Primo de Rivera: “Freedom does not exist except within an order”

Freedom does not exist except within an order

I was very pleased to have one of my young driver’s education students, in response to a comment on the importance of following “the rules of the road,” respond, “Without order, there’s chaos.” Maybe there is hope for the rising generation, after all!

Indeed, freedom is only possible within order: in chaos, or raw anarchy, the only persons to have “freedom” are those in the highest positions of power. An orderly society both protects the rights and also enunciates the responsibilities of all members.

The Constitutional, representative Republic bequeathed us by our Founders is one way of accomplishing this end, and, so long as their prescription was faithfully followed, an effective one. But it is not the only approach; King Charles I of England, executed by the “Roundhead” Parliament during the English Civil War, articulated another:

“No man in England is a better friend to liberty than myself, But I must tell you plainly that the liberty of subjects consists not in having a hand in the government, but in having that government, and those laws, whereby their lives and their goods may be most their own.”

James Kiefer goes on to elaborate,

“one may reasonably ask of a government that it establish justice in the land; so that judges do not take bribes, so that innocent men are not convicted of crimes, while the guilty are convicted and punished, so that honest men need fear neither robbers nor the sheriff. One may further ask that taxes be not excessive, and that punishments be not disproportionate to the crime. Charles would have said, ‘Do not ask whether the laws were made by men whom you elected. Ask whether they are reasonable and good laws, upholding justice and the public weal.'”

These principles are equally manifest and necessary whether the source of orderly government and society is viewed as “top-down” (from God, through a Monarch, to the people) or “bottom-up” (ultimately from God – if you read the Declaration of Independence – but flowing through the sovereignty of the people to those elected to perform the functions of government).

Like a human person whose physical being is defined by skin and skeleton, a cell defined by its walls, a poem defined by form and meter, a country defined by its borders, or art or music defined by the conventions thereof, one’s freedom can be expressed most fully within an orderly society. The alternative is indeed chaos, and the “freedom” thus engendered is temporary and illusory.

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George Washington’s wisdom

Just created this a little bit ago. It seemed apt, in light of the Las Vegas massacre, among many other things…

George Washington - Believe me now?

The words are from then-President George Washington’s “Farewell Address” (1796). By “religion and morality” is meant Christian religion and morality, or at any rate the Judeo-Christian religious and moral tradition which has formed one of the major underpinnings of Western civilization for the last 1500+ years.

We have, as a culture (if one can use the term, currently…) and society, been abandoning this “great pillar of human happiness” – along with other pillars of our civilization, such as the Greco-Roman political and philosophical tradition, and the courage, passion, and physical prowess of our Celtic and Germanic forebears – at an alarming rate over the last 50 to 75 years, and I think it is not coincidental that we have also seen our civilization in steep and accelerating decline over the same period.

A tree cut off from its roots does not grow, blossom, and bear fruit: it withers. The same is also true of a culture.

The prescient wisdom of Robert E. Lee

General Lee - portrait photograph

“I yet believe that the maintenance of the rights and authority reserved to the states and to the people, is not only essential to the adjustment and balance of the general system, but the safeguard to the continuance of a free government. I consider it as the chief source of stability to our political system, whereas the consolidation of the states into one vast republic, sure to be aggressive abroad and despotic at home, will be the certain precursor of that ruin which has overwhelmed all those that have preceded it.”

~ Robert E. Lee in correspondence with Lord Acton

As “Marse Robert” accurately perceived, our Founders carefully set up a detailed and intricate system of “checks and balances” to preserve our Constitutional liberties, and our status as not a pure democracy, but a representative Republic.

And that included not only a balance of power between and among the three branches of government (executive, legislative, and judicial), but between the Federal government and the States. Indeed, it it worth noting that the Preamble to the Constitution speaks of the establishment of a Constitution “for these United States.” Note that: “for these” States, as distinct, sovereign entities, not “for the” single entity called “the United States.” That is not accidental, or an infelicitous choice of words!

Unfortunately, since our Founding, the corruption that comes with the desire for power has been leading the Federal government to constantly accrue powers to itself, against the clear directive of the Constitution: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people” (the Tenth Amendment).

President Lincoln’s determination to preserve the Union even at the cost of the Constitution – against which Lee, at the head of the Army of Northern Virginia, so ably but ultimately unsuccessfully contended – was a body-blow to the Founders’ intentions, and the pace of Federal usurpation has been accelerating ever since. For many of us, “aggressive abroad and despotic at home” is not too strong an expression of the unfortunate result.