The Bet You Can’t Win

The Dude Abides

UPON these two foundations, the law of nature and the law of revelation, depend all human laws; that is to say, no human laws should be suffered to contradict these. There is, it is true, a great number of indifferent points, in which both the divine law and the natural leave a man at his own liberty; but which are found necessary for the benefit of society to be restrained within certain limits. And herein it is that human laws have their greatest force and efficacy; for, with regard to such points as are not indifferent, human laws are only declaratory of, and act in subordination to, the former. To instance in the case of murder: this is expressly forbidden by the divine, and demonstrably by the natural law; and from these prohibitions arises the true unlawfulness of this crime. Those human laws, that annex a punishment to it, do not at all increase it’s moral guilt, or superadd any fresh obligation in foro conscientiae to abstain from its perpetration.  Sir William Blackstone

In Foro Conscientiae: Before the Tribunal of Conscience.  With this phrase Blackstone confirms a point developed yesterday that inside every human is a conscience that can supersede external human commands.  For the same reason, he says, human law adds nothing to the guilt of sin.  This is a variation of saying the highest authority is conscience.  While this may be true in terms of an individual’s destiny, can it also be true in the more general sense: is individual conscience necessarily superior to society’s interests?

The answer must be, manifestly not.

Where there is only one individual, conscience may reign supreme, free from human interference (though it would be, as Blackstone says, unable to supersede divine law).  However, once there are two human beings, “competition, diffidence and glory” set strife into motion, as Hobbes declares.  A natural state of war prevails:

Hereby it is manifest that during the time men live without a common power to keep them all in awe, they are in that condition which is called war; and such a war as is of every man against every man. For war consisteth not in battle only, or the act of fighting, but in a tract of time, wherein the will to contend by battle is sufficiently known: and therefore the notion of time is to be considered in the nature of war, as it is in the nature of weather. For as the nature of foul weather lieth not in a shower or two of rain, but in an inclination thereto of many days together: so the nature of war consisteth not in actual fighting, but in the known disposition thereto during all the time there is no assurance to the contrary. All other time is peace.

Here is where life gets most interesting for, as Adam Smith describes, men go to great lengths to avoid the pain of want and secure satisfaction for themselves.  The collective effect of man’s self-serving activities constitutes Smith’s Invisible Hand:

In civilized society he stands at all times in need of the co-operation and assistance of great multitudes, while his whole life is scarce sufficient to gain the friendship of a few persons. In almost every other race of animals, each individual, when it is grown up to maturity, is entirely independent, and in its natural state has occasion for the assistance of no other living creature. But man has almost constant occasion for the help of his brethren, and it is in vain for him to expect it from their benevolence only. He will be more likely to prevail if he can interest their self-love in his favour, and shew them that it is for their own advantage to do for him what he requires of them. Whoever offers to another a bargain of any kind, proposes to do this. Give me that which I want, and you shall have this which you want, is the meaning of every such offer; and it is in this manner that we obtain from one another the far greater part of those good offices which we stand in need of. It is not from the benevolence of the butcher the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest.

All well and good, but in Smith’s formulation conscience may well be lost — may, in fact, be irrelevant.  (There is too quick an assumption, in my book, to assume men of capitalism, for example, are honorable.  Many of them are anything but.)  The Invisible Hand isn’t necessarily guided by the good and the just.   One man may steal your minor daughter for sexual pleasure; another might inject your son with amphetamine for a little entertainment.  I know of one couple whose son was Code Three on Heroin.  They called 911, then threw him out into the snow because they didn’t want the cops inside their house.  I can assure you his death meant less to them than the possibility of jail time.  In my line of work, you have to quit assuming human beings are kind or rational or make good decisions.  By my reckoning, a human being is sane only randomly — and even then, with no real effort of his own.  He has either been shaped by family and society toward good character, or he has not.  Expecting him to grow morally out of self-interest alone is nothing less than daft if he has never learned to respect private property.  There is more to a human being than the next pleasure, and yes, society has a vested interest in producing topnotch individuals, when it can.  To say otherwise is to hand your children over to the pedophile, the murderer, or the GE Exec.  You can count your own instances: does self-interest win battles?  Does self-interest improve mental and moral conditions?  It can, yes, and it also can not.  Will you bet your family on your neighbor being an honorable man?

No society, save one, I would argue, ever successfully bridged the gap between a lesser state and a virtuous citizenry.  Spartans were solid as rock, character-wise, but Sparta was a socialist dictatorship, a dreary, hide-bound cripple that couldn’t keep up with change.  Societies that depend too much on military valor aren’t necessarily the keenest when it comes to survival, ironically enough.  Athens was a great deal like our culture: far too given to the kinds of pleasures and greed that turn men into servile wretches.  There is a reason we associate Greeks with buggery.  Look around.  Notice the climate in that regard?  Rome came the closest to a free republic, which is why our Founding Fathers devoted so much effort to read “Tully” and Cato, but the City of Rome did not have a police force.  Those with money hired their own protectors, or prosecuted law suits.  Criminal prosecutions were instituted by private parties.  The common man or woman had no legal recourse to rape or murder.  You either killed the perpetrator, became his slave, or went on with your life — if you were still breathing.  And Rome made all the mistakes Karl Marx gleefully wrote about: its ruling classes held most of the land and expected the soldiers to keep on fighting without proper recompense.  It was a miracle Rome lasted as long as it did, and when its reckoning came, it was bloody indeed.  As students of Liberty know, the necessary antidote to Rome’s failure was private property and free markets.  Very few Romans would understand the sentence you just read.   For one thing, they most likely couldn’t read.

It is a bet you cannot win.  Throw out the discipline of the state and you will receive your just reward: madness, murder and losses that cannot be reckoned.  What is one method for insuring against the madness of untutored human nature?

Law is one method, though there are better methods, such as moral education.  There is a reason public education and police forces radically improve conditions.  Best yet, conscious moral development such as we saw in Benjamin Franklin and George Washington, but those are the rarest of men.  Unfortunately, personal conscience is not necessarily a trustworthy source of right action, which makes the lash of authority a necessary evil.

But conscience is not the only expression of the natural law in human nature. Thomas Aquinas defined law as a form of discipline that compels through fear of punishment. Budziszewski, The Revenge of Conscience

Is it any wonder that a society that began to ignore self-induced psychosis in the 1960s is now eating its young?  If you are my age, you can state the year America began to die: In 1968 marijuana sales reached into the millions of dollars.  The inheritors of our warrior heritage turned wanker.

Need we wonder why, then, having started on our babies, we now want to kill our grandparents? Sin ramifies. It is fertile, fissiparous, and parasitic, always in search of new kingdoms to corrupt. It breeds. But just as a virus cannot reproduce except by commandeering the machinery of a cell, sin cannot reproduce except by taking over the machinery of conscience. Not a gear, not a wheel is destroyed, but they are all set turning in different directions than their wont. Evil must rationalize, and that is its weakness. But it can, and that is its strength.  The Revenge of Conscience

Here is where are, friends.  It is a very deadly, and very wicked, situation.  Sin has found a ripe infant for the plucking here in America, which is why I give Libertarianism such a bad time, knowing, at the same time, that I waste my breath.  Those moral adolescents who gleefully identify with libertarianism are facing a stern appointment with Dr. Satan but, like cattle in the road, cannot discern the significance of the Big Truck bearing down on them.  I cannot convince them otherwise, so I content myself to taunt them.  The day will come when the words of “Irish Cicero” ring in their chastened ears but, for the moment, it is no concern of mine.  They will grow up.

In Part I of this series, I made the following claim:

If you have an American heart you can read the words of the Roman Emperor Aurelius side-by-side with a photo of a Crow warrior and not sense any contradiction whatever. If Marcus Aurelius and the Crow warrior and Andrew Jackson and Henry Thoreau could meet for lunch at Jack in the Box, they’d see the same things, feel the same things, probably say the same things. Only an American can do that. Englishman might long for the feeling (and we all know they do), but never quite have it. They can only get it from books, and even then it’s sketchy. I’ve spent many an hour trying to explain America to my English friends. You have to have been born American to know what I’m talking about.

Here is the how and why of that claim:

An American is a special mixture of Celtic-Germanic-Native American-English blood shaped by the Frontier into a New Man — the Aquarian Age man.  Why didn’t Canada get precisely the same result?  Australia?  We are all closely related, that’s a fact, but the American hit a kind of plateau that the others didn’t know. Frederic Jackson Turner describes the process of transforming a European burgher into a frontiersman in The Frontier in American History.   For example, long before political correctness, folks like Teddy Roosevelt thought the American Indian ought to be honored on a coin.   Teddy didn’t feel sorry for the Indian.  He expressed admiration for his courage and honor.  The warrior spirit is at the heartbeat of America more than any other place on earth.  Ever think about that?

Most definitely, Indians are conservative by nature. (Sherman Alexis tells me he thinks Indians are basically rednecks!) Indian country is like a living metaphor of all that challenges America. Preservation of culture, tradition, and identity, these are the foundations of any people.

Liberals scooped up the Indian image early on, beginning in the ’60’s really. No one had more right to protest the existence of America than Indians, so the liberals taught. They developed a crew of professional Indian protesters, and ever since, the mantra has been, “You wronged me. You owe me. You’re bad.” The Indian hate message is louder than any other. But this is only the “university” Indian message.

And it is the wrong message. It is harmful to Indians. It is alienating, and it is based on fear. It defensive. I rather take the warrior’s stance. I prefer an offensive position. America is our adopted son. We raised him. Yes, he outgrew us, but we’re still the adoptive father. It is our responsibility to look after our grand and great son. Indians need to take an attitude of ownership of America, not alienation. I don’t believe we can survive in a state of alienation. I think we should contribute our influence to helping preserve America, this great nation that grew up on our land.  David Yeagley

Therein, my friends, lies the key ingredients:


The Crow Warrior, Andrew Jackson, Ronald Reagan . . . . all knew Honor.  That is to say, they honored Honor.  They were men.

No dope-smokin’.  No skirt-chasin’.  No effeminate excuses.


And what is Honor, if not the Law of the Heart?  I don’t mean masturbation, dope-smokin’ or gamin’, boyo.  I mean something a lot more real, a lot more visceral than playing Bill Clinton or Barack Obama.  Got me?

America had the best of all worlds for probably 150 years: the Red Man was a man of honor; the Irishman and the Scot, wearing leather leggin’s and fighting the Red Man, produced an entirely new creature.  Combine those raw ingredients with the puritan’s congregationalism, and you get a human being uniquely suited for republican citizenship.  Raise such a man in atmosphere that punishes public cursing and public drunkenness — a society whose women value the family over the orgasm — and you have a country ready for business.

You got yourself a pretty safe place for kids to grow up in.

You don’t have that now, do you?

Well, then, you might want to give some constructive thought to whether you can get that back, ’cause no one’s gonna get it for you, punk’n.

Part I: The Law of the Heart

Part II: The Circumcised Heart