A favorite subject of mine (from a 2011 series, The History of Government Employment, Part IV), “service” is an important theme in an important election year, which could, if we do things right, dictate the course of America for the next 30 years, (or “generation”, which is my favorite way to count political time).
The theme here is “public service” which I believe we can all agree, it’s been years that the “service” part of it has been totally removed from its equation.
Actually, this is a natural phenomenon. In other parts of the world this loss is so ancient as to have been forgotten, if it was ever recognized in the first place. I’m quite certain that no citizen or other person living under the Roman Empire ever considered that fellow they had to take their chariot in to be inspected and certified as road-worthy, to be a “public servant”. He was an agent of the Caesar, and a low ranking one at that. They were all petty annoyances to citizens and non-citizens alike. A natural breeding ground for graft. Some were hated more than others, see tax collector, and who actually came to your house to collect.
All were down-the-nose indifferent to the citizens to whom, or for whom, they rendered their “service”.
Their duty and their loyalty was always to their king.
If the people of 1000 years ago actually stopped to think that it was their labor and taxes that were actually paying their king’s way through his sumptuous life, ostensibly in exchange for his “protection” (which was a crap shoot in and of itself) we can’t know, since, only in the past 400 years could any of the people not on the king’s payroll even read or write, so as to tell their side of the story.
The king’s historians (there were no others) would have never bothered to record a small village uprising or peasant revolt, until the 14th Century unless it was to report how justified the king was in putting them all to the sword. How long did it take Spartacus’ slave revolt to get any positive press? 2000 years?
Only in the past 250 year did any educated people begin to care about the plight of the average citizen and tell of their plight.
So, have you ever stopped to consider that is was America who largely changed all that? And that we’ve been hated for it by the world’s government class ever since?
If we didn’t know this 75 years ago, when I was born right after WWII, we should be keenly aware of it now, for that class of haters has now taken up permanent (or so they think) residence right here in America. And many of them are in government service.
It wasn’t always that way.
We’re having a “great re-awakening” now as to how significant that event in 1782 was to we Americans. It’s in accordance with several natural laws. So Darwin’s science would agree, that we, as a species, would refuse to die off. “Survival-enhancing”, they call it.
But to get a full taste of what it meant to the European side to have to swallow our evolutionary leap, just consider this portrait Benjamin West had been commissioned to do at the signing of the Treaty of Paris, 1783, ending the Revolutionary War.
The English delegates refused to be portrayed. It was never completed.
To the world government class, their “system” of kings that had existed in one version or the other for 5000 years, America was the worst thing to happen since the Great Flood, which once before had swept away almost all history that had gone before it. America threatened the very same thing to the world order in 1782. (I love telling the story from the eyes of Satan, who was the chief architect of political systems all those centuries.)
Our title here is “Public Service”, which is an element of how our system was designed to rebirth itself. I’ll briefly outline it here as a teaching reminder and then connect that notion with why the Founders left it in the hands of the people to dictate how big their government could be simply by leaving it in their hands to decide how much they were willing to pay, by putting taxation in the hands of the people.
True, we lost that in the 1930s when we found ourselves in a giant (partially-government caused) Depression, causing the People, generally out of fear (there were other considerations), to give over the rescue to a “new” socialist-leaning government about which they knew very little…until it was too late. A world war helped.
How the new government fixed it was to expand the definition of “public service” to include an army of federal, state, and local “public servants” whose job, just like AD in Rome and 1100 AD in France, was to go around and fleece citizens to keep those public servants better paid that the man who serviced their new cars. And keep the people more and more reliant on them as the years turned into generations.
Today, your kid can’t even set up a lemonade stand on the sidewalk without having to grease one or more of these bandits’ palms. And you, as the parent, can’t even remember that it wasn’t always this way.
I can, which is why I’m writing this today…before the memory is lost about the original ideal of “public service”.
Today, the pain of any fix has been made to seem so painful we’ve put it off for over 70 years, until now those public servants number in the millions, and the service they provide is, well, patronizing without so much as a “thank you”. And they vote with a single voice enough to swing state and federal elections, invoking several natural laws of bureaucracy; unimpeded growth, waste, and arrogance, on the one hand, to the point for they have now made the decision to simply erase this silly democratic republic idea and return America to its original state in nature before Benjamin West tried to paint that mural in Paris.
But as Nature would have it, in this process they have yanked the chain on the core of America’s survival instincts, to find out the people outnumber the public servants by a hundred to one, and are armed to the teeth.
Some call it a revolution, or is it a counter-revolution? Or a coup? No matter, it’s a war.
So today if I were to complete that West painting the way our deep state would like to see it painted, it would be with a team of dragoons firing at Franklin and Adams, Jay and Laurens,
But if the People were to be able to repaint that art, we would likely do an edit of Custer’s last fight, where, in Bill Cosby’s words, “all the Indians in the world would ride down on them.” Only we’d be the Sioux.
(If this offends, sorry, but I’m not a Custer fan, a vain media hog who killed off 230 of his soldiers in that pursuit. Johnny Cash said it best, and below, you can hear what he had to say about Custer in 1964.)
But with few exceptions today, only in our military and first responders will you find the true meaning and depth of American public service embedded. Only a few are found in Congress, or even City Hall. And maybe a few older public school teachers. Donald Trump came out of the private sector as a total surprise. (This is why an Iraq veteran and I formed VeteransTales.org, mostly to inspire other people with funding and vision to invest in training and providing opportunities for some vets to teach our young students what they are now being denied in public schools and that is the true meaning of “service”. Please take a few minutes to look over the Vets in Class idea there, and even throw a few dollars that way. Even buy a Communist poster.)
Public Service as a notion belonging to the elites:
Louis Brandeis was a Supreme Court justice from 1916 to 1941. He was appointed by Woodrow Wilson, and was the first Jew to sit on the Court. He was also a Progressive of that era, and I suggest you look up Louis Brandeis to see just what progressives stood for a 100 years ago. Some called him the “father of Privacy and Freedom of Speech” which for the past two decades has become an exclusive conservative property.
I’m not making a full-throated defense of Brandeis here, and certainly none for Woodrow Wilson, or what modern leftists today call Progressives. But since he was from Kentucky, he was one of the justices our Moot Court teams were named for in law school.
Brandeis made a comment about public service: (I paraphrase from memory):
It is the duty of the educated man to secure his wealth as early as he can so that he can then turn his life to public service.
You may not know the history of the early saints, but many of them, Saint Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, and others came from the same affluent backgrounds, taking even more formal vows of poverty than did Louis Brandeis, giving their lives totally over to serving their fellow man. (Augustine even became chaste, finally.)
Louis Brandeis was a first generation immigrant whose family left Prague because of anti-Semitism. His father settled in Louisville and made a lot of money as a grain merchant. And he was raised in a cultured home, where they talked of literature, the arts, and philosophy instead of front page news topics. He graduated from Harvard Law School at age 21, in 1877, and was 60 years old when he joined the Supreme Court, in 1916.
So, when he made that quote, above, he did so as a certified elite (versus elitist) and not as an average American citizen. He was speaking of the duties of an elite to his country.
William F Buckley, Jr would be in that same club of elites a half century later.
I doubt Brandeis had the American soldier in mind when he made his postulate about “service”. He was just a kid when several million young men volunteered to go free a bunch of black people they had never seen, something no European nation, or any other I can find, ever did. Nearly half a million of those young men died trying. I’d say that was “the last full measure” of public service.
Brandeis grew up in a time when the teaching profession was still thought of nobly, as were many more members in state legislatures and Congress. The bureaucracy was still very small, and would not begin to grow until about the time he retired in 1939.
But if he ran into a fellow like William Buckley, a Yale man, it would not have surprised Brandeis that they shared similar views of the personal responsibilities of their class. Buckley was only one generation younger, but had a lot of Texas in his “ground water” where loving your country was a topic around the supper table. I doubt Brandeis gave much thought that maybe a small town mayor, elected councilman or civil servant at the court house might share his view of “service” and came by it in an entirely different way.
I doubt that any of Brandeis’ children or grandchildren would look past their class to believe such noble thoughts of duty and service could ever be baked into the American soul at its roots. especially it rural roots. While Bill Buckley preached it.
Brandeis’ ideal of public service did include the many men and women who had gone before him in America; Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, George Washington, the first Chief Justice John Marshall, a whole generation of cultured elites who came to public service out of the same sense of duty, not because they needed the money, or a job.
What he probably never paused to consider was that it was also found in the water of a long, lanky farm boy from Kentucky named Abraham Lincoln, who the historian Richard Brookhiser, (formerly of Buckley’s “National Review” staff) dubbed “the Founder’s Son”, because the life and worldview of George Washington he’d read about as a kid at age 11 had defined his view of not only America, but its character, proving the transcendental nature of the American theology.
I don’t know if Louis Brandeis ever thought this way, but William F Buckley certainly did.
All that remains is for us to consider how we go about this in the 21st Century, with a crater of at least 70 years to back and fill.
Maybe we should consider a program of assimilating our native born children while assimilating our new immigrants? A daunting task, I know, but its solution requires us to be out in front of our government class if it is ever to happen over the next 30-40 years.