Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Origins of American liberty....a lucky fluke in policy

Ostrander, in "The Rights of Man in America", points out that much of what was considered to be the traditional rights and privileges of people in the United States were the product of a lucky oversight. According to him, the initial English colonization policy in the United States was very haphazard in that they didn't really keep thorough track or tabs on what people were up to if they were small farmers or other folks low on the totem pole. This allowed people to have great freedom in the colonies, much more freedom than they'd actually have had if they had lived in England itself. Later, in the 18th century, when England started to organize its colonial system more stringently, the pattern of a very libertarian lifestyle had already been established, and so the attempt of England to integrate the U.S. into its system were met with the hostility that lead to the Revolution and Independence. The English rightly pointed out far from being oppressed the people in the United States, actually had lots of freedom. But what the English didn't realize was that the idea of self government had already been established in the United States, and the colonies had already mentally seceded, making their arguments beside the point. All of this was quite a bit different than the story that the U.S. tells itself about its founding. In point of fact, down in Mexico, during Spanish colonialism the Inquisition set up shop, and people were regularly brought before it, tortured, judged, and sometimes killed for not complying with Catholic doctrine. While torture existed in the U.S., England never set up anything like that. Personally, I think the libertarian origins of the U.S. as an island utopia should be more publicized. However, that doesn't play well in Peoria.

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