A New August 4 Movement

[Editor’s Note: The following is a guest post from a regular reader of Pileus, who writes under the nom de plume “Voltaire in ’08.”]

What if an August 4 Movement were to arise after the election of November 2?

On August 4, 1789, deputies at the French National Assembly rose up one after another to renounce the feudal rights, fees, and privileges that they were legally entitled to under current law, as a preliminary to abolishing the feudal regime as a whole.

In doing so, they seized the political initiative from the people, then in the grip of a Great Fear sweeping their country after the recent fall of the Bastille.

A new August 4 Movement would be distinctly American. The people would be seizing initiative from the government.

What if such a movement targeted not welfare or other programs for the poor but Federal middle-class entitlements—Social Security, Medicare, Obamacare, the very ones that dominate our present and future budgets, and that make all other spending disputes look like emptying a swimming pool with a teaspoon?

What if a movement of concerned citizens appealed to their fellows—perhaps in grassroots demonstrations beginning in northern Maine, stretching to southern California, and modeled on the Civil Rights movement of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.—to join them in a collaborative enterprise of moral and civic reform: that of renouncing all future individual rights and claims to these entitlements (in exchange of course for appropriate exemptions and compensations, as with the original August 4)?

Could such a movement serve as a new Declaration of Independence—not from monarchy this time, but from a creeping and corrosive culture of entitlements and bailouts? Would it be enough to reclaim the place of something as out of season as individual responsibility in our politics? Would it help avert not only the fiscal but the civic and constitutional train wrecks that many are now glimpsing over the horizon? Would it supply a peaceful and optimistic answer to a long-term crisis increasingly redolent of pessimism and conflict? Would it provide a fitting channel for the next phase of that uniquely American grassroots civic movement that has so taken everyone by surprise in the past two years? Could it restore America’s place as the world’s premier political and constitutional entrepreneur, perhaps even lending a model for other overburdened polities to contemplate?

Or would it be better to let John Boehner, Harry Reid, and Barack Obama negotiate our future instead?

5 thoughts on “A New August 4 Movement

  1. What we need in this country is not another tax revolt. We’ve had plenty of those the past 40 years. What we really need is a benefit revolt. We need middle and upper income Americans to agree to take their hands out of the pockets of their neighbors and refuse to receive Social Security, Medicare, subsidized student loans, farm subsidies, etc.

  2. A CBS/NYT poll from last April asked self-identified Tea Party members if they prefer smaller government and fewer services. 92% said yes. But when asked if programs like Social Security and Medicare were worth the cost, 62% say yes to that. And of those Tea Party members who actually receive these services, the number was 72% yes.

    In other words, what Jason said.

  3. Well, I, for one would sign the New August 4 petition: I would renounce any and all future benefits from Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, ObamaCare, and—I would add—public schooling, in exchange for receiving immunity from having to fund those programs.

  4. The problem here is that everyone who is above a certain income level would be happy to renounce the entitlements in exchange for not having to fund them.

    Thus it would be hard to credibly identify one’s self as acting in principled protest rather than just in run-of-the-mill self-interest. The Left and the media would quickly pounce on this identification problem.

    A real protest would be to publicly renounce the benefits without receiving any tax breaks for doing so.

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