How Much is Freedom Worth?

Have you ever wondered how much freedom is worth?  I believe it is like they say on the television ad:  “It is priceless.”

Freedom typically is not valued until it is lost.  In other words, we in America take it for granted.  If you were to travel to countries where there is no freedom, you might place a different value on our freedom.

The earliest Americans settled here in order to practice their religions.  So, the freedom of religion is the bedrock or the Plymouth Rock that drew our ancestors to this land.  Americans declared our independence and our freedom to enjoy “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

The First Amendment to our Constitution states:  “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

The Second Amendment provides:  “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

It is interesting to note that when the first ten amendments were ratified in 1791, these were the first two amendments listed.  Some importance and priority may be mined from that fact.  Religion and worship of God were very important to our Founding Fathers and the early Freedom Fighters.  It was truly a “nation under God.”

After well over 200 years have passed, where are we today?  Even though freedom is still priceless, we haven’t had to fight for it recently, so it just doesn’t seem as important to Americans.  Certainly, our troops have fought in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan, but these battles on foreign soil have not been embraced by the public as wars to protect our freedom at home.  The closest thing to an attack on our soil was on 9/11.  However, Americans have returned to their daily routines and the average Joe on the street thinks more about getting a promotion than losing his freedom.  It is just not a thought that we have in America.

Yet, we have been losing our freedoms, a little at a time, but losing them all the same.  Under the First Amendment, has the federal government prohibited the free exercise of religion and has it abridged our freedoms, including speech and press?  Of course it has.  And nobody says anything under penalty of being insensitive to atheists, agnostics, and others who disagree with Christianity.  America will lose her freedoms when average citizens choose to do nothing about protecting them.

I attended a corporate meeting many years ago with employees providing lengthy briefings on the best course for the company for its future.  When the Power Point slides were taken down and the lights came up, the president of the company looked around and asked, “Is there any way I can do nothing?”

If American citizens do nothing, they will lose all of their freedoms.  And once you have lost those freedoms, the government will not give them back without a revolution.  Unfortunately, many citizens are like the corporate president who wanted to do nothing.  They would rather stay under the radar… not make any waves… keep silent… all things which guarantee the loss of their freedoms.

I can remember when Americans were free to say, “Merry Christmas.”  Now, it is insensitive to other religions.  However, freedom of religion embraces all religions.  It does not single out Christianity.  In America, you have the freedom to practice any religion.  You even have the freedom to not practice a religion.  It’s called freedom for a reason.  And restricting Christians from honoring the birthday of Jesus would be like restricting the Muslims or Jews from one of their religious holidays.

The first part of the First Amendment that restricts Congress from establishing a religion should not be taken out of context.  The primary directive is to not prohibit the free exercise of a religion.  Let’s examine the current prohibition on mandatory school prayers.  Doesn’t this federal prohibition restrict the exercise of freedom of religion?  Of course it does.  The argument is that mandatory school prayers establish a religion, Christianity, and interfere with the free exercise of religious beliefs for those who do not believe in prayers.

Let’s get down to basics and common sense.  Quite frankly, any time the government acts to protect the free exercise of religion, Christianity or otherwise, it will be assisting in establishing that religion.  The framers of our Constitution and Amendments were very focused on freedom of religion and less focused on preventing establishment of a religion, so free exercise of religion should always be the bottom line.

It is true that Thomas Jefferson wanted the church to be walled off against the state in order to protect secular interests, but James Madison wanted to decentralize the federal government, allowing the religions in America to compete without interference by the government.

If we are truly talking about emphasizing freedom of religion in America, then the separation of church and state should mean that the government should stay out the business of religion altogether.  This would mean that the government should not restrict any religion, including Christianity.

What is wrong with saying “Merry Christmas”?  What is wrong with saying “Happy Hanukah”?  What is wrong with “Fast during Ramadan”?  All these religions are free to compete within America, no different than businesses.  The government should not promote monopolies of religions or businesses.  That should be the extent of governmental interference.  That should be the extent of our government’s concern about establishing one religion over another.

Let me make this clear.  The government does not restrict advertising by businesses just because that company has a bigger budget for marketing.  Monopoly busting is when a large company is too big, thus reducing the competition.  Monopoly prevention is when two companies are considering a merger and the result would have a substantial cooling effect on competition.  I know of no cases where the government has prevented a company from competing through advertising because it would have a bad effect on competition.

It should be no different for religions.  Government should not prevent religions from marketing, which includes letting others know about their religious days and practices.  This would be a very negative approach to preventing establishment of religions.  America is so diverse and independent, it is not likely that we will see religions forming monopolies.  Religions are known for just the opposite.  They splinter into many different associations, rather than coalescing.

The two provisions in the First Amendment can cancel each other out if you read them literally and out of context.  The federal government has removed many of our freedoms, including freedom of religion and right to bear arms, because it is too big and bureaucratic.

What is the solution?  Well, it is just common sense as Thomas Paine penned in 1776.  The Tenth Amendment of the Constitution provides:  “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

This amendment has been abused and ignored, but it tells the federal government to keep out of our state, local, and personal business unless it has a specific power to so intervene.  And there are not that many powers specifically granted to the federal government.

The key is to return the government to the people.  Citizens should emphasize government at the local levels, where the elected officials actually have a vested interest in their communities.  Typically, mayors and council members will do the right thing for their cities because they live in that neighborhood.  They may protect their communities for selfish reasons, but this is better than federal politicians who distance themselves from what is going on at the local level.  Many don’t care about their constituents, only thinking instead about lining their pockets.

Congress needs to focus the power of the purse on local governments so that we can downsize the federal government and retake our freedoms that were stolen by the feds.  This, at least, is the peaceful solution to the current problem.  Our freedom is certainly worth doing this.

Politicians Are More Dangerous than Terrorists

It is a very sad comment that today’s politicians are more dangerous than terrorists.  Politicians are much more likely to destroy the American system and our way of life than any terrorist organization.

One of my favorite jokes around springtime tells the rest of the story.  Towards the end of March, I would state that it was time to clean out the house… but don’t forget to also clean out the Senate.

So both Democrats and Republicans are guilty.  They may have good intentions early in their careers, but they get sucked into the corrupt system within a few months of arrival in Washington.  When I worked at the Pentagon and the Navy Yard as a fraud attorney, I had occasion to work with NCIS, the Department of Justice, and the FBI.

I was constantly bringing up good fraud cases against Senior Executive Service civilians and high ranking officers of the military, but these cases never went anywhere.  Why?  Because the culture in Washington was corrupt from middle management up to the top.  Everybody wanted to look the other way when federal managers did something unethical.  The only cases I successfully prosecuted were against lower managers and regular employees.  There is a double standard in Washington.

And this is even worse with politicians.  I asked an FBI agent why we never prosecuted Congressmen who were taking bribes every day.  He told me that it was difficult proving that the amounts given were not campaign contributions.  He also told me that there was a wicked culture in DC that was entrenched.  Anybody attempting to change that would lose their jobs or disappear.

It was difficult for me to watch all the politicians… and let me repeat… ALL the politicians accept compensation from special interest groups.  The real compensation for politicians is not their salaries, but it is the tremendous amount of money they receive from organizations who bribe them to do their bidding.

Several decades ago, Congressmen were only dangerous to our country because they did not represent Americans, but only their self interests.  However, today there is a new breed of politician who is even more dangerous.  These new politicians are interested in creating a world order that will be totalitarian in nature.  But don’t think for a second that it will be beneficial to you.  It will benefit these new leaders because they will rule the world.  They can then take anything they want and leave the rest of us in the cold or dead, which is very typical of all totalitarian leaders throughout history.

You can see the political posturing in the news, but please try to think what a politician’s real motivation is.  For example, when President Obama promised executive action that would give nearly five million illegal immigrants temporary work permits and amnesty, this really is designed to add more voters for a Democratic president who will continue pushing for a new world order.  The White House was spinning that Obama’s unilateral action was not “amnesty” and that it would “ensure that everyone plays by the same rules.”

Republicans are pushing for comprehensive amnesty legislation in order to avoid losing the next presidential election because of these potential voters.  Some of these five million immigrants may find ways to vote at the polls, but the real increase in voters who will support the Democrats are the families and friends of these immigrants.  Also, new Democratic supporters may rise exponentially in the next two years as Americans may become frustrated by the “gridlock” that could be caused by the actions of both parties.  The Republicans will take the greatest part of the blame.

Executive Agreements and Executive Orders have been used for decades and the Supreme Court has never ruled any of them unconstitutional.  The best option for Congress is to exercise its control of the power of the purse.  However, we have never had the executive branch so intent on using its agreements and orders for political purposes to create a new world order or worldwide totalitarian regime much like in Huxley’s and Orwell’s books.

Because of the nature of the political beast that exists in DC, it is not likely that America will avoid being drawn into the giant totalitarian whirlpool that awaits it.  I predict that millions of people will be sent to concentration camps and murdered until only weak-minded citizens remain behind to be enslaved by the new world order.

It is interesting to note that history has not been kind to the original leaders like Lenin, who might have had a genuine interest in helping the people.  The only survivors will be those who are completely evil and those who are completely dominated and offer no resistance.  Where will you fit in this new scheme of things?



Individual Freedom or Society’s Common Good?

Although we have had third parties in America, we typically have two major political parties, representing opposing sides, usually the conservative and liberal side to issues.  As a general rule, we could say that today’s Republicans champion individual liberty and the Democrats protect society from greedy capitalists whose selfish ambitions take priority over what is best for our country.

Even though this is a contemporary political debate, the origin of this dichotomy dates back to Plato who, hating Athenian democracy, destroyed the individual to create a perfect state.  On the other hand, many early Greek philosophers were Sophists like Gorgias, Hippias, Protagoras, and Prodicus, who looked inward for answers rather than out upon the materialistic world.  Many of these early philosophers believed that individuals were more important than man-made governments and laws.

So since these issues have been around for about two-and-a-half thousand years, surely one side has proven itself through experience and usage.  But that is not the case.  And you might think that Americans clearly land on the side of individual freedom over social restraints, but that is not true either.  In fact, Americans talk out of both sides of their mouths.  They indicate that they believe in a free market and the importance of individual rights, but they also want to promote the welfare of society as a whole.

It seems this dichotomy is more complex when you actually attempt to apply it to a society.  For example when Hurricane Katrina battered New Orleans in 2005, there were some businessmen who overcharged for products and services since the residents had nowhere else to go.  Was this a case of a willing buyer paying a fair price based on the market or was it a buyer under duress who was being fleeced by a greedy seller?  In other words, should the seller be able to charge whatever the market bears or should there be a law that prevents a seller from taking advantage of somebody in distress?

Quite frankly, it would be a mistake to argue that the rights of an individual are more important than the rights of society or vice versa.  A more pragmatic approach utilizes both doctrines as needed based on the circumstances at hand.  Such a blended government will permit the flexibility to adapt to the needs of society.  For example after Katrina, the government was needed to respond quickly and efficiently to the needs of the people in New Orleans.  Allowing businesses to take advantage of people in dire conditions would have gone against the grain of our notions of right and wrong.  But after getting past the emergency conditions, then the free market would return.

So which is better:  individual freedom or society’s common good?  My answer is:  it depends.  But don’t eliminate either one of them from your box of political tools.  


Darwin’s theory of evolution is sometimes suggested as being counter to religious beliefs.  This simply is not true.  The “monkey trials” may have made good drama in “Inherit the Wind” and may have made William Jennings Bryan and Clarence Darrow more famous, but evolution and the Bible work hand-in-hand.

Clearly, God made finches and there is nothing in the Bible that indicates that finches cannot adapt to their environment.  The continuous improvement of species is part of God’s nature.  The survival of the fittest is not invalidated in the Bible.  Darwin’s evolution fits nicely in the palm of a Creator’s hand.

The part of man’s evolution that is evil is not Darwin’s theory, but it is man’s humanness.  The changes in society over the years, which have progressed: (1) from satisfying basic needs, (2) to addressing society’s needs as most important, (3) and finally to today where individual’s needs are paramount, may be explained by Darwin’s theory of evolution, a process of changing from a worse to a better state, thrown into reverse.  This theory might be renamed “evilution,” the process of changing from a better to a worse state.

“God bless America” became “God bless me.”  Then, it became “Bless me.”  Now, it is only “Me!”  The survival of the fittest may apply, promoting those who are willing to do whatever it takes to make their lives better.  These are usually the mean and evil spirited of our species.  All of our species are endowed with a generous amount of humanness, but as generations pass, there are more who have hardened hearts. 

And our species has adapted to a new environment where everybody focuses on themselves.  All aspects of society change, as well, adapting to this new world.  If it is all about the individual, marriages become disposable, family life is less important, laws restricting people from doing what they want are eliminated, and religion and ethics take a back seat to individual rights.

Analyzing the last paragraph, you might say that America has emphasized and supported frontier individualism, so why is individualism a bad thing?  Well, it is not the same type of individualism.  The 21st century individualism is not the same as the18th, 19th, and even 20th century individualism. 

Today’s individualism is “all about me.”  How you look, how many expensive toys you have, your car and house status are the important traits.  The old individualism was being able to survive in a difficult environment on your own or with family.  That is not an issue today.  The old individualism was individualism with a conscience.  That is not the case today.

So, who cares?  As long as people do what they want and don’t hurt anybody what’s the problem?  If they like dope, let them smoke dope.  If they are “try-sexual” and want to try anything with anybody, then let them because they aren’t hurting anything.  If our country is deep in debt, don’t worry about it.  We can print more money.  That doesn’t hurt anybody.  All these things may not hurt anybody immediately, but eventually we are no longer conscious of our conscience and our social systems are destroyed.

In other words, the system of democracy will evolve by adapting to these changes in our society until it is destroyed, which is the unfortunate end result of all systems.  Thus, man’s systems will all fail through “evilution” or entropy because of the humanness of man.  God’s system will not fail because evolution is part of God’s natural progression of improvements and there is no failure in the created world. 

Why do we know our universe was created?  Most scientists believe that evidence proves that there was a Big Bang.  The Big Bang was our view of the creation of our universe.  Only the Creator saw the creation from the other side. 

How do we know that the created universe will never fail?  Most scientists believe that in our closed universe that matter and energy can neither be created nor destroyed.  In other words, our created world cannot fail or be destroyed.  Energy can transform to matter and vice versa, but the total amount of energy and matter in our universe will always remain the same. 

But man’s governmental systems will all fail, whether they are democracy, oligarchy, theocracy, socialism, communism, or totalitarianism; it is important to remember that our lives are short and our afterlives are long.  Live the short life as best you can, but focus on the much more important afterlife.

Evolution generally leads to an improvement and more control since it is a scientific process that was part of creation.  Typically, those adaptations which serve the species better are passed on to subsequent generations.  “Evilution,” on the other hand, leads to chaos and failure since it is mankind’s perversion of systems.

If our species creates “evilution” during our lives, does what we select in life follow us into the afterlife?  If we focus on ourselves during life and are still thinking about ourselves when we die, then that is all we will carry into the afterlife.  Can you imagine “evilution” forever?  Can you imagine what it would be like living with yourself for eternity?  If you are thinking at death and you do not believe in God, then you will certainly be lost in a chaotic environment that you cannot possibly imagine during your life, but that you certainly will imagine through your worst nightmares when you die. 

As Jesus said, “Everything is possible for him who believes.”  If you believe in God and are thinking about God, then God’s evolution could also be found in the afterlife.  Nobody knows exactly what will happen in the afterlife, but God’s world is a controlled, peaceful world following His natural processes, perhaps including evolution.  By continuing to believe and think about God, you may evolve and develop in His universe. 

We all know we are sinners during our lives, but does this humanness follow us into the afterlife?  Does it follow us even if we believe in God?  If we are sentenced to living like in the movie, “Ground Hog Day,” for the rest of eternity that could be worse than a death sentence where we just stopped thinking.  I believe that God’s world has plenty of room for adaptation and evolution, so that we can develop into a better thinking entity or soul.  Otherwise our humanness in life, even though forgiven at death by God, would follow us into the afterlife where perhaps God could no longer forgive it, especially over eternity.

Some of the early Christian Gnostics believed that shedding your bodies and material things would free individuals from the created world, restoring a lost union with God.  They did not believe that humanness would follow man into the afterlife since it would be left behind in the material world.

The discovery of one’s true self can result from the teachings of Jesus.  In effect, you become one with God.  And some of the Gnostics believed that anybody could be the son of God, just like Jesus, simply by following the teachings of Jesus and uniting with God.  In other words, when you entered the afterlife, if you were thinking of God as the truth, then you would merge into God as another son like Jesus.

Why were the Gnostics dismissed and the other books about Jesus, primarily Gnostic, not included in the Bible?  Well, the Gnostics believed that religious truth could be discovered by individuals without the help of religious leaders.  The First Council of Nicaea, a council of Christian bishops convened by the Roman Emperor Constantine in AD 325, had no use for Gnosticism because it opposed organized religion and its leadership.  The Nicaean Council attempted to reach consensus of what Christianity would be from that point forward, of course, leaving out all the Gnostic books and theology.

The Gnostics were early existentialists similar to Soren Kierkegaard who believed that the individual with a conscience would be going one-on-one with God in the afterlife and that religious leaders were irrelevant for this future event.  In effect, entering the afterlife was a mystical experience with your individual thought process taking you where it led you.  If you linked with God, then you would have control over the situation; whereas if you were separated from God, then you would be lost forever in a deep, dark pit of chaos.

The Bible mentions two separate judgments:  first, at death when God’s grace grants you passage into Heaven based on only your belief; and the second, where your actions may be judged with appropriate consequences.  Some theologians believe that the second judgment is really only evidence that you do, in fact, believe.  In other words, if you truly believe in God, then you will follow God’s law and your conscience and act accordingly.  But the Bible references consequences administered after a final judgment before God, much like a trial with punishment.       

God creates everything and then man makes choices during his life of the creations in front of him.  God does not make him choose from this menu; he does that on his own.  That’s called “free will.”  Man makes decisions and then there are consequences waiting around the corner.  Nobody knows for certain what the consequences will be, but it will certainly be chaotic and out of control.  When we dive into the afterlife, nobody has a clue exactly what is going to happen, but it will be a surprise.  If you do not have a strong belief in God, you will be caught in a giant rip tide that will take you out to sea.

We can speculate that there may be two paths:  one to Hell and one to Heaven.  Hell could be chaos with an escalation in punishment depending on some “evilutionary” theory of consequences, but nobody knows.  The best approach in the afterlife might be to follow the path of Jesus to Heaven, the controlled universe which offers peace for eternity, hoping for continual improvement through evolutionary development of our souls.  It also would be very helpful if we left our humanity behind when we entered God’s kingdom. 

Bottom Line:  “Evilution” should never deter you from the straight and narrow path of Jesus.             

Business in My Backyard (BIMBY)

Businesses in America have gotten big and bureaucratic just like the federal government.  In fact, there not only are many similarities between these two, but there are also alliances between them that enable each other to get even bigger.  They feed off each other, creating a monster that is destroying the capitalistic system by consuming the middle class and small businesses.

We must return to the Progressive policies of the early 20th century that can eliminate the corruption of big government and big business.  This can be accomplished with a focus on Business in My Backyard (BIMBY).  Local businesses will be more responsive to providing good customer service in order to get repeat business, while large corporations only look at the bottom line.  The big businesses are not as interested in the needs of local citizens since it is examining the profit line across America.

Back at the turn of the 20th century, businesses were out of control as the greed of industrial captains went unchecked and monopolies drove out the competition.  It wasn’t until Progressive politicians came onto the scene that these corporations, like Standard Oil, were broken up into smaller companies.

Competition, not government regulation, is the key to controlling corporate greed and control.  This competition can occur not only from other companies, but also from other commodities.  For example, oil prices can be moderated through competition by other energy sources, including batteries, oil shale, natural gas, wind, and solar. 

When Walmart spread throughout America, it destroyed many mom & pop stores in small towns.  Competition can be resurrected with favorable treatment provided to small businesses by government.  Tax incentives and lower costs can revive this market.  Local governments should work closely with local businesses to make them stronger and more robust in communities.  Both local government and businesses will be more responsive to their communities and their development. 

Large government and businesses are not only extreme in their sizes, but they also become extreme in their direction and focus.  These extremes carve America into the “have’s” and the “have not’s.”  The middle class disappears as the extremes polarize the country into a small class of wealthy government employees and business tycoons and a huge class of poor people.  This is not what America is about.  In fact, there is no America without the middle class.

The two extremes are:  (1) over regulation by big government and (2) unbridled greed and control by big businesses.  Either of these extremes can destroy the middle class and our American way of life.  We can avoid these two extremes through Politics in My Backyard (PIMBY) and Business in My Backyard (BIMBY). 

PIMBY focuses on local politicians who, as a general rule, are more interested in supporting the community where they live.  Even if they selfishly spend money on themselves, they typically will be improving their neighborhoods.  PIMBY will also reduce spending of taxpayer dollars by eliminating the excesses and duplicated efforts of state and federal governments.  

BIMBY, on the other hand, is local businesses leading the charge to not only keep prices down through competition, but also to do the right thing for their communities.  Local businesses, just like local politicians, will have a vested interest in supporting the communities because a robust community will provide more business and will buy more commodities.  Large businesses do not want competition and keep their prices lower by buying overseas, thus further destroying our middle class.

Only by thinking differently and employing both PIMBY and BIMBY can America remain strong, allowing the middle class to survive.  A synergy develops when these two are working together.  Local politicians and businesses should form coalitions throughout America that reduce the size of non-local government and businesses.

Americans should vote out all the incumbents in Congress and find representatives who will give taxpayer dollars to the local governments, substituting them for the federal and state governments.     


Totalitarianism is the End Game

The older generation typically is unhappy with subsequent generations, labeling each one in succession as being more liberal than the last. When Elvis Presley came onto the music scene, the older generation thought that the younger generation had “gone to the dogs.” Of course, Elvis is an angel when compared with heavy metal musicians and today’s rappers. So should we dismiss the older generations as all being out of touch with the current reality? Or should we analyze this as an evolutionary process, where each follow-on generation has to go further to the left in order to shock the latest older generation?

As most civilizations develop, like democracy in America, it starts with Founding Fathers who are wrapped in a very radical cloth. These early Americans were willing to die for freedom from England, and branded this new country with a Bill of Rights that guaranteed these newfound freedoms. These revolutionary leaders were on the cutting edge of new-age thinking, and they went way outside the box to form a republican form of government.

As time marched on, conservatives took control of government, corporations, and the culture. Everything ran like clockwork with work and family life becoming a consistent daily activity. Any radical tendencies were suppressed by peer or societal pressures.

But as each day became like “Groundhog Day” with a certain degree of monotony, the younger generations started to rebel against the old guards. At this point, each generation became increasingly bold in an effort to distance itself from the prior generations. This was indeed an evolutionary process headed down the road to a more liberal destination. We can certainly recognize this, looking back over the last six decades. The traditional standards of politics, religions, movies, music, and family-lives have all been modified substantially.

So where does this trend toward liberalism end? Well, unfortunately, it ends with the death of that system. In our case, the democratic experiment will implode as liberalism is pushed to its socialistic extremes where you don’t have to work, you don’t have to study, and you don’t have to do anything in order to be entitled to live in America. Everything will be free… except suddenly your freedom will be gone. All your freedoms will evaporate into thin air, replaced by a repressive slavery imposed by a totalitarian government. And then you, now a slave, will have to do whatever the government tells you to avoid being sent to a death camp.

But it is truly an evolutionary process from a radical concept of freedom to a conservative style of living to a progressively liberal lifestyle and finally to slavery under a totalitarian rule. Even if you know it is coming, you probably cannot stop it from happening. But if we were smarter, we definitely could slow it down. But unfortunately, that is not the case.

America’s Two-Party System

The Founding Fathers had two opposite magnetic poles that attracted American citizens.  One was a group led by Alexander Hamilton, George Washington’s secretary of the treasury, who believed that the common man should not control the government.  Hamilton argued that a president for life would be the best course of action, similar to the crown in England.  He thought that mob rule would take over if left to the common man.  The followers of Hamilton were called Federalists (federal rights).

Thomas Jefferson, George Washington’s secretary of state, led the other side, which believed that the people could rule themselves and that the Federalists would promote a dictatorship by taking away powers from the people and the states, giving them to the federal government.  Jefferson wanted a nation of farmers who needed few laws governing them.  The followers of Jefferson were called Republicans (citizens’ and states’ rights).

But these two parties agreed on two important items:  (1) they wanted to do the right thing and (2) they wanted to serve the public.  They just disagreed on how best to do that.  Interestingly, the presidents during this “Founding Fathers” period of time were very independent, and did not follow their party line in all cases.  They did what they believed was best for their country even if they didn’t get reelected.

The evolution of the two-party system has swapped names around so that it is a bit confusing.  The Hamilton Federalists later became Republicans, and the Jefferson Republicans later became Democrats.  However, today the old Republicans are the new Democrats, and the old Democrats are now new Republicans.  It will make it easier if I differentiate the parties with a reference to their ideology at that particular time.  For example, the Hamilton Federalists would be designated by (federal rights) while the Jefferson Republicans would be categorized as (citizens’ and states’ rights).

But because of the maverick spirit of the early presidents, it was never crystal clear about party alignments.  George Washington, the first president, was a very successful independent president by setting a middle course for our young country and never affiliating with any party.  John Adams, the second president of the United States was a Federalist (federal rights), but he lost favor with that party when he went with his conscience and not the edicts of the party.  He was successful though because he avoided a war with France that could have destroyed our young, fragile nation.  Even though Thomas Jefferson, the third president, represented the Republicans, he still followed his conscience.  He was also successful by purchasing the Louisiana Territory.  James Madison, the fourth president, also a Republican, did what he thought was right during his two terms, but he got wrapped up in the War of 1812, which drove the federal debt up for the first time since the Revolutionary War.  He still was a success by winning the war.  James Monroe, the fifth president, also a Republican, created the “Era of Good Feeling” with his expansion of territory and decrease in spending.  Washington, Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe all only ran for two terms, believing that it was improper in our democracy for them to stay any longer.  The first five presidents were both independent and successful.

John Quincy Adams, the sixth president, was independent like his father.  Even though he was elected also as a Federalist (federal rights), he voted for what he believed to be right and not what the party wanted.  This guaranteed one term for both men.  But John Quincy Adams was not as successful as his father.  He was a cold and distant person and had no abilities to compromise.

Andrew Jackson, the seventh president, was elected as a Democratic Republican (citizens’ and states’ rights) over the new National Republican party (federal rights).  Jackson’s party eventually became just the Democratic party, while the Republican party became the Whig party.  Even though Jackson believed in states’ rights, he drew the line with South Carolina declaring that it would not comply with a federal tariff.  Jackson was ready to send in federal troops to enforce the federal law.  It was interesting that many of the early presidents were independent enough to ignore the ideologies of their party lines and stand up for what they thought was right.  Jackson certainly fit this mold.  He vetoed more bills from Congress than any president up to his time, but Jackson was very successful.  The federal debt “flat lined” through Jackson’s administration and over the next thirty years.  It wasn’t until 1860 that the federal debt started climbing, building up to the Civil War.

Martin Van Buren, the eighth president, a Democrat, tried to do the right thing, but he was blindsided by a deep depression caused by land speculation and liberal borrowing of money.  Van Buren was unsuccessful as a president, but it wasn’t really his fault.  American citizens couldn’t blame themselves, so they blamed Van Buren.  William Henry Harrison, the ninth president, was elected as a Whig (federal rights), but he lived only for a few months and obtained no success during that short period.  His vice-president, John Tyler, also a Whig, assumed the presidency.  Tyler stood his ground and supported states’ rights even though his party did not.  Tyler also was a single term president because of his independent positions, but he was unsuccessful because both parties hated him.

James Polk was elected the eleventh president as a Democrat (citizens’ and states’ rights).  Even though he was involved in a war with Mexico, it was one of the few wars that did not dramatically increase the federal debt.  In the peace treaty, America obtained California, Nevada, and part of Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico.  Polk was a very successful president.

Millard Fillmore, the thirteen president, assumed this office as a Whig (federal rights) after his predecessor, Zachary Taylor, died suddenly after contracting an illness on July 4th, a year after he was elected on the Whig ticket.  Taylor wasn’t president long enough to be successful, but Fillmore was a success.  Even though Fillmore was from a party that supported a strong federal government and that was against slavery, he was independent and followed what he believed.  He was a big influence on the Compromise of 1850, which made California a free state and enacted the Fugitive Slave Act allowing slave owners to recapture slaves who escaped to free states.  Fillmore was the last Whig president as that party disintegrated after the compromise.  Fillmore also was the last successful independent president until Abraham Lincoln.

Franklin Pierce, a northerner, was elected as the fourteenth president, as a Democrat (citizens’ and states’ rights).  Pierce was one of the first presidents who followed his party line and not his conscience.  He started a string of presidents who followed a strict party policy.  Pierce followed his party and promoted the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which allowed the citizens in those territories to decide whether it wanted slavery or not.  This was the tinder box that set a fire that led to the Civil War because it allowed extremists to operate and take over in those territories.

James Buchanan, the fifteenth president, was also a Democrat (citizens’ and states’ rights).  He did not take a strong stand on much anything.  With two weak presidents in a row, the extremists within America took over and ran us headlong into war.  Buchanan did not want to make anybody angry, especially his party, so he avoided confrontation.  But the country needed a strong, independent leader to avoid the Civil War.

Abraham Lincoln, the sixteenth president, was elected as a Republican (federal rights and anti-slavery).  Lincoln was a much more capable president than Pierce and Buchanan, but he did not have much experience, so he was polarized by his party into denouncing both states’ rights and slavery.  If he had been more experienced and followed his own beliefs, he would have selected only one issue – slavery.  Slavery was on its way out anyway and clearly was against America’s principle of a right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all.  If Lincoln had ignored the states’ rights issue, he, at a minimum, would have shortened the Civil War and may have avoided it altogether.  Lincoln also gave in to his party when they proposed military leaders like Erwin McDowell, who was a political staff officer who should never have led the Union soldiers in the First Battle of Manassas.  Other political appointments of officers led to the early years of losses to the Confederates on the battlefield.  After General Ulysses Grant, who was not political, was given command of the Union army, things turned around.  As Lincoln gained experience, he exercised his executive power more than other presidents had done in the past.  He finally recognized the legitimate reason for the Civil War and delivered the Emancipation Proclamation speech after the Battle of Gettysburg on September 22, 1862.  Lincoln had many good qualities that helped him get through a very difficult period for our country, but his inexperience hurt him in his early years of his presidency.  He became a successful independent president after September 22, 1862.  There was a hiatus in independent successful presidents until Theodore Roosevelt in 1901.

Of the first sixteen presidents, nine were successful independent presidents:  Washington, John Adams, Jefferson, Monroe, Madison, Jackson, Polk, Fillmore, and Lincoln.

The Reconstruction period paraded a series of Republican (federal rights and big business) presidents who were controlled by Congress.  Andrew Johnson and Rutherford Hays should be given credit during this period for attempting to do what they thought was right, but Congress and big business were just too powerful, and these presidents were not successful in their efforts.  Johnson, the seventeenth president, was impeached by Congress when he attempted to do what he thought was right.  Hayes, the nineteenth president, tried to clean up politics, but Congress and big businesses had too much power as America rolled into becoming an industrialized nation.  Ulysses Grant (eighteenth president), James Garfield (twentieth president), and Chester Arthur (the twenty-first president) were all weak presidents who conceded to their parties and Congress, leading to widespread corruption within the government.  The Republicans became more of a party supporting big business and drifted away from promoting federal rights.

Grover Cleveland, the twenty-second and twenty-fourth president, was elected as a Democrat (citizens’ and states’ rights), who was going to bring a change along with an honest government.  He also brought a change to the Democratic party, which became less focused on states’ rights and more centered on laborers and small businessmen.  Cleveland made his decisions based on what he thought was right and not what his party dictated or what was popular.  However, he wasn’t successful.  That’s why he lost to Benjamin Harrison, the twenty-third president, on the Republican (big business) ticket.  But Harrison, who supported high tariffs and big business, lost the following election to Cleveland as farmers, labor, and small businessmen voted for the Democrat (small business).  The pendulum continued to swing back and forth between the two parties as William McKinley, a Republican, was elected after Cleveland’s second term.  All these presidents, as a general rule, followed their party line.

It wasn’t until the colorful twenty-sixth president, Theodore Roosevelt, a Republican (big business), was vaulted into the presidency after McKinley was shot and killed, that successful independence returned to the presidency.  Roosevelt recognized a new division within America, not between federal and states’ rights, but between the rich and the poor.  Even though he was a Republican, he set out on his own to protect the small businesses and workers.  Roosevelt was the first president to successfully follow his own set of values since Millard Fillmore, about a 50-year hiatus.  Roosevelt busted up many of the big business trusts.  He also saved the natural resources in America by establishing national parks and forests.  This highly popular president easily won a second term.

William Taft, the twenty-seventh president, also a Republican, attempted to follow-up on many of Roosevelt’s programs, but he was not as aggressive as his predecessor.  Although competent, Roosevelt was a tough act to follow, and Taft looked weak by comparison.  He was a party man, too complacent to be labeled as an independent.

We continued the swing back and forth between parties as Woodrow Wilson, a Democrat (citizens’ and states’ rights), was elected as the twenty-eighth president.  Wilson championed the rights of the people, following the party position.  Wilson was in power during WWI when the federal debt escalated to about what it was during the Civil War.  After Wilson, Warren Harding, a Republican (big business), became the twenty-ninth president.  He was a loyal Republican who voted the party line.  He died in office and Calvin Coolidge, another Republican (big business), kept things going for big business.  Coolidge said, “And the business of government was to keep out of business.”  Herbert Hoover, a Republican (big business), was the thirty-first president.  Hoover inherited the Great Depression, but he still did not want to interfere with businesses through government regulation.

Franklin Roosevelt, the thirty-second president, a distant cousin to Teddy Roosevelt, was a Democrat (citizens’ and states’ rights).  Roosevelt really was an independent and kept to himself for the most part.  He was the architect for an expansive and expensive federal government.  The Democrat party suddenly looked a lot like the old Federalist, Whig, and Republican parties that championed federal rights.  He became the leader of a Democratic party that now represented the people through the federal government (big government).  He created new federal departments and spent money at a rate never seen before in our country.  He modified his party’s platform to use the full power of the federal government to champion the rights of Americans and small businesses.  He created a larger federal government to get America back on its feet.  The change was perhaps one of emphasis.  The emphasis was on a larger government.  He was elected for a fourth term, more terms than any other president, as a Democrat (big government) but he died in office.

Harry Truman, also a Democrat (big government), became the thirty-third president with the shadow of Franklin Roosevelt over him.  Truman, like both Roosevelt’s, was his own man.  Even though Truman had some shady political ties in Missouri, he stepped up and made the tough decisions, such as dropping the first atomic bomb.  There was no passing the buck with Truman because as he said, “The buck stops here.”  He was from Independence, Missouri, and he was truly independent.  During the Korean War, he took on a very popular General McArthur, but Truman did not back away from making the difficult decisions, and he was generally right.  Even though Truman was able to decrease the rate of federal spending, he still incurred heavy expenses in WWII and the Korean War and our government continued to grow.

Dwight Eisenhower was elected the thirty-fourth president because he was a likeable war hero.  His slogan was, “I like Ike.”  He was a Republican, but his party’s philosophy didn’t look that much different from the Democrat (big government) beliefs.  He pretty much followed the party line and was not considered to be a strong president.  However, he was able to continue a decrease in federal spending even with continued growth in the government building interstate roads and other projects.

John Kennedy was the next independent president after Truman.  He also was a Democrat (big government) elected as the thirty-fifth president based on his personal charm and wealth.  He attracted smart independent advisors, and he was willing to go against the military, corporate, and political powers.  The Bay of Pigs and Cuban Missile Crisis were both headaches for his administration.  Kennedy was assassinated, but we still do not know why.

Lyndon Johnson, the thirty-sixth president, returned to the Democratic party (big government) mantra.  Johnson started a group of presidents, whether Democrat or Republican, who followed their party line of increasing the size of the federal government, carrying right up to the present.  The Democrats might argue for increased taxes, and the Republicans might decrease taxes, but otherwise the two parties contributed to a higher federal deficit.  Johnson, unlike Kennedy, embraced big government, big business, and big military.  Richard Nixon, the thirty-seventh president, was a Republican, but it was difficult distinguishing him from Johnson except that Nixon got caught.  After his resignation, a very honest president, Gerald Ford, took his place, but Ford ran into an inflationary recession and didn’t have time to make his mark on the presidency.  Jimmy Carter, the thirty-ninth president, was an inexperienced Democrat who struggled to find his identity and the Democrat party fared no better.  Nixon, Ford, and Carter were able to maintain a reasonable federal budget, but the next president, Ronald Reagan, started the elevator rising to the giant federal debt that we have today.  He didn’t initiate this with the growth of federal government as much as he did with tax decreases.  The reduced taxes increased the debt.

Ronald Reagan, the fortieth president, finally defined and designed the new Republican party.  Reagan was the pioneer leader of this Republican party (business/small government), modifying its big business role to embrace less federal government.  The Republicans became a party that wanted to make the government smaller, making businesses less regulated and less taxed.  Now, the lines were clearly drawn between Republicans (business/small government/less taxes) and Democrats (unions/large government/more taxes).  Since Reagan actually formulated the new Republican party, he did not deviate from what the party line.  He was independent in that he created what he believed in.  And because of his firm ideological beliefs, he was able to dismantle the Soviet Union.  However, the costs for the federal government were increasing under both parties now.

George H.W. Bush, the forty-first president, continued following the Republican ideological philosophy.  Bush was one of our best war presidents.  During the First Gulf War, he formed a coalition of nations to remove Hussein from Kuwait.  Bush announced the objective and turned over the strategy and tactics of war to the military and let them do their job.  It is a lost art called “delegation” that few presidents ever learned.  William Clinton became the forty-second president as a Democrat, still pursuing what was best for a larger government.  Clinton was lucky to see a decrease in the federal budget because of the boost in the economy, giving the government more tax revenue and better profits on its investments. George W. Bush was the forty-third president, following the Republican movement to minimize government and reduce regulations on businesses.  The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan sent our federal debt spiraling up into the stratosphere.  Bush understood neither the power of coalitions nor international law like his father did, so America lost some of its moral luster.

Barrack Obama, the forty-fourth president, was perhaps the biggest Democratic champion for a larger government.  We have seen our federal debt go over $16 trillion and watch as Standard & Poor’s downgraded our country’s credit rating from AAA to AA+.  With our debt increasing over $1 trillion each year, we are reaching a fiscal tipping point.

In summary, the first five presidents from George Washington to James Madison carried an aura of successful independence about them that may have carried over from being the “Founding Fathers.”  Jackson, Polk, Fillmore, and Lincoln were the next four successful independent presidents, but this combination wasn’t seen again until Teddy Roosevelt came crashing onto the scene.  Franklin Roosevelt, Truman, Kennedy, and Reagan were the last presidents who exercised successful independent spirits.  I believe that Lincoln fit in the category of independent successful presidents after September 22, 1862, when he issued the Emancipation Proclamation. Also in my opinion, Reagan did what he thought was right as another successful independent, which matched the new party line that he had created.

In effect, I argue that there were only 14 out of 44 presidents who were successful at doing the right thing for their country even at the risk of not getting reelected.  The most successful presidents were independent, but still knew how to build coalitions.  The least successful presidents were those who just simply followed the party line or who refused to compromise or work with anybody.  I think we could use another independent president, but if we have already reached the tipping point, I don’t know if they could be successful.

Is America a Republic or a Democracy?

Colonists in America came from different backgrounds.  Some escaped their past, looking for a brighter future.  Some brought their religions with them that were not accepted back in England.  But even though these pioneers were woven from different fabrics, they wanted freedom… not necessarily freedom from England since many were loyal to the king, but freedom from old restrictions.  They wanted a new lease on life, and America offered that freedom.  But did that desire for freedom forge the colonies into a republic or a democracy?

The adventurers settled in different regions of America called colonies, now delineated as states.  They all had different rules.  Some were very strict like Roger Smith’s colony in Rhode Island.  Others were a little more flexible, but survival was possible only with the individuals joining together to share their abilities for raising crops, hunting wild animals, and gathering wild berries and nuts.  Individuals banned together under unwritten contracts for survival.

If everyone acted on their selfish desires, then the contract would be broken and survival of all would be in jeopardy.  Even though there were exceptions, most of the citizens eagerly followed the rules because there was little margin for error.  A drought or flood could wipe out your crops for that year, leaving you to rely on the hunter-gatherer specialists.  Individualism pales when death darkens your door.  If there is no grocery store or McDonald’s restaurant, you will be more interested in forming coalitions and in accepting the terms of the social contracts.

Social contracts are agreements among individuals to abide by certain rules, limiting their freedoms to benefit society as a whole.  Were these social contracts in America for a republic or a democracy?  Thomas Hobbes argued that the contract should require the ruler to protect the natural rights of the people and, in return, the people would agree to accept the authority of that ruler.  But Hobbs placed the ruler above the law.  Sounds bloody British, doesn’t it?

John Locke believed that nobody, including the ruler, should be above the law.  He believed that individuals should have certain rights such as freedom of speech, religion, and ownership of property, and that the government had the obligation to protect these rights.  Locke’s views on individual freedoms are important in avoiding pressures to conform, so that we may fully develop ourselves.  However, we are willing to give up some of our less important freedoms for the good of a balanced society.  But as Thomas Paine suggested, certain freedoms remain inviolate, no matter what, such as life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  Paine was a champion for democracy, much of which was adopted by our Founding Fathers.  But was America a republic or democracy?

The American social contract for a republic is perhaps best explained by J.S. Mill, although he lived after the American Revolution.  Mill was concerned that individuals and minority groups might suffer by being made to conform to the majority under a social contract.  He countered by stating that a majority should only interfere with a minority only when it is doing something harmful to the majority.

As an example, free speech should be permitted even if the speaker makes no sense.  It is more important to prevent the government from deciding what may or may not be said.  However if the speech is designed to incite violence or solicit a crime, then it should not be allowed.  The incited action does not have to literally harm a majority of the people, but if it significantly impacts society’s mores or rules as a whole, then it should not be allowed.  It is, in effect, a balancing test.  Does the harm caused by a speech outweigh the right of an individual to express one’s views?  If a religious fanatic wants to stand on a street corner and let passers-by know that the world is coming to an end, this potential harm does not outweigh the individual’s right to speak.  But if the fanatic is enlisting you to kill the doctor across the street performing abortions, then that has crossed the line.

America became a “melting pot” attracting many immigrants who longed for a new start, a new life, and a new dream.  America accepted these immigrants who created new minorities.  The majority of Americans may not have liked it because there was more competition for jobs, but the majority accepted it because that was part of the social contract.  That’s not to say that there weren’t growing pains.  The majority threw its weight around and did not make it easy on the immigrants, but they eventually melted into our society and became a part of the majority.

James Madison in the Federalist Paper No. 10 wrote that government is unstable and that “measures are too often decided, not according to the rules of justice and the rights of the minor party, but by the superior force of an interested and overbearing majority.”  Madison was interested in avoiding a “pure democracy” since he believed the majority would run over the minority interests.  However, he was convinced that a “republic” could work because representatives would be more interested in the good of the public and would not betray the interest of citizens, whether representing a minority or a majority.

Our government is a republic, rather than a democracy, although we refer to it as a “democracy” more than a “republic.”  A pure democracy would follow more along the lines of Thomas Paine, who believed that the social contract allowed the majority to pursue its happiness as long as it didn’t harm the minority in the process.  This sounds a little like the hippie’s mantra in the early 1970’s:  “you can do anything you want as long as you don’t hurt somebody else.”  The problem is that it is idealistic to apply this individualistic practice to the majority, and it opens the door for the majority to harm itself.

Madison argued that pure democracy was dangerous because the majority would have too much power.  In effect, the majority would have complete and absolute power to judge when it was harming somebody else.  The majority would be in charge of deciding when the minority was being harmed, and Madison feared this degree of control by the masses.  Absolute power corrupts absolutely.

And the majority also could harm itself with impunity.  Now, even though that sounds like something we would never have to worry about, it’s actually a ticking time bomb for democracy.  In other words, democracy is susceptible to suicide.  Democracy could easily be taken over by a corrupt totalitarian government pretending to serve the interests of the public.  Madison was very concerned about self-serving factions gaining control who were not interested in the public good or the rights of citizens.  That’s why he preferred a republic over a democracy.

A republic is more like what J.S. Mill proposed when he said that a majority should not interfere with the minority unless it is doing something harmful to the majority.  This is a more practical approach to dealing with human nature.  This plays on the self-serving interest of the majority to protect itself, but still limiting its power, rather than giving it carte-blanche power.  Madison believed that representatives in a republic would ensure that both majority and minority interests would be protected.

Americans today have lost the distinction between a republic and a democracy, and consider America as a pure democracy.  You rarely hear America called a republic anymore because school children rarely recite the “Pledge Allegiance to the Flag,” which pledges “to the Republic for which it stands.”

So, is America acting like a pure democracy?  It is.  Even though we still have representatives who elect the president, these are not voters with “enlightened views and virtuous sentiments” that “render them superior to local prejudices and to schemes of injustice” that Madison dreamed about.  These representatives have become pawns in a pure democracy which permits the majority to run over the minorities.

White anglo-saxon protestants (WASPS) were the old majority who ran the country for their benefit.  Today, old minorities have become the new majority.  But the only thing that has changed is that there is a new sheriff in town.  But it is the same town – a town called Democracy.  The new majority can now run over the old majority.  Both old and new majorities have long forgotten Mill and Madison who wanted to protect both majority and minority interests.

And the Pledge has been forgotten by many, as well.  “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

American society has become a “Jerry Springer show” with an emphasis on stirring up conflict rather than bringing people together and forming coalitions.  The Election of 2012 was a significant example of how the old majority, which had no ability to form coalitions, lost out to the new majority.  It is interesting to note that the new majority’s interest in coalition building has been flagging after the election.

It’s almost as if the newly elected American politicians are focusing on a worldwide power base.  The problem is that a new worldwide economy will have only one point of failure.  That’s extremely dangerous and suicidal.  Once the worldwide economy fractures and breaks apart, and it will only be a matter of time, then the hidden agenda of the totalitarian leaders will be evident.  By then it will be too late for anybody to stop it.

So, I guess the answer to the question is that we are a doomed democracy unless Americans form a republic coalition, bringing us together in one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.