by David Beilstein
Recent debates over second amendment rights – following the murderous events of the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting – allowing Americans to keep and bear arms, opens up large areas of ideological significance.
What few have challenged thus far it seems, is that both sides of the ideological debate – left and right; at least the populist side of each, misses the consequences of living in a free society.
On the left, efforts have been underway for generations to undermine and restrict the first and second amendments of the U.S. Constitution. Let us be sincere: the populist left does not like free speech contrary to their progressive utopia and have sought government to restrict speech – they also do not like guns and would like to see them confiscated.
The problem is both free speech and the right to arms is specifically prescribed in the U.S. Constitution.
On the right, however, populist social conservatives have their underwear in a twist over consensual behaviours the U.S. Constitution is indifferent too.
Let us be exact.
The right to keep and bear arms and the right to do as one pleases unless injurious to others and their property rights (consenting adult behaviour) are the consequences of living in a free society. This does not mean certain consensual behaviours are moral, wise, or do not create harmful effects on society. What it does mean is they are legal.
The government is prescribed by the U.S. Constitution to remove itself from such activities.
The Framers left what was not elaborated on in the constitution to be determined by democratic processes state-by-state. This was not a concession these issues did not matter. It was (and remains) more so the Framer’s thought such issues were far more effective on the people – thus the need for localised supervision of legislative matters increased.
Federalism helps preserve the notion of best practises – an underlining philosophical idea inherent in the enlightenment philosophy of the Founding Fathers. If one state does unwise things, the other states are free do work out better polity solutions.
The problem with the social conservative right is not their private virtues and moral outlook. It is their inability to allow the political framework for those convictions to be constrained within Federalism – preserving and animating the classical liberal structure of our civitas.
Since most of the social issues inherent in the populist right’s convictions are not enumerated in the U.S. Constitution, the national campaigns Republicans run contradict, quite viscerally, the idea of being strictly derived from the U.S. Constitution. It’s one of the reasons Democratic Party progressive attacks upon the populist right as a bunch of scolding authoritarians, works so well.
There is no question the modern Democratic Party understands and markets itself to the culture far more effectively than Republicans. But they are given great assistance by a GOP pop conservatism that on one hand seeks to preserve Constitutional government and on the other hand is so easily bent out of shape about private moral issues the U.S. Constitution is silent on.
Once this sweeping contradiction becomes front and center in the public’s mind the progressive already wins.
We are not past hope. Political movements all have their baseless and shallow members. What harms conservative classical liberal politics in our day is how loud and popular wrongful ideas about what conservatism is and is not – are.
There is an easy fix to the conservative problem: call it Federalism.
The progressive, in reality, has a harder time. Progressive views concerning the duties and nature of government define what it means to be anti-liberal in the classical sense, thus anti-Constitutional. The progressive left raises the crown of victory in our times not because of how robust and popular their views are – but how unpopular and shallow a counterfeit conservatism has proven itself to be.
Counterfeit is counterfeit – it’s never the real thing.