Time: Wed Dec 10 20:34:50 1997
From: Paul Andrew Mitchell [address in tool bar]
Subject: SLS: IMPRIMIS: "Four Points of the Compass"
Bcc: sls

>November 1997
>Volume 26, Number 11
>Four Points of the Compass:  Restoring America’s Sense of Direction
>Balint Vazsonyi
>Director, Center for the American Founding
><italic> In this issue, a survivor of Nazism and communism describes the
>genius of the American constitutional system.  His remarks were delivered
>on the Hillsdale College campus last month in a lecture sponsored by the
>Department of History and Political Science, the Department of Economics,
>Business, and Accounting, and the Center for Constructive
>In his second Inaugural Address, President Clinton called for a new
>Constitution.  He borrowed language from the Declaration of Independence,
>where, in 1776, Thomas Jefferson presented the argument for a new
>government.  While Mr. Clinton did not refer to the Constitution in so many
>words, his meaning was clear.  "We need a new government for a new
>century," he proclaimed on January 29, 1997.  Unlike our present
>government, this new government would "give" a number of benefits to the
>American people.
>We at the Center for the American Founding disagree.  We believe that our
>present form of government, as articulated in the Constitution, has brought
>forth the most successful society in the history of the world.  Indeed, the
>country that was established here more than two centuries ago is one of a
>America: One of a Kind
>No other country exerts its best efforts for the benefit of all mankind.
>No other country will send its young into war without expectations of
>territorial gain.  No other country invites the men, women, and children of
>the world to come here and become American—the appellation uniform to al
>who live here.  There is a unique American capacity for success, for
>strength, for goodness.  Yes—the United States of America is one of a kind.
>We say "one of a kind" and we think of Shakespeare’s plays, Beethoven’s
>music, or George Washington’s character.  We try hard to analyze them, but
>the ingredients that make them unique are invisible.  In the case of
>America, the ingredients may be identified easily.  They include the rule
>of law, individual rights, and guaranteed property.
>Let us talk about ingredients.  If we eat something memorable, we want the
>recipe.  With food, we know without the slightest doubt that the
>ingredients determine the result.  Chocolate ice cream, for example, takes
>chocolate, cream, and sugar.  If, instead, we use ground beef, mustard, and
>"A.1." sauce, we scarcely expect chocolate ice cream to be the end product.
>The ingredients that have created America as we know it are being gradually
>replaced.  Is it reasonable to expect that the end product will nonetheless
>remain the same?
>Over the past three decades the rule of law has been displaced by the
>search for "social justice."  Group rights and privilege make a mockery of
>the constitutional rights of the individual.  Where not long ago Americans
>could feel secure in their right to acquire and hold property, government
>today is no longer discussing whether—only how <italic>much<italic> of
>it—to confiscate, and how to redistribute it.
>But the greatest variety of assault is launched against our common American
>identity, that magnet that binds all of us together.  Our existence as a
>nation depends on it because the people of this country converged, and
>continue to converge, from every corner of the globe.
>Identity is about being similar and being different.  Since Nature has made
>every one of us different, we have to agree about those aspects of our
>lives that will make us similar.  Other nations have a shared history;
>Americans have successfully substituted a shared belief in, and adherence
>to, certain principles.  Our common language, English, took the place of a
>uniform culture.  In place of a state religion, a Bible-based morality was
>taken for granted.  If we add to this a certain work ethic, an expectation
>of competence in one’s field of work (whether it requires splitting the
>atom or sweeping the floor), a spirit of voluntary cooperation, insistence
>on choice, and a fierce sense of independence, then we have the ingredients
>of American identity.  <italic>It is these ingredients that distinguish us
>from other societies, and enable those who sweep the floor today to split
>the atom tomorrow.<italic>
>Today, our nation’s leaders are engaged in choosing a path to pursue.  Yet,
>all along, we have had a path to <italic>follow.<italic>  That path is
>clearly pointed out in the Declaration of Independence.  Our Founders
>provided a superb road map in the Constitution of the United States.  Add
>to this the guidebook known as the <italic>Federalist Papers<italic> and it
>is hard to see how we could have lost our bears—but we have.  The unique
>combination of ingredients we discussed earlier functions as our bearings.
>They keep us on the path, they help us navigate the road map provided by
>the Founders.  Together, they constitute a kind of compass—the compass in
>the title of these remarks.
>The Rule of Law or Social Justice?
>Our compass was calibrated between 1776 and 1791.  The rule of law became,
>and should have remained, our "North Star."  But now we have rule by the
><italic>lawmaker<italic>.  Every member of the executive and the judiciary
>has become a potential lawmaker and in most cases uses that potential to
>the hilt.
>Yet the rule of law was intended to place its fundamental provision beyond
>the reach of politics and politicians.  Whereas it <italic>confers<italic>
>legitimacy upon subsequent laws that spring from its eternal well, it
><italic>denies<italic> legitimacy to all legislative maneuvers that corrupt
>its purpose.  It holds the makers, executors, and adjudicators of the law
>accountable at all times.  Above all, it demands equal application to every
>man, woman, and child.  Nothing in the history of human societies can match
>the significance and magnificence of equality before the law.
>The aspiration for equality before the law began with the Magna Carta, or
>even earlier, in the legend of King Arthur’s court, where knights sat at a
><italic>round<italic> table.  Eventually, Thomas Jefferson etched the
>concept in the minds of freedom-loving people everywhere.  But even after
>those immortal words of the Declaration of Independence had been written,
>it took most of two centuries before America, lad of many miracles, almost
>made it reality for the first time.
>It was not to be.  The rule of law came under attack just as it was about
>to triumph.  The attacker displayed the irresistible charm of the
>temptress, the armament of the enraged avenger, dressed itself in
>intoxicating clichés, and wore the insignia of the highest institutions of
>learning.  It called itself "social justice."
>Social justice is not to be confused with genuine concern for those who
>suffer, which is a frame of mind, a noble sentiment, a measure of
>civilization.  The search for social justice provides a cover for the
>destruction of our legal system by setting unattainable goals, by fueling
>discontent, by insinuating a permanent state of hopelessness.
>Social justice is not a basis for stable society because, unlike the rule
>of law, it is what anyone says it is on any given day.  We need only to
>move back a few years in time or travel a few thousand miles to find an
>entirely different definition.  It is an empty slogan, to be filled by
>power-hungry political activists so as to enlist the participation of
>well-intentioned people.
>The rule of law and a world according to social justice are mutually
>exclusive.  One cannot have it both ways.
>"Thou shalt know the tree by its fruit."  The rule of law gave birth to
>individual rights—in other words, rights vested solely in individuals.
>Only individuals are capable of having rights, just as only individuals can
>be free.  We say a society is free if the individuals who make up that
>society are free.  For individuals to be free, they must have certain
>unalienable rights, and additional rights upon which they have agreed with
>one another.
>Individual Rights or Group Rights?
>Social justice has spawned an aberration called "group rights."  Group
>rights are the negation of individual rights.  Group rights say, in effect,
>"You cannot and do not have rights as an individual—only as the member of a
>certain group."  The Constitution knows nothing about groups.  Groups have
>no standing in the eyes of the law.  And, since so-called group rights are
>invariable created and conferred by persons of temporary authority, they
>are "subject to change without notice," as the saying goes, just like the
>definition of social justice itself.
>Individual rights and group rights are mutually exclusive.  Once again, one
>cannot have it both ways.
>Among our individual rights, the right to acquire and hold property has a
>special place.  This right protects the weak against the strong and
>balances inborn gifts with the fruits of sheer diligence and industry.
>John Locke, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison held that civilized society
>is predicated upon the sanctity of private property and that to guarantee
>it is government’s primary function.  Without absolute property there is no
>incentive, no security, no liberty.  The freedom to enter into contract,
>the freedom to keep what is yours, the freedom to dispose of what is yours
>underlies all liberties.
>Neither the search for social justice nor group rights recognizes, or
>respects, private property.  They look upon individuals as faceless members
>of a multitude who, together, create a certain quantity of goods.  These
>goods belong to what they call the "community."  Then certain "wise" people
>decide who needs what and distribute—actually redistribute—the goods.
>These wise people came up with the word "entitlement."  Entitlements are
>based neither on law nor on accomplishment.  Entitlements are based on
>membership in a certain group, and we have seen that groups themselves are
>designated by persons of temporary authority, rather than by law.
>The right to property and entitlements through redistribution are mutually
>exclusive.  I repeat:  One cannot have it both ways.
>American Identity or Multiculturalism?
>We have been ordered by the prophets of social justice to replace our
>common American identity with "multiculturalism."  One cannot fail to
>notice the enormous importance the leaders of the social justice crowd
>attach to the eradication of American identity.  They insist on bilingual
>education and multilingual ballots.  They remove the founding documents
>from our schools.  They enforce anti-American history standards.  They
>banish the Ten Commandments.  Add to this the replacement of American
>competence with generic "self esteem" and voluntarism with coercion.
>Consider the vast numbers of new immigrants who are encouraged to ignore
>the very reasons that brought them to America in the first place.  The list
>goes on, and sooner or later the loss of a common American identity will
>affect national defense, if it has not done so already.
>Will Americans lay down their lives if America is nothing but a patchwork
>of countless group identities?
>Will the armed forces of the United States fight to uphold, defend, and
>advance multiculturalism?
>The questions before us are serious and legion.  We are virtually drowning
>in "issues" that come at us like an octopus.  Then, just as we tackle each
>arm, the octopus turns into a turtle, tucked inside its impenetrable shell.
> How do we respond?  What positions do we take?  And, once we figure out
>our position, how do we argue its merit?
>We at the Center for the American Founding propose the "four points of the
>compass" because we believe that our restored bearings will place us firmly
>on the path of lasting success once again.  After the distortions of the
>past 30 years, we need to recalibrate our compass to point to the rule of
>law, individual rights, guaranteed property, and our common American identity.
>As you have seen, these are interconnected, and they flow from one another,
>just as the false compass points that have come to displace them—social
>justice, group rights, redistribution, and multiculturalism—are
>interconnected and flow from one another.  What is multiculturalism if not
>a redistribution of our cultural treasury?  What is redistribution if not a
>group right?  What is a group right if not the implementation of some
>political activist’s version of social justice?
>For 30 years, we have acquiesced in a stead erosion of America’s founding
>principles.  The time has come to reverse the process.  Rather than
>contending with countless individual issues, we need to take the debate
>down a few notches, right to the core.  We recommend that future
>legislative initiatives be tested against the four points of the compass.
>Does the proposed bill negate the rules of law?  Does it violate individual
>rights?  Does it interfere with the guarantee of property?  Does it
>constitute an assault on our common American identity?  Only if the answer
>to each question is "no" should the proposal proceed and be judged on its
>merit.  We recommend applying the same test, a "do-no-harm" screen, to
>existing statutes and regulations.  There is much on the books that ought
>to be repealed.  In other words, let us weed the garden before planting a
>fresh crop.
>Reasserting the Authority of the Constitution
>In practical terms, how do we know what the rule of law can and cannot
>accommodate, and how far do we take individual rights?  The answer comes
>from Article VI of the Constitution:  "This Constitution, and the laws of
>the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof...shall be the
>supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound
>thereby...."  It is as uncomplicated as that.
>We are asking the citizens of this great nation and their representatives
>at all levels to consider the proposed approach.  We would like to engage
>and incorporate the wisdom and experience of Americans everywhere.  We do
>not underrate the magnitude of the step we are proposing, but believe it
>will make a difference.  Through this simple device, it will become clear
>that one cannot take an oath to uphold the Constitution yet support group
>rights.  One cannot take an oath to uphold the Constitution yet acquiesce
>in the taking of property without equitable compensation.  One cannot take
>an oath to uphold the Constitution yet support measures that are clearly at
>odds with the requirements of national defense.
>Some suggest that, in 1996, the country voted for bipartisanship.  We think
>the people said:  "If you don’t give us a real choice, we won’t give you a
>real election."  A majority is eager to partake in a real debate about
>reclaiming our original path versus  making a clean and honest break with
>the past.
>Those who, like President Clinton, feel that the time has come to change
>the supreme law of the land should come forward and say so openly.
>Instead, they talk abut a "living, breathing Constitution," which is simply
>a cover for changing it piecemeal.  Let us face the choices as they truly
>are.  We are the heirs of a remarkable group of men who, more than two
>hundred years ago, had every reason to feel similarly overwhelmed by the
>decisions they had to make.  They knew people find it difficult to agree on
>everything.  Their response was to make very few laws, for they understood
>that the fewer the laws, the broader the agreement.  So they sought
>agreement on core principles they held to be nonnegotiable.
>Today, we propose four principles that ought to be nonnegotiable.  They
>are, as we have seen, inseparable.  We call them the "four points of the
>compass."  Together they can and will restore America’s sense of direction.
>..........< End of article >..........
>Balint Vazsonyi’s career as a concert pianist spans four decades and as
>many continents.  He fled Hungary following the 1956 uprising and came to
>the United States.  Since then, he has continued to tour internationally.
>He has also been a professor of music at Indiana University, dean of music
>at Miami’s New World School of the Arts, and chief executive officer of
>Telemusic, Inc.
>In 1996, as a senior fellow of the Potomac Foundation, he established the
>Foundation’s Center for the American Founding.  He currently serves as the
>director of this Washington-based think tank.
>Dr. Vazsonyi holds a Ph.D. in history, and he writes frequently for such
>publications as <italic>National Review<italic> and the <italic>Washington
>Times<italic>, where he has been a regular columnist since 1996.
>Hillsdale College
>33 East College Street
>Hillsdale, Michigan  49242
>Imprimis is free upon request.  Write or call 800-437-2268

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