Time to return to old ideals

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Writing Gene’s Nickle for the past four years has been a learning experience. The most depressing lesson that recurs is that many of the fundamental concepts of our nation are no longer practiced. Either our schools have failed to teach them, or they have become inconvenient and uncomfortable, and therefore ignored or discarded.

I contend that as a nation, we need to relearn and return to those principles.

Our founders studied and practiced Aristotle’s teachings: To be engaged in politics (influencing the decisions of government) is human nature. George Washington and Thomas Jefferson et al. expected every citizen to exercise their civic responsibility to influence and limit government.

Recently, we have failed them. In 2012, 46 percent of American citizens of voting age didn’t bother to cast a presidential ballot, arguably the most popular political contest we conduct. When coupled with a new demographic, “the low information voter” — voters who learn political positions from late-night comedians, who quote athletic statistics but ignore Operation Fast and Furious, or who name sitcom stars, but not the murdered ambassador to Libya — you have a nation that desperately needs to return to the basics.

By basic I mean, we need to relearn the idea and definition of sovereignty:

“Supreme power; supremacy; the possession of the highest power, or of uncontrollable power.”*

Moreover, we need to understand British Philosopher, John Locke (1632-1704), and his concept of individual sovereignty and natural law.

“The state of Nature has a law of Nature to govern it, which obliges every one: and reason, which is that law, teaches all mankind who will but consult it, that being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty or possessions. The natural liberty of man is to be free from any superior power on earth, and not to be under the will or legislative authority of man, but to have only the law of Nature for his rule,” said John Locke

Man is equal and independent by nature, and is entitled to pursue life, health, liberty and property without interference from man or any legislative authority.

Our founders understood Locke in a personal and visceral way. They had lived it for almost 150 years! They knew the freedom to practice their various religions, speak openly in a public forum, gather together and select local leaders, and they enjoyed the bounty of their own hard work.

They had defended and protected their homes and aided their neighbors alike. They had started fire brigades, started rudimentary police services, and initiated court systems with magistrates and judges. They were self-sufficient!

When they became prosperous, they became competitors with England based industries, and an important source of revenue. For generations, they had thought of themselves as English freemen, but the monarchy and parliament took severe steps to remind them that they were merely subjects. Our fledgling nation understood individual sovereignty and its loss like few civilizations ever have.

Two things were inevitable: rebellion and a search for a government that maximized individual sovereignty and minimized government obstruction.

*American Dictionary of the English Language, Noah Webster 1828, Vol. II, 76