Richard Nisley

History - World Released - Nov 15, 2015

Is diversity a good thing? What with illegal aliens crossing our borders, and Syrian refugees fleeing their homeland seeking safety in Europe, and debates raging here and abroad about whether it’s good or bad, and the impact it will have on long established cultures, and the effect it’s having economically, and what actions should be taken to stem the tide, including the building of walls and forced removal of large masses of people, and so on and so forth. But should in fact anything be done? What would America’s Founding Fathers say? Did they say anything on the subject? In fact, they did.

John Adams, together with the Federalist authors (Alexander Hamilton and James Madison), were the first thinkers in Western political philosophy to identify liberty not with unity but with diversity. Nature’s difference will keep the peace, they said, long before America had become a melting pot. Diversities of peoples meant a diversity of ideas competing to be heard, resulting in competing factions. Madison saw competing factions as the surest guarantee of preventing majority rule, which he said was the greatest threat to a republic. On the other hand, homogeneous cultures, where everyone thinks and acts pretty much the same, were the easiest to rule and ripe for tyranny. Nazi Germany is a good example.

What did the voices of classic republic government have to say on the subject? The following short text is from a brilliant little book entitled “John Adams” by John Patrick Diggins. The author writes: “Although Aristotle saw society divided into the rich, poor, and ‘middle sort,’ Adams found his theory of politics ‘inhumane’ and ‘cruel’ since it excluded ‘husbandman, merchant, and tradesman’ from representation. Machiavelli was an ardent republican, but his story of liberty failed, in Adams’ estimate, to discern how the nobility dominated almost every aspect in Italian political life. The author of ‘History of Florence’ assumed that the rich and educated could be assimilated in a general representative government. But Adams believed social orders must be made to reside in different representative branches, kept apart lest they wage war upon one another. While democracy could be tempted to use its numerical superiority to overwhelm the rich and able, aristocracy would take advantage of its superior learning and guile to oppress the popular masses (the ruling elite of Communist China is an example — RN). Adams was as much concerned about the aggressiveness of an arrogant aristocracy as he was of democracy’s tendency to disrupt into rage and disorder. But ultimately the liberty of the many depended upon the control of the few.”

“The few” were those in power, of course, who needed to have checks placed on them. James Madison’s maxim for good government was that it must govern itself before it can govern the people. The U.S. Constitution is not about how to govern the people, but rather how government is to govern itself. The Bill of Rights is not a prohibition against what the people might do, but against what the government might do. The government created by the Founders was a government of checks and balances, pitting power against power, each branch keeping watch over the other, a never ending struggle, and the surest means of preventing the power of the majority from oppressing the minority. Who speaks for the people? The President does, Congress does, the Supreme Court does, but rarely are they in agreement. This is good; this is democracy; it means our government is working as it should. And the best assurance that it will continue to do so, is our nation’s diversity.

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Post script: the above was written prior to the Friday night attacks on Paris. What was the intended target of the terrorists? The innocent, Parisian landmarks, France, Europe, the West—all of these things. But their real target was diversity—diversity of religions, ideas, and beliefs. Also tolerance, pluralism, equality between men and women, freedom of choice, and modernity. Their goal is to turn back the clock to the bad old days where everyone was bound by a single doctrinaire religious belief, where men were men and ruled their families with an iron fist and women were subservient, where justice was swift and merciless and rule of law arbitrary, where a single all-powerful voice ruled the land, and where diversity was not tolerated.
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