Monday, February 9, 2009

Separate Ideas and the State

In response to a post at the always delicious NoodleFood, where the author points out (rightly) the dishonesty and skewed understanding of rights that Glenn Beck uses to lambast a recent court decision, I wrote the following:

...[While] I think the belief in a supernatural being is completely arbitrary, I completely understand the anger Beck expresses here. It comes from experiencing injustice--on a huge scale.

Beck works hard, has strongly held convictions, and he is forced to pay taxes. Those taxes are then used to support and advance ideas which he personally finds abonimable. Leaving aside the rationality or irrationality of any specific conclusions he may have, he has every right to not want to support different ideas than his own and to be flabbergasted that any and every idea except for even remotely religious ones are supported with his money.

This is the true evil of government-run schools. They necessarily have to teach some ideas, and since all minds do not think alike, people are compelled to support with their hard-earned dollars the perpetuation of ideas with which they disagree (and perhaps strongly so). Unsurprisingly, this causes society to splinter up into groups--each pushing their own agenda to be enforced by the government--and it leads to increasing hatred against those outside. Note: this is exactly what the "separation of church and state" was meant to avoid.

Going to the root of the issue, I think rational activists for freedom should not waste time arguing whether this subject or that one should be taught. Rather, acknowledge the anger expressed by any one group, point out that they should be outraged that their hard-earned money is funding ideas they abhor, and state the solution: get the government out of the realm of ideas completely.

This means a widening of the famous abstraction to include all ideas--whether religious or secular. It means that we should not narrowly focus on the attempts by the religious to use the force of government to support their ideas but actively support the view that such an activity is wrong no matter the group, no matter the idea, and no matter the purpose.

What we need is a new concept and a new aspiration--the complete separation of the state from the realm of ideas--and we need to build this up at every possible chance, using every instance of injustice to point out just how immoral and impractical the current system is. In time, a good many people will agree with us. Because people of intelligence still exist. And we are right.


  1. I should note that I "cleaned up" a few words in that post as I originally wrote the comment a bit too fast.

    This week's going to be a bit crazy for all you Tuesday and Thursday regulars--because there'll be three posts for the week (before going back to the normal schedule).

  2. Thanks, I liked it too! :-) Reading it again, though, I should clarify two points:

    1. It's not necessarily a "waste of time" to argue about what is being taught in schools. However, within this context, these are non-fundamental issues.

    As there are plenty of people to argue specfics, and time is limited, I think those who understand the fundamentals should focus on them first--and then move on (to more specific issues) if time permits and the motivation exists.

    2. The formulation I used of a "separation of state and ideas" does not mean that I think the government should be idea-neutral.

    Instead, a proper government is based on and enforces certain ideas--chief among them that man is a being with certain inalienable rights that no person or group of people may justly abrogate.

    Precisely because of this, the government can not make one step in supporting any one idea--within educational, health, or scientific establishments. To do that, is to deny another person's rights--and thus to become an instrument of injustice (for whoever controls the government, at whatever time).