Glen Beck this month challenged all Americans to read the following book, The Five Thousand Year Leap, by Cleon Skousen which discusses the fundamental principles upon which the Founding Fathers built this nation. Glen Beck even wrote the forward to the new edition. This post will attempt to briefly summarize the principles listed in the book.
A few Critics question some Skousen's assertions when it comes to the Old Testament and Jewish Law. The critic listed above claims the OT endorses slavery. But nothing could be further from the truth. I don't think that person could misunderstand God and Scripture more then by saying the God of Israel sanctioned slavery right after freeing the Jews from slavery. What the Bible refers to is not slavery but the rules regarding indentured servants. And according to the OT, all debts and servants were to be freed before 6 years or every 50th year (Year of Jubilee), whichever came first. In this particular example, the it is clear that the author has a bigger problem with Bro. Skousen being Mormon than his understanding of constitutional law.
Lev. 25: 39-43 And if thy brother that dwelleth by thee be waxen poor, and be sold unto thee; thou shalt not compel him to serve as a bondservant: But as an hired servant, and as a sojourner, he shall be with thee, and shall serve thee unto the year of jubile: And then shall he depart from thee, both he and his children with him, and shall return unto his own family, and unto the possession of his fathers shall he return. For they are my servants, which I brought forth out of the land of Egypt: they shall not be sold as bondmen. Thou shalt not rule over him with rigour; but shalt fear thy God.
Glen Beck begins the book in the Forward retelling the true story of Thanksgiving. Glen relates that William Bradford and the Puritan Pilgrims attempted to establish a Utopian or Zion society at Jamestown by instituting a communalist program practiced by Christ's Apostles and the Early Christian Saints who the Bible describes as living with all things in common. But because there were so many colonists who refused to work, preferring rather to leach off the Bishops storehouse, the entire community suffered greatly. Colony leadership in 1614 finally scrapped the socialist program and instituted a free enterprise economy that protected the colonists rights to own property and keep or give away their hard earned wealth. The result of the change was immediate prosperity. So, much prosperity in fact that the colonists got together to thank God for His bounteous blessings upon them, and even invited the Indians to the feast. And that was the first Thanksgiving.
The next important point that Dr. Skousen makes is about the political spectrum. Many liberals in the US have gotten us to believe that while Soviet Communism exists on the extreme far left of the political spectrum, Nazi Germany exists on the extreme far right. So, while liberals and social progressives in America concede that they may be left-leaning; they have convinced us that Conservative Republicans are right-leaning. This mis-characterization of the political spectrum of the Founding Fathers. To them, monarchy existed at the far left, and anarchy existed at the far right. Soviet Communism and Nazi Fascism are both manifestations of a police state and therefore by definition both exist on the far left of the true political spectrum. Socialist Europe according to the Founding Fathers was also too far left. The genius of the Founding Fathers was to find a balance in government with protected the natural rights of the individual and limited the power of the federal government. These conservative principles of personal responsibility and limited government sit right at the very political center of the spectrum. And this kind of government was founded on the following principles.
Principle 1: Correct Government is based on Natural Law. Cicero among others recognized that there is a God, that God endowed all men with reason and knowledge sufficient to know right and wrong. And that all law was to be based on the two great commandments that one should love God and treat their fellow man as they would want to be treated (the golden rule).
Principle 2: Free People must be a Morally Virtuous People. Republican government or a Representative Democracy depends on the principle of self-government or that its citizens govern themselves according to natural law. That is that the electorate must be unselfish and always put the good of society before their own self-interest.
Principle 3: Virtuous People must elect Virtuous Leaders. A Representative democracy is not run by Aristocracy but people whether they are farmers or businessmen who have demonstrated a life of faith, industry, community service, and self mastery. These criteria are very different than the ones the media tells us influence our voting such as whether or not we feel we could sit down and have a drink with them. Our leaders should be better than us in matters of virtue. Thomas Jefferson called this a "natural aristocracy." The founders said public service should be an honor but not a means of obtaining wealth.
Principle 4: Self-Government depends on Religion. Despite a need for a separation of church and state, the Founders never meant to exclude religion from government. It can be said they sought to protect religion from government but not take religion out of government. In fact, the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 required that religion, morality, and government be taught in all schools to all American citizens. While the US Government was not to favor one Church above another, or limit the free expression of religion, the Founding Fathers recognized a set of 5 religious principles upon which all churches could agree. These were: 1. there is a Supreme Creator who man should worship, 2. the Creator has empowered man to know right and wrong, 3. man is responsible to God for how we behave and treat others, 4. life continues after death, and 5. in the next life all mankind will stand before the Creator to be judged according to our conduct in this life. While there was to be no state church or religious organization, these 5 principle represent the national religion and faith.
Principle 5: In God we Trust. The Founders recognized that there is a God, and that upon Him we must rely upon for His divine providence but also responsible to.
Principle 6: All men are created Equal. God is no respecter of persons. All men should have equal rights and opportunity of life, liberty, and property; but not necessarily equal results. Our country is a country of immigrants and minorities. Minorities rights are to be protected but they are expected and encouraged to culturally assimilate with the majority.
Principle 7: Government should protect Equal Rights but not provide equal things. In our society, and economy certain people by a combination of hard work and good fortune would become wealthy. However, that wealth and capital could be used to invest in business, by machinery, and create jobs. The money from wealthy donors would also be used to create great institutions like museums, societies,etc. The Founders rejected the Socialist programs of Europe which made the poor weaker and dependent upon the government. However, the rich did have a great responsibility of the poor but they must be free to give or to hoard their wealth. When the government practices income redistribution, it not only steals from the rich to give to the poor, but it also robs the rich from the personal rewards of giving to the poor voluntarily.
Principle 8: God endowed man with unalienable rights. The right to life, liberty and property are inherent and given to man by God and not given by government or any ruler and they are not the product of any laws. While a person can do something to forfeit these rights, no one can take them away from us without being subject to the judgements of God. Some of these inherent rights include the right of self-government, self-defence, own and sell property, personal choice, free conscience, choose a profession, choose a mate, beget one's kind, assemble, petition, free speech, free press, enjoy the fruits of our labors, improve you position by barter and sale, right to invent, right to explore natural resources, privacy, fair trial, free association, make contracts, and provide nature's necessities.
Principle 9: God has revealed divine law. God protects the rights of each person by revealing to man the blessings and punishment promised by keeping or breaking natural law. Men should make all oaths in the name of God. Together with our unalienable rights are unalienable duties and responsibilities. Men have both public and private duties that they must satisfy. Men have a duty to be moral and act with virtue in their personal as well as public
Principle 10: Government by the people. The authority to govern has been given by God to the people who then have the right to consent to or invest their elected and appointed leaders with that power to govern on their behalf. There is no divine right of kings.
Principle 11: The majority can alter or abolish a tyrannical government. Power rests in the majority and the minority has no right to revolt.
Principle 12: The USA should be a Republic. The United States is not a democracy but a republic or representative democracy. The common man doesn't have the time to decide every detail of government. So, we elect representatives to study the issues and act on our behalf.
Principle 13: The Constitution should protect us from the weakness of our rulers. Therefore the Constitution has a series of checks and balances so that each branch of government can oversee the actions of the other.
Principle 14: Life and liberty are secure as long as property rights are also secure. The Earth is a common gift to man with a responsibility to improve and manage it (subdue it and have dominion over it). Without property rights there would be no incentive to work, the industrious worker would be deprived of the fruit of his labor. Therefore it is the duty of government to protect property rights. The government should never practice a redistribution of wealth. The private sector has the duty to care for the poor voluntarily.
Principle 15: Prosperity is a product of a free-market economy and limited government. Adam Smith's "The Wealth of Nations" advocates specialized production, free exchange of goods, prices and wages set by supply and demand, profits makes the production of goods and services worthwhile, competition improves quality and reduces cost. The government should protect the freedom to try, buy, sell, and fail. The government should protect from sales via illegal force, fraud, monopoly, and debauchery. In contrast to Smith, the economic philosophies of Marx and Keynes advocated government interference and control. Our country mad a mistake in its early days by turning over the control of our money system to investment bankers and operating our banks on fractional reserve lending resulting in an economy of debt instead of wealth.
Principle 16: Government is controlled by 3 branches: Legislative, Judicial, and Executive. Polybius and later Montesquieu described the virtues of a "mixed" constitution vesting certain responsibilities of government to different groups or institutions.
Principle 17: There should be a separation of powers with a system of checks and balances. There should be built into the constitution mechanisms for peaceful self-repair.
Principle 18: The Constitution should be written.
Principle 19: Defined powers are given to the government. All other powers not expressly given by the constitution are retained by the people. The 17th Amendment provided that the people elect Senators instead of being selected by the State Legislature. This amendment destroyed a critical check and balance between the power of the states vs. the federal government.
Principle 20: Government operates by the will of the majority with careful protection of the rights of the minority.
Principle 21: Strong local self-government preserves human freedom best. The local affairs of our lives should not be dictated to us from Washington.
Principle 22: Free people should be governed by the rule of law.
Principle 23: Free people must be educated. Public education must include literacy, religion, politics, and morality.
Principle 24: Peace through Strength. To maintain prosperity and peace a free people must always be vigilant and ready for war to defend their rights, family, and country.
Principle 25: The US should enjoy friendship with all nations and entangling alliances with none. The US should always act for its own self interest. So, it should never enter into agreements that it is guaranteed to break. The US should practice "separatism" but not "isolationism." Making friends with one nation would mean becoming enemies with others. we should avoid playing favorites. The US should be the great "peacemaker" and not the great "policeman" of the world.
Principle 26: The US should protect the rights and integrity of the family. A nation is only as strong as its families. Men and women have different roles under natural law but equal rights. Parents have a duty to provide for their children and children have a responsibility to honor their parents.
Principle 27: The burden of debt is as destructive to freedom as subjugation by conquest. Debt should only be incurred in times of emergency and paid immediately. Debt should never be incurred for luxury, and never imposed on the next generation. Pensions are an example of debt burden being placed on the shoulders of the next generation.
Principle 28: The US has the manifest destiny to be an example and blessing to the entire human family. The US and our Constitution is inspired by God and is something special and not just US arrogance. Failure of our nation would be considered treason against the world.