John Locke, who served as the primary role model and inspiration for the Framers, famously defined the social contract between government and the governed as that the former exists at the consent of the latter. Inherent in this philosophy is the sanctity of the individual, and as individuals we have certain, limited unalienable rights. These rights were naturally occurring and not dependent on whimsical and changing definition to suit the moment. Defining these rights simply as life, liberty and property, Locke and his contemporaries repudiated centuries of monarchistic, collectivist rule and unleashed a political enlightenment, which in many respects culminated with the birth of these United States under the guidance of the founders of our nation.
The foundation of Locke’s writing was establishing the sanctity of the individual. Locke said that the legitimacy of government was solely to be subjugated to the rights of the governed, as individuals. Past a level playing field, upheld by law, government intrusion as a self-serving entity was to be limited. Property, so long as it did not spoil, was to be accumulated based on ability and labor. Wanton confiscation of property to be utilized at the pleasure of said government was a violation of natural law. When declaring independence from England and writing our Constitution, the framers kept a close eye to this political philosophy. It was intended that the United States, under a uniquely structured federalism, maintain the sanctity of the individual.
Purposely, the United States Constitution was constructed to provide its citizens with a different relationship with authority than its English precursor. In the fashion of the day, the monarchy in England served solely at its own pleasure. It took the fruits of labor from its subjects as it saw fit, and distributed property unbound by any code other than self-service. There was little if any sense of the natural rights of the individual. Distribution of confiscated property was almost always to win fealty, and to perpetuate the power of the monarchy in perpetuity.
I watched President Obama’s inauguration last month very closely. It was a well-delivered speech as usual. The man can speak with passion and deliver his words with eloquence and style. It was in content, however, very different than any other presidential inaugural speech ever given. It focused not on the theme of personal achievement, but on collective entitlement. Central to the message throughout was the role of government as an enabler of prosperity. Missing throughout was any connection of success with personal responsibility. It was an ode to Big Government.
I began to realize I was watching a man who fundamentally is opposed to the very basic tenets of individual liberty and rights to property espoused by not only John Locke, but by extension the founders of our country.
If religion is an opiate to the masses, then this was a king throwing red meat to select classes.
Over the past four years much has been written and said about the current administration and our Constitution. There are certain facts, however, that are inarguable. Fiscally, our national debt continues to escalate wildly out of control. This has been driven by dramatic increases on entitlement spending on one side of the ledger, and enabled by borrowing and the printing of money on the other (in conjunction with artificially low interest rates). We have seen a movement, led by Obama, to impinge on the Second Amendment. We have also seen an egregious attack on the Fourth Amendment with the passage of the NDAA (this is a direct violation of search and seizure rights afforded by the Fourth). More controversially, we have also seen what is seen by some as a violation of the commerce clause in the Obamacare penalty clause compelling the citizenry to purchase insurance. In summary, we have seen an unfettered attack on some of the most cherished pillars of our republic, an attack softly peddled as “progress” by a sympathetic and compliant fourth estate.
At some point over the next several years, we need to come to grips over who we are as a nation. Do we look to the tenets of governance that have made us an economic super power, the largest creator of growth, wealth and opportunity in global history? Do we look in the mirror and at history and follow the map that our founders laid out for us, or do we follow the trendy model of Europe: socialism, fairness and mediocrity.
This country was built on principles of natural truth, of the rights of the individual, and the writings of such great men as John Locke. We follow the beliefs of collectivism and Barack Obama at our peril.
Phil Sayles lives in Newburyport.