The Values of Pericles
Pericles is the name I've given the red-tailed hawk we see circling over the empty field behind our house. In Pericles' natural state, his actions are based on what enhances his own life. In Pericles' value system, it is good to be for himself. Were hawks, or any other creature, not for themselves, they would already be extinct.
The left cringe at the idea of humans using Pericles' values, dismissing any who do with emotional labels like "selfish," "unfeeling," "lacking compassion," and even "immoral."
Clearly not fond of Pericles' values, President Obama, in recent campaign speeches, has criticized the opposition:
And their philosophy, what there is of it, seems to be pretty simple: We're better off when everybody is left to fend for themselves, and everybody can play by their own rules.
Evidently, 34,000 pages of federal regulations is not enough to prevent everybody from "playing by their own rules." Since I don't know anyone playing by his own rules, the word "everybody" is false (a lie). People I know attempt to follow the law. Despite mountains of regulations, the president likes to say, "We can't go back," as if we had been living in some kind of Wild-West, laissez-faire society before his election.
The president doesn't want to "leave" everybody to fend for himself, so the opposite philosophy, that "everybody is not allowed to fend for himself," will be forced on us. If we cannot be for ourselves, we will be dependent on others to be for us.
The president's insulting statement implies that we are incapable of fending for ourselves. Apparently, he believes that government has not been capable of fending for us either, despite 2,200 federal assistance programs and 1,300 federal agencies.
So that no one has to go to the trouble of fending for himself, the Democrats offer an alternative: the parasite society, in which men are forced to fend for others. Such a society, by its nature, sets citizens in conflict with each other. Some are allowed to be the parasites, and the others are supposed to accept being the hosts. Objections are dealt with by force. The golden rule in the parasite society is "Do unto others what they are not allowed to do unto you."
Pericles is neither a parasite nor a host. He is for himself, but not against his fellow hawks. In fact, I have seen them hunting together. Rational self-interest works well in a society. One who is responsible for his own life, without forcing others, does not conflict by default with his fellow man. Such a person follows the original Golden Rule and expects the rule of law to be the same for all. Individuals in such a society are not in conflict.
Philosophers such as John Locke understood that Pericles' values are essential to minimizing conflicts in society:
Thus, individual sovereignty, for one and all, is the key to understanding, accepting, and preserving the natural state of man and the civil society.
In part due to John Locke's influence, the central concept of the new nation created by the Founders was that the individual be as free from government interference as possible. Everybody is to be left alone so that he is able to fend for himself.
In short, not only does fending for yourself seem like common sense, but it produces positive results. Individuals acting in their own interests not only better themselves, but also help lift everyone. The incredible array of products in the supermarket are there because those "evil" corporations want to make a profit for themselves, not because said corporations are obliged, or forced, to sacrifice for the consumers.
Individuals acting for themselves made the United States an economic powerhouse. People left more or less alone to pursue their fortunes drove dramatic American economic expansions such as the post-Civil War period and the Roaring Twenties. Should they not have been allowed to fend for themselves?
Pericles once landed on the railing of our deck and looked back at me with a proud, intense stare, as if to say, "Don't mess with me!" Pericles wants to live his life without interference. The human values of pride, self-responsibility, and individualism might be said to apply to him. It's easy to see why his cousin, the eagle, was chosen the symbol of the United States of America!
The Democrats are not fond of pride, self-responsibility, and individualism, and they would likely replace the eagle with the ever-mooching seagull, if not the leech. The struggle of our lifetime, and definitely the 2012 election, is between the values of Pericles and those of the seagulls.