Every Fourth of July reflective people have to suffer through a lot of blather about freedom, rights, and liberty, and bucketfuls of spread-eagle self-celebration about what a wonderful and special country America is, conceived in liberty and dedicated to, blah, blah, blah. And oh, that beastly George III and what a tyrant he was! those pestilential British! and on and on. This year's Independence Day will be more insufferable than most, since our President and his privy councilors, having smitten the Iraqis with the edge of the sword men, women, children, cattle, every crawling thing are wallowing in triumphalism.
Count me out. If I do any goofing off July 4, it will be with a biography of King George III.
As anyone who's actually read up on him can tell you, George III was a devout Christian, an unswervingly faithful husband, a fervent patriot, a gentleman, and a painfully conscientious ruler who meant well and did his honest best. His insanity was due to an unfortunate blood disease called porphyria. Who among the pack of knaves, villains and at best mediocrities who have governed us for most of the past century is worthy to touch the hem of Good King George's coronation robe? FDR? JFK? LBJ? Nixon? Clinton? Bush I? Bush II? Oh please!
More to the point, by every measure, our government is more tyrannical towards Americans than King George's at its worst.
Granted, the British did some harsh stuff. They send regiments to Boston, closed the port, and quartered soldiers in colonists' homes. But only after repeated attempts to conciliate the colonies had gotten them nowhere and had prompted only more defiance. There is no comparison, absolutely none, between the final British crackdown and what's happening in "free" America.
The Bostonians asked for what they got. We didn't.
Trampling the rights it supposedly exists to protect (or so the Declaration of Independence would have you believe), our government routinely commits tyrannies that Good King George never dreamed of.
Lincoln's tyrannies are sufficiently familiar to this web site's readers to render enumeration superfluous. One comparison is instructive: Lincoln and Congress gave us the draft just "four score and seven years" after the founding of the nation "conceived in liberty"; the beastly British didn't get around to it until the middle of World War I. Woodrow Wilson persecuted and jailed dissenters even before we actually entered the war. Eugene Debs, his most famous victim, was released by, yes, Warren G. Harding.
Franklin Roosevelt made it illegal to own gold, foisted a corporate fascist scheme called NRA on America, got generations hooked on the drug of Social Security, and tried to pack the Supreme Court when it got in his way and enforced the Constitution he had sworn to "preserve, protect and defend." He inflicted other tyrannies during the war he dragged us into, such as confiscatory taxes, price control, and on and on. When Sewall Avery of Montgomery Ward defied a diktat from the caped megalomaniac, his thugs carried Avery out of his office in his chair. Revered by lackey scribblers and Americans with short memories, Harry Truman seized coal mines, railroads and other businesses in response to strikes and tried to draft striking workers into the Army. He committed us to war in Korea on his say-so and didn't even ask Congress for an opinion, let alone a declaration of war. He wanted socialized medicine and when American doctors objected he said "I think they ought to be hit over the head with a club." Give u2018em hell, Harry. Yeah, right!
Eisenhower enforced school integration at bayonet point. Jack and Bobby Kennedy tried to control prices with their mouths, and when steel prices weren't set to suit them, sent the FBI to make dawn raids on the homes of steel executives. LBJ dragged us into another undeclared war, vastly expanded the welfare state Roosevelt had started, tapped telephones, and planted bugs. Nixon authorized no-knock drug searches (so much for the protection against "unreasonable searches and seizures"), and used the IRS to hound folks on his "enemies list."
Meanwhile, federal judges were ordering forced busing of helpless children to achieve something called "racial balance" in public schools something eerily reminiscent of Stalin's forced relocation of ethnic groups and nationalities within the USSR. Meanwhile the judges, along with the liberal politicians and columnists who advocated busing, were sending their own children to private schools where they wouldn't have to worry about being held up at knife point for their lunch money or getting kidney damage because they were terrified of using the restrooms. A pattern was shaping up: one law for America's ruling elite, another one for the peasants (that's you and me, reader).
Another pattern was emerging through such court decisions: a few people imposing their will on everybody else with despotic arbitrariness and finality, thumbing their noses at the American people and democracy. And court decisions for the last forty years have institutionalized the revolution in mores of the 1960s, normalizing things like cohabitation, pornography, radical feminism, perverse sex, and so on, and largely driven Christianity out of the public square. Damn King George all you will, he never tried to overturn, demolish and "reconstruct" Christian civilization by decree.
The courts have also upheld the abomination of affirmative action for thirty years. King George opposed slavery and boycotted sugar to protest the slave trade. But it never crossed His Majesty's mind to persecute his subjects for the sin of being white or force them to atone for historical sins they didn't commit.
George III took seriously the Christian admonition to succor the poor, and personally gave away thousands of pounds of his own money to the poor of London and Windsor. The welfare state's methods are different: our politicians salve their social consciences with our money, and take good care to look out for #1 (why is it they invariably leave Washington multimillionaires?).
Even though he was cruelly lampooned here and in England, and foully insulted to his face, and even assaulted, by London mobs, King George never tried to impose thought control and geld everybody into politically correct ciphers with such things as speech codes and hate crime laws. Nor did he try the cultural equivalent of ethnic cleansing. Here in "free" America, we experience such things as suppressing Columbus Day and the Confederate flag and renaming schools named after famous slave holders like Washington. George may have been a madman off and on depending on the chemicals in his blood, but he wasn't lunatic or hateful enough to go in for sensityranny.
Rearranging the furniture in other people's minds by force apparently never occurred to him. The poor guy had his hands full managing his own.
Nor did George III ever do anything as despotic as wetlands and endangered species laws and regulations. If you find a spotted owl on your land, or a species that might become endangered, your property rights evaporate. And as James DeLong has masterfully shown in Property Matters, if you try to uphold your property rights in court in a wetlands or endangered species case, you'll get the mother of all runarounds and may go broke in the process.
And how many foreign wars did King George drag us into on a humbug?
What does it say about us, that our forebears took up arms over a tea tax, but we submit like sheep to things like this?
Speaking of the thrippence in the pound tea tax, it looks better all the time. Clinton and Congress raised taxes retroactively in 1993. Americans typically work almost half the year just to pay their taxes. Working Americans of modest means can't save for their own old age because they're being taxed black and blue by Social Security to pay for the retirements of total strangers. King George was burned in effigy, and His Majesty's revenue agents beaten up, tarred and feathered by mobs of goons, for far less.
No, Old England's taxes weren't popular over here. But when America complained, London listened. The 1765 Stamp Act was repealed by Parliament the very next year after the colonists protested. Parliament tried again in 1767 with the Townsend Acts, taxing imported glass, paper, lead, and tea. The colonies roared again, and the British backed down again, repealing everything but the tea tax in 1770. Yet these are the guys who get smeared as tyrants!
Tyrants?! I just wish to God that our Congresses and Presidents were so responsive to the American people's wishes. We have been seething literally for decades about high taxes, affirmative action, immigration, being forced to fund obscene and blasphemous "art," overregulation, and on and on. We might as well take our complaints to the man in the moon. For our pains we get kissed off by statist elitist scribblers, who equated any criticism of our sainted government with the militia movement, the Oklahoma City bombing (remember?) and treason, and who just can't understand why so many of us are so bitter about our government. Our rulers are no better. Write to George W. Bush or a Senator or Representative complaining about immigration, Social Security and so on and see what happens to you.
This indifference sends an unmistakable message: You don't count, peasants! What you want doesn't count either. Your purpose in life is to pay taxes and breed cannon fodder for foreign wars. Take up your cross and shut up!
And if you do something Uncle Sam doesn't like, such as have drugs or illegal guns in your house or are even suspected of it your house can be broken into and you can be terrorized or roughed up or even killed. ( Remember Randy Weaver?) During the so-called Boston Massacre, the mob attacked the British sentry, he called for help, and the British fired in self-defense. Crispus Attucks, one of the worst thugs in the mob, has gone down in history as a martyr for liberty. What do we call Randy Weaver?
If you plan to spend the Fourth celebrating the liberty you haven't got, by all means go ahead. Me? I'm going to drink a loyal toast to one of the most benevolent rulers this suffering country ever had, a small-government man and a pillar of constitutional rectitude compared to despotic megalomaniacs and reckless warmongers like Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt, LBJ, Clinton, and George W. Bush. His Majesty, God bless him!
John Attarian (send him mail) is a writer in Ann Arbor, Michigan, with a Ph.D. in economics. His book Social Security: False Consciousness and Crisis, which treats the myths and realities of Social Security in detail, has just been published by Transaction Publishers.