Wisconsin… the Debt… the Tea Party… Public Sector Unions – all of the details of these events have been covered much better by other people. But to try to understand what’s really going on here, I don’t think we should step forward into the details. I think we need to step back. Way back.
The United States – as envisioned by our Founders and as laid out by our Constitution – survived pretty much intact for over a hundred years.
It was only after the Civil War that America fundamentally began to change, because that was the cusp of a change much bigger than mere political change.
This kind of change has only happened three times – not in the Nation’s history, but in ALL of history.
The first of these matachanges occurred so far back in the past that we have no written record of it in any language. That first metachange occurred when bands of hunter-gatherers first learned how to cultivate crops. They could grow enough food to not have to wander to fresh pastures, and the result was the rise of the first cities and the first great Age of Mankind – the Agricultural Age. Agriculture meant a city-state; a city-state meant the first governments, and the first money, too.
The Agricultural age lasted for about 7,000 years. And an open, horizontal, decentralized America – based on Agriculture – was the America that was designed for us by the Founders.
Then, at the close of the nineteenth century, society changed in a fundamental way. American freedom and inventiveness – what used to be commonly called Yankee Ingenuity – allowed the United States to go from being a backwater in the Agricultural Age to the predominant power of the Second Age, the Age of Industry… the Industrial Revolution.
Now, just as it was a social trauma for most of an entire population to go from being hunter-gatherers into becoming farmers, so too was it hard – very hard – for our society to go from being primarily farmers into being primarily factory workers and what would later be called “company men.” And during this time, as the Industrial Age dawned and with it unimagined opportunities for new wealth, so too rose the men known as the Robber Barons – not free-market capitalists, but men who practiced mercantilism – crony capitalism – men who used political connections to write the laws that favored them and their monopolies.
At the end of the nineteenth century, these anti-competition Mercantilists were buying not just individual politicians, but entire legislatures, entire cities, including the greatest city in the world. If you wanted to do business in New York in the 1800’s for every dollar you spent on your business you had to put one – just one if you were lucky – into the pockets of Boss Tweed and Tammany Hall – basically the Democratic Party – for the privilege.
And so the Progressive movement started, as all hell-bound philosophies do, with the best of intentions: eliminating the political corruption epidemic in the system – the unholy alliance of money buying political influence to write laws and regulations to stifle competition, endanger and virtually enslave workers, set prices, and make tons of money to buy new politicians with. To combat these ills, Progressives sought to empower a centralized, vertically structured, top-down Federal government that could mirror perfectly the centralized, vertically structured, industrial economy. They wanted a government more powerful than the Robber Barons. And they got it, too.
In just a few years – twice in 1913 and again in 1919 – the Progressive Movement passed three Constitutional Amendments that radically changed the kind of country we live in shifting enormous, previously undreamt of power, into Washington.
The 16th Amendment authorized the Income tax, which gave the federal government, for the first time, the power to look into your wallet, and which started to divide the country — psychologically – into those who pay and those who receive.
Should you have to pay a higher tax at the gas pump if you drive a Lexus than if you drive an old Chevy? Should you get to check the wallet of the guy ahead of you in line, to see if he has more money than you so he can pay for some of your groceries?
Well, that’s what the 16th Amendment did – it made THAT kind of thinking normal, and more importantly, it put HUGE sums of OTHER PEOPLE’S MONEY in the hands of politicians.
The 17th Amendment seemed innocent enough: it changed the way US Senators were chosen. Previously appointed by the state legislatures, the 17th made Senators elected by the people. Democracy! Only, there was already a house that represented the people – the House of Representatives. The founders had intentionally designed the Senate to be the State’s House: Just as the House of Representatives would protect the rights of the citizens against federal power-grabs, the Senate, where each state received two senators, no matter how large or populous would protect state power against a Federal power grab. The 17th Amendment eliminated that diffusing force.
And finally, the signature Progressive legislation: the 18th Amendment. Prohibition. The truly Progressive Amendment, it was the first time in American history that an amendment was written to TAKE AWAY A FREEDOM. People had been drinking alcohol since at least the invention of Agriculture, 7,000 years before. But the Progressive, you see, knows what is better for you than you do. It’s never about them, or their pathological need to control and order other people’s lives, or their sick need to have the power over you to enforce their will over you. No, it’s always for your own good.
That is, of course, the fatal flaw in progressivism – a belief that their own goodness could keep them from being corrupted by rivers of money and power over others that had corrupted the Robber Barons before them. But the money available to Progressives through taxation was orders of magnitude greater than the relatively meager private fortunes that had bought politicians before.
Okay. What now?
Well, a new metachange is occurring – and we are living through it as we speak. A new age, the third age, the DIGITAL AGE is upon us. And as the smartest man in Congress – that would be Thad McCotter whose simple hand gesture got me thinking along these lines – pointed out to me; today, just about anybody can reach into their pocket and order goods or services from anywhere on the planet, and have them delivered within a few days, if not a few hours.
Like the hunters who became farmers, and the farmers who became company men, we are now going from being company men to dispersed, decentralized, independent, interconnected FREE AGENTS. Because the Industrial Age is drawing to a close as the Information Age takes its place. And all of our economic structure is – once again – going back to being horizontal, independent, light, fast, agile, decentralized, local, smaller and cheaper.
The old dinosaurs may totter for a while but they will eventual fall. And the government that will come out of our Third Wave, Information Age society will HAVE to be fast, decentralized, local, smaller and cheaper as well But who could conceive of, much less design such an open-source, freedom-based, limited government?
IT’S AN UTTER MYSTERY.
Which is why what we are seeing with the Tea Party is so remarkable: people, whether they realize it or not, are using the new toys of the Information Age to create a political structure to match the economic one. It is a political pushback against BIG: Big Government, Big Spending, Big, inefficient, corrupt, badly managed and financially unsustainable programs, and – as if by instinct – back to the kind of dispersed, decentralized, horizontal, local and small type of government that worked well for the First Age, was hijacked by the Progressives for the Second, and now is returning again for the Third.
This clash between fundamentally conflicting philosophies, this fight between small government Tea Party supporters and big government unionists now going on in Wisconsin is not, as Winston Churchill once said, the end… or even the beginning of the end. But it may be the end of the beginning.
It is the people with the Gadsden Flags – the ones calling for less government – that are on the side of the future… not the public sector union members living in the past to preserve benefits and entitlements that OTHER PEOPLE have to pay for… No, these Public Sector Unions actually have become the old, corrupt alliance of money and political power that they themselves were created to destroy.
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