“America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, she will cease to be great.” This saying is typically attributed to that pro-American Frenchman, Alexis de Tocqueville. It’s an interesting saying, but de Tocqueville never said it. Also, the saying itself is only half-true.
Americans have always been humans; not so different from all those sinners in France. A seed of truth in the quote is that there was a time when Americans had to act hat-tipping, help-your-neighbor civil. There was a time when Americans acted better than they were.
During de Tocqueville’s visit to the USA (1831), and in fact through the hundred-some years until Income Tax, central banking and the New Deal (as opposed to the Best-Ever Deal) changed all the rules, the church was the only Department of Health, Education and Welfare – even in our biggest cities. Churches ran hospitals, schools, welfare and social cooperative programs. It was church mothers who’d helped rear our young. It was church fathers and sons who’d helped at planting time. It was church leaders who’d opposed slavery and unscrupulous businesses, and it was the church that served as FEMA for natural disasters.
So excommunication meant the loss of key social services …if your barn burnt down, there’d be no church-based barn-raising to build it back up.
The only alternatives to churches in those days were fraternal societies/clubs that also operated on a voluntary basis, and which also operated by strict moral code.
In other words, to get social services and insurance from nothing more than a voluntary collection plate, Americans had to behave.
That was not such a bad thing! Per capita crime rates in cities (many of which were more densely populated a hundred years ago) were only a tiny fraction of what we have today even in rural areas. Murder was rare, big news when even kids walked around with firearms and it was perfectly legal to use your machine gun with a silencer (before you dress up and go off to church).
But now, instead of a voluntary tithe, Americans apparently prefer to give up half their wealth (actually more by recent estimates; and 22% more of their time just since 1979!) to a government that itself has neither interest nor experience in morality. The combination of tax laws that gag preachers and policies that replace traditional church roles have made churches socially irrelevant; and have made politicians our new gods.
Fortunately for some, these politicians are for sale. Unfortunately for the rest of us, our politicians have been bought. Such corruption of power is as ancient as Adam and as unavoidable as decay.
Our nation became great only by constitutionally limiting the size and scope of corrupt government. That was the Old Deal…politicians on a leash. And that old deal is still the newest deal in human history.
But since the “New Deal” (actually a very ancient, pre-Hammurabi deal), we’ve devolved into more regulation, taxation and litigation than all other nations on earth …combined. And we must compete with nations that have far less of all of that.
There are no unions or EPA or OSHA or FDA or patent enforcement or minimum wage in China, yet we buy things made there, right? Canada and Europe remove their VAT and GST taxes before shipping them to our stores, and we suck it all up, right?
So while we pat ourselves on the back for the USA’s “progressive” politics, we’re promoting slavery, unregulated pollution, disease, oppressive regimes and powerful enemies all over the world. When we buy shoes from Portugal, medical equipment from Germany or telecom service from France (Sacré bleu!), we’re firing Americans.
See? We don’t even act good now (hey, I’ve seen how y’all drive).
Of course I suggest we try III John 1:11: “Beloved, do not imitate evil but imitate good.” If that’s the best we could do, fine; because it’s the best that’s ever been done.
But if we don’t cut our politicians, their regulations, litigation and taxation down to competitive (and, by the way, legal) size, we will not only cease to be great; we may just cease to be.