Nattering nabobs of complete ignorance

During one of my endless circular drives transporting children today, I caught a minute of a phone call from one of Sean Hannity’s fans, who is nevertheless voting for Obama.  She has concluded that the Founding Fathers were entirely in favor of wealth redistribution, because they opposed the concentration of wealth in a small number of families.  Sean came back with a lot of good quotations from the Founders warning against concentrating too much power in government, but I think he failed to understand his caller’s fundamental historical ignorance.

In Old England, the concentration of wealth in a small number of families was the concentration of power in government.  Despite the fact that England was slowly moving towards a semi-republican form of government, and the fact that Glorious Revolution in 1688 had clipped the monarch’s wings, England was still ruled entirely by the hereditary aristocracy.

Almost all the power in England, and almost all the money, resided with a fairly small number of families who held that money and power by virtue of birth and heredity.  They didn’t earn it, and they didn’t achieve much benefit from investing it.  To the extent they plowed it back into society, they did so only because a sense of decency made some of them realize that it was unconscionable, in a static rural society, for the poor to be so abysmally poor.  It was only the unleashing of the economy to the twin engines of the Industrial Revolution and the massive expansion of the British Empire that saw people from non-aristocratic backgrounds begin to break into those monied and powered ranks.

What all of these nitpicky little historical facts mean is that, when the Founders warned against concentrating wealth and power in a small number of people, they were also warning against locking power in the government — and vice versa, because the two were one and the same in that era.

The beauty of America is that the potential for power and wealth is vested in each individual citizen.  All other systems, whether socialist, or aristocratic, or oligarchical or theocratic concentrate power in a small ruling class, and then keep it there.  That’s what Obama wants to do to America.  Even as he sprinkles a little economic largesse amongst the people, he intends to ensure that power flows solely to the government — and anything more un-American than that is impossible to imagine.  The Founders are rolling in their graves at the thought.

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  • David Foster

    Good post.

    One of the greatest threats to class mobility in America today is the exaggerated reverence for higher education, especially graduate degrees. There are too many cases in which (for example) the talented retail store manager is not considered for the high-profile Region Manager job, which goes to an “elite-college” MBA with minimal if any actual experience in a store. And the bias in favor of the advanced degree and the “elite” university is much stronger in the “nonprofit” sector than it is in the business world.

    Part of the hostility to Sarah Palin is clearly due to the fact that she has succeeded without riding the kindergarten-to-grad-school conveyor belt that so many people now consider a requisite for success in our society. Consciously or unconsciously, some of this snobbishness is about an attempt to recreate a defacto hereditary aristocracy in this country.

  • Deana

    “The Founders are rolling in their graves at the thought.”

    Ever since hearing Obama’s thoughts on the Constitution this weekend, I can’t get out of my head what the writers of the Constituion and Bill of Rights would think if they were alive today.

    I’m no lawyer and definitely not an expert on the Constitution but I feel that Obama is turning the Constitution on its head.


  • suek

    I planted some links on this post that are relevant to this topic – I’m not going to “transplant” them!

  • Bill C

    I caught the same call and thought that woman got the better of Sean because he did not understand her point. i also thought that the woman was way to articulate and ‘on message’ to be just any one calling into a talk radio program. But Obama has got me paranoid.

    I am quite sure I will be one of the 25 million killed. 😉