Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Letter from Thomas Fleming:

The following is a personal email that Thomas Fleming, editor of Chronicles Magazine, sent to me.

Dear Mr. Rowe,

I ran across your little post in which I am described as "an honest theocrat," and I appreciate your kindness and candor. Although I do regard myself as a Christian of impeccable orthodoxy--despite the hysteria of Christian demagogues over the Terri Schiavo case--I am far from being a theocrat. I do believe that some kind of religion or another is usually at the basis of a healthy and flourishing society and I do completely reject the silly and platitudinous philosophies of the Enlightenment, I think a good case can be made that under the Articles and the Constitution we got about as good a government as we could have under the strange circumstances of 13 rather different states forming a union for their mutual advantage. The Federal government, being a confederal pact, could not have and should not have stipulated either religious or moral principles. As our British forebears did. we learned to muddle through in an imperfect world.

What I find very disturbing these days is the delusion of the fundamentalist evangelicals and of the ultra-Catholics, who wish to pretend that this is a Christian country based on Christian law. Such an assumption, if acted on, would erect as monstrous a tyranny as the crackpot Puritans set up in England and in New England, but this time with the resources of the total state. My old friend Mel Bradford, far from being a theocrat himself, made the best argument he could that America was not founded as a leftist-atheist project--and there I think he was right, because no nation can be founded as a project, only a totalitarian state--but beyond that it is simply not safe or prudent to go.

I am not, obviously a libertarian, but in the good old days when I used to see a lot of Murray Rothbard, we came to the understanding that we would do our little best to slow the growth of the state and would also agree that at least 90% of what the federal government does [is illegitimate] and that we would not quarrel about the last 10% until we had--alas, what a joke--achieved our mission.

Because we have adamantly stood against the pseudo-Christian hysterics that want to make Tom Delay, Jeb and George Bush the ultimate arbiters of life and death and marriage, we are getting condemned right and left. You might check out for my little editorial that has now attracted more than 200 writebacks.

All the best,

Thomas Fleming
Editor, Chronicles Magazine
President, The Rockford Institute


Karen McL said...

Interesting points which follow some similar threads of my "society values" arguments we've had on these topics. Thanks for the links.

Jason Kuznicki said...

I would be hard pressed not to call someone a libertarian if they wanted to abolish 90% of the federal government. But to borrow some words, is both "silly" and "platitudinous" to dismiss the Enlightenment as Fleming has done.