Jewish World Review Nov. 3, 2000 /5 Mar-Cheshvan 5761
Before the visual age and its associated appeals to "feelings'' instead of wisdom, Samuel Adams, who some people know only because a beer was named after him, expressed the unanimous view of the Founders about government. Adams and his contemporaries knew, because they understood human nature at least as well as the clergy, that no government structure would long endure unless the people took it upon themselves to learn about virtuous character and embody its qualities.
Adams said, "But neither the wisest constitution nor the wisest laws will secure the liberty and happiness of a people whose manners are universally corrupt. He therefore is the truest friend of the liberty of his country who tries most to promote its virtue, and who, so far as his power and influence extend, will not suffer a man to be chosen into any office of power and trust who is not a wise and virtuous man.''
Have the last eight years seen wisdom and virtue at the top of our government? If not, it is because we have not cared much about those character qualities in ourselves.
When Alexis de Tocqueville visited America in 1831, he observed how much the American political system depended upon the training and educating of young people. In "Democracy in America,'' he wrote: "It cannot be doubted that in the United States the instruction of the people powerfully contributes to the support of the democratic republic; and such must always be the case, I believe, where the instruction which enlightens the understanding is not separated from the moral education.''
Tocqueville was particularly amazed at the depth of knowledge children had about their government and its Constitution. Today's students seem to know more about sex and the environment than they do about government and other disciplines.
Bush embodies the sentiments of Tocqueville in his approach to education. Gore would maintain the monopolistic education status quo.
William Goudy, a patriot from North Carolina, spoke at his state's constitutional ratifying convention in 1787-88 of the dangers of big and ever-growing government, Goudy warned: "(Government's) intent is a concession of power on the part of the people to their rulers. We know that private interest governs mankind generally. Power belongs originally to the people, but if rulers be not well guarded, that power may be usurped from them. People ought to be cautious about giving away power .... If we give away more power than we ought, we put ourselves in the situation of a man who puts on an iron glove, which he can never take off 'til he breaks his arm. Let us beware of the iron glove of tyranny.''
Gore has been a part of big government and wishes to perpetuate it. But Bush takes another view.
And that's why the choice Tuesday is about bigger, costlier and more intrusive government or one that is prudently restrained on all those fronts. It is about government doing the few but important things it can to stem the cultural pollution, family breakdown and devaluing of human life. It is about allowing people to keep more of their own money and encouraging them to save and invest it, thus keeping more power and independence for themselves. Government shouldn't disappear -- it should be kept in its proper place. It is about ending the age of victimization and restoring opportunity and responsibility.
The question is, which presidential candidate offers the best hope for achieving these ends? Our
choice will tell us who and what we want to see in the mirror held before our faces. My own hope is
that we see George W. Bush reflecting our highest aspirations, following Bill Clinton and Al Gore, who
have mirrored our baser