The State of the Union

…definitely leaves something to be desired…

“their younger recruits, who, having nothing in them of the feelings or principles of ’76, now look to a single and splendid government of an aristocracy, founded on banking institutions, and monied incorporations…ruling over the plundered ploughman and beggared yeomanry.”

~ Thomas Jefferson, letter to William B. Giles, 26 December 1825

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What’s the point of liberty if you can’t afford freedom?  What does it matter if you live in a great nation where you have the right to vote for your elected leaders and the right to a say in your governance if you can’t even afford to eat?  Other nations’ revolutions began merely on that basis alone.  They didn’t even care about the right to a voice in governance they just wanted to NOT starve.  After the American Revolution, France overthrew their monarchy because they were hungry – literally, not just for liberty.  In fact most revolutions, successful and not, throughout history have a strong current of economic inequality running through them.  People who fear that today’s meal may be their last cannot possibly make measured decisions about their nation’s future.  If there are enough people sharing that fear, they tend to revolt without even having a plan or a purpose other than bread.  Can we argue that our nation is truly strong or truly great if a full week’s worth of work doesn’t earn enough to meet one’s basic needs?  The Founding Fathers would not have admired such a nation; they would have told us that a nation such as that is in a state of decay.

And decaying we are.  Whether or not one believes that it’s the government’s role or responsibility to fix economic inequality, and regardless of the method one thinks is the best to do so, we can’t deny its existence in our society.  We can’t deny that somehow we have slowly devolved into a society where people are less likely than ever to achieve the American dream, or go from rags to riches.  People are more concerned with the day-to-day needs of making ends meet than with where the nation is going as a whole.  It affects how we govern.  It affects how we vote.  It affects how most of us live.  Yet we’ve done little to alleviate this, the most obvious of evils in our society.  And those at the top of the food chain continue to use their greater resources to undermine those at the bottom.  Our Founders were great men.  They were also the wealthy elite of their time.  But despite that, they sought to create a nation where all men were considered equal and all men could have an equal chance.  Here we are a few centuries later, and instead of all men being equal, we have citizens still struggling to survive.  Do we really think they’d look with pride on the state of the union now?  Do we really think they’d find our air of decay and apathy appealing?  Or would they wring their hands and raise their voices against the inequalities our society has brought.

 

Res Publica

 

Documentation without Representation:

Thomas Jefferson, letter to William B. Giles, 26 December 1825

Electronic Text, p. 432

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