Europe vs America

It seems the last generation or two have quickly warmed to the idea that the government should be the all-in-one helper and protector of everyone with regard to everything. This is, as usual, because they are woefully uneducated in history. This is, of course, by design.

Europe, for the past thousands of years has been run more or less this way: There was a king and there were royalty. Originally they owned or were thought to own all the land. The forests, the lakes, mountains, valleys, you name it, they owned it. This was usually by divine right or something. God gave it all to them, you know.

Then there were the nobles. For one reason or another, they were favored by the king. They were already rich or they fought in one of his wars, or whatever. They were, outside of royalty, the important people. So the king gave them or leased them parts of the land to manage. Anything made off the land was theirs, except for whatever taxes or fees the king might impose.

Now came everyone else. Call them the serfs or the peasants or the commoners. Whatever you like. They were the ones who actually did the work. Up to this point, we’ve been talking about people who basically didn’t work. Now we’re talking about the people who actually did the work. If the land was farmed or hunted on, it was done by the commoners. Shop owners, smiths, boot-makers, tailors, horse trainers, everyone else was a commoner. They were the vast labor source for a country or kingdom. These people never owned the land. They may have performed jobs or worked the land of the nobles or the king, but they were only as valuable as they could provide taxes and labor. Their everyday concerns were typically overlooked. After all, they were just commoners.

This pattern repeats itself in virtually every empire or kingdom or country you can imagine. But since America was settled primarily by Europeans, we’re talking just about the Europeans here. And this system persisted for thousands of years. Europeans were accustomed to it. If you were a commoner, you were never going to be a noble. And if you were a noble, there was some slight chance you might end up as part of royalty, if some part of your family married into the royal family. But you yourself would never be a royal.

In Europe, if you had rights (and these were limited by the royals and the nobles), they were given to you by those above you. And as they were given, so could they be taken away. Say the wrong word, do the wrong thing, and your rights could instantly be taken away, or worse, you could be hanged. In other words, shut up, do your work, don’t make trouble, and pay your taxes, and we’ll let you keep doing what you’re doing. But get out of line, fail at any one of these things, and the consequences to you and your family could be disasterous.

That was Europe.

Along about the 15th century or so, the bulk of Europe realized there was a whole continent or two to the West. The Scandinavians and a few others had already been here, but didn’t care much for the place. But the Europeans saw a continent full of land and resources they could exploit. The New World could also be a place for those oppressed by the societies of Europe for their social, political or religious views.

And so was America colonized. Here there was land, almost limitless land. There weren’t nobles in the next castle down the road to dictate how you lived. The king and nobles were so far away they couldn’t effectively control what went on in America. And in truth they didn’t much care, since America was a huge source of goods and taxes, which seemed to endlessly arrive back at European ports.

And suddenly, the Americans were mostly on their own when it came to governance. No kings, no nobles. Nominally, the kings and nobles were still in control. But as a practical matter, not really. And finally, in the late 18th century, the Colonies put a period to what tenuous control the kings and nobles had here. We were a people who considered ourselves free of idea of nobility and commoners. There were a few people on the Continent who were very rich and controlled large swaths of land. But honestly, there was so much land that all you had to do was move a bit west and you were on your own.

Of course, this situation didn’t sit well with the VIPs of Europe. The colonists chafed at the growing controls the royals tried to put on them from Europe. And the king became alarmed at the casual or grumbling attitudes displayed by those in America they still thought of as commoners. Eventually, in the late 18th century, this situation came to a head when the Americans, still just colonists, decided they’d had enough of the king and his taxes, laws and tampering. And so a war of independence was fought to end the ties the colonists had with the king.

And lo and behold, the colonists won. No longer were they the commoners of a far away European “empire”. They were now more or less equal shareholders in a new continent, a new society. They were free to make this continent over in any way they saw fit. There were some who wished to duplicate the European model here, mostly because that system was all they and their ancestors had ever known. But those who had the most wealth and learning on this continent got together and decided a different model was needed. One not subject to the whim of king and noble, but one in which the average person had a say.

And so our uniquely American form of government was born. No longer were rights given to you (or taken away) by a king. Rights were yours by virtue of having been born here. And the original laws were written to ensure that no government could tamper or interfere with your exercise of those rights. You could buy and own land and work it yourself. And you children and theirs could hold that land and continue to work it as they saw fit. There were no limitations to how much money you could make or how much power you could accumulate. What’s more, you could be attacked or jailed or hanged for having a different religion, political view or opinion from those around you. A veritable revolution in thinking.

And that was America.

I say “was” because this place that was America no longer exists. It existed for a brief sliver of time, and then slowly vanished. Over time, it was whittled away, and those of the last few generations were and are accomplices in doing away with the rest of it. Most, having no real grasp of history, have willingly gone along with movements and fads designed specifically to subvert and negate the native rights of Americans.

“Free speech”, for example, has become a live target for a few loud rabble who have managed to convince others they’re right. For example, there is such a thing now as a verbal “assault”. Such a thing would have been considered laughable in the late 18th century. To imagine that words, no matter how passionately spoken, could be the equivalent of a slap across the face would have been ludicrous. And now we have “hate speech”. This is a case where certain kinds of speech, depending on what aggrieved group they’re delivered to, are considered in the same way as physical attacks. And likewise we have “hate crimes”. As though murdering someone wasn’t enough, if it is done to a member of some self-proclaimed aggrieved group, it is a “hate crime” as well. As though murder is somehow a lesser or greater crime by virtue of who it’s done to.

Free speech is not the only right which has been encroached upon. Freedom of religion and association have also come under attack. The right to protect oneself and one’s property have been under attack for decades now. And the list goes on.

As earlier indicated, the government on this continent was one designed to govern with the lightest of touches. It was designed to ensure that the a priori rights of citizens were not trampled or interfered with. That the rules by which we lived were agreed to by a majority of us. And that those rules couldn’t be subverted. That our borders and our lands were well-protected. That the individual states could not war against each other nor take advantage of each other. More than this was considered out of bounds to the Founders. Anything remaining was the province of the state, the city or the individual. States were considered each to have their own “personalities”, their own cultures, different one to another. And the citizen was free to live in whatever state most fit his particular views.

This original system is no more. It has been attacked and eaten away by each successive generation, each generation more severely than the last. The last few generations have done the most damage. Unwittingly or purposely, they have directly attacked the heart of the American system. They have, decade by decade added more mechanisms to the American government by which to control the lives of individual Americans. Somehow, they have reverted back to the idea that the benevolent government will provide us with all we need and protect us from all we fear.

And herein lies the problem. Governments are never the beneficial actors you’d like to think they are. Governments seek control over you. It has always been this way and always will be. From the Greeks and Romans and even before. Our Founders sought to breed this trait out of government in their design of ours. And each successive generation has sought to put it back. The problem is that their lives are so short and their historical education is so weak that they don’t conceive of a world in which the government does or should do less than it does now. And yet such a time existed two hundred or so short years ago.

If you want to know what the world will look like some years or decades from now, read 1984. Things won’t look exactly like that in the end. They never do, Various science fiction writers guessed that something like the Internet would exist in the future and wrote about it. Few or none guessed the exact shape and form of the Internet, but they did predict the idea of it. Orwell quite astutely predicted the world of our future in 1984. It won’t like exactly like he envisioned it, but much of what was in that book has already come to pass. What is called “Big Brother” in that book might be called Google or the NSA today, but the principle is the same.

And those seeking to give our government more power (in any area) are voting to give us the world of 1984.

Wake up, please.