He therefore is the truest friend to the liberty of his country who tries most to promote
its virtue, and who, so far as his power and influence extend, will not suffer a man to be chosen into any office of power and trust who is not a wise and virtuous man. We must not conclude merely upon a man's haranguing upon liberty, and using the charming sound, that he is fit to be trusted with the liberties of his country. It is not unfrequent to hear men declaim loudly upon liberty, who, if we may judge by the whole tenor of their actions, mean nothing else by it but their own liberty, — to oppress without control or the restraint of laws all who are poorer or weaker than themselves. ~ Samuel Adams (emphasis added)
I've been thinking about this quote a lot lately. When people ask me - What has happened to our country? Why are we in such a mess? - I believe it boils down to just a few things our ancestors knew well, but we seem to have forgotten.
After the Revolutionary War people were aware of the cost of freedom and diligently sought virtuous leaders to represent them in government. They knew that a man's character mattered. It mattered what he did in his home. It mattered how he treated his wife and family. It mattered that he was faithful and trustworthy. This is one area where we have gone astray. Instead of virtue, we focus on how eloquently the person speaks, how good he looks on camera or how expensive her clothes are. We say it doesn't matter what he does in private. It doesn't matter that he cheats on his wife or lies, or gambles, or... And that is why we are in the state we are. If a person can't be trusted to do what is right in his own family, how can we trust him to do what is right on our behalf?
Another reason we have such a mess in our country is that we have forgotten that "power corrupts." Originally representatives in Washington (or any level) were to serve one or two terms only. Then they were to return to their jobs and families and let other virtuous men take their place. This allowed them to avoid the corruption of power (and lobbyists!). Now we have "career politicians" (not representatives!). The longer a person stays in Washington (or any office), the more likely he/she is to become corrupted and to lose their virtue.
Finally, we are in this mess, because we have forgotten that it isn't the Federal Government's responsibility to fix our problems. Their job is to provide an army and navy, ensure fair trade, coin money, make treaties, declare war and establish post offices - that's it!!! (They do share a few things with the states - building roads, establishing courts, making and enforcing laws, borrowing money, chartering banks and unfortunately collecting taxes - thanks to the 16th amendment!) Really that's ALL they are supposed to be doing. We need to put our focus back on our local governments. We need to give the power back to them. After all, who in Washington really knows the needs of your community?
If we want to "fix" the mess we have, then we must listen to Mr. Adams. We must elect ONLY wise and virtuous men (and women) as our representatives and we must remind them that it is a TEMPORARY position. I know it seems impossible, but we really can do this. It starts in our local communities. If we put our focus back on our local governments we can do so much more to help individuals. Start in your town/city. Make sure that the people on your city council are wise and virtuous. Then make sure that your Mayor is wise and virtuous. Then move to the county level, then move to the state level and finally to the federal level. You can make a difference, but it all starts with your vote. You can do this!