Political Hogwash!

“I think he cares for his country, don’t get me wrong about that, but I think he truly misunderstands what this country was based upon, the values that America was based upon, which was free enterprise and having the ability to risk your capital and having a chance to have a return on your investment,”

These are the garbled words of Rick Perry who is referring to President Obama whom he calls, in the same interview, a “socialist.” I have spoken about scare words like “socialist” in an earlier blog, so I won’t go there. I would prefer to reflect on the longer comment about the values Perry thinks this country was founded upon. One must wonder whether he ever read any of the founders’ words! Almost to a man, even the staunch Federalists had deep reservations about unbridled capitalism. They tried in any number of ways to put reins on human greed and see to it that no one became so wealthy they were a threat to found a new aristocracy.

One of the most common steps taken by every colony was to write into law prohibitions against “primogeniture”: the ability of a father to pass along his entire wealth to his eldest son. By the time of the Revolution all of the colonies had outlawed this practice, choosing instead a more equitable distribution of wealth through wills — what was called “partible inheritance.” The idea was to spread the wealth as much as possible and not allow it to accumulate in the hands of a few who would then become powerful, or worse yet, aristocratic. It didn’t always work that way, of course, but the point is that the values this country were founded upon are not to be found in raw, unbridled capitalism. Though most of the founders were not Puritans, they espoused largely Puritan values — such things as industry, courage, charity, and thrift. That is, the values that were prominent in the eighteenth century were other-directed and most assuredly unrelated to the “return on your investment.” Perry is deluded and is simply trying to re-write history as he slanders the President. What he says is hogwash.

When we take these words together with candidate Michele Bachmann’s praise of the residents of New Hampshire for the courage their ancestors showed in the local battle of Lexington and Concord, we must assume that the corporations who back these candidates don’t choose them for their intelligence and knowledge of history, but for their malleability. It would be wise to brace ourselves: there will be more of this sort of nonsense in the coming months, not less.

3 thoughts on “Political Hogwash!

  1. In a weird way, some of the leaders of the revolution who were from New England were motivated, at least in part, by business concerns and did risk their capital. Someone like John Hancock, especially, a wealthy merchant who could have lost everything had the British caught him or won the war, had seen British taxes and trade restrictions affect his businesses. But he also was full-throttle on the patriotic/freedom effort of the war, as well: Not only did he use his fortune to be a significant funder of the Colonies’ war efforts, he was a major general in the Massachusetts militia, was actually at the battle of Lexington in 1775, (the real one – the one in Massachusetts) and organized the tea boycott. (Yes, he founded the original Tea Party. I think he’d toss Bachmann in the water with the tea crates were he alive today). But I don’t think Perry is smart enough to make that kind of connection (although it’s hard to tell through his garble), and the way Hancock risked his investment is of a vastly different nature than what Perry meant. And certainly not what the later documents of the Founders were about, as you point out.

    • You are right, Dana. There certainly were wealthy colonists. From what I’ve read, however, they didn’t seem to be preoccupied with gaining wealth as an end in itself. They certainly weren’t interested in their “investments,” a word that would have had no meaning to them. It wasn’t until the Civil War, really, that capitalism took off in this country. And the government was always there to fill in the void created by moral blindness on the part of those preoccupied with profits.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s