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November 16, 2012 / needhamgrassroots

Our Founding Myths: “Work Ethic”, Freedom and Government

The founders believed not in freedom from government, but in the freedom and responsibility to participate in government.

Letters to Editor in response to a David Brooks column, “The Party of Work” (column, Nov. 9):

I disagree with David Brooks’s highly mythologized view of American history. True, some American colonies were founded by Protestant dissidents. Many others, including New York, New Hampshire, Virginia and the Carolinas, were not.

There is no evidence that they believed in “liberty, individualism, equal opportunity, populism and laissez-faire.” They founded theocratic, intolerant and hierarchical societies. They held to strict Calvinism, perhaps the least Christian version of Christianity in its inherent lack of lovingkindness. They were not children of the Enlightenment, as were our founding fathers 150 years later.

Thank goodness America was not established on the principles of these “Puritan dissidents” but on the liberal principles of our founders.

At the formation of our country the most widely read and influential pamphlets were those of Thomas Paine, and to learn the principles on which our nation was founded, one should read him rather than William Bradford.

STEPHEN E. SILVER
Santa Fe, N.M., Nov. 11, 2012

To the Editor:

David Brooks gets it exactly right when he explains why Republican economic values are out of sync with the rising majority of Americans who resoundingly re-elected President Obama. That winning coalition of Americans believes that government can help lift them up.

Mr. Brooks urges Republican leaders to research the everyday problems that Americans face in trying to succeed. What Mr. Brooks doesn’t say is that this is precisely the work that President Obama and Democrats have been doing.

Mr. Brooks envisions a new Republican “party of work,” striking a new way forward, letting “Democrats be the party of security, defending the 20th-century welfare state.” I’d say 21st-century thinking and policy making won this election for Democrats.

The “party of work” has already been launched. Welcome aboard, Republicans!

LINDA M. OWEN
Bainbridge Island, Wash., Nov. 9, 2012

To the Editor:

David Brooks asks, “What exactly happens to the ambitious kid in Akron at each stage of his life in this new economy?” I wonder, just who is this hypothetical kid he refers to? Is this the child of the factory owner or of the single mother making minimum wage? Is this kid living in the comfortable suburbs or in the inner city? There are disparities in education, housing, health care and future opportunities that depend on the answer.

Mr. Brooks’s question reflects the nostalgia he and the Republican Party still have for the “American creed” that equates hard work with success. I am particularly offended by his remark “Let Democrats be the party of security, defending the 20th-century welfare state.”

It is this very rhetoric of divisiveness in the guise of helping people “transform their lives” that has been rejected by the American people, who understand that government does have a responsibility to that kid in Akron if he or she was not lucky enough to be born into wealth.

I suspect that Republicans, shellshocked after President Obama’s victory, are licking their wounds. But unless the rhetoric changes, and the hearts and minds of the Republican Party understand the composition of the United States, they will be licking their wounds for a long time to come.

SANDRA GANDSMAN
Pawtucket, R.I., Nov. 11, 2012

To the Editor:

David Brooks perpetuates the myth that America’s Protestant founders distrusted government, that Ronald Reagan and Representative Paul D. Ryan are the heirs of Samuel Adams and Benjamin Franklin. This is a distortion of our revolutionary legacy.

By their words and deeds, the leaders of the colonial and Revolutionary period embraced the idea that liberty depended on collective acts of self-governance. From the framing on shipboard of the Mayflower Compact, to the series of Boston town meetings that culminated in the destruction of British tea in Boston Harbor, to the drafting and signing of the Declaration of Independence, America’s earliest leaders demanded the right to play a part in public affairs.

The founders believed not in freedom from government, but in the freedom and responsibility to participate in government.

ELIZABETH J. MacARTHUR
WILLIAM B. WARNER
Goleta, Calif., Nov. 10, 2012

Mr. Warner is the author of the forthcoming “Protocols of Liberty: Communication Innovation and the American Revolution.”

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