Monday, April 28, 2014

To Secure These Rights

“After theology—economics is the most important science to study
because the two things that impact everyone are God and the market.”[i]
The political, economic, and civilization spheres interrelate. If you've come across this blog, maybe you already know that.

In case you’re not aware, Hillsdale College is offering yet another free online course. It’s Constitution 101 again, but with new lectures. Sort of like taking the same class again, with different teachers, so you pick up different details.
Already they have lecture nine available, but I’ve been going through at my leisure and recently listened (and then re-listened) to lecture 5: “To Secure These Rights: Economics, Religion, and Character.” Here at The Spherical Model, the connection between economics and social behavior was bound to perk my interest.
The lecturer is Thomas G. West. This section of the lecture begins about 29 minutes in:
It seems strange to us that a political society whose purpose is to secure life, liberty and property, should concern itself with citizen character. Harvey Mansfield formulates the paradox nicely. “Liberty and virtue are not a likely pair. At first sight, they seem to be contraries, for liberty appears to mean living as you please and virtue appears to mean living not as you please but as you ought.” But, morality is not something that government can choose either to concern itself with or to ignore. The moral law, in the founders’ view, is not intentioned with or supplemental to the natural law theory. It is its foundation. The founders tended to equate the moral law with the law of nature.
A large part of this final portion concerns maintaining the family, the basic unit of civilization:
The connection between laws on sex and marriage and government’s duty to secure the natural rights of all is today probably less well understood than almost anything else in the founding. These laws all had one main object: to encourage people to get married and stay married. The integrity of the family was believed to be necessary to the protection as well as the happiness of human beings: men, women and children alike. The love of married parents for their biological offspring was judged the most reliable motivation for the sometimes unpleasant duties of providing suitable care for children.
Although it was written some years after the founding, an 1836 essay by Joseph Storey, who was appointed to the Supreme Court by President Madison, sums up the founders’ view very nicely. “Marriage is an institution which may properly be deemed to arise from the law of nature. It promotes the private comfort of both parties. It promotes the private comfort of both parties. It tends to the procreation of the greatest number of healthy citizens, and to their proper maintenance and education…. It promotes the cause of sound morals by cultivating domestic affections and virtues.”
This next portion concerns the definition of marriage today:
This older, child-centered view of marriage has been replaced, in our time, with a sentimental, romantic love view. The idea of same-sex marriage makes perfect sense in a world where marriage has effectively been redefined as a partnership of people who love each other and who feel justified in splitting up if love happens to fade. As marriage collapses throughout the western world, children’s support comes increasingly from more productive men coerced by the state into transferring money either by court-ordered child support or by taxation that funds welfare and other benefits, to less productive mothers who choose to live apart from their children’s fathers.
Professor West doesn’t claim that legislation has redefined marriage; it’s more a matter of pop culture changing the definition through propaganda, and then pushing legal institutions to “stay with the times.” Anyone who says, “Wait, what’s wrong with the definition we’ve had all along,” they get accused of hate and bigotry. The cost for giving in is the decay of the very basic necessary building material of society.
I have a major portion of  the family section of The Spherical Model that relates to the ways of dealing with the results of sex outside marriage, if society is to maintain the integrity of the family. It is helpful, of course, if laws support the family, but it is more essential for families, extended families, churches, and communities, to encourage the correction of behavior, so that the value of family is maintained. And also so that the damage to society from family decay is not transferred onto the larger society.
Professor West describes the founders’ approach to be similar. Laws and policies might seem harsh today, but in reality, harshness only applied when “the misbehavior became open and notorious.” Loving, caring friends and family are better at encouraging valued behavior than threat of legal punishment. But underneath both private and public policy was an understanding of how essential family strength was to economic prosperity and happiness in society.
As I was writing this today, I came across information about a documentary coming to theaters this weekend, called Irreplaceable, about the economic and social value of fathers in the home. Is it time to re-define marriage downward? Not unless you want more poverty and unhappiness for the foreseeable future. Here's the three-minute trailer:

[i] Deacon Patrick Moynihan, Head of LCS [Louverture Cleary School], comments on the importance of teaching economics in Haiti; the quote comes from . I found this quote in  Harvard Economics Professor Greg Mankiw’s blog 4-9-2014, .

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