The American electorate’s apparent decision to replace their leadership amid a tumultuous pandemic is adding energy to progressive ambitions worldwide to engineer “a Great Reset,” a reordering of society along socialist principles. Enthusiasm is no substitute for wisdom, though, and the current apostles of radical change will be hard-pressed to surpass the prudence of the intrepid sojourners who disembarked from the Mayflower 400 years ago this Saturday to found a society unmatched in history.
Former Vice President Al Gore offers a glimpse of the trendy talk: “I think this is a time for a ‘Great Reset,’ We’ve got to fix a lot of these problems that have been allowed to fester for way too long.” Supposed President-elect Joe Biden has a game plan for muscular government intervention to ensure egalitarian social outcomes, but it’s child’s play compared to the pivotal task of composing a blueprint for governing a New World.
The described intent of the Pilgrims and their companions to “combine ourselves together into a civil Body Politick” in order to “enact, constitute, and frame, such just and equal Laws” constituted an order of magnitude leap from the prevailing monarchical system they abandoned to one based upon self-governance. Astonishingly, they penned their Mayflower Compact with genius as they rode at anchor along a strange and frigid coastline, all the while quelling dread at the prospect of stepping ashore into a peril-filled wilderness.
At the same time, Christian believers could imagine the pristine land before them as a sort of Garden of Eden come to life, a place to experience the creation anew. Their undertaking suggested a view that as a child of the Creator, each human being possesses a boundless capacity for achievement. Consequently, each is worthy of mastery over his own freedom and responsibility.
During the succeeding centuries, the Pilgrims’ handiwork has triggered an unparalleled flourishing of innovation and prosperity across the land they settled, and to which peoples elsewhere have given up everything to embrace.
Now, doubts shake confidence in the founding principles, and trend-setters talk of resetting course toward a utopia they call socialism. The slogan Marx bandied — “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs” — is not without a germ of reason. Indeed, where selfless service is central, a sort of socialism has its place: Families, for example, share within their households without requiring compensation.
As governance expands its reach, though, it loses any sense of personal touch. A gift of charity from a caring hand to a needy hand kindles gratitude, but an electronic check from a faceless bureaucracy cultivates only a sense of entitlement.
When President Trump proclaims, “In America, we don’t worship government, we worship God,” he reminds Americans to refrain from seeking their sustenance from leaders who promise goodies in exchange for votes. Idolatry is folly in any age.
The Mayflower’s Pilgrims set the conditions for the American Dream. Their bold achievements cannot be matched by a 21st century “reset” to socialism.
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