Racism in the Constitution?

The most recent issue of Square Two featured this article, which included this line: “And don’t forget that the US constitution pronounced slaves to be 3/5ths of a human being.”

I wrote them this message:

Re: “the US constitution pronounced slaves to be 3/5ths of a human being.”  This is just false.
Article I, Section 2 is about counting the population to determine how many representatives we get in government, which is why we have the census every ten years. That count was to enumerate “free persons” and “three-fifths of all other persons,” meaning slaves. Free blacks were counted as a whole, which you fail to mention, and which counters the racist assertion implied in your piece.
 
That language isn’t meant to demean someone’s worth as a human being, but merely to reduce the total count. The strength of a state’s presence in government, in the House of Representatives, is determined by this count. This is why my state of Nevada has gained a third and then a fourth new representative thanks to the last two census counts.
Northern states didn’t want slaves counted at all—that would keep the South from gaining more of a voice at the federal level; Southern states wanted them counted as a whole. The point of the three-fifths compromise was to reduce the South’s power.
Ironically, for those who see this part of the Constitution as racist, this rule did what it was supposed to do: it contributed to the eventual end of slavery.

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10 Current Political Questions Answered By The Founding Fathers

The Federalist Papers are a collected series of essays that originally appeared in New York newspapers from 1787-1788, during the period of debate and ratification for the new Constitution.  In them, the series’ three authors–Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay–very clearly explain the nature of the Constitution and how it was to be implemented.

Their authority is, of course, unimpeachable.  Hamilton would become the first Secretary of the Treasury.  Jay would become the first Chief Justice of the United States.  And Madison, the primary architect of the Constitution itself, would go on to become our 4th president.

Here are some of our most auspicious Founders’ answers to ten pressing issues of the present day:

 

1. Is America a multicultural society, or a basically homogeneous Christian nation?

Answered by John Jay: “Providence has been pleased to give this one connected country, to one united people, a people descended from the same ancestors, speaking the same language, professing the same religion, attached to the same principles of government, very similar in their manners and customs…”  –Federalist #2

2. Should American government be more Democratic (populist) or Republican (representative) in nature?

Answered by James Madison: “A pure Democracy, by which I mean, a Society, consisting of a small number of citizens, who assemble and administer the government in person, can admit of no cure for the mischief of faction.  A common passion or interest will, in almost every case, be felt by a majority of the whole….A Republic, by which I mean a Government in which the scheme of representation takes place, opens a different prospect and promises the cure for which we are seeking.”  –Federalist #10

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Myth: The Constitution Is Racist

My letter in today’s Las Vegas Review-Journal corrects a popular old myth: that the U.S. Constitution is racist.  I even remember this faulty interpretation of the passage in question being used in an episode of The West Wing

To the editor:

In his otherwise excellent Wednesday letter, Robert Gardner does make one mistake. He repeats the old fallacy about the Constitution being racist, suggesting that Article I, Section 2 says, “blacks are … considered three-fifths of a person.”

Not true.

That section is about counting population to determine how many representatives we get in government, which is why we have the census. That count was to enumerate “free persons” and “three-fifths of all other persons,” meaning slaves. Free blacks were counted as a whole.

The language isn’t meant to determine someone’s worth as a human being, but merely to reduce the total count. The strength of a state’s presence in government was determined by this count. Northern states didn’t want slaves counted at all; Southern states wanted them counted as a whole. The point of the three-fifths compromise was to reduce the South’s power.

Ironically, for those who see this part of the Constitution as racist, this rule did what it was supposed to do: It contributed to the eventual end of slavery. With Black History Month right around the corner, it’s important to set the record straight.

Mr. Smith Goes to the House of Representatives

Jimmy Stewart, as Senator Jeff Smith, reads patriotic documents on the floor of the U.S. Senate in the 1939 classic, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.

Much has been made of the new Republican majority in the House starting this session by reading aloud the Constitution.  Many articles have noted that, though it’s over 200 years old, this is the first time the Constitution has been read into the record of the House.

However, something similar has happened before in history.  Hollywood history, that is. 

In the patriotic 1939 classic, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, as Jimmy Stewart continues his heroic filibuster to protest his framing by the corrupt politicians who betrayed him, after he reads the Declaration of Independence aloud, he then reads the Constitution.  Granted, this scene is set on the floor of the Senate, not the House, but it’s pretty close. 

This begs the question–if there are those who would criticize reading the Constitution in our Congress meetings, would they also belittle the same thing in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, one of the most universally beloved films in American history? 

I couldn’t find a clip of this on YouTube, but here’s an excerpt from the script:

 PAGE BOY
                         Here you are, Senator, from Miss
                         Saunders.
                              (Hands Jeff the
                              Constitution)

                                     JEFFERSON
                         Oh! Thanks.
                              (The Page Boy shows
                              he still has on his
                              ranger button)
                         Well, the Constitution of the United
                         States–
                              (Reading)
                         Article one–section one.

Rules By Which a Free Republic May Be Reduced To a Socialist One

Despite the scorn leveled at it by the elite mainstream, the Tea Party movement has illustrated something significant about America: we’re fed up with the status quo and its increasing power grabs.  In the last few years, not only have there been Tea Party protests, we’ve also had a popular political tract called Common Sense, and groups calling themselves Sons of Liberty are growing.  The fact that there are so many new things inspired by that volatile time in our history should be sobering for all of us. 

I’d like to offer a humble contribution to this trend. 

On September 11, 1773–the year of the Boston Tea Party–Benjamin Franklin published a satire of England’s poor management of the colonies, presented as twenty pieces of humorous advice for getting rid of them: “Rules By Which a Great Empire May Be Reduced To a Small One.”  Below, I’ve adapted Franklin’s text to include references to current problems.  The scary thing is, I didn’t need to change or add very much at all.  Most of Franklin’s scathing indictment applies just as well to today’s American government as it did to King George’s administration in 1773. 

Make of it what you will, but the fact that Franklin can be so easily adapted to the Tea Party’s concerns should also be very sobering to all of us. 

“Rules By Which a Free Republic May Be Reduced To a Socialist One”

The Founding Fathers accomplished this, that tho’ they were not perfect, they could make a federalist republic out of a chaotic confederacy of former colonies that had been ruled by fascist autocrats. The Science that I, a modern Simpleton, am about to communicate is the very reverse.

I address myself to all Ministers who have the Management of the American Republic, which from its very Freedom is become difficult to govern, because the Degree of its Freedom leaves no Room for Control.

I. In the first Place, Gentlemen, you are to consider, that a free Republic, like a great Cake, is most easily diminished at the Edges. Turn your Attention therefore first to your remotest States (those on your coasts, like New York, California, &c); that as you deprive them of Freedom, the interior Heartland may follow in Order.

II. That the Possibility of this Control may come to pass, take special Care the interior States are never respected in your public discourse, that they do not enjoy the same common Dignity, the same Privileges in Debate, and that they are governed by severer Political Correctness, all of your enacting, without allowing them any Share in the Choice of the Rules. By carefully making and preserving such Distinctions, you will (to keep to my Simile of the Cake) act like a wise Gingerbread Baker, who, to facilitate a Destruction, cuts his Dough half through in those Places, where, when bak’d, he would have it broken to Pieces.

III.These Freedoms have perhaps been acquired at the sole Expence of the our Ancestors and Military, without the Aid of the Mother Government. If this should happen to increase the People’s Strength by their growing Numbers ready to join in her Wars, and her Commerce by their growing Demand for her Manufactures, they may probably suppose some Merit in this, and that it entitles them to some Favour; you are therefore to forget it all, or resent it as if they had done you Injury. If they happen to be zealous Whigs, Friends of Liberty, Conservatives, or (worst of all) Tea Partiers, nurtur’d in Revolution Principles, remember all that to their Prejudice, and contrive to punish it: For such Principles, after a Revolution is thoroughly established, are of no more Use, they are even odious and abominable.

IV. However peaceably your Citizens have submitted to your Government, you are to suppose them always inclined to revolt, and treat them accordingly. Smear and restrict their Second Amendment rights, and be ever Hostile to those who assert these Rights. By this Means, like the Husband who uses his Wife ill from Suspicion, you may in Time convert your Suspicions into Realities.

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Universal Health Care Unconstitutional

A Virginia judge decided just over a week ago that ObamaCare’s mandate that people must purchase insurance exceeds the government’s constitutional authority.  My local newspaper, the Las Vegas Review-Journal, then printed a letter (which must have been written before the decision) defending universal health care. 

Today, the paper printed another letter responding to that one and, while it is excellent, it sadly isn’t mine, which I thought was pretty good itself.  Since the paper doesn’t seem interested in it, here it is:

Frederick Spoerl wrongly denied the success of the profit motive and made many mistakes about the Constitution in his Friday letter defending ObamaCare.

He says that the Founders never envisioned America’s “tremendous growth,” yet in Federalist #10, Madison said one of the chief benefits of a republic is that it may be “extended” over a “greater sphere of country.” Indeed, as presidents, the Founders added several states and territories to the nation, including Jefferson’s Louisiana Purchase.

He criticizes those who would limit government size and scope, but ignores the tenth amendment, which says that the federal government may only be involved in things delineated in the Constitution itself.

Spoerl also writes that the Constitution denies voting to women and endorses segregation (neither of which it mentions at all), and promotes slavery. The Constitution opposes slavery. Article I, Section 2 thwarted the South’s desire for more representative power by limiting slave counting in the census, and Article I, Section 9 includes a ban on future importation of slaves.

Spoerl uses the “general welfare” clause of the Preamble to justify ObamaCare. Others had already thought that phrase could allow the government to do anything they saw as good, rather than the few specific things the Constitution defines as “general welfare,” and in Federalist #41, Madison responded to the misunderstanding: “a specification of the objects alluded to by these general terms, immediately follows….For what purpose could the enumeration of particular powers be inserted, if these and all others were meant to be included in the preceding general power?”

ObamaCare is unconstitutional, Mr. Spoerl, and your letter shows how ignorant of our founding charters someone must be to support it.

Is It a Senator’s Job to Create Jobs?

Nevada senate candidate Sharron Angle says it’s not her job to create jobs and incumbent Harry Reid mocks her for it.  Nevada Congresswoman Dina Titus now airs ads likewise slamming opponent Joe Heck for saying the same thing.  This clearly appeals to voters: many are our of work, or know people who are, and we’re all scared. 

But convenient mocking aside, who’s right?  Is it the job of senators to create jobs?  Well, where does it say what  a senator’s job is? 

In the Constitution, of course.  Specifically, in Article I, Section 8.  I’ve pasted it below.  Let’s see if it mentions “creating jobs.”

  **********

The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;

 [Hmmm, OK, this is about financial and defense responsibilities, but nothing about making new jobs for people…]

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My Radio Adventure

As long as I can remember, people have told me that I should be on the radio.  I guess I have a pretty good voice.  And I don’t mind discussing decent topics when the muse strikes. 

So after a few years of hearing about it, I went down Saturday morning to try out for KXNT 840 AM’s “Radio Star 5” contest.  It’s an annual thing where they let people come down to the South Point Hotel and Casino and let them be on the radio for a few minutes, talking spontaneously about a topic chosen from a short list, and the best ones enter a further round, where an ultimate single winner gets to be a part-time personality for the station. 

I put on a tie and got there very early, both of which made zero difference.  I looked at the four topic choices–domestic partnerships, federal holidays, term limits, and mass transportation–and thought I could give a decent audition about the holiday one.  I turned in my application first, and got to be the first one to go up on stage and show off my stuff for the regular hosts. 

I gave a short speech about making Constitution Day a federal holiday because it would help promote literacy on the subject and make our electorate more informed.  Sadly, I wasn’t supposed to give a speech.  I was supposed to pretend that I was hosting the show and get callers to chime in with their opinions.  Oops.  So I was unceremoniously dismissed, and then drove home listening to far more fluent and chatty contestants strutting their stuff. 

So there’s absolutely no hope that my “audition” will get me to the next round–the top 20 from which the final winner will be chosen.  But a lot of the best performers were trying out for the second or third time, and I made some notes and will review them before I try out again next year. 

I met some great people and had some fun, even though my kids heard me on the radio and made fun of me. 

But seriously, Constitution Day should really be a federal holiday.  September 17, people.

Ask The Founders

Here’s one for Independence Day.  This is the thrid time I’ve posted this now, and I like it more each time I read it!

********************************************************

The Federalist Papers are a collected series of essays that originally appeared in New York newspapers during the period of debate and ratification for the new Constitution.  In them, the series’ three authors–Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay–very clearly explain the nature of the Constitution and how it was to implemented. 

Their authority is, of course, unimpeachable.  Hamilton would become the first Secretary of the Treasury.  Jay would become the first Chief Justice of the United States.  And Madison, the primary architect of the Constitution itself, would go on to become our 4th president.

Here are some of our most auspicious Founders’ answers to the pressing issues of the present day:

  • Is America a multicultural society, or a basically homogeneous Christian nation?

Answered by John Jay: “Providence has been pleased to give this one connected country, to one united people, a people descended from the same ancestors, speaking the same language, professing the same religion, attached to the same principles of government, very similar in their manners and customs…”  –Federalist #2

  • Should American government be more Democratic (populist) or Republican (representative) in nature?

Answered by James Madison: “A pure Democracy, by which I mean, a Society, consisting of a small number of citizens, who assemble and administer the government in person, can admit of no cure for the mischief of faction.  A common passion or interest will, in almost every case, be felt by a majority of the whole….A Republic, by which I mean a Government in which the scheme of representation takes place, opens a different prospect and promises the cure for which we are seeking.”  –Federalist #10

“In a democracy, the people meet and exercise the government in person; in a republic they assemble and administer it by their representatives and agents.  A democracy consequently will be confined to a small spot.  A republic may be extended over a large region.”  –Federalist #14

  • Can America ensure that its citizens have equal success and comfort?

Answered by James Madison: Continue reading

Repeat: Ask The Founders

In the wake of yesterday’s nationwide socialist revolution (Nevada, long a conservative bastion [check here for proof], is now officially a blue state at almost all levels of government–thanks to everybody who moved here from California!), my thoughts turn again to what America is supposed to be. 

Yes, supposed to be.  There are things that America is designed to be, and things that it is not.  The best thing I can think of to say on the subject now is to reprint this piece which originally ran on July 1

**********

The Federalist Papers are a collected series of essays that originally appeared in New York newspapers during the period of debate and ratification for the new Constitution.  In them, the series’ three authors–Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay–very clearly explain the nature of the Constitution and how it was to implemented. 

Their authority is, of course, unimpeachable.  Hamilton would become the first Secretary of the Treasury.  Jay would become the first Chief Justice of the United States.  And Madison, the primary architect of the Constitution itself, would go on the become our 4th president.

Here are some of our most auspicious Founders’ answers to the pressing issues of the present day:

  • Is America a multicultural society, or a basically homogeneous Christian nation?

Answered by John Jay: “Providence has been pleased to give this one connected country, to one united people, a people descended from the same ancestors, speaking the same language, professing the same religion, attached to the same principles of government, very similar in their manners and customs…”  –Federalist #2

  • Should American government be more Democratic (populist) or Republican (representative) in nature?

Answered by James Madison: “A pure Democracy, by which I mean, a Society, consisting of a small number of citizens, who assemble and administer the government in person, can admit of no cure for the mischief of faction.  A common passion or interest will, in almost every case, be felt by a majority of the whole….A Republic, by which I mean a Government in which the scheme of representation takes place, opens a different prospect and promises the cure for which we are seeking.”  –Federalist #10

“In a democracy, the people meet and exercise the government in person; in a republic they assemble and administer it by their representatives and agents.  A democracy consequently will be confined to a small spot.  A republic may be extended over a large region.”  –Federalist #14

  • Can America ensure that its citizens have equal success and comfort?

Answered by James Madison: Continue reading

An Old Man Looks Back On The Obama Administration

“Grandpa, tell me again about the Hard Times.”

“Oh, Jimmy, I love telling you stories, but I just told you that one yesterday!”

“I know, Gramps, but that was just the same stuff they tell us at the new school–the constant experimenting, the violence, the confusion and chaos–but you were there.  Tell me what it was really like, please.”

Grandpa sighed and ran a hand through his thinning hair as he sank into his comfortable chair by the window.  “The Hard Times?  You know, nobody thought of calling it that until it had been around for years.  The name first popped up on the underground web sites of traditionalists–‘the haters,’ most people called them at the time; people who ‘hated’ subversion, hedonism, socialism, who wouldn’t ‘tolerate’ the demands of others for radical, unprecedented change in the name of ‘fairness.’  The government took a cue from China and shut down most of those sites just as quickly as they shut down the talk radio shows those rebels started out on, but still, the resistance lingered.

“I was never a part of that resistance.  It wasn’t that I was too young to join in, but that I was too young to know that I should join in.  Especially when so many of my elders sanctioned that radicalism with their zealous endorsements, also all in the name of ‘progress.’  I was taken in by the idea of generations, centuries, of wrongdoing about to be undone by an earth-shattering revolutionary who would finally get everyone what they had been taught by the media their whole lives they deserved.  It was exciting, it felt righteous, it was this mass mob mentality that you just can’t understand unless you were part of it–totally convinced that the more you taunted and censored the ones you labelled the ‘enemy,’ the more just you were.  It was like a contest to see who could be coolest by being the most extreme.”

Grandpa paused for breath and rolled his eyes up to the ceiling, seeming to search for words to give his thoughts form.  His face looked lost.  “Good grief, how did we get so far that the majority of a country could fall for such a childish scheme and think we were saving the world?”

He leaned forward and rested his hands on his knees, and when he didn’t speak for a minute, Jimmy tried to get him to continue with a question: “So President Obama was evil?”

Grandpa’s face instantly looked up.  “Evil?  Heavens, no.  Not ‘evil,’ just very, very wrong.  He genuinely thought he was doing the right things, there’s no doubt that he sincerely wanted to do the most good for the most people, with no ulterior motives for his own aggrandizement…but they say that the road to Hell is paved with good intentions.  No, Obama wasn’t evil…but his policies had that effect.  And some of the people around him…yes, some of them were evil.

“They haven’t taught you in school yet about the law of unintended consequences.  That’s one of the very best reasons to be cautious when people want to change what has obviously worked for hundreds of years.  You never know what all the effects of a new action will be.  But in retrospect, I think we should have seen what would happen.  Yes, the chess pieces were all moved into place by 2008.  When the last of our defenses was removed, endgame was ready.

“As soon as Obama was elected, the marginalized anti-social goons came out of the woodwork.  Up until then, there were restraints on public conduct; the leftist fetishists almost reveled in being underdogs.  But the minute they sensed that, after forty years of seeping into the American consciousness, the reigns of power were theirs, what with the Unholy Trinity of Obama-Reid-Pelosi in power, they sprung the trap.

“By the end of the first year, bills fast tracked through the legislative and executive branches mandating that we would never fight another war for any reason, because all violence is always a tool of corporations to exploit peace lovers, that nobody would ever be able to be excluded from anything–especially marriage or citizenship–for any reason, because setting any criteria for anything is discrimination, and that’s an ugly word and always bad, and that everybody would always be able to call on the government to have the exact same quality of life that the most well off Americans could conceivably enjoy, because, again, anything less was clearly evidence of some kind of discrimination, and if ‘all men are created equal,’ then nobody should have to suffer anything that everybody doesn’t have to suffer.

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The Five Worst Problems In America Today and The One Thing We Can Do About Them

4/19/14: Update here.

4/3/09: Read an update on the five problems here.

 

We could blather endlessly about all the problems in our society, but there are a few that are so catastrophic and so influential on our lives that they need to be recognized and addressed as such. If we’ve become too numbed by fear-cloying news stories, let’s not forget that some things truly are disastrous.

I ranked these five things because the other social ills we might wring our hands over derive from these, and they, in the order I present them here, flow from each other. For example, one might protest that abortion isn’t mentioned here, but I see that as a subset of #3 and #1 below. Likewise the increasing health problems of Americans are caused by #4 and #3 (and, ultimately, #1), as the increasing costs of health care fall under the umbrella of #5 and #4 (and, to an extent, #1). It could be argued that, with this thinking, every problem could be traced back to #1. To which I say: yes, exactly.

#5. Government Size and Spending

“The government big enough to give you everything you want is big enough to take away everything you have.”    –Gerald Ford, 38th U.S. President

Our republic was founded on principles of individual liberty, limited government, and respect for private property.

Respect for private property is now gone. The Supreme Court ruled a few years ago that governments can seize your property from you for whatever reason they see fit.

The federal government now gives $150 billion of “corporate welfare” each year to companies that don’t need it.

Another $100 billion per year is simply wasted. Government doesn’t seem to be terribly “limited” anymore.

Further, as of January 2008, China, a potentially hostile nation, owns nearly $500 billion dollars of our debt, or about a quarter of the entire foreign total. Hostile Middle Eastern countries own nearly another $150 billion.  What does this mean for us?  Potential for foreign veto power over us, virtually amounting to blackmail.  So much for sovereignty!

To cover this outrageous, sprawling bureaucracy, the government takes about a third of our incomes annually. The most productive members of society are disproportionately targeted as victims of this extortion.  For example, as of 2001, as the title of this report puts it, Top 50% of Wage Earners Pay 96.03% of Income Taxes.”

America’s work force must labor for about the first third of the year just to cover the government’s expenses, before they start taking home a single penny for themselves.

And, of course, the increasingly heavy hand of government regulation kills innovation, stifles liberty, and costs our economy trillions of dollars every year, all while being completely counterproductive.  Here’s proof: “The Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, which placed extremely costly additional financial burdens, is estimated to have “cost in lost market value of U.S. companies at $1.4 trillion.”  So individual liberty is also severely curtailed.

And most recently, the socialist sub-prime mortgage bailout courtesy of Uncle Sam, with its frozen interest rates, will only further hurt the economy, to the tune of $20-$25 billion of our hard-earned tax dollars.

Which leads to the next worst problem in American today:

#4. Individual Fiscal Irresponsibility

“God gave the world to men in common; but…He gave it to the use of the industrious and rational (and labor was to be his title to it); not to the fancy or covetousness of the quarrelsome and contentious.”  –John Locke, English philosopher

I live in zip code 89031, which had the highest foreclosure rate in the nation last year.  I see the results of monetary immaturity in the “bank owned” and “foreclosed” signs on about every third house in relatively good neighborhoods.

Also, how is it not a catalyst of mass national panic that we now spend more than we make each year, creating a negative savings rate?  Since 2005, we’ve lost all budgetary restraint as a nation. We now keep less money than at any time since the Great Depression.

And, don’t forget, the runaway consumer credit debt among our self discipline-deficient society is now about $2.5 trillion dollars.

#3. Decline of Morality in the Media

“Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people.  It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”  –John Adams, 2nd U.S. President

A cursory observation of any teenage hangout in America answers an age-old question quite handily: life most definitely imitates art. Not only is the media the dominant force in shaping the character of Americans today, nothing else even comes close enough to bother counting as second.

A 2004 Harvard study found that movies with coarser content are getting lower ratings than they used to; PG-13 is the new R.

A disturbing 2001 PBS special chronicles in detail how the youth-oriented music and film industries manipulate their products to pander to the worst impulses of juveniles, effectively addicting them to their basest desires in a very successful bid to pick their pockets.

Depravity sells. A 2006 New Yorker article showed how another company produced the popular series of “Bratz” dolls by purposely making the “Barbie” model of dolls much sleazier. As the article put it, “8 is the new 13.”

No matter how much the $13 billion a year video game industry might want to bury it, the fact is that the unanimous verdict among researchers is that media violence has a strong, immediate, and devastating effect on children.

The effect of these atrocious role models is undeniable, and they’re reflected in the last two major problems facing our people now:

#2. Decline of Literacy and Education

“A popular government, without popular information…is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy, or perhaps both…”  –James Madison, author of the Constitution and 4th U.S. President

What’s the practical result on a generation (or three) of never having been weaned from the constant electronic teat of the entertainment industry?

A recent study found that we have now reached the point where only 1 out of 2 American high school students in major cities even graduates.

A 2007 study by the National Endowment for the Arts proved that Americans not only read far less than previous generations, but they read far less well, and this decline has major detrimental effects in the real world.  Among the findings:

  • American 15-year-olds ranked fifteenth in average reading scores for 31 industrialized nations, behind Poland, Korea, France, and Canada, among others.

  • Literary readers are more likely than non-readers to engage in positive civic and individual activities – such as volunteering, attending sports or cultural events, and exercising.

This isn’t something that might become a problem in the future, it’s a crisis now.

#1. Decline of the Traditional Family

“Civilizations die from suicide, not by murder”  –Arnold Toynbee, British historian

As with media violence, the long term damage done to children, and society at large, by family decay is starkly revealed by a slew of research: children in intact nuclear families are statistically better off in virtually every way. 

Among the seemingly endless varieties of emotional shrapnel that have embedded themselves in the American psyche as a result of people’s selfishness, is this shocker: 1 out of every 4 teenage girls has at least one sexually transmitted disease.

That’s not just another “issue,” it’s a pandemic.

And perhaps most chilling of all is the fact that the decline of marriage and family inexorably leads to the decline of the human presence on Earth, period. Our choices in the 20th century have created an environment where civilization may well whimper and slink away into the shadows in the 21st

With our fertility rate barely at replacement level (and that still puts us in the lead for the developed, Western world), people are starting to realize that the world we’re leaving to our children will not only be poor, amoral, and ignorant, but also vastly smaller than the teeming masses brewing in hostile parts of the globe.

Ultimately, the end of the world.

Conclusion: The One Thing We Can Do

Whenever these subjects arise, the reflex is to call for more personal responsibility. Sure, if everybody just grew up and did what they were supposed to, we could eliminate all these problems tomorrow.

But it won’t happen. For example, Russia pays people to have more children, to shore up their flagging population, but people still refuse to reproduce. Once widespread ennui sets in, entropy takes over and no external stimuli can reverse it. Humanity no longer accepts any incentive to work.

Some things have helped: “broken windows” policing and turning welfare into “workfare,” for instance. Other things might help, such as tort reform and voting wiser leaders into office. But all these things are only band-aids. They make a dent, but every conceivable idea is just spitting on a forest fire at this point.

Actually resurrecting the long-dead notion of stigmatizing bad behavior, if we hadn’t erased it from our memories, still wouldn’t be enough to make a sizable difference.

The one and only thing powerful enough to heal the wounds inflicted by the modern world, the sole path that can return us to safety and strength, is religion.

Nothing we can do will fortify ourselves and our own families, much less influence for good the world around us, as much as faithfully living the positive dictates of our religions. “And now, as the preaching of the word had a great tendency to lead the people to do that which was just—yea, it had had more powerful effect upon the people than the sword, or anything else, which had happened unto them—therefore Alma thought it was expedient that they should try the virtue of the word of God.” (Alma 31:5)

Keeping ourselves worthy of the Spirit, being good examples and ministers to others, and inviting others to join with us in love—that has always been the only sure way of protecting society.

No, I don’t think enough of us will do enough good to turn America around. No matter how hard we tried, I doubt it would avail anything. I’m not aware of any civilization that has sunk as far as we have and then successfully regenerated itself. It’s my opinion that much of this nation has reached the point that Paul described as “having their conscience seared with a hot iron” (1 Timothy 4:2). That’s why I can only recommend faith; we’re past the point where appeals to patriotism, duty, or any other such motivator will have an effect. Even so, we might be able to help some few who would listen and benefit from a better life.

Even if not, we are called to live a certain way. “And now, my beloved son, notwithstanding their hardness, let us labor diligently; for if we should cease to labor, we should be brought under condemnation; for we have a labor to perform whilst in this tabernacle of clay, that we may conquer the enemy of all righteousness, and rest our souls in the kingdom of God.” (Moroni 9:6)  Actively living the way of the great organized religions will lead us to be involved citizens, careful with money, morally strong, mentally alive, and, most important of all, committed to a wholesome family life.

It is my most profound prayer that as many of us as possible will accept the call and take upon us the cross that we must bear in a disintegrating world, and live the best life we can live, “relying wholly upon the merits of him who is mighty to save,” avoiding and fighting the evils I’ve numbered here, so that we, again with the Apostle Paul, might say, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.” (2 Timothy 4:7-8)