The Young Tyrant - a Lesson from History
A charismatic young leader, supported by a coalition of intellectual elitists on the one hand and a dependent underclass on the other, has gained control of the country. With each month that passes, the leader and his court reveal themselves to be more hostile to the interests of the middle class. Vast new spending bills are introduced to fund an extension of government power. New taxes of all kinds, the extension of old taxes to cover a broader array of goods and services, the introduction of stealth taxes and special emergency levies, the borrowing of vast sums of money: all of these excesses deeply disturb the public, especially the middle class who are asked to bear all the burdens, even as the abuses are cheered on by an foolish elite and an acquiescent underclass.
As if this were not enough, our young monarch has decided to conduct foreign policy in a suspiciously conciliatory manner toward declared enemies of the nation. Regimes with a history of supporting violence against the interests of the country are suddenly courted as if they were long-time friends. Organizations driven by ideological and religious extremism are "engaged" as if no stigma attached to their past and continuing conduct. Emissaries are dispatched to the most unlikely of foreign capitals to negotiate a policy of appeasement and conciliation.
Along with this, there is the troubling sense that the young prince's values are alarmingly out of line with the moral and cultural views shared by most of the public. There are reports of lavish expenditures for entertainment, pilgrimages from the capital carried on at public expense, questionable advancement of favorites. There is the suspicion that, when he is not in public view, the young leader is indifferent at best to the deeply held opinions on faith, family, and patriotism that the public holds dear. Many would go further, believing that, when not on show, he and his consort mock these ideals.
Gradually, as further taxes are levied, properties expropriated, and liberties curtailed, the conviction grows that the young ruler's actions are unconstitutional. His regime reveals itself to be greedy for funds necessary to underwrite its new spending. Even as it is criticized, this reckless spending and the arbitrary taxation that accompanies it only increase. Private resources are commandeered to reward the young ruler's political supporters and to secure his permanent power. The public now understands, as it did not at the beginning, that the young man is intent on governing in opposition to the will of the people. On top of all this, the new ruler arrogantly insists that he is beyond criticism because of the "historic" nature of his rule-a "divine right of kings" argument that no one would now credit.
Unfortunately for the middle class, the young prince is supported by an obliging court of elitist aristocrats, educated men and women who believe they possess the right to control public opinion. The courts, dominated by a generation of judges taught to think that their authority should prevail over the will of the people's legislatures, act in a similarly self-important fashion, issuing opinions popular only among a small elite. Increasingly, the administration, supported by its agents in the national legislature, the media, and the courts, begins to enforce limits on what the public can discuss, what they can publish, and how they can manifest their moral or religious values. An enforced conformity settles over the land as the hand of a centralized government reaches deeply into the life of every household.
In response to this tyranny, conservatives in the legislature attempt to block the more extreme proposals of the new leader. Public protests erupt throughout the land, but the young prince and his supporters dismiss them as tempests in a teapot. Representatives of the public attempt to present their grievances, finally setting forth their complaint in a grand remonstrance, but the king refuses to listen. Instead, he grows more and more arrogant, more and more cut off from the views of the middle class. Finally, once conservatives in a newly constituted legislature have reasserted their control of the public purse, the young ruler is driven from office in 1649.
So it was with that most blind, foolish, and arrogant of tyrants, King Charles I.
We, of course, have come a long way since the days when both Royalists and Independents tossed members of the opposition into the Tower, never to be heard from again. Yet the American people, like those who suffered under Charles I, have become restive as they watch the explosive growth of government spending and expansion of government powers. The American people hunger for a great conservative leader, a Reagan if not a Cromwell, who will speak for them in Washington and stand up against the state-sponsored (or state-sponsoring) media.
Today the power of the political elite in Washington far exceeds that of the court of Charles I., and we are in even greater danger of losing our liberties. John Milton was the great spokesman for the opposition during the days of Charles I, and Milton knew well enough what a tyrant was. "A tyrant," he wrote, "is he who regarding neither law nor the common good, reigns only for himself and his faction."
Could there be any better characterization of the actions of the present administration in Washington?
Dr. Jeffrey Folks taught for thirty years in universities in Europe, America, and Japan. He is currently writing on issues in American literature, media, family, and education.