Nos Sumus Custodes is the motto of The Vino & Veritas Society. It is Latin for “We are the guardians.” In its simplest meaning, we are the guardians of the American idea—the idea that each and every human being has a natural right to his own life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness.
That idea is inseparable from human nature for the simple reason that every human body is the home of a metaphysically free human mind capable of reasoning, thinking, and making choices for one’s self. Human nature indicates that human self-government is the right form of government for enlightened human beings.
The idea of private property, which is a synonym for individual freedom, is also rooted in human nature. Your body, your mind, your energy and creativity, your natural freedom to choose how to live, belong to you. They are your property. No other human being has a rightful claim to what is rightfully yours by nature.
If the laws fail to recognize and protect your freedom and your property, then the laws are wrong and should be changed. The idea of natural human freedom is the standard by which we should judge the laws and the government that makes and enforces them.
That idea seems so simple it’s hard sometimes to believe it can be controversial. Yet, controversial it is.
If you doubt this, try an experiment: Next time you are socializing in polite company with people you don’t know well, and someone asks about your politics or political beliefs, tell them you are an advocate for individual freedom and private property. See for yourself how they respond.
They’ll likely blink in disbelief, right before asking you to explain your statement because, to them, it sounds odd, perhaps even scary: “What do you mean, exactly, by the terms freedom and property?”
GUARDING THE AMERICAN IDEA
The American idea of freedom is now and has been for a long time a target for those who want Americans to forget that the freedom of each citizen is the property of each citizen.
There has been a movement spreading across Americans, the purpose of which is to convince citizens that the American idea is outdated, morally suspicious, and an obstacle to “social justice” and “progress.”
The progressive movement emerged during the decades following the Civil War. Since then, progressivism, like a cancer, has metastasized throughout every culture-shaping institution in the United States: higher education, K-12 education, journalism, politics, business, religion, Hollywood, and professional sports.
The results of progressivism are all around us. Government has grown and grown and grown, in scope and power and control, while the sphere of personal freedom has shrunk correspondingly. Taxpayer-funded programs have incentivized irresponsibility, dependency, and idleness. Rates of many social pathologies are now at historic highs, including personal abuse, substance abuse, neglect, depression, and suicide.
To boot, progressives denounce and disparage those who are productive, creative, and entrepreneurial as the alleged cause of all social ills. Personal responsibility and moral virtue are openly mocked.
Growing numbers of Americans no longer seem to know or care about the precious idea of freedom. Many Americans today seem almost eager to trade their own freedom—and yours—for empty of promises of free things and perfect safety through total regulation.
In this dark hour, when growing numbers of Americans forget that which is most important—the idea that human beings should live freely—the most important question is: Who will guard the idea of freedom? Who will preserve that idea? Who will study it, learn it, and transmit that idea to the next generation?
Our answer: Nos Sumus Custodes. We are the guardians.
In a deeper meaning, Nos Sumus Custodes is an answer to a famous ancient question, Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Or, who will protect and guard us from the guardians?
The philosophic origin of this ancient question—phrased slightly differently—is found in Book II of Plato’s Republic. The setting is a discussion among Socrates and several interlocutors, including Plato’s brother, Glaucon, as they attempt to create in speech a perfectly just city.
After agreeing that the city will require guardians to protect citizens from warring, invading armies (373e), Socrates points out that the guardians must be both hard and soft, in spirit, simultaneously, because “they must be gentle to their own and cruel to enemies (375c).”
The problem appears to be something of a paradox. If, on the one hand, the guardians are cruel, they are likely to attack and destroy the very citizens they are supposed to protect. On the other hand, if the guardians are soft and gentle, they will likely be unable to repel an invading army.
Is it possible for the guardians to be strong enough, tough enough, spirited enough, to defeat invading armies and, at the same time, gentle enough to not pose a threat to the citizens whom they are supposed to protect? What if the guardians use their weapons and fighting skills to attack their own fellow citizens? Who will protect the citizens? Who will guard citizens against their own guardians? Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?
Turning from Plato to America, We The People delegate certain limited, constitutionally enumerated powers to those in government for one purpose: To provide equal protection of the laws for the natural freedom and private property of each and every citizen. Those in government are supposed to guard and protect our rights.
Yet, often, our government violates the rights and confiscates or controls the property of the citizens it is supposed to protect. A business owner in the United States today, for example, can be fined, have his business shut down, even be put in prison, not because he hurt anyone, but simply because he did not submit the right compliance papers at the right time and in the right way to the right government bureaucrats.
The guardians of United States citizens, in other words, have become threats to United States citizens.
Who, then, will guard United States citizens against those who are supposed to be their guardians? Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?
To which we answer: Nos Sumus Custodes. We are the guardians. We will help guard fellow citizens against those who proclaim to be your guardians while plotting, planning, and scheming to violate your natural rights.
The more popular and literal use of Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? came several centuries after Plato, from the Roman poet, Juvenal, who wrote more than a dozen comic poems he designated as “satires.”
In Satire VI, Juvenal playfully laments the challenging of forcing women to behave morally, while their husbands are away on travel, when those who are supposed to guard over the women—the custodes—are themselves easily corruptible and often seduced by the very women they are supposed to be guarding.
The author remarks that “the plan that my friends always advise to adopt is to ‘Bolt her in and constrain her!’” to which he responds with a question: Sed quis custodiet ipsos custodes? But who will guard against the guardians?
Juvenal then adds, with a chuckle: “They (the guardians) keep quiet about the women’s secrets because they get the women as their payment, and everyone hushes up.”
It is a question whether, in our progressive age of political correctness, modern Americans find any humor in Juvenal’s satires. Whatever the answer, we think you should know the historical origins of the famous question, Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?
We at The Vino & Veritas Society are not looking to force women to be moral through the use of guards. But we are looking to guard something important. We are guarding the American idea of liberty so that it can be preserved and passed on to future generations of citizens.
We are guarding the American people against their own guardians who have become used to treating Americans more as subjects and less as self-governing citizens. Our cause is demanding, daunting, and noble. It is summed up in our motto: Nos Sumus Custodes. We are the guardians.