The Cost of Liberty Is the Acceptance of Human Nature
Self-acceptance involves accepting personal limitations and possibilities. It is a crucial step in any personal development – you first have to be aware of and accept what's true about your life if you want to be able to then change your life for the better.
There are also limitations and possibilities that we share as members of the human race. If we cannot first be aware of and accept our common human nature, any attempt to change how we are in relation to each other in our personal relationships, or as a country or a culture, is doomed to failure.
We can cause lots of trouble for ourselves and others by failing to accept – or refusing to accept – human nature.
To be specific, most of the greatest evils of the past century in particular have resulted from a kind of perfectionistic idealism. Communism, Fascism, Nazism, and Islamic Fascism are all examples of ideologies that reject the realities of human nature and seek to impose their version of the perfect on humanity as a whole.
There's nothing wrong with idealism in itself – in fact it's been the motive force behind much of mankind's improvement and innovation. The beauty of America's founding principles is that they are at once idealistic and at the same time firmly grounded in reality. They set a beautifully idealistic vision for humanity: "We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness..." But then the US Constitution lays out a very practical framework for a government that can actually function to support that vision.
Our founders understood human nature well; and Madison expressed this understanding succinctly in Federalist 51: "If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary." But men are not angels, and those governing us are certainly not angels... and never will be.
For idealism to be useful, for it not to serve evil means toward delusional ends, it must be based on an awareness and acceptance of what's true; particularly, what's true about human nature.
And one great truth of human nature is that, while we might strive for perfection, and we may enjoy blissful moments of perfection, we are not perfect. We make mistakes, we fail, we have weaknesses and we have limitations. While an idea of perfection can inspire us and provide us with a direction, the expectation that we must achieve perfection to be successful is a dangerous notion.
What this expectation can instill in us is a fear of failure; and grappling with failure is absolutely necessary for anybody to achieve the best that they are capable of.
One of the realities of a free society is that it is not some perfect work of final perfection. It is a complex and dynamic system of disparate individuals, joining together and moving apart in what would appear to the idealistic technocrat to be some terrifying dance of chaos.
But the results of course can be truly magnificent.
The idea that people can somehow be made perfect is made possible by a powerful idea, made famous by John Locke, that human beings are a "white paper, void of all characters, without any ideas" upon which experience scratches its words. Locke was arguing against the divine right of kings in the name of human liberty, but as we shall see, this concept - known as tabula rasa, Latin for "blank slate" – has been used for very different purposes since.
The central difference between the left's view of mankind and the classical liberal view is that the left rejects the notion of human nature, and wishes instead to see us largely as blank slates.
Here is the point that I want to drive home: If we were blank slates, it would mean that there is no innate human nature. For the person believing that we are blank slates, the differences between people, in terms of gender roles, wealth, health, and ability, are all the result of learning and experience. They are all dependent upon our education, how our parents treated us, how the government directs us, and what we were exposed to along the way.
To a believer in the blank slate view of humanity, all of these differences – the differences that conservatives and classical liberals take as simply a given of human existence – are unfair and unjust. The idea of social justice is an expression of a passionate sense of injustice at our innate differences.
To a believer in the blank slate, these differences are every bit as unjust and artificial as the differences between monarchs and subjects in earlier societies. The "lottery of life" throws some people into luckier circumstances than others, and that is all that explains the differences in outcome.
This is a powerful force in the worldview of the left. It holds a similar passionate emotional quality as we might experience at the thought of King George abusing his power over the American Colonists; thus some on the left read people like Thomas Paine, and they think that they are resonating with the same spirit of combating injustice. They might read John Locke, and see that he was using the idea of the blank slate as an argument for liberty – and so they can believe that their cause of social justice, taking money from some people to give to others, regulating some to "equalize" them with others, etc., is somehow a fight for liberty.
This, I suspect, is the driving force for at least some on the left, who truly believe that the contemporary use of the word "Liberal" really means one who seeks liberty.
There's just one little problem with this view of humanity; there is no support whatsoever that we are indeed blank slates. We are much more complex than that.
People cannot be simply programmed by society, or teachers, or parents, or community organizers to be whatever they would like us to be. We can be threatened and forced to do certain things against our will out of fear, but we cannot be made different. There is a human nature, and any efforts at improving the human condition has to take our human nature seriously.
But what is this human nature, and what makes it such a powerful and predictable force in human affairs?
We have been called by Aristotle and others a "social animal," but that really doesn't do us justice. There are lots of social animals, from ants to antelope. But we have qualities that are not shared, to any significant degree, by any other organisms on earth. We are more accurately what my favorite social psychologist, Roy Baumeister, calls a "cultural animal."
By culture I don't mean any particular set of habits or rituals from any number of different geographical or ethnic groups. We are cultural beings because we have the capacity to explore and learn and solve problems, and to share our experience, knowledge, and solutions with other people, beyond our immediate connections, and across time.
That we are cultural beings has several consequences: Having a strong sense of self is one of them. We do not just run along with the herd in search of food and circle around our young when danger approaches, we can discover complex and novel ways of bringing food to us; and we can create ways of protecting ourselves from danger, including strategies for settling conflicts before they erupt into threatening scenarios.
There are biological needs, such as food, water and shelter. There are social needs, such as companionship and cooperation. These are part of our human existence. But as cultural beings, we have been required and blessed with needs and capacities beyond biological and social concerns.
The capacity for reason, choice, language, and problem-solving are all a result of our cultural capacity. As Baumeister says, if you are a social animal and you solve a problem, it may be solved for your lifetime; but as a cultural being, once a problem is solved, it may be solved forever.
We have a human nature, which includes both troubling and magnificent elements. These all exist within us, but the overriding quality that makes us human is that we can choose which impulses and feelings and ideas that we want to act upon. We have a conscious capacity to channel our human nature toward better or worse expressions; and we have the capacity as a culture to value some expressions over others.
We are not blank slates to be shaped and molded by force, or social animals who simply go along with the herd, or even lead the herd as "alpha" males do in a pack of wolves.
We are complex cultural beings, with our inborn temperament, heredity and soul. We are influenced and deeply affected by the people and events of our lives. We can be threatened and frightened into acting in certain ways, but we cannot be molded and shaped through force to be "better," according to some administrator's idealistic delusions.
We are human beings; with all the heroic potential, and tragic flaws that have been understood for millennia. By first accepting this truth – as America's Founders did – we can then look clearly at what we can actually do to bring the best of our ideals into practical being.
Posted by Jeanna on 08/08/11 02:13 PM
On my agenda....but soon.
Posted by Zenbillionaire on 08/08/11 03:50 AM
David, thanks for the time and insight. I will consider your words well.
Posted by David_Robertson on 08/07/11 04:42 PM
It was just my testimony Jeanna from thirty four years ago. Did you get a chance to read the books on the weblinks II sent you?
Posted by Jeanna on 08/07/11 03:30 PM
I agree in part, but disagree in part. God is the creator of all, and as the creator is the giver of life. He knows the number of hairs on our heads. He knows us before we are born. "For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother's womb." (Psalm 139:13) As our creator, He knew when He wanted us to be born, and each and every one of us are here at the time and place He wanted us. It is His grace that provides the air we breathe, for without His atmosphere, none of us could live. So we are here because of His grace, and His determination.
He doesn't create a sinful creature, but as we have free will, when we grow into adulthood, we become subject to our own desires and lusts, our own pride. All of which makes us susceptible to sin, so we all fall from grace, and from the glory of God. The question then is how we become reconciled to Him.
God spoke to man directly in times past, fist to Adam and Eve, then to the Patriarchs, then the Judges, then the Prophets. All through divine revelation. All of these then communicated as directed by the Holy Spirit to the people. And, when the time was fulfilled, God communicated through Angels, holy messengers, and with the Holy Spirit to those who would do His will before Christ's birth, and after Christ's birth. But, then He spoke through Christ, and now it is through Christ he still speaks. Through the works of the Holy Spirit we have both the Old and New Testatements of the Bible, His inspired word. He communicates now through the Word, the Bible.
There are ten examples in the Acts of the Apostles for the conversions to Christianity, and every one of them follow a pattern: believe, repent, confess, and be baptized. Every one of them. Belief is not belief if it does not involve obedience. Ananias did not command Saul to say a prayer that he might be saved. He told Saul, "And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord."
Jesus is our example. Yet, Jesus, the perfect man of God, the perfect son of God went to John the Baptist to be baptized (immersed in water). Why? He had no need to repent. Being the son of God, He certainly believed in God. What need did he have of being baptized? It was for obedience. And, as such, He became our example for the perfect submission to God.
We believe, repent of our sins (change) confess that Jesus is the son of God, and are baptized (immersed in water) in order to put on Christ. It is through the symbolic act of being immersed in water - the symbol of His death, burial, and resurrection - that we receive forgiveness of sins, and can be reconciled to the Father. This is the symbolic way we come into contact with and are covered by the blood of Christ.
Belief that falls short of obedience is not belief. If a man tells us that we will receive $5 if we sweep the sidewalk, how many will say I believe, please give me the $5. We recognize that we must peform the work to receive the $5.
True belief results in action, and obedience to God's commands. God's commands are not works of men, but Godly conditions (terms) that must be met. It is a corporate salvation, one which is the same for all who will obey. For all who will answer the call. Otherwise, an independent, individual response based upon a "believer's prayer" becomes a subjective, unconfirmed, and unknown event. That makes God into a respecter of persons, which He has emphatically stated He is not.
The plan must be the same for all, must be known to all, and must be verifiable by all. Otherwise, He becomes the God of the unknown.
Unless we are covered by the blood of Christ, we cannot be saved. We cannot be passed over at the time of our phyiscal death without being covered by the blood of Christ. And, if we are not passed over, then we must face the judgement, of which we will be guilty.
Posted by David_Robertson on 08/07/11 05:47 AM
These are very important questions that everyone should ask but doesn't. It is all very well to say I believe in or I don't believe in "God" but the immediate question that springs to mind is which "God"? What idea of "God" do you not believe in? Many of us grow up with at least a nodding acquaintance with God and we all in out childish way imagine what "God" is like. This may be the ONLY idea any ever have about "God" and it is this imaginary vestigial "God" of childhood that many say they do not believe in. To which any believer will say neither do I.
In my own search for the meaning of life I knew beyond doubt that there was a "God". To my mind at least, and to my heart, it was inconceivable that this entire universe with all its complexity and order, with every life form having its own genetic information set to instruct it what to do and how to grow, with the atomic stability of minerals and the microscopic biological beauty of even the tiniest creature, could all have come from nothing with no intelligence. So this was the very first step. God is the Creator of the universe, of everything we can perceive with our senses or with the aid of all our technological devices that we invent for this purpose.
It follows then that as the Creator God is the sovereign owner of everything and this brings us I believe to the most common idea of God, the maker of all things who is "in charge" of the universe. It says nothing of His nature or character, whether He is good or evil according to our ideas of what these mean. Is God matter or energy or both? Is he/she/it outside the universe or inside it? Does God have a shape? Is God singular or plural?
The one question you didn't ask which was the one I asked next was has God ever revealed himself/herself/itself to mankind? The answer is that if he/she/it did communicate with man then in all likelihood one or more of the religions would have the knowledge of this since they are that branch of human inquiry that claims to have discovered things about God. It seemed to me that self revelation would be the most direct line to God if in fact it had ever happened.
In my investigation into the religions I found that the only faiths in the world who claimed to have a direct line to God through revelation initiated by God were the so called Abrahamic faiths, that is religions that began with a divine revelation to the man Abraham in the part of the world now known as Iraq. These are the various sects and denominations of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Since at the time I was a believer in directed evolution it seemed to me that the religions with the most obvious survival potential had the greatest likelihood of holding the truth.
These three also qualified by this measure since I counted communism as a Judaic secular religion with its own peculiar utopian eschatology. It seemed to me then that my evolutionary God was using communism as a kind of destructive hammer to demolish the false religions that did not hold a direct revelations from God. It was at this point that I read, for the second time, the books of the Jesuit priest and paleontologist Teilhard de Chardin, "The Phenomenon of Man", "The Future of Man" and "The Divine Milieu". Although I had read them once before they had had little meaning for me. Now there was a palpable difference.
By the time I had finished reading them I was fully convinced in every way, intellectually, intuitively, instinctually and emotionally that the final revelation of God to man had been in the person of Jesus Christ. This was such an explosive revelation to me it felt like the end of a long and painful journey had at last arrived. But then it struck me that although I had finally found the Truth I didn't know what to do with it. I didn't belong to a church, I didn't know any Christians and most importantly for me I didn't know if God in Jesus had decided that I was acceptable to Him. In other words I didn't have a personal direct line to God. And without that the whole exercise seemed to be futile.
I had also obtained a booklet by a Christian evangelist that talked about the Cross and how Jesus died to save me and how His death had paid the price for my sins. This was such a novel concept to me it didn't make any sense at all. I had no difficulty looking at my life and seeing all kinds of sin but I could not understand how the death of Jesus on the cross had anything to do with paying the price for my sins. So I took a step into the dark and prayed that God in Jesus would forgive me for all my sins and accept me as one of His followers.
I didn't feel any different so I thought I probably hadn't done it right but the Christian evangelists in his booklet had said I should just believe that was forgiven. But since I wanted to know for sure I prayed again and asked God in Jesus how I could know for sure that I was on the road to the new creation and accepted as a member of his followers. Well, that was when I got my very own personal direct revelation from the Creator of the universe. This enormous Voice welled up in my belly and said "I GIVE YOU MY WORD". My mind was instantly cleared of all doubts and I was filled and surrounded by a Presence that was beyond any possibility of human experience.
This personal testimony can be the starting point Zen. This happened over thirty four years ago and since then my journey with the Lord jesus has taken me through many valleys of despair and shadow as well as times of great rejoicing and refreshing. My knowledge of who God is and what His plans are for all mankind including me has increased beyond measure and yet I know I am just at the beginning.
Posted by Zenbillionaire on 08/07/11 03:46 AM
"if you are a social animal and you solve a problem, it may be solved for your lifetime; but as a cultural being, once a problem is solved, it may be solved forever."
You Sir, can write. What an amazing analysis! The very fact that someone could even write that sentence tells me in no uncertain terms that there IS hope for humanity.
Posted by Zenbillionaire on 08/07/11 03:08 AM
"After all HE IS GOD"
David, you bring up a point that interests me and has for many years. It's focused on the objective/subjective nature of God.
Who exactly IS God? Is God a higher intelligence that lives outside of us? A separate force? Or does God live within every single one of us? Are we the Creation of God, or the Manifestation of God?
For me, these are important questions and their answers allow me to proceed in conversation. It is my opinion that we are, each and every one, a Manifestation of God. I would be very interested to know if you agree or disagree. It will certainly add color to our future interaction.
Posted by Zenbillionaire on 08/07/11 02:48 AM
"most of the greatest evils of the past century in particular have resulted from a kind of perfectionistic idealism."
Brilliant. I won't be able to thank you for bringing this to my attention, but I will thank you for saying it. I think I've spent the better part of my life learning this simple truth. Excellent work.
Posted by free on 08/06/11 09:52 PM
DB we need to hear more from Mr. Wade, beautifully said, an such an incredibly fundamental point. Human action what a wonderful thing.
Posted by David_Robertson on 08/06/11 02:43 PM
Both a priori and a posteriori. A priori from God's point of view and a posteriori from man's point of view. God's foreknowledge is perfect and everything He does is perfect. He gave the Law to give us knowledge of sin and righteousness. The Law however can make no man perfect because the sin in man takes advantage of the commandment to compel the action that is forbidden. The Law then becomes the power of sin.
After about fourteen hundred and fifty years it had become evident that obedience to the Law was impossible. At this point God sent forth Jesus Christ to inaugurate the Kingdom of God and to call His people the Jews into it. To do this however they would have to discard the entire religious power and control structure they had built up in that time. This they were unable to do so they crucified Him because He threatened their very existence.
Nevertheless this action by the Jewish leaders was God's Plan for the entire human race to be called into the Kingdom of God. To complete and to validate His mission the Lord Jesus Christ rose from the dead ascended bodily into the heavens whence He had come and lives forever more. He has returned in His Spirit to anoint those who believe and receive Him, to give them birth into the new creation, and they have become the firstfruits of the Kingdom of God.
This unprecedented historic event however did not dissuade the Jewish leaders from the belief system that they were a chosen people and that their duty was to study and obey the Law given by Moses along with the so called Oral Torah that they claim is a higher knowledge than the written Torah. As they obey these laws this will then qualify them to rule the world as the only nation chosen by God to teach the nations how to act and how to worship God. The other nations who, according to this belief system, are morally inferior to the Jews will only be required to obey the Noahide laws given to the patriarch Noah.
Whether they themselves believe this or not the ideology has served to maintain their hold over the Jewish people until now. It has also informed all the Jewish intellectuals who have been influential in promulgating similar notions of perfectibility through their political and philosophical systems. This is based on their view that the innate nature of man is good, sin is avoidable and moral perfection is achievable, at least for the chosen people. This is the belief that informs most of modern Western intellectual thought today.
The material point is that it is not necessary to invent a tabula rasa presupposition to arrive at belief in perfectibility. A belief in the innate goodness of man achieves the same end.
For example, one of our feedbackers here, John Danforth, has responded to one of my posts with the assertion that he was born innocent. This is true if one considers only one's actions. However this does not address the inevitability of sin with which we are born, indeed with which we are conceived since it is in our genetic code. Since we are born and conceived mortal it is inevitable that we shall sin because death is both the ground and consequence of sin being the powerful source of decay and corruption in all spheres of life. "The sting of death is sin and the power of sin is the Law."
The Law is spiritual and it is good but it is weakened by the sin in man. Of course there must be laws because they were given to protect mankind from destroying themselves, just as were governments, but the Christian message is higher than this. It is a call into the new creation, the realm of God Himself united with the Earth and the whole universe where there is only righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. This must start in the hearts and minds and lives of those who believe and thus begins the process of change into the new creation
The Law is simply a guardian to bring us to Jesus Christ who is the King of the Kingdom of God and in Whom we receive the guarantee of our inheritance of incorruptible, immortal, indestructible Life in spirit soul and body in the Age and the Ages to come and throughout eternity.
Posted by David_Robertson on 08/06/11 01:36 PM
What I was looking for was the continuation of von Mises' thought in the paragraph you posted.
Posted by David_Robertson on 08/06/11 01:34 PM
How do I know what to be true?
Posted by Thomas Molitor on 08/06/11 11:32 AM
Dr. Wade's prerequisites for liberty are Mises' Human Action said differently.
Posted by Thomas Molitor on 08/06/11 11:26 AM
How do you know this to be true? Is this story a priori knowledge or a posteriori knowledge?
Posted by David_Robertson on 08/06/11 09:34 AM
It is very interesting that the purpose of God is being fulfilled in all of this. If you recall Jesus said that we must hate our closest relations in order to be His disciple. Our identity as an individual is mostly made up of all these relationships we have in this world, especially those of nation, community, family, friends and work which as we have noted are being thoroughly destroyed by the oligarchy.
So He is using the oligarchy to remove these things from us that prevent us entering into a full union with Him. There are those who are doing this consciously and in full agreement with Him but still everyone else is being prepared for the next stage of the plan of God in creation and redemption. The assurance He gives us in all of this is that He will lose nothing that belongs to Him and that includes everyone and everything. After all HE IS GOD.
Posted by David_Robertson on 08/06/11 09:16 AM
There is no argument on that point. We are indeed animals as the scripture plainly teaches us. We are merely higher animals because as you say we are in the image of our ancestors and most particularly our first father Adam. This is also taught in the very first book of the Bible.
However even if this is true it is not the Truth. The Truth is a Person and He imparts Life which our first father Adam lost in the beginning. This is not something you can induce or deduce from observation. It can only be by revelation.
Interestingly enough not all of us are able to receive revelation of this nature at this time. Recent discoveries have found DNA differences in the brains of believers in God and unbelievers. I used to wonder why to me the existence of God was self evident from the complexity and the inherent order in creation while to others this "evidence" was clearly absent.
It now seems that this is possibly due to the degradation of DNA which has also been established. In other words the so called "fall" of man is an ongoing process. I believe the word of God comes to us in two different ways, through the genetic code or information in the biological realm and through the languages of the world which were divided in another act of mercy four thousand years ago. In other words though nature and nurture just as everything else in existence. The scripture written thousands of years ago also teaches us that a certain genetic Seed of a woman was to be communicated through a particular ancestral line and eventually bring forth a human being who would be the second Adam or the progenitor of the new creation.
So just as this creation is subject to death, corruption, decay and entropy, as is scientifically unquestioned, the new creation is imbued with indestructible Life as God brings us all back to the union we had with Him in the beginning but each of us in our due time. This Life is in His Son, born of a Divine Seed, who is also the Son of Mankind through the Seed of the woman. This is the only Man who is fully in the image of God and is the forerunner of the new creation and just as in Adam all die as you have correctly observed, so in the Last Adam, Jesus Christ, all will be made alive. This revelation has not yet been communicated to you which does not mean it is untrue and one day you will realise this.
Posted by Aloysius McGuinness on 08/06/11 08:37 AM
Concurrent to the Rothschild-inspired European Racketeering Cartel of Central Banks' (ERCCB) wish to destroy the financial and economic sovereignty of our Nation-States, is their omnipotent control over the health, mass-media and education sectors.
Such extensive global power ensures that their multi-pronged, culture-destroying dagger penetrates so profoundly, that man's own INDIVIDUAL sovereignty, is also rooted out and extinguished for Eternity.
Hence, "Tabula Rasa" at both levels.
Posted by David_Robertson on 08/06/11 05:07 AM
God is first and foremost a personal God. He is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Yes He is the God in whom we live and move and have our being. But we cannot know Him or hear His voice unless He reveals Himself to us in His Son.
If He has done this for you Dave then that is a permanent revelation. If at any time in your life you confessed Jesus is Lord and believed in your heart that God raised Him from the dead then that is a permanent relationship. This is why you still believe in God and why you find Him in His creation.
No one's life is an accident. Nothing happens in our lives that has no purpose in the plan of God for each of us personally. If you left the Reformed church it is because God led you out of it. He wants to deal with you in a personal way and bring you into a deeper relationship with Himself. Religions, denominations and all the other things that men have built can actually separate us from God because they provide external rituals and doctrines that appeal to our natural mind and emotions and keep us in a soulish condition.
You have often made allusions to the fact that you do not believe that Jesus is the only way to God. This is not to deny Him but to seek the truth elsewhere, to be unfaithful to Him. The truth is that He came to inaugurate the new creation and to prove His unique mission He rose from the dead and is alive for evermore. If this is not true then the entire Christian faith is a lie and there is no hope for mankind. But He did indeed rise from the dead and in doing so He united in his body the invisible realms of the heavens and the visible realm of the Earth.
This is the Body that is broken for us because He gives a portion to each of His followers and it is our inheritance in the new creation, the promised land. This is the recreated spirit that is in His disciples and that must win the soul of the believer by overcoming the flesh and all its works that hold the soul of man in thrall. This is to work out our salvation with fear and trembling while recognising that it is God in us who causes us to will and to do according to His pleasure.
Can you see how easy it is to miss this? How small and insignificant it appears to be? How easily one can overlook it in the crowd of competing fleshly pursuits? It really is the still small voice, the thin silence in the depths of our beings.
"This saying is trustworthy:
'If we died with him, we will also live with him. If we endure, we will also reign with him. If we deny him, he will also deny us. If we are unfaithful, he remains faithful, since he cannot deny himself.'" (2 Timothy 2:11-13)
Posted by jkluttz on 08/05/11 11:04 PM
You said it much better than I did. Facts are what they are. It's nice to know that I'm not alone.
Posted by budwood on 08/05/11 08:50 PM
Exactly right. We need to face up to the fact that we are animals. Sorry to break it to those who believe that we are made in the images of god. We're simply made in the image and thinking processes of our ancestors.