And that’s the logical flaw in American exceptionalism. We can’t be both an example and an exception. How can we say, with Hamilton and Lincoln, “You can be like us,” while we also say, “We are exceptional – we are an exception”? Do we believe with Stephen Douglas that certain nations or certain regions of the world need our political oversight and even the exercise of our military power to establish liberal institutions and republican government? Do we see some other nations as, in Hamilton’s words, “forever destined to depend for their political constitutions on accident and force” – destined to depend, perhaps, on our own force?
Ryan is correct when he states that our rights come from natural law. He and others who have recently made this assertion imply, though, that the government cannot create rights, such as a “right” to health insurance despite preexisting conditions. This limited notion of rights makes a mockery of natural law. Many positive laws create rights — rights of action (i.e., the right to access courts to enforce legislative remedies), if nothing else. Locke and the Founders never said or implied that natural law precludes positive law. Positive law must not be inconsistent with natural law, to be sure, but our early Supreme Court cases, some of which considered positive law in light of natural law, rarely found them to be in conflict.
Do conservatives believe in a people’s right to revolt or a state’s right to secede? Is there a spark of divinity in man, or is mankind so benighted that its rights exist only at a state’s behest? If the Republicans are going to reflect on what kind of party they now wish to be, as so many pundits have suggested they do, they could not start with a more important and fundamental issue.
Adam Goodheart’s insight rings true from what I know of writing. Writers write to understand what their preoccupations make of experience. Essentially, then, writers rewrite. A writer’s new works are, more than most anything, new attempts to frame or answer old, nagging questions.
All politics may be local, but it’s not all personal. We have to balance our care for local institutions with a new willingness to adopt protocols and conventions, some theoretical and some seemingly silly, to shore up our freedom and, as [Richard] Sennett puts it, to “learn to act impersonally” (The Fall of Public Man 340).