Dear Governor McDonnell, I read your letter of today to the University of Virginia’s Board of Visitors with some alarm. You suggest that the Board give little weight to opinions other than its own, and you remonstrate Board members for their leaks and vacillation. However, the Board has so far given no weight to the […]
On Tom Jones, Moderate. I loved it when I found Fielding and his editor, Martin Battestin, linking Calvin and Hobbes. Now I discover Walter Lippmann in his 1955 book The Public Philosophy linking Calvin and Rousseau. More strange bedfellows! (A philosophical ménage à trois?) To Rousseau, as to John Calvin who lived in Geneva before him, […]
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.
We forget ourselves. We are born again, birth being, as Wordsworth put it, “a sleep and a forgetting.” Through a century of debating health care, we have passed through the night of sense and the dark night of the soul. Late this coming January, we may yet repeal Obamacare and all of the outward progress it represents, but it matters little. It’s about the journey, and the journey has made us spiritual masters.
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.