Category Archives: Founding Fathers

Quote Of The Day

On taxes in Boston:

The business of the Town is still decaying, the taxes are not at all lessened, but continue very high — A great many of our industrious inhabitants are gone into the country, the burden now falls on a small number; and they less able to bear it than ever — This number is still decreasing; the rich complain of their rates, and some have moved and others are about moving into the country towns, where they are greatly eased. For my own part, I have a love for my native Town, but as my taxes are so large, I am resolved to move my family into the country.

That, of course, was June 1755, on a front-page letter to the Boston Gazette.

Today’s equivalent would be moving production of goods to low-cost business climates (Nevada, Tennessee, or offshore) rather than just a few towns away, but the economic laws are no different today than they were 255 years ago.

Quote from Samuel Adams: A Life by Ira Stoll [p.27].

On Islam, A Fine Line Between Criticism and Xenophobia

There are serious concerns about radical Islam and political Islam as a movement. It’s something we should be seriously conscious of. I’ve written about this extensively here at TLP.

Given that, there is a very, very fine line between critiquing the retrograde nature of radical Islam and outright xenophobia. I honestly find it hard to discern this line myself, since I am fully ready to call out efforts by Christians, Muslims or any other group to insert religious dogma into politics. Wherever that line is, it is more than readily apparent that many who are protesting the building of a mosque near Ground Zero in New York have crossed it.

There’s a part of the constitution that I’m especially fond of. It’s called the First Amendment:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

The “free exercise thereof” doesn’t just mean free exercise of Roman Catholicism, the faith of mosque critic Newt Gingrich, or Lutheranism, the denomination of Michelle Bachmann, another critic. It counts for Muslims, Jews, Christians, Buddhists or Hindus.

Pennsylvania Department of Revenue Ad: “Find Us Before We Find You”

The Pennsylvania Department of Revenue is currently running an ad – a friendly reminder to encourage PA residents who owe back taxes to pay up because the PDR knows where you live.

Creepy huh?

But don’t be alarmed PA residents who owe back taxes, go to the website (PAtaxPayup.com) and you will find that the PDR is actually doing you a favor: tax “amnesty” for those who pay by June 18, 2010. (The site even features a countdown clock that lets you know how much time you have left. How thoughtful!)

Here are the terms of the amnesty:

Pennsylvania authorized (under Act 48, signed into law on Oct. 9, 2009) a Tax Amnesty period from April 26 to June 18, 2010.

During this limited, 54-day timeframe, the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue will waive 100 percent of penalties and half of the interest for anyone who pays his/her delinquent state taxes.

Individuals, businesses and other entities with Pennsylvania tax delinquencies as of June 30, 2009, are generally eligible to participate in the Tax Amnesty Program.

What a bargain! If you “voluntarily” pay your taxes by June 18th, not only do you get to avoid the whole armed government agents forcibly removing you from your home and taking you to jail thing but they will also take a little less of your money.

In some ways, this is one of the most honest PSAs ever produced by a government agency but still fails to directly address the question of what happens if PA residents allow the PDR to “find them” first. What the ad implies but does not directly say is “If we do find you first, we will make your life very miserable because, we, the government have the legal ability to use deadly force to get our way and you do not.”

Let’s put aside the whole debate about whether or not taxation is legitimate or if it is theft and consider the bigger message. Perhaps George Washington, the father of our country himself said it best:

“Government is not reason, it is not eloquence, it is force; like fire, a troublesome servant and a fearful master. Never for a moment should it be left to irresponsible action.”

Government = Force. Keep this in mind next time you want to ask the government to “do something” on your behalf.

Hat Tip: Reason Hit and Run (also take a look at the June 2004 Reason cover that is eerily similar to the above ad)

Happy Birthday, Mr. Jefferson

America’s Third President was born 267 years ago today.

Since there isn’t anything to write about Jefferson that hasn’t already been said, it seems appropriate to let his words speak for themselves from the text of the two written documents that he was most proud of throughout his life.

First, from the Virginia Statute For Religious Freedom:

[Sec. 1] Whereas Almighty God hath created the mind free; that all attempts to influence it by temporal punishments or burthens, or by civil incapacitations, tend only to beget habits of hypocrisy and meanness, and are a departure from the plan of the Holy author of our religion, who being Lord both of body and mind, yet chose not to propagate it by coercions on either, as it was in his Almighty power to do; that the impious presumption of legislators and rulers, civil as well as ecclesiastical, who being themselves but fallible and uninspired men, have assumed dominion over the faith of others, setting up their own opinions and modes of thinking as the only true and infallible, and as such endeavouring to impose them on others, hath established and maintained false religions over the greatest part of the world, and through all time; that to compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves, is sinful and tyrannical; that even the forcing him to support this or that teacher of his own religious persuasion, is depriving him of the comfortable liberty of giving his contributions to the particular pastor, whose morals he would make his pattern, and whose powers he feels most persuasive to righteousness, and is withdrawing from the ministry those temporary rewards, which proceeding from an approbation of their personal conduct, are an additional incitement to earnest and unremitting labours for the instruction of mankind; that our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions, any more than our opinions in physics or geometry; that therefore the proscribing any citizen as unworthy the public confidence by laying upon him an incapacity of being called to offices of trust and emolument, unless he profess or renounce this or that religious opinion, is depriving him injuriously of those privileges and advantages to which in common with his fellow-citizens he has a natural right; that it tends only to corrupt the principles of that religion it is meant to encourage, by bribing with a monopoly of worldly honours and emoluments, those who will externally profess and conform to it; that though indeed these are criminal who do not withstand such temptation, yet neither are those innocent who lay the bait in their way; that to suffer the civil magistrate to intrude his powers into the field of opinion, and to restrain the profession or propagation of principles on supposition of their ill tendency, is a dangerous fallacy, which at once destroys all religious liberty, because he being of course judge of that tendency will make his opinions the rule of judgment, and approve or condemn the sentiments of others only as they shall square with or differ from his own; that it is time enough for the rightful purposes of civil government, for its officers to interfere when principles break out into overt acts against peace and good order; and finally, that truth is great and will prevail if left to herself, that she is the proper and sufficient antagonist to error, and has nothing to fear from the conflict, unless by human interposition disarmed of her natural weapons, free argument and debate, errors ceasing to be dangerous when it is permitted freely to contradict them:

[Sec. 2] Be it enacted by the General Assembly, That no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinion in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish enlarge, or affect their civil capacities.

And secondly, of course, from the Declaration of Independence:

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

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 of 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 shewn, 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

A perfect man ? No.

A man who saw where the future was going ? Yes, I think absolutely.

Memo To Libertarians: There Was No Golden Age Of Liberty

David Boaz has a great piece over at Reason today on the historical blinders that some libertarians seem to have when looking at America’s past:

When we look at our own country’s history—contrasting 2010 with 1776 or 1910 or 1950 or whatever—the story is less clear. We suffer under a lot of regulations and restrictions that our ancestors didn’t face.

But in 1776 black Americans were held in chattel slavery, and married women had no legal existence except as agents of their husbands. In 1910 and even 1950, blacks still suffered under the legal bonds of Jim Crow—and we all faced confiscatory tax rates throughout the postwar period.

I am particularly struck by libertarians and conservatives who celebrate the freedom of early America, and deplore our decline from those halcyon days, without bothering to mention the existence of slavery. Take R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr., longtime editor of the American Spectator. In Policy Review (Summer 1987, not online), he wrote:

Let us flee to a favored utopia. For me that would be the late 18th Century but with air conditioning….With both feet firmly planted on the soil of my American domain, and young American flag fluttering above, tobacco in the field, I would relish the freedom.

I take it Mr. Tyrrell dreams of being a slave-owner. Because as he certainly knows, most of the people in those tobacco fields were slaves.

Tyrell isn’t alone in having those dreams of some wonderfully libertarian ante bellum America. There are examples all over libertarianism of those who think that President Lincoln was a tyrant intent on crushing the freedom of the South, or that the Confederacy was fighting for liberty instead of human bondage. Or, just those who believe that the American past was a golden age of liberty when the truth is that it was not:

Has there ever been a golden age of liberty? No, and there never will be. There will always be people who want to live their lives in peace, and there will always be people who want to exploit them or impose their own ideas on others. If we look at the long term—from a past that includes despotism, feudalism, absolutism, fascism, and communism—we’re clearly better off. When we look at our own country’s history—contrasting 2010 with 1776 or 1910 or 1950 or whatever—the story is less clear. We suffer under a lot of regulations and restrictions that our ancestors didn’t face.

But in 1776 black Americans were held in chattel slavery, and married women had no legal existence except as agents of their husbands. In 1910 and even 1950, blacks still suffered under the legal bonds of Jim Crow—and we all faced confiscatory tax rates throughout the postwar period.

In fact, it might even be said that America is more libertarian today than it has been at any point in it’s history:

Compare conditions now to how they were at the outset of the 1960s. Official governmental discrimination against blacks no longer exists. Censorship has beaten a wholesale retreat. The rights of the accused enjoy much better protection. Abortion, birth control, interracial marriage, and gay sex are legal. Divorce laws have been liberalized and rape laws strengthened. Pervasive price and entry controls in the transportation, energy, communications, and financial sectors are gone. Top income tax rates have been slashed. The pretensions of macroeconomic fine-tuning have been abandoned. Barriers to international trade are much lower. Unionization of the private sector work force has collapsed. Of course there are obvious counterexamples, but on the whole it seems clear that cultural expression, personal lifestyle choices, entrepreneurship, and the play of market forces all now enjoy much wider freedom of maneuver.

Does that mean that the infringements of liberty and encroachment of the state that we see today is acceptable ? Of course not, but it does mean that we need to recognize that the idyllic American past never really existed and that the fight for liberty is a fight for the future, not the dead past.

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