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Cosmopolitanism: A Guide for the Perplexed

Posted by nouspraktikon on December 30, 2008

It’s an old book titled Civitas Dei

As the eventful year 2008 comes to a close, I want to take a look at one of the most complicated and difficult issues that anybody can tackle. By a look I really mean no more than that, a kind of momentary glance. I really would like to blog about something else entirely, but I find the issue of Cosmopolitanism, that is to what extent and to what degree we should be “One Worlders” pressing in on me with a kind of subconcious persistency. One might say that this is just the pet peve of someone who happens to be an American expatirate living in an Asian country, but the issue of globalism…not just the present globalism, with all its morally dubious assumptions, but the more ancient notion of Cosmopolitanism, that is, to what extent is, or to what extent should, the human race be one moral community needs to be kept in mind whenever considering a concrete issue, whether it be the present flare up of the Middle Eastern conflict in Gaza, the desirabilty or otherwise of continued support for the modern Olympic movment, the status of governments vs. NGOs in devlopment, or whatever.

I want to look at this issue from a specifically Christian background, specifically the one outlined in Augustine’s City of God. But before we reach the promised land of Augustine’s city, we need to develop a kind of phenomenology of cosmopolitanism. That is, what is this thing itself, this “world-city” and then perhaps we can better understand the classic Christian response to it, because that Christian response is itself very difficult to understand and grant assent to in the absence of a very thourogh going clearing of the conceptual terrain. Not only must we avoid jumping to Augustine’s conclusions, we must avoid any preemptive moralizing about the status of cosmopolitanism. This is very difficult because every day, in one sense or another, we (and here I mean pretty much everyone in the world) jump into the fray…either as universalists denouncing local bigotry, or as patriots denouncing the oppression of the globalist imperium.

The Two Cities (naturalist version)

Prior to the famous “Two Cities” spoken of by Augustine, that is both logically prior, and, in a sense, prior to Christain revelation, we can already posit two types of cosmopolitanisms. Historians and ethnologists will be displeased, but for purposes of typology lets consider these two ideal types 1) the Cynic-Stoic cosmopolitanism, and the 2) Pyramidal Cosmopolitanism.

The Cynic-Stoic cosmopolitanism presuposes very little in terms of common human law and institutions. It acnowleges that the human race is politically divided, that there are boundaries of language, culture, and race separating the various polities. However it sees in the common rationality of all people the potential for a universal moral community. There are two subvariants within this view. The Cynic sees culture as secondary, and postulates a “natural man” who, without prejudice or fear of social censure, crosses political boundaries simply because he dosn’t recognize their existence in nature. Of course he may be persecuted or ever killed, but with a certain degree of luck and cunning he may live out a kind of dog-like existence (Cynic means “like a dog” in Greek) enjoyable only to one who rejects the classical belief that true human life can only be satisfied within a communitarian framework. Obviously such a life, as opposed to involentary refugee status, can only be led under conditions of surrounding peace and order. Such conditions existed at the time of the wandering Sophists during 5th c. BC Greek civilization, and similar movments have broken out in other places, say the munis of ancient India, or the Qalandars in the medeval Middle East. The American hippy movement of the 1960s was the last notable manifestation.

Arguably the Cynic could be seen as a kind of apostle of anti-culture, but the impulse of human sympathy and a desire to spread enlightenment presupposes a more developed type, the Stoic, who is more of a positive proponent of cosmopolitanism as an idea. Here the notion is not just “strip off your culture and become an apolitical animal” but rather, “all cities are united by a higher law.” As itinerant philosophers, and sometimes slaves (Epictetus) the Stoics had no particular rights apart from universal human rights, and they were the earliest apostles of inclusionist humanism. They didn’t seek to create a world-state so much as to guide the concience of each particular state back to a common ground in natural law. Or as the Greeks would say, ground nomos on physis.

However by the Hellenistic/Roman period the Medeteranian world had become ripe for a world-state with its attendent law, a world-law not just in a theoretical sense, but in a statuatory sense. Here is where we start to see the ambiguously problematic nature of cosmopolitansim. A Stoic sitting on the throne (Marcus Aurelius) and a Stoic in chains (Epictetus) are clearly expouning universalism from different perspectives. So at this point it is useful to back up and consider whether “cosmopolitanism” is not two different ideas which have come to us packaged in one word.

Pyramidal Cosmopolitanism

This second idea contained in the term “cosmopolitanism” I will distinugish with the adjective “pyramidal.” In this case the classical illustration comes not from ancient Greece, but from the Middle East, notably the city states of Mesopotamia. These states were pyramidal in their organization, having a despot at the top, a layer of urban classes with assigned functions in the middle, and a surrounding peasantry at the bottom. The term “pyramid” is made all the more apt by the fact that the plan of these city-states actually were (architectually) dominated by ziggurats in the middle of their sacred-political precincts, and moreover that the top of these pyramidal structures were reserved for activities of a sacrificial or orgiastic nature.

The idea of a world-state was never actuallized in the ancient world, but we find that the archetype of such a state is found in the 11th chapter of the book of Genesis, in the famous story of the Tower of Babel. Today we think of Babylon as a geograpically and historically limited polity, but as with many Biblical “myths” there is more here than meets the eye. Without even appealing to a more esoteric hermenutic, it is clear that from the material eye of a contemporary Mesopotamian peasant a polity like the Assyrian or Neo-Chaladean empire would seem to “stretch to the ends of the world” and be expected to “last forever.” (Parenthetically, I suspect that that’s how the present American occupation of Iraq seems to the average Iraqi!)

These were command economy states of the sort classically described by Wittfoegel and K. Polanyi in modern scholarship. They were sophisticated societies in which all the benefits of civilization could be enjoyed, with the singular exception of freedom. Now perhaps we can see why the ambiguity of the term “cosmopolitanism” contains a fatal danger. All other things being equal (and fortunately they never quite are) small pyramids will tend to be incorporated into bigger and bigger pyramids, until these reach the final limit of expansion, which correponds to the limit of the world. Once a pyramid reaches the limit of the word (Greek: cosmos) a condition obtains where there is no “outside” only an inside.

This is an important point, because as long as there is a outside, a window onto a larger world, there is some hope that the system will not freez into total rigidity, total slavery. Thus Ludwig von Mises demonstrated that socialist economies needed a regulation-free entreport where the planners could evaluate the price of their products against the market. Likewise K. Polanyi points out that ancient empires required entrepots to obtain the scarce goods which they required for survival as states (iron, gold etc.) and more recent despotisms such as 18th century Dahomey also needed (managed) trade. However the momentum of pyramidal societies is to include as much of the rest of the world within their dominion as they can.

The Intervention of God

Until modern times the idea of a world-state was, presumably, nothing more than a speculative thought, albeit one which always was potential due to the pyramydal dynamic of inclusion. All the more remarkable then that the Hebrew scriptures portray such a state as a past historical accomplishment. Without getting into the issue of whether this was a historical incident, or whether readers of the Bible are simply being asked to engage in a daring gedankenexperimente, the story is remarkable in both its premise and the way in which the problem arising from the premise is resolved through divine intervention.

The premise is that a particular polity (Babel) has already, at an unspecified time in ancient history, reached the end-state for which all pyramidal societies strive: plenary domination of the world. Furthermore, not only is this polity inclusive of the human race, but it has reached a verticle limit as well, the limit at which the human domain ends and the world of the spritual beings begins.

The story reminds me of a speculation put forward (quite seriously) by an economist and acquantance of mine Mark Thornton. He noted that whenever there is a new record set for the highest skyscraper in the world, an economic collapse ensues. It is as if the skyscraper symbolizes the economic house of cards which is toppled at a certain unwarrented hight! Of course Prof. Thornton is a sophisticated person and dosn’t think that there is some sort of occult relationship between the height of skyscrapers and the market for securities. No doubt they are both dependent variables on some deeper cause which neither you nor I nor perhaps even Prof. Thornton can guess. Likewise the story of the Tower of Babel is not set out as a research program for Biblical archeologists. Rather it is a highly condensed, encrypted text bearing a message which, at its crudest, could be translated as “Heads up! Something is about to topple down on your head from the direction of your blind spot!”

Cosmopolitanism’s Obverse: The Curse/Blessing of Ethnicity

To get back to the story. As we all know, God intervens before the human builders can reach the threshold of the human/transhuman divide. We are led to believe that the political class of Babel has more in mind than just creating an illusion of their divinity among the masses. Somehow they are on the way to creating a technology which actually gives them preternatural powers sufficient to actually menace, if not the safty, at least the honor of real supernatural beings. At this point the Biblical narrative seems almost to harmonize with chorus in a Greek tragedy: this is hubris, this is an abomination!

The interesting point in the story, however, is not that God topples the tower. The tower would probably have toppled of its own accord, since the idea of a human project which transgresses the limits of the natural/divine boundary is inherently contradictory. However God preemptively puts an end to the tower, not by toppling it (which would have been a simple act of destruction) but by doing something which is highly characteristic of the Biblical God…he creates something new, in this case, he creates ethnicity!

Thus ethnicity comes into the world, according to the Bible, as a curse, as an obstruction to human cooperation. Some people might wonder why I say “ethnicity” rather than “language” since language, the “confusion of tongues” is what seems to be indicated at first glance. Contextally however, since we are talking in this instance about cosmopolitanism vs. localism, the universal vs. the particular, we have to see what was going on, even prior to Babel. Already we have different bloodlines branching out from the original human progenitors, families as it were, and these no doubt had some sense of particular identity. However when we add language into this mix we get something much more potent, closer to what ethnologists are inclined to recognize as a special population with its own culture and identity. So I think it is not unwarrented to call this conflation: families+languages=ethnic groups. And this is the end result of the story in the 11th chapter of Genesis. You might call this the end of the promise of primeval human unity, and the begining of discord and rivalry between different nations. So, at least from the prepositions of cosmopolitanism, as well as from the surface reading of the Bible, where the confusion of tongues is presented as a punishment for hubris, ethicity is clearly a curse. But it is something more than a curse, it is also a blessing, and to see how it is both we have to return to our starting point where we were evaluating the various nuances implied in the notion of “cosmopolitanism.”

A Third form of Cosmopolitanism

So to recap, we have our two cosmopolitanisms 1) the hippy idea best expressed by John Lenon in his famous song “Imagine” but stretching back to the Cynics, a world of universal nature upstaging particular law, and 2) the statist cosmopolitanism in which a single state conquers the world and makes its law universal and obligatory for the entire human race. Obviously these two ideas, apart from a common inclusiveness, are opposites…the first leading to total freedom, at least in theory, and the second leading to total slavery in both theory and practice.

Against the second, deadly universalism, the human inheritance of ethnicity serves as an obstacle and a limit. In this sense it may be considered a blessing indeed. And if God had ended his revelation to the human race at the 11th chapter of Genesis at least he wouldn’t have left us totally in the lurch. Then He wouldn’t have been the God of Israel, but the God of the Nations ( or in Hebrew, the Gentiles). We might have been fighting amongst ourselves for all eternity but at least we wouldn’t be condemned to slavery beneath the shadow of the ziggurats. There would be resistance, there would be the comaradery of fellow feeling within small communities, joy in victory and meaning even in defeat.

But of course, God has a way of introducing all sorts of stumbling blocks into human thinking. As soon as we have decided that the God of the Bible is an anarchist and an ethnic particularist, and we begin to read beyond Chapter 11 of Genesis, we start to learn that He is planting a seed in the middle of the world, the seed of Israel which will one day…grow into a world-encompassing-state!

Yipes! This is where a lot of people start abandoning ship and start looking up the time and places for the next meeting of Secular Humanist Association….or even the Naked Joyous Cult of the Local Pagan. So to spare people the pain lets skip to the New Testement.

The Messiah, the hoped for pinnacle of the universal state, has arrived, but he is…you had better sit down, because this one is a shocker…he’s a Cynic! He dosn’t want to rule a pyramid state, and in fact he tells Satan this specifically. He dosn’t even want to rule a nice well-ordered, local Jewish polis…much to the relief of the Herodians. The strange thing is that he has all the qualification for a philospher king: He’s brave, intelligent, people are attracted to him. He’s got what it takes…except he dosn’t want to be the founder of a state.

Actually I’m not a fan of Dominic Crossian’s version of New Testiment studies. I don’t think that Jesus was a Jewish version of Diogenes of Sinope. Yet in this one respect, that is regarding cosmopolitanism, the Jesus’ Kingdom of God resembles the Cynic vision much more than the Babylonian version.

What is to be done?

So where are we left today with the question of cosmopolitanism? Surely it is not a simple question of cosmopoltanism=good, nationalism=bad. On the other hand there are those who think that nationalism is an unequivocal good, and by their works you shall know them, their works being war, suffering, and destruction. No, I am going on the assumption that cosmopolitanism is good, but that it is far from an unequvocal good.

Today we are perplexed by globalism. We can’t live without the advantages of a global society, but it is doubtful that we could live with the end state of a unified global society played out to its logical conclusion. If we translate the contemporary catch phrase “globalism” back into what has been said about the more classical term “cosmopolitanism” it can be seen that this ambiguity comes from globalism being a compound of two diametrically different notions, that of natural law and of an artifically universalized positive law. The difficulty lies in knowing what particular policies or ideas tend towards which notional pole.

So how does the Kingdom of God “break out”? Obviously in a very difficult to understand way, since it is written “the violent carry it away.” If the kingdom of God means anything it means justice, and that means that all human beings must belong to one universal moral community. Yet that doesn’t mean that all forms of universalism are close to the Kingdom of God. Certainly I would be suspicious of pyramids of all sorts, people tend to get sacrificed to the cosmos or to society on the top of pyramids! For detailed speculatons on how this works I recomend anyone who is interested to the works of Rene Girard.

And for how to be a cosmopolitan in a degenerate cosmopolis I recommend the works of Augustine of Hippo. He was the apostle of inclusivism against all sorts of sects, the international man of Late Rome. Yet he knew that a mere inclusiveness motivated by lust for power and economies of scale would never lead to the promised end state of justice. In the end the City of God is both inclusive and exclusive but along different dimensions. Furthemore, while everybody is invited to immigrate, nobody is fit to be a citizen on their own merit! But now we have gone beyond the question of cosmopolitanism and into the even more difficult question of grace, where I must leave off. I hope at least that this blog entry has provided some food for thought regarding the first, preparatory topic.

And with that I wish anyone who reads a happy and blessed New Year 2009!

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The Indispensable Arrow of Time: A Critique of Pure Amillenialism

Posted by nouspraktikon on December 27, 2008

Who was Joachim of Flores and what is it to you?

Recently, the Archdruid Report, which seems to be an energy and culture (!) blog has been the latest intellectual rif off of that old Eric Voglintheme: fanaticism in modernity is the after effect of Gnostic and Apocalyptic thinking which somehow took over the West, if not withthe rise of Christianity in late antiquity, at least with the seedy underground of medeval mystical movements.  Although the Archdruid may have other objections, the standard Voglinian battle cry is: Don’t imantantize the eschaton.

Of course this strikes a respondant chord withanybody who has had to cope withranting street preachers, illustrated sandwitch men, endtimes clockwatchers, and doomsday survivalists.  And, according to the Voglinites, it doesn’t stop there, it goes on to more sophisticated and scientistic versions of pro-green, post-gender, plus-perfectionist apostles of modernist utopias.  All of this is admitedlyhighly obnoxious.  Furthermore with a little scholarship anyone can prove to their satisfaction that there is an uniterupted intellectual pedegree stretching from Joachim of Flores to Leon Trotzky.  In other words, these people, whatever their differences, all hold in common a view of history which is moving forward towards some sort of summa bonum, an endstate so wonderful that any means might justify the end.

This, in short, is the brief of the Voglinians, and to a lesser extent, those like the Archdruid who embrace and propagate what might be called his “critique of millinarianism.”  Now while I’m a fan of Voglin myself, it seems to me that he has a tendency to reach too far in proving his point.  His treatment of Joachim of Flores is a case in point.  Joachim was a Cistercian monk of the 12thcentury, an intellectual speculator on scripture and prophecy, and while he may have made a number of rash statements about the relationship of the persons of the Holy Trinity, to my knowlege he never actually killed anybody.

This latter point I consider rather important, because Voeglin, Popper, and other critics of “historicism”…or rather a historicism projected back on pre-20th century thinkers (sometimes very pre- indeed!) is an attempt to establish guilt by association between these philosophers ( or theologians if you will) and MesseursHitler, Stalin, Pol Pot et al.  The most proximate culprit is usually G.F.W. Hegel with his “march of the Idea through history” and “the real is the rational and the rational is the real.”  Admittedly not exactly Hiter’s style, but just concrete enough for Karl Marx to flip on its head and turn into something as evil as Communism…or so the story goes.  I used to try to defend Hegel as an edifying and rewarding read…but these days I leave that to the professionals of the Hegel Society.

But when we get back to Joachim of Flores, it is hard to see in what sense he is the ancestor of modern totalitarianism.  Still, there must be something to the Voeglinian idea that there is a certain way of thinking about time which is evil and leads to mischief on a massive scale.  In the case of Joachim of Flores, while it might be hard to pin a murder rap on a monk, we might get a conviction on the grounds that drove a lot of people insane.

Fast forward from the 12th to the 13th centuries (yes time elapsed in the middle ages just as it does today).  Now an evangelical movment has broken out in Europe initiated by Fracis of Asizzi.  Like all movements it develops its extremist wing, called the “spirituals” who insist on poverty, reform of the Church, and the immanence of the Kingdom of God.  Now who do the “spirituals” latch on to as their chief theoretician but Joachim of Flores.  His trinitarianspeculations embrace a three part division of history, 1) the age of the Father, which corresponds pretty much to what previous theologians had called the dispensation of the Law,  and 2) the age of the Son, which corresponds pretty much to what had been called, without qualm the dispensation of Grace.   The problems started with 3) the age of the Spirit, which corresponds to nothing in traditional theology, but does seem to logically entail a time of freedom and inner guidance which had hitherto seemed properly restricted to the afterlife in Heaven, but now was brought down to Earth as just society, and in the case of the 13th century “spirituals” one built on the principles enunciated by St. Francis.

It was to be a bloodless revolution…yet it was heady stuff, probably enough to put someone off their rocker.  Take the case of Jacquomo da Todi.  Yes, he was a monk, not a gangster…but he, how shall we say, managed to upsetpeople.  Suffering from guilt after the deathof his young, pious wife he began acting strange and acquired the name Crazy Jack.  He wore nothing but rags and sometimes he crawled on all fours,  once he came to a party tarred and feathered…by himself.  He hung out with the “spirituals” and even wound up as one of their leaders.

So there you have it, apocalyptic thinking drives people insane.  It’s not quite the same as being an accomplice to murder but it will certainlydo for your average veteran from the left side of the culture wars, for whom one streetpreacher is worth any number of Hitlers or Stalins.  There is no doubt about the fact that a millenarianmentality can be seriously dangerous to your health.  I’m not being entirely facetious either.  Anyone who has lived for an extended time in the Bible belt will notice certain kinds of mental illnesses, like people who, whenever there is a loud noise, think the world is coming to an end.  No doubt psychiatrists could multiply these examples.

Immanentize that Eschaton Baby!

And yet, aren’t we throwing out the baby with the bathwater if we ban all millennialism to the realm of dangerous heresy?  Without the eschaton we loose something, we loose our dreams…not just the dreams which drive us mad, but the dreams which drive us sane as well, because without dreams we are victims of a deterministic world from which, since we are unable to improve it, we must seek to escape.  The opposite of the immanent eschaton is not sanity or prudence…because a restless dissatisfaction with the reality of our age is somehow built into the human conscience.  Rather, the opposite of millennialism is quietism.  Quietism is the real “opium of the masses” it is a religion which despairsof any amelioration of the human condition, and seeks to dull the contact with reality until ultimate liberation is met withat the time of death.

Christian millenarianism might be seen as a vector between the horizontal of progressive Futurism and a verticle Amillenarian spirituality.  If the latter is Quietism, then the former is the religion of the Antichrist, or rather even if there is no Antichrist, Futurism would be guaranteed to give birth to one.  Change for the sake of change, power for the sake of power…yes, when the arrow of change runs parallel to the surface of the Earth it turns demonic, it becomes the religion of Stalin and Pol Pot.

But when the arrow of human spirituality points directly upward, rejecting this Earthas the abode of “the flesh and the devil” and consequently incorrigible, the result can only be defective from a Christian point of view.  It might be an allowable view from the perspective of certain forms of Mahayana Buddhism, to forsake this world for a Pure Land separated from all pain, but this is a kind of idea fundamentally alien to the gospel.  True, the gospel, as expressed in the works of John the Apostle and elsewhere is quintessentially spiritual…but the gospel contains all essences, not just the quintessence.   The Incarnation breaks through into history and forms a bridge between the spiritual and the mundane.

Perhaps the best way to think about it is thus: Yes, heaven is our destination, and yes, linear future progress will at some point turn negative and destructive of the human race, but the gospel requires a certain worldliness to gain “traction” in the secular world, a vector between the vertical and the horizontal which will lift us up, as upon wings.

Today there is danger not just from “millenarian” but also from amillenarian, when the latter takes the form of Nietzeche’s”last men” who simply blink at the world as it passes by faster and faster, having given up on the false ideal of progress they resign themselves to the reign of Heraclitean flux.  If the eschaton devours space and makes it secondary, amillenarianism devours time and specialiseseverything.  Having no common dream the human race falls into fragments, each country, each race, each individual maximizing their own values in a world devoid of the common denominator provided by the arrow of eschatological time.  The positive fanaticism of the Spiritual Franciscans is thus replaced by the negative fanaticism of, say, the Bloomsbury Group, where each individual strives to perfect his or her own aesthetic world apart from God or the people of God.

So two cheers for the arrow of time…let’s just remember that its a dangerous weapon and not point it an anyone. 

Written on the Feast of St. John the Apostle

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Rothbard’s biggest blunder: the “A-word”

Posted by nouspraktikon on December 26, 2008

Murray Rothbard, the most important Libertarian thinker of the 20th century…had trouble expressing himself?

Nobody who had ever met Murray, and I did, would be likely to say such a thing. He was what 18th century dictator of manners Samuel Johnson would have called “a wit”…a man never short of words or a punchline, the latter often delivered below the belt and in sensitive places. Yet that is perhaps the root of the problem, Rothbard was what Aristotle would call a man skilled in both rhetoric and dialectic…or in contemporary jargon, he was both a wordsmith and a (social-economic) scientist. On the one hand he was a careful and systematic thinker, and on the other hand he was the  loosest of loose cannons, firing off his mouth in ways guranteed to outrage the body politic. His loudest volley, a veritable shot heard round the world, was the rehabilitation of the term “anarchism” on…of all places…the right.

The Blunder

The problem is that “anarchism”…in its ineluctably connotative sense, doesn’t really get at the heart of what libertarians, let alone paleoconservatives, really hold as their deepest principle. Rothbard, frustrated by the smug complacency of the William Buckley dominated right during the Cold War, lashed out with the “A-word” to get attention and to get payback for his marginalization by right wing nationalists and cold-to-hot warriors. It was no doubt a kind of emancipation for a young generation of libertarians, as Rothbard’s biographer Justin Raimondo records in An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray Rothbard since it “broke the transference” as the psychologists would say, between patriotic sentiment and governmental obedience. However the price of adopting “anarchism” as the ultimate goal of libertarianism, was the creation of a serious breach between rhetoric and reality, since what (sane) libertarians want is not anarchy but the universal rule of law rather than men.

Why not call it Nomism…i.e. “Lawism”?

Instead of highlighting what libertarians detest, the rule of men, why not emphasize what they (and right thinking people everywhere) desire in the political realm: the rule of law. The only objection to this would be among people to conflate true, natural law with positive law. Natural law is not created by parliaments, rather it is found by prudent deliberation on the foundations of human rights. This is not to say that natural law cannot be written, an error which contemporaries sometimes make because we think too much in terms of physics. In fact it can be, or rather has been, written. Just to take the English case, it has been passed down from the Magna Carta, to Blackstone, to the Bill of Rights. This might be called the “long constitution” upon the bedrock of which the “short constitution” of 1787 constitutes a kind of secondary (and perhaps questionable) outgrowth. This ground is covered very well by Friedrich Hayek in his magesterial The Constitution of Liberty.

Right Reason, Madness, and just plain Stupidity

The notion of “natural law” goes back, of course, to Aristotle via the Scholastics and the Enlightenment. No doubt Aristotle himself would have been able to understand, at least conceptually, the term “anarchism”…after all its a Greek derived word. But he probably would have objected to the concept on the grounds of prudence. Even in Hellenistic times there were people who hated civilization (called Cynics, or “dogs”) and wanted to do away with all rules pertaining to property and behavior. In today’s post-Rousseuan, post-Neitzschian culture, once can find any number of intellectuals who want social chaos…if only on the grounds of what Neitzeche and Max Scheler diagnosed as “resentment.”

This, of course, is not what the core members of the movement called libertarianism really want. Rather they want the institution of, or rather the restoration of, personal and property rights…and the very notion of rights presupposes the notion of law. So why hold on to the negative formulation of this idea as expressed in the dangerously ambiguous term “anarchy”?

The Limits of Obnoxiousness as a Libertarian Strategy

The reason why libertarians have hung on tenaciously to the “A-word” (apart from fillial piety towards the founder of the Rothbardian movement) seems to have to do with rhetorical one-upsmanship within the movement, a desire to prove one’s ideological purity against all conteders. Rothbard himself, stinging from rejection by Rand, Buckley and others, can be exculpiated from some of the damage due to this rhetorical excess, but the reasons for retaining the “anarchy” moniker would seem to be either petty or conceptually wrongheaded.

Taking the category of conceptually wrongheaded first. Libertarians, who are forever complaining that the left/right distinction is sterile, have themselves gotten hung up on the dead end of an endless anarchy/minarchy dispute. In essence the grounds of this dispute is over the necessity of having geographical unity or overlapping jurisdiction among adjudication and security authorities. Personally I think that polities must be geographically exclusive, but I think that the advocates of overlapping jurisdictions are doing themselves a disfavor by denominating their position “anarchy.” On my own side, if there is a more ridiculous term than anarchy (which is at least traditional) then it is the neologism “minarchy.” I suggest we abolish the latter from our language, and restrict the former to designating the opinions of those who really want to live constantly in a state of Heracliteian strife…of whom there are unfortunately many, but not among rights-theory libertarians.

None the less, I suspect that using the “A-word” will be a hard habit to break for many libertarians. It seems to give certain people a sense of purity and empowerment. Again, we can perhaps blame the habit on the “in your face” kind of rhetoric picked up by Rothbard’s closest diciples. Perhaps the best contemporary example is Walter Block. Now I think Mr. Block is a great guy and I defend his right to think and teach as he pleases, a right which has recently come under attack by the forces of political correctness. However I don’t think that a movement formed in the image of Walter Block (as Block was academically formed in the image of Rothbard) would necessarily be a good thing.

Take a look at Block’s classic Defending the Undefendable and you will see what I mean. The argument underneath the examples given by Block is unimpeachable, but the “libertarian world” which the reader pictures within its covers resembles nothing so much as Robert DeNero’s 1970’s classic of urban sleez and sociopathic heroism Taxi Driver. Arguably this was exciting and motivating stuff at one point in the intersecting development of American culture and the libertarian movement, but one gets the impression that it is time to move on and up to more universal, and salutary, themes.

Personally I think nomism, or perhaps lawism, would be just the right coinage for that realm of justice which true libertarians hope to establish. It is not something new at all, for it represents an allegiance to a “long constitution” which goes back to the days of the Magna Carta and Thomas Aquinas. In retrospect it may seem that “libertarian anarchism” and “anarcho-capitalism” are terms which we will have to jettison as part of the questionable legacy of our mad, mad 20th century…that is, assuming that we don’t want the 21st century to be even crazier!

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Fitzmas goes sour: Federalism suffers another setback

Posted by nouspraktikon on December 25, 2008

A new legal principle of state subordination to federal legal intervention lurks behind the Illinois Idiot Theatre

Bill Anderson, who has made it his mission to keep track of the growing potential for abuse in Federal prosecutorial system posts on the LRC Blog under the heading Patrick Fitzgerald vs. Leon Jaworski a letter by one Kristen Atlee which speaks worlds about the increasing subordination, rather incorporation, of state and local governments into a unified national government, guided in its turn by a unified executive.

Personally, I was alarmed by the original report of Gov. Blagojevich having the feds knock on his door in the wee hours of the night with a subpoena.  At least they didn’t take him into custody and prevent his further exercise of the office of governor of the state of Illinois.  Had they done so, all pretense of federalism would have been abandoned, and the constitution rendered a dead letter.  It would have announced to the world that the United States was a unitary state, and that state governors could be removed at will, just like prefects of (old) French departments could always be removed by the Ministry of Interior (albeit in this case it would have been the US Department of Justice which was doing the removing under a pretext).

Kristen Atlee points out that the same thing has been accomplished proceedurally, as Fitzgerald is cautioning the legislature against subjecting  the governor’s case to any impeachment proceedings which would prejudice the case of the federal prosecutor against Blagojevich.  In other words federal criminal law trumps state law, not just theoretically, but operationally.  Furthermore, here it is a matter of intervening in the mechanism of a state’s self governing authority.  This is a Reconstruction theory of federal-state relations, minus the moral justification of having to deal with the aftereffects of slavery.

No doubt Blago is an idiot.  No doubt the Chicago machine is corrupt.  But this is a matter for the people of the state of Illinois themselves to address and deal with in their own fashion.  Presumably the “crossing state lines” in this case which justifies federal prosecution is the fact that a Washington office is allegedly for sale.  So the fact of where the states elected representatives are sent trumps the electoral district as a juridicial venue.  How convenient!

I hate to say this, but I’m afraid this is another case of “the chickens coming home to roost.”  The American people have acquieced to a globalist doctrine of interventionism with little more than a wimper.  It is considered the US government’s prerogative to unseat leaders of small, weak states whenever they prove inconvenient.   Isn’t it only a matter of time before the same principle is applied internally?  If the US can assert its will over Hati or the Dominican Republic in violation of principles of popular sovereginty, out it not logically to have the power of unseating governments within the union?  Of course nobody is coming out and saying this, but as a legal principle it is being established by stealth.

Fitzgerald was once on his way to becoming a hero of mine, and of many others on both the libertarian right and left.  We were waiting for “Fitzmas”…a magical time when the rule of law would be restored to the Federal excecutive branch.  The principle was that executive officers could not plead immunity for their wrongs on account of some sort of Security State recycling of the Divine Right of Kings.

However when Fitzgerald goes after state executives, after failing to establish a clear culpability for federal officers engaged in felonious activities the damage is compounded.  What is implied is a double standard where federal executives and legislators have immunity from criminal prosecution, while state officials are not only held accountable in federal courts, but the very process of state governance can be suspended at the convenience of federal law authorities.

That’s a Fitzmas that only the Grinch could love!

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Have a Very, Very, Noetic Noel! (But don’t forget the Turkey and the Miseltoe!)

Posted by nouspraktikon on December 23, 2008

Because if you do forget the Turkey and the Miseltoe you may wind up as a Manichean! (Don’t worry, explanation follows).

The text for this Christmas sermonette is a diagram found on “Christian Civilization” which may be found here. The author of the site is evidently a follower of Cornellius Van Til, the advocate of presuppositional apologetics within the Reformed tradition.  The title of the diagram is “The One and the Many” and purports to explain schematically the differing metaphysical views of orthodox (Reformed?) Christianity in contrast to a rather monistic world-view which is simply labeled “atheism.” Although I doubt that most atheists are sophisticated enough to embrace the (defective) diagram on the right side of the illustration, if one were to drop the invective and call it Pantheism or something, so far so good.

Before I go further I want to say that I think there is really something wonderful about this new Copernican turn in Reformed theology. My naive impression…OK, lets be honest, my prejudice…was that neo-Calvinists were fideists and misologists, when in fact the precise opposite is the truth. I’m not saying that these thinkers are entirely without fault, but the more I read about Van Til, Kuyper, Dooyerward et al, the more impressed I am. So I want to say that the diagrammaticapologetic against the so-called atheist (Pantheist) is luminous and provocative, or rather more luminous than provocative, since it illustrates the major thesis of why a Christian (all other things being equal) lives in a light-filled, joyous universe while the non-Christian, however stoic and morallives in a world of anxiety. Of course, due to our postlapsarian state “all other things” are definitely not “equal”…but then we are certainly not afraid that a theologian in the Reformed tradition is likely to forget about that, are we?

The problem is on the left side of the illustration. To have two disconnected circles representing God and Creation is clearly defective. Almost worse than that, the circle representing God is considerably larger than that of Creation. The apologist seems to be saying “Look, I respect God, I have made the God-circle twice the size of the the Creation circle.” Indeed! By that standard one would have to make the God circle’s circumference infinite, which would rather defeat the purpose of having a diagram in the first place. It would be far better to take one’s cue from “He created man in his own image” and retain two circles of the same diameter. Of course, I am relying on the traditional (Christian as well as Jewish) Kabbalistic assumption that the cosmos exists inside Adam rather than vice versa…but that is a topic for another discussion.

Aside from the size of the circles, the main problem in the Van Til inspired diagram is the fact that the circles are disconnected, or rather connected by exogenous lines labed”origin” and “appeal to mystery.” One gets the impression that the superiority of Christianity lies in an implicit dualism, as against the monism of the so-called “atheist.” But of course this is wrong, and not only has orthodox Christian reasoning always maintained that it is wrong, but Kabblists, who have been drawing theocentric diagrams for a lot longer than the diciples of Cornelius Van Til, have a very elegant way of illustrating the “presupositions” (if I may use a loaded phrase) of patristic theology…and more to the point…patristic economy.

Now Kabbalists, Jews and pagans though they may have been, have always been very careful in the way that they have laid out their diagrams. These diagrams, in a way that Cornelius Van Til would surely have approved of, were intended to demonstrate the truth of our existence in a world which is neither exclusively monotheistic nor a mere aggregate of particulars. Much like the Van Til diagram, the Kabbalistic Tree of Life is superimposed on a series of circles. But they differ in that all of these circles intersect.

Note that the Van Til diagram also has intersecting circles, or rather intersecting vecisa, inside the Godhead. These are the famous Borromean Ringswhich are traditionally incorporated by geometers of the sacred into diagrams of the trinity. Thus we can see there is no problem with the Van Til schmatics from the point of view of patristic theology.

And then along came Mary…

The problem involves what the Fathers called “the economy”…that is, the relationship of the human to the divine within Christ. In diagrammatic terms, Christ must exist in the vecisa formed by the interlocking of the Divine and Creational rings. This is hardly my own personal interpretation, rather it is a traditional convention going back to the time of Raymond Lullif not before. Once the circles are overlapped, or rather in Borromean style, interlinked the duality between the Divine and the Cosmos is overcome. Properly speaking, the Incarnation fuses these two worlds together, and the resulting cosmology might best be termed “semi-monistic.”

Is there something about Reformed thinking that causes it to shy away from the Incarnation? To the best of my knowledge Calvin accepted the Fourth Ecumenical council at Chalcidon with its clear understanding that Jesus had both a divine and a human nature. Perhaps there is something in Reformed thought or liturgy which makes its theologians “forget” at convenient points in their systems the supreme importance of the Incarnation.

I submit that the best way of memorializing the way in which Christ exists as the fusion point of the Divine and Created worlds, is to pay respect to his Mother. Calvin himself would probably have taken little exception to this proposition, since he was a surprisingly big fan of St. Bernard of Clarivaux, in turn an important propagator of Marian devotions. Unfortunately the rhetoric of Puritanism lends itself towards sterile and almost acosmic dialectic, more appropriate to Neoplatonism, or even Manicheanism, than traditional Christianity. Perhaps the advocates of the new, bold theologies coming out of Neo-Calivinism, could do themselves a favor by remembering their linkage to traditional, Incarnational, Christianity.

Indeed, at this season, its a good message for all of us. God is coming into the world and fusing himself with humanity, and by extension, with the whole of the cosmos, employing the substance provided by Mary of Bethlehem. We are called not to dispise the cosmos, not to dispise what God himself did not dispise…a manger with all its dirt and animal smells. God came in to this world to save fools…so lets enjoy our turkey and our mistletoe, get high and get kissed. And if all you can manage is Presbyterian punch, that fine too…but for Christ’s sake (literally), please get that diagram right!

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Venite Adoremus Bonnie Prince Charlie!

Posted by nouspraktikon on December 20, 2008

Come let us adore…them? A traditional carol’s origin in a Jacobite anthem should make us reflect on the meaning of the modern state

An article in the
London Daily Telegraph announces that contemporary historians have discoverd that the traditional hymn O Come All Ye Faithful was originally a coded Jacobite rallying cry, and the “he” to whom the song advises us to adore is none other than the Young Pretender of the Jacobite restoration to the British throne of 1745. Tis the season indeed to remember not only the Christian doctrine of the incarnation, but that both civil and ecclesiastical polity have suffered tremendous disarray in the modern world, and that while the proximate causes of “the decline of the West” probably stretch no further back than the period immediately preceeding the First World War, among the remote causes are to be reckoned the inability of either Britain or France to “square the circle” of the relationship between the temporal and the spiritual powers during the Renaissance and the Enlightenment periods.

Making the Venite Adoremus code all the more plausable is the fact that Bonnie Prince Charlie’s birthday falls well within the twelve days of Christmas, on Dec. 31st. Although I can’t trace my ancestry back to any real Jacobites, I think that all of us paleoconservatives could legitimately construe, that after having a quiet and holy Christmas, we are justified in having a noisy and intemperate New Years Eve.

On the more serious side, while the cause of the House of Stuart has been pretty much reduced to a matter of political nostalgia, the nature of the modern world-system and the “whatness” of democracy are very much in question today. Personally, I prefer democracy in its connotative to its denotate sense. If democracy means upholding the right of habeus corpus, then even I am a raving democrat. Unfortunately our modern kings (no longer “we the people” but heads of states who are in turn in the pockets of money interests) have done almost as much damage to the Magna Carta and the Bill of Rights as any hereditary dynast of old could have imagined.

The fundamental questions of politics, at least in the Western Tradition, have revolved around two dilemmas, 1) the relation of the state to religion, and 2) the ballance between the principle of soverignty and the principle of contract. Regarding the first, since the time of Marsillus of Padua in the 14th century, the kings sought to reduce the church to the status of a department of state, and very nearly succeeded in doing so in the 18th century, when suddenly they were themselves either slain, or rendered manequins of de facto republics.

Regarding the second issue of political philosophy, it has generally been assumed (at least by non-specialists) that the institution of kingship was antithetical to the notion of a contract society. This has been roundly refuted by libertarian economist Hans Hermann Hoppe in his masterful opusDemocracy The God That Failed, in which he demonstrates that monarchs, who are private individuals rather than civil servants or polticians, are actually better stewards of freedom than elected officials.

A steward is one who protects something, not someone who derives rents from something. After all, hereditary monarchs had their own estates from which they derived rent, thus they were fully capable, at least in theory, of protecting the wider contractual community free of charge. However, as Hoppe notably points out, even assuming the worst case scenario where the monarch was a monopoly landholder, it was in his or her interest to conserve the human and natural resources of the realm.  This principle of conservation is lacking in public officials, who’s goal (all other things being equal, and not denying that some have scruples) is to transfer as much wealth into the hands of their backers by the end of their term limit as possible…a variant on the well known “tragedy of the commons.”

In contrast, a heredetary prince is, or rather should be, a steward. That some of them have also been named Stuart (an etymological variation on “steward”) should be of more than passing interest. Venite Adoremus!

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Towards a General Branch Theory

Posted by nouspraktikon on December 19, 2008

At long last!

At long last I have been able to tie together a number of ideas which I have been mulling over for some time and tie them into one grand partially baked idea. I am calling it the General Branch Theory. I owe the name, although not the substance, of the theory to a rather out of favor ecclesiology within Anglicanism. I think it is a good name, if for no other reason than it would free me of the “Kabbalah” moniker, which would keep me out of the face of Jews and pagans, people whom I have no desire to quarrel with over something so frivolous as a name. Kabbala, after all, is already taken by people with all sorts of agendas, and each one promoting his or her nostrum as the true, or vera Kabbalah. On the other hand, appropriating the rather common sounding phrase General Branch Theory may get me into all sorts of ungessed at trouble, as it may turn out to be a term of art within physics or mathematics or something else entirely unrelated. Hopefully the “entirely unrelated” aspect of the situation will preempt any possible jealosies. We shall see.

General Branch Theory: What it is

At its simplest, and remember that the Platonists maintain that simple is always best, General Branch Theory can be described as the thesis that all forms of human ideology are distortions of Christian Theology. One might almost describe it as scientific heresiology, motivated by irenic and ecuminical concerns, except that it is intended to replace heresiology, which took a merely negative attitude towards its objects, by a noetic understanding of the mixed nature of truth. All human thought can be divided into two possible categories: 1) perfect theoria, and 2) ideologies…the first being represented by Christian orthodoxy, and the second by all other human thought-systems.

The two categories, as one might expect from any traditional approach to truth, are different in that the first, considered as a genus, contains only one species, where as the second genus contains not only multiple species, but is open ended and subject to innovation and multiplication. Therefore the first is interesting in the same sense that mathematics is interesting, while the second is interesting in the sense that natural history is interesting.

The “Why” of General Branch Theory: Between Relativism and Demonization

The purpose of General Branch Theory is to create a coherent relationship between thought-systems which exhibits maxium tension between total intolerance and complete tolerance. Because there is no diminiution of the truth value or uniqueness of perfect theoria the GBT may be said to be completely “intolerant.” Yet since the GBT recognizes the existnce of all ideological thought-forms, it may be considered both scinetifically flexible and irenic in its effect.

General Branch Theory recognizes that Relativism, in both its epistemic and moral forms, is the greatest danger to human well being, at least in this era. Thus it embraces without qualms the absolutist truth claims made by patrological hermenutics. Relativism kills, but it kills by proxy through the seemingly opposite process of demonization. Demonization is the outcome of one or more truth-defective ideologies engaging in contest on a sub-noetic level. Here “sub-noetic” can mean anything from vitrolic rhetoric to nuclear war.

I hope to continue posting on General Branch Theory at an unspecified time in the future. My idea is to start fleshing things out with concrete (so to speak!) examples as time permits, and hopefully the liniaments of what I have in mind will become increasingly clear to anyone who has the patience and charity to follow along. I’m afraid that, for the time being, I have said enough to thoroughly confuse anyone who has had the misfortune to stumble onto this blog!

Pax

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Glaudium Sunday: Joy or Pistols

Posted by nouspraktikon on December 14, 2008

We live in a good world, if we have the faith to see it for what it is

Unfortunately, it is a world of tragedy too, much of it human caused.  I had occasion to read to some of my students from the Big B Blog of Amitabh Bachchan, the famous Bollywood actor, recording his reactions to the Mumbay terrror incident.  Against media inducements to “calm people down”…he objected that he was far from calm himself, and closed the tragic day’s commentary with mention of his getting a restless sleep with a pistol under his pillow.

I don’t condemn Mr. Bachchan for packing a pistol in his pillow, or the fear and anger which motivated it.  I think everybody is privy to such feelings from time to time.  Furthermore I am a Second Ammendment man myself, and while not an expert on India’s equivalent thereto, fully in support of Mr. Bachchan’s right to bear, or even sleep with, arms.  In fact Mr. Bachchan unwittingly revealed his trusting nature by implying that normally he goes to sleep unarmed.

Mr. Bachchan, in this regard, contrasts with Schopenhauer, who is reported to have gone to sleep every night with a pistol under his pillow.  Schopenhauer was, of course, the famous 19th century philosopher of Pessimism, and his action was fully in accordance with that philosophy.  It is sometimes objected that there are two kinds of pessimists, tempramental pessimists and philosophical pessimists, but I would conjecture that while not all tempramental pessimists are philosophers, any philosopher of that school would also have to be a pessimist by temperament.  Schopenhauer certainly provides no indication to the contrary.

I don’t want to go into an extended discussion of Schopenhauer’s philosophy, except to note that he felt that the world, that is everything which exists, was the product of evil.  In many respects Schopenhauer’s thought was the product of a sustained and merciless meditation on the facts presented throughout the 19th century by the theories of Darwin in biology and Spencer in sociology.  Schopenhauer took these scientists at their word and tried to fathom what was at the root of such a world.  He could only deduce a unquenchable lust for power and survival, a dark god similar in many respects to the speculations of the early Gnostics.  In such a world the only hope for a rational being was escape into non-existence.  An escape from evil.  Schopenhauers bedtime armament doesn’t testify that he was quite ready for immediate escape, but it does testify to his belief that the world was a fundamentally malevolent place.

The orthodox churches have always opposed this kind of pessimistic Gnosticism.  Today is the thrid Advent Sunday, and it has a special name: The Sunday of Joy.  The Third Sunday of Advent is, in a sense, a philosophical challenge to Schopenhauer and all others who proffess that the world is fundamentally evil.  This philosophy of Joy maintains that 1) the world was created as a benevolent act, as recorded in the first chapter of the book of Genesis, and 2) that in spite of human efforts to spoil this good Earth with sin, relief is on the way, or rather,  it is here already.

So on the third Sunday of Advent we are asked to literally count our blessings…to say “thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you….” as many times and as deeply as our faith can sustain.  Faith is the key, because if we submit the evidence of the world to no more than empirical investigation, then we will be able to muster a great deal of evidence for Schopenhauer’s philosophy…with or without something as dramatic as the terror incident in Mumbai.  But for the Christian there are things which trump casual empirical investigation, the evidence of faith and the hope of the coming of Christ into human hearts.  In terms of the drama of the Nativity which is played out in liturgical time, this takes the form of an expectation of the coming of the Christ child.

I noticed that in front of church today that the crech was already set up, with the exception of the infant Jesus.  I have faith however that the baby will arrive sometime on or around the 25th of this month.  In the mean time, the philosophy of the Sunday of Joy is a grace unto itself, and I found myself trying to reapeat “thank you, thank you, thank you…” as I walked through the charioscuro world of mixed blessings and sin.  With enough faith one can not only get through the day…one may even be able to dispense with packing a pistol under one’s pillow.

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Christian Kabbala: In the Begining was…

Posted by nouspraktikon on December 13, 2008

The Trinity….

Yes, I know that isn’t what most people think that the first line of the book of Genesis/Bereshith says, but the case for a trinitarian interpretation of the original Hebrew text is better than is generally known.  First lets take the original:

בראשיתבראאלהיםאתהשמיםואתהארץ

“In the begining…created the heavens and the earth.”  Generally the subject…

again in the original אלהיםא transliterated as Eloheim

is translated as God, Deus, etc..  However the Hebrew is in the plural so the actual word is more like Gods or gods.  Furthermore Semetic languages have not a mere singular and plural, but a singualar, a double, and a plural for a subject consisting of a group of three or more.  So this gives us “In the begining, the Gods equal or more than 3, created the Heaven and the Earth.”

So already Unitarianism is ruled out, and we have restricted the literal meaning of the Biblical text to Trinitarianism, Quadrinitarianism, and on up to the myraid gods of paganism and animism.  Before we go any further, perhaps we should answer the objection that we are on a snark hunt here.  After all the Gods of “Eloheim” are surely just a royal “We” are they not?  This is the way that most Bible translations get around with avoiding the whole issue and just defaulting to “God” as the accepted, noncontroversial, albeit not particularly explanitory, convention.

All right, that is a perfectly valid option, but here I am following a Christian Kabbalistic line of thought, and one principle of the Kabbalah is to look for the exact meaning of the words, sylables and even letters of the Biblical text, to see if some meaning lies hidden in them.  Surely the fact that there are “Gods” rather than God lurking in the first line of the first book of scripture calls for more comment than it has traditionally gotten!

Well, granted that, why 3 rather than more than three, indeed why not myriads of gods?  Again, another hermenutic principle is not to view texts in isolation, and as anyone who has read the Bible knows, it has a highly monotheistic flavor, to say the least.  So the “inside number” if using nothing better than the razor of Occam, would be prefered.  But there is more to it than that, for the other name used for God in scripture the Tetragramaton of YHVH, is taken as a proper name, thus a single subject.

So we have a single/plural God, which seems to vindicate the language worked out by the Council of Nicea about unity of substance and plurality of hypostases .  Fair enough, but why not a Tetrinity of four hypostases, or some even larger number of persons in the Godhead?  Actually there are many indications in the rest of scripture that Trinitarianism is the correct interpretation, assuming that one accepts the ancient and Kabbalistic hermenutic that scripture should be read on four levels: the literal, the prophetic, the moral, and the eschatological.

As for myself I can see no coercive proof that a Trinitarian interpretation must be made, if a person were to restrict their purview to the verse in question.  We have come up to a Mt. Pisgah where only faith can take us into the promised land.  Indeed, a coercive proof would render the Mystery of the Trinity less mysterious and that would be a disservice to faith.  I am satisfied that, on purely rational grounds, the rendition of scripture “In the Begining the Trinity created the Heavens and the Earth” is a plausability, not an absurdity.

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Recession Declaired: Capital 49, Provinces 1

Posted by nouspraktikon on December 3, 2008

Expect Emmiseration, Not Commiseration, from Washington

The Economic Standards Bureau has at last declaired that the US is in recession, and in fact has been since December 2007. I don’t feel this is particularly newsworthy…but it is a good excuse to get a few comments in vis a vis the way the pain has been distributed.

An interesting national survey by state and metropolitan areas appears at the aptly namedDismal Sciencewebsite. Since we now know the big picture, the next logical question is how is each region of the country effected by the now acnowleged recession. Answer: every state in the union is either in recession or at risk, with the exception of Alaska. Even the majority of Alaskans must be feeling the pain because the two major metropolitian regions are listed as at risk. Tough luck Sarah.

However there is one other political subdivision to be reckoned with: the District of Colombia. Evidently the economy of the nations capital is a counterindicator to the country as a whole because DC, which of course is both a “state” and a metropolitan area rolled into one, joins Alaska’s outback as the only political entity in expansion mode.

Do I hear a giant sucking sound coming from the middle of the eastern seaboard? It is too much of a paranoid libertarian notion to project an increase of economic misery in society at large will accrue to higher levels of employment for federal employees and their politico bosses? The recession map is telling the story more loudly than any anarchist orator could shout. Not that all people who live in the DC area are politicians, and I don’t begruge the trickle down effect to the hoi poloi. (Apropos of which, it also appears that the tide of govenment largess is sparking expansion in southern Maryland and northern Virginia as well).

Let’s hope that the agents of chage are ethical enough to know that a real solution to the nation’s economic problems would conversely make them redundant…and that they would not stand in the way of those solutions anyway. Unfortunately that’s change that I can’t believe in.

What I can believe in is that things are getting hot, booming, and prosperous in Washington as we count down towards the inauguration of the new boss (same as the old boss) next month. It may be ten years too late by the standards of the singer from Minneapolis previously known as Prince, but in the Washington metropolitan areas they’re already “Partying like its 2009!”

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