Saturday, January 30, 2016

We Need To Put The Fear Of Reprisal Back In Our Politicians....

There Is No Freedom Without Law

Senator Roland Burris (D-Illinois) was recently asked by CNS News to specify which part of the Constitution authorizes Congress to legally compel individuals to purchase health insurance, a key component of the last dozen versions of the twelve hundred page ObamaCare proposal. Burris replied:

“Well, that’s under certainly the laws of the–protect the health, welfare of the country. That’s under the Constitution. We’re not even dealing with any constitutionality here. Should we move in that direction? What does the Constitution say? To provide for the health, welfare and the defense of the country.”

This is not a new sentiment. Burris is stating one of the core principles of American liberalism: the belief that the Constitution lays out a series of general directives, rather than imposing specific restrictions on the power of government… as if “promote the general welfare” and the interstate commerce clause were deliberately written into the Constitution as secret ingredients that would vaporize the rest of the document and give the government unlimited power, once some future generation of clever liberals combined them.

Many conservatives respond to the occasional RINO stampede, such as the one which tore through New York congressional district 23 in the recent special election, by suggesting the Republicans should advance a solid conservative platform, and require all candidates to swear allegiance to it. I understand this desire, but I’ve always been uncomfortable with the notion of threatening candidates with excommunication, unless they agree to support a list of positions stapled to their foreheads. We should all be able to come together around the defense of the Constitution, however. We need no other set of principles to guide us in repairing the damage of the past century. If the government is not restrained by loyalty to the Constitution, then its citizens are not free.

Freedom cannot exist in the absence of law. People living in a state of anarchy are not free. They live under the random tyranny of any warlord, gang, or predator who can overpower them. They also live within the prison of their own distrust for their fellow men. A code of clear, fairly administered laws enhances our ability to trust, and cooperate with, people we don’t know personally. Of course, laws restrict our actions, by punishing us for engaging in illegal activities… but they also enhance our freedom, by allowing us to work more easily with each other, and trade with confidence.

You submit to a fairly involved code of laws, backed up by steep financial penalties and the threat of deadly force, every time you climb into your car. Those very same laws make it possible for you to drive long distances quickly and easily – compared to foot or horse travel, anyway. Without those laws, the fast-moving and complex system of roads and highways would become so deadly that everyone would be afraid to use them.

This same principle applies to government. A lawless government is a tyranny, and its citizens are not free. It doesn’t matter if the lawless state was reached through a brutal thirst for power, or high-minded compassionate ideals. We wouldn’t indulge reckless defiance of the traffic laws by someone in a mad rush to make a large donation to the local Salvation Army chapter. Even ambulance drivers are expected to obey certain rules of the road, and would not be allowed to run down pedestrians in their race to the local emergency room.

Government cannot derive its legitimacy entirely from the approval of a democratic majority, as asserted by the demand that President Obama should be granted virtually limitless power over the lives of American citizens because he won the last election. This would be no less offensive to liberty if Obama had won with seventy, eighty, or ninety percent of the popular vote, instead of 52%. The need to assemble majority support cannot be the sole limit on the power of the State. If the male castaways of “Gilligan’s Island” decide to hold a purely democratic vote to enslave the women, then Mrs. Howell, Ginger, and Mary Ann are in deep trouble.

Some Democrats have responded to the Tea Party movement by whining that noisy minorities should not be allowed to interfere with governance. These are the same people who assert the power to nationalize the health insurance industry because 20, 30, or 47 million people lack adequate insurance. Freedom cannot be reduced to a struggle between whichever noisy minority puts on the biggest demonstration in Washington D.C. How much time, energy, and money has already been expended, fighting over a gigantic, ever-changing health care bill that never should have existed in the first place?

A strict adherence to the Constitution would “promote the general welfare” far more effectively than any program cobbled together in the back rooms of Congress, by saving us the waste of money and passion expended in arguing about those programs. A properly respected Constitution would be a peerless tool for bringing people together, because it would prevent government from tearing them into warring factions by offering fabulously expensive benefits to some, at the expense of others. It would reduce the level of anger and venom in our society, because no one would have to fight a desperate last-ditch battle to preserve his liberty in the voting booth. It would improve the civic pride of citizens, by giving them meaningful input into local policies, instead of demanding they submit to the agenda of distant politicians they will never be allowed to vote against, from states they might never even visit.

For too long, the Left has interpreted the Constitution as an ever-expanding warrant for the arrest of all those who dissent from its agenda. The glorious truth of that incredible document is exactly the opposite: it was designed to restrain the central government, with chains equally impervious to threats and pleading. A just government has very few laws its citizens cannot change by voting locally, or escape by moving to a different state. It cannot require the level of trust that free citizens extend only to each other. Reasoned deliberation can never involve blind votes on thousand-page bills written last week.

The Founding Fathers gave their descendants a luminous gift: 

a set of laws that transform a potentially tyrannical State into a mighty champion of liberty. Those laws are written on a sheet of antique parchment, which can be easily ignored by fallible men… unless other men have the courage and discipline to hold it up, and insist it be obeyed. That’s a job that every strain of conservative should be eager to rally around. Slicing our bloated, delusional government back down to something in line with the Constitution would be the work of a lifetime… and we’ve only got a few years to get it done, before its heart gives out, and we are crushed beneath it. 

If the Declaration of Independence was a challenge to foreign conquerors, then the Constitution is a challenge we issue to ourselves. Both documents await the signature of anyone who expects my vote.

Comments :

Great essay, but it contains a serious but common error:
Government cannot derive its legitimacy entirely from the approval of a democratic majority

In America government doesn’t derive any legitimacy from a democratic majority, as we are not a democracy. The Constitution is designed not only to protect the people from the government; it also protects us from democracy. If it did not our rights would not exist. They would be privileges subject to the whims of a democratic majority.

Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote.
Widely attributed to Ben Franklin, but not found in any of his writings per wikiquotes. Still highly appropriate for your essay.

It is useful to look at central government on a scale of 0% to 100%. At 0% is anarchy and a close current analog is Somalia. At 100% is slavery and North Korea comes to mind. The US soon after the Constitution’s ratification probably bumped along around 10-15%; there was limited interference in individual affairs unless there was a direct conflict with another’s rights. Law could be learned from a single book and you could live your entire life without having significant interaction with the federal government. By 1900, US level of government had increased slowly to around 25%. In 1913, the 16th Amendment passed and the income tax was formalized. Today, a good guess on level of government in the US is north of 50% and it takes an army of lawyers just to litigate a corporate tax case. In Britain, it sounds like they are nearing nanny state levels of 70-75%. Our government is in a hurry to catch up with them too.

I enjoyed your article Doc. I don’t think a return to 10-15% government is possible without violent revolution. Nor would that level of government necessarily work in today’s smaller, more interrelated world. But boy oh boy does 25% government sound good.

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