Thursday, June 02, 2011

A horse, a horse! My kingdom for a horse!

I picked the title of this blog post from Shakespeare's Richard the Third because it seemed so appropriate. In the play, Richard is about to meet his doom at the hands of Henry VII and his horse is dead. This line is supposed to be his valiant cry, signifying his determination to continue to fight.

I think today I'd change it to:

An honest man, an honest man! Our nation for an honest man!

This thought came to me as I read today's Patriot Post 'Founder's Quote Daily' from James Madison:

"Whatever may be the judgement pronounced on the competency of the architects of the Constitution, or whatever may be the destiny of the edifice prepared by them, I feel it a duty to express my profound and solemn conviction ... that there never was an assembly of men, charged with a great and arduous trust, who were more pure in their motives, or more exclusively or anxiously devoted to the object committed to them."

I realized that, given similar circumstances today, I don't believe we'd be able to find more than 10 individuals who would be 'pure in their motives' and capable of producing a document like our Constitution.

Our founders were actually ordinary men with ordinary jobs and lives - but they did an extraordinary thing. "Exclusively or anxiously devoted" to the task of giving us a document that would establish a government capable of surviving longer than just about any other, rooted in the idea that men are inherently free and that governments should serve men by ensuring that freedom, rather than being served by people who were essentially slaves to the authority.

What a brilliant concept!

In developing the structure of government, they placed limits on it while leaving citizens with the power and authority. They studied the histories and did their best to address deficits that led other governments to their downfall. They considered future needs (the amendment process) and thought through the way things would work. They anticipated consequences and posed - and answered - questions about how things should be conducted and 'what if...' scenarios.

In thinking about all of this, I couldn't help but wonder if we have that capacity today? Sadly, I do not think so.

Too many of our elected representatives are interested only in catering to the special interests that put them in the position in the first place. We have politicians at all levels refer to 'working families' which we all know is code for 'union.' They emphasize that their votes/actions are for the 'working families.' But they are not elected to represent only a specific portion of our population; they are supposed to be doing what is in the best interest of ALL!

In the last 90 years, we've expanded our federal government beyond all imagination of our founders. Government rules us - through regulations and codes and laws - even to the point where we cannot possibly understand it all and often have to consult 'experts' (accountants, attorneys, specialists) to help us know what it is we're supposed to do to be in compliance.

Government tells us what kind of car we can buy, what kind of light bulb we can use, how much water our toilets can process, what information must be present on our food packaging, what kind of bag to use at the grocery store, what kind of fence we can put up, what kind of dock we can build on our waterfronts (if we can even build one at all!), what the volume level of our commercials on TV can be, and on and on and on.

WSPD's afternoon show host Brian Wilson regularly offers a prize to the person who can name the one thing that government doesn't regulate, control, tax, etc... As far as I know, it's a trick question: there isn't anything.

With this type of government today, is it any surprise that I'm so pessimistic about the ability to find an honest man who could engage upon the task our founders faced?

Some people, recognizing that government is so out of control, have suggested a Constitutional Convention. I wholeheartedly reject that idea - out of fear that what we'd end up with would be so distant in scope and meaning from the one we currently have that, when completed, we'd be slaves by Constitution, rather than just by recent practice.

And then I look at the people who comprise this great nation. Yes, there are lots of good, honest people. But do they have the training and capacity to ask the right questions in order to obtain the right answers? I don't think there are as many as most of us would like.

Throughout my political career, I was often told (by supporters and opponents alike) that I asked good questions. I attribute that to my excellent training in college from men like Bill Rosenberg (retired managing editor of The Blade and my advisor on The Collegian newspaper) and William Day (former Blade editor and one of my professors and informal adviser - he recommended me for my Dow Jones Newspaper Fund internship), who taught me the value of not only asking the right question, but knowing what the answer should be.

It was training that served me well, but it still strikes me how often others didn't seem to think about issues and next steps and 'what ifs' in order to come up with similar questions on their own. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying I'm smarter than everyone else - just trained in a different manner.

But if that was my experience in elective office, how much more so is it a problem among the general populace, with today's failed public education system and especially in an age where American Idol gets more participation than an election and everyone expects problems to be solved in 30 minutes like in a sitcom?

Where would we find individuals capable of acting like our founders? And could we be sure that they wouldn't succumb to the pressures of lobbyists and special interests and various groups and agents?

Are we, like King Richard, facing our doom, willing to trade everything for an honest man who would abide by the Constitution and not seek to expand government into a slave master? Or one who would begin to repeal the damage done over the past several decades?

Thinking about this makes me very sad about what our nation has become. And I wonder if we're not witnessing the beginning of our end.

For more on this subject, I recommend the following links:

Leslie Carbone's "Constitutional Limits"
Bill Collier's "Freedom Faces A Progressive Assault"
Skip Murphy's "Is there an honest man - even one?" and "Given no honest men - 'what do we do'?"
Dr. Bill Smith's "Constitutional Convention - Not A Good Idea!"


Publius said...

I blame our schools a lot for this. We no longer graduate "citizens" into the world. Instead we disgorge grasping, self-important, ill-informed, users into society.

BlueCollarMuse said...

Ahhhh, Mags ...

Not only do you ask good questions, you make excellent observational statements!

Excellent work, as always.

Thanks for saying what needs to be said. And for starting this discussion which I feel certain will continue elsewhere.


Maggie said...

Publius - indeed...schools are teaching kids WHAT to think rather than HOW to think. Oh - and focusing on their feelings and self-esteem and everything but the basics they need to know in order to be good citizens...

Perhaps that's the point, though. With today's education they cannot be good citizens - just good slaves dependent upon the ever-increasing control of the government

skeeter1107 said...


First off I would like to commend you on a well thought out, well written and from the heart post.

There are a couple of areas that you hit upon that I would like to address. First is the education aspect of your post.

It is a nice touch that you used Shakespeare's play as a vebicle to make your point. Very high minded of you. But for us lesser souls, I will make it simpler.

For too many of our youth, our public/government education system in America has devoled into a mind numbing waste of time. To use an analogy, I pose the following.

We have gone from "Why did the chicken cross the road?" to "When did the chicken cross the road?" We have gone from asking for the meaning, to instead simply repeating a dogma of government/union/media facts and figures.

We see it everyday with the "ignorance is bliss" management of our government and economy. We witness the dichotomy of one group of politicians screaming about the financial iceberg ahead all the while others are cheerfully telling the passengers to enjoy the cruise, "everything is just fine."

The second part is the more difficult. Finding the "honest" amongst us. The good news is that they are there in our everyday lives. The bad news is that they are few and far between when it comes to government.

Why? A variety of reasons.

Why would anyone want to subject themselves and their family members to the ridicule, derision and innuendo associated with running for public office?

However, I think the larger reason is that at the founding of our nation, politicians saw government offices as a duty and obligation, not a career choice. For them it was a burden of time and financial well being.

Today politicians are too often "career politicians." Some never having any significant experience in the private sector. As an example, Joe Biden was elected to his first public offiice when he was either 26 or 28 years old. He is now I think 70 years old. So for the last 40 plus years, all things for Joe Biden flowed from government. Is it then any wonder that these politicians would have a skewed "all things flow from government" view of the world? Of course not.

We can simply look around Lucas County and see numerous politicians that have had a half dozen offices or political appointments while "building up their pension." Who hasn't heard them exclaim "this next term or appointment will get me vested!"

So how do we fix it?

Somehow we need to remove the compelling financial incentives that come with elected office or appointments. It should truly be a service to the public, not the public subservient to the politician. At that point I think we will find those "honest people" you talk about Maggie.

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