Freedom is Not a Pendulum

The periodic swings from one party to the other in control of our government often give rise to the analogy of a pendulum. A pendulum swings from one side to the other, always passing through the equilibrium position at its center. This flawed analogy leads to the illusion that our country’s political swings from left to right also pass through a stable center that is fixed and permanent.

History belies that illusion. Throughout the history of civilization, there has never been a government that did not eventually come to an end, either through defeat in war or corrosion from within. The Roman Republic lasted 500 years before it gave way to the Roman Empire, and that too collapsed after a few hundred more years. Ancient history? Yes, indeed. But the rate of social, political, industrial, technological, and cultural changes on the global scale have accelerated, not decelerated, from ancient to modern times. Change happens much more rapidly than it used to.

We think of our government, and our nation, as permanent and impervious to destruction from without or within. That is a comfortable, but naive and historically insupportable, perspective. This country has only existed for a couple of hundred years. It will not exist forever. It too, like all other governments and nations, will someday decline or be overthrown by an enemy. Most of us cannot conceive of the demise of our country and the way of life we’ve taken for granted from birth, so we don’t believe such a thing could happen, — at least not in our lifetimes. But nobody ever realizes they’re living in a historically significant period until it reaches the tipping point and cataclysmic change is suddenly thrust upon them.

In spite of the dire, and oft-repeated, warnings of our founding fathers, the size and scope of our government has continually increased from the founding of our nation until now. For the first hundred and fifty years, the expansion was slow and gradual, with each incremental transfer of power to centralized authority a result of prolonged deliberation and strenuous debate. In the last half century, government expansion has accelerated dramatically, and continues to accelerate at an unprecedented rate. The president and Congress now sign bills into law without even bothering to read them!

Along with the increasing momentum of government expansion, we’ve also seen a pronounced trend toward more and more socialist programs and policies. By that, I mean state control of production and distribution, and increasing regulation of industry and of individual rights. The “pendulum” may still swing to one side or the other, but the center point is moving, and it’s moving ever more rapidly. We are straying further and further from the principles on which our founding fathers established this nation. When government takes power away from the people to determine what’s in their best interests, that power does not swing back to the people, like a pendulum. The balance of power is permanently shifted from the people to the government, making it easier for government to usurp even more power in the future.

History informs us that the decline and fall of our nation will eventually come to pass. But history doesn’t tell us when or how. We are on a trajectory toward the termination of the greatest and most successful experiment in freedom the world has ever known. We could stand back and idly watch it slip away and, afterward, wonder where it went. Or we could wake up and start waking up our friends and neighbors, and impress upon them what is at stake.

In his farewell address on March 4, 1837, Andrew Jackson said:

But you must remember, my fellow-citizens, that eternal vigilance by the people is the price of liberty, and that you must pay the price if you wish to secure the blessing. It behooves you, therefore, to be watchful in your States as well as in the Federal Government.

We, the people, may have it within our power to stave off the inevitable expiration of our nation by exchanging complacency for vigilance, and apathy for involvement. How long we can maintain it is unknown. But it rests with us to at least pass it on to the next generation. What happens after that is up to them.


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22 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I had been wondering what you were up to for your next blog post. I’m honored to see that one of my comments has again got those creative juices flowing. :)

    I’d just like to say that yes, I did mention a pendulum, but I never went out of my way to say that it creates “a stable center that is fixed and permanent.” All I said was that it creates an overall drift towards center.

    I look forward to reading the rest of your column as time permits.

  2. Wigglesworth,

    I agree with you. I support the pendulum theory of politics. I also agree that if the analogy is a working pendulum, there by definition can be no stable center. At the center position the pendulum is moving fastest towards a new condition.

    Every society, great or not, falls. We just never know which generation it will happen to. Our generation doesn’t have it any worse than previous ones. It is more a question of us and if we deserve what was bought in blood and tears by the generations who came before.

    The example of Rome is valid. I believe that we are still a young enough empire to survive a series of bad emperors, though this could be the beginning of our decline.

    I am more concerned with the current climate of Democrats trying to destroy the previous ruling Republicans with a bunch of show trials. Look up the history of Florence in the 13th and 14th centuries and you find two parties the Guelphs and Ghibellines.

    Both parties eventually forgot the origins of their mutual hate. In Florence and surrounding towns each party would rise and fall. When a party rose, it tried to destroy it’s enemy by banishment. These were not stable nations. You can get a sense of the bitterness by reading Dante’s Inferno, which was written by an exiled partisan.

  3. “The president and Congress now sign bills into law without even bothering to read them!”

    I had herd some roomers about things like this, could you provide a source for me to follow up on? I completely agree with you by the way when you say:

    “Or we could wake up and start waking up our friends and neighbors, and impress upon them what is at stake.”

    I’m tiered of feeling helpless when it comes to corperations and government abusing their power and athority. Problem is that it’s hard to find anyone interested enough to actually do anything. Not to mention what exactly do you do when you find those people?

  4. […] presents Freedom is Not a Pendulum posted at Government is not your Daddy., saying, “When government takes power away from the […]

  5. Truno,

    Here are a couple links discussing the lack of review regarding the Stimulus Bill;

    http://www.newsmax.com/brennan/obama_stimulus_bill/2009/02/17/182682.html

    http://www.cnsnews.com/Public/content/article.aspx?RsrcID=43478

  6. When the discussion swings to the “pendulum” of politics, there is almost always an implied assumption that one party represents one extreme of the poltical spectrum and the other party represents the other. (Much as I hate to use the terms, one party is “left” or “liberal” and the other is “right” or “conservative.”) In a long term analysis, that is rarely what is going on.

    The current discussion is illustrative. NYD is discussing the nation’s current position in terms of its long term history. That is the only consideration that counts and current visions of liberal versus conservative have little to do with our present context.

    Since the advent of the “Great Society” our nation has been following a path of incremental socialism modeled upon the democratic socialism so admired in Europe. As an ideal, this shifts the focus of national values away from the reward of production to a standard of satisfaction of moral entitlements regardless of productivity.

    In a moment of economic crisis, the advent of Obama threatens to accelerate our progress down this road. His actions, all reminiscent of the Weimar Republic, have taken us full bore into a system of National Socialism bordering upon fascism.

    I was a great admirer of John F. Kennedy for his amazing sense of history. Viewed in terms of the history of this nation, the nation is at a cross-roads. We can continue down this path to national socialism or we can demand a return to the concepts of individual freedom and liberty and private property with all that entails in free enterprise. As Kennedy said, the torch of leadership has been passed and a decision of historic proportions is upon us.

    There is no issue of a pendulum swing in this context. The pendulum is out of the box in favor of socialism and it has been for decades.

  7. […] presents Freedom is Not a Pendulum posted at Government is not your Daddy., saying, “When government takes power away from the […]

  8. “His actions, all reminiscent of the Weimar Republic, have taken us full bore into a system of National Socialism bordering upon fascism.”

    Ugh, when-oh-when will those on the far Right-wing learn the difference between socialism & fascism?? I guess never…

  9. “His actions, all reminiscent of the Weimar Republic, have taken us full bore into a system of National Socialism bordering upon fascism.”

    “Ugh, when-oh-when will those on the far Right-wing learn the difference between socialism & fascism?? I guess never…

    When will those on the left actually READ some history? I don’t guess, I know.

    One of the factors that lead to the instability, which the Nazis capitalized on, was the over printing of money. We also do not have to guess who is doing this today!

  10. The overprinting of money is something I’ve been thinking about.

    I think it goes a little like this.

    Left: Bush pushed the debt to record levels.

    Right: Yes, but he was fighting the “war on terror” on two fronts and making America “safer.” It was worth it.

    Left: Obama inherited those two wars that are still ongoing.

    Right: Yeah, and on top of that he gave us the stimulus, making that debt even worse!

    Left: That’s because he was left a problem of enormous proportions. The debt created by Bush, the two ongoing wars, AND an economic recession severely exacerbating the situation. Let’s see tax cuts for the rich fix all that.

  11. Wigglesworth,

    Tax cuts for the rich can’t fix all that because we have hundreds, from both parties, of crack whores in Congress, who use the US treasury as a personal piggy bank to buy votes and take care of friends.

    Tax cuts for achievers will bring in more revenue as it did during President Reagan’s term. The only problem was that no matter how much money came in, Congress always spent more.

    Oh by the way, it’s not fair to list both wars as something that Obama is spending as much money as Bush. Iraq is now in a declining commitment phase. Afghanistan, the right war according to Democrats, is now Obama’s to win or lose.

    I notice that you did not really judge the Obama deficits. You used Bush’s deficits to excuse them. Obama’s are much larger than Bush’s and go far beyond what was needed to fight the wars and the recession.

  12. I find it interesting to note that we’ve lost more U.S. servicemen and servicewomen fighting the “war on terror” than we did on 9/11. No doubt the “safer” argument will be trotted out, but that is a highly nebulous thing to attempt to quantify. I think only time will tell.

    I hear something like this … a lot. (And I’m paraphrasing here.) OBAMA HAS ALREADY INCREASED THE DEBT MORE THAN ALL U.S. PRESIDENTS COMBINED!!!

    Might as well be yelling: WASHINGTON ONLY SPENT 5 PIECES OF COPPER ON LOAF OF BREAD. OBAMA IS SPENDING $4 DOLLARS!!!

    The enormity of the solution is only a function of the enormity of the problem that was INHERITED.

    • And more servicemen died in non-combat activities each and every year before and during the war. Why no outrage over their deaths “training”, but its a lead story if it happens in “combat”.

      The problem was not “inherited”, it was “caused”. Blame both parties for failing to listen the multiple times Bush warned about Freddie/Fannie needing oversight. Blame Barney Franks more than any other individual. And blame both parties for voting for the war. Every senator and congressman is equally responsible who voted for that.

  13. Nice article. Interesting what is happening in California right now, is it not a smaller example of what is beginning in the US? They are just a few years ahead of the country in spending more than they can afford, and trying to tax themselves out of the problem.

  14. Wigglesworth,

    “The enormity of the solution is only a function of the enormity of the problem that was INHERITED.”

    With an answer like you just gave you should run for office, as a Democrat of course. You also are well named because you’ve given yourself a lot of wiggle room.

    The Democrats are not taking advantage of a good crisis to get money for their own pet pork projects. You are telling us that all of President Obama’s massive over spending is just to fix the recession he inherited????? I find it hard to believe, that you believe your own statement.

  15. Alan, I have examined your comment. I am sorry to say that I can’t find a single piece of information in it.

    My point was that the cost of a fix has a relationship to the size of the problem.

    Therefore, when we hear the oft repeated mantra of “Obama is increasing the debt more than all other presidents combined” we must find out the size of the problem he is working on to see if what he is doing is appropriate or not. We may not agree on the specifics of the solution, but that mantra is practically meaningless without context. That is what I was trying to say.

    Regarding pork: I never claimed there was none. This is a tangential issue. I would assume, however, that both sides have problems with pork. How about a study that shows pork by party?

  16. “I am sorry to say that I can’t find a single piece of information in it.”

    That’s just par for the course with this troll…

    “How about a study that shows pork by party?”

    This issue here is very, very clear. Under past GOP control of Congress, “pork” spending increased massively, both in sheer numbers & total cost. Under Democratic control of Congress, the total cost & the number of so-called “pork” provisions has fallen. The Dems have also instituted changes that do not allow earmarks to become law without a legislator’s name attached to it, and there will soon be an online repository for both approved earmarks and earmarks that were merely proposed but not acted on.

  17. Wigglesworth,

    I believe J’accused Democrats of using the financial crisis to push their pet socialist ideologies. You seem to think that all of this spending is necessary. OK.

    I found two small Pelosi earmarks. $30 million for Sanfrancisco wetlands preservation to save salt marsh harvest mouse. $25 million Sanfrancisco water front redevelopement — Pelosi’s husband benefits.

    Then about $8 billion for a high speed rail between LA and Sanfrancisco.

    How about the $97 billion to save GM and Chrysler’s UAW workers, when we should have let them go bankrupt?

    This does not include all of the global warming bs and health care legislation that has nothing to do with bringing the country out of a recession.

  18. Biggest lies of all time:

    #87: Only Democrats like earmarks.

    Bah!

  19. Wigglesworth,

    “Biggest lies of all time:

    #87: Only Democrats like earmarks.”

    So tell me, did you learn your debating technique from your hero Obama???? Karl Rove had a column in the WSJ sometime back, about it. It is called using a straw man. Your hero uses it all of the time. You basically state a position which your opposition DID NOT take. Then you proceed to destroy this false position with your brilliance. I guess they teach this stuff in the colleges he attended.

    No one on this board ever said that Republicans were not guilty of earmarks. We have basically stated that Democrats are more guilty. Your position, and I would hate to be guilty of straw manning you, seems to be that because Republicans have porked the taxpayer, it is okay for Democrats to pork them harder. Voters threw out Republicans because they figured it was better to be porked by professionals than by mere amateurs.

  20. Wigglesworth,

    I said, ” The Democrats are not taking advantage of a good crisis to get money for their own pet pork projects. You are telling us that all of President Obama’s massive over spending is just to fix the recession he inherited????? I find it hard to believe, that you believe your own statement.”

    You replied, ” Alan, I have examined your comment. I am sorry to say that I can’t find a single piece of information in it.”

    You further said, ” Regarding pork: I never claimed there was none. This is a tangential issue. ”

    I have to admit the phrase “tangential issue” threw me. I had to consult a dictionary. Of little consequence seems to be what you meant. Your ability of expression outweighs your knowledge.

    When inflation is roaring and your hero Obama begins to budget cut necessities I will remind you of hundreds of billions of dollars in frivolous spending that was only a “tangential issue” to you.

    In the mean time I want to leave you with a story about a little airport in my home state of Pennsylvania.

    http://www.cnn.com/2009/POLITICS/04/23/murtha.airport/


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