The Right to Arms and the American Philosophy of Freedom…
“Well Dr. Franklin, have you given us a republic or a monarchy?”
“A Republic Madam… if you can keep it.”
“Yes… If we can keep it.”
Sandy returned from the NRA and brought back the workbook that was used in the National Firearms Law Seminar for me to read.
One of the entries was an excellent article by Nelson Lund, JD, Ph.D of George Mason University, Antonin Scalia Law School. It was entitled “The Right to Arms and the American Philosophy of Freedom”.
Light reading for a Friday afternoon.
(The paper in its entirety, can be found at https://report.heritage.org/fp62)
Professor Lund does an exquisite job of articulating the true meaning behind the Second Amendment and the quintessential necessity of the Second Amendment in protecting classical liberalism.
For at its core, our country has been founded on the idea of empowerment of “the self”. We eschewed collectivism repeatedly throughout the history of our young nation, from the tensions in establishing the balance of federalism, to our codification of the ideas of limited government.
Freedom has always been our paradigm. When the State has the power to provide… the State has the power to also take away. Each establishment of State power creates a zero sum game. As the power of the State ratchets up… the power of the individual necessarily is reduced.
To a collectivist, this is perfectly acceptable… since they are, (regardless of their willingness to admit it) following the political philosophy of Thomas Hobbes.
(If you have arrived here from our newsletter, continue reading here)
In case you have never been introduced to Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679), he is often miss-identified as a forerunner of conservatism. Just as collectivist and statist despots (see Hitler, Pol Pot, Franco, et al) have been miss-identified as conservatives.
Quite the contrary, all of the despots above… and frankly many liberals today are in reality far closer to the Hobbesian view of the necessity of an all powerful state than their conservative and libertarian colleagues.
Basically Hobbes said, that when people exist in a “State of Nature” (Jus Naturale… or without the presence of a government authority), the law of self preservation dictates all morality. More to the point.. if the act enhances the survivability of the actor, then by definition: it is morally acceptable. Regardless of the effect on others, Hobbes considered this lifestyle to be “nasty, brutish and short.”
His answer: The Leviathan. A government run by a totalitarian benevolent dictator. One where the use of violence and coercion by the ruler was perfectly acceptable since the alternative was violence on the part of everyone else.
John Locke (1632-1704), the true philosophical inspiration of the Declaration of Independence saw a fundamental flaw in Hobbes’ view. Relegating power to a centralized State that used a monopoly on violence to secure an agenda was not only contrary to the intrinsic desire for human freedom, but was based on a premise that “…..men are so foolish that they take care to avoid what mischiefs may be done them by polecats or foxes, but are content, nay think it safety, to be devoured by lions.” (John Locke, Two Treatises on Government, “Second Treatise of Government,” ed. Peter Laslett (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988) ch.4 p.93
Governments are by design oriented towards the expansion of power. Empowerment comes from a single source: The People. Thus, if the power of the government were to expand, it would be at the direct expense of the people governed.
The Second Amendment, was the singular line that could not be crossed. The Second Amendment was not enacted to allow for sport, nor subsistence hunting. The Second Amendment was crafted to recognize the fundamental humanity that the Constitution was crafted to protect.
The Second Amendment acknowledges what the Declaration of Independence articulates. “We are endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights, among these are the right to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.” For without the Second Amendment, the right to our continued existence (ie: right to life) is jeopardized.
To be sure… not all “Conservatives” are antagonistic to collectivism. Some would use the power of the government to enshrine a social agenda that comports to their own world view.
The Founders saw this as a potential problem and sought to limit the influence of the government on the individual. Collectivists have moved away from this ideal since the early twentieth century, and as a result have established the architecture for the potential despot.
I encourage you to read the full article… “The Right to Arms and the American Philosophy of Freedom”. Understanding the philosophical underpinnings of the Second Amendment are crucial to defending it. Understanding the political philosophy that helped establish our Constitution is always essential for the true patriot.