Monday, December 31, 2018

2018 Was Quite A Year

     I’m not going to do a event-oriented wrap-up of the year about to end. I think my Gentle Readers have had enough of that already. Besides, I’m sure a lot of other Web writers will produce good ones. That frees me to write about what I prefer.


     Does anyone else remember reading about the “Era of Good Feelings?” The sentiments of national unity and good will President Monroe sought to foster weren’t unanimous, but they were sufficiently widespread to give a defining color to his years in the White House. However, it wasn’t a good time for limited government:

     The era saw a nationalizing trend that envisioned "a permanent federal role in the crucial arena of national development and national prosperity." Monroe's predecessor, President James Madison, and the Republican Party, had come to appreciate – through the crucible of war – the expediency of Federalist institutions and projects, and prepared to legislate them under the auspices of John C. Calhoun and Henry Clay's American System.

     Madison announced this shift in policy with his Seventh Annual Message to Congress in December 1815, subsequently authorizing measures for a national bank and a protective tariff on manufactures. Vetoing the Bonus Bill on strict constructionist grounds, Madison nevertheless was determined, as had been his predecessor, Thomas Jefferson, to see internal improvements implemented with an amendment to the US Constitution. Writing to Monroe, in 1817, Madison declared that, "there has never been a moment when such a proposition to the states was so likely to be approved." The emergence of "new Republicans" – undismayed by mild nationalist policies – anticipated Monroe's "era of good feelings" and a general mood of optimism emerged with hopes for political reconciliation.

     “Internal improvements” – public works projects conceived, funded, and managed by Washington – have long been an entering wedge for federal incursions upon the reserved powers of the states and the wallets of Americans. They were not contemplated by the Founders. They were not authorized by the Constitution. Yet they were generally popular. They took on a momentum of their own during the Monroe Administration.

     Federal involvement in “internal improvements” has become a “but of course” matter. Indeed, the state governments are generally allowed no voice in such decisions. But their popularity remains as it was in Madison’s time.


     Given the booming economy, the removal of a great many intrusive regulations, and the relaxation of various international tensions, the Year of Our Lord 2018 could have inaugurated a new Era of Good Feelings. However, the Left, especially as regards its political arm the Democrat Party, was determined that it should not be so. Leftist mouthpieces have exerted themselves to the utmost to fan the flames of division. At this time hostility among Americans over political differences is more intense than it’s been since the Civil War.

     The great irony here is that by every objective measure, Americans are more tolerant and accepting of differences other than political stances than we’ve ever been before. Political postures are an irrational exception to that tolerance. But then, there are many persons for whom politics has displaced every other kind of affiliation and loyalty. As politics is about the quest for power over others, the malignity of that orientation “should” be “obvious.”

     The paradox frustrates me. If Smith wants to be left alone but Jones wants to control various aspects of Smith’s life and behavior, it seems plain that Jones has a dangerous psychosis. It doesn’t matter whether Jones wants to wield the whip himself or is willing to delegate it to the State. The desire to control others is a sickness. It should be treated as such. Indeed, its extreme form, megalomania, is regarded as a matter for psychiatric treatment.

     But when we mix in the delusion called “democracy,” which many treat as a sacred principle that overrides all other considerations, including rights and justice, we get the bizarre condition we suffer today. That the would-be dictators of the Left can’t produce the majority support they claim to possess makes it stranger still.

     Hatred is easy to inflame, especially among the envious and avaricious. It’s a lot harder to quench.


     And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God, and saying: Glory to God in the highest; and on earth peace to men of good will. [Luke 2:13-14]

     Peace is only possible to men of good will. Good will excludes hatred. It forbids the use of violence or intimidation. It is the fundamental requirement of social harmony – i.e., of “good feelings.”

     Good will demands the severest possible limitation of the use of coercive power – and therefore, of the reach and power of governments.

     We could have it again. We could be a nation of free, tolerant, prosperous and peaceable men once more. We could enjoy our various vines and fig trees in harmony: the sort of harmony that accepts that we’re not all alike, and that there’s no need to be so. But we can’t have those things without the renascence of good will, with everything that implies.

     I’m a Catholic. I appreciate the importance of hope, and not merely in matters of faith. I refuse to allow the rampant cynicism that has afflicted so many of my countrymen to reave me of my hope. Hope is what makes it possible to look forward. Good will is what makes it possible to move forward.

     Happy New Year, everyone. I’ll see you in 2019. May God bless and keep you all.

2 comments:

David Drake said...

Happy New Year to you and your family, Francis. God Bless.

LiberTarHeel said...

FP "We could have it again. We could be a nation of free, tolerant, prosperous and peaceable men once more. We could enjoy our various vines and fig trees in harmony: the sort of harmony that accepts that we’re not all alike, and that there’s no need to be so. But we can’t have those things without the renascence of good will, with everything that implies."

Well said! It reminds me of one of my favorite Edward Abbey quotations: "If America could be, once again, a nation of self-reliant farmers, craftsmen, hunters, ranchers, and artists, then the rich would have little power to dominate others. Neither to serve nor to rule: That was the American dream."

Happy New Year!