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December 31, 2011
The Philosophy of LIberty
The United States of America is exceptional beyond any doubt, or as Mr. Jefferson would say, it is self-evident. What sets us apart from any other society in history has nothing to with our DNA; we are not genetically special. What makes us unique is our fundamental reason for being; our very justification for existence.
Our society is the only one in history to be founded on the principle that the purpose of government is to secure to each individual the natural rights to live and pursue happiness. In our country's charter, The Declaration of Independence, Mr. Jefferson and his editors declared that it is self-evident that every individual has the natural rights to live and pursue happiness and that the purpose of government is to secure those liberties for each individual. The first fifty-six words of the second paragraph of our charter are quite clear in their meaning.
For at least a century collectivists (currently self-labeled as progressives) have argued both directly and indirectly that the application of our fundamental principles has resulted in an unacceptable unfairness not only in our own country, but in other countries around the world as well.
Earlier progressives were more direct than today's. Woodrow Wilson, one of the most famous early progressives, argued during the 1912 presidential campaign, "Some citizens of this country have never got beyond the Declaration of Independence. The Declaration of Independence did not mention the questions of our day."
Contrast Wilson's statement to a speech given fourteen years later on July 5, 1926 by our 30th President Calvin Coolidge, who said in part: "If all men are created equal, that is final. If they are endowed with inalienable rights, that is final. If governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, that is final. No advance, no progress can be made beyond these propositions."
Night and day. To Wilson The Declaration is something to get beyond; for Coolidge The Declaration is forever.
Currently progressives control the White House and one half of Congress -- three-fourths of the law making and law executing power of the Federal Government. And they are taking advantage of their position by employing their best efforts to take what they consider to be giant steps along the path of evolutionary justice. The problem is that the steps they want to take will cause existential damage to the very principle that has made our society exceptional.
A person either believes that our society's fundamental principles are self-evident and forever true, or he does not. There is no philosophical middle ground.
The only person elected president four times and a champion of progressives, Franklin D. Roosevelt, declared in a campaign speech on October 21, 1936, "Here is my principle: Taxes shall be levied according to ability to pay. That is the only American principle."
Contrast president Roosevelt's statement with our third president and principal author of The Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson, who said, "The freedom and happiness of man ... [are] the sole objects of all legitimate government."
The problem today is not the "gridlock in Washington." What "We the People" are in the process of being forced to clarify is nothing less than whether or not we still believe that our fundamental principles remain self evident. Have we now progressed "beyond the Declaration" as President Wilson hoped we would, or do we agree with President Coolidge that our fundamental principles are "final"?
Of course the 2012 presidential election will not answer this philosophical question definitively, but it is certain that the candidates from the major parties will be in disagreement. President Obama is a proud progressive, and whomever the Republican's nominate most certainly will be anything but. Whether we realize it or not, when we cast our vote for president next November, most of us will be indicating our support for either the philosophy of Wilson and FDR, or that of Jefferson and Coolidge.
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