American Exceptionalism as an Argument Against Liberal Progressive Politics

It often seems as though in discussions regarding the role of government a substantial portion of the community is inclined to believe that government’s primary role is to serve as a benefactor of liberty and freedom rather than a protector of freedom and liberty.  Using terms that appeal to human emotions such as justice, fairness and equality, many among us repeatedly gain sufficient support for myriad of government social programs, as opposed to those who are forthright and prefer an indifferent government with a limited purpose.  Although a limited and indifferent government must also be fair and just as it implements policies to provide vital services, such as fire and police, when fairness or justice become primary requisites of government the inevitable result is someone wins at the expense of another, not often on the merits of an issue but as a result of some bureaucrat’s ambitious goal to achieve a fair and just society.  Social engineering, as it is called, thus undermines liberty and freedom using a facade of fairness or a veneer of justice.


In government, modern political discourse has depreciated in quality to the point where any conservative message that appeals to a sense of fairness or justice is ordained to fail due to the opposition’s apt ability to use issues of fairness or justice to arouse emotionally charged arguments against it.  All too frequently conservative messages or requests containing uncomplicated and matter of fact pleas for fairness or justice are so skillfully marginalized, minimized or convoluted by the left that the intended message suddenly appears as if it originated from abusive and selfish tyrants seeking to benefit on the backs of the less fortunate.  As a result, conservative policies are often effectively characterized as unfair and unjust, as if they are designed to compel poor children to go to bed hungry and for veterans by the hundreds of thousands to be forced to sleep under bridges.     


Unlike the terms fairness, justice and equality, the terms liberty and freedom are more concrete concepts, and thus are less disposed to becoming clouded by arguments that employ moral equivalence, broad interpretations or obfuscations of the facts.  Freedom and liberty are the principles on which America emerged as a nation and they continue to shape American culture as vital threads woven into the fabric of the nation.  This is American exceptionalism.  Fairness, justice and equality, on the other hand, are subject to individual or collective biases and are often dependent upon perceptions relating to current events, situational perspectives or personal prejudices.  Words are symbols used to communicate a message, and the clarity of the message contained in the words freedom and liberty are more precise than the plethora of vague messages possible in the terms fairness, justice and equality.       


An individual or group is either free or not free; they have liberty or they do not have liberty.  Free men and women often agree to relinquish some of their liberty and freedom for the common good of their community.  Too often however, liberty or freedom is confiscated from freemen under the pretext of what is judged to be good for the community.  The common term accepted to describe such action is TAKING, and although terms such as stealing or extorting might be more appropriate, the word taking is used so as to minimize the potential of wide spread opposition and dissent.  It is easier to justify a policy in which government takes from someone for the common good than it is to justify extorting or stealing it for the common good of the community.  In other words, it is not nearly as irrational to take from an individual as it is to steal from someone.  The symbolism of taking is less harsh than what is symbolized by stealing or extorting.   


Free men have determined that no one is at liberty to surreptitiously call out FIRE in a crowded theatre.  So too, free men have agreed to give up some of the fruits of their labor, a measure of their liberty and freedom, in the form of taxes paid to government for the general welfare of the community.  When the community commences to impose increased demands on the fruits of the free man’ labor, and thus his liberty and his freedom, the seeds of discontent and conflict are sown.  This is the point where the concepts of “social justice” and “fair share” emerge; themes used by the takers to justify the taking of an individual’s freedom and liberty, for the common good.  Unlike in the example of the crowded theatre, where the individual has assented to a limit on his or her freedom and liberty, there is a point where an individual is forced to protest excessive taking; the point where the taking is done without the assent of the individual.  It is at this point when individuals from whom liberty and freedom is taken begin to contemplate having a TEA PARTY.     


Sometime before 1776 The English Crown began to infringe upon the liberty and freedom of the colonies with the imposition of taxes, the most notorious of which was the TEA TAX.  The colonists rebelled against the Crown’s limitation on their freedoms and liberties by waging The Revolutionary War, a war fought under the mantras of “no taxation without representation” and “give me liberty or give me death,” thus describing that the colonists had not assented to the limitations on their freedom and liberty.


Decades later, the nation became embroiled in a civil war, and liberty and freedom were again at the heart of the conflict.  The South’s economy had profited greatly from slave labor, or more accurately, from a total taking of liberty and freedom from the Negro.  Upon the conclusion of the war the freed and liberated Negro was purportedly able to enjoy the fruits of his labors via monetary compensation for the work he performed. 


Not until well into the mid-nineteen hundreds, when the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act became law, was the Negro truly free and able to enjoy the liberty and freedom theoretically afforded them in the founding documents, and won for them in the Civil War.  By the close of the century, substantial and measureable progress can be cited to prove unequivocally that Blacks had achieved parity in opportunity and reward for their labor and intellectual abilities.  Their theoretical freedom and liberty had become actual liberty and freedom.  Today there is a Black holding the highest office in the land, and in the years leading up to this point there have been Black candidates who have legitimately, but unsuccessfully, sought their party’s nomination to the office.  They have exercised the freedom and liberty to seek to lead the free world, and no tangible or covert obstructions denied them the freedom to do so.


“Free at last! Thank God Almighty, (they) are free at last!”


Thus, liberty and freedom can be defined by an individual’s ability to be compensated for his labor, or for his intellectual abilities and talents.  To deny someone compensation for his labor is to deny him his liberty and freedom, and the taking a portion of someone’s compensation without his assent is a denial of a portion of his liberty and freedom.  


Unfortunately, returning to the liberal’s shrewd ability to evoke emotion to successfully argue that it is fair and just to take more from an individual who is successful, because he has plenty to start with and he will continue to have plenty despite having more taken from him, the liberal effectively asserts that the taking of more is the price to be paid for being an American; a successful person’s “patriotic duty.”  Once an individual is successful, according to the liberal, he or she then has a debt to pay, and the government of the people takes it as if it has a contractual right to do so, rather than to allow the individual the freedom and liberty to hold, dispense or dispose of his property as he desires, including his money.


Hence, society has determined that it is appropriate to take property in the form of money earned by an individual for the benefit of society, as if it was the duty of the successful to pay society for the opportunity to succeed; to be an American.  If the taking is claimed to be unfair or unjust, the argument is likely to fail.  Is it not common sense that if you have more, then you can afford to pay more?  Moreover, is it not a natural phenomenon for those who are not so successful to collectively determine that it is fair to take more from those who are successful?  That they are justified to do so?  This is income redistribution, otherwise known of as socialism, and it is a natural human tendency that our Forefathers sought to prevent with the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, as well as in a variety of recorded discussions regarding the role of government in congress and between representatives and their constituents.         


If taking is framed within the concepts of liberty and freedom however, as it was leading up to the Revolutionary War; as it was leading up to the Civil War; as it was leading up to the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts; rather than if it is fair or just, powerful arguments are possible that are fully capable of evoking strong emotional reactions against the denial or taking of someone’s liberty and freedom.  If denial of liberty and freedom, in the form of excessive taxation of the successful, without their assent, is framed as egregious assaults on liberty and freedom, as was the Tea Tax, slavery, segregation and discrimination, in contrast to claims regarding the fairness or justice of the taking, liberty and freedom will rule the day, every day. 


Denial of an individual’s liberty and freedom is not fair or just, yet the English Crown believed it was fair and just to tax the colonies.  Denial of an individual’s liberty and freedom is not fair or just, yet the South went to war to defend their opinion that it was fair and just to own slaves.  Denial of an individual’s liberty and freedom is not fair or just, yet the United States up to, and for some time beyond, the Civil and Voting Rights Acts continued segregation and discrimination of Blacks, as if it was fair and just. 


Thus, any argument centered on if something is fair or just is subject to abject failure, even if the issue is factually accurate and demonstrably evident.  Clearly, as indicated above, the taking of one’s property or of his labor, intellectual talent or skills can be determined fair and just by the takers.  Vigilantes and despots seek their form of justice and fairness just as the Crown and the South sought theirs, but that does not make their actions fair or just.  It simply indicates that those who are in a position to impose their will upon others at any given point in time are also those who decide what is fair or just at that particular point in time.  Would not the vigilante and the despot simply laugh at an accusation of unfair or unjust behavior?  So too, does not history show that the Crown, the South and over time, Americans react more favorably to demands for freedom and liberty than to cries for fairness or justice?  To argue it is unfair and unjust to tax the wealthy is an almost futile task in contrast to claims that he is being denied his inalienable right to liberty and freedom; as well as the right to assent to forfeiting some of his it.  Otherwise it has been stolen or extorted.    


In conclusion, arguments for redress of grievances using the concept of American exceptionalism are more effective than those made using the more nebulous concepts of fairness or justice.  Although attempts to argue for freedom and liberty using the concept of American exceptionalism are more complex and require some degree of finesse, individuals who do so can achieve more significant standing in a political venue than if one is crying out for fairness or justice.  Impositions of limitations and restrictions on an individual’s liberty and freedom, if accomplished without the assent of the individual, are perceived as grossly un-American— an affront to American exceptionalism.  It may not be fair or just to take from those amongst us who are more successful, but life is not always fair.  Yet, nearly all Americans are men and women of principle who would fight, and even die for the principles of freedom and liberty, otherwise known of as American exceptionalism.



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