Sunday, April 27, 2003

"We have no disposition to dissemble, that, in our judgment, the evils to be remedied come from the natural and inevitable developments of the democratic principle, against which the convention of 1787, that framed the federal constitution, aimed to guard the republic, but did not provide sufficient safeguards, especially in case of a people recognizing no divinely constituted spiritual authority capable of commanding their reverence, and disciplining them into submission to the law of God. We ask for no king, no kaiser, no titled aristocracy, but we do want the people to understand that they are nothing without leaders, and that the mass of them are born to follow, not to lead, and that nothing is worse for them than to be led by fanatics, hypocrites, traders, business men, and unscrupulous demagogues. Yet in a community like ours, under a pure or a representative democracy, such are sure to be our leaders, and equally sure to lead us to political destruction,- as all would see and admit if they were not blinded by their unfounded conviction, that a democratic government is the best of all possible governments; or if they had the courage to look the facts, daily occurring before their eyes, full in the face, and draw from them their strictly logical conclusions. Democracy is the best of all possible governments to make the many tax themselves for the benefit of the few, or to build up a burgher aristocracy, or, in our day, an aristocracy founded not on capital, but on paper, or the paper evidences of debt. The journalists tell us the country is rich, and we count our millionaires by thousands, if not by hundreds of thousands; and yet, if called upon suddenly to pay its debts or to redeem its bonds of every sort, it would be found to be hopelessly insolvent, and the reputed wealth of the millionaires would vanish in smoke. Our present wealth is chiefly in evidences of debt, that is, created by mortgages on the future.

There is no people in the world so heavily taxed as the American people, and none who derive so little benefit from the taxes they pay. Were it not so, should we see the vast, the appalling amount of poverty we see in our cities and large towns, the movements of the laboring classes for higher wages, or hear the perpetual clamor for an adjustment of the relations of capital and labor? There is no country in the world where industry is more general, labor more intense, and the working men, in proportion to what they produce, are more poorly paid,- especially if we take into the account the additional expense imposed on the laboring classes by our miserable democratic doctrine of equality. Do our statesmen ever consider what it costs, and the terrible suffering it occasions, to maintain the doctrine, “I am as good as you”? The working men and women cannot, as a rule, escape the public opinion or the fashion of their country; and since by the democracy which asserts their equality, you elevate them, at least in their own estimation, in the social scale, you make it a moral necessity for them to maintain a higher or more expensive style of living, which demands in turn a higher rate of wages, and a rate beyond the ability of the average employer to pay. Hence, the most thriving class, if not the only thriving class, of simple laborers in the country, is composed of emigrants from countries where democracy, if it affects the dreams, has not yet formed the habits of the working classes, and has not yet taught the peasant to despise the state in which he was born, or to aspire to be the social equal of his lord. Consequently, they are less affected by the fashion, the tone, and the sentiment of the country, and are contented with a more simple and less expensive style of living, and can live and thrive on a lower rate of wages. If it were not for the migration hither of foreign labor, our industry, our vast enterprises, and internal improvements would come to a standstill. But it is only the generation that migrates hither that are more economical, more frugal, and contented to live plainer; their children, born here and brought up under the democratic influences of the country, are as extravagant, as aspiring, and as averse to labor at a responsible rate of wages, to say the least, as the children of old American families; and hence the children of foreign-born parents form an undue proportion of the dangerous classes of our cities and towns. The democratic tone and sentiment of our country, to a fearful extent, more than neutralize the influence of the example, instructions, and admonitions of their parents, who are regarded as old fogies or behind the age, by children hardly in their teens, or so-called “Young America.”

Everybody sees the evil, complains of it, is inquiring for some “Morrison pill,” as Carlyle would say, to cure it, but hardly anybody has the courage to look for its cause in the democratic doctrine and sentiment of equality of the country, which creates a universal discontent on the one hand, with one’s actual condition, and on the other, a universal striving or longing to rise in the social scale till one reaches the topmost round; for democratic equality cannot exist where one is higher than another, and nobody regards himself as his neighbor’s equal unless his acknowledged superior. Satan never sent from his region of smoke and darkness a grosser delusion than this ignis fatuus of democratic equality, for which the nations of the Old World are so foolishly and wickedly struggling, as a means of elevating or ameliorating the condition of the poorer and more numerous classes. It is for the people the greatest curse that could befall them. What is just is equal, but what is equal is not always just. It is the reign of justice, not of equality, that modern society needs, and which governments and nations should seek to introduce and sustain."

"The Republicans in congress show the same dearth of statesmanship in regard to what is called “labor reform.” That the relation between capital and labor, in an age when paper or debt serves as capital, is not well adjusted, there is no doubt; but your genuine Republican, where the question lies between white labor and capital, knows no remedy, but the maxim, “Let government take care of the capital, and capital will take care of the labor;” which means in plain English, “Let government take care of the wolf, and the wolf will take care of the lamb.” Their statesmanship arrives at no wiser solution of the problem, than to shorten the hours of labor without diminishing wages to appease the workingmen or gain their votes, and then to tax the whole people through what is called a protective tariff, to compensate capital or to enhance its profits. It forgets that its two measures neutralize each other, so far at least as the interests of labor are concerned. A rise in the rate of wages means a rise in all the commodities the laboring classes consume, which must be paid by the working classes, for they are the greatest consumers of their own wares. We do not adopt the free-trade policy as a policy for all nations, and for all times, and under all circumstances; but we cannot respect very highly the policy that lays a heavy duty on imported woolens for the benefit of the home manufacturer, and a corresponding duty on imported wool to encourage the wool-grower. It is simply a policy that gives with the one hand and takes away with the other, with no other effect than an increased tax on consumption, from which the laboring classes, as the greatest consumers, are the principal sufferers."
-Orestes Brownson "The Political State of the Country"

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