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June 27, 2008


bill greene

My chief reaction to Novak's article is that he does not recognize the time frames involved and the gradual transformation of America over the last 400 years. The early colonists built a great nation because they were not burdened by oppressive regulations or a despotic government. That "country" of independent and self-reliant citizens was already 150 years old when the Constitution was written--and it was written to keep the nation's people free of oppressive government. That entrepreneurial and laissez-faire beginning remains true--such an empowering environment created other "new" and vibrant societies in early Greece, 13th century Venice, 16th century Holland, 18th century Scotland, etc. America was modelled after such successful republics of history. The only reason some commentators now call this a Myth is that over the past 150 years our government has grown to the point where it is limiting the freedom and initiative of its people. Many Americans are no longer representative of the self-reliant types that settled and developed the continent. They have been encouraged by utopianists to become victims and accept governmental largesse. Thus American history has followed past examples of free nations that gradually succumbed to populist democratic notions of a "nurtuting and controlling" central government. It is this distinction between the two critically different types of government power that is also missing in the article. A laissez-faire society needs a "strong" government to maintain and protect the institutions that allow free competition--such as an equitable legal and justice system, a strong international presence to protect its citizens, police to protect personal and property rights, an efficient system of deeded property and financing rights. What the nation does not need is a strong governmental role in banning cigarettes, licensing every trade, handing out taxpayers funds to every special interest group, and a Congress that spends an inordinate amount of time investigating the use of strength enhancing drugs for athletes. Alan Deshowitz' book "Rights from Wrongs" makes that distinction-- between such rights that protect individuals from the government (negative rights) and the "positive rights" that have gradually come to pre-occupy the government with such things as free drugs for the elderly, monetary rewards to single moms with illegitimate children, and huge personal injury awards to people who spill hot coffee on themselves! The Lessons of History show that what Novak is trying to recap is an age old pattern-- successful societies that presaged the American miracle of affluence and freedom had to originate in an environment of economic freedom but as they grew in affluence and were seduced by new elites that championed centralized governments offering more and more "positive rights," each successful society entered a period of decline. It is no "myth" that America was started by free and independent people and it is no "myth" that we are approaching an ending as the docile dependent sheep that every advanced welfare state breeds. I have addressed this historical pattern by posing "The Radzewicz Riddle" : "If simple young societies can grow rapidly, why is it that when their people become better educated, more intellectual, and more compassionate, their early success falters and Decline sets in ?"

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