I've been fascinated with history since the start of high school and the discovery of American history around the time of the American Civil War (a.k.a. the War of Northern Aggression). It has expanded over the decades, back through the Revolutionary period and forward through both world wars. And every time I read the letters or speeches of nearly all historical figures, they've had a least one memorable quote about their concerns with regards to concentrated wealth and power.
We have been warned down through the centuries, from Plutarch to our present time, about the dangers to self rule from the concentration of great wealth in a few hands. For with great wealth comes great power, with its subsequent absolute corruption. Within our own American experience, from our founding fathers through General Dwight Eisenhower, 34th President of the United States, we have been warned repeatedly about the concentration of wealth and power and the danger it represents to our Republic.
And yet, in spite of all their efforts, here we all stand, at the start of the second decade of the 21st century, with the accumulated debt of trillions of dollars, embroiled in multiple wars from Libya to Afghanistan, chewing away like termites at our constitutional freedoms in the name of security, both militarily and in the name of commerce, and with a huge proportion of our wealth concentrated in so very few hands. Standing on the very precipice we were told to stay away from.
Is it any wonder that we have such historically high unemployment, and resultant movements such as Occupy Wall Street?
But simple protests like Occupy Wall Street aren't enough. Sitting around in lough chairs in parks, chanting through bull horns, and leaving messes in public areas for others to eventually clean up won't accomplish anything except to bring down scorn on the protesters and eroding credible belief in the social values they say they're protesting for.
|When economic power became concentrated in a few hands, then political power flowed to those possessors and away from the citizens, ultimately resulting in an oligarchy or tyranny.|
John Adams describing the European experience
|As a very important source of strength and security, cherish public credit. One method of preserving it is to use it as sparingly as possible, avoiding occasions of expense by cultivating peace, but remembering also that timely disbursements to prepare for danger frequently prevent much greater disbursements to repel it, avoiding likewise the accumulation of debt, not only by shunning occasions of expense, but by vigorous exertion in time of peace to discharge the debts which unavoidable wars may have occasioned, not ungenerously throwing upon posterity the burden which we ourselves ought to bear.|
George Washington's Farewell Address 1796
|As a result of the war, corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed.|
|We may have democracy, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both.|
As quoted by Raymond Lonergan in Mr. Justice Brandeis, Great American (1941), p. 42.
|This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence – economic, political, even spiritual – is felt in every city, every Statehouse, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.|
In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.
We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.
Dwight Eisenhower's Farewell Address to the Nation, January 17, 1961
It's real easy for me to write about technology or photography or comment on other's actions. That's my safe zone. It's real hard for me to set out down an uncomfortable and unfamiliar path, especially when I need to create something new rather than parrot something old. But I have to. I now feel I have no other choice.