Monday, August 10, 2015

Same old, same old

Politicians and representative government have been around for a long time in the United States.

The first legislative assembly in the North American colonies was called to order on July 30, 1619 in Jamestown in the Colony of Virginia, with the professed intention of providing “just laws for the happy guiding and governing of the people there inhabiting.”

The Virginia House of Burgesses had 22 members elected initially by the free adult English males in the colony’s 11 boroughs. Soon after the first election Polish and Slovak artisans in the colony were given the franchise.

The first law set the official minimum price of tobacco at three shillings per pound. In the burgesses’ first six-day session, they passed laws prohibiting gambling, drunkenness and “idleness,” and also approved a bill that established mandatory observance of the Sabbath.

Does any of this sound familiar?

Legislation that arbitrarily regulated the price of an important commodity (think “milk”).

Bills aimed at preventing some people from doing some things that are obviously suited to our human nature but don’t measure up to the moral/religious standards of some other people (think “medical or recreational marijuana”).

A law to require everyone to conform with the religious scruples of the dominant group in the community (think “abortion restrictions”).

The Burgesses didn’t have to be concerned with raising gas taxes to fund transportation infrastructure repairs, or the ravages of global climate change, or squabbling about the national debt and “shutting down the government.”

That first legislative assembly got the job done in six days.

Arbitrary, short-sighted, ideologically constrained government was an easier gig in 1619.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015 All rights reserved.

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