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The founding generation of 1776, waged and won a war for independence. But the revolutionaries who led this war effort did not just seek to separate from England. They sought to establish an entirely new social order, a nation of citizens, not subjects, a republic, not an aristocracy. In their new nation, the people would rule.  This attempt at republic would not be the world’s first. History had seen a series of efforts to establish republican rule. Athens. Rome. Venice. Florence. All had failed. Why? America’s founders, who were well versed in the literature of the French enlightenment and the philosophy of Descartes, Voltaire, Bacon, Locke and Hobbes, carefully studied the historical record to find out. Republics, they concluded, require an equitable distribution of wealth.  Where wealth concentrates, political power can never be democratically shared.  Locke's conception of human nature was that we are capable of self-rule - that is, especially through the facility of reason, arguing that individuals can be (largely) trusted to manage their own affairs in ways that are (more or less) consistent with the interests and well-being of others.  However Hobbes suggested

if human beings are primarily self-interested and desire-driven - we are not capable of self-rule. On the contrary: our ruthless competition with one another to satisfy individual desires will quickly lead to what Hobbes calls "the war of each against all," a "state of nature" in which life is "nasty, brutish, and short." Hobbes' conception of human nature leads us to an either/or: either we enjoy freedom from society and its laws - resulting in chaos; or we give up this freedom for an authoritarian regime - and enjoy a social order established by force.  By contrast, if Locke is right - if human beings are naturally rational. social, and thus capable of self-rule - then we don't need an authoritarian regime to save us from ourselves.  For Locke, our reason is crucial precisely as it is able to determine for us appropriate goals or ends - goals or ends which we then seek to achieve by establishing whatever rules or regular behaviors are necessary for the sake of accomplishing those goals.  Of course our Founding Fathers chose the humanistic view of Locke rather than the Randian view of Hobbes.  This choice is understandable due to the intellectual position of the Founders and their respect for reason and their suspicion of irrational belief.  The book "Washington and Religion" by Paul F. Boller, includes a quote from a Presbyterian minister, Arthur B. Bradford, who was an associate of Ashbel Green another Presbyterian minister who had known George Washington personally. Bradford wrote that Green,

often said in my hearing, though very sorrowfully, of course, that while Washington was very deferential to religion and its ceremonies, like nearly all the founders of the Republic, he was not a Christian, but a Deist.
But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself. A dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary control on the government; but experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions.  The Federalist No. 51, James Madison.


The balance of power in a society, accompanies the balance of property in land. The only possible way, then, of preserving the balance of power on the side of equal liberty and public virtue,is to make the acquisition of land easy to every member of society; to make the division of the land into small quantities, so that the multitude may be possessed of landed estates.  John Adams From a letter to James Sullivan, 1776.

  To America’s revolutionary founders, equity seemed natural. Most lived on small, semisubsistence family farms. In an agrarian setting, grand fortunes hardly ever accumulated. Some farmers did work harder than others, but the Earth could yield, no matter how much work was performed upon it, only so much wealth. That reality kept gaps in colonial income and wealth relatively limited. And those gaps would stay limited, the generation of 1776 believed, so long as all who labored were guaranteed the “fruits of their labor.”  If those who toiled received their due, significant inequalities of wealth would never emerge in the new American republic. The new republic would prosper,in liberty, for all.

  This catchphrase, “fruits of their labor,” would pepper revolutionary era speeches and broadsides.  The revolutionaries agreed that Republican liberty would surely fail if their new nation ever let elites expropriate what average Americans labored so hard to earn.To prevent failure, the new nation would have to be vigilant. Fortunes would have to be divided at every opportunity. In Europe, the laws of primogeniture and entail enabled wealthy aristocrats to pass on their fortunes, undivided, to their firstborn male heirs. By ending these laws, America’s founders believed, the young United States could prevent grand concentrations of wealth from accumulating — and threatening republican rule. State by state, in the decades after the Revolution, advocates of republican virtue would work tirelessly to abolish entail and primogeniture. These dangerous principles concentrate the property of the country, and with it the power and influence of a few.”  But efforts to end aristocratic inheritance laws, America’s early leaders believed, could not by themselves keep property and power dispersed. Good republicans, the revolutionaries agreed, must attack aristocratic wealth at its source — by keeping the economy free from government interference.  America’s revolutionaries subscribed, in effect, to the doctrine of laissez-faire. Egalitarians today, of course, consider laissez-faire an inherently conservative doctrine, a convenient fiction that those of wealth and power propagate to hoard what they have. But America’s revolutionaries saw the matter in a quite different light. They believed that politics, not economics, concentrates wealth and power. Wide disparities in wealth could only result when an elite manipulates politics to extract from hard-working citizens the fruits of their labor.

  This view, what James Huston, now humorously, called. "The republican theory of wealth distribution" — would hold clear sway in America’s early years. A democratic republic, Americans agreed, must ever strive to avoid, in Thomas Jefferson’s phrase, the “numberless instances of wretchedness” that inevitably arise whenever some hold far more property than others. Jefferson did acknowledge, that a completely equal division of property would be “impracticable.” But he believed deeply that “enormous inequality” had left humankind with “much misery.” A republic, Jefferson would write, “cannot invent too many devices for subdividing property.”

  The first attack on equality was engineered by Alexander Hamilton during the first Congress in 1789.  Hamilton would urged Congress to assume responsibility for redeeming, at face value, a broad list of national and state-level debts going back to the Revolutionary War. To get America moving, he believed, investors needed to be rewarded. Hamilton also asked Congress to charter a national bank, an institution that would be backed by the full faith and credit of the federal government but run by private investors. Hamilton would get what he wanted — and so would America’s financiers. The more enterprising among them had been buying up Revolutionary War and state debt at rock-bottom prices. The new federal government’s decision to redeem these debts, at their original value, guaranteed these enterprising speculators enormous windfall earnings on their investments. The new national bank, meanwhile, gave the nation’s commercial interests control over a key lever of economic life. They would now have the power to privately determine the new nation’s investment priorities, a power, critics feared, that could nurture a new moneyed aristocracy.

  The new American nation, once Hamilton’s ambitious agenda had been adopted, would need revenue to foot the bill. That revenue would come largely from America’s yeoman farmers. In 1790, on Hamilton’s recommendation, Congress would levy an excise tax on the manufacture of distilled liquor. The tax amounted, in a young rural nation, to a tax on backwoods farmers, since these farmers did much of the nation’s distilling. Farmers distilled because they had little economic choice. In America’s interior, where they farmed, poor road systems made shipping wagons full of grain to market prohibitively expensive. Farmers, instead, would distill their excess grain into more easily transportable whiskey products. By taxing the stills the farmers used to manufacture these products, Hamilton’s federal government was essentially shifting wealth out of farmer hands into the pockets of the financial speculators who held America’s debt.

  But Hamilton, with a nation still devoted to the spirit of 1776, had gone too far. His use of government banking and debt to reward a wealthy elite, had trespassed on the Revolutionary credo.  Bitter disputes over Hamilton’s economic policies would soon split America’s political class into warring parties — and, in the 1800 elections, sweep Hamilton’s party, the Federalists, out of power forever.

  The victorious Jeffersonians believed the sorry events of the 1790s had confirmed the wisdom of 1776. If the people were not vigilant, if the people let elites manipulate politics, an aristocracy of wealth would re-emerge in their young republic and eventually destroy it. No republic, the Jeffersonians argued, can tolerate inequality and survive. The new United States, as James Madison had noted, needed to become more equal, through laws that, “without violating the rights of property, reduce extreme wealth towards a state of mediocrity, and raise extreme indigence toward a state of comfort.” Aristocracy equals inequality, republicanism equals equality. In early nineteenth century America, no public figure would challenge these basic equations. Every actor on America’s political stage, radicals and conservatives alike, took this egalitarian attitude toward property as a given. Aristocracy, pronounced the utopian-minded William Leggett in the 1830s, served to “concentrate all wealth and privilege in the hands of a few.”  “In monarchies and aristocracies,” pronounced a far more conservative New Jersey Whig, Congressman Joseph Fitz Randolph a few years later, “there are classes of the very wealthy and of the very poor; in a Republic both extremes are avoided.”  This conviction — that concentrated wealth endangers republican virtue— so dominated American political life before the Civil War that every side to every great political controversy would invariably justify its position by claiming that the opposition viewpoint, if followed, would leave America dangerously unequal. In 1832, for instance, President Andrew Jackson would place his opposition to rechartering a national bank squarely in the Jeffersonian tradition.  “It is to be regretted,” Jackson, “that the rich and powerful too often bend the acts of government to their selfish purposes.”

  Almost all Americans took as a matter of faith, wherever they stood on slavery, that  A free republic could not safely accept great gaps between rich and poor.  Most Americans also believed that the young United States had so far prevented these gaps from developing. Throughout the nation’s first century, historian James Huston notes, Americans continually celebrated “the egalitarian nature of the American distribution of wealth.” The United States, noted the economist Theodore Sedgwick, had achieved an equal division of property “such as has never been known among mankind.”  Equality, made America different — and better. “Unlike the European States,”

  The Founding Fathers clearly viewed government as the protector of the many, not the few.  It took the vast right wing conspiracy a lot of time and effort and money to buy influence to control the MSM message and achieve almost exactly the opposite of the culture envisioned by those enlightened Deists with a vision of a fair society and a government of the people, by the people and for the people.  To insist on yet more tax cuts for the wealthy in times of National emergency, to ignore the damage done by by 30 years of dribble down economics, to demonize workers of any sort and to call estate taxes anything but fair and necessary is directly in opposition to the wishes of our Founding Fathers.  Their Republican view of wealth distribution is the polar opposite of the current GnoP view.  How unAmerican they have become in their strange view of what is fair and just. An answer to this situation may be found in Tocqueville's writing.  He carefully distinguishes between "self-interest properly understood" and "unenlightened self-interest". To begin with the negative, unenlightened self-interest comes closest to our common definition of selfishness. It is that which seeks advantage for the self at the expense of others. It is directed by brute instinct alone. On the other hand, self-interest properly understood poses the rhetorical question of "whether it is not to the individual advantage of each to work for the good of all."  This is not an instinctive attitude but a learned behavior, running (at least initially) counter to the instinct towards seeking self-advantage. Through exercise of this virtue, the individual agrees to connect his quest for self-advantage with the same instinct in others. Thus it is learned that "virtue is useful".  Education becomes a most necessary tool for the restraint of unenlightened self-interest.  

  All Americans are in this together, whether they act like it or not.  At their best Americans work together for a common goal and succeed.  At there worse they work for political advantage with no goal in mind except power and the nation stagnates and fails.  Anyone who speaks of any group as "real Americans" simply does not get the meaning of America where even the President is properly regarded as simply, "The first among equals".  

  We have the situation now where polling shows the highly rationally minded public at all levels and all party affiliation or independents want taxes raised on the wealthy.  When FDR proposed capping personal income at $25,000 or todays equivalent of $335,000 and a top tax rate of 100% the rich did not like it but he found similar popular support, a Gallup poll, in late 1942, found 47 percent of Americans supporting an income limit and only 38 percent in opposition.  The President got less than he wanted but got a rate of 93% on income over $200,000 or $2.680,000 in todays money.  By the end of the war the top rate was 94%.  Many Americans supported these rates.  Actress Ann Sheridan told reporters,


regret that I have only one salary to give for my country

  The New Yorker Magazine later concluded that no other news item, probably ever did so much to increase the popularity of a star.  In 1937 Carole Lombard  paid over $300,000 in federal taxes on $465,000 in income. When asked she replied


I was glad to do it, too, "Income tax money all goes into improvement and protection of the country.

   Many of the rich were angry about this but could do little due to popular support even from some of the wealthy some who became $1 a year men, working for the war effort for free.  How could anyone complain with such popular support at a time of national emergency.  Clearly both Miss. Sheridan and Miss. Lombard were patriots in the self-interest properly understood tradition of our Founding Fathers.  Not everyone was ready to support this effort to win WWII.  Actor Ronald Reagan, who had been a New Deal supporter was absolutely incensed by that tax levy.  At the height of his Hollywood scene chewing career, actor Reagan was making $400,000 per picture. With the top federal tax rate over 90 percent, Reagan used to tell his White House chief of staff Donald Regan, he always chose to "loaf" around rather than make more than two pictures a year.


y should I have done a third picture, even if it was Gone with the Wind?" Regan remembers Reagan asking. "What good would it have done me?

 Clearly an unenlightened self-interest interest position, as there were millions of patriotic Americans actually fighting the war and not just playing patriots in an occasional film.  I am sure the war effort could have used the extra money if Ronnie had not loafed around during the National emergency.

  The 94% rate dropped to 82% over Truman's veto in 1948.  It jumped to 91% during the Korean War and stayed there through the 50s.  The top rate dipped to 70% in 1964,  After the 2 Reagan tax cuts it had shrunk to 28%. The steeply graduated progressive income tax had kept the rich in check on the accumulation of grand private fortunes, as the Founding Fathers intended.  The top tenth of 1 percent
were sucking up 12% of all income before the Great Depression.  That shrank until it was under 3% by the 70s. By 2007 just before the crash the top tenth of 1% were back to 12% of all income.

  The GOP is now the party of unenlightened self-interest.  The difference is the public anger that would have been unleashed against the wealthy had they not agreed to high tax rates has been usurped through the long term propaganda campaign commonly referred to as the "Vast Right Wing Conspiracy".

  The Koch brothers were going to unleash the tea party after the last election no matter who won.  They conceived the tea party, they nurtured the tea party and they have taught the tea party what to say, all for their unenlightened self interest in oil and pollution matters.  Bobby Kennedy used to say that 20% the population will believe anything.  The Koch brothers and FAUX News have repeatedly demonstrated that bit of wisdom from Kennedy.

  At some point soon taxes must be raised.  High rates would announce in no uncertain terms that sacrifice will be universal, that all Americans—even our highest and mightiest—will be expected to do their part, to give of themselves in some way that counts.  Dribble down never worked during the Reagan years or either of the Bush terms.  The tax increase during the Clinton years lead to far more growth than all the terms of the Bushes and Reagan.  To push for yet more tax cuts is insanity.  The Founding Fathers would not only support tax increases now for the good of the entire country, they would be aghast that we have let the situation get so far out of hand.  FDR won WWII with the attitude "We have nothing to fear, but fear itself."  and unleashed the creativity and productivity of the American public.  Vastly improving aircraft, developing radar, the A bomb and the proximity fuse among many other inventions.  The GOP seems to say, "Be very afraid, for all we have is fear itself."  No, we cannot borrow our way out of trouble.  We can, however, work our way out of trouble.  That, of course, will take jobs.  The GOP uses fear to short circuit rational thought or discussion in this country.  The house majority leader promised to focus like a lazar on job creation.  4 months later I can only think of one job he has made, when he hired a $520/hour lawyer to represent Congress over the defense of marriage act.

  I personally think the Koch brothers own both parties and both houses of Congress as well as the MSM, and the only way Congress will ever act on taxes in the National Interest of all Americans is through a popular uprising like Tunisia and Egypt and it better happen this Summer for the next election may be too late.

Originally posted to J Edward on Sat Apr 23, 2011 at 11:15 AM PDT.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Wow! (9+ / 0-)

    What an amazing diary.  If this was a history or poly sci college paper it's an A+ in my book.....very thoughtful and well written....

    Got Books? ..... Need Cables?

    by sweettp2063 on Sat Apr 23, 2011 at 12:27:49 PM PDT

    •  Yeah, except for the part where he/she (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      caul, NBBooks, vets74

      plagiarized at least one whole paragraph.

      This paragraph...

      This view, what James Huston, now humorously, called. "The republican theory of wealth distribution" — would hold clear sway in America’s early years. A democratic republic, Americans agreed, must ever strive to avoid, in Thomas Jefferson’s phrase, the “numberless instances of wretchedness” that inevitably arise whenever some hold far more property than others. Jefferson did acknowledge, that a completely equal division of property would be “impracticable.” But he believed deeply that “enormous inequality” had left humankind with “much misery.” A republic, Jefferson would write, “cannot invent too many devices for subdividing property.”

      ...was lifted straight out of "Greed and good: understanding and overcoming the inequality that limits our lives" by Sam Pizzigati.

      Or the part where the diarist makes the abjectly absurd claim that the founders were essentially "laissez faire" in their apprehension of "government interference" in the economy (a common right wing assertion) while simultaneously noting the desire to use as many devices as necessary to subdivide ownership of property.

      The diarist makes interesting observations, but the superimposition of this term, laissez faire, on the convictions of the founders is a very poor fit.

      •  I retract the term plagiarism (7+ / 0-)

        as it appears the unattributed citation may have been in error.

        I stand by my criticism of the argument however.

        •  I have issues with the history (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          vets74, bnasley

          The founders of the country were smugglers, slavers, land speculators, privateers and pirates not averse to genocide of the indigenous inhabitants and any rival Europeans with whom they sided.

          Aside from enjoying to rob, rape, loot and plunder enemy towns their one common philosophy of greed manifests as an aversion to surrendering their rights to any sovereignty whatsoever church or state.

          Wealth was originally viewed as land. Since he who controlled the water controlled the land in the New England Maritimes that was the smugglers and the distillers.

          In Virginia the land speculators followed the rivers through the mountains long before there were roads over them.

          In the Carolinas we went straight to plantations whose wealth was fueled by a very active slave trade.

          As far as the National Bank, the Railroads, the Land Companies, what was desired was a stable standard of measure so that every company wasn't issuing its own script which might or might not be worth anything.

          A National governments original purpose was to create a constitution behind which a consensus could be built to be law abiding so that contracts would be worth the paper they were written on.

          Live Free or Die --- Investigate, Incarcerate

          by rktect on Sun Apr 24, 2011 at 09:32:36 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  George Washington also (0+ / 0-)

            owned the largest whiskey distillery in the country at that

            •  Yes (0+ / 0-)

              I think Washington distilled Rum from molasses then used the triangle trade  to add Cargos of distilled Rum instead of just the raw sugar, rum, and molasses. Boston had some of the earliest distilleries, but his property in Virginia was very forward thinking in terms of making the hooch that later became the Moonshine industry.

              The first leg of the triangle was from a European port to Africa, in which ships carried supplies for sale and trade, such as copper, cloth, trinkets, slave beads, guns and ammunition. When the ship arrived, its cargo would be sold or bartered for slaves. On the second leg, ships made the journey of the Middle Passage from Africa to the New World. Many slaves died of disease in the crowded holds of the slave ships. Once the ship reached the New World, enslaved survivors were sold in the Caribbean or the American colonies. The ships were then prepared to get them thoroughly cleaned, drained, and loaded with export goods for a return voyage, the third leg, to their home port,[4] from the West Indies the main export cargoes were The ship then returned to Europe to complete the triangle.

              If you look at the people who first met as the "Sons of Liberty" in the Green Dragon bar in Boston, they were the mob John Hancock raised to Liberate his ship Liberty seized for smuggling and tax evasion.

              Later they turn up involved in Shay's rebellion which had something to do with both the Waldo Patent which was an attempt to sell them land they already owned it being part of a grant to a land speculator right along with the land of the indigenous inhabitants and untaxed Whiskey.

              Live Free or Die --- Investigate, Incarcerate

              by rktect on Sun Apr 24, 2011 at 03:25:51 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

        •  You were right the first time (0+ / 0-)

          This diary and the diarist's previous one, both of which were featured in the "Community Spotlight," appear to be essentially mash-ups of previous published works.

          I didn't go through the whole piece, but virtually every sentence in the first two paragraphs of this diary is taken intact from here, here, here, and here.

          I think it's embarrassing for this site.

  •  Even Though Some of the Framers Worried That (11+ / 0-)

    manufacture and trade would be the engine of creating economic aristocracy, their system is utterly wide open to it. And so the American economy has been a dangerous casino our entire history except when we added an entire second system of government on top of it to regulate individual wealth and the economy.

    A quick google of panics some months ago popped up this list.

    The Panic of 1819
    Panic and Depression 1832
    Panic and Depression 1836
    Six Year Depression 1837-1843
    The Panic of 1857
    Panic and Depression 1869-1871
    The Panic of 1873
    The Panic of 1893
    The Panic of 1901
    Panic and Depression of 1929

    I can remember it was very common in the middle of the last century to talk of the need for government to protect society from wealth and market concentration. The propaganda war against that began in the mainstream public eye with the Reagan admin but had already been going on with the mobilizing of evangelicals years before.

    The Democratic Party hasn't and doesn't oppose Reaganomics so whatever the ownership structure is, yes it's both parties.

    America is Libya not Egypt. 40% of the people are solid backers of the rich, a number that would need mass starvation to drive down much below 30%. If there is unrest it'll be civil war and fascism will win in a few days.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Sat Apr 23, 2011 at 01:36:19 PM PDT

    •  an interesting observation... (14+ / 0-)

      Oliver Stone was interviewed after Wall Street 2 came out. Stone said that we the people aren't interested to make the rich accountable. Quite the opposite... we the people love them, want to emulate them: want to have the money, be the Koch brothers or the Real Housewives of LA, NY or whatever.

      It's time to move on. We are the planketon in this food chain. We have power. Just don't know how to use it. But be assured, once we are bled dry, those powerful few, those "haves" will crumble, finally. Power is relative.

      Influence is something more interesting.

      It'd be nice to make some attempt at getting some of us not driving on Sundays, tearing up oil company credit cards, car pooling to all after school sports... we could do it, too. one person, a couple of neighbors at a time.

      things go viral for a reason. hope you are doing okay, goose.

      i've opted out for a long time now. overwhelmed at the sightlessness of humans.

      but it's time to try to make better use of our resources, our time, and our lives.

      •  Disagree. That 2% are just not that into us (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        melo, Nada Lemming, vets74, bnasley

        anymore, and in fact have diversified globally.

        In terms of investment, they are barely recognizable as Americans.

        Change will not come because they have already sucked all the working capital out of this country. The bastards have the entire world at their disposal.

        Their power is now unchecked. Creation of generational wealth of these new global oligarchs is what's on their mind.

        This is America! We have vast wealth. Much of which was just legally stolen from the middle class.

        by DavidHeart on Sun Apr 24, 2011 at 08:28:57 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  They can't "run the same playbook"... (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Nada Lemming, vets74, bnasley

 most other places. And the places where they can (Switzerland, Cayman Islands, etc.) simply don't have the "Global Muscle" to protect their interests. Our Financial "Wild West Show" is pretty much unique: big enough such that even as the foundation is crumbling, it is still robust enough to keep the wheels turning for at least another generation with no additional real investment on their collective end.

          They may want everyone to believe that their holdings and equity are 100% fungible and transferable, but a diminished US Government and society makes them immediately much less wealthy and powerful. They need the "full faith and credit" of this nation more than they will ever admit.

          The so-called "rising tide" is lifting only yachts.

          by Egalitare on Sun Apr 24, 2011 at 09:44:36 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  Right about civil war. (8+ / 0-)

      The rich have private armies available and scads of well-armed, and trained, idiots enthralled to racial / religious / randian dreams of their superiority. Plus the rich've taken care to do the first thing radical revolutionaries do: they've seized the presses (media).

      (There's a tip for the alert progressive, btw.)

      • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

      I know that many, and think that all, of the Panics and Depressions you listed followed upon unrestrained speculation in various markets. As have those of recent memory.

      They don't call "greed" a deadly sin for nothing. Odd, with all our problems, that nobody in authority has thought to tax speculative trading heavily, whether from fiscal responsibility or from morality.

      Until we break the corporate virtual monopoly on what we hear and see, we keep losing, don't matter what we do.

      by Jim P on Sat Apr 23, 2011 at 09:42:07 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  In addition to the previous replies, I would (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      OldDragon, TracieLynn, luckydog, bnasley

      encourage you to look more closely at the "panics and depressions" you've listed. Specifically, look at the big picture numbers and effects.

      Prior to 1929, the first of the ongoing series of induced boom-bust cycles brought about by the legislated structure of the federal Reserve Act, the effects on the nation at large were mostly limited to those that actively participated inside the so-called financial industry. Additionally, they resulted in relatively minor fluctuations (by today's standards) in the national economy and monetary valuations. IOW, you will find that, like the "Tulip Mania" and crash of the 17th century, it was the disproportionate participation of a relatively few speculators that wreaked the havoc.

      The early America banking model, or rather the lack of it, did serve to limit the destructive effects of the practices of the few insanely avaricious manipulators of those disparate systems. We had a "national bank" in name only as the overwhelming number of banks were private, local enterprises that were utterly dependent on extremely conservative financial practices for their existence.

      Prior to the establishment of the Fed, the economic fluctuations resulting from these various crashes and panics never exceeded 6%. It was only through the capture of the entire national economy by a cartel that the wild, and exploitable, nationwide boom-bust cycle could yield the extraordinary profits and losses we view as normal today.

      "Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities." - Voltaire

      by Greyhound on Sun Apr 24, 2011 at 05:56:17 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Emailed to my Republican mom (5+ / 0-)

    Truly, we forget or ignore the lessons of our own history at our peril. My mom gets this. As I reminded her,

    " When a trillion dollars can be moved with a single keystroke, nations become obselete. "

    Tipped, wrecked and hotlisted.

    "Given the choice between a Republican and someone who acts like a Republican, people will vote for the real Republican all the time." ~ Harry Truman

    by ozsea1 on Sat Apr 23, 2011 at 09:30:06 PM PDT

  •  Original Intent..... (7+ / 0-)

    "All the Property that is necessary to a Man, for the Conservation of the Individual and the Propagation of the Species, is his natural Right, which none can justly deprive him of: But all Property superfluous to such purposes is the Property of the Publick, who, by their Laws, have created it, and who may therefore by other Laws dispose of it, whenever the Welfare of the Publick shall demand such Disposition. He that does not like civil Society on these Terms, let him retire and live among Savages. He can have no right to the benefits of Society, who will not pay his Club towards the Support of it."---Benjamin Franklin


    "A republic cannot stand upon bayonets, and when the day comes, when the wealth of the nation will be in the hands of a few, then we must rely upon the wisdom of the best elements in the country to readjust the laws of the nation to the changed conditions.”---James Madison

    "Every good Christian should line up and kick Jerry Falwell's ass." ------Barry Goldwater

    by chicagorich on Sat Apr 23, 2011 at 09:30:25 PM PDT

  •  Deifying the founders is the wrong way (8+ / 0-)

    to go. The Founding Fathers established a slave state that denied Women, Slaves, Poor Whites, and Free Blacks even the most basic rights.

    Debtors' prisons we're common among revolutionary America so much so that a few founding fathers spent time in them as well. At the time of the Constitution being signed over half of ALL WHITE Men couldn't vote due to the laws regarding owning property and voting.

    Instead you should look towards the Philosophers and Activists who really founded this nation on the ideals of Equality and Liberty.

    •  That's not even getting into the religious (9+ / 0-)

      bigotry. Jews weren't allowed to vote in Maryland until 1828. The Founding Fathers were flawed human beings. They should be viewed as such. They made America they didn't make America great. America is great because successive generations of people have struggled and fought for their basic human rights most of the time against the Authority setup by the Constitution.

    •  Thank you (5+ / 0-)

      I'm frankly tired of this trend on the right AND left of deifing the founders and making it seem like they were almost all of one mind on this or that issue, which they were not, in order to promote one's particular beliefs. The founders, and framers (not the same thing), were of different minds on different issues, and engaged in deep and often nasty debates on all manner of things, from the power of the federal government to slavery to paper currency to whether the senate should be proportional or not. Then as now, there were deep divisions on what this country was really about, and how to run it.

      Also, more speficially, I'm bored of regurgitated Jeffersonian propaganda about how Alexander Hamilton was pretty much the most evil man in the history of the world (until Hitler, at least) and was responsible for pretty much all the country's ills to date. This coming from a man who owned and did not free a SINGLE slave in his life, who was a vicious propagandist and a vastly overrated president, who didn't understand money at all, who lived in the clouds (literally, at Monticello was on a mountaintop) while nearly everyone else had to actually work for a living.

      Yes, Hamilton got a lot wrong. But he also got a lot right. The same can be said about just about all the founders and framers. And they were almost ALL rich and entitled elitists, with nary a single real democrat among them, which they used as an epithet that basically meant "dangerous rabble" to them. If Hamilton's financial and economic policies helped northern businessmen and financiers, Jefferson's helped southern plantation owners. They each sowed the seeds for the Civil War. Neither was an angel or devil. Both were fully human, in the worst and best ways.

      Like most of the founders and framers. Except for Burr, whom nearly everyone agrees was a shitbag, including Hamilton and Jefferson.

      "Those who stand for nothing fall for anything...Mankind are forever destined to be the dupes of bold & cunning imposture" --Alexander Hamilton

      by kovie on Sun Apr 24, 2011 at 12:49:59 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Also, the only "founder" who comes close (6+ / 0-)

      to representing the alleged ideals of 1776 that we in the 21st century hold so dear and like to believe the founders did as well, was Thomas Paine, who held no position of power at any time during the revolution and early republic, and ended up being despised and ostracized by nearly all in the end.

      Why do we need to keep propping up these myths? Can't we just grow up?

      "Those who stand for nothing fall for anything...Mankind are forever destined to be the dupes of bold & cunning imposture" --Alexander Hamilton

      by kovie on Sun Apr 24, 2011 at 12:52:40 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Paine and George Mason rate high with me also. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Herticalt, jcrit

        Tea Parties are for little girls with imaginary friends.

        by J Edward on Sun Apr 24, 2011 at 05:57:45 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  But for different reasons, I hope (0+ / 0-)

          Paine was an unequivocal abolitionist. Mason claimed to be against slavery, but never freed a single one of his many slaves, and advocated policies that would make it hard to abolish slavery, like the preemenence of states' rights over the federal government. I never had much use or respect for people whose actions belied their words. I'd include Jefferson in this group too.

          "Those who stand for nothing fall for anything...Mankind are forever destined to be the dupes of bold & cunning imposture" --Alexander Hamilton

          by kovie on Sun Apr 24, 2011 at 11:08:42 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Mason lost Washington as a friend over the Bill (0+ / 0-)

            of Rights and gained me.  I'm at least as far left on Religion as Paine who wrote  about Deism.  Did you know Ethan Allan gave up any political career to self publish a book on Deism?

            Tea Parties are for little girls with imaginary friends.

            by J Edward on Sun Apr 24, 2011 at 11:44:58 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  You have to remember (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              that the Bill of Rights was championed as much out of concern for the rights of everyday non-privileged people as for the privileges of privileged elites such as Mason, who feared for their property and prerogatives AS rich and powerful people from the encroachments of a too-powerful federal government.

              My reading of the history of that era is that it was as much (if not ultimately less so, in practice) about a debate about the best way to construct and run a government for the common interest as it was for the interests of rich and powerful elites who, it cannot be denied, were the driving force behind the revolution and early republic (and arguably ever since then).

              The odd phenomenon of rich and powerful elites convincing everyday people to rally to their cause even though their interests often clash in practice through the clever and opportunistic exploitation of abstract notions of "freedom" can be traced to demagogues like Mason, Henry and Jefferson.

              Be careful whom you lionize, and why. Mason and Paine came to their similar-seeming ideas from very different places and motivations.

              "Those who stand for nothing fall for anything...Mankind are forever destined to be the dupes of bold & cunning imposture" --Alexander Hamilton

              by kovie on Sun Apr 24, 2011 at 11:58:51 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

      •  If I can stereotype Republicans (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        It's easier to idolize or despise a person than a policy.   For some reason, our modes of communication seem to accept, "I don't know. He just doesn't seem right to me," but we don't accept, "Well, that just doesn't feel like 60% to me."

        I've found it difficult to get conservatives to talk about the numbers.  They always want to transition to Barry and Acorn and how smart Bachman seems to be, and how much the founders had a vision that made America great.  

        It makes me wonder whether the dialog on the left should work harder to only talk policy and ignore the Kochs and Roves.  

        •  People operate on multiple levels (0+ / 0-)

          One level is rational and reality-based, i.e. numbers, facts, logic, etc.--stuff you're tought in school to base important decisions on. But another level is emotional, i.e. gut instincts, fear, anger, class, race and cultural identification, etc.--how uneducated and stupid people tend to "think".

          I think that far many more of today's Repubs not only operate far more on an emotional than rational level than today's Dems, but do so in a particularly infantile and stupid manner. And I think that they ARE Repubs to a large extent BECAUSE they operate this way.

          Not that all Repubs are like this, or that there aren't plenty of Dems who are like this. But people who prefer to base their decisions on feelings rather than on reason tend to be Repubs more than Dems these days.

          And these feelings tend to be based on a sense that history is passing them by, and their formerly priviliged status as white (and often but not always well-off) people is becoming less so. They're voting on self-interest and (in their minds) self-preservation, not on the actual issues.

          Which is why they won't talk numbers. They either can't, because they're too ignorant and stupid, or they won't, because they know the numbers are not on their side. So they try to make it about inanities like how "American" and "pro-freedom" a politician is. They are reduced to grade school "arguments".

          The old saw about how America was founded by geniuses (it was) so that it could be run by idiots has, I think, been debunked. It works if you substitute "people of average intelligence" for "idiots", it works--maybe. But idiots can no more run a country well than they can argue a point. And much of America is run by idiots today, who are elected by certifiable morons.

          Yes, I am an elitist. So is anyone who respects reason whether or not they're honest enough to admit it. Who wants to be governed by idiots?

          "Those who stand for nothing fall for anything...Mankind are forever destined to be the dupes of bold & cunning imposture" --Alexander Hamilton

          by kovie on Sun Apr 24, 2011 at 11:03:55 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I think the Shrub proved idiots can't run the (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:


            Tea Parties are for little girls with imaginary friends.

            by J Edward on Sun Apr 24, 2011 at 11:47:20 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  On this we agree (0+ / 0-)

              Also, Reagan, Harding and Andrew Johnson. Of course, lack of intelligence isn't the only thing that can make a person unfit for office. There's also lack of character, insanity, experience, etc. But it's certainly up (or down) there.

              "Those who stand for nothing fall for anything...Mankind are forever destined to be the dupes of bold & cunning imposture" --Alexander Hamilton

              by kovie on Sun Apr 24, 2011 at 11:49:49 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  What about Ford? (0+ / 0-)

                I never thought he (my congressman from practically birth until Nixon replaced Agnew) was all that bright, but he did not do that bad a job.

                There's a big bill board in GR on the freeway

                Gerald OUR Ford

                Tea Parties are for little girls with imaginary friends.

                by J Edward on Sun Apr 24, 2011 at 11:59:35 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  My reading of Ford (0+ / 0-)

                  is that he was a basically decent person with good instincts and a healthy ego who was comfortable with himself and managed to compensate for his relative lack of intellectual sophistication through hard work and applying the lessons of experience. He had many, but not all, of the qualities one would want in a politician, regardless of ideology. I'd much rather elect a decent person of average intelligence like Ford than a brilliant cynic like Nixon (heh).

                  Like I said, intelligence matters, but so do judgement and character.

                  "Those who stand for nothing fall for anything...Mankind are forever destined to be the dupes of bold & cunning imposture" --Alexander Hamilton

                  by kovie on Sun Apr 24, 2011 at 12:05:01 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

    •  Agreed completely. (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Herticalt, jcrit, Egalitare, zedaker

      And to add, let's not forget the large numbers of Native Americans upon whose lands and bodies the "land of the free" was built.

      The irony should not be overlooked of the so-called founders crying about Britain denying them their liberty and treating them like slaves while simultaneously denying liberty to others and, in a good number of cases, owning slaves, and, indeed, legitimizing slavery in the Constitution.  Which doesn't mean that those white men were bad people; they were products of their time and, in some pretty important ways, had some enlightened political views, but in other ways they did not and should, therefore, never be deified no matter who is doing it and what the intention.

  •  Great diary (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jim d, jcrit

    It's good to know that we really are sticking to the main ideals of the founders. It's very strange how backwards so many arguments have become, since it is a go-to conservative argument to say they are on the side of the founding fathers.

    However, just a couple things. First of all, I agree with Herticalt. The essential idea of a country of equals was outstanding, but it's pretty ironic that they were saying all of these noble things while it was still only white land owners that could vote at the time, very similar to an aristocracy.

    And another thing, and this has confused me for a little while, but did the meaning of the word "republic" change over time, or were the founding fathers using it intentionally? Because in today's language, a republic is an incredibly broad concept of government that basically just requires at least some of the population to have a say in the government. An aristocracy is a republic just as much as a democracy is. Their ideas for equality fit much more with democracy, but their actions, which severely limited those who could have a say in the government, were really more similar to a form of republic than democracy.

  •  This is a fantastic diary!! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jcrit, OldDragon

    You are right, in that both houses are owned.

    There is a economic majority in Washington, dead set against any form of return to a more balanced economic policy, and given the massive wealth transfer that has occurred, that majority is strong.

    Progressive Democrats, are really the only voting bloc of size willing to entertain a move away from that toxic Reagan policy.

    Love your review of some of the early thinking on these things.


    by potatohead on Sat Apr 23, 2011 at 11:16:45 PM PDT

  •  You need to read some more history (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    caul, J Edward, Aunt Martha

    if you think the American Revolution did not intend to create a new aristocracy.  The Framers were quite clear the masses were  not going to run the show.

    I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that his justice cannot sleep forever. ~Thomas Jefferson

    by bobdevo on Sun Apr 24, 2011 at 12:59:19 AM PDT

    •  I am realistic about how imperfect the FF were (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      OldDragon, jcrit

      But I appreciate their realistic/idealistic attitude.  They knew how things were in all other forms of government and deliberately created a free secular society where priest craft and king craft (Jefferson's terms) could not work its evil.  They intended to prevent the kind of manipulation the Puritans and Federalists tried in 1800.  Authoritarian minded people simply do not get living in a free society where they think they can impose their will on the rest of us.  If you combined all the nightmare situations the FF ever envisioned for the U.S. you would come up with the current day GOP.

      Tea Parties are for little girls with imaginary friends.

      by J Edward on Sun Apr 24, 2011 at 05:54:46 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  All concentrations of power are threats to (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    J Edward, jcrit, OldDragon, melo, Thutmose V


    Too bad the tea baggers are focused on only one concentration of power--the one today that is the least threat and the best counterbalance to the concentration that is a threat.

    Did the founders throw off the centuries of rule by shamans, warlords and kings only to see them replaced by the corporatists?  Let's not drop the ball on this one.

    We kidnap. We torture. It's our policy. Embrace it or end it!

    by Mosquito Pilot on Sun Apr 24, 2011 at 05:33:01 AM PDT

    •  Yeah, they get one more Supreme Court tool and (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Mosquito Pilot, OldDragon

      it will be all over for democracy in America.  

      Tea Parties are for little girls with imaginary friends.

      by J Edward on Sun Apr 24, 2011 at 05:45:15 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  You're one tool late (0+ / 0-)

        The supreme court is already comprised of a majority of democracy killers.  Maybe I'm unimaginative, but I can't think of much worse than Citizens United.  

        Haven't you noticed that no one is challenging all these anti-choice laws in the states?  Pro-choice activists know that the supreme court is just waiting for a case to overturn Roe v. Wade, so they can't challenge the laws.  That's just as effective as an actual Supreme Court Ruling.  

  •  We face many of the same problems that plagued (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    us during that time, today.

    We have forgotten that it is, as it ever was, a class war.

    Too many of us have accepted the myths created specifically to dupe us into believing that "anybody can make it" and so on.

    Those brief aberrations in our history when one party or another has taken action to improve conditions for some of the "small people", have always been the exception and have always served, primarily, to placate a rising anger toward the ruling class, and in so doing, to preserve the system that allows the ruling class to exist.

    The Hamiltons still exist, and they have run the show since that revolutionary generation, and their egalitarian ideals, died out. We were given a chance to create something so much better, but we forgot how and why it came about in the first place.

    "Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities." - Voltaire

    by Greyhound on Sun Apr 24, 2011 at 06:29:47 AM PDT

  •  Thanks for making the effort (4+ / 0-)

    The criticism you see is harsh, but your work far outweighs that.  I never understood the Whiskey Rebellion before now, and the lack of infrastructure clearly makes that plain to me.  It also makes it plain that, today, net neutrality is another example of the continual struggle between the corporate elite and the people, as is health care, social security, tort reform, and the right to collectively bargain.

    What is rarely delineated in this discussion is just from whom corporations derive their existence.  Because it retains certain rights not available to just anyone, a corporation exists solely as a grant of sovereignty from the people within the state it is chartered.  I remember as a young man noticing Delaware being an especially generous state in which to charter a corporation, compared to a highly regulated state such as Wisconsin.  Is this an example of an entire state taking advantage of an unequal situation in an act of unenlightened self-interest?  In other words, the state in which a corporation is chartered can determine just how much of that sovereignty is granted to the corporation.

    If the people want to limit the power of corporations, for the good of the country (or even just the state), they must learn about how their sovereignty- their rights- have been parceled out to business.  We the people must learn how to rein in the abuses of power that corporations are doing in our names.  We have that right, by demanding- requiring corporations to account for their externalized costs.  These costs are the social and environmental costs of the way a given corporation is doing business.

    How the rationale for a corporation's existence drifted from that of a specialized entity, endowed with power from the people, and chartered to improve the general condition of all citizens, into an entity whose primary defining principle is to generate the greatest profits for its investors, is an example of usurping power that is bringing America to its knees.  It is enshrined by the wealthy as an inalienable right.  But just think about it for a minute.  That assertion means that the rest of us exist to play our part in generating wealth to the investor class; what C. Wright Mills called, "wage slavery".

    Screw that!

    April 25 is Sovereignty Day in the Navajo Nation.  It is a reminder of how Native people had their sovereignty stripped from them during the past 500 years, and how the struggle goes on even today.  Perhaps it would be good to reflect on how that which the people of the United States has done to others in the past is now what we are seeing happen to us today.

    Thanks again for such a clear summary of the idea of wealth the early citizenry held.  It is really incredible to think that my great-grandfather, who held me in his lap, was around pre-civil war.

    Poverty exists in direct proportion to greed.

    by jcrit on Sun Apr 24, 2011 at 06:34:32 AM PDT

    •  Certain Corporations think they are beyond any (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      jcrit, OldDragon, Aunt Martha

      government.  Your Delaware example is now multiplied by how many cash havens worldwide.  And the idea of corporate personhood.  I got nothing against that if there is a death penalty for them rather than they get all the profit and the public takes all the risk like the Koch boys like.

      Tea Parties are for little girls with imaginary friends.

      by J Edward on Sun Apr 24, 2011 at 06:53:14 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Diary hard to read (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Nada Lemming

    Each time I see "Hobbes" I'm distracted with the image of a stuffed tiger.

  •  I think the best thing the FF did might have been, (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jcrit, zedaker

    at least partially, unintentional. The system they created has had some capacity for adjusting to new realities so that no faction became "too" dominant.

    Where unfairness has been institutionalized we've had the means to change it--even when the struggle has been a long one, improvement was possible. Earlier forms of government either lacked this or lost it.

    The Randian Populists (the irony is delicious, no?) may finally eliminate this power of correcting power imbalances, but if they do they will "inherit the wind."

    Gloomy as it can seem, seeing the greedy prosper disproportionately, this too will pass.

    An optimist may see a light where there is none, but why must the pessimist always run to blow it out? Rene Descartes

    by Had Enough Right Wing BS on Sun Apr 24, 2011 at 08:21:32 AM PDT

    •  nice sig line (nt) (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Had Enough Right Wing BS

      Poverty exists in direct proportion to greed.

      by jcrit on Sun Apr 24, 2011 at 09:00:13 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  sadly, (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Had Enough Right Wing BS

      i think we've already lost that power of changing slowly and that we're passing a bloody big stone that will leave us changed in unknowable ways if it doesn't kill us outright (us being a nation and all).

      blink-- pale cold

      by zedaker on Sun Apr 24, 2011 at 11:30:09 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Tmes are undeniably tough but, without hope (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        everything seems pointless. I didn't mean to imply that change slowly achieved was somehow "better," rather that sometimes that's all we can manage.

        Me? I like a home-run, just like anyone, but I'll take a single and be happy about it. Sometimes a rally starts slow, other times it's sudden and unexpected and shocks everyone.

        I don't know a lot of history, but I do know this is not the first time things have looked grim.

        Another image I get a lot, when I think about how some are amassing such huge amounts of wealth, are gangster movies--or even the Showtime series "Weeds" --as income starts to build up the cash seems to develop a mind of its own.

        We shouldn't expect people who've lived lives without a proper understanding of their own self-interest in a healthy vibrant society to suddenly become eager to share. Maybe reminding people of the benefits of dispersing moneyed factions as J Edward has done will help. In any case,  when it looks as if our options are being reduced to a point of leaving us no choices at all, the right-wingers have accidentally done us a favor: if it seems to many as if they're doomed, they have no reason to hold back anything.

        The other side is powerful and rich, both of which can have disadvantages.

        An optimist may see a light where there is none, but why must the pessimist always run to blow it out? Rene Descartes

        by Had Enough Right Wing BS on Sun Apr 24, 2011 at 04:43:31 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  another awsome diary (0+ / 0-)

    everyone should read this including school children

    two great diaries in two days on the founding fathers!

  •  Why doesn't anybody say anything about Reagan? (0+ / 0-)

    Tea Parties are for little girls with imaginary friends.

    by J Edward on Sun Apr 24, 2011 at 09:23:22 AM PDT

  •  I Regret I have but one Recommend to Give (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    luckydog, vets74

    I have gotten tired of hearing Teabaggers suggest that our country was founded on the principle of anti-social individualism.

    Thank you for this thorough rebuttal.

    •  John Adams's constitution for Massachusetts (0+ / 0-)

      was the model for Madison's work on the national version.

      His letters state what he thought about these issues.

      Financial criminals + Angry White Males + Personality Disorder dreamers + KKKwannabes + George Will =EQ= The GOPer Base (-4.38,-3.74)

      by vets74 on Sun Apr 24, 2011 at 12:06:26 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Thanks for the pointer! (0+ / 0-)

        I didn't know this...very cool.

        There is discussion about it here.

        It seems clear to me that the "social compact" of which it speaks entails a balance of individual privileges with social responsibilities for the "common good."

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