Friday, July 29, 2005

Draft Surface Tension

I am always pleased when a post of mine garners the attention of our Maximum Leader (Long may He be read). I'm doubly flattered that it caused him to think. I'm hard-pressed to name many higher praise that could be lavished by one rational being on another's words. And I find myself returning the favor. When I wrote about my views on the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, I only vaguely had in mind the eternal tension between individual liberty and the common good.

But I suspect that the esteemed framers of those two documents were quite aware, even painfully aware, of that dichotomy. And in truth, I HAVE addressed it, just not in the context of these two documents. And upon reflection, I'm not sure the language of the two is as conflicting as Mike seems to think. Let me explain.

It is my conviction that the seeming tension between group and individual good is only what I will call a "Surface Tension", a perceived conflict caused by a superficial understanding of what constitutes the common good. I am of the belief that the common good is nothing more or less than the individual good, shared in common by all individuals. The reason I believe this stems from my view of human nature. I do not trust any other human to make decisions for me that are truly in my best interest with any consistency. Therefore, on a human level, the governing agent best equipped to make decisions for me, is me. In other words, the greatest common good is to protect the rights of the individual. Again, the Declaration of Independence enumerates the most important of these rights, and furthermore, I'm of the opinion it lists them in hierarchical order: Life, Liberty, the Pursuit of Happiness. The greatest common good, then, is to ensure that every individual, or at least as close to every individual as possible, enjoys those God-endowed, inalienable rights.

Of course, as always, it's when we explore the details that we find the devil lurking about. The obvious question raised is what happens when the exercize of those rights by one individual conflicts with the exercize of those rights by another? I would argue that their is, again, a hierarchy of those rights, and that each right trumps the right(s) named after it. Thus, my right to liberty can be taken away if I threaten another's life.

Of course, we can imagine a situation where the exercize of the very same right by two individuals conflicts. Cases like this are not easily remedied, and require great care and wisdom.

And I believe that was the intention, pr at least one of the intentions, of the framers of the Constitution. Let's review the Preamble again, but this time, in light of these beliefs:

We the people of the United States,

The People can and should be viewed in both the collective and individual sense.

in order to form a more perfect union,

A Union which protects the individual as well as the group.

establish justice, insure domestic tranquility,

I'd argue this is where we get into the issue of protecting the individual's rights from abuses by another individual exercizing rights lower on the hierarchy.

provide for the common defense,

Defend our collective rights from foreign powers who would subjugate them.

promote the general welfare,

This is the sticking point. What constitutes the general welfare? I'm inclined to interpret it as promoting an environment in which individuals may pursue their happiness.

and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity

This needs almost no interpretation.

We are a People. But we are also all persons. And it's my assertion that any law that attempts to enforce a perceived "good" for the "People" at the expense of each person's right to determine what is best for him or herself, ceases to truly be good, and renders less perfect our union.

1 comment:

  1. Exciting blog. The site out did itself and will be
    back! I love surfing the internet for blogs that are
    exactly like this blog.
    You got me! I will check out your fast cash advance blog a.s.a.p!

    ReplyDelete