Today I stumbled onto the answer to a question that I have asked my entire life. I am not sure that I have ever understood the full scope of what I am about to say. But what I read today- makes sense.
Here is the question. Of all of the countries on planet earth, what made the United States so successful? Why were we able to make tremendous advancements in productivity, in engineering, in the medical and pharmaceutical fields? How and why did we become the leaders in technology? Why do we have the most effective fighting force with the most advanced armament of all time? How did our culture crawl to the top of the heap?
Was it luck? Are we smarter than everyone else? How was the United States able to advance so dramatically while other cultures were left far behind? I have always wondered about that until today. Today, I think stumbled on to that answer.
Initially we got lucky. We isolated here on this continent as free men and we were insanely productive without anyone lording over us and stealing our wealth. From that petri dish, we did one other thing right. It would be the key in our separation from all other republics and cultures. It was the underpinning of the greatest period of technological advancement and wealth creation that the world has ever known. Very simply, we had a rule of law. That rule of law was rigid and structured. It was fair and it protected everyone. With the rules in place, people were not afraid to participate. The state was kept at bay. It could not arbitrarily come in and punish people. Competition was fair and protected. Rights, regarding your work and thus your work product, were protected. Copyrights, patents, and trademarks. Innovation, invention, and production- even workers were protected which was facilitated by union or lawyers. It wasn't perfect but we all agreed that perfection was the goal.
With a level playing field, as close to fair as humanly possible, people were willing to participate.
The premise is simple. The foundation of our entire culture and way of life is based on some operating instructions we call the rule of law. And if you abandon the rule of law- chaos results. People withdraw. They no longer have confidence in their government. The government begins to pick and choose which people will get prosecuted and which will not. Government picks and chooses winners and losers. It gets in bed with the winners and prosecutes those who cannot muster a defense. There is no longer any illusion of fairness. The operating instructions are ignored. Society and our culture see the changing rules and they withdraw. They no longer participate, they no longer innovate. Without a level and protected field, the players quit playing. They lose their desire. They quit paying taxes as the government confiscates more and more. The government throws them some scraps. And all the while, our society just can't quite put their finger on what's wrong. Like me. Until today.
Now it is not too difficult to imagine how those other Republics failed.
We abandoned the rule of law in this country. We abandoned it at Chappaquiddick, we abandoned it at Watergate. The government further abandoned the rule of law in the intervening years. It let illegal aliens in by the millions. It created wars and killed our sons and daughters and offered excuses when the truth was- those wars were simply "good business." By 2008, Congress had set the stage for the greatest banking ripoff in the history of mankind. The government turned a blind eye to the suspects in that crime and it continues to turn a blind eye. At no time in the history of this country have we had a Congress as morally bankrupt and as unethical as this one. The Supreme Court is not far behind. They cannot prosecute the guilty because they cannot distinguish the guilty from themselves. Society and our culture are breaking down right in front of our very eyes. We sense it and we feel it... but mostly we can't point to a single cause. That is too simplistic we think. Or not.
The only reason we have not completely broken down as a country and a culture is because we still have some existing rule of law. There are those who are attempting to render the remaining rule of law ineffective. They might succeed. When that happens, you can stick a fork in us. Because I truly believe it was our system and rule of law that set us apart from all others and enabled us to become the greatest country ever. If only for a while. http://www.cato.org/special/threewomen/god-machine.html
My thanks to Isabelle Paterson for answering a question she had mulled over prior to 1943. I ordered the book. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_God_of_the_Machine
The (PS) quote from the book: Most of the harm in the world is done by good people, and not by accident, lapse, or omission. It is the result of their deliberate actions, long persevered in, which they hold to be motivated by high ideals toward virtuous ends… [I]n periods when millions are slaughtered, when torture is practiced, starvation enforced, oppression made a policy, as at present over a large part of the world, and as it has often been in the past, it must be at the behest of very many good people, and even by their direct action, for what they consider a worthy object.