DEMOCRACY vs. SOCIALISM

Democracy and socialism have nothing in common but one word, equality. But notice the difference: while democracy seeks equality in liberty, socialism seeks equality in constraint and servitude. — Alexis de Tocqueville, 1848

La démocratie et le socialisme ne se tiennent qu par un mot, l’égalité; mais
remarquez la différence: la démocratie veut l’égalité dans la liberté et le
socialisme veut l’égalité dans la gêne et dan la servitude.

 

A THANKSGIVING TRIBUTE TO THE PILGRIMS

I was really hoping this Thanksgiving Holiday to publish a fitting tribute to those brave Pilgrims who planted themselves on the New England coast all those years ago. Thankfully, today, I rediscovered Alexis de Tocqueville’s writings on the subject and I realize that there can be no better tribute.  His is the best short history I have ever found on the Pilgrims. It explains so eloquently why what the Pilgrims accomplished was so important and so unique. So here it is:

(Note: No part of this story is meant as a kind of proselytizing for a certain Puritan or even Christian faith. Americans of every denomination, most of whom descend from immigrants who came here for a better life, should be inspired by the courage and ideas that motivated the people known as the Pilgrims.)

Frotho Canutus

From Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America, Part I, first published in France in1835:

“In the English colonies of the North, more generally known as the New England states, the two or three main ideas that now constitute the basis of the social theory of the United States were first combined. The principles of New England spread at first to the neighboring states; they then passed successively to the more distant ones; and at last, if I may so speak, they interpenetrated the whole confederation. They now extend their influence beyond its limits, over the whole American world. The civilization of New England has been like a beacon lit upon a hill, which, after it has diffused its warmth immediately around it, also tinges the distant horizon with its glow.”

“The foundation of New England was a novel spectacle, and all the circumstances attending it were singular and original. Nearly all colonies have been first inhabited either by men without education and without resources, driven by their poverty and their misconduct from the land which gave them birth, or by speculators and adventurers greedy of gain. Some settlements cannot even boast so honorable an origin; Santo Domingo was founded by buccaneers; and at the present day the criminal courts of England supply the population of Australia.”

“The settlers who established themselves on the shores of New England all belonged to the more independent classes of their native country. Their union on the soil of America at once presented the singular phenomenon of a society containing neither lords nor common people, and we may almost say neither rich nor poor. These men possessed, in proportion to their number, a greater mass of intelligence than is to be found in any European nation of our own time. All, perhaps without a single exception, had received a good education, and many of them were known in Europe for their talents and their acquirements. The other colonies had been founded by adventurers without families; the immigrants of New England brought with them the best elements of order and morality; they landed on the desert coast accompanied by their wives and children. But what especially distinguished them from all others was the aim of their undertaking. They had not been obliged by necessity to leave their country; the social position they abandoned was one to be regretted, and their means of subsistence were certain. Nor did they cross the Atlantic to improve their situation or to increase their wealth; it was a purely intellectual craving that called them from the comforts of their former homes; and in facing the inevitable sufferings of exile their object was the triumph of an idea.”

“The immigrants, or, as they deservedly styled themselves, the Pilgrims, belonged to that English sect the austerity of whose principles had acquired for them the name of Puritans. Puritanism was not merely a religious doctrine, but corresponded in many points with the most absolute democratic and republican theories. It was this tendency that had aroused its most dangerous adversaries. Persecuted by the government of the mother country, and disgusted by the habits of a society which the rigor of their own principles condemned, the Puritans went forth to seek some rude and unfrequented part of the world where they could live according to their own opinions and worship God in freedom.”

“A few quotations will throw more light upon the spirit of these pious adventurers than all that we can say of them. Nathaniel Morton, the historian of the first years of the settlement, thus opens his subject:”

Gentle Reader, I have for some lengths of time looked upon it as a duty incumbent especially on the immediate successors of those that have had so large experience of those many memorable and signal demonstrations of God’s goodness, viz. the first beginners of this Plantation in New England, to commit to writing his gracious dispensations on that behalf; having so many inducements thereunto, not only otherwise, but so plentifully in the Sacred Scriptures: that so, what we have seen, and what our fathers have told us ( Psalm lxxviii. 3, 4 ), we may not hide from our children, showing to the generations to come the praises of the Lord; that especially the seed of Abraham his servant, and the children of Jacob his chosen ( Psalm cv. 5, 6 ), may remember his marvellous works in the beginning and progress of the planting of New England, his wonders and the judgments of his mouth; how that God brought a vine into this wilderness; that he cast out the heathen, and planted it; that he made room for it and caused it to take deep root; and it filled the land ( Psalm lxxx. 8, 9 ) . And not only so, but also that he hath guided his people by his strength to his holy habitation, and planted them in the mountain of his inheritance in respect of precious Gospel enjoyments: and that as especially God may have the glory of all unto whom it is most due; so also some rays of glory may reach the names of those blessed Saints, that were the main instruments and beginning of this happy enterprise.

“It is impossible to read this opening paragraph without an involuntary feeling of religious awe; it breathes the very savor of Gospel antiquity. The sincerity of the author heightens his power of language. In our eyes, as well as in his own, it was not a mere party of adventurers gone forth to seek their fortune beyond seas, but the germ of a great nation wafted by Providence to a predestined shore.”

“The author continues, and thus describes the departure of the first Pilgrims:”

So they left that goodly and pleasant city of Leyden, which had been their resting-place for above eleven years; but they knew that they were pilgrims and strangers here below, and looked not much on these things, but lifted up their eyes to heaven, their dearest country, where God hath prepared for them a city ( Heb. xi. 16), and therein quieted their spirits. When they came to Delfs-Haven they found the ship and all things ready; and such of their friends as could not come with them followed after them, and sundry came from Amsterdam to see them shipt, and to take their leaves of them. One night was spent with little sleep with the most, but with friendly entertainment and Christian discourse, and other real expressions of true Christian love. The next day they went on board, and their friends with them, where truly doleful was the sight of that sad and mournful parting, to hear what sighs and sobs and prayers did sound amongst them; what tears did gush from every eye, and pithy speeches pierced each other’s heart, that sundry of the Dutch strangers that stood on the Key as spectators could not refrain from tears. But the tide (which stays for no man) calling them away, that were thus loth to depart, their Reverend Pastor, falling down on his knees, and they all with him, with watery cheeks commended them with most fervent prayers unto the Lord and his blessing; and then with mutual embraces and many tears they took their leaves one of another, which proved to be the last leave to many of them.

“The emigrants were about 150 in number, including the women and the children. Their object was to plant a colony on the shores of the Hudson; but after having been driven about for some time in the Atlantic Ocean, they were forced to land on the arid coast  of New England, at the spot which is now the town of Plymouth. The rock is still shown on which the Pilgrims disembarked.”

But before we pass on, continues our historian,  “let the reader with me make a pause, and seriously consider this poor people’s present condition, the more to be raised up to admiration of God’s goodness towards them in their preservation: for being now passed the vast ocean, and a sea of troubles before them in expectation, they had now no friends to welcome them, no inns to entertain or refresh them, no houses, or much less towns, to repair unto to seek for succour: and for the season it was winter, and they that know the winters of the country know them to be sharp and violent, subject to cruel and fierce storms, dangerous to travel to known places, much more to search unknown coasts. Besides, what could they see but a hideous and desolate wilderness, full of wilde beasts, and wilde men? and what multitudes of them there were, they then knew not: for which way soever they turned their eyes ( save upward to Heaven) they could have but little solace or content in respect of any outward object; for summer being ended, all things stand in appearance with a weather-beaten face, and the whole country, full of woods and thickets, represented a wild and savage hew; if they looked behind them, there was the mighty ocean which they had passed, and was now as a main bar or gulph to separate them from all the civil parts of the world.

“It must not be imagined that the piety of the Puritans was merely speculative, or that it took no cognizance of the course of worldly affairs. Puritanism, as I have already remarked, was almost as much a political theory as a religious doctrine. No sooner had the immigrants landed on the barren coast described by Nathaniel Morton than it was their first care to constitute a society, by subscribing the following Act:

IN THE NAME OF GOD AMEN. We, whose names are underwritten, the loyal subjects of our dread Sovereign Lord King James, &c.& c., Having undertaken for the glory of God, and advancement of the Christian Faith, and the honour of our King and country, a voyage to plant the first colony in the northern parts of Virginia; Do by these presents solemnly and mutually, in the presence of God and one another, covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil body politick, for our better ordering and preservation, and furtherance of the ends aforesaid: and by virtue hereof do enact, constitute, and frame such just and equal laws, ordinances, acts, constitutions, and offices, from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the general good of the Colony: unto which we promise all due submission and obedience, etc.”

“This happened in 1620, and from that time forwards the emigration went on. The religious and political passion which ravaged the British Empire during the whole reign of Charles I drove fresh crowds of sectarians every year to the shores of America. In England the stronghold of Puritanism continued to be in the middle classes; and it was from the middle classes that most of the emigrants came. The population of New England increased rapidly; and while the hierarchy of rank despotically classed the inhabitants of the mother country, the colony approximated more and more the novel spectacle of a community homogeneous in all its parts. A democracy more perfect than antiquity had dared to dream of started in full size and panoply from the midst of an ancient feudal society.”

30 YEARS AGO: A THANKSGIVING PROCLAMATION

BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, A PROCLAMATION

Two hundred years ago, the Congress of the United States issued a Thanksgiving Proclamation stating that it was “the indispensable duty of all nations” to offer both praise and supplication to God. Above all other nations of the world, America has been especially blessed and should give special thanks. We have bountiful harvests, abundant freedoms, and a strong, compassionate people.

I have always believed that this anointed land was set apart in an uncommon way, that a divine plan placed this great continent here between the oceans to be found by people from every corner of the Earth who had a special love of faith and freedom. Our pioneers asked that He would work His will in our daily lives so America would be a land of morality, fairness, and freedom.

Today we have more to be thankful for than our pilgrim mothers and fathers who huddled on the edge of the New World that first Thanksgiving Day could ever dream. We should be grateful not only for our blessings, but for the courage and strength of our ancestors which enable us to enjoy the lives we do today.

Let us reaffirm through prayers and actions our thankfulness for America’s bounty and heritage.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, RONALD REAGAN, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim Thursday, November 25, 1982, as a National Day of Thanksgiving and I call upon all of our citizens to set aside that day for appropriate expressions of thanksgiving.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this 27th day of Sept. in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred and eighty-two, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and seventh.

RONALD REAGAN

HAPPY THANKSGIVING EVERYONE!

Don’t forget to read the two Thanksgiving pieces that run in today’s (Wed. Nov. 21st) Wall Street Journal. You’ll find The Desolate Wilderness and And the Fair Land on the WSJ’s Opinion page where they have been published every year since 1961. Share these moving pieces with your family and friends and particularly the young ones. If you don’t get the WSJ it’s worth buying this issue or you can subscribe to the digital version here. Have a great holiday everyone.

A note about the above image of the Pilgrims. It is from a Currier & Ives lithograph, copyright 1876. I presume its production was inspired by the country’s centennial celebration. The caption reads: “The Mayflower left Delft haven in Holland Sept. 6th 1620, and after a boisterous passage of sixty three days, anchored within Cape Cod. In her cabin the first Republican government in America was solemnly inaugurated. That vessel thus became truly the “Cradle of Liberty” rocked on the free waves of the ocean.”

Canutus

A THANKSGIVING HISTORY LESSON

“But the tide (which stays for no man) calling them away, that were thus loath to depart, their Reverend Pastor, falling down on his knees, and they all with him, with watery cheeks commended them with the most fervent prayers unto the Lord and His blessing; and then with mutual embraces and many tears they took their leaves one of another, which proved to be the last leave to many of them.”   Excerpted from the Wall Street Journal’s “The Desolate Wilderness,” which has been published for Thanksgiving every year since 1961. It is based on governor William Bradford’s account of the early history of Plymouth Colony.

Before too long, Thanksgiving Day will once again be upon us. Although there are a lot of things going on in the world that are disquieting, most Americans still have a lot to be thankful for. Thanksgiving is by far my favorite holiday of the year. I’m comforted by the thought of being surrounded by my family no matter where we happen to celebrate the day. There is also comfort in tradition: family recipes, the menu, the stories around the fireplace, the laughter, the giving of thanks before the grand meal, the pie! Setting aside a special day to show gratitude for our blessings is a tradition in America that goes back almost 400 years.

“Pilgrims’ Grace” by Henry Mosler (1841-1920)

For me, Thanksgiving has become a time to revisit the story of those first Pilgrims, who in 1620, risked everything, including their lives, to start a new life in the desolate wilderness that was America. What drove these Pilgrims? Why were they willing to take leave of many of their loved ones in Europe and abandon the comforts of civilization in order to make a treacherous 2 month +  voyage across the Atlantic ocean? It was an opportunity. The Desolate Wilderness offered the Pilgrim an opportunity to worship God in accordance with his or her conscience and without fear of persecution. That opportunity did not exist in Europe. The New World held promise.

The story of the first Pilgrims beckons me at Thanksgiving. But not because it’s a quaint little story about English colonists in funny hats gathering with their Indian friends around the autumn feast table. There is a lesson to be learned from the study of the Pilgrim’s social order that should never be forgotten: a society based on a policy of collectivism or communism is not suited to human nature. In his book The History of America, first published in 1777, the eminent Scottish historian William Robertson described the Pilgrim’s early experiment with collectivism:

“Under the influence of this wild notion, the colonists of New Plymouth, in imitation of the community of primitive Christians, threw all their property into a common stock, and, like members of one family, carried on every work of industry by their joint labor for public behoof. But, however this resolution might evidence the sincerity of their faith, it retarded the progress of their colony. The same fatal effects flowed from this community of goods, and of labor, which had formerly been experienced in Virginia…”

The Pilgrims’ misguided policy of owning all property in common proved to be a disaster. What was Robertson referring to when he compared the Pilgrims’ plight to the “same fatal effects” in the Virginia settlement? Let’s have a look at his history of the Jamestown colony, founded in 1607.

“During the interval of tranquillity procured by the alliance with Powhatan, an important change was made in the state of the colony. Hitherto no right of private property in land had been established. The fields that were cleared had been cultivated by the joint labour of the colonists; their product was carried to the common store-houses, and distributed weekly to every family, according to its number and exigencies. A society, destitute of the first advantage resulting from social union, was not formed to prosper. Industry, when not excited by the idea of property in what was acquired by its own efforts, made no vigorous exertion. The head had no inducement to contrive, nor the hand to labour. The idle and improvident trusted entirely to what was issued from the common store; the assiduity even of the sober and attentive relaxed, when they perceived that others were to reap the fruit of their toil; and it was computed, that the united industry of the colony did not accomplish as much work in a week as might have been performed in a day, if each individual had laboured on his own account. In order to remedy this, Sir Thomas Dale divided a considerable portion of the land into small lots, and granted one of these to each individual in full property. From the moment that industry had the certain prospect of a recompense, it advanced with rapid progress. The articles of primary necessity were cultivated with so much attention, as secured the means of subsistence; and such schemes of improvement were formed, as prepared the way for the introduction of opulence into the colony.”

How is it that very few of us have ever even heard about this part of our American history? Why don’t the government-run schools teach these lessons to our children? It seems to me that important parts of our early history have been suppressed. We need to revive them.

Robertson’s History clearly demonstrates that the colonists’ experiments in communism were a failure. But once capitalism was introduced, or the right to accumulate private property, an incentive was created to produce more than one could consume and the colonists began to prosper. That is because the right to ownership of the fruits of one’s labor creates an incentive to work harder; it holds out the possibility of building a better life and empowers people to achieve prosperity on their own. On the other hand, collectivism breeds laziness and stifles human potential because the most productive workers have no incentive to produce more than what the average workers produce when all is divided equally among the community.

The collectivist arrangement of society ignores the power of incentives and even human nature itself. Therefore, experiments in collectivism will never succeed beyond the family unit. It nurtures the destructive idea in some that by right they are entitled to benefit from the production of others. They seek advantage by taking more from the common pool than they contribute to it. This idea spreads like a cancer. Their more productive neighbors see this and become resentful. They in turn make the conscious, micro-rational decision to produce less. We see this process happening in the United States today. This may be one reason businesses both large and small are doing very little hiring these days. Hardly anyone gains under this arrangement and almost everyone loses.

The Pilgrims learned the hard way that collectivism rendered them poor and devoid of even the bare necessities of life. Collectivism or communism did not work back then, it did not work in the Soviet Union, it does not work in Cuba and it will never work anywhere that it is tried. It’s important that we all make the effort to teach this truth to our young people. Since human nature does not change, collectivism will never succeed. Nor will its ability to tempt succeeding generations disappear.

Perhaps in a future post I’ll explore the mutations of collectivism that exists in the United States today.

Canutus

THOUGHTS ON SECESSION

While I am not advocating SECESSION as a way to deal with the current fiscal crisis, I would not rule it out as an option if the federal government continues its slide towards insolvency. Another reason to consider secession would be if the governments of fiscally irresponsible states like California and Illinois ask the federal government to coerce fiscally responsible states like Kansas and Oklahoma to bail them out. This scenario is more than just a remote possibility. I won’t attempt to list all the possible justifications for secession. My point is that there are good and valid reasons for considering secession.

An example of one group of Americans bailing out another group occurred when the housing bubble burst in 2007-8. As the housing market collapsed, responsible homeowners began supporting with their taxes the bailout of a system shattered by the irresponsible actions of others. How long will the good citizens of our country support a system that continually abuses them?

Much of the criticism of this most recent Secessionist wave is coming from people who seem to be very loosely educated in American history. While I don’t always agree with Ron Paul, I have to admit that he was right when he made the point that the United States was created by a secessionist movement. It’s an historical fact that can’t be argued with. In 1776, 13 English colonies declared that they were “Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved.” The leaders of the colonies thought the British policies so oppressive that it warranted secession. Americans still celebrate this Declaration of Independence (or what might also be properly called a Declaration of Secession) every 4th of July.

The accusation that people discussing secession are kooks or even worse, traitors begs the question: Why are so many Americans ignorant of their own history?

When the Virginia delegates gathered in Richmond in June of 1788 to consider ratification of the Constitution they wrote: “The powers granted under the Constitution, being derived from the People of the United States, may be resumed by them, whensoever the same shall be perverted to their injury or oppression.” By this declaration, the Virginia delegates were making it very clear that the governing powers conferred by them to the federal authority might be withdrawn if the federal authority began abusing those powers. In other words, the same Virginians who gave their consent to the Constitution were simultaneously asserting their right to secede from the Union just as the 13 colonies had dissolved their union with Great Britain 12 years prior.

The men of the Virginia Ratifying Convention did not believe that the Constitution was a perfect legal framework for federal governing and so they proposed several amendments to it. One began thus: That Government ought to be instituted for the common benefit, protection and security of the People; and that the doctrine of non-resistance against arbitrary power and oppression is absurd, slavish, and destructive of the good and happiness of mankind. It seems obvious to me that many of the founding fathers from Virginia viewed complacency towards an abusive federal government as unpatriotic.

Was Virginia’s ratification declaration just the ranting of a landed, slave-owning gentry who wanted to leave the door open for secession to protect the institution of slavery? I don’t think so. No serious Constitutional historian that I know of has attributed a strong pro-slavery interest to the representatives at New York’s ratifying convention, and yet they expressed sentiments similar to Virginia’s in their own declaration: “That all power is originally vested in, and consequently derived from, the people, and that government is instituted by them for their common interest, protection, and security.” “That the powers of government may be reassumed by the people whensoever it shall become necessary to their happiness.” I really don’t think Virginia and New York had anything specific in mind when they made these declarations. If one studies the things that motivated the founding fathers, one of the common themes revealed is a general mistrust of central authority.

This little peek into our constitutional beginnings demonstrates that Ron Paul was absolutely right when he said “We came together voluntarily – a free society means you can dissolve it voluntarily.” Liberty does not exist when people lose the power to enforce their right to replace the government that oppresses them.

N. B. The source of the declarations quoted above is the work popularly know as Elliot’s Debates on the Federal Constitution. It’s unfortunate that very few Americans seem to understand the principles behind the origin of our Constitutional Republic. What’s worse is that they may not even care. Because they do not know what the Constitution was intended to be, they do not recognize how far we have strayed from its original purpose and the danger that this implies. This holiday season, with the young ones in mind; consider the gift of early American history. I will try to find some good American history books to recommend for the kids. Please check back later.

Canutus

Obama vs. the Founding Fathers

“Posterity! You will never know how much it cost the present generation to preserve your freedom! I hope you will make good use of it! If you do not, I shall repent it in Heaven that I ever took half the pains to preserve it!”

John Adams to Abigail Adams, April 26, 1777

The most recent mutation of social collectivism will be perpetuated as an idea with the re-election of Barack Obama. It’s small comfort to know that the only thing standing in the way of its full implementation is the House of Representatives, which is controlled by a majority of Republicans. Those who understand the stakes involved must insist that they not surrender an inch of ground in this all important struggle for the future of our country.

Obama and his supporters firmly believe that some Americans are entitled to the wealth created by others Americans. They ran a campaign that said the wealthiest Americans must accept a tax rate increase because they are not paying their “fair share” to fund government services. Clearly, Obama liberals agree with Karl Marx’s idea From each according to his ability, to each according to his need,” though they rarely will admit it in public. (For those of you who may not know, Karl Marx is considered the father of modern communism, a theory of economics and social order that has wreaked unimaginable sufferings on its human subjects every time it has been tried. We’ll have to save a discussion of the history and consequences of collectivism for another time.)

Part of the Democrat party’s strategy at election time has been simple: Convince enough voters that there is nothing wrong with awarding themselves goodies paid for by another set of Americans. Our founding fathers warned against this type of political arrangement which they called the tyranny of the majority. Benjamin Franklin once noted that, “When the people find that they can vote themselves money, that will herald the end of the republic.” That discovery has been made and the fact is that wealth, which of course is property, is no longer secure in America. Founding father John Adams warned that, “Property must be secured, or liberty cannot exist.”

Under Obama’s misleadership the federal government’s reckless borrowing and spending will probably continue. Before long the $16 trillion federal debt will grow to $17 trillion, then to $18 trillion and so on. We will borrow more against future wealth that doesn’t yet exist. That’s a real gamble, a gamble our lenders may not always be willing to make. If our credit dries up, then what? Observe Greece.

The electorate that re-hired Obama is effectively ensuring that the next couple of generations will be worse off than we are. They will be required to pay off our debts. They will be slaves to a debt that they were not party to and did not benefit from. The morality of this arrangement is never questioned by liberals. Thomas Jefferson explored the subject in 1789 in a private letter he wrote to James Madison, another founding father:

“The question whether one generation of men has a right to bind another, seems never to have been started either on this or our side of the water. Yet it is a question of such consequences as not only to merit decision, but place also, among the fundamental principles of every government. The course of reflection in which we are immersed here on the elementary principles of society has presented this question to my mind; and that no such obligation can be transmitted I think very capable of proof. I set out on this ground which I suppose to be self evident, “that the earth belongs in usufruct to the living;” that the dead have neither powers nor rights over it”

“Then I say the earth belongs to each of these generations during its course, fully, and in their own right. The 2d. generation receives it clear of the debts and incumbrances of the 1st., the 3d. of the 2d. and so on. For if the 1st. could charge it with a debt, then the earth would belong to the dead and not the living generation. Then no generation can contract debts greater than may be paid during the course of its own existence.”

Were he alive today, I think Jefferson would agree that it’s time that Americans learn to live within their means. We must all be made to recognize that massive reliance on government for our every need will lead to the ultimate collapse of the U.S. economy. Look at what is happening to countries like Greece and Spain, where the people of those countries have been hypnotized by the hollow promises of their nanny state governments. Now the government checks have stopped coming, one in four people cannot find work, suicides are skyrocketing. We are heading in that direction. It’s time to turn this ship around before it’s too late.

What are you going to do about it?

Canutus