Happy birthday to our great American Experiment!
Our local morning talk show had many callers who were concerned about American’s poor reputation over much of the world and concerns about the health of the USA as a democracy. I’m not so pessimistic, believing that we should view the violence and instability around the world as caused by those who want violence, instability, and major change rather than those who have as their objective personal freedom, religious freedom, free speech, and prosperity for almost everybody. (ummm – that would be my country that wants all that, right?!)
America’s mistakes – and there are many – almost always come from a *distortion* of the ideas and ideals of the founders rather than as part of the great American experiment. Slavery, poverty, civil unrest, political power abuses, corruption, and most or our other American problems here and abroad are in defiance of the basic US Constitutional and ideological framework, not part of it. Critics of America both here and abroad should spend more time asking themselves “what is the right course of action” and far less time ranting about whatever course the other party/person/nation is currently taking.
Even the founders themselves recognized the challenges of a populist democratic experiment, and even the remarkable and otherwise politically prescient Ben Franklin notably suggested that he’d be surprised if the American experiment in democracy and personal freedom he helped inspire would last very long.
Ironically, Franklin also noted that people should not complain about taxes – unless the rate got to a terribly outrageous amount approaching 10% – in which case another revolution would be justified. “Yo, Ben, put DOWN that muzzle loader, we tax the heck out of everybody now”…
One great irony of the current American situation is how far we’ve come from the original vision of the founders. Even the founders would struggle to understand the sheer volume of our American empire – the largest economic and military power in history. They’d also certainly view with great skepticism our huge federal and state Governments bureaucracies, and also be very concerned about how aggressively we have sought to maintain our power or the power of our allies through force in so many regions of the world. The founders were globalists – remarkable for that time – but they viewed large, centralized governments as dangerous, unneccessary, and an inhibition to innovation and progress.
We are heading to Philadelphia next week and I’ll hope to get some insights about our great American experiment as I sit in the cradle of American liberty. Are we now adrift or does America remain the shining beacon of liberty, justice, and prosperity to all our fellow global citizens? Maybe …. we are both.