Primary and General Elections

Posted by PITHOCRATES - December 15th, 2011

Politics 101

The Founding Fathers pledged to each other their Lives, their Fortunes and their Sacred Honor

People have protested and died fighting for the right to vote throughout history.  The American Revolutionary War was over taxation without representation.  Meaning that the American colonies wanted representation in British Parliament.  Something the British government did not allow.  Worse, they started taxing the Americans.  Who had no representation in Parliament.  And this did not go over well with the American colonists.  They had had enough.  They wanted a say in their government.

So the Founding Fathers committed treason.  They signed the Declaration of Independence.  And fought 8 years to have that say in their government.  It took awhile.  And a lot of the signers of the Declaration of Independence suffered for their treason.  They lost their property.  Their wealth.  And even their families.  Who suffered all sorts of brutality at the hands of the British.  These traitors.  Who defied their king.  But the cause persevered.  And the Americans won their independence.  As well as their right to self-government.

Back then people cared.  Enough to pledge to each other their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor.  But today?  People have other priorities in life.  Where reality television is more important in their lives than having that say in their government.  For they have no idea what the Founding Fathers paid to give us this cushy life of plenty.  And just assume the good times will continue to roll.  Especially if they keep voting for whoever promises to give them more free stuff.

Candidates move to the Center after Winning their Party’s Nomination and become someone Completely Different

In the country that struggled for 8 years to get the right to vote.  In the country that inspired people all around the world to follow them in the pursuit of happiness.  In the very bastion of liberty and self-government.  In America.  Guess how many people vote today in a typical presidential election.  Little more than half of eligible voters.  And that’s in the general election.  It’s far worse in the primary election.  Where we see maybe half of that turnout.  Which is rather sad.  Considering that these are the people who actually pay attention to politics.  For this is where a political party chooses their candidate for the general election.  You see, each party has a platform.  A set of political ideas.  Their core philosophy.  And the people choose who they think will best advance their party platform in the primary election.

So during the primary election candidates try to be that candidate.  The one who will best advance the party platform.  Typically the conservative moves as far right as possible to show his or her conservative bona fides.  And the liberal moves as far left as possible to show his or her liberal bona fides.  Here they’re trying to appeal to the party base.  The hardcore.  Those who are as far away from the political center as is possible.  Those who don’t give a whit about compromise or bipartisanship.  They want a purebred candidate that will take the country where they feel it should be.  They don’t want someone who will reach across the aisle and compromise away their most cherished principles.

The population roughly breaks down to 40% conservative, 20% liberal and 40% moderate/independent.  Which is all fine and dandy during the primary election.  But it’s a bit of a problem during the general election.  For that 40% moderate/independent forms the political center.  That area the candidates run away from during the primary election.  So they must scramble back to it after winning their party’s nomination.  And hope that most of those in the center didn’t pay attention during the primary.  To make the lying easier.  To no longer be who they said they were during the primary.  But to be someone completely different.  Someone who can reach across the aisle.  Someone who can compromise away their base’s most cherished principles.  Someone who believes politics should be bipartisan.  Or, better still, nonpartisan.  In other words, the last person their base would want.

When the Choice is between two Moderates, Democrats will always Choose the Democrat Moderate

Liberals have to run to the center.  For their base only amounts to about 20% of the electorate.  But it’s not quite the same for conservatives.  At 40% of the electorate they don’t have to run the center.  They only need another 10% or so of the vote to win.  So running to the center actually hurts them.  Because a lot of that political center is Democrat.  And if the vote comes down to 2 moderates they’re going to vote for the Democrat moderate over the Republican moderate every time.  Because all things being equal, a Democrat will vote for a Democrat.

When the Republicans ran a moderate who campaigned as someone who would reach across the aisle and compromise away his base’s most cherished principles, John McCain didn’t get the moderate vote.  They voted for the Democrat.  Who lied during the general election and ran as a moderate.  Sometimes he even talked like a conservative.  Even though Barack Obama was as liberal as they came.  At least based on his voting record in public office.

When Republican Ronald Reagan won his party nomination he didn’t run to the center.  He remained a conservative.  And he won.  Because a lot of Democrats voted for him.  The Reagan Democrats.  Because there was a real difference between him and Jimmy Carter.  There was a conservative and a liberal.  And the Reagan Democrats decided to vote for the conservative because they liked the conservative message better than the liberal message.  But when the choice is between two moderates who promise to reach across the aisle more than the other there’s no real difference between the candidates.  And no reason to vote for the other guy when he or she is no different than the one from your own party.

Ignoring the Primary Elections ignores the Philosophical Debate and turns the General Election into a Populist Contest

It is a shame the level of voter apathy in the country that stands for self-government.  Almost half of the eligible voters ignore politics 3 years out of 4.  And only vote in the presidential general election.  It’s a shame because we have a 2-party system.  Like it or not.  There are only two core political philosophies to choose from.  For those in the middle don’t have a philosophy.  A party.  A party platform.  A primary election.  Or a political convention.  They only get involved once every 4 years at the general election.  And ultimately end up voting for a Democrat or a Republican.  Even though they refuse to identify themselves with either party.

But ignoring the primary elections ignores the party platforms.  The meat and potatoes of the philosophical debate.  And turns the general election into nothing but a populist contest.  True democracy.  Mob rule.  With the winner often being the one who promises the most to the least politically informed.

Politics has come a long way since the Founding Fathers pledged to each other their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor.  It’s probably a good thing they’re not here to see what has become of their self-government.  They wouldn’t like what they would see.  Especially the voter apathy.

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All Men are Created Equal. And, no, Liberals are NOT more Equal than Others

Posted by PITHOCRATES - July 4th, 2011

The Rule of Law and Contract Rights

This is the 4th of July.  A big holiday in America.  In most places.  It fell out of favor for awhile in Vicksburg, Mississippi, what with that city falling on the 4th during the American Civil War.  Some said that the Union‘s win kept the spirit of the 4th of July alive.  Many in the South said it killed it.  Especially those who have reframed the Civil War as a struggle between federal power and states’ rights.  And it is those who say states’ rights lost.  And the spirit of 1776 died.

Of course, the Civil War wasn’t about maintaining states’ rights in the South.  In fact, the South was all for a strong federal government to overrule states’ laws when it came to the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850.  When northern states refused to send back escaped slaves to their southern owners, they asked for the federal government to enact a law to compel them to do so.  You see, the southern planter elite (a small percentage of the southern population who owned the vast majority of the slaves) was all about making the law favor them.  Much like the land-owning aristocracy had done it for centuries in feudal Europe.  Which is decidedly not in keeping with the Spirit of ’76.

The American colonies had already been at war with the British Empire for about a year when Thomas Jefferson presented the Declaration of Independence to the Continental Congress.  The cornerstone of that document is that all men are created equal.  Endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights.  Key to these rights is the Rule of Law.  Simply stated, it means the new nation would be a nation of laws.  Not of kings.  Or an aristocracy.  And the law would rule supreme.  No one would be above the law.  Not the planter elite.  Kings.  Or presidents (see Missing the Point on July 4: The Right to Vote Was Not The Main Achievement in 1776 by Warren Meyer posted 6/30/2011 on Forbes).

For about 99% of human history, political power has been exercised at the unchecked capricious whim of a few individuals.  The great innovation of western countries like the US, and before it England and the Netherlands, has been to subjugate the power of government officials to the rule of law.  Criminal justice, adjudication of disputes, contracts, etc. all operate based on a set of laws known to all in advance and applying equally to all.

And key to the Rule of Law are property rights and contracts.

Today the rule of law actually faces a number of threats in this country.  One of the most important principles of the rule of law is that legality (and illegality) can be objectively determined in a repeatable manner from written and well-understood rules.  Unfortunately, the massive regulatory and tax code structure in this country have created a set of rules that are subject to change and interpretation constantly at the whim of the regulatory body.  Every day, hundreds of people and companies find themselves facing penalties due to an arbitrary interpretation of obscure regulations.

Worse, with the growing power of the Federal government, it has become an increasingly accepted practice that Congress or the President may selectively violate the rule of law to benefit their particular constituents. Just ask secured bondholders at Chrysler (who had their legal rights wiped out by executive fiat in favor or the Administration’s pet union) or restaurants burdened with Obamacare compliance (whose competitors with better political access have gotten cost-saving waivers), what they think of the rule of law.

It’s a slippery path.  And it starts out small.  Little losses of liberty along the way.  Then the losses get bigger.  With the ruling powers always justifying that it was for the greater good.  Adolf Hitler rose to power through free elections.  And seduced the Germans.  People accepted his vision and willingly gave up their rights for the greater Germany.  With Germany ultimately becoming a dictatorship. 

Appealing to the greater ‘good’ is a powerful force.  It just takes a good speech to get the people to willingly follow you.  Such as when JFK said, “Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.”  You’ll be hard-pressed to find any such sentiment in any of America’s Founding Documents.  Because it goes completely against the American creed.  Americans don’t serve government; government serves Americans.  But this sentiment has prevailed.  And gave America the welfare state.  An explosion in the size of government.  And a loss of individual liberties ever since.  All to serve a greater good.  Such as when the president of the United States arbitrarily revoked the contract rights of those Chrysler bond holders.  So he could reward his friends and cronies in the UAW by giving them stock shares they had no legal claim to.

The central concept on which this country was founded is that an individual’s rights do not flow from government, but are inherent to all human beings.  Government in this context only legitimately exists to the extent that it is our servant in the defense of our rights, rather than as the vessel from which these rights grudgingly flow.

Statists of all stripes have tried to challenge this assumption over the last 100 years.   While their exact details have varied, every statist has tried to create some larger entity to which the individual should be subjugated:  the proletariat, the common good, God, society, the master race.  They all hold in common that the government’s job is to sacrifice the property and well-being of one group to another in the name of some vague meta-entity.

And they’re still doing it today.  But now it’s for the greatest greater good of them all.  The planet itself.  Without which none of us can live.

The Soothing and Incessant Whine of Renewable Energy

Renewable energy.  That’s the latest tool of subjugation.  We all must sacrifice.  Because if we don’t, the earth won’t be long on this planet.  So we’re seeing more and more wind farms.  Replacing a small percentage of reliable fossil-fuel produced electricity.  With a very unreliable but noisy windmill-produced electricity (see Noisy wind farm ‘drove couple out of their home’ posted 7/4/2011 on The Telegraph).

Jane and Julian Davis, moved out of Grays Farm, Deeping St Nicholas, near Spalding, Lincs, four years ago because of the strain of living with the incessant noise…

Mrs Davis, whose husband’s family cultivated Grays Farm for over 20 years before they were uprooted by the noise, said it had been a “nightmare living there”, and that they had no option but to leave.

Speaking before today’s High Court hearing, she added: “The noise is unpredictable and mainly occurs at night, you can never get to bed with the assurance that you will stay asleep…

“We want them to stop the noise so we can move back in,” she said, adding: “We want them to recognise that the noise is a nuisance so we can go back and get some rest and sleep like we did five years ago. “

You see, the problem with this couple is that they are not rich and/or famous.  Therefore, they have no rights to live peacefully in their homes.  Now on the other side of the pond, the rich and/or famous have fought to live peacefully in their homes.  Like the Kennedys.  Who are all Big Government liberals who support renewable energy.  Just not in their backyard.  And to date the rich and/or famous of Martha’s Vineyard have been successful in keeping windmills out of Nantucket Sound.

The Spirit of ’76

Liberal politicians and the planter elite have a lot in common.  For they believe they are above the law.  Yes, people should sacrifice so we can build windmills near their property.  But we shouldn’t build them where the rich and/or famous sail their yachts. Because that wouldn’t be right.  But writing laws that further restrict our lives while exempting themselves from those laws is perfectly fine.  Again, this goes completely against the American creed.  The intent of our Founding Fathers.  And the Spirit of ’76.  Which we should note well on this day of days.  July 4.  Independence Day.

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FUNDAMENTAL TRUTH #33: “The founding fathers weren’t perfect but they were closer than most.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - September 28th, 2010

George Washington

George Washington owned slaves.  We all know this.  Whenever we try to revere our Founding Fathers, someone on the Left will speak up and remind us of this fact.  Of course, the context of the times means nothing to them.  We’ll forgive Robert Byrd’s racist and KKK past because of the context of his times.  But not the father of our country. 

Washington inherited his slaves.  With the property he inherited.  He wasn’t a huge fan of slavery.  In fact, he wanted to replace his slaves with paid laborers.  Because he wasn’t making a lot of money with his slaves.  There were large families.  Many old who could no longer work.  And lots of children.  This large slave holding consumed a good percentage of his crops for their subsistence.  While a smaller percentage of them contributed labor to produce those crops.  He tried to sell them.  But others were only interested in the workers.  Not the old and the young.  But he didn’t want to break up the families.  So he didn’t sell.  He continued to use slave labor.  Made less money than he could.  Because it was the decent thing to do.

His will freed his slaves after his wife’s death.  It also provided for them.  His heirs were to provide sufficient training to help these former slaves get a job.  To help them integrate into the community.  But you don’t hear that part from the Left.  Just that he owned slaves.

In the context of his times, he was a great man.  And he still is.  Despite what the Left will remind us of.  He was the father of our country.  The indispensable one.  Without him, there would have been no nation.  For he truly was “first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen.”

Ben Franklin

Ben Franklin lived a long life.  So long you could say he lived a couple of lives.  Printer and entrepreneur.  Writer and publisher.  Inventor and scientist.  Diplomat, peacemaker and Founding Father.  A great man.  And, yes, with a few flaws.  He saw a prostitute or two in his youth.  Sired an illegitimate child.  William (who would go on and father his own illegitimate child).  He wasn’t the greatest husband.  He could have been a better father.  But he did a lot for this country.  Few did more.  So we can forgive him these few trespasses.  Most did.  Even John Adams would speak kindly of him.

Franklin and Adams were very different people.  Yes, Franklin wrote, “Early to bed, early to rise, makes a young man healthy, wealthy and wise.”  But as an elder diplomat in Paris, he came to see the pleasures in staying up late.  Enjoying the company of the ladies in the Paris salons.   And drinking Madeira.  He was a social butterfly.  And the people of France loved him.  The great American scientist and inventor.

When Adams joined Franklin in Paris, their personalities clashed.  Adams went to bed early.  Got up early.  And didn’t enjoy the company of the very forward (for the time) salon women of Paris.  Only one woman interested him.  His beloved Abigail.

Adams resented Franklin’s celebrity.  And had difficulty working with him.  Especially with the hours he kept.  But Franklin’s style worked.  Paris preferred him over Adams.  And they made it known to the Continental Congress.  This strained their relationship.  Adams was concerned the French were playing Franklin, for the French were very adept at diplomacy.  But in the end Franklin proved to be no slouch himself.  He maintained French funding, arms and supplies for the American cause throughout the Revolutionary War, promising all along there would be no separate peace with Great Britain (France was, after all, in it for the spoils a British defeat would provide).  But we made a separate peace.  France got little for all her efforts (other than her own revolution).  And Franklin minimized the damage to the Franco-American friendship.  Not bad for a naughty old drunk.

John Adams

John Adams is the most unappreciated of the Founding Fathers.  There’s no memorial for him in our nation’s capitol.  And yet there probably wouldn’t have been a nation without him.  So why is he the Rodney Dangerfield of our Founding Fathers?

Adams was a flawed man who knew his flaws.  He didn’t try to hide them, though.  He tried to fix them.  But he wasn’t very successful.  He was a very religious man.  And he was oh so pious.  But irascible.  And vain.  It always bothered him that others got so much credit.  For doing far less than he did.  Especially Jefferson.  These were his flaws.  Which could make him hard to like at times.  And bitter.  The story that Adams often told about the writing of the Declaration of Independence went like this.  He said Jefferson should write the Declaration of Independence, not him.  First of all, Jefferson was a Virginian.  With all the trouble in the North, it was important to show a united front.  All the colonies.  Even those not facing the wrath of the British army and navy.  Second, no one liked him (Adams).  So no one would like anything he wrote.  (Which was not true as he did help some colonies write their state constitutions.)

And sometimes he could come across as kind of an elitist.  Because he was so well learned and so well disciplined.  He was part of that old school who thought that the best and brightest should serve in government.  And some thought he was too British.  Yes, he represented the British soldiers implicated in the Boston Massacre and supported the Jay Treaty, but he was no British toady.  At a last attempt at peace and reconciliation, King George was willing to forgive many who rebelled against the crown.  But not Adams.  He was ‘too’ responsible for all that independence trouble.  He would hang.

Anyway, that’s about the extent of Adams’ flaws.  A bad personality trait or two.  Nothing scandalous.  He had a loving marriage.  He was a good father.  Highly principled.  Honest.  And just.  One of the best of the best.

James Madison                                                        

James Madison was the most erudite of the Founding Fathers.  Jefferson may have thought big thoughts.  But Madison could, too.  As well as master the details.  When it came to constitutionality in the inaugural administration, Washington didn’t turn to his Secretary of State (Jefferson).  He went to the Speaker of the House.  James Madison.

Washington had no children.  But he admired and loved Hamilton, Jefferson and Madison like sons.  And then the fighting started between his ‘children’.  Especially between Hamilton and Jefferson.  Who saw two different Americas.  This animosity would extend to the president.  And the entire Federalist ‘party’.  Jefferson and Madison saw Washington as a senile old man manipulated by a puppet master.  Hamilton.  So Jefferson and Madison led an opposition party against the Washington administration.  While Jefferson was still a member of the administration.  The Jefferson-Hamilton feud got so bad that Jefferson would eventually leave and ‘retire’ to Monticello.  Madison would carry on the opposition, taking his orders from Monticello.  Sort of a Jefferson toady.

The Jefferson-Madison hatred of the Federalists bordered on the ridiculous.  They saw everything through a prism of conspiracy.  That the Federalists were trying to reunite America with Great Britain.  Thus making them, the Republicans, fiercely pro-France.  Even during the height of the Terror of the French Revolution.  Jefferson once advised the French ambassador not to worry about Washington.  He was old and senile.  Those of right mind were clearly on France’s side.  When Washington learned of this, he never would talk to Jefferson again.

Madison kept up the hysteria.  Even during the Adams administration.  He was sure Adams wanted war with France.  And when the French insulted the Americans in the XYZ Affair (you want to talk to us French?  First you give us French a lot of money), Madison said Adams fabricated the whole thing.  So he could declare war on France.  Well, he didn’t make it up.  It happened.  And while war fever gripped the nation, Adams tried one last time.  And got peace.

Despite this Hamilton/Federalist paranoia, Madison was one of our best.  He was the father of our constitution.  He (and strangely enough Alexander Hamilton) led the ratification process.  And Madison led the fight to add the Bill of Rights.  Few men have been so instrumental in the founding of a nation.

Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson may have had an intimate relationship with a slave.  Some may call it rape.  But, in the context of the times, it was no big deal.  Others were doing it.  Just like we forgive the Aztec for their human sacrifices.  In the context of their times, it was no big deal.  A lot of less-advanced people were doing it. 

Jefferson was a complex man.  Some would call him a sphinx.  He could tell lies that even he believed.  Quiet and shy, he was not the ladies man.  He looked like one, but he wasn’t.  Rejected once while in college and he was ready to live a life of celibacy.   But he did meet another woman.  Who he loved and married.  She was a frail thing, though.  And a couple of babies later, she died.  This just devastated Jefferson.  Shook him to his core.  It took months before he emerged from that deep depression.  He would never marry again.  And the female company he kept after that was often with married women.  His daughters.  Or, perhaps, a slave.  He no doubt yearned for female companionship.  But he would never open his heart again to another woman.

Perhaps he did, though.  With Sally Hemings.  His slave.  His concubine.  If the allegations are true (DNA evidence cannot conclusively prove but indicates a high probability).  She looked after his daughters.  Sort of a mother role.  Perhaps she was a surrogate wife.  If so, perhaps it was less than rape.  Maybe there were mutual feelings.  Anything is possible.  But we’ll never know.  What we do know is that if anything did happen, they hid it.  Out of shame on one part.  Perhaps fear on the other.  She was, after all, only a concubine.  Property.  And being a concubine is not being a wife, wedded or common-law.  No doubt it was a complicated ‘relationship’.  If there was a ‘relationship’.

That said, he did do a lot of good.  He was one of the greatest champions of limited government.  He was one of the gentlemen of the Enlightenment.  And there was little to fear from them.  But some of these gentlemen wanted to give the new central government great power.  Because it was the dawn of a new era.  Where like-minded gentlemen would follow them and continue to govern with disinterest.  But Jefferson had his doubts.  He didn’t trust men with power.  He didn’t trust government.  And because of him, they’d keep the beast of Big Government at bay.  For a little while.

Alexander Hamilton

Alexander Hamilton had illusions of grandeur.  And this from a man who had done some fantastic things.  Still, he always wanted more.  He was a driven man.  Probably goes back to his illegitimate birth and abandonment.  He always had something to prove.  To himself.

Some feared him.  First Jefferson.  Then Madison.  They thought he was pulling the strings in the Washington administration.  When he proposed his funding, assumption and banking plans as Treasury Secretary, Jefferson & Madison were frightened by what they saw.  A way too powerful central government.  So they formed the opposition.  Thus American party politics was born.  But neither side was as bad as the other side thought. Still, it didn’t stop Jefferson from trying to destroy Hamilton. 

Hamilton had money from a successful law practice.  And he ran the treasury department.  Someone took notice.  A guy named James Reynolds.  A con man that was in Philadelphia preying on veterans.  His wife, Maria, was beautiful.  And quite the actress.  One sob story of an indebted husband who abandoned her with his debts later, she lured Hamilton into her home.  He brought money to help her settle her debts.  But they soon ended up in her bedroom.  Once they consummated their affair, Mr. Reynolds stormed in on cue and began the extortion of Alexander Hamilton.

Well, when Jefferson learned of this juicy little morsel, he leaked it to the press.  The newspapers attacked him.  Said he was stealing money from the treasury to pay his blackmailer.  He wasn’t.  They did look, though.  And how they looked.  When they couldn’t find the evidence they wanted to find, Jefferson said that was proof positive of what a good thief Hamilton was.

But Hamilton was no thief.  Say what you will about him, but he was a man of integrity.  And the father of American capitalism.  The American dream took root and grew largely because of him.  And his financial acumen.  You know what they say.  Money talks and bull [excrement] walks.  Jefferson could write and he wrote some good stuff.  But words don’t build a nation.  Money does.  Foreign credit.  And Hamilton delivered.

Flawed but Great

Flawed men, yes.  But compare them to our contemporary politicians.  To their flaws.  To their accomplishments.  Who were/are better?  And who were/are more flawed?  More corrupt?  The comparison is ridiculous.  For there is no comparison.  Our Founding Fathers, with all of their flaws, are THE greatest generation.

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FUNDAMENTAL TRUTH #32: “America is great but it can’t make bad ideology good.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - September 21st, 2010

We’ve Always Done Things This Way

The Old World was set in her ways.  Change didn’t come easy.  When it came it often spanned centuries.  But not always.  As the Roman Empire incorporated new territories into the empire, she modernized those new territories.  Roads.  Fresh water.  Sanitation.  Rule of law.  Markets.  The things that made cites better.  Civilizations better.  But as a civilization grows, so does its government.  And as government grows, taxes inevitably become more onerous.

A sprawling empire required a sprawling bureaucracy to control it.  And a huge standing army to protect it from without.  And to police it from within.  When you expand and conquer new territory, the spoils of conquest can fund your empire.  When your borders are relatively static, though, you have to use alternative sources of funding.  Taxation.  As the tax burden grew, dissatisfaction grew.  Fewer citizens volunteered to serve in Rome’s legions.  So Rome relied more and more on hired armies.  This increased the cost of empire.  And it increased taxation.  The tax burden grew so great that people gave up their small farms and worked for the bigger farms.  Worked for the rich landowners.  Some tried to quit farming all together.  This caused problems in trying to feed Rome’s legions.  And her bureaucracy.  The food supply became so critical that the Romans wrote new laws forbidding people to leave their farms.  Farmers were bound to the land.  They could never leave.  If you were born on the land you would farm the land.  Forever.

During the decline of the Western Roman Empire you saw the rise of the economic system that would dominate the Middle Ages.  Feudalism.  As the Western Empire declined, the power began to shift to the rich landowners.  As did loyalties.  As the empire further disintegrated, the power of Rome could no longer protect you.  Or feed you.  And thus food and protection became the foundation of feudalism.  Land owners, the nobles (i.e., lords), would let you work their lands.  The bulk of the proceeds went to the landlord.  But you also had a portion of the manor to farm for yourself.  In exchange for the use of a lord’s land you provided military service to the lord.  When needed to protect the lord and his lands.  Property rights allowed the lord’s sons to inherit the estate upon his death.  So property ownership became hereditary.  As did the nobility.   And so it would be for centuries.

England Leads the Way

From the nobles arose one.  A dominant one.  A ruler of nobles.  A king.  A king consolidated the many nobles’ estates into a kingdom.  A country.  And the king became sovereign.  The supreme authority.  The nobles pledged their loyalty to the king.  Provided for the king.  And fought for him when necessary.  Thus the few, the many and the one.  The masses (the many) served the lords and worked on their estates.  The lords (the few) were the wealthy land owners who served the king.  The king (the one) ruled the kingdom.

Thus the European monarchy was born.  In France it was absolute.  In England, in 1215, the nobles met King John on the meadow at Runnymede.  And the king reluctantly set his seal to the Magna Carta.  In England, there would be limits to the sovereign’s power.  The king may be king, but the nobles held the wealth.  And with it a lot of power.  Sometimes they saw things differently.  And the little people, the masses, often saw things differently than did the king and lords.  These different interests were reconciled, in time, by king and Parliament, a two-house or bicameral legislature (comprised of the House of Commons and the House of Lords). 

England was the place to be.  Rule of law.  Bill of rights.  Commerce.  Banking.  Capitalism.  Liberty.  Food.  Security.  Your common everyday Englishman had a better quality of life than your common everyday [insert any other European national here].  As transoceanic trade took off, the great European powers collided with each other.  Fought for that lucrative trade.  In the Old World.  And in the New World.  These wars became very expensive.  And some lasted for years.  Like the Seven Years War.  Which the British won.  And took many French possessions throughout the world.  But at a huge cost.  She incurred a great debt.  Especially in securing one of her colonies.  British North America.

Tea Anyone?

So England taxed her British American subjects.  Only problem was, these English subjects had no representation in Parliament.  And this was very un-English.  Taxation without representation.  This caused tension.  Also, Great Britain’s mercantilist policies were also rubbing the colonists the wrong way.  America was growing.  And she wanted free trade.  But that was impossible when the home country maintained a favorable balance of trade at your expense.  And had the Royal Navy to enforce it.  As a colony, everything had to ship to/from England ports on English ships so England could accumulate bullion.  The British protected their industries.  Her colonies fed raw materials to these industries.  And that’s all they did.

Trouble brewed for a while.  When Great Britain legislated what type of tea they could drink (only British East Indian tea), the American colonists had had enough.   There was a tea party in Boston, a revolution and formal independence.  And then a new nation.  With a bicameral legislation.  An executive.  And a judiciary.  It wasn’t quite Parliament, but was very similar in function.  The president was the one.  The Senate was the few.  And the House of Representatives were the many.  But there were key differences.  There was no king.  No hereditary nobility.  And there would be no mercantilism.  Despite Alexander Hamilton’s best efforts.

Let’s Just Agree to Disagree

Getting the colonies to come together to declare their independence was not easy.  It helped that there was already a shooting war going on.  Lexington and Concord.  Bunker Hill.  The coastal towns the British burnt and left in ruins.  They were already fighting a rebellion.  The declaration was almost a moot point.  But it was important.  And, after some arm twisting, they voted for independence and posted their Declaration of Independence.  But that was then.  After the Revolutionary War, there was no such unifying force.  Everyone was back to looking out for number one.  Well, most. 

Locked in a Philadelphia hall during a sweltering summer thick with horseflies, a collection of America’s finest worked to create a new government.  George Washington, Ben Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, to name just a few, could hardly agree on anything.  The Constitution they created was not great in their eyes.  But it was probably the best that they could do.  So acknowledged, they sent it to the states for ratification.  The odds were against them.  It would take some persuading.  And persuading they did.  Hamilton and Madison (and John Jay) wrote a series of essays appearing in newspapers to make the case for ratification.  They addressed and answered all arguments against ratification.  (You can read these today in the Federalist Papers.)  And this effort was successful.  The states ratified the constitution.  There was now a nation known as the United States of America.

Our first Secretary of the Treasury was Alexander Hamilton.  A capitalist genius.  And a great admirer of the British Empire.  Being a recent transplant to the American Colonies, he had no deep-seated resentment of the former mother country.  In fact, he wanted to emulate her.  She was the greatest empire in the world.  She was obviously doing something right.  But he pushed too far.  His mercantilist plans were a bit much for some.  Especially the ‘simple’ farmers of the South.  The planter elite.  Led by Thomas Jefferson (covertly) and James Madison (overtly), they fought Hamilton tooth and nail and did everything to destroy him.  (After seeing his plans Madison switched to the opposition.)    And ultimately, did.  When Aaron Burr shot him in a duel on the field of honor at Weehawken, New Jersey, across the Hudson from New York City.  All because Hamilton tried everything within his power to keep him from becoming president of the United States and governor of New York.  Because he was on unprincipled man.  Burr took offense to that.  And, well, the scoundrel challenged him to a duel and killed him.  But I digress.

The American Ideology

The American ideology is simple.  It includes things that have been proven to work.  And excludes things that have been proven not to.  A large, diverse people make up America.  So at the heart of our ideology is that we agree to disagree. 

We don’t have kings or nobility.  We don’t have an entitled class.  No hereditary rights.  Here, it doesn’t matter who your father was.  Or what group you belong to (religious, societal, etc.).  No one person is better than another. 

We have property rights and live under the rule of law.  We honor legal contracts.  We built our nation on laissez faire capitalism.  Free markets.  With a minimum of government interference.  We do what we want and respect that others do what they want.  And we are free to do this as long as we play by the rule of law.

It was a long road getting here.  We took the best history had to offer.  And rejected the worst that history included.  Nations who did likewise went on to greatness, too (like the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland, Canada, Australia, etc.).  Those who didn’t have been repositories of great suffering and human bondage (North Korea, Cuba, The People’s Republic of China, the Soviet Union, etc.).  Of the latter nations, please note that life is getting much better in China and the former Soviet Union with the introduction of capitalism and free markets.  And it’s not in North Korea and Cuba where these governments stubbornly cling to failed policies to keep their governments in power.  Whatever the cost is to their people.

It’s the Ideology, Stupid

Good ideology makes good nations.  Bad ideology makes bad nations.  A good nation can NOT take bad ideology and make it good.  A good nation that implements bad ideology will only make that good nation bad.  All people have the capacity for greatness.  And that greatness will shine through if the government doesn’t suppress it.   To see this all we have to do is look to history.  It’s all there.  The good.  The bad.  And the ugly.

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LESSONS LEARNED #23: “Those who seek a third party cede the election to the opposition.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - July 22nd, 2010

SLAVERY WAS ALWAYS a complicated issue.  Many of the Founding Fathers saw the contradiction with the ideals embodied in the Declaration of Independence.  And there were the economic costs.  George Washington wanted to transition to paid laborers as the generations of slaves he inherited were consuming an ever growing share of his harvest.  (You only pay paid-laborers; you didn’t have to house and feed them and their families.)  He had whole families that included babies and the elderly long past their working prime.  People would buy slaves in their working prime but wouldn’t take their parents and grandparents, too.  He didn’t want to break up the families.  And he couldn’t free them.  Someone had to take care of those who could no longer work.  So he would.  Even after death.  He freed his slaves in his will and directed his heirs to train and help them so they could integrate into the workforce.  (Not every slave-owner, though, was as caring as Washington).

So Washington, John Adams and some of the other Founding Fathers saw slavery as an institution that would eventually wither and die.  They saw it as immoral.  As well as an inefficient economic system.   It would just have to die out one day.  So they tabled the discussion to get the southern states to join the union.  But they did put an end date on the slave trade.  Twenty years should be enough time they thought.  And in those 20 years, the South would figure out what to do with the slaves they had.  Because no one in the north could figure that one out.  Who would compensate the slave owners for their emancipated ‘property’?  And there were no biracial societies at that time.  No one could imagine that a formerly enslaved majority will become peaceful neighbors with their former minority masters.  Especially in the South.

But the cotton gin changed all of that.  The one thing that slave labor was good for was big single-crop plantations.  And there was none better than King Cotton.  Separating the seed from the cotton was the one bottleneck in the cotton industry.  Ely Whitney changed that in 1791.  Cotton production exploded.  As did slavery.  The southern economy changed.  As did the political debate.  The southern economy was a cotton economy.  And cotton needed slaves.  The South, therefore, needed slavery.

CARVED OUT OF the new Louisiana Territory were territories that would organize into states and request admittance into the union.  But would they be free or slave?  The first test was resolved with the Missouri Compromise (1820).  Henry Clay (the Great Compromiser) kept the peace.  Saved the union.  For awhile.  The compromise forbade slavery north of Missouri’s southern border (approximately the 36th parallel) in the Louisiana Territory (except in Missouri, of course).  Martin Van Buren saw this as a temporary fix at best.  Any further discussion on the slavery issue could lead to secession.  Or war.  So he created the modern Democratic Party with but one goal.  To get power and to keep power.  With power he could control what they debated.  And, once he had power, they wouldn’t debate slavery again.

During the 1844 presidential campaign, the annexation of the Republic of Texas was an issue.  The secretary of state, Daniel Webster, opposed it.  It would expand slavery and likely give the Senate two new democratic senators.  Which was what John C. Calhoun wanted.  He succeeded Webster as secretary of state.  The new northern Whigs were antislavery.  The southern Whigs were pro-cotton.  The Whig presidential candidate in 1844 was Henry Clay (the Great Compromiser).  He wasn’t for it or against it.  Neither was Martin Van Buren, the Democrat frontrunner.  They wished to compromise and avoid this hot issue all together.

Well, Clay wasn’t ‘anti’ enough for the antislavery Whigs.  So they left and formed the Liberty Party and nominated James. G. Birney as their candidate.  Meanwhile, the Democrats weren’t all that happy with Van Buren.  Enter James Knox Polk.  He didn’t vacillate.  He pledged to annex Texas.  And the Oregon territory.  The Democrats nominated him and said goodbye to Van Buren.

The Whig and Liberty parties shared the northern antislavery votes, no doubt costing Clay the election.  A fait accompli, President Tyler signed off on the annexation of Texas before Polk took the oath of office.

BUT ALL WAS not well.  Those sectional differences continued to simmer just below the boiling point.  The Fugitive Slave Law now made the ‘southern’ problem a northern one, too.  Federal law now required that they help return this southern ‘property’.  It got ugly.  And costly.  Harriet Ward Beecher’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin only inflamed the abolitionist fires in the North.  And then Stephen Douglas saw a proposed transcontinental railroad that could take him to the Whitehouse. 

The railroad would go through the unorganized Nebraskan territory (the northern part of the Louisiana Purchase).   As Washington discussed organizing this territory, the South noted that all of this territory was above 36th parallel.  Thus, any state organized would be, by the terms of the Missouri Compromise, free.  With no state below the 36th parallel added, the balance of power would tip to the North.  The South objected.  Douglas assuaged them.  With the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854.  Which replaced the Missouri Compromise (the 36th parallel) with popular sovereignty.  And Kansas bled.

The idea of popular sovereignty said that the people of the new organized state would determine if they were free or slave.  So the free and slave people raced to populate the territory.  It was a mini civil war.  A precursor of what was to come.  It split up the Whig and Democratic parties.  Southern Whigs and Northern Democrats quit their parties.  The Whig Party would wither and die.  The new Republican Party would rise from the Whig’s ashes.  They would address the cause, not the symptoms.  And at the heart of all the sectional divides was the issue of slavery itself.  It had to be addressed.  As Abraham Lincoln would say in 1858, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”

ZACHARY TAYLOR CHOSE Whig Millard Fillmore as his vice president to appeal to northern Whigs.  When Taylor died some 2 years into his first term, Fillmore became president.  His support of the Compromise of 1850 (admit California as a free state, settle Texas border, grant territorial status to New Mexico, end the slave trade in the District of Columbia and beef up the Fugitive Slave Law) alienated him from the Whig base.

In the 1856 presidential contest, the Republicans nominated John C. Frémont.  The Democrats nominated James Buchanan.  And Millard Fillmore (compromiser and one time Whig) ran on the American Party ticket.  There was talk of secession should Frémont win.  It was a 3-way race.  Buchanan battled with the ‘compromiser’ in the South.  And with the ‘abolitionist’ in the North.  The race was close.  Buchanan won with only 45% of the vote.  But Frémont lost by only 2 states.  He had won all but 5 of the free states.  Had Fillmore not run, it is unlikely that these free states would have voted for the slavery candidate.  So Fillmore no doubt denied Frémont the election.

AMERICA’S ORIGINAL TRUST buster, Teddy Roosevelt (TR), said he wouldn’t run for reelection.  And he didn’t.  He picked Howard Taft as his ‘successor’.  TR was a progressive frontier man.  He had that smile.  This made him a popular and formidable candidate.  Taft just wasn’t as much of a TR as TR was.  So some asked TR to run again.  Against his own, hand-picked ‘successor’.  Which he did.

Taft won the Republican Nomination, though.  Undeterred (and having a really big ego), TR formed a third party, the Progressive Party.  He moved to the left of Taft.  So far left that it made Woodward Wilson, the Democrat candidate, look moderate. 

The 1912 presidential election turned into a 3-man race.  Between 3 progressives.  Taft ‘busted’ more trusts than did TR.  But he just wasn’t TR.  Woodward Wilson was probably the most progressive and idealist of the three.  But in the mix, he looked like the sensible candidate.  Roosevelt beat Taft.  But Wilson beat Roosevelt.  Wilson won with only 45% of the vote.  And gave us the income tax and the Federal Reserve System.  Big Government had come.

IN THE 1992 presidential campaign, George Herbert Walker Bush (read my lips, no new taxes) ran in a 3-way race between Democrat Bill Clinton and Ross Perot.  Perot bashed both parties for their high deficits.  He was a populist candidate against the status quo.  He went on TV with charts and graphs.  He called Reaganomics ‘voodoo’ economics.  While Bush fought these attacks on his 12 years in the executive office (8 as vice president and on 4 as president), Clinton got by with relative ease on his one big weakness.  Character. 

Exit polling showed that Perot took voters from both candidates.  More people voted that year.  But the increase was roughly equal to the Perot vote (who took 19%).  If anyone energized the election that year, it wasn’t Clinton.  He won with only 43% of the vote.  The majority of Americans did not vote for Clinton.  Had the focus not been on Reaganomics and the deficit (where Perot took it), Clinton’s character flaws would have been a bigger issue.  And if it came down to character, Bush probably would have won.  Despite his broken ‘read my lips’ pledge.

HISTORY HAS SHOWN that third party candidates don’t typically win elections.  In fact, when a party splinters into two, it usually benefits the common opposition.  That thing that is so important to bring a third party into existence is often its own demise.  It splits a larger voting bloc into two smaller voting blocs.  Guaranteeing the opposition’s victory. 

Politics can be idealistic.  But not at the expense of pragmatism.  When voting for a candidate that cannot in all probability win, it is a wasted vote.  If you’re making a ‘statement’ with your vote by voting for a third party candidate, that statement is but one thing.  You want to lose.

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FUNDAMENTAL TRUTH #18: “Man-given rights are only privileges allowed by the privileged elite.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - June 15th, 2010

JESUS CHRIST!  You’ll hear that in a foxhole.  When hunkered down as bullets and shrapnel fly thick overhead.  By theist and atheist alike.  Of course, one is most probably in prayer while the other in vain.  Considering the circumstances, though, the Lord would probably forgive the latter. As long as you’re fighting on the side of good, that is.

When emotions are running high, people tend to say things.  Sometimes bad things.  Sometimes, even philosophically inconsistent things.  What’s that joke?  At the height of confusion someone shouts out, “Thank God I’m an atheist!”

People tend to get more intimate with God when they are about to personally find out the answer to that age-old question – is there an afterlife?  Can’t blame them.  Your own mortality can be a scary thing.  And no one wants to rush that.  That’s why, in the age of the Enlightenment, people thought of government not as a force of coercion, but as protection from coercion.  People wanted to live as long as they could.  And as free as they could.  So people made governments that would function within the Rule of Law.  To better their lives.

England made great strides in protecting its citizens from the arbitrary use of force.  After some un-English-like treatment in the New World, the British America colonies broke from the mother country.  But they would build on the English ideals.  The Declaration of Independence stated:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed….

The key here is that rights are God-given.  That meant kings could be wrong.  As well as Parliament.  Even the Church.  Kings, aristocracies, bishops, etc., are positions created and held by men.  Nature/God did not grant them this power.  They granted it to themselves.  And once some have power, it’s not long before some use it to oppress those who don’t.

So when it comes to determining the origin of rights, the atheists should thank God he or she is an atheist.  For if God gives them that right (to be an atheist), no man can take it away.  But if rights are not God-given, then they must be man-given.  And whatever man giveth, he can taketh away.  Especially if you piss off the powers that be.

DRUNKEN FARMER JONES was oppressing the animals on Manor Farm.  Having had enough, the animals rose up and seized power.  They renamed the farm Animal Farm.  The pigs Snowball and Napoleon were the leaders of the revolution.  They created a new political doctrine called Animalism.  It rested on the following 7 commandments painted on the side of the barn:

  1. Whatever goes upon two legs is an enemy.
  2. Whatever goes upon four legs, or has wings, is a friend.
  3. No animal shall wear clothes.
  4. No animal shall sleep in a bed.
  5. No animal shall drink alcohol.
  6. No animal shall kill any other animal.
  7. All animals are equal.

Snowball wanted to do good.  The new farm started out as an anarcho-syndicalist commune.  Sort of.  Then Napoleon seized power.  He and his pigs became the ruling elite for the benefit of animal kind on Animal Farm.  And life was good.  For the pigs.

Napoleon fabricated lies about Snowball.  With the animals turned against him as planned, Napoleon had his dogs chase him off of Animal Farm. 

The animals worked harder.  But there were setbacks.  And at every setback, Boxer, the old workhorse, lamented that he would have to work harder.  And he did.  Until his strength failed him and he collapsed while working.   The pigs then sent him to the vet.  Only the side of the vet’s wagon said ‘Horse Slaughterer and Glue Boiler’.  Most of the animals couldn’t read.  Benjamin could.  He told them what the van said.  But it was too late. 

Benjamin, Boxer’s friend, was an old donkey.  And wise.  He saw a lot in his long life.  Little good, though.  Life was no different under the pigs than it was under the humans.  But he wasn’t surprised.  For that was life.  “Life will go on as it has always gone on—that is, badly.”

The pigs started to act more humanlike.  They started to walk on two legs so they could carry riding crops.  They began wearing clothes.  Slept in beds.  Drank alcohol.  And sent off Boxer to his death for some whiskey money.  The pigs slowly revised the 7 Commandments to agree with their new behavior.  Until, one day, there was but a single commandment remaining.  “All animals are equal.  But some animals are more equal than others.”  And life was good.  For the pigs.

GEORGE ORWELL WAS a socialist who volunteered to fight for the Loyalists in the Spanish Civil War.  He got shot in the throat and was declared medically unfit for further duty.  While healing, the political climate was deteriorating.  His socialist group, the Workers’ Party of Marxists Unification (or, in Spanish, Partido Obrero de Unificación Marxista (POUM)) fell out of favor with the pro-Soviet Communists.  They accused the POUM of being affiliated with Joseph Stalin’s archenemy, Leon Trotsky.  So the Communists outlawed the POUM.  It’s complicated.  Suffice it to say that Orwell made it back to England.  And had no love for Stalin or Soviet Communism.

Then, of course, came World War II.  And the Hitler-Stalin Pact of Nonaggression, further increasing the love between Orwell and Stalin.  And by love I mean hate.  For Orwell hated totalitarianism.  And for all the Utopian talk, Communism had devolved into nothing more than an oppressive totalitarian regime. 

This is the story of Animal Farm.  Napoleon is Joseph Stalin.  Animal Farm becomes the police state of Soviet Communism.  At about a hundred pages, it’s the biggest little book you will ever read.  If you haven’t yet, do so.  And then pick up Orwell’s 1984.  It’s a little longer and a little darker but, wow, what a story.

SO THERE’RE TWO revolutions.  The American and the Russian.  Both ended up on ‘top ten’ lists.  One for liberty.  The other for genocide.  Can you guess which? 

As an ideology, Communism has killed more people than any other in history.  It killed more than the Nazis.  More than the Christian Crusades.  More than the Black Death even.  No other ideology (or plague) comes close. 

So why was one revolution so much bloodier than the other?  Well, the Americans were Christian.  The Russians were Orthodox Christians.  But the Soviets were atheists.  There were no God-given rights in the Soviet Union.  Only privileges allowed by the privileged elite.  And fear.  For people could disappear at someone’s slightest whim. 

That’s the down side of atheism.  And secularism.  It removes the fear of God from a people’s rulers.  And if they aren’t worrying about the afterlife, there’s not a whole lot to dissuade them from doing unspeakable things in the here and now.

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FUNDAMENTAL TRUITH #17: “The raison d’être of federalism is to keep big government small.” -Old Pithy.

Posted by PITHOCRATES - June 8th, 2010

BONJOUR.  A LITTLE French there.  To go with the use of the French expression ‘raison d’être’.  Which means reason for being.  Sounds better in French, n’est-ce pas?

I like Canada.  Both parts.  The French and the English parts.  I’ve met and become friends with people in Toronto, Montreal, Fredericton and Corner Brook.  And elsewhere.  I like to talk to my Francophone friends about that day on the Plains of Abraham.  And I like to speak French to my Anglophone friends.  And they both like to point out to me what they believe to be America’s lack of tolerance and compassion.

The Canadians may be a tolerant and friendly people.  Everyone says that about them.  That they’re nice.  And they are.  But they have to work at it at times.  For there ain’t a whole lot of love between the French and English.  Not now.  Or then.  When French Canada became British.

Like it or not, that animosity has been at the van of Western Civilization.  And it would compete in the New World.  Colonize it.  Fight in it.  And give birth to a new nation.  One that would break from the ways of the past.

“WHO’S THAT, THEN?” one filthy peasant asked another.

“I don’t know.  Must be a king. ”

“Why?”

“He hasn’t got shit all over him.”

(From Monty Python and the Holy Grail – 1975.)

What is a king?  Besides someone who “hasn’t got shit all over him.”  A king is where sovereignty lies.  And sovereignty?  In a word, supremacy.  Supreme authority. 

The Sun King, Louis XIV of France, was an absolute monarch and his word was the absolute law of the land.  And he could do pretty much whatever the hell he wanted.  He built his gorgeous palace at Versailles.  Because he could.  Over in England, the king was sovereign, too, but Parliament checked his power.  So the British king wasn’t an absolute monarchy.  In England, the king could do whatever he wanted as long as Parliament agreed to pay for it.  For Parliament controlled the purse strings.  There would be no Versailles in England.

Now France and England were always at war.  Their fighting even spilled over into the New World.  The 7 Years War (as the Europeans called this world war) went by a different name in North America.  The French and Indian War.  The British won.  France lost Canada and other colonial possessions.  Their loss, though, was America’s gain.  The French and Indian attacks on the American Colonists ended, leaving them with peace and prosperity.  But it was costly.  As wars are wont to be.

Over in England, Parliament had to pay that cost.  But taxes were already pretty high at the time in England.  If they raised them further, it could cause trouble.  So what to do?  Well, there were some who pointed out that the American colonists really came out the clear winner in this latest contest.  They got peace and prosperity without really paying anything to get it.  Shouldn’t they pick up part of the tab?  I mean, fair is fair, right?

And they probably would have gladly contributed as good English subjects.  However, and this is a big however, they felt they weren’t treated as good English subjects.  In fact, they felt more like Parliament’s bitch than English subjects.  And to add insult to injury, they had no vote in Parliament.

Parliament passed a series of acts that the Americans would call the Intolerable Acts.  Both sides missed opportunities for compromise and peace.  Instead, tempers festered.  Parliament would bitch-slap the colonists.  And the colonists would bitch-slap Parliament.  Eventually throwing some British East Indian tea into the water.

Now Britain’s king, King George, had a bit of a problem on his hands.  The Americans were challenging his sovereign rule.  There was a name for this.  Kings call it treason.  And they kill people for it.  King George was the supreme authority.  Anyone challenging his authority was challenging his right to rule.  That’s why acts of treason are typically punishable by death.  You don’t stand up to kings.  You grovel.  And these uppity Americans surely weren’t groveling.

And just how does a king get this authority?  Well, you don’t vote for them.  They either inherit power.  Or they kill for it.  It’s a story as old as time.  Patricide.  Matricide.  Fratricide.  And sometimes the killing was by someone outside the family.  But that’s how sovereign power changed.  A king or queen died.  Naturally.  Or with a little help.  And when a new sovereign ascended the throne, he or she usually killed all other possible contenders.

If King George didn’t put down the American rebellion, it could spread.  To Canada.  To other English colonies.  Or give someone ideas back at home that the king was weak.  And challenge him for his throne.

These are things kings think about.  Power can be precarious.  Even when it’s absolute.  As King Louis XVI would learn in France.  During the French Revolution, the people, challenging the king’s sovereignty, sent him to the guillotine.  Chopped his head off.  His wife’s, too.  Marie Antoinette.

ENGLAND GAVE BIRTH to modern, representative government.  It was a balance of power between the many (the common people in the House of Commons), the few (the aristocratic rich in the House of Lords) and the one (the sovereign king).  Each provided a check on the others.  The king was the supreme power but he needed money to wage war and build things.  Parliament collected taxes and paid for things they approved of.  And the House of Lords was to keep that spending from getting out of control as they understood money and costs (that’s what rich people are good at).  They were to protect the nation from the evils of pure democracy where the people, once they realize they can, will vote themselves the treasury.

Most of the American colonists were transplanted Englishmen.  Or came from English stock.  They were English subjects (at least in name if not in practice).  They understood representative government.  Their colonial governments were in fact very British.  The Rule of Law was the rule of the land.  The governed consented to taxation.  And the government collected the taxes they consented to. 

You can probably see where this is going.

Taxation without representation was very un-English.  The fact that it was okay in the American colonies chafed the American English subjects.  I mean, it really frosted their shorts.  It wasn’t right.  By English law.  Or by precedent.  Anger at Parliament turned into anger at the king.  Questions of sovereignty arose.  Should the king be sovereign?  Or should the people?  In 1776, the American colonists stated their opinion in a very treasonous document.  The Declaration of Independence.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed….

The U.S. Constitution emphasized the sovereignty of the people in the preamble.

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Kings were out.  The Rule of Law was in.  No aristocracy.  No hereditary offices.  In America, it would be different.  After the Battle of Gettysburg some 75 years later, Abraham Lincoln would reiterate this at the dedication of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery.

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal…

…that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

THE AMERICAN COLONISTS rebelled and broke away from Great Britain because they were through with being her bitch.  In fact, they weren’t going to be anyone’s bitch.  That’s why there was a lot of opposition to the establishment of a strong, central government.  They didn’t want a national government taking up where Great Britain left off.  And they didn’t want an American president to be just another King George.  The people won their liberty.  And they intended to keep it.  So they could pursue that happiness Thomas Jefferson wrote about in the Declaration of Independence.

Federalism was the solution.  The states’ governments would retain most of their powers.  Only those things they could not do well (regulate ‘free-trade’ interstate commerce, negotiate trade agreements with other nations, wage war, etc.) would be done by the new national government.  The people would remain sovereign.  Strong state governments and a ‘weak’ central government would share power.  In effect, the new central government was to be the people’s bitch.  But you’d never know that by looking at things today.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

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