An unworthy Deacon, named for the brother of God: James, striving to "work out his salvation with fear and trembling" within the Tradition (paradosis) of the Eastern Orthodox Faith. It is a strange and marvelous journey, and I am accompanied by the fourfold fruit of my fecundity. My wife, the Matushka or Diaconissa Sophia, is my beloved partner in the pursuit of Theosis, and she ranks me in every way.
I stumbled upon this intriguing movie from ReasonTV in part about a man's search to discover what became of his father in Stalin's Gulags. I found it especially interesting because in Amity Shlaes book "The Forgotten Man" I had just read about a group of American intellectual/activists who were sympathetic to socialism making a trip to Stalin's Russia in 1927 just like Freda Utley.
I wrote some of my thoughts about that trip to the LOG. I copy it here because I think it fits with the reality shown in this video: a system of governing that either dismisses or downplays the important of individual liberty will inevitably trample it violently.
In 1927 a group of American "progressives" sailed off to visit Stalin. Universities Profs and Union men/women heading over to see the "worker's paradise." They all left with high hopes and expectations from a system to which they were sympathetic, but returned a divided lot with mixed feelings. As I read about trip, it occurred to me that one man in particular had an experience there that really defined the paramount issue of the left vs. right even today.
His name was Paul Douglas from the University of Chicago. One thing he noticed immediately was a fascination of the Soviets over a rather obscure murder case in the US: two men (Sacco and Vanzetti), anarchists, convicted of murder of a paymaster and sentenced to death. The "workers" in Russia apparently saw (or rather were taught to see) the men as martyrs - victims of American capitalism. Douglas might have been sympathetic himself, however, he heard enough stories of the "justice" in Russia since arriving to know that the American "martyrs" had FAR more of a fair trial that any alleged criminal in Russia. And during a meeting with factory workers, Douglas became fed up with the fascination with the "martyrs" and finally let go with one of the stories he'd heard that took place in the very same factory at which he was speaking, telling them that Sacco and Vanzetti had enjoyed "the full defense of the law" and then he asked:
"But what about yourselves? Two months ago a group of bank clerks were arrested at two o'clock in the morning...they were tried at four o'clock and executed at six. Where was their right to assemble witnesses, to engage counsel, to argue their case, and if convicted, appeal?"
About halfway through his statement, his translator refused to translate. But afterwards, a worker who understood English (I assumed) would confront him on the issue. She said: "You talked only of INDIVIDUAL justice. This is a bourgeois idea."
Whatever effect this might have had on Douglas (many of these travelers would, despite seeing the totalitarianism and violent repression of dissent by Stalin would go on to remain committed socialists and become the brain trust of Roosevelt's New Deal), it spoke volumes to me. The irony of dismissing individual liberty and justice, while being critical of someone's individual liberty being put to death (Sacco and Vanzetti) by a government completely escaped the soviet worker - and perhaps Douglas as well.
So here's the moral of the story as I see it: A society and associated government that maintains individual liberty and justice as its paramount purpose and ideal will NEVER drift into the the realm of totalitarian policies and atrocities. However a society and associated government that maintains that the "greater good" is its purpose and its highest ideal, will by its very nature forever have a license to engage in all manner of totalitarian policies and atrocities.
...a dangerous ambition more often lurks behind the specious mask of zeal for the rights of the people than under the forbidden appearance of zeal for the firmness and efficiency of government. History will teach us that the former has been found a much more certain road to the introduction of despotism than the latter, and that of those men who have overturned the liberties of republics, the greatest number have begun their career by paying an obsequious court to the people; commencing demagogues, and ending tyrants.
I would only suggest that Hamilton's "examples" (he gives no specifics) can all be shown to clearly NOT be the founding of a republic with the protection of individual liberty at its heart. I agree that a revolution may begin as a tribute to the liberty of individuals, but end in simple despotism - the French one being a fine example.
I would offer our own republic as an example in the positive - albeit not perfect, of course - it is however the best we can expect or at least the best we have. How did France end up with Napoleon out of its revoltuion, and we with a long and successful string of government transitions and ongoign liberty from ours? I have ONE suggestion: The French revolution bore with it the seeds of liberty for one collective group and tyranny for another. The Soviet revolution falls right in line with this as well.
Despostism cannot arise if individual liberties are truly championed and codified into law. Unless of course, the law is broken - which is more easily accomplished if some greater good (again see French and Russian Revolution) trumps individual liberties as a central mandate.
With that "caveat lector" presented...I rather agree with Hamilton.