An old argument renewed
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Bill Barth
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 “Good morning, Mr. Jefferson. I’m glad you could stop by for a chat. And may I say, sir, you look very fit for a gentleman who has reached 266 years of age.”
        “Thank you, Mr. Hamilton. I appreciate the compliment, from a young fellow of 254. Your invitation for a conversation is quite timely, considering all that is transpiring in this grand republic of ours.”
        “And so it is, sir. These are surely tumultuous times. The people are hard pressed and struggling. Mr. Obama and his team in the nation’s capital city have their hands full as they strive to cope with challenges on every front. Mr. Jefferson, what advice would you have for your successor?”
        “Let me first say, Mr. Hamilton, how thrilled I am that a black man has been elevated to chief magistrate of the American government. You know, all those years ago, I desperately wanted to begin the process of ridding this nation of the abominable practice of slavery. Alas, it was not to be. Our great compromise helped to bring the necessary unity among the colonies, leading to eventual independence. Had we insisted on the slavery issue, the union would have collapsed before it had a chance to form.”
        “Very true, Mr. Jefferson. And it is just as true that Mr. Obama’s election to office fulfills the original thought, that all men are indeed created equal.”
        “Returning to your question, though, Mr. Hamilton, I’m not quite certain that what I would say to Mr. Obama, given that opportunity, would be welcome. Truthfully, as I look at the evolution of government, its sheer size and scope bears scant resemblance to the structure of which I approved.”
        “Oh, no. Mr. Jefferson, must we have that argument again.”
        “Age has dimmed my ardor for many things, Mr. Hamilton, but it has not altered my view of the American ideal, good sir.”
        “Yes, I know. I’ve heard it all before, over and over and over. The rural, agrarian life, close to the soil, is where man is best suited. The individual who is educated, who prepares himself to make his own way, and all that. A strong central government authority is to be feared. The people are to be sovereign, exercising most authority through their respective states. But times change, sir.”
       “Indeed, Mr. Hamilton, and not always for the better. Look around. Government exercises authority at every turn, relieving individuals of responsibility for their own lives, making them weak and dependent. To do this government taxes property, it taxes consumption, it taxes the money we earn from the sweat of our brow. One must even pay the government to shoot a deer in the woods, or to obtain fuel for the heating stove.”
        “A great nation cannot do all that it must, Mr. Jefferson, without strong government — especially the central national authority. We had these arguments so many years ago. Excuse me for saying so, but your continued complaints grow tiresome. Government must exercise authority. Individual freedom may be a wonderful ideal, but central authority is what brings greatness and prosperity. Surely, by now, you can see that. Next thing you will be telling me you thought all these so-called ‘tea parties’ served a purpose, aside from the obvious and ridiculous radical theater.”
        “Precisely so, Mr. Hamilton. The ‘tea parties’ remind us that it is the people who have the ultimate right not just to present their grievances to government, but, if they so choose, to throw it out and start over with something else.”
        “Mr. Jefferson, that is treason.”
        “Mr. Hamilton, that’s what King George said. See where it got him.”
        “Are you incapable, sir, of understanding that only government has the wherewithal to solve the many problems facing this great nation?”
        “I do not see that, Mr. Hamilton, and I remind you that it was the people, not the government, that made America free and great. What I see is a country that has lost its bearings, probably because the schemers of your vaunted financial class combined their nefarious talents with the strivers of the political class, to drape themselves in money and power at the expense of the common man. And so government at all levels cannot find enough things to tax, or enough authority to grasp, but must always grow bigger and bigger, while individuals grow smaller and smaller.”
        “Mr. Jefferson, you are hopeless. Small government. Authority closer to home, seated in the states. Individual responsibilities. Life, liberty, pursuit of happiness and all that. I suppose you’ll be repeating that old canard of yours about preferring newspapers without government, rather than government without newspapers.”
        “Now that you mention it, an informed citizenry is a necessary defense against all-powerful government.”
        “Citizens don’t need newspapers anymore, Mr. Jefferson. They have the internet. And video games. And TV. The people can trust government to meet their needs and tell them what they need to know.”
        “Mr. Hamilton, you are still a fool. Your big government and big finance theories have bankrupted the republic.”
        “Mr. Jefferson, if I were younger, I would demand satisfaction as a gentleman.”
        “Mr. Hamilton, I’m sure you can’t shoot any straighter than you can think.”