Monday, November 30, 2009

The Importance of First Principles

Alexander Hamilton wrote that "In disquisitions of every kind there are certain primary truths, or first principles, upon which all subsequent reasoning must depend."  Unfortunately, our cultural and political class have seem to forgotten this important maxim.  Our First Principles are enumerated in the Declaration of Independence:

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute a new Government, laying its foundations on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."

The First Principles of the rule of law, equality, unalienable rights, the Social Compact, limited government, and the right to abolish or alter an unjust government are the bedrock of our country.  Today, however, they are scarcely noticed in the raging political debates today.  When they are mentioned, they seem to be an afterthought.  From health care to the bailouts to the fiscal crisis to Afghanistan, hardly anyone starts with what should come first - the First Principles.  And we are a poorer nation for it.

Thursday, November 26, 2009


As he did for so much of America, President George Washington set the precedent by proclaiming a day of Thanksgiving in 1789.  I can do nothing to add to it:

General Thanksgiving
By the PRESIDENT of the United States Of America 

WHEREAS it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favour; and Whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me "to recommend to the people of the United States a DAY OF PUBLICK THANKSGIVING and PRAYER, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness:"
NOW THEREFORE, I do recommend and affisn THURSDAY, the TWENTY-SIXTH DAY of NOVEMBER next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the
service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favorable interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed;-- for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enable to establish Constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted;-- for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge;-- and, in general, for all the great and various favours which He has been pleased to confer upon us.

And also, that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions;-- to enable us all, whether in publick or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wife, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have shewn kindness unto us); and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.

GIVEN under my hand, at the city of New-York, the third day of October, in the year of our Lord, one thousand seven hundred and eighty-nine.
(signed) G. Washington

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The True Meaning of Patriotism

"Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it." --American author Mark Twain (1835-1910)

This is the true meaning, at least in America.  Patriots love their country, and Patriots in America love their country not only because it is their homeland, but because America stands for the best in the world.  

We were the first nation to be founded on a set of First Principles, as articulated in the Declaration of Independence.  They include the rule of law, unalienable rights, equality, the Social Compact, limited government, and the right of the people to alter or abolish an oppressive government.  We are really the only one that fully stands for those principles today.

Sometimes patriots feel compelled to support their government because they feel a need to support the country.  When the government is acting to further the First Principles (or at least in conformity with them), such a sentiment is a noble one.  However, if the government is violating those First Principles, then a Patriot's first duty is to oppose the government - just as Twain remarked. 

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

No! For the Sake of Liberty

Mohandas Gandhi  stated that "A 'No' uttered from the deepest conviction is better than a 'Yes' merely uttered to please, or worse, to avoid trouble."  Indeed, in the effort to get along and not make waves, there is much too much "yes" when a firm "no" would be appropriate.

During the American Revolution, our Founding Fathers, led by the likes of Patrick Henry, declared "give me liberty or give me death."  And they meant it. The Founders put their fortunes, lives, and sacred honor at risk when they declared independence in the name of liberty.  They said "no" to British oppression - and fought against it.

We are the heirs of their great experiment - and we have the great responsibility to keep it alive.  Sometimes that means saying and doing things that cause trouble, displease, and are uncomfortable.  So be it.  

Sometimes that means standing against the crowd or the current of history and simply saying "No."  Some politicians today seem more concerned about their reputation as consensus builders than doing what is right.  We cannot afford to cater such whims any longer.  Sometimes we just have to say "No!"

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veterans, We Salute You!

In the hustle and bustle of our day, we usually take for granted those things that keep us alive and free.  The Declaration of Independence explains that we have the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, but it takes raw, brute force to deter and protect us from our enemies to ensure that we can exercise those rights.

The Founding Fathers were deeply concerned about national security.  If you actually review the list of powers the Constitution grants the Congress (i.e., those enumerated powers to which the federal government is limited), several address the ability to raise and support an army and navy, to organize and use the militia, and other means to ensure the safety of the people against enemies - foreign and domestic.

Over the years, millions of servicemen and women have sacrificed so that we can all remain free.  According to, over the course of our history, over 43 million brave men and women have served our country during war.  We have suffered over 653,000 deaths in battle, and over 1.4 million nonmortal wounds.  We currently have nearly 18 million living war veterans.  As of 2006, there were over 3500 deaths and 21,000 nonmortal wounds suffered in the War on Terror.

As we move forward with the raging debate over Afghanistan, we need to keep in mind the primacy of national security and the sacrifices we continue to ask our brethren.

Thank you for keeping us free!

Monday, November 9, 2009

And The Wall Came Tumbling Down

Today marks the 20th anniversary of the fall of The Berlin Wall.  Erected upon the order of the East German leader Walter Ulbrecht in 1961, The Wall was long a symbol of the Cold War confrontation between America and the now defunct Soviet Empire.  For those of us who grew up in the 1970s and 1980s, the Cold War defined our lives - we never knew when we went to sleep if nuclear might break-out before we woke up.

The Wall, however, also represented the stark contrast between freedom and slavery; liberty and totalitarianism; self-determination and oppression.  Its fall also revealed that history need not always inexorably move toward greater government and tyranny - that, indeed, the spirit of liberty could conquer the ghosts of oppression.  Its fall should remain an inspiration to all freedom loving people across the world (including here at home) that fighting for liberty against impossible odds is well worth the effort.