My Political Views – Introduction: Apostasy from Ezra Taft Benson’s Politics

More than once, while recruiting people to M*, the first thing they say to me is “I disagree with your politics.” I’m not surprised. I am, without a doubt, the black sheep politically. On the other hand, when Joanna first met me at M* she wanted to know if I was some sort of right wing political nut. I assured her that no one would mistake me for a right wing political nut.

I’m sometimes not even sure what I am. I once told Geoff that I’m ‘politically agnostic.’ But, of course, that’s not really true either since I’m quite passionate about what political beliefs I do hold. Is there such a thing as a politically partial agnostic?

Most of the time I just tell people I’m a moderate conservative and leave it at that. My employer at work, upon hearing me label myself that way, asked “what part of your political beliefs are conservative?” On the other hand, I’ve had a number of conversations with John C at BCC and I’ll bet he’s wondering what part of my political beliefs are liberal.

I really don’t think my political views are that hard to pin down, I just think they aren’t quite within the ‘norm.’ But isn’t that sort of true of everyone’s political beliefs? Is there anyone out there that says of themselves “yeah, I pretty much don’t think for myself, I just go with the party line.” Even if it were true, no one would admit it.

My Apostasy from Ezra Taft Benson’s View of Government Begins

I have a little book called The Proper Role and Improper Role of Government by Ezra Taft Benson and Elder H. Verlan Andersen. Han Anderen Jr. gave it to me. I enjoy the book very much, though I no longer agree with it. I particularly admire Ezra Taft Benson’s honest and sincere attempt to come up with a rational framework for determine the boundaries of government. For a while I considered myself a Bensonian.

I was (and still am) impressed by Benson’s attempt to come up with a clear cut boundary for proper and improper roles of government. His is still the best attempt I’ve seen. He argues that government receives it’s power from the people and that therefore governments can only do what the individuals that make up the nation could have done individually based on God-given rights.

He uses the example of hiring a Sherriff:

The individual citizens delegate to their sheriff their unquestionable [i.e. God-given] right to protect themselves. The sheriff now does for them only what they had a right to do for themselves – nothing more. (p. 5)

This approach puts a moral boundary on what government can and can’t do. I found this enlightening as I’d never really tried to put a finger on what makes government action moral or immoral before. Benson goes on to say:

This means, then, that the proper function of government is limited only to those spheres of activity within which the individual citizen has the right to act. (p. 6)

I rejoiced over the clarity this idea brought to me. Benson then follows this idea through to it’s logical conclusions, namely that it is immoral for governments to set up any sort of welfare programs, because individual citizens do not have the right to take money from each other to pay for someone else. If we were to do this to each other we’d rightly call it robbery. Therefore, when the government – which solely derives it’s power from us – does this, we should think of it as robbery too.

Being rather conservative on entitlement programs – and I still am today, as we’ll see later on – this, I thought, formed a pretty good rational explanation for why I was, in general, against welfare programs.

Did I Really Want to Get Rid of All Welfare Programs?

But I have this problem. I can’t seem to turn off my mind, even when it would have been better for me. So I kept being bothered by the rational inconsistency of that “in general” in the last sentence of the previous paragraph. It seemed to me that if I were to accept that governments have no right to take money from people based on the argument that governments solely obtain their power directly from the people and the individual people don’t have the right to take away another person’s money, then I was going to have to drop the “in general.”

Many conservatives might now say, “Heck yeah!” Many others might say, “Dude, you’re over thinking this.’” But I couldn’t accept either point of view. If this argument of Ezra Taft Benson’s was really the clear cut boundary I wanted it to be this was an all or nothing proposition. If I admitted that government had any right whatsoever to take money from people to give it to others, then the argument fell apart logically because now we were just arguing over how much is appropriate.

But I just couldn’t bring myself to believe it would be a wise thing for modern society to do away with government welfare altogether. I could accept that we should cut back on it because we had too much. I could accept that we should be wiser with it. I could accept that, as much as was humanly possible, charities should play that role. I could accept that it should be ‘workfare’ rather than ‘welfare.’ But I couldn’t see myself honestly agreeing with the idea that all government welfare amounted to robbery.

What About Sheriffs Themselves?

At first this little disagreement with Ezra Taft Benson didn’t bother me that much. I made my peace with it for a while. But then a new problem started bubbling up in my subconscious and started to invade my conscious mind.

Is a Sheriff really just a person hired to protect the people that hired him/her?

I agree that people have a right to protect themselves. I agree that people can, if they wish, hire a private person to protect themselves or their property. But is a Sherriff really nothing more than a person hired by another to fulfill their God-given right to protect themselves? It seemed evident to me that the answer was a pretty resounding ‘Nope.’

Consider the moral problems that ensue if a Sheriff is only enforcing one’s God-given right to protect ourselves. Suppose, for example, that me and half my neighbors decide to hire a person for protection. Would that give that person the right to investigate crimes done by the other half? Would it even give him a right to investigate crimes I committed against another of my paying neighbors? And if it did, then why not just drop out of the pact first? Or maybe even just drop out of the pact right after I am caught so that the Sheriff no longer had authority over me?

The simple truth is that for society to function correctly, we need ‘police’ and they are not merely people hired to directly protect us. We ‘give them’ more power over us than any of us individually had over each other. 

What About Taxes?

Now the slide was starting to become an avalanche, because the next thing I thought of was whether or not Ezra Taft Benson’s view of the proper role of government could ever be used to justify taxation at all. After all, taxation really only works because we all know everyone is going to have to pay up equally. (However we happen to define ‘equally’ since the word has multiple often mutually exclusive meanings.) I do not believe that any current society could survive if people could just opt out of taxes like Ayn Rand believed. For better or worse, if we want to have a government – and we must have one if we care to build a society in the first place – these governments will not function without the government being ‘given’ the right to extract taxes in some equal manner from everyone. Yet individually we do not have the right to do that. Therefore governments do not have the right to take any sort of tax either – any sort even tariffs if we are being honest with ourselves. I could not accept this. 

At this point, my beliefs in Ezra Taft Benson’s view of government was effectively dead as a ‘clear cut boundary.’ To this day, I still appreciate his point of view as a sort of ‘symbolic view of government.’ I believe that taxes are a forced taking of some else’s money and that we should openly accept that this is the case. It’s completely necessary, and there is no other viable option, so it is not the same as “robbery” on the grounds that “robbery” is tautologically immoral where as taxation is tautologically required for good government. But we should never treat taxation lightly because it is not a pretty thing to do to people. And government has – in my opinion – a sacred duty with the money they take from us to run society. For one thing, I should always have a say on how it’s spent. (And I do within the US democracy.)

But as a merely symbolic point of view, the argument against welfare withered on the vine. If I could make the argument that taxation was ‘like unto stealing’ but ‘a moral version of it’ (or at least a necessary evil, which is really just a more negative way of saying the same thing) then I could make that same argument for welfare.

What’s the Alternative?

So, to avoid Rejectionism, I must not merely criticize Ezra Taft Benson’s view of the proper role of government; I must actually present a viable alternative. That’s harder, of course. And it’s a subject that I can’t fit into a single post. But in future posts I’ll do my best to present what I see as a viable alternative approach to defining good government.

35 thoughts on “My Political Views – Introduction: Apostasy from Ezra Taft Benson’s Politics

  1. I have wandered much of the political spectrum over my lifetime. I love(d) Reagan. I hated GHW Bush. I didn’t like Clinton’s antics, but thought he worked well with a Republican Congress. I think “W” should be classified as one of our nation’s worst presidents with Jimmy Carter and Barack Obama.

    I’ve voted across the spectrum, as well. In the early 1990s, I was a Libertarian. The Republicans encouraged me back into the fold. I’m now a conservative Libertarian again. I am also a federalist, meaning states should hold onto most of the power. I do not mind states running welfare programs. I do mind having the feds do it, as it is none of their business, except during a time of national crisis, and then only during the crisis.

    Pres Benson was all for the Truman Doctrine. I am not. I do not see being the world’s police force as a good thing. We should instead follow the Casper Weinberger/Collin Powell doctrine instead: insuring we have a pony in the show before we even consider going in.

  2. The Rejectionism is where it gets interesting. I’m not sure how anyone could live up to many of the things the Savior said and not be destitute — is that the goal? If not, are we embracing rejctionism? If we gave to everyone that asked of us, what would we have left to feed our children?

    I think what’s interesting is seeing these “gaps” in between what is preached as the ideal, and what we can actually accomplish with running faster than we have strength so to speak. And then taking the Holy Spirit for our guide in exercising righteous judgement to make wise choices about how to carry out our noble principles in practice. So while your title might be provocative, I think you might just as well right an article about your “apostasy” from Christ’s teachings, could you not? Unless of course, you not only give to ever beggar, but you seek out those you can help and make sure you buy them a computer first, before buying yourself one. In one sense, I don’t think that’s what the Savior meant, but in another sense, I think it is. Elevating our neighbor to the same position as ourselves, and since we all not only fail on this but refuse to do it and argue for some kind of moderation of it, an argument could be made we’ve apostatized from it…

    But that’s not being charitable, is it? I think it’s better in the case of Christ’s teachings to at least be willing to do what he asks, and go further than that and do it from time to time — ie. putting someone else first, giving generously without regret, to those in need, etc. But I don’t know how we can be expected to do that and continue building the kingdom. Unless we actually believe manna will come from heaven… 😉

    The same principle I think could apply here in your political case. Some good principles are there, but carried out to extreme, they don’t make much sense. But that’s not a reason to deviate from the principle, and I don’t think you really have. I think it’s good to have a serious of competing principles. On one hand you hold up this rational of Pres. Benson, and on the other hand you hold up other principles. And you try to maintain yourself within wisdom between the two.

    I would say this, if practiced to the extreme, I think Benson’s philosophy is probably more preferable than the “other” political philosophies each practiced to their extremes. In that light, we should assign more weight to these principles, but I would not think it should take the overwhelming priority, but rather heavily inform, without determining our actions.

  3. Read “Our Enemy, The State” by Albert Jay Nock. I’m an anarchist, but I see Benson’s contempt for welfare and social programs as nothing more than a fetish. He and other conservatives are absolutely fine with stealing from (taxing) one class of citizens to support another, all under the guise of “helping business.” Benson asks what is the proper vs. the improper role of government, but the more appropriate question is this: Given that the State WILL rob from its people, TO WHAT ENDS do we prefer they rob us?

    My answer to that question can be summarized by FDR: “Better the occasional faults of a government that lives in a spirit of charity than the consistent omissions of a government frozen in the ice of its own indifference.” I disagree that the faults of government are “occasional,” and I’d prefer to do away with them altogether by eliminating the State from the equation, but since the State is here to stay, I prefer it err in the spirit of charity.

  4. I was once having a conversation with someone about politics and mentioned how frustrated I am with them. They asked me what party I belonged to. I thought for awhile and said, I don’t really subscribe to a party, I just go with common sense and try to balance the various needs.

    He said, “Well, there’s your problem!”

  5. You had me at the title.

    Do you live in Utah Bruce? Because I really feel it’s a strange thing to be a moderate conservative or liberal in this state. I have good friends in Canada, Arizona, Montana and New York, and to all of these people I’m pretty conservative in my politics. In my Davis County Utah neighborhood though, some of my neighbors consider me a flaming liberal. One wouldn’t let her children play with mine because I put an Obama sign in my yard that was quickly stolen.

    Recently, moderates around here are called either RINOs or liberals, and it’s really made for some uncomfortable situations in EQ. I’m looking forward to the day (hopefully) when the Benson Republicans around here soften a bit.

    SilverRain, common sense has no place in politics, that’s why election season is so much fun for political junkies.

  6. JJohnsen,

    I’m not sure that putting an Obama sign in your front yard is a sign of being moderate Republican. Last time I looked, McCain is a big-military moderate Republican, while Obama is a big-government liberal Democrat….

    So, you may need to rethink your status….

  7. “Moderate” is one of those words that is so incredibly subjective as to become practically meaningless. I live a half-hour from Boulder. A “moderate” there is a person with only one Obama sign on his or her car, rather than a Nader sign and 10 “arms are for hugging” bumper stickers. In Provo, a “moderate” might be an Orrin Hatch supporter (rather than Chaffetz). I really try to avoid describing anything as “moderate” politically because of this.

  8. Well, now whenever someone asks me that question, I respond, “I don’t know. Give me a topic, I’ll tell you how I feel about it, and then you can label me to your heart’s content.”

  9. The problem with the Sheriff example I don’t understand is why it is fine to transfer your right to protect yourself but not fine to transfer your right to do charity. It can’t just be the payment of the Sheriff otherwise paying for charity would be fine. I’ve never understood this line or reasoning.

    Rameumpton I think McCain’s moderate status was always a bit suspect. I don’t like McCain at all. But I really think it was a bit of a PR move. Since his Presidential run I believe his voting is among the most conservative in the Senate. I think it’s much more that McCain is very unstable in how he deals with issues.

  10. jjohnsen, agree completely. It’s very weird when some people consider say Jon Huntsman a liberal. Anywhere else he’s conservative on everything but social issues. Here people call him a liberal. What the heck?

  11. rameumptom, check Geoff’s definition of moderate and you’ll understand. In many parts of the country both candidates were considered fairly moderate. Or are you going to try and convince me that liberals aren’t screaming for Obama to act more liberal right now?

    If it’s helps your definition, I’d consider putting a Huntsman sign in my yard next year, and the same people would tear it out because according to them he’s a RINO, and I’d still be a flaming liberal in their eyes. To be conservative right now means you have to be extreme, which is why you can’t understand how a moderate would vote for Obama in the last election.

  12. Clark as soon as Bennett was voted out over a couple of votes I knew things had gone wackadoodle around here. I have a friend who worked for the Republican Party in Utah County that went back to law this year because he was so uncomfortable about the direction it was heading down there.

    I like moderate. Take a little bit that you like from this party, take a little bit you like from that party. Some years I vote 70% Democrat, other years I can only find one or two Democrats I like. It’s easier to find politicians that match up with what you like when you don’t feel like you have to choose from just one party.

    I’ve swung all over the place in the 18 years I’ve been voting, and I’ve really only regretted a couple of votes (McCain in 2008 made me happy I was one of the few that wrote his name in during the 2000 election). I don’t feel like my vote for Obama is a sign of total liberalism when he’s done so much that IS moderate. His Presidency isn’t just Obamacare.

  13. It never ceases to amaze me how much people want to have things codified and how much they want to codify everything else. Who can codify how much government is ideal? Free people want less and we should always accept what we need and agree on with skepticism and reluctance. But we get to vote frequently so we can decide that something has gone too far and needs to stop.

  14. JJohnsen,

    I’m afraid I wouldn’t consider you a moderate, and I’m not from Utah.

    I look at things from the standpoint of how big of a government a person wants – regardless of whether they want to make it bigger for social or fiscal reasons. A Republican that votes to vastly increase our world’s police force is not a conservative or a moderate.

    While some think Pres Obama ran as a moderate, he let on in many ways that he is actually a radical. Or did you not notice Jeremiah Wright and Bill Ayers in his skeleton closet, and his insistence that he could manage the Great Recession and pass a medical health care bill at the same time? That is not moderate. It is definitely a liberal large social government mentality.

    That he also continued our military force in Afghanistan, then entered us into another war in Libya, shows that he’s big government military, also. So, I agree he isn’t just Obamacare. That is just one of many examples. Yes, there are some more liberal and radical than he is. But that doesn’t mean he isn’t. It just means he ran fast for two years, and now is being forced to slow down in some areas by Tea Partiers.

    For me, it isn’t an issue of liking what a candidate can offer you, but an issue of whether he is offering you freedom or bribes to elect him into office. Obamacare is a bribe (or was meant to be). I prefer freedom, and leaving such issues to the States where the elected are much closer to the elector’s axe.

    Under big government people like Obama and George W Bush, we have TSA forcing 95 year olds to remove their adult diapers for a strip search. We have an economy that has stalled, and is again threatening to go into a second dip. We have big businesses being bailed out, while the little people are still being tossed out of their homes at an ever increasing rate. Blame Obama? Well, he did select Tim Geithner and other Fed Reserve idiots to “fix” the economy,after they broke it, and now they cannot understand why it isn’t working????

    Maybe we need to move away from liberal/conservative and just use Big Government/Small Government to compare individuals? As it is, the Big Government people have only destroyed the economy, making the wealthy richer, and causing stagnation for over a decade on salaries for the middle income.

    Pres Benson was Small Government when it came to welfare, but Big Government when it came to military, etc. He was all for the world police force we now have, which is helping to bankrupt us.

  15. Joel says, “I prefer it err in the spirit of charity.”

    The problem I have with this, Joel, is that I am convinced President Benson was coming up with his beliefs in the spirit of charity. In fact, I know that is the case. The idea that one side has charity and the other does not is… well, a simple case of being uncharitable. Neither the liberal nor the conservatives views do not have a lock hold on charity. Both are different ways to implement that charity and different views of the world on what it the most effective way to do so.

  16. jjohnsen,

    Yes, I live in Utah. No, I have no problem fitting in with my politics. Perhaps I just live in a really good neighborhood.

    But then again, I am not a liberal. If anything I’m a classic conservative. (I’ll have to explain what I mean by that in a future post.) So who knows why it is that I have so little problem.

    I was in a car pool with a bunch of very conservative Mormons and they ate my politics up and used to come to me for what they called ‘the unbiased view.’ (It’s a joke.)

  17. What worries me is not so much where a person’s politics sit, but how ideological they’ve become. When it becomes apparent that someone has hardened around a couple core ideas – usually simplifications – I see those folks as in a kind of pit. The urge to ideology comes from a conflation of personal sensibility with reality. The ideologue simply ceases seeing beyond the end of one’s nose, everything is measured by his preference that things are a certain way. You can also sniff out ideology because it is accompanied by a hardening to people of a different political bent. Thus ‘liberal’ becomes a smear, and conservatives are dismissed as reactionaries. When a whole swath of people become ideological, then you’ve got a real problem.

    For me, the way the church handles various political viewpoints is more than instructive. You simply can’t map political principles on to the basic principles that mark the path to Christ. So there is an awful lot of putting the cart before the horse.

  18. Bruce,
    Did you vote for Pres Obama because he inspired you and you thought he would do a great job for the nation? Or did you vote for him because McCain is a lunatic that would have caused more harm to the nation? The reasons behind a vote are very telling on a person’s politics.

  19. Thomas,

    The Church separates out Doctrine, Principle and Policy/Practice. Policy/Practice change all the time. Doctrine and Principle rarely do.

    What would you consider in politics to be the difference between Principle and Ideology? Or are they the same? When we have a Constitution that clearly states that almost all governance should be on the local/state level, does such a concept become a principle to firmly stand by, or a reckless ideology?

    The Church remains the Church because it doesn’t easily dismiss the importance of its Principles. While modern revelation suggests things can change, we can also determine that they do not change frequently. Also, in the Church today, the practice is to push down the power and authority to stakes and wards, not centralize it all in Utah.

    We see the opposite in Washington DC. Power and authority are being concentrated in one city, where they dangle money out to cities and states with string attached (and unfunded mandates) to obtain even more power. Many (both Republicans and Democrats) view the Constitution as a living document that can be changed via any convenient method, rather than by the only method stated in the document: by Amendment.

    For example, Pres Obama’s venture into Libya: is it Constitutional? Does it matter whether it is Constitutional? Is that an ideological issue, or a principle we should attain to? If Presidents can go on military jaunts without Congressional approval, does that mean the Constitution simply is dead, or a document of inconvenience that we should ignore?

    Ideologies involve whether we should build up welfare or the military. Constitutional principle states that we should only have enough military to decently defend our own interests, and that welfare should be left to the states.

    I am not an anarchist. I believe government is necessary for the well being of society. How I read D&C 134, it states that anarchy is worse than a dictatorship. And it is. Being ruled by a mob with no salient rules is worse than a dictator where you at least know where you stand half the time. That said, I agree with James Madison, the father of the Constitution, when he stated that except in times of war, the federal government should amount to no more than 10% of all government. That is a principle I hold to.

  20. Just out of curiosity, could someone tell me how Obama is a big government liberal? Where has the government grown under him?

    And while you’re at it, could someone identify any Republican president in the last 60 years who reduced the size of government?

  21. Ram,

    Hardening around a gospel principle is bad. Hardening around a political principle is worse. Both cases tend to be blinding. The gospel leads us into all truth – the nature of the process causes us to, soon enough, transcend creeds and other kinds of fixity (hence the paucity of doctrine in the church!) Truth transcends any ideology, regardless of the relative value of the content of that ideology. To be committed to the truth is therefore to abandon ideologies. Ideology, with either political or theological bent, hampers us in that it fixes us where we must be moving forward. As soon as we think we have things down, figured out, finalized, we are on dangerous ground. Gospel living becomes mere expression of dead forms, in both words and actions – hence it is not only disobedience but also the traditions of our fathers, keeping us fixed to the past, through which we lose light and truth. Political living becomes a matter of imposing ideas on reality, often with horrifying results.

    Seeing this is my view of things, you will probably not be surprised that I do not take your scriptural view of the Constitution. The potential of an ideology centered on a fixity towards the Constitution is also capable of producing horrifying results. And will. The emotional displays I see at Tea Party rallies – where people are jacked up emotionally then filled again with their already ramped up sensibilities … frankly scare the beejeepers out of me. I feel almost exactly the same at mass anti-war demonstrations – something I’ve seen a lot of in Seattle. These are not people who are committed any longer to learning what is good and best; they are committed to the extension of their own sensibilities through political means.

    Best to you ~

  22. Thomas,
    I agree that many people fall into mobs when it comes to governance. That is why I said I am not an anarchist. That said, I also am a proponent of maximizing freedom, which has proven to lift people up quicker and more efficiently than any socialist program or pogrom. Yes, there are abuses in government. But what is worse, one state having a problem with abuse, or a nation that is run that way? Do you welcome the TSA with open arms? How does it make us safer to know they are groping and stripping 95 year old women of their Depends? I see freedoms being stripped away, and not for a real purpose.

    Better to have some abuse on a local level, than to spread it throughout the nation.

    Like it or not, believe it inspired or not, the Constitution of the United States has created the most successful governance in world history. That we are now dismantling the Constitution through ignoring it, or vastly reinterpreting it, is hubris. And it shows in how many economic bubbles the feds have created by tinkering where they Constitutionally do not belong, and by expanding their own abusive powers. Either amend the Constitution, or replace it outright. But do not pretend it does not exist.

    Aaron, government has grown under Pres Obama. He, Congress and the Fed have spent trillions we don’t have. Much of it has gone to increase the size of government. We purchased auto companies and fired CEOs. We bailed out big banks and then placed requirements on them. We expanded government run health care without fixing the money problems involved. He has expanded our troops in Afghanistan from 35K to 98K. He now has us entering into Libya without Congressional approval. It almost sounds fascist to me, rather than democratic.

    Given that the tendency over the last 60 years has been towards growing the federal government, no president has reduced it that much. It has usually been an issue of how fast/slow it would grow. Reagan streamlined portions of it, but it came roaring back since then. And that is why I state we need to reduce federal government all across the board. Return it to the states where the Constitution says it belongs.

    Again, if the Constitution works, then let’s follow it. If it needs revision, then add Amendments. If it is completely broken, then replace it. But let’s not just pretend it is irrelevant or inconvenient and dismiss it.

  23. I voted for Obama because I felt like McCain was old, pulling a Romney to pander to the far right, and was dumb enough to pick Palin. I also was sick and tired of 8 years of a Republican President that I didn’t feel represented me at all. I don’t think that makes me anything more than a moderate that is leaning liberal right now. But if Rameumptom is the one that gets to hand out that label, I suppose I can go with it.

    Compared to Rameumptom, I guess I am liberal. But I’d be amazed if he can find 5 people in a room that he doesn’t consider more liberal that his idea of moderate.

  24. Ram,

    I would disagree that the Constitution itself and alone is responsible for creating the relatively beneficial governance this nation has been blessed to enjoy. Other Western countries have enjoyed similar freedoms, for instance, without the exact form of our Constitution – without exactly those features that you have highlighted, namely, particular stances in relation to Federalism. I very much believe that the Constitution was inspired by God, but see it as a particular flowering of that inspiration which also took hold throughout the West. The main flow of that inspiration seems to me to do with the worth of the individual, as opposed to the worth of precise structures of government. Have more to say but it flows from this … and its time for me to find a pillow.

  25. JJohnsen, I can understand why you would struggle between a vote between McCain and Obama. For this reason it does not make you a liberal. Liberal/Moderate/Conservative, as I said do not work well for me. They end up being broken into smaller pieces (neo-cons, etc), and no one can agree on where the moderate label fits.

    The question is: how big of government do you support, and in which areas do you support it, versus do you support leaving most things for the states to do.

    Thomas: while other nations do thrive without the US Constitution, it primarily is based upon the concept that they have developed their own constitutions based upon freedoms of individuals.

    We can see that certain freedoms are necessary to ensure a thriving nation: freedom of the market place, private ownership of property, freedom of speech, etc. The more available these freedoms are for people, the more they tend to thrive. Whether a nation has a Congress or a Parliament matters less than that those institutions protect the individual rights and freedoms of people.

    That Greece and other nations have gotten away from defending freedoms, and instead gone to socialized protection of retirement funds and other perceived and ill-concocted “rights” can now be seen as causing economic collapse. We see it here, as well. Had the US government stayed small and within its budget, we would not have the recession we are having today. Without the over-manipulation of the housing bubble, there would not have been a crash as there was, and the government would not have been taken for trillions of dollars by the big banks and others.

    Huge national governments pretty much always end up failing, or they are forced to adapt. The Soviet Union collapsed economically, causing smaller governments and generally more freedom. China could not economically manage its 1 billion people under strict regulation, and so are now a capitalist form of communism (yes, I know, it is an oxymoron).

    It isn’t that the Constitution is inspired as the only inspiring document, but that many of its concepts are designed to provide the ultimate human experience. And if we ignore those and seek instead to try and develop a Utopian society based upon big government/less personal freedoms, then we will ultimately fail in that regard.

  26. There’s another problem with the Sherriff analogy, which I do believe DOES illustrate the correct conception and boundary of government. Although one can indeed delegate one’s ability to defend life, liberty or property with force and to accomplish restitution thereof, one can NOT delegate the ability to fund that capability in an ongoing way via an act of force itself (taxation).

    This is why an extremely limited conception of government, funded voluntary is morally incumbent from the concept of individual rights.

  27. Spencer,

    Your point of view is logical since you are assuming that taxes must be voluntary. I see President Benson’s point of view *only* logical if we either make that assumption, or if we assume he was speaking more figuratively to provoke discussion.

    I do not recall anything in the book / talk that implied he thought all taxes should be voluntary, however. And I do not believe such a point of view is viable in real life.

    I’m happy to let some other society give it a try first and then see if it actually works or not. I suspect it will be anarchy.

  28. Ram asks, “Did you vote for Pres Obama because he inspired you and you thought he would do a great job for the nation? Or did you vote for him because McCain is a lunatic that would have caused more harm to the nation? The reasons behind a vote are very telling on a person’s politics.”

    You caught me redhanded. I primarily voted for him because a) I wanted to send the Evangelicals a messge, b) I live in Utah where McCain was guarenteed to win anyhow and I just wanted to make in impact via lessing that win from 90% to 89.9%, c) I can’t think of a single thing I disagree with Obama over (almost all of it) that I didn’t also disagree with McCain over.

    However, when I say it that way, it makes me sound perhaps more conservative than I really am. The truth is that McCain is a cad and Obama is a good person (even if I disagree with his politics). I do not believe in voting for issues most of the time because I don’t feel like I understand the issues well enough to know what is best. So I’d rather vote for a good person. So it wasn’t *only* the reasons I give above.

  29. aaron asks, “Just out of curiosity, could someone tell me how Obama is a big government liberal? Where has the government grown under him?”

    This is generally determined via how much money is spent and how indebt we go. Game, set, match on Obama, I’m afraid. I guess equally true for Bush, though.

  30. Did you vote for Pres Obama because he inspired you and you thought he would do a great job for the nation? Or did you vote for him because McCain is a lunatic that would have caused more harm to the nation?

    Count me in the group that didn’t like Obama at all but thought McCain would be a disaster of Biblical proportions. Nothing I’ve seen since makes me regret it. I can’t even fathom how bad a McCain/Palin Presidency would have been.

    Why, oh why couldn’t we have better candidates?

  31. 26:The Soviet Union collapsed economically, causing smaller governments and generally more freedom.

    Not really (if you don’t believe me, check out the article “Everything You Think You Know About the Collapse of the Soviet Union Is Wrong” in the July/August issue of Foreign Policy), but let’s not forget that the Russian Federation also “collapsed economically” way back in 1998, yet Putin’s freedom-quashing influence is still with us.

  32. Bruce, Voting for Pres Obama because he is a better person does not make one liberal/moderate/conservative. However, the outcome is the same regardless of the reasons for voting a person into office.

    Clark, I do not fault anyone for voting for Pres Obama for such reasons. I agree that McCain would have probably brought us into a world war with his recklessness. I think Pres Obama may also do it, only at a slower pace.

    There are better candidates. Unfortunately, they usually end up in the third parties, which very few ever vote for (with the exception of Ross Perot, I suppose). However, instead of holding one’s nose and selecting Republican/Democrat, if more of us would vote for someone more comfortable to us in the Libertarian/Green/Conservative/etc party, then perhaps the 2 major parties would wake up and take notice.

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