Richard C. Cook: A Revolutionary Experience


Richard Moore

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A Revolutionary Experience
by Richard C. Cook / July 9th, 2007

The fireworks arching high above Market Square in Virginia¹s restored colonial 
capital of Williamsburg were spectacular. The thundering martial music of the 
fife and drum corps brought goose bumps. 20,000 or more spectators ‹ tourists 
and townspeople alike ‹ were orderly but festive.

Cars are not allowed on the streets, so pedestrians, bicycles, and horse-drawn 
carriages enjoy a quiet dominion. Through the air wafts the faint odor of 
burning hardwood from wrought-iron stands, along with the age-old smell of 

I came back to Williamsburg after retiring from the federal government to stay 
with my eighty-four year-old mother for a while ‹ she¹s a former tour escort for
the Restoration. I¹d attended high school here, then earned a degree through the
humanities honors program at the College of William and Mary. My favorite book 
was Plato¹s Republic, once viewed as a manual for enlightened government in the 
Western world.

The other night I stood outside the low brick wall that surrounds the 
reconstructed colonial capitol building talking with one of the tour guides 
about the events of 231 years ago. He told how in the original building the 
Fifth Virginia Convention had voted 112-0 on May 15, 1776, to instruct the 
Virginia delegation at the Second Continental Congress in Philadelphia to enter 
a motion for independence. Thus Williamsburg always had a good argument for 
being the ³real² birthplace of the United States of America.

After the state capital was moved to Richmond in 1780, the town declined. But 
important people still lived here. In April 1841, John Tyler was awakened by a 
horseman who had ridden up to his house on Nicholson Street to tell him he was 
president of the United States. Tyler had been the running mate of William Henry
Harrison, who took sick on his inauguration day and died a few weeks later of 

By the time of the Civil War, Williamsburg was little more than a shadow. The 
College of William and Mary shut down during the war when the professors and 
students joined the Confederate army. Later, when the school closed for lack of 
funds, former college president Benjamin S. Ewell rang the bell of the Wren 
Building once a year on the day classes would have started. Eventually William 
and Mary re-opened as a state teachers¹ institution.

The low point came in 1900. The election board in Richmond noticed that 
Williamsburg had not sent any returns. They phoned the courthouse. Oh, there was
an election? We forgot. The town fathers were suitably embarrassed. The 
newspapers began to call the town ³Lotus-land.²

The story of how Williamsburg was rediscovered and restored by the joint efforts
of the local Episcopal minister, Reverend W.A.R. Goodwin, and American 
industrialist John D. Rockefeller, Jr., is well-known.

Colonial Williamsburg has been around now for eighty years. It has struggled to 
keep up its visitation in the face of competition from Busch Gardens and Water 
Country, but still holds its own. Events like the Fourth of July celebration 
show that Williamsburg really is a critical piece of American lore.

But Williamsburg is still part of a larger world.

The big news here is that a recent study concluded that 50,000 more workers will
be needed to work in the area¹s tourist industry over the next decade. The 
trouble is that housing is so expensive there¹s nowhere for them to live.

What will this well-off community with its hordes of comfortable retirees do? 
Pay them more than the minimum wage? Not likely, especially since Virginia is a 
³right-to-work² state with minimal union representation. Public or subsidized 
housing? Some, but nowhere near enough for such a large influx. Rent control? No

A related piece of news is that Ford¹s Colony, a gated community west of 
downtown, will be using a parcel of land earlier earmarked for a school for new 
high density ³workforce housing² for teachers, firemen, and the like. The 
starting price for a home? Only $215,000.

So the housing bubble and its aftermath have hit Williamsburg hard. My mother 
just got her 2008 tax assessment on the modest home she and my father built in 
1963. Nationwide, housing prices have been going down during the last year, but 
not here. The city sent her a thirteen percent one-year increase on her 
assessment and property tax.

I sent the city manager¹s office an e-mail asking what the city will be doing 
with the additional thirteen percent and what expenses they suggested my mother 
should cut back on. They sent a polite response that gave the obligatory bow to 
³market² forces ‹ a euphemism for nationwide housing inflation ‹ but did not 
answer my questions.

To be fair, Williamsburg¹s tax rate is much lower than the surrounding cities, 
but the trend mirrors many other U.S. localities where the elderly and local 
natives are taxed out of their homes.

Meanwhile, President George W. Bush and Vice President Richard Cheney took time 
out from prosecuting their Iraq War to visit the Williamsburg area in connection
with the celebration of the 400th anniversary of the founding of Jamestown. 
Queen Elizabeth II, monarch of our ³coalition² partner in the Middle East, also 
paid a call.

Last November, the American voters elected a Democratic majority to Congress to 
stop the war. Now the new Congress has continued funding, including the largest 
U.S. embassy in the world which is being built in Baghdad. The U.S. military has
built permanent bases in Iraq, where they have said they plan to stay as long as
we¹ve been in Korea ‹ i.e., forever.

In its funding legislation, Congress also stipulated that to retain our 
³assistance,² the Iraqi government must pass a ³hydrocarbon² law. This would 
provide U.S. and British oil companies with privileged contracts to tap the 
country¹s gigantic oil reserves.

Bush¹s rating in popularity polls now hovers around thirty percent. That of the 
new Democratic Congress is deservedly lower ‹ twenty-five percent. 
Three-quarters of our population believe that America is going in the wrong 

Some of it is the war, but much is economics. Debt among Americans is at an 
all-time high, and jobs continue to be outsourced to China and other low-wage 
nations. Middle-class income is in decline. The lack of health insurance is a 
national scandal. Commentators warn of a possible recession or worse.

Also on the Fourth of July, the Washington Post reported that the individual 
managers of unregulated hedge funds which borrow huge sums from the banks to bet
on the rise and fall of the economy are earning $1 billion a year. None of the 
leading candidates for either party for the 2008 presidential nominations seem 
to have good answers to any of these issues. But they are accepting huge sums of
campaign contributions from the Wall Street high rollers. Mitt Romney must be 
setting some kind of record with twenty-six fund raisers on his staff.

Back in Williamsburg the long hot summer has begun. Tomorrow is another day of 
tourists, actors on the streets pretending to be eighteenth century 
personalities, the slow creak of carriages, and the clip-clop of horses¹ hooves.

But maybe the spirit and energy of Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, and George 
Washington still hover.

Jefferson once said that, ³Every generation needs a new revolution.² Being in 
Williamsburg against the background of the ominous events elsewhere in the world
makes me think that is not a bad idea. President Ronald Reagan had his 
revolution in the 1980s when he deregulated the financial industry and set forth
the Reagan Doctrine of permanent military engagement in

third-world countries.

Today a new American revolution is overdue ‹ one on behalf of the ordinary 
people who are fighting and dying for the oil companies in Iraq while so many of
their brothers, sisters, and parents are seeing their way of life disintegrate 
at home.

Richard C. Cook is the author of We Hold These Truths: The Hope of Monetary 
Reform, scheduled to appear by September 2007. A retired federal analyst, his 
career included service with the U.S. Civil Service Commission, the Food and 
Drug Administration, the Carter White House, and NASA, followed by twenty-one 
years with the U.S. Treasury Department. He is also author of Challenger 
Revealed: An Insider¹s Account of How the Reagan AdministrationCaused the 
Greatest Tragedy of the Space Age. Read other articles by Richard, or visit 
Richard's website.

This article was posted on Monday, July 9th, 2007 at 5:00 am and is filed under 

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