Morgan Liddick: Winning elections with the Socialist schtick |

Morgan Liddick: Winning elections with the Socialist schtick

And On the Right

One reads the most interesting things in letters to the editor. The other day as I was browsing through the Denver Post, I came across an offering that opined the American public was not qualified to pick a President. The proof consisted in the election ” and re-election ” of President Bush, placing the author firmly in the “sore loser” camp, but the idea may be worth pursuing.

This is not a new idea, nor confined exclusively to the ranks of Liberals, who think that by virtue of their self-proclaimed intellectual superiority they alone should decide who gets the top job. On the contrary, “who chooses” is a question that has dogged the electoral process since our Founders set one up.

There was heated debate early about qualifications for voting. The Founding Fathers wisely left the question up to the states, which resulted in slightly different criteria in each. But in every case, there was a property requirement for receiving the franchise.

The reasons for this were relatively straightforward. In some ways, the men who created this country suffered from tunnel vision; they thought that the new United States would best be governed, and its interests best served, by leaders such as themselves ” property owners who, by virtue of a comfortable financial situation would be able to devote time and energy to the public’s business.

It was also argued that property owners had the greatest interest in wise administration of the Republic and its resources; its prosperity ensured theirs.

Property requirements assured that leaders would be selected by those with a literal stake in good government.

This point of view prevailed until the Jacksonian Revolution of 1828, and has cropped up from time to time since.

The Founders were also concerned with the problem of the Common ” nowadays termed “free riding.” In the 1790s, the problem was exemplified by overgrazing on a town’s “common” pasture ” an area held collectively for the use of all. Since no single owner controlled it, no one wanted to spend time or money to improve it. And since all could use it, each livestock owner had a selfish interest in using it to the maximum extent possible, with predictable results.

Today’s version of the Common is public services and facilities, and I don’t just mean lavatories in the parks. From highways to high schools, public safety to public health, we all use services provided by various levels of government. And unless we are among the very rich, we use more than we pay for.

These days, candidates for public office buy votes by promising to deliver more services if they are elected. Check out any Presidential debate if you don’t believe me. There’s no more talk of sacrifice, personal responsibility or rectitude. Instead, the Common will be enlarged to provide all things to anyone who wants them ” and as we well know, human wants are infinite. This largess is described as “free,” but this is a lie. Nothing is free, so the only question is who will be made to foot the bill.

Like grazers on the Common, we want more ” more roads, more schools, more subsidies, more Social Security, more health care. Like them, we don’t care about the economic system that makes it all possible. It’s our right to have everything, all the time, isn’t it?

And if investments, economic development and businesses are made less competitive by the taxation necessitated by this largess, well … That’s someone else’s problem. Our economic Common is being overgrazed to death.

Changing this situation will take some doing. Mostly, it’s going to take guts and leadership by those running for political office; they’re going to have to tell us that we must manage with less; that thrift is a virtue and saving an act of patriotism. They’re going to have to tell us all that living in McMansions does not make us better people.

They are going to have to push for permanent changes to the tax code to encourage investment, and to argue that the time to buy something is when you can afford it.

They will have to remind us that the person most responsible for your well-being is you.

This is a radical departure from the practice of the past 60-odd years, and we won’t like it. We would rather be petitioners than responsible citizens, so in all probability we will permanently banish the first few who breathe a hint of these suggestions to the outer darkness, where they can no longer interfere with our self-satisfaction and living large on the wallets of others. The effrontery …

But like the overgrazed Common of yore, our situation will continue to deteriorate. So the question is, was the author right? Are Americans unfit to choose a President?

Stay tuned.

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