The Liberal Arts During Bondage: Part One

What does bondage look like?

One attribute of human nature is that we tend to acclimate over time to whatever condition we are experiencing.  We get used to the hot or cold weather.  We make the best of what foods are available.  We become accustomed to the system of governance in which we are raised.

Because of this acclimation–of getting used to even bad situations if we are exposed to them long enough–we have a hard time distinguishing between liberty and bondage.

This only changes as education and character changes.

Perhaps the better question is, “what does liberty look like?”

To help identify what bondage is, let’s identify a few conditions of current American life that historically can be considered bondage (meaning that they are not typically in existence during liberty):

  • Automobile laws (seat belts, booster seats, no talking on cell phones, speeding citation system, etc.)
  • The Food Modernization Act of 2009 (which if enacted fully, literally controls all food distribution and consumption down to the tomatoes you grow in your backyard)
  • Business licensing (why do I have to pay to register my business with a municipality?  Why do I have to register at all?
  • Building inspection process (why should the government require me to pay them so I can build a house on my property?  Why should the government care how I build my house at all?  If I build a house unsafely and the government inspector misses it, which results in injury to human beings, can I sue the municipality?  Why not just let the builder bear that burden?)

A citizenry in a period of liberty would never allow any of these constraints on society.  That is not to say that these measures aren’t smart and don’t save lives, but liberty dictates that citizens have the right to be unsafe and not smart.  Let the culture move the people to better habits, not the government.

A bondage-citizenry, less trusting of themselves and others, will at the very least, point out that these constraints are only slight infringements on personal rights, and in the worst case scenario they will embrace them fully and tattle to the government regarding their neighbor’s violations.

As we are currently in bondage, seeing things from the perspective of liberty is nearly impossible; and only prolonged suffering under bondage and a change in education and personal character will open our eyes to the truth of our situation.

The only way out of bondage is to develop a people of high humility, high integrity, high literacy, and devotion to Deity—in a phrase, sound moral character (moral here means to do right even when you have the freedom to do otherwise)—which creates a people steeped in Spiritual Faith.

The natural consequence of a people in bondage developing Spiritual Faith is the advancement of Courage.

Acting on that Courage leads to Liberty.  Liberty with such a people always leads to great Abundance.

This is precisely what the pre-American founding era did.  They left the religious and tyrannical bondage of England and Europe and removed themselves to the wilderness of America.

That removal and subsequent hardship moved them to rely on God and develop Spiritual Faith, Courage, and Liberty in a way they may not have otherwise.

What does liberty look like?

If you will take a close look at America from 1776 to 1865, you will see what liberty looks like.  Imagine a life free from:

  • Taxation as we know it today (remember, the 16th amendment was passed with the promise of no taxation beyond 3% of income)
  • Licensure as we know it today (if you wanted to run a business, the market would determine in you were worthy and competent)
  • Dependence on government (instead of nearly 50% of the population either employed by the government or on some welfare program, 85% of Americans lived on semi- or completely self-providing farms and ranches)
  • Government/Business complex as we know it (sure, men will be men, but outside of big business, the average American lived as he chose with little or no interference or oversight from government)

That’s what liberty looks like.

The American fight for liberty and subsequent Abundance began in 1776 and died at the end of the American Civil War (1865), the beginning of the national government occupation of the south or what is known as Reconstruction.

To understand this in proper context, we have to first look at the construct of the federal government.

The form and substance of the government established by the American founders was called Federalism.

Contrary to common belief, the founders did not create the federal government and then model the states after it, quite the opposite.

The stars in this graphic represent the 13 original states that had existed as independent colonies or states in and of themselves for 150 years before the federal or general government came into being.

FED

They had no desire to turn over their sovereignty to others, and outside of the powers listed in Article One, Section Eight of the U.S. Constitution—they didn’t.

Notice the direction of the power flow indicated by the arrows.  Who is the original source of power and authority here? Yes, the states.

The unofficial (the U.S. Constitution directs the states to ensure education in each respective state, not the general government) and non-federally funded American education system of the 17th century, 18th century, 19th century, and the first part of the 20th century, taught federalism as the proper form of government.

The Fed was given twenty specific powers–they are strictly identified in Article One, Section Eight of the U.S. Constitution, they are clear as a bell- a sixth grader can see them, it is that simple.  The Fed was given those powers and everything else remained with the states or the people themselves.

Amendments nine and ten of the U.S. Constitution are very clear on this point.  This understanding of governing principles was taught for 350 years.

Then from the 1860′s through the early 1900′s a new version of civics was promoted, experimented with, and then universally taught, literally replacing the old understanding within a few decades.

With the old understanding of governing principles gone, it was a simple matter of a generation or two of the new philosophy before contradictory laws could be passed to change our system from Federal to National. Now we live under a very different form of government from the one the founders gave us.

NAT

Today we have a national government that holds virtually all the power, delegating what it chooses down to the states.

Consider state budgets before and after this change.

From 1789 to the late 1800s  the federal government provided little or no funding to the states to supplement their budgets.

Today in my state of Utah, almost half of our $13 billion budget comes directly from the U.S. government. Utah is literally dependent on the national government for its very existence.

These graphics shows the states having the power and delegating some of their powers to the Federal government and then the national government holding all the power and delegating a litte to the states.  You can see the difference can’t you?

FEDNAT

These are two drastically different forms of government.  One is called Federalism.  The other is called Nationalism.  The principles of Federalism were taught to and lived by our ancestors from 1607 until about the 1930’s (350 years).  Nationalism has been taught for only the last 80 years.

Lincoln is attributed with saying: “The philosophy of the classroom in one generation, will be the philosophy of government in the next.”

Reconstruction (national governmental occupation of the south) was the beginning of the end of Liberty (and eventually Abundance) for the American people.  At this juncture, it is important to separate the Civil War from the policies of Reconstruction.

President Lincoln was the leader of the nation during the Civil War but that does not mean that he was an admirer of “National” government.

From 1863 to 1869, Presidents Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson (who became president following Lincoln’s assassination on April 14, 1865, only 5 days from the end of hostilities) took a moderate position designed to bring the South back to normal as soon as possible.

It was the Radical Republicans who used Congress to block the moderate approach and prolonged the terrible aftermath.

So it is clear that the idea of secession was settled with the northern victory of the war, but Reconstruction was a whole new phase.

Remember what the issue of the war really was; state self-determination.  This actually has a long history going as far back as 1800.

The southern agrarian states believed (based on nearly 200 years of colonial history) that they had a right to live their lives as they chose.  The northern industrial states (who controlled Congress) agreed, as long as the south would supply them with cheap cotton.

The south (who controlled the Supreme Court) were rankled at this and either had the court to back them up or simply ignored congressional legislation, a process that came to be known as Nullification.  By the time of the Civil War, this nullification dance had been going on for over 60 years.

Many in the halls of Congress (now moving quickly away from a Federal philosophy to a National philosophy) used this victory and a superior status to punish the south for a half a century of Nullification.

Compared to what the American founders established in 1789, we have been living under a tyrannical government for the last century.  What an absurd statement, you might say—but remember, never having lived under the original system and being taught that what we have currently is what the founders created, why would we question?

Written by:  Shannon Brooks, Monticello College