Politics, Be Darned!

Politics, Be Darned!

Freemasons. Politics. To hear some Freemasons speak of this, you would think the end of the world is nigh if the two are spoken together in the same breath. It has long been the supposed tenant that if you maintained a square and compasses on your web site, you could not, should not, ever, under pain of some kind of jurisprudence, post anything political. Masons, should, apparently have no opinion on anything that relates to or involves politics.

Forgive me, but that’s rubbish. Let’s take a wander down the road of politics as it relates to Freemasons, Freemasonry, and the betterment of humankind.

Let’s not leave aside the fact that a great many persons have been politicians and Freemasons: Harry Truman, George Washington, Winston Churchill, Benjamin Franklin, Jesse Jackson, Franklin Roosevelt, Theodore Roosevelt, Andrew Jackson, William McKinley, Gerald Ford, Thurgood Marshall, and James Monroe – just a few of the important personages who shaped our world. This doesn’t include the numerous Senators, Representatives, Governors, and other world leaders who have exchanged the “scepter for the trowel.” Freemasonry has, from the time of its inception, helped to create great leaders and thus, great politicians. We may not attribute the fact that Masonry is the reason they are great leaders; it certainly is an influence in much of their actions, writing, and legacies. Can we not say that Freemasonry helps people become better? If that’s the case, why would we want to leave politics off the plate?

In short, we perhaps have lost the gift of tolerance. Our world is becoming an increasingly intolerant place. Yet, it has always been so.

In the 1734 Edition of Anderson’s Constitutions, we read the following: “Therefore no private Piques or Quarrels must be brought within the Door of the Lodge, far less any Quarrels about Religion, or Nations, or State-Policy, we being only, as Masons, of the Catholick Religion above-mention’d ; we are also of all Nations, Tongues, Kindreds, and Languages, and are resolv’d against all Politicks, as what never yet conduc’d to the Welfare of the Lodge, nor ever will. This Charge has been always strictly enjoin’d and observ’d ; but especially ever since the Reformation in BRITAIN, or the Dissent and Secession of these Nations from the Communion of ROME.” 

This is the standard by which most, if not all Freemason’s Lodges have based their mores of not speaking about politics.

Like many doctrines and dogma, this analysis of what was meant by Anderson has created many different rules and mores. For example, one prominent Freemason’s site has stated that lack of discussion of religion or politics ensure there are no divisiveness amongst the fellowship. This same reason was given in a CBS article on Freemasonry. In a 2015 Rules and Regulations book, the Grand Lodge of Indiana said the following:

Believing these things, this Grand Lodge affirms its continued adherence to that ancient and approved rule of Freemasonry which forbids the discussion in Masonic meetings of creeds, politics or other topics likely to excite personal animosities. It further affirms its conviction that it is contrary to the fundamental principles of Freemasonry and dangerous to its unity, strength, usefulness and welfare, for Masonic bodies to take action or attempt to exercise pressure or influence for or against any legislation, or in any way to attempt to procure the election or appointment of government officials, or to influence them, whether or not members of the Fraternity, in the performance of their official duties. The true Freemason acts in civil life according to his individual judgment and the dictates of his conscience.

The emphasis above is mine, the key being: In Masonic Meetings. Lodges are places of great discussions – or should be. We can debate, discuss, think, ponder, and muse with common ground and fair rule sets. We have Masonic Jurisprudence to maintain order and a leader in Lodge who’s job is to maintain harmony. We have the virtues of tolerance, justice, fortitude, and prudence to guide us. Why wouldn’t we want to discuss politics in the safest of places with the best people we know?

Because we’re all learning how to be better. It’s a process and, after all, it’s difficult to always be “good.” Humans easily lose their temper and lash out at the greatest and lowest of fearful things. The Freemason’s Lodge may be a bastion of virtues, but it may easily succumb to disharmony if any one of the links is weak.

However, and this is a big however, there is no moratorium on Mason’s speaking with each other or engaging in political conversations. Freemasons often do take political stances and have discussions over meals, visits, games, what have you. Freemasons participate in non-Masonic web site discussions that surround politics and religion, learning from and debating the merits of each; contrary to popular belief, the sky has not fallen and lightning has not struck them down. The Gods of Freemasonry have not ruled them indecent or immoral. In fact, Freemasons should be encouraged to discuss the higher aspects of politics and religion in order to make the world a better place, no? In the course of the debate, it is how we act with each other that is of primary importance – not the topic on which we debate.

As the Grand Lodge of Indiana stated above, “The True Freemason acts in civil life according to his individual judgment and dictates of his conscience.” Each Freemason makes the choice for themselves whether to engage in conversation and discussion on these topics and it is fine to discuss them with each other. In one Mason’s Blog, he explains his stance on “not talking politics and religion” with Fellow Masons. I think this Freemason makes some very good points. We need to learn to have civil discourse if we are ever to become and maintain a positive civil society. In a blog post earlier this year, many Freemasons “left” the roster of interested parties of this blog because they felt that politics had no place in a non-Masonic blog (with many Non-Masons participating). They felt that simply because it had the word “Masonic” in the title, politics with a point of view, should not be discussed. That’s a shame. Disagreements lead to learning, if one has the ears to hear. The Masonic Philosophical Society was created for just that purpose: to discuss and debate in a respectful atmosphere and to hopefully leave with a greater understanding, and not a myopic, narrow point of view.

Fear – of being wrong or unprepared or appearing in a certain way – is most certainly the cause of the intense anger. Again, that’s a shame because it’s most likely many people could have learned from their position.

Freemasons should not be afraid to speak their minds with confidence and listen with equal poise and confidence. Freemasons need to help the world by showing them what true tolerance may be. Please feel free to disagree. Let’s welcome the healthy debate with the goal that in the end, we all prosper and no one will lose.

Does International Free Trade Promote Freemasonic Ideals? An Analysis of The Trans-Pacific Partnership Treaty

Does International Free Trade Promote Freemasonic Ideals? An Analysis of The Trans-Pacific Partnership Treaty

Often viewed as highly contentious, the rubric of free-trade involves numerous nuances that can be polarizing. Does international free trade promote Masonic ideals? Proponents of international free trade argue that treaties, such as The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), help to spread the value of freedom and reinforce the rule of law. Similarly, Freemasonry promotes freedom of thought, speech, and action for all Mankind, regardless of race, religion, or gender.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)

In a globalized world, the United States is seeking to expand international free trade in a manner that  addresses 21st century issues. Described as “the cornerstone” of President Obama’s economic policy in the Pacific region, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a proposed U.S. treaty with eleven countries, including: Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam. According to the Brookings Institute, these nations together account for about one-third of all international trade.12countriesTPP
The TPP is intended to enhance trade and investment; promote innovation, economic growth and development; and support the creation of jobs. The proposed agreement began in 2005 as the Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership Agreement. Participating countries set the goal of wrapping up negotiations in 2012, but contentious issues created stumbling blocks in the areas of agriculture, intellectual property, services, and investments. The total GDP of the twelve countries involved with the TPP comprises 40 percent of global GDP, and the proposed benefits of the trade agreement are estimated at $295 billion annually.  

As the major proponent of the treaty, The Obama Administration has argued that the TPP will open up the United States to all kinds of new markets and business. Agribusiness is one area expected to see a large benefit from the TPP by allowing certain U.S. companies new avenues for the sale of their products. Moreover, the Obama Administration stated that the TPP will increase labor and environmental protections in the TPP countries and globally by forcing nations to meet the standards negotiated under the treaty, thereby essentially “leveling the playing field” for American businesses that must currently meet high levels of regulation in these areas.

As one of the primary goals in his trade agenda, President Obama advocated diligently for the implementation of the TLeaders_of_TPPPP. After seven years of negotiations, a final agreement was reached between the 12 countries on October 5, 2015.  The text of the agreement will have to be signed and ratified following the national procedures of each of the individual countries. 

Controversies Surrounding the TPP

The largest controversy surrounding the TPP is that was that it was being negotiated behind closed doors. The governments involved argue that such conditions are necessary in order to reach agreements, which involve complex issues related to multilateral trade and global investments. The U.S. government responded to complaints regarding the secrecy of ongoing investigations stating, “In order to reach agreements that each participating government can fully embrace, negotiators need to communicate with each other with a high degree of candor, creativity, and mutual trust.” In the interest of all governments involved, it has become routine practice for proposals and communications related to negotiated treaties to be kept confidential.  

Another issue regarding the TPP is whether it would actually improve labor conditions. In a document entitled, Broken Promises, Senator SenatorElizabethWarrenElizabeth Warren outlined ‘lack of enforcement’ as one of the major criticisms of free trade agreements.

“By now, we have two decades of experience with free trade agreements under both Democratic and Republican Presidents. Supporters of these agreements have always promised that they contain tough standards to protect workers. But this analysis reveals that the rhetoric has not matched the reality.” – Senator Elizabeth Warren

Senator Warren highlights that there have been widespread enforcement problems with the free trade agreements enacted in the past two decades. The U.S. State Department has written several reports revealed persistent inadequacies related to reducing child labor and enforcing labor rights in countries that have signed free trade agreements with the United States.

Yet another controversy involves legal issues surrounding the agreement. Leaked chapters of the TPP have intellectual property advocates, such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation, concerned that the TPP over-extends copyright laws and fair use rules. Doctors Without Borders has voiced concern that the TPP could unfairly impact citizens in third world countries by making it more expensive to obtain generic drugs, thus restricting access to medicine for some of the poorest individuals world-wide.

FreemGeorgeWashingtonFreemasonasonry and Free Trade

Does free-trade promote Freemasonic ideals? According to the 2012 Index of Economic Freedom, countries with the most trade freedom have higher per capita GDPs, lower incidences of hunger, lower rates of unemployment, and cleaner environments than countries at the bottom of the trade freedom scale.

Freemasonry stands as a global organization dedicated to improving the lives of all people through charity and brotherly love.Moreover, free trade among nations has been shown to promote peaceful international relations. When free-trade exists across political boundaries, the world becomes more integrated as individuals and companies interact.  As President George Washington wrote in 1791, Masonry was “founded in justice and benevolence,” and “the grand object of Masonry is to promote the happiness of the human race.”