Wednesday, March 14, 2012

QotD: Honor et Virtus Edition

Here is a very serious concern, to me: if all of American politics were sorted-out to my liking, instantly, I am not at all certain that there would actually be enough Americans who could live it. That once required a certain and historically unique grasp of values, which is quite -- quite -- beyond the competence of whole multitudes in my daily observation, now.
-Billy Beck
Sadly, a self-governing society requires people capable of self-government, and the values required for that are largely untaught today.


Old Windways said...

Is it possible that a corollary to the saying that we "get the government we deserve" might be that "a people deprived of freedom will gradually find their capacity to exercise those freedoms has atrophied to the point of vanishing"?

I'm just spit-balling here, but I think its certainly more of a 2-way street than a clear cause-effect relationship.

azmountaintroll said...

I don't require all of America to be a libertarian paradise. I just want there to be some place where people who want to be truly free can go, and be left in peace. Even if I never "light out for the territories" myself, just knowing I have the option would make the modern world easier to bear.

America needs a Frontier.

Anonymous said...

Self government implies the people are capable of some level of self discipline.


Bram said...

The other side all seem to be ardent believers in Darwin, this would be their chance to see evolution in action.

Tam said...


Yes, but which other side would that be?

Mikael said...

"believers in Darwin" *sigh* *facepalm*

Josh Kruschke said...

If we do not want others to govern us, then we must be able to govern ourselves.

Ken said...

Untaught they may be, but learn they can. People will surprise you, given the incentive (some unpleasantly, granted, but I dare say it would prove a numerical minority).

I try hard not to do the "sheeple" thing. Sleeple, I may concede, but the raw material is no better nor worse than it's ever been.

Panamared said...

It's not that the ideals and values of self-government are not taught, but that there reverse are held up as the ideal. Starting in kindergarten on the first day when the teachers gather all the supplies brought to school by the students to be distributed by the teacher as needed.

Windy Wilson said...

"If we do not want others to govern us, then we must be able to govern ourselves."

Wow, that is a QotD!
I wonder if that on a bumpersticker would get my car keyed here in LA LA Land?

Jon Moore said...

Ah Billy, yes indeed sir.
There can be no individual freedom without individual responsibility and we have become the most irresponsible society in history.

Anonymous said...

Ditto Ken above.

It seems to me that there is one central and simple idea behind self-government:

Nobody OWES us anything.

What has made such a muck of our democracy in the past several decades is the idea that - somehow - somebody owes us something, that we have a "right" to things without earning them. It also implies that there is no equality: when somebody owes me something, in a real sense, he becomes my subordinate. If we don't owe each other, we are much closer to equality, and self-government can go ahead on that basis.

Justthisguy said...

Captain Lex was eminently capable of self-government, and of inspiring the rest of us to imitate him, but you made no public notice of his passing. Shame on you, Ma'am.

Tam said...


By all accounts he was a fine man and I regret that I did not read his blog while I had the chance. I refuse, however, to engage in crude feigned emoting and snot-bubbling over someone whom I did not know. It would be disgraceful to those who were touched by him and demeaning to him. Good day, sir.

cj said...

Self-government really requires havin g a stake in the game. Simple economics says that, in general, people will do the minimum they can to get the most they can. If that's sit on your butt all day and make sure to vote for the guy who says he'll give you stuff for free, guess what's going to happen over time?

Free-range Oyster said...

Several people have touched on something I think is important: people can be taught. I spent a lot of my life believing dumb things. I was even a communist for a while, which as Moe Lane is fond of saying is "intellectualism for stupid people". I believed those things not because I was inherently stupid (I got better, after all) but because I had not been taught the truth. Slowly, over many uncomfortable years, I have discovered the value of freedom and the folly of coercive government. Some of us bloom late.

There was a relevant discussion in the comments at Joe Huffman's place a few weeks ago that you can find here: Lyle's comments triggered it. The question is, can we establish a way to share those ideals, facts, and beliefs about liberty with others? And how? I'm as prone to piss and moan about the state of the world as the next guy, but I'd rather do something about it. The question is, what can be done to help people understand? I refuse to believe people as a whole are hopeless, and if I'm wrong at least I tried. The thing is, I'm not sure where to start.

TL;DR version: I think we can fix this with time and effort. How do you think it could be implemented?

Billy Beck said...


I'd wondered why you hadn't hit on Lex's departure. I'm clear now. You're right.


"people can be taught."

In some very important ways: no, they cannot. I've always said: you can lead a dolt to concepts, but you cannot make him think.

People are *not* learning, and they're out of time, now.

Justthisguy said...

Sorry, Ma'am. I admit to being prejudiced, having read The Captain's posts every day since '03 or '04, and been greatly affected, both emotionally and intellectually, by what he wrote.

Grumpy old sojers in the condolence thread on Lex's site have said they have trouble explaining to their IRL-only friends why they are weeping over the departure of someone they've never met.

Tam, if you go before I do, I betcha I'll weep a bit, though we've never physically met and are unlikely to do so. I have read your blog every day since I found out about it, as I did with The Captain's.

Justthisguy said...

e.g. @ Billy Beck: Oh God I miss Miss Priss the kitteh, and I never met her.

Tam said...


"I admit to being prejudiced, having read The Captain's posts every day since '03 or '04, and been greatly affected, both emotionally and intellectually, by what he wrote."

And I did not. And for that reason I will not demean the loss you feel by feigning one that I do not.

Justthisguy said...

Tam, some say that the noblest work of God is an honest man. They are wrong. You have just proved that the noblest work of God is an honest woman.