I am going to have to admit that I have been wrong. In fact, I am even going to point out that most of us on the right have been wrong when we accuse President Obama of being a radical leftist or of having a radical ideology. The truth is that the President’s ideology is quite the norm, while it is in fact the ideology of those of us on the right that is clearly radical in nature.
Those of us on the political right favor a smaller, limited government that is bound by the Constitution. We believe that the proper role of government is to protect freedom, and that the best government is that which governs least.
Few would dispute the fact that Obama is a proponent of a large, powerful federal government that controls nearly every aspect of our lives. In order to govern something, by definition you must take away freedom. This has been, throughout the history of mankind, the normal relationship between humans and their governments. Early democratic forms of government likely existed on a small scale, and most of us are familiar with the ancient Greek experiment with democracy.
These examples are however, the exception rather than the rule. By far, human history offers more examples of governments that rule by force rather than by consent. According to a recent report by the Economist’s Intelligence Unit, there are only 25 full democracies in the world, representing just over 11% of the world’s population. According to the report the trend is downward, with most of the declines in freedom taking place in Europe.
A brief look at our history reveals a number of significant events which led up to the founding of the United States. The Charter of Liberties, issued by Henry I in 1100, was intended to bind the King of England to the rule of law. Although it was largely ignored, it did set a precedent that led to the signing of the Magna Carta in 1225. Both of these documents came about as a result of a desire to limit the power of government, and at least a beginning of an understanding by the kings that they could not rule by brute force. They understood that if they wanted to remain in power, they needed the consent of the governed. They did not however, come to such a realization through careful thought and meditation; they were brought to such conclusions because the people revolted against abusive rule.
When the American colonies were finally fed up with being ruled by the British Empire, it fell upon Thomas Jefferson to draft the Declaration of Independence, intended to declare to the world the justifications for taking such drastic action. In the preamble that cites "the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them", Jefferson clearly espoused the concept of Natural Law as a foundation for legitimate governance. The theory of Natural Law has been developed over the centuries, and was influenced by Plato, Aristotle, and Cicero. The later had a profound influence on the founding of our nation. Other influences came from such men as Thomas Aquinas, the Apostle Paul, Henry de Bracton, Thomas Gordon, and John Locke.
Although this concept was not new, the American Revolution brought about the perfect conditions under which to put these ideas into practice. Aided by the geographic distance from the stronger nations in Europe, the new American nation was able to plant the seeds of freedom and watch it grow.
The idea that government should be limited and men should be free is one that is indeed radical compared to world standards; and it is one that is only being championed by conservatives. Our friends on the left will naturally argue that it is they who champion freedom, given their support for causes such as abortion and gay marriage, but it is easy to see those issues are merely tools they use as leverage to expand the size and role of government.
We have become so accustomed to thinking of ourselves as being free that we now view as radical the ideologies that seek to limit our freedom through expansion of government. Unfortunately this leads us to a feeling of complacency, which has allowed a slow but steady erosion of our liberty. It is important that we remember how we gained our freedom, and embrace our history of radicalism.