Sunday, April 27, 2014

The Oxygen of Liberty

Tonight we are gathered here for something that, in a rational world, wouldn’t be very important—politics. Why do I say it is really not all that important?

If I were to ask you to sit down and write down the five most important things in your life, I can assure you that politics would not be one of them. What really is important?

Perhaps it’s a walk on the beach with the person you love most in this world; or a son’s graduation, the birth of a grandchild, the joy of wonderful music, the discovery of new places, the quest for knowledge, finding a flower that you have never seen before, the satisfaction of productive work, or the thrill of scientific discovery.

The lists we would make would vary from person to person. But I think I’m on safe ground when I say that none of us would list a political campaign.

Most people instinctively dislike politics—and probably with good reason. What we see when look at it is back room deals, low ethics, big promises but poor delivery, lies, lies, lies and then to cover them up, usually more lies. The quality of people attracted to such ventures is not very high. There seems to be a direct inverse relationship between electability and decency.

When we think about those things in our lives that are important we realize that there is one crucial ingredient that makes all of them possible. It doesn’t matter what you value because the inescapable nature of man is such that liberty is absolutely necessary.

Friday, April 18, 2014

A Return to Liberalism

Liberalism, as originally  and properly understood, is the historic advocate of individual freedom. It has promoted the rule of law and private property, with the free exchange of goods and ideas. Its opposition to censorsh

The entire liberal philosophy revolves around the primacy of the rights of the individual. As two philosophers put it: “Rights are the language through which liberalism is spoken” (Douglas Rasmussen and Douglas Den Uyl, Liberalism Defended).

Thomas Jefferson put this liberal ideal into one succinct paragraph in his magnificent Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness,—That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the Governed . . . .”

Liberalism turned the prevailing doctrines of human rights and politics upside down. For centuries it was assumed that man lived for the sake of the state; that what rights he possessed were gifts, given to him by his king or government. Li berals argued that the opposite was true. People possess rights first, and governments receive their sanction from the people. The government is not the giver of rights to the people but the people are the source for the legitimacy of the government.