The Words of the Anderson Family
David Burgess joined the Unification movement in 1977 in Boulder, CO. After working as a CARP leader, he received a B.A. in Comparative Literature, a B.A. in Political Science, an M.A.I.S. in Comparative Religion and a Ph. D. in Comparative Literature, all from the University of Washington. From 2000 to 2008, he served as the District Director of the American Family Coalition and Secretary General of UPF-USA in the Northwest. The founder and director of the Service for Peace chapter in the Northwest since 2003, he has also served as the Editor of Literature and Politics of the New World Encyclopedia since 2005. He is currently the Director of New Product Development for Shining Ocean.
Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness: Version 4.0 is Dr. Gordon L. Anderson's latest reflection on the proper role of government, expanding the analysis that he began in The Philosophy of the United States: Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. In this latest work,
Anderson traces the roots of American democracy and the United States Constitution to the Babylonian state based on the Code of Hammurabi and the Roman Republic based on the Pax Romana. Using the computer vernacular of the day, Anderson dubs these two societies Versions 1.0 and 2.0. The United States based on the Constitution is version 3.0. This new book is a meditation on version 4.0 -- a blueprint for "a more perfect union."
The proper role of government is an appropriate topic for reflection by the Unification community. The vision for building the ideal social order, the "Kingdom of God" on earth, requires more than merely the belief that society should be based on the model of the family. It requires a blueprint for a workable model for polity governance that is, political and social institutions that both preserve human rights and freedom and co-ordinate activity in the public interest. Dr. Anderson's book is a great place to begin thinking about the problem.
Taking the Constitution of the United States as the furthest advancement in the development of democratic government to date, the core of Anderson's book lays out five basic principles that need to be affirmed to remove some of the "viruses and parasites" that have crept into our system of government. These include protection of life, liberty and property, subsidiarity, separation of powers, transparency and the right to secede. Protection of life, liberty and property and separation of powers are hallmarks of the American system of government. Transparency is an obvious concern in a democracy, especially contemporary democracy in which 2000-page bills are written in such a way that they are incomprehensible even to those who vote on them.
Anderson's discussion of subsidiarity requires more explanation. Subsidiarity means that the best-suited governmental organization to perform a function is the most limited one possible, the one closest to action taken and the people affected that still has the necessary power for effective action. (The city government cannot make foreign policy, but it is better suited than a federal bureaucracy to regulate municipal parking rates and policies.)
This principle addresses one of the key problems that Anderson sees in the current American system of government. From the beginning, the Founding Fathers were essentially of two different minds. The Jeffersonians believed that the new republic was built on a foundation of freeholders -- independent farmers. These small social units function like a family. For Jefferson, the small social unit of the gentleman farmer was the surest basis to maintain the republican form of government. Others, notably Alexander Hamilton, wanted to create a national banking and commercial system that would be required to create a great nation. Anderson argues that from the late 19th century forward, the rise of urban centers, commercial enterprises and bureaucracy have been part of a greater centralization of power in the hands of the federal government at the expense of the principle of subsidiarity. Anderson argues that America has succumbed to the temptation of centralized power but not without peril to her long-term health as, in his view, a great society requires adherence to the principle of subsidiarity.
The problem of centralization of power is at the root of the right to secede as well. Subsidiarity would place greater power at the state level than the current system allows, even permitting them states to withdraw from the union should they find the centralized power oppressive. In principle this seems just, but the issue of "states rights" has a bad name in the United States because this was an issue over which the Civil War was fought. The destruction of slavery meant the destruction of the southern economy, so the southern states argued that they had the right to opt out of the union. This issue illustrates the challenge of respecting individual rights when they are opposed to human rights. These are the real and difficult problems that we must face up to in order to build a just society.
Anderson has another very interesting discussion on extending the separation of church and state to other sectors of civil society, including commerce. He argues that government should only serve the role of referee, impartial observer who makes the rules but does not pick winners and losers in the economy. Today the government is so intertwined with the economy, it's hard to imagine how they could be separated in practice but Anderson's point about the dual role of government -- as disinterested rule maker while at the same time an interested participant -- is a compelling critique.
These are but a few of the numerous such reflections in Anderson's book. For those who are interested in the questions of good governance and the role that government can and should play in creating the ideal society, Anderson's book will help you to think through many of the key issues that need to be resolved. For those with little background in politics, it will provide a great introduction to those topics.
Anderson's book comes at a time when the public perception [approval ratings of elected representatives] of government in the United States has eroded. Many are turned off by the seemingly endless bickering. Perhaps the real value of such a book is not as an actual blueprint for a new government but to help us understand that our governmental systems actually matter and we cannot afford to become indifferent. Governments are not immutable and should not merely be accepted as given. Whatever our current reality, good or bad, we must dare to imagine a better system of government that ensures that future. For that reason, Dr. Anderson's latest book is an important work that Unificationists should read and discuss, one that will hopefully spur on future meditations by him and others.