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Climate of ideas

"...if our South African friends wish to draw upon the American experience in their efforts to bring about constitutional reform, they would be better advised to look not to what we do today but to what we did when we first embarked on our experiment in ordered liberty more than 200 years ago. More precisely, I contend that America's Founders got it right when they began, in the natural rights tradition, with libertarian substance, then moved to democratic process." Roger Pilon, ON THE FIRST PRINCIPLES OF CONSTITUTIONALISM: LIBERTY, THEN DEMOCRACY, [American University International Law ] Vol. 8 > Iss. 2 (2015)

Roger believed the Progressive Era, got it wrong. People need to focus on the "substance of justice-liberty-and only then on the means for securing liberty". One of those means may include a democratic approach if those fundamental rights are not infringed upon in the process.

He agrees that "four essential elements" of a "limited constitutional democracy" include:

  1. free elections;
  2. the legitimacy of political opposition;
  3. limits on arbitrary arrest, detention, and punishment; and

protection for minority rights

He makes reference to a need for an "independent judiciary and independent private "watchdog" organizations" but he points out that members of the symposium make no mention of economic activity-where he believes "most people spend most of their lives".

While they mention "religious and educational freedom" but neglect "economic liberties-private property and freedom of contract". If there are inherent rights to "entitlements" "to housing, health care, jobs-indeed, to "periodic holidays with pay" then government must also have the inherent right to "coerce the provision of those things from individuals or organizations that may be otherwise unwilling to provide them voluntarily."

This, of course, would make governments the gods of theft and other covetous practices and would soon turn the people into what Polybius calls "perfect savages". He believes that that approach would falsely justify "capitalism as socialism, liberty as tyranny, monarchy as democracy-or, indeed, one-party rule."

There is seldom a danger of tyranny through democratic rule if the right of the minority to rule themselves is respected by the majority. Nowhere is the American vision does freedom come second and government first. Rights are inherent and granted by God and the Law of nature. This would mean that the higher law of right and wrong should be discoverable by right reason but are Polybius's "perfect savages" capable of "right reason".

Those savages who are accustomed to indulging in covetous practices and living at the expense of others that they will usher in a "master and monarch" because they themselves entertain the spirit of the tyrant in their hearts and minds.

The taking of liberty and property through taxation or regulation is defended as a necessary pre-condition of the "social and economic rights" of all who are greedy for entitlements. There is no connection to the immorality of that process in their minds and there are hearts are stones though they cry the loudest for compassion expressed often with anger.

Rogers sees Americans as having traded "principle for policy" due to that advent of the ideas and idolatry of the Progressive Era which was ushered in by the New Deals of FDR and LBJ alike with a "climate of ideas" that chills true compassion.

The warmth of Repentance

The Kingdom of God provides for free elections; the legitimacy of political opposition; limits on arbitrary arrest, detention, and punishment; and protection for minority rights. It also has "independent judiciary and independent private 'watchdog' organizations" which are the free assemblies of the people.