Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Individual Choice, Social Contract, and Freedom

Our individualism in America has its roots in Protestantism. Protestantism is a "protest" against the Church and its abuses of power. But, the Protestant Church found itself split again and again over questions about the sacraments and Church government. Church government was understood to maintain the social structure of the "elect", in however that was understood. America, on the other hand, was born to undermine "election" and give room and voice to each and every citizen.

America was founded on principles of the Enlightenment; reason, natural law, and an understanding of "moral principles" that guided civil society, which was the basis of the "rule of law". The Founders were not evangelical believers, but men of reason, who desired to create a "more perfect union" that gave the individual a voice about their life and their pursuits.

While America's tradition was undeveloped and never gained the traditional strength of traditional cultures, it did have "order" and structure that was based on equality of opportunity, which underwrote justice and liberty. The limited government that the Founders created was to "value individual" rights, while forbidding the sanction of any one religious tradition.

Their understanding was that government was to protect the people by providing a military and maintaining order by balancing power between the states. Centralization was debated by Hamilton (?), but not all of the Founders understood the government's power in such a way. Centralization became more prevalent when socialized programs started to provide and over-rode the individual and State's right to liberty. The social contract became underwritten by the government, instead of the government respecting the 'other party' in the contract.

I think that this is the very "pivot point" to our understanding what is happening with globalization and nationalism today. Where the State had the right to "hold property" which were the slaves that helped maintain economic stability in the South, government's moral "voice" determined through war that slavery was universally wrong. Human rights and "nationalism" were born.

Modernity is based on man's reason, which is developed within certain paradigms. It is not usual, except in free societies and liberal families that people are exposed to "more than one way of understanding life". Worldviews, which are reasonable explainations about life and how reality functions are ways in which people identify. But, reason is not the epitome of reality, although it is useful for living in constructing "a more perfect answer" for faith.

I think that without freedom, individual choice, and social contract, the world is a dark and forboding place that subverts justice, limits freedom devalues the human. I don't choose to live in such a world and most people who have a choice (and know that they have a choice) would not either.

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