Gram, Dr. Spalding, Distinguished Guests:
press appeared not to notice, President Clinton, in his Inaugural
Address, called for a new Constitution. He borrowed language from
of Independence where in 1776 Thomas Jefferson presented the
argument for new government. On January 20th, 1997, Mr. Clinton
proclaimed, "We need a new government for a new century." He proceeded
to set forth all the things this new government would give
the American people.
Today, I come
before you to argue that we need just the opposite. We, at the Center
for the American Founding, believe that a tool is necessary to guide
us back to the path of our existing Constitution.
We offer this tool to the decision makers, legislators and judges
of America and ask all of you to help us develop it to its full
potential. Because it points the way, we think of it as a compass.
What kind of
country will exert its best efforts for the benefit of all mankind?
Or engage in war without expectation of gain? What kind of country
makes it possible that a person who did not grow up in it feel sufficiently
at home to step forward with a major initiative? What kind of country
has long-time professionals come together to hear a relative novice
with a foreign accent speak on national issues? What kind of country?
A country which is one of a kind.
As we contemplate
the future, it is essential that we keep in mind that America, indeed,
is one of a kind. Some believe with all their heart that people,
and their aspirations, are the same everywhere. This may be so.
But the nation established here more than two hundred years
ago has neither precedent nor a parallel in the known history of
this planet. Not its capacity for success; not its capacity for
strength; not its capacity for goodness. It is one of a kind.
A big word. You think of Shakespeare. Or Beethoven. Or George Washington.
We look at their work and try to understand what makes it so. It
is a hopeless endeavor. But with America, there are definite ingredients
we can identify quite easily: the rule of law, individual rights,
guaranteed property and so forth. A funny thing, ingredients. We
acknowledge their importance in all sorts of scenarios, yet ignore
them when it comes to matters of life and death. If we eat something
memorable, we want the recipe. With food, we know without the shadow
of a doubt that the ingredients make the thing.
cream, for example, takes chocolate, cream and sugar. If, instead,
you use ground beef, mustard and "A1" sauce, you don't expect chocolate
ice cream to come out of the process. Whatever else it will be,
chocolate ice cream it will not be. Ice creams come in many varieties.
America is one of a kind. Do we honestly expect it to remain America
if the ingredients are changed?
Over the past
decades, the Rule of Law has been displaced by something called
"social justice." Group rights and arbitrary privileges make a mockery
of the constitutional rights of the individual. Where not so long
ago all Americans could feel secure in their right to acquire and
hold property, government today is no longer discussing whether
- only how much of it to confiscate, and how to redistribute
it. As you see, the ingredients have already undergone drastic change.
Is it reasonable to hope that America will nevertheless remain America?
And the greatest
variety of assaults is launched against something I have come to
refer to as "national identity." Now, I realize that some people
might have a reaction to that phrase because the term has been used
by others as a wedge. I use it as a magnet. As such, it is a necessity.
Something needs to bind people together, especially when they have
converged, and continue to converge upon a place from every corner
of the globe.
about being similar or being different. Since our differences have
been amply provided for by nature, we have to agree about those
aspects of our lives which will make us similar. For the shared
history which other nations have, Americans have successfully substituted
a shared belief in, and adherence to, certain principles. A common
language took the place of a shared culture. No state religion was
established, but a Bible-based morality taken for granted. Add to
this a certain work ethic, an expectation of competence in your
field of work (whether you split the atom or sweep the floor), a
spirit of voluntary cooperation, insistence on choice, a fierce
sense of independence - and you have the ingredients of the American
identity. And, if you prefer to call it American character or, as
George Washington, "national character," it will serve our purpose
so long as we remain agreed about the ingredients. For it is
these ingredients that have distinguished us from other societies,
and enabled those who sweep the floor today to split the atom tomorrow.
nation's leaders are engaged in choosing a path to pursue. Yet,
all along, we have had a path to follow. It is clearly pointed
in the Declaration of Independence and our founders complemented
it with a superb road map they called the Constitution of the United
States. Add to this the glossary we know as The Federalist Papers
and it is hard to see why and how we could have lost our sense of
direction. But lost it we have. That is why we need a compass -
the compass in the title of these remarks.
and 1791, our compass was calibrated to keep us on the path of betterment
- as individuals and as a nation. We even had a kind of "North Star,"
a magnetic North, in what we call the Rule of Law. But instead,
we now have rule by the lawmaker. Every member of the Executive,
every member of the Judiciary has become a potential lawmaker and
in most cases they use the potential to the hilt.
Yet the Rule
of Law stands for the exact opposite. As its basic property, it
places the fundamental tenets beyond the reach of politics and politicians.
Whereas it confers legitimacy upon subsequent laws that spring from
its eternal well, it denies legitimacy to all legislative maneuvers
that corrupt its purpose. It holds the makers, executants and adjudicators
of the law accountable at all times. Above all, it demands equal
application to every man, woman and child. Within its own framework,
a prescribed majority may amend the law. But as the law stands in
any given moment, it must be applied equally. If accomplished, nothing
in the history of human societies can match the significance and
magnificence of equality before the law.
for equality before the law began with the Magna
Carta or even earlier, in King Arthur's court, where knights
sat at a round table. But it took Thomas Jefferson to etch
the concept in the minds of freedom-loving people everywhere, more
permanently than posterity could have etched the words in the marble
of the Jefferson Memorial. And even then, after those immortal words
of the Declaration of Independence had been written, it took most
of two centuries before America, land of the many miracles, almost
made it a reality for the first time ever.
on Rule of Law, Individual Rights
But it was
not to be. The rule of law, our only alternative to the law of the
jungle, came under attack just as it was about to triumph. The attacker
displayed the irresistible charm of the temptress, the armament
of the enraged avenger, dressed itself in intoxicating clichés,
and wore the insigniae of the highest institutions of learning.
It called itself "social justice."
Let me make
it clear: I do not speak of social conscience. That is a
frame of mind, a noble sentiment, a measure of civilization. Precisely
for that reason, while it has everything to do with our conduct,
it has nothing whatever to do with laws. "Social justice," on the
other hand, aims at the heart of our legal system by setting an
unattainable goal, by fueling discontent, by insinuating a permanent
state of hopelessness.
But above all,
social justice is unacceptable as the basis for a stable society
because, unlike the Law, it is what anyone says it is on any given
day. We need only to move back a few years, or travel a few thousand
miles, and one is certain to find an entirely different definition
of social justice. At the end of the day, it is nothing more than
an empty slogan, to be filled by power-hungry political activists
so as to enlist the participation of well-intentioned people.
The Rule of
Law and a world according to "Social Justice" are mutually exclusive.
One cannot have it both ways.
What have the
Rule of Law and the pursuit of "social justice" respectively spawned
over time? The Rule of Law gave birth to a series of individual
rights. In other words, rights vested solely in individuals. Only
individuals are capable of having rights, just as only individuals
can be free. We say a society is free if the individuals who make
up that society are free. For individuals to be free, they must
have certain unalienable rights, and others upon which they had
agreed with one another.
has spawned an aberration called group rights. Group rights are
the negation of individual rights. Group rights say in effect, "you
cannot and do not have rights as an individual - only as the member
of a certain group." The Rule of Law knows nothing about groups,
therefore it could not provide for, or legitimize rights of groups.
Groups have no standing in the eyes of the Law. And, since their
so-called rights are invariably created and conferred by persons
of temporary authority, they are "subject to change without notice,"
as the saying goes, just like the definition of social justice itself.
rights recognize and promote similarity. Group rights promote differences
and stereotypes. Individual rights and group rights are mutually
exclusive. One cannot have it both ways.
Among our individual
rights, the right to acquire and hold property has a special place.
If ever a concept came to be developed to protect the weak against
the strong, to balance inborn gifts with the fruits of sheer diligence
and industry, property inviolate is its name. But who am
I to speak, after John Locke, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison
have pronounced on this topic. They held that civilized society
is predicated upon the sanctity of private property, and that to
guarantee it is government's primary function. Without absolute
property there is no incentive. Without absolute property there
is no security. Without absolute property there is no liberty. The
freedom to enter into contract, the freedom to keep what is mine,
the freedom to dispose of what is mine underlies all our liberties.
search for "social justice" nor so-called group rights recognize,
or respect, private property. They look upon flesh-and-blood individuals
as faceless members of a multitude who, together, create a certain
amount of goods. These goods belong to what they call "The Community."
Then certain people decide who needs what and, being privy to some
higher wisdom, distribute - actually redistribute - the goods.
Redistribution is pursuant to group rights expressed in something
called entitlement. Entitlements are based neither on law
nor on accomplishment. Entitlements are based on membership in a
certain group, and we have seen that groups are designated by persons
of temporary authority, rather than the Law.
The right to
property and entitlements through redistribution are mutually exclusive.
One cannot have it both ways.
We have been
ordered by the prophets of social justice to replace our national
identity with something they call "multi-culturalism." I will confess
that some time in the past, I might have shared the allergic reaction
some of you experience in the face of "national" and "identity."
But then I noticed the enormous importance the social-justice crowd
attaches to the destruction of the American identity. Just think:
bi-lingual education and multi-lingual ballots. Removal of the founding
documents from our schools. Anti-American history standards. Exiling
the Ten Commandments. Replacing American competence with generic
"self esteem." Replacing voluntarism with coercion. Encouraging
vast numbers of new immigrants to ignore the very reasons which
brought them here in the first place. The list goes on, and sooner
or later will affect national defense, if it hasn't already.
And for those
who would point to Yugoslavia as proof of the tragedy nationalism
can cause, let me say that a healthy national identity is utterly
distinct from nationalism. Like the United States, Yugoslavia was
created. But unlike in the case of the United States, ingredients
for a national identity were not provided, and Yugoslavia imploded
at the first opportunity precisely for that reason. Had it not done
so, it would have succumbed to the first external attack, for no
Croat would lay down his life for the good of Serbs or Bosnians.
Will Americans lay down their lives if America is nothing but a
patchwork of countless group identities?
Armed Forces of the United States fight to uphold, defend, and advance
the cause of Multi-Culturalism?
This is not
a frivolous question.
before us are serious, and legion. We are virtually drowning in
what we call "issues," and they are becoming increasingly difficult
to sort out. How do we find our position? And, once we find our
position, how do we argue its merit? Above all, how do we avoid
the plague of every issue coming at us like an octopus and, just
as we figure out how to tackle each arm, turning into a turtle inside
its impenetrable shell?
We asked you
to hear me today, because the Center for the American Founding has
a proposal to submit. We call it "Four Points of the Compass" because
these points provide direction, because - in a manner of speaking
- they constitute a re-calibration of our compass which the events
of the past thirty years have distorted. They are the Rule of Law,
Individual Rights, the Sanctity of Property, and the sense of National
Identity. As you have seen, they are interconnected, they literally
flow from one another, just as the false compass-points which have
come to displace them - social justice, group rights, redistribution
and multi-culturalism - are interconnected and flow from one another.
What is multi-culturalism if not a redistribution of cultural "goods?"
What is redistribution if not a group right? What is a group right
if not the implementation of some political activist's version of
For 30 years,
we have acquiesced in a steady erosion of America's founding principles.
The time has come to reverse the movement. Rather than contending
with countless individual issues, all we need to do is take the
debate down a few notches, closer to the core. Let me repeat: we
need to take the debate down a few notches, closer to the core.
We submit that all future policy and legislative initiatives be
tested against the four points of the compass. Does the proposed
bill negate the Rule of Law? Does it violate individual rights?
Does it interfere with the sanctity of Property? Does it constitute
an assault on National Identity? Only if the answer is "No" in each
case, would the proposal proceed. In other words:
the answers are "NO" is the bill a "GO."
A few items
need tidying up. How do we know what the Rule of Law can accommodate,
and how far do we take individual rights? The answer, in both cases,
comes from Article VI of the Constitution. "This Constitution,
and the laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance
thereof...shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in
every State shall be bound thereby..." It is as uncomplicated
In the coming
months, we intend to approach the citizens of this great nation
and their representatives at all levels with a call to consider
adopting this approach. We will hold panel discussions and town
meetings so as to invite, engage and incorporate the wisdom and
experience of Americans everywhere. There will be retreats and,
by year's end, there will be a book with all the details. We do
not underrate the magnitude of the step we are proposing, but we
honestly believe that it will make life a great deal easier. With
a simple stroke, it will become clear that one cannot take an oath
upon the Constitution and support group rights. One cannot take
an oath upon the Constitution and support the confiscation of property
without compensation. One cannot take an oath upon the Constitution
and support measures which are clearly at odds with the mandate
for national defense.
We cannot have
it both ways. We have to choose our compass and remember the four
points. They are, as we have seen, inseparable. Therefore: Only
if the answers are NO is the bill a GO.
I do not believe
that last November the people of this country voted for the luke-warm
bath of bi-partisanship. I believe the people of this country said:
If you don't give us a real choice, we won't give you a real election.
Yes, people probably have grown tired of the "issues," but they
are, I am certain, eager to partake in an effort to choose either
a return to our original path, or a clean and honest break with
Those who feel
that the time has come to change the supreme law of the land should
come forward, say so, and engage in an open debate. But let us not
continue a pattern of self-delusion. We are heirs to a remarkable
group of men who, two hundred plus years ago, had every reason to
feel similarly overwhelmed by the number of decisions they had to
make. Their response was to make very few laws, for they knew that
the fewer the laws, the broader the agreement. They knew people
find it hard to agree on everything. So they sought agreement on
core principles they held to be non-negotiable.
Today, we propose
the four that ought to be non-negotiable. They are, as we have seen,
inseparable. We call them the four points of the compass. Together,
they can and will restore America's sense of direction.