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Diminished democracy

To the Journal editor:

We fought England over being taxed without representation. It is no wonder that our founding fathers crafted the Constitution based on the principle that the majority ought to govern.

Early on, the first region wide tax rebellion was led by many slave-owners due to their questioning of the legitimacy of taxation to advance public purposes.

Such concerns did not arise where slavery was absent. Where voters were free to do so, voters regularly called on governments to perform services they valued and elected candidates who pledged to perform them.

What every free-state American voter liked about tax policy in their self-governing republic was that they, the people decided issues by majority rule. For these citizens, liberty meant having a say in questions of governance.

Slavery-dominated government was more aristocratic and weaker and more likely controlled by the wealthy few. When voters in southern states tried to get their government to take up their concerns, the planters felt threatened by any political activity they did not control, even when voters were demanding roads, schools, and other services.

The anti-government rhetoric that continues to saturate our political life is rooted in slavery rather than liberty. The paralyzing suspicion of government, so much on display today, came from like-minded elite wealthy plantation owners who saw federal power as a menace to their system of racial slavery.

Currently, like-minded extremely wealthy individuals, in order to preserve their economic liberty, are able to keep the Republican representatives in line by threatening to be primaried by a more conservative well-funded opponent.

As former jurist Louis Brandeis said, “We must make a choice. We may have democracy, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.”

RONALD MARSHALL

Petoskey