Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Self Government and Self Discipline

Self-government implies self-discipline.  Freedom requires self-restraint in conduct and speech.  People are free to say whatever they want, but when they want to say things that endanger others, then you have to consider limiting speech.  That is always unfortunate.  Ultimately, unless people share common values, common beliefs, and a common sense of proper conduct you cannot have "freedom" and "self-government" because it will end in violence.
When everyone agrees on first principles, there is little need for speech-limiting laws.  When, however, something is deeply offensive and insulting to one group, and valued highly by another, cycles of debate end in cycles of violence. 

The United States' Constitutional form of government presupposes an agreement on fundamental first principles.  As that common consensus diminishes on fundamental principles, our form of government is increasingly less likely to work.  If the "Elders of Israel" are going to save the Constitution, it will not be through legislation or litigation, but by conversion of people back to a common set of beliefs.  Only then Constitutional government has a chance to survive.

1 comment:

  1. John Adams made the famous observation (widely quoted) that "Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to a government of any other."

    Far less quoted are the sentences from the same letter immediately proceeding this observation:

    "But should the people of America once become capable of that deep simulation towards one another, and towards foreign nations, which assumes the language of justice and moderation while it is practising iniquity and extravagance, and displays in the most captivating manner the charming pictures of candor, frankness, and sincerity, while it is rioting in rapine and insolence, this country will be the most miserable habitation in the world; because we have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge, or gallantry, would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net." [Emphasis added.]

    No wonder our society is in such trouble!

    [Source: "To the officers of the First Brigade of the Third Division of the Militia of Massachusetts," October 11, 1798, in John Adams, Charles Francis Adams, ed., The Works of John Adams (Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1854), 9:228-229.]


What Say You?