Sunday, June 25, 2006

A 110-year-old View of Government

I genuinely enjoyed this story about the 1896 election and Bryan's "Cross of Gold" speech, which many of us know about but don't understand in the least. The linked story finally explained to me why the Populists wanted to switch from the gold standard to a gold and silver standard--to increase the money supply so prices would go up. Why would they want prices to go up? Because the Populists were primarily farmers, the producers who would benefit if prices went up!

The author's great-great-grandfather was a "gold man" in a sea of Populists in South Dakota, and gave a speech in which he said the following:

“The federal government is like a fence around a farm. The fence raises no crops of wheat — no fields of corn. It only protects the farmer while he raises his crops, he giving a good portion of his time to keep the fence in repair. Just so we give a good share of our taxes to keep the great government fence in repair. I beg of you to keep this thought in mind that government has not a dollar to give any man…not a bed, not a cow or calf. Nothing but protection while you are at work for yourself…Government has nothing to give anybody.”

A man living in the hinterlands in the days before the Wright Brothers could see government for what it is (and isn't), yet so many today cannot see what that man's wisdom allowed him to see.

I have a familial bias, but that’s poetic in a “pull your sleeves up and get to work” kind of way.

I think Ronald Reagan would have approved.

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