Saturday, February 28, 2009

Declaration of Independence

The wars between the public and private sectors are starting to heat up. On all levels government is a force to be reckoned with again, with stimulus money coming, and Obama's huge budget in debate, and tighter financial regulation looming, and private bank shares now in public hands. Some Republican governors, in a shameless display of ideological hypocrisy, are saying they'll refuse some of the stimulus money now ("intrusion, welfare state, socialism"), where they had no trouble taking similar money in the past ("national defense, homeland security, compassionate conservatism"). I suppose it makes sense if you think of politics as the endless urge to get re-elected.

Individual rights have suffered recently. Now it's states' rights, and corporate rights, that have to bend before the onslaught of bad news and federal fixes. Laissez-faire doesn't work anymore. If the fixes work, let's hope the Democrats can retreat from big government as gracefully as the Republicans didn't. None of us wants colonial rule again.

It's a difficult balance. How do responsibility and freedom mesh? Were the Massachusetts Minutemen really justified in revolting? Was Maine really justified in breaking away from Massachusetts? Is the TSA really justified in asking me to remove my sweater at LAX?

The news that Wiscasset has lost its fight to get back the printed copy of the Declaration of Independence it once owned is symptomatic, the sort of dispute that happens every day in this country. Some guy in Virginia paid a lot of money for it. Wiscasset had it for nearly 200 years but was careless. Who's right?

In 1776 every town in the Commonwealth - some 250, including Maine's - received its copy. Each copy should have been instantly protected for all time, but apparently only a handful remain. Where governments fail, individuals must shine. In times of crisis, the reverse is required.

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