We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
Robert P. Murphy has written an excellent essay featured on the Ludwig von Mises Institute site, addressing the importance of shared convictions between government and governed. The quotes he cites are from Mises’ seminal work, Human Action.
A durable system of government must rest upon an ideology acknowledged by the majority. The “real” factor, the ‘real forces’ that are the foundation of government and convey to the rulers the power to use violence against renitent minority groups are essentially ideological, moral, and spiritual… power dwindles if the ideology that supports it loses force…
[Classical] liberalism realizes that the rulers, who are always a minority, cannot lastingly remain in office if not supported by the consent of the majority of those ruled. Whatever the system of government may be, the foundation upon which it is built and rests is always the opinion of those ruled that to obey and to be loyal to this government better serves their own interests than insurrection and the establishment of another regime. The majority has the power to do away with an unpopular government and uses this power whenever it becomes convinced that its own welfare requires it.
Murphy underscores Mises’ thesis of the importance of ideas by pointing out that totalitarian governments always control the media, suppress opposing views, and propagandize in favor of the regime. “The supreme ruler might spend hours every week giving long-winded speeches explaining … how fortunate the people are to be taken care of by such a wise and benevolent leader.”
Murphy explains the discontent roiling the Mideast as an example of subject peoples overturning regimes that do not represent their interests and whose ideologies they do not share.
In Mises’ words, “It is ultimately ideas that determine which way the soldiers point their guns.”
In our system of government, the power to depose is exercised at the ballot box.
The so-called Affordable Health Care Act revealed a divide between the convictions of a large part of the American electorate and those of the 111th Congress and the President. The Republican sweep in the 2010 election was the result. But how did such a disparity of views between the electorate and those they elected come about?
Societies which fail to transmit their core beliefs to the next generation can expect those beliefs to erode, sometimes by design, sometimes by default or by carelessness. Standards not reinforced whither away. Liberty, independence and equality under the law give way to less demanding ideals.
How many Americans nodded in agreement when candidate Obama told Joe the plumber, “when you spread the wealth around, it’s good for everybody?” How many Americans saw nothing amiss with the concept that government should decide how much people should be allowed to keep of what they earn? How many agreed that government should redistribute those earnings to those it finds deserving?
How many people flinched when Michael Moore, on national television, told “the rich and bankers … we have a right to your money?”
Moore was defending public employees in Wisconsin who don’t want to contribute 5.8% of their salaries to help pay for their pensions, or 12.6% of their health-insurance premiums, (both numbers far below what most private sector workers pay). Public sector unions are important benefactors for the Democratic Party. In exchange for campaign contributions, unions receive unfettered access to the public till. That Wisconsin is 3.6 billion in debt is immaterial. Moore told them where to get the money.
Ben Franklin predicted that the end of the republic would come “when the people find that they can vote themselves money.”
To stay in power, the regime only needs to keep increasing the population who receive economic benefits from it. When does the entitlement mentality become so pervasive, (an important part of Obama’s health care strategy) that Ben Franklin’s dour prophecy is fulfilled?
If Congress musters the courage to step on what is thought to be the third rail of politics and restructure entitlements (Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security),* will the electorate be supportive, or sweep reforms and reformers away in 2012?
As in Rome, has the tipping point been reached?
…the people that once bestowed commands, consulships, legions, and all else, now meddle no more and longs eagerly for just two things—bread and circuses. Juvenal
The only certainty is that time is liberty’s enemy. The appetite for benefits increases as each new one takes its place in the pantheon of entitlements and, once awarded, (as the rioting mob in Wisconsin illustrates) cannot easily be rescinded.
The Founders risked their lives to be free and to bequeath that freedom to future generations. All Congress risks are political careers that, if freedom is no longer valued and the nation is bankrupt, won’t be worth preserving anyway.
“Over the next few decades, the costs of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid will explode, causing debt to jump from 55 to 300 percent of GDP… Just how high would taxes have to go to pay for entitlements?” According to a Congressional Budget Office estimate “individual marginal tax rates for every bracket and corporate tax rates must more than double,” resulting in levels that “would significantly reduce economic activity” and “would probably not be economically feasible.” Heritage Foundation