We all have visions. They are the silent shapers of our thoughts.
—Thomas Sowell, A Conflict of Visions (1987)

What Moses brought down from Mt. Sinai were not the Ten Suggestions. They are commandments.
—Ted Koppel, an address at Duke University (1987)

Constrained and Unconstrained

In A Conflict of Visions, economist Thomas Sowell shows us how political choices stem from social vision. “A vision is our sense of how the world works,” he writes. “Visions are the foundations on which theories are built.” Sowell concentrates our attention on the two competing visions that dominate America’s political life. He calls them the “constrained vision” and the “unconstrained vision.” The constraint has to do with human nature. What exactly are man’s capacities and limitations? What is his moral and mental nature? How free and how perfectible is he?

Those who hold the constrained vision see human nature as morally flawed and intellectually limited. They assume that men make immoral, self-centered choices as a matter of course. They believe that men never have enough knowledge to see the end from the beginning. They believe that these constraints put severe limits on human judgment, whether that judgment springs from a society as a whole or whether it springs from the active reason of an individual. But those who have a constrained view of human nature are more likely to trust the judgment of society, especially as it is expressed in the laws, traditions, social habits, and language of the society. They have more confidence in the collective wisdom of the past than in the cutting-edge innovations of even the brightest contemporary thinkers. They are more inclined to hold on to what has been—or what once was—than to change for change’s sake. But they do believe in change—slow, organic change. Those who hold the constrained vision we call Conservatives.

Those moved by an unconstrained view of human nature believe that man is fundamentally good, or nearly so. They see no practical limits to his ability to understand himself and his world. In fact, they see human reason as the obvious arbiter of truth. The more facts, principles, and science available to the reasonable man, the better decisions he will render. In principle, then, society’s wisest and best should be able to make the right choices about pretty much anything. This was Plato’s vision. Once the wisest and the best have delivered their decisions, there is no practical reason those decisions shouldn’t be implemented. Any changes that might be involved are for the good of humanity, after all. Only the ignorant and the malignant could object. However, the changes must come, and if some vagueness, even some blatant deceit, is required to effect the changes in question, still the changes must go through. The worthiness of the goal outweighs the shoddiness of the process. The debt ceiling debate is a perfect example. Utopia is worth the price. Those who hold this unconstrained vision we call Liberals.

The goal of this essay and its sequel is to compare each of these visions with God’s vision for society as it is revealed in the Law that God spoke from Sinai, the Ten Commandments (Ex. 20). First, we’ll consider the unconstrained or liberal vision, if only because the comparison is simpler. Next time, we will return to the constrained vision. That being said, here’s my take on how liberals (the unconstrained view) interact with the Ten Commandments:

1: No Other Gods

The Law says we must have no god but the God of the Bible. But for the unconstrained vision, the God of the Bible is an impossibility. If such a God existed, then man’s reason would be limited by God’s omniscient wisdom and man’s freedom limited by His divine sovereignty and moral authority. The existence of such a God would reduce man to a mockery, a thing created merely for someone else’s pleasure—a cosmic version of midget wrestling. The matter is too preposterous and irrational to debate. Liberals insist we look to human reason incarnate in the technocratic State for ultimacy, so again, we must look to the wisest and best in our society. Our philosopher-kings and our Keynesian magicians will save us.

2: No Graven Images

The Law forbids the making and worshiping of idols. To a point, the unconstrained vision agrees. We should have no graven images. But here’s why Liberals might tend to go along with this one—graven images smack of ancient things long past, of ideals set in stone, of musty lore and fantastic traditions. No permanent images, thank you. Nothing indelible. But big picture HD images… fast fading web images… here today and forgotten tomorrow images… these are effective tools for the emotional moment and commit us to believing in nothing. The wisest and best—and their network oracles—love to thrill and move us with the latest flashes of light and shadow, but they never commit us to anything except a vague longing for a movie’s sequel.

3: Honor God’s Name

The Law tells us to use God’s name rightly. We take up God’s name when we swear an oath. For the unconstrained vision, oaths represent a power that binds us to a past perspective, a perspective that may be totally outdated today or tomorrow. Such a thing is unacceptable. Liberals insist we be true to ourselves as we understand ourselves only at this moment. Commitment by oath is at odds with such true autonomy. Sowell uses the novelist and philosopher William Godwin to underscore the way the unconstrained vision deals with commitment. Godwin was the husband of feminist Mary Wollstonecraft and the father of Mary Godwin Shelley, the creator of Frankenstein. He hated commitment, whether by oath or even through loyalty and gratitude. He insisted on man’s freedom to act on the latest information. For example, Godwin writes in An Enquiry Concerning Political Justice (1793):

Am I precluded from better information for the whole course of my life? And, if not for my whole life, why for a year, a week, or even an hour?

Liberals believe commitments shut up a man’s mind against new information and cripple his ability to act rationally. They insist permanent commitments are death to self, death to personal autonomy.

4: Remember the Sabbath Day

The Law requires us to honor the Sabbath Day. The Jewish Sabbath commemorated the original creation week. The New Testament Lord’s Day commemorates Christ’s resurrection from the dead. The unconstrained vision can make no pact with such mysticism. It would be utterly irrational to commemorate a past event even if it anchored all history. Liberals ask: should we let the memory of one pseudo-historical event shape our ethic of work and leisure, let alone our culture? Certainly not. Perhaps we need a cycle of work and rest, but its proper goal would be to make me more efficient or to better the species. We can consult the experts. They always know what to do.

5: Honor Your Parents

The Law requires us to honor our parents. For the unconstrained vision, parents are the voice of the dead past. They are the ignorance, superstition, and bigotry of an earlier time. Liberals believe children will see more clearly than their parents and ancestors. Logically then, parents have no rights in, or claims upon, their kids. They birth them and raise them for the village or the super state. Any attempt on the parents’ part to assert their authority or to impose any sort of vision upon their children would be the worst sort of meddling, as well as a positive threat to society. Homeschooling and Christian education, of course, are the ultimate evil.

6: Don’t Kill

The Law says, “Don’t kill.” Jesus rendered this, “Thou shalt do no murder.” In principle, the unconstrained vision agrees. They say there is nothing more important than human life. Well, kind of. Liberals believe that, in the long run, human life must be preserved for some. But they say revolutions are necessary, even if they’re primarily ideological. To prove this, they hang Chairman Mao Christmas ornaments up on their winter solstice trees. You have to break some eggs to make an omelet they say. The wisest and best tell us that some lives must be lost now so that all can be saved later. Liberals also tell us with great certainty who counts as human and who doesn’t. They’re the wisest and the best after all.

7: Don’t Commit Adultery

The Law requires fidelity to one’s spouse. The unconstrained vision values autonomy more than enduring love. Past commitments must give way to the needs of the moment. If the sincerity of my love has failed, if my present needs mandate a rearrangement of marital or sexual relationships, then I must be true to myself. It’s rational that I meet my needs. It really is that simple.

8: Don’t Steal

The Law requires us to respect the property of others. But for the unconstrained vision, inequality of property is one of the chief injustices in our world. If we are to have true social justice and practical equality, then a proper redistribution of wealth is necessary. Remember what the man said to the plumber: “We’ve got to spread the wealth around a little.” We (collectively) must take from those who have far too much and give to those who have far too little. The excessive property of the rich is itself a form of theft unless the rich are your friends, of course. This is true where individuals are concerned and it’s also true of nations. The rich must repay the poor. They call this social justice.

9: Don’t Bear False Witness

The Law demands faithful testimony, whether in or out of court. But for the unconstrained vision, it’s the results that matter. Social justice must triumph and love for humanity must carry the day. The end is worth all the means. Whatever pushes us toward the goal is true enough for today. Truth is what works. If you have to lie to get a spending bill passed… the lie is true for you and you push it through.

10: Don’t Covet

The Law demands contentment as well as personal charity. For the unconstrained vision, contentment is a cop-out, and personal charity is too little, too late. Liberals insist we revel in our discontent. The world is not yet fully made in man’s image, so it needs a lot of hard work from all village members to get us there. But the good news is that we can get there if we hope enough and change enough. Or close enough anyway. Just give us political power and lots and lots of funding. We’ll take from the haves, give to the have-nots, keep a little bit, you know, for the effort, and everyone will marvel at how easily Utopia arrived.


The unconstrained vision is the vision of Romanticism and revolution. Its always dawning New World Order is a world of economic socialism, sexual licentiousness, and individual arrogance—and all in the name of love. Liberals think they’re superior because they know the rest of us are all equal. And unless you believe what they believe, you’re labeled an angry hillbilly with a gun. I guess that makes sense. The Ten Commandments however, define love and social harmony in radically different terms. God’s Law, like the Gospel, summons us to love God and die to self, to love our neighbor and leave his stuff alone. The Law requires more than ideals, sincerity, and good intentions… it requires godly action and godly restraint.

For Further Reading:

Thomas Sowell, A Conflict of Visions (New York: William Morrow and Company, 1987).

Dinesh D’Souza, Letters to a Young Conservative (New York: Basic Books, 2002).

Rousas John Rushdoony, The Politics of Guilt and Pity (Nutley, NJ: The Craig Press, 1970).

Rousas J. Rushdoony, The Institutes of Biblical Law (N. p.: Craig Press, 1973).

T. Robert Ingram, The World Under God’s Law, Criminal Aspects of the Welfare State (Houston, TX: St. Thomas Press, 1962).

Gary North, The Sinai Strategy, Economics and the Ten Commandments (Tyler, TX: The Institute for Christian Economics, 1986).

Greg L. Bahnsen, By This Standard, The Authority of God’s Law Today (Tyler, TX: The Institute for Christian Economics, 1985).


  • Avatar
    CMontgo687 Posted July 31, 2011 11:23 am

    Great article and shared. Thank you Off the Grid 🙂

  • Avatar
    tk3taylor Posted July 31, 2011 6:48 pm

    I was raised a UU and it is impossible to ‘be’ UU without being liberal. Open-minded does not mean throwing the laws of cause & effect out and going with the feeling. Your reaction to the article proves your liberalness.
    I will pray for you, the way someone prayed for me, to realize that what you choose as your ultimate authority determines your results in this life…. and the next.

  • Avatar
    tlabreche Posted July 31, 2011 7:02 pm

    This was a wonderful piece! And you even quoted some of my favorite people: Thomas Sowell and Greg Bahnsen!

    • Avatar
      Hakimora Posted August 4, 2011 3:15 am

      All I have to say about this ridiculous article is WTF?
      Done with the blog as well.
      Stupidity, even in satire, is still, well, stupidity.

      • Avatar
        bogie7129 Posted August 9, 2011 3:52 am


        I will also pray for you and hope to see you in Heaven, as well.


        • Avatar
          Dimmy Posted August 9, 2011 3:25 pm

          Why don’t you pray for the Palestinians instead?

          False witness … hypocrate!!!

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    Shepherd Posted August 6, 2011 3:43 am

    Shalom brothers & sisters. I’ve read through the article and the comments, I have a free & independent thought to share. Have you ever noticed how much religion and politics resemble electricity and mathmatics? There is always a {+} positive and {-} negative!
    Not too long ago there was a national election, one of those men given us to choose had a preacher who called God to damn this land from his pulpit in direct violation of the big ten listed above, all while knowing God had to be listening. Yet, later, the majority of the land’s citizenry made a free choice to cast their lot with one of those men regardless that they may being condemning themselves too. The people voted their way and the heavens above heard that preacher, then decided if that is what the people wanted, so be it!
    Please practice kindness and watch your language or your food will spoil before you get it swallowed! Shalom!

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    Shepherd Posted August 6, 2011 3:55 am

    PS: Have you ever asked why Liberals and Conservatives are said to be from the left and right?
    In old Latin, the word for left is sinister {as in without, or darkness}. The word for right is dexter, {as in dexterity, or agile}. You see, as I began by referring to polarity, a conservative saves or adds {+} while the liberal removes or subtracts {-} therefore, the choice is always yours! But be careful about what you ask for, you might get it!

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    JUROR 64529 Posted August 7, 2011 3:41 pm

    FOUND AT: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sovereignty
    Sovereignty is the quality of having supreme, independent authority over a geographic area, such as a territory.[1] It can be found in a power to rule and make law that rests on a political fact for which no purely legal explanation can be provided. In theoretical terms, the idea of “sovereignty”, historically, from Socrates to Thomas Hobbes, has always necessitated a moral imperative on the entity exercising it.

    Age of Enlightenment

    Hobbes, in Leviathan (1651) introduced an early version of the social contract (or contractarian) theory, arguing that to overcome the “nasty, brutish and short” quality of life without the cooperation of other human beings, people must join in a “commonwealth” and submit to a “Soveraigne [sic] Power” that is able to compel them to act in the common good. This expediency argument attracted many of the early proponents of sovereignty. Hobbes deduced from the definition of sovereignty that it must be:[citation needed]
    Absolute: because conditions could only be imposed on a sovereign if there were some outside arbitrator to determine when he had violated them, in which case the sovereign would not be the final authority.
    Indivisible: The sovereign is the only final authority in his territory; he does not share final authority with any other entity. Hobbes held this to be true because otherwise there would be no way of resolving a disagreement between the multiple authorities.

    Hobbes’ hypothesis that the ruler’s sovereignty is contracted to him by the people in return for his maintaining their safety, led him to conclude that if the ruler fails to do this, the people are released from their obligation to obey him.

    Bodin’s and Hobbes’s theories would decisively shape the concept of sovereignty, which we can find again in the social contract theories

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    JUROR 64529 Posted August 7, 2011 3:42 pm

    May God Bless the U.S. Land That I love.
    May God Bless our fine Military & our loyal
    Oath Keepers: http://oathkeepers.org/oath/
    Anyone can take the oaths of office to protect the flag -v- FlagS and constitution.
    But not everyone is keeps it.
    “Try to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the fruitless works of darkness; rather expose them, for it is shameful even to mention the things done by them in secret; but everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for everything that becomes visible is light. Therefore, it says: “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.” Ephesians 5:10-14
    “But he said: Woe to you lawyers also, because you load men with burdens which they cannot bear and you yourselves touch not the packs with one of your fingers”. Luke 11:46
    “If thou shalt see the oppressions of the poor, and violent judgments, and justice perverted in the province, wonder not at this matter: for he that is high hath another higher, and there are others still higher than these: 8 Moreover there is the king that reigneth over all the land subject to him. 9 A covetous man shall not be satisfied with money: and he that loveth riches shall reap no fruit from them: so this also is vanity.” Ecclesiastes 5:7-9

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    bogie7129 Posted August 9, 2011 3:51 am


    I’ll pray for your soul and hope to see you in Heaven.


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    Oklahoma Heat Posted August 9, 2011 12:22 pm

    I’m not religious due to the fact that I do not want to be a hypocrite. As many do, I struggle with my spirituality and try to do my best. It’s not so easy. As a non religious person, it is simple common sense and dignity that the commandments do in fact pertain to all of humanity. The first 4 are a bit iffy and of a personal nature for those that regard God as defined by the KJV of the bible.

    Number 5 is a rough one for me personally. It is kind of hard to forgive your parents of verbal and physical abuse. It was pretty rough. However I had great grand parents and other relatives I absolutely worship.

    6 through 10 is a no brainer. Really, I do not see all the hoopla here. Again, it is common sense to follow simple laws of human nature. We do know in fact the difference between right and wrong by moral virtue. Some of us choose to do right and others don’t. It is a shame that the few bad apples have spoiled the bunch.

    God is such an overwhelming spiritual being, I can not fathom anything about him/her or possibly even remotely know what God wants. Too big, too bright and far superior in every way.


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    hbeachrealist Posted August 9, 2011 12:32 pm

    #9 “Do not bear false witness against your neighbor”

    Make sure this goes along with the US government’s fable regarding the 9/11 attacks. 9/11 was an inside job. 19 Muslims were not behind the destruction of the towers. The towers were controlled demolitions.

    How many fake conservative Christians will not wake up to the fact that 9/11 was a lie that led to the death of 3,000 citizens that day, 1,000s of troops dead, and millions of Middle Easterners dead?

    So easy for American Christians, which I am one, to ignore Commandment #2 and worship an American flag, the president, Bush, Obama, the Dems, or the Repubs, instead of looking at the facts of JFK’s death, OKC bombing, and 9/11!

    All 3 were done by the US shadow government, but most Christians rather sit around and watch tv than do the necessary homework to understand what is really going on.

    No wonder many consider America to be the Babylon in Revelations!

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    Mark Posted August 9, 2011 1:08 pm

    I to think the so-called “10 commandments” are a silly concept. The final demands written in stone (Ex.34:13-28) by a “god” according to scripture are as follows:
    1. Thou shalt worship no other god.
    2. Thou shalt make thee no molten god.
    3. The feast of the unleavened bread thou shalt keep.
    4. Six days thou shalt work, but on the seventh day you shall rest.
    5. Thou shalt observe the feast of weeks, of the firstfruits of wheat harvest, and the feast of ingathering at the year’s end.
    6. Thrice in the year shall all your men children appear before the Lord God.
    7. Thou shalt not offer the blood of my sacrifice with leaven.
    8. Neither shall the sacrifice of the feast of the passover be left unto morning.
    9. The firstfruits of thy land thou shalt bring to the house of the Lord thy God.
    10. Thou shalt not seethe a kid (young goat) in his mother’s milk.
    This my misinformed friends is The Ten Commandments written in stone. Not the 10 that were spoken to an Egyptian priest called Moses.
    I find it incredible that people still believe the Creator of the entire cosmos would only disperse his knowledge to a ignorant group of nomads in Judea.
    I also find it odd that intelligent people can’t see that the “god” of the Hebrews needed some sort of physical machine to travel from one place to another.
    I’ll be waiting for those who follow the 10 Commandments to give their firstfruits to “god” for sacrifice.
    And where would we be if if did not know NOT TO COOK MEAT IN MILK!!!!LOL.

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    Incriminally Sane Posted August 9, 2011 2:36 pm

    I think most of the New Testament was written during the beginning of the fall of the Roman Empire as a means or a plan to revitalize the “Empire” at a later time and we are in that time NOW. For hundreds of years after the death of Christ, the commoners were not allowed to own bibles which left a huge number of years to write, re-write and publish the finished product in the writing of the New Testament and the revision of the Old Testament.

    So, all this hype involved about organized Religion is meant to control the Masses and make us all slaves to the super rich ELITE.

  • Avatar
    Dimmy Posted August 9, 2011 5:33 pm

    Top 3 most offensive points in this article…

    “Our philosopher-kings and our Keynesian magicians will save us.”

    “The Law requires us to honor our parents. For the unconstrained vision, parents are the voice of the dead past. They are the ignorance, superstition, and bigotry of an earlier time. … Homeschooling and Christian education, of course, are the ultimate evil.”

    “The wisest and best tell us that some lives must be lost now so that all can be saved later.”

    & this website has the nerve to call itself …
    “OffTheGridNews”, “Better Ideas for Off The Grid Living” …Wow

  • Avatar
    DoNotBeSurprised Posted August 9, 2011 6:37 pm

    The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:14).

    • Avatar
      Mark Posted August 10, 2011 11:12 am

      Just because some of us see through the Egyptian Mysteries and the Initiants who wrote the “holy” books. Condemning us gets you nowwhere.
      I can destroy the “Abramamic” cults with a short paragragh.
      Abram (Abraham) was/is a Sumerian born in ancient city of Ur, today’s Iraq. He travelled to Egypt to study under the Mystery Priests. After he became an Initiate. He was intrusted by the Temple Priest of the Secret Knowledge. These “gods” that are mentioned in Ancient history were real flesh and blood enties. Their offspring like Enoch and Noah were demi-gods. Abraham, like the Egyptian Priest called Moses were chosen to carry out the orders of these “gods”. Just by the violence and bloody massecres should be enough to tell any common sensed person. That the Creator of the Cosmos could care less if the Caanites bowed to a golden calf or boy infants needed their foreskins butchered. Please wake up and realise these religions are concepts of Initiates of Secret Knowledge. Nothing more!

      • Avatar
        questioning Posted August 11, 2011 10:34 am

        so what is this secret knowledge that you speak of?

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    superhumanist Posted August 14, 2011 10:50 pm

    Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?

    • Avatar
      mitioc Posted October 4, 2011 5:02 am

      It seems that your concept of God is flawed by your concepts of time and evil. First, only we humans experience time- God just exists. Secondly, we need to examine which evil you speak of. There is evil that people do to one another,to themselves and to God who is the Judge of all men. Also, what is the definition of evil? You can see that evil is “live” spelled backwards, so let’s say evil is anti-life. When you start here without any religion, we can agree that there are things which will make our life shorter and should be avoided.Of course life is relatively short any way and you can’t stop the evil that is done to you, only the evil that you do. So your going to die, someday. I’ve only presented the facts of life , no religion. However, it is important to know what you believe about death. If it is final, then there is no ultimate judge that established what life and anti-life are, then I am free to do as I please(anarchy)! IF it feels good do it! Meth addicts have a wonderful life,don’t they? There’s nothing I can do or obtain that I can take beyond my expiration! We are only a self aware lump of flesh and bone in Evolution. Come on! You know there has to be more to live for , or why even live? (a little existential,still no religion…yet) So, reasoning has brought us here but, can’t lead us out. What motivates a pointless life? I can’t change the past or control my future. I can only eat, drink and be merry and don’t think about my life. Basically, in the end, EVERYBODY IS A LOSER. UNLESS…GOD exists(oh no! religion!). Now, your experience with religion may have been like a bat to the head -too forceful. Or they were a bunch of hypocrites. But don’t judge THE JUDGE by the criminals he has in his court room. Rather, I would have you judge yourself harshly(repentance). Present your messed up life to this JUDGE and ask forgiveness. Then be pleasantly surprised to find that HE already forgave you AND wants to make you a child and an heir. Why? Because your Lawyer is HIS son who wants you as a brother. Then you’ll find that you have an eternal Destiny that’s worth a short life of struggle. This is the Gospel, that JESUS was our representative that took our debt and payed with His Blood. Moreover, HE sent us his SPIRIT so we can be more than just good- we can be truly ALIVE!

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