Thursday, November 6, 2008

The Experiment

Off we go into a new age of experimenting with the governance of humankind.

I would like to make a few points:

1. It has now been better than 100 years since the grand experiment of the founding fathers has been left to run its course unfettered by government interference in the liberties of its citizenry.

2. No one side--liberals or conservatives--has had a fighting chance to let their policies run their course to see exactly whether they work or not. We flip-flop between the more left-leaning Democrat party and the more right-leaning Republican party and give them a few years to try to accomplish something. They accomplish next to nothing (surprise, surprise--like we expect anything more from politicians) and we, being impatient and flippant ourselves, and incorrectly expecting government to solve our many woes, boot them out to try the other side.

3. It is a cold hard truth that Americans have discovered that they can dip into the government kitty, and have been trained since the days of FDR's New Deal and before, that we are entitled to do so. This being true, we expect too much of government. We expect to receive without giving, and expect to give to something that none of us truly believe works, but that we continue to hope will do so, because we're too butt lazy to do it ourselves.

4. That being said, we are angered when liberals raise taxes, but happy that they are able to reduce the debt and provide more costly government entitlement programs. On the converse, we are overjoyed when conservatives cut taxes, but angered that they can't reduce the debt, (but we're damned if we're going to let them cut government programs--even those NOT supported by the constitution--to accomplish that)

5. The Grand Experiment of small government endured little more than 100 years. After that, government began to grow beyond the limits enumerated in the Constitution. This expansion of government has continued, taking enormous leaps with FDR's New Deal and Lyndon Johnson's Great Society. Before the expansion of government, the nation enjoyed unparalleled literacy, unparalleled opportunity, unparalleled prosperity, unparalleled liberty when compared with the rest of the world. SINCE the beginning of the growth of government, all these aspects of American Society have slowly declined.

6. I believe that the philosophical difference between a Democrat and a Republican these days is comparable to the difference between a green apple and a ripe one. They're both apples. One is just closer to being rotten than the other.

7. I believe that America is on the cusp of a societal revolution--a division along philosophical lines between those who want to restore America to its Constitutional foundations and those who would sacrifice liberty and America's Constitutional framework for an engineered, government-controlled society. Maybe such a division would prove, once and for all, which side has it right. But see, I thought the founders already did that a couple of hundred years ago, when they formed a nation that became the absolute envy of the world--even before it became something they would hardly recognize were they to rise from their graves today.

8. I love the Constitution. I believe it was formed by a group of brilliant, forward-thinking, open-minded men who were in the right place at the right time in the history of our planet, who were inspired by our Creator to give us, as a gift of greatest value, liberty beyond compare anywhere in the world, and anyTIME in the world for that matter. I believe that, as God is unchangeable, so it he Constitution. I believe that government has a proper role, and that this proper role is the role given in the Constitution.

Below is a link to a speech, "The Proper Role of Government," by Ezra Taft Benson, then-Secretary of Agriculture for President DD Eisenhower, and a brilliant man who loved this country more deeply than anyone I have ever encountered.

For some reason, the link didn't work last time. If it doesn't work again, the link is


Mary Robinette Kowal said...

Suzanne, you know I love you, so I hesitate to voice these questions on a subject where we clearly have differing views.

When you speak of "Before the expansion of government, the nation enjoyed unparalleled literacy, unparalleled opportunity, unparalleled prosperity, unparalleled liberty when compared with the rest of the world," I feel like you're forgetting about slavery and that it was a large degree of what gave the early US it's prosperity. I also have to wonder where you're getting your numbers. Can you give me some citations so I can catch up with you?

And as for the constitution being unchanging... I quite like having the right to vote, but when the country was founded I didn't. I think that times change and that a fixed, immovable document would not serve us.

I don't want to argue with you, though probably will come across that way, but I do want to understand where you're coming from because I don't understand.

Suzanne Vincent said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Suzanne Vincent said...

I had to reenter this post because I forgot to begin with this:

Mary, I love you too, and our differences of opinions will never change that. It is that we are free to HAVE those differences that is what makes America great.

Now, where to start.

First, I know without a doubt that slavery is wrong.

However, I also understand that I maintain that belief as a result of my 20th century sensibilities, and as much as we would love to condemn our ancestors for their choices, we can't. We must judge them by their level of what they believed to be truth. Otherwise, our view of them would be as unfair as the idea of condemning souls who have never heard of Jesus Christ to purgatory because they are not 'believers.'

That said, I also believe that, while America enjoyed prosperity and literacy and opportunity that was unavailable in the rest of the world, our state of prosperity would have been far greater and grown more rapidly had our founders been courageous enough to have rejected slavery at the outset.

However, the true golden age of American prosperity began soon before the end of slavery, and had little to do with slavery. Slavery was largely an agrarian institution. It provided prosperity for the south (which was why the south was ready to secede to keep it), but had very little economic benefit for the more urban and populous north.

Things began to really take off for America in the 1830s or so, when the seeds of both the industrial revolution and the abolition movement were born. Two positive things that resulted in the end of slavery and the expansion of the American commerce machine.

As far as the Constitution being unchanging, the amendments that extended voting rights to all people shouldn't have been necessary. If it is true that all men are created equal, then all men (and women) should have been able to vote from the beginning. But keep in mind those sensibilities. We also must remember that voting was never intended to be a 'men only' practice. It was intended to be a 'one vote per household' institution, with the male head of household actually casting the ballot. I have a very hard time believing that John Adams, an exemplar of good government and respect for women, did not find Abigail 'worthy' of casting an intelligent vote, or that he did not discuss that vote and that they did not make a combined and informed vote. If women did not have the vote today, I think there would be MUCH more family discussion, perhaps argument, but the interaction and communication would result in a much more informed vote than what 90% of Americans cast today. I mean, the idea of voting for Barack Obama for no other reason than that he's African-American is ludicrous. But many Americans, with no one to answer to but themselves, did just that.

On American Prosperity, there is an online book available here:,M1

Look at Page 259. By 1900--only 35 years after the end of slavery--the US had far outstripped the world in GDP.

On opportunity:
In the late 1800s, people in many parts of the world decided to leave their homes and immigrate to the United States. Fleeing crop failure, land and job shortages, rising taxes, and famine, many came to the U. S. because it was perceived as the land of economic opportunity. Others came seeking personal freedom or relief from political and religious persecution. With hope for a brighter future, nearly 12 million immigrants arrived in the United States between 1870 and 1900."
From this website:
While it doesn't state how successful these people were at finding success, I think if we ask their descedents they would be grateful for their ancestors' decision to come here. Even those who struggled the most, those who were taken advantage of, still were better off than they were at home, still freer to realize a potential that they did not have in their countries of origin for the reasons stated in the quote.

For literacy:

True, these rates do not include slaves, but still, when compared with the rest of the world, those are some astounding numbers, particularly considering that quite a lot of those children would have been educated at home (a little plug there).

I found a statistic on literacy in England in 1841 that showed a literacy rate of less than 60%. In Italy--the former Roman Republic that saw its downfall partially because it did to its government (expansion and philosophical division) what we are doing now--during the same period, literacy was around 4%.

I believe that truth is truth, and time and circumstances don't change that. I believe the constitution is that kind of truth and that any changes to it have been nnecessary, either because the intent was not carried to its fullest extent from the beginning or because the changes have been damaging.

Let's take the changes to the makeup of the Senate, for example--Amendment 17, which deletes some of the wording of the first sentence of Section 3. Making Senators elected by the people took the voice away from the states. So now the people have too much sway in our congress. The house, as the founders designed, should represent the people, the senate should represent the states and be elected by state congresses. That was a step away from the Republic that Franklin warned we might not be able to keep, and toward pure Deomocracy which murdered Socrates.

Suzanne Vincent said...

Wow! a lot of typos!

That nnecessary in the next-to-last paragraph should be UNnecessary. I think that's the only one that might confuse meaning. Otherwise, forgive the crappy typing!

Mary Robinette Kowal said...

Thanks for clarifying your post. I'll take a look at the citations you've given me. I think we agree on a lot, but the anger that I've been seeing from you lately is baffling and jarring so I felt like I was missing a piece.

Suzanne Vincent said...


I try SO hard not to sound angry. I guess what I'm trying for is passionate, but failing at it apparently.

If you want angry, you should talk to my sister sometime. WHOA!!

Mary Robinette Kowal said...

I misspoke before, sorry. I'm in the middle of a puppet build and didn't take the time to grab the actual quote. It's NOT mandatory service.

"Obama will call on citizens of all ages to serve America, by setting a goal that all middle school and high school students do 50 hours of community service a year and by developing a plan so that all college students who conduct 100 hours of community service receive a universal and fully refundable tax credit ensuring that the first $4,000 of their college education is completely free."

I will go through and answer the rest, but at the moment I have to finish making these puppets. Bear with me, okay?