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Rhoads: The Limits of Political Action



By Mark Rhoads - Tom Paine

The most unhealthy manifestation of American politics this year is that it has become a spectator sport.  Some people feel happy when their favorite candidate is elected or their least favorite candidate is defeated in much the same way they feel elation when their favorite sports team wins or loses a championship.

But apart from the limitations of politics is a more fundamental limit on the role of government in our lives and both liberals and conservatives too often forget that life in a free society is not suppose to be only about government or politics.  John Adams once wrote that "without the pen of Thomas Paine, the sword of Washington would have been wielded in vain."  Thomas Paine himself tried to explain the limits of government in his essay on Common Sense. 

"Some writers have so confounded society with government, as to leave little or no distinction between them; whereas they are not only different, but have different origins. Society is produced by our wants, and government by our wickedness; the former promotes our happiness positively by uniting our affections, the latter negatively by restraining our vices. The one encourages intercourse, the other creates distinctions. The first a patron, the last a punisher."

For a true believer socialist such as Bernie Sanders, society and government are all fused in one ball of wax. Individual freedom is not important to Sanders because so many socialists are self-appointed wannabe elitists who are so sure they know better than you do how you should be governed and how your life should be spent according to their notion of "the common good."  

But people who believe in individual freedom have no problem with voluntary contributions to the good of a community but they also see nothing wrong with providing for their own families first.  The moral  ideas of John Locke and Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Paine were handed down to the abolitionist movement which had a guiding moral principle that "No person has the right to spend another person's life."  

The principle remains valid whether we are referring to the evil of slavery in 1854 or the spirit and incentive-killing greed of the Federal government for the fruits of your labor in 2016.


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  1. Every American should read Thomas Paine’s “Common Sense,” and “The Rights of Man.” Paine’s observations and opinions are timeless; as correct and current today ans when he wrote them, over 200 years ago.
    Paine’s explanation of the foolishness of accepting heredity as a qualification to govern (as with kings) is a great rationale why Jeb Bush should NEVER be the Republican Party’s presidential nominee.