"Government is instituted for the common good; for the protection, safety, prosperity and happiness of the people; and not for profit, honor, or private interest of any one man, family, or class of men; therefore, the people alone have an incontestable, unalienable, and indefeasible right to institute government; and to reform, alter, or totally change the same, when their protection, safety, prosperity, and happiness require it." ~ John Adams
Our Founding Fathers were concerned that government be “of the people, for the people, and by the people.” In their personal writings they warned that religious groups, persons of wealth and self-serving legislators could influence legislative decisions. Therefore they insisted on separation of Church and State, large inheritance taxes, and ethical representatives. Accepting donations was considered bribery. The will of the people must prevail over special interests. So what about now?
Luckily I stumbled across yesterday’s PBS special documentary “Prohibition.” You might ask “How does this relate to jobs or politicians who serve their own interests?” If you believe that we all can learn from historical events then this documentary has everything to do with jobs and politics. There is a troubling parallel with events of today so bear with me as I elaborate.
Efforts to make alcohol illegal in the U.S. began in the 1820s by grassroots religious activists like Lymen Breecher, the American Temperance Society co-founder. The same era saw a huge influx of German Immigrants including Miller, Busch, and Anheuser, who embraced beer as an integral part of their European culture and established profitable breweries. The clash between “moralists” and brewers ensued. In the 1860s brewers lobbied Congress, which was embroiled in the Civil War, and as a result the Temperance movement died out. The movement re-surged again as the Women’s Christian Temperance Union fueled the cause along with other religious groups.
Then, due to insurmountable pressure, prohibition was mandated when Congress enacted the 18th amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1920. Unforeseen problems led to its repeal on December 5, 1933. This chain of events illustrates my point.
politicians did not fully understand prohibition’s impact on the “Common Good”
This was a failed experiment not unlike the political agendas we face today. The “Noble Experiment”—prohibition—failed because the politicians of the time did not fully understand the impact that such legislation would have on the “good of the commons.”
- Since the alcohol-related industry was the 5th largest in America, hundreds of thousands of jobs were lost in the ‘twenties.
- The U.S. Constitution cries for personal freedom, but these rights were taken away.
- The Law could not be effectively enforced, so unforeseen consequences resulted, like government manipulation by lobbyists, corruption, lawlessness, poverty, and the advent of underground crime organizations.
- Lies about the ills of alcohol were taught in schools and became political talking points.
Fast forward to [the 21st century] and see history repeating itself. Again some leaders in Congress are ignoring opinion polls, self serving, or bowing to pressure from lobbyists, and distorting facts to sway voters rather than working for [Freedom, Opportunity and Security for all, aka] the common good.
- Outright lies. House leaders are implying that Obama’s stimulus created no jobs. Like WCTU’s false claims of alcohol-related diseases, Republican claims are false. The Stimulus plan actually created about 2.5 million jobs according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO)
- Republican agenda is focused on restricting the rights of citizens instead of solving the real issue- creating jobs to save our economy.
- The House leaders are attempting to stop enforcement of Environmental Protection Agency laws because “regulations hinder job-growth.” Again this is a half truth; some jobs are lost but others are created in the clean-up and retrofitting process as described in Mother Jones Magazine.
- Lobbyists and big money interests continue to influence job-creating legislation.
- Unrelated to the Prohibition movement but relevant to us now is the fact that maximum taxes on the wealthiest American’s was lowered from 77 percent in 1918 to 25 percent in 1925. Source This lowering of taxes led to the investment bubble and the stock market crash. Today’s House Republicans again want to return to that 25 percent level because it will supposedly help the “Job creators” get Americans back to work even though their claim is unsupported by facts or history. For more …
History shows that legislative decisions were made in the early 1900s that adversely affected the prosperity of our Nation. Politicians were swayed by big money interests, party politics and religious ideology with little concern for the “common good.” We are again at those crossroads and the well-being of the middle class is at stake. We can and should get involved in the political process to hold our leaders accountable for truth, integrity and for ethical actions that help the average American worker regain the prosperity once enjoyed in the fifties.
Now read: Growing Up: Leaving Behind Naïve Libertarianism »