September 2, 2009
I have just finished watching the funeral for Ted Kennedy and would like to put down some musings, even though it is not 3:00 a.m. when such a spirit often moves me.
How the Kennedy family achieved their wealth and prestige through the efforts of Joseph Kennedy has been criticized enough and is probably similar to the wealth accumulations of other prominent families. The succeeding generations seem more often than not to take on eleemosynary work. I don’t know if there is an element of guilt involved, but if there is I believe it is secondary to a belief that they have been blessed with (?) or at least given the opportunity to make a positive difference in a less-than-perfect world.
It is not surprising to me that the Kennedys will continue in public life supporting the more liberal philosophies of the Democratic party. I have sadly heard their ilk denigratingly described as "elitist" or "limousine liberals." I have never voted "Democratic" because I believe the first decision should be for the economic philosophy that will guide the government until the next election. Neither side of the aisle has a monopoly on concern for the people. Along with this bent comes the belief that the "presidency makes the man." I see this in Obama. It took a strong populist position with antiwar sentiment to get him elected. But now that Obama is our president it does not appear to me that he is totally constricted by the party that got him elected. He has to have a vision of his own that is not totally populist or "party line." I see this in effect now — in his foreign policy when he did not immediately withdraw our troops (or shut down Gitmo) as apparently the majority of the voting public and the leaders of his party wanted. Fortunately we do not have a pure democracy where all decisions are made by majority vote of the people (a la the French Reign of Terror, as I understand it).
The major economic decisions under consideration today will be strongly debated and Ted Kennedy’s concern for the less privileged will not be lost. I imagine most everyone heard the respectful praise from his colleagues on the other side of the aisle, for his position that more needs to be done for the less privileged and some compromise needs to be found that does not emasculate the system that has made our country as great as it is, though not perfect.
I think it is well to keep many things in mind, but as just one example of wisdom, I am impressed by the following, ascribed to a Scottish history professor at the University of Edinburgh, who had this to say about the fall of the Athenian Republic some 2,000 years earlier:
"A democracy is always temporary in nature; it simply cannot exist as a permanent form of government. A democracy will continue to exist up until the time that voters discover they can vote themselves generous gifts from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always vote for the candidates who promise the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that every democracy will finally collapse due to loose fiscal policy, which is always followed by a dictatorship."