Saturday, July 28, 2007

A Road Map To Greatness - For Any Nation

This morning I stumbled upon Edwin Locke at Capitalism Magazine and his Fourth of July piece entitled "July Fourth Celebrates America's and the West's Core Values: Reason, Rights, and Science Are What Made America Great". Locke, like many people who have a Libertarian bent, demonstrates a considerable amount of hostility toward organized religion that perplexes me somewhat. But, he touches on some things that strike a chord with me none-the-less. Says Locke:

The result of these core achievements (rights, reason and science) was an increase in freedom, wealth, health, comfort, and life expectancy unprecedented in the history of the world. These Western achievements were greatest in the country where the principles of reason and rights were implemented most consistently -- the United States of America. In contrast, it was precisely in those (third-world) countries which did not embrace reason, rights, and technology where people suffered (and still suffer) most from both natural and man-made disasters (famine, poverty, illness, dictatorship) and where life-expectancy was (and is) lowest. It is said that primitives live "in harmony with nature," but in reality they are simply victims of the vicissitudes of nature -- if some dictator does not kill them first.

To me, this paragraph was good, but a bit of a dry hump. Locke fails to get at the core of what makes reason and science possible - freedom. Though he does list "rights" as the first of the core achievements, he doesn't play it up enough. Reason and science are the natural products of a nation that is free to explore and create, in an effort to better the lives of its people - ironically all through self interest.

Reading Locke's piece took me back to February of 2003, when I wrote a lengthy essay entitled "The Four Pillars of American Greatness". I don't have the time to recreate the essay, but I can definitely condense the points.

For starters, what makes America great? Are we, as Americans, some kind of "super race"? The very fact that we are a mish-mash of various cultures living under one flag dispels that notion straight away. There has to be something (or some things) codified in our society that establishes that greatness.

Further, when Americans don the uniform of the US military, what sets them apart from the soldiers of Hitler's Third Reich or Stalin's Red Army, dying for the Fuhrer and Mother Russia, respectively?

These questions can be best answered by enumerating the Four Pillars of American Greatness. They are Freedom; its natural byproduct, Capitalism; Protection of God Given Rights By Due Process of Law; and Military Strength and Readiness. Years later, after first writing the essay I've come to understand the hierarchy of these to more accurately flow this way: First comes Freedom, then the maintenance of Freedom by Protection of God Given Rights by Due Process of Law. Once those two pillars are established, Capitalism is the natural product. These three create the prosperity and comfort we enjoy but in a hostile world must always be defended by Military Strength and Readiness.

Remove any of these four pillars and our nations greatness is seriously - if not mortally - compromised. Think of it as a four-legged stool losing a leg.

To start with, a nation must be free from the impositions of a Leviathan government. People must be free, as the Founders enumerated in the Declaration of Independence, to engage in the "pursuit of happiness." Freedom is, put simply, the ability to make decisions about what is best for one's future. Its the ability to decide where to live, what vocation to undertake, who to marry on so forth.

Governments, however crude, can damper this freedom. On the heels of the American Revolution, the Founders understood the importance of a strong national government, but many feared just such a Leviathan and stood opposed the the passage of the new Constitution. Hence, the Bill of Rights, the first ten Amendments to the Constitution. The Bill of Rights - essentially protection of God Given Rights By Due Process - protect freedom by protecting the press (which holds government accountable by educating the masses on its activity), protecting privacy, by putting the burden on government to prove your detention is justified (habeus corpus), and by protecting a citizen's right to gun ownership, which serves as a constant reminder to the government that, ultimately, they serve at the pleasure of the governed.

Once this Freedom is secured and protected, Capitalism becomes the natural product. People have a tendency to lump Capitalism in with other "systems" of economy. But Capitalism is not a "system". It is merely the by product of free people pursuing their own enrichment and self interest (pssst. Mike Moore, come here. Yes, you can bring your bucket of chicken, just come over here..... that means people looking to get rich by profit.

I'll never forget the great Walter Williams's lesson to me about Capitalism. Paraphrase: "The farmer gets up, milks his cow, and puts the milk on the market. He wants to make money, that farmer don't give a damn about you. You want the milk. You don't give a damn about that farmer. You buy his milk. You both benefit." What do the farmer and I have in common? Each of us wants what the other has. If the farmer sells a substandard product, I'm not going to buy from him, I'm going to move on to someone else. If the farmer wants to survive in the market, he'd best get his act together and make a better product than the next guy, at a price that's comparable. Put another way, the CEOs of Zenith and Sony don't give a rip about you personally, but their pursuit of your dollar makes your TV's picture first class. God, I think I actually get sexually aroused at the thought of vibrant Capitalism.

I've also heard stories of pilots flying over the Korean Peninsula. To the North of the 38th parallel, there is blackness at night. Seoul and most of the South is alight with activity. This picture says a mouthful.

It is this freedom and its companion, Capitalism, that enable Americans to enjoy the lifestyle and comfort that we enjoy. But, in a world populated with ambitious tyrants who don't have freedom codified in their nation's documents; tyrants who aren't accountable to their citizenry and rather, who keep them terrified for the sake of their own rule; in such a world no nation such as ours can rest easy. Make no mistake, folks, if the Kim Jong-Ils and Chicoms had the ability to invade this nation and sap its wealth, it'd be an afterthought by now. But its respect for our military that keeps that nightmare scenario at bay. Our Military Strength and Readiness keeps the other three pillars viable.

This is why Xbox America and the Peace movement annoy me so much. Our next door neighbors are some of the most wonderful human beings you'll ever meet. But the "Friends for Peace" sign in the front window of their home drives me batty. Look for the "Friends for Victory" sign in our front window soon.

Those who use slogans such as this, and others that are equally vacuous, such as "War is Not The Answer", "Give Peace a Chance"; these folks fail to realize that hostile despots who envy our prosperity didn't get that memo. Or, as the saying goes, the aggressor sets the rules. This is especially true of radical Islam.

Quite simply, peace is attained through earning the respect of the aggressor. Radical Islam will fight to the last man. Unless we are willing to do the same, we cannot beat them. Xbox America doesn't seem to understand this - most Americans have known nothing but the comfort and safety that the four pillars have brought them, without understanding the commitment to the fourth is so very essential. This is an ugly world, folks, and to quote Thomas Jefferson, "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants."

I laugh at clowns like Ms. Illinois, Barack Obama. In the last debate, he pledged to talk to the tyrants of the world. To tyrants, talk = weakness. Reality, folks, sorry. A tyrant looks for an opening to bring down the strong and protect his perch of power. If the strong is willing to talk and concede something, the despot smells blood and fear. And he capitalizes on it.

So, its these things that make America great. The beauty is, we have no copyright on these concepts.

Want to spread these things around the world? First, a nation must have a founding document (constitution) that limits the power of the government and ensures freedom and the due process of law to all citizens (*edit - to be clear - a nation needs constitutional government, which is a limited government. A nation governed by tyrants can have a constitution, but not be a "constitutional government" A constitutional government is one that governs at the consent of the governed). Once they are free to engage in commerce and FREE TRADE, prosperity follows through vibrant capitalism. As more and more nations become free, the need for war diminishes. War is the product of the greed of tyrants - not Lenin's "imperialists".

There it is, the road map to national greatness. That's why the changes in Iraq are so heartening, when put in perspective.

God bless not only America, but free nations everywhere striving to build these four pillars.