A Different Kind of Hope and Change
As America appears to edge ever closer to a disastrous economic tipping point -- defined as the point at which the majority becomes dependent on the government -- we find ourselves wondering if the downhill slide is inevitable and irreversible. What hope can we grasp to change course and return to the foundations that once made our nation great?
Standing out in an array of numerous dismal headlines this season, this month's Imprimis, a publication of Hillsdale College, proclaims the hope found in "The Unity and Beauty of the Declaration and the Constitution."
In the Imprimis, Dr. Larry Arnn, Hillsdale's president, in his interview by Peter Robinson of the Hoover Institution, explained the significance of the Declaration of Independence: that "there had never been anything like it in history; that its writers, 'hunted' men, pledged their lives in a way 'people talk on a battlefield when they are ready to die for each other;' and that the document radically overturned 'a way of organizing society that had dominated for two thousand years,' yet was introduced in a 'humble way,' as an 'act of obedience to the "Laws of Nature and of Nature's God."'"
Arnn described the Constitution as containing "three fundamental arrangements": representation, the separation of powers, and limited government -- a "list of things that Congress can do...and the things that are not listed it may not do." As Dr. Arnn argued against modern liberalism's view of the separation of powers as an impediment to progress, he quoted James Madison in Federalist 51:
[W]hat is government itself but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary.
Obviously, humans require some type of government, and since the government comprises humans, it must be overseen and its powers limited. Assessing the nature our government of today, Arnn asks: "Is the bureaucracy politically impartial? Is it efficient and rational, as if staffed by angels? Or is it politically self-motivated and massively self-interested?'
A quick look at the news this morning answers Arnn's questions: inefficiency, cronyism, and thousands of pages of regulations -- manifested in an accumulation of staggering debt, economic decline, and erosion of freedom and liberty -- now felt directly by every single American at home.
But even so, Arnn describes himself as not "particularly gloomy," firmly believing that our country will not pass the "tipping point." He holds out Winston Churchill's hope: that if we "make the great political questions clearer to the people and ... have faith in them ... if we were to get better in explaining them," then we can be more optimistic about our future.
Dr. Arnn has written about four "pillars" that must be emphasized in order to restore America's understanding and belief in constitutional government. Each describes the key foundations of our republic and the duties of our government: the protection of "the equal and inalienable rights of individuals," economic liberty, national security, and "a high standard of public morality."
Drowning in a sea of debt, red tape, and vast regulations created by our government today, it is inspiring to recognize the heroic beauty in the simplicity of those goals, enshrined in a few handwritten pages -- ideas that rocked the world over two hundred years ago. Arnn asserts the radical American notion: we are governed not by rules -- we are governed by goals, with broad rules outlined by the Constitution: "The distinction between constitutional government and bureaucratic government is fundamental."
In the article, "Obama 'Can't Wait' for the Rule of Law," writer Mark Fitzgibbons noted:
We are hearing more and more from the left that the president must do administratively what Congress refuses to do legislatively. These are ... words of an ideology that is dangerously inconsistent with American ideals. The calls from the left to violate the Constitution are protected by the First Amendment. It is when they are implemented by the president that they become lawbreaking. The Constitution, you see, governs government ... the Constitution does not run on automatic pilot. It must be enforced on government.
"The United States is failing and we've done it to ourselves," writes American Thinker's Neil Snyder. After quoting several gloomy economic statistics, Snyder asserts: "As a nation, we are heading in the wrong direction, and if we don't change course soon, we'll become a third world nation[.] ... Have we reached the point of no return, the tipping point?"
Indeed, our nation appears to be swiftly traveling down the road to that "tipping point" -- not just in economic terms, but also as measured by loss of freedom -- and we now find ourselves at a critical crossroads. Will we continue our downhill slide, or take an intentional, studied path back up the hill, to the ideas that once made us shining and great?
"Hope and Change," a neat little slogan that fits well on a bumper sticker, can be portrayed as a worthy cause by radically opposing viewpoints. C.S. Lewis once wrote:
We all want progress. But progress means getting nearer to the place where you want to be. And if you have taken a wrong turning, then to go forward does not get you any nearer. If you are on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; and in that case the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive man. [i]
This Christmas season, as we celebrate the birth of our highest and eternal hope, may we also focus on another kind of optimism for our nation. Dr. Arnn holds out the hope that "everything is a teaching opportunity," and if people are taught to know and understand the principles of our country, then "[l]ove will follow." America must be educated to recognize that a restoration to our founding concepts, and not a progressive transformation of them, is our only real hope for making our country great again, and the change we need is the return to the ideas beautifully enshrined in the Declaration and the Constitution.
[i] C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York, HarperCollins, 2001), page 28.