Sour Grapes
Of course we're Fair and Balanced!


Confiscating the wealth of the overly and unduly enfranchised

Cartoon of special interest puppeteers control representatives While researching a Thomas Paine quote for my quote collection I came across the following in his treatise titled, "Dissertation on the First Principles of Government", (as quoted in William M. Van der Weyde's The Life and Works of Thomas Paine):
Personal rights, of which the right of voting for representatives is one, are a species of property of the most sacred kind: and he that would employ his pecuniary property, or presume upon the influence it gives him, to dispossess or rob another of his property or rights, uses that pecuniary property as he would use fire-arms, and merits to have it taken from him.
This immediately brought to mind the U. S. Supreme Court's Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision, which, among other things, effectively eliminated limits on the amount of money that corporations—and thereby individuals—can spend on political campaigns. Then I began thinking of the myriad ways that our elected representatives—municipal, county, state, and Federal—and their appointed minions can be influenced by the deep-pocket "contributions" of the wealthiest among us.

I wonder how many of our founding fathers would have agreed with Paine. I suspect a fair number, though certainly not all. It seems clear that among them there was a great deal of respect for property.

I agree with Mr Paine: those that employ their pecuniary property (i.e., money) to infringe on our rights (e.g., most of all to liberty1, but also to rights such as those to the vote2, fair use, clean air and clean water) should surely have that money forcibly taken away from them. But I also know that it will never happen! And that is most unfortunate. Frankly I would be delighted to see this happen in just a few of the most egregious cases; most likely it will never happen, and if something were done in such egregious cases, based on long-established legal practice, it would likely amount to no more than a mere slap on the wrist.

1This is somewhat indirect but very important, in my opinion. We have a legal system in the United States—and I'm sure it's true elsewhere—that makes it overwhelmingly more likely that the convicted poor will go to jail and the convicted rich will not go to jail. The rich do not directly "rob" the poor of their right to liberty but, by putting up with a criminal justice system that gives such results, when their persistently indignant and vocal opposition would result in changing the system, the rich effectively allow this right to be taken from the poor.

2Note that in the U.S Republican-controlled state legislatures are currently erecting new impediments to suffrage.

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