September 25, 2013
As I last wrote in, “Dictator Rising but Don’t Blame the President,” humans live their lives within the framework of natural systems (solar, ecological, etc.) and man-made systems (financial, political, educational, corporate, legal, etc.). Far more than what meets the eye; man-made systems revolve around operating assumptions based on a deeper core philosophy.
Man-made systems are the physical endgame of intangible philosophies. As such, the segment of society in power that gives credence to a certain philosophy deems the systems they create, based on that philosophy, worthy of adoption by the general public. Ideally, systems are designed to create efficient human activity in every sphere of life. Practical mechanisms of production are put into place in order to achieve the outcome of a system’s stated purpose.
Yet most people seem never “get it.” Why care? Not only do we forget that, on a daily basis, we go through our lives subject to the parameters of man-made systems and their dictates, but we miss the power they can wield over us. Systems, as entities, take on a life of their own and are capable of shaping how we think and behave (The Stanford Prison Experiment, 1971).
Taking it one step further, only a smattering of people consider it important to scrutinize the philosophy of and/or search for the originator(s) behind a man-made system. And because this is true, we, the people, deny ourselves the opportunity to ask, and answer, for whom was this (or that) system designed to benefit? Cui bono?
In what follows I reference systems of politics, however, delving into the origin of any man-made system can be very enlightening since we generally take all of them for granted like fish to water. Systems don’t magically appear on the scene; people design, build and operate them. Political systems first originated with a person or people of a specific social philosophy, i.e. ideology. Then somewhere along the line, other people built a political system around that philosophy.
For example, the thoughts and behaviors of citizens living in communist and socialist societies are largely informed and justified by the Marxist philosophy. Marxism as a political system emerged with its operating assumptions during the mid to late 1800’s and was sourced from the social theories of a German philosopher, Karl Marx. In America, the first political system was grounded in the operating assumptions of a very popular philosophy of the 1700’s known as the “first principles.” The creators and signers of the 1776 Declaration of Independence exalted the first principles while the writers and signers of America’s first constitution of 1777, the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union, made them the law of the land (Common Law).
“There can be no prescription old enough to supersede the Law of Nature and the grant of God Almighty, who has given to all men a natural right to be free, and they have it ordinarily in their power to make themselves so, if they please.” —James Otis, Massachusetts lawyer and public official. 1702–1778
The philosophy of the first principles focused on rights of the individual. What had been for kings and nobility only had been transformed to rights for all people; rights that were unalienable, God-given and devoid of a middle-man monarch. The first principles, self-evident truths, subjected people (including leaders) to a higher-than-human law, thereby setting the standard high for acceptable human behavior. Dr. Joseph Warren, an American doctor of that era, revolutionary leader, orator, and planner of the Boston Tea Party, expounded on the first principles in his speech “Orations Commemorating the Boston Massacre,” in 1772 and in 1775.
“That personal freedom is the natural right of every man; and that property, or an exclusive right to dispose of what he has honestly acquired by his own labour, necessarily arises therefrom, are truths which common sense has placed beyond the reach of contradiction. And no man, or body of men, can without being guilty of flagrant injustice, claim a right to dispose of the persons or acquisitions of any other man, or body of men, unless it can be proved that such a right has arisen from some compact between the parties in which it has been explicitly and freely granted.”
Also known as lex aeterna (the eternal law), the first principles relied upon the “laws of nature and of nature’s God” and are summarized by the Golden Rule, “Do as you would be done by.” They are described below in more detail.
1. The rule of law. The law governs everyone.
2. Unalienable rights. Things which are not in commerce, as public roads, are in their nature unalienable. Some things are unalienable, in consequence of particular provisions in the law forbidding their sale or transfer, as pensions granted by the government. The natural rights of life and liberty are unalienable. —Bouviers Law Dictionary, 1856 edition
“[T]he Due Process Clause protects [the unalienable liberty recognized in the Declaration of Independence] rather than the particular rights or privileges conferred by specific laws or regulations.” Sandin v. Conner, U.S., 1995
3. Equality. Though in Jefferson’s day, equality was extended only to white males, in a state of nature, each human being arises with the same opportunity to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. People have hampered the principle of equality throughout history due to the authorization of societal prejudices by rulers.
4. Social compact of self-determination. Legitimate government is established when people band together to secure their natural rights. The state exists only to serve the will of the people and so derives its power from the consent of the governed.
5. Limited government. Legitimate government is primarily purposed to the protection of unalienable rights and personal liberties of its inhabitants.
6. The right to declare revolution. The people have a right to declare revolution when government fails to provide such protections of the first principles. In other words, a civil government may not redesign itself according to its own will not also that of the peoples.’
From 1776 to 1789, the year the Constitution of 1787 was ratified, the operating assumptions of America’s system of governance reflected the philosophy of the first principles. The people of the several states under the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union enjoyed an entirely voluntary system, though not perfect. Each state legislature governed their state with complete autonomy from what was known as the federal legislature, and a state’s participation with the federal legislature was 100% optional, including as regarded taxation. The philosophy of the first principles shaped the scope and scale of personal freedom and liberties of the early Americans.
However, after 1789, an entirely new American system went into effect and has gradually replaced most of, if not all, the operating assumptions based in the first principle philosophy of individual rights. With the passage of now over 200 years, we are more easily able to observe just how much things have changed. Freedom and liberties have been continually trampled on in the name of national security, peace and safety.
Like most Americans, I had been unaware that a first constitution and system of governance existed before the Constitution of 1787. With so many sad and challenging situations visited upon Americans nowadays, imagine this: What might happen if just one-fifth of the American population discovered the connection between the operating assumptions, philosophy and the people behind this second American system of today. Might they discover the real reasons for the sad and challenging situations of many people we know? It is this writer’s opinion that if this were to ever happen, number six of the first principles listed above would surely kick-in.
Think outside the box. Live outside the cage.