Over 230 years ago our Founding Fathers created a concept of freedom and individual liberty unique in recorded history. At its core was a concept of multiple centers of authority, notably a federal system with certain enumerated powers with the national government divided into three separate branches and the remaining power left to the individual states.
Whether the drafters of our Constitution were Federalists or Jeffersonian Republicans, the compromise framework that emerged from their deliberations had at its center the preservation of individual liberty from rulers whose claim to power was based on royalty, nobility, or birthright.
From our origins as a fledgling state set in a substantially undeveloped continent with a tiny population, the engine that has been responsible for our growth into the greatest wealth producer in history which has lifted millions of people the world over out of poverty, and our emergence by the early 20th century into the world’s preeminent economic and military power has been individual opportunity to pursue our best interests and to make our own decisions, and to invest and build with a minimum of government interference.
Preserving this liberty and keeping the nation free from foreign enemies and remaining an indivisible whole has come at enormous cost in both human and material treasure. Over 1,300,000 of our citizens have given their lives in military action not only to preserve our freedom but to defeat tyrants and oppressors who have emerged to enslave people in the four corners of the globe.
Given the enormity of our success and the checks and balances our founding fathers created to prevent excessive interference with our liberty and the price we have paid to defend it, it is ironic that we now face from within a new insidious threat to our individual freedoms proceeding step by step on an incremental basis, and unwittingly with the presumed “consent of the governed” who seem not to have noticed the erosion of the historic right of Americans to make daily decisions for themselves.
Until very recently, with the exception of the terrible stain on our nation of slavery and its racist aftermath and the exclusion from political participation, until less than a century ago, of women, our elected representatives have reflected the makeup of the population itself.
For most of our history, those people who were elected to political leadership positions in Washington or state governments were drawn from our ranks of farmers, lawyers, businessmen, laborers, and entrepreneurs. They did not come directly from academia or, fresh from higher education programs and degrees in political science or public policy into government internships, aides to elected officials, or stints in the vast bureaucracy we have erected to write rules, regulations and standards that take on the force of statutory law.
In recent years, the trend has been increasingly to bestow leadership positions to what we refer to as a new ruling class, comprised of people who have never held a private sector job, have never personally invested in job creating activities, who know nothing of risk-taking, who are largely ignorant of the daily challenges that businesses small and large have to face and who, in fact, see private for-profit business as evil and profits as ill gotten gains. It is difficult not to see their resemblance to the old Soviet nomenclatura whose bureaucratic power and patronage placed them in the upper echelons of society.
Consider these facts!
The federal government now owns or is heavily regulating, to one degree or another, the banking industry, the auto industry, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, the energy industry, and the health-care system (with more of that just ahead). At last count President Obama has appointed over thirty czars to manage various sections of the economy, none of who are subject to Congressional confirmation or oversight and whose expertise is in many cases suspect. We even have a compensation czar.
Let us “stipulate,” as lawyers say, that these are all smart people. But being smart is not the only, or even the leading, attribute to achieving successful outcomes or even mere effectiveness. Common sense and experience invariably count far more.
This ruling class of appointed czars and bureaucrats and officials (both elected and unelected) who are bereft of any private sector experience or who disdain it are increasingly making what were once our own individual decisions and divesting us of our own individual, family and societal responsibilities.
From the President (whose only non-government experience is as a community organizer) through the ever present Henry Waxman, the omnipresent Barney Frank, the Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid, the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, we are increasingly being led by people whose view of the private sector is almost entirely negative (except, of course, when seeking campaign contributions) and who have never contributed productively to our economy (“productivity” being defined as one whose labors add to the nation’s gross national product and collective wealth).
What these government officials do offer us is the empty promise that the government can provide for all our basic needs and that the costs can and should be borne by the “rich” who, under the definition of our lawmakers, are those who make more money than a Senator or Congressman. Can this lead anywhere but total cradle to grave dependence on a government that cannot possibly finance all the obligations it seeks to assume. Who will pay this tab?
Everyone agrees that the accumulated national debt is unsustainable. Will “the rich” simply be expected to fork over an ever-increasing share of the tax load? As it is, by 2006 over forty percent of Americans paid no income tax. What happens when that percentages reaches fifty and above. Will anyone ever vote against further free lunches? Remarkably, the share of the tax burden borne by the top 1 percent now exceeds the share paid by the bottom 95 percent of taxpayers combined. Will the economically productive job creators continue to invest?
State and local government officials have the same philosophy as their federal counterparts and, since, unlike the federal government, they cannot print money and monetize their debt, the economic distress they face is more acute.
For a current snapshot of where this leads, we need look no further than California, our most populous state, where 144,000 taxpayers in a state with a population of 36 million people pay over 50% of the state’s income tax. Year after year those citizens paying the tab are voting with their feet and leaving the Golden State, once the nation’s fastest growing. Rather than rein in costs, elected officials protect bloated bureaucracies, spend inefficiently for services that private industry can better provide and continue to search like oil prospectors for new sources of revenue. Taxes on paper bags, soft drinks, transfats or anything considered sinful are the current rage. Internet transactions are being jealously eyed.
This new ruling class has come to power by peddling the promise of being our protector, our 24 hour a day nanny, and slice by slice they are accumulating the powers over us that would make our Founders spin in their graves. They bear very close resemblance to what Milovan Djilas, the former Vice President of Yugoslavia under Tito, referred to as the “new class” who saw property not as material goods or private ownership but as political control. Similarly, new deal economist John Kenneth Galbraith also posited a technocratic “New Class” which was necessary because modern society was too complex and required guidance by well educated elite.
This generation’s well educated elite are even less well prepared to lead than their predecessors in Galbraith’s day. Today they graduate with what Emeritus Professor Victor Davis Hanson of California State University calls a “Studies” curriculum.“ Fill in the blanks, Women’s Studies, Gay Studies, Environmental Studies, Peace Studies, Chicano Studies, Film Studies, and so on. These courses aim to indoctrinate students about perceived pathologies in contemporary American culture–specifically, race, class, gender, and environmental oppression.” As he puts it, this therapeutic curriculum holds “no eternal truths, but only passing assertions that gain credence through power and authority.”
This new class, which, in their higher education eschewed history and economics in favor of a curriculum which posits American wealth as oppressing various victim groups, sees no real differences between our American democracy or a Venezuelan thugocracy, is now turned loose on us to make what was individual daily decisions and to run our economy.
Now they are bidding to control, or intrude into, our private and precious individual health care decisions. This is a path to a very slippery slope. Under the guise of a “crisis” (the most overused word of an overreaching government) they are preparing to manage our health care decisions or alternatives, through rationing, which sooner or later, and, more invidiously, will involve government bureaucrats ultimately determining who among us should be given treatment, or, less delicately, the right to decide who lives and who dies as is the case in Oregon for those relying on state financial assistance for their health care.
Rationing of health care does, of course, take place every day throughout America. But it is individuals and families who make those choices for loved ones who often can only be kept alive by heroic but futile means. And, yes, insurance companies manage risk by precluding or limiting (rationing) coverage for pre-existing or other specified conditions. However, most families and most employers that provide health insurance can change, or seek to change, their insurance company if they are not satisfied with the coverage offered. That won’t be an option under a government provided health plan.
Some health official (drawn from the same group of 30ish policy wonks) will decide who gets dialysis or a heart bypass operation and make the decision whether someone is too far gone, too old, or too disabled, to merit treatment. In one of the versions Congress is considering, the elderly were to be offered “end-of-life” counseling, a provision that, we are told, has been dropped given the public’s very negative and very vocal reaction. Are we going to someday be a society in which, through bureaucratic decisions, the government is making very personal medical decisions for the nation’s families?
For all these years we saw the biggest threat to liberty as coming from foreign enemies. We have spent untold trillions and spilled the blood of the best of our young of every generation on military defense to preserve our unique American form of liberty. And now, almost like a cat that quietly crept into a room, our freedom to make our own legal choices, to live our lives free from interference so long as we aren’t injuring others, to support our fellow citizens with our own charity and generosity, is being taken, slice by slice, away from us by this self-appointed ruling class.
We are, increasingly, being governed by bureaucrats and autocrats who actually believe the country can grow its debt and its expenditures faster than it grows its economy and still survive. The fact is, such a society cannot survive except by pillaging the wealth of its own citizens wherever it can find it. The taxpaying classes, upper and middle, should thus be forewarned. The taxman cometh.
To paraphrase T.S. Eliot “this is the way freedom ends, not with a bang but a whimper.”
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