July 5, 2013
Two Competing Political PhilosophiesBy Mark W. Hendrickson
Happy Birthday, America!
This week we celebrate our country's birth. Patriots honor America as a republic conceived as a polity in which all may live safely and securely in the enjoyment of their inalienable, God-given rights. We are inspired by the high idealism of the Founders and stirred by the poignant remembrance of all those who have fought, worked, and sacrificed to make the USA the freest and most prosperous country in the history of the world.
Our joy may be tempered by the realization that liberty and prosperity appear to be at risk. Particularly dismaying about this challenge to America is that it comes from within.
While the following statement is always true to some extent, today it is of existential importance: there is a battle being waged for the soul of America. It is fundamentally a battle of vision and values, of philosophies and principles. It is a struggle between those who adhere to the founding fathers' noble principles and those who -- whether from personal grudges or delusional self-importance, demoralized character or spiritual dullness, warped intellect or diabolical ideology -- wish to reinvent our beloved republic.
The philosophy of the founders was still predominant in our culture and national spirit in the 1950s. Every week, we heard the announcer of the TV series "Superman" proclaim without irony or apology the Man of Steel's commitment to "truth, justice, and the American Way." By "the American way,"we all knew that he referred to the freedom inherent in those God-given rights cited in the Declaration of Independence. Those who cherish and believe in those same venerable principles today have a philosophy that, if summarized in a single word, may be termed "Americanism."
There are myriad alternative philosophies to Americanism, more than can be listed. What all of them have in common is that they either repudiate American values, ideals, and principles outright or compromise them in some way. To varying degrees, they are illiberal, atavistic, elitist, retrograde, Old World philosophies -- that is, they have been tried before and have been found wanting. They may be repackaged to appear as new, fresh, progressive ideas, but they belong to other times and places. Again, for convenience, I'll lump together these anti-American philosophies under the label "alien," since they are foreign to America's founding principles.
Following is a partial list of the fundamental differences between Americanism and the alien philosophies that oppose it. Feel free to add to this list:
Americanism holds that government and law should be negative -- that is, that their purpose is to thwart evil and prevent the violation of individual rights; thus, law and government have a decidedly limited scope. Alien alternatives view the purpose of government and law as doing good things for people, thereby conferring upon government and law a virtually unlimited scope.
Americanism believes that government should act as an impartial umpire tasked with upholding impartial rules and letting the most talented and industrious reap the economic rewards of their efforts. The alien counterfeit believes in an intrusive, activist government that becomes the dominant economic player and picks winners and losers.
Americanism believes that individual rights are primary and government power secondary (see 9th and 10th Amendments). Alien philosophy believes that government power must supersede individual rights in the name of a "great" or "just" society.
Americanism holds that all men are created equal in the eyes of God -- that everyone is entitled to receive equal legal and governmental protection of their rights. Alien philosophy holds that nature or God -- depending on who its proponent believes is the creator of mankind -- blew it by making us different, and therefore it is up to "enlightened" (read: elitist) government leaders to remedy the defective natural order by making everyone economically equal.
Thus, in Americanism "justice" means equal treatment by the law, not unequal treatment designed to produce greater equality of result. The alien counterfeit version of justice is a corrupt nullity under which "justice" means violating the property rights of some Americans in order to bestow benefits on others.
In other words, Americanism is predicated on the rule of law -- the blind and impartial administration of justice that cares not whether a person is rich or poor, black or white, strong or weak. By contrast, the alien philosophy calls for a system of privileges -- that is, discriminatory laws that rob Peter to pay Paul.
Americanism holds that the legitimate way for individuals to prosper is to earn a living by providing something of value for others, thereby producing the wealth that one consumes. The alien antipode asserts that it is legitimate for individuals to enrich themselves via the political process whereby one may lay claim to wealth that others have produced. The American believes in making wealth, the alien, in taking it.
Americanism respects profits that result from creating wealth for others. The alien inversion rewards political "rent-seeking" behavior, whereby special interests exploit the political process to redistribute wealth and enrich themselves at the expense of others.
Americanism honors private property and upholds voluntary economic exchange as a fundamental human right. The alien attitude is to disparage and abrogate property rights while asserting the moral superiority of the involuntary exchanges effected by government transfer programs (of which there are now 2,235 at the federal level) thereby exalting the value system of criminals and institutionalizing theft as the modus operandi of government.
Americanism's fundamental tenet is that citizens of the Republic are the masters and government the servant. The alien philosophy throughout its long and tragic history exalts government elites as the masters directing the affairs of the people subservient to it.
Americanism includes gratitude for the many blessings we have enjoyed as Americans and, proceeding from a continuing basis of individual rights, a desire to use our liberty to attain a more perfect realization of our ideals. Aliens judge America harshly for having been imperfect and prefer a fundamental transformation into a "brave new world" in which individual rights and the "chains of the constitution" are the great obstacles to their power-hungry, utopian plans for us.
In sum, the American philosophy is liberty; the alien philosophy is tyranny. Ultimately, one or the other will prevail, for the two cannot coexist. We all know the choice we will have to make if our children are to observe their Fourths of July as celebrations of liberty as a living, daily reality rather than as a dim historical artifact.
God bless the USA.