There is an old saying in family businesses, “The first generation starts a business. The second generation runs it. The third generation ruins it.”
Metaphorically, our American family business is in the third generation.
Our Founding Fathers rejected monarchy, oligarchy, aristocracy, theocracy, and formed the United States of America as a Constitutional Republic – the greatest experiment in individual freedom and upward mobility anywhere in the world. What happened?
To answer that question we must examine the historical context of the three generations.
Our Founding Fathers lived at a time in history when “We the people” had little value. Societies were structured along binary feudal lines and divided between the ruling elite and the enslaved population who served them. Slavery was a matter of degree – from physical chains and ownership of another human being, to caste systems that predetermined social position, to social structures where populations were subjects of ruling monarchs, oligarchs, or subjects of the tyranny of religious theocratic rule.
Our Founding Fathers had a different idea. They decided to build a more perfect union, a representative democracy that valued the people of society and entrusted them with the responsibility of elections to choose their own leaders. It was a radical experiment in social policy that reflected a seismic shift in social attitudes.
A government of the people, by the people, and for the people offered unparalleled opportunities for upward mobility and the freedom to pursue one’s dreams. Capitalism and the free market economy allowed workers to keep the fruits of their labor and created a thriving middle class. Public education that taught competency, literacy, and a patriotic regard for freedom and the American ideal was mandated. What was the catch?
The freedom and opportunity that defined the American ideal required its citizens to become responsible, self-sufficient adults. The early years of the American experiment were particularly harsh and difficult years but living free was worth the effort – individual freedom, religious freedom, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of the press, and freedom to petition the government were rights that required adulthood.
Living free and dying free was something that was not taken for granted in the 18th century. The success of the American ideal depended upon the shared American spirit of commitment to personal freedom by both government and the governed. It was understood that the freedoms guaranteed by our Constitution and Bill of Rights were a promise of equal opportunity not a guarantee of equal outcome. more here
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