As anyone who has read even a few of my commentaries knows, I like to quote the Founding Fathers…a lot! I think since it was they who were alive during our war for independence, and since it was they who directly participated in the writing of our founding documents, that their beliefs should hold much more value than those of modern day politicians and political pundits.
That does not mean that our Founders were perfect men, they weren’t, not by any stretch of the imagination. But what makes them so incredible, and therefore their views so valuable, was the fact than at a single moment in history so many men with so much intellect and understanding of politics and human nature, came together and established a system of government based upon individual liberty.
I often wonder whether people confuse liberty with equality. We are all taught from an early age that all men are equal. Everyone speaks of their equal rights but how many people truly understand the concept of equality? I suppose the most important time that concept was ever mentioned, at least in early American writings, was in the Declaration of Independence where it states, “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…”
You see, what many people believe today is that equality means that if someone else has something, or holds a higher position in life, that because all men are equal that they are entitled to it as well. That is not what our Founders meant when they spoke of equality. Instead, what they meant was equality of opportunity.
When Jefferson penned that all men are created equal he meant that at the moment we leave the womb and enter the world we are all equal. We are all born with arms and legs, a torso, and a head that contains the brain. He didn’t mean that throughout our life all men would be equal in size, strength, social position, and wealth. Benjamin Franklin once said that “The Constitution only guarantees the American people the right to pursue happiness. You have to catch it yourself.”
Franklin may have just as easily switched the word happiness for wealth, strength, AND intelligence. Under our system of government nothing is guaranteed you except the chance to succeed, the act of doing so is your responsibility, not the governments, nor is it the burden to be placed on society should you fail.
Say you wanted to be a professional boxer. If you did not train, put in hours in the gym developing your speed, stamina, strength and skill, can you just say to society that you want the skills to achieve your goal be GIVEN you? No, your goal requires that you yourself put in the work to obtain it. So it is with life, you must work, or use your intellect, to achieve your dreams…nay, even survive.
It is not equality when those who work are burdened with caring for those who don’t by government mandate. Charity is one thing, and it is something many of the Founders believed in strongly. George Washington said that we should let our hearts heart’s “… feel for the afflictions and distress of everyone, and let your hand give in proportion to your purse.” He never said that the people should be taxed to provide for those in need. NEVER!
In fact, most of the Founders were opposed to using funds taken from the people and given to others in forms of charity or subsidies. As President, James Madison vetoed such a measure by Congress when they sought to appropriate $15,000 to provide relief for French refugees who escaped San Domingo and fled to Philadelphia. In his veto message President Madison stated, “I cannot undertake to lay my finger on that article of the Constitution which granted a right to Congress of expending, on objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents.”
I can’t count how many programs we currently have which provide funds, which were taken by the government from the people, and then given to others in what is commonly called the redistribution of wealth. Even Social Security and Medicare, which are supposedly taken from your pay, and then returned to you later in life, would have been considered unconstitutional by the very men who created our system of government.
It was one thing for the states to provide for their own people, but the thought that it should be the responsibility of the federal government to care for the individual needs of the people never crossed the minds of the Founders.
Ben Franklin said as much when he said, “I am for doing good to the poor, but I differ in opinion of the means. — I think the best way of doing good to the poor, is not making them easy in poverty, but leading or driving them out of it. In my youth I travelled much, and I observed in different countries, that the more public provisions were made for the poor, the less they provided for themselves, and of course became poorer. And, on the contrary, the less was done for them, the more they did for themselves, and became richer. There is no country in the world where so many provisions are established for them; so many hospitals to receive them when they are sick or lame, founded and maintained by voluntary charities; so many alms-houses for the aged of both sexes, together with a solemn general law made by the rich to subject their estates to a heavy tax for the support of the poor. Under all these obligations, are our poor modest, humble, and thankful; and do they use their best endeavours to maintain themselves, and lighten our shoulders of this burthen? — On the contrary, I affirm that there is no country in the world in which the poor are more idle, dissolute, drunken, and insolent.” (London Chronicle Nov. 29, 1766)
Samuel Adams stated it more pithily when he said, “The utopian schemes of leveling, and a community of goods, are as visionary and impracticable as those which vest all property in the Crown are arbitrary, despotic, and, in our government, unconstitutional.”
In his first Inaugural Address Thomas Jefferson declared “A wise and frugal government … shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government.”
I have more quotes if that is not enough to show you that our Founders did not believe that it was the job of government to provide sustenance or aid to the individual people of this country. Sure that may sound harsh and unfair to the more liberal minded people today, but that’s the way our Founders felt, and more importantly, that is an underlying principle upon which our system of government was built.
Individual advancement in life, and this goes for anything, be it the desire to achieve wealth, a level of skill in an athletic capacity, or fame, was placed solely upon the individual; each person being equal ONLY in their opportunity to do so, not equal in the guarantee of success.
In nature there are but two ways, and often a combination of both, that man can improve his lot in life. One is by hard work, and the other is by using their intellect. Now I’m not talking about modern society where you can ride someone else’s coat tails to fame, or that by knowing the right people in the right places you can achieve success. I’m merely stating that in a state of nature where each man is left to fend for themselves you either have to work, or think, to improve your lot in life.
From what I see of many people today most refuse to do the second, and if possible, do as little of the first as they can to get by. In his 1850 treatise The Law, Frederic Bastiat wrote, “Self-preservation and self-development are common aspirations among all people. And if everyone enjoyed the unrestricted use of his faculties and the free disposition of the fruits of his labor, social progress would be ceaseless, uninterrupted, and unfailing. But there is also another tendency that is common among people. When they can, they wish to live and prosper at the expense of others.”
That is just as true when it comes to thinking as it does to working, many are reluctant to use their minds for what they were intended. Instead of filling them with knowledge they fill them with useless trivia that does nothing to improve their position in life. Also, a mind is a lot like a muscle in that if you don’t use it, it will atrophy.
The people who first came to this country, as well as those who established our system of government did not have TV’s to watch with hundreds of channels to choose from. They did not have radio, internet, cell phones, Kindles, and video games. They lived a simpler life that consisted of working to provide for their family, and when they could, reading books which taught them things they could use in life.
Compared to our Founding Fathers the current batch of people who comprise our federal government are mindless dolts whose lust for power outweighs their loyalty to the very document which grants them any power in the first place.
In 1962 President John F. Kennedy hosted a group of Nobel Prize Winners. At the dinner Kennedy remarked, “I think this is the most extraordinary collection of talent, of human knowledge, that has ever been gathered at the White House – with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone.”
Kennedy could say that about Jefferson because Jefferson was smart, most likely a genius. Yet when Jefferson was born he wasn’t like a computer you buy with all that information pre-loaded into his brain, he had to study to obtain it. Not only were our Founders well educated, but they had the ability to take what they had learned and utilize it. They were capable of thinking for themselves, unlike many people today who refuse to study and would rather take someone else’s word for what is, and is not, the truth.
That is why Jefferson was so adamant when it came to educating the masses. In fact while serving as a member of the Virginia State Legislature he proposed a bill for the More General Diffusion of Knowledge. Jefferson felt that for our country to survive, and thrive, the people needed to be better educated. That is why later in life Jefferson would say, “Educate and inform the whole mass of the people… They are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty.”
In fact, Jefferson felt contemptuous of those who did not take their studies seriously. In an 1819 letter to Vine Utley called them wastrels who were ‘worthless to society.’ I wonder how Jefferson would feel about people today who don’t even know the basics about their system of government, or allow it to trample all over their rights because they think the government has their best interests in mind?
Jefferson was not alone in these sentiments. Many a Founding Father felt contemptuous of those who would sit idly by while their rights were being infringed upon. In The Rights of Man Thomas Paine would say, ” When I contemplate the natural dignity of man, when I feel (for Nature has not been kind enough to me to blunt my feelings) for the honour and happiness of its character, I become irritated at the attempt to govern mankind by force and fraud, as if they were all knaves and fools, and can scarcely avoid disgust at those who are thus imposed upon.”
I don’t know what people think when I hand these articles out to be read. I don’t know if they think I do so for their entertainment, or if I do it to show that I am smarter than they are…neither which are true. I only do so to get people to start thinking on their own…that is all. I seek not fame nor glory for my efforts, I only wish to see the people begin to see things as they really are in America. And I too feel contemptuous of those who have read my articles and have not used that grey matter between their ears to affect a change in their way of thinking about government.
In his Bill For the Diffusion of Knowledge Jefferson stated “…experience hath shewn, that even under the best forms, those entrusted with power have, in time, and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny; and it is believed that the most effectual means of preventing this would be, to illuminate, as far as practicable, the minds of the people at large…”
I know all this may sound like it has nothing to do with equality, but it does. You see if you would only take the information I have provided, or do some research of your own, you would find that our Founders did not believe that all men would be equal in all things throughout their lives. They only believed that men were equal in the opportunities provided them. In short, government should not hinder man in the pursuit of happiness, nor should it assist him in finding it.
If someone is smarter than you, richer than you, if they are stronger, or more skilled at something, it is because they have worked or studied or worked to achieve that level of skill or strength. If you really want equality then you must put forth as much effort, or spend as much time studying, as they have. That is true equality, not the taking from one because they have something, and giving it to others that do not.
The same principle can be applied to many things, such as defense and protection of yourself and your belongings. As each of us is equally entitled to seek out a better life, each of us is equally allowed to protect and defend those things our labors have provided us. To take that away is to take away one of the fundamental laws of nature, that of self-preservation. As Bastiat said in The Law, “What, then, is law? It is the collective organization of the individual right to lawful defense.”
But then all these ideas and beliefs run counter to those held by most people today. Most people believe that equality means that all people should be equal in wealth and position without having to spend the same effort as those who achieved their wealth or position by hard work and study.
Sometimes I use quotes from people who others may find offensive because of the views held by the person I quote, or because they feel that the person does not deserve to be quoted in an article. For instance when I quote Ayn Rand some chastise me simply because Rand was an atheist. The same goes if I quote musical lyrics or movies. Yet are not words simply a means to get a point across? If they are, then are not all words, regardless of their source, worthy of consideration?
In that light I would like for everyone to consider one final quote from anarchist Emma Goldman, “True Freedom requires sacrifice and pain. Most human beings only think they want freedom. In truth they yearn for the bondage of social order, rigid laws, materialism. The only freedom man really wants is the freedom to be comfortable.”
The same can be said about equality, AND liberty. People talk about these two things as if they are entitled to them both, but more often than not, are unwilling to make the sacrifices required to obtain them. They fail to realize that, as with all things, there is a flip side, that being responsibility. If you truly want equality or liberty, you are going to have to work and sacrifice for both; even then you may not be assured of obtaining either.
And that about sums it all up as far as I’m concerned…