As we begin a new year, it is proper to reflect upon the bounteous blessings we enjoy in this land of freedom, consider their origins, and our role in their continuation. America has been blessed by Providence. I submit our blessings have come because the American people have generally, but not perfectly, tried to obey the laws that govern the universe in their personal lives while the structure of government has mostly aligned with these same eternal laws.
Providence is a seldom used word today. Providence is a manifestation of divine care or direction. America’s Founders set up a secular society, not a theocracy as not all Americans belonged to the same belief. The Founders probably distrusted religious societies with secular power because no contemporary church had successfully established a just government.
Yet, the Founders sought for divine guidance and divine assistance they called divine Providence. While comprehending the revealed word of God, they understood the importance of seeking to understand and obey Natural Law. Natural Law is a set of rules that govern the universe. These rules are not revealed, rather they must be discovered using reason and experience.
Cicero, the great Roman Natural Law philosopher said that Natural Law had the ability to unite humankind is a feeling of brotherhood. “but the same law, everlasting and unchangeable, will bind all nations and all times.”
Natural Law is another term seldom used in political discussion. Natural means “Inherent, having a basis in nature, reality, and truth; not made or caused by humankind.” Law means “an existing condition which is binding and immutable (cannot be changed).”
Therefore, Natural Law is a law that is eternal, predated humankind, is superior to man’s laws, and the consequences of obedience or disobedience to said body of laws are fixed. Natural Law is the set of rules that govern the universe.
A logical conclusion is the Founders believed that blessings are obtained of Providence through obedience to Natural Law. They wanted a nation that adhered to Natural Law so the blessing of Providence could continually flow to their posterity if obedience to Natural Law continued.
Natural Law presupposes cause and effect; therefore, current choices and actions greatly influence future outcomes. In effect, obedience to Natural Law allows mankind some control over its future if aligned with Natural Law.
If the blessings a nation receives are a direct result of obedience to Natural Law, then, it stands to reason if one nation receives more blessings than another nation it is because that nation’s policies are more aligned to Natural Law than the other nation.
If blessings can be gained by obedience to Natural Law, it would seem reasonable for people to actively seek to understand the characteristics of Natural Law so that it could be more fully applied in their personal lives.
Also, it would seem reasonable that political leaders would seek to understand how to align the structure of government more fully with Natural Law if they desired what was best for all citizens.
Consider the time of Rome. Romans did not have electric motors. Why? The laws of electricity existed 2000 years ago just as they do today. The Romans did not benefit from electricity because mankind had not yet discovered the natural laws governing electricity. It was much later before these laws were discovered before they could be obeyed before mankind could benefit from the laws of electricity.
Many believe that America is on the wrong track. Something is wrong. I believe we have forgotten about Natural Law. Rather than try to seek to understand the laws that govern the universe with the intent of obeying them, relativism is crowding out the Natural Law philosophy.
Relativism is the theory that value judgments, as of truth, beauty, or morality, have no universal validity but are valid only for the persons or groups holding them.
I have no problem with those that have different views. The problem I have is with the imposition of beliefs upon those that have a different opinion using the power of government. Relativism lends itself to coercion and force.
Relativism, when applied to politics, presents dangers. First, no unifying definitions exist for words like freedom, force, family, etc. In a relativist world, words lose meaning because everyone has an equal right to define any word, belief, or action as they see fit. Relativism eventually leads to confusion.
Second, unlike Natural Law that says all humankind is equal, relativism allows for the development of totalitarian systems where the leaders differentiate between themselves and their subjects. We saw this phenomenon develop in the Soviet Union, communist China, Nazi Germany, etc.
We are also seeing this phenomenon unfold before us with the “woke” and “cancel culture” where the “woke” redefine terms, then, they claim offense by those that they find offensive (which they define), then, they say the “woke” have the ‘right’ to limit the actions of those that they find “offensive.”
In effect, relativism allows elitists to redefine reality independent of reality, then, by being offended, they claim the right to force others to conform to their reality without engaging in respectful dialogue.
Those who oppose these new definitions of reality must be compelled to conformity using the power of the state. Thus, relativism leads to elitism which, in turns leads to compelled behavior which leads a totalitarian system. And all totalitarian systems are run by those that embrace one form or another of relativism such as: atheism, communism, socialism, emperor worship, socialistic racism (Nazism), and so forth.
Only Natural Law, with its focus on unchangeable, eternal laws where all humankind is equal before the law can support limited government because the power of government cannot be used to compel elitist’s worldviews upon everyone.
Furthermore, a key component is missing from our policy discussions. This missing element is causing individuals and government to miss the mark. Despite our good intentions, our lack of understanding of this one point is causing our efforts to fall far short of their potential for good and our progress as a nation is restricted.
The element impeding our progress is understanding and promoting the central role of family especially in education. Limited government cannot be sustained without a large percentage of the total families in American being independent of government programs. Yet, the American education and poverty systems have been actively supplanting the role of the family and replacing family responsibilities with state-funded programs. This is having disastrous consequences because it is contrary to Natural Law.
It is well to remember that the family predated the state. The state was formed to protect the family and individual rights and possessions. However, rulers quickly began to use the state as a tool to gain and keep power. The purpose of the state, under my understanding of Natural Law, is to support conditions where family units may thrive. The family is not supposed to be subservient to the state.
Universal prosperity, contentment, and harmony are the goals of those that seek to understand and apply Natural law. The goal of those that adhere to the idea of Natural Law is to have everyone succeed and have everyone reach their full potential. The role of government in this process is to protect the weak and industrious from the powerful who seek power.
There are those who reject Natural Law, usually because they desire power and see themselves superior to their fellowman. They want power and the Natural Law philosophy stands as an obstacle in their way. If Natural Law exists, they, too, must obey it. It is a law outside of their control.
Elites view Natural Law and the family unit as obstacles to their desired expansion of power. If almost all children were raised in emotionally stable, economically independent family units, the role of the state would be greatly reduced. If the role of the state is greatly reduced, the state does not need to expend many resources on poverty and other social programs.
Elites need broken people, broken families, the poor, and dependency in order to justify the growth of the state. The growth of the state is how elites gain power. If the family gains power, the elites lose power. The decision before us is “Will we promote policies that increase the number of economically independent families or will we continue to grow the state and see the power of the elites grow?”
Under totalitarian regimes, the family becomes a tool of the state. Under Natural Law, the family is the pinnacle of society and the main reason for existence of the state. Under elitist totalitarian systems the state is the pinnacle of society and the family is only a tool of the state to control thought and repress opposition.
Relativism allows an individual to create a reality in contradiction to Natural Law. Many of our national leaders choose to discard Natural Law. This is probably why the elitists in America have made sure Natural Law is no longer taught in our history or government classes. If people understood the Natural Law philosophy, they would have the tools needed to recognize and remove budding elitists from public office.
Elitists love relativism because they believe that they can change the fixed order of the universe and mold it to fit their personal whims and desires. In effect, relativism allows any man or woman to become “an earthly god”. They think, in their arrogance, that they can restructure and reorder the universe.
Elitists use government to control and dominate citizens. They trust experts more than personal freedom and they empower institutions rather than empower families to address problems.
In short, the enemy of Natural Law is relativism. The enemy of relativism is Natural Law and the family.
While I strongly believe in the value of seeking to understand and obey Natural Law, I also strongly believe the implementation of Natural Law should be done without a hint of coercion, compulsion, or force. It necessitates a voluntary submission to ideas and principles outside of our own limitations and narrow personal interests. The reason is simple, Natural Law is not written down and no one person or organization has a monopoly on understanding it demands or prohibitions. They must be discovered through experience and the study of history.
Coercion is a tool of tyrants, not of a free society.
Now to the issue at hand, I perceive that we are at a moment of crisis in American history because we have largely abandoned the Natural Law perspective upon which our nation was founded and no longer seek divine Providence as have previous generations.
“The history of the United States displays an uncanny pattern: At moments of crisis, when the odds against success seem overwhelming and disaster looks imminent, fate intervenes to provide deliverance and progress. Historians may categorize these incidents as happy accidents, callous crimes, or the product of brilliant leadership, but the most notable leaders of the past four hundred years have identified this good fortune as something else—a reflection of divine Providence.” – Michael Medved
I believe the answer is yes. The real question is “Will we continue to receive blessings from Providence?” The blessings of Providence or “Nature’s God”, as Thomas Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence, are available to all humanity and will be for as long as time exists. However, we must not trifle with the divine.
Just as a physician checks the blood pressure and temperature of a patient, there are physical signs indicating the relative health of a nation. There is a growing sense among Americans that something is wrong. That we are on the wrong track. We can look at the bickering of politicians in Washington D.C., the massive accumulation of debt, and the growing political divide to see problems looming that may consume us.
Let’s look at a few of the most obvious warning signs.
Crime – The United States ranks 27th in the world in crime; however, incarceration is a different matter. The US had 2,173,800 prisoners in adult facilities in 2015. That means the US held 21.0% of the world’s prisoners in 2015, even though the US represented only around 4.4 percent of the world’s population in 2015.
National Debt – The debt has grown 71.9 percent between 2010 and 2020 from $9.1 trillion to $28.5 trillion. This is a sign of general lack of delayed gratification practiced both by politicians and citizens in national affairs.
Drug overdoses – In April 2021, was the first 12-month period where drug overdose deaths exceeded 100,000 individuals in the USA with a 28 percent increase over the previous year.
Prosperity – is still high.
Overall family health – Many American families are sick.
It is within the family that the components needed for self-government are learned. They cannot be learned efficiently and predictable in any other place. Characteristics such as self-discipline, work ethic, respect, and sacrifice.
The greatest problem in America today is that our government policies for over 100 years have been based upon the notion that government can replace family responsibilities with government programs. We are not trying to rebuild the infrastructure of the American family. Rather, America is still attempting to replace the family with government. This one reality is enough for the divine hand of Providence to withdraw if, as I believe, the family is an essential component of Natural Law.
It is time to apply the principles of Natural Law into a real-world policy. The application of Natural Law necessitates a basic structure or design. First, an understanding of the nature and power of responsibility is needed. Then, a determination of its correct placement – is it a state responsibility such as police powers and the courts system or is it a family responsibility such as education or preventative health?
Responsibility is a marker of power. If government assumes responsibility it gains power to make decisions. Government-centered responsibility gives power to government. Family-centered responsibility gives power to families.
In a limited government society such as the United States, responsibility/power needs to be balanced between the people and government. If government has too much responsibility, it will grow and become too powerful. If the government does not have enough responsibility, chaos results. Therefore, the balance of responsibility between the citizens and their government is critical.
Furthermore, unjust laws can undermine the power of the people/families. The first decision that must be made is to determine if the people, in family units, or the state should have primary responsibility to act? Depending upon the answer, the design of a law will be reflective of the answer.
If the responsibility should reside in the family, then parents should have the power to make decisions. Unfortunately, not all individual who should claim responsibility do so. Many reject responsibilities and relinquish power to the state. However, if parents claim responsibility, they give themselves the power to act. The acceptance of responsibility by individuals and families is called freedom. The more an individual claims responsibility, the more power over his or her own life and the more freedom they enjoy. Freedom is not given. Freedom is a deliberate act of claiming responsibility. The path to freedom is through personal and family responsibility. Likewise, limited government is built upon a vast sea of responsible individuals.
The goal of government in a Natural Law society, in my opinion, should be to help and encourage the acceptance of personal responsibility. Government programs and policies should not increase personal dependency. Increasing dependency undermines the foundations of limited government.
There are two questions that need to be asked every time legislators take up an issue dealing with education, health care, or poverty. The first question is, “Does this program conform to Natural Law?” The second question is, “Does this program engage/rebuild/strengthen the family unit?”
There is one final complicating issue to confront. Americans living in the first half of the 21st century are living under a government that has exceeded it bounds. It has grown too large. It has grown by claiming responsibility over too many issues that rightly belong to the people in family units. The question is, “How do we peaceably transfer power back to families and citizens in a way that will reduce the size of government while simultaneously increasing the power of families and citizens?” A defining characteristic of Natural Law-based solutions is that they are win-win. To the extent possible, legislators should try to find win-win solutions that empower the people to solve their own problems.
• We will appeal to Natural Law as our guide.
• We will build the capacity of families so that role of government can be reduced
• The tool we will use is the transfer responsibility (power) from government to the family
• We will seek for win-win solutions where the people gain power
Let’s apply these principles to an important issue – education. The overall goal is to improve student outcomes. The first question we must ask is, “Under Natural Law who bears primary responsibility over the education of the young?” “Is it the parents or the state?”
Natural Law, the way I understand it, dictates that parents have primary responsibility. This is a God-given responsibility that cannot be justly taken away except in rare circumstances where parents have abdicated this responsibility.
The state does provide a public education system per the constitutional mandate. The state constitutional mandate to provide a public education system still does not remove the primary responsibility from parents. Parents may choose to utilize the public-school system, nevertheless, parents still have primary responsibility to see their children are educated. Parents that abdicate this responsibility to teachers are misguided and harm their children. They are not teaching their children to be responsible.
The public education system has several design flaws that violate the basic tenets of Natural Law. First, many policy makers and some educators believe the state is responsible to see that children are educated.
Second, the funding system of the state pays for attendance, not for learning. This has created a focus on attendance so the school district can receive funding. However, there is not one dollar of funds associated with learning. It is all about attendance. This is contrary to common sense. Natural Law demands common sense.
Third, the policy governing public schools requires all students to attend a set number of hours to earn a credit or to move to the next year of school. This presupposes that all students learn the same thing, at the same time, and take the same amount of time to learn it. Everyone know is this not the case, yet the system continues to operate with this standardized, one-size-fits-all, factory method that is harmful to students, treats them as widgets, and is disrespectful of a student’s time.
I would like to suggest a basic design change to public education that would conform more closely to Natural Law, elevate the role of parents, and allow parents, students, and teachers to claim responsibility creating more freedom and innovation. Also, student outcomes would improve, it would be cost effective, and the culture of the system would improve reducing teacher stress.
It is called the Engaged Student bill which will be introduced in the Idaho 2022 Legislative session. The bill allows
• schools to get funded based upon enrollment
• students who are engaged (meaning they are learning and doing their work) earn flexibility and enhanced choices
• this flexibility is negotiated between the parent, teacher, and child
This proposal will reward students that are disciplined, work hard, and are learning with the ability to pursue their education goals differently and/or more efficiently. It would also allow high school student to get their schoolwork done by noon and go to a job or internship in the afternoon. It would allow all sorts of innovation, the limits of which would be set by parents and teachers dependent upon the needs of the student and the parents and the ability of the school to adapt.
The Student Engagement bill strengthens families by letting parents choose to assume responsibility, this bill would give teachers another tool to encourage non-engaged students to do their work, and this can all be done without any major spending or disruptive policy changes. For more information go to: https://steventhayn.com/pm-issue-2
As you can see by the above discussion of education, small changes are all that is needed to align our current system more fully with Natural Law. The greatest impediment to our progress as a nation is, we have not been asking the right questions. We need to ask how to reengage parents and families.
Our future is bright. But a bright future depends upon the choices we make in our personal lives and the choices we make collectively. This includes the choices we make in our state governments.
Our greatest need, in my opinion, is to figure out how to rebuild the power and importance of family units by transferring responsibility from government back to willing families. Almost all Americans who believe in limited government believe that government has gotten too big, yet no coherent, widely accepted strategy has been developed to systematically reduce the size of government. My hope is this essay offers an understandable structure for government reduction through family empowerment.