Rogue Operator is an interesting philosophical/political site I ran across recently. Though the posts are few and far between, I found this one particularly compelling. Federalism is the idea that the Federal Government should govern us in some respects, while the state should have most of the power. This was based on the idea of consent of the governed, and the truism that “the best government is the [small] government that governs least.” Since the Constitution has been expanded to the point that Federalism no longer exists as it was originally intended, as a protection of the people from a government that oppresses its people, these discussions are particularly relevant today. How much government should the Feds have? Should things like gay marriage be left to the states (or should they be outside the realm of the government completely)? Many more thoughts ask to be expressed, but I have to get studying for the day. Enter the following:
In regards to one prominent presidential contender’s [hint: Romney on Romneycare] slippery dodge that something may be in accordance with morality at one scope of government, though inappropriate at another, I am compelled to rebut that the utter lack of principle among our political elites is the essential cause of this nation’s ongoing flirtation with self-destruction.
Federalism, the pre-eminent challenge to ongoing usurpations by the national government, should always be amended and qualified by a proper respect for individual rights. Citizens of every state, sovereign beings endowed by their Creator with free will, are not born into the possession of a State or even society. Men do not owe their lives to the society or the State, and should not owe their fortunes to either.
For a man is not born powerless into this world, bereft of reason, stricken of the capability of caring for himself. The State should thus not be held out as an enabler of men; for this is akin to saying that men are necessary as enablers of trees to grow. As such, trees do not require men to care for them; but rather, only require from men that they not destroy them. The rest God, or Nature, which is an expression of God’s will, provides for; and withdraws, for reasons impervious to the minds of men.
In as much we acknowledge the capriciousness of elements perpetually beyond man’s control, such as death, the climate, and the natural constitution of the earth, we acknowledge the limits of man’s control; and thus, the natural limits of government. It should not be the province of government to provide for the health of men; it should be the duty of men to do so themselves. Men thus should enter into such relationships as they see fit to accomplish this most natural of duties to oneself, freely in accordance with their nature, and not compelled to either provide for the care of others, nor to have his labor extracted to care for himself. Caring for oneself is ultimately up to the individual to do, or not to do. For what could be more foolish and fruitless than to care for a thing that does not care for itself?
We should recognize men are fallible creatures, and cannot be cured by even a perfect government. America’s government, as it was founded, explicitly recognized the imperfections of both men and governments comprised of men. The Founders’ philosophical deliberations on the nature of man and the nature of government were well-captured by Madison when he wrote, “If men were angels, no government would be necessary.” And conversely, because men are not angels, no perfect government is possible.
In other words, The Constitution, magnificently enlightened document that it is, is not capable of protecting us from ourselves, just as government is not able to care for us against our desire to care for ourselves. The document is not self-enforcing; it requires an enlightened people to carry on the torch of its illumination. The abandonment in the hearts of men of the principles animating the document, not necessarily replaced by a fervent ideology, but equally by a cynical rejection of ideology, would just as surely issue in a change in the nature of government as any violent revolution.
As such, the incessant and implacable demands of a growing minority in this nation threaten to overthrow the natural order the government was founded to preserve. Without a direct and principled rebuff, they will continue to grow, until the nation is bankrupt, both morally and financially. We must bear in mind, the two conditions are inextricably linked.
The impositions of demands by the growing minority on the fruits of others’ minds and labor, know no natural limitations. Their minds are impervious to reason, and the exhortations of those striving to avert national ruin to those benefiting by the unnatural state of affairs, essentially not to abandon the good in the vain pursuit of the perfect, will fall on deaf ears.
Therefore, time is running out for those who acknowledge reason and the truth of the principles animating The Constitution. The machinations of destruction have already been set in motion, and a lack of firm principled resistance to its immoral designs, which operate according to unnatural presumptions, will just as surely destroy the republic as if we had designed the infernal machine ourselves.
As Montesquieu instructed in The Spirit of the Laws: “It is not a matter of indifference that the minds of the people be enlightened. The prejudices of magistrates have arisen from national prejudice. In a time of ignorance they have committed even the greatest evils without the least scruple; but in an enlightened age they even tremble while conferring the greatest blessings. They perceive the ancient abuses; they see how they must be reformed; but they are sensible also of the abuses of a reformation. They let the evil continue, if they fear a worse; they are content with a lesser good, if they doubt a greater. They examine into the parts, to judge of them in connection; and they examine all the causes, to discover their different effects.”
As a nation, our prejudice has been that our greatness is capable of rewriting the laws of nature, of transcending limitations beyond our control, and of caring for men who have little care for themselves. Nature is the nurturer of greatness, not government. What is natural, in the strict sense, what is in accordance with the demands of nature, is what is rational. When government is unnatural, and is irrational enough to defy the laws of nature itself, the government’s impossible impositions incur a schism in the souls of men. Men become divided not only within themselves, but among themselves. These political and human schisms lead directly to the fall of a society, whose ashes are molded by the tyrant into a vain image of himself. The resulting facsimile of society is destined to crumble, inexorably to be replaced by one in accordance with the demands of nature, and in fulfillment of man’s nature as free sovereign beings.
One final note. Thomas Sowell has a great book called A Conflict of Visions that explains the visions that dominate the cultures of leftism and rightism. The point espoused in the last paragraph above is one that lines up perfectly with a typically “conservative” vision, in that man is not perfect, no structure of government or social order will make him that way, and therefore governments exist to restrain men from doing evil. The typically “liberal” vision is that man is a being perfectable, as is society, if only the right programs are offered or created by the government. This is why I have always had eminent respect for the conservative (classically liberal) ideal of small government: why should a man rule me when he cannot even rule his own life perfectly? We may as well keep government small, so each man’s imperfection is his own and does not create large erroneous themes in his ordering society in a certain direction. Sowell’s theory obviously has MUCH more to it than I can sketch out here, but the examination of the foundations of the belief systems has always stuck with me, because the conservative one makes so much sense to me. It is why the government cannot be perfected no matter how big it gets, what programs are reformed, or who is in office. People are imperfect, and their creations will always be such…
Pick up A Conflict of Visions someday. It is worth your time, if only to show you a theory of the deeper tides that push the two dominant cultural visions in America and all over the world.