It was as if someone was trying to send me a message. It seemed as though every radio talk show, every commentary, each political debate during the past twenty-four hours centered on the issue of individual power vs. collectivism in American society. It is my contention that individual power based on a trust in the “goodness” of man is at the heart of what made the United States great. Secondarily I believe that the difference in that trust in the ultimate intention of the American citizenry is the main issue that divides the Conservative and the Progressive movements.
Allow me to explain, but first please understand that for the purpose of this discussion I will be speaking in absolutes. It simply makes it easier to argue. We should all understand that in-between the polar opposites of of which are discussed are thousands of gradients of gray. The two polar opposites of which I speak are of course Leftism and Conservatism.
The Conservative philosophy is based on a belief in the ultimate goodness of man. That is given the choice between doing “good” and doing “bad.” Conservatives believe that when free enough to make the decision, man will do the right thing. After all man, as the bible says, was created in God’s image. Like God, man will strive to do good, either for the benefit of himself and family and/or for the benefit of the nation itself. Therefore as your beliefs move closer to conservatism along the political spectrum those beliefs will include that lesser government is needed because man can govern himself.
Conservatives focus on the individual and because that individual is born with the inclination to do well, any rights that come with that inherent goodness, come from God who also gave man that inherent goodness. Hence the belief expressed in the Declaration of Independence:
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.
In conservative thought, government’s only job is to protect those unalienable rights.
Thus when you understand the Declaration of Independence you also understand that the American Revolution was based on conservative principles.
The first government developed after independence, the Articles of Confederation met the objective of limiting the size of the central authority, but the government was so weak that it could not protect those God-given rights, the country was slipping into the tyranny of anarchy. Anarchy is as bad as too much government because there is no way to protect people’s rights, especially the right to own and grow one’s property through commerce, as every state had their own regulations and taxation standards inhibiting interstate business and the central government had no taxation powers to allow it to establish institutions to protect that right to property (like an Army).
Philosopher John Locke felt property was the most important of the natural rights.
Locke established that private property is absolutely essential for liberty: “every Man has a Property in his own Person. This no Body has any Right to but himself. The Labour of his Body, and the Work of his Hands, we may say, are properly his.” He continues: “The great and chief end therefore, of Mens uniting into Commonwealths, and putting themselves under Government, is the Preservation of their Property.”
While Jefferson, in writing the US Declaration of Independence changed the word property to “pursuit of happiness.” In the future President’s mind, “pursuit of happiness” did not mean cruising down the pacific highway in a Mustang Convertible with a Playboy Model in the front seat and Creedence Clearwater blaring from the car stereo. Pursuit of Happiness to Jefferson meant pursuing your potential in life, done through commerce and hard work.
How does this fit in with the United States today? What does it mean for the future of America? Click Here to go to The Lid and read the rest of the story.