People are becoming increasingly frustrated with politics in part because negativity, gridlock and partisanship are so evident. Perhaps some of this frustration can be relieved by realizing how politics, economics and history are interrelated. As Charles Krauthammer described, politics is “understood as the ordering of society and the regulation of power to permit human flourishing while simultaneously restraining the most Hobbesian human instincts.”
The best judge of human flourishing is the health of the economy because the economy is the cooperation of rational self-interested individuals, each flourishing by producing what he or she is best suited for and exchanging this product with others. In order to flourish, the political environment must respect individual and economic liberty. Individual liberty, defined as being able to act according to one’s own plan, is directly dependent on economic liberty, which is being allowed to have self-reliance and personal responsibility in order to follow one’s own path. To follow one’s own path is to have the opportunity to reach one’s fullest potential and that is the pursuit of happiness. The other purpose of politics is to protect people’s liberty by restraining the worst of human nature. What is unique about the Constitution of the United States of America is that it has set up such a political environment for human flourishing.
The American Founders realized two main things. One, the nature of a government is to grow. Two, tyranny is considered not only the abuse of power, but also a power too much concentrated. This is why we have federalism, checks and balances and three branches of government. Obviously, our country was designed to prevent government from becoming too big as the Constitution grants few specific powers to the central government.
There are two important things to understand about the Constitution: 1) Liberty is not granted to us by the Constitution and 2) The Constitution is the tool and authority for the people to limit government. The Declaration of Independence proclaimed the profound concept of inalienable rights, and the Constitution is the tool in which to protect those inalienable rights from the infringement of the government.
The above paragraphs show the interrelation of politics, economics and history. Politics is the organizing of society to permit human flourishing and restrain the worst of human nature. Limited government, which is a political environment for economic and individual liberty, allows a proper economy to develop and therefore for individuals to flourish. Our Founders realized this and developed the Constitution. Our history brought forth the key for individuals to flourish, but recently it appears that we’re moving away from it.
The frustration with politics comes from a lack of understanding the struggle. The struggle today is about whether we are going to be a merit-based society or an entitlement-based society. A merit-based system is a result of limited government, which encourages individuals to thrive and create wealth. An entitlement–based system expands government power and does not create wealth.
In order to concentrate its power, the government offers entitlements to lure people into giving up personal and economic liberty. Not only are entitlements a form of indebtedness to the government, but they are also contrary to the Constitutional concept of inalienable rights. Receiving entitlements is like receiving ‘rights’ from the government and when the government grants ‘rights’ it can also take them away. The outcome of this ‘offering’ is that once the government gains this type of power — it will not allow people to act independently and autonomously. People cannot flourish under an entitlement society.
What surprises me is how this interrelationship of politics, economics and history is often overlooked, especially when it comes to the fact that this relationship affects our lives. It astounds me how our generation does not seem to care.
The people in political office now are deciding our generation’s future, our fate and our opportunity to flourish.
We’ve seen a preview of the results of the bankrupt entitlement-based society in Europe. Let’s take advantage of this preview and not follow Europe’s path.
Historically, we’ve known the solution the entire time —limited government and inalienable rights. We can pull ourselves out of this economic mess relatively quickly if we stay true to a political environment that fosters human flourishing. It’s the nature of a government to grow big, but it’s also our job to limit it.