The concept of individual rights is so new in human history that most men have not grasped it fully to this day. In accordance with the two theories of ethics, the mystical or the social, some men assert that rights are a gift of God—others, that rights are a gift of society. But, in fact, the source of rights is man’s nature.
The Declaration of Independence stated that men “are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.” Whether one believes that man is the product of a Creator or of nature, the issue of man’s origin does not alter the fact that he is an entity of a specific kind—a rational being—that he cannot function successfully under coercion, and that rights are a necessary condition of his particular mode of survival.
“The source of man’s rights is not divine law or congressional law, but the law of identity. A is A—and Man is Man. Rights are conditions of existence required by man’s nature for his proper survival. If man is to live on earth, it is right for him to use his mind, it is right to act on his own free judgment, it is right to work for his values and to keep the product of his work. If life on earth is his purpose, he has a right to live as a rational being: nature forbids him the irrational.” (Atlas Shrugged)
Over time, I have continued to study and challenge my assumptions and understanding. I, for one, try to keep learning and I honestly believe that this is an obligation we all have to ourselves. Consequently, I cannot honestly support, or participate in any way, either the Republican or the Democrat partries – both are (as stated in a now defunct comment by a noted Objectivist): “evil statist fucks without the slightist rightful claim to power.” If memory serves, and to the author’s credit, that comment was characterized as “in more vulgar terms.” Well, I really don’t think that was necessary! The reason being is that both groups get to their evil statism-in my view-in morally reprehensible ways that, in the end, trample upon individual rights thus foundationally drawing into question whether the concept of inalienable rights (nicely discussed by George H. Smith here, here, and here) even has meaning.
So, why did I become a Republican in the first place? Well, like many, I first learned about politics from my parents. Also, I was influenced heavily by my grandparents, and in my case even a great-great grandparent! So, for me, it was a package deal. Later, as I began to become more “enlightened” in my thinking I studied the history of the political parties and in the GOP found what turned out to be a temporary political home. ‘To man, his birthright; to labor, freedom; to him that wants to labor, work and independence; to him that works, his dues.’ This is the Republican platform (Carl Schurz). It is indeed interesting to see the parallel between Schurz comment, and the positive and enlightening statements above by Ms Rand.
While I don’t agree with all that Schurz eventually advocated, I do find it sad that the above platform is not what Republicans of this day and age revere. The current gang of political hucksters known as Republicans are premised fully upon religious indoctrination bordering on a desire to institute a Christian theocracy in America. Their militant anti-abortion positions are merely a logical consequence of their indefensible, irrational, and contradictory philosophical positions. As a result, their only defense of capitalism is through altruism – a contradiction hardly to be matched. Yet, it is from such gymnastics that they all now hail. There is more to this current gang which is irritating, but those are eluminating attributes which if viewed by the men and women of the mid 1850’s who founded the party would likely have driven them right out of the Little White Schoolhouse.
What attracted me to the GOP many years ago, and what was clearly the impetus for my quick and total disengagement with them, revolves around the original founding of the party and its emphasis on individual rights. To understand the origins of my GOP leanings, and to understand my utter disenchantment with them presently, one needs to go back to the late 1850’s roughly 10 years after Wisconsin gained statehood. It was at this time that my great-great grandfather, Professor Edward Daniels, was running around the state as a “Freeman” advocating for individual rights – overtly the rejection and rebellion against The Fugitive Slave Acts of 1850. Edward Daniels was an abolitionist, and very active in the cause. He also supported the Freesoilers who believed that any new states entering the union ought to be free states where slavery was banned. This world-view can be illustrated rather dramatically by the Booth War that was raging at the time in Wisconsin.
Edward Daniels (and his Republican enthusiasts) position was well represented by the Ripon Times of both August 4th and August 10th of 1860 in reference to the “Riot in Ripon”:
“At the Hall, as soon as order could be restored, a resolution was offered by A. E. Bovay,–“Resolved, That Mr. Booth shall not be re-arrested in Ripon,”–which was adopted amid deafening shouts and hurras. Mr. Daniels took the stand and made an impassioned speech for a few minutes, and moved that we now organize a League of Freedom, the members of which shall be pledged to resist any attempt to execute the Fugitive Slave Act. One hundred and twenty persons were enrolled as fast as the names could be written. A. E. Bovay was elected President, and C. J. Allen Secretary. A Vigilance Committee of twelve members was appointed, consisting of Edward Daniels, O. H. LaGrange, A. B. Pratt, Dana Lamb, A. E. Bovay, C. D. Loper, J. S. Landon, F. R. Stewart, I. A. Norton, F. W. Cooke, Lucius Thatcher, A. M. May, Benj. Pratt, L. P. Rivenburgh. The mass of the people then formed a procession, preceded by the Ripon Wide Awakes, and escorted Mr. Booth to the residence of Prof. Daniels. Some twelve or fifteen persons were put on duty as volunteer guards, to defend the residence of Prof. Daniels, and the remainder dispersed. (Aug 4)”
The Times then published this on August 10th:
“WHERE RESTS THE RESPONSIBILITY?–No good citizen desires to see such a state of affairs as prevailed in this city last Saturday and Sunday–a community excited, angry, turbulent–men arming themselves for defense, and organized in military bands to protect themselves and their friends.
A man appears in our midst who has been convicted for an offense under the Fugitive Slave Act, and who has escaped from imprisonment. Personally he is not known to a dozen persons in community [sic]; circumstances connected with his career have not commended him to popular regard. Yet at the first intimation that he is to be again arrested, hundreds of men become excited, solemnly pledge themselves that he shall not be taken again into custody, and rally to his defense. What is the character of the men who do this thing? They are not the depraved, the debauched, the reckless–the supporters of the grog shop, the gaming-table, or any other of the dens of vice. They are our farmers, our mechanics, our students–men, young and old, of sobriety, integrity, and honor–men who in all the ordinary routine of life are the best neighbors and citizens. Moreover they are persons of strong moral convictions, and uncompromising in their devotion to their principles.
When such men, to the extent of large numbers in a community, resolve that an enactment which is offensive to all their ideas of right shall not be enforced, is it claiming too much to maintain that those who instigate, abet, and encourage, either actively or by their indifference, such a course of proceedings as will oblige these men to either defend their principles or abandon them, are responsible for disturbing the peace of community?
After the recent demonstration here it must be conceded that the Fugitive Slave Act cannot be peaceably enforced in Ripon. The public sentiment is up to that point. Let this fact be recognized and respected, and there will never occur a repetition of the scenes enacted in this city on the 4th and 5th days of August last. (Aug 10)”
For my great great grandfather, in the summer of 1860, support of Sherman Booth and active rebellion against The Fugitive Slave Acts were an uncompromising commitment to the highest ideals and vision of America’s founders; the implicit sense of individual, inalienable, rights put forth in The Declaration of Independence.
As a result of my historical connection to the founding of the party (we have it on family history that Edward Daniels was one of the gatherers at in Ripon in March of 1854, but given the surrounding history that is documented it is fair to conclude he was at least one of the earliest-outspoken-members of the GOP), I held and believed for many years that the Republican Party subsumed this sense of individual rights. Through time, I am now fully convinced that was a mistaken assumption. Clearly, by any measure, the slow and steady rise of religious and arbitrary moral litmus tests for membership and, most importantly, party leadership and candidacy positions is well known (such as the effects of the Christian Coalition, Ralph Reed Jr., and Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority). The rise of Falwell, and his so-called “Moral Majority,” was the first overt sign I saw in my lifetime of serious anti-individual rights issues and blatant contradictions within the GOP. Their defense of property and liberty was particularly troublesome from an economics as well as philosophical perspective. For example, Bush 43’s position on lowered tax rates was defended not on an individual rights basis (as the original founders of the GOP would have), but rather on a convoluted notion that lowered tax rates were justifiable because they would, in the end, return more revenue to the federal government. Moreover, that sort of altruistic rationalization is clearly premised upon a theocratic view that one IS obligated to be the keeper of ones brother. A parallel premise is held firmly and overtly by Democrats who simply escalate government and collective rights above the individual and make no excuses that this is turning the founders vision on its head.
It is this sort of convolution that simply resulted in my search for another option. That search led me to some brilliant minds such as George Reisman, Ayn Rand, Ludwig von Mises, Adam Smith, John Locke, Thomas Jefferson, Aristotle, and others. Also, I found myself with renewed interest in the history of scientific development. Great minds such as Galileo, Newton, Einstein took on a whole new meaning to me. My view gelled to where I am far more comfortable in my own philosophic skin. In philosophical terms I fully embrace that reality is an absolute, reason the only means of knowledge, that humans do have a free will (to think), that rational self-interest is profoundly moral, and that above all of this that individual rights, properly understood, are in fact inalienable and absolute and that the source of those rights is profound – man’s nature as a living being. On this view, only capitalism can be considered as a social system worthy of man’s mind, and that politically only those governments (and the elected representatives) that are premised upon and dedicated to the protection of individual rights are just. Moreover, that the founders vision that all government be subordinated to the individual must be defended.
To effect all of this one must take the time and incur the effort to visit the ballot box armed with knowledge, but while on the way (if you happen to see me) …. please do not call me a Republican (or a Conservative)!
The Wisconsin State Historical Society notes
Daniels, Edward 1828 – 1916
Definition: geologist, abolitionist, soldier, b. Boston, Mass. He moved to Wisconsin in 1849, where he taught at Ripon and Carroll colleges. He was Wisconsin state geologist (1852-1854). In 1854 he aided in the escape of fugitive slave, Joshua Glover, and in 1856 participated in Jim Lane’s expedition to Kansas. Returning to Wisconsin, he aided in the freeing of the Milwaukee abolitionist, Sherman Booth (1860) (q.v.), and in 1861 organized the 1st Wisconsin Cavalry Regiment and served as its colonel until his resignation in 1863. After the war he moved to Gunston Hall, Va., where he engaged in scientific farming, became a newspaper editor, and later edited a labor magazine. Milwaukee Evening Wis., May 13, 1916; 32nd Reunion of 1st Wis. Cavalry Assoc. (n.p., 1916); E. Daniels Papers.