America, the Founders’ Dream, and the Nightmare of Decline
The one common thread in this year’s presidential campaign, regardless of party, is a palpable sense of anxiety regarding the future and anger as to why the nation finds itself in its current state of decline. The answers offered by the candidates of the two political parties are nothing more than platitudes, empty promises and fealty to failed political theory that will only exacerbate the deterioration. The solution to prevent the United States from continuing to evolve into the latest example of the rise and fall of great nations lies in its founding and an understanding of the foibles of human nature.
I immigrated to the United States in 1951 as one of only 8,000 displaced war orphans allowed under the terms of the Displaced Persons Act of 1948. When I was eventually adopted I did not speak English; rather I spoke two foreign languages, one of which was German stemming from my days in an Allied run orphanage in occupied Germany. Nonetheless, this trait did not endear me to my peers in a small quasi-Southern city in an era when the wounds of the War had yet to heal. Thus having virtually nothing in common with anyone, I retreated to learning English by becoming an inveterate reader and constant denizen of the local library.
Among the first biographies I read was George Washington, which triggered a voracious curiosity about the founding of the nation and the history of governance throughout the annals of mankind. In particular, why did the American experiment succeed when so many nations in the continent I came from, and witnessed first-hand, self-destructed?
I read the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation as well as the Constitution and the attendant Federalist Papers, which led me to the writings of John Locke, Montesquieu, and Edward Coke, all of whom played an instrumental role in the thought process of the Founders. I was struck by the fact that the men who gathered in Philadelphia in 1776 and 1787, while knowledgeable about history, understood human nature. That there are two driving forces in mankind: 1) survival and 2) the insatiable need for some to dominate and control others.
Thus beginning with a blank sheet of paper and a potential nation state not determined by ethnicity, religion or borders established in the mists of time, the Founders made certain, while intertwined, each of these primary human traits were dealt with. Survival is possible only if man can be guaranteed freedom to enjoy those rights endowed by God, he is at liberty to derive benefit from his labor, and he can maintain ownership of his property. In order to control the lust for power, an elaborate scheme for a divided government to be at odds with itself and subject to the consent of the people was devised.
It was this framework that allowed the United States to evolve into the most powerful economic and military power in history, without conquering other nations, as well as ultimately resolving contentious and volatile issues such as slavery.
However, regardless of effort mankind will always revert to its base nature -- in particular the lust for power and domination. The mid-19th century saw the Industrial Revolution and the rise of living standards and education for the populace in Europe. It was during this same period that the advent of Marxist/socialist theory occurred. Those that considered themselves superior to the masses, and in the past may have achieved ruling status through the power of intimidation over the illiterate and unwashed, now had to look to other means to achieve control over the levers of power.
The easiest course to assume this power was to promise, in return for the support of the people to overturn the existing order, that the state through a new ruling class would provide cradle-to-grave economic security. Thus, a Faustian bargain encompassing the desire by the majority for ease of survival and others for the need to rule would be entered into. In the case of Russia, Italy and Germany, this bargain resulted in the ascension to power of megalomaniacs who destroyed their nations and brought about the near destruction of a continent.
In the postwar period, despite the failures of the past, socialism and its promise of utopia became a rallying call for the Left in the United States. With the upheaval promulgated by the opposition to the Vietnam War, the Marxist/socialists achieved legitimacy. They single-mindedly and successfully infiltrated academia, the entertainment and news media, and the Democratic Party. Meanwhile the nation slept, comfortable in its overwhelming prosperity. After the end of Ronald Reagan’s second term, the Republican Party ceased being not only the opposition party, but the party of individual liberty and free enterprise. Instead far too many Republicans became complicit in furthering the socialist compact guaranteeing financial security in exchange for votes.
The government has, in turn, reverted to excessive and unsustainable borrowing and taxation to finance these social obligations. The unwritten contract between the statists and the citizens who are being promised cradle-to-grave security cannot be maintained, as the financial and societal underpinnings of this arrangement have begun to erode, resulting in stagnant growth and a dramatically lower standard of living for a large share of Americans.
Additionally, another factor as to why the United States finds itself in its current predicament is the existence of massive tension between those who adhere to central government control and swear fealty to statist philosophies and those who produce the wealth of a nation. The state inherently has more power than the individual, and once the radical element of the ruling class assumes power, government begins the inexorable process of injecting itself into the public and private affairs of the individual, the culture, and the determination of rights. Those who believe they have a manifest destiny to rule have a predisposition to control the populace and all economic activity through laws, regulations, taxes and intimidation.
Over the past century the people of Europe placed their hopes and faith in individuals who promised them nirvana. They failed to understand, until it was too late, that whenever someone seeking power promises to unilaterally insure prosperity and equality, that person’s sole motivation is to grasp the reins of power in order to dominate and control others. Americans fell prey to this same siren song in a choosing a President in 2008 and 2012. The accumulation of power flowing to the central government and the seeding of true-believers throughout the bureaucracy during the Obama regime has been historic and is now nearly impossible to roll back. Yet in 2016 far too many are again investing all their hopes in individuals who are making similar promises.
America is living out the scenario the Founders feared, as they knew whatever framework they created would be viable only as long as the citizenry remained vigilant, informed and a just and moral people. Anticipating that at some point in history what is happening today would occur, these men provided a mechanism within the Constitution to peacefully change course and return power to the people if the American people choose to do so.
In his seminal book The Liberty Amendments: Restoring the American Republic, Mark Levin highlights and promotes the utilization of Article V of the Constitution. A Convention of the States to propose for ratification pre-agreed amendments dramatically limiting the power of the central government would bypass Congress and the influence of the Executive Branch. This process is well underway, but more citizen involvement in petitioning their state legislatures is required to make certain at least 2/3 of the states submit an application calling for the convention. For more information, see http://www.conventionofstates.com
The continent from which I emigrated is in a death spiral. This phenomenon is the end-product of: 1) the cataclysms of the past century which saw the death of nearly 100 million in wars and the emergence of Communism as well as over 75 million abortions since 1970; and 2) the gullibility and reliance of far too many on the promises of cradle-to-grave security. The population is rapidly aging and the economic underpinning of the continent is becoming dependent on the de facto printing of money rather than any genuine wealth creation. Unlike the United States, none of the nations of Europe have any mechanism to overturn the socialist mentality rampant throughout the continent or a long history of fearing an overweening central authority.
In November the American people will have to choose between what may well be the worst nominees for President in modern history. Both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are making promises and commitments they have no intention or ability to honor. Neither can they reverse the course the nation is on, as they and their respective parties do not have the desire or the capability to do so. Only the American people can rescue the nation for generations yet unborn. They must open their eyes to the reality of human nature that the Founders understood and take advantage of the framework they so masterfully devised.