Non-existent principles

This from Brooks’ column yesterday. Inspired by this.

>[H]is self-confidence survives because it flows from two sources. The first is his unconquerable faith in the rightness of his Big Idea. Bush is convinced that history is moving in the direction of democracy, or as he said Friday: “It’s more of a theological perspective. I do believe there is an Almighty, and I believe a gift of that Almighty to all is freedom. And I will tell you that is a principle that no one can convince me that doesn’t exist.”

I missed the part in the Bible about history moving in the direction of democracy. That idea–democracy–was someone else’s. I’m also uncertain whether the dispute about Bush’s belligerent and counterproductive policies primarily concerns whether or not certain principles “exist.” Whatever the source of such foundational principles of value (divine beneficence, common agreement, or whatever), there will always remain the question of how to apply them. Claiming that they’re divine, in other words, tells us nothing about how to apply them.

3 thoughts on “Non-existent principles”

  1. You mean you’ve never read the chapter on how the Apostles gathered together and elected representatives whom in turn voted unanimously in favor of the concept of freedom? I don’t know how you could miss it; it’s in right there in the first Appendix!

    Seriously though, I’m having some trouble determining what exactly ‘that’ refers to in the last sentence. Is it freedom, democracy, or the Almighty? And are any of those really principles?

  2. That’s funny Matt. You’re right about the grammatical ambiguity. Say, however, it’s not ambiguous, it’s still unclear how those things are principles. And if they’re principles, how they are being realized in Iraq or how the opponents of the war oppose the principle (rather than the application or misapplication of the principle). Silly.

  3. I don’t see the ambiguity. The value referred to is freedom. But the last sentence itself is rhetorical, and not informative, since all it’s info is contained in the prior two.

    Whether or no “democracy” was “someone else’s idea” is also a theological question before it is a historical question. Sorry to nit-pick there. Augustine, for instance, it seems, would argue the ‘someone else’s idea’ claim.

    But I think you’re right to be frustrated with this kind of talk from Bush. He should just come out and say that it’s a war against Islam. Of course he can’t, but he should.

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