On July 6, 1776 the remnants of an ancient form of human social organization called Feudalism prevailed in much of the world.
In recent times the word “feudal” is often used to describe ‘fascist” systems.
Facism is also characterized by militarism and hostility to the principles of human rights.
Adam Smith (1723–90) used the term ‘feudal system’ to describe economic systems governed by coercion and forced servitude. For Smith the ‘feudal system’ was the economic exploitation of peasants by their lords, which led to an economy and society marked by poverty, brutality, exploitation, and wide gaps between rich and poor.
Alexis de Tocqueville had this to say in 1835 in Democracy In America:
“Among a democratic people, where there is no hereditary wealth, every man works to earn a living…Labor is held in honor; the prejudice is not against but in its favor.’
By the late 18th Century, democratic values which championed money-making, hard work, and individualism had eradicated most of remaining vestiges of old world aristocracy and values in the Northeast.
In the Southeast, slavery had produced a landed aristocracy and a web of patronage and dependence similar to the old world.
Alexis de Tocqueville contrasted the settlers of Virginia with the middle-class, religious Puritans who founded New England, and analyzed the influence of slavery on the evolution of American Democracy in the South:
“The men sent to Virginia were seekers of gold, adventurers without resources and without character, whose turbulent and restless spirit endangered the infant colony…Artisans and agriculturalists arrived afterwards…hardly in any respect above the level of the inferior classes in England. No lofty views, no spiritual conception presided over the foundation of these new settlements. The colony was scarcely established when slavery was introduced; this was the capital fact which was to exercise an immense influence on the character, the laws and the whole future of the South. Slavery dishonors labor; it introduces idleness into society, and with idleness, ignorance and pride, luxury and distress. It enervates the powers of the mind and benumbs the activity of man. On this same English foundation there developed in the North very different characteristics.
Thus, the United States had and still has two competing versions of self-government.
One version of democracy is a form egalitarian meritocracy based on the idea that each man should earn his own wealth through some form of ‘honest’ labor. This evolved to include universal public education and the pooling of income in the form of taxes to benefit the community in the form of public services.
Self government in this instance includes laws that are designed to protect the poor and working classes from the exploitative interests of the rich.
The other version of democracy serves the interests of business. It believes that the only function of government is the protection of private property.
Each Generation of Americans is faced with a potential ‘nobility’ that always believes that economic privilege is theirs by divine right.
If it is self-evident that all humans are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness then it is also self-evident governments are instituted among humans and use their powers by consent.
A government that does not place the rights of citizens above all other business is not the legitimate government of a democracy.
Democracy cannot exist where the rich are free to exploit and abuse the lives of the poor.
And self-government cannot exist when citizens will not hold themselves accountable for the actions of their chosen leaders
Wilhelm Reich wrote: “Under the influence of politicians, masses of people tend to ascribe the responsibility of wars to those who wield power at any given time. In World War I it was the munitions industrialists; in World War II it was the psychopathic generals who were said to be guilty.
“This is passing the buck.
“The responsibility for wars falls solely upon the shoulders of these masses of people, for they have all the necessary means to avert war in their own hands. In part by their apathy, in part by their passivity, and in part actively, these same masses of people make possible the catastrophes under which they suffer more than anyone else. To stress this guilt on the part of the masses of people, to hold them solely responsible, means to take them seriously. On the other hand, to commiserate the masses of people as victims, means to treat them as small, helpless children. The former is the attitude held by the genuine freedom-fighters; the latter is the attitude held by the power-thirsty politicians.”.