Monday, March 06, 2017

We Hold These Truths to be Self-Evident Yada Yada

Over the weekend I read Randy Barnett's Our Republican Constitution: Securing the Liberty and Sovereignty of We the People, which covers some of the same ground as Steven Hayward's Patriotism is Not Enough. Both books dig down to the underlying principles that divide left and right, one in terms of constitutional law, the other in terms of political philosophy.

For Barnett it comes down to three words: we the people. In our republic, this is where sovereignty ultimately resides. But not so fast! For us, "we" refers to the individuals who constitute the people, whereas for the left it refers to the people as such, i.e., to majoritarian will.

Except when it doesn't. A deeper problem with the left is that it is completely unprincipled, in that it will appeal to the majority when it is convenient to do so -- as in Hillary winning the majority of votes in 2016 -- while appealing to some daft principle when it is in the minority -- e.g., "sanctuary cities."

If we dig a little deeper, the question is whether rights are prior to government, or whether government gives rise to them. It is rather remarkable that we even have to have this conversation, because the founders made it clear that we are endowed with certain unalienable rights, for which reason governments are supposed to be instituted to secure them.

A government that fails to accomplish this is illegitimate and therefore a candidate for revolution (i.e., the failure to secure our natural rights is precisely when revolution is a natural right).

Government itself has no "rights," only powers, both specific and enumerated. These powers are "on loan," so to speak, from their owners. Nor can their owners vote these rights away, because again, they are unalienable. Therefore, we cannot, for example, vote to render ourselves slaves of the state, but the left never stops trying.

Yes, we are condemned to freedom, a reality to which the left cannot reconcile itself. For the cost is just too high, or at least they are unwilling to pay it.

This is all obvious, and I wouldn't belabor it if it were obvious to everyone. But what were once "self-evident truths" are no longer self-evident and certainly not true (for the left). The problem is, because the founders were dealing with self-evident truth, they felt no need to even defend it. Instead, they yada yada-ed right over it.

But for the left, the absence of any explicit defense is taken as a lack of evidence -- at best, just a grandiose and pretentious rationale for those slave-owning aristocrats to do what they wanted to do. Or in other words, self-evident truth devolves to an all-too-evident will to power fortified by White Privilege.

Hayward reminds us that this was the state of play in political science at mid-century, before the rise of the conservative intellectual movement. There wasn't even a pretense of respect for the founders. Barack Obama was only the most recent president to criticize the Constitution as old and in the way (of progress!), while Woodrow Wilson was the first. The Declaration didn't even enter into it, the reason being that individual liberty is an annoying barrier to the will of the state.

Hayward points out that there was a widespread belief among liberal and progressive academics that America didn't even have any tradition of political philosophy! Rather, one had to look to Europe for all those bright ideas that continue to nourish the left's malignant fantasies.

In reality, the Declaration of Independence crystalizes a sublime and literally unsurpassable political philosophy, as famously expressed by Calvin Coolidge -- and recall the historical context, in that Coolidge came right after the progressive Wilson, so it can be read as a righteous pimp slap to that racist autocrat:

About the Declaration there is a finality that is exceedingly restful. It is often asserted that the world has made a great deal of progress since 1776, that we have had new thoughts and new experiences which have given us a great advance over the people of that day, and that we may therefore very well discard their conclusions for something more modern.

But that reasoning can not be applied to this great charter. If all men are created equal, that is final. If they are endowed with inalienable rights, that is final. If governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, that is final.

No advance, no progress can be made beyond these propositions. If anyone wishes to deny their truth or their soundness, the only direction in which he can proceed historically is not forward, but backward toward the time when there was no equality, no rights of the individual, no rule of the people. Those who wish to proceed in that direction can not lay claim to progress. They are reactionary. Their ideas are not more modern, but more ancient, than those of the Revolutionary fathers.

Once one reaches an ultimate truth, no progress is possible. Which is why self-styled progressives are so preposterously named. However, this is not to say things remain static. Rather, it is as the Aphorist describes vis-a-vis religious thought, which "does not go forward, like scientific thought, but rather goes deeper."

Since this truth is from "on high," so to speak, it will take time for it to instantiate -- i.e., for it to become the reality (like yeast in the dough). This is true of anything, in that time is required in order for the essence (or potential) to fulfill itself in actuality. This is "progress" of a sort, but it is vertical progress. Stripped of its verticality, then it no longer has any ground or foundation.

Which is why the left literally cannot see these truths that were so self-evident to the framers. What we call "natural rights" are a quintessentially "supernaturally natural" phenomenon. They are nature pointing to its supernatural source. But if one arbitrarily eliminates the supernatural up front, then the natural -- the essential -- is likewise eliminated.

Remember, man qua man can have no meaning, no purpose, no vector. He only has these things with reference to his vertical source. So this is the real reason why the left denies natural law and natural rights, not to mention the natural responsibilities that must exist prior to having rights. For who is insane enough to give rights to fundamentally irresponsible people? That would be like, I don't know, giving a state to the Palestinians.

This is all by way of an attempt at a slightly deeper analysis of what and who man is, for as Jaffa believed, "the most fundamental political question is the nature of the human soul" (Hayward). This simply doesn't arise for the leftist, who will immediately ask: what soul? What human? (Since there is no fixed human nature and certainly no immaterial soul.)

To be continued...

3 Comments:

Blogger julie said...

Those who wish to proceed in that direction can not lay claim to progress. They are reactionary. Their ideas are not more modern, but more ancient, than those of the Revolutionary fathers.

Heh. Should the left ever discover the truth of this statement, they would instantly claim for themselves the title of "traditionalists" or possibly even "conservatives." Then resume doing everything they can to drag mankind back to the stone age.

3/06/2017 10:07:00 AM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

"...No advance, no progress can be made beyond these propositions. If anyone wishes to deny their truth or their soundness, the only direction in which he can proceed historically is not forward, but backward toward the time when there was no equality, no rights of the individual, no rule of the people. Those who wish to proceed in that direction can not lay claim to progress..."

That speech is One of my all time favorites.

3/06/2017 10:17:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

Calvin Coolidge was the best President of the 20th Century. He deserves a place on Mt. Rushmore much more than TR. As much as I admire Theodore Roosevelt as a person, he was a progressive and, these days, he would be in with the neo-cons. We should have stayed out of the empire business.

3/06/2017 03:07:00 PM  

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