Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Benevolent Despotism vs Declaration of Independence

Jeremy Bentham was the founding father of what one might call “liberal totalitarianism.” His Orwellian “Panopticon” was apparently a forerunner of “utilitarian” Stalinism. That prophet of “benevolent” despotism scorned natural rights and at the same time was among the first to promote “animal rights,” foreshadowing envirofascism. In his will, Bentham wished his skeleton to be clad in his clothes and publicly displayed – an eerie, if not crazy, desire.
Here’s what Bentham had to say about the American Revolution in his Short View of the Declaration (1776):

In examining this singular Declaration, I have hitherto confined myself to what are given as facts, and alleged against his Majesty and his Parliament, in support of the charge of tyranny and usurpation. Of the preamble I have take little or no notice. The truth is, little or none does it deserve. The opinions of the modern Americans on Government, like those of their good ancestors on witchcraft, would be too ridiculous to deserve any notice, if like them too, contemptible and extravagant as they be, they had not led to the most serious evils. In this preamble, however it is, that they attempt to establish a theory of Government; a theory, as absurd and visionary, as the system of conduct in defence of which it is established, is nefarious. Here it is, that maxims are advanced in justification of their enterprises against the British Government. To these maxims, adduced for this purpose, it would be sufficient to say, that they are repugnant to the British Constitution. But beyond this they are subversive of every actual or imaginable kind of Government. They are "to assume," as they tell us, "among the powers of the earth that equal and separate station to which" - they have lately discovered - "the laws of Nature, and of Nature's God entitle them." What difference these acute legislators suppose between the laws of Nature and of Nature's God, is more than I can take upon me to determine or even to guess. If to what they now demand they were entitled to by any law of God, they had only to produce that law, all controversy was at an end. Instead of this, what do they produce? What they call self-evident truths. "All men," they tell us, "are created equal." This surely is a new discovery; now, for the first time, we learn, that a child, at the moment of his birth, has they same quantity of natural power as the parent, the quantity of political power as the magistrate. The rights of "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" - by which, if they mean any thing, they must mean the right to enjoy life, to enjoy liberty, and to pursue happiness - they "hold to be unalienable." This they "hold to be among truths self-evident." At the same time, to secure these rights, they are content that Governments should be instituted. They perceive not, or will not seem to perceive, that nothing which can be called Government ever was, or ever could be, in any instance, exercised, but at the expense of on or other of those rights. -That, consequently, in as many instance as Government ever exercised, some one or other of these rights, pretended to be unalienable, is actually alienated. That men who are engaged in the design of subverting a lawful Government, should endeavour by a cloud of words, to throw a veil over their design; that they should endeavour to beat down the criteria between tyranny and lawful government, is not at all surprising."

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