First I applaud everything Mr. Needleman says about "America" as an idea. I have long advocated the idea of "America" as a vibrant and continuously evolving philosophy – not to be confused with the "U.S.A." which is an increasingly deteriorating government.
Unfortunately Mr. Needleman seems to have missed a fatal contradiction in his assertion that "Government protects society. Society is the realm where people relate to each other in subtle, aesthetic, ethical, spiritual ways that can't be legislated."
Reverse the order of the two sentences in the above statement and the completely self defeating reasoning will become glaringly obvious.
Society is the realm where people relate to each other in subtle, aesthetic, ethical, spiritual ways that can't be legislated. If this is true and I agree that it is, then it is impossible for any government to be anything but hostile to the society it purports to "protect".
Governments have only one mechanism to do what they do. They make laws, they legislate. Then they add injury to insult by enforcing those laws through (the threat of) violence.
Another disappointment for me was how Mr. Needleman uses the collectivist conceit of so many self-proclaimed intellectuals when he says "We need to be able to think together about what these things mean. People don't think." [My emphasis]
"The People" is a fantasy. It is a political illusion without factual reality in nature. There is no such entity. One cannot have a direct conversation with "the People" any more than one can have a direct conversation with “the Government” (another legal illusion). One can only have conversations with individuals. The collectivist conceit I refer to above is manifested in the way those who speak of “the People” invariably exclude themselves when doing so.
I don't know with whom Mr. Needleman has these “conversations about freedom, liberty, representational government, etc., etc”. — and when he stopped and asked them what they meant by these things, “they were tongue-tied or they just shouted.” My experience is a very different one. Every day I engage people in all walks of life in such conversations. Almost without exception, they prove to be thoughtful and concerned in their responses, ready to express a viewpoint and defend it.
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