Front Page Titles (by Subject) IV: The Heritage of Freedom - Literature of Liberty, Spring 1981, vol. 4, No. 1
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IV: The Heritage of Freedom - Leonard P. Liggio, Literature of Liberty, Spring 1981, vol. 4, No. 1 
Literature of Liberty: A Review of Contemporary Liberal Thought was published first by the Cato Institute (1978-1979) and later by the Institute for Humane Studies (1980-1982) under the editorial direction of Leonard P. Liggio.
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The Heritage of Freedom
This set of summaries also supplements David Gordon's essay, “Contemporary Currents in Libertarian Political Philosophy,” by adding a historical and philosophical background or “heritage” from which rights theorists can draw.
An undercurrent running through the “heritage of freedom” is the marked tendency towards diversity and individualism. With sentiments that echo John Stuart Mill's On Liberty (1859) and his praise of the spirit of individual freedom, William Barrett writes in his recent book, The Illusion of Technique (1979), of the indispensable civilizing function of freedom.
Any ascertainable advance in the human condition that we can observe has been the product of individual invention and creation—the labor of free individuals working on their own or freely together in groups. The method—which is no method, really—may seem hit-and-miss, but there does not seem to be any other way for the human species in its struggle for survival. Nature has the inexpugnable tendency to produce individuals who are not all cut from the same die like the objects turned out by a mechanical assembly line. This profligate disregard of uniformity sometimes has its social embarrassments, and is always annoying to the behavioral scientist. But it has the overwhelming value to the rest of mankind that among the unusual and different individuals born some have inventive and creative gifts that work for the benefit of the race. We can establish conditions that may assist such gifts when they appear, but we cannot program them into being. The creativity of freedom is precisely what cannot be programmed beforehand. It may seem an irregular, uncertain, and circuitous path toward the improvement of the human lot, but there is no other that we can trust.
A similar evolutionary perspective on the role of diversity, individuality, and nature's “profligate disregard of uniformity” is sounded likewise by Nobelwinning microbiologist René Dubos's study, A God Within, and a growing library of anthropological, biochemical, cultural, and historical volumes on the theme of the functional diversity of individual organisms and beings within nature and the universe. The following summaries tell a similar tale in the variety and uniqueness of approaches offered to the mystery of human freedom.
How Conservatives Differ from Liberals
“Value Correlates of Conservatism.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 37, no.9(1979):1617–1630.
A study involving two samples of Australian families assessed the differences in values held by conservatives and liberals. Respondents were given the Conservatism Scale developed by Wilson and Patterson. Those scoring high on the scale are likely to be pro-establishment, support the status quo, favor militarism, be intolerant of minority groups, favor strict rules of conduct including restrictive sexual behavior, oppose a pleasure-seeking orientation, oppose scientific progress, accept fatalistic superstitions, and have fundamentalist religious beliefs. Wilson believes that conservative attitudes serve a defensive function, reducing conflict and averting anxiety associated with an awareness of freedom of choice.
The participants were also given the Rokeach Value Survey. The Survey consists of 18 “terminal” values (concerned with end states and goals) and 18 “instrumental” values (concerned with means), each set to be ranked in order of personal importance.
High scores on conservatism were found to be associated with the following terminal values: salvation, family security, and national security. Low scores were associated with the endorsement of the terminal values of an exciting life, freedom, equality, pleasure, mature love, true friendship, and a world of beauty.
With respect to instrumental values, high scores on conservatism were associated with the endorsement of being obedient, clean, polite, honest, forgiving, self-controlled, and responsible, whereas low conservatism scores were associated with the values of being broad-minded, imaginative, independent, intellectual, logical, and cheerful. Also, conservatism was found more frequently among the older members of the samples and was higher for females than for males. In general the results from the two samples were quite similar.
English Radicalism: Rights vs. War & Taxes.
“English Radicalism in the Age of George III.” In J.G.A. Pocock, ed., Three British Revolutions: 1641, 1688, 1776. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1980, chapt. 10.
English Radicalism following George III's accession in 1760 was built on the twin foundations of changing the political system at home and supporting the North Americans' demand for freedom. Combining the study of ideology, political language and social context, Brewer's analysis traces English radicalism's roots to classical and Renaissance political thought as well as the Anglo-American radical Whig political ideas of the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. At that time, the leading concepts of civic humanist-republican ideology were challenged. The mixed constitution of king, aristocracy, and commons which constrained power was threatened by the expanding financial power of the executive. Brewer notes that the power of “big government” assaulted liberty on many fronts. The flourishing of government deficit spending, through central banking (Bank of England) to finance a quarter century of war (1689–1714), permitted the large increase in government bureaucracy expenditure for both tax-collection and military activities. Taxes increased and tax collectors became familiar to Englishmen. “Mythic paper forms” of money likewise increased. The government reduced political participation through the 1716 Septennial Act which doubled the length of parliaments and cut the frequency of elections by more than half. Radicals responded by demanding annual elections for parliament.
To the Radicals, the social order of a commonwealth must be composed of men independent of the government. They accepted the political language of a dichotomy between Country ideology (those independent of the government) and Court ideology (government supporters). Country ideology gained its constituency from those men deriving their income independently of the government (generally from real property): whether the gentry from whom members of the commons were chosen or the freeholders whose property gave them the right to vote. The independent freeholder was viewed as the backbone of society; his virtue was contrasted with the corruption of an antagonistic constituency: those who benefitted from the government's central bank, its national debt, and its taxing system to support the standing army. The government's financiers, dealers in government bonds, collectors of government taxes, or contractors to supply the government's army were viewed as implicated in the web of political corruption, and not independent.
Brewer explains why town-based later eighteenth-century English radicalism was founded on the Country ideology. This radicalism expressed the growth of the commercial and industrial middle class. The middle class was especially vulnerable to the abrupt fluctuations of the English monetary system. The government's decision to engage in war was the dominant variable in the availability of money. This political-economic analysis thus enables readers of eighteenth-century English and American papers to understand why they were filled with day-by-day reports of diplomatic activities wherever these affairs might effect England's war status. The middle class thus opposed public credit which during times of war competed savagely against private borrowers.
Government taxation was also a great burden on owners of moveable property. War exerted a major impact on taxation, including the postponed taxation inherent in the national debt. Brewer estimates that by the 1760s about 20% of England's commodity output was siphoned off into taxes. This was twice the comparable French assessment. Opposition to taxation was opposition to taxes per se, as well as to the financing of the standing army and the bureaucracy. In addition, the middle class opposed the powers and means of law enforcement wielded by tax officials. Powers of entry, search and seizure were bitterly resented. The customs and excise officers ransacked the warehouses, stores, etc. of the middle class. Brewer believes the middle class had more personal, belligerent contact with revenue officials than any other social group. Especially hated was the use of summary procedures by which accused tax avoiders were denied trial by jury—a total violation of fundamental rights of Englishmen.
The innovations in revenue offenses reflected the novel growth of statute law as against common law. Increased power of the legislature reduced and demeaned the sovereignty of common law. Common-law traditions and rights were threatened by the growth of statues. In this legal struggle, the middle class sided with the inalienable rights in the common law against the unlimited and sovereign powers claimed by parliament. One of the leading expressions of middle class radicalism, the Society of Supporters of the Bill of Rights (1769), drew heavily upon adherence from common-law lawyers as it did upon merchants, doctors, clergymen, and writers.
With the Americans, the English middle class opposed the growth of statute-based judicial discretion, summary jurisdiction for attacks on tax collectors, ex officio information and writs of assistance, viceadmiralty courts, and judicial equity in the court of King's Bench. These devices enabled tax officials to attack the rights of the citizen which had been defended by the common law, with its strict construction of the law and trial by jury. The American crisis was the English crisis writ large. English radicals recognized the right of resistance which the Americans exercised through common law and natural arguments.
Liberalism: The Seedbed of American Culture
“Culture and Capitalism in Pre-Revolutionary America.” American Quarterly (1980):169–186.
American colonists of the mid-eighteenth century prophesized euphorically about the imminent cultural greatness of their New World. America was to be a New Athens, the ideal environment for the flowering of arts and sciences. In 1726 Bishop Berkeley expressed this conviction in “verses on the Prospects of Planting Arts and Learning in America.”
This optimism could not have been based on past or current achievements; thus its greatness lay ahead. Colonial Americans were well aware that they lived on a legacy of civilization inherited from England. “Pre-Revolutionary America was a provincial society whose leading members aped the manners of the English aristocracy.”
Why did such optimism about their cultural destiny dominate the American colonists outlook?
Professor Ellis points out the explosive rates of social and economic growth in eighteenth-century America: the population increased 3% a year and the wealth of the colonies rose steadily. By the eve of the Revolution Americans had a higher standard of living than any European country.
Most commentators on the arts presumed high culture was permanently linked to social and economic development; thus the direction and pace of that development is significant in understanding the assertion of America's predestined greatness. “History was like a westward moving caravan, a wagon train in which political, military, and cultural greatness were linked together and freedom provided the fuel.” Trade and commerce were the engines of progress.
Beyond the demographic and economic evidence, new and more liberal attitudes towards authority and personal freedom were crystallizing. The essence of the liberal idea was that if all artificial restraints and regulations imposed on human activity were removed, the result would not be chaos but progress and harmony. Moreover, this liberal vision anticipated that religious and political health, along with the economic and cultural productivity of such a society would increase dramatically.
These liberal currents on both sodes of the Atlantic were derived from such Whig literature as Hume's Essays, Trenchard's and Gordon's Cato's Letters (1720s), and Shaftesbury's Characteristics. These Whig liberals “linked artistic creativity and economic productivity by making them both natural consequences of liberal political condition.” Liberty was the precondition of a healthy culture.
These emerging liberal ideas and attitudes which we now recognize as essential for the triumph of capitalism were originally believed to be “all-purpose agents,” capable of liberating religion, politics, trade, and the arts from past constrictions. Literate Americans like Franklin, Stiles, and Trumbell were familiar with the English Whig writings and transmitted “the spirit of freedom” to the American colonists, thereby creating liberal expectations in culture and polity. Artistic creativity and economic productivity, culture and capitalism, were expected to flourish together in the free and stimulating conditions of the American marketplace. Needless to say, comments Ellis, the members of the revolutionary generation were in for a huge disappointment as to any cultural “Golden Age.”
Key articles which explore the ferment and creativity of “liberal” or modern attitudes in early America are: Joyce Appleby, “Liberalism and the American Revolution.” New England Quarterly 49(1976):3–26; and Michael Zuckerman, “The Fabrication of Identity in Early America.” William and Mary Quarterly 34(1973):183–212.
Republican Liberty & Military Policy
“Republican Liberty and National Security: American Military Policy as an Ideological Problem, 1783 to 1789.” William and Mary Quarterly 38(January 1981):73–96.
In 1775, American colonists had gone to war, committed to the classical republican notion that only a locally organized militia composed of citizen-soldiers could defend the country and still avoid the aggressive and tyrannical tendencies of a centralized military. Apart from any military prowess they might possess, militiamen were looked upon as an embodiment of public virtue, the armed expression of the citizen's willingness to serve the republic and thus the common good.
However, as the Revolutionary War advanced, the ideal of the militia steadily eroded and the principal responsiblity for national defense passed to any army modeled after the centralized professional forces of Great Britain. Self-interest replaced public virtue as the primary military motivation, as pensions and bounties were used to help keep a skilled disciplined army in the field.
After the victory at Yorktown, Americans debated whether to endorse republican virtue or a strong military defense. Two popular writers of the day personified this split. In her three-volume history of the American Revolution, Mercy Otis Warren expressed a deeply rooted fear of standing armies, whereas David Ramsay argued in his history of the Revolution that the colonies' wartime difficulties resulted from too much republicanism which fostered momentary gallantry rather than disciplined perseverence. Reviewing the Congressional debates over military policy during the 1780s and 1790s, Prof. Cress chronicles the often torturous attempts to devise plans which would reconcile republican with military values.
The Pickering plan, influenced by ideas shared by Mercy Otis Warren, proposed a decentralized militia and entrusted the states with the responsibilities of officering, training, and administration. Under the plan, the inspector general, paid and appointed by the continental government, would act only to insure that the states fulfilled their constitutional obligations. By contrast, the Putnam plan reiterated David Ramsay's appeal for a highly centralized militia structure. Regimental officers would be appointed by state governors but commissioned by Congress; the Confederation government would have the final word concerning the character and composition of the officer corps. Military regiments would be numbered without regard to states and organized in divisions commanded by congressionally appointed major generals who were independent of state control.
These plans along with a compromise proposal offered by von Steuben failed to win solid support in Congress. However, another scheme proposed by Secretary of War Henry Knox seemed to strike the balance the country was searching for. Since republican deliberative government seemed less responsive to military threat than monarchy, Knox urged peacetime preparedness and proposed a standing militia whose ranks would consist primarily of an advanced corps of young men 18 to 20 years of age. Knox saw this service as an important “apprenticeship” in republican virtue for the youth of the nation. In emergencies, a reserve corps of men 21 through 59 years of age would be subject to call. Yearly “Camps of Discipline” for the advanced corps would “mold the minds of the young men to a due obedience of the laws” as well “instruct them in the art of war.” Under Knox's plan, the continental war office would supply arms and uniforms while actual mobilization would be directed and supervised by state officials.
Because of its balance, the Knox proposal received widespread popular and Congressional support. In January, 1790, Washington recommended the plan—revised to reflect the national government's explanded constitutional powers—to Congress as the centerpiece of the new government's military establishment. Throughout the early national period, the Knox plan provided a basis of attempts to create a dependable military litary framework. This history reflects the importance of the nation's ideological origins on the initial evolution of its public policy.
Thomas Burke: Whig Radical
“Thomas Burke, Paradoxical Patriot.” The Historian 41(August 1979):664–81.
Thomas Burke's erratic political philosophy has made him a puzzling figure in Revolutionary history, even though his influence as a delegate in Congress securely grounded the concept of balancing powers—a concept unique and essential to the newly created bicameral legislature.
Burke migrated to the colonies from Ireland in the 1760s, taught himself law, and became a debt collector for Scottish merchants. He was elected to the second provincial convention where he lept to influence in the emerging revolutionary movement. Soon after, Burke was elected a delegate to the Congress in Philadelphia, where he dramatically acted out his intense commitment to republican ideology.
The hallmark of Burke's Whiggism in his early congressional career was opposition to national authority. He was very skeptical of the undelegated, unrestricted powers exercised by Congress. “The more experience I can acquire,” he wrote, “the stronger is my Conviction that unlimited power can not be safely Trusted to any man or set of men on Earth.”
Burke supported a bicameral system, believing such a government would forestall potential tyranny and more faithfully mirror the popular will.
Had Burke retired from Congress in May of 1777, his career could be viewed as one who assisted in the “restructuring of power.” Yet his unpredictable outbursts and the vehemence of his opposition showed signs of instability which led to a major crisis in Burke's life, and eventually to a turning point in his career.
In April of 1778, Burke walked out on a committee session and thereby left Congress one vote short of a quorum. Burke's temperamental withdrawal rankled Congress, but exposed a glaring weakness of the Congressional system. Burke was not so much astounded that his departure immobilized the Congressional act, as he was appalled at the violation of his right “to judge the reasonableness or unreasonableness of any act of power, and even to resist it if unreasonable.”
Burke held fast to the justice of his stance but the protracted ill feelings of his colleagues forced a turning point in his career. No longer did he allow himself to be as isolated among peers.
Burke departed ideologically from states' rights republicanism to embrace a pragmatic nationalism. This radical change carried over into his personal life, where Burke subordinated abstract ideals to practical financial considerations.
After leaving Congress in 1781, Burke was made governor of North Carolina in a troubled period of civil warfare between the Tories and the Whigs. By 1783, through a series of misfortunes, he once again lost his faith in popular government. Only his Whig distrust of power and tyranny remained a consistent element in his political credo. If the term radical can be used to describe Burke, it applies to the erratic alterations of his views rather than to any specific position. Nevertheless, we should not ignore the impact of Burke's influence in the creation of checks and balances.
Liberal Republicans during Reconstruction
“Laissez Faire vs. Equal Rights: Liberal Republicans and Limits to Reconstruction.” Phylon 40(May/June 1979):52–65.
The stalwart Republicans of 1872 articulated and encouraged the thesis that the Liberal Republicans had abandoned the plight of the black Freedmen in postbellum American society. Though the Liberal Republicans did advocate the withdrawal of government intrusion in the affairs of Reconstruction, their reasoning was not based on promulgating racism. Paradoxically, the Liberals believed the very limitation of the powerful reach of the federal government would in fact encourage a growing willingness in the post Civil War South to accept the principle of equal rights for all men. Amnesty and friendship, rather than coercion, would best protect the new black citizens and restore peace to the nation.
The Liberal Republicans became so disillusioned with the Republican acceptance of federal involvement in the South that they defied tradition and broke with the party, supporting Horace Greeley to represent their ideology in the 1872 presidential election. The thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth amendments were complete as the foundation for the new society. The Liberals could not recognize any extension of the Constitution beyond “the ballot,” without seriously threatening equal rights.
However, the black citizens lacked economic independence and held an extremely vulnerable and exploitable economic and social position in the South. They needed continued government involvement on a scale the Liberals were not willing to recognize in the nineteenth century. Liberals were content with their position in society and insisted on maintaining the limited role of government to which they attributed their success. They could neither understand nor accept the demands of the oppressed and attributed the severe social disharmony to lack of education or training.
In conclusion, it was elitist, gradualist reform orientation rather than emergent racism that explains the Liberal Republican movement of 1872. Ignoring history, the Liberals depended upon the Southern leaders wisdom and desire for votes to protect and educate the black constituency. Therefore, they failed to secure protection for the new citizens despite their commitment to equal rights, but not because of a growing racism.
Adam Smith & The Liberal Tradition
Review article of Adam Smith's Politics: An Essay in Historiographic Revision. By Donald Winch. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1978. In History of Political Economy 11(Fall 1979):450–454.
Professor Winch wishes to dismiss as anachronistic the traditional liberal capitalist perspective on Adam Smith's “politics.” Winch argues that the received view reads nineteenth-century meanings into Smith's eighteenth-century concepts. For Winch, placing Smith in his eighteenth-century context is to view him not as a “stage in the development of liberal capitalist ideology” (or utilitarianism or liberal individualist political theory) but as a thinker who thought within the language and concepts of his own age. Professor Macpherson, author of The Political Theory of Possessive Individualism, counterargues that “Winch has not shown that reading Adam Smith as a liberal capitaist or bourgeois ideologist is incompatible with a recognition of Smith's genius as an eighteenth-century thinker.” Smith is properly interpreted “as a crucial turning point in the bourgeois individualist tradition which runs from Hobbes and Locke to Bentham and Mill and was both appreciated and excoriated by Marx.”
Yes, we ought to interpret Smith, the thinker, in his own terms as Winch urges. But this is not incompatible with seeing Smith as “the turning point from Hobbes and Locke, with their natural rights, to Bentham and James Mill with their crass materialism, and to John Stuart Mill with his humanistic stance which recaptured some of Smith's concern for the whole human being.” Thus we can compatibly read Smith both as within the evolving capitalist tradition and as an eighteenth-century scientific humanist.
While Smith had no intention of working out a Marxian theory of exploitation, he made the important contribution of identifying a new class of profit-takers. His political economy's advance over his predecessors was to insist that profit differed from the wages of superintendence, rent, interest, or the merchant's gain from buying cheap and selling dear. Macpherson claims that Smith saw profits within the labor theory of value and “was the first to see that this new use of labour as a commodity had created a new tripartite class division (receivers of rent, profit, and wages).”
Smith, while not uncritically advocating capitalism, saw it as the wave of the future and prized it for leading to “personal freedom (security of person and property).” Macpherson shares with Winch the view that the tradition of liberal bourgeois ideology did undergo a profound change, but he places that break between Bentham and J.S. Mill. He suggests that “Mill, in breaking from Bentham by asserting that quality of life was more important than maximizing GNP, had brought bourgeois liberalism back full circle” to Adam Smith's more complete humanism which saw more in the human spirit than homo economicus.
Human Individuality and Autonomy
“The Shape of the Future: American Version.” In The Illusion of Technique: A Search for Meaning in a Technological Civilization. Garden City: Anchor Press/Doubleday. 1979, chapter 15.
The best argument for freedom is to consider the horror of our lives without it. In a perverse way, determinist behavioral scientists such as B.F. Skinner have helped us see what kind of society results from denying free will and implementing determinism: a bland, planned, authoritarian and socially engineered “utopia.” Skinner's Walden II and Beyond Freedom and Dignity reveal the emerging authoritarian political and metaphysical ideology behind the modern “technology of behavior” that would eradicate the “free and autonomous individual.”
Skinner's simplistic and planned reformation of human psychology achieved through the ploys of conditioning and manipulative technique is blind to the hidden depths of the human soul and its need to autonomously condition itself in order to achieve free and responsible individuality. We humans have the capacity to provide our “own carrot and stick, whereas the donkey has to accept what his master offers.” Our capacity for self-initiated change and self-conditioning invalidates Skinner's determinist image of man as a passive victim of conditioned habits. “And one of the most powerful levels we can have for changing ourselves is this very idea of the autonomy of the individual person.” Our self-improving human consciousness, our sense of rebellion, and our striving to realize our higher possibilities are palpable facts of experience which invalidate the behaviorists' fatal determinism.
A study of the dull and jejune lives led by the inmates in the Skinnerian utopia, Walden II, reveals how soul-deadening are the consequences of applying technology to control human behavior. Gone is danger, excitement, competitiveness, creativity, suffering, and passion. In place of these humanizing experiences, we find a controlled safe, and bland environment, a “big summer hotel.” Hidden from view are the elite and parasitic class of behavioral psychologists who would banish worry, struggle, and novelty from the individual's psyche.
A benchmark to use in measuring America's cultural degeneration into an authoritarian mentality—its hostility to diversity and human individuality—is to compare Harvard's Skinner with the earlier Harvard psychologist, William James (1842–1910). James's admonition can serve as a warning to the modern behavioral scientists who would impoverish the richness of human individuality:
Man's chief difference from the brutes lies in the exuberant excess of his subjective propensities—his preeminence over them simply and solely in the number and in the fantastic and unnecessary character of his wants, physical, moral, aesthetic, and intellectual…Prune down his extravagance, sober him, and you undo him.
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