Friday, June 11, 2010

Thoughts on American Exceptionalism

After reading this excellent post on American exceptionalism this morning, Kevin and I started pondering and brainstorming about what makes America exceptional. We came up with this - America has an anti-government constitution with a unique longevity. America is fundamentally not a territory or a political entity, but an idea, and the idea is personal freedom. It is the establishment of a limited government to protect freedom, and it is founded on the idea that because everyone is equal, everyone has the same right to be protected from infringements on their freedom.

The problem with leftist utopian visions is that they confuse the premises with the conclusion. They take equality to be the goal, the finish line, rather than the starting point, the fundamental premise. Liberals use the idea of equality to justify the exercise of a will to power and the expansion of government to address inequalities as if they were always the result of some unjust exercise of power on the part of individuals which should be checked by government n service to the common good. But equality is not where we are supposed to end up, but where we start. We are all already equal by our God-given human nature. The idea of equality is in service to the idea of freedom, not the other way around, and it is an abuse of the idea of equality to pit it against individual liberty to the detriment of the latter. America is and has been exceptional in its history of holding fast to this basic idea of freedom, while other western democracies have been seduced by an excessive egalitarianism and lost the clarity of their own visions of human liberty. It may be that liberty is a means value, not an end in itself, but if that is so, it is not a means to the realization of total equality, that is, equality of economic conditions, equality of achievement, the equality of results, the equality of outcome. Liberty is the means to the common good, to human happiness. Equality is the starting condition., and the justification for liberty, not its purpose.

Dr. Walter E. Williams stated, “If you read through all the statements by the Founders and the framers of the Constitution, it’s very much anti-government. Matter of fact, if you read through the Constitution and the first ten Amendments, you would conclude that it was a very anti-government document. That is, the negative phrases used by the Founders against the Congress of the United States showed their deep distrust. The Bill of Rights says Congress shall not disparage, Congress shall not abridge, Congress shall not prohibit, Congress shall make no law, blah, blah, blah. It reflected a deep suspicion of government.

And if you look through history, government has been the enemy of the people. As brutal as the wars were in the 20th Century, where tens of millions of people were slaughtered—World War II, the 60 million; then World War I, the Korean War, or the Vietnam War—the total loss of life through wars pales in comparison with the number of people murdered by their own governments. You can start out with the Soviet Union: well over 100 million people were killed. Or the slaughter of the Armenians by the Turks, and the millions of people slaughtered by Hitler through extermination camps and things like this.”

The concept of American exceptionalism was coined by Alexis de Tocqueville. In Democracy in America, Tocqueville identified five values crucial to America's success as a democratic republic: (1) liberty (2) egalitarianism, (3) individualism, (4)populism and (5) laissez-faire.

Tocqueville, stated, “I HAVE already pointed out the distinction between a centralized government and a centralized administration. The former exists in America, but the latter is nearly unknown there. If the directing power of the American communities had both these instruments of government at is disposal and united the habit of executing its commands to the right of commanding; if, after having established the general principles of government, it descended to the details of their application; and if, having regulated the great interests of the country, it could descend to the circle of individual interests, freedom would soon be banished from the New World.”

Today, the Leftists are trying to transform our country and our government into a centralized administration which ultimately leads to tyranny.