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Benjamin Franklin was an "American original," and 2006 marks the 300th anniversary of his birth. He stands out as probably the most noted figure of the 18th century "new world" during which time the United States of America was born on July 4, 1776 known here as Independence Day. Franklin was a quintessential man for all seasons. He was a self-made man, printer, author, publisher, "patriot," scientist, inventor, civil leader, diplomat, congressman, sage, and the only Founder to have been a signatory to all four of the major founding documents of the country: the Declaration of Independence, US Constitution, Treaty of Paris and Treaty of Alliance with France. He was also arguably the most influential figure of his day as most of the other Founders were younger, and he was the elder statesman they looked up to.
Franklin was a delegate to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787 but served mostly as an advisor because of his advanced age of 81. Still he may have made the most important contribution to the final document that emerged. Earlier he'd studied the Iroquois Confederacy and was so impressed with it he got the other Founders to model our Constitution after much of their system of governance. It was based on a government of, for and by the people according to the notion that everyone has the right to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." It also embraced, in spirit at least, the Iroquois' notion and practice over many millennia that there should be no rich and poor and everyone should be middle class - a real democratic socialist state that worked for the benefit of all their people for thousands of years.
Hugo Chavez may know little of this history, but he embraces the best part of it in what he hopes to achieve for Venezuela nonetheless. In a televised event on October 2, he stated his objective to transform the country into this kind of society saying: "The idea is that Venezuela by 2021, all of us belong to one class, a middle class....where we all live with dignity." Using Venezuela's commonly used five-letter socioeconomic categorization system, he went on to say: "Members of class A, the super rich are a minority, those in the B class are also rich but the C class is the middle class....we should all belong to the C class." He wants no one by then to be in classes D or E which are for those living in poverty or extreme poverty.
Chavez's goals are bold and innovative. He's already made great strides toward achieving them, but he understands it's still early in the process of transforming Venezuela into a truly model democratic socialist state under which the needs and rights of all the people are met and come ahead of those only accommodative to the privileged elite. That was the old way in Venezuela under rule by the oligarchs who exploited the people ruthlessly and ill-served them for many decades. As long as he's President of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez has vowed his country will never return to that ugly past.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.