own expense and dragging you along kicking and screaming.

As to the second part -- sorry, but I view God as imposing obligations. Our task in life is to discern His will and to do it. Rights, demands, privileges -- I don't think the focus should be on those when we're thinking about His will. I think we live by His grace, not because we can say to God, "Hey -- we have these rights -- you said so!" The only covenant I know about is that God won't annihilate us all and send us to Hell if we acknowledge Him.

Reply to this commentLinkReport Abuse
: 08/18/11 16:53

MikeB, you suggest, "consider what benefit I get in others -- not me, others -- living out his or her vision of the Good Life, as you put it."

You miss my point: conservatives affirm the individual's right to live out "his or her" vision of the good life, a liberal believes in requiring the individual to live out THE LIBERAL'S vision of the good life. Even if the liberal is willing to pay more in taxes, his agenda is self-centered because it enforces his own plans down other people's throats.

"Human nature is human nature. There's selfishness, period. Liberals tend to be incrementally more disposed to fight it. Conservatives tend to be incrementally more disposed to claiming that channeling it it produces better results than fighting it."

In other words, human nature cannot be transcended, but the Left transcends it better than others. How self-aggrandizing, never mind that the Left "fights" selfishness by trying to accumulate more political power for themselves.

--

About rights, earlier you scoffed at the notion that people have the right to fidelity from their spouses.

I asked, "is the humor in the idea that moral law comes from God and isn't merely worked out by human society?"

Apparently so. You insist, "Your 'right' is not a right but an agreed-upon contract term. My obligation is, on the other hand, a direct order from The Guy In The Sky."

Do you believe in any objective rights given by God? If so, can you list any that do NOT correspond to a moral obligation placed upon others?

At the most fundamental level, doesn't a right for one person correspond to a moral obligation that others not infringe upon that right?

Reply to this commentLinkReport Abuse
: 08/18/11 16:45

ProudDuck, Who Really Cares is based to a large extent on comparing zip codes with tax return data. Not a very compelling book, as others have noted.

I can't remember if I said this in another post, but I think when you think of liberals, you think of the objects of liberals' charitable inclination, not the liberals themselves. I am talking about liberal policymakers. They are acting against their own self-interest because they're generally pretty well off.

The idea of restoring the 39.6% marginal rate is not something being pushed by welfare moms.

Reply to this commentLinkReport Abuse
: 08/18/11 15:47

"There's selfishness, period. Liberals tend to be incrementally more disposed to fight it."

If liberals gave as much of their own money to charity (secular as well as religious), or of their own blood, or volunteered more, or etc., etc., etc., as conservatives, this argument might have some merit.

To paraphrase George C. Scott in "Patton," no liberal ever salved his conscience by sacrificing for the common good. He did it by making the other poor dumb buzzard sacrifice for the common good.

Yes, it's a stereotype, but stereotypes are basically statistics with a squint. There is nothing selfless about another person telling me to do for others what he is not willing to do, and nothing selfless about me resisting being compelled to dedicate more of my resources to serving others than I judge to be my moral duty.

Maybe left-liberalism doesn't so much "fight" selfishness, as try and run right over it. After all, when you take a man's wealth by force, presumably, he doesn't become selfless. He's still the same old selfish coot you had to coerce, and now he's probably registered the cardinal sin of wrath, to boot.

Western civilization has been engaged for half a century in a great experiment in "fighting selfishness" through government redistribution. I'd be interested in hearing the case made that we, as a group, have gotten any less personally selfish as a result.

Reply to this commentLinkReport Abuse
: 08/18/11 14:32

I don't think the Bible isn't credible because it is old, although pretty much everything that's as old as the Old Testament isn't really credible in terms of historical fact. I think it's not credible for plenty of other reasons - it's just too fantastical for me. It's fun to laugh at the Mormons believe that the Native Americans are descended from the Hebrews, but immaculate conception or a world created in seven days (yeah yeah, the days didn't have to be 24 hour days, iv heard it all before) isn't any less ridiculous. Or at least not by much.

What do you think makes Christianity a more credible religion than say, Judaism or Islam?

And so much of it is just fundamentally unjust - like people not being able to get into heaven if they died before Christ was born. Or if they're from an area where there's no Christianity.

As for intelligent design:
External Link 

I'll read the Lewis piece later. As for us needing you guys to win elections, if you truly shared our beliefs, you'd vote for us anyway. My problem with the Religious Right is that much of its beliefs seem to be rooted in intolerance of other beliefs, lifestyles, and even genetics. I'm not particularly in favor of gay marriage, but why on Earth would anyone obsess over it? Like a recent sign said: "If you don't like gay marriage, don't get gay married."

And blsdaniel, I agree that we should take a 10:1 deal. But the basic point that we have a spending problem, not a tax rate problem, ought to be acknowledged.

Reply to this commentLinkReport Abuse
: 08/18/11 15:19

rightlibertarian,

yes, we have a spending problem. We also have an economy-in-the-crapper problem (and though I think you and I are on the same page on this, I'll say it for others to hear: no, the spending isn't what sent the economy into the crapper in the first place).

I think that we had better make some sort of initial payment on our Medicare problem, but we also need to realize that any attempt to balance this moment (as those who advocated not raising the debt ceiling at all and just "living within our means" called for) is insane. The two problems must be dealt with in light of each other.

Given my druthers, I'd tell IPAB to go crazy on Medicare to bring its rate of cost growth back under control in the medium term, BUT also tell the states that if they want to do their own Medicare program and just get the money from DC that they would have gotten had they stayed in, that's fine.

Then do tax reform to end the tax expenditures (e.g., home mortgage deduction, employee benefit deductions, state tax deduction, etc.) and lower marginal rates according, while retaining the old level of progressivity.

After a few years, let the taxes go back to the Clinton levels (or rather what they would have been without tax expenditures), if necessary.

If we do all that, the rest (if any) of the needed balancing can be done with spending cuts and restraints over time.

Reply to this commentLinkReport Abuse
: 08/18/11 11:56

Lawrence, not so as to both your assertions.

Consider that my breach of an obligation leads to no enforceable remedy on your part absent a social compact. We agree on remedies because -- well, we agree. Your "right" is not a right but an agreed-upon contract term. My obligation is, on the other hand, a direct order from The Guy In The Sky.

As to what you find at the bedrock of conservative political philosophy, consider what benefit I get in others -- not me, others -- living out his or her vision of the Good Life, as you put it. Is that your definition of self-service, the psychic benefit I get knowing I am doing God's Work by coughing up my own cash for the sake of others? Because I don't get the impression that conservatives are thinking, "I love reducing taxes, because, in spite of the harm it does to me, money being the root of all evil and such, it allows others to exclaim: 'How free I am! independent, autonomous, responsible!' And in that regard, I am fulfilling the Golden Rule, because I crtainly would want to exclaim such things."

Human nature is human nature. There's selfishness, period. Liberals tend to be incrementally more disposed to fight it. Conservatives tend to be incrementally more disposed to claiming that channeling it it produces better results than fighting it.

Reply to this commentLinkReport Abuse
: 08/18/11 08:52

MikeB:

One should *CERTAINLY* focus on your obligations rather than your rights. To put it another way, one should focus on others' rights rather than your own. It's clear from Christ's own teachings that our lives should be marked by a spirit of selfless service rather than a sense of selfish entitlement.

For instance, a person should look at Paul's instructions for husbands and wives and think, "How can I do better?" He shouldn't ever indulge the temptation to lord Paul's teachings over his spouse.

All that said, my point still stands: a command TO YOU entails a right FOR SOMEONE ELSE.

"No other gods" and "no graven images" entails God's right to our worship on His terms.

The commands not to covet or lust entail the right of others not to be objectified.

A lot of these rights are not, cannot be, and should not be enforced by the state, but I still see no problem recognizing these rights.

--

You write that, fundamentally, conservatives "prefer the self to others."

That's not true, and it's not fair. We prefer the individual to the state, and that includes the rights of OTHER individuals to pursue their own happiness.

(One should always remember that opposition to some government program that ostensibly benefits some particular group is *NOT* the same as indifference toward that group. If caring for something entails support for a government program, then we'll have an all-encompassing state in very short order.)

If anyone is fundamentally self-centered, is it not the person who desires to impose his view and values on others through the coercive power of the state? The instinct to use taxes, fines, and regulations so that everyone lives out one's own view of the Good Life is found more prominently on the Left.

Reply to this commentLinkReport Abuse
: 08/18/11 08:34

Rightlibertarian, there actually is good evidence for the central claim of Christianity, the resurrection of Jesus -- an event that is NOT "metaphysically impossible." Metaphysics does not dictate that the laws of physics are absolutely immutable, even by the source of those laws.

Though I believe its claims about its own authority and ultimate authorship are credible, the Bible shouldn't be heeded simply because it is ancient. What I'm warning against is the idea that it should be rejected because it is ancient -- that "old" entails "outdated." *THAT* is a fundamentally unconservative disposition.

And, you miss my point: while Jesus DID command personal non-retaliation -- and that teaching does sometimes require a literal application of the command to turn the other cheek or relent to a lawsuit -- Jesus did *NOT* teach pacifism as a political philosophy. His teachings don't have a lot of direct political application, and I cited the Sermon on the Mount to point out that, if He required the state to be pacifistic, Jesus ALSO required a practical anarchism where the state couldn't arrest, prosecute, and imprison even violent criminals. "Jesus is an anarchist" has its own problems, but it's a more complete application of His teachings than your position, "Jesus is a pacifist."

("Jesus is a pacifist" is not only wrong in applying His teachings to the state, it's wrong because it does so inconsistently and incompletely. If THE STATE must turn the other cheek, then THE STATE must also relent to lawsuits against it.)

I honestly think conservative Christians do a lot to counteract the excesses of some libertarians -- e.g., their antagonism to tradition -- and there are PLENTY of Christians who are fiscal libertarians, who balk at the so-called "compassionate conservatism" of Bush and other big-government social conservatives. As for the "Religious Right" being the worst thing to happen to the conservative movement, I'll simply note that electoral success would have been (and probably still is) impossible without us, but that fact only moves those who do not believe that philosophical purity is better than being politically effective.

Finally, it's a subject that would require some space, so I recommend you read C.S. Lewis' essay "On Obstinacy in Belief." I believe he tackles precisely the point that you think is so devastating to the rationality of religious devotion.

Reply to this commentLinkReport Abuse
: 08/18/11 01:05

blsDaniel, government spending as a percentage of GDP is at an all time high. And we're not even getting our money's worth! Raising taxes takes more money out of private investment, and thereby harms job creation. The Bush tax cuts mostly affected the middle class. They cost about $3.8 trillion over ten years; discontinuing them for the wealthy would only save $0.8 trillion of that. And do you really want to raise the taxes on the middle class in times like this?

And federal spending, due mostly to entitlements, is set to absolutely explode later this decade.

Your point, that federal spending isn't the main causes, or even a significant cause, for the unemployment rate, is probably right, but it's still a huge problem, and I would argue that burdensome federal regulations do prevent new jobs from being created. And there is truth to the fact that Obamacare also hurts job creations.

Reply to this commentLinkReport Abuse
: 08/18/11 10:40

rightlibertarian,

YOU: blsDaniel, government spending as a percentage of GDP is at an all time high.

ME: yes, but that is a mix of spending being high and gdp being low...if you look at how things would have been had GDP kept growing at its prior level, meaning the automatic stabalizers like food stamps and unemployment benefits would not have had to kick in and revenue would not have shrunk so much, this wouldn't have been nearly so bad. So blaming all on spending misses a lot of the picture.

YOU: Raising taxes takes more money out of private investment, and thereby harms job creation. The Bush tax cuts mostly affected the middle class. They cost about $3.8 trillion over ten years; discontinuing them for the wealthy would only save $0.8 trillion of that. And do you really want to raise the taxes on the middle class in times like this?

ME: Who said anything about raising taxes? However, while you're raising the topic, let's talk about how the Republican candidates were all asked at the last debate if they would take a deal where the deficit was lowered via 10% new taxes and 90% spending cuts. Not one of them said they would take that deal. Not one. This "It's my way or the high way is NOT going to serve the US well."

YOU: And federal spending, due mostly to entitlements, is set to absolutely explode later this decade.

ME: Yes they are. And if there's a plan in the offing where 90% of this is paid for via spending cuts on those entitlements and only 10% has to be covered via new taxes, that's a deal we'd better take!

YOU: Your point, that federal spending isn't the main causes, or even a significant cause, for the unemployment rate, is probably right...

ME: Fair enough. That spending was the cause of our problems was what you sounded like you were saying and what I was responding to.

YOU: ...but it's still a huge problem, and I would argue that burdensome federal regulations do prevent new jobs from being created. And there is truth to the fact that Obamacare also hurts job creations.

ME: Yes, it's a problem. Yes, some regulations are stupid and should go (CAFE standards and the rules against drilling in ANWAR come to mind), and, yes, probably somewhere there will be at least one job (and likely more) that will be killed by Obamacare. (That doesn't mean that Obamacare was necessarily a mistake...my personal decision on that will depend on how things unfold from here). On all of that, we can agree.

Reply to this commentLinkReport Abuse
: 08/18/11 00:59

Chris, look at Lawrence's post about Jesus teaching not to resist evildoers. "Turn the other cheek" is a direct quote from the Bible. So is the one about if someone sues you, give them twice what they ask.

Your question about what good has been done in the name of atheism is absurd and unfair, so I'll change it around to actually be meaningful: "What good things have been done for non-religious values?"

Well, how about the invention of the light bulb, the invention of democracy, the invention of the car, Shakespeare, Gone With the Wind, the defeat of the Nazis and the Japanese in World War II. Now, what evil has been done in the name of atheism? Exactly. That's why your original question is ridiculous. What evil has been done in the name of non-religious beliefs? Plenty.

There's no such thing as "blind deference" to atheism. Atheism is based on reason. It is based on an examination of metaphysics. It has no mandates or dictates. it has no political or moral views. You can't blindly defer to it. Are you even thinking about what you're saying?

The Religious Right took the emphasis of conservatism from fiscal and role of government issues and applied it to making government bigger, when it comes to doing things social conservatives want it do. Andy McCarthy made an astute observation, that when you watch GOP candidates debate social issues, it's like listening to Democrats - they think that whatever they don't like ought to be illegal. The Religious Right wants the government to tell you what you can do in your bedroom. Guess what? Homosexuality is OLDER than MONOTHEISM itself. It's hear to stay. Live with it, and try being a little more tolerant.

I actually am tolerant of Christians. Religious beliefs don't offend me nearly as much as leftist, multi culti, diversity-obsessed, government-is-the-answer beliefs. When I went down to North Carolina for an IHS conference, the people there were quite nice, and I'm more likely to agree more on political issues with a Christian libertarian than a secular one, since there is a weird, quasi-leftist America-hating strain in libertarianism.

Actually, if you're too lazy to look up Lawrence's post, I'll quote the specific part of the Bible: 38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’[a] 39 But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. 40 And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well.

Reply to this commentLinkReport Abuse
: 08/17/11 22:04

chris boltssr,

Yes, anyone who disagrees with you is crazy.

The claims I took issue with was that government spending, and especially that of Freddie and Fannie were the causes of the crisis.

I have less problem with the claim that governments spent too much money and that Freddie and Fannie were poorly run. But to give that the starring role in our late economic calamity, backed up by mere assertion, that comes closer to be disconnected from reality.

I won't deny that Freddie and Fannie contributed to the housing bubble, but even there they were but two actors in a very large cast (foolish borrowers, the shadow banking industry, credit agencies with conflicts of interest, the Fed, the decision to let Lehman's fail, the Chinese pumping huge amounts of capital into the economy, the non-transparency of the MBSs, etc., etc.

As for the budget woes, much of that trouble comes from tax cuts and lost revenues due to the economic carnage, not government spending, unless you're of the mindset that says everything is spending's fault, no matter what (i.e., yes, the tax cuts bit deep into our finances, but IF spending had been cut, that wouldn't have happened, therefore IT'S ALL THE FAULT OF SPENDING!!!)

If you want to blame spending, blame private spending (people borrowed too much for houses, took too many equity loans, ran credit cards too high, etc.)

Near as I can tell, it was high food prices that riled the Arabs, caused largely (as I understand it...this is not an issue I've looked into a lot) repeated poor harvests in Australia due to drought.

The rioters in England kicked off over the shooting of a black teen. And even if that was mainly over jobs, you still haven't showed that the lack of jobs was due to government (and especially Freddie and Fannie) spending, so there's no link here either.

That Obama's troubles are NOT caused by spending too little (contra Krugman, I doubt that more spending stimulus would have helped much) does not establish that they were caused by spending too much, so no help there either. There was a severe economic downturn with unemployment running at 9 to 10 percent. There was an election. The ruling party got clobbered. Where's the mystery?

When it comes to Greece, I'll go with you. They spent recklessly, people lost confidence, their borrowing costs skyrocketed, and now they're screwed. But that isn't the US story (yet) by any stretch of the imagination (notice how low our borrowing costs are).

Reply to this commentLinkReport Abuse
: 08/17/11 21:36

"Don't blame atheism for someone else's moronic beliefs. Religion brought us plenty of evil things, too."

So because you're an atheist, rightlibertarian, and others who are also atheists did evil things then we shouldn't blame atheism? Are you not doing the same thing when it comes to Christianity? Also, we can all agree that that some evil things was done in the name of religion, but more good things were done in the name of Christianity and Judaism. Name some really good things that was done in the name of atheism.

"I was not arguing for pacifism - indeed, I am fully against it. But the truth is, that I've read the Bible, and Jesus preaches pacifism in it. As for what he does in Revelations, that's what HE does, and it's not for regular people to do."

Jesus does not preach pacifism and if you're willing to point in the Bible where he preaches pacifism I'll be more than happy to read it. I'll lead this to another point in a post you made:

"And again, Chris, the fact that he's a perfect being has nothing to do with it; this is what he, as the Bible claims, told US to do."

Being a perfect being is has everything to do with it. Jesus can afford to be a pacifist for he already knew his fate and what his role as Savior was. We as human beings do not have this luxury. How is it moral to "turn the other cheek" if you know that person or persons is going to or already has killed you or killed others? Is both the murderer and the killer of the murderer both evil?

"This article is just pretty silly, Prager expands the commandments to mean things that they obviously don't."

However, the commandments are absolutes. The original commandments carried the word "shall" which means that there are no exceptions. Unless you know the mind of God or know of instructions that come with the commandments, then Mr. Prager is correct in broadly applying the commandments to the actions of human beings.

Finally, I just want to point something out to you. You said, "As for me not being a conservative, I'm certainly not a conservative in terms of blind deference to religion, and I, along with Barry Goldwater, think that the Religious Right is the worst thing to happen to the Conservative movement, of which Reagan said 'the heart and soul is libertarianism.'"

It's this kind of thinking that gets me riled when talking to conservatives or libertarians who are atheists. First of all, no one is stating that you have a blind deference to religion, however, atheists have a blind deference to atheism. How was it that the Religious Right is the worse thing to happen to the conservative movement? Was it the Religious Right that asked for Social Security or Medicare? Did the Religious Right force the values of the counterculture on the people such as abortion, homosexuality, or no fault divorce? Is it the Religious Right who brought upon the American people the unrealized and unfolding horror of Obamacare? Is it the Religious Right who are currently trying to restrict your speech through various speech codes and silencing you by broadly interpreting what the falsely claimed "separation of church and state" means?

Indeed, the more I observe what is going on, the more and I am beginning to understand that true freedom is found in a belief in the Judeo-Christian God and false freedom is found in the beliefs of men. It is no wonder that when men believe themselves to be morally superior to other men the first thing that usually gets destroyed is the belief in God.

Reply to this commentLinkReport Abuse

Add a Comment

Already Registered? Log In Here.


The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.


* Designates a required field.