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Time to get back to the founders
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“America is more than a country,” is the first line of the new Republican “Pledge to America.”
It is a curious phrase which tells much about the founding of our nation, and captures the reason government has been such a failure at solving problems in the late 20th and early 21st centuries.
The document continues, “America is an idea — an idea that free people can govern themselves.” In the 18th century ideas were everywhere. The great philosophers of Europe such as Locke, Rousseau and Hegel were writing and debating about how men should be governed. The monarchies and their governing partners, the aristocracy, were losing control as new ideas flourished.
A competition was unleashed as to what would replace the old order.
In America, the governing ideas which are articulated in the Declaration of Independence are echoed in this “Pledge to America,” which continues: “government’s powers are derived from the consent of the governed, that each of us is endowed by their Creator with the unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
In this sentence, we read the genius of America’s particular and unique idea of rights.
In the American view, rights are not earned, neither are they the subject of the king, or the state. Rights for Americans are separate and apart from the governing politics. Rights are a gift from a Divine Being.
The great difficulty we have suffered in the past three decades is directly the result of the underlying thesis of the Founders being challenged by the new aristocracy, the intellectual elites. They refuse to accept the limits to government that are inherent in a system governed by a Divine Being. In fact, they challenge His very existence. They reject limits on the scope and size of government.
Barack Obama expressed it himself when he recently misquoted the Declaration of Independence; he left out the only capital letter word in the sentence.
He said, “we are endowed with certain inalienable rights,” forgetting to mention the words, “by our Creator” as they were written and signed in July 1776.
In challenging God’s existence, these elites erase the social order on which America’s experiment in freedom depends.
The Founders themselves understood this connection and talked of it openly. Here is what our first three presidents had to say on the topic.
President Thomas Jefferson said: “God who gave us life gave us liberty. Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God?”
President John Adams said; “We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion.”
President George Washington, in his Farewell Address said; “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports.”
Each of these men, regardless of having diverse religious beliefs understood the importance of accepting God’s role in our free society. God helps men govern themselves.
The Republicans are on the right track as they look back to the founding era for guidance to handle the challenges of today.
When men and women govern themselves through prudent living and honest lives, the need for a super all controlling federal government diminishes. Instead we are able to live peaceable together without the bureaucrat telling us what light-bulbs to use or the IRS agent trolling through every detail of our private finances.
Americans don’t want these or any other manifestations of a mega state invading their space.
Americans are likely to give Republicans a say in government in this fall’s election.
Let’s hope they remember this pledge then and restore the balance between citizen and mega-state which governed us well for 200 years, until the intellectual elites wrote God out of the picture.
(Floyd and Mary Beth Brown are best selling authors and speakers. To comment on this column, e-mail