The View From 1776
Saturday, June 20, 2009
The Role of Paradigms
A people’s generally understood conception of a good society is what determines the nature of a nation and what makes it a cohesive and enduring body.
Paradigm is a word that got lots of play a few years ago. A paradigm is a model; it’s an image in your mind that has a lot to do with how you understand yourself and how you relate to other people. Very importantly, a paradigm is the pervasive influence in determining the political, economic, social, and spiritual nature of a nation. It’s what may be called the unwritten constitution of a nation.
A vulnerability of our own written Constitution is its brevity and generality. As we have seen, activist judges can interpret the Constitution to find almost anything that accords with their ideas of what the law ought to be.
The only real limit on arbitrary and tyrannical exercise of power - by a king, a President, or a court - is the paradigm, the model, the unwritten constitution held in the hearts and minds of a nation’s citizens.
That’s one reason why democratic self-government is a hard thing to make work in the Middle East. Those peoples have never, in thousands of years, experienced anything other than arbitrary rule by despots, from the pharaohs of ancient Egypt to Saddam Hussein in modern times.
If we allow the paradigm of 1776, the belief in personal responsibility and individual morality, to fade away, our nation will become nothing more than a junior version of the Soviet Union, a transplanted, secular and socialistic France in the new world.
The Jews have survived, scattered around the world for the last half of that period, for more than 4,000 years only by keeping alive a paradigm of the Jewish people and the teachings of the Law handed down to Moses by God.
In Deuteronomy 4:9, Moses tells the Israelites:
Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.
Psalms 78:5-7 tells us:
He decreed statutes for Jacob and established the law in Israel, which he commanded our forefathers to teach their children, so the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children. Then they would put their trust in God and would not forget his deeds but would keep his commands.
In the Old Testament period, survival of the Israelites in the Promised Land depended entirely upon the extent to which they kept to the spirit of God’s laws and passed along that spirit to their children.
It is just as true for us today. The United States was founded upon a definite paradigm, one very different from the paradigm now featured in our educational system and in the mainstream media. Our national survival is endangered by that new, liberal-progressive-socialist paradigm.
What, then, was the paradigm held in the hearts and minds of the colonists who fought in 1776 for our independence and for the historical rights of Englishmen?
John Adams summarized it neatly in a 1798 address to officers of the Massachusetts Militia:
We have no government armed with the power capable of contending with human passions, unbridled by morality and true religion. Our constitution is made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.
What Adams meant was that a Constitutional government of limited powers can’t survive if it is not counterbalanced by individual moral conduct of its citizens. If the government is to allow maximum possible individual political liberty, citizens have to be law-abiding and have to be guided individually by moral principles. Hearts must be softened, and people must be self-motivated to do the right thing.
In dismaying contrast, after the 1930s under President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal people began to look to the socialized political state as the source of their salvation. Since 1932, this new paradigm has come to dominate our political and educational landscape. Fewer people any longer teach their children personal responsibility for self-help and for doing the right thing to help others suffering hard times. We pay very high taxes and feel justified in leaving charitable duties to the government.
Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America illustrates the vast change in the ethos of American society since the colonists fought for independence in 1776 and wrote the Constitution in 1787. Tocqueville came to the United States from France in 1830 and travelled from New England to New Orleans, observing the attitudes and institutions of the American people.
Tocqueville would have said that present-day American liberals