Here’s one reason why I have scaled back my subscription to our local newspaper.
The column is incoherent on so many levels it’s not funny.
Take this bit:
However, freedom is a lot more complicated than getting to do what you want and say what you want. If that’s all there was to it, freedom would be a lot more rampant around the world.
Freedom is hard because it’s really about letting the other guy do what he wants and say what he wants, even if you don’t much like it and think he’s wrong. That’s the tricky part, the part that other cultures, and even some people here at home, sometimes can’t swallow.
Freedom has been reduced to mutual toleration, hardly an exhaustive account of what’s required to live in freedom. What, for example, about the necessity for sacrifice, risking one’s life for the sake of one’s liberty?
And then there’s this:
Freedom takes a certain amount of trust in your fellow man, which can be hard to come by in places like Iran. It also requires a humility about the limits of your own wisdom and a faith that in an open marketplace of ideas, the truth eventually will reveal itself.
Not surprisingly, those who claim to already know the truth don’t cotton much to freedom. From their point of view, there’s no need for debate and discussion to determine the best path; that path already has been chosen, usually by them. Nor is there any need to allow questions or challenge. Free speech just confuses the issue unnecessarily.
So I wonder how he feels about the "self-evident truths" articulated in the Declaration? Should we doubt those? Or are those truths that "revealed themselves" in the "open marketplace of ideas"? What happens when the "open marketplace" "reveals" truths?
It’s hard to get any guidance here.
But he does tell us this:
The primary insight of the Founding Fathers was to invest that wisdom in the people instead. It was a revolutionary concept 223 years ago, and it remains a threatening concept to many today. The wisdom of the people can at times be a wisdom reached slowly and slowly expressed; it can be a fragile wisdom, a wobbly wisdom that veers at times into foolishness before righting itself.
But over the long run, it is a true and legitimate wisdom, and we can take justified pride that for more than two centuries we have let that wisdom guide us.
"A mob of Socrateses is still a mob." Was he thining of that? Or perhaps he was thinking of the way in which Stephen A. Douglas trusted in the wisdom of the people against those conversation-stopping absolutes to which Abraham Lincoln adhered?
But ait, there’s more:
It all began, of course, with the Declaration of Independence. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness,” it stated.
Americans take justifiable pride in the way those words have echoed around the world and have been cited by freedom movements everywhere. But I worry that sometimes we try to take too much ownership for what is in fact a universal yearning. To the degree we link being pro-freedom to pro-American, we can undercut the cause we champion.
So there are absolutes? And they’re universal?
But of course they only mean letting everyone do what they please. They don’t have consequences for self-government or regimes.
I give up.