Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Sentimental Reflections

Tibor R. Machan

My job in writing columns, as I see it, is to attempt to work out how the original American experiment could be extended and improved upon and made to serve the purpose of addressing various emerging political-economic problems. I do not confine myself to just this task but it is one of the more pressing ones for me. I guess one reason I took it on is that I experienced what I take to be the direct opposite way of social life when I was young, namely, Soviet style socialism. Having managed to escape it, I decided I would like to make sure there is no chance for it to reassert itself, especially in America.

Well, this task of mine is important and noble enough but there are times that I simply feel very, very sad about how few Americans find the ideas that distinguish their society from others appealing. Instead of championing and practicing initiative, inventiveness, ambition, adventure, enterprise, and the like, it now seems to me that most Americans have become belated dependents, people who care far more about what others should do for them, how the government should take care of them, how their problems should be solved by politicians and bureaucrats, than about maintaining a system of community life that supports human liberty, the kind of liberty that serves as a framework for personal and community initiative and rejects altogether the notion that people are owed a living by their fellows. And this is really a very sad situation.

For the first time in human history the American founders managed to establish a community the basic principles of which acknowledge individual sovereignty. They began rejecting, officially, the idea that inhabitants of human communities are subjects, subservient to the will of some special bunch of people with fancy titles. This was an extraordinary development and sadly by now most people have no appreciation for it. Instead some of the cleverest and most erudite people in America are hard at work to return the country to its former subservient position, whereby governments made all the decisions, whereby elected officials openly brag about wishing to rule, to run everything, and ordinary folks seem willingly to place themselves at the disposal of these would be rulers.

That really is a very sad thing. It doesn’t have to be but it seems very much the way most folks want it. Await for the state to figure out how one should live and provide various securities and guarantees instead of simply make sure our liberties aren’t trampled upon so we can proceed to help ourselves, alone or with the willing cooperation of others. No, this quintessentially American notion, however incompletely realized so far, is no longer even much of a notion. It is actively demeaned, ridiculed by the literati. Snide comments come from the well educated, and even the not so well educated like those in Hollywood, whenever such American ideas and ideals get some airing--as if what the American Founders began were some kind of silly joke instead of the most important and genuine human revolution in history.

It baffles me why this wonderful conception by the Founders and their followers is derided so much by the self-anointed fancy people--artists, professors, social scientists, and others--who see themselves as so superior to those infantile American Founders who thought every individual is a sovereign being, not beholden to anyone but his or her own conscience. Why is this notion so frightening to so many people so that they spend their lives writing books and essays knocking it? Why would such a wonderful thought become the target of so much sophist aced denigration?

This is a very big country and it has innumerable educated folks living off taxpayers in hundreds, even thousands of colleges and universities and instead of showing gratitude for being able to pursue careers they supposedly love, most of these people appear to be bitter, angry and nasty toward the very folks and system of ideas that provide their support. They never turn down a contribution to their institution from a successful entrepreneur and yet they hold these entrepreneurs in near total contempt!

I shall continue to attempt to inject a different idea into the culture, albeit in venues that are less than prominent. Still, I cannot desist, not while I realize that the American experiment is the most noble one in human social and political history. Perhaps I will be able to pave a bit of the way for a few among the next generation to not give up on the effort, to remain vigilant, so that in time the defeatists, the cynics will become the minority and will not rule the publishing houses, magazines, and higher education. It may happen.

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