19 December 2009

"There's some corner of a foreign field that is for ever England."

Nothing like a quote from another Old Rugbeian to start my post (Rupert Brooke's "The Soldier"). I'm also adding one of my fav New Yorker Cartoons of all time. It had me howling when I found it.

But the point I am making here is about community or society, which are the institutions by which humans join together for cooperation.

Part of the Whig and Libertarian fantasy is that governments and society can be placed into turmoil on whims and fancies. Despite some commentators attempts to portray the radical whig concepts which led to the US War for Independence, this movement comes from the liberal spectrum: in particular republicanism. As a political philosophy, liberalism includes John Locke, John Stuart Mill, Karl Popper, Friedrich Hayek, Isaiah Berlin, and John Rawls. As a political movement, it is represented by the continental-European liberal parties in the Liberal International. This belief in liberal republicanism has odd concepts regarding the legitimacy of governments, hence the War for American Independence.

Conservativism by its nature advocates institutions and traditional practices that have developed organically within a nation over a period of time. Change is organic rather than revolutionary. Any attempt to modify society, for the sake of some doctrine or theory, runs the risk of running afoul and creating unintended consequences. The US Whig movement did this and found itself facing Rebellions Such as Shays', The Whisky Revolts, Second American Civil War (War between the States), and quite possibly a future civil war based upon the "Insurrection theory". The War between the States is the Second American Civil war because the War for American Independence was the first civil war since it pitted those who were loyal against those who were not loyal.

The problem is that the Libertarian fantasy views government as a destroyer of liberty. The fact is that government is essential to create liberty. This notion that government is bad is peculiarly American. Even conservatives in Europe bemoan the rich/poor gap, and recognize an important role for government. The paradox is that only people with a pretty good government could come up with such an absurdity. When you really have a bad government, such as in Somalia, the former Yugoslavia, or Russia, it's obvious that you need reform, not anarchy.

But my real point is that whatever you call yourself, you are a part of society. It is positively absurd that the Second Amendment was created to fight the government since in a democracy, the people are the government. To quote, once again, Dennis v. United States, 341 U.S. 494 (1951) puts paid to the insurrectionist theory:
The obvious purpose of the statute is to protect existing Government, not from change by peaceable, lawful and constitutional means, but from change by violence, revolution and terrorism. That it is within the power of the Congress to protect the Government of the United States from armed rebellion is a proposition which requires little discussion. Whatever theoretical merit there may be to the argument that there is a "right" to rebellion against dictatorial governments is without force where the existing structure of the government provides for peaceful and orderly change.

Somehow, there is this desire to be a frontiersman and beholden to none but the laws of nature; however, one has to go quite far afield to find somewhere that is not a part of civilisation. The world is becomming smaller and boundaries are collapsing. We need to stop seeing ourselves as being a part of a small localised community, but as part of a larger society: world civilisation. And while one can define themselves as American, British, Irish, Italian, Itrish (I thought I would keep that typo), or whatever, we are still part of a larger society and need to develop a global consciousness.

Part of the failure of Copenhagen is due to the fact that the United States has failed to notice that there is a need for environmental protection for nearly the past 40 years. Nixon achieved the clean air and clean water acts, yet such legislation was not followed upon. In fact, "Conservatives" have sought to repeal it. And following upon that Administrations have failed to show leadership regarding global warming.

Gun Control is a no-brainer, yet it is mired in bizarre rhetoric about non-existant rights. The unintended consequence of trying to prevent a professional standing army has failed. The anachronistic Second Amendment has been distorted to create rights where no right has existed. It has been used to fight regulation of firearms to the detriment of society. Thus a document which was to form a more perfect Union is being cited as justification for all sorts of silliness.

This means that a document which was to be a blueprint for society may end up being its downfall. Not from intent since the stated intent was not to destroy the nation, but to build it. Its destruction came about from failing to heed the more conservative voices of the loyalists whom they called "advocates of despotism" in the words of George Washington:
"I am mortified beyond expression when I view the clouds that have spread over the brightest morn that ever dawned in any country... What a triumph for the advocates of despotism, to find that we are incapable of governing ourselves and that systems founded on the basis of equal liberty are merely ideal and fallacious."

While Washington said this over 200 years ago, the sentiment remains vibrant. It may be hindsight, but despotism can come from either one person or a mob. The advocates of "independece" were such a mob in that they silenced the voices of those who would have kept the Union and sought independence through the institutions available to them. Instead the advocates of freedom created a precedent where one could scream "tyranny" and "despotism" and hope that others would follow to overthrow the government.

That is not society, but madness.

Yeah, yeah, I am over a couple of hundred years late in writing this and James Chalmers Wrote "Plain Truth" as well. No actually, as long as there is a belief in the insurrectionist theory and movements like the tea baggers, this sort of comment is never late.