Monday, June 23, 2014

The Process of Liberty

We have problems.  Problems, problems, problems...

Should people be 'allowed' to be wealthy?  What is the inherent problem therein?

Do we really believe in equality in the US?  What about the slow climb of so many non-white, non-men to that revered ideal?

What in the name of Heaven or Hell are we gonna do with our Middle East problem?

Hmm...well, well...



One cannot take capitalism out of the United States, but we can improve capitalism.

The ideal of equality is just that- an ideal.  

How 'bout an anchor for the US, something like...Morality and Respect.  


So, what about me?  What about you?  Who is more important?  Whose wants/needs/desires should be prioritized?  The answer is simple:
I am more important to me and you are more important to you.

Never the twain shall meet? 
Hardly.  At some point we will be walking down the same path and one of us will have to step aside.

It really is a simple matter of courtesy.  According to almost every philosophy of freedom loving politics Courtesy, Morality, Respect and a sense of Responsibility to the Commons is the key to longevity and success.

That is:  Freedom and liberty will not survive without PUBLIC VIRTUE.  

As Rome fell, many philosophers of the time blamed the erosion of public virtue.

Public Virtue is what Ben Franklin was referring to when he said that 'we have a republic...if we can keep it.'
In fact, around the time the US Constitution was formed, our founders placed the heaviest burden of success on the idea of Public Virtue.  The idea that the people were one body, and that no man should rise above to quench another mans liberty.

The ideal of liberty was married with the ideal of equality.  Through education and opportunity, every man would be given equal chance to rise and fall amongst his neighbors and brethren. 

So, what of the wealthy?

"...a man racked with selfish passions of greed, envy and hate loses conception of order...his sense of connection with the general system."

Is a wealthy person inherently infected with the elements of greed, envy and hate?  Honestly, I don't know, cause I have never been wealthy, but I assume not.

What can save a wealthy person from these traps?

A moral compass.

Let us take a moment to reflect on the above statement as a Nation...

    Is our country racked with 
greed?
envy?
hate?

Yes.

Do citizens have a hard time relating to their communities and our Nation?
Yes.

Are our communities and Nation falling apart?

Yes.

Problems, problems.  

What can save our Nations from these traps?  Public Virtue
Our nation was founded on the ideals of a quality and fortitude of men, the likes of which I have never encountered.  A shame.  Instead of cultivating ourselves into a better people we have become racked with....(see above quote.)

Our founders saw luxury as a root of societal destruction.   

William Moore Smith asks us, "Is there no proper use of wealth and civil happiness-the genuine descendents of civil liberty- without abusing them to nourishment of luxury and corruption?" 

Wealth and civil happiness.  Never the twain shall meet?  The two absolutely must be married to ensure freedom and liberty.  

The key, as all freedom loving philosophers have concluded, is a sense of morality.

Adam Smith, too, included this in his idea of free market capitalism.  We have forgotten, and educators have long left this part out, but along with the invisible hand of supply/demand, Smith also included a vitally important element:

The invisible hand of morality.  

When I studied economics in college, it was disturbingly obvious to me that, though we skimmed over this element, it was quickly discarded.  

I raised my hand in class one afternoon and asked, "What about the invisible hand of morality?"

My professor replied, "We took that out a long time ago."  

We?  Who?  Honestly I don't know who the 'we' is that took the morality out of capitalism, but...

John Locke, a main influence on the founding of our society, and great philosopher of liberty, has this to say of labor and capital: 

1.  No man can own another
2.  The earth was put here for each of us equally
3.  Mixing ones labor with a natural resource makes it his own
4.  Man may take of the commons as long as there is as much and of equal quality for others.  

I love this man!  I love this philosophy.  

These statements allow much more liberty in a world with abundant resources.  They also provide guidance in a world where resources are limited.  

No one should own or take the liberty of destroying our water or land.  
Access to land for food should be universal
Not only should labor be paid according to the value of a person's time and labor (a function of a living wage); but also of the added value that comes from the mixing of ones labor with the raw material he/she is creating from.  After all, it is not the capital holder who is mixing his labor with the materials.

It may follow, using this prescription from John Locke, that a capital holder might not siphon so much of the profits that may belong to the laborers themselves, without merit.  

If the capital holder cannot make a profit after taking these production costs into consideration, then his business or business model must be changed. 

Capitalism must have a moral compass.

Hence, good men of capitalism have changed their business models to more environmentally and socially sustainable systems.  These moral tactics also improve profits.  Hear! Hear!

We are in a great transition as a nation. 

Our forefathers (I am in love with them as an idea of what men have been), had great IDEALS.  

Equality.  First for men among men.

After, it has been and is the responsibility of generation after generation to apply our forefathers ideal of equality to everyone.  

They knew they couldn't change things so quickly- that the walls of greed, envy and hate could not ALL be brought down with their words and actions.  But they knew what civil equality should look like and they gave us their vision in a Constitution and Bill of Rights as guidance. 

People complain of the founding fathers and their hypocrisy in slavery and women's rights, but they were lucky to gain equality for themselves among other men.  It was an important first step, and we should revere it as a victory for us all, not a defeat for minorities and women. 

We are lucky, and should feel honored to be part of the process that can create equality, freedom, liberty, stability and sustainability for society...and if we are successful, as our forefathers were, to be an example for all the people of the World.  

However, right now we are in a crisis of Public Virtue.  We do not have it, and many probably don't even know what it is.  

We cannot expect our leaders to reflect morals and ethics if we as a society do not.  We should not expect  business leaders to reflect morality, ethics and a sense of public good, if the society the have grown out of does not.  

The solutions to our problems cannot come from the top down, but must rise from the bottom up.

This is our challenge and it is simple, 
This is our challenge and it is easily attainable: 

To develop Public Virtue in our culture.  To re-instil a sense of morals based on courtesy, mutual respect, and civil responsibility. 

Our leaders, our choices are a reflection of the virtue we hold as a people.   

We may choose to create and obey laws out of virtue or our laws may be forced upon us and compel obedience by terror. 



Coming Next:  What all of this has to do with the Middle East.  

Make a great day! 

-Kathryn