Going Down

 

There is a lot of talk lately about recovering conservatism, revitalizing the Republican party, and even restoring American greatness. Beneath these proclamations is an underlying progressive concept about making the nation better tomorrow than it was yesterday or is today. I think this largely ignores the reality we face and distracts from the main function of the conservative/right side of the political spectrum. We are neither rudder to provide guidance nor sail to precipitate forward momentum. We are, at best, an anchor whose sole purpose is to slow progress.

The greatness of this nation, at least from a political perspective, reached its apogee at the founding. When Jefferson penned “We hold these truths to be self evident…” the waxing of America was complete and the waning began. We have made no ideological advancements since this proclamation of human liberty. We have at times better implemented the concepts, but we have never improved on them, nor will we.

Even by the time of the formal creation of the governmental structure employed in this nation we had already started on a long downward slope, pulled inevitably through decline and toward destruction by the great weight of human nature. This trend should come as no surprise to conservatives because we have studied history. We know that from the pinnacle of our founding everything else would be downhill. At the close of the Constitutional Convention Benjamin Franklin said:

In these Sentiments, Sir, I agree to this Constitution, with all its Faults, if they are such; because I think a General Government necessary for us, and there is no Form of Government but what may be a Blessing to the People if well administered; and I believe farther that this is likely to be well administered for a Course of Years, and can only end in Despotism as other Forms have done before it, when the People shall become so corrupted as to need Despotic Government, being incapable of any other.

The cry for socialism and despotism has been long coming, but not unforeseen. The problem for Franklin wasn’t that we had created an inadequate government but rather we would become an inadequate people. He was right. He looked to the past and saw what had gone before, then looking to the future he foretold what would be the fate of this nation.

While arguing in favor of our new form of government even its most ardent supporters feared the havoc which would be wreaked by those entrusted with power. As James Madison stated it in Federalist 51:

But the great security against a gradual concentration of the several powers in the same department, consists in giving to those who administer each department the necessary constitutional means and personal motives to resist encroachments of the others. The provision for defense must in this, as in all other cases, be made commensurate to the danger of attack. Ambition must be made to counteract ambition. The interest of the man must be connected with the constitutional rights of the place. It may be a reflection on human nature, that such devices should be necessary to control the abuses of government. But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself. [emphasis mine]

We could imagine the founders would be shocked if they saw the state of our nation and our people today, but I doubt they would find it so surprising that we proved them wholly correct. Government is a reflection of human nature, and the government we have (and are about to get) reflects perfectly the character of those who inhabit this nation and make up a majority of the votes cast. We elected a despot with his pen and his phone because we’ve become incapable of electing any other kind of leader. In a few short months we’ll elect another, only this time our choices are limited to an even more corrupt and criminal politician or a conman who promises to be an even more effective despot than the last. Neither candidate sees as the problem the concentration of power in one branch or one person. They believe the only flaw is the concentration of power in the wrong person.

I said in the beginning that conservatism acts as merely an anchor. Some may see the nation foundering on the rocks of human nature and believe that conservatism has failed. It has not. In any other time or place the crash would have come sooner, the destruction more violently, the catastrophe more severe. We’ve done the job well, and we will continue to do what we can until the whole thing comes apart, or until the chain breaks and we lie useless on the bottom as the nation sails unhindered across the seas of time to its inevitable end.

There are 39 comments.

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  1. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher

    I think now, all we can hope for, is to survive the crash and hope to rebuild again on the other side.

    • #1
    • May 19, 2016, at 11:42 AM PDT
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  2. The (apathetic) King Prawn Member

    Bryan G. Stephens:I think now, all we can hope for, is to survive the crash and hope to rebuild again on the other side.

    I would hope so, too, but I cannot imagine a greater idea on which to build that individual liberty. Perhaps we must entirely lose the concept then rebuild only when it has been rediscovered.

    • #2
    • May 19, 2016, at 11:45 AM PDT
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  3. TKC1101 Inactive

    Adapting and implementing those ideals as we transformed from 13 disparate former colonies with loose ties and agrarian economies to a world superpower with a population of 320 million in an era of industrial, social and scientific changes along with demographics has been the story.

    Maintaining those original ideals through the most significant period of social change, much of it wrought by the spread of those ideals is the continuing story of America.

    To hark back and view the apogee as a point in time several hundreds years ago and massively different in the rate and pace of the changes absorbed since then is a view I find not useful.

    Nothing stands still, frozen in time.

    • #3
    • May 19, 2016, at 11:55 AM PDT
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  4. The (apathetic) King Prawn Member

    TKC1101:Adapting and implementing those ideals as we transformed from 13 disparate former colonies with loose ties and agrarian economies to a world superpower with a population of 320 million in an era of industrial, social and scientific changes along with demographics has been the story.

    Maintaining those original ideals through the most significant period of social change, much of it wrought by the spread of those ideals is the continuing story of America.

    To hark back and view the apogee as a point in time several hundreds years ago and massively different in the rate and pace of the changes absorbed since then is a view I find not useful.

    Nothing stands still, frozen in time.

    I do not deny that we’ve advanced in many areas. What I stand firm on is that we have had no political ideology advancements beyond the founding.

    • #4
    • May 19, 2016, at 11:57 AM PDT
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  5. TKC1101 Inactive

    The King Prawn: What I stand firm on is that we have had no political ideology advancements beyond the founding.

    We probably agree. We have not fundamentally deviated, yet. All energy has gone into adapting them to rapidly changing history.

    • #5
    • May 19, 2016, at 12:04 PM PDT
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  6. The (apathetic) King Prawn Member

    TKC1101:

    The King Prawn: What I stand firm on is that we have had no political ideology advancements beyond the founding.

    We probably agree. We have not fundamentally deviated, yet. All energy has gone into adapting them to rapidly changing history.

    I hadn’t considered that angle of it. Very worthy to think about.

    • #6
    • May 19, 2016, at 12:10 PM PDT
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  7. Viruscop Member

    The King Prawn: The greatness of this nation, at least from a political perspective, reached its apogee at the founding. When Jefferson penned “We hold these truths to be self evident…” the waxing of America was complete and the waning began. We have made no ideological advancements since this proclamation of human liberty. We have at times better implemented the concepts, but we have never improved on them, nor will we.

    I disagree with this. America was a weak nation at its founding, being at the mercy of the British, French, and to a lesser extent Spanish empires. The lives of its citizens did not matter to the world. If an ideology can do nothing for its people, then what is its purpose? Is it to make themselves feel good? If America had stayed a weak nation, then the ideologies at its founding would be worthless, and for good reason. If America had become nothing more than something like the Boer states or the Zulu state, then America as a nation would be worthless, and the lives and deaths of its citizens would be worthless in world affairs.

    • #7
    • May 19, 2016, at 12:26 PM PDT
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  8. The (apathetic) King Prawn Member

    Viruscop:

    The King Prawn: The greatness of this nation, at least from a political perspective, reached its apogee at the founding. When Jefferson penned “We hold these truths to be self evident…” the waxing of America was complete and the waning began. We have made no ideological advancements since this proclamation of human liberty. We have at times better implemented the concepts, but we have never improved on them, nor will we.

    I disagree with this. America was a weak nation at its founding, being at the mercy of the British, French, and to a lesser extent Spanish empires. The lives of its citizens did not matter to the world. If an ideology can do nothing for its people, then what is its purpose? Is it to make themselves feel good? If America had stayed a weak nation, then the ideologies at its founding would be worthless, and for good reason. If America had become nothing more than something like the Boer states or the Zulu state, then America as a nation would be worthless, and the lives and deaths of its citizens would be worthless in world affairs.

    I can’t buy into utilitarianism like this. Whether or not we were materially weak in reference to other nations is completely beside the point. We were greater for humanity because of the founding ideal of individual liberty.

    • #8
    • May 19, 2016, at 12:29 PM PDT
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  9. Viruscop Member

    The King Prawn:

    Viruscop:

    The King Prawn: The greatness of this nation, at least from a political perspective, reached its apogee at the founding. When Jefferson penned “We hold these truths to be self evident…” the waxing of America was complete and the waning began. We have made no ideological advancements since this proclamation of human liberty. We have at times better implemented the concepts, but we have never improved on them, nor will we.

    I can’t buy into utilitarianism like this. Whether or not we were materially weak in reference to other nations is completely beside the point. We were greater for humanity because of the founding ideal of individual liberty.

    What do you mean that “We were greater for humanity…” ? This seems like a very fuzzy measure of greatness. To me, it appears that anyone can interpret this any way that they want.

    • #9
    • May 19, 2016, at 12:33 PM PDT
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  10. The (apathetic) King Prawn Member

    Viruscop: What do you mean that “We were greater for humanity…” ? This seems like a very fuzzy measure of greatness. To me, it appears that anyone can interpret this any way that they want.

    All the other advancements we achieved were possible only because of the founding ideal of individual liberty. One could probably argue that advancements in medicine, science, technology, etc. would have happened elsewhere, but they didn’t. They largely happened in the only place on earth where individual liberty (and its attendant equality, limited gov’t, etc.) took root.

    Or, conversely, maybe it was just capitalism. I’m open to ideas should mine be shown incorrect.

    • #10
    • May 19, 2016, at 12:37 PM PDT
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  11. Viruscop Member

    The King Prawn:

    Viruscop: What do you mean that “We were greater for humanity…” ? This seems like a very fuzzy measure of greatness. To me, it appears that anyone can interpret this any way that they want.

    All the other advancements we achieved were possible only because of the founding ideal of individual liberty. One could probably argue that advancements in medicine, science, technology, etc. would have happened elsewhere, but they didn’t. They largely happened in the only place on earth where individual liberty (and its attendant equality, limited gov’t, etc.) took root.

    Or, conversely, maybe it was just capitalism. I’m open to ideas should mine be shown incorrect.

    Maybe that is true. Maybe the United States had so many achievements because of individual liberty and so forth; however, if individual liberty led to nothing, meaning that the United States was as weak as it was at its founding, then I think that individual liberty wouldn’t matter all that much.

    America was not a great nation at its founding. The potential was there, but America was not yet great.

    • #11
    • May 19, 2016, at 12:42 PM PDT
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  12. Viruscop Member

    Also, I think this post should be getting more attention.

    • #12
    • May 19, 2016, at 12:43 PM PDT
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  13. The (apathetic) King Prawn Member

    Viruscop: America was not a great nation at its founding. The potential was there, but America was not yet great.

    The greatness was the political idea. We’ve not done better since then, and we have done a heck of a lot worse. The whole of conservatism has been to push back against the worse.

    If you’re problem is the phrasing of “the greatness of this nation” then take it as I meant it: not material greatness or international power, but rather as the only nation ever created on an idea rather than as a tribal collective or a body unified under an individual/family ruler.

    • #13
    • May 19, 2016, at 12:46 PM PDT
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  14. The (apathetic) King Prawn Member

    Viruscop:Also, I think this post should be getting more attention.

    On that we wholeheartedly agree!

    • #14
    • May 19, 2016, at 12:47 PM PDT
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  15. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher

    The King Prawn:

    TKC1101:Adapting and implementing those ideals as we transformed from 13 disparate former colonies with loose ties and agrarian economies to a world superpower with a population of 320 million in an era of industrial, social and scientific changes along with demographics has been the story.

    Maintaining those original ideals through the most significant period of social change, much of it wrought by the spread of those ideals is the continuing story of America.

    To hark back and view the apogee as a point in time several hundreds years ago and massively different in the rate and pace of the changes absorbed since then is a view I find not useful.

    Nothing stands still, frozen in time.

    I do not deny that we’ve advanced in many areas. What I stand firm on is that we have had no political ideology advancements beyond the founding.

    I think that the concepts of Liberty and Freedom don’t need improvement. The idea that our rights flow from God are still very radical. They have yet to be fully adopted.

    • #15
    • May 19, 2016, at 12:47 PM PDT
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  16. Susan Quinn Contributor

    The Founders didn’t intend to advance beyond the original tenets and documents, to my knowledge. Our military serves to preserve and protect, not to progress. I think the Founders would be humbled and relieved to know that we’ve come this far in defending individual freedoms; they knew how difficult it would be and although it’s been a messy journey, at least we’re not going down without a fight.

    • #16
    • May 19, 2016, at 12:57 PM PDT
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  17. Z in MT Inactive

    The King Prawn: We are neither rudder to provide guidance nor sail to precipitate forward momentum. We are, at best, an anchor whose sole purpose is to slow progress.

    I like this passage, puts things into perspective.

    The only problem with your thesis is slavery, which is why I usually put the apogee at the passage of the 13th amendment. Everything since the 13th amendment has been downhill politically.

    • #17
    • May 19, 2016, at 4:52 PM PDT
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  18. The (apathetic) King Prawn Member

    Z in MT:

    The King Prawn: We are neither rudder to provide guidance nor sail to precipitate forward momentum. We are, at best, an anchor whose sole purpose is to slow progress.

    I like this passage, puts things into perspective.

    The only problem with your thesis is slavery, which is why I usually put the apogee at the passage of the 13th amendment. Everything since the 13th amendment has been downhill politically.

    Abolition is the glaring example of better implementation of our principles rather than discovering new ones. We didn’t change “all men are created equal…” we merely meant it.

    • #18
    • May 19, 2016, at 4:58 PM PDT
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  19. Boss Mongo Member

    I’m okay with the anchor analogy, but for one thing: conservation should be the generator for the illumination of the shining city on the hill. One of our main responsibilities is to educate, train, and inspire follow-on generations to understand why certain truths are and remain “self evident.” Through sloth, negligence or apathy our current (conservative) leadership has engendered the current rage on right. The prima facile evidence that we have abjectly failed at this can be seen in the rising generations of special snowflakes who will hie from their safe spaces, darting from place to place like small, furry, frightened little herbivores to get to a polling station and pull the lever for the Bernster.

    • #19
    • May 19, 2016, at 6:19 PM PDT
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  20. Concretevol Thatcher

    The King Prawn: We didn’t change “all men are created equal…” we merely meant it.

    I really like this sentence a lot KP….and the post in its entirety. I don’t have much to add but just to say “here here”. Maybe after some sleep I can think of something more :)

    • #20
    • May 19, 2016, at 6:38 PM PDT
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  21. The (apathetic) King Prawn Member

    I honestly don’t know if there was anything we could have done about it. We’re swimming against the strong tide of human nature and fighting a long war with entropy.

    • #21
    • May 19, 2016, at 6:40 PM PDT
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  22. Profile Photo Member

    The King Prawn: We are, at best, an anchor whose sole purpose is to slow progress.

    The King Prawn: I honestly don’t know if there was anything we could have done about it. We’re swimming against the strong tide of human nature and fighting a long war with entropy.

    Are these two supposed to represent the same proposition? If so, I’m not sure I would agree that fighting the long war against entropy is the same thing as slowing progress.

    All I want is for people to be free and hope they take the opportunity to be great. If enough people want to be terrible badly enough, they will get their chance.

    • #22
    • May 19, 2016, at 7:42 PM PDT
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  23. The (apathetic) King Prawn Member

    Quinn the Eskimo: If enough people want to be terrible badly enough, they will get their chance.

    This is the “progress” of the progressives we are attempting to slow.

    • #23
    • May 19, 2016, at 7:48 PM PDT
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  24. Brian McMenomy Inactive

    I was just watching DIY network, seeing a couple build their own house on 240 acres of NW Montana. The sheer determination and grit was remarkable, as was the “figure-it-out” spirit. They ran into tons of problems and figured out the solutions. They were taking enormous financial and physical risk to live out a dream.

    The Founders took an even greater risk; willing to become traitors to the British crown, willing to risk their personal prosperity (remember, the colonies were a lot better off economically than the mother country, when it came to standard of living) for an idea. A series of ideas, really. Ordered liberty, divided political power, real religious liberty, free economics, the rule of law rather than man, etc.

    What will we take a risk on today? What will I take a risk on today? I don’t know all the answers to those questions, but I do know that I need to keep taking risks in order to be free. I need to speak truth in love, even when someone won’t understand. I need to model forgiveness and grace, even when (or especially when) I really don’t feel like it. I need to insist on political and religious freedom, for all of us.

    KP is right; we are unlikely to improve on the founding ideals. But we must continue to fight to improve how we put those ideals into practice. Will we win? Doesn’t matter; we have to keep going.

    • #24
    • May 19, 2016, at 7:49 PM PDT
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  25. William Laing Member

    The King Prawn:

    Viruscop: What do you mean that “We were greater for humanity…” ? This seems like a very fuzzy measure of greatness. To me, it appears that anyone can interpret this any way that they want.

    All the other advancements we achieved were possible only because of the founding ideal of individual liberty. One could probably argue that advancements in medicine, science, technology, etc. would have happened elsewhere, but they didn’t. They largely happened in the only place on earth where individual liberty (and its attendant equality, limited gov’t, etc.) took root.

    Or, conversely, maybe it was just capitalism. I’m open to ideas should mine be shown incorrect.

    They didn’t? Antibiotics from Britain (Fleming), ditto jet engine; ditto steam. At least we have Obama’s assurance that the USA was “the nation that invented the automobile”. This in a prepared address to both houses of Congress in 2009. Benz and OTTO among the shades laughed goodnaturedly

    • #25
    • May 19, 2016, at 9:20 PM PDT
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  26. dnewlander Member

    William Laing:

    The King Prawn:

    Viruscop: What do you mean that “We were greater for humanity…” ? This seems like a very fuzzy measure of greatness. To me, it appears that anyone can interpret this any way that they want.

    All the other advancements we achieved were possible only because of the founding ideal of individual liberty. One could probably argue that advancements in medicine, science, technology, etc. would have happened elsewhere, but they didn’t. They largely happened in the only place on earth where individual liberty (and its attendant equality, limited gov’t, etc.) took root.

    Or, conversely, maybe it was just capitalism. I’m open to ideas should mine be shown incorrect.

    They didn’t? Antibiotics from Britain (Fleming), ditto jet engine; ditto steam. At least we have Obama’s assurance that the USA was “the nation that invented the automobile”. This in a prepared address to both houses of Congress in 2009. Benz and OTTO among the shades laughed goodnaturedly

    Where did each of those take off, rather than either floundering or being (with the exception of the use of steam) being something preserved for use by government?

    You’re missing the point, completely. It’s not that America (the idea) made inventions (all of them) happen. It’s that America (the idea) *let* all sorts of inventions happen, scientific, political, and social, and didn’t squash them.

    I’m very, very afraid that that America no longer exists.

    • #26
    • May 20, 2016, at 12:18 AM PDT
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  27. Hypatia Inactive

    This made me think of David and Solomon. David comparable to the “embattled farmers” who forged the nation in war, and Solomon who built the Temple, wealthy beyond the imagination of previous nations–but the corruption had begun beneath the pomp, and after him the Kingdom was divided.

    “Judge of the nations, spare us yet/Lest we forget, lest we forget!”

    • #27
    • May 20, 2016, at 3:49 AM PDT
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  28. I Walton Member

    Great article, but one observation, Madison in the 10th and the 51st got a fundamental wrong. Factions, ambitions, interests don’t counter each other, they log roll and divvy up the spoils. Madison thought larger was better because of these natural conflicts of ambitions and interests but larger and remote removes accountability and allows ever more log rolling, sharing the public purse as the common property it becomes. Real people working on real problems at the local level can counter act each other, work things out and reach compromises. At this point being an anchor isn’t enough we have to aggressively restore state and local government to their proper place, and if local taxes had to pay for all the nonsense, limited government would have a chance again. The Federal government is the problem as centralized non accountable government always is, always has been and was the founders great concern. Let’s be clear however, local government tends to be even more corrupt, indeed one of the reasons we federalized was to overcome some of the corruption, but where government is closer to the voters and tax payers, and if their is no national spigot for funding, the folks work things out more often than feds and can discover that most government is unnecessary.

    • #28
    • May 20, 2016, at 4:22 AM PDT
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  29. Larry3435 Member

    Viruscop:

    The King Prawn:

    Viruscop: What do you mean that “We were greater for humanity…” ? This seems like a very fuzzy measure of greatness. To me, it appears that anyone can interpret this any way that they want.

    All the other advancements we achieved were possible only because of the founding ideal of individual liberty. One could probably argue that advancements in medicine, science, technology, etc. would have happened elsewhere, but they didn’t. They largely happened in the only place on earth where individual liberty (and its attendant equality, limited gov’t, etc.) took root.

    Or, conversely, maybe it was just capitalism. I’m open to ideas should mine be shown incorrect.

    Maybe that is true. Maybe the United States had so many achievements because of individual liberty and so forth; however, if individual liberty led to nothing, meaning that the United States was as weak as it was at its founding, then I think that individual liberty wouldn’t matter all that much.

    Yeah, yeah, and if pigs had wings… America’s greatness is not a coincidence. The fact that America was founded on a bedrock of liberty is the greatness, and all other greatness (economic and military) grew from that foundation. Prawn is right – a weak, ignorant, and greedy population can squander that greatness by giving up its liberty for a basket of government goodies. I believe the term “bread and circuses,” dates back to Roman times (at least). It is the fatal disease of democracies.

    • #29
    • May 20, 2016, at 4:35 AM PDT
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  30. Songwriter Member

    Concretevol:

    The King Prawn: We didn’t change “all men are created equal…” we merely meant it.

    I really like this sentence a lot KP….and the post in its entirety. I don’t have much to add but just to say “here here”. Maybe after some sleep I can think of something more :)

    What the Vol said.

    • #30
    • May 20, 2016, at 6:14 AM PDT
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