Marvin Folkertsma
When Mitt Romney blurted out his now notorious 47-percent lament, liberal gaffe-o-meters went ballistic, acting as though he were an American Ebenezer Scrooge who had just shoved Tiny Tim Cratchit into a ditch and then burned down a crutch factory. As several observers have noted, this amorphous statistic includes myriads of worthy beneficiaries indeed, such as veterans, social security recipients, the physically or mentally disabled, the deserving poor, and those utterly unable to take care of themselves in a society where the federal government has assumed tasks that once were the preserve of families, churches, voluntary organizations, and state or local governments. And the president’s advocates have leapt on this figure, which has since exploded in campaign ads that feature a heartless Romney dismissing nearly half of the American population as too anesthetized by government dependency to take seriously in this election.

However, beneath Romney’s clumsy formulation lies a fear that troubles many who are deeply alarmed by the effects of America’s burgeoning welfare state, and by those whose historical memories extend to sacrifices made by previous generations, from World War II to the country’s origins. It is a matter of America’s declining public virtue, which is indispensable to the maintenance of a republic. Indeed, our Founding Fathers knew that despite their best efforts in constitutional construction, a country without a modicum of public virtue will collapse as surely as all previous republics had in the past.

Marvin Folkertsma

Dr. Marvin Folkertsma is a professor of political science and fellow for American studies with The Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College. The author of several books, his latest release is a high-energy novel titled "The Thirteenth Commandment."