Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Republic Lost

By definition, a republic is a union of independent entities, usually associated with common business and financial interests, favoring a restricted government role in economic life.

After winning independence from the British in 1776, the founding fathers became engaged in a debate as to exactly what form of government the new country should take.

Thomas Jefferson and his followers wanted government to be the “guardian of fair play,” as arbiter of disputes, whereas Alexander Hamilton and his followers wanted government to directly dictate and control the process.

Those who wanted little or no government, approximately one-third of the population at the time, were shut out of the process because they wanted nothing to do with it in the first place. Obviously, those who don’t want to be governed by others generally don’t become involved in organizing such a system.

Thus, the Republic of the United States of America came into existence in 1776 in the form of a set of individual democratic states, independent of each other, with a central body to deal primarily with internal disputes, international relations and a common defense.

In 1860, Presidential candidate Abraham Lincoln proposed an expansion of the role of the federal government, which included a national bank, protective tariffs and mercantilism (an economic system of strict government control of the national economy). Ironically, mercantilism was the very system of abuses the founding fathers revolted against.

Even though Southerners had only half the population as the North, they had been paying 87% of all federal taxes collected, mostly in import duties of foreign manufactured goods. The centerpiece of Lincoln’s Republican Party platform was a high protective tariff that would have raised existing import duties by 250 percent.

The South was willing to secede from the Union rather than succumb to the tyranny of the national government.

In his first inaugural address, President Lincoln stated, “I understand a proposed amendment to the Constitution has passed Congress, to the effect that the Federal Government shall never interfere with the domestic institutions of the States, including that of persons held in service [slaves]. I have no objection to this amendment being made express and irrevocable.”

This proposed amendment would have legalized slavery in the southern states forever. Lincoln supported it as an offering to the South not to follow through with their plans to secede from the Union.

On March 11, 1861, delegates in Montgomery, Alabama, adopted a new Confederate Constitution affirming that the states were “sovereign and independent” as envisioned by the founding fathers.

This set in motion events that erupted into the American Civil War.

Lincoln ordered federal troops to arrest anyone critical of the war and to shut down newspapers editorializing against it.

Lincoln's subsequent emancipation of the slaves was primarily a strategic maneuver to weaken the Southern economy (by reducing blacks from the southern labor force) and strengthen the Northern Army (by adding black soldiers).

In the end, states rights died at Appomattox. Our Republic of independent states became a national, centralized government. And the federal government has been expanding its power and control ever since.

Prior to the Civil War, people used the phrase “The United States of America are …”

After the Civil War, the phrase changed to “The United States of America is …”

Whether or not we would have been better off remaining a Republic of independent states rather than creating a strong centralized federal government is subject to debate.

Big government tends to become a self-protective, ever-expanding organism that feeds relentlessly off its subjects, demanding obedience, impeding progress, granting special favors and curtailing individual freedom.

Ultimately, a government big enough to give you all you want will cost you all you have.

But not to worry, we've borrowed against the future to cover our unrestrained spending addiction, creating a $9 trillion national debt that will be passed on to the next generation.

Ironically, our government-controlled public school system has children pledging allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands. Instead of indoctrinating our children into being good little robotic patriots, perhaps we should be teaching them that we are no longer a Republic.

And perhaps we should be advising our children that each of them is already approximately $40,000 in debt and they haven't even started working yet to pay it off.

Quote for the Day – "If you put the federal government in charge of the Sahara Desert, in 5 years there'd be a shortage of sand." Milton Friedman

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