COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo., November 10, 2013 — Every once in a while one hears the exasperated cry, “Why can’t we all just get along?” It is usually said in response to some policy disagreement, and it usually comes from the mouth of a liberal.
Liberals really do want everyone to get along; it’s just that “getting along” means getting along on their terms. Other opinions and ideas are not wanted. Yet there are fundamental differences between the so-called left and right in this country that cannot be papered over.
Leftists — at least, true believers who understand and fully accept their belief system — believe in a collectivist society, an idea rooted in 19th century socialism and Marxism. It’s the group-hug crowd, the ones who believe everyone’s a winner and deserves a trophy. It seems harmless enough, but there is a dark side as well. Because it is the collective that matters, there is no problem sacrificing a few individuals for the good of all.
If a few million (even 100 million) people lose their healthcare coverage to ensure that everyone gets health care insurance, so be it. The greatest good for the greatest number is what matters. The end justifies the means.
Everyone must be treated exactly the same; that is the meaning of “equality.” If someone gets more, the extra is unearned and must be redistributed for the common good. Inequality of outcome is unfair; the “extra” must be refunded to the collective, the community. That is paying your “fair share” and “giving back.”
According to this collectivist philosophy we are all drones in a beehive working for the common good. But even a beehive needs a queen bee. The recognition of that means that someone still has to direct the drones. That’s the job of the select few, whether they’re Plato’s “guardians,” Lenin’s “vanguard of the proletariat,” or Woodrow Wilson and FDR’s “smart men.” It’s all about central planning and central control. Participation is not optional.
There is another school of thought, the one this country was founded on. That philosophy values the individual. Individuals and their families come together to build society, not the other way around. Yes, we did build that. The government and the country belong to us, not we to it.
Equality is a gift from our Creator — a phrase leftists like to omit when reading the Declaration of Independence. Because we are equally created in the image of God, we treat each other with respect and equally under the law. We do not use the law to steal from one and give to another in order to even things out. If someone is stronger or faster or smarter, that’s not unfair. As unique individuals, we all have different gifts, and we are free to use and develop them as we see fit.
This older school is called “conservatism,” but it might as well be called Americanism. The belief in the individual and that government exists to serve the interests of the people is uniquely American, developed over several centuries of European history. It is what makes America exceptional.
These two strains of thought are diametrically opposed. Nothing can harmonize them. “A house divided against itself cannot stand,” Abraham Lincoln said in his speech to the Republican National Convention on June 16, 1858. He was quoting the Gospels; the phrase is found in Matthew, Mark and Luke.
Back then, Lincoln was talking about the problem of slavery. The Republican Party was formed to abolish slavery. The Whig Party dissolved because members could not make up their minds about whether to oppose it or not. Some Whigs went to the Republicans, some to the Democrats.
Lincoln said, “I believe this government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved — I do not expect the house to fall — but I do expect it will cease to be divided.
“It will become all one thing or all the other.”
Today we face another great divide. Some are trying to “fundamentally transform” our republic; others to preserve it. All the policy debates over healthcare, education, environment, and spending boil down to this: Do we value the individual, or the collective? Do we value the individual’s right to be free of coercion, or will we become the slaves of government and its ruling class?
Lincoln ended his speech with the words, “The result is not doubtful. We shall not fail — if we stand firm, we shall not fail. Wise councils may accelerate or mistakes delay it, but, sooner or later the victory is sure to come.”
At The Voice of Liberty, we seek to advance the principles of liberty, because tyranny never sleeps.
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