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book is dedicated to the American soldier.
While writing First Principles
I was sometimes questioned as to my goal in undertaking this project.
The answer is fairly simple; my intent is to define square one, the
place from which one launches any attempt at self-governance.
What I have often observed in the real world is the disconnection
between the fundamentals of human nature and experience, and the results
obtained when notions of idealistic governance overtake rationality.
None of us should deny the value of idealistic musings; all of us should
when necessary recognize their improbability—and act accordingly.
As I watch those elected to represent the citizenry I find that logic
is sometimes present in their action or inaction, but common sense often is
not. I want to describe that
rational manner of governance history has taught us but that now seems to be
absent, mostly as a result of the effects of politics and the media.
Americans, in particular but not uniquely, have only a superficial
comprehension of self-governance and the fundamentals of economics.
We understand democracy generally, but the object and workings of
representative government and the free market on which it is based we grasp
This is in part the Wildebeest Effect.
The wildebeest is a large grazing animal that dominates the Serengeti
Plain in eastern
The modern democratic electorate can be seen as the wildebeeste—literate of course, but wildebeeste nonetheless. We are cowed by the
theoretical insignificance of the individual,
comforted by the security of the herd, and ignorant of our own power.
We should not be: the system under which we operate is designed to take
advantage of exactly that power by using the knowledge at each elector’s
What this volume intends is to bring to the fore the common sense of
self-governance that we knew so well in the past, and to encourage
understanding of the simplicity of successful human interaction, of successful
self-governance. Creating the
perfect society is hardly the goal for many relatively obvious reasons, but
rediscovering a workable model of governing, and then executing that design
The wildebeeste should rule the African plain: the electorate should
govern itself in a rational and just manner.
That the wildebeeste will not rise to that level is clear—nature has
political class often espouses ideas about economics and self-governance that
may seem appealing in the abstract but which disintegrate upon being exposed
to the fresh air. These flights of
rhetorical fancy are their primary tools for obtaining or continuing in power.
The bigger problems arise when idealistic concepts are given solid
footing in legislation, or bureaucratic rule-making, or in court decisions,
before their inadvertent effects can be assessed—often before they are even
considered. In this volume there
is an attempt to discuss and explain some of the good and bad ideas of
governance that have evolved over the centuries.
While government is necessary, its role in the
one another, in a
societal sense, without a mostly uniform sharing of methods and means, and
yes, values (which is not a code word here), no system of governance can be
Our intention is to distill from the political carnage that exists
today the original design of the American version of representative democracy.
That system is founded in a written Constitution that protects the
rights of the individual, ensures his liberty, and gently directs him toward
his duties—that it is hoped will be assumed without need for public
The books that comprise this colloquy contain core explanations, those
first principles necessary to achieve what was intended beginning in 1776.
The goal is to see what can be accomplished in a real-world setting by
looking beyond romantic political idealism.
We also consider the secondary and tertiary effects of public
actions—better known as the law of unintended consequences—to evaluate
everything that might occur on the way to our objective.
has shown us repeatedly that freedom is the foundation upon which any society
is best organized—mankind is too complex and too idiosyncratic to be
governed in any detailed sense. The
human condition prohibits such regimentation save only on very basic levels.
Even at that level, organizing a free society is not easily achieved,
for there is often a grand temptation in each of us to tell the next person
what we’ve learned and then, with sometimes messianic fervor, to
My pursuit of square one, a habit more than a compulsion, has resulted
in what is submitted here. It is
an attempt to put things in perspective, then in order.
Each synopsis in First Principles
essentially self-selected its inclusion. What
social imperative came first as culture and governance developed, what
elements were necessary before the next step could be taken, what negative
consequences were experienced that had to be superseded before further
progress could be achieved are the substance of what is presented here.
what this book offers will help the reader achieve a sense of understanding
and satisfaction as to his or her place and methods and goals.
What I’ve noticed over time is that people who realize what they
stand for are often willing to stand up as well.
Thomas N. Tripp