The origin and decay of American liberty 4

The United States of America was – uniquely among nations – established on the idea of liberty.

Liberty is not, however, as The Declaration of Independence declares it to be, an “unalienable Right” endowed to Men by “their Creator”.

Nor is it “natural”.

It is a man-made artifact.

We quote from The Constitution of Liberty by F. A. Hayek, Chapter Four, Freedom, Reason, and Tradition:

Though freedom is not a state of nature but an artifact of civilization, it did not arise from design. …

The development of a theory of liberty took place mainly in the eighteenth century. It began in two countries, England and France. The first of these knew liberty, the second did not. As a result, we have had to the present day two different traditions in the theory of liberty … the first based on an interpretation of traditions and institutions which had spontaneously grown up … the second aiming at the construction of a utopia, which has often been tried but never successfully. …

What we have called the “British tradition” was made explicit mainly by a group of Scottish moral philosophers led by David Hume, Adam Smith and Adam Ferguson … drawing largely on a tradition rooted in the jurisprudence of the common law. Opposed to them was the tradition of the French Enlightenment … the Encyclopedists and Rousseau … are their best known representatives. …

There is hardly a greater contrast imaginable between their respective conceptions of the evolution and functioning of a social order and the role played in it by liberty. …

The British philosophers laid the foundations of a profound and essentially valid theory, while the French school was simply and completely wrong. …

Those British philosophers have given us an interpretation of the growth of civilization that is still the indispensable foundation of the argument for liberty. They find the origin of institutions, not in contrivance or design, but in the survival of the successful. …

This demonstration … represented in some ways an even grater challenge to all design theories than even the later theory of biological evolution. For the first time it was shown that an evident order which was not the product of a designing human intelligence need not therefore be ascribed to the design of a higher, supernatural intelligence, but that there was a third possibility – the emergence of order as the result of adaptive evolution.

While liberty needs to be guarded by the rule of law, it will dwindle and perish under regulation.

The more a nation is regulated and organized, the less liberty the people have. A society highly organized and regulated by government is an unfree society.

The United States is becoming ever less free. Its successive governments have become increasingly regulatory, or to put it another way, increasingly Leftist. The trend was interrupted and to some extent reversed by the presidency of Ronald Reagan. When he left office, the decay of liberty resumed. In the last eight years, President Obama – a firm believer in regulatory government – has all too often imposed his personal will by dictatorial executive order. In doing so, he acted as an enemy of the country he presided over.

The great Sovietologist, Robert Conquest, noted that there are “Three Laws of Politics”.

John Derbyshire recently recalled them, writing at National Review:

1. Everyone is conservative about what he knows best.

2. Any organization not explicitly and constitutionally right-wing will sooner or later become left-wing.

3. The behavior of any bureaucratic organization can best be understood by assuming that it is controlled by a secret cabal of its enemies.

And he adds:

Of the Second Law, Conquest gave the Church of England and Amnesty International as examples. Of the Third, he noted that a bureaucracy sometimes actually IS controlled by a secret cabal of its enemies – e.g. the postwar British secret service.

As the most historically important example of the Second Law, we can now add the United States of America.

Excellent as the US Constitution is, it has not kept governments from the fatal tendency.

The Democratic Party has become a wholly left-wing organization. If the Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, is elected to the presidency in 2016, the people will lose such liberty as remains to them.

  • liz

    The idea of constructing a utopia is the fatal flaw that leads those that accept the premise into a swamp of failure, which, for those who can’t handle failure, leads to the need for totalitarian control in order to “construct” their delusion by force. Reality is their biggest enemy, just as it is for religionists.

  • I think the concept of universal suffrage might have been born out of the French ideal of égalité. It seems to me this is where Western civilization took a wrong fork in the road, including the UK. A subject to come back to in December I think…

    • What the French never realized is that liberty and equality can never go together. It’s one or the other: communism or freedom.

  • Azgael

    to save america only revolution will do it, Trump would only be a 4/8 year band aid like Reagan was, a complete and 100% purge of leftists in america is needed and criminalization of leftism is needed too. The left should NOT get any constitutional rights for they always try and take em away from everyone .