Seventy five years ago, had any public employee made a public comment that the American people were stupid, that person would have been next seen leaving town with tin cans tied to his bumper or dressed in some sort of ensemble that included a custom-made Plaster of Paris design. An arm or leg might be involved, or maybe just a broken nose. Or perhaps a new set of tires, or maybe just a bottle of Scope in the mailbox. No matter what the outcome, he or she would have spent a good part of the rest of their career looking over their shoulder knowing some unknown person or persons had taken a distinct dislike to them, making a new job opening in Yazoo City look all the more appetizing.
Bottom line, such public displays did not go unnoticed, or un-addressed, 75 years ago. At one time tar and feathers and an ice pick were a standard part of every community chest.
The operative term here, if you don’t know, is “public official”, for H L Mencken made a good living saying the same things about the average American citizen, and moved about un-beaten on Baltimore streets all his life. This is because the stupid American citizen knew the difference between a private citizen and a public employee, and could even recite, constitutional chapter and verse, their reluctance to kill off any of Mr Mencken’s rose bushes for Mr Mencken was a private citizen, and protected by the First Amendment. A college professor at MIT, in the public employ, is not.
That bluster said, you already know that I am not an adherent of violent retribution of any kind; broken arms or baseball bats across the knees. even the traditional tar-and-feather. Not that I disapprove all that much, and can even take a certain righteous delight when it occurs, it’s just that these sorts of acts are not necessary. With a bagful of thousands of misdemeanors of almost prankster caliber, why reach way down to the bottom of that bag to find a way to draw blood? Beside, these days we seem to have some people, such as Eric Frein in Pennsylvania, who can’t tell the moral difference between a custard pie and a bullet in the back. I can find no profit in encouraging that sort of response to government lawlessness.
For the better part of 175 years American politicians and government employees, especially at local levels, and college professors and public school teachers, and their bosses, at the education level, went through their political and public employment paces with the knowledge that a kind of Damocles sword hovered over their necks that would suddenly fall should they ever violate the basic contract between themselves and the people who employed them. This basic contract was called the “public trust”.
The math was simple, actually. For the most part, the federal government was back in Washington, not really sending its agents out to the countryside until they sent farm agents during the Depression. Bigger cities had an FBI office and federal attorney’s office. But not much more. In most cities you could put all the federal employees in a jail cell, and in Washington, up to about the Grant administration, all the federal workers there wouldn’t fill a decent-sized Anglican church in Manhattan.
Ordinarily, public universities were insulated from the townsfolk of the cities they occupied, sort of like small cities within a city. They received their paychecks from the state, and not from the people of that city, and neither paid the other any mind, largely keeping to their respective sides of the tracks. Still, even the most bombastic college Marxist had to mind his/her P’s and Q’s, should he be inclined to take his words or taunts off-campus, simply because because of the downward pressure brought to bear by the public on the heads of their elected state and city officials, who would then let the university chancellor get an earful, who then trickled that pain all the way down through two levels of deans to the offending professor, who was told to stifle it, or he’d be teaching freshman English or picking up trash on weekends in order to pick up his tenured, secure-for-life paycheck each month. (This is how a professor is invited to look for work over in Yazoo City, as we may see within a year or so with the esteemed Dr Jonathan Gruber.)
Public K-12 schools were held to even closer public scrutiny, for they were ruled by PTA’s and school boards, made up of citizens whose children attended those schools. This was probably the highest form of direct management of public institutions by the free people of any country in the history of the world, and without a doubt, the most successful. Long before parents began complaining about their kids having to learn how to use the Muslim prayer rug, or not being able to bring cupcakes to school on Halloween, they were storming PTA meetings wanting to know why the “#*/&” school ” couldn’t un-teach their sons to say “ain’t”. “That boy ain’t going to spend his life down in a coal mine like I did mine, #*!-dammit,” said Earl Hodge. (This actually occurred when I was a freshman in high school. My mother nearly fainted from the stream of profanity. But the school made sure Gary Wayne never said “ain’t” again, starting the next day.)
The citizens carried great power in those days. In fact, almost all of the power, and while I suppose they misused it from time to time, unlike the modern bureaucracy put into place to tamp that power down, those abuses rarely lingered, and were quickly remedied.
I don’t need to tell you that this basic contract between the people and their government has changed. While on paper, at least, we are still the employers of these public servants, they don’t act like it and we don’t act like it.
I blame us.
For the record, Jonathan Gruber is not a public employee. MIT is a private school. But he is a public contractor, which these days is one of the perks that goes with being tenured in several academic fields. He has received over $2m in federal and state funds on Obamacare-type healthcare programs. So you can think of him as if he has an office at HHS. It would be easier to indict him, (which I recommend, and believe can be done), than fire him. Still, his contracting days, especially in six-figures, should be over, and yes, he could be made to return his fees, if the public were to only tell their politicians to do it.
That said, I’m sure university elitists like Jonathan Gruber felt the same way about John Q Public in 1900, 1930, 1960 as they do now. As I just explained, they just couldn’t say so in public because of that Damocles sword dangling over their heads. In public schools, teachers are now taking it upon themselves to suspend, even have arrested, children who make the tiniest of infractions with buzzer toys, or draw the most harmless of pictures, then put the parents to some expense to have the kid’s records expunged. Then, once a public outrage reaches a crescendo, the school refuses to name the offending teacher, or even that any sanctions were ever imposed…as if it were none of our business! it’s clear the public no longer matters.
It’s in-your-face almost all the time by the public sector and this change in attitude is based on a belief, largely true, that they are immune from any public retribution. They know we won’t do a thing. And that is the change that has spurred this change in the attitudes government employees. A good thing really, for it’s like sticking our heads down into a sink filled with ice and water.
I’m working on a book about the Constitution, The Devil’s History of the United States, which, as you might guess, is the story of how Lucifer might have viewed the creation of the Constitution and US, in light of the fact that most of us already believe God had a big hand in our creation. It’s only natural that Satan would be lurking about, trying to gum up the works.
In that book, I spend a full chapter just talking about the chemical make-up, the formula, that allowed Americans to totally ignore the federal government. In the Civil War only 6% of the federal needs for soldiers were filled by a draft, so vehement were the people against conscription. They didn’t like being told what to do by the government, and said so in loud, uncertain terms. (This option still exists, by the way.) Still, almost all the history books of the United States dwell almost entirely on what was going on in Congress and Washington, which really was a political history of the US government, saying almost nothing about how the other 99.999% of the people lived and managed their lives, without benefit of it. (I’d always believed the Devil kept a few historians on his payroll for just this purpose.) The only government the American people were interested in was their local governments, where they could personally observe the spending of their tax money, (the feds didn’t start taking money from citizens until 1913 while still keeping their community chest of tar and feathers near at hand.)
This is the point where I usually launch into references of “dark alley” approaches for putting a stop to these intrusions on our freedoms
Instead I want to remind you of the people’s duty to protect and defend the Constitution. Not Congress’, not the president’s, but the people’s duty. This is where we’ve been missing it the past thirty years. The Constitution was written by the Founders for the common man, the average citizen, and not the extra-bright or extra-clever person who would become rich and extra powerful in almost every society. They don’t need the Constitution, except maybe only as a leg up. (Jonathan Gruber is the perfect example of ingratitude in this regard, for while a smart guy, he did not come from generations of well-educated economists and arrogant snobs. There was a farmer or a store clerk, and certainly a poor immigrant in his family tree somewhere, and from the things he has said he is pissing all over those shoulders he is now standing on. For that sin alone he deserves a new set of tires.) In fact, we have seen in recent years the so-called best and brightest, even in business, prove that the Constitution is an impediment to their ambitions. Anyone who sees government service as a career choice certainly does. And even many Libertarians view the Constitution as an impediment for it grants states and localities (the people) to prohibit their pot-smoking habits.
The founders knew that only the common man had a vested interest in keeping his freedom and the Constitutional blueprint intact. So only the common man could be relied upon to enforce his own protections. Somewhere along the line we stopped doing that.
Instead, we’ve been sitting around waiting for a “better Big government”, in fact, demanding it, to come in and fix things for us, when in truth we are the only people who really want this to happen.
We’ve been waiting for pigs to fly. We have to do this ourselves, and once we adopt this new attitude, nothing can stop us.
What we know from history is that most elected politicians are cowards (I give you Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, who has added whole new meanings to the word “craven”), and once they see a citizenry with their backs up, signaling in so many small ways, imposing fifty dollar fines here, and five hundred dollar fines there, and making deans and high school superintendent’s lives miserable because they are providing cover for a teacher who stepped over the line, and breached the public trust, not to mention peeing on the he public’s best dress loafers, that we are taking charge again, they will do what they need to do to keep their jobs…even at half the pay we’re now paying them..
Give fear a chance. Call a friend. Form a committee. Conspire. Sneak. Storm a public meeting. Borrow the left’s playbook, because Alinsky wrote the book on keeping Jonathan Gruber on the payroll untenable. It won’t take a day, or a week, or maybe even a year. The lies about Bush linger still. If they can hammer home a lie like that, imagine the sort of effect the truth can have, once hammered the same way.
Just imagine what those would be like pursuing a good, instead of an evil end.