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.