Our family is in the car, dad driving, mom next to him in the front, my brother and sister and I in the backseat. We’re on our way on the first day of a trip to Sequoia National Park or maybe the mountains of Big Bear for a few days. My sister and I start acting up, (I probably instigated it). Dad looks back at us through his rearview mirror and says, “If you don’t knock it off back there and behave yourselves, I’ll turn this car around right now and go home!” That was dad’s threatening line; evidently a lot of dads used that same line back then, since you hear other people quoting it, even now. But I’m here to tell you, it was true. My father really said that.
I think of that line now, not in terms of family car trips, but in terms of our country and where we are all going on this great American road trip. From where I sit (in the back seat) it seems we Americans are now on a road which is heading to a destination far different than the one originally intended by our founding fathers. Compare what Thomas Jefferson’s vision of American government was with where we are today. A few of his quotes:
On excessive taxation and government regulation: “A wise and frugal government, which shall leave men free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned – this is the sum of good government.”
On the right to bear arms: “Laws that forbid the carrying of arms…disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes…Such laws make things worse for the assaulted and better for the assailants; they serve rather to encourage than to prevent homicides, for an unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed man.”
On welfare and other government entitlement programs: “I predict future happiness for Americans if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them.”
On the redistribution of wealth: “The democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not.”
And finally he said, “Experience has shown, that even under the best forms of government those entrusted with power have, in time, and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny.” Jefferson believed, as did the other founders, in a limited federal government. He knew that the larger the government became, the less individual freedoms would exist for the people.
On the final day of the four-month long Constitutional Convention, Benjamin Franklin was leaving Independence Hall when a woman approached him and asked, “Well, Doctor, what have we got – a republic or a monarchy?” Franklin responded, “A republic …if you can keep it.” That’s the million dollar question for us going forward, can we keep our republic? Is it possible to scale back government intrusion and regulations allowing us to make basic decisions for ourselves and our families once again? Or will the federal government continue to grow until it controls every single aspect of our lives?
Remember H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine? Remember how the Time Traveler tests his machine with a journey that takes him far into the future where he meets the Eloi, a society of small, elegant, androgynous, and childlike people. They live in small communities within large and futuristic yet slowly deteriorating buildings, doing no work and having a vegan-like diet.
The Traveler’s efforts to communicate with them are hampered by their lack of curiosity or discipline, and he speculates that they are a peaceful, communist society, the result of humanity conquering nature with technology, and subsequently evolving to adapt to an environment in which strength and intellect are no longer advantageous to survival. Sound familiar? Sounds sort of like where we’re headed now, huh? Oh yeah, one little thing, the Eloi periodically got rounded up and eaten by the Morlocks, their “keepers.” So how would you like to become one of the Eloi? How does that work for you?
America was at its zenith when government was kept minimal and the individual was allowed to make his own way in the world. The American dream is not to make everyone equal. The American dream is to give everyone an equal chance to make it on his or her own. Under that ideal, not everyone prospers, but everyone has the chance to prosper. And if you prosper you should keep what you worked for. Work hard, live honest and you can succeed. That was the idea.
Big government handouts are dangerous because people get used to getting them. The more free stuff you get the less incentive you have to work. Conversely, if you are the one who is working hard making money and the government keeps taking more and more of it from you, then you lose the incentive to work also. Either way it destroys the work ethic.
We have to knock it off and start behaving ourselves again and do the right thing. It’s time to turn this car around, kids.