Are we keeping our republic?


Emerging from deliberations during the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787, Benjamin Franklin was asked by a woman what kind of government the delegates had crafted for the new country.  “A republic,” he told her with a warning, “if you can keep it.”  Doctor Franklin’s message has become eerily prophetic, as our republic, once the envy of the world, is in tatters.  And whom can we blame?  To quote Ross Perot, “Go look in the mirror.”

A Republic is the hardest form of government to maintain because it requires a wise and virtuous citizenry, one that is also highly educated and vigilant, and views the government with suspicion, ever mindful and jealous of its liberty.  It is laughable to think that description can, in any way, define the state of our people today. Continue reading

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Prosperity in the Hands of Fools


The richest and wisest man who ever lived, Solomon, counseled us in the Book of Proverbs that “the prosperity of fools will destroy them.” Notice that Solomon did not say prosperity will ruin anyone, but the fool only.  So his wisdom is simple:  If you have wealth, don’t be a fool with it and you will remain prosperous.  If you want wealth, remain wise and not foolish and you will gain it, and hopefully keep it.

Now let us look at that foolish institution called the United States government.

Our great country grew from a late 18th century economic joke into the world’s super economy in a little more than a century, with much of the phenomenal growth coming in a 50-year period from 1865 until World War I.  Using wise policies the United States led the globe in every conceivable economic category as the 20th century began, and all because of free market capitalism.  The government was largely absent. Continue reading

Why do Americans have to learn the hard way?


It seems we never learn. Every now and then, the American people hand some poor soul, undeserving in many cases, the national levers of power.  And in each and every instance, it has cost us dearly.  There are several historical periods of note.

John Adams, himself a political giant, was imminently qualified for the presidency, at least on paper.  But he had the most unenviable of tasks, perhaps in all of American history.  He had to follow George Washington as president.  And he did a lousy job.

Rather than reverse course from what Washington and Alexander Hamilton had begun, Adams built on it, continuing an oppressive system of taxation and top-down management of the nation’s affairs.  A people who had just fought a war of independence over taxation now saw the imposition of an even more draconian system, one that included direct federal taxes on everything from whiskey and tobacco to land and homes. Continue reading

Early Episodes of American Socialism


In last week’s column, I posed the question of whether Barack Obama was a socialist or not, given the current definition of the ideology.  I think the evidence is clear that he is.

Obama likes to boast that we, as a nation, have learned from our history.  But, as he seeks to implement more socialism, have we really learned anything?

In the academic world it is common to hear defenses of the failures of socialism, most notably the oft-repeated statement that “true socialism has never been tried.”  But alas, my dear friends, it has.  As a matter of fact, it has been tried right here in America, during our earliest years, and it is being tried right now. Continue reading

A Lesson in ‘Kenyan’ Economics


Is Barack Obama a socialist?  Many on the right say yes; most on the left say no.  It is a major question that has pervaded our politics for the last four years with no definitive answer either one way or the other.  But I think the answer is obvious, if one will only look objectively at the clear signs.

First of all, how do you define socialism?  The historical definition is a simple one: government ownership of the means of production and the central economic planning that makes such an arrangement possible.  Yet in the modern era, it has undergone a necessary re-evaluation.

In 1976, Nobel Prize-winning economist F. A. Hayek, in an updated version of his influential book The Road to Serfdom, re-defined it for contemporary times:  “Socialism has come to mean chiefly the extensive redistribution of incomes through taxation and the institutions of the welfare state.” Continue reading

The Truth About Wealth Re-Distribution


A recurring theme throughout this campaign season has been the distribution of the nation’s wealth, stirred by President Obama and the Occupy movement.  A new phrase has entered the American political lexicon:  the 99 percent versus 1 percent.

Mitt Romney stirred up the political waters recently with remarks about wealth distribution and government dependency.

“There are 47% of the people who will vote for the president no matter what,” he told supporters at a private fundraiser.  “All right, there are 47% who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it.  [They believe] that’s an entitlement.  And the government should give it to them.  And they will vote for this president no matter what.”

Though what he spoke was truth, the Mainstream Media went wild.  At the same time, a 1998 tape was released of then-state senator Obama speaking in favor of re-distributing wealth.  Yet the media just yawned. Continue reading

The Re-Distribution of Wealth Debate in 1894: An Excerpt from The Last Jeffersonian


On December 19, 1893, William L. Wilson, Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, rolled out a new tariff reform bill, which passed the House on February 1, 1894 by a significant margin, 204 to 140.  Tariff duties were modestly cut by 15 percent.  However, to make up for any projected loss of revenue, the final House version of the bill included a provision for an income tax.  The young Democratic congressman from Nebraska, William Jennings Bryan, introduced the tax amendment and vigorously defended it.  “There is no more just tax upon the statute books than the income tax,” he told the House.

Though not a new concept, a tax on incomes had been first enacted in 1862 to help finance the Civil War, and, despite the Constitution’s prohibition against direct taxes, federal courts had left it alone as a war revenue measure.  The original act created the Bureau of Internal Revenue, the forerunner to the IRS, to collect the tax.  It covered all incomes over $600 a year at two graduated rates.  Income above $600 and up to $10,000 was taxed at three percent, while everything over $10,000 at five percent.  In 1864 the top rate was increased to ten percent.  When applicable, the federal government had actually withheld the tax from people’s income, such as government salaries, dividends and interest from bank stocks and bonds, as well as from railroads and other corporations.  By the end of the war, some 15 percent of households were paying the tax.  In 1872, the law expired and Republicans were content to leave it dead, as the tariff was continually pouring money into the federal treasury, making additional taxes unnecessary. Continue reading