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Sunday, August 16, 2009

The "American Manifesto" (Update)

As he is committing his memoirs of the Korean War to paper, we have been sorely missing the regular contributions of Dr Sam C. Holliday, director of the Armiger Cromwell Center.

Important as history may be, there's hardly denying we live in momentous times at present. In that realization Dr Holliday has interrupted his train of thought on the hotter episodes of the Cold War to share with us his analysis of the transition the world is currently passing through.

In "American Manifesto" he's following the ideals of the Classical Liberal school in the tradition of John Locke, and describes how those ideals were finally condensed and made manifest in the American Declaration of Independence and in the US Constitution.

Although the roots of the paradigm shift in a radically opposite direction were laid much earlier, it first made its proper influence felt on the North American continent after World War II, when Postmodern thought caused a social upheavel unparalled in history to the extent in which it broke loose from the roots of Western civilization.

As the forces of the counter cultural revolution are now breaking through to the highest corridors of power, the question what can be done to limit the damage has become an urgent one. How can we restore and maintain the values which have kept modern Western civilization prosperous for over three centuries?


Enjoy Dr Holliday's proposal for an American Manifesto. Earlier articles and essays posted on Politeia are available on the Articles file of the Armiger Cromwell Center.


American Manifesto

Those who founded the United States of America wanted to establish a new form of governance. They did not want to repeat the errors they saw in Europe, and throughout history. They opposed laws based on the “Divine Right of Kings.” They were against a democracy of unrestrained conflict, factionalism, mob rule, demagoguery, and the tyranny of popular majorities.

America has changed much since 1776. The change was slow and evolutionary until the start of the 20th century; it has been very rapid since 1942. The principles and ideals of the founders have been diminished. Is this progress or decline? The current debate is over how, and how fast, we should move toward a new and different Utopia. Yet shouldn’t the debate be over how to retain the principles and ideals of our Founders Fathers as we adjust to new realities?

- Caption: "Patriotism" (2006) by Megan Brigham - white charcoal 18x18", NFS - 

The Vision of Our Founding Fathers
What was the vision of our founders? They wanted to establish in America the foundations of a new structure and way of governance. They accepted the fact that people have many different views of right and wrong, good and bad. They wanted citizens to be able to exploit their God given (inalienable rights) talents, energies and resources to whatever extent they desired. They wanted constraints (negative rights) on government and rejected the idea of positive rights given to the people by government. They wanted checks and balances on all governmental structures. They wanted a weak Presidency and an even weaker Supreme Court. They wanted free men to establish, without external influence, a nation of free citizens who could enjoy the benefits of their successes but who would pay from their failures. They rejected the idea of equality of outcomes.

The founders did not want power in the hands of those who would exploit the weakness of human nature that tends to want security more than opportunity, comfort more than success, handouts more than self satisfaction. They did not want career politicians in positions of authority. They wanted policy determined by those willing to sacrifice wealth, life and honor to advance national interests, rather than those who gave priority to personal and factional interests. They finally reached a compromise on suffrage; they limited it to free adult male citizens who were property owners.

Then they recorded their vision in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. This vision has shaped who got what, when, how, and at what cost through much of our history. However, interpretations of these documents have greatly eroded the vision of the Founding Fathers—some consider this “progress”, but others consider it decline.

Why America is Different
America is a nation of immigrants. In common, those who became Americans, came to an unknown country in order to have a better future for themselves and their children. With freedom all could use their ability, ambition and energy to succeed or to fail. Unique American values and attitudes were thus built by the initiative of individuals, not by collective efforts determined by government. The building stages of America came from the character of individuals, not any tribal, ethnic or religious identification. Although America was not perfect during its building stages, freedom plus citizens with a sense of fairness and a willingness to accept responsibility, produced success. No elite corrected the imperfections.

The remarkable growth of America from 1776 until 1942 was the result of the efforts of individuals with diverse backgrounds facing dangers, challenges and demands of the new and the unknown; they built an American nation with a common identity and the bonds of kinship.

However, since 1942 there have been a noticeable change, which foreshadows the decline of America. This change is illustrated by a softening of both customs and laws, less reliance on the inner compass of individuals, the replacement of a sense of duty with self gratification, an unwillingness to accept responsibility, greater factionalism, and the seeking of governmental benefits and rewards.

The Renewal of America in Keeping with the Vision of Our Founders
Instead of using the old words of politics, which have much baggage, today a new American movement needs to be defined in terms of where our country is in the cycle of rising and falling. This would define the core convictions to insure a better future.

All groups--those who have a common identity and consider themselves "we"--are living organisms. Americans can be defined as an assembly of citizens that form an organism with a collective biography. Our country—like all groups—is subject to Darwinian like forces of survival. The distinguishing characteristic of all groups is a common identity--a sense of kinship. Survival, and the best possible future, depends on retaining that which caused the group to rise, and to avoid whatever might cause a decline.

The values and attitudes of the founders were the outcome of economic and administrative rationalization and differentiation that evolved after 1500. The four core convictions of the Founding Fathers were:
  • Belief to provide individuals with an inner compass to control behavior, to be creative, to enjoy freedom, to have self-esteem and to be responsible for their actions. Belief prevents the individual from being only a subject of a state or nation.
  • National identity to provide a sense of kinship (a nation) and a unique intellectual, creative, technological, and artistic culture.
  • Patriotism to insure unity within a polity (a state) and success in achieving common goals.
  • The scientific method to establish an objective way to uncover falsehoods and thus provides a means for reaching agreement.
How Things Changed
In 1776, and still in 1942, most Americans revered the four core convictions and understood that they must be kept vibrant and in equilibrium. Therefore, they can be considered the core convictions of America. However, whenever one of the four dominates the others, power shifts from citizens to an elite claiming expertise. Today American Traditionalists want to preserve balance among these four convictions, while Progressives want power to shift from citizens to a governmental elite.

Today we have a Presidency built on a cult of personality, which seeks to transform our country and change the world. No longer is the President seen as an administrator to defend the country, enforce the law, and uphold the Constitution as originally written.

Today the Supreme Court has unchallenged authority over everything, i.e. power that in the past was called “The Divine Right of Kings.” Today an elite controls our country.

We would not want to return to 1942 or 1776, even if we could. We must seek the best possible future and hold on to all true improvements. This is the aim of Traditionalists. They want to continue the evolution that began in 1500.

However, Progressives want a paradigm shift in Western Culture; they want to redefine the four convictions.

The Traditionalists do not want to "throw out the baby with the bath water". They want to prevent instability and chaos. Traditionalists seek stability through the four core convictions of Americans.

Conclusions
It is time for the American Manifesto, as presented here. Since human beings do not like to change their institutions, or re-think their philosophies, will this American Manifesto be of any practical use? It can be, but not alone. In order to reap any practical benefits more is required. The American Manifesto only states an ideal, and a path.

The next step is debate on and modification of this manifesto. Then most American citizens must share a common identity based on the principles and ideals in this manifesto. In achieving this it might be necessary to make citizenship a privilege to be earned or lost--rather than a right of birth. In that case, one aspect of earning citizenship should be acceptance of the four core convictions of America.

Finally, there must be political action—by a political party that advocates a consistent conservative philosophy.

The purpose of the American Manifesto is to present an ideal and a path to that ideal. Considerable effort by others will be required before there is a new reality in the United States of America which keeps each of the four core convictions vibrant and all of them in equilibrium.
Nations have passed away and left no traces,
And history gives the naked cause of it—
One single, simple reason in all cases;
They fell because their people were not fit.

--Kipling in ‘Land and Sea Tales’

What can be done in time of rapid change?
Some ignore the change with renunciation or flight.
Some seek only self and factional rewards in the change.
Some destroy, so something better can be built.
Some build so the future will be stable and bright.

--Sam Holliday (2009)

Copyright © 2008 Armiger Cromwell Center, Atlanta, GA 30319-1322. 404-201-7374. Permission is granted to forward this article by e-mail to friends or colleagues on a fair use basis. For reprint permission, contact Armiger Cromwell Center at armigercc@comcast.net

An online printable version of "American Manifesto", by Dr Sam Holliday

- Filed on Articles in
"The Armiger Cromwell Center" -

3 comments:

James Higham said...

The scientific method to establish an objective way to uncover falsehoods and thus provides a means for reaching agreement.

I trust that doesn't imply a belief in Science as a god.

Cassandra Troy said...

With Sam Holliday it's a safe bet, James.

Cassandra Troy said...

On behalf of Sam:

Cass,

One addition point on the comment by James. You will note that I say that the scientific method is a way to discover falsehoods. It does not discover the truth. To become a God science has to be the way to discover the truth.

Of course, the basic problem is that others what to take each of the four to the extreme. There are those who claim to be the experts on each and they what to use that to become the ruling elite of a collective.
Belief has ideological and religious leaders who what their views to become the highest loyalties.
National identity can become integral nationalism with leaders wanting their views to become the highest loyalties.
Patriotism has lawyer/politicians who want secular authority of the state to become the highest loyalties. (This is what we now have in the US)
Scientific method has scientists who want science to make all decisions.

I want them all in equilibrium with no one being supreme, i.e. Stability through Equilibrium (StE).

Sam

 
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