Voluntarism and Politics - RR144M24

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Lesson[edit]

Professor: Rushdoony, Dr. R. J.
Title: 24. Voluntarism & Politics
Course: Course - American History to 1865
Subject: Subject:History
Lesson#: 24
Length: 0:46:04
TapeCode: RR144M24
Audio: Chalcedon Archive
Transcript: .docx Format
American History to 1865(8).jpg

This transcript is unedited. It was:
Archived by the Mt. Olive Tape Library
Digitized, transcribed, and published by Christ Rules
Posted by with permission.


We have been as you will recall analyzing the subject of the voluntaristic church, the shift from the idea of an established church, created by the state, financed by the state, to one that is a product of voluntarism, where people come together and create and establish the church by their faith, by their giving. So that it is not dependent upon the financing and the support of the church, but upon the people. And we saw the political order in the United States, and every kind of social order was a product, to varying degrees of this principal of voluntarism.

Now as we look at the political order and voluntarism we must recognize that before the principal of voluntarism came in, the problem of civil government was relatively simple, under monarchy. Monarchy has always offered a great deal of appeal historically to various peoples. Under a monarchy, authority is centralized and the duty of the people is simply obedience. Moreover, it must be recognized that through a great deal of the history of mankind, men and nations have preferred monarchism. [00:01:38]

The idea of Monarchism is still not gone...[edit]

The idea of Monarchism is still not gone. It survives in some areas, for example in Austria there is still a very sizeable, a highly intelligent group of Austrian Catholics who are monarchists. Their strength is so feared that there are certain restrictions upon the presence of the Hapsburgs in Austria. Monarchy thus has always had a very obvious appeal, in that it simplifies the problem of government. It also makes it easier to ascribe guilt, and credit. If you don’t like the way things are going, there is one man to blame; it’s Kings John or King George whatever the case may be. It does simplify the issue so far as people are concerned too.

But when you have a shift from some such form of government as monarchism to a republic, in the American tradition, certain problems immediately arise. You are shifting then from a given structure to a gathered structure.

Now these terms were originally used with regard to churches. The given church was the one that was already there, it was established by the church, it was a church that you owed authority to, you were in the parish, you paid the tithes automatically, you belonged to that parish because you resided in that parish and everybody in that parish belonged to that particular church. The gathered church was something different, in a gathered church a group of people would gather themselves together in terms of the specific faith, and instead of coming from a parish and all being in the church because they were in that parish, they might come from a good many miles. No doubt some of you here have travelled 15, 20, 25 miles tonight to be here at this meeting. And no doubt some of you do the same to go to this church or whatever church you may attend, because your concept of the church is of a gathered church, of people who come together in terms of a particular faith, a particular doctrine. And it is because this is the rallying point that you come together in terms of it.

Now historically the given type of church has prevailed in Europe. All your European churches, protestant and Catholic were given. You went to a particular parish of a Catholic church because you were in that jurisdiction or to a Dutch reformed church because you were in that parish, or a Presbyterian church in Scotland, because you were in that parish. But in a gathered church you go in terms of your faith. This is why you are going to a particular church, because while they are making another church closer to you, you say: “I belong to that one in terms of my faith.” And today even with regard to Catholic churches which longer than any other were given, they are increasingly gathered churches because in recent years with Vatican II there has been an increasing line of division between those who simply stand in terms of loyalty to the institution, and those who stand in terms of loyalty to the Catholic faith, and will have special worship in terms of the Latin Mass or in some cases they have gone to the Byzantine right, but it is a gathered group.

Now when you transfer the same thing to the area of the state, what happens? The state instead of something which is established and it’s always been there and by tradition, by authority it is there, authority comes from the top down, the state suddenly becomes something too established. [00:07:16]

You have to start up and establish a state...[edit]

You have to start up and establish a state. And of course when men came to America, even though the crown gave them charters and there were guidance’s from London, and from Spain and Latin America, still men had to set out to establish certain guidelines, in terms of a new world, in terms of a new situation. And so it created a radically different kind of situation, especially in America, in the United States, where more than in anywhere else, men had to establish a pattern of government.

Now an established government solves a lot of problems precisely because it is established. Consider Great Britain. They talk about the British constitution, where is it? Well, there is no written constitution in Great Britain. When they speak about the British constitution they mean the way of doing things. As over the centuries it has been given to them, so that there is an established pattern, an established tradition in terms of which everything is done. Now, when you have an established pattern, it makes everything simple. You have no problems. Things are done today in Britain the way they have been done in various areas generation after generation, and certain traditions are carried on, the changing of the guard’s appeals to Americans when they go there, Why? Because the Guards represent so established and entrenched a tradition, they don’t change their dress generation after generation. And things are done because that’s the way they were always done.

But when you set out to establish a government, in a colony, in a new country, and then to establish a federal union, you immediately have problems. An uncertain power at times, and a shifting idea of; “What is the right way to do this?” As result, very definitely in the American tradition there have been major problems that would not have existed, say, in the European tradition, where things are traditional. But in this country, tradition doesn’t have deep roots, established ways are not that old. And old house here is a couple of hundred, maybe in some rare cases in one or two places in the Americas more than 200 years old. Out in California if it’s a 100 years hold it is very, very old. Extremely old. But in Europe the houses and the buildings can be hundreds of years old, a thousand years old and older. The guidelines in other words, are more difficult in a gathered power.

Now the federalist papers constructed first of all a federal government, and second they were as much concerned with property rights as with political liberties. Freedom for the federal constitution was not only for persons, but also property. The Marxists are right; the US constitution is very much concerned with property. There is no point in us denying that charge, we need to affirm it. The Constitution very definitely has a concept of man whereby man is more than his bare person. The individual in terms of the constitution is not only his person, but his family, his possessions, his contracts, it is the sum total of all these associations, obligations, responsibilities, possessions, that constitute his life. [00:12:15]

However, the men who shaped the constitution recognized...[edit]

However, the men who shaped the constitution recognized that property interest will create factions. As the federalist paper number ten declared, written by Madison: “Those who hold and those who are without property have ever formed distinct interests in society. Those who are creditors, and those who are debtors, fall under a like discrimination. A landed interest, a manufacturing interest, a mercantile interest, a moneyed interest, with many lesser interests, grow up of necessity in civilized nations, and divide them into different classes, actuated by different sentiments and views. The regulation of these various and interfering interests forms the principal task of modern legislation, and involves the spirit of party and faction in the necessary and ordinary operations of the government.”

That statement by Madison shows an awareness of the problem. Because you see, the people of the state and their liberties in terms of persons and properties, you are immediately creating divisions or factions in people. The have’s against the have not’s. The town people against the country people. The manufacturing interests of one kind as against the manufacturing interests of another kind. All kinds of factions are possible, as the constitution recognized. And so the purpose of the constitution was to try to provide a solution, to try to offer checks and balances, to prevent the working of these conflicts. But of course conflicts arose from the very beginning. In a world of sinful man, and imperfect men, one of the surest things we can expect are problems, conflicts. One of the most dangerous things is to feel that we won’t get them, because when we feel that way, we are bound to have trouble.

One of the problems with youth today of course, is precisely this: I was told once by someone who should know because it is his business, that his big problem with college graduates is that they are looking for a job with all kinds of good pension benefits, good vacation privileges, where they won’t have to work hard, and where there are no problems. And of course there are no such jobs, and when you take a job in the assurance or in the belief that it has no problems, you are in for trouble, because this is built in.

Now the whole purpose of the federalist papers was to point out that problems are a certain thing. The United States when it is established is going to have problems. We are going to try to put in certain instruments into the document, to handle those problems. We expect them, but we want them to do the least damage to the country.

Well, shortly thereafter, within a generation, there arose in this country a number of Deists, Unitarians, Transcendentalists and other groups, all of whom were characterized by a denial of total depravity. The old Calvinistic belief that man is depraved, the old Christian doctrine, which while not sharing the Calvinistic belief in total depravity believed that man is a sinner, was in process of being replaced in a sizeable segment of the population, with a belief that man is good, man can be trusted. [00:16:45]

This was a part of the rise of humanism...[edit]

This was a part of the rise of humanism. With this view also, was an idea that law is a human product only. Now, from a Christian perspective we believe that true law comes from God, it is expressed in the bible. Man’s laws must seek to approximate the law of God, but in humanism, law is a human product. As a result, when you view human law and human s social arrangements as purely human, this is going to change your attitude towards obedience. If I believe that the laws of the state reflect in some form the law of God, and to a degree the will of God, so that the laws with respect to human life reflect Gods law “Thou shalt not kill”, and the laws with respect to property reflect God’s law: “Thou shalt not steal”, and traffic laws reflect God’s law, because they forbid us to kill somebody or to rob him of his property by damaging it, is going to give me a different view of that law than if I believe that all of this is purely a human invention, and there is not absolute moral law requiring me not to kill anybody, nor to steal from anybody. That this simply is a law for the convenience of society, to make it easier for men to get along. And certainly if I have that attitude I will treat traffic laws with contempt. I will treat your property with contempt, because there is no necessity then for me to respect your property.

And to do anything wrong, then, is what I cannot get away with. In other words, and idea comes in which we can call, using the term from American politics: Nullification. Nullification. When you have an idea of law as a human product, you can say that we can nullify the laws of the federal union. There is no necessity to obey them, when they conflict with our interests, or with state rights or with what we believe. And so you have a doctrine of nullification of federal laws by states. But it doesn’t stop there, we don’t hear very often in the textbooks about the other side of nullification, because it developed into a very powerful movement in the hands of men like Thoreau and Lysander Spooner, and can anyone tell me what their doctrine was?

Lysander Spooner who is again becoming an extremely popular thinker with the radical new left on the campuses, and Thoreau, what was their philosophy? What? Did someone say something? Anarchism! Alright, so you have nullification of state laws, by individuals. Man now takes primacy. Man is sovereign, so that you have a conflict of sovereignties, the sovereignty of the federal union, the sovereignty of the state, or the sovereignty of the anarchistic individual. Three separate sovereignties. And the result when you have three separate sovereignties is conflict. [00:21:21]

You have a multiplicity of Gods, each of which says...[edit]

You have a multiplicity of Gods, each of which says: “I am independent, and I can do as I please.” Now of course we as Christian must regard these positions as false alternatives to the sovereignty of God. All of them are humanistic, they represent whether you have this kind or this kind of nullification, the sovereignty of man in some form, either as an individual, or as a group. And this leads to the totalitarianism of man, of the state or individual. Now John Witherspoon, during the continental period had been emphatic in his need for checks and balances, and over and over again had emphasized this, so that this indeed became a part of our structure because of the kind of teaching he represented. You will recall when we studied the constitutional convention; we saw how many of the men had been trained by Witherspoon. Now this was Witherspoon’s basis: “Pure democracy cannot subsist long, nor be carried far into the departments of state, it is very subject to caprice and the madness of popular rage. Hence it appears that every good form of government must be complex, so that the one principle may check the other. It is of consequence to have as much virtue among the particular members of the community as possible.

But it is folly to expect that a state should be upheld by integrity in all who have a share in managing it. They must be so balanced that when anyone draws to his own interest or inclination, there may be even poise upon the whole.”

In other words, John Witherspoon is saying: “Don’t expect anyone you elect to be fair, and impartial, and always just. He is going to represent himself, and whoever he thinks he’s strongest. And politicians have always had a habit of saying one thing and doing another, and trying to keep a foot in both camps. When Andrew Jackson ran for the presidency, the pro-tariff people were sure because of some statements he made that he was on their side, and the anti-tariff people were sure that he was anti-tariff man. And so they both got to work and elected him. As a matter of fact, a few years after that not too long before the civil war, a man became mayor of Boston, as a member of the Know Nothing Party. A candidate of the Know Nothing Party. Now the Know Nothing Party, a very stupid group that for a few years became very powerful in the country and then just as quickly faded, became very strong in Boston because Boston was being flooded with Irish Catholic Immigrants. The Know Nothings were against all these foreigners, they didn’t like the Irish and they didn’t like the Catholics. And so this man ran as the candidate of the Know Nothing party as the enemy of Catholicism, and the pope, and the enemy of the Irishmen. Now who was his best friend with whom he would sit down and have a good chat from time to time? Why the Irish Catholic Bishop of Boston. He made it his business to be friendly to all sides without being in favor of anybody. [00:25:35]

So, now this was over a hundred years ago, considerably...[edit]

So, now this was over a hundred years ago, considerably over, so this sort of thing is nothing new in American politics you see. As a matter of fact, on one occasion, a man ran for office and became a leader of the anti-masonic party in this country, and secretly joined the masons because he figured when he was in politics it was a good thing to have a hand in both sides.

Now, Witherspoon says: “In view of the fact that men are sinners we must recognize that checks and balances are necessary, and even then they are limited in what they can do because men are sinners and you simply hope that the sinners of one will cancel or act as a check to the sins of the others.” Along those lines it’s interesting to note that the public hearings of Watergate, that is the televised hearings ended, when one of the, the last speaker I believe was Patrick Buchanan, and when they asked him flatly if he didn’t know that what they were doing was illegal, he answered that, a good democratic senator asked him that question and he said: “Senator, we were told that we should not break any law of the country, unless there was a precedent, and the Democrats had done it already and we hadn’t.” They didn’t want to hear any more from him you see. And of course what is the kind of thing that Watergate represents? Precisely the kind of thing that Witherspoon is talking about. They are both sinners up there, they are both doing it, and they use each other as the villain. They are ready to see the sins of the others, and this is, he said, a safeguard.

So, Witherspoon says we need checks and balances because of sin, and we need as much virtue as possible in the people. Because without the virtue of the people, certainly, there will be a drastic decline in the character of the people at large.

This still however, leaves problems. Our problems today are precisely because while we have started an answer, we haven’t worked out all the problems, concerned with that answer, Voluntarism in Politics. Now let us turn to another answer in Europe that has become a problem progressively all over the world and is a problem to us today.

In Europe the tradition has been for a long time, since the end of the Reformation and the Counter Reformation and the collapse in Europe as far as any practical influence on the political life of the people is concerned, of both Protestantism and Catholicism. Now this collapse took place about the end of the 1600’s. By the end of the 1600’s, Europe while still nominally Protestant and nominally Catholic, no longer was concerned with Godly rule. It was no longer geared to the fact that we are interested a Protestant state, or a Catholic state. We want our version of a Christian state. No. This they have abandoned, they more and more were influenced by the environment, and their ideas were reflecting the basic premises of the environment, the sovereignty of man.

In my Institutes of Biblical Law, I call attention to the difference within the Catholic sphere, where it came out very dramatically between Philip the Second of Spain, and Louis the 14th of France, a generation apart. When Philip the second of Spain built his palace, what was at the center of it? Does anyone recall or know? What was at the center of the palace? No that was Louis the 14th. Yes that was Louis the 14th. The Chapel, yes. At the heart of Philips palace was a chapel, that was the center. [00:30:43]

The palace was in part a monastery, why? Because Philips...[edit]

The palace was in part a monastery, why? Because Philips idea of sovereignty was Christian, and his idea of government was thoroughly religious. And he felt they needed the council of men of the cloth, and he needed the chapel at the center of his palace, so that through worship he could find the kind of guidance he needed to rule. Now we can disagree with much of what of Philip did, and I disagree with 9/10’s of it. I think Philip the second was very often a very foolish monarch. But the point is, that in spite of his blunders and errors through lack of wisdom, his basic principal of rule was Christian. His basic purpose was sound. Whereas Louis the 14th who was a far more brilliant king, and compared to whom Philip was inept, while nominally Catholic, actually made his bedroom the center of the palace of Versailles. This was a real revolution you see, in outlook. From the sanctuary, the chapel at the center, to the bedroom as the center. The Sovereignty of man.

But monarchy disappeared before too long, did that change the picture? Did it make Europe any the less humanistic? No. The great philosopher, great only because of his influence, not because I think he was a great man because he was very much a scoundrel, who influenced all subsequent thought, can anyone think of his name? a very powerful philosopher of democracy. Rousseau, yes, Jean Jacque Rousseau. Now, Rousseau, incidentally, was an authority on child training, and the education of children. And its interesting that the modern world regards him as such an authority as did his day. When I was at the university I had to read Rousseau’s books on education because they were regarded as basic. Rousseau had any number of children , he lived with this woman without marriage, and he couldn’t be bothered with the children and as soon as they were all born, he ordered his mistress to cart them off to the foundling home. Leave them there for the sisters to take care of. [00:33:44]

It is ironic that he has been regarded as an authority...[edit]

It is ironic that he has been regarded as an authority on child education, when he couldn’t be bothered even with his own children. But Rousseau favored Democracy, but the kind of democracy he favored is a very unusual kind, and we need to understand it because it is basic to the modern doctrine of democracy. There is first of all, the people. Then the will of the people is elected, is expressed in the popular will.

Now the popular will is manifested as people vote or in one way or another express themselves. But the popular will is not necessarily the true will of the people. The true will of the people is expressed in the general will. Now what does that mean? Well, supposing we were to ascertain what the popular will of this group is, and you all decided in favor of something of which I disapproved. And I would say, “True, this may be the popular will in that this is what you all favor, but I as an elitist person, as a wiser person than any of you, know what you truly need. And if you truly knew what was in your heart, you would know that I know what is best for you. And therefore, really, the general will of the people I fit were properly expressed is what I say it is.”

Now in terms therefore, Marxism which has carried this to its logical conclusion, you don’t even ascertain what the popular will is. First of all, as the elite group, the scientific socialist planners in the name of the people, you declare what the general will is. And then you offer it to the people on a ballot on which they can only vote yes or no, and God help them if they vote no, when you say this is the general will. And you give them a slate with only one candidate for each office. [00:36:26]

And if they want to vote no on the measure, they have...[edit]

And if they want to vote no on the measure, they have to ask for a special ballot in some cases, so that it is obvious that they are counter revolutionary people. So, well, the general will is very obviously the popular will then. If you knew that I was demanding that you confirm me on something when I say that it is the general will and if you didn’t agree you were all going to be carted out to a prison camp, you would certainly agree with me. You would be very hearty in your agreement would you not?

Now in terms of this pattern to get back to our original pattern, this is a given kind of democracy. It is a democracy which while it is supposedly in the name of the people, is handed down from above. It does simplify matters. It also represents something which modern education is working for; I think many of you have read my book the Messianic Character of American Education, and this has been the philosophy of the public schools, they give another name to this idea of the general will, does anyone know what it is? The Democratic Consensus. The Democratic Consensus. It’s not the Democratic majority, it’s the Democratic Consensus which the elitist in Washington determine is what the people really want, and what the educators determine is really desired. And so, in the name of the Democratic Consensus you try to eliminate the popular will as much as possible, you try to get rid of the local school boards.

In one state I know of, in the west, the local school board has been abolished because the local school board was they felt a dangerous institution in that it did not truly appreciate the democratic consensus. The people in the state capitol knew better than the people locally what was going on. [00:38:52]

Now, to carry this further, this immediately presented...[edit]

Now, to carry this further, this immediately presented some very serious problems, in that with the Democratic Consensus, the general will and so on, seeping into America after the French Revolution, in this country we have had therefore attempts to transform this kind of society into this kind, or to confuse the two. And the result has been a progressive problem in terms of the inability of Americans to distinguish between the American system, and the European system. The confusion of the voluntaristic with the given, the gathered with the given.

The consequence has been that today we have a major problem which developed very early in American history, a confusion as to the fundamental character of the American system. There were a number of men who dealt with this problem, we shall on another occasion, perhaps tomorrow morning or tonight, I’ll see just when it will fit in best, deal with John C. Calhoun, whose thinking in this area was very important, and in some respects very much of a problem.

Now obviously we have some serious problems in this country because of this confusion. And it also has deflected from the ability to solve the problems that are inherent in a system that begins with the faith of the people, with the voluntaristic people. Because it is one in which conflict has still been. Now this is an important point, conflict is recognized, and built in to the constitution of the United States. Because realistically it was something they recognized as inescapable. [00:41:16]

Thus the constitution never envisions a smooth, peaceful...[edit]

Thus the constitution never envisions a smooth, peaceful, easy situation. It recognizes at all times the inevitability of conflict. It tries to deal with that conflict. The only way you can end conflict is to abandon this kind of system, and to come to this kind of system, or to come to the Soviet system where you say: “Conflict doesn’t exist. We have the general will here. If you do not recognize the general will you go to a labor camp, we cannot have conflict in our society.”

Well we will stop here to deal with any questions that may be in your mind before we resume our study. Are there any questions?

[Audience] You mentioned there about having a foot in both camps, can a Christian ever run for office and ever win an election without a foot in both camps, and if he has a foot in both camps can he be a Christian?

[Rushdoony] Yes he can run for office on an honest, straight-forward platform, he’s not going to get very far today. In a few cases in a few districts he will. We certainly do have a handful of very superior men in Washington, but of course the kind of men we have in Washington are a reflection of our character as a people, to a great extent they are better than we deserve, because we have become radically humanistic by and large, and as a result, the character of politics reflects that to varying degrees, but politics tends to be conservative even when radicals are there because politics aims at satisfying everybody, so that it can never move as quickly as the people do, the politician is usually a step behind the people in any direction.

A classic story about that is an incident during the French Revolution, this man was sitting in a bar relaxing, a politician, and he saw a mob go rushing down the street, and he jumped up and said: “There goes the mob, I am their leader I must catch up with them.”

You see, that is politics. You don’t get ahead of the mob because if you are way out in front you lose them. If you try and find what direction they are going in and then run and get in front of them when they have already made up their mind which way they are going. So the restoration of the political order has to be restoration of character, and it also has to be restoration of the nature of conflict. [00:44:37]

Now, I am glad you raised that question because it...[edit]

Now, I am glad you raised that question because it once again brings us to something we dealt with earlier, Manichaeism. You recall when we dealt with Manichaeism we saw that the Manicheans felt that the material world is the evil world, it is the world of the bad god, and the spiritual world is the world of the good god. And Manichaeism, a pagan religion infected the western world, and has been an undercurrent often affecting the outlook of Christians.

Well, for many people politics is a dirty business, you see. Period. That’s it. It’s a dirty business, they don’t want to be involved in it. And occasionally you find some who feel that it is such a dirty business that they don’t want to vote. Individuals who feel that way and some church groups such as the Amish. “It’s the evil world out there, we will have no contact with it.” But we are not allowed that luxury by the Bible, in that we have an obligation under God. [Tape Ends] [00:45:51]