Last week, I purchased my copy of The Federalist, one of those books that I considered essential for my library, and did so in honor of the people of Massachusetts, who, in electing Scott Brown to replace Ted Kennedy in the United States Senate, may have managed to save the Republic from the horrors of socialized health care.  (I should note that the entire Gideon Edition of The Federalist is available for download here if you’re interested.)  I’ve plowed through most of the introductory material, but tonight I decided that it was time to commence reading the actual work of Hamilton, Jay, and Madison.

Alexander Hamilton

Alexander Hamilton, 1755-1804

The Federalist No. 1 was penned by Alexander Hamilton, a Founding Father, Aide-de-camp to General George Washington during the Revolutionary War, and the man who would go on to serve as the first Secretary of the Treasury in Washington’s presidential administration.  I was struck by this passage, which describes the nature of at least some of the debate common at the time over the adoption of the then-proposed US Constitution:

To judge from the conduct of the opposite parties, we shall be led to conclude, that they will mutually hope to evince the justness of their opinions, and to increase the number of their converts, by the loudness of their declamations, and by the bitterness of their invectives. An enlightened zeal for the energy and efficiency of government, will be stigmatized as the offspring of a temper fond of power, and hostile to the principles of liberty. An over scrupulous jealousy of danger to the rights of the people, which is more commonly the fault of the head than of the heart, will be represented as mere pretence and artifice . . . the stale bait for popularity at the expense of public good. It will be forgotten, on the one hand, that jealousy is the usual concomitant of violent love, and that the noble enthusiasm of liberty is too apt to be infected with a spirit of narrow and illiberal distrust. On the other hand, it will be equally forgotten, that the vigour of government is essential to the security of liberty; that, in the contemplation of a sound and well informed judgment, their interests can never be separated; and that a dangerous ambition more often lurks behind the specious mask of zeal for the rights of the people, than under the forbidding appearances of zeal for the firmness and efficiency of government. History will teach us, that the former has been found a much more certain road to the introduction of despotism, than the latter, and that of those men who have overturned the liberties of republics, the greatest number have begun their career, by paying an obsequious court to the people . . . commencing demagogues, and ending tyrants.

It strikes me that the situation is reversed today.  Whereas Hamilton had to fight to overcome the suspicions of a population very concerned about the potential creation of an intrusive and too-powerful federal government, we must now fight against the desire of many to cede their liberty to a federal government that is all too willing to pretend that it can provide everything for everyone.  One wonders what the Founders would think were they able to see what has become of the Republic they worked so hard to build and the citizens whose liberty they strove so mightily to protect.

A Quick Hit from Hayek

On January 29, 2010, in Culture, Economics, History, Politics, by marc

The Road to Serfdom, page 174:

…wherever liberty as we understand it has been destroyed, this has almost always been done in the name of some new freedom promised to the people.

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Tending Towards Totalitarianism

On January 19, 2010, in Culture, Economics, History, Politics, by marc

In honor of the most important by-election in the history of the Unites States of America, I picked up Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom once again.  As usual with this book, I almost immediately ran across a passage worth quoting:

The Road To Serfdom

The Road To Serfdom

No doubt an American or English “Fascist” system would greatly differ from the Italian or German models; no doubt, if the transition were effected without violence, we might expect to get a better type of leader.  And, if I had to live under a Fascist system, I have no doubt that I would rather live under one run by Englishmen or Americans than under one run by anybody else.  Yet all this does not mean that, judged on our present standards, our Fascist system would in the end prove so very different or much less intolerable than its prototypes. There are strong reasons for believing that what to us appear the worst features of the existing totalitarian systems are not accidental by-products but phenomena which totalitarianism is certain sooner or later to produce. Just as the democratic statesman who sets out to plan economic life will soon be confronted with the alternative of either assuming dictatorial powers or abandoning his plans, so the totalitarian dictator would soon have to choose between disregard of ordinary morals and failure. It is for this reason that the unscrupulous and uninhibited are likely to be more successful in a society tending toward totalitarianism.  Who does not see this has not yet grasped the full width of the gulf which separates totalitarianism from a liberal regime, the utter difference between the whole moral atmosphere under collectivism and the essentially individualist Western civilization.

Emphasis mine.  We are currently ruled by a collection of miniature tyrants who believe that they can plan our economic life and have little concern for individual liberty.  Today’s election in Massachusetts is an opportunity to discipline said tyrants and send the message that the citizens may be ready to reassume control over their own lives.  I’m hoping and praying for a Scott Brown win, and ultimately a resurgence of individual liberty in the country that did more to bring that concept to the world than any other.

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Numbers and the rights of women

On January 17, 2010, in Culture, History, Religion, Theology, by marc

Perhaps you’ve noted in my Goodreads feed that I’ve been working my way through the Bible since late December.  My goal, initially stated, was to read the Bible from front to back (like one would read a regular book) over the course of this year, and to read it aloud.  I got off to a good start, and even began to record myself reading it (thinking that someday when I die, the kids might just find it in some format and have an audio copy of their dear old dad reading the scriptures cover to cover to play for their children, and so on.  I’ve sort of trailed off in enthusiasm for that particular aspect of the project, and I’ve modified the goal of reading it aloud because it’s sort of impractical at times to read aloud at some points when I have time to read, so I’m now planning to read as much as possible aloud.

Anyway, I’m making steady progress, and I’m hoping to be through the Pentateuch by the end of this month – a reasonable goal, I think, especially considering that I’m entering the homestretch of Numbers halfway through January.  And today, I ran across a passage that was interesting, and casts some interesting light on the common claim that the Bible is a tool of patriarchy and all about the oppression of women.  Numbers 27:1-11 says:

The daughters of Zelophehad son of Hepher, the son of Gilead, the son of Makir, the son of Manasseh, belonged to the clans of Manasseh son of Joseph. The names of the daughters were Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah and Tirzah. They approached the entrance to the Tent of Meeting and stood before Moses, Eleazar the priest, the leaders and the whole assembly, and said, “Our father died in the desert. He was not among Korah’s followers, who banded together against the LORD, but he died for his own sin and left no sons.  Why should our father’s name disappear from his clan because he had no son? Give us property among our father’s relatives.”

So Moses brought their case before the LORD 6 and the LORD said to him,  ”What Zelophehad’s daughters are saying is right. You must certainly give them property as an inheritance among their father’s relatives and turn their father’s inheritance over to them.

“Say to the Israelites, ‘If a man dies and leaves no son, turn his inheritance over to his daughter.  If he has no daughter, give his inheritance to his brothers. 10 If he has no brothers, give his inheritance to his father’s brothers.  If his father had no brothers, give his inheritance to the nearest relative in his clan, that he may possess it. This is to be a legal requirement for the Israelites, as the LORD commanded Moses.’ “

As I was reading, it struck me that this action taken by the daughters of Zelophad was likely completely out of step with the overwhelming male-dominated culture of the day, and God’s response indicates that while the culture may have been male-dominated, He certainly wasn’t.  Via Zondervan’s Expositors’s Bible Commentary, some more detail on how God expressed his concern for these women:

(1-4) The question brought to Moses by the five daughters of Zelophehad, whose genealogy is traced back to Manasseh (cf. 26:33), concerned the securing of the inheritance and the preservation of their father’s name in the land.  Their action in approaching the leaders of the nation was unprecedented, a great act of courage, conviction, and faith.  When the women made their claim to Moses, they specified that their father had not died because of participation in the rebellion of Korah (see Nu 16) but only because he was part of the entire doomed first generation.  It appears from this verse that the rebels associated with Korah not only lost their lives in the judgment of God but that their survivors lost their inheritance as well.  So the women came asking for a decision from the Lord, that their father’s name not disappear from among the clans  of his family.  These verses clearly demonstrate the tie of name to land in the expectation of Israel.  One’s meaning in the community is dependent on the survival of his name in the distribution of land in the time of conquest…

…(6-11) This section gives an indication of how case law might have operated in Israel.  The general laws would be promulgated.  Then legitimate exceptions or special considerations would come to the elders and perhaps be brought to Moses himself.  He would then await a decision from the Lord.  In this case the Lord gave a favorable decision to these women.  In fact, he went beyond their request.  They had requested a landed property (v. 4).  The response of the Lord was for a hereditary possession of landed property.  Not only would they receive the property, they could transfer it to their heirs as well.  It is as thought their father had had sons!

God is not a God for men only.  Even in a time when the world was completely dominated by males, God was concerned about the treatment of women, and was concerned enough to intervene and ensure that they were treated fairly and to do so in a way that was revolutionary at the time.

By the way, I’m reading through my newest copy of the Bible – the NIV Stewardship Resource Bible, published by Zondervan with additional material edited by some friends of mine from work.  The stewardship material that I’ve encountered thus far has been very worthwhile, and of course the NIV translation is very accurate and readable.  Highly recommended.

The New Year’s Update

On January 11, 2010, in Culture, General, History, Politics, Religion, Theology, by marc

So of late, I’ve been noodling around with a bunch of different books, as usual.  My primary concentration has been on Under the Loving Care of the Fatherly Leader, which was one of my Christmas gifts, and has been a great read so far.  I’d say I’m just over 1/3 of the way in, and North Korea is as utterly screwed up as I’d imagined it to be.  Aside from which, who would have thought that a guy like Kim Il-Sung (or Kim Jong-Il, for that matter) would be able to build a cult of personality so powerful that young women would consider it an honor to strip naked and be a component of a “living bed” for said totalitarian monsters.

Yeah, that’s… just wrong.  But it apparently happens.  (I long for some nutjob apologist for the regime to come along and leave a DPRK-style denunciation of me in the comments.)

In other news, I managed to snag a relatively cheap copy of Volume III of James Montgomery Boice’s commentaries on Romans (in the hardcover to match my copies of Volumes I, II, and IV).  Thank you, Amazon Marketplace.  I also picked up a copy of RC Sproul’s 1 volume commentary on Romans, and I’m hoping to get his commentary on John ASAP.  And I’ve made a goal of reading through the Bible from cover to cover this year, and I’m doing so using my new pseudo-leatherbound copy of the NIV Stewardship Study Bible from Zondervan, which was edited by a friend of mine.  As of now, I’m just past the giving of the law in Exodus.

After some wheeling and dealing, I managed to scrape together the cash for a copy of NT Wright’s The Resurrection of the Son of God, which is – according to reviews – 700+ pages of glorious apologetics in defense of the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  That should also keep me occupied for a while.

So happy new year to all; I’ll keep you posted as I make progress.