The Magna Carta at 800 Years old and the Common Core Saurons
Happy Birthday to The Magna Carta! Daniel Hannen writes in the WSJ (MEW bolded), Magna Carta: Eight Centuries of Liberty:
The very success of Magna Carta makes it hard for us, 800 years on, to see how utterly revolutionary it must have appeared at the time. Magna Carta did not create democracy: Ancient Greeks had been casting differently colored pebbles into voting urns while the remote fathers of the English were grubbing about alongside pigs in the cold soil of northern Germany. Nor was it the first expression of the law: There were Sumerian and Egyptian law codes even before Moses descended from Sinai.
What Magna Carta initiated, rather, was constitutional government—or, as the terse inscription on the American Bar Association’s stone puts it, “freedom under law.”
It takes a real act of imagination to see how transformative this concept must have been. The law was no longer just an expression of the will of the biggest guy in the tribe. Above the king brooded something more powerful yet—something you couldn’t see or hear or touch or taste but that bound the sovereign as surely as it bound the poorest wretch in the kingdom. That something was what Magna Carta called “the law of the land.”
This phrase is commonplace in our language. But think of what it represents. The law is not determined by the people in government, nor yet by clergymen presuming to interpret a holy book. Rather, it is immanent in the land itself, the common inheritance of the people living there.
The idea of the law coming up from the people, rather than down from the government, is a peculiar feature of the Anglosphere. Common law is an anomaly, a beautiful, miraculous anomaly. In the rest of the world, laws are written down from first principles and then applied to specific disputes, but the common law grows like a coral, case by case, each judgment serving as the starting point for the next dispute. In consequence, it is an ally of freedom rather than an instrument of state control. It implicitly assumes residual rights.
And indeed, Magna Carta conceives rights in negative terms, as guarantees against state coercion. No one can put you in prison or seize your property or mistreat you other than by due process. This essentially negative conception of freedom is worth clinging to in an age that likes to redefine rights as entitlements—the right to affordable health care, the right to be forgotten and so on.
It is worth stressing, too, that Magna Carta conceived freedom and property as two expressions of the same principle. The whole document can be read as a lengthy promise that the goods of a free citizen will not be arbitrarily confiscated by someone higher up the social scale. Even the clauses that seem most remote from modern experience generally turn out, in reality, to be about security of ownership.
How was Common Core State Standards Initiative created, developed and implemented? It was brought into existence by the elites, the people/organizations higher up on the social scale than the taxpayer: the private trade associations and private educational/business think tanks (such as The Fordham Institute and The Chamber of Commerce) who were funded by private foundations such as The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, The Walton Foundation and other ‘philanthropists’ who financed those elites to ensure their vision of educational government and direction was realized in the quest for a managed workforce and a common customer base.
The Federal Government joined in the party (by funding CCSSO) to circumvent the political process which set up mandates and regulations instead of codifying Common Core into law. When governors and non-elected bureaucrats can make policy without involving the voters (except for voters to pick up the unfunded mandates The CCSSI creates), what’s not to love by those higher up on the social scale? The creation of a nationalized data base and crony capitalism runs rampant and unchecked and we are told by these elites that we need these reforms that are untested and not instituted by the citizenry.
The Magna Carta should be on the 2015 summer reading list for all legislators, taxpayers and students. It’s time to revisit what happened 800 years ago and understand this concept to remind ourselves and our representatives on liberty and freedom and why Common Core is the antithesis of these values:
Liberty and property: how naturally those words tripped, as a unitary concept, from the tongues of America’s Founders. These were men who had been shaped in the English tradition, and they saw parliamentary government not as an expression of majority rule but as a guarantor of individual freedom. How different was the Continental tradition, born 13 years later with the French Revolution, which saw elected assemblies as the embodiment of what Rousseau called the “general will” of the people.
In that difference, we may perhaps discern explanation of why the Anglosphere resisted the chronic bouts of authoritarianism to which most other Western countries were prone. We who speak this language have always seen the defense of freedom as the duty of our representatives and so, by implication, of those who elect them. Liberty and democracy, in our tradition, are not balanced against each other; they are yoked together.
In February, the four surviving original copies of Magna Carta were united, for just a few hours, at the British Library—something that had not happened in 800 years. As I stood reverentially before them, someone recognized me and posted a photograph on Twitter with the caption: “If Dan Hannan gets his hands on all four copies of Magna Carta, will he be like Sauron with the Rings?”
Yet the majesty of the document resides in the fact that it is, so to speak, a shield against Saurons. Most other countries have fallen for, or at least fallen to, dictators. Many, during the 20th century, had popular communist parties or fascist parties or both. The Anglosphere, unusually, retained a consensus behind liberal capitalism.
This is not because of any special property in our geography or our genes but because of our constitutional arrangements. Those constitutional arrangements can take root anywhere. They explain why Bermuda is not Haiti, why Hong Kong is not China, why Israel is not Syria.
They work because, starting with Magna Carta, they have made the defense of freedom everyone’s responsibility. Americans, like Britons, have inherited their freedoms from past generations and should not look to any external agent for their perpetuation. The defense of liberty is your job and mine. It is up to us to keep intact the freedoms we inherited from our parents and to pass them on securely to our children.
Time for civil disobedience against the Common Core saurons:
Sauron was become now a sorcerer of dreadful power, master of shadows and of phantoms, foul in wisdom, cruel in strength, misshaping what he touched, twisting what he ruled, lord of werewolves; his dominion was torment.
Maybe the ‘lord of werewolves’ phrase is stretching it to describe the CCSSI proponents, but the remaining description of the educational elites rings true. They certainly do not appreciate/acknowledge the freedoms we inherited from our parents and they are trying mightily that we are not able to pass them on to our children. They exert dreadful power, they are masters of deception/half-truths, their claims are not based on research/data, they twist the political process to rule by mandates and they are punitive to school districts and parents. Tell me again how this is ‘for the kids’?