Policies that punish future generations can?t continue
By SETH GROSSMAN, Political Columnist
(Reprinted from August 25, 2010 Current-Gazette Newspapers of Atlantic and Cape May Counties, http://www.shorenewstoday.com/index….-continue.html)
?You shall make the 50th year holy. You shall proclaim liberty throughout all the land to all the inhabitants thereof. It shall be Jubilee for you? If one of your countrymen becomes your servant? he shall serve you only until the Jubilee year. Then he and his children shall be free.??
? Leviticus 25:8
In 1751 a large bell, inscribed with part of the Old Testament scripture above, was installed in the Pennsylvania Assembly Building in Philadelphia to celebrate the 50-year jubilee of the colony. In July 1776, it became known as the Liberty Bell.
The Liberty Bell shows two paradoxes about government in America. First, our Constitution forbids the ?establishment? of any official religion. Yet it is based on principles of liberty and equality found in the Jewish and Christian Bible.
Most Americans never had a problem with this contradiction. Our country was founded on truth, like the ?self-evident? truths of our Declaration of Independence. Knowing the truth was important. Americans never cared how it was learned.
Some, like John Adams, learned through Bible study. Others, like Jefferson and Franklin, learned from history, philosophy, and scientific experiments. But Americans, unlike Europeans, never saw a conflict between religion and secular studies. Most Americans believed that, with free speech, thought, and discussion, both the Bible and secular studies would eventually reveal the same truth.
The second paradox is found in the idea of liberty itself. Liberty is the equal right of each individual to make his or her own choices concerning his or her own life ? and to pursue happiness in his or her own way.
But when people are equally free to make these choices, they don?t stay equal very long. Some make smart choices; others don?t. Some have talent or luck. Others don?t. Some work hard, save, and invest. Others work as little as they can or spend and borrow as much as they can. Some take on risks. Others don?t.
This liberty brings prosperity to most people. People tend to work, invest, save, and produce more when they can do what they want, and keep and enjoy most of what they earn. There is nothing morally wrong or unjust with a system that rewards people who make good choices, and punishes those who don?t.
But there is a big problem when a system punishes children and grandchildren for bad choices made long before they were born, by their parents and grandparents. A true system of liberty must somehow give them a fair opportunity to succeed or fail on their own.
The Bible addressed that problem. Its Jubilee reshuffled the deck every 50 years. So did Americans.
At first, we had the frontier. Even the poorest family could work and save enough for a horse, wagon, and supplies to move west, and buy and clear enough cheap land to become prosperous farmers in a few years. We also had laws that broke up big estates, heavily taxed inherited wealth, and gave every child enough free education to run a business.
But today, low-wage legal and illegal immigrants, together with high taxes on incomes, sales and real estate, make it almost impossible for poor Americans to earn their way to wealth. Free public education no longer teaches the skills to work a trade or run a business. Most of today?s children pay and borrow far too much to learn in college what was once taught for free in high school.
Zoning, planning, and environmental laws today stop people without money and influence from starting new businesses. But giant corporations with political clout can build whatever they want anywhere ? with cheap government loans and tax breaks to boot.
Taxes are high for young people today because many of today?s senior citizens and baby boomers demanded and got enormous benefits from government that they never paid for. We need high taxes to pay government employees and union construction workers on government-funded projects much more than anyone else. We also need tax revenue to pay for lavish unfunded pension plans, big loans on overpriced stadiums and golf courses, and more in Medicare and Social Security benefits than today?s seniors ever paid in.
This cannot go on. Our children and grandchildren must someday rebel against it to survive. Why not declare a Jubilee now ? to free them from these unjust laws, debts, and obligations that benefit a privileged few?
?If there must be trouble, let it come in my day, that my child will have peace.??
? Thomas Paine, 1776.
Somers Point attorney Seth Grossman appears live on WVLT-92.1FM, heard throughout South Jersey 8-9 a.m. every Saturday. For information see www.libertyandprosperity.org, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (609) 927-7333. Breakfast discussions are held 9:30-10:30 a.m. every Saturday at the Shore Diner, Tilton and Fire Roads, Egg Harbor Township.