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December 14, 2015

Consuming Themselves

Last week, Matt Bevin was sworn in as Kentucky’s Governor, the second Republican to win that office in four decades. In his autopsy of the failed campaign of Bevin’s opponent, Jack Conway, University of Kentucky Political Science Professor and Chairman Ernie Yanarella has explained the cause of death to be a failure to embrace and expand the New Deal.

Franklin Roosevelt was the father of the New Deal. In 1944, he proposed a Second Bill of Rights. It included, among other things, a right to food, housing, wages, and medical care. This was a profound departure from the original Bill of Rights, which were intended to protect the individual from tyrannical government.

There is a critical difference between these two sets of rights. One requires the centralization of power and a bureaucratic apparatus to decide what is adequate food, wages, housing, and medical care; the other does not. One requires taxation, regulation, and redistribution; the other does not. One costs money; the other does not. One comes from man; the other comes from God- inherent and inalienable.

Without benefit of constitutional change, America has pursued Roosevelt’s vision and agenda. Congress, ever-eager to curry votes, has been an enthusiastic accomplice. The courts, tasked with protecting our liberty, have looked the other way. The cost of that course is now apparent. An American child born today enters the world swaddled in debt- a claim on his future freedom and earnings, to the extent that it can be repaid.

The philosophers John Locke and Baron de Montesquieu profoundly influenced the Founders’ understanding of the sanctity of the individual and his inherent rights, the concepts of liberty and property, and the necessity of the separation powers to protect the citizen from tyranny.

Locke’s greatest insight was recognizing the link between the right to accumulate property and freedom. What a man accumulates through his own effort in his finite working life becomes part of and an extension of himself. The nexus of “life, liberty, and property” came from Locke, is found in the Virginia Declaration of Rights and the Fifth Amendment, and was poetically turned by Thomas Jefferson into “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” in the Declaration of Independence.

Most Kentuckians are unfamiliar with the writings of Locke and Montesquieu, but as Americans they have absorbed their philosophies by osmosis. Their noses detect the faintest whiffs of tyranny. A diagnosis that Professor Yanarella failed to consider is that the people are rejecting the “progressive’s” assault on their rights as citizens to keep the fruits of their labor and to be left alone.

The Democratic Party, a party led by a woman who could not explain the difference between Democrats and Marxists, a party which missed the suffocating and violent lessons of the last century, has been decimated at the state level nationally due to its misguided, failed agenda. The centerpiece of that agenda is Obamacare, an affront to our founding principles of liberty and limited government, and an instrument of corporate welfare that is bankrupting working people, the states, and generations of the unborn.

The impotent opposition party is in turmoil. As in Lincoln’s day, it is splitting over an enslaving issue of morality and cruelty- the debt we are leaving our children. On one side are the Establishment Republicans, who immediately surrendered the power of the purse when the people gave them control of Congress, and on the other side are those Republicans who get it.

In classical tragedies, evil ultimately consumes itself, purifying the stage. Debt is the antipode of freedom — self-induced, self-consuming, and immobilizing, like a snake swallowing its tail. Whether by design or ignorance, the Democrats had no answer to the question of Kentucky’s debt. With a bankrupt pension system, among the worst in the country, and an unaffordable Medicaid expansion, their plan was to “take a look at it.” Call that profiles in courage. Snakes that consume their own tails eventually vanish from the stage.

Professor Yanarella is of course entitled to his perceptions, however distorted, and his opinions, however misguided. Yet one cringes to consider what he is teaching his students. One hopes that a tenured professor of political science, a chairman no less, is presenting the entire spectrum of political thought and teaching his students to think critically. In the end, critical thinking by voters is the only hope for America.

Here is an exercise for his next class. Substitute the words “federal government” for the word “King” in the Declaration of Independence, and have a conversation about how republics can be just as tyrannical as monarchies.

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