America: Still the Best Hope
I just finished reading Dennis Prager's new book Still the Best Hope - Why the World Needs American Values. I have been trying to fit political issues together all my life, and Prager seems to be doing that job admirably.
The book's jacket gets it right: "In this visionary book, Dennis Prager, one of America's most original thinkers, contends that humanity confronts a monumental choice. The whole world must decide between American values and its two oppositional alternatives: Islamism and European-style democratic socialism."
On the first page, Prager states, "Few Americans can articulate what is distinctive about American values or even what they are. There is ... a thirst among Americans for rediscovering and reaffirming American values. ... A lot of Americans realize we have forgotten what we stand for."
Prager not only explains our values, but he compares our values in detail to the reasoning of the left in each arena. His analysis is so well done that it may even get converts from the left, and it will certainly aid independents and conservatives in grasping the big picture.
It is clearly a must-read for Romney and each member of his team because Prager has explained the left and Obama unlike anything I have ever read. If Romney can find a way to use this author's theories, the independents will become conservatives.
Paul Ryan's "thank you" speech to Mitt Romney copied a concept from Dennis Prager's book, a combination of political science and philosophy. It is a wonderfully powerful book loaded with notable jewels such as this concept adopted by Ryan in his speech.
The book contains an unwinding explanation of things with which many of us have struggled, such as the concepts of religion, God, conservatism, and liberalism. Prager also analyzes Islam in great detail and explains why none of the arguments in support of it changes the immorality of Islam.
The first paragraph of Chapter 9, "Still the Best Hope," states: "The USA is not merely a geographical location. And unlike most of the world's nations, Americans are not, and have never been, a race or an ethnicity. America is and has always regarded itself as an idea. That idea is a value system. And that value system -- unique to America -- can be called the American Trinity."
Ryan copied this concept in his speech, stating: "America is an idea, and that idea is Liberty and God."
Prager defined the term "American Trinity" as "Liberty, God and E Pluribus Unum" (out of many, one), each of which Prager includes in many pages of discussion. Ryan used the concept but shortened the expression and left out the last portion -- which is fine, as E Pluribus Unum is a bit too complex for a short speech.
Prager notes, "E Pluribus Unum rejects tribal, ethnic and blood ties and elevates the individual. It is the individual who matters, not any group to which the individual may belong. Anyone can become an American because America, unlike other nations, is not defined by territory, religion, or ethnicity, but by an allegiance to a set of ideals. It is telling that the 'hyphenated-American' only became a part of political speak with the ascendency of the Left. For two centuries, Americans, whatever their place of origin, were just Americans."
It is very encouraging to me that the Romney camp seems to know about Prager's new book and will use it as a source for their campaign. It could prove to be as valuable to Romney in this election as de Vattel's book Law of Nations was to the Founding Fathers in the lead up to our War of Independence.
The author expends significant effort in defining liberty. Simply stated, it is our well-known five familiar freedoms plus two: political, religious, assembly, speech, and press, plus economic freedom and as much freedom as practical from government interference in our lives. Prager's first jewel regarding government interference is that "[i]ndividual liberty exists in inverse proportion to the size of the state."
Prager's case for small government is overpowering:
1. The Founders believed that unnecessary government is dangerous and destructive of the moral character of its people.
2. Character begins in taking responsibility for oneself. State involvement, when a person can care for himself, damages moral character and reduces care for the truly needy.
3. Government entitlement programs have terrible moral consequences. These programs lead to a loss of self-worth, an attitude of entitlement, and a lack of gratitude for what is provided. Why work if the government provides a handout?
4. People need the emotional reward of feeling needed. Men especially have been denied rewards for their involvement. When the State becomes totally responsible for the financial support of their women and children, men are denied this reward. As the State expands its role, nothing is left of liberty and dignity.
5. American churches and other voluntary groups have been an essential part of American culture that becomes denigrated when government expands into their role. Charity and volunteerism are reduced substantially in leftist states, a detriment to the needy and to the volunteers' sense of community contribution.
Another jewel. "There are fine individuals on the left and selfish individuals on the Right. But as a rule, bigger government increases the number of angry, ungrateful, lazy, spoiled and self-centered individuals."
And another jewel. "The Left's altruistic motives have created the Welfare state, and the Welfare state creates selfishness."
Prager's book discusses all the many underlying philosophical differences between conservatives and the Obama left, and in my opinion, he discloses the fallacy underlying all the liberal concepts. Prager discusses how the Age of Reason's and the Enlightenment's rejection of religion and God resulted in the rejection of the concept of the inherent immorality of man -- a rejection which took over Europe. Contrary to this European post-Enlightenment concept, the Founders retained in the Constitution the concepts that man is immoral and that the essence of man is most interested in self-satisfaction. This led the Founders to incorporate Montesquieu's advice in the Constitution and to create three branches of government in which each branch had equal power. This was their attempt to counter the inherent self-interest and immorality of man.
It is my dream that a clear-thinking philosophy major would use Prager's book to generate a short version for consumption by independents. Such a text would help the world appreciate the inherent weaknesses underlying the social democracy of the Obama administration.