Friday, August 22, 2014

Farewell From An Old Hack

Dear GenJ Students,

iGovern '08
It’s been a blast working with you all over the past decade. I’ve been a member of Generation Joshua since 2004, and during that time I’ve seen GenJ grow from the slapdash, last-minute activism of the early days to an established and respected organization in the American political scene. I’ve watched iGovern transform from those early camps in the hills of Tennessee to the incredible week of politics, leadership, and worship that it’s become. I’ve watched SATs change from 5 guys and a minivan to some of the largest coordinated deployments in the United States. And I’ve had the opportunity to watch civics education, my particular program, grow from a few original source documents and a quick quiz into a high-quality, comprehensive citizenship education.

It’s been an incredible ride. I’ve made lifelong friends (shout out to Andrew Mullins), watched lifelong friends drink way too many energy drinks on the lawn of the U.S. Capitol (here’s to you, Glenn), spent long nights on the old forums, and, most recently, finally saw the Nick Barden Galaxy Bill pass into law. GenJ has been an integral part of my life for the past 10 years, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

iGovern '11
But it’s time to transition into a new season a life. In the wake of my graduation from Patrick Henry College, I’ll be transitioning out of Generation Joshua over the next week to take a new position as Admissions Counselor at Patrick Henry College. I’m excited about the possibility of keeping in touch with you all in my new capacity – if you have any questions about PHC (or if you just want someone to chat with about politics, philosophy, or theology), feel free to shoot me a message on my Facebook or an email at

In the interim, I’m hoping that this transition won’t mark the end of my involvement with Generation Joshua. I plan to remain a member of the Leadership Corps, so don’t be surprised if you see me dual wielding a GenJ nametag and an admissions badge at a Teen Track, SAT, or iGovern near you.

Go Gold,

Nick Barden
iGovern '14

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Notes from the Speaker's Desk – iGovern East '14

It was an enjoyable week at camp this year. As is customary, I, the Speaker of the House, have many adoring fans. Their loyalty was demonstrated by the House's near unanimous support for the Nick Barden Galaxy Bill, which was intended to rename a galaxy after me and grant various counselors their own solar systems within. This is the third year that bill has been introduced, but, as is custom, my good friend and arch-nemesis Sen. Glenn Bertsch railed against it in committee and succeeded in bringing about its ultimate demise. Something about "constitutionality" and "naming authority being vested in the IAU." Trifles.

The Gold Party did superbly this year. After a 6-candidate packed primary race, Bridget Carlstrom and Jesse Taft managed to eek out a win by a single vote, clinching a Gold presidency in a historically Blue dominated camp. The Orange Party, a long-time staple of the camp, was notably absent this year, while another third party, styling themselves "The Diamond Party," emerged to considerably less success. Their most significant contribution was airing a video ad that said, in summary, "we know we're terrible, maybe next year." They just don't make third parties like they used to.

The Gold and Blue Party presidential tickets, with their respective hacks.

Blue Party also achieved considerable success, with Azariah Clements ascending to the presidency. The superb diplomatic and foreign policy skills within the executive branch managed to bring about an amicable solution to the foreign policy crisis in                                                                                                                     . Though history goes to the winners, I suppose it is only fitting to note that the David Locke and Jackson Hicks campaign managed to run the election to a razor-thin margin, a feat all the more impressive for iGovern rookies.

A GenJ Whovian FB group also emerged in the wake of the camp. This came after the introduction of the Dalek Weaponization Act, which, after overwhelming support in the House, died in the Senate.

Mr. Speaker with a pair of Whovians

It is customary for any interesting and entertaining bill which enjoys bipartisan support to die in the Senate. Sen. Bertsch, it would seem, is all srs bsns.

MikeyTuttle, also known as Flyingbananamonster, Nick Barden Pro Tempore, or The Prince of Orange, managed to make several cameo appearances throughout the course of camp.

Meanwhile, I'm hoping for a Gold sweep against Sen. Bertsch this year, and am greatly looking forward to returning to Gold-held iGovern West in Colorado Springs. Adieu, and back to the old drawing board...

Friday, July 4, 2014

In Love of My Country, My Home

Somewhere in the further reaches of my childhood, I remember curling up on the floor next to the family bookshelf and poring through book after book by an old American author who took the name Oliver Optic. From all those tales of adventure, conniving business schemes, lakes, steamboats, and locomotives, one brief exchange between two characters has always stuck with me.

“I don’t like this making reservations,” Faxon said. “I go for the whole figure. My country, right or wrong – that’s what I go for.”

“So do I,” Wolf said. “My country, right or wrong; if wrong, to set her right.”

“There you spoil all the poetry of the thing,” Faxon replied. “If you had stopped before you put the last sentence on, it would have been just the thing.”

•    •    •

Today is America’s birthday, a day of celebration, with parades, cookouts, explosives, and enough  ‘Murca memes, redneckery, obnoxiousness, and FREEDOM to make even the most patriotic soul roll his eyes, turn up “God Save The Queen,” and start a petition asking Her Royal Majesty to take us back.

All too often, I see Americans divide into two camps when the Fourth of July rolls around. On one side is the proud, unthinking ‘Merican with all the beer, guns, and high explosives you can find. On the other, there’s the ashamedly American sophisticate who, disillusioned by the tumultuous times he finds himself in, has decided to check out of civil society to the best of his ability.

Neither are patriots. One has said, bursting with passion and exuberance, “my country, right or wrong,” while the other has seen her too often in the wrong and will have no more to do with her. Neither of them are the just inheritors of her bounty; neither can rightly be called her citizens.

The patriot, rather, stands with both feet on the soil of his homeland, sees his nation for her virtues and her vices, and resolves to love her anyways. The patriot stands at his particular moment in history and realizes that it has been shaped by countless moments before it.

For the American patriot is the inheritor of a long series of American cultural moments. He is shaped by the sailing of the Mayflower, the republicanism of the founders, the fervent equality of Jacksonian democracy, the manifest destiny of the pioneers, the blood of the blue and the grey spilt from Kansas to Virginia, the Great Depression, and two World Wars. We’ve seen a tea party in Boston, Washington crossing the Delaware, the Alien and Sedition Acts, an Emancipation Proclamation, Reconstruction, McCarthyism, and countless 9/11 vigils. Through good and ill times, our forebears have been shaping this land into a place we can love – a place we can proudly call home.

I was raised amidst amber waves of grain, with the full fury of a Kansas thunderstorm overhead. I’ve tasted the elegant hospitality of a Southern family in Georgia and the rugged welcome of a Midwestern family in Nebraska. I’ve hiked the Rockies and the Smokies, the Adirondacks, Ozarks, and Sierra Nevadas. I’ve strummed a guitar in Colorado, California, and Virginia, and seen folks lowered into the dirt in Massachusetts, Minnesota, and North Carolina. I’ve worshiped in a Pentecostal and a Presbyterian church; potlucked with Baptists and Methodists; taken communion with Anglicans and Lutherans; and discussed theology with Catholics and non-denominationals. This country is beautiful and her people are kind.

So today, on this Independence Day, I do not celebrate America because she is perfect, but because she is home. I do not love her for her virtues, nor loathe her for her vices. But I will strive to defend, uphold, and aright her, and I will love her because she is mine.

Happy Independence Day.

Posted by Nick Barden

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The iGovern Files: Summit Leaks

Log Entry: 1235 EST. I've got a fellow conspirator planted in the lower offices. She managed to snag a bunch of supplies while Glenn was distracted by the Switzerland vs. Argentina game. It's almost halftime, though, so we've got to move through these quickly. We snagged a few flags and pins that had been set apart from the rest. The flags are Russian, South Korean, and Chinese, while the pins are Japanese, Taiwanese, and Australian.

I've gotten a hold of a red envelope with an official message to the ambassador from the United Kingdom. I'm not sure what this emergency summit is all about. If I have time, I'll get back to it with a more detailed picture later, but the offices are on high alert, and I don't want to take too many chances.

Glenn's muttering something about a Swiss player getting a yellow card. We've got to move quickly. I've got a picture of a letter from Russian president Vladimir Putin.

Here's a map we found on Chaz's desk. It seems like an update of our picture from a couple of weeks ago.

Switzerland still hasn't scored, and Glenn's talking loudly at the TV again. We'd better wrap this up for now. I don't think I'll be able to get any more pictures out this camp season. The office is on high alert. I guess you'll just have to come and find out more.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

The Ivory Cubicle | Fare Forward

Dear Reader,

Over the course of the last two years, it has been my pleasure sharing a conversation with you on an assortment of philosophical, theological, and political topics. These years writing as a columnist have been as sharpening for me as I hope they have been for you. Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end, and it’s time for the Ivory Cubicle to wind down.

During my time at the Ivory Cubicle, I’ve sought to provide an opportunity for you to participate in the Great Conversation, and I hope that you’ll continue to seek out those opportunities wherever they can be found. In order to be a citizen of the United States, we must be citizens of a broader Western civilization that has shaped our country’s customs, morals, and culture. More than ever, we need citizens and politicians who read their Plato and Shakespeare as much as the daily headlines, and who have an awareness of their particular moment in history as shaped by countless moments that have come before. We stand on the shoulders of giants, but to capture their vision, we must take up their work.

In the meantime, I will continue to write occasional pieces for the GenJ Blog. In addition, I have been working with fellow writers on a project that we hope to have online soon, covering the diverse topics of religion, philosophy, literature, and cultural criticism. We’ll hope to see you there.

Fare forward, you who think that you are voyaging;
You are not those who saw the harbor
Receding, or those who will disembark.
Here between the hither and the farther shore
While time is withdrawn, consider the future
And the past with an equal mind.

         -T.S. Eliot, "The Dry Salvages III"

In Fide et Veritate,
Nick Barden

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The iGovern Files: Gala Leaks

Log Entry: 1323 EST. Jill stepped out for a few minutes, but she's left her office door open. There seems to be a bunch of information about a formal gala on her desk. I've told the folks in the office that I have some paperwork to file in there, that should buy me some time. This display looks pretty impressive. I'll see if I can get some more closeups of the specifics.

It seems to be some sort of benefit gala, put on by an organization called Ergo Justus. I've never heard of it before, and my googling didn't come up with much. I suspect it's a new organization that's just getting off the ground.

I flipped through their brochure. The organization is committed to combating human trafficking. It seems that there might be an opportunity for Congressmen to sign something.

I'm not sure what the French flag is all about. I'm fairly sure the gala is not being held in France. I suppose we'll have to see what comes of that.

People are stirring about outside the office. I don't want to press my luck by taking an extra picture, so I better duck out. I'll see what else I can find for next week.

[log ended]

Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Ivory Cubicle | Virtuous Citizenship

The last few weeks, we’ve been blogging our way through some of the troubles that face representative government. We’ve talked about how it is perfectly rational and a good use of one’s time to be ignorant of what one’s national politicians are doing. We’ve talked about how representativegovernment tends to be short-sighted, preferring laws that produce results by Election Day over those that produce long-term benefits. We’ve talked about why bureaucracy is impenetrable, continually expansive, and horribly inefficient. Finally, we’ve talked about how special interest groups bloat the government by dispersing their costs over large swaths of taxpayers.

In short, we’ve painted a pretty bleak picture of the troubles that face representative government. Is there any hope for a solution?

A Solution?

Well, in a sense, no, there’s not. Conservatives have a staunch opposition to any politics of perfection which promises to eliminate corruption and inefficiency, producing a slick-running, error-free system of government. Human beings will be human beings, and any form of government, however successful it may be among the angels, will eventually run smack up against the cold, hard reality of post-fall humanity.

The antidote to the vices that plague human nature is, quite naturally, virtue. This is what James Madison, and many other founding fathers, noted. The question to be asked, then, is how virtue ought to be inculcated.

Our sixteenth president, Abraham Lincoln (a man of considerable fame), proposed that virtue and law are inseparably joined together.  “Let reverence for the laws, be breathed by every American mother, to the lisping babe, that prattles on her lap--let it be taught in schools, in seminaries, and in colleges; let it be written in Primers, spelling books, and in Almanacs;--let it be preached from the pulpit, proclaimed in legislative halls, and enforced in courts of justice,” said Lincoln in his Lyceum Address. If the laws be enacted by the virtuous, then what can better foster virtue than adherence to those laws? In this sentiment, he stood with many of our founding fathers in the tradition of Montesquieu and was an apt figurehead for the party that would bear the name of their ideal form of governance – the Republican Party.

Whatever its merits, in Republicanism, as in all other modes of governance, the form itself is insufficient to preserve virtue. Hence Lincoln’s grave mistake later in the speech – “let it [fidelity to laws] become the political religion of the nation; and let the old and the young, the rich and the poor, the grave and the gay, of all sexes and tongues, and colors and conditions, sacrifice unceasingly upon its altars.” The law must be virtuous, it is true, and an adherence to virtuous laws is undoubtedly more useful than harmful. Furthermore, it is a long established fact that the rule of law is essential for any orderly society. I’m hesitant, however, to give a government of laws as rousing of an endorsement as Lincoln did. Even if the aim be virtue, any form of government must ultimately fail in its task, as we have seen in the years following the Lincoln presidency. Conservatives in this day and age find themselves in opposition to ill-conceived laws, which often translates to a skepticism of laws as a whole. Justly so. The order supplied by the rule of law is essential for liberty to thrive, but in a free society, the laws should always aim towards ordered liberty. When a government forgets the end of liberty, aiming instead for a perfect order, the oft-hasty appeal to the legislative branch constricts the liberty of its citizens, and government becomes hostile to the very aim it sought to fulfill.

I suspect there may be a better instructor for virtue. Edmund Burke possesses the sensibility that communities were built by the “little platoons,” small groups of tight-knit neighbors that form the building blocks upon which the rest of society is built. For Burke, they are the “first link in the series by which we proceed to a love to our country and to mankind.” Love of country proceeded outwards from the family, to the neighborhood, to the township, and so on to love of the nation.

These platoons derive their power from proximity. Family, neighbors, communities, and churches are better equipped to train in virtue than government is, because operate in the same place that people go about their daily lives. Their power is informal, it doesn’t necessarily have the weight of law behind it, but it does have the weight of custom behind it. The trouble is, with power currently centralized in the national government, the power of local communities is subsumed within the cookie-cutter policies of a centralized state.

So is there a possibility to re-empower these informal institutions? Perhaps. But first, we need decentralization. We need a government that will back away from compulsive law making, and allow people the opportunity for self-government. We need people who will commit to making an impact on their local communities. We need people who don’t say “there should be a law” the first time anything goes wrong, but are willing to allow people to fail, and be there to pick them back up.

Of course, that’s not going to eradicate the problem. The problem is as old as human nature, and will be around as long as fallen humans are left on this earth. But I think there’s a possibility to take the situation we have and improving it the best we can.

By Nick Barden.
Picture: The Triumph of Virtue Over Vice by Paolo Veronese (1528-1588).