Society has always been its own worst enemy. The very first temptation for any group of people banding together for the first time has always been to pick a leader. When you think about it, however, what are the chances that any given group will even have someone who can actually competently lead? Worse yet, what are the chances that any given group of people will manage to actually choose the right person, assuming that a potential leader even exists? Still, someone must lead? Right?
The painful lesson of history is that, time after time, good leaders have always been few and far between. Even when society actually manages to find a decent leader, most, if not all of the gains made by him or her can be totally lost by their successor in a decade or less. This is why the names of “the Greats“, such as Alexander, Elizabeth, Charlemagne, or Catherine, are widely known, but the names of their successors are rarely. Entire kingdoms have risen and fallen in the course of a single lifetime because of this all too common political ineptitude.
Yet societies still managed to survive, even while the bones of their often self anointed kings and queens rotted away in forgotten tombs. Through the rise and fall of countless petty kingdoms and even great empires, these pockets of civilization scraped by, led by local leaders focusing on local problems, ensuring the continued well being of their friends and neighbors, weathering blizzards, floods, droughts, locusts, and even the commonest of all pests, the king’s tax collector.
King Arthur: I am your king.
Woman: Well, I didn’t vote for you.
King Arthur: You don’t vote for kings.
Woman: Well how’d you become king then?
-Monty Python and the Holy Grail-
A short 20 years before the American Revolution, the American colonies were embroiled in war against the French and their Indian allies. The colonists, seeking new land to add to their colonial possessions, expanded westward into lands tenuously claimed by the French. What started as minor territorial skirmishes quickly escalated into a costly war that pitted the European powers of England and her colonies against the combined might of both France and Spain.
The armies and navies of both sides gave their all in fierce fighting from the forested hills of present day western Pennsylvania, to the high seas of the Caribbean isles and from the well marched fields of France and Spain, to east in the tropical hills of India. After 7 years of literal world war, England came out victorious, though deeply in debt, despite significant gains in territory around the world, including Canada, dominant control of the Indies, and even control of Caribbean islands.
To attempt to recoup the costs of the war that was inarguably started by American colonists encroaching into French claimed territories, the British Parliament passed several taxes upon the economic activities of the American colonies. How did the American colonists respond to these seemingly reasonable taxes, especially by today’s standards? After resisting the King’s taxes and his escalating punishments for 13 years, they declared independence and and ejected his tax collectors for good.
“We stole countries! That’s how you build an empire.
We stole countries with the cunning use of flags!
Just sail around the world, stick a flag in.”
In all fairness, at least on the surface, it probably seems unreasonable for the Founding Fathers to have refused a seemingly valid and reasonable request to help their mother nation recoup the cost of a war that was largely fought on their behalf, there is an important series of incorrect assumptions that, once corrected, will make reasoning of the Founding Fathers obvious. It starts with who actually owned the trees?
First, what kind of claim to “New France” did Louis XV actually have? It’s not as if he had even the slightest inclination to travel the thousands of miles necessary to even see the vast undeveloped lands that he owned because some other man had planted a French flag there. In reality, the French claim to the land was as ridiculous as someone claiming their neighbor’s car by slapping a bumper sticker on it.
Second, British claim to the colonies was just as fatuous. Most of the cost of founding the colonies was bore by the colonists themselves. The only thing the British Crown had ever directly given the colonists was a piece of parchment “granting permission” to the colonists to leave England in order to build a colony so that the King could claim it. The actual number of times the British Crown visited the colonies? Zero.
“‘Hello, American sailor. Hello, freedom man…’
[T]hat’s what it was to be an American in the 1980’s.
We stood, again, for freedom.”
Bringing this long story back to a principle, the final reason the Founding Fathers were justified in resisting the Crown’s taxes is “that all men are created equal“. Under no circumstance were the American colonists, who had fought and bled, toiled and sweat, and buried their dead in the very soil that stained their hands going to pay a tax to some king or his benighted government for a war that never should have been fought in the first place.
For thousands of years before this Revolution, those claiming to be kings had subsisted like rats on taxes taken from the very mouths of men and women who had worked to produce it. The American Revolution was a fundamental rejection of this ancient order of things, because these men and women held the revolutionary notion that they did not live to serve the government. The government, if it is to be considered at all just, exists solely to serve the people.
The only duties of government is to keep the roads safe, justice enforced, and otherwise to leave the people alone to sort out their own problems. This is a core American idea, much abused through the last century and a half. Freedom from the ever oppressive boot of government, accompanied as it always is by the petulant whims of pampered politicians, is necessary to the fundamental pursuit of happiness. No man or woman owes anything to any another by birth or “divine anointing“.
Though Reagan’s words ring with a truth, there is still yet far for us to go to recover this very American spirit. Government once again infects our fair and fertile lands, descending on the fruits of our labor like vermin, stealing away with it to fund their eternal political bickering. Politicians live their days in comfort, infesting a gilded city hundreds of miles away from the subjects they tyrannize, engaged in nothing even vaguely resembling honest work.
If we truly wish to be free, this must change.
Liberty is For The Win!