Here is my column in today’s Greenville News on our progressive state of servitude; our transformation from citizens to subjects.

Here’s the text:

I’ve been reading an enjoyable book, ‘Boone, a biography,’ by Robert Morgan. I grew up on westerns and frontier tales. There was something wonderful in the stories, a sense of awe and exploration. The characters I loved were devoted and resourceful; men like Boone, Davy Crockett and Simon Kenton. I’m not exactly a mountain man, but as an Appalachian by birth and ancestry, I can understand some of what those men thought. And one of the things they thought of often was freedom.

Boone, a biography, by Robert Morgan

Boone, a biography, by Robert Morgan

The American pioneers were mere humans. Some were escaping warrants for arrest, some were escaping oppression. Some of them wanted quick profits, some wanted land to farm and many just wanted to be free to go wherever, and whenever, they desired.

One of the things they struggled with, in their quest for freedom, was the quitrent. The quitrent, in short, was this: a landowner in the east would have the deed to enormous tracts in the west. A settler could buy that lant. But he would continue to pay the quitrent in lieu of performing typical feudal duties. It was a kind of perpetual tax on land. So, no matter how much a man and his family risked, no matter how many children they buried, or how many wounds and diseases they incurred farming and clearing, someone else was always owed money for the ‘privilege’ of buying the land from them. And that someone else incurred no risk. If you received a quitrent, you were getting ‘money for nothing.’

I wonder, sometimes, if we have come much further. The thing is, we take so much for granted simply because ‘it’s how things are.’ And one of those things is the intrusion and power of government.

Does it ever occur to us that we can never, really, own our cars? That we never actually own our homes, businesses or land? We may pay them off. The bank may bring us the mortgage paper to burn in a champagne-toasting ceremony. But we can never, ever stop paying taxes. The federal government doesn’t care that you worked, saved and paid it all off. Government cares only that we continue to pay their cut. The same goes for the state and local government. So many things we think we own, for we have labored to obtain them. So many of them are owned by the ‘king.’

I believe our forefathers, our founders, would be stunned at the degree to which we are beholden to government. And yet, year after year, decade after decade we write checks to our political masters, not because we believe in their good-will, or their wisdom, or in the bloated beaurocracy the money supports. No, we do it because if we don’t, the long, strong arm of the law will confiscate that which we falsely believed we owned in the first place.

I suspect that we are far less free than we have ever been in the history of this nation. But not only because of taxes. We are less free because we are less represented. Reaching our leaders is not a matter of brilliant opinion or genuine plea for representation, but of providing the right amount of money to the right political action organization. We pay our quitrent, but must pay it again for the bent ear of power.

Further, as citizens, we are less trusted and more observed, monitored and searched than ever. Go through airline security if you doubt it. Purchase a firearm if you’re unsure. We are endlessly nannied and perpetually moralized .

Yes, it’s how it is. Yes, it’s how it has been for a long time. But must it always be this way? If we accepted the ‘this is how it is and always was’ argument, my profession of medicine would look very different, for we would say, ‘children simply die, that’s how it is.’ ‘Old people have strokes, that’s how it is.’ And we would say, in law, ‘strangers get accused falsely and hung, that’s just how it is,’ or ‘men beat their wives, we can’t change.’

We can change and we must. We need tax reform, we need the freedom to own what we own. We need to be honored, and trusted, for the good citizens we are. We need to be, once more and truly, the land of the free. And we have to stop saying ‘it’s just the way things are,’ and wonder, ‘just how free can we be?’

I believe Daniel Boone would agree.

Daniel Boone

Daniel Boone

Have a great day!


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