The Benefits of Local Government

I was recently trying to explain to a friend of mine some of the basic principles upon which I base my philosophy of government. I was amazed to read a verse this morning (which I don’t remember reading before) that seems to explain one of these principle very well.

“If you see in a province the oppression of the poor and the violation of justice and righteousness, do not be amazed at the matter, for the high official is watched by a higher, and there are yet higher ones over them” (Eccl 5:8).

Solomon connects the oppression of the poor and the violation of justice and righteousness with multi-layered bureaucracy that places power further and further from the people. It has been observed throughout history that power has the tendency to corrupt those who have it. Lord Acton wrote, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” His conclusion is that the extent of the power is proportionate to the corruption.

How do we construct a government that reduces the probability of this tendency playing out? By allowing as much power as possible to be held by as many as possible as close to the people as possible. All I’m really talking about here is an emphasis on local government. This gives ownership, responsibility, and accountability to the people and those who lead them. It means that leaders are leading in their own communities so they have a vested interest. The well being of their lives, and that of their family and friends is directly affected by their leadership. And they are directly accountable to the people they are leading.

I would not argue, thought, that there is no need for centralized government and I acknowledge that there are certain matters that are best dealt with at that level. Some believe that an emphasis on local government with more leaders than less is inefficient. I have two responses to this argument. First, I believe local government is much more effective in preventing the oppression of the poor and the violation of justice and righteousness, which is more important than whatever efficiency may be in mind. Second, I would argue that the efficiency of a centralized government is an illusion. The further government gets from the people that it is supposed to be serving, the more resources are required to maintain it.

Are We Trying to Change the World?

I am intrigued by a new book by James Davison Hunter called To Change the Word: The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World. I just read a summary of the book and an interview with Hunter in Christianity Today (May 2010). He argues that the common evangelical goal of changing the world or transforming the culture is not really the goal of the church. Furthermore, even if it were, the current strategy of the church to do so will not work because it is built on a misunderstanding of how culture works. Instead of culture being derived from ideas and culture only (the common views), it is also built upon "elites, networks, technology, and new institutions." Hunter argues that the church depends too heavily upon politics in its current attempt to influence the world. Instead, the strategy of the church for cultural engagement is what Hunter calls "faithful presence." The goals of this engagement is to make disciples and serve the common good.

The interview with Hunter was very impressive. He seems to have a good understanding of culture and addresses many of the issues of mainline Christian cultural engagement that I have been uncertain about. I look forward to reading this.

NC Senate 45th District Republican Candidates

Watauga County Campaign for Liberty presents:

A Forum for the Republican Candidates in the

NC Senate 45th District:

Jeff Elmore and Dan Soucek


Monday, April 26, 2010, 7:00 p.m.

The office of Blue Ridge Ear, Nose, and Throat 870 State Farm Road, Suite 101 Boone, NC

Campaign for Liberty will host this evening of questions and answers concerning the pertinent issues of the race. It will be open to the general public. For more information please call 828-265-1039.

The Logic of Abortion

One of my favorite class discussions in our Public Speaking class at Appalachian State is on "Building Powerful Arguments." In it we talk about logos, pathos, and ethos, and deductive and inductive reasoning. In order to demonstrate how a logical appeal (logos) can be made with a deductive argument, we use the topic of abortion. I lead the class in an attempt to create a deductive argument for a pro-choice and a pro-life position. I emphasize how important it is to be able to accurately articulate the view of the opposing argument (that is, to the satisfaction of one who hold that view). If this simple step were taken in such discussions, much misunderstanding, straw-man arguments, and talking past each other would be eliminated. Deductive reasoning argues for a claim based primarily on the logical relationships of certain premises. First, the students must establish a major premise. This is an assumed principle that both sides should agree upon. Next is the minor premise. This is where the one logically connects the major premise to his or her claim. A simplified version of a deductive argument (a syllogism) for both sides of the abortion issue may look like this:


Major Premise:            Women have a right to control their bodies and # of children. Minor Premise:            Abortion is an exercise of that right. Claim:                         Protect abortion rights

Pro-Life Major Premise:             Taking the life of another human is wrong. Minor Premise:            Abortion is taking the life of a human. Claim:                         Stop abortion

There are other ways to argue both sides, but this is a start upon which both sides generally agree. Anyone have any suggestions on how to improve this beginning point for discussion? Next time I will explain how both sides usually criticize the logic of the other.

Religious Liberty

"The struggle for religious liberty across the centuries has been long and arduous, but it is not a novel idea or recent development. The nature of religious liberty is grounded in the character of God Himself, the God who is most fully known in the life and work of Jesus Christ. Determined to follow Jesus faithfully in life and death, the early Christians appealed to the manner in which the Incarnation had taken place: “Did God send Christ, as some suppose, as a tyrant brandishing fear and terror? Not so, but in gentleness and meekness..., for compulsion is no attribute of God” (Epistle to Diognetus 7.3-4). Thus the right to religious freedom has its foundation in the example of Christ Himself and in the very dignity of the human person created in the image of God—a dignity, as our founders proclaimed, inherent in every human, and knowable by all in the exercise of right reason. "Christians confess that God alone is Lord of the conscience. Immunity from religious coercion is the cornerstone of an unconstrained conscience. No one should be compelled to embrace any religion against his will, nor should persons of faith be forbidden to worship God according to the dictates of conscience or to express freely and publicly their deeply held religious convictions. What is true for individuals applies to religious communities as well."

- Manhattan Declaration

Political Corruption

We find in Livy's The Early History of Rome assurance that corruption in politics in not a new development. It is fascinating that such strategies have changed very little.

"In and out of the houses of patrician families--the 'lesser' families especially--he began  to solicit their support; he reminded them of the favours his father had done them, and urged them to show their gratitude; to the younger men he offered money as a bait; he vilified Servius [the incumbent], and promised heaven on earth, should he succeed."

"Free markets and property rights stimulate the technological innovations and behavioral changes required to protect our environment and ecosystems. We realize that our planet's climate is constantly changing, but environmental advocates and social pressure are the most effective means of changing public behavior." - From the National Platform of the Libertarian Party

"The closer civil government is to the people, the more responsible, responsive, and accountable it is likely to be." - Preamble of the Constitution Party Platform