Minor Thoughts from me to you

Archives for Authority (page 1 / 1)

Subject or Citizen?

I was struck by this bit from Captain Vorpatril's Alliance, as soon as I read it. A bit of background. Tesh Vorpatril is visiting the planet of Barrayar and is introduced to its ruler, Emperor Gregor. They are both at Vorkosigan House, the home of Lady Ekaterin Vorkosigan.

[Emperor Gregor said] “How do you do, Lady Vorpatril, Mademoiselle Rish. Welcome to Barrayar.”

He said this in the exact same way that Lady Vorkosigan had said, Welcome to Vorkosigan House. It came to Tej that he was the one man here who was not a subject.

Every Barrayaran is a subject of Emperor Gregor, pledged to obey him. With their lives, if necessary. Emperor Gregor was the only Barrayaran "who was not a subject". When I read that, it spent me down a trail of thought. What does it mean to not be a subject? What does it mean to be a citizen, instead?

An emperor is sovereign over many people. Gregor has the power of life and death over his subjects. He can order summary executions at will. A subject holds his own life only at the sufferance of his liege lord.

Gregor is responsible for his subjects. He must protect them, provide for them, care for them. Subjects are dependent on their rulers.

An emperor can seize whatever he wants: property, possessions, or people. Subjects have no legal recourse against this seizure. Subjects enjoy prosperity only at the whim of their sovereigns.

A citizen is sovereign over himself. He holds his life in his own hands. No one has the authority to order his execution. Citizens are independent. A citizen is responsible for himself. He must provide for himself, care for himself, and look out for his own interests. A citizen is entitled to keep what is his. His property is his own and cannot be taken. His possessions are his own and cannot be taken. His family is his own and cannot be taken.

Citizens are not, however, forced to stand alone, live alone, and die alone. A citizen can freely surrender a portion of his sovereignty to another. He can allow another to act as his agent, in all matters. He can allow another to provide for him, defend him, guard his interests, and more. But he retains sovereignty in all things. He can, at any time, fire his agent and either resume excercising sovereignty himself or choose a new agent to act on his behalf.

This is what it means to be an American. We are a nation of 300 million sovereigns. We have delegated a portion of authority to our elected representatives. We allow them to negotiate treaties in our names, to make and conclude war, to levy taxes and spend from the public fisc. But the President is not our ruler. Neither is Congress or the courts. They are merely our delegated agents. We are the rulers.

That is the difference between subjects and citizens. Subjects are ruled by someone else. Citizens rule themselves. Are you a subject? Or a citizen?

A Washington Power Breaker

A Washington Power Breaker →

CQ has a very nice profile of Randy Barnett, libertarian legal scholar. I’ve been a fan of Randy Barnett ever since I read his 2005 book Restoring The Lost Constitution. (Which, Amazon helpfully reminds me, I purchased on December 26, 2004.)

In less than two years, Barnett, 59, has accomplished what few law professors ever manage to do: make an arcane constitutional argument so compelling and clear that it becomes part of the national conversation.

But what makes Barnett unique is how his influence has extended beyond the elite circle of litigators fighting the health care law and into the grass roots. He has helped members of the tea party movement and supporters on Capitol Hill formulate a proposed constitutional amendment that would authorize the repeal of laws enacted by Congress to which two-thirds of the states object. While its chances of being adopted are slight, that effort, and his work against the health care law, has made Barnett an intellectual favorite of House Republicans.

Is Church Discipline Bad?

Last week, I read an article in the Wall Street Journal talking about church discipline. At the time I read it, I thought that it was more than a little unfair. Not only did the author present church discipline in an entirely negative light, but she somehow found only bad examples, of church discipline, to write about.

Unfortunately, I didn't have time to critique it with the seriousness that the topic deserved. Thankfully, one of the people interviewed for the article has critiqued it.

Confessions of a Pastor: A Wall-Street Journal Hatchet Job:

So when the WSJ reporter called me, I explained its biblical basis, its practical application, and its obvious benefits. I reasoned that, if sin is indeed harmful, the cruelest thing we can do is leave someone in it. Confrontation must always be motivated by a sense of compassion and a desire for reconciliation. Then, to prove the point, I gave her the name and number of a man whom our church disciplined. His testimony is that he would not even be alive today had we not dealt with him as we did. Within the past week Ms. Alter called and interviewed this man and he told her the whole fascinating story.

Notice that she refers to "a passage in the gospel of Matthew," but does not tell her readers that the words are from Jesus. All of her examples of discipline are negative. She did not include a single example which she portrays in a positive light. For this reason neither Buck Run nor I are mentioned in this article because we had nothing but positive things to say. Even the subject of our discipline says the action was not only deserved, but necessary and restorative. Not one word of that testimony is included.

The article is tantamount to being against spanking because some parents abuse their children, or criticizing "time out" because some parents lock their children in the basement.

I have little doubt that discipline is sometimes abused, but frankly the greater and far more frequent problem in contemporary churches is that discipline isn't even discussed--regardless of what Jesus taught. What a shame that a publication the stature of the WSJ would countenance so unbalanced a presentation of the facts.