Dec 04 2009

The American Trinity

Category: freedom,government,liberty,philosophyharmonicminer @ 10:00 am

A point that needs some stress is that the French obsession with “equality” led to the murder of many thousands in the Terror that followed the French Revolution.   It was simply a violent expression of class warfare, pure and simple.   In fact, the French experience and perspective of that time was a major inspiration for the totalitarian movements of the 20th century.

In the interest of time, Dennis Prager can only brush on this point, but it is perhaps the most critical of his presentation, because it is the least understood by people who point to European “democracy” and assert it is “as good” as the American republican approach.  In fact, about all they have in common is that votes happen, and do change things in the government, and there is some form of rule of law.  But the assumptions from which the governments proceed are largely different, a point that is lost on those who want to emulate the European model.

Here is a trinity of trinities:

Liberty, equality, fraternity  -  France

Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness  -  USA

Peace, order and good government  -  Canada, other Commonwealth nations

Note well:  the restriction the French phrase places on liberty is the emphasis on equality, which can only be enforced by government.  The restriction placed on liberty in the USA phrase is only that which interferes with another’s right to live, or unjustly fetters another’s right to pursue his own happiness.  The Commonwealth model doesn’t even discuss liberty.  All three items in it involve government power to bring about ends.

The main point here:  the French and Commonwealth versions are mostly about what it is the responsibility of government to DO.  The USA version is mostly about what the government should NOT do.

There is a simple reason, which Prager mentions:  in the American model, rights are understood as given by God, and merely recognized by government, which is what makes them “unalienable.”  In the other models, rights are granted by government, as long as they don’t get in the way of other ends that are equally or more important, like “equality” or “order” or “good government.”

And that’s the critical element in American exceptionalism.

h/t:  CFC