I am thoroughly enjoying reading “We Hold These Truths to be Self-Evident” by Oliver DeMille. As is usually the case with non-fiction books, I don’t completely agree with everything written, but for the most part the entire book resonates deeply with me.
Here are my thoughts so far on the book:
- The concept that the national religion is now a worship of government rang so true to me. I don’t think I’ve ever articulated it the way DeMille did, but if you think about it, it is absolutely true. I like this passage from the book:
“Oh, everyone’s careful never to use words that sound religious in any way.” I continued pacing. “But the belief remains that government is the most powerful entity in the world and that it should fix every problem. Many people in Washington have stopped believing the national motto ‘In God We Trust’; now it’s become ‘In government We Trust.'”
- The book doesn’t explicitly say it, but I got the feeling that DeMille was saying that if there is something moral for government to do, it is moral for government to force people to do it. I get this from a couple of passages:
For example, if John walks by Bill’s broken fence and does nothing, people may say he is greedy, small-minded, or uncaring, but they won’t send officers to fine, arrest, or shoot him.
On the other hand, if John walks by Bill’s house and sees Bill being physically assaulted and brutally beaten by a large man and then walks on home without doing anything to protect Bill and even fails to call the authorities, people will accurately describe his actions as neglectful, perhaps cowardly, and certainly wrong. Indeed, under natural law, his inaction is immorally illegal.
This is even more significant if John see Bill’s seven-year-old daughter being beaten or attacked and does nothing. This is because the protection of children and other too weak to defend themselves is a point of self-defense.
We should not kill another person for gain or for almost any other reason, but defending ourselves is an exception. And we should take the same acts of defense for others who cannot defend themselves as we would for ourselves if attacked. These are basics in natural law, fairness, common sense, or what C. S. Lewis called “the Tao.”
This doesn’t exactly say that government has the right to force John to aid in the defense of someone else, or of the defenseless, but it feels like it.
I agree that it is deplorable for John not to and demonstrates an extreme lack of character and integrity. I would hope that I would do my best to defend another person and especially to defend the defenseless. However I feel the same way about taking care of the poor, needy and those less fortunate than myself. I do have the right to engage in any action that helps or defends another person, but I do not have the right to force anybody else to participate in those actions.
- One idea that is taught throughout the book is that government is force. I don’t think that is completely accurate. Government can definitely involve force, but I do not user force when I govern my family (or at least I believe it is rarely the right choice). Government is control and influence, which sometimes involves force (like in the case of self-defense), but it doesn’t have to. Government isn’t force, good government is good leadership – only bad government is defined as force.
- Today I read a passage that made me think a bit:
This principle is neither complex nor difficult to apply. Yet it is widely ignored for two main reasons. First, the aristocratic, elitist, and authoritarian elements in society would lose most of their power under such a system, so they invest large amounts of money and influence to push for the centralization of power into bigger and bigger governments. As government size increases, those who can significantly influence the government become wealthier and more powerful – which will eventually lead to rule by a global elite unless current trends change.
Second, when ordinary people see themselves as too busy to get involved in daily governance, they simply let their freedoms be taken away. This usually happens slowly, so the people don’t notice. In times of crisis, it happens more quickly. Note that most people don’t mean to lose freedom, but they don’t focus significant time or energy on keeping it.
Natural law requires those who most benefit from freedom, the citizenry, to stand up for it – or lose it. Most elites aren’t very concerned about protecting freedom for the masses because the super-rich tend to have a lot of freedom in all societies, even when a large majority of people lose their liberties. If the people don’t work hard specifically to keep their freedom, they lose it.
It made me wonder, “Does Wealth = Freedom?” The more I think about it, I think it does.
I would love to have a dialogue with someone about this to clarify my understanding. Any takers?