January 2022: Resolutions Fit for Free People

We who love liberty have many reasons to be optimistic about the start of a new year. What resolutions are fitting for free people?

There are many reasons—practical, political, and theoretical—for the good members of The Vino & Veritas Society to be optimistic about the future, especially as 2022 begins.

It’s common for people to think about resolutions as they approach a new year. It’s also common for Americans, in particular, to think about resolutions. The American Revolution was the result of freedom-loving resolve enshrined forever in the Declaration of Independence.

The question we should ask this New Years: What resolutions will make the United States freer and better?

PRACTICAL & POLITICAL SILVER LINING

Make no mistake, 2020 and 2021 have been difficult, trying years for many Americans.

No one has yet produced a full accounting of the human costs of the past two years, including personal pain and suffering as well as economic and financial devastation, much of which was caused by constitutionally illegitimate government polices that had little to do with science and much to do with power-mongering and political pandering. And, of course, there’s the virus that was likely engineered, in a hostile regime, with the support of our government and our tax dollars.

Still, there is a silver lining as we look forward to a new year: Millions of Americans have awakened and opened their eyes to the truth. Whatever doubts they had about whether those in government will jump at opportunities to expand their own power at the expense of the liberty and livelihoods of others, have vanished.

Elected governors, legislators, mayors, and others have been almost giddy to command fellow citizens to close their businesses, stay home, and suffer the pain of economic collapse, while members of the political class — as well as most unelected bureaucrats — never missed a paycheck. And the whole world has been watching!

If there is a moment in modern history when large numbers of Americans are attracted to the ideas of freedom because they are fed up with government central planners and controllers, it is now. The misery of 2020 and 2021 has provided an opportunity for those who want to expand the realm of freedom in the United States by scaling back government power, control, and corruption.

NO FATALISM AMONG REVOLUTIONARIES

There are people, still today, whose souls shine brightly with the love of liberty, a light that cannot be extinguished. They tend not to be fatalists.

Free people don’t resign themselves to accepting whatever tyranny and suffering is imposed on them. Free people don’t throw up their hands and lament that nothing can be done to make things better. How could they?

Free people make choices to change things, to improve the world around them and their own station within it, or die trying.

Free people know that living well is as important as merely living, perhaps more so. Life is good. A good life is better. And one cannot live well — one cannot live a good life — without living freely. Wise and free people, therefore, never accept the promises of mere life under a tyranny in exchange for their liberty.

Free people also know that the future is not predetermined. History is not some unyielding, unalterable, human inevitability. We can make choices and, sometimes, those choices turn the course of history.

When the Revolutionaries of 1776 challenged the illegitimate rule of the British government and pledged to one another their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor, they were pushing against not merely the greatest global empire and the greatest military ever assembled, but what appeared to be historical destiny.

Wasn’t Britain, in all its power and glory, the culmination of three thousand years of Western history and development? Wasn’t the fate of the British government to govern colonies around the world?

Not according to a scrappy band of rebels in North America that included George Washington among their ranks! The Declaration of Independence is nothing less than the statement of a people resolved to throwing off the chains of tyranny and establishing a new government that derives its “just powers from the consent of the governed.”

When Lincoln chose to use all Constitutional powers at his disposal to preserve the American union, to stop the spread of legalized slavery, and to place slavery “in the course of ultimate extinction,” the institution of slavery was at that very moment being celebrated and championed by those within the halls of higher education,  within legislative halls, and within churches.

Historical momentum was not on Lincoln’s side. Thankfully, Lincoln chose to take a stand for justice rather than history.

In 1940, when Winston Churchill became the British Prime Minister, Nazi Germany appeared to be unstoppable. Germans had the most educated, scientific population in the world. They had the most developed university system in the world. As a result, the Nazi government had the best planes, tanks, bombs, and rockets, in the world.

Churchill did not bend or bow. He did not comply. He did not follow the winds of history. He did not give up. Instead, he hurled defiance across the English Channel and toppled one of the most murderous regimes of modern scientific central planning.

Truly free people cannot help but be optimistic because they know, no matter how bad things might be, at any given time they can resolve to make things better. Nothing is more dangerous for despots and tyrants than free people resolved to living freely and governing themselves.

METAPHYSICAL FREEDOM OF THE HUMAN MIND

“The future, though imminent, is obscure.” The author of this sentence is the same Winston Churchill mentioned above, and it contains important and true insight into human nature, the nature of the human mind, and the relationship between human beings, the history behind them, and the future that lies ahead.

The future certainly is imminent. 2022 is going to come, whether we want it to or not. Later years will come, too.

Time is a function of matter moving through space. We cannot stop all motion — we cannot stop planets rotating around the sun, or a galaxy moving through space — and therefore we cannot stop time. The future will become the present, and then, in the blink of an eye, the past.

What the future will be, however — or, at least, what our future will be — is something largely determined by us.

As long as we are free to think, reason, judge, and choose, the future is not decided until it becomes the present. The good news, and the source of infinite optimism, inspiration, and hope, is that the human mind is always free to think, reason, judge, and choose.

Among the great disputes between classical philosophy and modern technological science is the question of the metaphysical freedom of the human mind. Is the mind truly free? Or is the free mind merely an illusion? Is the mind, or what some call the soul, really just the epiphenomena of molecules, synapses, and atoms bouncing around inside a brain?

Modern technological science, originating in the works of Francis Bacon, Rene Descartes, and others, rests on a premise that everything real is material, or matter. Further, the motion of matter can be observed, measured, and predicted because matter is a slave to Newton’s laws.

The modern view is best represented by Karl Marx, who repeatedly and categorically denied the metaphysical freedom of the human mind. Everything can be explained by physics, Marx insisted, including what goes on within your own mind. And as we know from the history of modern tyrannies and the history of Marxism, it’s a short step from denying the metaphysical freedom of the mind to denying the political freedom of subjects.

This modern premise, however, was not shared by classical thinkers, like Aristotle, nor by the American Founders. Thomas Jefferson famously began his Virginia Statute for Religious Liberty by observing: “Whereas Almighty God hath created the mind free…”

As the political philosopher Leo Strauss once put it: “By becoming aware of the dignity [and freedom] of the mind, we realize the true ground of the dignity of man and therewith the goodness of the world, whether we understand it as created or as uncreated, which is the home of man because it is the home of the human mind.”

There is, arguably, no work more important today than keeping alive the idea, and the hope, that there is a metaphysical freedom about and within the human mind. So long as we understand that our minds are not predetermined, we can understand that the future is not predetermined.

And free people who understand that the future is not predetermined are people willing to make resolutions to improve themselves and the world around them, including the political world.

QUESTIONS OF PRUDENCE: WHAT SHOULD WE RESOLVE?

Think about where you are, individually, in terms of your own health, happiness, and overall well-being. What can you resolve to do in 2022 and the coming years to improve yourselves?

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Now think about where we are as a nation. Compare where we are today with the goals laid out in the Declaration of Independence.

Think about what it would look like to have a government based on the proposition that all men are created equal and dedicated to protecting the equal individual rights of all citizens by and with the consent of those citizens.

What can you resolve to do, alone or with others, that is practical, possible, prudential, and will help us move away from central planning tyranny toward expanded realms of liberty?

Happy New Years to all the members of The Vino & Veritas Society!

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