01 November 2013

Evils of government

Examining the Declaration of Independence past the famous opening lines shows a type of society that is unique amongst mankind.  It is a society that is tolerant of much in the way of government abuse and over-reach and yet one that has its limits and will, in the end, push back against that government which has over-reached itself in regards to the individuals in society and society itself.

The pertinent text is as follows and I'm using the site Early America for this:

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 to 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. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security. --Such has been the patient sufferance of these colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former systems of government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over these states. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world.

One cannot find such ideas in, say, Italy or Spain, nor in Greece nor Germany, but only in the English tradition.  England is that place which has multiple roots and the name, itself, Angla-Land comes from the Angles who settled the Island along with the Saxons.  Together these Norse peoples, originally from Denmark, created a society that had fused with the local culture so as to form a new society, as I described in Roots of Constitutional Government.  With the formation of England under King Alfred the Great also came the recording of these people's history so that they could know the events of their own past and that was recorded in multiple versions of The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle.  Together the local versions of the Chronicle form the historical understanding of a people up to the Norman Conquest, which would be the third and last major Norse infusion of people and culture into England (original Anglo-Saxons, the victory of Canute and then of William the Conqueror).  The last brought French influence to England, but the local ruling system survived, with changes, even after that time and it was a durable system that left local nobles able to check the power of Kings who over-reached themselves.  Yet, as seen just prior to Canute's victory, it was a system in which years could go by in building pressure to bring a King's grasp under control.  That internal set of divisions did cause the loss at the Battle of Maldon, but the battle itself served as a unifying point for Anglo-Saxon culture.  By that point in time the basics of the society and how it reacted to its government were set.

It is a society in which government over-reach is tolerated to an extent, but the more that government pushes for power over localities, the more that resistance will build.  A central conceit of Progressivism is to encroach so slowly on society with the power of government that the people are corrupted with their own funds. Just as the Declaration came out so, too, did Tom Paine's Common Sense, in which he laid out the case for Independence.  He recorded the state of society in the colonies as follows:

The present state of America is truly alarming to every man who is capable of reflexion. Without law, without government, without any other mode of power than what is founded on, and granted by courtesy. Held together by an unexampled concurrence of sentiment, which, is nevertheless subject to change, and which, every secret enemy is endeavouring to dissolve. Our present condition, is, Legislation without law; wisdom without a plan; a constitution without a name; and, what is strangely astonishing, perfect Independance contending for dependance. The instance is without a precedent; the case never existed before; and who can tell what may be the event? The property of no man is secure in the present unbraced system of things. The mind of the multitude is left at random, and seeing no fixed object before them, they pursue such as fancy or opinion starts. Nothing is criminal; there is no such thing as treason; wherefore, every one thinks himself at liberty to act as he pleases. The Tories dared not have assembled offensively, had they known that their lives, by that act, were forfeited to the laws of the state. A line of distinction should be drawn, between, English soldiers taken in battle, and inhabitants of America taken in arms. The first are prisoners, but the latter traitors. The one forfeits his liberty, the other his head.

Notwithstanding our wisdom, there is a visible feebleness in some of our proceedings which gives encouragement to dissensions. The Continental Belt is too loosely buckled. And if something is not done in time, it will be too late to do any thing, and we shall fall into a state, in which, neither RECONCILIATION nor INDEPENDANCE will be practicable. The king and his worthless adherents are got at their old game of dividing the Continent, and there are not wanting among us, Printers, who will be busy in spreading specious falsehoods. The artful and hypocritical letter which appeared a few months ago in two of the New York papers, and likewise in two others, is an evidence that there are men who want either judgment or honesty.

The media of old is reflected by the current media: it adheres to power, gives it succor and thinks only of itself in relation to power.  Look not for honest amongst them.

The Declaration gives a long list of abuses and usurpations of power by the King, and that puts a final bit into place that describes the society that is forming the Declaration.  These had been going on for years, indeed well over a decade in building up to a breaking point.  It is not a society that takes umbrage quickly nor is it one that seeks to upset the applecart at the slightest excuse, but one that bides its time to judge its government and seek ways to bring it into line with society.

To get a feel for this we can move ahead to the early part of the 20th century and to a piece by Rudyard Kipling called The Beginnings:

It was not part of their blood,
It came to them very late
With long arrears to make good,
When the English began to hate.

They were not easily moved,
They were icy-willing to wait
Till every count should be proved,
Ere the English began to hate.

Their voices were even and low,
Their eyes were level and straight.
There was neither sign nor show,
When the English began to hate.

It was not preached to the crowd,
It was not taught by the State.
No man spoke it aloud,
When the English began to hate.

It was not suddenly bred, 
It will not swiftly abate,
Through the chill years ahead,
When Time shall count from the date
That the English began to hate.

Notice that those preaching hate to crowds, preaching divisiveness and utilizing government to try and stir hatred amongst the citizenry are the ones who become the target of the ire of society.  It does take a long series of abuses and usurpations leading towards despotism to cause such a culture as this to begin to hate... its government.

And no amount of lies by the government or its media sycophants can forestall society when it finally does shift to secure its future once more.