The Virtues of Government
by Dean Jacques

There are political extremists in the Republican Party who believe that the very existence of government is an affront to freedom. They would force this view upon us all and consider themselves patriots for doing so. Although they are a small minority, their influence in Washington has been as extreme as their rhetoric. The Republican Party itself, in Congress especially, has relinquished its soul to accommodate them, only to learn that no accommodation ever goes far enough. These extremists are tearing the party apart, and the nation along with it. Thanks to the loud voices of certain media personalities, who are willing to say anything to expand their coffers, a large part of the American public is being led astray. Disturbed by the manufactured anger that they hear, they don't know what to think.

To promote some understanding, I present the following simplified overview of the rationale that went into the making of the government of the United States.

First of all, the ideas that congealed in the Declaration of Independence and Constitution, with its Bill of Rights, did not fall out of the sky. Preserved letters written by the founders, public and private, show the distinct philosophical pedigree of their thoughts and vision, which they freely acknowledged. Generated by the intellectual milieu of the Age of Enlightenment, they attributed much of their guidance to the English philosopher John Locke, who himself was influenced by Thomas Hobbs, Baruch Spinoza and many others, going back to the Greek philosopher Epicurus. (At one point, Thomas Jefferson described himself as an Epicurean.)

The rationale they put together, in simplified words, goes like this:

Individuals, without the advantages of society, are very weak and vulnerable. Their happiness is limited by the struggle just to survive. Without societal pressures, including the recognition of mutual dependencies, and the formation of laws and punishments, human nature is such that there can be no peace. The primitive world, lacking the advantages of civilized society, is a harsh, difficult, and violent place. Society therefore plays an important role in generating peace and security, and by lifting the many limitations that come from a subsistence way of life. That includes freedom as well. It allows for a greater opportunity to pursue happiness.

In the past, social hierarchies, the rule of monarchs and aristocracies, were commissioned to maintain security, administer law, and repel invaders. While the upper classes benefitted from this world view, the great masses of people worked the land almost like slaves. There was little to look forward to but a harsh, short and often meaningless existence.

The Age of Enlightenment brought all that into question. Encouraging reason and compassion for others, questioning everything to bring about improvement, a new way of thinking was born. Thanks to the literacy brought about by the printing press, these ideas soon immigrated to the Americas as well.

The separation from England gave the founders an opportunity to create a government where freedom was cherished, promoted and protected. They created a government where the people were sovereign, a republic with democratic tendencies unlike anything that had been tried before. Although the human rights that they recognized were considered extensions of Nature's Law, it was the government which transformed them into civil law. In this respect, freedom was enhanced. Yes, there would be a cost. Taxes and obedience to the laws would maintain order and protection, but they would also promote the general welfare. It was the purpose of government to promote virtue, which was considered vital to the pursuit of happiness, which is the crux of Nature's Law.

Those freedoms that we enjoy are facilitated, or should be, by the government in which the people are sovereign. That other forms of government provide less freedoms, or none at all, show the important role that government plays, and how valuable ours is.

A government of, by and for the people will naturally try to improve people's lives. Social Security is a prime example of people lifting the quality of life for the majority of Americans through their own power of government. While some see the Social Security requirement as an infringement on their freedom, in a very real sense, it has expanded freedom for millions of people away from the barriers to freedom of poverty and old age. The same with Medicare. The Affordable Care Act was a natural extension of this enhancing of public freedoms. (Nothing obliterates freedom more than infirmity or a debilitating disease.)

This is not some incursion of a foreign power, taking away people's freedom. It is the people themselves using government to improve their own existence. If it is not working properly, then the problem may be traced to the people's lack of understanding about particular issues. They are either not receiving the truth for them to carefully consider, they are not educated enough to discern truth from lies, or they are being deceptively manipulated by those who have no respect for the people's sovereignty.

For our government to work properly, and the founders knew this, certain things are necessary: Public education. A well-maintained, national infrastructure. An effective military defense. The kind of regulations that safeguard people and protect the economy. An environment conducive to peaceful coexistence. A culture that contributes to the progress of human nature. A civilization that continues to improve itself in the ways of honesty and virtue.

Primitive freedom lacks this kind of security and progress. It is continually subject to substantial risks of nature and fear of violence. The strong end up enslaving the weak, which in itself is a major attack on freedom. Is this what extremists really want? Or are they so blinded by their own hallucinating, paranoid rhetoric that they cannot see the logical end to where they are headed.

The Constitution was written to replace the Articles of Confederation. This was done to empower the federal government in order to protect the American people from the exploitation of their own local governments. Such protection was obviously needed even in 1787. Today, we still see states where local governments kowtow to special interests, put the health of their citizens at risk and attack democracy itself through voter suppression. The federal government was meant to protect us from that, which is why so many local politicians hate it. It infringes on their graft.

I understand that there are a lot of Americans who do not grasp the rationale of their own citizen government. I understand that they have been conditioned all their lives to the point of being culturally adverse to understanding it. They actually believe that people are not equal, and that the wealthy elites should be rewarded with cheap labor, just as they were a hundred years ago in southern mills. They don't believe in the power of democracy, so voter suppression is okay, just as it was in the Jim Crow past. They have such little faith in the American spirit that they think that we are always on the verge of Marxism or socialism or tyranny - although that was never, ever the case. That charge was made up just to scare people away from unions, and in many states it worked. They are so converted to extreme ideologies that they believe that taxes are being raised when they are lowered , and that federal agents are coming to take away their guns, even when nothing of the kind ever happens. Jet streams become chem-trails in the skies. Free thought, which is the very essence of freedom, is something to suppress out of fear of a communist takeover!

The only counter to this, if it can be countered, is for all of us to give voice to the ideals that America was founded upon. Not just superficially. We get enough of that in political speeches. But the heart of those ideals. Their satisfying, life-enhancing depth. We need to inspire the American Dream beyond employment opportunities. We need to subject capitalism to simple moral directives that prevents the few from oppressing the many.

I hope this article gets the ball rolling. We have wasted too much time stagnating over extreme ideologies. We have a better world to create in the name of free thought.






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