The Decline of American Independence

The Founders were clear that the maintenance of the American Republic required a certain kind of citizen. Without property owners who have a stake in good governance, they knew the experiment in liberty wouldn’t last. Robert E. Wright writes with eloquence and humor about two less-than-funny trends, which have collided this year to produce the biggest blow to American Independence in our nation’s history.

Forced closures of “non-essential business” and the deference by local police to the widespread destruction of property have gutted America’s substantial but shrinking proprietor class. In his AIER article So Long Independence? Wright shares some troubling statistics, including this one:

“By the end of July, more than half the companies listed on Yelp were said to be permanently shuttered.” [55% of businesses closed on Yelp have shut down for good during the coronavirus pandemic - MarketWatch]

To interpret this as solely economic news is to miss a more important point about the instability of democracy without widespread property ownership. As G.K. Chesterton once quipped, the problem with capitalism is not that there are too many capitalists, but that there are too few.

The consolidation of power in the hands of a smaller number of billionaires means fewer checks on extreme politics of both the right and the left. Wright thinks we’ve been far too quick to cede power to scientific experts and calls the closure of the economy the worst public policy in a century.

He joined me to dig deeper into the long-term political consequences of lockdowns. We will look at California’s uniquely damaging policies – many of which preceded COVID – and their effect on the middle class and small business owners.

Benjamin Franklin once said: "Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety."