Ms. Clinton started her campaign discussing the Founders and comparing her vision of the future to her opponents at a July 29 Philadelphia rally. She mentioned that our Founders created a constitution that has supported the world’s longest-running democracy. Second, they did not want one man to have all of the power. George Washington served as the example as he willingly stepped away from power when his term ended. Third, they created a single nation because they were stronger together. Additionally, while we have made progress today, there is still much work to do. We need more good jobs, have to raise wages, tackle inequality, and make the economy work for everyone – not just those at the top. We need to invest in good paying jobs. In other words these are things that government must do to create equality.
While some of these surface facts present some truth about our Founding Fathers, they are far from telling the whole story. It’s the same old progressive line. All collectivism (including progressivism) looks at outcomes alone, while individualism looks to both the outcomes and the means used to achieve them. Collectivism is about dependence while individualism is about independence. The set of statements above provide a good example of this difference, and this article is going to examine them using just the facts.
A Republic, Not a Democracy
We can start with the fact that we do not have a democracy, but a republic. These are not the same. Even the Greek philosophers like Plato and Aristotle saw democracies as creating tyranny, particularly the potential for a tyranny of the majority. Our Founders saw this as well, and sought to create a government based upon limited negative powers with numerous checks and balances to shackle government and keep it in its proper place. One man cannot do it alone. However, a single person’s leadership is necessary to provide direction and enforce the laws created by the legislature. The legislatures were not intended to be in session but for a short time each year.
Our legislature was intended to be part time because the federal government’s role was to be limited to only a few areas; areas that neither the states nor the people were in the best position to accomplish individually. These included; disagreements between the states themselves, a single national currency, immigration into this country, the power of war, and the power to regulate commerce between the states. Absent from their thoughts were all the structure, laws, policies and self-made ‘rights’ we now have around things such as education, energy, agriculture, health and human services, and labor among others. None of these has a constitutional basis, but instead have been created by corrupting various clauses of the constitution, or taking advantage of our outright neglect of our self-governing responsibilities.
Our Founding Fathers worked to create a single nation. Just like today, it was a very dark time. They had just declared their independence from the world’s superpower of their time. They faced threats from without and within. They had little manufacturing, money, and no navy. In the words of Benjamin Franklin, ‘We must, indeed, all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.’ They put it all on the line, and they did so with the conviction that what they were doing was right.
They were stronger together because the ideas they were fighting for were based in truth, such as individual liberty and their rights as Englishmen. The remainder of this article will look at just two items; first what it meant to be a nation, and second the basis of the rights they recognized. There were other things they fought for, but these two ideas were at the heart of their struggle. They are what our Founders intended to pass on to the next generations.
What Does it Take to Be A Nation?
First, there must be a single people. ‘If a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand’ (Mark 3:25). Yes, this is a Biblical statement. You can see from our Declaration’s language our Founders declared both a unity of purpose and a subservience to their Creator – as a people. Being a people requires two basic ideas: (1) a set of mutually agreed upon rights, and (2) a shared commitment for the common good. This requires a message of unity and not division. When one’s message is grounded in virtue, it promotes unity as all benefit equally from our shared nature. Messages that include or benefit only the few create division and lead to weakness in most cases.
They believed in a set of natural rights derived from divine law and Biblical principles, but these were not new. They came from their English heritage. In accordance with Biblical principles, each individual was in the best position to make decisions that were in their best interest. Governance only stepped in when one party did not recognize the rights of another, for this is what true justice is all about – it is giving someone what they are due. Governance was not the creator of rights but simply administered justice when an unjust act occurred.
In order for a people to self-govern successfully they needed to be moral – virtuous. We are not born possessing virtue. It needs to be taught – we need to learn both the languages of reason and faith. This is not religion per se, but the moral principles derived from religion. Judeo-Christian tenets provide our founding principles. Our Founders thought these tenets provided the best moral foundation for a society that would be successful in the long-run.
The Citizen Solution
Government is not the solution, we are. It is we who need to create good jobs, raise wages, and tackle inequality. We must make the economy work for everyone, but we must first be a moral people to do this. Government cannot do it, and to think it can is no different from the pagan ideas of governance held by Plato or Aristotle. Government cannot be the solution because it is contrary to our purpose, contrary to why we were put here to start with.
What government can do is set the stage by getting out of the way and administering justice when someone’s rights are not recognized. Indeed, when a government attempts to regulate a society to bring the above ideas about, it creates corruption. We have seen corruption grow over the last eight years. More regulations over time reduce the number of viable companies. This makes it easier for the government to control them. However, the fewer number also makes it easier for collusion to exist – both across businesses and between government and business. Further, there is no evidence that larger businesses are ever more efficient. The idea that government is the be all and end all is bad stewardship of our gifts and blessings.
Can Government Provide Charity?
Charity is the answer, not big government. Big government is simply a form of cheap charity, of form without substance. A means that is contrary to our purpose. If we have a proper moral basis then we should each be willing to share out of our individual abundance with those who do not have enough. This teaches us the proper role of material things, our fellow men, and our Creator. It is also what we are called to do.
These are not my thoughts, but are the ideas of our Church Fathers. Those thoughts were acted upon by our Founding Fathers in the creation of private schools, libraries, hospitals, and many other charitable organizations to address their communities local needs. My new book Collectivism and Charity: The Great Deception examines more deeply the role of charity within society and the proper role between faith and governance in its support. Charity is the means by which the common good is carried out, the second part of being a people.
Are there different kinds of law and rights, and if so, where do they come from? Our Founder’s believed in certain rights that were derived from Biblical teachings, as stated above. These are natural rights and they have their basis in divine and natural law. From Thomas Aquinas, ‘Natural law comprises many commands ranged in various degrees of closeness to the fundamental imperative that men should seek good.’ To become good is our purpose, and we carry it out through charity. Natural law is commanded because a thing is right. On the other hand, ‘Human laws are complementary to natural law. Posited for the safety of the community, and for public security and regularity, they are right because commanded, not commanded because they are right.’ Human law is to complement natural law, and by extension divine law.
Human Law is not Natural Law
Human law is derived from natural law in one of two ways. ‘The first process is like that of the sciences where inferences are demonstratively drawn from principles. The second process is like that of the arts where a special shape is given to a general idea, as when an architect determines that a house should be in this or that style.’ Both processes are at work in human positive law. However, the second process is derived by human law alone as it is not deduced from divine or natural law.
Positive law is intended for man’s good, or else it would not be law. All law is to be oriented toward caring for the common good. As the latter form is grounded in human law alone, we must be very careful when enacting it. This requires a good moral grounding be present in the people. Great good and great evil have come from positive law. Private property has its basis in positive law. In the Old Testament, God owned the land. It was divided amongst the Israelite tribes to enable them to provide for themselves, but it still belonged to God. Positive law created a right of private ownership. Thomas cited three reasons for its usefulness.
‘First, because each person takes more trouble to care for something that is his sole responsibility than what is held in common or by many—for in such case each individual shirks the work and leaves the responsibility to somebody else, which is what happens when too many officials are involved. Second, because human affairs are more efficiently organized if each person has his own responsibility to discharge; there would be chaos if everybody cared for everything. Third, because men live together in greater peace when everyone is content with his task. We do, in fact, notice that quarrels often break out amongst men who hold things in common without distinction.’
Not All Human Law is Good
Private property ownership is good because the outcome for the community is good. But let’s consider another case. Slavery was also created as a matter of human positive law. However, unlike private property this was not for the good of the community but the good of a few. A corruption in governance, and it encouraged group interest development. This is a prime example of why governance should be limited in scope. Large governments need division to play groups one against the other in order to maintain its power.
It is no different with Ms. Clinton’s call for the work she sees that must be done – by the government. We have only to look at the results of the last eight years. The rich are better off; the middle class and poor less so. The economy works more for those with political influence than it does for the common citizen. Job growth is stagnant. Few new jobs have been created. Many are not full time, and most are in relatively low paying economic sectors. There is nothing wrong with these jobs, but a thriving economy cannot be built upon them. Finally, regulations and taxation have become so onerous that a perverse incentive has been formed. This shifts new job creation to other countries to both reduce their effect and increase certainty so that sound business decisions can be made.
United by the Right Purpose
Yes, we are stronger together, but only when we are united with the right common purpose. When we execute that purpose as individuals not focused on ourselves, but on all within our community. It cannot be achieved by government, which is instead the primary obstacle for its achievement. Our direction will only change when we change our hearts. We must turn again toward virtue and the true principles laid down by our Founding Fathers. We will not be successful implementing programs built upon false promises, such as those advocated by Ms. Clinton. You see, the means do matter as much as the ends. Only we as individuals have the capacity to make the decisions and exercise the means that truly bring those ends about.