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March 2019
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Dead Intelligence

I don’t know too much about Idaho’s late Senator Borah. I know that Idaho’s highest mountain bears his name, and that the Borah High School in Boise was darn tough to beat at just about any sport back in the early 60s when I was in high school.

Aside from the above, I’ve been pretty uninformed about this man. I’m going to have to change that. Actually, I am already changing that. The man was very sharp, and, unfortunately, he’s dead. We could really use his intelligence right now.

Below is a brief article I found in a publication called “The Youth’s Companion” dated February 24, 1927.


SENATOR BORAH is a man who is never afraid to say what he thinks. And, since he is an individual and not a partisan or a standardized thinker, he often says things that surprise and even shock the great American public. His latest contribution to political thought will have that effect; but he is absolutely right, and it will pay his fellow citizens to give heed to his words.

Our government, he says, is being undermined by the increasing interference of the central government with private and business life. If the present tendency is not checked, it will shortly be the case that every tenth man will be a government official or an agent. “Inspectors and spies will leer upon the citizen from every corner and accompany him hourly in his daily avocation. We shall have a republic in name, but a bureaucracy in fact; the most extravagant, the most demoralizing”-and, he might have added, the most tyrannous-“government which has ever tortured the human family.”

Strong words, a little rhetorical perhaps, but essentially justified. Democracy, the government of the people by the people, is only possible when it is carried on, fundamentally, by small units. Local self-government, which citizens can watch and influence intelligently, is its only sure foundation. Rigid control of and constant interference with the private citizen by a government hundreds or even thousands of miles away from him is fatal to it. The Fathers who wrote the Constitution knew that. Many of their sons have forgotten it.

“In looking to the national capital to cure all their ailments,” says Senator Borah, “they are weakening the fibre of true citizenship and destroying the self-reliant spirit of Americanism without which the republic cannot endure. This clamor for change for the sake of change, this haphazard floundering in legislative affairs, is nowhere so pronounced as in the gradual but certain destruction of the state’s and the centering of all governmental power in Washington.” True again, Senator. We see the effects of this tendency in the increasing indifference of the people to the vote, their disposition to take shelter under a Federal law and a government commission at every emergency, their feeling that politics is something in which they need no personal interest, and that government is something for which they need feel no personal responsibility.

Democracy is still on trial. It is assailed alike by the spirit of Bolshevism and that of Fascism in Europe and by indifference and spinelessness in America. We must give up running to Washington with every problem that faces us. Congress has not the time, even if it had the capacity, to settle everything for us. We must do whatever is possible to do at home-in our towns, our cities, our counties, our states that we may remain capable of “self-government.”

It is time for a restatement of the political philosophy of Thomas Jefferson. Too many who still call upon his name have forgotten what he taught.

I’m not sure if everything Senator Borah predicted has come to pass, but I think it is quite obvious that at least 90% of it has. And it seems to me that this Obama Administration and this Congress are attempting to complete the last 10%.

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