Marilyn Writes

Marilyn MacGruder Barnewall began her career as a journalist with the Wyoming Eagle in Cheyenne. During her 20 year banking career, she wrote extensively for The American Banker, Bank Marketing Magazine, Trust Marketing Magazine, and other major industry publications. The American Bankers Association (ABA) published Barnewall’s Profitable Private Banking: the Complete Blueprint, in 1987. She taught private banking at Colorado University for the ABA and trained private bankers in Singapore.

Thursday, February 24, 2011


By Marilyn M. Barnewall February 20, 2011

Marilyn’s Law: The only way to maintain progress without chaos within a society is to have changeable social values that are tied to unchanging principles.

That may sound pretty boring, but if you’ve ever wondered where America went wrong and why, keep reading. This rather dull sounding concept holds the answer to a lot of questions. First, some definitional clarity so we’re all singing the same song.

What is the definition of “values”?

Values are laws based on social ideals created by humans to ensure a logical social order that encourages progress without chaos and helps achieve societal objectiveS. Also called “ethics” or “social rules.”

What is the definition of “principles”?

Principles are laws of nature created by God – if you don’t believe in God, the laws of nature were put here when the Big Bang happened. Few intelligent people deny the laws of nature exist. Principles are also embodied in the Ten Commandments (which are not, as some people seem to think, ten suggestions). Sir William Blackstone had it precisely right when he said: “When God created man… he laid down certain immutable laws of human nature.”

Whether the reader believes in Creationism, if it happens in nature, we can be sure of it. What goes up must come down. For every action, there is an equal reaction. For every cause, there is an effect. All living things grow to maturity, level off and die. The line of least resistance creates crooked rivers (and so it probably creates crooked people, too). Those are but a few of nature’s principles. They do not change from day-to-day as human values do. They are immutable. The line of least resistance will always create crooked rivers. What goes up will always come down. The sun will always rise in the east.

Values must change for progress to occur. If social values are not allowed to change, cultures remain in a rut. Human beings, however, have a penchant for thinking they are God. Perhaps that’s why He put into place unchanging principles which cannot be ignored if humans want to survive.

What does all of this mean and why should you care? Let’s answer two questions using this little philosophy.

• The problems of the Islamic world are caused because their legal, religious and social structures are all tied together under sharia law. These laws of Islam demand unchanging social values that are tied to unchanging principles. Unchanging social values means no progress.

• The problems of most Western cultures result from untying changing values from unchanging principles. For progress to occur without chaos, changing values must be tied to unchanging principles or no stability exists. No one can manage risk in an unstable environment. Capitalism/free enterprise requires risk management.

Principles are unchanging. Values change as a society progresses. It would make little sense to have laws about tying your Appaloosa horse outside the town tavern in today’s automotive society – but such a law once made sense. At one time, it made sense for a man to have more than one wife. Values/laws/rules change.

By bonding values that change to principles that do not, societies throughout history have maintained stability in the long-term and flexibility in the short-term. It’s a difficult, but necessary, balance. No societal stability means no unchanging principles are in place. No social progress means no changing values are in place to support a move forward.

Muslims live under sharia law, which conforms to the religious principles of the faith. Thus, Muslim values never change. Their laws remain the same no matter where the Muslim lives: Egypt, Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran – the United States or Russia.

In most Western cultures, laws vary from Denver to New York City to Los Angeles. They differ from the United States to the United Kingdom to Brazil. Traffic drives on the right side of the road in America; on the left in Great Britain. Most societies say theft of another’s possessions violates their laws – their values. In America, one will get a slap on the wrist for violating that law. In Iran, the hand may be cut off.

Anyone who takes that as a slam against Islam is wrong. They may cut off the hand of a thief, but they haven’t aborted millions of unborn babies. No sane person in Western cultures can point to the cut-off hand of a Middle Eastern thief and shout “Barbarians!” because Muslims look at millions of abortions and shout “Barbarians!” right back at us.

Unchanging principles are supposed to make it clear to everyone – government, the people, businesses – what is expected of them. Values give direction intended to help achieve the objective of the unchanging principle. So, before any value can be established, a concept or a doctrine – a principle – has to exist. Perhaps the selected principle is freedom. Values – or laws and social rules – must be created to support that principle. When the rich and powerful want the masses to have less freedom, that becomes the principle and laws are passed to support that objective. The point is, until society states its accepted principles, values cannot be established to help the social order achieve the objective of the principles. Values (or laws or rules) must be established to support the ideal contained in the principle, once the principle is defined.

Look at the Obama Administration’s inability to create jobs. People in the business community don’t know from one day to the next what is expected of them. Government at all levels appears to have abandoned the Rule of Law – both of values and principles. Who wants to take business risks in such an environment?

Ask yourself if the policies (or laws/values) of the BP oil-drilling catastrophe in the Gulf can be tied to any unchanging principle. There is no unchanging principle that says “greed is good” because, in the end, the greedy always fall to their own weaknesses. How about the fraudulent mortgage foreclosures that run so rampant in the country? Can you conceive of any Law of Nature or of God to which such unlawful behavior could be tied? What about abortion? To which Law of Nature or of God is such a “value” attached? I can find none. There is a big difference between “value” and “valueless.”

Values must change or societies do not progress. There are countries on this planet that still function as they did several hundred years ago because they tie their unchanging societal principles to unchanging values. Unchanging values results in no social progress. This explains the dilemma of the Muslim world.

It’s interesting that the social ills of two totally opposite cultures – Muslim and Christian – have at their core the same basic problem. Neither understands the need for changing values that are tied to unchanging principles.

When people start trying to change principles, they change the entire doctrine at the core of the principle. Freedom is a principle. For freedom to remain as our forefathers defined it, the definition must stay fixed. It is an unalienable right granted by our Creator, not by our government. What comes from the Creator must remain unchanged by man. The definition of freedom, however, has not stayed fixed. Socialists and fascists have slowly redefined it.

The word ‘freedom’ has been changed to mean ‘license.’ They have re-defined ‘freedom’ – or have tried to do so. Most Americans do not accept their re-definition – but don’t know how to get their tried and trusted definition of “freedom” back again.

I believe one of the biggest problems people around the world suffer today is a lack of definitional clarity. When someone speaks to you, what is that person saying? If you define the word “freedom” one way and he defines it another, are you communicating effectively? Do you understand one another? It has allowed our elected officials to get away with highway robbery while, technically, not lying. In many cases they do lie, but not always. Sometimes they just scam us. It is up to us to stop it.

Politicians have a responsibility to talk to the public in understandable terms… honest terms. The public has a responsibility to demand they do so. We have ignored our responsibility as badly as they have ignored theirs. When you attend political debates this year and next, one of the most valuable questions you can ask is “Will you please define what you mean when you say ‘______’?” (Add any words – cost cutting, or 20 million people who don’t have health care – who are they?) Make them define their terms! One of the questions I am about to start asking politicians is: “What do you mean when you say ‘democracy’? Our founding fathers gave us a republic, not a democracy, so why do you refer to it as a ‘democracy’?”

I believe this little theory of mine applies to most of the social problems in America today. Nothing is black and white because powerful people are disconnecting our changing values from unchanging principles. They are re-defining freedom. The confusion in both political parties is caused because a slick group of thieves are removing the unchanging principles that have anchored American society for a few hundred years.

The only way to move America from capitalism to communism is to re-define words like freedom, faith, education, sovereignty, independence, competition. Those words represent the unchanging principles on which America was founded. “…Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness…” How do you define happiness? How do the millions of Americans on welfare define it – or those who find happiness in drugs or in reality tv shows each night? How do we as a society define ‘life’, ‘liberty’ and ‘happiness’?

It makes it possible to ignore the Declaration of Independence and Constitution of the United States… which ensures our most important unchanging principle: Freedom. At least it ensures freedom as long as the Rule of Law is respected.

© 2011 Marilyn M. Barnewall - All Rights Reserved


Marilyn MacGruder Barnewall began her career in 1956 as a journalist with the Wyoming Eagle in Cheyenne. During her 20 years (plus) as a banker and bank consultant, she wrote extensively for The American Banker, Bank Marketing Magazine, Trust Marketing Magazine, was U.S. Consulting Editor for Private Banker International (London/Dublin), and other major banking industry publications. She has written seven non-fiction books about banking and taught private banking at Colorado University for the American Bankers Association. She has authored seven banking books, one dog book, and one work of fiction (about banking, of course). She has served on numerous Boards in her community.

Barnewall is the former editor of The National Peace Officer Magazine and as a journalist has written guest editorials for the Denver Post, Rocky Mountain News and Newsweek, among others. On the Internet, she has written for News With Views, World Net Daily, Canada Free Press, Christian Business Daily, Business Reform, and others. She has been quoted in Time, Forbes, Wall Street Journal and other national and international publications. She can be found in Who's Who in America (2005-10), Who's Who of American Women (2006-10), Who's Who in Finance and Business (2006-10), and Who's Who in the World (2008).