Statism in Plymouth Colony

Statism in Plymouth Colony

Statism in Plymouth Colony

Statism in Plymouth Colony

Excerpt

The study of individual freedom has been a neglected aspect of American history. We take for granted the freedoms of the Bill of Rights, and most investigation on the subject concerns itself with the legacy of English constitutional development and the constitution-making of the colonists. Although there has been important work on the colonial legal systems and the internal structure of democracy and society, little attention has been paid to the confrontation of the individual with the state. A measure gauging the actual liberty possessed by free men is to determine the reach and demands of the corporate whole upon the individual citizen, and by the same token to determine the capacity of the individual to assert himself in the pursuit of his own public or private happiness.

Statism -- like most "isms" -- defies any precise definition; but it may be said to be the placing of extensive controls in the state at the expense of rights of the individual, and, it may also be added, the exercise of power by the state for the sake of power. The very nature of the state is to follow a course of self- preservation and to protect itself from its constituency. It becomes an end unto itself. It tends to seek tools of control above responding to the needs of the people; and when there is a response it is to accommodate interest groups rather than the people at large.

It was America's fortune that institutions sprang up in the fresh air of frontier conditions, in which freedom was expansive and tyranny could be checked by a safety valve -- if not geographical at least through the open-endedness of society. But . . .

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