December 7th, 2012

Twas ever thus

Commenter “Geoffrey Britain” offered some quotes in a recent comment that were so excellent I thought I’d highlight them here:

There are men in all ages who mean to govern well, but they mean to govern. They promise to be good masters, but they mean to be masters.” – Daniel Webster

The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire. – Robert A. Heinlein

“Men by their constitutions are naturally divided into two parties:

1. Those who fear and distrust the people, and wish to draw all powers from them into the hands of the higher classes.
2. Those who identify themselves with the people, have confidence in them, cherish and consider them as the most honest and safe, although not the most wise depository of the public interests.

In every country these two parties exist, and in every one where they are free to think, speak, and write, they will declare themselves.” –Thomas Jefferson to Henry Lee, 1824

One of the most interesting things about the last quote—the one from Jefferson—is I would bet that the majority of Obama voters today, and almost certainly the majority of Americans, would say that he’s describing conservatives in definition #1 and liberals in definition #2. But a great many conservatives (myself included) and perhaps a few others would say that it’s quite the opposite.

One interesting achievement of the Democratic Party (and a success of one of their Big Lies) is to convince the public that conservatives are #1 and liberals #2. In this endeavor the Republican Party has been an accomplice, however. That was one of the extremely negative consequences of Romney’s “47%” statement, and of his persona in general as a Very Rich White Guy.

But it’s not just Romney. And that’s one of the reasons many conservatives today are almost as much at war with the Republican Party as they are with the Democratic Party.

Those who believe in smaller and more local government, and in limiting the power of the central government as much as possible, clearly fall under Jefferson’s description #2, and those people are mostly conservatives (although certain social conservatives—not all by any means—would like more central control over people’s sexual behavior, and in many cases liberals would like less central government spending on defense). Conservatives have traditionally trusted “the people” and had confidence in them in that way.

But the sentiment described in the part of the Jefferson quote under #2 that goes “although not the most wise depository of the public interests” has grown stronger on the part of conservatives since the election of 2012. “The people” can make some mighty poor decisions that go against their own long-term liberty, and that’s why the Founders put certain elements of government in place (federalism and separation of powers, to name two) in an attempt to protect against what they called an “overbearing majority.”

Madison wrote:

…[M]easures are too often decided, not according to the rules of justice and the rights of the minor party, but by the superior force of an interested and overbearing majority…By a faction, I understand a number of citizens, whether amounting to a majority or a minority of the whole, who are united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest, adversed to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community…

But the most common and durable source of factions has been the various and unequal distribution of property. Those who hold and those who are without property have ever formed distinct interests in society…It is in vain to say that enlightened statesmen will be able to adjust these clashing interests, and render them all subservient to the public good. Enlightened statesmen will not always be at the helm…

Yes.

16 Responses to “Twas ever thus”

  1. DonS Says:

    although certain social conservatives—not all by any means—would like more central control over people’s sexual behavior, and in many cases liberals would like less central government spending on defense

    Most social conservatives I know (I’m more of a libertarian Republican) also respect the Constitution and federalism. I don’t recall that evil Bush trying to ban birth control and abortions–the socialcons are more about not funding birth control or abortions via their tax $.

    As far as less central spending on the military, the left also doesn’t seem to support state spending on the military or my personal spending on guns and ammo. They are not interested in transfering military power to states or civilians, they are only interested in reducing it (one exception might be Gary Hart, who wrote a book and argued for policies which sounded to me like a push towards something more like a militia/national guard system).

  2. DonS Says:

    Note that my point above on social cons was with respect to the federal government. I have no doubt many would like to impose controls at the state or local level.

  3. T Says:

    Neoneocon,

    I agree about the misinterpretation oif #1 and #2 and, as you did, noticed immediately that While the first most aptly describes current liberals and progressivism, most liberals would immediately identify themselves int he second catregory.

    The need to get the conservative message out in clear terms (unpolluted by the left) is paramount. Thus my recent carping on the need for a broad-based conservative media well beyond the simple presence of a Fox News, talk radio and a conservative blogoshpere.

    We must make the distinction between fiscal and social conservativism; IMO too many people think of the conservative message as nothing more than hard-core evangelicals trying to impress people into devout religion. To paraphrase Glenn Reynolds, “The nation will accept a conservative, small govt message when its messengers show that a conservative, small govt message is readily acceptable.”

    Furthermore, it would seem to me that pjmedia is perfectly positioned to make the jump to national network status. It is already doing webcasts and web-tv, how much more would it take to become a new addition to cable network news? IMO conservative billionaires should be looking in that direction.

  4. Ann Says:

    T: I would add that we need to somehow offset the influence of the Yahoo! portal — the news there is hugely biased toward the left and I’d wager it’s one of the main places a very large number of people get their news.

  5. davisbr Says:

    @neo-neocon “I would bet that the majority of Obama voters today, and almost certainly the majority of Americans, would say that he’s describing conservatives in definition #1 and liberals in definition #2. But a great many conservatives (myself included) and perhaps a few others would say that it’s quite the opposite

    In my reply to Geoff in an earlier thread several minutes ago (before I read this one: day late, dollar short, tut-tut), I see I’m one of the “few others” …and so I found myself quite, quite in agreement with this exact observation.

    My parallel perspective was …

    Ironic, isn’t it? Social conservatives are usually the ones decried as being parochial in their political concerns.

    But in a very real sense, the Democrats have devolved into a party of …well – and using their slant on the term – cultural hillbillies (with apologies to the honored heritage of my ancestors, who probably more resembled the Louis L’Amour rendered virtues of the peoples who were caricatured as “hillbilly” in the first place).

    These are the same citizenry who burned the witches in Salem three centuries ago. They’re back.

    Great minds think alike?

    Something in the wind today, perhaps?

    Sigh. I really should keep current.

    Only this blog is keeping me on life-support. Tnx, neo.

  6. davisbr Says:

    Jeezus. I wasn’t far off with the “something in the wind today” bit.

    Ace over at morons HQ earlier this morning.

    In fact, I think the time to change that was some time around 1957, but it’s definitely time to change that now.

    Quite worth the entire read, though you have to slog through the first part to get to the meat.

  7. roc scssrs Says:

    I just want to defend social cons a little more vigorously. They are definitely no. 2′s. To most social cons, sexual mores are more common sense than government fiat. They are willing to use federal power whenever they can, I’ll grant you that, but that’s because they’ve come to so fear and mistrust judicial activism. It becomes more a question of balance between the branches, rather than a desire for more central control.

  8. GoneWithTheWind Says:

    The 47% statement was true, we all know it. If you are Liberal you deny it and castigate anyone who says it but they know it as well. Romney was talking with people who know this country is bankrupt. We have crossed an event horizon with our debt and our spending and now there is no going back. We will all spiral out of control together into the abyss. He was talking straight to people who he thought might be able to help him turn things around. We cannot save ourselves (well, we could but the it goes against our human nature so we won’t) but Romney really believed we can so he was being honest describing what he thought was the problem. But none of this matters anymore. 50.54% of the voters wanted Obama and now we have him and now we all get to take this ride together.

  9. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    It’s arguable that our Constitution was primarily constructed as a bulwark, against either the majority or an organized minority from gaining dictatorial powers. Whenever either a minority or majority effectively seeks dictatorial powers, it is certain that the leadership and a majority of its supporters seek to control others.

    In its lust for power, the tactical ‘end run’ around the Constitution that the left has used to subvert the Constitution is perhaps threefold; the MSM acting as the left’s purveyor of propaganda, the growth and ever widening entitlement state, dependent upon ever larger deficit spending and judicial activism.

    Of the three, judicial activism is both the hardest to address in the short term and the easiest to neutralize in the long term.

    The MSM’s Achilles heel is the susceptibility of its publicly held, parent companies to hostile (conservative) takeover, by wealthy conservative individuals and foundations who can easily purchase a controlling interest in those parent companies…

    The only way to reign in the growth and expansion of entitlements is through a really tough balanced budget amendment. Such an amendment would force reductions in spending, eliminating the growth in deficits and would both curtail the growth of entitlements and in time, reduce the dependent class.

    Take away the ability of the left to use the financial leverage that deficit spending provides and a mortal blow is struck against the left. Eliminate its propaganda organ the MSM and the public will start to awaken. Both those circumstances will eventuate in less liberal judges being appointed and a concurrent reduction in judicial activism.

    Neither of these proposed strategies will be easily accomplished and both will take time to achieve.

    There is however no other option available. To use a military metaphor; as at Normandy Beach, the ‘pillboxes’ of deficit spending, (which permits the deepening and expansion of entitlements) and the pervasiveness of the MSM…must be taken, no matter what the cost.

  10. davisbr Says:

    ^Well put, Geoff.

  11. Steve D Says:

    ‘is I would bet that the majority of Obama voters today, and almost certainly the majority of Americans, would say that he’s describing conservatives in definition #1 and liberals in definition #2. But a great many conservatives (myself included) and perhaps a few others would say that it’s quite the opposite.’

    They are both right but their respective strategies to control us and the areas that they want to control us in, differ of course.

  12. Musings from Brian J. Noggle » Blog Archive » Teaching The Children Lessons of Daniel Webster and Rober Heinlein, Accidentally Says:

    [...] offers some quotes about governance: There are men in all ages who mean to govern well, but they mean to govern. They promise to be [...]

  13. T Says:

    Geoffrey Britian @ 10:11,

    “The MSM’s Achilles heel is the susceptibility of its publicly held, parent companies to hostile (conservative) takeover, by wealthy conservative individuals and foundations who can easily purchase a controlling interest in those parent companies…”

    An excellent idea that hadn’t occurred to me. Perhaps more difficult than a simple hostile takeover because many of the media firms are owned by even larger corporations (ABC/Disney, NBC/Comcast) but not an obstacle that would stop a group of determined, creative and enterprising conservative billionaires.

  14. thomass Says:

    yeah, it was an eye opener to listen to liberals at parties in the bay area open up about their admiration for China’s system… you know, after a couple drinks..They went into details why so there was little chance to backtrack…

  15. thomass Says:

    T Says:

    “An excellent idea that hadn’t occurred to me. Perhaps more difficult than a simple hostile takeover because many of the media firms are owned by even larger corporations (ABC/Disney, NBC/Comcast)”

    It is but you also don’t have to start with [expensive] TV. Talk radio is covered but how about a non leftist npr? Or even music stations with smart non leftist djs. All this is important…

    Same for newspapers… if they were not so biased left would the market be better for them?

  16. Codey Says:

    Most social conservatives, instead of wanting more control over sexual lives, are wanting LESS control: less government spending on promoting sexual behaviors; less funding of Planned Parenthood, which propagandizes in order to control the lives of young people; less acceptability of counselors in high schools circumventing parents by arranging abortions, less enforcement of politically correct attitudes about sex, less ridicule of the politically incorrect.

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.
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