Liberté Égalité, Fraternité
The tripartite motto of France: liberté, égalité, fraternité started out as bipartite: liberté and égalité. However, although it lagged behind, it is in no way the lesser third of the motto.
Two days ago, in a blog entitled: “It is the fate of princes to be ill-spoken of for well-doing.” I suggested that a true democracy demanded equality and that such was also the case with capitalism, as capitalism was originally conceived. However, I did not make “fraternité” or brotherhood the basis of both a true democracy and healthy capitalism.
Now, if “anti-tax extremism” (Sally Kohn, CNN, September 14th, 2011) militates against both democracy and capitalism, it seems to me that it does so because it encourages runaway individualism, thus negating the importance of collective needs. For instance, it is legitimate to keep people away from one’s backyard. But it is also legitimate for people to expect the town or city to keep sidewalks and streets clean. This is why citizens pay municipal taxes.
Otherwise said, we are all individuals, but we live in a collectivity, hence the importance of brotherhood and the wrongs of ill-conceived and undiluted individualism. Individualism and collectivism are the two faces of the same coin and any lack of balance between these two jeopardizes a democracy or a republic (France).
In Ancient Greece wisdom was moderation and moderation, in the current case, is a middle-course between serving the needs of individuals as well as collective needs. Problems arise when one goes too far from moderate and reasonable goals. Extremism must therefore be contained as energetically as terrorism, because terrorism is a violent manifestation of extremism. As for “anti-tax extremism” (Sally Kohn, CNN, September 14th, 2011), it is unbridled individualism. It counters the reasonable, the civil and, ultimately, the diplomatic.
John Jacob Astor & the Voyageur
When, after the War of 1812, John Jacob Astor (1763 –1848) was “getting Congress to legislate the North-West Company out of the upper Mississippi Valley,” Ramsay Crooks, his “pupil and successor,” convinced him that “Congress must make an exception in the case of voyageur [Canadian boatmen] when passing a law excluding all foreigners from the American fur trade.”[i]
Crooks also pointed out that “[i]t will be good policy to admit freely & without the least restraint the Canadian Boatmen. these [sic] people are indispensable to the successful prosecution of the trade, their places cannot be supplied by Americans, who are for the most part are [sic] too independent to submit quietly top a proper controul [sic], and who can gain any where a subsistence much superior to a man of the interior and although the body of the Yankee can resist as much hardship as any man, tis only in the Canadian we find that the temper of mind, to render him patient docile and perserving [probably persevering].* It could by that the Canadian boatmen were too “docile,” but they did not misunderstand individualism.
The United States is currently experiencing its worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, because the previous Republican Administration made injudicious decisions: generous tax cuts for the rich and two unfunded wars. In other words, Republicans created the economic crisis President Obama is trying to end, and the world remembers. So the time has come for these hardline Republicans to be held, not entirely, but partly accountable for the harm a Republican administration has caused their nation.
Please note that I am not using the word “punish.” Punishment is out the question. Accountability, however, is of a higher and more dignified order. If these Republicans will not take responsibility for the current state of the US economy and, therefore, not assist President Obama in helping pass the stimulus package their nation requires, the verdict is in. These hardline Republicans have strayed from a middle-course and, given that the poor and the middle-class suffer, not to mention other economies, one wonders whether or not they have a conscience.
Even anti-tax extremists would fight anti-tax extremism if they could view it as self-serving and as a threat to the health and survival of the nation as a democracy or res publica, things belonging to the public, including the environment.**
Think about it.
[i] Grace Lee Nute, The Voyageur (St Paul: Minnesota Historical Society, 1955 , pp. 203-204.© Micheline Walker 17 September 2011 WordPress