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Re: Intolerance: its modern embodiment


>Actually, the Pledge of Allegiance (and our money) mention God,
> not a Christian God.

In your opinion.  Not in the opinion of all hearers.

>I presume that the founders chose their words carefully and judiciously.

The founders were all dead when the Pledge of Allegiance was invented.


>The issue I raised was that of intolerance.


>I was suggesting that the Atheists "put a sock in it".

If lumping everyone who disagrees with a certain opinion under a
single label and then telling them to stop stating their opinion
is tolerance, apparently the word means something other than what
I thought it did.

The rest of your message is much more interesting:

>Relationship with the Scots: I got interested in this topic when I realized that
>fueled largely by technical and engineering contributions by the Scots, a smal
>and impoverished nation with a tiny population.  When you look at their techni
>contributions on a per capita basis, they stand head and shoulders above their
>competitor nations.  I have spent a number of years trying to work out why the
>were so successful, and have concluded that it had to do with their cultural

I agree with that.  And the cultural values that helped them do this
were those of the Scottish Enlightenment,


David Hume argued that moral values were social constructs based on pleasure.
Francis Hutcheson argued that things are pleasurable because they are moral.
Adam Smith argued that utilitarian constructs such as markets should lead
automatically to good results for society; he possibly more anyone else
invented capitalism as we know it.

 ``We look to Scotland for all our ideas of civilization.''

And it wasn't only France that looked to Scotland.  It's safe to say that
John Locke and Thomas Paine were influenced by the Scottish Enlightenment.
Benjamin Franklin met Hume, and encouraged Paine to move to America.
Effects were produced in the politics and political system of the new world.

>Recently I discovered a marvelous (i.e. agrees with my hypothesis) book writte
>n by
>David S. Landes, retired Professor of History and Economics at Harvard (of all
>places),  entitled "The Wealth and Poverty of Nations... why some are so rich 
>some are so poor" (published by Norton in 1998).  It is a well documented,
>scholarly examination of the causes of national wealth and poverty.  Landes
>concludes that cultural values are the answer... some are "better" that others
>better in the sense of leading to improved national success and wealth.  He
>hammers his point home with example after example, and devastates the publishe

[ Excess quotations omitted. ]

I've seen extracts from this book.  Related to it, see the report in the
current Economist, Self-dommed to failure:


It's about a report recently published by Muslim scholars through the UN
that spells out why they think the Muslim world lags behind the west.
The main reasons, they say, are three: autocratic government, poor
education, and poor status of women.  These are all, at least in the
broadest sense, cultural issues.

>Perhaps unsurprisingly, I think Landes is spot-on in his thinking, although I
>confess that he missed the Scots' contributions in his rather sweeping examina
>of historic case studies.
>I trust this clarifies my remarks.
>Best regards,

Here's one man's summary of tolerance; a summary that seems more than a
little influenced by the Scottish Enlightenment:

``During the contest of opinion through which we have passed the animation
of discussions and of exertions has sometimes worn an aspect which might
impose on strangers unused to think freely and to speak and to write
what they think; but this being now decided by the voice of the nation,
announced according to the rules of the Constitution, all will, of course,
arrange themselves under the will of the law, and unite in common efforts
for the common good. All, too, will bear in mind this sacred principle,
that though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that
will to be rightful must be reasonable; that the minority possess their
equal rights, which equal law must protect, and to violate would be
oppression. Let us, then, fellow-citizens, unite with one heart and one
mind. Let us restore to social intercourse that harmony and affection
without which liberty and even life itself are but dreary things.
And let us reflect that, having banished from our land that religious
intolerance under which mankind so long bled and suffered, we have yet
gained little if we countenance a political intolerance as despotic,
as wicked, and capable of as bitter and bloody persecutions. During the
throes and convulsions of the ancient world, during the agonizing spasms
of infuriated man, seeking through blood and slaughter his long-lost
liberty, it was not wonderful that the agitation of the billows should
reach even this distant and peaceful shore; that this should be more felt
and feared by some and less by others, and should divide opinions as to
measures of safety. But every difference of opinion is not a difference
of principle. We have called by different names brethren of the same
principle. We are all Republicans, we are all Federalists. If there be any
among us who would wish to dissolve this Union or to change its republican
form, let them stand undisturbed as monuments of the safety with which
error of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to combat it.
I know, indeed, that some honest men fear that a republican government
can not be strong, that this Government is not strong enough; but would
the honest patriot, in the full tide of successful experiment, abandon
a government which has so far kept us free and firm on the theoretic
and visionary fear that this Government, the world's best hope, may
by possibility want energy to preserve itself? I trust not. I believe
this, on the contrary, the strongest Government on earth. I believe
it the only one where every man, at the call of the law, would fly to
the standard of the law, and would meet invasions of the public order
as his own personal concern. Sometimes it is said that man can not be
trusted with the government of himself. Can he, then, be trusted with
the government of others? Or have we found angels in the forms of kings
to govern him? Let history answer this question.''

--Thomas Jefferson, first inaugural address

John S. Quarterman <jsq@quarterman.org>
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