Monday, March 1, 2010

The Populist Revolution

“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.”

- The Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1976

Blessed with independence and a rule of law that celebrates personal liberties and free will, the democracy of the United States has flourished for more than two centuries. As the Declaration so profoundly states, Governments are created to secure the unalienable rights of the governed. These rights have lead to the accumulation of substantial wealth and a dramatic improvement in the standard of living for all Americans. With great wealth, however, comes some degree of inequality. In a capitalist economy, those that are endowed with superior gifts, an unassailable work ethic, or a penchant for measured risk taking are likely to disproportionately benefit while others will be less successful. This inequity has lead to bouts of protests and uprisings, but none have been as dangerous as the infectious populism that has overwhelmed the government.

With Federal Reserve Governor Ben Bernanke, Former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson, and the current administration claiming victory over the debt crisis that nearly caused the implosion of the global economy, President Obama has focused his efforts on expanding the entitlement system and leveling the playing field in the U.S. economy. But where, one might ask, did the founding fathers state that economic equality was the mission of the government? Efforts to improve equality through decades of unfunded promises have left the United States deeply in debt and have prompted politicians to propose all manners of expropriation from some for the benefit others. The government has degraded to the point of legislated theft under the not so veiled guise of income redistribution and social planning. The Declaration of Independence does not guarantee happiness or success, but simply the right to pursue one’s ambitions unimpeded by a tyrannical government that seeks to dictate personal consumption decisions, control individual behavior, and influence free enterprise. Unless our leaders choose to empower the people to achieve their own success, they will promote mediocrity and jeopardize the future of the American economy.