Deputy A.J. Ross of Rutherford County, Tenn., gives trouble to Chris Kalbaugh, 21, a Middle Tennessee State University junior, in this video posted July 4. Such abuse, said to be lawful, is one reason esteem for the modern state has declined from indifference to contempt.
“Your man has been accustomed, ever since he was a boy, to having a dozen incompatible philosophies dancing together inside his head. He doesn’t think of doctrines as primarily ‘true’ or ‘false,’ but as ‘academic’ or ‘practical,’ ‘outworn’ or ‘contemporary,’ ‘conventional’ or ‘ruthless.’ Jargon, not argument, is your best ally in keeping him from the Church. Don’t waste time trying to make him think materialism is true! Make him think it is strong or stark or courageous — that it is the philosophy of the future.”
This snippet from The Screwtape Letters brings to view a good question for Independence Day weekend. If a doctrine or a claim is true, does not matter that it is old?
The Declaration of Independence speaks of “these truths [that] we hold to be self-evident,” suggesting its authors were stating universal truths discernible by any soul any time in history. The colonial signatories and C.S. Lewis agree that some truths are always true, and always evident — “true truths,” if you will, as Francis Schaeffer describes them.
Magisterial truths require revelation from God. From the scriptures many truths are plainly stated or deduced therefrom, discernible only by sovereign grace.
The hoopla this week is sparked by more revelations embarrassing to the federal government as regards “mail covers” in which Uncle scan all snailmail passing through the U.S. Postal Service. Some people’s mail is given special observation by the Mail Isolation Control and Tracking division. For three months now Americans have been riveted and angered by the presumption and cleverness of Washington in a series of scandals: The Tea Party 501(c)4 approval uproar, the revelations of Edward Snowden about surveillance of everyone’s phone calls and emails and Internet usage habits.
Why centralization collapses
The seamless surveillance of the innocent public faces an end, suggests Charles Hugh Smith at Oftwominds.com, writing about governmental centralization and its fate and suggesting that its collapse will be into that of irrelevancy. Centralization leads to collapse because the organizers in the state have cut themselves off from life-giving market signals, including dissent, Mr. Smith says in “Why Centralization Leads to Collapse.”
Congresses, general assemblies and nations centralize because they are seeking rationality, efficiency and an end to redundancy and nagging variety. The European Union, the department of homeland security and Obamacare are examples of centralization. “Ironically, in eliminating inefficiency and messy decision-making, centralization eliminates redundancy, decentralized pathways of response and dissent,” Mr. Smith says. “Once you lose redundancy and all the feedback it represents, you lose resiliency and fault-tolerance. The centralized system is fault-intolerant and fragile.”
One important factor in survivability is the value dissenters provide. As opposed to “yes” men, dissenters and critics don’t just bog down the program and gum up the works with chatter. They offer vital alternative perspectives.
“As Nassim Taleb has observed, dissent is information. Eliminate or marginalize dissent and you’ve deprived the system of critical information. Lacking a wealth of information, the system becomes a monoculture in which the leadership is free to pursue confirmation bias, focusing on whatever feedback confirms its policy mandates.
“A system that suppresses dissent is fault-intolerant, ignorant and fragile. Any event that does not respond to centralized, rationalized policy creates unintended consequences that throws the centralized mechanism into disarray. Lacking dissent and redundancy, the system piles on one haphazard, politically expedient “fix” after another, further destabilizing the system.
“The event that triggers crisis and collapse isn’t important; the system, rendered unstable and fragile by centralization, is primed for crisis and collapse. The dry underbrush is piled high, and if the first lightning strike doesn’t start the fire, the second one will. With dissent and the inefficiencies of redundancy and decentralized pathways of response gone, there is nothing left to stop a conflagration that consumes the entire forest.” (Bolds in original)
Mr. Smith’s essay “Our Legacy Systems: Dysfunctional, Unreformable” in little space lays out a dismal landscape into which local economy and the works of grace in the Christian church will project themselves. Bureaucracies cannot reform; when they make motions to cut deadwood and get on target, all one really gets is a “simulacrum of real reform that satisfies the PR need to ‘fix the system,’” he says.
Principle of self-determination
Mr. Smith’s analysis points out problems that Patrick Henry and the anti-federalists warned about and against which the 11 Southern states fought in their bid for independence in 1861. Centralization in the nation state peaked in the mid-1970s, and is now in a long-term downward spiral. The U.S. will go bankrupt, though word of that won’t be had from a filing at U.S. bankruptcy court on 333 Constitution Ave. NW in the federal district. It will occur by other means, in the credit and equities marketplaces and the rush toward liquidity. For us, it will arrive in bouts of disorder, agonizing loss of confidence in public systems, compulsory long-term bonds, ruin of asset pools, excitement in society and opportunity. On my talk show, where I run things a little more loosely than here, I tell audiences they should expect to lose half their estates as the collapse rolls along.
We have reason in Chattanooga to be optimistic through the period of national default and bankruptcy because our interest is in principles. The principles we have mind are ancient ones that trace the finger marks of God in the tablets He gave Moses on Mount Sinai.
The issues swirling around federal surveillance today and the so-called American Civil War are not dead. “Be sure that the former issues are really dead before you bury them,” Presbyterian theologian R.L. Dabney says. The truths that fired these struggles seem old, but they’re not. They breathed in the minds of men alive only yesterday. Douglas Wilson suggests the recency of these conflicts.
“President [John] Tyler [1790-1862] *** had a child in his old age. That son had a child in his old age. This grandson of President Tyler is a businessman today. When being interviewed, he said it was a real privilege for him, as he was flying across the Pacific in a jet airline, to say to the person next to him, ‘You know, as my grandfather was saying to his good friend Patrick Henry … ’ Not only does one lifetime take you back to the time of the war [for Southern independence], two lifetimes takes you back to the American War for Independence. Four one-hundred year lifetimes take you back to the Protestant Reformation. Twenty people take you back to the time of Christ.”
The Rev. Wilson goes on to say:
History is close to us. The only reason history seems far away is that we sin by forgetting. The obscurity is not some ontological obscurity, it is ethical and moral obscurity. We do not know because we do not learn and we do not learn because we do not read. So, we cannot say, ‘God, I forgot.” Forgetting is not an excuse, but rather a confession of sin.
Sources: Douglas Wilson, Why the War Never Ended (Silver Creek, Ga.: Knox Academy, 1998), p. 8
C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters (New York: Macmillan Publishing Co. Inc., 1961), p. 8
Harry D. Schultz, On Remaking the World[;] Cut Nations Down to Size (Silver Spring, Md.: International Commission for the De-Centralization of the World’s Nations, 1991)