Rights of liberty not suited for everyone
Published: Wednesday, April 20, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, April 20, 2011 19:04
Are Americans capable of responsible, democratic self-government? It's a provocative question since Americans pride themselves in being able to maintain a responsible democracy. Not only that, Americans consider their own democracy to be an exemplary model in the world.
Consider this, however: In the last midterm election only 42 percent of the American population who registered to vote actually bothered to vote. In the last presidential election, nearly 57 percent of eligible voters participated by casting their ballot.
Granted, these numbers are nominal improvements from previous elections. But consider also the fact that those who voted in each election constitute only approximately one-third of the United States population.
Americans pride themselves on being the Land of the Free, yet they slavishly submit to many abuses and subjugations from the government. America retains the name ‘republic,' yet the phrases ‘civic virtue' and ‘common good' remain archaic and antiquated.
‘Entitlement' exhausts Americans' very notion of liberty. Every election they allow themselves to be swindled by shysters who with their grand rhetoric of ‘hope,' ‘liberty,' and ‘equality' pluck heartstrings and arrest synapses in the pursuit of power. Through the country's democratic processes, every public vice from uncritical consumption to short-sightedness has been writ large. As a result, Washington's perversity would make Caligula blush.
It is high time to put away prideful delusions and realize that Americans have neither the discipline for self-government nor the fortitude for true liberty.
To illustrate American depravity with a local example, just last November Floridians elected Rick Scott into the governor's office — a man who was responsible for the largest Medicare fraud in American history.
That fact alone should have been enough to disqualify him as dogcatcher, but no, Floridians said, "Look here! An accomplished fraud. Now this is a man we can trust to swindle us well and good."
And now there is outrage when Scott is found pursuing policies contrary to the empty slogans of "liberty" and "fiscal sanity" that he rode in on. "We didn't vote for this!" the people cry.
For Americans to be worthy and capable of self-government, they'd do well to reconsider the first principles of the political order our founders bequeathed to us after much deliberation over the nature and aspirations of man, the history of political regimes, and their own experiences as British colonials. For they understood well that a government's ability to function and function well and exist in perpetuity requires certain virtues and conditions relative to it.
Our founders understood that republican self-government requires active and vigilant citizens who are bound by civic friendship and like-mindedness, both of which reveal and aspire to the common good that subjugates all private and special interests. They understood self-government to be an exercise in discipline and restraint in all conditions, whether in activities of the state or the citizen. Reason and moderation ought to prevail over passion and impulse.
They understood that liberty is not merely the freedom to do what one wants under law, but the freedom to do what one ought to do under the guidance of virtue. Under these conditions the dignity and well-being of citizens is increased, and the grounds for a truly responsible democratic government set.
To most Americans today this sounds all very high-minded and demanding, morally as well as physically. Alas, it is a noble inheritance that we have for the most part discarded for comfort, luxury, and security. The Founders thought too highly of posterity.
Not all people are suited for self-government and, in this current decadent condition, Americans can count themselves among those who are not. And as long as Americans remain in their decadence, they participate in and maintain responsibility for their own subjugation and abuse.