United Order Vs. Communism

January 6, 2011 | 130 comments
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United Order vs. CommunismLooking back at last year’s MOTY post, I came across a comment I had not seen before. Having been raised hearing about the vast differences between communism and the United Order — and how communism was actually a counterfeit of God’s community — I was surprised that the comparison was being made.

This was coupled with a discussion I had two days ago with Belinda, one of my children attending BYU. She just started a church history class and we were talking about the first chapter in her text. It discusses the divine nature of the founding of the United States and how this land was the only place on earth the gospel could again be restored.

Given the current political climate, when more and more of America’s founding principles are seen as outdated and flawed, I thought I’d present some quotes from past church leaders on the differences between the two systems, as well as some support for the US Constitution and the government that follows.

I’ve tried to keep the context as accurate as possible. I’m not a political expert — more like a coerced activist — and make no claims about the material. Just putting it out for thoughtful discussion.

J. Reuben Clark, Jr.

full text here

The fundamental principle of [the United Order] was the private ownership of property. Each man owned his portion, or inheritance, or stewardship, with an absolute title, which he could alienate, or hypothecate, or otherwise treat as his own. The Church did not own all of the property, and the life under the United Order was not a communal life, as the Prophet Joseph, himself said. The United Order is an individualistic system, not a communal system.

…when the Welfare Plan gets thoroughly into operation…we shall not be so very far from carrying out the great fundamentals of the United Order.

There is a growing—I fear it is growing—sentiment that communism and the United Order are virtually the same thing, communism being merely the forerunner, so to speak, of a reestablishment of the United Order. I am informed that ex-bishops, and indeed, bishops, who belong to communistic organizations, are preaching this doctrine.

The basic principle of all the revelations on the United Order is that everything we have belongs to the Lord; therefore, the Lord may call upon us for any and all of the property which we have, because it belongs to Him. This, I repeat, is the basic principle.

One of the places in which some of the brethren are going astray is this: There is continuous reference in the revelations to equality among the brethren…Obviously, this is not a case of “dead level” equality. It is “equality” that will vary as much as the man’s circumstances, his family, his wants and needs, may vary.

…basic to the United Order was the private ownership of property, every man had his own property from which he might secure that which was necessary for the support of himself and his family.

There is nothing in the revelations that would indicate that this property was not freely alienable at the will of the owner. It was not contemplated that the Church should own everything or that we should become in the Church, with reference to our property and otherwise, the same kind of automaton, manikin, that communism makes out of the individual, with the State standing at the head in place of the Church.

…it was intended…that the poor coming into Zion…were to have given to them a “portion” of land, which land was to be either purchased from the Government…or purchased from individuals, or received as consecrations from members of the Church.

…whatever a steward realized from the portion allotted to him over and above that which was necessary in order to keep his family under the standard provided…was turned over by the steward to the bishop, and this amount of surplus…went into a bishop’s storehouse…for caring for the poor the widows and orphans and for the elders of the Church engaged in the ministry.

David O. McKay

full text here

In Joshua’s time they were called “gods of the Amorites,” for one, and “the Lord,” on the other. Paul spoke of “the works of the flesh” on the one hand, “fruits of the spirit” on the other. They are often spoken of as “selfishness” for one, “life of service,” the other. In these days, they are called “domination by the state,” on one hand, “personal liberty,” on the other; communism on one hand, free agency on the other.

“Pathways to Happiness” 46

Communism is not a political party nor a political plan under the Constitution; it is a system of government that is the opposite of our Constitutional government, and it would be necessary to destroy our government before Communism could be set up in the United States. . . .

…[Communism] even reaches its hand into the sanctity of the family circle itself, disrupting the normal relationship of parent and child, all in a manner unknown and unsanctioned under the Constitutional guarantees under which we in America live.

“The Gospel and the Individual” 903

Above all else, strive to support good and conscientious candidates of either party who are aware of the great dangers inherent in communism, and who are truly dedicated to the Constitution in the tradition of our founding fathers.

Ezra Taft Benson

full text here

America is big enough to make room for many different kinds of thinking, but many liberals have claimed to see virtues in socialism and communism which I, for one, have not been able to find.

Paraphrasing Nikita Khrushchev, after hosting him as a state visitor on an official trip to the US, as directed by Eisenhower. Khrushchev (First Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union) had told Benson that Benson’s children would live under communism. When Benson objected, this was the response:

You Americans are so gullible. No, you won’t accept communism outright. But we’ll keep feeding you small doses of socialism, until you’ll finally wake up and find you already have communism. We won’t have to fight you. We’ll so weaken your economy until you fall, like overripe fruit, into our hands.

Heber J. Grant

“Warning to Church Members” 488

Since Communism, established, would destroy our American Constitutional government, to support Communism is treasonable to our free institutions, and no patriotic American citizen may become either a Communist or supporter of Communism…

Furthermore, it is charged by universal report, which is not successfully contradicted or disproved, that Communism undertakes to control, if not indeed to proscribe the religious life of the people living within its jurisdiction, and that it even reaches its hand into the sanctity of the family circle itself, disrupting the normal relationship of parent and child, all in a manner unknown and unsanctioned under the Constitutional guarantees under which we in America live. Such interference would be contrary to the fundamental precepts of the Gospel and to the teachings and order of the Church.

Communism being thus hostile to loyal American citizenship and incompatible with true Church membership, of necessity no loyal American citizen and no faithful Church member can be a Communist.

We call upon all Church members completely to eschew Communism. The safety of our divinely inspired Constitutional government and the welfare of our Church imperatively demand that Communism shall have no place in America.

Grant and McKay 273, 343

We again warn our people in America of the constantly increasing threat against our inspired Constitution and our free institutions set up under it. The same political tenets and philosophies that have brought war and terror in other parts of the world are at work amongst us in America. The proponents thereof are seeking to undermine our own form of government and to set up instead one of the forms of dictatorships now flourishing in other lands…

…Communism and all other similar isms bear no relationship whatever to the United Order. They are merely the clumsy counterfeits which Satan always devises of the gospel plan. . . . Latter-day Saints cannot be true to their faith and lend aid, encouragement, or sympathy to any of these false philosophies. They will prove snares to their feet.

“Admonition and Blessing” 694-95

Every faithful Latter-day Saint believes that the Constitution of the United States was inspired of God, and that this choice land and this nation have been preserved until now in the principles of liberty under the protection of God…

Related Resources:

Is Socialism the United Order?
Marion G. Romney

The Divinely Inspired Constitution
Dallin H. Oaks

I Socialism Wrong? And What is Socialism? scroll down for authoritative quotes
By Brian Mecham

Ezra Taft Benson – Barack Obama: Two perspectives on the Constitution

130 Responses to United Order Vs. Communism

  1. Bill of Wasilla on January 6, 2011 at 7:32 pm

    I feel as though you have taken me back to the 1950′s and 60′s. There was much that was good in those days, but the hyperbole and fear stirred up and fanned over the supposed takeover of communism from within was not among those good things. Along with racism, it was a dark strain of the time, regardless of the fact that so many church members and leaders jumped happily into it.

  2. J. Stapley on January 6, 2011 at 7:37 pm

    As a side note “United Order” is a euphemism that has been applied to several organizations. Historically, there is the law of consecration (D&C 42 – the law of the church), the United Firm (JS et al.’s corporate organization) and then perhaps, the order of Enoch (BY’s communitarian villages). None of these Church leaders you quote appear to be really addressing any of those three. Communism was bad, no question. But I’d be interested in your thoughts regarding any of the three institutions that are historically at play.

  3. geoffsn on January 6, 2011 at 7:42 pm

    All of these talks/statements are from the period in church history when the church was attempting to conform to the normative US society. The earliest sources you list are from Heber J Grant. This was after the Reed Smoot hearings. The church had been making many changes which allowed it to exist more peacefully with the US. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Good_Neighbor_policy_%28LDS_Church%29 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Law_of_Vengeance This also coincided with the rise of the Soviet Union. Since the time of the formation of the Soviet Union (perhaps thanks to US propaganda) it seems that our only definition of communism and socialism are directly tied to the Stalinist policies of the USSR. The reality is that there are many different forms and types of socialism, communism, and capitalism. Most of the talks from GA’s against socialism is against either the USSR specifically, or an even more evil scarecrow. By the definitions they use in their talks, there is no socialism in the world. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Socialism As you can see socialism has many different iterations. There’s Marxist socialism, Scientific socialism, Democratic socialism, Libertarian socialism, Mutualism, Market socialism, State socialism, Utopian socialism, Communism, Social anarchism, Syndicalism, Social democracy, Revolutionary socialism, Green socialism, Guild socialism, 21st century socialism, and Agrarian socialism. It’s like referring to Christianity, within it there are Mormons, Catholics, Mennonites, Lutherans, Baptists, Evangelicals, Anglicans, Orthodox, Jehovah’s Witnesses, etc. Socialism is equally schismatic, there are many different opinions as to how, to what extent, in what arenas, through what means socialism is to be implemented.

    The point is, if you look at it objectively, the United Order is a form of socialism. The church had no problem with that until after the Smoot hearings and after the rise of the USSR. Take a look at all the socialists that came to Utah to observe how Mormon socialism was a shining example of the supremacy of socialism. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_The_Church_of_Jesus_Christ_of_Latter-day_Saints#Mormonism_and_the_national_debate_over_socialism_and_communism (including Edward Bellamy staying with President Snow for a week while researching for a socialist novel)

  4. Ardis E. Parshall on January 6, 2011 at 7:45 pm

    What J. said.

  5. Andy Myers on January 6, 2011 at 7:48 pm

    Unfortunately, when it comes to this topic, many statements by general authorities are taken out of their historical context by reactionary conservatives. For instance, Ezra Taft Benson is frequently mined for anti-communist quotes, and as a vociferous supporter of the John Burch Society, he railed against communism quite a bit. However, almost all of his political speeches came before he became president of the church, and it’s rather hard to find more than a couple references to communism and socialism from his years serving as President Benson.

    The distinction should always be made: was this person serving as apostle, president of the church, or something else? And were they speaking in an official capacity of the church, pronouncing revealed doctrine and policy, or were they rather attempting to do the best they could to engage with the perceived political problems of the day with the amount of light and knowledge they posessed?

  6. Julie M. Smith on January 6, 2011 at 7:54 pm

    Thanks for pointing me to the Elder Oaks article; I had never heard this statement he quotes from Pres. Clark before:

    “President J. Reuben Clark, who referred to the Constitution as “part of my religion,” also said that it was not part of his belief or the doctrine of the Church that the Constitution was a “fully grown document.” “On the contrary,” he said, “We believe it must grow and develop to meet the changing needs of an advancing world.””

    It is always nice to find authoritative statements that one can cram into service in the support of one’s personal political whims; I plan on using this one to defend as inspired my support for anything anyone else claims is unconstitutional.

  7. Dan on January 6, 2011 at 8:25 pm

    Alison,

    when more and more of America’s founding principles are seen as outdated and flawed,

    Which founding principles are seen outdated or flawed? Maybe calculating some human being as only 3/5ths of a person? Any others? Maybe not giving women many rights? Maybe only allowing land owners to vote? What else is outdated or flawed?

  8. Reagan Republican on January 6, 2011 at 8:35 pm

    I can’t believe this, but I actually agree with Dan the Good Democrat’s comment (#7).

  9. Jon on January 6, 2011 at 8:38 pm

    I think a more perfect society would be based on anarcho-capatilism (voluntaryism). It does require the highest morality of all types of governance, but it also allows for the greatest freedom of its people. It also creates an environment that creates the most wealth and takes people out of poverty the most. Its principles are also the most solid and adhered to. All other forms of governance require non uniformity in their adherence to principles of liberty and freedom and laws given from God (like the 2nd great commandment).

  10. Brad Kramer on January 6, 2011 at 8:43 pm

    I’m planning a post on how Ezra Taft Benson’s views toward the Civil Rights Movement differ from those of Barack Obama. Someone needs to have the guts to show just how out of step the President is with the teachings of Latter-day prophets!

  11. Ardis E. Parshall on January 6, 2011 at 9:05 pm

    Oh, Brad, why should we believe you have the guts to do what nobody else has ever dared to do??

  12. Reagan Republican on January 6, 2011 at 9:06 pm

    Just because Joseph Smith and Brigham Young advocated the United Order doesn’t mean it was a good idea. Cut them a little slack. They weren’t perfect.

    We don’t have to try to come up with some tortured explanation about why the United Order was not socialism.

  13. Brad Kramer on January 6, 2011 at 9:11 pm

    “We don’t have to try to come up with some tortured explanation about why the United Order was not socialism.”

    Plus, neither communism nor any of the Mormon communitarian experiments were particularly effective at accomplishing their stated goals. It’s like saying that Nauvoo-era polygamy was different from this or that West African polygamous kinship structure, all in an implicit defense of the moral superiority of modern heteronormative monogamy.

  14. geoffsn on January 6, 2011 at 9:24 pm

    Jon (#9)
    Assuming you’d support the church were it to enact a form of the United Order again, how would you defend it against others in your “more perfect society” who would claim that the church was interfering with the market?

    Reagan Republican (#12)
    Just curious whether or not you view these: http://lds.org/scriptures/search?lang=eng&type=verse&query=united+order as being a mistake of Joseph. Also curious what you understand “everlasting” to mean in this verse. http://lds.org/scriptures/dc-testament/dc/104.1?lang=eng#primary
    Not saying you’re wrong or out of touch with the scriptures, just curious to hear how you navigate this section of the D&C.

  15. Oatmeal on January 6, 2011 at 9:30 pm

    Wow. You have me having flashbacks to the Red Scare of the 1950′s, and I was born in the 1960′s!

  16. Alison Moore Smith on January 6, 2011 at 9:36 pm

    I would kindly ask for civil discussion. Leave the sarcasm at the door, please.

  17. Alison Moore Smith on January 6, 2011 at 9:51 pm

    Julie, it’s interesting that in the same comment you accuse me of “find[ing] authoritative statements that one can cram into service in the support of one’s personal political whims” you quote the article I pointed to you that contradicts the very “cramming” you complain of.

    To be clear, I don’t have a hard political point on this issue. (Forgive me, when it’s a conservative point I see it’s a “political whim.”) As I said, I was raised hearing a particular point stressed over and over and over and was very surprised today when I saw Kent’s old comment comparing the two.

    What Belinda and I had discussed yesterday, that is from current (not ancient, not “red scare”) church material, seemed to align completely with the older statements.

    I simple searched for comparisons of the two and pulled as many of the quotes that I had heard and read that seemed reasonable to fit into one post. I did it, as I said, for discussion.

    If you want to know my motives, just ask me.

  18. Reagan Republican on January 6, 2011 at 9:54 pm

    @geoffsn

    Joseph Smith was a rough stone rolling down a hill. He tried his best, but he made mistakes, possibly even when he gave revelations. I think the United Order was a mistake he made with good intentions.

  19. John C. on January 6, 2011 at 10:02 pm

    Alison,
    What are your motives? ;)

    Actually, my question is what are the founding principles that you think people find outdated and flawed? This is a sincere, non-sarcastic question.

  20. Pete on January 6, 2011 at 10:07 pm

    What if a bunch of Mormons decided to live together in a socialist community? What would we call it? (emphasis on Decided)

  21. Brad Kramer on January 6, 2011 at 10:08 pm

    John C.,
    If I had to guess, knowing what little I know about Alison, I’m thinking she’s referring to either a) corporations (nowhere in the inspired Constitution is the government granted authority to charter these behemoths); b) standing armies (most of the Founding Fathers were weak almost to the point of being liberal when it came to supporting the troops and projecting real strength abroad); or c) the Federal BI.

  22. Cynthia L. on January 6, 2011 at 10:12 pm

    All AMS’ nay-sayers in this thread are going to feel pretty stupid when they find themselves in one of BO’s internment centers one day.

  23. Brad Kramer on January 6, 2011 at 10:23 pm

    But (just to follow up) I DON’T think she’s referring to human slavery, white male privilege, anti-Catholicism, anti-Mohammedanism, anti-Anglicanism, anti-female-suffragism, Indian eradication, medicinal bloodletting, or male impotence as grounds for divorce.

  24. Brad Kramer on January 6, 2011 at 10:26 pm

    “What if a bunch of Mormons decided to live together in a socialist community? What would we call it?”

    4th Nephi.

  25. Julie M. Smith on January 6, 2011 at 10:28 pm

    Alison, you misread me, but I probably should have been less coy. I wasn’t accusing you in particular of anything; I was accusing everyone, including myself, of cherry-picking authoritative statements that support things we already believe in. I was aiming for a light-hearted approach to that by pointing out that I could defend pretty much any unconstitutional thing by claiming that Pres. Clark said that the constitution should “grow and develop.”

  26. Alison Moore Smith on January 6, 2011 at 10:33 pm

    Thanks for the clarification, Julie.

    As for my motives, they are in the post and in my last response. I’ll try to address other questions tomorrow. Have a basketball game.

  27. Jon on January 6, 2011 at 10:53 pm

    #14, geoffsn,

    In a free market you would be able to form groups like this. Heck you could even form a coercive form of government we have now if you like. As long as people into the contract with free will it’s all good. Then we could see competition in forms of governance and people can choose their own. I believe it’s called panarchy. That’s what ambassadors from other countries that live here live under. They aren’t responsible to the laws of the US.

    As for scripture you can point to contrary scriptures and say well that says…but the only way to know the truth is by using logic and reason and then praying to God that you got your reasoning correct. Of course, we also need to be like little children and be willing to be reproved by God if we get it wrong. I just believe following logic, reason, prayer, and cherry picking my scriptures that the voluntaryism is the closest form to good governance.

    Let’s take the scripture from Matt. 17 where Christ says (taking the negative) that we are not free if we have to pay taxes. But then in another scripture (I believe Matt 24?) he says pay unto Caesar’s what is Caesar’s. Well, these scriptures appear to contradict. There are some who interpret the Caesar scripture as saying that Caesar owns nothing and therefore is owed nothing (everything is God’s), it goes much deeper then that, you have to look at their customs and the original wording of the scripture but it’s quite fascinating.

    Either way theirs other scriptures that say “Thou shalt not steal.” Well, what is theft? I like to define it as the involuntary exchange of goods or services. So taxation is inherently theft and against God’s law. Now, in the institute manual for the old testament they call theft the receiving of services or goods without the full compensation for those goods or services. That definition is severely lacking and intellectually poor. If you used that definition someone giving you service would be theft or a store giving a discount would be theft.

    That’s probably a longer response than you wanted but hopefully it helps you see my point of view better. BTW, I see the constitution as a good document but my all means not the true order of good governance, maybe a stepping stone.

  28. BHodges on January 6, 2011 at 11:04 pm

    Great timing for me. My wife and I are going through all our old mission stuff and I came across a binder I had full of anti-communist stuff, old conference talks, references to Skousen’s books, all sorts of nationalist stuff. Oh man.

  29. Jon on January 6, 2011 at 11:05 pm

    …[Communism] even reaches its hand into the sanctity of the family circle itself, disrupting the normal relationship of parent and child, all in a manner unknown and unsanctioned under the Constitutional guarantees under which we in America live.

    This one makes me think of government schools.

    From reading the quotations where he talks of communism creeping in makes me think of something else. It’s natural for organizations that are forced monopolies (not free market monopolies, two different things) always leads to dictatorships. I suppose that’s what the states were set up for, to give a quasi competition between them. Of course, that all changed with the civil war.

  30. brian larsen on January 6, 2011 at 11:16 pm

    “Of course, that all chanced with the civil war.”

    Yes, damn that Lincoln and those anti-slavery folks.

  31. Tom O. on January 6, 2011 at 11:17 pm

    @Pete

    “What if a bunch of Mormons decided to live together in a socialist community? What would we call it? (emphasis on Decided)”

    We would call it voluntary….which makes it unlike Socialism or Communism, et al. in the most important way.

  32. Jon on January 6, 2011 at 11:21 pm

    @brian larsen, #30,

    You mince my words.

    Also, there’s a whole book with much detail on how slavery ended peacefully everywhere else in the western hemisphere except in the US. If you would like the name of the book I can get it for you.

  33. Cameron N on January 6, 2011 at 11:55 pm

    Why are people attempting to refute these quotes so much? All they do is make a distinction between an individual freely deciding to consecrate and being compelled to do it. Isn’t this kind of clear from that first big council we all had?

  34. Brad Kramer on January 7, 2011 at 12:25 am

    Cameron,
    Nobody’s refuting the quotes. The distinction between individuals freely deciding to consecrate their property and being compelled to do so is not particularly relevant to contemporary political debates in a democratic republic where the government derives its legitimate power to tax the citizenry and do things like promote the general welfare from the consent of the governed under a (putatively) inspired Constitution.

  35. DavidH on January 7, 2011 at 12:43 am

    The only article cited in the post by a living prophet seer and revelator is by Elder Oaks, who among other things says: “Personally, I have never considered it necessary to defend every line of the Constitution as scriptural.”

    I don’t recall reading anything by a living member of the FP or 12 condemning socialism. Have I missed something?

    Perhaps the reason our living oracles do not blanketly condemn socialism in the way some prior leaders did is because, as others point out, the time has passed when the danger of Soviet scientific socialism was imminent and when some of the dangers seen in some styles of socialism then have diminished. The lack of blanket condemnation may be because there is legitimate debate about whether, say, socialism includes public education supported by tax dollars (opposed by Brigham Young because he thought it wrong to tax someone to pay for someone else’s education), or whether the varieties of universal health care in most of the industrial world are “socialism” (or whether Medicare is socialism).

    I think one of the concerns then, which was quite legitimate, was whether socialism would limit free exercise of religion, as the Soviet style socialism did. I think experience has shown that religion and some forms of what some would consider “socialism” can coexist.

  36. geoffsn on January 7, 2011 at 12:48 am

    Reagan Republican (#18)
    Just to be clear, you read all sections of the D&C which speak about the United Order were mistakes Joseph made? If so, I’m curious to know which other threads through the D&C you would put in the same category.

    Is anyone else wondering why the post title is United Order vs. Communism, but then most of the post is about the “divine nature of the founding of the United States” and “America’s founding principles are seen as outdated and flawed”? Are we going to compare the United Order and Communism, Communism and the US constitution, the United Order and the US Constitution, or all three? Also, I hope someone picks up Stapley’s comment (#2) and would be willing to outline the differences in those 3 institutions and then compare them with Communism, Socialism, and the US Constitution.

  37. Ralph Hancock on January 7, 2011 at 1:06 am

    Thanks to Alison for an interesting post, and for braving the ridicule, sarcasm, or, at best, sophisticated nonchalance one can always expect when daring to raise the question whether it might be a mistake to consign the idea constitutionally limited government to what those of the avant-garde used to call the “ash-heap of history.”
    The sophisticated attitude toward the struggle over communism is well represented in this discussion by the view that, well, perhaps we can admit that “communism was not particularly effective in accomplishing it’s aims.” Well, in a sense it was very effective, in that it efficaciously eliminated tens of millions of obstacles to “progress.” (See the Black Book of Communism for more detail and documentation if you need it. And this was not written by Cleon Skousen, by the way.) Would we say that Nazism was “not particularly effective”? Why the difference in moral evaluation between the two great forms of totalitarianism that scarred or rather mutilated the 20th century? (See Alain Besancon, A Century of Horrors). Is it because Marxist-Leninist Communism, unlike Nazism, had good goals, though the means proved … shall we say, inapposite?
    But in fact the means and ends of Communism (as with Nazism) are deeply connected. Modern Communism is grounded in an allegedly scientific historical or “dialectical” materialism. It is aggressively atheistic to its very core. It regards not only God but the “soul” as a relic of past economic forms, and proposes to create a new Humanity by any means necessary, a Humanity who will look up to nothing above its own power and recognize no permanent moral principles that can limit its transforming will.
    Let’s see now, does this seem different from the Christian Gospel?
    The threat of international communism was not made up by Joseph McCarthy or Cleon Skousen. There was lots of nonsense uttered in the name of anti-communists, but it is a ridiculous affectation of liberal American parochialism to consider that the main threat to humanity in the postwar period was a few directors getting black-balled in Hollywood. The Soviets were a real, aggressive power, and they had real agents in the US government. (Yes, Alger Hiss was a Soviet spy. And if you want to read some profound and beautifully written anti-Communism, try the classic Witness, by Whitaker Chambers, an ex-Communist. Or Darkness at Noon by Arthur Koestler.)
    But what of so many of our Church leaders’ (past and present, if I may say) charming affection for “The Constitution”? We can always bring up the celebrated 3/5 clause of course to dismiss any reverence for the Constitution, and then perhaps, for the less learned, we can imply that there was some barrier in the constitution itself to extension of the suffrage to the property-less or to women. More generally, we can flaunt a carefree relativism: “you can support anything you want by appealing to the Constitution, or to GA’s statements on it,” etc. We’re far too sophisticated to take seriously the possibility that a Constitution might be at once a valuable and a vulnerable resource.
    Here’s a proposition. The main thing that “the Constitution” means has something to do with the national government being limited by 1- the separation of powers, 2- federalism, and, underlying these 3- the idea of the human person as created with rights under “the laws of nature and nature’s God.” Now it is clear that all of these have been compromised (and sometimes because failure to honor the 3rd was protected by the institutions of the first, and especially second). And of course this all started long before the New Age of Obama. And you can argue, with the original Progressives (Woodrow Wilson, especially), that the Founders’ Constitution simply was not up to the challenges of a new, larger, more complex, more inter-dependent society. You can argue that the idea of limited government at the heart of the Constitution is no longer viable. So argue it. But don’t pretend that nothing is at stake in considering whether the limits set by the Constitution have been or are being transgressed.
    Now, does the U.S. Constitution define a Zion society, or measure up to the perfection of 4th Nephi? Of course not. But it does leave room for God, unlike Communism.

  38. Clark on January 7, 2011 at 1:21 am

    It seems to me that BY and his immediate successors tried out all sorts of communitarian experiments. As others noted, most weren’t exactly raging successes. One might argue that the co-ops were the most successful. I think some look to things like Orderville and think that was utopia rather than one attempt among many to discover utopia. Maybe Ardis and J will disagree with me but it always struck me that God have very vague directives and left the actual implementation up to us. It seems to me looking back that both Joseph and Brigham failed more times than they succeeded. That’s why they call it building Zion and why God didn’t just give a large operating manual on how to do it. (Honestly, don’t you think Joseph would have loved to have 4th Nephi replaced with a 1000 page tome on how they implemented Zion?)

    So liberals looking back fondly at “Mormon Socialism” perhaps ought do so with more cynical eye than they do. And conservatives looking back might also realize that anything smacking of communism isn’t necessarily bad.

    For the record I do think BY’s and Joseph’s attempts to implement polygamy and economic orders were largely disastrous.

  39. geoffsn on January 7, 2011 at 1:23 am

    Ralph, when’s Glenn Beck’s next Tea-Party meeting?

    Btw, well before the “original Progressives,” the “limited government at the heart of the Constitution” had it’s first major change with the rise of the radical republicans. After defeating the south they passed major legislation to promote rapid modernization, including a national banking system, high tariffs, the first temporary income tax, many excise taxes, paper money issued without backing (“greenbacks”), a huge national debt, homestead laws, railroads, and aid to education and agriculture. Can’t imagine why you’d ignore that.

    Also, thanks for illustrating one of my original points that thanks to propaganda in the US, many are incapable of understanding socialism or communism as anything other than Stalinist USSR policies.

  40. Jon on January 7, 2011 at 1:27 am

    An important note on the differences between the united order, socialism, communism, and the US constitution is that only one is voluntary (from my understanding). From what I understand the united order you could leave and you owned your own property, so it was basically a voluntary interaction, maybe some coercion but no force. The other three use force to make them work, they are not voluntary.

    The US constitution socializes the military and some other aspects. Socialism takes it leaps and bounds further and communism even more. Government back monopolies never end well, especially with a populace that doesn’t believe in freedom, or at least understand what it is.

    I’m probably wrong on parts of that analysis since I’m not as well studied as I should be. But that’s a nice simplistic view.

    The base argument is, is the state a necessary evil? If you believe you need no state except for God’s law (governed by the free market) you are a anarcho-capatilist, if you believe in no state and no God’s law then I call you a chaos anarchist, if you believe you need a monopoly of armed thugs to protect you from other armed thugs and nothing (or very little) more you are a minarchist (what the US was founded on), if you believe you need daddy to hold your hand and do everything for you then you’re a socialist, if you believe government should do everything for you and not let you choose anything you are a communist. Those are my definitions.

  41. geoffsn on January 7, 2011 at 1:33 am

    “I’m probably wrong on parts of that analysis since I’m not as well studied as I should be. But that’s a nice simplistic view.”
    “if you believe you need daddy to hold your hand and do everything for you then you’re a socialist, if you believe government should do everything for you and not let you choose anything you are a communist. Those are my definitions.”

    LOL some of the best things I’ve read in a long time!

  42. Cynthia L. on January 7, 2011 at 1:36 am

    I’m wondering what your ominous allusion to “current political climate” is supposed to mean, specifically, why you think any of these quotes relate to the “current political climate.” Just to take a sampling:

    The fundamental principle of [the United Order] was the private ownership of property. Each man owned his portion, or inheritance, or stewardship, with an absolute title, which he could alienate, or hypothecate, or otherwise treat as his own. The Church did not own all of the property, and the life under the United Order was not a communal life, as the Prophet Joseph, himself said.

    So lets say that Obama and Pelosi turn our country into full-blown France. (Seriously, what are the odds of that anyway? I’d love it if that happened, and even I wouldn’t put the odds of it anywhere better than 1 degree on the Kelvin scale.) Do people not own their property in France? Do they not have title, which they can treat as their own? Sure, they pay a lot of the surplus not required to support themselves and their families in taxes before their property ends up in their own bank accounts. That sounds like what happened under the United Order that JR Clark was talking about, doesn’t it?

    Since Communism, established, would destroy our American Constitutional government, to support Communism is treasonable to our free institutions, and no patriotic American citizen may become either a Communist or supporter of Communism…

    So Communism is bad because the version he’s talking about gets rid of constitutional government (presumably this means voting, 3 branches of govt, etc). Well, again, assume for a second that we turn into France. They can still vote in France, in very real elections–the government switches hands from left wing to right wing quite regularly. They still have a constitution in France. Their social safety net has in no way disrupted these things. Ergo, according to this quote, America turning into a socialized system like in France is no problem.

    The proponents thereof are seeking to undermine our own form of government and to set up instead one of the forms of dictatorships now flourishing in other lands

    [same commentary as last quote--as long as the government voting structure, etc, remains in place, this is irrelevant]

    Furthermore, it is charged by universal report, which is not successfully contradicted or disproved, that Communism undertakes to control, if not indeed to proscribe the religious life of the people living within its jurisdiction

    Assuming, again, that Obama/Pelosi turn us into France, we’re still fine by the terms of this quote. French government does not proscribe the religious life of the people. Again, no problems here.

    Can you point to any portion of any quote in your post that speaks to contemporary American politics in any way, or even speaks to a hypothetical fantasyland where America has turned into France?

  43. Cynthia L. on January 7, 2011 at 1:47 am

    #37: Ralph, that’s a very handsome takedown of old-school Communism. But all the sarcasm and eye-rolling in this thread has nothing to do with that. You’re speaking quite orthogonally to everyone else in this thread.

    It is Alison’s seeming desire to connect these anti-old-school-Communism quotes to today’s American government that is inducing all the groans of “you’ve got to be kidding me.” I wonder if you could perhaps articulate something on that topic; maybe assist Alison in responding to my arguments in #42 that none of the quotes in the post have the slightest relevance to today’s industrialized democracies who happen to have strong safety nets, or to hypothetical policies that might be implemented in the US (say Romney-style healthcare laws, or increased assistance to the unemployed during this recession).

  44. Cynthia L. on January 7, 2011 at 1:51 am

    (Hm, please excuse at least one verb-subject number agreement error, and a use of “who” instead of “that,” which I am now seeing in my #43. I’ll just come out and admit it: I have atrocious grammar.)

  45. Brad Kramer on January 7, 2011 at 1:52 am

    Ralph,
    If you’ve mistaken any of the comments here (which, with apparently no sense of self-irony whatsoever, you describe as “sarcastic” and/or “sophisticated nonchalance”) for an affirmative defense of Soviet style Communism or Marxist-Leninism, or, conversely, a denial that the Constitution might be at once a valuable and a vulnerable resource, then it seems that critics of this post need to seriously improve their writing skills. If you think that the Constitution can be reduced to a foundational idea of the human person (or a cross-section of some human persons) as created with rights under “the laws of nature and nature’s God”, then it would appear that the document’s drafters need to improve their writing skills.

    The conspiratorial and self-referentially wicked defense of godless communism might have been rampant in the era that produced Alger Hiss (it turns out that some of us know that he was a Soviet agent, though the relevance of that fact to the discussion at hand seems to be beyond the scope of my, er, sophistication) and John Welch, but this blog and this particular conversation is a pretty barren setting for chasing/exposing/outwitting such spooks. Meanwhile, prolific demonstrations that (unlike your rivals) you really, really understand just how horrible Communism was do not impart weight to whatever you’re arguing about the value of pre-Civil-War federalism or the necessity of Theism to the proper functioning of a constitutional republic. An assault on a strawman, no matter how hammerfisted the assault or how repugnant the strawman, remains what it is. Yes, Communism was bad. Really, really bad. Really, it was. We get it. But the idea that this fact has within it a seed of argument relevant to the New Age of Obama is something that should be demonstrated rather than presumed.

  46. geoffsn on January 7, 2011 at 2:06 am

    Brad,
    Reading your posts reminds me that my poor ability to communicate is why I’m in the sciences.

  47. Steve Evans on January 7, 2011 at 2:25 am

    Ralph, interesting comment. It reminds me, in its non-sequiturness, of the scene in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation where Aunt Bethany, when asked to say a blessing on the Christmas dinner, (very nicely and correctly) recites the Pledge of Allegiance instead.

  48. Jon on January 7, 2011 at 2:29 am

    Brad,

    Why is communism bad? What’s the root problem? They require the use of force, which is contrary to the 2nd great commandment. They also assume that people don’t own anything that they produce, which is theft (that’s in the 10 commandments). It also creates a belief in the people that the state is the solution to their ills rather than God and the good will of people (this might be why do most modern liberals believe people are inherently bad so they need the strong arm of the state to force people to be good). Positive laws inherently restrict the freedom of the people. Negative laws will create more freedoms.

    All systems that rely on positive laws will inherently lead to despotic governments. This is where are government is going (if you don’t already believe it’s there). What are some clear signs of this? A president that can have American citizens assassinated without due process, check. A nation that constantly spies on its citizens, check. A nation that uses its resources for empire building, check. Brainwashing of children (government schools), check. A nation at war with itself (war on drugs, war on raw foods, etc), check. Shall I go on. This is the result of a government and people that believes it can prevent all evil on the people by use of force and tyranny. I for one just wish to be left alone to prosper in my own sphere. Government now makes it so 1000s of professions require its approval just to work. This is not freedom and is not God’s plan, from what I understand of it.

  49. Alison Moore Smith on January 7, 2011 at 2:43 am

    Cynthia L, #42, my actual desire, as opposed to my “seeming” one, is — as the title may suggest — to discuss the differences and/or similarities between the United Order and communism.

    I’ll post more tomorrow. I’m not much for speed or accuracy on my iPad.

  50. Scott B. on January 7, 2011 at 2:51 am

    AMS,
    If discussing elements of the United Order was your goal, why didn’t you discuss elements of the United Order?

  51. Ralph Hancock on January 7, 2011 at 2:58 am

    OK, so immeditately there’s the inevitable smearing of any suggestion of the value of limited government with the brush of association with “Tea Party.” Right, I must be under the influence of the lunatic fringe because I’m not sure the indefinite expansion of the scope of government is a good thing.

    And “Stalinism” was just an accidental, Russian phenomenon, having nothing to do with a fundamental and profoundly modern intellectual commitment? Then it would be a further question whether this profoundly modern (yes, that means ultimately atheistic) intellectual commitment is at work in other, non-Soviet forms of “communism.” Or “socialism.” Or “Progressivism.” That would be the question.

    Re. my orthogonality: To recognize the need and, why not, the justice of limited welfare-state provisions does not imply dismissing concerns about erosion of property rights. The original Constitution is not libertarian, but it stems (in part) from worries about the tendency of governments to grow (to accrue power). This is the important grain of truth that could be extracted from “Tea Party” concerns. And it has nothing to do with some antebellum romantic conservatism.

    Brad, the question does not concern “writing skills,” where you brilliant ascendancy has already been widely acknowledged, but the ideas themselves. I thought I had read above that somehow had refered to Communism as not being quite as effective as one might have wished in accomplished its goals (presumably admirable, or innocent, or otherwise unremarkable). Now it turns out that I am less convinced than you are that the fundamental spiritual-intellectual horizon that gave rise to the violence of Communism (and before it, of the Jacobins in the French Revolution)is altogether behind us now. And yes, that is because I am convinced, also that any political Constitution is based upon some social-moral-anthropological constitution. Now, as an ever-so-postmodern conservative, I yield to no one in my non-foundationalism. But is it your view that there is no connection between the Constitution and the beliefs expressed in the Declaration? Or, more generally, are you very sure that political order is completely untethered from anthropological assumptions?
    I am not the only one who assumes much that is not demonstrated. But some regard it as an “assault” when their assumptions are not shared, and feel free to ridicule those with other assumptions. In brilliant style.

  52. Alison Moore Smith on January 7, 2011 at 3:12 am

    Must add: thank you, Ralph Hancock. You are a gentleman and a scholar.

    geoffsn, last warning. Ad hominem is intellectually vacant, not to mention rude. Dr. Hancock has more scholarly knowledge than most anyone you’ll ever meet. If you have a cogent point, make it civilly. Otherwise, it’s not welcome.

  53. Brad Kramer on January 7, 2011 at 3:52 am

    “I must be under the influence of the lunatic fringe because I’m not sure the indefinite expansion of the scope of government is a good thing.”

    No, but the apparent belief that those who don’t share your political-philosophical commitments _are_ sure that indefinite expansion of state power is a good thing might qualify you as a candidate.

    Beyond that, the assertion that the profoundly modern intellectual commitments which underlie, to apparently varying degrees, all political systems not drawn directly from the pen of Leo Strauss are ultimately atheistic (in contradistinction to Strauss’ own philosophy, of course), remains a pristine example of something to be demonstrated as opposed to granted axiomatic status. That you confused my characterization of your assault on Communism with a defensive reaction against your “assault” on my own assumptions only underscores your rather breathtaking presumption that all the political-moral-anthropological perspectives which you elected to reject over the course of your intellectual/spiritual ascendancy are bound together by a unified commitment to a world without God.

    The leap from “the Constitution is not built upon a primal foundation human rights of self-evidently divine origin” to “there is no connection between the Constitution and the Declaration” is one I’d prefer you to make on your own, rather than on my behalf. And while it is undoubtedly true that the Constitution (in part, mind you) does reflect a concern about the tendencies of governments (particularly those untethered from the citizenry through the joint mechanisms of taxation and direct representation) to accrue unchecked power, it might also be worth acknowledging that, practically speaking, it also reflected a dissatisfaction on the part of its collaborative drafters (and ratifiers) with the insufficient power and scope of the government it was designed to replace. These tensions were somewhat optimized and balanced by the finished (if technically paradoxical) finished product—a document which enumerated the rights of the government and the governed. And continued debate over how to maintain relative balance as the country has undergone centuries of modernizing, industrializing, consolidating, internationalizing change should be robust and vigorous. But that hardly means that people who believe the US should continue to spend more on its standing army than the rest of the globe combined can legitimately claim privileged access to the unquestionably inspired minds that produced the Constitution simply because they loudly profess their hate for taxes and deficits and public medicine and gay weddings and credit card regulation.

  54. Cynthia L. on January 7, 2011 at 4:49 am

    “But that hardly means that people who believe the US should continue to spend more on its standing army than the rest of the globe combined can legitimately claim privileged access to the unquestionably inspired minds that produced the Constitution simply because they loudly profess their hate for taxes and deficits and public medicine and gay weddings and credit card regulation.”

    Amen!

  55. Peter LLC on January 7, 2011 at 4:53 am

    I’m not much for speed or accuracy on my iPad.

    Have you considered the Apple iPad Keyboard Dock?

    Modern Communism is grounded in an allegedly scientific historical or “dialectical” materialism.

    With “allegedly” the key word. As Timothy Snyder put it, Stalin’s interpretation of the events of the early 1930s “could only make sense to revolutionaries by conviction, to communists already bound to their leader by faith and fear. It took a special sort of mind to truly believe that the worse things appeared, the better they actually were. Such reasoning went by the name dialectics, but by this time that word [...] meant little more than the psychic capacity to adjust one’s own perceptions to the changing expressions of Stalin’s will.” Bloodlands, p.65

  56. Cynthia L. on January 7, 2011 at 4:59 am

    Re. my orthogonality: To recognize the need and, why not, the justice of limited welfare-state provisions does not imply dismissing concerns about erosion of property rights.

    That’s just it though, Ralph–I don’t think any of the quotes engage the concept of “erosion” in a meaningful way that would render them relevant to today. They all speak exclusively about a radical qualitative change, a total upending of our government structure. If we’re going to have an adult conversation about what degree of very slow erosion or soil-replacement (the opposite operation to “erosion”?) makes good policy, such rhetoric simply has no place in the dialogue. If I’m discussing with my husband which of a range of paint colors we should choose for our bathroom, and he produces 50 year old quotes from a diatribe on why bulldozing a whole house is a bad idea, he isn’t simply having a difference of opinion with me, he is in fact not participating in the conversation in any kind of meaningful way.

  57. grego on January 7, 2011 at 7:07 am

    WOW. Having read this blog often over the past few years and posted once in a while, this post is, in my memory and opinion, a nice oddity.

    Kudos on the research, and the guts to post this and answer criticsm!

    -=
    J. Stapely wrote: “Communism was bad, no question.”
    I believe it still is bad. And I believe communism and other forms of oppressive government will never go away in this telestial world.

  58. grego on January 7, 2011 at 7:08 am

    (BTW, I was #5 until I got around to posting…)

  59. Dan on January 7, 2011 at 8:04 am

    Cynthia,

    #22,

    All AMS’ nay-sayers in this thread are going to feel pretty stupid when they find themselves in one of BO’s internment centers one day.

    As long as they have a decent chef and some playstations, I think we’ll be okay. :)

  60. Dan on January 7, 2011 at 8:11 am

    Ralph,

    #37,

    Well, in a sense it was very effective, in that it efficaciously eliminated tens of millions of obstacles to “progress.”

    Riiiight…because capitalists didn’t efficaciously eliminate millions of obstacles to “progress” either…how quickly people forget that capitalists slaughtered how many Indians over the course of the “progress” of American capitalism across the country?

  61. Dan on January 7, 2011 at 8:14 am

    Clark,

    #38,

    So liberals looking back fondly at “Mormon Socialism” perhaps ought do so with more cynical eye than they do.

    I think liberal Mormons do look back at “mormon socialism” with more cynicism than you think. I guess I should speak only for myself that when I bring up mormon socialism, I do it to attack the ridiculous arguments made by mormon conservatives against anything closely resembling the smallest iota of socialism in today’s liberalism.

  62. Dan on January 7, 2011 at 8:22 am

    Jon,

    #40,

    From what I understand the united order you could leave and you owned your own property, so it was basically a voluntary interaction, maybe some coercion but no force.

    Really? I was under the impression that if you joined the United Order, you donate your belongings to the Bishop, and your property is no longer your own. If you are able to withdraw at will, it ends up being unsustainable of a system because anyone could withdraw at any time for any reason. There has to be some sort of enforceability or the system doesn’t work. I can think of numerous examples where there would be a problem, and it has to do with the inequality in payment for labor. There are people who make millions of dollars, and other people who make only pittance. The person who makes millions will be overburdened in providing his property to everyone else. I mean, hell, even right now the rich are a big bunch of crybabies because they have to pay a higher tax burden. What do you think they’ll be like when they have to donate their property for the common use of the entire group? They will have a hard time with it. I will be honest with you, I will have a hard time right now sharing my Mac with someone else. I prize it over the idea of sharing it with someone else. It has personal things on it. I cannot fathom it belonging to the church and me having to give it up at the whim of the Bishop. No thanks. You think there is someone who is capable of expertly managing who gets what property for what period of time? You think volunteer bishops can do it? They can barely handle the problems they’ve got to deal with right now! If there is no enforceability, the system will not work. Thus why the United Order was never implemented. And frankly, unless we’re all relatively equal in the eternities, it won’t work there either.

  63. Dan on January 7, 2011 at 8:30 am

    Ralph,

    #51,

    Now it turns out that I am less convinced than you are that the fundamental spiritual-intellectual horizon that gave rise to the violence of Communism (and before it, of the Jacobins in the French Revolution)is altogether behind us now.

    You know something, Thomas Jefferson loved the Jacobins…just FYI…

    Then it would be a further question whether this profoundly modern (yes, that means ultimately atheistic) intellectual commitment is at work in other, non-Soviet forms of “communism.” Or “socialism.” Or “Progressivism.” That would be the question.

    Progressivism and liberalism are not socialist.

  64. John C. on January 7, 2011 at 9:56 am

    “Here’s a proposition. The main thing that “the Constitution” means has something to do with the national government being limited by 1- the separation of powers, 2- federalism, and, underlying these 3- the idea of the human person as created with rights under “the laws of nature and nature’s God.””

    Alison,
    I hate to put Ralph’s words in your mouth, but are these the principles (or sort of principles) you had in mind?

    “Now it is clear that all of these have been compromised (and sometimes because failure to honor the 3rd was protected by the institutions of the first, and especially second).”

    Ralph,
    While it is entertaining to watch you and Brad insult one another, I’m curious about the argument. You seem to be adopting Natural Law theory (perhaps because many of the founders were Deists). But, as you have pointed out with the 3/5ths clause, attempts at following Natural Law have a tendency to be culturally bound, so it is difficult to determine which laws are Natural and which are local. People do seem to have a history of confusing the two.

    That said, it seems clear that a limited national government (and local government too, I imagine) is the best form of national government. I rather doubt that anyone here is arguing otherwise. It’s seems like the debate concerns where to place the limits and why. And certainly there was a variety of opinion on the subject amongst the founders, so it shouldn’t be any surprise that there continues to be a debate about it today.

    My question is, “How are we to judge between when a violation of your first two limitations are prompted by a further violation of the third and when the violation of the first two is prompted by an attempt to fulfill the third?” Soviet Socialism and the United Order share a notion that being “rich and poor” is bad, that in some way it violates natural law. Both appear to be unigenerational phenomena (at least on the voluntary level (although, a vast majority of Soviet-style Socialists didn’t enter into the system voluntarily).

    Actually, that shouldn’t be a parenthetical, because I think it is a key difference (and I think you do, too). Marx has won the day (really, he has (everything is commodified, all decisions are economic decisions, economic salvation is salvation, even (especially) amongst the capitalists)). His best idea is to attack the notion of “rich and poor;” His worst is to have insufficient faith in humanity to believe that it can be achieved by something other than bloody revolution.

    The debate has been (and will be) about the best way to get rid of “rich and poor” and, of course, what it means to get rid of “rich and poor.” There are, at least, two options: create more economic equality through whatever means are possible; create indifference to personal economic reality by inspiring people to a higher degree of spirituality. I suppose that I don’t see why those two options can’t be combined (which is why I lean socialist). But I certainly value the notion of personal liberty and I have no desire to enforce my ideas via bloody revolution (just through bloody internet debate) which is why I am not a communist. For folks on the left, the failure to distinguish between bloody revolutionaries (who still exist, but tend to be on the fringe) and social democrats (where the modern progressive (I hate the term progressive) majority resides) is a bit offensive. That’s why all the quotes about Soviet-style Socialism seem out of context; the current liberal movement simply doesn’t read them as applying to it and its ideas (I rather think they are right on this).

    So, if we want to have a debate on the notion of “rich and poor,” why it is bad (according to secular and religious sources), and how to best get rid of it, I’m all for that. I’m a fan of Nicholas Kristof and Thomas Friedman for their reporting on this very issue. However, if we all want to stand around and accuse one another of representing the Adversary in a perpetual re-enactment of the Council of Heaven, I think the conversation would be accurate, but ultimately unhelpful. What do you think?

  65. Mark Brown on January 7, 2011 at 10:34 am

    Given the current political climate, when more and more of America’s founding principles are seen as outdated and flawed…

    Alison, this is where you lose me. The current political climate isn’t about implementing communism, it is all about limiting government’s power to levy taxes. Are you aware that most of our experiments in implementing the United Order required constant and substantial financial inputs (read: taxation) from outside?

    The records of the high council deliberations in the stake which included the Orderville ward attest to the difficult and acrimonious deliberations which came up every time Orderville needed addition funds to stay in operation. The other wards in the stake had to keep coming up with burdensome financial assessments and they got tired of it. In one case, Brigham Young and one of his counselors personally travelled to Panguitch to attend a meeting of the high council which dragged out for 3 painful days. It only ended when BY laid down the law and told the other wards to come up with the money or else.

    Much of the dscussion about The United Order (including discussion originating with the BYU Religious Education department) isn’t very interesting because it doesn’t deal with actual facts but instead talks about the United Order as we wish it had been. In that way, we are exactly like unreconstructed red commies, longing for the glory days of the Soviet ComIntern.

  66. brian larsen on January 7, 2011 at 10:38 am

    @Cynthia #42

    But don’t you see that our fellow brothers and sisters who live in countries with large taxes and many social programs can’t reach their full potential as children of God? that they are limited in their ability to follow the great commandments? that they are in a terrible state of oppression? that, given such a situation, they must be much, much sadder than those who live in the US?

    - like those Scandinavian countries, for instance: http://www.forbes.com/2010/07/14/world-happiest-countries-lifestyle-realestate-gallup-table.html

  67. BHodges on January 7, 2011 at 11:28 am

    66: we must needs initiate new emigrations to Zion. Let the physical gathering recommence. There is plenty of room in Tooele.

  68. Alison Moore Smith on January 7, 2011 at 11:34 am

    Don’t have time to read all the posts yet today. Just skimmed. I hope you’ll take a minute to get a feel for the general tone. I was going to mod a bunch of posts this morning, but decided to leave them for now so you can see them for what they are, if you are willing.

    May I suggest that mocking and name calling and sarcasm and eye-rolling are not actual arguments? They do not prove a point. They do not discredit those you mock — except to those foolish enough to lack a reasonable sense of logic. (Of course, maybe that’s the target, given strength in numbers?)

    My first online experience was in about 1987 on a message board. I made a crack about Merrill Cook, who was running for office in Utah. I said, “Cook is a clown.” That began my first online debate. Later I realized the error and tried for years and years to address only facts and to do so without emotion. But the civility was not returned.

    It is frustrating, to say the least, to try to deal with a behavioral double standard. It’s like trying to run an honest business when your competitors are lying, cheating, and stealing. Or follow the rules of a game when your opponent has cards up his sleeve.

    Far too many times, in frustration, I have used the same tactics to “level the playing field.” I’m not proud of those times, but in some forums and with some people, it’s the only thing that works. It’s the only thing that garners some odd kind of respect. Tit for tat.

    Ralph Hancock said:

    Thanks to Alison for an interesting post, and for braving the ridicule, sarcasm, or, at best, sophisticated nonchalance one can always expect when daring to raise the question whether it might be a mistake to consign the idea constitutionally limited government to what those of the avant-garde used to call the “ash-heap of history.”

    My emphasis on “one can always expect” highlights what is precisely my experience when presenting any conservative-ish idea here and in many other venues.

    While I will easily concede that I am not the most intelligent or educated person here, I am not the only conservative on earth. May I suggest that there are actually many thoughtful, educated, articulate, intelligent people who do hold conservative ideals. To simply dismiss conservative ideas as unsound, boring, or anti-intellectual — and to rush out of the gate with “groans of ‘you’ve got to be kidding me’” — is, frankly, pretty unsound, boring, and anti-intellectual.

    When I read documents surrounding the founding of our country, I am struck by the fact that the founders from all different viewpoints were, generally speaking, able to have discourse on their widely disparate viewpoints that were passionate and heated without the ad hominem and personal attacks.

    I’m asking, once again, that you use some self-restraint and make decent, civil comments or none at all. And it wouldn’t hurt if you posted with your real names. Not a bad idea to be willing to stand behind your words. The accountability helps.

  69. B.Russ on January 7, 2011 at 11:36 am

    AMS,
    If discussing elements of the United Order was your goal, why didn’t you discuss elements of the United Order?

    Or for that matter, if your desire was “to discuss the differences and/or similarities between the United Order and communism.”
    Why didn’t you discuss elements of communism? (as opposed to simply quoting GAs condemning communism)

    Here are 20 quotes by GAs condemning communism; discuss the similarities and differences of Communism and the United Order – doesn’t seem like the straigtest route to your proposed destination.

    The fact that none of the comments thus far have explained the United Order, and only ones from the moderate to left have come close to explaining communism (as anything other than Satan’s design) tends to confirm that we have completely missed your destination, probably as a result of faulty trajectory.

  70. Julie M. Smith on January 7, 2011 at 11:39 am

    “I am struck by the fact that the founders from all different viewpoints were, generally speaking, able to have discourse on their widely disparate viewpoints that were passionate and heated without the ad hominem and personal attacks.”

    I know you said “generally speaking,” but I thought you might get a kick out of this:

  71. Julie M. Smith on January 7, 2011 at 11:40 am

    Huh. Guess we can’t embed links. Cut and paste, my friends:

  72. B.Russ on January 7, 2011 at 11:40 am

    But I certainly value the notion of personal liberty and I have no desire to enforce my ideas via bloody revolution (just through bloody internet debate)

    Granted I’ve only been around for a year, but I’m yet to see you get “bloody” John (or cause “bloody”). I tend to be impressed at your ability to stay above the fray. But maybe you and I have different definitions of “bloody”.

  73. BHodges on January 7, 2011 at 11:41 am

    AMS said “I’ve tried to keep the context as accurate as possible.”

    I’m not sure what you meant by this in your post, I just see a bunch of context-less old quotes. B.Russ put it succinctly.

  74. B.Russ on January 7, 2011 at 11:51 am

    Allison, I see a little bit of irony (just a smidge) in the fact that while lamenting ad hominem attacks and a supposed double standard of you staying above the fray while others insult you and other conservatives, you choose to blockquote:

    Thanks to Alison for an interesting post, and for braving the ridicule, sarcasm, or, at best, sophisticated nonchalance one can always expect when daring to raise the question whether it might be a mistake to consign the idea constitutionally limited government to what those of the avant-garde used to call the “ash-heap of history.”

    Which could easily be used as a demonstration of elitism, waving a hand at the collective that is arguing against Ralph’s points and assuming that all arguments against his case are merely a)ridicule b)sarcasm or c)sophisticated non-chalance and implying that all who refute him are doing so on non-logically based grounds and are “always expect”ed to behave, I don’t know, immaturely?

    I guess it just sounds like an insult to me.

  75. Clark on January 7, 2011 at 12:22 pm

    Assuming, again, that Obama/Pelosi turn us into France, we’re still fine by the terms of this quote. French government does not proscribe the religious life of the people. Again, no problems here.

    While I tend to agree that a lot of the socialism fear mongering is overheated hyberbole at best I’m not sure I can agree with the above. There is after all a burqa ban in France which seems pretty explicitly a proscription about private religious life. All pre-20th century churches are owned by the state. (Admittedly they let Catholics use them free of charge, but that’s still pretty unequal) There’s also been widespread complaining by minority religions about discrimination by the State despite the constitutional guarantee of freedom of religion.

    Admittedly there can be discrimination in the US as well. It’s not as if we always live up to our Constitution. (As Mormons we’re probably acutely aware of this) However a lot of the egregious stuff in France has only been in the last couple of decades.

  76. Cynthia L. on January 7, 2011 at 12:39 pm

    Alison, were you going to address any of the substantive arguments that have been made?

    I would love to hear from you an answer to the question, why did you include the phrase “given the current political climate” in a post about Communism? In other words, how do any of those quotes relate to Communism? I asked this in #42.

    Are you disavowing any application of your post’s quotes to the current political climate in your comment #49? It isn’t clear. You just sort of insulted my sincere use of the word “seeming” (I was trying to be kind and not put words in your mouth, and you sort of attacked me for it).

  77. Dan on January 7, 2011 at 12:54 pm

    Alison,

    May I suggest that mocking and name calling and sarcasm and eye-rolling are not actual arguments?

    Actually they are arguments. You just don’t like them.

    Later I realized the error and tried for years and years to address only facts and to do so without emotion. But the civility was not returned.

    Frankly I’m not sure why anyone thinks calls for civility in political debates might actually amount to much. You do realize that our Founding Fathers were at each others’ throats with exactly the same kinds of things you deride. The petty name calling, the slandering, the incivility. They actually nearly came to blows in the election of 1800.

    My emphasis on “one can always expect” highlights what is precisely my experience when presenting any conservative-ish idea here and in many other venues.

    There may be a reason for this, Alison. Maybe, just maybe, the modern conservative position is based on ridiculous ideas, thus naturally putting itself out for ridicule. Maybe, just maybe, if conservative positions and ideas were more strongly based in reality, they might not be ridiculed as much. Take for instance the “small government” crap. Any conservative that claims he’s for small government, but yet extols the virtues of Ronald Reagan should be laughed at and scorned. Any conservative that claims he’s for fiscal responsibility, but yet extols the virtues of Ronald Reagan should be laughed at and scorned. Any conservative that claims he’s for taking the fight to the enemy and not cutting and running, but yet extols the virtues of Ronald Reagan should be laughed at and scorned. Ronald Reagan tripled the national debt. The size of the government grew dramatically under Ronald Reagan. George W. Bush doubled the national debt, and the size of the government grew dramatically under George W. Bush. Only George H. W. Bush actually did decent things, but the right, dramatically, rebelled against him and turned to some ridiculous Ross Perot dude. You guys on the right keep making ridiculous charges and ridiculous claims and then expect to not be ridiculed.

    I am struck by the fact that the founders from all different viewpoints were, generally speaking, able to have discourse on their widely disparate viewpoints that were passionate and heated without the ad hominem and personal attacks.

    maybe the Founders of Bizzarro World, but the Founding Fathers of the United States of America most definitely used ad hominem and personal attacks.

    Not a bad idea to be willing to stand behind your words. The accountability helps.

    You mean like the writers of the Federalist Papers?….oh wait…

  78. Cynthia L. on January 7, 2011 at 12:55 pm

    Fair enough, Clark. I did think of the burqa ban when I wrote that and thought about trying to qualify the statement, but even with qualifiers it just doesn’t seem like it’s in the same league as what Heber J. Grant was describing. If you want to get into implementation quibbles on practical ability to exercise religious freedom, you could point to endless zoning wars we get into in the US with temple building, notwithstanding our Divinely inspired Constituion (!) (recall we’re supposed to be drawing night-and-day distinctions between us and them). In particular, I haven’t heard reports of Mormons being substantively impeded in our operations in France.

  79. Peter LLC on January 7, 2011 at 12:58 pm

    Don’t have time to read all the posts yet today. Just skimmed. [...] My emphasis on “one can always expect” highlights what is precisely my experience when presenting any conservative-ish idea here.

    So on the one hand your are not interested in engaging with the actual response to the post, but on the other you have clear expectations that the response will be negative–how does this approach to blogging differ from trolling?

    Or is this simply your idea of a “passionate and heated” discourse à la the founding fathers?

  80. Latter-day Guy on January 7, 2011 at 1:17 pm

    May I suggest that there are actually many thoughtful, educated, articulate, intelligent people who do hold conservative ideals. To simply dismiss conservative ideas as unsound, boring, or anti-intellectual — and to rush out of the gate with “groans of ‘you’ve got to be kidding me’” — is, frankly, pretty unsound, boring, and anti-intellectual.

    I agree 100%! Luckily, that isn’t what has happened in this thread. Most of the “groans” here have less to do with the thoughtless rejection of conservative ideas and more to do with the fact that other posters’ substantive arguments/calls for clarification have been largely ignored by you, in favor of repeated complaints about how mean and uncivil people are online. If you want to play the umpire, fine. But don’t whine about how nobody takes you seriously as a player when you haven’t stepped up to bat.

  81. Dave on January 7, 2011 at 1:19 pm

    Alison, thanks for an interesting post. It is not the most direct way to get to a discussion of the Constitution, but that’s where we ended up.

    The Constitution, like the Bible, is multivocal — it speaks with several voices and is open to different interpretations. That is to be expected from a political document the emerged from a committee and incorporated a variety of political compromises. It can be interpreted differently by those with different views, as is evident from the body of cases and commentary that comprise constitutional law. There are two or more sides to every constitutional question or issue.

    Where does this leave the LDS claim that the Constitution is inspired? The oft-repeated LDS policy of political neutrality suggests inspiration does not extend to constitutional interpretations as argued in contemporary public policy debates but only to the general existence of a founding document or tradition that limits government and provides legal rights to citizens. I think any political tradition that embodies limited government and legal rights for citizens has a claim to be inspired.

  82. Cynthia L. on January 7, 2011 at 1:24 pm

    #76: Sorry, quick typo fix:

    “In other words, how do any of those quotes relate to Communism?” should be “In other words, how do any of those quotes relate to “the current political climate”?”

  83. B.Russ on January 7, 2011 at 2:30 pm

    Dan – conflating conservatism with commonly practiced Republicanism – or worse, Reaganism – displays either a profound ignorance or just a complete inability to engage in thoughtful discussion.

    Shut up.

  84. Dan on January 7, 2011 at 2:45 pm

    B.Russ,

    Are you actually telling me that real conservatives never voted for, or ever provided either support or actual money to, Republicans or to Ronald Reagan? Don’t give me none of that crap.

  85. Scott B. on January 7, 2011 at 3:08 pm

    Dan,
    Surely you realize what a ridiculous misreading of B.Russ’s comment your 84 suggests, right? Right?

  86. Dan on January 7, 2011 at 3:11 pm

    dunno Scott. I guess the whole “shut up” thing is throwing me off…

  87. Scott B. on January 7, 2011 at 3:18 pm

    Dan,
    Don’t be daft. B.Russ objected to you equating conservatism and Republicanism–saying that they are one and the same.

    Your accused B.Russ of saying that no conservative ever supported a Republican idea or Reagan the politician.

    He was right to tell you to shut up.

  88. B.Russ on January 7, 2011 at 3:49 pm

    The shut up is a reaction to calling modern conservatism ridiculous, laughable, and scornful. If you start a conversation with the automatic assumption that your adversary is a complete moron, no discussion can take place. You’re better off not talking.

  89. Cynthia L. on January 7, 2011 at 3:56 pm

    Dan, I have to say, I am often uncomfortable to have you take my side in any online discussion. However much I may agree with your political inclinations, I’m not a fan of your style and I think it often severely undermines “our” side. I hesitated for a long time to say this (I was wanting to say something even well before BRuss commented), because there’s just no getting around it being a personal attack rather than sticking to the issues, as I prefer. But given what’s out there already, I thought it was important to give a data point from someone who doesn’t also disagree with your views, so there can be no mistaking it as simply due to that disagreement. Sorry.

  90. Dan on January 7, 2011 at 3:57 pm

    Scott,

    Don’t be daft. B.Russ objected to you equating conservatism and Republicanism–saying that they are one and the same.

    Um, they are one and the same. Conservatives vote Republican, not Democrat, or am I mistaken? Ronald Reagan was a conservative, or am I mistaken? Conservatives praise Ronald Reagan, or am I mistaken?

    Your accused B.Russ of saying that no conservative ever supported a Republican idea or Reagan the politician.

    I think it is you who has misread my comment, Scott. Because I said quite the opposite. B.Russ seemed to indicate that there is a stark difference between conservatives and Republicans. So I questioned that. I said, are you telling me no conservative voted for Republican politicians?

    In any case, we’re off tangent here. I shan’t shut up simply because someone disagrees with me and demands that I shut up. Political discussions, whether we like it or not, are offensive. Equating liberalism with communism is offensive to both liberalism and communism. But yet we’re supposed to treat the words of Ezra Taft Benson on the matter with some sort of respect, as if it is earned or something.

  91. Dan on January 7, 2011 at 4:01 pm

    Cynthia,

    If I personally attacked someone, then I missed it somewhere. Comment #77, which is the source of this particular tangent is not a personal attack on any particular individual. Is there another place on here where I personally attacked someone?

  92. geoffsn on January 7, 2011 at 4:05 pm

    AMS (#52)
    Last warning? What was my ad hominem? The Glenn Beck Tea Party statement? Surely you can forgive me for associating thinly veiled hatred of Progressives (especially Woodrow Wilson) with Glenn Beck and the Tea Party movement. Ralph hasn’t addressed the fact that he conveniently forgot about the actions of the Republicans long before the “original Progressives” he railed against. I can’t blame him for equating all things socialist or communist as anything but godless Stalinist-communism since he did all his studies during the Cold War and would have little to gain and much to lose were he to study the historical details of Soviet Communism now that we have access to the real historical facts. Given the reverence with which you referred to Ralph, I thought I’d try to see who this gentleman and scholar was. I came across this gem:

    Hancock told students that if they are serious about conservatism, they, and he, need to “study diligently to increase our confidence that our intense feelings are common sense … and can be rationally articulated.”

    Sounds to me like picking facts given a set of conclusions rather than using facts to pick your conclusions, but at least he’s encouraging them to study. Ralph, if I got this way out of context, please just let me know.

    Additionally, I addressed the first paragraph of your post with comment #3, and I’d love to hear someone address Stapley’s comment (#2). The rest of your post drifts away from United Order vs. Communism and is apparently about the founding of the US, your perception that people think the “founding principles” are outdated and flawed (could be true, depends on what you consider the “founding principles” to be), and then haphazardly throws in quotes from GA’s during the Cold War differentiating the United Order and Communism (specifically Post-Stalin Soviet Communism). As a result many comments have included questions, presumably for clarification from the author of the OP, like #7, 19, 35, 36, 42, 45, and others. I do find it humorous that you end your comment (#17) with “if you want my motives, just ask me.” and your next comment (#26) says “As for my motives, they are in the post and in my last response.” Really? In your vague post and in your last response in which you told people to ask you about your motives? So perhaps before you decide to mod out all the comments with questions you don’t want to answer, opinions you don’t like, or statements which undermine your political beliefs you could clarify what topics you really want to focus on.

  93. Kent Larsen on January 7, 2011 at 4:19 pm

    I’m getting uncomfortable with the “shut up” rhetoric. Let’s be a little kinder or we’ll have to start moderating the comments.

  94. Naismith on January 7, 2011 at 4:44 pm

    About France…I have wondered what it would be like to serve in ward leadership in someplace like France or Taiwan, which has health care available to all workers. In the US, ward leadership squanders so much time trying to find health care for working poor members, making tough decisions about how to spend fast offering dollars. It would be so wonderful to just focus on ministering the gospel.

    Also, has anyone noticed that the Church is a major beneficiary of the new US healthcare rules? In our family, the kids used to fall off our health insurance when serving missions, and now even the females would stay on the entire duration of their service.

  95. Cynthia L. on January 7, 2011 at 4:49 pm

    (sorry to continue the threadjack but wanted to clarify: #91, Dan: By “there’s just no getting around it being a personal attack” I was referring how *my* comment was inherently attacking you, thus why I hesitated to make my comment at all.)

  96. Brad Dennis on January 7, 2011 at 5:27 pm

    Wow! Fascinating post, and some intense, even abrasive discussion. I’m sad that I didn’t get a chance to pitch in a comment until now, so my comment probably won’t be read or generate much discussion.

    But two brief points:

    1. Communism in its application was vastly different according to place and time. Chinese and Russian communisms were greatly different from each other. Communism under Lenin was greatly different from that under Stalin. In fact Stalin eventually just crushed his own party and took total and complete control of the Soviet Union. Lenin was a true scholar and his communist vision actually made a great deal of sense. I wonder what would have been if Lenin hadn’t had faced one of the bloodiest civil wars in history against the Whites and if he had lived another couple of decades and stemmed the radical elements in his party. Communism wasn’t ever supposed to produce people like Mao and Stalin, they were hijackers.

    2. I don’t think that the arguments that the United Order is different from communism are very well stated, or even convincing for all that matter. Yes the United Order is different from Leninism and Marxism, but it is still a form of communalism. Bear in mind that communism in its pure form is not inherently atheistic or anti-God (although many of its proponents were), it just discriminates against private enterprises. So yes religious competition would be forbidden under a communist state. But the United Order would also discriminate against like competition. Mormonism would be the official state religion. In fact it would probably have low tolerance for religious dissent. J. Reuben doesn’t distinguish between private and public all that well. What makes the land private? Who is responsible for apportioning out the land? Could someone technically buy up a bunch of land from those who wished to sell and become a large landowner? Would large landowners be forced to divvy up their held property by the church? If so, then is their held property still private? But if large landowners can emerge and keep their acquired property, what makes this a United Order? Who is responsible for caring for the poorer class? The large landowners through private initiative, or the church, who would require landowners to give a certain portion?

    Finally, a response to Ralph Hancock (#37), and I hope Ralph reads this, (although he is probably done with this discussion board): You are right that international communism as represented by the Soviets (from Yalta onward) was a significant threat, and yes the old Cold War spy games certainly were a menace to the United States and worthy of extreme and even hyperbolic reaction from the likes of the John Birch society. You are also right that many of our church leaders have openly rejected communism and expressed fondness toward the Constitution. However, I don’t think that Joseph Smith’s Nauvoo or Brigham Young’s early Utah represented much of a US-Constitution based society. JS had the printing press of the Nauvoo Expositor destroyed. BY forbade outside trade and took issue with the Godbeites and the mining industry (which oddly enough saved the Utah economy through outside trade). Despite what they may have said regarding the Constitution or the Founding Fathers, their social experiments were in many ways akin to the Communist experiments. It is only after Utah became fully integrated into the US that we see a shift in economic beliefs and historical memory. Also is the concept of having an economic system in which wealth is equally apportioned and the responsibility over the means of production equally divided through the oversight of a state or state-like institution inherently evil?

  97. Brad Dennis on January 7, 2011 at 5:33 pm

    One side note on the Related Resources. I saw the youtube video of Barack Obama vs. Ezra Taft Benson and I simply don’t see the relevance of it. If anything it seems to have been produced by a Tea Partier/Glenn Beck viewer since it also quotes Van Jones (the former Green Jobs czar for Obama whom Glenn Beck attacked for his alleged former affiliation with Communism) on the Constitution. As far as Obama’s current policies are concerned, he is almost like an old Republican, as pro-free market as the rest of them. I don’t think that there is much difference between Ezra Taft Benson’s vision of the Constitution and that of Obama.

  98. geoffsn on January 7, 2011 at 6:09 pm

    Brad (#97)
    Not too surprising given that Prof. Ogletree thought Barack and Michelle were Republicans when they were at Harvard Law.
    http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/tue-november-4-2008/indecision-2008–charles-ogletree

  99. M. Buxton on January 7, 2011 at 6:40 pm

    My advice to Alison is to go back and read Elder Bednar’s talk on not taking offense. I must admit I was amused when (in my view) Alison jumped all over Julie for her (admittedly) coy comment about selective quotation. Not sure why someone who is one of site’s bloggers lets her feathers get ruffled/knickers in a twist so easily. Compared to many, many online discussions, I think this one has been fairly civil. Let’s not cut off debate by taking umbrage any time anyone disagrees with us (even if they do so in a somewhat playful way).

    All that said, I think there is likely to be little disagreement with the proposition that “Godless communism” is, in fact, very different from the United Order. There are, however, obvious and important parallels between socialist principles and the law of consecration. Pretending that these parallels don’t exist would be a mistake. Allison’s quotes obviously come out of a particular historical context–and are best understood as part of that context. However, I think it is difficult not to be struck by the radical egalitarianism of the early Christians (as described in Acts), the society of Fourth Nephi, and the United Order. Did these social orders differ drastically from Marxist-Leninist communism? Yes, particuarlly because of communism’s forceful rejection of God. But Zion also differs drastically from the type of free market capitalism advanced by conservatives in the United States today.

  100. Kaimi on January 7, 2011 at 6:48 pm

    “Maybe calculating some human being as only 3/5ths of a person?”

    This statement reflects a common and mistaken understanding of Constitutional treatment of slaves.

    The problem is *not* that the Constitution considered slaves as 3/5ths of a person.

    The problem is that it did not protect them *at all.*

    Blacks could not vote and were severely restricted in exercise of their rights. This was *not* the doing of the 3/5ths clause. It was instead the product of state slave codes, combined with a Constitution which permitted slavery and court decisions which repeatedly upheld the regime (most notoriously in Dred Scott).

    The 3/5ths clause was *not* about giving slaves only 3/5ths of the protection of anyone else, which is too often how it is perceived today.

    Rather, the 3/5ths clause dealt with representation in the House. It was a clause which let Southern states (that is, slaves’ oppressors) count them at 3/5ths for census purposes in determining congressional representation.

    Given the backdrop of slavery itself, the unanimous position of slavery opponents was that it would have been far preferable not to count slaves *at all.* Indeed, if slaves had been counted as full persons for representation purposes (while denied meaningful constitutional protection anywhere else), it would have been much worse. It would have done nothing to help slaves themselves; it would only have further empowered pro-slavery Southern politicians.

  101. Chris H. on January 7, 2011 at 7:31 pm

    Damn. I go on a cruise and T and S gets fun. Oh well.

  102. Jon on January 7, 2011 at 7:52 pm

    This blog post has gone wild. I guess that’s politics for you. More controversial than religion itself. I guess it’s that way since what other entity tries to have unrighteous dominion over others.

    @Dan,

    I got my information about United Order from quotes like the ones above which suggest them being voluntary and that you own your own property. I haven’t studied it at all so I know that quotes could be wrong about UO. Either way, we can tell they didn’t work since they didn’t foster innovation and betterment of lives like the free market does.

    @All,

    What’s the difference between Repubs and Dems?

    If you objectively compare the two parties they are pretty much the same. Lets see, Bush increased socialized health care more than any other previous president, he got us into two wars (one where all the reasons have been proven false), and he took away many of our civil liberties (patriot act, Guantanamo, etc.). Obama has increased socialized health care more than any previous president, he has continued two unpopular wars (after receiving the Nobel Peace prize) and has expanded or increased them to other countries (Yemen, Pakistan, Iran (economic sanctions is a form of war), etc.), he has taken away our civil liberties (made it possible to kill American citizens by presidential decree, etc.).

    Neither party is socialist, communist, capitalist, etc. They can be both categorized under the heading mercantilist. Both serve their masters corporate America (the banks, etc).

  103. Dan on January 7, 2011 at 8:03 pm

    Jon,

    I guess it’s that way since what other entity tries to have unrighteous dominion over others.

    um, Religion?

  104. Jon on January 7, 2011 at 8:27 pm

    @Dan,

    True, but at least, in this day and age, religion can’t use violence to make you obey. At least the mormon church doesn’t.

  105. Kaimi on January 7, 2011 at 8:37 pm

    “Damn. I go on a cruise and T and S gets fun.”

    Correlation, or causation?

    (Just kidding, of course.)

  106. Chris H. on January 7, 2011 at 8:42 pm

    Cannot be sure. The best part is that the motivation for the post was a shot at a comment be a fellow perma. You all you have a back channel where you can work out your differences in private. Of course, I prefer it when AMS takes shots at you, Kaimi, but shot at Kent are fun two.

    There are many good posts on this topic on the bloggernacle. Most by RAF, the rest by me.

  107. Jon on January 7, 2011 at 9:14 pm

    geoffsn,

    Awesome, yes, I guess the church uses force when it shouldn’t either.

    There is a difference between the government’s force and the churches though. Government uses it against everyone, even on your own property. The church doesn’t, or shouldn’t, use force against others as long as it’s not on their property. Just like when someone breaks into your house at night you have a right to shoot and kill if you deem it necessary (see Exodus). Of course, ideally you wouldn’t kill anyone and you would use some other means to deter the trespasser.

    This is all goes back to the second great commandment and natural law and property rights. Although the church did have that natural right to protect their property as they saw fit, their punishment and reaction were definitely over the top (come on, it was the middle of the night, no big deal).

    For this reason I have to disagree with the church when they want to make anti-gay marriage laws. I don’t think government should have anything to do with marriage.

  108. Dan on January 7, 2011 at 9:24 pm

    Jon,

    There is a difference between the government’s force and the churches though.

    Yeah, one is over temporal, temporary things, the other lasts all of eternity… ;)

  109. Reagan Republican on January 7, 2011 at 9:39 pm

    @Dan (109)

    LOL.

  110. Scott B. on January 7, 2011 at 10:20 pm

    Dan (90),

    I think it is you who has misread my comment, Scott. Because I said quite the opposite. B.Russ seemed to indicate that there is a stark difference between conservatives and Republicans. So I questioned that. I said, are you telling me no conservative voted for Republican politicians?

    Daft again, Daniel. You are advancing the idea that a conservative voting or supporting a Republican indicates that they are one and the same. It indicates no such thing, and you know it. In a 2-party system, it can mean as little as “I don’t like the current Democrat candidate.”

    For your oh-so-clever retort to B.Russ to mean anything at all, it would require a demonstration that every single Conservative B.Russ is referring to has, not only an unblemished history of voting straight-party Republican, but also an unblemished history of never supporting anything non-Republican. I am a Conservative, but I sure as hell am not a Republican. The fact that I have, in some instances, voted for various Republicans, does not make me a Republican.

    You know that Conservatives are not synonymous with Republicans just as well as you know that Liberals are not synonymous with Democrats. It’s fun and cute for you to make the kind of accusatory “Are you saying….!?!?” and “So you’re saying…?!?!?” for which you’re so well known, but really–it’s a very tiresome form of argument.

  111. Dan on January 7, 2011 at 10:37 pm

    Dude, Scott, let it go, man.

  112. SUNNofaB.C.Rich on January 7, 2011 at 10:56 pm

    So did it really suck when you had to move from a communist country to the United States, Dan?

  113. Jeremy on January 8, 2011 at 2:05 am

    Alison: I don’t have to invoke the United Order to justify my moderate-progressive political views, so I feel like you’re really railing against a straw man here.

    And to me, your calls for civility ring hollow because your entire post is so distended with presumption about and caricature of my political views. I don’t think our country’s founding principles are “quaint.” I do, however, think that current rightwing articulations of those principles are simplistic, self-serving, and self-righteous.

    I also think that the rightwing’s constant, inane comparisons of Obama’s moderate-progressive positions to communist tyranny constitutes an outrageous, self-indulgent oppression fantasy. How else could so many conservatives be convinced that the President is a non-citizen and that he raised their taxes last year (both of which are, of course, patently false)?

    Also, from my perspective, the right’s constant, shameful demonization of Obama, and the constant comparisons of his agenda to communism, fly in the face of the Brethren’s clear, direct, and recent counsel to avoid “the politics of fear and rhetorical extremism that render civil discussion impossible.”

  114. Mommie Dearest on January 8, 2011 at 3:32 am

    If we can evolve beyond some clearly flawed constitutional principles and dated political positions do you think we could evolve beyond the penchant we have for verbal attacks and viciousness in our political debate?

    I’d also like to say thank you to Ralph Hancock. Whenever I see his name on a comment, I know I’ve got a little banquet waiting. Sometimes it’s just what I felt, but better expressed. Sometimes it may be a little off my taste, but it’s always worth examining thoughtfully.

  115. Ralph Hancock on January 8, 2011 at 5:31 am

    Come, let us reason together.
    It is remarkable how difficult it is to have a calm, polite discussion on anything connected with politics. Evidently there are a lot of already hurt feelings on both (or all) sides – people feeling they are habitually misunderstood and maligned.
    This, I have to admit is my case. The difficulty with any form of intellectually-developed conservatism is that the intellectual mainstream, which is fundamentally liberal – yes, I know this would require more argument, if you don’t see it that way – feels very confident and within its rights in dismissing any view that does not share its fundamental assumptions as discredited, “un-intellectual,” moronic. (By “mainstream” I don’t mean , say, opinions of the majority of Americans. I mean the dominant paradigm(s) of the more articulate classes that dominate in higher education and, yes, the “mainstream media.” Most of the time these paradigms are invisible because, well, they’re paradigms, and generally unquestioned. Thus: there are stupid people associated with the Tea Party, or there are stupid things Glen Beck has said, and therefore it’s clear we don’t need to take seriously people who are alarmed about the growth of government.
    How would I define the essence of this mainstream? Well, that’s the kind of long question that is hard to include in a blog comment or post, but let’s start with this: the liberal mainstream takes it to be obvious that government is a “secular matter,” not deeply connected to religious beliefs or “personal” morality, and that “democracy” is, let’s say, autonomous, self-grounding, just a tool for securing personal freedom and some degree of economic security that people work out collectively, pragmatically. The conservative intellectual position (or the one that interests me – you can see I’m not at all a libertarian) holds instead that democracy necessarily draws upon moral/ religious reserves that it does not itself create. Now I’m perfectly aware that this characterization and the conservative position I have described are contestable, but I thought they might clarify some of the issues we’re trying to discuss.
    Of course people within both paradigms disagree with those holding the others. Liberals tend to dismiss conservative assumptions, and conservatives tend just as much to dismiss liberal assumptions. But actually I believe there is an asymmetry, and it is this asymmetry, I confess most abjectly, that can make me a little grouchy. Unlearned conservatives tend straightforwardly to reject liberal assumptions, when they can see them, as immoral, impious, contrary to divine writ, or whatever. This, obviously, is not the most effective way to invite careful discussion and deliberation. But liberals tend to dismiss conservative assumptions as … well, just stupid, unsophisticated, intellectually groundless. That is, liberals enjoy a deep sense of being supported by the dominant intellectual mainstream, and they take it to be obvious that conservatives are just stupid.
    Of course many conservatives are just stupid, because many people are just stupid. And even more people are just stupid when they passionate politically. I don’t know if I could get you to agree at the outset that, yes, many conservatives are stupid and many liberals are stupid – and that we don’t make much progress just invoking again and again the stupid positions that can be found on each side. But here is the asymmetry: liberals are very confident that conservatism itself is just stupid, whereas ordinary conservative folk (not me, it goes without saying ?) are worried that liberals are smarter than them, that the liberal mainstream is in possession of some sophistication that goes along with higher degrees (the universities being flagrantly dominated by left-liberalism) and media-cultural prominence. Conservatives often lack the intellectual resources to understand the contestability of liberal assumptions, but liberals think that every educated person knows that conservative assumptions are just a relic of past prejudices.
    Of course I think, and I can argue (and have argued in pages that won’t fit here), that a deeper intellectual investigation exposes the frailty of liberal assumptions and opens the possibility of deep articulations of more conservative premises. But you don’t need to agree with me to see the asymmetry I’m trying to explain. I suppose, though, that if you think what I propose re. deeply intellectual conservatism is impossible, then you must think that stupid conservatives are truly representative of conservatism, whereas stupid liberalism is just an aberration.
    Do I think liberalism is stupid? Well, I observe that it can be stupid. But there are smart and good liberals involved in this conversation, and their smartness and goodness sometimes shines through their impatience with the stupidity of conservatism. But yes, while I’m being confessional and candid, let me avow that, yes, I indeed think liberalism, even at the highest level is over-confident, complacent, and therefore blind and, yes, even dangerous. By highest levels, I might mean someone like John Rawls, or Richard Rorty (OK, they’re dead now, but they’re still pretty alive), but if you wish I could go back through JS Mill to Locke and to the foundations of liberal individualism in Hobbes. But you don’t wish.
    So, of course, we can go on endlessly pointing out some conservatives who are smarter than some liberals, or some liberals who are smarter than some conservatives – but really, the question is, what would the very smartest position be, more like the basic liberal assumptions, or more like the conservative. I think the latter, but of course I recognize smart people can disagree. But let’s just try to be clearer what we’re disagreeing about. But to do so we would have to navigate around the asymmetry I’ve described.
    Now, someone here has already dismissed this whole approach of mine as a prejudice resulting from the way I happen to have been educated, or perhaps just from my being old (but I was told on good authority that 59 is the new 39! ? ), remembering ancient history like the Cold War, etc. Of course I’m less sure that all the questions of 20th century ideology and its ravages are now mere historical curiosities. In any case, if you have an approach to the big picture, then share it, don’t just dismiss mine as just how I happen to have been educated (under the influence of the notorious Leo Strauss, for example… to read my stinging critique of Straussianism, by the way, look for the article “What Was Political Philosophy” in Political Science Reviewer a couple of years ago. Or for the chapter on Strauss & Straussians in my forthcoming The Responsibility of Reason, Rowman & Littlefield. Yes, you can accuse me of self-publicizing here, but the relevant point is that you might miss something by assuming you can readily discern the genealogy of my prejudices).
    OK, I was next going to try to reframe some of the basic constitutional issues, but clearly I’ve run out of space, and, as it happens, time.
    I dare hope I might have contributed to more productive discussion, but we’ll see…

  116. Chris H. on January 8, 2011 at 8:30 am

    I am not sure is productive discussion as Times and Seasons is possible. That said, there are many discussions taking place here and few of them are achieving much in the way of communication.

    I attended a panel discussion at BYU where Ralph and others encouraged their students to look beyond Beck and Skousen for the roots of their conservatism. Some of the students reacted with anger. How dare these intellectuals challenge the good work of Brother Beck. At the same time, Ralph is correct to say that the left (obviously, including me) are quick to dismiss conservative assumptions. My reaction to Straussians is not all that different than Ralph’s reaction to Rawlsians. It is a mixture of intellectual disagreements and “not this junk, again.”

    However, few here are really interested in Rawls, Rorty, Mill, Locke, or Hobbes. Even Strauss. This is an ugly street fight. It is the failure of the blog format. It is also the result of a post which should be titled “Why Does Kent Hate the General Authorites and Jesus.”

    I have a serious intellectual interest in socialism. However, in the bloggernacle, this usually just result in somebody cutting and pasting a long block quote from Ezra Taft Benson as though they are clever (this is what the OP is here). This is as annoying as the person above who equated Ralphs’s initial quote with a Glenn Beck Tea Party meeting. Too many stupid people thinking that they are clever.

    I think this discussion can be had. This is obviously not the format for it.

  117. Chris H. on January 8, 2011 at 8:32 am

    “I am not sure is productive discussion as Times and Seasons is possible.”

    That should be “I am not sure if productive discussion at Times and Seasons is possible.”

    Sorry if that sounds rude.

  118. John C. on January 8, 2011 at 8:58 am

    Ralph,
    I’m fine being a stupid liberal or conservative (I actually cling to the label moderate because I see a lot of good and bad in both movements and I don’t have sufficient gumption to choose one over another). There are certainly plenty of smart conservatives. I think that the assymetry that you see is one that actually plays out on both sides of the aisle. Liberals tend to see conservatives as the establishment (perhaps not in academia, but in every other aspect of human life (okay, maybe not entertainment, either)). As a result, they too are left to wonder if they have missed something (its the liberal version of noble savagery). Perhaps all their sophistication is empty and the conservatives, by arguing for a system that generally seems to work, are smarter. It’s a perpetual situation of feeling outside and looking in that drives most intellectual (and unintellectual) debate. It may be that the assymetry is there, but I think it continues to be forever in the eye of the beholder (whether they be liberal or conservative).

  119. Dan on January 8, 2011 at 9:21 am

    Ralph,

    #116,

    The difficulty with any form of intellectually-developed conservatism is that the intellectual mainstream, which is fundamentally liberal – yes, I know this would require more argument, if you don’t see it that way – feels very confident and within its rights in dismissing any view that does not share its fundamental assumptions as discredited, “un-intellectual,” moronic.

    This implies that intellectual liberalism has not actually considered the points raised up by conservatives, which is simply not true.

    therefore it’s clear we don’t need to take seriously people who are alarmed about the growth of government.

    I would love to see “mainstream” conservatism be “alarmed about the growth of government” when Republicans are in charge. You guys on the right think we don’t pay attention to you guys on the right when Republicans are in charge and when they dramatically increase the size of the government. Where was the outrage at the growth of the government under Ronald Reagan? Where was the outrage at the growth of the government under George W. Bush? Isn’t it funny that “mainstream” conservatism only seems to be truly concerned about the growth of government when a Democrat is in charge? This is why I ridicule conservatives. This is why I cannot take them seriously, Ralph. They don’t actually truly care about the growth of the government. They are only actually concerned about the growth of the government when Democrats are in charge.

    the liberal mainstream takes it to be obvious that government is a “secular matter,” not deeply connected to religious beliefs or “personal” morality, and that “democracy” is, let’s say, autonomous, self-grounding, just a tool for securing personal freedom and some degree of economic security that people work out collectively, pragmatically.

    Is that not the position of the Founding Fathers? I’m not going to quibble with your hedges in there over your phrasing of religious beliefs or personal morality, because liberals do ground their morals within this framework, but this seems to be what the Founding Fathers had in mind with this country. They certainly didn’t build the country on strong religious doctrine. That’s what they wanted to get away from: a religious state.

  120. Peter LLC on January 8, 2011 at 11:29 am

    Too many stupid people thinking that they are clever

    If the shoe fits…

  121. Mark D. on January 8, 2011 at 11:58 am

    The distinction between individuals freely deciding to consecrate their property and being compelled to do so is not particularly relevant to contemporary political debates in a democratic republic where the government derives its legitimate power to tax the citizenry and do things like promote the general welfare from the consent of the governed under a (putatively) inspired Constitution.

    That is quite the non sequitur. Since when is a democratic majority going to vote to consecrate not only their own property, but the property of everyone else as well? Isn’t there just a shade of difference in the legitimacy of the government spending ~20% of GDP and 100 percent?

    And if this is the only route to equality of condition, why have a church (let alone a United Order) at all? Just vote it in. The only reason for a United Order to exist independent and aside from the government is to bring about a Zion society by persuasion rather than by compulsion.

    What is the principled difference between voting away the fruits of other’s labor and outlawing the opening of businesses on Sunday, prohibiting the consumption of alcohol, the smoking of cigarettes, the production and viewing of pornography and indecent material, profanity, fornication and adultery, and the publication of religious heresies? The latter offenses are wrong in God’s eyes, are they not? So let’s vote to make them illegal and rid the world of sin.

  122. Cynthia L. on January 8, 2011 at 12:14 pm

    I dare hope I might have contributed to more productive discussion, but we’ll see…

    Ralph, that’s a lovely treatise on not viewing each other as stupid. However, that’s a topic that could have been dispatched in a sentence or two so you could actually contribute to the discussion. A lot of the frustration everyone is feeling in this thread is that many, many, many substantive questions and criticisms have been raised about the post and subsequent comments. But from you and Alison we get no substance only, “hey, lets not be mean!”

    PLEASE, Dan and Alison, ignore the few who choose to engage in bombast (just delete them!) and talk to the rest of us who have been patiently waiting for responses from you.

    (those “who engage in bombast”—Dan, I’m looking at you! and blaming your discourse style for the fact that we missed a great opportunity to hear Ralph elucidate some actual substantive points, but instead Dan, YOU have robbed us of that by compelling Ralph to address the flies in the style ointment instead. Dan, please watch this video*, and realize that when you go all off the handle in your comments, you are actually letting your opponents off EASY, not beating them extra hard! Because they can then address your ill-tempered style and evade addressing the substance. You’ve let them slip away! /end rant. Sorry to everyone else.)

    * racism or sounding racist has nothing to do with the discussion, but the point I’m hoping you will glean from the video is a more general one: that when you don’t carefully circumscribe your comments, you give your opponents a chance to derail the conversation.

  123. Jack on January 8, 2011 at 12:20 pm

    “They certainly didn’t build the country on strong religious doctrine. That’s what they wanted to get away from: a religious state.”

    Context, context. A religious culture was already dominant. What the founders wanted was a state that didn’t get in the way of religion.

  124. Cynthia L. on January 8, 2011 at 12:20 pm

    “hey, lets not be mean!”

    Ok, sorry, that sounds way too dismissive of what was really an excellent piece of writing from Ralph. My point was that it was not on the topic of the post, and no slight was intended on what it is in its own right.

  125. Dan on January 8, 2011 at 12:59 pm

    Cynthia,

    You’re not going to let this die now, are you. I’m not going to get into it. I’ve reviewed my comments and aside from a fairly strong statement in #77, I cannot see what comments of mine possibly vex you so much on this post. In a poorly directed post such as this one (what exactly are we debating or discussing here anyways?), who knows what is off topic…and that’s all I’ve got to say on this tangent of a tangent.

  126. Dan on January 8, 2011 at 1:04 pm

    Jack,

    What the founders wanted was a state that didn’t get in the way of religion.

    That doesn’t make sense. Over in Europe, which state got in the way of religion? Can you name me a secular state that existed before the creation of the United States of America? Was there a state at any point in history that got in the way of religion? You cannot count a state that is repressive toward minority religions when that state is run by some form of religion. So for example, you cannot claim Rome. You cannot claim France. Italy. Great Britain. Why would the Founders be concerned about states getting in the way of religions when this never occurred? Was it not the opposite, that the Founders were concerned that religions used the state to squash the freedoms of those not belonging to the majority religion? Is that not the case over in Europe in the 1700s? Was that not one of the major reasons for the large emigration of peoples from the Old World to the New?

  127. Jack on January 8, 2011 at 1:19 pm

    “Over in Europe, which state got in the way of religion?”

    C’mon, man. Shall I clarify be saying “the free exercise there of?”

  128. Dan on January 8, 2011 at 1:28 pm

    Jack,

    Yes, please clarify. Over in Europe, citizens did not have the right to the free exercise thereof of their religion because the Catholic Church and the Anglican Church and the Lutheran Church persecuted smaller faiths through the use of the state. The Founders said that in America, everyone shall have the right to freely exercise their religion as they please, and that freedom is protected by the state. The Catholic Church would have no right in America to use the powers of the state to persecute other religions. The Anglican Church would have no right in America to use the powers of the state to persecute other religions.

    I ask again, Jack, which states in Europe got in the way of religion?

  129. Alison Moore Smith on January 8, 2011 at 1:51 pm

    For the past couple of days I’ve been very busy and not able to spend much time responding. To be completely honest, the initial uncivil response made it more burdensome than enjoyable. I simply hoped for a discussion about an issue that interested me. I should have none better, eh? My bad.

    Anyway, without further ado, I will now unceremoniously close the comments. Maybe I’l take up the discussion at a later point. Best.