Wednesday, June 20, 2018

What Would the Founding Fathers Think of America Today?

       This question has been asked numerous times over many decades, with the disclaimer that, by definition, all of them (George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, James Madison and the others) would be stunned by the advances in technology which have transformed society. More fundamentally, the question should focus on three key areas: 1) how the government functions, 2) the rights and personal freedoms of citizens and 3) the overall well being of people in general, along with the safety and security of the nation. On these topics, many historians would expect a wide variance of opinion from this group.

       On the issue of how well the government functions in America today, all of the Founding Fathers would be disappointed seeing how one political party faces off against another, often causing near paralysis in Washington. George Washington never officially belonged to a political party, even though many historians have labeled him a Federalist. In his Farewell Address written in September 1796, Washington warned the nation of the dangers that could arise when political groups fought against each other and geographic or sectional factions tried to gain advantage over people in other regions. 

       Political parties as we know them today didn't exist until Thomas Jefferson ran for President in the year 1800- and we've had them ever since. Jefferson and every President after him has belonged to a political party- and they are here to stay, whether we like them or not. Parties are not the problem; bickering among politicians which avoids resolving serious issues IS the real problem. As the Father of the Constitution, James Madison would likely be surprised at the myriad of laws, regulations and procedures now on the books, at least some of which appear counterproductive and even self-defeating. Seeing the ongoing paralysis of government, Madison, along with Hamilton and the others might strongly support revamping the U.S. House and Senate rules and procedures, as well as nullifying many laws in existence which they would question regarding efficiency and operations of government so as to allow real, practical solutions to problems.

       Regarding the rights and personal freedoms of citizens, Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton might actually agree- that today's government has far too strong an influence on the daily activities of all Americans. From personal choices regarding their own health- the most important issue for all people- to laws and regulations on business, the environment and other areas, most of the Founders would likely be appalled at how much the government today does to influence the lives of every American. Personal liberty to them was paramount; they founded a new nation on the concept. In today's world, they would all act aggressively to change the way government interacts with and guides the actions of people. 

       With respect to the overall well being of the average citizen, the Founders would all be impressed that today, in the year 2018, the majority of Americans are reasonably healthy, enjoy decent housing, education available to all and a variety of conveniences which make their lives much easier than the conditions which existed 240 years ago. Regarding the safety and security of the nation, Washington would perhaps be the most dismayed to learn that the country he presided over is now facing numerous threats- from terrorism, to rampant crime in certain regions and the tidal wave of illegal immigration. Hamilton would be thrilled that the economic, banking and securities systems he put in place have made America the most successful and powerful nation in the world, while Jefferson and Madison would question the influence of wealthy businessmen and corporations in general. Adams, Franklin and the others would question just how strong and safe a nation can be if it cannot protect against nuclear weapons or maintain the integrity of its borders.

       Perhaps all the Founding Fathers would agree on one point: the framework they put in place more than two centuries ago is still working, despite its many flaws. For that, they would all be ecstatic- and quite proud...

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