Posts Tagged ‘political philosophy’

A Concept Forgotten

April 26, 2014

The fourth in a series of posts to answer questions I’m tired of explaining over and over again. For the others see Flattened Taxpayers, I Won’t Pay for Your Star Trek V Collectors’ Plate and Some Answers on the "Rebel Flag" and Reality

Here’s something that a stunningly large number of Americans apparently never learned or perhaps forgot. I see it demonstrated every time somebody asks, “Why don’t those people need to prove they’re American before…” or “Why do we keep giving things to ‘illegals’”

Read the following, hopefully familiar, sentences:

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.

Notice that doesn’t say that “citizens” are given rights, it says all men.

Notice that doesn’t say that the government grants rights, it says those rights are endowed upon all men as a characteristic of their existing.

Those are not cases of poetic license.

Those are not cases of carelessness.

Throughout history governments had existed above the people run by the powerful who granted privileges on those who pleased them.

With the founding of the United States of America a new philosophy of government was tried for the first time. A government that was below the people, that was a tool of the people and not a cudgel held by the powerful or chosen few above the rest of humanity.

That concept of government meant that rights that were not gifts of the powerful as thanks for obedience and for peasants quietly knowing their place but as inherent parts of being human. A government whose power was not to grant or remove privileges but to protect these universal rights wherever it had authority for whoever was in land under their authority.

This is the biggest philosophical change that the founders of America instituted and one that surprisingly few ever understand. I guess it doesn’t get much discussion because the powerful still want to wield the power of kings and nobles over those they feel are their lessers.

The old ways die slowly but America has been teaching this new way to the world for almost a quarter of a millennium now. Perhaps it’s time we learned what we, as a nation, stand for and stand proudly for it.


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