Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Taxation And Representation

I have just started on the three disc series by HBO called simply "John Adams" based on David McCullough's book and it is a reminder why I enjoy Netflix so much, this ability to order a movie, a series, on a whim at my leisure. The story was made into a mini series a couple of years ago and stars Paul Giamatti in the title role and Laura Linney as his wife Abigail, the power behind the throne as it were. As abbreviated as all movies must be this story does a nice job of filling in the historical cloth that created the second President of the United States, a man of principle and abrasive passion. I enjoyed the scene where he hands off the writing of the Declaration of Independence to Thomas Jefferson, played by Stephen Dillane......and even more so the scene where Adams and Ben Franklin (played by the stalwart Tom Wilkinson, an English actor who got his break in The Full Monty, weirdly enough, and has carved out a career in Hollywood) edit Jefferson's original draft which was considered perfect by it's huffy author.The film renders history as a series of chances, taken at the flood by men of intelligence and determination, beset by all the mortal fears we all know so well. It's a valuable lesson to remind us that history is made up of people just like us. Before I move on to my main point one closing still from the series showing Adams and George Washington played by David Morse:History Made Real.

It struck me, as I watched the opening scenes, how carefully the movie makers worked to recreate with as much accuracy as one can imagine, a time and a place marked by history yet completely unrecorded. We have no idea how any of these famous men, or their wives, sounded as they spoke, but we do know what they said and we marvel at their wit, and study their tension and their fear, so ably expressed on screen. The story makes it clear that independence was only considered after every alternative was tried first. What a contrast to what we see today with people screaming thoughtlessly about ways to split our union as a form of anarchic political expression. Today we find state attorneys general want to ignore the US constitution simply as a way to oppose health care reforms enacted by Congress. It is as though our own government is a tool of oppression exactly as Adams ended up viewing the British government in his day.

I suppose one could argue that oppression in any form is unconstitutional, and God knows in the past twenty years I have felt at odds with my government on more than one occasion. yet now, today we find Americans yelling loudly about their government in terms that make my skin crawl. There is the frequent tedious comment in monotone from Milton's Freeman protesting no matter what the subject matter that we need less government not more. An argument as stupefyingly stupid as it is repetitious. Were I to suggest government oversight of the short cuts used in the Gulf of Mexico needs to be more all encompassing, not less, the response would be, why, I have never seen a government I liked. Look harder is my reply.

The childlike fantasy that modern societies can function with the taxation levels of the 18th century betrays not only a lack of collective memory but also an inability to imagine the consequences of one's day dreaming. Never mind that taxation levels in the US are reportedly at their lowest level since Harry Truman's administration. They will never be low enough apparently.

For myself, a government employee, I see a lot of good that comes out of government, or more accurately, a lot of good that can come out of government. All the same, I had some feelings of empathy when John Adams called for no taxation without representation, the famous rallying cry of the revolutionaries. Indeed they never did call for simply No Taxation, being as they were men of erudition who understood the function of government. It seems to me that even today the "representation" part of the equation is lacking. Today we the people vote, yet our government does not represent us, for our elected leaders are bought by pernicious lobbyists, leaving us as unrepresented as the colonists.

The solution to our modern dilemma is not to seek less government but to seek more representative government, and to demand an end to the buying of free speech as encouraged by the Supreme Court, as big a body of dolts as ever was sitting on the bench, with their recent ruling selling elections to the highest bidder. The Supreme Court is no stranger to stupid decisions, Dredd Scott being one outstanding act of public stupidity, Plessy versus Ferguson another enshrining Jim Crow as the law of the south, Schenck in 1919 rolled back the First Amendment, all of which prove that the law can sometimes be an ass. However throwing out the baby with the bathwater is a tedious exercise and if we can get back our representation those precious founding principles will have been upheld.

What astonishes me about these anti-government asses is how blinkered they are. Government oversight of anything at all, urban planning or oil drilling is to be abhorred, yet these same guardians of public morals couldn't give a toss about how much personal information they give away to multi national corporations, entities endowed with the rights of human beings and having no allegiance to anyone or anything except their profits. These same dimwits will protest the intrusion of government census takers and will in the same breath give away all their personal information to an anonymous corporate website selling one more useless electronic gadget. These are the same unthinking numb nuts who blank out their vehicle tags on websites- those license plates designed to be seen on public highways everywhere(!)- yet ride unthinkingly though the security cameras on tollbooths on privately operated highways.

Me? I know very well how uninterested I am in the names, social security numbers, photographs and address histories of 20 million Floridians whose records I can access with a click of the mouse at work. That I don't hoard and sell this precious secret information is because I am a public servant not paid to delve into citizens' private lives to make a buck. You'd better believe Winn Dixie doesn't have your best interests at heart when they take your personal information and bar code all your purchases to make a diagnosis of who you are and how you shop. That's the difference between the private and the public sectors. Too bad not enough people understand that.


Danette said...

Don't know if you saw this-- Noam Chomsky has a really interesting article on the tea party at "In these times" although Reader Supported News also has a link. I thought this was good and recalled your use of schizophrenic the other day: He says,"Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger says he’ll have to eliminate state health and welfare programs unless the federal government forks over some $7 billion. Other governors are joining in.
Meanwhile a newly powerful states’ rights movement is demanding that the federal government not intrude into our affairs—a nice illustration of what Orwell called “doublethink”: the ability to hold two contradictory ideas in mind while believing both of them, practically a motto for our times."

Conchscooter said...

It illustrates exactly how pundits can recommend tgough measures- as long as they aren't affected. I have challenged anti government nutters to lay out how they would straighten out the annual budget deifict and they come up with platitudes and evasions that amount to "greater efficiency" and ban illegal aliens. I propose foreiting Goldman Sachs' assets under eminent domain rules while ending foreign wars and military bases. So much for my ideas!