From another forum:
This Forth of July weekend, I wanted to say something about both the promise, and the peril, of this great country. I will start with a true story from our nation's founding.
The Continental Army would often, when engaging the British Army, use sharpshooters to systematically take out British officers. Cornwallis eventually was so distraught with this tactic that he sent an envoy to General Washington, with a message that said, "This tactic of systemically aiming munitions at officers must end. Imagine an army devoid of officers in which the men are free to roam as they naturally do, without officers of noble birth to restrain them. Surely you agree that the common man must at all times be controlled."
Unfortunately for Cornwallis, General Washington was fighting a revolution not only against English tyranny, but also against the notion that a moral and intellectual elite (the 'nobility' in that day) needed to control everyone else.
You see, the economics that had been employed up until that time was almost universally one in which government, through a king and noble lords (representing a moral and intellectual elite), owned and operated the means of production collectively. The noble Lords quite literally owned everything, including the people, on their lands, and they took everything their people produced, to do government things, on the promise that enough would trickle back down to the people who produced it for them to survive.
In the late 1700s, as a result of this, 90% of the population of England (the richest nation on Earth at that time) lived in conditions not materially different from those of a Roman slave.
For 90% of the population, life was brutal and short. They were at all times only one bad harvest from starvation, and populations always grew faster than food supplies, ensuring that this miserable system of poverty and hunger would continue forever.
Then something changed.
Suddenly the notion that the commoner needed a moral and intellectual elite to manage their life for them came into question. For the first time in human history, the king was told he did not own his subjects - the feudal lord did not own the people who lived on his property - and the people were free to do as they wished with their productive capacities.
They generally sold their labor to the highest bidder.
This shift in looking at regular people as being in charge of their own lives, with a government whose primary role was to protect them against aggression and to ensure that all exchanges are voluntary, led to the greatest expansion in the living and working conditions of workers, and especially the lowest skilled laborers, who saw their living and working conditions grow at the fastest pace in human history.
The growth was even more dramatic in the United States, after the ratification of the US Constitution created the first libertarian Republic in world history. It was an imperfect libertarian Republic, which allowed Southern states to maintain an anti-libertarian system of slavery, for another 80 years.
Interestingly, all of the per capita GDP growth for that first 80 years was in the North. All of it. The South stayed as poor, per capita, as it had been in 1789, until after the end of the Civil War, when slavery ended.
There is a reason the North exploded into an economic power during that time period and the South did not: the South largely still used a system of lords and laborers, while in the North everyone was free to sell their labor to the highest bidder.
After the end of slavery, the South began to expand, and though they have not yet caught up with the North, we became, by the start of World War One, the largest, richest, most powerful country the world has ever seen, with the highest standards of living across the board.
Had you told General Cornwallis that the United States would be, in just over 100 years, stronger economically than not only England, but all of Europe combined, he would have had a good laugh. And yet, it happened.
That is the growth and the promise of the United States. This is why so many people have, and continue to, immigrate to our shores.
Just as the United States emerged as the world's preeminent economic power, progressivism emerged with the idea that if we could only create a moral and intellectual elite, and through the tax system, give them control over the incomes of all the people, we could do even better. The amount of the national income government spent has since grown from less than 3% of GDP to more than 40% (including federal, state, and local spending). The notion has been that, if we just give government more of what we earn, then after government spends what it wants to spend on itself, including on its own wages and pensions, enough of it will trickle back down to the rest of us to give us better lives than we could have had we not been taxed so heavily.
We started at 3% of GDP going to government, and we were told that more prosperity required that government take 13%. That climbed to 20%. Now it is at 40% of GDP.
The more government has taken, the more growth has slowed, and the more growth slows, the more progressives blame free markets for the slowdown, telling us that the problem is not that we give 40% of everything we make to government, but that we give only 40% of everything we make to government.
To make matters worse, when World War Two ended we had tax rates as high as 92%, and, being the only industrial power in the world that had not been bombed into oblivion, our economy had robust growth anyway. Progressives point to this post-war boom as proof that their policies, which failed miserably until after the war and then began to fail again in the 1970s and 1980s (as the rest of the world began to compete with us again), as proof that it can work if only government takes more.
How much 'more' is enough for the progressive? I have never heard an answer to that. Historically, economies always collapse before the progressive has taken 'enough'.
The promise of America is still found in our founding principles of limited government and maximum liberty. The peril to America is that many of us no longer believe in these ideals, but instead want to return to the world General Cornwallis grew up in, in which a moral and intellectual elite control the rest of us, like oxen plowing fields.
To the progressive, you are either a lord or a serf, and there can be only so many lords.
Remember that come this next election.