May 12, 2009

The 5000 Year Leap - Nigel Hannaford

Here is some background on, and reasons why you should read this book.

Raymond, Alberta, (population 3,200,) is an unlikely place to look for a latter-day American revolutionary. But, that’s where the late W. Cleon Skousen was born in 1913. Now, a book he wrote in 1981 is enjoying a massive resurgence, as Americans anxious about the way their country is going are trying to rediscover the constitutional basics of natural law, freedom and limited government Skousen claims were responsible for America’s success in the first place.

Now in its 16th reprinting, The 5000 Year Leap has sold 250,000 copies in the last five months, far more it has sold altogether in the 28 years since first publication. And, in a further Canadian connection, an anonymous Toronto lawyer bears some of the credit for that: A personal friend of FOX TV polemicist Glenn Beck, he made sure Beck had a copy. Beck loved it, and recommended it on his show — watched daily by audiences of more than two million — since when copyright holders The National Center for Constitutional Studies have been stimulating the printing industry in several parts of the country in an attempt to meet demand. The book has made it to the Amazon and Barnes and Noble best seller lists, and according to NCSS director Zeldon Nelson, there are literally thousands of study groups reading it together around the country. (Beck does not take a cut, by the way.)

The leap to which Skousen refers is the explosion of accomplishment in the U.S., that comes from its citizens living by the principles of its Constitution.

As Skousen tells the story, the original Jamestown settlers had started off with much the same inventory of tools and techniques as were available to pioneers for thousands of years, and practiced communal economics with familiar, disappointing results. But, once the Constitution institutionalized "the dynamic ideas" of natural law, freedom and limited government, a "fantastic list of achievements . . . bubbled up from the massive melting pot of humanity that swarmed to the shores of this new land," that led all the way to the Moon.

For his thesis, it’s unfortunate that the boom in wealth actually started in England, with the industrial revolution. However, England also faded and for Americans, Neil Armstrong’s 1969 "one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind," was indeed a 5000-year leap in less than 200 years. America, which began as a handful of struggling British colonies on North America’s east coast, was still only five per cent of humanity when Skousen wrote his book. Yet, it had become the world’s food basket, industrial giant, centre of innovation and the arsenal of democracy, and had created more new wealth than all the rest of the world put together. Such was the liberating power of an idea.

But, all was (and remains) not well: Failure to stay faithful to these principles had undermined the republic. It wasn’t just then-president Jimmy Carter. (Nor is it just Barack Obama today, notwithstanding his deficit budgets and potentially ruinous big-government plans.) The rot had set in long before, when "the mortal enemies of freedom [were allowed] to dominate the debate."

It is customary in conservative circles to treat that as code for Franklin D Roosevelt’s administration, but Ben Franklin warned against men who would use income redistribution as their ticket to power right back in 1789, when the Constitution was framed. Then they were known as levellers (spreading the wealth around) ,today as the left wing: But, then as now, they needed a big government to leverage themselves into power, and America’s decline is basically the story of how its people reinvented George III.

Skousen’s book is a potted guide to 28 of the principles that informed the American constitution, written so anybody with a will can grasp them. To read them — especially those dealing with economics — is to understand why America worked so well for so long, and why nothing short of a rejection of life on credit, a moral rearmament as it were, can ever put it back on the rails.

If the 5000 Year Leap starts having an effect, depend upon ad hominem (they will call him names, attack his person) attacks on Skousen, and was a passionate anti-communist. (Though, given the blood spilt in communism’s name, I often wonder why that’s such a bad thing.) An FBI agent and one-time Salt Lake City police chief, he is also strongly identified as a religious conservative in the Mormon tradition.

But, to focus on the political spectrum is to miss the point: Humanity will always divide into factions, and while the left flatters the right in granting it the franchise on liberty, it really isn’t a left/right thing. Humanity’s dilemma is not between parties, but finding a balance between anarchy, and oppressive government.

In pursuit of the change that would restore America, Nelson’s goal is to move 10 million copies of The 5000 Year Leap in the next year.

Admittedly, in a country of 350 million, that’s barely three per cent of citizens.

But then, three per cent of Americans were enough to win a revolution in 1776.

Quite the circumstance, if it can all be traced back to Canada.

The 5000 Year Leap - Nigel Hannaford

Everyone should read this book. BTW - it took a canadian news agency to get this story out. Where were our news agencies? Oh yeah...slobbering over Obama.

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