29 January 2021

A path away from Kant?

Someone has been reading my second book, We Answer to Another: Authority, Office, and the Image of God: A path away from Kant? Koyzis’ provocative thesis on authority and liberty. Chris Krycho writes:

It’s early pages yet, but the idea is striking: not simply that we’ve been getting it wrong with liberalism, but quite specifically: that the key mistake of liberalism is to ground all our ideals in liberty as such rather than to see individual liberties as a proper response to the authority of a human person qua human person: that abridgements of liberties are abridgements not because liberty is itself the supreme ideal but because it is violating another’s rightful authority over her own person (an authority that itself stands under the authority of God the creator).

Every prior critical treatment of liberalism I’ve read has had a fundamental failure: it had no answer for why we should see individual liberties as goods worth preserving. Koyzis, it seems, does. . . . Color me deeply, deeply intrigued.

 Keep reading, my friend! Prospective readers can obtain We Answer to Another from the publisher or from the usual online vendors.

26 January 2021

Misreading Kuyper? Stewart, Hawley, and The New York Times

Shortly after this month's uprising in Washington, DC, journalist Catherine Stewart published this piece in The New York Times in which Abraham Kuyper's name came up: The Roots of Josh Hawley's Rage. I have just posted a response here: Misreading Kuyper? Stewart, Hawley, and The New York Times. An excerpt follows:

Enlisting Kuyper into the contemporary North American culture war has a certain plausibility, because there really are battles to be waged in the larger culture. . . . However, and this ought not to be forgotten, the antithesis between belief and unbelief does not run quite so tidily between different groups of people. Any effort to assess in a spiritually discerning way the true character of the various ideological visions and illusions on offer cannot be content to point fingers. On the contrary, we must begin within ourselves. True knowledge begins with self-knowledge, and without the latter, our efforts to remove the speck from our neighbour’s eye will be unpersuasive.

Read the entire article here.

21 January 2021

Context appearance

Last week I was interviewed by Maggie John for the programme Context which airs over Yes TV in Burlington, Ontario. The topic was the storming of the Capitol two weeks ago.

19 January 2021

Defending ordinary politics: Crick's contribution

Sir Bernard Crick
In 1962 British political scientist Bernard Crick (1929-2008) wrote a book that quickly became a classic, In Defence of Politics. Receiving a knighthood late in life for his contribution to citizenship education, Sir Bernard was a partisan of an unusual sort. A professed socialist, he was an advisor to Neil Kinnock's Labour Party in the 1980s. 

Yet he was often mistaken for a Burkean conservative, due primarily to his expressed conviction that politics is a distinctive enterprise that ought to be valued, not only for its ability to deliver desired goods, but for providing a framework in which potential opponents can work out their differences in peaceful fashion. Crick defined politics as

the activity by which differing interests within a given unit of rule are conciliated by giving them a share in power in proportion to their importance to the welfare and the survival of the whole community. And, to complete the formal definition, a political system is that type of government where politics proves successful in ensuring reasonable stability and order (21).

For Crick politics serves an important purpose, but one that cannot be reduced to the provision of, say, economic benefits to the greatest number of people, as many of his fellow socialists would assume. After defining politics, Crick goes on in his book to defend politics against a variety of potential threats, including ideology, democracy, nationalism, technology, and false friends such as “the anti-political socialist.”

18 January 2021

Madison's nightmare

James Madison & John Adams
This week the venerable British newsweekly, The Economist, has published an editorial drawing on two and a half millennia of political philosophy: Madison's nightmare: Political theorists have been worrying about mob rule for 2,000 years. An excerpt:

The Founding Fathers argued that democracy could avoid becoming mobocracy only if it was hedged with a series of restraints to control the power of the people. Power was divided between the branches of government to make sure that nobody wielded too much. Citizens were given extensive constitutional rights. Senators were given six-year terms to insulate them from fads. They were also initially appointed by state legislatures rather than directly elected. Supreme Court judges were appointed for life, ensuring they cannot be removed by people from other branches.
Alexis de Tocqueville added his own worries about mob rule in ‘Democracy in America’. For him the constitution alone is not strong enough to save democracy from the mob. A vigorous civic culture rooted in self-governing communities (he was particularly keen on New England’s townships) and a self-reliant and educated population are also necessary. So too is a responsible elite that recognises that its first duty is to ‘educate democracy’.

15 January 2021

Capitol Hill Insurrection

Christian Courier has published a slightly modified version of my blog post from last week: Capitol Hill Insurrection. An excerpt:

Until recently I had assumed that a political culture of respect for the rule of law was securely established in the United States, due largely to its debt to the English constitution and to the long experience of representative government extending back to colonial times. While we might expect to hear of an attempted coup d’état in Pakistan or Bolivia, we knew that it couldn’t happen here. Not in the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, or the U.S. We’re too politically stable and our constitutional traditions too resilient for that to happen. Yet what we must learn from January 6’s events is that we can never afford take our political culture for granted.

13 January 2021

The Emperor and the Bible

Brazil is unusual among western-hemispheric nations for having begun as a constitutional monarchy, sharing this status with only Canada and a few Caribbean island states. There was no Simon Bolivar or George Washington for Brazilians. Rather the king of Portugal, Dom João VI, appointed his son Dom Pedro I, to rule Brazil in his stead while he returned the Portuguese throne to Lisbon after a period of exile during Napoleon's occupation of the Iberian peninsula. In his father's absence, Pedro declared Brazil an independent empire under his own rule in 1822. When Pedro abdicated the imperial throne in 1831, his son, Dom Pedro II, took his place and reigned for decades until he was ousted in 1889 following his abolition of slavery the previous year.

The Emperor's name comes up in this story: O imperador Dom Pedro II e seu amor pela Bíblia (Emperor Dom Pedro II and his Love for the Bible). The Emperor attended one of D. L. Moody's revival meetings in New York in 1876, responding affirmatively, but silently, to his message. This quotation has been attributed to the Emperor:

I love the Bible, I read it every day and the more I read it the more I love it. There are some who don't like the Bible. I don't understand them. I can't comprehend such people, but I love it. I love its simplicity and I love its repetitions and reiterations of the truth. As I said, I read it daily and each time I do so I like it more.

12 January 2021

Cultural dysfunction and public policy

I have a new post at Kuyperian Commentary: Cultural dysfunction and public policy. The first paragraph:

Hours before the failed insurrection of 6 January, I had finished reading J. D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy, the young author’s absorbing autobiography of growing up in an extended Appalachian family in a failing industrial town in Ohio. Reading it prompted me to consider the unique features of specific cultures and subcultures, deeply rooted factors that make for flourishing and those that obstruct it over the long term. In recent decades we have come to assume that all cultures are equal and that the different ways of doing things that separate distinctive groups of people are equally valid. If one group suffers disproportionately from poverty and social instability, we are generally loathe to examine internal contributing factors for fear of being accused of blaming the victim. Nevertheless, if we take seriously the status of our fellow human beings as responsible agents, we cannot afford to overlook these factors. This has profound public policy implications.

Read the entire post here.

09 January 2021

Mauldin's grieving Lincoln

I remember all too well when the late Bill Mauldin published this cartoon after the assassination of John F. Kennedy in 1963. Now I'm seeing it again following the events of wednesday, 6 January, in Washington, DC. Most appropriate.

Six Cents Report

Several weeks ago I had a conversation with these two very fine gentlemen, Darnell Samuels and Joel Nicoloff, on the Six Cents Report. The link to our talk has now been posted here: Unmasking America’s Political Idolatry with Global Scholar: David Koyzis - 6CR #103. My apologies for the sound quality on my end, which I suspect is due to my beard rubbing against the microphone of my headphone. According to the website, "The Six Cents Report is a weekly podcast that reports on events related to Canadians from an economic and theological perspective."

08 January 2021

The Tempering of Democracy

Polybios (c 200-c 118 BC)
Five years ago I wrote something for First Things which I believe continues to have relevance for today, especially after the events of two days ago: The Tempering of Democracy: How Recovering the Classical Mixed Constitution Could Affect the Way We Vote. Attempting to more thoroughly democratize a constitution can backfire and lead to would-be authoritarian leaders coming out on top. An excerpt:

The need for democracy is satisfied by giving citizens a choice between two or more candidates thoroughly vetted by their respective party organizations and presented to the people as the best persons for the job. The aristocratic principle—necessary in all political systems—should come into play within the parties themselves as would-be candidates are screened in accordance with established criteria to insure a high level of competence and personal integrity. Only then would they be brought before the public for their verdict.

Read the entire piece here or here.

Common Good conversation: uprising aftermath

Yes, it's time for another conversation with Ian Simkins and Brian From at WYLL, AM 1160, Chicago. Who knew men of the cloth could be so much fun to talk to? Guest: David Koyzis, Political Scientist and Author - Response to the Siege on the US Capitol - January 7, 2021.

07 January 2021

Capitol Hill insurrection: the day after

In AD 410 Alaric led his army of Visigoths into Rome and ransacked the city. By then Rome was no longer the capital of the western Roman Empire, but this single event sent shock waves throughout the known world. How could the founding city of the greatest empire in history be so vulnerable to barbarian tribes who could scarcely be called civilized? As we know, pagan Romans argued that, because Rome had abandoned its ancient gods, the latter had abandoned the city to its fate. Many thought Christians especially culpable, because, a generation earlier, the Emperor Theodosius had proclaimed Christianity to be the state religion, thereby angering the gods. Augustine, bishop of the north African city of Hippo, took up the challenge to defend the Christian faith from pagan accusations. The result became a classic of western literature, De Civitate Dei, known in English as the City of God.

I thought of this historical event as our family watched on television the events unfolding in Washington, D.C., on 6 January. We were, of course, horrified. It hardly seemed possible that a band of hooligans, egged on by the President of the United States, could invade Capitol Hill, breaching what we had assumed to be an effective security perimeter, and vandalize the offices of members of Congress. This is the sort of thing one associates with the Russian Federation in 1993, or a nonwestern country unschooled in the customs and constitutional procedures of democratic governance. In English-speaking democracies we have come to expect that all political actors of whatever partisan sympathies will play by the rules, acquiescing in the smooth transition of power once the electorate has made its decision at the polls. No one pretends that it's a perfect system, but, to paraphrase Winston Churchill, it is almost certainly the least worst of the political systems on offer in today's world.

Barbara Martha Calvert (1935-2020)

Barbara Martha Calvert (née Finstrom), born 5/18/1935, died 12/29/2020. Born in Brooklyn, NY, Barbara Finstrom was raised in a Scandinavian sea-faring family which emigrated to the United States in the early part of the 20th century. Barbara recalled childhood days roller skating on the sidewalks of Brooklyn, attending Public School 102, and worshiping at the local Episcopal Church. She later attended Fort Hamilton High School where she won awards in mathematics and vocal performance.

She later worked at Macy’s and as a secretary for Pfizer in Manhattan where she met Roy L. Calvert (1925-2019). They were married on February 12, 1956. No matter where she lived, she always proudly said she was from Brooklyn when asked. Most recently, she resided in Downers Grove, IL, and Hillsdale, MI.

Barbara’s brother, Ronald G. Finstrom, survives her, as do her children Nancy Lynn Calvert-Koyzis (David), Kenneth Roy Calvert (Beth) and Emily Calvert Moran (Bill), as well as seven grandchildren.

Barbara’s parents, Borghild Alvilda Finstrom and Axel George Finstrom, who served as a Captain in the Merchant Marine in World War II, preceded her in death, as did her older brother George Finstrom.

She will be remembered for her hard work and determination, her love of family, her stellar homemaking, and her eye for detail, particularly during the many years she spent as Editorial Coordinator for Today’s Christian Woman at Christianity Today Publications. She found great comfort in her faith and was involved in many church congregations over the years. 

06 January 2021

Rod Dreher's jeremiad

The Cateclesia Institute has just published my review of Rod Dreher's Live Not By Lies: Living in Truth: Rod Dreher’s Jeremiad. An excerpt:

Could too expansive a nondiscrimination regime produce a climate in which faith-based communities, with their distinctive standards for membership, will be suppressed? Could a therapeutic focus on the expressive individual create an inhospitable climate for churches which by their very nature call members to subordinate their own wills to God’s word? We would be unwise to deny such possibilities.

Having studied and written about political ideologies for decades, I believe that all ideologies have totalitarian potential. They may not lead to forced labour camps or mass murders, but they do make claims which compete on a basic level with the traditional religious faiths, and they do require sacrificial victims, if only in damaged reputations and fewer career opportunities. This is why we need above all to be spiritually discerning in our assessment of them.

Yet, political ideologies do not operate in a contextual vacuum. All of us, whatever our ultimate convictions, live and work within the larger panorama of God’s creation. Even if a Supreme Court justice proclaims that “[a]t the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life” (Planned Parenthood v. Casey, 1992), the cosmos itself remains stubbornly unpersuaded, impervious to our subjective notions of its meaning or lack thereof.

Read the entire review here.

Innes: Christ and the Kingdoms of Men, a review

Voegelin View has published my review of David C. Innes, Christ and the Kingdoms of Men. Innes teaches political science at the King's College in New York, and I've known him for several years, although we've not met personally. This is a very fine book, with one significant flaw: the lack of an in depth treatment of justice, which I believe illustrates the limits of political theology as a discipline. An excerpt from my review:

If political theology begins with Scripture, political science as an empirical discipline begins with the raw data of political life. To be sure, political science is not religiously neutral, and the practitioner does not and cannot park her ultimate beliefs on the sidelines before plunging into the subject matter. Nevertheless, the empirical nature of the discipline means that one must attend to the ways governments actually function in the real world. Every government balances the various interests within its jurisdiction. Even the political realist preferring to banish justice to the separate realms of morality and religion will speak of a balance of powers—language by which justice sneaks in the back door. Weighing interests in the balance is quite simply what governments do. They may get the balance wrong in small or large ways, yet the jural task of government—of rendering to each his or her due—is always present, if sometimes in distorted form.

05 January 2021

Link for American donors

Global Scholars Canada informs me that prospective American donors should contribute through the website of its American counterpart by clicking here: Global Scholars. I have added a link in the right sidebar to reflect this change. Thank you for your understanding. May you enjoy God's blessings in the new year.

02 January 2021

Matt Crummy's 'Six Insightful Reads'

I am pleased to see Political Visions and Illusions make the list of Matt Crummy's 6 Insightful Reads To Help Make Sense of Our Culture and Historical Moment. About the blogger: "Matt is a multidisciplinary creative director, designer, musician, & writer. Husband & father. Drake U grad. Walk aficionado. Jesus follower."


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Contact at: dtkoyzis at gmail dot com