In the State of the Union address, President Obama certainly left the impression that he would like to be considered a type of Robin Hood to the American middle-class. The story of the legendary British outlaw is a powerful tale that many of us learn as children. As King Richard the Lionheart is away on the Third Crusade, England falls prey to the oppressive hand of King Richard’s brother, John. Robin Hood and his Merry Men become outlaws “robbing from the rich and giving to the poor.”

Every child who has heard the legend leaves with the sense that Robin Hood is a hero. He responds to the plight of his countrymen dominated by royal oppression. Robin Hood is more than a common thief because his fight is just.

Strangely, the real history during the time of Robin Hood and his Merry Men is more like our current political situation than many of us might realize.

President Obama operates much more like King John than some nimble bandit. King John used taxes as a means for exerting political dominion over his potential opposition. When he needed to generate diplomatic favor or exercise control, he would lessen the tax burden on some while enforcing more strident collection on others.

Sound familiar?

While President Obama may not be Robin Hood, neither are his affluent corporate and individual tax targets. They look much more like 13th century barons who generated wealth from the land they controlled.

The barons were certainly no champions of the people. They were the original one percent. Barons were essentially chief-tenants of sections of the king’s land and were obligated to provide taxes and soldiers for the army. Not surprisingly, most of them were more interested in keeping their gold, silver and military might for themselves rather than remitting payment to the crown.

The king and the baron oligarchs were not fighting for the right to improve the lives of the serfs that worked the land; they were battling for political control. Money and power fought money and power.

Ringing a bell yet?

Ironically, their conflict gave birth to an agreement that became an icon of freedom. In 1214, the barons rebelled against King John. They were able to successfully capture London, but they were unable to defeat him.

Instead of continued hostilities, they drafted the Magna Carta, which set forth an agreement between the two sides on the issues of taxation, feudal rights and justice in England. To be sure, it was no lofty experiment in democracy. In fact, it was so little respected by each side that the first issuance only lasted for ten weeks.

Even so, the warring monarch and oligarchs of Robin Hood’s day inadvertently set forth the symbolic groundwork for the concepts of individual liberty, equal justice and restrained state power. The Magna Carta was, in a real sense, the grandfather of the U.S. Constitution.

As much as things change, they still stay the same. Many of us may feel outclassed in a battle to secure our lives, liberties, and pursuits of happiness, but we have a powerful tool. Our heritage is a nation that has rejected a feudal system that forces us into the servitude of one master or another. We are free to chart our own course.

The American people are not required to submit as serfs to a powerful government in exchange for our provision. Neither are we obliged to have the fruits of our labor taxed and squandered as handouts to politically connected elites.

While Robin Hood may have been a legend, we could use a few like him today, men and women who understand that America’s power is designed to rest in the hands of the people. Reclaiming that power from our own versions of kings and barons is critical if we intend to embrace our unique inheritance of liberty and justice for all.

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