Marcus Tullius Cicero, the Roman political philosopher upon whom the Founders relied heavy for political theory and philosophy, said that natural law is "true law." Expounding further, Cicero described natural law thusly:
"True law is right reason in agreement with nature; it is of universal application, unchanging and everlasting; it summons to duty by its commands, and averts from wrongdoing by its prohibitions...It is a sin to try to alter this law, nor is it allowable to repeal any part of it, and it is impossible to abolish it entirely. We cannot be freed of its obligations by senate or people, and we need not look outside ourselves for an expounder or interpreter of it. And there will not be different laws at Rome and at Athens, or different laws now and in the future, but one eternal and unchangeable law that will be valid for all nations and all times, and there will be one master and ruler, that is God, over us all, for he is the author of this law, its promulgator, and its enforcing judge."
So, natural law is rightly described as true law, or "eternal law." It is the law that governs the universe, the law that governs the interactions between God's creations. However, natural law is not limited to physical laws such as gravity, nor are the effects of trespassing these laws dependent upon belief in them. One may or may not believe in gravity, yet that will have no mitigating effect on the very unpleasant and sudden stop one feels upon reaching the ground after jumping from a high place.
The same is true for the laws governing human nature. As much as we as human beings like to believe we have evolved, and are therefore superior to our ancestors, the simple fact is that human beings have not changed much at all over these last few thousand years. We are still governed by human emotion. We still act out of love or anger or fear. In essence, the only thing about humanity that has changed over the last few millennia is the efficiency with which we kill one another. Our driving desires are still the same as they were in the time of Moses or Noah.
That brings us to the issues of our day. With the rapid advancements in technology, it is easy to fall prey to the siren song of perceived self-enlightenment. It is easy to think that because we are capable of far greater feats and inventions than our forefathers that we are wiser than they. Yet I would submit that such a philosophy is not so.
The Founding Fathers were incredibly intelligent men, and keen observers of human nature. Instead of MTV and "Desperate Housewives" and unintelligible or lewd music, they filled their minds with Christ, Cicero and Locke. Instead of "reality TV," they absorbed the writings of Montesquieu and Hobbes. It was this immersion into the great writers of history and of their day that gave them a deep understanding of human nature, and therefore a greater insight into how to best form a government that acknowledged the flaws of human nature, and in doing so allowed them to craft a government that would succeed despite those flaws.
At one time, Rome was the greatest empire upon the earth. It fell because it became lazy and self-indulgent, reveling in beliefs and behaviors that are destructive to the human spirit. The Romans learned in the end that they were not immune from the effects of natural law. The Roman poet Juvenal wrote of this in Satire X, from which we get the phrase "bread and circuses." This phrase refers to a plan devised by Roman politicians around 140 B.C., a plan in which they would attain political power through the distribution of cheap food and entertainment to the poor. As long as they were fed and entertained, these Romans gave up political involvement, deferring to the political leadership. Unfortunately for them, they learned that freedom has a price which must be paid to be maintained.
And what of our day? Our government has continued to enact policies which increase dependence of the citizenry upon it. Today more than 40 million Americans receive government food stamps, or about one in eight of us. Unemployment insurance has been extended to nearly two years, and recent reports show that some companies are having trouble filling jobs because people would rather stay on unemployment. We are creating a perverse disincentive to work.
We have also, to a large extent, abdicated our duty to monitor and control the levers of government. We've done so through political disengagement. In the recent primary elections in Georgia, voter turnout was just over 20 percent. In the run-off elections, turnout was about half that amount. Our elected officials have saddled us with an enormous debt that will be paid off by our children and grandchildren. They have enacted legislation that pits us against each other, inciting class warfare among us. All the while they enjoy the perks of power as they exert more and more control over our lives. A nation cannot long survive this level of ignorance, apathy and indulgence. Sooner or later the laws of Nature and Nature's God take hold, and empires begin to crumble.
Are we at such a point? I'd say that is an unequivocal certainty unless we immediately retake our government. However, that can only be accomplished through educating ourselves and becoming engaged in the process. The size and cost of government has been on a steady upward trajectory for decades regardless of the party in control, and the current administration is notable only for its acceleration of the pace of growth. America has gone from being the world's largest creditor to the world's largest debtor.
Do we honestly think that we are immune from the effects of natural law; that just because we are the world's greatest power today that we will still be tomorrow? Do we think we can remain self-indulgent and lazy and apathetic and still reap the rewards which come only from hard work and discipline? Do we think we can remain ignorant and still remain the masters of our own destiny? To think so is foolishness, and foolishness carries a heavy price.
Was it a prophetic revelation or just an understanding of human nature which led Founding Father Samuel Adams to write the following in a letter to James Warren?
"No people will tamely surrender their Liberties, nor can any be easily subdued, when knowledge is diffused and Virtue is preserved. On the Contrary, when People are universally ignorant, and debauched in their Manners, they will sink under their own weight without the Aid of foreign Invaders."
If we are to survive as a nation, we would do well to temper our own arrogance which so often leads us to dismiss the wisdom of our ancestors. We face as a nation a multitude of serious problems which plague us. In order to correct these problems, we must first understand the nature of the problem. We would be well served to rely on the wisdom of those that came before us; those whose philosophy and knowledge raised 13 fledgling colonies into a mighty global power. Otherwise, our downfall will come as we indulge in bread and circuses.
Louis DeBroux is a Taylorsville resident, married, with eight children. He is vice chair of communications of the Bartow County Republican Party. He owns Gatekeeper data backup and recovery. He can be e-mailed at email@example.com.