Principles lost, another view

For Your consideration

editorial@sierrastar.comJuly 15, 2014 

The Declaration of Independence and the writings of Abraham Lincoln and the founding fathers are imbued with principles. Those principles are not unique to Christianity. It surfaces in the teachings of all religions and more importantly, in the philosophy of ethics. These universal principles have been conflated with Christian principles because early European settlers were Christian. Had Buddhists discovered America, we would be calling it Buddhist principles.

The oft-cited phrase in the Declaration of Independence is "We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal: that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights; that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness." Of equal significance and rarely stated is the sentence that follows, "That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the consent of the governed."

While J.R. Froelich's interpretation of how we lost our principles is one perspective, if we look at it with an open mind, we find such an interpretation wanting.

In 1905 the Industrial Workers of the World (WWI) was founded by Americans. One of its slogans was "workers of the world unite." Among them were farm workers, miners and loggers, those who built this great nation, fighting for pay increases, shorter hours, and safer working conditions. That eventually led to good wages, a 40 hour work week and less injuries and deaths.

J.R. sees this as government "usurping the will of the people and taking more control of our industry through regulations and bureaucratic departments." Is he lamenting underpaying workers, overworking them, injuring them and killing them as a principle lost? Recall the follow-up sentence in the Declaration of Independence — "That to secure these Rights (Life, Liberty and Pursuit of Happiness), Governments are instituted ...." In other words, it is the government's duty to right these wrongs. Isn't this, in fact, an adherence to principles?

If Abraham Lincoln could see how his words are being twisted, it would require an exorcist to stop his head from spinning. Froelich cited Lincoln's 1861 message to Congress, "The prudent, penniless beginner in the world labors for wages a while, saves a surplus with which to buy tools or land for himself, then labors on his own account another while, and at length hires another new beginner to help him ...." J.R. concluded that "For decades our government has replaced work and wisdom with handouts and socialism." The insinuation is that Americans abandoned the principle of hard work encouraged by government handouts and socialism. Actually, the opposite is true. Americans are working harder than ever and getting less for it than ever. Research shows that if wages kept pace with American productivity, the minimum wage would be $22 per hour. The national minimum wage is currently $7.25 per hour. Where did the difference of $14.75 go?

Yes, it floated to the very top. That explains why the top one percent owns 40 percent of the nation's wealth and the bottom 80 percent own 7 percent. This is a good time to reiterate J.R.'s statement "Only thieves would devise a system of 'you make it, we'll take it.'" He is absolutely right. However, in light of this, who is the thief and who is the victim? This evidence also speaks to J.R.'s other assertion that "Far too many of our able bodied citizens are being fed from the labor of others." When the rich reap huge profits on the hard labor of those they underpay, it begs the question, who is being fed by whom?

A principle lost in J.R.'s musing is this quote from Thomas Carlyle, "A fair day's wage for a fair day's work." That is all people want. No one is trying to stop anyone from getting rich. No one is demanding equality of outcomes. No one thinks all corporations are bad. No one has an agenda to end capitalism. These are just clever straw man narratives constructed by the greedy who want more than 40 percent of the nation's wealth. Isn't it obvious that when wages are so low and productivity is so high, workers aren't being paid what they are worth?

When people are paid a fair day's wage, people will have enough money to put aside that surplus Lincoln speaks of and realize the American dream. The working poor no longer will have to rely on government subsistence. Family unity strengthens, the economy grows, and more people can start small businesses. The only principle lost is that of Thomas Carlyle.

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