The Marxists, Anarchists & National Socialists that support the “Occupy Wall Street” protests voice the opinion that they are part of the 99% of citizens against the 1% of the capitalist oligarchs that are supposedly oppressing the masses. If you were to view it from a historical perspective encompassing the whole of human history, I would say they have it completely backwards. We are the one percent.
In November 2011 we are well on the road to serfdom, (A phrase I respectfully borrow from the title of the famous work by the Austrian economist and philosopher Friedrich von Hayek) in which these supposedly educated elites are participating in the destruction of their own freedoms. Unbeknownst to them if they had their way they would be the last generation of Americans to know freedom. Their calls for redistribution of wealth, class warfare, and unlimited entitlements are an echo of past history of the final troves of past republics.
The continuation of this trend can only lead to despotism of either a soft or hard variety and the inevitable loss of individual rights not only economic but political ones as well.
How are we the one percent? Look at how many people have walked the face of the earth (estimated at around 120 billion) and have lived in societies that had political and economic freedom. For most of civilization the 99% of the populace lived in societies where life was considered very cheap and the fruits of your toil was not your own. Most people lived in a world of violence and disease. Their short lives more often than not, existed in a place where their very flesh belonged to someone else.
We live in a Republic, not a Democracy as most liberal academics and commentators keep touting. Nations that evolved into republics have always maintained the greatest amount of freedom forthe individual and provided the most prosperous lifestyle to the majority of its citizens. Unfortunately the state of freedom in mankind’s history is short lived and republican forms of government eventually consume themselves. The first republics to come on the scene rose from the classical Greco-Roman world. The longest lasting republic of these was the Roman Republic. It was the first republic to encompass more than one city or tribe of people. Even this great experiment in representative government eventually failed because it could not sustain unity.
In the beginnings of theRomanRepublic all free men felt a bond of citizenship and loyalty to the republic. The traditions and responsibilities of citizenship were carried by both patrician and the plebeian classes. Most citizens of this early republic were land owners both small and large who as we now say had “skin in the game”. These citizens paid taxes and served in the Militia and in government service. As time went on the territory of the Roman Republic expanded and the government grabbed more land & power as a large portion of its citizens became displaced. These free but jobless citizens gathered in the city of Rome and other urban areas of the republic. In order to keep order the Roman senate voted entitlements that included free bread rations. As Roman citizens became more dependent, the government was expected to continue these entitlements and in order to do so required more power.
Individual politicians realized they could garner support from these mobs by providing free entertainment in the form of games. The ruling class could now with the support of the citizenry provide “Bread & Circuses”. By the beginning of the first century BC Rome became ruled by factions that started to ignore the roman constitution. The compromises that these “Political Parties” did make benefited only individuals rather than the country as a whole.
Portions of the free citizens of the republic were being bribed by politicians turned demagogues by making promises of more entitlements knowing that after they achieve power they could place the burden of taxation for these promises on the providences.
The weight of an ever expanding government, apathy and dependency of the Roman Citizenry as well as the corruption of the senate led to the rise of Julius Caesar and the Imperial System. The roman constitution was set aside for an all powerful executive with no constitutional limits and a complacent senate with virtually no power.
For the next 400 years true republican government vanished and was replaced with a sometimes benevolent but usually brutal imperial power. After the Roman Empire collapsed, Europe endured the dark ages that lasted 700 years.The average person who lived through the dark ages and medievalEuropehad very little freedom economically or politically. During the dark ages generations lived lives of total want fearing for marauding bands that regularly pillaged or killed them. During the medieval period the vast majority was tied to the land and their lives were in the hands of privileged nobleman. Even if they survived the horrendous political and economic conditions, their life expectancy did not reach beyond their late twenties.
It would be some 1500 years before the next republic appeared in Europe and later with the rise of ideas from the enlightenment, our own Republic was founded. Our founders were students of the Roman Republic and based our constitution on the successful portions of that experiment such as the separation of powers. Our founders were also aware that republics eventually fall because of the tendency of freedom to yield against the growth of government, the growth of apathy and the dependency of its citizens over time. The founders did their best and provided us with a fantastic and ingenious blueprint for our republic; The Constitution.
As I look at our republic today, we are at a crossroads. Will we continue our decay and pass into despotism as earlier republics have? The similarity with the decline of the roman republic is a stark example of what happens when free citizens forget their traditions of self reliance and become apathetic while simultaneously turning over increasing power to a central government that in recent times is more a crony capitalist oligarchy. We are the one percent of all humanity that has known true freedom! It would be truly ironic if we simply allowed that freedom to pass through our hands. Our descendents will most surely wonder how we ever let this happen. Let us not become the 99%!
Just my opinion. D.B.