‘Latter-Day Liberty’: Connor Boyack’s groundbreaking book

I have never met Connor Boyack.  We are friends on Facebook, and I enjoy his blog Connor’s Conundrums, which deals with politics from a Mormon perspective.  Let there be no doubt:  Connor is a real libertarian, not a mamby-pamby fly-by-night libertarian like somebody like me.  He hates the state with a passion, and could correctly be described as a Rothbardian anarcho-capitalist.  He is anti-war, anti-state and pro-market, but most importantly pro-liberty.

But the truth is that we are living in the age of libertarianism, mostly because all of the predictions made by people like Rothbard are becoming true literally before our eyes.   There is no way of understanding our current economic malaise (in my opinion) without understanding the key role of monetary policy in creating stagflation and without understanding that business cycles are inevitable.   Markets must be allowed to clear.  Government intervention, as we have seen with TARP and the many bailouts, only makes things worse, and at the end of the day it is the poor and the middle-class workers who suffer the most while the well-connected profit from our misery.  Meanwhile, we are seeing the folly and horror of endless wars and the loss of our civil liberties.

Connor’s positions make many intellectual Mormons very uncomfortable.  He is clearly a smart guy, but he is so darned dogmatic.  And he seems to think he know the answer to everything.   And he is so consistent, always arguing for more liberty and less government.   Doesn’t he know the world is much more complicated than he claims?  And doesn’t he know that all good Mormons must always be in favor of more government to show they actually care about the poor.

Well, as Connor shows in his book “Latter-Day Liberty, A Gospel Approach to Government and Politics,” all good Mormons should be in favor of liberty, not confiscating other peoples’ money so you can be beneficent with it.  But make no mistake:  Connor’s book will also make many traditional conservatives very uncomfortable.  He is anti-war and lays out an unassailable case that the Book of Mormon creates a well-developed just war theory.  He is pro-immigrant, pointing out that “it is an inescapable fact that the current immigration laws are founded upon racism and protectionism.”  And he is against the war on drugs.

To sum up:  Connor Boyack will upset a lot of people with this book.

Still, “Latter-Day Liberty” is, in my opinion, one of those books that Mormons simply must read.  It is a groundbreaking book at a crucial time.  In this day and age, a book must have an original, compelling message and also have a good self-promoting author to be successful.  “Latter-Day Liberty” has both.

This book has a forward by Mark Skousen, perhaps the most famous living libertarian Mormon.  He started Freedom Fest, the single biggest libertarian event of the year, which takes place every July in Las Vegas.  Ron Paul also has read Connor’s book, and gives it a great review.  Tom Woods, perhaps the smartest living economist and historian, also gives it a hearty thumbs-up.

So this is a book that you should take very seriously.  Many intellectual Mormons will be talking about it.  I predict great angst on the part of left-leaning Mormons, a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth, that Connor dares to challenge progressive orthodoxy.  But I also predict many conservative Mormons will sputter and spew about his “isolationist” foreign policy and his support of “amnesty” for illegal immigrants.

But Connor makes his points brilliantly, mixing basic logic with literally hundreds of quotations from modern-day prophets and the scriptures.  I predict very few of the people who try to refute Connor’s book will be able to do so without resorting to ad hominems:  his arguments are simply too good and too consistent to be overcome very easily.

“Latter-Day Liberty” will be published in December.  I was fortunate enough to get a pre-publication copy.  You can order your own advance copy, for delivery in December, here.

In the coming weeks I will be addressing some of the specific arguments made in “Latter-Day Liberty.”  These points are, I believe, crucial to understanding how to mesh Mormon beliefs on liberty, free agency and politics in the latter days.  And here’s a suggestion:  order a copy of the book for Christmas for your relative/friend who is interested in politics.  Nothing like a good political discussion over Christmas dinner to make life exciting.


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About Geoff B.

Geoff B graduated from Stanford University (class of 1985) and worked in journalism for several years until about 1992, when he took up his second career in telecommunications sales. He has held many callings in the Church, but his favorite calling is father and husband. Geoff is active in martial arts and loves hiking and skiing. Geoff has five children and lives in Colorado.

65 thoughts on “‘Latter-Day Liberty’: Connor Boyack’s groundbreaking book

  1. I have never met Connor Boyack. We are friends on Facebook, and I enjoy his blog Connor’s Conundrums, which deals with politics from a Mormon perspective.

    You mean, from Connor’s perspective, don’t you Geoff? Connor doesn’t really speak for Mormons, does he? . . .

  2. Interesting Guy. Well, I was just reading “Messenger and Advocate” It says the following: “We who Blog here at the Messenger and Advocate seek to exemplify the highest principles consistent with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.” Shouldn’t this say: …from Guy Murray’s perspective?

    Connor doesn’t claim to speak for anybody but himself. But he is a Mormon and can claim to speak from a Mormon perspective just as much as Guy Murray can.

  3. While I don’t agree with Connor very often, I do admire that he has gone all-in, and not avoided positions that many “libertarian” Mormons do like the war on drugs and war.

  4. I’ll be very interested to hear more about Conner’s ideas. I think we need all types, even “Rothbaridan-anarcho-capitalists.”

  5. I also was lucky enough to read an early copy of Latter-Day Liberty. When I got to the chapter on Immigration, I expected it would be one of the few areas of the book with which I would have to agree to disagree with Connor.

    To my surprise, Connor completely won me over to the libertarian position. I have been very anti-amnesty, anti-illegal immigrant, and while not pro deportation (due to logistics) I have been very favorable of making the environment so unwelcome that illegals would leave the country voluntarily.

    While I still believe that our laws need to be respected, I now feel that our immigration policies are bad law – I agree entirely with Connor’s position. While many enjoy a well-written book simply because it restates their own paradigm, I most enjoyed Connor’s because it convincingly changed my mind on a long held and erroneous idea.

  6. Libertarianism strikes me as an indulgence that appeals largely to well-fed white people who benefited from a tithepayer-subsidized education at one of the BYUs.

  7. Thanks for the kind words, Geoff!

    Joyce: Yes, it will be on the Kindle and Nook in December, and hopefully on Apple’s iBooks soon thereafter.

  8. I look forward to reading the book. I was a libertarian in the early 1990s, moved back to conservative Republican, and again am a libertarian – this time for keeps.

    It is only in freedom and self-responsibility that mankind can progress. Personally, I do not have a problem with a people choosing a strong government on a state level. I can always move elsewhere. But we can see from the current economic crisis just which states are doing better and which worse: those with little government are coming out of the Great Recession better, while the liberal states are drowning in debt. California is dying. New York is beginning to recover some, but only because the Democratic Governor is cutting way back on state government expenses and regulations. I live in Indiana, where Democrats had a big deficit, and then Mitch Daniels came in and turned the deficit into a $1 Billion+ surplus, just before the economic crash. How did he do it? Mostly sold or leased out government resources, and reducing government waste. Today we still have a surplus, as we’ve tried to use as little of it as possible.

    The only cure for the federal government is to reduce to perhaps 10% of all government (per Madison), get out of the many wars we are in, reduce our world military presence, and become the beacon of freedom for the world, inviting in immigrants who want a fresh start with freedom.

  9. Rameupmpton,

    I wonder what Connor (or you for that matter) think of your big government unconstitutional job. How many libertarians have taken most of their lifetime pay from the government? 🙂

  10. I know a fair number of libertarians, and I don’t know a single one who works for the government (except for possible Rame, but I don’t know what he does for a living, so I can’t comment). Now, in the fictional world that people like Arj like to embrace, all libertarians are like that guy Ron Swanson in “Parks and Recreation” who works in government but is a libertarian.


  11. I’m glad to hear that some are being won over on the immigration argument. I did not think such a think was possible considering how entrenched we get in our positions. Maybe I can be won over on isolationist policies… I’ll read the book and see. I’m certainly aware of all the arguments for isolationism, and can even agree with them. But at the same time feel that if you can contribute to good around the world you should do so. Of course, I would agree that for every good thing we’ve done we seem to cancel it out with another bad. But on the whole I can’t imagine a better world if for the last 30 years America has been isolationist. To me, it doesn’t seem the solution is have a bumbling, interfering USA on the world scene or to not have the USA on the world scene. It’s between having the USA in that position or China or Russia, etc. Someone else will fill that vacuum.

    Now, I’m not suggesting endless wars and engagement though… but when I think of missionary work, that is anything but isolation. When I read the scripture that “out of Zion shall go forth the law” I don’t see isolationism, but in fact a lot of engagement on the world scene. Again, I don’t deny we’re doing it wrong now. But doing it wrong is not a solution for not doing it at all.

    So I’d like to read the book and see how he can persuade me otherwise.

    Whatever the case may be, I am certain of one thing, if we go to the kind of libertarianism envisioned in the book, we will see at least one, but like three to four generations of chaos. You can’t just take away food stamps from millions of people who are convinced they are oppressed and not have a severe breakdown of society. In that 1-4 generations, the question would then be could our government survive? Or would we turn back toward some dictator promising order as has been done so many times.

  12. libertarianism is not isolationism. That just shows the power of the media, they have equated the two.

    Non-interventionism is NOT isolationism.

  13. Chris, I think you’ll enjoy the book. I contextualize and resolve each of the concerns you mention. I’m confident you’ll finish reading it with a newfound appreciation for and understanding of — if not a newfound adherence to — a non-interventionist foreign policy.

  14. Chris, two points:

    –Non-interventionism is different than isolationism. You need to think “19th century America’s attitude toward Europe, Asia and the Middle East” to understand the difference. When Britain attacked, we fought back. But we didn’t allow ourselves to get involved in the ridiculous European wars that came along every decade or so. And we didn’t get involved in Japan-Russia or China-Russia or any of the many other conflicts that took place in Asia. We didn’t try to conquer the Middle East like the British and French. We had our own wars, many of them avoidable and unwise, but at least we didn’t lose thousands of men fighting in wars that were not in our national interest. This is the type of foreign policy we must engage.

    Second, I would ask you to re-read my post “Good, Better, Best, Perfect.” Nobody is turning off food stamps tomorrow. Ron Paul talks a lot about the fact that you must make change in steps. People have become dependent on the government, and the model for changing that is the 1995 welfare reform, which turned the issue back to the states (and helped cause an employment boom) but did not cause anybody to starve.

  15. Geoff,

    There is a link on Rameumptom’s name that will take you to a pretty extensive employment history. I was unaware of Ron Swanson as I don’t watch P&R, but I appreciate the link. In my pretend world all libertarians are famous industrialist gone into hiding. Well, that or people with bumper stickers referring to missing industrialists. 🙂

  16. You need to think “19th century America’s attitude toward Europe, Asia and the Middle East” to understand the difference. When Britain attacked, we fought back. But we didn’t allow ourselves to get involved in the ridiculous European wars that came along every decade or so. And we didn’t get involved in Japan-Russia or China-Russia or any of the many other conflicts that took place in Asia. We didn’t try to conquer the Middle East like the British and French. We had our own wars, many of them avoidable and unwise, but at least we didn’t lose thousands of men fighting in wars that were not in our national interest. This is the type of foreign policy we must engage.

    Just out of curiosity, Geoff, do you count the removal (and in many cases, brutal murdering of) Native American peoples and the occupying their land by the U.S. during the nineteenth century as “non-interventionist”? When claiming that “we didn’t lose thousands of men fighting in wars that were not in our national interest” do you not include the 11,000+ American casualties suffered during the imperialistic Spanish-American war in Cuba and the Philippine-American war?

    I apologize if this is too much of a thread jack—I have admittedly little interest in reading Connor’s book and don’t have much to say about the relative merits of libertarianism per se, but I would appreciate any clarification of the above point so that I can better understand the historical precedent you reference in advocating “non-interventionism.”

  17. Geoff,
    I’m aware of the differences between the two terms, and I understand on both sides there is the preference to redefine or relabel the terms. I don’t use isolationism as a perjorative, and even Ron Paul has said some people like him don’t mind using it, but that critics have latched on to the term in a negative sense.

    In a strict sense, it’s impossible to to not intervene and play any kind of role for good. God must certainly intervene (whether directly or indirectly) in the affairs of men, but certainly not the way we see the US govt. doing now. To intervene is to “delay or prevent to something being done”.

    I think if you see something bad happening on the horizon in world affairs it is entirely appropriate to have a desire to delay or prevent it from being done. However, if you want to toy with definitions, non-interventionism would be to not seek to delay or prevent something viewed as negative from being done. To just about everyone that sounds like isolationism and I don’t really have a problem with it.

    I understand the ultimate goal is to persuade and have diplomatic relations and be active in this sense. Much like some organizations the US is actually involved in on a political level. But for many, the reality is if you are being persuasive, and seeking through discussions or at the most coercive non-interventionist level a Libertarian™ would presumably support, trade agreements then I suppose you can have a clean concience that you have not resorted to coecive force or threat of force. Except, somebody else must necessarily fill that power vaccum.

    Ultimately, in this issue it feels like if we want to be principled in a gospel nature, taking section 121 or 98, among others, into account, we can just be content to do what’s right and let the world go to hell (I guess I’m just not to optimistic that things can possibly work out in a gradual, small changes sense — you may be able to construct a welfare state line upon line, but I’m not convinced you can remove one in that manner). But in a way, it feels like we can be principled and understand the true nature of things, and be willing to endure the consequences of it, but by removing that “bubble” of protection from many other places in the world, we are not giving them the same opportunity.

    Case in point, Korea, 1950. Is the world and South Korea better off we decided to intervene? Or more recently Operation Desert Storm (1991). If we have the ability to stop one nation from destroying or plundering, or raping another, should we make use of that ability? I do not think these answers are as clear cut as it would seem. We can clearly recognize the consequences of intervening in both of those conflicts, and in fact we are still dealing with them years later. I’m not suggesting we got it just right in both cases either… but I’m also not convinced letting NK overrun SK, or letting Saddam have his way in Kuwait and then look south towards sections of Arabia would be any better either.

  18. Christopher, am I sorry I didn’t make a long, long list of all of the bad things the United States did in the 19th century. I’m sure that would have made you happy but would have been tedious reading. My point is very simple: the biggest wars in the 19th century (with the exception of the Civil War and the Spanish-American wars, which came at the end of the century) were European and Asian wars, and the US was not involved. We avoided getting involved in wars that were not in our national interest, unlike today when that seems to be all we do. I am sure you and I have much more in common on this subject that you would like to admit. As for the Spanish American and Philippine wars, well, personally I oppose them and see them as getting sucked into unnecessary adventures that did nothing to further US security.

    Read Connor’s book when it comes out. You may learn something.

  19. Chris, Korea is a classic example of a completely unnecessary war (from the US perspective). First of all, it was clearly unconstitutional — we never declared war on North Korea and relied on a foreign power for approval. Secondly, we fought to a draw.

    Let’s think about a very possible scenario if the US had not gotten involved. The North Koreans, with Chinese and Soviet help, might have overrun South Korea. What would have happened then? The South Koreans would have fought back on their own. And even if they didn’t, eventually North Korea would have been forced, by world events, to reform and change in ways that it is not doing now. Look at Vietnam: the North overran the South, and now they are turning capitalist and slowly allowing freedom to the people there. You could make a pretty strong argument (imho) that we have actually retarded North Korean reforms that might have taken place on their own by getting involved there. All dictators need an enemy, and we have conveniently allowed ourself to be that enemy. In Vietnam, we withdrew, and good things happened. In Korea, we are still there, and no good things have happeneed with North Korea.

    As for Desert Storm, I will let others comment on that. My fingers are getting tired. In short, another wasteful, useless, victory-less foreign war for the U.S.

  20. A book of ideas on libertarianism from a Mormon perspective sounded intriguing, especially as someone who opposes the war on drugs and hysterical immigration rhetoric…until I started looking around Connor’s website. As a registered Democrat who voted for Obama and supported some of his policies (but heavily disagree on others) I have been informed by Connor’s posts and comments that I am a Satanically-influenced enemy of the Constitution. That’s not a very “come let us reason together” invitation. I appreciate passion for ideas, but branding those who disagree with you as Satanic enemies of the Constitution won’t get a lot of traction with most folks…other than just preaching to the choir. It sounds like this book’s audience will be that choir. I am misunderstanding where Connor is coming from?

  21. I am misunderstanding where Connor is coming from?

    Yes, slenderike, you are.

    If you care to provide a link to what you’re referring to, I’d be happy to further clarify.

  22. Connor–Thanks for your response. Again, I appreciate the passion with which you share your ideas.
    This is one small sampling from the “Domestic Enemies of the Constitution Thread”
    A poster asked “You both write of evil persons who are enemies of the Constitution, but you don’t name names” and you replied “That part’s easy. Every Congressman (or woman) supporting the bailout bill. Or supporting universal health care. Or supporting the Federal Reserve. (I could go on.)”
    By those words, if I supported one or more of those policies I am an enemy of the constution (and evidently you could go on about what would make me an enemy).
    In that same thread in speaking of those who hold those ideas, you said “Such men are mine and God’s enemies inasmuch as they pursue their course, and just as we opposed our enemies in the war and heaven, so too we must stand firm in this life to support God’s plan (and the Constitution) and reject all those who oppose it.”
    A plain reading of those comments would put my support for anything you disagree with as an enemy of God and the Constitution. I haven’t read every post on your blog, but this rhetoric is not inspiring me to read your book, but rather it paints anyone disagreeing with you into an uncomfortable corner. It also make is more difficult to see your ideas in reasoned, rational light. Did I misread?

  23. It’s not that you disagree with something I believe in. It’s that by advancing such positions you support something that violates the Constitution, and therefore are its enemy. It’s quite simple. If the Constitution says you cannot do X, but you support a “law” that enforces X, then you fall into that category.

    The idea or intent is not to paint people into a corner or employ alienating rhetoric. It’s to simply analyze just how a domestic enemy to the Constitution might be. If you disagree with my analysis, who would you suggest as individuals/groups/etc. that fall into that category? I’m sincerely curious.

    For those who want more context, here’s the thread to which slenderike is referring: http://www.connorboyack.com/blog/domestic-enemies-of-the-constitution

  24. Connor,
    I appreciate the reply. Help me see if I adequately understand the metric by which you measure enemies of God and the Constitution-if someone supports something you believe violates the Constitution, then they “fall into the category” of Satanic enemy of God and the Constitution. This would include those who support (or do not adequately oppose?) the Fed, universal health care, and the bailout bill. Would that also include those who support Social Security, Medicare, and publicly funded education?
    By your analysis hundreds of millions of Americans who support such positions and the majority of our elected leaders of both parties are Satan-inspired enemies to God and liberty. Would that be correct?
    Regardless of what your “idea or intent” is, that seems a difficult position from which to start a reasonable, persuasive conversation. It seems your position is “anyone who disagrees with me is on the side of Satan against freedom”. I realize I am couching that in provocative terms, but those are the gist of your words from your website. Again, am I misreading you?

  25. I nowhere in that thread called anybody — even a domestic enemy of the Constitution — a “Satanic enemy of God.”

    What I did say is this:

    The scriptures are clear that there are wicked men who design to overthrow what God has commanded us to build up. Such men are mine and God’s enemies inasmuch as they pursue their course, and just as we opposed our enemies in the war and heaven, so too we must stand firm in this life to support God’s plan (and the Constitution) and reject all those who oppose it.

    I myself often do or say thinks that is inimical towards God’s plan of salvation — both for myself and others. I thus become an enemy. I seek to become His friend, but often do things that oppose His will. As I also explain in that comment, the enemy status is transitory. One is not branded an enemy from thenceforth and forever for their position. But to the extent that they continue to cling to a policy or action that violates God’s commandments, or individual liberty, or a clear mandate of the Constitution, etc., then that transitory label applies. I am no exception to the rule.

  26. Connor,
    You are correct that the words “Satanic” were never put directly in front of “enemy of God” but the context of picking sides like in the war in heaven it left little to the imagination. I do appreciate you providing some context as to who also qualifies as enemies of God–all of us when we knowingly do things against God’s will.
    I think the difficult and alienating leap is saying anyone who disagrees with your views of the Constitution then is immediately and automatically against God’s plan and is on the wrong side of the war in heaven (ie. Satanic) and an enemy to God. I think it would be difficult for many good, well-reasoned people to accept that and thus, give a fair accounting of your ideas.
    You also didn’t answer my question about whether those who support the Fed, universal health care, the bailout bill, and/or Social Security, Medicare, and publicly funded education fall into this enemy to God and the Constitution category. Again this would put the majority of Americans and our elected officials in this disagreeable and inflammatory category. That seems like a non-starter for most people and a poor context for people to consider and be persuaded by your ideas.

  27. The problem isn’t the Connor B. prefers simplicity over complication. Its that he prefers simplicity over complication even if simplicity is factually and logically wrong.

    Whenever I’ve seen Connor B. cite historical examples, for instance, he’s always been wrong.

    Libertarianism of the Connor B. variety is a creed.

  28. “Many intellectual Mormons will be talking about it.”

    Depends on what you mean, I guess. I don’t think many people will read it. Some might talk about it, for example in this thread. Does this thread fulfill your prediction?

  29. Adam G, i read that thread, and it seemed you were agreeing with Connor, unless I was missing some irony (and I usually get your irony). I don’t favor secession today, but I DO favor the right to secede under theoretical tyranny. That seems to be your position also. Look, I’m not going to defend everything Connor says and writes, I can even defend everything I say and write. But I will defend the book and recommend it to anybody.

  30. Steve Evans, I guess we’ll have to see what happens. It’s worth noting that this article on M* has gotten 55 “likes” on Facebook so far, which is a lot for M*, so if that is any indication, there will be a lot of discussion. I’m not predicting very many people will like it — just the opposite, many people will despise the book for various reasons. But it will be discussed.

  31. Geoff B.,
    then I must be a really, really poor writer. Secession is not revolution or rebellion, it has an altogether different moral and juridical basis, and this was perfectly well understood at the time of the Civil War. That Connor thinks otherwise and continued to think so when called on it shows how shallow and ignorant his historical analysis is.
    There may be a right to revolt agains tyranny, but not a right to ‘secede.’
    Also, even if you grant his dumb definition of secession, it was still pretty dumb to compare the American South and the American colonies morally speaking. The ‘lincoln was a tyrant’ crowd know jack about jack.

  32. We’ll have to agree to disagree on the subject of secession then. I think the right to secede is part of any voluntary compact, which is what the Constitution was. This does not mean secession is morally right for people now — personally I can’t see a reason to secede right now. But I can imagine scenarios where it might be. There were northern states in the early 19th century that threatened to secede several times. The union did its best to accommodate their concerns. I don’t believe in the concept that you are obligated to stay in a country if you don’t want to — this applies for individuals as well as groups of individuals.

  33. I’m with Geoff here. We as a community and a state have every right to cut the ties with a federal system that has violated the terms of the agreement (the Constitution).

  34. Except then they are not voluntary. I’m really having trouble understanding your position. You cannot imagine any future scenario when a state or group of states might want to secede and that secession cannot be permitted? How about if a future government decides to start executing Mormons who are citizens? Would a secession of Mormon-dominated states be permitted then?

  35. LDSPhilosopher (45) We as a community and a state have every right to cut the ties with a federal system that has violated the terms of the agreement (the Constitution).

    Who gets to decide when a judgment is correct regarding the violation of the terms of the constitution? The community itself? So the community could render a grossly incorrect interpretation but intrinsically be justified regardless of whether right or wrong?

  36. One could *voluntarily* agree to a perpetual compact. The compact is voluntary, but one can’t licitly exit it.

    For instance, when I voluntarily sale you some land, the sale is usually perpetual. I don’t get to cancel it later because I think you’re being a dirtbag. Yet, my sale was still voluntary.

    Freedom is the ability to make decisions that have consequences. In other words, freedom is the ability to be bind yourself. The fact that I am constrained now by my past choices *feels* like I am being denied freedom, but my current constraints are really an expression of my freedom to choose.

  37. Adam G, your argument is a good one for some contracts, but there is no evidence that the US Constitution was perpetual. The idea of creating a “permanent compact” was debated at the Constitutional convention and rejected and not included in the final document. The understanding was that the Constitution was not a permanent contract at all, which is why in the early 19th century the New England federalists discussed leaving the union because of the Louisiana purchase. For more, see Jason Lewis’ “Power Divided is Power Checked,” which has some very interesting historical information, as well as Tom DiLorenzo’s “The Real Lincoln.”

    Even if we accept that the Constitution was “permanent,” I don’t think we should necessarily accept that the contract is binding under all possible circumstances. As I mention, a nation that commits extreme tyranny such as genocide against a minority is not a nation where the minority must be forced to stay.

  38. There is no good evidence either that it was meant to be temporary or impermanent. My best reading of the evidence is that the issue was never squarely faced or settled by the founding generation. The Unionists had strong arguments.

    Nothing DiLorenzo ever wrote is worth more than wastepaper. Even as polemicists go. You would be better for seeking an evaluation of the respective merits of the secessionist and unionist cases from historians rather than polemicists.

  39. Does any generation have the moral authority to form a compact that is permanently binding on future generations? I believe in Book of Mormon times, for instance, every generation revalued their currency and their various weights and measures by the voice of the people.

    If we say that a generation does have the moral authority to make binding compacts upon future generations, it seems that would have some pretty major agency implications.

    This may sound terrifyingly anarchic, but I believe each individual has a right to declare a contract null and void if 1) the individual has never entered into the contract, or 2) having entered the contract, he deems that other party(ies) have violated the contract.

  40. Isn’t this the traditional problem of contractual theories of government? The problem of people being born who never entered into such contracts in a defensible way? How can someone else enter into a contract for me independent of my granting them that right?

    In any case as I said the ultimate problem with discussions like this is who decides. The fact one can debate about some hypothetical situation in which we know the right answer (presumably while sitting beside the judgment seat of God) does us little good here and now where we see but through a glass darkly. After all most of those debating the point are convinced that they know when something is or isn’t constitutional; is or isn’t right or so forth. It seems, however, that it is far more rare that they are correct. As such a system of adjudication is normally the process we go through. Thus for instance the supreme court. We may not always agree with its decisions, (and undoubtedly they are at times wrong) but it often seems like those who cry the loudest are those with the least amount of humility regarding their ability to reason correctly.

  41. Kevin Kappen, you have forced me into the unusual position of agreeing with Adam G on one small point: I do agree that contracts are binding on future generations, especially contracts like the Constitution, unless there is a large consensus that the contract has been broken by the other side.

    Let’s use an example. You sell your house. Your kids grew up in the house. The contract is binding on your kids — they can’t go to the new buyer and say they didn’t agree to the contract and therefore they want the house back. Now, let’s say that the kids find out that the house was bought fraudently, that the buyers said they paid but it turns out they didn’t — well, then the contract is null and void and would not necessarily be binding and could be challenged.

    When it comes to *societal* contracts like the Constitution, the supposition was of course that the contract is binding on all future generations, and the Constitution even includes ways for future generations to change it (the amendment process) if times have changed and future generations don’t want to accept the Constitution. So, I accept the fact that the Constitution, signed by my forbears in 1789, is binding on me as a US citizen. This is why our public officials swear to uphold the Constitution, and not the President or Congress or something else. The entire social contract is based on the Constitution as the binding document.

    This is also why I don’t see any current conditions where we could justify secession *today*.

    However, I do *not* accept the supposition that this binding contract must prevent me from favoring secession forever in the future. The entire social contract is based on a key phrase, which is “consent of the governed.” The founding philosophy of the Constitution is natural law, meaning that the purpose of the Constitution is to protect our life, our liberty and our property. If a future government strays so far from its original purpose that it loses the “consent of the governed” and becomes so tyrannical that it violates our founding philosophy (for example, if a government orders the “extermination” of entire peoples), then I would no longer consider myself bound to this social contract because the contract was already violated by other people, and I would consider secession justified. Let me stress that we are far from that today.

  42. Geoff,

    Thanks for your thought out response.

    The problem with your house contract example is that the contract does not lay any obligation on the children, and also the children have no claim to the house; as they were not the owners, they have no say in the selling of the house. This is an apples to oranges comparison, which I believe you realize as you then proceed to address societal contracts.

    Yes I agree that the supposition was that it would be binding on all future generations – my argument is that because the supposition exists does not make it morally correct. You say that you accept that the U.s Constitution is binding upon you as a U.S citizen and further state that we are “far away” from government tyranny that violates the founding principles of the document.

    While that is an interesting opinion, I challenge you to name one of the rights enshrined in the Bill of Rights that has not been seriously infringed if not completely ignored – let alone defending those rights which is the mandate given to the government by the Constitution.

    Freedom of exercise of religion – as long as your religion does not practice plural marriage, as long as exercising your religion does not include any offensive religious symbols in the public square.

    Freedom of Speech – as long as you keep it in designated “Free Speech zones”

    Right to bear arms – greatly infringed. examples too numerous to list.

    Rights against unreasonable searches and seizures – unless you want to fly, (or increasingly travel by any means) and as far as searches – two words – “Patriot Act”

    Right to a speedy jury trial – well, yes, sort of intact as long as the jury does not invoke jury nullification in many cases the judge sets aside the jury’s decision if this is done.

    10th amendment – all powers not explicitly given to the federal government by the Constiution belong to the states and to the people – completely trashed.

    I guess people can still “take the 5th” – but hmm all of that torture in Gitmo and other detainment locations – hmmm sounds like compelling self incriminating testimony to me.

    It would take the governmet “ordering the execuation of entire peoples” to reach your definition of “breach of contract”?

  43. Kevin, I agree with you that there have been serious infringements. In my opinion, the worst are on the 9th and 10th amendments, where our natural rights and the states’ rights have been seriously infringed. Perhaps the only one that hasn’t been seriously infringed is the third amendment against quartering troops, but the day may come when that is trashed also. Most importantly, the Constitution clearly lays out the enumerated powers of Congress and the executive, and we have undeclared wars and an expansion of government that is completely out of control.

    I am still hopeful we can, slowly, piece by piece, regain our rights.

    There is no secession movement I could sanction today. But there is the movement to take back our rights that I feel I am a very small part.

  44. I think the Federal government has done FAR MORE than enough to justify secession. But just because it’s morally justified (and it has been for a very long time) doesn’t mean it is strategically wise. So, I don’t favor secession, but not because it isn’t currently justified, but because it’s dangerous.

  45. I’m with youy ldsphilosopher. I am not for secession because I think it would be very unwise, not because it would not be justified. I am just trying to learn as much about correct government principles as I can, and help others learn as much as I can – the current system is heading for a cliff and if we are not prepared for that event, our next system of government will be worse than our current one.

    We won’t need to secede in my opinion. Just be ready to rebuild after the collapse.

    That doesn’t mean I want a collapse. I just think the road we are on it is almost inevitable.

  46. Well I disagree secession is justified remotely in the least. And I’d hope the civil war at minimum shows the danger of it. But the bigger issue you’ll face is that few agree with you except a few iconoclasts more trying to make a political point about what they dislike than seriously thinking secession is justified.

    The problem people promoting secession face is the fact that we’re a democracy.

  47. I don’t believe in democracy, but that’s a different story.

    The Constitution forbids the Federal government from acting certain ways, regardless of how many people vote for it (unless the vote in question is one that amends the Constitution). So the fact that we’re a “democracy” is irrelevant to the issue.

  48. Yes it does, however the interpretation of what the constitution means is indirectly democratically determined. Just because you like your hermeneutic and even if you think your hermeneutic is the same as the early politicians doesn’t mean much because the constitution itself sets how the interpretation happens: the supreme court.

    The problem people face is that they fundamentally don’t like the fact the supreme court interprets the constitution. Which seems self-defeating since that is set in the constitution.

    Put an other way the problem is that laws have to be interpreted and applied and there will always be disagreements about that process. (And of course there were disagreements about it long ago as well)

  49. I know this is old hat in this conversation, but I would like to point out that saying we as Americans should involve ourselves in wars that have nothing to do with us because if we don’t some other country will is rather like saying that I need to be the bully in the playground, because if I don’t terrorize the weak, someone will.

  50. Clark!!! Democracy!? Really!? Where in the Constitution do you see democracy? Have you read the journals of the Constitutional Convention? Have you read the Federalist Papers? Anti-Federalist Papers? Where has it been said we are a democracy? On the contrary, much has been said that we are NOT a democracy and the Founding Fathers were against such a system of governance.

  51. William,

    Clearly we are a democracy if the Supreme Court says we are a democracy. We can’t have the serfs interpreting the Constitution for themselves! Us lowly proles have no business meddling in these things! If the FEC says that ANY U.S. citizen (natural born, naturalized, or anchor baby) is eligible for president, it is up to the Supreme Court to either correct them or support them in their position! Who cares what the plain language of the document says, the Supreme Court has absolute interpretive power, they will tell you what it says and every knee show bow and every tongue confess that they are right! I mean if individual people think, and come to different conclusions, what kind of government can we have? It would be complete anarchy and chaos!

    Learn your place in the order of things, citizen! err.. I mean comrade!

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