Monday, January 16, 2012

Losing Our Heads over Taxes

Charles I, Oliver Cromwell the Lord Protector, and me--British Museum, August 2010
My dad took me to a great movie when I was a teen. I have a DVD copy of it now. It is 1970's Cromwell with a great cast led by Richard Harris long before he was the first Dumbledore (but more tragically, about the same time he recorded MacArthur Park, the mesmerizing, top-rated song on my iPod "bad songs" playlist. But I'm seriously digressing). It also has the incomparable Alec Guinness in his pre-Obi-Wan days as Charles I, the British Monarch who lost his head.

I don't mean to disparage or over-simplify the English Civil War, I have one identifiable distant relation who fought on the side of the Royalists or Cavaliers. I'm sure I have some Roundheads in the mix too. But the main cause of the British Civil War was the conflict between King and Parliament over war and taxes (oh, and religion).

"It's good to be the King." until they bring out that big ax.
The practice in those days was that the King had the "divine right" to conquer other people or just go to war with all his relatives in Europe. And it was for Parliament to raise the funds for war through taxing his people. Parliament and its supporters got tired of both the deaths of their soldier boys and the taxes to pay for it and eventually defeated the King with their own army. While there was an important principle at stake that even the King was not above the law--even if they were making up the law by that point--throw religious revolution into the mix and it was a horrible mess with no good guys anywhere.

The execution of Charles I
Today when you visit the tourist sites in Britain, there are constant reminders of the destruction of art and historical artifacts that Cromwell's Puritans deemed were too "popish." Even in the Tower where the crown jewels are kept they remind that there would be a lot more of them if Cromwell's people hadn't pried the jewels loose and melted down the gold to, well, pay their army--not that the crown jewels maybe shouldn't have been put to some other use. And Cromwell's d___ army blew up a big chunk of my ancestral castle at Raglan! The Puritans had their own "divine right" as they thought themselves on God's side.

Sadly, Cromwell was unable to "impose" his version of "divine will" on England even becoming the supreme law of the land as Lord Protector (i.e., dictator). His son failed to preserve the Protectorate at Oliver's death. And when Charles II, whose dad had lost his head, was restored to his father's throne, Cromwell's body was dug up, hanged, and beheaded. As I said, it was a mess all around.

Cromwell's head displayed on a pike
Yet it was the English Civil War that helped develop principles of representative government and democratic institutions in both Britain and the eventual United States. (We got some of their Puritans too.)

Nowadays, our U.S. Congress doesn't worry about taxing for war, they just go ahead and borrow the money without a regard as to how we pay for it. They still seem to justify themselves to some extent with concepts of "divine right." Then after they borrow trillions of dollars and the economy crashes, they say we have to do away with all the other parts of government because heaven forbid they ever raise taxes! If they would only just keep cutting those taxes on the rich, it's bound to trickle down eventually!

Oh, and can I borrow a few bucks to go bomb Iran?

Let's not lose our heads, people.

1 comment:

  1. Sorry, Form 22-whatever. I don't commercialize my blog and don't allow anyone else to either. So I had to send you to spam.


Comments are welcome. Feel free to disagree as many do. You can even be passionate (in moderation). Comments that contain offensive language, too many caps, conspiracy theories, gratuitous Mormon bashing, personal attacks on others who comment, or commercial solicitations- I send to spam. This is a troll-free zone. Charity always!