In order to apply the principles of spirited reasoning to political life in America, we need a place to start. To quote John Lennon, “How can we go forward if we don’t know which way we’re facing?” We need a set of agreed postulates or “givens” if we are to have any hope of reasoning together.
For purposes of the social scientific portions of this blog, I have decided to adopt the postulates we established as a nation in the Declaration of Independence and in the Preamble to our Constitution. (Thomas Jefferson used the phrase “self-evident” to accomplish this same purpose.) I will boil these postulates down to the following statements of our core national beliefs, which will guide my reasoning whenever I touch upon topics that are political, historical, sociological, economic, or governmental in nature:
All human beings are created equal;
All human beings are endowed with certain unalienable rights, including the rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness;
Our government was designed to (a) form a more perfect union, (b) establish justice, (c) ensure domestic tranquility, (d) provide for the common defense, (e) promote the general welfare, and (f) secure the blessings of liberty for ourselves and our posterity.
So, when we are debating a particular policy proposal of piece of legislation, we should (I believe) begin by asking ourselves whether our new idea will, in fact, further one of these core governmental functions, and, if so, which one(s).
Starting with these core beliefs can assist both the spirit and the reasonableness of our discussion. Failure to start with these core beliefs can lead to confusion and the tendency to talk past each other.