Wednesday, March 10, 2010

No, We Can't

A conversation today raised the topic of asking forgiveness versus asking permission. The old proposition "it is easier to ask forgiveness than permission" was trotted out in defense of preventive action by the state, the situation under consideration being Child Protective Services in general and the incident with the FLDS kids back in 2008 in particular. This logic encompasses also the preemptive military strike, for if the primary consideration is, "bad might happen, let us do bad first," then as Rodion Romanovich might say, "all is permitted."

I say, however, that this is exactly the wrong attitude for government to have. I say that, insofar as our Constitution has value, it's value is in telling the government that it can't do anything without permission. I say, therefore, that the operative principle of our government ought to be, "no, we can't." To say that it is easier to ask forgiveness than for permission is the defense of one who wishes to do that which violates another's rights. Indeed, the moment that we pass from this default response (no we can't) to the other (it is easier to ask forgiveness than for permission) we have passed from freedom to tyranny.

Can you take children away from their parents without evidence of a crime and due process of law?

No, we can't.

Can you fight a war against a nation that, as a nation, offers no possible danger to your country?

No, we can't.

Can you take money from citizens at the point of a gun in order to give it over to those things that are intrinsically evil?

No, we can't.

Can you take money from citizens at the point of a gun in order to better kill women and children in foreign countries because they are foreigners, and "hate America"? (Let me ask you, if a foreign nation, say Russia, had predator drones dropping bombs on American civilians in the name of killing some Americans that killed their citizens, would you hate Russia? Damn right you would. Just sayin'.)

No, we can't.

Imagine a world where "Yes, we can," is forgotten, a world where the government's default respons to a question is, "No, we can't do that, Dave."

I like saying no, so I'll volunteer for that job. I'll vet any proposed legislation before it comes before congress. I'll sit there with a copy of the constitution in my hand, and if the constitution doesn't say they can do it, I'll send that proposition back with "No, we can't!" written in bright, red ink, because I don't give a rat's chocolate-covered hindquarters whether people who want the government to butt in have high self esteem or not.


  1. I agree that I want the government to take a solid stance on situations, but where is the line between our choices and their decisions?

    Although they cannot enforce the governmental law, I sometimes wish the Church wouldn't back down, either. I don't like fuzzy lines.

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  3. Hey Talia,

    Honestly, I'm a little confused by your comment. What do you mean by saying you want the government to take a solid stance on situations? By the line between our choices and their decisions?

    Instinctively, I would draw the line on what the government can do according to natural law. Government can do exactly what a man may do. If I may not kill except in self-defense, neither may government. If I may not take money by force for my own use, neither can government. If I may not take your kids away from you because I do not think you are raising them in a "healthy" environment, neither can government.

    Put another way, one could take a radical view of the principal of subsidiarity. As far as I know, the Church has not set out a well-defined instruction concerning what falls to the individual, the local community, the city, the state, the nation, etc. One could argue that until I attempt to act in a way that would be harmful to another, no one has the authority to regulate or restrict my behavior, and then from there, the restriction of behavior extends upward, the scale of the crime determining the level of entity that has the authority to proscribe it. For example, murder would be illegal by local law, while international law would prohibit the waging of aggressive wars against other nations.