Monday, December 21, 2009

Assertive Toleration

(fm the BC thread "The mystery of Yemen")

Fletcher Christian,
The "first clause" argument is a false one. All that the term "well regulated" meant was that a good militia was composed of the free citizenry and responsive to the will of the Sovereign, which in America is the people. A badly regulated militia would have been a tool of an oppressive dictator, like the dragoons of 17th - 19th century Europe or the barracks police (militsia in Russia) of 19th - 21st century Europe. Whatever the arguments about the role of guns in America or about the appropriateness of here speculating on their use in any coming crisis the 2nd Amendment does not call for government control or limitation on the right to bear arms.

Personally I am uncomfortable with much of the apocalyptic militia talk and find the racial speculating and baiting offensive and stupid. White, Celtic or other communities have no divinely granted monopoly on virtue. They have supported ideas that encouraged personal liberty and economic growth. If they became intolerant then they would lose that advantage. The trick is for people to defend their liberties from government oppression without becoming themselves intolerant of dissent from either within their ranks or from a minority. The Constitution is not a suicide pact so it might need defending but any talk of forming a separate ethnically based community would be the antithesis of what is needed to defend liberty. Any separatist group would rapidly degenerate into an abusive and intolerant gang destructive of both personal liberty and economic activity.

The history is (I know that I am leaving vast swaths out but this is at most a time for the short course) that due to particular circumstances and at enormous cost after the Wars of Religion, in England the Civil War, the English bound their Sovereign to the popular will under the doctrine of King in Parliament. At the same time they bound the religious passions of the Church of England under the doctrines of Non-resistence (to Civil Authority) and Toleration. This rather unique set of conditions produced a vigorous intellectual and commercial culture that transplanted to America. In particular the English brought concepts of Non-resistence leading to secular government and Toleration of religious Nonconformists, and later of other minorities. This bound, after much grief, the commercial and intellectual gifts of Scotland to the expanding empire. Initial excursions into theocracy by the Puritans in America were soon supplanted.

America has benefited from this legacy that the English and the Scots brought here. People from all over have assimilated to the productive tolerant culture they created. That culture and the Constitution rooted in it may need defending but any call that attacks it at the roots will and should fail.

If any person or groups of persons engage in sedition, treason or subversion then they need to be identified and prosecuted. America should be in control of its own borders and criteria for citizenship. If anyone does not profess values compatible with the expectation that they will assimilate into the polity and become loyal defenders of the Constitution then they should be rejected. Everyone else should be welcome under the reasonable restrictions, no risk of becoming a public charge, etc., already in place. Doing so and identifying and confronting those who are a threat is much harder than simply going tribal and throwing out everyone who has to many vowels in their name. That is to bad, and it is work that needs to be done correctly in accordance with the Constitution.

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