Chapters 8 and 9 of America’s Revolutionary Mind (2019) move on from the first two self-evident moral truths in The Declaration of Independence (equality and rights) to the third: “That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed”. The author takes 2 chapters to cover this one because it is philosophically more complex and key to unlocking natural law and morality.
The Founders directly deployed the ideas of John Locke (1632-1704) to demonstrate that the preservation and protection of private property is the whole point of any legitimate government. The rule of law secures private property as a moral necessity. This is one of the deepest, most fundamental values that the Founders bequeathed to us. Undeniable axiomatic moral logic prevents government from legitimately taking from anyone any part of his Property without his consent. Nobody can argue to convince me otherwise. Why not? Let’s take a little tangent:
I discovered blogger Scott Alexander when another writer cited this article:
Anyone can argue against any proposition until they’re blue in the face. But they’ll never break through my Schelling Fence (pre-commitment to defend a position). On 2/14/20 (Addendum to “Targeting Meritocracy”) Scott explained that disagreement with an obvious, self-evident truth – like we should value merit or that private property is a basic human right – stems from either differing approaches regarding mistake theory (teasing out errors in logic or practical factual truth) or conflict theory (“you’re just arguing that to preserve your power”*). Either way, The Declaration of Independence contains self-evident moral truths. The American Revolution was not just economic or political, it was moral. They were not arguing in a theoretical environment (like bloggers and commenters do today) – they lived it, fought, bled, died – risked their lives, sacred honor and fortunes. We inherited moral values that produced a great, prosperous nation.
Consent is the passkey that unlocks the very definition of property. Property and liberty have always been connected by consent. People bound by a law to which they do not consent are slaves. Private property is the grand principle of any Free State. Without private property rights vested in each of us, exclusive of others, there can be no Liberty, no Happiness, no Security. “It is inseparable from the very Idea of Property, for who can call that his own, which may be taken away at the Pleasure of another”.
Next week, we dive deeper into the notion of consent and the just powers of government.
*As a lawyer, this always struck me as an extremely flimsy argument. It’s like saying in court; you’re just saying that because you represent the defendant. While motive and confirmation bias are factors (this argument was used against Edmund Burke by Thomas Payne as we saw here 12/5/17-1/30/18), the fact that it becomes a central accusation highlights the obvious weakness of collectivist /wealth redistributionist/anti-meritocracy reasoning.