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Tag Archive: Property

They were not like the penniless rabble of antiquity who traded their votes to unscrupulous demagogues

Posted: Tuesday, June 7, 2011 (6:00 am), by John W Gillis


Quote of the Day for Tuesday, June 7th, 2011:

Walter Russell Mead on The Death of the American Dream:

A nation of family farms is a nation of family firms; suburban America was a land of employees.  America’s shift from a nation of entrepreneurs to a nation working for corporations and government was a profound change in national life that even today is not well or fully understood.

The ideal of the independent small farmer was at the heart of early American democratic ideology.  Critics of democracy had always asserted in the past that a mass of unpropertied and dependent voters would lack both the virtue and the experience necessary to make good decisions for the state.

Americans like Thomas Jefferson retorted that in the United States, things were different.  America, uniquely, was a country in which even the average citizen was a property owner and the master of an enterprise.

The mass of the people could be entrusted with government because the masses owned property.  They were not like the penniless rabble of antiquity who traded their votes to unscrupulous demagogues and dictators in ancient Rome in exchange for bread and circuses.

It’s been a while since I’ve read Mead’s blog, and after clicking through to this post from HotAir.com, I quickly remembered why I used to like to read him. Mead draws out some important lessons from the history of public life that deserve serious reflection, and, as usual, he does it with very little partisan posturing.