Of Democrats, Republicans, and the Liquidation of Liberty

The values of the Enlightenment can be summed up in one word; Liberty. The term includes freedom of thought and freedom of action, the latter freedom precluding only acts that physically harm others. The American Revolution represented a remarkable and, it would seem, historically anomalous victory of Liberty. Liberty is no more a good in itself than any other human value. I must admit, however, that I have an emotional attachment to it, and will regret its passing for what one might call sentimental reasons. In fact, we may be witnessing its demise.

Both of the great political parties in the United States embrace Liberty as a slogan. Both promote policies that assume its liquidation. The Democrats promote the cancerous expansion of state power. As the greatest and most consistent proponent of Liberty among our founding fathers, Thomas Paine, put it, “That government is best which governs least,” and “There are men in all ages who mean to govern well, but they mean to govern. They promise to be good masters, but they mean to be masters.” Today, the Democrats represent the polar opposite of his point of view regarding government. In an earlier post, I quoted Benjamin Franklin’s response to a scornful attack on the American Revolution in a letter from some of our British enemies:

The weight, therefore, of an independent empire, which you seem certain of our inability to bear, will not be so great as you imagine; the expense of our civil government we have always borne, and can easily bear, because it is small. A virtuous and laborious people may be cheaply governed, determining, as we do, to have no offices of profit, nor any sinecures, or useless appointments, so common in ancient or corrupted states. We can govern ourselves a year for the sum you pay in a single department, for what one jobbing contractor, by the favour of a minister, can cheat you out of in a single article.

Today, the Democrats are but the latter day incarnation of the evil Franklin and Paine recognized so clearly.

As for the Republicans, never has a party brayed the word “Liberty” so loudly while so actively subverting it in practice. They demand torture, imprisonment without trial, and punishment without due process of law for anyone they choose to call a terrorist, all in the name of “security.” When it comes to freedom of conscience, they have become the mirror images of the British Tories who were the great enemies of our Revolution. As I write this, their demands for the liquidation of that freedom are becoming ever more explicit. Consider, for example, these words in the latest platform of the Republican Party in the state of Maine:

Reassert the principle that “Freedom of Religion” does not mean “freedom from religion.”

As if to punctuate the absurdity of this remarkable version of “Freedom of Religion,” the authors of the Maine platform actually quote Jefferson in the same document.  If ever a man was thoroughly and diametrically opposed to everything today’s Republicans stand for in matters of religion, it was Jefferson. 

It may be that Liberty can only exist in a state of unstable equilibrium in human societies. If so, it had a good run in America.  To the extent that I experienced it, I count myself fortunate.

Thomas Paine
Thomas Paine

Author: Helian

I am Doug Drake, and I live in Maryland, not far from Washington, DC. I am a graduate of West Point, and I hold a Ph.D. in nuclear engineering from the University of Wisconsin. My blog reflects my enduring fascination with human nature and human morality.

2 thoughts on “Of Democrats, Republicans, and the Liquidation of Liberty”

  1. I agree with you that liberties are taken away, not just in the US but in my country, Germany, as well. But liberty is a subjective matter. For a person in the US, liberty means being able to say what you want. For a german, it means driving 250km/h (or faster) on the autobahn. For the North Korean a good meal may be liberty. As times change our liberties change. Consider the rights of women and homosexuals. I would say that both groups have more rights now than 100 years (or much less) ago. On the other hand, potentially harmful things (guns, cars, etc.) are restricted more and more. In most cases, the restriction are useless to solve the problem they are meant to solve. For example: Banning guns…A person doesn’t like A (and has no experience with it), things that people who like A are idiots/dangerous/whatever – A has killed/threatened people before (doesn’t matter how often/much), so A should be banned. And of course that person doesn’t really know or care if he feels safer after the ban because he feels unsafe for a small time after something has happened with the involvement of A. It’s an ad-hoc decision without thought (oh, someone killed someone again and he plays videogames – I don’t really like videogames anyway and only morally corrupt people play them, so ban them)…

  2. Sorry, ‘Banning guns’ should’ve been removed – I wanted to keep it neutral because it fits most things people want to ban.

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