Sunday, July 7, 2013

The Tragic Retreat

Whatever the political differences among Americans, there is one point on which all must agree. In this year 1955 we seem to be prosperous, with more people at work at higher wages than at any time in our history. Yet the nation, it must be conceded, is in profound trouble. When we discuss this we usually talk about our difficulties in Asia, the threats of war in Europe, the shadow of Russia over the world, the galling taxes, rising prices, soaring national debt, and widespread corruption in public life, including conduct that borders on treason. But these difficulties do not make up our problem. Neither war, debt, inflation, controls nor corruption are the roots of our greatest concern. They are not causes. They are the effects of an internal social disease.

Our situation is so grave, the perils that surround us so formidable and our hope of escape without some social convulsion so vague that it is of the first importance that we seek with sober realism the fundamental forces at the base of our trouble.

I lay it down, therefore, as a proposition susceptible of complete proof, that our difficulties do not have their origin in the struggle with Russia or our massive debt and oppressive taxes squandered all over the world. These are the external and visible symptoms of our illness. America is sick. Our basic disease is that WE HAVE ABANDONED THE AMERICAN SYSTEM OF GOVERNMENT. We have dismantled the American Republic and reconstructed it on an alien and corrupt plan.

Of course we still speak of our society as the American Republic. But in its essential character it bears only an external and superficial resemblance to the Republic as it existed for 148 years, from 1789 to 1937. Several years ago, Garet Garrett wrote a pamphlet called The Revolution Was.1 I am sure few gave much attention to that brilliant and terrifying document. Now, however, the truth is before our eyes. We have passed through a revolution. World War II and our present embarrassments in Europe and Asia are merely the material manifestations of the basic disease. That disease is nothing less than this: that we have abandoned the fundamental principle on which the American Republic was built. For the perplexities in which we are trapped in Europe, for the confusion and frustration we do not know how to end in Asia, for the crushing debt and taxes at home and the almost unbelievable infusion of treason in our government and our society, there is no remedy so long as we continue to concern ourselves with the symptoms and ignore the roots of the disease. We will begin to make some headway against these tragic problems when we have the courage to look with utter realism at the cause and recognize that it will be found not in Europe or Asia but in the crime we have committed against our history, our heritage and our destiny when we began to destroy the American Republic.

These statements, I am sure, will appear fantastic to younger Americans. The man or woman of 40 today was only 14 years old when the stock market collapsed in 1929. They were only 18 when Franklin D. Roosevelt was inaugurated in 1933, amidst the dramatic scenes of disaster which climaxed the depression. It may surprise the reader to be told that some 46 million voters from 21 to 40 years of age have lived in America under no social conditions save those of depression and war, and under no form of government save that administered by what has been called the New Deal. It may come as a shock to these people to be told that they have never experienced in their adult years that kind of society which their parents knew as the American Republic, and that they now live in the war-torn, debt-ridden, tax-harried, Red-wracked wreckage of a once imposing edifice of the free society which arose out of the American Revolution on the foundation of the American Constitution.

We have not been dealing with our national social problems intelligently because we have been attacking effects instead of causes. The very first concept we must recapture is this: That civilized life is not possible without adequate government, but that government itself can be the greatest of social evils. The men who framed the American Constitution were, by a fortunate chance, familiar with the history of government and tyranny. They knew that liberty is impossible without government. But they knew also that throughout history government has been the greatest enemy of liberty. They were confronted with the enormous task of erecting a government for the new nation. They knew that, as of then, the unsolved problem of society was the erection of government having all the powers necessary to guard the peace and the liberties of the people while at the same time being itself without the means of using those powers to impair or destroy the people’s freedom.

Through long centuries Englishmen in Europe had been adding one stone upon another to the entrenchments of freedom. In Colonial America, deeply schooled in the traditions of the mother country, our early statesmen found at last the final elements that would make the American citizen the freest man who had ever walked the earth. They used the raw materials supplied by their ancestors. They did not destroy the State. They captured it, harnessed it, brought its power under control and set it to work for free men. But now we have passed through another revolution in these last 20 years. It can be described as a great and tragic retreat. We have been rebuilding Big Government—government too big to be controlled. From this change flow all the ills and problems from which we now suffer. We wrestle with the problem of socialist and communist indoctrination, the wastage of our substance on endless foreign adventures. But none of these follies is possible without the thing we call Big Government.
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Decline of the American Republic

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