On The Fear Of Government, Or, Let's Get Back To Basics

It seems like everywhere you look these days, someone’s trying to spread...The Fear.

All around us...in every town...on every corner...a massive Army Of Fear is standing by, according to the Messengers, ready at a moment’s notice to obey the dictates of some unappointed Czar or another.

Just ask Glenn Beck: concentration camps for the white people, jackbooted stormtroopers ready to snatch the guns from your cold dead fingers...Socialist Government-Controlled Healthcare That Threatens Your Not Socialist Medicare...it’s all coming, my friends—and unless we organize, as a community, to return to the values of the Founding Fathers, The Government, meaning that awful Obama and Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid and George Soros and all the other Evil Community Organizers, will win.

There’s no government, we’re told, like no government.

You know who would find all of this fear of self-government just entirely bizarre?

The Founding Fathers.

In today’s conversation we’ll consider the fundamentals of American patriotism, we’ll ask one of those Founding Fathers how he saw the role of Government—and we’ll toss in a few words from Abraham Lincoln, just for good measure.

"...There's a lot of different scenarios...We've got a great union. There's absolutely no reason to dissolve it. But if Washington continues to thumb their nose at the American people, you know, who knows what might come out of that. But Texas is a very unique place, and we're a pretty independent lot to boot..."

Texas Governor Rick Perry, April 15, 2009

In a conversation about American Patriotism, it’s hard to find a better place to start than with the words of Thomas Paine...as long as you actually understand what he’s trying to tell us.

“The trouble with people is not that they don't know but that they know so much that ain't so.”

--Henry Wheeler Shaw, as Josh Billings, The Encyclopedia of Wit and Wisdom

Lots of people figure it’s just plain common sense that Government must be evil, and to make their point they regularly quote from the very first paragraphs of Paine’s seminal work, which, coincidentally, is also entitled Common Sense:

“...Society is produced by our wants, and government by our wickedness...Society in every state is a blessing, but government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil...”

But what these observers fail to understand is that, in the end, Paine’s not condemning government’s intrusions as much as he is man’s frailties.

Consider this passage, from just a bit farther down on that same page:

“...Government, like dress, is the badge of lost innocence: the palaces of kings are built on the ruins of the bowers of paradise. For, were the impulses of conscience clear, uniform, and irresistibly obeyed, man would need no other lawgiver; but that not being the case, he finds it necessary to surrender up a part of his property to furnish means for the protection of the rest; and this he is induced to do by the same prudence which, in every other case, advises him out of two evils to choose the least. Wherefore, security being the true design and end of government, it unanswerably follows, that whatever form thereof appears most likely to ensure it to us with the least expense and greatest benefit, is preferable to all others.”

(Emphasis appears in original)

So...what is Paine actually saying?

Since people don’t always do the right thing, you need a government that governs wisely and well—and the last thing that you want, if you want security...is no government at all.

Paine continues by giving an example of how a community of people formed out of nothing will eventually have no choice but to organize themselves—and in a turn of phrase that our Tea Party friends would do well to note, Paine goes on to say this about societies forming governments:

“...And however our eyes may be dazzled with show, or our ears deceived by sound; however prejudice may warp our wills, or interest darken our understanding; the simple voice of nature will say, it is right.”

You’ll notice that when Paine writes about government he is referring to a thing which is imposed upon a people by a King, or someone similarly placed. Of course, since “Common Sense” was written before the American Revolution, what he could not yet do was speak from experience about a different kind of government: one that is created by the people themselves.

Abraham Lincoln could, however...and one November afternoon, he did:

“Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting-place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead who struggled here have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.

It is for us the living rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.

(Emphasis added)

Government of the people, by the people, for the people.

In other words, a government that belongs to us, run by people of all political persuasions, working for the benefit of everyone.

What would Abraham Lincoln say to today’s Tea Party community? I suspect the obvious question he’d want to ask is: “In a country where we are the government, why in the world would you be afraid...of yourselves?”

And that is the question we should be putting to those same people.

We should be asking them why they are afraid to help captain the Ship of State...why they are afraid of the same democracy Ronald Reagan thought was the greatest on Earth...why, if they really feel that patriotic, they are afraid to do exactly what Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Paine told us would be best for the Nation: be a part of your own government, charting your own future, along with all of the rest of the citizens of the United States...and, most importantly of all, we should be asking why they are, today, so afraid of our shared democracy that they can’t help the rest of us as we try to turn Pluribus...into Unum?

Comments

when you're really afraid of yourself...

...you can't even hide in the house...

"...i feel that if a person can't communicate, the very least he can do is to shut up." --tom lehrer, january 1965

You Fear Big Business...

I fear "big government" with politicians who view their office as a career. Govt employees who vote for whomever they believe will insure they keep their jobs regardless of how those in the private sector are doing. We have IMHO reached a tipping point in this country where government has become an industry which serves it's own best interests, not those of it's private sector constituants. I believe that govt is inherently bad and is perversely invested in a majority of citizen's souls being "owned by the company store" via entitlements.

Good for you

Good, Fruits. So, when it is time for you to receive Social Security and Medicare..just opt out. If you or one of your family loses his/her job, just go out and cut trees down and don't collect unemployment. If a female family member of yours has a husband that abandons her with a couple of children, you take care of all their needs rather than her going to social services for assistance. When your auto insurance company dupes you and tries to screw you when you have an accident, take care of that yourself rather than going to the state insurance commissioner for a resolution.

Yeah, government is bad.

So many people like you have lost sight of all the good government is for our citizens and focuses, instead, on anything government-related they can spew hate about.

Sad. Sad indeed.

when someone tells me that...

...those government workers are all working for an evil empire, so to speak, i think of my godson, who is in the army, or The Girlfriend, who cares for people who are not able to care for themselves, and it occurs to me that maybe things aren't quite the way that many folks think.

"...i feel that if a person can't communicate, the very least he can do is to shut up." --tom lehrer, january 1965

it's not unreasonable...

...to worry about what government is doing--and it's a smart idea to keep a suspicious eye on the affairs of those who seek to represent us.

but the way back from the problems you're describing is more involvement in what's going on, not less.

if you get up in the face of your member of congress you're going to have more impact than if you're trying to disassociate yourself completely from the process while arming up in anticipation of the armageddon that's sure to come, which is just what some folks are actually doing...and if we, on both sides, get back in the habit of making ourselves part of the process, we will either begin to choose "professional" representatives we like better, or we'll start choosing people with a shorter time horizon...and whichever way it works out it'll probably be a better state of affairs than what we have today.

is government inherently bad? paine addresses this question far better than i, and i would commend to you a reading of "common sense" for his views on the matter. long story short: it is more prudent (his word) as a community to invest in collectively protecting your community from the various harms that exist out there than to not do so.

as for entitlements: the question isn't always: "will this change create a new entitlement?" sometimes the real question is: "can we reduce a cost to the economy by doing things differently?"

it is clear that we pay more than any other country for health care. it's clear that we do not have the best health care in the world. not even close, in fact.

it's also a absolute fact that single-payer (canada), "near-single payer" (france), "hybrid" (think australia or japan or singapore), and "government owned" (the uk) systems all provide better care than we have for as much as 50% less than what we're paying in the us.

the constitution instructs the government to act in a manner that promotes the general welfare, and this set of reforms is potentially going to do just that.

is this set of reforms the best way to do that? i don't think so...but the question you're asking, in effect, is can we afford another "entitlement"...to which i would suggest that we can save a lot of money by changing how things are today, and i'll consider that an investment as much as an entitlement.

can "entitlements" make economic sense?

consider the school lunch program, access to publicly owned roads, firefighting and police services...and the granddaddy of economic "entitlement investments": the g.i. bill, which appears to have been the catalyst for several decades of economic growth.

as for big business: it is to the stockholders of corporations to run their affairs (even though government gets to organize the rules of the game and play referee), but the difference here is that we are the stockholders of the united states, and what i'm suggesting here is that when it comes to government we should act like stockholders, not victims.

to reiterate: there is plenty of room for worry about what you reference here, but there are folks who think the way to solve that is to plan for secession, and it just doesn't make much sense to choose dividing the country in order to save it over just jumping in and fixing the problems.

"...i feel that if a person can't communicate, the very least he can do is to shut up." --tom lehrer, january 1965

Nice diary Fake

Not the way I thought of it, but there it is, in plain sight. I'm going to share this.

Good one Foxtrot.

we are all the owners...

...even if you're a tea party supporter...so i would suggest that just like "the price is right", it's time for these folks to also "come on down" and rejoin their own government.

"...i feel that if a person can't communicate, the very least he can do is to shut up." --tom lehrer, january 1965

Good Luck on That SS & Medicare Thing...

@foxtrot: Ya gotta be kidding me if you think Social Security (largest PONZI scheme EVER) or Medicare (stolen from SS) will be solvent when I am "eligible". You make my point and hoist yourself on your own petard.

It's obvious from the examples you cite that you're addicted to all the milk which spews from the thousands of govt teats. Do you think that $$$ is created out of thin air?

The founders crafted the constitution to give states/citizens protection from an oppressive central government. The idea was if you didn't like the manner in which your state was governed, you could vote with your feet by moving to another state.

I am not your keeper. That doesn't mean that I am heartless or don't care about people that are in need of a helping hand. However,y first responsibility is to me and my family.

Liberals love to bastardize the "general welfare" phrase. Promoting the general welfare does not include taking from one group (at the point of a gun) and redistributing that person's property to others. If we had a flat tax, then at least everyone would contribute equally to your welfare state. Progressive taxation is the absolute worst form of inequality and injustice.

Government is inherently inefficient and that is unarguable.

You can still vote with your feet

Move to another country.

In the meantime, I insist that you stop breathing the clean air made possible by liberal activists. And if you're on city water, stop drinking that too. I personally pay far more in taxes than you do (trust me on this) and I am sick of subsidizing your place at the public trough.

Re: Clean Air & Water

First, I have no problem with activists, only when they insist that only an additional govt agency is the solution. Your implication is that conservatives don't want or appreciate clean air and water. Also, if our municipal water is so great, why is bottled water such a huge business?

Shouldn't have to move to another country either, James. That's why states have defined rights in our constitution.

How would you know what I pay in taxes? I have no idea what you pay.

Bottled water is a big business

because of the same reason George Bush was elected when he ran for office. A whole lot of people are really stupid.

J

PS Sorry about that tax comment. I don't know what you pay in taxes and I shouldn't have written what I did. I'm just grumpy because I just did my filing for 2009 and saw how much money my wife gave away to good causes.

Great marketing

Also, if our municipal water is so great, why is bottled water such a huge business?

I recently had a friend of mine come to my home to give me a presentation on a new and unique water purification system. You would not believe the things in our water. It shocked me when he did an analysis of my water. I did not buy the system (too expensive for my budget, to be honest).

I then went on the Net (my favorite place) and checked out what might have been wrong with my water. Result: mostly nothing. Some of the minerals and so forth that were presented as bad and harmful were actually good and beneficial.

My reason for presenting this is because it has been fabulous marketing that has seen bottled water become so popular. Not only that, it is just "convenient". Americans are nothing if not addicted to "convenience". Why else would you pay $2.00 for a pack of peanuts at a convenience story rather than $.50 at the supermarket down the street?

Get another example, Fruits.

i have to agree with your analysis...

...it's not just water you're buying.

it's usually cold, always portable water that is selling.

"...i feel that if a person can't communicate, the very least he can do is to shut up." --tom lehrer, january 1965

let's start near the end...

...and we can end at the beginning.

if you agree that we require governments...which i assume you do...then, actually, you already support taking from one group (taxpayers) and giving to others, whether they be soldiers, or cops, or teachers, or the postal service.

like it or not, one of the conditions of citizenship in this country is that you are in fact my keeper, just as i am yours...which is where the united part of "united states of america" comes from.

now if you really don't agree with that, i'll assume you...and the city in which you live...have no interest in accepting federal money of any kind, that you homeschool, that you have no interest in disaster assistance--or even emergency shelter--the next time a fire or flood or hurricane comes your way...in fact, to really follow through on "i'm not your keeper"...don't you have to take that dirty socialist "911" off your phone?

by the way...how many of the original colonies were called, not states, but "commonwealths"?
what do you think they meant by "commonwealth"?

to me, that sounds like the founders of at least three of america's most important cradles of liberty were maybe a little...socialist, you think?

you know which liberal loved to bastardize that whole "general welfare" meme?
that wacky, kooky, thomas jefferson:

"The care of human life and happiness and not their destruction is the first and only legitimate object of good government."

"To preserve the peace of our fellow citizens, promote their prosperity and happiness, reunite opinion, cultivate a spirit of candor, moderation, charity and forbearance toward one another, are objects calling for the efforts and sacrifices of every good man and patriot. Our religion enjoins it; our happiness demands it; and no sacrifice is requisite but of passions hostile to both."

and this from...a jeffersonian!

so if you're convinced there is no place for government, and that promoting prosperity and happiness aren't part of the deal, it's with both jefferson and paine you must argue...not to mention the citizens of pennsylvania, massachusetts, virginia, and kentucky.

is government inefficient?

absolutely.

and you should be darn happy about it.

after all, if you find the liberal agenda threatening, would you prefer we operate in a system where we could simply enact anything we want over a weekend?

so what about social security and medicare?

guess what: getting costs under control helps to prevent medicare from going broke.

adopting a government-operated system of some sort for every citizen would work to protect the interests of both business and taxpayers even better; this based on the experience of every other country on earth with a healthcare system, who, every single one of them, pay less, per person, than we do for health care.

there are at least two dozen countries who spend less than we do on health care...and have longer life expectancies.

according to the cia world factbook, 45 other countries have lower infant mortality rates; the united nations says a mere 32 countries have fewer of their babies die in infancy than we do.

we are also the only developed country in the world that tells you if you get sick, you go bankrupt...and we do it on a massive scale.

so...you don't think the people have a right to instruct our government to fix any of this?

i think you're wrong...and jefferson and paine, to bring just two of the founders into the conversation, both seem to agree.

now i would prefer the type of system canada has...but that's an argument that i'm entirely willing to have, and i'm open to compromise...and i will quickly admit that i could be open to an australian system, or something like what france has...but doing nothing is not an option: it will drive the us into the poorhouse even faster than either the problems with social security or medicare, and that's also an undeniable fact.

can social security or medicare be fixed?

again, absolutely.

it's a longer conversation than this comment has time for, but there are solutions that are relatively manageable.

by the way, if you support a flat tax...for reasons of fairness...i'll assume you also support taxing every dollar of everyone's income for social security purposes--a little-noticed exemption that seems to be a gigantic giveaway for the wealthy.

"...i feel that if a person can't communicate, the very least he can do is to shut up." --tom lehrer, january 1965

I have one response to all of that jibberish

Horseshit !

(sorry if I burnt some ears here).

Jeepers....

Fruit..in past years I might get into some huge back-and-forth with you and we'd trash each other and we would show our "stuff" and rhetoric and spin and innuendo and whatever else we could to make one another look stupid or wrong or..well, you get the picture.

You feel as you do, I feel as I do.

Turn the page, my man.

Rhetoric?

Nice response "FoxTrot"! So am I wrong that SS is insolvent and if a private company operated in that Madoff style, they would all be in jail? The fact is that you can't handle the truth...that's fine because in November we'll have a referendum on all that "hope and change" you voted for.

Sometimes it takes a radical pendulum swing to wake the populace up. For that, I am grateful to Obama, Pelosi, Reid and their minions. They did more to torpedo your vision of a Euro-America than we Liberterians could have ever hoped for.

It's our turn now, and we will take our country back from tyrannical thieves such as yourself.

That is all.

OneBigAssMistakeAmerica=OBAMA/CARTER

We Libertarians

Well, that explains everything.

HAHAHA..

And, here I was thinkin' Steve was a nut !!

Nothing like having a smile put on your face at the end of the day.

Thanks, James.

:)

We'll see

Thanks for commenting, Fruits.

Now, are you finished? I follow a lot of blogs..many threads..tons of links..and I am impressed that you can spew out all of the "talking points" and right-jargon presented for you to present to we progressives.

You are a good minion yourself. Make sure you cross post what you have said here on any and all right-leaning sites you also post on. They'll send ya a gold star, no doubt.

Now, as I said...Turn the page, my man.