During the GOP primary season, people vying to be the Republican nominee for this or that office in most parts of the county will routinely give pro-forma respect to the republican ideas of America’s founders and posture as champions of the Constitution framed in light of those ideas. Especially when attacking their Democratic opponents, most will pose as champions of liberty, free enterprise and limited government. Such posturing makes sense as a matter of purely selfish political calculation since the overwhelming majority of the GOP’s voter base consists of pro-American patriots (as evidenced by the conservative tone of the GOP platform).
Yet despite the rhetoric they cynically deploy to manipulate their party’s pro-American constituency, these days most GOP politicians are pressured into acting on an understanding of politics that fundamentally rejects the republican concepts of the founders. As I have elsewhere discussed, America’s founders acted on the assumption that justice is the end or aim of human society and government.
“It may accurately be said that the people most responsible for the American founding were obsessed with justice. They saw it as the overriding purpose of political life, to which the freeways of passion would ultimately be forced to submit. But if, by deliberation, people recognize and submit to its requirements, their freedom of choice becomes the basis for government, rather than forced submission. The extent and degree of their self-determination with respect to the requirements of justice establishes the extent of individual freedom in their society. In this respect, the more good individuals are willing to do of their own volition, the less the force of government will be called upon to do for them. Conversely, the less justice they reflect in their individual choices, the more the force of government will be called upon to dictate and impose upon their actions. Freedom depends on individual responsibility. ”
As stated in the Declaration of Independence, the republican ideas of America’s founders start from the premise that human beings are creatures of God, naturally governed by laws that reflect the will of their Creator. They are endowed by their Creator with unalienable rights, which are the routines of natural conscience (i.e., knowledge inherent in the way they are made; the special information by which the activities that correspond to their particular way of being are revealed; the program or choreography of the movements by which God intends to dance His way through their existence) by which reason promulgates those laws to all humanity. As they are translated into action, the routines of natural conscience constitute the exercise of natural liberty in which each and every human being peacefully does and/or enjoys all that the Creator’s law for their nature makes it necessary and appropriate for them to do or to enjoy.
America’s founders saw the exercise of humanity’s natural freedom as the essential catalyst for the institution of just government. American government was, as Lincoln aptly put it, “conceived in liberty.” But because they understood that the concern for justice is inherent in this conception, the authors of America’s liberty agreed that the purpose of government is to secure unalienable rights. Individuals establish government in order to assure that they may safely pursue the activities or actions they undertake on account of their conscientious regard for justice. Such activities are therefore called “rights” because they consist in right actions, taken freely by those who consent to act in accord with the knowledge of “the laws of nature and of nature’s God” given to them by their Creator (“I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts.” Jeremiah 31:33). All human beings have access to this knowledge in and through the information we call by the name of conscience (from the Latin “consciens” meaning “with knowledge”). The word “right” thus refers directly to the standard of right action and only derivatively to the freedom to act, which is derived from consistency with that standard.
Human beings are thus free to do all that good conscience allows. Understood in this way, human freedom is inseparable from right action. Human right is therefore not merely the liberty to do as we please. It encompasses the pleasure naturally associated with doing what is right; with freely choosing to act conscientiously. In this way the natural freedom of human beings is distinct from the non-human freedom that consists merely in the material power to act, but which acts without consciously accounting for God’s justice, i.e., the functionally orchestrated plan encompassed by the will of the Creator; as it were, His universal algorithm.
Though justice involves the use of material power, material power and justice are obviously not the same. Justice requires that every application of power be judged by a standard of right and wrong that is then carried out by an agent committed to the prevalence of right over wrong. The purpose of constitutional government is to provide the means by which a people determined to be free in this sense of the term assure that government action will respect the requirements of their freedom; and that government power will be entrusted only to those who will act as agents or representatives of their desire to constrain government power within the boundaries of justice. In light of the republican ideas of America’s founders, this imposition by the people of just constraints upon the government is the purpose politics exists to serve.
Tragically, by effectually substituting material power for the purpose of American political life, the elitist forces that currently control the Republican Party have tacitly agreed with their opponents in rejecting the ideas of America’s founders. They are implementing a different understanding of politics, one that clearly appears in their relentless insistence that issues involving the acquisition and use of money be given exclusive priority over issues that involve articulating and applying the standard of right and wrong on which America’s constitutional liberty depends. This materialistic understanding corresponds to the assumptions of totalitarian despotism, which is exactly the fate the elitist faction has in store for the nation.
(Readers who wish to explore this conclusion further should read my latest post at Loyal to Liberty.)