October 29, 2012

Voter Education Vol 1

I am reposting a series of essays I wrote prior to the 2008 elections. You may find them interesting.


There has been a lot of talk this election regarding the role of Government in our lives. I will try to speak in general terms when discussing this issue and use the generic term Liberal and Conservative to label the various viewpoints. Using the political party labels is difficult as the Republicans and Democrats reversed positions on the roll of Government during the 1890s.

For the purpose of this discussion, Liberals will be those persons who believe in a strong Federal Government and an increased role of all levels of government in the social, political, and economic policies of the Republic. They believe man needs to be governed. Conservatives will be those who believe in a limited Government, firm believers in the policy of the Government that governs least, governs best".

To understand the Constitution we must take a quick side trip in history to the time of Enlightenment and the changing roll of Government and The Church in Europe. Some people decry the Eurocentric historiography of America, but in reality the foundations of our Nation and its government come from Europe. In particular the lawyers and printers and educated class of Colonial America came primarily from England. These are the men who crafted our founding documents and designed our Nation's political system.

Stop stop stop (insert braking sound here). To get a complete understanding of this subject we are going to have to go back and discuss the religious, political and economic evolutions over about three centuries. We will have to delve into the Crusades, the Magna Carta, Martin Luther, Charles Martel and then tackle Locke and Columbus, Cortez, and Hudson. The reigns of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I. This is going to take about 20 posts and 5 hours of reading for you. Before I go much further I will have lost 79 of my 80 regular readers. My last reader at that point, GuyK, will be skimming since he already knows the history.

As a compromise I am going to ask you to take my word the Founders believed certain things, they were educated in a certain way. If you have further questions or doubts I will be glad to answer your specifics directly or point you in which direction to do your research. Besides, this should have been covered in school. Unfortunately most text books cover these subjects but never tie them in. Historians often think the non-historian can make the connections or is even interested enough to try. Most people cannot and are not. The teaching of history is a completely different bug up my ass we will discuss at a later date.

By the early 1700s farmers comprised only a little more than 1/3 of the workers in Great Britain. As a heavily populated island nation, Britain depended on her colonies to supply raw materials and foodstuffs. The American colonies were among the chief suppliers. At the same time nearly 80% of the American colonists were involved in agriculture. Few in Europe were land holders, an astonishing 90+ percent of colonists owned land. Americans enjoyed significant freedoms not allowed in Britain. A century and a half of what has been termed "benign neglect" from the Crown of England saw the colonies develop their own political system, including local and "state" governments and courts. None of these were sanctioned by the King or Parliament, but the appointed Royal Governors used them to efficiently run the colonies. As long as the colonies made money for English merchants and caused no trouble, they were left alone.

As part of a greater European War (The Seven Years War), the Colonies and their British Sovereign found themselves embroiled in a war with France in the 1750s and early 1760s. The theater of war that occurred in North America was the so called French and Indian War. You may have a vague recollection of this -- it was covered in the first weeks of 8th Grade history. This war was one of the root causes of the Revolution.

The Treaty of Paris settled the conflict and Great Britain came into possession of most of what is now the US and Canada east of the Mississippi. as a result if the War, the Crown was heavily in debt. As we know from Iraq, wars are uncommonly expensive. Without boring you with details -- that is not our purpose here -- the interest on the debt alone consumed about 70% of the gross revenues of the Royal Treasury. The people of great Britain were already among the heaviest taxed in Europe and the King was looking for additional revenue. He turned his eye westward to his rich American Colonies.

Stick with me. In the next post we will get to how this led to the Revolution, The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. We will examine the politics that leads to modern Liberal and Conservative thought.

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