Page:Rise and Fall of Society.djvu/31

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Economics Versus Politics
 

The story of the American State is instructive. Its birth was most auspicious, being midwifed by a coterie of men unusually wise in the history of political institutions and committed to the safeguarding of the infant from the mistakes of its predecessors. Apparently, none of the blemishes of tradition marked the new State. It was not burdened with the inheritance of a feudal or a caste system. It did not have to live down the doctrine of "divine right" nor was it marked with the scars of conquest that had made the childhood of other States difficult. It was fed on strong stuff: Rousseau's doctrine that government derived its powers from the consent of the governed, Voltaire's freedom of speech and thought, Locke's justification of revolution, and, above all, the doctrine of inherent rights. There was no regime of status to stunt its growth. In fact, everything was de novo.

Every precautionary measure known to political science was taken to prevent the new American State from acquiring the self-destructive habit of every State known to history, that of interfering with man's pursuit of happiness. The people were to be left alone, to work out their individual destinies with whatever capacities nature had endowed them. Toward that end, the State was surrounded with a number of ingenious prohibitions and limitations. Not only were its functions clearly defined, but any inclination to go beyond bounds was presumably restrained by a tripartite division of authority, while most of the interventionary powers which the State employs were reserved for the authorities closer to the governed and therefore more amenable to their will; by the divisive principle of imperium in imperio it was forever, presumably, deprived of the monopoly position necessary to a State on the rampage. Better yet, it was condemned to get along on a meager purse; its powers of tax-

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