February 2010

There is a persistent impression in Washington by those fortunate enough to have been elected to represent us that the populace at large in the US needs to be governed. I’m here, as a red-blooded member of the at-large masses, to tell the governing class that we don’t need or want to be governed. We are sentient adults, and we can take care our ourselves if we’re allowed to do so, thank you very much. We are OKAY with representation and leadership, but if you aim to govern us then just get the hell out of the way.

The past hundred years or so in our country’s history have been punctuated by a staggering amount of governance emanating from Washington, and as a result we modern Americans lead highly regulated and restricted lives. In fact, there isn’t a single instance of our lives where the ubiquitous hand of the federal government doesn’t push or prod our allegedly free choices. All of these interventions and curtailments of our rights, freedoms and liberties are allegedly done with our very best interests in mind (I’m sure), however the our personal costs far outweigh the benefits we reap, perceived or otherwise.

To me, governing is the province of rulers. The monarch says “Jump,” and we serfs ask “How high?” But I cannot see where the role of the elected representatives that we send to Washington is to govern us — at least in light of the prose contained in the Constitution.  That divinely-inspired document is light on governance and heavy on representation. This situation is by design: The Founders had had enough “governance” from a despotic ruler (King George III) and they sought a new way for a society of freeborn citizens to conduct their national business.

Average citizens are a pliable lot. We’re told that we need this or that regulation or law to curtail this or that harmful activity, and we accept the consequences even if they inconvenience or frustrate us. Or if they infringe bit-by-bit on our Constitutionally-guaranteed liberties. But there comes a tipping point where we have definitely ceded more in terms of our rights than we have reaped in terms of societal stability or erstwhile improvements. What good have we accomplished if we had to relinquish to other men many of the rights that only God could give us or take away from us? In the end, is not our quest for “fairness” and egalitarian sameness via legislation and governance counter to the precepts of the Constitution? After all, the Constitution guarantees an equal starting line…it does not guarantee outcomes. But the checks-and-balances in the Constitution does not give our elected representatives the right to govern us…regardless of their noble intentions.

The Constitution does allow for our elected politicians to do two things as agents of the federal government — represent and lead the American people. Each of those actions is a collaborative affair for the representative: You need to have a sense of the vox populi before you can authentically represent their interests and you need to get a sense of the direction that those who you purport to lead wish to go. Simply doing things for the self-serving “it’s in their best interests” reason just doesn’t cut it. After all, it should be remembered that it is OUR government and OUR interests and OUR prospective debt and OUR affairs that are being represented.

We need representatives who actually represent US. Perhaps with all the dissatisfaction being voiced towards our politicians and with the rise of the nascent Tea Party movement that incumbents and challengers will remember this simple fact in the upcoming mid-term elections.

I guess we’ll find out in November.

With all of the out of control and unsustainable spending by the government, coupled with the liberty-snatching proposed and recent legislation coming from Washington D.C., I felt it was time to recycle two quotes from past historical figures (that I’ve used in previous essays) that are still perfectly germane to our present situation.

They are, more than anything, words of warning to each of us that there are consequences that we must bear if we don’t buckle down and reduce our profligate spending and we don’t (via our vote) restore fiscal and constitutional sanity to our government with the folks we elect to represent us.

The first quote is an excerpt from a letter to an American friend by Thomas B. Macaulay, a 19th century English writer and historian, dated May 23, 1857:

A democracy cannot survive as a permanent form of government. It can only last until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largess from the public treasury. From that moment on the majority will always cast their ballots for the candidates promising [the] most benefits from the public purse with the result that a democracy always collapses from loose fiscal policies, always followed by a dictatorship.

and the second was written by Professor Alexander Tyler (University of Edinborough, Scotland) when our democracy was still young in 1787:

The average age of the world’s greatest democratic nations and societies has been 200 years. Each has gone through the following sequence: From bondage to spiritual faith; from spiritual faith to great courage; from courage to liberty; from liberty to abundance; from abundance to complacency; from complacency to selfishness; from selfishness to apathy; from apathy to dependency; and from dependency back again into bondage.

These two individuals lived in an era of simplicity and sacrifice. They could only imagine the largess and wealth that we enjoy as modern American citizens. Yet they knew human nature. They knew that free men and women cannot be trusted to be thrifty and prudent. But little could they imagine just how greedy and imprudent that a free nation, like ours, could become given enough time.

Our gluttony regarding the largess of the public treasury has gotten away from us — we’ve spent too much time at the ‘all you can eat’ buffet. Most of us have paid a modest price for the continued ‘benefits’ that we reap from the government. Like Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, SSI, SSDI, WIC and the myriad other alphabet soup entitlements that have become a co-dependent lifeline for far too many Americans. We don’t sit back and realize that we literally get something for nothing: That we get a return far beyond our investment.

This to me isn’t being a good citizen or being a patriot. No, this greed is far from it! It is selfish and it is destructive to our nation’s future. Our want for goodies will make our children’s future unbearable and filled with sacrifice. In our single-minded greed we are using the future, our children, as pain proxies for our unconscionable actions.

It’s not the way I want my generation to be remembered in history books in the future. It’s not the legacy that I want to pass on to our nation’s heirs.

But that’s the way it’s going to be. And damn us all for letting this happen. We are squandering the legacy of the finest nation in the history of the universe to satisfy selfish, greedy personal and political motivations. I can only hope that our fall from plenty and our plight thereafter will be kind to us. I suspect otherwise, as we have been unrelenting and single-minded in our journey into this situation.

We need to suffer in our time of bondage (as Tyler so presciently predicted) to remind us that we, by the Founder’s intentions, are first-and-foremost a nation of modesty and thrift rather than the gluttonous nation of gimme guys and gals that we unfortunately have become. I get the impression that we are, collectively, slow learners who are quick to complain and who are quick to demand relief from others more industrious, thrifty or luckier than ourselves (i.e. “the rich”.)

If we stop our national spending orgy NOW and reduce our government outlays to a more reasonable level, then maybe we still have a chance to pay down the inter-galactic-sized debt we owe as a nation. But that will mean true sacrifice for many if not most of us, and changes to our lifestyles that will be — in one word — painful. No matter, changes must take place…and they must take place sooner than later. We’ll see if we are patriots and good citizens, or we’ll see if self-interests and greed are the continued watchwords of our lives.

Only time will tell…

In the latest hint that he will ignore another of his well-advertised campaign pledges, President Obama declared that he was an “agnostic” when it comes to raising taxes on those individuals making less than $250,000 per year.

I believe that the president wanted to make it abundantly apparent that he was either impassive or non-committal in his feelings towards a sub-$250K tax hike. Yet, he for some odd reason used the word agnostic. Perhaps if he was better versed in his words and their meanings or he just chose his words more carefully, he would have veered away from the “a” word. Because an examination of the etymology of the word reveals this root:

Agnostic (Greek: a-, without + gnosis, knowledge)

Hmmmm — let’s see, agnostic = without knowledge. It doesn’t surprise me that this definition might be associated with this president and with this White House. For a man allegedly so well educated, and for an inner circle surrounding him claiming what appears to be excellent educational pedigrees, they are plagued by a dearth of real world knowledge. And they demonstrate their ignorance in policy and action on an almost daily basis.

Now, if we give the president the benefit of the doubt, maybe the lawyer in Obama is trying to infer that he’s without knowledge because he has amnesia (another “a” word) or that he was using the metric system. But wouldn’t any such explanation stretch his credibility even further?

However in these parts, in Massachusetts where I’m from, we have another word that describes a person who has advertised and married himself to a campaign promise and/or slogan, only to jettison it at the first opportunity.

We call him LIAR.