If you would like to add a comment to any of the threads here on AADB, registration with blogspot.com is not required. Simply click on the ‘comments’ link at the bottom of an essay, and either enter a nickname under ‘choose an identity’ or post your comment anonymously. Serious comments are always welcome.

REQUIEM

Below are the two final essays to be posted on Allegiance and Duty Betrayed. The first one is written by a friend -- screen name 'Euro-American Scum' -- who, over the past four years, has been the most faithful essayist here. He has written about everything from his pilgrimage to Normandy in 2004 to take part in the 60th–year commemoration of the invasion, to his memories of his tour in Vietnam. His dedication to America’s founding principles ... and those who have sacrificed to preserve them over the past 200+ years ... is unequaled. Thank you, E-A-S. It has been a privilege to include your writing here, and it is a privilege to call you my friend.

The second essay is my own farewell. And with it I thank all of the many regular visitors, and those who may have only dropped in occasionally, for coming here. I hope you learned something. I hope a seed or two was planted. But, even if not, I thank you for stopping by ... 25 March, 2010

10/25/2007

The Foundation of the ‘American Philosophy’: Life, Liberty, Vigilance and Courage

remember liberty.jpg

John Cooper, a good friend and regular contributor here, posted under the previous essay a link to a brilliant article by André Glucksmann, entitled, From the H-Bomb to the Human Bomb: Modern terrorism seeks to combine the annihilating power of Hiroshima with the nihilistic gospel of Auschwitz.

I urge you all to read the article, and then to respond to John’s observation that the gist of the article is that philosophy moves nations, followed by his question, ‘What is the American philosophy’?

It seems to me that ‘the American philosophy’, if examined in the most elementary terms, was originally defined in all of our founding documents, refined over the ensuing century and a half, and then pretty much abandoned in the mid-twentieth century, which explains why this nation is now adrift without anchor, and out of view of safe harbor.

Philosopher and once close associate of Ayn Rand, Nathaniel Branden, observed that ‘The United States was the first country in the history of the world to be consciously created out of an idea — and the idea was liberty.’

Indeed!

Our republic was founded by decent, visionary men whose goal was to establish a country whose people harbored a genuine, undying reverence for the God-given gifts of life and individual liberty.Yet sometimes the simplest gifts are the most beautiful …. and the most difficult to retain. You see, they are so easily taken for granted. In an effort to establish that vision, our Founders also drew up a blueprint for minimal government, whose role would be the same: to respect and defend life and individual liberty. Nothing more, and nothing less. Both within our borders and without.

Of course, over the past two-plus centuries, there have been many glaring exceptions to the life/liberty reverence -- both in our government’s relation to us, and in its interference in other nations’ affairs. But, as a rule, America has continued to stand for those two noble concepts -- here, and wherever else they have been threatened, and where we felt called to intervene in their defense. Greece under Truman, and Grenada under Reagan are just two of dozens of recent examples that come to mind.

There are -- always have been, and forever will be -- people, and belief systems, in this world in which neither human life nor individual liberty are considered of significant worth. And it is with those people, and belief systems, that the fundamental vision of this nation has been at odds for more than two centuries. Communism and radical Islam are the two most provocative enemies that we have known in that regard in my lifetime. But there will always be forces at work which seek to destroy life and liberty for the sake of power/ideology/’religious doctrine’. Those forces go by different names, but under the façade lurks the same dark and devious heart that seeks to declare some men of less value than others.

Something that has troubled me for a long time now is the increasing movement in this country toward diminishing the value of both (life and liberty). And in continuing to allow that erosion of vision to happen, we are losing our once-unique and noble identity. (There are those who say the demeaning of life and liberty has always been a definitive part of this culture …. it was merely more covert in the past. I do not agree.)

What concerns me is that we, as a nation, are falling away from serving as an example that other nations can emulate. There are many reasons for the decay -- the gradual, but continual, removal of God from our public consciousness, parental permissiveness, the influence of television/entertainment, the welfare/entitlement state, the leftist curricula in public and higher education, etc. But the most unfortunate outcome of that time when the less than noble finally outnumber the noble in this country will be that there will be no nation willing to stand as an example, or step in when stepping in to preserve life or liberty is necessary -- and whether the stepping in is popular with the majority of mankind or not. Because the sad fact is that the majority of mankind, if given the choice, tends to choose the path of least resistance. It’s the nature of the beast. But up until now -- and with few exceptions -- it has not been the nature of this republic.

Our Revolution served as the cornerstone for our republic form of government, based on that unyielding belief in the sanctity of human life and individual liberty. The civilization which grew out of the faith, and bloodshed, and courage, and resolve, and vision that was embodied in that Revolution was once the most moral, prosperous, ‘civilized’ nation on earth. We were once pretty much of one mind as regards the importance of individual liberty in maintaining that national morality and prosperity. And therein lay our strength – our unified national resolve: liberty at any cost.

It now appears that liberty -- or at least a significant portion of each individual’s -- may be bartered on a whim. Why then all the bloodshed two hundred-plus years ago? No whim was that. How did this republic mold its once unique and unsurpassed national character? By meekly handing over just a little bit more of our freedom each time an enemy blustered – so that the government (that dragon that our Founders so carefully sought -- through bloody battle, and careful deliberation -- to keep constrained) could protect us from others who would steal those same liberties? Was there ever a dichotomy of a more perilous sort?

Two hundred-plus years, accompanied by material wealth and affluence and (late arriving on the scene, but loaded for bear) concomitant leftist cradle-to-grave indoctrination by the public education system and the mainstream media has brought us to this sorrowful place we’re at. A populace that values creature comforts more than freedom. That prefers to rely on media/literary/political experts to do their thinking for them, rather than putting their own brain cells into personal intuitive/creative/analytical drive. Fertile ground for an insidious, liberty-thieving indoctrination/propaganda machine if there ever were any.

Lack of ‘vigilance’ (in the form of knowledge of one’s roots and commitment to their protection and nurturing), accompanied by lack of courage, has probably enslaved more people -- either through violent overthrow or gradual encroachment -- over the history of mankind than any other fatal combination.

I was born after World War II, but I (and I believe most others who stop by here) have learned second-hand what those who experienced the horrors of that war witnessed firsthand. It is we post-war Americans who haven’t taken the time to examine our roots, and the offshoots that grew out from them over the past two-plus centuries, who have no mental image to conjure up, whenever our government speaks nobly of abrogating our liberties for the sake of preserving them.

Man has an unfortunate penchant to look the other way after a major world cataclysm has occurred. We emerged victorious from World War II, and we, at least subliminally, told ourselves that human evil had been defeated, or at least contained – unwilling to allow ourselves to remember that evil is eternal, that we cannot ‘rest on our laurels’ or stop looking over our shoulders.

At any victory party after which evil has been contained, it must be the charge of at least a handful of the partygoers to be guarding the door. And, after the party is over, while the sun continues to shine, that handful’s calling must assume much more critical proportions, in order to begin (subtly at first, because man enjoys his party time, and after-reflection) to instill in the populace a renewed sense of vigilance. There must be a consistent reminder that cloudy days are not a thing of the past, and that some clouds conceal potential danger, serving as forewarnings of major destructive storms. Such clouds require serious, constant scrutiny by educated, world-wise eyes.

It is because we have been negligent in providing those eyes that the continued implementation of our American philosophy has deteriorated beyond recognition.

In the article mentioned in the first paragraph above, the author himself says of the human tendency to revert to the convenience of a short attention-span rather than remaining ever vigilant:

The worst of the storm has barely passed, and one is busy ‘moving on’—renovating dead-end roads, regilding the clocks of Cloud-Cuckoo-Land. We turn away from reality and its truths, which are neither easy to live with nor pleasant to talk about. Before long, repression is complete.

Four of the most eloquent and concise, if lesser quoted, examples of our Founders’ vision are represented below. And the absolute necessity to ‘stand guard’ over that vision is implicit in every word:

(1) Thomas Paine in Common Sense on the need for eternal vigilance on many fronts:

Though I would carefully avoid giving unnecessary offence, yet I am inclined to believe, that all those who espouse the ‘doctrine of reconciliation’, may be included within the following descriptions: Interested men, who are not to be trusted; weak men, who cannot see; prejudiced men, who will not see; and a certain set of moderate men, who think better of the European world than it deserves; and this last class, by an ill-judged deliberation, will be the cause of more calamities to this continent, than all the other three.

(2) From Declaration of the Causes and Necessity
of Taking Up Arms
(1775), reiterating the need for vigilance:

In our own native land, in defense of the freedom that is our birthright, and which we ever enjoyed till the late violation of it -- for the protection of our property, acquired solely by the honest industry of our fore-fathers and ourselves, against violence actually offered, we have taken up arms. We shall lay them down when hostilities shall cease on the part of the aggressors, and all danger of their being renewed shall be removed, and not before.

(3) Samuel Adams (from a speech delivered to the State House in Philadelphia in 1776):

Our Union is now complete; our Constitution composed, established, and approved. You are now the guardians of your own liberties …
You have now in the field armies sufficient to repel the whole force of your enemies and their base and mercenary auxiliaries … Your adversaries are composed of wretches who laugh at the rights of humanity, who turn religion into derision, and would, for higher wages, direct their swords against their leaders or their country … For my own part I ask no greater blessing than to share with you the common danger and common glory.


(4) Thomas Paine, again, in The Rights of Man:

While the Declaration of Rights was before the National Assembly some of its members remarked that if a declaration of rights were published it should be accompanied by a Declaration of Duties. The observation discovered a mind that reflected, and it only erred by not reflecting far enough. A Declaration of Rights is, by reciprocity, a Declaration of Duties also. Whatever is my right as a man is also the right of another; and it becomes my duty to guarantee as well as to possess …

… nor can any country be called free whose government does not take its beginning from the principles they contain, and continue to preserve them pure.


It is in the last of these quotes, perhaps more than any other of our founding documents, that a real description of the source of our current national malaise – and deadly vulnerability -- lies. And the symptoms of that malaise are allowing our enemies, both external and internal, to bring our republic down.

Paine prudently observed above that, along with a declaration of, and belief in, the sanctity of individual rights, must also come a declaration of duties (responsibilities) … and that a free people must always ensure that their government consistently continues to preserve them [the individual rights it is created to protect] pure.

Now, perhaps more than at any time in the history of mankind, we -- not just Americans, but all freedom-loving people -- must practice the kind of vigilance that will both ensure the existence of freedom, and see to it that our own government does not successfully join forces with those who would bring us to our knees. That kind of vigilance is borne of a knowledge of history and the attendant understanding that there will always be a predator at the door – either domestic or foreign, but a predator nonetheless.

When a society becomes sufficiently enrapt of bread-and-circus activities, and sufficiently diverted from guarding the door, that society’s days are numbered.

My good friend, First_Salute, in his essay, We Only Have the Rights We Defend, as Long as We are Able reflects:

No system of government will preserve for us what is our own responsibility to defend. And for all the fury which might release upon catastrophic failures by our government officials to uphold the lawful laws, no recovery is possible without the people being well-informed of what is our responsibility and trust ... and duty to restore.

Speaking passionately about the fact that vigilance is an imperative in a free society, Edmund Burke cautioned, in Speech on Conciliation With America (1775) --- that the citizens of a free society must ‘augur misgovernment at a distance; and snuff the approach of tyranny in every tainted breeze.

Alexander Solzhenitsyn, in A World Split Apart, his
commencement address Delivered At Harvard University in 1978, warned:

A decline in courage may be the most striking feature that an outside observer notices in the West today. The Western world has lost its civic courage … Such a decline in courage is particularly noticeable among the ruling and intellectual elites, causing an impression of a loss of courage by the entire society. There are many courageous individuals, but they have no determining influence on public life … Must one point out that from ancient times a decline in courage has been considered the first symptom of the end?

Clarence Thomas, addressing the in American Enterprise Institute in 2001, in a speech entitled Be Not Afraid warned:

I do believe that we are required to wade into those things that matter to our country and our culture, no matter what the disincentives are, and no matter the personal cost. There is not one among us who wants to be set upon, or obligated to do and say difficult things. Yet, there is not one of us who could in good conscience stand by and watch a loved one or a defenseless person --- or a vital national principle --- perish alone, undefended, when our intervention could make all the difference. This may well be too dramatic an example. But nevertheless, put most simply: if we think that something is dreadfully wrong, then someone has to do something.

Our Founders created the blueprint for a government focused on the sanctity of human life and liberty, where the people’s voice would forever outweigh government mandate. They also repeatedly warned us that preservation of such a noble society requires constant vigilance, and repeated action, with courage in passionate defense of liberty as the igniting spark.

Yet, despite the preciousness of our ancestral inheritance, our vigilance has devolved into ignorance and inattention, and our courage has transformed into apathy.

A rebirth … even an ascension … is needed. And we have fallen so far that the ascension must be tantamount to climbing onto a new evolutionary plane. We have no choice but to focus on higher realms. The alternative is unthinkable.

~ joanie

52 comments:

Minuteman23 said...

I've said it before but I'll say it again, you need to run for national office.

trustbutverify said...

Joanie, I am a realist and not necessarily an optimist, like you.

I don't disagree with anything in your column, and I see the "ascension" you describe as necessary too, but I don't see it happening in our lifetimes.

Thank you for a very well written piece!

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for this! I have sent it to many other people.

Anonymous said...

"Yet, despite the preciousness of our ancestral inheritance, our vigilance has devolved into ignorance and inattention, and our courage has transformed into apathy.

A rebirth … even an ascension … is needed. And we have fallen so far that the ascension must be tantamount to climbing onto a new anthropological stage. We have no choice but to focus on higher realms. The alternative is unthinkable."

Just how do we do that when more and more laws stifle our voices and the voices of illegal “citizens” and powerful special interest groups make our votes less and less meaningful? Short of armed insurrection, I see no light at the end of the tunnel.

cw-patriot said...

Just how do we do that when more and more laws stifle our voices and the voices of illegal “citizens” and powerful special interest groups make our votes less and less meaningful? Short of armed insurrection, I see no light at the end of the tunnel.

I can't disagree with your assessment.

marcus aurelius said...

Your commentary is excellent, and I have bookmarked the Glucksmann article for later reading. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

You are bold! Thank you for your splendid commentary---this one and all the others. I print many of them out and distribute them far and wide.

You may like these:

http://freedomkeys.com/vigil.htm

john galt said...

From the Glucksmann article:

A traditional war, however savage, comes to an end. Terrorist war, given over to limitless fury, knows no cease-fire. For the demonstration of force it substitutes the demonstration of hatred, which, nourished by its own atrocities, becomes inextinguishable.

The man is brilliant.

Thank you for this and for your own excellent commentary, Joanie.

Anonymous said...

Good work.

Proudpodunknative said...

Man has an unfortunate penchant to look the other way after a major world cataclysm has occurred. We emerged victorious from World War II, and we, at least subliminally, told ourselves that human evil had been defeated, or at least contained – unwilling to allow ourselves to remember that evil is eternal, that we cannot ‘rest on our laurels’ or stop looking over our shoulders.

In 6 short years we've become complacent again, and many of our leaders in Washington, and Hollywood types, have even bent over backwards past complacency, are painting us as the terrorists and lobbying for terrorists' "rights" at Guantanamo, and in wiretapping restrictions, etc.

Anonymous said...

http://media.www.dailyiowan.com/media/storage/paper599/news/2007/07/05/Nation/Fbi-Says.Suicide.Bombs.A.Big.Concern.Need.Vigorous.Vigilance-2921113.shtml

SidBreem said...

Well reasoned as usual, C.W.

I am glad to see you quoting Solzhenitsyn. He is one of my few heroes.

Every "civilized" person should be required to read The Gulag Archipelago. It is one of the greatest of modern man's literary achievments, which is exactly why he was banished from the Soviet Union.

The affluence we enjoy today is in bitter contrast. We need to read his work to recognize that it could happen here and to value our freedom so that we are willing to keep the vigilance you talk about here.

God bless Solzhenitsyn, and thank you for writing this.

Buster said...

I copied this from another forum many years ago. It's very appropriate here:

*** The stage is being set. As in the achievement of "critical-mass", social and cultural events will descend suddenly and move in rapid succession, to everyone's amazement. The foundational rending will be felt universally, and every person will be a player. The only available joy will come from knowing in advance the ultimate outcome, and in being able to discern counterfeit from authentic. ***

All_good_men said...

BRILLIANT!!!!!

We have lost our national identity, either by inattention or design. Either way, until we have rediscovered it, we are doomed to a downward spiral into oblivion.

daveburkett said...

I've said it before but I'll say it again, you need to run for national office.

I don't believe she ever would, but we do need such clear thinkers.

Solzhenitsyn's "One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich" and "The First Circle" are two of the most intelligent books written in the past 200 years.

Anonymous said...

"Every "civilized" person should be required to read The Gulag Archipelago. It is one of the greatest of modern man's literary achievments, which is exactly why he was banished from the Soviet Union."

I agree. And Solzhenitsyn translates surprisingly well into English, unlike Dostoyevsky and others. And his writing is so well crafted with amazing character depth. It's not like reading a textbook.

3timesalady said...

There must be a consistent reminder that cloudy days are not a thing of the past, and that some clouds conceal potential danger, serving as forewarnings of major destructive storms. Such clouds require serious, constant scrutiny by educated, world-wise eyes.

It is because we have been negligent in providing those eyes that the continued implementation of our American philosophy has deteriorated beyond recognition.


Beautiful, Joanie. Thank you for this wonderful essay.

cheryl gereau said...

This is one of your best, CW. I sent the link on to some family members who need to read it.

stonemason said...

Paine said that "Society in every state is a blessing, but Government, even in its best state, is a necessary evil; in its worst state, an intolerable one."

We've reached the "intolerable" level and I know Claire Wolfe would agree.

2ndAmendmentDefender said...

Joanie, you argue this even better than he does, and in a broader way, but here are similar calls to vigilance in an article entitled “Vigilance and Responsibility” by Mackubin T. Owens:

But the struggle between Hamilton and Jefferson was not between bad and good, vice and virtue, or darkness and light, but between responsibility and vigilance, two virtues necessary to sustain republican government. And what many describe as Hamilton’s militarism was really strategic sobriety, the essence of which is the recognition that one must prepare not only for the expected, but also for the unexpected. Hope is not a realistic strategy.

Let us recollect, that peace or war, will not always be left to our options.…To judge from the history of mankind, we shall be compelled to conclude, that the fiery and destructive passions of war, reign in the human breast, with much more powerful sway, than the mild and beneficial sentiments of peace; and, that to model our political systems upon speculations of lasting tranquility, is to calculate on the weaker springs of the human character.

Strategic sobriety is a mode of thought that republics require as much as any other regime. Unfortunately, it is one that republics all too often discourage.

As my friend and Naval War College colleague, Karl Walling, observed in his 1999 book Republican Empire: Alexander Hamilton on War and Free Government, throughout the history of the American republic, a tension has existed between vigilance and responsibility. The former is the jealousy on the part of the people that constitutes a necessary check on those who hold power lest they abuse it. As Jefferson wrote, "it is jealousy and not confidence which prescribes limited constitutions, to bind those whom we are obliged to trust with power."

But while vigilance is a necessary virtue, it may, if unchecked, lead to an extremism that incapacitates a government in carrying out even its most necessary and legitimate purposes, e.g. providing for the common defense. "Jealousy," wrote Hamilton, often infects the "noble enthusiasm for liberty" with "a spirit of narrow and illiberal distrust."

Responsibility is the statesmanlike virtue necessary to moderate the excesses of political jealousy, thereby permitting limited government to fulfill its purposes. Thus in Federalist 23, Hamilton wrote that those responsible for the nation’s defense must be granted all of the powers necessary to achieve that end. Responsibility is the virtue necessary to govern and to preserve the republic from harm, both external and internal. The dangers of foreign and civil war taught Hamilton that liberty and power are not always adversaries. The "vigor of government is essential to the security of liberty."

http://www.ashbrook.org/publicat/op
ed/owens/06/hamilton2.html

Brian Spear said...

You should have a nationally syndicated column.

LouBarakos said...

As wise and well written as always.

cw-patriot said...

Thank you all for the kind comments.

I agree with your assessment of Solzhenitsyn's works, Sid -- although I've only read The Gulag Archipelago. As you said, it should be required reading in every high school in the country, even if an entire semester needs to be devoted to it.

Anonymous said...

I would like to call upon America to be more careful with its trust to prevent those pundits who are attempting to establish fine degrees of justice and even finer legal shades of equality (some because of their distorted outlook, others because of short-sightedness, still others out of self-interest)to prevent them from using the struggle for peace and social justice to lead you down a false road. They are trying to weaken you; they are trying to disarm your strong and magnificent country in the face of this fearful threat -- one which has never before been seen in the history or the world. Not only in the history of the country, but in the history of the world.

Solzhenitsyn in Warning to the West (1975)

Anonymous said...

In an interview Clarence Thomas once said, "I tend to really be partial to Ayn Rand, and to The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged."

That quote connects a lot of what you wrote here.

John Cooper said...

Joanie--

That was really beautifully thought out. I'll be back soon, but in the mean time, the reason America is philosophically adrift is that as a nation, we never had a proper *philosophical* underpinning for our culture and our system of government.

The study of philosophy consists of five branches: Metaphysics (the nature of reality), Epistemology (What is knowledge and how may it be acquired), Morality (a code of values to guide one's choices and actions. Ethics, as a science, deals with defining and studying such a code.), Politics (the principles of a proper social system), and Art.

There is a hierarchy in the five branches, with each branch depending upon those above. As an example, if you believe as Plato did that the things we sense as reality are just "shadows on a cave wall", (Metaphysics), then the only way one can acquire knowledge is via super-natural means. (Epistomology) Those ideas lead to a certain code of values (Morality), which, in turn, leads to (statism).

Our founding fathers created the most moral political system the world has ever known, but without stating why it was. They thought it was...to coin a phrase..."self-evident".

The morality of altruism*** has been creeping in and undercutting their beautiful creation ever since.

***"The basic principle of altruism is that man has no right to exist for his own sake, but that service to others is the only justification of his existence, and that self-sacrifice is his highest moral duty, virtue and value.

Do not confuse altruism with kindness, good will or respect for the rights of others. Those are not primaries, but consequences, which in fact, altruism makes impossible." --Ayn Rand "Philosophy, Who Needs It?", 1982

Lori_Gmeiner said...

Joanie, I can hardly wait to hear your response to Cooper's "we never had a proper philosophical base for our underpinnings."

(I'll keep my flame retardant handy.) ;)

robmaroni said...

Lori, you'll have to wait for the flames, CW's away from her computer this weekend. (I'm doing the moderating.)

smithy said...

I have forwarded this to many people too. Your writing spreads much farther than you probably realize, Joanie. Good work yet again.

Anonymous said...

Joanie, this is a great book I think you would like. Our son was required to read it for a college course on Western Civilization. He left it home and I read it. I know you would get as much out of it as I did, especially the parts that include Locke's philosophy.

http://www.amazon.com/Spirit-Modern-Republicanism-Philosophy-Literatures/dp/0226645479/ref=sr_1_4/104-7185561-2973559?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1193508850&sr=1-4

John Cooper said...

Lori and Bob--

Flame away. Philosophers have been struggling with these questions since time began, so it won't hurt my feelings at all if someone corrects me about something.

The sentence, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." is probably one of the greatest ever written. Not only that, it applies equally whether one believes man was created by God or by nature.

(With that, I have to beg off once again, having worked myself stupid all day...)

Anonymous said...

Ayn Rand was wrong in that she made a thing, “freedom,” her God.

John Cooper said...

Joanie--

As you said, America was the first nation ever to be founded on an idea - the concept of individual rights and it’s corollary, liberty. As we have seen, though, the concept of individual rights has been perverted over the years. The Democratic platform of 1960 shows the switch explicitly. It promised:

“1. The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industry or shops or farms or mines of the nation.

“2. The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation.

“3. The right of every farmer to raise and sell his produce at a return which will give him and his family a decent living.

“4. The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition.

“5. The right of every family to a decent home.

“6. The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health.

“7. The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accidents and unemployment.

“8. The right to a good education.”

All of the above to be provided by whom? One has to marvel at how the essential meaning of the word “right” could be turned around to mean "slavery" with nobody noticing. I hope this doesn’t upset you, but I think the term “God-given rights” is partly responsible for allowing that to happen.

Bear with me for a moment while I explain why I don’t favor the term. It’s not necessarily wrong, but using it opens the door for the kind of political abuse listed above.

In the first place, if God did in fact create the heavens, the earth, and mankind, then the term is redundant. He created *everything*, including “rights”. (On the off chance that *nature* created all of the above, then the term becomes incorrect, yet we are left still needing the concept of rights.)

It also can be interpreted to mean that one must be of the Christian faith to have rights. That’s personally hard to believe that God would have intended that for his children.

But worse yet, it instills in people’s minds that rights are “given” by someone. It’s a small step from accepting them from God to accepting them from the State or one's neighbors (e.g. democracy). Also, it implies that if God gave you rights, then he can also take them away.

I prefer to use the definition “Conditions of existence necessary for man’s proper survival in a social setting.” It’s more precise, and more inclusive.

Ayn Rand wrote in Man’s Rights, that :

~~~~~

Rights are a moral concept - the concept that provides a logical transition from the principles guiding an individual’s actions to the principles guiding his relationship with others - the concept that preserves and protects individual morality in a social context - the link between the moral code of a man and the legal code of a society. Between ethics and politics. Individual rights are the means of subordinating society to moral law.

She continues with an excerpt from Atlas Shrugged:

“The source of man’s rights is not divine law or congressional law, but the law of identity. A is A - and Man is Man. Rights are conditions of existence required by man’s nature for his proper survival. If man is to live on earth, it is right for him to use his mind, it is right for him to act on is own free judgment, it is right to work for his values and to keep the product of his work. If life on earth is his purpose, he has a right to live as a rational being: nature forbids him the irrational.”

“To violate man’s rights means to compel him to act against his own judgment, or to expropriate his values. Basically, there are only to potential violators of man’s rights: the criminals and the government. The great achievement of the United States was to draw a distinction between these two - by forbidding to the second the legalized version of the activities of the first.”

~~~~~

Have you ever heard an American politician say these things? I haven’t. Teachers, either. Everybody uses the term but not one in ten-thousand can define it. Until people actually understand the meaning of the term “right”, then America will continue down the Road to Serfdom.

I also think it's important to clarify this idea before speaking of responsibilities or duty.

Anonymous said...

Just how do we do that when more and more laws stifle our voices and the voices of illegal “citizens” and powerful special interest groups make our votes less and less meaningful? Short of armed insurrection, I see no light at the end of the tunnel.

Let's all repeat that, and mean it.

Anonymous said...

Danke, Johanna.

John Cooper said...

Speaking of a violation of individual rights. How about this latest outrage in Nebraska:

Lawsuit says seizure of baby for test violated rights

"OMAHA — A Nebraska couple sued state health officials Thursday because they believe their rights were violated when their newborn baby was seized so a mandatory blood test could be performed.

“This is a classic case of the government overreaching and violating a family’s constitutional rights,” said Jeff Downing, the couple’s attorney.

Mary and Josue Anaya believe that the Bible instructs against deliberately drawing blood and that ignoring that directive may shorten a person’s life. State health officials “conspired to deny the Anayas their rights of due process, and to seize and test baby Joel without notice or a hearing in district court,” according to the filed in U.S. District Court in Omaha.

“They seized him and asked questions later,” Downing said."

~~~~~

The child was taken from the nursing mother by armed men, and placed in foster care for almost a week. The comment by the armed men as they kidnapped her child was, "Don't worry M'aam, we're professionals".

Martin Raskin said...

This is an excellent blog.

Are you linked from others?

John Cooper said...

It sure is quiet in here...I hope it wasn't something I posted (cringe).

I heard a quote from GHWB (Bush 41) on the news the other night which made me cringe, though.

"There can be no definition of a successful life that does not include service to others."

Since I'm probably already on double-secret-probation, I won't post the identical statements from that German guy with the clipped mustache and the starched khakis.

What that belief represents, in essence, is a prescription for tyranny. It means, in essence, that you can only be a "good person" if you serve others.

That statement is the lepers bell of an approaching tyrant.

(And please, although Joanie called me her good friend, please feel free to critique what I am posting here. If I'm wrong, I want to know.)

daveburkett said...

Cooper, I think this thread has just reached the point where people don't have the energy to debate the topic anymore. I don't think it was anything you said. Your writing is very good, and even though some of us might disagree with some of what you said, it's been 10 days and the subject is now stale.

We're waiting for a new one, Joanie! {G}

Anonymous said...

I agree with Burkett's comment. I've thought of writing a response to a couple of posts on this thread, but when I sat down it just didn't seem worth it. Not that the posts weren't worth responding to, just seemed like "old stuff" since this has been here a while. So I decided to just keep checking in for new material.

Anonymous said...

Wasn't J. Robert Oppenheimer found to be Communist party member?

robmaroni said...

Wasn't J. Robert Oppenheimer found to be Communist party member?

That doesn't mean that his views on Physics or the working of the human mind are inaccurate.

marcus aurelius said...

He never "officially" joined the communist party, though clearly he was a communist sympathizer. But, as Maroni said, that doesn't diminish his scientific genius.

John Cooper said...

DaveB--

Thanks for your assessment. In a way, it bothers me that a discussion of liberty, rights, responsibilities, etc. can can become "stale" after a couple weeks, but I understand that you didn't mean it that way.

We all miss Joanie when she can't be here.

John Cooper said...

A pre-Revolutionary statement by an anonymous Bostonian reflected a common belief that it was better to be ruled by one tyrant 3,000 miles away than by 3,000 tyrants a mile away. Historian Alexander Fraser Tytler wrote then that “A democracy . . . can only exist until a majority of voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury.”

If not by democracy, then how do former subjects of a monarchy ensure freedom? Alexander Hamilton wrote, "We are now forming a republican form of government. Real liberty is not found in the extremes of democracy . . . . If we incline too much to democracy, we shall soon shoot into a monarchy, or some other form of dictatorship."

The Constitution therefore states, “The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government . . . .”

John Cooper said...

"The Constitution is a framework for government that is purposefully difficult to amend. The executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government were designed to provide checks and balances on each other. An additional check on power was that the three parties to legislation were to serve different constituencies.

- The House of Representatives was intended to be the only representative body for the people, with members elected democratically from specific districts.

- Members of the Senate were appointed by their respective state legislatures.

- The office of president was decided by electors, of which each state had at least three. The vice-president was the presidential candidate who received the second largest number of votes, ensuring a balance of opinion in the executive branch.

This provided the foundation for a government of limited power whose principal obligation was to protect the rights and liberties of the people. This charter of power from the people was not intended to be changed easily or to be a “living document,” subject to the whim of the moment. After the Constitutional Convention of 1787, Benjamin Franklin, when asked what had been wrought, responded, “A republic, if you can keep it.”

But today we are continually subjected to chants of “our democracy,” “this is a democracy,” and “to restore our democracy” by politicians who should know better, having sworn to uphold and defend the Constitution.

As early as the 1830’s, Alexis de Tocqueville noted how little Americans valued freedom as opposed to equality. He wrote, "Democratic institutions awaken and foster a passion for equality which they can never entirely satisfy." Equality of condition, of position, of peace and comfort became more important than freedom for people to achieve what they could. The weeds of democracy had started springing up in the fields of freedom.

Democracy gained more in 1913 when the balance of legislative power was changed by the Seventeenth Amendment, which provided for direct election of senators by the people. The Senate then represented the same constituencies as the House. Each presidential election now resounds with calls for the abandonment of the electoral system in favor of a popularly elected chief executive."

Source: It's NOT a Democracy

--"There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root" --Henry David Thoreau

robmaroni said...

Beautiful post, Cooper!

The 17th Amendment is an abomination. And the politicians who are always calling this country a "democracy" know better. They're just indoctrinating ignorant minds. If you repeat something often enough to uninformed people, it becomes "truth".

De Tocqueville was a prophet. He foresaw almost all of the ills that plague us.

Anonymous said...

Equality of condition, of position, of peace and comfort became more important than freedom for people to achieve what they could. The weeds of democracy had started springing up in the fields of freedom.

No one could have said it better.

robmaroni said...

Joanie will be away from her blog for a little while and I will be moderating while she is gone. Although there won't be much new posted here for a little while, we can all check back in and post random comments now and then and wait for her to return.

trustbutverify said...

I want to be the moderator!

You can be the chalkboard washer and eraser clapper!

;)

Looking forward to CW's return.

Lori_Gmeiner said...

Miss you Joanie. Come back soon. ;)

John Cooper said...

To robmaroni:

I agree that the 17th Amendment is an abomination which should be repealed.

The problem I always run into in my mind is how to convince enough people to demand the repeal.

Politicians these days don't think in terms of "What's best for the Country", but rather "How can I get re-elected".

I hate to be negative, but it's difficult to see how the 17th Amendment - like the welfare state - can ever be repealed.
Alexis de Tocqueville was right, but through self-education, we Americans may be able to save the most moral country on earth.