Pioneer Life, Tea Parties and The Modern Man

At a recent library sale my wife happened to pick up a book entitled, Pioneer Life in Western Pennsylvania. It was published in 1940 and was part of a series written in conjunction with the Western Pennsylvania Historic Survey. My wife knows me well as I have always had a thing for old books; the poetry of the prose; the simple style of illustration; the colorful political incorrectness, all make them a pleasure to read. I have only gotten about a third of the way through this book, but I am already seeing some interesting touch points between the lives of the pioneers and the idealized image of early America that many in the Tea Party movement hold dear.
What the Pioneers Believed in

Americans have inherited from these pioneer men and women, who had been trained in the hard school of experience to win the rights of”life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” an unusual sense of what is just in lawmaking. It was to establish these rights more firmly that pioneers struggled in the wilderness; they wanted personal liberty and economic freedom, the right to a full life. In pursuit of happiness these men and women sought the unsettled lands of the western country. And they defended their enterprise sturdily, whether they were threatened by poor living, Indians, illness and hunger, or by unjust officials and intruders.

Today’s Conservatives

This ideal sounds a lot like the rhetoric coming from many on the right today. Economic freedom, liberty, the space to make your own life- these are all part of the spirit that animates us. However, as I read through this time-capsule of a book I am struck by how much our forefathers suffered for the sake of their liberty. Near starvation, premature death, crippling poverty, and a work week that simply never ended. And they did this all without any of the safety net that our modern government provides. No medicare, no social security, no unemployment, no low interest home loans.

Could we, could I, approximate this lifestyle today? While we all speak of wanting government out of our lives- do we really? I’m so spoiled today I get upset when my town considers suspending trash pick up service, and yet I still call myself a conservative.

Something to think about.

Crossposted at The Moderate Republican. You can also find us on Facebook.