Sunday, December 02, 2007

History Lessons

The following is adapted from an introduction that I wrote almost three years ago for "The Modern Presidency: A Tour of American History since 1900," in its original incarnation.

Chief among the lessons of American history since 1900 is the price we have paid for allowing government to become so powerful. Most Americans today take for granted a degree of government involvement in their lives that would have shocked the Americans of 1900. The growth of governmental power has undermined the voluntary social institutions upon which civil society depends for orderly evolution: family, church, club, and community. The results are evident in the incidence of crime, broken homes, and drug use; in the resort to sex, violence, sensationalism, and banality as modes of entertainment; and generally in the social fragmentation and alienation that beset Americans -- in spite of their prosperity.

The other edge of the governmental sword is interference in economic affairs through taxation and regulation. Such interference, which has grown exponentially since the early 1900s, has blunted Americans' incentives to work hard, invent, innovate, and create new businesses. The result is that Americans -- as prosperous as they are -- are far less prosperous than they would be had they not ceded so much economic power to government.

Because of the growth of governmental power, much of the freedom that attends Americans' prosperity is largely illusory: Americans actually have less freedom than they used to have -- and much less freedom than envisioned by the founding generation that fought for America's independence and wrote its Constitution. I am referring not to the imagined excesses of the current administration, which is vigorously and constitutionally defending American citizens against foreign predators. I am referring to such real things as:
  • the diminution of free speech in the name of campaign-finance "reform"
  • the denial of property rights, the right to work, and freedom of association for the sake of racial and sexual "equality"
  • the seizure of private property for private use in the name of "economic development"
  • the interference of government in almost every aspect of commerce, from deciding what may and may not be produced to how it must be produced, advertised, and sold -- all to ensure that we do not make mistakes from which we can learn and profit
  • exorbitant taxation at every level of government, which denies those persons who have earned money lawfully the right to decide how to use it lawfully and gives that money, instead, to parasites in and out of government.
Those are the kinds of abuses of governmental power that Americans have acquiesced in -- and even clamored for. It is those abuses that should outrage politicians and pundits -- and the masses who swallow their distortions and their socialistic agenda.

For a detailed analysis, rich with links to supporting posts and articles, see "A Political Compass: Locating the United States."