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"Essay by actor/writer Joseph C. Phillips - U-N-I-T-Y Part 2"

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jcphillips (12k image)"We have staked the whole of all our political institutions upon the capacity of mankind for self-government, upon the capacity of each and all of us to govern ourselves, to control ourselves, to sustain ourselves according to the Ten Commandments of God."
James Madison

You will recall that this discussion of partisanship began when a reader questioned if my support for certain issues was unreasoned. In order to determine a rationale one must look to the source. People are allowed their political opinions. As the old saying goes: They're like belly buttons -- everyone has one. Ideally, those opinions are informed by facts. Perhaps most importantly, they are also informed by one's core beliefs in the nature of God and the purpose of government. These are arguably the two key components that make up our notions of liberty.

The social contract men strike with government is a delicate balance between the sinful nature of men and the necessary evil of government. As history has shown, men are capable of great evil. In order to protect themselves from that evil, men offer up a bit of their freedom in exchange for government's protection of their lives, property and liberty. Balance is key. Men must be careful that they do not over feed the beast of government lest it grow too big and consume them. After all, governments are made up of other men who are sinful by nature. Conversely, if government is starved it will be unable to effectively protect the people from tyranny.

Our faith is significant because it is faith that informs morality. Ultimately it is only morality that will determine if the terms of that social contract are just, if they are humane and if they are enforced. This idea is rooted in the teachings of the Old Testament. After leading the Israelites out of bondage, Moses counseled that fear of God would be all the government Israel needed. Hundreds of years later, the prophet Samuel repeated this warning when the Israelites demanded that he crown a king to rule over the people of Israel. Thus, it is on this biblical principle that men of virtue - who fear God - can govern themselves that informed this nation's founding.

Inherent in this notion of self-government is the idea that men are able to handle their own business, that the rights of the individual are sacred and that it is God who grants each life with significance -- not man. It is the rewriting of this social contract that is one of the main problems I have with the new Liberalism. They have inverted those core beliefs that frame our understanding of liberty to read that government's job is to provide instead of to protect and that the more government provides, the more free men become.

This "tipping of the balance" is gross partisanship and is rooted not in the principles of our founding but in the notion that men are nothing but sheep to be cared for, led about and shorn of their wool each April 15th. Sheep need a shepherd -- someone to guide them and make decisions for them. Who is to be that shepherd? You? Me? Who anoints these shepherds with the wisdom necessary to make decisions over other men's lives and property? The American founders rejected the idea that there should be shepherds and happened upon the revolutionary idea that each man must be his own master and must be guided by the moral teachings of the Judeo/Christian bible.

The principles I hold dear are grounded in two thousand years of philosophical teaching. My question is: Upon what does the new liberalism base its notion that one man or one group of men is better equipped to make decisions about how other men can best live their lives?

U-N-I-T-Y Part 1
U-N-I-T-Y Part 3: Partisanship and Black Authenticity

Joseph C. Phillips: (Visit
Phillips is an actor and writer living in Hollywood, California. He is perhaps best known as one of the stars of The Cosby Show. He was also a three-time NAACP award nominee for his role as attorney Justus Ward on the daytime drama General Hospital and was the mayor on The District. Mr. Phillips has had essays published in Essence magazine, USA today and the College Digest among others.

Copyright 2005 JCP Productions. All rights reserved.

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