By Jim Beers
A recent lecture on the relation between the prolific writings of GK Chesterton (in the late 19th and early 20th century England) and modern environmentalism was well worth the evening commute and time I spent at a nearby University. The speaker, Mr. Ahlquist the President of the American Chesterton Society, made many thought-provoking observations from Chesterton but one in particular was, to me, very relevant to the US in the past 40 years and especially to all of us today.
In early 20th century England, just like in the USA today, there was a political "Right" and a political "Left". Their characteristics have been practically identical over the past century.
The "Right" is synonymous with Republican, "Conservative", business, "the rich", and "tradition" (this latter being synonymous in popular mythology with the "rich keeping their riches"). The "Right" is the champion of "Individual Rights" as mentioned in the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, and as treated in the strict interpretation of the Constitution. In short, the "Right" sees the RIGHTS of an INDIVIDUAL as "Unalienable" and the root for everything else from private property rights to gun rights.
The "Left" is similarly synonymous with Democrat, "Liberal", workers, "the non-rich", and "change" (this latter being synonymous in popular mythology with "everyone eventually being as rich as 'the rich'"). The "Left" is the champion of "Community" broadly defined (as opposed the "individual"). Their model is a changeable government system subject to the values they attribute to being for the good of the community based on what they say it to be. In practice, that means the desires of those that elect the leaders, no matter the words of the Constitution or any previous "precedents". In essence, the "Left" sees the WILL of the COMMUNITY as being superior to Individual Rights and either the Constitution or the ideals stated in The Declaration of Independence.
As nations like England, Canada, and the United States swing back and forth over time between these two "sides" certain things become evident. I believe it is proper to generalize about the periods of "Left" and "Right" governments in these countries over the past century.
When "Left" governments rule they tend to disregard and even replace local governments (State, County, City, etc.) that are not of their own party and/or not cooperative. They tend to create more powerful and more all-inclusive (of human rights and activities) authorities in the name of "controlling business" and "redistributing wealth" (from the "rich", naturally). They tend to disregard tradition and precedent as they struggle to form a new model that will create a "Brave New World" as described in Aldous Huxley's depressing 1931 book (written during a World Depression when Liberals were taking control for a decade simultaneous with German and Japanese world-war planning.) Symptoms such as Consider the periods of 1914-1918 under Wilson, the 1930's under FDR, the late 1960's under Johnson, the late 1970's under Carter, and the current debacle under Obama as examples of Liberal rule. Actually, the periods of Clinton, both Bushes, Teddy Roosevelt and Nixon were Liberal or "Left"-"Lite", truth be known. Look at spending, government growth (in size and jurisdiction), the unchecked meddling in the affairs of all, the diminishment of state and local authorities, and the embrace of world government from the League of Nations to the present UN.
When "Right" governments rule they tend to resist "change" even the "change" wrought by a previous "Left" Administration. They are not openly usurping state and local governments except when financial supporters lobby for it. They embrace the status quo while giving lip service to the wording of the Constitution. They tend to be supportive of deterring crime through punishment and they are more assertive and unforgiving to international threats and terrorism. They are more aligned with traditional and cultural defenders although their more affluent supporters often resist being identified with or supportive of the cultural, sex, marriage, or Life issues. Although they run on "cutting" government and spending, they have evolved to being a party that only represents a slower slide into a massive central government that controls everyone and everything. Relations with the One-world government types tends to be one of resisting things like Kyoto and Climate Change Treaties while signing on to Endangered Species, UN Natural Area designations, and Whaling Agreements that are all not only counter-productive but more importantly grow domestic federal government authority over all manner of associated things in massive spurts that ultimately destroy state and local Constitutional authority. The periods of Harding, Coolidge, Eisenhower, and Reagan would be typical "Right" periods, while the period of JFK and Harry Truman might be definable as "Right"-"Lite".
To sum it up, the "Right" touts Individual Rights while the "Left" touts Community Rights. Neither really protects state and local government (who, other than "local" government guarantees "local community" rights?). There is not the slightest doubt, and I will argue anyone on this point, that the current lock on power by the Left (White House and massive majorities in the US House and Senate) is characterized by a true "Blitzkrieg" by the federal government on business, private property, INDIVIDUAL RIGHTS, and COMMUNITY GOVERNMENT. The combination of political majorities, extremely radical appointees, an unfamiliarity with the truth, unparalleled massive spending, and a ruthless disregard for precedent and tradition that has accounted for a 9-month swing to the Left unmatched in American history.
The Founding Fathers drew up and signed a Constitution that essentially did three things.
- First, it clearly stated an explicit list of INDIVIDUAL RIGHTS guaranteed to all citizens.
- Second, it clearly limited the necessary (but yet to be always feared) central government to specific and limited responsibilities and powers, mainly national defense and interstate commerce "regulation" meaning preserving fairness and trade between states not the massive and all-encompassing power claimed over the past century.
- Third, all other powers and responsibilities were left with the "States respectively, or to the people" per the 10th Amendment. That means the "people" can control their State (and not vice versa) and thereby have "control" of THEIR OWN COMMUNITIES.
While each of these three purposes has been stood on its head over the past century, can anyone disagree that they are being spun like a baton in a parade by the current "Left" government?
So what did Chesterton have to say about his back in the beginning of the 20th century? He said that neither Individual Rights nor Community Controls are an answer unto themselves. He postulates that the environment created by explicit INDIVIDUAL RIGHTS and COMMUNITY CONTROLS that are truly controlled by the local community EACH creates a balanced environment where Liberty thrives; and where Liberty thrives FREEDOM nurtures the true cornerstone and foundation of all human societies, THE FAMILY.
As this is written the family is under attack by every imaginable force. Children, parents, religious values, and religious institutions are all being attacked by political (mainly Left) actions encouraging same-sex sex, abortion, euthanasia, fatherless children, population control, birth control, divorce, and cohabitation, while discouraging marriage and timeless moral values by the shameless use of propaganda by teachers on the public payroll. This attack has paralleled both in speed and intensity the loss of INDIVIDUAL RIGHTS and COMMUNITY CONTROLS in western nations over the past century. As we have watched and fought about our individual loss of Individual Rights and Community Controls, the environment that supports Freedom and the Family has deteriorated proportionately.
In the US this argument between Left and Right has become an "either/or" confrontation with no answer. Like the, "you're either for or against Wilderness" or hunting or animal ownership or animal use or "clean" air/water/environment, or "science", etc., etc. argument, there is no answer. Only when we recognize Individual Rights as applying to each of us regardless of how someone else "feels" must be respected by all will we break the power politicians hold and expand when they promise to take away the rights of others for their own personal gain. Only when we realize that we must accept LOCAL COMMUNITY CONTROLS and not clamor to use federal powers or the political power of large cities that "control" state governments on rural residents or dog owners or parents, etc., etc., that we disagree with will we restore the environment necessary for Liberty and Freedom to fluorish.
THE FAMILY is the cornerstone of any society and it needs FREEDOM to flourish. As we wonder about how to preserve Liberty for our descendants, perhaps we should first and foremost consider the Family and Freedom. As those two "F" words go, so go we all.
Jim Beers 31 October 2009
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