Anyone familiar with the Bloggersen knows of my infatuations with our third president. Here are a few quotes from the man himself:
A wise and frugal government, which shall leave men free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor and bread it has earned - this is the sum of good government.
Dependence begets subservience and venality, suffocates the germ of virtue, and prepares fit tools for the designs of ambition.
Do not bite at the bait of pleasure, till you know there is no hook beneath it.
Educate and inform the whole mass of the people... They are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty.
Experience hath shewn, that even under the best forms of government those entrusted with power have, in time, and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny.
History, in general, only informs us of what bad government is.
I hope our wisdom will grow with our power, and teach us, that the less we use our power the greater it will be.
I know of no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them but to inform their discretion.
I own that I am not a friend to a very energetic government. It is always oppressive.
I predict future happiness for Americans if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them.
I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than those attending too small a degree of it.
My reading of history convinces me that most bad government results from too much government.
Sunday, November 9, 2008
While the phrase 'The Forgotten Man', is not commonly used in today's political climate, the idea is alive and thriving. The phrase was first cited in an essay by William Graham Sumner's essay 'The Forgotten Man'. Later the phrase was used regularly by Franklin D. Roosevelt as he vowed to fight for 'the forgotten man' in his administration. To FDR the forgotten man was the man or woman in need of charity or help from the 'beneficent hand' of government. This was the exactly the opposite of the meaning intended by Sumner's essay. You can read for yourself here.
Who is the forgotten man? As Sumner described, when a certain man in society feels charitable or takes on a cause (call the man 'A'), the man will discuss the matter with another man (who we'll call 'B'). The two of them then petition the government, or they may be bureaucrats themselves and they will act on the sympathies of certain constituents or government leaders to enact legislation to aid a certain group of beneficiaries (a group we will call 'X'). This group of beneficiaries was the group FDR meant when he used the term 'forgotten man'. These represented any group deemed worthy of government charity by Washington bureaucrats. This group takes on many different forms: endangered animals, the environment, minorities, lower income citizens, elderly, etc. These groups are obviously in need of charity and it is therefore relatively easy to pass legislation benefiting one or more of these groups.
However, it was not 'X' meant as the forgotten man by Sumner. The forgotten man is forgotten for a reason. The forgotten man is neither a powerful bureaucrat, or a person deemed in need of government charity. The forgotten man usually does not speak up in his/her own defense because usually the forgotten man does not realize that he/she is being exploited and harmed. The forgotten man is another group altogether, or a group called 'C'. C does not talk to A or B. C does not petition the government or have any influence on bureaucrats at all. However C is exploited and used mercilessly and without feeling. This because no on ever thinks of C. Just who is 'C'? Sumner explains:
'Such is the Forgotten Man. He works, he votes, generally he prays-- but he always pays--yes, above all, he pays. He does not want an office; his name never gets into the newspaper except when he gets married or dies. He keeps production going on. He contributes to the strength of parties. He is flattered before election. He is strongly patriotic. He is wanted, whenever, in his little circle, there is work to be done or counsel to be given. He may grumble some occasionally to his wife and family, but he does not frequent the grocery or talk politics at the tavern. Consequently, he is forgotten. He is a commonplace man. He gives no trouble. He excites no admiration. He is not in any way a hero (like a popular orator); or a problem (like tramps and outcasts); nor notorious (like criminals); nor an object of sentiment (like the poor and weak); nor a burden (like paupers and loafers); nor an object out of which social capital may be made (like the beneficiaries of church and state charities); nor an object for charitable aid and protection (like animals treated with cruelty); nor the object of a job (like the ignorant and illiterate); nor one over whom sentimental economists and statesmen can parade their fine sentiments (like inefficient workmen and shiftless artisans). Therefore, he is forgotten. All the burdens fall on him, or on her, for it is time to remember that the Forgotten Man is not seldom a woman.'
Chances are, if you are reading this, you are the forgotten man. You are the one's being exploited without your own approval. You are the people who are not dependent on government aid and yet are being called on to provide it. You do not make the laws, or determine the beneficiaries, however it is you and you alone who they effect. You are the forgotten man, the taxpayer, the worker. You are the one who the government relies upon, and who is in turn exploited.
This is the subject for a book I am currently reading called coincidentally 'The Forgotten Man' by Amity Shlaes