We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
To change the world, we must change the way people think. The Declaration of Independence, a result of the Enlightenment, was an example of such a change. Penned just past the beginning of the end of the European monarchies – it was to change the world forever by saying that everything did not belong to any monarch – that governance itself belonged to the people.
The words of the Declaration of Independence declared America to be a democracy. Made America the shining beacon from which many other democracies would first take light.
For all of history – and even before – wherever found, monarchs had declared that monarchies were how it was meant to be. That all, even the people themselves, were property of the throne. For most of those years, the people at least pretended to believe the lie. The Declaration of Independence’s — Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — laid low this lie. It was indeed a most revolutionary document. One that with its — We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights,— also cast off the old class system of Europe.
Meanwhile, in Europe, especially in mother England, the mid-18th century saw the beginning of the Industrial Age. One which saw the production of goods (an essential part of any economy) shifted from the heath, hearth, and small proprietors to large manufacturing plants owned by the wealthy. Their right to control the means of production and the power that went with this control created a new class – a new tyranny. This right and this new class required a new ‘how it was meant to be’ — that a new big lie be peddled.
Let the rationalization begin. A certain philosopher, himself a loyal subject to a monarch, said that this new accordance was as it should be; one that came down from god by the way of an invisible hand.
It was not, and it did not. The earliest economies were communal, the 3rd century BCE knew socialist monarchies, and scripture and philosophers like Plato and Aristotle were not in accord with Smith.
Smith wrote about the role of government in economies. But ?? Did Smith understand the role of an economy? — That the economy is every bit as important as the government? — That the two are coequal? Codependent? Others before him had.
By the 19th century, Fourier, Engels, Marx, – more than a few fellow philosophers – began questioning the right and wisdom of the wealthy controlling the means of production – began to understand that the economy is indeed every bit as important as, coequal to, the government itself. That the two were inextricably linked. That, rather than the people serving the economy, democracy must include the right of the people to an economy “of the people, by the people, for the people”** — that an economy should serve the people.
These boys of 76 could hardly have foreseen the Industrial Age with its Slater’s mills – Whitney’s cotton gins – Carnegie’s steel mills – Rockefeller’s oil empire, — that the ownership of the means of production by a wealthy few would give them the power to tyrannize the new nation.
These new titans of industry weren’t above appropriating divine right. Capitalism*, they said, was how it was meant to be.
Worked for them.
In America – for the rest of the 18th, all of the 19th, and the early part of the 20th century – the Declaration of Independence hadn’t made all that much difference for the common man. The common man watched the rise of a new aristocracy of the wealthy who could buy a government; not one “of the people, by the people, for the people”, but one of their liking. Today, many U.S. politicians avow that it is the right of the wealthy to control the means of production and tell us that this right is at least as divine as that once accorded to monarchs.
There’s no way that the writers of the Declaration of Independence could have foreseen the Industrial Age with its Slater’s mills, Whitney’s cotton gins, Carnegie’s steel mills, Rockefeller’s oil empire, — the ownership of the means of production by a wealthy few — that would come to grip the new nation. It would be unfair to blame them for not foreseeing the Industrial Age; for not including the right of the people to control the means of production in the Declaration of Independence.
But, what if they had?
— The Enlightenment’s fingerprints, especially John Locke’s, are all over our Declaration of Independence. Born in 1632, John Locke saw the need to separate church and state. If he had been born two centuries later, no doubt he would have seen the need to separate wealth and state. —
We now know that government and economy are inextricably linked. We now know what it means for a wealthy few to control the means of production; and the consequences thereof. That there can not be true democracy when a very few control the means of production; can use the wealth therefrom to control the government.
By now we have seen enough to understand that neither religion nor wealth should ever be allowed to get their noses under the tent of government and economics. We have seen how the very wealthy when they feel threatened strike back with such actions as the Ludlow Massacre, the ‘Conservative Manifesto’, the ‘Powell Memorandum’, and the recent packing of the U.S. Supreme Court. We have seen religious groups fall back, regroup, and then try again to impose religion on governance. Try time after time to rewrite history to say that the founders wanted a sectarian nation; of their sect, of course.
The Declaration of Independence freed us from the tyranny of the monarchies. The Constitution’s First Amendment was intended to free us from the tyranny of religion. To date, we haven’t anything to free us from the tyranny of wealth. Quite to the contrary, today we have a Supreme Court majority that is itself representative of wealth and religion, not democracy; and a bought and paid-for Republican Senate body.
One needn’t be a John Locke or clairvoyant to foresee the consequences of the extremely wealthy (or those aspiring to be so) owning/controlling Artificial Intelligence ( AI). First, they would use AI to control the world. Then, Generative AI would take control. There is no way that a matter such as what to do with AI should be decided based on wealth, on the interest of the very wealthy. Such a matter, such matters, should be decided based on what is best for we the people.
*Capitalism was the term given the wealth accumulated during the mercantile period. Hence mercantilism, more and more economies belonged to the wealthy. In a time when wealth was king and pretty much everyone else had nothing; wealth was indeed divine.
**from Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address