W. Cleon Skousen’s ” The 5000 Year Leap” is a wonderful book that provides 28 principles related to the rights,freedoms and responsibilities of the individual and that individual’s government as expounded by our ( American) Founding Fathers. This treatise will explore Principle 9 ( Skousen, W. Cleon. ” The 5000 Year Leap,” pp. 131- 139).
The Principle under discussion
The Ninth Principle explores the safeguarding of our rights. God has revealed to us certain principles of Law through the agency of the Ten Commandments ( pp.131-2).
In a nutshell, these commandments include serving and worshipping God alone, honoring our neighbor, respecting our neighbors’ situation, honoring our parents and setting aside a day of rest, worship and recommitment to the observance of the Divine Law ( pp. 132-33).
Our rights and responsibilities
The rights we enjoy are safeguarded by the duties that God has enjoined on each one of us to follow, both public duties and private ones. Public duties are enforceable by the State and the States’ law enforcement. When these duties are ignored, these entities are empowered to impose penalties on the transgressor to both deter future transgressions and to discourage the general public from ignoring their own responsibilities ( 133-4).
Private duties are ” principles of private morality” that exist between an individual and his or her Creator. They would bolster and encourage their performance of their public duties and yet only the individual may meet those duties through self- discipline ( 133).
Anglo- Saxon and Israelite precedents
The Israelites and the Anglo- Saxons both personalized public transgressions through the possibility of repayment ( the Anglo- Saxons would have called this ” wergild,” or financial compensation for the harm done by one person to another). For the Anglo- Saxons, a fixed financial penalty would be incurred for an injury or death. The Israelites would impose repayment in kind for financial loss ( deliberate murder would be punished in Israel by execution of the offender). The Israelites and Anglo- Saxons both held God’s Law to be immutable. Any kinds of laws that they would pass would be in accordance either with the ancient body of ancestral laws ( also held as unchangeable) or the Law as revealed in the Ten Commandments.
Reparations, of course, were a legal and private matter between the offended, the offender and law- enforcement. Reparations by the state ( tax- payers paying compensation for the crimes of others) would be an encouragement rather than a deterrence to crime, as a thief could blithely tell his or her target that the government would restore the stolen property in terms of cash value anyway ( 136-37).
These are basic, simple Laws of Nature and Nature’s God that are rewarded in their simple observance. All laws that are valid are laws that are built upon the basic cornerstones of revealed Law and reason. When people look to their own duties, they find their rights being reinforced as well as protected through the observance of those duties.
Safeguards for individual freedoms
On the final page of this particular chapter, we see how the State can abuse the freedom of the individual by passing oppressive laws to enrich the few and to keep the many in want. Our Founding Fathers had the wisdom to see that sovereign authority needed to be taken out of the hands of the oligarchs and into the hands of the people. Only then are we assured that our ancient rights would be protected by those who could easily be in be a position to abuse their power ( 138).
We surely do have rights that are tempered by responsibilities to ourselves, our neighbors and our God. We must not have an unbalanced view that will put rights over responsibilities ( that leads to a breakdown in social institutions and restraints on unlawful behavior), or responsibilities over rights ( that will lead to State tyranny and public persecution). Our view ought to be a balanced one that sees our rights and responsibilities supporting each other. In this way, perhaps we can return to working on realizing our Founders’ vision of this land as a ” city on a hill” and a ” light to the nations.”