April 4, 2008


Sometimes a little contrast is a good thing. I pointed readers to Two--Four yesterday, a site I can always promise will be interesting, and Billy Beck wrote a piece welcoming visitors. (He lives just outside of Dryden, close enough for Living in Dryden purposes.)

What he wrote - about Dryden and in general - clarified some thoughts I've had about this site and the rest of the work I do. Not that I agreed with it - we definitely come at the world from different perspectives. He writes:

I might point out that I could be just as friendly as the next guy, except on those days when I am mortally concerned for my country, because my first political touchstone is freedom.

I hadn't really thought about "my first political touchstone" before, but it came to me quickly on reading this - community. Community and the trust that's the vital ingredient for creating, sustaining, and building it.

You can pretend you have community if you don't have trust, but what you probably have is convenience. I can live with that sometimes, and don't necessarily object to working with people I don't trust, but in the end trust lets us get a lot more done, without hating each other. Making that work will, of course, require a lot of freedom. Trust doesn't seem to work in authoritarian systems either.

One thing I've always enjoyed about reading Two--Four is that despite our different touchstones, we both seem to share a suspicion of of power. I suspect for him it's because the abuse of power leads quickly to violation of individual rights, while for me it's because the abuse of power leads quickly to the violation of trust and the demise of community. Even though we're completely different in many ways - I can't imagine thinking of the Village of Dryden as "way too commie for me" - I think we might still have enough in common to both keep at least some aspects of the world from going even further out of whack than they've already gone.

As I said, though, Two--Four is always interesting, worth reading for some necessary contrast with the way I'm comfortable thinking.

Posted by simon at April 4, 2008 1:27 PM in
Note on photos


Mike Sylvia said:

There are thoughts gathering in my mind on this subject. While they form, I'll just pass along this quotation:

"It would be a dangerous delusion were a confidence in the men of our choice to silence our fears for the safety of our rights... Confidence is everywhere the parent of despotism. Free government is founded in jealousy, and not in confidence. It is jealousy and not confidence which prescribes limited constitutions, to bind down those whom we are obliged to trust with power... Our Constitution has accordingly fixed the limits to which, and no further, our confidence may go... In questions of power, then, let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution." --Thomas Jefferson: Draft Kentucky Resolutions, 1798. ME 17:388

I welcome (and share) Jefferson's concerns about tyranny, but I can't say I've ever found him writing about how the rights of the individual are exclusively the most important thing.

Admittedly, I haven't read anything resembling Jefferson's complete works, but it seems to me that we've drifted a long way from the visions of our founders. Our situations are certainly different, but I'm not convinced that the drift we've taken was the right one to choose.

(I suspect you also disagree with the drift, but for different reasons!)

We'll see!