How To Declare Independence And Start Pursuing Your Happiness

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Many folks think Thomas Jefferson “borrowed” the phrase “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness” from John Locke. The 17th Century British philosopher and physician famously wrote, in the unsigned Second Treatise Concerning Civil Government, that government exists to protect one’s life, liberty, and property. Sounds awfully similar to the words used by our Founding Father nearly ninety years later.

Significantly, Locke’s focus on personal “property” breaks from the sense of Thomas Hobbes. In his 1651 treatise Leviathan, Hobbes paints a sovereign-centric ideal. In this “social contract,” citizens cede personal freedoms to the ruler in exchange for protection. Without such protection, the contract is invalidated.

Bear in mind, Hobbes wrote this while in exile during the English Civil War between the Parliamentarians and the Royalists. He rejected Aristotle’s premise that man is driven by Continue Reading “How To Declare Independence And Start Pursuing Your Happiness”

Condemned to Repeat It: This 200+ Year Old Concept Rises Again in 2020

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“Progress, far from consisting in change, depends on retentiveness. When change is absolute there remains no being to improve and no direction is set for possible improvement: and when experience is not retained, as among savages, infancy is perpetual. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
– George Santayana in his 1905 series, The Life of Reason: the Phases of Human Progress.

It’s not new. It’s been with us since George Washington ended his second term as President. You might have heard it ended once and for all during the nadir of the American experiment.

But it’s still here. And for all its association with evil, the worst of our proud heritage, people continue to embrace it like a badge of honor.

Yet, it began with such promise…

No one ever questioned George Washington. He’s our first and probably last Continue Reading “Condemned to Repeat It: This 200+ Year Old Concept Rises Again in 2020”

The Liberty of the Ad Lib

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Did you see what I did there?

“Liberty”…

“Ad Lib”…

Get it?

OK. I have to admit. It is a bit of a stretch. At least from a literal standpoint. The “lib” of “ad lib” doesn’t stand for “liberty.” It’s actually the short form of the Latin phrase ad libitum.

Ad libitum literally translates to “at one’s pleasure.” There’s no “liberty” in it at all. Our word “liberty” derives from the Latin word liber. In Latin, liber and libitum mean two different, albeit not wholly unrelated, things.

The Latin liber means “free” or “unrestricted.” You can easily see how we get “liberty” from Continue Reading “The Liberty of the Ad Lib”

Declaration of (Italian) American Independence

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“They all laughed at Christopher Columbus/When he said the world was round…” So begins the lyrics of Ira Gershwin for brother George’s 1937 composition “They All Laughed.” The Gershwins wrote the song for the movie Shall We Dance, starring Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire. Frank Sinatra famously included the tune in his masterpiece Trilogy album, where he sings the closing lyrics “Who’s got the last laugh now?” with a knowing wink.

From Christopher Columbus to Frank Sinatra, it’s clear that Italians and Italian-Americans have had a tremendous impact on America. Over the next three weeks, we’ll focus on those names history books seem to have neglected.

Did you know Italian-Americans played a prominent role in the founding of America? For example, three of the first five American warships were named after Italians. These were Continue Reading “Declaration of (Italian) American Independence”

A Confession from a Hypocrite: Alas, I, too, am a Free Rider

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It was the most regrettable thing I had ever done in my entire life. At the time I thought it was a giant step forward, a statement that, because of who I was, because of who we were, would make a difference.

Organizing the protest had other alluring advantages. Our teacher encouraged us. We respected her and she respected us. She treated us like adults. We liked that. It presented us with the ultimate reward: greater self-esteem. In addition, the entire class participated. That meant we could be with our friends, and all the social rewards that brings. Finally, only our class was allowed to participate. It was a reward for getting our schoolwork done in a timely fashion. There’s nothing like the feeling of accomplishment to fill the soul with self-confidence.

Of course, it helped that we hooked our wagon to a national movement. It was the first Continue Reading “A Confession from a Hypocrite: Alas, I, too, am a Free Rider”

How to Declare War

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[This Commentary originally appeared in the November 29, 1990 issue of The Mendon-Honeoye Falls-Lima Sentinel.]

CarosaCommentaryNewLogo_259What the Constitution says: The Constitution of the United States of America clearly states only Congress can declare war on another nation. Our founding fathers correctly determined the impropriety of putting an entire nation at risk as a result of one person having too much authority. Though naming him Commander-in-Chief, they astutely forbade the President from declaring war.

Constitutional scholars call this juxtaposition the separation of powers. The separation of powers between the three major branches of government creates a very durable system of Continue Reading “How to Declare War”

American Egalitarianism

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[This Commentary originally appeared in the October 25, 1990 issue of The Mendon-Honeoye Falls-Lima Sentinel.]

CarosaCommentaryNewLogo_259Is America equal?

We immediately respond with a resounding “Yes!” As youngsters, we begin learning the lessons of the American saga. A free and open democracy – like that in the United States – implies and demands a society of equals. Our founding fathers’ forged the idea of “one man, one vote.” (Most of us forgive our ancestors, who took nearly 150 years to add “one woman, one vote” to our forbears’ edict.)

Yet, can a society in which less than 1 percent of the population owns more than 20Continue Reading “American Egalitarianism”