The Big Charter, in Brief
June 15, 2015
Happy 800th anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta!
The UK Independent reviews in brief, “what is it and why does it matter?” (more; more still) and, intriguingly, reports, “New research sheds light on the church’s role in publishing world-famous charter”.
Mark Steyn reminds us that the full name is Magna Carta Libertatum (“Great Charter of Liberties”) and the crucial difference between negative rights and positive “rights”.
. . . the barons were forced to be more inventive, and so they wound up replacing the King with an idea, and the most important idea of all — that even the King is subject to the law.
On this 800th anniversary, that’s a lesson worth re-learning.
British statesman Daniel Hannan expands on this.
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.
For more on the history, there’s also Wikipedia.