What with oil gushing and charges of tea-party racism accumulating like cuss words on Oksana Grigorieva’s voice mail, it is almost easy to forget that we are witnessing the most massive expansion of governmental power in our nation’s history.
Just in the past few months we have seen the government take over health-care and grant itself enormous power over the financial industry and any business associated with the financial industry (read-everything). Chances are that cap-and-trade will be passed next — even if it takes a lame duck congress to do it.
It is enough for you to miss the good ol’ days when government just took over automobile companies. That’s is just so 2009.
There is the old saying that those who forget history are doomed to repeat it. I think this goes doubly for those who have no history.
We in America are so far removed from actual oppression, economic or otherwise, that I think many Americans had come to believe that such things only happened “over there.” Oh sure, every generation or two we might need to send our boys over there to send oppression packing, but such things could never happen here.
There seemed to be this naive belief that in America the entrepreneurial spirit and the love of freedom would always check the excesses of the social-democratic (read-statist) impulses of the minority. Now we know better.
The incremental acceptance of spending has led to the tipping point of spending. The incremental acceptance of governmental control has led to the tipping point of massive governmental control. The incremental acceptance of the unlimited power of the federal government has led, of course, to a federal government that seeks to grant itself unlimited power.
Even today many Americans still believe that our quintessential American virtues of free-enterprise and hard work can still save us. Perhaps they can. But it is entirely plausible that free-enterprise can no longer save us because it has gone the way of the dodo and hard work is a punishable offense.
Perhaps we were so far removed from the memory of real oppression that we no longer valued the safeguards that our founders placed in our Constitution. During the respites from navigating the carefully laid minefield of distractions, I find my thoughts drifting to the wisdom of the founding fathers.
They had common sense. A common sense derived from real experience germinated one very clear and easily expressible idea–government with the power to oppress, will. So they sought to set up a limited government of checks and balances all aimed at restraining oppression. You know the drill. They succeeded so well that Americans began to believe it couldn’t happen here. Not because of our dedication to the founding principles, limited government and the wise restraints place thereon, but because of something inherent in our character. We began to believe that somehow we were different, that hardworking Americans are just different than those “over there.”
But it is not us. We are men just like all other men. Just like all those other men around the world who live under the thumb of others. Our founding fathers knew this, most likely because they were all Christians and understood the fallen nature of man. That, and they had the history to back it up. Thomas Paine wrote in Common Sense.
O ye that love mankind! Ye that dare oppose, not only the tyranny, but the tyrant, stand forth! Every spot of the old world is overrun with oppression. Freedom hath been hunted round the globe. Asia, and Africa, have long expelled her — Europe regards her like a stranger, and England hath given her warning to depart. O! receive the fugitive, and prepare in time an asylum for mankind.
I think that perhaps Paine’s lament applies more now than it did then.
Free-enterprise cannot save us when it is no longer free. Something else will have to do it. I have come to think that common sense will have to save us, if we are to be saved. A newly earned common sense that understands, while men are no different the world over, we can still live differently.
We now have a little history with oppression, be it yet brief and comparably mild. Yet we are not obliged to craft the crucial restraints on government excess from whole cloth. We have our own history as our guide. Let us re-embrace the founding principles and dedicate ourselves to closing the gaps that have allowed oppression to gain a foothold.
Our task is considerably easier than that faced by our ancestors in 1776 and yet in someways that much harder. Our oppressor is not a tyrant on a throne thousands of miles away. Our oppressor is us.
So let us take to the task of rebuilding the Constitution and the safeguards needed for a free society. Let us do it so well that in two hundred and thirty years our great great great grandchildren will have to learn the lessons all over again because they, like we, had never known real oppression.
It is only common sense.