Liberty Defense League Timothy Baldwin Romans 13

 
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by Tim Baldwin

In politics, passion is a vice—especially according to the Founders and Enlightenment philosophers. Passion distorts reason and causes harmful factions to disregard the common good for the sake of particular interests and goals. For example, among the scores of times the Federalists warned about passion’s political dangers, the Federalist Papers said,

[A] faction [is] a number of citizens…who are united and actuated by some common impulse of passion…adverse to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and  aggregate interests of the community.

A zeal for different opinions…concerning government…have, in turn, divided mankind into parties, inflamed them with mutual animosity, and rendered them much more disposed to vex and oppress each other than to co-operate for their common good…[T]he most frivolous and fanciful distinctions have been sufficient to kindle their unfriendly passions and excite their most violent conflicts (Federalist Paper [FP] FP 10).

Enlightenment philosophers observed the same danger. For example, notable philosopher, Jean-Jacques Burlamaqui said in his The Principles of Natural and Politic Law (1748),

[I]f we find ourselves in such circumstances as necessarily oblige us to determine to act, we must…endeavor to distinguish the safest and most probable side, and whose consequences are least dangerous. Such is generally the opposite side to passion. (Part II, Chapter 9, Number VIII.)

Philosopher Samuel Pufendorf wrote similarly about passion’s baseness in his The Whole Duty of Man (1673), stating,

The chief Care incumbent on us, in order to improve and well cultivate our Mind, is, to use the utmost Diligence, To gain the Mastery over our Passions; to maintain the Sovereignty of our Reason over the Motions and Affections of our Minds. (Book 1, Chapter 5, Number VII.)

The Federalists figured that factions (passion-led groups) should never get their (complete) way in a republican form of government. Seeing that the constitutional process requires a majority to get anything accomplished, Hamilton said,

If a faction consists of less than a majority, relief is supplied by the republican principle, which enables the majority to defeat its sinister views by regular vote. [The faction] may clog the administration, it may convulse the society; but it will be unable to execute and mask its violence under the forms of the Constitution.

Political movements led by passion are not healthy for a republican body politic. While passion has a place in human existence, it does not mix well with the science of politics.

Being Led By Passion

As I have written before concerning the “war approach” to politics, it unleashes faction-passion. Alexander Hamilton rightly observed, “When the sword is once drawn, the passions of men observe no bounds of moderation” (FP 16). The consequences of this war-passion approach are not good for a long-lasting, positive republican political movement.

Some of them have a take-no-prisoners attitude. If you are not 100 percent for them, they are 100 percent against you. They desire to destroy everyone and anyone who does not agree with their view of the Constitution and politics. They sharply and shallowly judge others and issues (while not being educated themselves), and they justify their attitude, declaring, “I am principled! I will not compromise!”  

In short, they are political intolerants, the likes of which Alexander Hamilton disparaged, saying, “nothing could be more ill-judged than that intolerant spirit which has, at all times, characterized political parties” (FP 1).

The Founders knew, as the Enlightenment philosophers explained, that moderation is the essential characteristic and ingredient of republican government. The Constitution itself is a compilation of moderate principles regarding a political endeavor that could have easily resulted in war driven by passion.[1] The Federalists showed how some opponents to the proposed constitution were ruled by emotion (i.e. passion), not reason. Hamilton said about them, “moderation itself can scarcely listen to the railings which have been so copiously vented…without emotions that disturb its equanimity” (FP 33).

The same kind of emotional, passion-led thought is what dominates some TEA Partiers today. A recent TeaParty.org post reflects this.

In a recent post by TeaParty.org concerning an article written by Michael Gerson and Peter Wehner, “A Conservative Vision of Government,” TeaParty.org said in its introduction sentence,

This article will make your blood boil!

After quoting some of the article’s introduction, TeaParty.org partially quoted the article’s section, “The Anti-Government Party.” TeaParty.org then ended the post with,

This is just a few of their ‘words of wisdom’.

TeaParty.org offered no explanation, analysis, or rebuttal to any portion of the article but clearly rejected the content of the article because it falls short of praising the TEA Party and shows why all conservatives should ally themselves against those who oppose the general principles of limited government.

First, TeaParty.org assumed to speak for all TEA Partiers. Second, it assumed that all Tea Partiers must simply attack whatever comes from so-called Republican “mainstream.” Third, it assumes TEA Partiers must reject arguments because of the source. The TeaParty.org post reflects passion not reason, because in reality the content of “A Conservative Vision of Government” expresses not only sound logic, but also accurate history and philosophy.

A logical conclusion results from TeaParty.org’s post: some Tea Partiers do not agree (albeit unknowingly because they do not study political science or philosophy) with the Federalist, which won the constitutional day of 1787. It is not certain whether some of these TEA Partiers even mimic the Anti-Federalist view of politics.

Why is this? I believe it is because the “TEA Party” is comprised of so many different, and even incompatible political views. There is no organization; no platform; no leadership; no direction; nothing that makes a political association lasting. Admittedly, there are many sides to the TEA Party spectrum. But what is giving a bad perspective about the TEA Party are how foolishly assumed-leaders mix passion with politics.

Among other things, this is causing TEA Party pragmatists to shun the purist and causing people who want to contribute to the movement of “taxed enough already” to refrain. As glamorous as it may appear for people to be “passionate” about politics, it is not the correct approach.

Article Series

In the following parts of this article, I will examine “A Conservative Vision of Government” to show why it should not make conservative’s “blood boil.”  The sections include, (1) Introduction, (2) The Anti-Government Party, (3) The Founders and The State, (4) The Legitimate Object, (5) Law and Character, and (6) A Positive Governing Vision. I will address each section in order.

 

[1]  “This circumstance, if duly attended to, would furnish a lesson of moderation to those who are ever so much persuaded of their being in the right in any controversy.” Hamilton, FP 1. “The national government….will proceed with moderation…to consider and decide on the means most proper to extricate them from the difficulties which threaten them.” John Jay, FP 3. “It belongs to us to vindicate the honor of the human race, and to teach that assuming brother, moderation.” Hamilton, FP 11. “It is a misfortune…that public measures are rarely investigated with that spirit of moderation which is essential to a just estimate of their real tendency to advance or obstruct the public good.” Madison, FP 37. “[J]udicious reflections contain a lesson of moderation to all the sincere lovers of the Union.” Hamilton, FP 85.

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