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Friday, July 17, 2015

Steer or Drift? (Part Two)

(Editor’s note: This is the second and final segment in this two part series.  The first segment explained how the founding fathers provided the ship (our federal government) with a precise yet sophisticated steering mechanism.  Given a record level of wealth disparity in society today, the problem devolves to one main consideration: whether to steer the ship --- or simply to drift.)

In the present context, the promise of economic freedom and prosperity has exhausted its supply of natural opportunities.  Its redemption, attempted unsuccessfully by T.R. in 1912, fully 100 years ago, may prove to be beyond the patience, the power and the wisdom of the American people and their leaders.  But if the promise is not kept, democracy, as it familiar to us, will no longer exist.

What a wage earner needs, and what the interests of a democratic society require, is a constantly higher standard of living.  If it is to earn the wage earner’s loyalty, a democracy must recognize the legitimacy of his demand, and make the satisfaction of it the essence of its public policy.

Many say we have passed the point of critical mass where the drift of indiscriminate individualism requires the increasing control of property in the public interest.  A more scrupulous attention to federal responsibility naturally follows the concentration of corporate and individual wealth, dedicated only to the further proposition of perpetuating its gains.

Unless American independence emancipates itself from its traditional illusions, its spirit vanishes.  Perhaps the American people understood this if only instinctively by the 2008 election, choosing to seat a leader who has begun a new chapter in the process of steering once again.

But it doesn’t necessarily have to be either all steer or all drift.  The two principles can and should peaceably co-exist, working together if not always in perfect harmony.  Each, however, must make a legitimate concession to the other.  Both the individual and national interest must sacrifice their extreme elements for the joint benefit of individual distinction and social improvement.  The two principles must become subordinate to the higher principle of human welfare.

However, it can be expected that the privileged classes will be hospitable only to those reforms which spare their privileges.  But their privileges cannot be spared, to the extent that rational ideas may achieve any decisive influence in their political life.  The consequences would be the cultivation of contempt for intelligence, the excessive worship of tradition and complacent social subserviency.

It would be intriguing to view the vexing problem of inequality of opportunity through the lens of human welfare ahead of any other legitimate interest.  The goal would secure the benefits of the existing organization, while casting the net of opportunity over a larger social area.

Conservative principles, traditions and national history require only the gradual alteration of adverse social conditions in the name of progress.  Perhaps a people can best exhibit its common sense so clearly as to be contemporary without breaking the ties of historical anchorage.  To move too suddenly by uprooting any essential element of the national tradition would come at a severe penalty, as ordinary citizens discovered when they decided to cut slavery out of their national composition.

It is assumed the people wish to escape the need to regain their health by means of another surgical
operation.  They must then consider carefully how much of a reorganization of traditional
institutions, policies and ideas are necessary to achieve a new, more stable national balance.  They must also consider that any disloyalty to democracy by way of national policy will in the end be fatal to national unity.  In steering the ship toward meaningful equality of opportunity to complete our great unfinished business, seldom has so much been at stake.

-Michael D’Angelo