My father and I spent this year’s Beach Week on each other’s history turf, he reading Doris Kearns Gooodwin’s Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, and I reading (or rather listening to – I’m a recent convert to Audible.com‘s unabridged readings) Lynne Olson’s Citizens of London: The Americans Who Stood with Britain […]
I end my video series to Christians on American government. This video covers Constitutional hermeneutics, and it includes a rather lengthy series conclusion. A book containing a transcript of the video series as well as over two hundred footnotes that document and deepen the videos’ content is sold here.
Even after Michael’s suggestion, I didn’t set out to write a book. Instead, I wrote the script for six half-hour videos, and I filmed myself. But summarizing stuff to the point of comprehension makes me despair of comprehensiveness. I am more advocate than teacher, more adept at writing briefs than textbooks. So as soon as I finished the videos, I started the footnotes. By the time I forced myself to stop (school was starting in two days), I had written over ten thousand words of footnotes. The book took most of the summer to research and write.
What then saves us from this extreme individualism – the individualism, I might point out, that so many Tea Partyers advocate? Priestley answers:
“The great instrument in the hand of divine providence, of this progress of the species towards perfection, is society, and consequently government.”
How are legitimate governments created? Priestley tracks Locke again by stating that individuals entrust some of their rights (some police powers, for instance) to society and to government, and government in return protects society and individuals and helps them achieve their notions of happiness.
These are some of the Framers’ first principles of government, perhaps the most essential ones. This is Lockean liberalism, the kind of liberalism we all share. This is where the Declaration of Independence gets its notion of inalienable rights – rights that we entrust to the government but never fully transfer. The Framers’ political philosophy is based on the idea that we need society and government to help us improve ourselves.
Obama will win. He will be an unpopular president during most of his term. Republicans will gain seats in Congress during his administration. But Obama will help to reconnect our civic life with our constitutional values. If he lives, he will be reelected.