CORRUPTION WATCH-Way back in the 1960s when I was toying with the idea of becoming a screenwriter, a friend said that I could widen my experience by driving a cab.
He was right. I learned how to get anywhere in the city via the shortest route – either by miles or by time. I also met some interesting people. One group of Soviet Russian visitors said that the main reason Russians were poor is that they prefer fighting against each other in order to stop others from progressing rather than working on their own positive goals.
Whether or not their assessment of Russia was accurate, the notion that a nation that fights against itself is only producing horrible self-inflicted wounds strikes me as valid. Thomas Jefferson’s idea was that the government’s legitimacy is based on its ability to secure individual inalienable rights. Today, few remember that our prosperity derives from those rights. These values direct one’s attention to work for one’s own benefit, leaving it to the government to protect him or her from others who would steal the fruits of his or her productivity.
Americans almost always think that the Declaration of Independence meant that the legitimacy of the government was based on the consent of the governed. WRONG!
When we look at the Declaration, we see that the government’s purpose is to secure inalienable individual rights.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…”
The Declaration does not legitimize all governments to which people consent. According to our political philosophy, a government that denies inalienable rights cannot be legitimate. Other countries may consent to a tyrant and proclaim “Heil Hitler” in devotion to their leaders. Under the political philosophy on which America was founded, such tyranny has no right to exist. In a less extreme form, if America had been created as a democracy in which the will of the majority prevailed on absolutely everything, inalienable rights would be non-existent. Instead, we formed a Republic because that was the only form of government the Founding Fathers believed would secure our individual inalienable rights.
The Declaration’s use of the word “equal” does not denote equal rights among groups. It was an emphatic way of preventing the British peerage system the ability to exist in the new land. The emphasis that no individual can have more inalienable rights than another, due to his or her membership in some social class, had to be especially explicit due to the prevalence throughout Europe of a class system in which different classes of citizens had more rights than others.
Today’s political parties are hostile to individual inalienable rights. Both engage in efforts to turn neighbor against neighbor, creating warring factions.
De Tocqueville’s and Madison’s Warnings
Mankind’s individual inalienable rights under the Declaration and Group Rights under the banner of Equality are cannot co-exist. According to the Declaration’s political philosophy, no individual may have his inalienable rights diminished or augmented by being assigned to some ascriptive group. Trump-a-Doddle reveals his gross disregard for the Declaration when he attacks individual service members because of their Transgender ascriptive status. (“Ascriptive” means a group in which membership is based on a factor other than achievement. Convicted felons are not ascriptive since their actions placed them into that group. Transgenders are ascriptive as their inner identity is innate.)
As de Tocqueville warned in Democracy in America(1835), the immediate benefits of equality are clear while the long-term harm is not perceived until it is too late. Similarly, the rigors imposed by the inalienable right of Liberty are evident in the short run, while the benefits are long-term. Madison’s Federalist Paper #10 discussed the destructive influence of “factions” -- groups which promote their own needs to the detriment of other people. Madison admitted that factions were innate in men. Thus, the best one could do is limit their corrosive impact on society.
That’s why Madison agreed with Jefferson that individual inalienable rights were the basis of a legitimate government, and encouraging factions, i.e., Equality and Group Rights, was a threat to the general welfare.
An Orgy of Group Rights
Our nation is in grave peril. The GOP advances the group interests of white Christians, especially men, while issuing daily attacks on the inalienable rights of individuals; the Democrats promote the Group Rights of everyone who feels excluded by the GOP.
Fake News is a potent weapon in the service of Group Rights, which promotes an allegiance to the group and not to values like truth and justice. If Trump does not like something, he denounces it as Fake News. The measure of truth has become WHO says it. Now His Royal Orangeness calls the entire media the “Enemy of the People.” The Trumpist Group Rightists cheer in wild support, ignorant that Trump is using a Russian phrase while denouncing the Russian investigation as a “witch hunt.”
Whether or not Putin is pulling Trump’s puppet strings, it is Americans who fall for the pernicious pitting of American against American by the GOP and the Dems. Whether they are indecent Nazis chanting, “Jews shall not replace us,” or democrat socialists demanding income redistribution based on race, both the GOP and the Dems rake in hundreds of millions of dollars by promoting their brand of Group Rights.
Who Benefits from the Demise of America?
The Davos Set, the 1%ers, the Uber Billionaires all benefit from the destruction of any power which may constrain their greed. Look at who funds the racist Group Rights claims of both the GOP and the Dems. Then, notice how this elite steadily becomes wealthier while the rest of us become poorer.
(Richard Lee Abrams is a Los Angeles attorney and a CityWatch contributor. He can be reached at: Rickleeabrams@Gmail.com. Abrams’ views are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of CityWatch.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.