Thursday, October 18, 2012

A Rejoinder

To Straussians and Traditionalist Catholics from The New Beginning:
Both groups have accepted the Yankee nationalist myth, with the traditionalists criticizing the American founding accordingly.

Traditionalists see the United States as a "product of the Enlightenment" under the belief that rights can only be understood within the framework of liberalism, not as curbs on human legislative authority for a different reason. In this case, the Bill of Rights is a curb on the authority of the Federal Government. They do not acknowledge that the United States are more than the federal system. (Read entire post.)


May said...

I'm afraid I have to disagree with the Ahern article that the New Beginning post links to. Of course, the American political tradition is based upon much more than an abstract theory of natural rights, but such should nevertheless not be minimized. It is hard to get more foundational than the Declaration of Independence, which assumes as a matter of course that all governments are put in place to protect these rights.

We do need to hold on to truths applicable to all men as such, in order to have a just political order. That is how we know that abortion is wrong, for instance, not just in some places, at some times, for some people, but everywhere at all times. That is how we know that people should be able to seek and serve God in peace, without the government imposing mandates that violate conscience. These are rights that derive from man's nature as a rational being and are equally true of all men.

Then there are other matters, which do vary from place to place and time to time. The specific way a government is designed to achieve the human good for a particular people in particular circumstances, is one of these. Deciding how to achieve this is a matter for prudence and practical experience, and attention to the traditions and character of a people. Not every country needs to have the U.S. Constitution. But every country should protect innocent life and provide the freedom to pursue the good.

May said...

I'll also say, though, that I agree that the United States is more than just a product of the Enlightenment. The Founders may have read their Locke and so on, and used similar language of natural rights. But the Enlightenment authors perhaps portray these rights in a kind of selfish and amoral light, whereas from what I've seen, the Founders had more of a genuine moral concern in their theory, which seemed to come from an earlier Western tradition. I don't have time now to look up references, but the information is out there.