FT159: “There’s more to know than most people know.” —Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - March 1st, 2013

Fundamental Truth

Some want to Lower the Voting Age despite our Teens’ Penchant for Making Poor Decisions

Parents can’t tell their kids anything.  Because they know everything already.  Despite doing a lot of stupid stuff.  They smoke cigarettes.  Do drugs.  Binge drink.  Drink and drive.  Have unprotected sex.  And a whole lot of other things that can have lasting consequences.  Consequences such as cancer.  A drug addiction.  An arrest for driving under the influence.  An arrest for vehicular manslaughter.  Catching a venereal disease.  Becoming a single mother while still in high school.  Or becoming a single mother with a venereal disease.  While still in high school.

Teens and young adults have a history of making poor decisions.  Why?  Is it because they are stupid?  No.  It’s because they are young.  Inexperienced.  And grow up in an environment that tells them they are far wiser than they are.  As they grew up people constantly told them that they are smart.  They are wise.  And that we need to listen to what they say.  For they are our future.  Some even wanting to bring them into the political process earlier.  By lowering the voting age.  Which is an odd thing to do.  Considering their penchant for making poor decisions.

Of course kids are all for lowering the voting age.  For if they could vote earlier there would probably be more than 2 states that have decriminalized marijuana by now.  And they could lower the drinking age, too.  For let’s face it kids are going to binge drink no matter what we say.  Just as they are going to smoke marijuana and have sex.  So we might as well help them do these things.  And lowering the voting age will be a step towards making that happen.

The Founding Fathers wanted a Government of the People not a Ruling Elite in a Faraway Place telling them what’s Best for Them

So we know what kids want.  Less parenting.  And more fun.  They want the freedom to enjoy whatever they want to enjoy.  And believe they are enlightened like our Founding Fathers were when they wanted the freedom to do what they wanted to do.  Of course, the Founding Fathers’ Enlightenment was a lot different from that of the kids’ today.  The Founding Fathers were interested in science, economics and religious freedom.  They were familiar with the history of Greece and Rome.  Magna Carta.  The Protestant Reformation.  The English Civil War.  They were proud of their membership in the British Empire.  The most enlightened and free empire, or country, in the world.  Thanks to their representative government.  But when Parliament did not let them have any representation in that house while passing laws to govern them, well, they didn’t love the British Empire as much as they once did.

The Founding Fathers weren’t fans of mercantilism.  Then the dominant economic policy of the day.  European powers fought each other for colonies.  Their colonies shipped raw materials back to the mother country.  Who then used them to manufacture finished goods.  That they then sold to the world.  And to their colonies.  Keeping the net flow of gold and silver flowing to the mother country.  While exporting more finished goods than they imported.  With the state helping a few well-connected domestic businesses.  Keeping the state coffers flush with money.  While the people paid higher prices than they normally would have paid.  Thanks to those government policies favoring the well-connected businesses.  Basically like what China is doing today.  Maintaining a strong export economy with cheap labor.  That doesn’t benefit the Chinese masses all that much.  Creating basically two Chinas.  The rich in the cities.  And the poor and impoverished everywhere else.

The Founding Fathers wanted liberty.  Political liberty.  And economic liberty.  Laissez-faire capitalism.  Where the people taking the greatest risk profited the most.  Not the state.  They wanted a limited federal government.  Just large enough to protect the nation.  To treat with other nations.  Those things best suited for the federal government.  While the vast majority of power belonged to the states.  Closer to the people.  And not in some distant land.  They wanted a government of the people.  Not a ruling elite in a faraway place telling them what’s best for them.  That’s why they fought for their independence from a distant power in the first place.  The British Empire.  And they sure didn’t want to trade one distant power oppressing them for another.  They didn’t want money corrupting the federal government.  They wanted the seat of financial power and the seat of government power separated.  For the greatest abuses of power came when wealth joined power in the Old World capitals.  London.  Paris.  Madrid.  Thomas Jefferson wanted the federal capital as far from the bankers and merchants in New York as possible.  Which is why they placed the new federal capital in a swamp on the Potomac River.

Sadly, those who Know the Least often determine who Wins Elections

Those who have studied history understand how the United States came to be.  And what made it the world’s number one economic power.  Laissez-faire capitalism.  Free trade.  Sound money.  In particular the gold standard.  They saw history prove Say’s Law.  Supply creates its own demand.  No one demanded personal computers or the Internet.  But when those who brought these to the market place showed how wonderful they were demand soon followed.  They saw history prove David Ricardo’s comparative advantage.  How free trade lets nations produce what they do most efficiently and trade for what they don’t.  Thus increasing the economies of all nations trading freely.

People who know history understand that the prevalent economic policy today, Keynesian economics, is a failed policy.  For Keynesian economic policies are more like mercantilism than free market capitalism.  Calling for more government intervention into the market.  Inflationary monetary policy (i.e., printing money).  As well as tax and spend fiscal policies so the government can redistribute wealth.  So the government can choose winners and losers.  Not the free market.  Policies that all go against what made America the world’s number one economic power.  The Seventies, a time when the Keynesians got everything they wanted when President Nixon decoupled the dollar from gold, saw double-digit inflation, high unemployment and a stagnant economy.  Everything the Keynesians tried failed to improve the economy.  In fact, their policies only made the economy worse.  And the only thing that pulled us out of the stagflation and misery of the Seventies was Ronald Reagan.  Who embraced the classical economic policies that made America the number one economic power in the world.  Laissez-faire capitalism.  Say’s Law.  David Ricardo’s comparative advantage.  Sound monetary policy (i.e., noninflationary).  The policies we call Reaganomics.

People who study history know this.  But teens and young adults?  Those more interested in drinking alcohol, smoking marijuana and having sex?  They haven’t a clue about economics or their history.  Yet they often determine elections.  Sad but true.  And it’s just not teens and young adults who don’t understand economics or know their history.  Thanks to the hippies of the Sixties moving into education most people coming out of our public schools don’t.  For the hippies of the Sixties changed the curriculum.  To help them in their quest to destroy capitalism.   By dumbing down the curriculum.  So it’s easier for Keynesians to keep passing the failed policies of the past.  To help them keep expanding the size of government.  To turn this nation back to what the Founding Fathers fought to get away from.  The mercantilism of the Old World.  Of present day China.  Where the few in power have all the power.  And all the wealth.  All because people think they know more than they know.  And vote as if they know everything they need to know.  But there’s more to know than most people know.  And, sadly, those who know the least often determine who wins elections.

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2010 Midterm Election: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Posted by PITHOCRATES - November 3rd, 2010

Big Cities, Big Union and Big Government

If you look at a map of the House election results (provided by The Washington Post), you can see the two Americas.  What you see is a red map with small dabs of blue.  And where are those blue areas?  The Big Cities, the big colleges, the big unions and the big urban concentrations of poor and minorities.  And, of course, the liberal elite in and around the Big Cities.  In other words, where you find Big Union (manufacturing, trade unions, school teachers and government employees) and Big Government.  And it’s the dynamic between Big Union and Big Government that empower the liberal elite.   Big Union provides campaign money and foot soldiers for Big Government.  And Big Government rewards Big Union by favoring their small minority over the majority of Americans.  It’s a throwback to before our Founding when kings and nobles ruled nations.  Political power is devolving into fewer and fewer hands. Into those little dabs of blue.

To get a perspective of how bad and how oppressive this ruling minority elite has gotten, consider two races.  Two people nationally despised won their reelections.  Barney Frank, who is largely responsible for giving us the subprime mortgage crisis, won in liberal Massachusetts.  And Nancy Pelosi, who forced her liberal agenda on the American people against their wishes, won by a whopping 80% in San Francisco.  This is what the Founding Fathers meant when they spoke of the tyranny of the minority.  These two have caused great harm to the American people.  Yet they represent such a sliver of minority thought in this nation.  They could not win a national vote.  Yet they can destroy a nation by winning their local vote.

But it’s not all bad.  If you look at the map, you see a lot of red in once dominate blue areas.  New England is not completely blue anymore.  New York State isn’t as blue as New York City.  Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Michigan are red outside of the Big Cities.  Chicago, in fact, is a small pocket of blue adrift in a sea of red.  And in Washington, Oregon and California, if you move in from the Big Money coast, you see mostly red.  More importantly, if you click on the governors tab in the map, you see change, too.  New York and California are blue, yes, but there’s more red than blue overall on that map.  Which gives one hope that the republic the Founding Fathers gave us is not yet dead.  It will be hard to gerrymander those congressional districts around the Big Cities to give such little, elitist, local voices a large national voice anymore.

It’s the Economy, Stupid.  Was, and still is.

So, outside of the blue Big Cities, what do we know?  Well, the exit polling told us what we already knew.  It’s the economy, stupid.  We’ve lost too many jobs.  And that’s what we want.  Jobs (see Exit poll: Economy the big dog for worried voters by Connie Cass, Associated Press, posted on Yahoo!

About a third of voters said their household suffered a job loss in the past two years.

And as we lost our jobs, we lost our homes (see Homeownership at lowest level in a decade by Alan Zibel, AP Real Estate Writer, posted on Yahoo! News). 

The nation’s homeownership rate is at the lowest level in more than a decade, hampered by a rise in foreclosures and weak demand for housing.

And while we lose our jobs and our homes, what is the president doing?  Going on vacation to an exclusive 5-star resort.  And it’s going to cost the American taxpayer a pretty penny (see US to spend $200 mn a day on Obama’s Mumbai visit posted by Press Trust of India. 

The US would be spending a whopping $200 million (Rs. 900 crore approx) per day on President Barack Obama’s visit to the city.

Does the royal family feel our pain?

Not only do they govern against our will, but they flaunt it in our faces.  We struggle because of the likes of Barack Obama, Barney Frank and Nancy Pelosi.  We lose our jobs and our homes (which is ironic considering we’re in this mess to begin with because of Washington’s policy to provide affordable housing to those who could not afford to buy a house).  And what does the ‘royal’ family do?  Go on vacation that will cost the taxpayers millions of dollars per day.  I guess they can’t feel our pain.  Or that they just don’t care.  So think back to last summer when you spent your family vacation in your backyard because money was tight.  And that team Obama will probably raise your taxes come January 1 to be ‘responsible’ to pay for their irresponsible spending.  Take solace in the fact that at least he could live large on your dime.  Even if you had to spend summer ‘staycation’ in your backyard.

As we proceed from the 2010 midterm elections, do not forget the dynamic between Big Government and Big Union.  It won’t be easy, but they’ll continue to try to help fund those under-funded union pension plans.  And they will point to the Republicans as obstructionists.  That they need to compromise.  Put partisanship behind us.  Especially now.  Since they lost the House of Representatives, the Left can’t be partisan anymore.  Like they have been the last two years.

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The People are Speaking – and They’re Rejecting Pelosi and Obama and Their Very Expensive, Jobless, Liberal Agenda

Posted by PITHOCRATES - October 31st, 2010

Ethical and transparent is all well and good with Republicans in power, but devious is just fine when the Democrats are back in power.

The Wall Street Journal’s John Fund sat down with Rep. Brian Baird, a six-term Democrat from Washington State.  He’s not running for a seventh term.  He’s retiring and going home to be with his children while they’re still children.  With a close to his political career, he had nothing to lose speaking his mind.  And he did.  (See Requiem for the Pelosi Democrats posted on line 10/30/2010.)  One thing this Democrat wasn’t happy with was the Democrat leadership.

Mr. Baird recalls that he was “very excited” when his party took control of Congress in 2006, but he saw ominous signs early on. Before the 2006 election, he says, Mrs. Pelosi had 30 members working on a rules package to make the House more ethical and deliberative. “We abandoned all that work after the election, and leaders told us we should trust them to clean things up. I don’t know a single member of the Democratic caucus who saw the final rules package before they voted on it.”

Even her own don’t like her.  Nancy Pelosi was going to have the most ethical and transparent House.  Of course, Pelosi initiated that initiative when the Republicans were in control.  When she was working on a very draconian set of rules for the House of Representatives.  Then, to her shock, the Democrats won a majority in the House and, with it, the leadership positions.  And the 30-member panel stopped their work.  Why?  Those draconian rules had but one purpose; curb Republican power.  With them being in the majority, they didn’t need any set of rules to curb Republican power.  And they sure as hell weren’t going to implement any rules that would curb their own power.  For the devious like to work outside the rules as much as possible.

Obamacare – long and convoluted, best passed without reading (for it’s not as quick a read as War and Peace or Atlas Shrugged).

Once back in power, they were giddy with that power.  They took it as a mandate to change America.  But it wasn’t.  It was a mandate to change Washington.  But they tried their level best to remake America to what the people wanted.  Demanded.  To make it liberal.  To give us Big Government.  This is what they and about 20% of Americans who call themselves ‘liberal’ wanted.  So they ignored the other 80% and went to work.  Their bills were so long and convoluted that it made Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace and Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged (both in the 1,000-page class of novel) seem like Readers Digest reading by comparison.  And one of the longest and most convoluted?  Obamacare.  Which few read before voting. 

“What the hell were we doing voting on this? I had labor groups come to me and insist the bill was so important we couldn’t wait to know what was in it,” he recalls. “I asked them if they were handed a new union contract and told it was so important they had to agree to it without reading it, would they go along?” They continued to insist he vote for the bill and threatened him with a primary challenger.

Even Nancy Pelosi said that Congress would have to approve it before they could learn what was in it.  Remarkable.  Can you imagine the teachers’ union agreeing to this?  Saying to the school board, “Sure, whatever you say.  If the contract’s fair that’s good enough for me.  We, the teachers, can learn about what we agreed to after we vote to ratify it.”  No, they wouldn’t.  Neither would Nancy Pelosi pass a bill sponsored by Republicans without reading it.  It’s okay for her, though.  Because she’s an elitist.  And doesn’t really care what we ‘rubes’ think anyway.

Obamacare – We’ll pay for filet mignon but get hotdogs and hamburgers, a very expensive mediocrity.

Passing Obamacare required some financial shenanigans.  They needed CBO to score it under a trillion dollars.  Which was like giving everyone filet mignon at the family reunion BBQ by asking everyone to pay $5 to cover the cost.  You can’t do it.  If you’re buying food for everyone and only collecting $5 a head, trust me, you’re serving hot dogs and hamburger.  But if you collect the money first and don’t feed anyone until after, say, 4 years, you’ll be able to stay within your imaginary budget in those first 4 years.

“I warned my fellow Democrats that the insurance companies they were whacking could increase premiums just before the midterm election and blame them for it,” he sighs. “I pointed out that the major benefits wouldn’t kick in till 2014, but the costs were up front. I asked them, where was the political win? There was no real answer.”

Of course, people are not going to enjoy paying for nothing.  They’re not just going to sit idly by with their wallets open, whistling a happy tune.  There will come a point when they’re going to ask what they’re getting for all their money.  And then after 4 years of paying for filet mignon, they’ll finally get to enjoy the benefit they’ve been paying and waiting patiently for so long.  And, guess what?  They’ll still get hot dogs and hamburger.  Because everyone can’t have filet mignon.  It’s just too damn expensive.  So like with everything else Big Government does, we’ll end up with a very expensive mediocrity.

The rubes in flyover country have had enough of deficits.  And enough of the arrogant and condescending Pelosi and Obama.

Nancy Pelosi and most in Congress are elitists.  They are so far removed from ordinary America that it’s like visiting a foreign land for them.  That’s why they call it ‘flyover’ country.  The only thing the country outside their liberal districts is good for is flying over en route to another liberal district.  They either think everyone thinks like they think.  Or that those too stupid to be able to think like they think should just be seen and not heard, grateful for whatever alms they hand out.  The concept of alternate viewpoints is alien to them.  So when advisors told them to go ahead and spend because the people (the people that count – the 20%) don’t care about deficits, they listened.  Well, not so much listened.  But heard what they wanted to hear.

Democrats, he says, will also have to recognize why they lost touch with voters. “Back in September, we had pollsters and strategists from my party tell members that the mass of people didn’t care about the deficit. The mind-boggling lack of reality coming from some of the people who give us so-called advice is stunning.”

Well, people care about deficits.  Like the Left used to care about when Ronald Reagan was running up a deficit the size of a drop in the bucket compared to theirs.  And the amazing thing is, they aren’t done spending yet.  Which is really frustrating the 80%.  The rubes.  The good people in flyover country.  Who are growing weary of the condescending and arrogant Nancy Pelosi and President Obama.

The mandate was to change Washington, not America.  Now, America is polarized.  And it’s business as usual in Washington.

Toby Harnden, American Way, wrote a piece appearing on www.telegraph.co.uk called US midterm elections: Barack Obama’s world turned upside down as Democrats face electoral disaster.  Those familiar with history will be familiar with part of this title.  For tradition says that when Lord Cornwallis surrendered at Yorktown in 1781, the British marched out while their band played The World Turned Upside Down.  How very apropos.  For the ruling elite is stunned, much like Lord Cornwallis was, at the thought of being defeated by a bunch of rubes.  So desperate to avoid such a ‘Cornwallian’ disaster, the Left is trying everything within their power.  Even abandoning the lie that brought them into office.  

The irony of Obama being the blue-state president is acute. Back in 2004, the then state senator shot to international attention by mocking the pundits who “like to slice and dice our country into red states and blue States”.

He declared: “There’s not a liberal America and a conservative America. There’s the United States of America. There’s not a black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America. There’s the United States of America.”

Of course, once he got into office, it was all, “I won.  You lost.  Nyah nyah, na nyah nyah.” 

Swept into power on a wave of adulation and talk of an historic new era, Obama never felt he needed to work with Republicans. It took him 18 months before he invited Senator Mitch McConnell, the Senate Minority Leader, to the White House.

But the center-right, the 80%, were not amused.

The problem was that his world view was that of a conventional liberal Democrat but he was president of a nation that was centre-right. His victory came from those who wanted him to change Washington, not America.

And by governing against the will of the people, America is polarized more than ever.  And it’s business as usual in Washington.  Perhaps a bit dirtier, though.

Jobs talk and liberal BS walks.  Yeah, it’s the economy, stupid.

Obama ran as a centrist.  But once in office, he ruled as a liberal.  The most liberal president ever.  And like Nancy Pelosi, he is getting exasperated by these rubes who are just too stupid to know what’s best for them.  So he’s abandoning that reaching across the aisle nonsense and doing what Democrats do best.

Obama’s high-minded appeals for national unity are no more. His electoral strategy is one of desperate damage limitation. Most pollsters expect Democrats to lose more than 50 seats and control of the House of Representatives.

They will probably keep control of the Senate but at least six seats look lost. Obama’s response has been to “slice and dice” the electorate in the way he condemned. He endured the indignity of being called “dude” on Jon Stewart’s Comedy Central show as the price for enticing young voters.

He’s appeared on the Reverend Al Sharpton’s internet radio show to woo black voters. On Univision radio, he told Latino voters of the need to “punish our enemies”. He routinely attacks Fox News and Karl Rove, President George W. Bush’s former adviser, as a way of energising liberals.

With the realization that America doesn’t want what Pelosi and Obama are pushing, they reach out to those who they once simply took for granted: the young, the blacks and the Latinos.  Who they need more than ever now that so many women are turning to the Republicans this election.  Because there are no jobs.  After 2 years in office.  And trillions of dollars in spending.

What was that the Democrats used to say?  Oh, yes, I think I remember.  “It’s the economy, stupid.”  Duh.

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Obama to Small Business: Take the Money. Please.

Posted by PITHOCRATES - September 27th, 2010

Smart Dumb People

Imagine you’re a business owner.  Let’s say you manufacture and sell fancy, high-end, architectural lighting for high-end homes.  Business was good during the housing bubble.  So good you expanded production.  Built a new factory.  Then, with the subprime mortgage crisis, sales took a nosedive.  You had to shutter the new plant you built during the bubble.  And you had to cut a shift at your other factory.  Because with the new home market in the crapper, high unemployment and a general lack of optimism in the future, few people are buying fancy, high-end, architectural lighting.  So what do you do?  Borrow money so you can expand production and hire more people?  If you’re an idiot, perhaps.  But you’re not.  So you won’t.

Business people are smart.  They understand business.  The people in the Obama administration, on the other hand, are a bunch of idiots.  When it comes to business.  They may have their Ivy degrees and their smug condescending arrogance, but they are some of the dumbest smart people that ever were.  To them all business owners are thieves who exploit their employees.  They don’t like them but they understand they need them.  To provide the jobs.  Because everyone can’t work in government.  Someone has to work in the private sector so the government has someone to tax.

With their simplistic understanding of business, they believe business just needs more money.  That’s their answer to everything.  More money.  A business owner can hire more people if only he or she had more money.  Ergo, get them more money.  Hire the people.  Create jobs.  Build stuff.  Just do it already.  What’s the problem?

“Ah, Mr. President, what am I going to do with all this stuff if no one buys it?”

“Huh?  What?”

“That’s what I thought.”

Spend Baby Spend

The economy is a complex thing.  But it’s simple to operate.  All you have to do is get the hell out of the way.  But there are those who just can’t.  They need to tinker.  Because they are smarter than you.  And every other consumer.

Economists are like weather forecasters.  They’re wrong more than they’re right.  Let’s face it; if these people could figure out the economy, they wouldn’t need a day job.  But they do.  They need to offer ‘expert’ commentary.  And advise presidents.  To feel important.  To feel better about themselves.  For being such abject failures that they need a day job.

And, of course, the ones who find favor with those in power are the ones who favor the use of that power.  Keynesians.  Unemployment, Mr. President?  Why you fix that by spending money.  Inflation, Mr. President?  That’s just too much money chasing too few goods.  So you need to spend more.  To stimulate the economy to build more goods.  Inflation is good.  It stimulates.  And it helps to pay off the debt you’re building with your deficit spending.  A trillion dollars today may only be a few hundred billion, say, 10 years from now.  Billions are easier to repay than trillions.  And the more we inflate, the easier it will be to pay off that debt.  See?  Deficit spending and inflation are good things.  So keep spending.

It’s a load of crap.  But it’s doesn’t take much to sell it to a president.  Especially if they want to spend.  As the current president does.  And, boy, does he.

Failed Policies of the Past

Easy money and irrational exuberance created the housing bubble.  People borrowed money and bought over-priced houses.  Then the bubble burst.  The huge inventory of unsold homes corrected the market.  Prices plummeted.  Interest rates went up.  Adjustable Rate Mortgages (ARMs) reset at higher rates.  Subprime mortgages defaulted.  Foreclosures.  More houses thrown on the market, pushing prices down further.  People still paying their mortgages found they owed more than their houses were worth.  Some walked away.  More houses thrown on the market, further depressing housing prices.  That’s what easy money and excess capacity gives you.  A bubble.  Then a deflationary spiral.

And now the Obama administration wants to return to these failed policies of the past.  Obama wants business to borrow money to increase capacity to build stuff no one will buy.  (See AP article Small biz, banks may spurn Obama’s $30B program by Pallavi Gogoi on My Way.)  It’s not housing.  But it’s still the same.  Irrational exuberance.

It’s the Government, Stupid

It’s not a tight credit market that’s hurting this economy.  It’s the Obama administration.  Just like it was the FDR administration.  There’s just too much uncertainty.  Too many anti-business policies.  When you see government dissolve a legal obligation (screwing the bond holders) in favor of helping a political constituency (the UAW), business owners take notice.  And get nervous. 

If you want to help the economy, you got to stop scaring business owners.  You got to stop running roughshod over the rule of law.  If people enter into legal contracts, they need to have some assurance that the government will honor those contracts.  And, to date, the Obama administration’s actions don’t give much assurance.

Until they stop scaring business, what idiot is going to expand and hire people?  That doesn’t work for the government?

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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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