"It profits me but little that a vigilant authority always protects the tranquillity of my pleasures and constantly averts all dangers from my path, without my care or concern, if this same authority is the absolute master of my liberty and my life."

--Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Birthdays Today

Today's birthdays fall under the heading of political commentary.   It is Edmund Burke's birthday.   Born in 1729, Edmund Burke is the father of modern conservatism in its truest form, in which those who would govern ought to be constrained by a profound humility about the limits of their own abilities to reshape human nature and should be particularly reticent about unwinding the threads of society's time-worn fabric of traditions in exchange for visions of utopia.   Here is Burke writing in 1791 in the aftermath of the French Revolution:
Men are qualified for civil liberty in exact proportion to their disposition to put moral chains upon their own appetites, — in proportion as their love to justice is above their rapacity, — in proportion as their soundness and sobriety of understanding is above their vanity and presumption, — in proportion as they are more disposed to listen to the counsels of the wise and good, in preference to the flattery of knaves. Society cannot exist, unless a controlling power upon will and appetite be placed somewhere; and the less of it there is within, the more there must be without. It is ordained in the eternal constitution of things, that men of intemperate minds cannot be free. Their passions forge their fetters.
Like de Toqueville two generations later, Burke repays re-reading, even two hundred and more years later.


It's also Rush Limbaugh's birthday.   Vilified on the left, Limbaugh has become the spokesman for the common-sense, Middle America, small business, Main Street conservative -- men, not incidentally, like my own father, men who get agitated when they hear self-appointed elites from coastal metropolises tell them that they know better what's good for them.   The people who vilify Limbaugh don't listen to him, and likely have never listened to him, but simply take it on faith that what he says is evil and vicious.  It's not.  Limbaugh is consistently funny, humane, and wise -- you couldn't be anything else and survive for twenty plus years talking to people for three hours a day.   Rush is 59.  

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