Thomas Sowell
The media have recently been so preoccupied with a Congressman's photograph of himself in his underwear that there has been scant attention paid to the fact that Iran continues advancing toward creating a nuclear bomb, and nobody is doing anything that is likely to stop them.

Nuclear weapons in the hands of the world's leading sponsor of international terrorism might seem to be something that would sober up even the most giddy members of the chattering class. But that chilling prospect cannot seem to compete for attention with cheap behavior by an immature Congressman, infatuated with himself.

A society that cannot or will not focus on matters of life and death is a society whose survival as a free nation is at least questionable. Hard as it may be to conceive how the kind of world that one has been used to, and taken for granted, can come to an end, it can happen in the lifetime of today's generation.

Those who founded the United States of America were keenly aware that they were making a radical departure in the kinds of governments under which human beings had lived over the centuries -- and that its success was by no means guaranteed. Monarchies in Europe had lasted for centuries and the Chinese dynasties for thousands of years. But a democratic republic was something else.

While the convention that was writing the Constitution of the United States was still in session, a lady asked Benjamin Franklin what the delegation was creating. "A republic, madam," he said, "if you can keep it."

In the middle of the next century, Abraham Lincoln still posed it as a question whether "government of the people, by the people and for the people shall not perish from the earth." Years earlier, Lincoln had warned of the dangers to a free society from its own designing power-seekers -- and how only the vigilance, wisdom and dedication of the public could preserve their freedom.

But, today, few people seem to see such dangers, either internally or internationally.

A recent poll showed that nearly half the American public believes that the government should redistribute wealth. That so many people are so willing to blithely put such an enormous and dangerous arbitrary power in the hands of politicians -- risking their own freedom, in hopes of getting what someone else has -- is a painful sign of how far many citizens and voters fall short of what is needed to preserve a democratic republic.

The ease with which people with wealth can ship it overseas electronically, or put it in tax shelters at home, means that raising the tax rate on wealthy people is not going to bring in the kind of tax revenue that would enable wealth redistribution to provide the bonanza that some people are expecting.


Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute and author of The Housing Boom and Bust.

Creators Syndicate