Wed Apr, 05 2006
> But I'm confused by one point you made.
> "I am an *American*, in the fullest sense
> of the concept." This implies that you
> are a member of something. Can you
> elaborate on this point a bit? I'm simply
> trying to understand how you can claim
> to be an American whilst seemingly
> wanting to divorce yourself from the
> government. I'm really trying here.
Do you think that being an American is simply a matter of geography? An accident of birth?(Me)
Think about it.
People chose this country, Tim. If you look back at history, you will occasionally find the odd individual who threw off one "citizenship" for another under a different monarchy or incipient dictatorship, but you're not going to find anything like America, which was consciously chosen by people all over the world who had one thing in common: an understanding of the ethical implications of this country and their practice in political action.
To be an American is a conceptual condition. It's a space of the mind, and it is the thing which made this country, and the people who came here, unique in all of political history. Nobody ever came to America thinking they would be nobody. They came here believing that they would be somebody, and that the "somebody" would be what they - each individual who chose this place - wanted to be. They came here precisely because they couldn't do that in the places where they came from.
It wasn't merely an accident of world history and the discovery of a "new world". Look at the differences between this place and South American countries, which lie on a continent at least as naturally rich and certainly every bit as lightly populated as this one was in, say, the mid-18th century. Why did America lead the world into unprecendented productive achievement while virtually all of South America languished into the "third world"? It was because we were free, while they lived under variations on monarchy and statist imperialism, and that is exactly what people who came here understood.
Being an American doesn't have anything to do with this government. It never has, no matter what they told you in grade-school. The fact is precisely opposite. In order to bring that into precise focus, think about these three items: 1) the principles of individual rights as developed through the Enlightenment, 2) the horrors of slavery in America, 3) the fact that slavery was explicitly sanctioned by government here. The contradiction between items 1 and 3 resulted in item 2, and that could never have happened except by the idea that some men are adorned with the moral authority to dispose of others' lives. That idea is what government is all about, and there is nothing American about it.
The American Idea was about liberty: the ability to choose one's own life. That is what defines an American, and it is strictly a matter of the mind.
That was over eight years ago, in a Usenet discussion touching immigration matters, in which certain ethical realities underpinning political necessities had to be made clear.
All of that is still my conviction, to the bone. I went to find that after reading Harry Binswanger --
"One doesn't have to be a resident of any particular country to have a moral entitlement to be secure from governmental coercion against one's life, liberty, and property. In the words of the Declaration of Independence, government is instituted 'to secure these rights'--to protect them against their violation by force or fraud."[...]
"It is not a criminal act to buy or rent a home here in which to reside. Paying for housing is not a coercive act--whether the buyer is an American or a foreigner. No one's rights are violated when a Mexican, or Canadian, or Senegalese rents an apartment from an American owner and moves into the housing he is paying for. And what about the rights of those American citizens who want to sell or rent their property to the highest bidders? Or the American businesses that want to hire the lowest cost workers? It is morally indefensible for our government to violate their right to do so, just because the person is a foreigner."The thing to object to is any sort of forcible intervention in these peoples' private affairs. In sum, this amounts to radical demolition of ideological premises including stuff like American citizens' so-called "entitlements" stolen and granted by government, and prohibitions or "incentives" impressed on their private affairs.
Otherwise, it's not a "free country" and everybody should just stop saying that it is.