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May 22, 2010

The Five Thousand Year Leap

28 Great Ideas That Changed the World
W. Cleon Skousen - 9780981559667

This book was recently reprinted and touted as remarkable. It is. Skousen, now deceased, had previously written a number of books: The First 2000 Years, The Naked Capitalist and The Making of America amongst them. Some are still in print; most are not. He was a Canadian born Mormon who became an American capitalist and writer. He distinguished himself in all three venues. One might say that "5,000" was his magnum opus.

It is chockablock full of well organized information--some of it newsworthy even to a well informed reader. He reviews the origins and nature of worldly progress, American capitalism, the founding precepts leading to our constitution, etc. Ours was the first government of, by and for the people; the first republic embracing all of its citizens . . . though, however indefensibly, insisting that slaves counted for 3/5ths of a person but not citizens. (In this regard it must be emphasized that the founders were (contrary to modern received wisdom) uniformly opposed to slavery. They had to accommodate it for the purposes of union. Furthermore, none could conceive a good way to eliminate it overnight without a disaster . . . the Civil War, you'll recall, wasn't exactly a cakewalk, and it threatened the union despite its age of "four score and seven years." (Moreover, freeing 400,000 uneducated slaves would have had enormous sociologic impact, and returning them to Africa was out of the question. But I digress!)

His discussion of the origins of legal theory, based upon Mosaic Law, is particularly fascinating, as is his review of the Articles of Confederation and why they failed. Awkwardly amusing (especially today) is the founders' conviction (not their feeling) that confiscatory taxation and deficit spending were immoral; every generation was expected to pay off whatever debt it incurred, regardless of the rationale for the debt. They encouraged an educational system able to transmit the fundamental beliefs based upon the "self-evident truths." They did not assume that the value of a free, democratic republic was obtained by osmosis or heredity. It had to be taught to be appreciated and preserved, and the system had to secure "virtuous and morally stable people" as leaders. (Again, reflect upon the attitudes today, especially on the left which propagandizes for socialism and dances with fascism.)

"Here is my creed. I believe in one God, the Creator of the universe. That he governs it by his Providence. That he ought to be worshipped. That the most acceptable service we render to him is in doing good to his other children. That the soul of man is immortal, and will be treated with justice in another life respecting its conduct in this."
Benjamin Franklin

"Neither the wisest constitution nor the wisest laws will secure the liberty and happiness of a people whose manners are universally corrupt."
Samuel Adams

"Religion in America takes no direct part in the government of society, but it must be regarded as the first of their political institutions. . . . they hold it to be indispensable to the maintenance of republican institutions. This opinion is not peculiar to a class of citizens or to a party, but belongs to the whole nation and to every rank of society."
Alexis de Tocqueville

"It is the responsibility of the minorities themselves to learn the language, seek needed education, become self-sustaining, and make themselves recognized as a genuine asset to the community."
Thomas Jefferson

"The strength and stability of the family is of such vital importance to the culture that any action by the government to debilitate or cause dislocation in the normal trilateral structure of the family becomes, not merely a threat to the family involved, but a menace to the very foundations of society itself."
Skousen (paraphrasing John Locke)

"The more men have to lose, the less willing are they to venture. The rich are in general slaves to fear, and submit to courtly power with the trembling duplicity of a spaniel."

Thomas Paine (from Common Sense)

These and a host of other quotations forever put to rest the arguments against religion as the foundation for American society. As well they emphasize and define the founding attitudes and principles, and the resulting reality: the might, the right, the success and the practical outcome of the finest republic ever founded on planet earth. (Sorry, Emperor Obama, but it's all true!)

His review of the historic, usually written perspectives of the principles is fulsome and rewarding. Reading quotes from the likes of Franklin, Hamilton, Jefferson, Adams (both) and their like is awe inspiring; he even throws in some relevant observations by Cicero and others of ancient moment. As he walks thru his 28 great ideas there is much to be considered and admired.

Along the way however, he becomes redundant in being explicit, and with time tiresome by virtue of his pedanticism. Still, it is a worthwhile read for everyone seeking knowledge of our origins, or interested in the re-establishment of the American republic which the founders intended--which prevailed more or less effectively for the first 125 years. Our downfall began with Teddy Roosevelt, the original "progressive" president, just over a century ago, and has been spiraling out of control with the acceleration of our free-fall since the departure of Ronald Reagan, who moved us back a little.

Good history, good philosophy, dynamic presentation!

At the end of the paperback edition the following are included for completeness and review:
The Declaration of Independence
The Constitution of the United States
Common Sense, by Thomas Paine

Posted by Curmudgeon at May 22, 2010 9:32 AM