Competing Philosophies of Government


George Washington

Ron Lipsman, talking about the nation’s founders, contrasts the opposing political philosophies in the current environment:

What can we learn from the Founders, even when “our” problems weren’t “their” problems? A great deal. They operated on a set of principles that, like mathematics, was applicable in almost any situation, and across time. It is the genius of the Constitution that it provided flexibility to adapt to almost any modern problem, while at the same time containing the overall imperative of reducing or limiting the power of the national government and placing power in the hands of the people. Not surprisingly, virtually none of the modern Left – save when it comes to certain civil rights – ever refers to the Constitution. To them, it is a stumbling block, an impediment. To the Left, the Constitution must be overcome, flanked or ignored. When Martin Luther King Jr. led civil rights marchers in singing “We Shall Overcome,” he meant that they would overcome the barriers that denied them their constitutional rights. When modern leftists employ the phrase, they mean “We Shall Overcome the Constitution”!

This war is a battle between philosophies of government that contrast sharply:

  • One is represented by a weak, decentralized government where freedom and markets rule and individuals choose and pursue their individual goals. The other is represented by strong centralized government where rules, regulation and coercion steer and control individuals.
  • One is a rule by the people through elected representatives who are limited in power and discretion.  The other is rule of the people by the elite who eventually eliminate any boundaries on power and discretion.
  • One is consistent with our founding principles. The other is consistent with and leads to totalitarianism.
  • One is a world of freedom and initiative. The other is a zombie state where effort and achievement don’t matter.

The choice before us is to go back to the world envisioned by our founders or to proceed forward to the world of Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, Mao and others. We are headed for the latter and have been moving in this direction for decades.

Is it possible to turn back? Unfortunately, history suggests the answer is “no.”  No society, to my knowledge, has ever rolled back the oppressions of the State without a complete collapse of its economic, social and governing institutions.

While collapse seems to be a pre-requisite to reversing the tide, it is hardly a guarantee. When reduced to the ashes that allow the flower of freedom to bloom again, the seeds of totalitarianism can just as easily take. Chaos presents opportunity, especially for the unscrupulous. The false god promoting solutions is appealing and may take control. Crises produce desperation and the strong man is only too happy to come to the rescue with “necessary actions.”  His solutions strengthen his power at the expense of the people. That is how totalitarianism roots.

In an excellent article today on American Thinker, James Lewis discusses where the country stands. He cites the coming election as critical:

The coming election will show if America can become a Republic again.  Right now the Founders would be horrified to look at us, just as they would have been horrified by the Dixiecrats and the Carpetbaggers.  You will know the outcome when free speech comes out looking robust and healthy.  Maybe, maybe – even in our schools and universities.

I agree with Mr. Lewis’ assessment regarding the importance of the coming election. It is a necessary, but hardly sufficient, condition to turning the country around.

Historically the country’s decline has not been straight-line. Freedom has ebbed and flowed.  The 2012 election can represent a gain. But Reagan was a gain. Today that gain has been entirely erased with continued losses.

The problem is that gains are ephemeral while the losses are continual. Despite short-term gains, the long-term trend has been down virtually from the adoption of the Constitution.

2012 is important only because it slows the trend. It is not a solution. I doubt whether the long-term trend can be reversed via the ballot box.


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1 Comment

  1. Opposite philosopies:

    Theories are good training at school but the real world needs to incorporate historical exAmples!

    Theories on their own:even with really good intentions are useless

    Unleess one chhecks historical precedent and
    Also some good old common sense!

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