THE FOUNDING PHILOSOPHERS OF AMERICA

by Dr. Lawrence Wilson

© January 2018, LD Wilson Consultants, Inc.

 

All information in this article is for educational purposes only.  It is not for the diagnosis, treatment, prescription or cure of any disease or health condition.

 

At least six philosophers provided the framework for the American nation.  This article introduces these esteemed men, and a little about their contribution.  This article is necessary because the writings of these individuals is no longer taught at most colleges or high schools, and this is a shame.  They are among the most important people who ever lived.

 

SAINT THOMAS AQUINAS (1225-1274)

 

Saint Thomas Aquinas was an Italian priest, author, philosopher and more.  He was a brilliant scholar of Christianity and many of his ideas were later incorporated into what is known as the Enlightenment in England and France.  Several of the philosophers discussed below trace much of their thinking to the work of Saint Thomas Aquinas.

Saint Aquinas believed that God wanted all men and women to rule themselves.  He did not believe in the idea of kings, monarchs, dictators, “strong men” and other bosses who rule over men.  The doctrine called the divine right of kings, which was taught at the time, he found repugnant.  This doctrine stated that God had ordained the king or dictator to rule over the people, and no one should object.

Instead, Saint Thomas advocated self-government, democratic decision-making and the use of a constitution or contract between the people and their elected representatives to safeguard their liberty and limit the size of government.  If this sounds modern, it is indeed, although Saint Thomas lived almost 800 years ago.

 

JOHN LOCKE (1632-1704)

 

John Lock was an English philosopher and physician.  He is widely regarded as one of the most important thinkers who influenced the founders of America.  He is sometimes known as the "Father of
Classical Liberalism".  His contributions to classical republicanism and liberal theory are reflected in the United States Declaration of Independence.

He believed in the sovereignty of the individual, limited government, self-government, and the importance of life, liberty and private ownership of property.

 

EDMUND BURKE (1727-1797)

 

Edmund Burke was an Irish statesman, author and political theorist who advocated the Christian religion as the ethical and moral basis for a free society.  This idea was incorporated into the American nation right from the start, and continues to be an important principle for this nation.

Burke emphasized Christianity as a vehicle of social progress and believed that a good and moral society was one that valued the institutions of the family and the church.  America’s emphasis on the sanctity of freedom of worship and avoidance of a state religion are based, in part, on Burke’s writings.

Burke also emphasized the need for liberty in a nation if the people are to grow spiritually and morally.  This was a new idea that was not well-received at the time he wrote about it.

 

ADAM SMITH (1723-1790)

 

Adam Smith was a Scottish economist, philosopher and author.  His famous book, An Inquiry Into The Nature And Causes Of The Wealth of Nations (1776), is considered to be the most important book about capitalism ever written, to this day.  It is a most amazing book because it sounds like it was written in our modern era.  However, it was written just as the industrial revolution was starting in Great Britain.

In this book, Adam Smith painstakingly looks at the economies of a number of nations in Europe and clearly identifies the factors that make them successful or not.  He clearly states the need for free and open markets where buyers and sellers can come together to find mutual benefit in trading goods and services with each other.  He also identifies the evils that occur when governments restrict trade and markets, usually for stupid or selfish reasons.

Reading the Wealth Of Nations, as the book is often called, is a wonderful experience and recommended for every student at the high school or college level.  It is often enough to stop any thoughts that socialism is even remotely as good as capitalism as the basis for an economy.

Adam Smith also wrote about philosophy and largely echoed the ideas of the two philosophers described above.  He was truly a gigantic intellect and a staunch advocate of the free society, especially from an economic standpoint.

 

FREDERIC BASTIAT (1801-1850)

 

Frederic Bastiat was a French economist and author who was heavily influenced by Adam Smith and the other Enlightenment philosophers discussed above.  His main contribution to the American nation was his insistence upon the principles that Adam Smith had proposed in his seminal writings.

Bastiat wrote a very short, but very hard-hitting book called The Law in 1850.  It was an immediate success in France, but even moreso in America, where the English translation has sold more than one million copies.

Bastiat argues forcefully and with humor against such common practices as redistribution of wealth, socialism, government subsidies for “favored” industries and groups, and much more.  His small book sounds extremely modern, even though it was written more than 150 years ago.

 

 

- to be continued

 

 

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