Vox, as a fine voice of the Left, released an updated version of last year’s hit piece “3 Reasons the American Revolution was a mistake.” They have again cast aspersions and doubt upon the founding fight of our Republic: the War for Independence.
The author of this article, Dylan Matthews, gives us the heart of his argument in 3 points when he snidely states, “I’m reasonably confident a world in which the revolution never happened would be better than the one we live in now.” He goes on to name three points: 1. Slavery would have been ended sooner, 2. the Indians wouldn’t have faced ethnic cleansing and 3. A parliamentary system of government is more stable than ours.
The first point is pure speculation. We cannot know what would have happened if the Southern slave interest had remained a part of the British Empire. Further, as a member of the Left, it is hard to know from what moral foundation he condemns slavery. Slavery was fought first by Christians, in the UK and the United States, and among its greatest opponents was the evangelical statesman William Wilberforce. But Matthews doesn’t acknowledge this uncomfortable truth.
His second point is contentious. The Amerindians did experience ill-treatment from the United States (albeit the Trail of Tears may be over-estimated), but their treatment under British Canada was also bad. Canada has a legacy of kidnapped Indian children being forced into government and church-run schools, where they experienced horrible abuse. I do not defend the ill-treatment of the Amerindians, but the charge of ethnic cleansing is cast in a way to advance a narrative. The charge of genocide allows a moral equivalency to be made between Indians and Jews, which casts the US as the Nazis of the narrative. There was no Wansee Conference, no Final Solution, to the ‘Indian problem.’ What there was, were a series of bad attempts to force Indians to adapt to a modern society by being shoved onto poor lands, living on government handouts. Indian reservations have been called a “socialist archipelago” for good reason.
Matthews’ third point is also weak but more telling than the first two. Matthews says, “In the US, activists wanting to put a price on carbon emissions spent years trying to put together a coalition to make it happen, mobilizing sympathetic businesses and philanthropists and attempting to make bipartisan coalition – and they still failed to pass cap and trade, after millions of dollars and man hours. In the UK, the Conservative government decided it wanted a carbon tax. So there was a carbon tax. Just like that. Passing big, necessary legislation – in this case, legislation that’s literally necessary to save the planet – is a whole lot easier with parliaments than with presidential systems.” First off, he misunderstands that in our government, we have a federal system, not a presidential system. The president was intended to be Chief Magistrate, not the fount of all things.
What he’s saying here is that a government is best when it can do things, big, important things, without being bothered with the nonsense of congressional gridlock. Gridlock is laudable; when it stops government from doing things that are harmful, we should like gridlock. Matthews would rather we didn’t have it, but we must wonder what he’d say if a parliamentary government abolished the ‘rights’ to abortion or to same sex marriage.
As to his love of parliament we can state it briefly. Parliamentary government is still government, still made up of mortals, and therefore is susceptible to all the flaws of other governments. German parliamentary government elected Hitler into power. The British Parliament Oliver Cromwell as Lord Protector. The British Parliament has gotten them involved in countless wars, great and small, over the last few centuries. Parliaments are not exempt from making poor choices.
At least when libertarian Gary North dislikes the 4th of July, he does so on principle. As far as we can see from Matthew’s article, he dislikes the 4th because America isn’t what he wishes it were: a nation under the thumb of a powerful Parliament, doing good things for all, as long as they are things of which Matthews approves.
So on this 4th of July, let’s raise a glass and re-read our Declaration of Independence. 50 years after the Revolution, an aged John Adams, on his deathbed, spoke the words we may take as a conservative battle-cry: Independence Forever.