"Laws and governments may be considered in this and indeed in every case, a combination of the rich to oppress the poor, and preserve to themselves the inequality of the goods, which would otherwise be soon destroyed by the attacks of the poor, who if not hindered by the government would soon reduce the others to an equality with themselves by open violence."
Any guesses who wrote the above quote? Who would write something that would advocate the establishment of laws and government to "hinder" the poor to preserve the inequalities enjoyed by the rich? Would you be surprised if I said Adam Smith penned those words?
I thought the quote was interesting - I found it in an article written by Howard Zinn from 1999
Now that I mentioned names - progressive names - conservative's visiting this site will most likely leave, rushing to a snap judgment, but the article by Zinn titled "Big Government for Whom?" was very interesting because it came a decade earlier then the passage of the health care reform bill - before Tea Parties and the rise of crazy conservative talking heads like Glenn Beck and Andrew Breitbart. Unfortunately Rush Limbaugh was around back then.
The article begun discussing a single payer health care system and the argument by some that supporting such an idea would be in turn supporting "Big Government." Zinn decided to look into the evolution of "Big Government," pointing out things like the quote above from Adam Smith, stating that Smith, the "apostle" of the "free market" understood that "capitalism could not survive a truly free market" unless government was there to ensure it's existence - far from the opinion held by the almost anarchistic right-wing fringe that believes any regulation is bad regulation, despite having a love affair with Smith and his writings.
It is this selective love that is troublesome, and the Tea Partiers are not the only ones guilty of it, but they sure are the most hypocritical when it comes to cherry picking history to advance their agenda. You constantly here about the "founding fathers" and what they intended America to be - if you listen to the far-right, you would think Thomas Jefferson wanted America to be some sort of theocratic confederacy. Zinn points out a little bit of hypocrisy with Jefferson as well, committing a conservative mortal sin, writing that Jefferson broke his own dictum "that government is best which governs least" when he made the Louisiana Purchase.
Zinn also pointed out some things about the Constitution, which has become more of a rallying cry for conservatives in recent times:
The American colonists, having fought and won the war for independence from England, faced the question of what kind of government to establish. In 1786, three years after the treaty of peace was signed, there was a rebellion of farmers in western Massachusetts, Ied by Captain Daniel Shays, a veteran of the war. The uprising was crushed, but it put a scare into those leaders who were to become our Founding Fathers. After Shays's Rebellion, General Henry Knox warned his former commander, George Washington, about the rebels: "They see the weakness of government; they feel at once their own poverty, compared to the opulent, and their own force, and they are determined to make use of the latter in order to remedy the former. Their creed is that the property of the U.S. has been protected from the confiscations of Britain by the joint exertions of all, and therefore should be the common property of all."
The Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia for 1787 was called to deal with this problem, to set up "big government," to protect the interests of merchants, slave-holders, land speculators, establish law and order, and avert future rebellions like that of Shays.
When the debate took place in the various states over ratification of the Constitution, the Federalist Papers appeared in the New York press to support ratification. Federalist Paper 10, written by James Madison, made clear why a strong central government was needed: to curb the potential demand of a "majority faction" for "an equal division of property, or for any other improper or wicked object."
And so the Constitution set up big government, big enough to protect slave-holders against slave rebellion, to catch runaway slaves if they went from one state to another, to pay off bondholders, to pass tariffs on behalf of manufacturers, to tax poor farmers to pay for armies that would then attack the farmers if they resisted payment, as was done in the Whiskey Rebellion in Pennsylvania in 1794. Much of this was embodied in the legislation of the first Congress, responding to the request of the Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton.
This of course differs with the view of the far-right, which loves to discuss history in their terms, citing Federalist Papers and the Constitution as reason to oppose anything the Democrats have been doing without comprehending what
the Constitution is - they do not place history into any context and attack anyone who does claiming they are just rewriting history to favor progressives.
Anyone can see that when visiting a conservative website or watching programs like Glenn Beck, there is plenty of mention of the founding fathers, the Constitution, and historical events, but they conveniently leave out important facts - just consider Glenn Beck who insinuated America's entry into World War I was a progressive plot to grow government while forgetting to mention the Zimemrman Telegram - a letter from Germany promising Mexico U.S. territory if they entered the war
I have noticed that conservatives like to cite some documents but not others, like claiming there is no "separation of church and state," going one step further then the traditional accomodationists
, stating that America is a "Christian nation." This conclusion is reached by a combination of interpretations of what is in the Constitution and what the founding fathers said at the time. Those who believe America is a Christian state love to leave out documents written by the founding fathers that would indicate otherwise, such as an 1803 letter from Thomas Jefferson to a Baptist minister or the 1797 Treaty of Tripoli signed by President John Adams, a founding father, stating that the nation is not founded on the Christian Religion
There are also the countless quotations from various Federalist Papers which to me seem like a contradiction to those in favor of "limited government"
- the Federalist Papers were a response to the weak Confederacy established after the Revolutionary War and supported a stronger central government, although the arguing point there is just how
strong of a central government did they intend, and so instead of taking a strict interpretation of the Constitution, they go out seeking supporting information from any source they can get their hands on. This leads to the attack against the concept of the Living Constitution
, of course one mention of slavery sort of punches a big giant hole in the argument against, after all, if the Constitution were to remain unchanged, we would have to eliminate every
additional amendment - but how were we able to add amendments in the first place? The only amendments that are bad are the ones that don't fit into the political agenda of the right, such as the 17th Amendment, which allows for the direct election of Senators - conservatives would rather go back to the corrupt appointments by the States.
The Constitution is by no means perfect, and the founding fathers admitted to that fact in the Preamble to the Constitution, stating that the it was created "in Order to form a more perfect Union." Wouldn't the Preamble fall into the definition of "progressive" - favoring or advocating progress, change, improvement, or reform, as opposed to wishing to maintain things as they are, esp. in political matters? One could come to the conclusion that America was founded on a progressive constitution.
The right-wing fringe is constantly trying to make a push for a weaker federal government and at the same time, they cite as inspirations famous Americans like Abraham Lincoln, but as I had written in the past, Lincoln was no model Republican by today's teabag standards
Just consider Glenn Beck's constant mention of Abraham Lincoln on his program. For months, Beck has been promoting his Tea Party event at the Lincoln Memorial.
The tea parties have the backdrop of the capitol. The capitol could go into a giant sinkhole as far as I'm concerned. Doesn't matter to me. You are not going to be able to go in there and fix that, unless you start at the other end of the mall and you start by looking and reflecting at Abraham Lincoln. And then you look and reflect. That's what the reflecting pool means. Reflect. You look one way and you are looking at Abraham Lincoln and you can reflect on him. You look the other way and you see the Washington Monument and everything that Washington stood for and you reflect on him. Once you do that and then make your choice, two can play that game. Or I'm going to be like Abraham Lincoln and George Washington. When you do that, you'll fix the country. I'm convinced of it.Jack Hunter from Taki's Magazine summed up exactly what Lincoln did to fix the nation
In declaring secession illegal, and the U.S. a consolidated state, Abraham Lincoln enacted the first income tax, the first draft, supported internal improvements and nationalizing banks. Such centralizing, socialistic and militaristic restructuring of America was certainly more comparable to the fascism that defined Hitler’s Germany than the agrarian-based economies and loose-knit state militias that defined the Confederate States of America.
Doesn't Glenn Beck constantly compare President Obama and the administration to fascism and socialism?
On Beck's program last year, he put on his tin foil hat and started discussing the conspiracy of how American progressives have been marching America towards fascism for almost 100 years, pointing to the back of an old American "Mercury" dime, which happened to depict a fasces. David Neiwert for Crooks and Liars pointed out that the fasces on the dime came before the birth of the fascist political movement
, and that they can be found throughout American history on various things, including the Lincoln Memorial where Glenn Beck plans to rally his fans. I could easily use Beck's logic to point out that he is secretly trying to push his own brand of fascism, and I may be right.
This right-wing revisionism and historical selectivity is dangerous and Americans need to be aware of just how wrong Glenn Beck and his right-wing contemporaries really are.