Georgene Rice of KPDQ FM, interview with Brian McClanahan, author of The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Founding Fathers.
GEORGENE: Dr. McClanahan’s book gives us insight into what the Founding Fathers would have thought of the present day’s Stimulus Package, health care or foreign policy based on historic documentation..
GEORGENE: Why do you think we need a better understanding of who the Founding Fathers were in light of the issues of today?
MCCLANAHAN: These men faced many of the same issues we face today, and I believe, had better solutions. They believed in limited government, state’s rights, fiscal responsibility, low taxes, and low debt. Folks may realize we should start rescuing some of those ideas and regain some of the liberty, freedom and independence we’ve lost in the last
GEORGENE: One of the arguments I often hear is that the Founding Fathers could have never anticipated the kind of issues we would face today so they really aren’t as relevant as some may suggest.
MCCLANAHAN: That argument is false in so many ways. Let’s take the issue of debt. Thomas Jefferson only wanted a debt that was only so large that his generation could pay off in a lifetime. Today we have a debt that is so large we won’t be able to pay it off by out great-grandkids lifetime. They dealt with much the same issues we have today—central banking, inflation, taxes. The economy of the United States after the war for independence was in shambles. They had to rescue that economy, put it back together, and they were doing that while they were formulating a government. I would say their challenges were more severe than ours are today. They just had a different perspective on society. They believed in independence, unlike our generation who are so willing to give that up for government control
GEORGENE: The present President said he wanted to “go back to the Constitution” and “remake America”. Those two things sound irreconcilable.
MCCLANAHAN: You are right. You can do both. The Constitution is a limiting document. It limits the powers of government. It has only the powers the States gave it, and those powers are principally for defense and commerce. Beyond that,
GEORGENE: Sometimes our present leaders make historical references knowing most people aren’t going to think too deeply about whether or not what they said is true.
MCCLANAHAN: That’s one of the things the Founding Fathers feared. That is demagoguery, in essence telling folks what they want to hear but having an opposite agenda to what you are saying, or hiding your agenda behind your language and use of rhetoric.
GEORGENE: Are the full time careers of politicians today what the Founding Fathers had in mind for those who served?
MCCLANAHAN: The Founding Fathers saw their role as “disinterested statesman”. They only served because it was their calling and duty to serve, not for the money. I look at how much they are currently paid and the priviledges they receive, and the amount of money they try to bring into their Districts to they can be in their jobs for life. The Founders would have frowned upon that rather than simply serving the public interest.
GEORGENE: The infrastructure of the current bureaucracy we have illustrates the way we have overstepped the boundaries of government. What would the Fathers think of the expansive reach of today’s government.
MCCLANAHAN: This is a group that seceded from the British government that had much less power than the current government in Washington, D.C. They would think we need to get things into control very quickly—reign in the spending and the debt, cut taxes, and have the States assert their sovereignty. The States were given more power than the Federal government for a reason. They would say we need to start at the bottom level and say enough is enough.
GEORGENE: What would they say about the amount of money the Federal government collects and spends and our present Federal Reserve.
MCCLANAHAN: Taxing someone’s income in those days would have been preposterous. They would have taxed the Revolution out of existence. The Revolution was funded through private money, so to tax income would have destroyed the funding source for the war. These were men who believed in low taxation and a fiscally frugal government. Money was collected through tariffs. Direct taxation wasn’t considered.
They had a difference of opinion as to whether we should have a Central Bank and there were many battles over that issue. Those who were against it felt it would lead to the fusion of government and finance and corruption. All the things we see happening in the bank bailouts today.
GEORGENE: You’ve said they would seek to reduce the size of the military and end commitments to the U.N. and NATO and stick to their original plan to seek good neighbors and trading with foreign countries. Is it possible to remain isolated today given our global society?
MCCLANAHAN: I don’t think the Founders were isolationist. Washington didn’t want us to have “tangling alliances”, that is, getting so entangled with them that you would have to go to war to protect them, even to the detriment of your own country. What they wanted more than anything else was independence. They would be very fearful of the way NATO has committed American troops all around the world.
GEORGENE: You have pointed out that the Supreme Court has twisted the words of the 1st Amendment, for example in not allowing public displays of religious symbols. The Founders saw the Supreme Court only having the power to speak on Federal issues, not States issues as they are today. Three states actually had official, State-established churches when the Constitution was ratified. What they didn’t want was a Church of the United States as they had in England
GEORGENE: How would they have viewed our present immigration situation, in view of the fact many consider our Founding Fathers as a group of immigrants.
MCCLANAHAN: They all believed that immigrants needed to believe in this society—the freedoms of life, liberty and property and independence. They feared foreigners coming in and taking over the government and saw anyone who would not assimilate into society as a danger.
GEORGENE: We would do well to refresh our memories on who the Founding Fathers were and what they accomplished and what we are in the process of losing very quickly, if we remain ignorant. Your book gives a very clear picture of the role the Founding Fathers played in shaping our understanding of how this was all supposed to work.
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