continuity of the constitution of society, for the principle of legal precedent, for the regulation of immigration and naturalization, and for the respect for long-established titles to land. This principle does not exclude the possibility of reform and improvement of social practices, but does ensure that such reforms should not be undertaken lightly, nor without a sense of the tragic inevitability of loss that accompanies all progress.
*ACCOUNTABILITY (of Rulers to the Ruled). Since human life has a purpose that transcends the activities of any merely human society, and since human beings are, in relation to that purpose, essentially equal, no one person has the right to use others as mere means, or to override the will and judgment of another unconditionally. Hence, those in any position of authority must consider themselves as the servants and agents of the public and must, therefore, be held accountable to that public through periodic elections. Personal human ethics are a good indicator of public service. If people betray those whom they profess love for, do you think they would do any less to those they do not know?
*SUBSIDIARITY (Federalism). Whenever there is a choice between assigning a power to an office with a wider jurisdiction or to one with a narrower jurisdiction, the power should always be assigned to the latter, for two reasons. First, the abuse of office is an inherent danger, and where the abuse occurs within a smaller jurisdiction, its victims have a greater chance to seek outside help, to escape or to resist the injustice. Second, human knowledge and compassion are limited, and an officer with smaller jurisdiction is more likely to have the specialized knowledge and empathy needed to make wise decisions.
*THE RULE OF LAW. The rule of law is needed to restrain the practice of evil, and to create a stable and predictable social environment within which persons, families and associations may act reasonably. This means that, insofar as possible, officers of the state must not develop the habit of issuing arbitrary dictates, nor must the general public develop the habit of accepting them. Instead, the decisions of officers must be limited to formulating general rules, applying those general rules to particular cases, and organizing government for the enforcement of the law and the defense of the state.
*SEPARATION OF POWERS. The functions of the government are threefold: the codification of the law in its generality, the adjudication of particular cases under the law, and the enforcement of the law against those who would defy it. Since these functions are separable, and since all people have the natural bent to overstep the bounds of their office, separate functions should be assigned to separate offices.
*MEDIATING INSTITUTIONS. Society must recognize and respect the rights, not only of individual adult members, but also of families, religious congregations, and voluntary associations. The state should respect and support the integrity of marriage and the authority of parents, intervening only when a family has ceased to function as such. The state must respect the internal governance of religious bodies. The engagement of the state with education should be minimal.
*PRIVATE PROPERTY AND FREE MARKETS. The management of families and cultural institutions and the practice of work require the control of land and other natural resources. Individual persons, families and associations must have the power of acquiring property, i.e., specific and well-defined spheres of responsibility and control. The acquisition and disposal of property (including exchange, gift and the use of contract) must be governed by general rules, and owners must be free to exercise their own judgment in whatever is not specifically forbidden. The existence of a free market for the exchange of property and services (including the private ownership of the means of production), within a system of well-defined property rights, creates an environment in which long-term projects are well-coordinated and in which individuals, families and associations are free to pursue their own proper functions.
The founders of the American republic, schooled as they were in the classics of Western civilization, understood and applied the above listed principles. The enduring success of the Constitution they crafted, and of the civilization that took shape on this continent, bear eloquent witness to the validity of these principles. In the course of the 20th century, much of the intellectual leadership of our country has abandoned or betrayed these proven ideas, placing their faith instead in a materialistic positivism or in a wildly romantic idealism, and sometimes, paradoxically, embracing both of these faiths at once. Sowing the wind, we have reaped a whirlwind of social disorder, cultural decline, and political corruption.
Today in the 21st Century, we must carefully select those leaders who can ably lead the way toward a restoration of sanity and a reconstruction of society built on the solid foundation of the permanent truths. The accumulation of experience and wisdom over many generations, enlightened and guided by Divine Revelation, consists in certain dispositions and habits of the mind and heart. To many Americans these truths may seem mere truisms or platitudes ("self-evident", as Jefferson put it), yet it is vitally important to remind ourselves periodically of what we know, to ensure that this body of wisdom can be passed on without loss to a new generation.
As you prepare to celebrate the nation's 229 birthday take stock of your beliefs and what we can pass on to the next generation. Remind yourself that occasionally a little rebellion is good.
--J. C. Bowman is a public policy analyst who resides in Tallahassee, Florida. He can be reached by email at: