Under the headline “Congress agrees: Keep spending,” Washington Times staff writer Emily Miller takes note of the truth about the current charade being acted out by the fraternal twins of the sham two-party system: “Congressional Democrats and Republicans waged a war of words on Monday over their debt-ceiling plans, but their agendas amount to pretty much the same thing. Washington just can’t kick its spending habit.”
When someone is suffering from a life-threatening ailment, accurate diagnosis is a critical step toward successful treatment. So even people who aren’t just lip-service conservatives ought perhaps to be forgiven for reacting with an upwelling of grateful enthusiasm when someone like Sarah Palin makes a show of taking on the Obamaniacs and their fellow travelers with the seemingly blunt declaration that “It’s the spending, stupid.” (It’s a sad comment on the current state of American political rhetoric that name-calling is now routinely mistaken as a sign of plainspoken integrity. But I must admit that “It’s the stupid spending” doesn’t have the same allusive sound-bite punch. Just so, “Obamaniac” seems more to the point than “maniacally loyal Obama follower.”) But we should have no more confidence in politicians who thrive on brave nostrums about the government’s excessive spending than we would have in a counselor who pretends to cure cocaine addiction by handing out towels for wiping away excessive sweat.
If I were willing to correct one ad hominem sound bite with another, I would suggest that it might be more accurate to say “It’s the welfare state, stupid”; or “It’s the socialism, stupid”; or most descriptively, “It’s the power-addicted, self-aggrandizing, elitist, twin-party politics, stupid.” Aside from the gratuitously insulting tone, however, even these slogans mistake the symptoms of the crisis for its cause. At the end of last week’s column, I quoted words from Abraham Lincoln that actually point toward its root. I suspect, however, that not a few readers wondered (not always indulgently) what “the truths that are in the Declaration of Independence” have to do with the fiscal crisis that currently threatens to overthrow the liberty of the American people. That reaction may have something to do with the fact that we frequently hear the words of the Declaration but only rarely examine their logic.
That logic begins with a major premise acknowledging the existence and authority of the Creator. It proceeds through a minor premise that relies upon the fact that the Creator made (endowed) all human beings with certain natural (i.e., inherent in the way they are made) inclinations toward right action (aka, rights). And it comes to rest at the conclusion that the just powers of government derive from the action of individuals who consent to the institution of government (i.e., unite in declaring that it represents their common will) in order to safeguard their ability to implement these right actions.
According to this logic, the purpose of government is to safeguard the individual ability to do what is right. Doesn’t this mean that the primary responsibility for right action rests with individuals, not with the government? Doesn’t this in turn suggest that we cannot achieve the lawful aim of government if we build and preserve the government’s power by undermining and destroying the power of the conscientious individuals whose consent is the source of its legitimacy?
Our current fiscal crisis arises from the fact that the fraternal twins of the sham two-party system (i.e., the Republican and Democratic parties) derive their power from electoral appeals that embrace the logic of welfare-state socialism. Welfare-state politicians consistently invoke society’s responsibility to care for the children, the elderly and the infirm. On the assumption that government action is the sine qua non of effective care, they appeal to the compassionate conscience of the electorate, while at the same time portraying opponents of welfare-state socialism as wicked or selfishly motivated opponents of right action. But the notion that government bears the primary and indispensable responsibility for the society’s welfare directly contradicts the Declaration’s concept of rights. According to the concept, rights arise in the context of each individual’s response to an inclination toward right action the Creator God generally made part of everyone’s natural disposition.
The fact that individuals bear primary responsibility for right action doesn’t mean that they must act each alone. It does, however, give rise to an order of precedence that gives pride of place to human associations that result from the voluntary disposition of individuals beginning. In the natural course of things, the first such association is the family. The family is the paradigm of government based upon consent, in which, though indisputably possessing greater material strength, the parents give in to the inclinations of their hearts, making themselves willing servants of the otherwise helpless infants God has entrusted to their care.
This paradigm of natural family government contains the seed for an understanding of economic life that offers an alternative to bank-breaking welfare-state socialism. None of the politicians being touted as “stars” by the fraternal twins of the sham two-party system will ever represent this alternative to the nation. This is in part because they have spent so little time rediscovering and exploring the common-sense wisdom that was second nature to American statesmen like Abraham Lincoln. They are therefore unable to adapt it for our time, or even vaguely inclined to do so. They are tragically blinded and enslaved by the God-resenting, self-worshipping assumptions of the power-mad paradigm of politics that currently passes for sanity among America’s elites.
Americans unwilling to surrender their liberty will have to look elsewhere – not in the “stars” but in themselves. If America’s founders were right (and I think they were), people will find in themselves a voice of reason calling them to return, as Lincoln suggested, to the place where the nation began. It is also the voice of conscience, instilled by the Creator God, warning us that we will go on bankrupting our nation (and our posterity) as long as we tolerate leaders who are willing to pretend that government can do for us what the authority of God has disposed us to do for ourselves.