Inellectual Clarity

 

The first days of this month have brought several things which led me to focus on those two words at the top of the page, not the least of which has been marking a birthday for the statement of our founding purpose and Thomas Sowell turning 91. If any one person could be used as a figurehead for intellectual clarity, Dr. Sowell would have to be a prime candidate. The Declaration of Independence was not necessarily an original document but a brief clarification of principles gleaned from the troubled history of mankind.

Having observed some of the more recent examples of hot air and unprincipled mutterings, I have for a few moments left my dugout to add some of my cluttered thoughts to the mix.

Having referred to Thomas Sowell, I am reminded of his emphasis on evidence and logic when approaching an issue. Hopefully, we can keep both of those in mind as we work our way through my twisted thoughts in search of some clarity in them. It may take a few sessions.

I have always believed it was necessary to have clarity about the ultimate objective. You have to get that right. And you have to organize the rest of the effort around it. Most chases down rabbit holes and up sideroads are a result of not being clear about exactly what the objective is.

A vital part of that clarity is understanding what the necessary, essential elements are to meeting that objective. Chasing the emotion of the moment or the hottest brush fire leads right to rabbit holes and sideroads.

I believe that we are at a critical point in our course as a self-governing people. A mistake here and our ultimate objective will be set back, if not damaged. There is always the possibility of losing it altogether. There always has been. There always will be. Those after us will have their critical minutes, just as those before us did. This republic has hung by a thread in the past. If it survives, it will again.

But this moment is on us.

As to our ultimate objective, I have stated before that in my simple and uncomplicated mind, this nation is an experiment before the world to show that man can live in individual liberty in a form of self-governance which maximizes that individual, God-given liberty as much as possible within an ordered society through a limited government based on the consent of those in that society. I know that hairs can be split about what is needed for that “ordered society”. But a part of that vision is a limited government, controlled not by a political class but a free people. I don’t mind from time to time discussing the twists and turns of that. This society, this nation will never be completely perfected by our own hands but we have the opportunity to keep sailing toward that goal as long as our objectives remain clear. But I tend to take lightly those of the establishment and political class, or those who somehow imagine themselves one of either, who delight too much in the argument.

I foresee discussions concerning some of those necessary, vital elements; such things as secure elections, the central role of Judeo-Christian ethics, education, justice and the rule of law, proper limits on government, and not just the importance of a constitution but our Constitution.

But first, it might be prudent to acknowledge some rabbit holes and sideroads, otherwise known as distractions. And I will say this about distractions, it is not their fault that they distract. It is the fault of those who become distracted.

I often tire of all the labels we have in our political discourse. There are only those who have an instinctive commitment to liberty and those who don’t. I told you my mind was simple.

Those who lack that instinct and commitment are easily distracted, often by their own pretending to be more committed than they are. I enjoy and value full-throated discussion about those aforementioned twists and turns practicing and holding liberty, or even liberty’s very nature and defining elements. None have the whole answers but like souls are capable of wrestling through the details. But you have to first belong to the culture of liberty to honestly discuss or wrestle. Politics is valued among those of that culture only for what it can contribute to liberty. And personality is secondary.

Those serious about liberty understand that laws and the necessary evil of government are needed to provide borders for imperfect men. But the religious foundation of our society and the founding nature of our government declare that man can be the master of his own life and destiny. Those liberties endowed to man are for the growth toward fulfillment of his best self. They involve both growth and responsibility. They are not for idle pleasure or ease. They are to inspire the positives in human nature and dampen the negatives. No, liberty is not for the lazy or the fearful.

One thing that does count is practice. With that in mind, it might be said that the usefulness of a political party could be judged not by whatever principles it proclaims but what it accomplishes toward those principles. Both parties and individuals might then be judged not so much by how they justify their actions and inactions but what results from those same actions and inactions.

I have already stated that this moment is ours. I will admit that it is a critical moment when some things around us seem to be torn apart and even backward. A thing as seemingly simple as physical gender has no clear answer if we allow the world around us to rule our language. Some would contend that all the elements of the “end times” are staring us in the face.

But regardless of the depth of our “tribulations”, these times are ours, not to simply accept but to direct. We are entrusted with these times. If they become a reversal of the human high-point that this nation has been, it will be our failure.

There is a tight and convincing case to be made for our constitutional liberty and positive national history (as well as its future course). The detractors may well have most of media, world elites, the academy, and a sea of misplaced emotion. But the hard evidence of both history and the present support us. Not to mention logic. Our course is to gather evidence, point directly to the harm done by leftist policy and practices, be unapologetic in our language, avoid the language of the left, and to speak to people, not media.

History tells us that this nation will not live forever. But it was built on the shoulders of others who left us a higher point than had been constructed on before. Merely holding ground is to lazily enjoy the benefits of centuries upon centuries of sacrifice and hope. To surrender ground is a betrayal of not just those centuries upon centuries but also of those future generations who will have to reclaim that ground if they are to live as well and as free as we once did. We are entrusted with these times to supply them with new, even higher ground to build on.

Now that I have gotten that out of the way and mudded the waters of confusion, I can sit down and begin clearing my mind on some of those necessary, vital elements.

Tribulation and challenges are not curses. They are gifts and opportunities. They are where we find our true selves, our true strengths. We rarely have perfect moments in response to them. But we do have our greatest, most meaningful moments in the midst of them.

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  1. Brian Watt Member
    Brian Watt
    @BrianWatt

    Please just make Ole Summers a Contributor so all his posts move to the Main Feed where they should always appear. 

    • #1
  2. philo Member
    philo
    @philo

    Ole Summers: I have already stated that this moment is ours.

    “Ours” is an interesting term. I just finished reading Lech Walesa’s The Struggle and The Triumph and I was repeatedly reminded that even modestly modern history teaches us that, when the moment is over, some of “us” may very well be on the wrong side of the new wall.

    In our current situation, nothing mandates that it is only “all of us” or “none of us” that can emerge with liberty on the other side. Those who work to pervert the American game do so under the mistaken assumption that the whole will hold. They assume that red-county America will not tire of being pissed on by their metropolitan “betters”…and just opt out of future humiliations.  Or that red states will not take a stand against others not living up to the compact that binds them…and choose not to be further plundered.

    The wall, if it comes and in whatever form it comes, may drive wedges between the states; it may also run right through the middle of individual states. Think you and future generations of your family are safe? Think again. The end state of all of this is likely way more random than most may think.

    • #2
  3. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… Member
    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio…
    @ArizonaPatriot

    I like the post, Ole Summers.  I write to comment on one specific issue.

    Ole Summers: As to our ultimate objective, I have stated before that in my simple and uncomplicated mind this nation is an experiment before the world to show that man can live in individual liberty in a form of self-governance which maximizes that individual, God-given liberty as much as possible within an ordered society through a limited government based on the consent of those in that society.

    This seems, to me, to be an excessive focus on liberty as the central value.  I think that there are many values, and liberty is an important one.  But why should liberty be the most important value?  If we set up a decision rule that seeks to “maximize” liberty, then the balancing of values will necessarily be tilted in favor of liberty, in situations in which liberty conflicts with other values.  Which pretty much means, in practice, all of the time, because any promotion of any other value will conflict with liberty.

    I appreciate your recognition of other values, implicit in the recognition that liberty must be valued against an “ordered society.”  But I think that the rhetorical battle for just about any other value is lost if we adopt a decision rule seeking to maximize liberty.

    • #3
  4. philo Member
    philo
    @philo

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment): …an excessive focus on liberty as the central value…

    While I admit up front that I am repetitive, I’m sure, to the point of annoyance for many, your continued return to this well always comes across as more than a bit silly to me. I believe (but do not fully remember exactly what it was) that this goes back to a rather obtuse and uniquely “Jerry” definition of liberty…whatever.

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):
    But why should liberty be the most important value?  If we set up a decision rule that seeks to “maximize” liberty, then the balancing of values will necessarily be tilted in favor of liberty, in situations in which liberty conflicts with other values.  Which pretty much means, in practice, all of the time, because any promotion of any other value will conflict with liberty.

    If there is, in fact, an argument to be had about not maximizing liberty (a notion that I do not really concede in the slightest) the time for that is not after the enemy has spent more than a decade advancing the ball well beyond the point where they were already fully dismissive of any questioning regarding their plans to do great violence to my liberties:

    But, by all means, continue to rearrange those deck chairs…

    • #4
  5. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… Member
    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio…
    @ArizonaPatriot

    Philo, my point is not that we ought not to oppose the Leftists.  My point is that if we do so under a bumper-sticker slogan like “liberty,” we play into their hands, and are unable to regulate behavior that should be regulated.  I think that this is a mistake that we have been making for quite a long time.

    philo (View Comment):
    I believe (but do not fully remember exactly what it was) that this goes back to a rather obtuse and uniquely “Jerry” definition of liberty…whatever.

    I do recall the post in question, I think, but I can’t find it right now.  I pointed out that “liberty” means something like doing whatever you want, and noted several terrible things that one would have to support based on a single-minded devotion to “liberty,” including abortion.

    Many people responded that this is not what they meant by “liberty.”  It is a definitional issue, but I don’t think that my definition is either obtuse or unique.  It’s one of the major dictionary definitions:

    Cambridge English Dictionary: “liberty” means “the freedom to live as you wish or go where you want.”

    Merriam-Webster: “1. the quality or state of being free:” “a. the power to do as one pleases.”

    Oxford English Dictionary: “2. The power or scope to act as one pleases.”

    So I wasn’t just making up some strange definition.  The general response to my comment, as I recall, was something like “that’s not what I mean by liberty.”  But this is what liberty means — or, more precisely, one of the things that liberty means.  It also means shore leave in the Navy.

    There are other definitions that are more what people here seem to have in mind.  The first Oxford English Dictionary definition is: “1. The state of being free within society from oppressive restrictions opposed by authority on one’s way of life, behavior, or political views.”  Definition 1.c from Merriam-Webster is: “freedom from arbitrary or despotic control.”  Those sound good to me, though they leave unanswered the question of whether a restriction is oppressive, arbitrary, or despotic.

    So I think that problem is that people are using a word with an unclear meaning.

    • #5
  6. philo Member
    philo
    @philo

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):

    Philo, my point is not that we ought not to oppose the Leftists. My point is that if we do so under a bumper-sticker slogan like “liberty,” we play into their hands, and are unable to regulate behavior that should be regulated. I think that this is a mistake that we have been making for quite a long time.

    philo (View Comment):
    I believe (but do not fully remember exactly what it was) that this goes back to a rather obtuse and uniquely “Jerry” definition of liberty…whatever.

    I do recall the post in question, I think, but I can’t find it right now. I pointed out that “liberty” means something like doing whatever you want, and noted several terrible things that one would have to support based on a single-minded devotion to “liberty,” including abortion.

    Many people responded that this is not what they meant by “liberty.” It is a definitional issue, but I don’t think that my definition is either obtuse or unique. It’s one of the major dictionary definitions:

    Cambridge English Dictionary: “liberty” means “the freedom to live as you wish or go where you want.”

    Merriam-Webster: “1. the quality or state of being free:” “a. the power to do as one pleases.”

    Oxford English Dictionary: “2. The power or scope to act as one pleases.”

    So I wasn’t just making up some strange definition. The general response to my comment, as I recall, was something like “that’s not what I mean by liberty.” But this is what liberty means — or, more precisely, one of the things that liberty means. It also means shore leave in the Navy.

    There are other definitions that are more what people here seem to have in mind. The first Oxford English Dictionary definition is: “1. The state of being free within society from oppressive restrictions opposed by authority on one’s way of life, behavior, or political views.” Definition 1.c from Merriam-Webster is: “freedom from arbitrary or despotic control.” Those sound good to me, though they leave unanswered the question of whether a restriction is oppressive, arbitrary, or despotic.

    So I think that problem is that people are using a word with an unclear meaning.

    Thank you for the polite, thoughtful response…more so than generally deserved. I will come back to this after I finish some work today.

    • #6
  7. Flicker Coolidge
    Flicker
    @Flicker

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):

    Philo, my point is not that we ought not to oppose the Leftists. My point is that if we do so under a bumper-sticker slogan like “liberty,” we play into their hands, and are unable to regulate behavior that should be regulated. I think that this is a mistake that we have been making for quite a long time.

    philo (View Comment):
    I believe (but do not fully remember exactly what it was) that this goes back to a rather obtuse and uniquely “Jerry” definition of liberty…whatever.

    I do recall the post in question, I think, but I can’t find it right now. I pointed out that “liberty” means something like doing whatever you want, and noted several terrible things that one would have to support based on a single-minded devotion to “liberty,” including abortion.

    Many people responded that this is not what they meant by “liberty.” It is a definitional issue, but I don’t think that my definition is either obtuse or unique. It’s one of the major dictionary definitions:

    Cambridge English Dictionary: “liberty” means “the freedom to live as you wish or go where you want.”

    Merriam-Webster: “1. the quality or state of being free:” “a. the power to do as one pleases.”

    Oxford English Dictionary: “2. The power or scope to act as one pleases.”

    So I think that problem is that people are using a word with an unclear meaning.

    These are new definitions?  I used a 1971 OED and got very different definitions for both liberty and free.  All but one defined liberty/free as freedom from some form of restraint.  The only one definition that defined either one as free to … referred specifically to subcategorical human rights such as freedom of conscience, speech, and the press.

    Added: The reason I bring this up is that freedom, by definition, relies upon the existence of some from of restraint.

    And what would be the right bumper sticker?  FREEDOM + GOOD? Good or moral can be redefined to mean evil, just as Freedom can be redefined to mean libertine.  The problem is not with the meaning of the word, but the redefinition and misuse of it.

    • #7
  8. Ole Summers Member
    Ole Summers
    @OleSummers

    For the sake of clarity, liberty does not have anything to do with doing want ever you want. Liberty certainly has to do with self-determination, not the same thing. No one is referring to the Oxford Dictionary to figure out what liberty is or what we mean by it. For those who question it, it is easily explained that the liberty interwoven in our founding is about rights, natural rights which the government should be obligated to protect and defend. They are not about license – and that is the first argument you will probably get.

    Rights and liberty require order; hence rule of law framed in the content of protecting rights not limiting them. Stopping someone from destroying life or property is protection of rights not  infringement. 

    I have said before that I consider the best view to perhaps be to quit seeing things on a scale between right and left. And see them on a scale with liberty and totalitarianism on opposite ends. We might not ever be completely on one end or other but can certainly tell how close we are getting. We are still imperfect human, well most of us!

    We are not talking to debating societies but people. I promise that most who oppose CRT or the transgender hype dont have to get a explanation from someone more learned. It is people won over by shirt-tail English and common sense that are needed as a base.

    • #8
  9. Flicker Coolidge
    Flicker
    @Flicker

    Ole Summers (View Comment):
    No one is referring to the Oxford Dictionary to figure out what liberty is or what we mean by it.

    I did. :)

    • #9
  10. Ole Summers Member
    Ole Summers
    @OleSummers

    Flicker (View Comment):

    Ole Summers (View Comment):
    No one is referring to the Oxford Dictionary to figure out what liberty is or what we mean by it.

    I did. :)

    lol, wasnt talking about you – just that generic “no one” we may have to talk to in the parking lot lol

    • #10
  11. philo Member
    philo
    @philo

    philo (View Comment):

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):

    It is a definitional issue, but I don’t think that my definition is either obtuse or unique. It’s one of the major dictionary definitions:

    Cambridge English Dictionary: “liberty” means “the freedom to live as you wish or go where you want.”

    Merriam-Webster: “1. the quality or state of being free:” “a. the power to do as one pleases.”

    Oxford English Dictionary: “2. The power or scope to act as one pleases.”

    So I wasn’t just making up some strange definition. … But this is what liberty means — or, more precisely, one of the things that liberty means. …

    So I think that problem is that people are using a word with an unclear meaning.

    Thank you for the polite, thoughtful response…more so than generally deserved. I will come back to this after I finish some work today.

    I see others have addressed the topic but that won’t stop me from giving it my own spin. I think you err in your focus a the general meaning of the word instead of the more specific American Liberty as most around here tend to think of it. Properly understood this flows rather directly from the spirit of American (or, as I prefer, rugged) Individualism. I can think of no better teacher for this than Herbert Hoover:

    No doubt, individualism run riot, with no tempering principle, would provide a long category of inequalities, of tyrannies, dominations, and injustices. America, however, has tempered the whole conception of individualism by the injection of a definite principle, and from this principle it follows that attempts at domination, whether in government or in the processes of industry and commerce, are under an insistent curb. If we would have the values of individualism, their stimulation to initiative, to the development of land and intellect, to the high development of thought and spirituality, they must be tempered with that firm and fixed ideal of American individualism – an equality of opportunity. If we would have these values we must soften its hardness and stimulate progress through that sense of service that lies in our people.

    Therefore, it is not the individualism of other countries for which I would speak, but the individualism of America. Our individualism differs from all others because it embraces these great ideals: that while we build our society upon the attainment of the individual, we shall safeguard to every individual an equality of opportunity to take that position in the community to which his intelligence, character, ability, and ambition entitle him; that we keep the social solution free from frozen strata of classes, that we shall stimulate effort of each individual to achievement; that through an enlarging sense of responsibility and understanding we shall assist him to this attainment; while he in turn must stand up to the emery wheel of competition. – Pages 6-8

    (continued…)

    • #11
  12. philo Member
    philo
    @philo

    (…continued)

    Years later he would continue:

    There are stern obligations upon those who would hold these liberties – self-restraint, insistence upon truth, order, and justice, vigilance of opinion, and co-operation in the common welfare. – Page 3

    And even dumb is down for people like me:

    The American System has steadily evolved the protections of Liberty. In the early days of road traffic we secured a respect for liberties of others by standards of decency and courtesy in conduct between neighbors. But with the crowding of highways and streets we have invented Stop and Go signals which apply to everybody alike, in order to maintain the same ordered Liberty. But traffic signals are not a sacrifice of Liberty, they are the preservation of it. Under them each citizen moves more swiftly to his own individual purpose and attainment. That is a far different thing from the corner policeman being given the right to determine whether the citizen’s mission warrants his passing and whether he is competent to execute it, and then telling him which way he should go, whether he likes it or not. That is the whole distance between ordered Liberty and Regimentation. – Pages 199-200

    Under American Liberty the “balance of values” you worry about is built into the definition. That is what makes us exceptional. 

    • #12
  13. devodivo Member
    devodivo
    @devodivo

    Ole Summers (View Comment):

    For the sake of clarity, liberty does not have anything to do with doing want ever you want. Liberty certainly has to do with self-determination, not the same thing. No one is referring to the Oxford Dictionary to figure out what liberty is or what we mean by it. For those who question it, it is easily explained that the liberty interwoven in our founding is about rights, natural rights which the government should be obligated to protect and defend. They are not about license – and that is the first argument you will probably get.

    Rights and liberty require order; hence rule of law framed in the content of protecting rights not limiting them. Stopping someone from destroying life or property is protection of rights not infringement.

    I have said before that I consider the best view to perhaps be to quit seeing things on a scale between right and left. And see them on a scale with liberty and totalitarianism on opposite ends. We might not ever be completely on one end or other but can certainly tell how close we are getting. We are still imperfect human, well most of us!

    We are not talking to debating societies but people. I promise that most who oppose CRT or the transgender hype dont have to get a explanation from someone more learned. It is people won over by shirt-tail English and common sense that are needed as a base.

    Is it it possible the spectrum useful to frame a discussion of liberty has “license” on one end and “totalitarian” on the other? Liberty, Ordered Liberty, and Order are waypoints in between those poles?

    • #13
  14. Steven Galanis Coolidge
    Steven Galanis
    @Steven Galanis

    philo (View Comment):

    The American System has steadily evolved the protections of Liberty. In the early days of road traffic we secured a respect for liberties of others by standards of decency and courtesy in conduct between neighbors. But with the crowding of highways and streets we have invented Stop and Go signals which apply to everybody alike, in order to maintain the same ordered Liberty. But traffic signals are not a sacrifice of Liberty, they are the preservation of it. Under them each citizen moves more swiftly to his own individual purpose and attainment. That is a far different thing from the corner policeman being given the right to determine whether the citizen’s mission warrants his passing and whether he is competent to execute it, and then telling him which way he should go, whether he likes it or not. That is the whole distance between ordered Liberty and Regimentation. – Pages 199-200

     

    Hoover could not have imagined the complete lack of self control on modern roadways. Sure we stop at lights and signs, but that left hand turn in front of us? Not anymore Jose! 

     

     

    • #14
  15. Ole Summers Member
    Ole Summers
    @OleSummers

    devodivo (View Comment):

    Ole Summers (View Comment):

    For the sake of clarity, liberty does not have anything to do with doing want ever you want. Liberty certainly has to do with self-determination, not the same thing. No one is referring to the Oxford Dictionary to figure out what liberty is or what we mean by it. For those who question it, it is easily explained that the liberty interwoven in our founding is about rights, natural rights which the government should be obligated to protect and defend. They are not about license – and that is the first argument you will probably get.

    Rights and liberty require order; hence rule of law framed in the content of protecting rights not limiting them. Stopping someone from destroying life or property is protection of rights not infringement.

    I have said before that I consider the best view to perhaps be to quit seeing things on a scale between right and left. And see them on a scale with liberty and totalitarianism on opposite ends. We might not ever be completely on one end or other but can certainly tell how close we are getting. We are still imperfect human, well most of us!

    We are not talking to debating societies but people. I promise that most who oppose CRT or the transgender hype dont have to get a explanation from someone more learned. It is people won over by shirt-tail English and common sense that are needed as a base.

    Is it it possible the spectrum useful to frame a discussion of liberty has “license” on one end and “totalitarian” on the other? Liberty, Ordered Liberty, and Order are waypoints in between those poles?

    That is a interesting thought, will have to chew on it a while, perhaps dissolve it in some liquid and see how it digests :)

    • #15
  16. RushBabe49 Thatcher
    RushBabe49
    @RushBabe49

    Totally off-topic.  Have the Editors lost their edge?  The title of this post has a misspelling that was not corrected when it was promoted.  Or am I the only one who noticed it?

    Great discussion on the meaning of Liberty, one of the natural rights granted to humans by God.  I may bring it up on the discussion board in the Hillsdale College online course Constitution 101 which I am taking now. The course is free, like all of the Hillsdale Online Courses (check Hillsdale.edu for more information).

    • #16
  17. Steven Galanis Coolidge
    Steven Galanis
    @Steven Galanis

    RushBabe49 (View Comment):

    Totally off-topic. Have the Editors lost their edge? The title of this post has a misspelling that was not corrected when it was promoted. Or am I the only one who noticed it?

    Great discussion on the meaning of Liberty, one of the natural rights granted to humans by God. I may bring it up on the discussion board in the Hillsdale College online course Constitution 101 which I am taking now. The course is free, like all of the Hillsdale Online Courses (check Hillsdale.edu for more information).

    I see It! Ole should probably be Old!

    • #17
  18. Ole Summers Member
    Ole Summers
    @OleSummers

    Steven Galanis (View Comment):

    RushBabe49 (View Comment):

    Totally off-topic. Have the Editors lost their edge? The title of this post has a misspelling that was not corrected when it was promoted. Or am I the only one who noticed it?

    Great discussion on the meaning of Liberty, one of the natural rights granted to humans by God. I may bring it up on the discussion board in the Hillsdale College online course Constitution 101 which I am taking now. The course is free, like all of the Hillsdale Online Courses (check Hillsdale.edu for more information).

    I see It! Ole should probably be Old!

    LOL , finally !!

    • #18
  19. RushBabe49 Thatcher
    RushBabe49
    @RushBabe49

    The first word is misspelled. The second word contradicts the first word. 

    • #19
  20. philo Member
    philo
    @philo

    RushBabe49 (View Comment): The first word is misspelled. The second word contradicts the first word.

    Based on the link address I presume it was spelled correctly when published:

    https://ricochet.com/1005331/intellectual-clarity/#comment-5617369

    • #20