THE WAY I SEE IT by Don Polson Red Bluff Daily News 6/28/2016
Independence or endless rapacity
As the seminal event in America’s history approaches, our Day of Independence, thoughts gravitate to conditions and declarations associated therewith. Consider how clearly our Founders, and the Framers of that document, could see the historical significance of their governing revolution. They needed to take the full measure of the capabilities, qualities and spirit of the people of the colonies to whom would fall the responsibilities of self-government.
As Benjamin Franklin later admonished someone asking what they had produced (the Constitution), Americans would have the blessing of “a Republic, if you can keep it.” Never in recorded history had self-governance been tried on such a scale. Attempts to depart the rule of kings and potentates had often devolved into chaos, factional violence and the return of either military rule or the reestablishment of a sovereign line of succession.
In writings from those revolutionary patriots, fighting for independent self-rule of free citizens, it is clear that the grand opportunity they sought to seize would all be put at risk if an imperfect system of governance emerged. Similarly, if the people, charged with self-governing through their chosen representatives, reverted to habits and patterns of narrow-mindedness and short-term advantage—the American experiment could fail. Is this today’s America?
Inspiration came from a British supporter of our independence and opponent of the French revolution, Edmund Burke, “the leading figure within the conservative faction of the Whig Party…widely regarded as the philosophical founder of modern conservatism.”(Wikipedia)
Read carefully his thoughts on what is required for sustaining “civil liberty” by and among the citizens: “Men are qualified for civil liberty in exact proportion to their disposition to put moral chains upon their own appetites—in proportion as their love to justice is above their rapacity (Webster’s: greedy, voracious)—in proportion as their soundness and sobriety of understanding is above their vanity and presumption—in proportion as they are more disposed to listen to the counsels of the wise and good, in preference to the flattery of knaves.
“Society cannot exist, unless a controlling power upon will and appetite be placed somewhere; and the less of it there is within, the more there must be without. It is ordained in the eternal constitution of things, that men of intemperate minds cannot be free. Their passions forge their fetters.” (From Edmund Burke’s “Letter to a Member of the National Assembly” May 1791)
Wikipedia: “Burke’s religious thought was grounded in the belief that religion is the foundation of civil society. He sharply criticized deism and atheism, and emphasized Christianity as a vehicle of social progress…(and) the preservation of citizens’ constitutional liberties…beneficial not only to the believer’s soul, but also to political arrangements.”
So, let’s see why it is that “The Declaration should still wake the powerful up at night” (Glenn Reynolds, USA Today, July 5, 2015). “More than complaints about a king, the Declaration of Independence was a justification for rebellion that applies today….It did more than that [separate us from Great Britain]. It also spelled out a theory of governance that represented a tremendous departure from pretty much all of human history up to that date.”
While divine-right political practices still exist here and there, it is suggested, not required, that the sovereign treat the subjects decently. “But the Declaration takes a different approach. It says that rights come from God, not from the king, and that they are ‘unalienable’—that is, incapable of being sold (alienated), surrendered or given away.
Moreover, government exists to protect rights, in the declaration’s explanation, “and when the government fails to live up to its duties, and the people no longer consent to it, it becomes illegitimate and subject to replacement by something the people like better.
“Does our government now have, as its principal function, the protection of people’s rights? Or is it more of a giant wealth-transfer machine, benefiting the connected at the expense of the outsiders? And, most important, does our government enjoy the consent of the governed? According to a 2014 Rasmussen poll, only 21 percent think so.
“So is a new American Revolution in order? As our Founding Fathers knew, revolutions are chancy things and often make things worse. And as the declaration itself notes, ‘All experience hath shown, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.’
“Even so, it might be a good thing for our ruling class to spend a little time pondering the Declaration of Independence, and its principles. There is more to government than graft. May they recognize that in time.”
I see the “rapacity” of, not a literal king/queen, but certainly the well-connected supporters and hangers-on to government largess, the subsidized crony capitalist infrastructure, and entire classes of citizens (even non-citizens). Their net “taking” from government, in the form of “benefits,” far exceeds what they pay in the sum of all applicable taxes.
We’ve seen nearly endless special grants, loans and subsidies for deep-pocketed, lobbyist-employing corporations. We’ve seen protests and demonstrations, peaceful or otherwise, express intimidation toward legislatures, demanding funds for such masses. Is there any doubt such demands will usually prevail over the reluctance by the minority of producing citizens to “contribute” ever-greater levels of taxation?
The “takers” and the “givers” can’t forever be reconciled; force, political or otherwise, will be needed to settle it.