June 2, 2013
Call me geeky, but I find it important to uncover the origin of things typically taken for granted. For instance, I was curious to learn about the original role of American government in the lives of the Americans during the country’s first decade, beginning in 1776. But even more so, I sought any hard evidence I could find about how the powers of governance today had strayed from their original mandate given years ago. My findings? The role of government has “evolved” mightily and to the point of being nearly opposite to its original intent.
The American Revolution was a war of blood shed for a nation governed by the self-evident truths of the Declaration of Independence. Regardless of the many protections British subjects of the thirteen colonies enjoyed, approximately a third of the population suspected and rejected what they perceived as a tightening grip over their lives. The British Empire’s relentless hold on colonial money and finance topped the list of grievances along with the Church of England’s assumed spiritual authority.
A shift was in the wind, the “first great awakening” began, and revolt was in the air. In 1772 and then in 1775, Dr. Joseph Warren, an American doctor, a famous revolutionary leader, orator and planner of the Boston Tea Party expounded on the “First Principles,” the philosophical basis of the Declaration of Independence and therefore, the role of government. First Principles relied upon the “laws of nature and of nature’s God,” also known as lex aeterna, (the moral law) and were summarized by the Golden Rule, “Do as you would be done by.”
Liberty is the prevention of control by others. This requires self-control and, therefore, religious and spiritual influences; education, knowledge, well-being.” —Lord Acton, English thinker, editor and professor of modern history at Cambridge University, 1834-1902
Common law, the law of the land in the post-American Revolution era, also relied on the First Principles. Common law was to stop infringement upon the rights of another:
• All rights are derived from property.
• Every right implies a responsibility.
• The only limitation on your rights is the equal rights of others.
I share the above thumbnail sketch to provide background surrounding the original premises for sound governing. Plain and simple, a body of men was established to protect private rights of the people, especially rights related to one’s private property. Other than that, the people were at liberty to decide and resolve pressing everyday issues related to work, health, education, protection, etc. There was no standing army.
Fast-forward to the 21st century and it does not take a rocket scientist to admit how much the role of government has changed; it has far exceeded its original mandate to simply protect the private rights of individuals.
In fact, President Obama gives us a good idea about the role government plays today.
“The first role of the federal government is to keep the American people safe. That’s its most basic function.” and “But I also believe that government has the capacity, the federal government has the capacity to help open up opportunity and create ladders of opportunity and to create frameworks where the American people can succeed.” -October 2012 election debate with Mitt Romney
At his 2012 second-term inaugural speech, he evoked as the role of government. (To the below, I also add the government’s new role providing and monitoring healthcare.)
“With or without this Congress, I will keep taking actions that help the economy grow.” and “We can either settle for a country where a shrinking number of people do really well while a growing number of Americans barely get by, or we can restore an economy where everyone gets a fair shot, and everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules.”
“We should start with our tax code. Right now, companies get tax breaks for moving jobs and profits overseas. Meanwhile, companies that choose to stay in America get hit with one of the highest tax rates in the world. It makes no sense, and everyone knows it. So let’s change it.”
“Join me in a national commitment to train 2 million Americans with skills that will lead directly to a job. My administration has already lined up more companies that want to help.”
Involvement in energy exploration and development
“Over the last three years, we’ve opened millions of new acres for oil and gas exploration. And tonight, I’m directing my administration to open more than 75% of our potential offshore oil and gas resources.” and “This country needs an all-out, all-of-the-above strategy that develops every available source of American energy, a strategy that’s cleaner, cheaper, and full of new jobs.”
Funding infrastructure projects
“In the next few weeks, I will sign an executive order clearing away the red tape that slows down too many construction projects. But you need to fund these projects. Take the money we’re no longer spending at war, use half of it to pay down our debt, and use the rest to do some nation-building right here at home.”
Income and wealth distribution
“But in return, we need to change our tax code so that people like me, and an awful lot of members of Congress, pay our fair share of taxes. and ”Tax reform should follow the Buffett Rule: If you make more than a million dollars a year, you should not pay less than 30% in taxes.”
After reading this, either you will say, we’ve come a long way, baby, or you’re scratching your head wondering how government could so grossly exceeded its original role in the lives of the people. I used to be in the latter camp before I dug deeper and found out one of the untold stories about American history that changes everything. What really happened at the Philadelphia constitutional convention in 1787 will blow your mind.
“The urge to save humanity is almost always only a false-face for the urge to rule it.” – “Minority Report H.L. Mencken’s Notebooks,” H.L. Menken, 1956
Think outside the box. Live outside the cage.