I want one so I can take a trip back in time with my libertarian friends, whether they are tea partiers or not.
They talk an awful lot about what the Founding Fathers intended when they created the Constitution of the United States. They insist the First Dudes wanted a very limited government, and they feel we should have one today. They want fewer regulations, fewer laws, fewer taxes, fewer fees, fewer government agencies, etc.
I want Dr. Emmett Brown's time machine so I can acquaint them with the world in which Jefferson, Franklin, and others lived and to which the Constitution was a response.
|Back to the Future III|
It is not composed, as in Europe, of great lords who possess everything, and a herd of people who have nothing. There are no aristocratical families, no kings, no bishops, no ecclesiastical dominion, no invisible power giving to a few a very visible one; no great manufacturers employing thousands, no great refinements of luxury. The rich and the poor are not so far removed from each other as they are in Europe.
The Constitution was written to restrain two sources of power that were prone to abuse, at least in the eyes of Jefferson & Company: the government and the church. The British government had operated frequently through patronage (who you know, not what you know) and for its own benefit rather than for the people, and it had little accountability to its citizens. The church was wealthy and influential since it had been closely integrated with the government.
But in the time since Washington grinned through wooden teeth, a new source of considerable power arose in the United States, the corporations ("the manufacturers employing thousands").
The framers of the Constitution understood that competing interests in the populace and within government could keep each other in check, but only if their powers were equitable. How could they have known that corporations would develop to such size and influence, would hold more sway in the Capitol than the nation's citizens? When Franklin was dangling that key from a kite string in a lightning storm, little could he have imagined something like General Electric -- projected revenues of nearly $142 billion in 2011. If GE were a nation, it would be the 50th wealthiest country in the world.
Exxon Mobil's estimated revenues of $460 billion this year would rank it 21st among nations, just in front of Sweden.
If there had been institutions of such power and resources in Jefferson's time, I imagine he would have left us with a different Constitution. And longing for a return to those "good old days" of Crevecoeur's life is a pointless daydream -- unless you can build your own flux capacitor. In the meantime, corporations are perfectly happy to support the populist drive toward less government, since fewer regulations mean more freedom from accountability toward others and from responsibility for the public good.
Who, other than a strong federal government, would be powerful enough to counter the strength of such corporate giants?
The real problem, I tell my libertarian friends, is not that we have a big government; the problem is the kind of big government we have. We have one that seems to work harder for corporations than citizens. Changing that government might help; getting rid of it won't.