The Nature of American politics
Tibor R. Machan
So few grasp this that it’s embarrassing. The political purpose of America, as made pretty clear by the Founders and the Declaration of Independence, was to secure for the people a country in which they can be free as they could be in the state of nature only also reasonably safe from aggressive neighbors across the world. Politics had been mostly about imposing power on others, robbing them of their resources, subduing them good and hard (unless they were friendly family members or fellow tribesmen). The genius of John Locke’s system of natural individual rights is that it nearly succeeded in fashioning a society that marked off for everyone a sphere of personal authority, an area in which they would have the liberty to do as they judged proper and not be invaded by others whose company they could enjoy at their pleasure, not as a matter of their invasion.
The idea was that in the wilds people could do as they judged fit except when some powerful bullies stood in the way. Being free is a great thing but if others can, with impunity, impose themselves on one, that takes a lot away from the beauty of liberty. So how to secure liberty but avoid the hazards posed by the bullies? That is the question to which no political thinker has managed to find the answer but John Locke and a few others who taught the American Founders and Framers came very, very close. If a system of individual natural rights could be codified and its administrators had sufficient integrity not to cave in the temptation to compromise it, there was a good chance that the people could not only have the right to liberty but enjoy its exercise as well.
That is roughly how America developed into a relatively bona fide free society, though by no means consistently, flawlessly. But sufficient numbers of Americans had been devoted to the project that a pretty free country came about and managed to provide for its citizenry a kind of country only here and there tasted around the globe. For quite some time at least the idea of this kind of country kept inspiring Americans and their friends across the globe.
Now, however, we have come to the point where a completely alien bunch of “leaders” and their academic cheerleaders–especially in law schools–are slowly but surely selling out the American system. Individualism, which is at its heart, is being besmirched all around, including by the man recently elected to be the guardian of it. There appears to be no interest on his part and on the park of his team to further develop what the American Founders and Framers established into a more perfect version. Rather the current leadership seems hell bent on reintroducing the system of the top-down regime, the very one that the American revolution set out to overturn.
To reverse this trend will require very dedicated citizens, maybe even ones who will have to reignite the original revolution, preferably minus some of the weaknesses of the initial one. Fortunately, the ideas for this are readily available in the annals of American history, law and some political philosophy. All the new revolutionaries need is to put their shoulders to the task of serious research–actually more their minds than their shoulders.
It must not be overlooked that those who are mounting the counterrevolution are a very clever bunch. They have invaded the most prestigious institutions of learning, from kindergarten to graduate school. They control university presses–journals and books and all. They have overrun the popular culture, such as Hollywood and Broadway and what used to be called dime novels. Their hunger for power is unlimited and they are ready to use all the tricks known to human beings. They have learned well from their heroes. Here is one of them:
“Only one thing is needed to enable us to march forward more surely and more firmly to victory: namely, the full and complete thought of our appreciation by all communists in all countries of the necessity of displaying the utmost flexibility in their tactics. The strictest loyalty to the ideas of communism must be combined with the ability to make all the necessary practical compromises, to attack, to make agreements, zigzags, retreats, etc.” [Lenin, “Left Wing Communism,” 1920].