Arming the principle of subsidiarity

March 1, 2018 § 78 Comments

It is said that when seconds count the police are only minutes away. Or maybe the police are already standing outside, doing nothing while kids are being murdered.

One way to interpret this unironically is as a natural expression of subsidiarity. In particular we can observe that the scope involved in subsidiarity invokes proximity in space, time, and authority.  The authorities closest to a particular matter in space and time are those who are in the best position to make wise choices in how to deal with the matter proximately.  So they should be the particular authorities empowered to make those choices, subject to review by higher authorities on the time and space scale appropriate to those higher authorities.

An example of how sensible subsidiarity is made explicit comes from the Federal Aviation Administration in the United States, the agency which governs the operation of aircraft, certification of pilots, and pretty much everything else directly related to aviation.  14 CFR 91.3 reads as follows:

§ 91.3 Responsibility and authority of the pilot in command.

(a) The pilot in command of an aircraft is directly responsible for, and is the final authority as to, the operation of that aircraft.

(b) In an in-flight emergency requiring immediate action, the pilot in command may deviate from any rule of this part to the extent required to meet that emergency.

(c) Each pilot in command who deviates from a rule under paragraph (b) of this section shall, upon the request of the Administrator, send a written report of that deviation to the Administrator.

An armed populace may thus be a good and natural thing when viewed from the standpoint of subsidiarity. Nobody is in a better position to defend a family or classroom, in the immediacy of an armed attack by a criminal, than the particular authorities literally closest in space and time to those defended: fathers and teachers, respectively.

But this depends upon viewing the authority of fathers and teachers in a context of subsidiarity: specifically not as rivals to or as the source of higher authority. The police may be slower and more distant than teachers; the courts may be slower and more distant than the police. But they are all integral parts of the same organic hierarchy of authority resting on a custodial relationship with the common good.

The second amendment to the US Constitution reads as follows:

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

This is commonly read as an attempt by the sovereign to limit his own authority, or perhaps the authority of future sovereigns, by arming the populace. This particular interpretation/motivation is incoherent, for reasons explained in a previous post. Unfortunately, under American right-liberalism this seems to be a very common interpretation/motivation/framing.

Setting aside the multivocity of the term “free State” it is possible to propose an (illiberal, explicitly authoritarian, and thus unusual) interpretation of the second amendment as deputization. Armed citizens are viewed as loyal subsidiary agents of the sovereign, a militia very much loyal to and subject to the sovereign, against proximate threats posed: not threats posed by the sovereign, but by criminals and foreign belligerents in that crucial quick minute and last mile.

The proof in the pudding is in the eating. The proof in this particular pudding is the accompaniment of support for the second amendment by explicit repudiation of its purpose as set against sovereign authority, sovereign authority which is legitimate and independent of consent of the governed.  Concomitant to empowerment to bear arms is readiness and genuine willingness to doff one’s hat to the King.  How suitable one is to bear arms is a function of how ready he is to take a knee.

Needless to say, this authoritarian / subsidiarian take on the second amendment is not taking the country by storm. Most people favorable to the second amendment interpret it as at best a confused mix of common-sense self defense independent of the sovereign combined with explicit anti-authoritarianism: that is, as a particular expression of liberalism.  It isn’t framed as empowerment of the pilot in command operating in immediate local conditions of time and space under higher (but more distant and slower) authority: it is framed as a separate individual empowerment independent of and even set against higher authority.  Pilots are licensed and regulated by the government; and this oversight is exactly what, it is typically proposed, the second amendment forbids or at least grossly circumscribes.

I conclude that a broadly armed population may well be an arguably good thing as an extension of subsidiarity – wherein citizens who are armed are those particular citizens who demonstrate unshakeable loyalty, explicit repudiation of liberalism, and firm commitment to the legitimacy of sovereign authority. But this is pretty much the opposite of the actual situation with the second amendment and its most vocal supporters. In modern liberal America, support for the second amendment is specifically liberal in its character and tends to be inversely related to support for the authority of the sovereign.

In short, advocacy of an armed populace in Current Year right-liberal America suffers from the same fellow traveller problem as, say, just wage advocacy amongst Feminists.  You can join the team, but only if you are willing to overlook the bodies.

§ 78 Responses to Arming the principle of subsidiarity

  • LarryDickson says:

    There are some good thoughts here, Zippy. Particularly notable is the modifying clause in the Second Amendment, which seems to puzzle everybody, but in context makes perfect sense. “Well-regulated”, “militia”, “security”, and “free” seem all over the map and even contradictory, but that is only in an absolutist context, where the only alternative to “authoritarianism” is “anti-authoritarianism”.

    The Founding Fathers were certainly designing subsidiarity (look at the whole document), but the absolutists on both sides took over in time for the Civil War. The President, the Governor, the sheriff, the militia, the father of a family, are all by nature allies, working toward the same goal, which is a blossoming peace. A blossoming peace corresponds to accord with God’s natural law. But when one of the authorities turns against God’s law, the others are there to hinder or even replace him. That case (actually rather rare, at least in full intensity) is the one that gets all the attention by both absolutist sides.

  • Setting aside the multivocity of the term “free State” it is possible to propose an (illiberal, explicitly authoritarian, and thus unusual) interpretation of the second amendment as deputization. Armed citizens are viewed as loyal subsidiary agents of the sovereign, a militia very much loyal to and subject to the sovereign, against proximate threats posed: not threats posed by the sovereign, but by criminals and foreign belligerents in that crucial quick minute and last mile.

    This is an excellent point.

  • Mike T says:

    I have met plenty of 2A supporters who enthusiastically support it as an aid to a future, unspecified revolution. I have yet to meet more than a few who support a legal right to shoot police who break the law in the performance of their duties in a way that would ordinarily justify shooting someone.

    Ironically, that would be completely in line with subsidiarity and Sir Robert Peel’s vision for policing (which is the model that forms the core of modern police forces). That is, the police are simply the full time agents of the king paid to perform the ordinary law enforcement functions required of all of the king’s male subjects when they know the law has been broken.

    A lot of our problems with law enforcement can be traced back to the progressive infatuation with credentials and experts. Even on gun use stats, the idea that we could trust the police with a monopoly on force even if we wanted to is hilariously wrong (both in terms of competence and legality).

  • Mike T says:

    This is commonly read as an attempt by the sovereign to limit his own authority, or perhaps the authority of future sovereigns, by arming the populace.

    And that is a wrong reading because the 2A only became an individual rights issue thanks to the 14th. Prior to that, it was simply a prohibition on gun ownership issues being addressed by Congress. Prior to the 14th, there was absolutely no such thing as a national RTKB.

  • Peasant says:

    The idea of having a militia in lieu of a standing army as a check against adventurist mischief is an interesting one. Not sure if it’s ever succeeded outside of Switzerland, where the adventurist impulse is also held down by statutory neutrality.

  • Rhetocrates says:

    Not sure if it’s ever succeeded outside of Switzerland, where the adventurist impulse is also held down by statutory neutrality.

    Not really on-topic, but since I probably know more than the average American bear about Switzerland, I thought I’d chime in.

    Swiss adventurism is (was) held down primarily by three factors, which I’ll list in order of importance:

    1) Being surrounded by enemies on all sides for most of Swiss history, and having very strong subsidiarity, so that even today it’s a bit of a misnomer to talk about a Swiss state as a singular entity

    2) Being full of Swiss Germans. These are the people who thought building cuckoo clocks better than Bavarian Germans was a fun way to pass the time. They are the world’s biggest bankers and watchmakers for a reason. People talk about German rule-following and categorizing, and that’s because they’re unfamiliar with Swiss German rule-following behaviour. The peasants square off their manure piles, for goodness’ sake.

    3) A long, long history of taking all the violent young men who were interested in adventurism and putting them in mercenary companies so that their home cantons would get paid while they fought in foreign wars for other powers.

    Statutory neutrality has nothing to do with it, and only really came into being as a diplomatic policy with the Great War.

  • donnie says:

    Rhetocrates,

    I’d actually like to know more about all three of those factors but it’s probably best if we don’t completely derail this thread. I’ll just ask, do you have any good book recommendations?

  • Rhetocrates says:

    Unfortunately I don’t. I get my info from my father-in-law, who’s a medieval historian and librarian living in CH. When I next see him, though, I’ll ask him.

  • Different locations for being armed also would require varying degrees of certification, regulation, and oath-taking. Being armed in my home is different than being armed in a school which is different still from being armed in a plane. It also matters what I’m armed with. I think most people who want to own guns simply ignore the words “well regulated” and just skip to the “shall not be infringed” part.

  • T. Morris says:

    Mike T:

    And that is a wrong reading because the 2A only became an individual rights issue thanks to the 14th. Prior to that, it was simply a prohibition on gun ownership issues being addressed by Congress. Prior to the 14th, there was absolutely no such thing as a national RTKB.

    Yep. There was a big Second Amendment/gun control debate at VFR several years back (2012 if memory serves) in which several die-hard gun rights types argued (emphatically, even) that the 2nd Amendment was originally intended as a permanent prohibition against *all* levels of government (federal, state, local) regulating the “right” to keep and bear arms. Of course that’s just absolute nonsense.

  • RichardP says:

    From the OP: “This [2nd Amendment] is commonly read as an attempt by the sovereign to limit his own authority, or perhaps the authority of future sovereigns, by arming the populace.”

    Even if that was one of the original motivations, it has long ceased to be relevant. The lack of discussion about that irrelevancy in the public sphere has astounded me for some time. As just one example among many: how does a bullet stop the NSA from capturing all of your electronic transmissions?

    The authority of the state has expanded into so many areas of its citizens lives where no bullet can possibly limit that authority. And, as a useful means for stopping the invasion of our country by foreigners … ??

  • Rhetocrates says:

    how does a bullet stop the NSA from capturing all of your electronic transmissions?

    How does a bullet stop the secret police from rousing you out of your bed at 0200 and dragging you off to the memory hole?

    The idea isn’t that distributed gun ownership will check any given exercise of tyranny, but that the populace will rise in revolution to stop such a tyrannical government, and that having arms (and training) in place will make that a more credible threat.

    The Second Amendment is about creating a secondary power bloc that the government must consider in its concerns, like how Caesars had to consider the reactions of their generals to any of their policies.

    Of course, this theory is complete bunkum, as has been shown again and again and again with war profiteering, immigration, suspension of habeus corpus, mass slaughter of innocents, regulatory lockout, etc. etc.

    But that shouldn’t surprise us, since the whole American idea of the noble and spontaneous revolution to throw off oppression is just two-century old propaganda to protect the business interests of the oligarchs in de facto control of the Colonies.

  • Mike T says:

    Proving once again that not even tradcons are immune to the desire to massage the facts to fit the narrative.

  • Mike T says:

    Even if that was one of the original motivations, it has long ceased to be relevant.

    It still does its purpose quite well which is providing the states with an ample supply of armed men capable of being mustered into a militia. I daresay that if Texas and the feds truly came to blows, the feds would be rather horrified to find how relevant the 2A can still be after the governor raises a militia that would shame most of our NATO partners’ armies.

  • Thanks for the link. I got a few smart responses to my post. I will try to respond to them later, when I am out of work.

  • I can see an interpretation of the second amendment making sense in, say, the old west, where the sheriff might need to muster a militia in order to protect the town from bandits, “Magnificent Seven” style.

    A movie it may be, but in all seriousness there is an environment where having an armed populace ready to form a militia makes sense – to PROTECT the sovereign government.

  • Rhetocrates says:

    I can see an interpretation of the second amendment making sense in, say, the old west, where the sheriff might need to muster a militia in order to protect the town from bandits, “Magnificent Seven” style.

    We should do right-liberals the favor of recognizing that at least some of them see the difficulty; modern mechanized armies are just not on a similar scale regarding force projection as a militia.

    There are those who, recognizing this fact, come to the conclusion that 2A also does/should cover the right (and indeed necessity) for private citizens to own grenades, machine guns, tanks, nuclear devices, etc. and organize themselves into corps to train in their use, especially against a technically superior enemy.

    I know these people exist because I used to be one of them.

  • The mountainous geography of Switzerland doubtless comes into play as well.

  • Mike T says:

    modern mechanized armies are just not on a similar scale regarding force projection as a militia.

    That’s 3rd generation thinking. In 4GW, the mechanized military will roll in all shock and awe and find the governor ordered the state and NG loyalists to bomb as many targets in the military industrial complex.

    Hope you like fighting without spare parts for your fancy stuff.

  • I can think of several ways that the language of the second amendment can be interpreted in a way that makes sense. This is because of the vagueness of both the phrasing of the militia terminology and the term “right” generally. It must be remembered that the Catechism itself will on occasion use the term “right”; therefore there must be some way to use it in a sense where it at least makes sense.

    Whether the second amendment was meant to be interpreted in such a way is another matter.

  • Mike T says:

    This is because of the vagueness of both the phrasing of the militia terminology

    It’s not that difficult if you just look at how American society was structured when the BoR was ratified. The states organized state militias. In fact when tensions started rising over some of Adams’ acts that were not really constitutional (like censoring the press), I believe some of the states started arming their militias in the even the that the governor had to tell the feds to f#$% off within their jurisdiction.

  • Zippy says:

    malcolmthecynic:

    …therefore there must be some way to use [the term “right”] in a sense where it at least makes sense.

    I still pretty much agree with my modestly younger self:

    http://whatswrongwiththeworld.net/2007/05/the_wrong_stuff.html

    tl:dr — it is possible to use rights-talk coherently, but since doing so will as a practical matter almost always lead to errors (in expression and/or interpretation), it is better to consciously avoid rights-talk; except when criticizing it and the usual concepts behind it.

  • I am on a phone so I’m afraid I’ll have to tell you all to just Google, but the example of the Whiskey rebellion – and later Civil War – I think kiddies the waters considerably.

    I tend to think that when the founders used vague language it was meant to be vague, and for future generations to fight out.

  • I agree; it is just that we are discussing laws and amendments that use the term rights. I just want to make sure I understand them correctly. There is always the possibility they are using sloppy or misleading language to elucidate valid ideas.

  • RichardP says:

    @Rhetocrates said: “The idea isn’t that distributed gun ownership will check any given exercise of tyranny, but that the populace will rise in revolution to stop such a tyrannical government, and that having arms (and training) in place will make that a more credible threat.”

    It is said that generals are always re-fighting the last war. That sentiment sort of describes what I am seeing here. If one group of men were to march on another group of men with the intention of conquering them and subjugating them (as the quote above implies), then I would understand the talk about guns and bullets. But that scenario is not going to happen. The time for that kind of human interaction has long passed.

    Again – how does a bullet stop the NSA from collecting every electronic transmission you make? How does a bullet protect you from the state forcing you to violate your religious principles as the price for being able to engage in public commerce? These are but two of many instrusions of the Federal government into our lives that could be enumerated. But they serve as an example of what I am talking about.

    Those things that used to be imposed on a population through the use of force (clubs; spears; guns and bullets) have now been imposed on the population through methods that are far more effective than guns and bullets. The Federal government has acquired a power over its citizens that is far greater than the power that the Founding Fathers fought to the death to throw off

    We sit with our talk about guns and bullets, secure in the knowledge that, when the government comes for us, we are ready to fight them off. We don’t recognize that the government already came, already subjected us to things the Founding Fathers would have never accepted, and our guns and bullets are no aid to throwing off that subjugation. But, by George, we believe in the 2nd Amendment – as though that has a thing to do with protecting us from the things we actually need protecting from.

    I personally believe the folks making and selling the weapons understand what I’ve just said. It is their customer who doesn’t understand it. And the gun lobby fights tooth and toenail to prevent their customers from being educated about this issue.

    To think you need protection for your family in case you get caught in the middle of an ethnic uprising is one thing. To think you need guns to protect your family from the government, because the government is going to come at you with guns is depressingly naive. They already came at you. They already got you. And it wasn’t with guns.

  • Rhetocrates says:

    Well, yes, exactly. It’s all a load of hogwash, precisely because that’s not how either tyranny or authority work in the real world.

    But this isn’t the first time this blog has pointed out the inherent incoherence of liberalism, and it won’t be the last, either.

    Nevertheless, I think it’s important to understand how sets of people caught in the liberal mind-trap think, especially about things which have become dearly-held cultural shibboleths. After all, I think it’s just possible that USG coming out and outright saying, “We’re going to confiscate civilian guns and make it impossible to buy anything heavier than a handgun,” might well provoke an armed resistance – though of course nothing so competent as an organized rebellion, unless the NRA becomes way more politically ambitious and connected than they currently are.

    Interestingly, pre-Obama USG understood this. Now that the Magic Negro has ascended to the throne, the left-liberals believe their apotheosis has openly arrived, and that all they have to do is smash the kulak in order to usher in the grand age of Hegelian Religion.

  • Cane Caldo says:

    Whoops. Mis-spelled a blockquote tag in the former comment.

    @Rhetocrates

    After all, I think it’s just possible that USG coming out and outright saying, “We’re going to confiscate civilian guns and make it impossible to buy anything heavier than a handgun,” might well provoke an armed resistance – though of course nothing so competent as an organized rebellion, unless the NRA becomes way more politically ambitious and connected than they currently are.

    Do the leaders of USG have the will to accomplish their desires? The recent stand-offs over land use between the USG and private citizens in Nevada and Oregon (and the lack of consequences) are revealing.

    What action resulted from the Las Vegas Massacre?

    What was the fallout from the murder of five Dallas cops (and nine injured) in 2016?

    What has been done against Antifa…or their opposition for that matter?

    Since the 90s, which intervention of ours in a foreign country has produced truly pro-US regimes?

    What I see is that corporations, NGOs, and other civilian-level organizations take more action than the USG. Those organizations might use the USG (police, federal agencies, courts, etc.) in attempts to inflict their will on others, but the USG itself doesn’t seem very interested in doing so.

    Zippy,

    OT: This essay

    https://fabiusmaximus.com/2018/03/01/max-forte-politics-progress-progressive-movements/

    made me reflect on many of your posts. Thought you might like it (or might like to say how it is wrong). The author writes of Progress specifically, but of course it is all bound up with Liberalism. Your arguments surely prepared me to understand his essay more than I would have otherwise.

  • Mike T says:

    In addition to what Cane said, I read that when Gov. Cuomo wanted to get really aggressive the head of the state police union told him he could go pound sand if he thought the police would enforce any law that would put them in a position to go door to door targeting gun owners. He said the police union would simply refuse to obey orders that needlessly cause its members to risk getting shot and risk shooting otherwise law-abiding folks.

    In general, I think that’s a key reason why none of the more reality-divorced politicians have really tried. They know damn well if they give the order, the average cop will not only not enforce the order out of self-preservation and decency, but just might stand aside and refuse to defend them from the public.

  • Rhetocrates says:

    Cane Caldo:

    You don’t have to convince me. I’m of your mind in that respect: a large part of the practical reason USG is sociopathic is because its obsession with destroying the very concept of authority has caused it to fragment and also not recognize that it has done so.

    I’m just using a hypothetical to illustrate a mindset.

  • Zippy:

    Have you read Andrew Wilson’s “Before Church and State”? He gives a fascinating account of medieval France under Louis IX, and how its rulers (both ecclesiastical and secular) were able to have coherent ideas of rights and liberties without being liberal. One of the things he emphasizes is that all authorities, from abbots and mayors to legates, Parliament, and the King himself, considered themselves to be joint actors, in due order, in carrying out “the business of the peace and the Faith”. The King was secure in leaving much of the administration of the kingdom to lower-order actors, without the bureaucratic apparatus of modern or early-modern states, precisely because all the authorities in the kingdom were understood to be operating in a common venture of securing justice, establishing peace, and encouraging faith and charity. It seems that that kind of understanding squares well with what you’ve written here.

  • Zippy says:

    Tuscon Traditionalist:

    … were able to have coherent ideas of rights and liberties without being liberal.

    Sounds like a pleasant work of right-liberal fantasy. I could put a copy on my bookshelf next to Drinking in Moderation for Alcoholics.

  • donnie says:

    Sounds like a pleasant work of right-liberal fantasy.

    That critique is more applicable to Tucscon Traditionalist’s poor attempt to sell you on the book than the book itself, which you really ought to read if you have the time or the interest.

    Also the author’s name is Andrew Willard Jones, not Andrew Wilson.

  • Rhetocrates says:

    I second donnie’s recommendation, for what it’s worth. And so does Bonald: https://bonald.wordpress.com/2018/01/06/before-church-and-state/

  • Zippy says:

    To be fair to Tuscon Traditionalist (the bulk of whose comment was good), the terms “right” and “liberty” can in theory be understood as synonyms for (inherently discriminatory, unequal) authority. We can assign labels arbitrarily and still maintain consistency, at least in theory, as long as we mutually agree on meaning. That is how many cryptographic schemes work; that is, through our ability to mutually agree to interpret arbitrary symbols as having a particular meaning, for those “in on the joke.”

    But that the terms can be understood that way doesn’t imply that they will be understood that way, especially among those not “in on the joke.” We can mutually agree that the sentence “drinking is good for you, drink as much as you like” isn’t referring to alcohol. But in a room full of alcoholics who don’t know that that is what is meant it really needs qualification.

    In a room full of liberals (that is, any and all modern people including ourselves) the terms “liberty” and “right” require endless qualification that the term “discriminating authority” — which means exactly the same thing — doesn’t require.

  • […] particular discriminating authority; but these terms connote the authority of someone lower in the hierarchy of subsidiarity.  A king has sovereign authority; vassals have their rights and […]

  • Mike T says:

    In a room full of liberals (that is, any and all modern people including ourselves) the terms “liberty” and “right” require endless qualification that the term “discriminating authority” — which means exactly the same thing — doesn’t require.

    If society were to flip back, we’d likely spend an equal amount of time framing the natural limits of authority so as to not spend half our time excusing tyranny. The root problem here is linguistic imprecision coupled with a natural desire to do what we want, when we want.

  • Zippy says:

    Mike T:

    If society were to flip back, we’d likely spend an equal amount of time framing the natural limits of authority so as to not spend half our time excusing tyranny.

    That’s a nice fantasy, but it ignores the basic problem of terms with connotations directly opposed to their denotations.

  • Zippy says:

    Even more, it is a basic mistake to see liberalism as some one-sided error, opposed to an equal and opposite error, in between which is a happy medium.

    If that is how you understand liberalism you don’t understand liberalism.

  • Mike T says:

    Even more, it is a basic mistake to see liberalism as some one-sided error, opposed to an equal and opposite error, in between which is a happy medium.

    I would say that liberalism is simply the most successful of all false models of authority.

    I have seen addiction play out, so your comment about a room of drunks just evoked a cynical response from me about it being applied to liberalism. Like addicts, many of them will reject the one thing and just replace it with something wrong in its own right.

  • […] Church is a highly centralised system, though it does allow for some freedom and flexibility (subsidiarity); its strength and longevity is probably tied to its robust and generally inflexible control of the […]

  • The problem with rejecting or neglecting terms like “rights” and “liberties” is that our ancestors, who were not liberals, used them often and gladly. If we want to be pious sons we should not give them up so readily to Leviathan. Or else, since they’ve been taken by Leviathan, we should work to take them back. The right response to the corruption of the terms is not to avoid using them, just as the right response to Luther’s heresies is not to abandon the words “faith,” “grace,” or “justification,” but to use them correctly and to refute their false applications.

    To rectify any false impressions I may have given from my description, Jones’ book (thanks to donnie for the correction on the author’s name, I was away from home and writing on the fly) outlines the joint efforts of St. Louis IX and Gui Foucois (later Pope Clement IV) to build a Christian kingdom. The fullness of both royal and papal power was employed, negatively, in rooting out heretics and brigands, and positively in building networks of friends who would offer each other “counsel and aid.” These networks performed much of the day-to-day business of ruling, subject to king and Pontiff, within the framework of the Faith and of Christian charity. The book is written in such a way as to demonstrate the inadequacy of modern political philosophy for understanding medieval history, and to argue throughout for the superiority of medieval categories and ideas to modern ones.

    One of the things Jones brings out in the book, which may be relevant to the present discussion, is that the medieval concept of sovereignty didn’t include the modern idea of the sovereign holding a monopoly on violence. Lords, knights, mayors, and even abbots, while loyal and subject to the king, held discriminating authority (is this the correct use of the term as you’ve established it on this blog, Zippy?) over various particulars established by custom and law: tracts of land, taxes, the punishment of various kinds of criminals, etc. While the king always had liberty to alter custom for the sake of justice, he was bound to recognize the just claims of those lower in the hierarchy. More pertinently, it was understood to be not only the *right*, but the *duty*, of lower-order actors to exercise their God-given authority for the good of those under their charge, unless and until king, priest, or bishop forbade it (pending appeal to the throne or the spiritual hierarchy).

    Applying this to gun control, I think we should add to Zippy’s proposal, not just that the armed teacher or father understands himself to be subject to and cooperating with the sovereign, but also that care of those under his authority is primarily *his* responsibility. The weight of protecting children doesn’t rest first with the President, Congress, the governor, or even the police, insofar as the latter are representatives of the state, but with the authority directly over them. That authority must exercise responsibility within the dictates of the sovereign, but the duty itself comes from God, and in discharging it he is only being obedient to the Almighty.

  • Zippy says:

    Tuscon Traditionalist:

    If we want to be pious sons we should not give [the terms “rights” and “liberties”] up so readily to Leviathan. Or else, since they’ve been taken by Leviathan, we should work to take them back.

    A concise description of the right-liberal fantasy, to which folks of a conservative disposition are so predictably susceptible: let us recover the Edenic, “authentic” liberalism. And how appropriate to that fantasy that these political terms are granted the same sacred reverence as faith, grace, and justification.

    But there is no going back to Eden. There is only repentance.

  • Mike T says:

    let us recover the Edenic, “authentic” liberalism.

    The average person never has and never will say “I have discriminating authority over that money because I earned it.” It is instead “I have a right to that money because I earned it.” Whether that is to an employer or a cop trying to police for profit. So Tucson Traditionalist has a point. The vernacular matters. If you cede that, you cede the language that drives repentance.

  • Zippy says:

    It isn’t capitulation to refuse to use and validate the suicidal language and concepts which are destroying you, have been destroying you for centuries. And what is unwieldy about saying “Bob owns that property?”

    You fellas are still under the bedazzling spell of an idea that there is a “good” liberalism, some “just enough but not too much” dosage that will let you keep your personal attachments to “muh freedom”.

    If you think that, you have learned nothing.

  • T. Morris says:

    And what is unwieldy about saying “Bob owns that property?”

    Failure of imagination. It happens when all you’ve ever known is the language of liberalism.

  • Zippy,

    But see what’s happening here. I use the terms “rights and liberties,” and you insist that by the use of those terms I mean “liberalism,” despite my attempt, later in the comment, to show that by them I mean something at least close to your very own language. There is a difference between attachment to “muh freedom” – that is, to the abstract commitment to freedom and/or equality as the primary or sole political good, or the source of valid authority, both of which I repudiate – and an attachment to some specific configuration of rights and liberties (or, if you prefer, discriminating authorities) which conforms to the natural and Divine positive law, and promotes justice, prudence, and peace in a community. The former is evil; the latter, within limits, good.

    There are good and valid reasons to maintain the terms “rights and liberties” beyond the fact of their use by our fathers (and here I mean not only our more recent, and liberal, fathers, but our ancestors in the whole Catholic and Western tradition). Like all words, their meaning is not readily captured by even the most careful substitutions. Take your preferred nomenclature, and apply it to a what I believe is an uncontroversial case: the authority of fathers over their children. It is perfectly permissible to say, “Fathers have discriminating authority over their children,” and, allowing for a little time to explain, an ordinary person will understand what you mean. But this statement does not imply exactly the same content as, “A father has the right to raise his child as he thinks best.” In the former, we hear of something (authority) which entitles him to *do* things; in the latter, of something (a right) which not only entitles him to do things, but to do them *without interference or obstruction*. It expresses, without tedious explanations, that the father has a claim superior to other claims in the raising of his children; and, I believe, it expresses that that claim is moral and not merely legal.

    The same thing can be seen at a much higher level. “The duty of man to worship God” expresses the obligation all men have to honor, obey, believe, and love their Creator. “The rights of God” expresses the Almighty’s entitlement to such worship (and a lot more!), His utterly just claim to receive certain acts.

    Granted that the word can be misunderstood to mean things it doesn’t. But, misunderstandings aside, the fact remains that the word “right” is still the simplest and most elegant way of referring to something which really exists. This is why we should reclaim it, rather than reject it.

  • Also, the comparison to controverted Scriptural language was meant to argue from the higher to the lower in terms we both would understand. It wasn’t intended to express a parity between rights / liberties, which are at most due the respect granted to natural goods, and the realities of redemption. An analogy is not sufficient grounds for an accusation of idolatry, and you shouldn’t have leveled it.

  • Zippy says:

    Tuscon Traditionalist:

    Like Humpty Dumpty, when you use a word it means precisely what you say it means: nothing more, nothing less.

    “A father has the right to raise his child as he thinks best.”

    A father has the authority to raise his children as he thinks best, within due limits. No need for the term “right”.

    … the fact remains that the word “right” is still the simplest and most elegant way of referring to something which really exists.

    I don’t think you’ve demonstrated that to be the case. But even if you had, at most it would excuse using the term only when absolutely necessary. It would not justify a right-liberal fantasy of “reclaiming” liberal slogans on the premise that unlike most people, we would use the Ring for good.

    An analogy is not sufficient grounds for an accusation of idolatry, and you shouldn’t have leveled it.

    If you think someone accused you of idolatry I’d just suggest that this undermines the notion that you are in a position to give advice on the use of language.

  • Terms find meaning within a particular tradition. So MacIntyre and some Dominican Thomists may have a fruitful and truthful discussion about rights. However, given that the liberal Anglo-Saxon tradition is dominant almost everywhere the terms rights and liberties within that sphere are full of insidious presumptions and misleading connotations. Making explicit what is implicit in the ambiguous use of rights and liberties in the Anglosphere is an improvement.

  • Zippy says:

    Quoting myself from upthread:

    [I]t is possible to use rights-talk coherently, but since doing so will as a practical matter almost always lead to errors (in expression and/or interpretation), it is better to consciously avoid rights-talk; except when criticizing it and the usual concepts behind it.

    To which I would add that rights-talk is, as best as I have been able to determine, entirely superfluous. Whenever the term “right” can be used validly, some form of the term “authority” (or some particular kind of authority e.g. ownership) will work just as well.

    I’ve been on the lookout for the exception to this rule for on the order of twenty years. Nothing so far. Occasionally someone proposes something but, as Terry Morris suggested, this always turns out to be lack of imagination on the part of folks (like all of us) steeped in liberalism and its linguistic, epistemic, and deontic anti-tradition.

    What the term “rights” accomplishes is to obscure the fact that what is under discussion is always a particular instance of discriminatory authority over particular subjects with respect to some particular matter. This obscurity short-circuits our recognition of the contradiction when someone puts the qualifier “equal” in front of “rights.”

    So even coming from other traditions, rights-talk read in the context of liberal societies creates cover for the infiltration of the liberal mind virus. As a matter of accurate translation – assuming the alternate illiberal tradition really does not mean some proto-liberalism in the first place – “rights” is simply the wrong term to use in an anglo/English language context. To the extent (some) medieval Catholics really did not mean any sort of proto-liberalism (I say some because some clearly did) when using the term, “authority” is a more accurate translation.

  • T. Morris says:

    Zippy, as concerns “rights-talk”:

    I’m kind of a H.S. football junkie – one of my escapes (anything above H.S. level doesn’t interest me in the least). Some of us football junkies in Oklahoma all meet up at a forum during the season and talk shop. Now, the amount of liberalism constantly on display there is … demoralizing to say the least, but I overlook most of it because pointing it out isn’t what I’m there for if the average guy there could even understand what I was talking about (which he can’t, because, equal superman he’s been indoctrinated to believe himself to be notwithstanding, his mind is not prepared for it). Nevertheless, I can’t just ignore the most egregious violations of plain ol’ common sense either, so,…

    several years ago there was a playoff game in which an official wrongly enforced a good call toward the end that *might have* changed the outcome (the proper enforcement is explicitly stated in the rules book, but the officials mixed it up).

    This turned into a major controversy, with meddling newspapers like the N.Y. Times picking up the story, talking about what an “injustice” this all was and how something has to be done about it. As I’m sure you’ve already figured out, the issue went to the proper authority, and when its board ruled to uphold the official’s call on the field, several court cases (state and federal) were immediately filed.

    (Obviously, and in spite of the fact the board itself is made up of equality-worshipping liberals, part of the reason they ruled the way they did was purely for prudential reasons – ‘don’t open that can of worms, you’ll never get the lid back on.’ But that aside)

    Long story short, the issue was of course the hottest topic on the forum for several weeks, and the biggest problem – besides the refusal among most to acknowledge the authority of the proper governing body once it handed down the decision they didn’t like – was that virtually everyone pronounced his belief, in one way or the other, that playing football is an unalienable constitutional right guaranteed (“enshrined”) by the “equal protection” and “due process” clauses of the 14th amendment. I did my level best to convince these jokers of the insanity of such a belief, but mostly to no avail, best I could tell.

    In any case, I can be kind of a slow learner and all, but it is that sort of thing right there (examples can be multiplied, as most here know) that finally convinced me some years back that we *have to* start using different terms than “equality,” and “rights” and so on because, no matter what you and I mean by them, those jokers in that forum (and such people are legion) take them to mean something altogether different and radical.

  • Zippy,

    I don’t understand why you continue to insist that my intention is to fulfill a right-liberal fantasy, simply because I think there are legitimate uses of the term “rights,” which I don’t think should be given up. I notice that you did not disagree with the substance of my comment, but only with my employment of certain blacklisted words. Nor have you at any time in this thread pointed out a specific idea or proposal of mine that has anything to do with liberalism. It’s especially bewildering when my comments were *about* “particular instance[s] of discriminatory authority over particular subjects with respect to some particular matter”: in one case, the authority of the French King and the Pope to try heretics and brigands; in another, the authority of fathers over children and teachers over students. Nor do I have any desire to put “‘equal’ in front of ‘rights.'” Even if you think, for prudential reasons, that the term “rights” should be abandoned, you haven’t given reason to suppose that my use of it signifies adherence to a species of liberalism.

    I also have no idea why you trot out the Humpty-Dumpty quote, when the burden of my comment was to assert that there is a more-or-less inherent meaning of the term “right” which captures a specific reality. I might not have proved that sufficiently, but it’s hardly an attempt to re-define words. If anything, your conflation of any use of the word with liberalism seems to smack of the same problem.

    The comment regarding idolatry was in response to your assertion that I was treating the concept of rights or liberties with “sacred reverence.”

  • Zippy says:

    Tuscon Traditionalist:

    Even if you think, for prudential reasons, that the term “rights” should be abandoned, you haven’t given reason to suppose that my use of it signifies adherence to a species of liberalism.

    I just note again that you apparently think that the use of specific language elements – liberal slogans in English in Anglo countries in particular – is all about you qua individual and what you think you mean when you are using them.

  • Zippy says:

    T. Morris:

    Petitioning the sovereign and being unhappy with the result is universal. Pretty much by definition at least one party to a dispute will not get what he wants.

    But the attitude that sovereignty is only exercised validly when it produces the results we prefer is modern: it stems from the manifestly ridiculous idea that the just powers of government derive from the consent of the governed. It stems from the modern condition of disbelief in authority.

  • pilgrim says:

    But this depends upon viewing the authority of fathers and teachers in a context of subsidiarity: specifically not as rivals to or as the source of higher authority.

    and

    it is possible to propose an (illiberal, explicitly authoritarian, and thus unusual) interpretation of the second amendment as deputization. Armed citizens are viewed as loyal subsidiary agents of the sovereign,

    Doesn’t the authority of a father to defend his family precede that of the political sovereign, or at least arise distinctly from the sovereign’s authhority? Is it true that the father has the authority to use force in defense because he is deputized to act on behalf of the political sovereign’s authority – whether you think of that deputizing as explicit or implicit?

    Would the political sovereign have the authority to explicitly squelch that deputizing, and explicitly state he is not deputizing anybody other than the police to use force? Would that lack (or cessation) of deputizing repeal the authority of a father to use force to defend his family?

    Or could I propose a different alternative, that the authority of the political sovereign to use force in defending the public as a whole, and the authority of a father to use force in defending his family, both arise from the same root source, and that is why they are not actually rivals in principle.

  • Mike T says:

    I think pilgrim hit the issue quite well.

    The sovereign simply cannot be the source of the father’s authority in any matter to use force to defend his family, full stop, because protecting the family is intrinsic to the duties of the father. At best the sovereign can impose such reasonable restraints as to ensure that the duty is typically executed in a way that is not harmful to the common good.

    I don’t think we’d even be having this debate if the matter were food, clothing or something to that effect. The idea that the sovereign could, for instance, declare that no child needs more than 500 calories a day would be rightly condemned as objective tyranny and intrusion into the authority of the parents. Yet for some reason, the ability of the sovereign to say “I find guns icky and it scares me that my subjects might get unruly, so I limit every father to owning no more than a baseball bat” is not considered tyranny.

    It should go without reason that a sovereign who fears law-abiding men owning weaponry is paranoid and likely unfit to be sovereign because why would a good sovereign lose sleep over law-abiding subjects being armed?

  • Mike T says:

    without reason

    Note to self: reread comment when suffering from an ugly sinus infection.

  • Zippy says:

    Mike T:

    The idea that the sovereign could, for instance, declare that no child needs more than 500 calories a day would be rightly condemned …

    The sovereign does regulate food. So once again you make the point that he should do so reasonably, while spinning as if you had shown that he has no authority to do so at all.

  • Mike T says:

    So once again you make the point that he should do so reasonably, while spinning as if you had shown that he has no authority to do so at all.

    Fascinating..

    At best the sovereign can impose such reasonable restraints as to ensure that the duty is typically executed in a way that is not harmful to the common good.

    The sovereign can regulate food. The sovereign cannot impose regulations that force a family to inflict malnourishment on their children.

    The sovereign can regulate weapons ownership. The sovereign cannot impose regulations that prevent a father who is a law-abiding subject from effectively defending his family.

    This should be common sense. A parent who is obeying the laws of the sovereign and trying to execute their duties faithfully is by definition not acting against the common good and thus burdening them is almost invariably against the common good.

  • Rhetocrates says:

    The sovereign can regulate food. The sovereign cannot impose regulations that force a family to inflict malnourishment on their children.

    Sure he can. An example of a bad government doing so is Nazi Germany regarding Jews, Poles, and other undesirables. An example of a good government doing so is Switzerland in World War I.

  • Zippy says:

    Mike T:

    This should be common sense.

    You should know by now that “common sense” most commonly refers to unprincipled exceptions asserted by a particular liberal or faction of liberalism.

    A parent who is obeying the laws of the sovereign …

    You really don’t see the circularity? I thought you were arguing (vaguely) that the law of the sovereign is void when it restricts firearm ownership.

    How long have you been reading and commenting here?

    In politics, the “law of the sovereign” – authority – and the common good, are precisely what is at issue.

    It is true that families will not prosper without the basic capacity to feed, shelter, and defend themselves. (It is also true that the sovereign cannot in every case provide these things, and it is further true that laws and preexisting conditions burden various parties/families unequally in these respects).

    So it seems to me that you are saying something banal (motte) which doesn’t have the significance you keep attempting to imply (bailey).

  • pilgrim says:

    Mike says

    The sovereign can regulate food. The sovereign cannot impose regulations that force a family to inflict malnourishment on their children.

    Rhetocrates responds

    Sure he can. An example of a bad government doing so is Nazi Germany regarding Jews, Poles, and other undesirables. An example of a good government doing so is Switzerland in World War I.

    Rhetocrates correctly identifies the fact that a government can issue regulations, including bad and wrong regulations, as part of the positive law. There are such thing as imprudent laws and wrong laws. I don’t know what the Swiss did in WWI, but I can imagine food shortages country-wide that would make regulations needed, and such regulations, by spreading the poverty around uniformly, could have the effect of reducing some rich family’s wealth from above the malnutrition line to below it, if the total amount of food for everyone was too low to bring everyone up to the not-malnourished level.

    What is also true is that even when a sovereign government issues imprudent laws, we may be still obliged to obey them.

    I think, however, that Mike was getting at something else: there are so-called “laws” that governments issue that are not binding on the people, and a government-issued rule that tried to say that across the board, parents shall have no authority to use force to defend their children, would seem to be such a “law”. And, of course, a “law” that is issued by a government but is not binding runs into the old semantic game of whether you call it a “law” or not. As the Bible, St. Thomas Aquinas, and the Catechism of the Catholic Church make clear, not all “laws” are to be obeyed such as “laws” that defy the eternal law, and in defying the eternal law from which the binding authority of all lower law springs, such a human-made rule fails to be law properly speaking.

    If I recall correctly, Canon Law indicates that parents receive their authority as parents not from the state or the political sovereign, but from a higher source. I would find it difficult to believe there might arise conditions in which a government’s law saying, generically and across the board as a permanent injunction that “parents are not to use force to defend their children from harm” could be a morally binding law covering all cases of danger to the children (including, just as an example, from wild animals or from siblings (if that is not redundant). On the other hand, I can imagine circumstances in which a government rule restricting the use of certain kinds of force, or in certain limited types of situations, or for a narrowly identified period of time, would be a morally binding rule.

    Ultimately, no human political sovereign (who is not Christ) is the absolute sovereign, for every human political sovereign of this Earth receives his authority from a higher source, it is granted only with respect to a limited sphere of authority, and is inherently constrained by both the eternal law and by the purpose for which the grant of authority was made (i.e. for the common good). Given these constraints on the authority of a political sovereign, there can be (and are) attempts by political sovereigns to make laws which fail to be binding laws e.g. because they are outside the arena of the limited sphere of the political authority. One way that can happen is when the political sovereign tries to make a law that invades the grant of authority to another, distinct authority (e.g. that of the Church, or the family). Since the political “sovereign” is sovereign only in a received, subordinate, and limited sense, not in the absolute sense, it’s attempts to exercise authority beyond its writ fail to be binding.

    What is troublesome is that the divine grant of authority to the political “sovereign” runs right alongside matters that also belong to other authorities, such as the Church and the family – the separation of the authorities is not entirely by mere subject matter. Given that, it would not be surprising that there would arise disagreement whether this or that rule issued by the human “sovereign” about the use of force is issued in a way that takes the matter out of the hands of the familial authority so that it becomes binding. But if one were to dogmatically insist that any and all such restrictions issued by a sovereign would be binding because there MIGHT theoretically be some conditions somewhere that would temporarily make it a rule beneficial for the common good, I would doubt whether an argument of such form would be valid: I think we are forced to look at the actual rule to know whether it is binding or not.

  • Mike T says:

    The fact that the Nazis imposed regulations that starved people to death is not relevant to the point you knew I was making which is that in a normal day, the sovereign cannot decide “in my wisdom, I decide it is best if no child should eat more than 500 calories a day to fight childhood obesity” and make that morally binding. A father need not obey such a rule and could even use force to stop the sovereign’s agents from starving his children because the father’s duties to his children there are superior to his duties to his sovereign.

    As far as redistributing poverty in a time of crisis, I’m not sure to what extent the sovereign could do that. At some point it becomes nothing more than robbing Peter to pay Paul.

    You really don’t see the circularity? I thought you were arguing (vaguely) that the law of the sovereign is void when it restricts firearm ownership.

    I never said that the law as a totality is void. I said the particular law is void. If the sovereign wishes to make an issue of it, then it becomes problematic for the sovereign because he is now in the peculiar position of waging war on his own subjects who were obeying him.

    As a principle, we can do 99 things perfectly well and then choose one damn fool thing that brings us until open and unrelenting conflict with others. The fact that only 1% of our choices were very bad is not an argument in our favor (or a sovereign’s). If the king is perfect in all respects except one very bad decision and declares war on his own people over that, that’s all that matters.

  • Zippy says:

    Mike T:

    You are still talking in circles.

    I never said that the law as a totality is void.

    No one suggested that you had.

    I said the particular law is void.

    Which particular law? I’m not following every word of this thread closely anymore, but I was not under the impression that we were discussing a specific statute.

    Any law increasing restrictions on firearm sale, purchase, ownership, etc? Again you are trading on ambiguity here.

    If the sovereign wishes to make an issue of it, then it becomes problematic for the sovereign because he is now in the peculiar position of waging war on his own subjects who were obeying him.

    Is the sovereign “waging war on his own subjects” every time he promulgates a new law or changes the law in some way? Every time he promulgates/changes law with respect to firearms specifically? When rebellious subjects refuse to comply with new laws who exactly is “making an issue of it”?

    (Hint: the answer is “it depends on particulars and circumstances”, not “gun regulation is WAR!!!”).

    Same goes for food regulation, for that matter. One big difference though is that most people can live most of the time in most circumstances without any firearms at all.

  • Ian says:

    Zippy,

    Whenever the term “right” can be used validly, some form of the term “authority” (or some particular kind of authority e.g. ownership) will work just as well.

    Don’t words such as ‘ownership’ (and related terms like ‘property’) suffer from the same problems as ‘right’ though? Moderns tend to regard ownership over something as meaning one has unlimited rights authority over something.

    It seems like all these terms are shot through with modernist presuppositions and will give rise to misunderstandings regardless. We just have to keep clarifying what we mean when these misunderstandings inevitably do happen.

  • Ian says:

    Even more, it is a basic mistake to see liberalism as some one-sided error, opposed to an equal and opposite error, in between which is a happy medium.

    This is a great point that should be highlighted. I’m bemused (but shouldn’t be) by those who want to hitch their wagon to the rightwing flavor of the month – which they know to be in error – because they think it will “help move us in the right direction” or help to “counterbalance the errors of leftism”.

    Those who are constantly exhorting us “not to punch right” are a good example of the phenomenon.

  • Mike T says:

    Zippy,

    Let’s set aside the gun issue, and get a little more to the principle because it touches on plenty of other areas. If the higher authorities cannot be resisted when they are being objectively unreasonable or showing callous disregard for natural authority, then precisely what is the disagreement with Mussolini’s infamous:

    Everything in the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state?

    Because you are arguing that the sovereign and state apparatus:

    1. Have veto rights over everything everyone else does*.
    2. There is no one who at any time is outside their veto.
    3. No one shall defy the state.

    * Unless you’re the Catholic Church, then you can freely conspire to violate the sovereign’s just laws.

  • Mike T says:

    Over time, communication technology has made it possible for the higher authorities to become overly involved in the affairs of the local, proximate authorities in any given situation. I’ve seen military historians note that the same technology that allowed for the communications that enable combined arms maneuvers also enables the high command/king/fuhrer/PM/etc. to breath down the neck of the flag officers actually fighting the battle.

    It is unnatural for natural authorities to take notice of daily events in localities far from them. The ability to do so was historically a product of a controversy bad enough that it could overcome the distance or a local authority took pains to bring it to their attention.

    I don’t know of any society in modern times with modern communications capabilities that has resisted the temptation to manage from the capitol and centralize the state.

    So I think there needs to be some sort of formal restriction in defense of local authorities which makes that tendency itself ipso facto a form of tyranny. Even if the sovereign always makes good choices, it doesn’t follow that it is the sovereign’s right to make that choice for a community.

    Who gets to decide that? I don’t know, but that is just a part of the messiness of human authority. I don’t think a society and its many authorities should be held hostage by the wisdom or lack thereof of the sovereign.

  • Zippy says:

    Mike T:

    In general, check your premises and paraphrases.

    On this specifically:

    So I think there needs to be some sort of formal restriction in defense of local authorities which makes that tendency itself ipso facto a form of tyranny.

    Bureaucracy to the rescue!

  • Mike T says:

    Bureaucracy to the rescue!

    If we had a better judiciary*, I would use the 10th amendment as an example. As written, it tells the federal courts to reflexively assume that the states are correct in their claim of authority against the federal government if the dispute is not over an enumerated power.

    * Ex. the unprincipled exception of establishing “incorporation” and excluding the 2nd amendment without any plausible justification until Heller. No matter what you think about liberalism or our constitution, it should be agreed that they were simply “making #$%^ up as they go” and are unworthy of the high accolades for their principles and impartiality they often get.

  • Rhetocrates says:

    If the higher authorities cannot be resisted when they are being objectively unreasonable or showing callous disregard for natural authority…

    Can I highly, highly recommend John Gerard’s Autobiography of a Hunted Priest here? He was a Jesuit sent to England in the reign of Elizabeth to rescue souls from apostasy.

    Not only is it of historical interest, and not only is it an entertaining account in itself, but I think it is very helpful in illustrating a picture of obedience and disobedience to the civil authorities – including being explicit about the bounds and nature of both – that is very consciously rooted in illiberal, not to say Catholic, principles.

    Suffice to say that there are commands that the civil authorities can give you which are manifestly evil to obey as they go against the laws of God and the Church, and when that happens it is your duty to disobey, while at the same time being very clear to yourself and everyone else involved that your disobedience is not at all grounded in lack of recognition of the civil authority’s far-reaching power and foundation.

  • Mike T says:

    not at all grounded in lack of recognition of the civil authority’s far-reaching power and foundation.

    I think an appropriate term for the authority that lower authorities have in the minds of most of the folks here is the “authority of the gaps.” That is, they have whatever authority the state hasn’t claimed yet.

  • […] on a comment from Zippy, I began to wonder what connection there might be between right as understood in the Middle Ages […]

  • c matt says:

    I get what you are saying and all about militia and essentially acting in loco imperium, but it still says “shall not be infringed.” The only plausible argument I can see is not one for interpreting away the amendment (although that can well happen), but one for its repeal. Now that we have a “standing army”, state national guards, etc, there is no need for a militia, so let’s repeal it by amendment. But it would require an amendment process, seems to me. In which case, I can also see a counter amendment simply removing the militia language, and stating that the people have the ri– authority to bear arms, full stop.

  • Mike T says:

    c matt,

    There was a standing army during Washington’s presidency, so your argument is risible. The National Guard is also not a replacement for state militias as it is part of the standing army, not a militia. The purpose of the 2A survives even now, which is to provide the federal government no legal authority to interfere with state level policies on firearms.

    Federal law allows state military forces that are loyal to the state, not the country. Virginia has one called the VDF. Under the original intent of the 2A, the 2A would provide Virginia with the ability to exclusively control firearm ownership according to its conception of public order and to arm the VDF and state militias.

    That could include activities like tasking people to go across state lines to “smuggle” weapons into Virginia against the President’s wishes to arm state troops. There the 2A would override the interstate commerce clause.

  • Mike T says:

    I’ll also add that a large part of the reason why the threats of a standing army never seemed to materialize is that most Americans have forgotten that they actually sorta did during Reconstruction. That’s how we got the Posse Comitatus Act. We’re fairly unique in that it is extremely difficult to actually do something as simple as send marines or regular soldiers to defend public buildings, let alone patrol the streets.

  • c matt says:

    Except, of course, in times of “crisis” such as the Boston bombing. If I recall correctly, there were National Guard troops patrolling the streets – although i could be mistaken. National Guard troops and municipal SWAT teams look pretty much the same.

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