Outside it’s cold, and a man sleeps against the garage. I’ve dropped Bethany off at the theater, and I’m disoriented. He could be dead. Then a guy comes from the night as if he were the night coalescing. He has a badge on a lanyard, just like the college kids that come to my door summertime in the suburbs. Except he’s around fifty, around my age, or he says he is, but I don’t believe him at first. He says he remembers the riots here after they shot King. He was five years old then. His dark dreadlocks fall behind him down somewhere near the dark street. They pull at the wrinkles on his forehead and make his eyes big and sweet.
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.