Conservative Professor

The Battle over Texas by Prof. Kyle Scott

Dr. Kyle Scott, The Conservative Professor from 1070 AM radio

Dr. Kyle Scott
The Conservative Professor

By: profkylescott (Diary) | June 25th, 2014 at 10:58 PM | View Red State Blog Article
(Formatting added by rhl)

Now is the time to get Joe Straus out

The most important race in Texas is the one you haven’t heard about. Texas Representative Scott Turner is making his way around Texas, taking his conservative message directly to the people, to explain why he, and not Joe Straus, should be Speaker in the Texas House of Representatives. The message is simple: Without a conservative Speaker there will be no conservative legislation. Conservative leadership in the House is required if Texas wants conservative solutions to the challenges that lie ahead. The Lt. Governor and the Governor are powerful positions in the Texas state government, but without a conservative Speaker in the House, Texans will have to brace themselves for continued excessive spending and liberal social agenda.


Speaker Joe Straus

The Speaker controls the committee assignments and which pieces of legislation are put into which committee. In practice this means no legislation is likely to see a floor vote unless it receives the speaker’s blessing. Joe Straus successfully won the speakership first in 2009 when he and ten other Republicans, known as the “Gang of 11”, banded together with the Democrats in the House to oust Tom Craddick. Since taking over, Straus has consistently ranked among the most liberal Republicans in the House, and as long as he holds the speakership, only liberal legislation will get through. Representatives who want the choicest committee assignments require the Speaker’s favor, which means backing his legislation.

Rep. Scott Turner

Rep. Scott Turner

Scott Turner offers Texas the best alternative to Joe Straus. Turner is unafraid to challenge Straus’ leadership. Fear of Straus’ retribution is one reason there have been so few challengers. If Turner loses, he will be ostracized in the House by Straus and lose any influence he might have. Turner has the strength of character necessary to take on Straus. Also, Turner is an unwavering conservative with an impeccable voting record. Rep. Scott Turner received a 100% rating from Texans for Fiscal Responsibility and an equally conservative ranking from Rice University’s Mark Jones writing for the Texas Tribune.

Given the positive economic trajectory our state is on as a result of the boom in the energy sector, it appears everything is fine and this is much ado about nothing. In good economic times, it’s easy to look the other way when confronted with challenges. Or as the Latin writer Publilius Syrus wrote, “Anyone can hold the helm in calm seas.” But the good times don’t last forever and the gains during those times can be turned into losses down the road under poor leadership. The time to make changes is when the problems are still manageable and our judgment is unclouded by immediate demands. At present, we can rationally comprehend the differences between Straus and Turner and then assess whether Straus’ values align with those of other conservatives. We have the time to calmly deliberate about what’s best for Texas without the burden of a down economy looming over us. If we wait until things take a turn for the worse—because they will under poor leadership—we are more likely to make a rash decision. Now is the time to act by contacting representatives in the House and let them know who conservatives want as the Speaker come January 2015.

With Dan Patrick as Lt. Governor and Greg Abbott in the governor’s seat, Scott Turner would complete the conservative triumvirate that Texas needs to properly navigate next session and beyond. During the 83rd legislature, Texas raided the rainy day fund and increased its spending by more than $22 billion. Pressing issues like immigration, roads, education, energy and water require real solutions and not just bags of money thrown at them as band aids.

The Speaker is not elected by the people of Texas but by the members of the House. So the best way to get Straus out of the speakership is to put pressure on those representatives. And, if they won’t do it, elect someone who will. As the old adage goes: We will never change our leaders until we change the people who elect them. Texas needs Rep. Scott Turner as our next Speaker of the House.

One way to win the immigration debate

by Kyle Scott

Here is an article on winning the immigration argument by Kyle Scott, published in the Desert News.

What gets lost in the immigration debate is the importance of tradition and custom. Conservatives can clearly articulate pragmatic reasons why we need stronger controls on immigration, but we often neglect the more nuanced, and perhaps more important, reasons for protecting our borders.

A core value for conservatives is a belief in an enduring moral order that is revealed to us through custom, convention and continuity. Without an adherence to tradition and custom, societies must rely exclusively on laws, which means, they must look to the government rather than institutions such as family and church for guidance. Immigration threatens to undermine tradition and custom in the U.S. Unless immigrants are asked to assimilate, we will lose what binds us as a people and relegates the government to the background. Without a common understanding and history, the government is pushed to the foreground, unhinged from anything of meaning or lasting value.

If we continue to be a nation that welcomes immigrants but does not ask them to take our norms, customs and history as their own, then we are left with no choice but to have a government define for us who we are as a people. Furthermore, in a government that is increasingly being pushed toward radical democracy, there is a risk that the laws promulgated will be without ethical merit.

Liberty under God and law, as Tocqueville formulated it, is distinct from the liberty argued for by those who favor radical democracy. As we move closer toward a radically democratic regime, we also move toward a system in which the will of the individual is glorified and fewer restraints are placed around human desires. Liberty is sacrificed when pure democracy is pursued because pure democracy does not recognize an enduring moral order or convention; it only recognizes the will of the majority. Without natural limits, democratic government is nothing more than a relativistic anarchy cloaked in the misappropriated rhetoric of liberty and equality.

Progressives encourage a “radical emancipation from natural limits and moral restraints and from a transcendent order above the will of men.” However, if man dislodges himself from what he needs, from what is natural, he will fail to achieve fulfillment, happiness and dignity.

I agree with Tocqueville’s assessment that collectivism originates in radical individualism. Because men need limits, and radical individualism rejects all natural limits and thereby destroys human connections, the end result of radical individualism — and thus radical democracy — is a dependence upon an impersonal “schoolmaster.” Radical individualism will destroy traditional values and in turn force people to turn toward the government for fulfillment, safety and guidance. The process from radical individualism to collectivism will enervate the human soul and destroy the capacity for individual initiative and moral and civic judgment. Obedience to an enduring moral order, adherence to custom, convention, and continuity, and belief in things established through immemorial usage is required for liberty and self government.

Our political climate rarely leaves time or space for sincere reflection. Grandstanding has been substituted for statesmanship, and talking points have taken the place of principle. If we are to create a politics which can rise above the gutter, we must take the first step of identifying core principles and why we adhere to them. Conservatism recognizes man has limits and must reconcile himself to those natural limits. From this fundamental truth springs conservatism and the policies which are consistent with conservative ideals. If we do not take this as the fundamental reason for securing our borders, we will lose the moral high ground and eventually lose the political battle.

Kyle Scott is a professor of political science at University of Houston and a trustee of the Lone Star College System. Dr. Scott, the Conservative Professor has a blog at kyleascott.

Part 3: What We Need for Victory in 2014, Part II

Russell KirkPART 3: What We Need for Victory in 2014, Part II

By Dr. Kyle Scott, The Conervative Professor

From his blog

The first three principles of conservatism given by Russell Kirk are belief in an enduring moral order, adherence to custom, convention, and continuity, and belief in what may be called the principle of prescription—that is, of things established by immemorial usage. Readers will recognize how the argument developed here applies to same sex marriage and other threats to tradition. These first three principles may sound stifling, but I will demonstrate how adherence to these principles is the only way self-government can be maintained and liberty protected.

Liberty under God and Law, as Tocqueville formulated it, is distinct from the liberty argued for by those who favor radical democracy. As we move closer toward a radically democratic regime, we also move toward a system in which the will of the individual is glorified and fewer restraints are placed around human desires. Responsible liberty, dignified liberty, is sacrificed when pure democracy is pursued because pure democracy does not recognize an enduring moral order; it only recognizes the will of the majority. But self-government is sustainable only when man operates within traditional limits.

Daniel J. Mahoney writes, “unencumbered choice can never be the sole-criterion for judging the thought and action of human beings. Liberty understood as pure freedom unconnected to larger ends and purposes fatally undermines the dialectics of truth and liberty, and liberty and virtue, that define true human existence.” This touches upon a truth about the human condition, which is that man is an ever-wandering, searching being who can never be satisfied by looking within himself. Man is incomplete and cannot complete himself or his longings by staying within himself. Man must reconcile himself to his limited capacity and recognize that there is an enduring moral order he must submit to as well as the fact that those who have come before him can offer guidance.

It is undignified to undermine traditional structures for doing so separates man from what he needs to attain his dignity. Per Aristotle, man can only reach his telos within a community whose traditional order he acts according to. To be happy and complete—not to mention moral—man must act within traditional boundaries so long as those boundaries reflect an enduring moral order. All people—to a greater or lesser degree—are like children testing their boundaries. Responsible parents realize they must set boundaries for their children otherwise they risk having a child who has no direction, sense of self or natural restraint. The same is true of a citizen who seeks to unhinge himself from the traditional order. A person with no limits will be nihilistic, disenchanted, and doomed to failure.

Progressives encourage a “radical emancipation from natural limits and moral restraints and from a transcendent order above the will of men.” However, if man dislodges himself from what he needs, from what is natural, he will fail to achieve fulfillment, happiness, and dignity.

I agree with Tocqueville’s assessment that collectivism originates in radical individualism. Because men need limits, and radical individualism rejects all natural limits and thereby destroys human connections, the end result of radical individualism—and thus radical democracy—is a dependence upon an impersonal ‘schoolmaster.’ Radical individualism will destroy traditional values and in turn force people to turn toward the government for fulfillment, safety and guidance. The process from radical individualism to collectivism will enervate the human soul and destroy the capacity for individual initiative and moral and civic judgment. Obedience to an enduring moral order, adherence to custom, convention, and continuity, and belief in things established immemorial usage is required for liberty and self-government. Man is in need of limits. Without natural limits, democratic government is nothing more than a relativistic anarchy cloaked in the misappropriated rhetoric of liberty and equality.

INTRO: Why We Need Conservatives

by Kyle Scott, The Conservative Professor

INTRO: What is Conservatism?

From Dr. Scott’s blog

Dr. Kyle Scott, The Conservative Professor

The government is rapidly making policy changes that deal with marriage, guns, the military, immigration and nearly every other facet of our public and private lives. These changes are taking place rapidly because Republicans seem to be giving into the demands of Democrats with recent speeches by Eric Cantor and other Republicans whose positions on immigration and same sex marriage have quickly “evolved” over the past few months. These developments illuminate the need for conservatism and its role in balancing the liberal desire for rapid change.

Change in and of itself is not always a bad thing. The problem is not with change necessarily but with the nature and rapidity of the change. If you have ever worked for a company that changed management you might know the feeling. When new management comes in and introduces immediate changes, there is backlash among the employees. The same thing happens with rapid government reform. Our understanding of what to expect and what is expected of us is disrupted with abrupt and radical change. This unsettles the existing order as well as the individuals within it to the point where society’s order is thrown into question. If these sorts of changes are instituted on a regular basis, the existence of the society is put at risk. Our understanding of marriage, education, constitutionally protected rights and healthcare are under assault from a government that thinks it knows what is best.

The liberal establishment’s desire is rooted in a view of the world that defies reality. Liberals are the contemporary adherents to the principle of modernity that places man above nature and nature’s God; they assume that they and they alone can construct a society which leaves nothing to chance and can be planned according to their view of what is good. This is what can be termed the hubris of modernity. Positive law and institutions, according to this view, can overcome traditional constraints and the traditional order by simply instituting reforms. This view thinks of tradition as a hindrance rather than a constructive way of ordering society which limits the need for government intervention.

To counteract this liberal philosophy, one needs to embrace and understand the counterbalancing force of humility. Humility provides a block against the hubris of modernity. Through humility we recognize the limitations of human reason and individuality and come to embrace the wisdom of the traditional order as revealed through faith, family, and community.

My view of humility mirrors Erasumus’ worldview. Erasmus was a Dutch priest and scholar who was influential during the Reformation. Though Erasmus admitted humanity’s tendency to carnal corruption and lampooned its manifold foolishness, he still believed in the essential goodness of a human nature made in the image of God and in the human ability, with the help of grace, to come into harmony with the divine purposes evident in creation. The Hobbesian contractor (which is to say liberal modernity), on the other hand, had to impose order on a chaotic natural world. The desire for control and uniformity will bring us under greater constraint from a central government. Only our humility can prevent a shift in that direction.

In The Conservative Mind Russell Kirk wrote, “We ought to understand conservative ideas so that we may rake from the ashes what scorched fragments of civilization escape the conflagration of unchecked will and appetite.” The U.S. is in dire need of conservatives who can articulate this idea both through rhetoric and policies. If such a voice cannot be found our politics risks losing its counterbalance to progressive reform.

From Dr. Scott’s blog – 4/2/13

PART 4: Russell Kirk in Syria: Further considering what it means to be a conservative

by Kyle Scott, The Conservative Professor

Part 4: Russell Kirk in Syria: Further Considering What It Means to Be a Conservative

From Dr. Scott’s blog

20130830-211758.jpgA statesman ought to be prudent as prudence is the fourth conservative principle provided by Russell Kirk. This is an area in which Edmund Burke and Plato agree as well; both place prudence as the first among the equal virtues to be possessed by a statesman. Prudence is simply the recognition of the complexity of problems and the need to take a measured assessment before acting. This principle may seem foreign to our world of instant everything, but it is a virtue worth reclaiming.

Kirk comments that, “[s]udden and slashing reforms are as perilous as sudden and slashing surgery.” It is oftentimes impossible, and almost always difficult, to roll back the effect of an imprudent action whether it be committing troops to war or creating a new bureaucratic apparatus. But consequentialist reasoning is by no means a sufficient basis on which to build philosophy. And Kirk does not rest his argument on consequentialist grounds. Kirk posits that human society is complex and the human mind’s capacity is limited. Thus, the human capacity to resolve all issues sufficiently well is improbable and doing so quickly is impossible. Kirk’s endorsement of prudence is grounded in the reality of the human condition.

Progressives want change immediately as they feel that progress comes from within the human rather than in a commitment to a thing greater than self. Progressives put faith in man. Once man is given the capacity, as progressives proclaim they have, to control his environment for the better there are no restraints on his actions. This is what Nietzsche meant when he wrote, “God is dead.” Within Enlightenment philosophy individuals were given full agency which meant they had to defer to no higher authority beyond their own will. Progressives are committed to the human mind and the products thereof without recognizing the limits we as people have. Prudence recognizes natural limits and asks us to act accordingly. Prudence runs contrary to the principles of the Enlightenment.

As we look to the situation in Syria we can apply what Kirk puts before us. First, there is no immediate threat to the U.S., its citizens, or its allies if we do not intervene in the Syrian civil war. Second, there is plenty in the historical record to show that limited military engagements are rarely successful at accomplishing their goal and rarely remain limited once they are begun. The use of chemical weapons against innocent civilians is appalling and we are all moved by the images, but we should be prudent and not allow emotions to take over our judgment. Obama must plead his case before Congress and the American people before moving forward with military action given the amount of lives and treasure that could be lost with an involvement in Syria. Once we have committed ourselves, it could take years to settle the matter if not longer.

Furthermore, we must meet with the Israelis and give them time to consider the options given that any retaliation by the Syrian government not directed at its own people will be directed at our closest ally in the region, and maybe even the world. There is no need to be hasty in this situation. There is no urgency for American involvement given that there is no American interest under direct threat. We can take time to deliberate and thus act prudently.

To say that we can predict the outcome of our potential involvement is an act of hubris. To take action in Syria is to assume the Syrian people, and the world in general, will be better off if the U.S. involves itself in the civil war. There is no way to know the answer to this question but committing troops is a commitment to the idea that we do know the answer. We owe it to our citizens, our troops and our allies to act prudently in this and all other scenarios. It is what a conservative would do.

PART 2: What we need for victory in 2014 and beyond

PART 2: What We NEED FOR victory in 2014 and Beyond

by Kyle Scott

From Dr. Scott’s blog.

Since 2012 there has been soul searching among Republicans about what went wrong and how we can win back the Senate and the White House as well as win local elections. What has been lacking is a serious discussion about what it means to be a conservative and thus what the Republican Party ought to stand for. No political strategy will be successful if we don’t have a solidified sense of self. If Republicans are to expand our sphere of influence, we must first decide what it is they mean by conservatism. It is not enough to talk about protecting the border, cutting taxes, and defunding Obamacare. Republicans must possess a core set of values and know why those values are conservative. Enough of the clichés!

On the national level Rand Paul and Chris Christie are exchanging barbs, and each has a different vision for the Republican Party and country. They also have different ideas of what it means to be a conservative. Republicans at all levels disagree among themselves about certain issues, such as whether Edward Snowden is a traitor or patriot. These disputes occur because there is not a clear, accepted definition of conservatism.

The effect of this lack of definition has deleterious effects on our governing as well since it frees up Republicans to act contrary to conservatism. Simply look at the grades given out by Texans for Fiscal Responsibility, and one will see that many Republicans serving in the Texas legislature are not beholden to principles of fiscal conservatism. Republicans in the House like Patricia Harless, Debbie Riddle, and Dan Huberty received failing grades, which indicates they voted against fiscal responsibility on a consistent basis. This is what happens when voters and representatives lack a sophisticated core—representatives can be easily pushed in the direction of big spending and away from conservative values. In order to demonstrate leadership and resist the temptation to go with the flow, an individual must know what he stands for and why.

There are innumerable definitions of conservatism and treatises on the topic. But a good place to start a sophisticated discussion of conservatism is Russell Kirk’s Ten Conservative Principles. They are as follows:

  1. conservatives believe in an enduring moral order,
  2. conservatives adhere to custom, convention, and continuity,
  3. we believe in what may be called the principle of prescription—that is, of things established through immemorial usage,
  4. we are guided by principles of prudence,
  5. conservatives pay attention to the principle of variety,
  6. we are chastened by our principle of imperfectability,
  7. conservatives believe that freedom and property are closely linked
  8. we uphold voluntary community and oppose involuntary collectivism,
  9. the conservative perceives the need for prudent restraints upon power and upon human passions,
  10. the thinking conservative understands that permanence and change must be recognized and reconciled in a vigorous society.

Over the next several posts, I will explore each of these principles and relate them to contemporary concerns while grounding them in a sophisticated exploration of what it means to be a conservative. I have taken up this task before in an earlier post and in a different context, but I think it is worthwhile to pursue the idea in more detail. Without a clear understanding of conservatism, there can be no Republican Party. Without a clear understanding of conservatism there won’t be a Republican Party worth having. We must understand who we are, what we stand for and why in order to win in the political arena and to make that victory matter. We must not be hasty but we must move swiftly.

With Republicans Like These, Who Needs Democrats?

20130720-135445.jpg By Kyle Scott

Since the 2012 election, there has been quite a lot of talk about Harris County moving from Republican to Democrat. But anyone who is paying attention to this legislative session will see that the Republican legislators from Harris County are not particularly conservative on budgetary matters anyway. There has been a 26% increase in this budget over the previous budget. Rather than banking additional tax revenue this legislature has decided to spend more and then take $4 billion out of the rainy day fund.

With the passage of a budget that allowed for a raid on the ‘rainy day fund’, for an encore Harris County-based Representatives Dan Huberty, Patricia Harless, and Debbie Riddle joined with Democrats to support HB 16 and HJR 2 thus allowing for the rainy day fund to be raided with impunity. The Senate passed a bill that included a baseline under which the rainy day fund would not drop—a poor consolation for raiding the fund in the first place but a consolation nonetheless. When that bill came before the House the baseline was removed. Now, thanks to a coalition of irresponsible spenders, the rainy day fund can be raided with impunity.

The irresponsible budgeting of the Texas legislature during this legislative session has even garnered national attention with the Wall Street Journal comparing Austin to Sacramento. Texas is experiencing a boom—thanks to oil—in the same way California had experienced a boom—thanks to real estate—when it had decided to increase spending in the face of a positive financial outlook. Texas legislatures have failed to learn from California in recognizing that good times come to an end and a budgetary surplus can come in handy down the road. When one asks the government “How much can you spend?” the government usually replies, “How much do you have?” and then it takes some more.

Even a casual observer of politics and economics knows that saving money in good times is generally a good idea and that spending like the good times will go on forever will wreak havoc on a budget in the long run. The Texas legislature would do well to make two adjustments to the budgetary process in order to prevent these mistakes. First, we need a zero-based budgeting approach for all state agencies. Zero-based budgeting would allow legislators to assess how much money is really needed by an agency and not just how much money an agency usually gets. Second, discretionary spending should be handled after mandated spending and matters such as transportation and water are dealt with. Right now legislators are trying to say they need to raid the rainy day fund for roads and water. And they are right, we need to fund road and water projects. But these projects should have been dealt with first, not last, and discretionary spending measures should have been moved to the back of the line. By moving the most important matters to the back of the line legislators manipulated the situation to make it appear as though there is more of a scarcity of resources than there actually is. While money is the most important thing in making budget decisions, timing comes a close second.

We should all be alarmed by the dangerous and irresponsible budget practices by this legislature. What should be particularly alarming is that the conservatives are not acting like conservatives which means the spending will only increase and raiding the rainy day fund will only continue.

– See at: Dr. Scott’s Blog. .

Privacy Protects Our Freedom of Speech

Dr. Kyle Scott, TheConservative Professor from 1070 AM radio

Lone Star College Board of Trustees

When privacy is threatened so too is our freedom of speech. The government is capable of grotesque abuses of power as recent events at the IRS attest. The government can be turned into a bully pulpit. If gone unchecked, bureaucratic agents can be agents of abuse in which those groups that challenge the current regime can be singled out by the government. As James Madison wrote, “I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations.” If you don’t believe Madison, just ask the Associated Press whose phone records were placed under subpoena by the Justice Department in hopes of finding out who the anonymous sources were to stories that shed an unfavorable light on the White House.

Fortunately public attention has been directed to the abuses of power by the Justice Department and the IRS. But there are instances in our own state government where “the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments” is occurring in this current legislative session.

Senate Bill 346 which passed the Senate and House is being sent to the Governor. SB 346 would require non-profit groups that contribute more than $25,000 to political campaigns in a six month period to disclose the names of donors who contributed $1,000 or more to that organization in the same period. Labor unions would be exempt from this disclosure requirement. The exemption of labor unions explains why this bill has received almost unanimous support from Democrats in the state legislature. Support from Democrats was paramount for this bill to pass as most Republicans who receive support from grassroots organizations such as Texans for Fiscal Responsibility and the Tea Parties oppose this bill. State Representative Charlie Geren (R) and State Senator Ken Seliger (R) have been challenged by the same grassroots organizations this bill targets.

By disclosing the names of contributors, SB 346 would allow donors to these organizations to be targeted by politicians they oppose. In NAACP v. Alabama (1958) the Supreme Court ruled that the right of political groups to keep their membership private was essential for protecting First Amendment rights. If privacy is not protected then those who speak out can come under attack from those whom they speak out against.

The threat to privacy as relevant to First Amendment rights is at the heart of the current AP scandal. The Justice Department wanted to know who was leaking stories to the Associated Press, stories that were damaging to the current administration. This information, if given to the Justice Department, would expose the identity of anonymous sources which could potentially put them at risk. If privacy is not protected there will be fewer people willing to come forward and speak out against the government.

Privacy permits people to speak out against impropriety and to challenge the status quo without risk of political backlash. We need to encourage Governor Perry to veto SB 346 just was we need to encourage our elected officials in Washington to oppose any measures that would quell political dissent. If there is any doubt about the government’s willingness to squash opposition once they know who the opposition is we need not look any further than the IRS office in Cincinnati.

Kyle Scott, PhD, is the author of Federalist Papers: A Reader’s Guide, teaches at the University of Houston, and has just been elected to the Lone Star College Board of Trustees. The views expressed here are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of the University of Houston or the Lone Star College District, its board or any other officer or employee of those institutions.

Originally posted in the Kingwood Observer, Thursday, May 16, 2013
Kyle Scott’s Blog

God and Guns by Kyle Scott

Dr. Kyle Scott, TheConservative Professor from 1070 AM radio

Click on image for bio.

Reprinted with author’s permission from Texas GOP Vote

Today is the National Day of Prayer and tomorrow is the opening day of the NRA Convention in Houston. Let me try to connect God and guns via Alexis de Tocqueville. Tocqueville wrote, “Liberty cannot be established without morality, nor morality without faith.” This observation exposes the connection between a nation’s character and its ability to enjoy liberty. It also establishes the point that laws cannot establish the right character for enjoying liberty.

Laws become necessary when men are no longer able to govern themselves. Men cannot govern themselves when they lack the character—which is the knowledge of right from wrong that shapes our behavior—necessary to drive them to right action. But when we establish a law we lose a little bit of liberty because the government now tells us we cannot do something. When this occurs we enact laws to maintain peace and order so that whatever liberty was not given up under the new law can be maintained under the new law. The tradeoff between law and liberty is sometimes necessary—thus making it a reciprocal relationship—sometimes it is excessive. If we had the right character we would not need to make a trade in the first place.

This brings us to Tocqueville’s point: act in the right manner on your own and you will have all the liberty you could ever want, act badly—and bad acts come from bad character—and you will lose your liberty to a government that takes the authority of self-government from people who are not capable of having it. The laws can give us direction but they cannot make the bad man good, they cannot give us the right character. Character—the knowledge of right from wrong that shapes our behavior—must come through faith. We cannot look to the government to make us better people for the government is inevitably a flawed construction for it comes from a flawed people who we know are flawed because they need government. Government is the product from which it is also to be the solution. This makes it incomplete at best and contradictory at worst.

What Tocqueville means by this quote is that we should look inward and upward for solutions rather than to government. Tocqueville advocated small knit communities in which the family, church, and schools played a central role in character development and none of the three—church, family, schools—were entirely independent of the other. They worked in concert for the betterment of the individual’s character so that government constraint could be minimized. The individual—with the proper character—would be left to govern himself.

This brings us to guns; a tool to protect self-government. Guns, in the hands of those with the right character, maintain peace, balance, eliminate the need for government oversight, and create a strong bond among families and communities. But guns in the wrong hands can do some of the most heinous things. We cannot fix what is broken in the people who would use guns badly, we cannot make laws that would make them better people. Placing a ban on weapons will not make the bad people good or the good people safe. If we want to minimize violence we must look for solutions that tap into the core of the problem. We must reunite around family and community. We must return to faith. The problems we face are out of our hands whether we want to admit it or not. We should not stop trying to make the world around us better, but we should recognize our limitations. We do know that laws restricting guns would keep good people from protecting themselves from bad people. It would again turn our right of self-determination over to the government.

We need more faith not more laws.

Dr. Kyle Scott, The Conservative Professor teaches Constitution studies at U of H here in Houston. He is currently (May, 2013) also a candidate for Lone Star College Trustee, Pos. 2.

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