Thursday, June 12, 2008

Culture: Part 2

    The Federal Recluse has put forward his hypothesis: altruistic cultures are development resistant. Cultures which hold as one of their fundamental premises the notion that man's function is to assume the role of sacrificial animal will have as adherents stunted human beings, resentful of others whom they fear will demand sacrifice of them. Modern society, with all of its complexities, demands cooperation if it is to progress. Division of labor in a modern economy is extremely finely divided indeed. A great many people must cooperate willingly and efficiently if such an economy is to function properly. Trust is essential, for both economics and politics; it is the oil that lubricates the great social machine. There is little trust in a culture in which each sees himself as a potential object of sacrifice.

Technological innovation requires on the part of the innovator years of grueling work. That degree of effort can not be expected of a man who expects at any moment to be dragged off to the altar of sacrifice, but instead of a selfish individual—a man of self esteem. Such an individual expects to be rewarded for his effort, not to have his head placed on a chopping block. We will never know how many Louis Pasteurs, how many Albert Einsteins, how many Jonas Salks the world would have known if creative individuals everywhere were able to enjoy the fruits of their innovation free from the threat of enforced slavery. We would be repelled by the notion of turning a dog into a sacrificial animal, but we eagerly do it to each other, as long as oneself is the recipient of the sacrifice. Man is too good, too great, for such treatment. One can almost smell the resentment in the air in cultures that make such a demand.

    The United States was founded on principles antithetical to altruism. John Locke, the English political philosopher, was one of the most important sources of those principles, so let's expend some effort discussing Locke and his influence on the founding of this country.

    In his "Two Treatises on Government", he offers us three principles which are necessary for good government: natural rights, limited government and the right of revolution. The concept of natural rights was revolutionary in its time (1690). Europe, for a thousand years, had been suffering under the doctrine of divine right. That is, kings, queens and emperors claimed to have received their right to rule from god, frequently indirectly bestowed upon them by the pope. Few others in their domains were perceived as having rights. Certainly common men did not. Kings could rape their wives, burn their homes and cut off their heads. Why? Because god had given them the right to do so. Locke argued that ALL MEN possessed a full set, an infinite number, of rights simply because of the fact that they were born as human beings. (We will discuss the nature of rights in a later blog). The poorest beggar in Paris had precisely the same set of natural rights as did Louis XIV. This concept percolated throughout the Western world, and was eventually a key element in the toppling of absolute monarchies everywhere. By 1776, the Founders of this country were well aware of it. Thomas Jefferson included in his Declaration the statement that all men possess unalienable rights. By unalienable Jefferson meant that men possessed rights that no government could take away. The worst it could do would be to deprive its citizens (or more properly, subjects) of the ability to exercise those rights. This was the definition of bad government. Good government allowed its citizens to exercise all of their natural rights. A man in communist China, Locke and Jefferson would argue, has a right to stand on a soapbox and make an anti-government speech. But he is living under a tyrannical, repressive regime and therefore is not allowed to exercise his right to do so. He is taken away and shot.

    This principle of natural rights is embodied in our founding documents first, in the Declaration of Independence as noted above, and secondly in our Constitution. A few of our rights are recognized in the main body of that document. These are the right of habeas corpus, prohibition against bills of attainder as well as against ex post facto law. But another, more sweeping attempt was made by the Framers to recognize our rights. I am referring specifically to the Bill of Rights in general, which is a recognition that man possesses unalienable rights. But only eight are listed. Note well that this document does not confer rights upon us. It only recognizes the existence of such rights as we have always had, have now, and always will have as human beings. The Ninth Amendment is crucial and, unfortunately, almost universally overlooked. It states,


    "The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people."


    This carries us from eight to the infinitude of rights which Locke mentioned. Read it carefully, and understand it well. The future of your liberty depends on it.

    The Tenth Amendment serves an entirely different purpose. It has to do with Locke's second principle of good government. A good government is a limited government. Thousands of years of history had shown Locke that unlimited government always violates the rights of its subjects. The Tenth Amendment states,


    "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."


    A great deal more will be said about this in a subsequent blog. But in short, it refers to the delegated, enumerated or expressed powers of Article One, Section Eight of the Constitution, which lists those specific powers in which the United States government may engage. The Tenth Amendment, in effect, builds a wall around the delegated powers which shall not be breached. In a way, it says to us, "Hey dummies! Just in case you didn't get it, we want the United States government to do seventeen things and seventeen things only! All other powers belong to the states or to the people themselves!" Article One, Section Eight, along with the Bill of Rights and its Tenth Amendment as well as Jefferson's criticisms of unlimited government in the Declaration of Independence, are the means by which the Founders of this country attempted to insure that we would always have a limited government, as John Locke advocated.

    Locke's third principle, the right of revolution, is mentioned by Jefferson as well as he justifies our separation from Britain. In the Bill of Rights, it is embodied in the Second Amendment, which recognizes our natural right to keep and bear arms. On the one hand, it recognizes our right to defend our lives, our homes, our families and our property through the use of arms. But it is primarily a political statement. It recognizes the fact that we are under no compunction to submit to a tyrannical government. If all peaceful means to redress our grievances fail, we have the unalienable right to rise up in armed rebellion and overthrow such a government, replacing it with one which will recognize our natural rights. Since the Gun Control Act of 1968, an attempt has been made to link our right to keep and bear arms with so-called "sporting purposes". This is poppycock and the interpretation of would-be tyrants. The Federal Recluse can assure you that the Framers of the Constitution did not add an amendment to that document so that you can go duck hunting. Its purpose was for the overthrowing of tyrants.

    All of this, put together, constitutes a monumental act of individualism and selfishness in its purest sense. Our Founders wanted us to be free individuals, not objects of sacrifice. Altruism, or self-sacrifice are not mentioned or even hinted at in any of our founding documents. It was this philosophy of individualism and selfishness, this specific rejection of altruism, which created this country and which made it great. But a great deal has changed since the Founding Era. This glorious philosophy, in which the individual lives his life for his own sake, has been diluted, corrupted, subverted and intentionally ignored. How this happened, and its profound implications for our—your—liberty will be the subject of subsequent entries.

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