Kellogg column: Our culture must shift from dependent to interdependent
Making America great again requires changing the dependent culture that has been cultivated in the United States. Since the founding, the federal government has expanded beyond constitutional limits at the expense of our liberty, prosperity and values. We must return to the principles of federalism, freedom and fiscal responsibility. That will take development of new leaders with the skills and habits to change our culture from within.
The Constitution of the United States instituted the principle of federalism to preserve the liberty of the people. Constitutional powers of the federal government are few and enumerated, predominantly in Article 1, Section 8.
Most governing authority was intended for the states, other than certain powers expressly prohibited by Article 1, Section 10. Beyond that, Amendment 10 in the Bill of Rights stipulates, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution … are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.”
James Madison, the father of the Constitution, wrote, “The public good … is the supreme object to be pursued; and no form of government whatever has any other value than as it may be fitted for the attainment of this object.” Originally, this was borne out with limited government and prominent character-forming institutions of families, churches and schools that cultivated the virtues of our society. Free citizens and these institutions were “interdependent,” and government provided security.
Unfortunately, the federal government incrementally expanded at the expense of citizens and the states. This began in earnest in 1913. The 16th Amendment was ratified to give Congress the new power to assess a federal income tax on citizens. That same year, the 17th Amendment stipulated direct election of U.S. senators instead of appointment by the state legislatures. Senators effectively became agents of the federal government instead of their home states.
In 1913 the Federal Reserve (the Fed), a group of private banks with no reserves, was created to assert control over our monetary system. The federal government began writing rubber checks to the Fed in exchange for newly minted dollars not backed by gold. Much of this conjured cash was injected into the national banks. Thanks to fractional reserve banking, these banks were authorized to lend 10 times more money than they had in reserve. The “free money” enticed Americans into adopting a culture “independent” of our character-forming institutions.
This new false sense of financial security ushered in the Great Depression. Thanks to the Fed, the federal government had free money to come to the rescue with new social programs. Income tax levied on citizens was used to pay interest to the Fed for manufactured money lent to the government. To enable the scheme, President Franklin Roosevelt took our currency off the gold standard in 1933. Meanwhile, Social Security and the New Deal expanded government into every part of society. America entered a new era with citizens increasingly “dependent” on government.
President Lyndon Johnson capitalized on this dependent mindset with his Great Society. Federal government expansion included the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964, the Food Stamp Act of 1964, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, and the Social Security Amendments of 1965 (Medicare and Medicaid). Since all this federal control was over-reaching and unaffordable, the next president, Richard Nixon, unilaterally canceled the direct convertibility of the U.S. dollar to gold in 1971.
In just 60 years, the federal government grew into a monster that swallowed federalism, individual liberty and fiscal responsibility. The states became subservient administrative arms of national government. A significant fraction of American citizens (and now non-citizens) were transformed into dependents. We are servants of centralized government, living in a society burdened by taxes, regulations and debt. Americans accept dependency because government has conditioned us to seek comfort instead of change.
The only way to make America great again is by developing a new corps of leaders who can change our culture from within. This starts by re-establishing the roles of families, churches and schools in building the character of our culture. These institutions are critical to instill the purpose, knowledge and habits of true leaders. Our journey back from dependent stagnation to interdependent liberty will not be easy. Read Right Angles next month to learn how we can develop the leaders to guide us.
James D. Kellogg is an engineering consultant and the author of “Radical Action: A Colt Kelley Thriller”. Look for the novel on amazon.com and visit JamesDKellogg.com or email email@example.com.
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