the whitestick papers

looking at politics from a different perspective

Men in tights

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I’m sure you’re familiar with the legend of Robin Hood – a band of merry men and dashing derring-do in Sherwood Forest and all that.  You know about Little John, Will Scarlet, Friar Tuck, Maid Marian and the rest who mischievously “…steal from the rich and give to the poor…”, frustrating the evil King John and his dastardly minion, the Sherriff of Nottingham  There have been countless movies, TV shows, plays and books produced over the years so it’s an image nearly everyone can easily call to mind.

But did you realize the background it’s set against is still with us?  In fact, it’s a setting that’s been around throughout all of human history.   The names and details change, but the broad strokes would be recognized in nearly every country in nearly every age.  And the funny thing is, those who want and believe government should and can solve people’s problems see the same picture differently than those who argue for small government.  Allow me to illustrate.

Those who want the government to solve the problems they see around them, if they thought about it, would see themselves in the role of Robin and his band of merry men.  After all, they care for the poor, the downtrodden, the unfortunates of the world, and want those poor folks to have the same opportunities and advantages the rich do.  Government is the only power bigger than those wicked corporations, businesses and people who have gotten fat on the sweat of the common man and, by golly, it makes sense to take away some of the ill-gotten gains of the rich and give it to the poor through taxes and fees – share the wealth, as it were.

You can almost see them nodding in agreement, can’t you?  There’s a problem with that image, however, and it takes only a slightly closer look at the scene, and maybe a little understanding of medieval society, to realize they’ve really got it wrong.

First off, who were King John and the Sherriff of Nottingham?  Were they wealthy businessmen who took advantage of the poor citizens living in and around Sherwood Forest?  Not at all; they were corrupt government officials who unfairly taxed the people, taking a portion of what the people earned to serve their needs and wants rather than, as intended, the needs of the people.  The people being taxed were, by and large, the shopkeepers, bakers, smiths and the like who performed services or built and provided goods for others.  Or they were laborers, those with no training or skill who traded their own physical strength for food and various forms of payment.

We could go into detail about the feudal economic system, with its lords, dukes and kings, but the bottom line is those who were producing the wealth were being forced to support a self-centered and self-serving aristocracy, who had all the authority, wealth and military power behind them.  You can look at the corrupt rule of the Roman emperors, countless kings and queens both ancient and not so long ago, modern dictatorships in Europe, Africa and the Americas to see a similar pattern, but the real question is, can you see it where you live now?

In this day and age, in this nation, we don’t have a Robin Hood or a band of outlaws who help us as they roguishly cut the purses of tyrants who dump every-increasing taxes and newly-created fees on our backs.  But we have something the good people of Nottingham never did – an opportunity to vote to throw out those who oppress us and put in place people who will prevent the abuse of power in the future.

In a sense, each of us is our own King Richard, and our own Robin of Locksley.  Ultimately, the responsibility for our own liberty is in our hands.


Written by Jeffrey S. Smith

26 January 2010 at 6:02 pm

Posted in Basics

Tagged with , ,

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