The World Turned Upside Down
Yorktown Virginia, October 19, 1781; it’s just after two in the afternoon, and the British army is preparing for its final advance. Eight-thousand regulars dressed in scarlet and white, will depart their fortifications and march a mile; through the cordon of ragtag, American troops that line the road, to an open field where they will lay down their muskets, and affectively end the American Revolution. As the Red Coats snap to attention and the command “Forward – March” is given, the British band strikes up the tune “The World Turned Upside Down.”
The world in 1781 was a world ruled by monarchs; Charles IV of Spain, Fredrick II of Germany, Louis XVI of France, Catherine II of Russia, Maria Theresa and Joseph II of Austria, and George III of England. It was a world divided by class. At the top of the pecking order were the nobility, and at the bottom, the commoners. The nobility inherited their status and special privileges, while the commoners gratefully accepted what they were given, or else faced a very difficult existence. However, all that changed one April morning with the shot herd round the world.
The American Revolution was not just a revolt against the British crown; it was a revolt against the philosophy and culture that had dominated Europe for centuries. Five years earlier the Founding Fathers rejected the status- quo and proclaimed to the world the truth, “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” That autumn day in Virginia, literally turned the world, upside down.
The Founding Fathers embraced the divine truth “that all men are created equal.” They believed God created autonomous human beings, with the free-will to make their own decisions and build their own lives, and that it was immoral for any other human being or human institution to infringe upon, or usurp that autonomy.
However, the Founding Fathers studied history, and knew that all governments gravitated towards tyranny. They knew human nature, and understood that there would always be some form of aristocracy seeking to set themselves apart from, and above the masses. When they created the American Republic, they rejected the concept of class, and the idea that any individual was inherently superior to another because of bloodline or birth. They establish a society in which the individual was free to rise and fall, according to the merits of their own ideas and actions.
The Founding Fathers did not build the greatest nation on earth by empowering a great government. They built it by limiting government, which enables people to be great, and accomplish great things.
Although all men are equal in the eyes of God, and under the law, the reality is that no two human beings are the same. We are all unique; possessing our own blend of intelligence, talent and potential. We are all individuals with our own values, ambitions, and experiences. No two human beings can be guaranteed the same success or failure in life. It’s up to each individual to decide on what’s important to them, define their own success, and then “go for it.” The best that we can hope to accomplish is to preserve and promote what our Founding Fathers established; a society in which every individual has the freedom and opportunity to pursue their own dreams, free from, and unhindered by the intrusion of government.
Over the past five decades, we’ve changed the prism through which we interpret the phrase “all men are created equal.” It has morphed from the divine truth of the Founding Fathers, into the secular notion of collective equality; the fallacy that everyone is entitled to a certain standard of living, and that it is the government’s role to secure it for them.
Between 1940 and 1964, the poverty rate in the United States plummeted from 43 percent to 14 percent, due to a booming economy, the best public education system in the world, and investments in highways and infrastructure that made rural America accessible. Then in 1964 President Johnson declares a war on poverty, and the decline halted, stagnating around 13 percent. Over the past 50 years, the United States has spent over 15 trillion dollars battling poverty. This 15 trillion does not include Social Security or Medicare. It is just welfare payments, food stamps, housing subsidies and other means-tested programs.
Why can’t we do better? Why has the “Great Society” failed? The answer unfortunately, is the law of unintended consequences.
It’s not the intent that counts, but the results, and President Johnson’s “Great Society” has decimated the American family. Since the start of the war on poverty, the divorce rate in the United States has doubled, and the number of out-of-wedlock births has increased ten-fold. Seventy-five percent of people on welfare today find themselves on it because of a divorce, or out-of-wedlock birth. One-third of the children in the country are raised in a single-parent home, and one-third of those live in poverty. The best intentions of the “Great Society” have created an entire class of citizens who are terminally dependent upon the government.
Compounding the problem is the creation of the new aristocracy; the federal and state bureaucrats who administer these programs. Each year, hundreds of billions of dollars are spent to administer programs that are designed to keep people dependent upon the government. Less than one percent of the trillions of dollars budgeted for means tested-programs is spent on job-training, or programs designed to give people the education and skills needed to be self-sufficient and independent.
The welfare state created by the “Great Society” is immoral. It has bred an army of bureaucrats whose livelihood is contingent upon keeping millions of people dependent upon the government. It has usurped the autonomy of the individual and subjugated generations of Americans to a life of limited opportunity and hopelessness. The modern welfare-state has once again turned the world upside down because clearly, today in America, all men are not created equal.