August 10, 2008

America's deplorable behavior has raised the dead

Thomas PaineCommon Sense II: A Patriot's Case for a Second Revolution

by Thomas Paine
Edited by Craig J. Cantoni

August 6, 2008

Editor's Note: As every high school student should know, Thomas Paine established the moral and political case for the American Revolution in his pamphlet, Common Sense, which was written in the vernacular of the common man of his time. It sold 500,000 copies the first year. Adjusted for population, that would be equivalent to 60 million copies today. Now, by speaking to this editor through a medium from the great beyond, Paine has made the case for a second revolution in a new pamphlet, which is printed below. His words are written just as he dictated them through the medium -- in the common vernacular of contemporary America, not in the vernacular of colonial America.

Common Sense II

In 1776 I wrote the following about the difference between society and government:
Society is produced by our wants, and government by wickedness; the former promotes our happiness positively by uniting our affections, the latter negatively by restraining our vices. The one encourages intercourse, the other creates distinctions. The first is a patron, the last a punisher. Society in every state is a blessing, but government even in its best state is but a necessary evil.
Since I wrote those words, the government that I and my fellow Patriots founded has done much to address wickedness, most notably by ending the wickedness of slavery, albeit with too much bloodshed and the passage of too much time. By the twentieth century, the Republic had achieved the greatest advancement in standard of living in the history of the world. It did this by protecting natural rights and property rights, by allowing commerce and foreign trade to flourish, and by letting people keep the fruits of their labor. As a result, the so-called "poor" in America have a better quality of life and a longer life expectancy than the royalty of England had in the eighteenth century, including King George.

Now, sadly, the government has become more contemptuous of the individual and more confiscatory of the fruits of the individual's labor than King George's government ever was. Although the nation has become rich in material goods, it has become impoverished in individualism and morality, with the individual being pushed aside by ever-increasing statism and collectivism. Over the last century, the nation has been transformed from a constitutional republic to a majority-rule democracy, meaning that it is now ruled by the passions of the mob, which like the passions of a king, can be either benevolent or malevolent, but much more likely to be the latter. In recent history, the passions have been largely malevolent, especially in the mob's taking of the fruits of other people's labors. Not to excuse their actions, but Americans have been encouraged to beggar their neighbors by the press and by the three branches of government, including the Supreme Court, which was supposed to be the last refuge of liberty and property rights.

It is bad enough that all levels of government now consume nearly 44 percent of national income, a four-fold increase from just a century ago. Even worse is the fact that well over half of citizens get more back in services, entitlements, subsidies, and handouts from the national government than they pay in taxes. Allowing people to vote to get free stuff at other people's expense is a formula for both moral and fiscal bankruptcy.

Fiscal bankruptcy has already happened. Outlays, including unfunded liabilities, have exceeded revenues for decades, even in the face of confiscatory levels of taxation. The unfunded liabilities for entitlements and public-sector pensions alone total more than $60 trillion, or about $700,000 for each American under the age of 18.

Moral bankruptcy has happened, too. Obviously, it is not moral to bequeath trillions of dollars of debt to children who can't vote and defend their rights. Equally obvious, it is not moral for some citizens to vote to take the money of other citizens for their own narrow benefit. An act that is immoral if done by an individual does not magically become moral if it is done by a group, whether the group is a mob, a special interest, or a plurality of voters.

Not so obvious is the fact that virtually all of Congress and the White House have engaged in fraud to cover up their stealing and fiscal bankruptcy. They have resorted to keeping crooked books, they have perpetuated pyramid schemes, they have expropriated money from citizens' trust funds, and they have encouraged the Federal Reserve to print money and debase the dollar, thus punishing citizens who save money and create the capital necessary for investments in industry, education, and infrastructure. With few exceptions, all of the nation's leaders are guilty of fraud, including the two presidential candidates, Barack Obama and John McCain, neither of whom has leveled with the American people about the dire fiscal straits of the country. Instead of being put in the White House, they should be put behind bars in the Big House.

Don't interpret what is written here as idealist or utopian. It is understood that politicians will always lie, pander, and speak in populist platitudes. That's not what the nation's overlords are being accused of here. They are being accused of massive fraud and theft in the trillions of dollars, seriously harming the financial well-being of hundreds of millions of people.

As history proves, most nations die not from invasion but from unrestrained spending and the debasement of the currency. This is true whether the form of government is communist, fascist, socialist, or democratic. It just takes longer for democracies to commit fiscal suicide. A politician who wears a flag pin on his lapel and then aids and abets the suicide is not a patriot.

The primary cause of America's fiscal and moral bankruptcy is the conflation of government and society, both of which are now treated as one sphere instead of separate spheres. Since government and society are now considered one and the same, government is seen as inherently good and not, as I saw in 1776, as a necessary evil. Consequently, according to conventional thinking, what is good for government is good for society, including the basic building block of society, the family.

The thinking is clearly wrong, as evidenced by the social pathologies that the thinking has wrought. When a woman is encouraged by the government to "marry" the government instead of the father of her child, it is good for government, in that government bureaucrats get more power, and politicians get a new constituency that is dependent on politicians. It is not good for society, however. When a man sires children by multiple women and is encouraged by the government to walk away from his parental responsibilities, it is good for government and bad for society, especially for children. When children are taught values by government agents instead of by parents and the local community, it is good for government and bad for society. When the poor and the sick are shunted off to government apparatchiks instead of being cared for by churches, families, and voluntary charities, it is good for government and bad for society. When common sense, self-reliance, industriousness, frugality, and personal responsibility are driven from society by government, it is bad for society, which ends up with less common sense, self-reliance, industriousness, frugality, and personal responsibility.

The nation still has a First Amendment, despite the attacks on it by McCain, other politicians, and academia. But the press is largely silent about the problems caused by the conflation of society and government. Worse, nary a peep is heard from the press about first principles. Freedom of speech does little good if the press covers politics like a sporting event, giving the play-by-play but ignoring the fact that the two political parties have conspired to play by their own rules instead of the rules of the Constitution.

Take the former television journalist of national renown, Tim Russert, who has joined me up here. He's a nice soul and wears his angel wings well, but his reputation on earth as a hard-hitting journalist was undeserved. Like so many others in the media, he was an establishment celebrity who went along to get along and to get ahead. Instead of relentlessly questioning politicians about their fraud and thievery, he stricted his questions to how they played the game, although he knew that the game was rigged. For instance, he never asked,
"By what constitutional authority, political philosophy, and moral code do you justify increasing the cost of groceries for working stiffs by giving crop subsidies to well-off farmers?"
By not asking such questions, he became a partner in crime. Perhaps that's why he had to do a stint in purgatory. (Because of my deistic views, I had to do a stint there, also.)

The worst abuse of the First Amendment takes place in government K-12 schools, because that is where the government and its agents have a monopoly on what is put in the heads of impressionable children for six or more hours a day. This was not a problem before the advent of compulsory government education, when students were taught at home or in private or community schools. Nor was it much of a problem for the first 100 years after the advent of compulsory education, because schools were still under the control of the local community and thus reflected local values and mores. However, this diversity of thought has been slowly extinguished over the last 50 years as control over curricula and textbooks has been usurped and centralized by state and federal governments.

The result has been the manufacturing of clones who think alike about government. Polls show that the majority of Americans don't believe that government is a necessary evil. To the contrary, they believe that government should have even more resources and power to fix the problems facing the nation, not realizing that most of the problems facing the nation were caused by government in the first place. Health care is a good example. Because government destroyed a consumer-is-king market in health care, costs are higher than they would otherwise be. Yet Americans have been taught to believe that free markets and free choice don't work in health care. Astonishingly, most are now willing to let the government treat physicians like serfs by dictating their pay, and they are okay with government bureaucrats peeking under their hospital gowns to see if they deserve medical care.

None of this should be a surprise. What other outcome would be expected when 90 percent of Americans are taught from the age of six to the age of 18 about government by the government?

Where does this leave us? Before answering, let me touch on national defense and foreign affairs. Although history correctly characterizes me as advocating a foreign policy based on trade and not aggression, coupled with a strong national defense, I don't believe that the nation's departure from that philosophy is a problem that cannot be fixed by the current political system. Yes, it is unsustainable economically for the nation to maintain over 700 military bases around the world and to attempt to turn every despotic nation into a democracy. Yes, as President Dwight Eisenhower warned, the military-industrial complex has too much political power. However, there is enough difference of opinion on these issues for citizens to elect representatives who will change foreign policy and national defense to what their constituencies believe is in the national interest. That's a different kind of problem than the problem of voters bankrupting the nation by voting for free stuff out of their own self-interest instead of the national interest. It's also different from the problem of politicians engaging in fraud to cover up their stealing and get re-elected.

The problems of theft and fraud cannot be corrected within the existing political system, for the simple reason that a majority of voters are on the take and in cahoots with their elected representatives and the press. Like the colonists, those who are being fleeced don't have the political power to protect themselves. They do have other kinds of power, however. Generally, they are smarter, harder working, more productive, and more determined than the takers. They also have the police and military on their side, for the police and military have to deal with the social pathologies of the conflation of government and society.

Unlike the first revolution, bloodshed is probably not necessary. But the enforcement of the law through armed force is absolutely necessary. To reinstate a constitutional republic, it is necessary to bring politicians to justice if they have broken the law by stealing and committing fraud. It saddens me to say that 90 percent of Congress has broken the law.

Extra-legal actions are not necessary, for the necessary laws are on the books and the judicial system is in place. The only stumbling block is that government prosecutors are unwilling to prosecute their brethren. As such, they have to be forced to do their jobs. This is what is meant by a second revolution.

Is this risky? Yes, but not as risky as the actions taken by the Patriots of my generation. Is it possible for Patriots to lose everything they have? Yes, but the probability is much smaller than what it was for the original Patriots. Will many Americans choose to be Loyalists instead of Patriots and not join in the fight to restore a constitutional republic? Yes, but that was also true during the first revolution.

Craig J. CantoniThere will be those who, upon reading this, will want to dismiss the seriousness of the problems and retreat to the comfort of the status quo. There will be others who will agree to the seriousness but mistakenly think that the problems can be fixed by winning the war of ideas, by tinkering with the tax code, by electing likeminded people to office, or by going to Starbucks and intellectualizing about the problems. To these people, I close with a quote from my good friend Edmund Burke and then with a quote from my original Common Sense:
All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.

-- Edmund Burke

A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong, gives it a superficial appearance of being right, and raises at first a formidable outcry in defense of custom.

-- Thomas Paine

Readers should contact the editor at if they want to send a message to Mr. Paine or if they are Patriots who want to help plan and organize the resurrection of the Republic.

1 comment:

Mark Wilensky said...

As a fifth-grade teacher and author in Colorado, probably the most important thing I can instill in students is the belief that all their voices are important. Their future does not have to be inevitable. "Little voices" can make dramatic impacts on events. That is Thomas Paine's greatest contribution to our country. His pamphlet, Common Sense, spoke to all the voices in the 13 colonies during a time of great fear and indecision. He gave a vast number of citizens a vision of what each could do, 176 days before the Declaration of Independence. That message is still paramount to all our students today. For that pamphlet alone, Paine needs to be recognized as a intrical part of the American miracle.

Mark Wilensky,
author of "The Elementary Common Sense of Thomas Paine: An Interactive Adaptation for All Ages"