Thursday, July 1, 2010

The Right Just Might Be . . . On to Something

With their whole deification of the "Founding Fathers."

Yes, it's been a very long time since my last post.  No, I haven't lost my mind or my soul in the interim. Just bare with me for a moment.

The political right has taken to going on and on about returning to the ideals of Washington, Jefferson, et al. Of course, what they're trying to get at is small government and no taxes. Their tortured relationship with the Constitution and mis-writing history notwithstanding, they may have a point about returning to the ideals of our country's founder, their racism, sexism, classism, and elitism notwithstanding. (After all, it was the slaveowning founding fathers who initially granted the right to vote exclusively to propertied white men and still felt state legislators should stand between the popular vote and the Senate.)

But still, the right just might be on to something.

Again of course, they're using this argument to bolster "populist" support for the invisible hand of the free market, including but not limited to, healthcare, lending, and employment, or the lack thereof. And of course there's something wrong when you decry the state of the economy, what with its high unemployment rate, but refuse to extend unemployment benefits - benefits that, of course, the unemployed paid for while they worked - and then call the unemployed spoiled. Oh! I'm sorry. They're not spoiled; we just live in a system that spoils them and encourages them not to work even though in order to receive unemployment benefits, the unemployed in most states have to be actively looking for work. Cause seriously. Spoiled? American workers? Whose productivity has steadily increased while their share of wealth has remained stagnate? These are the people who're (not?) spoiled?

But I digress. Back to the founding fathers.

Yes, they fought for liberty and freedom and against "taxation without representation." - And just as another quick digression, they were upset with the lack of representation in the English parliament, not taxes. That's why the slogan was "taxation without representation," and not "taxation."

Wait a minute. I got a few more digressions left, actually. Cause, first of all,  not even the authors of the Constitution could agree to its meaning, thus making all present-day "strict constructionist" arguments intellectually dishonest and lazy. And not to suggest they envisioned a federal government of today's size, I'm not sure they envision the nation would be as large as it is, but they all certainly intended the federal government to have some measure of size and strength. They had tried a nation with a weak federal government under the Articles of Confederation. It failed. The Confederate South attempt weak centralized government, too, and we see how that worked out. (Thank God!) So all this whining about the founding fathers and the size of the federal government is infantile.

And need I remind anyone, the founding fathers all died several years ago and there's been no report of any of them resurrecting.

Whew! Now that I got that off my chest, let me move on to my point.

One central idea that bound the founders together was that governments could only derive legitimate power from the consent of the governed, right? And in our democracy, majority vote rules, right? Don't get me wrong, they wanted to guard against the tyranny of the majority, but you get my gist. To win an election, candidates need only have a simple majority, and sometimes, not even that, just a plurality.

So basically, whatever the founding fathers may have envisioned or wanted, they are no longer governed. As I pointed out above, they're dead. Short of the Constitution, we have no responsibilities to maintain the government they originally instituted (and immediately amended). We can have a national healthcare system if we want. We can legislate that all earnings and benefits be collectively bargained for if we want. If we want, we can extend the term of House representatives to 4 years. In fact, if we wanted, we could become an absolute socialist, even communist, society.

What was at the heart of the Revolution was that people (should) have a voice in the way they're governed. How they decide to govern themselves is for them to decide themselves. Even if Adams would be aghast at the recent financial reform legislation, so long as we got there by way of democracy, he wouldn't be whining about it. And the founders certainly would threaten resorting to "second amendment remedies" should their candidates lose. Let me repeat, they revolted against "taxation without representation." It wasn't the case that they lost the previous election and then turned to guns because of taxes. The problem as they saw it was that they had no say from jump. In fact, the tea tax lowered the cost of tea bought in the colonies. (Which, I gotta say, does kinda put today's tea'ers on par with the Paul Reveres of the past, what with present complaints of over taxation when taxes have been lowered for 95% of Americans.)

So you know what? This whole idea of returning to the ideals of our nation's founding, minus, of course, the slavery and genocide, might not be too bad.

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But Don't Jack My Genuis