Thursday, July 5, 2012

4 Things All Americans Should Know Part 2

As a continuation of my Independence Day Post, I give you points 3 &4 of the 4 things every American Should Know...& I promise this time it'll be brief~*

3.  The Independence Day is NOT connected to the Constitution.

Independence Day was July 4, 1776.  The war ended in 1781, the peace was signed in 1783 & the Constitution was written in 1788.  The government of the revolutionary period was outlined in the Articles of Confederation-- a failed attempt at decentralized power, that granted the states dominance over the federal government.
Image 1 of 4, Articles of confederation and perpetual union betw
You can read the details here

Why did the Articles fail?  Well, in a nutshell the founders had been far too optimistic.  The guiding force behind the Articles was that citizens would insist that the state government participate in the federal government voluntarily-- that the feds, for example, would have only to ask for funds to pay veterans of the rvolution & the state government would obligingly donate tax money.
Uhm.  Not so much.
The states wouldn't raise money to pay the soldiers who had won the revolution-- but they would tax 'em.
Soldiers returning home from the war discovered that the states had levied outrageous property taxes & expected to be paid in full.  Some states forgave the debt in lieu of payment of wages earned during the war, others agreed to allow the veterans time to pay, others seized their property and forgave the debt, and others slapped the returning heroes into debtors' prison.  The problem was, states claimed, the Continental Army was a federal army, right?  So the fact the soldiers had risked their lives on behalf of the new nation had nothing to do with the state government. {Side note:  we in America have along history of abusing our returning veterans by denying funding, cutting support or outright ignoring them.  News flash: a yellow ribbon "support our troops" magnet does nothing to support our soldiers-- it supports the magnet manufacturer & retailer & the magnet owners ego}.  The tax money the states were raising was going to vanity projects instead-- building fancy state buildings, for example, or governor's houses-- you know, important stuff that was likely to get a guy reelected.
So what happened?
The soldiers revolted.  Thousands of them.  Shays' Rebellion, it was called-- not because the man, Daniel Shays, organized the rebellion, but because, as a Captain, he was the highest ranking officer involved in the fracas.

More on Shays' Rebellion

The rebellion was quashed in due course & George Washington pardoned all those involved-- but the damage had been done.  The fatal flaw in the Articles had been exposed-- the only thing state governments & a huge portion of citizenry were willing to pay the federal government was lip service.
Thus, the Constitutional Convention was called to re frame the government, granting the Federal more power while still allowing ample input from the states.
{As a side note:  to all those folks out there screaming about granting states more rights:  it doesn't seem to work when we do that.  It didn't work under the Articles.  It didn't work under the Confederate States of America.  It didn't work in the Gilded Age. I suppose we could keep trying, but why?  As the saying goes,  "iInsanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results."  The same thing goes for people who argue for the deregluation of businesses...we have done that.  It doesn't work.  It didn't work in the Gilded Age.  It didn't work in the 1920s.  It didn't work in the 1980s.  We have had numerous depressions before and we've fixed them pretty much the same way every time.  Why don't we just do what we did to recover from those?  And before you say that the economy was good in the 1980s, no, it wasn't.  In fact, we had the 2nd biggest crash since the Great Depression in the late 1980s, which is why Bush Sr. did not get re elected. Deregulation always causes a bubble, which leads inexorably to a crash.  Always.}

4.  Democracies are messy and rely on compromise because freedom means freedom, not the freedom to think/believe/act like you. 

A democracy like the one designed by the founders of our country depends on the ability of people to come together, set aside petty arguments and reach compromises.  When the Constitution was ratified {and it was by no means unanimous} one of its cornerstones was the idea that people would want the government to succeed.  The idea that people would actually want it to fail in order to prove themselves right never occurred to them-- even after the fiasco of the Articles.
The whole thing hinged on the concept of individual liberty and freedom.  The founders knew that meant there would be (eventually) millions of people with millions of ideas/beliefs/traditions, all trying to work and live together.  In order to get all those people moving in the same direction, compromise had to be built in to the system.  It would mean that the wheels of government would be slow, but, at least in theory, they would be just & above all, fair.
To elect someone to office who insists on no compromise is counter productive on the most extreme level.  No compromise means fascism, not democracy. {I hate to break it to you, but democracy is hard work.  All those Americans who want government out of their lives should move somewhere else-- I'm not saying that to be flip, I am very serious.  For a democracy means NEVER having the government out of your life because, you see, you ARE the government.  If you want to have an easy form of government, then what you are looking for is a benevolent dictator-- they define the rules without your input, and all you have to do is follow them and the government leaves you alone-- easy, peasy.  Which, incidentally, is why it is so difficult to transition a country from dictatorship to democracy.}
Freedom means freedom.  It means that people won't share the same religion, or values, or ideals, or dreams, or plans.  It means that we have to find a way to work together-- and the way the Constitution was written, the way to work together is by protecting each others' rights to be individuals.  Your morals & values are yours, not mine, and the Constitution is designed to protect the difference.  You may believe that certain things are against your religious beliefs, and that is fine, and the government will protect you.  You can even show up with offensive signs announcing the fact that you think something is immoral or wrong.  You can preach from the street corner, you can picket, you can protest.  You can offer alternatives to what you think is evil.  But you can not make laws that force me to follow your beliefs.  The Constitution, and in particular the Bill of Rights, is designed to protect the citizen from the government-- to prevent politicians from forcing us to believe/think/act like them {no matter how hard they try}.
So how do we survive?  We must compromise, always with an eye to preserving our own individuality. That is the way our system was designed.  It is the only way our nation, at least as envisioned by the founders, can survive.  Of course it isn't perfect, but what is?

See, that was much shorter than yesterday now wasn't it?

And thus, at least for now, endeth the lecture.  I'll be back tomorrow & just wait til you see what I've come up with!


  1. You are so right about people wanting the government to fail...such a strange thing!

  2. Love all the history lessons... especially love the political commentary!

  3. I'm not american and I didn't know anything about this, but I'm so glad I read this post. Love your history lessons!

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