Skip to main content
No. of Recommendations: 79
I expect the founding fathers would be appalled by the current size and scope of the US government as they did everything in their power to keep the federal government small and to maximize individual freedom.

No, actually that would be the experiment known as “The Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union”, which lasted less than a decade because it was a total failure. It had a tiny Federal component with nearly all the power in the states and municipalities. And it was completely unworkable. Then the Constitution that you know was ratified, which vastly increased the size and scope of the Federal Government.

That “individual freedom” is a lovely fable promulgated by people who aren’t terribly discerning about history. Native Americans didn’t have it. Women didn’t have it. Africans didn’t have it. People who didn’t own land didn’t have it. Government in Massachusetts and Connecticut were theocracies, you were required to follow a specific religion (*Puritan derivative) and were fined or imprisoned if you did not. (Rhode Island grew as a safe haven from the practice.) The same was true in some Southern states, although Baptist was the preferred choice.

In most colonies your right to a specific occupation was limited to what the town council decided. If the village already had a blacksmith, you could not be a blacksmith. Guilds formed and required a period of indentured servitude to pursue particular lines of work. Non-property owners got a very different kind of “Justice” from the justice system. Women, it is well documented, could not own property in some states. What to do with a widow who inherits? Strip her of it, or require that she re-marry within a year. There’s some freedom for you.

I will admit the founding fathers might be appalled by the current size and scope of the US government, but I wonder if I could ask them how much they spent on digital piracy or universal education or building our transportation system if they would have any idea what I was talking about. “NASA? What’s that?” I can hear Thomas Jefferson ask. “Why would you need an internet?” Would be a good question coming from people who outlined a federal service to carry written words on paper along “post roads.”

Except in the beginnings of the country the Federal Government could only tax via tariffs and excise taxes

A good system, except when it lead to armed rebellion, of course, as President Washington learned. And when it was used as protectionism to build domestic industries and keep those dastardly and cheaper foreign goods at bay. And when it disadvantaged some areas of the country (the South) and advantaged others (the North) causing grave regional resentments which eventually led to Civil War. But other than that, yeah, great.

The Norman Rockwell vision you have of colonial America is not just simplistic, it’s pernicious, and it’s deeply ignorant of actual history. Nobody is claiming everything we’re doing is right or that changes might not be appropriate. But to claim oneship with the Founding Fathers and pretend they maximized personal liberty is to ignore the 80% of the country which had nothning like the freedom that most Americans have today. Including, of course, people of Chinese, Jewish, African, Spanish, French, and other heritages which have so informed this happy melting pot we call America.

Crack a book.
Print the post  


The Retirement Investing Board
This is the board for all discussions related to Investing for and during retirement. To keep the board relevant and Foolish to everyone, please avoid making any posts pertaining to political partisanship. Fool on and Retire on!
When Life Gives You Lemons
We all have had hardships and made poor decisions. The important thing is how we respond and grow. Read the story of a Fool who started from nothing, and looks to gain everything.
Contact Us
Contact Customer Service and other Fool departments here.
What was Your Dumbest Investment?
Share it with us -- and learn from others' stories of flubs.
Work for Fools?
Winner of the Washingtonian great places to work, and Glassdoor #1 Company to Work For 2015! Have access to all of TMF's online and email products for FREE, and be paid for your contributions to TMF! Click the link and start your Fool career.