Wednesday, November 7, 2012

A Less Perfect Union

Our founders, in the name of the people of the United States of America, endeavored to form a more perfect union. Technically, the phrase was not meant to establish a continuing mission going forward so much as it was commenting on what existed under the Articles of Confederation. Nonetheless, the phrase has been adopted by populists ever since as the validation for efforts that have expanded the size and scope of government far beyond anything the founders could have imagined. As much as the growth of population and the urbanization and industrialization of America has made the worldview of those founders irrelevant to the situation needing governing today, the fact that they were not actually seeking perfection in governance is something we should not lose sight of.

People are not perfect. They never have and never will be. If they have power, they will abuse it. If they see wealth they will want it. If they have the opportunity to get ahead of the other guy in the contest for resources and rewards, they will take it. Capitalists are that way, progressives are that way, politicians are that way, voters are that way. The founding fathers made government sufficiently weak in relation to the individual in order that the force of human imperfection would be blunted in the exercise of government, even that done collaboratively.

This election tells me there is no gas left in the tank of the founders vision. America has turned a corner from which I do not believe there is any turning back. We are no longer the land of pioneering opportunity, but have crossed a threshold and have become the land where everyone's hand is in every other one's pocket. The individual is no longer strong relative to government, but now is saddled with the wants, wishes and demands of everyone else with a vote. Every place the individual goes and everything the individual does, he has unnamed masses standing on his shoulder looking to get a slice of his pie for themselves or to keep him from having a piece they don't want him to.
"A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy, always followed by a dictatorship. The average age of the world's greatest civilizations has been 200 years.
Great nations rise and fall. The people go from bondage to spiritual truth, to great courage, from courage to liberty, from liberty to abundance, from abundance to selfishness, from selfishness to complacency, from complacency to apathy, from apathy to dependence, from dependence back again to bondage."   from Ronald Reagan attributed (probably in error) to Alexander Tytler